Bad Cinema: Sex and the City 2 (Dir: Michael Patrick King, 2010)

“I don’t want to be treated as your equal. I want to be treated a lot better than you!”
– Blanche Deveraux

Throughout history, man’s role as stoic provider has essentially stayed the same. But woman’s role has run the gamut; from Biblical vixen to “Just a Housewife” to I Don’t Know How She Does It, Nora has had her awakening. She can turn the world on with her smile and, yes, can make it after all because she’s a W-O-M-A-N. And deserves your R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

The modern woman is told that she must use her brains instead of her body, yet to always have the body as a back-up if the brain fails. She is told to be independent yet demand to be treated like a queen. She is told to bring home the bacon and fry it up, to objectify herself and then get upset about being objectified, and buy enough cosmetics to gussy up the inhabitants of a small planet because – why? – she is worth it. Every kiss begins with Kay’s and Choosy Moms Choose Jif. All while wearing deodorant strong enough for a man but made for a woman. Being a 21st century woman must be a confusing mess.

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The apotheosis of the modern day woman is the TV show Sex and the City. But contrary to popular belief, Sex and the City is not, as often touted, a show about four strong, smart, sexy women juggling work and love in New York City. Sex and the City is a show about four strong, smart, sexy drag queens in the form of four women juggling work and love in New York City. More specifically, it is a gay man’s interpretation of what he thinks women are – or his own Breckinridgian fantasy of what he wants to be. Darren Starr and Co., naturally groomed on The Golden Girls, picked up where Susan Harris left off. Or I suppose, more accurately, Sex and the City is a cosmopolitan precursor to The Golden Girls, right down to its stock characters: Samantha, the obvious Blanche; Miranda, the obvious Dorothy; and Charlotte, the obvious Rose. Starr’s addition is the feminine “icon,” Carrie Bradshaw. Apparently, she is what women want to be (although the only person I have ever known who wanted to “be” Carrie Bradshaw was a gay man in his early 20s…). She is smart, successful, and stylish to a fault. Gay men have clung onto her carefree petulance for dear life and catapulted her to the heights of historical relevance and cultural omnipresence. But as Cleopatra, Heloise, Anais Nin, Margo Channing, Alex Forrest, and Fiona Apple before her, Carrie knows that without love, it ain’t much.

So there Carrie and her friends – like all women (or gay men) before them – go from man to man to man to man, looking for the pot of gold at the end of love’s rainbow before it’s too late. For a show that prides itself on being about independent women and the feminine power, they spend an awful lot of time looking for men.  Some to dominate, yes, to show their equality, to prove that they can date and fuck just like men and to hell with “The Rules,” but at the end of it all, these four women want the story book romance from their childhood of being proposed to at a fountain in Paris by a rich man with a big dick.

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It’s most fitting that Carrie is the one who gets to enact this fantasy because Carrie is the most childlike of the four. The opening credits even tell us that she is to be infantilized as she runs through the muddy streets in a ballet tutu. She is always doing things to sabotage her relationships as if learning lessons is something that she is not capable of doing (obviously, she never put her hand on a burning stove). Which is ironic because the entire show is structured as a dialogue with herself, narrating for her column, yes, but also asking these questions out loud, presumably to learn. To grow. But the Princess need not grow. She just has to find her Prince Charming who will put up with her bullshit. And stay pretty.

Then there are the movies. The first one sees Carrie get married – after being stood up at the altar by a cold footed Big; the sequel finds Carrie traversing the complicated angles of marriage by way of Abu-Dhabi.

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I hated hated hated this movie for the same reason I hated The Wedding Planner or really any modern day romantic comedy: because I hate hate hate women who act like fucking whiny brats  and then are rewarded in the end by some altruistic man whose sole purpose seems to be to save these women from themselves.

I’m most embarrassed that this film was written by a gay man because the amount of stereotypical, awful gayness is strangulating. I want Michael Patrick King to be stripped of his homosexuality. At least if this film had been written by a well intentioned woman (which would give it a whole other set of problems) or a dumb straight man, I could justify its insane amounts of estrogen, but this – THIS! – Mr. King is going too far.

1) Four minutes in and we are already vindicating hags – the most annoying of the feminine gender. Women who latch on to gay men as “besties” because they are too insecure (or ugly) to have meaningful relationships with straight men or other women. They feel they can chat with them like a girlfriend! Open up and share all of their inner most secrets they could never tell a real woman for fear of being deemed petty or shallow or jealous. Gay men are the repository of women’s garbage. Now, of course gay men and women are allowed to be, can be, should be friends. But The Hag is a pariah, a worthless individual who needs to get her own shit together and leave us the hell alone. And no. I don’t want to touch your fucking boobs and then laugh about how open and edgy you are.

“Her best gay friend is marrying my best gay friend!” Charlotte giggles in her provincial way, trying to prove to the sales clerk in Bergdorf-Goodman that she is cosmopolitan. The sales clerk is impressed. Wow. You have a gay. I’m jealous! Fuck off, woman in ruffles.

2) “Just when you thought everyone was too old to get married, here come the gays!” Carrie and her catty little drag queens are amused at this piece of “wit.” They chuckle. What is this even supposed to mean? Aww. Even those cute little gays are getting married now. Isn’t that lovely? I fucking hate being called “the gays”. We are people. Not some trinket on the shelf to put on your nightstand. No matter what that bitch Kathy Griffin thinks.

3) As Carrie straightens Big’s tie, he reminds her: “Don’t make me look too good. Gay wedding.” Thank you, Michael Patrick King. I’m sure we all needed a reminder that the gays’ sole purpose in life is to convert the straights. Which is followed later by the obligatory oogle of Big by a gay man at the bar.

4) “Will you stop referring to it as a gay wedding? This is not a gay wedding!”

Cut to the New York Gay Men’s Choir singing showtunes in white tuxedos as the swans frolic in the man made moat.

5) Samantha approaches the girls with her dog in tow: “You brought your dog?” “It’s a gay wedding. What’s one more little bitch with an attitude?” “Guys…shouldn’t we be a little bit more PC?” To which no one says anything. And Mario Cantone comes riding in on his tampon, appalled by the tackiness of it all.

