Irish and Jewish mothers share a stereotype with one exception: they don’t temper their sense of guilt. With all the love in the world, an Irish mother can simultaneously worship the ground her son walks on and act with a deeper sadism than the bastard offspring of Jeffrey Dahlmer and John Wayne Gacy.
Growing up, the brother and me were pretty spoiled – it was more Enid Blyton (without the casual racism) than Angela’s Ashes , but Mam wielded the wooden spoon of guilt like Zorro felling Spaniards. When I went through a period of fibbing she tole me that my tongue would turn black and fall out if I lied. How did she know? That damned avian turncoat, the little bird, told on me. Every time. It must have been a stool pigeon.
The best ever was telling me that raising a hand to her would result in the offending member rising from the ground once buried, forming a gruesome, peeling tribute to the finale of Carrie. People will come from miles around, she said, to visit the slowly rotting hand and say “There lies a terrible child who was mean to his mother.”
Of course, we laugh about it now, but I still hate that bird.
In 1978 we were told that we’d believe a man can fly and Richard Donner not only delivered on that promise, but re-created a legend on the silver screen. It’s thirty-five years later and the only thing Zack Snyder makes us ask is, “Why?” Man of Steel is a joyless, obnoxious, and painfully artless mess that has no redeeming features at all.
The opening act takes place on a Krypton that looks like Liberace threw up and created a planet, which is still dying but also is embroiled in a civil war about how to save it. On the one side you have General Zod, played by the normally excellent (if ranine) Michael Shannon, who rants about racial purity and absolute power and, on the other,super-scientist Jor-El (Crowe murders another accent) who wants to save everyone through his son. Needless to say, Jor-El dies, his son is fired off to Earth, Zod and his gang loses and are sentenced to eternity in the Phantom Zone. This is where things go silly: they’re ferried off in what can only be described as penis pods. Sure, the Phantom Zone is daft enough, but Space Cocks?
Snyder must have been watching Paul Thomas Andersen movies all summer, because we then jump to pre-Superman Clark drifting about various dead-end jobs while he figures out who, what, and why he is, alternately saving some people and flashing back to a past that’s so much less than the original. With the help of a hidden Kryptonian ship, Crowe playing both Ghost Dad and the exposition fairy he becomes Superman in time for Zod to come back and threaten the Earth.
This is where any pretense of subtlety is thrown out the window: when Clark has a crisis and goes to talk to the local pastor about what he should do in the background is a stained glass window of Jesus the size of Mount Rushmore, because, you know, metaphor. Not to mention every time Supes takes off, he spreads his arms as if he’s on a crucifix. You can almost hear Snyder yelling, “Make the metaphor bigger or no-one will get it.”
Once he’s decided what to do, that’s the end of the movie really. What’s left is a ninety minute fight scene that’s louder than Michael Bay directing Brian Blessed in a thunderstorm and by the end I just wanted it to stop. Thank Clark I saw it in 2D – I imagine anyone coming out of the 3D screening will have migraines for weeks.
Where we once had Christopher Reeve’s easy charm matching Margo Kidder’s sassy Lois Lane, we now have abs, CGI, and Amy Adams playing a role that’s clearly beneath her. Gone are the villains with personality to be replaced by a monotonous Hitler analogue screaming nonsense about racial purity. In fact, everyone speaks in monotone soundbites and fortune cookies – I can only guess that it was so dull on set, they decided to have a William Shatner impersonation contest.
Zack Snyder doesn’t make movies; he makes moving storyboards which are all style and no feeling whatsoever and this is no exception. The only thing I left with was a profound sense of loss for Christopher Reeve. Time to toss in the Superman I Blu-ray and forget all about it.
My experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways.
To every Pork Chop, Dog, Cabbage, and Frog. To every Marshmallow, Spaz, Foureyes, Geek, Dweeb, and Nerd. To every Gimp, Fag, Swot, and Mole. To anyone who had the audacity to be different. It Gets Better.
I re-discovered something this weekend. I fucking hate go-karting.
We went on a team-building exercise at a go-karting track in Greenwich, which sounded like a good idea: we’d knock off work a couple of hours early, drive around a little bit, then start the weekend on a high. I’d done it before and it wasn’t too bad, even though the first time was outdoors in a rain storm.
There’s a particularly mean trick memory can play – mostly on women to convince them to give birth more than once – after a suitable period of recovery you forget just how much an event hurt.
