Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The Once Halibut Theory

I've been cooking with habanero peppers lately. The habanero is the third hottest chili pepper in the world. It is so hot that if you don't wash your hands after handling one, your hands will start hurting in 20 minutes. And if you don't wash your hands and then have to go pee, you will begin to envy the monotony of female bathroom technique like never before.

Now, the reason I'm doing this isn't to defy Joseph Kahn's insistence that white people prefer food with no flavour. In truth, it's because I'm rather impatient and don't want to waste consumed calories on foods that are "subtle." I have a right to flavour-experiences. I will live in the extreme.

I try to eat a lot of fish. Fish have Omega Supreme Transformative powers, as well as the extraplanetary potential of Mercury Poisoning, and they're good for your skin or something. If you want to conquer Earth and shit diamonds, eat a lot of fish.

The problem is that some fish doesn't have much taste. I encounter this problem mainly with halibut. My mom claims that she remembers halibut used to pack more of a punch than it does these days. I won't vouch for the accountability of someone else's memory, but this got me thinking...

As a survival mechanism, wouldn't it be beneficial if species evolved to lose flavour? I mean, sure, we're several inches taller than the people our age were in the 1940s, but if we're ever in a plane crash with a bunch of rugby players in the middle of nowhere, something should have to protect us as soon as the fattest guy gets hungry. Those that would be picked to get eaten last would be those that evolved to have tasteless flesh. Like halibut.

From what I know about animals (speaking as an owner of a black lab, who knows enough to know that saying "My dog is black" is a poor way to win race relation disputes), I don't believe that animals are ever naturally spicy. One time I was at a party and some dude brought a tray of bison sausage, and I thought, damn, no wonder those bison got shot, they're spicy as hell. The guy informed me that those spices were artificially added later. This makes sense. It's also techniques like this that make it integral for beings to evolve to taste like as little as possible.

Having no taste makes survival easier.

How else could I have been thrust into a 9-month long Twilight Zone episode where people keep coming up to me and telling me that the movie Once introduced them to the concepts of Art and Humanity? There's one explanation: People are evolving to like boring shit. Don't try to be all open-minded by denying it. Be truthful, and admit it. Fans of Once display a scary passion where they'd kill for it.

If Once Lovers lived on an island commune, and I visited that commune, they would burn me in a Wicker Man.

In a way, I understand this passion. Raised without religion, the movies I love inform my identity. I'd rather talk in-person with people about movies we agree on than get in fights over ones where we don't. Some films are just too integral to one's identity. So when you say, Blue Velvet sucks, you're insulting me. I know what that's like.

It's also why it's so puzzling. What is it about Once that makes people look at it and think, "Yup, that's me"? When I watched the movie, I found it mediocre. I didn't hate it, but considered it too inconsequential to even be worth reviewing. Now that people in their 20s are losing their shit for it, I'm sort of embarrassed for them.

Nothing that makes movies incredible is contained in Once. The Irish drama stars Glen Hansard as a musician/vacuum cleaner repairman who falls for a girl played by Marketa Irglova. They record songs together, so the movie becomes a naturalistic musical--only director John Carney has not studied musical setpieces or short form videos, so his music and images create no emotional thrust.

The handheld camerawork doesn't leave room for thought-out compositions. And the songs themselves are dead-eyed indie rock boilerplate. Movies don't get more hermetically and stereotypically white than Once. It's anti-matter--a movie for those who wish to be manipulated, but in a naturalistic way so they don't realize it's happening, and who wish to define themselves through musical fashion, but try to steer away from rock star personalities. Did modern indie rock fans have any fun in high school, or did they listen to the mid-90s equivalents of City and Colour and Coldplay back then? Maybe they listened to the Fresh Prince and gangsta rap in junior high like I did, then they moved on to Soundgarden, KMFDM and White Zombie. Then it was Robbie Williams in their college years. Then Death Cab and the Once soundtrack. Tomorrow Yanni. That's not just a softening of musical style: Some of those acts are real artists.

Certain people evolve to tastelessness when they grow older. It's easier, I guess.

But I want to live.

I don't mean to pick on Once fans so much. It's just that they're fucking everywhere. When you review movies people you don't know always want to tell you about awesome movies they just saw. I recently did a year-end radio show where this was the whole premise for an hour.

As one of two guest critics, I was in the reverse-spot position of having callers tell me about the best movies of 2007. I like doing this show, but something was in the air that day. I knew it was gonna be a long hour when the first caller was raving about Mad Money. Other recommended best movies of the year were Shooter and A Beautiful Mind (which came out 7 years ago, but I let it slide.)

But the amount of people talking up Once eclipsed any other title. Even my perfectly sane co-guest was gaga for it. Genuinely curious (and determined to be polite), I responded to callers' raves with, "What did you like about it?" The answers would be along the lines of, "It was so beautiful. And when they're in the studio together, recording that song, that scene is just, ohh myyyy..."


Then last week, Sarah Riley, who usually has some of the best movie taste of anyone, just had to write me about Once.

"I cried like five minutes in. It's a beautiful film."

"Not you too!," I wrote back. There goes another one.

This much is clear. The movie Once does not care about me, for it has caused me much confusion about Darwin and halibut. For that, I cannot support it.

Never back down.