In the original RoboCop movie, there’s a scene where RoboCop encounters an attempted rape in progress, and in typical RoboCop fashion, ends the attempted rape with extreme prejudice by shooting the rapist in the dick. That type of no nonsense, ultraviolent justice is one of the reasons we’ve always loved dude. In this extremely NSFW clip from the fanmade Our RoboCop Remake, the shit gets taken to all new levels of pain, as the same scene plays out in the most consistently violent way possible. If you’re the owner of a penis, a penis lover, or just sympathetic to the struggles of dicks; watch with caution. If you’re a sadist or someone who just hates dudes, enjoy this clip as it’s everything you’ve ever wanted from fiction.
If there’s any character that has a right to pull out the tired trope of destroying New York City, it’s Godzilla. If there’s anyone that could take down Godzilla, it’s my main man, science bro #1, Heisenberg. You put Heisenberg and Godzilla in the same movie, and that’s a very strong recipe for a badass movie where mad shit blows up, and a giant radioactive lizard is the antagonist, but you still feel feels.
Godzilla touches down May 16th, word around town is that this might be the best Godzilla movie since that one where Godzilla’s kid (Godzuki) has to learn how to fight from an asian schoolboy. Spoiler alert, Godzilla steps on Godzuki’s tail to get him to blow fire, which seems like Pokémon abuse, which isn’t cool. Love your Pokémon.
The Oscars are this weekend. I imagine, if nominated for an award, you’re busy as shit right now. Trying to figure out an appropriate outfit, thinking of an acceptance speech, and practicing holding in deep, petty rage while you smile and pretend to be gracious. It must take a lot out of a person. Fortunately, Dolph Lundgren and the makers of Battle of the Damned will never have to worry about those nerves, as Battle of the Damned will never, ever, ever win an Oscar. By the looks of this trailer however, it may win the hearts of 10 year old boys and really bored dudes who are very cavalier with their Netflix choices.
Battle of the Damned posits a world where zombies have taken over, and a (presumably) rich dude sends a bad ass (Lundgren) into the “infected zone” to retrieve his daughter. Granted, that sounds like the plot of countless movies, video games, and comic books in the last 10 years. The makers of Battle really up the ante though by adding in a bunch of robots with the prime directive of “fucking shit up”. This is the movie America deserves right now.
Last week I wrote a column in which i just reviewed documentaries I saw on Netflix and you all hated it. One guy named Harry N——- sent me a Facebook message telling to “knock off the boring shit and get to some action.” He also signed it “Nugga-noonch!” which is a reference to Kevin Smith’s movies. We’re still in the midst of a polar vortex and I have done NOTHING that is interesting AT ALL. I AM SO FUCKIINNGGGG BORRINNGGG NOWWWWW.
Since you all hated when I reviewed two Netflix movies, here are reviews of a few more.
Before I saw this documentary I assumed that bronies were all cute, twee little candy raver wimps. I learned from watching this movie that they are the most awful people in the fan community. It seems that as nerd culture has become more far reaching and common that the truly awful outcasts had to turn to something else and this is it. At the heart of it is this cartoon show that is fucking hideous to look at. I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I recognize that Star Wars is sort of stupid but Star Wars conventions look like goddamn Mensa meetings next to brony cons.
At first I thought, “Okay, well at least these people found something to fill their spiritual emptiness so that they won’t kill themselves.” But as the documentary went on I found myself thinking that it was imperative that these people all be executed. I had to turn this movie off because I started to realize that watching Bronies was turning me into Hitler. This is a very well made movie about a terrible, terrible thing.
In New York, in the eighties, there was a handful of people who made terrible movies and hung out with Basquiat and Blondie. Some of these people did some pretty cool stuff occasionally like Jim Jarmusch and Richard Kern. They all seem like corny assholes though. The goofiest is Nick Zedd who is like a caricature of what a self-serious wannabe artist is. He looks great in photos holding a camera and glowering but the movies he made are unwatchably bad. His real art isn’t movies though, it’s his glower. Man he can glower. I forget who it was that said that hanging out isn’t the same as making art. There are those of you who might choose to argue that hanging out IS making art. That is because you are so far from making art that you can’t even identify it yet.
This is an old documentary where surfers go fly all over the world and surf. There’s some kinda questionable comments from the narrator when they go to Africa about the natives throwing rocks.
