Indiana Jones And The Wrath Of The Fanboy Force

As I’m sure you well know, last summer the long awaited fourth installment of the incredibly popular Indiana Jones series, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, was released to ginormous box office receipts and overall favorable reviews (it’s currently at 76% on the Tomatometer). In the U.S. alone it made over $300 million and is the 3rd biggest grossing film of 2008 after THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN. Well, despite these numbers there were a lot of folk who didn’t “join the rest of the world in breathing a sigh of relief at the multiplex” as I wrote in my review of the film (May 21, 2008). An increasing amount of film bloggers and tons of message board shut-ins, especially as the movie just hit the DVD market, are voicing their displeasure and resurrecting the “they raped my childhood” complaint that was born out of the extreme negative reaction to the STAR WARS prequels.

The fanboy bitching went mainstream a few weeks back when South Park aired an episode that actually featured Indiana Jones getting raped by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg not just once but three times in scenes that borrowed heavily from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE ACCUSED, and DELIVERANCE (of course).


Comedian/fanboy geek (probably best known as the voice of the rat in RATATOUILLE) Patton Oswalt recently went on Conan O’Brien and stated point blank that he thought the movie “sucked” and went on to bash its ending in particular. He elaborated on it in a stand-up performance at Blizzcon, Oct. 2008 in Anaheim, California:


“The last shot of ‘Raiders’, the very final shot of that movie, is that warehouse full of crates. And it was really dark and ominous. And it’s a really ballsy way to end your adventure movie. It’s a perfect film. ‘Raiders’ is perfect. And then the last shot of ‘Temple of Doom’, there’s elephants rearing up and a village is celebrating and he’s kissing the hot woman and you’re like ‘wow, what a cool action movie that was!’ And then the final shot of “Last Crusade” is Indiana Jones and James Bond (!), Sean Connery are on horses zipping away across the desert to God knows what adventures…oh, my goodness, that was great! And then the last shot of “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is a line of elderly people slowly walking out of a church! And they play the “Raiders” music over them like they’re making fun of them!”


Oswalt had previously done loads of material criticizing the STAR WARS prequels (“If I actually had a time machine I would go back to 1993 or ’94 and kill George Kucas with a shovel…stop him from making the prequels”) so this bit isn’t surprising and, I admit, a good point. For the record I hated the prequels, though I think “raped my childhood” is a bit strong, and understand completely the disappointment surrounding them. While having some familiar elements they didn’t feel to me like the movies I saw and loved so much in the theater as a kid – yes, I’m old enough to have seen STAR WARS before it was renamed “Episode IV: A New Hope” (and I refuse to refer it as such now). Being just the right age for them I equally loved the Indiana Jones movies – they were like an extension of the old timey serial movie inspired fun and saw each of the films more than I could possibly count.


I was extremely skeptical about them making another Indiana Jones film – the 3rd one (INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE -1989) wrapped it all up nicely into a tidy trilogy and it seemed unnecessary to go back again almost 20 years later to attempt to relive past glories. So I was surprised, and maybe a little embarrassed, to enjoy the fourth film so much. I still stand by what I wrote after seeing a midnight show last May that the film was: “an entry that is as good an Indiana Jones movie as could be made today”. Mind you, some folks have told me that that comes off as a backhanded compliment. I really meant it though – I feel given the changing times and the advanced age of the core participants that this was as good as they could produce. I honestly believe that no matter what they served up that fanboys would have problems with whatever element. Back in the day I remember many schoolyard grumblings about implausible plot points and action set pieces of the original films – don’t get me started on how Indy survived that submarine ride in RAIDERS…, etc. These days the message boards and blogs replace the playgrounds as we all age and get more cynical, nitpicking about annoying details while friends and family say repeatedly “it’s just a movie” just over our shoulders.


