“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Check Point

I don’t think any of you would disagree that I’ve been neglectful of DTV action lately. I’ll always try to see the new Scott Adkins and what not but I don’t get down in the dirt like I used to. I mean I’m proud of the other stuff I write about, but I do have some concerns about the state of my mojo. And to be honest I’ve been feeling a little down worrying that too many of my proudest moments are now associated with skeezy people. It’s like, I mention the guy I wrote a book about, the websight I started out at, the place where I did my first public appearance, I gotta distance myself from three different sexual harassment scandals. And as I’m about to post this I just found out about allegations against an iconic hero for most of us around here, and it’s absolutely crushing me.

I’m gonna have to start hiring detectives to do background checks on these people before I start writing books on them. Pretty soon the fictional characters in my novel are gonna turn out to have secrets. I’m gonna have to write strictly about inanimate objects, because people always turn out to be creeps.

I know it’s more important to expose scumbags than to make sure I feel good about my legacy, but it’s kind of a bummer. So while I process all this I’ve decided to put more effort toward seeing probly-gonna-be-shitty-but-hopefully-not DTV/VOD type action movies like I used to, to see if it brings me back to full strength.

So far the results are inconclusive. I started with CHECK POINT, a film from this year, directed by Thomas J. Churchill (LAZARUS: APOCALYPSE). I chose it based on the following signs of b-action legitimacy in the cast: professional wrestler (Bill Goldberg), horror star (Kane Hodder), professional wrestler turned horror star (Tyler Mane), blaxploitation icon (Fred Williamson) and great character actor (William Forsythe). The lead turns out to be Kenny Johnson, who I assumed was also a wrestler because in close-up he looks kinda like present day Mickey Rourke, but in fact he’s an actor who I would’ve recognized if I watched The Shield or Sons of Anarchy.

But after a couple scenes I realized he was the sucker who Traci Lords brings to the Blood Club in the opening of BLADE. He looks alot tougher these days.

It’s slicker than some movies of this type. Good font choice on the credits. Great drone footage. Some effective uses of southern rock, though it also has enough modern country songs to make me worry I’m gonna get stuck in an uncomfortable political conversation with it. (There’s a reference to a veteran knocking down American flags because he doesn’t like the president – I couldn’t tell if it was a generic fictional president, a swipe at Trump, a leftover swipe at Obama, or a filmed-when-we-assumed-Clinton-would-win.)

There’s also some filmatistic over-eagerness. It opens with a dedication to a deceased cast member, then a quote from James Comey’s favorite theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, then a suspicious claim that it’s “INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS.” It has a fairly intriguing cold-open close-quarters fight scene inside a submarine, followed by a type of title logo I like: the type that’s sizzling hot and then pounded into metal.

The fight turns out to be a flash-forward, but when they get to it again toward the end there’s nothing particularly significant about it, there’s no further context to explain why the dude is doing a monologue about James Dean, and they make you sit through the entire fight again, unedited.

Also the movie ends with a Ronald Reagan quote. And outtakes. So there’s alot going on here.

But there are signs of real character. Johnson plays Roy, an ex-Marine, now homeless, sleeping under a rock on a beach. He wakes up, stumbles down to the shore, cries, drops to his knees like the ocean is God and he’s begging for mercy. It’s a pretty wrenching piece of out-of-the-blue grief, and impressive acting since I was thinking he was some WWE dude.

Then a weird balding guy comes over, kneels next to Roy, tries to comfort him. Some random dude? No, a friend. Another homeless guy named Grant. The small yappy dog that follows around the bulldog. He has a crazy voice. A funny voice. OH MY GOD THAT’S STEPHEN GEOFFREYS FROM FRIGHT NIGHT. Decades later he looks like a different person but yeah, that’s Evil Ed.

Johnson makes odd choices for an action hero. He looks the part of the troubled Special Forces vet turned homeless badass enough that he could walk around looking cool like Chance Boudreaux or John Nada. But that’s not how he plays it. His hair is always mussed in dorky ways, his clothes are too big, he’s covered in filth, he scratches himself alot, sometimes his expressions look like a kid in an adult body.

He lives in a small town in North Carolina where everybody knows each other and eats breakfast at the same place every day. (This seemed weirder when I thought it was supposed to be a Chinese restaurant, but I guess the dumplings they keep talking about don’t represent the whole menu.) Roy and Grant sit on the cement by the back door and get scraps from the owner Suzie (Michelle Lee, BLOOD & BONE) and then get chastised for it by her husband Kenny (Ricky Harris, MURDER WAS THE CASE, TALES FROM THE HOOD, THICK AS THIEVES, SIMON SEZ, BONES), who knows of Roy’s military past and thinks he needs to clean himself up and get a job.

Alot of people in town do care about Roy. Goldberg plays TJ, some beer-belly dude (I only mention that because I read that he gained weight for the role, which is alot of dedication for a pretty small role) who drives the motorcycle equivalent of those pickup trucks that look like they ate two other pickup trucks.

He’s an old war buddy or something and is looking for Roy to try to give him a job on his farm.

Meanwhile, some shit is going down in town. A tough wrestler-looking lady in leather pants (Krista Grotte) is murdering dudes in hotels. And the news keeps talking about American soldiers joining a terrorist organization. And the sheriff (Forsythe) walks around looking friendly, calling people by their first names and asking “How the hell are ya?” He goes to shoot the shit with his mechanic buddy Chester (Williamson in more of a Danny Glover role). TJ seems to be striking up a relationship with his daughter’s teacher (Mindy Robinson, V/H/S 2, GINGERDEAD MAN VS. EVIL BONG), an ex-army medic. Not to be judgmental, but this lady is practically wearing Daisy Dukes to school, it’s kinda weird.

