Change is in the air, my friends. The oxygen slows in its vibration, caught amidst the rushing meteorological shifts of this midwestern metropolis. There is gunk in my throat. My clothing has shifted from hues of happiness to those of hipsterian disdain for all things uncool. Yes, my friends, it is FALL. And, as this season was so named to follow Lucifer’s plummet from Providence of summer exponentialism, through the purgatory of mid-September and October bullshit horror second-hand mediocrity and finally into the pit of despair known only to the brave as ‘January’, so have we tumbled from the majesty that was this summer movie season. Did I say majesty? I mean Meh-ity. That’s right, this summer was filled with more duds than a post-Steve Jobs iPhone release (POSTHUMOUS BURN!). However, it is my job, nay my DUTY (tee hee, doody) to rip, roll, tar and feather every release of this thermodynamically diverse cinematic season. So, yes, kiddies, this is the one you have ALL been waiting for (and by all I mean probably like three of you…if that), get ready for Andrew’s:
SUMMER MOVIE AWARDS 2013!
Oh thank you, please, please, don’t get out of your computer chair…oh…please! Stop with all the adulation! I…well…alright…
Now come on guys, I have an article to write! Please, oh, you are too kind. This is all…just…too overwhelming…
WHAT? FUCK YOU AFFLECK! GET OUT OF MY GIFS, YOU NOT-BATMAN SON OF A BITCH! THIS IS MY AWARDS SHOW AND YOU’RE NOT WINNING ANYTHING! I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN LIKE THE NOT-BATMAN YOU ARE AND HIT YOU WITH A MUTHERFUCKING BATARANG! (Spoilers, he totally wins an award. ;). (Okay, second parenthetical…those winks really make me uncomfortable. It’s like my computer is flirting with me. And my computer has seen WAY too much of me to make that appropriate.) Without any further Ado (heh, heh, SPOILERS) let’s get this underway…
MOST MEDIOCRE MOVIE I’M GLAD I MISSED
Winner: The Internship; Runner-Up: Now You See Me
“What should be on the poster? Fuck it. I need to get baked. Let’s just have them stand there.” Genius designer.
Alright, so in every summer, in between the bombast, the explosions, and the RDJ shenanigans, studios attempt to unload middling materials that have already cost so much damn money that they can’t help but attempt to make even a bum’s fortune on. Now, these movies sneak into theaters every year, sometimes disguised as remakes of massive blockbusters (AHEM The Amazing Spiderman AHEM) or four-quels to trilogies that don’t need another movie (AHEM PIRATES 4 and BOURNE 4 AHEM). However, this year, the cake is taken with aplomb and idiocy by the duo that brought us the misogynistic stupid-a-palooza that was The Wedding Crashers, all packaged into a delightful shit-twinkie coated with Google advertising. That’s right, The Internship looked like a rancid pile of boring. Like, if this was once a fanciful bouquet of ‘Interesting’ then some idiot left it in the sun for two weeks, forgetting that DAIRY DOESN’T DO WELL IN THE SUMMER HEAT and it gradually transforms into a mutated hunk of sludge less appetizing than that restaurant that was started by a gastroenterologist (My mother was extremely perturbed when she discovered Colonic Cuisine was not an establishment specializing in colonial delicacies). Now, I didn’t see it, but from everything we could see in the ads it was ‘cool kids help the nerds to be less nerdy and LET LOOSE and FIND THE REAL THEM so they can BE BETTER AT THEIR JOBS’ or something. Bullshit. This is what would have really happened: “They don’t get hired by Google. They die in a gutter. Maybe in a hobo fire. End of Movie.” The hobo fire is the twist. So, no, I will not be watching you, The Internship. I don’t want your miserable excuses for PG-13 dick-filled (not the appendage) comedy and your super-liminal advertising for media monstrosity Google. (Don’t hate me Google. I love you. Make my site famous! I’ll sacrifice anything the God of the Internet needs! Virgins? Annoying roommates? Pizza? Doing your laundry? Microsoft Bing? I’ll do anything you want!)
Also, Now You See Me looked like David Blaine’s wet dream where he was in Ocean’s Eleven and Woody Harrelson showed up. *Shudder*
MOVIE I WISH I HAD BEEN DRUNKER FOR
Winner: The Great Gatsby 3D; Runner Up: White House Down; Man of Steel
Leo DiCaprio will ejaculate the American Dream on your face.
