and sometimes poetry

action

Tower Heist (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

Ah, the tower: sturdy symbol of priapic hubris, at once trans-historical (Babel, Pisa, Empire, Twin) and inter-textual (Dante, Shakespeare, Kafka, Crichton), dialectically isolate and amidst its surroundings, lonely, proud, horrifically erect—perfect fodder for the latest blockbuster Hollywood film, Tower Heist

Which interrogates none of these archetypes, explores not one of these fabulae…

Tower Heist: 22.3 minutes aggregate of genuine mirth; 58.5 minutes of pleasurable tedium; 6.2 minutes of self-scandalized am-I-racist-for-laughing-so-hard-at-Eddie-Murphy balls-out hilarity

Walter Benjamin believed we watched cinema in a state of distraction and indeed I was distracted throughout much of Tower Heist

For this movie is obviously about contemporary American poetry

Its dull white poobahs installed at the top of the tower of contemporary American poetry…

Their endless columns holding us all unwitting hostage

While they recline in tastefully spacious apartment, done up with all manner of first-edition, and Darger original, and racks of medium-nice wine, just racks of it…

Hardwood floors; cupolas; hand-signed broadsides of Berryman’s 14th Dream Song…

And the hive of minorities and young people scurrying to keep this all going, underneath and among, in between, dreaming the big, glossy dream ourselves as we hold an elevator, walk a furry speck of dog…

All we want, Tower Heist cannily shows, is just one piece of that pure-gold Ferrari called poetry, we would settle for just one stinkin piece…

A carburetor chapbook…

Hubcap reading series steering wheel residency side mirror grant

Just some gold, just some gold, just some gold to fill our profoundly sparse little hands


Anonymous (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

I don’t want to go into why Anonymous might be “bad;”

Its badness relative to its goodness discomfits me less than the coming onslaught of semester’s end;

The blizzard of Anonymous’s plots twists is of no interest;

Nor the ways in which narrative itself becomes lost in a white rush it both makes and is made from, stumbling through deep banks of its own inconsistencies;

Ill-timed and unmarked flashbacks;

Triple helpings of indistinguishable characters bearing the title “Earl;”

I don’t care that Anonymous stirred the tepid soup of its political intrigue with a splinter of moldy spoon;

That moments of drama sputtered up like stray sexual urges from Maggie Smith’s wrinkly loins; that its themes received more serious treatment in the Elizabeth movies, or Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet; nothing perturbs me about Anonymous because people spoke in complete sentences in it;

And some of those sentences were Shakespeare’s;

And the actor playing Shakespeare—

The fake one, the one actually named Shakespeare, not the writer, the actor, which Shakespeare also was, until he became a writer, which he doesn’t in this movie, because he can’t, because Shakespeare is the name of a nobleman, who is actually Shakespeare, though somehow Queen Elizabeth declares that “history will never know his name,” which, how is that possible, the point is it’s not! Complete sentences are the point—

Is a fine actor, and the name “Ben Jonson” is uttered at least 100x, and when was the last time a Cavalier Poet made it into a movie, huh Leidner?


In Time (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl


In Time’s ethos is less carpe than CRAPPY diem.  Something about class and the unequal distribution of wealth goes on in In Time, which led me to whisper-shout “OCCUPY TIME!” at obnoxiously regular intervals throughout it.

The New Yorker review of In Time is a hazard to public safety and so I’m going to take the rest of the time allotted this review and rebut its claims, one by one:

“Andrew Niccol, the genre-twisting director of ‘Gataca,’ delivers another entertaining mind-bender”: In Time is mind-bending only if the last time you experienced your own mind functioning was en route from Pretzel Maker to Auntie Anne’s and were like, how will I ever decide which is the better pretzel store?

“The film stars Justin Timberlake, as an heir to a fortune of extra time who flees the corrupt police force known as Timekeepers”: this bit of innocuous plot explication is so wrong I wonder if Bruce Diones took the time to even watch this abysmal time-waste of a movie.

JT is NOT an heir, but a man accused of stealing time from this rich guy who comes to the wrong side of the time zone because he’s been alive for so long and “people want to die” and so he gives JT his time while JT is asleep and JT tries to use it save his mom but she—zzzzzzz….

“Niccol’s zippy direction, joined to a sleek, rich production design, keeps the movie spinning like a shiny toy”: In Time was filmed on the back lot of the back lot of The Sopranos during stray moments when no one important like Edie Falco was looking.

“It zooms past plot holes”: In Time is one giant plot hole in the middle of a cul de sac it jerks off behind the tree at the end of.

“The remarkably good-looking cast includes Amanda Seyfried”: Seyfried looks like a grotty Skipper doll made of last year’s Top Shop.

“As for Timberlake, he shows some smart acting moves, dialing down his inherent charisma and letting the movie pop…”: Any popping In Time manages is of the white-head-boring-a-hole-in-the-center-of-your-chin variety; when it goes it’s timely, but you wish it had never happened in the first place.



In Time (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

Amanda Seyfried’s big eyes reflected back nothing but the wrath of time upon our doomed generation.