I’ve already been scoffed at for saying that I liked it better than the dark TEMPLE OF DOOM (the one I saw the least as a kid) but I seriously do think, especially after seeing it more than once, that KINGDOM OF CRYSTAL SKULL is a more even and much more entertaining action film. I didn’t mind the aliens aspect, though I agree with some film folks about it being too X-Files and that the special effects were at times overboard – one message board poster said it was “Indiana Jones and the CGI Jungle” and I cant really argue with that. I also had problems with the gopher at the beginning, the Shia LaBeouf swinging from vines with moneys like Tarzan scene, and the before-mentioned ending – like blue-velvet-ant wrote in the comments of my review: “Hes Indiana Jones. He doesnt do married.”


Still, the bottom line to me is that it felt like the Indiana Jones movies I saw at the theater as a kid – it had the same tone, pacing, and Harrison Ford’s crusty charisma carried me through just like before. I went along with the outlandish escapades and was even immensely amused by the much derided “nuking the fridge” sequence (see Urban Dictionary: Nuke The Fridge). I wish folks would cut out using the “raped my childhood” tack – it’s a dead horse beaten beyond recognition at this point and many people are offset and offended by the use of the word “rape” in what is supposed to be a humorous context. Though I’m not saying ban it completely – Patton Oswalt’s line “Hollywood, where dreams come to be raped” is too accurate and brutally funny to be dropped. When somebody makes that “raped my childhood” complaint, perhaps the best response would be this one, from a snarky message boarder: “Well, your childhood was dressed too sexy and all walking around acting slutty; it was asking for it!”


More later…

Pop Culture 101: Today’s Class – KNOCKED UP

I finally got to see Judd Apatow’s hit comedy KNOCKED UP (newly released on DVD) which I really regretted missing last summer in the theaters. I thought it was very funny though it was more of a James L. Brooks style drama than I expected – the 2 hour 13 min. running time should have tipped me off. What really got to me about this anti rom-com about slacker stoner Ben (Seth Rogen) unintentionally impregnating way-out-of-his-league Allsion (Katherine Heigl), is the incredible amount of pop culture referencing going down. The abundance of name dropping, bad impersonations, and snarky wise-cracks would put Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarentino to shame! It’s almost like without these media touch points these people would have nothing to talk about at all. Since I would have nothing to talk about without them let’s take a look at the cinematic schooling KNOCKED UP provides us in pop culture profundity:

WARNING : Many Potential Spoilers

A large percentage of the riffing comes from Ben’s room-mates (Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Jay Barachel, and SUPERBAD‘s Jonah Hill – who all use their real names in the movie). They all have a what they call “the dirty man competition” – a bet that air-headed Martin can’t grow his hair and beard without cutting or shaving for a year. If he lasts that long they have to pay his rent for a year – If he caves and shaves he’ll have to pay all of their rents for a year. So they hurl insults relentlessly at him – calling him SERPICO, Charles Manson, Chewbacca by way of Jay’s horrible impression, and Jonah asking him if he had a hard time changing his name from Cat Stevens to Yusef Islam. Martin: “yeah, it was awkward.”

The gang has a website in the works – Ben’s pitch: “only at fleshofthestars.com * will customers be able to find exactly into what movie their favorite stars are exposed”. It seems to be a premise created soley to riff on Jamie Lee Curtis’ infamous full-frontal in TRADING PLACES, Julianne Moore’s pantless appearance in SHORT CUTS , we actually see them watch the Denise Richards/Neve Campbell lesbian love scene in WILD THINGS on TV, and Meg Ryan’s nude scenes in IN THE CUT. To their later dismay Pete (Paul Rudd) tells Ben there is already a celebrity nudity website called Mr. Skin. Ben rationales – “Good things come in pairs you know? VOLCANO, DANTE’S PEAK. DEEP IMPACT, ARMAGEDDON, right? WYATT EARP, TOMBSTONE.” To which Jay adds – “Panda Express, Yashinoya Beef Bowl.”