Sorry, I’m not done. UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH. There is nothing worse than sitting in a movie and reaching for a drink you’ve already finished. It’s agony. It’s as though the doctor is amputating a gangrenous limb and there’s no time for anesthesia. You reach for the whiskey…but the fucking orderly already downed it. That’s what it was like watching The Great Gatsby. It’s a movie like this that helps me understand why Oedipus claws out his eyes. And that was just because he fucked his mom. HE DIDN’T EVEN SEE THE GREAT GATSBY. It was a measure of impossible restraint to stop myself from impaling my pupils with snow caps to save myself from the turd-icaine of a literary adapt-a-Leo-tion. Seriously, at the halfway point, I reached for the champagne Amelia and I had snuck in and I almost screamed in horror when I discovered it empty. The rest of that thing was sobering in the same way that waking up with your head in the dog’s food bowl and the distinct taste of Pedigree Chum on your tongue can be (that totally never happened. It’s just an example. That definitely did not happen last August and my roommates did not force me to pay for another bag of food and therapy for the dog…totally didn’t happen). So, while Man of Steel was a teetotaled experience of agonized proportions and there isn’t enough alcohol in the world to make White House Down the cinematic equivalent of not-food poisoning, The Great Gatsby is offered this dubious award for reminding me that I would rather remove my own eyeballs with a spoon than watch another Baz Luhrmann film. Or eat dog food.
MOVIE I ALMOST GOT INTO A FIST-FIGHT ABOUT
Winner: Star Trek Into Darkness; Runner-Up: Despicable Me 2
Most. Destructive. Fart. Ever.
Alrighty, this is the award that will probably piss off a few people. I know…because I almost got into a fist-fight about it. So…I didn’t like Star Trek Into Darkness (*cower and cover face*…wait…are they gone? Good). It’s true. The first Star Trek reboot movie was a hoot and/or a holler. We had sexy new this and sexy new that and OMG MY EYES – LENS FLARE! There were tight new costumes, explosive new weapons, and smoldering chemistry so hot it would make a thermite reaction jealous (MISINFORMED CHEMISTRY JOKE!). Granted, the plot was flimsier than an OJ alibi, but that didn’t matter. It was about characters. It was about man-on-vulcan growl-action. It was about Simon Pegg with a Scottish accent. But then…the sequel. Like a ruined sauce, the burner was too high and the elements that interacted so pleasantly before were reduced to a simple and unappetizing sludge. All the women became yapping shrews with D-cups while the plot, driven by evil Admiral Robocop, had somehow become more complex but even flimsier…like a Moebius Strip made out of blue Fruit Roll Up. It looks delicious…but there’s no such fucking thing as ‘Blue Raspberry’. Unfortunately, expressing disdain for anything that has included the newly anointed god of all Sexy Nerdom, Bendydick Cumberbund, is a crime worthy of death. Thusly, I had a multitude of Sherlock-ian friends accost me on my negative feelings. Granted, it never came to blows because, in all honesty, our asthma would have acted up two minutes into it…but it was the closest I came to a brawl in years. Other than that time I almost punched a teenager in line for The Dark Knight Rises (true story).
The runner up receives honorable mention due to a moment of pure vitriol I experienced in my own home. If you want a piece of advice…never, ever, ever say that you don’t like Despicable Me around my girlfriend. Deal? Deal.
Winner: Idris Elba in Pacific Rim; Runner-Up: Jamie Foxx in White House Down
Okay, okay, yes, Jamie Foxx played the first black president in White House Down. Yes, his wife looked like Michelle Obama. And yes, his character was named Shcmarack Schmo-Schmama. But there is no fucking way he gets this award. If one can sum up Barack Obama in essence, he is a positive role-model and figure of power for the African American community. He is a leader who doesn’t always make the best decision, but he sticks to his beliefs while not being afraid to compromise. So, by those considerations, Idris Elba is the most badass of fucking badasses ever to roam the Earth. I’m not kidding. I don’t care how silly his character’s name, be it Stringer Bell or Stacker Pentecost or Selection Easter or Serendipity Yom Kippur, Elba is like a deity dropped from the heavens to show humanity how to eat glass and spit out diamonds. Honestly, this man can play any role with power. James Bond? Fuck yes. Doctor Who? Do it. Queen Elizabeth II? It would be an interesting adjustment, but fuck it, let’s do this. The moment in Pacific Rim where Elba turns to one of the indeterminate white boys and says “One, don’t ever touch me again. And two, don’t EVER touch me again. Is that clear?” and then he walks off screen, a colossus of permeating confidence and charisma was the most sexually awakening experience in my life since Reese Witherspoon had pointy boobs in Pleasantville (also, shamefully, a true story). I mean…look at this exemplary specimen of humanity:
Yeah…not just women (*cross legs*)
So, yes, Jamie Foxx. You can wear your silly glasses and shoot bazookas and tell people to get their hands off your Jordans. You might have even chewed more gravel than a special edition Tommy Lee Jones gravel pit when you were in Django Unchained. But you will never reach levels of unbreakable badassery achieved by a man named after the fucking island where Napoleon was exiled.
That’s right. Fucking Napoleon.
