and I and all those people out there with a vocal love of film have
ruined it for everyone, pimping movies up, falling in love with
mediocre films and championing them to near-legendary status. We’ve
embraced turkeys, legitimized borderline movies, and elevated modest
films in our favorite franchises above and beyond realistic standards.
We’ve even embraced the films everyone likes, somehow adding a
credibility to them that transcends the mainstream. Sacred cows, little
flicks, and everything in between. It’s time we took a look inward and
came clean with 25 movies we think need to be taken down a peg or two.
These are our four categories for this list:
These guys have had it too easy. Far too easy. Don’t believe the insane hype.
Good flicks that have gotten too damn big for their britches.
Asshole, you love this film for all the wrong reasons.
WHAT THE FUCK
Something went horribly wrong here and it’s carried over the the fans, who are blinded by shizer.
Your guide: Devin Faraci
the economy was going great and you still felt like the whole world
sucked and that you had somehow missed out on all the good stuff? Also,
you had a multiple personality disorder that looked really good with
its shirt off.
Its Legacy: A lot of dumb ass frat boys with Fight Club posters
on their walls. Actual Fight Clubs. A fucking video game. And probably
more than one dude who realized that the reason he keeps getting into
fights is because he’s scared of how much he wants to suck the other
Why It’s Here: There’s something I feel that I need to say up front here in the fifth
installment of You Got It All Wrong: We like most of these movies. Fight Club is
a really good movie, expertly made and viscerally thrilling and
exciting. I only say this because there’s a vocal segment of people out
there who have been defeated by understanding and who think that we’re
just trashing popular movies in this series (which isn’t to say that we
won’t be trashing popular movies, of course) instead of thinking it through and grasping what ‘Overblown’ or ‘Misunderstood’ means.
And Fight Club is the epitome of
misunderstood movies. It’s a film that grabs the audience and takes
them through the first 95% of the story with masterful ease, getting us
to identify with some people doing some pretty terrible things. More
than identify – we want to be doing those things too. But it’s the last
5% of the movie, the last few minutes, where it all comes together to
mean something different… and most people seem to just miss it.
Most people get hung up on two things: Tyler Durden as a cool guy and
The Twist. The problem is that The Twist reveals that Tyler Durden
isn’t that cool of a guy but rather a psychotic break in the main
character’s mind, a projection of who the Narrator wants to be, a persona created to fill the void left by the rejection of material
goods. The Narrator’s apartment is an Ikea catalog of conformity, and
he can’t get away from that – he just creates a new, fucked up kind of
conformity with the Project Mayhem space monkey cult.
Blinded by The Twist many viewers just sort of stop thinking – that’s
obviously the intellectual climax of the movie to them. But the truth
is that Fight Club is the weirdest
coming of age movie of all time, a story about a guy who learns what it
means to grow up. At the end of the film the Narrator has to kill the
overgrown adolescent in himself in order to accept love and to become a
man. The finale of Fight Club is
about rejecting Tyler Durden, about rejecting destruction as a way to
feel something, and about owning up to your own mistakes. It’s not
about how much your daddy didn’t love you anymore, it’s about the man
you are now.
But that’s not really fun. And when David Fincher changed the ending of
Chuck Pahlaniuk’s book (which finds the Narrator in a mental
institution, the bombs not having gone off but unable to escape the
world of Project Mayhem that he’s created) to an explosive image that
satiated the Tyler Durdens in all of us, it became easy to lose sight
of the real meaning of the story. In a way there’s an irony here – the
audience becomes like the book’s version of Project Mayhem, not
understanding the final meaning at which their leader arrives; instead
of disbanding and figuring it out for themselves, they – like the
audience – just keep paying attention to the parts that were cool.
Of course there’s a certain frisson to be gotten when looking at the
people who misunderstand the movie. People who love the film’s
anti-consumerism and anti-marketing message will have spent money to
hang the advertising for the film on their walls. Supposedly free
thinking disaffected kids will be drawn to the Tyler Durden figure, a
fascist martinet hiding behind nihilism. And then there’s the film’s
entirely strange psychosexual subtext, which manages to be straight and
gay at the same time while weirdly eroticizing intense solipsism. So
yeah, the meat heads who tell each other to hit them as hard as they
can while at the kegger are missing the entire point of the movie, but
A Moment of Piss: The catchphrases, especially ‘His name was Robert Paulsen.’ The people saying it in the movie don’t get it, and I suspect that neither do you if you’re saying it.
