June 20, 2009

"'This movie is making me angry, very sad, hopeless, and dirty-feeling.'..."

"... This movie is making me angry, very sad, hopeless, and dirty-feeling.” As the onscreen obese gay man poked at the bloody intestines and told the fifth anal sex joke, I looked at my daughter, and we got up and walked out. I started crying in the parking lot as we walked to our car. I am not from this world. I am an alien."

Victoria Jackson emotes over a Judd Apatow movie. There's no real way to controvert crying in the parking lot.

I've twice had the experience of bursting into tears while trying to talk after seeing a movie, but both times it was after sitting through all of a movie that I very much admired. In both cases, I made myself cry by voicing a particular thought about the movie, and each time — the incidents were 20 years apart — it was that a man had truly loved a child. Odd that I happen to think of that today, on Father's Day Eve.

75 comments:

Jason (the commenter) said...

This is the second bit of news I've heard about Victoria Jackson in the last week. She must be trying to get attention as a conservative spokesperson or something.

Big Mike said...

I've walked out of movies, not regularly but now and again. The first time I did it I was in graduate school, and it felt a little strange -- is there something wrong with me that I'm the only one leaving the theater? After that it got pretty easy. After all, I've paid money to be entertained and if I'm not being entertained then the money is sunk but my time isn't. Why waste any more of my time?

EDH said...

I never put the name to the film before, but looking now at the Apatow filmography -- some better than others -- I recognize that I had previously noticed a course, base element running through most of them that left me uneasy at times about what the film was trying so say, not just how it said it.

rhhardin said...

It's always sad when a dog dies.

Beth said...

I won't go see movies where the dog dies. I figured that out years ago. If there's a dog in the title, don't go. Unless it's animated; then they usually survive.

Revenant said...

Do we call Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill "Quentin Tarantino pictures" or "Lawrence Bender pictures"? Bender produced all three films; Tarantino wrote and directed.

"Year One" was produced by Judd Apatow. It was written and directed by Harold Ramis. Of course, saying "I am shocked, SHOCKED that the man behind Caddyshack has produced a raunchy comedy offensive to my Christian morals" would have made Ms. Jackson sound like a complete nitwit, so I imagine that's why she decided to attack Apatow instead. :)

Ann Althouse said...

She talks about Apatow because she went on a date -- or "date" -- with Apatow.

Frodo Potter said...

Big Mike, great explanation of the rationale for walking out. I had never thought about in those terms, but it makes perfect sense.

I have never seen a Judd Apatow film and I never intend to see one. And you know, I don’t think I am missing anything. In a world with the chance to see “Amelie” for the umpteenth time or watching a Judd Apatow film for the first time, I know where my time is better spent.

I often will not see movies in the theater but will wait until the DVD comes out and then rent it or, as in the case of “Amelie,” just go ahead and buy it. I have a pretty good idea of what I will and won’t like, so rarely am I disappointed.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

To reject decadence and be marked an alien or a fool foments despair. A mere thirty years ago, she would have been in a comfortable majority. There's little she can do but protect her own little platoon, making a monastery of sorts.

A favorite quote on a father's love for his kids:
"There's a lot of ugly things in this world, son.
I wish I could keep 'em all away from you.
That's never possible.
"
To Kill A Mockingbird, natch.

Synova said...

What do I know. I consider it a "Jack Black" movie.

And I still plan to see it eventually.

I do wonder sometimes, though, how it is that people can go to movies and be surprised. Take "Watchmen" for example; Rated R, blood splatter on the smiley face button... and people who should know better take their small children to the "superhero flick" and are appalled by blue CGI penises and excessive violence.

I suppose that if the only Jack Black movie a person had seen was "School of Rock" they might be mislead, but it really can't be that hard to figure out which comedy movies are "kid" or "family" movies and which ones are "naughty jokes for 18-25 year old males" movies.

Really!

I'm more interested in the review (also at Big Hollywood) that suggested that the jokes about Biblical stuff are silly rather than mean spirited and probably not something most people will view as anti-Christian.

Of course, I thought "Don't Mess with the Zohan" was worth the price of the DVD so...

Sy said...

The only Judd Apatow movie I've seen and somewhat enjoyed was 40 Yr Old Virgin. The movie was littered with crass bathroom/sex humor. There were some hilarious parts and the movie had heart.

I got turned off by Knocked Up. It was basically the same formula with more bathroom humor. These jokes get old after the 2nd film. Thanks to Apatow, now i know what a Dirty Sanchez is. I don't know whats more appalling, the act itself or someone actually gave a name for it.

