Category Archives: Review

Hall of Otis

Friends,

One of my favourite songs from recent years is the Jay-Z and Kanye collaboration “Otis” from the joint album, Watch the Throne. In short, the song is disgusting with almost universally positive reviews.* But you know how it go: you do something that works and everyone imitates it. In fact, there has been a falsehood perpetuated over the last few years in hip-hop that success can be measured as proportionate to level of hatred one receives, but the truth is more intuitive: success is directly proportionate to how many people jock, dick-ride, emulate and straight-up copy you. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” after all. And imitators there have been, all taking the song’s slick beat and dropping tight lyrics about their own exploits. Four such imitators are noteworthy enough to me to warrant mention and I want to rate them and see how they stack up against the original.
So first, the original…

1. Otis by Jay-Z and Kanye West
Best Lines: ” I guess I got my swagger back.”
“Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive.”
“Everything’s for sale; I got five passports, I’m never goin to jail.”
“Build your fences, we diggin’ tunnls,” etc… (near every line in the song is a best line)
Worst Lines: N/A

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   Fuck, what can I say about this song that hasn’t already been said about a finger in your ass while getting a blowjob? Amazing! The wordplay is playful, clever and tight and it’s an unapologetic celebration of everything that’s wrong with the world. In fact, the only legit criticism I have ever heard levied at this song came from my friend, Adriana who lamented that the homage to excess, vice and privilege was completely un-ironic and thus an unwitting display of aberrant values. For this view I have some sympathy, but only to a point because my appreciation of the song is more contingent on what it meant to me and not what it meant to Jay and Ye.
This song is gonna serve as the control, if I may be so bold as to potentially misuse scientific language for the purposes of a “for fun” blog post. Gonna rate it on the scientifically-approved scale of 10.

Rating: 10/10

Now for the challengers…

2. Otis (Remix) by Busta Rhymes & DMX
Best Lines: “”Two niggaz reppin’ the ‘R’ -X and X!!”
“Don’t worry bout what condition I’m in, you cats can’t survive half the places I been.”
Anytime DMX growls like a dog.
Worst Lines: “DON’T. TALK. BACK. When your father’s talkin’ to you!”

Busta-Rhymes-DMX-OTIS-REMIX

   This version fucks with me. At the outset I thought to myself, “OH NOES, poor Kanye and Jay are gonna get murdered on their own track.” It was a reasonable assumption; on top of the fact that neither Busta or DMX are slouches on the mic, both have achieved mainstream success and arguably even icon status throughout their careers. And, in the case of DMX, everyone loves a comeback. But somehow this version…fails to deliver, and I’m not even 100% sure why. Even the wack rhymes aren’t that bad.
Some observations though: DMX is definitely the stronger MC on the track but that has less to do with him being “better” than Busta in any absolute sense. Rather, I think it has more to do with the fact that Busta seems to be gearing his delivery to sound more like DMX, menacing and violent. Don’t get me wrong, Busta can be legitimately threatening, but nobody does it like DMX and when you are going back and forth with him on a track it only accentuates how much better he is than you at it. I would have preferred Busta to deliver his rhymes in his more rapid, staccato style with heavily accentuated breaks followed by near-immediate, seamless re-immersion into rapid, staccato delivery (See What’s Happenin’, Fire, Thank-You, etc.).
Also, I don’t like the heavy use of sound effects on the track. I’m not saying it’s bad but it just doesn’t appeal to me personally.

Rating: 8/10

3. Otis Freestyle by Cassidy feat. Jag
Best Lines: “Scream at me if you need the trees, or the ‘white bitch’ (COCAINE) -I work the morning and the night shift.”
“In Philly I’m a willy/wheelie like a bike trick,”
“I’m from a ‘get shot in the face’ hood,”
Larsiny we in this bitch now -niggas need to leave, apply pressure to a nigga neck -he don’t need to breathe,” etc..
Worst Lines: N/A

cassidyjag3

   Straight-up: this version is ill and it probably comes the closest to eclipsing the Jay/Kanye original. Why? Well it’s a solid track with no wack rhymes for one. And while I think Cassidy clearly shines brighter than Jag, the latter is no slouch either. Rather his more subtly delivered punchlines serve to compliment and offset Cassidy’s often crude hilarity. The two have a definite rapport which I where I think they outdo Kanye and Jay, as their back and forth is seamless like Ghostface and Raekwon. For the uninitiated, that’s lofty praise.
On a separate note, I have become something of a fan of Cassidy in recent years, and that’s in spite of the fact that my tastes in music have changed and matured. While I listen to less and less music promoting criminality and violence I can’t help but smile when I hear Cass’ well-wrought punchlines about cooking up dope, killing people, etc. And it’s that same cleverness which really elevates this track.
The sad reality is that because neither Cassidy or Jag have the profile and stardom of Jay and Kanye, this track never got the exposure it deserved outside of the internet. Still from a technical perspective, it’s pretty unfuckwithable.

Rating: 9.5/10

4. Otis Freestyle by Justin Bieber
Best Lines: “Pull up on my enemies, see if they remember me, soon as they remember me, I wipe away they memory.”
“Ridin’ in a all-black Benz, with the all-black rims, and we lookin at some 10s through our all-black lenses.”
“Get it done abundantly, she wants to get up under me, I swear that I got hundred these cause baby I’m a money tree, so be my little honey, be my little bitty bunny, I got honeys all up on me -baby I just get it dunny.”
Worst Lines: “Started playin’ drums when I was only 2, now I kick it in Japan -Kung Fu!”
“I thanked Jesus at the awards, I’m never goin to hell, call me Zack Morris I’m savin ya by the bell.”
“My girls says I’m perfect … I think she is perfectly perfectly perfect.”

bieber

   There is so much right with this version that it’s a damn shame some of the lyrics are so wack. Out of all the challengers, JB is in the best position to cut a track in the same spirit of opulence, stardom and fabulous wealth as the original. And so he does, even quoting Kanye’s line, “Can’t you see the private jets flying over you?” But the problems are of a more technical nature: Pubescent white-boy delivery notwithstanding, Justin seems to be good at emulating great rap but his verses and delivery seem a bit robotic and overly MCish. He tries to cram too many multi-syllabic words in as a seeming cover for not feeling comfortable enough in his own rhyming skin to just flow on the track.  Overall, this version has a a “Hey, look what I can do” vibe rather than the “Shut-up and listen while I break it down for you real quick” vibe I would prefer and which would be better suited to the tone he is aiming for.
I love this version and I respect his effort, but I think JB needs to spend more time developing his rap voice to the level of his singing voice before he can be a serious contender in the rap game.

