Category Archives: movies

Modifying Society: Freedom a current reality?

This is a post about some documentaries I watched, which I use to support a somewhat dark but sincere view point I have about today’s society. While my arrival to my final statement is circuitous, I just wanted to lay this out first and foremost for those of you wondering why the next few paragraphs is me talking about…well…me.

Thanks English 1A.

Anyway…so recently I’ve had an alkaline desire to view the graphic and the real. In the past, I was never much of a gore hound, and I realize that this term has negative connotations, but it would seem this fact is changing.

To be frank, I can watch videos of Mexican cartels beheading people slowly and ineffectively with a kitchen knife and still have my dinner, do my homework, and go to sleep without any nightmares. Perhaps the only real effect such a terrible thing has on me now, is a darker view of the world, and a deeper skepticism as to whether or not “freedom” is a current reality anywhere, even here in America.

Extreme to say? Maybe. But just to be clear, I’m an idealist, not a nihilist. I see wrongdoings, and I find myself hard pressed to keep my mouth shut. I’m blunt, forward, and often times, tactless. Many people in my life have found this to be both an exemplary but troublesome quality in me.

Some small examples of what I mean: My husband once had to (literally) hold me back from jumping down the throat of some jerk who cut in front of us at a Las Vegas hotel. It was late, we were tired, and literally the next in line when this guy just slides right in front of us and starts barking at the hotel clerk. The clerk very tactfully handled the situation and we were checked in just fine. Another time, I was about to settle down for a LARP game (White Wolf’s, Changeling: The Lost) when the Storyteller decided a player was banned simply because the guy had once banged his girlfriend (who had dumped said dude and left him for the Storyteller). In a ridiculous fit, this 6 foot giant locked himself in his room and refused to come out, having this girl come out to deliver the news to my beleaguered friend. Stunned and annoyed, the guy was gonna leave to go hang out with his friends on the other side of the apartment building, and after hearing what went down, I flat out quit the game, telling the girl she could tell her boyfriend to stuff it.

This is me. This is how I am. If I weren’t married and considerate of my husband’s feelings, I probably would have run off to join the Occupy movement. A good thing, I feel now, in the long run. The occupiers stirred my heart with their passion, but they were a part of what I now recognize as an impressively ineffective way to bring about change in organized society. Maybe if I had been given some more guidance when I was younger, I would’ve gone to CSU: Longbeach when they first accepted me, and got into whatever crazy left wing groups they had there. But I didn’t, and here I am: A quiet little rebel with radical thoughts somehow married to a middle-line conservative Air Force soldier in the bible belt, serving bloody-marys and mimosas at a conservative country club.

Say what?

But that’s life! And maybe this introspection has been the reason I’ve been watching documentaries as of late. Two documentaries, seemingly irrelevant, really underscored the thought I stated above.

Is freedom a current reality in our world?

That said, if there is no freedom, is our oppression under societal rule all that bad? America, as my prime example since I friggin’ live here, offers many people many opportunities…

…But in order to have those opportunities, you have to be born in certain areas, and you canNOT break the acceptable mold of appearance and behavior that American society dictates.

My first case for this is the documentary, MODIFY:

This incredible film explores the world of body modification—and not just tattoos and piercings. It covers everything from body builders, to permanent make-up, to 3D body art, to dental reconstruction, to plastic surgery. It talks about the beginnings of the extreme piercing and 3D body art world. Returning to the rabbit hole everyone is familiar with, and going beyond conventional piercings and tattoos, there are also genital piercings, subdermal implants, tongue splitting, amputations, scarification, branding, and probably much more I’m missing.

The documentary is rather graphic in that it depicts surgical procedures, such as sex changes and plastic surgeries, and genital piercing procedures. It talks about the hows, the whys, and the plain ‘ol facts of body modification, and how it is the participants ultimate form of self-expression.

But these people, especially those who engage in the most extreme and exotic forms of body modification, are often shunned by society for their choice in appearance. Many people who seek body modifications are actually rather religious. One man even stated that he was a born again Christian, but had been called the Devil numerous times.

The documentary also talks about the legal gray areas of body modification, and how currently there are hundreds of bills being sent through the political machine to try and restrict certain forms of body modification. The speakers on the documentary all voiced their adamant opposition to this, stating together in summary, “It is my body, and I have a right to change it to what I want.” As one self-described narcissistic, and nihilistic body modder stated, freedom is an illusion, everything is an illusion.

But given that I can’t get a job outside of this subculture with face tattoos and horn implants, I have to wonder if that guy was at least partially correct. What does it matter that I have tattoos up and down my arms? If I am capable to do the job required of me, I should be allowed to work, is my view. But is this the case? No. I realize that body modification is associated with the underworld of criminal activity, but this is an unwholesome misconception. Many of these people have families, but when they try to go down the street with their kids, people stare at them like they have robbed someone else’s crib. It’s a shame.

