Two less than vague vagabonds view a world through a lens. This world takes control. Not only are the experiences vicarious, they exude a life outside of conjured, imaginable realms. The moments we’ve endured have stretched our bearable fibers of sanity. We critique with the same minute lens given to us. From loving, hating, laughing and emulating our favorite actors, movies and lines throughout the years a sudden bang! occurred. And then it happened… Big Brother, This is Little Sister.

11.02.2006

Baise - Moi and Primal Rage

Film enthusiasts like to applaud award winning films that should be endowed with quality and substance. Unfortunately, like most theories that sound like candy, many award winning films don’t have substance, nor even dare to be brave and challenging. Adult themes, especially, have not been grappled well or intelligently, if at all. Recently, ‘A History of Violence,’ popular, and covered in film festival accolades, tapped into the relation between sex and violence, but it duped itself with ridiculously poor action scenes and conclusion. However, France’s gem ‘Baise - Moi,’ lightly translated as ‘penetrate me,’ doesn’t settle for less than violence and sexual anthropology.

In order to create a reaction to correct a wrong, you have to strip something of its falsities, and ‘Moi’s’ attempt to do this is unsettling. Two French adult film stars have created an ultra - violent, revenge fantasy that is high on sex and flesh, but also on thought and energy. Common day, destitute France. Two women, one a prostitute, Nadine, has self - medicated through drugs and abusive clients, and is continually emptied by her mindless life; the other is a violently gang- raped girl, Manu, that is tired of misogyny. Snapped into two, the latter goes on a ‘correct the wrongs’ mission to tear the world down and all of its arbitrary stupidity. In a train tunnel, she bumps into Nadine, and the two carry a friendship built on their mutual breakdown. The remaining of the film is their respective odyssey to kill both men and women in acts after, during, or before sex.

Unfortunately, of all the critical disgust that doesn’t give a pretense of analysis, no one has even bothered to say how inneffably sad it is. Like ‘Audition,’ another underappreciated work, ‘Moi’ is not entirely about sex or violence, but the invasive belief that men think they know how women will react. In fact, these two French women articulate male - female relationships on a scale most people don’t care to notice; those who would rather gawk at ‘The Forty Year Old Virgin’ that caricatures, not damns, negative portrayals of women. For instance, the almost unwatchable rape scene deserves mention. Manu quits squirming and becomes completely passive to her attacker. Immediately, the rapist loses his erection and flees. The point is surely how these men enjoyed power over her, but ‘Moi’ goes a step further saying he is prickless because he cannot react when she steps outside his boundaries, when she wouldn’t fight back. This is not to say that women or persons being attacked should give in to predators, not at all. Here, the preconceived notions of men holding power over women, and in turn, the women who believe in those preconceived notions because men deem it, are both revealed full frontal and knocked down like a brick building. She utters afterward to her friend, “There is nothing in my *unt for that *ucker.”

Regardless of how the film is good or bad, I refuse for anyone to blast it as pornographic. Rather, ‘Moi’ takes the pleasure out of sexual intercourse like none other I can mention. ‘Thelma and Louise’ is self - defeatist to the most fricken point, but Roger Ebrt critic won’t tell you that; at least this one allows its heroines to have their own ending, on their own terms. Honestly, a lot of critics disliked it (though won’t tell) because the women are in control of the sex they indulge in, not the men. Yes, its explicit scenes rival “I Spit On Your Grave,” yet this explicitness reduces the human body to its most basic imperfections. We appear insectile and pathetic, and no arousal comes from looking at male treatment of women in any mode, let alone sexual. In the 72 minute (uncut) duration, the tumbling that occupies almost every scene is nightmarish and gritty in a view from women of a world that seems increasingly against them under the veneer of liberal – hypocrisy.

In closing, I want to describe the piece’s most absorbing image. Near the end, the duo happen upon a sex club where couples and groups partake in all acts. It’s flagrantly sick and one man’s remark upon one of the heroine’s refusal to couple is, “What do you think this is, a mosque?” drives the chauvinism home with racism to boot. The women systematically execute every individual in the room, but leave special treatment for the club owner who made the remark. He is forced to simulate sex on the floor and then is anally raped with a pistol and shot to death. Some have described the scene as cheap comparison to ‘Deliverance;’ others have simply labeled it as nasty. Perhaps, but if you view the entire duration as a rail against how male - female sexuality is so predatory, no other ending would suffice.

