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
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
to tell Filthy Something?