Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Machete Kills!

Movies are undoubtedly the most pervasive artform of the past two or three generations.  While video games are arguably more significant -philosophically speaking-, movies are more universally understood by more subcultures because they have been marketed to more sectors of society.  Even if you've never played a video game in your entire life and you don't give a shit about the tragic story of the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast (Come gather 'round children to hear a tale of unimaginable woe...) I'd make a bet that you could still converse in some way about movies in some form or another.  Movies are so pervasive that they have made the list of Top Five Ways to Awkwardly Begin a Conversation With a Stranger, usually in the following order:
1) "What do you do for a living?"
2) "Are you from around here?" / "Been living here long?"
3) "So how many dicks have you sucked?" "So, how do you know so and so?"
4)"37!?" "I can't believe this weather we're having."
5) "What's your favourite movie?"

Despite my proclivity towards video games I still consider myself a "Movie Guy" and so invariably when I am forced into an awkward social situation with other adult males of my species -usually due to the community groups my wife and I bring our children to- I have to try to convey the sum total of my entire being in five facts or less and I always mention that I love movies.  It usully comes out without thinking because my love of movies is a huge part of my identity and my ego (in the Freudian sense) won't let it slide.  I have to mention it even though somewhere deep down in my soft, pink brain it will just make me hate the person I'm talking to even more.  I can't relate to other guys about sports, cars, fishing or fucking random strangers so the only way I have to relate is through movies because everybody can relate to movies even if they aren't avid moviegoers.  But then it opens up the floodgates.  People start asking me if I've seen every new movie that's out, title by title.  They ask me if I've seen older movies.  They tell me about movies they like which usually makes me lose most to all respect for them almos immediately.  And finally they ask the dreaded question, which usually happens in slow mo with deep, drawn out slo mo voices: "So, what's your favourite movie?"

You fucking jackass.

You arrogant prick.

I fucking hate this question.  And I'll tell you why.

First, you have just crossed one of my personal boundaries.  Ask me about my job.  Ask me about my kids.  Ask me about my personal views about abortion, fine.  Ask me how long I can last on average before I climax.  But for the love of god do no ask me about my favourite movie.  I do not know you well enough to be asked that question on our very first meeting.  You need Friend Clearance Level 5 before you can even begin to think about asking me that question.  Asking me about my favourite movie is the equivalent of asking your girlfriend how many dicks she's sucked before you've been going out for more than forty-eight hours.  This may sound ridiculous to some people, but in my sphere of influence movies are an integral part of existence and asking a person's favourite movie is a complicated, revealing question.  First of all, asking me about my favourite movie (singular) is really asking me my top five or ten movies (plural) because I can't be defined by any one single movie.  So my typical answer would begin with PULP FICTION, then on to FIGHT CLUB and THE DARK KNIGHT, but then stray over to THE MATRIX, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, GOODFELLAS, and TERMINATOR 2, and eventually to crazy shit like DONNIE DARKO, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, and EQUILIBRIUM.  Then the problem becomes that after the first three, which are rated in order, I need to make the other guy understand that I am constantly trying to establish the rest in a discernible order and that as of yet my Top Ten list is really a Top 3 With Seven (...Oh yeah, also SEVEN...) Other Movies That I Can't Make Up My Fucking Mind About, Thank You Very Much.  So I can't even construct a Top Ten list, because then it becomes a Top Twenty list (...also CASINO, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, CLERKS II, AMERICAN PSYCHO and INCEPTION...).  Or if it is a Top Ten list then it has to be a representative list, highlighting my favourite genres, directors, plots, writers and actors (...SHAUN OF THE DEAD, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS...).  So, for example, if I say that number four on my list is GOODFELLAS (which I'm not sure that it is), this is actually representative of my love for Martin Scorsese, gangster movies, and guys like Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci.  But mostly Martin Scorsese.  So when I say GOODFELLAS as my fourth favourite movie of all time, I'm actually saying GOODFELLAS, CASINO, THE DEPARTED (...oh yeah, THE DEPARTED...), GANGS OF NEW YORK, RAGING BULL, THE AVIATOR, MEAN STREETS, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, THE LAST WALTZ, and even NEW YORK NEW YORK.  This also leads to the conundrum of explaining how I think Scorsese is the greatest director of all time while not having one of his films as number one on my list.  This is what many scientists (I assume) refer to as the Scorsese Paradox.  I have tried to reconcile the  Paradox many times, and have failed miserably.  But then, I think that GOODFELLAS, CASINO, and THE DEPARTED deserve their own spots on my list, so again I'm left in a conundrum.  The same is true of MEMENTO, THE DARK KNIGHT, and INCEPTION as some films defy representation without taxation.

