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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWENTY-ONE

Electric Boogaloo

Like most men who grew up in the eighties, this writer has a treasure trove of fond memories emblazoned with the immortal Cannon logo. Producers of everything from musicals and dance exploiters like The Apple (1980) and Breakin’ (1984) to science-fiction weirdies like Lifeforce (1985) and the remake Invaders from Mars (1986), the Israeli moviemaking duo of director-visionary-madman Menahem Golan and “shrewd businessman” Yoram Globus is most closely associated with a string of classic over-the-top action movies including Enter the Ninja (1981), Death Wish 3 (1985), American Ninja (1985), The Delta Force (1986), Cobra (1986), and Cyborg (1989). The wild variety of the Cannon output furnishes much of the wonder of this documentary.

Lightning-paced and packed to the gills with interviews with an array of writers, directors, actors, and editors who share with the viewer their first-hand memories of this crazy company, Electric Boogaloo is a feast of film clips, archival footage, and funny anecdotes. At a disastrous preview screening of The Apple, for example, the complimentary soundtracks provided to the audience ended up being angrily thrown and embedded in the screen! Actor Alex Winter describes director Michael Winner as “a pathologically brutal, sadistic, insecure, egotistical character” who delighted in depicting rape, while Sharon Stone “was hated on the set [of King Solomon’s Mines (1985)]. All the South Africans hated her. She took a milk bath [and] they peed in the water.” Meeting with Clyde the orangutan from Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Golan is said to have turned to his female head of publicity and asked her, “Would you fuck this monkey?” Cannon staple Charles Bronson, meanwhile, is said to have insisted on being chauffered “about three feet from his dressing room” to the set in his personal Jaguar. “It was more like watching a man golf than act.”

Cannon catapulted to prominence (if not respect) in the industry through its formula of thriftily produced exploitation, outrageous content, and pre-sales chutzpah, the end coming when the company grew too big for its britches and tried to make extravagant special effects blockbusters conceived to rival major studio output but ended up with a list of duds like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) and Masters of the Universe (1987). Responsible for products ranging from turkeys like the midget-in-a-suit chimpanzee film Going Bananas (1987) to the highly regarded Runaway Train (1985), Golan and Globus receive praise and vitriol ranging from actress Martine Beswick’s opinion that they were manipulative, “rotten and horrid”, to director Franco Zeffirelli’s assertion that they were “the best producers I ever worked for.” It is these delicious contradictions of character and clashes of larger-than-life personalities that make the story of Cannon Films such a fascinating ride.

5 stars. Highly recommended. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Electric Boogaloo is:

3. Multiculturalist. Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones recalls with pride how the Breakin’ movies brought the races together where even the United Nations had failed.

2. Zionist, endorsing the official War on Terror narrative. “In a way, [1985’s] Invasion U.S.A. was a very prescient film,” reflects editor Daniel Loewenthal. “We didn’t really think about terrorism, the terrorism was more of an abstract idea.” In fact, Cannon had a very conscious agenda of vilifying Arabs in the American consciousness, as evidenced by the portrayals in The Delta Force. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films alludes to these unsympathetic representations, but approaches the subject with a sense of humor rather than seriousness. Menahem Golan’s birth name was Menahem Globus (he is Yoram’s cousin), but he changed it to Golan in celebration of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. They are also credited with helping to popularize the Jewish supremacist term of abuse “shiksa” with American audiences in their Elliott Gould vehicle Over the Brooklyn Bridge (1984).

