Saturday, 13 August 2016

What A Bunch Of Wieners - A Sausage Party Review

Adult animated films are a rarity in the mainstream world. They're a rarity in general. Animation has always belonged to the cuddly characters and saccharine songs that Disney have built their empire on. Granted, animation has a lot more variety to offer thanks to DreamWorks mixing it up, and even Disney has gone to challenge their own image from time to time. But there's always a box that these films will stay around in, not willing to go any further out of fear it will hurt them. Hell, it pretty much seems like people don't want to see them out of it anyways. Unless you have a show, then maybe they'll take a gander.

To me, seeing animated films break into the R-rated territory would be a wonderful sight. Which is why I sat through Sausage Party.

My enthusiasm for the film was not really up to the levels I had hoped. The script was perhaps the most perverse and warped thing involving food since a certain athiest shoved a banana up his ass. It was as offensive and derivative as a raunchy comedy could get. Easy stereotypical jokes, gratuitous swears that were as childish as they could get, and a food orgy that was 10 or so pages long. I felt like Rogen had set the prospect of adult animation far far back to the point that even saying the clean version of a swear word would be vulgar.

After some thought, I figured that perhaps the movie would serve as a catalyst for more to come. I might not like it, but maybe supporting it would lead to greater things down the line. After all, if enough money is thrown at something, Hollywood will milk that sucker 'til it's empty. Besides, a part of me did find it funny. It may be an immature part of me but one should be willing to indulge in their immaturity. Besides, I had to see just how much they would actually allow. So I got my tickets and entered into a late showing of the film, where I could count everyone who was there with only one hand. 

For those of you unaware of what Sausage Party is, basically think about all those commercials where the food comes to life. Don't you find it odd when they're all happy and cheerful even though they're going to be eaten? Well, this film takes the concept to its most logical conclusion by having the food be horrified that humans (whom they revere as gods that take them to a great beyond) are actually using them for consumption. It centers around Frank (Seth Rogen), a sausage who wants to get all up in Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a hot dog bun, by being chosen by one of the gods to enter into that great beyond. Frank then finds himself attempting to save a suicidal honey mustard (Danny McBride) who knows the real truth behind the great beyond and then having to go on a quest to prove the harsh reality of the situation, eventually coming across Sammy the Bagel (Edward Norton), Lavash (David Krumholtz), Teresa del Taco (Salma Hayek) and a douche (Nick Kroll)

Coming out of the movie, I have to say that I was neither pleasantly surprised or insanely insulted. Sure, reading the script could be seen as an insult in general but it had numbed me to what was to come. There was a way more offensive and awful way they could have taken the material on the text, and there were thankfully some awful scenes that were taken out like a piece of cheese getting slightly aroused that his dismembered dick was being eaten by rats. There was however some that stayed, like zombie corn coming out of a piece of shit and a douche raping a juice box through a draining oral act. Interestingly, the orgy scene was actually a lot more stupidly hilarious than greatly disturbing. That scene had me worried in the script as being a terrible and idiotic idea. It wasn't any less idiotic than I imagined it but thank god Point Grey knew where to take the scene.

At the same time, the film had very little moments that were incredibly creative. Any obvious joke you had in your head about a character, this movie would put it on screen. From the bagel being a nebbish Jew, to the lavash being a strict Muslim (both of which fight about how much of the aisle they should take up) to the taco being a Mexican lesbian, to the douche being a bro-tastic jerk. Perhaps the most interesting examples of this obviousness were a group of Canadian beers barging in saying "sorry" as they bumped into the main characters was a seedy mustachioed tequila bottle that takes Brenda and her other friends to a trap having the label "Sigueme" (Spanish for "follow me"). It provided a nice counter to the Nazi mustard who wanted to exterminate the juice (haw haw) or Chief Firewater, who was perhaps the most annoying character in the film (which considering that there was a literal douche being a douche is quite the achievement).

The few moments that got me were very surreal, such as when one of Frank's sausage friends ends up at the house of a druggie (named Druggie, because duh) and finds himself able to talk to him after he takes up some bath salts. There, you see a chewed up wad of gum serving as a Steven Hawking type genius and a traumatized roll of toilet paper. A part of me was wondering about how inconsistent the world of the film was as certain non-food products were also alive but others weren't but another part made me remember that I was watching a film that was probably written during a haze of marijuana smoke, so questioning such nonsense was stupid. The food fighting the humans was another fun scene, as it provided some great visual effects and gags as well as the douche controlling a man by sticking himself way up the fellow's ass and using a revolver to try and kill the heroes.

My biggest gripe with the film wasn't so much the crudeness of the humor more than it was the lack of a soul that the movie had. It tried it's best to provide some crazy imagery and talk about some heavy religious and spiritual issues but it seemed tacked on and lifeless. The issue with most adult animated works (and animated works in general) is that it will dawn too much on the perception of animation. It will use family-friendly visuals to deliver not-so-family-friendly material like sex, drugs, violence and swears. While that's something I enjoy, there's more that's required to be something that stands out. Sausage Party revels that its look is very much similar to that of a regular animated film and even makes a few ribs at Disney with a overly-extravagant musical number by Alan Menken and a Dixar logo, but aside from that, you're not left with much else. The characters are not really ones you care about for their journey since it's the jokes that take center stage, but the jokes aren't doing much more than playing on the contrast of colorful G-rated CGI with R-rated raunchiness. 

