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Spring_Breakers_poster

Writer-director Harmony Korine’s dope-drenched epic of college-age pagan debauchery suffers from the same fatal ailment as most other movies that insist on taking as their subjects the absolute dregs of society – namely a lack of characters worthy of the least bit of audience sympathy. The introduction of the principal quartet of spoiled and mostly indistinguishable bimbos is so icily off-putting and nonchalantly bile-provoking that it could almost be a set-up for some exercise in torture porn. College students in name only, these are pretty, pot-addled apes who, during a lecture on the civil rights movement, amuse themselves by scrawling lewd notes or drawing a picture of a penis. Where the Boys Are this is not.

Tired of what they feel to be their intolerably mundane lives, four girls determine to travel to Florida to “find” themselves on spring break. Short of funds, three of them successfully rob a restaurant, and off they and naive Christian friend Faith (Selena Gomez) head for the sun and sand, where their participation in grotesque bacchanalia rightly lands the disgusting group in jail. Coming to their aid as if by providence, revolting rapper and drug dealer Alien (James Franco, in a truly transformational character creation) bails them out and takes the girls under his demonic wing, introducing them to his gangsta friends. Faith, though stupid, retains some vague wisp of the notion of decency and so decides to go home at this point; but her three friends remain and go with Alien, who, like a thuggish Charles Manson, will usher them through an initiation into nihilistic evil.

More shocking and memorable than actually good, Spring Breakers does contain some visual coups that viewers will never forget: a man performing fellatio on two guns; three girls in pink ski masks dancing, guns in hand, in the attitude of the three Graces; and, of course, sand strewn with cheap, jiggling flesh. With the anesthetized and dreamlike shoot-out of the climax, the director walks a particularly dangerous line. Are the events at the end of the film intended to inspire audience approval or did Korine even stop to consider how these moments would be received? Is Spring Breakers really the serious social commentary it seems to pretend to be or just a tacky exploiter that points and laughs at societal disease? Is Korine documenting or actually celebrating the decline of western civilization? Either way, this vile opus has much to say about American life, and much of it is true.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Spring Breakers is:

9. State-skeptical/anti-business. “Everyone can use a little bailin’ out once in a while,” Alien says in a line that hints at a broader significance. With his neck tattoo of a dollar sign, Alien symbolizes misguided rapacity and mirrors the criminal world of big business.

8. Pro-gay. Girls frequently engage in teasing kisses, grinding, and so forth, none of it particularly sexy. The sum effect, however, is normalization. Alien clearly enjoys sucking the guns and tells the girls afterward that he loves them.

7. Media-critical. “Just fuckin’ pretend like it’s a video game. Act like you’re in a movie or somethin’,” one of the girls advises the others before they commit a robbery. “I got Scarface on repeat. Constant, y’all,” Alien boasts, contributing to the sense that these young people’s poor behavior has been programmed by their entertainment (cf. The Bling Ring).

6. Anti-American. Alien describes his materialistic gangsta lifestyle as “the American Dream” (cf. Pain and Gain). “Seeing all this money makes my pussy wet,” one of the girls says.

5. Anti-Christian. Juxtaposed scenes equate Christianity and substance abuse as means of escape from reality. Two dumb Christian friends of Faith advise her (with good reason, as it turns out) to “pray super hardcore” for her well-being in Florida. (Ironically, her religious scruples do preserve her from the danger experienced by the other girls.)

4. Diversity-skeptical and anti-wigger. “I don’t like it here,” Faith says, finding herself in the midst of a bunch of scuzzy blacks and wiggers and feeling intensely uncomfortable. This moment counterbalances the casual flashes of suggested black-white miscegenation in the film. A theme of Spring Breakers is self-destruction, and one moment in which a girl drinks from a black water pistol, a rapper’s smug face on a poster behind her, indicates the self-loathing and suicidal nature of wiggerism.

3. Culturally and morally ambivalent. From drugs to guns and gangsterism to flippant fornication, Korine keeps such a cold, ambiguous distance that his attitude from one scene to the next is occasionally difficult to fathom. The copious casual sex and drug abuse carry surprisingly few consequences, with only a shot of a vomiter passed out by a toilet (and party-crashing by police) disrupting the flow of fun. There is nothing at all admirable in Alien or his groupie disciples, and yet the amount of time devoted to his misbehavior, his air of a tragic artist of wasted potential, and the martyrish pose pretentiously granted him at his demise would appear to give him a neon sheen of antiheroic myth. The ravages of gunplay, likewise, are mitigated by the fetishistic fascination and sexuality accorded to firepower. One of the girls determines that “being a good person” is the “secret to life”, but fails to act according to this piece of wisdom.