Every line is a time-based pun like “I’m gonna clean your clock…” and “Time’s up!” and “Looks like we’re making good time…” and “Time to go get some more time before time runs out.” “Not this time!”

Justin Timberlake’s lingering falsetto, erupting at moments of emotional intensity, undercut his ability to wag a gun and grimace convincingly at an adversary.

There were pauses in the dialogue so vast and vacuous, Russel Crowe could’ve piloted the ship from Master and Commander through them.

In Time is a man running a marathon whose legs are suddenly hacked off and instead of going to the hospital, he just worms forward, desperately clutching the earth in front of him while gawkers turn away, covering their eyes with their hands, but their eyes aren’t crying, they’re smoking.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde

“If I am the exact same character in every movie, I can be in every movie.” – Olivia Wilde

Remember the highlighted blonde-poodle haircut Justin Timberlake used to have.

Byron: The world was void, the populous and the powerful was a lump, seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—a lump of death—a chaos of hard clay. The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still, and nothing stirred within their silent depths; ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea, and their masts fell down piecemeal; as they dropped they slept on the abyss without a surge—the waves were dead; the tides were in their grave, the Moon, their mistress, had expired before; the winds were withered in the stagnant air, and the clouds perished! Darkness had no need of aid from them—she was the Universe.


Thor (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

Like adultery, drugs, and advanced degrees in the humanities, midnight showings are great in theory, often lackluster in praxis, and usually leave one deeply regretful come morning. They are a bad idea, neither the cause nor effect of which you can ever remember, and so one which you are helplessly destined to have again and again, like thinking “pot is still fun!” or “a bj isn’t really cheating!” or “oooh, PhD in creative writing….”—movies at midnight sit stupidly in the center of one’s movie-going buffet, a dry, dull cake you somehow convince yourself you will not eat even as you march gustily towards it, suddenly feeling great and what’s this? Hungry! And: Alive! with the pure excitement and adrenaline and pleasantly discombobulating sense of adventure arriving at and entering a mall that has already closed instantly and inexplicably entails. What are we, like 12? Yes; let it be known: Mark and I are like 12. For we went to see Thor with the other 12-year-olds, all of us housed unattractively in the pasty corporeal sacks of our mid-to-late twenties, and we went to see it at midnight—an hour when all normal adults are either drunk, asleep, or mid-coitus with their cougarish comp lit prof.

Thor is like if Kenneth Branagh had riotous, frequent, meth-fueled sex with one of his film-studies undergrads and they decided to make a movie together, but this undergrad was hugely overweight and really into fantasy/comic book shit and also super-gay in an early-80s Freddie Mercury kind of way, and he insisted that their movie be an accurate depiction of ancient Norse mythology and its accompanying world views. And by that he meant lots of capes, curly-horned helmets, and some kind of space-sea-waterfall-scape, as if multiple Yanni album arts had been blown-up and poorly CGI’d together. There are moments when you can tell that someone real directed this film: a few scenes, after Thor has been “cast out” from Valhalla or wherever and deposited into the astrophysicist purview of Natalie Portman (who here plays her one other kind of role—the over-eager, somehow feral Good Girl), smack pleasantly of Branaghian self-awareness; later on, a deliciously inter-textual moment is smuggled in. But alas such morsels are few and far between. Thor is loud and metallic; its savor is like sleeping with a mouthful of popcorn taste, then waking up from a backwash of dreams your subconscious once again got suckered into taking the last swig of.


Thor (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

Thor is pure shit.

Imagine a person vomiting uncontrollably—not out of the mouth—but out of the anus. Color this blast of hot disjecta the brightest and cheesiest tints of CGI you can think of, and that is the feeling of Thor.

Thor‘s actors perform line readings like mass-media sculpted poodles painfully coughing up used condoms.

Through curly straws, Thor’s screenwriters sip cups of their own foetid feces, then spit it back into the cup of the movie, slide the cup across the table to you, which you drink without straw, so excrement cakes around your mouth until you resemble some kind of horrible clown.

Exiting Lascaux Picasso said, “In 12,000 years, we have learned nothing.”

Having attended the midnight opening, exiting Cinemark at a grim 2 a.m., I said to Hannah, “In 12 years we have learned nothing.”

Referring to 1999’s Phantom Menace, wherein millions of dollars pumped into empty CGI dreamscapes so enmired a narrative in visual camp that no emotional investment in a single character or event was possible.

Why is the Death Star of the immortal Norsemen a giant, fire-breathing, Soviet realism robot?

Why is there an Asian sidekick in the immortal Norsemen’s posse of stupid friends?

Of course the golden-mailed guardian of the Stargate of the Immortal Norsemen is a blind, black oracle who randomly melts out of the cocoon of ice in which Loki froze him at the very moment Thor needs rescuing—why not? Also, of course Anthony Hopkins’ Odin isn’t really dead but wakes up at the last second to shed a tear and live forever.

Of course the racial nemeses of the Norse are red-eyed blue goblins who do nothing all day on their iceball of a planet but stand around like refugees in ice caves, thinking about ice, making weapons of ice, planning al-Qaeda-style ice-hjinx.

