Archives for posts with tag: capitalist
Cure

“Help! Let me out of this shitty movie!”

I’ve developed such an iron stomach when it comes to digesting rotten movies that it really says something when it takes me multiple sittings to make it all the way through one, as happens to have been the case with A Cure for Wellness. This plodding Judaic dud concerns a corporate creep (Dane DeHaan) who travels to Switzerland to retrieve an insane executive who is reportedly recuperating in a mysterious clinic. Switzerland essentially being a piece of Germany, the place is naturally being run by crypto-Nazi perverts with all sorts of deep, dark European secrets. Boringly perverted director Gore Verbinski and his collaborators are so determined to give the setting and characters an air of coldness and clinical inhumanity that these qualities, unfortunately, end up attaching themselves to the film itself, making it about as appetizing as a gore popsicle. Even the effort to liven things up with would-be shocks like sadistic dentistry, eels in a toilet, masturbation, and incestuous rape only make the movie more of a yawn-inducer. Even the Blu-ray menu is irritating, with its horror movie cliché of a little girl’s monotonous singing. Throw in the fact that this is yet another mean-spirited production of Israeli intelligence asset Arnon Milchan (opening with a shot of skyscrapers, to boot) and A Cure for Wellness goes straight into the biohazard bin.

2 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Cure for Wellness is:

3. Assimilationist, showing the inspiring ability of blacks and Indians to ape European dress and mannerisms.

2. Judeo-capitalist, casting a financial criminal as the protagonist.

1. Anti-white and pro-miscegenation. Early in the movie, a white woman makes a reference to a “twelve-inch” black penis, suggesting congoid sexual superiority. The pathology of a racially homogeneous community is conveyed by icy-eyed Europeans whose sterile paleness is amplified by their all-white wardrobe. National Socialist notions of racial hygiene are parodied as a form of isolationist inbreeding. The protagonist learns that the clinic occupies the property of a nobleman who determined that the only woman pure enough to bear him a child was his sister. Sad to report, we have now actually plumbed the cultural depth at which audiences are sufficiently debased to tolerate the casual horror of a father (Jason Isaacs) sticking his hand up his daughter’s crotch and then sniffing his fingers for the camera. Hitler is never explicitly referenced, but the entire backstory of fiendish medical experiments and fields full of emaciated corpses are intended to evoke the specter of the persecution of the Jews. A Cure for Wellness functions as “Holocaust” revenge porn, with the viewer expected to exult in the sight of a sheltered European girl (Mia Goth) cleaving her father’s skull with a shovel and riding into the night on a bike with the evilly grinning New York crook who has rescued her from the Swiss ethno-dystopia.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Two Days One Night

Deux Jours, Une Nuit is a dreary and mundane French “art” film directed by Belgium’s Dardenne brothers. Marion Cotillard, whom American audiences may remember as the femme fatale Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises, stars as Sandra, a working mother whose poor psychological health has kept her at home and away from her job for some time. In her absence, her boss has given her coworkers an offer they find hard to refuse: either take Sandra back at their present wage rate, or agree to terminate her in exchange for a raise for everyone else. Due to irregularities in the circumstances of their initial decision, which has (unsurprisingly) gone against her, the workers are to be given a chance to hold a second vote. Sandra now has one weekend – the two days and one night of the title – to locate and approach each of her coworkers to convince them to take her back and forfeit the promised raise.

Nothing about Sandra, who suffers from depression and spends most of the movie moping, despairing, and gobbling Xanax tablets, is particularly interesting, and one suspects that this is intentional; she stands for the common person who is too often forgotten. Scenes of her intermittently breaking down and being encouraged by her sensitive husband (Fabrizio Rongione) to persevere and not to give up on her peers and their dormant capacity for selflessness are, unfortunately, somewhat repetitive, and not the strongest material to support an entire feature film. What ultimately saves and elevates Two Days, One Night above the level of tedium is the earnestness of the film’s key performances.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Two Days, One Night is:

6. Anti-American. The selfish Julien (Laurent Caron), a collaborationist co-conspirator with the workplace management, wears a “USA” patch on his shirt, perhaps signifying his sympathy with neoliberalism.

