Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Medicated Movie Reviews: A Codeine-Hazed Journey Through Film

I seem to be on the mend from whatever raging bug finally got me (so much for my aforementioned super-immunity), and now I have lots and lots of movies to tell you about that I watched in a medicated stupor while sucking down mug after mug of mint tea with lemon.

Spring Breakers

I started with “Spring Breakers”, directed by Harmony Korine of “Kids” fame, and featuring James Franco as a terminally sleazy but utterly riveting criminal white rapper named Alien. Until I saw this movie, I wasn’t sure which way to go on James Franco. I couldn’t decide if he was a marginally talented actor aspiring to the pretentious, if he was a fake cultivating some arty long-con on the public, or if he was truly brilliant. Forget brilliant. I have decided that the man is a bona-fide genius. His performance was jaw-dropping; one of the most astounding I have ever seen. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. But aside from that, “Spring Breakers” is deeply weird and dreamy and smart and cringe-inducing at the same time. I remember lots of pretty colors, beer, breasts, beer-soaked breasts, Bacchanalian beach parties, horrifying yet deeply compelling scenes of drug-fueled debauchery, and then Things Going Terribly Wrong. Lots of neon pink and yellow at the end. And girls behaving very badly, with semi-automatics. I know there was profound social commentary in there somewhere, but I can’t properly analyze it because all the candy colors and flickering jump shots scrambled my already drug-addled brain.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I took a little break from the weird and frenetic for an old-fashioned Woody Allen romantic comedy, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, which I enjoyed a lot, but in my medicated state, probably found to be much sadder than it actually is. It also made me want to move to Spain, where the citizens seem to drink wine with every meal and have endless leisure time to loll around angsting picturesquely over Art. It sounds like my kind of place! I also enjoyed it because my personality consists of a constant internal battle between the uptight but quietly passionate Vicky, and the free-wheeling, creative, but chronically unsatisfied Cristina. And who can complain when you get to watch the delicious Javier Bardem flowing around in red silk shirts and being all tragic and sexy? The funniest thing in the entire movie was the father of Bardem’s character Juan Antonio. He’s a brilliant poet who refuses to publish any of his work because he hates the world and thinks it doesn’t deserve the beauty he has to offer it. Maybe that should be my new “thing”—refusing to publish out of pure spite!

The Faculty

Oh, my God. “The Faculty” was fantastic! And I’m certain it’s not just the codeine talking. How could you not love a movie about cephalopod-based aliens taking over a small-town high school, where in the opening scene actress Bebe Neuwirth gets a pencil stabbed all the way through her hand and then gets her throat slashed by the dowdy drama teacher? Enough said. Except that it was startling to see Elijah Wood completely out context, in regular old high school instead of Middle Earth, where he rightfully belongs.

Melinda and Melinda

Another Woody Allen movie. This one was just kind of “meh”. All I really liked about it was that Wallace Shawn was in it.


I was so riveted by “Spring Breakers” that I time-traveled all the way back to 1995 to watch “Kids”, which I missed the first time around. I was rendered speechless. I don’t think of myself as an old prude, but I wanted to round up every single one of those feckless little hoodlums and immediately ship them off to military school. Catholic military school. And my Theraflu-ridden brain could only helplessly repeat the phrase, “Where are their parents??? Where?? Why are eleven-year-old boys smoking blunts at a booze-fueled house party and bragging about shtupting hos? What’s happening? Let me in there! I’m adopting them all immediately and imposing structure on their little hood-rat lives!”  (What can I say? The youngest kids in the movie were heartbreakingly adorable and horrifically misguided.)

But in all seriousness, “Kids” is a very challenging--I would even say confrontational--film. And it’s a really important and complex one. It’s the only film I’ve ever seen that has been willing to portray adolescent sexuality in a truly frank and honest way, especially female adolescent sexuality. Even now in 2013, it’s a radical film with a very intelligent and nuanced message. I can see why people were completely outraged by it when it first came out, but I truly believe that it’s still one of the most relevant films about teen sexuality ever made. It’s also a savage attack on a society willing to abandon its young out of fatigue, apathy, or just plain ennui.

Lesson learned? Cold medication enhances the movie-watching experience. This is not an endorsement of sucking down a hit of Dimetapp and tuning in on any given Tuesday-- I’m just sayin’ that if you happen to be stuck in bed with a nasty cold and are self-medicating, well, it may be an opportune to time to queue up the Nexflix.

--Kristen McHenry

2 comments: said...

Outstanding post. You really could be making big bucks as a movie reviewer or an online blogger. Or both! This post of yours is downright a joy to read!

Kristen McHenry said...

Thanks, John! Your comment reminded me that at one point, I did want to be movie reviewer, when I was a teenager. I never followed through on that, but maybe one of these days...of course that would involve reviewing movies without the aid of cold medication, so I might not have as "fun" a perspective. ;)