Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Critical Analysis of the Costumes in 'Road House.'

There are many well-crafted takedowns of this movie already online, so I've chosen a different tack. Now, I could handle this one of two ways. As a professional costume designer, I could say, "Let's take a break from eviscerating movies with the vigor of a petty thief knocking over a Duane Reade, and actually talk seriously about the interesting meaning behind filmic costuming." Or, I could say, "Let's just keep going and talk about how fucking ridiculous [awesome] the costumes are in 'Road House.'" I mean, I teach costume design for a living and I'm all serious and shit about it. So why should I be serious here? Unless by 'serious' I mean 'deadly serious, as discussing bad 80s costumes should be elevated to an art form and I should consider writing a dissertation about it.'

First, a refresher. 'Road House.' 1989, a very good year for real films, like 'Dead Poets Society,' 'Born on the 4th of July' and 'My Left Foot.' But an even better year for shitshows like 'Teen Witch' (PLEASE NETFLIX GODS HEAR MY PRAYER) and 'Road House.' Patrick Swayze (RIP) plays a cooler (which, in this world, is a glorified bouncer) named Dalton who gets mixed up in shenanigans. Mullets, offensive misogynistic/homoerotic dialogue, you get it; OK, now you're G2G.

We know it's gonna be good when the opening shot involves a pair of black 80s stilettos stepping out of a red Ferrari.

Luckily for us, the camera then tilts up to reveal the wearer of the heels in a spandex black and yellow minidress, wearing a yellow flower in her hair. THE STAGE IS SET!

She's headed to a bar, which we know is classy because it's populated by guys in wide-shouldered heather gray blazers with white t-shirts and gray-on-gray houndstooth collared shirts with the sleeves rolled up over the elbows (shades of 'Sleeping with the Enemy'!), and women wearing pearls and sweetheart-neckline or strapless dresses with wide stretch belts. A dude in one of the sharper heather gray blazers has jazzed it up with a black pocket square (YES) and a bolo tie:

I'm smelling Structure here, people. Bolo tie = boss, this is costuming code we all recognize.

Dalton, when not on the clock, dresses in somber drop-shouldered suede blazers with the requisite padding, blousy linen pleated pants and linen long-sleeved shirts:

There is meaning behind this: he is fucking ZEN, and simple natural fibers and colors make us think of the ZEN-NESS of a karate uniform (called a gi), which is a magnificent line of thought that I just came up with. Karate in the movies is so 80s (a natural extension of the American obsession with Japan during that time, Jesus Crust I SHOULD write a dissertation on this), and Dalton will not disappoint. Check it out, you guys. Check it out:

See what I mean? I'm RIGHT!? Dalton wears this shirt at the end, when he almost kills the bad guy with his signature throat-ripping-out move. The shirt tells us he's going to be Zen and let the bad guy live, so that Cooter, Unky Jeb, and all the rest of the town old-timers have the satisfaction of shooting the shit out of him instead.

The clientele at the next bar we spend most of the time in - the Double Deuce - reflects the plot at any given time. At first, when it's a shithole, everyone looks like a trucker or a hooker, except for Jeff Healey, the blind guitarist leading the bar band - that guy, rather like Paul Walker in 'Timeline', is obviously wearing whatever he happened to put on that day before showing up on-set.

Hang on, you guys. Sidebar. May I direct your attention back up to a previous image, where Dalton is being chatted up by that elegant young lady? We have in these 2 images here some excellent examples of hooker costuming. Now, you may argue that those women are not actual hookers, and I am judging them on the fact that they have been costumed wearing a)a white Slut Dress (TM, b)off-the-shoulder animal print spandex, and c)an aerobics outfit outside of the gym. However, as Dave Chappelle wisely said, "All right, lady, fine. FINE. You are not a whore. But you are wearing a whore's uniform, I'll tell you that shit right now!"

Back to my original point, which is that the costuming reflects the story (*cough, erp, ahem, gack*). When Dalton gets the Double Deuce cleaned up, we go from truckers and hookers to 'Less Than Zero.'

