It’s here! Fourteen years later, we finally return to Camp Firewood (unless you count the 50 or 60 times you’ve watched Wet Hot American Summer as “returning” – which I most certainly do.) In 2001, the parody of 1980s summer-camp-sploitation movies that no one asked for (and if they did they would have asked about twelve years earlier) debuted at Sundance to four sold out crowds and zero buyers. Eventually it was released in approximately 30 cities, made approximately zero money, and was pretty much ignored to death. But that is how legends are born (isn’t it?).
I’m sick of the incognizant derision that arises when a casual film-goer acknowledges an “art film” for its boring, snooty self. Like the hive mind of Twihards (and other noxious YA fan whose title I’m too old to know), coveting a film just because it’s black-and-white, has no story and lacks any acting to speak of is just as bad, if not worse, than piling on mindless praise for an existing fad-pop franchise. It’s the navel-gazing intellectualism for those who won’t switch to eBooks because they’d lose the superiority that goes hand-in-hand with lunking leather-bound tomes around, hanging from their hands like literacy trophies, reminders of their unquestioned intelligence.
So when you hear the choir of inevitable high praise of films the likes The Better Angels and Jamie Marks is Dead, films that wander through their narratives so slowly a snail wouldn’t be caught envious, peppered with the endless gratuity of sunshine peeking through trees, incomplete without innocuous philosophical whisperings, I can’t help but shrug it off. My approach looks a lot more like me giving them about thirty minutes and promptly exiting the theater.
It’s not that these films are universally bad but nor are they high art only to be understood and appreciated by intellectual giants. They just leave the same shallow, useless taste in my mouth that the likes of the majority of Malick’s more recent work. Furthermore, I’m hard pressed to buy the reality that others are really finding this stuff riveting, much less worthy of their two hours. Laziness and Malick-footstepping seem to be two in the same and yet they are celebrated in equal measure. Worse yet is the perfunctory need to herald these films as if they are something few can really “get”. The presumption that people are Philistines for not liking these “art films” is just the mindset of a pedantic snob, so don’t get too worked up if you’re amongst the descenders.
Like the best and worst of poetry, it can be legitimately difficult to decipher between absolute hogwash and something that’s really rich and deeply meaningful. Brilliance does not always stand out the first time through. And a lot of the time one’s appreciation for a piece comes down to their subjective point of view – the ability to connect with something and see it for more than what it may appear at first. Throughout time, the pieces that have uniformly lasted are not only those that have stood out to the snotty demands of the art critics but those that have also had added value for the minutia of the mainstream.
The ability to connect with the mainstream is paramount to the industry, particularly within the studio system. The existence of this need for mass appeal seems to have created this reckless reactionary backlash against it, characterized by idol worship of its antithesis. But battling appeal for the sake of appeal is a self-defeating prophesy. Within the independent film system, an inevitable push against the ceaseless narrative drive of blockbusters, often also characterized by attempts to connect with the widest international audience possible, has meant doing the opposite for the opposite’s sake. But when it goes too far and takes itself too seriously, it’s privy to its own scammed system of contrivance. The natural opposite of slurring Hollywood blockbusters involves slowing things down to a halt, depriving audience’s of character and putting the owness fully on us to make what we will of the film. In opening the proverbial can of worms, it’s time for us critics to take a stand against this arbitrary artistry as much as we do the mind-numbing blockbusters that crowd theaters.
These days, we seem to be witnessing a proliferation of trashy film school abortions unblinkingly called high art. More than anything though, these seem to be films celebrated because people don’t want to feel dumb for not “getting it”. It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes gag where everyone in town is complimenting the wonder of this trend-setting wardrobe but there’s really actually just nothing there save for a naked old buffoon exposing himself to the townsfolk. It takes the wisdom of a child to point this fact out. So here, I stand as that child.
At this year’s Sundance, I walked out of two films: Jamie Marks is Dead and Better Angels.
Both were so meandering, so lifeless and so infinitesimally drab that I found my mind wandering to just about anything outside the confines of the theater. Admittedly tired from the scramble of the fest, I even feel asleep during Jamie Marks is Dead. So while I guess I can’t attest to how bad Marks was, the fact that I fell asleep and felt no pressure to wake up speaks volumes. The Terrence Malick-produced Better Angels on the other hand was an absurdly dull affair that I had the misfortune of staying awake for- another wandering, narrativeless art film for snobs by snobs. Hackeyed filmmaking at best and artistic cowardice at worst, this brand of Sundance darling is exactly the type of art film masquerading with purpose but entirely empty and entirely boring.