1. Oy vey, scratch that last one – this movie is anti-Semitic! Golan and Globus are repeatedly described in terms that reek of Jewish stereotypes. Producer Pieter Van Brugge says, “There was always that wheeling and dealing and that wheeling and dealing was very much – I mean, they were Israelis, and they were defined by that culture.” Laurene Landon, star of America 3000 (1986), excoriates: “You people have a cash register where your heart should be.” Described as being “very conservative”, both Golan and Globus thought nothing of corrupting American morals with their cultural Marxist depravity, one interviewee summarizing their winning formula as “something minus good taste”. Editor Mark Helfrich recalls of The Last American Virgin (1982), “An abortion is being played with U2 music under it, and you go from a doctor performing an abortion to some guy cutting up pizza. […] That’s insane. That’s just nuts,” he goes on, adding, “For instance, after the abortion Gary brings her a Christmas tree and a bag of oranges. That must have meant something in Israel.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Katy_Perry_Part_of_Me

MTV Films’ latest project in the controlled demolition of civilization follows popular candy-coated nut Katy Perry on her California Dreams Tour of 2011, “a year filled with tremendous success and personal heartbreak” for the twinkly star. Along with seemingly interminable adulation from friends and toadies, the viewer is treated to Perry’s bouts of depression as her long-distance relationship with Russell Brand disintegrates. Even so, to be granted entry into the world of Katy Perry is to be plunged into a dazzling phantasmagoria of lollipops, hearts, balloons, confetti, and sexy, garish costumes.

“I feel a real connection to fairy tales, and I think that in some ways I live in a fairytale,” the singer confides, and one quickly sees what she means when confronted with so many sissy prancers ducking, gliding, and kicking around the stage in their candy cane pants. Even freaky Russell Brand, when he meets his lady backstage, looks embarrassed to be seen mixing with this lot of dubious company. Too much hagiography begins to wear on the viewer’s patience, and Perry minus the whorish makeup and the wardrobe is actually rather an uninteresting individual; but Katy Perry: Part of Me does feature some impressive concert cinematography and grotesque visuals aplenty.

2 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Katy Perry: Part of Me is:

10. Pro-miscegenation. Interracial couplings can be glimpsed among her backup dancers.

9. Corporate. Brand sends Katy a text message with a picture of a McDonald’s restaurant and suggests they name their firstborn Ronald.

8. Anti-Christian. Katy’s conservative Pentecostal upbringing, which forbade her to watch The Smurfs or eat Lucky Charms, definitely started to cramp her style as she discovered her inner freak. “I felt like I was never even allowed to even think for myself, and having any kind of feminist live-on-your-own independent spirit is just, ugh, the devil!” (cf. no. 5) Today Perry’s beliefs appear to drift more toward permissive New Age nebulousness: “I really do believe in God[, even if I] probably don’t believe in all the same details that my mom believes, but I have a spiritual relationship with God, and it’s one-on-one, and it’s continually evolving.”

7. Pro-drug. Katy be “sippin’ on gin and juice”.

6. Family-ambivalent. Perry is close with her grandmother, and her parents are generally supportive despite not approving of all of their daughter’s output. She is unprepared, however, to have children of her own.

5. Underachievingly feminist. “I kinda want to be a leader, but, you know, then there’s all those responsibilities.” Still, California girls like Katy are naturally “fine”, “fresh”, and “fierce”.

4. Multiculturalist. The film goes to great lengths to portray Katymania as a messianic and postracial phenomenon and opens with a series of webcam effusions from teen admirers of various races and orientations who say that Perry has shown them that “being weird is okay.”

3. Pro-gay. Perry’s breakout hit, “I Kissed a Girl”, occasions a lesbian smooch from View host Whoopi Goldberg. Among the fans who receive screen time are some Japanese drag queens.

2. Pro-wigger. One must, one supposes, muster something resembling admiration for a songwriter who rhymes “peacock” with “beyatch”. “West coast, represent!”

1. Pro-slut. In addition to her salacious booty-shakery onstage, Perry’s lyrics tend to be of the tawdry “let you put your hands on me in my skintight jeans” and “I wanna see your peacock” variety.

