The Soak of the Year

When you look annoyed all the time people think you're busy.

Something Cute…

Look.  If Steve can post something cute, so can I.

“See Jake-y, I told you he was gay.” (please read in P. Czerwin voice.)

(If you are unfamiliar with the aforementioned individual, please read in Rip Torn’s voice.)

If you are unfamiliar with Rip Torn, get familiar.

He’s a great actor!

Once you are familiar with Mr. Torn, please re-evaluate the respect you give great actors.

They are basically just crazy people with good memories.

Anyway, like I was saying, here is something cute:

Advertisements

Entire X-Files Story Arch (Let’s get it started in here…)

So….

First of all, this is not going to be 500 words or less.  That’s impossible.  (This thing is convoluted as hell.)

It’s going to be split into at least four parts, to make it more digestible.  And to give my lazy ass time to finish it.

The titles of each post will have a Black Eyed Peas lyric in parenthesis.  I assume no explanation for this is needed.

Finally…

The notes I’ve taken (Yea, that’s right.  Notes.  I took NOTES, motherfuckers, what?) on the episodes foretell a great chronicle of what goes through my head when I watch TV rather than a great retelling of the X-Files’ story arch. 

Oh well.  At least it will make it different from all the other synopsis on the web. 

And it might explain to a few of my family and friends why I prefer to watch sports and news on television.  I don’t really know anything about sports or news, so I find it relaxing.  I know a little something about acting and film (or, at least, I like to think I do) and, consequently, I have a hard time turning off my inner-critic.  It feels like work.  (Unless the show is REALLY well-made, i.e. “The Wire” or “Mad Men” or “The Bill Engvall Show”.)

Anyway, without further ado…

THE X-FILES STORY ARCH.

SEASON 1

We are gonna do this one fast, because the whole first season basically functions as an introduction and prologue to the story arch.

It’s clear the producers had no idea if they were going to get picked up for a second season, so they kept the episodes largely self-contained (meaning, there’s very little “mythology”.)

Through Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) we meet Fox “Spooky” Mulder (David Duchovny).  He’s obsessed with aliens and the paranormal.  He believes his sister was abducted.  She’s been assigned to him by some dude smoking a cigarette, ostensibly to debunk his work.

In the first episode, Mulder wears glasses.  WHAT A DORK!  He was mostly likely conceived by series creator Chris “Touchdown” Carter as a bit nerdy but 20th Century Fox, or Duchovny’s agent, or Duchovny himself convinced Carter to scrap that idea and let the actor’s inner-stud shine through.

Gillian Anderson’s hair and make-up team clearly changed after the pilot as well.

And changed even more so later in the series!

We also briefly meet F.B.I director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pleggi).  He spends most of the first season as the stock cop-show-boss, stern and very yelly.

You get the feeling he was going to be just a minor character like the rest of the F.B.I. superiors in The X-Files but Pleggi’s great performance (he’s easily the best actor in the first two seasons) elevated his character’s stature.

Then there’s Deep Throat.  He is the first in long line of government informants.  Sometimes he tells Mulder the truth.  Sometimes he doesn’t.  Eventually he gets killed.  Par for the course.

Not so “par for the course”, Mulder wearing cut-off sweat pants.

The last episode of the season, “The Erlenmeyer Flask”, is the only one with real significance to the story arch.  It drops a number of tantalizing hints about the grand conspiracy.

There is a doctor that spouts green blood when he is wounded.

A guy with a crew cut that stalks people.

An alien fetus discovered by Scully, which marks the beginning of Scully’s frustrating and inexplicable reluctance to accept the stupid truth about the stupid aliens.  (SHE SAW ONE in the first damn season, yet it takes almost the entire series to convince her they really exist.)

And a giant storage facility somewhere inside the Pentagon.

That’s really all we get.

What is most remarkable about Season 1 of The X-Files is the subtle shift of narrative mode that takes place over the course of the 20-some episodes.

We begin in the very common first person singular subjective.  In other words, we identify with Scully.  This is an often exploited narrative device in television and film.  (The best example I can think of at the moment, besides Dorthy in The Wizard of Oz, which is the quintessential example, is Will Smith’s character in the first Men in Black movie.)

Side note, Men in Black also contains one of the Top 5 rap/pop songs about government agents and inexplicable or outright paranormal events.    (“It’s the M.I.B.’s. Unh. Here come the M.I.B.’s”)

Number 1? Ghostbusters. Can you name the artist? It probably says his name right under this but I can’t see the video until I publish it.