Bandanas become hats, wifebeaters become polo shirts, et. al. Even Jeff Healey cleans up his mullet and starts imitating Dalton's costumes - white t-shirt with a droopy open collared shirt over it. We also see abundant evidence of a staple of late 80s costuming, the vest. See the singer up there? That's Carrie the Kindly Waitress, wearing a droopy long vest which is the progenitor of the ugliest vest in the history of costume design:

Demi Moore actually wore 2 ridiculous vests in the early nineties: one in 'Ghost,' and one in 'Indecent Proposal.' The Kindly Waitress's vest, which finds its origins back in the New Wave style coming out of the punk club scene (shit...I'm still veering dangerously close to being serious here), was much better when Molly Ringwald rocked it, thank you very much.

FYI, we haven't completely given up on the trucker costuming, even though things have a lot more class an hour or so into the movie. The thugs who are constantly harassing Dalton are best described by this gentleman, charmingly named Tinker. Tinker has the dubious honor of delivering the final line in this movie, which is, appropriately, "A polar bear fell on me."

Caterpillar hat, sweaty shirt, jeans cuffed at the ankle and wide red suspenders. Not enough guys wear suspenders unironically nowadays, but the rest of Tinker's outfit sure as shit has stood the test of time!

All right, then, let's get to the classy part of things. There are two characters who are all-class in 'Road House.' The first is Brad Wesley, the evil overlord who likes to pretend he's a Colombian drug dealer by having breakfast while all his henchmen (including Tinker) stand around and watch him. Terrifying Brad dresses like a gentleman farmer who looks like he would own slaves if he could, meaning sometimes he's wearing outdoorsy khaki costumes with an Orvis flair, sometimes he's rockin' a cream-and-neutral Colonel Saunders vibe, complete with ascot, pocket square (again, YES) and hat.

Shit, that costume comes with a helicopter!

Here's how we LIKE to think of Ben Gazzara, the actor playing Brad, though. Here he's dressed for his garden party - you know, the garden party he's going to have to eject the Dude from. Guy really knows how to wear a white suit.

The other character who embodies class is the Doc, the foxy ER doctor that Dalton bones. Now, Kelly Lynch usually classes the shit out of her roles. A glorious example is this, one of the many exquisite costumes she wore in 'Cocktail':

Made of win. But in this movie - well, at least, until she takes it all off and barebacks Dalton on his roof while Brad watches from his front porch - she dresses quite classily. Her white doctor's coat paired with glasses does a nice job of telling us she's a Smart Doctor; her denim shirt tucked into acid-washed jeans tucked into cowboy boots (gurk) tells us she's a Tough Cookie; and her flirty yet demure floral rayon dresses tell us she's Unaware of her Sexuality; but they have nothing on the girl-next-door dress she wears when she and Dalton hang out at the diner.

Wearing a tablecloth - which, incidentally, I also did at my own wedding, but it was old-timey lace, not picnic-table red and white - is definitely classy, as is the late 80s/early 90s hairspray wave she's got going with her bangs and her temples. Okay, maybe 'classy' isn't the right word. Stupid? Is that the right word?

There are a few other characters who help round out the visual cornucopia of this movie's costume design. First up is Sam Elliott, Dalton's drifter cooler buddy. In my mind Sam Elliot is usually known as 'The Stache,' for obvious reasons, but he should maybe also be known as 'The Hair.' That guy's hair is...there are no words. Gorgeous. I'm not kidding. Most humans on this planet should be so lucky to have his hair.

The Hair dresses like a bad boy version of Dalton, which makes sense, as he shows up basically to kick ass, mac on the Doc in front of Dalton honey-badger style, and take a knife in the chest. So, black or gray shirts, black jeans, black leather jacket, boots and a leather cuff. And, in one startling shot, no underwear. Actually, that's all pretty hot. I'm not gonna make fun of The Hair. He's the only one with any style.

