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Office Space, and six more movies

THE
NEVERENDING
FILM FESTIVAL

#101

This is it. Night of nights. Show of shows, and height of heights.

Today's movies: small town life after the tornado, building a railroad across Africa in 3D, prisoners in outer space, a workplace comedy that works, a thriller that doesn't, the end of all life on earth except for TV actors, and a flaming sack of poop from the American right.

• 2,000 Mules (2022)
• Bwana Devil (1952)
• Gummo (1997)
• Office Space (1999)
• The Silent Scream (1979)
• Space Rage: Breakout on Prison Planet (1985)
• The Stand (1994)

The best of these, by far, is Office Space.

— — —

2,000 Mules (2022)

This is one of the American right-wing's lie documentaries, using movies as another venue, along with radio, TV, newspapers, and the web, to keep people misinformed and afraid. With news a few days ago that someone's suing over this movie's falsehoods, I became briefly curious and decided to briefly watch it.

Stress briefly, though. My intent was to watch only for so long as it took to hear a claim that anyone who's not an idiot should already know is bullshit or misleading. My guess was that there'd be something blatantly dishonest in less than three minutes, depending mostly on how long the opening credits roll.

Made by well-known liar Dinesh D'Souza, 2,000 Mules opens with the same annoying tactic used in political ads on TV — video in black-and-white, artificially darkened, with ominous music, and fake video smudges added to make it look even creepier. It's reminiscent of a horror movie, intended to make the scene oh so scary. It's an ordinary tactic, though, used by both sides, so I kept watching.

The heightened and darkened video shows President Biden making one of his many gaffes, from 2020, but it's a doozy: "We have put together, I think, the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of politics." Zing, and true — Biden did make that obvious misstatement.

Trump and Republicans, of course, constantly say untrue or misleading things but actually mean them, and I was sure it wouldn't take long for this movie to plop a turd of untruth.

And it didn't. After video-darkened footage of someone putting ballots into a ballot box (to Republicans, ballots in a ballot box are scary) and some faux patriotic blather about how important elections are, the film shows TV news coverage from election night 2020, with early returns showing that Republicans were doing well.

The implication is, red was ahead early on, so the election was stolen. This, of course, is a tired canard.

By law almost everywhere, absentee ballots are counted after the ballots cast in person on election day, and Republicans spent 2020 loudly suggesting that voting by mail is somehow crooked, so of course the results tended to swing blue as absentee ballots were added to the totals. 

Dinesh D'Souza wants to mislead you, and 2,000 Mules probably has 2,000 lies. It was over for me at two minutes and fifty seconds, matching my prediction of less than three minutes. And what do I win? More time to watch better movies.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Bwana Devil (1952)

Written, produced, directed by Arch Oboler (One plus One, Five), this was filmed on location in Africa, and was the first feature film released in 3D and in color.

Let's build a railroad through Africa, say the white folks.

Hold on just a moment, say the man-eating lions.

The Africans themselves don't get to say much, and appear to be more Indian than African. 

Unexpectedly, a hint of 3D comes through even on my flat screen. Also unexpectedly, the movie is slow and uninteresting. There's only one painfully racist line, though, and one semi-painful.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Gummo (1997)

After co-writing Kids, Harmony Korine wrote and directed this. You could easily mistake it for a documentary. It's designed to look like one, and like a documentary, it's plotless.

Gummo looks at the few people who remain in a small Ohio town after a tornado has mostly erased it from the map, leaving rubble and trouble. It mostly follows local kids, all of whom seem messed up in the head, but I say that as someone messed up in the head myself.

The boys buy sex from a disabled girl, kill feral cats and sell them to the supermarket, and a funny-looking kid eats dinner in the bathtub, going mmm, mmm, mmm and smacking his lips a lot. The girls get molested, and one of them gets a breast cancer diagnosis from her boyfriend/customer (I'm not sure which) as he fondles her and says, surprised, "You have a lump in your titty."

