Archives for posts with tag: Steve Buscemi

dead dont die

Did I only imagine that there was ever a certain profundity lurking behind the absurdity of Jim Jarmusch movies? As a young man, I approached the writer-director’s work with some respect; but, checking in on Jarmusch for the first time since 2005’s Broken Flowers, I just find myself wondering if there was ever a point to all this nonsense apart from propping up globohomo. Bill Murray and the other performers are always fun to watch, but I could never shake the feeling that this is a movie that should have been made fifteen years ago. A self-aware zombie-themed black comedy with a blasé approach to gore and the eerie? Is this non-novelty all that Jarmusch has left in his bag of tricks? At least he seems to be aware of his own obnoxiousness, as evidenced by the grouchy line he gives to Larry Fessenden’s motel owner: “Infernal hipsters with their irony.” Indeed.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Dead Don’t Die is:

Gun-ambivalent. Firearms come in handy in dispatching zombie attackers until the undead finally become too numerous to shoot.

Feminist. In The Dead Don’t Die’s most tiresome cliché, Tilda Swinton plays a flawlessly kickass samurai mortician whose effortless, balletic swordplay makes Uma Thurman in Kill Bill look like the Gimp.

Multiculturalist and pro-miscegenation. “That girl’s part Mexican,” Adam Driver observes approvingly of Selena Gomez. “I have an affinity for Mexicans. They’re like my favorite people. I love Mexico. I’ve been down there twice.” Gomez is one of Fessenden’s “infernal hipsters”, and the exact nature of her relationship with her two traveling companions, a white man and a black man, is never made explicit, though the trio is shown checking into a single motel room with two beds.

Pro-black, as long as the blacks are just the harmless, imaginary creatures that live in Jarmusch’s imagination. RZA appears as a magically benevolent delivery driver, while Jahi Di’Allo Winston plays an environmentally conscious juvenile delinquent.

Green. The zombie outbreak is one of a number of disturbances in the natural order resulting from polar fracking. “A change in the earth’s rotation or its spin rate?” frets Jahi. “That’d be catastrophic for sure. All the cycles of the biosphere would be affected. The natural cycles of sunlight would be disrupted, plants wouldn’t grow, wind patterns would change, and tectonic activity […]”

Irreligious. “Dear Lord in Heaven, help us,” Fessenden cries just before the zombies eat him, no divine help having been forthcoming.

Anti-Trump, featuring Steve Buscemi as the obligatory bigot in the red “Keep America White Again” cap. At “payback time”, vagrant Tom Waits enjoys eating some chicken as he watches zombies attacking the racist Buscemi. Then, after Buscemi comes back as a zombie himself, Bill Murray kills him again, telling him, “You got this comin’.”

Anti-American, but in a boring, nebulous, not particularly intelligent or articulate way. “Centerville, USA,” Tilda Swinton observes sarcastically as she cruises the modest town’s zombie-filled streets: “A real nice place.” Centerville as depicted in The Dead Don’t Die is thus intended to serve as a microcosmic diagnosis of what plagues America. But what, fundamentally, is wrong with Americans in Jim Jarmusch’s assessment? “Remnants of the materialist people,” wise drifter Waits observes of the undead. “I guess they been zombies all along.” Warmed-over remnants of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, is more like it. With everything could have been said about the United States in 2019, Jarmusch zeroes in on … people in flyover country selling their souls for kitchen appliances and new trucks. What year is Jarmusch living in? Ultimately, none of the various thematic concerns come together in a coherent way, and The Dead Don’t Die primarily exists to listlessly entertain and run out the clock on middle-aged liberals and somnambulant stoners.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

COBB_OneSheet_FM1.indd

Adam Sandler turns in a pleasantly understated performance as Max Simkin, a Lower East Side shoe repairman who discovers that an heirloom stitching machine has magical properties in Tom McCarthy’s film The Cobbler. Put on any customer’s two shoes and Max takes on that person’s appearance, allowing him to indulge such entertaining caprices as sneaking into a black thug’s gun-and-bling-filled apartment or walking into a beautiful stranger’s bathroom. Max eventually takes his place as a “guardian of souls” in addition to his work as a mender of soles.

