Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rocking the mockumentary

Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck take a ride down the white-water rapids of the mockumentary and drag the audience along for fun.

I'm not sure if I'M STILL HERE is more THIS IS SPINAL TAP or THE BLAIRE WITCH PROJECT because it feels like the latter, which is good. Phoenix has said they were inspired by the seriously terrifying rise of reality TV shows and that industry's insistence they were not scripted. As entertainment insiders, Affleck and Phoenix want you to know all those Survivor obstacle courses and Wife Swap marriage meltdowns have their poker game tells.

Phoenix is absolutely mesmerizing from start to finish. He's a mumbling, smoldering wad of celebrity persona drowning in his own stew of self absorption. His bizarrely meek assistants are arrayed around him in a ratty Hollywood villa -- the kind of unkempt real estate you'd expect to see lurid shots of on Entertainment Tonight detailing another celebrity meltdown.

The assistants arrange plane tickets for him, make desperate calls to music producers and struggle to find "JP" drugs in the middle of the night while traveling. One (Antony Langdon) strikes back at Phoenix in a particularly raunchy fratboy revenge scene -- and all I can think of is: David Spade and his supposed fist-a-cuffs with a former assistant. (Affleck has insisted ALL of the film was fabricated even the faux feces which was made up of hummus and coffee grounds).

Everyone visits the celebrity "JP" -- Ben Stiller and Edward James Olmos among them. And it's Olmos who manages to steal one scene from Phoenix's over-the-top character by giving a speech that is part inspirational and part utter bullshit.

The L.A. Times reviewer sniggered there was 'more male frontal nudity than you’d find in some gay porn'. Bitch, please. It's good to know the MPAA aren't the only homophobic twits deciding the fate of film but, if movie critics are that intimidated by a 2-second shot of a guy's wilted turtle, they should stick to reviewing Michael Bay's crap.

The most provocative sequences in the film are when Phoenix is in character and interacting with people who were not in on the joke. Their slack-jawed stares and stammering conversations create the kind of cinéma vérité French filmmakers dream about.

It's a shame the Hollywood machine was too stupid to see the genius in this film. The joke's on Tinseltown, the industry too busy self congratulating to truly laugh at itself.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Analysis of female characters in comic books

This is pretty interesting, though he kinda drops the ball at the end of the webcast when he fails to mention prominent "progressive" writers of female characters (I'm thinking of you, Brian K. Vaughan).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Censorship is un-American but ...

I saw something at ComiCon a few weeks ago and it's been bothering me ever since. I'm THE last person on earth to advocate any sort of censorship, especially since it gets me lumped together with evangelists, Harry Potter haters and other groups I can't stand.

But I saw a graphic novel (comic book for the uninitiated) that made every single Matrix or Schwarzenegger movie positively pale in comparison. The Matrix scenes where the bullets fall like raindrops seem grade school acceptable compared to this graphic novel. Every lame (is there any other kind?) slasher flick conservatively used fake blood compared to Crossed.

Here's what happened: I walked into Comicon and over to the Avatar Press booth (no relation to the film). Glancing at the covers of all the issues of Crossed on display I immediately thought: zombies. After all, their booth wasn't too far away from Max Brook's. So I prepared for decapitations of the undead and started thumbing through a copy.

A main panel (that's comic talk for large illustration) on page three of one issue showed a male character (mostly clothed) raping a female character (totally nude) from behind. That was on page three. Then there were stabbings, decapitations, slashings, more rapes, shootings and, oh yeah, a lot of these violent acts? Were being carried out by male characters (generally clothed) against female characters (generally partially nude). Chainsaws and fire axes included! I could be wrong, but I think there was a panel depicting a male character cutting a female character's nipples off. With a pair of pruning clippers.

I put the copy back in the display rack and glanced at the booth minder. I think he was one of the main artist/creators. He was busy working on a large illustration (fortunately it was just a character's face in a rictus of rage under the banner title). He was chatting into his cell phone. A few twentysomething white guys stood in a loose line waiting for him to autograph their copies or tell him how much they loved Crossed. They all had a slightly downtrodden, whipped dog look to them, like these were young guys who had been cashiering at the local AM/PM since high school. They probably also had subscriptions to Fangora and way too many speed metal albums.

I took a couple steps back from the booth to take a picture of it. As I did, a kid wandered up to the booth. To be fair, the artist was busy talking to his fans and signing books and the boy, about 10, was on the far side of the display rack. The kid, who was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt, picked up one of the graphic novels and started thumbing through it. He had a piece of candy in his mouth and was crunching it loudly. My skin started to crawl. Finally, I walked away and as I did, I noticed the boy was still there, crunching away and flipping the pages of a graphic novel with the kind of gratuitous violence that would give Larry Flint pause.

I really hope I'm wrong, but I didn't see any "MR" label on the front of the graphic novel. Hopefully there was one on the back near the bar code. For the non-comic fans, MR stands for Mature Reader. It's basically an NC-17 for books and looks sort of like this one for video games. Again, I'm no fan of censorship but when (pretend) violence hits that kind of nadir, maybe it's time to reconsider?

I found Crossed on Wikipedia and read the plot summary. It's an interesting though not revolutionary premise. A futuristic plague wipes out most of humanity except for a few who survive with a weird cross skin rash. They are doomed to live out their days fighting the most depraved violent and sexual impulses that come into their tiny post-apocalyptic minds. So the majority of the violence in the graphic novel occurs only in the characters minds. Spiffy.

Apparently, this comic has some serious fans. So much so Kevin Spacey's production company is negotiating a film deal. Okayyy ...

I just keep wondering: is this the sort of thing Jared Loughner would like? Or is he more of a traditionalist Spiderman fan? Maybe Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold would have favored it, seeing as they were both avid fans of The Matrix? Or maybe they both had their rooms decorated in Care Bears and I'm just jumping to conclusions.

Finally, I want to say every time you produce art you produce two things; the art itself and the implied subtext of the art. I'm sure the creators of Crossed are very nice, talented young guys and I'm glad they've found success in a creative field. But I wonder about the subtext of their art and whether they are even aware of it?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Half the World

David Horsey blew me away with his latest column and cartoon regarding women's rights which go together with human rights like peanut butter goes with jelly.

In case you've been locked in a deep dark misogynist's closet: dozens of UN and WHO studies have shown that when the status of women in a country improves, the whole country improves. It's the 'rising tide raises all boats' theory that works (unlike the sham of trickle-down economics). Conversely, countries that don't liberate their female citizens from oppressive misogynistic practices continue to flounder in poverty, civil war, high infant mortality rates, etc. for decades (see: Somalia, Congo & Pakistan).

His column was just as astute as a previous one where he argued (un-popularly) that maybe teenagers shouldn't be smoking copious amounts of marijuana while their brains are still growing.

I posted a link to his column on Christopher Ryan's FBook profile only to have it removed within a few hours. Apparently, women's rights are trivial to Ryan (author of "Sex at Dawn") compared to more important things like whether or not certain primates have penile spines. Whiskers on dicks are way more pressing to Ryan than say, whether or not women are being murdered in the Third World for suspicion of infidelity. Or trying to drive cars, something equally slutty.

Speaking of Sex at Dawn, where the hell is this mysterious co-author, Ryan's wife? He's looking a bit more like a white male apologist every day, which is just sad.

One thing Horsey didn't really discuss is what impact Third World misogyny is having on First World tourists and their tourist dollars. If I ever win the lottery, I won't be spending my money visiting the pyramids of Egypt (as much as I'd like to). I'll be going some place where middle-aged women can stroll through markets unmolested by random assholes. Sorry Egypt.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sorry Fat Girl Haters

It must suck being skinny, white male and so full of hate toward overweight women your BP might kill you. But take heart, Howard Stern (who slammed Gabourey Sidibe right before she landed a role on a hit TV drama) will hopefully die of hypertension long before you do. It's a shame too as he's spent more money on hair weave than any other white guy alive. I mean think of the army of hair people that will be out of work the day Stern dies.

Oh, and before I forget, my cholesterol levels? Pitch perfect again. For like the sixth year in a row.

Monday, March 07, 2011