Badges-of-Fury

Jet Li headlines this action comedy as “vintage” cop Huang, who, along with young comic relief partner Wang (Zhang Wen), is tasked with investigating an odd series of “smile murders”, in which each victim wears a mysterious grin at the time of his death. Moderately funny, Badges of Fury would have been strengthened by more shared screen time and bickering/bonding between mismatched partners Huang and Wang, who spend much of the film acting independently; but scenes between the comical Wang and sassy but insecure sergeant Angela (Michelle Chen) are also highly rewarding. The silly, CGI-facilitated action sequences, complete with crazy cartoon sound effects, will probably be too goofy for fight fans accustomed to western sensibilities, so these scenes are best judged by the standards of slapstick.

3.5 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Badges of Fury is:

4. Pro-gay, from the standpoint that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Wang has a run-in with two camp homosexuals who criticize his attire.

3. Asian supremacist. A coroner, citing the superior findings of western medicine, claims there is no such thing as an acupuncture point controlling smiling; but Wang, standing up for Eastern traditions, proves him wrong and makes a major breakthrough in the case by demonstrating that each of the victims died by strategically inserted needles.

2. Pro-family. “Cherish those closest to you,” Badges of Fury advises viewers.

1. Feminism-ambivalent. In the tradition of Hong Kong action, women cops are tough and scrappy; but a telling look on Angela’s face during an interrogation scene suggests that a woman, even an emancipated professional, needs a man in her life to make her happy. Angela is also insecure about her weight and looks. Huang injects further political incorrectness when he reacts to a suspect’s appearance. “You know why we see so many harassment cases? Look at what she’s wearing.”

 

Street Wars

Originally a two-part episode of the TV series True Justice, this ersatz “movie” has over-the-hill kicker Steven Seagal playing the chief of a special sheriff’s task force in the Seattle area. He becomes concerned when clueless clubbers start dropping like flies from a new drug making the rounds of the local rave scene. (Indicative of the depressingly meager budget of Street Wars is the fact that the psychedelic effect of the drug is conveyed by choppy editing, strobe lights, and a close-up of a water bottle being shaken.) “This is gettin’ bad, man. This is gettin’ bad. We gotta do somethin’,” the enlightened law enforcer decides. The investigation will lead his team into a tangle of mob hits and federal corruption, none of it particularly interesting.

Seagal, sporting a plastic Dracula ‘do and a few extra pounds around the midsection, characteristically whispers his way through police procedural gobbledygook and action epilepsy shot nearly entirely in gimmicky ADHD jerkvision to disorient the viewer and try to shock life into this video corpse. Speed-up/slow-down annoyance, generous expenditures of ammunition, and quick cuts (to distract from Seagal’s relative lack of mobility) were never so boring. Ever. The bleak non-entertainment that is Street Wars is probably best summed up by one of the hefty, greasy-faced hero’s lines of dialogue: “I mean, you gotta be kidding me, man. I ain’t got time for this.”

1.5 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Street Wars, in addition to sucking, sends mixed political signals and that it is:

9. Sexist! Workplace flirtation (i.e., verbal RAPE) goes unprogressively unpunished.

8. Pro-wigger. Seagal is given to occasional black affectations, calling people “y’all” and saying things like, “We ain’t suppose to be babysittas.”

7. Pro-family. “If I could turn back the hands of time,” Seagal says, “I’d spend a lot more time with my wife and kids.”

6. State-ambivalent. Street Wars accepts the validity of the War on Drugs, but depicts the DEA as corrupt and favors local law enforcement as more effective, honest, and caring. “If you think you’re going to make the government care about these [impoverished] people, you’re crazy,” Juliet (Meghan Ory) says, presumably with reference to the federal government. A visit to the site of Camp Harmony, part of Uncle Sam’s system of WWII Japanese internment camps, resurrects the specter of a belligerent, racist, authoritarian state. Later, when a conflict arises between federal law and the needs of the Seattle task force’s investigation, Sarah (Sarah Lind) asks, “You know this violates half a dozen federal laws?” “Rules went out the window when they tried to kill Gates, right?” Juliet bristles. “I hate to rationalize breaking the rules,” Sarah replies, “but, yeah, you’re right.”

