September 1st, 2005

filmy

A grudge against film goers

So I stopped writing reviews of old films I see from time to time because it was boring me and everyone else and served no real purpose. Occasionally, though, there comes a film that I really need to talk about.

The Grudge is such a film.

Because it sucks.

It sucks THAT much.

I didn't go into The Grudge expecting a masterpiece. I didn't even expect to like it. On the other hand it did make over $170 million at the box office, so while I didn't expect inspiration or artistry I did expect competence. There was none to be found. To explain just how bad this movie is would take someone with more eloquence and experience than I in the art of panning, but suffice it to say it sucked hairy goat balls. Very hairy goat balls.

While Sarah Michelle Gellar was marketed as the star of this unholy cinematic mess, she was in fact merely one member of an ensemble cast. I say ensemble because there were a bunch of cast members with roughly equal screen time, not because they worked well together or well-coordinated. In fact I can't remember a film I've seen with this little chemistry between not just ostensible on-screen lovers, but just about everyone. Sarah Michelle Gellar is so bland that to call her a cracker would be an insult to saltines, but she nearly sparkles with charisma when surrounded by this group of slugs. Very rarely do the actors seem to be in the same movie. It's like a bunch of people showed up for a film-shoot without being told other actors would be there, and did their best to pretend they were alone. Maybe they were all filmed separately and spliced together later, I don't know.

Then there's the plot. Or rather there isn't the plot. There isn't a plot. It's plotless. Twice during the filming, once during the opening credits, we are told that in Japan there's a legend that if someone dies in a state of extreme anger or sorrow their spirit lingers on, haunting the place where they died. Naturally the movie then focuses on a haunted house. What it does not do is explain any of the rules of the haunting, from whether there are limitations on the ghosts to what a person can do to break the spell (though it is implied that destroying the house might be a solution, there's no particular reason to think the ghosts wouldn't continue to haunt the patch of land it was located on.) In fact it's never quite explained how anyone earns the ire of these spirits. It appears that going into the house is enough, but several policemen and medical examiners do so with no ill effects, and one woman is killed all the way across town for no apparent reason.

That's another thing. In most haunted house ghost stories the ghost hauntings are limited to the house itself. Leave the house, get safe from the ghost. That's why so many of them take place in spooky mansions with lots of halls to run down and gates to slam shut, trapping people inside. If they took place in an apartment the people would rush for the door and either die or make it out in about 20 seconds. Not much of a story. This movie takes place in a Japanese house with like five rooms, and people do regularly make it out the door when they realize what's going on. The thing is, that's not enough. The ghosts can appear anywhere in Tokyo, or maybe the world, and can do virtually anything.

Of course horror fans don't really care about plot, they want to know one thing. Is it scary. The answer for The Grudge is yes and no. It has its share of chills and scary moments, but they're all cheap and unearned. It's not that hard to scare viewers if you stick the camera in the face of a victim and have them walk alone through darkened halls towards their doom. It's even easier if you get gruesome creatures to leap out of shadows at them making strange noises, or appearing in random reflections without rhyme or reason. It isn't, however, a fear that sticks with you. It's not like in Night of the Living Dead, where the horror has resonance in the real world and follows you out of the theater. Watching scenes of rooftop survival in New Orleans recently has reminded me of "Dawn of the Dead," where the same sorts of tactics and hope are employed against a sea of zombies rather than floodwater. The Grudge has no such resonance. It's just a bunch of people being tormented to death for no apparent reason. Even the motivations of the ghosts make no sense. They were victims of a nasty crime, and so they go around murdering random other people because...?

I know I shouldn't judge "The Grudge" for what it doesn't do. It's just escapist entertainment. But it's bad escapist entertainment, terrible really, and the fact that it made so much money is just mind-boggling. It has literally nothing going for it. It's just a low-budget Ring ripoff, (Down to the dead girl with the long black hair) and it deserved to die at the box office much more than its characters did. When it makes $170 million and a movie like Land of the Dead, which at least attempts social relevance and plot coherence, makes less than 30...

I don't understand why people like movies this bad. It's not a matter of taste or personal aesthetics, The Grudge is as close to objectively terrible as a film can get. It has no reason to exist except to make money, but I don't know how it did that either. Sarah Michelle Gellar can't have 17 million fans. Can she?
pod

Reduce Profanity Now

As our moral leadership has been telling us for years there is far too much profanity in the media these days. Nothing poisons our children faster than foul language. Not unjust war, not propaganda, not false science in the schools and a news media that cares more about Paris Hilton than the war in Iraq.

Nope.

Cursewords. They're the problem. They are responsible for the ills in modern society. Therefore I am proposing that we re-consider a plan to phase profanity out of our daily speech and insert more descriptive, happier, words in their place. Let me give some examples.

Fuck:

This is the granddaddy of them all. The big F word. The one that raises hackles more than any other. We don't need it. I propose that we take a two-pronged approach to replace fuck. For the part of the word that refers to sexual activity we can simply used intercourse, a much cleaner more appropriate term. As for the slang use of fuck as either an ejaculation or to mean "Messed up", we've got a perfect new word to replace it.

Bush.

So, for example, if you make a mistake at your job that causes huge problems, like crushing debt for the company and thousands of deaths, you just say "I really Bushed up at work today." Or if you are talking about someone who never gets anything right, has moronic ideas, and is a complete failure as a human being, you can say "Oh Larry, he's a real Bush-up."

Simple, yet effective. It's a Bushing great idea.

Asshole

This term also serves dual functions. It refers both to a particular portion of the anatomy and to a person of little or no value. Since the anatomical part it references is hidden from view by the buttocks, and often full of fetid feces, there's only one term that can adequately replace it.

