January 16, 2007

The Fate of the World Rests on Jack Bauer / The Last Round of Your Life

I don't know how many other people traded the Golden Globes for "24", but how about that four-hour premiere?

Jack Bauer's always been an action movie superhero, but have the "24" writers been reading those Chuck Norris-style facts about him across the internet? The safety of America seems to rest in his arms a little too knowingly. The world has gone to shit in the two years that Jack has been in the hands of the Chinese government: terrorist attacks have happened all across the country, and America is apparently several signatures away from becoming a police state. Now that he's returned, complete with a Die Another Day-esque entrance, the greatest emotional drama that the show has to offer seems to be questioning whether or not he still has the ability to break faces and take names. Even when the final whammy of the four-hour block comes around (highlight for spoiler: Valencia (California) gets nuked), it happens immediately after he breaks down and decides that he's had enough. That'll teach you to quit, Bauer.

Will it keep going like this? Is the series out-and-out condoning the use of Middle Eastern "internment camps"? We'll have to see where this season takes us.


Anyway, now that Sylvester Stallone's sappy, nostalgic Rocky Balboa is shuffling out of theaters, it makes me realize that 2007 is seeing an uprising of older stars, returning to their most popular characters of decades past. Why now? The short answer: video games.

Rocky Balboa is, after all, dictated by the idea of a video game. Although Sly was clearly inspired by the computer-determined outcome of a filmed sparring match between Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano, Balboa is convinced back into business by a genuine CGI simulation between the current champ and the former champ in his prime. But, y'know, despite all of the old jokes everyone kind of forgets the "in his prime" part. The Rocky series had been stale since Rocky IV--something that Stallone seems to acknowledge in his in-film comment "that's probably the '70s"--so why create this film, which is just another retread orchestrated as a funeral procession? Because technology told him that it was possible? Pride obviously brought Stallone himself into the training room and the ring, but I'd love to know if any computer manipulation was involved in the making of Rocky Balboa. Oh, and don't forget that Rambo IV will be headed our way, too.

Indiana Jones IV is closer to fruition than it's ever been, or so they tell us. I'm the one person in about a thousand who really enjoyed Firewall, but it was its manic pace and Harrison Ford's authoritative technobabble that really sold it for me. But was the film meant to be some kind of plea that the 64-year-old Ford was still capable of performing Indy's antics? In that case, it was a pathetic attempt: Ford can still look angry and wax philosophic better than anybody I know, but one wrestling match with Paul Bettany doesn't cut it. Although I hope that Spielberg will stick with stuntmen, with Lucas in the wings I fear that we'll be seeing a lot more CGI than what a peek into the Ark of the Covenant requires. Think of that moment in Star Wars: Episode III when Count Dooku leaps off the balcony, but blown up to feature-length status.

Most telling is Clint Eastwood voicing Harry Callahan for a
Dirty Harry video game alongside Laurence Fishburne and Gene Hackman (!). I've got nothing against it on principle; as much as the sequels avoid the confrontational political debates of the original Dirty Harry in order to turn Callahan into a superhero (not unlike Jack Bauer, natch), I'm a fan of Magnum Force and The Dead Pool. But what confuses me is that Eastwood has spent the last decade and a half--since Unforgiven, of course--avoiding Harry like the plague. It's understandable, considering his advancing age, but he seems more annoyed in the sense that he's passing himself off as "better" than the material: the complaints that he lodged when he apparently fought to make Million Dollar Baby (the suits kept bringing up Dirty Harry 6 as an alternative). Not to mention that the now-forgotten half of his two Iwo Jima films, Flags of Our Fathers, seemed to be enough of an indignant response to heroic iconography that maybe, just maybe, we'd get the point that he didn't want to be called "Dirty Harry" anymore. But despite his protestations of being a "serious" filmmaker now, the Dirty Harry video game reveals that Eastwood really would like one more shot at the title.

What does it all add up to? Walter is right when he mentions in the
FFC '06 Top 10 that filmmaking has gotten a little too advanced for our own good, but the result doesn't end with the democratization of art. The older generations of filmmakers are turning their own art--films, video games and beyond--into one last stab for relevance in the form of a sickly nostalgia piece. The original films are there and will remain there in the same sense that sequels can be ignored, but there's no doubt that failed attempts leave a bad taste of desperation in our mouths, knowing that our final exposure to the characters that we grew up with (as we know them) will be an unconvincing plea against their own obsolescence, as Rocky Balboa turned out to be. I don't mean to be a defeatist about it, but it's not like the track record has been good thus far: for every brilliantly seething Ray Liotta in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, we get at least one feeble, unrecognizable Sean Connery and an aggressively mediocre re-imagining of From Russia with Love. Unlike what Rocky Balboa implies in its final moments, Hollywood stars don't really fade away anymore--everyone witnesses the descent.

And yet as filmgoers, sometimes we can't resist, because we can't do anything about the silent hosanna that invades our brains when we hear the news, that constant hope that it'll be good, or even that wish that our personal favorite character will be next on the list. As for me personally: it's no big secret that Darkman is one of my very favorite films--it's one of the few movies that totally submits itself to the world of comic books, and it even acts as a sly criticism of Tim Burton's Batman--so I wouldn't mind seeing Liam Neeson step back into the bandages in some form or another. Neeson is past the age of 50, but Darkman begged for some extension beyond one film, and the direct-to-video sequels were just travesties. (Bill tells me that an R-rated cut of Book of Love executes one of the most hilariously speedy endings imaginable; I would counter that with Darkman III: Die Darkman Die.) All I want is one brief detour off the "high road" that he's been on since Schindler's List; a return to his roots.

Are there any film series/characters/actors you're dying to see back in the saddle, despite your misgivings?


Dave Gibson said...

Never saw “24” before—I caved in to advertising pressure and watched the first few episodes—think that’s enough for me. I liked it better when it was called “Invasion USA”

I’m not even remotely jazzed for a new Indy movie. I love "Raiders" but, even as a kid--I wasn't much interested in either sequel. I always thought (hoped?) that “Indy IV” would
be one of those white whale projects that would never find port; I’m not so sure now--Lucas and Spielberg have been down this road a few times--so, I'm hoping that something else will capture their attention. (I guess that Lucas's oft-repeated claim of returning to small, 'experimental' films was the hooey we all knew it was).
It just seems so damn uncreative, three extraordinarily wealthy and influential (and in Spielberg’s case—enormously gifted) filmmakers choosing to spend their time on
another trip to the well for such obviously cynical motives (a well of souls indeed) For awhile, it seemed like Ford was going to go the Douglas/Redford route and do the prestige stuff. At this stage in his career, Ford should be scoffing at the prospect of another Indy--after a string of clunkers I can't entirely fault him; but what's Spielberg's excuse? It’s endemic to the blockbuster sickness in Hollywood--enough with the freaking comic book movies already.