These various threads seem to come at us in random order and at a leisurely pace, with more time spent on sitting around drinking coffee in the diner or beer on a porch than on Hodder as Cyris, a terrorist who burns candles, makes speeches and carries “the master plan” for taking over a battleship on his lap top. He makes a strong impression in a couple scenes and then is barely seen again. But it made me think about the irony that Hodder has a great voice but will always be remembered for playing Jason.

Then Grant stumbles across some terrorists making an execution video in a warehouse, and ends up becoming a co-star. Roy sees it on TV and realizes the terrorism is coming from inside the town, but everyone thinks he’s crazy. Turns out (SPOILER) the sheriff is actually part of a sleeper cell planning an attack, so a group of veterans – Roy, TJ, the teacher, Kenny – band together to stop them, mostly with guns.

Harris, who died of a heart attack at the end of last year, gets kind of an interesting arc as Kenny. He’s obviously a comedian by some of the joke lines he gets, but he gets real mean with Roy, and then serious when he has to kick ass. He discovers his wife is involved in this and shoots her! I looked Harris up and it turns out he was the husband of Dee Barnes and a childhood friend of Snoop Dogg who did a bunch of voices on Doggystyle, most memorably DJ EZ Dicc, host of the Jack-Off Hour on W-BALLS radio.

(warning: catchy song with off-the-charts misogyny levels)

CHECK POINT definitely intrigued me at first. It has that mix of accidental strangeness and surprising good qualities that can make DTV action enjoyable. But the pieces never come together smoothly or build to any kind of momentum, and by the climax I had mostly lost interest.

In fairness, though, it did give me some things to think about, almost as if it was about something more than the obvious “bad things can happen in small towns” premise. There’s this old friendship between the sheriff and Chester – a white cop and a black citizen – and it seems completely genuine. But when the shit goes down and Chester is in the way the sheriff is still willing to shoot Chester, even if he doesn’t feel great about it. And there’s alot of talk about the civil war and Abraham Lincoln, because Chester has this tunnel under his house that supposedly dates back to those days (long story). So the sheriff’s actions could be a statement about the nature of white supremacy, that there are people like this who maybe in their regular life might be friends with people of different races but when it comes down to it their ideology supersedes the actual people in their life, they don’t truly respect their humanity. Kind of the reverse of GRAN TORINO where getting to known his Hmong neighbors overwhelms his usual state of being a racist asshole.

But this uprising isn’t BUSHWICK. The movie makes a point of the insurgents not all being white dudes, which seems to point to it not being about racism and me reading too much into it.

I can’t really recommend CHECK POINT, but I can say it has more going for it than some. The MVP is Forsythe, who is so all-in on the nice guy sheriff part of the movie that I really believed he was gonna be a good guy for the whole movie, despite my awareness of his filmography. And it was cool to see Geoffreys again. I would’ve liked for Hodder and especially Mane to have more to do, though.

(Not to discourage you from using my Amazon links, but I confess I found this one streaming on Netflix.)

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.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2017 at 3:30 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

45 Responses to “Check Point”

  1. I hope that I can help you in being able to recommend DTV movies that I come across as being particularly good. As you’ve already seen Acts of Vengeance and 24 Hours to Live are good ones. Also, if you have Amazon Prime, there is a ton of old PM Entertainment movies that might liven your spirits up like a bunch of Gary Daniels movies.

  2. Thanks Sternshein. I’ve tried contacting the publicists for both of those. If that doesn’t work out I’ll see them when they come out.

  3. Man, this review was a rollercoaster. Despair! Reagan quotes! Evil Ed?

    Vern, my heart goes out to you. Your predicament is a tough one and I’m glad you’re taking it head-on. These revelations are making us all look at lots of things in a new light. The way I’ve been trying to deal with it is to remember that movies aren’t made by one pervert. Hundreds of people makes these things, and I bet only five, six of them, tops, are sexual predators. The rest are people doing good work. Just like you’ve done good work on SEAGALOGY that you should still be proud of.

    But christ, Stallone. My brain won’t even let me process that one yet. I feel pretty bad about an argument I got into here about how Rocky wasn’t a rapist.

    What movie were we talking about again?

  4. Vern, I want to wish you encouragement with no pressure for you to receive. Sometimes one just finds oneself in a funk–for good, identifiable reasons or for no obvious reason–and you gotta process shit, lick your wounds, and go through a very personal journey of death, reintegration, resurrection. Of course, usually but not always this will involve scaling a Siberian mountain.

    It’s a very alarming and vertiginous thing that dudes are going through right now, coming to grips with how prevalent it is for women to experience dudes doing shitty, unwanted lecherous stuff, and coming to terms with people not being who they once were or who we thought they were, or whatever. At the same time, it’s also powerful and even beautiful and encouraing that people are speaking their truth, shining a light, and hopefully inaugurating some real change.

    I think the challenge is to hold people accountable without demonizing hem. These guys need to own their deeds and be held accountable for them. And, ideally, they, too, will go through a process of grieving their actions, gaining insight and remorse, healing, making amends, and move forward in some constructive way. Our knee-jerk reaction is to feel that we have to dehumanize and demonize the victimizers as if that is all they are, as if they have no worth and basically deserve permanent exile or death. To me, that is counteracting evil, ignorance, and dehumanization with more of the same. I think these dudes deserve significant but impermanent exile and consequences (career, monetary, criminal), with some redemptive possibility contingent on a legitimate process of repentance, amends, and growth.

