Andrew Dalton and I went to see Machete, the Robert Rodriguez (referred to as RR many times in our discussion)-penned and co-directed action film Machete, which opened today pretty much everywhere. Here’s where we talk about it! For other good movies to see, check out Katie’s Weekend Watch.
Eve: Well, we have had nearly a week to ponder it, what do you think?
Andrew: Blood and Guts and Boobs and Tacos are the first few things that come to mind.
Eve: I was so hungry after that movie!
Andrew: I wasn’t because I ate all the popcorn. But you might have been hungry because the press screening was scheduled over lunch time. Which, I think I mentioned, seemed odd for a popcorn movie you should be watching at midnight.
Eve: Well, most SF media has to get back to the East Bay before nightfall. ZING.
Andrew: It should probably also be showing at a dirtier and more deserted theater, but I guess the Metreon is kind of a ghost town anyway. I would like to watch it at the Victoria on 16th, where there’s the possibility that someone in the balcony could get stabbed and fall on you at any moment.
Eve: Oh you hipster you. So I forgot to ask you before, are you generally a Rodriguez fan?
Andrew: Once Upon a Time in Mexico is one of the few DVDs I haven’t pawned at Rasputin yet. So yes, generally a fan.
Eve: I am a big fan, too.* So that’s clear. We are fans. So I wonder, is this a movie non fans would enjoy? What do you think?
Andrew: I think non-fans can get in to it. I would say that fans of the grindhouse revival in generally would definitely be in to this movie, but I think that group overlaps a lot with Rodriguez fans already.
Eve: Let’s talk about that a little. I thought it was deftly done, how RR blended the retro elements of grindhouse with contemporary stuff (cell phones, current politics, etc)
Andrew: oh yeah, I loved that Don Johnson had an iPhone
Eve: there was one thing, though, that I felt could have been more “retro,” and I want you to argue with me on this if you’re inclined: I was disturbed by how incredibly slender all the women were.
Andrew: Well, clearly, that didn’t disturb me at all. That one woman – Lindsay Lohan’s mom seemed a little busty.
Eve: Fake tits do not equal not slender Here is what I am saying: if this was made in the 70s, the chicks would have been curvier. Hell, if this had been an earlier Rodriguez movie (remember Salma in From Dusk until Dawn or Desperado?)the female “ideal” would have been curvier. So that the New Rodriguez Ideal is someone so so so thin — Michelle Rodriguez was a ghost of herself — bothered me!
Andrew: RELATED (sort of): he seemed to abandon a lot of genuine Latinos in favor of star power. Michelle Rodriguez was super awesome, obviously, but I kept trying to remember the last time I googled Jessica Alba to figure out her ethnicity.
Eve: Yeah, I had to look that one up, too.
Andrew: Steven Seagal as the Mexican druglord though? With a katana even?
Andrew: But again – that character was more “Seagal as a bad guy” more than it was “Mexican Drug Kingpin”
Eve: I mean, I know he basically shot the movie around the trailer (hilariously, I read a review that was all “oh boo they used parts of the trailer in the movie!” which, what?) so maybe they had to use him? But his accent was offensive.
Andrew: Well, yeah, that’s my point then – Seagal was supposed to be a joke and now you’re stuck with the joke which was maybe only kind of funny to begin with.
Eve: But you know what did work surprisingly well? De Niro. I forgot how well he sells action!
Andrew: Oh yeah, De Niro was the best!
Eve: How did you feel about the politics in the movie? I thought its heart was in the right place, but it got a little ham handed.
Andrew: Some of it got a little swampy, yes, but I think overall the tension between politics vs. violence was pretty good. Like in the beginning we’re meant to believe Mexico is so violent! But the Americans are just as bad!
Eve: every movie needs to open like Machete. It was like a Mexican James Bond opener.
Andrew: No, that would have been Machete jumping a low-rider over the border fence, drinking straight from a bottle of tequila.
Eve: Something I was expecting, but I don’t think happened: I thought “oh, wow, with all these big stars, poor little Danny Trejo is going to get buried.” But I thought he held his own quite well! I mean, the guy is a mountain of charisma, but I was not sure how it would translate to a leading role. I say this as a fan of Trejo. But typically he’s used as a condiment. So I did not know how this would go.
