Archives for posts with tag: diversity-skeptical

The_Guilt_Trip_Poster

World’s ugliest beautiful woman Barbra Streisand teams up with the funniest, most lovable schlub of his generation, Seth Rogen, in this hilarious, touching story about an obnoxious New Jersey widow invited by her son to accompany him on a cross-country road trip as he attempts with generally pathetic results to sell his invention and life’s work, a potent and potable cleaning product awkwardly christened (so to speak) Scioclean. Unknown to the mother, though, is that the son has actually lured her onto this expedition, not just to spend some quality time with Mom, but to reunite her with an old flame who may be living in San Francisco. This chick flick is frankly a joy from start to finish and should, thanks to Rogen’s presence, be nearly as palatable for men as for its primary audience of menopausal women, with Streisand and Rogen comprising one of the strongest comedy teams in recent memory. Sure to pluck the heartstrings and bust the collective gut of those who like their comedy kosher and pickled in a brine of gratuitous kvetching.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Guilt Trip is:

10. Pro-gay. Streisand’s Pilates instructor is a lesbian. During the trip, she subjects the hapless Rogen to the seemingly interminable audiobook of Middlesex, a novel about a hermaphrodite’s sexual self-discovery.

9. Mildly anti-Christian. Christians are at no point vilified, but The Guilt Trip does evince a kind of innocuous condescension toward Christianity, which comes across as quaint and kitschy. “God bless, y’all,” stripper Moonlight (Analeis Lorig) says in one of the film’s few allusions to faith. And Tulsa, Oklahoma, Streisand reads in a brochure, is purported to be home to the world’s largest praying hands. (see also no. 5)

8. Anti-drug. Drinking can lead to trouble.

7. Diversity-skeptical. Notwithstanding no. 4, The Guilt Trip hints at the painfully artificial contortions into which America twists itself to accommodate ethnic plurality. Rogen, who objects when his mother says “oriental”, meets with uncomfortable silence himself when, during a pitch for Scioclean, he offends the self-loathingly p.c. sensibilities of a board of K-Mart executives by growling “soy!” in the voice of a gruff karate master. Among the executives is a humorless, unsmiling black woman, no doubt promoted to her position through affirmative action. Failing to dodge the insidious Scylla of racial sensitivity, Rogen also smacks against the Charybdis of sex when he jokes, “And trust me, I didn’t stay three years [at the EPA] because of the ladies.” Like most men of his generation, he is neurotic at best when confronted with the cruel demands and exigencies of p.c. totalitarianism. Sadly, Streisand, after worrying aloud that a hitchhiker might try to rape her, is apparently driven by feelings of racial guilt to pick up a Mexican drifter (who luckily turns out to be mild-mannered), thus demonstrating how the psychological ravages of political correctness endanger not only good taste and common sense, but people’s lives, as well.

6. Green-ambivalent. Rogen is a former EPA operative and his cleaning product is made entirely from natural, sustainable ingredients. However, the aforementioned irreverence about the women of the EPA may be taken to imply that environmentalism is the pet preoccupation of the ugly, nerdy, or otherwise unappealing. Streisand, in what appears to be a piece of sarcasm on the screenwriter’s part, invokes the mystery of “this climate change thing” when a snowstorm strikes in Tennessee.

5. South-ambivalent. Southerners are, for the most part, depicted as friendly and hospitable, particularly in a Texan steakhouse – although lingering North/South hostility is acknowledged when patrons boo at hearing that Streisand is from New Jersey. Moonlight, a stripper the pair meets in Tennessee, is especially helpful when they have car trouble (and is also very much a slut). A scary redneck in a bar does, however, become pushy when Rogen objects to his sexual aggression toward his mother (see also no. 9).

4. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. Streisand and Rogen’s characters’ surname, Brewster, suggests Anglo-Saxon-Semite interbreeding, and Barbra’s aged charms do prove irresistible for more than one macho cowboy on the pair’s swing through the southern states. The film ends with the suggestion that Streisand may be entering into a potentially serious relationship with Texan businessman Ben Graw (Brett Cullen). One of Rogen’s ex-girlfriends is Asian. Races mix at a mature singles’ club and in an airport, where a black man stands with an Asian woman. The airports depicted in the film are clearly designed to show people of different ethnicities (complete with a gentleman in a turban) interacting peacefully, the happily equal cogs of a multicultural clockwork. There are even a few blacks (probably lynched after filming ended) to be spotted in the Texan steakhouse. (cf. no. 7)

3. Anti-marriage. An ex-girlfriend of Rogen’s is happily married and pregnant, but one of Streisand’s friends (Kathy Nijimy) is glad to be rid of her recently deceased husband, who is described as “horrible”. Streisand, too, is relieved to have her bed to herself, since she now has the liberty to eat M&Ms in bed whenever she likes.

2. Capitalist/corporate. The Guilt Trip reminds communist whiners and weenies that, toiling and struggling like ants at the feet of those oft-reviled corporate giants and monocle-sporting exploiters of the masses, are millions of honest, self-made small businessmen who risk personal capital and earn every penny they manage to keep. “My little Donald Trump,” Streisand dotes. The film does, however, feature copious product placement for the aforementioned corporate giants.

1. Family-ambivalent. While The Guilt Trip is very much preoccupied with family, and the son’s occasionally prickly but deeply devoted relationship with his mother provides the film’s satisfying emotional meat, the father is conspicuously absent from the formula. “I was your mother and your father,” Streisand declares with self-satisfaction. The mother-son combo would appear to be the new nuclear family for the twenty-first century.

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Blackfish poster

Not many movies move this jaded reviewer to tears, but Blackfish (2013) does exactly that. This top-notch documentary details the troubled life of Tilikum, a literal killer whale responsible for the deaths of three people – two orca trainers, Keltie Byrne at Sealand of the Pacific in 1991 and Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld in 2010, plus mysterious SeaWorld trespasser Daniel P. Dukes in 1999. Like other orcas before him, Tilikum was abducted as a child and delivered into captivity for the entertainment of tourists. As Blackfish reveals, hunters prefer to capture the young whales because they are cheaper to transport, with the result that orca families are systematically bereaved by the amusement park industry.

The whales are then thrust into unfamiliar surroundings, frequently into the company of unfriendly fellow orcas, and kept in cramped quarters equivalent to confining a human being to a bathtub for the whole of his life. Whales living in captivity, consequently, tend to have lifespans half of that of their brethren in the wild and can manifest what in a human would be considered psychosis or psychological trauma. Tilikum’s life seems to have been an unusually unhappy one. In addition to the indignity of doing demeaning tricks for fish in an unsavory circus atmosphere, he was regularly abused by the female orcas with whom he performed as a lucrative stud – Tilikum’s dorsal collapse, or lugubrious drooping of his fin, serving as an appropriate symbol of his sexual humiliation and sadness.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Blackfish is:

4. Statist. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) appears as a force of good in the film, condemning SeaWorld for covering up such unscrupulous practices as misleading its employees about Tilikum’s violent past.

3. Anti-capitalistic. Blackfish stands as a shocking document of the reprehensible things some people will do to “make a buck”.

2. Animal rights militant. No person with a heart, having once seen Blackfish, will want the practice of killer whale capture and exploitation to continue.

1. Diversity-skeptical. Three of the interviewees, speaking only with overt reference to whales, make statements on the tribal nature of the creatures suggestive of broader relevance for the humans in the audience. Multiculturalism, it turns out, is just as dysfunctional among killer whales! Orca researcher Howard Garrett explains killer whale groupings in captivity:

And they say that they’re a family, that the whales are in their family, they have their pods; but that’s just a, you know, an artificial assemblage of their collection, however management decides they should mix them, and whichever ones happen to be born or bought and brought in, or – that’s not a family, you know, come on.

Orca trainer turned animal rights activist Jeffrey Ventre adds:

You’ve got animals from different cultural subsets that have been brought in from various parks. These are different nations. These aren’t just two different killer whales. These animals, they’ve got different genes, they use different languages.

