Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Whatever Happened To....?

Nostalgia doth not (necessarily) a good movie make.  Which is really unfortunate because a very large percentage of the movie industry is now built upon a cornerstone of nostalgia.  Nostalgia has become very fashionable these days and is front and centre in the public consciousnes.  It has become so popular, in fact, that it now ranks Number 2 on my list of annoying cultural idiom right after (but still far behind) irony which nobody seems to understand but cites it incessantly anyway.  Nostalgia is not so misunderstood as misrepresented as it is simply overused and borderline delusional.  I myself have been guilty of premature nostalgination and it was no less annoying when I was the guilty party.  I remember back in university reminiscing with my friends about the "good old days" -which were really just our first two years of university which we had just finished experiencing.  We had no right or cause to be nostalgic.  Sixty year old men who've lost their wives, are on the verge of being fired just a few years before retirement, have kids who have grown up and left the nest and have lived long enough to see significant cultural changes over a long period of time, enough time to actually have a story arch to reflect on.  We were just some drunk university kids who were starting to feel how fast the world was actually turning and beginning to realize just how fast our lives were going to slip away from us.  The hypothetical sixty year old dude (who had also contracted genital herpes from a pigeon-toed prostitute in Vietnam, by the way) would have been experiencing genuine nostalgia; I was a whiny semi-depressed young man who was really coming to terms with the realization that I might not be young forever.

But the problem is even worse than that.  Recently I overheard some thirteen year old kids reminiscing about "how good it was" when they were younger.  Thirteen!  Some might say that it's a sign of the times, that children are getting more cynical and more cognisant that worldwide political and social unrest is building to biblical proportions and that the smallest spark in the form of another Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush or Wayan brothers comedy might just set the whole powder keg off.  But I don't think so.  I think it's just a bunch of spoiled kids who enjoy whining, because that's what upper-middle class kids do: they immaturely whine and moan about how good they had it when they were five years old when they could still shit their pants with impunity and most of them were still haning from their moms' stretched out teats.  They're not nostalgic they're lazy with a sense of entitlement.  This is premature nostalgia.

Then there's another symptom I've fallen victim to which I like to call False Nostalgia.  All nostalgia is by its very nature is false.  As we all now the word "nostalgia" comes from the Greek "nostos" meaning "retuning home" and "algos" which means " pain or ache" (At least according to Wikipedia, and we all know that everything we read on the internet is true.  Everything!).  So literally it means an ache or pain to return home.  A yearning for a place that does not exist.  I don't know if psychologists have a technical term for the mechanism that exists in the human psyche that selectively filters out all the shit and leaves nothing but the gold fillings in certain memories.  I don't know whether it's part of the psyche that helps us deal with severe trauma or whether it's the same part that deals with delusion and psychosis but it's definitely not accurate.  And whatever the case extremely innacurate recollections -ie. False Nostalgia- lead to a lot of tragic byproducts like the On Again/Off Again couple.  Weird and Tragic. 

Another strange cousin of False Nostalgia is something I like to call False Nostalgia II (What?  It worked for BACK TO THE FUTURE.)  False Nostalgia II is a feeling of longing and edited memories about a time period you never even lived in.  Perhaps my most notable experience of false nostalgia revloves around my romantic notions of the 1960's.  This is due in large part to many movies -the main one that comes to mind is FORREST GUMP- that romantisize and idealize that particular time period.  Looking back on that time period now one gets the impression that there was hope looming on the horizon.  There was the sexual revoluton, the explosion of recreational drugs, the musical renaissance, massive social movements against racism and pointless wars on foreign soil.  It just seems like being a flower child in the 60's was a gloriously idealistic time to be alive.  But that's really just bullshit.  If I were transplanted through time right now to live out the re of my days in he 1960's I would probably kill myself inside of a week.  When you think about it the sixties weren't that great.  A lot of promiscuous sex just leads to the unmitigated sharing of STD's which I would be to paranoid about to actually fuck a bunch of random chicks in a Woodstock urinal.  I don't do drugs now and I probably wouldn't do them with John Lennon because (aside from maybe a little weed) I'd be really paranoid about overdosing and winding up lying in a bathroom, drowned in a puddle of my own vomit.  The main event I would have liked to attend would have been Woodstock, but I can jut buy the DVD.  Experiencing The Beatles in their prime?  Their music is available on iTunes now, plus I get to enjoy all the great music that has been made since they rocked out with their cocks out on The Ed Sullivan show.  I guess that goes for anythin else culturally.  I mean, there wouldn't even be STAR WARS yet.  No internet, losing access to all the medical advancements made in the last forty years, and governments that still wage pointess wars in foreign countries.  Ignorance really is bliss.

