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SPRING BREAK!!! at the medieval monastery. The hegumen releases the seminary students and that means it’s time to PAR-TEEE! They are monks, but they also happen to be bros. They are “bronks.” Bronk philosophy student Brutus and his two brosephs take off to rock out with their cocks out (NO HOMO!) because studying is for melvins. It begins to rain and they stop at an old lady’s house. She is def not a MILF, but she’s got some food and a dry barn to sleep in, so whatevs. That night, Brutus is awoken when this old hag starts trying to hook up with him. HEINOUS! Normally, he’d be all about turnin’ off the lights and doin’ your biz — but this lady is even worse than those skanks at Delta Zeta. Suddenly, she JUMPS ON HIS BACK AND RIDES HIM THROUGH THE AIR!
It’s like, if she’s gonna take liberties like that, why didn’t she roofie him first, ya know? Upon landing, Brutus, terrified, grabs a stick and brutally beats the old witch. As she nears death, she transforms into a TOTAL BABE! WTF! He would have totally tapped that, had she not been so nasty before. Horrified by this supernatural encounter, dude bails. Some time later, back at the monastery, Brutus is summoned by the hegumen. Stupid dean always up in your shit! Turns out, a wealthy boyar from a nearby village has visited. His beautiful daughter was murdered — brained in a field. As her dying wish, the woman requested that Brutus pray for three nights over her corpse. Why would she name Brutus, who she ostensibly has never met, to deliver these prayers? Well Brutus knows…and this is totally not cool. It’s time to hit the Grey Goose, bra! On the first night, Brutus prays over her body and she TOTALLY SITS UP IN THE COFFIN! WOAH!
This is of immense cultural importance. Not because it is the first, and possibly only, Soviet horror movie. Not because it is an adaptation of a wonderful story by Nikolai Gogol, friend to Kal Penn. Not because it beautifully mixes the schlock of a Hammer film and the opulent artifice of Kwaidan. This movie is important because it demonstrates the eternal universality of Bro-ness and its appurtenant social issues.
The horror movie is the perennial medium for Bro Studies, due to its preoccupation with sex and violence, both mainstays of bro-ness. In a more serious discussion, we would examine the film (and the Gogol story’s) deconstruction of the orthodox church as a pit of hypocrisy, filled with drunkeness, violence, and whoring, and where a sexualized violation by pagan forces proves that the dark pre-Christian spirits are more enduring and powerful than Orthodoxy. LAME. Though these bros do not wear backward-facing white hats, do not play pong, and live in the middle ages, they are still brotastically brolicious. They are constantly drunk on vodka. They never study. They are obsessed with getting ass. Eventually, they fuck up and get dead. AWESOME. It’s as if the horror genre was created to make nerds like me, who couldn’t pick up a lady at a frat party even with chemical charisma enhancement, happy and reassured.
While attending undergrad in a Bro-heavy region, or “Brogion,” I recognized that bro activities often occur in places primed for terror. Basements, empty corn fields, ancient houses haunted by the memory of blasphemous rites, bedrooms where the floor is not visible due to an accumulation of refuse. These environments are not new. They have existed forever, just as the Bro has perpetuated his doucheness throughout world history. I have compiled a short list of prominent historical bros below:
Aeneas – Trojan! (Ha ha!) Totally tapped Dido, then bailed like a true gunslinger. Bitch was high maintenance.
Mark Antony – A good frat boy, truly devoted to his Big Brother and mentored new pledge Octavian a little too well. Bonus: Cleopatra is like a naked Liz Taylor when she was hotttt!
Hernan Cortez – The original bro to party in Cancun! SPRING BREAK!!!
Machiavelli – Referenced in a posthumous Tupac album, so there’s that.
Henry VIII – Don’t hate the playa, hate the game, bra.
Lord Byron – Poetry is for pussies, but he slayed so many gashes it isn’t even fair.
Alexander Hamilton – Obvs. The original i-banker douche. Fighting + Models & Bottles = Bro Icon.
Abraham Lincoln – Innovator of the chin strap beard style. Could dunk on like everyone.
Please respond with your own Historical Bros!
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Administrative note: Most of these movies are available online. I use Veoh instead of Youtube because you can watch them at once instead of in parts. ALSO: UPDATED LINKS!
During the Russian Civil War, in what we now call Turkmenistan (when we even think about it at all), Workers’-Peasants’ Red Army soldier Comrade Sukhov, released from duty, proceeds to walk across the vast desert with an irresponsibly low amount of water to return to his sweet beloved wife, played by Heidi (this Heidi, not that Heidi). Along the way, he rescues a man named Sayid who has been buried up to his neck in sand. Sayid subsequently creeps around, saving Sukhov’s life occasionally when Sayid feels like it. Later, brave Comrade Sukhov stumbles upon a regiment protecting the harem of a local Basmachi rebel warlord named Abdullah (played by Billy Crudup in an unfortunate chinstrap). Sukhov, always ready to take on the People’s work, is dragooned into the thankless task of escorting the harem to safety. Little does he know that Abdullah hasn’t forgotten about his multiple wives, and intends to murder them. No reason is given for why Abdullah would be so hell-bent on killing his wives, although no reason is necessary — they probably talked back too much.
