Archives for posts with tag: anti-feminist

Rough Stuff

This enjoyable Australian outback adventure stars Gareth Rickards as Buzz, a rugged “rover” hired by a group of eco-activist weenies to get them across a difficult, mountainous terrain and to the site of a new American mining venture where they plan to film a documentary on the project’s environmental impact – and the sense of urgency to their mission gets ratcheted up a notch when Buzz realizes the group is being pursued by the relentless and enigmatic “Ranger” (Jono Cheal). The characters, though never developed too deeply, are likable enough, and the movie’s rapid pacing and wilderness setting prevent it from ever getting boring. Frizzy-haired slob Sam Glissan deserves a special mention, as well, for his supporting role as the salty and indomitable Scraps.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Rough Stuff is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

5. Abo-empowering. While whites are allowed to play the heroic roles, a bit of ethnomasochism does creep into the film at the end when Buzz, having discovered the site of a cache of gold, abstains from seizing the booty so as to let an elderly abo have it, the implication being that he is somehow more entitled to it for having a more organic and intimate connection to the earth. It is interesting to note, however, that Buzz nearly drives himself off of a cliff after virtue-signaling.

4. Green-ambivalent. Rough Stuff stops short of discrediting environmentalism altogether, but does suggest that those activist types drawn to such causes are frequently naïve, poorly informed, fanatical, or possessed of ulterior motives.

3. Anti-feminist. The comic supporting character Skye (Katie Garfield) represents feminists as obnoxious and unnecessarily combative. Not content to keep her viewpoints to herself, she more than once attempts to infect her more feminine comrade Tori (Hayley Sullivan) with her corrosive ideology, encouraging her to be more sexually assertive and insisting that the patriarchy has conditioned Tori to deny her true wants and needs. Skye’s militancy is revealed to be hollow, however, when – after stubbornly refusing to allow a man to carry her across a stream – she finds herself stuck and petulantly cries out for help. Her pampered stupidity, too, comes out when it suddenly dawns on her that there will be no ladies’ rooms available in the outback. Women can talk tough or even shoot guns, but ultimately require rescue.

2. Anti-corporate. The eco-activist group’s leader, Eric (Jamie Kristian), turns out to be plotting a terror attack on the mining concern – which plot in turn is revealed to be a scheme of the mining multinational to discredit conservationists. The corporation, in addition to staging a series of eco-terror false flags around the world and lobbying the Australian government for special privileges, is also skirting government regulations by initiating the exploitation of a new region before securing public permission.

1.Populist. Rough Stuff gives audiences a masculine, self-reliant, working-class hero in Buzz, and the movie evinces a healthy distrust of both left-utopian activism and nihilistic, big-business concerns. Traditional sex roles are reinforced, as is the dignity of the rustic Australian as opposed to globalizing and cosmopolitan forces.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

The Rewrite

Hugh Grant, never an actor this critic particularly liked, has become more palatable with age – tarnished, less handsome, and hence more accessible. These qualities are on fine display in The Rewrite, which reunites the leading man with Music and Lyrics writer-director Marc Lawrence. Grant is Keith Michaels, a has-been screenwriter who, failing to find new work, takes a job as a writer-in-residence at an unglamorous public university.

Irreverent and a womanizer, Keith finds a capable foil in snooty and arch Austen scholar Professor Weldon (sexy over-the-hill performer Allison Janney), who does what she can to bring his sojourn at the school to an end. Complicating Keith’s private life are amorous coed Karen (Bella Heathcote) and single mother Holly, the latter part enlivened by an astonishingly well-preserved Marisa Tomei, who exhibits wonderful chemistry with Grant.

Certain supporting characters, particularly among the students, may be too broadly drawn for all tastes, but each serves a purpose and is more or less amusing. Whiplash’s monstrous J.K. Simmons demonstrates his remarkable range here by essaying the instantly lovable role of Dr. Lerner, the avuncular head of the English department, while still-boyish Get a Life clown Chris Elliott turns in the expectedly funny turn as the university’s dweeby Shakespeare specialist.

A touching and sharp romantic comedy that transcends the ghetto of its genre, The Rewrite ought to appeal with equal charm to discriminating men and women moviegoers alike. Consistently interesting and rewatch-worthy, this one is highly recommended.

Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) regales Dr. Weldon (Allison Janney) and Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) with his unorthodox take on the merits of Jane Austen's body of work, drawing the scandalized glares of bystanders in the process.

Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) regales Dr. Weldon (Allison Janney) and Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) with his unorthodox take on the merits of Jane Austen’s body of work, drawing the scandalized glares of bystanders in the process.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Rewrite is:

10. Drug-ambivalent. Weed seems to be okay – with Keith, if not with Dr. Lerner – but the film’s attitude toward alcohol is more nuanced. Proving true the adage “in vino veritas”, Keith is overly frank in unfriendly company, and Holly feels obligated to drive him home in another instance. He is described as “trying to fill a spiritual vacancy with alcohol.” Fraternity hazing leads to the hospitalization of sci-fi nerd Billy Frazier (Andrew Keenan-Bolger). Notwithstanding all of this, a tipsy Hugh Grant remains very charming.

9. Pro-gay. “Are you a lesbian?” Keith asks Holly. “I wish,” she responds.

8. Anti-gun. “I was hoping you were pro gun control,” Keith says to Dr. Lerner.

7. Irreligious. Heaven is “a fairy tale designed to make a five-year-old boy go to sleep.”

6. Anti-slut. Keith’s brief fling with sexually experienced student Karen leads to disaster.

5. Anti-Semitic! 9/11 criminal Michael Chertoff’s body scanners, Keith suggests, are merely “cancer-causing cash conduits”.

4. Family-ambivalent. His wife, Keith says, was “smart enough to divorce me”. Karen hates her father. Balancing the story’s failed relationships, however, is Dr. Lerner’s lachrymose domestic bliss with his wife and several daughters.

3. Egalitarian. At stake is Keith’s initial conviction that talent cannot be taught – an assertion that the people-loving Holly intends to challenge. Falling on the side of nurture as opposed to nature, The Rewrite to this extent lends itself to the programs of leftist social engineers.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Keith, tasked with selecting his students based on the strength of their screenplay submissions, instead looks at their online profiles and stocks his roster with a bevy of multicolored cuties including an Asian, two negresses, and a Jewess. The viewer is given to understand at the end that an unexpected Jew-congoid hookup is imminent.

1. Sexist! Dr. Lerner diagnoses icy bitch Professor Weldon as “elitist, lonely, [and] miserable.” Keith, meanwhile, earns major Nazi shitlord points with this drunken faculty cocktail party rant:

Forgive me, but I’m just a little bit tired of female empowerment. […] Well, just, honestly, though, everything seems to be about female empowerment nowadays, you know. Any meeting I go to in Hollywood, someone says, “You know what we need? A kick-ass girl, that’d be a great twist.” Except every movie has a kick-ass girl, you know, some martial arts CGI slow motion woman who kicks the crap out of every man in her path. Can I tell you what would be truly innovative? A movie without a kick-ass girl, or better yet, a movie where a woman gets her ass kicked.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Board to Death B

Board to Death is Dammie Akinmola’s miniature (15-minute) film inspired by a short story, “Death by Scrabble” by Charlie Fish. The movie’s title, framing ennui and death wish as a game, signals a playful attitude toward its dark subject matter. Joshua Exposito, an odd choice of leading man whose voice, accent, and moody stare recall Highlander‘s Christopher Lambert, plays the jealous husband of quintessential femme fatale Victoria Ashford in this neo-noir black comedy.

Wasting no time getting to the grit, the film opens with the insane protagonist staring across a Scrabble board at his smug, smoking wife and giving voice-over narration in the conventional hardboiled fashion. “I’ll break the bones of anyone who touches her, anyone who lays eyes on her,” her swears. “I’ll crack their skulls and smash their teeth on concrete. They’ll suffer till their lights go out.” He then proceeds to live up to this bloody vow.

The black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous, and director Akinmola, also a composer, has wisely opted to use music sparingly, so that Exposito’s crazed whisper commands every inch of the viewer’s attention. One only wishes to see Board to Death expanded into a full-length feature, as too many characters are crammed into its too-brief running time for the audience to have any satisfactory sense of the meaning of each character’s deserts. If nothing else, the short format and compressed storyline prevent the viewer from ever becoming bored – let alone to death.

Board to Death

4 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Board to Death is:

8. Anti-feminist. The wife is a monster who cruelly enjoys her husband’s suffering and the murders he commits. Women’s empowerment has complicated and corrupted male-female relations, maddening men and discombobulating their moral compass. She “can’t be trusted” because she is “far too strong”.

7. Arguably anti-Christian. The murderous maniac protagonist is a churchgoer.

6. Pro-tobacco. In classic 1940s fashion, cigarette smoking is code for sex.

5. Multiculturalist. Peaceful non-white Britons sit with attentive gazes during a Christian service, suggesting that they are positively assimilated participants in Western Civilization.