This is the first in a series of documentaries that checks in with a bunch of English people every seven years to see how much their class strata decided their future. This is the first one and starts with a bunch of 7 year old English kids from all walks of life. There’s the goofy rich kids with their bad teeth and super effeminate speech patterns. Then there’s this turtle faced rich girl who seems like a total bitch. Then there’s poor little half black boy who is in an orphanage and you just want to reach in to your TV and adopt him because he’s such a cute and sensitive looking child. English people are gross to me. Sorry to any English people reading this to me. Despite America’s various issues, I am glad I’m American when I watch these movies. They make me very sad.
SEVEN PLUS SEVEN
This is the next documentary in the Up series and this time the kids are 14. The highlight is when the callous rich bitch is talking to the documentarians and her dog is in the back of the shot killing a rabbit. This documentary series shows a pretty yucky upper class. English people are gross. Too much inbreeding.
DREW STRUZAN: THE MAN BEHIND THE POSTER
Drew Struzan is the guy who painted all the best movie posters of the 1980s and everyone loves his work but he just kept getting ripped off over and over again and seems to have had a rough life. This was not an uplifting movie about the life of an illustrator. We see him meeting Harrison Ford for the first time after having painted him for decades and it’s short and awkward. His moment of glory seems to be getting some lame award at San Diego Comic Con and signing books. It was better recognition than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick but not as good as this guy deserved.
All that I took away from watching this was “Boy, John Lasseter sure has a lot of shit in his office. I bet it’s hard to dust!” I can’t remember one other thing that happened in this movie.
Well that’s it for this week. See yo next time, boys and girls!
It’s a real pleasure to reacquaint myself with you. Although when in civilized society I am called Nicholas Gazin I go by TOILET COBRA when I exist within the realm of the Mishka-verse. I used to write for this site before that son of a bitch “Whole Milk” stole my job but he’s dead now and here I am, alive and back at it. Let his death serve as a warning for any other would-be usurpers of my gigs.
All threats aside, I’m back writing for Mishka. They offered me a king’s ransom in snapbacks, hoodies and other overpriced garbage clothing in order to write for them again and i greedily accepted. Unfortunately for them and for you I am boring now and no longer have anything interesting to share with you. I do watch a lot of Netflix though so here are reviews of some documentaries I watched on Netflix.
I eat McDonalds a lot more than I should. It doesn’t feel like eating food. It’s more like eating an action figure. McDonalds is all about the packaging. You go inside and it smells like whatever that accursed and delicious stench is. Then you see the cool happy meal toys and you try not to let the cool kids see as you greedily eye the cool prizes you are awarded if you can bring yourself to buy a happy meal. Then each food item shows up with it’s own little piece of packaging, like a toy. Then you eat the thing and it has the texture and flavor like no other food, not even other fast food. It seems like the whole experience is fake from the moment you walk into a McDonalds restaurant. It’s like you’re eating cartoon meat that came from that fictional McDonalds Land that they used to show in commercials. Then when you exit you can smell all the rancid fat rotting on the sidewalk from when they drag the garbage bags to the sidewalk.
This movie is basically a chubby evil genius of a bald black man answering somewhat probing questions from a reporter in which he just says that McDonalds is not bad for you. The guy’s amazing. He talks about how he lost twenty pounds while eating McDonalds every day and how McDonalds is basically the summation of America. There are also weird motion graphics where they explain that McDonalds serves 900 elephants worth of tomatoes or something and after that all I could think about were elephant burgers. They also show Hamburger University, where they teach people how to be managers at McDonalds.
Even though this movie that seems to be about McDonalds and by McDonalds is more self adoring than Beyonce’s “documentary” I still wanted a Big Mac after watching it. I will love you until you kill me with your trash food, McDonalds. I give this movie four stars. I highly recommend you get dressed before you put it on because you will want to make a McDonalds run at least once during this movie.
Salinger had the right idea. Make a lot of money when you’re young with one book and then disappear into a compound in Vermont and lure in eighteen year old brainy hoes to ball whenever you get bored or need an emotional punching bag. I would try to follow his example except that I’m too old to get rich young. This is a pretty good career path for male misanthropes who hate everything that is not a young pussy.
