Naked, and a few more movies

#178  [archive]


Naked is about an unemployed but over-educated smartass named Johnny. He talks a lot, makes acerbic wisecracks, and treats women kinda shitty. He maybe-rapes one woman at the start of the movie, or maybe he and she prefer rough sex in an alleyway. I don't kink-shame, and the film leaves it up to you to decide what you've seen.

Escaping that woman's boyfriend takes Johnny on the run, and with nowhere else to go he shows up at an ex-girlfriend's flat. She's not glad to see him, to which I'll add of course — Johnny is an ass, so nobody'd be glad to see him. She lets him in, though.

Soon he maybe-fucks or maybe-rapes his ex-girlfriend's flatmate on the couch, hammering her head into the armrest. She'll be OK; the armrest is padded, but it's not my idea of a good time, nor, apparently, hers.

"You don't want to fuck me. You'll catch something cruel."

The film also features a second man who's more cruel, dresses snappier, has more money, and more enthusiastically despises women. He's a rapist and leaves no doubt about it, after he rapes the ex-girlfriend's flatmate who'd earlier been fucked and head-banged by Johnny.

Though he's very unwelcome, the rapist stays, asks for tea, and spends the night. The women can't call the cops, because cops are cops, the rapist is rich, and the women are not.

Johnny's not there when all that unpleasantness happens. He spends much of the movie wandering the streets of London, and in one sequence he and a security guard have a long conversation about everything from evolution to the end of the world. Johnny's outlook is bleak, of course, in keeping with everything else in the film.

I'd seen that scene in a clip before seeing the movie, and loved the clip, and love that scene in the movie. It's thoughtful, funny, profound in the way ordinary people can be, without sounding too scripted or precise.

Wish the movie had more moments like that, but it's mostly bleak without the bleak conversation about bleakness.

The women in this film are brighter and/or better than either of the movie's main men, but on the surface Naked is about the two shitty men. Underneath, it's also about how these women have to live their lives reacting to whatever the men do and say and want, because at any moment either man, any man, might be a monster.

This was written and directed by Mike Leigh, the great moviemaker of Britain's middle- and lower-class. It's probably his most famous and respected film, and he's made some fine ones — Happy-Go-Lucky, High Hopes, Life is Sweet, Nuts in May, Topsy-Turvy, plus some I've perhaps forgotten and others I've long meant to see, of which Naked was one. 

It's brightly but bleakly written, brilliantly but bleakly performed and directed, and even the lighting seems bleak. It's two hours of two men men being shitty, with the slight saving grace that despite his miserable dislike for everyone alive except himself, Johnny's jokes and asides are often funny.

It's the best and most challenging movie I've seen this week, with subtle moments and scathing scenes you'll remember for a long time, like it or not. Largely, I do not.

Wait, what? Best flick of the week, but Doug didn't like it? Exactly.

The movie is unpleasant at the start, unpleasant most of the way through, but at the end things start looking up before it douses itself and the audience with unpleasantness again.

Using his very formidable skills, Leigh hammers home his point — that things are crap, people are bastards, life is frustrating, and men are awful.

Verdict: YES, if you need that lesson.
NO, if you don't.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Corporation (2003) 

This is a well-intended, informative yet frustrating documentary about corporate control of American government and life.

As with most documentaries made since the invention of MTV, it is far too flashy, with always moving camerawork, fluid graphics on screen accompanied by beeps and boops, and a library of old news footage and corporate PR clips for laughs.

Doubtless there are people, millions of them, who have little interest in how corporations are strangling us all, and the cartoons and PR clips from the 1950s are intended to hold their attention.

I, however, am not one of those people with little or no interest, and from my perspective the first 20 or 25 minutes of The Corporation is wasted time. You probably already know that virtually every major corporation has been found guilty of numerous federal felonies and fined millions of dollars, or that corporations were originally chartered only for a limited time and function, such as building a bridge, but then dissolved. Et cetera.

Eventually, the film's baby food approach fades away, and the facts take center stage. Whether companies obey the law or not is irrelevant to the people running them. What matters is only profitability, and if breaking the law brings in more money than the eventual fines for breaking the law, the law gets broken, again and again.

