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Africans Lays Another Easter Egg, and Film’s Frequent Flyer Wants His Money Back

Posted in movies,reviews by YTAH on March 28, 2008
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I watch a lot of movies, and increasing amounts of TV. Okay, so I seldom make it as far as the cinema, and I don’t actually own a television set, but that’s why, on the third day, Jesus came down from heaven in an ark made of manna and gave us laptops and DVDs and chocolate rabbits who reproduce by laying eggs, like the dinosaurs who never existed, instead of through live birth like real bunnies. Whatever. (I’m sure the bible says something about the messiah delivering his people from TV licence inspectors, or logic, or something. [Of course, protection from these things, while appreciated, is not half as useful as protection from his more belligerent converts. Christ preserve us from his followers, thank you very much. Keep your army of morons away from me. That would be nice; cheers.])

See any white rabbits recently?

Being a connoisseur of the modern media as I am, I am frequently amazed at the shit people are willing to watch. Most films are completely insipid, a mutant orgy of second-hand storylines, choppy pacing, and walking clichés. (Yes, that last one is supposed to be taken ironically, you spazzwank.) This means that any film you see is liable to be a slow burn of mediocrity that, if you’re patient, will gradually reveal its ruthless derivativeness. But being a bit of a hater, I have a strong reaction to anything I watch, and there is often one moment where I can tell whether I’m going to love or hate it: The moment on the shrimp boat in Forrest Gump where you realize that Oliver Stone already made this film, back when it was called Born On the Fourth of July, with Tom Cruise of all people in the role of the disabled Vietnam vet, and you realize that you’d rather see a Tom Cruise movie than the crap you’re currently watching. The first time Roberto Benigni’s character decides to turn the holocaust into a game to keep his son occupied, rather than just strangling the annoying shit like a more considerate person would do. (It may take an entire village – or concentration camp – to raise a child, but it takes only one adult to put them out of our misery.)

Not even Jesus likes Tom Hanks.

These moments don’t always arrive at the same time in the film, of course. Many films prevaricate about whether they’re going to be “the shit” or “just shit”. Or they try to dissemble quality (henceforth known as “Oscar-baiting”), and sometimes they even succeed – with some people, anyway, or for long enough to collect an airplane-carrier’s worth of awards. The gritty realism™ of the battle scene at the start of Saving Private Ryan, for example, was enough to convince everyone that the rest of the movie was not just a pile of pandering, sentimentalised horseshit (a Spielberg specialty). Of course the effect was soon lifted, at least for me, by the desperately dreadful/dreadfully desperate scene where the army find out, sniff-sniff, that a whole bunch of brothers have just died. (Think about that. It’s okay for millions of people to die, as long as they’re not related? And does that mean you get to avoid the whole war business if you’re an only child, or are you fucked by the system, like Christ?)

So whether it’s because they’re trying to fool you into liking the film, or because you’re reserving judgment (henceforth known as “suspending your disbelief”), you may find yourself initially tolerating an unworthy movie. But you know those films where you know right off the bat that you’re going to hate them? In Moulin Rouge, for example, the decisive moment came thankfully early, in the opening scene, when Ewan McGregor sits snivelling at his typewriter, alone in an empty flat. I knew instantly that I would not care for a single fucking character, frame, or song in the whole miserable abortion, because the film would practically be sucking my cock to get me to like it, and I fucking despise desperation. Let’s get something clear: just because your protagonist is crying doesn’t mean your audience is. I can’t remember a film where I was less invested in the characters where the words “Michael Bay” didn’t appear in the credits.

Another, more recent film that was relatively upfront in flashing the audience its unsurprising lack of balls was The Spiderwick Chronicles, a film that I got dragged to by our good friend pinvictor, possibly out of some secret grudge he holds against me. I got to see it for free, but I still want my money back. Each of the people responsible for this regurgitative turdfest owe me a blow-job, or a beer. Anyone who makes a film with two Freddie Highmores for the price of one obviously has no problem with the idea of cynically exploiting the masses. (Turn-around being fair play and all, they deserve to be stoned to death with copies of Chinese Harry Potter rip-offs.)

Helmut “Spider” Wick, World War II fighter ace, takes to the skies once more in the fight against honest human emotion.

