In Some Ways, This Is Cathartic

I received yet another form rejection from One Story because I never, ever learn. That’s all I have to say about that.

You know what I hate? Calling some major corporation like, say, an airline, where they have those voice prompt operator

s before you can speak to a human being. Without fail, I will lose my shit in its entirety when speaking to the automaton. After about thirty seconds of the machine not understanding my clear Midwestern accent and clear voice, I simply begin yelling obscenities into the phone until my throat hurts. In some ways, this is cathartic.

Every time I watch the movie Margin Call, which is one of the finest movies made last year, I marvel at how not one single person on Wall Street has been arrested. I understand capitalism and benefit from it a great deal but what Wall Street has done to this country is obscene.

This week was a week. A friend passed away. We had spoken only a couple days earlier so I was shocked. Everyone who knows her is, I think, shocked. We had only been friends about a year but she was smart and generous and loyal and a wonderful writer. She leaves behind a void and for some, like her family and closest friends, I am certain that void yawns widely.

My mother is alive and vibrantly so. She is young and energetic and she grows fiercer with every day. She is close to her three children and her grandchildren. We talk nearly every day and she tells me everything going on in her world. When I visit my mom, I change her ring tone to some ridiculous rap song that way it’s always a surprise when her phone rings. Then, she doesn’t know what to listen for so her phone just rings and rings and we’ll be walking through Costco, with her purse blaring FROM THE WINDOW, TO THE WALL! It’s so hilarious to me. She’s a really good sport about this. I do this with my dad but he doesn’t find it as amusing. My mom has theories and opinions about absolutely everything. She feels it is dangerous to go to a restaurant on Mother’s Day because there are so many people that there could be a stampede. She has a Flickr account and loves learning how to use all the iProducts my brothers and I have gotten her. She thinks my 12 week old niece is a genius and every morning, she walks the baby by all the art hanging in her home so the baby can look at the bright colors. She thinks my 21 month old niece is a genius as well, equal opportunity. If you’re ever wondering where I get my quirks and also my best qualities, the the line between my mother and I is a direct one. I am blessed.

And still. Mother’s Day is a wonderful day but it can also be a very hard day and how do you talk about that? How do you explain why when the words cling to the membranes of your throat? There are parts of me that are broken and nothing will unbreak them.

Meanwhile, I wrote about FIfty Shades of Grey for The Rumpus. Those books have a lot going on. They’re an utter delight and also very troubling. As a Libra, I appreciate that there are multiple ways of thinking about these books.

On the HBO series Cathouse, why

are the beds and bedding so crappy? It drives me crazy to even think about it. Like, give the ladies some bedding that didn’t come from K-mart and a bed that wasn’t made in 1976.

BIG NEWS! A black beauty supply store opened in my town to service all nine of us black women around here. I learned about it from a man friend so we took a field trip. Behold the Wall O’ Weave!

I bought some relaxer. I wanted to hug the proprietress but that would have probably been awkward for her so I just chatted with her brightly and promised to come back. Hopefully the shop doesn’t close in like three weeks.

After Fast & Furious came out in 2001, movie executives wanted to capitalize on the movie’s formula and success but how could they do such a thing without creating, essentially, the exact same movie? It was a real dilemma. In 2003, they found the answer–motorcycles. That year and the next, Biker Boyz and Torque were released and were, in their own ways, motorcycle versions of Fast & Furious–multiethnic casts, beautiful, scantily clad women, criminality, “gangs”, and pornographic shots of motorcycles.

Biker Boyz was amusing for many reasons, not the least of which was some really credible blacktors lending their names to the project. Nearly every black actor of note at the time was involved in the project. Did you know, for example, that the movie starred Lawrence Fishburne, a man who has also played Othello? He was joined by Larenz Tate (who, as an aside, has had such a random career), Derek Luke, Djimon Hounsou, Orlando Jones, Vanessa Bell Calloway (WHAT?) and on and on. The best part of the movie, though, was Lisa Bonet who emerged from her patchouli-scented state of zen to play a nice little token role as Fishburne’s girlfriend.

Let’s talk about Lisa for a minute. She’s another curious actor, always doing interesting things with her hair and living a lifestyle that screams meditation, vegetarianism, and a philosophical outlook on life. I really like what she’s throwing down and she’s so selective about how she works in her post Cosby/Different World career.

