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This week:
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Filthy says:
"Pure masturbatory horseshit."

Holy shit, can those Hollywood assholes be a sanctimonious bunch. Those jackasses think we pay for movies just to hear them tell us how fucking important and profound they are. Maybe it's more than just Hollywood types, but I don't ever hear my garbageman talking about freeing Tibet nearly as much as those pricks in LA do. Besides, even if the trashman pontificated, he'd still pick up my trash.

That's the trashman's job. And Hollywood's job is to entertain. Any speechifying, pontificating and pomposity should be done on their own God damn time, or at least done subtly while achieving the first mission. But these assholes think we actually give a shit what they think so much they don't even have to be clever about saying it. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is pure unentertainment; a pseudo-gritty vanity project that says little and entertains even less. It sure as fuck ain't worth $9.25 to watch.

Sometimes a movie's title tells you it's gonna be more full of itself than one of those contortionists who can suck his own dick. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is just that. Not the contortionist; that would have been more entertaining. I mean the movie. It stinks of vanity the way an 82-year-old lady does of cheap perfume and soggy diaper. The meager, simplistic commentary on racism, classism and immigration policy along our Mexican border is indicative of shallow thinking, but even that shit gets steamrolled by Jones's fancy-ass flashbacks, and his obsession with showing us how gritty and God damn profound he can be. The derivative Peckinpah gore, the out-of-place non-sequitur comedy, and the desperate attempt to achieve John Huston-like spare desperation are what I remember most. Besides being a lame political commentary, Three Burials is a lame, overreaching directorial debut. Jones plays a border rancher named Pete who we never learn much about beyond that he's the tough, quiet type with a hard-wired moral compass. He's "gruff" and "good" and "honest" and that's about it; he's a Western anti-hero typecast. Jones takes in a very Mexican cowboy (Julio Cedillo) who crosses the border illegally, and becomes deep friends with him over their mutual love for looking out over Big Bend National Park and talking about horses. Cedillo is also never fully developed other than that he's the pure goodness that Hollywood sees in all impoverished, hard-working people.

While innocently tending his goats, Cedillo is killed by a hot-headed, one-dimensionally shallow border patrolman (Barry Pepper) whose boss covers it up with help from the local corrupt (of course) sheriff. When Jones finds out who killed his friend, he kidnaps Pepper and forces him to retrieve Cedillo from the poorman's grave the sheriff cold-bloodedly buried him in. Jones then forces Pepper to join him in riding their horses into Mexico to return the Mexican's body to his hometown.

Along the way, they encounter quaint and pointless vignettes like Levon Helms as an old man alone in the wilderness who asks them to kill him. It doesn't tie into the story, and the scene is forced, but it's there because JOnes is trying to imitate Peckinpah and other better filmmakers. Those filmmakers, by the way, would have cut that crap out because they knew it was too corny.

In Jones's quest to make The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada into a big, powerful movie instead of something entertaining, he forgets that it's basically sort of a dumb story about a man who made a promise to a friend and now is bound to carry it out. The subplots about an impotent sheriff, about Pepper's hot wife, and about a slutty waitress are all left high and dry. None of them mean much to the story, but they are dragged along like a carcass behind a pickup until they shred apart and vanish without closure or any sort of point. The only cool thing is that the hot wife (January Johnson) smokes Mistys or Virginia Slims. One of them long, skinny cigarettes that people in the 70s thought were feminine.

Jones also confuses gore and grit for truthfulness. The movie lingers on the corpse of Cedillo decaying in scene after scene until it becomes a tired joke. The puffy, black body gets attacked by ants and Jones lights it on fire. Jones tries to comb its hair and it falls out in chunks. Pepper is coated in layers of mud and blood as the movie proceeds, and his tan inconsistently changes from scene to scene. Jones does do a good job of capturing the ruggedness of Big Bend National Park in Texas, though. He never shows us a javelina, but the canyons, cactus and sage brush get plenty of attention,.

The worst thing about The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada getting creative-writing-class clever with his message. Maybe he's afraid that we don't get it if he isn't obvious, but that's too fucking bad. Most of us don't come to the movies for sermonizing. Jones is trying to tell us all first that Mexicans are human and should be treated humanely. That along our borders the immigrants are treated unfairly and with little respect. The people who see artsy-fartsy shit like this are exactly the kind of people who already have some pompous bumper sticker on their car to tell people that they are just as sensitive and in-tune as Jones. And for the same reasons (I'll give you hint, it ultimately has nothing to do with the Mexicans). He makes his point through clumsy devices like Pepper clocking a Mexican girl across the nose early on and then her being the only girl in Mexico that can save him from a rattlesnake bite. Of course, she does, see, because in Jones's world the poor Mexicans are pure goodness and the whiteys are pure evil.

That pisses me off. If Jones respects our South-of-the-border friends so much, why the fuck are they all so one-dimensional? What point is made by reducing people to such shallow stereotypes? If Jones cared about them as much as he cares about how he's perceived by audiences, he'd show that all people are complex. We are all capable of both donating time to a, say, Arvada Lutheran church food drive, and capable of pocketing a small bottle of, say, whiskey, or a pack of powdered Hostess Donettes that he finds in the bins. How the fuck does Jones think he can generate empathy for a group of people when he can't even portray them as human?

Two Fingers for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. The next time I get an inkling to see Tommy Lee Jones masturbate I'll just Google it because I'm sure there's a more genuine version of his wank sessions than this available online for free.

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Larry King of CNN (he's a critic?)

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The Pink Panther is "Flat out hilarious! Steve Martin is incredible!"

Filthy's Reading
Jim Thompson- The Nothing Man

Listening to
Smog - A River Ain't Too Much to Love (again, because it's so damn great)-


Garden State