My Kingdom For A Laugh

This has to be it. The funniest movie I have seen in a long time. What madeit really funny was that the movie was not meant to be so—–farthest from it. But the more posturous and pedantic it got the more it reduced itself to farce. I would have understood if the movie had a bad plot—–in that case the director and story-writer can at least share the blame. Here the director had an epic legend in his hand, a mostly true story of unparalleled drama and scope……yet he blew it. And what a blow it is ! There are very few movies which can make “Asoka” look passable ———Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” manages that distinction.

One of the things I kept on thinking as I endured through the three odd hours of this celluloid abuse was “how could the studio execs let this pass?” Ok lets assume Oliver Stone was stoned but then is not there any other creative control at Warner Bros which should have said No no no and no ? This movie is appalling but what’s even more appalling is that someone (and quite a few people too) actually felt there was nothing wrong in this movie. What were they thinking?

Why was Angelina Jolie, Alexander’s snake-worshipping pagan mother, speaking with a fake Russian accent—which creative brain came up with that subtle touch ? Why were there so many blind men in the entire story, each of them blinded in the same eye in the same way——-were there any group discounts available? Why are there scenes inspired from Braveheart—–the same battle speech delivered with a moving horse, identical death scenes and the same “I see dead people” (if you have seen the movie you know what I am talking about)? Why was Alexander so tortured –what really was his problem with his mother? What were his motivations for going on a world tour? It is not as if the director does not attempt to answer these questions—-in fact his entire movie is about the twisted workings of Alexander’s mind but even after so much time dealing with these issues we got no answer. What we get instead is Collin Farrel hamming, Angelina Jolie doing a KGB agent impersonation, Rosario Dawson doing a Jamaican accent (she hails from Persia according to the plot), and a whole lot of “pretty” boys dancing seductively.

And there is where Alexander is elevated from a purely abysmal movie to a farce. The director wants to show that Alexander is gay——half of the movie is about “analyzing” (no pun there) how homesexual he was. Why his “gaiety” was important I do not know but it sure made for some unintentional humor. In case you have not seen the movie (and trust me you have saved three hours of your life) then Alexander is seen having “feelings” for Hephaestion, his childhood friend—-making for some romantic moments which bordered on softcore gay porn (let me stress that I have no idea of gay porn—never watched it in my life—just extrapolating from heterosexual porn–not that I see that also) . Cliched romantic music playing in the background and Collin Farrel and Jared Leto (first getting dumped by Cameron Diaz for Justin and then this) passionately exchanging terms of endearment (stay with me tonight) —–something about that scene totally cracked me up (and the rest of the audience)—–somehow it seemed to be a parody of all such scenes ever made.

Another source of sniggers was an androgynous Persian “girlie-man” dancer who accompanies Alexander and at whom he is always throwing lustful glances……somehow in the context of empires falling and history changing, a neutered person giving the emperor a lapdance just did not cut it. What was hypocritical was that this gay behavior was just to tease the audience—–it seems the director was not comfortable showing Alexander as gay but was beating about the bush conveying the message in as many ways as he can without actually putting his finger on the issue (mm that may not have been the best metaphor in this context). This led to Alexander becoming a movie manifestation of the “ambiguously Gay Duo” from Saturday Night Live.

The dialogues were cheesy often seeming like verbatim extracts from a gay version of Mills and Boons . Alexander when he was a child was defeated by his to-be gay lover Hephaestion. Antony Hopkins as Ptolemy in the voice over, in all seriousness ( I do not know how he could say this without cracking up himself) says of this incident: Alexander was said to have been defeated only once, by the thighs of Hephaestion. Touche

In passing what’s the deal about American popular culture and its refusal to acknowledge India’s contribution to world civilization? Firstly they like to think that the Incas invented zero (some say Arabs) , the Buddhists in China invented Yoga ( a Time article about Yoga did not carry the name of India once)——-and now the famous “I wish to be treated as a king” ( a line spoken by an Indian king called Puru) was ascribed to the Persian princess. And India was shown as a land of monkeys and Indians referred to as monkey-men who worshipped “strange gods”. Puru is of course totally ignored in the movie…..which may have been good——I would have felt squeamish seeing Alexander ogling our king.

Watch Alexander either as a guide to what a movie should not be or else watch it for its unintentional comedy. Better still stay at home and watch back to back episodes of the reality show “Who’s your daddy?” It will be a much more intellectually satisfying exercise.

13 thoughts on “My Kingdom For A Laugh

  1. I haven’t seen Alexander and have no wish to, but I think the reason it passed through all the studio heads and was approved all the way, was because of the “dissolution” of the idea of art. It’s difficult to judge art nowadays, as the definition of “art” has become so personal that it’s meaningless to anyone the artist’s personal experience. It’s almost a private conversation.

    That’s not true of all art by the way; some people still want to communicate.

    I suspect the studio executives simply had no idea whether Alexander was “good” or “bad”; “It’s from Oliver Stone, and he said it’s good, and he’s, like, an artist, man, so he should know what he’s talking about. It may not make money but it’ll get us some highbrow awards.”

  2. As a general rule of thumb (and after having wasted many a ‘3 hr’ s and many a 10 bucks), I have stopped watching movies that go below 50 on the tomato-meter. And Alexander is at 14 for Oliver’s sake ! 🙂 But again, at times you got to watch a bad movie because its your duty as a movie buff to watch it for the sake of its absurdities !

  3. I watched it in the dollar theatre… no loss. But if I had gone by the Tomatometer I would not have seen “Saw”——which I think was quite good.

  4. Personal taste is personal taste, and no critic (or collective of critics) really ought to change that…imagine this conversation:

    Person A: I liked Random Movie Title.
    Person B: Really? Roger Ebert hated it!
    Person A: Oh. I guess I hate it too, then.

    Sad, eh? Not that overwhelming critical opinion is worthless, but I’m sure guilty of liking a LOT of movies I “shouldn’t”!

  5. Yes I can also reel of so many movies that I “liked” (which as you pointed out one feels one “should not” like) even when they were even less than 10 on the Tomatometer…and that brings us to the very personal definition of aesthetics. Accepting this principle in theory, I still felt that Alexander was just tooo downright outrageous to get into the “public domain” (I feel sorry for those people who spent 10 bucks on this just because this movie was from the same guy who gave us the mind-blowing “Platoon” )though of course the same principle of “who can say what I like” is obviously applicable here—some critics did like it and at the very least Oliver Stone did.

  6. This post has been removed by the author.

  7. Nice review of this sorry flick….I actually blew 10 bucks on it….

  8. Well I agree I do miss some good movies because of following the reviews, but that is something I’m willing to risk. There have been cases where I hated a movie allthough the reviews were good. For example I dint like “Lost in translation” one bit ! So I guess it works both ways.

  9. Critical opinion is most valuable when you can frame the context of the criticism. If Movie Critic A never likes what you like, and Movie Critic B always does, that lets you know whether a given film is worth seeing or not. A person unfamiliar with A or B wouldn’t be able to use them to judge.

    Generally speaking, when a lot of critics are of a mind, it tends to be a good indicator of the quality of a film. Not always, though; I thought Shyalaman’s “The Village” was very good, and it got a lot of really bad reviews.

    Each film is different, though, and its reception is different too….

  10. Soumya Banerji March 1, 2006 — 6:46 pm

    A truly horrible movie. But did not expect this from you – who has watched countless B/C grade Bollywood movies.

  11. @soumya

    maybe cos it was so bad that it was actually rather bad

  12. U dnt watch hetro porn?oh cmon. 😀

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