Ah, what sweet relief that was! How nice to take a break from watching videos of coronavirus-infected Chinese people dropping dead to watch drop-dead gorgeous people with much sexier diseases like Herpes and Chlamydia!
Main takeaway: Whatever Penelope Cruz—who is supposedly 45—does to keep looking 25, I need that intel stat.
Secondary takeaway: Tarantino wuz robbed.
Yeah, I said it.
Love in the Time of Corona
Hey, I thought the Oscars were supposed to be #sowhite this year!? Okay, all the main acting awards did go to the whites, but everyone else on stage was from South Korea. Parasite won so many Oscars I might even see it one day! Before you get all upset, please understand that I love Koreans. I’m even related to some Koreans! But I didn’t really expect the Korean nation to so totally sweep up at the Oscars year. Are there any jobs we won’t outsource to Asia?
I admit I do have coronavirus on the brain these days (not in the lungs, not yet at least). Am I the only one who thinks it’s darkly hilarious that just as a virus from Asia is sweeping the world, an Asian movie called Parasite sweeps the Oscars? Yo, Simulation: bit on the nose, wouldn’t you say?
A Moo Rage Story
Joaquin Phoenix gave a heartfelt Best Actor acceptance speech about animal rights that included a plaintive lament for the nursing cow who’s calf is cruelly taken away. It wasn’t a defense of human motherhood, but hey, I’ll take it! I just wish he could have also thrown in an admonition to our friends across the Pacific to quit eating virus-laden pangolins and bats. If they can do that, I will happily forsake pork and beef.
Did our rapacious need to devour creatures sow the seeds of our own extinction? Is Phoenix right, only instead of too many hamburgers our downfall will turn out to be eating endangered species?
Think of it: the guy begging us to quit eating every living thing in sight played a character most famous for…hating a bat.
Sorry, Simulation, way too obvious. Get a better writer.
Jokers and Jokesters
Speaking of appetites, I was starved for jokes during the show. Which is how I feel watching most movies these days, where real laughs are as sparse as real wrinkles.
When I saw Chris Rock stride onstage to open the show, I was momentarily lifted—but then I saw Steve Martin shamble over from stage left. Was Shecky Green unavailable?
The subsequent unemployed comedians in pairs telling jokes looked like they were auditioning for future hosting roles. Maya Rudolph and Kristin Wiig even made their audition into the joke, but as the ladies launched into a lame song, the show director (you sly dog!) cut away just in time for us to see the young singer Billie Eilish deliver an epic eye roll. Her expression was the exact same one you’d make if you just been offered spit-fired pangolin served with a side of fried vampire bat.
But in my opinion they beat out Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, who were there…why? The influence of SNL remains so outsized in our culture, and yet what do we get in return? One painfully unfunny political sketch a week, awkward award show bits, and zero funny movies. Imagine laughing during a movie! I haven’t done that for a long time. Once upon a time in hollywood, SNL stars used to pump out funny films faster than those Chinese water cannons can pump disinfectant spray onto the streets of Wuhan. Can’t we open a second comedian factory somewhere?
And that brings me to Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Best movie of the year and also maybe the last ten years—although maybe that’s just my Gen-X flaring up again. Lots has been said about it being too white, too straight, too whatever. I don’t actually understand the woketocracy’s beef with it, but to me and those who share my impeccable taste in cinema, it was pure moviemaking joy. I loved it so much I even decided I have to love Lena Dunham just for her bit role as the real-life Gypsy from Manson’s harem of lost hippies.
I loved it most of all for its spectacular revisionist ending (spoiler alert!). When Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth savagely smashes Patricia Krenwinkle’s face into a wall, it was, to me, nothing less than pure revenge fantasy for the death of Sharon Tate and her unborn baby. The real Sharon Tate, of course, was massacred and then buried with her newborn, Paul Richard Polansky, swaddled and tucked in her arms, at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. She begged her killers to let her live long enough to have her baby, so that he might live. Maybe that’s why I found the film’s finale so deeply, viscerally satisfying. Tarantino’s rewrite of history was like his way of saying to Sharon and baby Paul: I remember you.
Has anyone addressed the strange similarities between the real Charles Manson and the “fictional” character of Joker? Fleck is obsessed with stand-up comedy and a famous nighttime talk show host. Manson wanted to be a singer and was obsessed with the Beatles.
We learn that as a child Arthur Fleck was beaten and tortured, suffering the permanent neurological damage that triggers his Tourette syndrome cackle and ruins his life. Charles Manson was born of a teenage alcoholic mother, endured a series of abusive alcoholic stepfathers, and was finally sent to a series of terrifying boys homes where he was repeatedly raped by older boys.
Do I excuse Manson’s bloody incitement of his followers? No, but like Arthur Fleck’s journey to madness, it was frankly the only logical outcome. Manson’s life was a perfectly constructed narrative—a horror story that should have left no doubt about what shape his final form would take.
I suspect that Joker’s writers may have based Fleck’s big Break Into Act 3 speech on what Manson actually said at his own murder trial:
“My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system…I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you…You want to kill me? Ha! I am already dead—have been all my life. I’ve spent twenty-three years in tombs that you have built.”
Much has been made about Joker as a mental health movie. I would argue that it is in fact a child abuse movie in which the child finally extracts long-overdue vengeance upon his abusers and the system that enabled them. Joker, in the end, takes his bloody revenge.
In the world just outside the Oscar theater, there are children, so many children, crying for justice, and unborn babies to be saved, far beyond Arthur Fleck, Paul Polanski, the nursing calves of the world, and yes, even the little boy who started off life as “No Name Maddox” and became a sociopath.
After all, it’s still a sick world out there, and it’s about to (probably) get a whole lot sicker.
I hear there’s another hot new trend headed our way from Asia, and I want to grab some before they sell out: surgical face masks.