Be that as it may, the significant moment of crapitude came via the aforementioned two-time Prepubescent Twit of the week, in the immortal line, “It has that old-person smell – not a judgment, just an observation”. Um, yeah. A 9-year-old would actually say that? It’s exactly the kind of phoney dialogue that would get you banned from a creative writing class, or beaten up on the playground. Even the kids eating paint would scoff at your ignorance. Appropriately enough, they hired one actor for two roles but only gave them enough character for a half a person each. (You do the math.) My suspicions about the film were confirmed shortly afterwards, thanks to one of the least convincing family scenes outside of The King of Queens, with characters who could take lessons in genuine human emotion from the robots in AI: Artificial Intelligence. Hell, they could take lessons from Steven Seagal. (He, in turn, could be tutored by a plaster cast of the dog on Frasier’s shit.) My advice is to avoid this movie unless you’re a senile old fuck or a toddler. Either way you’re probably producing better shit on your own this very instant than the crap that these bastards scraped together.

Those are the moments that I remember later, in the theatre and afterwards, when I laugh at Nicole Kidman’s ridiculous death scene in Moulin Rouge (whoo-hoo! Death to bad acting! Die, die!), or beat up a friend for suggesting that Tom Hanks is not the poster-boy for evil. It is those moments I cling to when everyone around me starts worshipping at the altar of Robert Zemeckis, or hallucinating that Batman Begins is even half as good as a single scene from Hulk. It’s what makes the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie better than either of its sequels, and The Emperor Strikes Back superior to all three prequels combined. It’s why Some Like It Hot and Modern Times are comedy classics, and Failure to Launch is, well, as memorable as the last time you brushed your teeth. (Note to film executives: If your movie’s best joke is its title, you should probably reconsider the whole affair.)

Spoiler alert: Contains Tom Cruise.

Some films even advertise their mediocrity in their trailers, for example by including the words “Tom Cruise”, “Uwe Boll”, or “Based on a True Story” in the credits. One of the best examples from recent years was the trailer for Flyboys, a dreadfully trite war pic which seemed to be a discount Pearl Harbor rip-off. Yes, Pearl Harbor – a film which reeked of Michael Bay’s faecal matter, sort of a Memphis Belle-meets-Titanic monstrosity – has been remade. Badly. By fucking morons. Ever see Memphis Belle? It’s the masterpiece that gave us the memorable line, “Sir, if they found out they’d put my hot dog in a bun and chow down.” Yep, that’s another movie guaranteed to make it to the top of the shitpile in film hell. And the true tragedy of the Titanic sinking wasn’t the death of all those people, but the fact that we ever had to watch the soggy cinematic excrement named after it.

Now, just to be clear: there are some films that I absolutely love, and the aforementioned rule applies to them as much as anything. The opening lines from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The moment in Being There when Peter Sellers’ character leaves the house for the first time, to the sound of Thus Spoke Zarathushtra, funked up as a pièce of 70s synth-pop résistance. The scene in Evil Dead 2 where Bruce Campbell jams the chainsaw onto the stump of his arm. All of these mark the instant you sit up and realize that what you’re watching might actually be worth staying awake for.

Unfortunately, not all movies are as forthcoming about their relative merits. So whether they’re masking their insights into human nature behind tiresome “This is the way life really works” bullshit (Grace Is Gone, The Savages) or simply trying to serve their staggering craptitude as a gourmet meal, people need to be warned about what they’re going to be subjected to. This is why we have film critics: not to tell us what is good, or bad, or indifferent, but to give us an idea of what to expect.

Another cunt I rather like.

So without further ado – or the tiresome acceptance speeches of an awards show – here is your abbreviated guide to the films now on circuit, courtesy of Yours Truly Asshole.

BEST MUSIC VIDEO OF 2008: There Will Be Blood. Although this is mostly an instrumental film, they’ve done some amazing things with the visuals for this. Fortunately for discerning music-lovers everywhere, the songs don’t feature any lyrics, which automatically puts it miles ahead of other musicals. (If any lyrics were recorded, the sound engineer wisely tuned down this track in the mix, possibly in a deliberate attempt to improve the film in a way that leaves room for plausible deniability. Daniel Day-Lewis is an alright-enough actor, but him singing? I’d rather have someone rape my eardrums with one of Celine Dion’s fake nails, or any of the songs from Dreamgirls. Ugh.) Worst music video: Sweeney Todd. An opportunity squandered, due to a total lack of any good tunes whatsoever. (Again, as with Mast(urbat)ers of the Universe, you’d think someone would have noticed before spending this much money on it.) Ironically, the film contains more blood than There Will Be Blood, which in turn features better lyrics. Runner-up for worst music video: Love in the Time of Cholera. How do I know this is going to suck? Because it says so right on the marquee: “Music by Shakira”. It’s so obviously a bad idea that its sheer blandness robbed it of the award in this category. See at your own risk.