It's by turns boring, repulsive, and perversely fascinating. The fake-documentary aspect means several cats were killed in the making of the film. The script says they were all feral cats.

I found no point to any of this, no message or reason, but it's well made. There are people who live like the lost souls of this fictional town, and if you'd like to spend an hour and a half with them, they'll probably offer you a glass of curdled milk.

Verdict: MAYBE, but wash your hands afterward. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Office Space (1999)

I've seen this movie half a dozen times, but never written about it? I'm an idiot.

It's hard to describe Office Space without giving away some of the movie's jokes, and I don't want to do that, so I'm just gonna say that it's a very funny, sometimes sweet rumination on working in an office.

Ron Livingston stars as an cubicle worker who hates his job. Jennifer Aniston plays a waitress who hates her job, too. Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-Head and the excellent King of the Hill, wrote and directed, but it's not a cartoon. 

Office Space captures the essence of office work — the monotony, the idiotic bosses and rules, and especially some of the co-workers, people you'd never choose to spend time with, but there they are, sitting in the next cubicle, 40 hours a week. Clearly, Judge worked in an office before Beavis and Butt-Head.

Anyone who's worked in an office will laugh, lots, and it would probably be almost as funny for anyone in any line of work where the work is dull and the boss is dull, which is almost any job anywhere. Feels like it was filmed on location at whatever shitty place you work. 

The movie bombed in theaters, probably because of its bland title and an extremely stupid ad campaign. Just look at that poster — a man covered in post-it notes? I remember seeing the poster and deciding instantly that this movie was shit, but it's the opposite of shit, which I guess makes it an omelet with hotcakes.

Nobody gets covered with post-it notes. There aren't even any post-it notes in the movie.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Silent Scream (1979)

Rebecca Balding played one of the reporters on a show I always loved, Lou Grant, but only for the first three episodes. And then she was gone, with no explanation of why she quit or was fired. You don't forget a name like Balding, so when I stumbled across this movie and she was the star, I had to watch.

Ms Balding takes a room in a boarding house, like mine but with even skeevier flatmates. Through the first half of the movie, the music keeps saying suspense and terror, while nothing even remotely worrisome happens.

Midway though the movie bloody murders begin, but it's never even fractionally Hitchcock. There's only one scary moment, plus a suicide that looks uncomfortably real. At the end, there's not even a resolution to the lame-ass 'plot'.

Avery Schreiber (the fuzzy-headed comedian) and Cameron Mitchell (you don't know the name, but he's a vary familiar 1950s-90s character actor) play homicide detectives. Yvonne De Carlo and Barbara Steele are present, but not at their best. Other characters include a high school boy who looks 30, Rebecca's dreamboat boyfriend, and a friend of hers, played by Juli Andelman.

Ms Andelman proves herself adequate in a small role, but the surprise is that she's not shaped like a normal movie-woman. She's not fat, but 'thick' is the word these days, and every time she's on screen it's a reminder how rare it is to see young female roles cast with any actress who's constructed like most women, instead of like Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, Megan Fox, Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, et al.

Other than that observation, though, there's nothing to this movie.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Space Rage: Breakout on Prison Planet (1985)

Cheap sci-fi that opens with a stick-up at the bank, set to 1980s rock'n'roll, and filmed at a then- and still-futuristic shopping mall.

The bad guy is quickly and literally netted by cops, and in mere moments he's in a courtroom the size of my kitchen, where a computerized voice says, "Prisoner before the court, please state your name for voiceprint identification."

The prisoner looks sour and says, "Fuck you."

"Voiceprint confirmed." 

Guilty as charged, the judge sentences him to outer space penal colony #5 and adds that he's forever banned from earth.

"Fuck you," the bad guy says again, and laughs. Yeah, this is really dumb, and I think I'm going to like it.

Penal colony #5, on the planet of Proxima Centauri 3, looks exactly like the lowlands of southern California. The movie is set 200 years in the future, but prison guards carry 1980s rifles and the wardens drive dune buggies. In a poorly-staged fist fight, Fuck You quickly establishes himself as the baddest of the bad.