* Yep, it’s a real site now.

Random Reference Riffing :

Shortly before Ben and Heigl meet, the guys discuss Speilberg’s MUNICH – all agreeing on its awesomeousity. Ben : “Dude, every movie with Jews we’re the ones getting killed. MUNICH flips it on its ear. We’re capping motherfuckers!” They all drink to Ben’s proclamation – “if any of us get laid tonight it’s because of Eric Bana in MUNICH!”

Paul Rudd’s character Pete is a A & R guy for some never named record label. Photos of him with Elvis Costello and framed album covers (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “Damn The Torpedos” can be seen a few times) decorate the walls of his suburban home. Pete does a number of impressions throughout the film including Robert Deniro (not bad) and in the deleted scenes – Austin Powers (awful). He and Rogen disagree on music – Ben: “If I ever listen to Steely Dan, I want you to slice my head off with an Al Jarreau LP!” The most defining straight-forward statement that Pete makes of course is encased in pop culture – “marriage is like that show, Everybody Loves Raymond but it’s not funny.”

Pete and wife Debbie (Leslie Mann – Judd Apatow’s real-life wife) have kids (played by Apatow’s daughters Maude and Iris) who argue over whether to listen to the soundtrack to “Rent” or the band Green Day from the back seat of Allison’s car on the way to school. Not far from the tree obviously.

Of course you’ve got to have a “boy loses girl” 3rd act conflict development with both couples spliting temporarily. Ben and Pete take a trip to Las Vegas in which they plan to take mushrooms (acquired by Pete from a roadie for The Black Crowes no less) and go see Cirque de Soleil quoting SWINGERS all along the way – “you’re so money!”

On a hotel room TV a scared Ben, tripping out of his mind on those Crowes roadie ‘shrooms, watches CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (we see shots of Steve Martin running around surrounded by his kids’ wacky shenanagins) and remarks “He’s got 12 kids…that’s a lot of responsibility to be joking about. That’s not funny.”

When Ben starts getting his life together and moves out of what was essentially a clubhouse into a respectable apartment he replaces his framed Bob Marley smoking a big ass spleef poster (obviously pictured on the right) for a ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND poster which he hangs in the soon to be nursery.

Dr. Kuni (Ken Jeong) who delivers the baby angrily tells Ben in the hallway – “if you want a special experience go to a Jimmy Buffett concert!” In the bonus features there is a line-o-rama feature that has dozens of alternate lines for many scenes. There’s an amusing run with trying out variations on the Jimmy Buffett line – some examples: “go to Disneyland”, “go to freaking Busch Gardens”, “go to Korea”, and “go to my apartment, it’s phenomenal.”

Another run on the line-o-rama has Jonah Hill saying “Mr. Skin is like the Beatles and we’re like the Monkees” and “Mr. Skin is like Alec Baldwin and we’re like Billy Baldwin.”

The opening credits sequence shower scene from CARRIE is viewed by Ben and Allison for further fleshofthestars.com research.

Loudon Wainwright III plays Dr. Howard and also contributes the songs “Daughter”, “Grey In L.A.”, and “Lullaby” to the soundtrack.

One of the deleted scenes has Jonah spouting out a hilarious rant about BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN which he says “was made by, like, fuckin’ homophobes in my mind!” He drags MASTER AND COMMANDER and Bruce Willis’s full frontal in COLOR OF NIGHT down into his profanity filled diatribe.

Harold Ramis makes a nice (albeit too brief) showing as Ben’s father. He attempts to console his son in an extended scene with an Indiana Jones analogy – “So, he could be like little Indy and you could be Sean Connery.”
Ben: “Or, I could be the guy that got melted when he looked in the Ark.”

