Thursday, October 23, 2008 

360°: The Law of Karma

Edward Norton's Cinematic Comeuppance
What goes around comes around...even in the movies.

The cult of FIGHT CLUB fanboys is so overwhelming I'm tempted to hate this movie. But I can't. Because before the world-at-large saw it, before every ineffectual cubicle-dwelling weakling who felt as though they didn't have a voice until FIGHT CLUB came along and spoke for them got their hands on it, this movie was all mine. Having been one of the few people who actually read the novel by Chuck Palahniuk BEFORE the movie had even been optioned, I felt I had the right to claim it as such. When I found out Edward Norton (who I had been following almost obsessively at this point in his career after seeing PRIMAL FEAR, reading about every little thing he did, from what card sharks he hung out with and learned from researching his role in ROUNDERS the year before to the beef he had with director Tony Kaye over the final cut of AMERICAN HISTORY X) had signed on and so had Brad Pitt, I lived, breathed and slept this movie from the planning stages to principle photography until the day it wrapped and finally got shipped to theaters.

Anyway, if you've seen the movie, you should be familiar with this scene. The Narrator (Ed Norton) who was once Tyler Durden's prized pupil and best friend, let's the green-eyed monster get the best of him when he sees Tyler slowly start to favor a blonde pretty boy-type, "Angel Face" (Jared Leto), a young up and comer in Tyler's latest invention, Project Mayhem. The Narrator doesn't confront Angel Face right away. No. He stews silently and waits for his opportunity to handle it mano y mano, in Lou's basement, on the blood-splattered cardboard where "fight club" goes down. And he destroys Angel's Face. What's the word they used in PREDATOR? Oh yeah -- FUBAR. Leto, for the rest of the movie, is Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. His dashing good looks intact, The Narrator reclaims his place at his mentor's side...which ironically, if you know this movie's "surprise" twist, wasn't ever really in jeopardy to begin with.

FIGHT CLUB (1999) dir. David Fincher

Here's a line that didn't make it into the movie: "Getting God's attention for being bad was better than getting no attention at all. Maybe because God's hate is better than His indifference."

Unlike FIGHT CLUB, I can't lay claim to having already read David Benioff's novel, The 25th Hour, before seeing this. But while it may not go down in movie history as anything special or even providing any standout moments, I'm a fan of 25TH HOUR because I just happen to dig a day-in-the-life movies of this nature. And that's exactly what this is: the last full day of freedom that drug dealer Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) will experience before he has to head to prison to pull a seven-year stretch for a crime that he's still in the process of unravelling the mystery of how he got pinched in the first place.

Of course, Monty does what every guy in his soon-to-be state-issued shoes would do: he goes to a party at a nightclub being thrown for him by the very people who got him sent up to begin with, brings along the girlfriend he suspects of possibly setting him up (Rosario Dawson), his two lifelong boyhood pals (Barry Pepper, Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and an underaged high school student (Anna Paquin). When the night is over, fearing he may be a little Right Said Fred for prison i.e. too sexy for his future cellmates, he asks his friend Frank (Pepper) for a final favor: to beat him up; make him ugly to buy himself some time and keep the daily anal rapings to a minimum, at least at first, until he can heal. Of course, inititally Frank refuses but Monty knows just what to say and do to get under his skin until finally Frank is left no choice. And thus, the ass-whupping that Norton doled out in FIGHT CLUB finally, three long years later, comes back to bite him in the fat, fleshy part of his rear right here. Observe:

25TH HOUR (2002) dir. Spike Lee

That's for those years you stole Salma Hayek from me, you smug bastard.

I will never EVER forgive you, prick.

Saturday, October 18, 2008 

Fashionable Fads: Don't Try To Play Me Out

Some things aren't "in" until your favorite celebrity wears them. Some things aren't officially "out" until your favorite celebrity says they are.

When I was coming up in '88, an era that many consider to be THE Golden Age of hip-hop, the fashion statement of choice was truck jewelry. Huge "dooky" gold french ropes around your neck in the 'teens, each one bigger than the next and the bigger the better. From Biz Markie to Big Daddy Kane to the infamous collection of Slick Rick (which he seemed to rock three-quarters of all at once at any given time and often bragged that he had so many that other emcees used to borrow his chains), the best way to show off your newfound affluence was how much gold you were sporting. That is, until December 14, 1988 when Keenan Ivory Wayans dropped I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, a send-up of blaxsploitation movie cliches (complete with major parts for '70s film fixtures and icons like Jim Brown, Isaac Hayes, Antonio Fargas, Ja'net DuBois and Bernie Casey) set in the present time where the drug of choice for young black youth was, you guessed it, gold chains. Watch Jack Spade's (Keenan Ivory Wayans) hilarious (but played completely straight) reaction when he finds out from his younger brother Junebug's widow Cheryl ("A Different World"'s Dawnn Lewis) what the cause of his premature death really was.

"Oh God, NO! Not GOLD!"

Directed by Robert Townsend, 1987's HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE may have pre-dated and beat the following movie to the punch when it came to making fun of the one major fad black people will NEVR live down (coincidentally with a character played by Keenan Ivory Wayans) but it wasn't until John Landis and Eddie Murphy's COMING TO AMERICA that the jheri curl breathed its final breath. For those that don't know the story, Murphy's African prince Akeem, rather than go along with a proposed arranged marriage in his home country of Zamunda, comes to New York (Queens, specifically) in search of his true love. After many false starts and failed attempts he finally finds her but she is dating an obnoxious and entitled prick named Daryl Jenks ("ER"'s Eriq La Salle) whose family owns SOUL GLO, a company that specializes in black hair care products. There are many sight gags about Daryl and his family sprinkled throughout the movie but the one thing that nearly every viewer has in common and will likely never forget is the SOUL GLO television commercial and that ridiculously funny theme song.

"Just let your sooooooouuuul gloooooow! Just let it shine through!"

Aaron McGruder has for years long used THE BOONDOCKS, in print and more recently through his animated series on Cartoon Network, to skewer many aspects of black popular culture. During the first season he introduced a closeted gay rapper by the name of Gangstalicious (voiced by reknowned "conscious" rapper/actor Mos Def) to tackle the idea of secretly homosexual entertainers in the hip-hop world and to comment on blind hero worship. This past season, Gangstalicious returned and his same-sex preferences were further exposed with things like his latest single, "Homies Over Hoes", being outed by a former groupie with a book deal named "Wonder Cheeks" (inspired, of course, by former video vixen-turned-author Karrine "Super Head" Steffans) and lastly, his foray into the fashion world. In the following clip, Gangstalicious (who has taken to wearing pink) appears on Regis and Kelly's daytime talk show to introduce his own line of colored bulletproof vests, super-long white tees with an interesting added function, wife beaters that look suspiciously a lot like sports bras and finally PEARL NECKLACES. I find this the most scathing yet scarily effective satire McGruder's been responsible for yet, forcing his fans to take a long hard look in the mirror at themselves and letting them know through laughter that the general public doesn't always know the whole story and not every trend you follow is necessarily borne out of the place where you think it may have been.

"We just want cats out there in the street, you know, to step their jewelry game up."