While funny, The Cobbler is a film which, like Punch Drunk Love (2002), allows Sandler to show off his non-idiot side and is welcome as a change of pace. Steve Buscemi and Dustin Hoffman appear in supporting roles as, respectively, Max’s barber neighbor and mysteriously absent father. Viewers may see the surprise ending coming, but so much of The Cobbler is entertainingly unexpected that any conformity to audience expectations is handily offset.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Cobbler is:

6. Obesity-tolerant. “I’m not fat. I’m big-boned.”

5. Pro-gay and pro-miscegenation. Simkin’s eventual love interest is peppery Carmen (Melonie Diaz). An Asian woman (Greta Lee) flirts with Simkin in a bar after he has unwittingly taken on the form of a bisexual man (Dan Stevens). “I think it’s hot,” she reassures him. Sandler also dons high heels to occasionally assume the appearance of a gauche Latin transvestite (Yul Vazquez).

4. Family-ambivalent. Simkin is deeply devoted to his mother (Lynn Cohen), who was abandoned by his father (Dustin Hoffman). The latter turns out to have responded to a higher calling. Asked if she ever wanted to be somebody else, Mrs. Simkin replies, “I’m your mother. That’s all I ever wanted to be.” Carmen seemingly discounts the necessity of fathers, however, when she says, “My dad split when I was 12. Life goes on.”

3. Localist and populist. Carmen works for the Lower East Side Action Committee, committed to halting the area’s gentrification, and attempts to get Simkin to support the cause. “I’m glad that you’re supporting a local business,” she tells him when she sees him with a box of pickles.

2. Racist! The Cobbler’s only important black character is a career criminal, a murderer and abuser of women, played by rapper Cliff “Method Man” Smith. “You Jewish?” this black bigot interrogates Simkin. “Lucky you.” He then insensitively asks if his recently deceased mother left him any money. In another scene, the fiend creates a Michael Brown-style ruckus in a convenience store.

1. Borderline anti-Semitic. Surprisingly, The Cobbler offers an unsavory portrait of a Hebraic slumlord and gangster in tough-as-nails “Jew from Queens” Elaine Greenawalt (Ellen Barkin). The film compensates for this cinematic blood libel by providing typical wailing violin movie portrayals of weak, long-suffering Jews like Simkin, who gives submissive shoeshines to arrogant blacks. Ratcheting up The Cobbler’s Jewish victimhood factor is Fritz Weaver from the 1978 Holocaust miniseries, who appears as Mr. Solomon, the helpless old man Greenawalt hopes to evict by any dastardly means necessary.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Part II of

The Filthy Films of Adam Sandler in Ideological Content Analysis:

A Cranko-Politico-Critical Retrospective

of the Institute for Advanced Sandler Studies

AdamSandler

1995’s Billy Madison finds Sandler expanding his retard schtick from Saturday Night Live into the feature-length characterization of a bizarre, hyperactive American Oblomov, an irresponsible man-child of means who lives off the family fortune and spends his days in epic slacking: partying, drinking, hallucinating, and generally wasting his life.  Unfortunately, his lifetime of pampering means that spoiled Billy never learned to do anything for himself; and only the influence of his Fortune 500 hotel tycoon father (Darren McGavin) prevented him from flunking out of school and allowed him to undeservedly graduate.

Learning this for the first time, Billy is distraught; and to prove to the skeptical Mr. Madison that he, Billy, and not the scheming and evil Eric (Bradley Whitford) should take over direction of the family hotel chain, Billy hits upon the idea of demonstrating his ability to achieve on his own by tearing through all the public school grades again, from kindergarten to high school, in just a matter of wild and wacky weeks.  Along the way he makes a number of friends in grade school and falls in love with one of his teachers, the cute but tough Miss Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) – but will it be enough to counter Eric’s unscrupulous effort to undermine the project and sabotage Billy’s righteous birthright?

