Thursday, October 29, 2009

Clerks. Analysis

This is a paper I wrote for a film course in college. The writing is not as good as it could be, but trust me, I've become better at it since then. I like it because it is a completely formalist criticism. I know that the themes I found in Clerks. were not any part of Kevin Smith's authorial intent, as evidenced by several of his SModcast episodes. Regardless, this is my analysis of Kevin Smith's-in my opinion-magnum opus:

"I'm not even supposed to be here today!": Slackerdom and

Kevin Smith’s 1994 debut feature film Clerks tells the story about two clerks that work in a convenience store, referred to as the “Quick Stop”. Called in on his day off, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) is forced to deal with annoying customers, his two love interests, and his best friend Randal (Jeff Anderson). He is also forced to take a look at his life and where it is going, or if it has any direction at all. Roger Ebert describes the movie and its characters as: “The movie has the attitude of a gas station attendant who tells you to check your own oil…and Dante and Randal look like they have been nourished from birth on beef jerky and Cheetos. They are tired and bored, underpaid and unlucky in love, and their encounters with customers feel like a series of psychological tests” (Ebert par.2).
Smith’s focuses on the main two losers throughout the film, of whom are perfect examples of the slacker culture of the early nineties. Desson Howe of the Washington Post said, “much of ‘Clerks’ is extremely funny and dead-on—in terms of its intentionally satirical, Gen-X-istential gloom” (Howe par.3). Dante and Randal are both adults in their early twenties, while still working at the Quick Stop and showing no signs of improving or changing their situations. Dante complains repeatedly about his life, mostly saying: “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” throughout the film, without doing much about it. But on the other hand, Randal is content with his situation, and simply deals with every day brings. By focusing on their personalities and overall attitudes, Smith presents a message of getting on with life, despite the life situation.
Clerks’ structure doesn’t possess a plot, but rather shows events throughout the course of the day. It plays more like a series of occurrences that ultimately tie together the day depicted and the film itself. Some scenes are merely conversations about Star Wars, stupid customers, and porn, while most of them progress the relationships of the characters. But they all add perspective to the characters’ personalities and the setting.
In terms of technical innovations, the film does not break any new ground. It was filmed in black and white, while many films at the time were not. The film’s budget was made for approximately $28,000, and was shot mostly in and around the real Quick Stop convenience store. Marc Savlov of the Austin Chronicle described the look of the film as “resolutely low-budget, full of shaky camera work, the occasional less-than-perfect edit, and a few sound glitches. Conveniently, though, all this shoestring filmmaking technique only adds to the film's desperate charm” (Savlov). As most of the movie is indoors, you get a feel for what they have to do all day, which is either dealing with customers or doing nothing. The cinematography is pretty straight forward, with the main use of objective point-of-view. But at the same time, Smith uses a director’s interpretive point of view. For example, there are many conversations between the two leads that take place behind the counter of the store. Smith frames the shot in a way so it is centered on the two standing behind the counter. This creates a feeling of them being trapped, because they are enclosed in that area by the counter, the wall behind them, and the consumer products that surround them. The camera movements are also pretty straight forward, as no pans, tilts, dolly shots, etc. are notably used. However, Smith does use a lot of handheld camerawork, except on the occasions on the mentioned counter shots.
Smith communicates two problems of the slacker culture: those who are satisfied with their life, and those complain but don’t do anything (or as Randal says to Dante towards the end of the film, those who “need to shit or get off the pot.”). Smith doesn’t only show this through the personalities of Dante and Randal, but through relationships. Dante is torn between two women: one is his current girlfriend named Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) who truly loves him but pressures him to continue his education in college, and the other is a promiscuous woman he went out with in high school named Caitlin (Lisa Spoonhauer). Veronica is the driving force that could move Dante’s life into a new, successful direction, while Caitlin represents his high school days, before he entered the real world. This presents the conflict of whether Dante should stay where he is at in life with an old high school sweetheart (who has cheated on him in the past), or move on in life with the woman who wants him to succeed and loves him. By the end of the film, Dante’s relationships with both of them are ended, and Smith does not give much of an answer for whether Dante learned anything from them. But the film as a whole works in a weird way because of it, in that Dante himself doesn’t really know what he wants from life throughout the film, so by not giving him an epiphany or resolution compliments his persona very well.
What Smith seems to illuminate about our culture is the alarming rate of youth adults fit into the slacker category. Over the course of the film Dante and Randal are not the only characters without higher education. Outside the Quick Stop are two stoner drug dealers, named Jay and Silent Bob (two characters that show up frequently in Kevin Smith’s other films), who just simply stand in front of the store all day, waiting for their next drug deal. Not only does Clerks shine light on said slackers, but it also shows what it is like for those in the service industry. The clerks have to deal with stupid customers that ask them questions like: “How much does this cost?” (When there is a sign that reads “$.99”) and “What do you mean no ice, you mean I gotta drink this coffee hot?” At one point in the film, while Dante, Randal, and a customer are talking about a man that puts eggs through ‘endurance tests’ in the back aisle, she turns to them and says: “You see, it’s important to have a job that makes a difference boys. That’s why I manually masturbate caged animals for artificial insemination.” Several customers like this take an arrogant verbal stab at the clerks throughout the film, and you feel bad for them, despite their inaction to change their position.
This movie reminded my own experiences and me a lot of the people I know. Very few people in my own have gone to college, and have ended up in either construction-type jobs or service jobs of some kind. Also, many people I knew in high school who are not in college now are working as waiters or store clerks. I have worked several public service jobs, from hauling kegs and serving beer to bringing old people their food in a nursing home. And since I know what it is like to work in the service industry, there is a reason I am in college right now. Clerks changes the way you look at people stuck in those type of jobs, and the way you treat them. As Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Free Press puts it, “there's something about seeing life from the distinct angle of the convenience-store clerk that's just new enough to hold you” (LaSalle par.7).
What makes the film work is that it chronicles a day in the life of Dante and Randal, rather than giving you bits and pieces of different days and time periods. By doing this, it gives the audience more of perspective of what these people go through, even if it be dealing with personal problems or fighting boredom. With all this said, I love this film. The dialogue is very realistic and funny, and like I said, I can relate to it even though I have never worked in a corner convenience store. There is a charm to the amateurism and simplicity of the story, and the intelligence behind the dialogue. However, I don’t think this film is for everyone. Despite the rave reviews it received at its theatrical release, Clerks is highly profane. Not only does it have many bad four-letter words, but there is also a lot of sexually explicit dialogue. Clerks initially received an NC-17 rating, and had to be edited down to get an R-rating. When a major plot point involves Dante finding out about Veronica and a large amount of fellatio on her part, you know that it’s profane. Only those who can handle almost constant profanity, but no violence or actual sex can dig this film. To really get the true idea of everything I mentioned, one has to see it for him/herself.

