It's a shame that Robert Rodriguez is trapped in the shadow of Quentin Tarantino. After Grindhouse it felt like together they were Wham! and apart one was George Michael and the other was the guy who put up with George Michael's fame. Comparing Rodriguez to Andrew Ridgeley might actually be unfair. I can name all of Rodriguez's films. But Grindhouse confirmed their divergent handle on junk. Tarantino's half, Death Proof, gave you the '70s road thriller as feminist revenge comedy. At 76 or so minutes, it was miniskirt moviemaking: short, tight, and wow. Rodriguez's half, Planet Terror, was an extra-large caftan scribbled on by feral kindergarteners and ripped up by wolves: fun, ragged, ugly, in need of a timeout.
When Rodriguez's bad taste can bite into politics or a flavorless genre, he comes alive. You see something like 2010's Machete, and you feel like Rodriguez finally found his calling as a shlock editorialist. The movie came during the height of our country's immigration debates and opted for guerrilla lunacy to attack racism and oppression and U.S.-Mexico relations. Most of his throw-it-all-at-the-wall filmmaking actually stuck. You could tell the ideas meant something to him. And the exuberance in Machete turned out to be a perfect twin for the shock radicalism fueling Tarantino's Django Unchained. The Tarantino is disciplined where the Rodriguez is wild. But both are grisly, dangerous, and violent. Machete you could dismiss as a cartoon. It didn't seem to disturb the peace the way Django did. That's too bad. It has the same gonzo force.
Making the first Machete (which, need we remind you, was based on one of the fake trailers from Grindhouse) was enough of a mandate to fill every last nook and cranny of the screen with the biggest, baddest, most ridiculous Looney Tunes violence possible. And now that Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo are on to no. 2?! Yeah, it's getting loopy. In this new red-band trailer, we get crotch punches, forehead stabs, multiple decapitations, boob-based weaponry that'd make Katy Perry straight salivate, and not one but two gruesome murder-by-helicopter-blade moments. Also: Charlie Sheen is in this as the President of the United States, and he's credited under his birth name Carlos Estevez. Also: Mel Gibson is in this as a crazed arms-dealer terrorist, and he seems to be playing the character by channeling the full might of his maniacal voice mail work. Also, Lady Gaga is in this, and at one point she says "Hola, motherfucker." OK, now where is our full-length Werewolf Women of the S.S.?
On Jodie Foster's Not-Quite-Coming-Out Party
Cecil B. DeMille was an absurdly prolific showman-producer. He oversaw flamboyant biblical and pseudo-biblical pageants like The Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah, and The Greatest Show on Earth. They were epics of delirium and decadence that lavished the upside of sin, then sent you home relieved that the sinner isn't you. He manufactured dual celebrations of vice and virtue, vulgarity and purity.
There isn't much about DeMille that has to do with Jodie Foster. But the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the people responsible for the Golden Globes, named their lifetime achievement award in DeMille's name, and as the recipient at last night's ceremony Foster was less her famously reserved public self and more someone DeMille might have enjoyed: a contradiction.
Well, this is remarkable: Deadline is reporting that former-movie-star/current-crazy-person Mel Gibson has been offered a role in Machete Kills, Robert Rodriguez's sequel to the 2010 Danny Trejo vehicle Machete.What's so remarkable about that, you ask? Who cares if Gibson gets a glorified cameo in a schlocky B-movie satire that originated in a fake trailer, you wonder? Didn't Rodriguez put Lindsay Lohan in the first one, you point out? Yeah, cool, sure, good points, buddy. What's remarkable is that once again Mel Gibson has landed work in the aftermath of having done something insane.
