Friday, January 30, 2009

Flippin' chickens, gettin' tickets, want the money and the power

Have you heard about the slum dwellers in India who are protesting over Slumdog Millionaire? They're pissed about the use of the word Dog in the title, because they don't like to be referred to as animals. They have expressed their discontent by tearing apart movie theaters playing the flick, while others plan protests where they'll burn director Danny Boyle in effigy. Yeah, that'll show 'em. But I actually agree with them; in the same way that movie titles are changed in other countries for cultural or various other reasons (like that piece-of-shit Four Christmases is called Four Holidays overseas), the distributors should just change the title of Millionaire and replace all references to "slumdog" in the Indian version with something else. I even have an idea for the replacement title: Person-Who-Lives-In-Poverty-And-Not-Only-Doesn't-Get-It-But-Takes-Shit-Way-Too-Fucking-Seriously Millionaire. I like that, it rolls off the tongue nicely.

But it doesn't look like any wrestlers are pissed about The Wrestler, and it's too bad, because I'd pay to see Mickey Rourke take on a group of them in a steel cage match or something. I went to check out the flick at my favorite theater, the one with the automated ticket kiosks outside that accept gift cards and believe you are over the age of 60, therefore saving you about $3.50. I don't plan to live that long anyway, so I'm taking advantage of senior discounts NOW. The ticket-taker was a very cute girl who gave me a smile as she told me which auditorium to go to. Now, this may have been because it's her job to be courteous or maybe she noticed the word "SENIOR" on my ticket, but I chose to take it that she smiled because she wanted me. A simple smile like that from a cute girl goes a long way towards warming my cold black shriveled up heart.

The first trailer was for Wolverine, and left me feeling kinda ehhh about it. The guy who directed this made a movie called Tsotsi that won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars a few years back, but you just know this is a typical case of the respected filmmaker going to Hollywood only to get fucked, reamed out and discarded like a used whore outside Brett Ratner's mansion at 3am, and the end result is a flick that any hack could've made. I'll wait to see this on DVD in the fall. The second was for a flick called Duplicity, with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. It's from the dude who made Michael Clayton, which I really liked, and the trailer looked really cool too. The only problem is that you can tell the people both in front and behind the camera had a great time making this flick, and I've been in such a hater mood for a while that I can't stand that kind of shit. It's the reason why I could only watch the first 15 minutes of Ocean's Twelve before hitting Eject and I haven't completed the Ocean's trilogy since. I probably won't watch this one until I'm living in my mansion with Scarlett and Jessica, and all the hate is gone from my soul, which means never. The final trailer was for something called The International, once again starring Clive Owen. Go Clive! Make that fuckin' money. This one looked really cool too, and if these dudes had a good time shooting the flick, it sure didn't show here, so I'll probably buy a ticket. Naomi Watts co-stars and I like her a lot, even though she really has to learn to chillax.

Now our feature presentation. The Wrestler is a flick about Mickey Rourke's life. Mickey Rourke was the fucking MAN back in the 80's, this guy was looking like he'd become the Brando and James Dean of his generation -- a talented handsome motherfucker with a motherfucking handsome talent. Goddamn, I really am not exagerrating when I talk about how fucking good this dude was. I'm sure there were plenty of dudes in their 20's back then who wanted to become actors because of this guy, they probably watched The Pope of Greenwich Village on a loop to fucking fawn over both this motherfucker and Eric Fucking Roberts tearing that shit up. Then the 80's ended, and with it, most of Rourke's heat.

Anyway, I guess for legal reasons or something, they changed the profession from acting to wrestling, and they changed the name from Mickey Rourke to Randy "The Ram" Robinson. But the movie is still pretty much about him. Randy was a huge star in the ring back in the 80's, and the opening credit sequence consists of old newspaper clippings, magazine cover articles and flyers for matches. It's presented in supersharp picture quality with ultra loud colors and muthafuckin' "Bang Your Head" by Quiet Riot blasting in glorious Dolby Digital sound. I don't give a fuck what you think, that shit's an awesome jam, man. I actually had to stop writing this just so I could listen to that shit and fuckin' spaz out to it. When the credits are over, we get a "20 Years Later" card and now everything is all grainy and handheld in what looks to be a classroom for preschool or kindergarten. Randy sits off-center from the frame, his back to us. He's in his wrestling outfit, and he's completely tired and weary from a match he just finished. Some dude comes up to him and hands him a pretty thin wad of cash, apologizing for the disappointing turnout. The salad days are fucking over.

