Archive for Coppola

Review of a film about which only I and a number of fat lonely fangirls care, and about which no one should care: The X-Files: I Want To Believe

Posted in Films, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

I have, in at least two prior posts, professed my passionate hatred for the Francis Ford Coppola film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and though that hatred broils within me now as fiercely as ever, I find that I can in no way  describe my feelings upon viewing The X-Files: I Want To Believe more effectively than I can through allusion to that object of my unadulterated revilement, particularly to the prologue sequence wherein Dracula returns from waging war in the name of the church to discover that his wife has committed suicide and thus been deemed condemned to damnation by ecclesiastical authority, this revelation prompting him to fly into a frenzy, scream “IS THIS MY REWARD FOR DEFENDING GOD’S CHURCH”, plunge his sword into a stone cross, and become a vampire. 

Chris Carter, is this my reward for 17 years of unflinching dedication to the franchise you created? I renounce The X-Files! I will rise from my death to avenge this disappointment with all the powers of darkness!

The subtitle of the New X-Files is resonates with a new poignancy in retrospect. The attitude I maintained in anticipation of this movie is most succinctly conveyed thusly: I wanted to believe it would be good. I wanted to believe that a script penned by some of the series’ most accomplished writers would contain compelling dialogue and engaging characters. I wanted to believe that Chris Carter would learn from the mistakes he rendered in his first effort to translate the show’s atmosphere to a feature film. I wanted to believe that production team would valiantly resist the compulsion to retread the very path that lead to the show’s decline in order to appease chubby, lonely fan girls. Even as negative reviews poured in like a torrent of truth surging forth from out there, I wanted to believe I could find some way to enjoy it. As Agent Mulder said once, “I wanted to believe, but the tools had been taken away. The X-Files had been shut down. They closed our eyes… our voices have been silenced…. our ears now deaf to the realms of extreme possibilities”. 

The question as to how this project went so horribly wrong is one that utterly baffles me. I feel as though any pubescent boy instructed to write a movie script about ‘two FBI agents who work together to solve cases judged unexplained by bureau proper- an eccentric whose sister’s abduction by mysterious forces when he was eight years old provokes him to obsessively pursue supernatural phenomena, and uncompromising skeptic who doggedly challenges her partner’s beliefs’ would produce a composition superior to The X-Files: I Want To Believe. Every component that made the television series fantastic was somehow excised from this installment in the saga. Mulder and Scully don’t investigate a crime but rather are dragged along, blathering about “the darkness in their lives” as other people do so. The case itself is barely even paranormal in its nature, to the extent that when Mulder demonstrates a belief that forces beyond mortal comprehension are at work, he isn’t chastised for ‘spookiness’ but rather respected for his legitimate opinion. Scully is too entrenched in an inane, trite, lifetime movie of the week worthy subplot involving a boy with a terminal illness to actually serve as her former partner’s foil. The convoluted mystery, involving a pederast who experiences psychic visions of his former victim’s attempts to perform illegal head transplants, is unraveled not by intuition or cunning on the part of any character, but rather by happenstance as Scully stumbles upon the seminal clue after conducting a google search on Stem Cell Research in hopes of aiding the ailing young man in whom she has become emotionally invested.  Even Mulder and Scully’s simmering sexual tension has vanished. With what does Chris Carter seek to fill the empty husk that remains once these elements are stripped away? A fuck-ton of fanservice and rapper-turned actor Xzibit.

I know that a number of people will enjoy this movie, and I know just what sort of people will comprise that number. Lonely, socially maladjusted, most probably obese women who only value the legacy of The X-Files insofar as they want its two central characters to fuck, who squeal rather than choke back vomit when Scully grumbles cutely about Mulder’s ‘scratchy beard’ on her face. These individuals don’t care that cuddling in bed and exchanging “I Love You”s mutilates the chemistry these characters previously shared, they care only about projecting their own sexual frustration onto fictional personages. When confronted with my perspective on the matter, people of this kind will likely allege that I’m opposed to ‘evolution of the characters’. That idea isn’t entirely wrong, especially if the characters evolve into shitty boring people whose show would have never been picked up in the first place. 

What would I have done were I at the helm of the new X-Files movie? I would have taken a page from mainstream American comic books and implemented a major fucking retcon, that is to say, for those unfamiliar with the term, I would have reorganized continuity entirely. Perhaps Chris Carter is so tremendously deluded as to believe that sensible people want his show’s last three seasons to be anything but entirely erased from history, but I am not so misguided. I would have put Mulder and Scully back in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in their cramped basement office, solving unexplained cases. One such case presents itself, Mulder thinks the supernatural is involved, Scully doesn’t. Maybe the perpetrator of the crimes turns out to be Satan, or a werewolf, or a genetic mutant who needs to extract livers in order to survive, or all three, I’m flexible as long as it actually possesses some of the palpable menace that head transplanters distinctly lack. Somehow, the simplicity of the formula I’ve just delineated alluded screenwriter Frank Spotnitz.

Don’t misunderstand me, this movie isn’t entirely without merit. It facilitates some excellent Xzibit jokes. At one point, Mulder asks Agent Xzibit to “get a car ready”. You couldn’t do better if you tried. 

