Archives for posts with tag: Shakespeare

The Rewrite

Hugh Grant, never an actor this critic particularly liked, has become more palatable with age – tarnished, less handsome, and hence more accessible. These qualities are on fine display in The Rewrite, which reunites the leading man with Music and Lyrics writer-director Marc Lawrence. Grant is Keith Michaels, a has-been screenwriter who, failing to find new work, takes a job as a writer-in-residence at an unglamorous public university.

Irreverent and a womanizer, Keith finds a capable foil in snooty and arch Austen scholar Professor Weldon (sexy over-the-hill performer Allison Janney), who does what she can to bring his sojourn at the school to an end. Complicating Keith’s private life are amorous coed Karen (Bella Heathcote) and single mother Holly, the latter part enlivened by an astonishingly well-preserved Marisa Tomei, who exhibits wonderful chemistry with Grant.

Certain supporting characters, particularly among the students, may be too broadly drawn for all tastes, but each serves a purpose and is more or less amusing. Whiplash’s monstrous J.K. Simmons demonstrates his remarkable range here by essaying the instantly lovable role of Dr. Lerner, the avuncular head of the English department, while still-boyish Get a Life clown Chris Elliott turns in the expectedly funny turn as the university’s dweeby Shakespeare specialist.

A touching and sharp romantic comedy that transcends the ghetto of its genre, The Rewrite ought to appeal with equal charm to discriminating men and women moviegoers alike. Consistently interesting and rewatch-worthy, this one is highly recommended.

Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) regales Dr. Weldon (Allison Janney) and Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) with his unorthodox take on the merits of Jane Austen's body of work, drawing the scandalized glares of bystanders in the process.

Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) regales Dr. Weldon (Allison Janney) and Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) with his unorthodox take on the merits of Jane Austen’s body of work, drawing the scandalized glares of bystanders in the process.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Rewrite is:

10. Drug-ambivalent. Weed seems to be okay – with Keith, if not with Dr. Lerner – but the film’s attitude toward alcohol is more nuanced. Proving true the adage “in vino veritas”, Keith is overly frank in unfriendly company, and Holly feels obligated to drive him home in another instance. He is described as “trying to fill a spiritual vacancy with alcohol.” Fraternity hazing leads to the hospitalization of sci-fi nerd Billy Frazier (Andrew Keenan-Bolger). Notwithstanding all of this, a tipsy Hugh Grant remains very charming.

9. Pro-gay. “Are you a lesbian?” Keith asks Holly. “I wish,” she responds.

8. Anti-gun. “I was hoping you were pro gun control,” Keith says to Dr. Lerner.

7. Irreligious. Heaven is “a fairy tale designed to make a five-year-old boy go to sleep.”

6. Anti-slut. Keith’s brief fling with sexually experienced student Karen leads to disaster.

5. Anti-Semitic! 9/11 criminal Michael Chertoff’s body scanners, Keith suggests, are merely “cancer-causing cash conduits”.

4. Family-ambivalent. His wife, Keith says, was “smart enough to divorce me”. Karen hates her father. Balancing the story’s failed relationships, however, is Dr. Lerner’s lachrymose domestic bliss with his wife and several daughters.

3. Egalitarian. At stake is Keith’s initial conviction that talent cannot be taught – an assertion that the people-loving Holly intends to challenge. Falling on the side of nurture as opposed to nature, The Rewrite to this extent lends itself to the programs of leftist social engineers.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Keith, tasked with selecting his students based on the strength of their screenplay submissions, instead looks at their online profiles and stocks his roster with a bevy of multicolored cuties including an Asian, two negresses, and a Jewess. The viewer is given to understand at the end that an unexpected Jew-congoid hookup is imminent.

1. Sexist! Dr. Lerner diagnoses icy bitch Professor Weldon as “elitist, lonely, [and] miserable.” Keith, meanwhile, earns major Nazi shitlord points with this drunken faculty cocktail party rant:

Forgive me, but I’m just a little bit tired of female empowerment. […] Well, just, honestly, though, everything seems to be about female empowerment nowadays, you know. Any meeting I go to in Hollywood, someone says, “You know what we need? A kick-ass girl, that’d be a great twist.” Except every movie has a kick-ass girl, you know, some martial arts CGI slow motion woman who kicks the crap out of every man in her path. Can I tell you what would be truly innovative? A movie without a kick-ass girl, or better yet, a movie where a woman gets her ass kicked.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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thingsneversaidposter

And the award for most forgettably titled film of 2013 goes to Things Never Said, the (indifference-) inspiring story of long-suffering streetwise poetess Kalindra (Shanola Hampton), a female exemplar of the elusive but far-from-endangered species Africanus cinematicus, or Hollywood black person, a versatile, unfairly pigeonholed, and defiantly ascendant figure who makes a sassy point of demolishing racist stereotypes by quoting Shakespeare, sipping wine, and eating salads, but who – make no mistake – still got it goin’ on.

