Archives for posts with tag: ecstasy

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Erik Bloomquist writes, directs, and stars in The Cobblestone Corridor as Allan Archer, hardworking editor of the elite Alfred Pierce Preparatory School’s newspaper, The Pierce Gazette. Archer is straight-laced and by-the-book – a young man who still believes in authority and the dignity of institutions – the sort of person one might expect to carry a picture of William F. Buckley in his wallet. He is also an amateur detective and has his inquisitiveness piqued when he learns that the circumstances of a teacher’s recent dismissal are more than a little fishy. Adding interest to the story is Lizzie Merriweather (Madeleine Dauer), whose simultaneous attraction and opposition of journalistic philosophy adds another layer of tension to the narrative.

The Cobblestone Corridor is a low-key comedy hybridizing genres from teen fare to mystery, and Mike Magilnick’s cinematography does a good job of compromising between tones, referencing noir while keeping things light enough for a chuckle. The film succeeds largely due to a cast of interesting faces, which include Bloomquist’s as well as that of Nicholas Tucci, whom viewers may remember from the outstanding slasher homage You’re Next (2011). An assortment of young women in school uniforms adds to the visuals. Finally, while something of a morsel at 25 minutes, there is a measure of substance to be detected down these halls.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Cobblestone Corridor is:

5. Anti-drug. Archer is contemptuous toward stoners.

4. Green-ambivalent. When classmate Claire (Alex Sarrigeorgiou) says paper publishing “just wastes trees”, her professor (Tucci) replies that this is “an interesting environmental argument”; Archer, however, dismisses Claire’s opinions as “shortsighted and ignorant”.

3. Feminism-ambivalent. Archer reviles “sluts” and puts a stop to an all-girl fight club. Lizzie’s contribution to his development as a journalist suggests, however, that women can contribute as professionals, giving the lie to a threatening note she receives informing her “little girls don’t belong in the big leagues.”

2. Tobacco-ambivalent. Archer cock-blocks a quintessential film noir ritual when he stops Lizzie from smoking a cigarette in his office. She later discovers that he has lied about not being a smoker, however.

1. Media-ambivalent. The Cobblestone Corridor’s best scene – crisply written and delivered by Mr. Bloomquist – concerns the question of the continuing relevance of the print medium. Journalism instructor Mr. Brown (Tucci) asks his class, “Are newspapers still important in today’s society, or are they well on their way to fading into historical oblivion?” Claire assails print as irrelevant in the age of the instantaneous dissemination of information; but Archer, who hates “supermarket tabloid drivel” and does what he can to uphold traditional journalistic standards, holds forth as follows:

People who write for newspapers understand that a story is more than just a clickbait by-line. These message boards that Claire talks about aren’t avenues for intellectual discourse, they’re a mosh pit of pseudo-scholars trying to outsmart each other. It’s not about the news, it’s not about the facts, it’s about being the loudest [. . .] and if one day the servers crash and everything goes to Hell we’ll still have a thoughtful piece of analysis we can touch and feel. That sure as Hell beats a tweet by some self-important high school drop-out hiding behind a screen name.

At stake in this scene and for the remainder of the film is the credibility of “conspiracy theories” and the post-9/11 alternative media, the latter being personified by blogger Lizzie. Archer naively believes that the major newspapers’ reporters are as thoughtful and idealistic as he is, is impressed by the Fourth Estate’s centuries of superficial prestige, and disparages the internet. He suggests, furthermore, that the anonymity of the blogosphere is an invalidation of its credibility, failing to consider the fact that alternative journalism is not, in most cases, a living, and that these writers might be putting their employment in jeopardy by signing their real names under their controversial interpretations of events.

However, after Lizzie’s insights prove to have been valuable in solving the mystery of the dismissed teacher, Archer is moved to establish an online edition of The Pierce Gazette, the idea being that online and print news media can coexist and mutually strengthen each other, and that independent researchers’ contributions can make a difference. This, Archer effuses with idealism, heralds the “beginning of a renaissance for The Pierce Gazette” – a revolution by technology and turnover in personnel. Bloomquist, though, by setting his story in the innocuous world of a non-profit student newspaper, has avoided the fundamental corruption of commercial “news” by controlling financial interests. Archer, once he ventures into the Orwellian sphere of professional journalism, will find his masters reluctant to publish material that strays off-script.

[For full disclosure of this writer’s diet of news and infotainment, he will admit to getting the vast majority of it online – from sites ranging from fluff like Yahoo! to deeper-digging content like Global Research – but also subscribing to a fortnightly print newspaper, Willis Carto’s populist American Free Press.]

