Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#links

---the trailer for every Oscar-winning movie ever

---Kirby Ferguson's "Everything is a Remix Part 3: The Elements of Creativity"

---an interview with Billy Wilder:

"There have even been some pleasant surprises. Outstanding among them was Gloria Swanson. You must remember that this was a star who at one time was carried in a sedan chair from her dressing room to the sound stage. When she married the Marquis de la Falaise and came by boat from Europe to New York and by train from there to Hollywood, people were strewing rose petals on the railroad tracks in her direction. She'd been one of the all-time stars, but when she returned to the screen in Sunset, she worked like a dog. Or take Shirley MacLaine; she was infected with that one-take Rat Pack all-play-and-no-work nonsense, but when she came to work for Iz and me in The Apartment, she got serious and worked as hard as anybody. Now she's playing drama. And of course Lemmon I could work with forever. Some stars I have trouble with, of course, but it can't be avoided because, after all, they are actors. In Sabrina, Bogart gave me some bad times, but he was a needler anyway and he somehow got the idea that Bill Holden, Audrey Hepburn and I were in cahoots against him. Bill at one point was ready to kill him."


---the fun of making Brazil and the fun of being an AOL content slave

---Dani Shapiro's #amwriting:

"I’ll check my email, I thought. On any given day, my in box contains the following: spam (Jetsetter vacation offers go live at noon! See what’s new for you at Net-a-Porter!), friends checking in (when are you next in the city? Drinks? Dinner?), spam from friends checking in (so-and-so thought you might be interested in the Jetsetter vacation . . . ). There are people who need something from me (these invariably begin with Dear Dani, I hope this finds you well), friends who need something from me (I hate to bother you but . . . ) Any of these have the potential to mess up my writing day, but most of all, any email containing the subject line: Bad News. Or when someone’s name is in the subject line. (They’re almost always dead.) An email from a friend entitled Some thoughts. (Uh-oh.)

But even on a day that holds no drama, there are other things that need attending to: someone has tagged you in a photo. Well, then. Don’t you need to see that photo? Someone has DM’d you on Twitter. It would be rude not to write back instantly—the medium virtually demands it. And then—what the hell!—you might as well go on Net-a-Porter to see what is, indeed, new for you this morning. What a pretty handbag! And those Jetsetter vacations sure do look intriguing. Morocco! You’ve always wanted to go to Morocco.

When I say you, of course, I mean me. I mean me, this very morning. You may not find yourself lost—a half hour later—on a blog about trekking through Morocco at all. You may not accidentally end up contemplating a handbag. You may tumble out of bed in the morning and go straight to work, do not pass go. You may, as I have come to think of it, pull a Franzen, and have a dedicated computer, stripped down of all bells and whistles until it resembles a Smith Corona in the limited nature of its possible functions. You may put on ear muffs. A blindfold. You may work in a room with blackout shades. A writing studio in the woods with nothing more than a rickety desk, a pad (the old-fashioned paper kind) and a pen.

Well, good for you."

---famous opening lines of novels updated:

“Alice was beginning to tire of sitting by her sister on the bank. She took out her iPhone and played Angry Birds for the next three hours.”

---a retrospective of Woody Allen surrogates

---Mike Nichols discusses Carnal Knowledge

---the Clash live in Manchester 1977

---Scott Tobias on Soderbergh's Schizopolis


---Paul Graham's "The Age of the Essay"

---"Superstars Don't Love"

---the end of anonymity

---lastly, the advantages and disadvantages of not going out of the house

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Studies in the inane: 12 notes comparing a purple bottle cap with Green Lantern

1) Green Lantern has all of the writerly interest of running one's hand through wet shallow mud in a ditch. It's like trying to get worked up about dryer lint. I did not hate Green Lantern as much as its trailer led me to think I would. In its blandness that kept reminding me of an advertisement for the Cub Scouts or a particularly toothless Superman remake, the movie doesn't merit hatred. It merits indifference that leaves me wondering about the the fundamental emptiness of the local Cineplex, the pointlessness of summer tent pole productions full of multicolored men flying around, signifying nothing. Warner Brothers studio wants another successful superhero franchise, especially now that the Harry Potter business is thankfully almost over. Green Lantern is the indifferent mechanical result of that studio's goal.