The second problem then becomes how one chooses his favourite movie.  Anybody who knows me or has read any of my reviews knows that I overthink the shit out of movies and I have a very complicated grading process for determining the quality of a movie.  But it's even more complicated and neurotic and boring than you could ever emagine.  Allow me to regale you.  In order to differentiate the relative quality of movies at a glance I have a rating system which assigns a numerical value between one and ten to each movie.  This seems simple enough, but then the problem is that even though I rate two movies the exact same -say a 9/10- they are not necessarily equal and they may have recieved that 9 for different reasons.  For example let's look at AMERICAN PSYCHO and DONNIE DARKO, two movies that I would both rate at a big fat 10.  First off, even though both are 10's on my scale I would rate AMERICAN PSYCHO higher than DONNIE DARKO, by a matter of degrees.  Second, I gave them both 10's for different reasons.  AMERICAN PSYCHO is an amazing adaptation of an amazing book, a showcase of Christian Bale's incrdible talent, an orgy of violence, and a scathing commentary on the culture of excess in the 1980's.  DONNIE DARKO is completely fucking nuts, explores ideas like self-sacrifice, destiny and the hypocracy of various educational and religious establishments, but I still have no idea what the fuck time travel and alternate universes have to do with airplanes and giant, demonic bunnies.  The thing is if I took the same criteria that I used to judge AMERICAN PSYCHO and applied it to DONNIE DARKO, the latter would fail and vice versa.  Then I have my whole Character/Theme/Plot holy trinity bullshit to work in there.  And part of it is just a visceral reaction to the script or the filmmaking (... SIN CITY, 300...).  It's fucking ridiculous.

And that's the whole problem.  Whe somebody asks me what my favourite movie is, what they are really asking me is how I evaluate artisitic endeavors.  They are asking me to explain how I view art, and so how I view existence in general which is a personal and complicated thing to ask somebody you first meet.  It would be like a stripper asking another hotter, bigger-breasted stripper how to blow out a candle using only her vagina.  I'm sure it takes some time to cover the intricacies.

Third, most people have terrible, terrible tastes in, well, everything and odds are the more I learn about you the more I will hate you.  If you ask me my favourite movie and I hesitantly offer:


"I saw that, but I never really liked it."

You uneducated swine.  Now I already hate you, but then you add something like:

"Have you ever seen MEET THE PARENTS?  That was the funniest movie of all time."

Now you've completely crossed the line.  Now I'm not just passively hating you, now I'm actively trying to cause you bodily harm.  Now when I see you in a parking lot, I'm not driving over to say hello, I'm fucking gunning for you.  Playful snowball? No, missile from the depths of hell.  That's not jut a cup of coffee I just handed you, it was a trace amount of poison that will build up in your system and kill you.  If we're walking in the forest, I have a steak in my back pocket to attract bears so I can knock you down and run to a safe distance and record you getting mauled so I can post it on YouTube in time for the six o'clock news.

But then, you say something like:

"TRANSFORMERS 2 wasn't that bad."

Now it's just an out and out bludgeoning with my fists of fury and any other blunt objects I can find nearby.  Hopefully a spoon so I can carve your heart out.  (The sad thing is you will never experience the joy of understanding that reference before you die a slow and painful death.)  You have become the very antithesis of everything I stand for and I have no patience for your idiocy.  You must die immediately, your house burned to the ground and the earth salted so nothing fruitful will grow there.

