June 02, 2006

A Hazy Friday Evening

So I'm sitting here struggling to cast my despair over the appalling Date Movie into words when I look over and see a couple of David Lynch DVDs, some Bill Wellman westerns, and a box set of Robert Altman rarities in my short stack. It dawns on me that I have bigger fish to fry before I fuss over any in the barrel.

But I have to ask: is the fat suit the new blackface? It seems like whenever we want to make a point about obesity these days, whether it be derisive (see: all those "Friends" flashback episodes featuring a bloated Courteney Cox) or empathetic (see: Tyra Banks' hilariously narcissistic investigative reports in which she went undercover as a fatty), we'd prefer to transform a slim young creature into a sumo wrestler than show honest-to-goodness corpulence. (It's the less threatening option because it allows us to think of fat chicks as a mythical, costumed menace, like one of the Universal monsters.) Of Date Movie's countless crimes against humanity, the one that sticks out in my mind is an early sequence in which the shameless Alyson Hannigan (left) bounds around town in a fat suit to the beat of Kalis' deafeningly ironic "Milkshake" while various horrified onlookers all but harpoon her. For millions of overweight Americans, Hannigan is now Al Jolson--and this is their "Mammy."

And speaking of rotund redheads, correct me if I'm wrong, but the following exchange from Harry Knowles' interview with M. Night Shyamalan about the upcoming Lady in the Water needs no annotation:

KNOWLES: ...I’ve heard that you have a film critic-type character that’s living in this apartment complex. Is that true?

SHYAMALAN: Yeah, the movie’s about how we relate to this story that’s being told and there’s a very kind-of cynical person in the building who relates to it on that close-minded level.

KNOWLES: Somebody that I talked to told me that he’s somebody who’s always trying to second guess where their story is going, and it just sounded fun to me. The playful poke at some of your critics out there.

SHYAMALAN: (Japanese school girl-esque laughter) Well, let’s say this, I’m definitely not playing it safe in this movie (more laughing).


Ian Pugh said...

Sorry to hear that you've got Date Movie on your plat, because it's truly one of the most horrific movie experiences this year. (Now that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is over, I don't think Ms. Hanigan has any choice but to be shameless.) Tell me, what's up with this critic's-view "anti-commentary" -- what kind of thrashing do Scott Foundas and Bob Strauss offer? Hopefully they at least attempt to tell the audience that the problem is not the poop jokes but the fact that offering scripts from other movies verbatim -- outside of a few mild revisions that add the words "penis" and "gay" -- does not constitute as comedy.

Incidentally, despite the fact that Scary Movie 4 left me outright stagnant, I consider it to be a less offensive film than Date Movie. Methinks the Scary Movie series has long given up offering the pretense of satire and just offers dick and fart jokes with mild mention of a couple of recent movies. Date Movie is a mirror -- and to even pretend that's funny is a friggin' hate crime.

"Don't vote for Pedro." Please. But, sigh, there I go again.

Just presenting the "anti-commentary" option, however, reveals undeniable ego -- no doubt that the filmmakers so that the target audience can find themselves smugly superior to the folks who just don't get the joke. A stupid defense of anti-intellectualism, but still, I wish that some of these filmmakers would make their minds up about how they want to dismiss criticism. Date Movie becomes Stick It, which, judging by that M. Night quote, apparently becomes Lady in the Water. Artists can't consider critics to be both jealous flies in the ointment and preening non-factors. By placing the critic characters in the role of petulant whiners, they reveal that criticism bothers them enough to attempt a counter-punch (in the case of Stick It, wasting an entire half-hour climax on it), while also offering the revelation that they can dish it out but they can't take it. What's more, that they're unwilling to question the brilliance and intention of their great vision.

Question is, what can be done about it, beyond a hearty "get over it"?