This documentary is basically like a filmic version of a Wikipedia entry. I actually read Salinger’s wikipedia entry while watching this movie and it all followed the same order and hit all the same pieces of information.
Since Salinger refused to chat publicly or be interviewed the majority of this documentary is people talking about what a genius this prick was. Only Tom Wolfe talks about the secretive author like he’s a pretentious pain in the ass. Good for you, Tom.
JD Salinger said that to be a great artist that you don’t have to share your creative product with the world which is possibly the most narcisstic crock of shit I have ever heard. You can do whatever you want in your private time but art is a form of communication. Play guitar by yourself and you’re just noodling. Draw by yourself and you’re just doodling. Art isn’t really art until a viewer or an audience can make it come alive by absorbing it.
This movie made me like JD Salinger less and the filmmakers used this corny suspense movie score underneath it like it was the Usual Suspects. I give this movie two stars.
So that wraps up the Cobra’s Lair for this week. If I emerge from my apartment lair this week at all maybe I’ll have other stuff to write about. I mostly just watch Netflix though.
“Be the lean horse for the long ride. I figure I am in the third round of a fifteen round fight.”
-Matthew McConaughey, circa 2002
Last week, Matthew McConaughey shocked the world as he stood up to accept a Golden Globe for his role in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club (2013). As the film’s leading man, McConaughey had been nominated into a highly competitive category. He faced the nuanced high-seas manliness of Tom Hanks and Robert Redford, as well as two weighty performances by Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Although I happen to worship McConaughey, I certainly didn’t expect him to win anything this year. It was thrill enough just to see him nominated.
But then there he was, giving the kind of profoundly self-satisfied acceptance speech that one can only either savor or despise. (“I’m really glad [the film] got passed on so many times, otherwise it wouldn’ta come to me.”)
When the Academy announced the Oscar nominations a few days later, Hanks and Elba were left out. But McConauhey made the cut, sitting pretty alongside contemporary favorites like Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio.
As of the date of this post, several analysts have McConaughey listed as the frontrunner of the Actor in a Leading Role category, including Variety, Awards Circuit, Indiewire, and GoldDerby. (In fact, I struggled in vain to find anyone with a contrary position).
This kind of unanimous bandwagon appreciation feels as unprecedented as it is unexpected. Indeed, 2013 marks the first year that McConaughey has been a bona fide awards season contender. (Provided, of course, that we disregard his slew of Teen Choice Award nominations between 1999 and 2005, in respected categories such as “Sexiest Love Scene” and “Choice Liplock.”)
Most affectionately, McConaughey is remembered for his first major role, playing the delightfully creepy David Wooderson in Richard Linklater’s stoner opus Dazed and Confused (1993). Others entertain a less sympathetic characterization, figuring him a seriously irrelevant faux-bro commonly found in crap chick flicks like The Wedding Planner (2001), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days(2003), and Failure to Launch (2006).
But whichever school of thought you come from, the same is true: this is a man known mainly for his conspicuous lack of a serious acting career.
So what happened?
The McConaissance happened. As many others have noted for several months now, Matthew McConaughey is smack dab in the middle of an unlikely artistic rebirth. Understandably, most of the focus has been on his work this past year. In addition to his fantastic work in Dallas Buyers, he managed to render his five minutes of screen time in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) truly unforgettable. And that, mind you, was in the context of three hours of astonishing acting by fellow nominee Leonardo DiCaprio. A lesser actor would’ve been crushingly outshined.
You may think this radical uptick in professional success came out of nowhere. It didn’t. In fact, it’s been a long time coming. In order to truly grasp the buzz, it’s necessary we take a detailed look at the last few years of this intriguing man’s career.
A Brief History of the McConaissance
By my reckoning, the McConaissance has been in effect for three solid years now, and can be traced back initially to his lead role in The Lincoln Lawyer (2011). Ostensibly, this was clever but standard courtroom fare, adapted from one of a thousand legal thriller novels just like it. But as some reviewers noted at the time, the film was legitimately elevated by McConaughey’s listless and obsessive performance. His sunken, bloodshot eyes engaged the viewer with the plot’s keen sense of desperation and intractability. For anyone who happened to be paying attention at the time, this movie and its unlikely star was a pleasant surprise.
