After Earth & Behind the Candelabra

This was a really good decision.


Keep it a secret!
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Reported on 10th of September, 2013

Editor’s Note: I am an idiot. As is often the case, I will write an entire article, get incredibly frustrated with one word choice (as with the below, the word was ‘???’, which is not a word, and I wound up cutting it) and forget about it for a month. But what about you, the reader? Well, I simply spend two hours figuring out what to replace ??? with (as opposed to the ten seconds I spent writing it), and here you go. In any case, this leads to articles appearing months after the actual film comes out. Which is perfect, since Heaven’s Gate is next. It was made forty years ago and will come out two years from now.

After Earth

8 June 2013 @ The Brighton Odeon


$9.00 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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Yeah, ‘This was a really good decision’ is an unretouched line from the film, and aptly describes how I felt just after bought the ticket. You would think that I would say that after having seen the film, but this is called foregrounding. You see they were about to go on a vacation where everything would be fine. This is called misdirecting the audience. We were paying to see a film, and despite our expectations to the contrary, someone actually wrote a line that wouldn’t fool a character on NCIS, said it, filmed it, left it in, and released it. No one would have expected that

They couldn’t even bother with an ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this‘.

It would be cruel to dismember After Earth, and the sad, deep, self-inflicted and surprisingly rapid descent of Mr. M. Night Shyamalan, but the fact is I did enjoy the film. It is ridiculous and clunky, and poorly acted on the part of both the leads. In my rants against the hyper-seriousness of the Abrams lot and the utter lack of humor involved in (the majority of) most super-hero films, I forgot the obvious benefits: we have finally reached the New Age of Camp. 9/11, like the first nuclear Soviet test, has ushered the ethos of seriousness. We could die any minute! This is unacceptable! We must do everything in our power to ensure our lives of constant fear to go on as long as possible!

The New Age of Camp


re: After Earth & Behind the Candelabra
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For 1950s film, the furrowed eyebrows over ‘the threat’ meant overdramatic Judy Garlands, and utterly straight faced films about men in gorilla suits with robot helmets. Today, it means overdramatic Fathers Teaching Sons, and, well, the gorilla suits are like, actually ping-pong balls on a green jumpsuit, processed through an array of supercomputers.

The helmets are still there. They cost one billion dollars to render.

Whatever unfortunate hyper-serious turn we have taken, ridiculousosity abhors a vacuum, and so After Earth arises as it should, as a kind of camp masterpiece. It’s hard to say what camp actually is, other than something that I totally know what it is, and no one else does, and no, I can’t explain it to you, and if I have to, it will be through a combination of lines from Bloodrayne and Caged. Which you so won’t get. Instead, let’s rely on the Supreme Court’s majority opinion: ‘I don’t know what camp is, but I know it when I see someone saying: ‘I want to reiterate that the Navi-band is our sole means of communication’.

But this blog is all about defining things, so how then, do we understand camp? In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is camp, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is not, and it’s hard to understand why. They are both made by non-English speakers, with Engrish (technically Germlish) mistranslations, implausible situations, plot-singularities and glaring editorial ‘choices’. But the former is a delight, and the latter is eye-gouging agony. Why?

Our first hint comes in the form of Master Jaden Smith’s, well, it’s a speech impediment. Look, he’s an adolescent, and we all sounded kind of weird at that age. Few of us, however, were cast in multimillion dollar films and required to say ‘Evacuation of Erf’, or ‘They literally smew oaw feah.’ or ‘You must be fwee of feah’. It did not hurt that I saw the film, and this is true, at a subtitled for the deaf screening, which added a kind of cut scene je ne sais what the Hell was that? quality. Master Smith is a bit self-conscious on camera, which culminates in the end at being unable to convincingly nod. This is possibly not the climax Mr. Shyamalan had in mind, but the nod is surprisingly memorable.

The cumulative result is not that you hate the film, but you want to give it a hug. The omnipresence of Ms. Judy Garland as a camp icon should have told us all along: they’re fools because they’re just like us. That’s camp.

It’s not mocking, at least not enough that I won’t absolve myself from guilt. Like comedy, there’s a certain level of belief on the part of everyone involved. You’re watching everyone give their best, make their worst, and yes, you’re making fun of it, but it’s part relief and part embarrassment: it could have been you.