5. Anti-marriage. Sandra’s coworker Anne (Christelle Cornil) determines to leave her husband after years of being bullied.

4. Anti-drug. Sandra’s abuse of Xanax is worrying to her husband, whose concerns are shown to be warranted when she attempts suicide with an overdose.

3. Pro-union. The filmmakers, in an interview featured on the Criterion Blu-ray, say that their intent was to illustrate the “savagery” of companies whose workforces are not unionized. “We thought that with a nonunion company, we’d be closer to the raw truth of the social situation people experience today.”

2. Ostensibly anti-capitalistic, with workers pitted against each other by capital.

1. Dysgenic, pro-immigration, and crypto-corporate. Two Days, One Night is fundamentally disingenuous and misleading in framing the plight of the western worker as an individual rather than a national-racial dilemma. People are, of course, individuals on one level of their experience; but the inundation of European and European-descended peoples with Third World undesirables is precisely what has suppressed the typical worker’s wages and standard of living. In the end, when the tables are turned, and Sandra has the option of taking her job back on the stipulation that Alphonse (Serge Koto), an African, will be terminated, viewers are expected to be inspired that Sandra, playing the good goy, makes the wrong decision and sacrifices her own livelihood to save the congoid. Two Days, One Night goes out of its way to depict non-white immigrants as gentle, helpful souls and credits to their new communities, and even includes an African doctor (Tom Adjibi) who saves Sandra’s life after her overdose. To this extent, then, the film promotes a de facto corporate-state agenda.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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American Johns

Natalia-Christabelle Serrano in American Johns (2015)

This 12-minute short from writer-director C.L. Hoffa depicts a few episodes in the life of Melissa Masters (Natalia-Christabelle Serrano), a former child actress who now works as a call girl. Unfortunately, the story is told entirely in images and a couple of captions to identify the principal characters, with the viewer left to connect the dots of whatever semblance of nonlinear narrative is to be had. Melissa specializes in boring kink, alternately crawling around on the floor like Ai in Tokyo Decadence (1992) – though the director cites The Canyons (2013) as an influence – or playing the dominatrix and stepping on masochists. Unfortunately for her, this results in one of her johns lying face-down dead on the floor of a hotel room, which brings the creepy and haggard Detective Steve Scott (Christopher Loring) into her life.

Lyle

When Lyle Lovett attacks! (Rey Marz and Natalia-Christabelle Serrano in American Johns)

A man who appears to be a slumming Lyle Lovett (Rey Marz) is shown being confrontational and then more adoring of her, but the exact nature of the transaction remains unclear. Hoffa advertises American Johns as “experimental“, so one assumes that any ambiguity is intentional. Minimalist electronic music abstractly suggests moods for the episodes, but one is sometimes unsure how to feel. Not much interest, for instance, attaches itself to scenes of Melissa walking around and chatting on her cell phone outside Bob’s Big Boy – particularly when the viewer has no idea what she is talking about. Maybe the idea is that men see her as fast food?

2.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that American Johns is:

3. Pro-gay and pro-miscegenation. Melissa appears to enjoy a non-platonic relationship with a tattooed black woman.

2. Misandrist. Men, in their relationship with women, are either customers or inquisitors. Melissa’s past as an actress finds a continuity in her work as a prostitute, in that men expect her to play a role – they do not accept the real Melissa, in other words. The tramp, in the course of her duties, discovers that even the most seemingly masculine man is only a writhing maggot at heart – they, too, are actors.