Then stuff happens, and yeah, it's a small, stupid movie, but it's a fun stupid. It has Richard Farnsworth, aw shucks and all, and a woman with hair so big she looks like a space alien, but nope, it's just big hair.

Verdict: YES, it's bad enough to be good.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Stand (1994)

There's been an oopsie at an American military facility, killing everyone in the building and releasing a bio-engineered virus into the air. This is based on Stephen King's very thick book, with a very thick teleplay by King himself.

It stars Gary Sinese with his legs attached and Molly Ringwald without red hair, and also Ossie Davis, hymn-singing Ruby Dee, Laura San Giacomo, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, deaf/mute Rob Lowe, creepy Corin Nemec, insane Shawnee Smith, and Ray Walston, with cameos from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kathy Bates, Joe Bob Briggs, Ed Harris, John Landis, and Stephen King.

It's like any other apocalypse flick, only less gory and no naughty language please, because it's a mini-series made for commercial TV. It's six whopping hours long, so the minor characters get plenty of screen time, and each of the many pop tunes can play to the end, instead of fading away for the next scene.

I sorta watched it all, as a bedtime story over the course of a week and a half, and it reliably took about half an hour to put me to sleep every night.

There's one thing I don't understand, and Stephen King doesn't return my text messages: A few people are trying to survive after a pandemic has killed billions. Isn't that drama enough? The supernatural subplots seem sooo superfluous.

Verdict: MAYBE.

11/2/2022   

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.

— — —

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— — —
 
Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. I try to make these reviews spoiler-free, but sometimes screw up, sorry. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.   

 

4 comments:

  1. I rented Office Space physically from that company that rented VHS and DVD movies. I spent my life in a fucking cubicle jungle, and after the first few minutes I was expecting office cliché after office cliché. They just never happened. The characters are likable and actually fairly realistic and the laughs are real. This is a fine movie with horrible promotion. In case you had a real job like farming or nuclear missile assembly, this is what it's actually like to work in an office. In that case, just consider it a documentary.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it's great, and if anything Office Space *underplays* the craziness. Where's the scene where efficiency experts Bob and Bob stand over your shoulder with a stopwatch, timing how long it takes you to do mundane tasks while simultaneously asking you to explain what the heck you're doing? Where are the "management trainees"? The departmental reorganizations every six months?

      Delete
  2. My boss at the video store said he didn't like Office Space because he "couldn't relate" which translates, of course, that he identified more with Bill Lumbergh than any of the other characters. Mike Judge is the best comedy writer of the last 40 years. Right up there with Peter Bagge and Mike White. King of the Hill is so fucking great... the last couple seasons with Tom Petty voicing Luanne's husband Lucky is strangely overlooked. One of the great slackers in TV history. "I slipped on some pee-pee, got me some Megalo-money." Judge's Extract is not as good as Office Space or Idiocracy, because there's essentially no content (no strong themes) but it is very funny. Ben Affleck, who I dislike (of course) is fucking hilarious, believe it or not.

    https://youtu.be/AZcn7ubEFy8

    ***

    I think Korine is kind of a phony poseur, but I like Gummo and Julien Donkey Boy. However I absolutely LOVE The Beach Bum. It's Matthew McConaughey playing (to perfection) the exact character you'd expect him to play, but the script is really very astute about art and work and relationships. They sold it as a stoner comedy, which is very successfully is, but it's a lot more than just that. One of the more underrated movies of late, along with Linklaters Everybody Wants Some (which I will never stop talking about).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely agreed about Mike Judge, but I pay no attention to new movies coming out, so your note is the first I'd heard of Extract (2009). Clever preview and the clip looks good, but Kristen Wiig. Oy. She's up there with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kata Mara, performers I can't stand to see perform, and she is viscerally opposed to making me laugh or even smile.

      Dazed and Confused was so perfect to my memories of high school, and Everybody Wants Some has been in my hopper for months.

      The Beach Bum, eh? To my downloads folder.

      Delete

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