…and the quest to see everything

Archive for April, 2011

Vacay Series: Richard Jenkins…


ph. Columbia

…has been in ‘terrible’ movies.

(Sorry for the hiatus, by the way.)

Adam McKay‘s Step Brothers came out in 2008. In the same year Jenkins, not to be mistaken with the guy from Third Eye Blind, had movies out like The Tale of Desperaux and was nominated for an Oscar in The Visitor. Despite the many “Six Feet Under” episodes he’s been in, Adam McKay’s Step Brothers is actually on the upper half of the movies that have better votes on his long CV on iMDb. someone out there who would call Hall Pass his Norbit, but I imagine more people think that his movie choices are getting better because of the Oscar boost.

But you know what, I actually enjoyed this movie that I saw for Easter with my family, flipping between this and the Game 4 between the Lakers and the Hornets. Jenkins plays a step/father to the titular step brothers, played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. This movie falls in the same sutured structure as Anchorman – although Anchorman does it better. Ferrell’s character clashes with person who takes things more seriously, a random epic back/side street fight involving Ferrell and secondary/tertiary antagonists, amicable dénouement between Ferrell and his foil. I do enjoy their antics, the two of them wearing Chewbacca masks, crashing their father’s boat, wearing racist costumes to detract a douche of a Realtor (Adam Scott) from making a sale and burying each other alive. Watching a comically rendered sex scene with my younger cousins was awkward.

This is the third movie for the past week that I’ve seen that involved dog poop, and the second involving eating it.  I’m not sure if this dog poop marathon is better or worse than the movies I’ve seen earlier this year that had many close-ups of genitalia.

The Vacay Series is intended for AnomalousMaterial.com. I’ll continue the series there for movies with which I can actually say something about, unlike Step Brothers. The first on the series, is here.

[ETA: I’ve lately been obsessed with the Feller-Gasteyer-Gellar dinner sketch on SNL in 1997. Here he reminds me of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I wish Ferrell would do a movie where he’s the straight man to someone else’s goof, but that’ll never happen.

Supporting roles also include Ken Jeong before The Hangover, Rob Riggle, Seth Rogen and Mary Steenburgen.


‘Does he play baseball,…’


‘…does he wear dresses?’

‘He doesn’t wear dresses. You’ll find out all the details when it’s your turn to see him.’

‘Don’t write this book, it’s a humiliating experience.’

‘It’s an honest account of our breakup.’

ph. United Artists

Meryl Streep looks so beautiful here in Manhattan, although a bit cold and mannered. I wonder what would have happened if Woody Allen had scooped her up and made her his muse for ten years.


Ghosts of “Insidious” Past


‘It’s not your house that’s haunted, it’s your son,’ an exorcist tells Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) about their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) in James Wan‘s Insidious, and what I want to tell every other parent I’ve ever met. The film makes audiences notice whatever is out-of-place within the house, the ghosts audacious enough to run around in the middle of the day, scaring poor musician/housewife Renai.  The film’s problematic but its title is fitting. Its ghosts don’t lunge but stand, their unequivocal presence reminding our hot young couple that every space they inhabit is inherently never their own. The film raises those stakes, as the exorcist claims that other spirits want to inhabit Dalton’s body, the ownership of our bodies is thus as precarious as that of our homes.

Insidious swims through antiquity, from the suspicious furniture to the exorcists’ equipment, the latter’s light bulb-filled boards seemingly ransacked from Dr. Frankenstein’s lair. Its references range from Murnau, the Noh genre, new Spanish horror, and other people and genres you know better about. The first house they movie into had big panels and SPOILER claustrophobic red hallways, both reminding me of Suspiria, making me wish I studied architecture, even if there are too potentially many scary stories in a house so beautiful. 3/5


‘Ian, you put a greased…’


‘…naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck, and a leash. And a man – ‘

‘And a man…’

‘A man’s arm extended out up to here holding on to the leash and pushing a black glove on her face to sniff it. You don’t find that offensive?’

ph. MGM

‘No.’

I saw This is Spinal Tap at the Revue a long time ago with my mom. I couldn’t tell her what a love pump was.