4. Pro-miscegenation. A mixed-race couple (Carl Muircroft and Latifah Parara) appear to have a healthier and more normal relationship than the leads.

3. Media-critical. In one blatantly postmodern and self-referential scene, Exposito picks a fight against the backdrop of the poster for Board to Death, the very film in which he appears at that moment. Is this to suggest that the character’s diet of violent entertainment has shaped his insanity, desensitized him, and incentivized his antisocial behavior? Judging from Akinmola’s admission on the movie’s website to admiring Quentin Tarantino and his (flippantly ultraviolent) attitude toward life, one can only assume that this critique is unintentional.

2. Anti-gun. A bartender (Cristinel Hogas) keeps a shotgun under the counter, but finds it worthless as protection when the jealous husband seizes it from him and pummels him.

1. Anti-marriage. The husband alleges that his wife is “a demon, a succubus sent to tempt men.” Among his final utterances are the words, “Wife. Liar. Killer. Husband. Possessive. Paranoid. Dead.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Scarehouse_poster

Sorority sisters, haunted houses, and nights of revenge are all typical slasher movie elements; but Killer Party this is decidedly not. A Canadian blast of cold gore porn, The Scarehouse is a story of two competing horrors: the tortures inflicted by its vindictive protagonists, on the one hand, and the vapid “21st century party monster” mentality of their bevy of victims on the other. As to which is more appalling, that is for each viewer to decide. Co-ed sadists Corey (Sarah Booth) and Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray) are out of prison and out for vengeance after taking the rap for a sorority prank that resulted in an involuntary manslaughter. Determined to torment their fellow sisters, the pair has designed a haunted house attraction to mask the actual torture laboratory within.

The lighting and atmosphere of the film should satisfy devotees of the genre, and genuinely homicidal psychos should also be entertained. The lead performances, particularly Booth’s, are strong; but The Scarehouse, like other torture-oriented horrors, suffers from lack of likable characters. The backstory explaining the night’s motivation is never sufficient emotional justification for the shocking degree of onscreen brutality, and serves only to ensure that even the screaming victims of the atrocities garner little audience sympathy. Occasionally humorous, The Scarehouse is more often disturbing, and this reviewer would much prefer to have seen a movie about these two characters not killing people.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Scarehouse is:

4. Homosexuality-ambivalent. From the perspective that there is no such thing as bad publicity, The Scarehouse is pro-gay for featuring homoerotic flirtation between young women; but the portrayal of the lesbian lead as a psychopath is hardly flattering.

3. Anti-Christian. Jesus freak Jaqueline (Katherine Barrell) stands for the film’s contempt for “fire and brimstone shit”. Other irreverence takes the form of the sadists’ appropriation of crucifixion symbolism: Corey has a cross tattoo on her back, while Elaina at the end can be seen wearing a crucifix.

2. Anti-drug. “You might want to stick to water.” Drinking, along with a rufie, results in the accidental death that sets the plot in motion, and drunks are also more susceptible to the torture porn treatment. One of the songs on the soundtrack also refers to alcohol poisoning.

1. Anti-feminist. Whatever The Scarehouse’s intentions, it shows something of a divided mind with regard to its array of targets. Elaina and Corey advertise no overt ideological motivation for their murder spree, but do demonstrate a distaste for traditionalism as it takes on grotesque, hypocritical forms. Jaqueline’s Christian good girl moral code is a lie, so she must be punished. Similarly, Katrina (Emily Alatalo), for “Frankensteining” herself in an exaggerated devotion to a male chauvinist’s hourglass figure ideal, must answer for her betrayal of her sorority oath to embrace woman’s “inner beauty”.

Corey and Elaina, if they are supposed to be radical feminist progressives, discredit their cause with their violent antics. The moon phases pictured on Corey’s tank top may mark her as merely a walking, talking, rampaging case of PMS. “Why does everyone think I’m a lesbian?” she wonders aloud, to which Elaina replies that “there is some truth in it”, the implication perhaps being that the political agenda of Corey and her type is motivated more by sexual frustrations than by reason or fairness. Elaina blunders through the sorts of clueless academic abstractions that cause social experimenters’ projects to fail. “You know I only have textbook theory,” she frets. “I built this place on a lot of theory, and this is a test run, so give me a frickin’ break on a few minor flaws.”

