Archives for posts with tag: teenager

Miseducation of Cameron Post

Chloe Grace Moretz, who began her career in a skintight superhero costume as a sexually exploited child in the disposable Kick-Ass films, embraces her prostitution to the cultural Marxist establishment in her role as a teenage lesbian cruelly condemned to be treated at a totalitarian Christian conversion therapy camp. There, she is insensitively disciplined by a suspiciously cold and masculine Christian psychologist (Jennifer Ehle) and mentored by a friendly reverend (John Gallagher, Jr.) who, unsurprisingly, turns out to be a recovered homosexual himself. The Miseducation of Cameron Post has little point apart from further demolishing western civilization and tediously depicting Christians as stupid, corny, boring, mean, and hatefully judgmental.

The other major objective of the film is to tempt young women into lesbian relationships. The unsightliness of male-male physicality is prudently kept off-screen, but more than one sultry scene of hot, quick lesbian seduction is featured. A key meta moment occurs in the sequence depicting Moretz’s first girl-girl experience. She and a friend (Quinn Shephard) are hanging out and watching Donna Deitch’s 1985 film Desert Hearts and find themselves overcome with lust during one of the movie’s lesbian scenes. This, of course, is how The Miseducation of Cameron Post is intended to function. With its much greater reach than this obscure eighties predecessor, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is designed to get mentally malleable adolescent girls to question their own pedestrian sexuality and wonder if it might not be more rewarding to luxuriate in a childless life of unending slumber parties and digitally induced, guy-free orgasms.

I find a great irony in this movie’s contrived shock moment of homo horror, when gay boy Owen Campbell, tortured by the contradiction between his Christian ardor and his burning desire to gobble a cock, freaks out and mutilates his genitals, leaving a pool of blood on the floor of a bathroom for Chloe Grace Moretz to find. Are Bible-thumpers really the ones bullying young men into cutting off their penises, though, or is that messaging emanating from some other quadrant of our cultural landscape?

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Miseducation of Cameron Post is:

5. Democratic. When Moretz and two of her pals at last escape from Sobibor, they hitch a ride in a pickup truck that boasts a Clinton Gore sticker – the Democratic Party being the vehicle that will carry Americans forward into a more enlightened future.

4. Multiculturalist. Moretz’s buddies at camp include American Honey’s mystery-meat dreadlocks vixen Sasha Lane and fellow pothead Forrest Goodluck, a laid-back Native American lad with “two spirits”.

3. Pro-drug. Dope enhances the thrill of an intense backseat lesbian encounter, and Moretz also bonds with her new gay camp companions over weed.

2. Anti-Christian. Yes, apparently Christianity isn’t quite dead yet – or, at any rate, Hollywood wants to make absolutely sure, and so continues to flog its carcass. “How is programming people to hate themselves,” the screenplay poses, “not emotional abuse?” (I wonder if the buffoon who wrote this line has, in this same spirit of fairness, taken an honest look at the ways in which whites are typically depicted in Hollywood fare.)

1.Anti-family, antinatalist, and pro-gay (i.e., pro-AIDS). Gay as the U.S.A. is these days, it still isn’t proactively putrescent enough to satisfy the ass venerators in Hollywood. Movies have given us gay teens, gay parents, gay artists, gay cowboys, gay scientists, gay singers, gay strippers, gay soldiers, gay superheroes, gay angels, gay Holocaust victims, and even gay Nazis – and yet, as The Miseducation of Cameron Post capably demonstrates, there remain still-ungay filmic frontiers to be reamed in trailblazing explorations. As long as there are virgin goyish bloodstreams yet to be blessed by the gift of a full-flowered autoimmune disease, and homophobic churchgoing bigots yet to be epically BTFO’d on the big screen with feels and thotness, Hollywood can hardly afford to flag in its valiant venereal efforts.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

