Rightwing Film Geek


AN AMERICAN CAROL (David Zucker, USA, 2008) — 5

AN AMERICAN CAROL is basically conservative pornography — it is enjoyable, effective in making us (laugh) hard, but primarily does so by appealing to our lowest natures. And in the end has left us with not much more than the slightly guilt-tinged feelings associated with having gratified ourselves but done so in the cheapest, easiest, most-narcissistic way possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mind my sneak at Playboy and the semi-voluntary bodily reactions happened. But I also know there’s more to satire, to moviemaking, to sex, to conservative movie-thought, to love and to comedy than the AMERICAN CAROL centerfold. In fact, shortly afterward, I watched a DVD of the incendiary-titled but more-serious MICHAEL MOORE HATES AMERICA, recently picked up at a Borders bargain bin, and thought it was easily a better film because in part it’s about that very point — the ease of the admittedly-gratifying cheap shot.

Directed by “9/11 Conservative” David Zucker of Naked Gun and Airplane fame, AN AMERICAN CAROL, though vastly inferior to those films, is still often very funny from the simple pleasure of seeing the piss taken out of ideas and people that jolly well ought to have the piss taken out of them. Sometimes Zucker makes funny things that just aren’t funny, and is able to do so precisely because they aren’t funny. (Cue reactions: “Huh?”) Continue reading

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Conservative films, David Zucker | 9 Comments

Here’s pat

FIREPROOF (Alex Kendrick, USA, 2008) — 4

I couldn’t even bring myself to see the Kendrick brothers’ previous film FACING THE GIANTS,¹ which I was reliably told had the football-coach main character get on his knees and accept Jesus Christ as his Savior in a field. After which, his football team becomes champions and he gets a new red truck, which is not only risible but pernicious — religion as a means to worldly success.² Methodism and Buddhism, e.g., are incomplete or mistaken; but the Prosperity Gospel Heresy is wicked.

FIREPROOF avoids the Prosperity Gospel Heresy because it centers on a dying marriage, which saved by a mid-movie religious conversion. Unlike high-school football, marriage is a Godly institution, the success of which matters and has something to do with one’s religious/moral qualities. FIREPROOF has its heart in the right place, has entertaining parts, and is clearly better than (my received notion of) FACING THE GIANTS. It isn’t an awful movie, and it doesn’t deserve the F-grades or the sort of toxic hatred that you can see in the comment fields (or anywhere else secular liberals are gathered).³ I also acknowledge it had the value of being in the small Georgia city, Albany, where I lived for two years, which gives you a certain level of interest in spotting locations and details (e.g., I am 90 percent sure I know what restaurant that lead art is from). Still, it is more earnest, pat and “messagey” than Cynical Gen-X Catholic Moi likes. Maybe it would look better if it had been shown on the Hallmark or Lifetime channels as a movie-of-the-week. And its fundamental dramatic weakness suggests something about contemporary Christian works of art that lies in the very theology of Protestantism. (I swear … the one Amy Grant song I have just popped up on iTunes.)

Continue reading

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Alex Kendrick, Conservative films, Protestantism, Religion in movies, Scott Tobias | 12 Comments

2/3 of a masterpiece

HANCOCK (Peter Berg, USA, 2008) — 8

I hate you, Kyle Smith … even took the title I wanted to use (though I would have had the balls to include the “u” and the “c,” ya big wuss).

For about an hour, HANCOCK is one of the best summer popcorn films I’ve ever seen¹ — it’s basically GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, the tale of a giant among small men, only reconceived as a modern superhero movie with a heaping helping of pomo sarcasm. It’s also one of the few movies with an identifiable political subtext (it’s hardly “sub”-text in fact) that is unapologetically pro-war. Or more precisely, unapologetically anti-the-(purported)-reasons-many-claim-to-be-anti-war. The details in this movie — the eagle on bumbling, nasty superhero Will Smith’s cap; complaints about collateral damage; civil lawsuits; carping TV reporters and talking heads ranting about “lawless”; encounter groups and the phrase “conflict resolution”; the Woodstock concert poster in Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron’s bedroom; a bully who (a) is French, and (b) is played by Daeg Faerch, who played the boy Michael Myers in the recent HALLOWEEN remake; a Greenpeace boat — there are just too many signifiers here for it to be a coincidence, or one or two eager-beaver conservatives overinterpreting a detail. And it’s surely relevant that Peter Berg directed last year’s THE KINGDOM, which gave the usual liberal-critic suspects the usual fact-free vapors.

Just read what Kyle Smith had to say … he really did say it all and I have nothing to add on the point except my word that I did catch much of it myself. And the title of his post refers to exactly what came to my mind in this discussion here: TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE²:

Let’s just say there is a speech at the end of TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE … that is … well … MASSIVE WARNING ABOUT … weeeeellllll … keep in mind that it’s by the SOUTH PARK guys, and read the first direct quote. If you can read through the vulgarity (and know the movie’s plot), it’s one of the greatest defenses of Foreign-Policy Hawkishness in movie history. (I am quite serious.)

I was tickled with joy and laughing my butt off for the first hour as Hancock blunders around and is taken in by a liberal-yuppie suburban couple concerned with improving Hancock’s image and making him a more sensitive hero, a la John Kerry, who remembers to say please and thank you, and agrees to submit to international law a prison term. Predictably, Hancock has to be called in in a crisis (and ask permission to lift up a wounded policewoman from fear of traversing sexual harrassment rules). But that scene was obviously the climax of the HANCOCK I’d been expecting, but I looked at my watch and the movie was less than an hour old. “It can’t be over yet … where is this gonna go.” And in a few minutes, I found out and my mouth was literally agape — first in “ohmigawd, where can THIS be leading??? I believe this will be awesomest thing ever if they can pull it off” mode (I was thinking it could go in the direction of a certain TV show — SPOILERS!!! if you click). But then my mouth was agape in “ohmigawd, is THAT where it’s led. I can’t believe they pissed away some much awesomeness” mode.

I will tread vaguely — suffice to say that the last half-hour is just a routine “origins” story that isn’t particularly germane to this mode of representing a superhero; it doesn’t continue, deepen or even (explicitly) take back the satire of the first hour; it goes for warm and fuzzy pathos in a movie that should have a cold, pitch-black heart; and the feeble stab at “explanation” for how Hancock gets his powers are literally insulting in its desultory lameness (“some say gods, some angels, some superheroes”). It just feels tacked on, and curiously Kyle Smith barely mentions it in his formal review of HANCOCK. It’s been reported that the end was being reworked at the very last minute, and boy does it show.
¹ Yes, I don’t see them all or even many because I am a snob, etc.
² Unsurprisingly, TEAM AMERICA occasioned maybe the worst review Roger Ebert ever wrote, admitting that he couldn’t figure out what has been perfectly obvious even to non-critics to the right of Hubert Humphrey.

July 2, 2008 Posted by | Conservative films, Kyle Smith, Peter Berg | 1 Comment