I have “body mods” too. I’ve got copper highlights in my hair, piercings in my ears, piercings in my nipples, and a tattoo of X-Men’s Storm on my left upper arm. Whether or not you consider these extreme or not, these are indeed modifications to my body, and you have to ask yourself: why are some forms of body modification more acceptable to others? We all say, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Frankly? I think we should shut up about books and start talking about real people. Because that’s who these body modders are. People.

The next documentary that I watched was Crips and Bloods: Made In America.

This documentary provides an interesting look into Los Angeles, California’s two notorious rival gangs, and the turbulent history of oppression and injustice that very likely led to their creation. It’s directed by Stacy Peralta, the filmmaker responsible for Dogtown & Z Boys, one of my favorite documentaries, and narrated by Forest Whitaker. The story begins in the 1950’s when many African American “clubs” were formed by adolescent teenagers. To name a few, there were the “Slausons”, active from 1952-1965, the “Businessmen”, active from 1957-1965, and the “Gladiators”, active from 1952-1965.

A Few Slausons’ Club Members

Commentary was provided from three former Slausons’ members, who stated their thoughts as to how these clubs came to formation, and what they really were about. In the 1950s, there weren’t “outreach programs” or “community groups” unified to encourage black youth and keep them out of trouble. One speaker even stated that the Boy Scouts turned him and his mother away because the troop leader believed some of the parents, “would feel uncomfortable.” Coupled with the constant harassment the black community faced at large in LA at the time, these things caused some youths to try to band together in an effort to create safety and pride. For them, it wasn’t about drugs and killing each other. Was there violence? Yes, to some degree. But guns and knives were never involved. Disputes were always handled by their fists. Club members were “notorious” for being difficult with white law enforcement, and often beat each other up for crossing imaginary territory lines. But there were no murders. No “beefs”. In fact, these clubs all united in 1965 for what was called, “The Watts Rebellion.”

It was a bloody and violent conflict, and it showed the pent up frustration that the southern LA African American community felt towards their being forced into poor living conditions, and the attacks faced by law enforcement. Many club members went on to become Black Panthers. Many became influential leaders in their communities for black pride. This new African American movement alarmed white government officials, who saw this as a threat to national security. The FBI and LAPD were known to consider these groups as dangerous and unlawful.

During this period, many black leaders were either imprisoned or assassinated.

By the end of the 70s, black youth were suddenly bereft of a righteous cause, and yet still denied equal opportunity. They were left angry, disenfranchised, and poor. They grew up, witnessing the organized and passionate movements their parents had participated in without an outlet of their own. Peralta suggests this led to the creation of today’s gangs.

Bloods

Crips — Allegedly created before the Bloods, they are assumed to have been founded by Raymond Lee Washington, who was murdered in 1979 at a young age.

The documentary loses some points with me, despite their interesting foundation of information, for neglecting to detail just how the Crips and Bloods arose from all of this, and for failing to answer who their founders were, and what their lives had been like. While it is true that these gang founders were killed at a young age and thus, we shall never know what their original intent had been beyond basic survival (maybe that’s all there ever was?), I still feel like Peralta lacked a direct connection with LA’s African American history, and today’s current gang violence. After all, it has been stated that Raymond Lee Washington, the original founder of the Crips, disliked guns and knives. His crimes were often attempts to protect himself or provide for basic needs—such as robberies consisting largely of food and clothing. But by the time of his death, he had little to no control of the Crips, and there is no current understanding as to why he was murdered in the first place. Maybe there wasn’t a reason, as can be the case in gang violence. But regardless, I think Peralta could have at least mentioned some of this in the documentary.

Still, the film does an excellent job giving a glimpse into today’s Crips and Bloods, offering testimonies from current members and former members alike, as well as the families of some of their victims. The basic point that the film makes is this: the Crips and the Bloods are a product of the America that was, and the America that is. Many African American men are incarcerated, tearing apart families over non-violent offenses. Criminal records often bar released prisoners from starting a new and lawful life, resulting in frustration and a return to crime. Sub-standard living and “gang task forces” also lend to the vicious cycle. After all, with discrimination and violence, and without equal opportunity, how can one expect the birthplace of these gangs to end their illicit activities?

What I especially liked was that the film doesn’t just leave you with this bloody and sad mess of societal failure, and it especially doesn’t give you any room to think that Peralta is somehow glorifying gangbanging—the film ends on a bittersweet, but otherwise positive note that, despite the continuing existence of these gangs, there are some who are willing to risk their lives, without government assistance, to try to turn the tide. This brave lot includes former gangbangers who try to reach out to young people and tell them how it really is.