The expected talking heads from the left are all here, but much more of the film's real estate is given to executives and insiders. Some of those clips are tragically revealing of their mindset, including one asshole who describes some of their dastardly deeds and adds, "Is it ethical? I don't know." Another asshole, a financial advisor, tells us the 9/11/2001 attack was "a blessing in disguise" because his clients were heavily invested in gold, and the price of gold went way, way up.

Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface — a company I'd never even heard of, which is the world's largest manufacturer of commercial carpeting — is probably the star of the movie, judged in on-screen time. He says,

"For 21 years, I never gave a thought to what we were taking from the earth or doing to the earth in the making of our products, and then in the summer of 1994 we began to hear questions from our customers we'd never heard before, What's your company doing for the environment?

"And we didn't have answers. The real answer was, not very much. And it really disturbed many of our people — not me so much as them.

"And a group in our research department decided to convene a task force… to access our company's worldwide environmental position. They asked me if I would come and speak to that group, and give them a kickoff speech to launch this new task force with an environmental vision, and I didn't have an environmental vision."

Eventually, Ray gets an environmental vision, undoubtedly written for him by a subordinate, but the movie claims that Interface's industrial carpeting is now substantially less awful for the earth than it used to be. That's good news, certainly, but I still doubt Anderson gives a fickle finger of fate about anything but the PR value.

I also came away with a better understanding of IBM's relationship with Nazi Germany. The Nazis couldn't have holocausted so efficiently without IBM's help, which is fairly well known, but IBM wasn't merely selling Nazis the data cards and sorting systems that kept track of the victims. They also provided expertise, engineering, and regularly-scheduled service visits for the data-reading machines, all of which helped make the killing of millions run smoothly. Did this bother anyone's conscience? Nope, there was money to be made, and nothing else matters.

I'm not a leading activist on any of this stuff, so it's surprising and disappointing that other than Interface's carpet and the details of IBM's Nazi collaboration, there's little in the movie that I didn't already know.

I wonder what would be the reaction of a disinterested viewer, watching this film. Would they giggle at the old cartoons selling insect repellent and cosmetics? Would the details on corporate crime sink in, or sail over their heads?

Call me a pessimist, but I don't think the disinterested would watch this movie at all. They'd be in a different auditorium, watching Tom Cruise. So I would've preferred a documentary aimed at people like me, people who already know the basics.

Of course, the documentary I'd want to see — full of facts I don't already know — would be a relentless steamroller over all of corporate capitalism, so it would get no bookings in any theater, have no ad campaign so only us hardcore lefties would buy tickets, and all the corporations that run the major streaming sites would blackball it, so that movie — which doesn't exist — might as well not exist.

In the meanwhile, you probably can't beat The Corporation. 

Verdict: YES. 

Someone named Bart Simpson is one of the film's producers, which has to be a gag.

♦ ♦ ♦

Nichols (debut episode; 1971) 

Between his wildly successful shows Maverick and The Rockford Files, James Garner had a western called Nichols, set circa 1920 in Arizona, as horses were being replaced with cars. I remember liking it, but it was quickly cancelled and I was just a kid, so tonight I watched the debut episode to see if the show was as good as I'd remembered.

Garner plays a career military man, offended at the demonstration of a new high-power machine gun, so he decides to go all pacifist. Instead of re-enlisting, he returns to the small town in Arizona where he grew up, only to find his family's gone and everything's changed. 

Margot Kidder plays the town's leading barmaid, and spews unexpected feminism — she wants to be sheriff. She's sexier than what was usually allowed on TV in the early '70s, which must've been why I liked the show.

Other than Kidder and the always reliable Garner, it's all a puddle of piffle. The bad guy is a lightweight, everyone's one-and-a-half-dimensional, the show's suspense isn't suspenseful, and the entire premise —pacifist Garner is railroaded into becoming the sheriff — is implausible and dull.

