What’s Joey Been Suffering Through? April 13 – April 19: Harmony

It’s Harmony Korine week! I don’t think it’s been good for my sanity. Korine is a madman. Who keeps giving him money? How is it possible that he has 8 feature length films and about a trillion shorts? All those questions and more won’t be answered today. Me and my friend Noah decided to sit down and watch every single movie written and/or directed by Harmony Korine. We accomplished our goal, but at what cost? I saw 8.6 (that’s 8 + 0.1 + 0.5 for those of you keeping score), and I have at least a little bit to say about all of them, so here they are in all their glory:

April 13: Kids (random streaming site)

The tale of Harmony Korine begins with a movie about a teen with HIV who loves having sex with virgins. It’s his best movie. By far.

Kids is an interesting look at the depraved youth of New York City, but more than that, it’s the only Korine movie until the final one that has a comprehensible plot that I actually care about. Our virgin-loving protagonist, Telly, has a clear goal, as does Chloe Sevigny, the girl trying to stop him before he causes more damage. It culminates in a horribly depressing and disturbing scene that I won’t describe, but it gave me a nice, mellow, despair-filled feeling. As vile as many of the events were, the remarkably real performances given by the young cast make it something worth watching. Larry Clark proves to be a decent director, and Harmony showed he has writing chops. It was the most misleading way possible to set up the rest of Korine’s repertoire.

April 13: Gummo (random streaming site)

Gummo is the reason I’ve kept away from Korine for so long. The poster alone has always been enough to scare the shit outta me, and reading the Wikipedia description was all I was willing to do.

Gummo’s scariest scene involves a kid eating spaghetti in a filthy bath. That is to say, it ain’t all that scary.

In a small, incredibly poor town ravaged by a recent hurricane, a couple kids go around killing cats for cash. When another kid starts killing cats, they seek revenge on their competition. Ha, what the hell am I doing, trying to describe the plot of Gummo? It’s an impossible task. Gummo is a series of loosely related scenes (that I think were at least somewhat improvised? Me and Noah couldn’t quite figure it out) that sometimes look like they’re going in a plot related direction, but then do things like cut to a far-too-lengthy segment in which some folks are arm-wrestling and destroying furniture. I’m not disparaging it for being experimental, though. I’m disparaging Korine for not knowing when to stop. While Gummo would probably work as a half hour cut of the strangest shit Korine can conjure up, it drags far too much when stretched to feature length. It has its moments, but overall, Gummo didn’t justify its existence to me nearly enough.

April 13: Julien Donkey-Boy (DVD)

Harmony Korine made us hate him within 2.1 movies. Kids is good, Gummo is tolerably poor, but Julien Donkey-Boy is impossible to watch unless you wish to bleed out of your eyes. Korine decided to smear the most vile and unpleasing filter on the entire movie, making it akin to torture. We didn’t make it more than 15 minutes, and I will never regret turning it off. If someone told me the US government commissioned Julien Donkey-Boy to be used in Guantanamo Bay, I wouldn’t want to believe they’d be so cruel.

April 13: Ken Park (random streaming site)

7 years after Harmony and Larry Clark teamed up for their surprise critical and financial hit, Kids, they decided to collaborate once again as writer and director to make Ken Park.

What the fuck happened.

Me and Noah adored watching Ken Park. Now, I’m not usually one for so-bad-it’s-good cinema, but Ken Park is so disjointed, so laughably acted, so terribly written, and tries so hard that it makes for an incredible viewing experience. Everything that worked with Kids is tossed out in favour of stilted, awful dialogue and characters that are comically cookie cutter. On top of that, Ken Park tries to be some kind of avant garde snuff film: there’s a scene – I am not making this shit up – where we watch a dude autoerotic asphyxiate to completion. To completion. We see…everything. Me and Noah sat there covering as much of the screen as we possibly could. It’s insane. I highly recommend it. It may be the Korine movie we ended up having the most fun with…

April 17: Mr. Lonely (DVD)

…Closely followed by the Korine we had the least amount of fun with. While we really liked the opening shot, there was zero positivity directed at any other aspect of the entire movie. It seems as though Korine wanted to try doing a more tame, traditional movie, but forgot that he sucks at everything and should stick to shocking people into liking his movies. Diego Luna and Samantha Morton give bored and lifeless performances despite playing a Michael Jackson impersonator and a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, respectively. I can’t help but blame Korine for that, though, since all his ideas are just as lifeless and boring. It’s at times surrealist and strange, but far more often keeps itself grounded and lacks any personality. At the very least, Gummo had personality; hell, Julien Donkey-Boy was at least trying to do something. Mr Lonely tries nothing, and as a result, succeeds at nothing.

April 17: Trash Humpers (random streaming site)

It’s a movie about humping trash. Well, “about” is a strong word. It’s a movie that heavily involves humping trash. What it’s about, though, is choosing a different kind of lifestyle, one that is misunderstood by 99% of the population. This lifestyle involves humping trash, of course, but also involves smashing TVs, wearing old people masks (or are they actually old? I have no gosh darn clue), brutally murdering friends for literally no reason, playing with dolls, and plenty of other fun stuff!

