Lowering my Standards

So I watched Jonah Hex.  I've never read the comic so I have to assume that the films interpretation of the character is correct: His family was killed and he was scarred and left to die so he gained the power to talk to the dead and then because he didn't like the scar he already had, he double-scarred himself with a red-hot axe.

Jonah Hex stars a bunch of people playing themselves: Josh Brolin plays a guy in a western; John Malkovich an evil version of Falcor and Megan Fox plays a whore.

The film is eighty minutes long and contains at least 8 minutes of flashbacks to remind you what has happened.  So easily ten percent of this movie is repeats of the movie.  This is the power of movies: To make something so dull that you need to be reminded of what you saw right after you saw it.

In a nutshell:  Evil Falcor kills Jonah's family because Jonah realized war is bad and Evil Falcor thinks war is good.  Then Evil Falcor dies.  So Jonah becomes a bounty hunter.  Then Evil Falcor is alive again and planning to ruin Americas centennial.  So Jonah has to stop him and his super weapon.  The super weapon is a boat with a flame thrower on the back and a gatling gun which shoots sci-fi cannonballs in the front.  Over the course of the film we discover that Jonah can torture dead people, has a crow living inside of him (The crow is removed through the power of mud), and that snake people make worthy pit fighters.  Jonah Hex wins (Spoiler!) and invents the tradition of fireworks on the 4th of July.

Jonah Hex smacks of cowardice.  The original writers, Neveldine/ Taylor, are probably the most gifted writers (And exciting directors) working in Hollywood and while you can see the occasional moments of sheer insanity and contempt to humanity and/or logic, their script was re-written & tampered with to the point of weak-minded comprehension (Because I promise you friend that if they had had their way, nothing would have made sense.) and what's left is a PG13 mess.  Thanks to Jonah Hex I've realized PG13 is less a rating and more a warning that what you're about to see has been rendered offensively inoffensively offensive in the hope of losing less money.

Even Mastodon, one of the most exciting post-metal bands of the new century are rendered sterile and impotent in supplying the films so called soundtrack.

This movie is a missed opportunity in every way possible.  Here's the trailer which, if it were a person would be the asshole in high school who beat you up and then became your boss:


Movie Review

I made myself a little stupider today and puttered through Planet Terror.  I've avoided it because it seemed like it touched on too many of my movie fetishes in too knowing (wink, wink, nod, nod.) a way, essentially killing the joke.

Clocking in at just over an hour and a half the film is fairly gruelling and this is not counting that it unapologetically removes twenty minutes from itself just to get to the good stuff.  It's a long running complaint that I have with Robert Rodriguez's films.  There's literally too much.  While this could be considered something positive if you wanted to chill out in front of the TV and say "Holy shit, look at that!" every five minutes but after your thirty-sencond "Holy shit" moment, you can't help but get burned out an somewhat fed up by the third of seven head explosions.

Don't get me wrong, excess to make a point is a strategy/ technique which I enjoy but excess for the sake of it in this way is more indicative of a) someone needing an editor or b) someone needing to save some ideas for a sequel.

The inclusion of a watered down hipster version of The Dead Kennedy's Too Drunk to Fuck, a song about excess, sums up the movie.

Yet I enjoyed the dickens out of the film and would happily watch it 4 more times in ever increasing states of intoxication.  Maybe this has more to do with the day I've had but Mr. Rodriguez and his ability to utterly miss the point of what kind of a movie he was making made something so spectacularly stupid that, like the zombie plague it depicts, is highly contagious.

This is the trailer and yes, the heroine uses yoga to dodge a missile:



Totally forgot about the blog for the last fortnight what with two weekends of family and Henry getting his first cold and subsequently giving it to me.  Sick babies are no fun and any schedule he was on has been thrown off completely.  This has not been helped at all by the time change already making things a tad shaky.

In other news, I'm 5 books behind in my Beatrix Potter opus, can now blog my thoughts on Jonathan Franzen's Freedom thanks to Elisabeth finishing it and not having to worry about ruining it for her.  I've also got to get around to fixing that cupboard and do a few other odds & ends that I've been putting off.

And will continue to put off.

In other news, I'm making pizza tonight and I really don't like Arcade Fire.  I've tried and tried but my God they make boring music.  What's the point of being fiercely independent when your sound is a whinier and more anemic version of Coldplay?


