Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Prisoners (2013) – Denis Villineuve (Dir.), Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo

Two Men. One Cup. OF DOOM.

Two Men. One Cup. OF DOOM.

THE BASICS: I’m pretty sure this movie was created in a sterile, European laboratory purely to give my mother nightmares. One time, while my sister and I were home alone all day, my mom called us from the office to tell us to be careful: she had seen a guy walking down our street and looking at houses in a manner that my mom had deemed “suspicious.” (spoiler alert: nothing happened). Another time, we were visiting the area in Philly where my mom grew up with her and a friend of hers (we drove around in a minivan gawking out the windows in a neighborhood that is now predominantly black, it was problematic) and every single memory they had of the place involved someone dying, or being abducted, or being raped. This in the place where she spent her childhood. My mom always imagines that the worst possible outcome has and/or will occur: a trait that she has passed down to me. Any time a friend of mine is five minutes late meeting me, I start at the assumption that they’ve been abducted, quartered and left in someone’s basement.

“Prisoners” follows a pair of families in suburban Pennsylvania: one white, one black, and both solidly middle class. On what is sure to go down as the worst Thanksgiving in family history, the young daughters of both families mysteriously vanish. The paterfamilias of the white family, Wolverine (okay, okay, Hugh Jackman), decides very quickly that the sketchy-looking RV that their daughters were playing on earlier that day is the key to their disappearance. The other paterfamilias, played by Iron Man’s Original Black Friend (okay, okay, Terence Howard) goes along with it, because his character is very thinly conceived. An APB is put out, which is how we meet Detective…um…The-Joker’s-Gay-Cowboy-Lover-And/Or-Batman’s-Girlfriend’s-Brother (Jake Gyllenhal). He’s a loner, he has tattoos and he’s super intense. DCI Donnie Darko soon finds the RV and, more importantly, its driver, Paul Dano. At first everyone is like “Woohoo” because Dano  looks and acts like he just received his Doctorate in Advanced Pedophilia and Child Murder. Unfortunately, there is a surprising lack of the little thing called “evidence” and so the police let him go, because apparently this town is run by DAMNED DIRTY HIPPIES. Wolverine is not pleased by this. So he does what any self-respecting Walking Talking Embodiment of The Bush Torture Memos American would do: He abducts Paul Dano, takes him to an abandoned apartment building and tortures the shit out of him, bringing along his black friend (and, to be fair, fellow concerned parent) for help/moral support/humorous cultural misunderstandings. Meanwhile, Detective Guy-Who-Was-Once-Considered-as-a-Replacement-for-Tobey-Maguire-in-Spiderman-2 sets about actually, y’know, “solving the case” with “detective work.” Seriously, what a bunch of hippies.

By the way, everything I just described is maybe the first 45 minutes of the movie. The running time is 2 and half hours. I’m gonna go ahead and say this helps its Oscar chances, because long movies seem more important than short ones. Same goes for books, which is why Infinite Jest is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK EVER WRITTEN.

Snikt!

Snikt!

Best Actor: Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal.

Putting both actors in this category is kind of a cheat for me. I don’t think that, come Oscar time, they are both going to be entered in the lead actor category. Hugh Jackman will be entered for the lead and Gyllenhaal will be entered for supporting. I’m mostly putting them into the same category so as to contrast their performances, and there’s nothing you can do about it. (BTW, for the one of you who reads these kinds of reviews but doesn’t already know this, The Wrinkled Fuckers can vote for an actor/actress in either best lead or best supporting. If the role is one where it’s unclear as to which category it fits into, then this could possibly lead to vote splitting and the actor/actress could not get nominated at all. This is why studios will decide to mount a specific campaign for an actor to be nominated in either lead or supporting to guide The Wrinkled Fuckers in their nominating process. Fun Fact: in 1944, the actor Barry Fitzgerald got nominated in both lead and supporting for his role in the film Going My Way. I’m sure it would have been a big to-do if America wasn’t busy fighting a war with Hitler.)

Now, I haven’t taken a stopwatch to their screen times (because I am not chronically depressed) but I’d bet dollars to cronuts that Jake Gylenhaal has more screen time than ol’ Hugh. Nonetheless, I think that Jackman is going to get campaigned for in the lead category because his performance is the one with ALL THE EMOTIONS.

“Hugh Jackman” is actually Australian for “A Whale’s Vagina.”

“Hugh Jackman” is actually Australian for “A Whale’s Vagina.”

For realsies, I think that this performance was sold to Hugh Jackman solely on the basis of: You’ll get nominated for an Oscar. They reminded him of how, back in 2003, every freaking awards show clip from Mystic River for eventual winner Sean Penn was just him screaming “IS THAT MY DAUGHTER IN THERE?!!! IIIIIIIIS THAAAAAAAAAT MY DAUGHTER IN THEEEEEEEERRRRRRREEEE?!!!!!!!!!!” Jackman is in full, “I’m wearing a beard and so I’m super serious right now” mode and he plays the role’s all-consuming rage to the hilt. It is not a subtle performance, but it’s not necessarily a bad one either. I’m sure if I was in that position (daughter abducted, obvious perpetrator set free) I wouldn’t be Mr. Subtlety either. Plus Jackman even gets to go down the fun “relapsing alcoholic spiral” trail as well. (Although, and I know this isn’t his fault, but the movie has him literally swigging from a bottle of whiskey, which isn’t something people really do outside of frat parties and comes off as annoying Hollywood shorthand.) But what it ultimately comes down to is this: Prisoners is actually two films. (I’ll get to this more when I talk about the script.) One of those films is an indictment of the American notion of justice and the means to which we’ll go to get it. The other film is a really fun serial killer noir flick. Jackman is the star of the “blah blah blah indictment” one, and that’s the movie that would get nominated for an Oscar.

They found a book report on "The Grapes of Wrath" in her room. Her analysis was facile. FACILE!!!

They found a book report on “The Grapes of Wrath” in her room. Her analysis was facile. FACILE!!!

Funny thing is though: Gyllenhaal gives the better performance. His character is a career detective working for some reason in the middle of suburbia instead of, oh I don’t know, in the mean streets of Philly which, as my earlier anecdote about my mother clearly outlined, is a dank pit of mayhem and despair. This guy is quiet, contained and methodical, but is just as driven as Jackman’s freaked out father is. When he asks his boss for permission to keep Paul Dano in hold-up one more night, out of fear/respect for Jackman’s wishes only to have Dano go free and then get assaulted by Jackman in the parking lot, his next scene where he rips said boss for going against him is a tiny peek into the whirring centrifuge that keeps him on the case. Gylenhaal’s scenes with Jackman too are like a game of acting Ju Jitsu on Gylenhaal’s part. Jackman comes in all fire and whiskey, only for Gylenhaal to quietly turn that bluster against him and come out on top. He’s a better, subtler actor stuck holding up the half of the movie that involves discovering dead bodies in a priest’s basement and boxes filled with snakes and bloody children’s clothes. Really, the only mark against him is his blinking. He’s given Detective Loki this nervous blink that, once you notice it, all you can think is “if this was a drinking game I’d be wasted by now.”

Best Original Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski

Now when you read that last sentence, I bet you thought “Detective Loki? What kind of joke on one of Gyllenhaal’s past roles was he making this time? I don’t remember him being in Thor, and I’m sure he wasn’t the guy who played Loki. Wait, did they change actors between Thor and The Avengers? Did Jake Gylenhaal play Loki in The Avengers and I just didn’t notice? What the fuck is going on?!!!” Nope. That is actually the character’s name, swear to God. Here:

Gyllenhaal

Yup. At first I thought it was maybe meant to be ironic, as Gylenhaal’s detective represents the forces of law and order methodically working to keep anarchy at bay, whereas Jackman’s character is the embodiment of raging, chaotic id taking the law into its own hands. Then I laughed and thought “No, they’re just idiots.” I really have nothing more to say on this particular subject. I just couldn’t hear anybody say “Detective Loki” without giggling and waiting for Gyllenhaal to call someone a “mewling quim.”

As I mentioned previously, Prisoners really does feel like two movies: one a serious melodrama that examines torture through the lens of American notions of masculinity and self-reliance, and the other a grand guignol serial killer thriller where people scrawl mazes on the walls and, once again, there are boxes full of snakes. (Fuck snakes BTW. Just fuck ‘em.) It’s not a problem that this movie tries to incorporate all these elements. It’s a problem that you feel the shift every time it switches. The two halves never cohere into a whole.