Nowadays, Randy barely scrapes by doing smaller independent gigs on the weekends, and during the week he works a loading dock at a supermarket. It's even worse because he has a real asshole for a boss, played by Todd Barry -- the real one, not the older cracked-out lookalike from 555, in case you were wondering. Poor Randy can't even ask this guy for extra hours without getting some crack thrown at him about wearing tights or something. Fuck you bitch-ass manager, you can say what you want, but I bet you at the very least Randy banged tons of hot chicks in his heyday. You will never know that feeling, your prime will be convincing that chick in college to give you a hand job and even then you had to hook her up with some skunk-ass weed and a bottle of Boone's Farm to get the job done. The ugliest chick Randy banged was probably hotter than the whores you wack it to on the Internet, which reminds me -- do that shit at home. Are you that fucking full of yourself that you think you can get away with that shit in your office? I know you're a fictional character in a movie, but go fuck yourself.

Randy likes to cool off after work with a few beers at a strip joint. I used to do something like that, back when I worked night shift at a warehouse. On Friday mornings, I'd celebrate the beginning of my weekend by going to Tommy's and picking up a double chili-cheese burger & fries to take home and enjoy with a couple of ice-cold Heinekens. You know what? That's NOTHING like how Randy chills out after work. I apologize for bringing that lame shit up. Anyway, he has a thing for this stripper played by Marisa Tomei, and between this flick and the opening scene of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, I can totally understand. Tomei's about 44 or 45 years old and she's got a nice healthy body going on, this broad. I remember once recommending the movie Factotum to a buddy of mine, and I told him who was in it. When I mentioned Marisa Tomei, he asked me if she got naked and I told him yes. He then responded with "Too bad she couldn't get naked during her My Cousin Vinny days". In other words, her age was an issue and she couldn't look nearly as good now as she did then. We'll never know, but I'm telling you she's got a better body than some of these broomsticks with eye shadow in Hollywood who are half her age. You can argue that she's got some age and wrinkles going on in the face during the daytime scenes, but then that's to be expected when a film like this is shot in Restaurant-Bathroom-Mirror Vision. Everyone's wrinkles or pockmarks or whatever is super-fucking-visible with this movie's purposely harsh lighting setup. It's just too bad there weren't any Marisa Tomei types to play the reporter in 555. No, I still haven't let that shit go. Yes, it'll be a while.

Randy signs on for a rematch against a dude he fought 20 years ago named the Ayatollah. He figures maybe this could be the first step to a comeback and a return to his former glory. I liked how when this is first brought to him, Randy asks if the Ayatollah is even down for this in the first place, because last he heard, that dude was doing pretty well for himself running a used car lot. I got a kick out of that line. It's not funny, nor is it meant to be, but I liked how it brings up the other guys in the business, the ones who saw the writing on the wall and hung up the tights. Randy is definitely not one of those dudes.

What he is, is a guy who is so stuck on the past that he plays an old 8-bit NES wrestling game that features him in it. He plays it with one of the neighborhood kids who then gives him shit about how there are better games out there like Call of Duty. We see the video game on-screen, and the filmmakers did a good job of making it look like some shit you'd play on the old Nintendo system. But they really fucked it up in the sound department; they use fucking Atari 2600 sounds, from Pac-Man, of all games. C'mon Aronofsky, you were definitely of an age where you woulda been playing that shit, are you fucking telling me you forgot how that shit sounded? That's bullshit. I still fucking remember, but then that's because I still play old Nintendo games and I don't have better things to do with my time, like having sex with Rachel Weisz. Fuckin' lucky bastard.

