Monday Morning Critic – 8.2.2010 – Why Oliver Stone hasn't been condemned, City of God and some UFC humor

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

One of the things that getting together with old friends of mine from college is that sometimes magic happens. And by magic I mean hilariously offensive things that come out of us as a collective. The group I tend to hang out with has been friends of mine for well over a decade, so there’s enough history between us as well as a collective B.S. detector second to none. These guys aren’t merely immune to the hilarious offensiveness that my life is immersed in; in many ways they’re the reason why I have an inability to keep my mouth shut. It’s nice to be around three people who have the same problem, I admit. We gather every now and again for events of manliness, aka crappy metal bands, alcohol and the UFC. I enjoy having people laugh at my awful taste in humor and they appreciate good beer; it’s a match only possible because of those wacky monks who follow St. Norbert of Xanten. The four of us are the last remaining ones that still hang out, mainly because we all live in the greater Chicagoland area and a number of the extended group of miscreants have scattered to the four winds.

The other week we were all assembled together to watch the UFC for what my friend Jon had dubbed a “celebrity cocaine party.” Mainly he wanted his better half to enjoy our shenanigans with some of her friends or something; me, I thought it’d be fun to grab some beer and watched people beat the piss out of each other in the cage for fun and profit. There was also something about Jon’s girlfriend trying to set me up with one of her friends but around the gang anything that isn’t involving fights, stories from the old days or alcohol comes with commentary from the peanut gallery. And those things do too, usually, and these guys have enough killer one-liners that doing anything is akin to going in front of a firing squad armed with machine guns on full auto; Jon’s the guy who opined the phrase “She looked like a shaved Ewok” when commenting on the ex-girlfriend of a mutual friend.

Frankly I’d rather avoid the embarrassment of being shot down while there’s play by play and color commentary, as well as a corresponding YouTube video, but it did bring out one of those awesome moments that comprise my life. One of Lisa’s friends after a little indulgence was stumble drunk. In an hour, and three glasses of crappy wine, she was staggeringly drunk to the point where she opted to tell the four of us assembled on the couch watching the fights about how tough she was. She was also insanely over the top hot, like so hot any normal guy would have to roofie her up to have a shot at taking her home; if she’d been in the film She’s Out Of My League Stainer would’ve called her the “hard 10″ of mythical lore. She apparently was tough because she could drive her BMW convertible through a posh neighborhood of the city of Chicago. That was a problem for Ed.

Ed argued with her about this salient fact as if it was some deep-rooted philosophical point that one side truly believed in and the other didn’t; Ed’s South Side Polish (born, raised and still lives there) and seemingly takes it as an offense when anyone from the suburbs acts as if they’re tougher than someone from the city proper. We were all listening in amusement as this argument played out as its general sobriety and the drunk mess’s lack of control spiraled out of control to the point where it was almost embarrassing. And then she had some long drawn out point that in any sane world would’ve received this as a response:

Instead, I just looked at Jon who was slightly bemused by the whole situation. And I said what any sane, rational and still slightly sober guy would’ve in that situation would’ve:

“Every single word in that sentence is giving me an erection.”

It’s thoughts like these that kept me out of the good colleges, apparently.

Random Thoughts of the Week

One of the more amusing things of the past couple weeks has been the disparate treatment of Mel Gibson and Oliver Stone, two men with admitted substance problems who apparently also have a bit of a dislike toward Judaism and its practitioners. Gibson’s general anti-Semitic commentary earned him a lot of scorn, and probably took a chunk out of the grosses for Edge of Darkness, Stone’s has earned him scorn but not the absolute enmity Gibson has earned in light of his recorded phone calls from his second ex-wife. I’ve read articles all over the web, with people wondering how Stone has been able to “get away” with this by merely apologizing twice and not earning the scorn that Gibson did. Charlie Sheen did significantly worse than either did, admitting in court that he held a knife to his wife’s throat while threatening to kill her, and he’s gotten a pass from it as well. 20th Century Fox has a very good reason as to why they aren’t going to throw Oliver under the bus:

One hundred million good reasons, easy.

Listen to me now and believe me later. Fox has already spent $70 million on the film just in production costs, not including anything on publicity and advertising. One would imagine they will probably have spent half of the budget in P&A, maybe close to $50 million, when all is said and done. They’ll need to hit $200-50 million worldwide to break even at that point before DVD and alternate revenue streams like rentals are thrown in. R-rated drama doesn’t draw significantly outside of the United States in the same way that an R-rated action film will. Hitting $100 million domestic and $100 million internationally isn’t out of the question, one would think, and you can bet that Fox will hype the three big actors in the film (Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf and Josh Brolin) instead of the fact that the film was directed by Oliver Stone. It sounds odd, considering he won two Oscars for directing and another for writing, but Stone hasn’t had a film that was a bonafide hit in a long time. He needs one and Fox has certainly spent enough cash to warrant it. You don’t make a sequel to a film like Wall Street without that expectation.

They have already spent a significant amount advertising a spring release and then shunted it to the fall, where they feel they have a better chance during awards season, and the film is expected to at least make its money back and/or be up for some awards when all is said and done. With the Best Picture race expanded to 10 there’s a better chance, especially if it gets some stellar reviews, and voters can conveniently “overlook” Stone when it comes to writing and directing without anyone noticing.

By pushing the film back, or by going out of their way to disassociate themselves with Stone, Fox would be cutting off their nose in spite of their face. If this film is as good as they think it is, and they must based on pushing it from an early spring release (which has doomed plenty of the year’s better films, since they are long forgotten by the time the year ends) to one closer to the end of the year. Stone and his indiscretions will soon be forgotten and forgiven by most of the ticket-paying public outside of the usual idiots looking for their own publicity.

Whether or not it’ll be enough to draw a huge audience is a whole other question for another day.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – City of God

There comes a point in a flick where it’s really awesome and you don’t think it can get any better. And then it shocks you by doing something completely unexpected and awesome, turning up the voltage to the point where the film just is completely awesome. It’s what I call a City of God moment: that one moment where you think it couldn’t get any better and then it does.

Following the trials and tribulations of Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues as an adult and Luis Otavio as a child), the film is a decade in the life of the slums in the suburb Cidade de Deus (Portuguese for the film’s title) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In order to tell the story of the suburb, Buscape has to look back and tell the story of all those he knew (and lost) over the years in a shockingly violent world of crime and criminals.

With a cast pulled of rank amateurs from the slum itself, and shot on location, this is a brilliant but absolutely depressing film. Anytime you see kids doing all this sort of crime, as the film is a coming of age film in a crime-filled ghetto, but the kids do some incredibly vile and evil things that it gets painful to watch. But it’s absolutely brilliant story-telling, a remarkable visual style, a great take on the coming of age film from a foreign land culminating in an insanely brilliant film

Highest possible 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

The Other Guys – Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are cops and have to bust bad guys.

See It – Ferrell is due to have a funny movie after a number of stinkers, right?

Step Up 3-D – More dancing, this time in 3-D

Skip It – Proof that a franchise can exist solely based on box office receipts and without the most basic of story-telling, characters or other pesky things like that. Dancing and pretty people are way more important than crap like that, right?

Middle Men – Luke Wilson helps invent internet pornography and changes the way we do everything in the process.

See It – Probably the first “quirky” indie film that has some potential Oscar bait in Wilson, who’s long overdue for a nomination. In limited release, so catch it if you can.

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

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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