how to win an oscar, aka why i didn’t like ’12 years a slave’

jenn and i just watched 12 years a slave the other day. i know i’m 3 years late to the party but that’s beside the point. what i want to say is that it’s a crazy, nightmarish story and it’s hard to believe that such atrocities were ever widely accepted here. it’s eye-opening stuff.

but i think the film itself sucked. not because some of the acting was garbage, and not because i got really tired of the overuse of super long, largely static, ‘this is going to disturb you’ shots, but because the film took an extremely serious, weighty story and turned it into a one-dimensional, easy to market, typical hollywood story.

how does one make a one-dimensional, easy to market, typical hollywood story?

  1. establish main character as strong, faultless, morally sound, devout family man/woman in a simple but pleasant living situation.
  2. inflict cruel injustices upon main character, eg kill their family, separate them from their family, convict them of a crime they didn’t commit, enslave them, etc.
  3. tempt main character to break their strong moral code but have them rise above the temptation and continue on with their dignity and values still intact, head held high.
  4. allow main character some kind of quiet or proud redemption.

ta daaaa, that’s it. now flesh it out with some details and sit back and rake in the phony awards for your mantelpiece.

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you know you’ve made a tawdry piece of shit when a bunch of professional critics are falling over themselves to suck your dick.

12 years a slave hits on all those things i just listed. so does gladiator. so does braveheart. and guess what, they won a bunch of academy awards too. so it’s no surprise that soulless film makers keep coming back to a formula that is proven to illicit tears and make people proclaim it “the best movie of the year.” why make something original when you can make something successful?

needless to say, that formula is hollywood cookie cutter shit, fairy tale shit. real people aren’t flawless heroes or perversely evil villains. real people are somewhere between those extremes. but if you want an old-fashioned hollywood tearjerker you need to simplify characters into good/evil, right/wrong terms so that it’s really easy to root for one person to win, and the other to lose — no shades of grey, nothing that might confuse the bovine audience.

for example, 12 years a slave implied that northup was steadfastly devout to his wife the whole time he was enslaved. i think that’s absurd. even if he personally maintained it was the truth, i wouldn’t believe him. i think that in 12 years, trapped in a world where sex would be one of the very few pleasures you could attain, i would bet my balls that 99.9% of even the most morally sound people would end up fucking a few other people. suggesting northup was some kind of moral superman who never even considered something like that was just plain dumb to me. but that’s what the dummies want to see — the perfect man.

the other characters were similarly bone simple. edwin epps was cruel and evil without a good bone in his body. samuel bass (the little we saw of him anyway) was confident and virtuous. well, that certainly makes it easy to tell who to cheer for.

fuck off. disney-style villains and heroes in a story based on real, horrific events. that’s insulting. it carefully, intentionally turns a true travesty into a marketable product that fits the tried and true formula. i don’t like that.

but shit, thinking about it now, that sums up an awful lot of big, ‘loosely based on historical event’ films.

oh well. i don’t like them either.

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“whole alternatives” is a whole lot of bullshit. so are big film awards.

fuck these guys

i haven’t had popcorn in years and have been watching lots of crappy stephen king flicks with dana recently so i decided to pick some popcorn up. there was all the usual big name stuff but then i saw some stuff with “USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC” and “GMO FREE” writing on it, and it was on sale for less than the big name stuff. i like organic shit and think monsanto is an entity of pure evil that cannot be trusted (although GMO’s themselves may have some place in the world) so i gave this upstart popcorn a shot.

but it sucks, and that sucks.

the god damn stuff didn’t pop worth a shit. after the instructed time in the microwave, less than half the bag had popped. it tasted fine but i felt ripped off that i got such a paltry amount of popcorn. i didn’t lose my shit over it though, i just thought, “maybe that was a bad bag,” and dana and i continued watching the first episode of the 1997 made-for-tv version of ‘the shining’ (which was awful).

