Tag Archives: Satire

Mike Judge’s Idiocracy

I finally got around to watching Mike Judge’s Idiocracy (I know, shame me) and I couldn’t believe how hilarious and scarily on point this fucker is. Luke Wilson plays the most painfully average dude (life imitates art in terms of his onscreen charisma) who is frozen by the military along with a hooker (Maya Rudolph) and following one hell of a clerical error, wakes up five centuries into the future where it seems that stupid people have been breeding like rabbits and humanity has become a lot… stupider.

This is obviously a satire with a heightened sense of reality, but the themes, jokes and visual representation of dumbed down culture are just somehow so terrifyingly prescient that one has to squirm in equal doses as chuckle. The future has become a polyester soaked, energy drink saturated, lowbrow humour wasteland of mammoth Costcos, gladiator level monster truck rallies that serve to ‘rehabilitate’ dissidents and all intellectualism has been deemed too ‘faggy’ by the general population. The highest rated television show is called ‘Ow My Balls’, the film to sweep the Oscars is ‘Ass’ and it’s just that for two hours although in the golden age of indie surrealism that may be close to the mark in a way that Judge didn’t intend lol. People have names like Beef Supreme, Frito and, in the President’s case, ‘Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho’, and if I for any reason ever need a formal name change, it’s going to be that. He’s played by Terry Crews by the way, who actually would be a decent choice to run for real.

I keep describing the future here because the world building and lampoonery that Judge traffics in is so goddamn fucking funny and engaging that that’s really all you need to keep the momentum of this thing going, and plot be damned. There is a plot though, as soon as everyone figures out that Wilson is pretty much the smartest dude on the planet, and they rely on him to fix a world run amok. Wilson is in a sense the perfect actor to headline this story; there’s this wide eyed, childlike incredulity he exudes in every situation that is almost funnier than anything he’s gawking at, plus he’s just this side of likeable. Rudolph is hysterical as the braindead hoe who takes advantage of their situation and eventually learns a thing or two as well, but not how to paint. Dax Shepard does a comedic turn for the ages as Frito, a ‘lawyer’ who tags along with Wilson & Co. and acts as guide to this underworld of asininity, giggling at toilet humour and scarcely uttering anything past a few blunt syllables. Watch for cameos from Justin Long, Patrick Fischler, Thomas Haden Church and Judge regular Stephen Root.

So, *is* this film a documentary? Lol not quite, but I can see the angle from which that lament comes from. But you know, one time I was staying with friends in the Fraser Valley, which for those who don’t know is the more rural regions outside the big city where much of the ‘monster truck’ crowd have settled. I was in the kitchen asking my friend’s mom where I could find a glass for water, to which she laughed, opened the fridge that was stocked only with pop and said “we’re not really a water drinking household.” I feel like it’s that mentality that Judge skewers here and maybe what feels so close to home, as well as the overall collective forces of dumb that pervade our world every day, from the news to pop culture to entertainment media and everything in between. I’m not sure why this got so buried on release, I remember noticing it in Blockbuster way back when and noting that it went straight to video. That sort of relegated it to being a cult classic instead of an outright classic but that’s okay too. In any case this is a detailed, brilliant, hysterical farce on humanity at its most extreme and pitiable, laced with Judge’s trademark droll deadpan, a dazzling visual mood-scape and lively performances from all. Great film.

-Nate Hill

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Taika Watiti’s What We Do In The Shadows: A Review by Nate Hill 

I don’t remember laughing as hard at a film in years as I did at What We Do In The Shadows the other night. It’s pure comedic bliss from front to back, and makes the often tedious chore of making an audience laugh seem effortless. It’s part horror comedy, part mockumentary with a dash of buddy camaraderie and and depth of wit and character all it’s own, thanks to New Zealand filmmaker Taika Watiti, who is fast becoming one of my favorite new voices in the independent field. A master at finding the humour in little moments and dry subtlety, his cameras spend a couple hours documenting pratfalls, squabbles and zany encounters wirh quartet of vampires living in Wellington, New Zealand, each one simultaneously a different caricature of bloodsuckers from previous lore, as well as a completely unique, hilarious individual. Jermaine Clement is the closest thing you’ll find to a household name amongst the cast as Vladislav, a Dracula esque, baroque vamp. Jonny Brugh is Viago, the musically inclined, Ann Rice incarnation, and Ben Fransham, plays Peter, a spooky eight thousand year old Nosferatu clone. It’s Watiti himself who steals the show though, as Deacon, a dandy of a Germanic royal who gets all the best lines and relishes them with adorable deadpan delivery every chance he gets. The film comes nowhere near the classification of horror, and in fact these four resemble a bumbling, lovable frat house, their vampiric nature treated lightly as they cavort about their everyday life like rambunctious nocturnal teddy bears. They navigate household chores, nightlife, inter species relations (there’s a few priceless encounters with a rival pack of werewolves), pesky humans, and have a ball the whole time through. What makes the film so special is the goldmine of comic skill and talent that both director and cast have tapped into. The relationships are unforced, full of idiosyncratic nonsense and always feel utterly organic. For a group of undead fellows, they truly are the life of the party. The documentary style never feels intrusive or irritating, seamlessly taking refuge behind the forceful and side splitting antics which take center stage for the entire film. Comedy is the hardest genre to produce fruitful results in, with horror a close second. What it takes to make you laugh can often be a rare gift, wielded by few and far between, those writers, directors and actors who have that elusive midas touch on our funnybones, combining just the right elements of script, improv and intuition to  get us laughing ourselves silly. This one achieves that and then some.

