Thursday, August 25, 2016

Against the Crowd Blogathon 2016: Dell's Entry and Day 3 Recap

You may know Thursdays have become a popular day in this little corner of the blogosphere. It's the day I normally suggest a trio of movies based on a topic chosen by Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves as part of Thursday Movie Picks. However...

I'm on blogathon duty this week. Against the Crowd 2016 is going strong with another solid day of entries yesterday. I'll get to those in a bit. First, I want to get in on the fun.You guys have been railing on overrated crap and praising misunderstood gems all week. I would like to do the same. And so I shall...

So many movies you guys love have drawn my ire. My biggest task is narrowing it down. In previous years, I took on the late, great Stanley Kubrick and the one many of you mistakenly think is great, Terrence Malik. In a move amounting to me going "eeny meeny miny moe" I just scrolled down the list of the imdb's top 250 films to see what jumped out at me. Needless to say, there it was. It's one of those movies that's been romanticized to the nth degree for no reason at all, at least not a good one. I'm talking about the ultimate in spoiled brat cinema, none other than...

By the way, did you notice I ended each of the first three paragraphs with an ellipsis? If you're not sure what an ellipsis is,, you didn't notice. Anyhoo...

Let's talk about this movie you all told me was so great. It's based on a true story of one Chris McCandless, here played by Emile Hirsch. The dude graduates from high school with honors. Instead of going off to college, he entertains the grand notion of taking time off to "find himself." He gives away all the money he and his parents have put away for him, cuts up all his credit cards, but gets in his car and hits the road.

Can we pause right there? I feel we must, in case you missed the reality of how this story begins. An old saying goes, don't sell the car for gas money. This fool gives away all his gas money and started driving. Yup. He lets us know right off the bat the book smarts he used to graduate high school, with honors no less, do not translate into survival skills. Trust me, this is important. Back to the story.

This brilliant young man takes off with absolutely no idea where he's going, what he's going to do, nor when he's coming back. Neither does he have a clue about more concrete things such as how the hell he's supposed to eat. To top it all off, he doesn't tell anyone in his family what the hell is going on, and flat refuses to talk to them for fear they might actually ask him to reconsider what he's doing. Oh, let me tell you, he's pissed at them. Royally pissed for no discernible reason whatsoever. Yet, they're the assholes. Sigh.

Sorry, here is where I have to spoil the movie. Skip over this part if you must.

He basically travels north along the western coast of North America, though not necessarily in a straight line. He starts in California and ends up all alone in an abandoned school bus somewhere in Alaska. He dies there after eating some random berries that, oops, turn out to be highly poisonous. The End.

As I watched this play out, I kept thinking he's going to let me in on either what he's so mad at his family for, and the point he's trying to prove. The problem is he had nothing to be mad about and no point to make. He was just stupid. I don't say this to make light of the fact a human being lost his life. I say this to point out the fact of why he lost his life. He did nothing smart starting the moment he took off his cap and gown. Director Sean Penn gave it the full-blown lyrical film treatment, made use of some wonderful cinematography and well chosen poems by Sharon Olds (one of my all-time faves, by the way) in an attempt to pass this off as some kind exploration of the human condition. You people ate it up. You were tripping over yourselves to tell me how profound this film is. Oh boy, did you guys wax poetic on this one. Telling me stuff like...

"Even in its harrowing final moments, it reaches a spiritually transcendent pinnacle - the idea of ending one long, strange trip and plummeting into an even-greater unknown with both fear and elation. A stirring American drama of comfort and conflict." - Nick Rogers,

"A spiritually transcendent pinnacle?" What? He must have seen the super-duper extended version of the director's cut.

I could go on quoting people who dropped their most poetic prose on this movie, but just look back at the image above, the one with the rating. Check out the consensus. General consensus is that Into the Wild is "an accessible and poignant character study." Poignant? POIGNANT? That word suggest a level of depth this film, and this story, simply fails to achieve. It tries mightily to make its protagonist a symbol for youthful rebellion and freedom. It succeeds at making me think he's an idiot. Instead of an esoteric experience inspiring me to contemplate the meaning of it all, I came away with one rather simple lesson: when you do a bunch of dumb things, dumb things are bound to happen to you, so don't do dumb things.

So many people dug so deep into a story which did not warrant it, I am baffled you guys only skimmed the surface of, and therefore failed to appreciate...

I know, vulgar, crass, gratuitously violent, yada yada. You saw the first one, right? Okay then, let's skip passed that stuff because you folks loved the first one. This time around, I don't know what you were thinking...


before I forget...quick story stuff, in case you missed it...

This time our hero, the eponymous Kick-Ass, has been out of the crime fighting game for awhile but gets dragged back in by Hit Girl. She's dealing with her own issues since her father did not make it out of the first film alive...oops. There should be a spoiler alert there in case you haven't seen the first one, either. Anyhoo, the two fall in with a not so merry band of like minded heroes. Meanwhile, former good guy Red Mist is now a major bad guy. His father was also killed in the first film...

