Monday, 7 June 2010

Summer of Jan Brady

Poor, poor summer of 2010. You’re like the Jan Brady of summers; a complete disappointment to everyone. You don’t yet have a Marcia’s-nose-sized box office explosion like Dark Knight, Finding Nemo, or Transformers 2, nor do you have an adorable Cindy-indie (500) Days of Summer or Little Miss Sunshine. Even your two biggest hits so far, Iron Man 2 and Shrek Forever After, did not perform nearly as well as was hoped and were not met all too favorably by critics. Sex in the City 2 has people questioning if the sequel is dying, Robin Hood was considered a success because it didn’t bomb, and I feel like finishing the title MacGr___ would be like rubbing salt and vinegar chips in a wound.

Though, to be fair, I personally am not all too disappointed. Of the five successful summer films I listed, one of them is my whipping boy, one is a backup for the first, one I would hate if I could muster the energy, and two I’m lukewarm on (for those of you who don’t know and clearly this is your first entry, first off, hi, and secondly, in order, Dark Knight, (500) Days of Summer, Transformers 2, and Finding Nemo and Little Miss Sunshine). Last summer delivered hits like Star Trek and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. One was good, one wasn’t so good, neither were great, and I’d probably place Iron Man 2 in their ball park. Whether or not they grossed more does not mean that I had a better or worse summer. If millions of people saw Terminator Salvation but I didn’t, then it really has not effect on my film experience of the season.

Sure, last summer delivered some amazing films such as Inglourious Basterds, Up, and The Hurt Locker (I still contend that 2009 was a tremendously underrated year for film, especially within the last decade), but only Up would have been seen as characterizing the summer before Oscar season hit.

But I digress. The summer has just stared. Actually, despite the fact that former students of mine are posting “Done with high school” as their statuses and it is a sweltering, humid 95 degrees outside (or was when I started writing this entry), it is not even summer yet. So let’s take a look as I weigh in on some big films that the summer still has in store for us. NOTE: I’ll only be looking at bigger “summer” pictures. I also left out any I just had nothing interesting to say or that were too much of shooting fish in a barrel (see: Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore)

The Karate Kid (6/11)
– starting off on a low note: I don’t care. It’s a remake of a movie for which I have no nostalgia anyway. I somehow do not see people who know or have seen the original being all that interested, nor do I think the karate/ninja craze holds this generation like it did for kids of the 90s. It will flop, and good thing because my hatred of Will Smith extends to his entire family’s acting career.

WILL I SEE IT: Take a guess

The A-Team (6/11)AKA SWAT: Part Deux. Oh, by the way, I liked SWAT. It completely satisfied everything I needed from a blow-em-all-up film. Is it classic cinema? No, but it’s unfairly maligned. This film will probably be very similar and get similar critical/fan reception. And I forget how SWAT did at the box office, but it will do that.

WILL I SEE IT: Probably, but on a Tuesday, so it’s free.

Toy Story 3 (6/18) – I like the fact that Pixar is really starting to sell themselves on the fact that they will make grown men weep at their films. Is there anybody out there who thinks his or her eyes will stay dry throughout the film? Hell, do you think most people will make it past the opening few minutes? The only potential pitfall this film can make is that it will open just as Up did, but for some reason, I trust Pixar enough that they will do it so well that it will just work.

Now people are complaining that they fear this movie is a sign of a Pixar getting lazy. In most cases of sequels I would agree, but here I am not so sure. The Toy Story sequels seem to be pushing the envelope on the ideas of “The End” and “Happily Ever After.” The first film opened up the concept of being forgotten, only to shut it up again quickly and assure us everything would be okay. The second film reopens the box, and while it shuts it, we know that the box cannot stay closed forever and the best we can do is enjoy the time we have. This film seems to be going the next step. Andy is leaving the toys behind. Sure, they are going to find him, and sure Andy is a bit out of touch with reality (talking about how Woody is a brave toy), but ultimately, if I may echo Stinky Pete, can Andy really take all his toys to college?

A semi-happy solution may be found, but I feel it will be bittersweet. And with that, it adds a more foreboding “For Now” at the end of those prior ideas than any horror movie ever could.

WILL I SEE IT: Yes. And I’ll bring tissues.

Knight and Day (6/25) – What’s the appeal of this movie? Can someone let me know? Because people I respect keep talking about wanting to see this film, and personally, I think rewatching Letters to Juliet would be a better investment of my time.

WILL I SEE IT: Take a guess, part deux.

Twilight: Eclipse (7/2)
– the marketing for this film is pretty brilliant actually, or it is if they are doing what I think they are doing. If you haven’t seen the theatrical trailer, it essentially is selling this movie as a Lord of the Rings-esque vampires vs. warewolves fight, instead of as another 2 hours of Bella-Edward-Jacob angst with a side of sparkles and shirtlessness. Why? Either A) the book is actually like that, B) they severely changed the story for the film, or, my guess, C) they already know that (generalization and gender stereotyping time!) every teenage girl is already going to see the movie even were the trailer a shot of a jar of mayonnaise for two and a half minutes. They therefore are trying to entice some guys to see it as well, by showing “Hey! It’s an awesome action movie!” It may not completely destroy the already-existing stigma, but it may work at least in turning it into a compromise for a date movie.

WILL I SEE IT: I see through your ploy marketers. Nope.

The Last Airbender (7/2) – originally, Avatar, then Avatar: The Last Airbender, then it lost the invitation to comparison all-together. The film looks incredibly average, but almost charmingly so, like an incredibly average film that was made in 2002 after The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon craze and then got lost in the sands of Egypt for 8 years before being discovered by Heinrich Schliemann. Oh, and it’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who is clearly making an action, kid-orientated film as part of his penance for the past 10 years of his career, particularly The Happening. Zach Snyder is doing the same currently with the film where the owls fly around and shout “Oh no!” and that’s basically the 90 minutes.

WILL I SEE IT: Most likely not. The aforementioned charm can get me through 5 minutes. Then I have a movie to watch.

Despicable Me (7/9) – I am upset that “supervillainy jokes” are becoming passé. Thanks Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog (aka yet another reason NPH bugs me)! I fear that this movie may be the nail in the coffin of those jokes. And, unlike Zombieland with humor of the undead, the final note will not even be a deliciously triumphant one.


Predators (7/9) – yet another entry in the rebooted horror film genre. It joins the proud ranks of Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and now I’m even more excited to see what Scream 4 has to say about this trend. However, the really interesting aspect of this film is how I have heard nothing about it until glossing over summer movies on IMDB. I am always amazed how some seemingly big films have so little buzz around them.