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The appropriately odd-looking Asa Butterfield is cast as Gardner Elliot, the first human being born on Mars, in an ultimate emo romance fantasy that might just as well have been titled The Perks of Being a Mars Baby. The loneliest teen in the universe, Gardner, orphaned when his astronaut mother (Janet Montgomery) dies giving birth to him, is restricted to the planet of his birth because his heart and bones, having developed in the gravity of Mars, are unsuited to life on Earth. Consequently, he lives and mopes among the scientists living on Mars but strikes up a touching internet correspondence with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), an alienated high school girl living back in the States. Eventually, after surgical modifications allow Gardner to make to journey to Earth, he of course rejects being grounded by NASA and hatches a plan to escape, meet Tulsa, and track down his father, about whom he knows nothing. Robertson is too attractive to be convincing as a high school outcast, but does create a tear-jerkingly irresistible chemistry with Mr. Butterfield, who is perfect as the quintessential socially awkward Gen-Z outcast hothouse flower. Gary Oldman, too, is commendably present as the complicated elder statesman of the Mars program. A sweet film, and heartily recommended to angst-ridden teens of all ages.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Space Between Us is:

5. Class-conscious. Blue-collar Tulsa steals a BMW, confident that the presumably wealthy owner can afford the loss.

4. Family-ambivalent. The horror of Sarah Elliot’s childbirth scene is arguably antinatalist; but the film is largely concerned with the hole left in young people’s lives by the absence of conventional family structures.

3. Green. The exposition suggests that the likelihood ecological catastrophe on Earth could serve as a motivator for colonization of other planets. Wind turbines, meanwhile, illustrate the availability of alternative energy sources.

2. Capital-ambivalent. Sam’s Club, Tulsa explains, is like shopping a million stores at once with a trillion dollars to spend. In other words, she appreciates the cheap goods that neoliberalism has made available to the consumer. Gardner becomes ill during a visit to Las Vegas, however, when he is confronted with the dark side of globalization. Gaudy imitations of world cities thrown together in one neon hodge-podge disorient him and prompt him to observe that these things are not supposed to exist side-by-side. During this same sequence, Gardner appears to be horrified at the sight of a mulatto child.

1. Sexist! The Space Between Us seems at first glance to be promoting feminism with its depiction of a valiant female astronaut leading a trailblazing Mars expedition. It quickly undermines this deception, however, by having her turn out to be secretly pregnant, demonstrating that men and women bring different liabilities to the workplace.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Men Women and Children

This ensemble film follows the interrelated lives of a set of high school students and their parents in the context of twenty-first century connectedness that paradoxically has resulted in a profound disconnect for them all. Jennifer Garner plays a paranoid mother obsessed with controlling and filtering her daughter’s online activities. The daughter, Kaitlyn Dever, strikes up a friendship-cum-romance with Ansel Elgort, a sensitive, gloomy boy who quits the school football team after realizing that sports are meaningless. Meanwhile Elgort’s gruff football enthusiast father, played by Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, attempts to cope with his wife’s abandonment of the family. Norris thinks he may have found a new love with Judy Greer, whose trampy daughter, played by Olivia Crocicchia, aspires to become an actress and promotes herself online with risqué photographs. Adam Sandler, meanwhile, adds another “serious” role to his résumé as a dull accountant whose marriage to Rosemarie DeWitt has lost its magic, with both seeking sexual satisfaction on an extramarital basis.

On the whole, Men, Women and Children makes for an engrossing and mildly artsy Hollywood social commentary, but some threads of the story are definitely more rewarding than others. The insights about the debilitating effects of online pornography are welcome, and the portions of the film concerning young lovers Dever and Elgort are touching and nicely played; but the story about the straying spouses takes Men, Women and Children into regions of moral repugnancy too extreme to qualify as entertainment – a circumstance that militates against what otherwise might have been this critic’s unmitigated recommendation. The film does, however, have much to say about the consequences of living in a deracinated, nihilistic, high-tech society centered on empty civic nationalism and in which “football served as a common language for which they [i.e., father and son] had no substitute.”

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Men, Women and Children is:

6. Anti-Christian. The actions of Jesus Christ mean “absolutely nothing”.

5. State-skeptical. Garner’s surveillance of her daughter’s devices, while attacking the “helicopter parent” phenomenon as a sort of irrational paranoia, also serves as an allegory about the post-9/11 regime of domestic spying as the norm. The flaw in the analogy, of course, is that it suggests domestic surveillance is motivated by a misguided maternal devotion rather than a hostile mania for control.