    Yo, Adrian, it’s gonna be okay.

  5. Wow, but, fuck, man, these Stallone accusations. I really hope that is not true, and if it is, I would have a lot of compassion for a person who would want to go lynch mob. It’s some straight-up horrific evil criminal shit.

  6. Vern, I know that both Acts of Vengeance and 24 Hours to Live are on on-demand. However, 24 Hours to Live is currently, or at least at the time a week ago, was 9.99. I ponied up because I was so excited so I justified it as that is how much going to a movie in the theater would be.

    The Stallone thing does appear completely out of character for what I imagine Stallone’s character to be, that I’m willing to go with innocent until proven guilty. It’s weird, though, that if it was, let’s say Donald Trump, I don’t think I would be willing to give them the benefit out of the doubt. What’s that about?

  7. Sternshein, I think it’s about a well-documented, frequently caught-on-camera-or-audio pattern of being a compulsive shitheel–is what that’s about. I have a level of empathy and compassion for even Trump, but just as Kevin Spacey has no business making movies for a long, long time, Trump has no business being on city council, much less President.

  8. Vern, I feel for you. I have been wrestling with some of the same feelings. It is hard to see cultural icons that have been large parts of our lives exposed as creeps and scum bags and I feel terrible for their victims. I believe that because you wrote the book on Seagology, you are uniquely qualified to help foster a conversation about these uncomfortable issues about how we feel about and consume art and how that relates to what we know about the artist If there is a positive take away from all this I am glad to see the conversation and cultural shift taking place around these disturbing events. hopefully going forward we will see less of this type of behavior and the people that do assault and abuse others are punished.

    I also have to confess to knowing all the words to “It Ain’t No Fun”, I grew up listening to it but it makes me uncomfortable when I hear it now. Unfortunately a lot of the hip hop of my youth is not just mysogynist but I could argue it promotes/supports rape culture.

  9. Also, Vern, man, I just want to say, you are bigger and better than this shit as far as feeling like your origins are tainted or whatever. You’ve long since transcended where you came from and chosen the road less traveled in your ideals and your writing, following your own code and generally being ahead of the curve on a lot of shit, breaking with shit that is toxic and whatnot. That’s a common bad-ass trope, where you find out your old mentor, partner, or your whole old squad turned into a bunch of fucking double-crossers, turncoats, snakes, or just sad sack disappointments. And you’re left trusting your own instincts and weapons and that bad-ass code and maybe leading constituting your own squad, boldly leading them into the unknown. You’re a samurai and a man apart, so please don’t look back or to the side, but just keep looking forward and trusting yourself and your code. That’s some hallmark bullshit perhaps, but I feel it passionately for you. All these fucking creepers who fail to live up to your ideals and their own ideals don’t nullify the ideals. Every counter-example of a decent person endeavoring to do right and learn counts, too, it’s not just these guys, who got twisted by the dark side and whatnot. Sorry, dude, this whole thing is ironically triggering my inner Mickey or Rocky 6 motivational speaker energy, and may be too soon, but the point is that there is a compelling and even cinematic narrative in which to cast your plight. It’s second act conflict and stakes-raising, not the third-act dystopian ending. Fuck that noise.

  10. Maybe it’s me based on my own history or what, but I find it easier to get past certain things people are being accused of. The Weinstein and Spacey stuff it’s pretty easy to be like “well those guys are terrible human beings” but am I supposed to think that Al Frankin is even in the same conversation as those guys. Or that Dustin Hoffman is somebody I can’t look up to?

    I cried on the day that Chris Benoit died, before I found out what happened, because it was somebody that I grew up idolizing and thought the world of the guy. I then found out he murdered his wife and son and to this day I still have only watched a handful of stuff involving Chris. It sucks because what he did in the ring shouldn’t have any bearing of what he did on the outside of the ring.

    Also, I should mention, that I was in a fraternity in college and I’m embarrassed at the completely misogynistic bullshit myself and others pulled in college. I didn’t learn a damn thing in college other than that paticular behavior was wrong. I’m not perfect but I think we should all be allowed to grow as a person, don’t you think?

  11. I think that’s the part I’m getting at about demonizing, Sternshein. There is so much pressure to be on the right side of loudly denouncing these dudes, that there is no nuance, continuum, or self-reflexivity to look at oneself as both complicit and caught up in something bigger and that is shifting underneath you, which is something I’ve gone off on in these threads before as far as slacktivism and social media/24-hour news cycle mob psychology. It’s very easy to cross the line from taking a strong and passionate stance and demanding change to French Revolution / DARK KNIGHT RISES storm is coming, dangerously self-righteous and non-self-aware politics.

    Dark and degrading male sexual energy is a thing, and it’s not just in Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein. If you’re a dude, chances are at least some of it is in you, too, or has been. What this means is that we can certainly differentiate between varying degrees of acceptable to egregious behavior, but it is a continuum, not two neat boxes where the good guys are in one box, and the bad guys are in the other. Most of use are in the flawed box, and of course, some of us are in the darkest sadistic nook of that box.
    But most dudes are in that box or have at least passed through it or seen it. If you listen to golden era G-funk hip hop or if you look at the sex/horn-dog comedies of the 1980s early 2000s, or you look at the fact that 35 years-ago, ideas like date rape and sexual harassment did not really exist, or if you look at the Anita Hill testimony as a watershed moment of its own, or if you’ve been in a high school locker room, or wandered onto a porn site–you know that the line between our evolving modern ideals around “healthy,” tender, non-objectifying male sexual energy vs. dark, degrading, coercive male sexual energy is a thin and blurry one, and the tendency of many (most?) men at some time or another to dehumanize women or regard them as high-quality human blow-up dolls is a pervasive one. We’re all complex, falwed, works in progress here, I would submit.