(Yep.  It did.)

In The X-Files, Scully serves as our window into an unfamiliar world.  Her character’s sense of discovery is shared by the audience.  That’s how the device works.

The problems come later, when studios (and let’s be honest, artists) try to bank on the success of a fledgling show or movie.  The sense of audience discovery is gone and so the writers are forced to either vastly redefine the world of the piece or change the narrative mode.

They usually fuck this up.

A good example of this dropping-of-the-proverbial-ball is Men In Black II.  The writers decided not to change anything, perspective wise, and made an hour long movie that bored everyone to tears.

Another example is Jurassic Park II: The Lost World.  Here they tried to switch the narrative mode from Sam Neil to Jeff Goldblum.  It didn’t work.  Movies simply aren’t as fun when the main character and, by extension, the audience, know essentially what is coming.  Steven Speilberg tried to account for this by making the film much darker, but to little avail.

An example of a sequel done well is James Cameron’s Aliens.  He basically built an entire world around Ridley Scott’s very claustrophobic first film and, consequently, the writer’s were able to keep the main character Ripley’s point of view without a loss of discovery.

My favorite example of an awesome shift in point-of-view is the series finale of The Sopranos.  Through the course of that show, the audience was presented with Tony as an object to be studied.  We are always looking at him.  Mostly, we see him through the eyes of his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi.

Though we may understand the way Tony views an event (although often we are left guessing), but we never see an event through his eyes.

Until the last episode.

Right before the screen goes black, we finally get a glimpse of how it feels to be Tony.  He’s supposed to be enjoying dinner with his family, and on the surface seems to be doing just that.  But when finally given his perspective, we realize just how exhausting and paranoid his life is.  Every sound makes him look up.  Every stranger is a possible assassin.  He’s constantly tense, looking around the room.

(By the way, if you want to read a super-exhaustive explanation of the Soprano’s ending, this guy’s is very popular.  At the beginning, he says he is going to debunk the “Tony’s always looking over his shoulder” interpretation, but, in my opinion, he ends up making that interpretation seem valid.)

(I hope this isn’t boring.  This is all I got.)

What makes the X-Files unique is how they subtly shift the narrative mode to Mulder’s perspective without losing Scully’s inner-life.  Juggling two equal first person perspectives is a pretty deft trick and the X-Files manages it with ease.  (Granted, tons of cop and/or buddy shows have done this in the past, but generally there is one straight-laced guy or gal the audience identifies with and a kooky one the audience observes and laughs or cringes at.)

It’s pretty impressive, this split narrative focus.

Unfortunately, a lot of the early episodes feature clunky directing and acting, which can be a little distracting.

That’s the end of the beginning.

I promise the next one will be a little bit more, “here’s what happens in the show” and a little less “film theory 101”.  I just had to get all of that out of my system.

Til then…

They say he only caught touchdowns, but it turns out Chris Carter also wrote and produced one of television’s most beloved dramas….

Jim Gaffigan is Funny

Jim Gaffigan is the only comedian I like that is completely appropriate for the whole family.

I think.

Or maybe he just seems family-appropriate compared to the rest of the stuff I like?

To be honest with you, I’ve completely lost track of what is appropriate for who and when and where.

Oh well.

Here:

U-S-A? (“The Soak” gets Soaked in Sanctimony)

Let’s start with this.

The presumptive goal of the “War on Terror” is to end terrorism.

So, allow me to pose a query (please read in mock-British accent or with a bitterly ironic tone).

Which scenario is more likely to accomplish said goal, to diminish the amount of terrorists and the impact of terrorism around the world:

1.) The United States kills Osama Bin Laden.  People in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, etc…turn on Al-Jeezera or CNN International or whatever state-run media apparatus they watch, and see the following:

Thousands upon thousands of crazy yahoos flooding into the streets, yelling and screaming, waving flags, and chanting U-S-A like we’d just won the world series.

A Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, holding up a copy of the Daily News with a picture of Osama Bin Laden and the headline “Rot in Hell”.

The President of the U.S. giving a speech where he sounds like a third grader telling his family how good he was in the school play.

Other newspaper headlines that read “Vengeance at Last”, “The Butcher of 9/11 is Dead”, and “We Got the Bastard” and a picture on CNN (!!!!!) of the Statue of Liberty holding Bin Laden’s severed head.

OR

2.)The United States kills Osama Bin Laden.  People in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, etc…turn on Al-Jeezera or CNN International or whatever state-run media apparatus they watch, and see the following:

Images of Americans greeting the event with dignified solemnity.

A Senator from New York explaining coolly the reason this man had to die and the tragedy he had inflicted on members of his state.

The President giving a speech that recounts the operation and explains to the world why the U.S. had to thwart convention and carry out a clandestine operation in the country of an official alley without their knowledge.

Newspaper headlines that read simply “Osama Bin Laden Dead” which was what most papers saw fit to print after Hitler committed suicide.

The requisite sensationalism and reactionary fanaticism that the U.S. inevitably brings to occasions such as this are it’s own worst enemy.

Osama Bin Laden wasn’t Skeletor and the U.S. isn’t He-Man.

He wasn’t some evil villain plotting to take over the world for his own selfish reasons.  The guy was born into an uber-wealthy family but CHOSE to sleep in caves and crudely constructed bunkers almost his entire life for a cause he believed in.  That doesn’t make the cause right or just.  It wasn’t.  But the bigger point here is this:

As long as people in America carry an elitist and willfully ignorant attitude toward the world, the poor and disenfranchised of the world will continue to hate Americans and irrationally blame them for their situation.  It really is as simple as that.

The “War on Terror” isn’t The Civil War.  It isn’t World War II.  There are no clear cut sides and there are no General Pattons or Ulysses S. Grants.  It won’t be won by burning a city to the ground or deposing some evil dictator.

This war is almost entirely ideological.  And on May 1st, 2011, nothing changed.  Osama Bin Laden remains for violent jihadist what he has always been, a valuable symbol.  He represents the first man who, in their eyes, was able to successfully stand up to U.S. tyranny.

If anything, the U.S.’s over-the-top revelry upon the news of his death serves only to increase his value as symbol.  (By the way, how are we still not getting the whole jihadist/martyr thing.  Killing these guys isn’t a deterrent.  That’s LITERALLY what they want.)

Without getting into a long diatribe about Osama Bin Laden’s break with Saudi Arabia and the extraordinary abuses of its rulers, the U.S. backed House of Saud, I will just say simply that the world is complex.  The more we choose to see the “War on Terror” in simple black and white, good v. evil terms, the longer it will last.

I’m not saying it is not a good thing Osama Bin Laden was killed.  It is.  It would have been better if he was taken alive but there are lots of reasons that wasn’t going to happen.

Still.  His death is a very good thing.  He was a dangerous man.  His views had become so one-sided, so reactionary and cemented, that he blinded himself to the suffering he’d caused to thousands and thousands of innocent people.  His version of Islam left no room for compromise.

Earlier I accused citizens of the United States of willful ignorance.  I accuse Bin Laden of the same.

Without hesitation, I indict any Islamic jihadist who thinks they can somehow improve the world with violence and terror.

The thing is, the U.S. should not be attempting to fight fire with fire.  Not in this case.  It won’t work.  Just ask Metallica.

If we’re supposed to be “on the side of good” (as President Bush was fond of saying) then we’d better start acting like it.

Only a sincere portrayal of the “good” we so ardently claim will change the “hearts and minds” of millions of people that currently see the U.S. as pure evil.

We can’t just say we’re “good”.  We need to be “good”.

And “good” doesn’t celebrate death with a parade.

Spencer Hawes. The most poster-ized man in the NBA?

Well, the Philadelphia 76ers will be closing out their playoff series with the Miami Heat tonight by losing.

Now, we know what you’re thinking.  This game is not worth watching since they have no shot, the Heat are annoying, and the NBA is fixed anyway.  (Want proof of that?  The foul discrepancy in the series, as mentioned below, is in Miami’s favor by 22!)

Alternately, some of you may be thinking, “I live in Chicago, why the hell would I be watching the 76ers?  What are the 76ers?  Why am I reading this?”.

Anyway.

We knew the Sixers had no shot at this from the beginning.  Mostly because they are not talented enough.  But also because of the proclivity of NBA officials to call a foul if somebody looks at Lebron James the wrong way and to “let them play on” if a lesser player is dragged across the court and gang raped.  (Ok. That’s probably going a little far.)

After all, we can’t have 3 members of NBA marquee talent ousted by a team that starts Spencer Hawes.  Nobody is gonna buy a poster of that guy.  Well, maybe if he just happens to be in someone else’s poster…

Fortunately, the good folks at LIBERTY BALLERS have taken the liberty (I just couldn’t help it.) of creating a drinking game to help us slog through this final chapter of the first Doug Collins season.
Posted below is their addendum for the playoffs. THE ORIGINAL GAME CAN BE FOUND HERE.
Enjoy drunks.

Sixers/Heat Game Five Drinking Game Addendums

Sharone_wright_sixers_tiny by Michael Levin on Apr 27, 2011 10:38 AM PDT in 2011 NBA Playoffs

Drink....

Most of you are already familiar with the Official Liberty Ballers Drinking Game, which can be seen and read in it’s entirety here. And while I had planned on putting up a few additional rules before the playoffs started, I reconsidered because it could be seen as a gateway to depression if I’m forcing you to drink after each loss. But now that the Sixers have won a game, that’s all out the window!

In honor of the fifth (and possibly last) game of this series, here are five brand spanking new addendums to the drinking game we’ve been enjoying since November:

1. Whenever LeBron James flexes on camera, down a 40.

Teenage girls feel the need to smile like there’s no tomorrow every time their friend shoves a point-and-shoot camera in their direction. LeBron makes a muscle, which is the male equivalent. He’s the guy who would show his guns whenever the jib swings around after the commercial at a WWE event. Cool, LeBron. In your honor, we’ll shove 40 ounces of bad beer down our throats. Hats off.

2. If Miami gets a foul called on them, take a shot.

There’s no telling whether or not this one will get put into play, but by the small chance that it happens, it’s worth a Dongaila shot or two. With the foul discrepancy favoring the Heat by 22 in four games, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Although if you do, that would probably make the shot more effective. Worth considering.

3. Do a kegstand each time Erik Spoelstra looks like a chipmunk

This is all the time. Have someone spot you for blood flow problems.

4. For each point the Heat outscore the Sixers in the 2nd quarter, drink.

A little-known fact in the NBA rulebook is that you’re not allowed to try in the second quarter. It’s in the back close to the glossary and the index, but it’s there. While Doug Collins and the Sixers have been following that rule to a T, Erik Spoelstra and his team of rule-breakers seem to be above such laws. I’ve protested with the league, but David Stern and company haven’t responded to my texts. Adam Silver texted me back, but that was about something different. We’re cool. Anyway, drink for their lawless ways.

5. If the Sixers win the series, rob your nearest convenient store and put as much alcohol in your system as you can before you pass out.

This one needs no explanation.

Go Sixers/Drinking!

I’M THINKING OF LOOKING INTO SCIENTOLOGY! THOUGHTS?

Just kidding…But now that I have your attention…

I’m tired and I have a headache, which means I can’t read.  So I just so happened to become an expert on available internet documentaries about Scientology.  (I have no idea why.)

The fairest documentary concerning the genesis and gospel of Scientology (see what I did there?) is from an A & E Investigative Report in 1998.

This was back in the days when A & E did a lot more reporting and a lot less chronicling of sad and/or crazy people and/or criminals and/or ghosts (Hoarders, Intervention, Heavy, Storage Wars, Manhunt, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Paranormal State, etc…)

It should be noted that the guy making most of the good points in favor of Scientology, Mike Rinder, recently defected from the group and now actively campaigns against them.  His defection, however, has more to do with a dislike of the head of the church, David Miscavige, then it does with the doctrine of Scientology. 

It seems Miscavige is a bit of a tyrant.  Who would have thought?  He seems so nice when he’s talking to Tom Cruise.

Of course, if you’d prefer a little less “wow that was really fair and insightful” and a little more “Holy Hell, what is with these psycho fanatic cult people!?!?!” you’d do well to check out this documentary from the BBC show Panorama.

Or I can just boil it all down for you.

The debate about Scientology is really a debate about tax dollars.  (What a surprise, right?)

Scientology declared itself a religion to gain national tax exemptions.  Governments want that money and so they have attempted to crucify L. Ron Hubbard (Oops, I did it again) and make his “religion” into either a psychological self-help course (which would be taxed) or an evil cult (which would cease to exist).

You see.  Governments don’t really care if you “fall victim” to brain-washing.  (After all, they do some of that themselves.)  They just want your money.

As for all those well-meaning, thetan-free, wide-eyed Hubbard devotes…they want your money too.  A LOT OF IT!

YOU HAVE TO PAY A TON TO “ADVANCE” IN THIS WACKY RELIGION.

This isn’t exactly the collection plate at Catholic Mass.  (Or as I used to call it, LUNCH MONEY! – Just kidding, God.)

Members of Scientology pay up to $250,000 to learn all about Lord Xenu and his gang of evil thetans.

