Friday, May 28, 2010

Why Islam hates us: ‘Sex & City 2’ vs. ‘Prince of Persia’

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 If you wonder why most of the known world despises America, and why the Muslim world thinks of us as the Great Satan, the pair of movies opening this weekend will serve as ample illustration. Hell, after seeing the previews, even I think we’re the Great Satan.

For some ridiculous reason, two films in which the Middle East and what is now known as Iran play a huge role are opening simultaneously – “Sex and the City 2” and “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” The simplification and misinterpretation (also known as stereotyping) of Middle Eastern and western Asian cultures runs rampant here. You think Iran’s President Ahmadinejad got mad about “300” – he will do history’s biggest spit-take over these two bad boys.

Let’s look:


First of all, ladies, I respect you as people and performers – but your characters are not attractive. Not by a long shot. It seems like some plastic surgeon got all whipped up on amyl and went after you with a Botox-loaded machine gun. You look all gnawed on and gnarly, like a stick my dog’s been sharpening his teeth on for weeks.

Yes, American culture despises women who don’t fit into a certain age and body-type category. However, you are not helping things by dressing up like the old ladies from Miami Beach and standing around bitching. This would hold true if I had to watch a movie about fat old guys trying recapture their youth, too – “Wild Hogs,” anyone? (For a great movie about male menopause, check out Cassavettes’ “Husbands.”)

Second: materialism and narcissism are the pathways to hell on earth. Don’t take it from me – listen to Bongwater’s “Folk Song” for the most profound insight about sucking and shopping, and whorishness as lifestyle ideal (the key sequence comes at about seven minutes in):


Third: Abu Dabi (Morocco stands in for it here, since no Muslim ruler who is allergic to car bombs would let crap like this be shot there), or any foreign locale, is not just a backdrop for wacky hi-jinks. Especially ones that involves spoiled American bitches experiencing life crises.

This film is so campy it insults camp. And, if Liza shows up at your gay wedding, girl, I will sue to have your sexual orientation legally revoked. It’s overkill. Who’s the bridesmaid – Richard Simmons? Who’s the priest – Rip Taylor? Now get off my bridal train and don’t make any more of these flicks.

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”:


Oh, those wacky Persians! We have a thing for “Arabian” romance – both the original, silent “Thief of Baghdad” and its 1940 remake are works of wonder. A spate of films in the ‘40s and ‘50s such as Jon Hall/Maria Montez vehicles “The Arabian Nights” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and even worse, “Baghdad,” “A Thousand and One Nights,” and “Son of Sinbad,” to name some stinkers, held sway.


The wily camel merchant, the sinister vizier, the bare-midriffed, chiffon-coated princess, and the resourceful urchin in brocade vest and turban are as big a part of our mental furniture as the genie, the magic carpet and “Open Sesame.” (Perhaps only Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad trilogy of stop-motion Sinbad mythos managed to respect the culture while relating tales about it.)

Today, we perpetuate misunderstanding and mistrust with the greasy Iranian villains of “True Lies,” the misogynist society that puts the beat-down on Sally Field in “Not without My Daughter,” and the armed women and children who attack Samuel L. Jackson in “Rules of Engagement.” It’s bullshit.

“Prince of Persia” recycles all this nonsense and puts it on the “puree” speed. Ben Kingsley is our go-to bad guy; Jake Gyllenhaal is our wisecracking Buff Daddy. C’mon. I know, it’s based on a video game. Jerry Bruckheimer, you are our Irwin Allen, our Cecil B. DeMille, our schlockmeister.

But dammit, I know you can do better. You produced “Black Hawk Down”! You produced the Robert Mitchum “Farewell, My Lovely”! You produced “Thief,” for crap’s sake! Help me out, braugh. Go on a CGI fast, cool your jets, and make something I can vote for next Oscar time.

Besides the 88 Drive In, the Backdoor Theater in Nederland is now open. Nederland is a little haven 13 miles up the canyon from Boulder, and the Theater is a little hole-in-the-wall place that shows flicks on Fridays and Saturdays over the summer. Movies start at 7 p.m. “Iron Man 2” is this weekend’s selection.

ART HOUSES

At the Mayan: “180 Degrees South”:


The genre of exploration film is almost dead, since most of our physical world has had cameramen and –women crawl over it in search of new footage. Adventure film has filled that niche – men and women go to the same faraway places, but this time they surf or ski or parachute or hang-glide or Big Wheel or play mancala from/on same.