Rating: 7/10

5. Otis (Remix) by Papoose
Best Lines: “Actin like you fly -STOP, Imma tell you like they told Joe Pesci, go get your motherfuckin’ shinebox!”
“There’s no tomorrow, throw a hollow, all the haters know the motto, cop a mother-lode of bottles, tell the waiter hold the sparkles…”
“You fickle, you couldn’t hustle a nickel out a dimespot.”
“I serve my beef with shells like a fuckin’ taco.”
“Make my Bed in the Stuy -I sleep in y’all streets.”
Worst Lines: “I live in a condo big as Kilimanjaro.”
“I don’t even know the vowels, I-O-U,  gener-AL like Colin Powell,”

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   Once again, so much right with this track that it pains me to see so many missteps. From a technical perspective, this is the kind of delivery Bieber should be aspiring to right now, but from Papoose, a seasoned MC known for lyricism, I think he coulda done better. Like JB, there is way too many instances of ostentatious muli-syllabic rhymes which just seem extraneous. And while there are some great punchlines (I absolutely love the Joe Pesci/Goodfellas reference) on the whole it wasn’t consistently amusing enough like Cassidy’s raps to take me forget that he’s rapping a lot of negative, crime-related shit.
I will give Pap credit though, he does wax conscious in certain parts, like when he tells young girls, “You don’t need implants to get your body all stern, if you just eat right your ass will be more firm.” Actually he spends a few consecutive bars toward the end of the track trying to “teach the younger generation,” going so far as to lament that young black girls, possibly taught to be ashamed of their blackness, seek perms to achieve a more white aesthetic. That’s my interpretation anyways, but I gotta give him props because he shows real honesty and pretty skillfully walks the line between conscious and preachy.
   One more similarity between this version and the JB version is that it’s a solo track. While I’m not necessarily against that, I don’t think it’s any accident that the two highest-ranking versions of the song I have here are duets. It’s a BIG beat and if you’re gonna attack it solo you gotta bring it.

Rating: 8/10

   I hope you enjoyed my critique of these tracks and that it has instilled a similar appreciation of the original song and all of its spin-offs in you.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*By “universal” I simply mean that I hadn’t seen a single bad review of it in my thorough and exhaustive search on google where I didn’t look past the first page.

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Filed under blog, Critique, Deconstruction, discussion, entertainment, Hip-Hop, music, rap, Review, Uncategorized

Astapor Syndrome

Friends,

Another weekend gone and so another episode of Game of Thrones has aired.  I have been enjoying this season so far (minus the whole Theon Greyjoy sub-plot, which is just difficult to watch) but I have noticed a trend.  Namely, Daeneryus Targaryan likes to free her some slaves.  Now this compassion for the oppressed isn’t exactly a new thing, as you’ll remember that her standing up for female captives about to be raped by Dothraki raiders in Season 1 is what set in motion the events leading to her husband, Khal Drogo’s death,

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Remember to always use Polysporin on you sword-wounds. 

and later, the birth of her dragons.

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But she has been really amping up her bleeding heart sensibilities in the last few episodes.  There was a plot arc in the first few episodes of the season where, upon arriving in the city of Astapor, she resolved to free all of the city’s slave-soldiers at great personal cost.  Although admittedly she did end up tricking the slavers which culminated in perhaps the series’ best sequence thus far.

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“DRACARYS!”

Fast-forward to last night’s episode, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” and we see that Daenerys (SPOILER ALERT) is up to her old tricks again.  This time her and her army arrive at the city of Yunkai, and while Ser Friendzone* Jorah makes it explicitly clear that the city has no strategic value, Daenerys has this overwhelming hankeing to liberate the city’s 200,000 slaves.  Furthermore, she demands that the city masters free all of their slaves and load them up with food and riches as recompense for their years of servitude.  Presumably these slaves will go on to live free, happy, and prosperous lives.

Does anyone else see a problem here?

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Take that scene I posted the link to in the second paragraph; she tells thousands of slave-soldiers who have been brainwashed to be obedient, fearless and self-sacrificing their whole lives, that they are now free.  They can either seek life elsewhere or voluntarily join her in taking back Westeros.

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Well, no surprise here, rather than pursue an unfamiliar and foreign lifestyle, these trained killers would rather keep on killing with the nominal distinction that they are now free.  And even though I don’t know how the liberation of Yunkai’s slaves will play out, I can only imagine that the slaves there are similarly ill-prepared for freedom.

Now I don’t want to be misunderstood here; I am not advocating for slavery, or opposing emancipation, but I think that simply telling someone they are free after years of conditioning them to be slaves can’t really work.

Remember this scene from The Matrix?  The key part is when Morpheus tells Neo,

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“Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged.  And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependant on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

Do you see what I’m getting at here or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?

Whether you wanna call it Stockholm Syndrome or learned helplessness, or simply being a house nigger, I think there are many disenfranchised people (most of the population) that have been so conditioned to see themselves as lowly that they will happily fight for scraps from the table their whole lives rather than attempt to take a seat.