Taika Watiti’s What We Do In The Shadows: A Review by Nate Hill 

I don’t remember laughing as hard at a film in years as I did at What We Do In The Shadows the other night. It’s pure comedic bliss from front to back, and makes the often tedious chore of making an audience laugh seem effortless. It’s part horror comedy, part mockumentary with a dash of buddy camaraderie and and depth of wit and character all it’s own, thanks to New Zealand filmmaker Taika Watiti, who is fast becoming one of my favorite new voices in the independent field. A master at finding the humour in little moments and dry subtlety, his cameras spend a couple hours documenting pratfalls, squabbles and zany encounters wirh quartet of vampires living in Wellington, New Zealand, each one simultaneously a different caricature of bloodsuckers from previous lore, as well as a completely unique, hilarious individual. Jermaine Clement is the closest thing you’ll find to a household name amongst the cast as Vladislav, a Dracula esque, baroque vamp. Jonny Brugh is Viago, the musically inclined, Ann Rice incarnation, and Ben Fransham, plays Peter, a spooky eight thousand year old Nosferatu clone. It’s Watiti himself who steals the show though, as Deacon, a dandy of a Germanic royal who gets all the best lines and relishes them with adorable deadpan delivery every chance he gets. The film comes nowhere near the classification of horror, and in fact these four resemble a bumbling, lovable frat house, their vampiric nature treated lightly as they cavort about their everyday life like rambunctious nocturnal teddy bears. They navigate household chores, nightlife, inter species relations (there’s a few priceless encounters with a rival pack of werewolves), pesky humans, and have a ball the whole time through. What makes the film so special is the goldmine of comic skill and talent that both director and cast have tapped into. The relationships are unforced, full of idiosyncratic nonsense and always feel utterly organic. For a group of undead fellows, they truly are the life of the party. The documentary style never feels intrusive or irritating, seamlessly taking refuge behind the forceful and side splitting antics which take center stage for the entire film. Comedy is the hardest genre to produce fruitful results in, with horror a close second. What it takes to make you laugh can often be a rare gift, wielded by few and far between, those writers, directors and actors who have that elusive midas touch on our funnybones, combining just the right elements of script, improv and intuition to  get us laughing ourselves silly. This one achieves that and then some. 

The Onion Movie: A Review by Nate Hill

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That’s right, the Onion News Network made a movie, back in 2008, and it’s every bit as irreverent, satirical and wantonly bizarre as you would imagine. They have been comically killing it for years with their online platform, and the film is a nice extension of that. It’s episodic, meandering and devoid of plot, made up of many little sketches and vignettes, some gut bustingly funny, others just plain odd. I have three favourites which pretty much sum up their inane, Monty Python type shtick: An out of work actor named Bryce Brand (Nick Chinlund is priceless I  just a few minutes of screen time) arrives back home from drug rehab and is hounded by his agent to nab new scripts. He promptly falls into a weird new addiction that gets slapped sillily onto the headlines, thus ending his arc with deranged efficiancy. Steven Seagal shows up as a fat slob of an action hero aptly named ‘The Cock Puncher’, a lumbering buffoon who punches people in the cock, naturally. The third, and funniest sequence features a riff on the celebrity roasts of the 60’s, with some kind of amazing group of crusty old crooners hurling stinging and incredibly raunchy insults at each other with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It’s tough explain just how funny that bit is in a review, but suffice to say it had me roaring as loud as the obscene bunch of wrinkled baboons in the in the skit. There’s a plethora of other sequences which I’ve since gotten hazy about, but I remember many other instances of pure hilarity to be had. Watch for further celebrity appearances including Eric Stolhanske, Michael Bolton, Richard Fancy, Daniel Dae Kim, Brendan Fletcher, Rodney Dangerfield, Joel McHale and more. Side splitting stuff, if you’re into this type of humour.

