Contradicting Popular Opinion: 13.07.06

Contradicting Popular Opinion
An Enquiry Concerning Why Your Favorite Movie Sucks

Hotel Rwanda: I probably should care…

I recently watched Hotel Rwanda. My wife Netflixed it. I didn’t really care about it. I don’t really need a movie to tell me that genocide is bad. And personally, I don’t care for bio-pics. I’d rather watch documentaries than dramatizations. (I’m a documentary whore.)

Upon actually viewing Hotel Rwanda… I still just didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong: the performances were fine, the pacing was nice, the film-making was better than average. There are some nice little moments of levity to balance out all the sad stuff. It’s probably a solid 7 on the little Inside Pulse rubric movie chart deallee-ma-bob

But I just didn’t care.

In some ways, this indifference is probably due to me being a typical white American. It doesn’t directly affect me when one group of Africans is killing another group of Africans based on some arbitrary or imaginary distinction. My garbage is still taken out, ya know?

But all cultural insensitivities aside, the film could’ve done a better job at making me care. In storyline terms, several points of interest were not used to their full extent. Wouldn’t it be better to play up the irony of orphans and refugees living at a 5 star shwanky hotel? The film didn’t give me any clever juxtaposition of these things. Joaquin Pheonix was a nice touch as the typically ignorant and slightly hung-over American, but his character disappears early on without much regard. (Is Joaquin always hung-over, or does he just look that way?) We don’t see the effects of our protagonist’s work life mixing with his family life. (World’s collide, “independent George” and all that.) We don’t get a good view into what life is like for the characters outside of this film.

I don’t really relate to Don Cheadle’s character. I understand him, I understand his actions, but I don’t feel what he feels. He has some of my sympathy, but not my empathy. If we would’ve started off with him holding one of his babies or seen more happy family life early on, maybe I would feel differently. Or maybe we could go a different route. We see Cheadle’s character be really slick and good at his job. If the audience wants to be like Cheadle in the first act, the bad stuff in the second act is more effective.

The big thing though, is this: I think that what was really working against the film was this typical Hollywood detachment. These days, nobody wants to upset the audience. All these horrible things are going on, but Hotel Rwanda always softens the blow. We see dead bodies, but not dying. Unnamed people are the ones who pay the price. Nobody the audience is attached to is even physically harmed. We see women caged, presumably forced into a life a prostitution. But they look fairly healthy. Most are clothed. Nobody looks like they were just raped. We don’t even see inappropriate touch.

Now, I’m not saying I need to see hardcore rape and tons of gore, but c’mon. The film shies away from showing anything that is too upsetting, when the fact of the matter is that these things ARE upsetting and SHOULD BE upsetting. A movie dealing with genocide, and sex slavery, and civil war SHOULD BE unpleasant to watch.

We are not dealing with unnameable Lovecraftian terror. We are dealing with reality, with things that actually happened.

This isn’t Cthulhu.

This is Alien.

We need to see the monster.

(To me, the most tragic thing about the film is the song it put in my head:

And it’s 1, 2, 3, 4,
Take the elevator
at the Hotel Rwanda
we’ll be glad to see you later,
All we got outside is insurgency
and it’s 4, 5, 6, 7
Grab your machete
we’ll flee off into the Serengeti
All they got inside is vagrancy…

Hey, it could’ve been a Hotel California joke. Be glad you were spared that much.)

Quick Reviews of Things I’ve Recently Watched

I hate summer weather. So now is the time to borrow movies. Unfortunately, other people’s movies usually suck.

Finding Neverland:
It’s a well-made flick. Johnny Depp gives a credible performance. Sadly, I find it not at all interesting. I wouldn’t avoid the flick if it was on, but wouldn’t make you pause it if I had to pee.

50 First Dates
It’s like Memento meets The Wedding Singer mixed with a giant turd. Unwatchably bad. An injection of Billy Idol wouldn’t even save this flick. This flick is only for those who want to see Sean Astin put on a funny voice and wear see-thru shirts. I’m sure there are people like that out there.

Serving Sara
This movie is lousy. In terms of Bruce Campbell movies it ranks below Terminal Invasion (or as BC dubbed it, Interminable TV-Movie). Even compared to other movies starring “Friends” this movie is lousy. Lousy.