So in America, where you can’t look a certain way, be born in a certain place, or even be related to certain people…does the concept of freedom still ring true in your ears?

For me, it rings more as a possibility. This may sound cheesy, and even pretentious, but if we don’t save our children from the unjust prejudices and social failures of the present, all of our bullshit will sound just like that…

Bullshit.

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THIS IS NOT AN EXIT – American Psycho Further Explored

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“We really don’t care to know if you’re afraid of Virginia Woolf. Stay home and freak out. Buy a Chainsaw.”

So in my recent trip through dark cinema, I once again touched on American Psycho, and for some morbid reason felt the need to fight through the novel the film was based on. While it is as mind-numbingly shallow and violent as I remember, I managed to (sort of) read the whole thing this time. I read much of the beginning, then about 50-60 pages in, started skipping forward through scenes I perceived as boring. I didn’t just skip forward for Bateman’s depraved acts against humanity, but some of the black humor tucked away in all the banality of yuppie culture. Like when he tries to speak “ebonics” to two black men, when he writes a racist haiku, when Luis Carruthers confesses his love to Patrick, when Patrick breaks up with Evelyn, when Bateman and Price try to get high off of Sweet n’ Low, the sudden and outrageous admissions that Bateman makes on a regular basis (but whom no one hears or takes seriously), his awkward meeting with Tom Cruise…and lots of other little moments. Not really laugh-out-loud funny, most of this stuff, but still amusing in its own, dry, sardonic, dark way.

I remember trying to read the novel way back when, and at the time, I just couldn’t because I found it morally reprehensible. Well after watching something like A Serbian Film (dear god, avoid that movie at all costs) the scenes were a lot more bearable. I even noted a satirical outrageousness along the lines of Takeshi Miike’s Ichi the Killer where the violence is so over the top as to seem cartoonish. Not to say that any of the rape, torture, or murder scenes made me laugh, but they did paint an interesting picture of a man who can be understood to be a giant black hole. Perhaps my desensitization also allowed me to see the eerie parallels between Bateman’s detached description of his home stereo system, and the violent ways in which he kills his victims. The detached tone helped, I think, in stomaching the otherwise graphic details described in the book.

The only character in the entire book that Bateman seems unable to kill is Jean, his secretary. When I watched the film with my friends back in high school, the theory was made that Bateman spared her because he needed her to keep his illusory life going. At the time I quietly felt that there was more to it than that, and after reading the book, my feelings were reinforced. Why DID Bateman spare Jean, even in his hallucinations? Because Jean was the only person in his life who genuinely cared for him, but more important than that, she was OUTSIDE of the shallow yuppie lifestyle that Bateman was entrenched in, and hated so much. On page 266, Bateman envisions him and Jean running around Central Park on a cool spring afternoon, laughing and holding hands. They buy balloons and let them go, perhaps a symbol for Bateman’s possible salvation (though we know he doesn’t really find this). When Jean is first introduced, Bateman narrates that she will be someone he “will probably end up married to someday”. In the section marked “The End of the 1980s” (pgs 371-380) Bateman has brunch with Jean. In the conversation that follows, Jean confesses her love to Patrick, and Bateman asks her if she owns a briefcase or a roladex. (in his mind, he’s comparing her to Evelyn) Jean replies that she does not own a briefcase, but she does own a roladex. Suspciously, he asks if it is designer. She replies that it isn’t. He feels relieved at this news.

After this conversation, nothing further seems to develop of their relationship, as Bateman slips further into his insanity. I found a very interesting write-up online by Chris Schaffer that explored Bateman’s possibly mental problems. Among those discussed were: Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depersonalization Disorder, and Comorbid Idealization. It goes on to state that Bateman has a weak super-ego and a strong Id, which leads to little restraint when it comes to his violent acts of depravity.

It really explains a lot about his character, and it draws interesting parallels between his psychosis and his career. As one involved in mergers and acquisitions in the 80s, Bateman was in a hyper-masculine world where companies were “violently” taken over, or dominated, and cannibalized. Along with his need to feel powerful and manly, Bateman fears anything that threatens his capabilities and hates everything that is the antithesis of his weak super-ego. When this happens, the metaphorically violent nature of his work becomes manifested literally through his Id, which moves to protect his fragile image. Chris Schaffer goes on to state that everything Bateman states comes from some external source–be that periodicals, television, film, or music. Nothing he says is original, thus resulting in his almost pathetic, cartoonish caricature of a rich yuppie.