1. Feminist (i.e., anti-human). American Johns, unlike The Canyons, appears to aim not for an implied moral judgment in its portrait of soulless squalor, but to aspire to some sort of seedy chic, a de facto glorification of the protagonist’s AIDS-tempting lifestyle. Mise-en-scene of the character’s introduction to the audience – framing her through and against the vertical lines of blinds and railings that convey the impression of bars of a cage – suggests that Melissa is a prisoner; but the heroine’s final moment onscreen indicates that she is in control – she is the zookeeper minding the cage – and firmly in command of the men in her life. Her nihilism and capitalist degeneracy, it seems, are some form of women’s empowerment – a realization of some mutation of the American Dream.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey, who over the past few years has become one of this writer’s favorite actors working today, is the only reason to watch Dallas Buyers Club, the most recent attempt to subvert and metamorphose the American cowboy into a gay activism icon after the manner of Brokeback Mountain (2005). McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a narrow-minded ne’er-do-well whose life changes forever – or, anyway, for what remains of it – after he is diagnosed with what Andy Warhol called “gay cancer”.

Jennifer Garner portrays a concerned physician, while Jared Leto munches the scenery as junkie transvestite Rayon, who becomes Woodroof’s business partner in the “Dallas Buyers Club”, a grassroots enterprise designed to provide AIDS sufferers with a healthier treatment alternative than the big pharmaceutical competition. Woodroof’s drive to prolong his life and combat the establishment’s market stranglehold is fairly compelling, but squeamish viewers are forewarned that the movie contains such tacky attempts at heart-tuggery as the sight of a sick, self-pitying transvestite drooling blood and whining “I don’t wanna die . . .”

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dallas Buyers Club is:

9. Anti-Christian. Woodroof dresses as a priest while attempting to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. The image of an AIDS patient wearing a clerical collar is of course no sartorial accident and works as a barb directed at Catholic moral hypocrisy, so many priests being closeted homosexuals, many of whom are known to have succumbed to AIDS.

8. Anti-drug. Woodruff’s intravenous drug use, along with his inveterate whore-chasing, has put him at greater risk for contracting AIDS. Also, Rayon’s dope addiction only exacerbates his decline.

7. Anti-racist. One of the personal failings Woodroof must overcome is his racism, evidenced by his references to Asians as “chinks” and Saudis as “sand niggers”. As his drug procurement operation goes global, he learns to appreciate the profitability of doing business with foreigners. “I like your style,” he tells a Japanese doctor.

6. Feminist. In addition to overcoming his racism, Woodroof must also come to accept women’s contributions to the modern workforce. “I don’t want a nurse, I want a doctor!” he protests in one early scene.

5. Anti-redneck. The spectacle of a gun-toting “homophobic asshole” and piece of “Texas hick white trash” suffering from AIDS and lashing out in his agony as dignified professional women and minorities look on with contempt is pure political porn for liberals, the quintessence of their wishful thinking.

4. Capitalist. Dallas Buyers Club betrays a left-libertarian streak in its combination of social liberalism and celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit, attempting to illustrate how unfettered markets will serve both the small businessman and consumer. “I say what goes in my body, not you.”

3. Anti-corporatism. The IRS, DEA, and particularly the FDA appear as antagonists in the film, the cronyist footmen of big pharma monopolists looking to squeeze the competition. “Now that’s the shit that’ll rot your insides,” Woodroof avers, examining a package of meat in a grocery store. “What a surprise,” he then adds, “FDA-approved.” The FDA, Dallas Buyers Club alleges, merely functions as big pharma’s glorified street pushers.

2. Pro-gay. Through a business partnership that blossoms into a friendship, Woodroof learns to appreciate Rayon as an individual, and comes to appreciate the general plight of homosexuals as he succumbs to the disease they share. AIDS, as the great sexual-sociopolitical equalizer, almost seems to be the movie’s unsung hero. Demonstrating his transformation from homophobe to humanitarian, Woodroof in one scene grabs his bigoted friend T.J. (Kevin Rankin) and holds him in a headlock until he agrees to shake Rayon’s hand. Homosexuals appear as sensitive and nurturing throughout Dallas Buyers Club.

