Archives for posts with tag: obsession

Foxcatcher

From Capote (2005) collaborators director Bennett Miller and co-writer Dan Futterman, here is another somber character study revolving around the circumstances of a true crime. Magic Mike himself, Channing Tatum, stars as Olympic grappler Mark Schultz, who in 1987 was taken under the wing of eccentric pharmaceuticals heir John E. “Golden Eagle” du Pont (Steve Carell), who sponsored America’s team at Seoul in 1988. Du Pont would hardly warrant the movie treatment if not for the fact that he murdered Schultz’s brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), another one of the wrestlers sponsored by the eccentric multimillionaire, in 1996.

Tatum gets another role that allows him to display not only his competence as an actor, but his impressive athleticism as well. Comedian Steve Carell, nominated for Best Actor, has with justification been praised for bringing to life an unexpectedly deep and enigmatic character, and his exaggeration of Du Pont’s halting quirks of speech and his solemn air succeeds in creating an onscreen presence more magnetic and fascinating than the real man who inspired it. Foxcatcher invites comparison with the same year’s similarly intense Whiplash, another story of a disturbing Svengaliesque relationship, and should engross audiences prepared to be entertained by something again as unstintingly grim.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Foxcatcher is:

5. Pro-gay. More than one scene of grappling carries an undeniably homoerotic charge. As Kristian Lin observes in Fort Worth Weekly, the film “is about a rich guy who can’t explain his deep-seated need to spend hours each day with his arms around young, muscular men wearing singlets. In real life, du Pont had a wife (who is completely left out of this movie), and his problems likely stemmed from paranoid schizophrenia rather than latent homosexuality.”

4. Anti-drug. Magic Mike’s use of cocaine with Du Pont’s encouragement marks his nadir as a person and athlete. His sponsor also throws him off-course with copious alcohol.

3. Anti-gun. Private gun ownership gets a black eye with Du Pont’s murder of David Schultz. The place name Newtown Square (in Pennsylvania) may also serve as a subliminal reminder of the Sandy Hook Elementary incident in Newtown, Connecticut.

2. Liberal. Du Pont represents the typical NPR listener’s idea of the dread Republican power structure looming over America – an affluent WASP, crazed, gun-obsessed, hypocritical, and probably secretly homosexual. Du Pont appears as an emblematic figure of the Reagan era beloved of today’s conservatives: a coke-snorting military buff and fraud whose money substitutes for character and whose moralizing masks a hollow, selfish depravity.

1. Anti-American. “I want to talk about America. I want to tell you why I wrestle.” With these words, Jewish co-screenwriter Dan Futterman and Shabbos goy collaborator E. Max Frye establish thematically that their movie is concerned with the essence of what it means to be an American. Not long after uttering these lines, Mark is shown nervously wolfing fast food alone in his car. It is, as Lin puts it, “a takedown of the myths we Americans like to tell ourselves.” The viewer is only invited to feel contempt for the monologue in which Du Pont expresses the pro-America feeling that informs his fears: “When we fail to honor that which should be honored, it’s a problem. It’s a canary in a coal mine […] I’m an ornithologist, but more importantly, I am a patriot, and I want to see this country soar again.” If only people were less patriotic and also more open about their obvious gayness, perhaps, the world would be plagued with less madness and murder.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Bauer VHS

In a recent issue of the VHS fan culture publication Lunchmeat, enthusiast Mike Dank describes his experiences exploring other people’s discarded home-recorded videocassettes. “After you accumulate a few hundred ‘normal’ tapes, you tend to want to go a little outside the box and seek out something truly bizarre,” he explains1. One passage of Dank’s account strikes this writer as having a greater significance than the immediate find he details – a resonance more societal than personal.

