Pop Culture

David Lynch’s Dune is So Bad it’s Hypnotic

The “Disasterpiece Theater” series at The Decider begins with a good choice.

In a lot of ways, Dune has a lot of the same problems as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Hear me out… Both were made for a rabid science fiction audience. Both films boast beautiful production design and talented casts. However, the biggest problem with both films is that they spend more time providing exposition about tedious political plots and religious superstitions than they do establishing characters and relationships. Dune spends almost a half hour telling you about houses and treaties and spice and navigators before getting to the tense gom jabbar scene (which Herbert begins on, like, page 5). Lynch just drops you into Paul’s world and you go with it because he doesn’t quite know what’s going on, either. You’ve got a relatable protagonist to latch onto, use him!

Lynch’s Dune is visually stunning but a narrative mess. And I’m a big fan of the series. I even like God Emperor of Dune (But not any book after that. The last two novels that Herbert wrote feel tired and meandering, and all the works written by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson just feel wrong). But even I find almost every line and acting choice weird and off (plus Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck? What?).

Yes, it should be watched. Actually, it should be watched several times:

  1. What? Who’s that? What’s going on? Why is this so BORING? Ugh, Never again!
  2. Actually, there’s some neat things to see here. It’s got a cool look. I might watch this again; it might grow on me.
  3. No, this is a bad movie. I’m done. Wierding modules? What were they thinking?

Virgina Madsen is gorgeous, however…

Fun With Camille Paglia

Earlier this month, when some highly educated matron or other had to reach for her smelling salts upon hearing “Under My Thumb” whilst shopping for groceries (the Trader Joe’s manager who refrained from saying “Lady, I’ve heard that fucking song so many times in the last month I don’t even notice it anymore. All possibility of enjoyment of it has been systematically driven from me. I couldn’t come up with a fuck to give if you held a gun to my head. Now, are you gonna put that second package of gluten-free wheat germ back, or are you going to vacate the ’12 Items or Less’ aisle?” deserves a raise), I got a fillip of the familiar. Lester Bangs used to write about what the “woman’s libbers” were going to do to Jagger every time he toured, but I recalled something from Camille Paglia in particular, dealing with how “Under My Thumb” began her conflict with respectable feminism.

To wit:

This was where I realized — this was 1969 — boy, I was bounced fast, right out of the movement. And I had this huge argument. Because I said you cannot apply a political agenda to art. When it comes to art, we have to make other distinctions. We had this huge fight about the song “Under My Thumb.” I said it was a great song, not only a great song but I said it was a work of art. And these feminists of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band went into a rage, surrounded me, practically spat in my face, literally my back to the wall. They’re screaming in my face: “Art? Art? Nothing that demeans women can be art!” There it is. There it is! Right from the start. The fascism of the contemporary women’s movement.

This is from a transcript of a lecture she gave at M.I.T. in september of 1991. I read it as part of her first anthology Sex, Art and American Culture, which is a good companion piece to Sexual Personae. It contains what I believe to be Paglia’s initial cir-de-coeur “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf.” This was published in Arion in 1991 and although it reviews two contemporary books before unleashing hell at post-structuralism, I believe it entirely relevant today, based on what I recall of college in the mid-to-late 90’s and grad school four years ago. She pulls no punches with Derrida, Lacan (“The French fog machine”), or especially Foucault, whom she finds guilty of being a boring-as-fuck snide poseur, full of facile wordplay and bereft of learning. An appropriate passage:

Foucault is the high-concept pusher and deal-maker of the cocaine decades. His big squishy pink-marshmallow word is “power”, which neither he nor his followers fully understand. It caroms around picking up lint and dog hair but is no substitute for political analysis. Foucault’s ignorance of prehistory and ancient history, based in the development and articulation of cultures and legal codes, makes his discussions of power otiose. He never asks how power is gained or lost, justly administered or abused. He does not show how efficient procedures get overformalized, entrenched, calcified, then shattered and reformed. He has no familiarity with theories of social or biological hierarchies, such as the “pecking order” universally observed in farmyards and schoolyards. Because, in the faddish French way, he ridiculously denies personality exists, he cannot assess the impact of strong personalities on events nor can he, like Weber, catalog types of authority or prestige.

