Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feral Black Cat to Coraline: "I know it's pretty, baby. But I didn't take it out for air."

I fought the law and the law won. What little cash I have is better spent on entertainment and gasoline (I got off the booze), so to pay off my fine, I went the Community Service route. Because my troubles all happened in Los Angeles, I had to go to the Volunteer Center over in that piece-of-shit town to work it out.

There was a line of people ahead of me at the office, all waiting to be served by the one lady on duty. The guy in front was a jerk in sunglasses with slicked back thinning hair. The lady asked him if he would like to work off his hours at a hospital. Doing what, he asked. Laundry, she responded. He let out a snort and said "Laundry? At a hospital? No way. Next." She then offered a position at an animal shelter. "Nope", he responded. How about picking up trash at the beach? "Uh-uh."

At one point, he told the English as a Second Language lady of raza to hurry up because he had to go to court soon. He said he didn't want to do anything that involved cleaning, so she offers him a thrift store job. The jerk then looked at us with his fucking stupid sunglasses and gave us that "Get a load of this chick" look. I can't speak for the others, but I personally wanted to pull those sunglasses off his balding head, snap them in half, drop them on the floor and stare back at him to see what he would do next. Finally he told the lady to forget it, that he was just going to go pay the fine. Then he left.

I was able to get my community service transferred over to my stomping grounds, and after going to my local Volunteer Center for an interview, I decided to go see a movie called Coraline in 3D at the local cinema.

Coraline is the latest flick from the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. No, not Tim Burton -- he wrote the story for Nightmare, but it was this dude Henry Selick who actually made the movie. When it comes to animation, everything is all CGI now, but Selick keeps it old-school and does his thing with stop motion. Goddamn, how much fucking patience does one have to have to work in stop motion? I could never do that. I'd pull my hair out of my head within twenty minutes, that's what I think. So even if Nightmare and Coraline sucked, I'd still have to raise my glass of Sierra Mist (no more booze, I said) to Selick and his crew for having the motherfucking gumption to go through with that shit. Thankfully, neither Nightmare nor Coraline suck. In fact, they're two pretty fucking sweet movies.

Coraline is the name of the flick and the name of the main character, this girl who I'm guessing is 12 or 13 years old. She and her parents have both recently moved to Oregon, out there in the middle of all those trees, shacking up in a old huge house that's been broken down into three apartments. Coraline and her fam live in the center section that takes up the first and second floor, and her neighbors live in the basement and attic. Like most kids her age, Coraline is kind of a brat, but not in an overdone Hollywood somebody-beat-the-fuck-out-of-this-snot way. It's that realistic kind of self-centered behavior that every child has displayed at one point or another. If you did not act up like this at any point in your tweens, then that means you're currently decomposing in a car at the bottom of a lake since you were six, because that's where your Mom drove you and your siblings before running off screaming and claiming some black dude kidnapped you. I'm just saying.

Our girl had friends back in her old hood (Michigan, I believe) and she really misses them. It sucks to be that age and it sucks even more when you're pulled out of your comfort zone and now you have to start all over, so again, you can kind of see why Coraline is kind of cranky. But because kids her age love to sulk and wallow in their state of misery to attract attention, she treats the neighbor's kid kinda shitty whenever he shows up and tries to be friends with her. His name is Wybie and he's always wearing his fireman's coat and this homemade helmet that's outfitted with telescope/night vision lenses. The way he acts and carries himself around, you can tell he's an outcast at school and probably eats lunch by himself a lot. His only friend and partner-in-crime is a black feral cat. No, I'm not making the cat's color an issue, I'm just letting you know. If that bothers you, then you must really look within yourself as to why it does bother you. It's like homeboy Eric Holder said, man, we gotta stop acting like cowards when it comes to this kind of shit. So the cat's black, and that's the way it is.

Coraline's parents both work as writers for a gardening catalog. They're always typing away on their computer or laptop, and they just don't have much time for their little girl. Of course, Coraline keeps trying to get them to pay attention to her, talking to them or fidgeting around a few feet away while they're trying to write out some bullshit on how to mulch or something. The mother has got her turtleneck sweater and slacks on, while the dad is always wearing his Michigan State sweater and his disgusting fucking flip flops. That bugs the fuck out of me, for some reason. When Coraline sticks around too long around Dad, he gives her a notebook and tells her to go do something, anything to get her the fuck out of there. Her parents also have this deal where Mom does all the cleaning and Dad does all the cooking, which is too bad, because the dishes he serves don't look good at all. Probably faggy liberal organic crap.

Coraline goes around to check out the neighbors; the basement dwellers are a couple of old retired actresses. They live with a bunch of Scottish terriers and have posters of old past theatrical shows all over the place. Up in the attic is this Russian dude who trains rats or mice or whatever the fuck they are for a circus. I don't know if he still works in the circus or if he's retired and just fucks with the mice to have something to do. Anyway, her neighbors are all a real trip.