Stepford Wives (remake)
Whether he is directing The Score or voicing Grover, I tend to like Frank Oz. Sadly, this movie isn’t very good. The experience is kinda like being locked in a room with a bunch of uppity women who think they are clever. Christopher Walken gives the only boring performance of his career. Jon Lovitz steals the movie playing a typical Jon Lovitz character.

Paper Moon
A good script, shot well, with fine performances? Ah the ’70s, when films were made by film-makers… Good times…

The Sound of Music
Upon much pondering I have finally solved a problem much like Maria. Not exactly like Maria, mind you, but reasonably similar. The proof took seven hand written pages, and a surprising amount of simplistic linear algebra.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Depp is interesting enough. The flick is like a horrifying fever dream, and not in that good way.

How I spent my Summer Vacation
A zoo story

So last week’s effort was dubbed a “column” by that Gobo cat. Rightly so, by a reasonable estimate, I would gather. (Although, he is an America-hating Canadian.) What can I say? Independence day shenanigans, coupled with being a good father, lead to the demise of my free time. You see, I decided to give my wife a run for her money as the fun parent by taking my daughter to the zoo.

Bad idea.

You see, attempt one at said zoo trip was met with randomly timed, and quite torrential, downpours. A short walk from the drug store to the drug store parking lot left my clothes dripping wet, so zoo plans were postponed for a day. Day two saw nice weather, and lead ultimately to a fun-filled experience of me video-taping random animals defecating, all the while desperately searching for a kiddie train. I had passed that dang train earlier when my daughter wasn’t crying to go on it. It’s funny how things become much better at hiding once they are sought.

It was between the seals and the penguins.

Anyway, after leaving the confines of the Zoo, I had one more animal with which to deal: The Lincoln Park Parking Space Vulture. While hurrying my car out of its spot to avoid the wrath of belligerently polite Asian tourists, I notice a funny jump as I shift it into drive. After I pay for parking I have to rev the engine hard to get out of the lot.


I miss the turn to get on LSD proper, take the local lanes for a bit, get stuck in downtown traffic, progressively punishing the 17 year old engine of Fang, the demon Ford Taurus. Finally, I make it on to the Drive.

A thought occurs to me: My car is overheating. I blast Fang’s heat to cool her off despite the 90 degree weather.

Another thought occurs to me: driving a car that won’t go faster than 25 on a large, fast road, probably isn’t safe.

I pull off at the next exit, still hoping that I can appease my agitated 3-year-old with a drive-thru trip for McNuggets. Apparently, I picked the wrong exit. Traffic was at a standstill, as roads were being re-routed for the Taste of Chicago. I had to severely rev the engine to keep from rolling backwards and into the car behind me.

My radiator fluid was boiling, dripping this brown substance onto the road.

The car’s heater was nearly burning my feet,

It took one hour, one helpful off-duty cop, two guys pushing a 1989 Taurus uphill to get out of the way of traffic, and one tow-truck driver with a poor sense of direction, but Fang was taken away, never to be driven again. With my daughter, her stroller, her large car seat, and my zoo-packed bag full of snacks, dolls, and video camera bag, I was off to find the nearest Metra stop.

Apparently, I am the only person in Chicago that uses the Metra, or in fact, knows what the Metra is. When I asked the exact location of the Metra, some people gave me looks that Labrador Retriever might give when asked to prove the irrationality of pi. Others just asked me, “What? The train? Are you talking about a train?”

Despite the help of my fellow man, I made it to the rickety wooden platforms of the Roosevelt electric line station. Only having a twenty for the ticket machine, I was rewarded with 18 golden dollars as change. It was winning at a slot machine, only much much crappier. Thankfully, I only waited at the wrong platform briefly, and traversed to the right one with just 20 minutes to spare before the next train arrived. Then we had short ride, and a scant 2 mile walk home (with the car seat hitting my back with every step). Good times.

Later on, we traversed the three corners of Chicago, looking for a new (used) car. Then, upon selecting said car, had 130 miles worth of trips to finish the deal. As a bonus, I got to buy a new $75 city sticker because I didn’t peel the old one off before junking Fang.

I think Eric S.‘s luck must be contagious.


Rob decides to skip the bad-ass this week and focus on the ass-bad, with a column on Supergirl.

The 50 Club inducts some movie where the guy from Pumpkinhead gets to shoot Al Pacino. Good times. They also cover Cool Hand Luke.