Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why I Hate the Ending of Crazy, Stupid, Love (and Why You Should Too)

A few nights ago, Andreas and I stayed up late watching Crazy, Stupid, Love. It was pretty good for what it was. Started out strong with some witty dialogue and compelling introductions to the major players. It’s not a perfect movie by any means; it has major problems keeping its subplots intertwined and when a character’s subplot isn’t happening they just kind of drop out of existence completely. (We don’t see Emma Stone for like 20 minutes at one point). It doesn’t know how to handle all the talent that it’s got to play with and the movie really suffers for it. When you have two of the most well-loved, talented, redheaded actresses in the world in your movie, and you just kind of throw them to the side while the “Steve Carell becomes a playboy” story is happening, it’s just not good filmmaking.  But it was still a pretty fun movie overall and it had lots of this:

But then the ending came. Like, okay…the totally contrived bullshit about Emma Stone being their daughter, I can let that go, I really can. Because I like to think of Emma Stone as Julianne Moore’s daughter. And I can get over the ridiculous backyard fight. But I cannot—can fucking not—forgive this fucking ending. Let me give a little context for this shit.

Robbie, the 13-year-old son, is “in love” with his 17-year-old babysitter Jessica. And I’m not talking “cute, fluffy, puppy love”—no, this kid thinks that Jessica is his soul mate. He spends the whole movie doing really ridiculous, creepy things to show her that he loves her. All throughout this subplot, the movie stumbles around with what it wants to do with this character: he’s undeniably creepy and at times, it feels like the movie is poking fun at the typical stalkerish rom-com bullshit.

At the end, however, it’s his eighth grade graduation and he’s giving a speech. He starts to say that he no longer believes in true love and, in a truly disgusting display of moralistic bullshit, Steve Carell stands up and says NO SON, BELIEVE IN TRUE LOVE, BELIEVE! He talks about how he was only 15 when he met his “soul mate” and that he’ll never give up on her, even when things are rough. So, basically he completely condones every creepy, inappropriate thing his son has done throughout the movie. When Robbie tells Jessica that he masturbates to her picture? When he texted Jessica about how much he loved her until she flat-out said “this is making me uncomfortable”? When he built a scaffold in front of his school and announced his undying love for her in front of everyone? All of this is totally okay! Because he’s just fighting for true love, man! Needless to say, this had me a bit miffed.

And what’s fucking worse is that it’s not just Steve Carell. The movie leaves absolutely no ambiguity about whether or not it condones Robbie’s behavior. Because after the speech, Robbie is looking hopefully through the crowd and meets eyes with Jessica, and she smiles at him. And then gives him FUCKING NAKED PICTURES OF HERSELF. Because…yeah, I guess she’s okay with him being creepy and is so cool with the idea of him jerking off to her that she wants to help him out with it!

Are you even kidding me right now? She’s seventeen. He’s thirteen. This is disturbing and wrong. And it just annoys the fuck out of me that instead of having one of the parents come in and teach this kid that this isn’t okay and you can’t just violate someone’s personal space and make them feel uncomfortable just because you have feelings for them, all of the characters completely approve of his behavior to the point where the moral of the goddamn movie is that you should act this way.

Another frustrating element to all of this is that Jessica had a creepy subplot too; she was “in love” with Steve Carell and took the naked pictures specifically for him. She never gave them to him (though she intended to) but when her parents discover the pictures, they completely lose their shit and it leads to the ridiculous backyard brawl between Jessica’s father and Steve Carell. Jessica’s creepy sexual actions have negative consequences for everyone, while Robbie’s parents don’t even bat an eye at how disturbing his actions are and at the end his behavior is not just accepted, but seen as commendable and good.

It’s just so icky. It ruined what was otherwise a flawed but fun little movie. There isn’t enough shirtless Ryan Gosling in the world that can make me forgive this shit. Though I appreciated their effort…

And it’s got that hideous fucking poster!

