Monday Morning Critic 10.4.2010 – The Third Man, Beach Boys and Annoying Children

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.

I have never been a fan of children, I readily admit, but my experiences with them this weekend pushed my patience. I was a bit earlier to The Social Network than I had imagined and I wandered over to the arcade to kill some time. Since I had three quarters, and the claw machine cost that much, I decided to see if I could win whatever plush doll was inside. The thing kind of looked like a ninja and soft, thus it would be perfect for a toy dog. After putting in the first two quarters, the third one fell out of my hand and right by my foot. When I went down to pick it up, shenanigans happened.

An eight year old kid decided to throw himself at my feet to grab it. The problem was that my hand was already on it and he was trying to pry my hand off it. Thus came the only response, complete with my noxiously bad British accent.

“Pardon me.”

The kid immediately backed off as I stared him down and assessed the situation. His parents were right there observing, saying nothing as the kid justified his actions to them and they were all laughing. I waited a moment, figuring they’d admonish him or (heaven forbid) he was well enough taught to apologize on his own. Then the little brat said something that caused me to lose my bearings and got me close enough to actually slugging the third grader.

“Well he dropped it so it’s fair game, right?”

I was absolutely livid at this point and ready to slug him and his obviously aged parents. His parents were just kind of shrugging their shoulders and acting as if this was like walking into someone and giving a bad apology. But not wanting to have to explain to my parents that I got arrested for assault and battery of a small child and his folks, nor wanting to spend money fighting the charge with the defense of “the little bastard deserved it and then some,” I demanded the one thing he wouldn’t provide nor would his parents admonish him to do so.

“Apologize.”

He hesitated for a moment, looking at them, and by the second I was getting angrier and more willing to assault a small child for a relatively trivial offense. It’s probably why I would make an absolutely horrible parent and am completely awful around children to begin with; I expect them to act like decent, civilized adults and plenty don’t. But he gave the most half-assed and shot apology I had ever heard from a child who had misbehaved and I just lost it. I should’ve slapped him, and his parents for good measure, but I did the next best thing. Still using my awful British accent, I did my best Eurotrash sneer.

“F!@#ing Americans. You should learn to raise your children properly.”

But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

One of the stories that slipped underneath the radar this week as that Fox 2000 wrapped up a deal involving a musical involving the music of the Beach Boys. It’s not directly about the band, just a tale crafted around their music like Mamma Mia! or Across the Universe, which most likely means it’s going to suck. Why?

Because there’s nothing really cinematic about the music of the band behind “Good Vibrations” and “I Get Around,” I think, but there isn’t much that’s cinematic about most songs until you find the images to go with them. It’s not too hard to make a film involving songs from a famous band like Across the Universe proved: that film was basically about 10 minutes of actual dialogue than covers of the Fab Four’s catalogue. Who needs good characters, solid drama or even a cogent storyline when you’ve got popular songs people know?

The reason why the film was successful is because inherently people are stupid; I’m not a Beatles fan but wanted to hear their song library played mainly by a bunch of amateurs you can get nearly the same thing at a karaoke bar. Throw $20 million behind it, get someone famous enough to cover a song or two and abracadabra you can make money off it. At least Mamma Mia! tried with the story, mainly because it had been approved as a stage performance by ABBA many moons beforehand.

And this all got me thinking: I bet you could do this with nearly every band of some note and people would be dumb enough to actually buy a ticket to see this in theatres. The key to any good musical is that if you take out the songs and have to rely on the story alone it should be enough to make you care. If you eliminate the music from Chicago it’s still a good film about infamy and betrayal. But anytime you turn a song library into a film, as opposed to writing a good story and then setting it to music, crap is going to come out. And don’t expect anything out of a film involving the music of the Beach Boys; it’s going to be about some surfer or something in California or a fish out of water somehow involving California. It comes down to one single fact:

Using a popular band’s song library is much easier to do than actually writing a good story and setting it to music. Hell, even a guy like me could pull out something similar. So I decided I should, henceforth known as the Across the Universe Challenge.