If I did live in the sixties I also wouldn't have had the opportunity (?) to see TRON: LEGACY and BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY.  On the surface these are two very dissimilar films: one a special effects extraveganza summer blockbuster relaesed in the middle of winter and the other a direct to video mongrel sequel to a cult classic.  While conceptually they are extremely different they are ideologically quite similar.

TRON:LEGACY is, of course, Disney's masturbatory twenty year later sequel to it's often referenced TRON.  The plot, besides being convoluted and dull, is completely irrelevent in understanding the movie.  TRON:LEGACY is Disney's monument to itself and its own "achievements" in "filmmaking."  The supposed "achievement" is the "classic" TRON which was a largely forgettable movie about a whiz-kid played by Jeff Bridges who gets sucked into a virtual world inside his computer where he meets some anthropomorphic computer programs and then proceeds to be almost bored to death for a couple hours.  The claim to fame for TRON is that it helped pioneer the age of digital effects which, considering many blockbusters released in recent years, is a dubious legacy.  The whole point of TRON:LEGACY seemed to be to remind us about the advances the crew at Disney made way back when and to supposedly push the envelope of modern cinematic techniques, ei. digital effects and 3D.  Admitedly, one of the reasons I went to see te new TRON was to compare the 3D to the 3D in AVATAR, now one of only two movies to have effectively make use of the new 3D technology.  Although not all of TRON: LEGACY was in 3D for some reason, it still looked fucking good and made my pants feel a little tighter.

The second reason I wanted to see TRON:LEGACY was because of the special effects, specifically the anti-aging technology used to make Jeff Bridges look twenty years younger.  I'm not sure why exactly this fascinated me so much.  Maybe it was curiosity about what The Dude would look like as a plucky twenty-something.  Or maybe I'm curious about the future of cinema where there might be fully-rendered, digital actors that looked "real" and could actually replace "real" actors.  Honestly, it was pretty fucking amazing.  There were times when young Jeff Bridges looked a little cartoony and kind of creepy, like a mannequin come to life, but there were certain scenes where it was pretty fucking impossible to tell it was digital effects.  I mean, we're still a long way off from completely photorealistic digital human characters.  It might yet be a while before we get a realistic rendition of Marilyn Monroe scissoring Pamela Anderson while Humphrey Bogart enjoys a handjob from Tom Cruise and blows his load all over their tits while Orson Welles pees blood on them all while swinging from a chandelier with the son of Kong, but there's hope on the horizon.

But in the end the best TRON: LEGACY can claim to be is sickeningly sweet eye candy.  Visually it was stunning, but it was so frustrating that nothing really happened.  It was a really fucking boring, conceited movie.  It was so self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing, self-centred, and self-absorbed that TRON: LEGACY seemed to be nothing more than a giant monument to itself.  It was like a guy with a really small dick who buys a really big, expensive car then drives around the neighbourhood as if to say, "Hey, look at me!  Look at my car!  A car this expensive and shiny must mean I have an unusually large penis.  Aren't you impressed?"  Well, no, not really.  The starting point for TRON: LEGACY was False Nostalgia and so was doomed from the start.  The makers of this movie wrongly remembered the original TRON as some kind of sci-fi masterpiece and concluded that a sequel carrying on that story and that legacy would be just as signifiant or meaningful.  Unfortunately for those of us who saw the movie they were (at least) half right.

BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY (just for the record, a really shitty subtitle) is another example of cancerous nostalgia left unchecked.  In this case, however, it is Premature Nostalgia.  This movie is writer/director Troy Duffy's very desperate attempt to recreate the violent, cat-exploding magic he somehow captured and bottled in his cult classic THE BOONDOCK SAINTS.  Now I really hoped against hope that this sequel wouldn't be a complete piece of shit, much like a young child asks Santa Claus for mommy and daddy to get back together.  Unfortunately both that kid and I were (probably) sorely disappointed, me when I watched Troy Duffy's aborted fetus of a film and the kid when it slowly dawned on him that the guy in the cheap Santa suit he'd been asking for his parents to get back together was probably his new "Uncle Jimmy" who'd just moved into his house and was, in all likelyhood, now banging his freshly-divorced and (until recently) sexually unsatisfied mom.  Reality is a hard pill to swallow sometimes.

Again as with TRON:LEGACY the plot here is unessential.  It basically catches up with the MacManus Brothers (Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) who used to be ruthless vigilantes in Boston meting out bloody justice to mobsters and gangbangers, but who have now retired from their violent ways (despite an apocalyptic diatribe at the end of the first movie, but anyway...) and live in Ireland farming and fucking herding each other sheep.  For some reason.  Anyway, insert flimsy plot device here and they return to Boston.... meting out bloody justice to mobsters and gangbangers.  Again.  They are aided by an eccentric FBI agent.  Again.  They are teamed up with an annoying sidekick.  Again.  I will say, to Troy Duffy's credit, that never have I ever seen a ten or twenty year later sequel that managed to bring back a cast almost in its entirety.  Granted most of them were lesser-known actors, but I was still impressed that he managed such a reunion.  And also a little sad.  Because even the slight joy I felt at seeing all these characters I remembered was stomped to death by steel toe boots when I realized what Duffy was trying to do: systematically recreate the first film, piece by piece.  It was kind of depressing actually that Duffy seemed to be so desperately clinging to his first movie as if it were some kind of metaphysical liferaft.

It quickly became apparent that BOONDOCK SAINTS II was not a sequel but one man's desperate attempt to live in a past that simply does not exist any more.  BOONDOCK SAINTS II is to BOONDOCK SAINTS what THE EXPENDABLES was to EVERY ACTION MOVIE FROM THE 80's: a pale, though slightly more dressed up, immitation.  BOODOCK SAINTS II is a bunch of thirteen year old boys standing around discussing BOONDOCK SAINTS while getting sick smoking dad's cigarettes for the first time and feeling all growed up.  And really the only people who could see having gotten any enjoyment whatsoever from the sequel are guys like me who loved BOONDOCK SAINTS and got a mild kick from sort of reminiscing about that movie.  But in reality, I'd rather jus go and watch the first one again.  I mean, it was cool to see cameos from Willem Dafoe and David Della Rocko, but they were (especially in Rocko's case whose character actually died in the first movie, and no before you ask he was not just used in a flashback unfortunately) really unnecessary and only served to drive home the point that I really should have spent the last hour and a half watching the original, which seems to be what Troy Duffy actually wants to do to.  We should totally hang some time, Troy, and watch BOONDOCK SAINTS.  I think we'd have a good time.

Nostalgia is not always bad, even when it comes to making movies.  In recent memory movies like STAR TREK, ROCKY BALBOA, and RAMBO have really capitalized on nostalgia.  Where those movies went right, however, was in their ability both to acknowledge that sense of nostalgia while either A) growing and evolving from the original idea or B) using that nostalgia as a jumping off point and boldly going in new and wonderful directions.  What TRON: LEGACY and BOONDOCK SAINTS II failed to do was evolve and so will forever be doomed to be trapped in the primordeal swamps of our already stagnant culture.  These two movies grew more like a cancer and less like a beatiful rose stretching its petals towards the sun while I fuck Olivia Wilde doggy-style behind a nearby dumpster.  It's almost poetic, I know.

I give TRON: LEGACY a 4/10 = One Surprised Homosexal Albino Digital Club Owners Head Exploding in a Terrible Act of Betrayal

BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY also gets a 4/10 = Two Bearded Vigilante Heads Taking a Strangly Erotic and Incestuous Shower Together    


Post a Comment