As for the "fat suit" question, it's a matter of a cheap laugh based on a broad concept. From face value, what do we know about overweight people other than the fact that, golly, they must like to eat a lot? It's easy and comfortable for bad comedians to reduce groups of people to stereotypes -- now that the evils of racism have gotten more attention in recent decades, those that wish to avoid prominent controversy from prominent organizations will look to less controversial groups to make fun of. Again, it's cheap, it's easy, it's broad. For similar mindset, see the trailer for the Wayans brothers' latest festival of hatred, Little Man. Because, golly, don't dwarves look an awful lot like babies?

Max B. said...

It's an interesting comparison, fat suits and blackface, but I think mockery of fat people is a little thornier than racism, for two reasons.

The most obvious one is that, to some degree, obesity is something that people have some level of control over. I know plenty of overweight people (including my nuclear family, and I'm a bit pudgy myself), and many were at one point in good shape, but let themselves go. Unlike race, which is definitively coded into one's genes, with proper diet and excersize one can stop being fat. Not that it's that easy, of course - there's all kinds of reasons that someone would make the kinds of decisions that lead to obesity, and losing weight is tough. But on level of pure physical possibility, yeah, people can lose weight.

Secondly, among the basic reasons racism is wrong is because a) the difference is only skin deep, and b) people have no control over it. There's nothing objectively or inherently lesser about being non-white (fuck you, Charles Murray), so thus treating people differently on the basis of their race is wrong. Of course it's far more complex, but this is a pretty basic foundation for anti-racism.

On the other hand, obesity is something a) people do have control over, and b) is objectively bad - it makes life much harder, and leads to all kinds of terrible medical complications. It makes the lives of people around you worse - it restricts the options of what you can do, requires others to accomodate you, and you die young, causing grief among your family and friends. Not that immature, mean-spirited mockery is the way to go, but isn't obesity something that reaonsable people can agree should, in fact, be discouraged?

Alex Jackson said...

Quickly, I want to mention before we go much further, that movies like Date Movie do not cause eating disorders; much the same way that guns don't cause shootings. What is behind the problem is a need to maintain control, and obsessing about being skinny is simply the weapon of choice used in dealing with these problems. Eliminating fat jokes much like eliminating firearms, is then only a band-aid solution.

Are fat people really a minority in the United States? Anyway, speaking as an overweight American (my picture on my press pass for Sundance has me looking like Andre the Giant's kid brother), I feel somewhat free to say that fat jokes are all fine and good as long as they are 1. funny and 2. aren't the begin all and end of the satirical comment. That said Date Movie likely doesn't apply for consideration.

I seem to remember that it wasnt that good of a movie, but I thought the fat Goldie Hawn in Death Become Her was genuinely hilarious.

aron said...

Went to see "Take the Lead" with my niece on her birthday and while it's no Shakespeare I was pleasantly surprised by the way the actors/kids were treated. Somehow felt the director liked them. There are two overweight kids, Big Girl and Monster, and while their weight is an issue when it comes to finding a dance partner, it's not a big one. They find someone based on affection rather than looks and that's it. No condescension there.

Bill C said...

Well, you know, that's the biggest problem with Date Movie, and something I had begun to tackle in my abortive review: much like every single other gag in the film, the fat suit is only there because it's trendy. (And because it's the path of least resistance to a reversal of expectations (read: cheap laugh), since the target audience--American Pie fans--already know that Hannigan isn't fat.) The Hannigan character is named Julia Jones and keeps a diary just like Bridget Jones, yet the filmmakers don't even realize the plum opportunity they've given themselves to satirize the propaganda that the average-sized Bridget Jones is some kind of beached whale. At least the plus-size Goldie Hawn is only the first of many jokes at the expense of the cosmetic industry and its consumers--and of course the fat suit was original back in 1992. Big fan of Death Becomes Her, actually.

Date Movie, in its defense, isn't venal, just incredibly lazy. (For crying out loud, the poke at Wedding Crashers is an Owen Wilson-looking guy saying, "Is it too late to crash the wedding?" Meanwhile, the whole thing clocks in at under seventy minutes without credits.) But somewhere along the line somebody's gotta be held accountable for the imagery.

