F.I.L.M. of the Week (April 7, 2016)

7 04 2016

IdiocracyA new subgenre of criticism seems to have spouted up in the past few months eager to find things in culture and society to blame for the rise of Donald Trump. To be fair, I too have given him consideration on my site, but it has taken on the tenor of looking at things that might explain his popularity rather than directly cause it. A look back at the cinema of the ’00s shows various prescient takes on the underlying issues in America that have recently bubbled to the surface: xenophobia, nationalism, authoritarianism, and anti-intellectualism.

Few distill these into a frightening, humorous essence as well as Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy,” however. This comedy played as ridiculous when it was released in 2006; its studio, 20th Century Fox, regarded it as such and unceremoniously dumped it in theaters with no fanfare. But in the decade since, it becomes less and less like an imagined portrait of America and more like a plausible future. Such eerily insight, roughly as it might be presented, makes it a fitting selection for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

To say too much about how “Idiocracy” hits the nail on the head would only ruin its considerable pleasures for those yet to experience the film. Judge remarkably shied away from the easy targets of the time, choosing to satirize some less obvious culprits in the dumbing down of the country. He digs into demographic trends in population and education level to find the fault lines in society. He examines the cumulative effect of the “infotainment” dominating the news media. He takes corporate influence over the government to its logical extreme.

For Luke Wilson’s Corporal “Average Joe” Bauers, a man chosen for cryogenic freezing then unceremoniously forgotten for 500 years, this strange world of 2505 seems completely foreign. Yet even from a vantage point just 10 years ahead of when Joe gets frozen, this dysfunctional America hardly seems implausible. There are almost too many ideas packed into the running time of “Idiocracy,” so many that each issue gets a slightly cursory examination. If only Judge had the budget or the time of, say, a miniseries to really unpack his social critique. Sequel, anyone?

Advertisements




REVIEW: Get Hard

7 04 2015

To be fair to writer/director Etan Coen, I did enter “Get Hard” with knives at the ready to draw.  I am currently enrolled in a sociology course on race and ethnic relations, and a film that appeared chock full of vast generalizations seemed like a great potential paper topic for unit focusing on explanations for enduring racial inequality.  Because of that, I perversely did not leave the movie disappointed.

“Get Hard” is not actively, avowedly racist, although Coen does perpetuate some troubling stereotypes.  He can try to hide the film under the protection of satire and exaggeration, yet those labels hardly excuses the underpinnings and assumptions that come with wading into such territory.

Not to mention, he also tries to turn topics of concern into an invitation for laughter. Making an educated guess that a black man has been to jail, as Will Ferrell’s James does, based on their disproportionate rates of incarceration is a sad truth.  It ought to inspire genuine reflection, not a quick giggle.

But the only cause for concern in “Get Hard” is gay panic.  Everyone in the film seems to be in agreement that any sort of oral or anal sex is a punishment infinitely worse than systemic racism (never mind that any heterosexual person could engage in either act).  The homophobia that runs rampant through the movie made me wonder if the script was secretly written by Dr. Ben Carson, the Republican presidential hopeful who uses prison as an example for why homosexuality is a choice.

Read the rest of this entry »