SPOILER ALERT: This post may contain details and information that could spoil the experience of watching Sharknado 3. Then again, it would be hard to imagine I could possibly spoil the experience of watching Sharknado 3 any more than the bozos who made the movie already have. And therein lies the biggest mystery of Sharknado 3. No- it’s not whether Tara Reid lives or dies at the end- I guess they’ve just left that up to Twitter to decide- so do yourself and America a favor and hashtag “#AprilDies” on everything you Tweet – because the most believable part of her performance is her prosthetic chainsaw attachment which is the most human thing about her. But, anyhow, the biggest mystery about Sharknado 3 is – how did they manage to ruin something that was already so terrible to begin with? Look at it this way, any chef can screw up beef bourguignon- but it takes a special kind of incompetence to fuck up Ramen- and that’s exactly what the geniuses who made Sharnknado 3 did. How the hell did they manage that? All they had to do was take a cheap, pre-packaged shark movie, boil it in shlock til it was dumb enough to be funny but not so long that it was reduced to a brainless mush, and add in a shiny flavor packet of Gen-X in-jokes (Ian Ziering is cinematic MSG) and voila- a Sharknado 3 that doesn’t suck. Just a tasty little movie with no nutritional value that’s even more delicious when you’re wasted. They followed this recipe and produced two perfectly good (or, let’s keep it real, perfectly bad) Sharknado movies- but they messed it up badly with the third one.
First of all, they overcooked it- going well past the “brainless mush” stage until nothing was left but a gelatinous glob of gore and idiocy. Then they emptied an industrial sized canister of celebrity cameos into the glob (David Hasselhoff is cinematic Cheez Whiz), deep fried the whole thing in product placement and served it with a side of cynical self-awareness- like oh oh oh- we know it’s dumb so that makes everything ok. Well, I’ve got news for you guys- it doesn’t. Dog shit with parsley is still just dog shit- and yes, I realize I just pulled off the extremely rare “metaphor inside a metaphor”- the blogging equivalent of the flashback inside a flashback. And, yes, I realize that was actually a metaphor FOR a metaphor- which is even more rare- as rare as a unicorn or a Lincoln Chafee supporter or a transgendered Republican reality TV star. Come to think of it- why isn’t Caitlyn running for president? I mean – Olympic champion, successful businessman, conservative Christian, pop culture icon and now a WOMAN??? That’s something for everyone! She’s a one woman Fox News debate! She’s five candidates in one- she’s GOPTron! Hell, she’s even got a black son in law (or, ex-step-son-in-law- close enough). Now if she can just get Khloe to marry Pitbull she’ll be UNSTOPPABLE.
Which gets me back to my original point- how did the producers manage to screw up Shaknado 3 so badly? The movie starts with a tornado full of sharks hitting Washington DC and destroying the White House- could there be any better metaphor for the election??? I mean, come on – 10,000 sharks hit DC and not a single one has Trump hair- how did the producers miss that? It’s like striking out at kickball. Sure, there was a tiny nod to political satire with President Mark Cuban and Vice President Anne Coulter (easily the scariest part of the movie) but they could have done so much more. For instance: Obama orders Congress to evacuate- the Republicans refuse and are eaten by sharks. Trump says the sharks are murderers and drug dealers that are attracted by Megyn Kelly’s blood. Bernie Sanders has some great ideas but #SharkLivesMatter shouts him down at a rally which the mainstream media won’t cover. Jeb Bush claims he’s half shark, Fox News claims the science is still out on sharknados, Jimmy Fallon says the sharks can eat more than Chris Christie, Marco Rubio compares the sharknado to an abortion, and a shark eats some lion no one’s ever heard of in Zimbabwe and Facebook loses it’s GODDAMN MIND. Meanwhile Hilary hangs back and doesn’t say a damn thing cause she knows sooner or later the sharks are all gonna eat each other and, when the storm clears, she’ll be the only one standing. Yup- that’s Hilary- President of a ruined nation, its institutions of government destroyed, standing knee deep in shark guts- but- hey- at least she got to be what she always wanted to be when she grew up- so the American Dream is still working for somebody. Slow clap for Madame President. Credits. And THAT’S how you make a Sharknado movie in Washington.
Sadly, though, that’s not what the producers of Sharknado 3 did. Instead, they expected us to believe that Mark Cuban is leader of the free world, an action hero and a passable actor- in ascending order of implausibility. Seriously, Cuban hasn’t been this unconvincing since he met with DeAndre Jordan. And then, after our heroes raise the American flag Iwo-Jima style in order to impale a flying shark, the worst thing to happen to Veterans in this country since the VA, the movie leaves DC for Universal Orlando- a perfect example of cynical corporate interests ruining something that pretty much sucked to begin with. Hey- come to think of it- you could say the same thing about the Republican party- so maybe this movie is a sly political satire after all!
Anyhow, back in Universal Orlando, Tara Reid is about to give birth to Ian Ziering’s baby (the second scariest thing about this movie) and is hanging out with her mom, Bo Derek, who, in the movie’s only pleasant surprise, looks refreshingly human for an actress her age. Things just get dumber and bloodier from there and the whole thing ends up in outer space with Ian Ziering, David Hasselhoff – who turns out is a former astronaut (one of the less plausible things about the movie) and also Ian Ziering’s dad (one of the most!) and Tara Reid, who was fortunate enough to find a petite maternity space suit at the very last minute. Actually, that’s not really so surprising – what’s surprising is that they take the opportunity to do product placement “Finn- I don’t care if I am pregnant. If you’re going into space to save the world I’m going with you. And besides, I found the cutest little space suit at Pea in the Pod, and I’m just dying to try it out!”
Anyhow, they are launched into space by NASA on a secret space shuttle with the intention of creating a huge explosion which will somehow end the sharknado, which is TOTALLY PREPOSTEROUS. I mean, everyone knows if you want to blow something up in space you hire Space X. But anyhow, the explosion thing doesn’t work and they have to use the old SDI (“Star Wars”) satellites from the 80’s instead to fire a laser pulse into the heart of the giant storm. Well, before the ghost of Ronald Reagan can say “I told you so- wait- what were we talking about again?”, Hasselhoff leaves the shuttle to float out to the satellite and hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete on it so that it can fire the laser- even though he knows it means he will die in space because the shuttle doesn’t have enough fuel to come back and pick him up. Which I guess is supposed to be heroic, and I guess we’re supposed to be inspired by his courage when one of the movie’s final shots shows him standing on the surface of the moon- but I have to wonder – if he could float 240,000 miles to the moon how come he couldn’t float 50 feet back to the space shuttle? But then again, I suppose I too would rather suffocate in the infinite blackness of space then spend ONE MORE FUCKING MINUTE ALIVE with Tara Reid #AprilDies.
Anyhow, sharks in space, something something something, space shuttle destroyed, Tara Reid gets swallowed by a shark, Ian Ziering goes in after her and she gives birth to her baby while plummeting to earth in the belly of an enormous flaming shark, ultimately slicing it open from the inside with the buzzsaw attachment on her hand (man, that thing can act!) and handing the mewling infant to Ian Ziering before slicing her way out of the carcass of the beast. And it’s perfect cause this is exactly what she wrote in the birth plan she gave her doula except for the Enya and aromatherapy candles.
Oh yeah, sharks also eat the cast of the Today show but spare Kathy Lee and Hoda because they’re in recovery and at the very end of the movie, a giant hunk of space debris falls out of the sky on Tara Reid and, we, the viewers get to vote on Twitter if she lives or dies – and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AMERICA, I’m begging you once more to tweet #AprilDies. An America that doesn’t want to kill Tara Reid just isn’t an America I want to live in.
Alright, so, yeah, Sharknado 3. Total crap. The worst movie of the summer not featuring Planned Parenthood. I’ve already written 1500 more words than that fucking movie deserved. And maybe the reason I’m being so critical of it is that I’ve been obsessed all month with the TCM’s Summer of Darkness- DVR’ing 24 hours worth of film noir classics every Friday in June & July and slowly working my way through them. Now, some of you may not be aware of what film noir is or have any knowledge of classic cinema- and that’s OK. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a culturally illiterate philistine wallowing in the excrement of your cinematic ignorance who thinks that being a sophisticated movie goer means spending $15 to see Pixels at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks. You know, per se. Hey, it’s your money (Mazal Tov, BTW, to the fast food workers of New York State for their recent minimum wage increase. They’ll be earning no less than $15/hour state-wide by 2021, which is perfect as it gives McDonalds exactly enough time to perfect the robo-cashier. Just hand over your money to the animatronic clown, kiddies, then never stop screaming in your sleep.) If you want to spend your hard earned cash watching Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Josh Gad (add Jack Black and you’ve got the Mount Rushmore of Ugh) fight classic video game characters in a movie that’s been hacked to pieces so that it be sold to the Chinese (I suppose it’s only fitting. First we ruin Chinese food to make it palatable to Americans now we ruin American movies to make them palatable to the Chinese), that’s your terrible choice to make. Who am I to judge? (GUILTY!) Hey, we all have our taste in crap- I liked the first two Sharknado movies and I’m a sucker for the Fast & Furious franchise. But, sometimes it’s good to know that there’s something better out there and that’s when I turn to TCM. Because like Monterey Park hot-pot in a world of Panda Express- TCM has the real thing.
So what is this film noir thing anyhow? First of all- it’s important to know how to pronounce it- it’s not “Film New-ahh” with a silent “r” like it’s en francais or something – it’s “Film Newarrr” with the “r” pronounced American style. Cause while the name may be French, the film movement is as American as French Fries or French Dressing, although to be fair- the stories are actually told through the international language (film- what were you thinking?) Anyhow, there are a million ways to define Film Noir (or “freedom flicks” as Lindsay Graham called them in the mid 2000’s) but I like to start with this quote from Walter Neff, protagonist of Double Indemnity, the best film noir of all time:
“Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money – and a woman – and I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?”