Uncredited cameos by obvious Apatow and Co. friends Steve Carrell, James Franco (plugging SPIDERMAN 3 which was released at the same time as KNOCKED UP and is mentioned several times), and Andy Dick are brief blips on the reference radar – helped by Heigl’s character being a reporter for E! Entertainment Television. That definitely hooked up the attitude-infused Ryan Seacrest appearance. Also swift bit parts from SNL‘s Kirsten Wiig and Bill Hader should be noted too.

Whew! That’s a lot of TRAINSPOTTING for one movie. I didn’t even mention the mentions of Robin Williams, Taxicab Confessions, Martin Scorsese, Cartman from South Park, Doc Brown from BACK TO THE FUTURE, Ben’s Mr. Bill T-shirt, Pete’s Tom Waits “Rain Dogs” T-shirt, Vince Vaughn, Matthew Fox from Lost, Fellicity Huffman from TRANSAMERICA, as well as Ben and gang’s posters of Pink Floyd, Hunter S. Thompson, and Fraggle Rock. Okay, now I ‘ve mentioned them.

There will be a test on all this so I hope you took good notes.

More later…

The Evolution Of Michael Moore

“…oh and remember let’s defeat the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here.”
Michael Moore (SiCKO, 2007)

So Michael Moore’s latest event movement movie-doc is opening Friday at my local hometown theater The Varsity but like many folk here on the internets I watched a copy online. I’ll still see it at my theater and urge everyone I know to do so ’cause as my review below sez it’s a keeper. Since Moore and me have had our ups and downs through the years I thought It would be cool to look back over his movies (this is film babble blog so I’m not going to discuss his books or TV programs) and break them down a bit.

A formula of sorts emerges when we look at the basic ingredients in a Moore movie – first though we must look at one of his principle inspirations. In April of 1986 shortly after General Electric bought NBC, David Letterman – the top-rated late night talk show host at the time – on his old 12:30 broadcast Late Night With David Letterman did a camera remote film piece in which he took a fruit basket as a welcoming gift to GE’s corporate headquarters in New York. Letterman kept a good game-face as he was told to leave and his director scolded to turn off his camera. This bit which should be regarded as a TV classic (I’ll settle for the “memorable moment” status that Wikipedia has granted it) is the template for Michael Moore’s entire schtick. You can see the bit here. Moore took that bit and ran with it as far as his fat ass can take him. Moore even acknowledged it as a huge influence on The Late Show With David Letterman when promoting FAHRENHEIT 9/11 in 2004.

You’ve got to have more than invading corporation lobbies and harrasing the staff that to make a full fledged documentary so let’s look at :

5 MICHAEL MOORE MOVIE METHODS

Yep, one can’t imagine Moore’s films without these tried and true stylistic devices

1. Idyllic 50’s stock footage – In the first third of all of Moore’s films we see archival footage depicting a supposedly simpler time. Public service films, shots from grainy newsreels, bits of TV commercials, clips from forgotten drive-in fodder, sometimes even Moore’s own childhood home movies are presented to put us in a Leave It To Beaver-Father Knows Best mindset before showing us a series of modern atrocities. This definitely shows the influence of Moore’s mentor and cinematographer Kevin Rafferty *. Rafferty’s own documentary made of likewise footage – THE ATOMIC CAFE (1982) is another huge piece of the Moore movie puzzle.

* Incidentally Rafferty is a first cousin of President George W. Bush. Thanks again Wikipedia!

2. Baby Boomer Era Hit Songs – The precedent was set in ROGER & ME when auto worker Ben Hamper talks about the groove (yes, groove) he had trouble working up listening to The Beach Boys’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” on his car stereo after telling his employers he couldn’t take it anymore. The song plays as shots of boarded-up houses, abandoned storefronts, and a TV report about the rat population escalating after the factory closing in Flint, Michigan rolls by. That groove resurges in the well known songs by the Animals whose “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” – in FAHRENHEIT 9/11 serenades the sequence of planes taking off to drive home the point about the Bin Laden family being given the privilege to fly in the days after 9/11, Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” played at the end of the same film, The Beatles “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” made an obvious point in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, and most aptly Cat Stevens’ “Don’t Be Shy” is used to great effect in SiCKO.

