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dead dont die

Did I only imagine that there was ever a certain profundity lurking behind the absurdity of Jim Jarmusch movies? As a young man, I approached the writer-director’s work with some respect; but, checking in on Jarmusch for the first time since 2005’s Broken Flowers, I just find myself wondering if there was ever a point to all this nonsense apart from propping up globohomo. Bill Murray and the other performers are always fun to watch, but I could never shake the feeling that this is a movie that should have been made fifteen years ago. A self-aware zombie-themed black comedy with a blasé approach to gore and the eerie? Is this non-novelty all that Jarmusch has left in his bag of tricks? At least he seems to be aware of his own obnoxiousness, as evidenced by the grouchy line he gives to Larry Fessenden’s motel owner: “Infernal hipsters with their irony.” Indeed.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Dead Don’t Die is:

Gun-ambivalent. Firearms come in handy in dispatching zombie attackers until the undead finally become too numerous to shoot.

Feminist. In The Dead Don’t Die’s most tiresome cliché, Tilda Swinton plays a flawlessly kickass samurai mortician whose effortless, balletic swordplay makes Uma Thurman in Kill Bill look like the Gimp.

Multiculturalist and pro-miscegenation. “That girl’s part Mexican,” Adam Driver observes approvingly of Selena Gomez. “I have an affinity for Mexicans. They’re like my favorite people. I love Mexico. I’ve been down there twice.” Gomez is one of Fessenden’s “infernal hipsters”, and the exact nature of her relationship with her two traveling companions, a white man and a black man, is never made explicit, though the trio is shown checking into a single motel room with two beds.

Pro-black, as long as the blacks are just the harmless, imaginary creatures that live in Jarmusch’s imagination. RZA appears as a magically benevolent delivery driver, while Jahi Di’Allo Winston plays an environmentally conscious juvenile delinquent.

Green. The zombie outbreak is one of a number of disturbances in the natural order resulting from polar fracking. “A change in the earth’s rotation or its spin rate?” frets Jahi. “That’d be catastrophic for sure. All the cycles of the biosphere would be affected. The natural cycles of sunlight would be disrupted, plants wouldn’t grow, wind patterns would change, and tectonic activity […]”

Irreligious. “Dear Lord in Heaven, help us,” Fessenden cries just before the zombies eat him, no divine help having been forthcoming.

Anti-Trump, featuring Steve Buscemi as the obligatory bigot in the red “Keep America White Again” cap. At “payback time”, vagrant Tom Waits enjoys eating some chicken as he watches zombies attacking the racist Buscemi. Then, after Buscemi comes back as a zombie himself, Bill Murray kills him again, telling him, “You got this comin’.”

Anti-American, but in a boring, nebulous, not particularly intelligent or articulate way. “Centerville, USA,” Tilda Swinton observes sarcastically as she cruises the modest town’s zombie-filled streets: “A real nice place.” Centerville as depicted in The Dead Don’t Die is thus intended to serve as a microcosmic diagnosis of what plagues America. But what, fundamentally, is wrong with Americans in Jim Jarmusch’s assessment? “Remnants of the materialist people,” wise drifter Waits observes of the undead. “I guess they been zombies all along.” Warmed-over remnants of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, is more like it. With everything could have been said about the United States in 2019, Jarmusch zeroes in on … people in flyover country selling their souls for kitchen appliances and new trucks. What year is Jarmusch living in? Ultimately, none of the various thematic concerns come together in a coherent way, and The Dead Don’t Die primarily exists to listlessly entertain and run out the clock on middle-aged liberals and somnambulant stoners.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWOApartment Troubles

Written and directed by lead actresses Jess Weixler and Jennifer Prediger, this offbeat black dramedy concerns itself with what happens to artsy ditzes Nicole (Weixler) and Olivia (Prediger) when they run out of the money they need to pay the rent on their New York apartment. Seemingly out of options, the pair flies to L.A. to impose themselves on Nicole’s Aunt Kimberley (Will and Grace regular Megan Mullally), who hosts a reality TV talent show. Full of oddball characters and off-the-wall moments (a favorite is the lactose-intolerant vermicomposting malfunction), Apartment Troubles wafts by in an instant like a gust of fragrant spritz and is impossible not to enjoy. Weixler and Prediger make a cute comedy team and could easily turn their partnership into a charming TV sitcom or film series.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Apartment Troubles is:

6. Anti-drug. Pill-popping doofus Will Forte is a danger to himself and others, particularly behind the wheel, with Adderall receiving some bad publicity. Too much wine makes Nicole and Kimberley shameless.

