Friday, April 22, 2011

DEPT. OF DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINES OF THE BLOGWARS: John Cole's war on Sully remains hugely entertaining.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MORE RECYCLED SUCKER PUNCH CONTENT: In my spare time I post on message boards:

It took me two viewings but I think I loved this movie. My favorite thing since Scott Pilgrim--obviously I love a good action fantasy. But I loved Pilgrim right away; Punch took some time to digest. Pilgrim, I think, was made for me and other receptive fellow nerds in a celebratory way, but Punch is self-reflective--it wants you to doubt your nerdery to some degree. How successful it is at that is obviously a YMMV situation, which explains the really divergent critical reactions. But my point here is that the movie with the girl in the sailor suit with the gun and the sword might be less of a pander than Scott Pilgrim.
Anyway--at the very least it's a really great live action Heavy Metal with a way better vignette-linking setup than that stupid locknar, right? Obviously intermingled with that Snyder's trying to do other things--perspective on his own obsessions, questions about the nerdy male gaze, the limits of fantasy and much of an "escape" the geek fantasy genres really provide, how empowering the action heroine really is (young geek girl reactions seem to view this film favorably, which I don't think Snyder would be opposed to--I don't think he's saying the female action/fantasy heroine is always a male prisoner...just that she is a lot of the time. Similarly--I don't think he's saying we're supposed to hate the action fantasies because Blue is loathsome--he just wants us to think about it), etc. I mean it doesn't hurt for ambition. And as Depton mentioned upthread--it's got heart. I'm really glad it exists and I wish it wasn't getting a fairly thoughtless critical pileon.
Now I think Snyder was going for his version of, like, a seriocomic tone? Not quite out-and-out camp--though that lounge cover of Love Is The Drug that we see bits of in the credits is blatant, joyful camp--but cool camp, detached camp. Which may be more obvious when we get the full version with the dance sequences...I think it would have been totally obvious with his original Ooh Child ending which will probably never get to see since this movie might make back its stated budget, but not more than that. (He said in that Film School Rejects interview he'd finish the original ending if Punch did well, and I don't think its done well enough for that.) But there's enough fun here, just with what we have. That scene with the Mayor rolling up with those glasses and that Queen/hip-hop mashup in the background is ridiculous, in a great way. And, um, Amber's plane! One wing has a propeller, one side is a jet! Vanessa frigging Hudgens firing a machine gun and screaming "TAKE THAT YOU UGLY MOTHERFUCKER!!!" With the -FUCKER cut off. (The PG-13ization of this movie also hurt it a lot, obviously.)
Specific things that annoyed me are Blondie's out-of-nowhere breakdown, and her and Amber's similarly out-of-nowhere deaths, and possibly those two characters in general, which I guess you can partially blame on the actresses (Amber's repeated "WHOA!"'s got on my nerves, but Snyder doesn't have to put them in there either) but they also aren't given nearly as much to do as Cornish and Malone. The breakdown seems to be purely for plot purposes--there's nothing before that to suggest Blondie is the weak link--and the deaths are of the "kill characters to make the bad guy look worse" type, which is always cheap (for me.) I get that he wanted some menace in the fantasies, but yeesh, two executions at once? And of two characters who are paired but I'm never sure why they're a pair, other than "they're the two that aren't sisters." In one of the interviews he mentions the brothel on-screen is less menacing than it's supposed to be (and I don't want to sound like I'm reflexively buying all his excuses for the current state of the film) so maybe before it looked less abrupt. Whatevs! I had a great time. Really curious now about the fuller version we'll get on disc. Right now the credits are teasing us with, like, glimpses of alternate versions of the characters (except Baby? I never notice her in the stage scenes--maybe her "stage" is always the high fantasy scenes) so we'll see how it all feels with those scenes fully integrated into the film.
One random, probably silly thought: the bookishly, scientist-like nerdy Snyder (as opposed to a fast-talking dorky nerd) is our De Palma in waiting. (Ummm, the De Palma who grew up with anime and Heavy Metal instead of Hitchcock. And with a less gutty sexuality. There's sex in a Snyder film but it's 90% mental. Lookm it's a silly thought. But--wait for it...) And Sucker Punch is his Phantom of the Paradise. (BOOYAH.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SAINTS PRESERVE ME, I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT SUCKER PUNCH: Thoughts from a second viewing, crossposted from my Tumblr:

Thoughts on a second viewing of Sucker Punch: I think it’s fundamentally about the limits of fantasy. It’s Snyder saying, all those old Heavy Metals and girl action movies and comics and games you loved when you were younger—it’s all right to love them! They’re awesome! But know that there are limits to how far escape can take you. And the root of them is a very male need to control things. I look at the brothel level as “Baby Doll’s” (whoever the lead character was, as I very much subscribe to the theory that all five girls were part of the same mind) literalization of Blue’s pervy, fetishy, can-only-get-turned-on-by-subjugating-womeny consciousness. She keeps trying to escape to the high fantasy level but Blue makes sure she stays rooted in his world, even at the expense of parts of her mind (Rockey, Amber, Blondie, and eventually Baby Doll herself.) I think Snyder intended the end to be a true victory of the main character over Blue, where some part of her gets to escape, but at a cost of the rest of her self.
Now how much mileage you get out of that ending is up to you. If any part of Sucker Punch is misogynist, it’s that it’s a story about woman seeking annihilation, who at least in part embraces partial brain death in the end. In the original version apparently the High Roller has a scene with Baby Doll where he tells her if she gives himself to him willingly, he’ll set her free (which explains Hamm’s “almost like she wanted me to do it” dialogue afterwards—again, it’s a shame this movie was cut apart so much.) Never mind equating lobotomization with sexual penetration here—it’s just not the most feminist thing in the world to have a female character seeking loss of self. Of course, she had to sacrifice herself in terms of the narrative so some part of her could survive. And Sweet Pea obviously chooses to live, and they’re both part of the same mind, so…yeah. Maybe it’s only problematic on a surface level. And of course the surface level of Sucker Punch seems to have stymied the great majority of critics.
A lesser thing I was bothered about in my second viewing was (still) the deaths of Amber and Blondie. The first time I was like “jeez—that was brutal, Snyder!” The second time, I think Snyder was trying to interject some real menace into the brothel level and there just isn’t enough leading up to it to justify two cold-blooded executions out of nowhere. I also think maybe Amber and Blondie were just there to get killed later, so there would be some “real” menace in the movie, which is sort of cheap, especially since they had little in the way of characterization previous in the movie. All I can get out of those two is Amber represents safety or something like it—she’s always removed, piloting or in a giant mech, safely away from the ground level action. Blondie is…just the weak link? The main character’s cowardice or impulsivity? Rocket is her confidence, so when she dies, it’s her confidence going. Baby Doll is her sense of self, so I guess Sweet Pea is her strength and, in the end, her reborn self. But yeah, Chung and Hudgens, the Real World refugee and the High School Musical refugee, needed more to do. Maybe they did in the earlier cuts…they’re both prominent in the musical numbers that were cut but reappear in the credits.
Anyway, yeah, this movie is both the live-action Heavy Metal and a meditation on what your relationship to Heavy Metal and Heavy Metal-like things is, should be, should not be. In Snyder’s opinionz.

Wondering if I'm giving Snyder too much credit for actually thinking about this stuff, some of the other Team Sucker Punch people think it's an unintentionally interesting movie. But listening to Snyder's interviews about the movie, he definitely was trying to play with genre expectations.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

THE ORIGINAL ENDING TO SUCKER PUNCH: Sounds better than what we got...or at least less bleak, or maybe more bleak but in a black humor way:

I’m curious, if you don’t mind talking about it, what was the originally shot and intended ending?
The very first ending I wrote the order was: Babydoll was being lobotomized, she got chained in the basement, Sweet Pea escapes – well, let me back up. There’s a scene you’ll see on the Director’s Cut with Jon Hamm. When Jon Hamm arrives as the High Roller – and we took this scene out because of the MPAA – when that guy punches Babydoll in the face, she wakes up in the High Roller’s suite. He basically makes a deal with her that if she gives herself to him, and willingly and not against her will, then he’ll give her freedom and get [her] out of that place. He’ll make it so that Blue will never touch her and she’ll be free. She’s seduced by that concept, and right when they go to kiss each other, that’s her being lobotomized. When they kiss, it’s her being lobotomized.
The very end of the movie was: you see Sweet Pea steal a dress from a clothesline, then after she’s lobotomized and Blue says, “Do you remember me? Take her downstairs,” and then you see Sweet Pea getting on the bus, then after her getting on the bus, it cuts back to Babydoll in the basement and that whole scene happens of the cops taking him away. When he shines the flashlight on her, she gets up, and the camera dollies in on her and then goes around her head – and you see that she’s on a stage in the theater and she signs “O-o-h Child” at the very end. After that, all the dead girls come out and they sing together, then the curtain closes. That’s the end.
Why was that cut?
We tested it, and people just did not know how to… I don’t know. I thought it was awesome, personally. Maybe there’s a cult version of it that’ll exist that I can put together sometime [Laughs], but for a mass audience, it just played as this super culty, bizarro ending. I love it, personally. I could tell that people just didn’t know how to take it, though.

I hope we get the original ending on the DVD at least...though I don't think we'll be getting the "cult version" anytime soon:

Would you say the Director’s Cut is that fuller, crazier version?
It’s fuller, but it’s not all the way.
What’s missing to make it ‘all the way’?
It doesn’t have the “O-o-h Child” ending.
Why can’t that be put back in?
It’s just money and everything. The effects were never finished. If the movie is successful, I would absolutely go back and do it for sure.

And Sucker Punch is tanking like Scott Pilgrim (which I loved without much reservation, unlike my more ambivalent feelings for Sucker Punch.) But even unfinished, I'd like to see that first ending. The ending we got is sort of faux-hopeful/genuinely hopeful, though it takes the form of a quasi-"happy" stock ending. Yes, both faux and the movie itself, which moves on false and sincere tracks throughout, sometimes simultaneously. It's strange and sometimes annoying and fairly bleak overall. The fun action scenes are blunted by the overall knowledge that the girls in their guns and planes and superhero/schoolgirl outfits are just as trapped as the girls in the "brothel" (reviewers keep using that word, but it seems to be more of a burlesque house) and as the girls in the asylum. I don't think Snyder's own feelings about his material are at all clear to him, so he adopted this stance of ironic distance from pretty girls in swords and it leads to the film's undoing. I think he needed to get more personal with it, really own his fetishes like Tarantino does (and asking Snyder to be more like Tarantino is probably an unreasonable demand) but he didn't or couldn't and so we're left with this halfway there interesting mess of a movie. Maybe it was more personal early on and the studio process diluted it. Shame it flopped as bad as it did, just because now we're probably never going to get that bizarro cult version.

EDIT: Forgot the link to this interview: