I’m supposed to have an alternative voice in these blog posts. That’s the “Jerk” way. When I was hired to write a film blog for Jerk Magazine, I was explicitly told to stay away from anything too mainstream and for the most part I feel that I’ve been covering independent, harder-to-find cinema.
That being said this review is going to be of a main stream movie. A very main stream movie. So main stream that it may make some readers sick. So main stream that I’m afraid to admit that I went on my free time and paid the price of admission to see it. If you keep up with film releases, you may have already guessed that the steaming pile of generic American entertainment I’m referring to is none other than High School Musical 3.
For two hours, myself and three friends (who I won’t identify here, in order to protect their reputations) sat in a theater with many tweenie boppin Syracusians and took in High School Musical 3: Senior Year. I’m embarrassed to say that I may have actually enjoyed myself. The production values were high, the choreography was top notch, and it had just the right amount of camp. It wasn’t the total garbage one might expect it to be.
There’s an interesting thing about movie musicals. There’s no fourth wall. You understand you’re a watching a movie, they’re going to sing and dance, and there is absolutely no way that what you’re watching could ever be real. You laugh with the film and you laugh at the film. To illustrate this point, the group of tween girls sitting in front of us interacted with the movie the entire time. They blew party horns at exciting parts, sighed over Zac Efron taking his shirt off, and awed at the cutesy moments. After one of Zac’s emotional confession songs came to an end one girl asked him out loud, “Good. You feel better now?”
Honestly, isn’t this the best way to take in a movie? Forget that sitting in silence, think-about-it crap you normally see. Give me more audience participation. This is the reason The Rocky Horror Picture Show still plays every weekend at midnight in some cities, and it’s why I’m so excited to see Starving Artists do it live on campus next week. Remember Snakes On A Plane? The only way to fully experience that film was opening night with a max capacity crowd, cheering and shouting when that guy got his dick bitten off by a snake. The cult experience is fun and exciting, a participatory rush you can’t get anywhere else, certainly not on DVD.
Wait. Hold up. Cult experience? High School Musical? Maybe this Disney franchise isn’t as main stream as I thought. Could it be, that on a college campus, it’s the opposite? I’m guessing the majority of the student body didn’t go out on Friday and see it. Just us diehards, looking for our cult rush. HSM has a cult following, a passionate minority of children and musical theater nerds. Guess I fulfilled the “Jerk” voice after all. If you really want to go against the grain this weekend, forget that underground art film you were planning on seeing, go see High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Zac Efron takes his shirt off.
Everybody Hates Chris takes the first official title, with Saturday Night Live in a close second. Normally I only watch Chris because of Chris Rock’s running voice over commentary, which is usually funnier than the show. But this week it pushed its boundaries with 2 surprising fantasy sequences and 1 spot on Cosby Show parody. Chris enters the house of his potential homecoming date and suddenly, without warning we are thrust into a sitcom, where Orlando Jones plays “Clint Huxtable” (yes, they used the same last name). Now I know The Cosby Show is no longer relevant in pop culture but Everybody Hates Chris takes place in the 80s, where parodying the show and the image of the upper-class black family certainly would be.
As for SNL, the show had several things going for it this week: Sarah Palin raising the roof to a song making fun of her, Mark Wahlberg continuing the Andy Samberg gag, Josh Brolin, Oliver Stone, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, fart faces, a very pregnant Amy Poehler, and even MacGruber pulling out some laughs.
I was getting skeptical about Heroes. I seriously thought they bit off more than they could chew, and to some extent that thought still lingers. But finally tonight the show started attacking some deep themes head on (suicide!? nature vs nurture?!). And there was still a good amount of insane WTF moments, Hiro/Ando plot twist for example, as well as answers to big questions. It keeps getting darker and darker.
There’s a special place at the Carousel Mall movie theater that is very dear to my heart. It’s a wonderful place, deep within the bowels of the mall. Many people don’t know about it and few venture to seek it out. It is a peaceful place, known only as the downstairs level of theaters. You may know them as theaters numbered fifteen through seventeen, but to me it’s home and I’ve been spending a lot of time there recently.
Syracuse isn’t a huge a city. Compared to large cultural centers such as New York and LA, our film options are limited. If we’re looking at the movie scene, there are only two mainstream theaters: Carousel and Shoppingtown. Yes, we’ve got our indie houses too (the Wescott, the Redhouse, the MOST Imax, the Palace Theater, and the Film Festival) but out of pure convenience most are going to find themselves either at Carousel or Shoppingtown.