Cooter, whose screen name I can't remember and can't be bothered to look up because regardless his name should be Cooter, is possibly the worst costuming cliche in the whole movie. Cooter is the wise geeze who rents Dalton his room at his scrappy farm.

Therefore, it makes sense that Cooter would look like Uncle Jesse.

No, not that Uncle Jesse - THIS Uncle Jesse!

Of course an older man from the country would ALWAYS wear a red union suit under a work shirt and coveralls, because it's fucking 1875, right? Give me a break. Shit, Cooter's red union suit gets big screen time when Jimmy the Analrapist sets his farm on fire and Dalton has to save him.

Jimmy is the last character worthy of mention, mainly for his infamous dialogue - "I used to fuck guys like you in prison!" - and not for his costumes.

But luckily for him the costume he wears when he delivers that line of dialogue is fairly idiotic, so he makes the cut.

Remember, denim-on-denim crime should never go unpunished, especially when some of the denim involves a shirt with the sleeves torn off. Also: gold slave bracelet (!), sterling silver single cross earring (!), and a beaded bear claw necklace. Jimmy deserved to get his throat ripped out by Dalton, frankly. 

I have such nostalgia for the look of the late 80s when I think about it. There's something comforting about the combinations of ill-fitting pants and really loose shirts that is my jam. Christ, I still dress like that!

Looks like somebody else enjoys the late 80s too!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Yeah, 'The Host.' IT WISHES!

Awkward title, I know. But I, along with many other serious nerds, was fairly offended that this fake alien movie bears the same title as this badass gem of cinema:

Yeah, what? That's what I thought you said. For many of us, there is only one movie titled 'The Host,' and it's the terrific Korean film about a mutant monster which goes on a rampage through Seoul. I know 'Gwoemul' (the Korean title) actually translates to 'monster,' not 'host,' but still. It's what we're stuck with, and it's a movie that has this in it:

...where the Olympic archer nails the monster with a flaming fucking arrow and engulfs it in an inferno. WIN AGAIN!

Luckily for you guys, 'The Host' is on the Netflix Instant. Less luckily, so is 'The Host.' This one is the one made by the lady who made 'Twilight.' (That's me being REALLY diplomatic. Keep that in mind.) This one is the one about the cute girl who tore her way through 'Hanna', only in this one, Hanna wears beige, looks desperate and makes out with some guys, despite the fact that all the kissing in this movie feels a little rapey. As my husband queried, "Is this one of those stories where there's a girl and two guys and it's all about fucking feelings?" Yes. Yes, it is. This one is the one where aliens pull a 'Body Snatchers' move, only guess what they do? THEY MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER.

This story has the most insanely stupid alien premise possibly known to man, and that includes a lot of bad fanfiction out there on The Inter Nets, as well as 'Transformers'. Who writes a book about quiet, helpful aliens who are bent on improving Earth? The lady who made 'Twilight,' that's who.

If I go too in-depth with discussing this movie, I'm going to have to punch my cat to death, and I really don't want to do that. Instead, I will hit some highlights, and then GTFO before any damage gets done.

Here are the stars of this movie:

Christ, all Tuesday. The aliens in this movie look like little glowing Tribbles. They go inside you and make you polite. I SHIT YOU NOT. There is an unintentionally hylarious scene when Hanna sees some dead aliens lying like small pools of ejaculate on a table and freaks out. Man, that poor actor worked hard for the money!

The Lotus Evora is the real star of this movie. Polite aliens get to drive chrome cars in the future, because chrome = futuristic. There are so many masturbatory shots of these cars I started to forget that aliens invaded. Because they're polite, I'm sure everybody obeys the speed limit.

The Mercedes Unimog is also a star. It's involved in a monumentally boring chase (under the speed limit) where we're supposed to believe that it can outpace the Lotus Evora. One Unimog commits hara-kiri by smashing into a concrete wall. I was way more agonized over that moment than, um, any other moment.

