Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Movie Review: The Road Warrior

In 1981 Mel Gibson was not associated with Jesus or “sugar tits” because no one knew who he was and gas prices hit a high of $1.35 (”which, in today's dollars, comes out to $3.10.” according to CNN This was the year of “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.”

Enzian Theater couldn’t have picked a better Cult Classic for our fuel-flummoxed time than this movie. Set in a bleak future where global warming clearly has a chokehold on the planet (though it’s never mentioned), gasoline is so scarce that nobody can get hold of it except the gangs. And when they get it where do they go? To terrorize people and steal their gas.

See what happens when you don’t listen to Al Gore and invest in alternative fuel technologies? You end up getting hunted by homoerotic bikers in the dessert. Now go buy a Prius (and get me one while you’re up).

This was my first viewing of Road Warrior, which is largely about one of those bad-ass gangs trying to get a gas reserve away from a group of new wave hippies aided by Mel Gibson - did you catch that? The hippie-ish commune-dwellers are the guardians of the fossil fuel in this movie. Evidently riding your stupid bike everywhere doesn’t sound so great when it’s really hot and you’re getting shot at by guys with crossbows. So the good guys defend the fuel with their lives. You can tell they are the good guys because they wear lighter colors, honor their agreements and harbor a feral child, a little boy in a big Jessica Hahn wig who throws the meanest boomerang the world has ever seen.

The evil marauders, conversely, are conspicuous due to their bondage wear: leashes, leather masks and harnesses give their tribe the look of either a biker camp or the Mr. Australia Leather competition. The gangs’ leader is a prime example: from the neck brace up he’s Halloween’s Jason; from the neck down he’s kind of like King Leonidis from The 300, the most homoerotic film since “Harald and Koomar go to the Broadway Baths.”

The biker who hates Mel Gibson the most (and he never even saw The Passion of That One Guy) is a burley bastard in assless chaps, a Manic Panic mowhawk and more feathers than Phyllis Diller. His most striking accessory, though, is what appears to be his glam-rock rent boy, a glum blonde who shadows him everywhere. It seems pretty clear they’re an item, though it’s never stated, interesting, because 1981 also saw the debut of “Love, Sidney,” a sitcom notorious for having the first gay lead but never identifying him as gay. So it wasn’t a time of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” - more a time of “Don’t tell but hint like you’re playing Olympic-level Charades.”

No doubt about it - between the crimped hair, stylish leather, the homoerotica and the dumpster-chic that prefigured grunge by 10 years and Kevin Federline by 25, this was one fashion-forward movie and I’m not the only one who noticed. Entertainment Weekly said that “film fashion would never be the same” after this; nor would our vision of the future. In the Logan’s Run / Sleeper / Jetsons vision of the 60’s and early 70’s, the future was spic-and-span, silver and white, sleek and shiny. Then along comes Alien (1979) and the Mad Max films. In a flash the future turned gritty, grotty, dirty, shabby, haphazard, mismatched, aggressive and dangerous no matter how young you were. The world of tomorrow was suddenly ugly and so was everyone in it.

And the coolest thing? After all that vision, progression and creative outerwear the whole damn movie is really about car chases.

But they’re great car chases! I don’t even like that kind of thing and when I left I wished I was driving a couple of Hummers glued together instead of my little Honda, just so I could feel butch. This is pre-CGI, too - you can watch the crashes, the guys getting squished between cars and sliding under trucks and think “how did they do that?” With CGI you know how they did it: they moved a mouse. With the Road Warrior it’s fun to wonder.

Anyway, if you’ve never seen it - or if you have and need a re-view - this is a perfect to watch the The Road Warrior and see how much wit, flair and cultural impact an action picture can have. And if our gas situation is ever going to get bad enough to involve crossbows.

Enzian is doing great with their Cult Classics and I think I know why - people are so broke these days they’re leery of spending money on new movies. With the Cult Classics a) they’re only $5 and b) people already know the movie is good and c) it's really, really fun to see old stuff, especially if it's new to you, on a big screen. So they’re ponying up like crazy. The theater has even extended the Cult Classics to twice a month. Next week - that’s June 3 - they’re showing Rock and Roll High School which means we’re probably in for another lesson in the history of style. C’mon -who didn’t learn something from the those Ramone’s haircuts? Where do you think Toni Tenille got the idea?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Swing Away

Some writers like putting words in combinations they’re sure no one has ever heard before. George Carlin is famous for stuff like “Hand me that piano.” Douglas Adams remarked that no language has produced the phrase “As beautiful as an airport.”

My new favorite unlikely set of words is “ornamental testicles.”

Testicles are many things to many people but on their list of their attributes “ornamental” would limp in at last place, or maybe next to last, just before “steely.” Some people think that penises are ugly - I think they’re quite strikingly beautiful. They are, however, like the cute guy who always arrives at the party trailed by his funny- looking sidekick - think Ricky Ricardo and Fred Mertz. I love men, some more frequently or avidly than others. I think they’re spectacular. But balls are only ornamental like a garnish is ornamental: the main reason anyone swallows up that sprig of endive is because it happens to be right next to the steak.

Balls are reproductively functional. They are euphemistically invaluable. They are a point of vulnerability as crucial as the exhaust port on the Death Star. But the only thing they should ever be found hanging off in an ornamental fashion is a man.

Which brings us to the latest in homegrown Florida idiocy: guys hanging replicas of balls from their trucks and other guys taking the legislative time to try to ban them.

Yes, there are things called Truck Nutz, plastic or metal replicas of testicles, with which some people, presumably blind ones, decorate their vehicles with in a festive manner. In the many stories I’ve read about this dumb phenomenon, not one addressed the obvious question: why? Who could think that a faux nut sack dangling off their bumper is attractive, alluring, instructive, witty, intriguing, suggestive, declarative, funny, pithy, challenging or ornamental? The only conclusion I can come up with is that these guys just love handling nuts that aren’t their own and will find any excuse to do so.

Not everyone loves decorative cobblers, though. In fact, Sen. Carey Baker, (R-Eustis) tried to get them off road, proposing a $60 fine for motorists who festoon their vehicles thus. Baker’s provision was attached to a highway safety bill but, as of May 1, the AP described the balls as being “snipped form legislation.”

And despite the fact that I think truck nuts are the ugliest thing this side of a gum disease pamphlet I’m glad they won’t be banned. Freedom of expression cannot be limited to the expressions we find tasteful and if some people think ersatz nads will perk up their ride, let ‘em have at it. As someone on NPR said this week, “Vive Vas Deferens.”

Besides, this particular freedom of expression might as well be a neon sign that says “Dork,” and such labels are helpful to the rest of us. Gotta love a set of balls that gives you a little extra kick.

(this photo came from a very funny post about Truck Nutz on