Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Defending 3 movies

Indulge me while I play a white knight of sorts for just a bit.

I am a consumer of movies and have been for pretty much my whole life.  When I was a toddler my dad was a theatre manager and a film enthusiast himself.  Since then I've tried to watch as much movies and TV shows as I can from any and all time periods.  My VHS and DVD collection easily weighs more than I do.  So, I think it's easy for me to say that I've seen my share of turkeys and masterpieces and I hope to see many many more before I leave this earthly plane about 200 years from now.
However, while many poorly conceived movies deserve the low "splatty tomato" rating they get, there are some that get misplaced anger towards them for dubious reasons.  Although in many of these cases I'd say the reasons for the vitriol is bruised egos of sorts.
It is at this point that I will start making my triple feature movie review.  Here are 3 movies that I think got unfair criticism in 2015:

The Ridiculous 6

I feel obliged to talk about this one since I defended it last April when the walkout incident happened.  As you may recall, that mini-exodus happened because some of the natives playing extras in the film had some problems with the few isolated jokes they saw.  They, and the media covering this story, declared the movie to be maliciously racist and should outright be banned forever.  My argument was for people to see the whole movie first before making any judgements like that.  Well, I finally got around to seeing this movie with all the aforementioned jokes in their proper context so it is now that I can finally and effectively talk about it.  So................ here it goes:

Well.................... it's an Adam Sandler movie.  If you're familiar with his work you know what you're in for.  There's a burrow that shoots its diarrhoea everywhere, Tayler Lautner's character talks about having sex with cantaloupes, Vanilla Ice does a bit of hip hop dancing to some 'old time pianie',  Terry Crews plays that 'old time pianie' with his 11th finger so to speak, and Rob Schneider attempts a Mexican dialect that can only be described as "Schneider-esque".  Basically, you know going in that it's going to be a delicate balance of stupid and fun always teetering towards plain old stupid.  In that vein, the Happy Madison crew do not disappoint, in that they please the fans they have and merely disappoint the ones who are already disappointed.
Thankfully, there are some clever bits in the film that help it rise above the stupidity Sandler and his crew tend to wallow in.  One such bit is when the 6 meet Abner Doubleday (played by the always brilliant John Turturro) as he's developing a game with some Chinese migrants that will later become baseball.  According to this hilarious sequence, the rules of the game come about because Doubleday is a pompous lunatic who must have things his own way.  Turturro's performance makes it work so well.
Another bit I found to be pretty clever was the back story of Luke Wilson's character.  Apparently he became an outlaw after he did a botched up job of being Abe Lincoln's body guard at Ford's theatre.  Not only did he leave to use the bathroom, he lead John Wilkes Boothe right to him.  "Hey, do want to meet the president? He's sitting right there!"  I found that rather amusing.  Bravo for the Happy Madison crew for attempting something in a high brow vein for a refreshing change.

Of course, the elephant spirit guide in the room is, how are the Apache Indians portrayed?  In an interview, Mr. Sandler declared that this movie is pro-Indian.  Based on what I saw in the movie, it certainly looks like he went in that direction.  Whether he succeeded enough to appease any nay-sayers is open to opinion.  Sandler's character is White Knife, a white man who was adopted and raised by Indians so he pretty much looks and acts like them (at least within the narrative of this story).  The opening scene is of a small general store with signs that say "No Injuns Allowed".  As you may have guessed, the shop-keep is a googli-eyed racist willing to shoot any Indian on site.  However, White Knife is highly skilled with the white knives that he carries and easily outwits the shop-keep as well as the filthy outlaws harassing his Apache fiancee outside.  Then, back at the Apache camp, the Indians are not portrayed as savage imbeciles either.  It may not be a 100% perfect portrayal as many, especially actual Natives, would like to see, but it is a much better portrayal than what has been done and what many of your more uptight SJW types thought this would be.  So to all those who made any complaints about this movie in any way, I say just relax and let people have a good time with this.  Nobody died because of this movie and I doubt it will resurrect any colonial genocide or the Trail of Tears again, so what's the problem?
One big criticism I do have about this movie is that Sandler makes his character into such a Mary Sue type that it almost gets to the point of nauseating.  He basically props himself up to be the perfect hero who always does the right thing and can't be harmed in any way.  It's the kind of character a bullied 10 year old creates when he finally has some alone time in his bedroom.  Likewise, every other character is a "dorkly doofus" that he can laugh at or easily conquer.  If Sandler could've stayed away from that kind of pubescent cheese, it would have been a somewhat more intelligent movie.

On to the next movie...


Ok, this movie has gotten nothing but negativity ever since it came out.  Pretty much all the film critics hate it as well as many of the people who saw it.  It's practically a shoe-in to win a Razzie award or two.  But, of course, it's an Adam Sandler movie so you go in expecting the kind of stuff you're used to seeing him produce.  If you like it you're already engaged, if you don't like it you already have the instinct to avoid it.