I went into this movie more for the selfish reason to see animation break the PG-13 ceiling rather than actually supporting the film itself. I surely was cynical about how well it could win me over, but I think to some degree it did do that. It would have been nice to have it more distinctly stylized and accepting that it was in a new territory, trying to do something a lot more bold with what it had to offer, but going the standard raunchy comedy route wasn't that bad of a choice after all. Animation will always be associated with wacky and fun, so if there was any way to ease people into bringing this forward, this is certainly one of the better ways to do so. I can understand those who don't want to see it and if you're one of them, I don't think there's much in my review to convince you otherwise. This is pretty much a dumb movie to stuff your face with popcorn with and take in all the absurdity that comes with it. And it may just make you think about just how much of a genocidal monster you are when your bag is empty. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Yeah, Another Blog About The 2016 Election - Why The Fuck Not?

God this election is dragging on so long. It feels like it'll take eons 'til we get to November. And oh what a happy day that'll be. Either person who wins is going to face a fracas of the likes we've never seen before. The people are going to tear the nation apart. Or at least that's what the build-up seems to indicate. Lord knows the news just likes to paint this divide as ever more violent than it already is. And to be fair to them, it's not like there's much peace in the US. Or really any place for that matter. Now we've pretty much settled on the candidates but fucked if we actually like them. Sure, there's always going to be that resentment for politicians in general but man oh man we're really not satisfied with what we've gotten ourselves into. Part of me would like to take glee in America finally getting its comeuppance for decades of horrible deeds and its promotion of ignorance but lest my smug anti-American side of me forget that the US isn't some small island nation but rather one of the largest players in the geopolitical world. So if they get fucked, we all do.

Now, for as much as I can regurgitate trash talk about the tanning bed mistake from the New York sewers, I can't deny that there is a very valid reason for people to side with him that isn't xenophobia. Congress has veritably pissed us off for the last time. The goddamn limp-dicks waffle about doing jack shit when it comes to passing bills because they spend a good chunk of their time blocking the president, getting into overdrawn arguments about some fucking stupid detail in the bill that they just have to fight against or stalling further with filibuster after filibuster. They keep getting re-elected to their seats as if they actually did a job well done when that's not exactly the reality. Not to mention that both parties have basically given their bases a giant middle finger. So to maybe give them a little shock to their balls, why not choose an outsider who has a good chance of jeopardizing their stability to get them scared up to doing their job right? It's insane, but damned if it ain't logical.

The establishment Democrats had themselves a little scare with Bernie Sanders, which did prompt ol' HRC to take seriously the idea that she was going to get Obama'd yet again and produced some sort of progress for progressive ideals. But the radical game-changing shift didn't get as far as the combover cuckoo. It is going to hurt them more considering what the DNC email leak revealed, as well as the general view that many people have of robotic Hilary Clinton being as trustworthy as a wolf babysitting a chicken. Bernie can talk all about how he's with her now and that the primary goal is to crush the billionaire creep, but his supporters are still not going to make that turn easily. I mean for god's sake, they're still trying to find a way to get him to the White House! I appreciate the effort, but it's not gonna happen. That's an uphill battle too steep to handle.

It may be mean of me to shit on the idea of Bernie supporters still trying their damnednest for a man who seems the most genuine and selfless in his motives considering that I was feeling the Bern. Truth is, my Bernie burn was not all that fiery to begin with. I love the man and wish him the best on the movement, but he wasn't going to do well as president. Congress would roadblock him until kingdom come and he just wouldn't be able to muster the job. Not to mention that he could veritably croak just a week into his office. I don't like Clinton as much as the next guy wearing a Make America Great Again hat does but I can at least give her that she would fair much better in the system than any of her other competitors.

I just get more and more baffled by people trying to spin the talking ham with a toupee as though he's the right man for the job. I mean the RNC was hammering that the giant-gold-letter fetishist was a humble blue-collar kind of guy. That he would work for everyone, not just himself. Of course when he came to talk to the people, he was trying to paint himself as the master of all trades when really the man is only good at milking horrible things he says for his own gain and running a business. Let me be clear, it is not fair to say that the pitbull covered in Cheetos dust is a failed businessman...hell I'll even concede that saying that he's a bad one is inaccurate considering all the revenue this campaign's making him. But to say that because of his business acumen, he'll be able to run the country with ease is like saying that because I know how to play the trumpet, I should be able to write a successful symphony for an orchestra in 24 hours.

Really, what's going to unite the party to victory is massive hatred for their competitors. Again, we can say that each election is nothing more than just an exercise of the anti-vote, but this one is truly going to be the strongest case of this. The soggy tangerine trashbag's got a heavy advantage over Hilary as he can play his supporters like an organ to disregard any fact like the multiple times he's contradicted himself and to push for any reality that fits to take her down. Trying to take him down on a purely factual basis will be a foolish endeavor, and sinking to his low may work at the cost of further ruining the level of our political discourse. It might just have to be a combination of the two to stir up enough hatred for the voters who'd much rather hit a reset button or swing third-party. The fractures that both parties have created are massive and they will need to do a lot to get the ones that have decided to abandon the parties to come back.