Father: What are you kids watching? Son: X-Men Origins" Wolverine. Father: Oh. So. What do you think? Son: Man, Will.I.Am can NOT ACT.

Father: What are you kids watching?
Son: X-Men Origins” Wolverine.
Father: Oh. So. What do you think?
Son: Man, Will.I.Am can NOT ACT.

This is because the movie starts in a very grounded realistic setting, and then tries to slowly reveal the crazy underneath. This is the wrong order to do things in, like that person from OKCupid who waits until the twelfth date to tell you about their elaborate foot fetish. If you knew about the foot fetish going into date number one, then you know exactly what you’re getting into and then, when the person also turns out to have written their dissertation on “Ulysses”, you can be pleasantly surprised by their depth and erudition. Take for instance, the movie that that Prisoner’s Oscar hopes clearly have in mind: The Silence of the Lambs. If this movie had an OKCupid account, its profile pic would be of a goddamn foot. Within five minutes of the movie starting, Clarice is sitting across from Hannibal Lecter, and systems are go.  It doesn’t take the time to let its audience go “Hey, Wait, This isn’t Reality.” It just kicks you into a pit, lowers down a basket of lotion and says “It is NOW, Bitch!”

Ahem. So yeah, I don’t see this movie scoring any nominations for writing.

Best Director: Denis Villeneuve

You know what? For all this movie’s faults, I think Villeneuve did a pretty good job here. If he was a French director, I would say he might stand an outside chance.

But he’s not French. He’s French Canadian.

He doesn’t have a chance in hell.

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Lemme ask, does that name sound familiar to you? Because it should. Let’s read off his resume, shall we? Better yet, let’s just read off his previous Oscar nominations.

  • Skyfall
  • True Grit
  • The Reader
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There
  • O Brother Where Art Thou
  • Kundun
  • Fargo
  • The Shawshank Redemption

Two things. First, this guy is the cinematographer for the Coen Brothers. So he must be a Prince-Making-Charlie-Murphy-Pancakes-level baller. Second, all of these movies were fucking gorgeous. And Prisoners is no exception. Deakins takes the color gray and turns it into a rainbow. He uses shadows not like he adopted them, but like he was born in them.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins

Cinematographer Roger Deakins

And during a climactic drive through the pounding snow, he cooks up a blurred vision effect that takes your standard “faster, faster, must go faster” moment into a nerve-splintering hell ride.

I don’t honestly think anyone else from this movie will get nominated. But Deakins? I think this will be lucky number eleven.

Best Picture: Prisoners

This category got a lot more ridiculous when they changed it to ten nominees, and then less ridiculous but still very interesting when they changed it to up to ten. Forcing ten nominees really felt like giving trophies to everyone on the team. It was mostly seen as a reaction to The Dark Knight not getting nominated the year before which led everyone to be like, “Do wanna hear how I got these scars, Oscar voters?” Now of course the actual solution to that problem, that the current make-up of the Wrinkled Fuckers (mostly the fact that they are overly wrinkled and a majority of them are fuckers)  precludes such genre fare from being considered is not one that is easily remedied, short of handing out Oscar voter cards at Comic Con and then watching in horror as Jonah Hex walks away with the field. (Jay Kay, nerds. We know you hated that movie too.) So the Wrinkled Fuckers decided to do the next best thing, which was include enough spots that films like The Dark Knight or District 9 or Machete Kills could get nominated but not win because one is about a man who dresses up in rubber suit and fights an evil clown, one of them is about space bugs but really it’s about racism but really it’s about super cool guns and one of them is—actually, scratch that—Machete Kills is gonna win the whole damn thing.

What was I talking about? Where was this going? Oh yeah. Even with an expanded field of up to ten nominees, which would seem to favor genre fare like Prisoners getting a nomination, I still don’t think it’s gonna happen. Prisoners is your classic “The whole is less than the sum of its parts.” It’s an okay torture melodrama (like Zero Dark Thirty’s dumb hick cousin) and it’s a fun little serial killer film and it ’s got some good performances and it’s got gorgeous cinematography but none of it really adds up to a great movie. It has all the right parts to assemble to the Princess Play Castle that is an Oscar-Nominee for best picture but it doesn’t know how to put them altogether, probably because some of the parts aren’t even from a Princess Play Castle. They’re from an erector set, or Lego Death Star, or a meth lab. And while you might end up making some kinda alright meth in your Princess Play Castle Slash Meth Lab…is this really the kind of meth you’re gonna smoke and think, “This meth deserves an Oscar?”

I don’t fucking think so.

Fin!

Wait! Un-Fin!

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo

I forgot to mention that Melissa Leo is in this movie. She plays Paul Dano’s creepy aunt.

Let’s be clear here: Melissa Leo is not getting nominated for an Oscar. I just brought her up so I could show you these:

LeoThose are photos from Leo’s self-financed Oscar campaign for her performance in The Fighter. Which she won.

Mr Gylenhaal, the ball is in your court. Your blindingly white, marble-columned, icy blue swimming pool containing court. Godspeed. And maybe take this floor length white fur robe for luck.

by Andrew Mooney

Children of the Corn (1984) – Fritz Kiersch (Dir.), Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, a bunch of stupid children and one or two not stupid children

Is it a reference to communism? Nope? It's just stupid.

Is it a reference to communism? Nope? It’s just stupid.

Sometimes in life, all you want to do on a Sunday, the looming specter of a fierce head cold working its infectious way throughout your mucous-making passages, is to curl up in bed with a silly movie and allow the dulcet tones of women getting stabbed in the naughty bits while people ask dumb questions like “Is that you, Connie?” as a chainsaw revs up in the shadows lull you into a restorative and peaceful sleep. Sometimes you want to tell the world, “You know what? I give up. I can’t take it anymore.” With the pressures of work and watching Species with your girlfriend’s grandfather (article forthcoming), you beg the universe to stop the Earth on its eternal celestial cycle and offer even a sliver of respite in this cataclysmic life. So, I did. I did just that. And let me just say, for all the Internet to hear, as God and that weird golden cow statue as my witnesses:

CHILDREN OF THE CORN CAN GO FUCK ITSELF

All I wanted…all I begged for was a simplistic silly horror film with enough competency to simply say goodbye as I set off on the USS Forty Winks to the land of Go-The-Fuck-To-Sleep. I could have chosen The Avengers. I could have watched Thor. Or maybe some House M.D. But NOOOOO Andrew had to be an asshole and go into the fucking Halloween section of Netflix and think to himself, “Huh, I’ve never seen Children of the Corn, that sounds fun.” I’m a goddamn idiot. This movie filled me with such abhorrent and pestilent rage that I am now in a fucking bar, my cold be damned, drinking and fuming over a keyboard. Seriously, no, like, seriously, Children of the Corn might just be the stupidest fucking movie I have ever encountered. Like, there are middleschoolers who cannot point out the US on a world map who have a higher IQ than this turd. I think I have vomited more intelligence after 10 Irish Car Bombs than that travesty that just burned its hole in my iPad Netflix app. What cruel God, what demon in control of this pitiful universe was responsible for the existence of this fecal excuse for filmic flimsiness?

Alright, background. The movie starts on an incredibly promising foot. A bunch of kids murder a diner filled with old people. Sweet. Some dude gets his hand in a meat slicer and a kid’s milkshake gets covered in gore. Awesome sauce. Great start. I wish every movie could begin this way. You know, Love Actually, But Here Is Some Good Old Patricide (which opens with a sure-to-be-iconic shot of Hugh Grant being shoved into a sausage grinder). We then precede to the obligatory Stephen King “Prescient Child” character and are offered a hilarious, yet surprisingly effective history of the children taking over the town of Gatlin for the purpose of…um…corn. I guess. And this is where the film goes downhill: the main characters. Yes, I understand that the leads in any horror film are usually cursed with the wits of a mentally dilapidated duck, but COME ON. Linda “The Chick Who Killed The Terminator” Hamilton is a woman who wants to get married. Peter “He Came to Life Out of a Sears Catalogue – Kill it – Kill It With Fire” Horton is the man she wants to marry. He is a penis. Not a dick. Not an asshole. Not a pussy or any other derogatory term we have for opening through which fluids/solids/children pass, but a penis. He is tall, erect, constantly inappropriately dressed and seems to only be able to move forward. Like a penis. Well, Johnson Trouser-Snake is driving to Seattle, or somewhere, to be a doctor. Now, we are informed of this repeatedly because he keeps stating it. However, throughout the course of the movie, meeting dead kids, or getting stabbed, or watching his wife’s face get cut, he never does anything a self-respecting MD-having penile quack would do. In fact, when he sees his wife’s face, gouged by an incensed zealot ginger (IZG), he goes, “You got one too!” and they both laugh. That didn’t happen, but this movie is so fucking stupid IT MIGHT AS WELL HAVE.