I avoid and abhorred Apatow movies now.

former law student said...

Her acting career consisted of being a ditzy blonde with big boobies and a little girl voice.

But dammit, that's more than Goldie Hawn started with and she had a lot better career.

I guess with the collapse of the real estate market VJ can't make a living that way.

AJ Lynch said...

That In-law movie with Robert Deniro was really bad too.

How many jokes do you think a scriptwriter can make about a character named Fokker?

I'd guess there were about twenty.

class-factotum said...

It was basically the same formula with more bathroom humor

The truly basic Apatow formula seems to be "loser slacker guy whom no decent woman would consider gets hot girl he'd never get in real life."

rcocean said...

I wish Christians would just understand that Hollywood is the enemy and stop subsidizing them. Its a toxic waste dump, sure they occasionally make something a decent intelligent person wants to see - but its like finding a diamond in cow manure.

Fred4Pres said...

My wife sobbed during UP. I got weepy too. That was obviously a different experience than what Victoria Jackson went thorugh. UP was a powerful and very well made movie.

I have no problem with crude over the top humor. I like Jack Black. But don't trick us, let us know that is coming. Give Sasha Baron Cohen credit, he did not try for the equivalent of a PG 13 rating with his new movie Bruno.

Fred4Pres said...

I remember going on a first date with a girl from high school to Cruising, only knowing that Al Pacino was in it and I liked him in the Godfather. We were 17. We walked out.

I am sure people might like that movie, but it definitely did not work for me and her.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"To reject decadence and be marked an alien or a fool foments despair. A mere thirty years ago, she would have been in a comfortable majority."

Word.

What happened?

Revenant said...

The truly basic Apatow formula seems to be "loser slacker guy whom no decent woman would consider gets hot girl he'd never get in real life."

That is arguably a fair description of "Knocked Up", but how does it describe "The 40 Year Old Virgin"? Catherine Keener is an attractive woman, certainly. But her character is in her early 40s with a teenage daughter and a marginal job selling stuff on eBay. I don't see her as being hopelessly out of the league of a nerdy but kind and loving electronics salesman. What's she going to do, hold out for a Wall Street exec played by George Clooney? :)

Also, judging from the trailers for "Funny People", your "formula" doesn't accurately describe his third movie either. All things considered it doesn't look like much of a formula at all.

Revenant said...

To reject decadence and be marked an alien or a fool foments despair. A mere thirty years ago, she would have been in a comfortable majority.

Thirty-one years ago, the top ten highest-grossing films in the United States included slasher film "Halloween" at #3, drug flick "Up in Smoke" at #4, lowbrow comedy "Revenge of the Pink Panther" at #6, and the notorious "Faces of Death" at #8. Also that year, Animal House launched the "gross-out comedy" genre, ultimately earning fifty times its budget.

If you want to find a time when American audiences turned up their noses at poor taste, you'll have to go back a lot farther than 30 years. :)

class-factotum said...

The Apatow formula of loser guy/great girl:

Pineapple Express
Stepbrothers
Anchorman: Ron Burgandy

Pogo said...

Hardly the same fare, Rev.
Not even close.

Pogo said...

That era was not golden by any means. Those movies marked another step on the ongoing cultural decline, however.

And here we are, with little left to shock us, except those unwilling to submit, whom we find very shocking indeed.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Rev, did any of those movies involve bloody intestines and anal sex jokes?

Or are you advocating for slippery-slope theory here? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

somefeller said...

"Rev, did any of those movies involve bloody intestines and anal sex jokes?"

"Faces of Death" sure as hell involved bloody intestines, and "Halloween" was no slouch in the violence department. And while I don't recall any anal sex jokes in "Animal House", there were plenty of other sex jokes. Plus, anal sex jokes have been a boys' locker room staple since the time of Hammurabi, unless you went to a really prissy school. So, nothing much to get all upset about there.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"Plus, anal sex jokes have been a boys' locker room staple since the time of Hammurabi, unless you went to a really prissy school."

So all the world is now a boys' locker room. Cool.

somefeller said...

"So all the world is now a boys' locker room. Cool."

No, just Judd Apatow movies (which I don't even watch because I don't like movies in which loser gamma-males are made to be heroes, I tend to be more of a traditionalist when it comes to movie heroes). Anyone who goes to one of his films and expects something other than the boys' locker room is an idiot. Like Victoria Jackson. Maybe next, Big Hollywood can publish an opera critic who is upset by all the Germanic shit in Wagnerian opera.

Pogo said...

The 50s differ from the 70s from today. To argue otherwise is fatuous. This sort of entertainment has always been with us, no argument there.