I prefer to revisiting the old characters in the originals (And I admit, I’m a bit intrigued by the prospect of Rob Zombie’s Halloween—although, it still just seems wrong) so, I’d implore filmmakers to think of new stuff rather than dredging up the past for another round of BO.

Jason said...

Part of me is that little 80's kid who refused to grow up, so that part of me is excited to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles returning. That's only a small part, however - the rest of me is either terrified by the CGI, or unimpressed with the storyline (some mad industrialist makes monsters, or something). What's doubly frustrating, though, is that the new film is trying to be Superman Returns (a film that left me cold, to say the least): it's a needless sequel to the first two films (and, really, who was clamoring for a sequel to Secret of the Ooze?), and it's trying to exlpore the "emotional depth" of its "lost and confused" heroes. Emotional depth to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... right. Much as I love 'em, there's a reason the Turtles' individual personalities could be summed up in one line (or word) in the cartoon's theme song: the Turtles have all the emotional depth of a plank of wood.

That same 80's kid is also giddy to see the old slasher movie stand-bys returning to the big screen in some form or another. That said, the fact that both the Halloween and Friday the 13th series are getting prequels/remakes is kind of distressing. I'm still not won over to Rob Zombie's camp (gonna see The Devil's Rejects later this week), and if there's one thing that Jason Voorhees doesn't need, it's a real, solid past. Or an update (Christ, let's all just forget about Robo-Jason). I'm sure the planned Nightmare on Elm Street prequel is still kicking around, too, but we've seen that movie already. It was the long, drawn-out, pointlessly 3-D-ified section of backstory in Freddy's Dead. And it sucked.

Bill C said...

Dave: This year is not a good gateway drug to 24 at all. In fact, the sixth season of any show with an overriding continuity is not a great place to start; but anybody who saw the elegiac, surprisingly leftist (in fact, borderline treasonous) season 5 is cutting the show some slack right now.

Joef said...

Film series I wish to see back in the saddle? Gotta be Wishmaster, in all its camp glory.

Ro said...

Love that I wasn't the only one that chose 24 over the Globes. Jack is the man...this season better be as good as the others! Check out my Jack report at ro-knows.blogspot.com

Dave Gibson said...

"Season 5 is cutting some slack" Uh-huh. I've heard the same argument
used to defend the merits of the new Star Wars trilogy, Lost, Twin Peaks and all manner of overextended
junk--so, no baby--that crow don't caw with me. So if the "Season 5 elite" will deign to enlighten me: Please explain why the
ludicrous first four episodes--filled with grotesque sadistic violence, wholly unbelievable characters (that dude is President?)
and tacit approval of systemic racism are so quelled by the brilliance of the previous chapters?
One can't watch everything so--I'm still picking "Spooks" over reviewing the past exploits of Mr. Bauer.

I will say that I was pleased to get the line: "GET ME JACK BAUER!!!". It's modestly enjoyable trash dudes, but it's still trash.

I'll also add that this "Series Arc" concept--as applied to "Lost" especially, tends to have
a hell of a lot more to do with marketing than art,

Bill C said...

Whatever, Dave.

Chris said...

Here I am all geared up to defend 24, but I don't know if I can do better than you just did, Bill.

All I'll say is that there is no "tacit approval of systemic racism" present in the show, except from the one or two characters who show up to further that cause and end up (at least) fired or (more likely) shot to death by the end of the day.

Alex Jackson said...

All I'll say is that there is no "tacit approval of systemic racism" present in the show, except from the one or two characters who show up to further that cause and end up (at least) fired or (more likely) shot to death by the end of the day.


Exqueeze me?! Baking powder? The racist redneck is getting already to beat up Kumar because he's Arabic and thus a terrorist, and then when the neighbors across the street take him in we learn that he IS a terrorist! The rednecks know...

The show seems to be willing to reverse expectations solely for the effect of reversing expectations, regardless of the raminifications.

Plus it actually presents the idea of forming internment camps (which, I'll remind you, actually manage to capture a few real terrorists) as controversial.

Actually, Dave is right about everything, but I still enjoy 24 exactly on it's own terms. You see, I like my trash to be sadistically violent and approving of systematic racism. The value of great trash is to challenge our moral values and eliminate that false good touch/bad touch dichotomy in evaluting trash.

Ian Pugh said...

What appalls me most about the Kal Penn/Ahmed storyline is how the family are more or less punished for their perceived naivete in saving him from the righteous hicks. (Says teenage son Scott: "Stan was right..." Spoken like a character who just had a light bulb labeled "OF COURSE!" burst to life inside his brain.) Either that, or when Ahmed, gun in hand, corrects Scott on the pronunciation of his name before the segment ends -- and Penn draws it out, because it's the oh-so-scary Arabic pronunciation. Good Lord, that's not American at all! Penn, by the way, did the villainous jazz a lot better as one of Lex Luthor's smirking anonymous thugs.

It's presented as controversial, perhaps, but just about everything about the internment camp presented here is undeniably positive -- hell, even when Walid is sent to a detainment facility on essentially false pretenses, he's luckily present long enough to relay a vital piece of info to the other side!

I do understand your point about great trash, Alex: I would present Orson Welles' brilliant yet unapologetically sleazy Touch of Evil as Exhibit A. However, I would conjecture that "24" is most successful when it acts as its own hyperviolent scenario instead of as a self-righteous handbook for hypothetical terrorist situations. ("24" condones prisoner torture, but I think that after five years the concept has lost its political slant because it's become so ingratiated into how we view Jack Bauer as a character; these new episodes are the best indication of that.) This season, not really a challenge of our moral values so much as an impatient demand to fall in step. The first four hours' ultimate whammy has been apparently described by someone at FOX as a way to "wake the country up"; someday soon, we'll all be lamenting: oh, if only they listened to the writers of "24", then maybe we wouldn't be in this mess. We're only one-sixth of the way through, however, so we'll see how things work out.

Oh, and on a related topic, and I forgot another entry in 2007's claim as the Year of the Geezer: Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth Die Hard film. Shouldn't be too many surprises, although I see that Bruce Willis is now equating himself with John McClane, bypassing the wig and giving his fictional counterpart the same bald pate.

Jason: As is my understanding, Eastman-Laird's original TMNT was an intentionally two-dimensional parody of the grim-and-gritty era of Frank Miller.

Emotional depth is indeed a bizarre proposition for the Turtles, but the concept of continuity confuses me, too -- what could be answered in a follow-up to Secret of the Ooze? Perhaps the ultimate fate of that pizza-delivery guy.

theoldboy said...