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Link Dump: #52

This week’s kitty is Dr. Paula Hutchison, wife of Filburt in the landmark Nickelodeon show Rocko’s Modern Life. Between marrying a turtle and having a hook for a hand, she’s certainly one of the more idiosyncratic kitties we’ve featured. We hope you had a nifty Thanksgiving if you celebrate it; now bear with us as we enter the snowy depths of winter. In the meantime, here’s a solid handful of links:

  • Greg “Sestosterone” Sestero, aka Johnny’s best friend, is writing a memoir about the making of The Room. We can only hope it’ll mention how his sex life is going.
  • Another John Waters interview: “I liked Santa but I would get confused as a child whether I was supposed to pray to him, or William Castle, or Jesus…”
  • The intrepid Craig of Dark Eye Socket revisits Catwoman and doesn’t like what he finds.
  • The slang of Depression-era America, via the movies.
  • Are the Teletubbies “Radical Utopian Fiction“?
  • Funny or Die presents the trailer for Drive-Thru.
  • You know how every few months there’s a new “scary thing that kids are doing!” nationwide phenomenon? Well, here’s a hilariously bad article on “drunken Gummi Bears and vodka-infused tampons“; it’s the most wishy-washy, over-the-tope, poorly written and sourced piece of garbage on a non-phenomenon I’ve ever read.

A couple mildly funny search terms this week. First, a Disney porno that never existed: “beautiful the beast vagina.” And second, the exotic and adventurous “journey into pussy.” What will that intrepid Internet user discover?

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Giving thanks 2011

Andreas:

Last Thanksgiving, Ashley wrote a little bit about what she was thankful for. This year, I’m carrying on that tradition with my own personal show of gratitude. Here’s what I’m thankful for:

  • The part-time jobs on which I subsist in post-graduate life. I know all too well what an economically tough time this is, especially for new college graduates. I don’t know what I’d do without the jobs I obtained out of luck and determination. (Or what I’ll do when I move away and no longer have them!)
  • My partner in blogging and life, Ashley. If you read Pussy Goes Grrr regularly, you understand why. She’s just a lightning bolt of creativity, original thought, and social justice passion. I couldn’t do the things I do without her. No way.
  • My apartment, food, Internet access, sex. The basics.
  • Movies! All the movies, new and old, art house and mainstream, from America and abroad, that I’m able to watch each and every day. I’m also thankful for the brave, persistent men and women who keep making great, unusual movies despite the never-ending obstacles blocking them.
  • All the cool, friendly, hyper-intelligent people I’ve met through blogging and social networking. People who give me new ways of looking at movies, art, society, the future, and quite often, my life as a whole. They may live far away from me, but they can still have a profound effect on the way I think. (You know who you are.)
  • For that matter, all the cool, friendly, hyper-intelligent people I know from college. The same goes for them. Collectively, they’ve changed my life in so many positive ways.
  • The fact that people actually read and enjoy what I write. As an aspiring word-making-person, nothing’s more gratifying than putting my work out into the open and receiving feedback. I know I’ve been slacking off for most of November, but I have many delectable treats planned for December, and I’m so grateful to know that they’ll have an audience. (I.e., you! Thank you!)

Ashley:

As Andreas, said I’ve made this somewhat of a tradition on the blog, so I figured I’d just add my piece on the end.

  • My relationship, as usual. It’s so important to be with someone so sweet and caring, someone who always supports everything I do and is there for me when I need him. I love you, Andreas.
  • I’m very thankful for the active social justice community I’ve found on Tumblr. Tumblr is one of the greatest places to get information fast–I find out things on Tumblr before I find them out on Twitter, Facebook, Jezebel, or anywhere else on the internet. And it’s so easy to surround yourself with like-minded passionate people. I’m very grateful for tumblr.
  • The friends I have on Twitter! I always have wonderful people to talk to–from old friends like Epiphora and Britni to new friends like J_Chlebus and Personal Genius–and that means a lot to me.
  • All my real life friends and family, of course! Especially my roommates, who are like sisters to me, my mom and my best friend Hannah, who I’ll finally get to see this winter after nearly three years.

So there’s a short list of things I’m thankful for! Happy thanksgiving to all our readers! If it weren’t for you, we’d be pretty much talking to ourselves and for that we are both truly thankful!

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The Pataki Files: Olga Comes Home

As promised, the first entry in my new series about dysfunction in the Pataki family from Hey Arnold!

While “The Little Pink Book” was the first Helga-centric episode (and showed us how deep her love/obsession with Arnold runs), “Olga Comes Home” is one of the first episodes that really sheds light on Helga’s home life. When her older, perfect sister Olga comes home from prestigious Wellington College for spring break, Helga’s jealousy and resentment get the better of her. So to exact “sweet, black revenge,” she changes one of Olga’s grades to a B+, effectively destroying her sister’s flawless academic performance and sending her into a downward spiral of depression, tears and Mozart’s Lacrimosa. For a while Helga reaps the benefits of her sister’s depression, but eventually her guilt gets the better of her (aided by a Salvador Dalí-inspired dream). She reveals the truth which leads to her and Olga having a rare, bittersweet sister-to-sister moment.