Biker Boyz was all about motorcycle clubs and this kid who wanted to be a biker even though his mother was really against it because his father had died in the life and there’s a silly romance situation and the movie was terrible but awesome and there was lots of leather. I’d tell you more about it but you should just go watch it.

Torque was truly the more direct descendant of Fast & Furious even though it was released a year after Biker Boyz. This movie was very much Fast & Furious: Crotch Rocket Motorcycle Edition.

The plot is ridiculous involving a guy, Cary Ford, who ran to Thailand (WUT?) after stealing some bikes inside which there was hidden meth (WUT?) from the leader of the Hellions or some such, an evil bike gang lead by this asshole and his absolutely psychopathic girlfriend (HAHAWUT?). The FBI or something wants him too. He comes back from Thailand and hooks up with his homeboys–some rando Latino guy and a really hot Asian guy. They get on their bikes and start zipping through the desert and happen by a gang of black bikers led by Ice Cube and somehow they get into some beef, who knows why. Anyway, Ford and his tiny crew go to some kind of…bike festival? We get some gratuitous shots of women in bikinis washing motorcycles and the best best thing is how the camera shots on the bikes are like more pornographic than the shots of the women. Ford goes to this tent and there’s a thin blonde with long hair working on some kind of motorcycle part and by working on the part I mean that she is poking at it with a screwdriver. She is, of course, his lover or former lover. They have some bitter banter where she rags on him for leaving without her and so on. You can tell it’s all bullshit. They’re going to be boning before long. Anyway, things happen. There’s a murder. There’s a showdown. It’s all ridiculous.

There are some things of note in Torque:

  • Dane Cook and Jesse “Diseased Penis” James are both in this movie!
  • Ice Cube spends the entire movie mean mugging. His face acting is so goddamned amazing. Like, he has mastered every variation of the angry face and also, his spittle work is noteworthy.
  • The motorcycle guys all spend their time in full motorcycle leathers. Going to the store for some milk? MOTORCYCLE LEATHERS! It’s hilarious.
  • At one point, Ford walks into the distance and says, “I live my life one quarter mile at a time,” and his girlfriend says, “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” IN YOUR FACE FAST & FURIOUS! IN YOUR FACE!
  • At the end of the movie, there’s a showdown between Ford’s girlfriend, Shane, and the psychopath lady who is dating the bad guy. Psychopath says,”You messed with the wrong chick!” They literally BATTLE ON THEIR MOTORCYCLES, like gearhead jousting, and then Shane does a backflip from her motorcycle onto the psychopath’s motorcycle, and beats her up and wins and says, victoriously, “Looks like you did, bitch.” Such quality dialogue.

I spent a good portion of my evening thinking about these three movies and the ways they are intertwined.

Hey, guess what? There’s this little, independent movie out called The Avengers and it cost a lot of money to make and it has earned all the monies in the world. HAVE YOU HEARD? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

Yes, I find a reason, at least once a month, to share this video.

So, I saw The Avengers on Thursday. I have thoughts, in no particular or coherent order.

I enjoyed the movie even though I am not one of those people who worship at the altar of Whedon. He’s very talented but he’s not everything. I also thought The Avengers was a bit overrated. Everything about the movie was all, LOOK AT ME, ALL THE MONEY IS ON THE SCREEN, PLZ BE IMPRESSED.

If I had to summarize the movie in one image, it would be this:

The production design was so ridiculously amazing that it was almost too much to look at. If half as much energy had been put into the script, we’d be getting somewhere.

When the aircraft carrier becomes a plane, I just laughed and laughed and was ready to throw my arms in the air because that? That was fucking amazing.

Question? If the bridge to Earth from Asgard was broken, how does Thor get back to earth? I am really asking.

The acting was great, I must say. Everyone did what they were supposed to do.

Robert Downey Jr., as usual, acted circles around everyone in his vicinity. Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t allowed to wear shoes during the making of this movie but she played the adoring girlfriend very well and her bangs were evenly trimmed.

The dude who played Loki was sufficiently dastardly and his use of hair product was exceptional.

Scarlett Johansson brought her usual blank canvas to the screen, allowing the viewer to project any sort of emotion or personality they chose onto her. The Black Widow character is really interesting. When, by the way, does she get her own movie?

Jennifer Grey’s husband was as great as he always is. I really love his work in The New Adventures of Old Christine. He kind of plays the same wry, snappy fellow in everything he does. Consistency is everything. And then he makes us sad very nicely.