Before I end off this blog and drink myself into a blackout, I'd just like to make two final points:

  • One of the larger issues at play in this election is your race/identity. And among white people it really seems like there's no room for them to simply just be white. On the right you just have overly resentful and bitter people who seem to view every little thing as an affront to them and being a way to further erase them, so they respond in heightened vitriol. Certainly if you're poor and white, you're viewed as nothing more than trash, and that plays into that anger. Then on the left, you got people stuck in a perpetual guilt trip, talking about minority issues constantly if only to be let in on the discussion and then take it over. It can get so absurd that it just seems like they have to whip themselves before saying another word. Much like minorities can't just be left alone without being abused, white people can't simply just be left alone to a more moderate stance. There has to be a cooling and a bridging of racial issues for either party to manage the divide properly. There simply can't just be a dismissal of the white anger as nothing more as racism because that'll simply fuel it further.

  • Speaking as a smug liberal (I mean I did refuse to say the Republican candidate's name in favor of pithy insults towards his demeanor), I can safely say that our smugness is going to fuck us over. See, we can berate, bash and mock you-know-who for being a dumbass and for being a lunatic, but we better try not to hold our noses high in the air thinking that our slams are going to take him down. The hoity-toity attitude will only further the disgust that his followers see in the opposing side and will prove well to his point on how elitist the left is. For us, it'll be crazy that there will be people to believe a man who is the epitome of the word elitist use that against his enemies. Keep in mind though that there is some truth to that line of him being a "blue collar billionaire". No one played better to the working man than him and his entertainment. This election is not going to a slam dunk for either party, but this point should especially be made noted to the smug liberal side. Be aware that you gotta understand the complexities and mentality of the other side or else you're going to see how funny things gets when you lose. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

All Wrongs Don't Make The Right

Like many other young people, I tend to lean more to the left. I agree with making things more equal for everyone, to have more inclusivity and to do something about corporate greed and climate change. Many of those who I like in the media are of the same political slant and it certainly seems like that ideology brings the most diverse of crows. Yet, despite my appreciation for the left, there has always been something that has gnawed at me as I’ve gone along to trust them. For as much as I may side with them, I can’t help but feel as though they do not truly encapsulate me.

What brought about the start of this thought process came from how I viewed things in Venezuela. If I went back to my homeland, I would be lumped more with the right than the left. That’s because I despise Chavez, and Chavez belongs to the left. Perhaps the left that I speak of and believe in is more associated with that which comes from the US or Canada. With that in mind, I have found myself fuming at how they manage to support him. Keep in mind, I’ve repeated on many occasions just how much this man angers me. I fluctuate on my passion for my dislike of him going from hating him to loathing him. This sort of disagreement I have with those on the left only was the start of the cracks that would break my wholesale devotion to them.

The more striking part of this situation was that I found myself agreeing with the right as they were on the same stance about Chavez. This was a right that I had long took joy in laughing at their ignorance and their consistency for being wrong. But now I found myself passively agreeing with. Seeing conservatives and Chavistas at each other’s throats had me exercising a powerful bout of doublethink in which both sides were simultaneously right and wrong. How could that be? It made no sense to me.

It took a while for me to grasp the subtleties that come with politics and one’s own beliefs in such. I did find myself still consistently shocked at what the right would do, but slowly I questioned how solid of a foundation the left had. As I found myself obtaining friends, I amassed a pocket of them that were on the other side of the political spectrum. At times I would wince or grit my teeth at what they would say but other times I found myself learning from their views and finding certain things that I was in favor of. Most of all, I found it to be more civil of a conversation than expected. The image of the trigger-happy bigot or the ignorant warmonger became as much of a stereotype as the hippie country-hater or the politically correct feminist.

A part of me had also started to feel like conservatives were getting a bum rap, despite them not really liking bums or rap. It seemed to me that there must be such a thing as a more reasonable, more sensible and more dignified person on the right. Something more had to exist beyond what I was being exposed to. Over time, I did find myself being more sympathetic and understanding of the right, agreeing with folks like Rand Paul, seeing issues like gun control and the role of the US among the world as far more complex and growing dissatisfied and annoyed with the left. Still, I returned to being with the left, though more and more I was moving towards the center, at least in emotion. Perhaps it’s ironic considering that I supported Bernie Sanders, but I feel like an olive branch needs to be extended to the other side. ‘Course no one likes a compromising moderate centrist, and far be it from the right to be only ones acting stubborn.

One of the greater issues of contention for the right is the matter of political correctness. In the past, I have said that they have used their disdain of how PC the world has gotten as merely an excuse to make their bigotry sound more bold and daring than it actually is. I still agree with that notion, much as I do with how the misuse of the term from them has distracted from the real problems that such cleansing of the language does cause. But I can’t deny that there has been a lot of over-sensitivity that has flourished thanks to political correctness and that such has not allowed for more frank discussion on pressing issues. I can’t be so daft to chastise people for their feelings and being too touchy but it stands to reason that not everything is going to be safe. So for the left to be sanitizing everything doesn’t really protect from the sickness of the issues. If anything, it makes people more susceptible to it. Some political correctness must be maintained to keep a proper decorum, but it shouldn’t serve as a choke-hold of censorship either.

