Tag Archives: satire

Link Dump: #88

This week’s kitty is gazing ominously at the title character of Edward Dmytryk’s The Sniper, which I wrote about recently. Never have I seen a cat with more accusing eyes. And now, some links:

This week’s sexual search terms include “slippery teen twat first time with looney toons” (ewww…?) and the amusingly self-censoring “bondage mind-effing.” Mind-effing!

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Link Dump: #83

Japanese staring-you-in-the-eyes KITTY!

We’re baaaack! After a November hiatus, new content is finally returning to Pussy Goes Grrr. More to come over the next few weeks, too, as we wrap up 2012 and see what the new year has in store. In the meantime, we have a kitty for you—this week’s ominous feline comes from Kaneto Shindo’s spooooky ghost story Kuroneko, which literally translates into Black Cat—and some links!

Finally, some recent/disturbing search terms: “convinced sister to have sex with me,” “constantly worrying if baby is alive,” and “ten men dum in one pussy.” On the more amusing side, “lustoffuck.” Which, I guess, is “lust of fuck” condensed into a single word?

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Slow Motion

As long as art cinema exists, people will get pissed off about it. The vast majority of movies may be cozy and predictable, but even if a small handful are slightly challenging, audience members will take personal offense to them. This phenomenon manifests itself in annoying new ways each year—remember the Tree of Life walk-outs and Drive lawsuit of 2011?—and now, thanks to McSweeney’s writer Rodney Uhler and Variety film editor Josh Dickey, I have another pair of examples to pore over.

The first is Uhler’s “A Filmgoer Tries to Feign Interest in Art House Cinema.” It’s typical McSweeney’s: an internal/external monologue, mildly funny, kinda reminiscent of early Woody Allen. My favorite part is toward the end, as the speaker remarks of a cineaste friend, “He’s still going. Unbelievable. He’s quoting the New Yorker review.” As someone who might quote New Yorker reviews myself on occasion, I admit that I’ve been skewered. It’s dead-on. But whenever the piece touches on this hypothetical art film itself, it descends into the realm of stereotype. It’s as if Uhler has only heard of art cinema via broad, SNL-style parodies.

Hell, this thing could double as a catalog of popular misconceptions. Behold:

  • “Wait, where are they now?” Right from the start, we have this suggestion of victimhood—of the incomprehensible art film out to get its unsuspecting viewer. As if disorientation was a blunt instrument filmmakers wield to cow their viewers.
  • “[A]ll the reviews said it was amazing but half the time I have no idea what’s going on.” Of course critics are in on it too. One big conspiracy to make the in-crowd feel smart! And don’t forget the fuck-you-David-Lynch implication that “amazing” is incompatible with “I have no idea what’s going on.”
  • “Sometimes I just want to see someone blow something up and then hug a puppy.” Movies, it seems, fall into two big categories: “smart” and “dumb.” No overlap, no in-between, just a bunch of hostile art films vs. explosion-and-puppy blockbusters that people actually go to see.
  • “Hopefully I can just agree with everything he says until the topic changes.” I guess you can watch art films, but they’re just too willfully opaque for you to apply your critical thinking skills. They’re like giant, hours-long Magic Eye pictures, and only self-anointed cinephiles can make heads or tails of them.

Obviously Uhler’s exaggerating for comic effect, but I see the underlying sentiments all over the Internet. It’s this vision of art films as homogeneous, inaccessible, intended to either alienate audience members or validate their egos. Instead of, say, similar to “mainstream” movies in their use of character, narrative, and spectacle, but (to varying degrees) more elliptical and formally distinctive.

In the McSweeney’s piece, those false notions are wrapped in satire and delivered by a fictional speaker. Dickey, however, chose to trumpet his ignorance as overtly as possible on Twitter:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Variety_JLD/status/262238989736636416]

This was written specifically in response to the financial failure of Cloud Atlas. But Dickey didn’t say “Cloud Atlas shouldn’t have been three hours.” He said “A 3-hr movie is NOT ACCEPTABLE.” And later reaffirmed that he meant it as an absolute. “Filmmakers need to deliver tighter movies,” he explained. “They can and they should and they won’t b/c they’re precious.” Someone pointed out that masterpieces like Jeanne Dielman and Sátántangó would lose impact at <3 hours; Dickey curtly replied, “It loses ALL of its impact on me as I simply will not sit through it at that length.”

I don’t really give a fuck what run time is too long for this guy or any other individual viewer. Again, it’s the underlying sentiment of Dickey’s dogma, which is shared by Uhler’s “filmgoer,” that draws my ire: “Hey, movies, would you mind all being the same? Would you mind shifting a little toward to the middle, so you can better suit my idea of what a movie should be?” Have these people never seen a theater marquee? Do they not understand that most new releases fall into a narrow spectrum (formulaic, digestible, disposable) and that the exceptions are easy to avoid?

