Discourse is something that is always changing, but not necessarily evolving.
I think of television footage I’ve seen of one of my heroes, William F. Buckley, engaging in discussions with people from the other side of the aisle like Saul Alinsky, Huey P. Newton, or even Woody Allen. Buckley was a public intellectual who valued intelligent discourse, as did his peers (though he might ever-so-playfully threaten to smack someone on occasion).
Today, the discussion of any and all issues on television rarely goes anywhere before degenerating into shouting matches where people are simply screaming their opinions at one another. Whether it’s Bill Maher mugging for his audience on HBO’s “Real Time,” pseudo-intellectual Michael Eric Dyson spewing hollow language to marginalize others, anyone dubbed the “new Murrow,” and yeah, a few of the talking heads on Fox News too (none of whom are the great Greg Gutfeld).
I’m also revolted by Hollywood’s rejection of values. Television has always been, for the most part, a mind-polluting destroyer of the imagination, but reality TV has gone so far as to take the place of the carnival freak show and the act of watching lions eat Christians at the coliseum. Culture has always had a mean streak running through it, but it feels more cruel than usual lately.
So a big part of me feels the burning anger that pumps like lava through Bobcat Goldthwait’s blood. He’s bled it all over every frame of his latest movie, “God Bless America.” Every word in the script, every moment imparted feels fed up with it all. So angry and fed up is this film that it unfortunately succumbs to the culture of meanness Goldthwait is decrying, rather than attempting to stand tall above it.
This is all evidenced by the instance when a piece was posted on Big Hollywood about “God Bless America,” prompting Goldthwait to insert a diatribe against conservatives back into the film that he had previously cut out. Instead of letting his “violent film about kindness” speak for itself, he decided to sling some petty mud. But that’s what “God Bless America” is: a big glob of mud in your eye.
The film is about a miserable man named Frank (Joel Murray), who finds himself hitting the gravel at rock bottom. He hates his obnoxious neighbors, his daughter is a brat, he’s canned at work, and the cherry on top is that he’s been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.
Depressingly wallowing in a sea of wretched reality TV, Frank is prepared to end it all by eating a bullet, when a show resembling MTV’s “My Sweet Sixteen” gives him pause. Seeing a girl who has it all treating her parents and friends like filth on TV makes Frank decide he’s going to kill the brat and her enabling parents instead. And he does just that, catching the attention of a sadistic girl named Roxy (Tara Lynn Barr), who believes Frank is doing a great thing by murdering the people polluting culture.
Together, they embark on a killing spree, murdering people in between rants that come off like sub-Bill Hicks stand-up routines. Their victims include a not-so-subtle stand-in for Bill O’Reilly, the Tea Party (what a public menace those Tea Partiers are, unlike those peaceful Occupiers), pig parkers, people who talk and text during movies and the contestants and judges for a TV show that is a thinly-veiled version of “American Idol.”
Goldthwait is a director who explores his subjects with a dose of venom, whether it’s the skeletons in the closet of your significant other (“Sleeping Dogs Lie”), or the bizarre way people apply themselves to the memories of the suddenly-deceased (“World’s Greatest Dad”). “God Bless America” is injected with too much of the stuff. He decries the level of discourse yet only feeds it by indulging in a violent juvenile fantasy, dehumanizing the people he attempts to criticize, a mortal sin when it comes to exploring the themes present here. It won’t give anyone pause, it’ll just either inspire anger, or elicit a smug smirk.
There is value in neither.
Other Noteworthy Releases
“Django Kill”: Also known as If You Live, Shoot! since it has nothing to do with the Sergio Corbucci/Franco Nero film. This spaghetti western by Giulio Questi starring genre mainstay Tomas Milian packs acid tabs in its six guns. Milian plays a betrayed bandit who rises from the dead to exact his revenge, riding his way into a whirlwind of surrealist sadism and torture, taking on a gang of homosexuals who dress like mariachis among other bizarre baddies. It’s a must for fans of spaghetti westerns outside of the Leone mold.
Available on Blu-ray
“Barbarella – Queen of the Galaxy”: Here’s where cult movie fans beat me up and take my cred away while I cry bleeding in the sand … I’ve never seen “Barbarella.” But I imagine no one here will hold that against me, given that name on the marquee.
Available on Blu-ray
“Treasure Planet”: This Disney feature came out when I was a too-cool-for-school teenager, watching Kevin Smith spin dick-and-fart jokes instead of catching the latest Disney movie like I would’ve been five years before. The Robert Louis Stevenson-in-space concept has me intrigued.
Available on Blu-ray/DVD combo
“The Entity”: The most celebrated of Sidney J. Furie’s films comes to Blu-ray. Somehow “Iron Eagle” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” aren’t held in as high regard.