Well, it looks like I’m doin these columns once a month now, and I guess that’s better than nothin. This time I’ll be reviewing a handful of movies that have NOTHING to do with politics. I haven’t seen this Henry Porter witchcraft movie that everybody has a boner about but I have seen some other current pictures and some older ones that I will be discussing.
There’s a catch though. First I’m gonna hafta talk politics some more. I’ll keep it shorter, but this is more important than ever.
There is a grave threat to America right now. Well, another one. In addition to Islamic extremists crashing planes into our buildings, and right wing extremists sending anthrax to us in the mail, and turbulence symbolically knocking the tails and engines off of our American Airlines planes on Veteran’s Day as an accidental commentary on our foreign policy, now we have to worry about our acting president completely and blatantly abandoning the supposed ideals of America, and no one caring.
Well yeah, I was worried about that all along. Now it has happened. And we cannot just be silent about it.
Because when you attach a flag to your car, or talk about being proud to be an American, or say that you’re thankful we live in a free country, a democracy – it is clear what you are standing up for. Freedom and democracy. These are things we all believe in, and cherish. But these are not things our regime believes in at all.
Yesterday I read an article, originally from the Washington Post, that begins by saying, “President Bush declared an ‘extraordinary emergency’ yesterday that empowers him to order military trials of suspected international terrorists and their collaborators, bypassing the U.S. criminal-justice system, its rules of evidence and its constitutional guarantees.”
It goes on to explain that Donald Rumsfeld will appoint the panels and set the rules of evidence, the amount of proof necessary for a guilty verdict. There will be no judicial reviews and no appeals to U.S. civil courts or international tribunals. Death sentences or life imprisonment will be allowed.
What does this say about Bush? It says that he wants to execute people, but he does not want to have to prove that they have committed the crimes. He does not want the people of America, or the world, to know what was discussed at the trials. If it were up to him, there would be none of this “innocent until proven guilty” garbage in America. Unless it came to one of his fellow oil barons. (Did you hear that the Exxon-Valdez decision was overturned? They no longer owe $5 billion.)
This anti-American attitude is also demonstrated in the war in Afghanistan. Bush claims he has evidence that bin Laden did it, but refuses to show it. Rather than capture these people and prove they did it, their goal is to blow them up and everything around them.
Can you imagine if Columbine had been handled this way? The parents of those two kids that apparently did it were harboring terrorists. They allowed them to build bombs and collect an arsenal right under their noses. And where were they getting the money to buy all these weapons anyway? Probably from the parents. We can’t take any chances so what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna go in and blow up the whole neighborhood.
See, police can get away with that sometimes in the US, but not all the time. Because people tend to notice. But go overseas and nobody cares anymore whether we’re promoting the supposed ideals of America. And that’s the impression many Arabs have of us.
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
Now, the media here has big business’s dick WAY up its ass. But compared to some countries, I’m told, it’s a free press. And one would hope our government supported that idea, since it’s part of our constitution.
Not outside of our borders, though. In Afghanistan they are actually ATTACKING the tv stations. They considered granting interviews to Al Jazeera, but instead granted missiles.
PRESIDENTS WHO LOSE ELECTIONS
On Veteran’s Day, the same day the plane accidentally crashed, a media consortium finally released the results of their study of Florida’s ballots in the last election.
These results were originally going to come out in September, but then there was terrorism and they decided to delay the results. Because when everyone is saying to stand by the president, it’s hard to tell them about this.
You see, they ran through 9 scenarios of ways the ballots could have been recounted. In 6 of the 9 scenarios, Gore won. That includes the most important scenario: statewide recount. Meaning that in actuality, if not for all the cheating and legal wrangling on both sides, just going by the actual votes (except not including all the minority votes that were deliberately thrown out by Bush’s brother), Gore actually won the election.
I’m not saying that Gore would be doing a good job either. But it is important to note when, in a democracy, the candidate without the popular vote OR the electoral vote still wins.
Of course, the newspapers don’t have the balls to cover this topic. Or maybe they just didn’t think it was newsworthy. So their emphasis was on one of the 3 out of 9 scenarios where Bush would have won: if the courts hadn’t unconstitutionally stopped the limited recounts of select counties, Bush still would have won. So if anyone just read the headline and not the article, they wouldn’t even know what was going on here.
But this is not a conspiracy, and the media does not try to shape public opinion, and big business does not control the news just because they own it. No, all of the journalists just didn’t think it was that big of a deal. It’s not that big of a story, really. Not when there’s Henry Porter mania in the air!
From the Associated Press: Investigators are questioning 5,000 foreigners in the U.S. They have contacted more than 200 colleges asking for information about students from Arab and Muslim nations. Almost all of the colleges have complied.
If this doesn’t make you uncomfortable than read up on
THOUSANDS OF ARABS IN CUSTODY
You don’t hear much about them, and in fact nobody knows much about them. But these people are being held without charges, and you can’t tell me that most of them even have anything to do with it. Some of them have been beaten, one died “of an apparent heart attack”.
