Archives for posts with tag: Gonzo

A Million Ways to Die in the West

 

Central to Post-American Hollywood’s hate affair with European-American heritage is its especial loathing for the rugged, expansive tradition of the masculine Old West, a tired spite that found expression in Brokeback Mountain (2005), Django Unchained (2012), and last year’s flop Lone Ranger remake, and now throws a new shovelful of Marxist manure onto the pile with A Million Ways to Die in the West, the latest directorial effort of Family Guy auteur Seth MacFarlane, whose last foray into feature filmmaking was the less heartless and more palatable Ted (2012).

The western spoof was never a genre that held much interest for this reviewer. After Wild Gals of the Naked West (1962), Little Big Man (1970), Thank You Mask Man (1971), Blazing Saddles (1974), and so many others, was there really such high demand for another one of these things? Worst is that A Million Ways to Die in the West misses even the broad target of this underachieving subgenre and fails to elicit a single laugh – with, perhaps, the brief exception of the absurd sight of Gilbert Gottfried dressed up to look like Abraham Lincoln.

MacFarlane, who stars as an Arizona sheep farmer, lacks the charisma and color to carry a gonzo film of this sort, and might have done better to cast Seth Rogen or some other funny Jew in the lead. Monument Valley, at least, was never more gorgeous, and sets off race traitoress Charlize Theron’s earthy beauty to nice effect. Liam Neeson, too, is adequate as the principal villain, while Sarah Silverman is convincing as (what a stretch!) a brainless whore. No coup of casting, however, could offset the fact that A Million Ways to Die in the West is too explicitly nasty, self-aware, and mean-spirited to evoke any genuine mirth.

2 out of 5 stars. ICA’s advice: watch Shane (1953) again instead. That is, unless the viewer is absolutely determined to see a sheep urinating in Seth MacFarlane’s face or Doogie Howser, M.D., dumping noisy splats of diarrhea into a Stetson.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Million Ways to Die in the West is:

13. Pro-miscegenation. Giovanni Ribisi dirties himself with Jewish floozy Sarah Silverman.

12. Anti-capitalistic. Merchants receive unfavorable depictions in an arrogant mustache cosmetics salesman (Doogie Howser) and a quack medicine hawker (Dennis Haskins). Other representative forms of commerce and industry are prostitution and mining, which leads to health problems.

11. Anti-tobacco. MacFarlane has a coughing fit when he tries his first cigarette.

10. Anti-Arab. Theron, after hearing him do a mock rendition of an Islamic prayer, is relieved to learn that MacFarlane has no Arabian ancestry.

9. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn). Django himself, Jamie Foxx, shows up in a cameo to murder the proprietor of a “runaway slave” shooting game at a fair.

8. Anti-human. Among the sights MacFarlane expects the viewer to find hilarious are a family catching on fire and men being shot, gored by a bull, and smashed into bloody bits by a falling block of ice.

7. Pro-slut. Sarah Silverman with a gob of semen stuck to her cheek. How charming.

6. Anti-Christian. Parkinson’s disease is sarcastically described as one of the ways God shows His love. A pastor and his son are murderers. Silverman plays a prostitute who bangs ten customers “on a slow day” but refuses to compromise her Christian beliefs by having premarital sex with her fiance.

5. Pro-castration. MacFarlane’s girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him, mainly because the guy is such a wimpy, needy schmuck with no potential. The movie’s somewhat ambivalent solution to his woes, however, is not for the hero to turn himself into a stud and a macho gunslinger, but for him to become more open-minded, study under the tutelage of a feminist, take drugs, and embrace diversity. Sissy, progressive, ethnomasochistic men like MacFarlane and Ribisi are the characters the viewer is supposed to like, while traditionally masculine types are antagonists, with rough-loving outlaw Liam Neeson getting a daisy stuffed in his ass. Men, the message seems to be, ought not to toughen up so much as opt for moderation in wimpiness.

4. Gun-ambivalent. A Million Ways to Die in the West is naturally eager to depict the typical gun owner as a rowdy Caucasian who likes nothing better than to find an excuse to put a bullet through a stranger. The film finds itself in a bit of a quandary, however, in that it is difficult to tell an entertaining story about the Wild West without making use of heroic gunplay. As a compromise, the film features an unlikely, reluctant hero in MacFarlane, a man with no natural talent for shooting and who avoids confrontation when possible, but does learn (from a woman) how to handle a gun in order to protect himself from all of the horrible, unprogressive white men in town. A Million Ways to Die in the West appears to suggest that firearms are best left as a monopoly of responsible feminists like Charlize Theron.

3. Pro-drug. MacFarlane and Theron share a marijuana cookie. The hero later attains “true courage” by drinking a psychedelic concoction given to him by an Indian tribe. Group freakout sessions, explains their wise chief (Wes Studi), constitute the way to “true happiness”.