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Magic Mike poster

Magic Mike, along with Katy Perry: Part of Me, was one of the faith-shakingly embarrassing trailers that seemed to hound this critic every time he went to the movies during the summer of 2012. “Oh, no, not this again,” he would think to himself, slumping into his seat as his heart sank in his breast. The fact of the matter is, however, that this amusing and unassumingly sharp drama from screenwriter Reid Carolin and director Steven Soderbergh not only rises to the occasion on more than an anatomical level, but ends up as one of the most outstanding films of its year.

Channing Tatum, who actually worked as a stripper during an earlier phase of his show business career, puts his skills to productive use in Magic Mike, a role perfectly suited to the actor’s dissolute good looks, sex power, and sense of humor. Tatum’s semiautobiographical Mike is an American original, a creatively driven renaissance stud who aspires to build handcrafted furniture for a living, but works at construction, car detailing, and stripping until he can put together the venture capital he requires. Handsome Alex Pettyfer plays Adam, the fresh piece of meat Mike recruits to join the dance revue at Club Xquisite, and whose pretty but staid sister Brooke (Cody Horn) will become Mike’s reluctant romantic interest.

It is Matthew McConaughey, however, who majestically steals much of Magic Mike as the Mephistophelean Dallas, the Gordon Gekko of male strip club proprietors. In particular, the sequence in which erotic drill instructor Dallas is training greenhorn Adam for his first tour of duty under the lights provides McConaughey with the most explosive monologue of 2012. “Who’s got the cock? You do. They don’t,” he prods his pupil like a madman, showing him how to win over a crowd of emotionally vulnerable women by whirling and thrusting his pelvis properly. “You are the husband that they never had. You are the dreamboat guy that never came along. You are the one-night stand, that free fling of a fuck that they get to have tonight with you onstage and still go home to their hubby and not get in trouble because you, baby, you make it legal. You are the liberation!” McConaughey even gets to sing a sweet little country ditty, “Ladies of Tampa”, which he himself co-wrote.

Soderbergh again shows himself to be the consummate master, a man in complete and comfortable control of his craft. Magic Mike is a career highlight, but with no small assistance from his collaborators at every level of this nearly perfect production. From performances to editing and visual design, Magic Mike is a classy show and deserving of repeated viewings. Music also adds much to the verve of the experience, with cleverly selected songs setting the movie’s various tones and rhythms. Of special note, Win Win’s “Victim” is darkly repetitive, cock-rocking magic; Countre Black’s cover of “It’s Raining Men” is a scintillating introduction to the men of Xquisite doing a campy raincoats-and-umbrellas routine; and Chris Mitchell’s coy rendition of “Like a Virgin” is an appropriate accompaniment to Adam’s shy first appearance onstage.

Highly recommended at 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Magic Mike is:

11. Anti-Christian. A crucifix pendant and cross tattoo appear in irreverent contexts.

10. Antiwar. The troupe of strippers performs a mock-patriotic military-themed routine, firing their crotches to the sound of gunfire. While, on the one hand, this points to the warrior ideal as a perennially appealing archetype in women’s sexual fantasies, it might just as easily equate war with show business as something tawdry, phony, and whorish, or suggest that war is really a sublimation of primal, sexually motivated aggression.

9. Anti-obesity. One of the strippers hurts his back trying to lift a chubby customer.

8. Pro-gay. “I don’t care what your preferences are,” says Brooke when she discovers her brother’s dance outfits and takes these for evidence of his homosexuality. Then, as if 2005’s Brokeback Mountain had been insufficient degradation of an American movie icon, the cowboy archetype is further downgraded by a homoerotic gunfight strip routine.

7. Statist. “Fuck school altogether,” Dallas opines with reason. His idea is that children should be homeschooled with special emphasis on finance and investment strategies, but Mike, presumably from faith in the liberal public education system, dismisses this as “stupid shit”.

6. Anti-American. “That’s the state of the country, man. America. People. Stupid.”

5. Pro-wigger. Mike affects a hoodie, backwards cap, and “y’all” talk.

4. Feminist/anti-marriage/anti-family. Brooke is offended and gets defensive when she assumes Mike is suggesting that she cook breakfast for him. A woman wearing a “bride to be” sash is seen dancing uninhibitedly onstage with one of the strippers, and Dallas explains that women patronize his establishment because their marriages are unfulfilling, with nude male revues providing the psychological “liberation” women require. The institution of motherhood, meanwhile, receives grotesque parody treatment in the memorable image of pink-haired tart Nora (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough) bottle-feeding milk to a piglet.