The Clothes Make the Manimal

Part 7: The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher

It has taken me long enough but I've just realized what an important role clothing plays in these books.  There's a lot of attention paid to exactly what each animal is wearing to the point of numerous redundancies and non-sequitors.  It has been established thus far that clothes equal personhood and should one of the animals lose their clothes (As seems to happen quite a lot.), they become animal and prey to the dangers of the world.

The animalistic predators are aware of this in Ms. Potters world and seem determined to first disrobe their prey and then eat them.  I now invite all sorts of perverse interpretations of this, considering especially that the victims are young innocents.

Luckily, however, we don't have to go there today as Mr. Jeremy Fisher is your eccentric uncle who lives in the countryside and smells of damp potatoes, has a tendency to drink too much whisky and fires his shotgun at things that irritate him like Mrs. Hiffle's Pomeranian.

Mr. Jeremy Fisher decides to catch some fish as he's having some friends over for dinner, including Sir Isaac Newton (Who just happens to be... a newt!  Comedy thy name in Beatrix.).  As always, things don't go according to plan as Mr. Jeremy Fisher deals with increasingly dangerous situations.

Luckily for him, he's wearing clothes.  Early on a fish tried to nibble a hole in one of his rubbers, a clear indication that the predators lurking behind every bullrush want this old coot naked for their sinister machinations.  When he manages to evade all the attempts to disrobe him, a pike gets fed up and swallows him whole.  Well, not quite.  Thanks to the bad taste of Mr. Jeremy Fisher's mackintosh, he gets spit out and is able to make it home in one pice (Though his clothes slightly less so) to meet his guests for an unsatisfactory dinner.

Like Peter Rabbit before him, clothing has saved Mr. Jeremy Fisher's life from what would have otherwise been a blip in the ecological web that we call life and he is able to go home and be a bad host.


I Dream of Tiggy-Winkle

Part 6: The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.

Say it ain't so, are the Tales winning me over?  Yes and no.  This one was fairly straight forward.  A little girl loses her  handkerchiefs and embarks on a magical quest to find them.  A little bland by today's standards.  Bland by early twentieth century standards too, I imagine.  Throughout the story Lucie is fairly non-plussed about losing them.  After embarking upon a non-journey to find them, she discovers Mammy I mean Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle living in the side of a hill making her living as a maid to all the other animals.

I've noticed that the books are steadily becoming easier to read.  I'm not sure if it's because I've learned the voice to read them in or that Ms. Potter is becoming a more adept writer.  I suspect the latter because there is much less chaff attached to the stories.  The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle does have quite a bit of chaff - do we really need page after page of various animals dirty laundry?  But it works - Yes we do need it because it continues the tales of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny (Shrunken jacket; oniony handkerchief) and makes mention of various other named animals whose names I've noticed have tales attached to them.  It's here I can see Ms. Potter's mythology is starting to take root.

The end however, leaves something to be desired.  As a twist ending (Spoiler: It was all a dream!) it's kind of played out.  It would have been much more interesting if, in fact there really was a four foot tall hedgehog dry cleaner in the side of a hill which, ironically (Double spoiler: It wasn't a dream!) there is.  See?  There's just something not working there.  Why does Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle get to be a giant animal who wears clothes and talks to humans when all the other animals are fairly straight forward and animal-like.  Granted they're anthropomorphized, but when they come into contact with humans all of a sudden they're just animals.  It doesn't make any sense that Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle exists outside that rule.

Otherwise this was a light and fairly harmless tale.  Except for the racism.

TV Made me Stupid... and then Sell Out.

So I kind of love Community.  I've not really wanted to admit that I could possibly enjoy an American sitcom as much as I enjoy Community, but there it is.

There's something that just doesn't work with the American sitcom style of airing 76 episodes a season.  There's no way a steady level of quality can be maintained and, unless it is a rare case (Seinfeld), ends up falling back on repeating jokes & catch phrases to the point of saturation (Big Band [Typo I'm keeping] Theory) or is just the same damn episode over and over and over again (Two and a Half Men [Which could break that cycle if they would start filming yesterday and create one of the most bizarre & innovative TV shows the world has even known.])

But Community seems to work by virtue of embracing the notion of an ensemble cast (Unlike, say, Friends, who would focus on two characters in an A plot, two characters in a B plot and Joey and Phoebe as afterthoughts.), genuinely good writing that eschews beating you over the head with the same dumb catchphrase.  Bazoonga!

