Monday, September 21, 2009

Alternate Take on Jennifer’s Body

NOTE: Before settling on my more conventional review of Jennifer’s Body, I played around with writing a review “in the style of” a Diablo Cody character. The (somehow vaguely infuriating) results are here for your (and my) enjoyment.

I don’t pony up the big bucks to go to theaters too often, Kemosabi, but Jennifer’s Body got me try-curious. Would it be another Juno, or “d’you-know this is a good movie?” So, I blindfolded myself and took the Pepsi Challenge. I wasn’t totally electroshocked but at the same time it wasn’t totally awful-waffle.

Megan Fox is a Succubus, and she doesn’t just play one on TV. She’s kind of a Monstrous Feminine wearing a Libby suit going through the local Sausage Fest for breakfast without a side of syrup for dipping. She’s supposed to be a total Betty, and more than a few bro-hams will slime me for saying it, but “I don’t know.”

The story hits a lot of the notes of some old horror subgenre classics, like The Rape-Revenge Fantasy Waltz, The Body Horror Shuffle, and goes through the Demonic Possession Minuet in 55 seconds flat, played through the Alp Horn of semi-Sapphic post-feminism. RICOLA!

Bitch still got less characters than a monologue, and I ain’t got time for that jibber-jabba. Although she’s put the majority of the lines into the tiny thumbs of Megan Fox, it still managed to totally Outbreak in the whole movie.

The bar for me was pretty low if this were a pole vault, or high for a limbo, but Jennifer’s Body more or less cleared it either way. Hey Mikey, I liked it, but overall it wasn’t much hotter than Nick Lachey’s old band. You can Wikipedia that shit.

Sorry, gotta go, my hamburger phone is ringing. I’m Audi, 5000.

Jennifer’s Body

My feelings on Juno are well documented. Very much so. And my complaints, I feel, still stand. Juno is extremely lacking in individual characterization. Although I have no problem with stylized dialogue (c.f. Billy Wilder, or Quentin Tarentino,) Juno suffers from having characters with extremely idiosyncratic diction and a very particular rhythm performing in such a way that is frustratingly similar by multiple actors. Jennifer’s Body is Diablo Cody’s follow-up to Juno, a pseudo-horror film-cum-comedy about a succubus (played by Megan Fox) who feasts on the boys in a small town in Michigan.



No, my favorite irate space monster and movie review device. I actually liked Jennifer’s Body. It’s actually one of the first American horror movies I’ve liked in a long time.



Allow me to clarify:

Jennifer’s Body has its pro’s and it has it’s cons. First the pro’s:

#1) Genre awareness

I like a movie that knows what came before it, and Jennifer’s Body knows it’s stuff. It comes off as a sort of post-Feminist exploration of the possession/body horror/rape-revenge subgenres of thrillers with heavy dashes of Sapphic homoeroticism thrown in for good measure. It’s probably not for everyone (this blogger at Fangoria didn’t seem to get it,) but I like the attempts to play with these tropes in a new light. The comedy elements fell flat for me, and most of the times I laughed were usually more “laughing at” the movie than “laughing with” it.

#2) Story Structure

When I was trying to think of nice things to say about Diablo Cody as a writer, I came up with this: she has an impeccable sense of story structure and how to go through the beats of a story. She’s very good at dedicating the amount of time she needs to for information and to build suspense and tension and to release it, with some interesting twists along the way. As a storyteller, I can respect her knack for this.

#3) Women Filmmakers!

I am a big proponent of seeing women and people of color in production positions in film and TV, and Jennifer’s Body is written and directed and edited by women filmmakers. So, that’s a plus in my book.

#4) Characterization improvement

The Juno-speak (or more accurately it seems based on interviews I’ve seen with Diablo Cody, Cody-speak) is limited here. Jennifer is the one character who spews bizarre nonsensical catch-phrase-y desperate attempts at wit as though she’s getting paid per attempt, although one peripheral Asian girl character also comes close. Although a few other characters throw out little bits of this every now and again, thankfully it’s few and far between.

But it ties into my first con…

#1) Limited Characterization

When people aren’t speaking some variant Juno-speak, they tend to be incredibly flat lines. This isn’t as bad as many of the actors are able to add some nuance to what might otherwise be a rather uninteresting character (J.K. Simmons immediately comes to mind in his role as the one-handed teacher.) And I must reiterate that I’m happy that not everyone talks like they’re these incredibly verbose and speaking their own unique little vernacular, but at the same time, I felt those other characters could have used some subtle tweaks here and there.

#2) The Ending

Without spoiling anything, the movie’s ending is completely unnecessary and unsatisfying. I would have been just as fine with it ending about five-ish minutes early.