Most sobering of all, Emory University biopsychologist Lori Marino offers uncomfortable truths diversity cultists ought to heed and consider in their parallel human ramifications:

Well, what can happen as a result of their being thrown in with other whales that they haven’t grown up with, that are not part of their culture is, there’s hyper-aggression, a lot of violence, a lot of killing in captivity that you don’t ever see in the wild.

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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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!”

 

 

out_of_the_furnace_poster

Christian Bale racks up another career highlight performance as Russell Baze, a good but deeply flawed man at the end of his tether in Out of the Furnace, a strong, deeply American film from writer-director-to-watch Scott Cooper. Baze is an endearing dead-end ex-con and mill worker who, in a relationship reminiscent of that between Keitel and DeNiro in Mean Streets, attempts to look out for his war-damaged deadbeat brother Rodney (Casey Affleck). Rodney is in debt but uninterested in conventional employment, leading to his involving himself in the dangerous world of underground fighting.

Out of the Furnace stands as a stark statement that the American Dream is deceased. Its rust belt setting rings all too true, and a barroom television moment more subtle than a similar scene in 2012’s Killing Them Softly shows that Obama’s hope-and-change rhetoric has no reality for the typical working (or unemployed) stiff. Out of the Furnace is a film of its time and timely, its story enthralling, with each frame carrying fascination and a feeling of immediate importance.

Those who enjoy tense, earthy family dramas and character studies with gritty, realistic settings – movies like Sling Blade, Mud, or The Place Beyond the Pines – are certain to appreciate Out of the Furnace, which, in addition to the showcased character creation of Christian Bale, features sharp supporting performances from Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana, and Willem Dafoe. Deserving special recognition, furthermore, is Woody Harrelson, frightening light-years from Cheers here as hillbilly drug kingpin Harlan DeGroat. Harrelson’s hot dog moment in the opening scene sets the grotesque, tenebrous tone of the film and constitutes the most shocking piece of fast food humiliation since the fried chicken scene in 2011’s Killer Joe.

5 stars. Highest recommendation.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Out of the Furnace is:

7. Diversity-skeptical. In one of his underground fights, Rodney is pitted against a black thug who taunts him, calling him “white boy” and mocking his military service. Pleasantly, Rodney makes a comeback and gives this rascal a vicious and racially charged beatdown.

6. Antiwar. Rodney comes back from Iraq as an angry and alienated man.

5. Protectionist. The mill is scheduled to be shut down, with American jobs exported to China.

4. Pro-miscegenation. Notwithstanding no. 7, Russell is in love with brown beauty Lena (Zoe Saldana), but loses her after his stint in the pen.

3. Anti-drug. Drunk driving lands Russell in prison. Harder stuff turns Harlan DeGroat into a maniac.

2. Anti-redneck. Harlan DeGroat is the scariest white trash bad guy since Deer Crossing‘s Lukas Walton.

1. Pro-family. Russell Baze is driven by his devotion to his family, caring as best he can for his sick father and brother while both are still alive, and diligently avenging them after they are gone.

2platesposter

Filmed in 2010 as The Two Plates and re-released at Redboxes this week under the stronger and more attention-grabbing title Blood Red Presidents, this ghetto epic from writer-director Jonathan Straiton is well worth checking out. Nasty, raw, and uncompromising, Blood Red Presidents dispenses with the Hollywood kid gloves in the depiction of blacks and emphasizes instead the grittily real. So firm is this film’s commitment to presenting the truth, no matter how unflattering to the society it depicts, that much of it feels almost as if actual camera phone footage straight out of the ‘hood had been edited together and uploaded onto YouTube as a movie, with most of the actors mumbling and slurring their lines instead of hamming it up and projecting; but there is much audiovisual style displayed here along with the handheld and seemingly primitive, with several memorably composed frames and such tactics as split screen employed more than once and used especially effectively in a doom-laden money-counting montage and musical interlude. Hip-hop is very much a part of this film’s personality and does much to enhance its power.