    Now, at the same time, I don’t want to relativize or blur the line to the point of saying “we’re all Kevin Spacey” or “Harvey Weinstein is just a normal guy,” because, speaking for myself, I have never raped or groped or cat-called or offered to trade sexual favors for a job or whatever. But I’ve thought about women as objects, felt entitled to what I want sexually, watched pornography that in some cases probably involved women who found themselves getting degraded on video out of desperation or being taken advantage of. It’s a time to take a look in the mirror and call others to account while also acknowledging that we all have dark urges and ideas and have in different ways enabled or participating in this stuff–indirectly or directly, physically or virtually, in our words or blind eyes or enabling. These truly sadistic guys who acted on their shit in these ways deserve their reprisals, and their behavior deserves condemnation, prosecution, etc., but I think it’s important that we not get so caught up being self-righteous and on the right side of the mob that we fail to be self-critical or compassionate. Dark male sexual energy is a thing, a lot of guys could do better in managing it, and, it’s a continuum in terms of thinking shit or fantasizing shit or saying boorish shit all the way to being a rapist. Let’s all do some reflection of where we’re at with that in our own lives and in our words, etc.

  12. Technical question – is it just my phone, or are the recent comments and jibber-jabber not displaying in the sidebar properly?

    Existential question – What the fuck will we do when all our heroes are gone? This Stallone thing is gutting me big time. This morning in the car I listened to Van Morrison’s Rough God Goes Riding, and this line just slayed me – “There’ll be no more heroes, they’ll be reduced to zero, when that rough god goes riding”.

    Who is this rough god? And how can I stop him from decimating my heroes?

    I’ll hold out hope until the dust settles, but I mean, fuck. Just…fuck.

  13. Skani, you’re really on point with that “flawed mentor” take above. thanks for tossing that one out there.

    I forget which relatively recent review — within the last year or so — it was in which Vern linked to the 10-year-old AICN comment thread that had basically led to him breaking with that site (i think?), but it was a fascinating, depressing, illuminating, and ultimately heartening read (heartening if only because it led many of us away from AICN and to this and other film criticism sites). if i recall it right, it boiled down to an issue of differing maturity levels between Vern and AICN’s most vocal commenters, which may have included that Massawyrm guy (again, sorry if i’m getting the details wrong).

    I’m bringing that up now because i think very nearly all of the sexual assault/misconduct/advantage-taking that’s coming to light in the media really does boil down to an alarmingly broad and long-shadowed epidemic of arrested development in American culture, particularly among men, one that is not restricted to the film or political sphere by any means. I have no solution to offer, other than the hope that the famous and non-famous men of our society who are mature enough to have willpower, self-control and empathy as general habits of mind find and take the opportunity to disseminate those ways of being to the scared, lonely, desperate, confused, and/or legitimately mentally ill majority.

    it’s not my intention to excuse any of these peoples’ behavior by what i’m about to say, but i can’t help having doubts about the actual long-term effectiveness of unilaterally vilifying and shunning the perpetrators, which so far seems to be the way each revelation is addressed by the media at large. Obviously these people are not role models, and many/most of them would qualify for prison time based on extant laws, but i worry that the non-famous among us who are grappling with their own guilt and shame for similar behavior will see what happens to “that kind of person” and wind up burying or straight-up denying all their own related thoughts and feelings out of fear. only to have said behavior manifest in explosive or ever-more-insidious ways somewhere down the line. it could probably be argued that such denial is exactly how a lot of these high-profile guys started down the path of such shitty behavior in the first place.

    the most optimistic thought i could muster after Trump’s election was that America is going through a very ugly and troubled adolescence. obviously i meant that as a metaphor and not a comment on actual mental maturity levels, but i guess it applied there too. may we get through it in one piece.

  14. Grimgrinningchris

    November 18th, 2017 at 6:46 am

    If anyone figures out which review had that link, please speak up… I really want to read that.

  15. Vern, your legacy rests on the strength of your analysis, not on the subjects you choose to analyze.

    I can’t improve on what Skani wrote above, but I can tell you this: your time on AICN was a heroic attempt to push back the ocean with a broom. The debates you instigated did not change the culture of that site, but they certainly had a positive impact on me. To this day I marvel at the respect you brought to your interactions with some really hateful, entitled dudes.

    Chris, check out the reprehensible BRATZ review at AICN. Vern’s contribution to the comments section are goddamned righteous.

  16. That review is indeed an unchecked dumpster fire of misogyny but I couldn’t find any Vern comments. Are you thinking of the notorious SEX AND THE CITY 2 review?

  17. Hey guys, listen, if you have Amazon Prime, there are at on of 90s DTV action films from PM Entertainment. I just watched Recoil with Gary Daniels and god damnit that movie was all sorts of amazing. You should watch it immediately.

  18. This frankly should not surprise anybody. It was the 80s, it was Hollywood, he was Stallone. Most of our male heroes in show business likely have something like this. And this story is about an unearthed police report from 1986. Worth reading to give a view into this kind of behavior. No physical intimidation but intimidation nonetheless and then veiled threat afterwards.

  19. That Snoop Dogg song (which like every other dude my age was my JAM in high school) just made me realize how bad it’s gonna get if/when these types of accusations start coming out about musicians. I can’t think of any specifics (and I REALLY don’t want to do any research to find out) but aren’t there all kinds of stories just out in the open about 60s and 70s rock stars having sex with underage groupies? And rappers… geez. There’s no telling how much of my favorite music I’m just not going to ever be able to fully enjoy again. Hopefully we can just get all this shit out there and forgive the people who truly regret it and deserve forgiveness and say “it ends now” and never tacitly accept it again.

