penisball

So I was tossing and turning over night, agonizing over a specific question: is pop culture dead?

Of course, “pop culture” can never really “die” so long as there’s entertainment, fashion, etc. But has it fundamentally shifted in a way that requires new methods of critique?

Guys like Theodore Adorno were critiquing “pop culture” way back in the 1940s, claiming things like movies, music, etc. were massed produced commodities and were therefore not genuine (or whatever). But maybe the pandemic and the prolific use of the internet has changed the game.

Obviously these things have changed the way we interact with pop culture, but the question I’m concerned with is: “has the pandemic, and specifically the internet, changed the very nature of pop culture itself.”

(This is all from my dementia-driven perspective, btw)

Anyways, what made me agonize over this question is that everything feels a little passé. When people talk about reading tweets, I’m thinking “you’re still using Twitter?”. Even at 106 years old, I feel like I’m more “in the know” than most 20 year olds. It’s not because I’m “cooler” than them, it’s because they don’t give a shit. So how can “pop culture” be pop culture if it’s not popular?

Please help me. I haven’t slept in 27 days.

roboCop 2: greatest sequel ever made

First off, thank you to those who continually read this blog. I love all of you like a bastard child I never knew I had. But if we did have a child together, then I don’t know you and please don’t reach out to me.

Now on to the subject at hand:

RoboCop 2

The first RoboCop is one of my favorite movies. Paul Verhoeven really knows how to tell a story from the perspective of the film’s ideology while simultaneously letting you in on the joke.

It’s a tough act to follow, and most claim that RoboCop 2 failed to live up to its predecessor. But I disagree. The reviews on IMDB are all over the place. Many say that it’s not a great movie, but there’s no consensus on why it’s not a great movie.

Yes, certain plot details go nowhere. This is probably the result of studio interference, which is typical for highly anticipated sequels. But my question is: who gives a shit? RoboCop 2 was made in the same vein as another infamous sequel released a week earlier: Gremlins 2: The New Batch and it should be viewed in that light.

Is it a GREAT film? Lol, no. It’s not supposed to be. When you make a sequel, you have two options: do something entirely different or double up on the same shit that was done before. The filmmakers chose the latter (which was the right choice).

Now Verhoeven definitely handled the gratuitous violence much more effectively in the first film, but that’s his specialty. At its heart, RoboCop is a satire on consumerism and corporate culture. The horrific violence and sci-fi aspects, which most people remember it for, was just the vessel to tell the story. RoboCop 2 threw up its arms and said “fuck it, we’re just gonna be satire”.

The villains are much more over-the-top, the commercials are much less subtle, and even RoboCop himself is more exaggerated. Many praised RoboCop for its self-awareness, well the same is true for RoboCop 2. In fact, it’s straight up mocking itself.

I’d say that RoboCop 2, along with Gremlins 2, might be the two most self-aware films ever made.

Does it deserve the 5.8 rating it currently has on IMDB? No.

A 6.8 seems more fitting.

Another shot at the title (part ii)

Pablo and I made the journey to Trainwreck Studios in Burbank. What a god-forsaken place. I swore to myself that I would never return.

“We’re here to see Kathleen Kennedy,” Pablo told the receptionist.

“And you are?”

“I’m Pablo Dunbar, the agent of James…”

The receptionist’s eyes widened when she saw my face. “You mean, James…”

“Yes, THAT James,” I interjected. “Tell Kat we’re here so that we can get this over with.”

“I thought you were retired…” she began to say as she stumbled through her words. “Anyway, she’s waiting for you. Fourth floor. The only way up there is through the air ducts. Elevator’s broken.”

So we climbed up the ducts into Kathleen’s office. “Damn it Kat,” I said, “when are you going to get that fucking elevator fixed?”

She turned around and was wearing sunglasses. She appeared to be somber over something.

“Hello James,” she said.

“Hello Kat.”

“Can I offer you gentlemen a glass of scotch?”

“I’ll take the bottle please.”

Kat sat down behind her desk and began to shuffle through some paperwork. Pablo and I plopped down in the leather chairs.

“So, what did you think of Antonio’s script?” she asked.

“To be honest Kat,” I said, “it needs some work. Too much talk. Film is a visual medium. ‘Show, don’t tell’ as they say. If I can do a second draft and clean up the dialogue…”

“James,” Kat interrupted, “Fart in a Windstorm is a court drama, there’s going to be a lot of dialogue. Besides, I already promised Antonio that he would get final say in the script.”

