Monday Morning Critic – 8.16.2010 – Of Scott Pilgrim, Matthew Vaughn, Kick-Ass and World Cup Celebrations

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.

With the World Cup firmly in the rear view mirror, and Americans ceasing to fake enthusiasm for the world’s game 30 seconds after the U.S lost to Ghana, I’m stuck watching Major League Soccer for my weekly fix of proper football since the EPL, et al, isn’t into form just yet. And something’s missing from all this; good over the top celebrations. It’s part of the reason why we love the NFL; there’s nothing like watching a touchdown celebration on Sundays because sometimes you get rewarded with something good. Nothing quite beats a good goal celebration, and there’s a team in Iceland that does it better than anyone else:

But with all that creativity involved, you know what’s missing? Really nutty stuff in celebration, like things that leaves you looking like an amazingly dickish jerk, are things we need in sports to make us smile and laugh at the absurdity of how serious we take it. It’s one thing to be able to do a ballroom dance, but what about something a bit more memorable? In my youth the Brazilian professional leagues had a list of several dozen things that were banned as celebrations. I wish I was kidding when I say this but they had to ban the following celebrations (amongst others):

1. Jumping off the field and finding a payphone, then pretending to make a call. Basically you’re calling someone to brag about scoring a goal.

2. Carrying a spare jersey on the sideline in case you wanted to throw yours into the crowd and stay on the pitch.

While sports celebrations have been reigned in for the most part because of dumb things like “sportsmanship” and “class,” some good stuff does get through every now and again. But in the MLS there’s nothing that screams “American asshole” like Chad Johnson pulling out a sharpie and signing the ball he scored with before throwing it into the crowd. Soccer would really grow in this country, I think, if the professionals celebrated as horribly awesome as their counterparts in other leagues.

That needs to change, if only in the spirit of jingoistic zealousness. Coming the week after The Expendables taught us that action heroes blow stuff up and kill foreigners in the name of all that’s good , we need to ramp up the one area we’ve been lacking: macho jock shenanigans that comprise sports celebrations. It’s not good enough to be a top notch league that feeds our best footballers to foreign leagues anymore; we need to out celebrate them too. There’s something un-American about seeing an MLS team not have at least have one ridiculous celebration per week.

I mean anyone can score a goal when it comes to being a player at that level; it takes a certain type of a-hole to celebrate it without any sort of pretention towards class and dignity. There was once a time when we led the world in obnoxious sports celebrations, however brief that moment was, and it’s one thing I miss about modern soccer. And only in soccer could we get away with ANY of this, so I think Major League Soccer needs some great celebrations to keep up with our peers overseas. Thus, I present:

The Top Thirteen Most Horribly Awesome Celebrations We Need to See in American Soccer Immediately

13. Seppuku – The goal scorer kneels down with an imaginary dagger in his hand. As he cuts across his body he’s eliminating the shame of scoring such an awesome goal and his teammate cuts his head off (and he falls to the ground) to put him out of his misery.

12. The Carlton – Sometimes the old ones are the classics, but the better an athlete an you are usually the more in touch with the rhythm of dance. So I bet Landon Donovan would make this look good:

11. The Fire Hydrant – LT did this in Any Given Sunday, but I think the image of someone marking the goal post as “their turf” like a dog would be both insanely awesome as well as make you the biggest d-bag ever.

10. The Execution – After a score, one guy stands on the sideline and pretends to smoke his last cigarette. His teammates line up 10 yards away and load their weapons, then point their fingers at him and go BANG. He pretends to drop dead from it all via the firing squad, still legal in Utah by the way. Like the goal was so awesome he can’t be allowed to live, ala the cook who made that pork dish in Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

9. The Joust – You need four guys for two piggy back rides. They line up like 10 yards away and act like an old time joust, with one falling off and the other (presumably the goal scorer) raising his hands in victory. I imagine Terrell Owens and Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson already have something like this planned for the upcoming NFL season.

8. The Charlie Brown – The goal scorer lines up like the holder on a field goal try in American Football, someone runs up and acts like they’re going to kick and at the last moment the ball is pulled away and the runner falls down. There is something about the classics that never got old.

7. The Macarena – Nothing says classic like a late 90s dance craze. And a bunch of guys doing the Macarena is totally something that would get on Sportscenter. One of the more amusing things is that there was someone who a couple years ago realized they spent $200 on 15 different CDs that just featured different versions of the Macarena. Like who needs to listen to the Christmas Macarena, right?