She goes on like this, sticking shaft after shaft in the old dead fart until it starts to look like the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. But that line about picking up lint and dog hair is giggling genius. Post-modernism and post-structuralism are nothing more than the Sophists laughing at us from beyond the grave of their cultures. The whole goddamn thing is so brainless, a bot can do it.

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

Zombeavers: The End of “So Bad It’s Good?”

I hope so. At least, the end of SBIG as an intent.

B-Movies are crap (to be perfectly blunt, so are most A-Movies. Now get off my lawn). But if they’re done right, B-Movies can transcend the idiocy of their storylines and become at least entertaining. And then there’s Zombeavers:

Zombeavers tried to embrace its stupid premise with allusions to Jaws and predictable plays on the double-meaning of “beaver.” Yet it never quite gets at what makes creature features so fun. It’s not just that they are stupid, and occasionally so poorly made that it’s laughable. It’s that the monsters might seem silly out of context, but the stakes are life and death! The stakes here are never grounded, in part because of the lack of energy from the cast, and in part because the script is dedicatedly sloppy with no apparent awareness to the sub genre’s finer points. It’s characters aren’t even recognizable stereotypes, and their actions make little to no sense other than filling the running time with dirty words, sex and violence. 

If you’re making a B-Movie, you’re still making a movie. There still needs to be a plot, and a conflict, and something resembling a protagonist. For further evidence, watch as Kurt Loder compares Zombeavers to a competently-made B-movie, Blood Glacier:

The new Austrian movie Blood Glacier isn’t actual crap, actually–it looks pretty good, and its cast isn’t entirely unacquainted with the craft of acting. But the movie’s tolerance for cheap genre rips is high, and its aspirations cheerfully low. It’s an old-school creature feature that seeks only to peel your nerves back and gross you out. It draws heavily on John Carpenter’s The Thing, with a few Alienflourishes bolted on, and it does its job.

Zombeavers is actual crap, as I think first-time feature director Jordan Rubin would happily agree. Rubin is a comedy writer who has churned out gags for Carson Daly, Craig Kilborn and Comedy Central. Now he has churned out Zombeavers, a riff on the old cabin-in-the-woods horror theme, and I’d guess he had a lot of fun doing it.

The problem with one-joke movies like this is that the joke is all in the title.

Yup.

you-think-youre-funny-but-youre-not

 

Game of Thrones Turns Us All Into Monsters

Reaction video to the lastest out-of-the-blue death in Westeros. Spoilers, obviously.

Basically, if you find yourself at a wedding there, RUN.

Who did it? The books explain it, but honestly, I’ve forgotten. In the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter. Nothing good will come of it. Well, some good, maybe, but really a whole lot of horrible. It will just be horrible that we will tolerate because it’s being visited on (mostly) the right people.

We are steeped so far in blood that sin will pluck on sin.

lannister

Rolling Stone Trolls Us All With Naked Julia-Louise Dreyfus, U.S. History Fail

They’ve pretty much become the Slate of music magazines (NSFW-ish at link): throwing up outlandish nonsense to boost sales.

Ace thinks this editorial ignorance, or even a prophylactic error, a case of “If we don’t put John Hancock’s signature on her butt, people will give us crap for getting it wrong, even though it’s not wrong.”

I disagree. I think everyone saying “Hey, you dipsticks! John Hancock didn’t sign the Constitution!” was the entire point. It blew up on Facebook yesterday, and as with the Boston Bomber, now everyone is again talking about Rolling Stone. With hate, sure. But advertising dollars don’t recognize hate. And Rolling Stone needs the money. As Ace puts it:

Rolling Stone

The magazine for smart, educated, socially-aware young Americans who are over 60 years old and who are also as dumb as a box of chicken farts

Exactly. Rolling Stone is a feckless pile of hippie nostalgia and glossy ads. They are the magazine that makes Spin look cool. They have no marketing strategy left other than to relentlessly piss people off to maintain “edginess”.

In fact, the interest this cover offers lies solely in wondering how much of it is Photoshopped. One assumes that JLD got a little digital tuck-and-lift (if not, then I am impressed); it’s simply the business now. And if that’s the case, did they actually bother tattooing the Declaration of Constitution on her back? Or did they just add that digitally later?

This presents an interesting nexus in American popular art: a piece in which everything, from the model, to the “provocative” tattoo on the model, to the actual intent of the image, is faker than a freshman’s drivers license. Welcome to the new nadir.

mclovin id

McLovin: Prophet of Our Times