Tag Archives: Review
6 Nov 2019 Lecture Review
Filed under Review, Uncategorized
I just walked out of Joker and I am sitting in a Tim Hortons well after midnight compelled to write about all my feels. This will be a somewhat scattershot post but at the very least it will be organized by headings. Also, it is less of a review than a description of all the ways the film mapped onto my life and spoke to me. Thank-you in advance for your indulgence.
I worked all day in the Sadlon building at Georgian College. I have been working on my computer from there a lot but today was Friday and by 5pm it was empty and I was feeling like I needed to do somewthing. The idea of watching a film came to mind. I have long wanted to go see Once Upon a Time in Ho9llywood, but I wasn’t sure if it was still playing so I didn’t bank on it it. At about 6pm I decided it was time to make some moves. I hadn’t eaten all day and so had to go to the plaza where both grocery store and and cinema are located. I stopped at home first to drop off gym clothes and extra gear, expecting to walk to said plaza for groceries and see what developed from there.
At the grocery store I ate meatballs (keto af) then proceeded to work on my computer at my editing job. My boss…he used to be my friend, then we got to know each other better. I don’t think he wants me to work for him anymore, but he is scared to have me terminated because he knows that his whole existence is a house of cards that will come crumbling down at the slightest disturbance, and putting my livelihood at risk will cause said slightest disturbance. He knows this even if it is unspoken. After living with him for two months in Berlin this past summer I have a better idea of just how precariously he is holding onto his job and how scared he is of having his true nature exposed to scrutiny. I am going through the motions, keeping him appeased, but ultimately being less responsive to his passive aggressive attempts to pass his own insecuritiues on to me through professional channels. His words are meaningless, and I no longer make the mistake of responding to them beyond the minimal requirement.
I wokred until about 9:30 in the grocery store’s cafe debating whether I would buy some alcohol to enjoy during the movie, slated to start at 10:15 pm. I really struggled with the decision of whether to buy booze because I am trying to drink less. It’s not like I drink a lot now, but I know how slippery a slope it is.
Work got boring to me and I decided to leave and head to the liquor store to pick up a small bottle of gin.
Since I had my backpack with me and I expected the theatre staff to want to check it, I purchased a small bottle of beefeater which I could fit in the back pocket of my jeans. The cashier carded me. I’m 35. Felt good I guess.
Prologue Part 2
I went into the theatre and purchased my ticket but when I went to have my ticket validated, the ticket checker said that I couldn’t bring my backpack in with me. I said I could and he disagreed. I channeled my Karen and asked to speak with a manager. The manager strolled up and we argued. My position was that I didn’t trust them to be stewards of my Macbook and bag, and also that they wouldn’t take a woman’s purse, so why should they take my backpack?. Their position was that no backpacks was company (Cineplex) policy. We argued for a moment and then I said that I was going to go in and watch the film, and unless he was going top use violence to stop me, he had better call the cops.
“Fine, I’ll call the cops!” was his response.
I sat in the theatre in a state of some anxiety. I was expecting popo to roll up any minute and escort me out. I didn’t dare crack the gin I had smuggled into the cinema in my back pocket (expecting a bag search) because an unopened bottle of booze doesn’t count as contraband in the Soviet Republic of Canuckistan. I figured this was a sign that I wasn’t meant to drink tonight; after all, if the cops approached me in the theatre I could state truthfully that:
-no refund had been offered
-noone had asked me to leave
-no official door policy had been put forward ensuring the safety of my property up to a certain dollar amount
As long as I stayed sober with an unopened bottle of booze in my back pocket, I had the legal high ground.
I breathed deeply and tried to relax even though I felt the dragnet encraoching upon me. Out the corner of my eye I saw the ticket-taker eventually enter the theatre during the pre-trailer commericals. He came up to my row. I kept my eyes to the screen. He paused for a moment and then walked up to me.
“Hey man, we were wondering if you would compromise by letting us have a look in your bag.”
Years ago, I would have taken the checking of my bag as an affront, but I guess the security state has become the norm even in my own psyche and so I enthusiastically agreed figuring it was preferable to an encounter with the cops and also wanting to smoothe things over. I showed him the interior of all the multitudinous pockets of my military-style backpack (the gin was in my back pants pocket) and, satisfied, he sat down next to me for a moment and admitted he thought that the bag rule was stupid but that they had had someone come in to see the movie with a weapon already. I sympathized with him, and kind of felt bad for being an obstinate dick. I sincerely wonder how Sister Rosa Parks felt after refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Even if we are in the moral right, it is a taxing ordeal standing up to other people, and we are wont to question the justness of our actions when we see the strain it puts on our fellows who are “just following the rules.”
And so it was, after the initial elation of getting away with standing up to the crooked Cineplex PTB, I felt a sense of foreboding that I was making wrong choices. Self-destructive choices which I would regret. I felt bad and I felt low and I felt dread about my choice to drink gin.
But then I smiled and thought that this was a perfect frame of mind with which to watch this film.
I cracked the gin as the light dimmed and the movie began.
The broken, Oedipal man
Arthur Fleck aka Joker is a pathetic man who lives with his mentally unwell mother. He loves his mother and she is not shown to be cruel to him (although cruelty is alluded to later in the film), but the sickenss of their relationship can be summarized in a scene where he is giving her a sponge-bath; she is naked in a tub and he is bathing her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is a sad state of affairs, and I would guess that it is the common state of affairs for incel men (living in their mother’s basement/mother is their best friend) taken to a visceral extreme.