So what do you do if you’re looking to see some challenging, provocative cinema but can only afford the free shuttle to the mall?
Ah, that is where my favorite lower level comes in. Due to its sheer size, Carousel mall has the ability to play lesser known, yet buzz worthy titles. They’re not going to be in theater one, or two, or seven for that matter. They’re not going to be shown ten times a day. And they’re definitely not going to be full of tweens and townies. But if you seek them out, you will be greatly rewarded.
Over the past year I’ve seen several limited release films in the basement of the Carousel Regal. Including, the neo-Ferris Bueller teen study Charlie Bartlet, the French/Iranian Oscar nominated animation Persepolis, Palahniuk’s Choke, and most recently Bill Maher’s skewering doc Religulous. I’d like to know how many casual theater-goers had actually heard of any of these? Oh and the fact that Carousel Mall, a standing shrine of commercialism and middle-America, is playing the incredibly left, religion bashing but hilarious comedy Religulous is incredible. It should also be noted that next door to that film (yes, downstairs) is Kirk Cameron’s overtly religious Fireproof. The options are there, it’s just a matter of seeking them out.
Next time you have the inkling to hop on the bus and enjoy a cinematic adventure at Carousel Mall, don’t forget to click over to Fandango.com. You may be surprised by the choices you will find. Or you can go see Disaster Movie.
Sophomore year I attended a screening at the Palace Theater as a part of the Syracuse International Film Festival. The movie screened was Stay (or Sleeping Dogs Lie), written and directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait. That particular film is a comedy about a girl coming to grips and being honest with a sexual misdeed from her past. The nature of this misdeed involved fellatio and a dog. At the time, I was sure I had just witnessed the raunchiest set up for an indie, art-house movie I’d ever be likely to see. For a year and a half this held true. This past Saturday, I saw Choke.
I should get it out there right away that I’ve never read the book. I’ve never read any of Chuck Palahniuk’s books. I can barely spell Chuck Palahniuk. So, if you’re looking for this review to agree with your hipster, well read, “it-didn’t-capture-the-energy of-the-book” opinion, you’re not going to find it.
That being said, I found Choke to be enjoyable. It details the story of a sex addict who cons people into sending him money by intentionally choking on food in restaurants. That’s right, Mr. Goldthwait, scenes in this movie are giving your girl-blows-dog tome a run for its money. The plot and script are well crafted, with enough turns to keep you on your toes. In the acting department we’ve got stellar performances from Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Houston, with a delicious cameo from stage-vet Joel Grey. Unfortunately, Kelly Macdonald, as the love interest, is supremely annoying and couldn’t say a single line with conviction.
As far as themes go, it’s when we look for a meaning, that things get iffy. It’s not that Choke isn’t saying a lot. It definitely is. It won’t let your forget that its trying to say something. The film just has a hard time putting it all together. Be good, but be bad. Learn from your mistakes but don’t completely change your ways. It’s a barrage of mixed signals.
If you’re into twisted, R-rated comedies there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be sitting in a theater, watching Choke right now. If you ever looked at your DVD collection and wondered, “Hey they should really combine 40 Year Old Virgin and Fight Club!” you’ll probably love Choke. Just don’t take a squeamish date, or your mother.
Apparently television viewing is down from last season. The networks are having trouble kick starting the viewer-ship for their fall seasons. Oh well, at least I’m watching. Here is a collection of random thoughts on the past few weeks of TV.
-Is it just me or did Fringe kick into high gear last night? The first few episodes though good were nothing spectacular, but last night’s episode solidified its status as “Best new drama.” Outstanding performances, interesting plot twists, energy and excitement.
-I take back everything I said about Jim and Pam. The pivotal scene in the season 5 premiere of The Office should go down as one of the best moments in TV history.
-Bash Heroes all you want for trying to accomplish too much, I say bring on the craziness.
-How I Met Your Mother may have just added another classic to its Episode Guide, with the World’s Greatest Burger.
I’m going to start a new feature (and hopefully keep it up) - “TV Winner of the Week” I’m thinking every Sunday afternoon I will report back with which show from the 20+ that I watch every week had the best episode.