This is the most famous Ostern (or Eastern), the Russian variant of our Western. It is a serious cult film in Russia, where Cosmonauts ritually watch it the night before takeoff. Many of its great lines are frequently quoted. While the familiar Western standards appear (Sayid is the brave Native American scout/badass, Abdullah the bad Indian, everyone meets in a town, there is a big shoot-out), this film has more in common with Revisionist Westerns like Once Upon a Time in the West or The Outlaw Josey Whales, where women and minority characters are not as stereotypically characterized. Only this movie is funny and those movies are not. The similarity is most obvious in the treatment of the Central Asian characters. This is perhaps the only charming depiction of the burqa in film history, and that is being charitable.
Abdullah’s wives mistakenly believe Sukhov is their new husband, because he has a strong beard. They spend most of the movie covered by the burqa, only displaying their beautiful Socialist Actress faces (although one seems to be 7 feet tall) to Sukhov. Sukhov’s handling of this is high-minded and egalitarian. At first, he patronizingly explains that they are now able to each have their own husband. He explains that he has only one wife, and she is waiting for him back in his shithole village where, I assume, no one has anything to eat. One of the harem considers this way of life, wondering how one woman could possibly do all the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, and foot-rubbing necessary to maintain a household. Sukhov looks off into the distance and considers this while suggestively slamming a massive round of ammo into a gigantic machine gun. Sukhov daydreams of a glorious world in which he has 10 wives, and his own beloved Soviet wife is the favorite. Each wife happily attends to her household chores. Later they bask in the grass, surrounding Sukhov who sips tea while adorned in a crimson turban. His wife leans into him. She adores him, Abdullah’s wives adore him. This situation, it seems, is really best for everyone. Then Sukhov wakes up. Reality sets in. There has to be a reason, after all, for Abdullah to want to kill his wives…
Video of the Conversation and Dream Sequence begins around 5:08:
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We will start with a few genre films, rather than those predictable hacks Eisenstein and Tarkovsky.
Katerina and her two friends arrive in 1950s Moscow, land of socialist opportunity, chasing their dreams. Katerina desires an education. Lyudmilla, the Rue McClanahan of the trio, and Antonina, the Bette White, want to snag husbands. Lyudmilla falls for a shy Hockey star. Antonina, a bumbling country guy. Katya meets ambitious camera operator Rudolf. He is excited because there is a new invention called television that will inevitably kill all our culture and that is totally awesome with him. For some reason she sleeps with him. Her friends discover her pregnancy when she eats too many pickles at dinner. Rudolf rejects her and is a mamma’s boy. Fast forward 20 years: she is successful and runs a whole big factory of the people. But her life is empty without love. Where does a Natasha find a strong Soviet man around here?
Ronald Reagan did not know very much, but he knew movies. Films were integral to his foreign policy. Reagan watched this Best Foreign Film Oscar winner hoping to gain a greater understanding of the Russian soul.* That, or he needed a good cry. Reagan believed that Americans and Russians could find common ground, not only through defense against an alien invasion, but also through our cultural similarities. The U.S. and Russia are multi-ethnic societies. We identify strongly with our frontier heritage. We collect dolls.
And, most importantly, we both understand that no successful, career-minded woman can be whole without a man. Not just any man, mind you, but an independent, working-class scoundrel. Women must be taught the importance of housework and submission to masculine authority. Like Afghanistan, a woman must be tamed by a firm hand.
The chick flick is a universal genre. It does not exist as a solely Western innovation (starring Colin Firth). “MDNBiT,” as I like to call it, is just as bewilderingly anti-feminist and anti-intellectual as anything starring Kate Hudson. Once he appears, Katya’s swaggering, quirky, and dirty Matvei McConaugheyov drinks like a Cossack carp, believes men must dominate the household, and that women should make less money. In spite of this, her girlfriends deem him “flawless.” Kitty Mac would disagree. There is an obligatory grand gesture. A Bolshie Rob Reiner movie soundtrack. Proto-bromance: Antonina’s husband gets wasted on vodka and cognac with Katya’s beloved to try to convince him to overlook her higher social status and return. It is unclear, in the end, if he rejects his boorish beliefs.
For all that, there is some truth here: women and hockey both drive men to excessive alcohol consumption. Ultimately, I cannot help but love this movie, its protagonist, and her hero. The problem with the romantic comedy is that it is irresistible. We know these movies give us bizarre expectations about life and love, but the romantic-comedy industrial complex maintains its hegemony over us. Like Rudolf’s television and Reagan’s Cold War, romantic comedies destroy our society but are too much fun to give up.
*Communists have souls? WTF?
A little musical interlude in the film:
Привет! The Russians have a saying: “What is good to the Russian is a classy porn movie to the German.” For real, that’s a proverb. To test this sage axiom, I will spend the next few months of involuntary freedom from work discovering the glories of Russian film.
So together Comrades, we will learn valuable lessons about decadent capitalism, the infallibility of the revolution, the heroism of the Great Patriotic War, the virtue of labor in emulation of the proletariat, and the importance of strong moral living. There might also be some action. Along the way, we will bridge the newly opened divide.