Gerald Contemplates God – Fiction

(c) Jen from Blog it or Lose it!
(c) Jen from Blog it or Lose it!

“I ain’t the most religious guy, but you’ve got to admit, those Bible-thumpers know a thing or two about art and architecture,” Gerald said to me as he gazed at the constellation of gold tiles that defined the chapel’s ceiling. “Maybe that’s why people turn to religion if they weren’t brought-up on it–they’re too attracted to beauty.”

Gerald rubbed his chin, “Then again, it seems a bit too tacky, like they’re trying too hard.”

“Yeah,” I said. “You would think they would do better if they’re trying to make a tribute to God.”

“Nah, they’re not doing this for God. Besides, do you really think God gives a crap about some shiny shit in a building? Haven’t you ever thought it weird that God would care if we worshiped him or not? Does God have an ego, like us?”

“Let’s hope not, for this artist’s sake.”

A non-story inspired by Bastet’s Friday Flash Fiction Challenge from We Drink. Check out the other entries!

Cutter’s Way (1981) – Movie Review

Cutter’s Way, directed by Ivan Passer, is a decent enough film that presses some interesting ideas, however, one can’t help but feel that it could have been something more. The acting, cinematography, direction and score are all good, but it’s the script that weighs everything down, and it’s not even a bad script, just one laden with numerous flaws.

The movie starts with Rick Bone, played by a pre-“Dude” Jeff Bridges, living the cushy lifestyle until witnessing the murderer of a teenage girl as he was dumping the body, however, after leaving his car after it breaks down by where the body is found he becomes the prime suspect of the homicide. Soon, Rick recognizes the murderer in the parade–J.J. Cord (Stephen Elliot,) a rich oil tycoon. Rick’s friend, an alcoholic and physically-disabled Vietnam vet named Alex Cutter (John Heard) prompts Rick to inform the police that Cord was the one who dumped the body, but Rick is reluctant to, possibly because he fears endangering his lifestyle if Cord comes after him. As a result, Cutter decides, along with the victim’s sister Valerie Duran (Ann Dusenberry) to try to blackmail Cord, believing that if Cord pays-up it would be an admission of guilt and Cutter will bring this information to the police. Of course, things don’t go as smoothly as planned and Rick Bone’s life becomes in jeopardy.

While the movie is classified as a “thriller” and the plot reflects this, the center of the movie is Rick’s relationship with Alex and his wife (Lisa Eichhorn). Rick, like Alex, is a liberal but unlike Alex is lazy and more adamant about maintaining his easy lifestyle. Rick is obviously correct in believing that blackmailing a wealthy oil tycoon is a terrible idea, but he offers no other solution and would much rather keep quiet, allowing an evil to go unresolved. Even after he recognizes Cord as the guy he saw the night of the murder he quickly changes the story, insisting on the possibility that he was wrong. Throughout the film Rick denies the obvious while Alex cuts through the B.S. However, Alex is a violent, emotionally-disturbed but driven man whose obsessed with enacting “justice”. To Alex, Cord represents the evil, rich man who eludes justice while everyone else is massacred in the trenches. The scenes where Rick and Alex argue over the morality of their decisions constitute the best the movie has to offer for they are the most intellectually intriguing as well as the best-acted and most memorable.

Some of the drama also takes place between Rick and Alex’s wife who is lonely. Alex and his wife’s relationship is quite damaged as their sex life has dwindled into nothing (due to the pain of Alex’s wounds–the left side of his body is missing an eye, a forearm and leg,) and they both cannot emotionally deal with one another thanks to Alex’s drunkennes. Rick and Alex’s wife are obviously smitten with one another, or at least lust after one another, however Alex’s wife continually denies Rick’s advancements. While some of these scenes are good they don’t carry as much as the aforementioned scenes with Rick and Alex. And the scenes where Rick finally does become intimate with her drag on for way too long. One could argue that their sex scene has to go on and on in order to capture the discomfort Alex’s wife has in betraying her husband, but the surrounding scenes with the two (the minutes before and after they have sex) are far too bloated and plod along ever so slowly.

Another flaw comes with Rick’s character and his not going to the police to tell them about seeing Cord. Even though he wants to protect himself I just couldn’t by his possible reasoning for not claiming that he witnessed Cord. It just didn’t seem all that believable that he wouldn’t want to say anything because the audience isn’t given enough reason behind his motivations. This reeks of the screenwriter trying to push the plot forward by disregarding reality, which is kind of frustrating to watch.

But the script’s greatest problem comes at the end (warning: spoilers! skip this paragraph and the next if you don’t like spoilers!!!) At the end, after Alex has blackmailed Cord, Cord fucking burns his house down with his wife in it. Rick suggests that maybe his wife burned the house down on her own after Rick left her alone (he basically admits to having an affair to Alex at this point,) but it’s obvious that Rick is just lying to Alex and himself for it’s apparent that Cord was responsible. So, Rick and Alex infiltrate a party being held at Cord’s mansion. Rick thinks that Alex is just going to negotiate with him, but then he learns that Alex is going to straight-up murder the dude. This leads into a few chases with Cord’s security chasing Alex and Rick around. Rick is caught and is confronted by Cord (the first time he is shown up close and speaks) while Alex commandeers a horse from Cord’s stable. This is where the movie decides to drop right off the cliff. Alex rides along the side of the pool (or I should say, a stuntman wearing the world’s worst hairpiece) and then launches himself through Cord’s office window where Rick and Cord are. This scene is so over-the-top, doesn’t fit with the rest of the film’s tone and borders on comedic–if it were in another film it would have been amazing, but here it’s just jarring. I know Alex is supposed to be self-destructive and obsessive and this scene was supposed to culminate with all of that, but come on!