LaSalle, Mick. Clerks. 8 Nov 1994 San Francisco Free Press 4 May 2008.

Savlov, Marc. Clerks. 11 Nov 1994 The Austin Chronicle 5 May 2008.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to Pick Up Children the Evangelical Way

If you looked out your window and saw man talking to your kids from his car pulled up to the curb, what would you think? Personally, I'd think that someone I didn't know was trying to coerce my children into his car. But I'm sure an Evangelical would have no problem with a fellow Bible thumper proselytizing to his children. Not only does he try to convert these kids, but he makes them accept Jesus, whether they want to or not.

To be fair, this guy doesn't target only children. If you see his other videos on his YouTube channel, he also ambushes old ladies in supermarkets and bothers fast-food employees.

He's obviously taken notes from Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, who have perfected the art of pushing their beliefs on unsuspecting people on the street by asking them "Do you think your going to heaven?". Then they precede to probe them for the tiniest sins committed and damn them to hell in the next breath.

Maybe it's time for atheist to take the next step up from bus signs to asking believers that come out of church why they're so delusional.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Place on the Political Spectrum

I've been bored today, so I decided to waste time on taking several online quizzes that tell you where you stand on the political spectrum. Rather than the do the oversimplified "Are you a Democratic or a Republican?" quizzes that one can find on Quizilla and the like, I went for ones that have the four-quadrant political compass- liberal and conservative, authoritarian and libertarian.

