Friday, June 08, 2012

Zing! Pow! Bang!

Every now and then, I go on a "cheesy fun" movie-watching splurge. Since I cancelled my subscription to Netflix, I've been going to the theatre more. (I've also been reading more, but that's a separate issue. Or is it?)

I'm a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen and his particularly bold style of exposing people's stereotypes and prejudices, so a friend and I saw The Dictator. (But first we each downed a small bottle of sake  -- arguing with a random lady at the cineplex bar about the social value of Cohen's films -- and then raced into the theatre).

Alternet had a really good review of the movie, comparing it to Charlie Chaplin's satire about a Hitler-like leader in The Great Dictator.  

I can't say The Dictator is my favorite Cohen project, but I still liked it well enough. Cohen plays Aladeen (yes, start singing "A Whole New World"), dictator of the fictitious Arab country of Wadiya, who is replaced by a lookalike while in New York City and tries to get his identity back. In the process, he meets refugee Wadiyans, hippie food co-op liberal do-gooders, and pro-democracy protestors. The plot is predictable, but the plot isn't really the point of the movie. The point of the movie is summarized by Aladeen's ironic speech near the end:
"Imagine a country where 1 percent of the people control most of the wealth and leaders wage war against the wrong country for trumped-up reasons...Imagine a country whose prisons are filled with one racial group."
The reason I like Cohen's movies is because he manages to catch people unawares and highlight their own biases and blindnesses. In this case, it's the audience: we thought we were laughing at the absurdities of stereotypes of others (the Arab dictator and white liberal co-op owner really are over-the-top caricatures). But unlike with Borat or Bruno, this time the joke's on the viewer.

Because every good holiday involves a blockbuster, I also saw The Avengers. It was good cheesy fun, even though the only Avenger back-story I've watched is Captain America. You don't really need to know the histories of each of the Marvel comic characters to get the point: Earth is threatened, and a supersecret government agency rounds up six superheroes (The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and the Black Widow) to save it. I thought the dialogue between Captain American and Iron Man was hilarious, as was the way all the superheroes were making fun of Captain America (he was frozen for 50 years and doesn't understand a lot of modern references). Clark Gregg was great as a the serious government agent who is a giddy fan of Captain America: he embodies the audience, comic book geeks or not, who came to see a movie about superheroes because, deep down, we all like a good, clean-cut story where "obvious" good triumphs over "obvious" evil. So much simpler than all these real-life gray areas!

Continuing the "good cheesy fun" theme wasn't difficult, since Men In Black 3 was also in theatres. And this one involves time travel!  (Time travel, of course, is my sci-fi weakness.)

I'm a huge fan of Tommy Lee Jones, and in MIB3 Josh Brolin does a really good job of imitating Jones' Agent K when Will Smith goes back in time to the moon landing to save not just the Earth but his future partner.

The only not-so-cool section was near the beginning, where an entire Chinese restaurant filled with exotic, funny-looking food and funny-talking and -looking people turns out to be a cover for illegal extraterrestrial activity. When I vented to Mi Hermana after watching the movie, she reminded me that the first MIB movie had aliens disguised as Mexicans crossing the border... so I think "immigrants" and "weird aliens" are too closely linked in the MIB trilogy for my comfort.

But aside from that, they're fun to watch. And with primary election endorsements stressing me out for the entire month of May, I needed a lot of good cheesy fun to detox!

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