After dinner, after football, you'll want a movie. Here are four options.
Oldboy, directed by Spike Lee
Everything is wrong with Lee's version of Park Chan-wook's notorious, super-violent super-action-thriller. For one thing, it's far from super. Not the quality, per se (although, for Lee, that's off, too), but the energy. Park's movie lunged and charged at you. This one doesn't muster that same relentless forward motion. A sleazy suit (Josh Brolin) wakes up one day and finds himself locked in a room. He doesn't know why. But he does a lot of sit-ups and yoga. Twenty years later, he's set free, climbing out of the sort of Louis Vuitton trunk you'd find in a Wes Anderson movie. Dressed in a nicer suit, the man searches for his captor, his daughter, and answers: Did, for instance, he actually kill his ex-wife? He winds up slaying lots of men, with a hammer, a bat, and his bare hands.
Here is the second trailer for the RoboCop remake, which provides us with Cop 2.0’s revamped origin story: Giant police drones roam the streets of every country in the world but America, maintaining an efficient, if terrifying, order. (Feel free to take a deep breath when you realize that young Adib registers as a non-threat, saving us from having to watch what happens when a finger scans as a gun. They definitely saved the "cannons tearing innocent civilians into flesh-confetti" montage for the movie.) And so Corporate Interests decide to put a human face on the lumbering biped sentinels of Remote-Controlled Justice, a Detroit cop is barbecued inside his car, and yada yada yada, the Peacekeeping iPod is born. "Let's go with black," decides the Steve Jobs of public security, and the next thing you know, Joel Kinnaman is running around in Batman's armored pajamas, gunning down bad guys, and thanking his agents for negotiating a helmet that occasionally reveals his entire face. Peter Weller's jaw really could have used Team Kinnaman. (And Michael Keaton's armor-tailors. Robo 1.0’s shit was boxy.)
Stage director George C. Wolfe (Tom Hanks's Lucky Guy, 1996’s Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk) is about to present us with a film with great potential for specialness. Titled Harry and the Butler and loosely based on a Danish movie from 50 years ago, it has little or nothing to do with Lee Daniels' The Butler. But — but! THR reports this one will star Samuel L. Jackson as "a derelict roller coaster mechanic and one-time jazz virtuoso who lives in a converted train caboose in New Orleans" and Michael Caine as the "down-on-his-luck British butler" Jackson hires after inheriting a bunch of money and getting sloshed.
Yes. Yes to all these developments. Also, I'm curious how Jackson actually goes about hiring Caine. Is there a butler-oriented Craigslist-type site? Has Caine buttled his way to New Orleans, where he, too, is pickling himself in booze and memories of better days? Will it end with a direct flip of bad, old slavery movies and/or Aladdin, with Jackson's kind heart leading him to free Caine in the end?
There is an indie act called Islands; they just put out an album Pitchfork finds kind of OK. Commemorating the occasion, though, is an improv-heavy YouTube clip about Islands' dubious rock-and-roll legend status. Michael Cera says things like, "They're all basically conductors, electrical conductors, and sometimes you can't even give those guys a high five without getting a little zap." Bill Hader, in top Bill Hader form, comes up with material like, "You've got a guy with a voice, who's saying lyrics, out to you." Alia Shawkat and Joe Lo Truglio also jump in, to delightful effect. Still haven't listened to Islands, but if Ski Mask is half as funny as this clip, I'm giving it a spin.
Nicolas Cage knows that he's the man in the meme. In an interview with Moviefone following the Toronto International Film Festival screening of Joe, a David Gordon Green–directed drama in which Cage plays an ex-con who mentors a 15-year-old boy (played by Tye Sheridan), Cage addressed his virtual footprint, a FrankenCage crafted out of YouTube clips and blogs like Nic Cage as Everyone. Cage has previously stated that he doesn't mind the Internet's obsession with him, and reiterated to Moviefone that the coverage helps him stay "relevant with younger generations" who might otherwise have passed on ancient artifacts like Deadfall. Cage may be weird — he shops in excess, he loves comics so much that he named his son Kal-El and took the last name of Marvel figure Luke Cage to distance himself from his uncle Francis Coppola — but the eccentric celebrities who tried to outbid him on his dinosaur skull simply can't compete in the meme arena. Cage, who doesn't have a Facebook or website of his own, says that confronting his digital double is unavoidable, because people will send him links to Tumblrs featuring his face and "I'm like, 'I don't know! I don't know why this is happening!'" A Cage and a twin, locked again in the claustrophobic embrace of a metafilm.
My excitement for Christoph Waltz hosting SNL was tempered with some measure of fear because, as we all know, this season has been a little slumpy. Waltz is such a likable and accomplished performer that I felt concerned that the writing would fail him, that we’d watch him flailing around in a jokeless DJ Booth or helplessly stranded in The Situation Room, maybe wearing a large hat with a pair of deelyboppers on it. I would want to reach into my television and save him if it wasn’t working out. But that wasn’t the case. Maybe because of Djesus Uncrossed, maybe because of Waltz pulling off a jaunty dance while begging “Mama let me fly,” or just maybe because of seeing one of my former SNL character nemeses, Regine, get accidentally doused with a glass of what I hope was SUPER chilly white wine, this episode was probably my favorite of the season.
It was The Wizard of Oz in 1939 that provided Hollywood with its most enduring depiction of the divide between the head and the heart. In their desperation to gain the organs they lacked, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man proved themselves willing to endure any indignity, from flying monkeys to grabby munchkins. No task was too great, no road too yellow or too long. Everything was worth it in their tireless quest to appear either smarter or more caring.
