Friday, March 09, 2007

Judge not, lest you be Judge'd

Subject: Cinema
I think the only reason I watched these two movies in a row is because I was thinking of the title I would put on the blog. Go figure...

Mike Judge is one of my inspirations. He worked as an engineer for a while before becoming an independent animator, doing a series of shorts that eventually led to his fame as the creator of "Beavis and Butthead" in the early 90's. I wasn't a particulary big fan of that series, though I had seen his one famous short, "Frog Baseball", on MTV's totally awesome "Liquid Television" shortly beforehand. Crude stuff, but very, very effective in it's storytelling and evocation of the characters. The epitome of "Keep It Simple, Stupid". Or, "Keep It Simple, Dumbass", if that were actually able to make a catchy acronym.

I've mentioned "King of the Hill" before -- it's Judge's long-running animated "slice of life" TV series. So totally underrated in a lot of ways, and almost always brilliant in it's portrayal of the accepted version of "normal" Americana, at least from a Texan point of view. Which, in a lot of ways, was exactly what "Beavis and Butthead" was about, thoug it was a tad over-the-top.

He broke out into the live-action cinema realm, however, with the late-90's cult classic "Office Space", which the recent remastered DVD release started this evening's watchin'. "Office Space" is an infinite source of hipster quotations and a fantastic source of my most sacred "Keep It Simple Stupid" philosophy regarding work and relationships.

As fucked up as it is.

Still, there's so much simple truth to derive from this simple corporate-work-a-day farce.

"What would you do with $1 million dollars?"
"Dude, 2 chicks at the same time!"
"You know what I would do -- besides 2 chicks at the same time that is... Absolutely nothing."
"Shit, my cousin don't do shit! And he's flat broke."

That little nugget of wisdom, and the various other bits, are fodder to my ongoing "mid-life crisis" that I have otherwise blamed on my recent anime habit.

But besides that, I got a chance to rent his latest, and least-distributed follow-on, "Idiocracy". This one he made a little while back, but it only got released in a tiny, tiny handful of theaters. It's a statement about sociology to the extent that that "Office Space" was a statement about corporate culture. Quite scathing, and very much on-target.

However, Fox pretty much buried it. It's cinematic release was about as tiny as it could be in this day and age. One of the Alamo Drafthouse locations was one of the only venues it managed to get regular play in (oooh, lordy, I love the notion of the Alamo Drafthouse, and it's almost enough to get me to move to Texas to experience it for myself!!)

The DVD release happened recently, and I snagged it via Netflix. It's rather chopped-up, definitely not a "director's cut", because Fox found a lot of it unsuitable to it's image. Seeing as they have Fox "News", and are part of the Rupert Murdoch NewsCorp empire, it's not much of a surprse that the most subversive elements of the film got sanded down to a mere stub of a satire.

Which is really sad. I don't actually think Mike Judge is a particular auteur in the medium, but I really do believe that he's capable of making a stinging bit of satirical entertainment. "Idiocracy" falls a tad short, despite it's imagination, because apparently he didn't quite manage to get final cut, so the studio got to dumb it down a bit. Damn, if that isn't totally ironic.

That said, it was quite a target to try to hit, this futuristic-dystopian-satire thing, so maybe he didn't actually hit it. That said, there's still a number of moments to take away from the experience that should still serve as a hilarious warning to all of humanity. "Ow My Balls". Is that really a only 500 years in our future? Or will Murdoch's Fox network bring that to us in the next 5 years?

(They kept the one bit of Fox News being hosted by a muscle-bound greased up torso dude and a typical blonde bimbo... maybe they didn't realize they were being spoofed there...)

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