The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (7/16)
– this movie may win my “dumb but I gotta see it” prize. Plot looks standard and driven by special effects. Dialogue is probably exposition interspersed with typical summer movie attempts at wit. And, er, is there anything else in the film? No. But I gotta see it.

WILL I SEE IT: Yes, but again, on a Tuesday. I will not pay for this.

Inception (7/16) – A lot of people seem to think this movie will be the savior of cinema this summer. Of course, I think there will be a tug of war over people wanting Nolan to be the next great director and the fact that this film does not have a dead actor in it. At least not yet. Leo, I’d watch out if I were you. Hire a bodyguard and don't linger in front of exposed windows too much.

But, my typical thoughts on Dark Knight aside, let me talk about this film as impartially as I can. The trailer seems to present an interesting concept, even if it is not exactly clear as to what the concept is. But I think the film may have the wrong director, and not just because the last work I liked by him was Memento. I adore Quentin Tarantino, but I would never have picked him to direct Requiem for a Dream. Certain styles do not fit certain contents. Nolan goes for a more realistic, stark tone. This film is one about dreams. I fear that Nolan will cop out with dreams, and only go so far as to have water fill up a house or something hang in midair. The necessary surrealism will be forgotten and a phoned-in replacement will take the job for the purposes of story. Perhaps I have been watching too much Luis Bunuel, but I would prefer to see a director more attune to indulging in the unreal.

WILL I SEE IT: Ultimately, this film falls into Star Trek/Terminator Salvation status. If I’m bored on a Tuesday or if some friends are seeing it, I’ll go. But I can’t see myself in most cases going to the movies to buy a ticket. So it’s 50/50. I saw Star Trek, never saw Terminator Salvation.

The Expendables (8/13) – whereas A-Team is SWAT: Part Deux, I fear this blow-em-up may be Snakes on a Plane: Part Deux. It has a lot of hype and a lot of internet geek buzz, but ultimately, it is selling itself on being ridiculous. Just like Snakes on a Plane. And many people like to think that they enjoy bad or ridiculous films, when in fact, they really do not. And they certainly do not want to pay $12 for one when they could just download it or wait for DVD. It will deliver exactly what it promises (as did SoaP), but people will still be disappointed (because they never really wanted to see what was promised anyway) and it will flop.

WILL I SEE IT: Probably. Though I will have just relocated to LA, so that will be an issue. It’s a movie I would like to see, but will not rearrange my life to see.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (8/13) – Michael Cera backlash is so 2008. Seriously, you might as well be cheering for Hilary Clinton in the primaries whenever you unleash a Cera complaint. I'm officially declaring myself post Cera backlash. Which is very good since this movie looks hilarious and fun and even the trailers excite me and puts me in a good mood. It probably is actually the summer movie for which I’m most excited. Sure, it has a QuirkyIndieGirl but the film seems to really not care that much about her aside from being a MacGuffin and she actually seems relatively unquirky aside from her hair. Furthermore, in the anime-video-game setting of this world, that trait may actually be quite normal. Nobody thinks Sailor Mercury is actually punk, despite rocking her blue locks.


Okay, so the summer doesn’t look all that promising, but hey, there’s always beach reading. And summer beers. I think I’ll be okay.

Monday, 24 May 2010

In Search of Lost Real Time

I just watched the 24 series finale. And I feel odd.

I feel sad, wistful, old, regretful, youthful, and invigorated. Which is probably a bit too many emotions to feel over the end of a pulpy television show with a one-torture-per-three-episodes requirement.

One night, a few years ago, I met up with an ex in a pub in London. We had been broken up for a year and the breakup was anything but amicable. A venom-filled root canal may be a more apt description. We talked, we drank, we reflected, we caught up, and we parted ways. A brief spark of what had once been there definitely showed, but it had to shine past the very evident ways we had grown apart and indeed always were not all that much on the same side. I noticed the bad haircut and the big teeth, the annoying jokes and the stupid opinions more than I ever did in our time together. Nostalgia and comfort lost to age and wisdom.

As I watched the recap of the season, with its bombastic DRAMA!, stilted acting, and exposition-heavy dialogue, I thought this memory was an apt comparison. Relationships end for a reason. 24 may have its fun moments, but I stopped watching it very voluntarily (I literally had Fox on and turned it off). Season 6 was painfully bad and indicative of how you can only up the stakes so many times before you are up in LalaLand. I knew at one time this stuff made me all hot and bothered, but now I was above this schlock. I watched Sopranos and Mad Men and appreciated the slow burn.

Then Jack Bauer held a CTU officer at gunpoint and threatened to go to town on his body if he did not comply.

I have also slept with an ex. This might be more apt of a comparison.

By the end of the experience, I was jumping, screaming, panting, and red in the face. I was thrilled like I had not been in a long time. And after it all, I let myself lie placidly in the afterglow of the move that 24 was such an expert in. One that I had forgotten about, dulled down in my memory, unappreciated when I got it every week (and maybe not meant for every week every year), but one that still hit me in the right spot the exact same way it did when I was 14. (Okay, so maybe I lost my Bauer-virginity years before my other one.)

In truth, I do think I enjoyed this finale in a way more because I had not had to labor through the past two seasons of 24. I have not heard good things and keeping up a thrill consistently is nigh-impossible. Furthermore, upon reflection, the finale was really just a jumble of the ends of seasons 4 and 5. They had run out of original ideas, but at least I had not had to see 22 other episodes of recycling…and at least they were borrowing from the best (or 2 of the 3 best, since season 1's finale still gives me shivers).

This end was the one I wanted. One that gave me everything I had loved about 24 without giving me too much to lament its death or my abandonment of it. One that showed my beloved had not changed in our time apart, a good and a bad thing. A lovely final fling with a show with which I had a meaningful relationship.

And this break provided one more benefit. I was not watching the last episode of a series or a season; I was revisiting an old friend. And so often, the oldest memories come first. I was in freshmen year of high school, reading recaps on TWOP in computer applications class with Nick because we finished the assignments before everyone else. Or I was eating baked ziti during a horrible heatwave in the second to last week of April, watching the scene where Jack jumps over a fence and Mason just walks around it. I was in sophomore year, trying to get my mom to stop asking questions so I could hear Jack’s heartfelt conversation with Kim as he faced what he assumed to be his coming death. I still had my old phone with speed dials and would call Nick on commercials. I was desperately trying to watch that damn four-hour premiere for season four in January of a hectic senior year. I had to keep track of those damn VHSes. I was back in my living room after a year of college, jumping up and down as Jack finally took down Logan and exposed his crimes.

