Unhappy medium

Change we can believe in

To begin with, a public service announcement: if you’re not watching the animated spy spoof Archer, start watching the animated spy spoof Archer. Because it’s fucking funny, that’s why. And because any show that coins the phrase “babytown frolics” (now a cornerstone of my personal vocabulary), name-checks Bartleby the Scrivener (“Not a big Melville crowd, are we?”) and refers to a comely young lady as “the Pele of anal” deserves your patronage. Season uno is now available from the fine folks at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, and while you should have one or two qualms about lining Rupert Murdoch’s pockets with additional filthy lucre, choke back your Commie tendencies just this once and ring up the sale. It’s worth it.

Ah, it’s good to like stuff, isn’t it? I like liking stuff. To quote Beavis (or possibly Butt-head): “I like stuff that rocks. I don’t like stuff that sucks.” And one of the great things about my line of work is that there are works of creativity and artistry out there that inspire me to sing their praises in the hope of exposing them to a wider audience. Another great thing about this gig? Occasionally you encounter something that disappoints or even offends you to such a degree that you’re inspired to dizzy heights of venom and vitriol. An unadulterated slam can be great fun to write; it can also be great fun to read.

But you know that saying about 90 per cent of everything being crap? Well, that’s not quite true. It’s more accurate to say that 90 per cent of everything is…well, okay, I guess. Tepid. Wan. Mediocre. And how the heck is a cultural commentator meant to come up with fascinating copy about movies, TV shows, books or other forms of expression that are just, I dunno, fine?

No, seriously, I’m asking you guys. Because I’m damned if I know.

It was actually Sucker Punch that got me thinking about this. I’ll admit I was hyped for Zack Snyder’s latest bonbon of eye candy after some semi-scintillating teasers and trailers (the man does give good trailer; that nobody can deny) but after being subjected to two hours or so of sound and fury signifying fuck-all I was left decidedly so-so. I didn’t completely loathe it because I kinda got what Snyder was trying to say, even if he developed a bit of a speech impediment trying to express it, and I felt like his heart was in the right place. So the movie’s a mess, but it’s a mess with some degree of conviction. But I know some people who freakin’ hated it, viewed its sexual politics as retrograde, its depiction of women as offensive and its general concept as asinine. And the passion of their argument got people talking.

And yet strangely underwhelmed. I know, right?

Now, I could understand their point. But I didn’t feel it. Does that make me a bad person? No, the fact that I hit someone with my car on the way home from the screening and drove away without checking to see if they were alive or dead makes me a bad person. So what gets me passionate in the negative? I guess incompetence. And people’s mileage is gonna vary on that. Sucker Punch disappointed me for the afore-mentioned reasons and also because Snyder’s supposedly badass visuals are getting repetitive and, well, kinda ugly in parts. But I saw the germ of a good idea – and more importantly, good intentions – in Sucker Punch. Yeah, but we all know what the road to hell is paved with, huh? Whereas in the movie I’ve hated most so far this year, the fucking useless No Strings Attached, a turgid rom-com with all the precise timing of a street-vendor Rolex, I saw an unwarranted confidence in its own charm and humour. That pissed me off. Of course, there were people giggling themselves silly at the screening I attended, so what the fuck do I know, right?

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