1. Pro-NWO. “Look at this place,” Woodroof muses, surveying the scene in a bohemian clinic south of the border. “Fuckin’ chinks, homos, herbs, hot nurses. You got a regular New World Order goin’ on here . . .”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

For a Good Time Call

Two New York Jewesses (Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor) start their own phone sex service in this lightweight but basically enjoyable chick flick. The film is plenty nasty, but in a matter-of-fact way that may leave male viewers wanting something harder-edged and rowdier, as at heart this is a film about female friendship and sisterhood. Miller and Graynor are fine in the leads, as is high-energy Justin Long as the obligatory stereotypical gay guy friend. Viewers may wish, however, that the grubby cameos by Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith had been expanded into full-fledged supporting roles, as the movie verges dangerously on an estrogen overdose.

3 out of 5 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that For a Good Time, Call . . . is:

7. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. New York City appears as an orderly multiracial metropolis. Admiring references are made to a “Peruvian boy” and “hot Asian guys.” Dark-colored dildos (one named Earl) make more than one appearance.

6. Pro-drug. Katie (Graynor) and Lauren (Miller) both smoke marijuana. While hard drinking results in foolish behavior, vomiting, and increased risk of rape (which receives somewhat irreverent mention), more responsible imbibing carries no consequences.

5. Anti-Christian. Krissy (Sugar Lyn Beard), a promising phone sex hiree, turns out to be an undercover Christian missionary who tries to shame the callers into repentance. “We’re Jews,” Katie proclaims defiantly as she and Lauren give Krissy her walking papers. Jesse and Katie, both living it up at a debauched college party, are revealed to have met in a religious studies class.

4. Anti-family. “It’s not so bad being alone.” Lauren’s parents keep her finances under surveillance, and Katie speaks dismissively of their controlling anal retention: “Your rich parents from Long Island, they cut your sandwich into cute little four squares until you went to prep school.” Katie, after first expressing a sentimental wish to retain her grandmother’s furnishings in their apartment, later decides, “Fuck Grandma. Can I get us that new couch?” A jailed dyke complains of phone sex being “more depressing than the macaroni necklace my kid sends me.”

3. Pro-gay/pro-castration, extolling the sensitive, effeminized man, particularly in the characters of wimpy phone sex aficionado Sean (Mark Webber) and homosexual Jesse (Justin Long), who proves that a girl’s best friend is the man who never wants to have sex with her – something, in short, like an unusually well-behaved dog.

2. Capitalist/corporate. “You ladies are living some fucked-up version of the American Dream.” For a Good Time, Call . . . thus celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit. That it characterizes business as whoring might be construed as a criticism if not for the fact that this film champions the slut ideal. In a crude instance of product placement, Jesse compliments Lauren by telling her, “You’re like a Subway gift card.” The integrity of meritocracy is dealt a blow, however, when a job opening is said to have been filled through nepotism.

1.Feminist/pro-slut. Roach spray works in place of Mace, the implication being that men are predatory, noxious insects. One reference is made to venereal disease, but women mostly discuss their anatomy without an ounce of shame. “I’m a slut,” Lauren reflects after her first phone sex. “Is it okay I’m a slut?” “Yeah,” Katie approves, “a slut that made $800 in one night.” Sexual inexperience is a source of shame for Katie, whom Lauren insults as an “insecure virgin”. Also, “We should probably, like, have sex before we live together.” Ironically, however, the film also illustrates the destructive outcomes of feminism in its portrait of a generation of disenfranchised men who, owing to the personally scabrous, unfeminine, and biologically contaminated nature of the women around them, prefer the safety of sanitary remote stimulation to physical interaction with them.

kinopoisk.ru

Nothing epitomizes the summer movie season like a big, blustering, CGI-saturated blockbuster about giant, battling, alien robots. This installment stars Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a down-on-his-luck robotics engineer and single father living in “Texas, U.S.A.” (as a caption conveniently informs those viewers uncertain which country Texas occupies). Cade and his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), get swept up in military-industrial machinations and even intergalactic warfare when he discovers the wreck of a truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime.

