I fucking hate the
holidays. Everyone pretends to feel sad for the people who have
to spend them alone. They say more people commit suicide during
this time of year. I'm betting, though, that the folks offing
themselves weren't alone. They were with their godawful families
when some stupid, speed-addled brother-in-law at the other end
of the dinner table gets into a screaming match with his mother
about how morbidly obese people get blow jobs.
Yeah, sure, I wonder,
too. We all do, but not more than ten percent of our waking
hours, and not at Christmas dinner when the kids are there.
Why does someone have to go and punch Uncle Carl in the face
and then ram his cane down his throat? You can bet the kids
will remember that long after the toys are forgotten. Like,
I still crisply remember when I was seven my parents got into
a drunken, drag-down, kick-in-the-teeth brawl that knocked over
the Christmas tree and set fire to the sofa. Actually, that
was on Valentine's Day. My dad just hadn't gotten around to
taking down the tree yet.
That shit isn't why
I hate Christmas, though. I dread it because the movies suck.
So many phony Hollywood gold-statue-humpers that smell like
they passed through the bowels of a thousand producers, each
time getting thinner, runnier and slicker until all that's left
of what might have been a great idea is an overpowering soundtrack,
big production values and some fucking actor hamming it up like
a noble-but-doomed soldier or a reverse-aging pretty-boy hoping
to win a stupid trophy. That's, of course, in addition to the
several million bucks of salary.
I skip the big Hollywood meatbeat movies. I have no interest
in seeing something that gets made because assholes are hungrier
to impress their peers than to entertain the rest of us. And
I get so mad at critics who talk about how this movie deserves
an award, or this actor should get this. Why the fuck do the
critics care? I thought the job was to say whether or not you
like a movie. A flick's quality is in no way changed by whatever
shiny piece of metal it gets after the fact. So, shut the fuck
up, critics, and do your fucking jobs. Don't say, "If so-and-so
doesn't win, it's a crime," because it's not a crime. A crime
when teenagers I flip off for cutting me off on my bicycle stop,
beat me up and then take turns shitting on me. It's not when
some arbitrary group who hands out irrelevant awards doesn't
agree with your taste.
say that I just digressed, but that was mostly what I have on
my mind this week. That and, I sure like ham. I can, and did,
eat a three-pound tin of processed ham for breakfast. With a
candy cane and beef jerky. And rock salt. I could go for some
more right now. Spoiler Alert: I'll have more to say about awards
season next week, I think. Oh yeah, I also hate the phrase "spoiler
alert" and people who get so damn worked up about knowing plot
points in advance. I already knew Candy Bottoms took four dicks
at once in Four Dicks at Once 3 before I saw it, but
it didn't make the movie any less impressive or enjoyable. That's
why it is art.
So far, I have avoided
the stupid award movies, partly because I hate how formulaic
and cornball they've become. It's also because I want to punch
some of the people who talk about them as though they matter
in the teeth. I hate the dumbasses that would never go to a
foreign film, or an independent one, but see a couple Hollywood
shitsterpieces in December and act like they know their ass
from the hole in a Chinese coin. Also, it's because a lot of
the fancy movies don't get to Arvada until they're done playing
in the big cities. Then they send the scratchy old prints out
here to the sticks so us hillbillies can see what all the hubbub's
Instead, I was forced
to chaperone my sister's kids to see Bolt in some amazing
technology called "Three dollars extra per ticket 3-D!" Boy
would that have made me mad if my sister hadn't been paying.
I followed that up by catching Slumdog Millionaire.Neither
was terrible. One was better than expected, the other worse.
Bolt is a
typical kid's animated movie with a lovable pet that talks to
other animals and is beloved by one kid (Miley Cyrus). In this
case, it's a dog voiced by John Travolta who is a TV star and
was raised on a soundstage. It has never seen the world outside
and thinks it is the superhero it plays on TV. Bolt gets accidentally
shipped across the country and has to find his way back to Hollywood
and the one girl he thinks loves him. Along the way, he discovers
he doesn't really have superpowers and befriends a sassy cat
and a hyper, TV-addicted hamster.
some pretty damn great parts of this movie, and I don't mean
the 3-D because it's actually pretty underused. I mean an opening
sequence, where Bolt must outrun bad guys on his TV show. That
was ten minutes of really good Pixar production. And overall,
the animation is really fucking good. It isn't over the top
or flashy, but is mostly up to the Pixar standard for quality
and detail. In part, the Pixar folks had something to do with
this, since it was completed after Disney bought the studio
and got its people to save Bolt. The images are full,
lush and have elegant detail. That's in contrast to cheap digital
animation productions like Barnyard or Space Chimps
where computers are used to make flat, shiny, simple objects.