An 11 Word Movie Review is in the pipeline for this. Needless to say, it will score higher than Juno, but not by much. It was fun, a good potentially-cult movie, and possibly worth seeing, although I give it a lukewarm recommendation at best.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Top 5 Non-Iconic Musical Moments

Since Al Jolson mumbled “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” screen sound has been as crucial a part of the filmgoing experience as anything else. This includes things like voice, like, and music. There are plenty of examples of crucial, iconic, moments from movies where music plays a substantial role. But, today, I’ll be looking at five of my favorite examples of briefly featured music from movies that, although not crucial to the story, and not the part of the movie that everyone else typically remembers.

As a disclaimer, and for reiteration, this isn’t including a lot of musical pieces that are big parts of the overall push of the film and generally aren’t story-relevant. So, although I might have a secret warm spot in my heart for Part of Your World:

Or Enid Coleslaw dancing to Jaan Pehechaan Ho at the beginning of Ghost World:

And I might have been extremely tempted to put Jessica Rabbit singing “Why Don’t You Do Right?” on the list:

But they aren’t on the list. They’re great songs, outright awesome musical moments, but this isn’t as much about awesome musical moments as it is about random background music that sticks out to me and makes me say to myself, “Hey, I like that song” and severely tempts me to make a trip to the iTunes store.

If I couldn’t find the relevant clip in question, I would try to find the music video, and, barring that, the last resort will be whatever usable clips I can find.


This is not really about movies, but about the video game Portal. Portal is an awesome 3D platforming puzzle game done by Valve Labs (best known for coming up with shooters like Team Fortress 2 and the Half-Life series.) The theme of Portal, Still Alive, was written by singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, who is well known amongst a small fanbase for heartfelt love songs and emotional explorations amongst objects and characters that we don’t commonly give such thoughts (some of my favorites include Skullcrusher Mountain, Code Monkey, and Tom Cruise Crazy.) There is a proportional relationship between how nerdy you are and how much you like these songs; for the record, I like his songs a lot. Still Alive is a song about how the main character failed to kill crazy sarcastic killer robot GLADOS.

It’s not really about movies, unless I argue Portal is a rather cinematic video game, which is kind of a stretch. But it’s pretty much my favorite song out of a video game. And it’s a great song, so enjoy getting it stuck in your head.


Song: Blue Monday
Artist: Flunk
Film: Nancy Drew
Commentary: Those of us who grew up either late Gen-X or early Gen-Y will probably remember a considerably different version of Blue Monday

And people who are considerably more music aware and/or older will remember the original version done by New Order:

Nancy Drew is one of those movies that I didn’t want to like as much as I did, and if you claim I liked it I will start shouting louder than some of those people at town hall meetings (this dose of scathing political satire has been brought to you thanks to Son of Double Feature.) But it’s a pretty cute, funny, movie, and this song more or less blindsided me.

They also had a great cover of Kids in America by The Donnas, and Dare by Gorillaz amongst the musical awesomeness. Apparently the music supervisor and I have some common ground musically.


Song: First We Take Manhattan
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Film: Watchmen
I ended up hearing this song at the theater during the credits for Watchmen and downloaded it immediately that night. The fact that they couldn’t find some place to cram a snippet of this movie into the movie proper is a shame. But I left the theater, and I left it dancing. Leonard Cohen, of course, is an excellent songwriter, and this is one of my favorite songs he did, if only for, “I don’t like your fashion business, mister.”


Song: The Imperial March
Artist: John Williams
Film(s): the Star Wars series
Commentary: If you’re like me, this song begins running through your head when dreaded authority figures are striding through the hall. With the exception of the overture, this is probably the most recognized piece of music from the movies, and with good reason. It’s loud, it’s big, it’s in your face, like the Empire itself, it dominates. And it’s probably the best music a cape-swooshing villain could hope to follow him.


Song: Every Me and Every You
Artist: Placebo
Film: Cruel Intentions
Commentary: I previously mentioned the most iconic part of Cruel Intentions. (I am not up to it, so please insert your own relevant lesbian joke here.) All Sapphic makeout sessions notwithstanding, I remember watching this movie, and after Ryan Phillipe’s character (Sebastian) drives off humiliating his psychiatrist’s daughter, this song is pumping as he drives his awesome car down the freeway. It is extremely mid-90s jangly vaguely alterna-pop in that at times magical period after Nirvana but before Limp Bizkit. The video is also pretty standard fare (cut between movie clips and live performance.)

And…the number one 1 choice…

Song: Partyman
Artist: Prince and the New Power Revolution
Film: Batman (1988)
Commentary: There are probably more iconic scenes out of Tim Burton’s Expressionistic foray into Gotham City. “Where does he get all those wonderful toys.” The parade scene. Batman and Joker’s final confrontation on the clock tower. But my favorite scene has, and always will be, the one where the Joker defaces all the paintings. And this song is probably the perfect accompaniment to that scene. And he indeed rocks a party like no other can.

But what are some of your favorite non-iconic musical moments? Comment and let me know!