  20. Skani is right on about the whole thing being a spectrum. One thing that I think amplifies a lot of these incidents is power or success. I think there are true predators who are going to victimize people no matter what else happens in their life. And I think there are truly honorable people who think about their behavior and how it affects others and choose to act honorably. But I think the largest group are people who get caught up in something and don’t have the inner strength to know themselves and what their actions do to others. Give them a little bit of power, money, success and they screw up. And then if you add in something like alcohol, sometimes someone is just an entitled, drunk, asshole. And, I am not talking about anything that leads to a physical attack. I’m talking about making aggressive passes, disgusting “jokes” or comments, etc. I think those are the people who can exhibit real regret and become better people. At least I have to believe that or I’d end up writing off all people and become a cat lady.

  21. GrimGrinningChris / Jareth / Mr. M — turns out it’s actually Massawyrm’s Sex And The City 1 review from 2008 (thanks for pointing me in the right direction, Mr. M). The headline of that one deserves a warning all its own.

    I might have stumbled across it a year back from somebody here referencing it in a comment thread– Vern might not have been the one to cite it. I don’t want to speak for the man himself and say that’s why he stopped reviewing for AICN, too, that’s probably a more nuanced story (that i’d be interested in hearing, fwiw). And “heartening/fascinating” might have been the wrong words to describe that diarrhea-bath of a comment thread; it is mostly a giant bummer to revisit. But it is heartening to know that this site is here, and I appreciate the way pretty much every regular commenter on here conducts themself, so thanks Vern for creating and maintaining this space, and for having led by example for as long as you have.

  22. I just want to echo psychic_hits appreciation for the culture and community that Vern has cultivated here. I first encountered Vern’s writing on AICN and I used to read CHUD back in the day, but I was never interested in joining the conversation on either of those sites, and it has been more years than I can count since I visited either of them. This is the only site I have ever commented on, and that is due to the entertaining, smart, and respectfull culture/community Vern has created. This is the only website that I have felt comfortible enough to share my often typo riddled thoughts on, and featured conversations worth engaging in.

    Thanks Vern, and shouts to the other regular contributors that have followed the example he has set.

  23. Yeah we rule.

  24. MaggieMayPie– you make a really great point about power and intoxication. clout/power in hollywood is probably intoxicating enough without alcohol thrown into the mix, but of course alcohol is thrown into the mix whenever possible. your thought that most people fall into what we around here might call the “i need time to change” category is encouraging, though. i hope you’re right.

    maybe another crappy effect that power can have on a person, especially institutionalized power like in Hollywood or DC, is that the power-havers succumb to the culture of telling themselves that only losers and weaklings “second-guess themselves” (i.e. what some might call “reflecting on my decisions and course-correcting if they’re not working out”). thereby entrenching themselves more and more deeply into patterns of truly awful behavior.

  25. I agree that the issues we are discussing hear are symptoms of the toxic mix of a poor moral compass combined with power and/or privilege. I also feel that it is a sickness that has plagued mankind since we first walked the earth, and that it will never truly go away. However, we as a society can learn to be more conscientious of it in our world and be more active in our fight against it in hopes of minimizing it. Kind like how a drug addict can get sober but they will always be an addict, and they will always have to fight the urge to relapse. Our society can be aware we have a problem and confront it, but it is a battle we will allways be fighting. I am glad that we as people want to be better and expect more out of each other, even if it challenges the way we look at our heroes/icons and how we view our selves.

  26. And to add to the greater discussion overall, after those two awful misogynistic reviews, Massawyrm went on to a successful screen-writer career.

    As for everything else I don’t think I have anything to add personally (especially after Skani’s great post). The Stallone accusations hurt the same way they are hurting all of us. I truly do hope that this is leading to a great long-needed reckoning all over. Hopefully it is making us look inward. I always try to do so but I still mess up and now with all ‘this’ going it’s forcing me to look even harder. If this is run-off from Trump’s win, maybe we can look back at this (considering it continues and finally gets at least ‘some’ house-cleaning done) as one of the (very) few good things coming from it.

  27. One thing I have noticed about this conversation, and not just here on this thread but as a whole when we discuss sexual assault in our society is we tend to only look at it as a sysptom of male sexuality and I think that is dangerous. Most predators tend to be men and I agree with the observations about the dark side of male sexuality that have been discussed in this thread but women can be guilty of sexually predatory behavior as well. I am not saying that to defend men or try and shift or marginalize blame, but we can’t be blind to the fact that this is problem for both men and women. We live in a male dominated world and throughout time women have been marginalzed and lacked the power and privilege to act on their dark fantasies but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. To often we hear about female teachers taking advantage of younger male students, and I personally know of a female on male Sexual asalut that happened to someone close to me. (MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING) My friend was sexually assaulted by a mutual friend of ours when he was drunk at a party. He was so intoxicated he was not aware of what was going on, and by the time he did she had removed his pants and was on top of him ridding him. Once he relized what was going on he was so wasted he struggled to get her off of him and she was didn’t listen when he said stop. He practically had to fighter her off of him. She was a friend but not someone he was in a relationship with or attracted to. He did not flirt with her or invite her advances in any way, and to make it more fucked up he was a virgin at the time so the experience had an even more harmful impact on him. Later when I learned about what happen I confronted her about it, and she saw nothing wrong with her behavior. She said he was making a big deal out of nothing, and if he didn’t want it why was he erect enough for them to have intercourse. It was a disturbing denial and rationalization.