5. Diversity-skeptical. Seattle is racially and politically polarized. “These people, the good and the bad,” says filmmaker Savon (Byron Chan), “are products of the environment that the government created.” “But do you understand that none of this is interesting to people like me?” Juliet sasses back. “And if your audience doesn’t consist of us young white Republicans, uh, you’re not really gonna get the advertisers, right?” Savon objects, saying, “An investigative piece is made as food for the brain – not for advertisers’ dollars”, to which Juliet snaps, “Yeah, well, I guess my brain just doesn’t, uh, eat what your restaurant is serving.” (see also nos. 1 and 3)

4. Anti-slut/anti-miscegenation. A ditzy hedonist (Annette Tolar) lets a black thug (Matt Ward) stuff dope in her mouth. “One of these and your whole world will change,” he says as he removes his pooplike finger from her lips. The pair dances briefly until she collapses, foams at the mouth, and dies. Street Wars would seem to be more tolerant of white guy/Asian girl hook-ups, however. “It’s so sexy when you get all technical like that,” Gates (Kyle Cassie) tells Sparks (Elizabeth Thai).

3. Conservative. Street Wars features a caricature of a left-libertarian social justice weenie in the annoyingly named Savon, a documentarian making a propagandistic film about the homeless with the cooperation of local authorities. Savon, an Asian nerd with a pretentious British accent, is convinced that a legacy of government oppression of minorities and the poor is to blame for society’s woes. Tough cookie Juliet identifies as a Republican.

2. Anti-drug. Few will envy the brain swelling, dementia, convulsions, and death.

1. Racist! Seagal’s black lackey (William “Big Sleeps” Stewart) calls him “Boss”. “Did you see that?” Sarah asks after Seagal has subdued a mulatto culprit on the run. “That was like trying to corral a monkey on crack!”

 

 

Gloria poster

Full disclosure. Your humble reviewer, stopping on a whim at his neighborhood Redbox machine to see what was newly available, quickly picked Gloria for no other reason than the disclaimer that it contained graphic nudity. Not realizing that this would be a serious foreign film requiring him to read subtitles, he ate his movie vegetables, as it were, by accident.

Set in Santiago, Chile, Gloria is the story of a lonely divorcee (Paulina Garcia), a professional woman and recent grandmother, who finds herself torn between dignity and sexual fulfillment. Somewhat nerdy but still shapely and graceful in her maturity, Gloria thinks she may have met the answer to her quiet yearnings in paintball park proprietor Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a man who gives increasing evidence of neurosis.

Gloria very much belongs to lead Paulina Garcia, a fascinating actress whose versatile face and nuanced expressions command the viewer’s undivided attention. Even had the script by director Sebastian Lelio and Gonzalo Maza not been so finely worked and surprising, the film would be worth seeing if only for the presence of Paulina Garcia. Eccentric, disturbing, and warmly human, Gloria gets this critic’s high recommendation.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Gloria is:

10. New Age. Gloria takes a yoga lesson.

9. Marginally pro-miscegenation. Gloria’s daughter Ana (Fabiola Zamora) is involved with a Swede (Eyal Meyer), which is arguably a mild instance of interracial relationship. However, Chileans, particularly those living in Santiago, are of predominantly European descent, and resemble Spaniards in their attractiveness.

8. Anti-Christian. Gloria tries to hide her condescension as her maid (Luz Jimenez) talks about the Genesis flood and tells a story about cats issuing from a lion.

7. Racist! Gloria and Rodolfo, practicing at a firing range, shoot at a target representing a “black figure”.

6. Drug-ambivalent. Marijuana plays a role in Gloria’s new assertiveness. Her tobacco habit takes on varying shades of character depending upon the emotional context – sultry and sophisticated smoking after sex, or an anxious person’s prop in her moments of doubt. One smoker is reminded not to light up in the presence of a pregnant woman. Humiliation, despair, and overindulgence in drink drive Gloria into the arms of a random slob for a degrading one-night stand.