As for the critics commentary on the DVD, it's a bust. (And may I add, Ian: brilliant analysis.) Scott Foundas may loathe Date Movie, but he's paired with a fan of the film named Bob Strauss and seems hesitant to ruffle Strauss' feathers too much. Little of the bluster with which Foundas pounced on Ebert last winter is in evidence, and so the track winds up being no more objective than the filmmaker/cast yakkers are. Why call it an "anti-commentary" if you're just going to equivocate?

O'JohnLandis said...

Ah, Date Movie. If ever there was an award for worst produced screenplay, it's a leading contender. Sure, the Milkshake number is bad, but the scene in which Julia becomes thin is far more depressing and ugly. If you think it's funny to define a fat woman as a werewolf with poor production values, someone with power in Hollywood ought to have prevented you from making movies. Uwe Boll makes cinematic black holes and he may yet make an entire movie by simply recording footage of someone playing a video game, but until he does, he is one notch better on the incompetence meter. Hannigan and many of the bit players are trying really hard--the film might seem less depressing if it was phoned in--but 70 minutes of parody without a single joke is a special kind of hell. (Or heaven, for the High School Musical set...)

OK, so it has the honor of being the worst ever parody film, which is pretty impressive in a "let's move to Canada and give up on the whole fucking country" sort of way. But that's what the anti-commentary is for, right? Sigh. Foundas really disappointed me, as I too had hoped his fight with Ebert was a sign of courage. But if you can't even stand behind a dislike for Date Movie, or tell Bob Strauss that referencing a movie without including a joke is not funny due to its lack of being funny, what exactly makes it an anti-commentary? There is nothing meta about lazy parody.

Oh, and Alex, I think you are entirely wrong when you say:

"Quickly, I want to mention before we go much further, that movies like Date Movie do not cause eating disorders; much the same way that guns don't cause shootings. What is behind the problem is a need to maintain control, and obsessing about being skinny is simply the weapon of choice used in dealing with these problems. Eliminating fat jokes much like eliminating firearms, is then only a band-aid solution."

I dare you to prove that mocking images of fat people don't contribute to (or cause, if anyone really cares about that distinction) eating disorders. And even if you were to prove that, say, anorexia isn't at all linked to the mocking of fat people, there are plenty of other reasons why the pointless mocking of fat people is still wrong. The resultant social ills need not be limited to eating disorders, though I think you're fooling yourself if you think that something like Date Movie has nothing to do with eating disorders.

Either way, the gun analogy is clearly false. Guns do cause shootings. If there were no guns, there would be no shootings. If you think you're sporting a better definition of cause, you aren't. Guns don't cause all violence, or all attacks, but they cause all shootings. And even in the (incorrect) impression that people (or the decisions of people) cause shootings, you have to admit that there is something very unique about gun violence that separates it from other violence. A shooting isn't necessarily a substitute for some other form of violence, thus guns cause shootings. Nuclear weapons cause nuclear holocaust. If you think that the existence of a tool has no impact on the decision of an agent, well, you're wrong.

Date Movie hurts people.

-The other John Landis

Alex Jackson said...

"Quickly, I want to mention before we go much further, that movies like Date Movie do not cause eating disorders; much the same way that guns don't cause shootings. What is behind the problem is a need to maintain control, and obsessing about being skinny is simply the weapon of choice used in dealing with these problems. Eliminating fat jokes much like eliminating firearms, is then only a band-aid solution."

I dare you to prove that mocking images of fat people don't contribute to (or cause, if anyone really cares about that distinction) eating disorders. And even if you were to prove that, say, anorexia isn't at all linked to the mocking of fat people, there are plenty of other reasons why the pointless mocking of fat people is still wrong. The resultant social ills need not be limited to eating disorders, though I think you're fooling yourself if you think that something like Date Movie has nothing to do with eating disorders.

If you think that the existence of a tool has no impact on the decision of an agent, well, you're wrong.

I'll concede to that point.