As you can see, not much of change in any of them. They all seem to point to the idea that I'm a Liberal Libertarian. These types of quiz tend to be of better use and have a little more credibility than tests that only tell you whether your a Democrat or a Republican. I don't know if the majority of the country knows this, but there is such a thing as a Third Party. And surveys like this can help find a party or candidate that actually fits their point of view.

To find out more about how the old "liberal vs. conservative" spectrum doesn't work, watch this. I am not a self-proclaimed Libertarian like the dude in the video, but he could probably explain the spectrum much better than I could.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Commentary on "How To Raise Good Christian Children"

I recently came upon an "interesting" blog post (I couldn't even recall how) that is by a woman with the pen-name Annie Angel. In this article, she educates Christian mothers (of whom I'm assuming are all housewives that worship and clean the ground that their abusive, misogynistic, Christian asshole husbands/overlords walk on) on how to raise good Christ-loving and God-fearing children. Actually, this is part one of larger "project", in that this one details how mothers should raise their boys. If you can stand me nit-picking and and being uber-sarcastic, then read on....

"Schooling. Boys should be schooled separately from girls in a military style institution with male, Christian teachers".

First of all, this is assuming that 'male Christian teachers' and a 'military institution' are sure signs of morality. Since when is teaching your son to be a sheep for his God and his country a good thing? The combination of Christianity and militarism just screams fascism to me. She continues to say that if you can send them to boarding school, especially one that keeps them for holidays, you must do it. There's nothing like having other people raise your children for you, and then to take credit for it in a terrible blog.

"it's best to beat him pre-emptively on a daily basis...A few swats on the backside each morning with a hairbrush will keep him in line. This is not discipline as you are not punishing the child for a specific offense so it is fine for a woman to do on her own."

This suggestion by Annie speaks for itself, for it makes a bold statement. Yes, Christian housewives out there, you should beat your son for no reason everyday, whether he did something to warrant it or not. And it's easy, so you can do it yourself! You don't need your husband, who I'm sure is infallible and the Hand of God to carry out this abusive task!

"A curfew of 8:00 pm on weekdays and 8:30 pm weekends is proper for boys under 16."

Suggesting an 8 o'clock curfew is probably the most reasonable one, even though the ridiculousness is still there. A 16-year-old that has a 8:30 curfew has no real social life and will no doubt be ridiculed for this by his peers. She goes on to say that as long as a male over the age of 16 is with others in public on a weekend, he can stay out an extra hour. I wonder if Christian mothers are supposed to carry this out until he turns 18, or if it applies to adulthood (or at least until he finds a wife that will takes over the motherly duties).

"YES YOU CAN CHOOSE HIS FRIENDS! And not only can you, you SHOULD!...Any boy with long hair, ripped jeans or a leather jacket is an obvious bad choice for your son to have as a friend. But be aware that some "clean cut" children are not Christian and have not been raised in a Christian home. Who knows what kind of depraved morals lurk beneath their boy-next-door exterior. For that reason it's best to choose his friends from among the congregation at your church."

Annie apparently is still living in the 50s, as no children really consider the "long hair, ripped jeans, or a leather jacket" a sign of 'coolness'. She makes the hypocritical mistake of assuming that non-Christian children have bad moral values, as she wants you to raise your child as a Christian (which is an offense in and of itself*). What gives someone the right to choose their child's friends? This is no doubt psychological abuse; a view of the world this narrow, sheltered, and close-mindness is the kind that makes serial killers.

Entertainment. If you have a good church, this should be no problem...Video games should be kept to a minimum and should never contain any kind of violence unless it is a game put out by the U.S. Armed Forces. Movies should be screened for sex, violence and content before they watch them, by either yourself or someone at your church."

The worst part of suggestion #5 is not that your church should choose what entertainment your child views (I already expected that from a religion that demands conformity). It is that violence in video games are bad, unless the Armed Forces puts it out. Watching men in uniform kill non-Christians and brown people in graphic combat is good for your Christ-loving boy!

