Thursday, September 28, 2006
Hard Candy: Not All That Hard, Really
In which V has seen a supposedly controversial film and found it to be boring and tame.

So I've been hearing a lot about this Hard Candy film. In a nutshell: a man meets up with a 14 year old girl who flirted with him in a chat room. They go back to his place. And then it all gets weird. Supposedly he's this evil pedophile, and she's this young victim. Or is she? Turns out she has some kind of twisted vengeance thing going on and she set him up. I got the impression that this film was supposed to be serious and disturbing and Really Had A Message About Things, etc.

So. Yeah. Okay. I watched Hard Candy, expecting to be disturbed. That was my first mistake. Experience tells me that I should never expect to be disturbed. Not when I've seen films like Scrapbook, wherein a girl gets abducted and peed on (really for real pee, not special effects pee) and then stuffed in a vat of spoilt milk and left in the hot sun. And while I realize that maybe only 10 people in the whole world have seen Scrapbook (or would even WANT to see it) it's an example of the kind of disgusting films I've seen.

So already the bar for being disturbing is set pretty high. Hard Candy would have to really make an effort to disturb me. But it doesn't make a real effort to disturb ANYONE. Even my mom could watch this, and not understand what all the fuss was about.

So what are the problems with this film? Well, I'll tell you.

Problem Number One: The Girl

Okay, she did look young, I'll give her that. But she also looked like a boy. So much so that I was convinced that it would turn out to be the big plot twist. OMG YOU THINK I'M A LITTLE GIRL BUT REALLY I AM A LITTLE BOY OMG SICK. But, um, no. She was really a girl, just not a very convincing one.

On top of that, she had this irritating voice, and a weird halting cadence to her speech. I didn't like hearing her talk. And she didn't talk like a 14 year old. I guess part of the whole point of it was that she really WAS older and was just setting a trap. But she talked like a college professor. I really just wanted to slap her. More than that (and herein is a big flaw in the film), I really wanted the guy to kill her. Beat her up, molest her, whatever. Just do horrible things to her and kill her. Because I didn't like her. And M didn't like her either, so it's not just me being weird.

It's a real problem when your protagonist pisses people off.

Problem Number Two: It was boring
This film was 103 minutes long, according to the IMDB. I'd estimate that 90 minutes of that was just two people talking (and one of them had a voice that could curdle milk). That leaves 13 minutes of action, and that's being generous. The girl gets kicked in the head (hurrah!). There's some running around. But that's about all.

What is shocking about two people talking? NOTHING.

It's not as if they were talking about how much he liked to touch little girls, either. It was more like this:

Girl: You like to touch little girls, don't you?
Man: No! I swear! Let me go!
Girl: I'm going to tell everyone that you touch little girls.
Man: Please! No!
Girl: Maybe I will cut off your balls as well.

Which brings me to...

Problem Number Three: The only remotely shocking thing in the film doesn't actually happen.

There's going to be a spoiler here, people. So if you don't want an already boring film made even more boring by knowing what's going to happen, stop reading now.

So yeah, the girl decides that she's going to cut off the pedo's balls. She comes up with this whole unbelievable story about how her dad teaches at med school and she gets to sit in on classes, and she has a textbook here and she's going to castrate him.

And she goes through this whole tedious scene of castrating him while he's tied to a table and his crotch has been numbed with ice. And he's watching it on a TV monitor because she's so thoughtfully filming it for his viewing pleasure. And there's some more clever dialogue along the lines of:

Girl: You know, castration is one of the easiest operations.
Girl: I am cutting your balls off now and there is nothing you can do about it.
Girl: Haha, you can never pee in public again.
Man: (SOB)

And then it turns out she didn't really do anything. She leaves the room and he gets his hands free and realizes he still has all of his bits and pieces, and she was just playing a video of someone else's filmed castration (!?) and she had some fake blood or something and maybe I guess pig testicles that she put in a dish.

Um. What's the point, then? Oh no! Pedo Man has ten minutes of psychological torture, only to then find out it was one big PSYCH!

This film was so tedious that I can't remember what happened next. There was more dialogue, and some running around. At the end, she makes him kill himself. Is that supposed to be shocking? As shocking as getting for-real peed on and shoved in a vat of spoilt milk? I mean, how often do you see people really getting peed on in the movies? Not often! And certainly not in Hard Candy!

I don't think I'd recommend this for any reason. Not only is it totally NOT controversial, it's not even interesting. I don't even think it made any kind of social statement about internet pedos. You ended up just really wanting them BOTH to die and for the film to be over.
Sincere Apologies
I've really let this blog slide lately. I know this. I freely admit this. I've been in the UK for several months, and I just haven't made the time to write here as much as I could have. I could make any number of excuses. My daily routine is different here. I'm reading more (but yes, I could be reviewing books). And like I've said before, it gets a little difficult to blog about pop culture when your entire pop-cultural frame of reference gets turned on its head.

But I could have done better. I've been lazy. Slack. And I've probably lost most of my readers, all five of them, for lack of updating.

But look: I now endeavor to update regularly. So, keep checking in for new stuff. Thanks.

Your Devoted Mistress Of Snark,
Monday, September 04, 2006
The Wicker Man: Yes, It Was Really That Bad
Caution: This will contain heavy spoilers about both the original film version of The Wicker Man and about the remake. If you haven't seen the remake, then I am doing you a favor. If you haven't seen the original, there's really no excuse for that and you should feel a deep sense of shame. You are a failure as a person. How can you look yourself in the eye? I mean, yes, you could do it by looking into a mirror, but that's not what I meant.