3. A Megaphone – In SiCKO we see Moore in a boat in Guantanamo Bay with a group of 9/11 rescue workers after learning that terrorist detainees are getting top notch medical treatment. With trusty megaphone in hand Moore yells “we just want some medical attention – the same kind the evil doers are getting!” This should be no surprise to Moore movie-goers because he employs the same tactic in almost every movie. This also can be traced back to Letterman – he disrupted a taping of The Today Show from a window above Rockefeller plaza with a megaphone. Of course Dave’s agenda wasn’t political – “this prime-time program was my idea and I’m not wearing any pants!”

4. Stern Evil Unemotional Old White Men – Of course General Motors President and inspiration for Moore’s first film – Roger Smith is the archetype but throughout his canon we have more old money villains who apparently rule the world than we know what to do with. His book Stupid White Men confirms this premise. It’s as if the Cancer Man (sorry Cigarette Smoking Man) and his elite friends from the X-Files have truly an identity and source of blame that we can finger. ‘As if’ indeed.

5. Bringing It All Back Home To Flint, Michigan – Moore’s hometown has a pivotal place in all of his films (oddly not SiCKO – this is the only method on this list that isn’t used) even the wide-ranging Global kaliedoscope that is FAHRENHEIT 9/11 has the story of Lila Lipscomb a Flint resident and proud flag waver whose son Michael was killed in Iraq. I would make some lame pun about Flint ‘sparking’ the whole Moore-apolaza but I digress…

Now let’s look at the movies themselves :

THE BLUEPRINT ROGER AND ME (1989) – “My mission was a simple one. To convince Roger Smith to spend a day with me in Flint and to meet some of the people who were losing their jobs.” So it was, a young aspiring documentary film maker centers on the legacy of his hometown. The devastation that occurred after major auto factories laid off thousands of workers then later closed down. The evictions and fat-cat revisionisms that plagued normal workingman’s schedules and laid bare the prospect of America at its outsourced greediest. It’s all here in this grainy wet behind the ears debut. Though it has been noted that while Moore documented his struggle to get behind closed doors to interview General Motors President Roger Smith – he did actually talk to him before the film was made – in a question-and-answer exchange during a May 1987 GM shareholders meeting (seen in the doc MANUFACTURING CONSENT). The backlash was just beginning.

THE MISFIRECANADIAN BACON (1995)

“Canadians are always dreaming up a lotta ways to ruin our lives. The metric system, for the love of God! Celsius! Neil Young!” – Gus (Brad Sullivan)

After the success of ROGER & ME it’s understandable that Moore would want to try his hand at making a fictional funny film. He had a great premise – an unpopular US President played by Alan Alda tries to get a polling statistic bump and votes by starting a fake war with Canada. Years ahead of WAG THE DOG and with a great cast including John Candy (his last film by the way), Rip Torn, Kevin Pollack, Rhea Perlman and Steven Wright how could you go wrong? Well, it went really wrong and became a slapsticky forgettable mess. The unfunniest of Moore’s films despite a few random laughs CANADIAN BACON now stands as an oddity in his career. Thankfully he went back to non-fiction and wiped his hands clean of this mess.

THE P.R. PIECETHE BIG ONE (1997) Moore, not yet a household name but finding himself with a best selling book Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American he decided to film his publicity tour across America. Pretty fluffy but still has some sharp segments – especially a meeting with Nike CEO Phil Knight (the only such corporate head that would meet Moore on his tour) is an essential bit that can not be easily dismissed. When Moore asks why his companies shoes are made abroad and not here – ” But what about Indonesia’s genocidal practices against minority groups?” Knight uncomfortably responds “How many people died in the Cultural Revolution?” An incendiary moment in an otherwise glorified infomercial.