BEST MOVIE I MISSED LAST SUMMER AND FINALLY GOT AROUND TO SEEING AND LOVED
Winner: Beasts of the Southern Wild; Runner-Up: Let’s be real, I made up this category to have an excuse to talk about Beasts of the Southern Wild…so let’s just say The Conjuring
Alternate Title: How Not to Use Fireworks – The New Orleans Story
This was perhaps my greatest regret of the previous summer. Also, a number of tequila shots. Those were regretful. I think. I don’t remember what happened after, but I know the night ended and I had split my pants in two…so…probably not well. Of all the raucous insanity of the last summer, what with the capstone to Nolan’s Batrilogy and the resounding success and not-at-all-the-bloated-corpse-floating-in-the-East-River-we-thought-it-would-be that was The Avengers, I barely had enough time to explore the finer dining options on offer. Granted, for a city with as many damn hipsters as Chicago, we have the same number of art-house movie theaters as we have insane midget mayors (meaning: one). Thus, it is difficult to consume the delicacies offered by the independent cinema scene. Well, I eventually got my hands on this little ditty and I gobbled it up like Augustus Gloop after finding a Fruit Roll Up Moebius Strip. And, might I say, it was delectable. Beasts is an almost Grecian epic limited only by its impossible imagination. The performances are impeccable. The direction is manic. The script is borderline nonsensical. But the package is so much more than simply the sum of its parts. You might not understand why massive pig-boar-elephant things came out of Gulf of Mexico, and you might not get why Hushpuppy hangs out with a stripper she calls ‘mom’, or why she was named after a harshly unfashionable shoe. But it doesn’t matter. The film is a sliver of perfection, a vein of platinum surrounded by igneous rock. One can smash the precious mineral free and purify it to mold it into any shape you please…but why do that? The impurities only make the product more beautiful.
Oh yes, and I included The Conjuring because I didn’t really want to make a category for “Movie Most Likely to Make You Need Another Pair of Underwear”. Wait…why didn’t I do that? What the fuck, brain? Get your shit together. Oh well. Maybe next year.
MOST PISSED OFF NO ONE WOULD GET DRUNK AND SEE IT WITH ME
Winner: R.I.P.D.; Runner-Up: After Earth
I’m coming for you, mutherfucker. Drunkenly.
Well, this category is slightly different than last year. Last year, the winner of this category eventually came out from behind and won Movie of the Year. That’s right, fucking BATTLESHIP. It didn’t matter how much I whined and cried and showed up to people’s work unannounced with a fifth of Jack stamping my feet until security had to escort me out, nobody would see Battleship with me in theaters. And it was AMAZE-BALLS. This year, the honor is slightly murkier. The stage was set for the perfect outing. Huntsy, Erin and I were going to sneak in a few metric tons of alcohol and watch R.I.P.D. the ironically titled finishing touch the tombstone for Ryan Reynolds’ acting career. This movie, parading Jeff Bridges as a verbally deficient post-mortem law man and Reynolds trying desperately to hang onto his lasting relevance, was apparently so fucking bad that they pulled it from theaters AFTER TWO WEEKS. The three of us were going to do a special episode of Whine and Cheese where we snuck into the bathroom to review sections on our phones. However, lo and behold, the movie was R.I.P.peD. from under us, like a tablecloth at a magic show. And so, we were lost, floundering, searching for answers, for hope, for Jeff Bridges sounding like Mr. Ed…thus, eventually, we watched Possession and almost, literally, committed ritualistic suicide due to over-doses of G-Palt. So, I promise you, when that steaming pile of Reynolds excrement becomes available on the Red-Box or the Flix of Net or the fabled land of ‘Illegal Movies’ we shall, oh, we shall get trashed and review it.
Also, After Earth sounded agonizing. I love agonizing. Just like I love M. Night Shamalamadingdong. Did I say love? I mean poop on.
MOVIE SERIES THAT MOST MADE ME SEE THE LIGHT OF GOD
Winner: The Fast and the Furious; Runner-Up: The Cornetto Trilogy
It’s like a model call for douchebags!