“Well, Stanford got the wedding of his dreams. And I get to cheat.” “You mean, you get to cheat because you’re gay?” “No, I get to cheat because I’m Italian!” “I don’t get it. Why get married if you are going to cheat?” “Well, he didn’t say he was going to cheat, just that he was allowed to cheat.” “Is that how you heard it?” “Well, it’s not really any of our business.” “Except he told us!” “I’m just saying, every couple has the right to make their own rules.” “Not really. It’s marriage!” “Who wants a cocktail?” “I do. Oh, and get me something to eat. I need a little nosh.” “Eight years later and she’s finally a Jew.” And after this sketch cut from a routine at the Catskills, the plot is in motion. The central drama of the film is Carrie “learning” what it means to be married. But I will return to this in a moment. I still have gay things to complain about.

6) “Are you taking Anthony’s name?” “No, we are guys.” “Guys? Have you seen yourself in the mirror, Lady Dior?” “Tehehe. Bitch.” To be clear, Stanford is NOT wearing a dress, a veil, or even pumps. He is wearing a suit. OK, a suit with a ruffle or two. But a suit. Why is this funny, Michael Patrick King? Do we not have enough self-hate and cultural stigmatization that we are like women that you felt we needed another reminder? In 2010! Who is this for? Do some gay men actually find this amusing? Or are you writing for the hags you should despise yet have made your millions milking?

7) “Could this wedding get any gayer?” As Liza Minnelli comes out to perform the ceremony. “Why would Liza say yes to this?” “The law of physics. Any time there is this much gay energy in one room, Liza manifests.” A short cut to the program to ostensibly show us that the ceremony was almost over, but really to show us that the closing song, which we don’t see or hear in the film, is… “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

And the piece de resistance: 65 year old Liza Minnelli, dressed in a black sequined shirt/dress and knee high black boots, belts out Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”…and dances the ORIGINAL CHOREOGRAPHY. All of this before the 15 minute mark. OMFG.

And lest you think I am just a self-hating fag, read this.

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OK. Take a moment. Digest that.

Deep breath.

And we continue.

So. Carrie and Big are seated at their table eating dinner when a woman leans in to fawn over her. “I am you! I have been reading your books for years!” The adoration is embarrassing. Until she finds out that Carrie and Big don’t want kids. “So it’s just going to be you two…?” Oh the shame of it all! To which the fan turns away in utter disappointment. So much for elevating the modern woman.

This incident sends Carrie on a tailspin of marriage panic. They return to their hotel room to hear Samantha fucking loudly through one wall and Charlotte’s baby crying through the other. This is supposed to be a not so subtle way of putting us in Carrie’s head: our marriage could either be a lifetime of fucking or a lifetime of crying babies. Big asks, “I don’t know which is worse.” “Samantha. The baby will tire eventually.”

They turn on the TV to drown out the noise and find It Happened One Night, a first time for Carrie. It is the famous scene where Claudette Colbert lifts up her skirt to hitchhike. “And there Big and I were. Somewhere between wild sex. And a baby.”

The next morning at breakfast we learn the two competing “storylines” that pollute the remainder of the film: Samantha is on a 44 pill a day regiment to turn back the clock and Charlotte is worried that her hot, braless nanny is too much of a distraction for her husband. I guess when you are a woman who prides herself completely on her sexuality instead of her sexuality and her intelligence; and if you are a stay at home mom with nothing else to do but worry that her nanny – the one she doesn’t need because, oh, she doesn’t have a fucking job so why are you paying someone else to help you raise your kids, you entitled bitch – might be a little too hot; your focus can definitely become one track minded.

Big and Carrie return home to New York to their palatial apartment that is a little more “down to earth” than the penthouse suite they thought was “their dream”. “We may be closer to Earth but we kept a little bit of Heaven…” As she glides into her huge walk-in closet. (Gawd, what is the point of this banter! To show how shallow and worthless she is?)

“It’s 4:30. Where should I make dinner reservations? Any cravings?” “Why don’t we just order in?” “We ordered in two nights last week!” Which means they went out five times. And they just returned, literally like an hour ago, from a weekend in Connecticut. Big plops down on the couch to read his paper. And the nagging wife continues to bother him. Give me attention! What are we going to do?! What am I going to do? I don’t know, Carrie. Read a fucking book. Go to the movies. Or go buy something else you don’t need. Just leave the man alone so he can have a moment’s peace after spending the whole weekend WITH YOU at YOUR friend’s wedding.

"I'm smirking to hide the fact that I want you dead."

“I’m smirking to hide the fact that I want you dead.”

But the drama continues when he gives her a TV for their anniversary. Remember that night they spent in the hotel, snuggling together “somewhere between wild sex and a baby” watching It Happened One Night? Well, Big thought it would be romantic to always be able to recreate that special moment. But Carrie wanted jewelry! As if she didn’t have millions of dollars worth of clothes and diamonds and Gucci fucking bags, you materialistic whore. Sorry. Where was I…oh yes. Carrie flies off the handle, terrified that this will be the rest of their lives, since you know it is going to be just them. Watching TV for the rest of their lives!

I must pause for a moment to give Carrie – and perhaps all women, if I am not being too presumptuous here – some marriage advice. Men are incredibly simple. Yes, we are smart and sophisticated and have conquered worlds. But at the end of the day, all we want is a good laugh, a good lay, and a good night’s sleep. We are not playing games with your emotions.