Remember in Knocked Up, when Seth Rogen and his crew are at the club appreciating the steely charms of Eric Bana’s Israeli assassin in Munich? “Every movie with Jews, we’re the ones getting killed … Munich flipped it on its ear. We’re capping motherfuckers. If any of us get laid tonight, it’s because of Eric Bana in Munich”? Later, it’d turn out that scene had a motivating factor in Quentin Tarantino’s Nazi-hunting-saga Inglourious Basterds. According to Eli “Bear Jew” Roth, on set, “We joked about the line in Knocked Up where they go, 'Munich [is about] Jews kicking ass.' Quentin was like, 'No, no, no. This is the movie they were talking about in Knocked Up! This is Jews kicking ass.'" Well, prepare yourself, people with a vested interest in seeing Jews kicking ass on screen. Steven Spielberg wasn’t done with the Tough Jew subgenre after Munich: he’s making a Moses movie, and it’s going to be gnarly.
Each week, marketers release new movie posters, many for films whose releases are still months away. But for those who know where to look, one-sheets can reveal studios' hopes and insecurities about their products. In this space, we will attempt to decode the hidden meanings of the week's new posters.
The Dark Knight Rises
What the art says: Batman’s mask isn’t rubber. It looks rubber. The replicas they sell on Amazon are rubber. But the real one is obviously not rubber. Maybe it’s ceramic or something? As for Bane, consider this poster final confirmation that he’s going to be a complete badass (again). How do we know? Because turning your back to the camera in the rain proves it. Just ask Rambo. What the text says: A title, tagline, release date and website. Even for movie poster obsessives, there’s not much to read into there.
In theaters this week are Clint Eastwood's slightly anticipated Razzie-contending Hoover biopic J. Edgar — featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and 50 pounds of sweaty, wrinkled silicone as the titular FBI director — and Adam Sandler's terrifying-looking Jack and Jill in which he plays his own sister. To celebrate, Grantland's YouTube Hall of Fame is remembering the worst and least explicable movie-star transformations ever.
Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit
Rafe Bartholomew: John Wayne did yellowface. So did Marlon Brando. Katherine Hepburn? You bet. Yul Brynner? Duh. If so many legendary actors have crude Asian stereotypes on their résumés, then what makes Fisher Stevens' turn as Indian engineer Ben Jabituya in Short Circuit (and the renamed Ben Jahrvi in Short Circuit 2) so horrendous? Well, Wayne, Brando, Hepburn, and Brynner all did their racial damage before 1960, while Stevens broke out his Kwik-E-Mart accent and mocha foundation in the late 1980s. Were we really so ignorant 25 years ago that a white guy from Illinois could spit malapropisms like "I have to go to the Jack" and "Her pants are blazing for you, Newton Crosby!" and audiences wouldn't mind? Apparently, yes. Thankfully, the Short Circuit movies had the perfect antidote to Stevens' unfortunate transformation: the open-hearted humanism of a military robot who has been struck by lightning and brought to life. Johnny Five Alive!
In theaters next Wednesday is Clint Eastwood's slightly anticipated Razzie-contending Hoover biopic J. Edgar, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and 50 pounds of sweaty, wrinkled silicone as the titular FBI director who nobody under 30 has ever heard of. To celebrate, Grantland's YouTube Hall of Fame is remembering the best, worst, and least explicable movie-star physical transformations ever. Our first inductee is the trailer for Mel Gibson's directorial debut, the 1993 disfigurement drama The Man Without a Face, about a boy who befriends a hermitic, facially scarred teacher (and suspected pedophile) played by Gibson.
Firemen run bravely into burning buildings. Mariners steer sailboats straight-on into vicious, dangerous headwinds. And, according to that great interlocutor of the human condition, Cedric the Entertainer, white people have a proclivity for getting mass-murdered due to an unfailing need to wander blindly towards danger just to find out what all the fuss is about.
All three are examples of risky, counterintuitive behavior — in other words, exactly the sort of decision-making that Mel Gibson seems to be utilizing in his latest bid at post-scandal rehabilitation. Deadline reported yesterday on the surprising news that Gibson — last seen (or, judging by the box-office receipts, unseen) with his hand up a beaver — was teaming with equally infamous screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct, Jade) on a historical epic about legendary Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, a head-scratching, yarmulke-raising development that instantly puts Gibson’s long history of saying terrible, anti-semitic things in a different context. (For example, when he told his arresting officer in his 2006 DUI arrest “The fucking Jews ... are responsible for all the wars in the world,” could it have been he was saying it with admiration?)