I said that the problem is one of control and that controlling eating is the weapon of choice for people with control issues. Yes, if we were to eliminate weightism then there may be fewer eating disorders but the central problem of control would not be addressed and the behavior would just manifest itself in some other way. Again, it's a band-aid solution.

Except in the way that I just described, negative images of fat people do not contribute to eating disorders. Society's glorification of skinny has been overhyped-- skinny people don't have tits and tits are still considered sexy on a woman in this culture. I joked with my wife that I should council anorexics by showing them a Barbie doll, point to her chest and say: "Barbie is beautiful. These are breasts. Breasts on Barbie are beautiful. Be more like Barbie".

Also consider that sexual attractiveness rarely if ever fits into the ideal selves of those with eating disorders. In fact, among young girls eating disorders can postpone the advent of menarche (as the process is initiated after the body accumulates a certain amount of fat) and one of the theories about the behavior is that they want to postpone the entrance into adulthood. Actually developing breasts is what causes the eating disorder.

You will find that girls who are early developers are more prone to eating disorders.

You will also find that those who have been sexually abused are more prone to eating disorders as that not only explains the need for control but also the fear of sexual development.

Chad Evan said...

What's unique about it, aside from it being less brutal than most other ways to die? I'm sure you'd agree with me that it's less painful to get shot between the eyes than pummeled with a baseball bat, stabbed with a shiv, or dismembered by a chainsaw.

And don't accuse me of being callous--my father is a (living, thank God) victim of gun violence. I don't blame the gun any more than I'd blame booze if he'd been hit by a drunk driver--I blame the fucker who did it.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

"Date Movie" was fucking hillarious. I think there is a tendency in critics to take comedies too seriously. Mostly that's the reason why no comedies even get a mention in Top 10 lists.f you think Dr. Strangelove and Royal Tenenbaums are comedies, maybe you need to laugh more often. I'd pay to see "Date Movie" any day of the week over all kinds if indie garbage that comes out. Fuck, atleast it's making me laugh ! And that's not a reaction I have to think about or judge the appropriation of.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. Shutup with the paternalistic "It hurts fat people's feelings" shit. I'm fat and it didn't offend me. What does offend me is when I'm flipping t.v. channels and a fat girl in a soap opera is going to the hot guy "Don't make me hurt you". The Milkshake routine is just an ironic reflection of society's attitude towads obese people as shown in all seriousness in the soap opera. To ignore it or to look down at it is just living in the state of denial. To laugh at it is a way of saying "People are so fucking stupid and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it, so might as well laugh at it". Napoleon Dynamite is a film about Napoleon Dynamite. Some will laugh at him, some will laugh with him and some will sulk around in their seats about why everyone is laughing at Napoleon. To me the first two categories are still far more appealing than the third.

Anonymous said...

Hate to say it, but fat suits are "funny" because the (non-obese) audience hates and is disgusted by the morbidly obese, who may as well be from another planet they seem so alien, let alone be seen as people worthy of empathy and compassion. The suits are funny in the same way a huge fake nose, plastic snaggle teeth, or other grotesque costumes are funny. There's nothing funny about an actual deformed person on the screen, that's merely disturbing. I think Walter's fat suit/black face idea is intriguing and worthy of serious discussion, but are all of you self-righteous bloggers really as empathetic as you suggest? Usually when I see a morbidly obese person, I'm sad to say my gut feeling is one contempt and disgust, not empathy for the sad soul adrift in their personal sea of blubber. Which probably makes me an asshole, but at least I'm honest. -Sean

Anonymous said...

I highly doubt that it was possible to laugh WITH Napoleon Dynamite.

Bill C said...

H-Man, why so vitriolic? In defense of Date Movie, of all things. And erect straw men much? No one is saying that every indie movie is preferable to Date Movie, are they?

I would actually testify in a court of law that Date Movie is empirically not funny. There is one laugh in it--a cat taking a really long shit--and it's a pretty desperate one at that. You think "Is it too late to crash the wedding?" is funny? Or "Don't Vote for Pedro" instead of "Vote for Pedro"? A short Hitch instead of a tall Hitch? Man, I *wish* I had such low standards for comedy; I'd probably get along with my seven-year-old nephew so much better.

