Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Plea for Badder Elderly

The recent pair of "Bad" movies - BAD TEACHER and VERY BAD BOSSES - gives me hope for the cinema future. I've not seen either, but I have seen my cinema nation gradually morph from something occasionally edgy into this weird saccharine sarcophagi, where the only bad guys are cardboard super villains whose daddies didn't love them enough, or ourselves.

Another thing is old people. Were no female actresses born in the 1950s so we can have them play crazy old bat lunatics, like Bette Davis in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? That film set the bar, then Roman Polanski made them even creepier with Ruth Gordon in ROSEMARY'S BABY. Many followed her lead and though none captured her Satanic inevitability and none the horror of realizing you're old like Davis, all tried their best, if they weren't too drunk. They smoked, told dirty jokes, fooled around with unwary grips and rocked films with names like WHO SLEW AUNTIE ROO, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? and countful others--for awhile, in the late 60-early 70s, old people weren't tedious saints but terrifying spectres. Has there been any crazy old bats since these, from that golden rhinestone era? The era that brought us aging divas not only wrestling with impending mortality, but chewing its ear off and axing the referee in the crotch?

The problem with having a youth-obsessed pop culture for too many generations has become apparent in every empty gesture of our rom com heroines, every vacant slackjawed stare of our actors playing shaven hunks trying to maintain just-sex relationships with hotties from THE BLACK SWAN while their hairy bros tell dick jokes and wallow in a post-FREAKS AND GEEKS adolescence while the women comediennes roll their eyes and try to make the best of whatever few dumb lines they have. They're lacking substance, the substance that can only come from being made miserable by live-in relatives.

If they bothered to not only live with their parents but bring in the grandparents and all live under the same roof like families did in brownstones and Victorian 4-10 bedroom houses before the World War Two, then they'd actually see more old people, and on long enough a basis to be so creeped out they'd have to make movies about it. And forget Hollywood, where old people are all farmed off to Palm Springs, never to be seen again. The rest of us see the old ones on holidays when they are on their best behavior, and in hospitals when they're sucking our future social security up their IV tubes. Gimme that IV tube old lady! Have a Lark.

Don't blame me, a simple messenger, blame the pre-fab tract house suburbia boom that followed WW2. Soldiers came home from the war and balked at suddenly being expected to adhere to centuries-old curfews after three years of genital freedom. Since the rocket-pocket 1950s we've been bred to associate fleeing the nest with being the first step to true fun and freedom. It's only later, much later, that you get the bill for this luxury, and by then you're far too old to benefit from the lesson; you don't know how to act once you crest 30 because you live only with younger people. You haven't changed, it's just that now there's only one generation ahead of you, and more creeping behind you all the time, younger and younger... and ever more clueless with only the facts of the internet to guide them, and not the shaky logic and maddeningly repetitive and racist stories of their great grandparents.

I'd love to see, for example, a film about a crazy old lady who lures young men to her mansion then drugs them with sticky candy and makes them listen as she reads the bible, or kills them. But nooo, old people won't learn to use the internet, so we'll have to wait til my generation's old enough to crave company. Our actresses will be needing work once their plastic surgeons have finally said "finis! There is no more I can do." So maybe they'll be down for it. I know I am. Will BAD TEACHER lead to this crazy old axe murdering bat renaissance? If AA has taught me anything, it's no.

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