Did anybody know they tried to make a game out of Taxi Driver? I don't know what happened to it, but apparently it was just Travis Bickle with his head shaved running and driving around a city and shooting people, which is exactly what the movie is for, like, five minutes. At least I don't remember it being released like The Godfather game unfortunately was.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I don't watch TV but another southasian guy named Kumar! That's racist in itself for me. Might as well have went with Apu. You would hardly meeet any Indians who have Kumar as the first name. It's a very general middle name that roughly means "Young Man". Of a thousand Indian first names...

The Captain said...

Can't be bothered with 24 comments for now, but on an entirely different topic, did anyone see last year's Flight 93, the other United 93 film? What did you make of it?

Rich said...

Jason, the upcoming CGI affair is actually the fourth TMNT movie. There has already been a sequel to Secret of the Ooze - some piece of shit where they travel back in time to ancient Japan. It doesn't really matter, though, as I can't remember this one having much to say about the Turtles' backstory or anything in the way of character development. I think the Turtle franchise was just treading water at this point.

Ian Pugh said...

Oldboy: They're instituting a system for the Dirty Harry game where you have to balance the delicate line between "bad cop" and "psychopath," maintaining the fear and respect of the criminal underworld while keeping Harry's lieutenant du jour off your back. (Hackman is playing the lieutenant; regardless of how you feel about the game, you can't tell me you're not looking forward to hearing him say, "damn it, Callahan!") I don't think the Taxi Driver game has been cancelled -- at least, not officially (it missed a touted '06 release date) -- but I wonder if it will feature a similar kind of "meter."

H-Man: Alex was referencing to the fact that Kal Penn plays the Arabic terrorist. The character's name is Ahmed, but as I mentioned in my previous post, they still manage a form of racism when it comes to naming conventions.

Rich: There's something to be said in the new TMNT ignoring the third film a la Superman Returns, beyond the fact that Shredder's defeat plays a role. All three Turtle movies are pretty bad, but it takes a special Richard Pryor/time travel form of bad to be elided from continuity.

Rick said...

In response to Hollow Man's post regarding racism in 24, I was curious to why there has not been any backlash for the Geico "Caveman" commercials. I believe the reason these ads are so funny is due to the fact they are getting away with it. These commecials make light of cultural insensitivity and SHOULD be viewed as offensive as anything seen in 24, but since its not so in your face, and the ads have been seemingly dismissed. But I find it hilarious to see ultra-sensitive (in regards to racism and ignorance) people laughing away at those commercials. Does this mean it is okay to be an intelligent and witty asshole, as opposed to an ignorant asshole? I mean, shouldn't people find the "Cavemen" being reduced to walking cliches and subtle punchlines ( and being put in the position of being annoying, inconsequential and whiny) be offended?

James said...

Rick: I can't believe I am going to post something on this, but I've never viewed the geico caveman ("caveman"? why on earth does that call for a "quote") commercials as siding against the caveman. CNN runs full time at my office due to having to be aware of breaking national news, so I see this commercials a lot. While they do make light of cultural insensitivity, it is everybody but the caveman in those commercials that come off as assholes, at least as they've gone on to become a series of commercials. The latest (airport and therapist ones) really side entirely with the caveman's frustration - I've never seen them as annoying, or whiny, and many of of the best amongst us feel inconsequential on a daily basis. Or was your post in jest, and I'm a fool for missing the <irony></irony> tags. Ah, the confusion. Ah, I can't believe I have a stronger feeling about the cultural impact of a commercial than I do about the latest theatrical release I've seen. Ah, the self loathing. Cheers!

Alex Jackson said...

H-Man: Alex was referencing to the fact that Kal Penn plays the Arabic terrorist. The character's name is Ahmed, but as I mentioned in my previous post, they still manage a form of racism when it comes to naming conventions.

Um yeah, Kal Penn, best known for playing Kumar in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle plays the teenage terrorist Ahmed in 24. Probably wrong of me to not use the proper names, but he might always be Kumar to me.

Jason: As is my understanding, Eastman-Laird's original TMNT was an intentionally two-dimensional parody of the grim-and-gritty era of Frank Miller.

I never read the comic book, but if that's so I may have even more respect for the original live-action film.

Jason said...

Rick: No, I remember Turtles in Time. I wish I didn't, but I do. I remember I gave a copy of the Secret of the Ooze DVD to a Turtle-loving friend, with the caveat that I couldn't find him a copy of TMNT III. And that's really where that movie stands with me: the sarcastic gift you give to a friend who can take the joke.

Ian and Alex: I don't know, the Eastman-Laird comics kind of walk a thin line between being an intentional two-dimensional parody of the Frank Miller-style knockoffs, and actually being a Frank Miller knockoff themselves. The early stuff was kind of a parody, especially in the ping-ponging of storyline ridiculousness (I think by issue 10 in the original run, the Turtles had beaten Shredder, fought off the remaining Foot Clan, fought Baxter Stockman and the Mousers, and then been sent thorugh space and time to be outer space gladiators). However, the longer it went, the more straight-faced it became. It's kind of tough to clarify because it's been forever since I've read the original run, but I remember that the fact that the Turtles were outer space gladiators was deadly serious, both to the characters and the reader. Maybe that's the irony, but it's certainly less ironic than the ridiculous macho posturing monologuing of Raphael in the first few issues, or the dreadful comic booky "dialogue" the characters spewed during their first encounter with the Shredder.

Ian alone: Going back to that "History of Race and Films" class we took together, do you think that "24" is suffering the same problem as Crash - that the white man's perspective is constantly being reinforced? The fact that Kal Penn's character was mistaken for a terrorist while actually being a terrorist is the same kind of simplistic story shorthand that Crash used to have Ludacris and his pal be mistaken for carjackers while actually being carjackers. No good character (save the one Iranian woman in CTU) speaks Arabic in this universe; only the villains speak Arabic. (The Assad character is seen as kind of on the fence - his goodness is tied into preventing damage to his politics, less so than helping America or American citizens.) I see this show continuing down this path - that any Arabic character will only be introduced to be a villain; that any character built up to be sympathetic will end up being deceitful; and that, ultimately, the U.S. will have been right in denoting who is and isn't a terrorist. What's worse is that the show doesn't seem to care - better that the innocent should suffer some minor indignaties in the name of freedom - and that's just the kind of straight-faced portrayal of these events that we don't need right now.

Justin said...

Re: TMNT, I think the original Eastman-Laird was not so much a parody as a grim-n-gritty ninja comic that happened to involve mutant turtles. Sort of like Cerebus was always more a sprawling satire that happened to involve a talking aadrvark than a simple Conan parody(before Sim went crazy, anyway.)