2) In the midst of placing a 2 quart bottle that once held some Welch's 100% grape juice outside in our back porch recycling bin, I paused to examine its purple top.
It is circular with about a half inch radius, and it is about one third of an inch thick. The top is made of plastic, and it has many small lines etched into it in order to facilitate opening and closing.

3) As a young man struggling to get a foothold in this job market, do you wish you could fly? Do you wish that you could get Blake Lively (who plays fighter pilot Carol Ferris) to look upon you with slack-jawed wonder after you save her from an out-of-control helicopter at night during a party? Then, you can fly away in your skin-tight green suit and mask mysteriously, leaving everyone wondering, who was that hero? Warner Brothers would like to indulge in your fantasies for you. Would you like to fly to yet another comic book planet where a special corp of intergalactic peacekeeping policemen celebrate the emerald energy of will power by pointing their rings towards the heavens, sending great green strands of CGI light upward to the point where it looks like a great big piece of green yarn sprouting from the side of the planet Oa?

4) On top of the bottle cap, in small black letters, if you look closely, it reads NE11E19 17:42 P BEST BY MAY 18 12. A small two centimeter nipple-like concavity sits in the middle of the top, and the number 17 and the word MAY cross over it. Underneath, a drop of grape juice still adheres to the plastic surface (I can tell because I just smeared it with my right thumb). Several concentric circles of plastic round the edges of the inside of the bottle top. Also, you can read the number 19 neatly centered toward the top of the inside circle. The color purple is consistent throughout.

5) Would you like to fight the great enemy Parallax, who thrives on the energy of fear, hellbent on destroying the earth with his dreadlocks? The curiously Rastafarian anthropomorphic villain Parallax likes to open his mouth and cause the glowing skeletons of his enemies to leave their bodies and fly into his ominous maw. He sets up Green Lantern's basic dichotomy between fear and will, which reminded me a lot of the scene in Richard Kelly's immortal Donnie Darko (2001) where Donnie mocks his gym teacher Kitty Farmer (Beth Grant) for obliging his class to look at everything in terms of love and fear. As he says, "Life isn't that simple. I mean who cares if Ling Ling returns the wallet and keeps the money? It has nothing to do with either fear or love."

Kitty Farmer replies, "Fear and love are the deepest of human emotions."

To which, Donnie says quite sensibly: "Okay. But you're not listening to me. There are other things that need to be taken into account here. Like the whole spectrum of human emotion. You can't just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else!"

Soon after, Donnie gets into trouble for recommending that Kitty Farmer insert the Life Line exercise card into her rear, but in Green Lantern, whole galaxies remain concerned with whether or not the Green Lantern can conquer his fear to the very end.

6) In comparison to Green Lantern, the purple bottle cap has relatively low production values. It does not (as far as I know) have a major advertising campaign promoting its summer release at the local Harris Teeter grocery store (although I imagine that one could find an ad for Welch's 100% Grape Juice on television, but without much emphasis on the bottle top). The cap has no computer-generated special effects, movie stars that appear on the cover of major magazines like Entertainment Weekly, action figure merchandising, or major tie-ins with fast food franchises. It is just a bottle cap sitting here on one arm of a red lounge chair in the Film Doctor's living room. The bottle cap weighs hardly anything. I can easily fit it in my pocket.

7) How nice that some alien thought to give the unconscious Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) some white briefs to wear in the midst of an intergalactic tune-up after he is chosen by a magic ring to become a super hero. Good thing that the inhabitants of planet Oa are sensitive to the concerns of the MPAA's PG-13 rating.

8) I imagine that the bottle cap would earn a G rating, as it does not include any sexual or violent content.

9) I do not pretend to understand why Peter Sarsgaard's character Hector Hammond turns into the elephant man. Hector is filled with resentment over his father's (played by Tim Robbins) condescension, resentful that maverick fighter pilot Hal Jordan is handsomer than he is. So, in the midst of investigating a dead alien, Hector contracts some weird virus that causes him to gain telekinetic and mind-reading powers as his head swells and his hair recedes. He attains a kind of nerd apotheosis.

10) The bottle cap has no villains after it that I know of. I will deposit it in the large recycling bin on the side of town near I-95. Since I live in the south, I've never been all that certain that anything I drop off there will be properly recycled. Perhaps the cap will just end up in a landfill and last hundreds of years.

11) When it comes time for Hal Jordan to pledge his troth to the green lantern, he learns that this is the proper oath:

In brightest day, in blackest night,
no evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil's might,
beware my power… Green Lantern's light!