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” -Proverbs 23:7

Relating this idea back to Game of Thrones, a liberator like Daenerys would realistically (I’m aware of the irony of that word in this context) face a slave population that would largely reject the idea of freedom (or perhaps go on to take their own slaves, like the renegados during the Barbary slaving-era) and she herself would probably have some nagging doubts about the volition of her army of “free men.”

This is one of the things I like about this show: You can watch it absently and take it for face-value or read between the lines and see that there are some important questions it raises.

Best.

-Andre Guantanamo

*This joke was made by my friend, Matt.  Gotta give credit where credit is due

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The Truth That Makes You Squirm*

Friends,

This past Friday I attended a production at The Staircase called Slut (R)evolution, a one-woman show starring Cameryn Moore.

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At the risk of over-simplifying the subject matter, the performance was an exploration of her sexual development, and showed the progression through sexual awakening, becoming a lesbian, slutting it up in college and becoming straight again (sic.).  I stuck around for a few minutes after the show and spoke briefly with her, and when she asked me what I thought I kind of blurted out that I was extremely uncomfortable for the whole hour and a half.  Rather than be put off or insulted she seemed to take it in stride and asked me why.

My response wasn’t very eloquent and I said something (only half-honest) about the subject matter (BDSM) being very racy for my vanilla sensibilities.  But in reality it wasn’t that at all; free and open access to internet porn has more or less taken the edge off seeing extreme sex, let alone hearing about it.  Rather I felt uncomfortable by just how vulnerable Cameryn made herself.  She really laid herself bare for all to see, and save for a few uneasy laughs at the beginning I was mostly dead quiet throughout the show. It’s hard for me to say what the exact cause of my discomfort was but here were a few things that made me uneasy:

The Backlash Against the Commodity Status of Female Sexuality

Traditionally a woman’s virginity has been viewed as a symbol of her virtue, and while things have relaxed to the point where women can breathe a little bit and have some of that sweet pre-marital, even that has imposed limits.  After all, many of us likely have a number in our heads of how many men is acceptable for a woman to be with (a symptom of our society’s obsession with quantification among other things), and where does that leave women who go past that number?  There is an amorphous, poorly-defined line which seems to widen and narrow arbitrarily which a woman must walk if she wishes to explore her sexuality without being seen as a slut by others.  The solution of course (like the solution to so many things) is for a woman stop caring about what others think, because its none of their business who she has sex with.

However, some women instead react to the pressure by becoming the insatiable sluts they have already been pre-judged to be,

eminem the way i am

“I am whatever you say I am; if I wasn’t then why would I say I am?”

and even go so far as to delude themselves into believing that they are being liberated.  This is not me just making this up; Moore makes a similar assertion in her show when looking back on earlier promiscuity and how she justified it at the time as more than simply rebelling against her father.  Speaking of her father..

The Shame of Your Parents is a Motherfucker

The one time which she explicitly mentions her father is when she talks about overhearing him and her mother fighting about the crowd she had chosen to hang out with as a teenager.  Being raised a Mormon, hanging out with dudes who wore make-up apparently said a lot about her own sexuality, and she recalls hearing her father yell to her mother that she was “just a fat slut.”  She then laments that this was before she was even sexually active.  Or particularly fat.

Its funny how people’s expectations of you, particularly those of caregivers, can really influence  the course you pursue.  And when these expectations are in place alongside stringent moral standards regarding chastity, well I can only imagine the result is overwhelming for some people.  For my own part, I have often thought, “What if I had been born a girl?”  For starters, I used to drink quite a bit and go out to clubs and parties, seeking the attention of the opposite sex and looking to get laid.  I can only imagine how if I had been a girl I might have been much more successful in all of those endeavours to my own detriment.  It occurs to me that were I a girl I might have just been a fat drunk slut like so many others, but fate saw fit to give me a penis, and so society and I both regard me with a gentler eye.

Everyone is Just a Different Aspect of You

There is no artful way to say it, so I will just come out with it: I don’t find Cameryn Moore particularly physically appealing.  Furthermore, her attitudes toward toward sex, though some would call them progressive or liberated, unpleasantly remind me of an emptier time in my life where I didn’t place a particularly high value on my own sexuality and sought to just sleep with girls for the sake of bragging rights.  I will say that she is a gifted performer in that she is able to make herself completely vulnerable, but watching her show was like watching Requiem for a Dream; I saw it once and I don’t need to see it again.

In its own way, her detailing of her sexual misadventures and misuse of herself was like watching a WorldVision infomercial or a documentary about a bloody war.  Its like, “Here’s the society we enable and what we reduce people to.  A generation, nay, a society of people who don’t value themselves and aren’t valued by anyone else.”  In our own way, we are all fat sluts but we maintain a narrative that things are going according to some plan in the vain hope that we can convince ourselves of this by convincing enough of the others around us.

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Cameryn Moore made me doubt the validity of my own self-affirming narrative and I am still having trouble forgiving her for that.

***

If you get a chance to see Slut (R)evolution you definitely should.  You may not be as troubled by it as I was, but if you are … well we all need our conceptions shaken up from time to time.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

*“Find the truth that makes you squirm” was a piece of advice I read in a Men’s Health investment guide a few years back.  The logic was that when doing a financial self-assessment you don’t want to lull yourself into a false sense of security, but rather address the areas of your finances which might not be secure.

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Filed under Critique, Review, Uncategorized, Understanding

Movie Review: Super Mario Bros. – A Flop Revisited

Friends,

Sometimes the passage of time can ferment the initially overlooked positive and redeeming qualities of art, and make something that was scorned upon its unveiling worthy of a second look.

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Super Mario Bros. may be just such a movie so I am going to watch it.  Please feel free to join me.  I’m gonna start by watching the movie and sharing my thoughts with you at regular intervals.  Then we’ll move on to more discussion.