Reading the Patrick Bateman wikipedia page, I was surprised to find that there was a series of fake emails collected into what is known as American Psycho 2000, which was meant to be an advertisement campaign for the movie. None of the emails were written by the books author, Ellis, but he approved each of them before their release, so they can be understood as canon. In these emails, it is revealed that Bateman DOES in fact marry Jean, but one child and twelve years later, he is seeking a divorce. He goes through counseling, less for the desire to become “well” and more for the desire to appear well, so that he can gain full custody of his 8-year-old son, Patrick Bateman Jr., often referred to as P.B.. He idolizes his son, believing him to be a beautiful, brilliant child with his father’s sense for high quality. The entire email series is transcribed here.

**For some reason, the site asks for a password. Just click cancel several times, and the popup will go away, allowing you to read. I think the reason it asks for a password is because the images displayed on the site are from a password protected directory of the site-owners. Not entering a password does not bar one from reading the email transcripts, you just won’t be able to see the images in some of them.

The emails are amusing (and is the source of the above quote), and they show an older Patrick who has fallen “out of love” with Jean (if one could say he was ever in love with her). The emails state that Jean, over the years, had changed, essentially becoming one of the shallow, materialistic women that Patrick despised (almost like Evelyn). As stated, Jean cannot get by a month without one hundred and eighty nine thousand dollars a month in alimony. Thus why he wishes for a divorce.

After reading the books and these outside materials, it made me want to watch the movie again. While I think my second attempt at reading Bret Easton Ellis’s novel brought me closer to his message against the materialism, narcissism, the self-destructive behaviors of the upper class, and the deteriorating effects our consumerist society has on humanity, I still prefer the movie over the book.

Please share your thoughts!

“Hey, I’m a child of divorce, gimme a break!”
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Donnie Darko and the Four Basic Functions of Myth

I wrote this for my Historical Archetypes and Mythology class at Full Sail Online. I recently watched Donnie Darko, so when the instructor asked us to find modern examples of Joseph Campbell’s four functions of myth, I went overboard. By the by, have you guys seen the Donnie Darko website? It’s so fucking cool! It gives extra material beyond the movie too, naturally. It makes me really want to get the Director’s Cut DVD. Anyways, before I post my little “analysis”, here’s Campbell’s four functions for those of you who don’t know it:

  • First is the metaphysical function. Myth awakens and supports a sense of awe before the mystery of being. It reconciles consciousness to the preconditions of its own existence. Myth induces a realization that behind the surface phenomenology of the world, there is a transcendent mystery source. Through this vitalizing mystical function, the universe becomes a holy picture.
  • The second is a cosmological dimension deals with the image of the world that is the focus of science. This function shows the shape of the universe, but in such a way that the mystery still comes through. The cosmology should correspond to the actual experience, knowledge, and mentality of the culture. This interpretive function changes radically over time. It presents a map or picture of the order of the cosmos and our relationship to it.
  • Third is the sociological function. Myth supports and validates the specific moral order of the society out of which it arose. Particular life-customs of this social dimension, such as ethical laws and social roles, evolve dramatically. This function, and the rites by which it is rendered, establishes in members of the group concerned a system of sentiments that can be depended upon to link that person spontaneously to its ends.
  • The fourth function of myth is psychological. The myths show how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. It is this pedagogical function of mythology that carries the individual through the various stages and crises of life, from childhood dependency, to the responsibilities of maturity, to the reflection of old age, and finally, to death. It helps people grasp the unfolding of life with integrity. It initiates individuals into the order of realities in their own psyches, guiding them toward enrichment and realization.

And now my analysis–feel free to contest it or ask questions! If you haven’t seen the movie yet–please do. It’s really good.

Joseph Campbell’s extensive research into world myths led him to write a great deal of theories and observations, all substantiated by his findings. His findings showed that though each culture independently developed their own myths, each followed a similar pattern of initiatory adventures. He further explained that all myths have four basic functions. These were: cosmological, metaphysical, sociological, and psychological.

In modern culture, it can be easy to assume that today’s stories, in whatever form or media they come in, do not follow these patterns or exhibit these functions. But this is not true. George Lucas’s Star Wars is probably the most famous example of a modern day initiatory adventure as defined by Joseph Campbell. Lucas even cited Campbell as being an inspiration and mentor, but far more recent than Star Wars, is the film Donnie Darko.

The psychological function is perhaps easiest to determine in the film,but each of the other three functions can be found as well. The story follows a troubled young teen who begins having visions of a twisted looking rabbit named Frank, who (functioning both as the Herald and the Mentor) warns of impending doom. A plane turbine crashes through the roof of his house, destroying his room while Donnie is out sleepwalking. It is later revealed that the turbine came from a tangent universe, pulled through a time portal by Donnie’s telekinetic power (facts only revealed in the Director’s Cut DVD commentary). The Donnie Darko website goes on to reveal that the turbine is the only thing to survive from the tangent universe. The same plane in the new universe actually remains intact and lands safely. Richard Kelly (the film’s writer), in his DVD commentary, doesn’t outright say whether or not the tangent universe is “real” (as if God were showing Donnie his path and why he had to be killed by the turbine) or if it was a vision.

