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This week:
The Incredibles

Filthy says:
"See, it ain't so hard making a great movie."

I knew they could do it. I knew those fucks in Movieland could make a good movie if they really tried. I knew that the crap and drivel they've been chucking at us was the half-baked horeshit of compromise sullied up by hacks and greedy pricks.

Okay, I didn't know, but I wasn't about to admit it. I just figured that with as greenbacks that get shoveled into the fiery furnace of Ben Assfuck and his ilk that there had to be some truly talented people who wanted to make movies. Of course, 99.9% of the time, they're hampered by the equivalent of rows of razor wire. First, clever writers are discouraged by unclever agents who aren't smart dream beyond what was hot last week; and no studio wants to read something by un unagented writer. If you get past that, then you face directors who'd much rather make career-preserving comedies with rapping grannies, precocious kids, or, when they want to be taken seriously, mopey Englishmen at a crossroads in their lives.

Assuming you get past all that without being shredded to ribbons, you still have to sell your story to a studio that will add Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Hilary Duff to make sure they can sell tickets to teenagers. And then you have to inch through the minefield of rewrites, and the helpful input of hundreds of worthless studio hacks who think they know better than you what you want to say. Finally, Freddie Prinze gets to say what his character does. Hollywood movies end up getting made not by people who want to tell great stories, but by people who are obnoxious, relentless and more interested in getting something made than making something great.

So, it's a miracle when a movie of singular, comprehensive vision is made. The only people who can manage that are the ones who say "fuck you" to Hollywood. And their movies are usually made in someone's garage with an old Super 8 camera, firecrackers and some Revel models of mid-60s hot rods.

Every now and then, though, something slips through the system with only scrapes and bruises. I don't know if it's because of the creator's dexterity or because he found a shortcut through the obstacle course. All I know is we've got to be thankful for movies like The Incredibles. It's not perfect, but it's pretty fucking great and so complete and consistent. It's the rare movie that doesn't seem to have compromised anything, and was not the creation of some asshole's ego, but a true love for storytelling.

The Incredibles are a family of superheroes that have been relocated after the actions of them and other superheros created a flurry of lawsuits from an ungrateful public. Settled into a drab suburban existence, Mr. Incredible dreams of his past fame and adulation, when he'd stop runaway trains and fight off archvillains on a daily basis. He misses the opportunities to save the world and is bored by his lousy job and suburbs. One night, he is secretly summoned from his drab home to help the government battle a new enemy, a gigantic octopus-like robot on a tropical island. He sneaks away without telling Mrs. Incredible, nee Elastigirl, because he knows she'd disapprove.

Actually, he learns the call for help did not come from the government, but from a guy named Buddy who was once Mr. Incredible's biggest fan. When Mr. Incredible rebuffed Buddy's attempts to help him, the boy grew bitter. Now, as an adult, Buddy wants to kill the world's remaining superheroes and then unleash his weapons on the world. Not to destroy it, but so he can play dress up in tights as crimefighter Syndrome, come to the rescue and be worshipped like the heroes he once adored.

After learning of the plot and the trouble Mr. Incredible has gotten himself into, Elastigirl and their two kids come to his rescue, and then save the world. Just like old times. They unleash their superpowers without the shame of being different.

It's a cute plot, not great, but it plays out brilliantly because of director/writer Brad Bird's conviction in it. There are no cheap and lame pop-culture references, the kind Dreamworks ladles over everything because they don't really trust the source material. But Bird does, and it allows him to go deep into it. Every scene is packed with modest and subtle detail. The story takes place in the rocket-age mid-60s and every detail is period perfect without mocking. The streets are lined with Thunderbirds and Galaxies (a lot of 64s for some reason), and the settings are consistent and complete. The tropical island of Syndrome is a better James Bond setting than anything we've seen in 20 years, and so are the gadgets. Nothing in this vision is sacrificed for a cheap gag. And nothing is stretched too thin for the sake of story. The devices, superhero strengths and settings are all of a single fantastic world about two steps from ours.

Similarly, every character is more than a compilation of formulaic motivations wrapped in corny jokes. They have depth and warmth. The middle of the story is a little dull, though. If I wanted to spend this much time with disillusioned suburbanites, I could go watch the screaming parents at the soccer fields. But otherwise, they are treated with respect by Bird, and much more entertainingly than the sour-faced superheroes of every other recent comic-book movie. Seriously, it's so fucking refreshing to see a movie about people who can fly and lift trains that isn't more intent on proving its legitimacy than on simply entertaining.

The Incredibles is not a hilarious movie, and it's not slightly sappy like Finding Nemo. It's really geared more to 8-year-old boys than the little kids or the parents who want the TV to babysit their God-damned brats for hours on end. There are funny parts and some funny characters, but mostly it's just solid character-based storytelling. And that's pretty fucking great.

Five Fingers for The Incredibles. It's not perfect, but it's pretty exciting to see storytelling so fully realized.

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Jeanne Wolf of Jeanne Wolf's Hollywood

The Polar Express is "The greatest Holiday Ride Ever! Tom Hanks' brilliant tour de force will amaze you and grab your heart as he takes you on a journey to the true spirit of Christmas!"

That is, without mentioning Jesus.

Filthy's Reading
Robertson Davies - The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks

Listening to
Die Electric - Push Pull