Archives for posts with tag: decadence

rough night

Aspiring state senator Jess (Scarlett Johansson) agrees to join a handful of her old college friends for one last decadent blast in Miami before tying the knot. The challenge will be to get through the debauchery of the bachelorette blowout planned by old pal Alice (Jillian Bell) without tarnishing her public image in advance of the vote. Some tension between the chubby Alice and Jess’s new Australian buddy Pippa (Kate McKinnon) notwithstanding, the getaway seems to be going well enough until the accidental death of a stripper (Ryan Cooper), which has the women scrambling to dispose of the body before their lives – and, of course, Jess’s electoral prospects – are ruined forever. Rough Night is not exactly bad in the way that being bent over a toilet vomiting is bad, for example; but it is rather bad in the sense that the feeling of having squandered an evening is arguably worse.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Rough Night is:

6. Green, with Al Gore receiving an endorsement.

5. Pro-gay, with Ilana Glazer appearing as token lesbian buddy Frankie. A black transvestite DJ also contributes to the movie’s festive atmosphere.

4. Activism-ambivalent. Frankie participates in a protest of government surveillance, but her idealism is characterized as, at best, a side-effect of the idleness of the unemployed. Hers is a loser’s pastime, a dismissive assessment reinforced when she later announces her resolution to take a “protest dump”.

3. Pro-miscegenation – and, honestly, it’s the rare Hollywood product these days that doesn’t fall into this category in one way or another. This time, it’s mystery meat lesbos.

2. Feminist/pro-slut, with Alice looking forward to “swimmin’ in dick”. Alice’s assortment of sex novelties – penis glasses and the like – is supposed to be funny, but the whole hedonistic ethos unintentionally bores and comes across as stale in this film, which surely represents peak slut and the high-water mark for blasé depravity in western civilization. Blair (Zoe Kravitz) experiences a revelatory orgasm when, as part of a plan to steal a surveillance video, she participates in a threesome with swinger Demi Moore and her husband. The consequences of promiscuity are, moreover, trivialized when one of Blair’s friends reassures her, “Whatever. We all have HPV.” Anyone, the screenplay suggests, who has had sex after 1991 has probably contracted HPV – so what’s the point of being careful, right? The stripper dies immediately after having called Jess a slut, the viewer having the impression that his death is a form of instant karma.

1.Pro-drug. In a flashback sequence to Jess’s college days, she wears a costume referencing marijuana culture. Frankie, complimented on her scent, replies that she has a pound of weed in her bra. Elsewhere, the movie promotes abuse of prescription drugs like the tranquilizer Xanax (“Oh, God, that was good”). Perhaps most disturbingly, Rough Night joins the ranks of Ted, Trainwreck, White Girl, and Office Christmas Party in rehabilitating recreational cocaine use. Coke, in Rough Night, facilitates the bonding of a girls’ night out: “It would mean so much to me if we could do a little bit of cocaine together,” Alice pleads. The filmmakers could point to the fact that Alice is under the influence of cocaine when she accidentally kills the stripper – but her sexual recklessness turns out to have been serendipitous when the stripper is revealed to have been a dangerous criminal.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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American Hustle poster

To be perfectly honest, this reviewer was bored for lengthy portions of American Hustle, David O. Russell’s unaccountably lauded opus about the Abscam scandal. Like too many period pieces set in fashion-distinctive epochs, Hustle evinces an overly polished and inorganic quality, more concerned with fussing about its garish clothing, bizarre hairstyles, and flaunting an unwarranted sense of its own super-coolness than with the development of characters deserving of the audience’s interest. As with the less inspired moments in Scorsese’s oeuvre, American Hustle is too content to slide by on the likability of its vintage pop soundtrack and slick but empty visual flair, with – of course! – the obligatory trip to a decadent discotheque.

The performances of Bale, Cooper, and others are fine, but hardly career highlights. Russell’s unconvincing dialogue, co-credited to Eric Warren Singer, bears much of the blame for the film’s lifelessness. Actors can hardly be blamed for failing to salvage compelling drama out of the likes of the following yawners: “This is bullshit. We are bullshit. You were bullshit. You were bullshit.” While no character in American Hustle is particularly sympathetic, there are some affecting moments toward the end of the film when flimflam man Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) begins to feel guilty about misleading and ruining a mark he has come to view as his friend. This in no way justifies a run time in excess of two hours, however – leaving the viewer to wonder whether the tale of this potbellied, philandering Jew con artist with a heart of gold needed to be told at all.