Spot the difference! One of these is a stoned creature known for eating poop and licking its own genitals...and the other is a dog.

Spot the difference! One of these is a stoned creature known for eating poop and licking its own genitals…and the other is a dog.

So, Shit-For-Brains and the Mighty Doctor Dong travel through Nebraska in the longest “Driving to a location where the rest of the movie has to happen” since Terry Gilliam forgot to turn off the camera during Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and accidentally filmed Johnny Depp yawning for 6 hours. Now, our director, Fritz Kiersch, gradually guides his two lifeless meat puppets of humans towards their inevitable clashing with a town filled with religious crazies with the urgency of slug on methadone. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he weren’t actually a human being, but just a bunch of sloths sitting on each other’s shoulders in a trench coat. And all of them are addicted to horse tranquilizers. From the lingering shots of fuck-all to the incredibly awkward extended takes of Linda Hamilton looking at things without any actual agency.

So Tweedle Dumb and soon-to-be Mrs. Tweedle Dipshit hit a child. In broad daylight. On a straight road. A child, yes, a child covered in blood. What does Dr. Dong say? “I hope that was an animal!” Yes, you must have a PhD in Human Fucking Anatomy because when did humans not classify as animals? Not only that, but he then takes twenty fucking minutes to figure out that the red stuff on the suitcase, obviously carried by the dead toddler, is blood. He seems bemused by the simplest of visual stimuli, like a child wandering into his parent’s bedroom while they’re engaged in cross-gender c. This is my impression of Dr. Dickwitch for the length of this movie:

“Huh. I’m surrounded by murderous children armed with farming implements. Let’s have a chat about religion. DEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRPPPPPP.”

Linda after she finally read the script.

Linda after she finally read the script.

It’s pretty fucking perfect. You see, this story might have been chilling on the page. While his actual literary novellas are shockingly decent (the book versions of The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, pretty much everything in Four Seasons) Stephen King has written precisely two horror books: girl has destructive mental abilities and kills many people (Carrie, Firestarter) OR child can see into the future and religious zealots try to murder everyone (The Shining, Desperation, Children of the Corn etc. etc.)…oh, and another book about alien snakes coming out of people’s anuses (what the fuck were you thinking with Dreamcatcher?). In all these years of repackaging the same worn pair of scary socks, he knows how to wrap a fucking present. We have creepy this, atmosphere that, boobies here and swearing there, add a dash of biblical verse and VOILA…you have a King novel. He ain’t perfect, but he knows what he’s doing and what the people want. Here’s the problem with this sewage system of an excuse of a movie…maybe a horde of children with weaponry is scary on the page…but when shot by a sloth-filled-coat as director and Helen Keller as your cinematographer (totally in daylight, zero usage of shadows, dynamic lighting or shot framing of any kind), you realize the reality of this tale: if children attack you…you punch them in the face BECAUSE YOU ARE AN ADULT AND HAVE ADULT STRENGTH. Por example: the ending where Dr. Derp-a-lot fights the evil ginger kid…he kicks the kid in the fucking shin and the kid goes down like a sack of potatoes. OH. THAT WAS TENSE, GUYS. WHO’S GONNA WIN IN A FIGHT? A 16-YEAR-OLD CHILD WHO ALREADY HAS ENOUGH SOCIAL DISABILITIES WITH GINGER HAIR AND A FACE SHAPED LIKE A DRIED TOMATO OR A FULLY MUSCLED 30-SOMETHING MAN?

Ultimately, the movie deviates from the original tale. Apparently, in the short story, both of the adults are murdered because, well, it’s supposed to be the story of adult hubris and the assumption of child weakness. I guess. But…in this…well…here is a rundown of what occurs in the final scenes: Linda Hamilton is going to be sacrificed on a corn crucifix because, well, why the fuck not? Also, Ginger-Face-McGee usurps Isaac, the Corn God’s prophet and sticks the little kid (an amalgam of Haley Joel Osmet’s unfortunate inhuman acting style and premature Dave Thomas-esque jowl-age). The child is then attacked by, what I have assume is the cinematic embodiment of David Lee Roth’s libido, and turns into a zombie. Then they spray the fields with Gas-o-hol which, is that even a thing? I don’t even care anymore. And then everything blows up.

Is that the end? Fuck no! Because this piece of smegma isn’t done yet. If I could sum up the entirety of this exercise in utter incompetency, I would do so by showing you this, the final scene of the film:

DO YOU SEE? DO YOU SEE? I WITNESSED AN HOUR AND A HALF OF THAT? HE PUNCHES A LITTLE GIRL IN THE FUCKING FACE AND SAYS: “Oh, what are we going to do now?” YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IN HELLFIRE YOU IDIOTIC PIECE OF HORROR MISERY.

WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS MOVIE? WHY? WHY DOES IT STILL EXIST? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!

URGE TO KILL STEPHEN KING RISING…

Now…if you will excuse me, I have to sleep the sleep of the dead. Mucous. Blech.

by Andrew Mooney

Trapped in the Closet (2005) – R. Kelly (Dir.), R Kelly, R. Kelly, Cat Wilson, R Kelly, Michael K. Williams, R Kelly some more and a midget

Trapped in the Closet: Now Stealing Fonts from LA Confidential

Trapped in the Closet: Now Stealing Fonts from LA Confidential

It is known that the pathway towards genius is a path well-trod and filled with obstacles, both emotional and physical, existential and intellectual, sexual and totally sexual. It seems that R. “Yes He Actually Made this Movie” Kelly has sprinted down the genius path hitting every fucking ugly branch on the way there. Trapped in the Closet is Kelly’s epic hip-hopera charting the events of a day in the life of some guy who has sex with a lot of women. There will be spatulas! Midgets! Lesbians! Omar from The Wire! Inexplicable edits! Flagrant racism! AIDS! This lyric poetry runs the gamut of western literary theory, dragging you through the truth, horror and beauty of what it is like to live in R Kelly’s brain. And trust me, it’s terrifying in there. So, be warned. Beware. Be ready to fucking do this people. There will be pizza! There will be shots! There will be a room of white people feeling really awkward! There will be flagrant mistakes about African American thespians including but not limited to: Morgan Freeman, Omar Epps, and Sean Connery. Join me, Erin and special guest star, and dragon, Ryan Lehmenkuler as we tackle this beast five ‘chapters’ at a time. Also, join us for our special Halloween episode airing on October 31st. It will be SPOOK-TAC-ULICIOUS.

The Breakfast Club (1985) – John Hughes (Dir.), Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Michael C. Hall, Paul Gleason

Set phasors to "Disaffected Youth"

Set phasors to “Disaffected Youth”

Alright, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Yes, there is a two ton elephantine lump of cultural awkwardness constantly resting in the doorway of my blog-based discussions. And, like the clown chasing me in my nightmares, it’s massive, pink, and has a mild obsession with the Youth in America. That’s right, I had never seen The Breakfast Club…until this last weekend. In fact, growing up in the UK, the antics of a bunch of North Shore brats drinking and charming their way through 1980s high school had very little cultural resonance for me. I barely understood what high school even was, despite frantically gobbling down Buffy the Vampire Slayer and to a lesser (read: far greater) extent Sabrina the Teenage Witch throughout my formative years (that might explain a few things). The work of John Hughes is unmistakably American. These tales are about American kids drinking American beers having American problems in American schools with American accents (unless they’re that one Asian kid in that one movie). Thusly, the extent of my Hughes-ian exploration was limited to the Chris Columbus scream-directly-into-the-camera-a-thon and Joe-Pesci-when-were-you-dramatically-castrated-fest Home Alone along with the bizarre exercise in repetitive futility that was Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. It seems as though, like unicorns, Chimeras and the dinosaurs did with Noah’s Ark, I missed the boat on pretty much the most important thing ever. Children of the 80s practically subsisted on Hughes’ simultaneously bleak and unendingly optimistic image of teenagers. Unfortunately, as a Brit, all I had was Monty PythonTrainspotting and Doctor Who. So, when I realized that most people didn’t dress as women, walk sillily while dosing themselves with heroin and running away from toilet-plunger-wielding Daleks, I was sorely disappointed. But that’s what your 20s are for!