Part 1: Watch-Through

0:21:24

So Daisy just disappeared into a rock wall and Mario and Luigi are standing dumbfounded looking at it trying to figure out if they should jump in to follow.

ImageThey of course do.  Up to this point the movie has been good.  I care about the characters, there is a belieivable doting older brother relationship between Mario and Luigi, and a cute, innocent romantic one between Luigi and Daisy.  Spike and Iggy, though not yet named are really filling the role of bumbling henchmen well with some good dialogue, and while Koopa was introduced briefly at the beginning, the biggest villain thus far is Scapelli.  On top of sabotaging Daisy’s archaeology site he also seems to be a bit of a perv which makes him easier to hate.  So far this movie is good.

0:25:12

   Mario and Luigi are starting to realize that they’re “not in Brooklyn anymore.”  This realization comes after falling off a walkway into a pile of fungus and seeing two baby dinosaurs fighting.  Now before setting out to do this review I had thought a lot about the fungus as it appears in this movie.  My interest stems largely from having listened to some Terence McKenna lectures recently, and its only fair to mention that I am viewing this film with an observant eye turned toward how the fungus figures into the story and from there I will make what interpretations I think can be made.

   It bears mention that the Koopa world seems to be a little bit wackier and slapstick than our world (Koopa just sent out a “plumber alert,” which then aired over a loudspeaker into the city).  These zany antics are, so far, tolerable because they fit with the tone which has been established in that world.  Let’s hope they keep it consistent.

Note: Koopa sent out a “plumber alert” after hearing the revelation that the plumber’s had taken the macguffin meteor rock.  He didn’t actually know that they had come to the Mushroom Kingdom, so even in the context of this bizarro world the alert was a little premature.

0:37:30

    I feel like some problems have developed; Koopa just responded “Tyrannosaurus Rex, the lizard king” when Mario asked what single-celled organism he evolved from.  Let the record show that Tyrannosaurus Rex was not a single-celled organism.

   And why the hell did the movie producers turn Toad, an anthropomorphic mushroom, into a dinosaur?  I get that as a citizen of the Mushroom Kingdom he evolved from a dinosaur, so within the context of the movie it makes sense, but it just seems like such a bizarre departure.  Plus, by turning all dissidents into these Goombas, Koopa is knowingly creating a loyal army of lobotomized retards.  And he wonders why the meteor slipped through his fingers.

   As well, at some earlier point Koopa established that he needed the meteor to bridge the Mushroom Kingdom to our world to take it over or something.  Yet at the movie’s beginning he stalks Daisy’s mother here with no apparent problem.  As well, Spike and Iggy seem to travel between the two worlds with some ease and regularity, kidnapping a woman (the wrong woman) each time they do.

   Which brings up another problem: why would Koopa wait twenty or so years to send Iggy and Spike on missions to kidnap women and recover the rock?  He was there the night Daisy’s mom escaped and so probably had some idea of how long she was gone.  Why didn’t he think to himself, “Hey, in the half hour she was on the New York streets she could have only gotten so far.  Perhaps I can check every church in the immediate area.”

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Churches being really the only place to leave an egg which will hatch into a baby soon.  

If he had, he might have resolved the whole missing meteor piece relatively quickly.  But instead koopa waits for twenty years while the kingdom he has apparently usurped from the Mushroom King faces a water shortage and gets choked by fungus.

   ***NOTE: I’m watching a later part of this movie and Mario and Luigi are interrogating Iggy and Spike in the desert and Mario asks why Koopa didn’t just come through earlier and get the rock like Iggy and Spike had been doing.

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Iggy (or Spike) says that the pathway was obstructed until (Scapelli’s) excavation dynamite cleared the way.  True, the opening sequence does show the path getting obstructed, but why can Iggy and Spike pass through and not Koopa?  Why would Koopa not just blow the obstruction up himself?  And furthermore, why obtain the rock to merge the two dimensions?  Why not just lead an invasion army into Brooklyn through the portal once he clears up the debris?  So many questions.

   You know that feeling where you start to think something has gone wrong but you can’t quite blame it on one thing?  I think that’s where I’m at now.  I thought it was when they introduced the de-evolve chamber but that doesn’t bear all the blame.  The movie is not ruined (yet) but its freewheeling and noone seems to be at the wheel.  Let’s see what happens.

0:46:54

   Ok, so now they are sending Iggy or Spike (as if it matters) into the de-evolving chamber BUT with the specific instructions to evolve him to an advanced level of existence.

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So I have to ask: Why, if Koopa could evolve his minions and have them be something beyond retards, would he not do so?  Furthermore, why would he de-evolve so many of them only to keep them in his employ?  Even Furthermore (sic.), why would he not evolve himself to the furthest extent possible as that would conceivably give him some edge in his mission of conquest?  Thinking about these seemingly obvious yet unemployed tactics makes me think that Koopa is perhaps the biggest retard of all and I wonder how he maintains control, let alone how he got control in the first place.

   With regard to the use of fungus in the movie, it figured into Mario and Luigi’s escape from the de-evolving chamber.  First, it tried to give them a Bob-omb,

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and then it caught their stolen police car as it fell out of a tunnel into the desert.

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Now it is still early in the film and the fungus has more of a role to play, but it strikes me as fairly obvious that the fungus is helping the mammals survive and become ascendant in a world which has thus far been ruled by dinosaurs.  This smacks of McKenna’s “Stoned Ape Theory,” which posits that psychadelics like amanita muscaria and psilocybin cubensis mushrooms, eaten by apes could have served as evolutionary catalysts much like the monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  If the notion that the filmmakers were influenced by this theory seems far-fetched, please note how prominently the theme of evolution figures into the plot.