Ultimately, like ‘Irreversible’ director Gaspar Noe said, “The only way it seems to force change is to make people uncomfortable.” ‘Baise Moi’ is primal. Think of Pandora’s box without hope at the bottom. But it’s not muck, and the act of its poetic rage having been quietly silenced guarantees the ramifications of its viewing.

10.21.2006

The Sticky Male Fears We Dread

Writer / director Neil Marshall should deserve credit first because he has the
balls to make the kind of films he wants to make. This film is serious, not the product of a down-on-his-luck director trying to juggle material that's too mature and beyond reach. Rather, his best instincts are at work and the audience reaps all the pluses.


Marshall’s first film was set in Scotland; ‘The Descent’ is set in America, and contains two advantages. The first advantage is the undertone Marshal hinted at in his premiere
becomes more obvious, and two: it's a lot more scary and violent. His first feature 'Dog
Soldiers' was a horror / comedy of wolfman and women attacking British soldiers on a training exercise in the highlands. It was a theme about folklore vs. religion, different kinds of mythology vying for power. And at the end, a female character thought to be good, now turns bad and utters, "You think I am a bitch. I am actually the real thing. It's that time of the month." Those brief lines now completely shadow the 'Descent' were female power takes center stage instead of a reference.

In the opening sequence Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) and two close friends, Juno and Beth, raft down the edge of river, awaited by Sarah’s husband and daughter. A brief moment of tension passes, as when Sarah’s husband helps Juno undo her helmet. Immediately thereafter, a car accident takes Sarah’s husband and daughter from her. One year flashes by. Now, Sarah and her two friends from the beginning, join several others to scale down into a mysterious crevice. There, they find themselves trapped with creatures that appear male and like to eat flesh.

The actress, Shauna Macdonald, shows talent and appeal. Admittedly, she isn't a Mira Kirshner of 'Black Dahlia,' but she is actually given a role to develop her character. The audience totally clings to her actions and understands what she does and why. Perhaps that's another interesting point. The women in this film are bright, and something more than ripe targets because of their busts in spelunking gear. They are truly interesting and strong women making the picture a completely female show, and unlike so much other fodder, the women are not present for the benefit of men.

The surface thrills reign high, but as stated above, the film is a slipstream of female sexuality. Six women slowly trickle down the warm, womb-like passages to find male beings. With each encounter with the monsters, the physical violence becomes more extreme and the ominous hums become more loudly. The relationships between the women slip away gradually, too, and Juno’s (the name itself suggestive of angst) and Sarah’s attitudes towards one another become clear. A daring film because of its exploration of female frustration and desire, the iconic figure of death / rebirth canonized in ‘Carrie,’ is wonderfully done here to show the change to hard – line revenge.


Hopefully, director / writer Marshall will continue on this stretch, though ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ it is not. Horror is nixed too often, but with a memory of the two films so far in this guy’s hand, maybe filmmakers will get a hint on how it is done.

10.20.2006

Peckinpah On My Mind

People don’t change, they just go under a different name. The problem is deciding how to deal with those human frailties, either a critique that damns, or a dangerous reenactment of those unsaid truths. In reference to human relationships in film, Sam Peckinpah’s underrated ‘Straw Dogs’ exposes latent male violence almost tirelessly, in a vein of atavism and its aftermath. Completely opposite, the drool ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith,’ attempts the preconceived stereotypes of violence towards woman in a ‘funny’ medium that backfires. Both ‘Smith’ and ‘Dogs’ portray a title character whose impotence has plugged his marriage and left him defenseless, the difference lies in harsh reality of one compared to a make – fun of woman hating of the other. Dustin Hoffman is slime in ‘Dogs’ because he subverts his failures by attacking his wife. With her sexuality, he calls her an animal and a little girl, as if she can’t interpret her own desires or because she wants sex. He’s simply a chauvinist; the attack is on this limp fool who hides his own penis fallibility by secluding himself in his study. The jerk played by Pitt in the other film doesn’t have resolve for sex, too, but his hatred of Jolie is supposed to be justified because she parades around in fake sexual acts in a way to arouse sympathy with the male audience. Also, the dangerous male belief that women want to be ‘ravished’ is invoked as caricature. For example, at a house party, Pitt leers at her because she refuses to hold the neighbors’ children, yet her fish - net covered legs present a sexual invocation. The mindlessness of the creators to push this statement creates a set – up where her ‘breaking in’ is supposed to gawked at, cheered on.