But to refuse to see how its prevasiveness has changed us is self-imposed ignorance.

Revenant said...

The Apatow formula of loser guy/great girl:

Pineapple Express.

I'm not sure why a slow-witted high school senior qualifies as a "great girl" compared to Rogen's pothead process server. But even if she did, Rogen does "get" the girl in that move -- he loses her.

Stepbrothers.

Haven't seen it.

Anchorman: Ron Burgandy.

Burgundy "gets" the girl while a top-rated news guy, so that obviously doesn't qualify as a loser slacker getting a girl who'd normally have nothing to do with him.

I would also point out that the only one of those movies where Apatow wrote or directed was "Pineapple Express", where he gets a story credit. :)

Revenant said...

Hardly the same fare, Rev. Not even close.

True. Animal House is much raunchier than anything in "40 Year Old Virgin" or "Knocked Up". :)

Revenant said...

So all the world is now a boys' locker room. Cool.

Only if you define "all of the world" as "any part of the world, even the parts you can easily avoid". Of course, by that standard "all of the world" has ALWAYS been a boys' locker room.

Sy said...

My wife sobbed during UP. I got weepy too. That was obviously a different experience than what Victoria Jackson went thorugh. UP was a powerful and very well made movie.

Speaking of which, Pixar granted a dying 10 yr old her last wish. It's a very touching story.

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/pixar-up-movie-2468059-home-show

Freeman Hunt said...

I didn't know Victoria Jackson was conservative. She's hilarious. I love her stuff.

I normally like Apatow movies. I will eventually see this one, and I hope it is not as bad as she describes. I hope that she was just in a bad mood when she saw it or was having an off day.

And yes, it actually is normal for people, especially people into movies, to refer to "Apatow movies." There are a few others like that. Weinstein, for one, as far as producers go. For directors, you've got James Cameron and Spielberg. If people seem to leave a distinctive stamp on films, it is not uncommon for the films to be associated with the people's names.

Freeman Hunt said...

Off topic but speaking of hilarious people: I am so sad that MadTV is cancelled. There is some phenomenal comedic talent on that show.

knox said...

I can't figure Apatow. Specifically, whether his goal is to make, vile, disgusting comedies, and he puts the "values" stuff in to make them somewhat palatable; or he really is interested in making comedies with values, and puts the vile, disgusting stuff in, because he knows that's the only way they'd get made.

Revenant said...

I know that people refer to "Apatow movies", Freeman. It just seems goofy to do so in this case.

Ramis is the guy who wrote and/or directed Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, and Ghostbusters. It would be accurate to call him the godfather of raunchy comedy. Now he's written and directed a new comedy along those lines... and we're calling it "an Apatow film"? That's a bit silly, don't you think?

Revenant said...

Specifically, whether his goal is to make, vile, disgusting comedies, and he puts the "values" stuff in to make them somewhat palatable; or he really is interested in making comedies with values, and puts the vile, disgusting stuff in, because he knows that's the only way they'd get made.

You're assuming that a person can't believe in love, marriage, and responsibility while still finding lowbrow sexual and physical humor funny. There's no dichotomy there. The world is not neatly divided up into fratboys and humorless scolds. Normal people can laugh at behavior they wouldn't necessarily emulate.

TitusTweetingfromTehran said...

Poor Vicki.

Has she done nything in 20 years?

We still have the Jonas Bros.

Pogo said...

"The world is not neatly divided up into fratboys and humorless scolds."

Criticism of cultural decline is not neatly divided up into humorless scolds and tolerant cogniscienti.

Revenant said...

Criticism of cultural decline is not neatly divided up into humorless scolds and tolerant cogniscienti.

Criticism of cultural decline has been ubiquitous for at least 2500 years. This is because everybody "cultural decline" is defined by basically everyone as "any change from the way things were when I was a kid, that I don't happen to like".

Some people can draw a line from the comedy of 30 years ago (Animal House and Benny Hill) to the comedy of today (Judd Apatow and Will Farrell) and detect a sharp decline in quality, standards, morals, or yadda yadda yadda. All I detect are funny movies.

Pogo said...

"All I detect are funny movies."

Nations rise and nations fall. Similar sentiments were shared in Egypt about 1000 BC, Rome circa 500 AD, Islam in the 13th century, Germany in the 1920s, Britain in the 1960s, and the USSR around 1988.

Synova said...

And yet... the alternative to ebb and flow is stagnation and death.

Decline is dynamic movement in the same sense, really, that acceleration (technically) can be positive or negative and still be acceleration.

