October 13, 2011 2 comments
Perspective changes everything. That sounds like a lead to a really clever introductory paragraph that might have some profound revelations, but no, it isn’t. Not today. Today is for perverted elderly con-men, sensible sous chefs and strangers on a park bench.
Seriously, that’s what I’ve got for you today. You lucky son-of-a-bitch you. No profound revelations. A few dick jokes, though. Maybe a few denigrating ethnic slurs too…you never know!
I find that movies are more fun when watched a second time from a different point-of-view. It’s boring to assume the same perspective over and over again. Especially in Pokemon movies, or porn, or my favorite: a combination of the two. Far more entertaining is the prospect of re-imagining the plot, rising action, mis-en-scene and other community college filmmaking terms from the eyes of another character, presumably one lost in the shuffle that may see things far differently than the protagonist.
Here’s a look at three movies that would have been radically different had they been witnessed through the perspective of another character…
1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Wonka ’71 (not to be confused with Charlie 2005) is the timeless Roald Dahl adaptation of a Ten Little Indians-esque childhood fantasy tale/moralistic imperative featuring a main character with the unfortunate name of Charlie Bucket. Beyond being dirt poor and about as masculine as RuPaul, Charlie has surely heard an unfortunate limerick or two in his schoolyard days.
(Because “bucket” rhymes with both “suck it” and “fuck it”…getitgetitgetitgetit?!)
Charlie may be pre-gay and entirely unaware of his blossoming homosexuality, but he is not oblivious to a certain contest eccentric shut-in multimillionare Willy Wonka has engineered to make his product line relevant again. Wonka declares that he will insert five golden tickets—good for one day’s access to his mysterious chocolate factory long since closed to both public and spies courtesy its impregnable eight-foot tall gate—into Wonka chocolate bars in order to encourage juvenile diabetes in the pursuit of spending a day touring the whimsical Wonka warehouse.
If you assume the perspective of Charlie, as the movie encourages, you are taken on a magical journey that sees bratty kids bounced from the tour one at a time because they have shitty parents and can’t follow basic rules of humanity. Charlie essentially wins because he only fucks up once, and forgivably in the sense that explicit product and property licensing theft is treated much more lightly than what the movie purports are far more serious sins in gluttony, impatience and watching TV.
In the end, Charlie wins his own golden ticket (+5 clever bonus) out of poverty and a humiliating two-room flat he shares with his workaholic mother and four polyamorous grandparents by inheriting the company and factory, despite clearly having no qualifications to run it other than stealing Fizzy Lifting Drink against expressed instruction not to.
But if you watch this whole deal through the eyes of Grandpa Joe, everything changes radically…
If you watch this movie through the eyes of Grandpa Joe, it’s about a 96-year-old con artist (who looks surprisingly much younger than his reported age, but hey, he’s a con artist, honesty isn’t really his thing) who fakes being sick and bed-ridden for 20 goddamn years before manipulating his grandson into putting his heart and soul into Wonka’s golden ticket contest, even going so far as to bankroll the quest. Probably had a fix in with the shopkeeper as well, but that’s a bit harder to prove.
When his grandson finally wins—and the odds were so stacked against him, being poor and flamingly homosexual, you have to think Grandpa Joe was in on that somehow—guess what? Grandpa Joe is magically cured of all paralysis that ails him!
Seriously, this lazy asshole, who has spent 20 years hatching this scheme from bed while watching Judge Joe Brown re-runs with a bunch of other wrinkled fleshbags who smell like death, jumps out of bed like a 14-year-old Chinese gymnast. This man faked paralysis for 20 years to get out of working, forcing his daughter to pull down double shifts at Denny’s, just to guide everything toward this one moment of con game culmination, where Charlie chooses him to escort him to Wonka’s factory.
(Let’s also take a timeout here to acknowledge that Charlie is a total unappreciative dick who should have chosen to take Momma Bucket, who has worked her ass off to put him turtlenecks over his nakedness and Shirley Temple-esque waves in his golden locks, instead of his worthless ass grandpa whose constant demands for soup and cable television were direct catalysts for the Buckets’ low socioeconomic status.)
So what happens when Grandpa Joe is magically all sunshine and cupcakes? He joins Charlie on the tour and, proving to be the only adult who sees any long-term gain in this candy-coated charade, begins ensuring that the net gain of the Wonka fortune is left to him alone. Not the other kids. Not Charlie. But him.
Think I’m being a little harsh? Well…
He makes zero effort to save this fat fuck from drowning in chocolate for one. Granted, Augustus Gloop probably creamed his pants at the thought of such a beautiful death (Melissa McCarthy of Mike & Molly fame is of a similar mind), but Joe actually stood idly by the peppermint banks while a child was drowning in a river of chocolate. He made no attempt to hold him back, to dive in and rescue the thrashing third-grader. Nothing. Just watched him drown, because he knew the competition would be minus one as a result.