The plantive truths of unfulfilled sex and violence are further handled in two separate measures, one of which explains why men hate women, while the other laughs at that sad honesty. Tension mounts in ‘Dogs’ when Hoffman is edged to admit his own latent carnality that pools over due to sexual deprivation and ignorance. His id then sieges the home as virile, rampaging men coming to kill and rape his wife. It is here, when David’s primeval part takes over and erupts in a fusillade of violence. Instinctively, that violence is against his wife, too, because he cannot overpower stronger men. Terrifying, his blow to her face marks the male guise antic to defile and then control, and is unflinching inveighed upon. With the latter, the competition of men to ‘take’ women is superficialized in a suburban shoot out and fight. Because Jane was earlier depicted as being a dominatrix, she will love the pain of her husband stomping her. John kicks her violently in the ribs, (the audience laughs) demanding she submit with the phrase, “Who’s your daddy.” But, Jane, ready for more, quickly subdues her hubby with a groin punch, (the audience laughs) stands up, and gleefully says back, “Who’s your daddy now?,” and demands for violence when John hesitates. It’s a very ugly combination shot. In the end, the attempt to spin a man and a woman beating each other into comedy, only supports the notion of a misogynistic looking glass that depicts women enjoying pain.
Finally, the ending of the first supplants a full- version of gender dynamics and the second continues its skimp, sexist thoughts. Catharsis doesn’t end in sunshine, and like a Greek morality play, Hoffman is now utterly alone in his revelation. He leaves his wife, presumably to return to civilization and enmesh himself. He utters “I don’t know where I live anymore” as a farewell to his old nativity. That the fate of his wife goes unmentioned is not wrong in the least bit, if not more to say how she was simply used and discarded to ‘awaken him.’ Almost Hardyesque, the film doesn’t uplift human behavior but it doesn’t settle for false lyricism, either. More irksome, John and Jane have now broken their awkwardness and can love one another because of their love night. The wedding ring will not longer be taken off before work, and then angrily forced on when to come home. In essence, the trickle down effect is that it’s funny how men roar over a woman who stays in a relationship soley because she has climaxed. In the closing scene, the two retell their sexual success to a counselor, Jolie is grinning so ridiculously, as if to reinforce the male perception of female penis envy.
Ultimately, some movies are really stupid but tolerated because, seen as gross – out and camp, they entertain. However, the mistake is to let the ones that lessen human truths, such as ‘Smith,’ to be acceptable. Why women do not outrcy over how stupid and loathsome they are portrayed in US movies is beyond common sense; but then again, that might explain why certain feminist groups target DePalma, Solondz, and Clark, when of all filmmakers, they have the resolve to expose these insidious topics. Realism has never been lauded compared to the comedic opera; but, alas, ‘Straw Dogs’ is that barb that cuts deep.

Why I Would Kiss Neil LaBute

While Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner's American Psycho didn’t set off a badly needed tinderbox to drive women into filmmaking, it certainly inspired other men to make their own products in a different manner. A brief look at Neil LaBute’s filmogrpahy, for instance, from his opener In The Company of Men to his sub – par follow – ups, to his grim The Shape of Things, to his new The Wicker Man, tells us that he is finding a similar venue for his work like the ladies above did: to locate gender wars in horror.

With his best efforts we have a list of films that are anything and everything to numb the self – gratulatory bullshit of Woody Allen and Allen’s too many to mention predecessors. Here is a sample of filmmaking of thought and nerve, an artist with risk to turn heads and get people to chalk up their relationships like DePalma makes his audience cross and uncross their legs. But as said earlier, The Wicker Man locates his sex wars in a horror genre. As men fucked over a woman undeservedly in The Company of Men, the women of The Wicker Man serve Nicholas Cage on a skewer, deservedly or not, and he suffers quite a bit.

