Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Finding Your Manself At The Movies

Men (and I am talking about the human gender and not their genitals when I say this) come in all shapes, sizes and types.

I will give some of you a moment for the innuendo fueled snickering to subside, and then I will continue.

Sure the image of us as sports and tits loving, lager beer swilling yahoos with a Neanderthal mentality may seem an easy go-to generalisation sometimes, but really our gender is rich, complex and confused. No, really.

The geeky Brit-com Spaced had three main, but very different, examples of the male psyche and, to quote John Hughes (another master of the subject), in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions: Tim was a Geek, Brian was an Artist and Mike was a wannabe action man; but the show hypothesized that when you get 2 or more males in a room and start some fake gun-play, they would all join in regardless of race, creed, class, style or hobbies.
Now while I myself would have no problem still as a grown man flailing about like a child engaged in a fictional battle with some of my sillier friends, I know plenty of repressed and/or defiantly ‘adult’ chaps that would look forcibly down their nose and scoff at such a bonding ritual (despite, no doubt, strangling that rambunctious child deep within their soul or maybe smothering it with a cushion so they didn’t have to hear its cries of agony and longing).
So I would make an addendum to Spaced’s previously stated claim, and say that the single element that unites us as a gender is action movies.

Now before I go on, I am not being in any way sexist. Women can love action movies too. My wife, for one, loves them and introduced me to some that would become life-long favorites (I am not above calling myself a little inexperienced on the breadth of action available before I met her); but this article is purely speaking to one half of the population I am afraid, the ones with the funny looking, dangly genitals that we were all snickering about just a few paragraphs earlier.

Action Movies, like men, come in a variety of forms. Sure they might end up in the same place (exploding and/or on fire) but depending on their star or stars and their positioning on the fabled A, B and C Lists of Hollywood, they might take very different journeys, or distribution if you will, to get there.
While there has been action in the movies since their very inception (Inception, too, was, in its own way, a trumped up action movie funnily enough), the era that I am currently splashing around in is the late 80’s / early 90’s golden age of either ‘play on a few screens somewhere in the mid-west’ or straight-to-video action gems. I realise I am late to the party, and I understand that there are people more qualified than me out there to wax rhapsodic about the misunderstood genius of Michael Dudikoff, or folks who can reel off the name of every Cynthia Rothrock movie. I mean, up until 5 years ago my pure action knowledge was restricted mainly, but not exclusively, to the Die Hard and Leathal Weapon Franchises! But firstly, this article isn’t necessarily for the hardcore fans and freaks of this high-kicking kingdom; and secondly I can learn fast.
So watch your back Jack, I am coming through!

I presume, although I have never done the research, that you could stop a gent of any age on a street corner in any part of the globe, and they would know the name of someone like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger (although they might not be able to pronounce that last one).
I would also say that maybe 1 in 4 would know someone of the level of a Van Damme, a Steven Seagal or a Dolph Lundgren; but how many would know a Jeff Speakman? a Sho Kosugi? or a Leo Fong?
And that’s where this article slowly moves from being about how men love action movies, and how there is a rich seam of action movies to suit all men, to being about movie fanatics and just what kind of man are you anyway, huh?

Like almost any genre, thanks to the VHS revolution of the mid 80’s and distributors popping up everywhere dying to make a quick buck on the back of some barely bearable b-movie, peel back the A List Hollywood layer and you will find a labyrinth of seemingly never ending tunnels (not to mix analogies), each one of them containing film after film, each one more obscure and fascinating than the last. Some may be content to go and see the latest Bourne or Bond flick in the cinema and watch the stunt men of millionaire actors engage in the latest fight/chase trend from ‘the streets’ and that would be fine. I go see those movies and they are fantastic, but if someone asked you to name an action star would your first answer really be Matt Damon or Daniel ‘pouty’ Craig?

Others though are going to want more, or will go to the opposite extreme, to become collectors and completists. They used to spend their days rifling through endless racks of clamshell VHS cases trying to find something they’d never heard of before with a glistening man’s fists on the front and a title featuring the word ‘death’ or ‘ninja’, and now they spend their days searching Amazon, E-Bay or any number of online DVD retailers for films starring people like Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson or anything that features a mutant killer robot, a villain in a bad 80s shiny suit with a female sidekick that looks like Chewbacca in leather hot pants, or an exploding oil rig (in fact, preferably many exploding oil rigs).

I know of what I speak; with the films of Bruce Campbell I was that guy, and any weird films like Traxx (a 1988 film about a highlighted and feathered mullet sporting ex-soldier dude who just wanted to settle in a small town and bake horrible cookies but keeps getting embroiled in trouble), or something like Dead Heat (another 1988 film that I came across sitting on the shelf in the back of a second hand record store), well so much the better.
Film fans have this strange burning urge inside them to know something more obscure than the other guy; to find something only a tiny community of people know about and treasure it. Which is ironic, when deep down all any of us really wants to do is belong; just not to any group big enough so we cease being the best one in it I guess.
It’s either that, or so-called money-making ‘popular’ movies are such lazy piles of crass horseshit that us folks who want to watch something genuinely different have to hunt a bit. Probably six of one and half a dozen of the other, as my old man used to say.

So anyway, as I had always been a film fan, and had always been a little bit of a jack of all trades where being creative was concerned, I decided to blend the two and I started a blog. Then 8 months later I started a podcast (both called The After Movie Diner), and 8 months after that I started ANOTHER podcast focusing specifically on action movies (Dr.Action and the Kick Ass Kid Commentaries). One of the reasons for telling you all of this (and indeed the name of this article for all those still paying attention) is that doing any internet venture leads you, just in the promoting of it, to meet other people who are normally roughly in the same ballpark. And when you meet this community (because 95% of the people I have met online since the beginning have been incredibly nice and now are practically family!) you realise two things:
 1. You don’t know half as much about movies as you pretend to know to the friends who don’t know any better
 2. Somewhere along the line you had forgotten that there is a wide, rich and varied world in every genre just waiting for you to delve right in.

For me these realisations both humbled me a little and made me hungry for movies again, not in a Steve Seagal way where I went on a gut inflating rampage devouring films like they were chocolate cake, but in a way that I hadn’t been in almost a decade; specifically, and most recently, action films.

So as I step and stumble through this world of films featuring sweaty muscle bound goons with across-the-board bad hair and bad clothing choices who break arms, bounce crims heads off the hoods of cars and make things go BOOOOOM! I come across people on twitter, websites, blogs, podcasts, facebook posts and forums that give me info, new film titles, actors I could look out for and lead me further down the path to…
I don’t know what…
maybe a film where Louis Gosset Jnr, Al Leong and Robert Davi all have to wrestle a giant, genetically-mutated, electronic boa constricter on a runaway train loaded with conflict Diamonds, that is in the process of being hi-jacked by a Lithuanian splinter group hell-bent on using the diamonds to buy a new super weapon being manufactured by a ludicrously pock-marked gentleman who has decided to wear a series of man-boob-exposingly-tight turtle necks. He is the defecting ex-partner of a New York cop, played by Brian Dennehy, who is down on his luck trying to solve his last case when his daughter gets kidnapped by a death metal band and a megalomaniacal robot Orangutan who is secretly a cover for James Hong and Yaphett Koto who are in league with the Lithuanians as they are trying to get their new, highly potent and illegal strain of cocaine fueled fire arms into Eastern Europe… or something…

My point being, I found a part of my manself again. I reconnected with the fan in me through venturing out there reading and listening to things, and I am learning more about my manself with each man-movie I watch.

Will today be the day that you find your manself?

Written by The Kick Ass Kid

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