Inconveniently, CIA eminence grise Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is secretly rounding up all the Transformers he can find and delivering these to military contractor KSI, headed by arrogant weenie Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), the idea being to corner the technology and create a totally automated U.S. military. Meanwhile, Attinger’s robot co-conspirator Lockdown, along with new creation Galvatron, may not be the controllable assets Joyce and Attinger confidently believe these to be.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is exactly the explosion-packed, lightning-paced action extravaganza fans are expecting, with quite a few close shaves, noisy weapons exotica, nasty, slime-spewing creatures, and one particularly suspenseful moment with characters inching their way along cables suspended high in the air while harried by Lockdown’s robotic hell-hounds. Younger audiences are sure to be in awe. The film’s themes are, however, more adult than juvenile, and parents may be concerned to know that Age of Extinction contains several frightening incidents and one especially noteworthy death scene, that of comic relief slacker Lucas (T.J. Miller), that is too graphically disturbing to be appropriate for children. The film runs a little overlong, and the ending, reminiscent of Prometheus (2012), has Optimus Prime setting out on a new adventure and so setting up the inevitable next installment of the popular toy adaptation franchise.

4 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Transformers: Age of Extinction is:

8. Anti-torture. “This is worse than waterboarding,” robot Brains complains at being shocked by an electric jolt.

7. Pro-serfdom. Tessa aspires to do her part to inflate the American college bubble by applying for financial aid to go to university. The film attempts to milk sympathy from a rejection letter.

6. New age, lending credence to the idea that Earth was once visited by ancient aliens.

5. Corporate, featuring prominent product placement for Victoria’s Secret, Oreo, Giorgio Armani, and Red Bull.

4. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn). Negroid-voiced Transformer Brains exults at being “free at last!” Lucas, objecting to partner Cade’s cutthroat business practices, also alludes to slavery.

3. Capitalist, offering a sympathetic portrait of the struggling small business owner in Cade. Early scenes of the hero’s domestic existence convey a definite impression of an America in economic decline.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Joyce falls for the head executive of his company’s China branch (Bingbing Li).

1. Antiwar, anti-state, and anti-cronyism. Attinger, head of CIA black ops and military contractor KSI’s best customer, expects to take a seven-figure salary with the company after leaving government “service”. Since the Battle of Chicago, a cataclysmic 9/11-like event in which America was attacked by Decepticons and defended by the Autobots, a paranoid police state has taken hold, with Decepticons and Autobots alike being hunted down and neutralized by the fearmongering CIA. Transformers: Age of Extinction also gives a timely illustration of federal authoritarian overreach when CIA agents, with no warrant and no regard for human dignity or life, raid Cade’s property and threaten to murder his daughter. The movie expresses Americans’ discomfort over the advent of drones, as well.

 

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Michael Bay is a filmmaker famous for his slick style-over-substance approach to the medium, and in Pain and Gain, a vibrant, blackly humorous meditation on the American dream by way of an injection of style steroids gouged straight into the audience’s eyeballs, the Bay formula pays entertainment dividends.  Mark Wahlberg plays Danny Lugo, an ambitious bodybuilder with an unhealthy fixation on self-improvement.  He claims to approve of the meritocracy that has made America great, but unfortunately finds exemplars of Americanism in figures like Michael Corleone and Tony Montana.  Consequently, he sees crime and not legitimate business success as the most promising road to riches, and recruits fellow bodybuilders Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to kidnap oily Schlotzky’s proprietor Victor Kershaw (Monk‘s Tony Shalhoub) in the hope of getting him to sign over to them his home and all of his possessions.

Mark Wahlberg is intense as musclebound loser Danny Lugo, and Dwayne Johnson, who demonstrated a knack for comedy even as a professional wrestler, here delivers a hilarious performance to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger’s versatility as an action hero equally adept at goofiness.  As with much of Tarantino’s work, Bay’s film constantly runs the dangerous risk of glorifying or trivializing its subject matter by making its criminals such funny and charismatic characters.  The misadventures of Wahlberg and company are so exciting, fun, and involving that someone could almost forget that these likable bunglers, for all their charm, are really just murderers and thieves.  In the end, however, those who do wrong are punished in this grotesque and shockingly true crime story based on events that occurred in Miami in the mid-90s.  The use of period-faithful tunes from C+C Music Factory, Bon Jovi, and Coolio give an added nostalgic kick to this punchy, pleasantly gross, and perfectly edited dark comedy.

