The Future in My Head, or, Repo! The Genetic Opera

If you liked Bladerunner and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you will LOVE Repo! The Genetic Opera.

The film proposes a future in which an epidemic has created a need for genetically manufactured replacement organs. Enter GeneCo, a company that not only develops these lifesaving organs, but has also developed a painkiller derived from dead human bodies to make the surgeries and recoveries more palatable. This, of course, sets off a trend for elective surgeries to make over your insides (as well as your outsides). But, these surgeries are not cheap, and if you can't pay, well, the repo man comes!

I'll just put out there that, in my head, this is a totally realistic future. Medicine, like anything else, is an industry, and making money has become just as important as saving and improving lives. And I fully believe that there is a place in the future where if you can't afford that new nose job, someone will come to your house in the middle of the night and slice off your nose, leaving you bleeding on your pillows.

The movie is, as the title suggests, a rock opera. But, while some of the singing skills are a bit suspect (I'm looking at you, Paul Sorvino), the music is intense and a bit outside even what one expects from a rock opera. As a slice of background, Repo! was originally conceived of as a 10-minute opera, and from there morphed into a stage show, eventually becoming a film.

The film has a pretty ecclectic cast. It centers around the drama between two families, the Wallaces and the Largos. Rotti Largo (Sorvino) is the founder and president of GeneCo. His three children, the violent Luigi (Bill Moseley), the mask-clad Pavi (Ogre) and the surgery-obsessed spoiled heiress Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton). Rotti is dying, and has no intention of leaving his money and his empire to any of his disasterous children. Instead, he wants to leave the whole lot to Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega), a 17-year-old girl dying of a blood disease.

But why Shilo? Well, her father, Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head), stole Shilo's mother from Rotti. When she became ill with the blood disease Shilo inherited, Rotti replaced the medication Nathan gave her mother with poison, causing her to die and Nathan to take drastic measures to save Shilo. When Nathan realizes his wife's death was his fault, he is so distraught and so afraid of having Shilo learn the truth, he is conned into becoming the Genetic Repo man, hunting down people who default on their organ payments and leaving them dead in the streets.

The whole thing comes to a head when Shilo is lured out of her home by Rotti and learns from Amber Sweet and Graverobber (writer Terrance Zdunich) that Genetic Opera star Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman) is about to have her eyes repossessed. Blind Mag, as it turns out, was Shilo's mother's best friend, so Shilo, not knowing her father is the Repo Man, begs him to help her find a way to save Blind Mag.

The film is visually stunning, which makes up for some of the more garbled singing, and it's incredibly sexy. But, more than that, there's so much for you to think about in it. The surgery craze, the quest to make even your intestines as attractive as possible, the sense of corruption, the post-apocalyptic morality, the drugs, the sex, the violence. Basically, if you want it in a movie, Repo! has it.

And, if nothing else, when Paul Sorvino turns to Paris Hilton and says, "You're disgusting," you can live vicariously through him.


While nothing could ever truly replace "Chimpanzee Riding on a Segway" in my heart, "Cake" comes close. Of course, we may all have nightmares about singing cats lunging at our faces, but still. I give you, "Cake!"

Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Taste has Left the Building

This is wrong.

Nothing like commemorating the first African American president with a terra cotta planter growing a nappy grassfro. I was totally horrified when I saw the ad for the first time. I mean, Chia Pets are something you pick up at the drug store on your way to the office Christmas party because you drew the one person you really don't like in the gift exchange. They're tacky and, having been on the receiving end of one (a clown, from my father of all people), I can tell you that they don't really grow in a lush even coating of chia plant. They grow as more of a spotty, mangy mess. So, instead of a semi-racist afro, you'll end up with something that looks a little like it has some kind of flesh-eating disease.

And, it doesn't even look like Obama! If it didn't have his name on it, I wouldn't have recognized it as anything other than another ugly planter.

So here's my question...does Obama's likeness have to be licensed? Or can you use the president's image in ways that no human being wants to be replicated or represented? I mean, if I was commemorated with a Chia Head, I'd be looking for faces to punch. If you want to use any other celebrity, then you have to ask and pay a fee and whatnot. Now that we're in the position of having a celebrident, shouldn't he have had to give permission and be paid for the misuse of his likeness? And if he did, does he really think he's that weird-looking?

About Doubt...

I still can't figure out how Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for best picture. Of course, of the movies it was nominated with, I have only seen Milk, but I can tell you that, were it up to me, it wouldn't even have been nominated. There were far, far better films that weren't nominated, including The Wrestler (which is now out on video, if you didn't see it already), and last night's viewing joy, Doubt.

I have to preface this by saying two things: One, if you haven't seen the movie, don't read any further, because I may well ruin it for you, and, Two, I have a deep and abiding love for Philip Seymour Hoffman. He may have a somewhat cavalier attitude towards grooming, but I have never seen him in anything in which his performance has disappointed me--including films I didn't really care for. Whether he's a washed-up child star who "sharts" at a party, or a lonely man who makes obscene phone calls in an attempt to make a connection to another human being, or a sad, desperate man in love with a porn star, or a failed genius trying to capture his life in a play, or a skeezy tabloid reporter, or a maverick CIA agent, or one of the greatest authors of the 2oth century, the man cannot get it wrong. I insist he is one of the greatest actors working today.

And, in Doubt, he plays Father Brendan Flynn, a progressive Catholic priest who may or may not have had an inappropriate relationship with Donald Miller (Joseph Foster) a 12-year-old black student--the only black student at the school. He holds his own next to powerhouse Meryl Streep, who gives a dynamite performance as Sister Alyosius Beauvier, the strict and traditional school principal. Amy Adams brings in a sweetness and naivete as Sister James, who sets suspicions in motion. Kind of.