3. Drug-ambivalent. Strippers partake of something called “hey juice” and stupid sorority girls demand to know: “Who do we have to fuck to get a fucking drink?” Joints are passed around without consequence, but drinking and harder drugging (and drug dealing) get Adam and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) into serious difficulties. Mike and Adam barely make it out of a sorority house with their lives when Adam enrages a girl’s boyfriend by slipping her some E. To its credit, Magic Mike contains a classic morning-after atrocity scene too good to spoil.

2. Slut-ambivalent. Relatively conservative Brooke regrets her adolescent decision to get tattooed. Adam is warned to avoid oral contact with customers so as to avoid contracting herpes. One laid-back dope dealer enjoys an open marriage (“My wife’s tits are awesome. Check ‘em out, man.”), but this segment, rather than serving as an endorsement of swinging lifestyles, is intended to evince the decadence and the seductive evil of the world into which Adam is being initiated. Casual orgy partner Joanna (Olivia Munn) comes across as unhappy and frightened by intimacy, with Mike ultimately realizing that what he needs is a good girl and a sexually conventional life. In the final analysis, Magic Mike is less than satisfactorily judgmental where sexual promiscuity is concerned, but does give the impression that such escapades are best suited for youth if at all necessary and better abandoned in maturity.

1. Anti-capitalistic-cum-populist. In Magic Mike’s complicated and nuanced moral universe, informed by the compassionate socialist-populist worldview of screenwriter Reid Carolin (whose nonprofit group Red Feather Development has, according to Wikipedia, been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show!) and director Steven Soderbergh (hagiographer of Che Guevara and happy producer of George Clooney’s disingenuous anti-McCarthy clunker Good Night, and Good Luck) honest toil when set to the pattern of the typical employer-employee paradigm becomes a species of semi-prostitution. “You don’t wanna know what I have to do for twenties,” Mike tells Brooke significantly. The capitalist, as exemplified by Mike’s construction foreman, is a petty exploiter who balks at the notion of paying “benefits and shit”.

It is stripper-impresario Dallas, however, who most clearly personifies capitalism in this film. Icy, dishonest, superficial, materialistic, and nihilistic, he is also a charming, seductive swaggerer whose charisma no viewer will deny. A manipulator of others, Dallas also whores himself, serenading his customers (whom he describes collectively as his “wife”) and climbing back into the saddle for an impressively sweaty farewell performance of his own, erupting a shower of crumpled dollar bills onto his naked torso. Going into business as partners with Dallas is clearly a matter of dealing with the Devil (“Nobody walks on water on my team.”), and Dallas expectedly lets Mike down, going back on his glorious promises. Commerce, for Dallas, is glorified theft. “You are worth the cash you pry out of their fuckin’ purses,” he snidely pontificates.

It is the small, honest, dream-driven entrepreneur, uncorrupted by greed and mercenary prudence, with whom these filmmakers sympathize. Mike’s desire to start his own custom furniture business is admirable and casts him as, if not a starving artist, then a creative man of principle unwilling to compromise on his vision. This type of endeavor, Magic Mike charges, is thwarted at every turn by the old boys’ club of the business and financial establishment. This becomes painfully obvious when Mike, seeking a startup loan for his venture, is turned down as a bad credit risk by a bank’s loan officer (Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt, who, this reviewer is grieved to report, is at no point in the film treated to a private dance from Mike). “The only thing that’s distressed is y’all,” Mike tells her defiantly on being refused. One of the morals of Magic Mike, then, is that self-reliance and hard work, even if it results in a less comfortable life than that of a high-class courtesan, is, albeit a more difficult one, a more dignified way to live. Magic Mike, consequently, has mostly scorn for slacker Adam, who shirks his responsibilities, sleeps on his sister’s couch, and refuses to interview for a job that requires his wearing a “fuckin’ tie”.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Lap Dance

As salacious and lugubrious as its title indicates, this female version of Magic Mike concerns the lure of glorified whoring that euphemizes itself as “dancing” and warns of the stresses it places on a committed relationship.

Aspiring actress Monica (Ali Cobrin) seems to have found happiness with her fiancé Kevin (Robert Hoffman) until her father (James Remar) is hospitalized with cancer. When the hospital bills overwhelm the family, Monica rolls up her sleeves and skirt and goes to work in a strip club giving lap dances to cash-flashing black guys. In addition to straining relations with Kevin, Monica raises the ire of a rival performer, Lexus (Carmen Electra), who feels threatened when her top boyfriend/client Chicago (Datari Turner) begins making advances toward Monica for more than a lap lambada. Meanwhile, Kevin, neglected by Monica, drifts into a friendship and liaison with Jade Lee (K.D. Aubert), another dancer at the club.

