Author Archives: Stroker Johnson

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“We Are Socially Piteous”

Well, I’ve just had enough English white trash to last me an entire semester.

The 2005 Academy Award-winning live-action short film “Wasp” was unpalatable to me for a number of reasons.

First, those cockney accents! My God, they’re grating, especially when issuing from the mouths of high-pitched children.

Speaking of children, they were a big part of what made this movie hard to swallow. See, when I was younger, I didn’t give a gosh darn about children in peril on film. They could be killed or kidnapped and it wouldn’t bother me. However, now that I have two nephews, one of them only five years old, I become uneasy whenever kids are in any kind of danger in movies.

Even if I watch a film I’ve already seen, it bothers me when children are in trouble. In George Miller’s pioneering Mad Max, the titular character – a cop in a post-apocalyptic Australia – exacts a bloody revenge afters his family is slaughtered. Years ago, I was all about Max’s vengeance. Now, not only am I bothered by his dead kid, but I also realize that revenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as it won’t bring his murdered family back.

This isn’t an overblown comparison. The children in “Wasp” are in as much trouble as the baby that was turned into roadkill by a motorcycle gang in Mad Max. Make no mistake: sooner or later they will face mortal danger and not survive, all because of that slut-mother.

You know, there’s this slop-metal band out there called “W.A.S.P.” For decades – honestly, since its inception in the early eighties – debate has raged about why the name is an acronym, and what it stands for. Frontman Blackie Lawless has never given the same answer twice when asked this question, but when it comes to the short film of the same name, I’m sure it stands for “We Are Socially Piteous.”

However, like the film, I’ll try to end on a happy note. The one good thing about “Wasp” was its viscerally effective portrayal of English white trash. The mise-en-scene was so absorbing – suffocating, actually – that I’m forced, against my better judgment, to give it the highest compliment I can think of: it reminded me of “The Wire” –  through its brutally frank portrayal of the projects.

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Prognostications Prohibited

I’m not going to lie: I suck at predicting. No, really, I’m awful at it.

You think you’re bad? I’m worse. In 2006 and 2007, I had the Los Angeles Dodgers not only reaching, but winning – winning! – the World Series. This year, I predicted a Super Bowl of Atlanta Falcons vs. New Jersey Jets. I thought Death Race would be a bad movie, but it turned out to be one of my favorites of recent years.

Having read all that, I hope you can see why prognostications are not my bag. Therefore, I won’t waste your time or mine by telling you who WILL win the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. No, I’ll tell you who SHOULD win.

The Crush. I saw this short – along with Na Wewe, The Confession, Wish 143 and God of Love – at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street. It was great, mostly because of frequent references to westerns, hands-down the greatest genre in the history of film. These references included 8-year-old Ardal Travis’ (Oran Creagh) cowboy boots, the “showdown” poster in his bedroom, and the final, climactic confrontation between Travis and Miss Purdy’s – li’l’ Ardal’s love interest – fiancee.

The western motif, however, wasn’t the only thing that led to my crush on the film of the same name. It was the fact that this short didn’t take itself that seriously; at least, not as seriously as the previous shorts. Hell, between *SPOILER ALERT* Sam and Jacob killing a family of three, then Sam subsequently killing Jacob and lying about it to a priest in The Confession *SPOILER ALERT* and the armed-to-the-teeth prepubescents in Na Wewe, IFC might as well have called this festival “Killin’ Kids.”

The Crush had a healthy sense of humor, aided tremendously by Creagh’s near-Nielsenesque deadpan delivery, which is why it won’t win. The Academy, in an endless quest to legitimize its annual “Hey, let’s pat ourselves on the back” festival, loves to reward serious films. Three out of the five nominated live-action shorts were mostly humorless serious films. So serious, in fact, that me and the rest of my class watching the films last Thursday had to laugh when it turned out that Travis shot Purdy’s fiancee with a toy gun (wait, that might’ve been a spoiler, too), because we were so conditioned to expect another killin’ kid.

Anyway, just as a change of pace they should award The Crush, but they won’t. Don’t bother asking me who will win, though. My track record should speak for itself.

The live-action shorts at

Puzzled about the phrase “Nielsenesque”? This might help:

Last year’s live-action short film winner, among other things, can be found here:

Posted in Oscar Shorts | 1 Comment

Oscars and Armlocks

With the 83rd Annual Academy Awards a mere six days away, it’s time to examine the oft-overlooked relationship between the Oscars and professional wrestling.

In either industry, the “best” doesn’t always win. Often, the gold – whether it’s a gold Oscar statuette or a big, gold championship belt –  goes to a less deserving but more popular film or wrassler.

The best film of 1994 was, unquestionably, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. It was a temporally-distorted, Kubrickian masterpiece of accidental murder, dancing, drug abuse and anal rape. However, at the time, Tarantino was an enfant terrible with only two directing credits to his name: Reservoir Dogs and the 1987 short My Best Friend’s Birthday. Therefore, instead of going out on a limb and giving an Oscar to the unmistakably talented but somewhat-unproven (at least by Hollywood’s standards) Tarantino, the Academy awarded the little gold man to the safer, more popular choice: Robert Zemeckis’ vanilla schmaltzfest, Forrest Gump.

The best World Wrestling Federation grappler (yes, there were some greats in WCW and the regional federations at the time, but I was always a bigger fan of the WWF, so we’ll stick with that) of 1987 was “The Million Dollar Man,” Ted DiBiase. His in-ring skills and talking ability – or his ability to “cut a promo,” in wrasslin’ jargon – were tops, and his gimmick of a conceited millionaire made him the hottest heel in the company. DiBiase was primed for a run with the title, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Instead, the WWF did the safe thing and put the belt on the company’s top face, “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

A transcendent talent, DiBiase never held the WWF’s heavyweight championship. Well, unless you count the time he bought it from Andre the Giant after Andre beat Hulk Hogan to win the title – a devious act which resulted in DiBiase being stripped of his ill-gotten gains which, in turn, lead to a heavyweight championship tournament at Wrestlemania IV, which Savage won.

The WWF doesn’t recognize this reign, however, so I don’t see why we should.

The point is, professional wrestling and the Oscars are just one big popularity contest and, therefore, the most-deserving don’t always get what they should. Just look at DiBiase or Stanley Kubrick, another transcendent talent who never got his hands on the gold.

Some of the wrestling terms I used can be found here:

The official website of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards:

Hell, if this video was 19 minutes longer, it’d deserve an Oscar nomination of its own (as a short, obviously):

Posted in Independent Film | 204 Comments