Now, this was a shockingly difficult category. I see god a lot. I saw him in the finale of The Avengers; I saw the jolly fellow at the conclusion of Children of Men; I caught a glimpse of him when R. Kelly reveals the midget in Trapped in the Closet; and I’m definitely sure I see the altruistic old man every year at the mall with children on his knee. The guy in the red suit, that’s God, right? Anyway, this summer, perhaps more than any other, opened my eyes to true cinematic brilliance. No it wasn’t Citizen Kane or Metropolis. Nor was it The Godfather or Black Swan. It was, in fact, that metallic ballet of flying meatheads and automobiles that is The Fast and the Furious. After missing the lion’s share of the series (chapters 2 through 5, to be exact), I thought I would sit in the theater and be bored with countless tired inside jokes and character choices esoteric to the outside non-Fast non-Furious fans (The Slow and the Impenetrably Calm? The Stupid and the Rational? The Eat-Whenever-You-Want and the Not-Realted-to-Samuel-L-Jackson-in-The-Avengers?). What I witnessed instead was a panoply of genius; a nonsensically coherent parade of bombast and excess; a poem of such pointlessness and beauty that the Dada movement would fall down and weep at its feet. Yes, The Fast and the Furious changed my life. Now, will I go back and watch all of them in a row? Most likely. Will I film my reactions? That is also very likely. Will I be a haggard inebriated mess? Most definitely. But, most importantly, I will be first in line for the next installment if only to see Kurt Russell…but it won’t be for Kurt Russell, it will be for EVERYTHING.
The Cornetto Trilogy, on the other hand, brought me to enlightenment in a subtler manner. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s trilogy of British comedies, beginning with Shaun of the Dead and ending with the appropriately titled The World’s End, not only strive for the upper-reaches of hilarity, but have such a quiet underlying brilliance that the average movie watcher might not notice at all. From a literary stand point, The World’s End is practically genius. Like, Stoppard-levels of clever. It wasn’t something I noticed when first watching the film, but just read this article (spoilers within) to see how intricate the thought process was behind the film’s themes and references. Edgar Wright has always been a savant of referential humor, but this might be the first time that he trumps Joyce for his complexity of allusions. Check it out. So, yes, dumb summer movies CAN be intelligent. And I don’t mean faux-Inception smart where people spend an hour and a half explaining a plot mechanic that everyone conveniently ignores for the remainder of the runtime. (Don’t get me started on Inception. It will turn into a rant within a rant within a rant within a…OH GOD. IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN!). I mean, like actually sensibly coherent. Well done, boys. Well done.
Winner: Iron Man 3; Runner-Up: The Spectacular Now
RDJ was mad they didn’t cast him in Pacific Rim.
I understand the IRON-y of my choice with this category (see what I did there? Do you see? DO YOU SEE? I’m fucking hilarious). In fact, Mr. Downey Jr. was precisely the reason why The Avengers won the award for the most rancid of my negative awards, ‘Least Batman’, last year. His fast-talking, consequence-avoiding, playboy Tony Stark couldn’t have been further from the Dark Knight in all ways. Granted, he doesn’t have superpowers of any kind…and he’s a philanthropic billionaire who turns himself vigilante with his considerable finances…and he has to fight both competitors and mad geniuses…well, anyway, that’s where the comparison stops. However, in Iron Man 3, after The Avengers proved that there is an upper limit to ridiculous third-act finale battles, Shane Black took Stark back to his roots. With a few far-fetched plot points in hand, he forces Stark to use his considerable smarts to rebuild his weaponry using nothing more than house-hold appliances. The effect is brilliant. Finally, we feel as though RDJ might be in actual danger, seeing as he doesn’t have his super-invulnerability-do-everything-swiss-army-knife suit at all times. He even begins feeling remorse and darkness for things that happened in previous movies. AND HE FIGHTS TERRORISTS. If this ain’t Batman, I don’t know what is. Unless it’s actually Batman. Because that’s pretty Batman. You know what else is completely Batman? This tie-clip:
My girlfriend is better than your girlfriend. Because she makes my tie Batman.
The runner up in this category doesn’t have an article attached for various reasons that will be discussed soon…but The Spectacular Now is the tale of a kid who barely has parents, spends his time wooing a girl and trying to figure out his life. Parentless kids? What’s more Batman than that? OTHER THAN MY FUCKING TIE CLIP. So, yes, you want to be Batman? Kill your parents. Become a billionaire. Or…more simply, GET MY TIE CLIP.
Winner: Ben Affleck; Runner-Up: The Great Gatsby 3D
Yep. The Drunk Knight himself returns.