After a supporting role in Richard Linklater’s very funny true-crime mockumentary Bernie (2011), he went on to play the title character in William Friedken’s adaptation of Tracy Letts’s shockingly obscene play Killer Joe (2011). Quite like Letts’s Pulitzer Prize winning August: Osage County (2013), Killer Joe felt a bit like a bundle of serpents devouring each other. McConaughey himself stood out as remarkably competent, drawing out the screenplay’s irony with spooky confidence and exhibiting a sense of ice-cold moral distance with his every move and locution (not unlike his work on HBO’s True Detective).
The film’s ambitiously controversial finale, which I will not spoil except to warn that you’ll never look at chicken wings the same, earned it an NC-17 rating. (Friedken himself was indignant at the idea of cutting it down to an R-rating, claiming it’d destroy the artistic integrity of the work.) The brutal subject matter of Letts’s play distinguishes the project from other McConaissance-era films, and remains easily the bravest role McConaughey has taken on to date.
Next, McConaughey went on to star in the exceptional indie film Mud (2012), in which he plays an angsty teen’s slack-jawed, preciously delusional fugitive-cum-mentor. Coming-of-age stories sometimes feel contrived, often painting standard narrative pictures that feel a bit too easy to relate to. But Jeff Nicols’s film was both thoughtful and sophisticated.
The script confronts juvenile machismo, too easily mischaracterized as hopeless romanticism, as it comes to terms with fraying paternal authority and the social limits of mythologized masculinity. An intelligently passionate performance by young Tye Sheridan coupled with absolutely stunning cinematography and film editing would have been enough to make this movie special.
But it is McConaughey who forms the film’s craggy heart. His seamless ability to reconcile threatening maleness with such utter frailty is truly rare. Delightfully, he succeeds in showing the audience what Ellis himself sees in Mud, placing us squarely in league with the protagonist’s complex motivations. The movie, so flawless in virtually every respect, would have been imperfect without him.
That same year, he stole Channing Tatum’s thunder in Steven Soderbergh’s sly treatment of male sexual performativity and underachievement, Magic Mike (2011). I remember seeing this movie in theaters, and let me tell you: the only person having more fun than the repressed housewives in the audience was Mr. McConaughey himself. Playing an aging but undeniably charismatic stripper came all too naturally. McConaughey produced brilliant comedic mileage rooted in confident libidinal exhibitionism that somehow, it seems, only he could truly own. For many viewers, this was the first sign in a decade that it was okay –once again –to love McConaughey for McConaughey.
The rest is history. He dropped over 40 pounds, knocked it out of the park in Dallas Buyers, and mainstream critics decided it was time to take him seriously as an actor.
But Is It Time?
Nonetheless, whether or not he deserves an Oscar this year requires a deeper look.
First of all, the Dallas Buyers backlash is real. Most recently, we’re hearing that the movie’s real-life antihero, Ron Woodroof, was not a homophobic person. At all. In fact, his ex-wife says that he was openly bisexual. Friends remember him as decidedly non-heterosexual. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time a “based on a true story” script took its liberties with the facts. But given that Mr. Woodroof’s bigotry is kind of the entire basis of his characterization, it’s natural to feel we may have been unduly misled on this one.
But even before this “controversy,” this film had some arguably deeper problems to think about. When the film was gaining traction last Fall, some questioned seriously the wisdom of focusing the first major AIDS-related film in decades on a venomously homophobic character. For Slant Magazine’s R. Kurt Osenlund, the critical success of Dallas Buyers is disturbingly symptomatic of a much larger problem mainstream pop culture has with addressing the gay community.
“It’s 2013, and I don’t want baby steps. I don’t want James Franco and Macklemore telling me it’s okay to be gay. I don’t want to see Jared Leto go frail and wear a dress for a role I could have seen when I was 12. And I sure as hell don’t want to see the first major movie about AIDS in 20 years to be about a goddamned queer-hating hick.”
Osenlund’s criticisms should be taken seriously (read the whole thing). Call it the “Mackelmore Problem.” Indeed, there is something very troubling about art that at its surface purports to champion victims of oppression, but in reality serves only to gratify and legitimize a privileged majority.
Second, the film’s momentum is threatening to swallow its substance. In particular if it takes Best Picture, Dallas Buyers will be drifting dangerously close to entering “overrated” territory, à la Argo (2012), The Artist (2011) and The King’s Speech (2010).
