Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In Wonderland, In the Loop, In King Arthur's Day

I saw Alice in Wonderland, about which I am sworn to secrecy for now, but I will just say that from the posters alone you can glean that Helena Bonham-Carter’s character has a sinister grin and a giant forehead, if you’re into that (and if you are, that’s one more weird side topic we can discuss at tomorrow night’s Debate at Lolita Bar on Christianity).

Depp aside: Johnny Depp will apparently be making another appearance with a woman with a sinister grin and giant forehead, Vanessa Paradis, this one portraying an ahistorically hottified Simone de Beauvoir. I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of some important philosophical and gender issues thanks to that movie.

On the recommendation of Kyle Smith, I also finally saw last year’s In the Loop (in a very limited pre-Oscar re-release here), which combines the feel of The Office, Aaron Sorkin, and all the petty backstabbing young wonks or overly aggressive government men you’ve ever encountered in DC to create an angry, hilarious, alarming depiction of the nonsense that shapes policy, governmental bureaucracy, and committee attendance in London and Washington.

It’s misleading to talk about it as a movie that parodies inept prewar intelligence, really, because the specific political issue the characters are fighting and swearing and sweating over is almost as irrelevant to the viewer as it is to the characters, who are more concerned with getting perks, being noticed by the media, and advancing their own careers. War is to In the Loop as paper products are to The Office — and one is left with the convincing impression that that’s about how big issues work in London and DC as well.

And speaking of movies that leave you questioning whether the British (or any other people) are fit to rule, let’s end by taking a moment to review perhaps the most (left-)anarchist moment in film history:

[clop clop]
ARTHUR: Old woman!
ARTHUR: Old Man, sorry. What knight live in that castle over there?
DENNIS: I’m thirty seven.
DENNIS: I’m thirty seven — I’m not old!
ARTHUR: Well, I can’t just call you ‘Man’.
DENNIS: Well, you could say ‘Dennis’.
ARTHUR: Well, I didn’t know you were called ‘Dennis.’
DENNIS: Well, you didn’t bother to find out, did you?
ARTHUR: I did say sorry about the ‘old woman,’ but from the behind you looked –
DENNIS: What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior!
ARTHUR: Well, I AM king…
DENNIS: Oh king, eh, very nice. An’ how’d you get that, eh? By exploitin’ the workers — by ’angin’ on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic an’ social differences in our society! If there’s ever going to be any progress–
WOMAN: Dennis, there’s some lovely filth down here. Oh — how d’you do?
ARTHUR: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Who’s castle is that?
WOMAN: King of the who?
ARTHUR: The Britons.
WOMAN: Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR: Well, we all are. we’re all Britons and I am your king.
WOMAN: I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes–
WOMAN: Oh there you go, bringing class into it again.
DENNIS: That’s what it’s all about if only people would–
ARTHUR: Please, please good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?
WOMAN: No one live there.
ARTHUR: Then who is your lord?
WOMAN: We don’t have a lord.
DENNIS: I told you. We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.
DENNIS: But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting.
ARTHUR: Yes, I see.
DENNIS: By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs–
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: –but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more–
ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
WOMAN: Order, eh — who does he think he is?
ARTHUR: I am your king!
WOMAN: Well, I didn’t vote for you.
ARTHUR: You don’t vote for kings.
WOMAN: Well, ’ow did you become king then?
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, [angels sing] her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king!
DENNIS: Listen — strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: I mean, if I went around sayin’ I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they’d put me away!
ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP! HELP! I’m being repressed!
ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
DENNIS: Oh, what a giveaway. Did you hear that, did you hear that, eh? That’s what I’m on about — did you see him repressing me, you saw it didn’t you?

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