never stoops to lame jokes about pop-culture. Dreamworks does
that and it bugs the shit out of me. It's as though the people
making the movie are bored of the world they've created, or
that they simply want to sell a shitload of tickets now rather
than make something timeless. The sassy cat (Susie Essman) is
pretty damn likable, too. She's mangy and not overplayed. Her
transformation from being bitter to caring is mostly believable.
a classic, though. Beyond the good points, it's just a Hollywood
commodity. The story is formulaic. The dog has to get home only
to discover (incorrectly) that his on-screen owner doesn't care
about him. Of course, she really does and a big fire he must
rescue her from proves it. It plays out corny, overdramatic
and predictable. The sidekick hamster (Mark Walton) is boilerplate
comic relief, but louder and more obnoxious without being any
funnier. His schtick gets old after five minutes, but he's there
to the end. A talent agent character is an embarrassingly unoriginal
stereotype. His every appearance is a reminder that Bolt
has little new to say.
And there is nothing
deep going on in Bolt. Pixar's movies are able to transcend
the label of kids' movies by subversively addressing deeper
issues. Bolt doesn't because it aspires to nothing more
than being a way for kids to burn two hours over the holidays.
is about a young man (Dev Patel when an adult) on the verge
of winning twenty million rupees on the Indian version of Who
Wants to be a Millionaire, hosted by a smug prick in a shiny
jacket. The problem is that Patel is a chaiwalla (tea boy) from
the slums, and Indian culture dictates that you can't be smart
if you come from the lowest castes. Only the privileged and
wealthy should be able to answer the difficult questions.
In a story inspired
(but not written by) Capra and Dickens, Patel is arrested by
the police the night before he is to answer the 20-million-rupee
question. They suspect him of cheating and beat the shit out
of him to make him confess. They strap him to batteries, punch
him and handcuff him to a chair, all in an effort to get him
to confess. Instead of confessing, he reveals how he knows the
answers, and in so doing tells his life story. It reveals how
his mother was killed, how he was taken in by a Fagin-like orphanage
owner, how he survived as a street urchin, how he has loved
the same girl his entire life, and his strained relationship
with his thug brother.
It's all a bit much,
and a bit long. We know Patel will win the grand prize, because
Capra wouldn't have it any other way. But we also know that
winning is not really what Patel wants. That would be his true
love, a ethereally hot woman (Freida Pinto). He only appears
on the show because he hopes she may be watching.
While seeing the
hardship and filth of India's slums is interesting and informative,
the presentation here feels pedantic in places. There may be
too many harships piled onto one kid, especially since he isn't
shaped by them much. They all just indicate that he is nearly
Terminator-like in his ability to keep rising. The parts at
the orphanage with owners who blind the kids before sending
them out to beg is heavy-handed enough to probably make Dickens
Patel's love for
Pinto determines everything he does. Good lord, she's pretty
enough to make an unemployed guy spend dozens of hours on the
web looking for nude photos. But beyond that nice smile, her
character is pretty fucking dull. I can't think of a single
personality trait she has that makes her more than just pretty.
Well, except that she is very pliant and uncomplaining.
Actually, I didn't
find Patel particularly interesting, either. Maybe it's because
he's single-minded. He struck me more as a blank canvas that
director Danny Boyle uses to paint a much broader portrait of
life in India. That's fine, I suppose, but, like I said before:
it gets a bit pedantic.
The plot structure
is mostly unique. The story is largely told through flashbacks
to bits of Patel's life. There are villains in the past that
play roles in the present. And there are new villains, such
as the prickly game show host who really doesn't want Patel
to win. While it's unique, that doesn't mean it's not unpredictable.
Early on, Patel and his brother discuss The Three Musketeers
and can only remember the first two's names. The parallel is
that he and his brother are Athos and Porthos and Pinto is the
Aramis that completes them. As far as I can remember from Dumas'
novel, though, Aramis did not have such a lovely smile and thin
waist. I'll have to reread it. Anyway, once that little bit
is brought up, it's obvious what Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
will ask Patel for the final question. It defuses the suspense,
and it seems like a ridiculously easy question to ask.
I'd heard a lot about
Slumdog Millionaire before seeing it, mostly people who
rarelly see movies set in other countries raving about it. And
mad, it sure didn't live up the hype. It was all right, but
I wonder if these are the same people who pissed their pants
over Life is Beautiful, too. Three Fingers.
Next week I'll bitch
to tell Filthy Something?