Standing still is worse than negative acceleration.

I suppose it has to do with what is necessary to *keep* decline from happening. I suspect that it also keeps growth from happening... whatever it is.

(I also suspect that I have just failed, miserably, at any attempt to be coherent. Oh, well.)

Beth said...

There's no dichotomy there. The world is not neatly divided up into fratboys and humorless scolds.

True that, Revenant. I'm not neatly in any such category, certainly. This movie sounds like a miss, but I still like other Apatow efforts, and I'll just ignore what I don't.

I enjoy some obnoxious humor. I love Beavis and Butthead, truly and fondly. And even Jackass - what's not funny about watching a guy voluntarily apply voltage to his taint and scream? Just "taint" alone is funny, even without the voltage.

But I tend to turn off if something's just mean, or wildly off-target. This movie sounds like it might verge into that territory for me.

Freeman Hunt said...

Now he's written and directed a new comedy along those lines... and we're calling it "an Apatow film"? That's a bit silly, don't you think?

No, not necessarily. Apatow's the it guy right now, and he decided to work on the project. So, no, not silly.

But whoa, LOL at Apatow's full IMDB listing, which I had never looked at before. I shouldn't have written that I usually like his movies. I like some, and I absolutely loathe others.

blake said...

She's not an alien, but she sure must be out of the loop.

One the one hand, 30 years ago, you had possibly the only good "year one" comedy ever: Life of Brian. This also pissed off the Christians, though the Pythoners are divided as to whether or not it's sacrilege. (Which suggests strongly that whether it is or not is in the eye of the beholder.)

On the other, I'm dubious about this "Faces of Death" claim. Its all time worldwide box office isn't that high (alleged to be $35M by producers known to exaggerate), it surely didn't get a serious domestic release, and I'm also pretty sure it wasn't broadly advertised. I don't think it really took off until the home video era.

It's also preposterous to suggest that movies aren't coarser now since, you know, we have the evidence. The Hays Code and all that.

But when the MPAA ratings system took over in '68--essentially giving up the censorship war--there was a flood of movies that are largely worse than what we have today.

The difference is that (like Faces of Death) they weren't mainstream. The horror movies starred up-and-coming nobodies (like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, Tom Hanks in He Knows You're Alone, and a whole bunch of people who never worked before or again).

Even the crudest comedies weren't remotely as vulgar as the ones turned out by Apatow & company.

Animal House? Well, it does feature a comedic rape (we were much less uptight about that back then), and Meatballs has a lot of boner humor, but there's nowhere near the explicitness you find today.

I mean, seriously, "South Park" has Paris Hilton inserting enormous items into her vagina during prime time, or post-op TS "Mrs." Garrison having scissoring with lesbians.

I'd offer a different take on the Apatow genre (it's best described as a genre inspired by him than his actual work): The common themes in Virgin, Knocked Up, Sarah Marshall, and I Love You, Man are what it means to be a man and how to have relationships with women and other men.

I empathize with Miss Jackson (who had her own entry into the crude sex comedy genre 20 years ago with Casual Sex?, certainly a stop on the road to the current situation), but of all people she should be possessing of the skills and knowledge to avoid seeing things that upset her--and to not react as if this latest crude comedy was a sudden, shocking indication of our society into Babylon.

blake said...

That's "indication of our society's descent" at the end there.

Pogo said...

"but of all people she should be possessing of the skills and knowledge to avoid seeing things that upset her"

Actually, I thought about seeing Year One with the entire family for Father's day. There are too few choices at the moment, this being the summer resulting from the last writer's strike. We had already seen Up. Twice.

I don't follow movies enough to 'know better' than a feeble guess that the rating means it's passable, and that the kid from Juno would be safe (even though I hated that film). Woe to me for being so gullible.

It's why we hardly ever go to movies anymore. We wait for the larger culture to filter it all, and then decide.

Maybe parents who want to watch a movie with their teenager unembarrassed aren't the ones to blame here.

And Jackson isn't just upset about being exposed to that particular movie, she sees what it means for her child in the long run, who will never know the relative safety her mom had perceived in childhood. I certainly remember that era; it was a great gift and is a proper loss to grieve.

knox said...

All I detect are funny movies.

Then don't preach to me in your typical condescending way about detecting nuance.

knox said...

oops, forgot. : )

knox said...

I love Beavis & Butthead too. And South Park at times. Loved 40 Year Old Virgin. Less so Knocked Up, and Superbad was the dealbreaker. Gross, but without the laughs. For me, at least.

Joseph said...