The same goes for McConaughey himself. Yes, I understand that radical physical transformation is associated with a line of distinguished actors from Robert DeNiro to Charlize Theron to Christian Bale, and that it manifests strong dedication to the craft. But as of late, it’s all anyone seems to talk about, as if acting ability can be reified and measured in pounds.
It can’t. And that’s what the McConaissance has to teach us. McConaughey’s ascendancy did not happen overnight, despite what the current pop narrative says. It was a gradual and deliberate effort spanning several years and a half dozen projects. It required shrewd career decisions and a legitimate desire to work on small films by visionary directors like William Friedken, Jeff Nichols, and Steven Soderbergh.
That said, I want to go out on a limb here. I’ve sat here and written over 1500 words on why Matthew McConaughey is so great, but I hope he does not –does not –win come March 2. I would rather see him stay hungry. After his lost decade in the 2000s, we can’t risk him resting on his laurels.
He’s done far too much of that already, and the lean horse has a lot more rounds to go before the long ride is over.
For more like this, check out http://syvology.com!
To say that film is an inherently visual medium is perhaps to state the obvious. It is rudimentary to the art of cinema that a filmmaker’s job is to show, not tell, the audience what is happening onscreen. This prioritization of visual cognition distinguishes film from other modes of storytelling, such as literature or song. As such, the act of human visualization cannot be overemphasized in the realm of film criticism.
Most popular moviemakers are happy to indulge the form’s visual component (sometimes at the expense of narrative and character development), but rarely do we get films that actually question why visual storytelling is such a potent medium for exploring the human condition.
The answer, of course, is because we as humans depend so hopelessly on our eyes for constructing a workable framework for encountering objective reality. If I tell you to imagine an orange, you may eventually come to contemplate its leathery texture or its citrus flavor. But the first thing your mind does is to visualize it. The connection between vision and our ability to make sense of reality is inextricable.
Notes on Blindness is a sad and thoughtful new short by indie newcomers Peter Middleton and James Spinney, which confronts and interrogates the role of visual perception not only in the art of filmmaking, but as it relates to the inscrutable endeavor of human existence.
The film uses the actual recorded thoughts of theologian John Hull, who lost his sight at the age of forty. We listen to Hull has he calmly contemplates fate, meaning, and reality within the context of his intense personal subjectivity, as he questions his sense of self and his capacity to maintain a meaningful connection with the outside world.
“To be seen is to exist,” he says, struggling to remember what his children look like.
Hull’s ruminations are interlaced with poetic cinematography and gracefully edited sequences by cinematographers Gerry Floyd and James Blann, often evocative of the quietly intense scenic canvas of Terrence Malick.
Throughout, the film employs creative and thoughtful techniques for filmically conceptualizing the plight of human blindness. For instance, the shots blur progressively, creating a sorrowful distance between the viewer and the camera’s subject. At certain instances, this is achieved through a measured lack of focus; at others, it is replicated by the presence of dense fog or enveloping snowfall. As we lose touch with the captivating images onscreen, we lose touch with the film’s internal reality.
Frequently, deliberate patches of abysmal blackness punctuate the visual sequences. These fleeting moments of colorlessness continually remind the viewer of the preciousness of our eyesight. We experience miniature bouts of vision withdrawal, waiting impatiently for the disorienting darkness to recede and our sense of visual reality to return.
The result is a touching simulation of Hull’s profound loss, as we experience the claustrophobia and loneliness that he must have felt, trapped deep within his own mind. It will be interesting to see where the project goes from here, as the film has been green-lit for a feature-length treatment called Into Darkness.
Notes on Blindness premiers today, and can be viewed through the New York Times website. It will also be featured at Sundance Film Festival on Friday, January 17th, 2014.
I’ve always thought of finance as a form of alchemy. It involves the arcane manipulation of ancient symbology (i.e. “numbers”) in order to turn shit into gold, and sometimes back again. It is a mysterious Dark Art that some find intriguing and intoxicating, and others find it bewildering or disgusting. Finance is at best the foundation of our sophisticated economic society, and at worst a vile Pandora’s Box of intangible lurking terror. But Matthew McConaughey’s character describes it best in a fantastic early monologue: “it’s fairy dust.”