2. Relativistic and nurturist (i.e., anti-science). Spring Breakers points to environment as the key determiner of individual development, discrediting the role that genetics and race play in shaping human intelligence and character. “I was the only white boy in my whole neighborhood,” the worthless Alien recounts. Consequently, he grows up to be indistinguishable from the criminal blacks among whom he moves. “We met people who are just like us. Just the same as us,” one of the girls reflects in voice-over. Only the social context of their spoiled upbringing, sheltered by white privilege, has presumably prevented the girls from sinking into savagery before now. Heritability would appear to play no role in shaping these people, so that Spring Breakers works like a stock anthropology lecture to the effect that those spear-brandishing jungle natives in the National Geographic are no less civilized than the European gentleman reading poetry in his smart smoking jacket, their mating and war-making rituals being identical at bottom. The culture war does, however, appear to hold importance for Korine, even if it is not always clear on which side of the battle line he stands.

1. Anti-human. No likable characters = no reason to care.

Baseball’s black deity, Jackie Robinson, gets the big screen treatment again in 42; and, with the exception of some suspensefully staged ball-playing sequences, it is a thoroughly pedestrian, by-the-numbers portrait of an uninteresting but inspirational figure who is less a living, breathing human being than the inspirational embodiment of an inspirational ideal.  For the most part, this inspirational film is a repetitive series of inspirational scenes in which whites express schock, hostility, and ultimately admiration as the inspirational Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) encounters and inspirationally overcomes racist adversity; provides inspiration to fellow blacks; or inspirationally embraces his wife (Nicole Beharie) and tells her he loves her – all as the mandatory inspirational strings and brass inspirationally swell and soar at appropriately inspirational moments.

Chadwick Boseman, who resembles a young Wesley Snipes, is adequate but less than revelatory in the role of Jackie Robinson; although, to be fair, such lackluster material would probably challenge and stump any actor to make something interesting of it.  The same goes for Nicole Beharie as his wife and Andre Holland as sportswriter Wendell Smith.  Geriatric, bespectacled Harrison Ford affects (?) a raspy grumble as color-blind Branch Rickey, the lovable old voice of morality at the heart of the film, and is probably 42‘s most notable asset.

Unfortunately, writer-director Brian Helgeland has some things to learn about crafting crowd-pleasing narratives of racial emancipation in these post-Django times.  For instance, in a locker room scene, Robinson confides to fellow Dodger Ralph Branca (Hamish Linklater) that he waits and showers after his teammates rather than joining them because he wants to avoid making any of them uncomfortable.  Inexplicably and inexcusably omitted is what ought, again in this post-Django age, to be the obligatory reference to why Robinson defers in the matter of showers.  The truth, of course, as every intelligent viewer of 42 must know, is that the wise and humble Robinson fears frightening the scurrying whites by unparking his jurassic prick – and yet, when Branca eventually persuades Robinson to shower with them, nothing so much as a bug-eyed reaction shot or a double-take is inserted to indicate the inspirational monstrousness of our hero’s penis.

In simpler, happier, less degraded times, Helgeland penned one of this reviewer’s favorite horror films, 1988’s 976-Evil.  One can only assume that his fee for that script was an infinitesimal fraction of the price he commands as a screenwriter today in the Hollywood major leagues; and yet, to have fallen from those satanic teen horror heights of the 1980s to churning out boring p.c. fluff to indoctrinate the masses demands serious consideration of one implacably flame-engulfed question: is the money really worth it? – for what shall it profit a screenwriter if he gain Hollywood and lose his individuality in the process?

2.5 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 42 is:

9. Anti-Catholic.  A Catholic youth group’s sanctimonious meddling loses adulterous Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) his job.

8. Pro-marriage/pro-family.  Them was differnt times, y’understand.

7. Anti-science.  Study of human biodiversity is made the stuff of mockery when one pressman laughs at another for suggesting that blacks’ longer heel bones give them an unfair physical advantage in baseball.