This is the best I could do to show you the star power of the ridiculous shoes Diane Kruger wears. In the future, aliens dress in all white, presumably because they have alien powers to keep everything clean. However, they do not have the sartorial know-how to avoid wearing some busted Payless-style shit brown boots from 2006 with their ill-fitting white high-waisted pants. Diane Kruger is a gorgeous fashionista, so I can only assume she was ACTUALLY taken over by an alien when she let them dress her like this.

Ol' Unky Jeb's neckerchiefs are also shining stars. In the future, resistance fighters are going to talk and dress like Olden Tymey pioneers. 'Firefly,' this ain't. They're also going to be named Jamie, Jebediah, Jared, Magnolia and whatever other Olden Tymey Holy Bibley-style names are appropriate for pioneers. Is Magnolia a name in the Holy Bibley? If not, it should be!

There are a couple of other stars of this film that defy JPEGging. One is the fact that the main character's name, which starts out as an interesting 'Wanderer,' gets shortened to Wanda. WANDA! The more everyone says it, the derpier it sounds. Besides, there's only one true Wanda in film:

Another is Hanna's janky Louisiana accent. Hanna talks to herself, because her body got snatched, right? So WANDA speaks in irritating alien-speak, you know, without contractions. She has boring and confusing mental conversations with the owner of the body, Melanie, who is apparently from Louisiana. Hanna is a skilled actor, nobody doubts this. However, she is deeply incapable of working a Southern accent. But it's OK, as this movie takes place in the visually fascinating territory of wherever the lady who wrote 'Twilight' lives, so we basically forget about Louisiana. Frankly, William Hurt's bogus accent also deserves special mention. I've always figured Hurt to be like Malkovich, where they're, like, 'Fuck accents, I'm an American acting legend and I'm just gonna do what I want in this movie about 9th century China that I'm starring in.'

Oh my GOD. I'm trying to think of other things to whinge about, but honestly, this movie was so dreary that all I can do is think about how its existence gives credence to the maxim 'You can't polish a turd.' I mean, you can, if it's a really hard turd, but it's still just going to end up being a shiny turd. This book sucked (I "read" the entire thing in one afternoon while I was hanging around a Barnes & Noble) and you just can't make a good movie out of a sucky story. It's SCIENCE, people. I don't even have the energy to rate this shitbomb with some Nickelback, so I'll just leave you with this:


Sunday, November 3, 2013

The XXXander Zone!

Did you maybe think for a quick sec there that I was going to write about a porn? If only I was that diligent of a reviewer. Nope, I'm writing about yet another shitty action movie I've seen 3,526 times, for reasons unknown (Who are we kidding. The reasons are obvious. Shitty action movies are my kryptonite and will probably constitute 75% of the movies discussed on this blawg): 'XXX'!

Wait, I just looked this up. The movie's actually titled 'xXx.' Did anybody out there know that? SEMANTICS, I say.

Here's a beauty shot of Vin Diesel, star of 'xXx'. Yep, that's him inside the Iron Giant. Vin Diesel can make a movie about an internet action star (giggle) infiltrating an Eastern Bloc gang of anarchists (tee hee) and I'll still cut him slack, because Iron Giant. 'The Iron Giant' trumps everything. If you don't cry during The Iron Giant, then you deserve to be eaten and then puked out and then eaten again by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Do we understand each other?

The late nineties-to-early aughts were great for cookie-cutter action movies with lots of pyro, terrible visual effects, slipshod acting, limp humor and misogynistic and homophobic characters. And 'xXx' is no exception! The whole premise here was obviously to try and pimp Diesel out as a bitchin' sexay Bond-esque action hero for the new millenium (snork), which didn't really work according to plan; I guess people only want to see him as a thug or an alien serial killer. Sorry, dude. Hope the threequel of this movie you're working on right now comes out great.

OK, now let's discuss what makes this cinematic gem work so magnificently. We know from the opening that it is going to be BOSS, because shots of Prague are set to music by the German techno band Autobahn! HARDCORE!