Donnie also begins seeing the very elements of time and space (fulfilling the cosmological function) and struggles to uncover its secrets before disaster strikes as Frank had warned. This search leads him to not only wrestle with the scientific functions of his world, but with the concepts of free will and the role of God and the mystical nature of the universe (fulfilling the metaphysical function). As a very lonely individual, he clearly struggles with connecting with others and following the conventions of society. But as the story progresses, he succeeds in forming a relationship with the new girl at school, Gretchen, outing Jim Cunningham as a pedophile, following his mother’s wishes to take his medication (after a fight between them makes him feel guilty), working in harmony with his sister to throw a party at their house, reaching out to Grandma Death (the woman who wrote the book that filled his understanding of tangent universes and time and space), and standing up to the school bullies (though all of this inevitably leads to tragedy.) This all fulfills the sociological function. Donnie’s relationships with his family, his girlfriend, his school, and with society at large, are finally reconciled when he realizes that in sacrificing himself, he is actually creating life, thus overcoming his fear of dying alone and achieving his destiny. Collapsing the tangent universe, Donnie goes back in time to when the turbine crashes through the roof, laughing in (what seems hysterical) joy, just before he is killed. This fulfills the psychological function.

Donnie Darko is a very dark and mind-bending story, and even its genre and target audience seems slippery and broad. But through simple analysis, one understands how this tale of death, time travel, and coming-of-age follows Campbell’s initiatory adventure, and satisfies the four functions of myth he outlines. While some may disagree with Campbell’s emphasis on the psychological versus the sociological, and even his somewhat formulaic detailing of an adventure, one cannot deny that his research holds some truth, even in modern day stories.

Sources:

Donnie Darko Analysis: http://www.math.nyu.edu/~neylon/movies/donniedarko3.html

Everything You Were Afraid to Ask About “Donnie Darko”: http://www.salon.com/2004/07/23/darko/

The Donnie Darko official website: http://www.donniedarkofilm.com/

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Really, REALLY DBD – Illness strikes! Beware of the SICKO!

SICKO!

Well, I’m sick (like really, really) so I skipped work and am now going to have to cancel plans to see Ratatouille today. I can’t really come up with a great excuse for my lack of posts (there are other sites and things I’m neglecting as well) but what I can say is this: working with infants is alot more work than it seems. >_>;; This week I started as a teacher’s assistant at an infant daycare and less than three days since I started, I get sick. So here I am…not doing anything.

Ha, well aside from the release of Ratatouille here in the good ol’ US of A, there is the new documentary out by Michael Moore–titled, Sicko.  While Fahrenheit 9/11 was all right, it was a little too biased (in my opinion) for what is supposed to be a documentary.  I’ve never seen Bowling for Columbine, but I suspect it was the same.  Sicko is sure to make people squabble over it, but that’s what Michael Moore feeds on—controversy. (no pun intended)

#3: Penguins and Torture – Misguided escapism and the fall of true horror.

A reader sent Fangoria (a horror movie magazine) this letter discussing Grindhouse’s economic fallout and how movies today don’t even skim the waters of reality:

…To the shock of both film critics and genre fans, Grindhouse had a disappointing opening weekend at the box office.  When something like this is beaten out by an Ice Cube family comedy, you know we’re in trouble!  Does anyone have any answers?  Personally, I believe timing was a major factor; an Easter weekend release was not very smart!  But there’s something more being said here.  Horror fans have been hungry for this sort of film for eons, and to finally have it brought to major theatres—well that’s definetly the icing on the cake!  Or is it?

As I was watching Grindhouse, a couple of things occured to me.  While I thoroughly enjoyed myself, especially during Robert Rodriguez’s Lucio Fulci-esque Planet Terror, I found myself thinking, ‘What’s the point?’  If I want to see a Lucio Fulci film, why don’t I just watch one?  Maybe I was hoping that sharing something like this with the general public might enhance the viewing experience, or perhaps grindhouse movies could possibly go mainstream!  But here’s the real problem:  We’re all sick and tired of remakes and homages, whether we’re willing or ready to admit it.