Then Rick goes to tend to Alex, but Alex dies due to the broken glass (I guess) after handing him the gun. Rick looks up and fires in Cord’s direction (Cord is shot off-screen). The End. What’s weird about all this is how the ending is both over-the-top nonsense and anti-climatic at the same time, what with Alex’s shenanigans and Rick just plainly shooting Cord (we don’t even get to see Cord dying!) One of my friends, whom I was watching the film with, came-up with an even better ending where there’s ambiguity as to whether Cord really was the killer, yet Alex murders him anyway out of spite for what he represents, not for what definitely did, and then the aftermath. This would have been a more poetic ending and would have also fit better with the movie’s themes, but the filmmakers seemed like they didn’t know how the end the movie so they just ended it…with that, nearly ruining what could have been something pretty good.

Unfortunately, Cutter’s Way, is another film that could have been so much more, but it’s still pretty decent. However, it still contains some depth which makes it a more engaging watch than the fucking schlock that Hollywood is pumping out these days like Think Like a Man Too! Who wants to see that bunch of slop! Am I right?!? Guys?!?!

Oh wait, there’s this one scene I forgot to mention. Early on in the movie, Alex is super-drunk and plows another car out of his driveway, pushing it into his neighbor’s front lawn. The neighbors are, predictably, furious at such hooliganry and call the cops. While the cops come Alex heads back into his house and drinks some mouthwash (this shows how smart Alex is–he is masking his breathe whilst still sating his alcohol addiction!) He comes out and talks to the police officer in the most civil way possible, but in a way that’s entirely believable. The cop sympathizes with Alex and only writes him off a ticket for an expired license. This scene is great because it shows that, despite his convictions, Alex is a hypocrite for he doesn’t take responsibility for a crime he committed, choosing to weasel his way out instead. Despite his pursuing of justice he is more interested in seeking revenge–the man is entirely selfish, even though the audience can sympathize with him, just like the cop.

So I guess I would recommend this movie, despite its being overlong, for the few scenes that contain some great depth and dialogue.

Team America: World Police (2004) – Movie Review

In his review, Roger Ebert likened Team America writers and directors Matt Stone and Trey Parker to a “cocky teenager who’s had a couple of drinks before the party,” and that they don’t care who they offend, just as long as they are “as offensive as possible.” Roger Ebert then concluded his review by stating that, “[a]t a time when the world is in crisis and the country faces an important election, the response of Parker, Stone and company is to sneer at both sides — indeed, at anyone who takes the current world situation seriously.” He then gave the movie one star and, a few years later, gave the Zookeeper three stars. While his reaction is understandable it is entirely based in emotion; he failed to realize both what the movie was going for and how it succeeded. Based on his reasoning he should have given Dr. Strangelove a thumbs-down as well for that movie was irreverent during a time of global crisis (and a much bigger and realer crisis than the one we’re going through.) He must of also either missed the speech in the end or did not register its deeper meaning. If he had understood the ending then he would of known that Stone and Parker are presenting a moderate view on the war against terrorism, where we should try to combat terrorist threats but still remain reasonable about it. And despite its irreverent tone perhaps the greatest sin Ebert committed is not realizing just how fucking hilarious this movie is. Even if one doesn’t get the political message, or disagree with it, it would be difficult to not laugh at the numerous dick/fart-jokes or Kim Jung-Il’s heartwarming musical number.

Another thing Ebert got wrong is that this is one of those movies that the world needed in the wake of the Iraq War in order to put things in perspective. In the movie Team America, a counter-terrorist group whose base of operations is within Mount Rushmore, battle against terrorists across the globe, but they end up causing more destruction than the terrorists could have wrought on their own. Later on it becomes more clear is that Stone and Parker aren’t against the idea of combating terrorists, but rather they’re criticizing America’s ham-fisted and ignorant approach. See, the movie does have a meaning and isn’t trying to offend people for the sake of it–the movie is preaching thoughtful intervention.

So yeah, unlike Roger Ebert, I found this movie to be not only a great comedy, but a great and intelligent satire on action films, Hollywood liberals, UN impotence and America’s overzealous patriotism. Another thing that should be noted is how well the movie balances the two: low-brow comedy and intelligent satire. As mentioned before, someone could very easily not get the message or the context of the “dicks, pussies and assholes” speech at the end, but can still laugh at the absurdity of it and the great delivery of foul language. But even if one isn’t amused by the constant utterances of “shit” and “fuck” they can still appreciate how they are employed to deliver an interesting message about politics.

Another cool thing about the movie is the use of marionettes. The facial movements of the marionettes are done rather well and the physical movements of the puppets are used to great comedic effect (there are a number of fight scenes, for example as well as a couple of scenes featuring a puppet version of Michael Moore) The sets are also pretty good, especially Kin Jung-Il’s palace and Team America’s base.

Despite being ten years old I would also argue that this movie has aged rather well with its original use of puppets and well-executed jokes, even if some things seem out-of-date like the idea that Alec Baldwin would lead actors on a crusade for Political Correctness against Team America or the fact that Kim Jung-Il is the villain–but even then Kim Jung-Il provides some of the movie’s best moments and Alec Baldwin is a great symbol of Hollywood’s well-intended, but misguided, liberalism. I was going to go more in-depth with this review, but I think you get the picture. Seek this movie out for yourself if you haven’t already. But if you prefer your humor to be more on the “safe” side, check out a certain Kevin James vehicle instead.