These Ain’t Chopped Liver Alternatives: If…, The Next Karate Kid
Nick Nunziata Agrees: Devin’s got it right, but there’s an added component that fuels the reason this film is so vastly misunderstood and the main thing that makes me cringe when one of the “wrong people” identifies this movie as something near and dear to them. Fox had no idea what kind of movie they had on their hands and despite the best efforts and confidence in the vision of David Fincher and most of the producers, a marketing firm came on to steer the public’s perception of the movie someplace drastically away from the novel and film’s central themes. They “cooled it up”, and while some of the images they ultimately used [the bar of soap, regardless of whether it distracts or detracts, is phenomenal] were indeed cool, Fight Club became this lean and mean action film. No doubt if the UFC were as popular in 1999 as it is now, the entire marketing of the film would be spent on advertising time during UFC or Tapout bouts, because as we all know, this film is an underground fighting circuit film.
Fight Club works as a bizarre action/thriller hybrid. The visuals. The aggression. The sex appeal. The chaotic undercurrents. I understand it. In fact, I can enjoy the film superficially. It’s one of the rare movies of its ilk that has managed to remain relevant and engaging despite the bizarre hydra-like effect it’s has thanks to DVD and one of the oddest developments from failure to cult status I’ve ever seen. I can enjoy it for that, but the film [to a lesser extent the book, which like many of Palahniuk’s becomes less and less powerful after the initial visceral reaction] really comes full force when you factor in, as Devin said, the true meaning of the film and the serious gay overtones. That to me is the greatest thing about the film, sort of like its secret saving grace. It is ripping the very same people who embraced it for the wrong reasons; people who would rather be called a terrorist than a fag, people who carefully create the product of themselves that they then meld into their societal clique, people who attack a problem without grace, people who are so desperate to be a part of something that they’ll become whatever works for the moment. In a way, it’s brilliant. Most of the people who got scalded by the film’s initial failure have come around with a major “I told you so” but they have to roll their eyes at how it came around.
Someone a lot smarter than me should put together a little laminated “Fight Club for Dummies” chart that showcases all of the things about the film and its intentions that would scare the fandom right out of them… or perhaps shift their palate for art and film. Fuck it, more likely they’ll just dismiss the movie as more fag propaganda and go to the Crunch Fitness place to exorcise their demons.
Jeremy Smith Disagrees: Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club met me at a very strange moment in my life. I was a year out of college, working for a misfit division of ABC News International called Worldwide Television News, and living in a banally threatening area of Astoria, Queens. I should’ve been playing the part of the sullen artist stuck in a meaningless job, but the non-stop wonder of being in New York City – after twenty-four years of Ohio-inflicted boredom – had me all preoccupied and very close to happy. So when I purchased a paperback copy of Fight Club from one of Manhattan’s many Barnes & Nobles (vulgarity!), I wasn’t exactly seething with resentment at the “IKEA nesting instinct” that was somehow making me less of a man. And when I finished Palahniuk’s overheated tome a couple of days later, the only person I wanted to punch in the face was the author. 200 pages of unremitting nihilism is tiring enough, but it might’ve been tolerable had Palahniuk let up on the glibness for, oh, half a paragraph… anywhere.
Screenwriter Jim Uhls evidently loved the glib; thankfully, Fincher loved cinema more. This didn’t keep me from rejecting Fight Club‘s bogus, Sartre-with-a-smirk text once the buildings came crumbling down to my favorite Pixies song, but there was no denying that Fincher had crafted something formally new. It was immersive, provocative, sexy, repellent and almost persuasive enough in a narrative sense to get away with the excessive recapping that takes up way too much of the third act (yes, I get that the narrator perpetrated all of these acts). But could I accept it as a satire of non-conformist posturing when the entire audience was laughing and cheering along with Tyler Durden’s every disgusting transgression?
Every time someone shoots me a link to that noxious blog What Would Tyler Durden Do?, I realize that my feelings about Fincher’s Fight Club are still unresolved. Much like A Clockwork Orange, it’s so appealing to antisocial idiots that I question whether the satire works at all. Let’s wait and see where we are with Fight Club in another twenty years before we start patting ourselves on the back for getting it.