Let's talk a bit about those kids. They're mostly too young to understand the situation Randy's in. When the poor dude is locked out of his trailer because he can't pay his rent, he has to sleep in the van. The next morning, those little kids are banging on his van for him to come out. He does and he messes around with them, picking them up and pretending to fight them and they're loving it, they're cheering him on. As far as they're concerned, he's bigger than life, a fucking cool motherfucker they all wish they could be like. I'm sure most of us grew up with someone like that, someone who we thought was supercool and awesome, and the fact that he was pushing 40 and still living with his parents just didn't register with us.

So this flick is less about plot and more about just following this dude around. It has a documentary feel to add to the realness of the piece, and the sights and sounds and the characters and situations have the feeling of authenticity. I heard there's some improvised moments with non-actors in this flick and I can see that, especially in the scenes where he's working behind a deli counter. There's scenes backstage between Randy and his fellow wrestlers, where they work out the moves they're going to do to each other in the match, and I don't know shit about how they do it in real life, but it sure as shit feels like this is EXACTLY how they do it.

There's other stuff here that feel real, that really come through the screen and hit you dead center in that part of the soul that I think is called the Real Section. Physical stuff, for example. You can feel Randy's creaky bones and every painful grunt he makes as he gets around. He wears a hearing aid, and every time he goes to the strip joint he takes that shit off. They never make a big deal about it or refer to it, he just has a hearing aid and that's it. There's also long wordless scenes that consist of just observing Randy doing whatever. Like that sleeping-in-the-van scene I mentioned earlier; he turns on a little lamp, gets comfortable, takes some meds and pops open a drink before going to sleep. It doesn't sound like much, but there's something way too fucking intimate about that whole bit that made me uncomfortable, like I shouldn't be seeing this shit, especially after knowing this guy once sold out Madison Square Garden and probably stayed in some nice hotels and maybe back in the day even had a pretty cool pad and some cool toys. Now he's sleeping in a fucking Dodge Ram, and whether he brought that shit on himself or not doesn't matter, at the moment I just feel fucking bad for homeboy.

This is one of those movies where I think an actor's performance is so fucking awesome, it ends up enhancing the movie and making it better than it has any right to be. They almost cast Nicolas Cage in this, and I'm sure he would've been fine, but I think that version of the film would've been worse for it, exposing The Wrestler as the Good But Not Great movie it really is. But Rourke? He brings that baggage, man, that lived-in quality of having Been There along with the massive talent he always had and turns it into a great flick.

I joke about this movie really being based on his life, but it might as well have been. Like Randy, this motherfucker has been around, he got the attention and the acclaim and then made some bad choices, both in career and in life. Like Randy had to make do with gigs for small indie matches, Rourke had to get by with acting in smaller films, for the most part. Then Darren Aronofsky came along with this script written by a dude who used to write for The Onion, and Rourke took the job with no pay. Maybe like Randy, he saw this as his own Ayatollah rematch, one that could result in a return to higher profile gigs. Not for leading man roles, because that shit is long gone and let's be honest, he doesn't have the looks for it anymore. That ship has sailed. But maybe this will start him on a new leg of his career as one of our finest character actors around.

I hope he wins the Oscar for it, instead of that humorless cunt Sean Penn who already won Best Actor for Mystic River anyway. Besides, Rourke will probably thank his dogs like he did at the Golden Globes, and that would be pretty amusing. Penn would probably just drone on and on and make some self-serious political statement and bring the whole festivities down. But who knows, man? Oscar will probably fuck up and end up giving that shit to Brad Pitt.

Let's wrap this sucker up. I really liked The Wrestler. It's got a great performance by Mickey Rourke, it's got naked Marisa Tomei, and it's got an absolutely perfect ending. About that ending -- I know there are people out there that don't like it at all, but I really couldn't see it ending any other way. It's true to the movie and if it had gone differently, it wouldn't have been as strong a conclusion. These fucking things don't always have to be spoon-fed to you, you know. Shit, I'll go all out and say there's some genuine fucking beauty in that ending. If you want to know what I mean by that, ask me next time we meet.

So I stuck around for the credits to listen to Bruce Springsteen's song. After the lights came up, I headed for the exit and ran into that ticket girl. It turned out she came in to listen to the song too. We ended up chatting, and long story short, she's in my kitchen making breakfast as I write this.

Actually, that whole last part is bullshit. I just wanted to end this blog on a high note.