And the new film intrigues me if only because Zhang Ziyi is doing English voice work. The hey?

Oh, and Ian: you deserve some sort of medal for working through that Girls Next Door set. And I think Charles Barkley is the originator of the "Maxim is for boys too scared to buy porno" line.

theoldboy said...

I wonder if the Taxi Driver game will have a meter you have to balance between "Inconspicuously Batshit Insane" and "Conspicuously Batshit Insane".

Dave Gibson said...

I'll reiterate that I haven't seen much 24 aside from this season (and I’ve already been “whatevered” ; ) but I'd still be interested in hearing why the purported brilliance of the previous years gives this sort of stuff a pass (for the moment anyways) I thought the casual racism is very much a piece of the Fox News mentality embedded in the show---it's really not subtle. If that’s a new development, I’ll bite. FOX has always been a little unpredictable (giving us Bill O’Reilly and The Simpson’s for instance) but, I too saw the shows as very much a piece with the FOX political slant; The "Invasion USA" reference was not meant to be tongue in cheek--what with the kneecap stabbings, sweaty middle-eastern men and booting of same out of moving subway cars; it's total Chuck Norris territory to me. I am disturbed about the casualness of the brutality on shows like 24 (and CSI etc) a vivid kneecap stabbing and old Keef' ripping someone's throat out with his teeth--it's just so bloody gratuitous, and plays to the bloodlust much like old Chuck and Arnie did. Understand, I watched in the first place because I’d heard many good things—and was genuinely shocked at how lame it was. Watch and enjoy if you like--but, I'm not interested.

Question: was Kal Penn's character supposed to be read as a contemporary of the kid across the street (bit of an age gap there) this was one of the many sloppy bits that drew me out of the story

Alex Jackson said...

I am disturbed about the casualness of the brutality on shows like 24 (and CSI etc) a vivid kneecap stabbing and old Keef' ripping someone's throat out with his teeth--it's just so bloody gratuitous, and plays to the bloodlust much like old Chuck and Arnie did.

I'll cheerfully confess that kneecap stabbing and throat ripping gets the adrenaline flowing for me. Vengence is a completely natural feeling. It's only human to want swift and direct resolution to a problem.

I know that you aren't an American Dave and may not have a vested interest in this country's welfare; but failing internment camps and swift Biblical justice what would be your five-point plan to neutralize the terrorist threat? It's not that they have a particularly good solution, but they have a solution of some kind.

Ivory towerism is perhaps morally preferable to indulging in bloodlust to any extent, but it's similarly counterproductive. I'm reminded of the fundamentalist on the Bruno show who says that he isn't attracted to men because the Bible says that it's wrong. How can you make moral judgments over desires that you don't even have?

Rick said...

James: No shame in posting about this, I mean there have been posts about The Secret of the Ooze, so what are we worried about?

And I was not commenting with irony. I think the latest commercial taking place at a party where the one Caveman sells out and actually uses Geico, I mean who else could possibly be the butt of the joke there? They are giving it to overly sensitive people, and that's about it. The commercials wouldn't be funny if driven by empathy.

Ok, since talking about this doesn't flaunt our intellectual prowess, lets instead discuss the wit of The Draughtsman's Contract. Ok, I guess that was said with Irony, now I should be ashamed.

Bill C said...

"How can you make moral judgments over desires that you don't even have?"

Just so's ya know, I'm stealing that.

Rick said...

I steal from Alex, too. His Miami Vice/Andrew Tracy tirade was fucking great, I frequently post that section as an AIM away message. I think Alex's top 10/bottom 10 was the most inspired list of 2006.

Alex, did you watch Period Peice yet?

Ian Pugh said...

Um yeah, Kal Penn, best known for playing Kumar in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle plays the teenage terrorist Ahmed in 24. Probably wrong of me to not use the proper names, but he might always be Kumar to me.

No need to clarify, Alex; you're quite correct to make the connection. Kumar and Van Wilder's Taj seriously hinder Penn's credibility (and ability) as a dramatic actor. Everyone complained that Bryan Singer didn't give Penn any dialogue as Luthor's lackey "Stanford" in Superman Returns, but it was the right decision: a recognizable face and a brief little laugh about his status as a hired goon without being intrusive about it. The clarification, in fact, should come from me; I just wanted to correct H-Man and direct him to my above comments about how "24" utilizes his character's name.

Jason sums things up nicely here, however, with his Crash comparison. Like I said, Walid's false imprisonment is still considered as a good thing -- because two of the first three people he meets there are directly connected to the crisis at hand! But as Alex said, it's a matter of reversing expectations for its own sake. "24" is indeed exciting on a guttural (or just plain primal) level, and it can be reasonably argued that it's merely a byproduct the simplistic "accents of evil" mentality that dominates American film during many of its country's wars over the last century. Certainly you can see the same in Arnie's pictures of the '80s, but it's not like they weren't aware of it--I doubt that there's a better exaltation and condemnation of brainless machismo than Predator or Commando. (Maybe Crank.)

But like some of those old actioners, "24" has a tendency to take itself too seriously, proselytize, and brush its most egregious actions underneath an ill-defined carpet of the greater good. This time it's dangerously teetering towards the incitement of a domestic race war. Again, the benefit of the doubt exists because we're only so far into it. We'll have to see where Karen Hayes and Sandra Palmer play into this brave new world.

Re TMNT: Could that dichotomy between Miller parody and knock-off be a response to the extensive Turtles merchandising? I'm not sure when the rights to the cartoon series were acquired, but the original comic appeared in '84 and the original series began in '87, which, all things considered, isn't a long time for a monthly comic book series -- and so with the awful, jokey cartoon embedding itself into the public consciousness, perhaps the artists and writers were overcompensating?

And I "imagine," Jason, that you're particularly adept at giving away sarcastic gifts. (In case anybody's wondering -- yep, we're old friends.)

Justin: Thanks. I would actually call "Stacked" the harder set to get through; while "Girls" merely tries to justify its existence as brainless fun, "Stacked" actively considers itself superior to you because of its subscription to the same. (It actually has a hearty laugh about how you have to be on drugs to like Monster-in-Law, ignoring the possibility that it may share a lot of the same qualities.) As for the "porno" line, it might just be apocryphal.

Rich said...

Justin: Celebrities and screen actors doing voice work scares me as it usually turns out badly. I'm not particularly worried about Zhang Yiyi, but IMDb has Kevin Smith listed as playing 'greasy chef' - ughhh. Oh well, Billy West's name is up there, too, so it's not all bad.