4. Anti-porn. Sandler’s imagination has been vitiated by the instant gratification of online pornography. His computer, as a result, is also riddled with malware. His son, played by Travis Tope, has been rendered sexually dysfunctional by his own pornography habit. “By age 15,” narrator Emma Thompson informs the viewer, “Chris found it difficult to achieve an erection without viewing a level of deviance that fell well outside societal norms.” Now only the idea of female sexual domination arouses him, and he is incapable of performing with an actual girl. One wonders if Hollywood’s anti-porn stance as articulated in this film and in Don Jon (2013) is motivated by genuine concern for the public health or by worry about online pornography’s competing share of its target audience’s disposable time and income.

3. Slut-ambivalent. Elena Kampouris plays a girl who gets pregnant and has a miscarriage after losing her virginity in a sordid episode in the home of a friend. The audience is invited to hold blonde “bitch” Crocicchia in contempt when she says, “It’s a new era for women, okay? Just because I’m comfortable with my body and enjoy hooking up doesn’t make me a slut.” The film’s anti-slut credentials are, however, undermined by its comparatively casual treatment of marital infidelity.

2. Anti-marriage, pro-miscegenation, and anti-white. Sleazebag Sandler seeks and finds sexual gratification with a prostitute while his shiksa wife, Rosemarie DeWitt, signs up for an account with the Jewish homewrecking site AshleyMadison.com and takes the Allstate congoid, Dennis Haysbert, for her lover. DeWitt is eventually embarrassed to be found out by Sandler when he catches the witch in a bar with still another man, so that the film ostensibly shows that cheating carries risks; but Sandler’s response is tolerance, and his wife evinces embarrassment rather than actual regret. She clearly enjoys what she is doing, and Men, Women and Children makes a great to-do of eroticizing her first encounter with Haysbert. “I’m excited,” she says as she straddles the hulking, gorilla-faced lothario. “I want it […] in my mouth. I want that big penis of yours. I want it. I want your dick. I want you to destroy me with your big fucking cock.” The film, furthermore, could be argued to constitute de facto product placement for AshleyMadison.com’s AIDS-procurement service, suggesting as it does that women of Rosemarie DeWitt’s level of physical attractiveness can actually be met through the site. The viewer is left to assume, too, that, had Sandler’s wife not been caught in her infidelities, she blithely would have continued enjoying her shameless escapades.

1. Luddite. Technology has profoundly complicated the human condition, disrupting male-female relations and isolating individuals in a lonely cacophony. Like the Voyager outer space probe featured more than once in the movie, humanity has now entered treacherous “uncharted territories” thanks to technology.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWELVE

Ouija

Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard (1986) remains for this reviewer the definitive horror treatment of the Ouija board phenomenon; but those wanting more in the same vein could do worse than last year’s Ouija, especially considering that Ouija board movies have never constituted a particularly robust or prolific genre. There is nothing very original in Ouija, but that is not necessarily bad. The first elegant hour or so of this spooker conforms to teen horror expectations well enough and is comfortably suspenseful in its attention to the conventions, with star Olivia Cooke and her friends finding themselves visited by an unknown force after attempting to contact recently deceased pal Shelley Hennig through the titular spirit-conjuring game.

The last half hour suffers from too much onscreen revelation, with CGI frights taking the place of the great unseen – the bane of far too many Hollywood horrors in this age of digital effects – but the relative strength of the first portion still makes Ouija marginally recommendable for less-than-demanding admirers of the genre. Cooke looks good and is tolerable in the lead, but cute and creepy character actress Lin Shaye, who also energized a memorable scene in the same year’s The Signal, is more worthy of mention for a puny but pivotal role as an insane asylum patient with some inside information.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ouija is:

3. Insensitive! The idea that evil can and ought to be destroyed in a furnace may offend Chosen viewers of delicate sensibilities.

2. Multiculturalist. Bianca Santos plays the token Latina friend. Black mourners at blonde bimbo Hennig’s wake demonstrate that she was a decent person. Nona (Vivis Colombetti), meanwhile, puts in a good word for supernatural Mexican folk wisdom.