The Breakfast Club charts a single day in the life of five high schoolers incarcerated in Saturday detention for a whole slew of petty crimes, some obvious and others held secret until the ending. We have the nerd (Anthony Michael “Not Michael C.” Hall), the popular girl (an iconoclastic Molly Ringwald), an awkwardly puffy-haired and eyebrow-bleached wrestler-jock with a good heart (Emilio Estevez), a crazy chick (Ally Sheedy) and the most trying-too-hard badass since Rock Hudson married that lady that one time (Judd Nelson). Under the eye of a bored teacher (Die Hard’s Paul Gleason, RIP) these kids begin their day as five separate and parallel entities, content to operate and survive in their own tiny bubbles of social awkwardness and ineptitude. However, as Bender (Nelson) spends the day disrupting their individual peaces, he heats up the pot and those separate, rigid parallel lines soften and collapse into one another; a tangled mess of teenage spaghetti (Worst. Italian meal. Ever.) They skip out of the library to find weed, crawl through ducts, lock their teacher out of sight and out of mind, and, ultimately, in a beautiful climax of unspoken emotion, engage in perhaps the greatest teen dance sequence of all time set to Karla Devito’s “We Are Not Alone”.

Anthony Michael Hall's impression of a sex doll makes everyone uncomfortable.

Anthony Michael Hall’s impression of a sex doll makes everyone uncomfortable.

Now, I’ve never seen Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink, the Ringwald Trilogy, as I’ve decided to label it. However, I’ve always found Hughes’ movies smart but lacking anything other than surface emotion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m basing this solely off of the hilarious, seminal and only-thing-that’s-going-on-Matthew-Broderick’s-gravestone Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as well as the ridiculously stupid, hetero-normatively problematic, and Robert-Downey-Jr-licious Weird Science. Here, though, it seems as Hughes set out to craft a treatise on teenager-hood. While, at the beginning, he seems to ridicule the meager maladies affecting these preparatory-protected progeny, it becomes clear that, as he strips each child of their obligatory masks and social veils, they are all essentially the same scared, good-natured beings underneath. Though it only lasts about 9 hours, this movie is a serious journey for these children. At the end, as each is picked up by their respective parental units, a simple and effective mirroring of the opening scene, we are coarsely reminded of how far each of these young adults have come.

More than once during the proceedings I was reminded of (PRETENSION ALERT) Satre’s No Exit, the existential tale of three people trapped in a hotel room for all eternity. In both cases, the protagonists, or antagonists, depending on your point of view, are driven by their sense of claustrophobia. The only inciting action in the tale is one of entrapment. There are key differences. While Satre was attempting to divulge the rotten innards of the human condition, eventually stating quite simply that “Hell is other people” (but in French so it probably sounds even more pretentious…and there’s probably a cigarette involved…and a croissant…man I could really go for a croissant right now), Hughes states the opposite. These kids are here for a finite stretch of incarceration. They will leave and everything will be fine. They could sit in silence, as they do for a stretch of the opening, refusing to interact and remaining on the separate islands. But for teenagers, without the benefit of time and experience under their belts, eight hours might as well be an eternity. These issues don’t evaporate when they leave that library. While in No Exit the three insufferable asses (because, let’s be real, everyone in that play is terrible) drive each other insane because they have nothing better to do, here, the five puncture each other’s bubbles out of sheer necessity. All five need to be saved. It’s no mistake that the teacher spends the second half of the film utterly absent, drinking beers with the janitor and lamenting the changing young. This isn’t any Finding Forrester or Good Will Hunting. These children’s salvation is in one another. One by one they strip away their armor and show what they are within…just kids. They’re scared of everything. They barely understand the world and the few rules they’ve learned have done nothing but inflict horrors on their psyches. Every teenager feels like a felon until proven adult. I know I did. And I was a goody-fucking-two shoes for all 10 years (apart from one party where I probably could have died. You learn fast or you get fucked, I guess). Perhaps the best line in the movie comes from the janitor who, while listening to the embittered Gleason spew hatred after hatred on this generation, declaring them the worst he’s ever seen, finally interjects and says, “It’s not the kids that are changing. It’s you.”

"Hi, my name is Molly and I'm a child actor." "Hi Molly!" ~ They started counseling at a young age.

“Hi, my name is Molly and I’m a child actor.” “Hi Molly!” ~ They started counseling at a young age.

I never expected to be affected quite as strongly by this movie. I assumed shenanigans and antics and montages and boobies, you know, stuff from the 80s. What I discovered, on that harshly hungover Sunday morning, was something deeply touching. While I might have started with a sneer, especially balking at Bender’s heavy-handed attempts at basic authoritarian subversion, I didn’t want to let these five kids go after the end credits. As someone who has just escaped the event horizon of teenager-dom, I could still identify with the fears, the pressures and the insecurities of these five. We have the popular girl who despises her friends and is incapable of making a choice against the grain in fear of being ostracized; the jock who does everything his father tells him to, even to the point of descending to delinquency just because ‘that’s what boys are supposed to do’; the nerd who is so deathly afraid of a failing grade that he goes to almost unreal extremes; the troubled child of a broken home whose every day is a battle and, finally, the ignored weirdo who crafts her social isolation to be her defining trait because she’s afraid there’s nothing else below. Their adventures are impossible, almost surreal in their isolation. It’s as though these five have been transported to another plane, devoid of time and circumstance, where they can find this momentary connection across every social high-school divide. The climax, like an awkward threesome, is one of quiet contemplation and emotion. One of the most affecting moments in the entire film comes from Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian when he asks the damning question: “After today, will we all still be friends?” Ms. Ringwald tells him the harsh but inescapable truth: “No.” There has never been such a succinct assault on the terrors of high school’s emotional brutality.

In the end, they write a letter to their captor, a manifesto, if you will, declaring who they are, who they think they are, and who they want to be. It’s a carefully crafted set of words that I’ve heard quoted here there and everywhere. It’s good. It’s important. It’s Hughes’ thesis in a perfectly packaged nutshell. But that isn’t the point of the movie. Not for me. The most exhilarating moment that has plagued my brain in the most glorious of ways every moment of the day since watching this movie is the dance sequence. After these five have wept and connected and accepted that the future is scary and that perhaps they will never be together again, they do something so basic. They dance. All five of them, lacking any choreography or rhythm or talent or anything just begin flailing and kicking and cheering and head banging and air-guitaring and skipping and twirling and gyrating without giving any fucks whatsoever. If there was a sudden shortage of fucks spreading throughout the universe and these kids had vaults of the things…they wouldn’t give a single one. Of course the song’s refrain “We are not alone” couldn’t be more heavy-handed if it tried. But we see these five unhinged and free, each isolated in their own personal mangled dancing styles. Suddenly, though, we shift to their synchronized antics on top of the tables, dancing from side to side in tandem. It couldn’t be a more glorious catharsis.

Yep. That's all that needs to be said.

Yep. That’s all that needs to be said.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about The Breakfast Club is that at its conclusion, I wasn’t quite sure what I had just witnessed. It is epic. It is mythic. And yet, it’s probably the simplest thing you could ever fucking ask for. I sat there staring at the screen, mind blank and yet muddled with an infinite writhing mass of thoughts and considerations. It’s taken me three days to sort out that mess and order it into something at least partially coherent. I will say this, and I have never felt this in my entire life…entire life. The only thing I wanted to do when the credits rolled, watching Bender’s fist thrust into the air captured in a moment of victory and frozen modern mythology, was to press play again and witness this movie in its totality once more.

It was the most beautiful feeling in the world.

by Alex Huntsberger

Blue Jasmine (2013) – Woody Allen (Dir.), Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jssmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jasmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

THE BASICS: This is a movie about the financial crisis. I mean it’s not a movie that’s about the financial crisis. The financial chicanery that sets the plot in motion is more Bernie Madoff than Bear Stearns. But it’s about the financial crisis in a more holistic, spiritual sense.

