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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘Love Happens,’ ‘A Serious Man,’ ‘The Invention of Lying,’ ‘I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell’

Weird how it feels like a “slow” week when I’ve got “only” four movies on my slate. Four movies, that is, in a screening room, which isn’t counting all the press roundtables I’m doing this week, and the stack of DVDs I want to get to, and the IFC movies available on demand I’d like to watch, and so on. Not that I’ll actually get to them all: no, they’ll just keep sitting there in those piles around my desk, alternately taunting me and weeping inconsolably at how it’s obvious that I never loved them and are clearly enjoying breaking their hearst by ignoring them…

If I were inventing a fake movie and a fake poster for that fake movie for a real movie that wanted to send up Hollywood’s love of apocalyptic levels of bullshit and schmaltz when it comes to “romance,” I might come up with a title like Love Happens (opens in the U.S. on September 18, and in the U.K. on October 9) and a poster that looks like this one. Really? Two beautiful celebs are gonna fall in love despite all the odds against two gorgeous people being attracted to each other, and achieve a golden glow of eternal happiness? Do you think anyone involved is aware that this looks like one of those ridiculous Hallmark cards that make you wanna barf… or was that the intention? Writers Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson were responsible for the grief porn Dragonfly, and seeing as how Aaron Eckhart plays a guy who writes a book about coping with loss and Jennifer Aniston is a woman who comes to him for help, I expect more of the same.

At least I have the Coen Brothers to save my sanity. A Serious Man (opens in the U.S. on October 2, and in the U.K. on November 20). I don’t care what this film is about — it’s the Coens, and that’s all I need to know. Though it does look intensely weird and fascinating.

Apparently the title of The Invention of Lying (opens in the U.S. and the U.K. on October 2) isn’t any sort of metaphor — this isn’t based on a literary novel about the loss of childhood innocence and purity or anything: it’s about a world in which everyone tells the truth, until one guy figures out that you can, in fact, lie. I imagine that liar is Ricky Gervais, who cowrote and codirected the film. I hope it’s better than Ghost Town. It does have a great cast, including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Christopher Guest, and John Hodgman, among others…

I’d never heard of Tucker Max before, but now I discover that he’s a shallow moron obsessed with taking about how he’s sexually attracted to other shallow morons and the lengths to which he’ll go in order to cajole women into having sex with him (unless he’s raping them, then he doesn’t worry about the cajoling part). It seems this is the stuff of New York Times bestsellers. And people say literature is dead. I think the little shit is making it all up, anyway, but now there’s a movie based on his “life”: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (opens in the U.S. on September 25; no U.K. release date has been announced yet). It sounds like perhaps he should worry that Satan isn’t as big a fan of nonconsensual sex with people under his sway as Max is.



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  • Michael Vaughn

    Ms. Johansen

    If I read you correctly, you are just another 30-something loser who believes cynicism is sophisitication. My suggestion: stop dumping your bitterness onto others, curl up in your bed, pull up the covers, and stop writing tripe such as your review and enjoy believing you are oh-so smart because you hate everything and everyone. Stop trying so hard to prove to the world that we all suck by showing us your faux-intellectual, poorly educated mind, and sick cynicism.

    Perhaps a return to college to take some courses that will place you into a more compatible profession such as waste-water engineering. Once you’ve earned your petty little new degree, you can stand on a walk-way at some sewer plant and shout at real turds, criticizing their appearance and performance. At least by being around turds, you will be in your appropriate environment and surrounded by things that have an intellect equal to yours but that lack your worldly cynicism.

  • MaSch

    Mr. Vaughn

    You don’t read Ms. Johanson correctly. Apart from the literal truth of this statement, you couldn’t even read her name correctly, she has turned forty some time ago.

    I am a little tempted to point out that your comment about mistaking cynicism for sophistication comes across like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black, if it were not for the fact that you obviously do not consider yourself sophisticated, and think better of yourself for it.

    All I can say, apart from the things I did say, that I am glad you apparently did not choose the waste-water engineering profession; the thought of you taking care of the quality of America’s water would probably be enough to put many people off drinking it, and there already is too much thirst in the world.

  • bitchen frizzy

    When I read Vaughn’s post, pot==>kettle==>black was the first thing that came to my mind, too.

  • bracyman

    Come on guys. Forums are like the zoo: please do not feed the trolls. Though I do have to agree with MaSch, waste-water management is not something left to the stupid. My old roommate designed sewer system modifications for Washington DC, and he was constantly juggling engineering problems with flow control and legal concerns that would leave most rocket scientists confused.

    He was a pretty cynical person though.

  • JoshB

    I read a portion of “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” a while back. As soon as I heard they were making a movie of it I couldn’t wait to read your review.

