Monday Morning Critic – 9.7

On tap this week:
— Holy Crap on a stick
— Societal changes through cinema
— Once upon a time . . . with Jet Li
And slightly much more!

I think great societal change starts from entertainment. We accept things for real once we can either laugh at them significantly or empathize with them in a dramatic moment. It’s how we’ve been able to accept Presidents who were Southern (Carter, Clinton and Bush II) and elected officials from all races, creeds, religions and sexualities. So when we go back to the annals of history, two names should come to mind when we try to explain why America elected its first President who wasn’t an old white guy:

1 .David Palmer – It was odd to see Pedro Cerrano as President of the United States in 24, but it’s Dennis Haysbert. He’s the State Farm guy and who doesn’t like Pedro Cerrano?

“I like Jesus very much. But he no help hit curve ball” is one of those awesome lines that make Major League such a kick ass film.

2. Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho – Terry Crews will always be in my Top 10 of favorite actors for the greatest portrayal of a President of the U.S in Idiocracy. Any President who has a motorcycle and his own massive machine gun that he fires in the air on random occasions is fine by me.

We wonder why we could accept a black president, especially after being so close to the Civil Rights movement, but I think part of how we’ve grown as a society is that we need to see it in fiction first before we can see it in reality. While we’re called intolerant by the idiots and retards of Europe, you wouldn’t see a black guy in charge of any of their countries. Only in America can you see this and it’s beautiful. But we have to get the idea in our heads, first, before we can commit to something.

We can see a strong, eloquent President who can order Kiefer Sutherland to save the day by screaming & torturing anyone who gets in his way and go “You know I can see a black guy do that for real.” We can laugh at Terry Crews shooting a machine gun in the House of Representin’ and see the other half of it as well. And we can go “You know I can totally see a black go doing that, too.”

Part of how we evolve as a society, I think, is that we need to see something in fiction before we can accept it as reality. I keep thinking that for all the hateful responses that came from both sides of the gay marriage debate, especially during the Proposition 8 debacle in California. That was kind of sad to see, actually, and I remember the whole bit with gay activists going after Mormons and Cinemark because of their involvement was really depressing. I thought we had grown beyond that on both sides but apparently some defeats are quite bitter-tasting.

But it got me thinking on how we can solve all of this, and it’s easy. Get a gay couple in a sit-com that isn’t preachy or bad. Think of a show like How I Met Your Mother, except with a couple of banana-crammers in there instead of Jason Segel and the redhead from American Pie and you get the drift. They laugh, they love, they have whacky friends and their own stupid, vapid vocabulary that’s hip for people between 25-40. Think of it like Friends with Ross and Rachel being replaced with Adam and Steve, for a better example.

It may not be the grandest of ideas in the world, I readily admit, but if people can see something on the television then you begin to win the hearts and minds of people in the debate. Good television can do it, not preachy television trying to make a point. Like when Maude got an abortion; it was good television and not about how wonderful it was to avoid the responsibility of a crib-midget for the next 18 years of your life. That kind of stuff works. Preaching and being deliberate doesn’t.

If people can accept something as fiction, they can accept it as a reality. Changes in Americana usually follow the acceptance of fictional characters and their quirks as part of society’s evolution. Forget all this debate crap and just make a good, honest film or show about it and keep doing it. When you eliminate the radical politics and obvious ploys, and just make great viewing, people notice. America may not have the reputation as being the brightest bulbs in the bunch but we’re smarter than that. We’d rather have our intelligence insulted then our values, hence the reason why the anti-war film movement has been so abysmal and Transformers 2 has become one of the top grossing films of all time and The Hurt Locker being sullied by the reputations of Lions for Lambs, et al.

Could a film like Brokeback Mountain receive the sort of awards and publicity it received several years ago back in the ‘80s? No way, not at all. The ‘80s weren’t really known for their progressive view of the world. It was a step forward for a lot of things but homosexual America really didn’t get much in terms of benefits from the Reagan era. The CIA just have them AIDS and they ran with it. Maybe not even for most of the ‘90s, despite it being the “Gay ‘90s” or something. It was a step ahead, as we had Will & Grace giving us a couple of gay buddies to which we could see the homosexual bromance. Gay people got ahead and got accepted, but Brokeback Mountain still doesn’t get made then. We can see Ellen Degeneres think about talking to another girl in a romantic way, but a couple of men making out passionately on screen isn’t going to be accepted as part of Americana.