I watch movies so I can experience the world through someone else’s eyes. Sometimes that experience frustrates me. But often enough, it’s sublime. Maybe it takes three hours. (Or four, or more.) Maybe I have no idea what’s going on. That’s the risk I take; the investment I’m making. Often enough, the time and confusion pay off. I just can’t imagine imposing these aesthetic and intellectual limitations on myself. I’d never get the privilege of seeing anything truly new. If movies are going to show me the same thing every time, why bother watching them in the first place?

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Cooling Down

Maybe if I took the little fan, put it in the icebox, left the icebox door open, then left the bedroom door open, and soaked the sheets and pillowcase in ice water… no, that’s too icky!

Since America’s presently in the midst of a July heat wave, now seems as good a time as any to write about The Seven Year Itch (1955), Billy Wilder’s feature-length paean to air conditioning in the summer. Adapted from George Axelrod’s play of the same title, the film doesn’t hide its theatrical origins: most of it takes place in a single set, the Manhattan apartment of its seven-years-married protagonist Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell). There, he monologues and fantasizes about infidelity, turning his abode into a psychic echo chamber—and turning The Seven Year Itch into the comic, gender-flipped cousin of Repulsion.

Fundamentally, this is a film about paranoid masculinity, about men who are only capable of viewing women as wives or sex objects. To the audience, “The Girl” played by Marilyn Monroe is a real, complex person, and indeed Monroe plays her as more than just a ditzy blonde. She’s new to New York and happy to have a friend in her building; a little naïve, but driven by innate sweetness and thrilled by an impromptu performance of “Chopsticks.” To her, Richard is a chance to combat both loneliness and, via his AC, the summer heat.

To the solipsistic Richard, however, The Girl only exists insofar as she plays into his fantasies, all derived from pop culture and peer pressure. His visions are alternately self-aggrandizing and self-loathing: first he’s an amorous, Rachmaninoff-loving nobleman and Monroe’s his Obscure Object of Desire; later, he’s the sex-crazed “Mad Lover of Liepzig” and Monroe’s a proto-feminist bitch out to ruin his marriage and reputation. This is Wilder at his most Tashlinesque, inflating gendered behavior until it’s cartoonish and extreme. Hilarious, too: Ewell’s body is the ideal vehicle for Richard’s neuroses, which manifest themselves in dances, tics, pratfalls, and grotesque visual gags.

The Manhattan that surrounds Richard is no less broad and garish: his male acquaintances include his boss at the publishing house—a bellowing summertime hedonist—and the janitor Mr. Kruhulik, a bawdy, intrusive blue-collar caricature. (Robert Strauss, who plays Kruhulik, should’ve gotten an Oscar for his insinuating delivery of “big, fat poodle” alone.) Although Monroe is so often described as an exaggeration herself, as this ne plus ultra of femininity, she actually gives the film’s subtlest performance; her “playing dumb” looks especially restrained and unaffected next to all these histrionic men.

This is part of why I love the short monologue cited above: while Richard’s in the kitchen fixing drinks and holding a one-sided conversation about civilization and its discontents, she isn’t being a sexpot—she’s just curled up in a chair, pondering the best way to sleep comfortably. She’s oblivious, yes, but also guileless, unaware of the obsession that drives this “family man” to try and fuck a younger woman. The Seven Year Itch is very much a movie of the ’50s, about a postwar era when prosperity and hypocrisy went hand in hand. With a satirical slant, it navigates a culture of quick fixes and consumerist highs, of advertising, pop psychoanalysis, and health food.

And, of course, pathological self-absorption. Richard’s lost his up his own ass, whipping up rationalizations and projections to claim that he’s a good guy, that she’s seducing him, that his wife is probably off cheating, too. For all the film’s jokey, pastel lightness, it’s surprisingly dark at heart: no matter how much he deludes himself, Richard is still a pathetic, manipulative scumbag, a regular “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” And he’s the film’s idea of a typical American husband and father. Maybe The Seven Year Itch is closer to Wilder’s acidic black comedies than we realize. It’s silly and farcical, yeah, but you can distill its impression of the American family down to one line uttered by Richard’s boss: “On the surface, clear-eyed and healthy… but underneath, dry rot.”

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Better Dead Than Red State

It’s not hard to mock the Westboro Baptist Church. I mean, come on: picketing military funerals? Adopting “God hates fags” as their motto”? Recording childish, homophobic parodies of Lady Gaga songs? The satire practically writes itself. You’d think an experienced filmmaker like Kevin Smith, with a string of juvenile, stoner-inflected comedies under his belt, would have a field day with this material. But you’d be dead wrong.