Touche to the paternalism, but I ask you: what could be more paternalistic than a fat suit? Tyra Banks saying, "Now I know how it feels to be obese, even though any time I want I can slip out of this costume and be Tyra Banks again"?

Ian Pugh said...

Thing is, H-Man, I take shit like Date Movie so seriously because there's a serious threat that its mindset will engulf the concept of comedy: That one doesn't have to offer any kind of effort to be successful. Take this movie and place it alongside Paul Weitz's pedantic American Dreamz, which presents President Idiot-Boy (Dennis Quaid) with Vice President/Chief of Staff Lying Bald Man (Willem Dafoe) placed against an asshole (Hugh Grant) who hosts a vote-in singing/talent contest which prominently features a media-savvy Southern bitch (Mandy Moore). It doesn't really say a thing about the state of the union or America's obsession with American Idol, other than the fact that these people exist in real life -- and hey, perhaps they ain't as honest as they say that they are! Too bad we've all already known that for five years now. Best indicator that this movie doesn't know what it's doing: if you're going to make fun of Britney Spears with a Spearsesque character, you can't mention the real article by name.

Again, it's the concept of the mirror: it's not satire, it's not even comedy, if you're not saying anything outside of the boundaries of what already exists. Oh sure, you can pat yourself on the back for recognizing parallels that fifty million other people can recognize, but where do you go from there? Same with saying the word "fuck" or "shit" over and over -- sure, nobody says it out loud in refined conversation, but everyone knows they exist. Presented by themselves, without context, they're not that funny. But somehow, they manage to prevail -- and along with them, Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler, Chris Tucker, Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Ashton Kutcher, and a thousand others. We complain because we can't let this kind of crap be mistaken for genuine satire.

jer fairall said...

It's possible that every indie movie is preferrable to Date Movie on the grounds that most movies, period, are preferrable to Date Movie. I'm actually kinda glad I was dragged to it earlier this year, and that it's come up again in conversation now, as I'm still mildly reeling from the one-two punch of The Da Vinci Code/X Men 3, and something like Date Movie offers proof of how spoiled we are most of the time. The Da Vinci Code was godawful, sure, but at least it has inspired some debate over the controversy (admittedly laughable as it may be--one of the many things I loathed about the film, and I suppose the unread-by-me text, was how safe it played it. If you were offended by this film, you truly are an idiot, in other words), and while X Men 3 was a crushing disappointment, helmed by a graceless asshole, then at least we had the first two superior films setting us up for the let down.

Date Movie, by contrast, is a wholly worthless bad movie, for all of the reasons already stated. I remember getting mildly excited during the Kill Bill, marvelling at how the only way that the film was able to produce any kind of cinematic pleasure at all, even momentarily, was by "spoofing" the excesses of Tarantino's filmmaking. "Don't Vote For Pedro" and "Is it too late to crash this wedding?" have already been mentioned, but how about during the Say Anything riff where one of the angry neighbors shouts "I'm trying to watch Desperate Housewives!" No joke here, but for the moron filmmakers none is required. A reference to some fleeting pop culture touchstone has been made, and their job is done.

I will say that I winced at the fat jokes in the movie in the same way that I winced at the gay jokes. The difference between this and Friends, I guess, is that there is a recurring sympathy for Monica on the show, sometimes in the "fat Monica" scenes (see the episode where she overhears Chandler making fun of her weight), where Date Movie just assumes that the very appearance of a fat person (or a homosexual) is inherently hysterical.

Bemis said...