The beauty of marriage is that you trust that the other person is there for you no matter what. You don’t constantly need them to prove they love you. That would be…I don’t know…childish. And at 40-something and after two years of marriage, you should not only have learned this about relationships (especially when you have made your fortune WRITING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS), but you should have gotten to a point in your life where you don’t need someone else’s attention at all times. You are a smart, professional woman of the town with three best friends. DO SOMETHING WITH THEM! DO SOMETHING ALONE! Your husband wants to have an evening where he unwinds in front of the TV because, you know, he is in his 50s and has been going out for the last 30 years and has theoretically found what he has been looking for, namely YOU!, and has had a bad day at work and doesn’t want to get gussied up for a movie premiere. Give the man a goddamn moment to himself. But Carrie whines and moans and acts like a petulant toddler. And playing the part of the good husband, he knocks back a scotch, puts on a fresh shirt, and goes to the premiere. But then when Penelope Cruz hits on him at the party, she pulls rank and immediately demands to leave. #hotbitch

So there they are at home. She is trying to seduce him, glancing over the shoulder in her panties, but she is no competition for Penelope. Or Deadliest Catch. “For the record, that’s not a black and white movie. THAT was supposed to be for black and white movies!” Um…are we seriously supposed to believe that she never watches TV? “When the gay guy at the wedding hit on me you thought it was funny.” “Oh, this is not about the flirt. I didn’t like the flirt. But in fact you could dial up the flirt around here a little bit. I get TV and take out guy, but Bank of Madrid lady gets sparkle guy!” Carrie, what planet are you on? What do you think marriage is?! Marriage IS TV and take out! Grow the fuck up!!!!!!! AND after your husband got off the couch, got dressed up, went where you wanted to go, and now presumably hours later, he is not allowed to watch TV before bed? I know she is our “heroine,” MPK, but why are you making us despise her? Unless…you really don’t think we would agree with her right now, do you? You do see that she is an insane bitch right now, yes? YES!?

The next morning, Carrie goes to her old apartment to write (they kept it because it wasn’t exactly “a buyer’s market”). She stays the weekend to work/avoid her foolishness. She returns to a willing Big to make some kind of compromise. The thing adults do. But this is NOT what she had in mind.

Big suggests that they spend two days apart each week. She can get her writing done and he can watch his TV in peace. Then the other five days they would be totally committed and devoted to each other; to work on “the sparkle.” “Is this because I’m a bitch wife who nags you?” Yes, Carrie. Yes it is. He never would have made this suggestion at all if you didn’t fly off the goddamn handle because he wanted to watch a little TV in bed.

But they will have to discuss it further some other time because Carrie and the girls are off to Abu-Dhabi. You see, Samantha got invited to do some kind of PR work there, which is never fully explained because it is just a MacGuffin. The only proviso Samantha gave them is that she must be able to take her three best girlfriends with her, all expenses paid (incidentally, there is a Golden Girls episode, “The Case of the Libertine Belle,” where Blanche invites Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia to come away on a murder mystery weekend because three is just the magic number she needs to get the group rate at the hotel…).

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The literary purpose of their trip is to attempt to illustrate some kind of women’s lib crap with these wild crazy American girls juxtaposing the rigidity of the burqa (at a karaoke bar they sing “I am Woman Hear Me Whine” oh, I mean “Roar”): Miranda is finally freed from the shackles of her misogynistic boss and is going to live!; Samantha will teach these women to embrace their sexuality (or get arrested trying); and Charlotte…well, Charlotte spends her entire trip trying to get phone service to check in that her husband isn’t cheating on her. So she’s beyond annoying. And wouldn’t you know it. Her hot, braless nanny is a lesbian. So she had nothing to worry about. Which if she had an ounce of self-esteem she would see she had nothing to worry about in the first place. This of course doesn’t teach Charlotte (or her fans) anything about being a modern woman except that being a stay-at-home-mom – one with a great husband and LIVE IN HELP – is so hard that you have to cry about it over cocktails.

The trip is also supposed to teach Carrie the things she must learn about marriage and that she actually has it pretty good at home. But not before she meets long lost love Aidan in the marketplace and makes out with him after dinner. And then, like a complete moron, calls Big, the first time they have spoken her whole trip, to tell him, “Hey I made out with Aidan. Please forgive me.”

Carrie. Carrie. Carrie. OK. If you are going to “cheat” as you put it – which let’s be absolutely clear, a kiss is hardly grounds to get somebody all worked up – this is information YOU KEEP TO YOURSELF. Telling the other person that you transgressed does nothing but alleviate your guilt and exacerbate a situation that your husband doesn’t even know existed, particularly when it happened on the other side of the world. What purpose does it serve telling Big????? None. The New Yorker WAS right. You should put a piece of tape over your mouth.

But without “cheating” on Big, she wouldn’t have learned the film’s most valuable lesson: that marriage is sometimes hard. And it is all about compromise.

And then Big, to always remind her that she is married, gives her a huge whopping diamond for all of her bad behavior, telling women everywhere, “Yes, I can be a cunt. And still get jewelry.”

My husband Julian would have a very difficult time sitting through this film because of what he would call “pretty, rich white kids with problems.” And I have to admit I agree with him. For some people, perhaps women, perhaps other gay men, Sex and the City and its ilk (ie soap operas, rom-coms, and other films of the wealthy in trouble) speak to them; the Vicarious Living clause that films almost demand we sign. But I am much more a pragmatist. With luxury comes privilege. And with privilege comes comfort. Rich people don’t have problems. They have issues. And it is very hard to feel sorry for people who create their own drama out of boredom. And if I am going to watch “pretty, rich white kids” particularly women with “problems” then goddamn it, you better learn something. You better not be rewarded with a fucking diamond ring after 2 hours and 20 minutes of being an annoying bitch.

Speaking of bitches, I am currently reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s book Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women and I am having a problem with its definition. The current definition, or at least the one that women are telling us, is that a bitch is just a man’s way of saying that a woman is too powerful and speaks her mind too much. That she should shut up and cook and clean and get on her back. Maybe straight men see you this way, but as a gay man, frankly, I – and I would venture to say our sub-culture as a whole – have survived by emulating this “bitch” mentality of all of the strong women who have come before. Bette. Joan. Judy. Madonna. Streisand. Cher. Midler. The Boss. It is why we place these women on a pedestal (and why hags flock to us…) Society has told us we are feminine; therefore, we look for strong women to idolize and imitate. To help us fasten our seat belts, express ourselves, and tell the world we are coming out and want the world to know it. We believe in life after love and will find our place over the rainbow because we are people, goddamn it. People who need motherfucking people; sorry, Elizabeth and Co. but I’m not buying it.

No, to be outspoken and passionate and equal to a man is not being a “bitch.” I would never define bitch as a woman who got too big for her britches. Being a bitch is being a horrible person. To engage in behavior that is unnecessarily volatile, manipulative, and hurtful. Like Carrie.