I blocked out most sophomore year memories. Date #3 with the pub ex actually was an early episode of season 6 (not Curtis Jack! HOW COULD YOU?!), but who wants to remember the bad times? By the end of that year, I was conducting an affair with Heroes (which also has met the TV reaper). Those two hours on my couch (and floor) acted like a Proustian madeleine, though you are spared a 2,000 page blog entry.

With the end of 24, I feel some tie to the past gone. When I stopped watching Alias or Smallville or Lost (granted, that was after 12 episodes) or 24, still seeing them advertised was a type of reassurance. It let me know that TV has not changed too much since my high school years. Eventually, it began to mean since my college years. I may not have watched Lost or Heroes or 24 this year, but them on the air assured me that not too much time had passed since Luke, Justin, a bunch of other people and I gathered in Bush Hall’s lobby to watch 24 or Jim, Justin, and I engaged in a fierce Heroes/Lost debate. Now that’s not the case.

Stop here if such a maudlin outpouring over a Fox show has already proved too much for you.

If you’re still reading, join me in a toast. To a show as much a zeitgeist of the 2000s (which truly began in September 2001) as any gangster movie was of the 30s or bad, paranoid sci-fi was of the 50s. I might dare argue that 24 is, if not the most important show of the decade, perhaps the most emblematic. To a show that truly made us worry for the safety of its characters and probably had a bigger cast-axe rate than Survivor (the only show that may rival 24 for Show of the 2000s). To one of the shows that began what is now seemingly a dramatic standard of non-episodic episodes. And to Jack Bauer, one of the strangest, most confounding guys to ever threaten to stick a towel down a man’s throat.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Kick-Ass's Target: Spider-Man or Batman?

Ah, Kick-Ass. Don’t you just love when a comic book thing becomes the hot topic du jour? Well, I don’t, but that’s for another entry.

There are about a billion and one topics I can talk about with Kick-Ass. There’s Hit-Girl and how for some reason, holding a kid at gunpoint or knife point (as seen in numerous films, such as Red Dragon, Dark Knight, etc.) or killing him or her off (e.g. The Searchers, Punisher, Gladiator) to fuel a revenge plot are both completely acceptable plot points and really not even worthy of a sentence, whereas once the kid dares to fight back, society has crumbled. Maybe the paradox is related to the idea that kids are sacred. And if we kill something sacred, well then, we can get really upset at the destruction of the sacred object. After all, Christianity is based around the destruction of the most sacred person and how darn great that was and our culture, for better or for worse, is based very much on Christianity. But whereas Passion of the Christ was adored by many a right-wing nutjob, I am relatively certain that Revenge of the Christ would get the picket-treatment. So yeah, violence and kids is honky-dory as long as the kids are on the receiving end. Got that settled? Cool.

There’s also the use of the gay joke and whether or not the movie flopped. Okay, so aside from the main point of the entry, there are three topics I can write about. But my interest lies in the fact that, upon talking to people, there seems to be a general dissatisfaction or uneasiness around how cartoonish the movie gets towards the end.

Kick-Ass starts with a promise of an uber-realistic to the point of hilarious comic book movie. We get to see what would really happen if someone tried to be a superhero: his costume would look a bit dumb, he would be terrified of jumping from buildings and when he tried to fight crime, he would get the ass kicked out of him. Many fans took this approach as a parody of the mainstream superhero movie genre, or, if I may relabel it, the Marvel movie genre. Indeed, the music often turns into a trope on Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man score and even the first 20 minutes or so are a pretty straightforward parody of the first Spider-Man movie.

But that premise cannot sustain itself. To hold the mirror of reality up to the artificial world of spandex superheroes is an entertaining Saturday Night Live sketch or possible even short film, but such an action feature would wear out its welcome fast. How many times could we watch Kick-Ass get beaten up? How many times can he flinch at the edge of a building? A super-hero in the real world movie cannot work because there are no superheroes in the real world. The logic that makes this idea worthy of our attention and allows it to become a satire would be the very same logic that undoes its ability to progress through the necessary three-act plot and reach some narrative resolution. A real Kick-Ass would just be the recipient of knife-points and spend the interim of his hospital stays looking for lost cats.

Thankfully, for the film and the viewer, Kick-Ass is not a parody of the Marvel superhero movie. It’s a parody of the DC superhero film, specifically Watchmen and Nolan’s Batman films. Why these? Just because I didn’t like them? Nah, were that the case, I would have included the Fantastic Four movies and X3 in there. I say this because Kick-Ass is not a parody of the “mainstream” superhero film; it is a satire of the “realistic” superhero film.

The first twenty minutes may be giving us a fantasy-free variety of Spider-Man, but they are also delivering the promises of Nolan or Snyder with abundance. Nolan strove to give us a real urban hero: a Batmobile that “made sense” for city streets, a believable training background for the protagonist, and villains that reflect the problems of society today and use knives as weapons instead of freeze-rays and killer plants.

However, ultimately, as I pointed out two years ago when tearing Dark Knight a new one, Batman is not realistic. A billionaire secreting financing his own one-man war on crime after secretly training decades around the world is only a miniscule bit more believable than webslinging across Times Square. In fact, people should not fear the man in a giant rubber Batsuit, but mock him. And that reaction is the one of the first “villains” in Kick-Ass. Kick-Ass is a crazy person, a nerd, a loser, an idiot in a playsuit. He does the best one can do with the resources accessible to an actual superhero. And it’s funny.

Such a parody makes sense, after all. Why expose the stupidity of a real-life superhero to a series of films that have genetically altered arachnids, weather controlling mutants, and Jessica Alba trying to act? It mocks a genre for not having something it never pretended to possess. However, to go after a subgenre by giving all that it promised but failed to deliver is to have a more worthy target.

But the film extends its satire. It does not simply show what the “realistic” superhero film lacks; it then exaggerates the necessary trajectory of any “realistic” action film. As the film progresses, it descends from this almost hyper-realistic world into a Tarantino-esque Lala-Land. This progression is heralded in by the introduction of Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. These two, in a sense, are the quintessential “real” superhero. Their outfits are dark, they use lethal force, and, unlike Kick-Ass, they deliver a real plot, real conflict, and real results. Yet they are also the most detached from reality itself. Their very costumes and mannerisms evoke the cartoonish. Hit-Girl has purple hair like an anime character and enters to a perky soundtrack that could very well be performed by Puffy Ami Yumi. Big Daddy talks like Adam West’s Batman, everything from which Nolan strived to detach himself. He also paints the areas around his eyes like Joel Schumacher’s Batmen did. Yes, there may be believable reasons for the character’s choices (colorful wigs and weird speech patterns hide identities), but such reasons do not automatically nullify such evocations. Whatever the logic behind such choices is, Hit-Girl looks like a she could join the Sailor Senshi and Big Daddy could say “old chum” any second.

Furthermore, their larger-than-life traits extend beyond their appearances. They take on dozens of henchmen at a time and live. They can catch guns (and even reload them) midair like refugees from The Matrix. In fact, their arsenal itself seems to rival that of the white room in the first Matrix* film. They even own a jetpack because, you know, that’s so much more down-to-earth than just jumping out the window and flying. I know they were stealing money from the drug busts…but could that buy all of those weapons? And wouldn’t someone be able to trace them?

[*In fact, the parallels to The Matrix are quite fascinating. After all, The Matrix attempts to explain the unrealistic, aerial movements of kung-fu action heroes. But how does it do it? By placing everything within an even larger artificial reality, both literally by introducing the Matrix program and by forcing the audience to believe that sentient robots have taken over mankind. I suppose that is more plausible than thinking a man can jump between skyscrapers. I do not know if I was even being sarcastic in that last sentence.]

But these two are very much like Batman or The Minutem – excuse me, Watchmen: cartoon characters running around a real world, trying to pass. But they manage to appear only more cartoonish and their superhuman acts seem more egregiously, ridiculously powerful because they have purported themselves to be below superhuman. In movies such as Spider-Man and X-Men, storytellers introduce a series of rules and mostly adhere to them. We do not question that Magneto can take on a veritable army because he can manipulate metal. Wolverine can take a licking and keep on ticking thanks to a healing factor. Kick-Ass should not be able to endure such punishment. And, in the beginning of the movie, he isn’t. He actually does go to the hospital (a rare locale for a superhero unless he is visiting his aunt or a district attorney) and he seems pretty out of it by the end of his first “victory.” But yet, he goes on to fight another battle immediately after the torture scene. He admits that he hurts and by all means our hero should be returning to the hospital, or at least his bed room. But no, he still manages to take on Red Mist.

This hole is gaping, but upon looking through it, we can see similar instances in Nolan’s films. Batman should show up in the hospital after certain run ins. While amazing, Alfred can only do so much. And his background of service in the British SS seems a bit more ridiculous in a reality where Joker cannot even use laughing gas, so I doubt they would invoke that bit of character history. Or, to return to the prior point, his triumphs over legions of criminals should be directed with the same anime-esque glee that fills Hit-Girl’s assaults, for they should be just as much as blemish on the believability of Chicago-Gotham as Hit-Girl is on Manhattan. The aforementioned jet-pack, the bazooka that ends the movie with an exclamation point (a long line and a dot), and its ilk are all things meant for the funny pages, but so is the contraption Bruce used in his Hong-Kong adventure, his tank of a Batmobile, and even his Batarangs.

In short, the very act of promising reality in a comic book movie only makes it more cartoonish and unreal than a typical comic book movie. We may not believe people can shoot beams out of their eyes, but once we buy into that fact (one no one would ever question Cyclops when watching X-Men), we can believe that the ability to shoot beams out of one’s eyes makes one a one-man army. But we know there are limits to what the human body can do, even if aided by intense training and the best weapons that money can secretly buy. Kick-Ass more blatantly does what Rorschach, Ozymandius, and Batman have already done: made the human superhuman while still trying to pass them off as human. A girl with a sword must be just as competent as Superman, which is even less plausible than the concept of Superman himself.

Sure Kick-Ass may appear more cartoonish than Dark Knight or its ilk, but that is only because it so enthusiastically owns its cartoonishness. But in flaunting its own implausibility, it manages to show that art can never be life. Especially when that art involves wearing a cape.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Kane Mission

Citizen Kane is quite an anomaly when you think about it. Or at least its reputation is. Can anyone agree on the best novel ever written? If asked, someone might throw out Joyce’s Ulysses, but another might immediately counter with Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Even if you limited the question to novels written in the English language, you’d be faced with devotees of Dickens, Eliot, and Melville, as well as those of Nabokov and Twain, but to name a few. Hamlet is the classic example of great play, but not the universal answer for "greatest play." Putting aside those who would campaign against Shakespeare, you could still find Bard enthusiasts who would argue that the man’s (yes, one man) greatest work is King Lear or The Tempest. Subjects as seemingly limited as “the epic poem” find a clash between the mouth of Homer and the pen of Milton.

Yet, Citizen Kane is “the greatest movie ever made.” It tops every big critical list and anyone who makes a case against it is not simply making an argument for the greatest movie ever made, but distinctly marking themselves out as challenging an accepted truth.

And oddly, so many people who have seen Citizen Kane do not like it or even understand what makes it great. Furthermore, the strangest part of that situation is that, unlike a person’s reaction to disliking almost any other great movie, in this case, they actually accept the blame. I have heard countless people challenge everything from The Godfather to Vertigo to Sunrise to 8 ½ to Star Wars. I myself will piss on most Kurosawa films like they were freshly laid snow and I had an uncontrollable desire to see my name. But the standard reaction for Citizen Kane is, “I probably don’t know enough about film to fully appreciate it.” The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the film, but in ourselves.

So the film sits upon its throne, loved by a few critics and film buffs, unappreciated yet revered by many and unwatched by even more. It is a treasure the masses can never comprehend.

As one of those masses, I was not content. I could not figure out what was worse: being denied a marvelous piece of art or being denied the ability to bash a treasure with all the iconoclastic fury I could muster. But reading a book on Citizen Kane would not be enough. I wanted to see, not simply hear, what a marvel it is.

Thus, the great mission was born. The original plan was this: create a list of essential movies to watch made which were made before Citizen Kane and, for a month or two, only watch those movies. Anything that could possibly use post-Kane techniques was to be avoided like electricity on the sabbath. Naturally, this task was not one I could or should tackle single-handedly. I needed a partner, someone with whom I could share thoughts, reflect, and, most importantly, turn to for impetus after a particularly boring film. I immediately turned to Nick, my oldest friend and another budding film geek. I say “film geek” since neither Nick nor I consider ourselves “film buffs.” There are two types of “film buffs.” The first group is those who think that seeing a few foreign films and renting movies made before 1980 on a decently regular basis makes one a film buff. The second are the real film buffs: those who really just know their shit. Nick and I lie somewhere in between the two; we know just enough about film to know we are not buffs.