I dreamed a dream of a world with JGL. When hope was high and movies worth making. I dreamed a dream Batman would never die. I dreamed that Zack Snyder would be forgiving. When I was young and unafraid, and Batmen were made and used and wasted. There was no bat-price to be paid. No Clooney unsung, no Kilmer untasted. But then the Snyder comes at night, with his dick as loud as thunder. As he tears your hope apart. And he turns your dream to Affleck…
I want to go on record here. I have no problem with Ben Affleck. His work behind the camera is nothing short of excellent. Each of his movies, Gone Baby Gone, The Town and last year’s Best Picture winner Argo deserve every ounce of praise they have received. However, I don’t know what it is…whenever he gets in front of the camera everything just…well…goes wrong. What was a funny and smart indictment of modern Catholicism in Dogma turns to shit monster way too fast. What was Pearl Harbor…well, continued to be Pearl Harbor. At least in Argo all he had to do was grumble and pretend that he’s hispanic (Tony Mendoza? Really?). Even in the trailers for his new movie opposite that juggernaut of thespian training that is Justin Timberlake, he looks about as charismatic as a forgotten, carved pumpkin on November 10th. Just…deflated. So, I don’t have too much beef with the Affleck. Worse Batmen have been cast (AHEM Clooney AHEH-HEH-HEH-AGH-I’M-COUGHING-UP-BLOOD-HEM). Worse directors have been hired (Fucking Schumacher!). But, I thought we were past this, guys. I thought we had reached the new age of the Bat. Nolan resurrected the franchise and turned it into something relevant. Passing off a franchise like this to Zack Snyder is akin to Robert Oppenheimer going up to Gomer Pyle and saying “Hey, I’m mostly done with the atom bomb. Why don’t you finish up?” All we’ll be left with is a smoking crater, and scorched earth. I have made my opinions on Snyder as a director on many occasion…but he has quite successfully earned his nickname “Dick in the Ear” each and every time. He is the fucking worst on every level. Man of Steel was rotting pile of penis. The concept of a sequel makes me nauseous. Like I just saw a rotting pile of penis.
The runner up is well earned in this, the worst of my awards. The Great Gatsby is perhaps the least Batman of all millionaires. He earns all of his money illegally…he does nothing but throw parties…and he dies by being shot. Yep. Nothing Batman about that. Asshole.
BEST MOVIE OF THE SUMMER I WROTE ABOUT
Winner: The World’s End; Runner-Up: World War Z
This is some epic poetry shit right here.
Clarification is required. These are not the two best movies of the summer. In fact, especially the runner up, the quality best known as ‘goodness’ has barely a tenuous relationship with this duo. However, these were the two movies of the summer that I enjoyed the most (that I wrote about). Since we as a society have had the surgical addition of our new iAppendages, the concept of not glancing at one’s phone every three seconds is akin to self-castration. Why would you do it? Therefore, we have become guilty of addiction. At least Google is doing half the work for us with its new G-glasses or whatever. We don’t even have to look away! Just through! Man, imagine what that world would be like if we saw the world only through the lens of Google. I mean, every time we tried looking for any information, we’d go through Google…or trying to find our way back home…Google might even invade our movies! Oh…wait…
Anyway, as I was saying, these two films succeeded in delivering the impossible. I didn’t look at my phone once. For World War Z it was purely due to early-onset rigor mortis, my knuckles white with tension as they practically ripped the theater chair armrests from their sockets. The World’s End, however, earns the top place on this, the second most coveted Mooney Award (after Most Batman of course) because the film kept me locked into its content at every moment. If I were to glance away from the screen for even a millisecond, I might miss a micro-joke tossed into the mis en scene, a line of such palpable hilarity that I might vomit at its very suggestion. Therefore, I held onto every ounce of that film. And, to be fleetingly sincere for one moment in my life, to let the real world melt away into a memory for a meager two hour span was more than I can ever wish for. There is no way to hit the off button on my near-schizophrenic obsession with movie construction, forcing my enjoyment of a movie to devolve into a clinical dissection of its moving parts. I could disappear into The World’s End. I only drooled over its detailed genius after the fact. For those two hours, I was in another land. A land of Smashy Smashy Egg People, pubs and big lamps fucking off. Bravo, The World’s End for charging where the trilogy had never had the impetus to before. Also, good job World War Z for not being the bucket of old elephant-taint we all thought you would be. Way to hustle.
Actually Best Movie of the Summer I Couldn’t Write About Because My Girlfriend Fell Asleep and We Never Got Around to Seeing it Again
Winner: Much Ado About Nothing; Runner-Up: The Spectacular Now
I don’t know about you, but I ONLY go scuba diving with a full martini glass.