1. Ambiguously anti-family. Hennig’s house is haunted by the spirits of a little girl (Sierra Heuermann) and the spiritualist mother (Claudia Katz) who tortured her by stitching her mouth shut. It turns out the little girl was even more monstrous than her mother, who apparently was justified in performing this highly irregular surgery, while the mother’s other daughter, played by Shaye, is also a devilish lunatic. The biggest mystery about this family, which lived in the house in the forties and fifties, is why there was no father in the home. Was he a casualty of the war or did he abandon his wife and children? Is the mother’s frightful grotesquerie a commentary on the plague of single motherhood, or on the uncaring men who abuse them? The meaning of Ouija’s portrayal of the family hinges to a large extent on these unanswered questions; but Ouija with no uncertainty seeks to cast doubt on the idea of the perfect atomic age family as glimpsed in the vision of Norman Rockwell and various television sitcoms. This is a pathological past, in comparison with which the multicultural and erotically permissive present is normal and salutary.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Human Highway

Human Highway (1982) ****

Co-scripted and directed by eccentric rocker Neil Young (using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey), Human Highway is the weirdo sort of movie destined from its inception to become an item of cult interest. Young stars as lamebrained mechanic Lionel, who dreams of rock stardom while making a mess of his duties at Dean Stockwell’s roadside gas station and diner, where coworkers include Sally Kirkland, Russ Tamblyn, and Dennis Hopper. The diner is situated near a nuclear power plant where the boys from Devo work and are exposed to so much radiation that they actually glow with red light. Stockwell, who has inherited the diner from his father and finds it in financial disarray, gets the idea to torch his unprofitable business and be rid of it; but will he be able to hatch his plot before toxic waste, radiation poisoning, or a full-blown nuclear holocaust throws a monkey wrench into his plans?

More of a gratuitously bizarre curiosity than a genuinely admirable film, Human Highway remains a valuable document of the prevailing new wave musical sensibility of the day as applied to cinema, and also conveys the anxieties of the eighties about the possibility of nuclear holocaust and the threat to man and the environment posed by toxic waste. This black comedy’s script, unfortunately, too often aims for the random and leaves most of the ideas and characters underdeveloped, while the production values are on the order of a typical episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse – which, depending upon the viewer’s individual taste, could be a blessing or a curse. The film really starts to fall apart from a narrative standpoint during the second half, with (for some reason) a montage of Native Americans dancing around a bonfire of wooden Indians and Lionel dreaming after being knocked unconscious of rock-and-roll stardom and excess, and letting a groupie suck milk off of him with a straw. The high point of Human Highway is an extended bout of down-and-dirty, feedback-fried riffing and jamming between Neil Young and Devo, with the team totally freaking out and looking like a bunch of psychos.

4 out of 5 glass parking lots.

Incident at Channel Q

Incident at Channel Q (1986) *****

Al Corley headlines this trash heap treasure as Rick Van Ryan, a smug, sarcastic, rebel-rousing VJ at regional television station Q 23. The teenagers love him, but stick-in-the-mud suburbanite parents and Christian conservatives are all in a tizzy and picketing Rick’s unwholesome influence, demanding that his program, Heavy Metal Heaven, be taken off the air in order to save young people’s souls. Corporate sponsors are getting nervous, the old guard at Q 23 hates his guts, and the Tipper Gore ticket is getting unruly, with two right-wing brutes ambushing Rick in an alley and beating him up, after which the young radical moves to bring the cultural crisis to a head, barricading himself inside the TV station and calling on his followers to lend him support. 

What passes for a story line in Incident at Channel Q is primarily a pretext for exhibiting a series of then-recent music videos in their entirety, these videos – ranging from Rush to Rainbow, KISS, Iron Maiden, and all points in between – taking up half or more of the movie and simulating the experience of watching 80 minutes or so of MTV on a typical day in the 1980s. The music, for the most part, is fantastic stuff for 80s rock buffs, with a trio of videos – Lita Ford’s “Gotta Let Go”, the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, and Motley Crue’s vicious “Looks That Kill”  – constituting some of the greatest, most outlandishly photogenic material ever committed to film. Poofy hair, horror lighting, whore makeup, chintzy sets, studded leather wristbands, tight pants, and other depravity abound, with KISS’s “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” being another fun and action-packed video, while others – Rush’s “Body Electric” and Deep Purple’s “Knocking at Your Back Door” – showcase the post-apocalyptic imagery that was popular in those years.

