13 January 2011

Lottery Ticket

I'm not entirely sure why I had such high hopes for this movie. But I did. I really thought it would be pretty good overall. Funny dialogue, enjoyable story, an affable sort of film with moments of hilarity. And you know what? I was disappointed.

Let me begin by saying there are some hilarious moments in the movie. T-Pain is surprisingly phenomenal - he's probably the best thing in the entire film*. There are some really funny lines, and general laugh-out-loud moments. And after all, that's what you're watching the movie for.

Unfortunately, the movie is also really slow and kind of incoherent. Bow Wow wins the lottery, and that's great, but then he can't collect for the next three days, so he has to deal with the world and guard the ticket until he can get the money. Fair enough. The plot goes through some awfully convoluted twists and turns just to keep things alive - a vicious thug type (played by Chris from The Wire, who is surprisingly terrible) who had wanted to kill Bow Wow and now wants to kill him AND take his lottery ticket, a creepy mob boss type guy, a crazy shut-in who lives in his basement - they're all a bit random and not especially well done. Meanwhile, there are also the stock lottery movie plot points: a gold digger who suddenly takes interest! a cherished female friend who gets pushed aside for aforementioned gold digger! creeping paranoia evinced by two best friends having an argument (gasp! the money is coming between them!), and of course, a scene with money being thrown in the air. This last is what necessitates the mob guy plot point, because we have to have the money scene, but given that he doesn't have the money yet, he has to get it somehow: enter mob guy. Actually, the movie does a pretty good job motivating this aspect and integrating him into the overall plot. It's when he stands alone that he gets cliche - the old "if you don't have my money I'll saw off your legs and feed them to dogs" bit. Incidentally, there is something really fascinating about that whole maffia subplot, namely, that the movie refuses to make them heroic. They seem really tough, but they are repeatedly unmasked as wimps, or guys who only have one good hit in them. It's really kind of strange, but goes back to what I find kind of intriguing about the film, namely...

THE MESSAGE. This is something I find really fascinating - almost every African American movie you see has a MESSAGE. There are long pauses where the film basically lectures you about being a good person. Even a seemingly just-for-fun movie like House Party has these weird clunky moments where characters ostentatiously say no to drugs or alcohol or insist on using condoms. There's a sense of moral responsibility palpably felt by the makers of the film in these movies that I find kind of incredible. Ice Cube feels it more so than others, I think. In this case though, it's especially interesting, because one of the central dynamics of the film is whether or not Bow Wow is gonna use his winnings to help out the 'hood (I'll give you three guesses what he decides). So a part of you kind of has to wonder, how many 'hoods are Bow Wow and his co-stars helping? You know?

Anyway, to return to the plot. It's clunky and occasionally just too much. The tone of the film veers between irreverent humor and sap thicker than maple syrup. And just straight up boredom. Ice Cube's character manages to be totally preposterous and gratingly cliche all at once. A lot of the plot feels tacked on or mechanical. The best example of this is the fight between the two friends - it happens completely out of nowhere, with no real motivation, and is resolved a few scenes later, making it clear that the sole purpose of it is to have a scene where the money threatens to come between two friends. And it's not even a good scene.

Basically, it's a highly uneven, often dull film with flashes of entertainment. Alas.

*People who say that Mike Epps (playing the reverend) is the best part are wrong. The whole preacher-who's-actually-greedy-and-lascivious thing has been done a bazillion times, and there's nothing particularly great about this rendition. For a better version, see: David Alan Grier, Season 1 of Martin. Actually, the best part of the Mike Epps scene is the deacon sitting off to the side - he's kind of great. Also, while we're at it, Charlie Murphy (CHARLIE MURPHY!) isn't all that great either.

05 January 2011

Consider the Lobster And Other Essays, by David Foster Wallace

I didn't read the entire thing - I skipped Authority and American Usage (which I probably would've enjoyed, actually, but by the time I realized that I was just glad to be done with the book), Host, and Up, Simba, and only skimmed How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart (though I did enjoy my skimming thereof - just read the last three pages, starting with the paragraph "Maybe what keeps us buying in the face of constant disappointment" - it's a nice few paragraphs). If one of the things you find difficult in David Foster Wallace's writing is the occasional unbelievably awful scene that leaves you shaken and somewhat traumatized, skip the first essay, Big Red Son, which is about the porn industry. Other than that, I don't have any particular comments. I'm not really going to get into the specifics of the remainder, because I don't think I am a fair judge of it.

So I will say this instead: I respect David Foster Wallace. I recognize that he is an extremely intelligent person with some genuinely fascinating observations about the world. I think he's a good writer, for the most part, and an interesting one, though there are aspects of his style that I find grating. I also recognize that he is a deeply moral human being, with an unwavering engagement with the question of how to do the right thing.

But at the end of the day, I really, REALLY don't like him. I just don't. Not just because I find his worldview devastating - though that's a huge part of it - I don't like him the way I don't like some people. Because I just don't. I recognize those people may not be Bad people, and that spending time with them is enjoyable for other people that I like. But to me, it is trying, even if I have to admit that the day was largely pleasant.