This week:
All or Nothing

Filthy says:
""'Tis the season for self-importance."

I know the spiel. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for family and friends to come together and give thanks for all that God has given them. Or, if you're that sweaty cow who drives the beat up Toyota Tercel on Robinson Court, it's a time to give thanks to the "goddess" who is "afoot" doing "magic" and making "frumpy", "mustachioed" women into "man-hating" "wiccans." Most of you reading this are just now giving the holiday Sans-a-belts a little breathing room after a sickeningly fat feast made from Stouffer's and Cool Whip. Most of you enjoyed four days of non-stop bickering with your family and experienced some sort of drunken bonding with an in-law.

Yes, yes, I'm sure it was all sickeningly delightful. Mine hasn't been so smooth. It's because I'm married to a wonderful woman, a saint who dedicates 11 months a year to tending to my bruised ego and steering me from destructive habts. Starting with Thanksgiving, though, her dedication is to her retail customers. Five a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, Mrs. Filthy leaves me to fend for myself, and forage my own meals from the refrigerator, pantry, medicine cabinet and pillow cushions. As assistant manager, she is readying Hancock Fabrics for the onslaught of hordes of craft-hungry ladies whose winter thoughts turn to crappifying their homes for Christmas. They buy velour by the bolt and bells by the gross. They gobble up Simplicity pantsuit patterns and enough stretch denim to clothe all the naked men in Austria. My wife has left me for a thousand other women who share her love not only for chocolate but also for coffee mugs that declare their love of chocolate.

My beautiful wife is a saint, from early morning to late at night, patiently explaining the refund policy, dispensing tips on how best to make cotton puffs stick to fleece. Seventy hours a week she makes sure that the ladies of Arvada are able to make enough crap-- snowman pillows, mantle gnomes and quilted tree skirts with sequins, glitter glue and puffy paint--to momentarily smother the inevitable disappointment of their miserable lives. That's great, because I'm all for people using consumer goods to plug the holes in their souls, except I get really confused and lost. Where is the peanut butter? Which utton do you press on the microwave? Chicken is okay to eat raw, right?

I wake up alone on the day after Thanksgiving and I have ambitious plans. I'm going to see a billion movies and fix my Galaxie and write a novel and finish my proper translation of the Iliad. I'm finally going to fold my laundry and wash the dog. Three days by myself, and this year I'm determined not to squander them only to have my wife come home from a 16-hour workday to find me crying in the laundry room in a snot-covered T-shirt, with bloodied knees and having given our toaster to visiting Mormons. I swear to God, though, the obstacles come as high and daunting as the hurdles at the Special Olympics 110-meter dash. I see them coming, I know I'm supposed to jump, but I somehow forget and end up tangled up and broken.

I got out to see two movies before the trouble started with the Thanksgiving leftovers. And this year it wasn't my fault. As many of you already have thought, they should say right on the Barbasol can that mixing sugar into shaving cream does not make whip cream. Sure, they look exactly the same. Only, whip cream doesn't make you vomit this much. Not even if you eat the whole can and then suck the aerosol until you pass out. That just makes your nose bleed and you forget about your arms for a while. A simple warning label could have resulted in a dozen movie reviews and at least three legible letters to the editor about that drunk sportswriter.

First I saw Solaris, a bigass budget, navel-gazing sloth of a movie. George Clooney is Chris Kelvin, a psychologist in the near future who is asked by his astronaut friend to come to a space station near a huge mass of energy called Solaris. The friend doesn't explain why, just that a psychologist is needed. When Clooney reaches the space station, he is greeted by Jeremy Davies doing a bizarre form of twitchy overacting that can best be described as "shitty and annoying." Davies is the station's techno-whiz and one of only two survivors on board. The other is a physicist played by Viola Davis, but she is holed up in her room and won't come out. Nobody is talking much, and when Clooney goes to bed he learns why. He wakes to find his dead wife straddling him.

Solaris is able to extract memories and turn them into flesh and bone. Clooney's wife's death was tragic, and the recreation of her is what he remembered, not necessarily what she really was. The story, in its thudding and obvious way raises two interesting questions in an uninteresting way. The first is whether a person exists beyond how others perceive him. For example, is someone with a high IQ really a genius if he never displays anything but idiocy in public? No matter what you think of yourself, is it worth jackshit if nobody else thinks of you that way?

The second question is one struggled with at strip clubs every night. Is an artificial re-creation of love better than nothing at all? Can Clooney be happy with a very good copy of his wife because the real thing no longer exists. And can he reconcile with a copy for his crimes against the genuine, but dead article? At the strip club, men ask themselves: Can a man love the big knockers swinging in his face if he knows they're mostly saline or silicone and weren't earned through the rigors of puberty and good maintenance? More importantly, can a lonely man with enough singles believe that just because she talks to him that she also loves him? And can the man make up for giving his real wife a black eye by giving this naked facsimile a few extra dollars and telling her she's really classy while she gives him a lap dance? Can the human mind accept a substitute for love in the absence of anything real?