Indeed, the left has found itself so quick to attach labels to things to decry them as racist, sexist, fascist, transphobic, homophobic or all at once. Such labels tend to shut down others and lend to the very black and white mentality that seemed to be so emblematic of the right. Inclusivity becomes less possible when they continue to redraw the lines of what is appropriate and what’s not, that it gets to a point that it seems more logical to disregard it overall. Not to mention that there’s a hostility among certain minorities that, while justifiable, wishes to separate and divide rather than work alongside others.

Take cultural appropriation for example. It seems as though one can only be bound to what their racial/ethnic background allows them to be. So to express beyond what was assigned to you then has you violating what was assigned to someone else. Rather than share among cultures and learn from our faults, perfection on embracing and respecting a foreign culture is expected from the first try, particularly from people who aren’t exactly from that culture. These simplifications and absurd expectations thus increase hostility from the other side. Perhaps some of them might have never been up to the exchange, but any who did would have been alienated further because of the lack of patience that it brought up. Again, it’s not to say that there isn’t reason for people to be upset or angry at the harm that culture appropriation does cause, but these emotions have to be channeled better for proper discourse to allow progress to occur.

I wonder though if the left seems to want to create progress though, because it seems as though there is more obsession to lecture others on what is progress and how properly to go about it. The right certainly has its ways of talking down to people too on what is the best way to go about it all. But whereas they go for your morals, the left goes for your intelligence. The left’s specific brand of preaching is what has made the term liberal seem more like an insult. For what liberal connotates to is relentless smugness. The left likes to put itself on a pedestal and declare itself the wisest being of them all, saying that any who oppose are but mere imbeciles and fools. They talk a lot about what must be done and what is correct but their actions don’t reflect their words. Worst of all, they hide in a self-congratulatory shell and continue to feed their own delusions on the world. This is so prevalent that they even have their own insufferable pundit named Bill. And honestly, I stand him much less than his partner on the right.

Perhaps the largest fault of the left is one that also irritates me with the right. That being national pride. The right seems so self-absorbed in the flag that much of what is foreign is seen as a horrible threat to the sanctity of the country. Criticism serves not to provide ideas to move forward but rather to undermine the nation’s greatness. Once again, I viewed such as blind partisanship but such a conclusion was not as detached to some reality as I had once thought.

For the left does seem to bring about a great sense of shame when it comes to its criticisms. At times, it may seem fair to use shame to make a point but other times, it seems that nothing that was done was ever for any benefit. What they aspire to is not some unique way to march forward but rather to simply mimic other places. So much is deconstructed and desecrated that it almost seems like the very soil they stand on was conjured up by the devil. Nothing may exist without fault but not everything is terrible because of that fact. Patriotism is a healthy mixture of love for one’s country and also being critical of it too. And it seems that the left can lack that love, damaging themselves in the process.

As much as I may still stand so firm with the left, I do find myself not as attached as I once was. And for as much as I may disagree and mock those that are on the right, I can also find myself more on the middle and perhaps on their side than before. For the time being I am not on their side; that may change in the coming years. But whether I stay more to the left, shift to the right or maintain my own mixture of both, there is no reason to be that wrapped up in one’s beliefs that we cannot find some ways to bridge the gaps that we have with each other. There has to be more understanding and willingness to accept other points. That’s not to say that if they are highly extreme and downright crazy that we should just let it be, but we can’t simply believe that all that is on the other side is highly extreme and downright crazy. Perhaps it’s hard to say such a thing during this election, perhaps it was just as hard to say that a few years back or any further. But civility and tolerance have to remain in some way. Otherwise, unity will be as foreign of a term as compromise.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The Sociopolitical Comedians And Some Blogger's Thoughts On Them

It seems like everyone nowadays has missed seeing Jon Stewart on at night, making witty comments about the madness that is American society and it's political scene. Considering the circumstances of this year, it's even moreso felt as we feel that his absence has left some sort of hole in the commentary that has been thrown out. Though it's pertinent to note that Jon isn't the first to make jokes about sociopolitical issues. Many of the comedians out there, both present and past, thrive on making these topics part of their routine. There are many out there who take what go on in the world and give us some food for thought as well as something to laugh at. However, what has made Jon Stewart so known and what has made his tenure on The Daily Show so great is that he gave it a journalistic bent and dove deeper than your standard stand up. Now, I can go on and on about what made Jon Stewart so great, but I missed my chance to do a big piece on the man leaving when he left so I'm not going to bother with that. Instead, I'm going to focus on comedians who nowadays serve to somewhat fill the void that Jon has left, and I'm going to give you my opinions on their work.

Stephen Colbert

While it's true that Colbert is no longer Colbert since he moved on to the Late Show, it's not right to say that there still isn't some Colbert still within him. The Colbert Report's main draw was just how in-character Colbert was and just how he could use that character to make fun of conservatives, pundits and conservative pundits. While it's very fun to see what sort of absurdities that would come out of him, the format certainly could be restraining for him. That's not to say he couldn't be authentic when he wanted to be, but it makes sense that he wouldn't want to be stuck in it for the rest of his life. So, the Late Show has provided Colbert the opportunity to show who he really is and in turn allow his comedy to expand better.

Now, his new gig might not be as high-brow or intellectual as his fans would like it, but whenever he gets to the point of talking politics, he's very much still got some of the edge with him. With the character dropped, there's an ability for him to be more direct or creative with his approach. His Hungry For Power recurring segment has been quite a ride in him being able to quickly summarize the candidate and their shortcomings to being the nominee. Not to mention any time the T with the P is mentioned, Colbert is quick to make note of the complete bullshit that is coming out of him. Particularly notable was the debate where he had the orange cotton candy go against the raggedy-mop-on-top-of-a-suit and point out the contradictions that one man has. Certainly he has leaned a lot more to ragging on the Republicans, though when he can, he'll make a comment towards the left. Is it anything as sharp as back when he was a character? Probably not. But he's able to provide a more politically conscious tone to his role as a late-night comedian and host, and that serves well in its own small way, as a reminder of what has come throughout the day.

Seth Meyers

It's a bit iffy for Meyers to be on this list as he's not Daily Show alumni, but he did serve as a fake anchor on SNL's Weekend Update. That, and while he is more at home being just a standard comedian than the rest of the people on this list, that's not to say that he hasn't had some part in at least providing some perspective to what has come. Seth's main way of tackling the hot-button political topics comes from his A Closer Look segment, which could be a standard news bulletin with some zingers thrown into the mix, were it not for the time constraints and the omitting of details that wouldn't work into the bit. But, we can't get too hung up with those details, at least not with Seth.

My point was more that it does conduct itself very much like how a correspondent doing a piece would. It's interesting seeing how Seth goes about these bits because he has a relaxed demeanor but when he wants to really make his point about the issue at hand, he can provide the right amount of authority and sternness to make it clear. Seth knows how to put in the energy of an anchor into his late-night comic routine. Like Colbert, there's nothing truly searing about what he's saying, but he serves well to add context and perspective to the events of the world. Though Seth seems to push more when it comes to his actual thoughts and what people should reflect on. Which is fine, since he's able to not be too imposing with how he phrases it.

Trevor Noah

Alright, so getting the two late-night hosts that sort of have their foot in the door on sociopolitical comedy out of the way, let's actually get to someone more to the tune of what Jon Stewart does. Like, why don't we focus on the guy who replaced him? Trevor Noah, the South African comedian that barely anyone heard about in America. Well, that's not entirely fair, he had some exposure, but he definitely had more exposure in Africa than in North America taking the position. It was definitely a confusing and bold move to have Noah replace Stewart, but I think part of the idea was to get someone that mirrored Jon in a way, someone who has politically minded humor and is not that well known to let him show his true potential. Besides, funny is funny, no matter where it comes from.

So how does he fair? Well, he's still trying to figure his way through it to be unique. There certainly hasn't be as much of that buzz and intrigue that has come from his comments that came from Jon Stewart, save for perhaps that great bit about Von Clownstick being akin to an African dictator. He certainly feels at times like Diet Stewart, staying in a safe area. He certainly can be funny when he wants to be, and still having correspondents like Hasan Minhaj, Jessica Williams and bringing Lewis Black from time to time certainly is nice with the new folks like Ronny Chieng, Desi Lydic and Roy Wood Jr., who are doing well to bring something else to the cast. It at least distracts from Klepper's irritating bit.

When it comes to establishing his own identity or voice, I think the timing kind of worked against him, since it's gravitating towards the election and there's some crazy characters you just can't help but make some quick jokes about. Still, he's working well with what he's got. Once it all blows over, it would be nice to see him tackle international issues. You know, perhaps bring in more of that worldly perspective and sort of let America in on more of what's going on outside it from time to time. I kind of saw a little bit of that in what he's done so far, it'd be nice to see that be explored further.

John Oliver

Speaking of people who replaced Jon Stewart, John Oliver. Oliver only had a couple of months to himself on The Daily Show when Stewart went to make Rosewater, but his tenure managed to get him a gig on HBO doing Last Week Tonight. On that show, he picks a few oddball stories here and there and then centers the show around a main topic, all the while spouting jokes and statistics and showing creative comedic graphics. There's not many recurring segments he has, with perhaps his most notable being Why Is This Still A Thing and Other Countries' Presidents Of The United States (which by the way, when are you gonna make a new one about Angela Merkel?), he's more focused on educating and entertaining on a particular subject.

When it comes to laughing at the show, it can vary from episode to episode. Sometimes the metaphors and the absurdities that emerge gel together to make a very solid episode, other times it certainly can feel like he's being preachy but hiding it with the comedian get-up. Oliver has certainly stirred more of that negative emotion I've felt with Stewart or Colbert at times where they are playing the same manipulative game as the journalists they critique or overriding their bias on a subject. They then try to act all innocent with the whole argument about them being comedians first (which it's not to say that it isn't true, it's more that there's clearly more to what's going on that simply the comedic aspect).

It mostly comes down to the format. The Daily Show was structured in a way that it was clear that it was intended to be a satire of the news networks. Last Week Tonight is much more centered on Oliver and his point of view on a matter, so it's much more direct. Which means that the structure isn't so much meant to be taken as a farce more than it is a way to sugarcoat his perspective. It's not to say that he doesn't make some good points, it just means that he shouldn't necessarily fall back on those points.