6. Capitalist – albeit probably inadvertently.  42 presents a sympathetic portrait of businessman Branch Rickey, president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  While Rickey’s motive for integrating baseball is, as he explains, motivated by his desire to right a moral wrong, he is also taking the risk to satisfy the niche market of black baseball fans.  More importantly, 42 demonstrates the ability of the market to regulate civility and race relations without the interference of government agencies.  When Robinson’s old team the Kansas City Monarchs stops at a filling station and the attendant forbids him to use the whites-only restroom facilities, Robinson threatens on behalf of the club to take their business elsewhere – so that the attendant, fearful of losing the money these black customers represent, relents and allows Robinson to relieve himself.  Viewers are thus reminded that before affirmative action and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there were healthy competition, choice, and consequently stronger private property rights.

5. Multiculturalist/pro-wigger.  In an inspirational turn, more and more whites respond positively to Robinson’s inspirational trailblazing.  Rickey relates to Robinson an anecdote about how he saw a young white boy at play and pretending he was Robinson – a white boy wanting to be like a black man!  How . . . inspirational.

4. Anti-South/anti-white.  Florida hicks threaten to attack a house where Robinson is staying.  Throughout 42, the southerner’s drawl might as well be the mark of the Beast, and there is actually a character listed in the credits as “Cracker”.

3. Black supremacist.  A previously skeptical racist, after seeing him play, concedes that Robinson might after all be a “superman”.  A reporter speculates that blacks will run whites right out of the game.  A little black boy (Dusan Brown) who shows up occasionally for cutesie points, always starry-eyed over Jackie Robinson, demonstrates blacks’ superior vocabulary by saying “discombobulated”.

2. Christian.  Rickey invokes the Bible more than once and compares the necessities of Robinson’s task to the prescriptions of Jesus Christ.  “Life Is a Ball Game”, the gospel song that plays as the credits roll, informs viewers that Jesus is waiting for Robinson at the home plate.

1. Anti-racist/anti-fascist/progressive (i.e., pro-yawn).  A trite narration opens the film, perpetuating the myth of the “greatest generation”, celebrating America’s “victory” over fascism in WW2, and explaining to the audience how blacks, despite being especially responsible for this “victory”, returned home only to face the atrocities of Jim Crow era segregation.  Rickey later equates the war against the Nazis with the civil rights struggle at home, the implication being that racist southerners and other internal opponents of integration are just like the Nazis – an enemy to be destroyed.  A group of racist teammates creates a petition objecting to Robinson’s presence in their game, dubbing this document the “Brooklyn Dodger Declaration of Independence” and in this way associating the country’s slave-owning founders with a heritage of racism shared by the KKK and the Nazis.  “A Jew probably wrote that,” racist Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) scoffs when confronted with an editorial scolding him for his shameful baiting of Robinson – a reminder that blacks and Jews are in it together when it comes to combating and exorcising the pale racist specter that haunts America.

Iron Sky – which, for the purposes of this review, shall go by the more appropriate moniker MSNBC: The Movie – is a Finnish-German-Australian co-production pretending to satirize American political life by way of an invasion of outer space Nazis.  Refugees of the Third Reich, MSNBC: The Movie would have viewers believe, sought shelter on the dark side of the moon in 1945 and since then have occupied themselves building an armada of spacecraft to reconquer Earth.

The Nazis’ plan is enacted ahead of schedule after American astronauts land on the moon.  Among the unlucky voyagers is James Washington (Christopher Kirby), actually just a model being used to promote a cynical “Black to the Moon?  Yes We Can!” promotion in support of the reelection campaign for an idiotic treadmill-stomping Sarah Palin lookalike President of the United States (Stephanie Paul).  After beating Washington and forcing him to listen to Hitler speeches, the Nazis turn him into an “Aryan” by dyeing his skin, teach him to sieg-heil, and take him with them on a reconnaissance mission in advance of their invasion of Earth.  Tagging along is Renate (the permanently stained Julia Dietze), fiancee of expedition leader and future fuhrer Klaus (Gotz Otto).  Naturally, Renate, meeting her first black man, is immediately enamored and wants to be his special friend.