“Fine, whatever. But I need to put my stamp on it if this is going to be a film by James…”

“Look, I get what you’re saying,” Kat said. “But in agreement with the writer’s guild, he must get sole screenwriting credit. That’s going to put a limit on what you can do.”

I just stared at her.

“You don’t want to relinquish creative control to me,” I said. Out of my periphery, I could see Pablo getting uncomfortable.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Kat replied, “the studio is willing to put $1.5 billion into this project ONLY if YOU are signed on to direct. Once when this meeting is made public, Hollywood will be in a tizzy over the return of its most famous director.”

“Kat, you know I can’t make a small scale courtroom drama for anything less than $2 billion.”

She learned forward on her desk as she began rubbing her temples. She appeared as though she was about to be sick. I took a big gulp from the bottle of scotch.

“What’s with the sunglasses?” I asked her. “Did you have eye surgery? Did your husband beat you?”

Kat removed the glasses, revealing her puffy red eyes and makeup smeared from crying.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” I said.

“We haven’t had a hit since This Taste Like Ass,” she said as tears rolled down her face. “The board wants me out. I’ve become the laughingstock of this town.”

“It’s no fun when the rabbit has the gun, eh?”

“James,” Pablo said. “Mrs. Kennedy, James and I are both in agreement that this script is doable. Sure, there are problems that need ironing out, but we are committed to making this work. Right James?”

I just shrugged.

“Really?” Kat said.

“Absolutely, the gang’s back together. Let’s have a drink on it!”

We all stood up and Pablo forced a group hug. Kat’s spirits seemed to have been lifted slightly.

As we were climbing back down the air ducts, I grabbed Pablo by the ankle. “You better not fuck me out of this contract like you did last time!” I told him.

TO BE CONTINUED

“blue thunder” and “backtrack” (aka Catchfire”)

I watched two movies back-to-back (unintentionally) that had helicopter chases.

The first was Blue Thunder, staring the greatest leading man of all time…Roy Scheider. It is also the greatest movie that Paul Verhoeven never made.

No disrespect to the highly competent John Badham, but Verhoeven would have crushed the shit out of this material. The film takes place in 1980s LA and is about a police pilot and Vietnam vet, played by Scheider, who gets introduced to a military-style helicopter that the city wants to use for patrol. The villain is Malcolm McDowell, a British man that somehow became a Lt. Colonel in the US Army, who for some contrived reason wants to kill Scheider. The fascistic overtones are right up Verhoeven’s alley, and even some of the story beats would be echoed in Robocop four years later.

But the movie looks incredible. John A. Alonzo is really an unsung hero in the field of cinematography. The handheld work is really ahead of its time, and masterfully done. After watching the first scene of Scheider walking out to his helicopter, I was shocked that this came out in 1983. It’s a natural look that even films today have trouble emulating.

And that final helicopter chase was incredible. All of the concerns that Scheider’s character had regarding public safety goes out the window once when he gets hunted by fighter jets and Malcolm McDowell. Chicken factories and buildings get blown up while debris falls on the people below. Meanwhile, Candy Clark drives like a bat out of hell down the streets of LA. As far as 80s action movies go, I’m not saying that it’s up there with the Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven, and John McTiernan classics, but it is very good. In fact, I would say it was a prototype for subsequent 80s flicks.

The other film was less of a banger but no less interesting (for various reasons). It was Dennis Hopper’s Backtrack (or Catchfire, idk). There are apparently two versions: theatrical cut and a directors cut. I guess I watched the director’s cut.

Hopper himself was apparently dissatisfied with the original version and had his “directed by” credit given to Alan Smithee. Honestly, he should have taken his name off the director’s cut as well.

What’s it about? Not sure.

I think Jodie Foster accidentally sees a mob hit by Joe Pesci and Pesci tries to track her down by hiring Hopper and Hopper falls in love with her (and she with him).

Now I’ll say this because I’ve said enough about dude’s bodies in this blog and it’s time women get their due: Jodie Foster is fiiiiiiiiiiiine as hell in this movie. You could say that I was “sexually attracted” to her. It made me uncomfortable (in my pants specifically). I could understand why Hopper didn’t want to kill her.