I'm not really an Apatow fan, but too many sex jokes are hardly the source of America's cultural woes. I've always been surprised how much more effort our censors and church ladies expend condemning sex than violence in our culture. Sex in real life often is fun, funny, creative, life-affirming, and positive. Violence never is. But the censors get worked up over wardrobe malfunctions and light gay sexual content. Boycott the gay love/tragedy Brokeback Mountain but go see the slasher film Passion of the Christ! I don't think I've ever left a movie because I was so offended by sexual content but I definitely have because I couldn't take the violence and gore.

former law student said...

pogo,

You could consider going to The Hangover. Just leave as the credits begin.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

" the slasher film Passion of the Christ"

Your comment made some sense until this cute throwaway line was inserted. It's too clever by half, distracting entirely from your message which was otherwise coherent.

As to your claim on standards for sex vs. violence in films, it's one I used to ponder myself.

Neil Postman does a stellar job explaining it in "The Disappearance of Childhood. He argues that children are being robbed of their innocence when we make them embrace mature issues and experiences long before they are ready.

Childhood was, once, a time when the young were sheltered from ideas, experiences, practices, expectations. Knowledge of life's contradictions, tragedies, and trade-offs was deemed beyond their capacity to comprehend.

Certain facets of life were simply not considered suitable for children to know.

Sheltered from adult secrets, particularly violent and sexual ones, they were felt to best able become competent adults, emotionally and spiritually.

The disappearance of childhood eventually means the infantilization of adults.

Pogo said...

fls: Heh.

I might watch it myself, but I doubt it. It's probably pretty funny, and maybe a useful salve for the time.

Just not in the mood I guess.

Pogo said...

The inability to be shocked is no virtue.

Joseph said...

I dont think its a throwaway line at all. The popularity of that film says something about religious conservatives that I do not get and which is directly related to my failure to understand their obsession with sex and ambivalence about violence. They find some spiritual value in identifying with grotesque and hyperviolent torture of their savior but despair at the culture impact of a movie dealing with homosexual love.

Pogo said...

"popularity of that film says something about religious conservatives that I do not get"

That was my point; you changed subjects entirely as a result of that insertion, away from "why sex and not violence?" to a query about religious conservatives.

I found it distracting from your major point, which seemed a good one.

If instead you meant your initial post to be about the religious "identifying with grotesque and hyperviolent torture of their savior" but despairing at a movie dealing with homosexuality, well, that wasn't clear at all.

There are in fact several answers for that, some of which were included in my response abput Postman.

But I would just say that your conclusion that they were "identifying with ..." is completely wrong. It misunderstands that Friday entirely.

Graham Powell said...

I can't believe no one has asked Ann what the movies were at which she cried. I would sure like to know.

Synova said...

My take on the sex/violence thing is this...

Sex has to do with relationships and self-image. Blowing up bad guys... doesn't.

The potential for truly screwing up your life by having mistaken attitudes about sex, relationships and self-image is HUGE. The potential for truly screwing up your life by watching shows where good guys blow up bad guys is minor.

Probably mostly because violence is not portrayed as a *good* thing anyway, not for its own sake.

Movie sex would probably be less damaging if the actors having it were all fat and ugly, like real people, but then it wouldn't be fun to watch either, would it. If the nude people in movies looked like nude people on a nude beach it would be more like real life and less damaging toward developing healthy attitudes about one's own appearance and sexuality.

In the end I'd rather my kids watched a movie where the good guys were fighting the bad guys who wanted to hurt them or others. Even if it included a good deal of blood splatter.

blake said...

I don't follow movies enough to 'know better' than a feeble guess that the rating means it's passable, and that the kid from Juno would be safe (even though I hated that film). Woe to me for being so gullible.

Where have you been for the last five years? (And as far as the ratings board and the Hays Office before it, they've always been more about mollifying certain groups while making life hard for the indie film maker.)

As I think you know, I'm a frequent movie goer; I never even notice the ratings. If I'm taking kids, I look for those things that I think will upset them. (Same goes for me, really.) There's more information than ever available about the movies out there.


It's why we hardly ever go to movies anymore. We wait for the larger culture to filter it all, and then decide.

Which takes about five minutes after the first show.

Maybe parents who want to watch a movie with their teenager unembarrassed aren't the ones to blame here.

Well, sure they are. They went to see the stupid teen sex comedies of their day which, while not as crude, were remarkably amoral. (Teen abortion comedies anyone?)

These movies didn't spring out of a vacuum.

And Jackson isn't just upset about being exposed to that particular movie, she sees what it means for her child in the long run, who will never know the relative safety her mom had perceived in childhood. I certainly remember that era; it was a great gift and is a proper loss to grieve.