  • @Michael Vaughn:

    obviously your own, amateurish attempt at snark needs some work. take your Pollyanna attitude, get on your white horse (or maybe it’s an ass) and ride back into the shelter of academia boy, and open your own mind to some critical thinking — not just your own opinions.

  • jr

    I agree with Mr.Vaughn

  • marky mark

    I agree with Mr. Vaughn too.

    I think I read back that Tucker Max said he was suing all people who call him a rapist for libel. I would look to amending that article before he gets his claws on it.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Oh noes! Tucker’s trolls are gonna git you, MAJ.

  • amanohyo

    Oh my goodness… Tucker Max has male groupies. That is actually just as depressing as the fact that his book is a best seller. Honestly, knowing that how could anyone not be a little cynical? There seems to be a growing asshole-pride movement lately demonstrated by the rising popularity of sites like Tucker’s and all those “how to seduce women” courses (and there are always a couple grumpy gentlemen like marky ready to jump to the defense of these “seduction experts”/professional dickheads).

    Do these people think that embracing their inner douche nozzle in some prescribed, systematic way makes them better than the common dickhead who simply acts like an ass naturally? If you know you act like a dick, and you choose to continue acting like a dick, you are much worse than the average, ignorant asshole. Premeditated assholishness is evil, self-centered, bad for society, and pretty much guarantees that no intelligent person will ever take you seriously as a potential long term friend or partner; being proud of your clever, namebrand assholery doesn’t magically change that.

  • Curtis

    @Michael Vaughn

    Wow. I think you’re providing a stunning example of a WATB whose injured feelings drive he/she to toss off unwarranted invective. I assume this is because you idolize stud-master Tucker Max and are hurt that someone would call shenanigans on your hero. I could be wrong though. You could really be invested in that Love Happens movie.

    @marky mark and others like him: Guys getting women uber-drunk because they can’t get laid on their own merits as a person are engaging in non-consensual sex. Otherwise known as rape. It ain’t libel if it’s true.

  • Straw

    @Curtis

    How about it’s libel if you don’t bother to research your accusations to determine whether they are true or not. I am utterly astounded at how many people are willing to label someone as a rapist just because they read it from someone who heard it somewhere, etc.

    Have you actually read the stories? Did it say in any of them that these girls were so hammered that they couldn’t say no? Since these accusations started, has ONE woman come forward to say that he did indeed rape them? Anybody say that he plied them with drinks until they couldn’t think straight? Anybody say that they felt violated by him in any way? I’m a woman and I got to meet Tucker at one of the premieres. He was very respectful to me.

    I am truly appalled and ashamed that rape is being trivialized in order to trash a man’s reputation. Honestly, it isn’t enough to shun him because he’s an asshole, or you think he’s unfunny? You have to invent other stuff? Women were once called witches and burned at the stake because people were offended by them and wanted them gone. The only way to convince the rest of the community to agree was to make them into something more sinister, thus stirring up mass hysteria.

    Words are powerful, and group think is even more so.

  • JoshB

    I’m a woman and I got to meet Tucker at one of the premieres. He was very respectful to me.

    Stop the presses! Tucker Max was respectful to a total stranger, in a public place! Clear evidence that he’s a good guy.

    Because obviously a self proclaimed bad person would never be polite to a woman that he hadn’t yet slept with.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Honestly, how much of a waste of skin and meat would someone have to be before they start to think Tucker Max is a role model who gives their life meaning?

  • Ben

    Christ almighty, I think it’s fine if you guys dislike Tucker Max and any guys who act like him. Maybe you don’t like the whole bar scene, maybe you think assholes like him are terrible people and maybe you dislike guys who have sex with a lot of women. That’s all fine, no one’s forcing you to like the guy or his movie.

    But to call him a rapist? My god. Not a single woman has come forward to claim he raped her and none of his stories involve him getting girls to the state where they are near comatose and then having sex with them. There is absolutely nothing to back up the claim that he rapes girls.

    If drinking at the bar or a party and then hooking up with people who have also been drinking at a bar/party is rape then you might as well charge half of America with it.

  • amanohyo

    I have no idea if the real Tucker Max is a rapist, although I agree with MA and think he made most of his book up (that could just be wishful thinking though). He certainly hasn’t been accused or convicted of rape yet; however, here are a few choice quotes from his site:

    “Five weeks and lots of sex later, she thought we were dating. I knew better, but she was way too hot to bother correcting her assumption.”

    “I planned this beforehand, but I was afraid she would decline, so … I just made the executive decision to get it on camera…without telling her.”

    “I vomited all over her ass. Into her crack. Into her asshole. On her ass cheeks. On the small of her back. Everywhere.”