then last night i tried to watch an old jack nicholson film, ‘the passenger.’ it earned some awards back in its day but it sucked. i turned it off halfway through, so boring. you know what i’ve learned? basically, if a film gets academy awards or anything like that, it’s a guaranteed piece of shit. for instance, the whole motivation of nicholson’s character in ‘the passenger’ was unclear from the start. he stole a dead man’s identity but i wasn’t sure why until i read the story online afterward. that’s dumb. shit should be clear, unless it’s an abstract art film. then nicholson met a young girl and she asked who he is. he said he used to be someone else but traded him in. then he asked the girl what she’s doing and she replied that she’s talking to a man who might be someone else. this was not delivered in an abstract, interesting way. it was delivered like two normal strangers just talking, even though what they said was far too unlikely, too implausible, to be a casual conversation. and that pissed me off.

dialogue like that is so fucking pretentiously artsy in the lamest, most flaccid way possible. it’s the sort of shit that gives wannabe art losers boners. it’s for the sort of turds who watch the academy awards and think that they really matter. that’s the sort of people who would say “wow, what great dialogue.” suck my dick. it’s not good dialogue, it’s smug and simpering. it’s shit.

the sort of idiot that thinks limp, unrealistic, vaguely mysterious and romantic dialogue is clever and intriguing.

now think about all the amazing films that didn’t clean up at any awards — akira, eraserhead, the exorcist, mad max, the shining, eyes wide shut, edward scissorhands, bladerunner, batman (the michael keaton/jack nicholson one), polyester, the tenant, repulsion, blah blah blah. i could go on. i think all those flicks are a lot more interesting, more multidimensional, more thought-provoking than anything the academy awards has ever gushed over. my point is that any movie that has any edge to it, any aesthetic other than soft, benign, unobjectionable, any film that is not palatable for mass consumption in some way, is overlooked by the major awards. major awards are just a way for a bunch of phony fucking industry types to pat each other on the back and get drunk on champagne. it’s a sickening thing.

ANYWAY. so i was watching that lousy fucking film and i thought, “maybe some popcorn will make this bearable.” i threw a bag of organic, GMO-free popcorn in the microwave for 3 minutes, like the directions said. and by the end of it, nothing had popped. nothing. the bag was as flat as when i put it in. i had never encountered such a faulty bag of popcorn before so i didn’t know what do do. i put it in for another 3 minutes and the stuff popped intermittently but by the end, the bag looked pretty full. i shook it, opened it, and found once again that less than half of the stuff had popped. i thought, “fuck,” and ate it because it was getting late and i needed to get through this god damn movie. i was left with a half-full bowl of popcorn kernels staring at me, mocking me, reminding me of my wasted $4. so i put a plate over the bowl and put them back in the microwave for 4 more minutes. by the end of that, most of them appeared popped. i tried one and it was bland as all hell. that was it, i gave up. i threw the shitty popcorn out, turned off the stupid fucking movie, and went to bed.

it was a bad night. i considered it.

do you know what really pisses me off about the popcorn? not my wasted $4. i can suck that up. what pisses me off is that other people who may be on the fence about supporting organic and GMO-free stuff might try this popcorn, have the same shitty experience as me, and say “holy fuck, organic stuff sucks. i’m just going to stick with cheetos and their chemicals and unsustainable palm oil farming practices.” i’m worried about this crappy ‘whole alternatives’ brand giving organic, GMO-free food a bad rap.

so i went to their website, which is so terrible that it looks like a fake site. i clicked on ‘contact us’ and expected to see an online comment/complain form, but nope. just a phone #. that’s ridiculous since no one talks on the phone anymore. but i called anyway, and guess what. wrong #. it went to some lady’s voice mail who does not appear to have any connection to ‘whole alternatives’ whatsoever. so i’m not sure how i’m supposed to complain to them.

don’t buy this junk. or better yet, find a way to contact them and give them shit. i sure as hell can’t.

and that’s how i wound up here, bitching at great length about my terrible popcorn and film experiences of last night.

first world problems.