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This week:

State and Main
Cast Away

Filthy says:
"Welcome to Awards Season."

Today is Christmas and the earth is blanketed white outside. Light, gauzy snowflakes slowly drift by my window. Through the wall, I hear a holiday movie playing in my neighbor's apartment, and the property manager draped red tinsel over the banister in the stairwell. Yes, it's Christmas outside, two kids just went by on a sled pulled by their dad and they were all bundled up and laughing. The streets are empty, everyone is with his family or tucked away next to a stoked fire.

I would be too, if my mom weren't such a ballbuster and didn't send me home. I mean, why bother inviting me if you're just gonna send me home with an empty tomach? Not that I care. I'm glad I don't have to spend Christmas with her or my sisters, or my dad or my wife. I'm thrilled I got to come home early and leave them to eat the Christmas dinner and play Life and drink Carlo Rossi wine. I'm glad my mom gets all worked up just because she doesn't think it's funny to stuff the mashed potatoes down my slacks. My retard cousin Larry laughed his fucking ass off, and he was the only person I cared about because he was the only other person besides me placed at the "children's" table.

And I'm glad I got drunk early because I was plenty warm walking home. Who needs fucking family on Christmas? Who needs a wife that won't stand by her man when nobody else will? Note to Mrs. Filthy (whenever you get home): It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and yell "Get the potatoes out of your pants!" but it takes a much stronger woman to say "My husband is right! That's where those potatoes belong."

Jesus Christ was born so that families would be more tolerant with people like me. His whole message is "Love everyone, and let them do whatever they want, including ruining Christmas dinner, and turn the other cheek and shit too." But, my mom and my wife are about as Christ-like as a dog humping a fence post.

Well, sitting here alone in the dark on Christmas Day gives me plenty of time to think about the movies I saw this weekend. State and Main is high-brow and Cast Away is middle-brow, and both are pretty mediocre.

State and Main is David Mamet's latest. I love the guy. He almost single-handedly made the word "fuck" into poetry in Glengarry Glen Ross. I once wrote a poem that consisted only of variations of "fuck" but while Mamet got praised, my third-grade teacher sent me to the principal. So, Mamet's a better writer than me. Mamet also wrote and directed The Spanish Prisoner and House of Games, a pair of good fun-house-mirror flicks. Renting those would be a much better time than watching State and Main. It's one of those arthouse romantic comedies that's not very funny, not very romantic, but gets the snooty pricks thinking they're pretty fan-fucking-tastic because they "get it."

William Macy is a director making a movie titled "The Old Mill" in Waterford, Vermont. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the screenwriter searching for purity, Alec Baldwin is the box-office star with a penchant for teen girls, and Sarah Jessica Parker is the actress wo won't show her tits. As the film crew runs roughshod over the town, Baldwin involves himself with local high-schooler Julia Stiles. Hoffman falls in love with a local bookstore owner and that pisses off her fiance, an ambitious local politician who gets his revenge by going after Baldwin and his Lolita and trying to shut down the movie.

Meanwhile, the movie production has to reconcile its title with the fact that the town's mill burned down 40 years ago, and Hoffman and Macy have to deal with the high-maintenance Parker, who will fuck anything that moves but only show her tits for an additional $800,000. Good fucking gravy, for that much I'll show my dick to anyone that asks--anywhere, anytime.

State and Main is a good idea for a movie, but Mamet goes about it pretty sloppily. Maybe he's too pleased with himself for making fun of Hollywood, totally unaware of the mass of shitty Hollywood satires that have already been made by film-school students desperate for attention. I noticed a lot of little details that the usually tight-assed Mamet wouldn't let slip by. For example, one gag is that the film crew misses a dinner with the town mayor, pissing his wife off. The dinner date is written on a big calendar, accidentally erased, then rewritten under the same day. Later, the same board shows the dinner written on a different date, and then finally, it's shown on the wrong date, with the original erased in a different way than was shown earlier. It's a little detail, I know, but it's fucking annoying, sloppy and indicative of a rushed production.

The worst slop is the slapdash ending, a collection of lazy mechanical devices to wrap the story up and let Mamet pat himself on the back for being so witty. The bastard expects us to believe that a movie producer would bring $800,000 in cash all the way from Hollywood to Vermont to pay an actress. Right. Don't they have banks and agents in L.A. to handle that shit? And, we're expected to believe that Hoffman is put through an elaborate bogus "trial" to get him to purge himself so he can remember what "purity" means, and that pretty much everyone but him is involved in this stunt. It's corny and lazy, like Mamet wrote the last thirty minutes in twenty minutes. How can he make fun of Hollywood while using their cheap stunts?

State and Main's jokes are mostly unfunny. The story's plenty busy and it's loaded with "insider" references to how Hollywood works, but the only people in the theater who laughed were the NPR-listening, PBS-subscribing assholes who have dedicated their lives to making sure everyone sitting near them knows how clever they are. He even employs corny, stale gags, such as two hick farmers reading Variety and talking grosses.

Maybe it's supposed to be a love story, but that story ain't so hot either. Hoffman and Rebecca Pidgeon don't really have much chemistry. Pidgeon is the typical pure local girl who wants to start up the old newspaper and knows what honesty really is. Hoffman is a painful stereotype of the yutz screenwriter. He's supposed to be conflicted, but he's only wishy-washy and pathetic. I don't want to pay to see two people I don't care about fall in love. I can see unlikable people fall in love every day at the Arvada Tavern. And, as an added bonus, I can see them fall out of love and beat the shit out of each other out by the dumpster.