Short Post – Shane


Shane was the first movie my class watched when I took my first film class in university, the movie with the little annoying kid whose awkward phase didn’t seem as clear. But look who’s holding the film’s first gun! It’s Little Joey (Brandon de Wilde)! I’ll overthink this moment in the first scene as showing that past culture is indoctrinated to violence.

ph. Paramount

This scene is before the titular Shane (Alan Ladd, noir alum) shows up, and way before Joey’s mother (Jean Arthur, Capra alum) tries to shield the boy from the violence that the past generation still has to fight. This part also shows how potentially lush the land could be. I can’t remember ever seeing a leafy plant in a Western in a long time, and road buddy Westerns like True Grit or The Searchers might not count.


Indefensible – Go Speed Racer Go!


I actually won passes to Go Speed Racer Go! at a CINSSU Free Friday Film screening but I was in college and busy and lazy so I didn’t. Norman Wilner of NOW Magazine has talked trash about this movie for at least a week now, but judging from the trailer, and as a gay man, the art direction in Speed Racer doesn’t offend me. Yet.

Speed Racer is playing at the Toronto Underground Cinema at 7 at night as part of the Andrew Parker’s Defending the Indefensible series. Proceeds go to charity.


The Last Temptation of Christ


The first time I saw the similarities between The Last Temptation of Christ and Black Narcissus when the men drag Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey) down a pathway of a small hill the same way the beggar-maid gets whipped by Angu Ayah. The earlier film tackles female sexuality and its barbaric repression in a non-Christian society. How else, I suppose, can one portray the non-Christian than to depict the pre-Christian. Sister Clogah is enduring a similar uphill climb in showing the non-Christians rationality the same way Jesus (Willem Dafoe) has.

As a Catholic child, I’ve played the game when I wear a blanket and hey, I’m one of the apostles, which is what I assume is the approach of most film renditions of that era. But in this film I didn’t see Palestine, I saw India. This is probably the most exotic depiction of the Biblical era I’ve seen so far without counting the disco ethos of Norman Jewison’s Jesus Christ Superstar. Herod and his harem in The Passion of the Christ is by nature very orgiastic, but I feel like this whole film is bejweled, and not just by looking at Magdalene. There’s the myth that Israel kept insular despite its many conquerors, but it’s as if Scorsese approached that culture with more interaction with the outside world. Just look at the money changers bustling as if Jerusalem was a port city, or the free love Hare Krishna predecessors being baptized by John or the cosmopolitan groups making up Magdalene’s customers or Jesus’ disciples.

The film doesn’t make up any consistent portrayal of Jesus’ state of mind, putting his opinions under a shroud, but instead showed us that He was once a soul within body. His eyes become large as Lazarus attack hugs him. He’s convulsing on the floor as he feels others’ crucifixion or making love to Magdalene. He tries to escape being  by sacrificing himself yet thinks about escaping sacrifice to become physical again. I’m still confused, but then I suppose being the Son of God might have led Him to make some leaps of logic. I don’t even remember His crucifixion, despite the violence in showing the nails driving into Jesus’ palms, being portrayed as gruesome as the Mel Gibson propaganda piece. It was as if He was in the transcendental state, able to meet the Last Temptation and see and live an alternate scenario.

Scorsese’s Magdalene turns from being a disgruntled whore to Jesus’ pity girlfriend to dead housewife. It’s nice to pretend that the King of Spain is a direct descendant of the alleged holy couple, but the real Magdalene may not have been a whore at all and preached His word in Ephesus until she died. Of course, the new Testament are written by people from what was then a helplessly patriarchal culture, so we’ll never know if Jesus was John Stuart Mill or Ludwig Wittgenstein. And true, she wouldn’t have had to preach in Ephesus if Jesus himself stopped teaching, and that the Last Temptation turns Jesus into an equally domestic figure as the love of His life.

Why does Scorsese and other ‘revisionist’ biblical storytellers have to give Him ‘dimension’ and nuance through her? In other words why are women merely advice columns, frail consorts or femmes fatale, all passive under male perspectives and labels? The only feminist Scorsese film I remember is The Age of Innocence, although the female characters’ corrective agency can itself be subverted. Durn.