Thrill as Kalindra, even after the pain of an unsatisfying marriage and a miscarriage, perseveres and self-actualizes, composing her verbal artworks and treating ethnomasochistically enthused poetry slam audiences to such profundities of expression as, “If you think my voice carries the hate of my ancestors, you’re wrong; it doesn’t carry hate, but the frustrations of the disappointed”; “The hate you thought you heard coming from us was nothing but the echoes of your own white mind”; and, even more gasp-inducingly poignant: “Who the fuck gives a fuck? Does someone give a fuck about me, my pain, my shit? I’m sicka bein’ a bitch for you, motherfucker.”

Shanola Hampton shines – no politically incorrect pun or other poetic device intended – in the moody role of Kalindra, particularly during roller coaster recitations of her poetry. The best scene in the film, however, belongs to an unknown actor, uncredited at IMDb, who brings a nasty naturalism to the minor role of Lem, a character written as an antagonist, but who manages with swaggeringly sleazy charm to swipe this reviewer’s affection. Lem is an old friend of Kalindra’s working schlub of a husband, Ronnie (Elimu Nelson), and represents the retrograde black ghetto culture Kalindra seeks to escape through art. Lem, who appears to view her poetry as some kind of ersatz style of rap, aims to humiliate the protagonist by worrying aloud that Kalindra wants to make Ronnie into a “new millennium ol’ sof’ ass nigga. What, you gonna buy him some skinny jeans next?”

Convincing moments of this variety are unfortunately few, more often yielding to Lifetime Network level feminist wallowing in degenerated and self-absorbed womanliness.

2.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Things Never Said is:

8. Pro-miscegenation. Extras include an interracial couple in a café. There is, however, a palpable tension and racial resentment on Kalindra’s part when she catches lover Curtis (Omari Hardwick) out on a date with a yellow cutie.

7. Pro-wigger, multiculturalist, and pro-immigration. A white wannabe ‘hood bard self-loathingly apes ghetto inflections at one of the slams, which bring together people of different backgrounds, including a “New Yorican”. A women’s support group is peopled by sisters of various hues.

6. Anti-white. Curtis recommends the “dead white motherfuckers that aren’t very interesting but they teach us how to be better poets.” Kalindra holds whites collectively guilty as a race for Africans’ lack of achievement when she gripes, “My ancestors never had a voice. They were too busy listening to you,” she explains, righteously bitch-slapping the audience of liberal hipsters that has come to hear her.

5. Anti-Christian. “Maybe the Bible’s fuckin’ wrong,” Kalindra sasses her mother. Better to go in for new age spirituality and “listen to your soul”. One of her vulgar poems also contains the lines, “Not some negro spiritual shuffle; this is what I truly give a fuck about kind of dance, like I’m dancin’ on a cloud, a cloud of groove and pussy wet and slow jams . . . Can you hear it? Poo-poo-shh, poo-poo-poo-shh . . .”

4. Pro-slut. “Until I can find a decent motherfucker who will love me and also my kid, then [the less than ideal] Steve’s all I got,” Kalindra’s friend Daphne (Tamala Jones) explains. “You know I love that dick, girl, especially when it’s good,” she adds. Kalindra launches into an affair with fellow poet Curtis after he ignorantly compares her to non-black African queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra, “two women whose names are our history”, and finishes with the romantic flourish, “Tell me sumpin’: can I fuck wit you?”

3. Misandrist. Men are “children that never wean.” Simple, blue collar Ronnie stands in for the typical man when he goes ape and beats up Kalindra. More attractive, clearly, is the sensitive lover Curtis, a preposterous figure who could only have been contrived by the feminist imagination: a tough, muscular, and tattooed but reformed and emotionally brittle litterateur with a sensitive heart of pure black gold.

2. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Marriage is equated with slavery. Kalindra’s husband Ronnie, who has a history of beating her, also has the male chauvinist gumption to wish that she could cook! Who can blame her for wanting to have an affair? Her miscarriage, it would seem, was serendipitous, saving her from having this monster’s child. Who needs a “shithead husband” anyway? Kalindra’s mother was also a victim of spousal abuse.

1. Feminist. “Sometimes we focus too much on how we’ll be seen and judged.” Things Never Said instead celebrates the strong woman living only for herself. “Do I feel guilty about how I live my life? Fuck yeah. But not the guilt you think. You low piece a shit.”