I’ve come up with several popular bands (and story ideas) that could totally use a boost with a film butchering their songs in the name of a buck. The rules are simple: every band selected must have a considerable song library (to make sure there’s enough music to eliminate that pesky “plot” bit) , must have some sort of fame and/or acclaim (to make sure there’s enough rubes to fill the seats) and must’ve stopped being relevant years ago.

Welcome to the first inaugural Across the Universe Challenge .

1. Bee-Gees – Formed in Britain by the Gibb brothers, they were a tremendously popular band in the mid to late 60s and 70s who are famous for perhaps the greatest film soundtrack ever: Saturday Night Fever. The band most closely associated with the brief “disco” movement in the 1970s.

Famous Hits – You Should Be Dancing, Stayin’ Alive, Jive Talkin’

Flimsy Storyline – It’s the 1970s and Brian has moved from the vibrant disco capital of the world, New York City, to a small town in Ohio. With religious fervor en masse, it’s to Brian to change their minds because all he wants do is dance.

Why would they do it – The Bee Gees have one big run to glory left in them, despite being down half of the Gibbs family, and licensing their music (and the resultant album sales) would give them that last check.

2. KISS – At one time the “Hottest band in the world,” KISS was formed by four Jewish guys who put on clown makeup and played hard rock songs using thinly veiled references to sex, slutty women and borking groupies. Despite being from New York, the band is most famously associated with Detroit, Michigan, and has its own fan-base christened the “KISS Army.”

Famous Hits – Beth, Detroit Rock City, Beth, Rock ‘n’ Roll All Nite, Love Gun, Domino

Flimsy Storyline – Beth is a single mother working two jobs to try and support her true love: her own rock and roll band. When a fluke meeting between her and a record producer results in her getting a record contract, she discovers that fame and fortune aren’t all their cracked up to be en route to becoming the world’s biggest musician.

Why would they do it –Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss have put their names and likeness on everything from wine to a coffin.  That’s right; you can buy a KISS coffin and be buried in it.  There isn’t anything that Simmons wouldn’t do for money, it seems, including making a sex tape with the fat girl from Precious if you offered him the right amount of cash.

3. Judas Priest – British heavy metal gods, Priest hails from Birmingham, England, has sold 30 million albums by being louder and heavier than most bands. They were also the subject of a trial in the ‘80s when some dumbass blew his head off and his family sued the band because they insinuated the band put “subliminal messages” instructing teenagers to kill themselves in their music. Their lead singer (Rob Halford) also made headlines after coming out of the closet as a homosexual after years of dressing in leather fetish outfits.

Famous Hits – Breaking the Law, Painkiller, You’ve got another thing coming

Flimsy Storyline – A criminal gang is going for one last heist while a crack team of detectives try and bring them down.

Why would they do it – Priest is a weird band in many aspects but I think with the right story you’d see a film involving one of heavy metal’s most important bands.

4. The Insane Clown Posse – A rap group based out Detroit, Michigan, they wear clown makeup and rap about murdering people while drinking Faygo soda in liter bottles. Their fans follow suit in both wearing clown makeup and actually murdering people.

Famous Hits – Till Hell Freezes Over, Miracles

Flimsy Storyline – A serial killer is on the hunt, killing teenagers in the town of Shermer, Illinois. But he has also has a background in musical theatre that he hasn’t fully explored, either, and a love of Faygo soda.

Why would they do it – There is something about Michigan that inspires dudes in clown makeup to put their name on anything possible. Between a film and a pro wrestling organization, a rap opera doesn’t sound too farfetched for these two idiots.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Third Man

There’s a philosophical argument called a “regressive” argument that also takes its name from this film. The Third Man Argument was developed by Plato in “Parmenides” and is pretty simple. It’s essentially an infinite regress argument:

If a man is made to be what he is by participating in a Platonic Form (though Greek did not distinguish small and capital letters), then another Form will be needed to explain how both the man and the Form can be called ‘man’. This Form will be a ‘third man’, and yet another Form (a ‘fourth man’) will be needed to explain how these three items can all be called ‘man’, and so on to an infinite regress.
Essentially it’s that argument where something always is supporting your conclusion, i.e. I did this because of that because of something, and that is justified by something, which is justified by something else repeating infinitely. It also takes its name (in part) from this film because “infinite regress” might sound more intellectual but the “Third Man Argument” just sounds infinitely cooler. It also doesn’t hurt that this is one of the classics of foreign noir.

