Friday, March 17, 2006

Taint Misbehavin'...

I have an idea for a kids' cartoon.  Not a well-rounded idea exactly, but I do have the title: "Blumpkin, the Grundle Taint."  His sidekick is named Skeet S. Skeet, and they travel in an electric vehicle called The Shocker.  They are the sworn enemies of a villainous and hypocritical ostrich, Censor Shipp, and his Standards & Practices henchmen.  They defend themselves against Censor Shipp by inventing harmless euphemisms for disgusting bodily functions.  This show will teach kids an important lesson: in modern America, you can get away with anything you want as long as you can say it in a way that nobody can criticize.  It's like a free MBA degree, but with more jokes.

So would you watch this?  Anyone?  Hey, is this thing on?  I know you're out there, I can hear you clicking the "back" button!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Two Hypothetical Questions

1) It's 2046, and Ben Affleck gets a sympathy Best Supporting Actor nomination for playing someone's alcoholic, unsupportive dad ("Ben Affleck was just utterly heartbreaking in I Was An Accident") or a terminal Alzheimer's case ("Affleck will bring you to tears in Unforgettable") or something similar.  He has not yet won an acting Oscar, though he still has his share of the Good Will Hunting screenplay Oscar.

Question: if his publicist trots out the "well, he never got an Oscar for acting" argument as ammunition against younger, more-deserving actors, do I get to stand up from my wheelchair, yank out my old-man catheter, and hit Affleck in the face with it?

2) The bird flu epidemic pandemic reaches America, and according to the new curfew laws you are not allowed to leave your home.  I have been stuck in my home for three weeks, and my food has almost run out, save for a single pound of pasta.  The government, for health reasons, has shut down my running water temporarily, and I've used the last of my bottled water.  My taps won't work for another few days, and the only remaining water in the house is in the toilet bowl.

Question: do I make pasta?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Block Party, Night Watch

So, last night I saw Dave Chappelle's Block Party and was blown away. It's exactly as advertised... one part hip-hop concert film, one part documentary of how funny Chappelle is when he's just being himself... but as great as the musical performances are, and as funny as Chappelle is, the real star is how much heart went into the assembly of the concert. There's a mundane genuineness to Chappelle's intentions in putting the movie together, and Michel Gondry did an excellent job of capturing and conveying the individual moments of inspiration. (There were many, of all shapes, sizes and scales.) It's a perfect, joyful, positive film.

But that was yesterday. Today I'm basking in the glow of Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor), a two-year-old Russian film that is only now being released in America. How it took so long to release such an immediately-accessible foreign film, I have no idea. How could you not sell a genuinely creepy, visually stunning vampire movie? Every couple of weeks Hollywood releases a new, mediocre PG-13 horror movie... but when an artistically brilliant vampire movie comes out, it gets shelved because it's Russian.

Well, having seen the movie, I assure all of you that Fox Searchlight's executives are a bunch of fuck-ups. What were they thinking??? This is one of the best movies I've seen in a long, long time. Mind-blowing stuff. It has drawn comparisons to The Matrix, though they're really only similar in their scope (future of mankind), their inventive use of special effects, and their numbing, dizzying effect on audiences. In fact, on a superficial level the two films are opposites... The Matrix sells a universe of sterility, while Night Watch is all about grit and dirt. It's that gritty approach that grounds the film, makes it feel more plausible (despite being a movie about vampires), and allows the dramatic elements to hit us that much harder.

All in all, as highly recommended as possible. I give this movie five mooning emoticons out of five.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Crash Wins

I can't say I'm thrilled about Crash winning Best Picture.  I was definitely thrilled to see how it unfolded.  It was a huge surprise, as we'd all assumed by that point that Brokeback Mountain had an award locked up.  But as far as what the Oscar means... bleh.  It's not that Brokeback necessarily deserved to win, just that Crash wasn't very deserving either.

Crash divides people too much, and not because of its subject matter... it just isn't made very well.  There are a lot of people who believe that the worst of the nominated films won.  And I can't really disagree with that assessment... I don't hate the film, but I certainly don't love it.  It's clearly being rewarded for what it tried to do, not what it actually did.  There are worse biases to have, but this one looks particularly silly to me.

I've dealt with my feelings on Crash in the past, here and here.  In ten words or less, Crash is a white Spike Lee movie.  Brilliant more often than not, but just as often flawed, inconsistent, and perhaps even misanthropic.  The negatives end up weighing down the positives; for me, Do The Right Thing is the only movie that rises above its negatives.  Crash is more like Bamboozled; as inspired a commentary on the state of black entertainment as you'll ever find (pre-Boondocks, that is) but the problems with that movie, which is excellent, are too numerous to list.  Convincing shades of grey amongst the black characters, utter one-dimensionality amongst the white characters, and sudden, jolting character shifts.  A film similar to Bamboozled that portrayed its white characters with more depth might have said something truly profound; instead, it's just jarring.

Same with Crash.  If it actually understood its black characters as well as it understood its white ones, Crash would have deserved its Oscar.  Unfortunately, the film we have is well-meaning, but ultimately ridiculous and unsatisfying.  Its failures in authenticity are excused by the filmmakers, who have essentially said, "we only wanted this film to inspire conversation."  A white dude screaming the N-word at the top of his lungs in Harlem inspires conversation too, but should we give the guy a Nobel Peace Prize?  Of course not.  Gotta say somethnig true, or the whole enterprise is phony.  You can't pull the pin on a grenade, throw it straight up in the air, hope the wind takes it away from you, and then not take responsibility for it later.  I mean, you can, but you shouldn't.

The key difference for me is that Spike Lee doesn't aim for universality.  When he deals with race, he speaks from a black perspective, and for a black perspective.  If his statement says something universal, that's collateral... which is fine, because Spike knows that, and the rest of us do too.  On the other hand, Crash claims universality, doesn't deliver it, and fails in its mission.

Ugh.  Too much time wasted on this movie.  Go watch Bamboozled if you really want something to talk about.