    “We’ve all done it. We’ve all accidentally fucked a fat girl… fucking fat girls is against the rules for any self-respecting guy…”

    Fictional or not, his stories demonstrate an obvious contempt for women. More importantly, he is an unrepentant, smug asshole who intentionally uses other people to satisfy his own selfish needs. Much like a villain from an 80’s movie, he’s got the Bernie Madoff philosophy of “what can I take from the world?” Even if he hasn’t slipped a pill into some girl’s drink yet (or if you prefer, intentionally encouraged her to get wasted until she was barely conscious), no one reading his “stories” would be surprised if it turned out that he did.

    He kind of reminds me of a rated R version of Charlie Sheen’s character in Two and a Half Men which (horrifyingly) is a big hit at my office. One of those “charming” womanizing characters that we’re expected to “love to hate” in our entertainment. In reality, celebrating selfish dickheads in even a fictional context just breeds more whiny nice guys and smug assholes. Of course most of them don’t become date rapists and/or murderers, but they certainly learn not to respect women as individuals (anymore than a hunter respects the animal he hopes to shoot).

  • MaryAnn

    If Max is not a rapist, he at least fantasizes about being one (or pretends to fantasize about being a rapist because he thinks there’s an audience who wants to hear such things, and clearly he’s not wrong). An actual quote from the jerk:

    “I’m trying to get you drunk so you can’t consent to sex.” [directed at female fans]

    We can argue all we want about whether he “really” believes or endorses such a thing, but clearly the man believes that stories about a woman’s consent not being honestly acquired are worth not only telling but celebrating. I see nothing to celebrate in a man who believes that women are there to be taken advantage of, no matter how much the women themselves may ask for it. If Max is as self-aware as he seems to be, then he must have no conscience and no soul at all, even if he’s invented it all for the “entertainment” of others. Who else would invent such stuff with such obvious glee?

  • Accounting Ninja

    As always, amanohyo, well said. I nearly got hives reading his “stories”. The sheer dripping contempt for women coming off those words made my skin crawl.

    I’m tired of our culture excusing rapist mentalities. If he DID daterape someone, there’ll be someone who’ll say Well at least he didn’t beat her!

  • Paul

    “Two and a Half Men” has always been hit and miss with me. For instance, the episode where a school teacher sleeps with Sheen character annoyed the hell out of me, because I knew a couple of teachers just like her: punishing bad boys when they are young and rewarding (ahem) bad boys after they “grow up.” I didn’t even watch the rest of the episode. On the other hand, his brother leaves me thinking, “Well, my marriage could have been worse; it could have been his,” and I just sort of feel sorry for the guy.

    Then sometimes it turns around and does something that makes me laugh my ass off, like when Sheen’s character is trapped in the same session with his girlfriend and his therapist, or how a Satanist knew and was afraid of their mother.

  • “If Max is not a rapist, he at least fantasizes about being one (or pretends to fantasize about being a rapist because he thinks there’s an audience who wants to hear such things, and clearly he’s not wrong).”

    Your putting out a lot of assumptions based on nothing there. Or based on your own prejudices which you clearly have.

    “An actual quote from the jerk:
    http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/09/08/tucker_max/index.html

    “I’m trying to get you drunk so you can’t consent to sex.” [directed at female fans]’

    Did you actually read the article you linked to. It was clearly a joke directed at people like you who accuse him of rape without the slightest bit of evidence to support such a heinous charge.

    “We can argue all we want about whether he “really” believes or endorses such a thing, but clearly the man believes that stories about a woman’s consent not being honestly acquired are worth not only telling but celebrating. I see nothing to celebrate in a man who believes that women are there to be taken advantage of, no matter how much the women themselves may ask for it. If Max is as self-aware as he seems to be, then he must have no conscience and no soul at all, even if he’s invented it all for the “entertainment” of others. Who else would invent such stuff with such obvious glee?”

    Please post a link to something he has written were a woman’s consent was not honestly acquired.

    The second sentence, wow. So women can be taken advantage of, but they can also ask for it? What the fuck are you talking about? If a woman wants to go out, get drunk, and have sex with a jerk like Max that’s her choice. Neither you, I, or anyone else has the right to stop her.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    If a woman wants to go out, get drunk, and have sex with a jerk like Max that’s her choice. Neither you, I, or anyone else has the right to stop her.

    You can always tell when someone’s argument is onto a loser when they have to pull out the old “YOU’RE OPPRESSING THEIR FREEDOMS!!!!” card.

    Nobody here is The Government. Nobody is trying to take away yours, Tucker’s or anyone’s right to say and do and fuck as they please. We’re just saying, wouldn’t it be nice to live in a culture that didn’t automatically celebrate being a complete dickhead?

  • Paul

    Actually, Bruno, I think there are people on this page who think he deserves to be put in jail, assuming you take their premises to their logical conclusion, and that would count as taking away his freedom.