There’s also the whole matter of Joe actively plotting to kill his grandson, Charlie:
The most damning evidence of Joe’s plot to win a fortunate at the demise of his own flesh-and-blood occurs during the Fizzy Lifting Drink scene, when Charlie opines that Wonka would be quite upset should the pair sip from his experimental soda. Joe, however, pushes Charlie to do exactly what Wonka instructed them not to do. And knowing Charlie would get suspicious if only the boy drank from the glass, Joe takes a drink too. Soon, both are rising gleefully in the air, surrounded by bubbles and laughter. Rising toward an industrial ceiling fan.
Joe knows how to counteract the lift: belching. He tries to hide this life-saving information from Charlie, hoping he’ll die in a tragic, gruesome Fizzy Lifting Drink accident, but one of two things likely happens: Joe is overcome with guilt and abandons his kinslaying attempt at the last moment, or he realizes Charlie hears him burp and knows the cat is out the proverbial bag. In either case, this assassination attempt is ultimately unsuccessful, though easily could have been written off as an accident if executed. Shit, all of the kids in the factory were begging to die fucking around with experimental technology. Nobody would even second-guess Charlie running off like the other four little shits did and putting himself in a perilous situation. Joe would have had an easy out.
You might be asking: well, wouldn’t Joe have to leave if Charlie died? I don’t believe that was ever explicitly stated. Parents left voluntarily to help their children seek medical attention throughout the movie, but were never ordered to leave. I have no doubts that, had Charlie perished, Joe would have stayed on and set his eyes on ridding the world of Veruca Salt and Mike Teevee.
(By the way, Veruca Salt does a killer “Straight Outta Compton” cover if you’ve never heard it before.)
At the end of the movie, when all the other terrible children have been systemically removed from the factory by proxy of their inability to make rational decisions and go on a goddamn tour without pressing every button in sight, Wonka is simply left with Charlie and Joe. After crushing the child’s soul just for shits and giggles (also one of my favorite hobbies). It’s really fucking rich that Joe proceeds to call the Wonk “a thief and a swindler” after that exchange, too, because that’s, oh I don’t know, exactly what Joe is! Pot, meet kettle. Except really, there is no pot (or kettle?) because Wonka is completely correct in identifying that the Joe/Charlie tandem stole fizzy lifting drink, which was clearly a rule violation.
When confronted with the idea that his 20-year con may have been shot to shit in his failed assassination attempt of his grandson, Joe goes apeshit trying to guilt the man into re-considering haphazardly signing over the rights to his fortune to a dipshit kid. Wonka surprisingly relents, temporarily putting the Bucket family on the map. But we all know that Charlie is far too young to make any significant business or financial decisions, so who has the most immediate access to his proxy signature consent? Who is in the best position to guide Charlie’s monetary decisions, distributing the fortune as he pleases?
Grandpa Joe. Just as he’d been scheming for all along, pulling off a long con 20 years in the making. Hey, it’s nothing others haven’t pointed out. There is an entire website devoted to uncovering the truth behind Grandpa Joe, who is a deceitful, sadistic pervert bent on acquiring millions at the expense of childrens’ dreams and health.
Ratatouille, one of Pixar’s crowning cinematic achievements, is—if seen through the eyes of Remy and Linguini—a tale of two unlikely companions that must learn to work together to realize their dreams, of being a chef and boning a co-worker, respectively, by means of a mutual action: cooking.
If seen from this perspective, the film is a lighthearted exploration of friendship and secrets, of underdogs aspiring toward greater things. It’s a direct criticism of critics, and also an excuse to have a rat torment a ginger, which really should be a more common cultural practice.
If seen through the eyes of sous chef Skinner, though, things taken a dramatic turn toward the micromanagement of workplace hell…
Let’s step back for a moment. Skinner inherits Gusteau’s restaurant from renowned chef Auguste Gustaeau after the world-famous chef passes away. As a sous chef, Skinner clearly was not prepared for this sudden responsibility, and proceeds to do everything he can to keep the venture profitable and allow his staff to continue making a living (you’ll notice none of the Gusteau-era employees are canned), though at the expense of the restaurant’s prestige.
Skinner obviously doesn’t have the requisite culinary skills to keep the restaurant operating at a five-star level, and isn’t a particularly lovable guy. But he sacrifices prestige—his own career, really—to keep his employees on staff by way of whoring out the Gusteau brand. Gusteau burritos, Gusteau pizza, whatever it took, Skinner saw that it was branded, marketed and made to bring profit back to Gusteau’s and its employees.
And then some incompetent asshole named Linguini shows up.
Linguini has to be mildly-retarded, but against his better judgment, Skinner gives him a job anyway. He pays a guy who clearly can’t do anything but mop, and even that proves to be a challenge more often than not. It isn’t until Linguini meets Remy that he offers any real return on investment to the restaurant.
