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Oh look, a trainwreck.

Let’s just get this out of the way really quick: Suicide Squad is mostly dogshit but there are a few moments where it firmly enters genuine “so bad it’s good” territory and other moments where it’s trying so goddamn hard to manipulate you into feeling something that you just wanna say “good job, little guy” and give it a pat on the head. There’s even a few moments that feel earned, where the glimmer of a better movie is almost visible. But mostly it’s dogshit.

Why? God, where do I even start. It’s a music video of loosely connected moments, an insultingly hackneyed plot, and poorly constructed characterizations which are usually good for a laugh or an incredulous “what the fuck?” but rarely more. There’s also that it’s the most smugly, overtly misogynistic mainstream movie I’ve seen in a long time. May our inner fourteen year olds cheer. I mean, there’s definitely an audience for this. The anti-PC crowd will eat up every utterance of “bitch” or “ho”, every sexed up costume and variation on “women be crazy“. I already know from the audience I saw it with that women getting punched in the face at the drop of a dime is just delightful. Your faith in humanity will not be well served by Suicide Squad audiences, but that’s nothing unusual. More than the overall quality of the movie, I was surprised by the misogyny. I like David Ayer. FuryEnd of Watch, and Training Day are all fantastic films. But his aesthetic is “street” and here it is the kind of street evoked by youtube gangsta rappers who are trying too hard. Likely, this is where the unaddressed misogyny comes from: it’s part of the assumed iconography of “street” culture where there’s men and there’s bitches or hos or bitch-hos. I think the script of Suicide Squad says a lot about what he and the other creatives for the DC movieverse think about the fans of these stories and characters, though. I think instead of whining to critics (or threatening them) or trying to sue because Joker isn’t in the movie enough, these fanboys ought to vote with their dollars (and their attention) and give WB a reason to stop hiring people who think so little of them. Of all of us, really.

Anyway, yeah, Suicide Squad is really bad. Is it worse than Batman vs. Superman? I don’t know. Do you compare dogshit to catshit very often? They’re two of the worst superhero movies in recent memory, I can tell you that much. And yet. And yet, Suicide Squad is also a fascinating watch. I was never bored. Very much like the first viewing of a Michael Bay Transformers movie, I was kind of transfixed (and yes, entertained) by what I was seeing and hearing. Sometimes I could not believe the movie and other times I was almost on the hook for a heroic moment or a badass line. I think it’s fair to say I was never “with” this movie, and my enjoyment was almost always at its expense. This movie might have had something, but it’s like watching Jared Leto play hot potato with himself for almost two hours. Or like an episode of The Venture Brothers that wasn’t trying to be a parody. Read the rest of this entry »

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DiCaprio was born to do this.

The Wolf of Wall Street is another in the series of controversial, but wholly awesome, movies released in 2013. Like Spring Breakers (and actually a great companion piece to it), it is being chalked up by the odiously politically correct as some sort of glorification of the debauchery, violence, and criminal acts that it portrays. The reality is a lot more complicated than that. The complexity of the tendencies for humans to succumb to greed and amorality is very much a theme of the film. To not notice this is to simply refute the very presence of complexity in favor of presumably comforting fictions about moral absolutes or the ever-present notion that depiction equals endorsement.

I’m into the complexity of this. I’m into how it shows the audience the destructive consequences of these lifestyles, including legal ramifications, while also inviting the audience to think about how society is complicit in the behavior of wretched men and women. Spring Breakers and The Counselor both contain the same accusation that Wolf makes. People get away with this shit because we let them. Because we celebrate greed and debauchery and exploitation. Though those other two films are focused on their own specific areas, Wolf shoots straight for the single greatest social and political issue of our time: the consequences of unregulated capitalism.

Martin Scorsese is in his 70’s and is still the master. It helps that his complex, thematically nuance film is wrapped in an entertaining, funny, scathing, and energetic cinematic package. This is a three hour long movie that moves like it’s half as long. It’s a remix of Goodfellas in the best possible ways. It’s got great performances from reliable master actors, and surprisingly deft performances from newcomers or the less seasoned. Ignore the misguided haters, they’ve got preconceived notions and confirmation biases, and see this for yourself. Listen carefully to the thesis delivered by Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) and how it underlines that even legal stock trading is an exploitative enterprise. Watch those faces at the very end of the film, those hungry pathetic faces, who know what Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) has done but do not care. They want to be rich.

You, me, everyone we know. We’d all like to be rich on some level. We all have lengths we’d be willing to go to get there. We can all feel, in spite of ourselves, the degenerative fun of some of the things Belfort and his friends do. Scorsese is asking us how far is too far. He’s inviting us to see where our lines are and use that realization to feed back into an awareness of the things we did laugh at or find amusing.  Read the rest of this entry »

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