Saturday, October 16, 2010

FUBAR II - a rare non-Fantasia review

First of all, if you haven't seen FUBAR, then you can just go ahead and turn in your Canada card right now. Go teabag other loser traitors like David Frum. If you aren't Canadian and want to understand this great nation better, go rent FUBAR right now.

It's funny, because when I was a kid I feared and hated headbangers. I lived in a very small world back then and the music you listened to and the clothes you wore seemed much more important than they actually were. As a minority punker freak, I got a lot of shit from the headbangers. But I see now that only a few of those people were real headbangers. The rest were just trendoids listening to what they were told to listen to and thus we got to hear "Cum on Feel the Noize" every fucking day on the bus ride home from junior high. Or fucking Def Leppard. Despite these differences, I realize today that I learned how to giv'er on Vancouver Island, a skill that has served me well in life.

FUBAR is my #2 all-time favourite movie (The Road Warrior being at the top spot). It came out when I was living in New York and spending my summers in the Rockies. I was feeling more and more the call to come back to Canada. Many a late night I would come home and just watch the first half-hour or so of FUBAR before falling asleep on the couch. The rhythm of that first act (culminating in the anti-Tron party night) is near-cinematic perfection, an exquisite blend of character, humour and music. The rest of the movie just builds on that. For my 35th birthday, I rented out this little movie hall on 12th street and screened it. So you can imagine that I was pretty psyched when I heard they were working on a sequel.

I would have gone to the premier, but I was out of town due to work, so I had to wait until the second weekend. We didn't expect too much of a crowd (Canadians not being too good at supporting our own cinema), so I was quite anxious when we got to the Cineplex Scotiabank with 15 minutes until showtime and there was a massive crowd in the lobby. Not too worry, as there were sadly only 4 other people in the audience with us when we finally got through. I guess the youngsters were all lining up to see that latest Ryan Reynolds movie Buried ("Phonebooth underground" as one kid in line behind me said) or maybe The Social Network.

FUBAR II's opening scene, a party to celebrate Dean being cancer free for five years, was sheer chaotic genius, beyond my expectations. I was delirious with laughter and party pleasure. The follow-up was excellent as well, with our heroes heading up to Fort MacMurray ("The Mac") to get jobs promised to them by the new bearded, single and rapping Tron. What makes this part of the movie stand out for me isn't just Dean and Terry up to their regular hijinks (although Terry demonstrates a surprising character development: a work ethic!), but the portrayal of life in this boom town. We hear constantly about the Tar Sands from an environmental and economic perspective. But we really don't get to see what life is really like up there and it is fascinating. I don't know if it was deliberately emphasized, but it seems like the giant refinery stacks are always there in the background, looming like evil castles. The highs and lows of the boom economy underpin the storyline: the easy credit, quick money and high-end but crass consumerism (decked out trucks, jewelry stores, hunting equipment) on the high side and this crazy camp of itinerant workers on the low side.

Seeing this stuff was super engaging, but it's also where the movie starts to lose its way. There are several storylines and they take too long to develop and aren't always resolved satisfactorily. The main storyline is basically a familial soap opera. It's not terrible, but it's not really all that interesting either. What made the first movie so great was that the human drama was snuck in, hiding under the surface for most of the movie so that you don't realize how much you care about the characters until you are totally caught up in their world. I also suspect that this movie really doesn't work well for people who don't know and love Dean and Terry already. Finally, it never really explodes. All that being said, the acting is almost uniformly outstanding and there is some pretty good madness. I left feeling strangely compelled by The Mac. A part of me felt like heading out there, trying to cash in and just party.

So I enjoyed myself and the first five minutes was worth the price of admission alone, but not a great success as a movie. Nevertheless, I'd rather see FUBAR II than any of the other movies that were in the line-up and it saddens me that so few of those young people crowding the lobby even considered it as an option.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fubar II and real craziness

On the way back from Fubar II, we passed a guy kneeling next to a wheelchair, wearing an alien mask. I noticed him but thought nothing more beyond just another panhandler with a gimmick. He picked up a small plastic gas container and poured it over himself. I guess I am so jaded by city living that my reaction was to keep on moving until the people I was with said that it was gasoline and we should call 911. He then walked over to a phone booth, grabbed a sledge hammer and walked across the street (Sherbrooke) to the Loto-Quebec building. I got my phone turned on (ironically, I was the only person of a party of 5 with a working cell phone) and called 911 and told them what I saw. The guy on the other end of the line seriously asked me to describe him. I said "dude, he's covered in gasoline and wearing an alien mask, what more do I need to tell you!" This was after I had given the specific address and there was a crowd of people gathering. During the call, the guy had smashed the glass doors of the Loto-Quebec building and was waiting with the sledge hammer cocked above his head outside the door. The cops came in about 3 or 4 minutes, but it still seemed a bit too long considering we were right downtown. That's the second time I've had attitude from people manning the 911 booth here.

More and more cops came (as one of the people I was with remarked, the cops are quite good at swarming into situations) and eventually they took the guy down, first with the taser and then throwing him down. They demasked him and brought him to one of the cop cars, where they wiped the gasoline off him and treated a cut on his shoulder (I guess from the broken glass he fell into). We stuck around until they put him in the ambulance. A thin guy with a close-cropped head and beard, maybe in his early 30s. On the way home, I got a call back from "station 20" and they asked me exactly what I saw. When I asked them what his deal was they said they didn't know "he's not speaking at all".

I have to say, I've seen a lot of crazy behaviour in my time, but that may well be on the top of my list. It seemed all so well planned, with the wheelchair, the gasoline, the sledgehammer set up in the phone booth, the waiting by the Loto-Quebec building door, but all so useless at the same time. What was his goal? I've seen true madness and there usually is some kind of internal logic that drives the thinking. But there is also usually some kind of external extreme behaviour, often of a performative nature, that helps you identify it as craziness. This guy was so cold and methodical that I didn't even register that he had just poured gasoline on himself.

Oh yeah, a nice coda to the scene was the guy who came up after it was all pretty much over and taped off who started screaming about Montreal corruption, how it was all going down and the damn frogs. Like insanity flies to the crazy light. That's more what I'm used to.