Dating should be with a mind toward marriage. Too many young men these days ruin their lives by impregnating the town slut. There is no need for young boys to experiment with sex before marriage. The best way to make sure your son doesn't become a teen father is to simply not allow dating."

Of course, if you see something wrong with teaching abstinence instead of safe sex, then I need not to say more.

Music. Rap is a definite no-no. Children are impressionable and the rap industry is geared toward turning your sons into women-hating, mysoginist ho-masters."

I'm suprised that rock n' roll or one of its offshoots (metal, alternative, grudge, etc.) wasn't mentioned. Considering that it "promotes Satanism and the Occult", one would figure that she would warn the mothers of America of this blasphemous genre. But I'm guessing she picked the most popular genre of music, as it is the most widely listened-to type of music in the world. Notice how she claims that rap turns "your sons into women-hating, mysoginist ho-masters" (her typo/misspelling, not mine). If you read the rest of her articles on her blog, then you'll see that she surrendered to misogyny a long time ago.

Clothing and accesories. Baggy clothing that exposes a boy's bottom is NEVER acceptable. Baseball hats off the baseball diamond are NEVER acceptable. Baggy sweaters, no. Bling, no. Cellphones should be limited to the walkie-talkie type with preset numbers programmed by you, otherwise he may begin dealing drugs."

I see nothing wrong with wanting your kid to look presentable. But with children, especially teens, clothing and accessories (her misspelling in the quote, not mine) is a result of two things: self-expression or conformity. If it is the former, I fully support it. If it is the latter, then Annie should love it, because it is out of conformity and groupthink that religion fully supports that a teenager would dress the way he does.
And how does having the freedom to dial a phone number presumably lead to dealing drugs? Maybe he would have more of a social life if he did deal drugs. But he would have to be home before 8 o'clock, of course.

Behavior: As the old saying goes, children should be seen and not heard...Proper manners should be stressed at all times, especially at the dinner table and in front of strangers. A first impression is a lasting impression. Children should never interrupt their elders and should always show respect. Running in church is disrespectful to God as is giggling in the pew or fighting with siblings. Rules should be stressed in ways to instill the fear of God into the child, remind him God is watching him at all times and make up a few stories about bad little boys who disobeyed their parents."

I'll admit that opposition to this statement is subjective. Depending on your values, you may agree with Annie Angel or not. I've never thought that 'elders' should be automatically respected or revered. Common courtesy is fine with me, like being to polite to a grandparent that wants to know why you got a tattoo; of course its none of their business, but it is good for morale if you just let them be nosy bastards. But instant respect towards someone is being obedient and dumb. Also, I've never liked church, since I was always forced to go by my parents. So, kids being rebellious and blasphemous by giggling in church is okay with me. Hell, I'll still do it to this day. And scaring kids in to obeying their parents is nothing new. Ever heard of Hansel and Gretel?

Punishment. Punishment should always be carried out by the father...have an uncle or other male relative or close friend step in. Never try to discipline a boy yourself, the humiliation is something he should never have to deal with as a man."

For a good Christian woman, she sure loves the punishment aspect of having a kid (but then again, punishing people is what the Judeo-Christian god is all about). According to Annie, anything harsher than a daily beating with a hairbrush should be left up to a man. It takes a real man to beat up his son, and having it done by his mom would be too embarrassing for a boy. At least if his father does it he'll have some self-respect and dignity as an adult.

Religious Instruction. When your son reaches an age where he begins to ask serious questions about God and Jesus, you will have to refer him to his father, or in cases where that is impossible, a trusted older male relative, close friend or church member."

Again, Annie shows how men really do know more than women, especially in religious matters. At the same time, she surrenders herself to the patriarchy by leaving it up to men to explain their beliefs. Hasn't this kind of thinking ('Men are made in God's image, so what they say is infallible) allowed religion influence a society as much as it does?

