joe-up: day two

day two finds us rocketing out of the gate with mark neveldine and brian taylor's crank 2: high voltage (2009).

or maybe instead of rocketing out of the gate it would be more accurate to describe it as being shot out of an ugly, hateful gun. jason statham plays jason statham, but the characters insist on referring to him as chev chelios, and usually derisively. in fact, a great deal of effort is spent trying to make "fuck you, chelios" into a catchphrase, going so far as to having it lovingly rendered in an 8-bit cascade of profanity that i guess is supposed to be funny as well as a nod to the fact that what you're watching is both a video game of a movie and primitive in every thought and deed, at least to people whose cultural memory only extends back as far as 1985. at any rate, statham picks up where crank (2006) left off, as a superhuman poisoned hitman plummeting from a helicopter into a grand theft auto version of los angeles. he is shoveled off the street and into a van by a group of chinese gangsters who steal his heart during an open-heart procedure that he is awake for. when they intimate that his wang is next, he objects most strenuously by killing everything. outfitted with a battery-operated heart, he sets out on a quest to retrieve the original part. upping the ante - as sequels must, apparently - it takes the original film's premise of keeping his adrenaline above a certain level and makes it so that every time his new ticker is running down he must electrocute himself to keep himself, and the action, alive. what follows is a sex-and-violence® besotted parade of mayhem that no one could possibly care about, suffused with racism, homophobia and misogyny. every character that is not a white male is considered human garbage by this movie, fit only for exploitation, humiliation or being used as a human shield. i know that the casual manner in which these elements are presented are meant to make it seem like "hey, look how over the top this is. this is extreme satire" but how it comes off is "hey, look how easy this is". i know, i know. i hear your internal dialogue now (those of you who would defend it, anyway): "it's supposed to be ridiculous. you can't take this seriously". in response to that, i say "fuck you, chelios". this absurd philosophy of letting garbage off the hook just because it doesn't aspire to be anything more has to go. if we don't hold anyone responsible for backing up the "art" they make we are going to end up with more kevin smiths than we know what to do with. joe obviously intended this to be the final volley in a set of movies that are redefining camp, but something is wrong here. this film doesn't redefine it. in fact, it's the opposite. it is one of the most literal embodiments of camp that i have ever seen. "artlessly mannered, self-consciously artificial, vulgar, banal". you can say that again, merriam-webster. congratulations, everyone involved, you took camp to its terminal point. it's dead. you killed it. i hope it is revived as easily as jason statham but after what it went through in this 96 minutes things look bleak.

and then, ever the contrarian, joe spins us around 180° with tomm moore and nora twomey's luminous the secret of kells (2009).

it is the story of brendan, a plucky young apprentice in the monastery at kells, who longs to be a master manuscript illuminator. chafing under his uncle's loving but stern yoke, he rebelliously ventures into the forest outside of the abbey and discovers a world inhabited by sprites, monsters and some of the most wondrous animation i have ever seen. unfortunately, it is also inhabited my marauding vikings, a fact brendan's uncle is all too aware of as he races to fortify the abbey against their inevitable onslaught. taking on these very real invaders, as well as the more nebulous, mystical dangers of the forest and his own uncle's hard-nosed discipline, brendan navigates his way through the perils of adolescence in the middle ages to become the last illustrator of the book of kells. as kids movies go, it's a pretty standard story arc, sometimes a little meandering but unique in its historical setting. the primary reason you should give it your time is the art. i don't have enough superlatives for how gorgeous a film it is to look at. drawing its inspiration from the book of kells, a lavishly illustrated 9th century sacred text, the film is dense with intricate and beautiful design. as befitting the subject, every frame is exquisitely hand-drawn and it is a startling testament to what can be done by dedicated artists who have no need of computer-generated assistance. it is truly spectacular, bursting with vivid color and so rich with detail that you better be handy with a pause button because you are going to want to just stop it and look at it on more than one occasion. i know i did. it is overwhelmingly lovely and i suspect that even if the story isn't enough to bring you back, the artwork will yield something new and exciting every time you watch it. simply stunning. thanks, joe. this was yet another one i might have never seen on my own that was wonderfully enriching, not to mention an effective palate cleanser after the previous film. that is some powerful magic, to be able to completely erase all statham-related thoughts from my mind.

so i guess this time around the basic daily structure of the queue is going to include a film i love, a film i loathe and a musical i have already been assigned with an exclamation point in the title. rounding out that third slot today is carol reed's oliver!(1968).

shen gave me this one not too long ago. if you'd like to refresh your memory, here you go, guv. i still like this one an awful lot but, partly because it was such a relatively recent queue entry, i'm sure, i don't have a great deal to add about it myself. rather, i spent this viewing thinking about what it is that joe might like so much about it. all of the following is speculation but maybe he will let us know how hot/cold i am. at various points i thought:

i think he likes it because it makes him think of christmas (maybe more accurately christmas break?), maybe even more so than a christmas carol (1951) does. it is comforting in that "stay in the house, have something warm to drink/eat and let it snow" kind of way.

i think he likes it because it makes him think of his family. maybe it's an extension of that holiday feeling, maybe it's because they sang the songs together. maybe not.

i think he likes it because he genuinely loves the songs.

i think he likes it because he had a crush on nancy and whatever you would call the victorian-equivalent-of-white-trashy-with-a-heart-of-gold vibe she gives off. probably still does.

i think he likes it primarily because he, much like i do, sees some of himself in a great deal of it. he relates to a number of the characters, some of those associations being more romantic (with a capital r, if i used capitals) and some of them not. if you know joe, it's not hard to picture him as part oliver, part dodger, part fagin and part bill sikes. the percentage of each part just depends on the day, the reading material, the soundtrack and the liquor.

like i said, i may or may not be way off the mark here and i may just be projecting. either way, it was fun to think about. it was nice to imagine a snowy afternoon sitting around with my friend, considering ourselves at home, considering ourselves one of the family, singing these songs late into the night. it gave me a real sense of kinship with joe to consider it in this light. just one more thing we achieve through the power of cinema, and for that i am grateful.

that was a pretty great note to end on today. come back tomorrow as we double up on the oliver reed and quadruple the fraternal feeling.

leave your swashes at home unless you want those mofos buckled.


  1. I have to say, really, the only reason I chose Crank 2 is the Kaiju fight at the power plant. And it made such an awesome pairing with Secret of Kells.

  2. And, as much as I agree with what you say about Oliver!, once I chose The Three/Four Musketeers, I immediately checked if Oliver! was available as it was what introduced me to the sublime awesomeness of Oliver Reed as a young child. I didn't just want to have Fruedian sex with Nancy, I also wanted to be Bill Sikes. Only Alec Guinness made me want o be Fagin.

  3. "i think he likes it because it makes him think of christmas (maybe more accurately christmas break?), maybe even more so than a christmas carol (1951) does. it is comforting in that "stay in the house, have something warm to drink/eat and let it snow" kind of way.

    i think he likes it because it makes him think of his family. maybe it's an extension of that holiday feeling, maybe it's because they sang the songs together. maybe not."

    oddly enough, that is exactly what I think of The Sound of Music (which I did look to see if it was streaming.)

  4. oliver reed was a force of nature.

    remind me to have you do edelweiss for me some time.