4.5 of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Pain and Gain is:

11. Anti-gay.  Paul, seeing a warehouse full of gay sex toys, expresses discomfort with “homo stuff”.  He deals viciously with a gay come-on (see no. 4).  Danny makes a pejorative reference to “pickle-licking”.

10. Arguably anti-Semitic.  The oily, irascible Kershaw’s Star of David pendant hangs conspicuously as he prattles and makes a sleazy annoyance of himself at the gym.

9. Gun-ambivalent.  Men with criminal records have no difficulty buying weapons from an effeminate and masochistic gun dealer (and Stryper fan) who enjoys being stunned with a taser.  A Confederate flag hanging in his store is probably intended for this film’s purposes to associate gun ownership not with liberty, but with racism.  A woman attempts unsuccessfully to defend herself in her home with a gun.

8. Obesity-ambivalent.  As in Pitch Perfect, Rebel Wilson plays the shameless tubby sexpot.  Other tubs of lard are featured in the film strictly for gross-out humor and audience derision, however.

7. Misogynistic.  Apart from one character, women are in the main represented in Pain and Gain as sluts and slobs.

6. State-skeptical.  Miami police are at first uninterested in investigating Kershaw’s story of how he was kidnapped and dispossessed, citing his Colombian origins as cause for skepticism.  They later admit their mistake.

5. Anti-drug.  Steroids render Adrian impotent.  Paul blows his cut of the loot on cocaine and starts to lose what limited wits he has.

4. Anti-Christian.  Paul’s religious beliefs, which vie with his cocaine problem for possession of his soul, make him susceptible to manipulation.  His professions of Christian devotion constantly clash with his criminal projects and outbursts of violent temper.  Furthermore, the judgmental attitude he derives from his faith finds expression in his belief that he might cure Kershaw of his Judaism.  A homosexual Catholic priest compliments Paul’s physique and tries to put the moves on him.

3. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Adrian, a black man, marries Robin (Wilson), a fat white woman, who recounts at their wedding how her racist grandfather had warned her against black men.  (Ironically, the grandfather’s advice proves to have been valid at least in Adrian’s case.)  Nasty interracial dancing disgraces the screen.  Kershaw, half Colombian and half Jewish, likes Cuban women.

2. Immigration-ambivalent.  Victor Kershaw is the old type of coarse but fiercely entrepreneurial immigrant who through his own talent and efforts has become wealthy.  Two Slav women are depicted as oversexed ditzes.  The fact that one of these entered the country illegally through Mexico highlights America’s border insecurity.

1. Capitalist.  The unsung protagonist of Pain and Gain is Kershaw, the self-made man who, while less handsome and likable than his victimizers, is in the right in seeking lawful revenge against Lugo and his collaborators.  Lugo believes in the American dream and understands that meritocracy plays a role in this; but like others who would redistribute wealth, he is motivated by envy and spite.  This derives from his mistaken notion that all people are equal at birth, the implication of which belief for his type of mentality is that unequal distribution of wealth must be some kind of injustice if two people’s apparently equal origins and efforts result in inconveniently unequal outcomes.  Ed Harris represents the private sector positively as a private investigator who comes to Kershaw’s aid when police fail to act on his client’s allegations.

[UPDATE (8/14/13): A Christian YouTuber offers his disapproving observations on Pain and Gain‘s detrimental cultural significance here.]

Part V of The Filthy Films of Adam Sandler in Ideological Content Analysis: A Cranko-Politico-Critical Retrospective of the ICA Institute for Advanced Sandler Studies

AdamSandler

Unfairly trashed by the consensus critical apparatus on release, this ambitious outing from Adam Sandler goes where few previous comedies have gone with such earnestness of purpose, grappling with the eternal philosophical questions that have given mankind pause over millennia.  Why does evil exist in the universe?  Are there black people in Heaven?  And, most fundamentally, can white men jump – even when descended from the Prince of Darkness himself, and when the spiritual fate of the planet is being played out on the cosmic battlefield of the Harlem Globetrotters court?