Lap Dance delivers plenty of the cheap thrills promised by its title, but has some substance to offer, too – substances other than those called to mind by a movie titled Lap Dance.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Lap Dance is:

5. Drug-ambivalent. Kevin takes a devil-may-care attitude toward weed, but ecstasy, while pleasurable, carries a more sinister vibe in the film.

4. Pro-gay. Lexus and lesbian lover Jade Lee hope to “start a family”.

3. Anti-capitalistic. Whites come into social and inevitable sexual contact with blacks only through the sordid pursuit of Mammon. Addiction to money and ersatz glamor cause Monica to forget her principles and her promises. “I sucked a big black dick,” Monica taunts Kevin when he asks her what she had to do to get so much money.

2. Miscegenation-ambivalent. Lap Dance was produced, written, and directed by blacks – star/producer Datari Turner and screenwriter-director Greg Carter – which makes its mixed message about mixed relationships something of an enigma. On the one hand, the stock Hollywood type of Africanus cinematicus is very much in evidence, with blacks portrayed as physically desirable, intelligent, ambitious, and capable – appearing as doctors, playing chess, making plans to attend the opera, and giving advice to whites about the value of hard work – but whites’ increasing involvement with blacks in Lap Dance parallels and expresses their flirtation with darkness, which is to say evil, the strip club appearing as twilit netherworld frequented by well-heeled black devils. Blacks, furthermore, are depicted as privately brutish and sexually promiscuous, with Chicago issuing orders to the women in his life and brusquely grabbing Lexus by her hair. “The minute you go runnin’ after a woman is the minute you lose your power,” is Chicago’s approach to romance. Still, “We both got jungle fever,” Kevin confesses to Monica. Whatever the negatives associated with blacks and miscegenation in Lap Dance – promiscuity, infidelity, drugs, dishonesty, and cruelty – the fact that it seems such a matter of course and that Kevin raises no objections to his fiancée grinding against congoid crotches for a living works as a de facto normalization and hence endorsement of interracial depravity.

1. Anti-slut. Lap Dance functions as a compression and microcosm depicting the moral decline and fall of the European woman. “The woman that I loved was a good girl,” Kevin tells Monica after their relationship has hit the rocks. “She loved her family and she loved herself”; but now, he tells her, “You’re just a cheap trick.” Woman’s descent into misery has been brought about not by a totalitarian patriarchy, but by her own abandonment of traditional values and men’s permissive short-sighted nihilism.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

In the wild opening scene of Drew Daywalt and David Schneider’s 2002 film Stark Raving Mad, the protagonist, Ben McGewan (cocksure, handsome American Pie alumnus Seann William Scott), is defined in a single moment.  Alone on a savannah and faced with a lion, he keeps his cool and, instead of running, he flips the savage beast the bird.  In addition to instantaneously hooking the viewer’s interest into this character’s story, the gesture also tells the viewer who he is: a masculine, confident, charming rebel with a touch of zen about him.

Stark Raving Mad, living up to its title, is a caper film about teasing the venomous snake and challenging the king of the jungle, and works the way Sexy Beast might have played if it had been a stateside story directed by Danny Boyle or Guy Ritchie: flippant, frenetic, visually inventive, and still a little psychologically pimply.  Foul-mouthed as any Tarantino film and featuring the same sorts of casual hipster criminals, gratuitous anecdotes, faux-profound contemplations, and wacky, depraved situations, Stark Raving Mad is more fun than might be expected from a film of its gimmicky, derivative type.  As in the work of Ritchie and Tarantino, violence is trivialized somewhat, but the ride is so fast and sexy that the sin of it is beside the point.

Sin does, however, figure thematically in Stark Raving Mad and help to energize it, set as it is in a decadent rave club that could double as some other movie’s futuristic Sodom, what with its lurid, luminous greens, cavernous blackness, wet trance music, neon, drugs, and hive of willing bodies.  As Ben and his motley crew of amateurish crooks are in the basement trying to break into the vaults of the bank next door, floozies and incubi rock the dance floor above, with drag queens performing an S&M show onstage with a snake and date rape drugs floating nonchalantly around the club.  At one point the python gets loose (an excuse for a bit of zippy snake-vision camera work) and wraps itself around a party-goer as a reminder that fire is hot but also burns.  It is, however, the daredevil dance around the fire that primarily concerns Stark Raving Mad.

