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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Spring Breakers

SPRING BREAKERS (Three Stars)
U.S.: Harmony Korine, 2012

Harmony Korine’s movies — up to and including his latest, Spring Breakers —  are mostly outlaw pictures and weirdo comedies about people who don’t want to grow up, or shouldn’t have to: kids, crooks, artists.  Spring Breakers, for example, is about four college girls who take off for the collegiate guy and girl bikini-flipping revels at Tampa, Florida, and begin to descend into Hell. It may be the apotheosis or culmination of all the Korines: a picture that starts off, as many have noted, like an arty  Girls Gone Wild video, inflated to Hieronymus Boschian or Pieter Brughelian Beach Party proportions, and ends up doing a riff on the Al Pacino-Brian De Palma 1983 Scarface, mashed up into Charlie‘s Angels gone homicidal.

It’s a sometimes fascinatingly dumb movie, about fascinatingly dumb people doing fascinatingly dumb things. Some  of it is fun to watch, and some of it is irritating as Hell. The story makes absolutely no sense and gets more senseless the more you think about it. But at the same time, the movie — part of which was shot quasi-verite at an actual spring break — has some authentic peeks at semi-life and at youth style. It’s shot (and in one case, acted) like an art film or a prime neo-noir, and it looks good, even if  its  psychological  substance is sort of ersatz. But then, who needs reality?

Some of it is great — namely the shimmering, sun struck ,stunning cinematography by Belgian/French maestro Benoit Debie (who photographed Irreversible and Enter the Void for Gaspar Noe), and (especially) the amazingly entertaining gangsta-pranksta performance by James Franco as the brain-fried hip-hop-druggie Britney Spears fan Alien.  I may have had some problems with Franco‘s Oz. (Millions didn‘t), But his Alien, a guy with metal teeth who calls his bed an art piece and plays piano and AK47s, is so damned good  — a triumph of  charismatic dopiness and rebel posturing — that  it single-handedly hauls the movie up a star or two.  But who needs stars? Who needs critics?

The movies’ femme stars are an odd assortment of Disney Channel or family-oriented  teen queen junior superstars: Selena Gomez (as Faith), Vanessa Hudgens (as Candy) and Ashley Benson (as Brit) — plus, as Cotty, Rachel Korine (who is Mrs. Harmony). Since three of these girls are blondes in the movie, they all tend to look almost interchangeable, and they tend to act interchangeably too. Brit, Candy and Cotty are outlaws trying to act as if they‘re “in a video game…or a movie“ (they pull a Bonnie and Clyde at a chicken eatery to get money for the break), while Faith is a good Christian who hangs around with the others because they’ve known each other like, forever, or at lest since grade school. Maybe they should be cramming for exams instead of, pulling stick up jobs and snorting cocaine in Tampa. But who needs exams?

When the gals hit Tampa — just like Dolores Hart, Yvette Mimieux, Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis hit Fort Lauderdale in 1960’s Where the Boys Are —  they immediately fall into what seems to be a nonstop , bouncing day and night orgy, which gets them arrested, and puts them in the eager hands of Alien, who goes their bail, and invites them over to his big expensive crib with all his big expensive toys. (“Look at all my shit!“)  Alien is also involved in a street war with an old dealing friend (Gucci Mane), and pretty soon, the movie goes bloody and haywire and murderously illogical. But who needs logic?

A lot of Spring Breakers is shot and shaped like old-style soft-core porn show– even to the old cheapo porn trick of repeating some scenes and lines over and over. It’s blended with what plays like a teen-slanted ‘83 Scarface pastiche. But, as long as Franco is on screen, it’s a good movie, and there’s also something crazily compelling about the scenes of that huge outdoor dance-a-thon. The ending is beyond ridiculous, and not funny enough to save things. And the four femme stars could have used better parts and better lines, but what the hell. The movie‘s credibility vanishes after the restaurant robbery scene  anyway, which is shot flashily, in a Gun Crazy-style single take. But  as the man says, who needs credibility? Just pretend…

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Wilmington

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“The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the destruction of our business. I have such respect and admiration for film criticism. When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline’s Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s sad, because the Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on Batman v Superman I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful. People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like that. It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores. What’s sad is film criticism has disappeared. It’s really sad.”
~ Brett Ratner Has A Sad

“The loss of a local newspaper critic is a real loss. People who know the local audience and know the local cultural scene are very important resources. You can’t just substitute the stuff that comes in from nowhere through syndication or the wire. I think at the same time, some of the newer outlets have really beefed up and improved their coverage and made room for criticism. The real problem is in the more specialized art forms — fine arts, classical music, dance and jazz, say. There is a real slowing of critical voices, partly because those art forms have smaller audiences. Newspapers and magazines can say that doesn’t get enough traffic, so we don’t have room for that. To me, that’s especially worrisome. This is the opposite of what newspapers are supposed to do, which is not to try to figure out what people are already interested in and recite that back to them, but to hopefully guide them to something that they should be interested in, connecting potential audiences with more interesting work.

“Then again, not everyone needs a critic. People have been going to movies for more than 100 years now, and probably the vast majority of those people have not read movie reviews or cared what critics thought. But there has always been an important subset that wants to know more, that wants to think about what they’ve seen and what they’re going to see, and wants someone to think along with. I think critics are important, not just as dispensers of consumer advice — though that’s certainly part of it, too — but as trusted voices and companions for people to argue with in your head when you’re going to movies or afterwards.”
~ A. O. Scott