#40 | May 21 - June 4, 1998  smlogo.gif

Krazy Kevin's Kino Korner

In This Issue
Feature Story
Press Review
Death Porn
Kino Korner


Blues Is Right

I trust I'm not bursting anyone's painful childhood bubble when I put forth the blanket generalization that Oliver Stone has absolutely nothing of interest to offer the world as either film director or human entity. I base this trust on the presumption that no film critic pros are reading this column, which I hope is as about a safe a presumption as someone in my position can make. But if I'm mistaken and there are any such stout, balding whiteys out there, please don't correct my misconception. I'm a lot happier imagining you guys with your eyes glued to Premiere or Salon, believe me.

Besides being one of the primary offenders responsible for the emergence of the Size Does Matter judging criterion that now dominates the Oscars, Stone is guilty of having paraded around the same bag of four tired tricks-i.e., Paul on the Road to Damascus Lighting to indicate a character's moment of cathartic enlightenment; alternation between b/w and color; faux-subliminal inter-splicing of "disturbing" images to reveal a character's true (always evil, of course) nature; loose interpretation of historical fact that often crosses the line into knowing falsification-ever since some studio dumbfuck gave him him first several million dollars to play with. But this doesn't mean we should ignore the fact that he's also a pretentious ass whose futile attempts to show he's Hip/Now/With-It have never been anything but laughable. And none of the idea-less ideologue's previous films ever illustrated this point as forcefully as his latest effort (or lack thereof), U-Turn.

Now, my fellow viewer fell asleep within the first 15 minutes, waking up with as many to go, but even this was enough to invoke in him a certain amount of nausea, not to mention strong feelings of hostility toward the director. I did my best to stay awake so I could record whatever thoughts the movie might inspire, a few of which I provided here: "Painful already" (about 10 minutes in). "What is he thinking?" (in response to imitation of the style of Bugle Boy Jeans commercials, if memory serves). "I wish Oliver Stone's car would break down in a small town in Arizona just like this one, so the locals could beat him to a pulp amid his cries of 'But I'm Oliver Stone!'" (self-explanatory). "Will this never end?" (after what seemed to have been at least 90 minutes; actually, it had barely been an hour).

Anyone for gut?
The plot is standard American southwest desert-noir, with Stone in obligatory heavy-duty irony mode-presumably to indicate he realizes that the subject matter has that not-so-fresh feeling. The problem here is that Stone's brand of irony quickly goes beyond witless into pointless, neither of which is at all amusing. But as the Coen brothers' recent Big Lebowski proves, you can still do film noir effectively without making a mockery the genre and yourself. All you need is skill and imagination...two words that don't go too well with Oliver and Stone, however.

The only hope for U-Turn, therefore, is that the actors will rise above their surroundings, but don't expect anything like that here. The only remotely amusing performances are Jon Voight as an unrecognizable, blind half-Indian and Joaquin Pheonix as a wannabe boxing superstar who seems to have already suffered his share of skull-brain trauma. Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, and Billy Bob Thornton are all in unfunny self-parody mode; Claire Danes takes another stab at proving just how overrated she is, this time as a too-plump imitation Lolita. Jennifer Lopez just plain sucks.

Speaking of which, when are some good Hispanic actors going to achieve mainstream success in Hollywood (keeping in mind that these folks comprise a majority of LA's population)? Surely Lopez isn't the best they have to offer. And if she is, aren't we a lot better off with a shirtless F. Murray Abraham playing Cuban gangsters or Italian-Americans with thigh implants doing Mexican lasses like in the old days?

My other news for you this week is unpleasant in a more disappointing way: Blues Brothers 2000 is here.

Flashback to 1980 and an unlikely singing duo comprising a short, fat coke-head and a tall, nearly comatose fellow. They sported porkpie hats and the kind of suits that-via Hong Kong crime films-helped Quentin Tarantino build an empire. But despite these apparent hindrances, Jake and Elwood Blues held their own with a corral-full of blues legends...creating the undisputed classic of Epic Farce in the process.

Eighteen years later, John Belushi is no longer with is...and here among the living, Dan Aykroyd and the legends of blues are not getting any younger. These and a host of other reasons collude to make watching this sequel rather like popping an unlabeled mystery tape into the VCR only to see Ma sodomizing Pa with a strap-on dildo. Watch on and eventually you'll see one of the two people who brought you into this world eating the other's feces. Worst of all, the tape isn't even an ancient relic from before your birth: the clearly visible scar from dad's recent testicular surgery tells you it was filmed within the last six months. At least now you know why they bought that tripod.

No, it's never pleasant to see dramatically aged versions of the icons of our childhood in such embarrassing positions. As such, the main problem with Blues Brothers 2000 (and given the Spielberg-worthy degree of Ray-Ban product placement, maybe we should rechristen this one Men in Black 2) is not so much Aykroyd and Co's reliance on a pathetically dated comic sensibility, but rather the fact that they no longer have the verve to do the job right. We're talking about Epic Farce here: Youth is king and the old farts are the enemies. Thems is the rules, and you don't fuck with 'em-I don't care if your name is John Landis. The low-energy factor maxes out during the epic car crash that is the film's centerpiece: a lotta shit gets broken, but where's the humor?

Aykroyd, at least, seems to recognize the problem. Since the mercurial member of the duo is now the dead member of the duo, the only thing for Danny Boy to do is walk the earth and proselytize for the cause of blues, r&b, and soul in this post-grunge age of techno and childproof cigarette lighters. Not surprisingly, Akroyd ends up preaching his lonely sermons mostly to the converted-i.e., the sad group of direction-less losers that make up the Blues Brothers band.

Take Matt "Guitar" Murphy. Something of a sad individual even back in the original, now he's nothing but a hunched-over, grinning retard. And compared to the whiteys in the group, he's got genuine screen presence. Let's face it: a bunch of dinosaurs in blue blazers is not going to re-educate America's young.
The only person here who might conceivably get out the youth vote is Blues Traveler's hideous John Popper. But even if he does resemble Belushi somewhat, he's also annoying as hell. Besides, no self-respecting teen is going to have anything to do with a fat hippie who carries around a dozen harmonicas in his vest.

But the only real lesson (if any) here is that famous whitey blues musicians/lifetime druggies age even less gracefully than their negro counterparts. If you don't believe me, compare Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood with B.B. King and Bo Diddley in the climactic jam session. No contest.

And don't think that substance-free whiteys are any better off. Just take a look at Paul Shaffer (OK, I admit to having no evidence either way concerning illicit substance use on his part at any time in the past, but he sure does act like a militant cleanster) here-the epitome of pointy-nosed, bald, soulless Canadian music geeks who know way too much about their equipment.

I guess my point is this: Old white people are basically unpleasant to look at, especially when they come from Canada. Which is probably as good a time as any to point out that, with the exception of a few location shots of the Chicago skyline, this sequel was shot entirely in Toronto. And frankly, I'd rather not go into the parallels this brings up with respect to Cannonball Run 3.

ImageMap - turn on images!!!