So…Amelia and I have this chronic issue. We sleep. Hard. I’m not kidding. I’m talking as hard as John MacClane dies, we sleep. Maybe double that amount. When I sleep, it is more akin to rehearsals for decomposition than replenishing rest. I become an immovable lump of flesh. Seriously, and this is true, my apartment once began to burn down and my friends were unable to wake me to drag me outside. And then I burned to death. Well, not really. But you get my point. Over my travels through the universe, searching for a better (or, at least, pretty much equal) other half, I seem to have discovered the only human on planet Earth more likely to sleep through her own demise. When we went to see Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, both of us giggling with our virginal Shakespeare boners tucked discretely into our belts, Amelia lasted about twenty minutes into the 10pm showing before setting sail for the Land of Nod on the SS PTFO. I, however, engorged myself on the glittering and near-perfect micro-budgeted adaptation from the man who personally murdered cinematic subtlety with a sextet of muscled heroes. When we left, Amelia was furious. And I mean seven-levels-of-Inferno-pissed that she had missed it. As the dutiful boyfriend, and ignorant of the pains of immolation, I tossed some gasoline on that fire by exclaiming, “OMG IT WAS SO GOOD”. I was refused a chance to post an article until she had finally seen it. Well…time came and time went and that trek to the Century Landmark became a thing of wilted dreams. The stunted beginnings of my deftly crafted opinions were left gathering dust in my ‘drafts’ section, begging to see the light of the Internet day. So, here it is, what I have of that article:
Much Ado About Nothing (2012) – Joss Whedon (Dir.), Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz, Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillion, Reed Diamond, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Tom Lenk
Oh the Century Landmark theatre. What a delightful place. This little gem, held aloft above the questionable antics of the AVEDA beauty school, a hidden sparkle in lodged in the bleached anus of Clark and Diversey, is the only ‘Art House’ cinema in the non-terrible sections of Chicago (aka, not downtown). This is the place where I have delighted in numerous filmic morsels, from the haunting and grotesque White Ribbon from Haneke to Aronofsky’s white-bitch-be-cray epic Black Swan to the endlessly charming Moonrise Kingdom, this place is the antidote to the poison that is the increasingly cyanic business of 3D/RPX/FUBAR BS subsuming all things of even tepid quality. As summer film puffs its chest and shrinks its testes, we are offered a cavalcade of mediocre bombast, a tidal wave of unnecessary spectacle with a rotten core. Scripts have devolved into a sort of See Spot Run anthology of idiocy, riddled with more stage direction than dialogue to the point that they might as well be adapted from a Beckett Play Without Words. Therefore, there couldn’t be a greater breath of fresh air than a minimalist comedy using words provided by one of the most beloved writers of all time. That’s right, Joss Whedon. I mean Shakespeare. Sorry. Shakespeare.
Much Ado About Nothing tells the tale of two barbed single friends who, whenever they meet, spend pretty much the entirety of the time raking each other through witty verbal brutality while their friends and family look on with more eye rolls than an optometrists bakery. Recently returned from a war where nobody died (yes, this kind of absurdity exists in the plays of Shakespeare), Benedick, Claudio and Don Pedro have decided to put away their swords and unsheathe their most sacred weapons during a month-long frolic at the house of Leonato in Messina. If you haven’t read the play or, at least, looked up the Cliff Notes during high school because you undoubtedly had to read this ‘problem comedy’ at some point, none of this will make any sense. Claudio wants to hump Hero’s brains out…by way of marriage and, while the wedding is in its preparatory form, decides to hook up the two insufferable wits, Benedick (Alexis “Husband of Alison Hannigan” Denisof) and Leonato’s cousin Beatrice (an excellent Amy Acker). It’s the original ‘Will They? Won’t They?’ Tensions run high as the booze flows fast. Will Don Pedro’s inexplicably evil bastard brother Don John break up the wedding? Will Benedick fall for Beatrice? Will Nathon Fillion show up at some point?
SPOILER ALERT: Read the fucking play, you illiterate swine.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand that’s as far as I got. But, believe me, I laughed harder at this film than I did during anything else this summer season. There is one line in the final scene that almost made me, a grown man, request an adult diaper. Honestly, you should rent this shard of literary excellence and cinematic nonchalance immediately. It doesn’t tone down, dumb down or Whedon down any of the play. Amy Acker offers perhaps the best female lead performance of the season because, well, it’s the summer, so women are more likely to be seen and not humanized.
The other pick is the enigmatic indie, The Spectacular Now. It was a good movie, viewed on a quiet evening in the throw-back splendor of the Logan Movie Theater. It’s a problematic drama, exploring teen alcoholism, abusive relationships, and the dangers of codependent young love. Perhaps one day I’ll get around to writing an article on the film, though it struck some fairly vulnerable nerves relating to the ghosts of high school past… I will say, throughout the length of this quiet and thoughtful treatise on dependency and addiction, Pacific Rim was playing at full tilt in the next theater. Every crash of metal, every riff of the guitar, every flash of pubescent and puerile vicarious obliteration seeped through the paper-thin walls and derailed the somber tension. It was a bizarre juxtaposition of the reality of teenager inner life versus the escapism that generally ensues. It was weird, unsettling, and helpfully distracting from this composition of misery that was The Spectacular Now. See it. Or don’t. But it’s the sort of movie that has a right place and a right time. Right now…it feels like a blade in the gut. But that’s what candy is for. There is no coincidence that I ended up seeing Pacific Rim a week later in that same theater. Escapism is a drug whose addiction is only society acceptable due to its epidemical prevalence. I’ll take another hit. Always.
Most Hateful Towards Women
Winner: Pretty Much Everything…; Runner Up: Did You Read the Winner?