Chris Evans was also sort of All American earnest and bland as Captain America. His ass, though, deserves a goddamned Oscar. It was perfect, just perfect, and well framed throughout the movie. At the beginning, he is punching a punching bag in a t-shirt and khaki pants and his ass totally stole the show. The rest of his body is also excellent. I don’t quite get him as a superhero, but whatever. He has his shield and his bright red American heart and I’m sure that’s enough.

Mark Ruffalo again brought the same dude he always plays to The Hulk which made it funny. Morose, poorly dressed suburban guy with a sentimental soul! Who also has a rage problem! HULK SMASH ALL THE THINGS!

Gale’s brother, Thor, or Chris Hemsworth, was great again as Thor. I actually enjoyed Thor even in all its terribleness. His forearms, mmmmm. Yeah, buddy. What’s with the cape though? This drove me crazy in the Thor movie too–all that excessive costumery. I mean, why were they in full armor during feasts? It just does not make any sense. Did they have like food armor with elastic like we have food pants in this realm?

Also, did you guys know Robin Scherbatsky is in The Avengers? I had NO idea. She looked great. How I Met Your Secret Agent!

Samuel Jackson drove me crazy with his spittle overacting but whatever. At this point, I just sort of tune him out when he’s in a movie. He seems to think that if he inflects his voice a certain way and at a certain volume, he can convey all the emotion he needs to convey.

Was there a plot in this movie? Theoretically. Loki’s on earth and he’s dealing with his daddy issues and sibling rivalry issues and he’s going to wreak havoc until he rules the world. The Avengers must stop him. That’s… basically it.

The script is weak and I know no one wants to talk about that, because OOH PRETTY, but facts are facts. Now, the script has some moments. The interplay between the superheroes is really quite good and at times, there is real pathos. Then there are stupid moments that totally erode all the goodwill the movie occasionally earns. I also thought there were some major plausibility issues. Like, yes, I believe these superheroes and the flying aircraft carrier and all that but do you seriously expect me to believe that The Hulk jumps from the aircraft carrier, survives the fall, finds a motorcycle, and makes it to downtown Manhattan before the great battle? Come on. The same with Thor magically rendezvousing with his fellow Avengers. The air craft carrier just happened to be hovering above the eastern seabord? Fuck off. There were so many moments like this where time and distance were completely ignored. Once or twice, we can forgive these things, but fifteen times? It’s embarrassing.

There’s some real funny business going on with Stark’s clean, sustainable power. I’m no scientist but something is very off there.

Have you ever noticed in movies that include archery that the archer never runs out of arrows? That’s pretty magical. I was thinking this over and over during The Avengers and finally Hawkeye ran out of arrows and it was great but then his supply seemed to replenish and I was sad.

Product placement for Farmer’s Insurance? Really?

The final battle is really ONE! GIGANTIC! EXPLOSION! KABOOM!

Most of Manhattan is destroyed and then everyone goes about their business. Thor takes Loki back to Asgard (OMG HOW? The bridge has been fixed?) and he doesn’t even go to visit Jane? So aggravating.

This movie is not high concept, that’s for sure. I hope there’s a sequel and that it is just as pretty. If we are lucky, if we are very, very lucky, the script won’t be tragic or lacking in heart and soul. Because this first installment? It didn’t have much heart or soul save for those glimpses of pathos that were too few and far between. Everything was too perfect, too competent. What’s particularly frustrating is that this movie was soulless because it could be. This movie, and everything that follows, is

review proof. It doesn’t have to be good because the producers know the people will come no matter what they throw up on the screen. Frankly, the movie seemed to erase everything that is good about Joss Whedon and replace those qualities with everything that is typical and terrible about modern Hollywood.

4 comments on “In Some Ways, This Is Cathartic

  1. We saw the movie this weekend. Like you say, the plot has a number of turds in it. Bruce Banner driving into Manhattan on a beaten-up motorcycle is something out of a SNL skit. Just flat out dumb.

    As for Black Widow, that character deserves her own movie. There are all manner of stories to mine from her biography–a really great character. The whole Black Widow-Daredevil romance in her biography would make viewers have to suffer through Ben Affleck as Daredevil, however.

    The strange thing about these movies is that if Hollywood actually followed the chronology of the comic books at least a little bit, the makers could make even more movies = $$$. My hope is that a subsequent Avengers movie introduces people to Scarlet Witch and Vision.

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