Thanks to the good folks at Levi’s and Porsche, MOVIE DIARY 2018 returns for another entry. This week, I’ve got poet and friend from online, Kristin Lueke! Kristin is someone I’ve been friends with online for years now, and it’s kind of weird to think that we all probably have old friends from online by now, but I think that’s a nice thing. And when it comes to nice things from the world of online these days I’ll take what I can get! Anyway, I’m really glad she’s here this week and you will be too!
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
SPECIAL GUEST WRITER: KRISTIN LUEKE
Joe Wright’s Pride + Prejudice is a beautiful movie about beautiful people being dicks to each other until they’re in love, and I love it.
It is my generation’s 9 1/2 Weeks. And by my generation, I refer of course to people my age who are me. It takes me on average 3 hours to watch it. It’s 2 hours long. Every minute is perfect, but especially the minutes where it’s just Keira Knightley’s Lizzie Bennet and the guy who plays Mr. Darcy — whose face is so confusing to me I’m certain it must be hot, but we’ll come back to that later — looking pointedly in one another’s eyes and trying to destroy each other.
There are four scenes that I’ll watch and rewind and watch again and rewind and go back through once more, just to pay extra special attention to each near break and lingering gaze, of which there are many. They are, in order from most to least pearl clutching: the rainy botched proposal that leaves Lizzie breathless; the dance, the dance!; Mr. Darcy strutting barrel-chested and resolute across the moors to a swelling ethereal chorus as the sun comes up behind him; and the first time they touch hands. I want someone to touch my hand and be different. I want a pillow spun from the piano score. I love this ridiculous goddamn movie, not least of all because I love my swift banter and meaningful eye contact with a heaping side of CLASS COMMENTARY and SOCIAL CRITIQUE, so this movie is basically my generation’s Citizen Kane, which I saw once with a guy who really wanted to watch all the “great” movies, sorry FILMS, and kept a spreadsheet about it and everything, but joke’s on him, because Citizen Kane sucks butt and his dumb spreadsheet didn’t even include Joe Wright’s Pride + Prejudice, a marriage plot that features no fewer than two balls, three proposals, four marriages, and precisely one Dame Judi Dench. It’s my generation’s Shakespeare in Love, but better, because it’s good.
K now back to Mr. Darcy’s questionable hotness. After watching this movie a billion times, including once on my phone at 5am on a Saturday, I am no closer to knowing whether he’s hot or not. Here’s what I do know: I can look at him look at Lizzie all day, and I have, because sometimes I’ll just put it on while I’m working at home and have to stop and start and stop and rewind and start again just to make sure I catch every time they catch each other’s eye. Maybe the real hotness isn’t just the way your face looks, but the way your face looks when it looks at the person you sense has the power to completely undo you but won’t, because it’s more fun to touch hands and talk fast and sigh and sigh and sigh, by which measure, yeah, Mr. Darcy is hot.
Kristin Lueke is a Virgo, but that’s not all! She’s also a native Californian and a poet, whose work has popped up in places like Untoward Magazine and NAP. Her chapbook, (in)different math, is small and quiet, though she herself is neither. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize precisely once, for a poem about revenge. It didn't win.
Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
This movie is kind of mix of a couple of things I’m into: crime and teenage angst/ennui, but it’s a majority Asian-American cast so it brings a new perspective on those things. It’s shot with so much earnest energy, it’s easy to forgive Justin Lin for his obvious Martin Scorsese worship. Maybe a little reductive, but you wouldn’t be wrong to call Better Luck Tomorrow and Asian teen version of Goodfellas (1990). It’s fine, no one was really doing that before. Make Asian teen versions of more things, as far as I’m concerned. Representation is tight.
This movie felt really important to me when it came out because before this, when you saw an Asian kid in a movie like this they’re a prop — a racist stereotype that’s in there for comic relief via broken english or some othering affectation, or a square or a nerd that’s there as some sidekick or toadie. But then Justin Lin rolls in with this movie and it’s amazing to see these Asian kids who resemble the kinds of Asian kids we’ve seen in these kinds of movies before, but then after school, under the cover of their good grades, we see them getting into trouble, running scams, and sticking guns in white people’s faces all out of a sense of suburban boredom and frustration with the expectations that are placed on Asian American teens. At its core it’s a story of teenage rebellion performed by the type of kids American pop culture had told us were the least inclined to even have a teenage rebellion.
It felt great to see this cast of characters upend those stereotypes of being quiet and studious and polite and sexless. On top of all that, it works really well as a solid teen crime drama. Better Luck Tomorrow subverts all of those Asian kid stereotypes, but the characters never feel like they were written just to do that. Each one of them is so natural and real, like a pair of Levi’s 511s, they’re just living their lives and we’re getting caught up in watching this movie go from high school drama to crime thriller and back. They all have something they want, they all have very clear and entertaining relationships with each other, they all have their own points of view about this life of school, extra circulars, college applications, and crime they’ve built for themselves. It’s a great lesson in having nuanced characters being able to drive a plot based on the decisions they make and exploring the consequences of those decisions. It holds up, like the classic design of a Porsche 911 Carrera!
As far as bad movies go this one is really interesting and surprisingly watchable. It’s the future and Gerard Butler is a death row inmate who’s been entered into a televised death match shootout where all death row inmates get weapons and try to kill each other. The catch is all of these modern gladiators are mentally controlled by any dumbass nobody online gamer. It comes from that late aughts era of action movies where everything seemed so color saturated and messy, like when you see a jolly rancher that someone gave up on and spit out on the street. The action complements this look with a manic twitchiness that brings to mind fidgety gamer nerd stereotypes and the Crank movies. It’s a too much soda-fueled tantrum in the middle of a department store and it’s filled with bizarre performances from everyone involved. Michael C. Hall in particular goes pretty wild as he plays some kind of cross between a southern gentleman and our current cartoon super villain inclinations about Zuckerberg, Bezos, Musk, et al. He gets to do a weird dance number with dead prisoners that he’s mind-controlled. It’s grotesque and funny, but again, mostly just bizarre.
If I’d seen this a few years ago I’d probably say something like how Gamer falls a bit short of the Verhoeven level of pointed satire exposing the hypocrisy and excess of our modern society on the verge of fascism. It’s just a bit too stupid and a bit too earnest. However, with all that’s going on in our current political climate I’d say something like Gamer — a Verhoeven movie, but dumber — is probably what we deserve. It’s wild that our most outrageous paranoid fantasies about gaming and social media and sex from 2009 are not that far off from what we have today, but Gamer doesn’t seem to concern itself with warning us off our excesses. It presents something so cartoonish and so out there that you can watch it and feel like that could never happen to us, it’s too stupid to happen to us. SURPRISE BITCH it’s 2018 and every stupid thing that could happen to us is happening to us. WAKE UP, AMERICA: WATCH GAMER.
I feel like I’m going to be giving backhanded compliment after backhanded compliment as I try to describe this movie, but I did enjoy it in the way I enjoyed Limp Bizkit songs in 8th grade. It’s a movie that’s so visually aggressive, it feels like it’s challenging you to look away. If you do look away you’re a snob or a square, and if you don’t look away, if you continue to look, you’re playing their game and you’re sucked into whatever stupidity is happening. You’re a sucker and you’re part of it now. It’s the movie equivalent of a group of loud teen YouTubers trapping you in their latest social experiment* (*prank) video. All you can do is hope it doesn’t go viral, hope that your stupid defeated adult face doesn’t end up as a meme that other teens can post and mock for however long teens will have access to the internet. It’s not the future we wanted, but it’s what we ended up with, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