As far as cash for services rendered, Scientology is right up there with Mormanism!  Or psychotherapy (interestingly, the “pseudo-science” it decries).

It’s expensive.  Although, as far as I know, no member of the religion of Scientology has been asked to pay with their life.  (I’m looking at you, Muslims.)

(And I’m also looking at Christianity, now that I think about it.  God really wasn’t in the mood to barter when Jesus was on that cross.)

It seems the Jews have the best track record when it comes to religious payments tendered.  Their God trapped a guy in a whale for awhile.  And faked Abraham into thinking he had to kill his son (OHHHH!  GOTCHA!).  And made his people wander in the desert for 40 years.  But no straight-up sacrifices.

PLUS!  Jews don’t need to take their member’s money because they already have everyone else’s!  (Just kidding.  Seriously.  Seriously kidding.)

OK.

Now that I’ve alienated everyone except for atheists (“Hey, atheists!  Why is there something instead of nothing?……still workin’ on that one, aren’t ya?”) and agnostics (“Pick a side, pansies.  No more waffling.  This is America.  It’s not some Montessori school where there are no “wrong answers”, the kids call each other by their Himalayan spirit name and paint by numbers is considered fascist.  Get in the game!)

Anyway, this whole tax drama would explain the, not one, but TWO BBC documentaries “investigating” Scientology just as the church was about to file for tax exemption.  And you can take my word for it, they are anything but fair and balanced.  Britain really needs a Fox News.  (If you’re new here, that’s a joke.)

All that being said, the organization of Scientology is clearly designed to make money.  You’d be hard pressed to find another religion which has actually filed a legal injunction in the United States claiming that the documents explaining their belief system are “trade secrets”.  That’s like comparing the Koran to the formula for Coca-Cola.

My verdict: Scientology should be taxed like any other incorporated organization.  Although some of the people that are violently anti-Scientology scare me more than the cult members.  I mean, church members.

Speaking of Muggsy Bogues…

Holy Shit.

Tom Cruise/Scientology “documentary”

I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something so cynically French about this documentary.  Also, you may notice, about 75% of this thing is sheer conjecture.  Still, entertaining for what it is…

Eyes Wide Shut

Ok.  One more Stanley Kubrick post and then I’ll be done.  I promise…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Don’t you want to go where the rainbow ends?” – Louise Taylore, “Eyes Wide Shut”.

It’s been over ten years since the debut of Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” which means its time for the inevitable critical reconsideration.  Almost all of Kubrick’s films have been panned upon release only to be heralded as extraordinary works of art in subsequent years.

True to form, upon its initial release, “Eyes Wide Shut” was dismissed by the majority of critics as a failure.

Kubrick himself, on the other hand, considered it his “most important contribution to the cinema”.

Allow me to join what I’m sure will be a cavalcade of retrospective praise.

“Eyes Wide Shut” is a masterpiece.  It’s astonishing.  If you’ll forgive what I’m sure is fanatic hyperbole, it is the first film in history to present a unified theory of everything.

Yep.  That’s what I wrote.  A unified theory of everything.  (Now I will try my best to prove that but first I need to get one more broad statement out of the way.)

“Eyes Wide Shut” is a film you have to learn how to watch.  It has more in common with a work of art, like a Rembrandt or a Picasso, then with the sexual thrillers or psychological thrillers it was initially compared with.  (Chalk that up to film critics being too specialized, too mind-numbed from seeing movie after movie, that they sometimes fail to see the forest for the trees.)

When you understand how to watch the film, when you stop trying to follow a “plot” or dissect a mystery as if it were an episode of “Columbo” or “CSI”, when you see that following the overtures of plot are not nearly as important as investigating each individual scene and determining how it relates to the piece as a whole, then the film’s greatness is revealed.

In “Eyes Wide Shut” every moment is given equal weight.  There are no throwaway lines or simple, expository dialogue.  Everything matters.  The small interactions with minor characters are just as important (if not more so) than the big crescendo scenes that everyone remembers (Nicole Kidman’s monologue about the naval officer and the masked orgy being the two most prominent).

Perhaps it’s best to illustrate this point with an example.

Early in the film Alice (Nicole Kidman) is dancing with a Hungarian man named Sander Szavost (Sky Dumont) at a Christmas party thrown by Victor Zeigler (Sydney Pollack), Dr. Bill’s (Tom Cruise) extremely wealthy patient.

They have this seemingly innocuous exchange:

Sandor: “What do you do, Alice?”

Alice: “Well, at the moment, I’m looking for a job.  I used to manage an art gallery in SoHo.  But it went broke.”

Sandor: “Oh, how sad.  I have some friends in the art game.  Perhaps they could be of some help.”

Alice: “Awww.  Thank you.”

Throughout the film, we see plenty of Alice’s daily activity but we never see her doing anything remotely related to looking for a job.  Mostly, she primps herself, combs her hair, puts on deodorant, makes herself beautiful.

Sandor’s offer to help Alice’s “career” is revealed, moments later, as part of a less-than-subtle negotiation for sex.  Alice’s initial response seems genuine.  She is touched by his offer to help.  Once his true intentions are clear, however, Alice’s “awakening ” begins.

She appears troubled that night, staring melancholic in the mirror while Bill (Tom Cruise) fondles her breast.  She goes through her daily routine the next day but at night she is once again staring forlornly in the bathroom mirror before reaching for a joint.

As she gets high, she becomes upset with her husband, which culminates in an angry, revelatory remark.

“Wait a minute.  So, because I’m a beautiful woman, the only reason a man wants to talk to me is because he wants to fuck me?  Is that what you’re saying?”

Contrary to what she told her dance partner the day before, Alice isn’t looking for a job.  Alice has a job.  Her job is to be a beautiful doctor’s wife.  She is, in final analysis, not far from a prostitute.

Early viewers of “Eyes Wide Shut” saw it as a film about Bill’s awakening, as he journeys deeper and deeper into a dream world of sexual depravity.  This is a false reading, or at least, an incomplete one.  The film is about Alice’s awakening and Bill’s reaction to her rebellion.  He is troubled because his “possession” is attempting to independently define herself.  Bill never seems worried about his own desire for extramarital sex, or, for that matter, any male desire.  He flirts with models shamelessly at the Christmas party and doesn’t bat an eye when he finds the party’s host, Victor Zeigler, upstairs with a naked and possibly dead prostitute.

He only becomes upset when his wife talks about her sexual desires.

All this discussion of sex, however, threatens to override a much greater theme in the film.

Remember the quote from the beginning of the article, “Don’t you want to go where the rainbow ends?”.  Here is that exact exchange.  It takes place at the Christmas party as two models are leading Dr. Bill toward a staircase.

Bill: “Ladies, where, exactly, are we going?  EXACTLY.”

Nuwalla:  “Where the rainbow ends.”

Bill: “Where the rainbow ends?”

Gayle: “Don’t you want to go where the rainbow ends?”

Bill: “Well that depends on where that is exactly.”

Gayle: “Let’s find out.”

“Let’s find out” “exactly” “where the rainbow ends”.  That is the central concern of “Eyes Wide Shut”.

Bill and the models are interrupted by a request for Bill’s services upstairs.  (The end of that scene mirrors an earlier scene. Bill’s conversation with the only person he knows at the party, Nick, the piano player, is interrupted as Nick is called away.  The mirroring is intentional.  Keep that in mind for later…)

Of course, we know from childhood where the rainbow ends.  Or where it’s supposed to end.  At a pot of gold.  (Keep that in mind for later also…)

Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” is not about sex or fidelity  Or, at least, it’s foremost concern is neither of those, surface level assumptions aside..

“Eyes Wide Shut” is about money.

In particular, the overwhelming effect of money on society, especially American society.

The “negotiation” mentioned above, between Alice and Sandor, is just one of many  in the film.  In fact, just about every scene in “Eyes Wide Shut” contains some form of financial or sexual negotiation.  Often, the lines between the two become blurred.  Sex becomes a stand-in currency.

Alice confronts him with her objectification.  Bill is driven out of the home.  Her confession of overwhelming desire for another man distinguishes her status as a possession and confounds Bill’s understanding of his social sphere.  What follows are a number of encounters that serve the same purpose.

He encounters a prostitute, Domino (as in, the dominoes are falling), who invites him to “come inside”.  (Bill parrots her, “Do I want to come inside” just in case you don’t get the double entendre the first time).  Bill is visibly uncomfortable in her messy apartment.  Just to highlight the “service” theme, Domino makes a joke. “Maids day off”.

Then they have the following exchange.

Bill: “So, should we talk about money”

Domino: “Sure”.

Bill: “How much?”

Domino: “Well that depends on what you wanna do.  What do you wanna do?”

(Pause.)

Bill: “Well, what do you recommend?”

(P.S. At the risk of being impugned by my own argument, the girl who plays Domino, Vanessa Shaw, is really hot.)

Bill’s last question, “what do you recommend” is deliberately blatant and off-putting.  Kubrick wants it to stand out.  He is highlighting his main theme.

That theme, again, is an investigation into service and money.

In the next scene, Bill meets his piano player friend, Nick, in the East Village.  We learn that Nick left his wife and kids in Seattle because “you gotta go where the work is”.  In a subsequent scene, Bill negotiates with the Russian owner of a costume shop to buy a mask and cloak in the middle of the night.  He offers $100 over the rental price, is turned down, and, bewildered, offers $200.  (There is another pattern with the periphery characters besides the negotiations. Almost no one is from Manhattan.  They have all come to The Big Apple for purposes of commerce.  By the way, did you ever wonder why New York is called The Big Apple?  Is it a reference to Adam and Eve?)

Later in that same scene, Millidge discovers that his young daughter is having a sexual escapade with two Chinese businessmen.  He calls her a “little whore” and threatens to call the police.  In the final act, we discover that Millidge has come to “another arrangement” with the men.  He is now pimping his daughter out.   The scene ends with the Russian offering his daughter’s “services” to Bill.

There are dozens of other financial exchanges and allusions to wealth and lack of wealth.  So much of “Eyes Wide Shut” is devoted to negotiation and finance, it is a small wonder not one critic picked up it’s theme the first time around (as far as I know).

Bill rips a hundred dollar bill in half.  He keeps one side and offers the other half to a cab driver.  He tells him he will give him the remaining half if he waits for him outside the mansion where the masked ball is being held.  If the implication of status in that action isn’t immediately apparent, consider what underlies it.  Bill is so unconcerned with the $100 bill that he rips it in half before even starting his negotiation.  The driver, on the other hand, is so in need of money, he is willing to wait for an indeterminate amount of time, in the middle of nowhere, at 3 am.

Moments later the tables are turned on Bill. The participants at the masked ball know he doesn’t belong because he arrived in a taxi rather than a limo.

Another example.

Alice helps her daughter with her homework.

They read a question aloud.  It is a math equation to  determine which boy has the most money.

Even the sex orgy ends with a negotiation.  One of the naked women appears to save Bill’s life, saying she is “ready to redeem him”.  Bill assumes she is killed.  We learn later, from Victor Zeigler, that “nothing happened to her that hadn’t happened a thousand times before.  She got her brains fucked out.  End of story.”

The masked ball, is, quite literally, the “end of the rainbow”.  It is the first scene in the film without multi-colored Christmas lights in the background. The lights are everywhere else.  Domino’s apartment, Bill’s office, The Harford’s home, the streets of New York.  They are ubiquitous right up until the orgy.   As with any late-era Kubrick film, the plot isn’t nearly has important as what surrounds the plot.  (Take, for example, the Indian artwork and red, white, and blue motif splashed all over “The Shining” or the repeated patterns of behavior in “2001: A Space Odyssey” which suggest humans have become machines at the service of machines or the false narration that frames Barry Lyndon which calls deeply into question our “historical” record.)

When Bill returns home after the profound experience of the orgy, he switches off the Christmas lights on the family tree.  His illusions have been shattered.  He’s been to the end of the rainbow and been kicked out.  He will never be allowed there.

In “Eyes Wide Shut”, the background and foreground have equal importance.  They both serve to illuminate the theme of the blurred line between money and sex.  By the end, the prominence and importance of money has evaporated and been replaced with a new, disturbing understanding of currency and it’s relationship to human sexuality.

Many have interpreted the climatic orgy scene scene as a realistic depiction of some kind of Masonic sex rite for the super wealthy.  Those things may or may not exist but I’d like to offer the suggestion that the scene is largely symbolic.  The question posed by the film, in total, is about the allure of money.  That is, what is it that makes us want?  Why are we so profoundly driven to acquire wealth, status, and power?

Kubrick’s answer is the sex party.  It represents the unspoken assumption behind the attainment of wealth.  Guilt-free satisfaction of every conceivable animal desire.  The scene has the overture of religion because wealth and social standing have become a religion.

Consider.

Bill has worked his whole life to climb the social ladder only to be told by his “friend”, Victor Zeigler, that he is “way out of (his) depth”. This statement comes while the two men stand in the parlor room of Zeigler’s mansion, surrounded by portraits of European nobility.

This scene best reveals the film’s  “unified theory or everything”.  It’s the reason Kubrick felt his film so important.