 [Aside 1: I wonder how different Seinfeld would have been if it aired today in the age of viral videos and video memes.  One of the odd things is how ahead of its time it appears in terms of coining catch phrases in an age before DVD box sets and YouTube.]

[Aside 2: Am I the only one who now finds Seinfeld uncomfortable to watch in light of the tremendous amount of less than subtle racism that emanates from it, its cast and its legacy?]

Community is the American re-make of Spaced without realizing it.  It's got the same themes (Friendship, an obsessive love of pop culture, a meta-awareness that it's a TV show.) and in spite of what may go on in each episode, a tremendous amount of heart, in which the characters deal realistically with whatever zany adventure that might have.

The characters are also real.  One of the characters has Asperger's and I would compare how the actor plays it verses how another Emmy Award winning actor plays his interpretation and let the difference speak for itself.  Not just in how it's acted but in his interaction with the audience and show as well.

There's an intelligence and an understatement behind the show that American sitcoms lack, avoiding the obvious jokes (Then mocking them when they go there) and a heart that grounds it in reality.  At the end of the day, if you said to your friends and family a third of what characters say to each other on other TV shows, you would be disowned as a social leper.  Community deals with this in a realistic way and as such, makes the antics of the characters a community you actually want to join.  God, how corny is that.


TV Made me Stupid

Oh my God, I love Survivor.  It's been an on again / off again affair (Mainly off) but I have once again fallen in love with it's unique brand of lowest common denominator entertainment.

I was an avid fan of its first few seasons.  I think that a warning flag went up for Elisabeth early in our relationship when I'd insist spending Friday evening at my mom's place watching a recording of Wednesday's episode of Survivor because the TV I had didn't get the channel that it aired on.

Then England happened and Survivor and I drifted apart and I had a passionate but ultimately unrewarding dalliance with Big Brother.  We didn't reconnect until recently, now that I have a lot more time in the evenings and weekends thanks to Henry's presence and online TV.

So a few weeks ago I sank into the morass of Survivor 21: Heroes vs. Villains and re-discovered a lost love.  In the first episode a toe was broken, a shoulder dislocated and a bikini top maliciously ripped off a piece of anorexic eye candy.  It was my grade eleven prom all over again.

There has been a dynamic shift in the mechanics of the game with the contestants hyper-awareness of the history of the game, strategies which have worked, failed, worked then failed, failed then worked and a meta-meta reality/ entertainment/ manipulation through editing and/or competitions and fucks deliciously with the contestants heads and viewers expectations.

Season 22 is gearing up to be a good one.  It feels like the first two episodes were the best first two ever, due to the selection of at least three sociopaths, two personality disorders, one full on nut-nut and and an evangelical Christian who is already food for the lions.

If reality TV is supposed to hold a mirror to ourselves and/or our society (Really, who believes this other than studio execs and the producers of this exploitive dreck.), Survivor continues to outdo itself by putting on display the kind of greedy, capitalistic paranoid over-thinkers with no sense of self awareness or shame that will do anything for money.  These are the people who own businesses, buy up property and run corporations.  For me, it's endless hours of entertainment watching them scheme, screw each other over, be manipulated and, ultimately eat each other alive (Figuratively - though we all know what being 'voted off' really means.) for the sake of an anti-human ideology.


More Beatrix Potting

Part 5: The Tale of Two Bad Mice.

I really liked this tale.  I liked that Beatrix Potter created a story about a real child's dollhouse and her own pet mice.  I liked how they interacted, I liked the imagination.  I loved reading aloud the name Hunca Munca to little Henry.

But what I liked best was the murder at least one of the children of the mice.  The murders are subtle but they're there.  After the mice have vandalized the doll house and taken as much as they could back to their home, the little girl who owns it wanted her parents to buy a policemen doll to protect it.  Instead the parents buy a mouse trap.  And there, bright as day, the accompanying image shows Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca with their four children staring ominously and the wooden box.

Immediately the story switches to the mice engaging in indentured servitude to the doll house and the dolls therein.  The question is, what has caused the sudden shift?  Just the threat of death or something more sinister?  Were this to have been the first and only book written by Beatrix Potter, I would have assumed the threat of death alone would have cowed the little rodents into subservience.  However, based on her established record of placing young animal children in harms way, it's not unlikely that at least one of Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca's children would have paid the Ultimate Price (Which is not $19.99 in four easy payments) for the crimes of their parents.

Bad mice, indeed.

(For those who care, there a big ol' Wikipedia entry about the book.  Naturally, in order to keep by beautiful brain free from the influence of so called web scholars, I've not bothered to read it.)