Naturally curious as to why Linguini, who went from tripping over his own dick to serving up culinary hits, is suddenly justifying his meager wage, Skinner sets about trying to discover what sparked Linguini’s sudden competence. He eventually suspects that there is a motherfucking rat in the kitchen pulling the proverbial puppet strings (well, not really proverbial, just locks of his ginger hair) on Linguini, and attempts to uncover and exterminate this rat.
While being vilified in the process.
So let’s get this straight: the guy keeps the restaurant afloat, lets everyone keep their jobs, and has a sneaking suspicion that there is a rodent problem in the kitchen is treated like a gaping asshole for his role in ensuring the restaurant is allowed to continue operation. In doing his part to ensure the operational integrity of the restaurant, he becomes the enemy, and has to combat the madness around him while trying to keep a business running.
At one point, the infestation gets so bad that Skinner is literally captured and subdued by these disease-ridden beasts. Seriously. Do you know how many rats it takes to overwhelm a grown man, bind him with duct tape and throw him in the food pantry?
67. 67 rats. That’s how much. How much exactly.
In the end, what happens? Skinner loses his pest control fight, as he is constantly challenged by co-workers and made to face unnecessary obstacles in his quest to run a clean kitchen. The restaurant is shut down by health inspectors, or whatever the French equivalent is. Le health inspectors. Everyone is out of a job. Everything Skinner worked to keep alive is crushed through no fault of his own.
AND HE’S THE BAD GUY!
I like to imagine, after Remy/Linguini open up the new restaurant at the end—which we have no reason to believe will succeed, given it has the exact same goddamn rodent problem as the last one that was shut down—that Skinner undergoes some Requiem for a Dream-esque descent into madness where the refrigerator follows him around the house and he ends up ass-to-ass with Gusteau’s ghost and a pork skewer.
Seems like a more suitable ending.
3. Forrest Gump
On the surface, Forrest Gump is a movie about a simpleton who bores everyone to tears telling his life story while waiting for a public bus. Nothing about his life is in any way believable, but my guess is that most people just chalk that off to the fact that he’s retarded.
It’s hard to take any point-of-view other than Gump’s, because that is quite literally the titular (tehe) point-of-view. It’s also hard to make it through this movie without seeing Tom Hanks’ asscheeks, I’ve found.
From Forrest’s perspective, the world is full of challenges and adventures, but his good-heartedness eventually trumps all and impacts a bevy of historical events surrounding him. Which is to say, somehow one dim-witted man from Alabama somehow inspired the creation of the smiley face, saving Martin Luther King Jr. from attack dogs and end the Vietnam War in a decisive ping-pong tournament (I think). I call bullshit, of course, because when dim-witted men from the south rise to any position of prominence, it usually results in Abu Ghraib and a bazillion dollar budget deficit.
But who am I to argue the greatness of Gump? He got his own Weird Al song. Gandhi didn’t even get his own Weird Al song, which is probably why nobody remembers him.
So we’ll call this faux-biopic box of chocolates spirited, sagacious and heartfelt. Unless you happened to be one of the people sitting on the park bench next to Gump…
Let’s face it, one of the worst things in the world—a world of ass cancer, dubstep and Ryan Murphy series—is forced conversation with strangers. I go out of the way to avoid conversations with people I graduated high school with. You can only imagine how I feel about talking with strangers.
When strangers approach you in public, it’s usually for one of three things: change, directions or showing you their semi-hard, cheese-crusted cock. Remember back when your parents told you never to talk to strangers? Beyond ending up shackled in a basement, there’s a good reason for that. Strangers are awkward. Strangers are weird. Strangers have nothing but discomfort to grant you.
So imagine this. You miss the 8:45 bus, know you’re going to have to sit around until the 9:30. You’re beyond pissed, tired, exhausted, dreading the thought of showing up an hour late to your meaningless job only to collapse inside a claustrophobic cubicle and remind yourself that only your next coffee break is keeping you from spraying a banana clip into every ten-dollar K-Mart suit you see, saving the rest round for that sweet spot centered between your eyes.
And then this goddamn stranger shows up ranting about how the love of his life is getting passed around the entirety of the Black Panther Party like a fucking hacky-sack.
There is nothing worse than a stranger telling you his complete life story, and I would have to imagine the common reaction to that event has to look something like this:
Beyond the initial discomfort of this happening in the first place, wouldn’t you just feel obligated to call bullshit on all of Gump’s shenanigans? The only part of his story he left out was the part where he high-fived Jesus Christ on a yacht and cut Genghis Khan from his field hockey time.
Besides, who is so self-important that they feel the need to recant their life story to a stranger anyway? I’m hesitant to provide that for my therapist, and my therapist knows where I hid the bodies (doctor-patient confidentiality FTW!)
So, yes, in conclusion, it would suck ass to be a stranger on a park bench and have Forrest Gump’s asscheeks slide over toward you.
I’d wrap this up with a proper conclusion, but I probably already ended two movies too soon. So, in conclusion, when you watch Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer tonight…think differently! It can open up whole new worlds of terrible, publicly-shunned commentary.