21 March 2016

The Times They Are A-Changin'?

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When the studio system was in place, Hollywood would control almost every aspect of their stars' public life. The deal was that they'd give you your fame and in exchange you'd spend the next few years wearing a metaphorical ball-gag whilst your soul was being fucked like Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction. When your business is investing in the popularity of a famous face then I guess you want to ensure that people don't find out that they're actually murderers, perverts or worse.. single mothers. Things are a little different now as you're probably aware. Whereas once we were presented with the squeaky clean idealisation of what we should aspire to, we now instead get Charlie Sheen drinking tiger blood whilst stoned on a rooftop. It's easy to look back on those older days with nostalgia and lament the fact that society has since gone to shit. People from yesteryear got actors like Gone With The Wind's Clarke Gable with their sophisticated charm and dapper personalities and what do we have? Mel Gibson's racist rants and David Carradine hanging from his cock in a cupboard.

Hail, Caesar! is the latest film from the Coen Brothers and one that's essentially a love letter to cinema. In case you're part of today's disgusting youth then a love letter was an elegant expression of a person's feelings that you scum have replaced with the ubiquitous 'dick-pic'. Set in the 1950's the story focuses on a studio 'fixer' by the name of Eddie Mannix whose job is to ensure that the filmmaking process goes on unhindered. Sometimes this means liaising with the press, and sometimes it means finding enough cash to buy back an actor that's been kidnapped by a cult. This sounds like an easy job to me. If I was a fixer and found out that somebody like Lindsey Lohan had been kidnapped then I'd simply leave her where she was and enjoy my retirement with the ransom money. However Mannix is a much more honourable man than me and, as such, feels the burden of his responsibilities. This is ironic because whilst his studio is struggling to incorporate everybody's favourite zombie overlord Jesus into one of their films, he's suffering for everybody's sins and resisting temptation from a rival company. Some critics have wrongly assumed that Hail Caesar represents the Coen's contempt for cinema, however with Mannix being Jesus, it's also pretty obvious that film, being the only thing he answers to, is God. My reading of it would be that it's actually humanity that doesn't come out of this movie too well.. although that could just be because I'm a raging misanthrope.

However, before we go any further it's worth noting that this is a comedy and one of the funniest in some time. If you disagree with that then I can only assume that you've not had some fucking 'young person' drag you to see Ride Along fucking 2. I mean, even when I wasn't laughing during this film I was still smiling, which is an expression I rarely make when not simply passing wind or reading the latest local obituaries. There are several set pieces in Hail, Caesar! such as an all singing, all dancing, musical segment featuring Channing Tatum that's so gleefully camp that even the most homophobic of today's crackhead society couldn't fail to find some enjoyment. However as brilliant and joyful as these cinematic sequences are, they're all performed by people pretending to be somebody they're not. One of Mannix's actresses is more slutty than her public image allows, and one of his actors might secretly belong to a political party that's almost as stupid as one headed by Donald Trump. The point being that cinema is able to shine through as brilliant despite the discrepancies of the idiots making it. I mean, even on my worst days of hating humanity I'd never say I approve of a child being drugged and fucked up the arse, but there's no denying that Chinatown is a pretty good movie.

On top of all this, Hail, Caesar! is also basically the Coen's version of one of those 'behind the scenes' movies that all auteurs seem to make their own. Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway is about a neurotic writer; Linklater's Me And Orson Welles looks at who he considers to be one of the first independent filmmakers; and Inarritu's Birdman is essentially an exercise in how to make a film way more fucking complicated than it needs to be. With Hail, Caesar! the Coen's have unsurprisingly made their version of this type of film a mildly noirish, screw-ball comedy with absurdist overtones... as you do. However it's also surprisingly meta too in that the entire movie is about Hollywood trying to hide people's true identities in favour of something more socially acceptable. Well, you know Eddie Mannix, the guilt obsessed Jesus-figure of this movie? Well, he was a real guy.. and guess what? Unlike his depiction in this movie, he was a proper twat. In this movie the character feels guilty that he hasn't quit smoking, but in reality the actual Mannix was a violent thug who was even implicated in the murder of the actor George Reeves. I mean, Reeves played fucking Superman! Josh Brolin plays the character as though he's carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders but there's a chance that the actual guy literally succeeded in doing something that even Lex fucking Luther couldn't get away with.