That’s right. Once more the heightened temperature brought us the cavalcade of overblown masculinity harshly present every summer. Granted, we didn’t have a Michael Bay movie to smack us with the hard end of a dick, but we certainly had Man of Steel. It seems that, day after day, we are offered more movies that, if not outrightly despise women, carefully ignore their existence as though the entire gender is simply a Forest Whittaker-esque servant lining the rooms of our bombastic and adolescent power fantasies. They waltz into the spotlight only when needed, their entire presence only determined by the male characters who ‘need a romantic counterpart’. In fact, almost every film on this list failed the exceedingly simple Bechdel Test (a movie passes if two or more named female characters have a scene without men and are not talking about men). Why don’t we go down the roster of movies I reviewed and grade them accordingly for how many women A) were in the movie; B) had conversations with people lacking penises C) worked on a movie. SPOILERS: the results are depressing.
This is how this award makes me feel.
The Great Gatsby: Okay, firstly, it’s a love story. It’s got Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker. Almost half of the five main characters are female. Not too bad. Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Nope. If so, then barely. Jordan and Daisy might have a scene together but seeing as it’s Tobey “Dopey” Maguire narrative, he’s always there, like your overbearing mother at a sleepover. Also, granted it was written in the 20s-30s, the main woman is merely an object of affection, unburdened by the onerous heft of things like a ‘personality’ or ‘dramatic agency’. Director? Male. Writers? All male (duh). Grade: C-
Iron Man 3: Eh. This one has a couple of female characters, one of them being the only time G-Palt is not nauseating to watch. Yes, there is a scene between her and another female doctor that technically knocks this into the ‘pass’ category for Bechdel. However, in terms of pure screen time, ladies barely have a second to themselves. This is about RDJ. This is ALL about RDJ. I appreciated the prevalence of female soldiers on the opposing team. That was nice. But, all in all, too little too late. How many male leads? 7. How many female leads? 2. Director? Male. Writers? Male. Grade: B-
Star Trek Into Darkness: Where the first movie made sure that Uhura was well-respected for her language abilities and her sassy attitude, here her essence is reduced to nothing more than a clinging-shrewish pain in the ass. She also only gets ONE chance to do the thing that she has been hired to do, you know, speak Klingon…and she fucks it up. It was probably because the blood rushed to her uterus too quickly saving her thinking organ from having to do too much work. Also, Alice Eve’s breasts are dropped into the movie. Why? So she can be in her underwear for no reason whatsoever. How many male leads? 9. How many female leads? 2. Director? Male. Writers? All male. Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Fuck no! Grade: D-
I wish I could have done this without a skull fracture.
Fast & Furious 6: Okay, this one is a shocker. Yes, this franchise is famed for knocking the testosterone levels up to 11 on all counts…but that goes for the ladies as well. We don’t have any weeping damsels in distress or floundering flaps of feminine flesh flaunted for their floopy bits. We have Gina fucking Carano punching Michelle Rodriguez in the fucking face. Does that mean it passes the Bechdel Test? HELL YES. A fist fight is a conversation, of sorts. And there ain’t no penis involved. Granted, the only adonis here who doesn’t manage to miraculously walk away from every auto accident unscathed is a woman…but that’s required for the ret-conned franchise reach-around that occurs in the final scene. How many male leads? 7. How many female leads? 4. Director? Male. Writers? Male. Still, it’s astonishing that the Fast and the Furious has set a higher bar for gender roles than Star Trek. Grade: B+
This Is the End: Um…do I need to say anything? Emma Watson shows up for like five minutes and the rest of the characters spend the film talking about dicks, semen, gay people, and pussies. Also, Watson is there for two seconds before someone mentions rape. Shudder. How many male leads? All of them. How many female leads? Do the math. Director? Guess. Writers? Really? Are we going to do this, guys? Grade: F
Man of Steel: Okay, this one, especially coming from the porn-addled mind of Zack “The Masturbator” Snyder, actually holds up okay. We have Amy Adams as an excellent version of Lois Lane, both confident and driven without anyone brandishing the dreaded ‘B’ word (and it ain’t ‘bunions’, people). Diane Lane is still as foxy as ever…though she doesn’t really get to do anything but be in trouble occasionally. Also…there’s that one bad guy Kryptonian Israeli lady. So…there’s some variety. While the rest of the meatheaded movie was about as intelligent as a passing of gas, the gender politics are not as abysmal as you’d assume. Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Perhaps. If so, then barely. There are no memorable scenes between female leads with Henry “I Want to Lick Him” Cavill being around. How many male leads? 6. How many female leads? 4. Director? So male I want to put him in a post host. Writers? Maler than Norman. Grade: B-