Upon reflection, perhaps this mission would have made a great Julie and Julia-esque blog. Too bad Julie and Julia came out after we were two months into it. And I console myself with the fact that, knowing me, only the blog or the mission itself could be of true importance. Were I to keep the blog, the mission would be a reason for the blog and, thus, lose its true purpose and my true understanding. I would be watching movies, taking notes on them for quips to make and so forth, instead of allowing them to envelope me. Though, I admit, I would love Amy Adams to play me in a movie. Meryl Streep could play Roger Ebert or Žižek. Is anyone in Hollywood reading this? You're sitting on a gold mine!

But I digress.

We quickly ruled out the isolation approach. After all, Nick was off for the summer and needed to do something to fill his long days; not watching post-1941 films would be an issue. Also, we both needed to catch up on Mad Men. Of course, with this rule eliminated, the list was able to grow, unconstrained by the necessity of a month or two lifespan. What was once 50 films burgeoned to 120 or so. Soon, we were not only getting the best of the best, but a fuller sense of films at the time. We knew not only the high points of aesthetic value, but the cultural points such as the gangster film or talkie-powered musical.

And, in these “extra” films was where the true value of this mission lay. Sure, it was great in finally getting us to watch such classics as It Happened One Night, Rules of the Game, Battleship Potemkin, and Gone With the Wind. We certainly had a better appreciation for them by watching them in the context of their time (very few people nowadays probably have our absolute thrill at Sunrise’s camera movement). But, ultimately, as fledgling film geeks, we probably would have encountered these greats at some point or another in life. However, there are other films that, while we knew enough about them to put them on the list and therefore might have seen them eventually, might not as certainly made their way to our DVD players in life. They could have languished in our Netflix queue for years, always hanging around spot 73 as newer or more important films took precedent. Man with the Movie Camera, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, My Man Godfrey, Scarlett Empress, Le Jour Se Leve, Strike!: I’m looking at you. Hell, even films like Greed (i.e. those that are deemed among the top, but just seem too long or boring to wallow through) make me more indebted to this list.

Naturally, we also learned a lot about film. Such as the fact that camera movement is really exciting. And that, if a silent film is boring, the benefit is that you can talk through it. And “What’s the idea?” is akin to “What the hell?” whereas “What’s the big idea?” is more like “What the fuck?” And most silent Russian films are exactly the same, many of them being excruciatingly dull. And, over fifteen years later, Pinocchio is still as horrible as when I first saw it. And, while most famous for Intolerance and Birth of a Nation, Griffith’s true achievement is Broken Blossoms. Oh yeah.

We also learned a lot about camera and things like that, but you really don't want to hear that.

As time passed and the months went on (this whole trek started on June 8 of last year), a slight worry began to emerge: what if Citizen Kane was a letdown? While we consoled ourselves with the aphorism of a journey exceeding a destination (and, with over 100 films and 10 months of movie watching, there was no way it could not), we still wanted a big finish. After all, what is a great movie without a great ending, be it a line or a shot? Casablanca, Psycho, and every Wilder film seem to know this to be the case.

This past Friday was judgment day. Film Forum was screening Citizen Kane as part of their Newspaper Picture festival and we knew that nothing could rival a 35mm print on a big screen with an audience.

I can gush about Kane for pages now. But what’s the point? I’m now on the other side and either you’re on my side of the line and already know what I mean or you would just take my word for it. All I will say is this: mission accomplished. Sure, I could have read essays about Citizen Kane beforehand or listened to a film professor, but ultimately, I experienced it. From the opening shots, I saw Welles tearing up the rules of cinema and joyously creating a whole new vocabulary (or at least turning Middle English into early modern English). The whole movie was thrilling; I had goosebumps and a grin with every shot, every technique that seemed new because it surpassed and undid every expectation I had.

So this marks the end of a mission and an abnormal entry. I’m not pessimistic, not even all that thoughtful, but I thought I should share it all with you (and not just to end my two week hiatus). What’s the moral of this tale? Create assignments for yourself. Give yourself homework. And do it with a class or at least a buddy…because that’s the only way you’ll get it done.

Er, no, that’s not the best moral. Um, realize that to watch movies in the context of your time, you should create really long lists and –


There is no moral. I don’t know if anyone would or could replicate this experience. For starters, you need a Nick to your Devin or Devin to your Nick, someone willing to sit through all those movies with you and set time aside for double features and marathons. Someone who can get high just off of a transcendent film experience and who is willing to laugh at Eisenstein’s October. Someone to whom you can comment on how crisp* a movie is or isn’t and note that the inevitable “everyone running” scene has come at the end of a silent movie.

One film we watched was Murnau’s Tabu. We hated it (except for an awesome dance scene). Watching it was the most fun I had that week and one of my favorite memories from last fall. Why? Because it was silent, and I already said what you can do during boring silent movies. Even my mom, who was in the other room, remarked that she was jealous of how much we were enjoying that dull film. A companion like that is hard to come by. I could continue rambling about how this story is less a story about a film or even one about a list of movies, but about a friendship, but this blog is called “Pop Culture Gone Bad,” not “Mass Bromantic.”

But if you want to try, let me know and I’ll post the list. But yeah, aside from that, just another day in the life of a movie geek.

*Have you ever watched an old movie (particularly a really old silent one) and found it almost impossible to believe that at one point, the action on screen was real life people in front of a camera, who looked and sounded just like real-life people? Our blanket term for the level of believability was crispness. A modern movie, such as The Hurt Locker, would be about a 10 on the crispness scale. It loses a point or so with 40s or 50s Technicolor or really, well, crisp black and white. Typical black and white loses another point or so. But, most cases, you can still imagine. As you watch though films from the early 30s or earlier, they tend to get more and more uncrisp (particularly when a silent film is tinted) and you find yourself less and less able to believe that 80 or 90 years ago, all these people looked quite crisp. There is a sound counterpart to “crisp;” we call it “crackly.” Though, whereas crisp increases with modernity, crackly decreases.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Holy Resurrection, Bat-Jesus!