  • Accounting Ninja

    @ Paul, no. I’m no judge or jury. And I didn’t see MAJ calling for his imprisonment or drawing and quartering ;). She merely called him out for being a disgusting human being. We have the right to shun a reprehensible person. Honestly, I don’t CARE if he “actually” did anything. The creepiness and contempt that come through his writings are more than enough to make me never want to encounter him.

    Please post a link to something he has written were a woman’s consent was not honestly acquired.

    Well, what about the story where he got a friend to videotape the anal sex and “forgot” to inform her? Her consent was achieved through deception. Maybe it isn’t “rape” as how most people might define it, but it ISN’T “consensual” either! Indeed, when she found out, she was beyond pissed, aside from the abject humiliation over the other events that happened which I won’t repeat here out of respect for her. If you don’t see this as a problem then I weep for humanity.

    The second sentence, wow. So women can be taken advantage of, but they can also ask for it? What the fuck are you talking about? If a woman wants to go out, get drunk, and have sex with a jerk like Max that’s her choice. Neither you, I, or anyone else has the right to stop her.

    Oh, please. Now you’re going to take the opposing tack of an offended feminist? I’m an actual feminist, and even I gleaned the meaning of what MAJ was saying: It doesn’t matter how “slutty” a woman might be considered or what she does that could be construed as “asking for it” by rape apologists (including taking men like Max to bed); they deserve the respect afforded all human beings. Max does not treat them like human beings, only recepticles for his spunk. He doesn’t even care about the humiliation and pain he causes, even in women he has spent time with for weeks. In fact, in the case above, he had been leading her on for weeks (see amanohyo’s first quote) and when it all went down, he felt not one twinge of sympathy for her abject humiliation. He couldn’t have cared less that she never spoke to him again. He was only bummed because his plan to film himself having teh buttsecks with hott chik went down the tubes. In the end, he played it for the LULZ even though it was probably the worst moment of her life (assuming it’s even TRUE of course).

    What kind of extreme sociopathic deficiency does someone have to have to react this way in a situation like this?

  • Paul

    Well, I’m pretty sure the situation you described, Ninja, is an actionable crime, and MJ and Curtis do imply he might be a rapist (if he isn’t making it up), which is also an actionable crime. And if he is making it all up, isn’t that fraud? Some writers have gotten in trouble for that. So even if you don’t have the power to put him in jail, it seems a logical conclusion that you should want him to go.

    I’ve actually met guys who are more quantitatively successful with women than this Max guy, and a couple of them even did it without alcohol, pure charm and wit. I knew a guy who lived off the women while he bed hopped, living with each of them for about month or two until they got tired of his freeloading. All there is to do is just shake your head in wonderment.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Well, I’m pretty sure the situation you described, Ninja, is an actionable crime, and MJ and Curtis do imply he might be a rapist (if he isn’t making it up), which is also an actionable crime. And if he is making it all up, isn’t that fraud? Some writers have gotten in trouble for that. So even if you don’t have the power to put him in jail, it seems a logical conclusion that you should want him to go.

    Actually, if he’s lying, it would sort of be a relief on one hand (because those terrible stories aren’t true and no women got horribly humiliated) but scary on the other (that he became so popular). And personally, if he’s lying I don’t care if he goes to jail, but I could see how people who spent money on his crap might! :)

    And yeah, I know guys like that too, and a few girls! But that’s different. That’s just having questionable maturity.

  • I wasn’t suggesting that he’s not a terrible person. It’s calling someone a rapist because you think they are a bad person that I have a problem with. Not sure whether taping someone without telling them is crime,(obviously an awful thing to do) but it’s definitely not rape. It’ seems very clear that he had the girls consent for the sex.

    Although you may be right about it being made up. I think I’ve seen similar stories with different names around the internet.

  • MaryAnn

    Actually, I did not state for a certainty that Max a rapist. But I did allude to the fact that that label has been applied to him.

    As for this:

    I see nothing to celebrate in a man who believes that women are there to be taken advantage of, no matter how much the women themselves may ask for it.

    What I meant was, there are obviously grownup, of-age women who have low self-esteem or other issues that make them vulnerable to men. But good people don’t take advantage of vulnerable people just because they can.

  • Paul

    I smell a lot of if coming off this topic.

    Any takers on who I’m paraphrasing?

  • Muzz
  • Paul

    My link doesn’t work but I’m betting we have a winner.

  • “What I meant was, there are obviously grownup, of-age women who have low self-esteem or other issues that make them vulnerable to men. But good people don’t take advantage of vulnerable people just because they can.”

    Lots of people (men included) have issues or low self-esteem. However everyone is responsible for the choices they make. You can’t tell whats going on in other people heads. Women are not helpless children that can’t decide for themselves what their going to do.

    Isn’t the position you’ve taken here a little condescending? Anyone who sleeps with a guy like that, must have issues? They must have been taken advantage of?

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