Let's see . . . I've been watching a lot of movies starring Joel McCrea lately. Last night I watched the wonderful Dead End. Made in 1937, it was filmed entirely on an enormous, rather marvellous set representing a street in New York that had rich apartments and homes on one side, and the terrifically poor buildings on the other. McCrea plays a fellow who's worked his way through college to be an architect, yet still has to scrape out a living doing odd jobs in the neighbourhood.
Humphrey Bogart's also in the movie, as Baby Face Martin, formerly one of the little hooligans on the street, now a big time gangster. Bogart's really good in this movie, and it was a delight seeing him teach the street kids how to fight a rival gang--Nuts to the agreed on rules; throw electric light bulbs and bring knives.
My favourite performance in the film, though, was Sylvia Sidney's. I recently got in a ridiculous argument with an LJ user who insisted that "Old American movies are so dumb, the female characters are always psychotic and then the men hit them and it's a love story."
Anyone with a fourth of a brain knows this isn't true, but one of the nice things about this movie was that it so casually provided evidence to the contrary. Sylvia works, Sylvia pickets, Sylvia gets hit by cops and fights back. And she's adorable the whole time. Imagine my surprise when I later discovered that she grew up to be Juno the Caseworker in Beetlejuice. Wow, did her voice ever change! And little wonder, since her imdb profile says she died in 1999 from throat cancer.
And in Beetlejuice she plays a chain-smoking ghost with a smouldering hole in her throat. Eerie, ain't it?
Now, on to something decidedly unpleasant--the episode of South Park I watched last night.
I've written before about South Park irritating me when Matt and Trey decide they've got special knowledge and are gonna teach America a little lesson about themselves and morality or some shit. Last night was, by far, the most foolish and mean-spirited example of that aspect of South Park's decay from clever fun to idiotic wallowing.
I knew things were bad when I saw the commercials for the episode; Mr Garrison gets a sex change and we see him making a scene in a supermarket as he tries to buy tampons.
Sometimes trailers can be misleading, which was why I watched the episode, so I could give a fair trial. It did not redeem itself.
Stupid characters in television shows are often given specific kinds of stupidity in order to suit specific episodes. In this case, Mr. Garrison was made the kind of stupid where he thought getting a sex change would let him have periods and babies and, in a few cringe worthy scenes, appear on Girls Gone Wild. And what was the point of that, Matt and Trey? That all people born female are considered worthy fodder for Girls Gone Wild?
Yeah, the humour is supposed to be dryly stated arguments for their apparent belief that getting a sex change is invariably foolish. The beginning of the episode features live action footage of a vaginoplasty being performed, while the South Park doctor remarks on how natural it is. The juxtaposition of his statement and the footage is, apparently, to make us say, "Wait! Why, you scamps, surgery isn't natural at all!" So, score one for the Amish, I guess. I hope neither Matt nor Trey finds himself with a tumour any time soon.
The episode dissolves into various stories of people getting surgery to alter themselves--Kyle becomes black, and his father tries to become a dolphin. The idea being that wanting to look different from how you are badly enough to get surgery is always wrong. Never mind that in real life, Kyle's dad would probably be informed before surgery that he's never gonna be made much like a dolphin, and that Kyle's interest in being black in order to join the basketball team won't actually make him play better, and that he can listen to rap music and still be white. So what would Matt and Trey say to someone who's deformed or with severe burn scars? That they ought to be able to deal? Or is surgery acceptable when we are socially unacceptable?
The end of the episode had Garrison making a quick statement about learning to accept life as woman, albeit one who can't have babies. Maybe at this point Matt and Trey were making themselves sick and they wanted to go back. Well, guys, you can't go back if you refuse to dwell anywhere but within the stink of your own ignorant opinions.