The violent story has two small-time hustlers, Deshaun (Assault) and Buck (Ambush), making a play for the big-time money as counterfeiters after they steal two plates that once belonged to a Peruvian drug lord. Unfortunately for them, their scheme attracts the attention of Secret Service agent Caddell (John Patton), who, along with Richmond cops Beck (Chris Morrison) and Burnett (Wes Reid), is determined to bring Deshaun and Buck’s successful run to an end. Before the tragic but blackly humorous story has run its seedy course, many will die, families will suffer, and friends will turn against each other. Blood Red Presidents, then, lives up to its title as yet another cautionary tale about how money, the titular “presidents”, is supposedly “the root to all evil.” Buck and Deshaun are no pitiable victims of any white Man’s “system”, however; these are crude, coldblooded brutes, self-described “niggers killin’ niggers” who deserve everything they get and more.

4 out of 5 stars. Recommended.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Blood Red Presidents is:

6. Christian. “Yeah, I’m sure, man. Is Jesus black?” Director Jonathan Straiton thanks God in the credits for His “guidance”.

5. Pro-family. Straiton dedicates the film to his father. Executive producer John M. Clark, meanwhile, thanks “Gene my adopted son who I appreciate very much for helping my retarded son.”

4. Sexist and slut-ambivalent. A rap that plays over the opening credits warns of crooked lawyers and “bitches with game”. “Get the fuck off the bed,” Deshaun tells his “shorty” in one early scene. “You need to take that shit to the clinic,” one young wastrel says to her. Leaning in the pro-slut direction, however, the executive producer gives a “special thanks” to “the designer of crotchless panties and peach flavored douche.”

3. Drug-ambivalent. In the opening scene, an old-fashioned white father, no doubt intended to be laughable, is shocked that his son would use marijuana. Thugs smoke joints and blunts and drink alcohol throughout the film, but “seein’ ya mama on that glass pipe is a painful sight.” In the end credits, executive producer John M. Clark thanks “the French wheat growers for doing their part to distill Grey Goose Vodka without which I couldn’t get through a day,” while producer Mean Gene thanks Bud Light “for always being there for me in time of need.” The director, Jonathan Straiton, says, “To anyone I forgot I apologize but it’s late and I’m drunk.”

2. Police-ambivalent/anti-state. Blood Red Presidents presents a sympathetic portrait of rookie cop Burnett and his chief. “You know how the media is,” Burnett complains to his chief after being accused of police brutality. “I mean, where were they last week when I was changing that old lady’s tire?” Surprisingly, Burnett is the only character in the film who shows any remorse after committing a murder, and he even risks blowing a major investigation to try to save a criminal informant’s life. His colleague Beck is another matter. In a situation similar to that in The Place Beyond the Pines, this officer attempts to cover up for Burnett after his mistaken killing of an unarmed suspect. Meaningfully, the victim, an aspiring rapper, is found to have been holding a microphone rather than a gun. (Symbolically, this might be read as suggesting that the police state feels less threatened by black crime than by socially conscious black men’s freedom of expression.) One of the extras in the police station has clearly been cast to capture the worthless, doughnut-scarfing blob archetype.

1. Diversity-skeptical/anti-wigger. A close-up of Virginia’s state flag, with its motto, “Sic semper tyrannis”, calls to mind Lincoln’s assassination and never-completed Reconstruction. “Freedom ain’t free,” one rap number suggests, and racial resentments going back to the days of slavery inform the typical thug mindset, with the ghosts of slaves, heard from the trees, encouraging young black men to “Squeeze that tech, nigga.” White police, consequently, are vulnerable both to violence and defamation in the media. In one scene, a black man punches a white stranger on sight. Buck and Deshaun’s wigger associates, “silly-ass white boy” Chuck (Ashby Brooks) and his brother, “ol’ crazy-ass white boy” Mike (Rob Rozier), turn out to be untrustworthy. Authorities, meanwhile, are frustrated by criminals’ use of unintelligible Ebonics.

barrio tales

Nothing short of an incitation to racial hatred and genocide, the horror anthology Barrio Tales is a useful specimen of the burgeoning Mexploitation genre. The frame story has two foulmouthed but naive American punks venturing south of the border to buy some inexpensive drugs, where they meet a scary, scarred, and crooked-nosed lowlife (Alexander Aguila) who proceeds to tell them a trio of sordid and spicy campfire tales comprising the bulk of the film.