-Gothicus Maximus

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Neuter-view with the Vampire: The Emasculation of Bloodsucking Un-Dead in Popular Culture

Posted in Dracula, Films, Horror, Literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

Before I move on to the subject of this post, I’d like to toast the brilliance of the portmanteau that begins this entry’s title. That shit’s brilliant, why aren’t I on TV? 

The impetus that now manifests as this diatribe first descended upon me as I rode the 6:11 PM train from Penn Station to my hometown on Long Island. Although my eccentric clothes often ensure that many railway passengers opt to stand rather than sit beside me- this one of the few material benefits of membership in my straggling subculture- on this occasion I found myself sharing my personal space with a young woman of roughly 14. Before you either offer me a high five or prepare to call the local police, I will affirm that no encroachment was made against space quite that personal, and indeed this girl has won her place in the annals of my weblog only because she produced and proceeded to begin reading a copy of Stephanie Meyer’s novel Twilight As I don’t read books that are not designed for adults, I am less familiar with Meyer’s supernatural romances than nearly every American teenage girl, but my cursory investigation of her work has confirmed it to be emblematic of a far more sweeping blight on our popular culture– the eponymous Emasculation of Bloodsucking Un-Dead.

What occurs to me is that the evolution of the vampire as he is conceived by the average man parallels, almost perfectly, the change women seek to impose on the men with whom they become romantically involved. The qualities which establish a man as badass, and therefore attractive to heterosexual women, such as habitual terseness, emotional maladaptation, ownership of a motorcycle, or thirst for the blood of the innocent, unfortunately do not overlap with those that facilitate a healthy relationship, so thus women will, as paradoxical as this may sound, seek to encourage in their chosen paramours what they imagine is ‘improvement’, doing all in their power to render their mates affectionate, sensitive, compassionate, and utterly ‘defanged’, if you will. Though their efforts are often thwarted when directed toward men who possess and assert independent wills, the natures of such fictional constructs as the Nosferatu are easily manipulated by creative intelligences. I realize this attempt to pin my vampire hang-up almost entirely on a single gender may set off some alarms for my more politically correct readers, but one must recognize that depictions of female vampire  haven’t changed much between the publication of Carmilla and “Vampirella” issue #1- they’re still buxom skanks with sharp teeth- whereas their male counterparts have fallen into a bit of a slump. That we men have no apparent desire to infuse our sex objects with gentle souls is probably more a testament to women than it is to us, but even still the vampire suffers.  

Let us consider, for example, the most iconic personality among the creatures of the night: Count Dracula. In the original 1897 novel, the vampire’s initial encounter with Mina Murray, his ‘main squeeze’ as it were, transpires thusly:

 

I felt the same vague terror which had come to me before and the same sense of some presence. I turned to wake Jonathan, but found that he slept so soundly that it seemed as if it was he who had taken the sleeping draught, and not I. I tried, but I could not wake him. This caused me a great fear, and I looked around terrified. Then indeed, my heart sank within me: beside the bed, as if he had stepped out of the mist—or rather as if the mist had turned into his figure, for it had entirely disappeared—stood a tall, thin man, all in black. I knew him at once from the description of the others. The waxen face; the high aquiline nose, on which the light fell in a thin white line; the parted red lips, with the sharp white teeth showing between; and the red eyes that I had seemed to see in the sunset on the windows of St. Mary’s Church at Whitby. I knew, too, the red scar on his forehead where Jonathan had struck him. For an instant my heart stood still, and I would have screamed out, only that I was paralysed. In the pause he spoke in a sort of keen, cutting whisper, pointing as he spoke to Jonathan:—

“Silence! If you make a sound I shall take him and dash his brains out before your very eyes.” I was appalled and was too bewildered to do or say anything. With a mocking smile, he placed one hand upon my shoulder and, holding me tight, bared my throat with the other, saying as he did so, “First, a little refreshment to reward my exertions. You may as well be quiet; it is not the first time, or the second, that your veins have appeased my thirst!” I was bewildered, and, strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him. I suppose it is a part of the horrible curse that such is, when his touch is on his victim. And oh, my God, my God, pity me! He placed his reeking lips upon my throat!

This is sexy, but precisely because it shouldn’t be. As Dracula’s legacy perpetuated itself, the desire of certain individuals to imbue the character with attributes that induce them to blush and sigh as well as those that induce them to masturbate privately became manifest. The incarnations of Dracula that resulted from this are generally abortions that summarily approve the old adage, ‘you can’t have your rape fantasy and eat it, too’. Here is the forementioned scene as imagined in Francis Ford Coppola’s film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, whose title certainly oozes with unintentional irony:

“My most precious love”? What? Although one can’t help but love that interwoven sequence featuring Anthony Hopkins’ admirable Van Helsing, which almost serves to disguise Mina’s sudden leap in rationale from “YOU KILLED MY FRIEND” to “I WANT TO LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE.” The vampire’s primary goal is no longer the conquest of London, but the seduction of one very special woman. Not quite Bram Stoker’s Dracula, at least as I recall it. 

Be cautioned not to mistake me for a closeted sociopath with a hard-on for ravening, soulless corpses, as I’m not totally opposed to the notion of a vampire with a moral compass. I’m merely advancing the idea that there’s a happy medium between Satan’s Emissary and Doctor McSanguinary.

– Gothicus Maximus