The fact that horny, drunken fraternity men appear as the gullible victims and not the perpetrators of murder and sex crimes undercuts the popular misandrist myth of an ubiquitous “rape culture” on college campuses. Women’s degradation and endangerment appears as their own doing in The Scarehouse. The sisters only degrade themselves by calling each other “cunt” and “bitch”. As women’s femininity has been eroded, their pedestal toppled by political empowerment, they no longer enjoy their previous freedom from violence and sexual mutilation at the movies. (“I am going to punch her in the box,” Corey threatens.) Just as a man can be kicked in the crotch with the utmost casualness, as has been the case for decades, “liberated” (i.e., dehumanized) women are now more apt to see their breasts removed or their eyelids ripped off on the big screen. A satirical indication of the degeneration wrought by the sexual revolution comes when the sight of the bloody and ravaged Katrina makes one character wonder if this is a “sex party”.

Redlands Poster

Vienna (Nicole Fox) is a Midwestern transplant to Southern California who dreams of immortalizing herself through art as a model. Allan (Clifford Morts) is the “fat pervert” and amateur Irving Klaw who entertains her vanity. The pair’s initial collaboration sets Redlands into deliberate motion.

An uneasy study of the creative process and of the artist-model relationship as an “energy transfer”, or a form of vampirism, John Brian King’s debut directorial effort is shot almost entirely in static master shots, a choice that screams “art house” (and low budget) and will automatically alienate the easily distracted. Potential viewers are warned that this is not a film for the faint of heart and that it contains one appalling scene of physical violence in addition to multiple instances of emotional cruelty.

Redlands, owing to a shared subject matter and sensibility, would make for a complementary double feature with Gut (2012) or 24 Exposures (2013) – not that most people would want to sit through two such films in a single sitting. Those sufficiently bold to be interested, however, can screen this gross and engrossing movie via Vimeo.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Redlands is:

9. Anti-miscegenation. A freakish, infatuated Asian sidler (Connie Shin) haunts a camera shop to be near its clerk (Leland Montgomery), but he wants nothing to do with her.

8. Anti-Christian. Vienna sports a kitschy “Have Faith” t-shirt as she rambles inanely about Falco.

7. Anti-vegan. Vegans are depicted as somewhat shallow. Hitler is more than once referenced as having been a vegetarian, presumably so as to discredit the lifestyle.

6. Populist, Luddite, anti-corporate, and protectionist. Allan becomes frustrated with a credit card company’s user-unfriendly robot phone system and finally snaps when he gets through to a human customer service representative, who turns out to be an African named Chiwamba. He calls her a “black bitch” after she informs him that her predatory bankster organization has lowered his credit limit without informing him and is charging him penalty fees for exceeding his newly decapitated limit. Allan’s anger is that of the disenfranchised white male and the American who has seen his countrymen’s jobs either shipped overseas or given to cheap wetbacks and other undesirables. In a fit of impotence, he smashes his phone.

5. Un-p.c. Characters use words like “bitch” and “retard”.

4. Anti-drug. Vienna’s father was an addict.

3. Anti-Semitic! Zack (Sam Brittan) is a parasitic Jew and quasi-pimp, an abusive easy rider who leeches off of his gentile girlfriend’s earnings. “Somebody’s gotta mind the store,” he says. “Might as well be me.”

2. Anti-porn. Parallel scenes of photography sessions evoke a powerful metaphor: pornography as a body of autopsy photos of western woman.

1. Anti-feminist/anti-slut. The misogynistic behavior of the men in Redlands is unpleasant to witness and not at all condoned in the tone of the film. What is impossible to deny, however, is that the unenviable treatment of the women in Redlands results from feminism and its destabilizing effect on the family and the moral fabric of society. The importance of the father as the central figure in a woman’s life comes across very clearly.

Public Ransom

A psychological quasi-thriller for the Clerks crowd, A Public Ransom stars Carlyle Edwards as Steven, an unemployed fiction writer, self-described “twat”, and moocher who gets an idea for a story when he spots an unusual, crayon-scrawled notice about a missing child. Hoping to do some research for his fiction, Steven calls the number on the poster and gets into contact with a mysterious man named Bryant (Goodloe Byron). It never occurs to Steven, a bored and callous intellectual, that a real person might actually have been kidnapped, but that is exactly what Bryant nonchalantly admits to doing. Steven is informed that he has two weeks to produce $2,000, or else the little girl is going to be killed. Steven, preferring to believe that the whole affair is a prank – and yet perturbed by what seems to be Bryant’s story’s authenticity – sets to composing “A Public Ransom”, selfishly hoping for the best. The premise is a bit outlandish, but after all requires only the viewer’s belief in an individual of extreme eccentricity and sadistic inspiration, of which history offers more than a few examples.