Personally, I have worn many hats, and incel, Oedipal son has certainly been one. My relationship with my mother was violent and abusive most of my life, and then I was completely estranged from her from 17 onwards thanks to the efforts of a step-father who wanted out of his marriage as much as he wanted the best for the children he was raising. My mother was a tyrant and violently abusive, and my step-father, step-brother and I got her arrested and put up on multiple charges and removed from the household. Yet in spite of all the violence and intimidation I remember so well, she would balance it out with something even worse; a tendency to stunt my growth by crutching on me as a male ally in the household when she fought with step-father and smothering me with Oedipal, maternal affection. It’s complicated to explain because she was as critical as she was was encouraging, but throughout my childhood I was kept in an insular box and made to be useless and weak; and all the while I was criticized for my uselessness and weakness.
There is one story that sums up the sick nature of my mother’s affections aptly: About 5 years ago, things were going well between me and my mother. We were making inroads toward reconciliation and things were becoming normalized. I was spending many weekends at her house and it was all normal and fine. Like how it should be I suppose.
But then one night as she was going up to bed she gently suggested that if I wanted to I could come up to her room and into bed with her and snuggle.
Even thinking about it makes really uncomfortable. My mother never sexually abused me, but I realized at that moment the extent of the emotional abuse I had received, because at 30 years old with 15 yeasrs of estrangement between us, I had the perspective to see how wrong her smothering behaviour was.
I didn’t take her up on he offer.
In Joker, Arthur ends up smothering his bed-ridden mother to death with a pillow while she lays in a hospital bed.
Fixation on Black Women
There are four black women whom Arthur interacts with: a social worker, a therapist, a love interest and a stranger who reprimands him for “bothering” her son. Why the emphasis on black femininity? Well I can’t say for sure, but it resonated with me and so I’ll at least comment to that extent. I like black women. I am attracted to them. I don’t know why exactly but I suspect there are two reasons:
1) Assertion of white masculinity
2) Respect and reverence for primordial, divine femininity
I am trying to be more honest in my writing than I ever have been before but I’m not ready to talk about these things in greater depth right now. They need more thought. Hopefully the bluntness of how I stated these two ideas gives enough imagination fodder.
Searching for a Father
A big theme throughout both the film and my life is the protagonist’s search for his father. He is led to believe that he is the illegitimate offspring of Thomas Wayne, but when he confronts Thomas Wayne he is rebuked and punched for his troubles. While my father never rejected me there are broad parallels between Arthur’s estrangement and my own.
There is a great scene where Arthur visits Wayne Manor and meets a young Bruce Wayne -his ostensible younger and legitimate brother. There is no malice here and he interacts jovially with the young boy until a butler (Alfred Pennyworth presumably) intercedes and tells Arthur to leave. Alfred, as the impediment between Arthur and his father; as the impediment betweeen Arthur and his little brother, was very reminiscent to me of my step-mother, Anita. It seems my whole life she has been keeping me from my father and I have long resented her for it.
Of course she wasn’t the only one keeping me from my father; before her it was my mother who chose to be unfaithful, then divorced, and then moved far away from my father so that I missed him my whole life.
My father, for his part is not perfect, having made, like Thomas Wayne, some stupid mistakes. There were times where when I was a teenager, living , much to my step-mother’s chagrin, at his house, and he would have to bend the truth to placate both me and Anita. I could loosely relate then when Arthur, being spurned by a pternity-denying Thomas Wayne, laughs, saying, “Why are you saying these lies?”
Ultimately there are further developments in the film which, rather than definitively answering the question of Arthur’s parentage, only obfuscate matters further, giving an unsettling Fight Club uncetainty vibe to the whole thing. Thomas Wayne’s eventual death then, at the hands of a clown-masked rioter encouraged by Arthur’s actions, pivotal though it is to young Bruce, sees Arthur simultaneously celebrating on the hood of a cop car in his brief moment of glory while crowds laud him after freeing him from police custody for the murder of Murray Franklin. The death of his possible biological father is shown to be meaningless as well as indirectly a result of his actions.
What of Murray Franklin?
Murray Franklin, a Gotham late-night talk show host, is significant because he represents an idealized surrogate father to Arthur and object of his delusions. Before Arthur even learns of of Thomas Wayne possibly being his father, he has reservations about the man. He has no such reservations about Murray Franklin, whom he fatasizes about meeting and being accepted as a son by.
Murray Franklin is portrayed by Robert DeNiro, and this is significant because the film draws inspiration from two of DeNiro’s earlier films, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. These earlier portrayals of DeNiro give a sort of meta-believability to his status as surrogate father figure to Arthur. However, the idealized version of Murray Franklin which Arthur fantasizes about is a far cry from trhe real version who lampoons Arthur’s secretly recorded initial overtures toward stand-up stardom and only has him on his show due to fan outcry.
Franklin, like Thomas Wayne, has been an absentee father to Arthur. Perhaps even neglectful. Nonetheless, when Arthur exacts his vengenace on Murray, who at the time is scolding him on live television after Arthur’s revelation that he klilled three men on the subway, I felt it was simultaneously appropriate and overkill.
Murray Franklin and Thomas Wayne both die the same night by the hand of men in clown masks/paint. Chaos ensues/continues. Even though these men were both neglectful, mean and spiteful, there is still something tragic about their deaths. Their passing represents things becopming undone and unraveling. When the father dies, all is chaos.
The Three Men on the Subway
Arthur’s arc gets interesting when he shoots three drunk men on the subway. The men are harassing a young Asian women (significant?) and Arthur’s condition (uncontrollable laughter) flares up. The Asian girl makes her escape and the men (employees of Wayne Enterprises) frustratedly approach Arthur seeming almost amused, but ultimately they beat him down in a scene echoing his beat-down at the hands of (multi-racial) kids during the opening of the film. This time however, Arthur is both armed and being attacked by three white men in suits, so when he lets off with his .38, it is less Bernie Goetz and more OWS. In fact, this scene really made me wonder why the film was so controversially received; from a racial and economic perspective at least, Arthur kills all the right people.