FIRST SOME PLOT

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine (originally Jeanette), a Wife of Wall Street who is forced to move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) when her financier husband Hal (Alec “I WILL PLAY WORDS WITH FRIENDS WHEN AND WHERE I FUCKING WANT TO” Baldwin) is convicted of fraud and hangs himself in prison. Jasmine, a nervous wreck, attempts to put her life back together, getting a job as a receptionist and taking a computer course with an eye towards an interior designer’s license. Oh, and she also sets about trying to ruin her sister’s life, mostly by throwing a Rip-Torn-in-Dodgeball number of wrenches into Ginger’s relationship with her boorish but good-hearted boyfriend Chili (Bobby Carnavale). Oh, and also in the mix is Ginger’s ex-husband, Augie (the surprisingly not-dead Andrew Dice Clay) whose marriage to Ginger Jasmine previously ruined with some bad financial advice. Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard are also on hand, the former as…well…basically himself and the other as way older than I remember him and that makes me feel weird.

If that plot wrings a bit familiar, it’s probably because you were really cool in high school and read/saw/were involved in a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Tennessee Williams’ lyrical ode to the Dirty South.

Tennessee Williams (artist's rendering)

Tennessee Williams (artist’s rendering)

Much like Blanche lived in a world entirely of her own choosing, so does Jasmine try to block all the ugly truths that she has been privy too. Her refrain throughout the film is, “Let’s leave the past in the past.” Which is totally fine, except that one can only leave the past in the past when one has, oh, I don’t know, learned something from it. The film, in fact, frequently jumps back to the past, showing Jasmine’s glory years in the lap of East Coast luxury, and what it shows is that Jasmine remained as willfully ignorant back then as she does now. Whether it was Hal’s frequent philandering or his even more frequent financial shenanigans, Jasmine basically stuck her fingers in her ears and went, “lalalalalalalala,” if by “fingers in ears,” you mean, “cash money in her bank account,” and by, “lalalalalalalala,” you mean, “brunching on the weekend? Ugh, how gauche.” From beginning to end, Jasmine exists in a state of denial, much like a great deal of this country did so after a decade where investing in Wall Street was pretty much equivalent to buying stock in a textiles factory that manufactured The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have seen the enemy and it is…umm…us, Except that “us” is played by Cate Blanchett. (Looks in the mirror). Yeah, that’s about right.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

So, a lot of “Oscar” performances have that air of holding out one’s hand and yelling, “Oscar, please!” And it’s not that Cate Blanchett’s performance doesn’t seem like it’s gunning for an Oscar. It’s more like she’s an 80’s action hero who takes out an entire cartel’s worth of vaguely ethnic bad guys with nothing more than a Glock, a hunting knife and a pack of chewing gum. She doesn’t so much as ask for an Oscar as she does walk into your office with a bag full of bad guy scalps over one shoulder, the President’s daughter (who she just rescued from said bad guys) over the other one, dumps both of them on your desk, lights up a cigar and then just casually glances at the Oscar clutched nervously in your hand and mutters, “you gonna hand that thing to me, or what?” The lady’s been nominated for 5 Oscars so far and won best Supporting Actress for playing Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. She won an Oscar for playing a multi-Oscar winner; so, she’s basically not fucking around in the slightest. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her give a ‘bad’ performance.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Like, do you remember that one scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo shows Cate Blanchett the ring (and, yes, I’m mixing actor and character names: welcome to the Octagon) and Cate Blanchett gets all goggly-eyed and glowing and CGI? Okay, that’s basically Cate Blanchett in this movie. That level of intensity, that level of bone-deep wackadoo, for two hours straight. If it were almost any other actress, it would probably be terrible. But it’s Cate Blanchett, so it’s not.

Jasmine spends the entire length of the movie in a delusion: that she is doing fine and everything is going to be fine and that she doesn’t need to deal with all the fucked up stuff in her past because tomorrow is a brighter day. However, it is very clear that everything is not fine. She’s a middle-aged woman, newly poor, who has no discernible skills and whose refusal to reckon with her role in causing a great many people a great deal of pain is going to catch up to her sooner rather than later. And it is this tension, between Jasmine’s fantasy and the world’s reality that makes up the fulcrum of Blanchett’s performance. It’s like watching someone at a fancy party who really, really needs to pee but keeps pretending like they don’t, that they can hold it in, until eventually their bladder gives way and they just piss all over themselves. Except, instead of urine it’s, like, emotions and stuff.

And it’s fucking awesome. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar.

Nailed

Good job, Cate.

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins

Maybe five of you might remember Hawkins from the film Happy Go Lucky wherein she played a woman named Poppy whose outlook on life was, wouldn’t cha know it, happy go lucky. That she managed to make this woman complex, sympathetic and actually quite admirable is a testament to her skill. As the uber-sane ying to Blanchett’s bats hit-crazy yang, she’s wonderful.

But honestly, the most important thing she has going for her is this: she’s playing a supporting female character in a prestige Woody Allen film. Because when it comes to getting Oscar noms (and wins) for the best actress in a supporting role category, Woody Allen is basically Orson Welles. Dianne Wiest won twice, for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway; Mira sorvino won for Mighty Aphrodite; and Penelope Cruz won for Vicky, Christina Barcelona. For a male writer/director, especially one who is pretty much confirmed as kind of a crepp (as will happen if you marry your own stepdaughter and are NOT a character from a soap opera) the guy has a knack and, more importantly, a rep for writing good female roles that win Oscars.

I would say that Hawkins stands a very good chance at being nominated, if not outright winning.

Best Supporting Actor: Andrew Dice Clay

Oh man, do the Oscar voters ever love a comeback story. See: Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children, Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls, Thomas Hayden Church for Sideways and, of course, Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. (That last one is also attributed to The Wrinkled Fuckers’ love of blackface.) For those of you who have never watched VH1 (which should really change its name to The History Channel: Pop Culture and then eventually start doing shows about whether or not aliens were responsible for Robert Smith) Andrew Dice Clay was one of the biggest stand ups in the world back in the 80s. Motherfucker sold out Madison Square Garden. And he did it with material such as the following.

(Please image this as read by Morgan Freeman)

Hickory Dickory Dock
This bitch was sucking my kawk
The clock struck two,
I dropped my Goo
And dumped the bitch down the block.

Yeah, Jerry Seinfeld he weren’t. Thankfully, the gods of fate saw fit to serve Mr. Dice Clay and his “He Man Woman Haters Club” brand of misogyny his cosmic comeuppance. The guy hasn’t been in the public eye really for the past 20 years. The world moved on, Murphy Brown and Ally McBeal and Liz Lemon all happened, and the world was better for it.

Alec Baldwin remembers him...he's just not sure from where.

Alec Baldwin remembers him…he’s just not sure from where.

It’s hard not to bring all of this to bear when watching Dice Clay’s performance as Augie, Ginger’s ex-husband and all-around big lug. Dice Clay comes off as a man’s man who has been chastened by the world. Augie and Ginger’s marriage was wrecked by their investing a lottery-winnings windfall in one of Hal’s illusory funds. He’s your classic coulda-been-a-contender who’s given up dreaming big and now just tries to get by. And you know what? Andrew Dice Clay is good. Augie’s exaggerated guido mannerisms all recall Dice Clay at his most horrifically ascendant, but here they are softened. He comes off not as a monster, but a relic. He’s the hardworking blue collar American guy who’s one big mistake was getting involved with those vampire squids of Wall Street. After disappearing during the film’s second half, Augie reappears for a single, critical scene, a puffy pompadoured Deus Ex Machina who appears out of nowhere to (unknowingly) rip up Jasmine’s happy little future like a pig rooting through the dirt for truffles. Honestly, it’s a moment of class warfare on the part of Allen, and executed perfectly by Dice Clay that is incredibly, viscerally satisfying.

Right now I think he’s…not a longshot, but not a lock either. Dice Clay doesn’t have the talent to pull off a comeback quite the same way that mickey Rourke did after The Wrestler, that’s apparent in the movie. But in these early Oscar days, his hat is firmly in the ring.

