I prefer to call it “passionate persuasion”.
I prefer to call it “passionate persuasion”.
(Robert Vince, 2006)
With this entry, I’m proud to participate again in the 7th Annual White Elephant Blogathon, hosted by Silly Hats Only, even though I’m now really late for its April Fool’s Day deadline.
Come on, of course I was excited to see this. It’s a monkey movie. Even if it was terrible, it was guaranteed to feature some outrageous behavior not natural to the primate world. If artists like Stanley Kubrick, Clint Eastwood, Tim Burton, and Ronald Reagan have fallen for the hairy charms of our nearest ancestors on film, who am I to argue?
Spymate is one in a series from director/producer Robert Vince, who is responsible not only for the somewhat-silly Air Bud series as well as its spawn, the Air Buddies series (awwwwww, puppies!). There are over a dozen films with an Air Bud connection–most straight to DVD–which may be beloved by children and perhaps those who adore cute doggies, but are tolerated/reviled by discerning parents who are forced to endure these cloying films time and again.
Spymate, however, features a burgeoning star of the monkey-movie-genre, a chimp named simply Louie. Like a young Bruce Willis, Louie quickly has become a multifaceted action hero, dazzling on the hockey rink in MVP: Most Valuable Primate (2000), and shredding skateboards in its sequel (in name only), MVP: Most Vertical Primate (2001). In this film, Louie plays an international superspy called Minky, who reenters the spy trade when his former human partner, Mike (Chris Potter), needs help rescuing his daughter (Emma Roberts), who has been kidnapped by an evil scientist (Richard Kind) in order to use her award-winning laser drill invention for fame and profit.
Truth be told, the plot is dumb as hell and barely matters.
Overall, one must realize this movie’s primary audience is children, and leaps in logic should be considered par for the course. Why, the leaps in logic are actually the best parts. The sheer amount of dizzying, disorienting cuts in the first 5 minute “rescue” sequence is staggering, likely because it’s the only way to showcase a chimp’s climbing, running and swashbuckling “expertise” as even remotely smooth or natural. Louie’s talents are best utilized in small, heavily edited action scenes, such as those where he performs karate against none other than Mr. Miyagi himself. It’s true – thanks to Robert Vince, Pat Morita has now suffered a worse career setback than the sequels in which he was paired with Ralph Macchio.
The weakest parts of this particular movie feature non-primate characters, some of whom might even be offensive to some viewers. For instance, there’s an over-the-top Arab threatening to blow up the President, and Asian taking photographs, as well as transpose spoken R’s with L’s. Minky’s circus colleagues who join in the rescue are neither funny nor interesting. And while preteen co-star Roberts has got acting in her blood (she’s daughter of Eric, and cousin of Julia), she has difficulty finding a foothold in this poorly constructed film, that requires its viewers to believe Roberts is among the greatest innovators in science.
Ultimately, it’s a disappointing film. I only wish Spymate stuck closer to my monkey-film fantasy, and provided even more sequences of monkey/D-list actor fist-bumps, and roundhouse kicks to human groins. Until that dream becomes a reality, there are moments in this flick that will continue to appease me momentarily. Here’s one:
Sure, that once-every-10-years Sight & Sound poll is pretty sweet, but the voters in the Skandies & Muriels online film awards (including some critics who also voted in the S&S poll) recently joined forces to reveal the REAL top films OF ALL TIME (time time time).
Because these all-time awards needed their own distinct name, branding experts were called upon, straws were drawn and blood was spilled before the two groups decided to chuck their fate into the Name-A-Nator 3000 and call these prestigious aluminum-plated statuettes….The Skuriels. Research dollars well spent.