2. Feminist, anti-marriage, and anti-family. Theron heroically liberates herself from bossy, abusive husband Liam Neeson. MacFarlane’s parents are lifeless sourpusses who never show him any affection. Ribisi, meanwhile, mentions being molested by an uncle. (cf. nos. 5 and 8)

1. Anti-American. “The West fuckin’ sucks.”

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Charles Band’s latest foray into his favorite horror subgenre, the miniature plastic macabre, has exactly two things going for it: supporing players Stacy Keach and Karen Black, both of whom ought to be embarrassed for their participation in this backward-minded, meanspirited, wilful negation of racial realities aimed at all two angry young black men who wait with bated breath for every new Full Moon release.  “Beyond Django” is the film’s tag line, but “Beyond Gonzo” might be more appropriate.  Ooga Booga, a slapdash horror hash of make-believe relevance, is the sort of idiotic movie in which characters make such witty observations as, “If this thing electrocutes me, I’m gonna be pissed.”

Devin (Wade Forrest Wilson), a hardworking black medical student, is unluckily gunned down by a racist cop (Gregory Niebel), appropriately named Officer White, after being mistaken for the culprit in a convenience store robbery and murder – the 1960s Deep South of liberal mythology apparently having merged and melded with modern Los Angeles in Ooga Booga‘s bizarro world – only to be reincarnated as a revenge-seeking stereotypical bone-in-the-nose African warrior doll.  No racist is safe from the bug-eyed, reefer-puffing wrath of this spear-chucking pigmy!

The concept might have been worth a few chuckles if, like Chucky or that pesky Leprechaun, Ooga Booga had been endowed with the power to spout corny one-liners as he dispatches his quarry; but until the doll inexplicably acquires the power of speech in the final scene, he carries out his simplistic regimen of vengeance (which more than once includes the extraction of eyeballs) with an unimaginative reticence, communicating with his girlfriend (Ciarra Carter) only by nodding or gesturing with his spear.  The scene in which Karen Black – cast as an ode to her role in Dan Curtis’s excellent Trilogy of Terror, in which she also finds herself pitted against an angry doll – is boringly pursued by Ooga Booga through her trailer is only an unintentionally poignant reminder of how far this film falls short of its forebear.

2.5 out of 5 possible stars.  ICA’s advice: see Trilogy of Terror instead.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ooga Booga is:

8. Anti-slut.  A prostitute’s rash illustrates the wages of sin.

7. Anti-Christian.  Tacky trailer park manager Karen Black has a kitschy picture of Jesus on her wall.  “Jesus H. fuckin’ Christ,” Officer White exclaims angrily in another scene.  Judge Marks (Keach) refers to “puttin’ nigras in the hole” as being “God’s work”.

6. Un-p.c.  Despite its anti-racist social (i.e., socialist) message, Ooga Booga would like to have its crap and eat it, too, engaging in racial stereotype-based humor under the flimsy pretext of satirizing it, but succeeding only in confusing its tone and intentions from one scene to the next.  Hambo (Chance A. Rearden), a Krusty-like, hog-nosed, haggard, and sordid children’s show host, displays an Asian hooker doll and gives it voice: “I’ll suckie-suckie for crackie-crackie.”  Devin is annoyed by the poor taste of Hambo’s jokes, which, however, are presumably supposed to be funny for viewers.  Likewise, an unappealing gang rape scene’s seriousness of purpose is rendered suspect when it is immediately followed by a superfluous scene of the victim complacently showering with her breasts exposed to the camera while Ooga Booga watches and masturbates.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  The doll and his moll decide not to kill White’s wimpy partner (Corey MacIntosh) after seeing a photograph of his black wife and kids.

4. Drug-ambivalent.  The gang of losers working for White represents the drug trade and drug use poorly, but Ooga Booga appears to suffer no consequences from his frequent marijuana smoking.

3. Anti-police.  Cops are corrupt racketeers, racists, and lusty killers.

2. Anti-white.  Ooga Booga is one of those sad, tired exercises in flagrant fraudulence in which white bums beg blacks for handouts, packs of vicious whites rape black women, and whites as a race are generally stupid, mean, dishonest, criminal, and violent drug dealers, users, and pimps who inconvenience the law-abiding minorities.  The LAPD might as well be the KKK, and White’s non-racist partner, though he objects to the bigot’s recklessness and killing of innocents, is too wimpy ever to intervene.  A Confederate flag on the drug gang’s wall reminds viewers of the hackneyed formula according to which states’ rights and secession equal racism and sexism, which, of course, equal mental retardation, rape, and murder.

1. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  A specter is haunting America: the specter of racism!  Nearly every racial smear applicable to blacks is included at some point.  Even Devin’s landlord is a bigot and in one scene barges into his apartment to complain about noise and calls his tenants jungle bunnies.  “I want you to remove that stain from my world,” Judge Marks says, exposing the genocidal flame that burns in every white man’s heart.  Ooga Booga personifies hate and stereotyping reappropriated as deadly emancipatory weaponry leveled against their masters and originators.

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