The Wizard of Oz didn't win the Oscar for Best Picture — the trophy that year went to some overheated epic about wind. But in many ways the shared journey of the Scarecrow and the Tin Man toward wildly disparate goals presaged every stupid Academy decision for the next 70-plus years. When given the chance, the Oscars always trip themselves up lunging for hearts or smarts, never rewarding actual artistic achievement when something tear-jerking or historical is there to get in the way. Hollywood, as one or two (million) people have blithely commented, is a wildly insecure town, its denizens desperate to be thought of as both relatably human (they are not) and inspirationally erudite (ditto). The Oscars, more often than not, reflect this; the final tally saying more about how the voters wish to be perceived than anything about the movies themselves.
As in — the cast of The Avengers was just announced as presenters at this year's Oscars (Sunday! February 24! On ABC!) Why? Well, in the spirit of the continued MTV Movie Awards-ification of the Academy Awards, why not have the dudes from the third biggest movie of all time show up at your party? Also, Seth MacFarlane is hosting, which, roughly speaking, means the only way the Oscars could get under the impressively diminutive "low-brow mass-market appeal" bar they've set for themselves this year would be to open the show with Spuds MacKenzie simultaneously high-fiving Andrew Dice Clay and Vince ShamWow while, below them, the nerd from the Bar Refaeli Super Bowl ad sits on all fours sloppily munching down an XL plate of day-old nachos from Detroit Metro Airport's Chili's Express.
The new issue of Vanity Fair has an oral history of Pulp Fiction, but if you hate physical media and also paying money for things, don't worry: There are some juicy excerpts available on the magazine's website right now. As for why Vanity Fair decided to do the oral history at this present time, 19 years after the movie, I figure it was either to coincide with Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained’s Oscar run, to beat the the rush on the 20th anniversary, or to free us from the tyranny of the "only years ending in ‘5’ or ‘0’ are worth commemoration" fallacy. And I choose to believe it's the latter one, and I applaud VF for their courageous pioneerism on this very important issue. On to the anecdotes!
2013 is going to be incredible, if for no other reason than because this will undoubtedly be the year the cultural discourse shifts from simple discussions of "race" or "racism" to the majestic land of "how we talk about and react to race in mixed settings." While ideas of a "post-racial" society are but a single cute step below thinking the world was going to end on December 21 on the "awwww, that's cute" scale, what we are in 2013 is post–"race and things typically associated with a single race existing only within that racial silo." Finally.
As 2012 came to a close, a few things in the media's racial-discourse sphere took place that hinted the cup was set to runneth over. In December, we had a black sports commentator call a black quarterback essentially "not black enough," and the result was supporters of all races coming to the defense of the Third Griffin, telling this black commentator that he had no right to define what was black. And then, to top it off, he was reprimanded by his superiors, many of whom are white. Bonkers. In the past, passing judgment on a matter like this, whether against or in favor, could really only come from other esteemed blacks, because who else had the right to comment on what was "black" and what was not? That, as was made evident, is no longer the case.
Nothing says Christmas like slaves and whores! Anne Hathaway and Samuel L. Jackson enter the ring for a very NSFW Sad-Off over cocoa and gingerbread while they deck the halls. If you’re still at work, now might be a good time to lug your desktop into the bathroom and plug it in under the sink, because I think this ISFP (is safe for potty). How can you top the sad factor of Les Mis, “the miserable”? Well, slavery’s a good place to start. Plus, the star of Jackson’s movie "had his own sitcom on the WB.” And Hathaway was only a Disney princess because she had long hair; in Les Mis all of that gets chopped off “with a knife” (but Jackson “hasn’t had hair since Unbreakable”). Hathaway might not be able to handle being a black man in the South in the 1800s (or ever), but “When there’s a French whore in the White House, then we can talk.” Then again, though Fantine loses her job, “everybody in [Jackson’s] film has job security, because they’re slaves.” Jackson illustrates this with marshmallows and licorice. Oh, so now it’s a slave house? If Hathaway had known, she “would have made whore town.” Someone, quick, throw together a movie featuring slaves with tuberculosis shaving cancer-stricken puppies, hoping to sell the fur to buy instant oatmeal for their families! The Sad-Off championship title can be yours!
I love Martin Short, but I was still surprised at how good this weekend’s episode of SNL was. This season has been spotty to say the least, and considering the horrific event that happened one day before the taping, it seemed like the holiday-themed show was destined to be like the last two inches of egg nog in the bottle slowly separating in the fridge: Nobody wants it, but abandoning it would be like giving up. Short was featured on the tenth season of Saturday Night — a tumultuous period with some seriously weird opening credits (hot dogs, cockroaches, spray paint) — but, you know, that was 28 years ago, the 62-year-old couldn’t be blamed if he was a little rusty, even if this was his third time hosting. Plus I really didn’t want to see Short playing “Thug #2” or on a “Mission to Mars.” Luckily, we didn’t have to. Plus we got this photo of an embarrassed, post-possible-f-bomb Samuel L. Jackson out of the deal. Everybody wins!
Tracy Flick, Captain Kirk, and Bane make up the points of a love triangle in this broad action-comedy from director McG. Fill up on heavy artillery, CGI schlock, and neck-swiveling double takes while Chelsea Handler salts the rim with her patented zingers about being slutty and drunk. I'll probably watch this eventually, but it should be said that I would watch a movie of Tom Hardy's beard growing for two hours (This Means Fur).
Marvel’s superhero supergroup blockbuster The Avengers hasn’t even opened in the U.S. yet, and has already made enough money to fund every horrible business idea of every adult on the planet (I’m starting a supermarket chain that only sells Cheddar cheese). But that’s not enough to satisfy Samuel L. Jackson, a.k.a. Nick Fury, the superspy that assembles The Avengers, and who has appeared in all of the flicks building up to this here magic moment.