The at once attractive and repulsive Sodom and Gemmorrah landscape of the finance world is the subject of Martin Scorsese’slatest picture, an utterly chaotic three hour marathon of amorality and excess that takes viewers through the life and times of Jordan Belfort, a post-Gekko greed machine and white-collar criminal mastermind of the 1990s. This is easily Scorsese’s most artistically unrepentant and philosophically honest film since Goodfellas (1990), and ranks among the director’s finest work to date.
With films like Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas, and Casino (1995), Martin Scorsese has made it his life’s work to reveal and give voice to the specifically masculine criminal darkness that, in America, hides in plain view. Considering his artistic proclivities and philosophical outlook, one may wonder why it’s taken Scorsese so long to tackle the finance industry. The high-powered white-collar villains that impregnate our economy like worms through a corpse are cut from the same cloth as any of his previous subjects.
Most likely, he just didn’t have the right figurehead until recently. The real Jordan Belfort published the first of two memoirs in 2007, apparently following the suggestion of prison buddy Tommy Chong (yes, that Tommy Chong). The resulting subject matter is an adrenaline blur of drugs, strippers, and fathomless oceans of dirty money, forming a fragmented and epic anti-narrative absolutely screaming for long-form filmic adaptation. And when it comes to long-form filmic adaptation, nobody does it like Marty.
The script is penned by Boardwalk Empire showrunner Terence Winter, and wisely employs the kind of plotless structure found in much of Scorsese’s greatest work. (After winning a painfully long-awaited Oscar for 2006’s The Departed, Scorsese quipped that he had only won because it was “the first movie I’ve done with a plot.”) In addition to the film’s rejection of rote plot mechanics, the script deliberately eschews meaningful character development, in clever comment on the fundamentally stagnant nature of the human soul and the accompanying futility of spiritual redemption.
What’s notable about Belfort’s character arc is that there is no character arc. A comment by investigating agent Patrick Denham highlights what is so interesting (and perhaps uniquely evil) about Belfort.
You know, most of the Wall Street jackasses I bust, they were born to the life. Their father was a douchebag before them, and his father before that. But you, you got this way all on your own. Good for you, Jordan.
So unlike most white-collar criminals, Belfort didn’t get involved in financial crime because of deep-seated familial or institutional connections. It was all him. He is who he is. In this way, the film does not ask why someone would commit massive securities fraud. Rather, it asks why wouldn’t you commit massive securities fraud? Belfort didn’t do it for any particular reason. He did it because that’s what you do.
Much of the love this movie has gotten has centered on Leonardo DiCaprio’s absolutely remarkable performance. And deservedly so! DiCaprio has put in the best work of an already quite admirable career. His passion for and dedication to the role is something no viewer can miss. But the rest of the movie is very well cast, too. Jonah Hill continues to progress as a legitimately respectable albeit primarily comedic actor, and Margot Robbie delivers the perfect combination of sultry femininity and icy, almost spooky physicality.
Some other commentators have praised the film’s unstoppably hilarious sense of black humor. Again, this movie deserves 100% of that praise. It’s a fantastically vulgar, pull-no-punches politically incorrect riot. I couldn’t stop laughing.
But ultimately, it’s the film’s ability to engage in its own meta-commentary that makes it a truly great piece of work. Early on in the film, Jordan is upset by what he believed to be a “hatchet job” by Forbes magazine. He had agreed to an interview, believing he would be depicted as a shrewd businessman and young visionary of the capital markets. Instead, he’s characterized as a slimy, corrupt, and passionately egotistical worm. But in an ironic and profoundly humorous reversal, the article did not turn him into a pariah of the finance world. It made him its rock star. And that is precisely what this movie exists to demonstrate.
As is the case in Marty’s other great male epics, the perverse magic of this film is in its continuous and brutal ethical interrogation of the viewer. We watch Jordan exploit the powerless, abuse drugs, sexually humiliate women, beat his wife, terrify his kid, and ultimately sacrifice all he holds dear to the altar of his own insatiable ego…and yet we love him. We worship him, in fact.
As viewers become enraptured by this film’s telescoping virility and it’s unyielding lust for life, we are just like the hordes of Wall Street interns desperately brandishing our resumes begging to get in on the action. We are down-on-our-luck gamblers at Ace Rothstein’s casino. We are one of Jake LaMotta’s hollering uncouth boxing fans and one of Henry Hill’s obsequious aspiring wiseguys.
