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This film is part Natural Born Killers, part Falling Down, and part Idiocracy. It ought to be compulsory viewing as part of highschool… with teachers drilling home the idea that being rude, uninformed, or media whorish are crimes that will be punished by radom & violent deaths.
It’s dark, hilariously funny, and remarkably well made for something with such a small budget.
The film revolves around Frank, an insurance clerk that hates what society has become, full of self-entitled prats that can’t even understand the difference between entertainment and debate, that justify anything so long as it’s entertaining. Likening America to the Roman empire in its decline, as the show has some brilliant satirical swipes at current TV shows like TMZ with “TMI” or the weekly hype cycle that turns a laughing stock into a national celebrity in the space of three days, Frank finally snaps when he realises that with his diagnosis of a terminal brain tumour he has nothing left to lose and decides to commit suicide… until he sees Chloe on a “reality tv” program being a product of the times, and decides he finally has a purpose.
Frank charges himself with ridding the world of people without basic courtesy and the minimum level of awareness to even be a nice person, and the cultural pustules that enable and even advocate such behaviour.
It’s interesting to see Bobcat Goldthwait (Z from Police Academy) work as a writer and director. What a lot of people don’t realise is that the guy is actually an amazingly bitter intellectual, which informs a lot of his standup… which most people have never seen as they’re mostly interested in hearing him talk oddly and scream while wearing silly clothing. A big issue with this film is that the character dialogue isn’t natural. The actors do a lot to make it flow more realistically, and even some of Goldthwait’s directing helps with this, but his writing is… I’m not going to say preachy, but it definitely feels like the kind of dialogue you’d get from Rand’s or Heinlein’s characters: the characters who are Right are witty and erudite, while the characters who are Wrong are craven, base idiots who can only fall back on strawmen and non-sequiturs. To be fair though, that’s exactly what the film is raging against – the dumbing down of society. To be fairer, I’ve personally seen this (and some of the exact debates) in action. Here’s an example:
Frank: Oh, I get, and I am offended. Not because I’ve got a problem with bitter, predictable, whiny, millionaire disk jockeys complaining about celebrities or how tough their life is, while I live in an apartment with paper-thin walls next to a couple of Neanderthals who, instead of a baby, decided to give birth to some kind of nocturnal civil defense air-raid siren that goes off every fuckin’ night like it’s Pearl Harbor. I’m not offended that they act like it’s my responsibility to protect their rights to pick on the weak like pack animals, or that we’re supposed to support their freedom of speech when they don’t give a fuck about yours or mine.
Office Worker: So, you’re against free speech now? That’s in the Bill of Rights, man.
Frank: I would defend their freedom of speech if I thought it was in jeopardy. I would defend their freedom of speech to tell uninspired, bigoted, blowjob, gay-bashing, racist and rape jokes all under the guise of being edgy, but that’s not the edge. That’s what sells. They couldn’t possibly pander any harder or be more commercially mainstream, because this is the “Oh no, you didn’t say that!” generation, where a shocking comment has more weight than the truth. No one has any shame anymore, and we’re supposed to celebrate it. I saw a woman throw a used tampon at another woman last night on network television, a network that bills itself as “Today’s Woman’s Channel”. Kids beat each other blind and post it on Youtube. I mean, do you remember when eating rats and maggots on Survivor was shocking? It all seems so quaint now. I’m sure the girls from “2 Girls 1 Cup” are gonna have their own dating show on VH-1 any day now. I mean, why have a civilization anymore if we no longer are interested in being civilized?
It’s a great speech, but very few people are this eloquent without it being a prepared speech. Even if they could come up with the words, the precise and flawless delivery from Frank, whilst great in the context of a movie, just doesn’t gel with me as being something anyone could actually do with such ease.
There is another part of me that feels that Goldthwait made this film also in part due to the virtual burying of Idiocracy by FOX, a company that’s known for it’s keen sense of keeping anything that might make its audience feel intellectually threatened or present them with alternative points of view that aren’t clearly labelled as “jokes”. This is a film clearly aimed at the sort of people that realised Beavis & Butthead wasn’t a hilarious cartoon of idiots doing idiotic things for their entertainment, like Jackass, but a stark warning on what happens when you spend all your time watching MTV and never aspiring to anything (The only redeeming features of B&B was that it spawned two rather good, thought provoking spin offs in King of the Hill and Daria). MTV and the majority of its audience clearly missed that message, because Judge got booted from the show, and MTV continued to tone down the intellectual and musical content to the point that it had to make a spin-off channel of its own for music, and teenagers today are surprised when MTV does play video clips.
Much like Idiocracy, the film makes me want to weep for showing precisely how ugly society truly is.
It even has that feeling of prophecy about it, considering that Anders Breivik has even used similar rationale in the recent days of his current court case, and people are similarly using his current infamy/celebrity to bolster their own.
Two years ago we went to the MICF showing of John Robertson’s A Nifty History of Evil,a delightfully macabre little show.
John is back in town with his new show Blood & Charm,which was a smashing success at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
It’s an amazingly grim, yet somehow very amusing mix of bedtime stories and personal anecdotes for very fucked up people (i.e. regular readers of this blog…. or as regular as you would be if there were more regular posts, but I’ll still blame you for this… somehow). Jokes about being a child’s entertainer that gets to punch a child in the face at a party. Childrens’ fairytales about how little matchstick girls fall into solipsistic doubt before freezing to death. Anecdotes about his previous girlfriend that liked razors more than Johnny Depp or how his father that happened to be a massive fan of slipknots (not the band). The kind of thing that would make a genuininely good childrens book for adults like Go The Fuck To Sleep.
Even without the manic grin that can only be likened to Death putting on a flesh mask, it is all genuinely funny. There is no need for nervous laughter or the “I’m laughing because the only other option is crying” sort of chuckles because John has managed to find a perfect form of self-deprecation that can only be termed “autoschadenfreude”. If you are going to see a show at the comedy festival, it better bloody well be So You’ve Decided To Host An Orgy, but if you’re going to see more than one, then this better be on the list as well.
Shows are only daily at 10pm at the Victorian Trades Hall in Carlton.
Tickets ($20/$15conc) are available through the MICF website and box office or at the Trades Hall box office.
I was recently put on to this cartoon by a good comedian friend of mine, Michael Connell. Considering he’s a clean comedian, I’m not sure how it fits into his media diet. I have a mental image of him secretly delighting in all the crass humour, innuendo, and straight up fuckeduptitude that this show puts forth.
Think of a world where demons, vampires, wizards, monsters and robots have lived in society all along. It’s kind of like Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld in the modern era. Imagine what New York City would be like if that had been the way of society all along. There! You have Comedy Central’s new animated series: Ugly Americans.
The series focuses on Mark Lilly, a human social worker at the Department of Integration. He’s charged with getting various immigrants and non-humans to become naturalised in the way of American life. Unfortunately, his girlfriend is also a demon and happens to be in charge of HR, whilst their branch manager is yet another demon who consistently is looking for ways to get rid of Lilly. Combined with a resentful, alcoholic wizard as a partner, and a zombie that’s going through brain withdrawals as a house mate, it’s a fun little romp.
So far the show has two seasons and with the exception of the first episode, it doesn’t particularly matter if you watch them in or out of sequence. They’re almost entirely episodic, similar to The Simpsons, which in some ways is a pity as there’s clearly scope for a long running series. The animation style is somewhat similar to Daria, and the humour is fairly reminiscent as well… if Daria perhaps lived in Bon Temps.
Here’s a clip!
|Ugly Americans||Thursdays 10:30/9:30c|
|Mark Lilly, Action Hero|