Solaris raises interesting questions, and then it answers them before it dares let an audience do anything as dangerous as think for itself. There are long, dull passages of dialog that don't illuminate the issues. Instead they lay them out like a textbook. They explain them in way too much detail and leave far too little to for us to ponder. It gets pretty fucking old being treated like babies, especially if there is no naughty nurse to change our diapers. The fun of a good movie is that issues are seeped into our brains around the corners of a good story. In great movies, the filmmakers have us so wrapped up in the characters that we don't even realize the subtext and the larger issues addressed. As an audience, it's easier to connect to characters than ideas. Solaris's subtext is front and center and shown off much more than the people.

Director Steven Soderbergh's focus makes the people secondary, cold and distant and it makes the movie pretty damn academic. That means it pretty fucking boring, especially in the first half. The second half is more engaging, mostly because it's finally where Soderbergh stops crapping in his philosophy pot and bothers to get characters involved.

Clooney has officially entered the "I Want a Fucking Oscar" stage of his career. His low-rent Cary Grant is a bad is fit for the 70s space-age feel of the movie, but he's doing his damndest to be a serious actor. The best performance is from his ass, which he exposes for long spells and which might have done better with some of his dialog. The movie looks pretty fantastic. The space scenes have the great look of a spruced up Space Mountain, all nipply rubber and geometric shapes. It's our vision of the future from 1970 done in modern materials. It's fun to look at, but it's cold, just like the movie.

Three Fingers for Solaris mostly because it's actually trying to say something and almost succeeding. For God's sake, go for Clooney's waxed ass if you're into that sort of thing. Don't go to be entertained.

All or Nothing is a Limey flick that I was tricked into seeing because I think Timothy Spall is about the best actor at portraying the everyman. I still think that, but without anything interesting to do, his ability to play the average guy just looks like, well, watching an average guy.

In All or Nothing, Spall plays a lazy taxi driver in a loveless marriage with a couple of fat, lethargic and unhappy kids. They live hand to mouth in a rundown London housing project with equally unhappy neighbors. The characters plug along until, as always in the movies, a crisis requires them to re-examine why they are so unhappy and how they got there. The characters make an attempt to retrieve their lives from the shitter, and the movie ends with the big, poignant ambiguous ending. Will they find happiness or are they doomed to misery for eternity?

Despite excellent acting and a few powerful scenes, I mostly didn't fucking care. These are boring, sad people, which is fine in itself so long as they have some revelation. They don't, though. They just have miserable lives that plod along without exposing anything new. Director Mike Leigh has confused capturing poverty with poignance, and as anyone who has ever had to eat cat food can tell you, being poor just ain't so interesting.

I love movies about average people, but what I love is for the characters to be "average" not genuinely as dull and lame as the real average. I want them to subtly exceed the boundaries of the mundane and serve as inspiration, amusement or a lesson to the rest of us living in dingy apartments near railroad tracks. All or Nothing is too obsessed with filming shit to dig in and uncover the undigested kernels. I suppose Leigh can feel noble for training his talents and those of his actors on such shitty lives. Maybe it's a tax writeoff. Otherwise, why bother?

If anyone needs to be entertained or given hope through the movies, it's people like those Leigh depicts. But, there's nothing here for them except a warning that their lives will continue to suck and I think they already knew that. Leigh is more interested in serving as the National Geographic of London's ghettos for rich liberals than he is in improving lives. The fat rich folks watch it and cluck their tongues, and then feel good about themselves for having felt sorry for poor people.

All or Nothing is just unrelentingly depressing without a good reason, and I can get that by jerking off to too much Internet porn or eating Mrs. Filthy's half of the Thanksgiving pies and then feeling like a jerk. Two Fingers.

Before I go off to make an experimental meringue from our carpet cleaner and more sugar, I want to give a plug for Denver's Starz Theater in the old Tivoli building. Now here's an art theater that isn't so fucking impressed with itself as the snooty Landmark's. Friendly employees, matinee prices up until six p.m. and Denver's best schedule of retrospectives and older movies. If you live in Denver, fuck those pretentious assholes at the Mayan and the Esquire and support Starz. They try harder and they don't act like their shit don't stink.

Want to tell Filthy Something?

Filthy's Reading
Robert Evans - The Kid Stays in the Picture

Listening to
Palace Music - Lost Blues and Other Songs


A Very Merry Muppet Christmas

Bill Zwecker of Fox TV hitting new heights of whorism

Eight Crazy Nights is "The funniest holiday movie of all time!"

Die Another Day
is "One of the best Bond films ever!"

"The funniest holiday movie of all time"? Now that's Olympic-caliber whoring.


©2002 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All fucking rights Reserved