Camp is a celebration, and to do that, you need commitment, not cynicism. As with Prometheus, it’s hard to explain why the films of the Lost-hydra are not fun, other than we feel that the filmmakers don’t care about what they’re doing. We were just following orders. Of the Deus Ex Machina-3000.

After Earth: The Take

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Profits!
Camp:
Forbidding 101ml bottles of shampoo on passenger ships, but not aliens that nearly wiped out humanity
$1.00
Monkeys genetically engineered to kill you that can’t go in the water.
$2.00
‘Your test scores are very impressive!’
$2.00
‘I’m reading Moby Dick. But I feel like there should be a metaphor somewhere.’
$2.00
The bird was nice to the boy. Even though he so didn’t deserve it.
$5.00
From the makers of the escape pod in Prometheus! The emergency beacon that won’t work in cloud cover! We’ll get to why we don’t have artificial legs in the future, instead of actually building them, soon!
$2.00
Total Profits
$14.00
Losses!
I shouldn’t be mad at this, but I am. In regards to missed opportunity, Mr. Shyamalan/Mr. Smith was so desperate to tell his father and son story, he just killed all the other passengers on the plane. More characters, more opportunity.
$2.00
Oh. Right. I had to watch it.
$3.00
Total Losses
$5.00

$9.00



Behind the Candelabra

15 June 2013 @ The Cineworld Brighton


$1.50 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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Here’s something that should be camp, and just isn’t, and that’s Behind the Candelabra. Even the title has the that didn’t-quite-get-the-English-idiom-right quality, fer chrissakes. If my reviewing a TV movie seems unfair, remember that I live in the UK, and have an actual ticket.

Here it is. Okay?

Here it is. Okay?

Also remember a bunch of critics inexplicably found it less than (equal to?) bland, and like the equally overpraised Bioshock: Infinity, someone has to say something. And when they finally just start showing cut-scenes in theaters, I will. No, I mean actual cut-scenes. After Earth doesn’t count.

I’m a big fan of Mr. Soderberg, but this film is just a straight up biopic, and compares poorly to both the eighties TV versions, each of which contain a twin’s amnesiac’s adopted monster’s suit’s worth of camp (and in case you were wondering about my status as a gay man, the ABC one is best, with Liberace’s constant call of ‘Scaaaaaaahhhhhhhttttttt’, being a popular way to get my attention for a few years). Obviously, Mr. Soderberg wanted to make the movie he wanted to make, and I wanted him to make another, which includes, but is not limited to, a film where Liberace turns out to be…straight, the musical version, and the one where he karate fights Elvis through the various rooms of Graceland until they wind up at 4982 Shirley Street, crane walking over the piano shaped pool.

Yes, all these versions are better. But if we look at Mr. Soderberg’s stupid version, it’s a failure on its own terms. A strangely ‘realistic’ script from the typically grandiose and I was surprised to discover had written it Mr. Richard LaGravenese, it tells us nothing other than gay people are as bland as everyone else. There’s some arguing, some buttfucking and some jealousy, but the film never comes to life. Liberace dies, so not a lot of tension plot-wise (though we can all thank God there wasn’t a Contagion-like close up of ‘the penis that would go on to infect Liberace’, and, like the poison glass of whiskey, the back and forth about will he or won’t he drink it. We could thank God, but then I thought of it, and then didn’t edit it out).

As such the film must rely on some kind of insight into the situation or the characters, or wit to carry us along. Instead, it comes from Mr. Thorsen’s biography, which relates what happens, chronologically, and that’s about it. That future follows past doesn’t count as insight, unless you manage to get an economist to believe it. The exception, and this is the film I would have seen, is the end where Mr. Damon imagines his dead ex-partner giving a fantastic show at his funeral, floating into the rafters of the church, and singing and celebrating life. Tears, half from sympathy, half from tea, running down into your mouth agape, that’s camp.

Now you know. Don’t tell anyone. And when you do, be kind.

The Take: Behind the Candelabra

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Profits!
That one scene I talked about.
$5.00
Total Profits
$5.00
Losses!
I don’t pay money to watch my gay parents fight when I can see it for free any time.
$3.50
Total Losses
$3.50

$1.50

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