Klaus and Renate are a big hit at the (presumably Republican) White House, where Madame President hires them as her speechwriters, their Nazi rhetoric sounding perfect coming out of her own mouth and attracting an interested following of ignorant white vidiot flag-wavers.  Meanwhile, Renate begins to learn the truth about the historical nature of National Socialism while on Earth when, for instance, she runs into a gaggle of the sorts of sexist skinheads who can be found loitering on any typical American street corner.  Is Madame President disappointed when the Nazis finally invade the planet?  To the contrary, “It’s wonderful!” she enthuses, observing that all presidents who start wars in their first terms get reelected.

Soon America’s outer space military might, spearheaded by the USS George W. Bush, flies into unilateral action along with some unwelcome help from the rest of the world.  Will democracy survive?  Will Washington’s color be restored?  Will Renate ditch the goosestepper for the fly black guy?  Will the identical specters of white pride and fascism never vanish from the face of the Earth?  Only MSNBC knows.

Apart from relatively high production values, there is really nothing good to say about MSNBC: The Movie, which, true to its title, is at no point amusing, insightful, or entertaining.  Euro-slime stalwart Udo Kier, who used to appear in recommendable movies, here collects a paycheck for frowning while wearing a Nazi uniform for a few minutes of screentime, but makes the viewer’s experience no more endurable.  For those, however, who find immense hilarity in the idea of a Nazi from outer space seeing a dirty magazine for the first time in his life and saying, “Pictures of this kind turn me on,” there may be something of value in it.  On the subject of pornography, only something as pungent, truthful, and relatively wholesome as that is likely to wash the taste of MSNBC: The Movie from this reviewer’s unsmiling mouth.

A star and a half.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS – as if this hunk of cinematic carrion could spoil!]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that MSNBC: The Movie is indefensible garbage and:

9. Anti-Christian.  Quoth the Nazis: “We are the gift of both God and science.”  “Get me a miracle!” the president stupidly commands a campaign consultant.  A fire-and-brimstone sermon for some reason accompanies footage of outer space warfare.

8. Anti-science.  As in Django Unchained, rational understanding of human biodiversity is transformed into racialist pseudoscience.

7. Anti-gun.  A redneck bitch with a gun fires without warning as soon as she sees people on her land: “Get the hell outta my property!”  Black thugs produce guns in another scene, contributing to an image of America as a benighted hellhole of mass murder potential.

6. Diversity-skeptical.  Notwithstandng its anti-racist message, MSNBC: The Movie emerges as a portrait of a country and a planet with no hope of racial or cultural reconciliation.  “You’ll be sorry you did that, white boy!” Washington says when the Nazis beat him.  Then, when Washington, unaware that his skin has been whitened, approaches a group of urban blacks in a friendly way, they immediately draw their weapons on him.  To the extent that Republicans cater to blacks, such as by promoting the likes of Colin Powell and James Washington, it is strictly for dishonest political purposes.

5. Liberal.  MSNBC: The Movie perpetuates the tiresome leftist delusion that Republicans are somehow akin to the Nazis and that all are fascists in their hearts.  If evil conservatives had their way, they would fiendishly censor and whittle The Great Dictator down to a single scene so as to make Charlie Chaplin appear to endorse Hitler.  A magazine cover showing the president has the caption “New World Order”.

4. Anti-white male.  White men are represented in MSNBC: The Movie by Nazis or other unscrupulous politicians and are mostly stupid, angry, loud, violent, and generally worthless.  A Nazi spacecraft is described as a “fat phallus”.  “I’ve come to discuss our legal union,” Klaus says to fiancee Renate, demonstrating the maximum romance that Teutonic homo sapiens can muster.  “Science demands us to unite . . .”

3. Pro-miscegenation/pro-slut.  Unlike the violent Klaus, James Washingon is a good kisser, and after his naturally sexy poop complexion has been restored, Renate throws caution to the winds of change by planting a long, squishy, disgusting French kiss on him – ensuring that, when the moon invaders really do flash-mob the planet Earth, they will be mulattoes instead of Nazis.

2. Antiwar.  Madame President welcomes the invasion as a boost to her reelection campaign.  A Middle Eastern delegate to a body like the United Nations questions whether America’s claim for the necessity of war is not motivated by lust after natural resources.  In the end, this turns out to be the case, as a vast store of potential energy is discovered on the moon, prompting the governments of Earth, lately victorious against the Nazis, to launch into mutual nuclear annihilation out of greed.

1. Anti-fascist/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn on both counts).  When will white people learn?

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