Archives for posts with tag: Hell

As Above So Below

Perdita Weeks appears as a female Indiana Jones, an obsessive scholar and archaeologist of the history of alchemy in As Above, So Below. Convinced she has learned the whereabouts of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, she convinces academic colleague Ben Feldman to accompany her into the labyrinth of catacombs beneath Paris. Unfortunately, as they descend, they find that the tunnels they take are mysteriously closing behind them, compelling the expedition into ever deeper recesses of this subterranean world. Even worse, they are not alone. Directed by John Erick Dowdle, who co-scripted with brother Drew Dowdle, As Above, So Below is a first-person footage film in the long line of Blair Witch imitators and is fine by the standards of that genre; but the tale tends to lose its mystique to the degree that the Dowdles insist on depicting their rather mundane vision of Hell onscreen.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that As Above, So Below is:

Pro-miscegenation. Weeks and Feldman, the film suggests, are perfect for each other.

Relativist. “As I believe the world to be, so it is.”

Feminist. Weeks is intrepid and unafraid to the point obsessive insanity. Hinting at the Jewishness of the feminist plague, her character is revealed to be an expert in the Israeli “self-defense” techniques of Krav Maga.

Pro-immigration. Non-white Parisians are depicted as fully assimilated citizens. If anything, it is Africans who are at risk of attack from strange Frenchwomen.

Neoconservative. As Above, So Below is full of Judaic resonances that are never articulated. The film reinforces the engineered impression that Jews and Middle Eastern mythology hold mysterious keys to understanding the universe. Weeks ostensibly makes the decision to bring Feldman along because he knows the ancient Jewish language Aramaic. The remains of six million corpses, the viewer learns, reside in the catacombs, with the number six million triggering audiences’ associations with the “Holocaust” and the history of alleged Christian persecution of Jews. The characters’ subsequent descent into Hell, then, may be understood in this context. The film’s title finds a visual expression in a variation on the Magen David that appears on a wall next to a door on the path to the underworld. The underground realm in which the characters move is revealed to be physically inverted, so that those determined to attach an allegorical meaning to the journey might consider the possibility that, in order to atone and to come to grips with their criminal history of “anti-Semitism”, the goyim must endure the ordeal of having their world turned upside down. Gratuitously endorsing the neocons’ Jewish foreign policy, Feldman berates Weeks as “a crazy lunatic” for traveling to Iran.

As Above So Below Star of David

“As I believe the world to be, so it is.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Strong Medicine (1981) ***1/2

Produced with a grant from the fiendish National Endowment for the Arts, the self-consciously artsy Strong Medicine is the brainchild of avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman, founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, which has “the aim of stripping the theater bare of everything but the singular and essential impulse to stage the static tension of interpersonal relations in space” and “seeks to produce works which balance a primitive and minimal style with extremely complex and theatrical themes.”

Strong Medicine follows a woman named Rhoda (Kate Manheim) through a real or imagined absurdist hell of uncomfortable interactions with a host of strangers ostensibly celebrating her birthday. Among those she meets are a dirty-minded doctor (David Warrilow) and a horny lesbian on a train. An air of Kafkaesque futility and ennui pervades Foreman’s film, which may interest those who go for the outre, and who like or can stomach the likes of Beckett and Bunuel or enjoy the stagebound austerity of a film of the type of Marat/Sade (1967). Mildly amusing at best, the experience of taking Strong Medicine is very much like that of watching an opaque European art film in English – although, betraying its foreign affinities, the pretentious end card actually reads “FIN”.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

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Part V of The Filthy Films of Adam Sandler in Ideological Content Analysis: A Cranko-Politico-Critical Retrospective of the ICA Institute for Advanced Sandler Studies

AdamSandler

Unfairly trashed by the consensus critical apparatus on release, this ambitious outing from Adam Sandler goes where few previous comedies have gone with such earnestness of purpose, grappling with the eternal philosophical questions that have given mankind pause over millennia.  Why does evil exist in the universe?  Are there black people in Heaven?  And, most fundamentally, can white men jump – even when descended from the Prince of Darkness himself, and when the spiritual fate of the planet is being played out on the cosmic battlefield of the Harlem Globetrotters court?