Tirade or no, I just couldn’t find myself reviewing either and feel that this diatribe against art films presuming their intelligence is the only suiting response to my infinite boredom during both screenings. Further, I’d like to take the upper hand from those willing to laud these boreflicks and give the power back to the people. It’s not that there’s something there that we’re too dumb to see, we’re just the only ones willing to ridicule the nude old man strutting around.
The 20th SAG award nominations are just full of surprises as 12 Years a Slave, again, was nominated for almost every film category. Best actor looks like it will be neck and neck, between Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hanks, and Matthew McConaughey. Still unreleased to the general public, American Hustle was also well represented, along with underdog Dallas Buyers Club. Strangely there are no nominations for Her, which is hopefully poised to do well during award season.
In television, Breaking Bad is aiming to win just about everything. There is no way that final season doesn’t garner best drama and best actor for Bryan Cranston. Making predictions for comedy awards is usually fruitless, since comedic tastes tend to be all over the place. However, the usual suspects are here, including Arrested Development, Modern Family, and 30 Rock. In other news, people still like Big Bang Theory, as it has quite a few nominations too. Go figure.
See the full nominations below. Predictions in red.
Theatrical Motion Pictures
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Dallas Buyers Club
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bruce Dern – Woody Grant – “Nebraska“
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Solomon Northup – “12 Years a Slave“
Tom Hanks – Capt. Richard Phillips – “Captain Phillips“
Matthew McConaughey – Ron Woodroof – “Dallas Buyers Club“
Forest Whitaker – Cecil Gaines – “Lee Daniels’ The Butler“
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Jasmine – “Blue Jasmine“
Sandra Bullock – Ryan Stone – “Gravity“
Judi Dench – Philomena Lee – “Philomena“
Meryl Streep – Violet Weston – “August: Osage County“
Emma Thompson – P.L. Travers – “Saving Mr. Banks“
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi – Muse – “Captain Phillips“
Daniel Brühl – Niki Lauda – “Rush“
Michael Fassbender – Edwin Epps – “12 Years a Slave“
James Gandolfini – Albert – “Enough Said“
Jared Leto – Rayon – “Dallas Buyers Club“
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Lawrence – Rosalyn Rosenfeld – “American Hustle“
Lupita Nyong’o – Patsey – “12 Years a Slave“
Julia Roberts – Barbara Weston – “August: Osage County“
June Squibb – Kate Grant – “Nebraska“
Oprah Winfrey – Gloria Gaines – “Lee Daniels’ The Butler“
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Matt Damon – Scott Thorson – “Behind the Candelabra“
Michael Douglas – Liberace – “Behind the Candelabra“
Jeremy Irons – King Henry IV – “The Hollow Crown“
Rob Lowe – John F. Kennedy – “Killing Kennedy“
Al Pacino – Phil Spector – “Phil Spector“
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Angela Bassett – Coretta Scott King – “Betty & Coretta“
Helena Bonham Carter – Elizabeth Taylor – “Burton and Taylor“
Holly Hunter – G.J. – “Top of the Lake“
Helen Mirren – Linda Kenney Baden – “Phil Spector“
Elisabeth Moss – Robin Griffin – “Top of the Lake“
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi – Enoch “Nucky” Thompson – “Boardwalk Empire“
Bryan Cranston – Walter White – “Breaking Bad“
Jeff Daniels – Will McAvoy – “The Newsroom“
Peter Dinklage – Tyrion Lannister – “Game of Thrones“
Kevin Spacey – Francis Underwood – “House of Cards“
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Claire Danes – Carrie Mathison – “Homeland“
Anna Gunn – Skyler White – “Breaking Bad“
Jessica Lange – Fiona Goode – “American Horror Story: Coven“
Maggie Smith – Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham – “Downton Abbey“
Kerry Washington – Olivia Pope – “Scandal“
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Game of Thrones
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin – Jack Donaghy – “30 Rock“
Jason Bateman – Michael Bluth – “Arrested Development“
Ty Burrell – Phil Dunphy – “Modern Family“
Don Cheadle – Martin “Marty” Kaan – “House of Lies“
Jim Parsons – Sheldon Cooper – “The Big Bang Theory“
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik – Amy Farrah Fowler – “The Big Bang Theory“
Julie Bowen – Claire Dunphy – “Modern Family“
Edie Falco – Jackie Peyton – “Nurse Jackie“
Tina Fey – Liz Lemon – “30 Rock“
Julia Louis-Dreyfus / Vice President Selina Meyer – “Veep“
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory
For all the praise The Hunger Games franchise has received (and count me amongst the many fans of the series), the second installment is now single-handedly responsible for not one, but two spin-off “comedies.” The first, so cleverly titled The Starving Games, throws wedgies, Hobbits, The Avengers, LMFAO, Apple products, Angry Birds and a horny Gandalf into the Hunger Games formula that makes a 2 minute and 27 second trailer look like a life time. The internet collectively sighed at the trailer’s debut and condemned it to the worst corner of film hell. If you dare, take a peek at this monstrosity.