ICA’s advice: For a 70s con game period piece, see Richard Gere in The Hoax instead.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that American Hustle is:

8. Pro-drug. Nothing sells marijuana like the sight of a beautiful temptress (Amy Adams) smoking a joint.

7. Anti-American. Check the title.

6. Multiculturalist. Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) maintains friendly relations with the minority community and even adopts a black kid to show what a great guy he is.

5. Pro-gay, with one gratuitous lesbian kiss.

4. Pro-slut. Movie stars making out in a bathroom – how glamorous! Rosenfeld does “the right thing” by marrying single mother Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).

3. Zionist, calling attention to the undying bogeyman of American politicians’ insidious willingness to sell out the country’s well-being to the Arabs. Dismissive reference is also made to (Israel-hating, Palestine-loving) “fuckin’ Jimmy Carter”.

2. Relativistic. “That’s the way the world works. Not black and white like you say. Extremely gray.”

1. Obamist. In union-friendly Carmine Polito, American Hustle portrays the corrupt but humble and likable politician as tragic hero, a man of the people, a caring, avuncular figure genuinely concerned with the welfare of his constituents, and who presides over a system of corruption only so as to create new jobs. “We dream and we build,” he says. Overly zealous investigators like DiMaso (Cooper) are ruining America, Rosenfeld charges, by exposing high misdeeds and so destroying the people’s faith in their leaders. So lay off the Solyndra, Benghazi, NSA, IRS, and other scandals, American Hustle cautions, lest the spiritually vulnerable masses lose their precious hope.

canyons poster

Paul Schrader (Hardcore; Cat People) delivers a characteristically decadent study with this, his eighteenth film as a director. Scripted by Bret Easton Ellis of Less Than Zero and American Psycho fame, The Canyons is at once tawdry, elegant, and meanspirited, and one of the most notable films of the year.

An extremely frank narrative revolves around repulsively spoiled trust fund wastrel Christian (James Deen), who whiles away his days corrupting the people around him and manipulating them like so many toys. So as to satisfy his father that he has an occupation, he dabbles in movies as a producer, which brings him into indifferent contact with handsome, aspiring actor Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk). Christian professes to like to keep his openly open marriage with slut wife Tara (Lindsay Lohan) comfortably “loose” and “complicated”, but finds more complication than he probably desires when he discovers that seemingly wholesome Ryan has a previous history with Tara.

A constant doom hangs over The Canyons, its title both geographically and thematically descriptive of this sun-baked but gloomy experience. Punctuating the film are images of the empty marquees and ruined interiors of once-glorious, now abandoned movie theaters serving at once as commentary on an industry and on the characters’ inner desolation. Hollywood’s stories about itself, from Sunset Boulevard, In a Lonely Place, and The Bad and the Beautiful through Day of the Locust, The Player, and Hollywoodland, have tended to be downbeat affairs, and The Canyons continues in that tradition – less gothically or spectacularly, perhaps, than the more grotesque entries in the genre, but no less despairing by any measure.

Classy in execution if totally tacky in subject matter, The Canyons is well worth seeking out. James Deen is perfectly detestable as Christian, Nolan Funk’s male beauty is appropriately vapid, and luscious but fading Lindsay Lohan is exquisitely cast as jaded but sympathetic hussy Tara.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Canyons is:

5. Anti-drug. “Why are you drinking tequila at noon?” The danger of date rape drugs receives mention.

4. Anti-gay. Homosexuality appears as a predatory symptom of personal and cultural decadence.

3. Class-conscious. Inherited, unearned wealth like Christian’s gives rise to degeneracy and arrogance.

2. Technology-skeptical. Y appears as a generation rotten in inception and already gone to seed, at once precocious and empty-headed, and incapable of conversing over drinks without texting or sexting simultaneously. One suspects that Schrader holds handheld and streaming technology to be at least partly to blame for the murder of those stately old movie houses. Technology, too, has contributed to these young ones’ flippancy with regard to sexual morality. “Nobody has a private life anymore” and “We’re all actors, aren’t we?” Identity theft also looms as a threat in the world of online everything.

1. Crypto-traditionalist/anti-slut. For all its blatant depravity, male frontal nudity, and other marks of deceptively casual nihilism, The Canyons views its characters through a detached but quietly tragic, judgmental, and conservative lens. “I’m just sick of the old school shit about fuckin’ propriety, etiquette, and all that crap [. . .] It’s like when you’re at your family dinner on Sunday and everyone’s just lying, lying . . .” Christian explains – and he and his peers suffer to the degree that they deviate from the outmoded norms. Christian’s name speaks for itself as a sarcastic commentary on an utterly godless generation given to hedonistic materialism and soulless egoism. The only thing missing from The Canyons is the compounded case of venereal pestilence these little horrors would (hopefully) catch if they lived as depicted for very long.

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