Indicative of the film’s will to party is its decision more than once to break the fourth wall, with two characters, Ben and Rikki (Timm Sharp), addressing the viewer directly.  This gimmick, immediately calling to mind Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, complements the self-conscious mischief of the film as a whole and reinforces a parallel between Ben’s relationship with depressed buddy Rikki and Ferris’s patronage and concern for milquetoast sidekick Cameron.  Stark Raving Mad is a much sleazier entertainment experience than Ferris – to be expected in a film with a list of characters including “Seedy Guy”, “Sickly Thin Guy”, and “Trannie #3” – but also captures something of its anarchic validation of salutary revelry and rebellion for its own sake.

A little bit more than just a style-over-substance fix, this one is recommendable for its non-stop neo-disco-gothic visual sensibility, but also for its humor, some adequate suspense, and the anchoring performance of Seann William Scott and supporting players Sharp as Rikki and Lou Diamond Phillips as scary gangster Mr. Gregory.

4 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Stark Raving Mad is:

9. Anti-Christian/anti-religion.  Oriental mythological beliefs, characterized as superstition, receive more attention than western spirituality.  “Help me, Jesus, help me!” a DJ (Jody Racicot) says in sarcastic despair when told to play a song he dislikes.  Ben, in a tight spot, irreverently invents a lie about a character’s religious tenets to fool an FBI agent.

8. Feminist, at least with respect to the intelligent, technologically adept Betty (Suzy Nakamura).  “Stop bustin’ my ovaries,” this probable lesbian sasses.  “I said have a seat and have some kung pao chicken,” she asserts with menace at one point, transforming hospitality into a threat.

7. Homosexuality-ambivalent.  From the standpoint that all publicity is good publicity, Stark Raving Mad gives an endorsement.  “I feel love,” pyrotechnics man Jake (John Crye) says, arms around a man and a woman, probably under the influence of ecstasy.  The transvestites, though loutish and ugly behind the scenes, put on a sexy show with their makeup masks and tacky regalia.  However, Rikki fears the inevitability of prison bitchery should he be caught by police, imagining that he would emerge from incarceration looking like a doughnut.

6. Anti-state, presenting an unflatteringly seedy portrait of one public servant.  A character eventually revealed to be an undercover FBI agent (NewsRadio‘s Dave Foley) talks about how he likes his chickens frying size.  “These dirty little meat flowers nowadays, they’ll just like strip and jump your donkey anywhere, huh?”

5. Racist!, specifically in its depictions of Asians.  Betty, while smart and confident, is also sarcastic, mannish, and unpersonable.  Most of the other Asians in the film are superstitious gangsters, the only other one being an unseen and apparently stupid or English-challenged Chinese restauranteur with whom Ben has difficulty communicating his order over the phone.  A shrilly annoying rendition of “Sayonara” plays over the denouement.  Also, “mongoloid” is employed as an insult.

4. Drug-ambivalent.  Jake is incapacitated by a drug-spiked drink.  “I work better stoned,” he says earlier in the film, but events fail to bear this out.  Cigarettes, however, lend an air of experienced toughness to Ben and Betty.

3. Family-ambivalent.  Parents receive poor representation, but Ben is motivated all along by a desire to seek revenge for his brother’s death.

2. Misogynistic, sexist, and slut-ambivalent.  With the exception of Betty, no female character in Stark Raving Mad has a shred of dignity.  Women are sluts, fickle in their affections, and exist to serve men drinks and sensual pleasure.  Ben, after describing a type of bird that eats its mate’s heart after sex, explains, “I think it’s because she’s just a bitch.”  Vanessa (Monet Mazur), a former recipient of his attentions, once broke out his windshield, cooling his desire to have a woman in his life as a permanent fixture.  Later, after telling her “Fuck you”, he has sex with her but breaks off abruptly when caper business intervenes.  At the end, after the heist is accomplished, he throws her out of the getaway van.  Hungry club cutie Kitten (Reagan Dale Neis), after settling for dweeby Rikki by default and pleasing him on a sluttish whim, only earns him a brutal beating when her father (Foley) discovers their dirty deed.  On the pro-slut side of the equation, however, is Ben letting a bevy of underage girls into the club and a scene in which one woman receives cheers for flashing her crotch to be let into this apparently very happening nightspot.

1. Outlaw/anti-capitalistic.  An announcement of “X marks the spot” serves to cast the robbers as modern-day pirates and adventurers.  Crime, fraught with danger for them though it may be, works out in the end for Ben and his friends.  “I got the money, I got revenge, and nobody got killed.  Hell, Rikki even got laid.”  Which is to say that it pays.  A nasty split-screen montage with a drill equates bank robbery with sex.  The film’s representative businessman is club proprietor Mr. Partridge (Adam Arkin), who is punished for attempting to assert his prerogatives as a property owner.  Also, Betty’s former employer at a software firm is described as “some asshole”.

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