A Public Ransom is as dark a film as one is likely to see this year. The viewer must endure the uncomfortable tactile presence of waste and moral grime and spend time with unappealing characters. The film makes other demands of its audience, as well: to be patient, enjoy joylessness, and find entertainment and tension in such sights as a guy in a t-shirt sitting alone and talking to somebody on the phone; a guy in a plaid shirt sitting alone and talking to somebody on the phone; and a guy who, to the untrained eye, appears to be sitting at a table, doing absolutely nothing. Fortunately, Carlyle Edwards is an actor who can make such moments not only tolerable but interesting. The strongest, most haunting scene in A Public Ransom has solitary Steven waiting at a bus stop in the middle of the night, with nothing but the sound of the void around him.

A Public Ransom advertises the influence of Jim Jarmusch, with the poster for Stranger than Paradise visible on Steven’s wall. Like Jarmusch, director Pablo D’Stair’s film shows a fondness for static shots and the intermingling of the strange and mundane; but it is not nearly as outsized or as affected in its weirdness. The sharp, icy exchanges between Steven and Bryant are highlights and filled with the loudest silence. Elsewhere, music is superfluous and annoying and hurts scenes that would have been better served without adornment. One crucial dialogue at the end of the film is damaged by the less-than-convincing performance of Helen Bonaparte, who plays Steven’s platonic friend Rene. These failings, however, temporarily mitigate rather than sabotage the story’s overall effectiveness. Never in recent memory has the disclaimer that “The preceding film is a work of fiction” been so reassuring. Or is it?

4 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Public Ransom is:

3. Tobacco-ambivalent. A cigarette serves as the death-teasing prop of a vulgar and frustrated ne’er-do-well who nevertheless cuts a sophisticated figure while smoking and gesticulating with it.

2. Un-p.c. Steven makes liberal use of words like “cunt”, “bitch”, and “slut”, and says that Bryant looks “retarded”.

1. Anti-feminist. Rene’s “militant feminism”, Steven informs her, “keeps the elusive gentleman caller from the doorknocker – that, you know, long-delayed but always expected something that we live for.” The fact that the creepy Bryant is apparently representative of the sort of men who make themselves available to Rene would seem to corroborate Steven’s claim. Even more devastatingly, Steven himself, in his worthlessness, illustrates the undying crime done to this civilization by feminism. In the absence of actual ladies (i.e., women of decent behavior, moral merit, and femininity), men have much less motivation and warrant to be polite, to advance themselves (“Work is a cunt,” Steven gripes), or to give the weaker sex the respect they have come to demand instead of earn. Women no longer inspire in men (as Jack Nicholson’s character puts it in As Good as It Gets) the necessary desire to become better men. The result, of course, is suggested by the working title of Steven’s story: “A Society of Fiends”.

[A Public Ransom can be seen at Vimeo, and more information is available here.]

To take in Baz Luhrmann’s flamboyant adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is to experience a mingled frustration, pity, awe, amusement, bewilderment, and regret.  The contents of the novel are among the ingredients of this ambitious and idiosyncratic film, which displays a high degree of fidelity with respect to the choice of imagery; but included, too, is a lot of consciously anachronistic pop music and tacky computer-generated manipulation of the visuals, so that The Great Gatsby is a film very nearly ruined in the post-production.  In particular, the floating digital monogram bookends and more than one disorienting sweep from one location into another are unkind on the viewer’s eyes.

The film is most clearly in its element when depicting the outrageous, outsized decadence and debauchery of the twenties.  The Great Gatsby‘s greatest asset, however, is definitely its cast, with nearly every actor conjuring into convincing life the characters as described in the novel.  Tobey Maguire, who even now retains his air of youthful naivete onscreen, could not be bettered as Nick Carraway; and Leonardo DiCaprio, who with his substantial and growing body of lowlife and criminal parts, brings a handsome but soiled baggage to the showcase role of Gatsby, is a genius bit of casting; while fresh-faced Carey Mulligan is absolutely Daisy Buchanan and Joel Edgerton is suitably icy as her philandering husband Tom.  Jack Clayton’s 1974 film remains a stronger and more polished effort overall, but the charms of Luhrmann’s new vision are undeniable.

3.5 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Great Gatsby is:

7. Anti-Christian/anti-gun.  Loser mechanic George Wilson (Jason Clarke) is the film’s representative Christian, whose faith in God naturally inspires him to commit a murder out of a sense of divine vengeance after his wife is killed.