I think VH1 is directly to blame for the growing trend of "stating the obvious" humor, which is born directly from Best Week Ever and any show where talking heads simply describe a film, show, trend or celebrity and then occasionally point out how "gay" something is. As goofy as, say, Tom Cruise is, I must admit that I'm even more mortified by the idea of parasitic hack comics who would have no reason for existing if it weren't for Cruise and the like. That said, I'd gladly by tickets to a Date Movie written by just about anyone here.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Maybe I came off a little too strong earlier. Hell, I don't even remember a single thing about "Date Movie" other than it made me laugh, and isn't that the point of a comedy ? My aggression wasn't directed as much at the guys here at FFC (this is literally the only film site I come to) as it was directed towards critics in general. I hate the self-righteous faux-intellectual crap guys like Ebert try and project by calling "Deuce Bigalow 2" as the worst film of the year. Real fucking man you are picking on Rob Schneider of all people. Nobody would argue with that and so comedies always get sent to kids-table. I am not saying all comedies deserve respect, there is shit like Soul Plane, White Chicks and Deuce Bigalow 2 that would make anyone cringe, but when somthing like Date Movie, Austin Powers or The Longest Yard comes along that isn't necesserily mean-spirited but just kinda stupid, then I think it brings out the elitist element of the film critics. They push up their big-framed glasses and start to write lengthy reviews on racial implications that "the longest yard" makes about our society. It's easier to rip at films like these then it is to just laugh at where it's funny. Films like these bring out the one flaw that most intellectuals have, of taking themselves and shit they make up in their head too seriously. Somehow that makes them loose touch with average people who just want their popcorn's worth of entertainment which eventually leads to long cynical essays about how average people are so stupid and have such bad taste in movies while all they are really trying to do is paternalistically emphasise their own cleverness. Sure it is wrong to combine the whole critical community in one category, but I see this as a general trend. I don't think I have agreed with Roeper on anything but this I do agree with him on, if it makes you laugh, it's a good comedy.

But then again, to each his own. Everyone has their own sense of humour and it was wrong of me to attack so sharply earlier. I'm just giving this as an outsider's perspective.

Jared said...

I think I speak for all my proud fat brothas when I say that seeing the trailer for "Just Friends" made us want to disembowl Ryan Reynolds with a rusty hook. Equating fat suits to blackface is pretty apt, at least in how offensive it is to us. Every time I hear that mantra about "stop complaining about it and go on a diet and stop being lazy" I just want to wallop someone, sometimes it is a matter of metabolism and genetics and not to mention things like a family history of depression or a load of stress will help you pack on the pounds too. Hollywood assholes like Ryan Reynolds with millions of dollars and their own personal trainer have no right to mock common Americans.

And not to mention, when I look around I see people way fatter than me, why is bullying fat people en vogue when fat is now normal due to things like our apalling health care system, the high price of healthy food and the lobby of evil "big food" corporations? Shouldn't we point the finger at the big food and big soda who are every bit as indoctrinating as the cigarette companies and then some? There's no way to convince me that a Big Mac at McDonalds isn't worse for you than a pack of Marlboros.

Seattle Jeff said...

My favorite Fat suit moment was on the show "Average Joe" when the hot girl who was the object of affection had to put a fat suit on and experience the world as someone who wasn't hot.

It really shook her up and led to some profound reflections...and much laughter on my part.

aron said...

if it makes you laugh, it's a good comedy.

Not really, I'd reply to Roeper. If it makes you laugh, you felt there was a joke, that's all.

Agree with that mirror comment, Ian: if everything is face-value you see what is, but it's not the conscious act of identification you'd go through if you watched something with more levels of meaning. You can always stay on the outside and watch, and judge, feel superior and laugh.

Alex Jackson said...

Laughter counts for something.

Unfortunately though, the test that I use most often in determining whether a film is any good or not, ultimately the only test, is "Do I want to buy it, and see it again". Extremely difficult to get me to laugh at the same joke twice, I think I mostly laugh at surprise, so there has to be something more there than just "it made me laugh".

They push up their big-framed glasses and start to write lengthy reviews on racial implications that "the longest yard" makes about our society. It's easier to rip at films like these then it is to just laugh at where it's funny. Films like these bring out the one flaw that most intellectuals have, of taking themselves and shit they make up in their head too seriously.