Who but Adam Sandler – who, to his credit, manages to keep his face contorted in a comical grimace through every scene – could possibly have brought the heir to the throne of Hell to life in such edifyingly funny fashion while also essaying a bold theological meditation and commentary on the morals of fin-de-siecle America?  The answer – nobody!  Add a bevy of Sandler’s Saturday Night Live buddies including Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Ellen Cleghorne, Kevin Nealon, and Rob Schneider in cameos, stir with a pinch or two of tasty scatalogical humor and outright depravity, and Little Nicky makes for a strange but satisfying brew guaranteed not only to get the audience wasted, but lay their souls to waste as well.

4 out of 5 stars.  Actually a fairly heartwarming experience, Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Little Nicky is underrated, unholy, unashamed, and:

10. Corporate.  Bellicose product placement puts Popeye’s Chicken on the side of the angels.

9. Anti-South.  Nicky more than once jokes that he is from the “Deep South”, thus equating the region with Hell.

8. Pro-gay, at least from the standpoint that all publicity is good publicity.  Clint Howard portrays a grotesque but amusing transvestite.  Also, breasts are made to sprout from Kevin Nealon’s head, which later elicits a favorable remark from Rodney Dangerfield.

7. Multiculturalist/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Validating the authenticity of kitsch pictures hanging in the homes of believers of color, Little Nicky depicts a flock of angels of different races.  Hitler receives special (and very unwelcome) attention from Satan in Hell.  A pro-wigger current finds expression in the line, “Popeye’s Chicken is the shiznit.”

6. Drug-ambivalent.  Central to Nicky’s task of taking his errant brothers back to Hell is trapping them in a magical liquor flask, which could be interpreted as suggesting that liquor is the gateway to eternal damnation.  A boy is depicted vomiting after the drinking age is lowered to 10.  Still, “I came for the beer and the bitches,” says a kid at a Globetrotters game, and marijuana-spiked pastries also receive an endorsement.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  Nicky is the spawn of Jewish Satan (Harvey Keitel) and an Anglo-Saxon angel (Reese Witherspoon) and has one black and one white brother (Tiny Lister and Rhys Ifans, respectively).  Carrying on the bestial tradition from Billy Madison, a giant bird vengefully humps pervert John Lovitz.  A demon (Kevin Nealon) and a gorilla also find themselves in the throes of jungle fever.  Dog Mr. Beefy and sewer rat Heather have “five of the ugliest children you’ve ever seen.”  Jew Sandler again goes for the blondes, in this case mousy Patricia Arquette.

4. Anti-Christian.  Quentin Tarantino represents the faithful as a stereotypical blind-eyed fanatical street preacher.  Angels are portrayed as ditzes.  (See also no. 2)

3. Family-ambivalent/anti-marriage/dysfunction-tolerant.  “I love my father very much,” Nicky says, attempting throughout the film to do his father’s bidding and save him from oblivion.  His family is majorly dysfunctional, however, with unmarried parents and abusive brothers constantly scheming against him.  (“Mom and Dad tried dating for awhile, but were unable to deal with a long distance relationship.”)  The sum effect is a normalization of dysfunction.  A churchgoer praises God for his wife’s pregnancy only to be informed that the child is not his.  A baby in a carriage is transformed into an evil midget that attacks its mother.  “You look like my first wife – only she had more hair,” Dangerfield tells the gorilla.  “I’m cheating on my husband with the weather man,” says a reporter.

2. Relativist.  At stake in the story is the balance of power between good and evil, with one no better than the other.  “Why don’t we all just have fun and do whatever we want?”  Most demons are basically decent folks.

1. Racist! – and specifically anti-Semitic, in spite of the thin pretenses of no. 7 above.  Hell is conspicuously inhabited and lorded over by Jews, with Rodney Dangerfield, Harvey Keitel, and Sandler playing three successive Princes of Darkness.  Jon Lovitz also winds up in Hell.  An Asian stereotypically resorts to kung fu against Nicky.  John Witherspoon plays a jive-talking black thief.