0:52:35

   Koopa forcing himself on Daisy is creepy as fuck.  I’m not sure if this works for his character or not.  The wagging serpent tongue might be a little too racy for a kids movie but the rest of the movie is a little too goofy for an adult movie.

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WHAT THE FUCK!?

1:03:35

   Okay I just watched a puzzling bit of cinema where Mario and Luigi escape from the desert by working with Iggy and Spike to get back in the city.  Their plan is to accost innocent garbage workers who work in the outskirts of the city and conveniently wear masks which they can then put on to fool security and get back into the city driving garbage trucks.  I’m just not sure why the masks and outfits of the workers looked like BDSM outfits.

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This film was released before Pulp Fiction so in fairness they couldn’t have known about the gimp, but from now on anyone who watches this will think of BDSM whenever they see the Mario Bros. attack one of these unfortunates with a plunger.

   Now during the aforementioned interrogation of Iggy & Spike (who, though now evolved to talk smarter, still behave stupidly) in the desert, Mario and Luigi discover that the large, black woman who stole their piece of the meteorite is actually a bouncer at a night-club, so now we have a pointless night-club scene.  It’s interesting to point out that in this club scene, Mario is wearing a yellow suit and (ugh) turtleneck, while Luigi is wearing a red one.  Furthermore, earlier in the film Mario was wearing a green jacket while Luigi wore a red sweater.

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I only point out these wardrobe selections because Luigi is known for wearing green and Mario is known for wearing red.  I’m not saying that they have to dress in those colours all the time…

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…a la Power Rangers…

…but if they are going to wear conspicuous colours why confuse the palette?

   After Mario dances with Big Bertha and manages to get the rock off of her neck, Goombas led by Lena bust in to apprehend them.  Luigi then needlessly huddles with Mario to quarterback how they are going to lose the rock.  It just seemed so dumb to me that they would stand in the club throwing the rock back and forth when they could have just ran away and escaped, like they did as soon as they lost the rock.

1:08:00

   FUUUUCK.  From a plot-making-sense perspective, this is starting to get dumb.  Mario and Luigi make an assumption about which tower Daisy is in and decide they have to make it to the top of that one.  But since there are only like two towers in the city…

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…I suppose its not a super unreasonable guess.  In true plumber fashion they decide to sabotage said tower right in its under-serviced plumbing pipes.  Here we get a weird joke about how the shitty maintenance of the pipes “must have been a non-union job.”  This doesn’t make sense; wouldn’t a union job, where noone could conceivably get fired, be more likely to show poor results? (This isn’t me stating my opinion but just examining some common criticisms)  And since the Marios are in business for themselves, why would they make fun of fellow non-unioners?

   Whatever.  They find their properly-coloured maintenance coveralls, suit up and get to that whole rescuing business.

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Oh yeah and at some point in there we are treated to a 30 second scene of Koopa ordering a pizza where he hysterically requests they,

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Hold the Mammal!

My….sides…..

….ahhhh…

…splitting!….

…pain.

   Soooo, after Mario and Luigi get on the elevator, we again cut to Koopa who dismisses Lena before she can reveal she has the rock.  Fine she decides, she’ll merge the world by herself if not with him.  Really?  Is that all?  She is going to carry out his ultimate wish to get back at him?  Like does she think if it is she who merges the worlds he somehow won’t be able to rule?  He’ll see them merging and probably be like, “Hey, these shits are merging,” then he’ll get to ruling them.  And she’ll be left having to explain why she didn’t tell him she had the rock.  Not too bright, but then again none of the henchpeople are.

1:13:13

   So when Mario and Luigi’s elevator filled with goombas they started rocking them back and forth and made them dance which allowed Mario and Luigi to escape through the roof.

   But, hold on… wouldn’t rocking henchmen make the plumbers more likely to run into them?  I get that it was a comic relief scene, but even Luigi, endearing goofball that he is, must have realized that no good could come of making contact with the enemy.  And I’m not really sure how making the goombas rock back and forth aided their escape through the roof unless rocking mesmerized them somehow…

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That’s it, they were mesmerized.

   Fast forward to Daisy aaaaaaaannnnnd Lena is trying to kill her in a fit of jealousy on account of Koopa likes that fresh young, Earth-raised straaaaynge.

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You stay classy, Koopa!

The whole sequence struck me as a tad overkill (Lena already had the rock after all, and even though her plan was misguided to the point of retardation, all she had to do was head to the meteor),  but then I’ve never had to vie with a younger, prettier girl for the attentions of an older, lecherous man-lizard, so who knows?

   While we’re on the topic of believability, somewhere in the mad dash to escape Lena’s homicidal rage, Daisy runs into Iggy and Fuckface, being escorted to the execution area for execution (sic.).  There is a problem here: We know Daisy is on the top floor of the tower from an earlier establishing shot, so why would the goombas be taking the retards to a penthouse execution chamber?  Aren’t executions more of a ground-floor or sub-basement affair?  It seems like a small point, and it is, but it struck me as odd that they happened to be being escorted to their death in the same time and place where Daisy was making her daring escape.

   Speaking of Daisy’s daring escape, we know it was daring because a) she is running, b) the homicidal Lena has just stabbed Yoshi in the neck (GANGSTA!) and is in pursuit, and c) Iggy and Spike’s captors are now shooting fireballs at her.  Even though the situation is tense and there is a definite urgency to escape, Daisy grabs a fire extinguisher to put out the fire on Toad which the other goombas created.  This heroic move showcases her compassion and actually adds some depth to the character so its fine, though it does leave her with less time to escape.  Yet with this intensified time-constraint, two flamethrower-wielding lizards aware of her presence, and a known homicidal maniac on the loose, she somehow convinces the retards to take her to her father, who has been de-evolved to fungus.  Weirdly, they seem more than obliging when they should really be more concerned about escaping from the tower of death whose top floor they are trapped on.