    Again I am not sharing this story to shift blame I just want to provide prospective that this not just a symptom of male sexuality but of human sexuality in genral.

  28. I think that’s fair Charles. Not to take anything from your friend’s experience, which I take as a legitimate case of rape, my sense is that male-initiated aggression is far more prevalent. So, I do not think it is inaccurate to characterize sexual aggression and degradation like this primarily–even if not exclusively–as a male issue. Generalizations like this can definitely be misleading as far as ignoring an important minority of cases, but it would be even more misleading to imply that it’s a 50/50 split of men/women aggressors or even anything close to that. I’d be shocked if it’s even a 95/5 split.

    Here is an old but reasonably on target backgrounder on gender and sexuality:

  29. Sorry, the link doesn’t seem to be taking. You can do a Google or Google Scholar search on “Human Sexuality: How Do Men and
    Women Differ?” by Peplau.

  30. Skani, I don’t disagree. As I said I my previous post I believe most predators/offenders are men, and I am by no means trying to be some sort of “all lives matter” asshole about this issue and marginalize or take focus away from the dark side of male sexuality or the fact that this type of disturbing behavior is predominantly perpetrated by men I just don’t think we should ignore the fact that women are capable and guilty of the same predatory and hurtful behavior and we can’t just frame it as a men’s issue.

    I am not sure it is worth me trying to further elaborate my point because I lack the skills to best articulate it without it making me seem like I am being defensive or ignorant, but when we discredit womens capability to sexually abuse others we are also marginalizing their victims. That is just one story I shared, but my mother is a therapist that has worked with juvenile sex offenders for years, and like many sex offenders their actions are a learned behavior and you would be surprised how many of them were abused by women.

    I also understand there is a big difference between male and female sexuality, but at the risk of getting off topic I could argue that female sexuality has been oppressed by our male dominated culture. Men and women might be arroused In different ways, but that doesn’t mean women are not capable of having the same type of sexual appetite men have. Women have just been shamed into not acting on their sexual desires while men have often been championed or idolized for their sexual expoilts. I am a fan of Ric Flair and he his known for bragging about is sexual activity and the number of women he has slept with but if a woman did that she would be labeled a slut or whore. This double standard and deniele of female sexuality leaves us blind to the reality that women have the potential for the same adusive sexual behavior we have predominately seen from men.

    I hope none of this has offended anyone and I am not trying to shift blame or make excuses for the unhealthy parts of male sexuality in or society, but as we evolve as a culture and more women are given the opportunity to be in positions of power and have the opportunity to explore their sexuality without fear of being shamed we are also going to hear about more instances of women sexually abusing others.

    At the end of the day I just want us all to treat each other better, and feel bad for anyone that has been pressured into sex or the victim of unwanted sexual behavior.

  31. For my part, I’m not offended, Charles. I think that’s all legit. I think there is some risk that in the current context, it comes across a bit as an all lives matter sort of thing, just in terms of the timing, but I think you overcome that concern with your generally well-rounded and nuanced accounting of things.

    There is, of course, tremendous diversity of sexual tastes and practices and what not, so it’s always dangerous to paint either gender with a broad brush. At the same time, like I said, I don’t think we do anybody any favors by pretending that there aren’t some strong on average differences in male and female sexuality. And I know it’s not popular to attribute these things to biology, but sexuality is a pretty strongly biological urge (being that it’s a major driver of our species’ evolution and survival and all), and you see certain gender-stereotypic differences in sexuality that also show-up in the differences (on average, of course, there is variation here, too!) between gays’ and lesbians’ sexual habits (see again the article). Also, speaking for myself, I had an incredibly active sexual imagination going back to elementary school and prior to being exposed to pornography or anything like that. So, my read of my own life experience, my social experiences and conversations, and existing sociological/psychological research leads me to the conclusion that sex is not just a malleable cultural construct, but it’s a malleable social construct that has some serious biology working under the hood. If it were nothing but a construction or a malleable set of norms and attitudes, then it would be no problem to just pray or condition the gay away, etc. Turns out that cultural can channel and re-direct and sublimate and restrain our sexual urges; and it can give us new wild ideas about kinky things we might want to try (if we’re so inclined to seek out novel sexual practices), but it’s not going to simply condition us to turn aversions into likes, etc.

    All that to say that, I’m sure we’ll all learn new things about female sexuality (sexualities) and our sexuality as our cultures continue to evolve, but I do believe biology is a strong factor at work. As a rule, I think women are just far less inclined to be sexually predatory, even if given the chance. Doesn’t mean all men are predators or boors, doesn’t mean all women are June Cleaver.

  32. Skani, I agree and part of me was reluctant to even say anything for fear of it muddying the waters of the conversation we are having and coming across as an all lives matters jerk that is in denial about the reality of the issue we are disscusing. Again I apologize if my words have come across this way. I also understand there is a very complicated conversation to be had about human sexuality and how that relates to the nature vs nurture debate regarding human behavior, and this might not be the time and place for it without risking taking focus away from the issue at hand that is harmful and inappropriate behavior perpetrated by men. Even though I would much rather be discussing movies with you guys I am glad we are having this conversation, and I hope that my words have added to that conversation and not subtracted from it.

  33. Actually, Charles. You inspired me to dig into this further, and I have to now walk back a bunch of that shit. The picture looks a lot more nuanced than I realized (or the stuff I read in the past led me to believe). I’m glad you shared your story, and I apologize for being as relatively dismissive as I was.