6. Arguably feminist.  Daisy reflects with sadness that the best thing for a girl to be is a fool, a suggestion that a woman’s position in her era and at her social level was an unenviable lot when viewed with scrutiny.  Taken at face value, however, the line could also be interpreted as piggishly anti-feminist.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  White speakeasy patrons watch black booty-shakers.  An overweight white man is glimpsed through a window with a black prostitute.

4. Anti-state.  Prohibition has backfired and made alcohol less expensive.  Police are in league with and even subservient to the gangsters whom Prohibition has made into powerful millionaires.

3. Drug-ambivalent.  Liquor flows copiously at Gatsby’s parties and Nick even pops a pill in a near-orgy scene, but immediate consequences are scarce.  The automobile fatality of the denouement is more the result of emotional stress than drinking, most probably.  Nick does end up in a sanatorium, however.

2. Anti-marriage.  Everybody cheats.

1. Class-conscious/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Unlikable Tom is the film’s representative bigot.  He recommends that everyone should read an unsettling book on The Rise of the Colored Empires.  (The irony here, of course, is that, in forecasting demographic decline and the consequent eclipse of the West, he is correct.)  Images of black poverty, toil, and subservience are frequently juxtaposed with white privilege and irresponsibility.  However, the depiction of gangster Meyer Wolfsheim (Amitabh Bachchan), though lifted directly from Fitzgerald’s description, is likely to strike ADL types as anti-Semitic.

Part II of

The Filthy Films of Adam Sandler in Ideological Content Analysis:

A Cranko-Politico-Critical Retrospective

of the Institute for Advanced Sandler Studies

AdamSandler

1995’s Billy Madison finds Sandler expanding his retard schtick from Saturday Night Live into the feature-length characterization of a bizarre, hyperactive American Oblomov, an irresponsible man-child of means who lives off the family fortune and spends his days in epic slacking: partying, drinking, hallucinating, and generally wasting his life.  Unfortunately, his lifetime of pampering means that spoiled Billy never learned to do anything for himself; and only the influence of his Fortune 500 hotel tycoon father (Darren McGavin) prevented him from flunking out of school and allowed him to undeservedly graduate.

Learning this for the first time, Billy is distraught; and to prove to the skeptical Mr. Madison that he, Billy, and not the scheming and evil Eric (Bradley Whitford) should take over direction of the family hotel chain, Billy hits upon the idea of demonstrating his ability to achieve on his own by tearing through all the public school grades again, from kindergarten to high school, in just a matter of wild and wacky weeks.  Along the way he makes a number of friends in grade school and falls in love with one of his teachers, the cute but tough Miss Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) – but will it be enough to counter Eric’s unscrupulous effort to undermine the project and sabotage Billy’s righteous birthright?

Billy Madison revels in the absurd, celebrates the obscene, and wallows in the scatalogical like the world is ending.  What might on paper sound like a total cinematic disaster is, however, turned into a surprisingly and defiantly funny character creation in the hands of Adam Sandler.  Viewers are challenged not to laugh when Billy, his crush on Miss Vaughn in full bloom, whimpers pitiably in an aside that he, “Want[s] to touch the hiney”.  The laughs thin out somewhat during the film’s obligatory inspirational third act, but Sandler’s inimitable mojo keeps the ball of snot rolling, and smile-sparking supporting turns from Chris Farley, Norm MacDonald, and Steve Buscemi certainly do no harm.

Viewed with an open heart, Billy Madison is, in all honesty, a stupid but also a pretty funny comedy of the gleefully gross, gutter-snorkeling variety and earns 3.5 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Billy Madison is:

7. Anti-feminist.  Miss Vaughn, though she can be stern and in one scene bests Billy in a physical altercation, appears to become interested in him after she lets him get away with an “assault” in which he pretends to fall on a school bus and exploits the opportunity to grope her breasts.  How incorrigibly sexist!

6. State-skeptical.  Public schools’ employee screening practices are called into question by the revelation that Billy’s grade school principal, Mr. Anderson (Josh Mostel) is actually a former professional wrestler with no teaching degree.  One of the teachers (Dina Platias) is a slightly spacy hippie who engages in some kind of ritual freakout when the kids are out at recess.  A bus driver (Chris Farley) is clearly full of rage and a man who could snap at any moment.  He also steals the children’s lunches.  Public grade school education appears to consist of coloring exercises, crafts, and spelling bees.  See also no. 1.