But the problem with this movie (one of many) is that Dennis Hopper is, I’m sorry to say, not fit for the role. Hopper is at least 25 years older than Foster. There’s nothing romantic about their scenes together. They’re downright creepy. It’s a role that someone like Nicholas Cage, Mickey Rourke, or Sean Penn could have aced at that time.

That being said, Hopper REALLY makes some decisions in this movie, both in front of and behind the camera. To be honest, I don’t even know what he’s trying to do. Is that accent New York or Cajun? Does he know his lines or is he just making shit up? Now no one on God’s green earth could have saved this screenplay, but Hopper’s visual flair and strange acting decisions steal the show…almost to the point where you forget that heavy hitters like Joe Pesci and Vincent Price are also in the movie.

RIP Dennis Hopper and Roy Scheider 😔

the injustice

Posted this before and I’m posting it again 🤷‍♂️

Gotta get this blog back on track, ya know?

So I was totally smashing a milf when I said “hey baby, gotta take a shit.”

“Go use the McDonalds down the street,” she said.

So I walked down the road at 1:30am, dick still hard. I clogged the toilet and ordered some hash browns.

“That’ll be $5.50 sir,” the server said.

“$5.50?! What is this….Hardee’s?!”

hire me plz

I’ve always said that my dream job is to be a television writer for some dumb, formulaic show on basic cable.

This is because I’m not only lazy, but I’m also intrigued by entertainment that wants to have it both ways: it wants to display violence in a gritty, realistic manner while simultaneously ignoring the consequences. An example is SEAL Team and SWAT.

I find these shows delightful: many people die, friends get killed or mangled, yet every episode ends with the cast laughing over drinks or in despair over a romantic relationship. It’s completely hypocritical, it wants to show real violence while also numbing us from the true horror of it all.

It’s hilarious.

But all of these programs have identical story beats: the team (SEAL or SWAT) causes disruption, a male lead is banging a female superior, the superior’s superior rips into her, the team is given an imperative to fix the issue, moral quandary ensues, some people die, the day is saved, the team slaps each other on the back, the female superior informs the male lead that their relationship can’t continue, male lead is sad, executive producer credit is shown. (Sometimes there’s a “B” story featuring a secondary character, but no one gives a shit)

These stories can be written sitting on the toilet. And I spend A LOT of time on the toilet.

So CBS, give me a call.

😎Midsommar 😎

I like to talk about movies that people usually know but have somewhat forgotten about.

That being said, Midsommar is relatively recent and probably still discussed.

Oh well 🤷‍♂️

I’m not really a horror fan, so I haven’t seen Hereditary, Ari Aster’s other film. But Midsommar caught my attention because someone mentioned that it was a horror film that lacked any of the tropes found in such movies.

People aren’t as big of a fan of Midsommar as they are of Hereditary. Was Hereditary really that good?

Many have said that the subtext of this movie is dissolution of the relationship between the two leads. If that was the case, then I hardly noticed (or cared). For me, what was terrifying about the movie was how it kinda reminded me of Salo: Or the 120 Days of Sodom, albeit far more emotionally engaging. In fact, if Midsommer is a “horror” film, then Salo is as well.

But Aster uses the “horror” elements wisely. Much of the film is actually pleasant to look at: pleasant locations, pleasant faces. Naturally, this pleasantness is used to lower your guard.

Except for one dream sequence, all of the horror takes place during the day. The most noted example is the suicide scene with the two elderly people. If you watch a lot of movies, you’ve definitely seen gorier shit, but this one hits different. It’s a beautiful scene juxtaposed against two old people getting their faces smashed in. Additionally, for the two groups present for this ritual, one finds the scene beautiful while the other is utterly horrified.

And it happens relatively late in the film, long after you get adapted to the tone. Usually horror films do something like that early, just to tell the audience what it’s capable of.

Many have discussed why this movie is terrifying, and none of it works as an explanation for me. The most common is “it’s an American perspective on a foreign culture and how we find them terrifying “ blah blah blah. That never once occurred to me. What I found terrifying is the passiveness of the characters and the bullshit myths that the cult had to justify itself.

And the film does call bullshit on it (some guy argued that the film has a neutral take on the cult, which is partly why some find it scary. But that’s definitely not true).