5. Anti-marriage. The protagonist’s ex-husband (Alejandro Goic) is an undependable drunkard. Rodolfo, like Gloria, is relieved to “finally” be divorced. Ana, a happy tramp with a pierced nose, is unashamedly pregnant with her Swedish lover’s bastard.

4. Anti-family/antinatalist. “Don’t be born, man! Don’t be born!” despairs one of Gloria’s neighbors. Rodolfo’s wife and daughters are selfish, needy, ungrateful nuisances. Gloria’s family, too, is broken.

3. Misandrist. A vengeful Gloria appropriates her insensitive lover’s phallus by attacking him with one of his own paintball guns. The men in her life are all immature. “Grow a pair,” she tells Rodolfo.

2. Anti-capitalistic. Old Chilean radicals look to loud young rabble to effect progressive change. Gloria’s idea of excitement would be to skip work and travel to Cuba. The film also presents an unflattering portrait of an entrepreneur in Rodolfo. (see also no. 1).

1. Anti-Semitic! “What Chile used to be now seems like a ghost, as if that Chile were dead, and what was built afterwards is a kind of replica of something that’s being devised in some other part of the world, where the driving force is greed.” “There aren’t any leaders anymore [. . .] if it’s about politicians who are up there, and they’re the ones governing, the ones that were chosen.”

don-jon-poster

Jew Joseph Gordon-Levitt has fun pretending to be a dopey blue collar Italian in Don Jon, which the multi-talented actor also scripted and directed. Jon is a bartender and ladies’ man who nonetheless prefers internet pornography to the shapely bimbos he casually beds. But this state of affairs is challenged when Jon falls for oily-lipped Jewish floozy Barbara (real-life oily-lipped and tattooed Jewish floozy Scarlett Johansson), who has the big lug hooked as soon as he lays eyes and hands on her ass. When Barbara disapproves of Jon’s pornography habit, will love be enough to make him kick it? Furthermore, will Jon’s unexpected acquaintance with Esther (Julianne Moore), a complicated and damaged older woman, affect the outcome?

Don Jon is an impressive feature debut for Gordon-Levitt as a writer-director, but the cast is what really makes it pop. Gordon-Levitt, light years from 3rd Rock from the Sun, has emerged as one of the most compelling leading men of his day, while Johansson, in addition to being a natural at playing the tramp, gives ample evidence of the electric power that was always present behind her exotic looks. Tony Danza, proving that there may yet be life after Who’s the Boss?, delivers a rowdy performance suggesting he could enjoy a late-career renaissance as a high-voltage character actor. (Scenes around the boisterous family dinner table may put some viewers in mind of the Maneros in Saturday Night Fever.) Moore is bizarre and cries as usual, while pretty Brie Larson is enigmatic in her mostly silent role as Jon’s younger sister, Monica.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt betrays a contempt for the conventional happy Hollywood ending, a bias he actually inserts into his character’s dialogue; but if Don Jon has an Achilles heel, it is its insistence on insulting and abandoning the traditional audience expectations of how a romantic comedy ought to develop and blossom. Don Jon, consequently, fails to satisfy precisely to the degree that it deviates from the time-tested narrative structure. One suspects that Gordon-Levitt may have been influenced in his decision to consciously disappoint his audience by an admiration for Woody Allen’s dramedies of the 70s and 80s, films like Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Hannah and Her Sisters, which end in messy non-resolutions which nonetheless satisfy. Before he experiments, however, Gordon-Levitt is hereby advised to be patient and master the traditional forms.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Don Jon is:

11. Un-p.c. In one of his bouts of road rage, Jon yells that another driver is “retarded”. See also no. 7.

10. Drug-ambivalent. Weed is okay, but crack and heroin are referenced derogatorily.

9. Crypto-corporate. Don Jon ostensibly criticizes commercial culture, but works in product placement for Swiffer, Coke, Carl’s Jr, and Hardee’s.