My favourite scene in the film occurs after Arthur kills the three subway harassers. He runs to a park bathroom, locks himself inside and then….dances? This dance scene actually made it to one of the film’s posters:
I know what it looked like to me because I have done this same kind of dance after moments of accomplishment, during moments of excellence and even when I am really enjoying some food -it is the movement of someone experiencing a rush of serotinin and channeling -nay, savouring-it’s movement through his central nervous system. Arthur is allowing the divine energies to course through his body/kundalini and heal his sick self. We see him here in a moment of becoming, and if our vision could go beyond the visible spectrum, into the subtler, higher vibrational realms and observe his spiritual body, we would see Arthur spreading his wings for the first time. His movements, vaguely reminiscent of tai-chi, are the same movements I have made on many dance floors when my spine/kundalini/chakras are properly aligned and I am basking in the heavenly and earthly energies moving up and down through me.
And Pepe brings me to perhaps my most cynical thought of all: Sometime in in 2019 I became aware of the #clownworld/#honkpill/#honkler meme; a derivative of Pepe with a more acute dedication to pointing out the hypocrisy and absurdity of the world and laughing at it. I was immediately enamoured of this meme and by the time I sat down to watch Joker, I was well primed to appreciate Arthur even more than I otherwise might have. And this made me think: “Oh no, have I simply been manipulated? Were honkler and clownworld simply dreamed up by marketing execs to obliquely promote the film months in advance of its release?”
I don’t know, but it is entirely within the realm of possibility that I have been duped. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that my own susceptibilities as a somewhat disgruntled man in his 30s, with problematic relations with his father and even worse relations with his mother, have been exploited. This bothered me somewhat, but in truth, not as much as I would like to think it would have. It was actually reassuring on some level to know that someone (or some marketing firm) could know me and speak so deeply to my condition. Like Winston getting interrogated and tortured at the end of 1984, I just want to be understood I suppose, even if it is in a clinical and dispassionate way. And I don’t think I am alone.
The Rock & Roll Easter Egg
At the begining of the film’s final act, Arthur gets dolled up in his final Joker ensemble for the first time, preparing to step out for the evening and be a guest Murray Franklin’s show. As he leaves his house, we see him dancing down a set of stairs, and while this scene was shown in the trailer, the music was different. In the film, Rock & Roll Part 2 by Gary Glitter plays. The young college kids I was in the theatre with probably missed the reference, but Gary Glitter was busted for among other things, child pronography. While Rock & Roll used to be played at every sporting event when I was growing up,and in every Mighty Ducks film, since the late 90s it has been effectively blackballed. To me then, including the song was a nice touch; a perfectly oblique and tasteful nod to the fact that marginalized men can be wont to take out their sexual frustration on children, and it was an acknowledgement made without directly demonizing Arthur in an unforgivable way by making him a pedophile.
And the scene was fucking awesome; I had a big grin on my face as he got suited up for a night of mayhem and danced his ass down the stairs.
The Final Analysis
The backlash against the film that I have read seems mostly like posturing and so unworthy of calling out by name, but as someone who unashamedly relates to Arthur Fleck I will tell you what the film was to me –a cautionary tale. It gave me and others like me a glimpse of what happens when we allow ourselves to be made weaker by our mothers; what happens when we allow oursleves to be too invested in the opinions and acceptance of our fathers; what happens when we fetishize women; amd what happens when we allow our worst impulses and delusions run our lives. Sure, there may be a brief moment on top of a cop car, cheered on by rioters , where we are immortal, but that too will pass. The path of Arthur Fleck is not one to emulate, but it hits home nonetheless because there but for the grace of God goes me.
When I think of a hero in film, I think of someone who, in the most abstract sense, shows me the righteous path forward. A hero is someone to emulate.
What then of an anti-hero? Well, irrespective of whatever the accepted definition of an anti-hero is, it seems to me that it has been perverted into referring to, essentially, a grittier version of a hero, who is yetr still ultimately worthy of emulation.
I find this to be a shallow reading of what an anti-hero should be. For me, I rather take the literal approach: If a hero is a role model, an anti-hero is just the opposite; the aforementioned cautionary tale. We can understand and relate to him just as much as we can relate to his more traditionally heroic counterpart, but his behaviour is self-evidently degenerative and not to be emulated.
Some consider the Joker to be the greatest villain, but he’s not, because villains can’t be understood or related to. Heroes and anti-heroes can. That doesn’t make Punisher, Venom, Spawn, et al. anti-heroes though, because excessive violence notwithstanding, they still do the right thing.
Thanos? He’s a villain because we can’t understand him. It’s like, “Bitch! Just snap your fingers and double the resources!”
Juggernaut? Great villain because its hard to empathize with someone who just wants to destroy everything.
But Joker? Someone that relatable, and who can furthermore incite a whole demographic, in real life and in the film, to rioting? That’s more than a villain; that a hero, even if an antithetical one.
Filed under Review
107 Acting Tips in Review
Recently (other) friends of mine shared the article “107 Acting Tips” (http://www.stagemilk.com/107-acting-tips/) and I thought I would weigh in with my opinions on each tip. I am no expert, I just do what makes sense to me.
So without any further ado…
1. Watch a play. If you haven’t watched a play this month book a ticket now. – I’ve seen plays but its not really my favourite way to take in entertainment. It’s important to see a couple I suppose if you haven’t ever, but beyond the need for having a cultural context, only see them regularly if you enjoy them.
2. Work a scene with a friend THIS WEEK. – Agreed, but moreso about working a scene portion. If you have a friend great but you don’t need someone else to plumb the depths of a character’s psyche.