Who but Adam Sandler – who, to his credit, manages to keep his face contorted in a comical grimace through every scene – could possibly have brought the heir to the throne of Hell to life in such edifyingly funny fashion while also essaying a bold theological meditation and commentary on the morals of fin-de-siecle America?  The answer – nobody!  Add a bevy of Sandler’s Saturday Night Live buddies including Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Ellen Cleghorne, Kevin Nealon, and Rob Schneider in cameos, stir with a pinch or two of tasty scatalogical humor and outright depravity, and Little Nicky makes for a strange but satisfying brew guaranteed not only to get the audience wasted, but lay their souls to waste as well.

4 out of 5 stars.  Actually a fairly heartwarming experience, Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Little Nicky is underrated, unholy, unashamed, and:

10. Corporate.  Bellicose product placement puts Popeye’s Chicken on the side of the angels.

9. Anti-South.  Nicky more than once jokes that he is from the “Deep South”, thus equating the region with Hell.

8. Pro-gay, at least from the standpoint that all publicity is good publicity.  Clint Howard portrays a grotesque but amusing transvestite.  Also, breasts are made to sprout from Kevin Nealon’s head, which later elicits a favorable remark from Rodney Dangerfield.

7. Multiculturalist/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Validating the authenticity of kitsch pictures hanging in the homes of believers of color, Little Nicky depicts a flock of angels of different races.  Hitler receives special (and very unwelcome) attention from Satan in Hell.  A pro-wigger current finds expression in the line, “Popeye’s Chicken is the shiznit.”

6. Drug-ambivalent.  Central to Nicky’s task of taking his errant brothers back to Hell is trapping them in a magical liquor flask, which could be interpreted as suggesting that liquor is the gateway to eternal damnation.  A boy is depicted vomiting after the drinking age is lowered to 10.  Still, “I came for the beer and the bitches,” says a kid at a Globetrotters game, and marijuana-spiked pastries also receive an endorsement.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  Nicky is the spawn of Jewish Satan (Harvey Keitel) and an Anglo-Saxon angel (Reese Witherspoon) and has one black and one white brother (Tiny Lister and Rhys Ifans, respectively).  Carrying on the bestial tradition from Billy Madison, a giant bird vengefully humps pervert John Lovitz.  A demon (Kevin Nealon) and a gorilla also find themselves in the throes of jungle fever.  Dog Mr. Beefy and sewer rat Heather have “five of the ugliest children you’ve ever seen.”  Jew Sandler again goes for the blondes, in this case mousy Patricia Arquette.

4. Anti-Christian.  Quentin Tarantino represents the faithful as a stereotypical blind-eyed fanatical street preacher.  Angels are portrayed as ditzes.  (See also no. 2)

3. Family-ambivalent/anti-marriage/dysfunction-tolerant.  “I love my father very much,” Nicky says, attempting throughout the film to do his father’s bidding and save him from oblivion.  His family is majorly dysfunctional, however, with unmarried parents and abusive brothers constantly scheming against him.  (“Mom and Dad tried dating for awhile, but were unable to deal with a long distance relationship.”)  The sum effect is a normalization of dysfunction.  A churchgoer praises God for his wife’s pregnancy only to be informed that the child is not his.  A baby in a carriage is transformed into an evil midget that attacks its mother.  “You look like my first wife – only she had more hair,” Dangerfield tells the gorilla.  “I’m cheating on my husband with the weather man,” says a reporter.

2. Relativist.  At stake in the story is the balance of power between good and evil, with one no better than the other.  “Why don’t we all just have fun and do whatever we want?”  Most demons are basically decent folks.

1. Racist! – and specifically anti-Semitic, in spite of the thin pretenses of no. 7 above.  Hell is conspicuously inhabited and lorded over by Jews, with Rodney Dangerfield, Harvey Keitel, and Sandler playing three successive Princes of Darkness.  Jon Lovitz also winds up in Hell.  An Asian stereotypically resorts to kung fu against Nicky.  John Witherspoon plays a jive-talking black thief.

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