In the first story, newly arrived Mexican domestic servant Maria (Ana Corbi) is humiliated and victimized by a rich American college brat and his spoiled, decadent cronies. The second segment has David Fernandez playing a Hispanic variation on Clint Howard’s character in Ice Cream Man, with mobile taco chef Uncle Tio kicking it up a notch with his secret ingredients. Finally, a gaggle of wetbacks valiantly attempting to smuggle themselves into a better life in the United States are captured and tortured by rednecks until nationalistic Mexican gangsters ride to their aid like the ghetto version of the cavalry.

Imbued with genuine race-baiting venom, Barrio Tales is certain to entertain what would appear to be a target audience of alienated, Raza-minded Hispanics and America-loathing white liberal self-immolators. Fast-paced, passably humorous, and packed with gratuitous grossness, the film may also appeal to a broader horror audience willing to forgive or to take in stride the mean-spirited tone, taking the guano with the good.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Barrio Tales is:

12. Relativistic. “But who’s to say what a monster is? Maybe a monster to me is not a monster to you.”

11. Family-ambivalent. Mexicans come to family members’ aid, while whites, as exemplified by the rich absentee parents in the first story, would appear to be less motivated by family ties.

10. Feminist. A young girl (Elizabeth Small) bests the murderous Uncle Tio despite his telling her, “You can’t beat me. You’re just a stupid-ass little girl.”

9. Christ-ambivalent. Insane hicks pick out “Amazing Grace” on the banjo (and where banjos play there must be inbreeding!) between torture sessions, which would seem to cast their religion in an absurd light; but one of the heroic gangsters (Fabian Lopez) who stops them is, as a counterbalance, named Christian, the implication being that Mexicans are more authentically devout than whites.

8. Pro-miscegenation. Redneck bitch Didi (Jamie Wozny), like all white women, naturally lusts after men with brown skin and delights in tying up, straddling, and torturing a Mexican. “This is kinky,” she giggles when he resists. A black boy (Christopher Meyer) and a white girl (Elizabeth Small) are companions. There is also more than a hint of lust when Uncle Tio seizes and sniffs the latter in anticipation of doing her harm.

7. Drug-ambivalent. Hard drugs are depicted as harmful to the user, but a good way for Mexicans to make money off of stupid white people. Heroic gangsters Christian and P (Isait De La Fuente) are seen drinking from sneaky Petes.

6. Diversity-skeptical. The first and third stories in Barrio Tales are rabidly anti-white, peddling trite victimologies and Chicano moral superiority, while the second, at least at first glance, is something of an odd man out with its tale of a murderous Mexican taco cook. Even this entry, however, presents opportunities to make whites look dumb. Drug dealer Javi (Carlos Ramirez) boasts of duping white kids into paying exorbitant prices for his substandard product. The characterization of pothead Les (Hunter Cope, in the film’s most engaging performance) presents a surprisingly candid parody of the dumb white liberal. Even after it becomes obvious that Uncle Tio is a psychopath and a serial killer, Les clings tightly to his illusions, insisting, “He’s a kindhearted Mexican man who’s been serving this community for many years.” “I’m fuckin’ sick of people prejudging Uncle Tio before they give him a shot,” he says before himself being murdered by this “kindhearted” pillar of the “community”.

5. Anti-American. At the rednecks’ ranch, the American flag flies over a “No Trespassing” sign, representing the country in microcosm as a distrustful, ignorant, selfish, isolated backwater. More than one unlikable Caucasian character wears red, white, and blue (cf. no. 1).

4. Class-conscious. “They never had to work for anything their whole life. Everything is handed to them on a plate.” The raconteur of the wraparound story foretells that his guests will be chopped into tiny pieces and fed to homeless Mexicans. See also nos. 1 and 2, as all of the class conflict in the film is framed as poor, hardworking, innocent Mexicans vs. lazy, wealthy, and evil whites.

