Rightwing Film Geek

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I watched IDIOCRACY again the other night, and it stayed where I had it the first time — uneven, repetitive, but often brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny. And one of the best “guy movies” of recent years — the perfect flick to watch with a fellow reactionary intellectual-wannabe over pizza and beer. (I an not unaware of the irony of consuming the film on those terms. Is there a text in this house, etc.?)

I repeated to this fellow-reactionary Sicinski’s comparison of the film to Allan Bloom and he agreed (Waz must love have so many starboarder fans). And then he made a slightly less highbrow comparison to National Review’s John Derbyshire, aka “The Derb,” a curmudgeonly natalist and pusher of “demographics as destiny.” (UPDATE: The Derb saw the film and didn’t think it did much with the premise, which he acknowledged thinking was great, but done better in a novel.)

One thing that struck me harder than it did before was the ending (SPOILER warning) … Private Joe and Rita marry and have “the three smartest children in the world” and he becomes president. The family is playing in the Oval Office. Then Judge pans the camera and the dumbass Frito has multiple wives and a gaggle of children.

In other words, nothing changes. The cinematic language on display is of the happy ending — swelling score, happy characters, plot threads all tied up to the main characters’ satisfaction, etc. But the actual content of the image is not. The scene specifically mirrors the intro segment about the two couples’ child-whelping practices, and it makes it clear as day that the dysgenic collapse of society will continue.

Nor is this an atypically grim ending for Judge, who may be one of the most astringent moralists making films. The ending of OFFICE SPACE follows the same template, a happy-looking ending that collapses the minute you think about it — Michael and Samir are back in the rat race. Peter is smiling, but only because he has radically lowered his expectations and is now in manual labor (always historically considered a stepdown from a white-collar job). The key speech is given to him late in the film by Joanna, about how people in general just try to carve out some space to be happy despite having jobs and lives that suck (sorry, can’t find the exact wording online).

womens-history.jpgBEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA ends with the boys sunk back into TV, having completed their quest for the only thing that matters to them as they walk off into the sunset. About half the episodes of the B&B series end with the boys happy or contended, but the viewer has one of several fundamentally different reactions, from pity to contempt, from bemusement to bewilderment. For example, when they’re caught out in the rain outside the movie theater after the two chicks (“I’m Lolita and this here’s Tanqueray”) con them of their money, they resolve to come back with twice as much money the next night — “then we’ll score” as the growling guitar riffs of the closing theme well up. The more Todd beats them up and treats them like shit, the more they admire how cool he is. They waste $499 to get a mower, so they can buy $1 of gasoline. They don’t realize how badly they lost their campaign for school treasurer (“is that like, the money dude?”). Whether it’s learning Women’s History, Positive Acting Teens or the Christian Businessman’s Group, it all flows over them. Beavis even learns he’s destined for hell, and all he and Butt-head are doing is laughing about St. “Peter.” Huh-huh … Peter.

Mike Judge’s theme: the world is incorrigible. Live with it.

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June 7, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Mike Judge’s next film

Adam becomes the latest to weigh in in favor (at least somewhat) of Mike Judge’s dumped-on-by-the-idiots-in-suits IDIOCRACY.

Here’s probably what Mike Judge will have to settle for making next.

October 4, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Fox … anathema sit

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IDIOCRACY (Mike Judge, USA, 2006, 8 )

Before the festival started, I took the opportunity last night to see IDIOCRACY, since Toronto is one of the few cities where Fox is dumping it. Shame, shame, shame.

The film looks somewhat cheezy and is unquestionably a bit one-note — “these people are stupid” is really the point to 90 percent of the jokes. It breaks no thematic ground that BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD hadn’t already plowed quite well.

But I busted a gut. This film is filled with quotable moments and lines — the hospital title (kind of a theological impossibility), the method of medical diagnosis (which isn’t that far off from cash registers in the era of innumeracy), the evolution of US News & World Report and the anchors at Fox News, always fair and balanced. The trial is like THE TRIAL as rewritten by Beavis & Butthead. And like with B&B, people who complain that, e.g., there’s too much cheap balls-kicking humor, are missing that this isn’t meant to be funny per se. What’s funny (and often hilarious) is that the characters in the film think it’s funny and/or brilliant. It’s a measure of the emptiness of their souls, consumed with consumption and sex (wait till you see what Starbucks is doing in the future; and I swear-to-God, the first time I ever heard someone refer to “Fuddruckers,” I thought this too). Nor is it just a pro-eugenic sneer at Red State hicks — the high-IQ couple are brilliantly skewered as well in their brief appearance at the set-up.