Larry Wilmore

Wilmore didn't replace Stewart at any point, but he did take up Colbert's time slot for his Nightly Show. This show certainly had some promise to it, since it would focus on minority issues in specific, with obvious and heavier emphasis on the black experience in the US. There would be round-tables at the end of the show he and a panel of some of his crew and a guest would talk about some hot-button issue and at the end of it all they play a game to keep it 100% real for a chance to get a sticker.  It's all in good fun. Except he's not really all that funny. At least not lately.

It's kind of dicey going into Wilmore because certainly the topics are important for someone to bring them up, and it's hard to make heavy material funny. And the material certainly can get pretty heavy. I mean, he spent a good chunk of time making Bill Cosby jokes, which ranged from the emotional spectrum of  "take that, you horrible human being!" to "uhhh...yeah...that wasn't funny...". Wilmore managed well for the first little while but then it seemed like he wasn't really picking up or plateauing on that momentum. He doesn't really work well as a host, though I suppose that could better with time. He is pretty much in the same spot as Trevor Noah. With that said though, I think Wilmore has come of more corny, stiff and artificial as the show goes by.

I mostly find myself more interested in the rest of the cast than him on the Nightly Show. I definitely like Mike Yard. He could do better as the host; he has more of the confidence, the energy and the sharpness that is befitting of the topics at hand. Though, I have to say him having Ricky Velez is insulting to me. That guy not only isn't funny but he doesn't really feel like he truly adds or contributes substantially. Plus, for a show that wants to get into minority issues, they didn't really give him much to work with on making important points about the Latino plight. Not that he'd really handle them with much nuance but still.

The only other thing I really have to say regarding Larry Wilmore, aside from definitely needing to improve significantly is that his White House Correspondents Dinner was weak. Especially the way it ended, that was just eye-rolling.

Samantha Bee

Finally, let's talk about the only woman on this section, Samantha Bee. Personally, I didn't really find Bee that funny on The Daily Show. She could be from time to time, but she wasn't really a favorite of mine. Upon seeing that she has her own political show, Full Frontal, I figured I'd give it a try, making a considerable effort to remove that stigma from her. While I'm not necessarily laughing that much, I did find some of what she has to say humorous and certainly the topics are interesting. She's essentially providing the female perspective on the fuckery that ensues, which definitely is a void in sociopolitical comedy, especially on TV. I mean, to be honest I can't think of one female comedian that has that Carlinesque or Hicks-like quality to them off the top of my head. And I'll bet you can't either. Or maybe you can and I'm the asshole here. Whatever.

Whether or not I'm having a fit of laughter watching her, I certainly feel engaged in the show. Which is more than I can say for some other shows. She is definitely a lot more opinionated and much more up-front about it, at least in delivery. I would make a remark that her approach can be quite aggressive and that can be off-putting but perhaps that would be an unfair comment to make. Particulary because she was always playing up the level of outrage in a story, and she tends to tackle very outrageous stories and mostly because saying a woman is too aggressive might just mean I'm getting into some double-standard. Either way, while it could maybe go beyond where it needs to be, it's not a valid criticism. Neither is saying that she's just shilling for Hilary because then who looks like the Berniebro tool? Though, one thing I will remark on is that she can get awfully smug, notably with her videos on midterm elections. It just combined the liberal elitism of Bill Maher with the moral superiority of Canadians. Still, it could fair well as it goes along. If nothing else, it's a start to opening some doors.

The Malaise Of A Sophomore

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

In Cynicism We Mistrust

So, he won.

He won against the Bush dynasty.

He won three primaries.

And he won Super Tuesday.

He’s not stopping no matter what fact is levied against him. Whatever he blurts will somehow not lead any damage to his image. Political analysts are baffled, comedians are at a bounty with the onslaught of jokes coming from his campaign and most are left seeing the events unfurl with their jaw wide open. So many people seemed to be certain that this was nothing more than a mere gag, but it must seem that some people are finding his words to abide to the old adage “it’s funny ‘cuz it’s true”. These people not only take his words to heart but are sickened by the ugly “truth” they seem to hold. As such, they cannot trust anyone but him to be take care of that problem. For the political system has made a cynic of him, a cynic of them and a cynic of all of us.

Politics in and of itself is a cynical game. No country on this earth can say that they’ve never had the majority of their public be jaded at the way the government runs their lives. Through empty promises, shady practices and scandals of all sizes, the cracks of the establishment grow and the faces of the politicians that represent us turn from humans to artificial beings. We no longer can attribute their errors to mere human fault as the way they conduct themselves seems to indicate that they were incapable of such.

Even if we were so generous, the levels they would stoop seemed even too much for us to deem it as merely a judgemental error. That, or whatever their error was, the stakes were too high it to be made. We may be lenient to an average person changing their opinion, but when a politician does it, it’s sacrilege. At times it seems as though one could pity the madness they go through, but so rarely can we do so when they swim in pools of money that either came from our pockets or those of special interests.