It's a shame because Hoffman is such a fucking great actor. So are Pidgeon and Macy. But Mamet just has them run around spouting "witty" dialog. Caricatures with witty dialog. Two fingers.

I bet my family is eating dinner right now. I hope someone chokes on a ham bone. I'm so fucking glad to be home alone, without all them talking in my ear. I can watch whatever I please on the TV, and nobody is telling me how disappointed in me they are, or for being drunk, or for spilling the Spanish peanuts.

I'll just stay right here and have my own Christmas.

In contrast to State and Main's fancy-pants, Cast Away is not out to tickle the clits of any intamullectual phonies. It's the movie equivalent of meat and potatoes, like all of Robert Zemeckis's movies. Simplified fare.

Tom Hanks is the pot roast, a filling piece of meat of an actor. Not too spicy, gourmet or exotic, please, because that upsets America's tummy. In Cast Away, Hanks is an efficiency expert for Fed Ex, and holy fuck are they efficient. At least, that's what this movie wants us to believe. It wants us to believe that Jesus was delivered in Bethlehem by a Fed Ex courier who was ahead of schedule. Mary and Joseph opened the box and there was our savior. Fed Ex is just that fucking good.

On Christmas Eve, something is jamming the Fed Ex conveyor belt on the other side of the world. Hanks must leave his soon-to-be fiance (the always-annoying, bird-faced Helen Hunt--she'll peck your eyes out, swear to God) and hop a plane so he can shove a broomstick in the Malaysian equipment and get Fed Ex humming again. In flight, the plane hits a storm and crashes into the ocean. It's later explained that it was probably some improperly-labeled hazardous material that caused the accident (God forbid Fed Ex be responsible in their own two-hour commercial.)

Hanks is the only survivor of the crash, he washes up on a deserted island with along with some Fed Ex boxes and a raft. When nobody finds him, he learns how to make tools, store water, catch fish, build fire and lose weight. He pines for Hunt, and you know solitude is bad when you dream of a prickly dame like her. For four years, he lives alone on the island before making a desperate attempt to escape.

Once back in the real world, Hanks finds his sweetie has gone off, starred in a shitty sitcom with Paul Reiser, then married a dentist and had a baby. Hanks is confused by what he thought was true love when he can't have her. In fact, the only people who are really glad to see him are the folks at Fed Ex, because they are great and they invented everything good.

Cast Away is expertly made, maybe too expertly. It's so polished and pretty, and so desperate to have everything neatly in its place that it doesn't reflect real life or its messes. It would rather resolve neatly than actually have some emotional impact. But, shit howdy does it look pretty. Zemeckis and William Broyles, Jr. are definitely very good at directing and writing blockbuster movies (respectively). They even understand how much damage it would do their bottom line if they made this movie about how Americans are too obsessed with time, gadgets, and talking. So, it's a slick movie without much to say except that you shouldn't worry about getting stuck on an island because when you get back you'll find a new pretty girl.

Hanks is very good and solid. He'll probably win a bunch of awards because he is famous, not very obnoxious and he lost a lot of weight. Hell, if his character was a retarded grocery-store clerk stuck on an island they could give him the Oscar now. I bet Zemeckis is kicking himself right now for not thinking of that. Hunt does not die in the movie, which is bad, but she's not in it very much, which is good. And she only gets to cry once.

The plane crash scene is spectacular. It's a very real, tense descent into the ocean. And so are Hanks first days on the island, where he learns the survival basics and explores some beautiful property that will someday house a Club Med. Once we've seen enough of Hanks building fire and cracking coconuts, though, the movie doesn't have much to say about solitude and isolation. Instead, Cast Away has Hanks invent more shit. When there is no more shit to invent, the movie skips ahead three years. Where it could have been thoughtful it would rather distract us with cave paintings, rain and a volleyball that Hanks talks to.

Once back in civilzation, Hanks is amazed at how easy lighting a fire or turning on a light is, but the movie doesn't dare say anything more than "Wow." The one attempt at significance is when Hanks has a long, awkward monologue that spells out what we're supposed to learn (which nullifies the lesson) about frailty, mortality and our need for companionship. Once again, Hollywood is afraid to let us draw conclusions, choosing to tell us instead. Then it voids out any possible interpretations by drawing the story tight, and making the ending artificially happy.

I think a movie about a guy stranded on an island for four years should say more than that he misses his girl and gets sad when she isn't waiting for him. For fuck's sake, I'm lonely after four hours without my wife. Where the hell is my wife? She better not be having a good time at my parents'. I bet they're telling her jokes about me.

I wonder if anyone's eating my food, or if they will save it in case I come back.

The ending sums up how Hollywood can throw a ton of money and a lot of expertise at a profound idea and turn it into something pretty dull. Hanks is sad and confused in the real world. Luckily, though, he finds a replacement for Hunt pretty damn easily. That is so we can leave the theater not worrying about whether a fictitious character will be okay. Thank God, Hanks is happy. Thank God, none of the messiness of life caught up with him.

One other note: On the island, Hanks hangs onto one Fed Ex box that washes up onto the shore. We know where it comes from because it has a special marking on it from a sender shown at the beginning of the movie. Once Hanks makes it to civilization, he delivers the package. What a good Fed Ex worker, delivering a package after four years at sea.

But, the jackass doesn't take it to the recipient, he returns it to the sender (who conveniently turns out to be hot). You can sure as hell bet I'd be pissed off if Fed Ex held my package for four years and then was all proud of themselves when they delivered it back to me. Some efficiency expert Hanks is. Three fingers for Cast Away.

I'm sick of this. I'm going over to my parents. They can go ahead and make fun of me. I'll even apologize, though I wasn't wrong. It's sad what loneliness will make a man do.

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