    The Understudied Female Sexual Predator

    According to a new study, sexual victimization by women is more common than gender stereotypes would suggest.  

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/04/male_rape_in_america_a_new_study_reveals_that_men_are_sexually_assaulted.html

    The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions

    We assessed 12-month prevalence and incidence data on sexual victimization in 5 federal surveys that the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted independently in 2010 ...

  34. No need to apologize I am just glad we are talking about this stuff.

  35. And thank you for sharing those articles they do a much better job of articulating the point I was trying to make.

  36. Grimgrinningchris

    November 19th, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Okay. I just read that SATC talkback.

    I don’t know how I either missed or forgot about it.

    And now I’m just sad.

  37. Is it always sexual assault when a man kisses a woman, and she doesn’t want it? What if he kisses her without asking first? The problem is that these two things are sometimes indistinguishable from each other. I am not in any way talking about a man kissing a woman when she doesn’t even know who he is (as seems to be the case with several of Trump’s accusers) or when a guy takes advantage of an obvious business relationship, even if it is show business (as seems to be the case with Al Franken). I am talking about the nerve-wracking process of going in for your first kiss, as a guy. Sometimes you go for it, and it works, and it’s wonderful. Sometimes you go for it, she cuts you off before any contact, it just turns embarrassing, and you deal with the consequences. Sometimes you go for it, you make contact, she squirms and objects, and it’s even worse.

    The fact of the matter is that barely anybody who has even gone in to kiss a girl has asked for permission first. That kind of weak behavior could easily break the mood if the woman wants you to kiss her. There’s really nothing romantic about asking permission. To some degree, women actually like assertive men. They want to be kissed — that is, they want to be kissed, when they want to be kissed. If you pretend that a man trying to kiss a woman is sexual assault, then most of us are children of rape. That’s just bullshit.

    This in no way excuses a man who doesn’t know the natural progression of these things. You go in for a kiss, if the mood seems right. It’s pretty easy to see if this succeeded or failed. If success, maybe after a bit you escalate, but you always respect rejection. It’s not difficult.

    That said, any man who just goes straight to grabbing somebody’s private parts should be thrown in jail.

    So one thing that bothered me during the lead-up to election of 2016 is that there was some woman who was plastered all over the media accusing Trump of sexual assault. This was just one of many, and I find many of them credible, but this woman was on an airplane next to Trump long ago, and after talking for a while he kissed her, and apparently she kissed him back, and after a while he put his hand up her skirt, and then she objected.

    This is not sexual assault. This is how thousands of people meet each other and have sex every day. When she objected, did he stop? I think so, from her story it seemed like her main complaint was that he put his hand up her skirt when they were kissing. I have put my hand up a few women’s skirts while we were kissing, and I have had my hand slapped once or twice, and that’s fine. Pretty much every time I got my hand slapped we even kept kissing for a long time afterwards. I can’t think of a time when getting my hand slapped ended the night.

    However… I was never the boss of anybody before trying to have sex with them, or in charge of hiring or firing, and I am not a celebrity, or rich, and I have little power in the world, and there is a much different dynamic when those things are involved. And when somebody has a following and takes advantage of it, I think there’s a difficult balance here. And there is a really difficult balance between accuser and accused.

    Physical threats against anybody are clearly assault, or whatever the legal term is. It’s wrong. But if I am a rich and famous guy into kinky sex and a woman comes around and wants to have sex with me and I agree as long as it’s a threesome, then she has the choice to walk out. If she goes along with it then what is the problem? The Stallone accusations are disturbing because the girl was 16, and because of the physical threats if she exposed the encounter. Both clearly pretty bad, if true (which begs the question, how can you prove or disprove a single uncorroborated allegation like this??).

    If I’m a movie producer and I use my wealth and status to trick or coerce young actresses into uncomfortable sexual situations then that is clearly sexual harassment. Or if I’m the President of the USA and I use my power and status to solicit blowjobs from somebody on the intern staff that is clearly sexual harassment. But if I’m a rich powerful guy who uses my wealth power and status to get laid right and left, that is obviously just the way sex and power work.

    There is usually a pretty clear line and many of these celebrities and powerful people have gone way over the edge. I don’t want to defend anybody who is obviously in the wrong. There seem to be a lot of completely clueless men out there who confuse social and business connections with sexual interest, and at the same time confuse sexual success with gold diggers as well as accidental success with women who are too frightened or shocked to say “no” with actual success in the sexual marketplace. And sometimes in a rare moment of clarity a man actually admits that he knows that what he was doing at the time was wrong, like Louis CK. He never seriously believed that women wanted to watch him masturbate, and he knows it, and he knows that he was taking advantage of their vulnerability and naivete, and he now admits it. By the same token, I find it hard to believe that 60+ year old Donald Trump really believes that a 25 year old woman in the elevator really wants him to kiss her the first time he sees her. There is no way he is that delusional, and the Access Hollywood tape proves it. He doesn’t care, he sees that young woman as an object that he can do whatever he wants to, and she will let him because he’s famous and she has no recourse. And for some reason this is dismissed as “locker room talk” by hypocritical degenerates all across America.

    Okay… how do you distinguish, legally, between a guy trying to kiss a woman who barely knows him, clearly has no sexual interest in him, and never would, and a guy trying to kiss a woman and just striking out? The difference in my mind is that the first is due to intentionally creepy and predatory behavior, while the second is due to misreading signals and sometimes just poor judgement. Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between those two things from a legal standpoint, or at least I don’t know to do it without demanding explicit consent before every escalation of sexual contact between two people.