World War Z: Granted, the entire film is about Brad Pitt globetrotting, so any characters he meets are around for about five minutes before becoming zombie chow. However, his wife and daughters are essential characters as is his Israeli bodyguard. Now, if you want to say a two second conversation between mother and young daughter passes the Bechdel Test, go ahead. Otherwise, Pitt takes up too much film to allow any room for anyone else, gender aside. How many male leads? Well, like 2 or 10, depending on how you classify lead. If they survive longer than ten minutes, then it’s 2. How many female leads? 2-4 if you count children as humans. I don’t. Director? Male. Writers? All of them male. All 3000 of them. Grade: C+
Despicable Me 2: This is an odd one. We have the three little girls that Gru cares for, though, in this movie, they are about as essential to the plot as my little toe is essential to my sex life (not very, just to be clear). The only other female presences are Kristin Schaal’s bemusing and whorish crazy date lady and Kristen Wiig’s almost schizophrenic, incompetently ultra-competent spy. Yes, this is a cartoon so reality isn’t really under fire here…but come on. Do all the women have to be cardboard cutouts of humans? How many male leads? Between 5 and 2,000,000 (if you count the minions who are the real stars of the show). How many female leads? 5. It mildly passes the Bechdel Test when the girls converse after Gru has put them to bed. Directors? Male. Writers? Male. Grade: B
Pacific Rim: Oh lordy. After Mr. Del Toro’s excellent and lady-filled Pan’s Labyrinth, you’d think he would keep the trend going. Apparently not. Pacific Rim has as much vagina as a bachelor party: one, and it belongs to a lady who really doesn’t seem to want to be there. Yes, we get glimpses of that one russian lady…but Rinku Kinkuchi is the only lady in this massive expolathon. So, yeah, no Bechdel pass here, guys. Sorry. How many male leads? 7. How many female leads? 1. Director? Male. Writer? Same guy. So, yeah, male. Grade: D
My impression of me after Man of Steel.
The Conjuring: Finally! Something with some ladies! Yes, due to the frustration of being based on a true story, this little ditty had to fill its ranks almost exclusively with the woman folk. From Vera Farmiga to the eternally abused Lily Taylor, this is all-lady. Granted, those ladies get beaten, possessed, assaulted, scared and puked on…but this is a free country. Every woman has the right to be possessed by a homicidal demon witch from Rhode Island. It’s Susan B. Anthony’s dream! How many male leads? 4. How many female leads? 7. Director? Male. Writers? Male as well. Sigh. Grade: A-
The World’s End: Another poor showing. Yes, this tale of the journey through the darkness of male adulthood doesn’t have much room for the ladies. While intelligence throbs through the main artery of this piece, gender politics do not. We have c-words and b-words and p-words tossed out all over the place with impunity. Hopefully, soon, they’ll have the courage to include a few more X chromosomes in the proceedings. How many male leads? 8. How many female leads? 1. Technically, it passes the Bechdel Test…but a woman talking to lady robots doesn’t really count, does it? Director? Male. Writers? Male. Grade: D+
Elysium: Here is the oddest of the bunch. While there are only a few ladies in the mix, the lead enemy of the film was originally written for a man but then adapted to be female by none other than Ms. Filmic Gender Equality herself, Jodie Foster. Without her presence, this clattering, flashing, jumble of epilepsy-inducing trash would have been sucked up its own masculine asshole. It, again, barely passes the Bechdel Test when Jodie Foster tells the nurse lady to stop attempting to save her. Yes, one word. That’s all these ladies get these days. How many male leads? 5. How many female leads? 2. Director? Male. Writer? Male. Grade: C+
This is how this makes me feel always.
Isn’t it sad? Granted, those are only the movies I wrote about, but as a purely anecdotal cross section of modern blockbuster theater, statistically, this is a bad situation. Of course it’s fine to have a movie all about guys. That’s whatever. Yes, Glengarry Glen Ross is a thing. It doesn’t mean that those movies are diminished in value. The issue is the clear and painful trend that has subsumed all Hollywood filmmaking. Women are supporters. They interact with male characters. They help. The reason so many films fail the Bechdel test is solely because the main characters are almost exclusively male. World War Z is a classic case. No matter how many strong female characters he runs into, they are almost the ‘guest star’ of the act, never crossing paths with anyone in the past. The systemic issue is one that truly needs to change. It seems as though when a movie has a female lead character, it’s labeled a women’s movie and so dies the death of inanity at the hands of focus groups who assume they know what women like. What greater indicator of this plague than the fact that Snow White was adapted to make THE HUNTSMAN the main character? Seriously, guys? The only movie this summer that arrived with a plethora of X-chromosomes that was not considered a chick-flick was The Heat…which is fine…though the movie looked like nothing more than a by-the-numbers screwball comedy. Maybe ladies have to start with the shitty genres before working their way up the budget food chain. Oh well. Maybe next year I’ll make this list and the average grade won’t be so abysmal. Maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll end up stabbing my eyes out during Batman vs. Superman. One can only hope.