3. Do something you’ve never done before. – Sure, why not. But since shitting while standing in line at the grocery store falls into this category…
4. Read a poem. – Yes. Analyze them too and look for meaning and patterns even if they seem extraneous and far-fetched. This is how you get smarter
5. Speak a poem out loud. – Agree.
6. Delete embarrassing Facebook photos. – Torn on this because I have said some dumb shit that I don’t agree with anymore but nothing is ever really deleted on FB and if someone finds out you deleted everything it looks mad suspicious. We need to embrace past mistakes even if only to show how far we’ve come. This is a lesson we are slow to learn and we always try and rewrite the past to our own detriment. NOTE: I see now it read PHOTOS. I have un-tagged myself from photos people have tagged me in but ask yourself this, “Do I want to get to a level where I can’t hide anything online?” If the answer is yes, embrace whatever’s out there and even try and capitalize on the notoriety a bad pic might garner. If the answer is “no” then enjoy your comfortable, near-certain obscurity.
As a side note, don’t take yourself too fuckin seriously. Yeah, I get it, it’s your career, but if all you got to offer is a blemish-free presence online, then Jesus-Fuck you’re in for a rough go.
7. Breathe. You can’t act when you are holding your breath. – Agree
8. Do you have an agent? Spend the majority of your time getting an agent. – As someone who is self-represented for three years now I am torn on this. I can see opportunities I may have missed but I also know how influence works; you become friends with someone and you want to do right by them, but right by them might mean doing something that doesn’t fit your artistic sensibilities. I would say only look for an agent when you have exhausted every other avenue, and then only if you find someone who is on the same page as you regarding how you want to develop your career. Agents are strong personalities but its your career so you gotta be stronger otherwise you’ll get too caught up in their plans for you.
9. Sign up to IMBD Pro. – Yes, but only if you have some credits there. While a necessary cost eventually, it’s prohibitively expensive for a starting actor
10. Have a favourite actor. – Depending on my mood, mine is either Erica Fontes or Rebecca Linares. Michael Parks is good too…
11. Watch the IMDB Top 250. Finish the top 100 this year. – Meh….
12. Follow StageMilk on Facebook and Twitter. – Gonna check these guys out before making a call but in general following people online costs nothing and means a lot to them so do it.
13. Read something on Stanislavski. – Fine, but keep in mind, every generation needs a revolution.
14. Read a voice book. – 100% I gotta make developing my voice more of a priority.
15. Read The Power of the Actor Chapter 1 – 3. – Only if you can bootleg it.
16. Do an acting class. Even if it’s one hour do something THIS MONTH. – Drop-ins only! Your certificate from a four-month program doesn’t mean shit.
17. Buy a camera. – Agreed.
18. Hum in the shower. – At a minimum. I like singing and rapping. Also, scrubbing my teste-satchel.
19. Congratulate people on their success. – Only if you mean it
(19b. MEAN IT! If other people’s success bothers you then check yourself and figure out what you’re really unhappy about -my two cents)
20. Try Tai Chi. – Tai Chi isn’t really my thing but try it.
21. Try Feldenkrais – Sure…now if I only knew what this was.
22. Try Alexander Technique. – See 21…..
23. Try Yoga. – Fuck Yeah!
24. Exercise 3 times this week. And next week. And every week until the day you die. – Exercise EVERY DAY!
25. Read Plays. – Sure.
26. Learn your lines. – Agreed. Learn them like a pro so you can ad-lib like a master lol
27. Do a voice warm up. – 100%
28. Get a haircut. – As long as you don’t go completely bald like me and become competition 😀
29. Watch films. – Only ones that appeal to you
30. Read every night before bed. – Yes. I should do this more instead of dicking around on my phone. Read widely on a lot of different topics. If you just read about acting you’ll be a dullard.
31. Read the first three pages out loud. – Agreed
32. Watch television shows. – But not television. There is great programming on television but advertisements are cancer & AIDS in A/V form (sorry if commercials are your bread & butter) and an assault on your consciousness. Every fibre of your being should resent that assault. Don’t own a television. Watch on your computer. Install adblocker.
33. Read books on acting. – Occasionally, and only if you’re looking to tweak a certain part of your skill-set. It’s not like you’re gonna hurt yourself reading acting books, but at the same time there are only so many hours in a day and so many things that will give you a much broader glimpse of the human experience, which in my experience is what really gives you material to draw from.
34. Get an acting coach. – Can’t really speak on this but one day I might.
35. Read plays out loud with friends. – Sure
36. Tell stories. – Agreed.
37. Tell jokes. – Agreed.
38. Learn to dance. – Agreed, but that doesn’t mean you need lessons. Get high, put on music and dance alone in your room in front of the mirror in your underwear. Emulate your favourite music videos (Method Man’s moves in Da Rockwilder were a formative part of my repertoire). That’s the dancing you’re gonna truly enjoy
39. Dance. – Agreed.
40. Learn to sing. – Agreed.
41. SING. – 100%
42. Fall in love. – With several people. All at once if possible. I would recommend falling in love at least once a day. If you can’t you either have a faulty heart or you’re hanging around uggos.
43. Live your life. – Disagree on principle because this is really trite. But insofar as it means “don’t try and be someone else,” I agree.
44. See a therapist. – If you want to experience the egoic masturbation of talking about yourself in depth, just do quizzes online. I might recommend a Meyers-Briggs test…
45. Watch interviews with actors. – Agreed. You’ll see that everyone struggles and hear meaningful anecdotes you can relate to
46. Write everyday. – Fuck, if you can discipline yourself to do so then absolutely.
47. Read everyday. – Agreed
48. Go to drama school. – Get Fucked!
49. Listen to podcasts. – Onlu if you find them interesting.
50. Talk about theatre. – This seems dumb to me but whatever. I guess it makes more sense if you’re a theatre actor…
51. Ask questions! – Only if you have a question. Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions.
52. Have your heart broken. – This isn’t one of those things you can put on a to-do list but I think it’s an important part of the human experience which will enrich you as an actor.