By now, Scorsese’s career has become vast and varied. But its enduring characteristic and primary significance for American culture is his films’ ability to show Americans for what we really are. Scorsese demands that we ask ourselves, really ponder, whether our mass-distributed and mechanically standardized values really mean anything to us deep down, anything at all, or if we too are really just motivated by bottomless greed and vicious sexual desire. He understands that in real life, the protagonist and the antagonist are often the same person.
It is absolutely no mistake that the film’s final shot is of the mystified and clueless attendees at Jordan Belfort’s motivational business skills seminar. By ending with a shot of this plebeian theater audience, Scorsese is literally showing us a mirror.
This is the hallowed province of cinema itself, and it misses the point entirely to view the movie as in any way condescending to its audience. Scorsese is just not interested in moralizing from an ethical high ground or scolding his characters. Far from a morality fable, this is an exploratory and specifically non-judgmental depiction of a lifetime of sublime social transgression, which by its very nature lacks moral content. But that does not make it devoid of artistic value; indeed, it amplifies the film’s artistic value.
Psychoanalytic philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek once said,
The problem for us is not, “are our desires satisfied or not?” The problem is, “how do we know what we desire?” There is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural, about human desires. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire. Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire –it tells you how to desire.
More than any other movie this year, The Wolf of Wall Street causes viewers to experience this phenomenon. It is a fantastic and massively pure dose of cinematic perception, and one that goes far beyond the mere exploitation of our personal or political anxieties. Rather, Scorsese delves deep into the black waters of our intractable capacity for desire, which is the paradox at the very foundation of human folly.
“In life women are strong. It should be the same on film.” – Gal Gadot
Warner Bros. announced this week that Israeli model-turned-actor Gal Gadot is playing Diana Prince (Wonder Woman, that is!) in Zach Snyder’s upcoming Superman/Batman film. This is easily the biggest news we’ve heard regarding the project since the infamous casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne a few months ago. And while the wisdom of that decision still remains to be seen, it’s possible that WB may have actually done something right for once.
In the middle of a legitimate renaissance for superhero cinema, WB has struggled mightily to find a live action voice for any of its non-Batman properties, including would-be icons like Superman and Green Lantern. While both those characters had well-defined character histories and a quasi-religious fan base to exploit, the same cannot be said for Wonder Woman. To this day, she still seems to lack a definitive role in the larger publication universe, and historically has been mishandled by a succession of misguided creators (George Perez and Greg Rucka being the exceptions that prove the rule).
Wonder Woman was created in 1941 by progressive psychologist and all-around weirdo William Moulton Marston. His other claim to fame includes inventing the systolic blood pressure test, which forms the basis of the modern polygraph machine and no doubt inspired the character’s signature Lasso of Truth. Marston based the character on one of his psychology students, Olive Byrne, who was also a sexual partner he and his wife shared. This bizarre sex triangle no doubt informed his work on Wonder Woman, a towering feminine symbol meant to embody his misandrist psycho-sexual philosophy. As Grant Morrison describes it,
[Marston] wanted to basically teach young men that submission to the loving authority of a clever and kind woman would be the best way to live, and it would end wars, and it would end the strife of men
As a result, the early Wonder Woman comics are permeated by a fascinating sense of “loving submission” (Martson’s phrase) that bordered on the fetishistic and at times ventured straight into the territory of BDSM.
In addition to having one of the strangest publication origins in all of comics, Wonder Woman is also perhaps the most frustrating figures in an already very frustrating DC Universe of characters. Sad as it may sound, her traditional inclusion in the DCU “Big Three” or “Trinity” (along with Superman and Batman) has come to feel more obligatory than merited.
But this is changing. Most recently, Brian Azzarello’s run (still ongoing) has done much to rediscover what is so uniquely captivating about the character. Azzarello’s work is laying significant new groundwork for understanding Wonder Woman as her own character, most notably by incorporating a kind of Greek neo-mythology into her ongoing continuity. Azarello’s stylishly fantastical interpretation is quite reminiscent of titles like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or Bill Willingham’s Fables, both of which managed to make thousand-year-old character concepts feel fresh and modern.