You know, that was one thing that was pretty good in the original TMNT flick - the voice work. I think the guy who did Splinter did English dub work for a lot of Chinese martial arts movies. I swear I've heard that same voice sampled on a Wu-Tang album.

Alex Jackson said...

I should have mentioned somewhere that the show's sins are somewhat mitigated by that scene where Jack stabs the terrorist in the knee but can't get any information and then Assad does the same procedure, but just does it more competently and efficiently and gets what they need. It's a key moment in Jack's character arc as we understand more fully why he now empathizes with him and why he now doubts his ability to fight; but it also seems to make a subtle dig at the series' inherent right-wing mentality. Both men may very well have been trained by the same government.

Alex Jackson said...


Period Piece is actually sitting on my DVD player. I've been taking so long writing my latest FFC review that I've cut myself off. Nearly finished though, so I might watch it tonight.

Rick said...

Ian, I still shudder at the thought of you watching all of "Stacked" and "The Girls Next Door" back-to-back. Ive had some grinding jobs in my past, but to me, that seems like being in hell

James said...

Rick said: "And I was not commenting with irony. I think the latest commercial taking place at a party where the one Caveman sells out and actually uses Geico."

Ok, I haven't seen that one. I take back my previous defense. Cheers!

Bill C said...

FFC's not just a job, Rick: it's an adventure.

Jason said...

Ian: I don't know - I guess my inability to see any supposedly inherent satire or parody in the original run is the way I remember reading those comics: black & white vs. color. The originals were these pulpy, trashy things I used to read on the cold, hard floor of my dad's basement workshop when I was 7. They were also some of the most violent things I'd read in comics at that point. Later, I received a pair of garrish, 32-color reprint books of those first 10 or so issues. Looking at those editions, yeah, I can better see the ridiculous storylines and hideous art as being parodies of the direction comic books were headed at the time. I don't know if Eastman and Laird sold the rights off within the first year, and so the cartoon may have had very little impact on the directions that the two were willing to go.

Still, remembering those trashy b&w versions of the original comic line, I can't help but see them as being pretty earnest about it. I mean, yeah, the origin story and some of the storylines may have been parodies, but I still think that the two really revered superhero and martial arts books in general, and were quite happy to use the "grim 'n gritty" 1980's comic landscape to slip this one by.

jer fairall said...

To get back to Ian's original question (easy for me, as I've never seen 24):

Are there any film series/characters/actors you're dying to see back in the saddle, despite your misgivings?

I've been waiting on a Gremlins 3 ever since I was about 12. Joe Dante's barely existant career sure could use it.

Joe M. said...

I wouldn't mind an Evil Dead 4 if it was done by Sam Raimi. The Spiderman films were okay, but watching the scene in the second one where Dr. Ock's arms go beserk and attack the medical crew around him only made me miss the gonzo days of early Raimi. Hearing about the remake of the original coming soon, I realized I wouldn't mind another installment of the series, even if it was more in the vein of the frenzied fun of Army of Darkness.

Oh, and about that remake: posters on the IMDB boards are actually lusting for Dane Cook to fill the shoes of Bruce Campbell... I found that a little chilling.

Ian Pugh said...

Raimi's been saying that he wants to make Evil Dead IV with Campbell after he's through with Spidey, but there's no telling when that'll be. Let's see how Campbell's own monster cinema fable My Name is Bruce turns out (both creatively and financially) before we formally ask again.

Sadly, my dream for a legitimate sequel to Darkman may be further hindered by the fact that Danny Elfman has disavowed Raimi after Spider-Man 2 and accused him of being a pod person. Nobody can trump the Batman soundtrack better than the composer himself.

Ditto on that chill, Joe. It's hard enough to find someone else to fill the shoes of a wide-eyed, physically-inclined schmuck like Ash, but you certainly shouldn't turn to any smart-ass comedians.

Rick: It was a hellish time indeed, but you know what you're in for when you sign up. (I admit that hearing the strangely menacing "World in Action" music in "Girls Next Door" was like an oasis in the desert -- that said, no one should ever have to listen to those commentaries.) FFC is indeed an adventure: surveying a wide spectrum of television has been a fascinating and delightfully maddening experience. I'm really proud to be on the team.

O'JohnLandis said...

To answer Dave's question:

The first two seasons of 24 are spectacular. The characters were still characters and the series was still dedicated to following the action from two perspectives: the anti-terrorist work of Jack and CTU, and the moral decisions of the policy makers. Season 1 created something genuine and tense; Season 2 elaborated and developed. There is a shocking act near the beginning of Season 2, and if you've watched the show in order (probably without having seen any of the recent stuff), it will get you.

Then Season 3 came along and sucked horribly. Characters started doing things it seemed they would never do, and the whole show started to seem self-consciously schematic. "Hey, it's Season 3 now, so let's make an arc. We'll have everyone freak out and do things we've worked very hard to establish that they'd never do. That's development, right?" I gave up and only recently started trying to get through Season 4. I'm 1/3 in and, so far, it's better than Season 3 but nowhere near the first two.

If you can somehow reclaim your 24 virginity, I recommend the first two seasons...then stop.

Anonymous said...

This old Hank Stuever essay is good reading for fans of early 24.


Dave Gibson said...

Thanks O' Landis--I'm definitely intrigued. Fans of 24 out there should check out "Spooks"--it shares some similar thematic concerns as 24 and it's just so gloriously ambigious.

Putting my anti-superhero bias aside for a moment--I'd pay big bucks to see Bruce Campbell as Captain Marvel (the Shazam one, not the acid trippy, Marvel one)

Jonathan said...

On the sequels-starring-Bruce-Campbell front, a little part of me died when I saw that Paul Giamatti is attached to Bubba Nosferatu. That can't possibly go well.

And, with all of the talk of Bruce Campbell, I'm surprised no one has mentioned this. Which is fantastic for its re-use of the wardrobe from the front cover of Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way.

And I thought 24 peaked with the, "Get me a hacksaw!," line in the season two premiere. Having repeatedly shown a willingness to kill off any of its supporting characters (except for Potatoface, who has her weird cult following of fans who'd likely abandon the show were she ever blown up) has, for me, robbed the show of a good deal of its tension.

James Allen said...

Re: 24

My, oh, my, I don't read the blog for a week and there's just so much to chew on isn't there?

First up, in reference to Dave's suggestion above, Spooks is a good show, and was compared in some ways to 24, although if you are looking for it in the US (or Canada), it's called MI-5. (It was on A&E for awhile, if anyone recalls.) It's available on DVD as well.

Now, onto 24. I agree with a couple of Alex's obsevations. The first being that the show counters expectations for obvious effect.

