American Teen (2008)

american teen

Nanette Bernstein can go straight to hell. Instead of a probing, investigative look at the rot passing for American youth, this “documentary” filmmaker saw fit instead to celebrate the pastiche of quirkiness that has all but swallowed our civilization alive. More than that, the movie is a lie from the opening bell, as the director has clearly re-created scenes, assigned dialogue, and fashioned scenarios that would fit with her pre-conceived agenda. As such, authenticity takes a backseat to a “good story,” which might apply if the only criteria were a platform for self-obsessed monsters lusting for martyrdom. And let’s not forget Hannah Bailey, my selection as the year’s most vile creature. Among her many sins, she rails against the beautiful people, yet joins them the first chance she gets, and despite claiming to be above it all, is sidelined with depression the moment she isn’t noticed by the guy of her dreams. And oh how she dances! Yes, she’s one of those obsessively creative types who wants to act, sing, write, paint, sculpt, and build not for the inherent worth of art, but to be noticed, praised, and handsomely paid. I haven’t hated someone so completely in years, but Bernstein thinks she’s a star; a worthy young woman who should garner our sympathies and hugs. I hope for a sequel, but only if it centers on the little cunt’s funeral.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2006)


In many ways, the treatment of the mentally ill has made great strides over the years, resulting in scientific breakthroughs and enlightened attitudes that have genuinely improved lives. And yet, despite understanding much more than we ever have regarding the human brain, we have reversed course once again and threaten to move into a new barbarism, though one that avoids stigma, physical abuse, and grotesque warehousing. Instead, we have reached a critical new low, where in fact we so romanticize the mentally ill that they become objects of amusement, rather than desperately sick human beings in need of care. In our desire to remove the pain that comes with diagnosis, we believe that these people are no different than anyone else, and are simply in possession of “quirks” or “eccentricities” rather than deep, and often dangerous afflictions. It’s a bizarre cultural turn than once had good intentions, but now does far more harm to the patients themselves, as they are encouraged to so indulge their sickness that it becomes confused with “brilliance”. The Devil and Daniel Johnston is, in fact, one of the most vile symbols of this new course, as it takes a sad, demented individual (likely a schizophrenic, but surely a severe manic depressive) and rather than pull him aside for hospitalization, turns him into a hip rock star; a cult hero whose music and drawings reveal a genius that hasn’t been seen since Dylan’s basement tapes. Or so his former manager would have us believe.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008)


Who knew that Ben Stein, that sad-eyed, monotone little man from the silver screen, harbored a heart so black and so twisted that he – not Pat Robertson or James Dobson – would argue, without a trace of irony, that Charles Darwin was directly responsible for the Holocaust? The scene where Stein stands before a statue of the great thinker – you know, the one where the soundtrack features the exact same music as that which filled the screen during shots of Europe’s death camps – is so morally and ethically insidious that I couldn’t help but wonder why Mama and Papa Stein had been spared during the period. As expected, every possible scientific argument is twisted to serve Stein’s agenda, and interviews are selectively edited to ensure that the scientists themselves are turned into stammering clowns. Stein, though a Republican, always struck me as a man who was reasonably intelligent at the very least, but having decided that his inane Jewish heritage is suddenly more important than the whole of Western thought, he has joined with the mouth-breathers and truth assassins at last. More than a shot across evolution’s bow, this is a no-holds-barred war against the Enlightenment and all it hath wrought through the ages. Depressing, mean-spirited, and devious to its core, Expelled celebrates stupidity as the American virtue.

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus (2004)

Wrong-Eyed Jesus

Think of the possibilities — filmmaker Andrew Douglas picks up a classic Chevy convertible and takes us on a journey through the deep, deep South, where the Pentecostal religion oozes out of every pore, and the music stands as a reflection of their sorrow, woe, and passion for life. What would we find on this bizarre trip? Snake-handlers? Faith-healers? Murderous fundamentalists? Yes, we found the nuts, the losers, the freaks, and the schizos, but Douglas, rather than genuinely explore their lives with critical detail (or at the very least, detached objectivity), has genuine fondness for these people, believing that they and they alone have found authenticity in the American landscape. As such, the trip becomes a loving valentine to a people; the very sort who deserve our unending scorn for failing to evolve beyond the 18th century. Admirable? Why, because they believe in a literal heaven and hell? That running water is a tool of the devil? And because Douglas is such an irritating guide, he makes it as much about him as his subjects, which leaves me with absolutely no one to care about. But here’s the kicker — we explore Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky, and at no time (and I mean AT NO TIME) do we see any black people. Not one man, woman, or child. That would be like filming a documentary about Los Angeles without finding a single Latino. Honestly, can anyone hope to understand Southern music without blacks? Are you fucking kidding me? That glaring omission pissed me off, and caused me to question the director’s motives. Conclusion? He’s a racist asshole who would rather spend time with some drunk lunatic with a hard-on for Jesus than an old bluesman.

Tarnation (2004)


Ignore the hype, disregard the bullshit regarding the film’s budget ($218 my ass), and prepare yourself for one of the most unpleasant (gay) experiences you’ll have in front of a movie screen. Do I say this because the film concerns a young (gay) man’s portrait of his nutty mother, in addition to the abuse, the foster homes, and the pain? You know me better than that. I enjoy depressing films, and am usually dissatisfied unless someone worthwhile dies violently. Jonathan Caouette’s (gay) movie stinks up the joint not because of its honesty, but rather because of its fundamental dishonesty. Far from a cathartic experience, this is (gay) narcissism in its ugliest form; an 88-minute excuse for a wannabe (gay) actor, wannabe (gay) filmmaker, and wannabe (gay) All-American star to stick his pathetic (gay) mug before the camera at every opportunity, all in the hopes that he’ll get noticed by someone at the William Morris Agency. Even the scenes of (gay) despair seem staged, as if (gay) Jonathan knew that the best way to attract attention to himself was to emote like some (gay) method actor. As the format is limited — Caouette pulled together photographs, (gay) home movies, answering machine messages, and (gay) phone calls, and slapped them together on his home computer — any (gay) meaning must be extracted from what are obviously disconnected items. But the only theme I could find was that whenever there was something to be filmed, (gay) Jonathan was there. And hey, anyone who films every last detail of their (gay) life from age 11 is clearly someone who has planned for (and expects) fame to drop in his (gay) lap at some future moment.

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About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
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