FILM
Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo
Gabriel Ricard

Movies featured in the column come from a pool of movies that was created with the publication of the first edition of Captain Canada in March 2012.

I’m so selfish, I sometimes use other people’s birthdays to measure certain spans of time in my own life. In terms of Drunk Monkeys, the last four years can disguise themselves as forty quite well. I’m amazed at the time, place, and state of my life in early-2012, when the endlessly amazing Matthew Guerruckey asked me if I “had anything else I thought Drunk Monkeys would like.” 

I gave them the first issue of this column. And that was it. I’ve written sixty-two editions of Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo for DM. I’ve written a film essay series on the works of Richard Linklater. I’ve turned in dozens of book reviews, travel essays, and interviews. I’ve had the chance to participate in live-tweet marathons of movies. I’ve had the privilege of being part of every print anthology Drunk Monkeys has ever put out. 

And I’ve had the chance to shake Matthew’s sensual-but-firm hand, and tell him in person that Drunk Monkeys is an achievement worthy of his countless talents. Matthew is one of the greats in editing, in addition to being multifaceted, passionate, funny writer. Drunk Monkeys turning four years old doesn’t surprise me. So many people contribute to Drunk Monkeys’ greatness. However, Matthew and his wife S.C. Stuckey (another great writer) create the heart that drives it all. Five years of Drunk Monkeys is a victory for literary magazines that have to get by on strained personal resources alone. It is a victory for poets, novelists, critics, and other artists who are looking for sincere, durable places for their ideas to breathe and be heard. 

Drunk Monkeys is as good as it ever gets. Five years? We’re going to be around for a hell of a lot longer than that.

In honor of Mr. Chips and all the rest, I’m going back to day one. I’ve re-watched five of the ten movies I reviewed for the first edition of this column. The idea was to see how my perceptions of those movies have changed over those five-years-disguised-as-fifty.

I’m impressed, and definitely a little surprised, by the results. I wasn’t expecting quite so much cynicism, but there you have it. Some movies don’t hold up quite as well on repeat viewings. Others surprised me by better connecting to whatever was going on in my head at the time. 

It’s interesting, and I wish I could do it more often.

The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)

Image © Columbia Pictures. 

Image © Columbia Pictures. 

Original score: A+
Today’s score: A+

Then: “There’s a slow, strange crawl to this Jack Nicholson/Bruce Dern film that’s absolutely addictive.”

Now: I wish this movie had more people behind it. Watching Nicholson’s uncharacteristically small, nervous portrayal against Bruce Dern as a charmer with half of a real plan is still the highlight of this month. The constant contrast between horrifying optimism and the decaying city backdrop will hold you for its entire run.

Yes Man (2008)

Original score: C
Today’s score: D-

Then: “He (Jim Carrey) holds the weak story and supporting cast together, but it’s obvious that his heart isn’t in it.”

Now: Am I losing my shine for dumb, but ultimately well-meaning comedies? I guess so. I must have been in a good mood when I saw Jim Carrey try to carry an entire movie on the kind of dumbass premise that usually stars Eddie Murphy. The premise got boring at about ten minutes. It got a lot uglier from there. 

Everyone is insufferable, with Carrey only being slightly less repulsive than the rest. After those ten minutes roll by, you’re left with an uncomfortable silence. Everyone in the movie knows they’re doomed. They have to, or that’s at least my romantic vision of things. They know that uncomfortable silence is going to loom, and they keep their enthusiasm going strong. Everyone tries to keep this thing going, but it just can’t. It’s a bad premise for a pretty forgettable movie.

Reds (1981)

Original score: A+
Today’s score: B+

Then: “At three-and-a-half-hours Warren Beatty’s Reds, based on the life and work of American Socialist John Reed, is a long haul indeed, but anyone willing to stick through it can expect an epic of story and acting that never collapses under its own ambitious weight.”

Now: That’s actually the entire review. It’s definitely a movie that you can’t help but appreciate. Say what you want about Warren Beatty. There’s something admirable about a man who is willing to gamble such high personal and professional stakes on his confidence in his own vision. The movie itself is deep in history, story, and characters. 

Reds is entirely too long, even for an epic, but Beatty’s enigmatic performance and a really good supporting cast keeps the movie riveting for the most part. It just can’t quite shake its self-importance, which is painfully evident in the some of the more glaringly pointless scenes. I’m still impressed with everything this movie portrays and achieves. I’m just less impressed the second time around.

Eagle vs. Shark (2007)

Original score: C+
Today’s score: B+

Then: “Quirkiness in a movie is a lot like cuteness. Too much of it can sink the whole thing. And although Eagle vs. Shark suffers from this a little too much it’s difficult to be completely cynical.”

Now: It certainly makes sense that Taika Waititi directed this and What We Do in the Shadows. Both movies deal with tightly-knit, small communities of outsiders. While What We Do in the Shadows has better characters, Eagle vs. Shark was a much more enjoyable experience on second viewing than I ever would have guessed. It helped to remember that the characters, two movie-quirky weirdos who begin an offbeat courtship, bugged me more than once. When I knew that, and accepted that, it was a lot easier to get behind their back-and-forth love struck war of the awkward. The 88 minute running time is just long enough to get right at the edge of tedious. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is.

Sucker Punch (2011)

Image © Warner Bros. 

Image © Warner Bros. 

Original score: D-
Today’s score: D-

Then: “Style over substance can in fact work, but I was so conscious of director Zach Snyder’s (who also came up with the story) desire to create a visual, turbulent and violent wonderland that I was bored long before the epic conclusion came around.”

Now: Getting over how hilariously shitty that sentence is, I’m not surprised that my opinion of Sucker Punch remains unchanged. It’s very pretty, but it’s also hilariously pretentious, in spite of being one of the dumbest action movies ever made. I’m sure Zach feels very strongly that there is something powerful, feminist, and real in his story of a mental patient who becomes a badass in an elaborate, steampunk-influenced fantasy world. I’m sure he believes in his depressing, unintentional butchering of D.C.’s poor foundation for their films. 

Sucker Punch is a loud and visually amazing. It just makes you almost completely forget that, over a running time of 110 minutes that has zero fucking business being 110 minutes. And the movie’s self-assurance that it is anything more than a wonder of sight and sound is so overbearing. The movie hits you with that self-assurance so hard and so often, you eventually stop paying attention to those sights and sounds. It isn’t unreasonable to feel like Sucker Punch is just a big, stupid, pathetically arrogant bully. It demands to be taken seriously, and it withers as soon as you do. Snyder got lucky on Watchmen. He should have retired immediately afterwards.