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen

This is category that favors dialogue over plot structure. For instance, Gravity, which I will spill countless words over into the endless vacuum that is space the Internet has very (very) so-so dialogue but is actually very well structured. It probably won’t get nominated. Blue Jasmine on the other hand is not a tightly-plotted script but on a line to line level is, well, it’s Woody Allen movie. The man knows his way around words, and more specifically, the way that highly-neurotic people wrap words around themselves like a dolphin drowning in tuna nets. Whether or not you prize plot over dialogue, the Academy…hold up, I’m not going to refer to them as “The Academy” cuz that makes them seem like, oh, I don’t know, worthy of our respect, which is not so. They’re voting on “Best Movie” not “Best Cure For Cancer”. (Oddly enough, the winner in that category is actually “prayer,” but only if you’re a practicing Satanist.) I’m not going to call these people “The Academy.” I am instead going to refer to them solely as what they really are. I’m going to call them “The Wrinkled Fuckers.” Let’s start this sentence again…whether or not you prize dialogue over plotting. The Wrinkled Fuckers prefer a screenplay with lots of shiny words. Deal with it. And boy do they love Woody Allen, who polishes his words like a 12-year-old boy polishes his…bald statuette. Allen has already won Best Original Screenplay 3 previous times, for Midnight in ParisHannah and Her Sisters and Annie Hall. Dude’s got cred. He’s getting the nom (nom nom).

Best Director: Woody Allen

Allen’s strengths as a screenwriter (he makes movies where people talk at each other and that’s usually about it) are his weaknesses as a director, at least Oscar-wide. In this category, I don’t think that the Wrinkled Fuckers are smoking what Mr. Allen is growing.

Nah, son.

Best Picture: Blue Jasmine

It’s written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Cate Blanchett AND there can be up to 10 nominees? If the answer to this question were a 70’s prog rock band it would definitely be…

YES

Quills (2000) – Philip Kaufman (Dir.), Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Michael Caine, Joaquin Phoenix

and

Mystery Men (1999) – Kinka Usher (Dir.), Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, Geoffrey Rush, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Reubens, Claire Forlani, Tom Waits, Eddie Izzard

"Girl With the Pearl Earring" this is not.

“Girl With the Pearl Earring” this is not.

Welcome back, y’all! Some of you might remember, but most of you won’t…in fact I’ll be amazed if you do, but my girlfriend and I began a new film watching club back in the day. The concept was that she would show me a movie I’d never seen and I’d show her something new in return. A “I’ll show you Geoffrey Rush’s peen, if you show me more G-Rush dick” situation, if you will. Due to our inescapable penchant for PTOFing like champions during even the most exciting of films, we named this little group the Narcoleptic Society of Film Watchers…or NSFW for short. Our first outing was a leap into Some Like it Hot and Die Hard. This time, however, the lady Vanderbilt took the reigns and got me to sit down and watch Quills with three words with such gravitas that they have their own solar system: Geoffrey Rush’s Penis. Well, what do more do you need? If one could only review movies based on the presence of aged thespian peen, I would. That’s the only reason I went to see McKellan’s Lear (fun fact: that man is PACKING. They had to give a disclaimer to the audience “First three rows will get wet”. No joke). Well, there was some mention of Kate Winslet’s boobs, but, I mean, when has Kate Winslet not shown her boobs? A movie with Ms. Winslet but without nip as like a one-handed clap, or a tree falling in an empty forest, or McKellan’s 16-foot trouser snake without a salivating audience.

Before we get into the article proper, yes, this article’s title is massively misleading. Much like Quills. Ever since I was a wee theatre major (yes, that’s ‘re’ not ‘er’ because I need to hold onto my dissolving dream of theatrical pretension with the last ounces of rigor mortis left in that corpse of a career-future), I had heard tell of the infamous Quills. It is, of course, the tale of the Marquis De Sade, France’s dirtiest, most outspoken bastard until Nicolas Sarkozy took office. The Marquis, after hopping from prison to prison, was famous for his sexual deviancy and obsession with scatological pursuits. Eventually, he was committed to the Charenton mental asylum…which is odd to me because, in France, I assumed obscene sexual deviancy was synonymous with ‘breakfast’. But I suppose he violated one sensibility too many. Quills is the utterly fictionalized and not-nearly-as-dirty-as-it-thinks-it-is film charting the last days of the loony libertine portrayed by an unbelievably extraordinary G-Rush. After the Marquis manages to sneak out a particularly grotesque tale of female pleasure, innocuously entitled Justine, France’s most eponymously complex monarch, Napoleon, sends Austin Power’s father (Michael “My name is Michael Caine” Caine) to sort the man out. Armed with torture devices and a rather posh top-hat, Caine takes over the asylum currently run by softy mc-loves-a-lot Joaquin “I Used to Be a Decent Actor” Phoenix. De Sade apparently is allergic to not being published (I know his pain) and goes to every length to set his sullied thoughts on the page…or on his bed sheets, or clothing, or walls… Eventually, you guessed it, he bites it. Literally. But you have to see the movie to know why that’s funny.

No, this doesn't end in an orgy. And for that, I am upset.

It’s like if the Mad Hatter was a dildo specialist.

Now, My thespian cohorts in college told me myths about this movie, larger-than-life fables charting the horrifyingly subversive insanity of this iconic shit-shoveler. This included, but was not limited to: anal sex, flopping dongs, boobies everywhere, Michael Caine, feces…and, well, lots and lots of feces. Thusly, when I sat down with my girlfriend to drink in these horrifying extremities, I was sorely disappointed. I mean, readying for this review, I charted my mental thesaurus for as many fecal references as I could muster…and trust me, I came up with some good ones…only to have my dreams dashed by cinematic prudishness. Poop? You say your movie has poop? IT’S IN ONE SCENE. THAT’S IT! AND IT’S ONLY ON THE WALLS! Guys, I’ve hung out with two-year-olds. Poop-covered walls is bush league. When I see a grown many urinate into his own mouth, I might wince…might. You say this man is sexually deviant? The most grotesque act in this film is watching a 17 year old bride wipe her mouth after performing an off-screen blow job. Where are the threesomes? The S&M? The awkward, wig-based cosplay (which, back then, was known as ‘sex’)?

"Is it me, or can you smell someone who is going to destroy their career with a mis-informed documentary by Casey Affleck?" ~ Winslet, shockingly prescient.

“Is it me, or can you smell someone who is going to destroy their career with a mis-informed documentary by Casey Affleck?” ~ Winslet, shockingly prescient.

This dashing of expectation was only the beginning. Mr. Philip Kaufman, the film’s director, worked from a script by Doug Wright, a writer who is a subtle as he is a fucking mongoose. In fact, he is more of a mongoose than subtle because mongoose (mongeese? Mongooses?) are shockingly apt at dredging up crap. It is a testament to Mr. Rush’s impressively seasoned chops (category: metaphors that work for actors and sides of pork) that he can carry off a role of such rikonkulous flamboyance with even a modicum of believability. I think at one point he screeches ‘MY CONSTANT ERECTION!’ Oh yes? If it’s so fucking ‘constant’ why didn’t we see some erect Rush peen instead of a sad and cold flaccid thespenis? Unfortunately, none of this movie is actually as good as it thinks it is. Kaufman channels every director he can get his hands on to emulate any chance of bringing home a golden statuette. We have impressionistic matte sunsets falsely framing the few panoramas we’re offered, ala Polanski circa 1975. We have the natural lighting of Milos Forman’s excessively superior Amadeus attempting to give the world an ’19th Century feel’. We even have Kate Winslet’s boobs (ala Cameron, Eyre, Field, Lee, well, let’s be honest, everyone). However, this is a tale you have seen perhaps more often than a pair of Winslet nips (okay, I’ll stop, I promise). We have the inmate fighting against the system and the system fighting back. In the end he wins but dies, driving his captors to madness or self-reflection. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s basically One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but with more hairpieces and mentions of labia.

It's as though everyone was given the direction to think about Geoffrey Rush's penis.

It’s as though everyone was given the direction to think about Geoffrey Rush’s penis.