Red Mist blames KA for this and forms his own team for the express purpose of killing our hero.

Let's start with the obvious stuff you should have seen. Vulgar, crass, gratuitously violent, yada yada. What's not to love? Seriously speaking, the performance of young Chloe Grace Moretz is absolutely fantastic. True, she shines far brighter than the actual star of the movie (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), but she is so good it doesn't really matter. Enough you really did recognize how good she is, so I won't harp on that aspect. Let's move on.

The part you really missed is that, like its predecessor, this is a whip-smart spoof on the world of comic books. The way characters spoke, dressed, and behaved all make a sharp commentary on that world. Everyone seemed to understand this the first time around. Even then, some things were missed. For instance, I think a lot of younger viewers completely ignored the outstanding work of Nicolas Cage because they had no idea what he was doing. Now, I know you're young, but you're a movie blogger with a great blog and a keen sense of cinematic history, so I know YOU got it. The rest of those simpletons, I'm not so sure. You know he was doing a brilliant parody of Adam West's Batman from the movie and TV series of the 1960s. Not knowing that does not preclude you from enjoying the film. In this case, not knowing something is a bigger problem because it is so front and center.

I'm talking about two things, actually. The first is that this film is relentlessly lampooning 2009's Watchmen. Being oblivious to this means jokes are constantly flying over your head. Second is that the team of henchmen Red Mist puts together is made ridiculous as a statement on the way comic books typically handle characters, particularly non-white and/or non-American characters. When Red Mist hires the people he will use to go after our hero, he gives all new super-villain names. All of those names are based on a stereotype relating to that person's race, ethnicity, and/or physical attributes. The black guy is The Black Death, the little guy is The Tumor, the Asian guy is Genghis Carnage, the Russian lady is...well...Mother Russia. This is the way comic books and other superhero fare have done things since the beginning. In case you didn't think this was done on purpose, Red Mist, who's real name is Chris, gets called on his shenanigans by his only friend Javier (John Leguizamo) who is helping him pick out his hired guns.

Javier: All right, we've got, uh, an ex-Triad member looking for work.
Chris: Easy, "Genghis Carnage."
Javier: Come on. You gotta quit with the racist stereotypes, Chris.
Chris: Archetypes.

The reply archetypes is the most ridiculously perfect answer he could've given. That is a word often used to justify racist, one-note characters in comic books. The practice is reducing characters to caricatures in this manner is still a problem. If you don't think so, have you seen Suicide Squad? The black guy is dealing with serious baby-mama issues, the Latino is a gang banger with tats on every square inch of his body, the Japanese girl is a sullen warrior with a mystical Samurai sword, and the Australian dude is a thrill seeker named Captain Boomerang.

Nah, no stereotypes, here.

I rest my case.

Oh, one more thing...

In case you lost track of the number of're

As the title of this post informs, this is also a recap of yesterday's entries in the Against the Crowd Blogathon 2016. Thanks to all who have entered so far this week. Hopefully, we'll have two more solid days of posting from you guys today and tomorrow. Yup, Friday's the deadline.

Day 3 Posts:
Mettel Ray is rather hateful of a Tarantino flick because she said so.
Flick Chicks have some serious problems with Scorsese, but not with flying journalists.
Myerla's Movie Reviews thumbs his nose at a French New Wave classic and loves up on a dopey robot.

If, somehow I missed your post, drop a comment below and my co-host KG will get it on tomorrow's recap. Oh, that's right, I haven't mentioned my excellent co-host, KG of KG's Movie Rants. Please stop by his place and check out his fantastic blog.

Earlier Posts This Week:


  1. Hahahaha, I unfortunately haven't seen either but it's quite clear that I need to give Into The Wild a miss. I remember hearing about the movie and not finding the plot compelling. A guy gets into a van and drives...but then what? Clearly I'm not missing much. There was something that irked me about Kick Ass 2, don't know what. I liked the original but didn't necessarily love it. Maybe it deserves revisiting so I can watch this flick.
    Great post as always and thanks for the shoutout. Saving my post for tomorrow. I expect plenty of hate.

    1. Yeah, I just don't get the love for Into the Wild. Obviously, I'm pretty much on an island with KA2, but I'll take it.

  2. Yes to the big downward thumb on Into the Wild! I didn't see it when it was initially out but remember the Hooray this is lyrical! reviews so when I finally got around to it I thought "This should be really good". Well that was about as wrong as could be. That guy was nothing but a selfish little twerp who cared about no one but himself and consistently made stupid decisions. I couldn't even feel bad for him at the conclusion.