   Daisy’s meeting with her father raises some more interesting questions.  For starters, if he has been de-evolved to the point of fungus, how is he smarter than every other character in this movie?  Seriously, in spite of not saying a single word (or perhaps because of not saying a word) he proves himself capable of working toward a consistent and clear goal, something the other characters are a little goofy about.  From when they first arrive in the Mushroom Kingdom the king tries to assist Mario and Luigi who, not yet done fucking around until later in the movie, don’t recognize the potential value of the high-explosives he keeps sending their way.  And lets not forget his save in the desert.  I appreciate the clarity of purpose.

   Another question I have about the king is a little less tactful; namely, why does he look like a penis?  Superficially of course, but still, it’s there.

Picture 4Penises are even slangily called “mushroom-heads” and he is a head literally made of fungus, so they pretty much spell it out for us.  It doesn’t help either that the head slides in and out of a kind of fungal sheath/foreskin apparatus.  As a kid I always thought I was weird for thinking this, but as I get older I see that perhaps I’m not the weird one.  Add to the mix the constant clear fluid dripping from the head and you have a penis with not only jock-itch (penis fungus) but the clap as well.  Great Job!

Movie’s End

   I set a goal after the last couple paragraphs to watch the rest of the movie without making any comments.  For the most part I was successful although I did have to pause it once and write down one line of dialogue which struck me as bizarre and completely misplaced.  But more on that later.

   So after the Mario Bros. locate Daisy in her father’s throne room, Daisy explains that the rest of the girls, including Mario’s girlfriend are being held elsewhere in the tower.  There is an amusing exchange here where Luigi begins addressing the fungus king respectfully and explaining why he is the right guy to date Daisy.  And I’m pretty sure that was the last chuckle I genuinely had.  What follows from that point of last amusement is a bizarre rescue where Mario races down a frozen pipe on a mattress with the missing Brooklyn girls.  I get that scenes like this are “fun” and “exciting,” but what killed me here was the music.

Picture 1

Check it Out Here

It just seemed so cheesy and unrelated to the movie.

   They end up crashing in the street below which is where the final showdown takes place, but I have to backtrack a little bit here, to fully explain how off the rails this movie got.  Remember Lena?

images

Well after trying to kill Daisy and then stabbing Yoshi in the neck she makes an executive decision to head directly for the meteor and merge the dimensions.  However she is apprehended and we cut to a scene of one of Koopa’s security team bringing the rock to him.  Koopa, re-invigorated by finally getting what he has been questing after for the whole movie, starts barking out orders, last of which is “RELEASE LENA.”

   WAIT, WHAT!?  You know this chick tried to betray you!  Earlier, when you felt that Spike and Iggy were trying to betray you ordered them to be executed even though they were mostly harmless.  This chick seems to have half a brain in her head and she actively tried to double-cross you and you want to release her?  Well, I guess we need her to be released so we can facilitate the later ridiculousness of the final battle.

ON TO THE FINAL BATTLE

   Koopa has taken to the streets with Daisy and Luigi in tow (they got captured conveniently after Mario had already left to go ride a mattress down a frozen pipe) and as he makes his way toward the meteor Mario’s mattress busts out of the frozen pipe and lands in front of him.  Of course, Koopa is so flabbergasted by this new development that he allows the re-united Mario brothers to over-power him in a ridiculous sequence that involves rocket boots.

Picture 7

   Now its important to mention here: Luigi shouldn’t even be alive.  Remember earlier when the goombas were trying to kill them with flame-throwers during the prison break?  Koopa obviously had no problem with them being dead even though he didn’t have the rock.  Now equipped with the rock, he has Luigi and Daisy in custody and they are still alive??  At least you can make an argument for Daisy’s continued survival; there is some unexplained plot aspect which makes her the only one who can merge the worlds without dying (this doesn’t make sense either though, because Koopa could have just ordered a minion to sacrifice his life to merge the worlds, and therefore not had to  tote Daisy around.  But he did seem to want to fuck her, so we’ll assume he had ulterior motives), but Luigi should have been shot in the back of the head as soon as Koopa had both him and the rock.  Or at least put in a jail cell.  But no, he is brought on the excursion through the city (on foot mind you) where any number of opportunities could arise for him to throw the proverbial wrench (lol, cause he’s a plumber) into Koopa’s plans  Opportunities like…

Picture 3

…MARIO OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE!

So here we see Luigi’s continued survival, Mario’s mattress ride, and Koopa’s nonsensical order to release Lena all converge to facilitate Koopa losing the rock…and Lena getting it again.   And as she makes her way unmolested to the meteor she says perhaps the dumbest thing ever:

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“MY TIME HAS COME; THE UNIVERSE IS MINE!!” -Lena

What the actual fuck is this woman talking about?  Since when does merging two worlds give one unarmed, middle-aged woman who looks like a cat lady dominion over the universe?  I understand she just got electrocuted and all,

Picture 5but is her brain actually that fried?  I guess even the filmmakers were like “screw it!”

   So Lena then dies from merging the worlds,

Super Mario Bros 40because apparently the universe didn’t want to be ruled by her.  At the same time, Daisy & Luigi are leading the Brooklyn girls through the portal to Brooklyn and Mario is battling Koopa who still thinks that he has the rock.  Koopa keeps thinking Mario has the rock until everything…

Super Mario Bros 41

…including himself…

…starts disappearing and he realizes that someone put the rock in the meteor.  Rather than be distraught, he seems positively overjoyed, and we realize he need not have concerned himself with recovering the rock if anyone could insert it into the meteor and allow him to begin his worldly conquest.  This just illustrates my earlier point about how unnecessary the rock was as a plot vehicle.

   Yet Koopa, for all his talk of conquering shit, seems unequipped to even conquer a small excavation site, as the only havoc he manages to wreak during his brief tenure in the merged worlds is to de-evolve Scapelli into a chimpanzee.