I started to accumulate more interesting personally-recorded tapes. Some of my initial odd-balls were an audition tape from a terrible actress, a recording of some guy bungee jumping, and what appears to be an amateur recording of an awards dinner. Nothing too terribly exciting, but far from what you might define as run-of-the-mill VHS pick-ups. Then, as if by some sort of VHS-obsessed fate, I found something truly intriguing on the side of the road. Not a block from where I lived, I spotted a cardboard box containing a Betamax deck, and a handful of VHS tapes left out for the trash man. One of these tapes contained the first 30 minutes of an empowerment seminar for women (the kind of half-infomercial, half-roundtable discussion you might see hypnotizing the masses at 2 in the morning) followed by around an hour of soft-core pornography clips stitched together for… well… use your imagination! It seemed to be an inarguable textbook case of someone camouflaging their porn. I mean, who on earth would watch the first 30 minutes of that tape straight through on a whim only to eventually uncover the Skinemax-harvested goods concealed afterward? You start to wonder about the story behind this tape. Did I snag this from some sneaky teenager, maybe a hen-pecked married man?2

Could this be a more perfect encapsulation of sexual trends in the West? Women’s “empowerment” as a ruse, leading into a lonely, voyeuristic depravity, and all of it bound for one civilizational garbage dump.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Dank, Mike. “Finding Forgotten Footage: Unearthing Ultimate Home Video Obscurities”. Lunchmeat Midnight Snack no. 4 (Spring 2015), p. [21].
  2. Ibid., p. [22].

Redlands Poster

Vienna (Nicole Fox) is a Midwestern transplant to Southern California who dreams of immortalizing herself through art as a model. Allan (Clifford Morts) is the “fat pervert” and amateur Irving Klaw who entertains her vanity. The pair’s initial collaboration sets Redlands into deliberate motion.

An uneasy study of the creative process and of the artist-model relationship as an “energy transfer”, or a form of vampirism, John Brian King’s debut directorial effort is shot almost entirely in static master shots, a choice that screams “art house” (and low budget) and will automatically alienate the easily distracted. Potential viewers are warned that this is not a film for the faint of heart and that it contains one appalling scene of physical violence in addition to multiple instances of emotional cruelty.

Redlands, owing to a shared subject matter and sensibility, would make for a complementary double feature with Gut (2012) or 24 Exposures (2013) – not that most people would want to sit through two such films in a single sitting. Those sufficiently bold to be interested, however, can screen this gross and engrossing movie via Vimeo.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Redlands is:

9. Anti-miscegenation. A freakish, infatuated Asian sidler (Connie Shin) haunts a camera shop to be near its clerk (Leland Montgomery), but he wants nothing to do with her.

8. Anti-Christian. Vienna sports a kitschy “Have Faith” t-shirt as she rambles inanely about Falco.

7. Anti-vegan. Vegans are depicted as somewhat shallow. Hitler is more than once referenced as having been a vegetarian, presumably so as to discredit the lifestyle.

6. Populist, Luddite, anti-corporate, and protectionist. Allan becomes frustrated with a credit card company’s user-unfriendly robot phone system and finally snaps when he gets through to a human customer service representative, who turns out to be an African named Chiwamba. He calls her a “black bitch” after she informs him that her predatory bankster organization has lowered his credit limit without informing him and is charging him penalty fees for exceeding his newly decapitated limit. Allan’s anger is that of the disenfranchised white male and the American who has seen his countrymen’s jobs either shipped overseas or given to cheap wetbacks and other undesirables. In a fit of impotence, he smashes his phone.

5. Un-p.c. Characters use words like “bitch” and “retard”.

4. Anti-drug. Vienna’s father was an addict.

3. Anti-Semitic! Zack (Sam Brittan) is a parasitic Jew and quasi-pimp, an abusive easy rider who leeches off of his gentile girlfriend’s earnings. “Somebody’s gotta mind the store,” he says. “Might as well be me.”

2. Anti-porn. Parallel scenes of photography sessions evoke a powerful metaphor: pornography as a body of autopsy photos of western woman.

1. Anti-feminist/anti-slut. The misogynistic behavior of the men in Redlands is unpleasant to witness and not at all condoned in the tone of the film. What is impossible to deny, however, is that the unenviable treatment of the women in Redlands results from feminism and its destabilizing effect on the family and the moral fabric of society. The importance of the father as the central figure in a woman’s life comes across very clearly.

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