This episode marks an important moment for the Patakis: there had been many references to Olga, the mythical older sister whose shadow is constantly cast over Helga—her father constantly calls her “Olga” (hell, “Helga” is just another version of that name) and both parents are always rhapsodizing about how wonderful Olga is. This episode is devoted to unveiling (and deconstructing) the legend of Olga Pataki and revealing how she and the image she has had projected onto her is the nexus of the entire family’s behavior. Olga’s presence is the only thing that takes Miriam out of her slurred, drunken stupor and makes Bob express interest in his family.

When we first see Olga, as opposed to just hearing about her secondhand, all of Helga’s negative feelings seem validated: she is a peppy Stepford Smiler who is completely committed to the role of flawless overachiever and totally oblivious to Helga’s suffering. Helga’s method of revenge may seem over the top and unnecessary until we really stop to think about how Helga has endured this her entire life. For her, Olga is the root of all her family problems. If it weren’t for Olga being so perfect and sucking up all of Bob and Miriam’s attention/energy, Helga wouldn’t have unrealistic expectations to live up to and then her parents could just appreciate her for who she is; instead she is either ignored or encouraged to be more like Olga. And Helga’s revenge is ultimately futile—even though at first things seem better, her parents are still too absorbed in worrying about Olga to pay Helga any attention.

And it’s when Helga tells Olga the truth that we’re really given a glimpse into the abusive nature of the household: Olga admits that she thinks Helga is lucky because their parents pay no attention to her, that she feels like a wind-up doll who has to perform constantly. The facade is broken and we see Olga for who she is—someone who suffers just as much as Helga does because of the expectations of her parents. But where Helga throws up defensive walls and blatantly refuses to meet their standards, Olga bends over backwards to try and meet them, to the point where something as silly as getting a B+ instead of an A sends her into a deep depression.

In this moment of sisterly bonding, it becomes apparent that both Helga and Olga have suffered from their parents’ impossible, abusive expectations. It is not that Helga is inherently vindictive and jealous or that Olga is naturally an overly cheerful perfectionist. They have both been given a set of expectations to meet by parents who don’t know any other way to raise their children. Olga chose to meet them and found out early that it was a (or possibly the only) way to get positive attention from her emotionally incapable parents. Helga, born 10-11 years later, didn’t have a chance. As a result, both sisters crave what the other has: Olga wants them to just forget she exists and Helga, just once, would like for her parents to give her unconditional love and affection without the expectations.

Please leave any comments below and come back next week for more Pataki analysis!

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The Pataki Files: An Intro to Family Dysfunction in Hey Arnold

Hey Arnold was one of—if not the—coolest animated kids’ show on TV during the mid-’90s. With a diverse cast of street smart kids and quirky adults in a thriving city that was just as much a character as its citizens, it was like the smooth jazz of animated children’s shows. It was a calmer show; no bright, flashy colors, frenetic soundtracks, or hyperactive main characters. It isn’t necessarily realistic, but it does feel more grounded in reality and down to earth than a lot of other children’s shows.

The show overall really started to grow when it left behind Arnold’s Cloud Cuckoo Lander personality and concentrated on seriously fleshing out the various characters in the city of Hillwood. Even adult characters like Grandpa, Oskar Kokoshka, and Mr. Hyunh got their time in the limelight and, especially in the case of the Mr. Hyunh-centered Christmas special, it led to some of the most poignant moments in the entire series (or really in animated kids’ television period). One of the characters who often had entire episodes and story arcs devoted to her was the resident bully and passionate secret admirer of Arnold, Helga Pataki.

Most people with even a cursory familiarity with the show can see that the behavior of Helga’s parents are G-rated codes for abuse and alcoholism. I had a vague awareness of this when I was younger; it was easy for me (with two alcoholic parents) to recognize that her mother Miriam’s slurred speech, proclivity for sleeping in random places, and Tabasco “smoothies” indicated more than just her being a wacky eccentric. And since I had a deep and abiding passion for consuming books about domestic violence from the time I was 10, I recognized the abuse in her dad, successful beeper salesman Big Bob, and his habit of yelling; he and Miriam’s constant favoritism towards perfect, repressed older sister Olga; and their neglect of Helga.