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.

Set aboard a melodrama-plagued pleasure cruise, writer-director Je’Caryous Johnson’s soulful examination of love among African-American couples and singles benefits in energy from being a filmed production of a live play as opposed to a conventional film.  Johnson is a talented jokester with a heart and creates compelling characters brought to vibrant life by an emotionally present and engagingly boisterous all-black cast.  Think Neil Simon keepin’ it real.

A neurotic tension and sense of panic constantly inform Love Overboard, with Johnson portraying African-Americans as a people ever prey to the supernatural forces in their lives, their bodies the eternal, intensely contested battleground of spiritual warfare as they navigate between their fear of God and obsession with sexual satisfaction.  Two types of entity, appropriately, are apostrophized in Love Overboard: Jesus Christ and the male sexual organ.  Love Overboard gets so overheated at times, with a man and woman apparently unable to stop themselves from flying into each other’s arms and grinding in public in one instance, that it starts to make Three’s Company look like I Married Joan.  “Y’all think this is a leg I’m standin’ on, dontcha?  I gotta take my shoe off every time I go pee.”

Running the gamut from shockingly crude to genuinely touching, Love Overboard front-loads most of the bawdy humor and concentrates in its second and third acts on depicting in very human terms people fraught with insecurities and struggling seriously with their relationships, their values, and faith.  The subject of marriage especially frightens and frustrates everyone on the ship.  Those who already are married wonder if staying together is worth the trouble; those unmarried fear the commitment.  Can healthy, excitingly black sex thrive within the constraining cage of a monogamous matrimony?

The ensemble cast is consistently praiseworthy in imbuing the various threads of the story with zany life.  Everyone involved in the production is either highly expressive in speech or song or excels at physical comedy.  Zacardi Cortez, who plays Big Daddy, has the most affecting musical moment; while Rhona Bennett and Tammy Townsend are probably most tender among the women as they hold their end of the line in this floating battle of the sexes.  Je’Caryous Johnson’s humor and humanity as it comes across in his writing probably has the best claim to top billing, however.  Recommended without reservation.  4.5 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Love Overboard is guaranteed fun and:

6. Anti-gay.  An opening monologue mocks San Francisco Christians.

5. Black Uber Alles.  Racial solidarity seems to be of importance.  Oprah’s book recommendations are valued.  “You rollin’ with Obama?” a woman asks, hearing that one of the men works for the Department of Homeland Security.  Women want a man like Obama: “fine”, “intelligent”, and “able to protect me.”  “Chocolate’s out now that Barack is in,” a lighter-skinned man teases a darker one.  Characters enjoy their own and others’ variations of flavor and blackness.

4. Capitalist.  Despite the suggested endorsement of President Obama, the characters give every evidence of not buying into his demagogic desecration of the American dream.  These are people who, rather than playing the victim and begging for coddling by the welfare state, have succeeded or failed according to their own talents and decisions.  One runs a car dealership; another is a stripper; all work for a living or aim to do so.  “Life is what you make it,” Russell (Khalil Kain) observes; or, “Take yo ass to work,” as Johnson puts it bluntly elsewhere in his screenplay.

4. Anti-miscegenation.  Vianessa Castanos warrants special mention for her role as the Latin temptress who threatens black marital stability and wins a unique award from Ideological Content Analysis for displaying the GREATEST CLEAVAGE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE.

3. Traditionalist/pro-family.  “This is a family cruise,” the opening monologue explains, raunchy content notwithstanding.  A pregnant woman refrains from drinking and wants her child to have a good man for a father.  One character does, however, reveal herself to have been horribly wronged by a family member.

2. Christian.  Buck wild though they may long to get, these are people with a fear of God.  “The body according to the Word should be governed by modesty,” pious Lea (Rhona Bennett) reminds herself.

1. Pro-marriage.  Divorce is discouraged.  Couples having troubles should work it out for themselves and for their children’s sake.   The “hit it and quit it” lone wolf mentality loses its appeal with maturity.

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