and sometimes poetry


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.

The Green Hornet (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl

We had a whole quiver of insults aimed and ready to sling at what we quite assuredly felt was The Green Hornet’s sleekly-fashioned and yet slow-moving quarry. Black Swan IIBromance for Dummies; and just plain old Seth Rogen Sucks Up Another Movie. We were so prepared to hate this movie, which partakes of all our least favorite genres—the aforementioned Apatowian buddy flick; the comic book spin-off; the unkillable long-live-newspapers-and-journalistic-integrity subplot; Cameron Diaz—and let Mark know so frequently, long before the actual movie peaked its verdant thorax over the grey horizon of mid-winter release dates. In preview after preview we shook our head, warning him that, “in no way would we ever see that shit.” Our skepticism was grounded in our expectations of the pleasures and pitfalls of the movie’s conventions; our subsequent enjoyment of the film was in proportion to the lowest depths we hold such formulas in esteem. We have all confronted books, or poems, or art with fairly clear ideas of their take-away. The Green Hornet showed us that sometimes selling one’s wares cheap allows one to peddle “newness” without actually going through the trouble of “invention.” Like a recent snack purchase we just made: pretzels and crackers, finally and inexplicably together at last. The Green Hornet is that kind of genre-bending—pretty unnecessary, sorta the same flavor as its component parts, and yet somehow tasty enough to eat the whole pack. 

The plot, which sparkles suspiciously with the makings of demographic commentary, crystallizes around Seth Rogen’s loser-rich-kid rolling home in his stretch-SUV to the scene of his newspaper magnate dad’s death. Suddenly Seth’s in charge and he bumbles and fucks things up per usual, while enlisting the help of his dad’s old mechanic to turn them both into super-heroes who pose as bad guys to get…We know: yawn. The things that save this movie, and that made us—we must admit—cry with laughter in at least one scene are mostly due to Michel Gondry’s whimsical action-adventure sequences. At one point, Rogen and sidekick drive through a gun battle on the top floor of the newspaper building in a car that has been cut in half. Cut in half! It’s the perfect objective correlative: the paper-storm of our movie-weary presumptions lost in the bullet-hail of a film both amping up and sundering its form. The other thing that we liked was Jay Chou. His character managed to climb the barricade of odds Hollywood cobbles together against Asian characters, brandishing some witticisms from its summit. Though other than a few funny jokes—we also must admit—he was still the pretzel to Seth Rogen’s expectedly dry, crumbly cracker. Go see this movie for the opening James Franco cameo; stay if you remember who Edward Furlong is.

The Green Hornet (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

The Green Hornet is an okay but not stupendous superhero thingy. My expectations having been set low by the cheap jokes in the previews, I was pleasantly surprised. The villain is Cristoph Waltz, who delightfully stunned as the brilliant villain Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, the most beautiful movie ever made, and who throughout Green Hornet gots some funny-ass lines poppin’ out his mouth! The first scene also features a sweetly cheesy cameo by James “Jonathan Franzen” Franco! Due to these surprises and some creatively silly Pineapple Express-esque action sequences, The Green Hornet is better than you think it will be. But responsible critics should not confuse the illusion of goodness that shimmers around a merely passable entry’s transcendence of that critic’s expectation of suckitude with the gooey, gooey goodness of real goodness. The viewer, on the other hand, has a responsibility to lower his or her expectations, so that any film’s perceived goodness might be selfishly maximized. Thus the duty of the critic to the public and of the viewer to the self are forever opposed, like the crossed particle beams of two separate Ghostbusters sweeping the vaulted hotel ballroom of the soul for the shallow hologram of truth.

I’ll be the first to admit Seth Rogen was awesome on The Wonder Years. As the snarky sidekick of more versatile leads, Rogen is able to land his punchlines with a devastating, deadpan precision—but when he’s gotta leap around, conjure enthusiasm, mope, emote epiphanies, and cling genuinely to all those other skinny vines main characters must swing on through the jungles of change—he continually overplays his hand. He’s like a Jack Black without the hole in his soul, that thing deep down that drives great comic immersion into the moment, into the self-immolation of pure performance (which paradoxically reveals the self in the viewer). Rogen’s always holding back, clutching some dim ember of middle-class normalcy he believes is worth protecting, some shitty inner sincerity that’s just not interesting or dramatically useful, instead of melting fully into the form. Reading contemporary poetry one encounters too a commoditized bewilderment.  Poem after poem effortfully destabilizes  conventions of syntax and diction all to reveal… someone from the middle class wanted a taste of literature. There is no there here. Just a charging, adolescent energy unencumbered with the wisdom of years or the distance from self true alienation teaches. It’s easy to be a poet or an actor. But there is only room in art for language and character.