The first problem I have with Annie Angel is her religiousness. People of faith are not inherently bad or stupid*, but the faith helps. The faith she calls for is the fascist kind of faith, in which God is not questioned or rejected. The way she says to raise a son is with military-type discipline, automatic and unwarranted physical and psychological abuse, and 'good Christian values'. Anything else in a boy's life is apparently blasphemous and will drug-dealers, rebels, and (gasp!) non-Christians/believers. Her ideal son is one that cannot exist in a sane and realistic world. The child-rearing that Annie condones is the kind that produces serial killers. If someone actually raises their son this way, I'll anticipate seeing him featured on the 8 o'clock news, where he shot a couple dozen teens at his military school and returned home in time for curfew to rape his mother and torture his father.

There is more to these wonderful suggestions than I have quoted here, so if you are really interested, read the rest of the article. Like I mentioned before, she also wrote an article on how
to raise your daughters, which is just as ridiculous and insane.

If anyone wants to comment or respond, go ahead and do so. I fully encourage it. Just don't be obnoxious or an asshole.

*I am aware that these are contradictory statements. The latter of which is more my philosophy.

Annie Angel, "How to Raise Good Christian Children" Blogging Points. 18 April 2006

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bill Maher Nails It on the Fuckin' Head

First off, for the record, I did not vote for either Obama or McCain during the 2008 Presidential Election. That does not mean that I didn't vote at all, but voting for one of two men that are essentially representing the same things seemed a bit pointless. Instead, I voted for Ralph Nader. I know that a lot of people don't give Nader enough credit or respect and don't take him seriously, but I find that he fits my political philosophy better than a Democrat ever will.
To me, voting for Obama would have been too conformist. I have nothing against anyone who did support Obama, because I totally get why after eight years of Bush and his neo-con fascist regime (fuck yeah, I said it) the public would want a black man in the White House; it's refreshing and a new direction. But once every limousine liberal says they support Obama, it becomes more of a bandwagon fad than actual sincere support.
Now that Obama has been in office for almost seven months now, at least one person that supported Obama in 2008 has called El Presidente on his bullshit. That man, is Bill Maher:

(The point I'm referring to starts around 2:00)

Although you could count Bill as a limousine liberal, he still has a point. The 'liberal' that is suppose to put our country on the right track is hypocritically pandering to big business, just as you would expect the Right to do. Can we ever get the person we vote for? With Obama the public expected better healthcare, withdrawal from Iraq, gay rights, better work conditions, a more stable welfare plan, legalized marijuana (we're still waiting...), and a bunch of other liberal 'agendas'. But not much has changed since Bush, and the voters haven't got what they wanted. But being the pessimist that I am, I never expected any of these things to be carried out, hence my vote for Nader. I didn't vote for Obama, so I can complain.
A lot of Americans are still under the impression that you are either a Democrat or Republican, and there is no alternative. But if people actually did their research on other candidates, then maybe third party candidates like Nader won't be marginalized from the media.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Movie Reviews

I've been writing film reviews for Passport Cinema ( and the UWRF Student Voice newspaper here at University of Wisconsin: River Falls, where I am a full-time student. Instead of making a new post for each of them individually (like I did with the Night of the Living Dorks review), I'm providing all the links here, in order to shamelessly promote the sites and myself. Keep in mind, I never said I was good at writing reviews.


Friday the 13th (2009)

Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice

Hotel For Dogs

Last House on the Left (2009)

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

Night of the Living Dorks

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Slumdog Millionaire


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Murder Toke

For the past year and a half or so, starting with finishing the script, I've been working on a short film, called "Murder Toke". It's a work in progress, as I'm still working on it. We've (meaning the actors/crew and I) shot most of it, with several reshoots due to a technical difficulty and a few scenes that still need to be shot. However, I have in my spare time edited together a short teaser trailer for it. Here it is:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"The 8 Worst Places to Steal a Movie Idea"

Here's an interesting article called "The 8 Worst Places to Steal a Movie Idea" by Michael Swaim of I found it funny because almost all of Hollywood films nowadays come from these sources. That's not to say that some of the movies Swaim mentions are bad, but they rather succeeded at adapting the source material.

Check the whole 2 page article at: