Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Living In The Material World Without Being An Asshole About It

Martin Scorsese has made a two-part, three-hour HBO documentary on George Harrison, The Quiet Beatle. It is very good! Here is its trailer:

Scorsese can make things look *cool*, can’t he?

Despite being a bit overwhelming without the comforting HAL-9000 of an overarching voice-over, there’s an incredible emotional truthfulness to the sometimes messy chronology that is bound to resonate with any non-sociopath watching it. Even if you (for shame) don’t like The Beatles, the themes addressed in this doc are so universal – loss, the search for meaning, not fitting in – and brought with such passion, it could rope in anyone, I feel.

A rather funny dichotomy the doc posits is George’s transcendentalism (he was the one who brought Ravi Shankar and the sound of India to the Beatles), his disparaging of material wealth and such against the fact that “he wrote Taxman, didn’t he?”

My nerdy side can’t help but sing “Batmaaaaan” along with the chorus.

George did have a chip on his shoulder, as his strung-out, obviously coke-addled self in the early-to-mid 80s would attest. Scorsese doesn’t really dwell on his problems there, however, and leaves it at “tough times in George’s life.” Which is fine, in itself, since the doc is already rather extensive.

Besides wife Olivia Harrison’s reminder that George wrote Taxman, there’s also the rather incongruous accounts of the relation of first wife Patty Boyd and Eric Clapton’s feelings for each other to the big man himself. Clapton describes Harrison as almost guru-like, advising his friend and then-wife to follow their hearts to whichever destination made them happiest. Boyd describes Harrison as confrontational, possibly wearing a turtleneck-and-chain combo with his Jesus-stache and hair, telling her to CHOOSE ONE OR THE OTHER!!!! Is one lying? Are they both lying? Are they both correct?

It actually wouldn’t surprise me if both were telling the truth somehow. I’ve been reading some Emerson and Thoreau lately, men equally influenced by Indian yogis, just a century before Harrison. Emerson founded the American literary transcendentalist movement in the first half of the 19th century, and was mostly an essayist, more concerned with converting people to his point of view than producing any art.

Thoreau’s book Walden, however, pretty much defines a “transcendentalist lifestyle” as meant by Emerson. Living in a self-made cabin at the edge of Massachussetts’ Walden Pond, Thoreau manages to be a smug asshole about living like a fucking bum for two years and pretty much being the 19th century equivalent of a hipster going “Oh, I’m rejecting a material lifestyle to reach Enlightenment! You probably haven’t heard of it!”

Between Emerson’s mortifying navel-gazery and Thoreau’s terrible smugness, I think Harrison’s emotional confusion comes out as a step forward. He wasn’t a highly educated man like the former two, for one, so it’s understandable that he’d fall back on some less than reputable means of coping with loss. The quest for transcendence/higher knowledge(/God, if you will) is a noble one, but it’s not worth pursuing if you don’t do it in service of your fellow man. Emerson bored you to tears, Thoreau insulted you; Harrison wrote you the BEST SONG TO BLAZE UP TO EVER


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer And You Should Have Spent Your Time A Bit More Productively, Young Lady

In theory, no one under 17 is allowed to see an R-rated movie without adult supervision. In theory. You know, and I know, and Hollywood knows that this rule is broken all the time, however. Witness these toys based on movies no one of toy-playin’ age was technically allowed to see:

So Hollywood definitely knows there’s certain stuff that draws kids in, even though it’s strictly speaking not aimed at them. During my junior high years, slashers were hot shit with the girls. Scream was the culprit, of course, and thanks to Wes Craven’s ironic slasher/giallo homage any Mysterious Killer movie would be met with great enthusiasm, be it Se7en or Valentine.

I Know What You Did Last Summer was already a pretty weak distillation of the Scream-formula, so its sequel (the imaginatively titled I STILL Know What You Did Last Summer) never stood much of a chance. Despite the impressive pedigree of director Danny Cannon (Judge Dredd! Other stuff probably!), ISKWYDLS is one limp ass pseudo-horror movie. Even Our Blessed Lady is not happy to be in this movie:


The movie starts in a dark church, with Jennifer Love Hewitt confessing her sins of the first movie. Also, she’s been having bad dreams. A special no-prize for anyone predicting the gutturally growling priest in the confessional is the kiler, but it’s okay cuz it turns out to be one of JLH’s bad dreams. If you were enthralled by this opening, I have good news for you: the next half hour will consist SOLELY of fake-out scares, from kids throwing firecrackers at poor stressed out JLH’s feet to RnB sensation Brandy sneaking about our heroine’s darkened apartment to borrow a skirt until our fearless Survivor Girl threatens to stab this Dark Shape into submission!

After some bland characterization stuff (JLH can’t relax! Her black friends enjoy parties!) our protagonists win a trip to the Bahamas thanks to Radio Geo-Tardo “where the capitol of Brazil is Rio!” Now, granted, this error in geography is actually a plot point when it is revealed that the radio contest was a fake, set up by the killer. But at this point you either think the movie is REALLY dumb, or there’s something fishy going on and our two heroines are too ill-educated to see it.

In a classic case of slasher-sequelitis, the bodycount has to be upped. So besides Julie and her friends, the completely unrelated holiday resort crew has to die too. Now, I don’t think anybody minds seeing poolboy Jack Black (!) getting some garden shears through the chest but some poor middle-aged Mexican maid getting it is just sad. On that front, actually, is where one of my arguments for the glut of post-Scream slashers being aimed at girls comes from. Sure, people get killed, and there’s blood spatters and stuff, but nobody gets decapitated, disemboweled, … or anything creative, really. There’s just enough gore there to give a teenage girl the thrill of zomg watching a horror movie, but nothing to reaaaally gross her out. Same goes for the absence of customary exploitative slasher nudity. That’s not what the target audience is here for.

One could argue that the low gore quotient is a deliberate choice, wanting to create legitimate tension without resorting to cheap tricks. Well, there’s thirty minutes of fakeout scares to counter that argument. The absence of female nudity is perhaps a paradigm shift away from depiction of women as inferior in a post-Sidney Prescott universe? Well, the plot literally hinges on our two girls getting a pretty basic general knowledge question wrong, and later in the movie they suspect a poor old black janitor who has been nothing but helpful and kind throughout the movie because he’s a private practitioner of voodoo. I mean, what kinda 13 year old’s logic is that?

There was another reason why I was sure the filmmakers didn’t quite have the feminist agenda in mind when I thought up this post but I’m afraid I fo--