While we're at it, let's mourn Jim Croce, non-disposable marriage, burlesque and true punk. They also died in the '70s.

blake said...

Joseph--

Passion of the Christ is not a "slasher" flick. It's "torture porn". Get your genre labels straight!

(I disagree with that assessment, but that's a whole 'nother ball of whacks [sic].)

blake said...

Certain facets of life were simply not considered suitable for children to know.

Again, the '70s? Hello? Porn chic? Cable/Pay TV?

The disappearance of childhood eventually means the infantilization of adults.

I'm pretty sure, throughout history, children have been exposed to a lot more real sex and violence than they get in movies without being infantilized.

I would guess that actually many of the same (or similar) factors in society that produce childlike adults are what allow for a childhood at all.

blake said...

Synova--

Just so! I've been hearing the "sex is so wonderful and violence is so awful" ratings canard for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid it struck me as wrong.

The average person is vastly more likely to screw up his life with sex than he is with violence. Few of us are really inclined to go around killing people. And real life brings all sorts of immediate physical pains along with even relatively minor acts of violence. (Try punching something hard with a closed fist.) Action heroes are just way more robust. The better parts of Last Action Hero made fun of this.

We're really not as violent as liberal scolds would have us believe. (It's usually from the left that the anti-violence sentiment comes from, and the anti-sex sentiment from the right.)

Sex, on the other hand, is rather immediately self-affirming.

Revenant said...

On the other, I'm dubious about this "Faces of Death" claim.

I was just citing the IMDB listing for top grossing movies of 1978. It could be mistaken.

Revenant said...

It's also preposterous to suggest that movies aren't coarser now since, you know, we have the evidence.

Nobody has suggested that movies aren't coarser now than they used to be. I was refuting Pogo's suggestion that the majority of the American public, thirty years ago, got the vapors at the thought of gross-out and/or blasphemous comedy. Obviously if you go back far enough you'll find a time when movies were a lot more tame. But you'll never be able to go back far enough to find a time when vulgarity couldn't get a big laugh. From ancient Greece to the plays to Shakespeare to the modern day, dick jokes have been with us.

The Hays Code and all that.

We were comparing the movies of 30 years ago with the movies of today. The Hayes code was discarded over 40 years ago.

The horror movies starred up-and-coming nobodies (like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, Tom Hanks in He Knows You're Alone, and a whole bunch of people who never worked before or again).

As opposed to today, where the horror movies star A-list talent like Jay Hernandez and Neve Campbell? Besides, labeling a movie "non-mainstream" because it lacks big name actors is silly. Halloween was a studio picture that got a wide release. That's mainstream. By your standards, "Star Wars" wasn't mainstream because it didn't have a single person in it the average American would recognize.

Even the crudest comedies weren't remotely as vulgar as the ones turned out by Apatow & company.

Caddyshack and Animal House are at least as crude as The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up. Have you not actually seen any of these movies?

former law student said...

I can't believe no one has asked Ann what the movies were at which she cried. I would sure like to know.

I just figured, if she wanted us to know what they were, she would have told us. She's not the type of women to dwell on the seat of painful emotions.

Meade is a lucky man in this respect, as well.

Chase said...

I want to start my statement about leaving a movie with this: I am against same-sex marriage. But that doesn't mean I don't feel for gay people having to endure bigotry in real and and fearful ways.

A buddy and I went to see "Deathtrap" back in the early 80's - remember the Scene where Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve kiss? Several cat calls were made in the theater during that scene, including "fucking faggots!". The movie was part of a double feature, and when Deathtrap finished first and the lights came on, my friend noticed and mentioned that he and I were the only 2-male couple in the entire (3/4 full)theater, with the exception of another 2-male couple - who were actually holding hands. The next movie began - I still don't remember the name of it, but boy did it suck - filthy language and no point. My friend and I didn't need to waste any more time - we came to see Deathtrap after all - and got up to leave from our near the front seats (I think around 3rd row on the side). As we started up the aisle, someone yelled out "yea get out you faggots!". It seemed like maybe half of the theater laughed. That couple of guys that I mentioned earlier stood up - they were about 5 rows behind our seats - and walked out. Some guy on the aisle threw a cup at them, and it hit one of them on his side.