Also, as the story to this film progresses, it's discovered that some of these old studio movies may have been written to include some fairly subversive messages, and guess what.. so does this one! As Hail, Caesar! does a Mannix with Mannix, not only is it referencing his on-screen activities but he's the fucking Jesus figure of the movie. So presumably the suggestion must be that if the Mannix on screen never existed then neither did Jesus.. or at least not in the pure form we're always told he did. This idea has got to be backed up too by the fact that we literally never even see Jesus properly on screen, and that's despite the characters making a fucking film about him. They go completely out of their way not to show him which is also something that the film these characters are making is probably going to do, too. The Coen's have literally made a movie about a man of faith attempting to make a film about the son of God and yet arguably the actual message is that old Mr Christ never fucking existed. As a devout atheist who likes to spend the down-time between masturbating and crying by overthinking things, that's certainly how I see it anyway.

Oh and there's also a thing going on in this movie about the bullshit of nostalgia. You remember before how I mentioned that all of our stars now lack the grace and charisma of somebody like Clarke Gable? Well, this entire movie is set during that period and depicts everybody with that warm glow of a better time. I mean, the only way that today's stars are going to develop a warm glow is if Kevin James falls asleep with melted butter around his mouth. Nowadays people end relationships by just fucking their partners friend and sending them a text, which sort of lacks the kiss off line of, “Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn”. However.. we've already established that Mannix was a pure cock-womble haven't we? Well you know Clarke Gable? Guess what he did?! That dapper gent of a time-gone-by raped his co-star Loretta Young, got her pregnant, and had a Hollywood fixer cover up the entire fucking incident. I guess he wasn't kidding when he said he didn't give a damn. I suppose it should also be obvious that the days of the Hollywood system weren't as glamorous as people pretend to remember them as being, otherwise they wouldn't have needed fixers in the first place. At the end of the day we all have toilet roll in our house and as much as we'd like to pretend it's for decoration, the reality is that it's only there to clean up our shit.

Oh and how did Gable get away with his 'special cuddle of illegal love' I hear nobody asking? Well the fixer forced Young to adopt her own rapey-consolation prize-child as though it was somebody else's which is not only beyond insane but it's also a plot-point in this God-damned movie. A plot point that has also been toned down from the grimness of reality like Mannix's real life character has been and again like the actions of his character on screen. So again, to draw my own conclusions, the Coen's have presented the past as significantly more charming than things are now but they've knowingly based the whole thing on a lie. Their depiction of the past is literally the cinematic equivalent of what looks like the most gorgeous chocolate bar of all time, but when bitten into turns out to be a carefully moulded lump of shit. Except this bar of chocolate has raisins, which have been replaced in this convoluted metaphor by Mannix himself. Do you know I said that Clarke Gable had a fixer sort out his 'problem'. Well if you can guess who it is was then congratulations for passing the 'of course it fucking was' test.. that fixer was obviously the real life Eddie fucking Mannix.

So to conclude, Hail, Caesar! is a cinematic love letter about a man of faith and from those golden olden days that might really be about how existence has always been crap and Jesus is bollocks. The genius of the Coen's is that not only have they done this but they've also done it in a film that's essentially a Best Of The Coen's movie. So you get a musical sequence like in O Brother, Where Art Thou?; a taste of what it's like to make films like Barton Fink; moments of screwball comedy like Intolerable Cruelty; and occasional hints at a more noirish tone like in No Country For Old Men. Even The Big Lebowski had a Jesus thing in it, although in that case it wasn't so much a metaphor as it was a man called Jesus who'd inappropriately rub his bowling balls and happened to be a nonce. Oh, and the story here revolves around a kidnapping and a bag of cash, like it does in every other fucking Coen Brothers movie ever. Maybe people will read all of this and assume that I'm a nerd with too much time on his hands and that this is really just a sketch movie that's just about held together with a missing person mystery. Perhaps you're right, but to you confused and silly people I say “would that it were so simple”. Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time.

You can visit the blog picture artist at _Moriendus_

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