5. Anti-family/anti-marriage.  Children can be brats.  A trivia host offers the category “My Wife the Tramp”.  The mother of one of Billy’s classmates indicates that she is sexually available while her husband is serving a prison sentence.

4. Pro-drug.  Billy drinks heavily, the only consequences being laziness and humorous, Harvey-style hallucinations of a giant penguin.  He eats paste with gusto and offers some to a classmate.  His slacker buddies joke about getting a donkey drunk.

3. Pro-miscegenation.  Billy’s fat black maid (Theresa Merritt) repeatedly flirts with him and offers to take her top off to cheer him up.  Bestiality receives an endorsement when the bus driver meets and finds ecstasy with the penguin of Billy’s hallucinations.  Madison, despite his all-American name and Anglo-Saxon father, is unmistakably a Jew and so cannot resist the blonde temptation of Teutonic “hiney”.

2. Pro-gay.  Among Billy’s dirty magazine subscriptions is one called She-Male Fiesta.  Mr. Anderson gives Billy an obscene Valentine’s Day card informing him that he is horny and later shamelessly grinds against him in public.  The bus driver, taking over from Miss Vaughn, does an educational striptease for Billy to induce him to learn his lessons.  Lesbians engage in a three-way kiss.

1. Capital-ambivalent.  Billy’s untamed lifestyle and various eccentricities suggest that a privileged upbringing results in a spoiled, abnormal personality, and the story of Billy’s first fraudulent experience in the public schools indicates that the rich simply disregard the pesky rules that everybody else has to follow in life.  That the wealthy Mr. Madison puts his son through the public schools at all may point to a humble adherence to his Main Street roots and everyman origins – or it might be that Mr. Madison sees deficient and academically undemanding public schools as offering the easiest path to graduation for his son. Meritocracy receives a nod in the acknowledgement that Mr. Madison is a self-made man, and his company eventually winds up in the hands of his most qualified and deserving subordinate (Larry Hankin).  However, had Billy chosen to accept the direction of the company, this impression would have been instantly dissipated by the picture of a barely functional simpleton jumping to first place in the corporate world just because of whose son he happens to be.  He instead opts to go the populist route and become a teacher himself.

Like the 1980 Australian prison film Stir, this 2011 British entry in the genre offers not simply another portrait of life on the inside for the convicts, but an example of how the daily stress of the job can affect the outnumbered guards or “screws”.  James D’Arcy stars as Sam Norwood, an Iraq war veteran and rookie prison guard whose choice of civilian occupation only exacerbates his post-traumatic battle flashbacks.  Under the bad influence of fellow guard Deano (Frank Harper), Sam turns to drinking and hard drugs and eventually finds himself the subject of a police investigation.  Even worse, when drug-related organized crime inside the prison threatens Sam’s professional and personal lives, his behavior becomes increasingly erratic.  Twisting the knife in him psychologically is criminally connected inmate Truman (Noel Clarke).

D’Arcy’s performance deserves much of the credit for making Screwed an involving experience, and supporting players Harper and Jamie Foreman contribute believable grit and an air of experience.  That Sam Norwood is such a deeply flawed protagonist may limit the sympathy he can command, but it also raises the stakes and therefore the suspense that his situation generates.  Viewers discouraged by Screwed‘s somewhat drab exposition are advised to give the film more time, as it improves and intensifies as it builds towards its frightening riot climax.  Some moments, such as Sam’s verbal exchanges with his wife, feel overly familiar; and much of the mumbled, whispered dialogue, a challenge compounded by the working class British accents, may also frustrate the American audience; but Sam’s story draws the viewer in as it deepens and the situations become more unsettling and urgent.  Not a bad little film, Screwed earns 3 out of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Screwed is:

5. Anti-feminist.  “Don’t you sweetheart me, ya fuckin’ prick,” a tough-talking female guard says before being put out of commission with a punch in the face.  Sex-based workplace discrimination would seem to be in order here.

4. Antiwar.  Wars inevitably send home thousands, not only of the physically wounded, but psychologically damaged and brittle young men.

3. Diversity-skeptical.  Minorities can contribute to law enforcement, but figure more prominently among the convicts.  “Please tell me he ain’t shaggin’ her,” one guard says at the sight of one ogre-like brown prisoner receiving a white woman visitor.

2. Drug-ambivalent.  The liquor and hard drugs run the risk of ruining Sam’s career and marriage, but smoking cigarettes, as he does in solidarity with Rumpole (Foreman) in one scene, is the philosophically manly thing to do.