After getting dressed up in a set of overalls that compressed my testicles into a pancake-like mess, we got shown a badly produced video featuring a cast of Inbetweeners lookalikes giving thumbs up signs. Not feeling confident that either my health or safety was of paramount importance the race was on.
Sweet suffering Jesus was the race on. I think it took twenty seconds before I went from my starting position to last and I was whacked by all twelve other drivers on the way. Do you know how annoying a polite hand wave is after you’ve been smashed up the bottom? VERY! After the fifth crash I was plotting to bring in Sharia law and cut that bloody hand off.
Once everyone got out of the way, though, I started to get the hang of it and even managed a couple of laps without crashing. Then it happened. Lapped! I got side-swiped, broad sided, bumped, smashed, and crunched again! And every two or three laps for the rest of the humiliation… I mean race.
By twenty minutes in, Einstein’s famous description of relativity came to mind: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour.” I’d another ten minutes of stove to deal with and my arms had turned into the bingoest of wings, I’d bruises on the inside of either knee from bashing the steering column, and pride was but a distant and folorn memory.
Once the checkered flag came out and the ‘race’ ended I’d have kissed the marshall (with tongue), if only I wasn’t too busy rocking myself in that bucket seat reliving ALL OF THE POST TRAUMATIC STRESS. I had flashbacks to every Vietnam war movie made.
Coming last was inevitable. Being lapped five times by the next slowest driver? That was an achievement.
In an error of judgement worthy of Boris Johnson I got Ang the Soldier Solder boxed set for Christmas. Downton Abbey for those of us who like a bit of rough, starts off with a badly realised version of Northern Ireland during the troubles and an IRA funeral – you know they’re IRA because everyone has a mullet.
Even though it’s 1991, the UK still looks like the worst part of the 1980s: huge hair, huge shoulder pads, huge telephones. In fact, the only thing that isn’t big is the production values.
But the scariest part of all isn’t even Ang’s incomprehensible desire for Robson and Jerome – the bastards who kept Unchained Melody in the charts, long after we’d gotten over Ghost.
No, it’s a very young Cersei Lannister playing a squaddie’s wife:
Jack Reacher is 6′ 5″ tall. Tom Cruise is 5′ 7″. Jack Reacher weighs between fifteen and eighteen stone. Tom Cruise weighs twelve. Jack Reacher has a 50-inch chest. Tom Cruise… okay so he’s built up, but certainly not fifty inches of unstoppable man machine. In fact Mr. Cruise might be more suited to play me (yes, fine, after he lets himself go for a year… what do you mean “a decade”?) than the drifter, ex-MP, force of nature, and Marty-Stu of seventeen books of increasingly ridiculousity.
In a two-hour buttock-number best summed-up by a Code of Conductbreaker, Jack Reacher is “someone what used to be an army police and now wants justice or something. I dunno.” After an Iraq veteran is arrested for the murder of five innocents, his only plea is to “Get Jack Reacher” and, like the genie from Aladdin, albeit more magical, he appears to sort things out but, boy, does he take his time.
The movie struggles to decide whether it’s Day of the Jackal or Die Hard, and in the end becomes neither 1970s exploitation movie or high-octane blockbuster. Instead what’s left is an ultimately lifeless paint-by-numbers piece that fails to stand out from dozens of similar cinematic male fantasies.
Mr “It Was Not A Significant Bullet” does well with limited material as the big bad, as does Oyelewo with a role with even fewer dimensions. Rosamund Pike, however, should have her Equity card ripped out of her one-note paws.
Height aside, the “Man With No Name” thing that is the very essence of Jack Reacher requires a level of charisma and menace that Cruise just doesn’t possess. Ang reckons Meryl Streep, the tiger from Life of Pi, or even the Yellow M&M would have been better choices and who am I to argue?
The only truly memorable aspect of the film is Werner “Yes, I cooked and ate my own shoe; what of it?” Hertzog. As the mysterious Prisoner, he managed to sound like a man who has stared long into the abyss and sent the abyss packing.
I’m an atheist, but if I’m wrong I’d like to think that whatever god will call us to account will have Hertzog’s voice:
Like salmon returning to the place of their birth once spawning season is upon them, every Christmas the Irish diaspora returns home to their Mammies to celebrate in a way only the they can: Lighting the fire in the good room, leaving a Guinness out for Santy, and getting the Christmas clothes out for Midnight Mass.
We’re staying in Cambridge this year but will be sticking a candle in the window for the rest of you that make it home.
Happy holiday season.
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