Because Red State is anything but a “field day.” 90-minute death march through a morass of terrible dialogue and meaningless violence? That’s more like it. Its set-up is ripped off from every horror movie ever made: three teenage boys meet up with a woman for sex, she drugs them, and they end up inside a WBC-style cult compound, about to be crucified. And you know, theoretically, I have nothing wrong with Smith making his own riff on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I love the idea of a comedy director breaking into horror. But Red State provides the worst of both worlds, as it blends the horny/homophobic banter of a typical Smith outing with the paper-thin characters and plot “twists” of a low-rent Saw imitation. The most frightening aspect of this “horror” movie is that it makes Dogma look like a masterpiece by comparison.

And just as Red State’s meager plot is starting up, it stops. Kevin Smith is so blindingly in love with his own authorial voice that he has his evil preacher deliver the mother of all monologues—a 10-minute rant that apes Fred Phelps’s rhetoric without skewering it. It has no wit or humor or imagination; it’s just a totally straight-faced run-through of fundamentalist talking points, and it goes on forever. Why turn your movie into a soapbox for a homophobic, long-winded lunatic? I have no idea, but this choice torpedoes the movie before it even fully comes to life. The remaining hour is like watching debris settle in slow-motion.

It’s almost eerie how bad Smith’s writing is here. His debut Clerks became a cult hit on the strength of its profane, naturalistic dialogue; 17 years later, he’s hauling John Goodman onscreen to have him spit out reams of clunky, tedious exposition. (Exposition which, by the way, adds not an iota to our understanding of the plot.) This dialogue doesn’t show, and it doesn’t really tell. Instead it tries to push information toward the audience in ugly, tone-deaf paragraphs. Thankfully, it all but disappears during the film’s protracted climax, as ATF agents exchange endless gunfire with the fundamentalists. Then it’s just a matter of watching the characters die off, one by one, as Red State creaks to an end.

I don’t know what the worst part of this movie is. Maybe how it wastes Goodman, Melissa Leo, and Stephen Root; maybe the way Smith hyped it up with his embarrassing Sundance antics and overpriced roadshow tour; or maybe how spectacularly it fails in its anti-fundamentalist mission. Hell, I haven’t even touched on its handheld camera abuse or its hacky editing. Red State gives joyless dreck a bad name.

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Ten Scary Simpsons Moments

By Andreas

[This list is being crossposted on the terrific Simpsons-centric blog Dead Homer Society. Go check them out!]

“Cool, she’ll be a freak!” – Bart

To have an annual Halloween episode is one thing. To freely cram shocking, ghoulish imagery into otherwise normal episodes of a family sitcom is another. But then, The Simpsons‘ writers and animators never had much interest in following formulas or obeying TV conventions, preferring to meld their own savagely satirical experiments with an emotionally naturalistic representation of family life. This, and the fluid nature of its animation, meant that the show could veer from mundane reality to nightmarish fantasy in the blink of an eye.

Here, then, are ten of the most WTF-inspiring, pants-wetting moments from Simpsons continuity. They’re all bizarre, deeply terrifying digressions, but each one still adds depth to its episode. I give you the crème de la crème of The Simpsons‘ out-of-nowhere scares…

[Warning: Disturbing images below!]

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Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson

I think you are filth! I think you are scum! You are a degenerate!

Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton) has a right to be pissed off. Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), the maladjusted title character of The Graduate (1967), has ruined his marriage and now has his eyes on Elaine, his daughter. Yet when Mr. Robinson confronts Ben about all of this, he doesn’t come off as an outraged man rightfully defending his home and family. He comes off as a clown. He’s the buffoonish, cigar-clenching symbol of an uncool generation that’s had its chance to rule the world; now it’s 1967, and all bets are off. “Is it something I’ve said that’s caused this contempt,” he asks, “or is it just things I stand for that you despise?”

This showdown could’ve easily been played for straight drama, with Mr. Robinson as our tragic hero. In the hands of director Mike Nichols (as well as screenwriters Buck Henry and Calder Willingham), it’s a masterpiece of awkward comedy, as Mr. Robinson overreacts to Ben’s every gesture, misinterprets his every olive branch, and plays into every stereotype about gruff, overprotective fathers. During their argument, Ben tactlessly compares sex with Mrs. Robinson to “shaking hands”; as Mr. Robinson’s leaving, he haltingly barks at Ben, “You’ll pardon me if I don’t shake hands with you.” Every one of Mr. Robinson’s lines drips with cluelessness and seething rage, an unfortunate but hilarious combination.

This climaxes with his last few words to Ben, as transcribed above. To be honest, these insults are pretty accurate: Ben’s behavior throughout the film has been filthy, scummy, and degenerate; he doesn’t seem to have a moral compass or any sense of his effect on other people. But with Dustin Hoffman just standing innocuously in his apartment, it’s hard to take these slurs seriously. He’s completely justified, sure, but his anger and volume feel over-the-top. It’s a brilliant scene, if morally shifty, aligning us even further with Ben’s psychosis through the cartoonish, hysterical counterexample of Mr. Robinson. Nichols’ direction and Hamilton’s unforgettable performance mesh for a sly piece of comic trickery.

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