Actually, I think it's the exact reverse. The problem with the majority of film scholars is that they only write about the films they like. Many are fairly out of touch with popular cinema unless it was made fifty or sixty years ago.

Dave Gibson said...

I think the minstrel-show analogy is an apt one. Fat suit “comedies” are another evocation of the enduring Hollywood contempt for women. Using the “Friends” example, I’m always amazed at the extent of the casual cruelty heaped upon “Fat Monica” by her alleged “Friends” (Look! She’s stuffing a hoagie into her face! During her Prom Pictures! Isn’t that just like a fat person! Har. Har.) Imagine those “Friends” flashbacks, not a line of dialogue changed, only featuring a younger overweight actress portraying Monica—how many laughs would that inspire? These films allow moronic audiences to indulge their basest prejudices with a built in moral escape hatch. (I.e. “She’s not really fat, so it’s OK) Aside from the Monica and “Date Movie” examples we also have “Big Momma” and “Medea” two grotesque caricatures of (obese) older women, played by male comedians, squeezing out plenty of post-menopausal laffs for all those folks who hate their grandmothers. There’s an unpleasant tinge of revenge-fantasy inherent in those “model experiments”, a grim exercise in “getting even with the pretty girl”. Of course, Tyra Banks goes back to her wealthy lifestyle and the bitter couch potatoes thrilling at her “humiliation” sit and nurture their anger—that’s entertainment. Much hay was made over “Shallow Hal” at least being relatively aware of the inherent irony of the not-svelte Jack Black and Jason Alexander—(the same portly, balding fella who dated models weekly on “Seinfeld”) trolling for supermodels--but, hey, Black he still gets to go out with Gwyneth Paltrow (In many Hollywood films and most television, only men are allowed to be average looking). That’s a movie that pretends to celebrate “inner beauty” but still rests its case on superficial good looks, why cast Gwyneth Paltrow otherwise? In Hollywood, the tubby, homely, poor or ape-like (see King Kong) man often gets the (strikingly beautiful) girl. However, if women want the same benefits, all they need to do is actually be Courtenay Cox.

Harvey_birdman said...

"Date Movie hurts people."

So what? Life is hurt, and I'd rather have full free speech, even from the assholes, than any kind of censorship. That some of the too sensitive members of our society feel some pain is the cost of doing business.

I don't want to live in a world where everybody gets to feel good all the time. There needs to be controversy and there needs to be conflict if there's to be any improvement or progress.

Alex Jackson said...

So what? Life is hurt, and I'd rather have full free speech, even from the assholes, than any kind of censorship. That some of the too sensitive members of our society feel some pain is the cost of doing business.

Quite. Down with political correctness.

Walter_Chaw said...

Doesn't Shallow Hal get his Gwen glasses removed by film's end? Just point of fact.

I don't think we're talking censorship, by the way, I'd rather get incensed by a film than feel nothing at all (which was a lot of what my 2005 was about at the movies, sad to say) - and I think chatting about the morality of fat suits is actually a pretty fulsome way to spend a few minutes. Date Movie is already a more "useful" film than M:i:3.

Bill C said...

Indeed, I'm by no means advocating censorship (!) or even political correctness, just, y'know, moral intelligence. I don't wanna be the guy who in sixty years says, "Back then we didn't know any better."

Patrick Pricken said...

I have the feeling Hollywood is getting lazier by the minute. No matter the premise of a movie, most of the time they seem to go for the least amount of work possible, and that may be the way for good weekend gross, but not to making a great movie. Then again, "better" films get continuously shafted at the Box Office, so maybe Hollywood is correct in their way of doing things (at least from their point of view, not necessarily from a film freak's).

In Germany, there is a comedian called Loriot. He's not filming anymore (he's probably 90 years old now), but he made a classic TV series and two great movie comedies. The second one, "Pappa Ante Portas", has a behind-the-scenes reel where you can see just how much preparation Loriot insisted on, and how exact, if not perfect he wanted each scene to be. It's almost like a dictator when what you think is a nice scene gets reshot and reshot because he isn't satisifed yet with miniscule details. And yet, the result is a comedy I've seen ten or more times, and a TV series that a majority of Germans who were alive and sentient then can quote from.

