Tag Archives: Adam Sandler

So You Don’t Have To — “The Ridiculous 6”

by Gabriel Valdez

In the first five minutes, hell – the first 30 seconds – “The Ridiculous 6” establishes itself as intentionally offensive. The new Adam Sandler movie is a Western spoof, and these first five minutes involve racial slurs, unwanted groping of a woman, and rape threats of her by five men.

Now, the racial slurs might be claimed as “historical accuracy,” but nothing else in the film is concerned with any kind of historical accuracy. More importantly, those slurs are used in ways that aren’t historically accurate. So, there’s really no leg to stand on here, though I’m sure someone will try.

Here’s one of the film’s early jokes:

Attempted rapists call an Apache woman “Pocahotness.” Don’t worry, her real name is “Smoking Fox.” She’s saved by the white orphan her tribe raised. That’s Adam Sandler. His name is “White Knife.” He’s special. Why? Because he’s better at everything his tribe does than they are. He can run at super speeds, throw knives with pinpoint accuracy, and shoot arrows and catch them in his teeth.

Indigenous Americans are posed as warlike and savage. When a white traveler happens upon their tribe’s riverside camp, everyone hollers and brandishes a weapon, including a toddler with a hatchet at the ready. That’s all these people are, the film says: violent, savage, uncultured. Adam Sandler is our window into their souls, and he is better at all they do than they are because he is among them, but not of them.

All the Apache women want him, but they don’t want the actual Apache men they’re with. The white man among them has genetic supremacy, breeding supremacy. Breeding supremacy is the kind of shit we once argued so that we could justify the rape of indigenous peoples. By forcing them to have half-white babies, the idea was we were breeding the genetically inferior parts of them out. It’s “Manifest Destiny: The Fucking Movie.”

There are some jokes at the expense of whites, but the film uses these briefly and early before forgetting them, as if to clean the slate so that it can get away with being profoundly racist toward the Apache and then say, “Oh, but we made two jokes about whites.”

Take Rob Schneider. He plays a Mexican who has sex with donkeys. When we first meet the donkey, it shits all over the wall for 10 seconds. That’s his special power. The donkey projectile shits all over people. Mexicans, amirite?

Poor Taylor Lautner, who actually delivered a decent parkour film earlier this year in “Tracers,” is the leading Native American actor in the film. The first thing we learn about his character is that he’s a virgin (breeding supremacy). Actually, the first thing we learn about him is that he’s mentally handicapped (genetic supremacy). Don’t worry, though, he’ll get a blowjob from the donkey in his second scene while Rob Schneider looks on approvingly and pets the donkey. A Native American actor, a Mexican character, and animal sex. Only the white actor playing a white man looks on disapprovingly.

The joke is that all of these people are White Knife’s brothers from different women. In order to rescue their father, they need to band together and steal $50,000.

Jorge Garcia is next. The Chilean/Cuban actor made famous by being the most charming character in “Lost” here plays a mentally handicapped man who can communicate only in grunts (genetic supremacy). The joke is his mother’s too ugly for anyone to have ever had sex with her (breeding supremacy). Yes, there are two mentally handicapped characters in the film, treated with all the sensitivity of a boot.

Luke Wilson and Terry Crews join on as the final two brothers. Thankfully, Crews gets away without too much racism aimed his way (aside from sexual stereotypes). There’s even a scene where Crews reveals to the others he’s Black, just in case they were thinking of making slurs without knowing. Given the cachet Crews has in the industry, one has to imagine he wouldn’t have done the movie if the same hate was directed toward Black characters.

Others don’t have that sway. Here are the other Apache women named:

Never-Wears-Bra

Beaver Breath

They’ll come across a man in the wilds inventing baseball. He’s got a team of Chinese workers, but they need a team to play against. The jokes contained here are that the Chinese are bad at everything (genetic supremacy), scared of the ball, and they’re short (breeding supremacy). What wit.

The jokes about baseball itself actually work. Because he keeps losing, the inventor makes the rules more and more complicated as he goes. It’s a rare moment of actual wit and creativity in an otherwise profoundly lazy-ass film.

The only other humor that works:

“Sometimes, the white man speaks the truth. Like, one in 20, 25 times. I believe this is one of those times.” In fact, any of the lines Saginaw Grant says work – he’s the most accomplished comedian here. He gets about three real jokes, two of them aimed at whites. These are the only jokes made about whites in the whole film. That’s fewer instances than Rob Schneider sings about a fucking taco tree.

The pairing of Will Forte and Steve Zahn as outlaws is effective, though very underutilized. Really, a buddy film about their characters and interplay might have been more worthwhile.

That’s all I’ve got on things that work.

There are things that should work, but don’t because the film’s already lost so much trust. The stunt casting of Vanilla Ice as Mark Twain fails. David Spade as General Custer is pointless. Whitney Cummings is essentially used to show off her breasts. It’s all just names on the packaging that get you to watch and wait around for their 30 seconds apiece of screen-time.

Regardless of all this, the film is already dragging inside the first 10 minutes. Most of what Adam Sandler does is stand still, look stoic (read: disinterested), and grumble. Sandler has done anger surprisingly well as a dramatic actor – just look at “Punch Drunk Love.” Yet it’s something he can’t succeed with at a comedic level. That’s especially true at this point in his career, when he’s sleepwalking through so many roles for the paycheck. Whatever manic energy he was able to capture when young has left him. There’s nothing he brings to this that any other comedic actor couldn’t double.

Even without commentary on its negative social value, the film just doesn’t work as a comedy – even in the Adam Sandler style. It’s a shame Crews, Garcia, Lautner (yes, Lautner), and Wilson aren’t used in different ways. Sandler and Schneider are sleepwalking through this. The number of missed opportunities later in the film is ridiculous.

As a satire, it’s non-functional. It doesn’t understand anything more than the most basic cliches of a Western. It has nothing to say and it doesn’t understand what it’s lampooning. Less than five minutes of making fun of baseball – that’s really the only satirical thing that you’re sitting through the film to see.

Your time is far better spent re-watching “Blazing Saddles,” a film that understood its genre, why satire exists, and didn’t struggle with the most basic comedic timing in acting and filmmaking.

Or stick with “The Lone Ranger,” which had so much more to say than critics realized and boasted some beautiful cinematography and action scenes. Or check out Natasha Leggero’s “Another Period” for this style of genre satire done right. Or just watch “Drunk History” for something with a true awareness of how the world sees it.

“The Ridiculous 6” is hands-down the worst movie I’ve seen this year, and I had to watch Nicolas Cage’s Chinese martial arts epic.

Does it Pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

If you read my reviews, you know I’d normally give this section a more thorough rundown. “The Ridiculous 6” doesn’t deserve it. There are a few lines shared between women, but they’re all about how desirous they are of Adam Sandler. This film forgets women except during brief moments to make fun of the idea that women have sexuality or to pose women as damsels to be saved from rape and murder.

Trailers of the Week — Postapocalypse Westerns & Youth Movements

Young Ones fanning 2

YOUNG ONES
Well, this came out of nowhere. I mean, we all know that Autumn brings postapocalypse Westerns, but Young Ones was an afterthought a week ago. It was a contentious film at Sundance, and then fell off the map. And yet…this is exactly how you announce a movie. Directed by Jake Paltrow (yes, that’s Gwyneth’s kid brother), the cinematography and color choices on this look superb.

Toss in Michael Shannon and some of the best young actors around (Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Kodi Smit-McPhee), and suddenly you’ve got what looks like a young adult, sci-fi There Will Be Blood on your hands.

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN
If I was a more traditional critic, I’m sure this would be my trailer of the week. Runner-up ain’t too shabby, though.

Director Jason Reitman is a force to be reckoned with. Though his last two films failed to capture the imagination like Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air, he remains an actor’s director.

There’s a lot happening in this trailer. It’s interesting that we’ve yet to make many films that deal with the interconnectedness of the modern world in a realistic way. I suspect this will begin to change as younger directors make their way up in the industry. Not knowing exactly how Men, Women & Children will choose to comment on this, however, let me focus on the excitement I have for this cast.

It’s nice to see Adam Sandler in something dramatic again. His comedic torch has all but burned out, and I’ve been disappointed he never pursued the dramatic ability he hinted at in Punch Drunk Love. I don’t expect the guy to start reciting Shakespeare, but comedians can often play real world drama in a way that accomplished dramatic actors can’t. Steve Carrell, Steve Martin, and Bill Murray made the transition on film, while Hugh Laurie, Olivia Munn, and Ray Romano have all given us captivating dramatic performances on TV. It’s not that all good comedians have this ability – Jon Stewart pretty famously can’t act his way out of a wet paper bag – but rather that the vulnerability that comedy requires can offer a unique perspective on delivering a dramatic performance.

Reitman is an actor’s director, but unlike most he regularly prioritizes female characters. Judy Greer has been typecast as the punchline in comedies, while Jennifer Garner (who may be the most underutilized actress of her generation) has stuck mostly to indie films because they’re the only ones that include good parts for women. Combined with Rosemarie DeWitt and filled out with the kind of young cast Reitman has always used well, I have high hopes for this in terms of being a film that includes strong, unique roles for women.

NIGHTCRAWLER
In Jake Gyllenhaal I trust. Donnie Darko. Brokeback Mountain. Jarhead. Zodiac. Brothers. Source Code. End of Watch. Prisoners. Enemy. At what point do we put him in the pantheon of great American actors? Few have delivered such strong and varied work in such a wide range of roles.

Nightcrawler, the story of a freelance reporter who dresses up the crimes he reports, seems like a uniquely Gyllenhaal-ian opportunity to create a deranged yet driven character, someone we can simultaneously withdraw from for his actions yet admire for his tenacity. The film itself looks like it fits squarely into the gallows satire at which Gyllenhaal excels, and it seems like they’ve got a solid midnight, roadside look to the whole affair.

This week’s was the second trailer for Nightcrawler (though the first “official” one). It doesn’t show off the visuals as much as the first, but it delivers the set-up better.

AUTOMATA
Antonio Banderas as a Blade Runner? Yeah, we’re not done with postapocalypse Westerns yet. Clearly influenced by the stories of Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick (and the films their work spawned), Automata looks…really damn good. I worry about an unproven director whose last work (Hierro) was visually mesmerizing but narratively middling. Those are the sorts of directors who can either grow into artistic powerhouses, or make a career of crafting spectacular trailers for so-so films.

Yet I’m also always on the lookout for Spanish takes on genre film. Spanish and Latin American stories often have a unique approach to narrative, defined by cultural priorities that are markedly different from other Western cultures. While Banderas doesn’t always have the best taste in American projects, often just taking a paycheck, he is far choosier with the roles he knows will be widely seen in Spain.

BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE
I’m taking a flier on what ultimately amounts to a homemade film made halfway around the world. Does this look like a good movie? Jury’s out. But as a trailer, it catches my attention.

It’s a textbook example of how to film a movie for a few bucks, yet find a hook that will keep you curious – in this case, a Romanian twenty-something becomes determined to film a movie with Anne Hathaway. He hires three local actresses to film scenes he intends will prove the worth of his production to a movie star he doesn’t know.

His obsession with women who look like Hathaway, whom he compares to pets, turns controlling and violent. There’s opportunity here to make a solid psychological horror film, even if the low-budget seams show. There’s opportunity here to make a real comment about our possessive attitude toward women and celebrity, a sort of modern-day David Holzman’s Diary crossed with My Date with Drew.

Of course, those are probably pipe dreams. This really looks like it’s going to be a homemade mess, but every filmmaker I know started out by making homemade messes, and I’ve enjoyed watching these more than I do some hundred million-dollar films. Homemade messes boast some of the most passionate filmmaking we have. Be My Cat is a film that’s on my radar now. Before I saw this trailer, it wasn’t.

Worst Trailer of the Week: OUTCAST
We’ve run this series, what, five weeks now? Already Nicolas Cage has won Worst Trailer twice. The man is an unstoppable machine. I say this as a fan of his, but Nic Cage is going to run away with this segment.

It’s difficult to identify the most nonsense part of the trailer for Outcast. Is it Nic Cage’s godawful English accent? The brilliant idea to pair him with fellow legendary bad actor Hayden Christensen? That the first half of the trailer appears to take place during the Crusades, and the second half in ancient China, with no explanation? The last third of Cage’s dialogue involving him stuck in some sort of weird, permanent wink that will haunt my nightmares?

This trailer is a landmark moment for the words “unfathomable” and “inexplicable.”

Wednesday Collective — Net Neutrality, There Will Be Clothes, & the Laziest Way to Write Strong Women

ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
Net Neutrality

Corporate Feudalism

Let me preface this by saying I’ve worked as a campaign manager, a PAC fundraiser, a legislative aide, and for a state Democratic party. One phone call to an aide is more effective than 50 signatures on a petition. If you care about any of this, yes – sign petitions. But the biggest difference you can make, the biggest way you can interrupt someone’s day and get stuck in their head and make them bring an issue up to the politician for whom they work – is by calling. Your Senators. Your Representatives. Your Governors.

Petitions take a minute to look at. Form letters can be recognized and filed into a folder you know you’re never going to look at again. A phone call has to be taken by someone, because they never know what the topic’s going to be until they’ve already committed themselves to listen. A petition or form letter may make you feel better, but it has little real effect today. It gives the power to the clicking finger on somebody’s mouse hand. Aides are required to pick up the phone, answer politely, and listen. It puts the power in your voice.

The biggest reason you should be worried about net neutrality is that the Internet isn’t really an owned thing. Anyone can hop on and, with a minimum of trouble and investment, start a website – it’s the ultimate realization of free speech. The net neutrality cases the Supreme Court is sleeping through and legislation Congress is drawing up threaten that.

Essentially, service companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon will be able to double-dip. They’ll charge you for your internet connection, and then turn around and charge websites for their ability to get material to you. What this means to you is that the Internet will start to become prepackaged, like cable TV is. You will be forced into deciding which websites you’d like to pay to access, which plan you’d like to subscribe to, and the open access you have now to every single site on the web will disappear. Small websites and independent ones that can’t pay the service companies will lose their voice.

Service companies will also be able to dictate through bandwidth the political opinions they’d like to support, and will be able to relegate the kinds of independent news sources we most rely upon online to the far corners of accessibility.

I’m not the expert on this. If you haven’t already, learn about net neutrality online. The Washington Post published an infographic that shows how easily Comcast extorted Netflix into paying for a service we (and they) already pay for.

Here’s the ACLU’s rundown of information on net neutrality.

Don’t mistake this with the government’s ill-timed pilot program roll-out of the “Internet Driver’s License,” which would be managed by the government but store your information with subcontracted third parties. I mean, that’s scary, too, the government collecting every log-in and piece of information on you and selling it to third parties, who could then bundle it with other users’ data and sell that to third parties. Nothing like that’s ever gone wrong, has it? But that’s a completely different issue that’s just as scary and threatening, and would only take an extra five seconds to bring up to your Congressperson.

There Will Be Clothes
Maria Bruder

There Will Be Clothes

One reason I push our Bits & Pieces series is to write about the overlooked technical aspects we often gloss over as viewers. Even though we may not select out a piece of set design here or a bit of fight or dance choreography there as conveying a message, these details still burrow into our subconscious.

Clothes on Film is a specialty website that talks about, well, clothes on film. It’s an invaluable resource for costume designers and make-up artists. This There Will Be Blood article is just one of several phenomenal pieces they’ve hosted. Not only can you crash through their archives willy-nilly, you can also peruse their articles by a film’s time period, allowing you to get multiple perspectives on how costume designers find ways to burrow their messages into our subconscious.

The Laziest, Most Offensive Way to Write a Strong Woman
A.E. Larsen

300r Eva Green.tiff

300: 300 Harder is in a tight race with Jack Ryan: Kenneth Branagh Takes a Nap and Brick Mansions (no pun here, I feel bad enough for that movie as is) for worst movie of the year so far. Yes, we’re only four months in, but when the fifth entry in the Paranormal Activity canon can’t even make that list, it means you’ve really had some half-assed films.

300: Shameless Play on Star Wars Titling wasn’t actually a terrible movie. I mean, it was, but it had some neat technical things going for it. Its biggest problem, and its strongest claim to win (lose?) that award at the end of the year, is Artemisia. The Persian general is played by Eva Green, who is the only actor in the whole damn thing who realizes how much camp a movie like 300: Leonidas and Xerxes Escape from Guantanamo Bay really needs. Green (and Lena Headey for all of 2.5 seconds) are the only watchable actors in this.

But the character Green plays is offensive. She’s a strong woman. Well that’s a good start, but why is she strong? Because she was raped as a preteen. Welcome to genre fiction, where men can be strong because they swing Freudian swords around all day, but women can only be strong if they’re sexually taken advantage of. It’s like a trade-off. You can be a weak and virginal female character, but if you want to be strong, you’d better get chained up in the bottom of a Greek ship for years on end while sailors have their way with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Arnold Schwarzenegger being strong in Conan or John McClane being badass in Die Hard because either got raped for years on end as a kid.

A.E. Larsen writes about Artemisia’s historical accuracy, as well as giving his own take on the strong-woman-as-raped-woman issue in a fantastic article that bridges history and social responsibility in filmmaking.

So even though Brick Mansions is the worst-told story of the year, and Jack Ryan: Keira Knightley Can’t Play Every Character in This Scene, Can She? She Can, I Guess is the most boring movie of the year, 300: Screenwriters Please Go F*ck Yourselves is really leading the pack toward the bottom.

The Best Movie You’ll Never See
Sam Adams

Sorceror

At The Dissolve, Sam Adams (he really gets around Wednesday Collective, doesn’t he) interviews director William Friedkin about the best movie you’ve never seen. In fact, catch me in the right mood and I’ll admit that Sorceror, William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Wages of Fear, may be the best movie, period. It has one of the finest endings in cinema. Hell, the whole movie is just one great, big ending. Coming off his success with The Exorcist and The French Connection, Friedkin risked life and limb to shoot an existential, Conradian action movie in the jungle.

Despite being a critical success, it was killed by the release of Star Wars, and Sorceror barely survived. I remember watching a poor VHS copy as a kid, not knowing that most prints had been lost or destroyed over a few short decades. Sorceror was finally remastered and released last month. Watch it, you won’t regret it. And read the interview, though it does contain spoilers.

Adam Sandler as Transgressional Hero
Bilge Ebiri

Adam Sandler test

I don’t know that I agree with this article, but I don’t know that I disagree with it. This is rare. Try it on for size.

The Wily Beast and the Desperate Woman
Hadley Freeman

George Clooney

Freeman tips the double standard in celebrity reporting on its head by comparing media reactions to the engagement of George Clooney to the reactions on the engagement of Jennifer Aniston. He was ‘tamed,’ the wily beast, by one of the world’s most pre-eminent humanitarian lawyers (even though she turned him down twice) while Jennifer Aniston suckered in some poor B-lister I’ve never heard of ‘in the nick of time,’ and he can’t wait to get out of it. You know, all allegedly, because otherwise, writers would get sued. Really, I couldn’t care who’s getting married to whom – I was always rooting for Clooney and Pitt to get it together so they could have an excuse to remake old Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn courtroom comedies – but if you’re going to report on people’s private lives, you may as well be equal opportunity about it.

As Freeman says, “In the world of media, women are tragic and desperate and said, and men are caddish and free. Because the media, apparently, believes that people are like characters in a crap romcom you wouldn’t watch on a 14-hour flight.”