Well, here are the 2012 results, revealed at the Skuriels blog, with the 2012 Sight & Sound result listed in brackets.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968) – 35 votes [#6 in 2012 S&S poll]
2 (tie). Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958) – 23 votes [#1]
2 (tie). Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941) – 23 votes [#2]
4. Play Time (Tati, 1967) – 23 votes [#43]
5 (tie). Singin’ in the Rain (Donen/Kelly, 1952) – 14 votes [#20]
5 (tie). Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942) – 14 votes [#84]
5 (tie). The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928) – 14 votes [#9]
8. Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954) – 13 votes [#53]
9 (tie). Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001) – 12 votes [#28]
9 (tie). The Rules of the Game (Renoir, 1958) – 12 votes [#4]
11 (tie). Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979) – 11 votes [#14]
11 (tie). Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, 1975) – 11 votes [#59]
11 (tie). The Godfather (Coppola, 1972) – 11 votes [#21]
11 (tie). His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940) – 11 votes [#171]
15 (tie). Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986) – 10 votes [#69]
15 (tie). Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick, 1964) – 10 votes [#117]
15 (tie). The Godfather, Part II (Coppola, 1974) – 10 votes [#31]
15 (tie). Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994) – 10 votes [#127]
15 (tie). The Searchers (Ford, 1956) – 10 votes [#7]
15 (tie). The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954) – 11 votes [#17]
Overall, a list we can be proud of. Some observations:
(Richard Robinson, 1975)
With this entry, I’m proud to participate again in the 6th Annual White Elephant Blogathon, hosted by Silly Hats Only, in time for April Fool’s Day. Last year, I got to analyze another “forgotten gem” of the 1970s, featuring Joe Don mother-loving Baker. This year, it’s backwoods blaxploitation with Shelley Winters, Slim Pickens, Lurch from The Addams Family, and an Elvis Presley wannabe. Remind me, why do I do this to myself?
“I don’t care if she farts Shah-nel Number 5. Now I want her outta here, right now, understand?”
That’s a line from two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters in this low-low-budget film of rape, revenge and sleaze. To say it’s not worthy of Winters’ pedigree to be uttering Chanel as “Shah-nel” is an understatement. But it’s also consistent with the recurring quandary in which I viewed this film. On one hand, it’s forgettable trash. On the other hand, to borrow a phrase, there’s just something about Eddie.
Winters portrays an ex-stripper who fears she’s losing her boyfriend, the titular Eddie (Michael Christian), to a young, beautiful singer (Leslie Uggams) who had the poor luck to (1) have her car break down in the middle of a straight-outta-Deliverance burg and (2) be African-American in same. Fact #2 plays an important part in this flick, as Uggams is certainly the smartest and classiest human depicted, but is treated the worst, and it all starts with poor, pretty Eddie.
You see, Winters’ boyfriend, the titular Eddie (Michael Christian), is also a bit of a crooner himself.
To say that he resembles Elvis is one thing, but this film makes no bones about the fact that Eddie is essentially aping Elvis (2 years before his death) and perhaps even going so far as to indicate that those that appreciate his style of music are rednecked and backward. At the time, the former King was slowly spiralling down into what may be called “full Vegas.” And yet, his origins lay in the small-town South, in towns not unlike the one in this film.
The fact that Eddie/Elvis then proceeds to take a shine to the lovely Liz (Uggams) and decides to show his appreciation by forcibly raping her speaks even louder volumes. Oh, we’re not talking graphic, I Spit on Your Grave-level rape, but consider if you will how the scene is presented for the audience – via slow-motion and regularly intercut with a pair of dogs doggy-styling to the amusement of a group of hicks.
What exactly am I watching here?
Is this a terribly racist and/or sexist depiction of non-consensual sex? Or is it filled with dark humor? Should I mention that the song playing over the scene has a repeated refrain of “You don’t have to say/You’ll love me in the morning”?
This is a twisted flick from the get-go, and I haven’t even mentioned Slim Pickens and Dub Taylor, who portray two corrupt officials of hillbilly truth and justice. Pickens, the local sheriff, doubts that Liz was even raped, but asks all sorts of lurid, leading questions such as “Would you like to suck on a tomato?” or more directly, “Did he bite you on the t*tties?” Unswayed, Liz takes her case before Justice of the Peace Floyd (Taylor) in the only appropriate place – the local dance hall. Floyd demands that he see the presumed love bites on Liz’s naughty bits right then and there, as several local boobs and the house band leers on. When she refuses and smacks him across the face, the Justice of the Peace tears off her blouse completely, and compliments her on her impressive bits of evidence.
It’s disturbingly trashy, but also certainly has much to do with race, violence and power. Would I equate this flick’s impact with those of Shaft and Super Fly or the films of Pam Grier? Not on your life. But the message is there.
However Poor Pretty Eddie is intended, I can’t help but find it inflammatory and shocking for the sake of shock. It’s never truly a horror movie, nor is it satisfying as a rape revenge drama.
And yet…. this cast is so very talented. Winters has a heartbreaking scene in which she discusses why she needs Eddie, mostly because she’s past her prime and he’s so young and beautiful and actually cares for her. Pickens and Taylor are crudely funny and Uggams holds her own in a thankless role.
And yet…. director Richard Robinson took some grade-Z material and added a few shocks of his own, as well as some tricky camerawork pulled off with a paltry budget.
And yet…. Ted Cassidy (Lurch from TV’s The Addams Family) is quietly affecting as a local who bucks the local authority in a effort to do right but unfortunately ends up getting shot, but not before Eddie feeds him his own free-loving dog:
Again, I would never say Poor Pretty Eddie is worth your time, and certainly not your money, but after viewing it a second time, I’m still conflicted, and not ready to dismiss it either. There’s just enough going for Eddie to make a viewer think twice. What I guess I’m saying is that your mileage may vary, but it left its hooks in me, and that can’t be all bad.
It doesn’t make me feel any better to say that I rewatched a film prominently featuring dog-on-dog love, but I’m trying to keep an open mind. I hate you, White Elephant, for the things you make me admit publicly.
Nevermind the Oscars. The Muriel Awards are currently being unveiled daily until March 4.
The 25th Anniversary Muriel Award for Best Feature Film of 1986 goes to:
With such an overwhelming mandate, they could’ve probably asked any halfwit to write up a post about the winner. So, that’s what they did. Among my ramblings, you’ll notice the only detail I left out was what shoes I was wearing as I wrote it. (Trick question: I was barefoot, and I have a pegleg.)
1. Blue Velvet
2. Down by Law
3. Something Wild
4. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
5. The Fly
Big Trouble in Little China, Caravaggio, The Decline of the American Empire, Matador, Mona Lisa, She’s Gotta Have It, True Stories
I’m proud to again participate in voting for The Muriel Awards, celebrating the best in film for 2011. While it sounds darned lofty, the virtual ceremony has been about an impassioned community of movie dorks appreciating the overlooked and showcasing sometimes obscure films, performances and technical mastery. It’s also kinda fun to watch the surprises without being asked who you’re wearing on a red carpet.
Awards are currently being unveiled daily until March 4.
First, a tip of the hat to the winner of the Muriel for Best Supporting Actor:
We’re off to a rousing start. Not sure about 7 votes for Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method, but I’ll admit that he has a nice beard in the film.
1. John C. Reilly, Terri
Not to tip my hand on future awards [read: totally doing just that], 2011 was the year I became convinced that John C. Reilly could walk on water. Oh I know he can’t, but he could make you believe that he could. Or maybe, just maybe, he really can. Daily. Twice on Sundays.
In Terri, Reilly portrays Mr. Fitzgerald, a high school vice principal hellbent on intervening on misfit or miscreant students like the title character, who struggles with his appearance and his home life. In the school hallways, Fitzgerald’s a watchdog disciplinarian, but behind his office door with Terri, he exudes compassion mixed with outright juvenile dorkiness. He discovers Terri to be mature beyond his years, and subsequently, begins to treat Terri as an equal, a friend, even a guide. Because essentially, Fitzgerald is just as flawed, an adult among children, despised and alienated by them. Reilly naturally personifies director/writer Azazel Jacobs’ central theme about realizing your nature, and embracing it for life.
The rest of my ballot:
2. Albert Brooks, Drive
3. Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
4. Christopher Plummer, Beginners
5. Denden, Cold Fish
Goat, La quattro volte; Matthew Lillard, The Descendants; Simon Pegg, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol; Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Stanley Tucci, Captain America: The First Avenger
I’m just a normal guy with a family, a full-time job, and a seemingly chronic pile of media I’m trying to consume. But, like 95% of Internet denizens, sometimes I feel the need to overshare. Here are some things on my mind from the past week in convenient list-y form:
1. PODCAST: WTF with Marc Maron #251 – Guest: Matt Graham
In this episode, Marc interviews Matt Graham, an old friend who left an influential career in comedy – from standup to writing for SNL and Conan O’Brien – to become a world-class Scrabble player, among other pursuits. He has also battled depression, and while he is shockingly frank about many uncomfortable aspects of his struggle, Graham hesitates to expound on suicidal thoughts until Maron approaches him a few weeks later for a second interview (also included in this episode). Maron pokes again at that tender topic and Graham lashes out – stating that perhaps this is the only reason he’s warranted a revisit – because he’s got a juicy, private story to tell. After some initial hesitancy, Graham shares the tale with the same frankness and squirm-inducing detail as before.
