Sunday, November 20, 2011

Searching for the Thrill of It

Uploaded by on Mar 10, 2009

I watched a lot of movies this past week: The Other Guys, Hall Pass, Planet Terror, and Super 8. I'm compelled to comment on Hall Pass, since it has various similarities to a movie I watched last week, Crazy, Stupid Love. They're both films about middle-class White married men yearning for and trying to relive their bachelorhood. In Crazy, Stupid Love Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore actually capture some great nuances of a married couple--yet ultimately the film becomes a kind of wish fulfillment story for the son, who has so little screen time and character development that the point of the movie seems flat. Hall Pass, on the other hand is nothing but a crude day dream of two married, paunchy White married guys. They get to act out their desires toward characterless women, provide comic relief as bungling everyday joes, but nevertheless redeem themselves in the heat of the moment. Their wives played by Christina Applegate and Jenna Fischer, play their half-assed counterparts; their development and screen time is cut down to the minimum to provide a sub-plot for the film's true protagonists: the frail White male egos.

If you detect a bit of venom in these reviews, it's because I've given these films a fair chance, and left with a sense of . . . . geez White people problems! I know, I know that's racist. Yet these films both succumb to shallow, White male self-absorption, moreso Hall Pass than Crazy, Stupid Love. Crazy, Stupid Love had it's heart in romance, and actually did a great job at capitalizing on it's strengths--but it's middle class platitudes kind of made the entire film into a Pollyanna story for married couples. Hall Pass blatantly takes us into the vile imaginings of these marmadukes of mediocrity, with the assumption that us guys will all relate. Worse yet, the crux of this story is spoon fed to us in a few asinine setups: Joy Behar playing fairy Godmother psychiatrist to Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate, Owen Wilson explaining to Jenna Fischer the "hard-wiring" of male libido in the midst of an unconvincing couples fight; Jason Sudeikis' "impromptu" treatise on the sublimation of their dreams to their domineering wives;

These kind of social grooming flicks have been around forever, and it's not difficult to understand their formula: Introduce main character(s) in a flawed relationship; Propose a change of circumstance through some instigating event or character; Test protagonist's loyalty/love for one of the other characters; Have the protagonist recite some seemingly meaningless piece of information introduced earlier as a testament of their love/loyalty; Things return to a normal/slightly improved state regardless of what kind of havok was wrought in the middle of the movie

And then everybody walks out of the movie thinking, that was funny and sweet, and maybe we as a couple, or I as a single person can take away a lesson from this. But the truth is these films are full of platitudes that bear only the most minimal resemblance to reality. If you sleep with nine women while separated from your wife, she probably won't take you back. A 40-something paunchy, awkward married guy would not likely be of any interest to his beautiful, young baby sitter, nor the hard bodied, blonde, Australian girl he ogles at the coffee shop every day. What is terrible about wish fulfillment stories is that they are incessantly improbable, and they give the viewer so little chance to explore the characters and their situations. Add to that insipid, truisms disguised as wisdom gleaned from true experience and you have one of these cheesy date flicks. The sad thing is that I've always had a thing for a good romantic comedy or drama. So I guess it offends me twice as much when I see a bad execution.

So before I go I wanted to mention an idea I'm working on. I wanted to combine this "mystic-punk" concept I've had floating in the back of my mind with some research I'm doing on the morality, the pleasure principle, and will to power. I'm visualizing a futuristic setting that analyzes the new world culture and its monetary system, especially in relation to user/citizen control and repression. I'm spurred on by trying to make sense of my own social conditioning, and recalling youthful ideas of utopia, self-discipline, and compulsion/desire. I want to read Neuromancer to give myself some background on cyber-punk, but as is I've got a ton of things in my queue: Cerebus, the new season of Misfits, Pineapple Express, the Big Lebowski, complete works of Freud, Mishima, the Walking Dead, etc. On a good note I did finish Moral Disorder and Little Nothings vol. 3. Too bad I had to return Peanuts vol. 1 Oh well, guess I've got to plug away to get to the stuff I'm really interested in. See ya.

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