Saturday, July 16, 2011

N-SECURE (2010)

I have learned that it is okay to let myself go and not fulfill all the demands that Society makes of me. Like, even though I am a man, sometimes I do not have to fix every broken car that I see. Also, I can occasionally eat at restaurants that are not Hooters, like Applebees and TGI Fridays, in spite of having a penis. On holidays, I can even let the ladies do the math. It feels so liberating to shirk the crushing pressures of the Patriarchy and its gender roles that I had to drop my cross-stitch & Amish romance paperback and come crow about it immediately on my genre blog.

But what does that word mean, "genre"? Obviously, the scope of this thing includes cheap-ass horror and sleazy-ass women in prison fare and laughable action from the Atlantic Ocean. But why wouldn't something like THE ROOM, although meant to be a romantic drama (despite what my Facebook friend Tommy Wiseau now says), be included if it hits all the same nerves, albeit accidentally? It's outrageous, it subverts standard movie expectations, etc. And, if THE ROOM fits under the umbrella, why not THE black ROOM, which is how N-SECURE was pitched to me? Whatever, I am reviewing it. If I go from four to three followers because of this controversy, so be it. Vaya con dios, RACISTS.
When it opened with a piano-based song and a woman complimenting "Your cologne, your hair, your style, your intelligence", hope sprang eternal. Right from the start, this movie wants you to know that David Washington is a time-obsessed man. He sets his alarm for 6:38 (TEN MINUTES LATER THAN HARD-WORKING AMERICAN TOMMY WISEAU) and rigorously eyes the clock whilst electric-toothbrushing and hilariously plucking nose hairs. He yells at his lady, Robyn (Essence Atkins), "It's 7:08! Are you going to sleep all day?" The movie also wants me to view David Washington as a COLOSSAL douchebag, although I'm not sure if that's intentional. But this sequence -- Hummer -> Energy drink -> Power Point slide -- can't be meant any other way, right? David works at some computer-based job which involves Power Point charts. Not sure exactly what he does, but he gets to say, "Shut up and listen! Have you re-routed all authenticated data queries through the primary domain control?!"
When he's not working, his hobbies included being cuckolded on his wedding day with the boyfriend of friend Jill (Tempestt Bledsoe from The Cosby Show, you guys!). David freaks out and slugs the male adulterer. But that's not enough to sate his scandalous-ho-scarred heart! He drops Robyn like she's hot, but ends up spooning with his secretary's cousin (the also-beautiful Denise Boutte). But his jealousy and N-SECURity wreck the day, and also his cutting of brake lines wreck some cars.
This really isn't THE black ROOM because it's not as consistently fun in a deranged way, but it really is fun to watch. It's shot pretty well, with sumptuous sets and scenes bleeding into one another. Bledsoe acquits herself nicely, the two main dishes are hot, and Cordell Moore is lots of fun as David Washington. Since some of the players have been involved in his movies, I will say that I'd MUCH rather watch this than anything Tyler Perry has shat out. The MADEA movies are a vomitous abomination and the last one was one of the most seriously misogynistic things I have ever seen. I never get my feelings hurt by movies (I enjoy BLOODSUCKING FREAKS and TEENAGE HITCH-HIKERS, man), but the constant woman-baiting and "SLAP-A-HO" """jokes""" rattled even me. It pisses me off EVEN MORE that no one else seemed to care. N-SECURE, despite featuring a protagonist who n-securely abuses his women, seems less hateful. If it never reaches the bizarro heights of THE ROOM or TROLL 2, it's at least good for a night's watch.
I would probably rank this with BIRDEMIC in terms of kicks. You really won't be able to watch it every weekend, even if you love its Memphis setting, as I do, but the best scenes will live in your heart and your conversations with hipster friends forever. Remember, don't EVER disrespect me by disrespecting my time!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

THE GREAT SILENCE (1968)

From one of the most unmemorable Spaghetti westerns to one of the best and most analyzable ever, a movie that is unequivocally not about someone finishing library school. IL GRANDE SILENZIO is perhaps Sergio (DJANGO) Corbucci's greatest effort, with only 1970's COMPANEROS coming close. This film encapsulates all the depth and contradictions of Spaghetti westerns while directly addressing the old-school Westerns which birthed the genre and treating philosophical issues of morality and prejudice with appropriate gravitas.
Who is going to pay for all this broken ground? Becuz GREAT SILENCE breaks a ton of it, from interracial relations (it's a '68 film, the same year that Star Trek premiered interracial kissing on TV) to cheerleading for the welfare state (albeit in wagon-town scale), the film shatters the past and its taboos all over the place. This isn't some subtle housequake, either, as the dialogue makes it quite explicit (the governor actually says, "The Old West is dead" at one point). And yet it flirts with the old memes and themes of your dad's and my dad's Westerns! Only to break your heart and that antique rational world all the fuck apart...
This is the tale of Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a mute gunfighter who "avenges our wrongs". It's not clear how Silence manages to live with no job beyond killing baddies. It's even less clear whether he might be some spectral supernatural type. More later. Opposing Silence is Loco (Klaus my god and yours Kinski), a bounty hunter who thrives on killing wanted men in order to produce "irrefutable proof of identity", as required by the law. The law and its relation to the taking of lives is a MAJOR theme for this film. Silence's jail-free existence is contingent upon making his victims strike first, so that he can claim "self-defense" in capping them. The Sheriff (Frank Wolff) also takes shelter in the law, stating, "When the law kills, it's not murder, it's punishment." And yet, initially, the Sheriff arrives aiming to clean up town and dispel the vulpine bounty hunters and end their preying on a poor religious sect that ends up EATING HIS HORSE.
The sect are pretty transparently meant to be Mormons (the Utah setting is a dead giveaway). Sympathy to Mormons might not gel well with progressive leanings these days, but here's our villain Loco: "Those are dangerous men, Sheriff. They're enemies of God and man. The things they preach...what if one had his say in court and got acquitted?" What, indeed. Loco and his fellow bounty hunters have free reign to shoot and cash in the corpses until Silence comes to town, spurred by a request from unbelievably gorgeous African-American Pauline (Vonetta McGee).
Almost everything about this film sets it apart, from the snowy setting to the major roles afforded women and black people to Ennio Morricone's moody and eerily-subdued score. It's not at all straightforward, even to the extent that characters can be recognized as human (in an extremely strange juxtaposition, Silence makes it from Pauline's house to a saloon in a matter of seconds and later survives an almost-def fatal wounding; PLUS almost every character is wearing very untreated animal hides). And, famously, unfolded events don't do much to settle one's stomach about the America to come. This was so controversial that Corbucci was forced to shoot an alternate happy ending for the US and Asian markets; thankfully, the original ending has been restored on Netflix's DVD and the version that is (presumably) available in a store near you. I loved the hell out of this. For a film from 1968, it's incredibly meta (like making a metal album about the death of metal). Even today, I can't see anyone being able to smugly and easily claim it as their own...there are certainly touchpoints for altruists and white knights, but the pro-Mormon sentiment and deliberate Christ iconography make THE GREAT SILENCE a bitter, and thus worthwhile, pill to swallow. And law and order cons will choke on the treatment of law as an easy excuse for cowardly killing and crony capitalism. It's a challenging film, surprisingly so given its age, and well worth your time. Pure classic. <3