53. Be vulnerable. – Always.
54. Have an opinion. – Have a view. And hold onto it loosely, always willing to change it if new evidence presents itself.
55. Get political. – Don’t be a cunt though and make sure you get mad about the right things, not paltry and inoccuous shit like offensive words when 1 billion people are starving. Vicinczey said it best:
“To be great is to assume great concerns.” -We would all do well to remember that.
56. Learn to love conflict. – I would rephrase it to “Learn to love controversy.”
57. Be honest with yourself. – 100%
58. Get a mentor. – Agreed, but my experience with mentorships is that they happen organically so you cant really look for one.
59. Get an apprentice. – If you ever see someone struggling in a position you were in ALWAYS help them.
60. Stay flexible. – Survival of the most adaptable
61. Open your heart. – The phrasing of this bothers me but sure. Know what moves you. For me its certain songs and monologues and they will elicit tears no matter where I am. Cry often
62. Start a writing group. – Agreed. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum and its better to have many names on a great script than one name on a mediocre one.
63. Join a book club. – If you’re inclined to do so and it helps you read regularly.
64. Engage in your community. – 100% These are likely gonna be your first fans. Never forget where you came from.
65. Write a play. – I suspect this list is geared toward theatre actors more, but yes, write a script of some kind. A play too if it helps you think more spatially in terms of where everything has to be.
66. Go to fringe festivals. – If you’re inclined to.
67. Go to opening nights. – I’ve always had a strict hierarchy of priorities: Shoot – Rehearsal/Table Read – Audition – Party. But some premieres are more important than some shoots. Choose carefully.
68. Make a short film. – If you’re a film actor, absolutely.
69. Produce a play. – If you’re a theatre actor, absolutely.
70. Go backstage in a big theatre. – Especially if you’re not supposed to be there…
71. Stand on a main stage. – Sure
72. Make mistakes. – Don’t be afraid of mistakes would be better.
73. Do what scares you. – But only if it feels right.
74. GET FIT. – Agreed, but understand that you’re body is a reflection of your values and experience and also that certain body types lend themselves to certain roles. What do you want role-wise? Go get it!
75. Meditate… – Absolutely. Do a 10-day Vipassana retreat if you want to
76. Download Headspace. – Will have to google what this is.
77. Do an improv class. – Absolutely
78. Roll around on the floor.
79. PLaY like a CHILD.
80. Trust yourself. – Yes
81. Trust the director. – 99% of the time
82. Trust your casting.
83. Read the play before learning your lines. – Agreed
84. Watch people. – BUt don’t ever identify as a “people-watcher” -these people are insufferable and pretentious
85. Listen. – Agreed
86. Listen to your parents stories. – Agreed
87. Learn history. – Having a degree in history I can tell you that this is the single most important rule here.
88. Learn the history of theatre. – Sure
89. TRAVEL. – As an avid traveler and adventurer I can tell you that this is the single most important rule here….srs though, it helps give you context for life and see the people around you in more detached, observant ways. Plus, there’s a way in which new places can spur latent creativity in you.
90. Try new things. – Anal? It doesn’t mean you’re gay, it means you’re an actor and you do kooky sex stuff
91. Enjoy your own company. – 100%
92. Stay up all night. – Fuck yeah. Add an open word processor file and a bottle of scotch and you have the makings of excellence
93. Go sky diving. – Meh
94. Learn EVERYONE’S names. – I’m bad for this but working on it. It’s nice to be remembered.
95. Help friends with auditions. – Sure
96. Build something. – Agreed
97. Learn a poem. – Agreed
98. Write a poem. – Agreed
99. Get a diary. – I get what they mean here but honestly notepad on your phone is the best route
100. Write. – I could have sworn this point came up earlier. Yes.
101. Buy a Dictionary. – No. Dictionary.com and thesaurus.com are free…..definitely use them though
102. Learn a new word everyday. – Fuck, if you can. I’m in the position of re-learning words I forgot the meaning of.
(100b. Create new words/neologisms to encapsulate ideas, feelings and emotions that existing language is inadequate to describe.
104. Learn a new skill. – Always.
105. Sit in on a rehearsal. – Sure
106. TEACH. – If you’re in a position to pass on knowledge, do so freely and willingly.
107. Be E.P.I.C. – This is the straw that broke the camel’s back -not sure what this acronym means and after all the goofy fluff advice in this puff-piece I’m not really inclined to find out. Also, it’s 11:54 and I got blown up on set multiple times today.
A few that they missed….
108. Develop your online presence. – Your fans want to hear from you and they can only do that through instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube, snapchat, etc… Closing yourself off from any of these is a slap in the face to all the users, basically telling them to get on your level. BUT, all these things take time. This blog here takes time. And you only have so much of that. Luckily we all find literal hours per day to dick around (vagina around) on our phones. Make that productive time.
109. It’s not about who you know, but it is about building relationships. – Beware anyone who says “I know a guy…” because he is trying to sound connected. Who you know doesn’t mean shit. Who thinks of YOU first when they have a project or a problem is what matters. If you wanna work with someone be in the top 3 of their mental rolodex.
Related to that….
110. 95% of success is showing up – You’re lucky if you get one shot. Don’t fuck it up. Also, even if you only have a small role, don’t be daunted. Treat it like it’s you first project and people witll remember your enthusiasm.
111. Have a life before acting. – The need for child actor’s notwithstanding, there’s more to life than standing in front of a camera pretending.