Another month, another holiday, another list of ten. In honor of Easter, I have decided to take this time to celebrate my ten favorite methods of resurrection in fiction! Originally, I was going to do my ten favorite resurrected characters, but there are just too many of them. And, for those of you offended, just think: I could have done worse. I couldn't think of too many freed slaves I love to honor Passover. Only really Mammy from Gone with the Wind. Yes, Dobby counts as one, but who actually liked him? I know; no one! And then people cried all sadly when he died! But I assure you, no one would like to see him employ any of these methods.

Fakin’ It

Offenders: Laura Fairlie (The Woman in White), Madeleine Elster (Vertigo), Sinestro (Green Lantern), Laura Bristow (Alias), Aunt May (Spider-Man)

This method of resurrection is a cohort of either very strong plotting or very lazy retconning. In novels and movies, it often serves a larger purpose than simply allowing the writer the shock and dramatics of killing off a character only to use him or her later in the story. The results of the death and the discovery of the deception are the source of narrative tension and therefore the story would be weaker with an actual shuffling loose the mortal coil.

However, this method is also famous in comic books and many television shows as a way for writers to bring back characters that they were annoyed at their predecessors for eradicating. A death certificate sometimes is less valuable than a Blockbuster gift certificate (the worst of all gift certificates). The person in question could have been secretly carried away from the plane wreck or had a secret compartment in the building just as the bomb went off. The writer could be particularly creative (read: ludicrous) and fabricate reasons like “Ah! But you killed a hard-light construction of me I engineered in order to drive you further to the brink of madness!” Yes, that is a real reason used.

In short, Fakin’ It is rife with dichotomies. The recently-resurrected could have instrumented the plan or been a victim of it. It is almost certainly the case if there is no corpse but cannot be ruled out even if there is one. And, most oddly, it has simultaneously been behind some of the greatest films and biggest eyerolls of all time.

Army of Me

Offenders: Ayanami Rei (Neon Genesis Evangelion), Hank and Dean Venture (The Venture Bros.)

You get to have your corpse and eat it too. Or something like that. I suppose you could eat the corpse. The beauty of this convention is that it proffers all the joy of the bloody death (no escape hatch or faked allergy to honey) without requiring some hokey way to have a character drive Charon’s ferry in reverse. The character does die and does not come back from the dead…but you still get to enjoy their company. Why? Because some lovely figure (be it the writer or head of a government agency or both) had the foresight to store a few spare copies of this person just in case. This method also then invites all fun introspections on “What is a self?,” which intro to philosophy college students can gush over for hours!

Messiah Complex

Offenders: Neo (The Matrix), Aslan (The Chronicles of Narnia), Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)

Word to the wise: if you find yourself in a world with superpowers (oh, let’s say the guy you’re with can leap over skyscrapers or you have a piece of enchanted lipstick that turns you into a pyrokinetic superheroine), you really should not be all that cautious when approaching the subject of your mortality. Honestly, you should just assume that shuffling loose this mortal coil is a pretty much akin to landing in jail in the early stages of Monopoly. It will be an inconvenience, but it’s not the end of the world (neither, for that matter, is the end of the world). This point is particularly salient if you were to find yourself dying because you were nobly sacrificing your life for the greater good. That’s a “get out of jail free” card right there. There’s no way you’re going to stay dead. None. You pretty much hit the jackpot in Pascal’s Wager and won not only the glory for being such a noble, good being, but also that precious little thing called life.

Only Mostly Dead

Offenders: Westley (The Princess Bride), Norman Osborn (Spider-Man), Morph (X-Men: The Animated Series)

They say that if there’s no body, there is no death. Well, sometimes, if there is a body, there’s still no death. As Miracle Max explains, there’s dead and there’s mostly dead. Mostly dead allows for the shock of the death and perhaps even the loss of a heart-beat/heart, but without the irritating finality of death. Mostly dead is very similar to “Fakin’ It” (in fact Norman does a little of both), but more often than not lacks the possibility of preplanning by the writer (with the exception of Westley) and is a frequent enough device that it deserves its own category.

I’m a Dark Lord. ‘Nuff said.

Offenders: Sauron (Lord of the Rings), Voldemort (Harry Potter), Dr. Doom (Fantastic Four), Megatron (Transformers)

Word to the wise part deux: beings of unimaginable evil and power always come back after their first death, even more evil and more powerful. If you and your friends have just defeated the Great Terror Lord of Gonthrax, you should not be celebrating. If anything, you should be even more worried! All you have accomplished is chaperoning your calamitous caterpillar into the pernicious pupa stage of his metamorphosis of malevolence (where he will then reemerge as a bloodthirsty butterfly)! Granted, I do not know what the implications of this fact are when applied to the best-selling novel, The New Testament, considering we have the death of a powerful being with multiple supporters, only to reemerge a few days later even more awe-inspiring. Maybe Jesus was actually the first Sauron. And all poor Judas wanted to do was pull a Peter Pettigrew and atone for his alliance with wickedness.

I know, I know…I just committed a mortal sin; I confused Harry Potter with Lord of the Rings.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Explanations!

Offenders: Daffy Duck (Looney Tunes), the crew of Sealab (Sealab 2021), Action League Now! (Kablam!)

How does Daffy survive a gun-shot to the face (or a visit to Hell at the end of some episodes)? How does the Flesh reconstruct himself after being blended, run over by an SUV, exploded, crush by a block of concrete, etc.? How do the denizens of Sealab continuously survive the undersea holocaust and rebuild their home (and don’t say there is no continuity, because they reference past episodes)? WHO CARES?! Look at all the stupid explanations there are for characters coming back to life: Horcruxes, clones, lookalike twins, magical flowers, bullets that send people through time, cocoons at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – sometimes the best explanation is no explanation. You know what they say: if you don’t have anything half-credible to say, don’t say anything at all.

Hell-bent on Slaughter

Offenders: Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason (Friday the 13th), Freddy Kreuger (Nightmare on Elm Street)

This category is almost a subsection of Daffy’s category. Personally, I am not as well-versed on slasher movies as I should be; I’ve only seen the first one of each series. Of course, I have never really surmised that all that much energy is devoted to concocting reasons as to why that axe didn’t fully sever Michael’s head or how Jason survived the room of a thousand dynamites. All that matters is that these creatures have one reason to live: to exenterate the insides of every horny teenager on the planet. And, clearly, there are still horny teenagers out there. In fact, they’re multiplying in numbers! And sometimes this very increase in numbers is due to, you guessed it, horny teenagers! These guys can’t give up on their duty! They have a varsity-level commitment that I only wish I had back when I did track. Death to them is like a few broken bones to an Olympic gold medalist: enough of a reason to pause for a moment, but that’s it. Afterwards, they slap on some duct tape, grit their teeth, and continue the chase. And good for them!