Despite Kidder's considerable charm and cleavage, I don't intend to watch any more of Nichols.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

• Coming attractions •

Delicatessen (1991)

District 9 (2009)

The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)

Inherent Vice (2014) 

My Life in Monsters (2015)  

QI (2003)

They Live (1988)

Upstream Color (2013)  

We Steal Secrets (2013)

Within Our Gates (1920) 

(plus occasional schlock as needed)

    • And then •

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

The Cook (1918)

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Good Night, Nurse (1918)

Last Tango in Paris (1972) 

Ménilmontant (1926)

The Scarecrow (1920)

Stalker (1979) 

White Lotus (second season, 2022) 

Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)

    • And then •

Asteroid City (2023)

China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)

Doctor Who (second season, 2006)

Dr Cook's Garden (1971) 

The Eiger Sanction (1975)

From Beyond (1986)

Manchester by the Sea (2018)

The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)

Street Trash (1987)

The YouTube Effect (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 twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff.
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  1. China 9, Liberty 37 (1978) - Monte Hellman was an interesting filmmaker. This is a good film, as are his two other westerns, The Shooting and Ride In The Whirlwind. Cockfighter is brilliant, but having owned chickens, I simply can't watch it more than once. The book it's based on is even better, though. And his barely seen island survival flick Iguana has a central performance more misanthropic than any other I've ever seen - even David Thewlis in Naked - just scathing. Then there's Two-Lane Blacktop... don't get me started... in my top 20, at least, love it so much.

    Street Trash (1987) - One of the most technically accomplished exploitation films of all time. The camerawork and design is stunning, especially when you discover the director was all of 20 when he made it. Does it say anything about the world we live in? I dunno, but it has flying penises and exploding bums, so I love it.

    1. Guess I got some good ones to look forward to. Two-Lane Blacktop is the only one I've seen.

  2. I've never read a review of yours and more strongly disagreed. 'Naked' is Mike Leigh's most brilliant film.

    Heartbreak and tragedy and everything is awful, but also beautiful. It symbolizes I think things bigger than on the screen, all of the decline and crash of western civilization is in these people. You complain about the bleakness but the bleakness is what drives this, more than almost any movie I can think of. Not phony bleak mixed with car crashes like Mad Max or phony bleak with violence like Clockwork Orange, it is only bleak and really real bleak mixed with more bleak.

    You're a bleak man, Doug, I'm surprised you didn't love it!

    1. Doug's not bleak, he's a sweetheart

    2. I'm a sweet bleakhearted bloke.

      Hey, we're allowed to disagree, but I did say Naked was the best flick of the week. Quality filmmaking, no dispute.

      A vasectomy is a quality surgery, but if I had one I still wouldn't like it.

    3. I had one vasectomy and two reverse vasectomies. Turns out majority doesn't rule. No kids and I say ouch when somebody grabs my balls. Not nearly enough people grab my balls.


    4. One vasectomy, and two reversals? Did you get a discount on the second one?

      I never want anyone to do anything to my balls. Even ladies, long ago thinking it was sexy to kiss 'em and lick 'em, but why? There's no pleasure to be had from any form of testicular contact.

    5. Opinions on that vary -- it's always good go have a referee's whistle handy to call a penalty for rough play.

      The surgeries were long ago, and as I recall, my medical insurance didn't cover a big percentage of the procedures. I had money in the bank then, and maybe I still would if I'd followed your guidance about testicular interference.

      The very first surgery went well, and I thought I was young and invulnerable, so I played golf the next day. By the end of the day my testicles could have been the centerpiece of a fairly spectacular Warhol exhibit.


    6. Well, that certainly sounds ballsy.

      Your comment that it was "long ago" compelled me to look it up, and history says the vasectomy was invented in 1823, and first done to a dog, probably without consent.

    7. Well, the year sounds right, and I am old, but few people characterize my visage as doglike. If mammalian at all, I run to the feline, and I think I did stamp my pawprint on a consent form which is now known to history as the Consent of 1823.


    8. Silliness is underappreciated in this sad world of humps and trumps.


    9. As the world goes down for the count, I appreciate silliness more and more. Need it more and more.

      Yesterday, for example.

      Being lactose-intolerant, I frequently drown my worries, sorrows, and boredom in generic lactose-free ice cream, but the store was out, and my choice was name-brand $$ lactose-free or the generic with dairy. I saved $3 by going generic with dairy, which caused me to enormously shart myself. Laughed all the way to the shower, to wash both myself and my undies.

      And there's another gallon of lactosy ice cream in the freezer, which I'll devour this afternoon and poop out this evening.

  3. China 9, Liberty 37 which should be a rugby movie but apparently isn't, nonetheless has a great title. If they could have cast Dory Funk Jr on either side (hey, he wore a mask), the movie would have been twice as good. No, I don't follow movies. Why do you ask?


    1. The title must be why I've never seen it. Seems so nonsensical. But reliable sources tell me it's good so I gotta see it for myself.


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