12) The bottle cap has no oath, no magical powers, and no green (or purple) lights that emanate from it. If I hold the bottle cap over my head, I am unlikely to fly into space as Hal does with his ring. Having served its purpose over the past week, the bottle cap remains very quiet and still. It is not concerned with fear or will or father issues or adolescent angst or marketing or anything else. If you sniff it carefully, the cap smells very slightly of grape juice.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

post-artifact links

---Generation OS13: The new culture of resistance

---Jonathan Franzen interview in The Paris Review:

"Freedom was conceived and eventually written in a decade where language was under as concerted an assault as we’ve seen in my lifetime. The propaganda of the Bush administration, its appropriation of words like freedom for cynical short-term political gain, was a clear and present danger. This was also the decade that brought us YouTube and universal cell-phone ownership and Facebook and Twitter. Which is to say: brought us a whole new world of busyness and distraction. So the defense of the novel moved to different fronts. Let’s take one of those buzzwords, freedom, and try to restore it to its problematic glory. Let’s redouble our ­efforts to write a book with a narrative strong enough to pull you into a place where you can feel and think in ways that are difficult when you’re distracted and busy and electronically bombarded. The impulse to defend the novel, to defend the turf, is stronger than ever. But the foes change with the times."

---Christian Keathley's 50 Years On

---screenwriting visual grammar

---Venkat's "A Brief History of the Corporation":

"Peak Oil refers to a graph of oil production with a maximum called Hubbert’s peak, that represents peak oil production. The theory behind it is that new oil reserves become harder to find over time, are smaller in size, and harder to mine. You have to look harder and work harder for every new gallon, new wells run dry faster than old ones, and the frequency of discovery goes down. You have to drill more.

There is certainly plenty of energy all around (the Sun and the wind, to name two sources), but oil represents a particularly high-value kind.

Attention behaves the same way. Take an average housewife, the target of much time mining early in the 20th century. It was clear where her attention was directed. Laundry, cooking, walking to the well for water, cleaning, were all obvious attention sinks. Washing machines, kitchen appliances, plumbing and vacuum cleaners helped free up a lot of that attention, which was then immediately directed (as corporate-captive attention) to magazines and television.

But as you find and capture most of the wild attention, new pockets of attention become harder to find. Worse, you now have to cannibalize your own previous uses of captive attention. Time for TV must be stolen from magazines and newspapers. Time for specialized entertainment must be stolen from time devoted to generalized entertainment.

Sure, there is an equivalent to the Sun in the picture. Just ask anyone who has tried mindfulness meditation, and you’ll understand why the limits to attention (and therefore the value of time) are far further out than we think.

The point isn’t that we are running out of attention. We are running out of the equivalent of oil: high-energy-concentration pockets of easily mined fuel."

---the making of jive talk from Airplane!

---promoting Kubrick's The Shining

---Iam Fleming and Raymond Chandler talk shop

---whither Scarlett Johansson?

---Lopez analyses De Palma's Blow Out


---Craig Mod's "Post-Artifact Books and Publishing":

"Years ago, I remember — before Kindles and iPads and before anyone knew of EPUB — hearing about the marginalia found in the books of Paul Rand’s library. I remember thinking how exciting it would be to browse his thoughts. To sort by them. To order them and share them. Use them as pivots for discussions. Comment around them. Draw lines from them and the books to which they were connected, to other books and the thoughts of other designers. To unlock, as it were, the marks of his telepathic experiences.

This is the post-artifact system. A system of unlocking. A system concerned with engagement. Sharing. Marginalia. Ownership. Community. And, of course, reading."

---Kevin B. Lee's video concerning David Holzman's Diary

---Memory Tapes' "Yes I Know"

---230 cultural icons

---Jeremy Grantham's grim prognosis and the distant future

---lastly, OFFF Barcelona 2011 Main Titles

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Monster mash: 8 notes on filmmaking in Super 8

1) Blockbuster-wannabe filmmakers should be careful. Just as Matthew Vaughn should beware of the silliness of depicting blue and red men flying and fighting over the Atlantic Ocean in X-Men: First Class, so does J. J. Abrams need to watch for letting his Super 8 too closely resemble an amusement park ride. There's a moment later in the movie when the military opens fire on the suburbs at night. As the children run for cover, the scene struck me as fun but not really necessary, as if the filmmakers had resigned themselves to blowing things up as the storyline became more fragmented and incoherent in the third act. And yet, the beginning is so compelling, I feel tempted to gloss over those weaknesses.