Right away we see a lot of punk people being punk, like the Elf King from 'Fellowship of the Ring' and a dude in a parka with a hipster mustache who looks like the fifth Son of Mumford. There is some shady secret agent shit happening, but it's unclear what it's all about, because this movie is badly written. Fast forward to Washington D.C., where Director Nick Fury, badly scarred and with one blue eye because HARDCORE, is about to explain to us why the current agents for the NSA suck balls. Wow, I didn't realize how timely this film was going to be!

Rather than asking the Avengers to assemble, which would be the easy way to deal with this problem, Nick Fury thinks a better idea would be to hire criminals to handle the U.S. government's secrets. Ha ha, another timely joke which remains funny over ten years later! Top of the list is Xander Cage. Here's how we meet him. An uppity senator thinks Xander is a valet at a country club (because he doesn't see the rad xXx inked on the back of his neck, like we're going to see in close up approximately 69,897 times before the end of the movie) and hands over the keys to his new Vette. What is this, 1985? The production couldn't get a Lotus or something?

Xander gets with a bunch of hooligans, i.e. pro skateboarders who somebody in casting thought could 'act', and films a PSA for the internet where he extols the educational benefits of gaming (or, as it was referred to in 2002, "the video games") while driving the Corvette off a bridge. This is called 'entering the Xander Zone,' and, as you guys all know, anything which refers to a 'zone' is made of win in my book!

At his victory party, hosted by his overworked manager Eve (she has an underground website to run and a lot of tapes to make - Jesus, she needs an assistant), the NSA nabs him. Xander, thinking it's about his PSA, questions the NSA's tactics, saying, "It was only a Corvette!" He's right. Seriously, who gives a shit about a Corvette, unless it's this one?

Xander is then given a test by Nick Fury, which he passes with flying colors, of course, and schools Fury on how to test prospective agents, because he knows more about it from his vast experience. He gets knocked out and wakes up with a bunch of different hooligans in a cargo plane, where he starts making quips (FUCK I love quips!) which sound like they were written by a third grader. All the hooligans get chucked out the back of the plane into a Colombian coca field owned by Machete, but Xander enjoys it, because he lives for this shit! He better watch it, though, because Machete doesn't like quips.

Look, you had the option of a picture of Machete with demon makeup on, or a picture of Salma doing her snake dance. You're welcome.

Xander aquits himself by doing some stunts and helping a fellow hooligan out, but he tells Nick Fury to kiss his ass, Scarface, which makes him look cool, because bullying people with physical scarring is awesome. Nick Fury says he can either go to Leavenworth or to Prague. Choices, choices! On the plane, Xander reviews some oddly glamorous-looking files from the NSA about Anarchy 99, the gang he's being sent to infiltrate, which has the most hilariously non-threatening name in the history of gang names. When he gets off the plane, the vaguely Gypsy-sounding music tells us he decided to go to Prague, not Leavenworth. Xander gets to work right away in an enormous coat, which was a savvy move on the part of the costume designer, seeing as Vin Diesel appears about as threatening as a Boston terrier. Some super-awkward flirting happens with Asia Argento and then one of the anarchists brings some hookers to the party by ejaculating, "Bitches come!", which is clearly an homage to Robocop.

Before we get too much deeper into the complex machinations of this movie, I wanted to show you Xander's big coat. Here he is in the coat, sunglasses, and underwear, in another obvious homage that I'll spare you:

I kind of can't, with the coat. He goes from wearing Motocross pants to wearing that coat?

OK, back to it. Xander gets his own Q, a bland young actor who definitely doesn't look nerdy enough to play the part, although he lets us know "I got a degree from MIT, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum loddie (sic)." He's designed some binoculars that allow Xander to look through the clothing of a hot agent, who doesn't seem to mind being ogled through something called 'the Penetrator.' Again, is this 1985? Xander does a stolen car deal with the Elf King, topped off with a bonus car, a '67 Pontiac GTO which feels like something Vin Diesel asked for after having done that car movie (which is so fucking superior to this movie it's ridiculous, plus it has boiled tofu appetizer Paul Walker in it!). He gets invited into Anarchy 99 (snicker) and goes to a club decorated with Tesla coils, because Tesla coils are punk, where people are kind of standing around while all the lights are on. Asia Argento awkwardly makes out with him - and, when I say awkward, I ain't kidding, it looks like two snails fighting - and then everyone goes to a big ol' mansion, where Xander sings 'America the Beautiful' before hitting it with a stripper who does a stripper dance for what feels like 45 minutes.