Like Gummo, Trash Humpers is pretty much just a series of scenes with no plot, simply trying to give us insight into this insane new world Korine has created. The difference is – and this is the first and last time you’ll hear me say this – Harmony learned from his mistakes, and scenes don’t drag on for far too long this time. He keeps them short and sour; confusing, shocking, or making us laugh and moving on before it becomes tedious. The last 15 minutes are incredibly unnecessary, though, and keep it from being a Korine project that I can say I truly enjoyed. Of course you’re asking, is any of the movie actually necessary? And to that I answer no, but I can’t say I wasn’t entranced by what was happening. It’s fucked up, to be sure, but I couldn’t look away. I didn’t want to. Yikes, what does that say about me?

April 17: Spring Breakers (random streaming site)

If you had told me at any point prior to about 3 pm on April 17th that I would hate a Korine more than Julien Donkey-Boy and Mr. Lonely, I’d have told you that there’s no way Harmony could get any worse. It’s just not possible. He’s failed so many times trying so many things; isn’t he running out of things to ruin? And yet here we are, taking a look at Spring Breakers, a movie that I added to my list of top 5 worst films of all time without a second thought.

The editing, dear god, the editing. About a quarter of the way through the movie, Noah and I realised that every single scene is edited in such a way that you could use it as a trailer. It’s so choppy that it’s impossible to tell when one scene ends and another begins, and often inserts the dialogue of the next/adjacent scene over the current one, making it not only jarring and annoying but completely incomprehensible. 90% of the dialogue involves describing events that happened minutes earlier over and over again in vague detail, and the other 10% is Selena Gomez talking to her grandma on the phone. We never hear or see the grandma, though, so we have no reason to give two shits about her calls, leaving us with exactly 0% dialogue that introduces new information or builds characters. That’s almost a good thing, since learning any more about these moronic, offensive, and wildly unrealistic characters is the last thing I’d ever want to do.

Harmony, my dude, I get it. You got married to an actor and you’re a director, so you feel like you have to put your wife in your movies. But Harmony, here’s the truth: your wife is a god awful actor. You’re also a terrible director, and you should take a decent amount of credit for the universally insufferable and creepy performances in Spring Breakers, but Rachel Korine shouldn’t have even gotten the opportunity to be your next victim. Thank you so much for not putting her in The Beach Bum. Speaking of…

April 17: The Beach Bum (Theatre)

“He did this for us.” That’s the first thing Noah said to me as we were leaving the theatre, having finally completed the entirety of Harmony Korine’s feature film library.

Harmony Korine made a normal movie. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s weird as fuck. But Korine has abused us emotionally to a point where we’d consider a feature length adaptation of Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared a relatively neutral experience. The Beach Bum follows Matthew Mcconaughey as he tries to live his life as carefree as possible, spending all of his time smoking weed and hanging out with half naked women who aren’t his wife. When his wife is killed in an accident that is entirely her fault, he… decides to keep living the way he did before with no discernible change. I can’t tell if this is a plot structure issue or an intentional subversion of structure, and that isn’t really a good thing. What is a good thing, though, is that that didn’t matter to us. The Beach Bum is so silly and so funny that any gripes we had went up in smoke. Everyone gives hilarious performances, and it seems like everyone is having fun, which is something that can’t be said about a single other Korine film. After seeing Harmony’s horrors prior to this, it was impossible not to thoroughly enjoy. As for those of you who haven’t binged Korine lately, AKA sane people, this movie might just seem like another stupid stoner comedy. That’s because it is. But it ended our suffering, and for that, I give it 10/10.

Here are some bonus awful movies I also saw this week:

April 15: The Public (Theatre)

The Public, directed, written, and starring Emilio Estevez, is one of very, very few movies I’ve ever walked out of. In fact, I can only recall walking out of one other: Rock of Ages, that terrible Tom Cruise adaptation of the play. The Public isn’t bad in a fun way, nor is it bad in a way that’s at the very least fun to write about. It’s just really, really boring. Emilio Estevez is asleep, Jeffrey Wright is asleep, Taylor Schilling is oddly creepy, Christian Slater is a comic book villain in a movie about a library, and Jena Malone is… there. It’s the biggest waste of a fantastic cast I may have ever seen. Me and my father likely would have walked out even if there weren’t an important hockey game on, though that was a pretty big factor.

April 16: Scary Movie (Netflix)

Gay joke, mentally handicapped joke, offensive black joke, fat joke, misogynistic joke. There, you just saw Scary Movie. (let’s just pretend I didn’t laugh a few more times than I’m willing to admit)

“Be careful what you wish for” is a phrase that I never appreciated until this week. I wanted trash, and oh dear lord, did I ever receive the trash right on my doorstep. Then someone came along and humped that trash. It was not a pretty sight. Next week we’re back to normal again, and I couldn’t be any happier. I could really go for a nice mix of good and mediocre movies, you know? Nothing fantastic, nothing too awful, just something like Paddleton, probably. Yeah, I’m gonna watch Paddleton, and I’m gonna feel entirely lukewarm towards it. Shoutout to Joey Bada$$ for sampling Gummo in his song Greenbax (Introlude). Who the heck would sample Gummo? I love it!

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