Sex and the City the series is rightfully famous. It is intelligent, witty, and possibly did more on a mainstream scale than all the years of Camille and Gloria and those trips to Mars and Venus to circulate the question “What Do Women Want?” But once we get to the second film of a TV series that has been off the air for six years, all of the cleverness, all of the evolution, all of the cutting edge bravado that made it a hit to begin with becomes stale and listless, leaving you wonder why they bothered in the first place. (Oh, that’s right. To make money. And to give Kim Cattrall something to do)

The most accidental piece of irony is that by setting the film in the Middle East with its large, broad attempts at making women seem independent and fabulous (even by dressing the Arabian women in the fall fashions under their burqas), Sex & the City 2, with its harrowingly shrewish leads and their terrible attitudes and self-righteous behavior actually make women look absolutely horrible and deserving of second-class citizenship.

Is Sex and the City 2 a Car Crash, Colonoscopy, Berkley, or Kardashian?
***A Bloody Four Car Pile Up with No Survivors***

Bad Cinema: Myra Breckinridge (Dir: Michael Sarne, 1970)

“OK…well, fasten your seat belts because you are in for…how shall I say…something really special.”
– Raquel Welch on the commentary track of Myra Breckinridge

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In 1968, Gore Vidal published a fascinating, irreverent piece of iconoclastic literature called Myra Breckinridge. It is the story of a man who becomes a woman only to be turned back into a man when his silicone breasts explode after getting hit by a car. When “Myron” awakens from his coma, reaching for his tits, he is devastated, but comes to the realization that it is all for the best – “happiness, like the proverbial bluebird, is to be found in your own backyard if you just know where to look”; a counter-culture, women’s lib Wizard of Oz, if you will. Myra’s (and Vidal’s) vision was for a world where traditional sex roles were completely eradicated; a new race of people where pansexuality was embraced, breeding had ceased (cutting down on the world’s overpopulation ), and women like Myra were allowed to dominate both sexes. The novel pulses with an anarchic sense of dual homosexual pride and shame. Myra wants to rape the men of the world, with a dildo no less, to gain revenge on the men who “raped” Myron, the male side of her that relished in sodomy. Through becoming Myra, Myron is able to justify his lust for cock without the social ramifications of being deemed a sexual pervert; while Myron as Myra is able to live out his fantasies as a top, seeking some sort of closure for the guilt he feels in his sexual pleasure as a bottom. Vidal’s Myra is a complex, contradictory, modern day woman who wants to have it all without realizing that she is a hypocrite. She wants to be treated like a lady, but demands the power to treat men like dogs. We are constantly asked to reassess what it means to be male, what it means to be female, and where homosexual men fit within the traditional paradigm. The novel is smart, witty, thought provoking, and as a gay man, hits very, very close to home.

The film on the other hand is an incomprehensible mess.

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The film and the novel follow the same basic structure: Myra Breckinridge arrives in Hollywood in the late ’60s to collect her dead “husband” Myron’s inheritance: half of the land that the Buck Loner Academy stands on, which is owned and ran by her late husband’s Uncle Buck. While Buck checks out that his “fag nephew” was ever married, let alone to such a devastatingly beautiful woman, he hires her on to teach Empathy and Posture.

The school is a parody of the hippie movement and the Method. Teachers talk about being one with trees and sex is had right in the classroom to “authenticate” the scene. Myra and her classy, Old Hollywood ways are not amused.

While waiting for her money, Myra decides to begin her life’s work of realigning the sexes. She sets her sights on the dashing Rusty, a man’s man, complete with a Southern drawl. By emasculating him (through rape and stealing his girl), she will emasculate all the men of the world. The rape scene is infamous and is the best scene in both mediums.

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Buck and his lawyers prove that Myron wasn’t dead and that he was never married to Myra. At which point, Myra climbs atop his desk and shows him her vaginoplasty scar. His fag nephew became his niece two years ago in Copenhagen. He cuts her a check.

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She has succeeded! Myra Breckinridge has conquered all! Except for one thing. Mary-Ann cannot love her as she is. “Oh, Myra. If you were only a man.” The next day, Myra gets hit by a car and wakes up from her coma as a man.

This is where the novel and the film separate most. In the novel, we are meant to believe that the initial sex change from Myron to Myra actually happened – and that the switch back to Myron was caused by a dangerous rupture in her silicon breasts. The film, however, begins with the first sex change operation, highly stylized in a way that alludes it may be a fantasy. The film also has Myra and Myron appear on screen together and interchangeably to show that they are two halves of the same person. The car accident is actually caused by Myron running Myra down in cold blood (a visceral, yet confusing piece of business) after Mary-Ann tells Myra that she wishes she were a man. Myron awakens in the hospital room reaching for his tits. Only to discover that…it was all a dream. Maybe (?) The nurse looks an awful lot like Mary-Ann. And Myra, who looks an awful lot like Raquel Welch, is on the cover of his bedside magazine.

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The film adopts the tone and the style of the novel, particularly in the fabulous performance by Raquel Welch as Myra, yet is truncated in a way that only readers of the novel can accurately follow the film’s plot and purpose; the test of a horrible adaptation. Sarne claims that studio interruptions and an air of “too many cooks” spoiled the stew (as well as his career – he never made another film in Hollywood); he would love to reedit the film and do a Director’s Cut (although would this fix the elephantine pacing? I need to get a copy of the original script before it was hacked to pieces….Welch claims there were dozens of rewrites, some up to the day of shooting).

Perhaps Sarne was inept. Perhaps the studio did intervene too often. But I’m putting the blame on Mae West.

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Mae West is one of the most indelible film personalities of the 20th century. I call her a personality because she wasn’t really an actress. Her characters are all the same variation on a stock type that she created: the brassy, sex-crazed, too-wise-for-her-own-good broad who turned men into amoebas with a hip bob, a moan, and a double entendre (Bette Midler and Madonna owe their careers to her audacity).

She was also an insane megalomaniac, who like Norma Desmond, thought she was still living in her glory days (without coincidence, Wilder offered her the lead in Sunset Blvd. but she turned it down because she refused to play a has-been…). Her film She Done Him Wrong (1933) saved Paramount from bankruptcy (as did Gloria Swanson’s films in the ’20s, incidentally) and she never forgot it (or, presumably, let anyone else forget it). Myra Breckinridge, her first film in 27 years, was to be her comeback. And she was leaving nothing to chance.