  38. Rainman, it might sound crazy, but hear me out: if you ask the person you want to kiss if it’s okay for you to kiss them first, going in for your first kiss with that person will be about 1000 times less nerve-wracking for you than it will be if you just take the plunge.

    There’s nothing weak about discussing the physical dynamics of a relationship before they’ve happened — and that’s ultimately all ‘asking for permission to kiss someone’ really is, right? Whether the relationship is minutes, hours, days, months or years old, it takes strength of character to do that. (Although, I mean, it’s going to seem sleazy if you tell someone you’ve known for 3 minutes that you want to have sex with them, but you don’t need me to tell you that.) But treating someone else with respect and consideration, and having the confidence to appear vulnerable to that person, is incredibly attractive to so many people, regardless of their gender. And that’s exactly what you’re doing when you let someone know you want to kiss them before you try to do it.

    Next time you’re with someone who you have reason to want to to kiss, why not try asking them first? Worst case scenario, you have to wait a little longer to kiss someone. Best case scenario is a hell of a lot better than that. Just remember, if they laugh or say no, they probably wouldn’t have been into it if you’d just “gone for it” either.

  39. It can be confusing for guys and girls, though, just because sexual dynamics have had a lot of weird messaging and expectations around them forever. I one time asked a girl if I could kiss her, and she laughed about it (because no one has ever *asked* her that), but she thought it was cute, so it worked to my advantage in the long run. Shrug emoji.

  40. Rainman – I understand where you’re coming from. I like it when guys are aggressive. But it can also be really hot when someone vocalizes what they want to do to you. It’s just another social interaction we have to figure out how to maneuver, much like where you talk about reading the situation to see if someone is open to getting physical.

    Overall, I think it’s a good thing that we all have to figure out how to both ask for and give consent. I’ve had friends who have had some come to Jesus moments out of all of this and have wondered if there were moments in their past when they did something that the other person wasn’t into. Hopefully some good will come out of all of this and people will make more effort to do the right thing.

  41. Isn’t this such a more pleasant, respectful and intelligent conversation than that nauseating SATC talkback.

    I’ll never discount the joy that the Demon Dave and Walter B and Stallone talkbacks brought us over there, but even those don’t outweigh just how nasty that place could get.

  42. I don’t remember there being a specific time when I left AICN, I just kind of fell away from it and I always wanted to come back but not unless they started paying me. If there was a specific breaking point is was when Devin Faraci had a falling out with Chud and Harry ran his coverage of Sundance (or whatever was happening at the time) and Faraci was making a big deal publicly about Ain’t It Cool being willing to pay their writers properly unlike Chud. I had never fully blamed Harry for posting my shit for free, because I had started out doing it as a lark and it just grew into something bigger without me every laying down the law. But at that point it started to feel dishonorable that he hadn’t made it right.

    Although Seagal himself is probly irredeemable I do believe in the “I need time to change” philosophy and it is my impression that Cargill is a different and more mature person now than he was back in the SEX AND THE CITY days. But then that was how I felt about Faraci and his past still came back to get him.

    Anyway I really appreciate these various discussions going on here. Thank you all. I’m sure we’ll be wrestling with this stuff for a while.

  43. If it makes anybody feel better, new stories about the Stallone thing lead me to believe there is a benefit of the doubt on this girls story.

  44. I’m late to the comment party as usual, and I definitely don’t want to take away from the amazing, sensitive discussion that took place above (a discussion that should set some kind of standard for how to conduct yourself online), but I have to comment on the poster for CHECK POINT.

    “Run Hide Fight” is a line straight out of the workplace violence training that became mandatory at work a couple years ago; specifically, it outlines your three options when some asshole comes in and starts killing people. It’s very weird to put that on a movie poster, especially with gun toting tough guys behind it. Anyone who knows the origin of those words will not get the right ideas about the your film.

  45. So I went back and watched an interview with Jessica Leeds, who is the woman who was sexually assaulted on the plane by Trump. “Allegedly”. I said above that I remembered her kissing Trump back, and then objecting when he got too handsy. I don’t know where I got that idea and the only thing I can think is that my memory of the interview was distorted by the pro-Trump propaganda machine, because rewatching the interview with Anderson Cooper (which I am pretty sure was the one I watched a year ago) this was NOT the case and this woman does not say anything of the sort, she claims she was not at all cooperative during the act and didn’t know what to do and was basically kissed inappropriately for a long time and then Trump got handsy on top of it until finally she escaped.

    So I apologize for my misrepresentation of the interview and what she says happened. I am about as anti-Trump as you can get so I really don’t know how my memory has failed me. This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that I would even want to get changed in my mind, and yet somehow it did.

    This is perhaps a testament to the power of lies, and the long-term effect of simply denying over and over and making up opposing viewpoints and presenting them as facts, to the point that even people who don’t want their minds changed can’t remember truth from fiction any more. I am not saying that this woman’s story is guaranteed to be 100% true (though I tend to believe it, but some would argue that this is my bias talking), I am saying that my own memory of this woman’s account — the facts of the interview and what she said on TV — became distorted. And that’s a little fucked up.

    Sadly, women back in the 70s and a lot of them even today don’t feel like they can say no, or slap a guy, or back away and stop what is happening, or even call for help, when a guy is kissing them and they don’t want it. I hope this Me Too movement, and the taking down of celebrities, and politicians on both sides of the aisle, and CEOs of major corporations, goes a long way towards fixing our society, because it has been broken for a long time and it needs change. Anybody who argues otherwise is part of the problem.

    Anyway, sorry for propagating propaganda. I seriously did not mean to.

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