A cute horror romance aimed at silly girls and daters, Warm Bodies imagines a post-apocalyptic America in which the last living people have barricaded themselves behind high walls against the teeming zombie hordes outside.  As in Rhodesia, manpower is precious and young people are expected to contribute to national/species security by serving in paramilitary units that go on foraging missions beyond the walls.  Grigio (John Malkovich), leader of the human resistance, even sends his own daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend (Dave Franco) on an assignment to retrieve medicine from an abandoned clinic.  Their group, unfortunately, is attacked, with most of them being eaten by zombies; but, to her surprise, one unusually sympathetic corpse named R (Nicholas Hoult) takes pity on Julie and helps her escape from the horde.  The forbidden attachment formed between Julie and R (which, one assumes, stands for Romeo) sets in motion a Montague-Capulet dynamic, complete with balcony scene, with the pair of pulse-crossed lovers lost in a conflict of attrition between the seemingly irreconcilable biological imperatives of the dwindling living on one side and their eaters, the dead, on the other.

Why people became zombies in the first place is never made clear, though it seems to have had something to do with a collective abdication of the heart.  The dead, who preserve themselves by eating brains, decompose gradually, losing their humanity until, reduced to feral skeletons or “bonies”, they pounce like velociraptors on any heart that beats.  Hunger, whether for flesh or love, is one of the themes of Warm Bodies and finds its expression in a favorite song of Julie’s, Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”.  The gaunt appearance of the end stage of zombification suggests that privation, whether literal or emotional, may be a cause of the plague.  R has no memory of his life, but assumes that because he was wearing a hoodie, he may have been unemployed.  The superior standard of living enjoyed by Grigio and the humans suggests that the human-zombie conflict may be one of haves and have-nots, an interpretation reinforced by R’s theft of Julie’s boyfriend’s expensive watch.  An expository montage introduces a possible political element by flashing the headline “President Infected”, indicating that Obama, whatever his role, is somehow a party to the plague – perhaps through his promotion of conventional and class warfare? – or maybe just another all-too-human victim of whatever human frailties are to blame.

As the shufflers in George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead congregated around a shopping mall, pointing to consumer culture as the zombifying agent, the zombies in Warm Bodies gather in and around an airport, possibly invoking 9/11 as the traumatic cultural cataclysm.  One of the corpses, a former airport security guard, continues robotically waving a body screener, unable to extract himself from the War on Terror’s police state mentality.  If George Bush is to blame for the zombie plague, then the antidote, Warm Bodies may be naively hinting, is a detoxification in the form of love and transnational brotherhood to rid the body politic of the selective xenophobia standardized as America’s foreign policy.  Whatever its intentions, Warm Bodies need not be taken too seriously, as it functions just fine as a funny and involving zombie romcom.

4 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Warm Bodies is:

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

8. Drug-ambivalent.  Prozac receives a sarcastic reference when the abandoned clinic is found to be stocked with it, perhaps indicating that too much medication has contributed to the allegorical zombification and societal disconnect and collapse.  Julie, however, is fond of liquor.

7. Gun-ambivalent.  Julie frowns on her father’s macho and, to her mind, closed-minded reliance on firepower, but also uses a gun to defend herself from the bonies.

6. Anti-family.  Parricide is in one instance a necessary act of self-defense.  Julie has to defy her father at every turn to save her love and facilitate a peace.

5. Bi-partisan.  The film encourages compromise, characterizing both the militaristic nationalism of Grigio and the soullessness of the bonies as bigoted, extreme, and destructive.  Warm Bodies invites the moderate elements of both sides to recognize the humanity in those across the aisle.  This process is vindicated when a pack of hungry zombies, witnessing Julie and R’s affection, feel stirrings of warmth within themselves and eventually join the humans against the bonies, who, however, are never allowed to redeem themselves and must be exterminated.

4. Antiwar.  Grigio’s shoot-to-kill policy toward the zombies makes peace and reconciliation impossible and almost results in R’s real death.

3. Moderately egalitarian.  Medical treatment provided by living humans – Ozombicare, if you will – helps to rehabilitate and integrate the salvageable elements of the zombie population.  They are then allowed to mix freely with the normal humans.  The bonies, however, represent the degradation and savagery, expressing itself in cannibalism, to which redistribution of wealth in its extremities of implementation is prone.

2. Pro-miscegenation/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Apart from the human-zombie romance at the story’s heart, there is the recurring appearance of a zombie black boy and white girl pair who parallel Julie and R’s discovery of interspecies amour.  “Corpse”, Julie explains to her girlfriend Nora (sexy but underutilized Analeigh Tipton) is just a word humans invented to label a state of being they fail to understand.

1. Alien-delugist.  Apart from the automatic association of a border wall with America’s illegal immigration problem, the alien element of the zombie horde is made explicit by the inclusion of one corpse wearing a turban.  The biological regeneration of R and other zombies, Warm Bodies suggests, demonstrates that foreign undesirables can be successfully assimilated and refashioned into productive Americans.  The film ends with the great border barrier crumbling to the ground, presumably under the weight of its crotchety old hatefulness, so as to usher in the rainbow-riding Age of Amexiquarius.

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