We’re living in a time of war, public beheadings, hostages, terror, and potential Iranian nuclear doom.  You’d think the horro genre would have something to say about all this—not in a direct/obvious way, but in a subconscious manner, the way horror is supposed to work!  We all remember the fright films of the Vietnam era—those are classics now!  But unfortunately, this era is almost completely forgotten.  Will we really want to watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (the film that started the craze) 10 years from now when the original is still far superior?  This reveals a lot about our generation.  We’ve got nothing to say, even living in these extreme times!  This could have easily been an era of genre classics, but instead we’ve released the creative license to fanboys and not artists.

–Tarik Polansky

While important things are going on both in America and the world (a civil war in Iraq, global warming, and an upcoming presidential election here in the states) my generation in particular has chosen to ignore such issues in favor of living their own makeshift realities.  …These realities consist of computer generated talking animals, and people being tortured in variously horrifying ways.  I cannot quite understand why so many thought Saw and Hostel were such great movies.  Alternatively, I don’t know why penguins were suddenly catapulted as one of the most loved animals in the US.  One thing I DO know, is that these films continue to be made purely for profit.

I’m not going to play stupid.  Of COURSE money dictates what films are going to be made.  Companies want movies that will attract an audience—not progress art.  But I have to admit, I wish being innovative and intelligent was all it took to get people interested.  Back in the 60’s and 70’s you got all manners of movies appearing on screen, addressing directly (or indirectly) the problems of society.  Nowadays, writers and directors are afraid to comment and point out various issues due to fear of ostracization both by critics and audiences alike.  It’s “too depressing” or “too bothersome” to sit and hear what it’s really like outside of our own comfort zones.

So why do we like penguins and torture films?

The “March of the Penguins” had to be the least fascinating accumulation of penguin documentation known to the history of man.  Morgan Freeman is a good actor.  I loved him in “10 items or Less”, “Batman Begins”, and “Unleashed”.  …But he should NEVER narrate another film so long as he lives.  Even worse than “March of the Penguins” was “Farce of the Penguins”, done by the unwitty half-wit Bob Saget–one of the most ABYSMAL comedians to ever hit television screens since sitcoms went down the ol’ shitter. 

And riding on the coat tails of the penguin tornado came “Happy Feet” the ‘almost all right’ film about an outcast heretic known as Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) who just can’t stop his sinful feet from doing the tap dance of catastrophe.  The movie would’ve been all right if they had put in more dancing numbers, more of an ACTUAL antagonist, and even less environmental BS (or atleast pull it off more gracefully, like Ferngully).  The ending was definetly “WTF” worthy.  It was a rushed, half-assed ending, constructed purely to excuse the pseudo-musical that preceded it.  I was left unsatisfied and disappointed when I left the theatre that night.

When the dancing penguins cleared from my head, I came to hear about “Surf’s Up”, yet another penguin film, but this time dealing with surfing culture and your general beach shenanigans.  Lulled by the charm of animated-talking-animal films, my friends have been tempted to go see it.  I’ll admit, so am I, but as I stop to consider another popular film trend, I begin to shudder—deeply unnerved.

On the more perverse side, we see our head-humping hotshot Eli Roth slap together yet another reel of gore-porn–spiced, seasoned, and smelling slightly less fresher than Preston Lacy’s ass.  My disappointment with the first Hostel movie was its failure to paint out well-rounded characters, its disturbing ability to pulsate male homophobia, and it’s complete lack of imagination.  Nothing about what I was seeing was terribly original.  Just very bloody and very sadistic.  I probably would’ve thought the movie better (and scarier) if I had never even seen it for heaven’s sakes!  I recall sitting in the theatre and feeling nauseous–like I was getting on a terrifying roller coaster ride.  But then the movie started, and after the first ten sets of boobs flashed across the screen, I realized I was in for 94 minutes of a different kind of torture…

From Hostel 2, I’ve heard tell that it really is just a rehash from the first—only with girls.  The women (the ‘heroines’) are your typical stereotypes—rich sluts—fixed with such drab and colorless lines that one can’t help but wonder if they bought all their lackluster sayings from an Ed Wood vending machine.  The ever so critical Rotten Tomatoes racked up an average rating of 4.6/10  Now it may seem unfair to shoot down a film I haven’t even seen…but I’m coming from both an artistic and moral point of view when I say:  I REFUSE to watch Hostel 2.  Why?

Because Eli Roth is a jerk. Period.  He doesn’t deserve to be called the ‘leading man of horror’.  He’s an artistic nightmare (if you’ll excuse my pun,) and he couldn’t construct a genuinely frightening film if a serial killer sat on his head.  People mistake gore for horror.  Gore is not horror.  I repeat:  GORE IS NOT HORROR.  Films like:  Saw (one big horror rip off), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the remake), and The Hills Have Eyes (the remake) do not deserve to be stuck into the horror genre.  In fact this dives headlong into another topic I wanted to address before I make my final point.