But Xander doesn't love the stripper, he loves Asia Argento, enough to take her out for a salad for lunch. They have matching coats, after all. Their date ends poorly, as he tells her he's a secret agent (tee hee) before having to bust out of the restaurant by using a waiter's tray for cover while he gets shot at. Because he's a hooligan, he also does this with the tray:

As Senator Clay Davis would say,

Christ, I'm becoming one of those people who uses a meme instead of actually writing something. Sheeeeeeeiiiit, indeed!

So Nick Fury checks in on Xander at an opera rehearsal. People like Xander think opera is horrible and people like Nick Fury think opera is awesome, and this is why this part of the movie is funny. Xander takes it upon himself to help Asia Argento and some scientists, which feels a little 'Top Secret' to me, but that's OK - I think it works in the movie's favor. Maybe one of the scientists is Asia Argento's dad? At this point her character feels about as valuable as a truckload of dead rats in a tampon factory, after all. (Note my restraint in not posting the entire 'Top Secret' movie here) The Elf King laughs evilly while he kills all the scientists, who have built him what looks like a weaponized version of Luke Skywalker's land speeder that releases a gas called Silent Night (ha ha). So, Xander pretty much fucked that up, but he makes a getaway on a motorbike by doing a dope stunt (frankly, whoever the guy is doing the motorcycle stunts in this movie is a fucking master) and killing the Elf King's brother. HARDCORE VENGEANCE IMMINENT. First, though, Asia Argento shows up and finds the time (which she didn't have before, of her own admittance, even though she and Xander were having a leisurely salad luncheon) to tell him she's also a secret agent for the FSB. Bozhe moi! If she's a badass Russian spy, can't she handle all this shit herself? She doesn't need a dude who makes skateboard videos for the internet to help her out.

Now it's time to Get It Together (TM). The hot agent from earlier apparently didn't mind being ogled with the Penetrator after all, because she offers to pilot a plane for Xander so his stunt double can do some more awesome shit (like jump out of it) while Autobahn plays. He gets caught, though, and the Elf King is really mad that all of these people he thought were his pals are actually secret agents. He probably should have stayed out of this movie, then! When the Czech police show up the Elf King releases the land speeder into the river, where it zips away like this:


Q has turned Xander's GTO into a Bondmobile, which is useful for blowing up wagons full of potatoes as they chase Silent but Deadly. Xander manages to parachute himself onto it, which is the closest that guy's ever going to get to 'Star Wars', and pulls a Schwarzenegger by yelling "Welcome to the Xander Zone!" just as he saves the city of Prague from being poisoned by farts. While everyone thinks he's dead, Nick Fury tells Asia Argento he'll grant her asylum AND citizenship. Her reply? "It doesn't really matter now, does it." Wait - are you fucking kidding me? So you don't want asylum and citizenship, but you'll grudgingly take it anyhow? Wow, I am genuinely endeared to this character. Luckily, Xander isn't dead, and not only does Asia Argento get everything she doesn't really want, but she gets a vacation in Bora Bora. After telling Xander that in order to "pass spy school" she had to hold her breath underwater for 2 minutes, they go swimming, although it sounded to me like Xander wanted her to hold it for 3 minutes, as that's how long it takes him to have sex.

I want to remind you guys that although I sound REALLY mean about all of this, I love this movie and all other movies of this ilk. And when I say 'love,' I mean love like Derek Zoolander means 'brother.' Just so we're all clear.

I have also decided to initiate a ratings system for the movies I discuss. There is only one rating, which I guess doesn't really make it a system, and it's this:

Two Nickelback thumbs-up for 'xXx'!