Friday, November 07, 2003

Don't you dare see this movie 

If you're like me, you probably remember seeing "The Matrix" and being duly impressed. That movie came out when I was 19, studying at the Université d'Orléans about an hour south of Paris. As international as France is these days, you remember just how insulated you were from American cultural references (especially in advertising), and how wonderful it felt. Except for the occasional news story about the death of "the American prince" ("Messieur Jean Kennedy le Jeune") or a familial suicide rampage in Atlanta, you didn't have to think about the States much at all. You also spent zero time in front of a television as there were many other interesting things to watch in the city, like those cool posters at the Cinéma Select for some French movie called "Le Matrix." You'll remember going to see it with some school friends, and how cool it made you feel when, after seeing the movie and finding out that it was an American product, Yannick said that it was the coolest thing the Americans had done since the Boston Tea Party.

So if you're like me, you'll still go see the third installment of the Matrix trilogy (even though the last sequel made you go blind from disappointment).

I don't even know what it's called. I don't know and I don't care. Do you know why? Because this was the worst movie that I have ever seen.

Now granted, I enjoy going to bad movies--not in any sort of ironic way, no, I simply like to laugh at gaffes, sub-par acting, and obvious moments of pure malfunction of storyline. The following analysis aside, I didn't go see this thing with the intent of deconstructing it. I just wanted to see, you know; the car wreck fascination rooted in the possibility of seeing either a fortunate outcome or some totalgruesome carnage. In this case, we have the latter.

In this Matrix movie-esque thing, the concept of narrative dies. It dies and is torn apart by squidlike robots. Replacing the interesting, well-explained sequence of events of the first movie is a script that reminds me of what one should expect from a television serial like "Star Trek" or "V": lots of faux-jargon, tech-sounding repartée, and buzzwords that remind the audience of science: "Get the M-3 pack, Trin, I think he's dropped a VTR or a 'netwall, and I don't want those calamari chasin' our pod's plasma trail." Calamari? What the fuck? OK, movie, you totally expose your white, upper-middle class roots when you use the word "calamari" in a serious referential context. And what's an M-3 pack, or a VTR for that matter? Are you making this up as you go along? The writers got so nervous that they wouldn't come up with a mass-pleasing script that they wrote a heap of unrelated details, shook them up with a soundtrack (sweet strings for the love scenes, trumpets and kettle drums for fight scenes) all draped over the familiar imagery of the first movie. By making shit up every once in a while, you're exempted from having to have a coherent story. It's a cheap shot but, hell, it fills theaters, right?

Without the satisfaction of an actual story line to hold my interest, I was forced to look elsewhere for entertainment.

I loved the patriotic war overtones that Matrix gleaned from America's current boner for patriotism. Do you remember the cool-ass electroscreech soundtrack from the first movie? Yeah, the one that had Ministry and Meat Beat Manifesto, even some Rammstein? Well, all that intriguing textural music has been whisked away, replaced by sad trumpets and sappy throwbacks to sentimental movie standard (read: cheap to license) material. I swear that half the ambient score came from "Independence Day" or "Saving Private Ryan."

It was also nice to be introduced to each and every fucking inhabitant of the city, if only for two minutes each. They tried to pack so many different buff characters into this story that even Neo wasn't on screen for more than twenty minutes total (which I'm not necessarily saying was a bad thing). Hi Pilot Guy. Hi Human Version of Mr. Smith. Hi Accented Lady. Hi Guy from Oz. Hi Guy From Oz's Wife. Hi Guy from Oz's Wife's Butch Friend. Hi Sassy and Proud Black Pilot Lady. Hi Easily Aggravated Guy who Distrusts Sassy and Proud Black Pilot Lady. Hi Cool Mech Army Leader. Hi Cool Mech Army Leader's Reload Twink. Hi Sixteen Other New Passengers on the Nebuchadnezzar. It felt like going to a party with an acquaintance who wants you to meet all of his friends, but there are so many people you just know that you'll never remember anyone's name. And, jesus, meeting all those people makes you tired, even more so when conversation requires that one recall someone by name: "Oh, you remember Poole, come on. Long hair, dreadlocked, his dad's the jazz teacher at ATU. He made that joke about strippers that made everybody laugh right after we got here, you remember? Freckles, eyepatch, seven inch penis, blah blah blah blah..." Enough, already.

Going deeper, stupid science is my biggest peeve in movies... hell, in anything. Stupid science and obviously fake technology. When a physically blinded Neo comes to speak with, like, Robot CEO, did the computer really have to make all the squid robots come together à la Transformers to form a giant, cartoonish face? The observer is fucking blind--did computers at some point just get tired of efficiency? Furthermore, who programmed the head robot to sound like a goddamned 1920's Vaudvillian stage actor? "HALT! Who goes there?! Dost thou desire a challenge? SPEAK!" Jesus, this was a total "Tron" rip off, but at least that movie aimed to be campy.