In a single shot, we are confronted with the entire history of human ambition and the barriers inherent.  The wealth of European gentry was not attained.  It was a birth right.  The men staring down at Bill from the portraits would never considered him an equal no matter how much money or land he acquired through commerce.  In fact, his form of financial attainment, (in other words, working) was frowned upon.

Sydney Pollack, as Zeigler, also stares down at the diminutive Bill.  They are not equals.

Today’s America claims to have replaced the master/servant caste system with a paradigm based upon merit.  The American Dream is to climb your way to the top, a la Horatio Alger.

But has anything truly changed?  Bill is a “successful” doctor.  By most standards, his societal position is enviable but the scene with Zeigler makes plain that he is as much “in the service” of the gentry as all the other lowly service professionals he is constantly encountering throughout the film.  (This is a short list of them off the top of my head: two maids, a taxi driver, a limo driver, a concierge, a baby-sitter, a hired piano player, a waitress, a secretary, a receptionist, a teacher, dozens of prostitutes and hired security.  The wealthy characters, Zeigler, Sandor, and Marion Nathanson, have no discernible occupation.)

Money and class are the essence of “Eyes Wide Shut”.  Just like the Native American motif in “The Shining”, you can watch the entire film and not see it even though it’s right before your eyes. (Get it?)  If “The Shining” was Kubrick’s “Heart of Darkness” then “Eyes Wide Shut” is his “The Great Gatsby”.

Just in case you’re still not convinced, consider the beginning and ending of the film.

The opening line is Bill’s.  (Note his name.  Bill.)  “Have you seen my wallet?” Alice (her name is an allusion to Alice through the looking glass), of course, knows precisely where the wallet is.  The film ends in a giant, overpriced toy store where their daughter Helena (named for the goddess of beauty) runs around suggesting Christmas presents for herself that include a Barbie Doll and a stroller for a female doll.

People who suggest that “Eyes Wide Shut” is an optimistic film about marriage, honesty and fidelity, are in my opinion, pretty far off. The film strikes me as deeply pessimistic, both about American society and humanity in general.  In many ways, it is the anti-“2001: A Space Odyssey”.  In that film, humanity evolves to a higher intelligence, represented by the star child.  “Eyes Wide Shut” ends with a young girl destined to repeat the cycle which has caused her mother and father so much misery.

There is plenty more to investigate in “Eyes Wide Shut”.  A single blog post written on the down time of my catering job can’t possibly do it justice.

I haven’t even touched upon the obvious “mask” theme in the film, or Alice’s pornographic dreams, or the effect of the constant dialogue parroting, or Bill’s doppelganger and possible “other life” represented by a teacher that has married into money, rather than earned it himself.

There are a couple great essays (and a ton of bad ones) available online.  The Kubrick site is the best source for those.  If you want to read a bunch of Masonic “conspiracy-theories” about the film, those are plentiful as well.  There is also a book about the movie by Micahel Chion, although I can’t particularly recommend it.  I found his analysis muddled, confusing, and largely unfounded.  In fact, that book was the impetus for this essay.  Believe it or not, I don’t generally sit around for hours writing film-crit for no money and no credit.  But I really like Kubrick’s swan song and was so disappointed with Chion’s book that I felt the need to address the merits of “Eyes Wide Shut” on my own.

Anyway.

I hope I have a least perked your interest about “Eyes Wide Shut” and inspired you to give it a second chance.  It wasn’t “the sexiest film ever made”, as an Entertainment Weekly teaser article suggested in November 1998, but it just might be one of the best!

The Band – “The Band”

This is probably one of the Top 5 albums of the 1960’s.

People fall all over themselves to expound upon the relevance of Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, and Pet Sounds, and The Velvet Underground w. Nico, and Are You Experienced?.

BUT!

You should think of all that critical nonsense this way.  There are tons of albums from the 90’s that are better than Nevermind by Nirvana. Yet, that album will always be the most discussed and highly rated album from that period based entirely on what it historically represents; that is, the changing of the popular guard from 80’s metal to 90’s grunge.

But!  Hey!  Readers!  We appreciate the impact of Nevermind (after all, we lived through it [get it, it’s a HOLE reference] but we also know there were way better records in the 90’s.  WE KNOW!  We lived them. We really do know!

SO!

If you get a chance, check out The Band’s self-titled first album, The Band. And put your vinyl copy of Sgt. Pepper’s where it belongs. In a commemorative glass case next your copy of Dark Side of the Moon and Thriller and Nevermind, and OK Computer.

Whatever your favorite album from the 90’s was, chances are you can find an album comparable to that from the 60’s. You just need to start looking with fresh eyes!