Admittedly, I don’t really get all the fuss about Ben Affleck in the Batman/Superman spectacular, or Charlie Hunnam in the 50 Shades of Grey film adaptation. In terms of public shit fits, the anger and disbelief, the shrill voices of the people who could totally do a better job with the casting, than those shameless, grotesque Hollywood whores, has died down a fair bit (for now). People have other things to complain about, although I’m sure a lot of those deeply wounded people will be back, when more information on those movies becomes public.
It’s not that I’ve never experienced nerd rage before. It’s not even that I’m incapable of a little empathy for people who are perhaps getting a little too aggravated. I get annoyed about new versions of old material failing to match up to my perceptions and opinions. I roll my eyes at casting decisions that are completely baffling to me. I can hate movies with every fiber of my being. I’ll make a snide comment about it on the internet. Depending on my mood, I may even get into one of those giddily pointless arguments with someone who sees things differently than I do.
I get all that. It can be a lot of fun. It’s pretty much a giant waste of time, but it blows off steam, and if it’s one of the ways in which you enjoy your fandom, then by all means. Even if I didn’t indulge in those conversations, I still wouldn’t see much of a point in judging those who did.
But the level of din that greeted the news of Hunnam in 50 Shades and Affleck in the Batman/Superman love-fest? The collective cry of disbelief, hurt feelings, and a completely undeserved sense of entitlement?
Jesus Christ, people, calm down. Try to remember that just because you love something, and just because you patronize it with your business, that doesn’t make your favorite books, films, comics, and shows subject to your whims and scholarly opinions. Have those opinions, discuss them with other people, share them with the creators. But please, stop treating news that strikes you as unpleasant as the kind of thing that makes even the most spoiled children stop, stare at you with wonder, and mutter “Fuck, man, just take it easy. It’s probably gonna be okay.”
Because it probably is going to be okay. It’s understandable to express skepticism with something that you just can’t picture working in your head. It is well within your rights to age forty years, as a payoff for getting that worked up about movie casting news. That doesn’t mean crapping your pants with the vengeful, bile-black stew of your righteous rage is necessary. Is it really hard to just wait and see what happens?
Even if you are that committed to your opinion, wouldn’t it be potentially more satisfying to state your thoughts, play the waiting game, see the damn movie with the best open mind possible, decide you still don’t like it, and then tell everyone you told them so? Granted, some people will do the pants-crapping thing, hate the movie every single day leading up to release, see the movie, and then still take to Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter/Reddit/Social Media Hub for Indignation #345 to tell everyone they told them so anyway, but is that even remotely fun? Are people craving your wisdom with vacant eyes and shaky hands?
None of this is new territory. People have been sharing their pop culture nervous breakdowns, taken to indulgent, slightly disturbing levels for years now. The internet just made that more of a thing. The rise of social networking has simply given people more reasons to scream about injustices that will apparently haunt them the rest of their days. Is it worse than ever? I kind of feel like it might be, but I can’t say for certain, and I’m not smart or motivated enough to prove that suspicion right or wrong.
All I know is that it would be nice to see the passion people displayed for Ben Affleck as Batman put towards something that could actually enrich lives in some meaningful way. It’s nice to have distractions, but when those distractions are leaving physical cracks in your keyboard, something is just a teensy bit off.
I know. All this wisdom is coming from the guy who suffers a mild concussion, in one way or another, every time someone on Facebook or Tumblr treats the 90’s like they happened forty fucking years ago.
The Naked Kiss (1964): A+
One of Martin Scorsese’s favorite filmmakers, Samuel Fuller has a filmography that has to be experienced, in order to be properly believed. His career has numerous starting points for novices to his singular concept of the noir film (although this was not the only genre he covered). The Naked Kiss is easily one of the best. One of Fuller’s main talents as a filmmaker was his ability to create deeply flawed characters, stick them in circumstances beyond their control, and let us watch them try to keep at least a prototype concept of sanity from crumbling. While everything around them quickly goes to hell, and then manages to go a little lower than that. In other words, Fuller was a master, with what most of us know the noir film to be. However, he was never afraid to manipulate the formula as he saw fit. There are countless examples of this in The Naked Kiss. The first few minutes of the film, in which Kelly (the intensely good Constance Towers), a prostitute, decides to make a career change, is likely going to be one of the best first chapters of a film you’ve ever seen. There’s an unhinged jazz vibe to the beginning of the movie, which continues on, as Kelly tries to and fails to create a new identity for herself in another town. A signature of noir is that trouble follows the protagonist, no matter where they go, and regardless of what they do. Kelly’s journey over the course of the film’s dizzying rush of 90 minutes is a sad, often frightening one. Certainly not a horror movie, The Naked Kiss is nonetheless a very unnerving event. This is realized in the way the movie is made, and certainly in the performances by Towers and the rest of the cast (particularly Michael Dante as a wealthy, dangerous charmer). The surreal touches in The Naked Kiss are not due to the film’s age. It’s the energy of the movie as it was created in 1964, and it holds up incredibly well in 2013. That this movie is also a commentary on salvation and small-town mob mentality makes it a film that again, has to be experienced, in order to believe that it contains all these things.