RICHARD KELLY’S SOUTHLAND TALES — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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How can one accurately “review” Richard Kelly’s mind-bendingly crazy and divisive film Southland Tales? Kelly, whose debut was the incredibly enjoyable cult classic Donnie Darko, totally shot for the moon and back with his second directorial effort, which is filled with an insane amount of ambition and spontaneous sense of creativity. A sprawling, Los Angeles-based head-trip, Southland Tales feels like one of the most expensive experimental films ever made, bowing to zero concessions, devised by a mad scientist who often times feels like he’s making up new rules as he goes along. For some, Southland Tales will inevitably be a maddening viewing experience, especially upon first glance, but over the last few years, I’ve grown to absolutely love the movie, and I constantly feel compelled to revisit it. The film’s extra-packed midsection, at first, seemed purposefully meandering, but I’ve realized that it’s just extra dense, and requires some careful dissection. While some may feel that Kelly possibly bit off more than he could chew overall, it’s impossible to dismiss this film the way a majority of critics did, if for no other reason than it takes serious chances as a piece of storytelling, and because it’s a surreal, distinct vision that could only have come from a filmmaker with immense talent and a high level of chutzpah.

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The film starts off in 2005, at a backyard, Fourth of July barbeque in Texas. Home video camera footage shows families playing with sparklers and eating hot dogs. Then, the unthinkable—a mushroom cloud can be seen in the horizon. An atomic bomb has been dropped in Abilene. The world is forever changed. We then jump three years into the future to Los Angeles; again, it’s July 4, but the world we knew is gone. Society stands on the brink of social, economic and environmental disaster. A fascist government is in control with big brother lurking everywhere. Boxer Santaros (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is an action-movie star who’s stricken with amnesia. He crosses paths with a calculating porn star named Krysta Now (a sassy Sara Michelle Geller), who, among other things, is developing her own reality television project. The two of them concoct a movie idea that has Boxer set to play a cop. Meanwhile, good-guy police officer Ronald Taverner (an excellent Sean William Scott), agrees to allow Santaros to shadow him so he can get the feel for police life in an effort to turn in a convincing performance. But, it turns out that Taverner may hold the key to a vast conspiracy that nobody is ready to comprehend. There’s a lot more to Southland Tales than that. Radicals are stirring up a political uprising, using Venice beach and Santa Monica as their staging ground, while much of Los Angeles has been reduced to a DMZ. Armed soldiers monitor the beaches and streets with itchy trigger fingers. Then there’s the finale with two Roland Taverners, time-portals that open up into new dimensions, a floating ice cream truck, rocket launchers, and an exploding, futuristic zeppelin. There’s more…much more…but I’m at a loss to know how to summarize all of it. It’s a massive piece of filmmaking, going off on tangents and filling the frame with tons of visual detail (Kelly’s regular collaborator, the versatile Steven Poster, handled the aggressively stylish cinematography). This is a film that takes elements of political satire, post-apocalyptic nightmare, science-fiction fantasy, romantic drama, and movie-musical and throws them all into a blender and swirls them up into a wild smoothie of a movie.

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Making all of these seemingly disparate threads add up to a cohesive whole had to have been a herculean task. This is a staggeringly original piece of work, filled with homages to classic films, while still operating as a unique vision all its own. While narratively stuffed at times, and with performances that veer this way one moment and the other way the next, Kelly’s film is never boring and is fascinating on many levels, mostly because Southland Tales is satirizing a world that doesn’t totally exist. Kelly created a frightening political and social landscape, one that in fact may not be too far away for all of us in reality. But by not basing his vision in any sort of fully realistic setting, the audience isn’t in on the joke as much as Kelly; he’s poking fun at a world that is removed from our own, and as such, the satire sometimes feels a bit esoteric. But that’s because Kelly truly KNOWS this world that he’s created. The performances are broad, and in many respects, over the top, but that was likely the directorial intention. The true acting surprise of the film was easily Sean William Scott, still best known at the time for his immortal role as “Stifler” in the American Pie franchise, and here, give the chance to be someone totally different from the lovable and immature clown that he so memorably portrayed. Granted, his character (much like the audience), spends most of the film in a fog of confusion, but the charm and ease that he brings to this zany movie is very effective and emotionally engaging. I always had the sneaking suspicion that there was more to him as an actor, and throughout much of Southland Tales, he makes good on that promise.

As Southland Tales moves towards its fiery climax, the film really ups the momentum and becomes something truly fantastic. The last 30 minutes are awesome in a deranged, Terry Gilliam-esque fashion, with bracing moments of chuck-it-all abandon, which makes for some delirious fun. Kelly and Poster conjure up one fantastical image after another, using the widescreen space as their ultimate surrealistic playground, riffing on commercialism, surveillance tactics, and filmmaking in general, all in effort to yield something as different as possible. Kelly re-edited his film extensively after the initial three hour cut was derided at the Cannes Film Festival, which in retrospect, as he mentioned in interviews, was likely the A-1 worst place for this film to debut, especially in an unfinished state.  He snipped about 30 minutes from the run time, got rid of entire characters (Janeane Garofalo was a cast-casualty), and added some special effects; I’d love to see his initial cut for the sake of comparison. A film this creative, unique, and brazen could only come from an individual with an enormous imagination, and in today’s cookie-cutter Hollywood landscape, Kelly deserves points for making a film as out there as this one, which easily ranks as one of the most ambitious if at times perplexing films I’ve ever come across, one that has aged extremely well over time as our social landscape continually changes.