2) Super 8 concerns a gang of young filmmakers who happen upon a monster after a military train derails during one of their shoots late one night on the outskirts of Lillian, Ohio in 1979. By setting the movie in this time, writer and director J. J. Abrams evokes two forms of nostalgia--one for the period (with a Walkman prominently featured in a scene), and another for the filmmaking style of Steven Spielberg, with many references to his films of the period, especially ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

3) This layering of memories adds depth to the movie, but it also carries risks, especially when one figures out how traditional Abrams treatment of the monster turns out to be. At what point does an homage become a cliche? The sympathetic side of the creature betrays the film's more cuddly 1950s popular culture roots, pre-Night of the Living Dead. I was ultimately disappointed that the film isn't meaner, as Cloverfield tends to be. Super 8 makes multiple references to the first two Alien films, but it isn't interested in conveying those movies' Darwinian viciousness and survivalist ethic. The film has too much "heart" to move in that direction. Underneath all of the hype and mystery of the movie's advertising campaign, J. J. Abrams is exposed as a PG-13 softy, more interested in menace than in actual threat. Curiously, the kids' zombie movie within the movie is more given to characters dying, albeit in a comically crude way.

4) From Bourcher's "`Super 8' J. J. Abrams Reveals the Secrets of His New Film": "The movie began as two projects that ended up merging due to their individual deficiencies. The first was a non-fantastical tale of youngsters and the way they see the world and each other through the viewfinder of their Super 8 camera. Abrams took the vague notion to Spielberg and they decided to investigate further but a string of meetings with top writers in town ended with a lot of shrugs and consternation. Abrams said “there was not much there and it was frustrating because it would not go away in my head. … I couldn’t tell you what the story was. I knew characters, I knew situations, I knew there were issues of class and a love story at the core and that it would be a coming-of-age movie. A lot of the writers were lukewarm.”

Paramount, meanwhile, had bought a separate idea by Abrams for a spooky film about the 1970s scrutiny of Area 51 and how anxious government officials decided the best way to protect the classified possessions of the increasingly notorious military base was to ship them off to other sites aboard midnight trains — one of which never reaches its final destination. With this project, Abrams had “a pretty cool premise but no characters to speak of … so I was in possession of two halves and it occurred to me after six months or so to put them together.”

5) Super 8 works best when its genres (zombie, monster, military conspiracy, Romeo and Juliet-esque love story, comedy) collide, as they do when the filmmaking scene meets the train wreck, or when Joe (Joel Courtney) argues with the director Charles (Riley Griffiths) over their love for Alice in the midst of the found footage's reveal of the monster. So much else is going on by that point in the storyline (dogs and people and microwaves disappearing from Lillian, etc.), the developed footage becomes almost an afterthought. Also, Abrams entertainingly enhances his mystery with multi-media discoveries, such as when the boys investigate the history of the monster by watching military footage, listening to tapes, and reading classified documents. Eventually, the movie ties things up too neatly, but the combination of genres, multimedia, cinematic allusions, and historical references adds resonance to the ultimately rather cheesy and unoriginal monster mash core of the film.

6) Super 8 has a curious lack of three-dimensional older female characters. Is this some law of male-oriented blockbusters? Is it to make the dichotomy between the two fathers clear? (Joe's dad (Kyle Chandler) is a conscientious deputy while Alice's (Ron Eldard) is a ne'er-do-well.) Is it to emphasize the boys' worship of Alice (Elle Fanning)? Funny how the same thing happens in Elle's previous Sofia Coppola film Somewhere. It is as if Elle knows to choose roles that keep any female competition at bay.
Meanwhile, the film begins with Joe's mother's death in an unseen but possibly grisly accident in a steel mill. As the major characters mourn her loss, her death has much more emotional impact than any of the creature-feature pseudo-deaths that follow. We learn of Joe's relationship with his mother from a safe distance, by watching her on home movies.

7) Ultimately, the children's filmmaking proves to be best thing about Super 8. It allows them to be creative, providing another genre (zombies) to a movie already given to mixing genres. It helps create different dimensions in scenes in much the same way that 127 Hours and The Fighter foreground media variations within their story lines. The moviemaking process gets them out of the house and into the monster adventure. It allows them to show an affinity to Super 8's filmmakers that doesn't happen very often, a kind of genetic family likeness that leaves one to consider the real director behind the child director. At one point, Charles starts to tell Alice about the script, and she says peremptorily, "We get it. We read it." And Charles replies, "God, I'm just directing."