Take the early scene where the arab-looking man was trying to get onto the bus and was clearly rebuffed by the driver in a rather calous way. Ah, did the terrorist miss his bus? Nope, it was merely a decoy (by the writer, not a decoy in terms of plot), the guy in question was already on the bus. I'm surprised no one else here picked up on this because it is a very basic concept to the world of 24, in that constantly people are doing what they think is "right" and it backfires (or at the very least does nothing.) Here the obvious implication is that the bus driver kept going because the guy looked Arab, but his action was useless (and he ironoically saved the guy's life.)

And I also agree with Alex about a basic visceral reaction I got when Jack bit the guys neck, et al. It's hard to deny that it didn't get my heart racing.

That's a bit of an ongoing theme throughout a lot of Alex's writing, and one I agree with. If films connect with you on such a primal level, I think it is doing something right. If you feel uncomfortable with that feeling it's doing it even better. I think at times people try to deny or such feelings inside themselves. It's not that we have to surrender to such feelings, but I feel it's good to be in some sort of touch with them and figure out why such things get us going. I am of the philosophy that we all, deep down, have the capability of very base impulses. It both fascinates me and frightens me. (The trouble with most evil men is not that they're crazy, but that they are all too calculated.)

As far as the show in general, I find it hard to take it seriously politically, because it's just so absurd if you stopped to think about it. Jack is a sort of post 9/11 James Bond; he's more gritty and doesn't get laid nearly as much, but he's just as superheroic and unrealistic. The reversals are becoming more and more stock revelations and are thus more predictable. Even the nuke going off doesn't have as much punch dramatically because one blew up in season 2 (albeit in a desert, but still), a virus was released in season 3, and a couple nuclear reactors failed last season (or was it season 4?) Thus, the large loss of civilian life is nothing all that new. That they're going to manage to squeeze 6 seasons out of this format is nothing short of stunning when I think about it.

P.S. By the way, I own the first several issues of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" comic books and it was, at first, a total parody of Frank Miller's "Ronin," and the joke, such as it was, was that the characters played everything stone seriously.

The Captain said...


Notice he aimed to shoot Curtis right in the spine?

With the exception of the extremely uncomfortable "hey, maybe we were right to have death camps after all!" subplot, I loved every minute of the four episode opener. Episode 4 was insane - Curtis' death got to me (or, specifically, Jack's reaction) and although the nuke going off had been done before, never in such a short time span right in the middle of the city right in the middle of the action. Few films grab me the same way 24 grabs me - 24 is shot and created so effectively with such engaging characters and themes that, for me, it overcomes its blatant ridiculousness and other shortcomings (of which there are many, I don't deny).

Laugh me off here, but I love 24 because I feel it has real humanity to it. I feel for Jack, I feel for the characters around him, and I love their fragility. Point me in the direction of another TV series (or movie, for that matter) that has the balls to off 3 of its 5 main characters in the first episode of a new season, or that actually makes you care for an asshole like Ryan Chappelle just moments before he's to be executed, or that will kill the main character's pregnant wife, or would detonate a nuke in the middle of a major city, so on, so on. It's useless to point fingers at the show for not killing Jack - it'd be like killing off Bond in the middle of a film. No shit, Sherlock, he's not going to die. But he's not invincible. He gets tortured, beaten, scarred, shot, burnt, defribulated, so on, so on. Yes, the show isn't going to survive without Jack, but no doubt he'll have his end when the show does.

It's also shot and cut amazingly well. The score is and always has been great. The editing is superb, and even makes the ridiculous "real time" possible (despite scenes in which a wife and her husband who was shot in the neck a few hours ago get from the hospital to CTU in four minutes - implausible, but you don't notice it). The counting clock thing is more than a gimmick, it's utilized to add effectiveness (cutting to that clock in the middle of action implies the violence continues - Dessler's exploding death - and flashing the clock at the bottom of the screen masses on the tension, as the freaking show dares to show you something as irrelevant as what time of day it is as CTU agents rush to stop a biological weapon going off). I fucking hate Wong Kar Wai. With the exception of Happy Together, I have seen every one of his films and hated almost every one - shot superbly, with bright, rich colours, and exactly no humanity whatsoever. No reason to give a shit about whatever teenage-script Wong has acquired this time to address with his lovely colourful mise en scene and cinematography because every character is shit, or 2D, or shit, so on, so on. You're engaged by 24, even if you consider it trash, like Alex does.

"That's a bit of an ongoing theme throughout a lot of Alex's writing, and one I agree with. If films connect with you on such a primal level, I think it is doing something right. If you feel uncomfortable with that feeling it's doing it even better."

The thing is, Alex shouts a lot of controversial wank just to get attention. Don't get me wrong, I love Alex's writing and he's an important part of the FFC team, but he makes a lot of flat-out ridiculous generalisations that are easy to beat down - for example, the belief that "there's no video that shouldn't be watched". Go view SWAP.avi, my man. Anyway, just because films get a rise out of you, get an emotional reaction, that doesn't make them worthwhile. One of his best films of 2004 was that terrible shit The Passion of the Christ, a deeply affecting snuff film about Jesus. There is no point to this film, it's a savage excruciating porno that serves no purpose unless you're a fundamentalist sicko without the common sense to realise that the wounds inflicted onscreen aren't even close to being realistic. It gets a rise out of you like Gasper Noe's similarly excruciating pornos do, without any point whatsoever. I like to be moved, I like to be awed, I like to be impressed, I like to be disgusted and pained, but for some point, some reason. For some meaning. And that's not to say every film has to have some subtext, some meaning - but if you're going to bare witness to child-fucking, for example, shouldn't it mean something? I'm looking at you, Mysterious Skin, you piece of excrement. I too could make a film about children being molested in graphic detail, in such a way that would repel audiences everywhere, without any reason whatsoever. Let's all step up and be impressed because it got an emotional reaction out of us?

theoldboy said...

You know, Passion of the Christ, as much I am inclined to mock it today for simply being Christian, is legitimate art, and just dismissing it as snuff is sort of ignoring the artful execution (no pun intended) of it. It's a bit like saying those famous paintings and statues of Jesus all bloody and messed up are snuff paintings and statues no matter how well they're painted or sculpted by the artist, and Mel Gibson is definitely an artist. He's a pretty good artist in his insane way, though he's an artist like that kid in art class who always drew people being disemboweled was an artist, and he draws people being disemboweled very well and he's very passionate about people being disemboweled. Combine a martyr complex and alcohol and shake well.

The Captain said...