Andrew: I think that’s why he was so good as the lead in this. You recognize him from just about everything, but he’s still kind of an airy legend. Like a really mean looking Bud Cort.
Eve: We have not talked about Cheech yet! Speaking as a Nash Bridges fan I was CRUSHED that he and Don shared no scenes. That was an awful decision, not to do that. CALL HIM BUBBA, DON!
Andrew: Obviously, I was hoping they would share a car ride, at least. Even if they could have shot at each other, that would have been interesting. Remember when gringos and Mexicans could work together in harmony?
Eve: San Francisco values, right there!
Andrew: Actually, Cheech had a much cushier job in NB until they made him a traffic cop. So I guess they were still trying to keep the brown man down.
But on the subject of in-jokes! Let’s talk some more about Lindsay Lohan. In the character of a repentant Lindsay Lohan.
Eve: I would watch a whole movie about her character
Andrew: Like half the cast, she’s in this movie as a joke. Which works, because she’s just a joke in real life at this point.
Eve: Yeah, it reminded me of how John Waters would use Patty Hearst
Andrew: Oh, we should point out LiLo also got out of jail the day we saw it. That’s important given her character arc.
When she picks up the Uzi with the massive silencer, you just know something’s going to happen with her. That Uzi is like the holy grail of pulp film. People pick that thing up and their whole world changes. See also: El Mariachi, Pulp Fiction
Eve: I think Machete’s action to plot/dialogue ratio was perfect. Which is not something I can say about the above two films (both of which I love, but PF was a talker, Mariachi couldn’t be all RR wanted it to be.)
Andrew: Oh and the one-liners go to a new level when you get to throw in race-related comments. “Who are you?” “The new gardener.” And the amount of Spanish that popped up in Don Johnson’s dialogue! Subtle! Subversive!
Eve: OK, this raises something else I have been thinking about. One of the reasons Dave Chappelle says he quit doing his show was because he realized people were laughing for the “wrong” reasons. I was wondering about that with some of the jokes, if this would elicit the “wrong” type of reaction from non-Hispanic audiences. Did you notice that at our screening (which was for press and for contest winners of some sort), there were people who seemed to cheer only when Mexicans got killed?
Andrew: Wait, they did? I did not notice that.
Eve: there was a group of guys in the back (to be clear, in the non-press section)
Andrew: I thought people cheered when Trejo hit white dudes IN THE FACE.
Eve: I mean, when you go to a Friday the 13th movie and a girl gets killed, people cheer. And it’s not because they hate ladies (necessarily, we can get more into that on another day), it’s because that’s part of the slasher experience. So I guess I was wondering how this movie would play where you or I are from! Then again, I guess Inglorious Basterds was a huge hit in Germany, so what the hell do I know?
Andrew: I think Germans want to see the Nazis humiliated as much as the rest of us at this point. Which was why it was fun to watch the rednecks get taken down. Most of us disown that portion of America, just as a rule. But they also did a good job of making the Militia seem appropriately nutty. So as to not promote violence against all Texans.
Eve: so to whom would you recommend this movie?
Andrew: Fans of over-the-top violence, smart action movies, and everyone in Arizona.
Eve: To that I’d add anyone who remembers the movies of the 70s and early 80s fondly. So if you’re late 30s and up, chances are you’ll get a bit of a buzz from it.
Andrew: I wouldn’t know anything about that. But I would recommend getting a bit of a buzz and going TO it. At midnight, like I said, because 11:30am is a dumb time to watch that movie.
Eve: I know! It was weird to see you in daylight!
Andrew: I had only had one coffee, it was hard for me to look at anything that wasn’t on a computer screen.
Eve: I was just confused because I was dressed before 5 PM
Andrew: Unlike most of the women in the movie! ZING.
*This is silly, but in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably note that Tim Rakoczy, the film’s sound, music, and Foley editor (one person=three jobs, shut up!) and I were all involved and shit for a good while about 15 years ago. But I promise that did not influence my perception of the film one way or another, really.