Archives for posts with tag: capital-ambivalent

space

The appropriately odd-looking Asa Butterfield is cast as Gardner Elliot, the first human being born on Mars, in an ultimate emo romance fantasy that might just as well have been titled The Perks of Being a Mars Baby. The loneliest teen in the universe, Gardner, orphaned when his astronaut mother (Janet Montgomery) dies giving birth to him, is restricted to the planet of his birth because his heart and bones, having developed in the gravity of Mars, are unsuited to life on Earth. Consequently, he lives and mopes among the scientists living on Mars but strikes up a touching internet correspondence with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), an alienated high school girl living back in the States. Eventually, after surgical modifications allow Gardner to make to journey to Earth, he of course rejects being grounded by NASA and hatches a plan to escape, meet Tulsa, and track down his father, about whom he knows nothing. Robertson is too attractive to be convincing as a high school outcast, but does create a tear-jerkingly irresistible chemistry with Mr. Butterfield, who is perfect as the quintessential socially awkward Gen-Z outcast hothouse flower. Gary Oldman, too, is commendably present as the complicated elder statesman of the Mars program. A sweet film, and heartily recommended to angst-ridden teens of all ages.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Space Between Us is:

5. Class-conscious. Blue-collar Tulsa steals a BMW, confident that the presumably wealthy owner can afford the loss.

4. Family-ambivalent. The horror of Sarah Elliot’s childbirth scene is arguably antinatalist; but the film is largely concerned with the hole left in young people’s lives by the absence of conventional family structures.

3. Green. The exposition suggests that the likelihood ecological catastrophe on Earth could serve as a motivator for colonization of other planets. Wind turbines, meanwhile, illustrate the availability of alternative energy sources.

2. Capital-ambivalent. Sam’s Club, Tulsa explains, is like shopping a million stores at once with a trillion dollars to spend. In other words, she appreciates the cheap goods that neoliberalism has made available to the consumer. Gardner becomes ill during a visit to Las Vegas, however, when he is confronted with the dark side of globalization. Gaudy imitations of world cities thrown together in one neon hodge-podge disorient him and prompt him to observe that these things are not supposed to exist side-by-side. During this same sequence, Gardner appears to be horrified at the sight of a mulatto child.

1. Sexist! The Space Between Us seems at first glance to be promoting feminism with its depiction of a valiant female astronaut leading a trailblazing Mars expedition. It quickly undermines this deception, however, by having her turn out to be secretly pregnant, demonstrating that men and women bring different liabilities to the workplace.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Zombies vs. Strippers

The Tough Titty, a strip club in a seedy Los Angeles slum, finds itself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in this silly Full Moon outing. Spider (Circus-Szalewski), the proprietor, along with his bevy of shapely and jiggly employees, must cope with swelling numbers of undead perverts who congregate around the building while everyone also tries to come to terms with how they will spend what may be their last night on Earth. A pair of lewd customers wants nasty thrills; DJ Bernie (Tanner Horn) just wants to get high; while Spider and the strippers increasingly find that staying alive is more important than making money they might not be able to spend.

Slightly better than the tacky and unimaginative title might suggest, Zombies vs. Strippers is still an unremarkable pile of trash and risks overstaying its smelly welcome even at a meager seventy-four minutes padded with lengthy opening credits. There are, of course, curves galore, and a few witty one-liners; but the zombies, after a nice gradual tease during the exposition, offer only a modicum of suspense and pay diminishing returns as more and more of the snarlers appear onscreen. Good enough for a slow night, but hardly the movie this viewer would want at the top of his queue at the end of the world.

3 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Zombies vs. Strippers is:

13. Diversity-skeptical. Black stripper Vanilla (Brittany Gael Vaughn) dismisses “crazy fuckin’ white boys”.

12. Pro-gun. Guns are used defensively against the corpses.

11. Anti-slut. Fornicators are punished, with the zombie plague being compared to venereal disease.

10. Anti-X.  Like Creep Van, Zombies vs. Strippers holds Generation X/Y in low regard, particularly in terms of their value to employers.  DJ Bernie is a pothead, and the strippers can be foulmouthed and sassy. “I’m a professional. That used to mean something,” bouncer Marvin (J. Scott) reflects disapprovingly on the slacker mentality. “The American Dream is stuck in the mud,” children’s host Hambo the Ranch Hand (Chance A. Rearden) says before advocating the extermination of the rising generation.

9. Anti-TV.  Paralleling the zombie plague is the zombie-like vapidity and desensitization of the characters in the film from what seems to have been a lifelong diet of dumb television. “What would Hambo do?” Spider asks, the pig-nosed TV personality having apparently taken the place of Jesus in his life. Characters are more than once unable to distinguish between entertainment and imminent threat.

8. Anti-police. The LAPD, whether from cowardice or indifference, never enters the neighborhood of the Tough Titty. Bikers laugh at the threat of a call to the police.

7. Pro-choice/euthanasist. The infected must be put out of their misery for the good of humanity. Hambo, holding up two eggs, calls for the “eggstermination” of the young.

6. Anti-drug. Spider insults a zombie, calling it “crackhead”, and tells Bernie that weed will lower his sperm count. Later, offering a reefer to a zombie, Bernie is bitten.  When Bernie the zombie is killed by Vanilla, she cries, “This is your brain on drugs, motherfucker!” and pierces his head with her high-heel shoe. Drinking impairs the judgment of more than one character. One man is killed just as he is about to light a cigarette.

5. Capital-ambivalent. Zombies vs. Strippers presents a warts-and-all but basically sympathetic portrait of the American small businessman in Spider, who despite his efforts has failed to make the Tough Titty profitable.  Spider is not above trying to cheat a customer out of his money, but his chosen victim, musician Spike (Adam Brooks), is dishonest and an admitted thief. Adding to Spider’s woes are disrespectful and lazy employees like Bernie, whose poor turntable efforts prompt Spider to threaten to replace him with an mp3 player.

4. Anti-Christian. Christians are represented by biker Red Wings (Brad Potts), who spouts biblical claptrap but makes little secret of his nasty-mindedness. Spike gets tired of listening to his “religious crap”. One of the strippers irreverently dons a nun costume.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Black stripper Vanilla, announced as two scoops of chocolate ice cream that will make a man’s banana split, is desired by the white men around her and engages in flirtation with Red Wings.

2. Feminist.  The name of the strip club, the Tough Titty, says it all. Strong women stand the best chance of surviving. The representative male chauvinist pig (Patrick Lazzara) who uses abusive language against the strippers is certain to meet with an unpleasant end.

1. Relativist/nihilist.  “We’re all a bunch of criminals. A whole world of ‘em.”

 

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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.

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