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Its important to note here that he faces nothing in the way of resistance although he is transported into the center of what appears to be a protest against Scapelli wanting to do construction on an excavation site.

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This means that there are cops there whose job is literally to keep control of situation like this and noone even takes a shot at Koopa or the 8-foot targets he has for bodyguards even though they witness him discharge an energy weapon.  The police officer that the camera pans to looks more bemused about the adorable little Scapelli chimp

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than he looks concerned about the disintegrated World Trade Center towers,

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or eager to regain control of the situation.

   Thankfully, that loveable scamp Luigi has been working with Daisy to remove the rock from the meteor and un-merge the two worlds.

Picture 6

This sends Mario and Koopa back to the Mushroom Kingdom

Picture 1

where the Bob-omb Mario wound up earlier has walked its way closer to where Koopa is standing.  It is interesting to note here that even though Mario and Koopa were moving around in our world (Mario even dove through the air to evade getting de-evolved) they end up right back where they were standing before the worlds merged.  Again, most people have stopped caring at this point, I only bring it up because to let it slide would be a disservice to this review and to the movie itself.  I criticize ’cause I love, or at least because I want to love.

   Since this is getting lengthy I’ll give you the last plot points in brief, with criticisms as required:

-Koopa orders the goombas to fire on Mario

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-they hesitate because Toad plays his harmonica to get them to dance

-Koopa knocks the dancing goombas out with one punch in a manner reminiscent of The Three Stooges

-Luigi jumps to the walkway wearing the boots handed to him inexplicably by Big Bertha and hands Mario one of the two de-evolve guns handed to him by Toad prior to his harmonica solo

-Mario and Luigi begin shooting and Koopa starts de-evolving into a T-Rex only for the Bob-omb which was wound earlier to explode and knock him into this weird hanging bucket thing

-Koopa then emerges in full beast-mode for one final scare  and the Mario Bros de-evolve him into primordial ooze

-Koopa’s de-evolution and defeat somehow magically re-evolve the king, and he comically says “Love those plumbers.”

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I cringed, hard.

-Daisy decides she can’t go back to Earth because she belongs in the Mushroom Kingdom

-Since the portal for some reason closed, Daisy uses the meteor rock to open it with a laser beam.

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   Even with the already written-off tone and plot of the movie, I had some problems here because not only did they never explain why she was the only one who could withstand the force of merging the dimensions, they now gave her a new power to shoot lasers.  But again, does it matter at this point?  Personally, I think if they wanted to blow some leftover money, they shouldn’t have used it on the visual effects here, but on getting something besides the open-source generic rock-music they used in the frozen tunnel scene.

   The movie ends with Luigi being a third wheel on Mario’s dinner-date with his girlfriend when there is a knock at the door and Daisy bursts in wearing tattered clothes and holding a flame-thrower (which she must have just walked through Brooklyn with to get to their apartment), asking for help and  telling the Marios,

Picture 34

You’re never gonna believe this!

I guess this was them setting up for a sequel which mercifully never happened.  That about concludes the watch-through and we’re only 4200 words deep.  Let’s go for broke as we begin…

Part 2: What Went Wrong?

   There were so many things here that contributed to this movie’s downfall.  Off the top of my head, one glaring problem was,

The half-baked video game references which were extraneous to the plot.

   I think the king turning back into a human being after Koopa’s defeat was a reference to the various kings in SMB3 for NES who had been transformed into animals and were transformed back to men as soon as Mario retrieved their wands from Bowser/Koopa’s various children.  In that game it made sense because it was consistent.  In this film, it seemed shoe-horned in as a shout-out to fans.  The only problem is that that particular reference is not even that obvious and it only occurred to me while writing this review.  If you’re going to make an extraneous reference, it can’t also be obscure.  Its like telling a five-minute joke with a shitty punch-line.

   The second such reference was the pipe chase scene I have been very critical of.  We get it, Mario goes through pipes to get around.  My uncle is a plumber so I know thats just kinda how they roll.  But a frozen ventilation pipe on a mattress?  If they really wanted to incorporate pipes into the story they should have had an enchanted water main which led to the Mushroom Kingdom from Brooklyn.  True, its completely ridiculous, but then so is the plot as it exists now.  As long as they commit to the ridiculousness I don’t care how cock-a-mamie (???) things get.  Another problem was,

Too much stupid shit was introduced to keep a handle on.

   This is a movie based on Super Mario Bros., so why does it feature evolution, meteors, archaeology, the Mafia, fascism, infrastructure based on bumper cars, scantily clad women in night-clubs, and sado-masochism?  Even if all of these elements were somehow worked into the film artfully, they are still too disparate to appeal to a specific audience.  Furthermore, some of the references are too mature to be understood by kids while the movie as a whole is too goofy to be enjoyed by adults.  So really who does that leave?  Tweens?

The Writing is Horrible.

Here is sampling of the dialogue:

“I’m Luigi Mario; you got a problem with that?” – Luigi

You know what they say about little girls, don’t you?  They say they never forget the first time they were kissed by a lizard.” -Koopa

Monkey.  HEE-HEE, Monkey.” – Koopa

Treat your tools like a friend; keep them by you; never let ’em down, and they’re always at your side.” – Mario

And of course, my favourite:

MY TIME HAS COME; THE UNIVERSE IS MINE!!” -Lena

   What is an actor to do when they are being directed to spout off such drivel?  In defense of the actors in this movie, its wasn’t the acting that was the downfall.  The writing, though engaging in some parts, kinda just tapered off at others.  This indicates that it might have been written by a committee, and one person in that group might have been a better writer than the others.  Or there might have been one good writer who didn’t quite have creative control.  Either way, some genuine talent breaches through the cracks like a rose growing from concrete…

Then a garbage truck driven by S&M “bottoms” runs over it.