Well, with such a disappointment under our belts, we followed up with a movie synonymous with “career-crushing flops”. With the help of Netflix’s insufferably upbeat and loquacious Siri rip-off, ‘Max’, we were offered Ben Stiller’s pre-Zoolander, post-There’s Something About Mary parody of superhero flicks, Mystery Men. What we discovered was one of the most nonsensical, bizarre, flamboyant, eerily prescient and absurdly esoteric movies I’ve ever fucking seen. I mean, what the hell? I sat on the couch, agog, witnessing this glorious mess of a shit storm. Mystery Men tells the story of three completely incompetent ‘superheroes’, Stiller’s ‘Mr. Furious’ with the power to get really mad; Macy’s ‘The Shoveler’, a man with exceptional abilities in the realm of moving dirt from place to place; and Hank Azaria’s bemusing ‘Blue Raja’, a pseudo-Indian, British-accented man who flings silverware. These three attempt to foil crimes in the shadow of Greg Kinnear’s unstoppable Captain Amazing, a Superman send-up decked out with endorsements and, like a groom’s penis on wedding night, the crushing need to perform. Bored with the paucity of adversarial quality, Amazing frees Geoffrey Rush from an asylum…and his name? CASANOVA FRANKENSTEIN. I shit you not. That is his actual name. Rush struts onto screen, decked in the finest disco-era nonsense, a sharpened pinky knife, and an accent that would make Bram Stoker’s Dracula blush. Within minutes of release, he goes about blowing up buildings and capturing Captain Amazing. It is up to the Mystery Men to save the man and the city. Along the way, they pick up Janeane Garofalo as a hipster girl equipped with a haunted bowling ball; a native American man called the Sphinx who only speaks in mantras; Pee Wee Herman as The Spleen, a man capable to knocking out even the most constitutional of stomachs with a carefully fired fart; and the Invisible Boy (Kel from Keenan et al) who has the ability to turn invisible only if nobody is looking at him.

"When I make this face, the ladies know I'm going to write on the walls in poop." ~ G-Rush is totes method.

“When I make this face, the ladies know I’m going to write on the walls in poop.” ~ G-Rush is totes method.

What seemed like it was going to be a nonsense romp through a slew of outdated references, proved to be something far more incredible. It seems as though Mystery Men was released a decade too soon. With the prevalence of superhero movies saturating the market, now would be the perfect time to lampoon the il-logic of these mega-blockbusters. Right now, all we get to rely on are the misfortunate slew of Kick-Ass movies. Usher’s film attacks specifically Schumacher’s Batman movies, mimicking camera moves, shots, lighting and going so far as to even film on some of Batman Forever’s sets. The satire is so perfectly crafted that it would be easy to mistake it for incompetence. And don’t get me wrong, this movie is largely incompetent. Usher seems to have stumbled onto genius by accident. I mean, what intellectual merit can a movie aspire to with a scene where a skunk humps the leg of a man who’s magical power is flatulence? Based on a Dark Horse comic, there is a good chance that the truly subversive aspects of the script are due to the source material. Firstly, H. Macy’s family is black. When was the last time you saw a biracial family in a movie? Think about it! On top of that, the entire inciting incident comes about due to pressure to provide companies with advertising opportunities. How can you not see the link between this movie and the questionable morals of the news media conglomerates, idiots subsisting on the constant flow of international tragedy for ratings? Without even trying, this movie has made the same thematic point as The Dark Knight without even trying…heroes create their own villains.

Ultimately, after Tom Waits shows up with an arsenal of non-lethal weaponry, Greg Kinnear turns into a human representation of an Munch painting, and Eddie Izzard attacks Garofalo with self-igniting hair spray, we are left with a tale of outsiders and underdogs fighting the status quo and succeeding despite themselves. There are references upon references upon references, some obvious (Captain Amazing’s alter ego hides behind glasses a la Superman) to the utterly bemusing (Garofalo makes fun of how William Shatner once argued with a director about the way he says ‘sabotage’…WTF?)  Granted, this thing is horribly made. If I had a seizure for every time there was a close up with a fish-eye lens…oh wait, I did. Now I’m dead. Seriously, though. As Mel Brooks once said, “comedy is tragedy in a long shot”. There is precisely ONE long shot in the entire film. Guess what? It’s the best joke in the movie. The rest of it is an exercise in nausea and chromatic dissidence. And not in a fun way. It’s like a one-eye trip through a Rob Zombie fun-house. But with more neon.

There is no caption necessary for this picture. Just drink it in. DRINK IT.

There is no caption necessary for this picture. Just drink it in. DRINK IT.

So, where are the connections between these two bizarre little ditties of cinema? Well, Geoffrey Rush and his member aside, it’s really about the expectation of subversion. Quills set out to be an Oscar movie. It has every ingredient: a tour de force performance by an old white man, Kate Winslet, Kate Winslet’s boobs (okay, okay, one more), fighting the system, accents, wigs, shocking material handled ‘tastefully’, biography etcetera ad infinitum. Unfortunately, the parts surpass the quality of the whole; what could have been a truly eye-opening examination of deviant sexuality and its relationship to literature turns into a dandy of a smut-fest with extremely problematic examples of mental health issues. On the other hand, Mystery Men is the strangest cobbling together of disparate elements that somehow coalesce into a mild stroke of brilliance. Rush’s ridiculous Casanova Frankenstein is perhaps the most hilarious of all his characters and a damn-side more devious than De Sade. What’s more terrifying? A French author with slightly distressed views on ink quality, or an insane madman with a sharpened pinky knife and an obsession with disco. I think we can all agree that The Beegees trump all things in the ‘horror’ department.

I will leave off with a final thought: originally I was going to link Quills to Children of Men, a movie known for its graphic violence and bleak views of humanity. In the UK, Children of Men is the equivalent of an ‘R’ rating, soaked in blood and swearing. On the other hand, Quills, with its tepid showings of actor schlong, is rated ‘X’. What is so horrifying about penises that even the presence of a flaccid dong is considered an unviewable travesty? I think this video says it all.

Elysium (2013) – Neill Blomkamp (Dir.), Matt “The Hippo” Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Sharlto Copely, Alice Braga, Diego Luna

Short Circuit 3: Good Will Hunting

Short Circuit 3: Good Will Hunting

Guys. It’s my fucking birthday. As the earth completes yet another cycle about our solar celestial drain hole, constantly spinning and spinning like a piece of spinach that simply refuses to leave the damn sink, I step forth, or, rather, I step twenty-sixth into the future. Yes, the celebration of my not being dumb or unlucky enough to die in some sort of freak or genetic accident raged this weekend, claiming innocent livers like cirrhosis-ed trophies drowned in whiskey. After epic bouts of pizza, downing every fried delicacy I could force into my digestive tract without it hitting the emergency eject button, and passing out on my bathroom floor during a showing of Starship Troopers, my stalwart comrades of schlock film-going attended and enabled my every whim by joining me in a screening of Neill Blomkamp’s newest feature: Elysium.

And then I had a seizure.

Not really. But it actually felt as though I did. There was more flash and smash on screen than a mirror-wrestling match in the center of the fucking sun. Yes, Elysium, the newest and, if the box office receipts tell us anything, failing feature from a director smart and unlucky enough to earn necrotic labels such as ‘visionary’ and ‘genius’, thusly damning his works to a self-inflated death of recycled egotistical bullshit. I mean…that sounds harsh. But it’s true.

Elysium tells the tale of Matt “The Hippopotamus” Damon, an ex-con who’s just trying to keep his head on straight and, well, attached to his neck. Even if that head is shaved and makes the man look more like a hard-boiled egg than the prettier half of Matt-fleck (sounds better than Affmon or Matten or Bemon Maffdack – note to self: save name for terrible sic-fi epic). Unfortunately, due to the fact that everyone is poor, hungry and healthcare is distributed by creepy half-man-half-caterpiller nightmare-robots, his plan to not-die is doomed to failure. Thusly, after getting trapped in an irradiated room and told he’s going to die, “Cueball” Damon decides to storm the gates of the titular Elysium, a rich white-people paradise orbiting Earth. See, on Elysium they have these medical devices called “Magical Cure-all Get-Up-For-Fun In No-time” Machines or “MCGUFFIN” for short where, if you’re a citizen, all you have to do is lie down for about ten seconds and the thing etch-a-sketches you back to health. In order to break through the impenetrable missile defenses (which are, as inexplicably proved later in the movie, totally penetrable…kind of like licorice underpants) they must hijack the brain of a sleazy weapons manufacturer (William “I Was a Blind Guy in Contact, So the Title of That Movie Was Ironically Hilarious to Me” Fichtner).

"If you ask me about my shiny polyester suit one more time, I will stab you in the uterus."

“If you ask me about my shiny pant suit one more time, I will stab you in the uterus.”