I normally try very hard not to be a typically homophobic white male sexist pig; but Thor so thoroughly offended every  fiber of my entertainable being that I had no way to address it without recourse to the  homophobic epithets of childhood, turning to Hannah halfway through, “This movie is straight-up gay.” I am ashamed of that moment but report it in the spirit of full disclosure.

Loki—okay—Thor’s obvious neme-sissy—has an interesting character torn internally by dueling loyalties, each of which resonated royally with me; which is to say the villain, like good ones should be, is kind of right, he just takes it too far and gets his soul-wings clipped in the scissors of destiny.

Pods of greasy and pathetic nerds undulated with big-tittied laughter in the theater Hannah and I saw this bullshit in, wheezing hardest at moments of greatest homoerotic misogyny. Thor is like a thin trampoline upon which a Boy Scout troop’s worth of American nerds aren’t even jumping, just standing in a circle with their pants at their ankles, masturbating in patriotic, stroke-for-stroke unison.

I was a nerd too—but old school. The shame of a flowering sensitivity and brindling wit was what alienated me from my barbarian milieu—but today’s nerd is dumber, fatter, lazier, and duller than I ever was. Their only curse a blubbery sense of entitlement and wild overestimation of their own worth—like a moss that covers their souls—forever retarding growth.

Thor is proof of the nerd’s refusal to think about or attempt to articulate his plight; instead retreating fully into the gaudy treads of the wheel of the monster truck of comestible stupidity, currently brightwashed in icons of a once subversive  form—comics.

Thor isn’t story—but porn—for these people.

Thor is thoroughly horrible; boredom on steroids.

If Thor were real, he would swoop down from Valhalla on a brilliant thingy of light and individually sledgehammer everyone who had not seen this movie, to prevent them from ever seeing it, out of Nordic mercy.

I’m not a woman, but if I was, trying to enjoy Thor would be like trying to enjoy a warlock engaging my vagina with the lowest branch snapped off the nearest pine tree.

If there was something good about Thor, trying to remember it is like trying to remember the eye color of someone who killed your family.

In Thor we see the triumph of the dickless, of the thoughtless, of the hopeless masculinity—a bowl of vanilla ice cream left in the sun, melted, gone rancid, devoured by flies now trying to escape up the sides of the bowl, too bloated to fly—that with bright, loud explosions blinds itself to its own self-hatred, precipitating the recapitulation of that hatred outward onto the world, imperiling everything the real Thor stood for.

Thor lurches its way down the theatrical pipe like a multi-colored, irregular turd into the twin toilet bowls of your eyes.


Fast Five (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

Virginia Woolf at her picture palace, Friday 15 January, 1915: “as usual, the drama is very boring. I wish one liked what everyone likes. The Hall was crowded, roars of laughter, applause &c.” Oh, Virginia you eternal sprayer of truth! For does this not firmly limn the experience we too have endured, ensconced in the shabby crimson and at-par seating of the Cinemark at Hampshire Mall? The chuckles, the hoots, everywhere the huge sounds of vacuous delight and our own small, tight tumor of dislike metastasizing in its midst—hunched over popcorn, muttering at Mark through the previews, the opening credits, the absurd action sequences spackled unappealingly with dialogue, inspecting all through the mist of our utter rejection of it. To be of the crowd, but not in it, to join its tumid ranks only to feel—again, again—the utter aloneness of the self and her tiny array of tastes—such smallish smorgasbords, such mealy fruits! Why could we not like Fast Five? Everyone else around us did. The opening action sequence—which involved a high-speed train, three slutty sports cars, and an all-terrain vehicle that looked like the Short Circuit robot on ‘roids—induced actual gasps of amazement; no one yawned, or at least not loudly, at the long stretches of limp-dick one-liners masquerading as “plot.” In fact people seemed highly entertained by the machinations which ultimately brought Dwayne Johnson’s sweaty-headed American cop dude over to (spoiler alert!) the dark, car-thieving side of Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and every ethnic minority side-kick ever sponsored by an action movie franchise.

Also never seen any of the Fast & Furiouses; also clearly not a loss. What one wants in a movie like this is continual, continuously inventive action—characters played by hulks like Diesel or Johnson cannot afford to be developed, nor should the precise angles of Diesel’s and Walker’s sister/wife triangle attempted to be solved. No one is smart enough in an enterprise such as this—not the director, not the screenwriter, not the actors, and certainly not the act—and rather than be reminded of that as one sits alone shoveling popcorn into one’s maw and alienation, rather than be implicated in that dumbness, one should be transported above one’s own wicked tendencies towards analysis, left floating somewhere beyond the incessantly snapping pinchers of one’s brain. Like enthusiastic camp counselors, action movies should get you to allow yourself to behave in ways you normally never do, laugh at shit you’d never normally laugh at, cringe and register whole spectrums of response that you have generally coded “off limits” or “no longer” or “not really in public.” That is their gift: release from the crowded cage of one’s constantly cogitating, depressingly discriminating, endlessly exceptive skull. That’s it. That’s all we wanted, Fast Five, all poor Virginia asked for herself way back when, all the binding power that popular art can muster, do, and be: allowance, even rarely, into the golden, tawdry, cozy halls of everyone else.