But we’re about done ringing the changes on that as well. The tropes of the template run like this: you get your adventure footage, you realize there’s more to it than just the thrill of the next adventure, you gain a little wisdom, you go home a little wiser. Plus you have this cowabunga footage to show for it.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you really want to challenge yourself, erase the data. Don’t make the movie. Leave your camera behind. Just live, have your experience undocumented. Don’t even reveal where you’ve been, so that hordes of posers don’t follow you and trample your pristine wilderness experience into oblivion.

For some reason, it’s also carrying “George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead”:


Now that the schlock horror director has become catnip for intellectuals, it kind of makes sense to book this into an art house. Still, it’s a ZOMBIE MOVIE, people, with all the bloodthirsty, grimly humorous scenes you’ve come to expect.

Does it offer a sardonic look at human mores? Probably. But it also looks like it’s running out of ideas.

At Starz, we have a revival run of Kurosawa’s last big epic, “Ran”:


Staggering work of genius? I don’t know. I lined up eagerly to see it when it first came out, and nearly died of boredom. (I know, I’m an idiot.) I love Kurosawa, he’s in my top three, but I really didn’t like it, so much so that I haven’t tried to watch it again. I have got to suck it up and give it another try. Like those novels you hated in high school, it’s supposed to be a classic. Dammit, I’ll try.

“Ride the Divide”:


OK, now this looks great. Unlike the adventure film referenced above, here’s a film about grueling race over a known course that’s a personal test for those involved. I want to see this one, if only to see big strong cyclists cry.

SPECIAL EVENTS

FRIDAY

At Starz, the Mile Hi Sci Fi features 1988’s “Alien Nation” 7 and 9:30 p.m. (the program repeats Saturday):


It’s the ur-“District 9,” and the conceit of aliens as an oppressed race is pretty well-executed here. The conceit of Mile Hi Sci FI is that a panel of local comics sit around and make fun of the film while it plays, a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

SATURDAY

At the Denver Art Museum, a double feature of the unique pleasures of typography and letterpress printing are explored at 1 p.m., with the showing of “Typeface” and “Jack Stauffacher, Printer.” It’s part of the Museum’s “About Face” series – and a panel discussion featuring local and national printmakers will follow.

 TUESDAY

Starz shows what looks like the great new film “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” 7 p.m.


Andy Serkis came to fame as the voice of Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and even served as the matrix for the performance of the title character in Peter Jackson’s version of “King Kong.” He deserves more notice – his acting gifts are amazing, no more so than in this look at the life of New Wave genius, and very naughty boy, Ian Drury.

Meanwhile, a FREE showing of the intense and disturbing documentary “Gimme Shelter” takes place in the basement of the central branch of the Denver Public Library at 6 p.m.:


It started as a kind of vanity project, but the tragedy and chaos of Altamont seals the movie’s fate as a kind of tombstone of the Summer of Love. Directed by the Maysles Brothers and Charlotte Zwerin, it’s also a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking. There will be more items coming up -- Fresh City Life @ DPL presents “Presence of the Camera: Documentaries” all summer long.

WEDNESDAY

At Starz, it’s a repeat showing of “When You’re Strange: A Film about the Doors,” 7:10 p.m.

At Boulder Chautauqua, Buster Keaton’s great 1923 comedy “Our Hospitality” plays at 7:30 p.m.


Not as well known as “The General” or even “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” it’s just as funny and breathtaking. This time, the live musical accompaniment is provided by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Good clean fun for the whole family!

Down in Denver at the Thin Man Tavern, the Wim Wenders festival continues at 8 p.m. with the peculiar 2000 whodunit, “The Million Dollar Hotel”:


It’s notable for sporting a story by Bono, and for Mel Gibson proclaiming that it was as boring as a dog’s ass. Only one way to find out . . .

THURSDAY

At Starz, DocNight features “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo,” 7 p.m.:


At the Boulder Public Library, 7 p.m., Woody Allen’s killer sci-fi satire, “Sleeper”:


Filmed in and around Denver and Boulder. God, it’s funny. “My brain! It’s my second-favorite organ!”

The Boulder Theater sports “When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors” again, at 8 p.m.

And the Argus Film Festival presents a Super Secret Mystery Movie at 7 p.m. at the Mercury Café, 2199 California St.

LATE NIGHTS

At the Century Boulder, Friday and Saturday at midnight, it’s “Reservoir Dogs”:


At Starz, the Watching Hour at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday gives us 1980’s “Stunt Rock”: What the hell? Heavy metal, stunts . . . plot? Characters? Nah. Not important.


At the Esquire, we get to peek in at another, earlier example of George A. Romero’s twisted genius – 1988’s “Monkey Shines”:


WAAAHHH!!! Telepathic monkey + papraplegic = death and destruction. Looks fun!

And of course, there’s always “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Huzzah! Enjoy your holiday weekend -- talk to you next week!