Film Review: Orgazmo (1997)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a lot of strange ideas. They’ve written films about a hybrid basketball/baseball game becoming the hottest sport in America, counter-terrorists operatives portrayed by puppets, and even a group of foul-mouthed fourth graders saving the world from the rise of Hell overseen by the soul of Saddam Hussein. None of those compare to the bizarre story of Orgazmo.

Orgazmo is a film within a film/make a picture film about the porn industry. A Mormon missionary gets snared up in a mob/pornography ring after he uses his karate skills in front of the kingpin/producer. The missionary is offered $20000 to star in the porno superhero epic Orgazmo, about a man with a cannon on his arm that instantly gives anyone targeted an orgasm. The missionary’s beliefs are pushed and pushed as the kingpin/producer tries to turn him into the biggest name in pornographic films.

It’s a ridiculous concept that somehow works. The world of Orgazmo is pushed into such oddball territory from the start that anything becomes believable. Continue reading

Are You a Unicorn? Glee and Self-Identity

On the latest episode of Glee, the writers tackled a sensitive issue with a very bizarre conceit. Kurt–the out and proud gay student at McKinley High School–decided to run for class president and audition for the role of Tony in West Side Story. Ditzy cheerleader Brittany was brought on as Kurt’s campaign manager and created a series of posters declaring that students should vote Kurt because he’s a unicorn. This did not stop every other friend and teacher he liked and trusted from laughing at his every move in auditioning for the musical. Kurt is told at every turn that he’s too gay to play straight while being told that he should be proud of being too gay to play straight.

The unicorn image troubles and excites me. On the one hand, it could easily be used as a slur. Kurt is so different that he doesn’t even exist. He’s not a human at all. He’s just something that shouldn’t exist. That’s pretty twisted. I will admit upfront that is a particularly cynical reading of the image. What the show does cop to and aim for isn’t much better.

It doesn’t get much better when you look at the reasons the kids give him to be proud of a unicorn. He takes pride in his appearance. He likes to stand out from the crowd. He’s a unique and cheerful person that people love. But if he’s so unique and people like him so much, why are they just trying to pin him into a fancy little box with glitter and rainbows?

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The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess Now Excites Me

I take back everything bad I said about the insane comments the cast and creative team is making about this show. It’s become clear that the entire thing is a put one. Christopher Guest is likely filming every step of this production without his usual band of improvers to turn into the greatest “putting on a show” comedy of all time.

How else do you explain lead actress Audra McDonald comparing Porgy and Bess to a squid?

People have been trying to put it in a box for all these years, I don’t mean put it away, but shove it into you know: It’s an opera, it’s a musical, it’s — I think, it just continues to defy. It’s this sort of big large squid that just plopping out (gesturing madly) that’s like NO! I’m all of these things.

If we re-contextualize all these strange things that McDonald, Diane Paulus, and everyone else has been saying, it suddenly becomes clear that they’re in on some kind of bizarre joke. Or else the 18th bookwriter for Wonderland decided “How is a raven like a writing desk?” was a bit too straight forward and fed Audra the line about an unboxable squid.

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The Art of the Unlikeable: Thank You For Smoking

It’s hard enough to make a film where the audience is supposed to genuinely care for and support the actions of the characters. It’s another thing entirely when the characters you choose to focus on are horrible people who do terrible things. Now trying making them funny and likable at the same time.

Thank You For Smoking gets this balance just right. The scenes between the MOD Squad–Merchants Of Death–are funny. Aside from being the head lobbyists for tobacco, alcohol, and guns in America, the characters are fun. They act like people you want to be friends with. They crack jokes and share snacks at a restaurant. Their scenes wouldn’t be out of place in a romantic comedy or family film if it wasn’t for the fights over who kills the most people and the strategizing of how to come out on top against fetal alcohol syndrome.

We’re laughing at the characters, yes, but we’re also laughing with them and rooting for them in a strange way. They’re charismatic in spite of what they’re talking about. It’s a combination of the right actors in the right parts, a sharp screenplay, and clever direction.

Video Game Review: Epic Mickey (Wii)

Epic Mickey is the closest Disney has come in well over ten years to matching the quality of action platforming they mastered on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo consoles. There was a time where a new Disney game was an event. Their side-scrolling platforms starring Mickey and Donald through original worlds completely removed from the Disney oeuvre were fun, challenging, and well-made. Then they lost their footing. The games were either targeted at only the youngest gamers or poorly-produced money grabs based off of a new franchise.

With Epic Mickey, the action takes place in a looking glass version of Disneyland. The rides are all there; they’re just broke down, faded, and in desperate need of repair. You play as Mickey, forcibly dragged into this alternate reality after accidentally unleashing an evil ink monster bent on destroying everything Disney. You solve puzzles and fight with a paint brush that can shoot two substances. With the wiimote, you control paint to rebuild broken paths and convert the ink monsters to good. With the nunchuck, you control paint thinner to tear walls apart and erase the ink monsters.

The good/evil dynamic between creation/elimination is the game’s biggest strength. Continue reading