I have no doubt that it is extremely effective, and that it's "art", but "art" means nothing - the event of postmodernism means that anything is "art" and anything is "good". Bullshit, I say. The Bashin' of the Christ is a long, painful endurance test of a film for no reason other than to make the audience suffer the supposed pains that Christ felt for us. It's well made, yes, but it's also vile reductionist bullshit - isn't the Christian mantra that he died for our sins, not suffered - endlessly for them? You don't feel for Jesus while you watch that film, you feel for yourself - you're enduring that shit. Lots of people have died much worse deaths, why not make a film about them?

Ok, here's the real clincher with that atrocity of a film - it's the scene in which Mel has our wacky executioners spreading Jay See out on the cross and whack one nail into his arm, then they go to cram in that other little devil and they find that Christ's arm wont stretch that far. The solution? They break his arm out, obviously! The good times! BAM, second nail in, we're ready to raise our Savior into the air, but then, the DIRECT FUCKING NEXT SHOT, his arms are hanging loosely with slack. He should be spread out like a t, but he's not - that mortifying sequence with the extra arm breaking and stretching to get that second nail in is just a little bit more extra nonsensicle suffering that we, I mean, Jesus, goes through. It's all overbearing excess to nail home why we should love our lord - the Passion was performed for saps hundreds of years ago, why is having it performed now on a high budget to a huge worthwhile?

You can acclaim it for lots of reasons - for being effective filmmaking - for being excessively violent/gruesome/torturous - etc, etc - but do any of those make it a good film? I don't think so. When you're reviewing a film, you're talking about how satisfied you are with it - when you ask a bystander what the worst film they've ever seen is, they'll rarely flock to the actually worst film they've ever seen, they will usually jump to the film that disappointed them the most. Ultimately, you review a film, you're arguing for it, arguing why it satisfied you - which is why the common idiot will enjoy Blood Diamond and say "It made me think." Sure it did, dumbass. Most people just want to be entertained. Well, fair enough, a couple of hours escapism can be all you're in for, but you don't even get that out of the Passion. It's long and painful and maybe that'll satisfy a lot of people, but not I, not for no reason, for no depth, no intellectual engagement, no nothing but viscera. That scene with Mary and the flashback to the falling child is one of the few moments of the film in which you get any identifiable humanity. (On this note, also consider how faceless and ridiculous our wacky villains are in the Passion - the whipping and whipping goes on so long - I'm talking from scourging to whipping on the street to whipping up the hill to whipping at the cross and so on, so on - with such extreme pleasure that no one in their right mind could possibly buy it as a version of reality).

I oppose Christianity, but I would probably like an intelligent film, intelligent engaging discourse on Christ. Tell a story. Engage me. Challenge me. Whatever. I like to have come away from a good film thinking I'm better for it, that I've learnt something in some way. The only thing I learnt from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is that if the exhausted, furiously bleeding person who's been whipped for ~10 hours and is now dragging a 200 pound wooden cross uphill to their grave collapses and falls over, the only way to get them up is to whip them some more. Thanks, Mel. Really. Thank you.

Dave Gibson said...

My viewing the grotesque overkill of shows like 24 or CSI as repellent is hardly synonymous with some sort of latent Puritanism; making that kind of leap is pretty simplistic. I can think of a number of films which forced me into uncomfortable, morally conflicting arenas (Soldonz’s brilliant “Palindromes” is a recent example which leaps to mind) as well as films I simply felt were exploitative and ugly (PotC is a great example) It’s another way of saying that, 24 or CSI doesn’t challenge me on any level (even a purely visceral one) which is part of why the overt gore just seems so gratuitous. Now, make that same transgressive case for: I Spit On Your Grave, Salo or A History of Violence—and I’m more interested, not because the violence in those films is less disturbing—but because I’d argue it serves a purpose a shade more complex than anything offered up on the shows I mentioned; and it’s not just the difference between a knee cap stabbing or bludgeoning by fire extinguisher. Violence can also serve great, skillfully made trash too; which is why I can enjoy a terrific entertainment like “Die Hard” but be revolted by irredeemable and irresponsible garbage like the “Guinea Pig” movies. In order to indulge in your baser nature, you do need a moral compass to begin with; meaning that if bloodlust is served so easily—I’d suggest that no transgression is taking place at all; which is why I think that the line about criticizing impulses that you lack yourself is good copy—but ultimately meaningless. You can get a rise out of people by shouting fire in a crowded theatre too; doesn’t mean that it serves any function other than rabble-rousing.

jer fairall said...

I like to be moved, I like to be awed, I like to be impressed, I like to be disgusted and pained, but for some point, some reason. For some meaning. And that's not to say every film has to have some subtext, some meaning - but if you're going to bare witness to child-fucking, for example, shouldn't it mean something? I'm looking at you, Mysterious Skin, you piece of excrement. I too could make a film about children being molested in graphic detail, in such a way that would repel audiences everywhere, without any reason whatsoever. Let's all step up and be impressed because it got an emotional reaction out of us?

Alex kind of addressed this in his blurb on Into Great Silence/The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, actually. Furthermore, I'll testify to having been moved, awed and deeply impressed by Mysterious Skin, a film that I think has a lot more layers to it than simply graphic descriptions of child molestation. It's dealt with unflinchingly, and some may be furthered bothered by the subject matter being tackled by a filmmaker with a history of making hipster exploitation films (something I think that most of the critics of the film were able to get beyond), but I actually think that Araki's tendency towards glib shock works for the film. It not only refuses to sanitize the material in the way that I think a much slicker film would have, it also cuts through Araki's bullshit by forcing him to confront material that neither he nor we can detach ourselves from enough to turn into a sick joke. The source material and *most* of the performances (though I think Walter deeply underestimated the film, he's right about how bad Michelle Trachtenberg sucks), in other words, finally lend some substance to his empty-flash style. We can debate the appropriateness of the Psycho reference, but in addition to the child abuse material this film has, I think, fascinatingly drawn characters (particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt's), a touching small-town-outsider friendship subplot, a haunting and highly cinematic visual style (and that Cocteau Twins/Sigur Ros score) and an emotional wrecking ball of an ending. Point is, there's so much at work here that I never felt like I was just wallowing in the horror of child sexual abuse for no apparent reason other than that, hey, it exists.

But hey, if you didn't like the film, you didn't like it. I can sympathize with you dismissing it so harshly if only made you feel bad, particularly when you've had to hear so many people go on about how great it is, as this was exactly my experience with Keane.

James Allen said...


Good points on 24, many of which I agree with wholeheartedly. Rereading what I wrote, I realized that in my analysis of what went on in the first four hours I forgot to mention that I did enjoy the show, and think the editing, music, et al make it incredible viewing regardless of how preposterous some things might become. They somehow manage to at least keep the "realistic" atmosphere going through skillful means. Like I said, to get six seasons out of such a format, without resorting to self-parody (at least not yet) is quite a feat.