8. Class-conscious. Barbara, who has a cleaning lady, is disturbed to learn that Jon mops his own floors. She also demands that he go to night school, the vague idea being that Jon ought to be moving up in the world somehow.

7. Sexist! Jon and his buddies argue about whether or not a nightclub cutie is a “dime”, i.e., a ten. Women are, for the most part, treated as sex objects, and also present themselves that way.

6. Anti-Christian. Jon’s religion is a matter of empty ritual, with a crucifix, for instance, dangling impotently from his rear-view mirror as he curses at other drivers. He regularly reports in the confessional how many times he has masturbated or fornicated out of wedlock, but then casually goes about his business with no intention of changing his ways. The priest, for his part, sounds uninterested, prescribing his Hail Marys with robotic boredom. A montage irreverently juxtaposes the collection plate with the confessional. One church scene cuts directly to Jon’s father (Danza) exclaiming, “Holy shit!”

5. Pro-wigger. Jon calls his car his “ride”, etc. His and other young singles’ idea of rug-cutting is basically a vertical lap dance.

4. Multiculturalist, postracial, and pro-miscegenation. Jon’s club-prowling buddies include a token black (Rob Brown) and an indeterminate (Jeremy Luke). Seemingly every sexual coupling in the film is interracial in one way or another.

3. Pro-slut/anti-marriage. The only sexually well-behaved woman in the movie is Jon’s mother (Glenne Headly), who, however, appears to feel somewhat neglected in her marriage. Despite a flippant acknowledgment that “real pussy can kill you”, Jon (along with the film) appears to believe that a condom makes him invincible. Don Jon‘s idea of a girl playing hard-to-get (necessitating “long game”) is Barbara bringing Jon to orgasm by grinding her buttocks against the crotch of his pants instead of actually going to bed with him.

2. Anti-porn. To its credit, Don Jon tackles the very real problem of addiction to internet pornography, a problem which may also contribute to Jon’s difficulty with anger and impulse control behind the wheel.

1. (Ironically) anti-Semitic! Barbara’s genetic impulse to dominate the gentile expresses itself in her controlling approach to her relationship with Jon, her attempted programming of his life, and her surveillance of his computer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has performed a valuable public service in exposing the bitch’s protocols.

Underground

Underground (1991) *****  “Most of the people who come here you can hardly call people,” says bartender Whitebread (credited as playing “himself”) of the clientele at the strip club that serves as the sordid setting of Bret Carr’s remarkable exploitation entry Underground. The fun begins when innocent bimbo Allison (Rachel Carr), fresh off the Greyhound bus from Nebraska, gets lured into a waitressing job, unaware that her new place of work doubles as a white slavery clearing house run by degenerate Rudy Gantz. Clement von Franckenstein delivers Underground‘s center ring performance as grime-dripping, gloriously potty-mouthed Gantz, the super-sleazy strip club proprietor who introduces himself to the viewer by unleashing a mightily sustained volley of hall of fame profanity worthy of Joe Pesci or Al Pacino as he makes a dishonest deal over the phone. The clearly psychotic Gantz spends much of the movie badgering his subordinates as he frets and mugs and arranges to rectify an unprofitable “paucity of pussy”, sending henchman Tony (Jack Savage, a poor man’s Alan Rickman) on thankless errands to procure fresh meat for his periodic auctions.