Movies today are not progressing.  America has become caught up in a trend of remakes (especially in horror) and doesn’t seem to want to make anything new.  And it’s not just in movies, either.  Everywhere I look I see regurgitated fashion, hear musical copycats, and feel cultural regression.  Our society, our escapist society, does not wish to acknowledge the problems of the world, the decisions that need to be made, the things needed to be created.  We remember the past and we’re stuck in it.  We create our fantasies and we drown in them.  We close shut our minds and focus only on the pretty and horrific things that send sugar-razored chills up and down our spines.  And there is nothing more demented than what our fixations have become.

Penguins and torture.

Innocence and evil.

Joy and violence.

I want people to sit and wonder why so many others (perhaps even themselves) like watching sadistic films—NOT horror films, just SADISTIC films—films that take away the element of fear and leave only an adrenaline rush.  There is no fear when watching Hostel.  You know what is going to happen.  These wannabe horror films take viewers away from the position of the victim, thus taking away all elements of REAL horror.  By PORTRAYING violent deaths—closing in on it, feeding on the energy, drawing it out—the audience no longer view things from the eyes of victims, instead, they see things from the eyes of the killer.  The knife is in their hand and they are now feeling empowered.

Surf's Up

But don’t forget the penguins!

The lovable fluffy things that dance on the other side of the spectrum—never quite teaching us anything about discrimination, race, religion, or hell, even the environment—instead simply giving us a reason to smile.  And what’s wrong with smiling?  What’s wrong with kids feeling good and parents feeling good with them?  What’s wrong with being politically correct and portraying idealistic ideas?

It’s wrong because the world is not this way.  I’m not saying to show the kids murder, show the kids political backstabbing, or terrorist attacks.  But the sugar coated PC-ness that has infested children’s entertainment makes life seem hollow and 2D.  Instilling awareness and tolerance in children early is a good thing.  Putting blinders on them, just so that they can be warped by movies like Hostel later in life, isn’t.

My best friend’s brother (who in all fairness is yet another friend) wrote a rant about some comments made by Eli Roth to a fan in Fangoria.  Now I’m copying and pasting this because I feel that this guy (who also happens to be the one nicknamed Spaz in my post on FPS games) puts down in words what many horror fans WISH to say.  Originally posted in a place none would see it, I now bring it to you in a spot where more are inclined to read it. (because it deserves to be read)

For a time there was a group I frequented of hardcore malcontent Horror people called The Abominable Apothecary. I use the past tense because we all stopped going when it became apparant that the only thing we had to look forward to were remakes, uninspired sequels, and watered-down Hollywood shit. You should have heard them go on about Saw.

Contrary to popular belief I’m not a fan of senseless violence. When not based in plot or character with a fair degree of justification I feel cheapened. Meaning somewhere some hack has just written a story that another person thought was good enough to invest millions into to perpetuate a cycle of stupidity.
When it comes to story you can believe a great many ridiculous things but when it comes to human nature it is one thing you can never try bullshitting to an audience. It’s because of this every recent Horror movie I’ve seen with an audience has nothing but laughter and applause for the onscreen violence. Who cares about character when everyone’s stupid? During Final Destination 3 a baked kid in front of me commented to his group about the camera work, “Holy shit, a low shot! It’s all dramatic now!”

Then again there’s always something like Ross Campbell’s manga The Abandoned with amazingly real and empathetic characters… In A Zombie Story! That’s right, your run of the mill roving ghouls, but with awesome characters. What does it say when the only Horror films made have great monsters, the only Horror stories written have great characters, and both have absolutely nothing else?

I’d like to blame political correctness but I know that’s not entirely true.

A recent viewing of the film Hard Candy makes me wonder why it’s okay for a psychotic teenager to torture a pedophile but when the tables turn it’s not okay to have her hurt in turn. Suddenly the title has changed to “Sympathy For Mr. Pedophile” and a film nobody wants to see.

The writer & director of fledgling film Last Stop (http://www.laststopthemovie.com/) had this to say about it’s troubles. “Last Stop is pretty damn dark, there are two scenes with violence towards children that have put some fear in those who would finance it.”

