Why Does It Exist?

Dish Flicks – July 2011

In Dish Flicks on August 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Like all good narcissists, I spend time looking over my work. Not because I want to find mistakes, necessarily, but because I’m often so damn proud I get anything done. Inevitably, I find mistakes in the reviews that I post on the site. Typos, sentences that were never finished, ideas that are repeated twice in the same paragraph… all that good shit. As some of you might know, this is embarrassing because I actually make a living (most days, anyway) finding and correcting mistakes in other people’s work. If for some reason you were reading this site and thinking ‘well, I’d give this guy a high-paying job’ and you were somehow undeterred by the amount of dick jokes contained within, please note that I actually am a great proofreader ‘n shit. Consequently, please accept my apologies for any typos contained therein.

Speaking of which, you’ll have noticed that I’m not as productive as I once was. Part of that reason is that I now spend several hours a day watching terrible movies in very small increments, which makes me want to sit down and watch something good rather than sit through something inexplicable. But I haven’t given up, and I have a project in the pipeline that will most likely expand Why Does It Exist? beyond the series of pixels you see here. If all goes well, you should see some changes around these here parts in a few monts (starting with a fucking real domain and logo).

Me and Orson Welles (2009)

I continually get burned by my expectations of a film, which is basically a scrub mistake if you’re going to be reviewing movies. They should be judged on what they are, not what you want them to be. Since this is a Zac Efron movie I watched while washing dishes, however, you can forgive me this critical slip-up, yes? I’m being reductive here: this is a movie with Zac Efron in it, yes, but it’s directed by Richard Linklater (one of my personal faves) and centers on a particularly fascinating period of history. Efron plays a high schooler who pretty much falls ass-backwards into a role in Orson Welles’ production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre. He becomes enamoured with the theater’s secretary (Claire Danes) and learns a bunch of important life lessons from an insane egomaniac. What I find interesting about this concept is that Welles was still only in his early 20’s at this point yet undeniably a genius who commanded attention; the relationship between him and Efron’s character (who I think is supposed to be 17) could be extremely interesting. Of course, the movie avoids all that by making Welles a mythical, slave-driving figure and Efron his constantly-in-awe admirer. It eventually wraps up in an uninteresting love triangle where Welles gives uninteresting life advice like the old sage that he clearly isn’t. Linklater doesn’t seem totally at ease with the characters and the film suffers from it. Christian McKay makes a great Welles (even though he’s too old) and Efron is an okay, if bland, lead.

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1994)

There’s something I admire about filmmakers who tackle unfilmable novels; it’s both courageous and extremely hubristic. I can’t say that I’ve actually read Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues but I’m familiar with its wonky, free-spirited 60’s aesthetic and it’s one that rarely translated well to film (especially outside of the actual 60’s). Unsurprisingly, Gus van Sant’s Gen-X adaptation has its heart in the right place but translates mostly to a unendurable collection of nonsense. Uma Thurman stars as a professional hitchhiker (on account of her giant thumbs) who ends up living in a ranch populated by lesbian cowgirls. There’s something about saving the whooping crane, John Hurt in drag, Udo Kier, Keanu Reeves, thumb surgery, Pat Morita as a horny mountain-dwelling hermit called The Chink and a seemingly endless amount of weirdness presented in a distinctly non-weird fashion by van Sant. Robbins’ psychedelic grotesques just don’t translate to film, especially not one as straight-forward and ultimately conventional as this one. Apparently, the DVD sensed how discontented I was and committed hara-kiri before reaching the ending; can’t say I was too saddened.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Dishes are the perfect way to fill in the gaps with lesser films from great directors. After the trainwreck that was Van Sant’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues I opted to tackle another 90’s foible by a major filmmaker. To be fair, there’s not a whole lot of signature John Carpenter touches to be found in Memoirs of an Invisible Man, a middling semi-comedy mostly designed to showcase the talents of America’s favourite total dick, Chevy Chase. Apparently used as a bridge to more serious roles from Chase (the fact it was followed up by such classic dramas as Cops & Robbersons and Man of the House show how well that went), it’s a modern reimagining of The Invisible Man that’s supposedly tailored to Chase’s sensibilities. For some fucking reason, his miscasting turns out to be the film’s biggest problem. Chase’s thing is to be a smarmy asshole; here, he’s mostly mopey and sincere. Not great. The special effects were a huge attraction in ’92, showcasing breakthrough CGI that looks charmingly quaint these days not unlike a CGI equivalent of Harryhausen.

The Dark Half (1993)

Continuing my half-assed foray into the middling 90’s work of seminal horror directors, I tackled George A. Romero’s rarely-discussed Stephen King adaptation The Dark Half. It’s rarely discussed, as it turns out, because there’s not much to say about it. King’s book was basically his way of dealing with the issues surrounding his Richard Bachman pseudonym; the ‘dark half’ character was largely metaphorical. Here he’s a literal snarling bad guy somewhere between Mike Hammer and Tom Waits, a silly boogeyman that turns a potentially interesting cerebral horror film into a pretty silly thriller. Timothy Hutton plays a thoughtful, intellectual writer who also doubles as a best-selling author of sleaze fiction. When the secret gets out, he decides to symbolically ‘kill’ his alter-ego… until people around him begin dying in gruesome ways. Part of the problem is that it is blindingly obvious from the get-go what’s actually happening here, yet Romero treats the first half of the film like a procedural whodunit. Say what you will about schlock like Identity; at least the twist was delivered in a way meant to elicit some kind of shock.

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