Now I don't understand the situation or what happened. But I've thought about those two guys who left when the faggot term was yelled, and it sure seemed a hateful and assault-type thing to yell at anybody. Nobody, gay or straight deserves that. That's why I was proud of my friend, a former Navy MP, who kicked the foot of the guy who threw the cup as we walked up. The asshole started to stand up, and my friend put his hand on the guys shoulder, close to his neck, and pushed him back down in his seat, and got in the guys face and yelled "this Navy MP can fuck you up real bad right now. Want that?" The guy sitting next to the asshole said "no sir!" super loud, and the whole audience started laughing. The asshole just looked like he wet his pants, all wide-eyed and fearful of dying. We left laughing for the next half hour.

blake said...

Nobody has suggested that movies aren't coarser now than they used to be.

I must have been confused by your repeated listing of older movies and references to them as being more coarse (crude, vulgar) than current ones.

But then:

I was refuting Pogo's suggestion that the majority of the American public, thirty years ago, got the vapors at the thought of gross-out and/or blasphemous comedy.

Which wasn't really Pogo's argument. He believes that a majority would've shared Victoria Jackson's rejection of "Year One" comedy. I doubt very much he meant that they would be weeping about it.

Box office returns don't refute that. I'd say about 1% of the population saw Halloween,and about the same Animal House, probably with pretty heavy overlap.

I think Pogo is wrong, because I think the majority of the public had already mostly rejected movies by the '70s, for technological reasons (i.e. TV). That technological shift naturally led to a shift in movie content, especially given the relatively bright line between movies and TV, and the movie studios desire to draw that line more sharply.

I'd guess 30 years ago, you had a majority of the under-35 crowd not so worried about decadence, and the majority of the 35+ crowd dismayed and also disconnected--but there was a lot of cultural water under the bridge by that time.

Not that things are that neat, but the same country that you cite as approving of Halloween in '78 rejected The Thing in ' 82, with certain groups labeling John Carpenter a pornographer and the studio pulling advertising for the film.

Did those groups represent a majority of the population any more than the aforementioned 1%? Dunno. It's more research than I care to do.

blake said...

As opposed to today, where the horror movies star A-list talent like Jay Hernandez and Neve Campbell?

Yeah. Neve Campbell versus Dan Grimaldi. (And Grimaldi actually has a career, sort of!) Jessica Biel versus Joy Bang. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Ryan Phillipe, etc.

Scream really changed things.

Besides, labeling a movie "non-mainstream" because it lacks big name actors is silly.

Good thing I wasn't doing that, then.

Halloween was a studio picture that got a wide release.

No, it wasn't. Moustapha Akkad supplied the entire $325,000 budget and it was distributed by independent Irwin Yablans. Universal picked up the sequels.

That's mainstream.

It's the very definition of "independent".

By your standards, "Star Wars" wasn't mainstream because it didn't have a single person in it the average American would recognize.

In Lucas' words "Star Wars" was the most expensive B-movie ever made, going over double the $8M budget Fox gave it.

I wouldn't be as confident as you that the average American wouldn't recognize Alec Guiness, James Earl Jones, Peter Cushing or even Harrison Ford (from American Graffiti).

But since that was never my point, there's no reason to belabor it.

The issue of "mainstream" is an interesting and relevant one, on the other hand. Not gonna tackle it now, though.

Caddyshack and Animal House are at least as crude as The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up.

See, this doesn't sound like NOT arguing that movies were just as coarse 30 years ago.

Have you not actually seen any of these movies?

I haven't seen Caddyshack past the first few minutes. I didn't care for Bill Murray's groundskeeper, and realized that a Baby Ruth bar in a swimming pool didn't strike me as funny. (I'll watch it eventually, though.)

Animal House I've seen several times. Charles Champlain's review (read long after I saw it) summed up how I felt: "I wanted to like it more than I did."

Anyway, I must have missed the woman masturbating with a shower-head in front of five guys, the transsexual blowjob, the anus-licking dog story, the masturbating to porn, and the pretty much constant barrage of graphic sex stories in Animal House.

I think the pornographic level of detail in Apatow's movies--his movies in particular and the better examples of that genre--is actually pretty vital to the story.

But since nobody's suggesting that movies aren't coarser now, I'm not sure what the point of this is.

Revenant said...

Box office returns don't refute that. I'd say about 1% of the population saw Halloween,and about the same Animal House, probably with pretty heavy overlap.

Yes they do, actually. They serve as a statistical sampling of what Americans wanted to see in the movies. During the era in question G-rated comedies (from, e.g., Disney) routinely got their asses kicked by R-rated (and sometimes PG-rated, this being a time before PG-13) comedies shock full of vulgarity and sex.

the same country that you cite as approving of Halloween in '78 rejected The Thing in '82.