Cheney.

"That guy's a real Cheney." "My Cheney itches something awful." Simple, effective, and totally non-offensive. Who could be against it?

Shit

Rumsfeld...just...Rumsfeld. A big pile of Rumsfeld.

Cocksucker

This one is very offensive since it only refers to a single act of unspeakable vileness. It's representative of everything wrong and horrible in this world.

Ashcroft/Gonzalez

"What an Ashcroft."

"Oh baby, I love you so much, I'm going to give you a full on Gonzalez tonight."

Finally we need a meaning for the term Condoleeza. Frankly I think she sounds like a Sexually Transmitted Disease. Chlamydia, Condoleeza, potato potatoe. I say that her name is well suited for the clap. "I have a bad case of Condoleeza." "Oh man, leave that girl alone, she's got Condoleeza."

Any thoughts?
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Sippin' the hatorade

No more jokes

I was going to write something funny today. Something about the looters needing bling to signal rescue helicopters, or the NRA putting out a press release approving of the fact that guns were looted first.

I have always believed that the proper thing to do in the face of tragedy is to laugh. To laugh so that you won't cry. To stand and chuckle so you won't be brought to your knees.

After what's been happening today I find myself unable to do this. The void we are staring into is one that laughter cannot abate. It is the maw of the abyss and it deserves our awe, not humor. There but for the luck of the draw go we. Washed out to sea, drowned in our homes, baked to death by the sun on our own rooftops, murdered by gangs of marauders. The death toll piles into the thousands and all I can think as I sit here is how preventable it all was. How everyone knew it was coming and nobody did the necessary work to prevent it.

New Orleans, jewel of the Gulf Coast, has been reduced to a war zone. A horror film. It's night of the living dead down there, only the zombies carry rifles and crave green slips of paper instead of human brains. Disaster isn't the right word. Cataclysmic is too soft. Apocalypse has too many religious overtones. Words do not exist for this contingency.

The scientists who studied this kind of thing saw it coming. New Orleans is a bowl, they said. The wetlands that would normally slow the hurricane down were gone. The levees were old and sinking. We needed a plan. We needed taller walls. We needed reinforcements and new technology. We needed to be prepared. We were not.

George W. Bush slashed the budget for the Army Corps of Engineers projects in New Orleans. He needed the money for tax cuts and the war in Iraq. He needed the money to fatten Haliburton's bottom line and play Nekhebt, bringer of laws. He thought there were better uses for those millions of dollars than to protect the millions of citizens in one of the nation's great cities. Once again disaster has struck on George Bush's watch and once again he is directly to blame. The only argument against this is that the levees may have failed even if they'd gotten the proper funding. We'll never know that, will we? God help us, we'll never know that.

Meanwhile the thin veneer of civilization has worn off in the big easy and gangs run the streets. Normally the national guard would move in to secure the city, but much of it is off in Iraq dying for no known reason. There weren't enough helicopters, there weren't enough men. Now FEMA has called off relief efforts because it's not safe for rescuers. The men in the streets are shooting at them and there's nobody to stop them. There's nobody to restore order. There's nobody to save the men, women, and children trapped in the newest incarnation of hell on earth.

There weren't enough Guardsmen, you see.

I wonder whether George Bush and his cronies will taste the blood that's on their hands the next time they take a sip of water. Whether just for a second they will imagine what it must be like to be surrounded by the stuff and yet to know it is full of cholera and pollutants. To literally face the cliche of water water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Death by thirst or drowning. Those are the choices. I'll bet not. I wonder if they'll look at the landscaped greens of their country clubs and known the money they spent there could have been used to shore up the defenses of a city always fighting a war against the water around it. I wonder if they'll look into the water traps and see drowned black people, their bodies pale and bloated as they bob along by the dozens. I doubt it.

There's nothing funny about what's going on because it was preventable. We can laugh in the face of death, but not in the face of murder. This is murder, or at the very least negligent homicide. I say murder.

Murder. Murder. Murder.

The animals with the guns are responsible for what they are doing, but the government had a responsibility to not let it get to that point. To prevent a city from lapsing from chaos into hell. Survivors accounts now read like something straight from a George Romero script. Babies are being raped and murdered. Men are leaping from the balconies of the super dome because they see nothing left to live for. Those who live will bear those scars for life. The others? Their bodies won't see burial for weeks.

Murder. Murder. Murder.

For those of you who think that our votes don't matter, look at the recent defunding of the levees then look at the recent transportation bill. Look at those things and weep. For less than the cost of the useless new bridge in Alaska we could have had a better chance of saving New Orleans. We spent that money on PORK. WE spent it. We the people who voted those cocksuckers in. Who'd prefer our districts get a little taste than the money go where it's needed. There's no excuse. There's nobody whose hands are clean here.

And nobody whose hands are as dirty as Bush's.

This is not America. Not anymore. It's some other country. Some country where imperialism is more important than life itself. Some country where thousands can drown in an earthen bowl because god damn it the rich need tax cuts.

It's not a time for laughter, it's a time to get angry. Very very angry. I'm very very angry.

Murder. Murder. Murder.

I hope to god when Bush sleeps tonight he sees those faces and hears those cries. I hope he knows that if there is a god he should be shaking in his boots. Shaking like the people who drew their lasts breaths trying to scramble up to the roof. Shaking like those who heard their flights were canceled well before Katrina hit and holed up in a hotel. Shaking like my fists in between the words I hammer out on my keyboard. Shaking because he knows what he has done and what can never be undone.

If we don't learn from this, if we can't learn from this...then democracy is just another word for bullshit.