Some of these guys are suspicious, like the guy at the flight school who said he didn’t need to learn how to take off or land. But many of them are people who just happen to be Arab in America, or who went to pay their friend’s bail. There is at least one case of a person who had briefly met one of the hijackers, so he went to the police to tell them what he knew – and was promptly incarcerated.
Combine this with
Which is now being allowed – they are allowed by law to listen into the suspects phone calls with their lawyers, as well as read their e-mail.
Imagine this scenario:
Young Arab man goes to college in the US. Because of his background, gets involved with political groups on campus interested in Arab issues. This is reported by the college to inquiring authorities.
Young man is brought in for questioning. They don’t agree with his politics, but he has no connection to terrorism. They hold him on an alleged immigration violation, just to be safe.
Later they decide to charge him with something. Collaboration. The charges are ludicrous. But his lawyer – court appointed, but a good guy nevertheless – still has trouble defending him. The prosecutors seem to know every strategy they have planned. As if they’d been listening into their phone calls and reading their e-mails.
Worse yet, let’s suppose he gets a military trial. They don’t have to prove jack shit. And they can still execute him. And we won’t even know what happened – for national security reasons. We’ll just have to assume yeah, he must’ve done it, whatever it was he did.
This scenario is going to happen. I promise you. And it’s now COMPLETELY LEGAL.
It’s become a cliche now but it has to be said. They came for the gypsies, and I said nothing. They came for the homosexuals, I said nothing. etc. etc. WE CANNOT LET THIS GO ON. Even if they never come for us, they are coming for many of our brothers who have committed no crime, who have known no criminals, who just came to America from another country, because they believed in the freedom and democracy that we are so willing to abandon.
On that note, let’s talk about MOVIES, gang!
HOORAY FOR MOVIES!
There’s another group of people who don’t believe in the American ideals, and they are the French. That is because they believe in the French ideals. Which are the same as American ideals, except more romantic, and better looking.
(I guess. I’m not geographer.)
The French have a new movie to offer called AMELIE. This is about a gal called Amelie, a goofy dreamer with a childlike innocence and sense of mischief.
The story kicks in when she stumbles across a boy’s time capsule hidden inside her apartment. She tracks down the original owner and secretly returns it to him. This inspires her to go on a number of secret crusades, covertly doing good deeds for her co-workers, neighbors, and father. Amelie is a nice gal, practically a saint, but she’d also agree with that bumbersticker that says “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” (at least if it was translated into French). So she also plays cruel pranks on an asshole who torments one of the people she tries to help.
Of course, this is Paris so there’s gotta be romance somewhere. Amelie finds a man (played by Mathieu Kassovitz, the French dude who directed La Haine) and she courts him by choreographing the same sorts of fanciful tricks she uses to manipulate the lives of those around her, leaving him mysterious notes and photos, leading him on scavenger hunts. But will she ever have the balls to talk to him face-to-face, and find out if he lives up to her dreams?
This is directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet, one of the two who did The Delicatessen and City of Lost Children. This is not grim like those two but is obviously the work of the same mind. It is visually stupendous and loving crammed full of whimsical observations, strange coincidences, funny little stories and even occasional special effects to illustrate Amelie’s powerful imagination. You can tell this fella kept a journal of every idea he ever thought of and worked them all smoothly into the screenplay.
What this is is the romantic comedy to end all romantic comedies. The movie that Chocolat wanted to be but didn’t come close to. It is absolutely unique and it would be hard for anyone with a heart not to enjoy it. It will be a huge crossover phenomenon, especially with Miramax behind it. People are going to go crazy over this movie. Oscar nominations are guaranteed, and well deserved.
The point is, I HATE THIS FUCKING MOVIE. AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Because there is no way you won’t love it. It’s embarassing.
Please do not tell anyone I liked this movie. Or that I walked out of the theater with a big smile on my face, feeling high as a kite. Looking at the line of people around the block waiting for the next show, thinking, maybe I should get in line, see it again. If I hadn’t caught myself I might’ve even used the word “delightful” in describing the movie. Oh, jesus. I’m gonna catch hell for this.
Another movie I saw recently from a French director was CRYING FREEMAN. This is an older movie from the fella who directed BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, which is playing film festivals now and getting some hype in the internet movie nerd community.
Crying Freeman never got released in the US but if you look hard now you can find a region free dvd of it. It’s based on a japanese porno comic strip and it stars Mark Dacascos, one of the finer of the lesser straight to video martial arts stars.
I’m not gonna say this is a great movie, but I kinda liked it. It is very influenced by John Woo, but it was made back when that was a new idea in the US. Mark Dacascos is a sculptor who gets brainwashed by some weird Chinese cult and becomes an assassin. If it were up to him he’d just be making pots all day and maybe fucking this white girl painter he hooks up with, but it’s not up to him. So instead he’s hiding weapons in his clay, going around showing off his tattoos and murdering people, getting in shootouts. But when he kills people he cries.
