I admit I have late to a few bandwagons in my time.
For instance, I didn’t start liking anything but very plain foods (plain chicken, french fries, ketchup) until the age of 13, when my parents took me to an Indian restaurant near my house which expanded my mind like a Ravi Shenkhar record.
I didn’t start listening to music until I was about 18.
I didn’t start karaokeing until I was 21.
I was early to the Harry Potter bandwagon, with my signed copy of the British edition of The Chamber of Secrets inscribed:
“To Nicholas- Who looks like a Weasley to me! -J.K. Rowling”
But I still haven’t gotten on board with these fucking vampires.
It all started last summer, in the hills of vermont, when I noticed that all the ladies were reading this book, Twilight, that I had never seen hide nor hair of.
“It’s like the New Harry Potter.” One of my more knowledgeable fellow counselors informed me.
The books were huge, bigger it seemed even than an HP book and I learned quickly that:
A. They were written by a Mormon housewife
B. They were about angsty, teenage vampires and the adolescents who love them.
I found the whole idea of this ridiculous and started incorporating it into the theater games I was forced to play with the kids like “Mafia”, renaming it “Angsty Teenage Vampire Killfest” and treating the children to stories about how the vampires had killed them because their mom had told them to study more but they were feeling sullen and rebellious and had decided instead to get their suck on.
But then the movie came out and I had people like Jason Lee on my tail defending it, calling it “one of the truest movies about high school love” he’d ever seen.
Simultaneously, a show came out on HBO called True Blood, based on a different vampire series, focusing on some southern-fried vampires and a hottie-telepath named Sookie. The show, made by the same creator of Six Feet Under, the writer of American Beauty and the writer/director of the awful Towelhead, Alan Ball, had a lot of sex with Anna Paquin and religious references but it never really caught on with me, I gave more of a chance to John From Cincinatti, a show that could have been more accurate called Surf Jesus.
Fast-forward a year, True Blood is in its second season, the Twilight books are donw but the studio that owns the rights to them is the hottest deal in town and Park Chan-Wook, of Oldboy fame wins the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes for his Korean priest-y vampire flick Thirst.
So I figured it was time to get on board, if only in this small way: I went to see Thirst.
It was terrible.
The problem with vampires is that they suck. They’re immortal, they can do a lot of things (jump high, punch hard, hang upside down) but they’re also pretty uninteresting because they never change.
The movie milks equal parts humor, horror and sex out of the story of a young Catholic priest who gets turned into a vampire. The priest, unwittingly turned by a drug transfusion (a probably reference to AIDS or other tainted transfusions) becomes a vampire settling his blood desires, at first humanely, by sucking on a fat dude in a coma. But things get really out of hand when he starts giving in to a Postman Always Rings Twice type of situation, again involving vampires. What follows, are some jokes about locked-in syndrome and mahjong, cursory examinations of faith and damnation as well as a Shakespearean-style haunting of unfair death and the price of lust that harkens back to Macbeth. Indeed, this film could probably be read in some ways as an adaptation of that work by the Bard, but its scenes are needlessly long and the film never takes you anywhere.
You feel little sympathy, remorse or understanding for its characters, who seem like mostly grosser and grosser caricatures. Mostly, you might get turned on by all the vampire sex (conspicuously absent in Twilight, very present in True Blood), or you might feel nothing at all.
But vampires sell, as witnessed by the new CW show I’ve been seeing posters for (I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere like Disney got a teen-vampire show on) and the people who call themselves (slash are labeled) “twitards” are a real market.
Whatever happened to superheroes. Or werewolves for that matter.
I also saw World’s Greatest Dad last night and thought I should spend a couple of minutes on that, especially since I mentioned it on my list of films that I wanted to see.
The film is a comedy, black as night, about a failed writer/high-school-poetry teacher (Robin Williams) who is the single dad of a kid who takes douchebaggery to another level.
A sample conversation from the film:
Son: Turn that off!
Dad: Don’t you like music?
Son: Music is for fags.
Dad: Well don’t you like any music? What about metal?
Son: Pssh. That’s for the faggiest of the fags.
When the son gets “caught” in a trap of his own devisings, hid father (The “World’s Greatest Dad” of the film’s title) gets thrust in to the spotlight.
The movie has many flaws, the script is weak and obvious in places and Bobcat Goldthwait, the director/writer, does not have a lot of talent when it comes to the moment-to-moment aspect of storytelling, filling in the movie with many superfluous, time-killing montages set to obvious music. But, what can be said for it is that it’s very, very funny in moments and that the ending does feel earned, not fake, and that the last montage of the film is actually pretty brilliant, if only they were all so good.
It will be interesting seeing what people think of Dad compared to Big Fan, when it comes out, a less obvious, but similarly bleak black comedy.
My personal preference lies with Big Fan because the ending feels spectacularly victorious to me (another great musical montage) and also has the nice touch of casting a lot of “real” people like they did in The Wrestler. Goldthwait, on the other hand, is a comedian by trade and prefers pastiches and laughs gained from easy typing as opposed to the more complex characters of Big Fan. But it’s still a comedy that says something and says something interesting and, in both films, heartfelt.
Let the battle of the black comedies begin.
Finally, one last note.
When I was leaving the movie, I talked with the young lady I saw the film with as we walked toward the subway and our respective homes.
Our conversation was fun and awkward and veered from Apatow to the film at hand to Film Forum.
“Oh yeah.” She said. “This is my Johnny Guitar shirt.”
It was the same one Joan Crawford wore in the film.
And we looked at each other and both knew it.
And I walked to the train, happy.