In a spark of mind-bending coincidence, it turns out Fichtner has been planning with Jodie “The Pantsuit” Foster to create a program that will reboot Elysium’s systems and allow them to take control. Well, Damon inadvertently gets his hands on such sensitive material and decides that he’s going to make Elysium for EVERYBODY because, well, you know, there’s no such thing as limited resources. Oh yes, and to combat the cripplingly lethal dosage of radiation poisoning that is eating him from the inside out, Damon straps on a “Paraplegic Limitation Override Time-Helping Orthopedic Logistical Exoskeleton” or “PLOTHOLE” for short. What happens after that is a lot of punchy-punchy, blow-y uppy, smashy smashy, ow-my-eyeballs-hurt action along with perhaps the most bemusing performance of all time by Blomkamp regular and Teddy-Bear-cum-awkwardly-named-office-clerk Sharlto Copely.

Alright. This movie was enjoyable, to an extent. It wasn’t, however, nearly as deep nor as intelligent as it purported itself to be. Blomkamp gained fame after his aborted attempt to bring the utterly pointless film adaptation of Teenage-Boy-Power-Fantasy Halo to the silver screen and instead took about 30 million dollars of Peter Jackson’s money and made the exceedingly excellent District 9. His experience growing up in Johannesburg during Apartheid has drastically and rightly skewed his perspective of haves and have nots. He sees the world in dichotomy, one very much linked to the color of your skin. For Blomkamp, he was used to white people having and black people not. Now, this is not a unique experience, particularly in a city like Chicago or New York, though the social exclusionism of South Africa reached a fever pitch of detestable extent during that period of time. Throughout District 9 we are convinced that the bug-like grotesqueries that were the aliens had little more intelligence than your average coyote, all of them rabid, violent solipsists. However, as the hilariously monikered Wikkus Van Der Meer (Copely) transforms into one of their kind, the beings grow into a sympathetic and discriminated people. Granted, the end battle reduces the tale to little more than an ultra-violent Boss sequence in a video game, the build up excuses the digression. Eventually, we are given a surprising tale about repugnant creatures coming into a human and noble light. If you can handle swearing (I assume you can since you read this mutherfucking blog) and brutal violence, watch it. It’s fantastic. Even my mother, who said Pulp Fiction was little more than an extended smut video, thinks District 9 is one of her favorite movies.

"Hey man, even though your insides are rotting, this bad boy will make your spine incredibly overweighted. But deal with it, it's a plot point."

“Hey man, even though your insides are rotting, this bad boy will make your spine incredibly overweighted and would most likely cripple you. But deal with it, it’s a plot point.”

Regrettably, where District 9 succeeded, Elysium fails. Once again, Blomkamp has taken the honorable task of exploring a modern day political conflict and examined it in the light of historicization (or futurism or reverse-something-or-other). This time? The one percenters. Fuck those guys. Oh yes, and healthcare. Well, race is definitely still there, but certainly resting in the back seat like the quiet middle kid who knows it’s probably best to let the newborn cry and the eldest pitch a fit about not getting to spend the summer with her boyfriend and if only she would shut up the drive to Phoenix won’t be quite so goddamn agonizing. I’m not sure what just happened. Let’s move on. Anyhoo… Once again Blomkamp brings his infinitely precise eye for detail to the environment and artistic direction. The clothing design is simple and poor. The technology is, when not concerned with weaponry, believably basic. The future for him is not a pristine place. It’s dirty. It has graffiti. On EVERYTHING. He also focuses on making sure that the future is multi-national, his characters sporting more accents than the Swiss Linguistics and Polo Team (that’s totes a real thing (no it isn’t (how many parentheses can I put in before it gets annoying? (like, at the end there are going to be so many parentheses stacked up in one place (did you know we call them brackets in the UK? (true story (what if I ended this whole thing with a colon, like this :))))))). That’s absurd. Anyway, we’ve got Jodie Foster masticating some form of Quebecois ridiculousness, every possible Cholo accent they could dig up from LA, and Sharlto Copely barking tones that make him sound like a mentally deficient pirate (it’s heavily backwoods South Africa and it’s unintelligible). Also, for fucking once, the majority of side characters in this film are non-white. Granted, they’re also gangsters, car thieves, violent potty-mouthed brutes. But at least they’re not caucasian. Even an Indian fellow manages to work his way onto Elysium as the President. He’s the only one though. Fucking white people.

Unfortunately, such specificity of universe doesn’t necessarily extend to the script, where almost every plot decision is a facile as a fax machine (get it? Facsimile? SAT joke? No? You plebs) and the dialogue carries about as much gravitas as a toddler with a fucking crayon. Due to the plethora of international accents and the seemingly improvised script, every scene devolves into a baffling shouting contest with more curse words than a Wicca Pride Parade. Seriously, these people have mouths so dirty, they might as well open a porno-orthodontist (Pornodontist!). Somehow, throughout it all, Damon demonstrates why he is the lost golden god of cinema. He is infinitely likable at all points, never allowing his charm or charisma interfere with the action, but always buoying him to the top of the ‘watchable’ pile. Most of the performances are passable, with Foster giving a steely show in a role written for a male (something she admirably excels at) and Copely acting nuttier than squirrel turds. Unfortunately, the script is riddled with more throw-away lines than a fucking fly-fishing convention. When you cannot understand a goddamn word coming from a character’s mouth and yet you still know exactly what’s going on, you have to reevaluate your writing style, Mr. Blomkamp. Seriously.

"Excuse me, have you seen Ben Affleck? He has my Oscar."

“Excuse me, have you seen Ben Affleck? He has my Oscar.”

While District 9 did such a beautiful job of altering its audience before the 90 minute mark, this does little more than laud utopian and unrealistic ideals. What’s worse is that it crumbles into the same vicious mess as its predecessor…this time without the effective preamble. Honestly, though, I’m impressed with much of Blomkamp’s violence. Much like most of the artistic design and the gorgeously nasty CGI, it fits the world. He doesn’t give the gore a front seat like that guy voted Most Likely to Have a Woman Tied and Gagged in His Trunk, Eli Roth, but he makes it real and organic. Yes, a man is brutally dismembered by a railgun…but it’s more of an afterthought. It’s shocking, yet not titillating, as though it was filmed by a documentarian who had no idea what nastiness is coming. Such subtlety doesn’t follow with his camerawork. The child of the age of technology, Blomkamp employs every shaky-cam visual blending technique he can possibly think up to make the action more visceral. Well, it really only serves to make your viscera hurt. If only he could refrain from video-game-izing his climaxes, he could avoid the fist-to-the-face bluntness of the overall package.

Blomkamp’s eventual thesis is simple. Overly so. There should be redistribution of wealth and resources. Healthcare should be for everyone. The rich should give back everything. Okay…how…? Isn’t the fact that earth is an urbanized hellhole in the future due to overpopulation and lack of resources? By opening the doors of Elysium at the end (SPOILERS, but, come on, you saw it coming) they only serve to create yet another rock floating in space fully depleted of its production ability. No matter how many MCGUFFIN health devices they have…where does its power come from? Its cure-all magic fluid? Surely it isn’t infinite. These are the questions that, unanswered, nullify the impact of the message. They aren’t thought through. While District 9 is that clever asshole sitting in back, probably wearing a beret and carrying Nietzsche, who quietly argues with you until, by the end, he’s tricked you into arguing in favor of Nazism, Elysium is that airheaded freshman who yells at the class “EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE FREE THINGS ALL THE TIME. POSSESSIONS ARE MEANINGLESS!” Sure. That would be awesome. But healthcare isn’t infinite. We don’t have magical cure-all cancer-killing machines. We have grueling six-month courses of chemo-therapy, along with surgery, and oncologists, and surgeons, and MRIs and CTs and X-Rays and…(seriously, I watch a LOT of House). The dream of free shit for everyone is nice. It’s cute. It’s simply impractical. The difference between the two boils down to emotional vs. political. District 9 convinces the audience that, if they can change their mind about these cockroach creatures after 90 minutes, they can shift their preconceived notions about people of other races. Elysium says: we should have health care and the rich shouldn’t hide from us. Sure. I agree…but that’s the problem. Everyone watching will either brush it aside as idiotic or laud it as “exactly what I was thinking”. It’s nature as a self-aggrandizing power fantasy reduces its effectiveness to zilch.

"Yer fern oplem per facker." ~ Actual line of dialogue spoken by Copely.

“Yer fern oplem per facker.” ~ Actual line of dialogue spoken by Copely.

Blomkamp is a talented director. He needs a screenwriter. And he needs to avoid blowing things up for a little bit. You know…just for one movie. Just to see how it feels. Maybe then his fascinating ideas will actually break through rather than get stuck in the muck of explosive over-compensation and ultra-simplification.

Happy Birthday to me.