8) The filmmaking also allows the movie to reflect on its own genesis just as Joe gets to look at his own roots as a child in the footage with his mother. The creative process becomes a means for the two boys to romance Alice and a way for her to get free of her derelict father. It also allows Elle Fanning to show off her acting ability in rehearsal (she proves so persuasive in the scene, she dumbfounds everyone). The humorous play-acting of the crew ends up highlighting the fakery of the cheesier monster conventions of the latter half of the film. During the end credits, Abrams presents the kids' completed zombie movie. Since it remains unaffected by the rest of the movie's commercial calculations, its crudeness is oddly redemptive, and it shows how Super 8 has the right priorities. Whatever happens to the monster, the making of The Case matters most of all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rosenbaum on Baumbach's Kicking & Screaming and other links

---Chernokids

---Willand's "World of the Living Dead":

"Plunging the variously entrapped groups of humans into crises of trust, the zombie threat rips away the veneer of polite civilisation to reveal the genuine pervasive dynamic of capitalist-apocalyptic society. In the face of existential peril, with the constant possibility that fellow humans will turn zombie, cooperation and persuasion vanish; the violent effort of the battle for survival inevitably replaces the ethical effort of compromise, and the state of exception becomes the rule. Zombies induce in humans “the sadism of false necessity”.

The true message of these films, as Williams notes, is that “The humans prove to be your real enemies.” In normal times, this truth is hidden from us; comfortable community is guaranteed by a conscienceless state which displaces all internal tension outwards by excluding the Other. Yet the zones of exploitation and deprivation in our world — the “combined and uneven apocalypse” gradually unfolding every day — are not antiquated aberrations to an otherwise progressive system, glitches to be swept away by the tide of globalisation, but quite the opposite: this oppression is necessary to secure our own abundant bourgeois existence. Williams appeals to the zombie motif’s pre-Romero roots to show that its primary connotation is exploitative labour, not compulsive consumerism; in Haitian folklore, zombies were the undead summoned from their graves to work as slaves for their voodoo master. The appearance of the zombie horde represents the concealed exploited making their repressed exclusion manifest; the contradiction in the system threatening to annihilate it in a puff of dialectic.

In the face of this diagnosis Williams proposes a tentative antidote. Centering his ethic on the notion that the apocalypse is already happening, in some places more visibly than others, Williams suggests that we must accelerate this process, stripping away the tattered remnants of capitalist illusion to reveal the true consequences of its structures."

---"You are not a gadget--yet" as you move towards "collectivized, dematerialized screen living"

---John Carpenter: Fear is Just the Beginning

---Klare's "How to Wreck a Planet 101":

"Here’s the bottom line: Any expectations that ever-increasing supplies of energy will meet demand in the coming years are destined to be disappointed. Instead, recurring shortages, rising prices, and mounting discontent are likely to be the thematic drumbeat of the globe’s energy future.

If we don’t abandon a belief that unrestricted growth is our inalienable birthright and embrace the genuine promise of renewable energy (with the necessary effort and investment that would make such a commitment meaningful), the future is likely to prove grim indeed. Then, the history of energy, as taught in some late twenty-first-century university, will be labeled: How to Wreck the Planet 101."

---Rosenbaum on my favorite film of the moment: Baumbach's Kicking & Screaming

---climate change, the scarcity of food, and what's left of the fish of the sea

---Rick Poyner considers the design of Criterion Collection DVDs

---Mullholland Drive the ABC pilot


---the apprenticeship of Jhumpa Lahiri

---Sheldon Renan's An Introduction to the American Underground Film

---our age of ideologically motivated misinformation:

"The slow collapse of the newspaper industry and the growth of online, less professionalized news sources, while salutary from a Deweyan conversational perspective, has also opened up public discourse to additional infusions of ideologically motivated misinformation.

The results are all around us. Did Saddam Hussein attack the World Trade Center? Did the Obama health-care reform bill call for “death panels”? Is man-made global climate change a hoax or nothing more than a purposeful conspiracy of scientists seeking greater funding? Do tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires really pay for themselves? “The quack, the charlatan, the jingo, and the terrorist, can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information,” wrote Lippmann. But as we see today, he was being overly generous. They can thrive just as easily when elites cannot be bothered to provide accurate information or refuse to do so in the service of their own political, ideological, or economic interests. That such questions even need to be addressed is, sadly, a significant victory for those against whose machinations and manipulations both Lippmann and Dewey sought to defend us."