The film is not really about whether or not a priest molested a boy, but really brings together issues of tradition and progress, power struggles, faith, tolerance, and race. Prior to any suspicion of wrongdoing on Father Flynn's part, Sister Alyosius is already not a big fan of his, thanks to their conflicting ideas about how religion should be practiced, how education should be structured, and how children should be treated. Father Flynn is far more permissive, and talks to the boys at the school instead of lecturing them. So, when Sister James reports to Sister Alyosius that, when the one and only black student at their school returns to her class following a meeting with Father Flynn in the rectory acting strangely and smelling of alcohol, Sister Alyosius is already primed to believe the worst and seizes the opportunity to possibly have the priest removed.

Doubt is based on director John Patrick Shanley's stage play of the same name, which is a far more sparse production with only four characters...the two nuns, the priest, and the boy's mother, Mrs. Miller. In the film, Mrs. Miller (played by Viola Davis) adds a new layer to the mystery and scandal surrounding her son's relationship with Father Flynn. She reveals not only that her son's own father doesn't care for him, but that she is willing to turn a blind eye to any impropriety not only to give her son a better chance at getting into a good high school, but because if there is any impropriety betwixt man and boy, there's a possibility her son might not be completely innocent.

The film is amazing on so many levels, and Shanley's background in the theater is evident in the way the characters move around one another and the angles from which the camera captures them. For example, in the scene where the accusations come to light, the power struggle between priest and nun is clearly communicated through blocking, action and movement. The scene is set in Sister Aloysius's office. Sister James must be present because the nuns are not allowed to be alone with men, including priests. Father Flynn is superior in position to both the nuns. When they prepare to begin their discussion, which is ostensibly about the Christmas pagent, Father Flynn takes the chair behind Sister Aloysius's desk. The sister is clearly taken aback, so she opens the blinds, which shines sunlight directly into Father Flynn's eyes. She takes her seat next to Sister James, but when Father Flynn gets up to close the blinds, she moves into the chair he vacated, and refuses to stand lest her place be usurped again. Father Flynn, in turn, does not sit down again, re-establishing his superiority over Sister Aloysius by physically standing over her.

The film is not one for people who like their movies tied up at the end with a neat bow and an unnecessary and superfluous Bollywood dance number. Although Father Flynn leaves the school, there is no resolution to what happened between Father Flynn and the boy. Some viewers will believe that the boy was molested. Others will believe that Flynn takes the easy way out, and may or may not be disappointed in him for not fighting the charges. Others will believe that Flynn's decision protects the boy from gaining even more attention in a space where he's already not wanted or accepted by his peers. But, if they are interested in a film that challenges them to think about what they're seeing and are comfortable being made uncomfortable by having their assumptions challenged, then they will all agree that they have seen a phenomenal movie.

It's Raining Gay Men

For anyone who hasn't seen the posting on my buddy Mike's blog regarding NOM's "Gathering Storm" anti-gay marriage ad, you might want to just link over there first, or this might not make a good deal of sense to you. Just a quickie...NOM is the National Organization for Opposite Marriage, a group that is apparently very afraid of gay marriage. Yes, I know it should be abbreviated NOOM, but I've found bigotry and common sense don't go together very well, so there you have it.

Anyway, in the wake of NOM's gathering storm and Miss California's honest response to a question regarding gay marriage legislation, celebrities both gay and straight have created a video parody and have posted it as one of the few funny things on Funny or Die. But, because I like you all so very much, I've posted it here. My personal favorite is the guy who parodies the guy from the NOM ad that clearly doesn't speak any English.

Ninjapocalypse Now

Such a what?

Take a quick look at the picture on the left. Ignore the giant ugly necklace, the asinine tattoos, including tears on the face. Pretend you don't notice that it's too warm for a shirt, and yet cold enough that the pink cammo jacket needs to have its hood on. Look past the pastel boxers to the matching pastel patterned belt. Please note the buckle.

Lil' Wayne is clearly an idiot. How else could you possibly explain a belt buckle that says "RAPE?" Now, the purpose of the belt buckle is unclear (other than that it ostensibly holds his pants around his thighs). Is he in favor of it? Is he asking for it?

I can't answer those questions. But, the buckle might explain something I overheard recently.

I was waiting for the bus, and there were two little boys standing next to me. They were probably 8 or 9 years old, wearing their little school uniforms with their little blue ties on. Boy A, however, was clearly a little bit cooler than Boy B, and Boy B was trying really hard to try to impress Boy A. Unfortunately, B wasn't doing a very good job of it, and he said something really goofy. A gives him this kind of withering look.

Now, let's be interactive for a second. Did A say:
1. You're such a retard.
2. You're such a nerd.
3. You're such a weirdo.
4. You're such a rapist.
If you guessed that A looked at B and said, "You're such a rapist," you'd be correct. A then followed it up by singing at B, "You're a ray-pist, you're a ray-pist!"

Meanwhile, I'm just standing there thinking, "What the hell??" I mean, that's kind of a weird insult. And how does a kid come up with that kind of insult? And does he even know what that means?

I don't want to immediately blame the rap community, because I'd hope that one douchey rapper with an inappropriate belt buckle wouldn't have that enormous an impact. I also don't want to blame the parents, because the fact that they were waiting for public bus instead of on a school bus or being picked up at the school by their parents doesn't mean that the parents aren't paying enough attention to them. It's entirely possible that the parents are huge Law and Order SVU fans and that's where the kid picked up the word. Or that the kids had some sort of safety class at school where they heard the word.

But, I'm still really unsettled by the kids. I just don't understand where any of it came from.