5 pentagrams for the rock and the morally righteous camp value. VHS copies of Incident at Channel Q are inexpensive, so readers who see one languishing on a used bookstore shelf or in a moldy box in a basement are advised to redeem it or suffer the vengeful disfavor of Satan. 

 

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Odd Thomas

Anton Yelchin stars as Odd Thomas – which, the hero informs the audience, is actually the name on his birth certificate – a pleasant young man with an unfortunately morbid paranormal vocation. An “undercover detective for dead people”, he is able to see and receive communications from the deceased, who look to Odd for otherwise unforthcoming justice. Thus, Odd is able not only to assist Police Chief Porter (Willem Defoe) with the occasional murder investigation, but to attempt to prevent violent crimes from ever occurring. Odd alone is able to perceive the otherdimensional demons, called Bodachs, which congregate like tasteless tourists among the living just prior to a murder or some other evil event or catastrophe.

Odd knows something horrible is about to happen in his town of Pico Mundo, California, when swarms of Bodachs appear in conjunction with the arrival of Robert Robertson (Shuler Hensley), or “Fungus Bob”, or “Fungus Man”, as Odd alternately nicknames him. Odd is certain Robertson is up to no good, but he and Chief Porter are limited in what they can legally accomplish until more of Robertson’s plan materializes.

While the film’s computer-generated visual effects, including a bit of that irksome Blade-style speed-up/slow-down action, only range from good to tolerable, the central mystery confronting Odd is sufficiently interesting to sustain the 100-minute run time. The Bodach concept is exploited to taut effect in more than one suspenseful sequence, and the combination of the protagonist’s wholesomeness with the general unsavoriness of the subject matter makes for a winningly offbeat formula. Yelchin is amiable as Odd, while Addison Timlin, too, adds appeal as his bedroom-eyed companion Stormy.

3.5 stars. Worth a rental.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Odd Thomas is:

8. Class-conscious. The psychotic Robertson “inherited a shitload” from his mother.

7. Multiculturalist (i.e., pro-yawn).

6. Sexist! “I’m a woman. We all have issues,” Stormy explains. Later, loading a gun, she objects, “I don’t need protecting” – a pretense given the lie when she dies at the end.

5. Christian-ish. Odd believes in “a higher power” and picnics in a church’s bell tower. This church provides only the most tentative sanctuary, however, when someone or something invades its peace with malevolent intentions. Materialism is frowned upon (“It’s too bad a car can’t love you back”), as are the prevailing pop culture vanities of the age (“fame is the altar at which most people worship”).

4. Anti-family. Odd has the typical dysfunctional background, his mother having gone insane. Odd Thomas endorses the single mother in the character of Viola (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

3. Gun-ambivalent. The Robertson plot keeps the bogeyman of the crazed mass shooter phenomenon alive, but any anti-gun sentiment indicated here is undercut by the fact that Odd defensively takes down one threat with a pistol. The additional development that the police force turns out to have been infiltrated by satanists points to the danger of giving the state a monopoly on firearm ownership.

2. Police-ambivalent and generally state-skeptical. Apart from Odd’s reliable collaborator Chief Porter, police are depicted in a derogatory light. Early in the film an officer slams a culprit’s head into a car door and quips that this is “one of the perks of the job.” By the end of the film, the force has no credibility whatsoever, with false flag theories even receiving a boost. Whether Odd is more properly viewed as a vigilante or as an extra-legal police auxiliary and black-bag man for the state is open to interpretation.

1. Anti-Semitic! Principal villain Robertson, a serial killer aficionado and aspirant, has exotic hair that “looks like a yellow yarmulke”. And could this character’s nickname, “Fungus Man”, be a derogatory comment on the Jewish people’s pattern of parasitic attachment to established cultures of the West? Odd, after discovering Robertson’s corpse in a tub, chooses to hide it in a disused gas chamber. Why? Is this supposed to be funny? Let Odd Thomas author Dean Koontz, writer-director Stephen Sommers, and all other perpetrators of this hateful celluloid libel know that the Holocaust will not be mocked!

teenbeachmovie

Teenage surf enthusiasts Brady (Ross Lynch) and Mack (Maia Mitchell) find themselves transported into a 1962 movie musical called Wet Side Story after they catch a bogus wave and wipe out via a magical time warp, thus setting into motion Teen Beach Movie, a weak Disney Channel send-up of the classic beach party vehicles of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. The two modern protagonists naturally set about infecting their more picturesque forebears with cultural Marxism, all while singing several songs, and also succeed in halting the dastardly plot of villainous real estate developer Les Camembert (Steve Valentine), who of course has no other aim in life than to rain on the fun of young, freewheeling surfers and bikers.

