Rightwing Film Geek

America … fuck yeah

Another blow to my lifelong ambition to become a US Marine badass. Apparently too much fandom for TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (it made my Top 10 in 2004) will get you in hot water with the leatherneck brassnecks.

Last month, Cpl. Joshua Belile has been hounded by the Jihad enablers and assorted liars for “Hadji Girl,” a song which proves again (years after Salman Rushdie, and shortly after the Danish cartoons: available here) that Muslims have no sense of humor.

The song’s hook “Dirka, Dirka, Muhammad Jihad” is taken from the Trey Parker and Matt Stone film (which all by itself should indicate that this is comical), an unapologetically jingoistic film, with one of the greatest monologs (the first quote here) in movie history, not only a masterpiece of creative obscenity and extended metaphor, but a political philosophy akin to Chapter 17 of Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” It’s no surprise that it’s a hit with US troops and bunches the panties of the CAIRs of the world (I wrote it about the song/film here and here). Best excerpt:

It’s also clear to anyone who knows anything about the history of war songs and war stories that soldiers have always engaged in gallows humor and sick jokes, partly from “brutalization” (not a bad thing within limits, BTW; we want warriors to be “harder” than civilians) but also partly as a way of dealing with the constantly-made-imminent fact of the men’s own mortality. At the very start of Western civilization, Homer tells dry jokes about how some soldiers “have the black fog descend upon them,” including one sequence in THE ILIAD where he compares a Trojan being speared through the jaw to a fish trapped on a hook. Nor is this confined to soldiering; all professions have humor, within the stakes of that profession. I have never worked in a newsroom where you couldn’t get at least a knowing smirk with a reference to lines from Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” (“The boys in the newsroom got a running bet: / ‘Get the widow on the set / We need dirty laundry’.”) In a boxing movie called THE SETUP, all the “red corner” fighters share a single dressing room, and one guy who’s just won his fight is telling everyone else in graphic detail about how he worked over his opponent, mercilessly punishing his “soft” stomach and ribs. A green young lad getting ready for his first fight has to flee the room to throw up, causing the victorious fighter to ask in a puzzled manner: “what’s the matter with him.” Sick humor in a life-and-death situation is simply letting off steam; there have never been soldiers in any war who haven’t done exactly the same thing, only outside the glare of scrutiny by the Cambridge-Hollywood Axis.

But I was thinking that maybe Cpl. Belile should sing the song in the presence of Algerian badboy Zidane; I doubt THAT confrontation would end with a headbutt. And if Zidane can’t take trash talk on the pitch without (potentially, at least) costing his national team the frickin World Cup — well, maybe he should take McCloud’s advice and take his penchant for headbutts into the pro wrestling ring (we haven’t had a good French villain since the latter-day Andre the Giant).

Advertisements

July 11, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charles Bronson remembered

bronson.jpgBy coincidence, I saw Charles Bronson’s greatest film for the first time in a theater, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, just a week or so before his death at the weekend. Bronson was not a great actor, in the histrionic sense (he had no range, subtlety or wit), but he could do something just as difficult and (in the hands of the right director, like Sergio Leone) just as good. He could *be* on screen. He embodied in himself an image, a screen persona with consummate comfort, as if he was just being himself. And if you doubt that even literally playing yourself on screen is not as easy as it looks, check out Brett Favre in THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY or Monica Lewinsky in her SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE appearance.

Bronson’s character, which almost never changed, was taciturn and brooding like John Garfield, stoic and tough like John Wayne. He followed trails blazed by Clint Eastwood, both in Leone’s spaghetti Westerns, and then later in the urban-vigilante genre. He was a man you didn’t wanna mess with, but was righteous enough not to mess with you for no reason. In other words, it was an image of pre-therapy masculinity. This summa cum laude graduate of the School of Hard Knocks (in real life as well as a screen persona) had all this chiseled onto a face that was perhaps the ugliest ever on a Hollywood leading man. But that leather face was perfect for Leone’s grubby, dusty, gorgeously-lit and -framed pictures. And the harmonica.

Besides being raw material for the virtuoso Leone, Bronson was also good in solid unpretentious 60s action films like THE DIRTY DOZEN and THE GREAT ESCAPE (the latter of which is one of the few films I remember seeing and liking quite a bit before the cinephilia bug bit in the late 1980s). I also think the first DEATH WISH film is not bad (it got boring by repetition; the reputation of the original ROCKY suffers for this same reason). But Bronson’s great late role is his lead character in the Walter Hill tough-guy picture HARD TIMES. The climactic bare-knuckle-boxing fight at the end could star nobody else but Bronson, because it *was* Bronson. Its virtues were his virtues. It’s an aging man, scrapping through the Depression with nothing but his bare hands, and doing it with no histrionics or self-analysis. The fight is shot like no other climactic fight that I can recall. It takes place in real time, with no music and not much editing or any form of flash. There’s a lot of grunting and pushing, and is grubby and tough. The fight has both a logical trajectory and is competitive enough for long enough (and then increasingly less so) that you see how difficult it is to beat up somebody who’s just as tough as you. And it ends as it does because of an understanding of masculine honor and virtue. You may lose the game, but there’s still honor in playing by the rules. Don’t pretend you won’t lose though. Bronson finally lost the game of life, like we all do … eventually. RIP.

September 3, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 27 Comments