112. Never let money or lack thereof stand in the way of a project you wanna do.
113. Don’t try and squeeze every last penny out of your project. Get it seen by as many people as you can and book your next job off of that. If it’s good enough to get distributed its good enough to bootleg.
Me sleepy now
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Hall of Otis
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
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.
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!”
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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,”
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.
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.
*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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“One Fish, Two Fish, Putin, Obama” – A Study in Imposed Dualities
Something occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed. Let me explain it in a roundabout way, my preferred method of explanation: You see, I have been following the buildup to World War III for about a year now, and before the US was making overtures toward attacking Syria in an attempt to goad Iran into conflict, it was stroking itself to the idea of attacking Iran directly.
While that more direct route was being considered, Russia and China had already made statements to the effect of, “We will fight you if you attack Iran,” “You fuck with Iran and you fuck with us.” These sentiments from the once and current Communist blocs have not really changed too much even though the US is considering a more meandering route to Iran. Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very vocal about condemning Obama, and, in light of these criticisms of American war-mongering and his harbouring of Edward Snowden, he has gotten a weird sort of good guy image makeover in the view of the West.
(To be clear, I made this image to illustrate my point)
This heel/face turn has been helped along by the letter (incorrectly attributed to Putin) “From Russia With Love,” which was written in the Russian President’s voice and has been making the viral rounds.
So yeah, it seems like Vladimir Putin is a pretty cool guy.
But if that’s the case, then why do I not feel right about singing his praises and vaunting him as the last bastion against American imperial expansion?
Well for starters lets rhyme off the superficial reasons for mistrusting Putin:
1) He’s former KGB
2) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with feminist activists, Pussy Riot.
3) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with gay rights activists.
4) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with Chechens.
Hmmm, all these factors combined certainly make me reconsider my earlier statement that Putin is a pretty cool guy, but they don’t really account for my incredulity with regard to his good guy image. I think my mistrust has more to do with IMPOSED DUALITIES.
Do you ever notice that most of the choices you are presented with come down to two main options? And while often these choices are only distinguished from each other by the most superficial of differences, people will still make great judgments about you and your character based on which of the two you choose.
Let’s review some of these dualities:
Evil vs. Good
Dark vs. Light
It’s no accident that both sides of any of these choices are broadly similar and superficial differences are emphasized to create the illusion of diversity. A good example would be how many video game retailers will have retailer exclusive DLC for games pre-ordered from them. In the game Batman: Arkham City for example, you could get various costumes for Batman depending on where you pre-ordered your game. Voila; diversity of choice!
This is what freedom of choice looks like.
I have a hunch that its also no coincidence that red and blue are used extensively for the purposes of distinguishing broadly similar factions/parties from one another. I am no colour psychologist though, so I’m not exactly sure what this denotes.
However, I want to draw attention to the last red vs. blue duality I included:
Most people probably recognized this as denoting the rivalry between the American Republican and Democratic parties, respectively. These two parties have often been accused of being broadly similar in recent years,
yet they manage to keep the veneer of differentiation though head-butting on issues like women’s rights, gay rights, fighting insurgency, etc. However, since they are both essentially fed by the same hands,
there are necessarily proverbial hands that both parties won’t bite. This is not to say its a grand conspiracy where the wealthy elite control the puppets.
On the contrary, its a rather common and disingenuous conspiracy where parties and politicians recognize where their self-interest lies and make the appropriate choices to maintain their positions of power vis-a-vis campaign funding, airtime and favourable press.
Furthermore, do you notice how any up-and-coming candidate for the presidency (and by association, senate and congress seats) always pledges to undo the wrongs of his predecessor should he be elected? This angle resonates with those disaffected most with the existing administration while polarizing the incumbent’s base, a base who, though they might not be 100% satisfied with their candidate’s performance when held up to his campaign promises, still prefers to stay the current course rather than make a departure
So how does this relate to Putin?
Well, someone’s gotta be the bad guy and someone’s gotta be the good. That is, someone’s gotta be red and someone’s gotta be blue.
If you think about it, in spite of his newfound popularity, Putin is not so different from Obama: He criticizes Obama for his handling of the Snowden affair while openly admitting that he would have prosecuted a similar Russian whistle-blower for treason. You might recognize this position as the broad similarity I mentioned earlier when talking about imposed dualities and intra-national politics. It seems that broadly similar imposed dualities exist at the international/global level of politics as well.
“It’s not about the one I like more, its about picking the one I hate least.” (Paraphrase)
Putin vs. Obama is the latesst permutation of Obama vs. Bush*, and in each case the appeal of the former is a direct function of how dissimilar they appear to be to the latter and how much the latter is hated.
Soooooo, why waste time waving the flag for either? Good question!
I quoted Miyamoto Musashi in my last post, “When Truisms Lie,” and I will quote him again here:
“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”
I think if we apply this view of imposed dualities at all levels of politics (global, national, provincial, regional, state, municipal, INTERGALACTIC!!!) we will see it represented faithfully, which to me is a testament to its truth. And it follows that if we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke and mirrors at one level (say, national politics), then we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke & mirrors at all other levels as well. In all cases we must look past the obvious conflict which is being presented to us and see who is benefiting no matter which side wins.
*I realize Obama never ran against Bush but he was touted as being the remedy to two Bush terms and two un-winnable wars.
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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,
Remember to always use Polysporin on you sword-wounds.
and later, the birth of her dragons.
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.
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?
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.
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,
“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.
*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*
This past Friday I attended a production at The Staircase called Slut (R)evolution, a one-woman show starring Cameryn Moore.
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,
“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.
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.
*“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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Movie Review: Super Mario Bros. – A Flop Revisited
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.
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
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.