We saw the remake of The Wicker Man yesterday. OMG. No.

Okay, first let me say that the trailers for this film make it look really creepy and chock full of mind-bending scary imagery, as per usual for horror films these days. The trailers made it look pretty good, so M and I were keen to check it out.

Friends, the trailers mislead. DON'T BELIEVE THEIR LIES.

Before I go any further, let's just have a refresher course on what happened in the original film:

Cop goes to creepy island to investigate case of missing child. Island is home to sinister pagan cult with lots of sexual and violent undertones. Cop is devout Christian, which makes for a great contrast. Sinister pagans are secretive, appear to know a whole lot more about missing child than will admit to. Also sinister pagans are clearly preparing for something BIG, and the whole film has this atmosphere of secrecy and this energy of building up to something, and when you find out WHAT it's building up to, it's truly shocking (well, I thought it was). In the original, when you see the wicker man, you really get this sense of evil wrongness, and you don't really know what it MEANS, but you know that it's HORRIBLE. All in all, a very effective film.

In the remake, your cop is Nicolas Cage. I used to really like Mr. Cage (see also: Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, The Vampire's Kiss), but in recent years he's gotten all campy and weird (see also: Con-Air, Face/Off, marrying Lisa Marie Pressley for about five minutes). To his credit, I'll concede that he was less campy than expected here and managed to give a mostly appropriate (if wooden) performance.

At the beginning of the film, he sees a woman and little girl totally creamed by an 18-wheeler. This is possibly the most shocking and effective scene in the whole film. Naturally this screws with his head, leading to a breakdown of self-confidence and professional crisis. A lady cop comes to his house with a bunch of get-well cards.

One of the cards is from his ex-girlfriend (played by some unknown actress who looks uncannily like Fiona Apple, so much so that I half-expected to see Fiona Apple's name in the credits). Ex-Girlfriend's name is Willow. Willow is distraught because her kid has gone missing, blah blah blah, you know the score.

Nicolas Cage goes to the creepy island. Instead of a sinister pagan cult, he finds a tribe of angry feminist beekepers. YES THAT'S RIGHT. I SAID BEEKEEPERS.

Let's pause here so that you can wrap your head around the whole beekeeping thing.

Also, let's point out that since he's on Beekeeping Island, of course he turns out to be deathly allergic to bees and has to tote around one of those epi-pen kits that allergic people have. His are yellow and black and say something like EPI-BEE.

I'll sum up the important bits here: All that creepy stuff you saw in the trailer? Not here. I dunno where it came from.

So the feminist beekeepers have some kind of problem with men. All the men on Beekeeping Island are subservient and mute. M and I were convinced that the men's tongues had been cut out, and we were fully expecting to see some kind of confirmation of that, but no. You never find out WHY the men are subservient and mute. Also it's implied that the feminist beekeepers kill off a good many of their male babies. A couple of times a year, they send some young nubile beekeepers off to the mainland to slut around with boys and get knocked up, so that years later they can lure the boys to the island to look for their own "missing kid". Sinister! No, not really. It's kind of lame. But you can tell it's SUPPOSED to be sinister, which just makes it kind of sad.

Other things that happen, in no particular order: LeeLee Sobieski (yes, she still has a career!) mopes about and giggles and occasionally says "take me with you when you leave!" to Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage runs afoul of bees, attempts to use EPI-BEE unsuccessfully, is saved by Beekeeping Matriarch. The pilot of a small aircraft is killed. Also, there are a hell of a lot of sets of twins on Beekeeping Island. This is one of several things (like all the men being mute) that they make out to be Very Important but then Can't Be Bothered To Resolve Or Explain.

Finally, it's time for Nicolas Cage to go inside the Wicker Man. Since this remake didn't seem to go anywhere with the paganism plot, there's not a whole lot of plausible need for a sacrifice. The angry feminist beekeepers seem upset that last year's honey harvest was bad (an aside: is this even possible? Do you really GET bad honey harvests?). They seem to be sacrificing him mainly because they hate men.

Here's something funny. In the original, the creepy pagans say to the cop something along the lines of "you have come of your own free will at the appointed time to the appointed place" and then they burn him slowly to death along with a load of farm animals and it's really awful and scary.

In the remake, the angry feminists say "you've come of your own free will to meet your appointment with THE WICKER MAN!!" I had to bite the insides of my mouth here to keep from laughing out loud. Meet your appointment with the wicker man, like the wicker man is your barber or podiatrist or something. Good lord. At this point all the beekeepers unmask (I neglected to mention they were all wearing animal head masks, in a weak attempt to preserve the pagan essence of the original film) and among the crowd you see the woman and child that supposedly were killed by the truck, and also the lady cop from the beginning of the film. I AM SERIOUS. OMG. EVERY WOMAN HE KNOWS IS EVIL.

So they have this big shot of the wicker man, which still looks as creepy as ever, despite being stuck in a shitty film. And I guess at this point the producers realized that people might wonder why Nicolas Cage doesn't try to escape. So you have this wooden and unconvincing voice-over of him shouting MY LEGS! MY LEGS!

I shit you not. I think M and I were both biting the insides of our mouths by now.

Yeah, and then they burn him to death, with maybe two or three farm animals, but you couldn't really tell.

Pros: Actual wicker man is very impressive, scenery is lovely, and also that whole MY LEGS! MY LEGS! thing (although not a pro in the sense that the filmmakers were hoping for).

Cons: Everything else.

Result: I'd say, rent this one, and watch it in that whole MST-3K frame of mind. But for a genuine good film, stick with the original.