And we’re still waiting on the Grant Morrison take, apparently titled ”The Trial of Wonder Woman.” In addition to incorporating all of the weird sexual elements from deep in her history, Morrison wants to confront the notion that this character is perennially “on trial” -for not being good enough, not being popular enough, or not being feminine enough or not feminist enough. Morrison also notes that in a broader sense, “women are always on trial. It’s always — ‘What do women want?’ It’s constant pointing the finger. ‘What do you want? Explain this!’”
Outside comics, the character has not necessarily fared much better. The last time we had a successful live-action incarnation of the character was for three seasons on ABC (1975-1970), featuring the definitive Lynda Carter portrayal. But the most recent attempt at recreating this success was a sad disaster. In 2011, David E. Kelly’s never-aired pilot starred Adrianne Palicki (alumna of the tragically cursed Friday Night Lights cast), and ended in dismal failure. Overwhelming complaints from critics and fans alike caused NBC to axe the series in May 2011, quickly absconding the embarrassing episode from public view and leaving Wonder Woman fans trying to forget any of it ever happened.
Joss Whedon himself couldn’t even get the party started. A few months ago, a pretty awesome “fan-made” trailer made the rounds, rekindling interest yet again in a live-action version of the character.
All this is simply to say that by including Wonder Woman in the Superman/Batman film (an already hugely controversial and weighty project), WB is playing with fire to a certain extent. Her character history and recent pop-cultural tribulations are a somewhat dangerous cocktail. Zack Snyder and company should proceed with caution.
Like Henry Cavill at the time he was cast in Man of Steel, Gadot is a relatively new face in Hollywood. Really all she’s known for is playing the gorgeous yet tough character of Gisele in the last three Fast and Furious movies. Before that, her claim to fame was winning the title of Miss Isreal in 2004, and representing her country at the subsequent Miss Universe competition. So although I definitely remember liking her character in Fast Five (didn’t see the other two), her filmography doesn’t give us all that much to go on. Physically, she fits the role quite well; at a statuesque 5’9″, the dark-haired beauty could easily be an Amazonian Princess. Some criticism has come through regarding her skinniness, but as one commentator points out, Snyder is quite notorious for requiring his actors to hit the gym and pack on muscle.
But the most interesting thing about Gadot is her conception of feminine strength in the context of the traditionally masculine action genre. Check out the clip below.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think she was talking about playing Wonder Woman in the completely phallocentric paradigm of big-budget superhero cinema. It’s interesting to consider the extent to which her experience in the Fast franchise, asserting herself opposite testosterone-drenched meatheads like Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, will serve as the perfect preparation to act alongside Henry Cavill’s chiseled deltoids and Ben Affleck’s cold masculine aura.
Marston conceived of Wonder Woman as a compliment, if not an antidote, to the illiterate chauvinism that too often showed up in superhero fiction. Marston described what he perceived as the problem with comic books:
It seemed from a psychological angle that the comics’ worst offense was their blood-curdling masculinity. A male hero, at best, lacks the qualities of maternal love and tenderness which are as essential to the child as the breath of life.
While some progress has been made in the comic book industry, the world of live-action superhero entertainment still needs work. Outside of Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman and Scarlett Johanson’s Black Widow (both leather-clad femme fatales, mind you), there is an unfortunate dearth of quality female leads in superhero cinema today.
But based on what Gadot says above (which could have come from Marston himself), and specifically the genuineness and casual intelligence with which she says it, I believe she may be the best shot we have at bringing a respectable sense of female heroism to the screen.
Art Basel is a swirl of Floridian debauchery, parties, art, parties, and elbow rubbing. There’s cool shows to be seen, cool people to meet, and some art that really pushes next level shit. However, there will also be a lot of filler and questionable #Art that doesn’t make a lick of sense drunk or sober. Try and justify why an animated GIF of a panda moonwalking in Gucci slippers is priced at 250K and you’ll give yourself an aneurism.
Among the artwork you’ll actually be able to comprehend is Blue Starlite’s mini drive-in showing of 1987′s The Gate. A classic horror movie, about a kid who opens up a portal to hell in his backyard while his parents are away on vacation. Shit like that happened all the time in the 80s.
Drive on down to the drive-in, bike down, or even walk over and enjoy children battling demons as both art and entertainment.