---"5 Technologies That Will Shape the Web" by Elise Ackerman

---Simon Reynolds' Retromania

---trailer for General Orders No. 9

---Andrew Sarris chooses 5 film books

---A.O. Scott remembers Lawrence of Arabia

---the introduction to Farivar's The Internet of Elsewhere

---lastly, Ayoade discusses a scene from Submarine

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

City of Squalor: The Hangover Part II

With the one-two punch of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Hangover Part II, I had to reconsider a lot of things--my love of movies, my constitutional ability to endure torment, the nature and meaning of film blogging, and most of all--why? Why watch this stuff? I had to remind myself that I did enjoy aspects of the first Hangover back in 2009. As I wrote in a review, "In its crude, drunken way, The Hangover is a subversive treat for guys." So, hard as it is to imagine now, the original had something. From the standard opening swooning touristy helicopter shots of Thailand's waterscapes to its late cameo of Mike Tyson singing(?) Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok," The Hangover II mostly left me brooding on the existential nihilism of bottom feeder mass spectacles. What was once pseudo-subversive had now all become frozen calculation, leaving one with the ironic sight of craven market-driven repetition disguising itself as rebellion as the stupid mostly white American characters applaud themselves for their imperialist blindness to a foreign culture. If Bangkok is a good playland for yuks, why not some POW camp in Saigon?

Las Vegas worked because the city is already an exaggerated cartoon dedicated to the sick excesses of American greed and hubris, as has already been proven in Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. All "city of squalor" Bangkok means to Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug is an extra long 16 hour flight to further drugged buffoonery, a vaguely noirish "mystery" undercut by an exact replication of The Hangover's plot, and a cameo of a game Paul Giamatti establishing that he's a gangster because he's willing to yell in a crowded ritzy restaurant. Given the swank island resort where Stu (Ed Helms) is supposed to marry an improbably gorgeous (and otherwise anonymous) Thai bride (Jamie Chung), I felt that I had wondered into a late showing of Adam's Sandler's Hawaiian idyls in Just Go With It (a feeling that became more pronounced when Alan (Zach Galifianakis) started acting like a Sandler prototype: the belligerent overgrown man baby).

In the first Hangover, there was something intriguing about Alan's weirdness, but in the sequel he's just petulant and blandly (or baldly) deranged, all of his menace reduced to a boyish affection for a monkey. Eager to please even as it brutishly jokes about an accomplished musician losing a finger, The Hangover II is full of bizarre cheerful reactions that make no sense. Dentist Stu wakes up with a large Mike Tyson-esque tattoo on his face, so he screams and fritz's out (his head-wagging frenzies are as funny as anything else in the movie). Then he, Phil, and Alan go looking for his fiancee's younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee) as if nothing has happened. Later, he applauds "the demon" inside him, describing his "dark side" as "pretty fucking cool if you ask me," as if a second drugged bacchanalia of his "wolfpack" magically bestowed manhood and machismo on his bland dental mien. Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper has become a supporting actor scarcely distinguishable from the others, and as they all laugh at the monkey committing pseudo-fellatio on a kidnapped monk, Alan notes the film's calculated bottom-feeding international appeal when he says "When monkey nibbles on penis, it's funny in any language."

For all of its pseudo-excesses, The Hangover Part II has all of the spontaneity and charm of an accountant tabulating figures. While the first film held allusions to Bringing Up Baby, Fandango, and Rain Man, The Hangover Part II can only allude to The Hangover, thereby attaining a perfect loop in which director/writer Todd Phillips dares not do anything more than exploit the audience's affections for those wild, blind chuckleheads of the first go round. Perhaps, Phillips doesn't want to risk anything in this grim economy. Perhaps, some day in the distant future, people will look back (if they can bear to sit through it) on The Hangover Part II as an example of masculinity's last capitulation to complete cultural impotence. Perhaps, when The Hangover III gets released, we will laugh uneasily as one of the guys gets drawn, flogged, quartered, and beheaded. Stu's fiancee's dad criticizes Stu for "not" having "the eyes of a man," but "the eyes of a coward." He could have said the same of the fearful bean-counting men behind the camera.