Bullitt (1968): A+
Steve McQueen as Lt. Frank Bullitt is one of the most enduring images of cool in cinema history. That’s a good enough introduction to a movie that is still one of the best cop dramas of all time. Purely on the merits of its plot, the story of Bullitt finding himself mired in political corruption and mafia dealings, all the while babysitting a mob witness with a huge bulls eye on his back, Bullitt is a hell of a lot of fun. However, there are two main draws that give Bullitt its enduring allure. One is McQueen’s stoic tough guy performance. The other is the series of brilliantly-filmed (director Peter Yates is also responsible for The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which you should see), intensely satisfying, game-changing car chases along the streets of San Francisco. Both of these things retain the same appeal they did in 1968. Bullitt is very much the product of its time, but that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have the same white-knuckle power to impress that gave way to so many imitators. Some of those imitators broke ground on their own, while others were dismal, hollow copycats. Those imitators are still around today. All of them owe a tribute to Bullitt, which is a must-see for anyone who digs a car chase. Watch for Robert Duvall, as a cab driver who gives Bullitt the score on what’s going down.
My Life as a Dog (1985): B-
As a depiction of childhood, in all its confusion and terrifying adventures (something that adults seem largely indifferent to), My Life as a Dog, the film by Lasse Hallström (who received a Best Director Oscar nomination for it) is one of the best movies on that particular subject ever made. You could say that this because it is so unlike any other film about childhood ever made. Yet it shares that universal touch with the best of them, of being able to make us understand exactly how beautiful, painful, and juvenile it all is in retrospect. Much of why the film was and still is so perfect comes from a stellar, relatable script, taken from Reidar Jönsson’s funny, saddening novel. It’s also an appealing touch to find a movie populated with the kind of eccentrics who each make their mark in their own way, and who could each have an entire film devoted to their story. However, it is Anton Glanzelius, as young Ingemar, who makes this film the gem that it is. We watch as Ingemar’s world changes all around him. We become completely engaged, as Ingemar tries to make sense of his mother’s terminal illness (as a very true-to-life nod to how children generally are, Ingemar is too busy with his own life to notice), or the way he is separated from his brother to go live relatives. Ingemar endures a lot during My Life as a Dog. To watch him become the first shade of the adult we imagine he will eventually become reveals the film’s marvelous blend of humor, grief, and the casually-revealed oddities that pass through this moment in Ingemar’s childhood. Everything in My Life as a Dog is a flawless portrayal of Ingemar’s journey towards better understanding that there is indeed a great big world around him. He is a protagonist that is sweet, stupid, kind, arrogant, and wonderful. In other words, he’s a child. It’s easy to see why My Life as a Dog was one of Kurt Vonnegut’s favorite movies. My Life as a Dog understands the contradiction of how silly and deadly serious life is. Most of all, when we’re at an age in which we’re slowly but surely coming to appreciate that fact.
Premium Rush (2012): B
For fans of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon, Premium Rush is a minor but endlessly likable showcase of their talents. A short synopsis of the film’s plot, in which a bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) accidently becomes involved in the bad-to-absolutely-fucked dealings of a crooked cop (featuring a really fun, intense performance by Michael Shannon), does not accurately explain the satisfying, uncomplicated pleasure of watching this movie. Although David Koepp is a very good screenwriter/director (I’m not going to list anything, because it’s best if you simply Google his name for yourself), it is admittedly difficult to imagine liking this movie as much as I did, were it not for the two stars. That’s not to say the film’s quick pace and strong script aren’t pluses. It’s just that the main appeal of this movie is that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon are excellent actors, doing an excellent job with very good material. Premium Rush won’t change your life, but you will be glad you gave some time over to a movie that was sadly overlooked, during the madness of the 2012 summer movie season.
Movie 43 (2013): F-
Don’t do it. Don’t be a hero. You may have heard something about Movie 43, the movie that answered America’s cry to see Hugh Jackman with prosthetic balls dangling from his neck (no, that’s not even remotely as funny as it sounds). You may have heard about a series of skits by various directors (including Brett Ratner, Peter Farrelly, and James Gunn), featuring famous names doing astonishingly tasteless things. You may have also heard that the movie was decimated by critics, in the sort of way that inevitably makes people curious to see if it really is all that bad. It is. Don’t be curious. If you want the laughably awful, go somewhere else. I am at a complete loss to remember the last time sitting through a movie was such a cruel endurance test. If you want the truth of the matter, the segment featuring Johnny Knoxville, Sean William Scott, and Gerard Butler, with two friends trying to interrogate a leprechaun into giving them its pot of gold, is as close to amusing as this movie gets. Everything else culminates in a very intense feeling that will haunt you, long after the movie is over. It certainly haunted me. You will realize that if you sit through the first two segments, and decide to go through with it to the very, very bitter end, if you manage that, then one thing is very clear. Your life lacks structure, and you are in dire need of something better to do with your time. Don’t be like me. Don’t be reminded of such a thing. If you’re on the fence as to whether or not your life is a savage waste of time, avoid Movie 43, and live on the fence just a little longer. Life will be sweeter that way. Food will taste better. Vodka will not be the opening sentence to waking up in a hot-air balloon four states over. The skies will be clearer, kinder. The sucking pit of despair that is reality will remain just outside your door.