And, weirdly, enough, it is pretty. Cause that’s what film noir is all about- making bad choices while looking good. And while I realize that could also be the logline for Models, Inc, it’s nevertheless true of film noir. Now, some of these choices can seem innocuous at first- pick up the wrong hitchhiker, notarize the wrong document, go home with the wrong guy and, boom, just like that your life can be changed forever. In these movies, fate can seem arbitrary and cruel- like a pop-quiz from the universe designed to test your character.
But in most film noir, the choices are not so innocent. Take our friend Walter Neff. Now, Walter has things pretty good. He’s a charming, handsome bachelor with a good job that allows enough flexibility to go bowling in the afternoon (my lifelong dream) and an apartment in Hollywood with underground parking- which in and of itself is something worth killing for (“I killed him for off-street parking- and an open-plan kitchen- and I didn’t get the parking and I didn’t get the kitchen”- House Hunters Noir!)
But he is dissatisfied. He’s restless. We’ve all felt it. This country was founded on restlessness and dissatisfaction- it’s at the root of the American Dream. But it’s dangerous. Hell, there’s nothing more dangerous than restless, dissatisfied white people- just ask anyone we haven’t killed yet. Now for the first 150 years or so of this country’s existence the answer to restlessness and dissatisfaction was always “go west, young man”. But Walter Neff finds himself in sunny Los Angeles- as far west as he can go. I mean, technically, I suppose technically he could move to Santa Monica but then he’d have to give up his underground parking spot and THERE ARE LIMITS. So, what does he do? He goes slightly north-east instead to the home of Mr and Mrs Dietrichson somewhere in the hills. He is hoping to renew Mr Dietrichson’s car insurance but ends up concocting a much deadlier plan when he meets Mrs Phyllis Dietrichson, a very sexy woman with a really unsexy name.
In fact Walter and Phyllis sound less like a couple of sex crazed killers and more like my grandparent’s friends from Congregation Beth Emeth. Sure, Phyllis hosted a killer Hadassah luncheon and Walter was a hoot at the Brotherhood breakfasts, but my grandparents had to cut them off when they caught Walter cheating at canasta. He couldn’t help himself. He’s no good. He’s rotten. That’s the reason why most noir heroes and heroines make the terrible choices they do in response to their dissatisfaction. They’re rotten. And it’s the only reason we viewers need- we don’t need to know about their terrible childhoods, we don’t need to hear about how they are victims of society, how they suffer from FFS (Femme Fatale Syndrome.) Everything we need to know about their backstory is wrapped up in this quote from The Hollow Triumph – “It’s a bitter little world.”
The men and women of noir have been kicked around their whole lives and so they are shitty people with poor impulse control who are likeable because they are so damn cool. It’s a blast to watch them try and get away with stuff the rest of us barely dare to think about and cathartic as hell when they fall on their chiseled faces with success just tantalizingly out of reach- tripping over their shoelaces at the finish line of the marathon. Or- better yet, they cross the finish line and feel warm and safe all wrapped in the shiny insulated blanket of success only to fall into an open trench reaching for someone to hug.
And in the best noir flicks, what trips our heroes up is not their wickedness but their inconvenient humanity- the shot they can’t take, the heart they can’t break, the home they shouldn’t try to go back to but can’t help themselves, the lover they can’t leave behind, the betrayal they never see coming. And sometimes, it’s just the fact that they can’t live one more day with their horrible, rotten selves and so they jump in to that open trench with a crooked smile on their face and leave the rotten world behind.
As for Walter Neff- I won’t tell you exactly what happens to him. Suffice it to say he makes some bad choices and they don’t turn out well. He doesn’t get the money. He doesn’t get the woman. And he’s probably gonna lose his parking spot. A bitter little world indeed.
There’s a lot more I can say about film noir and, in fact, I’m going to say it! In my next post, though because I’ve already wasted your whole fucking lunch hour (sorry). Why not? What am I supposed to do instead of wallowing in the great films of the past- deal with reality? Seriously??? Have you seen that place? There’s random violence, sanctioned brutality and a perfect storm of right wing lunatics gathering in the skies above Washington threatening to strike the White House in 2016 (GOPnado). And since Shitnado 3 was such a major disappointment and I refuse to gorge myself on the globs of orange chicken being vomited out in 3D from IMAX screens, I turn to noir for distraction instead- a cool, dark cafe away from the blazing sun. And you know what, it’s nice in here. I think I’ll stay awhile. I mean, just look at what’s waiting for me in the outside world- armed white supremacists marching around Ferguson, Trump gaining in the polls, the Jets punching each other in the face- why not live in the past??? The present blows! But the sad truth is that sooner or later I’m gonna run out of noir flicks on my DVR and I’m going to have to return to the present- and in anticipation of that terrible day- allow me to just say one thing- #AprilDies. It’s the least I can do to make the world a little less bitter.