3. Alien-delugist. The film presents a sympathetic portrait of wetbacks and characterizes those who would secure the American border as uneducated sadists and bigots.

2. Anti-white. Whites, as depicted, are arrogant, stupid, rude, foulmouthed, murderous, and generally inhuman. Learning that there is a Mexican maid in the house, they are prone to call “dibs” on her, request “el blowjobo”, and say condescending things like, “Smokey el weedo?” “You sound like an idiot,” Jack (Glen Powell) says when he hears Spanish being spoken. Barrio Tales more than once suggests that whites quite literally desire to make Mexicans their slaves. In the first story, spoiled rich twit Trevor (Matt Shively) says of his servant, Maria, “I want to thank my parents for purchasing me this fuckin’ amazingly hot maid that I’m pretty sure I can do whatever I want with.” “I’m gone make you ma slave,” says Didi to her captive in the third story. The most exaggeratedly outrageous portraits of whites, however, are animalistic, growling El Monstruo (Scott Pollard) and his retarded son Reggie, whose one-strap overalls costume mimics archetypal caveman garb. “There’s no punishment that can do to you, you piece of white trash, that would even compare to what you’ve done to my people.”

1. Razist. “Don’t you know brown is the new red, white, and blue, puto?”

Spring_Breakers_poster

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

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

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

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Spring Breakers is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like the 1980 Australian prison film Stir, this 2011 British entry in the genre offers not simply another portrait of life on the inside for the convicts, but an example of how the daily stress of the job can affect the outnumbered guards or “screws”.  James D’Arcy stars as Sam Norwood, an Iraq war veteran and rookie prison guard whose choice of civilian occupation only exacerbates his post-traumatic battle flashbacks.  Under the bad influence of fellow guard Deano (Frank Harper), Sam turns to drinking and hard drugs and eventually finds himself the subject of a police investigation.  Even worse, when drug-related organized crime inside the prison threatens Sam’s professional and personal lives, his behavior becomes increasingly erratic.  Twisting the knife in him psychologically is criminally connected inmate Truman (Noel Clarke).

D’Arcy’s performance deserves much of the credit for making Screwed an involving experience, and supporting players Harper and Jamie Foreman contribute believable grit and an air of experience.  That Sam Norwood is such a deeply flawed protagonist may limit the sympathy he can command, but it also raises the stakes and therefore the suspense that his situation generates.  Viewers discouraged by Screwed‘s somewhat drab exposition are advised to give the film more time, as it improves and intensifies as it builds towards its frightening riot climax.  Some moments, such as Sam’s verbal exchanges with his wife, feel overly familiar; and much of the mumbled, whispered dialogue, a challenge compounded by the working class British accents, may also frustrate the American audience; but Sam’s story draws the viewer in as it deepens and the situations become more unsettling and urgent.  Not a bad little film, Screwed earns 3 out of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Screwed is:

5. Anti-feminist.  “Don’t you sweetheart me, ya fuckin’ prick,” a tough-talking female guard says before being put out of commission with a punch in the face.  Sex-based workplace discrimination would seem to be in order here.

4. Antiwar.  Wars inevitably send home thousands, not only of the physically wounded, but psychologically damaged and brittle young men.

3. Diversity-skeptical.  Minorities can contribute to law enforcement, but figure more prominently among the convicts.  “Please tell me he ain’t shaggin’ her,” one guard says at the sight of one ogre-like brown prisoner receiving a white woman visitor.

2. Drug-ambivalent.  The liquor and hard drugs run the risk of ruining Sam’s career and marriage, but smoking cigarettes, as he does in solidarity with Rumpole (Foreman) in one scene, is the philosophically manly thing to do.

1. Anti-state.  Guards must deal not only with the occasionally vicious convicts, but with the corrupt and antagonistic “guv’ner” or warden (David Hayman) who sometimes likes to target guards for internal investigation and persecution so as to be able to present himelf as a liberal reformer.  Some among the guards are also crooks in addition to engaging in unnecessary brutality toward the prisoners.

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

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

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

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

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

A star and a half.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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