Nicholas Cage is cop Edward Malus. Unlike so many women shown as pathetic in American film, here is a stumbling man (how oftenly is that shown?) who loses part of himself when he fails to rescue a woman and her daughter in a traffic accident. He blames himself, collapses and slowly pulls into isolation. The emotional balance he once had is tested by the crash, leading the viewer to suspect skeletons in the closet. Soon, that skeleton reappears as an old flame. His ex – fiancée describes the disappearance of her daughter which sets the film into motion for Cage to receive redemption. And so, the scenario is in place for the lead to be brought into a company of wolves. It’s a journey to the female realm and that doesn’t take lightly to any male intrusion.

The best parts of this film are on the island of Summersisle that Cage explores hoping to find the missing girl. The matriarchal dome he uncovers there holds men on strings and the deeper Cage treads, the less likely he can escape. LaBute envisions Summersisle as a utopia where all women characters have terrestrial names: (Sister Rose, Dr. Moss, and Sister Beech), the men do not talk at all and are referred to as drones. Fertility rituals are common place, and a quasi – Delphi Mother / Queen (Ellen Burstyn) is the rule-master. Cage is now in a honey – combed hive of a world that serves the women who control the direction of civilization.

Upon release, many critics came out whining, failing to take notice of all the gut punches LaBute takes. From phallus worship, organized religion, and fatherhood, one leaves with a sense that Labute is leaning towards a place where women govern society. Some even claimed his film shows his sour taste for women and feminism. I can’t argue with critical conviction but I see a line between a director actively hating his women like a Hitchcock, compared to one with the bravado to show general male fear of women, not his own. He completely knocks the merits of our current shit-storm of a male establishment, and it’s well taken.

A brief note has to be made about the wonderful Molly Parker, too, one of the most alluring and intelligent actresses on screen. Her particular presence as a school teacher instructing is a laugh riot. In a particular scene, Cage happens upon her sexual intercourse metaphors in class, shocked at her words. Her positioning, her eyes, her body, convey certain things not to be said in a disappointing PG – 13 rating. Maybe the Uncut version will show and tell?

Again, so many critics hated this film incredibly so while at the same time patting themselves on the back for worshipping an audience supported director. But, for anyone who claims that nothing has changed in the last fifty years between men and women except insecurities about one another, here’s a thought: The Wicker Man says women do not lack the desire to get even.

The Beginning and the Maximum Carnage

Beyond any doubt, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its follow –ups make up the most damning critique of American society from any horror series. And as simple as The Beginning maybe, it still locates its center in the foundation of the first two masterpieces of back-woods nightmares. And it is those nightmares of country folk who ravage the high – falutin’ fools of cityscape which still reverberate after thirty years. Socio – economic class hatred maybe be pretty ha – ha funny in the classroom, but to watch Hooper in the first two, and the other directors in the umpteenth remakes, push the point with the tip of a chainsaw is the most shocking example I can mention.

With a title like The Beginning, the original subtlety is exposed. It’s a grisly tale that traces a damaged baby of childhood abandonment and abuse (far more alarming than Frailty) to the iconic boogeyman Leatherface. Born onto a blood – stained concrete floor (trapped in his killer of cow role), left in a garbage bin to die, he is adopted and grows up in the image of his merciless, surrogate father, Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey). In fact, The Beginning is a sheer eye – opener to the unchecked familial abuses that happen anywhere behind / beyond the cities. What Deliverance quietly lipped, Beginning eyes unflinchingly through the metaphor of a charnel house. Now dubbed Tommy, Leatherface works for the slaughterhouse as a young man while being conditioned to assist his father in capturing passersby.

The explosive internal dimensions of this family are heavy, but not any match to the heated confrontation from threatening outsiders. In this film, four victims on road to a Vietnam enlistment center, slam into a cow, flip over, and meet the sheriff by happenstance. The two men in the car are brothers Eric (Matthew Bomer) and Dean (Taylor Handley), along with girlfriends Chrissie (Jordana Brewster) and Bailey (Diora Baird). Chrissie is not sighted after the roll over. From witnessing her friends being carted off, she attempts to rescue them at the Hewitt mansion. Perusual, the murders are very gory, although there is more to the screen than a blood bath.