Thankfully, audiences also seemed to have enough of Jason Friedman and Aaron Seltzer (Vampires Suck, Disaster Movie, Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie) notoriously lazy brand of comedy as when The Starving Games opened last month (November 8) it made less than $10,000 and barely saw ten theaters. Such a face-first wipeout would make you think that Ketchup Entertainment and their intellectually sleazy cohorts would catch the hint and start leaving these spoofers in the dumpster where they belong but no, as the second Hunger Games ripoff is well on its way in the form of The Hungover Games. Because we all know that you’ve been wondering what would happen if you took the wolf pack and threw them in with Katniss.
This time the spoof net is even wider, and arguably more lazy, with nods to just about everything in the mere periphery of pop culture rears its head in this ugly, ugly looking film. From Jack Sparrow to Tonto, Ted to Django, race jokes to housewives, Carrie and, oh yeah, The Avengers again, it’s amazing just how non-topical some of these references can be. The saddest part of this whole thing is to see Tara Reid and Jamie Kennedy‘s names thrown in the mix as if those two really are going to get people to see the film.
More than anything, I just wonder who goes to see these films.Friedberg and Seltzer, amazingly enough, tend to break 30 million dollars domestically usually working off a budget of around 20 million. So the profits are small but just sizable enough to give them something to do every couple years or so. I just want to plead with the audiences who are actually seeing these abominations to stop seeing them. It’s not like they enjoy them, right? (Please God, I hope no one enjoys them)
So which of these two do you think looks worse? I know they’re both horrendous but one might have a leg up on the other in terms of being unbelievably shitty. Further, what is the worse spoof movie you’ve ever seen? And finally, if you know anyone who admits to seeing these, just do them a favor and steal ten bucks from their wallet.
Odds are you could probably care less what DC decides to title their Man of Steel sequel, which is set to pit the near invisible Superman again a PTSD-suffering billionaire who dresses like a bat and wears a lot of black makeup, but the latest list of possible titles is sure to induce the slightest of gags from the masses still with the truffley taste of Christopher Nolan‘s Battrilogy still lingering in our mouths. I’m of course not accounting for of bottom-tier puns (here all focused on swapping knight in for night, GET IT?!) who this batch of title treatments seems custom tailored for. The rest of us though can collectively sigh at the rampant stupidity taking place over at Warner Bros and the world of superhero sequel namers at large.
The runt of the new name litter is probably Man of Steel: Battle the Knight which sounds like the name of an animated title intended for 5-year olds yet to learn the idiosyncrasies of the language. Yank that colon out for Man of Steel Battles the Knight, or just go the next step for Man of Steel Battles the Dark Knight, and there’s at least something of interest that also reads like a normal sentence. As is, it sounds like the juvenile attempt of someone who secured an unflattering C in high school English.
Since the dawn of the Silver Surfer, the colon has become so overused in the blockbuster films that it’s essentially become a required part of a name for anything with a hundred million dollar plus budget. Even more important than the colon is the need to tack the word ‘dark’ somewhere in there (it’s just a no-brainer amiright?). This year’s Star Trek: Into Darkness is the best example of a misused colon couple with the useless inclusion of the word ‘dark’ (why not just Star Trek into Darkness or, more appropriately, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan: Part Deux). Thor: The Dark World is another great example of just throwing a colon and the word ‘dark’ at a title and expecting oohs and ahhs from wide-eyed fanboys.
As for this super DC conglomerate, there’s not much to this list of titles that catches my interest but, who knows, maybe people will just eat ’em up. What do you think of the following?
- Man of Steel: Battle the Knight
- Man of Steel: Beyond Darkness
- Man of Steel: Black of Knight
- Man of Steel: Darkness Falls
- Man of Steel: Knight Falls
- Man of Steel: Shadow of the Night
- Man of Steel: The Blackest Hour
- Man of Steel: The Darkness Within
At this point why don’t they just go with Man of Steel: Night of the Knight…oh wait. That actually has a nice ring to it. I think I’ve officially just spitballed a better title than WB’s collection of caffeine-slobbering goons jammed in a conference room somewhere, feeding from their 100k salaries.