However, this time around many people eschewed that instinct and went to see it instead.  I'd make a guess that the reason was people were attracted by the sci-fi element of it all.  I mean, giant 8-bit video game characters coming to life and destroying a city!!!!  Who can resist?  It's just like that one Futurama episode but with a much higher budget.
But of course the dark side to attracting this wider audience to the movie is that it drew much more ire than a Happy Madison project usually does.  That's because the sci-fi nerds who mostly steer clear of Sandler's stuff actually went to see it and, big surprise, they didn't like what they saw.  I can kind of see what they didn't like though.  In this movie, Adam Sandler plays a nerdly loser who's played lots of video games in his youth.  Now that he's a grown up he has to use his game playing skills to save the city from the giant Pac Man, Space Invaders, Tetris Blocks, etc.  With his performance (and the entire script), he seems to be trying to appease the nerds but also laughing at the nerds at the same time.  That element is quite evident in that one scene where Josh Gad's character is in mortal danger from one of the pixelated baddies and shouts "I'M GOING TO DIE A VIRGIN!!!"  I don't think the vast majority of the audience appreciated that underlying sentiment too much.
Like I said, I can see why they feel that way, but on the other hand I also say "So what?!"  Most of the animosity being projected here is nothing but what's known as nerd rage really.  Big deal!  Nerds are easily mad at pretty much every movie or TV show they see.  No matter how carefully and/or expertly crafted a show is, hard core nerds will always find something to complain about.  That's almost a main attribute of the way they "enjoy" movies anyway.  I saw this movie after hearing an onslaught of this rage so I thought it would be just an awful cringe-worthy disaster.  But, after I had seen it for myself, it turns out that is was not much different from any other Sandler film.  It was just some dumb goofy fun.  Once again, the raging nerds made a big stinky deal out of not much of anything.

One incredibly great element to this movie that I feel the need to showcase is Peter Dinklage's performance.  I'm serious, watch this movie just for that reason.  He literally steals every scene he's in with just his eyebrows.  It's amazing and mesmerizing to watch.  Whether this movie takes home any Razzies or not, I would like to insist that Peter Dinklage's eyebrows at least get an Oscar nomination for best actor.  Come on, Academy!  An indigenous "eyebrow American" has never won an Oscar before. You'd set an inclusive precedent and look that much more diverse.  Do it I say!

Well, anyway, on to the next and final movie...

Mad Max Fury Road

There's not much need to be defending this one since it's already up for several Oscars including Best Picture.  And why not?  It's easily one of the best action movies I've seen in a long time.  But, as the saying goes, you can't please everybody.  There were a small group of malcontents who were adamant in their displeasure of this movie.  They are a relatively recent phenomenon that call themselves "meninists".  They fight for men's rights or something like that, and, just like NAMBLA, they have skewed facts and figures to back up their philosophy.

Their biggest complaint was that the women in this movie were over-dominating the men in an unfair and unbalanced way.  I didn't want to say anything about that either way until I saw the movie so I could judge for myself.  Well, thanks to a nice long plane trip on Korean Air on my way to a trip in the Philippines, I got my chance to see it.  After seeing it, I can now honestly say I don't know what those guys were talking about.  I saw no evidence of misandry anywhere.
The characters these men-children had a big problem with were the five women used as sex slaves by the villain as well as Charlize Theron's character who rescues them.   They were portrayed as capable of handling themselves and fending off the villain and his henchmen as best they could but I certainly wouldn't call what they were doing "dominating".  Just like Mad Max and every other character in this movie, they were just doing whatever they can to survive in this post-apocolyptic hellscape.  There's no time to be "lady-like" or some damsel awaiting rescue.  In this environment that could be deadly.  Fight or flight are your only options no matter what gender you happen to be.  Hell, one of those ladies even finds a boyfriend AAAAAAAAAAAND feels devastated when that boyfriend dies.  That's pretty much the opposite of misandry.  If this was the man-hating movie the meninists say it is, any one of these women would have abhored his presence and celebrated his death.  But, that didn't happen at all so once again I have to ask, "WHAT'S THE PROBLEM???!!!"  Gawd! These meninists are the opposite side of the same twisted coin as the most rabid feminists.  The same way shrills like Anita Sarkeesian are doing all they can to ruin video games and twitter, so too are meninists trying to ruin stuff like Mad Max here or any other work of art involving strong intelligent women who exercise their freedom of expression.  Did any of these diaper babies give any flack to Beyonce's half time show?  Online or otherwise?

Whatever!  Anyway, that's my rant about the backlash of these movies.  If any of you reading this watched these movies and enjoyed their more appealing elements, good for you.   You're what's right with humanity.  But, to any of you out there who wholeheartedly participated in the negative vibes that encompassed all of these movies, then well I'll just say you're the polar opposite of those other people I mentioned.

Thanks for reading.  See you at the movies.

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