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Mae, like she always had been, was given carte blanche to rewrite her scenes. You would think the Mae West brand of campy schtick would fit well into a world of trannies and sexual debauchery. But what results are three distinct films: one inspired by Gore Vidal, one interpreted by Michael Sarne, and one written from scratch by Mae West.

The character of Myra is the most Vidal; naturally because the novel is a first person account from her – much of her dialogue is lifted/heavily influence by the novel, as is Buck Loner’s (wonderfully played by John Huston).

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Sarne introduced the idea of having Myron included and then hiring Rex Reed (a brilliant piece of type casting) to play him, much to Raquel Welch’s chagrin (she took the part largely because she thought she would be playing both roles).

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And then there was West’s film where she turned Vidal’s Leticia van Allen, the Queen Agent of the Casting Couch, into…well, Mae West. Leticia was already full of zing and verve and personality, yet West felt the need to employ her shameless mugging to an already over the top piece of camp. She even gave herself a song. Which had no purpose other than to show that Mae still had “it”. Which, honestly, as an interpreter of song, she never had. It’s really very embarrassing to watch. Imagine. The 77 year old West (playing a character who was 40 in the book, by the way) writhing on stage with a bevy of muscle men, touching herself in choppy gyrating motions that are somehow supposed to turn us on (?). Is she laughing at herself? Or does she really think she’s still a sex symbol?! Chances are it’s the latter. Eight years later, at 85!, she made her swan song Sextette, where, and I am not joking here, men are actually clamoring for her dusty pussy. (Stay tuned for that one to hit Bad Cinema in the following weeks…)

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Mae West, somehow in her delusional state, was aware that Raquel Welch – Hollywood’s newest sex symbol thanks to her performance in One Million Years B.C. – was who the boys were coming to see. So instead of playing the gracious legend, knowing that her place in history was secured, Mae came out fighting like a wild cat (or a cougar, as it were; no wonder Madonna worships her…). Mae refused to appear in the same shots with Raquel, which when the characters in the novel are best friends precipitates a serious rethinking of Act 3. When Mae learned that Raquel was going to appear in a black dress while she was wearing a white dress (Mae was the only one who could wear a “non-color”), the dress promptly “disappeared”; even though legendary designer Edith Head had been brought in just to make Mae’s dresses. At the film’s premiere, Mae even demanded that Raquel circle the block so they didn’t arrive at the same time. And for what? For a film that would be panned from here to Shanghai, disowned by its cast and crew and Vidal, and referred to by Time “as funny as a child molester.”

But is it as awful as legend has it? Well, yes. And no. Discounting the novel, which one must always do when attempting to appreciate an adaptation, the film certainly has a distinct campy charm to it, an unmistakably gay sensibility that still shocks 43 years later. Sarne’s stroke of genius was interpolating Myra’s love of classic movies (“between 1935 and 1945, not a single insignificant film was made”) through classic film clips of Laurel and Hardy, Shirley Temple, and dozens of others to comment on the action and the mood of the film (Shirley Temple and the White House actually demanded her footage be removed because she was a US Ambassador at the time and thought it sullied her reputation – but they lost and the footage from Heidi of Shirley getting sprayed in the face with milk remains…). And the inspired casting, including Farrah Fawcett as the dumb blond Mary-Ann who only wants to settle down and worship her husband’s dreams, is his ace in the hole; Raquel Welch should have been nominated for something.

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The biggest problem with the film is pacing and focus. Too much time is devoted to the ambiance of the school and the foolishness of Leticia van Allen that Myra’s mission becomes muddled. The film clips, while fitting and funny, sometimes go on too long and take you out of the action. It’s almost as if they were occasionally being used to fill run time when Sarne realized he had unusable footage.

But the most egregious misstep is that we are kept at an arm’s length from Myra. We are actually distanced from everyone, but she is the one that matters. Vidal’s Myra is a conniving, yet lovable bitch. We root for her in spite of ourselves. Sarne and Welch’s Myra is mostly surface. The buried humanity, of which Vidal’s Myra surprises even herself in the final third of the book, is almost lost in the surrounding rubbish. Welch gets her moment of semi-catharsis after the rape and pulls it off beautifully, but the context is not as developed in the film. The book gives us Myra as a fully formed fake woman; the film only gives us an imitation of her diabolical nature, which can only yield a fraction of her downfall. Welch is working as hard as she can and makes Vidal’s most famous creation come to vivid life, but the film can’t support her. And so it crumbles.

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In 1974, Vidal wrote a sequel, aptly named Myron. It picks up a few years after Myra Breckinridge ends. Myron and Mary-Ann are happily married, living in the Valley, and running a Chinese Catering company. One night, he falls asleep watching Siren of Babylon on TV and wakes up inside the movie in 1948! Once inside, “Myra” begins to resurface, appalled to find that her beautiful vagina has been replaced with a hideous (yet large – and testicle-free) penis. Practically chapter by chapter, Vidal switches between “Myra” and “Myron” as they battle for dominance within the body; Myron as a Republican fag hater desperately trying to get out of the film and back to Mary-Ann, Myra desperately trying to stay in the film and the Golden Age of Hollywood and take over MGM – and regain “her” body to its voluptuous state. Vidal elaborates upon Myra Breckinridge‘s themes of fluid sexuality and gender (mis)identity with Myra pledging to turn the men of the world into trannies. If Hollywood had the…well, balls…to adapt the sequel to a flop, James Franco would be brilliant. And maybe he would finally come out. I mean, honestly, James. Enough is enough.

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Is Myra Breckinridge a Car Crash, Colonoscopy, Berkley, or Kardashian?
***CAR CRASH***

What are your thoughts on Myra Breckinridge? Gore Vidal? Camp?

How to Be a Great Party Guest

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As a catering server, I have worked a lot of parties. From tailgate barbecues at a college to a wedding at Cher’s house, my experience runs the gamut. But no matter where I am, no matter what the clientele, no matter what the function, there is one constant that remains true: some people know how to be a great party guest. And some do not.

So in case you are wondering, “Oh my! Am I somebody that the servers are talking about in the kitchen! Have I committed a faux-pas!”, I have laid out five simple rules on how not to be a schmuck.

Enjoy and You’re welcome.