It’s hard to say what conversation occurred off-mike to spur either recorded conversation, but it’s more harrowing than other like-minded WTF share-all episodes, which feature those in Marc’s world unburdening themselves of intimate demons. For instance, comedian Todd Glass came out of the closet a few episodes back, and former Onion writer/editor Todd Hanson explored his painful suicide attempt over two interviews. To his credit, Maron has never shied away from delving into dark territory (especially his own) for public consumption. While heartfelt, Glass’ and Hanson’s admissions involved very little prompting—as if the subjects felt compelled to discuss them.
This installment, however, gets rather muddy. Given the venomous reaction from Graham, it appears Maron coaxed his friend back in front of a microphone a second time and into some gut-wrenching waters because he didn’t get the story he wanted. Yet, almost certainly, there was an agreed-upon agenda at some point, and while Maron’s intentions may seem questionable, Graham delivers without much hesitation. To quote Aretha: Who’s zoomin’ who? The audible rawness throughout the conversation makes this episode naggingly memorable, and Maron presents it simply to let the listener decide.
2. WEB: Acute Otitis Media
That’s the proper term for an ear infection. Not the type of media I’d like to think about, but there you go. Our youngest has had several of these in the first 17 months of life, and 4 in the past 5 months. A recent visit to the pediatrician resulted in a recommendation to see an ENT about the potential for ear tubes in order to stave off hearing loss and developmental stagnation.
As a modern parent, you’re constantly concerned and/or reminded that you’re screwing up your offspring. And a simple Google search unearths all sorts of controversy about the need for ear tubes as well as risk factors, not to mention the guilt and worry associated with such a decision. Pick a door, and damnation awaits.
Sure enough, the ENT tested our kid and he’s got signs of some short-term hearing loss thanks to the fluid in his ears from the latest infection. So – over the next few weeks – we’ve got some lovely decisions to make, and hopefully, we won’t break the kid further in the process.
3. FILM: PROJECT NIM (2011, Dir: James Marsh)
Speaking of broken children, PROJECT NIM features a chimp ripped from his mother’s arms in order to raise it as a human. As a character in this documentary attests with a shrug, it was the Seventies.
As a result, Nim Chimpsky (his actual moniker, obviously provided by elitist punk-ass book jockeys) bounces from human to human in an attempt to nurture him out of his natural chimpness in the name of scientific research – to the detriment of all involved. The chimp proves to be too much of an animal, and those of the Me Generation are too ready to bail on the problem they essentially initiated.
Animal activists will eat it up, but may choke on their granola when they realize it’s structurally solid storytelling about hippie backlash, and good intentions going awry.
(Richard Compton, 1972)
The subject of damaged soldiers returning from war has been the basis for many a film.
The Best Years of Our Lives. The Deer Hunter. Taxi Driver. Coming Home. The entire Rambo franchise.
What those films lack that is prevalent in 1972’s Welcome Home, Soldier Boys can be summed up in three glorious words:
Joe. Don. Baker.
This post features links-a-plenty, but it’s the only way I’ll be able to go back and relive some of the great writing that goes into the revelation that is the Muriel Awards. Par for the course, there were surprises, but our little collective made some bold, intelligent choices.