The Beginning carries weight with its anger and hate. Nearly apocalyptic, the reluctance of the writers to let any hero / heroine off the hook marks a film disgusted with the contemporary society. There is no catharsis for what happens in this old country home, or for that matter, the country that this film depicts openly. Heavy and nihilistic violence from abroad is transferred to our homes to be seen at face value. This departure lies completely opposite of all other installments. In the remake in 2003, for example, which featured Jessica Biel rescuing a ‘stolen baby,’ innocence was lost but forgiveness was restored as she raced out of the wasteland. The baptismal rain at the end spoke to the ability to correct our horrible actions (invasion of Iraq?) But here, in 2006, no-one can find an exit to the doom we have brought on ourselves.

Badly promoted and with an association with Jerry Bruckheimer, which isn’t always good publicity, most radar screens won’t see it worthwhile. No installment will ever top the madness of the original; however, as a depiction of a country on a road to nowhere, the premise has never had a greater need for an updating.

10.12.2006

X-Men: The Last Stand… for Racism? Debugging Dialogue


“Last Stand” is a marvelous display in comic capers (no shit, Sherlock!). Wolverine, Storm, Prof. X, Magneto, Pyro and many more X-Men are back in the third installment. Where “Last Stand” lets up in action, it exposes human, er, mutant truths that tell a story of the past. The struggle of control, more so the right to be, between humans and those inferior is the core of “Last Stand”. The action heightens seldom as the X-Men use more diplomatic endeavors by talking it out. The stars are brightly cast and not to mention the most poignant dialogue written about racial tensions since “Crash”. “Last Stand” challenges the viewer to channel aggression towards sustainable approaches. Yet, it’s a slight contradiction because the mutants are freaks of nature and friction inevitably ensues (mind you a clever way to include both drama and action). Battles aside, the war against rights still rages. “Last Stand” provides hope in that the slogan eracism will actually be erased. I was left enthralled, asking ‘Where would we (as a culture) be without “Last Stand”?’ As the chinks of superiority continue to rub off year after year, “Last Stand” takes a stand assertively as we roll through the 21st century. Not to mention it’s good for the kids too!

Debugging the Cast & Dialogue
To start off: Professor X = Dr. King; Magneto = Malcolm X. The cure = selling out, indoctrinate peoples. Mutants vs. humans = slaves (blacks for the most part) vs. whiteys. Professor X pulls aside Storm and hands her over the head position when he’s gone. Affirmative action anyone? Magneto’s “Join the Brotherhood” slogan sounds like Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.
Dialog:
Storm claims, “Since when did we become a disease?” Well, since you were slaves and uncivilized.
Professor X calmly reverberates, “Whose outcome will change our world so greatly… there will be no going back. I do not know if victory is possible. I only know that great sacrifice will be required. And because the fate of many depend on a few, we must make the last stand.” Underdogs, ethnics, need to get the eracism ball rolling and it will take many a-sacrifices and even generations. The future is uncertain so one must be headstrong and progress undoubtedly towards the goal. So take the last stand against racism b/c you and those like you along with everyone matter.
Mystique is asked, “Raven, Raven, I asked you a question.” She responds understandably, “I don’t answer to my slave name!” People don’t answer to their slave names or their Christianized names.
Beast responds to Wolverine, “My boy, I was fighting for mutant rights before you had claws.” Wolverine claws, “Did he just call me “boy”?” Yes, Wolverine he did call you “boy”. He’s an old school southerner who was called boy so much it was ingrained. He can’t help it. He may, in fact, be one of the slaves who never left the south b/c of his dependence on the masters.
Magneto waxes profoundly, “They wish to cure us. But I say, we are the cure.” Yes, Magneto, there is no cure for inferiority; inferiority is the cure for inferiority.
“Charles always wanted to build bridges.” Of course Malcolm, Dr. King was peaceful unlike you.
“Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know.” You know the history of Dr. King and if not, wait until February and then you can learn all you want for 28 days.
“Plastic, they’ve learned.” Overt racism like slavery cannot fly in today’s world. You’ve got to adapt your racism tactics.
“My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” Usually this has to happen – a death of a “leader” ignites passion. This idea goes back to JC himself.
“By any means necessary.” Enough said.
“Traitors to their own cause.” Uncle Tom, Clearance Thomas, Oprah, you get the picture.
“In chess, the pawns go first.” True, blacks & Hispanics within the army are usually the first line.
“Im…” Wolverine adds, “One of them” as Magneto is now human. To err is to be human. To have thought or used double standards is possible.
“Humans and their guns.” Capitalism is a powerful weapon that has widened the gap and handicapped peoples of all ethnicities.