They 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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,
and then it caught their stolen police car as it fell out of a tunnel into the desert.
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.
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.
WHAT THE FUCK!?
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.
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.
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…
…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.
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…
…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.
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,
“Hold the Mammal!“
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.
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…
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.
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.
Penises 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!
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.
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?
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.
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…
…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:
“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,
but is her brain actually that fried? I guess even the filmmakers were like “screw it!”
So Lena then dies from merging the worlds,
because 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…
…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.
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.
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
than he looks concerned about the disintegrated World Trade Center towers,
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.
This sends Mario and Koopa back to the Mushroom Kingdom
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
-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.”
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.
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,
“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.
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:
Suddenly turtles must not have been cool anymore.
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.
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:
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.
Filed under Review, Uncategorized
Movie Review: The Dark Knight Skyfalls (Spoilers)
Forgive me if this post is a little less than timely. Life happened and I never got around to it. In the past year (2012, for those reading this in a distant future) two movies came out whose similarities were made much of:
Now before I continue I want to point out that I am writing this blind in the sense that I haven’t searched out any other blogs, articles, or reviews which might be making a similar case, save for some of the initial reviews of Skyfall (those which gave me the idea for this post) that pointed out superficial similarities with DKR in regard to how dark they both were (Given that one of the films has “dark” in the title I think we can do much better than that). So you will have to forgive me if someone else has already written these exact same things elsewhere because I never bothered to look.
That just about covers the differences.
you can see that Billy Madison is a direct rip-off of The Land Before Time which came out years earlier. So I will try not to be too abstract when comparing the similarities between SF and DKR, but ultimately its not an exact science.
The Characters and Their Relationship to the Plot
It seems to me that almost every main character in DKR has a parallel in SF. Sometimes, one character from one movie has similarities to two or more characters from the other movie but still they function in largely the same capacity. Let’s start with the easy one…
Bruce WayneBatman vs. James Bond
Bane vs. Raoul Silva
I find the greatest similarity between these two characters is not that they are both femme fatales, but the role they play in the fall of their respective protagonists. In the case of Selina Kyle, she led Bruce Wayne down to the underground base where Bane accidentally his spirit and his body (sic.). Moneypenny was a little more directly responsible for Bond’s downfall, y’know having shot him and all. From a plot perspective I think Selina Kyle is more necessary to her film as it could have been any rookie field agent who shot Bond, or even a bad guy, but the fact that it was Moneypenny sets up a cool sexual tension and a grounds for flirting throughout the film. There is definitely a romantic tension between Bruce and Selina Kyle as well, but it is less grounded in physical attraction and more a result of mutual fascination.
Again, I have to point out here that this seems to be in line with the more internalized struggles in DKR versus the more physical ones in SF. In fact, the relationship between Bruce and Selina never strikes me as particularly sexual at all, which is interesting considering that their relationship at film’s end seems perfectly natural and genuine. This is important because there was high potential for their courtship to be glazed over and their romance assumed to be a given simply because he is the hot male lead and she is the hot female lead. Also, Bruce fucks Miranda Tate after already being fascinated with and attracted to Selina. This is great because its how romance works in real life; you can have a crush on someone and still bone someone else. If Bruce had refused to bed Miranda cause he liked Selina and saw her as a fellow nightkin, it would have been unrealistic as hell. Especially since, from a strictly sexual perspective, the tension between Miranda and Bruce was much more tangible at that point in the film, so boning made sense. But carnal delights and sexual gratification have no place in a film about internal struggles and succumbing to temptation must be punished. Want proof? Look how their relationship ended:
By film’s end both Selina and Moneypenny each have a retirement of sorts, with Selina (presumably) giving up crime and Moneypenny taking a desk job. In a way this is kind of disappointing because both “retirements” really only serve to facilitate their continued relationships with their respective protagonists: Selina has to give up crime because Batman wouldn’t allow it (although in the comics, her bad girl streak is precisely what made her so alluring to Batman. I guess since he’s no longer Batman by film’s end, all bets are off.), and Moneypenny had to give up field work because Bond couldn’t have another operative in the field always shooting at him and such. Plus he needs someone to flirt with/wave his penis at tauntingly when he returns to HQ to get briefed.
Robin John Blake vs. Gareth Mallory/Miss Moneypenny
I could probably abbreviate this criticism to be just between Robin and Mallory. I only include Moneypenny in the comparison because who these characters really are/what they are to become is revealed (cheekily) at the end of the film. That said, lets keep the comparison between Blake and Mallory.
Blake as a lowly beat cop seems to butt heads with Deputy Commissioner Foley because of his willingness to circumvent the chain of command and his sharp instincts. He saves Gordon’s life (twice) and is instrumental in helping the resistance in Gotham after Bane takes over. Later, he throws his badge into the bay when he realizes that the structure of the police force cramps his “do what needs to be done” style. At movie’s end he reveals himself to be Robin, finds the Batcave and presumably goes on to fight crime as Bruce Wayne’s replacement.
Unlike Blake, Mallory starts off with some status, being the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. However, he still alludes more than once to his dickhead boss, the Prime Minister. He ends up saving M twice, first when he gets the Intelligence minister to lay off during the review hearing, and then again when Silva tries to shoot her. While he never abandons the establishment he is part of, he does show a willingness to flout the rules when he discovers Q unofficially assisting James in setting a trap for Silva. By film’s end he reveals who he is to become, namely M’s successor at MI6
Lucius Fox vs. Q
This one is a no-brainer, as every modern hero needs a gadget-guy (as well as a 1337 haX0r). Q’s cheeky-as-fuck attitude and hipster fashion sensibilities are reminiscent of his older Gotham counterpart, but the similarities continue from there. Both characters prove to be instrumental to the bad guy’s plan too, as Lucius’ handscan lets Bane access the fusion reactor and Q’s hacking allows Silva to escape from MI6’s emergency HQ. After these respective fuck-ups though both turn their efforts toward stopping the bad guys, Lucius aiding the recently-returned Bruce Wayne when Gotham is under siege, and Q leaving a “trail of crumbs” for Silva to follow to Skyfall. At film’s end both characters are still alive and while it is certain that Q will go on assisting Bond, we can only assume that Fox will help Blake when he eventually takes up the mantle of the Batman. Otherwise why would he have been running a diagnostic on The Bat’s auto-pilot at film’s end?