ISSUE-MOVIE ISSUE OF THE YEAR: Forget the war, forget big corporations and corruption, forget the sick and elderly – this year’s big winner is pregnancy. Is that because Juno and Knocked Up are better than Grace Is Gone, Michael Clayton, or Sicko/The Savages? No, it’s because pregnant women are physically much larger, and therefore more eye-catching than sick people or yuppies, and closer than Iraq (therefore, easier to spot in a crowd). Also, as I’ve no doubt has been mentioned elsewhere in the media, pregnancy seems to be the accessory of the year. Anyone not giving birth to a baby is adopting one, or importing it from a foreign country because outsourcing is cheaper. Synergy has never been this barfaliciously rewarding, morally and commercially.

EXPLOITATION MOVIE OF 2008: Neither Death Proof nor its superior sibling, Planet Terror, manage to secure this award. (Since when does Robert “Spy Kids” Rodriguez make better films than Quentin Tarantino?) No, this award goes to Grace Is Gone, a not-so-heartwarming mixture of “true-to-life” filmmaking and shameless exploitation. For the price of a movie ticket, you get a total asshole for a main character, accompanied by child actors who are either annoyingly “cute” or too mature for their age but who we’re supposed to like because they’re so real, y’know. It only improves towards the end, and only by abandoning all the dubious realism of the first act, thereby making the entire thing pointless and shitting on the audience’s patience for good measure.

WORST IDEA FOR A FILM THAT SUPPOSEDLY TURNED OUT WELL BUT WHICH I PROBABLY WON’T SEE ANYWAY: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I haven’t bothered to see it, but any movie whose protagonist has all the mobility of an eyelid is in trouble from the get-go. Based on reports, the filmmakers managed to get around that little hurdle, but somehow I’d rather watch a home video of a Charlie Kaufman doodle, or that film about flowers the arty scriptwriter in Adaptation was writing.

NOVEL ADAPTATION OF THE WEEK: Again, Love in the Time of Cholera gets beaten to this award, this time by Atonement. Other contenders included The Kite Runner and Into the Wild. I read a lot, but I’ve read none of these books and I haven’t seen any of these films. You begin to wonder why any executives would greenlight this shit. (Oi! Why don’t you fucking movie executives read this column?) Also, the title indicates that the filmmakers realize they have something to apologize for. But if this film is what they’re doing to apologize, they need to have something explained to them, preferably using a heavy mallet and several metres of barbed wire.

“ACTOR’S SHOWCASE” MOVIE MOST EAGER TO PLEASE THE ACADEMY AND TAKE HOME ALL THOSE PRECIOUS AWARDS: The Savages. The Savages. The Savages. The Savages. To the makers of this film, I have only one thing to say: give it up. The Academy gave the award to Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump in the same year that Sam L. Jackson was a god in Pulp Fiction. They are not worthy and their praise means nothing.

MOST RECENT GEORGE CLOONEY VEHICLE HIJACKED BY BETTER ACTORS IN SMALLER ROLES: Michael Clayton, obviously. It’s only an ensemble piece if no-one likes your acting, George. Still, you can take solace in the fact that your movie didn’t win …

PRESTIGIOUS ENSEMBLE FILM MOST LIABLE TO INDUCE PROJECTILE VOMITING IN ’08, which goes to Charlie Wilson’s War, starring Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks, the two actors most liable to bring about the apocalypse if they ever copulate.

MOVIE MOST WORTH SEEING DESPITE HAVING A SHITTY TRAILER: No Country for Old Men is apparently a well-written and well-acted addition to the Coen brother’s filmography, but you wouldn’t know this from the trailer, which makes it look like a bad TV movie by hacks who’re too high on crack to come up with more than one camera angle or watch anyone else’s movies, ever.

And finally…

FILM FESTIVAL OF THE WEEK: The X-Fest at the Labia. Not, as you might think, an uninterrupted screening of all twelve seasons of The X-Files or soft-porn classics, but a celebration of the violent, the tasteless, and the extreme in film. You can see why I would recommend this, seeing as how I like most any film that waves its private parts in the faces of the moral majority (cinematically speaking). But I would urge you to give this serious consideration as an educational tour for the kids. Heed the dangers of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll in the Reefer Madness! Witness the moral turpitude of perverts, porn stars, and punk-rock! Learn about the miracle of the human body from Bob Flanagan, who nails himself to a cross for your moral improvement in Sick! (Bet you The Passion of the Christ didn’t include free poetry readings.) You also get to attend a double-showing of the runners-up for exploitation movie of the year (see above).

There; hopefully this informative example of my critical genius will help you to avoid unhappy experiences while filming. Now if only we could do something about that homicidal maniac who goes around killing people while dressed in a jolly red suit and giant beard.

[Originally posted on www.africans.co.za, Tuesday, March 25, 2008.]

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