This is a movie made for video admittedly, as it is all throwaway gags and one-liners, and crammed with in-jokes at the edges of the frames (Sam Adams made the comparison to THE SIMPSONS last night over cider and beer). So for dumping this movie, Fox News, always fair and balanced, is … like … really retarded and shit.

This note brought to you by Carl’s Jr. They give me money when I say that.

September 7, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The Idiocrats at Fox

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Mike Judge’s long-awaited second live-action feature, IDIOCRACY, debuted last weekend. What, you didn’t know that? Did you get the memo? You must live in such out-of-the-way hix nix towns as New York, Washington, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston … y’know … cities where people wouldn’t “get” Mike Judge and where OFFICE SPACE tanked because his scathing satire on work and bureaucracy was completely alien to them. Remember that moment in SPINAL TAP when the manager tells them the Boston gig fell through because it’s not much of a college town? That was awesome.

My bud Bilge at Nerve.com excoriates the suits at 20th Century Fox (over and over) for dumping IDIOCRACY, and for what sounds like really good reasons like messing with Judge’s cut, and sitting on it for two years before dumping, etc. So, the film came with the aura of failure, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Two stats suffice — (1) as I type this about 845pm Monday, the new Mike Judge film on opening weekend still doesn’t have five IMDb votes; (2) if you go to the Fox site, there is no mention of IDIOCRACY. At all. Really.

Now I’m a pretty hard-core realist when it comes to selling movies and I don’t think studios have any obligation to lose money or throw good money after bad. I’m not under any illusion that Judge has made a potential gazillion-dollar blockbuster. And it’s certainly possible that Judge made a stinker (Homer nods; Hitchcock made THE PARADINE CASE, etc.).

But do American studios any longer know how to market a small movie to a niche audience, except through their boutique divisions like … um … Fox Searchlight? “Un Film de Mike Judge,” “from the creator of OFFICE SPACE” [or BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD or KING OF THE HILL] has got to be worth enough tickets to make at least a half-ass push worthwhile. OFFICE SPACE wasn’t a big hit (Fox didn’t do very well by that film either, but I was able to see it in Augusta, Ga., fercryinoutloud), but subsequent word of mouth has turned it into one of the defining cult films of its era.

lumberg.jpgRight now on my IM system at work (and I swear this is a coincidence), the public greeting reads “Remember to put the cover sheet in your TPS reports.” Others on my menu include “Where’s my stapler” and “yeeeeah … welllll … I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.” Another person at work has his public message right now as “sounds like a case of the Mondays” and others on his menu have included “did you get that memo.” There’s at least a half-dozen people in the newsroom with whom I regularly exchange OFFICE SPACE lines. And it’s not a slam at any particular workplace or supervisor — OFFICE SPACE is golden to anyone who has ever worked in a bureaucracy.

Do the suits at Fox realize what kind of Cult Status all three of Judge’s major works have? All have their own universe of devoted cultists. The rewards come later than opening weekend of course, and they require patience because they depend on word of mouth, so they won’t affect the quarterly balance. But the DVD sales and multiple editions “with flair,” etc. do come and in a veritable torrent by the standards of two, three, or four years later. And it’s not as though Judge’s movies cost $200 million to make. But Fox still can go through the motions for MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND and JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE (info still on the front page at the Fox Movies site) and let’s not forget the upcoming masterpiece THE MARINE starring beefcake model/pro wrestler John Cena. So if THE IDIOCRATS isn’t the absolute indisputable worst movie of the year, or ever, this treatment is absolutely unconscionable.

judge.jpgAnd it’s an insult to the artist who created BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD and OFFICE SPACE and who (most inexplicably of all) has gotten good ratings for Fox TV with his KING OF THE HILL. One wonders why Judge would continue to have a relationship with Fox TV after this shitty treatment. Maybe a key is Judge’s personality, at least as portrayed in this profile in the June issue of Esquire. He doesn’t seem like the intransigent, self-destructive perfectionist, like a Tarkovsky or a Dreyer. I don’t blame him, by any means, and it may very well be that the personality portrayed in Esquire is the beaten-down one of a dog that’s taken one too many whippings. Or at best, he’s triaged THE IDIOCRATS in the hopes that playing ball and not being difficult, things’ll be better next time.

September 4, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment