Dreams, fantasies, and middle fingers

I am home. I’m REALLY glad to be home. I watched four movies on my four flights.

One was Don’t Think Twice (not to be confused with Don’t Look Now). It’s the movie where Keegan-Michael Key and Gillian Jacobs are in an improv troupe in New York and they land auditions for a fictionalized SNL. It was good, though it was also very depressing, because it’s very honest about how shitty I think being on SNL would be and also how shitty not being on SNL would be. My heart goes out to you friends who are making comedy their career. Also I think I hate movies about my jobs, i.e. tech and improv. Tech never feels right onscreen (no, I haven’t watched Silicon Valley yet, I’m sure it’s great) and improv doubly so. Improv just has to be live, I think, or it has to look scripted, or it has to have Greg Proops. It’s so uncomfortable otherwise. You have to be in the room or it’s nothing special.

The other three were basically the same movie, a male fantasy of omnipotence and of giving the establishment the finger. My least favorite was Taken, which Liam Neeson supposedly assumed would bomb and I could see why. He only pulls it off because he’s Liam Neeson but he is miscast. I know! It’s his iconic role now! But let’s face it. The “particular set of skills” bit is ok, but for me the high point is where he has to tell his daughter “they are going to take you.” Genuinely harrowing. After that it is a big old power fantasy and the awkward spectacle of a dad forced to tell a sheik’s majordomo to purchase his daughter. For kicks imagine this starring Jim Carrey.

Then there’s Escape from New York, a very silly film. Now I know where Metal Gear Solid got its protagonist, but video game Snake is an actual character whereas Snake Plissken is maybe an assault rifle in wrestler pants, or (oh, I get it now!) a snake that occasionally hisses out a belligerent phrase. He doesn’t really do anything other than Be Tough until the last scene of the film, which is where the Fuck You Mr. President happens. The prison city idea felt like it could have been more interesting than it was, but with this many stars — including Harry Dean Stanton and Lee Van Cleef — who cares, really. Dumb but occasionally fun.

Which brings us to Kingsman: The Secret Service. It’s ostensibly “James Bond, but fun again,” and it sort of succeeds, but it has to jam in an awkward training / competition middle act that hopefully doesn’t need to happen in the sequel. Colin Firth is fabulous, and his protege is appealing, and while it wasn’t a great movie it was entertaining enough that I want to see the next one. Question marks in my mind about Samuel L. as the lisping squeamish billionaire in vulgar American clothes who serves McDonald’s as a gourmet meal, and his Algerian right-hand woman; for a series supposedly reexamining the “posh British superspy” idea, it’s a little iffy to make your only POC characters (bar one) the villains. But SLJ is having so much fun and is note perfect (except for that dopey lisp), so if he doesn’t mind then maybe I shouldn’t either.

I certainly did not expect to see Kingsman slaughter a churchful of bigots, or indeed a roomful of the 1%. Most satisfying fantasy purge since Mars Attacks!

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