The Thing arrived on the scene at the end of the horror/slasher boom of the 1970s, at a time when social conservatism and the religious right were on the rise. There were a lot of movies made during that era that would never see mainstream release today due to their violent or sexual content.

Neve Campbell versus Dan Grimaldi (And Grimaldi actually has a career, sort of!) Jessica Biel versus Joy Bang. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Ryan Phillipe, etc.

I'm not sure what point you're making here, since none of the above people has much of a career to speak of. Also, you overlooked the casts of "The Shining", "Alien", and "The Exorcist".

Scream really changed things.

Only in the sense that it was the first successful horror franchise in 15 years. The stunt of populating a horror film with C-list stars with teen appeal was not exactly new. :)

Besides, labeling a movie "non-mainstream" because it lacks big name actors is silly.

Good thing I wasn't doing that, then.

You said "The difference is that [horror movies] weren't mainstream. The horror movies starred up-and-coming nobodies". Either the second sentence is meant to support the former or it is an irrelevant aside.

I wouldn't be as confident as you that the average American wouldn't recognize Alec Guiness, James Earl Jones, Peter Cushing or even Harrison Ford (from American Graffiti).

They wouldn't be any more likely to recognize Guiness or Cushing than they would Donald Pleasance. There is no possibility that an average American would have heard the voice of Darth Vader and recognized it as belonging to a black character actor with no successful films to his name. Finally, they would be far more likely to recognize PJ Soles from "Carrie" than Ford from his bit part in "American Graffiti".

Speaking of which, add "Carrie" to the list of "movies too shocking to be made today".

"Caddyshack and Animal House are at least as crude as The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up".

See, this doesn't sound like NOT arguing that movies were just as coarse 30 years ago.

It does if you're smart enough to tell the difference between "some X are Y" and "no X are not Y".


Anyway, I must have missed the [snip],

The funny thing is that the stuff you listed either takes place offscreen or is mentioned only in conversation. Funnier still is that you think the idea of a blowjob from a transexual is somehow cruder than, say, playing the attempted rape of a 14-year-old girl for laughs.

and the pretty much constant barrage of graphic sex stories in Animal House.

I'm not sure how one could miss the constant barrage of sex and sex stories in Animal House. Maybe you saw it on network TV? :)

I think the pornographic level of detail in Apatow's movies-

A person who refers to Apatow's movies as possessing a pornographic level of detail has clearly either not seen Apatow's movies or not seen pornography. :)

is actually pretty vital to the story.

As opposed to the sexual and physical vulgarity of late 70s/early 80s comedies, which is merely incidental to, for example, the touching story of a young golfer trying to make it in the pros?

Robert R. said...

I dare someone to go try to float the idea that horror films and comedies are coarser now than during the '70s and '80s on a film geek website. You'll be openly mocked for that. The PG-13 horror film is the bane of many film geeks existence.

Certainly things were less coarse during the Hayes Code era. And then they opened up, a lot. Midnight Cowboy and The Last Tango in Paris still remain important films of the 1960s and 1970s. And, people forget that Deep Throat was an actual box office phenomonom. Not stuff people are calling "pornographic", but actual porn.

The big box office hits of 2009 are Up, Star Trek, and The Hangover, which cover the gamut from wholesome to raunchy. Is that a bad thing?

Ken Begg said...

Hmm, Halloween keeps getting mentioned, but not by anyone who's apparently seen it. Halloween may technically be a slasher, and it's certainly violent. However, there's not a single drop of stage blood spilled in the entire film, much less any gore. Today Halloween would surely be rated PG, or maybe PG-13, for only for 'intensity.' The average episode of CSI is rather gorier.

*Perhaps* the "rise of the Christian Right" explains part of the catcalls about The Thing. However, aren't they more likely a reaction to the fact that in stark contrast to Halloween, The Thing is a tremendously gory movie? (Not to mention the fact that many of those who railed against it were primarily sickened by the fact that dogs were inflicted with gruesome deaths in the film.)

blake said...

Ken,

Halloween would be probably rated R for the nudity and sex.

Robert,

The trick with comparing horror movies from 30-35 years ago to today is that the market has shifted so radically. The goriest splatterfests of the '70s actually could get a little distribution. Most of them didn't but the slots were there in the theaters.

Today, despite more screens, there's also lots more big-studio fare. This is not an era where any exploitation flicks are getting screen time.

Instead, we do get the sanitized PG-13 stuff, with the big names, etc. that those guys hate.

My theory is that effective, truly transgressive horror is going to really freak out a certain percentage of the population. And a certain percentage of those are going to bitch about it. And today, that percentage is going to have an effective activist group with a sympathetic ear in government.