1) Unless you are the guest of honor, calm down

Contrary to the bullshit customer service whores feed the system, you are actually not always right. You are also not the only person that matters. When there are 400 people all wanting drinks and hors d’ouevres, you are not special. And you can wait your damn turn. Unless you are tipping the server; money will get you everywhere.

2) Hyberbole will get you nowhere

Unless you just arrived off the boat from Africa or stumbled in off Skid Row, you actually ARE NOT “starving.” So when your server comes by with some grilled figs on cambozola cheese, they will give you one. But save the histrionics for your therapist. It’s really not necessary.

3) The Buffet is not the place to put dirty dishes

That one is self explanatory. Oh, and the reason that each dish has a tong is so that you use it. Keep your fingers out of where everyone else is going to eat, you douche.

4) Beware! (and Be Aware)

If a server is coming towards you with a tray of dirty glasses, get out of the way. No seriously. Move. We may be “invisible” to you, but have some awareness. Unless you want someone’s half drunken Jack and Coke all over your dress. Also, when our tray is full, that is not the moment to try and give us your plate. We will be back. This is our job. And I know you may think you are being helpful, but DO NOT place your items on the tray. Hand them to us. Balancing a tray is like playing Jenga. And at any moment, it can all come crashing down.

Oh, and if the party is over and you and your group of five friends are the only ones left on the dance floor and you see about 25 servers lined up around the perimeter of the room with annoyed scowls on their faces, leave. Most events cannot be cleaned up until everyone is gone. So get gone. It’s 1:30 am. You are drunk. The bar is closed. The DJ is starting to play songs he played two hours ago. The party is over, dude.

5) Servers are people too

“Oh my God. Are the celebrities totally snobby?” Actually, no. When you have money – and have had it for awhile – you are accustomed to being waited on; therefore, know how to treat “the help.” It’s the people who are decked out in their Sunday finest for the first time in years or the ones with “new money” who don’t know how to behave. These are the ones who feel they are entitled to service – and can treat the servers anyway they please. The wealthy and the famous are incredibly polite. Please. Thank you. They are almost apologetic in their requests. (At least with the famous, it is probably from first hand knowledge, remembering their lean years as a server themselves…) They want to know your name. Treat you as an equal. Laugh with you. It is the bourgeoise people who want to remain distant, to remind themselves that they are (one-step) “better” than you. At least for the night. At midnight, you will turn back into pumpkins. So check yourself. Because we are human. Even if we are holding a tray.

Bad Cinema: The Next Best Thing (Dir: John Schlesinger, 2000)

“Daddy, are you a faggot?”
“Sam, do you know what that means?”
“Yes. It’s when two boys kiss and go to the opera.”

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OK. I have got the best idea for a movie pitch. You’ll love it.

Two best friends – one of them a gay gardener, the other a female yoga instructor – are unlucky in love. She is “too successful,” which is woman talk for beautiful, smart, and independent…we did some market research and chicks really dig this type of pandering…and he is…well, it doesn’t matter; the first part of the movie is about her. OK. So. They go to their friend’s funeral – she is this ravishing hag in a sea of fags; oh, their friend dies of AIDS. But you knew that already because there is a gay character in the movie and all gay men die of AIDS – and…oh, no it’s not morbid. I mean, they sing “American Pie”! You know how a rousing chorus of that gets the mourners on their feet…

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Where was I…oh, yes. So the gay guy…how do we know he is gay? Well, we have him dance around to Judy Garland and say things to his female friend like, “If I were you, and I practically am…”…get it? Cause all gays are like women! They’ll love it in Cleveland! (chuckle chuckle snort snort)…so the gay guy and his wilting hag decide to drown their sorrows in some martinis. OK. A LOT of martinis. They dance around in this old gay couple’s house, FABULOUSLY decorated…no, the old queens aren’t there. They are on vacation. Probably somewhere like Fire Island…Well, Robert – that’s the gay gardner…oh, the house they are in belongs to two of his clients; he is taking care of their plants while they are away – and Abbie – the yoga wallflower, naturally – get really drunk and dance around in the old queens’ clothes…well, they ARE a gay couple. One of them must do drag , after all. And Abbie is JUST “her” size…so they are dancing, and drinking, and just as they sail over the couch…you know like in Singin’ in the Rain…oh you’ve never seen that? Well, it’s an old musical….yeah, the gays will love it…anyway, the two best friends stare lovingly into each others’ eyes, kinda sorta romantically, and then…BAM! They start making out! Like a couple of teenagers at the drive-in!…I know! You never see that one coming! And neither do they!

So we cut to the next morning. And there they are. Stuck with the knowledge that they have slept together. What does this mean? What could this mean?! Robert’s gay friends accuse him of switching teams; Abbie’s girlfriends – who are all exponentially uglier than her and played by no name actresses to accentuate her beauty and her star power – cheer her on for boffing a hot fag. Cut to Abbie in a diner eating a double cheeseburger….I know! She is a yoga instructor, a total vegetarian, but this is the way we learn that she is having cravings. WEIRD cravings. Like cheeseburgers…because….she. is…..PREGNANT! With Robert’s baby! OMG. What’s a girl to do!

Are you loving it so far? You are totally loving it so far. Well wait. There’s more! Because now she has to tell him! And…

He loves it! And they are besties again. And they move in together to raise their little family. And everything is great for 6 years. Until Abbie meets somebody…a GORGEOUS somebody. He looks kind of like…Benjamin Bratt.

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At first, everything is fine. Their relationship is casual. But then…it gets serious. Like really serious. Like so serious that Ben – that’s the Benjamin Bratt guy…I know…quite a coincidence! – asks her to marry him. And move across the country to New York! NEW YORK! But what will become of Robert’s relationship with Sam (that’s the kid)?!

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Robert does not take this news well. He sort of acts like…well a 6 year old child, stomping and pouting and making demands and…well I know it SOUNDS kind of silly, but that’s the beauty of comedy: exaggeration!….I GUESS he expected her to stay single forever, but you are over thinking it….OK, maybe if the shoe WERE on the other foot, he probably wouldn’t be so self-righteous. It’s not like Abbie was saying “We’re moving and that’s that!” Robert didn’t even give her a chance to figure out some kind of arrangement. He just started shadowboxing….well, we ARE supposed to root for him. But he’s kind of a selfish asshole…I mean wouldn’t you be if your best friend was trying to steal your child…I wouldn’t worry about any of this though. I see him being played by somebody really likable. Like a Rupert Everett type. He was perfect as the gay best friend in that other movie. We could totally plug him in here….I think gay actors should be allowed to be gay onscreen, don’t you? Adds a level of authenticity.