The songs, all fairly generic, are too obviously lip-synced, and an inescapable air of the plastic prevails for Teen Beach Movie‘s grinding duration. The principals in the cast, however, are uniformly photogenic, bright, and enthusiastic, doing whatever they can with such substandard material. Top-billed Ross Lynch and super-suave Garrett Clayton, who resembles young George Hamilton in Where in the Boys Are and may have been cast as “Tanner” for that reason, definitely have the look of ascendant stars, while fathers goaded into subjecting themselves to this wacky butt-wipeout of a flick may at least console themselves that the girls on display, from Mitchell to Grace Phipps and Chrissie Fit (who does a trampy Fran Drescher impression throughout), are all pretty easy on the eyes. Barry Bostwick – who, against all odds, has managed to add to his resume a movie even gayer than The Rocky Horror Picture Show – has a minor supporting role as Big Poppa, Mack’s grandfather.

ICA’s advice: gather the family around the tube for a wholesome screening of Point Break instead.

Point Break

2.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Teen Beach Movie is:

9. Pro-gay. The aerial view of a Busby Berkeley-style surfboards-and-beach-balls dance number is vaguely homoerotic.

8. Christ-ambivalent. Big Momma (LaVon Fisher-Wilson) is given to exclamations like “Hallelujah!”, but Big Poppa’s pendant resembles an inverted crucifix.

7. Antiwar. “All fighting ever did for us was stop us from seeing what we all have in common.”

6. Pro-immigration. Territoriality and tribalism are hangups to be overcome. Mack and Brady, when they first wash up on shore, are given a chilly reception as “ho-dads” or outsiders, but the bikers and surfers all come to accept them. “You guys are strange. I like that.”

5. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. The 1960s “gangs” are retroactively integrated, with whites, blacks, and browns intermixing in dance.

4. Green. Camembert threatens to cause party-pooping climate change with his secret weapon.

3. Anti-capitalistic. Bad guy Camembert is described as an “evil real estate mogul”. Private schools, in this case the ominously monickered “Dunwich Preparatory Academy”, are characterized derogatorily. Riot and industrial sabotage win the day.

2. Pro-castration. Brady dyes his hair. Butchy (John DeLuca), the leader of biker gang the Rodents, cries with emotion and is revealed at the end to have an irrational fear of lighthouses.

1. Feminist. That protagonist MacKenzie goes by the mannish-sounding “Mack” for short is significant, as her abrasive feminism rears its nasty snout at every turn. Mack hates Wet Side Story, objecting to all of the motivationless singing and the fact that “the girls never surf as well as the boys.” Showing her stuff, she easily out-surfs the arrogant Tanner. “Why does she need a boy to be happy?” Mack asks Brady about one of the girls. “Because it’s 1962,” he explains. “Why should a boy influence what you choose to wear? Or anything you do?” Mack exhorts her still-feminine early 60s counterparts. “We can do anything a guy can do.” She encourages them to become more sexually aggressive and generally more assertive as well as less appealing in their apparel.

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.

Sofia Coppola’s latest effort is very much her own. Bright, punchy, or ambient music, an elegant eye, and a sardonic sense of humor imbue yet another examination of rampant girldom with Coppola’s trademark sensibility. Unlike Lost in Translation or Marie Antoinette, however, The Bling Ring features no strong or particularly likable central protagonist, and is consequently a much more detached and ironic study than its predecessors.