While exploring around the house, Coraline finds a small door that's been wallpapered over. She has her mom open it up and they find that it's been bricked up inside. Coraline wonders why someone would do that, and her mom figures it got walled up when the house was separated into apartments. But that sure as hell isn't the case, because late one night, a couple of the mice lead Coraline to the door and instead of bricks, there's now a long umbilical-like entrance attached. She crawls into it and comes out the other side to find an alternate version of her house. Whereas the real house is gray and drab and cold, this alternate version is warm and inviting. She looks around and finds her parents, only these motherfuckers have giant buttons for eyes. They're also very happy to see her. While Coraline's real parents are busy and hardly have time for her, the "other" parents shower our girl with attention and cook huge feasts of delicious food for her.

I guess for a 12-year-old girl like Coraline, this is all good and gravy. But me, as an audience member, I'm watching the whole time creeped the fuck out. I'm just waiting for the inevitable moment when the other shoe drops. A little girl like Coraline just sees this as love, sweet love, the only thing that there's just too little of in her life (at least that's how she probably sees it), but she's too young to understand these motherfuckers are acting like cult members on opiates who are waiting for the mothership to arrive. Funny how that goes for children.

That blissful kind of childhood ignorance reminds me of the time my mom took me to see Tim Burton's Batman and we waited in line outside the theatre. I was about 8 and I ended up having this spirited conversation with the dude behind me, while my mother observed. This guy looked to be in his late-30s and he was really cool. We talked Batman, comic books, video games. I really liked this awesome chubby comic-book dude. He managed to convince me in his argument that the best place to watch a movie was by sitting at the very front, looking up at the screen as it overwhelmed you. I didn't sit front row with him, because while I bought his argument, that's as far as it went. Afterwards my mom told me that she thought it was nice how non-judgmental I was to the man, since most kids tend to be cruel and not want to deal with the mentally handicapped. What? Jesus Christ, how could I not know? I thought that was an accent he had. In retrospect, I should've known; the man liked sitting dead center in the front row, and this wasn't a place like the New Beverly or Silent Movie Theatre, where front row isn't a bad place to sit, this was your average multiplex where the front seat is about two inches away from the 40-foot screen. He was sitting right there with his head tilted all the way back. Who the fuck does that? OF COURSE HE WAS A FUCKIN' RETARD!!!

This movie is available in both 2D and 3D, just like My Bloody Valentine 3D or Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D was when they played in theaters. But the difference between those two flicks and Coraline is that those flicks are pretty useless in their 2D forms. Coraline, on the other hand, is a genuinely good flick that I wouldn't mind watching in a flat version. Even without 3D, the animation and production design can really impress a motherfucker. Someone on the AV Club message boards wrote that watching Coraline was like taking mushrooms without actually having to take mushrooms, and as someone who has done shrooms before (Never again!), I can kinda see what he or she meant by that. There are things that happen in Coraline that I couldn't even try to explain to you without sounding like a crack addict; images and moments that lead a motherfucker to believe that Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman (who wrote the short story this was based on) certainly have done their share of psychotropic substances and are inflicting the shit that wowed them or freaked them out in their college days on the general public. And I say bravo to them for doing so.

I mean, come on -- you pay your money on something like Paul Blart: Mall Cop and you're gonna get Fatty Falls Down, right? But you pay to see something like Coraline and you're gonna get shit like flowers with dragon heads that try to bite you, theaters packed with terriers in the audience, worlds that gradually disappear into white and then reappear again, cannons that shoot cotton candy at you, hundreds of marching rodents in their marching uniforms, etc. I'm just naming some of the tame things in this flick, because there's a lot more weirder, more disturbing, and outright creepy-as-fuck imagery in Coraline. If I was tripping balls while watching this movie, going on my previous experience with the magic mushroom, I'd probably run out screaming and crying like that lady in Hong Kong who missed her flight. But that's because I'm a pussy.

This isn't a kids movie, though. Sure, kids are invited to the Coraline party, but only if they're cool and can hang. Otherwise, take that shit over to Hotel for Dogs. We as a society have yet to jump the hurdle when it comes to distinguishing certain kinds of animated features from others. Apparently, it doesn't matter if it's stop-motion, CGI, or hand-drawn, "Animation is completely safe for kids" is the attitude and there's going to be some parents who are going to take their pansy-ass children to this movie and they're going to be outraged -- OUTRAGED, I SAY -- when little Timmy or Sally start bawling at the extreme close-up of a particularly freaky-looking thing. It depends on the kid. There was only one kid with her parents in the audience when I saw it, a little girl, and I didn't hear a peep out of her. But that's probably because I gave her the universal "shhh" finger-to-mouth gesture followed by the universal cut-throat gesture before the movie started. Your kids' mileage may vary.

I thought Coraline was a really cool movie and it's a cool 3D experience too. It's no Captain EO when it comes to shit flying out of the screen, it's more subtle and I'm sure the movie would work just as well without it anyway. I wonder how the 3D would play out if you watched it sitting dead center in the front row of the theater. If only I had that chubby retard's number, he could tell me. Chubby Retard, if you're reading this, I hope you're doing well, I hope you're with people you love, and I hope you're safe. Be well, Chubby Retard. Be well and take care.