Now time for the awkward seguey into my review of Robert Rodriguez's latest insanity MACHETE.  I am not going to argue that this is the greatest movie of all time, but I thoroughly enjoyed it because it was a shitload of fun (another of my rating criteria).  I am abig fan of Danny Trejo and I was totally stoked that he's finally getting his time as a leading man.  MACHETE follows the trials and tribulations of ex-Federale Machete Cortez who is hired by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey - Lapidus from LOST) to assassinate a racist senator (Robert DeNiro).  Along the way he woos both Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez, kills a bunch of people in increasingly terrible ways, fucks Booth's daughter (Lindsey Lohan) and wife and sends him the video, and eschews the phenomenon known as "texting".  (I can totally empathize with Machete because NathaN don't text either.)

Now after my big rant about how I classify movies and my ever-growing list of favourite movies one might expect me to suddenly add MACHETE to my Top Ten list, which I'm not going to do.  But I will use MACHETE as an example of another integral part of my rating system, the other Big Three: swearing, violence and nudity/sex.  While many would consider these categories to be "low-brow" or less significant than, say, themes dealing with the nature of reality or the ability of two grown, heterosexual male friends expressing their love for each other (it's a reference to CLERKS 2 you sick fucks), I think they are still valid ways of judging the awesomeness of a movie.  And MACHETE had all three in abundance.  Any movie that has multiple beheadings and a naked woman pulling a cell phone out of her vagina to make a call in the opening scene is off to a good start.

Rodriguez (Robert) has always beena favourite of mine ever since DESPERADO, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN all the way up to GRINDHOUSE and SIN CITY.  His flicks are always fun and satisfying on a visceral level if not as culturally substantial as say SCOTT PILGRIM or INCEPTION.  Danny Trejo has always seemed like a total badass on screen and just genrally not the kind of guy you'd want to be alone with in a dark alley in Mexico after 3:00 am.  Some side effects of being in the vicinity Trejo are being horribly injured by sharp objects and extremely painful and untimely Death.  Rodriguez (Michelle) has also been a favourite of mine, but for diffeent reasons (see below).  She's always been a solid actress, but also one of the sexiest women in Hollywood today or any day.  She also seems to be a genuinely tough chick and I don't know what she's like in real life, but in movies and TV shows she gives this look like she's going to bust open your fucking skull right there.  And she seems to have the physique to be able to acomplish this.

As I watched MACHETE I couldn't help but think about THE EXPENDABLES and what Stallone was trying to do with his callback to the 80's and what Rodriguez succeeded in doing with his callback to the 70's.  I have to admit that the action in THE EXPENDABLES was technically bigger and better but I still had more fun watching MACHETE.  All the cinematic conceits that hindered THE EXPENDABLES were absent in MACHETE.  Rodriguez wasn't trying to pass a torch and it didn't have some chip on its shoulder about trying to be one of the greatest action films of all time and it wasn't some commentary on how films should be made (although Rodriguez's filmmaking is a shining example of how films should be made just without the pretention).  You can really tell that Rodriguez has a lot of fun making films and he makes movies that he wants to make with no apologies and no excuses.  I think the reason I have so much fun watching his stuff is because of the fun he obviously has making them.  You can tell he's having a great time because of the batshit crazy stuff that he puts in his movies.  These Rodriguez-isms make his movies (except the SPYKIDS series) some really entertaining shit.  My favourite Rodriguez-ism from MACHETE was Machete using another man's intestine as a rope to escape from a group of bad guys. 

Now comes my rating.  One of the reasons I went into my spiel at the beginning was becaue thinking about MACHETE my gut reaction was to give it a really good rating.  This does not mean that MACHETE is one of my favourite movies of all time, just that I had a shitload of fun watching it and an't wait until it comes t BluRay (and drops to $9.99).  Overall I would have to give MACHETE an 8/10 = One Angry Mexican Head Brutally Diseboweling His Enemies in the Name of Revenge and Justice.


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