Case in point is in the euthanasia scene, after the old man jumps off the cliff, breaks his leg, and lays there in pain. After the scene, the male lead tries to justify it by saying something like the “community might find our methods of elderly care barbaric”, but that old man met a truly barbaric end (his face later gets smashed in). I’d take a nursing home any day of the week.

The other example is at the end when the temple gets set on fire. Two members of the cult volunteer for the burning and are given a drug so that they won’t feel the pain of burning. However, one guy watches his friend, the last image he’ll ever see, scream in horror as he burns alive! All the drugs and nonsense clearly did him no good.

So to me, this film was kinda a commentary on the cult mindset and how people can be persuaded to do unusual things in the name of nonsense (and a lot of drugs). OR how people use these rituals to mask truly horrific things. That explains Florence Pugh’s smile at the end: she was an emotionally unbalanced person that’s suddenly found her place.

To me, the most terrifying thing was the brief moment when the male lead opens his eyes and sees a smiling face telling him that he is drugged, can’t move, can’t talk, and that’s that. Bye!

But what this film also does effectively is give you a solid sense of geography. You get used to the nice setting and that’s when bad things start happening. It plays out like a dream that suddenly turns into a helpless nightmare. Just as in a dream, the actors don’t know what’s going on but they play along nonetheless.

Ideology works the same way.

bill friedkin

The career of William Friedkin is a reminder of how hard it is to make a good film.

He hit two films out of the fuckin park with The French Connection and The Exorcist then kinda floundered from there (he did have a few notable films afterwards, namely Sorcerer and To Live and Die in LA, the latter of which I haven’t seen).

Sure Friedkin won his accolades here and there, but he is truly the maestro of one specific thing: directing car chases.

Everyone remembers Gene Hackman just plowing through cars and walls while Friedkin neglected to obtain permits to film such a thing in the French Connection (and apparently there’s a good chase sequence in To Live and Die in LA), but Friedkin’s crowning achievement, in my view, is in Jade.

Before David Caruso was spitting out one liners while rocking a pair of sunglasses in CSI: Miami, he tried his hand at being a film star. Jade was the absolute highlight of this period.

In the film, after Angie Everhart gets totally destroyed by a Ford Thunderbird, Caruso pursuits the vehicle in his POS Ford during a delightful chase where vehicles fly through the air down the streets of San Francisco (and Caruso does his best Gene Hackman impersonation).

The best part is when the chase goes through some parade and pedestrians attack the vehicles using martial arts. I guess that would make sense if you learn about other cultures while binging on cocaine.

Take a look:

poop (and crap)

I’m glad that the films of Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan are still considered events. Auteurism is dying in Hollywood but there are still remnants.

I’m not a fan of their films, but it’s still nice.

I know it’s heresy for film buffs to dislike Tarantino, but like Alabama in college football, his movies get evaluated by a different standard for better or worse. Even when it’s obvious that he didn’t put his best foot forward, like every movie he’s made in the last 15 years, Tarantino’s films get praised as if the film industry is about to go under. If you remove his name from most of his movies, you’d probably be wondering what the fuck you just watched.

Mind you, Pulp Fiction will stand the test of time. Jackie Brown should be better appreciated. Kill Bill Vol. I and II are what they are. But go back and watch Reservoir Dogs. It didn’t age well. Could this be the fate for all his retrospective reviews once when Tarantino retires from the biz (after he allegedly makes his “10th film”)?

Probably not, but I can hope.

I admit, Tarantino just isn’t my flavor. A perfect film, for me, transcends the medium. It’s gotta stick with me…reveal something about myself, about the universe, that I never realized. Tarantino the man, as reflected in his films, lacks that insight. He’s a film geek. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s all that he’s capable of being.

I expect more out of films, not constantly getting nudged throughout a viewing, being reminded of some shitty Italian film from 40 years ago. Now I love schlock as much as the next guy, but art and schlock do not…cannot…mix.

Tarantino however wants to have it both ways. And that is a pipe dream.

He made a cool film once 30 years ago, most directors will never achieve that. But that doesn’t mean everything he’s made since has been a home run.

Really the same thing is true for Nolan. I personally think his success rate is greater than Tarantino’s. But Nolan probably thinks of himself as the Stanley Kubrick of mainstream blockbusters. That also screams trying to have it both ways.

But whatever dude, at least Insomnia, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight…the only superhero film I’ve ever liked…were damn good.