Friday, September 21, 2007

review: 3 of the very worst movies i've ever seen

[christ, the flashbacks!]

i was driving around with my friend emma the other day (something we do a lot, since we live in la and emma cannot drive [and i mean can not, on any level-- she has no license and really shouldn't operate any machinery bigger than her blackberry]). my hatred of the movie "magnolia" came up, and she said, "you are always going on about your hatred of magnolia! you are magnolia hating crazy!" and she was kidding. but if you add up all the times over the years i've gone off on how shitty it is, she wasn't.

so here, in brief (i swear!), are three of the worst movies i've ever seen, made worst-er by the fact that most people, for reasons i'll never understand, thought they were good. and i've already convinced emma i'm right, so now it's your turn.

let's start with the obvious entry; a cloudburst of frogs does not redeem the 3+ action-less hours before it. this movie's like a tv procedural, but there's no corpse or crime. so, without anything to do, the characters aren't even flatly/narratively going through the motions of solving a murder or putting together a court case-- they're just endlessly talking about how they feel. and is there anything worse than having to listen to someone talk about how they feel, in real life or on film? it was like 3 hours of listening to a stranger melodramatically describe their dreams.

you're sad your husband is dying? then don't just react verbally, DO SOMETHING, because if i just wanted to watch people talk i would have rented that movie where wallace shawn eats a fancy meal. or even just spied on people at a coffee bean.

and making grieving/emotive people active isn't a film cheat, that's what real people do-- nobody sits next to a corpse saying, "as i sit here next to this dead person i was once so close to i am ever so sad oh woe is me!" they snap at other people or busy themselves with preparing a brunch or look through photos or SOMETHING. and they're not even responsible for keeping an audience's attention.

[oh yeah, tom cruise's whole king cock shtick was *really* important and in no way just something that amused the director which he then crammed into this movie to fill in the spaces between scenes of NOTHING HAPPENING.]

and didn't the dad in this movie take, like, 10 minutes to utter his dying breaths? they're supposed to be last words, not last paragraphs. like how, in that last matrix movie (talk about bad! but negligibly bad), that lady's "last breath" was somehow sinatra-style circular, because she wheezed out a 20 minute treatise about the truths of the universe. but at least in that movie shit blew up.

i would expect a teenager to write something like "magnolia", as impressed as he or she would be with his or her imagined insights into death, family, and love. but this was written by a grown-ass man who should have had the good sense to know that most people over 17 understand that death is, in fact, sad, and relationships with daddies are, no joke, sometimes hard. for everyone. not just for john q. teenager who recently lost his golden retriever to old age and believes that no one in the world understands his despair. after seeing this movie, there isn't one audience member who doesn't understand, for now we despair, too, for all those precious hours we lost that we could have been doing something, anything else than witnessing this masturbatory exercise in showcasing feeeeeeelings. and frogs.

the musical avenue Q is currently on tour, and you should see it, if not for the puppets fucking, then for the song called "everyone's a little bit racist." it's funny, it's insightful, and it's basically what the movie crash is about except it amuses you instead of boring you into a stupor while treating you like a moron.

[image: thandie newton wondering how she she could go from "flirting" to this crap, comforting herself with truth that at least "norbit" will be better.]

back to the procedural analogy. on law & order, the characters exist to either talk about law or order, exposition puppets that are distinguishable only by race, gender, and facial hair; in this expositioniverse, using sarcasm or having a lollipop or some shit count as character depth. in crash, the characters exist only to educate and MAKE A POINT. they speak in racist overtones. they're a rainbow coalition of prejudice (and being prejudiced against). they spend so much time dealing with racism it's a wonder they have any time to sleep or eat.

you know that when the brown lady talks to the black guy, she's gonna say something against black people, and he will counter with an anti-brown comment. no real reason why, and the lady didn't seem like a bigot a second ago, but this is a movie about RACISM. racism is bad! bad enough to make character development, plausibility, and subtlety obsolete! i have seen local car dealership commercials that are less annoyingly in your face.

and like death, racism is rarely, duh, this overt or simple. but complexity is hard, and we as the audience are too stupid to understand that sort of thing, and besides, this issue is IMPORTANT! again with john q. pretentu-teen who gets upset when his dad locks the bmw doors as they drive through the bad part of town and feels the need to alert the world to all the hatred they don't see! except that they do see because they're not 17 and many are usually on the outside of that bmw.

i had to leave this movie half-way through, but if there wasn't an nbc-shooting-star-"the more you know" at this film's end, i'll be damned. or i won't, but either way, if you went into that movie a little bit racist (and you did), you still walked out a little bit racist, and a lot-le bit patronized. paul haggis and p.t. anderson should meet up for brunch at the scientology center [not that anderson's scito, but he did give tom cruise an oscar moment]. they could congratulate themselves on their insight into humanity, jerk each other off, and have a good cry, maybe not in that order. and they should be forced to wait for their thetan-free food for 4 extremely boring hours.

*napoleon dynamite
i can't claim comedy expert status, but from what i understand, jokes have some pretty standard ingredients. like, for a standard joke, you need a step up and a punchline. some jokes are one-liners that get their humor from being absurd, or just observational, or totally random, whatever, but it's also generally agreed that jokes can get stale, or be corny if the subject is out of date. these are some of the basic building blocks of making yucks.

which is why i didn't just hate napoleon dynamite, i didn't get it-- there are no jokes in this movie. a nerd wearing moonboots isn't a joke, or even really a sight gag, because the nerd image is as old as time (time beginning in at least the early 80s with revenge of the nerds) and stopped being a straight sight-gag sometime after howard hessman left head of the class. side ponytails, caboodles...good fodder for another vh1 stroll down memory lane, but not funny in and of themselves.

and why is pedro funny? he's a quiet mexican guy named pedro, and...there's no and. that's it. that's the joke. between pedro and the "wigger" brother (a joke that hit its expiration date over a decade ago, no matter what jamie kennedy might think) whose girlfriend is so black her last name ends in "uh" instead of "a", the not-jokes aren't just not funny, they're also...well, all i'm saying is, maybe the (mormon) couple who wrote this movie need to rent crash.

(and if there was a heavy-handed movie about religious intolerance that focused on the unfair persecution of scientologists and mormons, i would recommend it for myself [and never, ever see it]).

like most people, i went into this movie wanting to like it-- the ads made it seem like it had a rushmore-ian quirkiness, but after a half-hour it became clear this movie had all the quirk of a williamsburg hipster, right down to the moonboots (seriously, i had seen napoleon dynamite-esque dudes on the L train for years before this movie, right down to the ironique hair and t-shirts). napoleon dynamite is the urban outfitters catalog adapted for the screen. 9/11 didn't kill irony, this movie did.

in some ways, this movie is encouraging, at least to comedy writers-- why are we working so hard, we just have to show a slack-jawed brown person and the audience will pee their pants! but in other ways, it's baffling. it reminds me of the movie "idiocracy," where the number 1 movie is "ass," and that's all it is, 90 minutes of a farting ass. "it won 8 oscars that year," the narrator explains, "including best screenplay." that, to me, is the napoleon dynamite of the future. you don't even need to bother with the side pony tails and moonboots.

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