The film revolves around American writer Martins (Joseph Cotten) who comes overseas at the behest of his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Arriving in Vienna, Austria, he comes over to find that his friend is dead after an accident. Looking into it, he begins to think that Harry’s death wasn’t an accident but perhaps a murder. Along the way he discovers that perhaps Harry wasn’t the first rate person he thought he was.

There is something to be said about the old days of black and white, mainly because most of the classic films of the last 100 years were released in that motif. There’s something in how black and white looks that makes it more picturesque than color does in some aspects. The aesthetics of it can be more intriguing than color because there’s no focus on the colors used. There’s only two, and shades of gray, which allows more for focus on acting than it does on the sheer look of it all. But The Third Man has more going on than just a cool look: it’s a great film no matter what it would look like.

This is a strong story as we follows Martins throughout his exploration of Harry’s death, trying to figure out what his good friend had been up to and the mysterious “third man” there at his death. While the twist would be on that now is readily apparent, especially in light that Welles (the equivalent to Brad Pitt in stature back then) was cast in what’s a relatively small role, but it’s in how we get there wherein lies the rub. It’s a great noir thriller worth viewing in how it influenced future directors in the genre in terms of story as well as many of Carol Reed’s choices in both cinematography and story-telling have been cribbed by some of history’s best.

The film, which defined the “art through adversity” concept until Star Wars and its problems (and eventually insanely awesome film) would define several decades later, it still holds up because it has a great story and good characters (and a killer finale).

Strongest recommendation possible.

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

Life as We Know It – Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel are a wacky, mismatched couple who are called upon to raise the child of their dead best friends while living under the same roof.

Skip It – I remember a film similar to this years ago called Raising Helen and even now Kate Hudson is about a similar sized star as both Duhamel and Heigl are combined right now. That film sucked and I don’t expect this one to be any better.

My Soul to Take (in 3D) – A serial killer comes back to town to kill the seven kids born on the day he died.

See It – Wes Craven’s first film in almost two decades, it’s interesting to see what a one-time master of the genre can do in an era of horror films partially inspired by his work.

Secretariat – The story of horse racing’s most famous Triple Crown Winner.

See It – Disney has this posited as a prestige film candidate with commercial aspirations, ala The Blind Side one year ago and with good reason. They do underdog stories with first rate casts better than anyone. It merits a viewing, if only because we know that it’ll be mildly entertaining at worst.

I Spit on Your Grave – A remake of the 1978 cult film, a rape and revenge fantasy. In Limited Release.

Skip It – When it comes to horror films, you have to go to the source. And Rob Saucedo didn’t think much of it and I tend to trust his opinion when it comes to horror films.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Some whiny emo kid gets committed to an insane asylum for a weekend because he’s “depressed.” There, Zach Galifianakis shows him the brighter side of life. In Limited Release.

Skip It – There’s only one film worthy of being set in an asylum: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Everything else is unnecessary.

Stone – Robert De Niro is a parole officer about to retire with one last case: Stone (Ed Norton), a cold blood killer with a hot wife (Mila Jovovich). In Limited Release.

See It – De Niro is in a true prestige picture for the first time in a long time, it seems, but the buzz I’ve been hearing has been about Jovovich (who finally has a role to sink her teeth into as opposed to crappy genre films directed or written by her husband).

Nowhere Boy –Aaron Johnson from Kick Ass plays young John Lennon, trying to find his way in the world with his band the Quarrymen and before his involvement with the Beatles. In Limited Release.

See It – The portrait of an artist before they became famous is fascinating to me because most bio-pics covering the rise and fall are formulaic. This looks a bit more interesting because we’re only looking at a defined period, as opposed to looking at Lennon’s whole life.

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.

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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