It's hard work to be great, is what I want to say.

O'JohnLandis said...

In saying, "Date Movie hurts people," I was referencing the "Guns don't kill people" lie. I'll offer clarification of that for Chad, by the way:

If a person wants to commit a shooting, or carry a gun to a situation that might lead to a shooting, it doesn't necessarily mean that the person would have committed violence had the gun not been available. A gun is such an easy and efficient tool that its existence creates violence that might not have otherwise existed. I'm not saying that the decisions of people aren't massively important in deciding what particular gun violence occurs, I'm simply saying that the existence of guns creates some violence. If you think "remove people from the equation, no one gets shot" is a good reason to let the guns off the hook, so to speak, I think you are engaging in a redundancy that reduces your assertion to meaninglessness.

100% of shootings require guns. The existence of guns creates violence, which makes it difficult to know which violence would have existed otherwise. If you remove guns, there are no shootings. Therefore, guns cause shootings.

As for people, 100% of shootings require people. But so do 100% of ice cream trucks and SUVs and ovens and analogies. You see, most things require people. To mention them as being the primary blame for any tool-involved action is pretty redundant. Using your logic, why is it incorrect to say that "Guns don't kill people, the universe does?" I mean, if there were no universe, no one gets shot. Yeah, but...

Analysis is hard enough as it is; we might as well not avoid using what words actually mean to our advantage. Guns cause shootings.

As for the main discussion, I don't see why comedies get special privileges. Can Man on Fire or Paparazzi do absolutely anything, as long as the action is good? Some people might require movies to fit into a particular genre, but I don't. Date Movie is in the theater with all the other movies, so it ought to be held to the same standards. Who gives a shit whether Dr. Strangelove is a comedy? It's obscene to mention it in comparision with Date Movie. It's a better film, see. (It's also funnier.)

Basically, I am opposed to censorship when it involves content. I am all for censorship when it involves quality. And even if you think you disagree, you probably don't. If everyone who wanted to make a film was able to do so, the result would be that fewer films get watched. The marketplace would be flooded, no one would know what to watch, and the medium would suffer. This is already sort of happening, just not at apocalyptic levels. Stupid DV...

As far as paternalism is concerned, not all concerns are paternalistic! (I hate myself so much for that, but I couldn't resist.) Can we give this term a rest? If I call bullshit on a scene solely conceived to reveal a fat woman as deformed and covered with body hair, it's not paternalism. And if you're fat and think the scene is fine, that doesn't prove it is. It also doesn't prove I was paternalistic.

In film criticism, it is relevant to point out really repulsive shit. If the scene had been funny, I would have said that "the funny scene was repulsively constructed." The existence of sensitive people is a horrible reason for censorship. It does not follow that we should say, "fuck you, you sensitive bastards!"

By the way, Alex, there are tons of girls who think they have to be extremely skinny and have really big tits. You may know things about eating disorders that I don't, but I'm telling you that body image is still a massive problem, and things like Date Movie can't help.

If Date Movie was funnier or better, it would still be offensive. Good films sometimes are. But even if you took the fat suit out of Date Movie, there's plenty left to condemn.

-The other John Landis

Jimbo said...

Laziness is the way everybody is going, I agree... I think Wedding Crashers was the least funny "OMG THIS IS TEH NEW FUNNY MOVIE!!" comedy I've ever seen. It's like, we're expected to laugh, just because of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan. Hey, look at these guys! You think they're funny! Now laugh (and give us $9). I don't laugh every time I see a scene of Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski doing the Dude because Jeff Bridges, I insta-laugh because of the combined effect of acting, writing, character, etc. etc.

Speaking of body image issues, has anybody watched any of the current season of Real World? Man, that girl Paula is unhinged in body/self-image terms. Yikes!

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