Next Time: Something that's not Beatrix Potter-related.  I don't like committing so strongly to a theme.


Peter Rabbit 2: Electric Boogaloo

Part 4: The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny picks up right after The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  In it, Peter Rabbit's cousin, the titular Benjamin Bunny, arrives at the Rabbit's sandy hole and we discover something very unpleasant about Ms. Rabbit, Peter's mom: She's a dealer in contraband.

You see, it was established in Peter Rabbit that the father was long dead - caught by the farmer and turned into food - and as such, Ms. Rabbit has had to find different ways to earn money, selling hats and little parcels of rabbit tobacco which Ms. Potter immediately back peddles on, saying that at rabbit tobacco is really lavender.  Ri-i-i-i-ght.

One is led to wonder just how potent this 'lavender' really is, since life seems to be quite normal at the Rabbit's, however Peter is still a gibbering mess: naked, wrapped in a pink handkerchief, and cowering out back while life goes on all tickety-boo for Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail those bitches.

So Benjamin, it turns out, is quite brave (And not just because he wears clogs!) and takes pity on Peter and recommending they get his clothes back, thus restoring his dignity and, one would hope, a place in his home.  As luck would have it, the farmer had gone out for the day and the two rabbits get Peter's  clothes and Benjamin builds his cousin's confidence back up by encouraging him to eat as he now timidly wanders around, a shell of a living creature.

And, since this is Beatrix Potter, we need something to happen to scar the protagonists so up pops the farmers cat (Once again, cat = evil) and chases them.  They hide under a basket which the cat then sits on for five hours causing the rabbits such emotional turmoil that Ms. Potter states explicitly in the text that she can't draw what went on in the darkness of that basket.

As luck would have it, Benjamin Bunny's father (Also named Benjamin Bunny.  The imagination on display when it comes to names is just earth shattering.) shows up - and this, I think, is key - smoking rabbit tobacco and in a bizarre display of violence that would make Charlie Sheen proud, attacks the cat, beats up the cat and then beats his son and nephew and sends them home where Peter is reintegrated back into the family thanks to getting his clothes back and will no longer have to starve to death in the Rabbit family's back yard.

Also, I think there should be a rule that all children's stories should end with a drug crazed family member coming out of nowhere and beating the shit out of everybody.  It would make Goodbye Moon so much more interesting.

The Tail. Or, of Gloucester

Part 3: The Tailor of Gloucester.

While reading this, the third book in Ms. Potter's magnum opus, I couldn't help but be reminded of its shocking similarity two two other great works of art:  Halloween 3: Season of the Witch and A Clockwork Orange.

Like Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, The Tailor of Gloucester takes a series of precedents established in the first two stories and then goes in a completely different direction for the third outing.  In this case, it is a sudden shift from child-like animals living in the woods being traumatized by the realities of the world to the story of a tailor in Gloucester (You've got to hand it to Ms. Potter how she cleverly links the titles of her books to their content) who is tormented to the point of poverty, illness and insanity by the pettiness of his cat because he ruined its meal (Quite a realistic plot, if you ask me.  No sarcasm intended.  Everyone knows cats are evil.).  Whereas in the Halloween series it is a shift from an indestructible William Shatner mask wearing serial killer hunting babysitters to androids harnessing the power of Stonehenge into Halloween masks that will kill children (Also a surprisingly plausible plot, if you ask me.)

Like A Clockwork Orange, Ms. Potter for some reason decided to write The Tailor of Gloucester in a fictional language, not too dissimilar to Nadsat with odd words and terms like 'paduasoy,' 'green worsted chenille,' 'ribbons for mobs' and frequent references to 'tippets.'

So the moral of this story - After freeing a bunch of mice his cat had trapped, the tailor's cat tortures him which means that the tailor won't be able to sew a coat for the soon to be wed mayor of Gloucester.  As such, the freed rodents work together to sew the coat while the tailor is being tortured.  The cat only stops when he realizes that he's not going to get fed.  The tailor is happy to discover that a bunch of house mice are as good or better tailors than he is, puts on the finishing touches on the coat and becomes rich and famous.  His cat doesn't learn any lesson and the tailor employs the mice in his shop in a weird sort of indentured servitude to sew the finishing touches on his coats - is, ah...  That the moral of the story is, um... that cats are evil?

I suspect the true moral, much like the true moral of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, is to go back to what works in part four.  Which she did.