5. Racist! A young African-American gentleman is shown wearing a T-shirt that says “Primitive”.

4. Fag-ambivalent. Kimberley is a predatory lesbian and a drunkard whose advances toward Olivia meet with diplomatic repulsion. Apartment Troubles could be argued to normalize homosexuality, however, with Kimberley presenting an unusually attractive seductress. The casting of a Will and Grace alumnus would seem to corroborate the latter interpretation.

3. Anti-family. Nicole is estranged from her family, who have gone on an unannounced vacation without her. Forte calls his domineering mother a “turkey”. “She’s a powerful lady and she will spank me,” he says. “She will spank me hard. She’s getting older, but she packs it, you know?” He then claims to have been joking when he said this, but he really does seem to believe himself when he confesses, “My mom has really helped me to hit rock bottom.”

2. Anti-cuck. American men, as Apartment Troubles painfully illustrates, have been turned into ineffectual man-children and sexually undesirable weaklings. Familiar character actor Jeffrey Tambor plays the protagonists’ landlord and Nicole’s unlikely ex-boyfriend and recovering beta orbiter. He consults an energy healer for relationship advice. Nicole’s Uncle Robert (Bob Byington) is a lifeless, depressed, and dominated by his lesbian wife. Forte, in another manifestation of the prevailing non-man, unconvincingly proclaims himself the “knight in shining armor” of the two heroines. A foreigner, meanwhile, absurdly accuses American fruit of being “aggressive” because it is too big.

1. Millennial-critical. Whatever the intentions of Weixler and Prediger in crafting this eccentric film, it plays like a sustained act of trolling directed at clueless, useful idiot liberals. Pervading Apartment Troubles and destabilizing its heroines’ lives is the extra-special snowflake mentality according to which the world is obliged to endure the idiosyncratic whimsy that lives in every millennial’s heart. What they must ultimately learn is that they have “that special nothing”; but “We need a benefactor,” they moan, not troubling themselves as to how they would earn such patronage.

Nicole and Olivia are typical women of their generation – overly educated in useless areas of endeavor, underemployed, in arrears, and socially retarded. Olivia’s cat substitutes for a more rewarding human companionship, and one can only agree with Nicole, who tells her, “You need to, like, get a boyfriend or something.” One brief moment has Olivia’s eye caught by a display of books for sale on rape and climatic apocalypse. These are the bogeys that haunt the mind of the liberated woman. A toothbrush is lower on the list of things to remember. So ridiculously committed are the duo to the environment that they make a conscious decision (or economical rationalization?) not to pay their electricity bill. “There’s no law that says you have to blow up mountains and frack,” opines Olivia, who comes across as ridiculous rather than sophisticated.

In place of a more dignified, traditional spirituality, both women go for make-it-up-as-you-go-along new age silliness, with Nicole taking an interest in eastern religions and Olivia leaning on a “teeny tiny therapist” (a small toy she keeps in a bag). Both women, even when supposedly too poor to feed themselves, consider Tarot readings a worthy investment. Like Hillary Clinton, Olivia, too, finds consolation in the eternal wisdom of ZOG lord Eleanor Roosevelt. Olivia’s belief in the power of “signs” does not appear to be justified.

The validity of all thoughts, all opinions, and viewpoints, no matter how stupid, that constitutes the relativistic crazy-quilt fabric of twenty-first century American values, finds expression in the behavior of every character in the film. “I’m an adult,” says Forte, “and I know when it’s safe to go through a fricking red [light]. Sometimes I’ll stop at a green, okay? Oh, my God, I want some candy, but is it too late for candy?” Red light, green light – all is subjective. A theme of Apartment Troubles is the need to grow up, but nothing has been definitively resolved as the story draws to a close, its characters still adrift and having found no rock – nothing that endures – on which to secure themselves.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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