I’ve seen a bunch of movies in the past few weeks. A few have been midnight movies and a few have been brand new – free screenings or just opening weekend indulgences. And then there have been a couple on DVD or downloaded online as well… So altogether, let’s see: new releases were Hancock, Wall-E, Wanted; old but big screen were Sleeper, Eraserhead, Monsieur Verdoux, and then on top of that I think were Pi and Take the Money and Run.

What I really wanted to comment on were the new releases – I may have something or other to say about some of the others, but I mention them mostly to provide the random context that is the backdrop of my seeing these three blockbuster type movies. First, a quick rundown without specifics: Hancock we got free tickets to, and I had been somewhat intrigued by. It had some funny moments, but was overall disappointing. Wall-E is overhyped; it is cute and the opening especially has some beautiful moments, but I don’t think it’s a masterpiece, and the environmental message, while perfectly nice and meant with the best intentions, is kind of stupidly presented in its complete anthropocentrism.

Wanted has the opposite problem; it’s being sort of undersold I think, generally dismissed as purely dumb action nonsense, when I think there’s style and heart to it, though in a sort of naive and blatant way that sometimes still feels amateur. But if you liked the director’s Russian movies, the Nightwatch series, you see some of that same mix of great visual imagery, intensity, perhaps melodrama, and a world seeped in fantasy.

okay, for some more detail…
Hancock could have been a really interesting movie. What I expected from it was a movie that was going to be explicitly about the first black superhero. Instead, the first section set up Hancock as a different kind of superhero, in a humorous way, and implied, through background music, style, and simply the fact that the character was played by Will Smith, that the difference was due to this being African American. However, the character was cleaned up pretty easily and pretty quickly, by a white PR guy who basically gave him a “believe in yourself” speech, and as the movie progressed, it turned out Will Smith was not African American at all. He happened to fit that profile, so to speak, but he was actually an immortal who existed long before America ever did, so in a sense his blackness was only skin deep, which personally I found disappointing. I thought it would have been interesting to really address a superhero who had grown up in the inner city, with perhaps a slightly different perspective on “justice and the American way”. Of course, that’s just a different movie altogether – the one that they made was about a god with amnesia instead (which never really made sense – immortal, unbreakable, all-powerful, yet one bonk on the head erases any trace of thousands of years? and while we’re on non-sequiturs, how could his counterpart just go back to being a housewife…?)

Funnily enough, there was a recent movie about a minority superhero that did address things directly, and that was “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan“. Adam Sandler plays an unstoppable Israeli combatant who basically has superpowers, and the movie is very forthcoming about middle eastern politics. It’s also pretty funny – there’s some dumb stuff (I got tired of the hummus jokes myself) but there’s some great stuff, and mostly the characters are just nicely done and play endlessly with the idea of, what would a jewish superhero be? (Not a new york jew, an israeli jew – it would be a whole ‘nother movie to have a super seinfeld/woody allen character…) The relaxed, comfortable, jokey attitude toward sex (but not love), and the general claim that most people hate “the bad guys” they’re brought up to hate, but really don’t care much about the details of the fight and would just as soon pursue a mundane dream, were actually intriguing social comments.

Wall-E was cute, and now that it’s a week or more ago, I can hardly even come up with more to say – I was going to comment on the silliness of the portrayal of nature as so small and powerless that after 700 years without human input it just lay dormant, rather than mutating into something unpleasant to us, and that it was only with our input returning that it could be nurtured back to life again – but it feels sort of petty to fuss over a cartoon’s portrayal of evolution and thriving. I think the enviro-message was too human-centric, that earth would probably do ok without us, and maybe giant cockroaches would take over instead of one little cockroach being Wall-E’s buddy, but, whatever. It’s a cartoon. The first segment when Wall-E was alone was often moving, and stuff aboard the ship had some funny ideas in it, but personally I didn’t really feel invested in the characters. The humans were caricatures, jokes to make a point – obviously no real characters would all be identical in that way, or if they were, they certainly would not give up the comforts they were used to so easily – but as a general exaggeration of ourselves and suggestion for our change of course, these guys played the part. But that meant they weren’t really individuals.

The robots were the people in the movie, and they never said real words – maybe why I could only connect so much to them, since I’m a pretty verbal person. So while I’m not sorry I saw it, I’m not sure “masterpiece” is the right word. It is an interesting universe, and for that you have to give them credit – a cute sci fi enviro-pic is not an everyday occurrence, I suppose. But at the same time I think I got bored a couple times during robot chase scenes and such.

The opening short was lovely & hilarious though – a magician with a legitimately magical pair of hats using them to perform the most ordinary of tricks gets into trouble when he doesn’t have time to give his bunny his expected carrot before the act…

Ok, I’m move-criticked out for the moment, and should get back to work. more another time! maybe! if I ever get around to it!

[NOTE: this was an old post I never posted 🙂 – sorry if it’s a little out of date-ish]

One Response to “movies!”

  1. Mr. Waggish Says:

    Some intriguing commentary on Wanted and Wall-E here:

    Like this:

    “Thanks to [info]the_grynne for reminding me that I totally forgot to talk about the penis in Wanted. I was so caught up in my own personal Rage Relief Program that I neglected to mention that the movie is all about Wesley combating his impotence – an impotence that has been imposed on him by Capitalism, mind you! I completely neglected to tell you how Wanted is the perfect cinematic marriage of Freud and Marx. The guy’s dad is supposedly dead, and his new father is “the system” which has emasculated him. He does not need a “human father” when his life is governed by the Capitalist Empire. He can’t fuck because he’s on anti-depressants, which he takes to alleviate his anxiety about being just another invisible cog in the wheel. Wesley has no sex in the movie at all because he has no penis. His penis has been replaced by a “job.” He spends the duration of the movie trying to reclaim his penis by a) quitting his job and telling the system to go fuck itself; b) replacing his penis with a gun; c) avenging his father’s death; d) killing his father, and d) becoming his father. The Great Oedipal Moment of the film is the giant showdown when he inadvertently kills his own father in the giant train crash scene. He and his father are literally joined inside this Giant Phallus as it fails to penetrate the hole of the vagina (the tunnel). The out-of-control phallus comes undone, derails, splinters and crashes before it can successfully penetrate the cave. Wesley begins to take ownership of his phallus by killing his father, but before he can become truly virile he has to kill the Big Boss of the Industrial Factory (Sloan), the evil motherfucker (to use his own words) who exploits his laborers (the assassins) for his own profit and power. So it is a combination of killing the Father Figure and killing the Capitalist Prick that liberates Wesley. It’s important to note also that in the end he is stripped of his financial assets but maintains power outside of the economic system. Likewise, he ends the movie alone –without the threat of the vagina or the competing phallus. In the final assassination scene, he uses Post-Its (the very tools of the system that has castrated him!) to nail his enemy. Brilliant! So really Wanted is a sweet marriage of Freud and Marx with a lot of gorgeous violence and vehicular madness. No wonder I loved it!”

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