It would be inevitable that the supercharged energy of political cynicism would come to lead America down a terrible path. Many nations before them have had their revolutions, their coups and their conflicts which emerged from a want to dismantle the current “democratic” system in favor of a radical change. America itself has gushed over imagining what would happen if there came a day when society drastically changed from some unforeseen event. Not many probably thought that what would signal that change would be a loudmouthed businessman with no sense of tact and whose only intelligence stemmed from being able to adopt the image of a populist outsider, but hey, we can’t all be Nostradamus.

Yes, it is the shock of this man being successful that seems to be the most piercing element of his campaign. Though it’s becoming more evident that to be surprised is to be ignorant of America. There was already a radical shift that came along thanks to Obama becoming president, but ironically, it was more the reaction to Obama than the man himself that brought such shifts. So many people seemed to be frightened of what this man could bring. As such, the Tea Party movement began to grow steam and shook the Republican establishment with its insane ideas. Republicans themselves were far more acidic in going after the president, be it the congressmen that would block him at any moments notice to those registered as such who denied that he even was born in America.

We cannot remove the color out of the tension that came from Obama, as he has faced a great deal of scrutiny and disrespect, perhaps more than your average president. Though even if he was as mistreated as any other Democratic president would be under a Republican-controlled Congress, at least we cannot deny that his presidency brought with it a resurgence of the ever-looming racial tensions that people assumed were relics of the past. And while there are still months left in his presidency, there is no denying that the hope and change that seem to adorn his face on posters did not fully take root. Some could say it was because of the troubles he faced as president, others could say that it was yet another example of politicians exploiting the aspirations of its electorate for votes…perhaps it was both. Either way, the disappointment that came from having Obama in office seems to be common among even those divided by partisan lines.

Amid the anger of the right disgusted at the heavily caricatured image of Obama and the frustration of the left at what actually became of him, there also brewed a general contempt for the politicians in the middle, no matter which side of the spectrum they were on. For in their pettiness to not compromise, the government got shut down, terrible lawmaking decisions got made and they became more hated than pubic lice.

There seemed to be constant reminders of just how two-faced they were, especially considering the popularity of House of Cards, as well as the need to add the -gate suffix to any gaffe to remind us of just how awful Nixon was. Not to mention the constantly-growing information about lobbyists, societal issues, campaign spending and conspiracies that circled around us. For Christ’s sake, Snowden showed us that the US was spying on its own citizens and Obama didn’t even bother to give us a courtesy call on the program!

How can you expect America to go back to choosing the same old two-bit politician after all that came out? It seemed that we were so dead-set on this prospect as yet another Clinton v. Bush brawl was going to spill on the political scene. But then from the far wings of each party emerged a New York resident with crazy hair promising to drastically change the system. And only one seems truly poised to take over, according to polls. It’s not at all insane to see why he’s making headway. Sure, it would be easy to be condescending and factor it to the general stupidity of the American people who so desperately cling to guns, God and the good ol’ days that the mere thought of change sends them in a manic fit, but that really only does more damage than actually help.

Simply put, he is blunt. Being blunt doesn’t mean that he’s telling the truth. Merely, he’s just saying what’s on people’s minds. Many of those things may be vulgar garbage, but there are people out there who believe in it. That, and there are instances where what he says actually can make the critics mutter through clenched teeth that they agree. He breaks the conventional structure because with it, the true power of his message can seem larger than it really is. It’s in his arrogance and constant scapegoating of the system that one can be so quick to be swayed to believe that he is what will bring America back to its original state of grandeur. It’s not to say that the system is complete innocent; as it has been made clear, there has been too much vile and too little progress from it to have faith in those who are work in it anymore.

While this political cynicism seems to be aiding him, it only serves to hurt the other party, despite there being a counterpart to his rhetoric. As much as it would be lovely to believe that Sanders could truly bring about the changes that he loves to trumpet, it just seems like it doesn’t stand to deliver. Perhaps seeing what became of Obama upon reflection soured what could be under Sanders, or it could be that the ideas just don’t seem to have a stable foundation. It could also be because he has not been able to cultivate as much popularity as needed, leading to him being overshadowed by Hilary Clinton, who seems to be as inevitable as ever. Though, whatever the case may be, at least he seems more straightforward than her. Hilary only seems to aggravate the vitriol that comes from the establishment.

Really, at this point, it doesn’t matter who wins. The damage has been done and the knife that was jabbed deep by his hand will only go deeper into the heart of America. Win or lose, there will be a mass exodus from America and riots will emerge. However dramatic the situation may be, to assume that the nation can simply shake off this point in time and return to the status quo would be insane. In fact, it would be insulting if such a thing were to happen. It would be like we let loose tons of elephants and then decided to ignore all of them. Tragically, the only reason they were let loose was because those who ran the zoos were too corrupt to keep them secure and seemed to not mind if a few of us got trampled over them.

If one wanted to be so truly cynical, it could be said that America deserves this. After being the superpower for so long and placing its hands where it shouldn’t have, it seemed to believe itself impervious to the troubles of other countries. It would seem fitting that now it would have its smug grin wiped off by a political storm that could be destined to bring it down a few levels. While the record of America is not even remotely close to being remotely close to being slightly decent, the rest of the world shouldn’t be gloating so much. It’s not like they haven’t faced their own political troubles, are completely innocent themselves or are devoid of radicals and/or idiots. America really is only a hyper-exaggeration of the ups and downs of the rest of the world, as they are able to project themselves to everyone. It’s so easy to laugh at their follies, forgetting that some of them lie in the rest of the world and that they have more impact than we care to think.

Civility has left the realms of political discourse, making way for more aggressive attitudes. Emotion has vastly surmounted itself over logic. The division in the US has grown greatly, leaving them to be only be unified in mistrust for one another. Cynicism brought us here and it doesn’t seem like cynicism is leaving anytime soon. While there’s a lot here that is pessimistic, it may not be unlikely to think that the worst may not come. Still, it would be foolish to believe that there won’t be some dark moments looming ahead.

I guess there’s nothing more to do but laugh.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Yet Another Article About The Academy

As an aspiring actor, the Oscars are both a pleasure and a pain to endure. It’s a lavish spectacle where stars get to come together and have an entertainer torture their way through hosting the show. A lot of them go empty-handed to hear bloated speeches from their colleagues who either stand on the soapbox or cry all over it. Outside of the Hollywood machine, it does give off an air of pretentiousness, self-righteousness and awkwardness that can be unbearable to sit through and take seriously. Yet, if one longs to be in the world of cinema, one can’t help still to imagine themselves in one of those seats in fine evening-wear and hear their name called out and feel that people do love them, they really do love them. Maybe it could, but for many, the art world is a cynical realm. Having different skin color, genitalia and sexual orientation only makes it harder to get the mainstream respect, but hey at least you got more of a chance in those froo-froo film festivals, right?

Now, I’m sure I’m not the only person writing about the backwardness of the Academy. Many people before me have already made their pieces regarding the white-old-male dominance of the academy, how bizarre it is that the liberal Hollywood still seems to shun the minorities that they love to stand up form and that there’s absolutely no reason for Spotlight to be nominated aside from “it’s based on a true story”. I would have to be lying to say that I could give you an entirely fresh take on this issue. But I could say it and convince you that it’s true because I’m a master thespian.

I have quite a plethora of issues with the award show, with each of them having their roots stem from other sources. All of which come to the point that the show isn’t as diverse as it wants to paint itself. It’s centered only among a few countries, leaving the international markets to fight over a single category. Stories have to be of a specific archetype, hence why the term Oscar-bait becomes so overused once the winter movie season kicks in. There seems to nominees that the Academy just loves to suck up to and if they’re not sucking up to a specific person, they certainly are sucking up to a certain demographic. And don’t even get me started on the dominance Disney has in the animated category that is stifling the potential of Western animated films to explore new boundaries...(Go Anomilisa, by the way! At least you’ll give the Academy some trouble on whom to go for)

Oh there’s even more to say, like how they seem to blow off directors like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino who’ve shaped the cinematic world, how they dismiss science-fiction and comedy that digs deeper into the hearts of the public than whatever trite sapfest they provide for Best Picture, and still let Woody Allen on the loose. I could cite lengthy papers on how they just seem to not care for black or female, especially when the two of them are together and directing. My word, it would never end if I went into the utter dismissal of the LGBTQ entertainers in cinema when there’s a vast subculture dedicated to them. The more topics that come to mind, the more I feel like curling up in the fetal position and mumbling madly to myself on how entrenched the racism of Hollywood is in regards to their casting choices.

There’s just too much to mention, from personal bias to systematic problems. All of which are sickening in their own right. What of all the problems really is the most sickening though? Perhaps it is the general passivity that is given in response to these criticisms. When I saw that #OscarsSoWhite was trending, I could just hear the jokes that whoever is hosting is going to make to cutely address the elephant in the room, which at this point is roughly the size of the Titanic (be it the box-office gross or the actual vessel, whichever is bigger). It made me want to not watch the show, which I was already planning to do, but it wanted me to do something beyond not watching it. Generally, if there wasn’t conversation going at great lengths about the flaws of the Oscars, there were entertainers making jokes about the lack of diversity. And whether or not they were funny, it highlights the patronizing way that the industry addresses the issue.

I’d feel better if they’d said nothing rather than be cute about it. I would much rather see them go throughout the night enveloped in the shallowness of the glitz and glamour than stand at the podium and deliver half-hearted speeches on social justice. It’s probably not fair of me to be so harsh since some who do go on that podium could very well be justified in talking about it. It’s just that the hypocrisy nauseates me. You could say it’s foolish to care so much about an award show, a construct whose only power rests on a cultural oligarchy’s influence to inflate the ego of others. Not caring about it takes away its power.

I only care because they care. At least they say they do as they brand themselves as champions of progressiveness and inclusivity. I have little leverage in combating the issue. It’d take me a while to get enough recognition to even have an iota of a sway in this, and that’s even assuming that I can break into the scene at all. The big names up top can prove their devotion to the cause much better. Organize a strike, make a petition, or pull a Marlon Brando and have a minority accept the award and berate the Academy’s bigotry. I mean if they want to do that, then they should. Otherwise, they should be blunt with us and make a point that they only want the illusion of diversity. Then that way, I can either imagine myself fighting in the revolt against them or managing to win the lottery-esque odds of being another token minority. Because quite frankly, I’ve got university work to tackle before I can play those cynical Hollywood games.