Thursday, May 10, 2012

Critically Loved Movies (That I Hate): American Beauty


File:American Beauty poster.jpg

American Beauty (1999) is the winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Sam Mendes), Best Actor (Kevin Spacey), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Additionally, it was nominated for Best Actress (Annette Benning), Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. It boasts an 88% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  

Can a movie be narcissistic? I don’t mean the director, screenwriter, or actors; I’m talking about the movie itself. If the answer is yes, then surely American Beauty is the most self-obsessed movie in existence. Every single element is deeply in love with itself. Sam Mendes, not a bad director by any means (I’m the biggest apologist of Road to Perdition in North America), frames each shot as if he’s making the most important film in cinema history. While the direction is certainly overwrought, it’s near the bottom of the shit list in terms of American Beauty’s crimes. More problematic is Alan Ball’s screenplay, which flaunts itself as the cleverest American satire since Mark Twain put pen to paper, but is in fact full of grindingly obvious clich├ęs. The problems begin with the premise. The ennui of the upper middle class is a topic that has been flogged far past the point of redundancy; it’s not beating a dead horse, it’s beating the bones of that horse’s distant descendants (Absurdly, Sam Mendes revisited this theme in Revolutionary Road, another film that spends its runtime groveling for an Oscar). Every aspect of the plot unfolds with equal parts pretentiousness and dullness. This is a movie that has a character unironically pontificating about a plastic bag floating in the wind. This is a movie where a middle-aged man’s sexual fantasies about a teenage girl begin and end with her covered in falling rose petals. This is a movie where a virulently homophobic Marine is revealed to be – gasp! – a self-loathing gay man himself. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The 5 Worst Superhero Movies of the Modern Era

This summer will see the release of the two most hyped superhero movies since the genre re-exploded over a decade ago. The first, May’s The Avengers, is the culmination of five movies released over a four year period. The other highly anticipated release, July’s The Dark Knight Rises, is the final entry in Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Batman trilogy. The previous entry, The Dark Knight, is one of the highest grossing films of all time. In addition to these, this summer also features the completely unnecessary Spiderman reboot as well as an equally unneeded Ghost Rider sequel. As mentioned, the superhero dominance of the world’s cinemas began over ten years ago, starting (in my estimation, anyway) with 1998’s Blade. Since then, the superhero genre has produced a handful of gems, innumerable mediocrities, and a few piles of kryptonite-studded shit. This post details the worst superhero movies squatted into theaters since 1998, the ones whose origins include getting bitten by a radioactive turd and gaining all the abilities thereof. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Worst Characters in Fiction: Mike Teevee

This past holiday season offered an opportunity to re-watch a classic of children’s cinema. As part of their Christmas programming (which begins around October and ends sometime in February), ABC Family recently aired Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the timeless tale of a filthy urchin’s adventures in an insane child murderer’s whimsical confectionery emporium. Unlike many comparable kid’s movies from the same era, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory remains mandatory viewing even today. There are a number of reasons for this: the awesome soundtrack, Gene Wilder, the unbridled imagination, dwarfs covered in toxic body paint, etc. One element I’ve always been particularly taken with is the characters. In addition to being generally well-acted (especially for child performers), the characters are fully realized in an economical fashion. Nearly every kid character is introduced via news clips, and these scenes tell us everything we need to know about each character. But even their names give insight into their personalities and attributes, giving us an accurate impression of them before we hear them speak or see them act. Take “Charlie Bucket”, for example. “Charlie”, rather than Charles, is causal and unrefined, indicating that he comes from an underprivileged background. “Bucket” is a tool used by painters, construction workers, and other blue-collar types, further establishing him as financially disadvantaged. As a final example of the name’s powerful symbolic value, a bucket is also an object that Charlie and his kind are accustomed to bathing/defecating in. This unnecessarily dedicated analysis of names can be applied equally well to most of the other kids. Augustus Gloop is a morbidly obese Hun; his name sounds like the noise ice cream makes when it falls off the cone onto the sidewalk. Violet Beauregard is destined to become purple (well, blue actually, but whatever), and Veruca Salt sounds like the name of a greedy, rude bitch. None of this is especially subtle or clever, but it gets its point across. However, there’s one character whose name and personality overstep the generous boundary established by the movie’s surreal reality. I’m talking about Mike Mother Fucking Teevee. 
Ffffffffffffuck Mike Teevee

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The 6 Worst Songs of 2011

On my previous, now-defunct blog, I used to write a monthly series that saw me brutally eviscerating or mildly praising the current chart toppers. Due to the untimely demise of that blog, I missed out on profiling the various and sundry terrible songs of 2011. This post is a roundup of the most atrocious songs of the year, organized in no particular order.

Note 1: The two criteria for this list were 1) the song must be irredeemably bad, and 2) the song had to enjoy the bulk of its popularity during 2011. So, for example, even though #6 was released as a single in 2010, it received most of its airplay in 2011, making it eligible for inclusion (it’s also fucking awful, fulfilling the other requirement for this list).

Note 2: I had originally planned this as a top 11, but since Clear Channel only plays approximately 40 unique songs per year, it was somewhat difficult to come up with a comprehensive list. I ensured that each artist only appeared once, for maximum variety (otherwise, this list could have exclusively been Rihanna songs). If an artist (like Rihanna) released multiple bad songs over the year, I tried to select the song that best captured that artist’s overall awfulness. There are some horrible songs missing from this list because I couldn’t think of anything funny or interesting to say about them. “Party Rock” by LMFAO is a war crime put to music, but I really can’t articulate why I hate it beyond that. 

Without further ado, I present to you, dear reader, the absolute worst songs of 2011:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Things That Are Terrible, Halloween Edition: A Monster By Any Other Name

As All Hallow’s Eve rolls around, people across the world turn off the lights and huddle around the television to experience the chills and thrills of horror cinema. The horror genre is populated by some of the most recognizable icons of cinema, from more contemporary slashers such as Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers to classic monsters like the Wolfman and Dracula. These names have transcended their origins and become symbols of fear.  However, one monster – and its name in particular – has led to controversy among both horror fans and academics alike. The pedantry that results from this debate is a terrible blight on the entire Halloween season.

Frankenstein...'S MONSTER!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Comprehensive List of Changes in the Star Wars Blu Ray Collection


Last Friday saw the release of the Star Wars Blu Ray collection, otherwise known as the “Super Special Editions”. Using 2011 technology, George Lucas has finally been able to bring the films in line with his original vision. As you can imagine, the new effects blend seamlessly with movies that are 30 years old. As a rabid and unemployed Star Wars fan, I have spent the last several weeks selling my plasma/mouth to gain the funds necessary to purchase the set during the September 16th midnight release. This past weekend, I watched a twelve hour marathon of the entire series whilst wearing my Boss Nass cosplay gear and huffing computer duster. Many of the changes and additions will be obvious to diehard fans, but others are more subtle. For the sake of less eagle-eyed viewers than myself, I have included a comprehensive list of all of the new scenes and effects. I think that we can all agree that all of these changes significantly improve the movies.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Boy Band Meets World: A Retrospective (Part 1)

Preamble 1:

When thinking of the most divisive figures in popular culture, it’s pretty easy to generate a list of usual suspects. Take Kanye West, for example; some argue that he’s a mad genius, while others may claim he is simply a raging asshole. Similarly, depending on who you ask, Lady Gaga is either a brilliant Warholian performance artist or a semi-talented attention whore. But there’s one name that doesn’t pop up frequently when discussing controversial public figures, even though he personifies the “love’em or hate’em” dichotomy. I’m talking about Justin Beiber, the pop moppet alternatively worshipped by some as a helmet-haired deity and derided by others as some sort of musical Antichrist. What’s most interesting about Beiber’s public reception is the clear demographic split between his admirers and his detractors. Every preteen girl in the Western Hemisphere dreams of innocently holding hands with the Beebs, while nearly all adults – and especially adult males – bristle at his very existence. All across the Internet, hate spews for Beiber like a geyser. I have to admit, I don’t understand this reaction. Firstly, I acknowledge that I’m not part of his target audience; I’m not still waiting to have my first period. It’s music for babies, and as such, I don’t let it bother me too much. Secondly, his musical output can be avoided with relative ease, even among hardcore pop radio listeners. When I commuted to work, I listened to probably 5 hours of pop radio per week, and I’ve heard, at a maximum, 3 of his songs. In comparison, I’ve heard roughly 80% of everything Jason Derulo has ever recorded, which mostly all sounds to me like a toilet flushing. Finally, what I have heard from Beiber is pretty inoffensive, even by the lenient standards of pop music. For example, I’d take any given Beiber song over Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight Tonight”; of course, I’d rather have Beiber personally crush my trachea with a tire iron than listen to Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight Tonight”. While I find the Beiber hatred vastly overblown among adults, there is one population that I think has a legitimate beef with him: regular preteen boys, who must hopelessly compete against Beiber for the affections of their female classmates. I can sympathize with them, because I lived this reality during my middle school years. You see, I came of age during the Boy Band Era.