The Bling Ring opens with shots of the Facebook pages of characters Marc (Israel Broussard), Chloe (Claire Julien), and Rebecca (Katie Chang) – an appropriate means of introduction in this true crime story set in an amoral teenage order founded on trendiness and popularity. All attending a high school for affluent problem kids, these are the more sophisticated and fashionable counterparts to the hedonistic nihilists in Larry Clark’s Bully, operating out of the sinister psychological intersection of thug chic and a privileged entitlement mentality.  Along with like-minded recruits Nicki (Emma Watson) and Sam (adorable Taissa Farmiga), the group combines its vapid interests in celebrity, pop criminality, and haute couture by committing a series of casual burglaries of the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and others.

An odd feature of these young people’s lives is how little concerned with love they appear to be. Tawdry apparel, dirty dancing, sex, and group acceptance interest them plenty, but these new teen creatures bear almost no resemblance to their grandmothers, the malt shop loiterers of old, with their puppy love crushes and idealism. The new teen queen is a kind of ravenous beast sustained by a constant regimen of dope, dainty baubles, irresponsible escapades, and protected from introspection by forbidding walls of abrasive music preoccupied with self-determined fabulousness.

It is difficult to watch The Bling Ring and not be reminded of another group of young Californians who targeted celebrity victims – namely, the Manson Family. In both cases, pathological fascination with the rich and famous, coupled with peer pressure, drugs, and an unhealthily violent cultural diet, result in celebrities being simultaneously venerated as idols and dehumanized as potential victims. Marc, reflecting on the meaning of his acts in the aftermath of his arrest, confides that after the story of his involvement hit the news, he received over 800 Facebook friend requests, suggesting that it is criminality itself as much as fame that attracts the adulation of the unsavory masses.

If The Bling Ring has any discernible shortcoming, it may be the dearth of surprising event, as the film proceeds along a fairly straight, predictable line as far as the plot. Apart from the signature Sofia Coppola seal in terms of color, design, and atmosphere, the film’s most attractive strength must be its delightful cast. Israel Broussard, featured in what, for lack of any real hero, is The Bling Ring‘s lead role, has a Byronic look and an enigmatic vulnerability that complements the Coppola aesthetic nicely; and all of the damsels in dissipation, from Katie Chang to Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, and Emma Watson, are irresistibly vile, divine, and luscious.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis kisses Sofia Coppola’s ring and indicates that her most recent flourish as a dependable writer-director is:

11. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation.  People of different races interact as without the least consciousness of their physiological or cultural differences. One of the girls has a thug Latino boyfriend. The camera lingers longingly over untouchable Katie Chang.

10. Anti-wigger.  Pop veneration of the ghetto mentality goes hand in hand with nihilism, crime, and self-destruction.

9. Pro-police.  Authorities conduct their investigation and effect the necessary arrests professionally and without inflicting unnecessary harm.

8. Anti-religion.  Modern woman’s faith is junk spirituality, “the philosophy of the Secret”, a kooky, relativistic melange in which words like “Lord” rub shoulders indiscriminately with new age talk of “karma”.

7. Anti-gun.  Privately owned guns, this film appears to want to convince viewers in one very frightening scene, make homes less safe and endanger the mentally deficient.  However, the fact that one of the girls steals a gun and gives it to her thug boyfriend demonstrates that criminals are not above obtaining their guns illegally and that gun control legislation is therefore futile.

6. Philanthropy-skeptical.  One suburban family claims a commitment to charitable causes in Africa, but cannot identify the specific country where they are active.  This pretended philanthropy is played as a sympathy card after the girls are caught by the police.

5. Statist.  The pitiable demonstration of home schooling as practiced by one ditzy mother (Leslie Mann) is an implicit endorsement of public education.

4. Anti-drug.  Drinking and driving results in a non-fatal accident, which, however, fails to prevent the girls from going out and behaving just as carelessly as before. Accelerating substance abuse parallels the girls’ increasingly poor judgment and carelessness in their criminal endeavor.

3. Pro-gay.  Sexually ambiguous Marc shares his girlfriends’ interest in fashion (including high heel shoes) and refers to a male schoolmate as “hot”.

2. Class-conscious.  Coppola (perhaps responding to the criticism that Marie Antoinette depicted a self-absorbed aristocrat sympathetically without taking into consideration the economic plight of the French peasantry?) depicts moral decay as in part deriving from wealth and privilege (cf. Billy Madison).

1. Pro-family.  The horror wrought by permissive or absentee parenting is the unstressed theme that haunts The Bling Ring.

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