Then again there’s always those douchebags that use it as a stepping stone to justify their shitty films. In Fangoria magazine there was this recent query about Hostel:


“I went to a screening of Hostel at the Toronto Film Festival and Eli Roth was there to introduce it. All in all the movie isn’t too exciting; it’s gory and blood-filled which should please many. My main issue is with the blatant and overt heterosexism and homophobia that permeates the film. The characters continuously refer to each other as “fag” or “you’re gay” and everyone laughs and everything is jolly. But not for me and not for a lot of queer rights supporters.
The most appalling display of homophobia occurs when the three main characters (all heterosexual males) are on a train. A man joins their little group and places his hand on one guy’s leg. The guy proceeds to freak out and orders the man to get lost and he willingly obliges. Later in the film the guy bumps into this “dirty disgusting homosexual” and decides to make amends. He apologizes for his rude reaction and proceeds to have a heart-to-heart conversation over a drink he buys the gentleman. His friends of course call him a “fag” for having done this. Later in the film it turns out that this “sick homosexual” will become this guy’s killer. The lesson learned? “No matter how nice they seem, never be nice to a homosexual, because in the end they’ll get you!”
I understand that this is just a horror film and that it probably won’t impact much of society, but as long as movies like this continue to target an audience of teen to late-twenty heterosexual males (where the majority of homophobia and heterosexism prevails) issues of anti-gay prejudice will never be satiated. I had the perfect opportunity after the film to question Eli Roth about this in front of the entire theater but I chickened out (mainly because he was receiving nothing but praise and my comment would definitely have put me in the minority) and I have regretted it ever since.
I have been highly disturbed by this since I saw Hostel and it’s something I felt I needed to address. I may have missed an opportunity during the festival but I’m trying to make up for it now.”

Usually people don’t respond to the letters but Eli Roth thought it better to attack the author: 


“Letters like this one reflect a disturbing trend happening in cinema today: political correctness. This person is clearly out of touch with how young people in America speak. If you go to any high school or college campus kids use the word “gay” to describe something that is stupid or idiotic. I am trying to write characters who are real and speak the way young American people actually talk to each other. When someone is acting like a pussy they call that person a “fag.” It does not mean that the person using it is homophobic or is saying that someone afraid to do something is homosexual. It’s interesting to note that this reader found no offense at burning a girl’s face off with a blowtorch and then cutting her eye out, but was seriously disturbed by the words “gay” and “fag.”
I remember when Basic Instinct came out some activists were protesting because they were afraid that people would think that all bisexuals were murderers. Does this person honestly believe that this movie will make people think that homosexuals are killers? Come on. Grow up. Get over yourself. When I was in college a student held a seminar about “recovered homosexuals.” He invited six “recovered homosexuals” to talk about how religion cured them as if they had some disease like alcoholism. About six hundred angry people attended the seminar, many of them gay, and the whole room watched in amazement as these people on stage talked about using Jesus to choose “the right path” and how they left behind a life of “homosinuality.” This was an event I witnessed with my own eyes and I used it as a basis for a character who acts out his repression through torture instead of religion.
Is this person saying I don’t have the right to write what I’ve seen into my scripts? Should we all just give up and make movies with characters so politically correct that they don’t offend anybody? Who wants their horror films safe? If you want safe movies that are politically correct why are you reading this magazine? Why not spend your time fighting politicians who try to outlaw homosexuality instead of filmmakers who are reflecting the world they see around them?
However Hostel clearly stirred something in this reader and sparked a discussion which for a filmmaker is all you can ask for.”

Just what we need, some NYU brat riding the coattails of famous directors and shooting his mouth off to the people that took the time to see his movie. Fuck Eli Roth!

Now we’ve got a new an unneeded subgenre of Horror, “the torture movie”. Nobody asked for it, nobody wants it, and this is why we’re watching some prick getting his fingers cut off and hearing someone behind us respond, “That’s what you get faggot!”

All these things are the reason why the hardcore fans I know stay in the heydays of Horror when they still had great characters and monsters, a unique plot, and were genuinely scary. Relegated into a cookie-cutter purgatory I too share their cynicism but hope and work toward a better future.

I never thought I’d say this, but I think for a time Horror deserves a rest.

 

For more Eli Roth bashing, visit this site. I like bashing Eli Roth. He stands for just about everything that’s wrong with the movie industry (and probably America, too.)  I guess this post became something of how much I hate him and these torture films.  The penguins are bareable compared to seeing someone’s achilles tendon sliced through.

Well, my rant is through.  Not as broad as I would’ve liked it, but the recent release of “Hostel 2” turned my eyes red…the penguin movie, “Surf’s Up”, also has me feeling guilty for wanting to see it.  I feel like a marketing victim.

Anways, next post shall be on video game music and why it’s so damn cool.

DBD – Dead Blog Day

Borrowing a term from the creator of Megatokyo, I am sorry to say that today is a “dead blog day”, and my post on films will have to wait till later.  I won’t say I’ll post Friday (or even the day after that) because…well, I’m sort of graduating from high school this Friday.  (whoops) 

So until I get time to post (which will likely be Sunday…or Monday) I’ll leave you this picture of the Joker, to be performed by Heath Ledger in the upcoming Batman movie “The Dark Knight” (set for release July 18, 2008 in the US.)

John Wayne Gacy

The Joker