Underground is a real treat for trash aficionados, with roughly half its run time devoted to sultry strip routines, the amazing Debra Lamb being particularly praiseworthy in her balletic pole turns as “Fire Girl”. The film should please admirers of Katt Shea’s contributions to the erotic strip-thriller subgenre, especially Stripped to Kill, to which Underground bears a telling stylistic resemblance with its dark, cavernous nightclub and atmospheric use of colored lights, shadows, and smoke. Both films mythify the lowest of Los Angeles, recasting the city as a decidedly adult fairy tale universe of ogres, princesses, and spells as exemplified by juggling jester Whitebread when he says of Allison’s transformation into an LA temptress, “Hey, man. You got the magic. She ain’t the same virgin princess as last night. I think some prince fucked her and woke her up to reality.”

Bret Carr’s screenplay is just as nasty a joy as the dance routines in Underground. Other memorable lines include any number of Rudy Gantz’s utterances, such as when he barks at Allison, “I am not Dick Clark and this is not the fucking Solid Gold dancers. Now lose the top, you cunt!” Then, too, there is the appalling “Rat”, who, brandishing and licking a knife, waxes sentimental about a woman and laughs, “I loved her. All I wanted to do was cut her pussy and save it for my collection.” Even the scummy songs accompanying the strip sequences, several performed by Jean Stewart, contribute to the all-pervading perversion of the experience, with titles like “Clit Fingers” and “Panties Down”; references to bestiality and statutory rape; and such lines as, “Piss on the teacher! Shit on her desk! Rip all her clothes off! Scratch your name on her chest!” In sum, Underground is mandatory viewing for seekers after the obscene and extreme, a triumph of reverent, aesthetically piquant presentation of the female form and an LA-flavored highlight of what this reviewer likes to term the Kelly Bundy Era in movie bimbo fashions.

Tokyo Decadence

Tokyo Decadence aka Topaz (1992) ****1/2  One of the most shocking and frankly depressing films ever to emerge from Japan or anywhere else, writer-director Ryu Murakami’s Tokyo Decadence offers a chilly portrait of his country as an emotional dystopia of nihilistic sado-power relationships, sunglasses and blindfolds, rubber and plastic, sterile interiors and intimidating exteriors of steel, concrete, and glass that weigh upon the individual, in this case delicate call girl Ai (Miho Nikaido), still wounded after being jilted by a socially superior lover. Set in the ragged aftermath of Japan’s years as an economic powerhouse, the film is an exotic and more depraved cousin of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street in its message that soullessly transitory economic and earthly prosperity can come at a terrible price, at the national as well as the individual level. Japan, as depicted, is a place uprooted from tradition and morality, left to drift and divert itself in jaded, mutually degrading sadomasochistic pleasures, and Ai, as she moves from blackly absurd gig to gig, meets an array of men and women representative of the decline: gangsters, sluts, drug addicts, and a rogue’s gallery of self-loathing, degenerate johns who share what Murakami characterizes as the fatal Japanese misfortune of “wealth without pride”. Tokyo Decadence is an experience that, for better or worse, burns itself irreparably into the viewer’s memory, and is recommended more for the art house crowd than for exploitation audiences, its explicitness being more unpleasantly allegorical than erotic.

DoggieB

Pat Buchanan has said, “If you want to see what the future of America is going to look like, I think you ought to look at California.”  San Francisco – or, as Michael Savage would have it, San Fransicko – is one of the most progressive cities in the Golden State; and if the cinematic acid trip Doggie B, aka Doggie Boogie: Get Your Grrr On!, serves as any kind of mental health forecast for the country as a whole, then these Disunited States are definitely nightmare-bound.

Doggie B introduces children to Peter Wolfe (Scott Cox), a gay San Francisco man who, apparently having despaired of finding love in the AIDS capital of California, has devoted his life to dancing with dogs, even going so far as to make it his life’s calling and dancing with his dog professionally in competitions with other dog dance teams.  His dream of interspecies Astaire-and-Rogers-dom is cruelly dashed to pieces when evil competitor Gertrude Spinner (Bettina Devin) causes him to have an accident with his dog, which drives Peter into a downward spiral of junk food obsession and gloom.  Fortunately for everyone (excepting the viewer, that is), his niece Cassie Barbizon (Jesse Draper) has a more optimistic outlook and hopes to pick up where her uncle left off, with puppy Pijo as her partner.  Complicating her blueprint for self-actualization is Cassie’s mother, ambulance-chasing attorney Karen Barbizon (Barbara Tintori), who expects her daughter to follow in her footsteps by studying law.

