January 2008

Billy The Kid

We all have our awkwardnesses and insecurities.

That’s why it’s comforting to see someone who is exponentially more awkward and insecure than oneself have their quirks put under a microscope and sold to a global audience.

The fact that the subject of the documentary actually dreams of fame (but not, of course, theStar_wars_kid
type of fame they’re getting) adds a layer of irony. What’s more, that sense of irony doesn’t seem to lose its appeal, no matter how many times the formula is repeated, which is also ironic, etc.

Billy The Kid Trailer





Ever get the feeling you were meant for greater things?

Me, too. So does everyone else.

The tagline for Wall-E is: “After 700 years of doing what he was built for, he’ll discover what he was meant for.”

The implication that it’s possible to be built for one thing and meant for another is a sort of meta-theism. Not only is there a god who created you, but there is also another, superior, god who endowed you with your purpose. At a metaphysical level, this idea is confusing, but at a visceral, emotional level, it’s comforting, which is why it can used to sell a family-oriented animated summer event movie.

Of course, if you really have any doubt about whether Wall-E’s origin and destiny are inextricably
entwined, watch the horrifically self-indulgent ‘Teaser Trailer 1,’ in which we’re privileged to hear the story of the lunch in 1994 when Wall-E was conceived, along with Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, and other successes. The primary implication is that the lunch in question represented such a convergence of brilliance that every idea that came out of it was destined for success. The secondary (but more interesting) implication is that the force that creates something is, by definition, the same force that gives it purpose. In other words, Wall-E was actually not just built to sort garbage. He was built to be too good to sort garbage, so that our hearts would go out to him.

Which is to say, he was meant for exactly what he was built for.

Also worth noting: in “I just gotta be me” stories like this one, robots and other technology-related characters are usually the bad guys. It’s the hero’s humanity in the face of an impersonal world that makes him so appealing. If Wall-E succeeds commercially, it could be a sign that the general movie-going public no longer sees technology and individuality as oppositional forces. This may seem obvious now, but it wasn’t the case even as recently as ten years ago.

Wall-E Trailer





The bumbling superhero is a metaphor for the viewer’s unfulfilled potential. Most of us feel that, just below the surface, we have a set of simmering abilities that could change the world for the better, if only we knew how to properly unleash them.

Also, characters like this reflect our society’s cynicism toward authority and power, particularly when cloaked in glamour and tradition. We’re no longer looking for a Superman, neither in the DC Comics sense nor the Nietzschean sense, and if one came along, we would assume he was here to conquer and rule, not to reinforce some pre-existing moral coda. What we can hope for is someone sincere and flawed, transparent in his mistakes, imperfect because he can’t get his act together, not because we have to worry that he doesn’t really have our best interests at heart.

Hancock is also a metaphor for today’s America: powerful beyond measure, meaning well at someFrozone
abstract level, but ultimately destroying more than it saves, hurting more than it helps. The newscaster’s recitation “…Hancock’s latest act of so-called heroism…” doubtless reflects the way that many of America’s decisions and deeds are recounted overseas.

Nearly all movies have a ’second act tension,’ i.e. the question that the viewer asks herself about how the story will resolve. The question here is ‘Will Hancock get his act together?’ And of course, the answer is yes. But the more interesting question is: What will that mean? What does it actually take to a be a credible superhero these days, without turning into the thing that’s so sickly sweet, nobody can believe in it anymore?

Hancock Trailer





As motifs go, “vaginas are dangerous” is about as ancient as they come. Among the many associations spurred in the minds of anyone watching this trailer are the obvious:

Male fear of sexually transmitted disease.
Male fear of duplicitous women.
Male fear that female sexuality ultimately derives from a place of evil.
Male fear that sex will lead to various situations equating to a loss of youth and virility, such as a marriage and fatherhood.
Male fear that the relatively recent (historically speaking) sexual empowerment of women is a bad thing.Carrie

Female fear that any of the above is true, e.g. that having a vagina is ultimately a disadvantage, and that it will cause you to harm others in a way beyond your control.
Female exhilaration at the power of female sexuality.

The last item on the list is one that is not typically associated with the Dentata myth. If it ends up being part of the movie, then the story has a chance of not Terminator_3
sinking into exploitation cliche. Maybe. After all, the angry cutie who can’t take it anymore and is now on the warpath is a B-movie subgenre all its own.

This trailer may appeal to mouth-breathers who are incapable of understanding the explanation above, but are subject to it anyway, and intellectuals who are curious whether the filmmakers took the ideas in the last paragraph into consideration.

Teeth trailer




The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything

The title is funny only if you accept the implication that this is an ironic and whimsical twist in the tradition of movie plots: action heroes with no action. But in fact, this movie is merely the latest in an endless string of derivatives from The Seven Samurai, the prototype of all movies about a band of unqualified misfits called upon to save a small community. In a drama, the misfits are fighters past their prime; in a comedy, the misfits are entertainers mistaken for real heroes.

There’s nothing wrong with making use of a template with a long history of success.Three_amigos
But there is something grating about announcing your use of that template with a self-congratulatory title that implies you’ve come up with something original. ‘

Of course, this is a movie for kids, who won’t know any better. And maybe the gleeful commercial cynicism of the title masks something original and heartfelt. But I doubt it.

The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything trailer