Other movies receiving #1 votes:
12. Everyone Else 14. A Prophet 18. Another Year 20. Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl 26. October Country 27. White Material 30. (tie) Lourdes 35. Father of My Children 39. Vincere 42. (tie) The Strange Case of Angelica 42. (tie) Please Give 56. Waste Land
1. Toy Story 3 2. A Prophet 3. Another Year 4. True Grit 5. Restrepo 6. The Kids Are All Right 7. White Material 8. The Social Network 9. The King’s Speech 10. Bluebeard
1. Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
2. Édgar Ramírez, Carlos
3. Tahar Rahim, A Prophet
1. James Franco, 127 Hours 2. Édgar Ramírez, Carlos 3. Tahar Rahim, A Prophet 4. Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network 5. Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
1. Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
2. Natalie Portman, Black Swan
3. Kim Hye-ja, Mother
1. Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right 2. Lesley Manville, Another Year 3. Kim Hye-ja, Mother 4. Isabelle Huppert, White Material 5. Emelie Dequenne, The Girl on the Train
1. John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
2. Christian Bale, The Fighter
3. Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
1. John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone 2. Niels Arestrup, A Prophet 3. Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right 4. Matt Damon, True Grit 5. Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
1. Greta Gerwig, Greenberg
2. Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer
3. Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
1. Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole 2. Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit 3. Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right 4. Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer 5. Sandra Oh, Rabbit Hole
1. David Fincher, The Social Network
2. Olivier Assayas, Carlos
3. Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
1. Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3 2. Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit 3. Jacques Audiard, A Prophet 4. Mike Leigh, Another Year 5. Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
1. Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
2. Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
3. Yorgos Lanthimos, Dogtooth
1. David Seidler, The King’s Speech 2. Mike Leigh, Another Year 3. Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right 4. Michael Arndt, Toy Story 3 5. Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
1. Roger Deakins, True Grit
2. Robert Richardson, Shutter Island
3. Jeff Crenonweth, The Social Network
1. Wally Pfister, Inception 2. Matthew Libatique, Black Swan 3. Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak, 127 Hours 4. Robert Richardson, Shutter Island 5. Marcel Zyskind, The Killer Inside Me
1. Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall, The Social Network
2. Lee Smith, Inception
3. Jonathan Amis & Paul Machliss, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
1. Susan Littenberg, And Everything Is Going Fine 2. Lee Smith, Inception 3. Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan 4. Michael Levine, Restrepo 5. Hervé de Luze, The Ghost Writer
1. Daft Punk, TRON: Legacy 2. Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, The Social Network 3. Alexandre Desplat, The Ghost Writer 4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World 5. Carlos
1. In the incinerator, Toy Story 3
2. “Burning for You”, Let Me In
3. Nina Sayers IS the Black Swan, Black Swan
1. Facing the furnace, Toy Story 3 2. Zero-gravity hallway fight, Inception 3. Initiation, A Prophet 4. Sitting for a portrait, Catfish 5. Transformation into Black Swan, Black Swan 6. Rancher rant/“I need a day off”, Sweetgrass 7. Refresh ad infinitum, The Social Network 8. Dance sequence, Dogtooth 9. Bank robbery gone wrong, The Town 10. Gunfight at George and Martha’s house, The Book of Eli
1. Giorgos Lanthimos, Dogtooth 2. Tahar Rahim, A Prophet 3. Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank 4. Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, The Secret of Kells 5. Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
1. Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island and Inception
2. Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island and The Kids Are All Right
3. Manoel de Oliveira, director, Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl and The Strange Case of Angelica
1. James Franco, 127 Hours, Howl, and Date Night 2. Julianne Moore, Chloe and The Kids Are All Right 3. Harris Savides, cinematographer, Somewhere and Greenberg 4. Michelle Williams, Shutter Island and Blue Valentine 5. Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island, The Kids Are All Right and Date Night
1. The Social Network
2. True Grit
1. The Kids Are All Right 2. True Grit 3. The Social Network 4. Another Year 5. The King’s Speech
1. In the Mood for Love
3. Yi Yi
1. In the Mood for Love 2. Memento 3. Almost Famous 4. Chicken Run 5. Traffic
3. After Hours
1. Lost in America 2. Ran 3. Brazil 4. After Hours 5. The Purple Rose of Cairo
2. The Apartment
1. La Dolce Vita 2. The Apartment 3. Breathless 4. Psycho 5. L’Avventura
2. Rear Window
3. The Searchers
1. Rear Window 2. Seven Samurai 3. The 400 Blows 4. All About Eve 5. Wild Strawberries 6. Singin’ in the Rain 7. The Earrings of Madame de… 8. Paths of Glory 9. The Searchers 10. Los Olvidados
I’d like to thank the Academy, er, Steve Carlson of Down Inside You’re Dirty and Paul Clark of Silly Hats Only for inviting me again to participate in the only film awards that matter: the fifth annual Muriel Awards. The awards, named in honor of Paul’s beloved guinea pig (RIP Muriel), feature film lovers and critics across the Web and celebrate the best in film from 2010, as well as much movie geekery along the way.
Daily category awards will be handed out through March 6 at the Muriel community blog, Our Science Is Too Tight. If film is your thing, why not follow along for a fun few weeks? It’s gotta be better than this year’s Golden Globes. Click the banner on the right to head straight over.
Today, we kick it off with a bang, in which you can scoff at my defense of a somewhat surprising — and completely overwhelming — upset in the Best Supporting Actor category.