6. The Big Stinky Giant-Killing Leg Drop of Doom – If you’re going to do a pro wrestling move, the big looping crappy punch of Hulk Hogan followed by his massive leg drop of doom would be something to behold in a proper football game.

5. The Boondock Saint – Three guys put the goal scorer on his knees and then imitate putting iron to the back of his skull, like his goal was so good that it’s criminal and now he has to be put down like the filthy animal he is for it.

4. The Funky Duckman – One of the best animated shows ever deserves to be on his list. ‘Nuff said, just thrust your pelvis.

3. The Suicide Bomber – It’s a twist on the usual “take your shirt off and scream” celebration, but instead of going nuts you scream something religious and then act like you’re detonating something. You have to follow it up with everyone falling down like they’re dead, to completely sell and/or offend everyone. The goal is so great that the scorer has to sacrifice himself to whatever God he believes in, of course. You can be really noxiously offensive with it by having your teammates dance around the opposing team’s goalkeeper like virgins waiting for the scorer to get into heaven of course.

2. The Fist Pump – You got to pretend to spike your hair up, because the hair has to look good for the ladies yo, and then you pump your first all nice and soft first. You have to get that beat started. Then you readjust your hair, because it can get all messed up, then you pump up the beat so more. To get it going, of course, and then after one final readjustment of the hair you just pump the living snot out of the beat to turn it all the way up.

It’d be just like if the kids from Jersey Shore played soccer or did something to contribute to society other than exist solely as proof of its decay.

1. The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience – There’s something to be said about the most obnoxious dancing ever entering itself into the equation.

It all seems perfectly rational and hilarious to me, but then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge Turns Into a Random Thought of the Week

This Week’s DVD – Kick-Ass

Something Matthew Vaughn said this week got me thinking and since I picked up the DVD of his latest opus I figured I’d kill three birds with a stone or something. That and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World came out last week and there are enough parallels between that film, The Dark Knight and Kick-Ass to make me write long form about film.

Vaughn’s main point was something I’ve said before about a lot of other genres:

“It’s been mined to death and in some cases the quality control is not what it’s supposed to be,” Vaughn said. “People are just going to get bored of it.”

As much as I respect the auteur of Layer Cake and Kick-Ass, I think he has something wrong. I don’t think it’s a matter of quality control in the traditional sense, i.e. making a whole bunch of crappy films in the genre that overwhelm the few remaining good ones. That’s more of the problem with horror films, and to a lesser extent action and crime films, but super hero / comic book films seem to be mirroring their counterparts in the animated genre more than anything else. That’s an entirely different level of quality control than we traditionally think of.

Listen to me now and believe me later.

Animated films are released about once every other month, it seems, and all tend to be relatively safe releases. There isn’t a whole lot of risk when it comes to animation in content or characters; the only animated film I’ve seen released in the last five years that wasn’t a PG film was R-rated French crime film Renaissance. And that was a film with a small budget and able to take those kinds of risks. Most animated films that come out are hits because kids like them and they make for family affairs; there isn’t much difference in quality or content between most of them and they’re pretty mindless fare.

And then there’s Pixar, which has a standard for quality unmatched by anyone. Everything they touch so far has been brilliant and it’s hard to see them slowing down anytime soon.

Comic book and super hero films are in what I’d like to think of as true golden age of the genre in the same way action films owned the ‘80s and cinema itself was at its peak in the ‘70s. If you think about it, 20 years ago everyone would’ve said you were crazy if you wanted to raise $100 million for an Iron Man project and put a recovering drug addict who was borderline uninsurable in the lead. Now, after Iron Man made untold millions and made Robert Downey Jr. into a near permanent fixture at the top of Hollywood, it doesn’t seem so risky. Michael Keaton was a proven, drawing commodity as an actor before donning the cowl as the Dark Knight and even then it was a risky proposition that would up paying off substantially to Warner Bros.

Look at the point where we are in the genre. Every comic property worth having is being optioned for the next big franchise, with anyone who’s ever been in a comic book and worn a mask getting his own film (or close to it), this is something I never expected to happen. I always imagined that the big properties in comics, the guaranteed moneymakers, like Spider-Man and Superman would be headliners but to see major stars competing to see who can be various comic book heroes is kind of nuts.