But watching as an adult, I’m able to really see just how profound some of these moments in the show were. It’s really important that this children’s show handled the subject of abusive parents—not horribly, call-child-protective-services abusive because that would be too much for a kids’ network—so well, especially because it was placed right along side more normal, non-abusive families like Arnold’s and Gerald’s.

Helga is one of the most interesting characters on the show: bright, insecure, passionately artistic, clever, cunning, equal-parts self-serving and selfless, fearful, apathetic at times, and violent, her character arc is one of the most impressive and nuanced developments in any animated children’s show. As we get to know Helga more, and become more familiar with not just her specific tics and personality traits but also her family life, we see that she is more than just a schoolyard bully with a crush. We see, bit by bit, how Helga struggles with simultaneously craving the love and acceptance of her peers and family while putting up the defensive walls that push everyone away.

In an effort to really understand and share the ins and outs of Helga’s progression to a fully fleshed out and richly idiosyncratic character, I’ve decided to start up a series, à la TTAACMATHPS, focusing on Pataki-centric episodes of Hey Arnold! So stay tuned for the first entry this Wednesday where I’ll start things off with “Olga Comes Home”!

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Link Dump: #51

You know what’s an underrated animated/horror movie? Henry Selick’s Coraline. And you know who voiced a kitty in Coraline? Keith David, Childs from The Thing and Roddy Piper’s co-star in They Live and an all-around bad-ass. You are awesome, Keith David. In other news, you may have noticed a mighty hush lately across Pussy Goes Grrr. Long story short, we’re currently resting and preparing—sorting out writing projects and real-world obligations as our big end-of-year sprint across the finish line approaches.

December is going to be mind-blowing. In order for that to happen, though, November has to be kinda “meh.” You’ll see! It’ll be worth it! In the meantime, here’s a few cool links:

No good search terms this week, alas. We hope that next week brings a search term bounty, however, as befits Thanksgiving.

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Yes We Kane

[The following was written for the Great Citizen Kane Debate, hosted by True Classics.]

First off, full disclosure: My middle name is Orson, after our favorite cinematic wunderkind. Make of that what you will.

Now on to the meat of the issue: Citizen Kane is a fucking incredible movie. Wanna talk broadly about its influence and artistry? OK, then: it’s a Ulysses-like encapsulation of American history spanning 1895-1941, of political/economic ambition and its downfall, of the Faustian bargain that constitutes the “American dream,” all told with wit and tragedy and chiaroscuro poetry. It’s a mad gambit by a first-time filmmaker that’s since become a byword for great Hollywood cinema.

But less loftily: It’s fun. It’s puckish. It’s one of my “raw pleasure” movies—a joy to quote and rewatch ad nauseum. I never understand it when people complain about Kane as if it’s this hulking, glacial, inaccessible art film. Are they watching the same Kane I am, the one bubbling with jokes and cute banter? Yes, it’s haunted by Charlie’s broken childhood, his spoiled dreams of high office, and his ruinous relationship with poor Susan. But it’s the very opposite of a slog.

One of Kane‘s many miracles is that it’s so dense, so full, and somehow still so light. It has Joseph Cotten at his finest, dropping self-deprecating one-liners left and right; it has Gregg Toland’s impossibly inventive camera, like the bastard child of a kaleidoscope and an angel; it has that adorable scene where Charlie alleviates Susan’s toothache through laughter; and of course it has Welles himself, a boy genius both within and without the film, laughing at the world while haunted by his past and future.

It’s so poignant, but so charming. So cynical, but so alive. It’s a romance, a biopic, an epic, a film noir, a horror movie, a political thriller, a drama set in the world of turn-of-the-century journalism… it’s such a massive, magical feat that I can’t help but react with awe and delight. I love every frame, every line, every performance in Kane. Like I said: a fucking incredible movie.

As for this “greatest movie of all time” thing? It’s a silly diversion from the movie’s true power. I have nothing against Sight & Sound‘s once-a-decade polls, the same ones that canonized Kane; in fact, I think they can be a handy barometer of critical opinion. However, these polls have also given hordes of adolescent cinephiles the false impression that calling Kane “boring” is an act of courage. Come on, everybody. We’re better than that. Cinema isn’t a horse race; it’s a cornucopia, with no single “greatest movie” looking down on the rest. Appreciate movies for their own merits, not because they have (or have not) been voted “the best.”

And while you’re at it, watch Citizen Kane. Because it’s a really funny, tender, smart, incredible movie.

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