(I can express such sentiments since, as a horny 23-year old, I’m pretty sure I’m exempt from their eviscerations)

I Had an Extra Guy!

Offenders: Pac-Man (Pac-Man), Mario (Super Mario Bros), Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic the Hedgehog)

Man, wouldn’t the world be an interesting place if you had multiple deaths before you truly died? I know that The Onion did an investigation on the personal psychological implications of such a reality…but there is so much more. Would people sell their extra guys (or green mushrooms, etc.) in times of economic distress, leading the rich to become nigh-immortals? Or, in fact, would people be born with different amounts of extra lives, which in turn would decide their level in society?

Oh, the possibilities for anti-utopian novels are endless!

Lazy Writing/The Fans Demanded It/Cocoon in Ocean

Offenders: Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), Barry Allen (Flash), Bucky (Captain America)

Okay, so usually the writer will ultimately fall back on one of the aforementioned categories or a particularly special case of “cocoon in ocean” (yes, I already mentioned that, but it’s SO freakin’ stupid!). But some cases of resurrection are far more transparent than others. While I can half-buy into certain cases of averted death, there are points where the movie or telev – oh who am I kidding, comic book writer should just devote a few panels to his hand reaching into the grave and picking the dead character out of it before imbuing life back into him or her. Because, no, Barry Allen isn’t alive because of the Speed Force…that is unless Speed Force is “Geoff Johns wants it to be the Silver Age” in another language. What? Grant Morrison wrote that story? No, not believing it. Because, to be fair, Morrison is probably the only one who executed my suggestion. Seriously. Read Animal Man sometime.

It’s My Other Mutant Power

Offenders: Pretty much everyone who has every graced the pages of X-Men

I could pretty much populate this entire list with mutants. Fakin’ It? Yup, Magneto has done that so many times he should probably meet with Dr. Ruth. Clones? Uh-huh. Even if you’re an X-Men and aren’t Multiple Man, a cosmic, nigh-omnipotent deity will provide a few clones of you just to ensure you can die tragically and still come back to grace the shiny variant covers of issue 300. And don’t even get me started on the last category I just discussed.

I’m relatively certain by this point that one of the prerequisites for joining the X-Men is that the potential member in question has to have died at least once. That must be what X-Force, X-Factor, Generation X (oh, am I dating myself?), and all those other teams are force: acquainting the next class of mutants with the concept of their own mortality and their mortality’s mortality. The X-Men are the most elite group of mutants out there; they cannot be wasting their time dealing with death-virgins who actually get worried when a Sentinel beam fries Cyclops. Come on!

Did I miss any of your favorites?

Monday, 29 March 2010

Pop Criticism: A Shot-by-Shot Analysis of 3Oh!3's "Don't Trust Me"

[Preface: This piece was something I wrote last summer while in severe essay-writing withdrawal (yes, that exists). It occupies that tenuous space between parody of a genre and actually being a genuine attempt - in this case, film criticism. I feel like it is too ridiculous to be serious, but a bit too earnest to be parody. This idea (ridiculous, yet earnest literary criticism of popular culture) was actually the original idea for my blog...however, I soon realized it was not all that sustainable...or would at least lead to a blog that was not updated all too often. However, this essay was alluded to in one of my grad school statements of purpose. In fact, that school is the one I will be going to. But enough about me. Enjoy and maybe even have a few nice flashbacks to the summer of 2009.]

“Song is awesome vid is gay” (airballer 13)
“umm the video is kinda........... if you know wat i mean like WTF!? Lol” (aliciaboo12)
“This song rules I mean it but the video just sucks. Love this band and song” (Nevertrustme232)
“never ever ever trust a ho HAHAHAHA this song is kinda insulting to girls but i frickin love it” (chickyboheimen123)

These quotations are a few YouTube responses to 3Oh!3’s music video for “Don’t Trust Me.” After an initial viewing, one is tempted to dismiss the short film and the song as fatuous and misogynistic. The lyrics, with their refrain of “Don’t trust a ho” and their urging girls to “do the Helen Keller and talk with [their] hips,” elicit such a reaction quite understandably. The video ostensibly seems to be an accomplice to this ideology. It proffers us the enticing image of scantily clad women throwing themselves all over the last two men in the world. It submerges us into a stereotypical, imbecilic straight male fantasy. All the men on earth can die, but as long as two remain, they will still be king and women will persist to be objects that exist only for their desires.

Or is this interpretation the case? Let’s look again at the responses. People who love the song find themselves hating the video or are confused by it. Some label it pejoratively as “gay.” In fact, this work may actually be undercutting every other music video that revolves around the scenario of “straight man singing as girls throw themselves on top of him.” For, upon closer inspection, every attempt by the 3Oh!3 to assert their masculinity, to prove themselves as the ultimate alpha males and the quintessence of heterosexual male potency, only acts to further feminize or queer them.

The story commences by informing the viewer, “A global virus of catastrophic proportions has attacked the entire male population. Only two male models from Colorado survive.” For starters, let us observe that “the entire male population” has been attacked, not “the entire male population except for two male models from Colorado.” These two men are merely survivors; they have sustained the plague’s assault and lived. But does that which could not kill them really make them stronger? Or have they emerged unmanned, lacking their most essential parts?

Even if they believe they have survived completely intact, they still have another problem: they are no longer in the world of men. Two male protagonists of this video have descended from their familiar world of men into the world of women: a world of modeling, chandeliers, and fine drapery. This reality is one without typical masculinity and the comforts it enshrouds its patriarch inhabitants within. The world of men has left them. The men have left them. They are stuck among the women and are therefore women themselves. These two, stranded among 3 billion women, have can no longer rely on their phallic power of being in the majority. Instead, they are left unmanned with only their sexuality as a weapon: a situation traditionally assigned to women. The virus did not kill off all the men; it manned all the women, thus killing off all the women, but two.

The two men have already (for lack of a better term) embraced their position as the new females in this society. They are models: subjects of the feminine (now masculinized) gaze. They are on display for everyone else to ogle and objectify. They are in lingerie, their near naked bodies exhibited as they dance.

Furthermore, the underwear itself is important. It appears to be Ginch-Gonch underwear. Ginch-Gonch’s entire advertising strategies infantilizes its audience. It encourages men to be “boys” and “to live like a kid.” But are not kids always-already, by sheer nature of not having gone through puberty, castrated? Is not a boy inherently under the power of his mother? Are not mothers meant to “watch” their boys in order to control them? In the relationship of boy and mother, the mother is the man, and the boy is the woman.