Again, this goes back to my theory of Badass juxtaposition: sculptor/assassin. murderer/crybaby. dangerous/sensitive.
But what’s really important and historical about this movie is this: it was filmed in Vancouver, Canada. And it takes place not in New York. Not in Los Angeles. Not even in Chicago, or Paris. No, it takes place in… Vancouver, Canada!
You Canadians – and I know there are some of you out there, because you were so offended by my Ginger Snaps review (sorry, fellas) – tell me, is this the first time ever? Has a movie EVER taken place in Vancouver?
The only thing that would be better would be if it was filmed in New York but took place in whatever Vancouver neighborhood Rumble in the Bronx was filmed in.
THE FILMS OF SNOOP DOGG
If you read my review of THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE on The Ain’t It Cool News web sight then you saw my complaints about the release of this horror movie BONES.
They advertised the shit out of this picture, making it look like the new Blacula. The rapper Snoopy Dogg plays a ’70s blaxploitation style hustler who was murdered and comes back as a ghost in the ’90s to get his baaaaaadaaasss revenge and re-hook up with his girlfriend, Pam Grier.
So I decided yes, I’ll see Bones. And then it was released. In Renton.
No theater in Seattle played it. There were 4 theaters in the state playing it, the nearest one requiring two long bus rides to out in the middle of nowhere, a big megaplex across the street from Ikea.
I’m not sure if it was worth the trip or not. I enjoyed the picture on its own level as a Nightmare On Elm Street sequel with Snoop instead of Freddy and blaxploitation flashbacks in place of insane asylum flashbacks. Like Blacula, they made Snoop’s character Jimmy Bones pretty sympathetic. He was a numbers runner, not a pimp or anything, but he made it rich, drove fancy cars, gave money to the children of the neighborhood just like Goldy in THE MACK. Then some hustlers and a dirty cop tried to get him to agree to bring crack into the neighborhood. He said no, so they killed him, and later he’d return as a dog-themed ghost to get his revenge.
Snoop Dogg is perfect for Jimmy Bones. He’s so tall and lanky. He looks so effortlessly cool. Like he’s lazy about being cool. They dress him up like Superfly but have him walk around in the dark in slow motion.
The best part is when he cuts off a guy’s head and carries it around, and it talks to him.
The movie needed more Jimmy Bones, though, and they should’ve stuck with him being sympathetic. It makes you uncomfortable when one of his victims is a pretty good guy, but also a sellout. Who do you root for? It’s interesting. But then at the end he just turns into a monster and starts cackling like Freddy.
Also there’s this a little bit of a SPAWN feel to it. They got the guy from The Pretender as the dirty cop, but for no apparent reason he wears fat guy makeup.
Still, I’d watch Bones 2. If it was playing in my state. Especially if they have the severed head as his wisecracking sidekick.
A sequel I wouldn’t see, though, would be THE WASH 2. Because I didn’t like THE WASH 1. This is a movie starring Snoop Dogg and his mentor Dr. Dre. It is directed by DJ Pooh who co-wrote FRIDAY, a pretty funny movie. But he also directed THREE STRIKES, which made me think, maybe he should stick to being DJ Pooh. Come back when you’re Director Pooh.
He’s almost there. I really liked the photography. It has a gritty, almost documentary look to the lighting. A huge step up from the cheeseball, homemade feel of Three Strikes.
Also the performances are good. Snoops is just playing kind of an asshole, but Dre is his more responsible roommate who gets a job as the manager at the car wash where Snoops works.
Most of the plot is driven by money frustrations, and that’s what really works about the movie. Dre has to ride the bus to work. He gets his water shut off right after taking a shit. He gets a hot date but he is embarassed to say he works at a car wash. And then it turns into a disaster because how do you have a romantic date without your roommate getting in the way?
(go watch Amelie, probably, but Dre didn’t know about that.)
Dre deals with all this believably and for a first time actor, better known as the owner of a record label who has been a famous pop star for something like 15 years, this is a fucking miracle.
But this is an unofficial remake of CAR WASH, you’d wish you could say something better than “I liked the acting and lighting.” Like, “I laughed at least three times” would be good.
Unfortunately the movie’s just not funny. When they try to make it funny most of the time all they do is humiliate the poor doctor. They show him sitting on the john with a sweaty forehead or, worse, rubbing his crotch while he listens to Snoop getting it on in the bathroom at work.
And why does somebody have to take a big shit in every DJ Pooh movie anyway? Is that some rap thing I don’t know about?
So I’m changing my criticism of DJ Pooh. You’re almost Director Pooh now. But come back when you’re Writer Pooh. And bring Dre and Snoop with you.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.