    Emile Hirsch did nothing for me in the lead and even Hal Holbrook's lauded work didn't make much of an impression on me. The one thing this accomplished that I can't begrudge it is his Oscar nomination, albeit for the wrong role but since he should of had multiple nods over the years, particularly for his Deep Throat in All the President's Men, at least he was finally acknowledged. Other than that A-Stinko!!

    I've seen neither of the Kick-Ass movies, they're not really my thing but I like your defense of the second.

    1. Thank you. He was so unlikable! When he died, I was more like "I saw that one coming," than anything.

  3. I'm one of those people that liked Into the Wild and disliked Kick Ass 2. I read Wild in high school and really enjoyed it, as well as the movie, though the book was more in depth. I haven't seen it in awhile, but I'm sure I would roll my eyes at Chris because he does seem more juvenile now that I'm older than Chris.

    For Kick Ass, I thought it was a complete downgrade from the first one. I was expecting more from it considering that I use to really like the first one.

    1. Oh, he's totally juvenile. That's expected to a certain degree since he was just out of high school, but he took it to extreme levels. I agree, KA2 wasn't as good as the first, but I still really enjoyed it.

  4. I love Into the Wild while I do think Kick-Ass 2 was OK largely because of Chloe Grace Moretz though it didn't grab me as much as the first film did. Plus, I just didn't care for the Kick-Ass character in this film than in the first as I was more into Moretz's character and her arc.

    1. You can have Into the Wild. And Moretz was clearly the most interesting character in KA2.

  5. I think the issue I had with Kick Ass 2 was the fact it kinda forgotten to develop it's central theme about the repercussions of violence, which was well discussed in the first film. I agree the film was crass and vulgar, but for me it was in the wrongs ways...vomiting baton...really?

    I don't read comic books so I guess you're right that I did miss bits where it was spoofing the comic books, but for me a good movie should not exclude people just because they haven't read the source material.

    Haven't seen Into the Wild...oh and I'm a guy by the way haha. It's not the first time I've been mistaken for a woman on the internet...

    1. Fair point about KA2 not fully developing its theme. No real argument from me on that.

      Also fair about excluding viewers. I agree in principle, but I do have a bit of push back on this one. I give it a pass because viewers are not required to have read a particular comic book to get the joke, just be familiar with general comic book tropes. With them splattered across so many movies over the last decade, I'm okay with that.

      So sorry about that. Fixing that now.

  6. I've never seen Into the Wild but thank goodness I now don't need to! Loved reading your rant about it.
    I had no idea Kick-Ass 2 was so unpopular!!? It wasn't as good as the first but I still loved it :)
    - Allie

    1. Thanks! I just don't understand why KA2 is so unpopular.

  7. Dear God, I freaking hated the first Kick-Ass, so I'd rather spend a couple of hours scrubbing the toilet than watch Kick-Ass 2. :-) I haven't seen Into the Wild.

    1. Lol. Everyone else loves Into the Wild, if that matters.

  8. I PROMISE I will have my entry up tonight!

    And also: I haven't seen either of these, although I really loved the book Into the Wild (fellow Emory grad!) and the first Kick-Ass.

  9. I haven't seen Into The Wild but I am with you on Kick-Ass 2. It's not as good as the first but I still found it really good, violent fun. Loved the insane villains in BDSM outfits lol!

  10. Loooooool omg I liked Into The Wild but when you explain it like that it sounds so terrible.

    I fell asleep in Kick Ass 2 so I don't remember what happened.

  11. Hahah, I actually kinda agree with both your choices. I don't have a problem with Into the Wild as a movie, more than I have with the actual idea of the film and the thing that drives the protagonist. The journey part is actually kinda fun and it's refreshing to see an exploration of different, lesser inhabited parts of America. But the ending, and the idea, as you pointed out, to find yourself just pisses me off. It's exactly the sort of pretentious drivel Sean Penn is bound to be attracted to. I do love that Eddie Vedder song though.

    As for Kick-Ass 2, I don't think it's as good as 1, but it's still ALOT of fun. And Jim Carrey's gives such a cool performance.

    1. THAT's what I'm saying!!! Visually, Into the Wild is a treat to look at. No denying that. Narratively...not so much. And KA2 is all sorts of fun.

  12. I remember liking Into the Wild, but you know, I'm a pretty spiritual guy. Like, I'm all about transcendent poignancy. Uh...and stuff.

    I actually never saw the second KickAss, but I didn't have the hugest boner for the first one. Eh, one of these days...maybe I'll check it out. When I come home after collecting leaves in the woods.

    1. I get it. Lots of people love Into the Wild. Just didn't sit well with me.

      If you didn't love Kick-Ass, I probably won't recommend the sequel. So need to cut short that leaf collection trip. Just don't eat any mysterious berries.

  13. I thought Into the Wild was just ok.
    As for Kick-Ass, I preferred the first one. The second one was just less funny to me.

    1. I most certainly prefer the first, but I still like the second.