1. Anti-state.  Guards must deal not only with the occasionally vicious convicts, but with the corrupt and antagonistic “guv’ner” or warden (David Hayman) who sometimes likes to target guards for internal investigation and persecution so as to be able to present himelf as a liberal reformer.  Some among the guards are also crooks in addition to engaging in unnecessary brutality toward the prisoners.

gut poster

Gut is a study of two friends, nondescript Tom (Jason Vail) and nerdy Dan (Nicholas Wilder), who have known each other from adolescence and now work together in stultifying office jobs.  Tom has graduated to conventional domesticity, with an attractive wife (Sarah Schoofs) and child, while Dan appears to be charmingly stuck in goofy immaturity, more interested in consuming horror movies and junk food than in making anything identifiably adult out of his life.  When Tom develops an enigmatic case of ennui that threatens to drive a further wedge between the two men, who have clearly lost a previous closeness, Dan makes the seemingly harmless but actually momentous suggestion that Tom should visit his home to watch an unusual DVD he has received in the mail.

Is the content of the disc, with what appears to be footage of an actual murder, real or merely a simulated snuff film?  Whatever its source, the (disturbingly graphic) imagery haunts and fascinates Tom, who has nightmares and is uncomfortable with what he and Dan have discovered, both on the internet and in themselves as more films arrive in the mail.  The stakes and danger, furthermore, are more than simply psychological when it becomes apparent that the party responsible for the snuff DVDs is active where they live.  Gut is not torture porn itself, but ponders the genre’s sources and ramifications; squeamish viewers are, however, advised to approach Gut with extreme caution.

Gut demonstrates an intimate knowledge of cubicle-bound despair and succeeds in giving the horror genre its Office Space, with perhaps a bitter tincture of In the Company of Men.  As is true of the music for the latter, Chvad SB’s minimalist score for Gut, which builds from subtle, bare, and repetitive to unnervingly abrasive as the film progresses, forms a compelling and integral component of Gut‘s personality and is indispensible to its storytelling.  The story told, tastefully if tenebrously lensed, is not an uplifting one, and if Gut can be called a horror film, it is, like last year’s Sinister, something of an odd, self-loathing example, with horror and porn the gateway drugs that lead to other, darker preoccupations and initiations.

Gut earns 4.5 stars and is highly recommended, with Nicholas Wilder one of the year’s most interesting faces and “Elias” a definite directorial talent to watch.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this film is:

3. Un-p.c./state-skeptical.  Dan claims his regular mail carrier has been replaced by a mentally retarded man – affirmative action gone postal and run utterly amuck!

2. Family/marriage-ambivalent.  With emotional and genetic investment in humanity comes not just affection, but responsibility, insecurity, boredom, and, for men, diminished home entertainment sovereignty.

1. Effectively anti-feminist.  Tom and especially Dan are representative of the catastrophe wrought in American society by women’s liberation.  Dan personifies the national epidemic of unmanned men more interested in pop culture distraction, nostalgia, and mischievous male camaraderie than in honest work or mature relationships with women.  He finds, therefore, a less grim sociological cousin in Ed, Nick Frost’s character in Shaun of the Dead.

Dan dwells on the drawbacks of Tom’s family life and calls him a “pussy-whipped motherfucker”.  Lending potential credence to this assessment and to his characterization of Tom’s balls as AWOL is a scene of an inwardly smoldering Tom doing the woman’s work of washing dishes.  Tom approvingly describes his wife as “old-fashioned”; but later, when he becomes rough with her, she straddles and slaps him until he relents and apologizes to her, indicating that their relationship is not as “old-fashioned” as he has perhaps convinced himself.  Earlier, he is irritated when his wife takes the sexual initiative.  “So, what, I’m supposed to flip whenever you want me to?” he objects.  Television, as in Poltergeist, serves as an occasional babysitter.

Torture porn appears to be Dan’s principal sexual outlet.  The snuff films that captivate him are meaningfully misogynistic, with women’s bellies – the center of traditional womanhood in its reproductive capacity – targeted for mutilation and vivisection.  Motherhood is incompatible with women’s chosen roles as professionals and/or shamelessly pierced and tattooed fornicators.  Although a friendly waitress, Sally (Angie Bullaro), obviously likes him, a brief exchange with a chilly coworker suggests how women are probably more likely to respond to Dan.  The typical unavailability of the women he desires has fostered in him a deep resentment that sublimates as horror fandom but finds a more direct expression in his enjoyment of torture porn and snuff films.

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