Yes, there are women in the first shot, and yes, they are wearing lingerie, but they are static. They sit in the background as motionless as the chairs they occupy. Are they even models, or just furniture? For the first minute, they are content to sit in the background, barely noticeable, as the two men entice our eye, and dance for our pleasure. Even the camera seems aware that these females are furniture. It cuts to them during the beats, but then in turn cuts to the lights in the same way. The women at the photo shoot are no different than the lights. They are necessary props, but not interesting in and of themselves. Finally, the two different beings merge into one self-same creature: the photographess whose face is obscured by her camera.

The women eventually rise and dance, but are we even meant to care? 3Oh!3 remains center stage, dancing more than any other party. Why? Because we are meant to know that they are indeed the alpha males. This video is not meant to showcase the women that they can get, but the two men and their ability to get the women. But, through such an attempt to attest masculinity, the film cannot showcase the women and therefore can only showcase the men and the men therefore become the women that are showcased. Even when Nathaniel (the one with dark, long hair) sings “Don’t trust a ho” he refuses to point at one of the scantily-clad women. Instead, he becomes the ho. He imagines himself with breasts and then starts to again remove his newly-acquired clothes. He ends his refrain by saying “Don’t trust me,” since he and the “ho” are one and the same.

Of course, by becoming women, 3Oh!3, being womanish men, are queered. We can already see this in the choice of Ginch-Gonch underwear. The line is popular among the gay community and even has aimed certain ad campaigns particular at the homosexual community. But this destruction of 3Oh!3’s supposed hetero-sexual normality goes further. While the women do rub themselves over the two models, the singers in fact seem much more predisposed with caressing each other. This idea, only hinted towards in the first scene, becomes nearly explicit in the wrestling scenario.

The women in the wrestling scene are even more forgettable and invisible than those in the prior one. The photoshoot premise also seems to have gone out the proverbial window. Now we are just watching some sort of wrestling match, or more appropriately, we are just watching two guys all over each other. Sean (the blonde) at one point chokes Nathaniel and calls to mind asphyxiation as orgasm draws near. He soon pulls Nathaniel back by the leg, like a cartoon caveman about to have his way with his newest acquisition. He even is on top of Nathaniel at one point, ostensibly pinning him, but insinuating he could sodomize him at any second.

The men in this manless world do not have their choice of women. By being alone, by being singled out against the world, they can only turn to each other, only have each other, and have been married already by their circumstances. Even if these men were attracted to women, they would still be queered. We have already established that as the lone men in a world of women, they are women. If they are women attracted to women, they are queer.

Therefore again in this wrestling scenario, this display of masculinity, this showcasing of how strong their bodies are, of how well they could seize women, only transforms into another thing: how well they are at “getting” each other. The showcase is now of their bodies, and of Sean and Nathaniel’s bodies abilities to obtain Sean and Nathaniel.

Finally, the video transitions to its third, final, and most curious vision: the two members of 3Oh!3 (and those curious women) as cavemen. Again, their bodies are exposed and on display (Sean even tries to make up for lost skin, so to say, by stripping off the top of his wrestling uniform during this part of the video). Again, the women are forced into the background. Again, Sean and Nathaniel are the ones dancing for our pleasure. Again, they are the same as the props (or are they? Nathaniel seems much more interested in having sex with the prop bison than any of the cavewomen).

Finally, the work reaches its climax when Nathaniel says, “Shush girl. Shut your lips. Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.” When only heard, this part is misogynist and perhaps even offensive. However the video undercuts that elementary interpretation. Sean is first Helen Keller as he mimes feeling his way due to lack of sight. Nathaniel soon joins him. They have placed themselves in the role of the ultimate woman of male fantasy: the completely castrated woman. In this role, they can neither see, nor hear, nor talk…nor penetrate. They accept their necessary roles as subservient creatures in what was supposed to be the society that they ruled with the last two remaining penises. This conclusion reaches fulfillment as Nathaniel is the one who “talk[s] with [his] hips” and showcases his anus for the world to see.

Suddenly, the video goes fuzzy for a moment. We have reached critical mass. The proposed reality, this “Planet of the Apes”-esque world where women have the power, men are objectified and the subject of the gaze, and where the last two men are anything but men as they “do the Helen Keller” must collapse. A “proper” music video must take its place.

The first image is one of the most undressed models from the first scenario, now front and center and ready to entice us, just like she should have been from the start. Next is Nathaniel, who wears the protection of sunglasses and looks out from them only to assure us that he has reclaimed the gaze and is using it. The photographess reappears, now emerging from her camera so we can see her whole face. She can no longer shield herself from the newly reconstructed male gaze. Finally, Sean appears. He is a fully covered man (we can’t even see his eyes), no longer the boy who paraded around in his Ginch-Gonch briefs. The first model from this montage soon reappears, just in case we still had any doubts what direction this video was taking.

When the montage is over, Sean and Nathaniel fall. The former fantasy of the past three minutes is over, having already reached its orgasmic climax. Their charade of their post-ejaculation penises only works to affirm the fact that they did ejaculate and therefore must have had an erection for the entire three minutes. By falling, ironically, they become men.

In the last 30 seconds, they are men and the women are now on display. They force their way to the front of many shots. In the wrestling match, they have gotten into the fight, just so they can be all over the bodies of Sean and Nathaniel. They even do the split jumps that 3Oh!3 had done less than a minute earlier. However, this new world cannot last, not even for 3 minutes. Once the women start moving, once they get up from their chairs, everything becomes unstable. The cuts grow even more frenetic. The furniture that the girls had mimicked flies around the room of the photoshoot. Furniture should not move on its own, and neither should woman in a music video. Do they not know the video was about 3Oh!3, not them? Finally, this world has no option but to combust, which it does in a symbolic mushroom cloud.

Ultimately, this video shows us the necessary dilemma of the stereotypical rap video (i.e. that in which a bare-chested, well muscled man is surrounded by women fawning over him, e.g. Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”): the men must either showcase himself and his body and therefore become a woman, or he must let the women take center stage and therefore lose control of his video. Furthermore, when the video stars not a solo artist, but a duo (or more), this showcasing must invite hints of homosexuality. When two men have their bodies on display, they are creating a type of gay porn no matter what they do. Their only other option is not to be on display, which leads us to the former problem of loss of control.