Commissioner Gordon vs. M
Both of these characters serve as quasi-parent figures in their respective film series. You will remember that scene in Batman Begins when Det. Gordon protectively puts his coat around a recently-orphaned Bruce Wayne to comfort him at a police station. Later on throughout the series, Bruce reports to Gordon as Batman, and while he doesn’t strictly take orders from him, he works collaboratively with Gordon where possible.
Ditto for the relationship between M and Bond. As far as a parental dynamic, Silva spells it out during his first meeting with Bond when he says,
There is one final similarity between Gordon and M which bears mention; both are explicitly referred to as relics of war-time who no longer belong in peace time In the case of Gordon, this happens in the party at the film’s beginning when Foley is ambitiously plotting to become the next commissioner. In the case of M it is at her hearing when the intelligence minister is criticizing her paranoia about the threats in the world. It is sad that the paranoid types and symbols of war like Gordon and M are eventually vindicated by the events in their respective films, as it reinforces the message that constant paranoia and vigilance are how things should be and that we should be wary of peace of mind and a lack of fear. I don’t know if the majority of viewers picked up on this sub-text but it kind of made me cringe. It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of either movie too much because I realize that they are fictions, but we should really try and stay mindful that the good/evil duality is unrealistic and only works as a narrative tool.
Two notable omissions from this character comparison are Talia/Miranda Tate and Alfred Pennyworth from DKR. Although I mentioned Talia in passing I didn’t feel she had a direct parallel in SF, instead sharing similarities with many of the characters in the Bond film at various points in her character’s development. In the case of Alfred, his disappearance at the beginning of the 2nd act seemed peculiar to me because abandoning Bruce did not seem in line with his character. Certainly I could compare him to M in the way he chides/advises Bruce, or I could do a very complex reading and compare Alfred’s abandonment of Bruce to M’s abandonment of Silva, but ultimately SF was just more economical in its casting, so no matter who gets compared to whom, some DKR characters will not be paired up with anyone.
Having gone on at length about character similarities, and in the process, plot similarities as well, it is time to have a little more fun and point out the random similarities. While these are of a more superficial nature, it does make you pause and wonder if the creators were trading notes while developing their respective films.
Both antagonists have fucked-up faces:
Both protagonists demonstrate proficiency for walking on ice:
Both protagonists seem pretty magnanimous toward the chicks who betrayed or accidentally shot them.
In a bit of role reversal, Bane’s troops take on the role of peace officers prior to the climactic battle, ordering the assembled GCPD to disperse. This role-reversal is reinforced by Dep. Com. Foley as he and the other freed cops advance on city hall toward film’s end.
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Movie Review: The Last of the Mohicans
I have The Last of the Mohicans finishing up in another window as I write this.
This movie came out like 21 years ago and I am just watching it now in spite of the universal praise I have heard it receive. I should have watched it sooner cause it appeals to me on a few different levels. Lemme get past the meat & potatoes philosophical aspects before I get to the more more whimsical stuff.
The Redcoats Are Not Always Bad
Is it just me or have we been programmed to always view the red coats of imperial British soldiers as evil? In The Patriot they burn down a church full of colonial women and children to goad Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger into attacking them
In Zulu, Michael Caine and his soldiers are portrayed as brave holders of the fort against amazing odds…
Cary Elwes was a douche-bag in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book…
And let’s not forget the most recent example, Assassins Creed 3,
where, as a young half-Indian assassin, you are on a mission to bring down a secret society called the Templars against the backdrop of the American Revolution.
So yeah, reasons aplenty in pop culture to hate the British empire. However, LotM does its best to actually humanize the Brits and puts them on the side of right in the North American theatre which was unprecedented to me. Mind you, they are still a little cunty, what with their attempts to force colonials to join their fight against the French-Huron alliance and their desire to hang Daniel Day-Lewis for sedition. But in spite of these shortcomings, the real cunts of the film are a faction of Huron Indians led by Magua, who seem unable to accept the peace terms that their French allies set up with the British rivals.
Now some liberals might say it is a little cruel to portray Indians as villains in a film set against the conflict between two European powers vying for territory which belonged to Indians, but this is interesting for the same reason that seeing the Brits as “good guys” is interesting: Frankly, conflicts aren’t black & white. History doesn’t have good guys and bad guys, just people with conflicting motivations; for every cunt in history who is remembered for his cuntiness, there is a perfectly understandable set of motivations and causality which led up to said cuntiness. It is actually unfair to the Huron Indians to portray them as universally good, just as it is unfair to portray the Brits as always bad. Both were victims of their cultures and acted within a framework which dictated (broadly) their actions and motives.
So yeah, to recap, while the film still portrayed an unrealistic good vs. evil dichotomy, it did so in an unconventional way where things were shown to be more complex than “native = good and foreign occupier = bad.”
The Huron Indians Were Fucking Terrifying
Miss Weir taught me a lot about the Huron Indians in Grade 8. I learned that they were fierce warriors who lived off the land, (yawn) respected nature, traded with the French, etc. Needless to say, such explanations of their fierceness never painted a vivid picture of just how fierce they were:
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