Doggie B plays a bit like a Rick Sloane film sans the nasty humor (minus the good parts, in other words), with Gertrude recalling cartoonish villainesses Queen Bee and Malathion from auteur Sloane’s Vice Academy series. That a film about dog dancing proves to be less than spectacular can hardly come as any surprise, but the autistic canines in Doggie B have little to do and evince an unusually low level of animal charisma.

Doggie B does, however, have two major strengths in its favor. The first is its amazing visual flair, with no inch of footage escaping without generous splashes of color and zaniness, whether in the art direction or the actresses’ coifs and costumes that at times make the film appear to be peopled entirely by auxiliary members of the B-52s.  The second thing this film has going for it is its cast of colorful, perky character actresses.  Men hoodwinked into renting Doggie B for their children can be consoled at least that, while they are certainly in for a long and grueling haul, there are several attractive actresses in the film, with tall, shapely Jesse Draper quite the knockout, other kooky San Francisco ditzes looking very edible, and scary Bettina Devin perhaps appealing to fetishists of the mature.

A star and a half.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Doggie B is:

9. Anti-Christian.  This film’s good book is the “Dog Dance Bible”.

8. Anti-drug.  Gertrude has secretly been injecting her dance partner with “doggeroids” from a glowing green Re-Animator syringe.  Though there appear to be no adverse effects for the dog, the doggeroids, it turns out, are extremely damaging to a woman’s complexion.

7. Multiculturalist/pro-immigration.  A nice Caribbean (?) doctor introduces Cassie to holistic dog therapy after an old white doctor proves ineffective at treating Pijo’s malaise.

6. Pro-gay.  Though his orientation is never made explicit, Peter’s choice of costumes (beginning with the sweater tied around his shoulders and ending with his climactic John Travolta leisure suit) and make-up for his performances leave little room for doubt.  He wipes his mouth in disgust after a cute fag hag plants a big juicy one on him.  The whole film is a fabulous high camp fever dream.

5. Racist!  Doggie B perpetuates the Magical Negro stereotype with a kinky-afroed black yogi-priestess who can communicate with dogs.  Jews are mercenary, neurotic, and cynical, with personal injury chiseler Karen getting excited at hearing about a terrible car pile-up.  Her practice’s slogan is, “Get hit, get rich quick.”

4. Pro-miscegenation, breaking down prejudiced species barriers.  Doggie B blazes trails by proving that canines are suitable dance partners for Jews.

3. Individualist.  “Mom, this is not about you,” Cassie tells her mother prefatory to her intention of going for the gold with Pijo.  “Believe it or not, I’m growing up.  I’ve changed.  I’m creating my perfect life.”

2. Pro-family.  Despite disagreements, relatives maintain ties, share affection, and help each other.  Parents concerned about adult content are, however, alerted to the off-color inclusion of a sexual slap on the butt.  Also, Cassie’s love interest Roman (Patrick Alan Davis) says to her at one point, “You look hot – I mean, it’ll stand out on the dance floor” [italics added].

1. New Age.  “This stuff really works!” Cassie exults after taking Pijo to Shangrrrla, a clinic for dogs where their spirituality finds alignment.  At Shangrrrla, too, the viewer learns that, “In rare cases, when our souls are wounded, certain quite special dogs become spiritual healers.”  Peter wears an ankh during his climactic routine, which begins with his emergence from a giant disco ball in the shape of a dog’s head, the lowering of which occasions a kind of religious experience in the crowd.  San Francisco’s hippie drum beaters also put in a cameo.

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