Stupid movie.

To counteract all this bile, the art direction fucking cut loose in this Matrix installment. I loved the goofy Ted Nugent hobo character, kicking ass in the subway with a little hand pistol that seems to surprise him every time he fires. Also, at one point a room full of people erupts into a silent cascade of pointing-guns-at-heads (I wanted everyone to start laughing about how they all stopped at the same time... that would have been priceless). The wife of the French-times-twenty character in this scene gets so obviously hot at all the gun tension that she squirms as she's informing the room that Trinity is totally in control and could cause everyone to die in a cool domino-effect sequence of gunshots... I love her! There's also a fun climax that features a couple of people who rocket above the cloud layer and, only for about three seconds, get to see the beauty of the sun glittering in the blue atmosphere above the cloud tops. Hot esthetic of this scene aside, I couldn't help but laugh at the open-mouthed, half-lidded sigh that both passengers let out as they come at the sight. What a riot. It was a blast watching the mechanics of scale in the city as robots finally invade, and some camera angles provide truly abstract visions of what technology might bring, just in terms of city construction.

This is no justification, though, and I hope that every single individual that got paid fucking loads of green to be in this movie had to sit in front of the critical eyes of the throngs of devoted moviegoers at the premiers. I get wet thinking about Keanu, forty minutes into the flick, getting to hear shouts from a few rows back, "This movie sucks!" Or even better, the chuckles that spontaneously erupt (probably from his castmates as well) at the "emotional inertia" that is Neo when he tries to cry over a girl.

Whew, I'll stop here. I just hope everyone takes my heed and, if you do go see this movie, go to laugh and gawk at the spectacle, not to hope for survivors.


Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Sigh... is it Thanksgiving yet? 

The work week immediately following Halloween is a total drag. I wish Halloween could last at least two days... one evening of nationally sanctioned left-wing absurdity is definitely not enough. At work today, however, B. sent me an impressive faux Japanese advertisement ("in the Japanese tradition of total freaking chaos") using some of the less cerebral shots we got from our Halloween night photo shoot. It involves a red-eyed and made-up me, the Suit from Hell, a balloon hat (random acquisition from street performer downtown), and, thank god, four titties (twelve if you count repeat appearances... pretty good for a gay guy).


Sunday, November 02, 2003

Friday night in three paragraphs 

I attribute this particular hangover more to the hour at which I went to sleep (6:30 am) than to my mild drinking schedule (4 beers and a cosmopolitan). Needless to say, though, that it was every bit justified by an amazing Hallowe'en. Firstly, the Dandy (see previous entry) did make its smashing return to the circuit. M. and I went to a somewhat hoity-toity restaurant, Loca Luna, to start off the evening with some nice ambiance and a drink or two. Hoping (expecting?) to make an impact with our costumes, we were surprised to see that the entire staff was dressed to the nines--our waiter was George Michael circa "Faith," our bartender was very appropriately Captain Morgan, and, amongst the rest of the wait staff we noticed: a miniskirted ladycop, a large-breasted French maid, Michael Jackson (complete with black satin face mask and large bodyguard), and some marathon girls that would have fit perfectly into the video for "Let's Get Physical." And let me tell you, any restaurant experience can be made ten times more entertaining if every employee is in the profound depths of drunken reverie. Well, it made us laugh. Captain Morgan himself was swilling from a bottle of (more expensive than Cap'n Morgan) rum, and when I chastized him for forgetting my drink order, he just handed me the bottle and said, "I apologize, matey, help ye-self." I love pirates.

After shutting down Loca Luna, we headed downtown to meet a couple of friends, B. and D., for a few more beverages.Everything was terribly crowded on account of the weird syncronicity of a downtown haunted house and a visit from former president Bill Clinton, both of which had been amazingly well promoted. We ended up at a nice live music bar called Sticky Fingerz, where we promptly headed for the quieter lounge area. Not only were the lounge blinds open (affording a nice view of other drunk trick-or-treaters), but the speakers were broadcasting Beck's "Midnite Vultures" when we arrived. B. came as a priest, M. and D. were Catholic schoolgirls, and I was Maxwell Demon... in theory. We just took naughty pictures until it got too crowded.

We left directly from the bar to the empty house where M. and I used to live (which is still awaiting new renters)--we still have the keys, and we needed a nice open space for a photo shoot. The girls quickly became the stars of the evening, and as B. worked the expensive cameras, I drifted to the back to take a few photos of the process, keep the music well-mixed, and generally fetch things for eveyone else. Six hours, ten dropcloths, two joints, and a bottle of baby oil (with aloe!) later, we left to go to bed: and it's probably the first sunrise (beautiful, by the way) I've seen in the past year.


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