And then a lobotomized dinosaur-man takes a shit on it.

Then it gets grown over by sentient fungus.

Then and only then does it seem that the material is ready for the dramatis personae to recite in front of a camera.  Lots of credit goes out to Dennis Hopper; for someone who was given the shittiest of the shitty dialogue he committed 93.7% to it which must have been no easy feat.

   Finally,

Where the fuck are the turtles?

  If you’ve played any Mario game, you’ve probably stepped on a turtle or a beetle (or a spikey-shelled thing and died) and then used their shell as a projectile.  In fact, a fixture of Mario games is the ability to use the enemy’s carcass to kill more enemies (It’s done adorably though, so kids can play).  But instead of that we get dinosaurs sans shells.  I suspect this was done partly to capitalize on the “dino-mania” (sic.) that summer which existed in anticipation of a little film released a month later.  Perhaps you’re familiar with it:

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Suddenly turtles must not have been cool anymore.

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This was released a few months earlier, so maybe everyone was just a little “turtled-out.”

I suspect that somewhere along the lines someone wanted to make this movie real-er and grittier (because we go to movies for realism) and to them that meant anthropomorphic dinosaurs as opposed to anthropomorphic turtles.  In the end it came off as more bizarre than any of the games.

   I could probably go one but we’re just shy of 5000 words so let’s get moving.

3. What Went Right?

   This movie had some redeeming qualities.  You’ll remember when I was only about half an hour in, I was enjoying it immensely.  First and foremost,

Luigi is Charming as Fuck

   Maybe it’s ’cause he spends part of the movie with his shirt off, maybe its because I know what he looks like in drag, but whatever it is, I have a bit of a man-crush on John Leguizamo.  He doesn’t typically make great movies, but I find he always puts forward solid performances.  This is another case of that.  Luigi is very endearing and Leguizamo manages to find a certain alluring bewilderedness which I typically only see in Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey interviews.  I don’t necessarily like how his character develops into a kind of mystic who always gets “feelings,” but overall he’s likeable.

Bob Hoskins is a Believable Mario

   I thought Bob Hoskins nailed the role perfectly.  He added a loving gruffness that isn’t there in the games  but it makes sense for an older brother (age difference between Mario and Luigi isn’t really explored in the games).  The accent was good, as was the body type, and he did the best with what he was given.  Alas, it was not enough.

The Mushroom Kingdom

   There was a cool aesthetic achieved in the main thoroughfare of Koopa’s city.  Even without all of the fungus, you could tell it wasn’t New York.  The fashions were pronounced and involved lots of spikes and studs but on the whole it wasn’t too S&M-y.  I thought that making the goomba outfits reminiscent of totalitarian secret police was an interesting route to go, and the fact that they were dumb was perhaps a critical statement about fascists, Nazis, etc.  Again, sometimes they went overboard, like with the gimps in the garbage dump, but overall it was a cool theme which I think could have been explored a little more.

Somehow I Care

   You would think that I wanted to slit my wrists while watching this, but that wasn’t the case.  With the exception of the relative lull in the desert, the action is pretty constant and it doesn’t really give you too much opportunity to mull over the shortcomings (until afterwards).  And while it would be a stretch to say I felt any suspense in the action sequences (The flame bursts from goomba weapons literally travel at the speed of gently-served tennis balls, so the well-being of the protagonists is never seriously threatened.  In fact Im fairly certain the special effect for them was a tennis ball doused in gasoline and set on fire) I did want the good guys to win.  Let’s call it the pacing of the movie; even though the plot is full of holes, and the dialogue can be bizarre, and the characters make ridiculous choices, and there are scenes that don’t make sense, the pacing of things keeps it engaging, even if minimally so.

4. Stoned-Apes?

   I haven’t alluded to my observations about parallels between this movie’s fungus & evolution combo and McKenna’s stoned-ape theory in a few thousand words, so let’s wrap up there.  After viewing this movie and mulling it over, my findings are:
(drumroll please)

Not conclusive one way or the other.   Its hard to say with any certainty if the filmmakers were psychonauts, but there is enough overlap, especially if plot points are abstracted to broad strokes, to make a connection.  Lines like “Trust the Fungus,” which became a tagline in the movie’s marketing campaign, could be a wink/nudge nod to any tripper having a bout of paranoia or uncertainty, but then it could just be shitty writing too.  I already explained too the abstract notion of mushrooms helping mammals in the movie mirrors McKenna’s theory of mushrooms helping mammals in the wild, but that could just be coincidence.
You know what?  Fuck it, I’ll say with 51% certainty that the filmmakers knew about the Stoned-Ape and now that I think about it McKenna was particularly active in the early 90s.  Mind you, his book Food of the Gods only came out earlier the year this was released, but let’s assume that the writers knew about his theories from earlier lectures.  And besides, Mario had already been around for years and so it could even have been Shigeru Miyamoto (Mario’s creator) who was the McKenna fan.  Maybe we’ll never know.

5. Overall Thoughts and Recommendations

   I am going to give this movie a (generous) 4/10.  Its the kind of movie I would never pay money for, but in a world of streaming and downloading, there are much worse things you could be watching.  If you’re a fan of any of the actors in this movie that is a good enough reason to check it out because each of them acts their hearts out.  Best case scenario you might even have a laugh or two at some of the cheesiness.

********

   If you managed to get through all that, congratulations;  you need a new hobby.  Just the same I appreciate your readership and hope you have gleaned some new perspective on more or less properly understood classic.  I want to give a quick shout-out to Red Letter Media; their Half in the Bag and “Plinkett” series of reviews have really opened up my eyes to what it is I was liking and not liking about movies that I was liking and/or not liking (sic.)  Please go check out their site and their reviews for more thorough deconstructions like this.

Except theirs are in video format.

And they’re funnier.
Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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