OK. So in order to escape the drama, Abbie packs up Sam and they move while Robert is gone for the night staying with his sick friend who is also dying of AIDS…yeah he’s the partner of that first guy who died in the beginning so naturally he would have it too…no, I don’t think the gays will be mad if we have two people dying of AIDS in a movie in 2000; they loved Longtime Companion and Parting Glances!…oh, those were made in the 80s…well, I’m sure they won’t take it as some statement that we think all gay men have AIDS. And if they do, well fuck ’em. As long as we make our money back. Besides. We’ll cast somebody like…I don’t know…Madonna…in the part so maybe they won’t notice.

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Now, I feel it is my duty to warn you. Madonna does have a reputation for…well, many things, but…specifically that she can’t act. But she’s so tailor made for this part she can’t possibly be awful. I mean, a woman who spends all of her free time with gay men and does yoga and wears AIDS ribbons and loves Eastern religion and has kids. I mean how could she fail as the woman who spends all her free time with gay men and does yoga and wears AIDS ribbons and loves Eastern religion and has kids?…OK, I guess it is possible…and I had heard she was still doing that thing, but if we get an esteemed director, maybe somebody like an Oscar winner, like a John Schlesinger type, I’m sure he could…what thing? You know. That thing she does where she doesn’t really connect because she can’t let her guard down. YOU KNOW! The reason Madonna is a terrible actress…oh, you’ve never seen her in anything. Well, I won’t beat around the bush here. Madonna is…kind of a hot bitch. But it’s all part of her fabrication. I’m sure deep down she’s a lovely woman, but no one knows the “real” Madonna. Her whole career has been about this character of “Madonna” – the provocateur, the sex symbol, the activist, the business woman, the no-nonsense mom, the lost child – that even after hundreds of interviews, a dozen albums, and millions of words (and fags…excuse me fans) dedicated to her every move, no one – not even Camille Paglia – has cracked the enigma of Ms. Ciccone. As a pop sensation, a cultural icon, a legend, I agree, this makes her all the more FASCINATING, but when she has to “act” – as if her whole life wasn’t an act – she can’t rise to the occasion because she is so concerned with keeping the mystery that she refuses – or doesn’t know how – to drop the act….especially that goddamn fake accent…but I’m sure she’ll be PHENOMENAL in this. She’s right off the success of Evita! And everyone loved her in that…what?…oh that’s a great point…casting her against a Brit may only encourage her to milk that accent to sound more deep and intelligent – the way she is using Kabbalah…hmmmm….we should think about this further. Maybe Rupert Everett is not a great idea. Maybe Madonna isn’t. Maybe we could get Meg Ryan? Yeah, maybe not. Meg’s plastic surgery is not doing her any favors….I think Madonna is still pretty enough. She IS in her 40s and does have those scary, muscular arms…give me a minute. I’ll figure someth….I got it! We’ll add a half a dozen references to her beauty to remind us she’s still got it! AND…oh, this is brilliant…we light her face in this soft filter halo like they did to Mae West to make her look younger and more captivating than she maybe deserved. THEN even if Madonna does her worst imitation of Dietrich and Garbo and Bette Davis and all those other old timers, the way they would look down before an important moment and then raise their eyes at just the right time to convey emotion – or in Madonna’s case, an imitation of an imitation of an emotion – it won’t matter because she will be so beautiful. And the FAGS. WILL. LOVE. HER. NO. MATTER. WHAT.

Oh, the climax? Oh. Now here’s the kicker…so Robert sues Abbie for custody only to discover…are you ready?…Robert is….NOT the father!….yeah, it was some dead beat she dated before their one night stand and Abbie has been lying for three whole years!…what? no she doesn’t take him on Maury, but maybe…no, that would be going too far.

So then all the people who were hating on Robert start hating on Abbie! See, that’s how we get everybody on board. We’ve got the fag haters and the women rooting for Abbie, we’ve got the the single fathers and the gay sympathizers rooting for Robert, and if we cast Madonna, which I’m starting to think is the only viable option you have here, we’ve got the queers right in the middle, battling for allegiance. It’s PERFECT!

I’m toying with the idea of having Robert try and get the biological dad to sue for joint custody, but that might seem contrived or not believable, especially because early in the movie, they hate each other…oh, you love it! Well, then back in it goes!

So we’re in the courtroom. The noble, black female judge, despite her deep respect for Robert and his plight…see, this is the way we will placate the gays and be progressive…doesn’t give  Robert custody. He’s sad. He’s despondent. He gives a riveting speech about the definitions of fatherhood. His parents stand by his side – yes, even his fag hating father has been shown the light! – as Abbie storms over to him, all a mess, and calls him a son of a bitch – right in front of his mother! – that he brought that man back into her life!

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The ending? Well, you know it ends happily. This is a rom-com! Ben doesn’t take the offer in New York and Abbie and Robert reconcile. We get the sense that they will figure out a parenting compromise…of course, they could have done this 45 minutes ago, but hey, then we wouldn’t have a movie, right?…And they ride off into the hills of Los Angeles. Or San Francisco. The gays love San Francisco!

The tagline will be something like “best friends make the best mistakes.”

Bad Cinema? What do you mean? This is going to be a classic for the ages! Just you wait!

(Seriously though. The Next Best Thing is a fucking Car Crash, as Madonna wrecks what little faith anyone had left in her as an actress…at least it’s better than Swept Away…)

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Bad Cinema: The Three Stooges – The Movie (Dir: The Farrelly Bros., 2012)

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The Three Stooges is a piece of crap. Which is a shame. Because it didn’t have to be.

Chris Diamantopoulus (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), and Will Sasso (Curly) are brilliant as the famous comedy team. The hours upon hours they must have watched to perfect the voices, the movements, the inflections; clearly, they have all done their homework. It was like watching colorized versions of some of their best films!; if there were an Academy Award for Best Impersonation, they would have won it. Their work is flawless.

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Even the Farrelly Bros. – the ones to blame for this mess – came at the material with a deep love and understanding; a lion’s share of the bits and dialogue were lifted directly from Stooges’ shorts (“I’m a victim of coi-cumstance,” Curly’s snap-snap-hit-hit-roll-the-fingers-on-the-chin-head-tap-tap-send-it-flying-bark, pulling Larry’s hair out, the sound effects, even splitting the film into three short segments of 25 minutes, each with an accompanying title and the famous theme music!…the list goes on and on). For a die-hard Stooges’ fan like myself, these were welcomed-with-open-arms moments of homage that made me remember all those Saturday nights my dad and I would sit up watching marathons on TBS.

And then there is the rest of the film, a painstaking plea for relevancy in a modern world.

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Moe, Larry, and Curly are dumped at an orphanage as babies. More accurately, they are thrown from a moving car in a duffel bag at an orphanage. The cantankerous Sister Mary-Mengele (a perfectly cast Larry David in drag) comes upon the little bundle of presumed joy, only to be eye-poked over the ledge into a pile of bushes. And so it begins.

Very rapidly, the other nuns (including Jane Lynch as the Mother Superior and Jennifer Hudson trying her best, yet failing, to be sassy as Sister Rosemary) see right through the boys’ cuteness to their obnoxious ways (all the while not seeming to age over a 35 year span). When the chance comes for Moe to be adopted (a blessing they never thought would come), he blows it by begging for his comrades to be adopted as well. This is the first of many moments where the Farrelly Bros. try and insert poignancy into the Three Stooges’ universe – and fail.

So there they are, full grown “adults” still living at the orphanage, causing trouble. And what trouble indeed. Due to their antics over the years, the orphanage has gone bankrupt. Unless someone can raise 830,000 dollars in 30 days to pay the mortgage, their beloved orphanage will close. So Moe, Larry, and Curly – three clueless yahoos – hit the road to raise the necessary dough. And this ends Part I.

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Part II (really just Act II because the entire film is the same story) sees them get mixed up in a murder plot. Sofia Vergara (the fiery hot Latina from Modern Family) plays Lydia, a woman trying to kill her rich husband so she and her boyfriend, Mac (Craig Bierko) can be together. However, The Stooges think that Mac is the husband and push him in front of a bus (this is the Farrelly’s way of upping the Stooges’ inherent violence for a modern audience). He survives, bandaged and bruised. The real husband she wants them to murder is Teddy (Kirby Heyborne), the boy who got adopted when Moe got sent back. Why? Not so Lydia can be with Mac, but so she can be with Teddy’s father (Stephen Collins). This all comes out at the climax, which happens in Part III naturally, but I am losing steam to actually regurgitate the rest of the plot; it was exhausting then and it is exhausting now.

But I must share with you the grossest indignity, the giant defecation the film takes on the legacy of one of the best comedy teams in history. The Farrelly Bros. put them smack dab in the middle of the….Jersey Shore.

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When the boys have a fight, which includes the best bit of physical comedy in the film – a seemingly endless stream of eye pokes, stomach punches, and hair pulls – Larry and Curly storm out to make it on their own. Moe, bewildered and alone, is shaken out of his daze by applause. Turns out their fight had been on a stage. And that stage was in a film class. And the guy running the film class (the hot dude from the Old Spice commercials) happened to work on Jersey Shore. So Moe becomes “Dyna-Moe” (I wish I were making this up…) and brings his brand of humorous justice to Snookie and Co. (about time somebody smacked the shit out of them…). Larry and Curly discover Moe on TV in a department store window. Night after night, they leave their dumpster – the one they are living in – to tune into their best friend’s eye pokes, even braving the rain for a chance to laugh through their tears. This bit of anachronism is meant to be clever and ironic, as a testament to the low brow comedy of The Three Stooges morphing its way into the low brow comedy of Reality TV, but it is just too sad to be funny.

Oh, and how do the boys save the orphanage? How else? By getting their own reality show: Nuns vs. Nitwits. 

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The tone is what most ruins the film (aside from not being funny). It is trying to be a gross out comedy, yet attempts to insert these moments of tenderness that The Stooges never had. What makes The Three Stooges so great is that they are cluelessly selfish, awful people; shameless in their adolescence, self-contained in their own world. They are the only people who truly understand and deserve each other. Even in situations where they have love interests (The Sitter Downers; Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise) or help others (Sock-a-Bye Baby; Dizzy Detectives) there is a heightened, unrealistic quality to them; the girls are always stunningly beautiful, yet still want these crazy goombas, and when they do good, they usually end up ruining it through their childish ways, riding off into the sunset, like Chaplin, alone. So when they are attempting to connect with others in The Three Stooges: The Movie, seeking the approval and love of others, as the music swells and the camera dollies in for a teary eyed close-up, it rings incredibly false. The Stooges as beloved heroes? No! The Stooges are beloved ANTI-heroes who are unaware of their power to inspire (this was also true in real life; Columbia head Harry Cohn underplayed the Stooges popularity to Moe, Larry, and Curly so he could keep their contracts low…)

The idea of a Three Stooges movie, particularly with the immaculate talent attached to portray them, isn’t terrible. But one of the things that made The Stooges work is that their physical humor only had to remain funny for 20-25 minutes, not 95. No matter how much filler you want to add throughout – whether its begging for a tear, putting Moe with The Situation, or having J Hud sing a negro spiritual – the joke wears thin. The Three Stooges: The Movie plays like a latter day Marx Bros. flick, practically pushing them to the sidelines to make way for other things to fill the run time.

As if to add insult to injury, the film ends with an epilogue (featuring Antonio Sabato Jr and Justin Lopez as the Farrelly Bros.) telling kids that all the violence in the movie was fake. This is about as dumb and apologetic as Kevin Smith’s disclaimer at the beginning of Dogma, begging us not to be offended. The fact that The Three Stooges are still popular, the fact that these same kids are probably the ones watching Jackass, complete with its own disclaimer, makes the Farrelly’s warning look like an apology for their film. Which maybe it should be.

If you need your fix on The Three Stooges, watch this instead.

Is The Three Stooges: The Movie a Car Crash, Colonoscopy, Berkley, or Kardashian?
***CAR CRASH***

What are your thoughts on the film? The Three Stooges? The Farrelly Bros?