And in no way any other decade before now, either, as the decades of drugs and music pushed the envelope for a lot of things but not that. Now look at the cinema landscape for gay people. There’s a whole genre of gay comedies and a couple of nice Lesbos get together in Imagine Me & You way back in 2005. And Piper Perabo and Lena Headey get together at the end without any sort of adult entertainment style mechanisms of titillation. We can have crappy romantic comedies with gay couples instead of straight ones. If that’s not progress I don’t know what is. Heck, Kissing Jessica Stein was an awards season favorite for a bit. But it goes to a larger point.

We’re comfortable enough that seeing a gay couple on the big screen isn’t a shocker for the most part. Even if you don’t like it, and ignorance is bliss for some folks, seeing a gay couple on screen isn’t like seeing an alien or its equivalent in Drew Barrymore topless. It certainly beats protests with placards and megaphones involving them being here & queer and us having to thusly get used to it.

While I realize the gay community probably doesn’t really appreciate my social commentary, it’s probably thoughts like these that kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thought of the Week

Holy crap on a stick. Bad Boys 3 is going to happen.

For some, inexplicable reason I’m excited about this. Not because I was a fan of either two films, which I found enjoyable but not good enough to see more then once, but its proof that perhaps Hollywood can sink even lower then they currently have.

I keep thinking, for some odd reason, that perhaps Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are in the same financial situation that Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are in. You only go back to a franchise that’s successful if you need the cash or have more to say, or need to boost your career. It’s odd that Will Smith, of all people, would feel the urge to go back to the franchise that boosted his career.

Smith has hits nearly every time he makes a film, even his Oscar bait, so it’s odd he’d go back to this franchise when there’s the Hancock franchise to go for as well perhaps the ability to win an Oscar. He’s still one of the few you can call a big-time movie star.

Lawrence, on the other hand, hasn’t had a hit that wasn’t a sequel, or animated, in some time.

I’m just curious if the two are coming because they want to finally make a great buddy-comedy film. Maybe Bad Boys 3 is the result of two actors in a creative rut trying to find a way out of it together. Or maybe this will be another $200 million film that blows stuff up and is intellectually vapid.

My money is on the latter.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Film – Once Upon a Time in China

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This is the film that made Jet Li an icon in his home country of China and introduced him to the world at large. The first in a series of six films, Once Upon a Time in China is credited with starting the plethora of period martial arts pieces in Chinese/Hong Kong cinema.

Wong Fei Hung is a Chinese folk hero who was a legendary martial artist. In fact, nearly every major cinematic martial artist (Li, Sammo Hong and Jackie Chan amongst others) has played Wong Fei Hung. Li’s portrayal is an interesting one, and he’s reprised it a handful of times in the Once Upon a Time in China series.

Hung is the leader of a local militia who gets embroiled in the local politics. With the local gangs bribing the Americans and British who have taken over after China’s defeat in the Opium Wars, and its subsequent opening to the West, unparalleled shenanigans are afoot. Hung leads his men to break up a smuggling ring and save the day.

And it’s quite a neat little film, very enjoyable. Strong recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

9 – A bunch of little doll things come to life after the end of the world.

See it – With one of the coolest trailers of the year, as well as a couple of top notch directors attached to it as producers, this looks to be a sleeper hit.

Sorority Row – A bunch of sorority girls accidentally kill their friend, and a year later she comes back to take some revenge.

Skip it – This is one of those tough films to grade. On the one hand the first half of the film is going to be young, nubile co-eds in skimpy clothing prancing around. On the other, it’s a remake of a crappy horror flick. I say pass.

Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself – Tyler Perry dresses up in drag again to preach about good Christian values to the African-American community.

Skip it – If you’ve seen one Tyler Perry flick, you’ve seen them all.

Whiteout – Kate Beckinsale is in the Artic and fights a monster.

Skip it – The only time you really need to pay to see Kate Beckinsale is in an Underworld flick. Mainly because of the tight leather pants. No tight pants, no need to see.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at Kubryk@Insidepulse.com and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

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