Now we’re at the point where a relative unknown like Chris Hemsworth can headline Thor, a summer tentpole, and it’s not a big deal because Marvel has a strong track record of establishing characters and has been able to load up the cast with veteran actors. When your biggest acting credit on the big screen to date was an extended cameo in Star Trek and opposite Sean Bean in little seen indie film Ca$h it is in every way a huge risk to begin with. Throw in the fact that Thor’s not exactly Superman when it comes to comic properties and there’s no chance this would’ve happened without the comic book / superhero boom of the last 15 years or so. So the fact that this is happening would seem to be absolutely insane on seemingly level if it weren’t for the fact that we are in a boom for the genre and people are making money with nearly every project they throw on the screen.

Say what you will about Hollywood and its rather unique political perspective but the studios don’t make $200 million pieces about radical left wing politics to make a statement. Comic book films are near guaranteed moneymakers; the only one I can think of in recent memory that was a substantial money loser was Jonah Hex, which barely cleared $10 million on a $50 million budget. It hasn’t been released internationally yet and hasn’t found its way to DVD just yet but it has a large windfall to get back to even, but it’s looking like the exception and not the rule. With the advent of the DVD market, as well as foreign box office, even films in the genre that didn’t catch fire like The Losers can still turn a profit (or at least break even). It’s how Kevin Smith still gets work despite never being a box office gorilla and the genre has proven to be a box office gold mine.

The genre is becoming a near guaranteed moneymaker and everyone is rushing to pick up properties in hopes of the next big franchise. But the thing that will make the genre boring is if the uniqueness of presentation goes away, i.e. if every film begins to look and feel the same as opposed to something unique and different. The thing that needs to focused more on than making quality films is making unique films across the spectrum. It’s one thing to make a great film using the formula like Iron Man; it’s another to make dozens of films exactly like this. Nothing kills a genre quicker than lots of films doing the exact same thing the exact same way without any sort of diversity.

Action films in the ‘80s are a great comparison because the excess of ‘80s action cinema nearly killed the genre before Die Hard reinvented it. There are only so many films like Predator and The Running Man, or a Rambo sequel, that can carry a franchise before carbon copies like Action Jackson, I Come in Peace or any of the other lesser known action films of the ‘80s that were mainly garbage but came out at a time when anyone on enough steroids to turn Justin Bieber from a 10 year old girl into a man, and a smidgeon of charisma, could be an action hero. It got to the point where there may have been good films scattered throughout but the same story and style were being told so often that it became repetitive and boring.

Comic book films are in a golden age, perhaps, but the genre is also in an era where it’s an established genre as well. People are beyond willing to throw something against the wall and see if sticks but to the point where cool visuals and creativity are being allowed all over the place. It’s how Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Dark Knight, Wanted and Kick-Ass can occupy the same genre and have four completely different story-telling mechanisms and styles yet exist in the same genre within the relative same time frame of release. Original, quality material is what will keep the genre fresh and profitable for the long term.

Making the same film over (even if it’s a series of good films) and over will kill the genre long before a series of craptacular films ever will. The public is fickle, unfortunately, and more of the same means people will search out other films.

Bad films can hurt a genre, and kill it with enough in a row, but conformity in all aspects of film-making will get peopled bored with the genre well before a string of bad films will make the audience reach for another film genre en masse instead of anything based off a comic book or a superhero.

Kick-Ass – Extremely recommended on DVD. Great film.

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

Lottery Ticket – Every significant African-American actor of the last decade who didn’t get cast in Chris Rock’s Death at a Funeral (outside of Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman) landed in this film as a consolidation prize.

Skip it – It looks like Friday but without the pot or poignant social commentary.

Nanny McPhee Returns – Emma Thompson and Maggie Gyllenhaal have to pay the mortgage.

Skip It – It looks awful in every facet of the imagination.

Piranha 3D – Piranhas on ‘roids attack a bunch of dumb teenagers, and Ving Rhames, on Spring Break.

See It – Much like the remake of My Bloody Valetine last year, this is a film designed for 3D that want to deliver young jailbait flesh and lots of violent fish attacks.

The Switch – Jennifer Aniston has her sperm donor switch from Patrick Wilson to Jason Bateman. Wackiness ensues.

Skip It – This looks funnier on paper than it does in reality.

Vampires Suck – The idiots who made Date Movie and Epic Movie take down the Twilight Saga and bring down various pop culture stupidity with them. Opening Wednesday.

Skip It – I thought the Twilight films were self-parodies already?

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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