Billy Madison revels in the absurd, celebrates the obscene, and wallows in the scatalogical like the world is ending.  What might on paper sound like a total cinematic disaster is, however, turned into a surprisingly and defiantly funny character creation in the hands of Adam Sandler.  Viewers are challenged not to laugh when Billy, his crush on Miss Vaughn in full bloom, whimpers pitiably in an aside that he, “Want[s] to touch the hiney”.  The laughs thin out somewhat during the film’s obligatory inspirational third act, but Sandler’s inimitable mojo keeps the ball of snot rolling, and smile-sparking supporting turns from Chris Farley, Norm MacDonald, and Steve Buscemi certainly do no harm.

Viewed with an open heart, Billy Madison is, in all honesty, a stupid but also a pretty funny comedy of the gleefully gross, gutter-snorkeling variety and earns 3.5 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Billy Madison is:

7. Anti-feminist.  Miss Vaughn, though she can be stern and in one scene bests Billy in a physical altercation, appears to become interested in him after she lets him get away with an “assault” in which he pretends to fall on a school bus and exploits the opportunity to grope her breasts.  How incorrigibly sexist!

6. State-skeptical.  Public schools’ employee screening practices are called into question by the revelation that Billy’s grade school principal, Mr. Anderson (Josh Mostel) is actually a former professional wrestler with no teaching degree.  One of the teachers (Dina Platias) is a slightly spacy hippie who engages in some kind of ritual freakout when the kids are out at recess.  A bus driver (Chris Farley) is clearly full of rage and a man who could snap at any moment.  He also steals the children’s lunches.  Public grade school education appears to consist of coloring exercises, crafts, and spelling bees.  See also no. 1.

5. Anti-family/anti-marriage.  Children can be brats.  A trivia host offers the category “My Wife the Tramp”.  The mother of one of Billy’s classmates indicates that she is sexually available while her husband is serving a prison sentence.

4. Pro-drug.  Billy drinks heavily, the only consequences being laziness and humorous, Harvey-style hallucinations of a giant penguin.  He eats paste with gusto and offers some to a classmate.  His slacker buddies joke about getting a donkey drunk.

3. Pro-miscegenation.  Billy’s fat black maid (Theresa Merritt) repeatedly flirts with him and offers to take her top off to cheer him up.  Bestiality receives an endorsement when the bus driver meets and finds ecstasy with the penguin of Billy’s hallucinations.  Madison, despite his all-American name and Anglo-Saxon father, is unmistakably a Jew and so cannot resist the blonde temptation of Teutonic “hiney”.

2. Pro-gay.  Among Billy’s dirty magazine subscriptions is one called She-Male Fiesta.  Mr. Anderson gives Billy an obscene Valentine’s Day card informing him that he is horny and later shamelessly grinds against him in public.  The bus driver, taking over from Miss Vaughn, does an educational striptease for Billy to induce him to learn his lessons.  Lesbians engage in a three-way kiss.

1. Capital-ambivalent.  Billy’s untamed lifestyle and various eccentricities suggest that a privileged upbringing results in a spoiled, abnormal personality, and the story of Billy’s first fraudulent experience in the public schools indicates that the rich simply disregard the pesky rules that everybody else has to follow in life.  That the wealthy Mr. Madison puts his son through the public schools at all may point to a humble adherence to his Main Street roots and everyman origins – or it might be that Mr. Madison sees deficient and academically undemanding public schools as offering the easiest path to graduation for his son. Meritocracy receives a nod in the acknowledgement that Mr. Madison is a self-made man, and his company eventually winds up in the hands of his most qualified and deserving subordinate (Larry Hankin).  However, had Billy chosen to accept the direction of the company, this impression would have been instantly dissipated by the picture of a barely functional simpleton jumping to first place in the corporate world just because of whose son he happens to be.  He instead opts to go the populist route and become a teacher himself.

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