Don't get me wrong, I love Alex's writing and he's an important part of the FFC team, but he makes a lot of flat-out ridiculous generalisations that are easy to beat down...

Well, Cap, I don't know if all his writing is "wank," although he does hopelessly meander in some of his essays, but I give him credit for broaching some issues other people don't, and that's one issue (a film affecting the viewers more base instincts) that he pretty much hit on the head for me. (I can only assume it was a genuine thought he had and he wasn't writing it for affect, but who knows?)

The thing is, we applaud death all the time. It's just that it is easily accepted when presented in a "neat" context (the audience cheers when Luke kills untold thousands on the Death Star), but if a guy has to bite out one guy's jugular, that somehow going too far; presumably because it's bloody and because it's personal.

Alex Jackson said...

Now, make that same transgressive case for: I Spit On Your Grave, Salo or A History of Violence—and I’m more interested, not because the violence in those films is less disturbing—but because I’d argue it serves a purpose a shade more complex than anything offered up on the shows I mentioned

Well, A History of Violence is kind of sticky as far as this topic goes; but in regards to Salo and I Spit on Your Grave the violence isn't entertaining or particularly erotic and as such an argument could be made that its actually less disturbing than something like 24.

The reason that violence is good in the arts and not in reality.

Real people have relationships with other real people and if you harm one person (say out of revenge) the action has a ripple effect and you end up harming several other people who had nothing to do with it. Since it's always going to take three or four eyes to pay back the one, more harm is being done than good and it it's immoral from a utilitarian point of view.

Also of course on a very rudimentary level we involved in a social contract saying that if you don't hit me over the head with a brick I won't hit you over the head with a brick. I can prevent myself from ever having a brick thrown to my head if I agree to never throw a brick at anybody else's head.

I think these are pretty solid ethical principals, but the point is that neither one hinges on the idea that those feelings are bad ones to have or that those fantasies are bad ones to indulge (if not to realize).

I think that's a solid dictim, you can't make moral judgments on feelings you don't have. Ethics is all about choices, and if you don't have a choice you aren't making ethical decisions.

Still haven't seen Guinea Pig, but irredeemable I can understand. Irresponsible I cannot. Art doesn't have any responsibility. I'll stand by that. Art lies, or at the very least provides a very splintered view of reality, the function being that, if successful, it can help us get a fuller impression on the world around us. But it doesn't have any responsibility; if you ever hear me say anything like that I urge you to call me on it.

Haven't seen SWAMP.AVI yet, I think I can safely presume it's NSFW. But I'll give it a try when I get a chance on the home computer; obviously I don't know how I'm going to react until I see it and if it's really "beyond the pale" then that is somewhere I have to explore.

I've started watching Period Piece by the way, and the teddy bear sex scenes are hilarious. Just... wow; I'm sorry guys but this is something new.

theoldboy said...

Alex, it's SWAP.AVI, not SWAMP.AVI, though from that Something Awful article it might as well have been called that. I'm considering whether to throw up a bit in my mouth, and I didn't even look at the pictures. You have fun, but I draw the line somewhere between Cannibal Holocaust and ugly South American girls shitting into each other's assholes, which would at least be an interesting juxtaposition if they were beautiful and an interesting image if they didn't start eating it afterwards.

The Captain said...

I don't think 24 is grotesque overkill, Dave - it's particularly effective in either delivering long build up to its pay off sequences or shocking us with sudden, "realistic" deaths and violence. It's never piled on (or rarely? I'm more and more uncomfortable with the torture in S4, particularly of Behrooz) or just there to be there, it tends to have a certain weight, taking toll on characters and so on, so on. Not that 24 is anything close to a version of reality, but I'd imagine in such situations, lots of people would perish and it could happen just as spontaneously.

As to the "wank" comment, I'm not throwing stones at all of Alex's work, just the occasional flat out generalisation like that. Lord knows I'm spinning a lot of wank here too - as much as I despise The Passion, I like Guinea Pig, as art - not that it's something I want to watch a lot, but it's digusting and repellant and made specifically for the purpose of demonstrating how impressive their special effects could be to be disgusting and repellant. They're vile horror films and nothing more, no pretension, no church groups getting their whole sermon out there + children to go see it so they can get closer to God. Meaning, likely my offense to The Passion has nothing to do with the filmmaking, rather the worldy reaction to it, and also how prepared I was to watch the thing, surrounded by families and children. Yeesh.

Likewise with Mysterious Skin, and the fact that I found nothing in there except a desperate exploitative story about two messed up children who grew into messed up adults. I like the hopelessness but I didn't feel anything else for the film, no reason to share their trauma, nothing overall except this feeling that molested children are damaged. No big surprises there - "be good to your children" all over again. This here, that I'm saying, is wank as well - reductionist, it is - but I'm yet to find a critique that has convinced me that the film has anything else but that pointless exploitation, hurting you to serve no real purpose. Having made some pretty unsettling short films myself, in and out of university, with relative ease, I don't think just getting a rise out of the audience is enough to make the experience worthwhile.

Has anyone seen David Firth's animations over at Fat Pie? He is infamous now for his Salad Fingers shorts but I'm much more fond of the following: Milkman, Valentine's Day, and Christmas.

Ian Pugh said...

Big fan of Dave Firth, Cap. You know you've got something special when even the pop culture references are rendered terrifying and pseudo-Lynchian -- check out his bizarre Street Fighter II non-sequiturs on the Burnt Face Man series.

By the way -- never thanked you properly for the kind words on my blogpost on the Max Headroom Pirate, so thought I'd just post here: much obliged.

Walter_Chaw said...

Sort of on topic, sort of not: has anyone seen Nacho Cerda's films here?

Alex Jackson said...

I have. Saw some kind of trilogy of shorts. The first was typical film school bullshit. The second onem, Aftermath struck me as a little labored. It's very narrative based but there is no dialogue and so this comes of as self-consciously arty. And the protagonist fits the profile of a serial killer/necrophiliac but not the kind of necrophiliac that would work in a morgue. All the same the film, in particular the gag at the end, is extremely effective and disturbing. Had similiar feelings about the last one, but it was extremely visually accomplished, even more than Aftermath.

The Captain said...

Where can I order this?!

Cap said...

This thread is dead, but still I wanted to give props for Alex for looking at Pirates XXX over on I Viddied It - in particular, the reference to also unlikely-high-budget-gimmick Snakes on a Plane, the highbrow discussion on pornography as art, and that final few lines that summarise the review, which I think are pretty accurate.