Archives for posts with tag: Reese Witherspoon

Wild poster

A career highlight showcase for star Reese Witherspoon, this freewheeling emotional odyssey into triumphant you-go-girlism concerns real-life tramp Cheryl Strayed, whose epic hike along the Pacific Crest Trail takes her from “piece of shit” and “hobo” to liberated and self-actualized piece of shit with an Oprah’s Book Club pick. As with all wilderness pictures, from Jeremiah Johnson to Rescue Dawn, there is an innate fascination to the scenes of Strayed’s one-woman struggle with the elements. The interspersed flashbacks to the unpleasant experiences that drive her to make her quest, however, are hit-and-miss, diminishing any sympathy this reviewer is able to muster for her. Laura Dern appears as Strayed’s long-suffering, cancer-ridden mother.

4 out of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Wild is:

6. Drug-ambivalent. Wild sends mixed messages about Cheryl’s life as a heroin addict. Marijuana, however, seems to be a laid-back thing to do. Alcohol appears as a no-no, though, with Cheryl vomiting after some hard stuff. (see also no. 1)

5. Anti-Christian. Foulmouthed Cheryl utters multiple blasphemies.

4. Anti-redneck. The rural white male is a constant menace hovering in the gloaming of Cheryl’s consciousness, leering at her and making unsavory advances.

3. Pro-choice. Cheryl has an abortion.

2. New age, peddling mass market paperback mysticism that might have been cribbed from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film ends with Witherspoon reciting some philosophical gobbledygook about how nobody knows what leads to what – the scientific method, contrary to this reviewer’s mistaken impression all his life, turning out never to have been invented after all – life being one big mysterious journey, each seeming adversity or disastrous decision constituting a necessary step toward destiny’s fulfillment. People – and, by extension, societies – might as well experiment to their hearts’ content on this starry trek of objectively valueless existence.

1. Feminist. Wild celebrates the junkie-adulteress-intellectual as heroine. One of its many nuggets of womany wisdom is that divorces, unlike marriages, tend to be lasting. Regarding her serial back-alley extramarital humps and heroin habit, Cheryl apologizes to her nice-guy husband (Thomas Sadoski) but later confesses that she harbors no regrets about anything. Adrienne Rich’s poem “Power”, a favorite of the protagonist, furnishes Wild with its theme. Marie Curie’s “wounds”, Rich explains, “came from the same source as her power”. Witherspoon’s body, accordingly, appears with unsightly contusions and cuts throughout the movie, these presumably being the feminist stigmata symbolizing the suffering through which she has attained her “power”. In a parallel characterization, Cheryl’s mother is an abused wife who abandons her alcoholic husband and goes back to school for her education because, she says, she never felt like she was in the driver’s seat of her own life.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Oprah’s Bucks Club

Mud_PosterArt

Wholly original while also echoing Stand by Me in its coming-of-age adventure and Sling Blade in its rural milieu, Mud is the story of fourteen-year-old Arkansas boy Ellis (Tye Sheridan), who, along with buddy Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), discovers the titular fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on a little island not very far downriver from his family’s houseboat. Mud is on the run after murdering a man who threatened his girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon), and Ellis and Neckbone, who are understandably fascinated by this highly unusual character, strike a deal to help him out by bringing him food and supplies.

Mud, like Luke Glanton in The Place Beyond the Pines, is a semi-mythical, romantic, rough-hewn, damaged but untamed figure whose face and tattoos tell his story. He is something out of America’s past, a sort of boy who never grew up, and locates a parallel spirit in Ellis. Matthew McConaughey, so memorable in the previous year’s Killer Joe, is perfect in this polar opposite role as the friendly and formidable but tragically naive Mud, and Tye Sheridan, too, is believably earnest in his central role as companion Ellis. Other faces enhancing the cast are Sheriff Pusser himself, Joe Don Baker, Premium Rush‘s Michael Shannon, The Right Stuff‘s Sam Shepard, and newcomer Bonnie Sturdivant as sultry teenage hussy May Pearl, Ellis’s inamorata.

5 stars. Highest recommendation. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Mud is:

6. Anti-Christian. King (Joe Don Baker) represents Christians unflatteringly when he initiates a group prayer for Mud’s imminent demise. Mud makes at least one reference to God, but comes across as more of a pagan with his wild, natural ways.

5. Gun-ambivalent. Mud’s pistol gets him into trouble, but mentor and ex-Marine Tom (Sam Shepard) comes in handy in the end with his rifle and sniper skills.

4. Anti-slut. Mud’s love is wasted on floozy Juniper (Witherspoon).

3. Anti-marriage. Ellis’s parents are getting divorced. Women are undependable.

2. Anti-vigilante. Mud’s poorly considered vengeance has made him a hunted man. King, father of the abusive lowlife Mud murdered, arranges a posse to locate and liquidate the hero, but by doing so he only succeeds bringing more woe on himself.

1. Libertarian. The River Authority callously threatens to order the family out of their houseboat. Neckbone dismisses the legislation sanctioning such an action as “bullshit”. Ellis’s father (Ray McKinnon), meanwhile, voices strong propertarian views when his son is caught in a theft. The police are susceptible to corruption.

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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