THE RELOADING:
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE
(2002) This re-established film going folk to the Moore method. Few film makers would attempt a pop doc about gun control but Moore brought such sweaty passion to the subject that it could not be ignored. Sure it maybe plays around with facts (Moore had arranged the “free gun when you open a bank account” transaction weeks in advance, and that customers have “a week to 10 days waiting period”) and the showdown with a senile but still grand Charlton Heston was misguided and more embarrassing than point making but overall BOWLING deserved the Oscar it won for best documentary. Visiting With Timothy McVeigh’s brother James Nichols and hearing out his militia views, Moore asks: “Why not use Gandhi’s way? He didn’t have any guns and he best the British Empire.” Nichols blankly replies: “I’m not familiar with that.” Right there – that’s America caught on film.

With just a few allusions to 9/11 and the administration’s ties to the Saudi family the gun-site was almost completely in line:

THE GUNSHOT HEARD AROUND THE WORLD: FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (2004) Moore’s controversial (can’t write a piece on Moore without using the word “controversial”) Oscar speech really set the bar high for this one. Beginning with the grossly mishandled 2000 election and dogging President George W. Bush’s every stupid move, Moore’s movie won him a lot of movie fans and he became a world wide celebrity but at the same time he became a divisive personality. FAHRENHEIT 9/11 has aged a bit badly – it creaks with sloppiness at times – understandably it was rushed into production to have an impact on the election in 2004 -and some of its conclusions are speculative at best but the bottom line as stated in the Oscar speech referred to above “we live in fictitious times, with a fictitious president who was elected with fictitious election results and we’re fighting a war for fictitious reasons” is pretty damn effectively played out.

And now, the new one :

SiCKO (2007) The most focused and funniest of Moore’s films by far. SiCKO has little by way of manipulative editing or Moore’s particular brand of muckraking – it just simply presents people and their stories – for the most part. Sure, most people will be cynical about the objectivity here – which in a way is the point – but the basic facts about Canadian, then French, then most surprisingly Cuban healthcare is enough to make even a Moore hater raise their eyebrows. The irrefutable facts like – “And the United States slipped to 37 in health care around the world, just slightly ahead of Slovenia” and the testimony of Dr. Linda Peeno, a former medical reviewer for the health insurer Humana in which she admited :”I denied a man a necessary operation” are just a few of the examples that brought tears to my eyes. Yes, there are liberties taken and many will label this as propaganda (but what documentary isn’t?) most likely dealing with the close to the ending bit where Moore sends a 12,000 dollar check to one of his most out-spoken critics Jim Kenefick (Moorewatch.com) whose wife was sick and his web site needed funding or had to shut down. SiCKO may be Moore’s best film – don’t let biased naysayers tell you otherwise.

Moore In Other’s Mediums :

As a celebrity – a household name, a well-known entity, a figurehead, and most aptly a target Michael Moore has really arrived. A few examples :

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (Dir. Trey Parker, 2004) Apparently them there South Park guys thought their appearance in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE was mishandled and the cartoon in said film was too much in the style of South Park (Parker – “We have a very specific beef with Michael Moore. I did an interview, and he didn’t mischaracterize me or anything I said in the movie. But what he did do was put this cartoon right after me that made it look like we did that cartoon”), so yeah Moore had this coming – he appears as a hot dog eating jerk who straps explosives to his body to blow up the heroes of the film’s title – as reported on MSNBC – The puppet was reportedly stuffed with ham when it blew.

Family Guy (1999-when the show is no longer profitable) Now I’m Pro-Simpsons Anti-Family Guy but this bit should be noted even if it is a bad fart joke – “like that time I outfarted Michael Moore” Peter Griffin (voice of Seth MacFarlane) recounts then we see him and Moore in a Men’s room enter parallel-walled toilets. Then the farting begins. Actually maybe this shouldn’t be noted. Oh well.

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Moore later…

No! I meant :

More later…