The Designer’s Drugs: Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Gary Shteyngart – Super Sad True Love Story

Anno: 2010

This title lies.  Though the desperate, clinging search for love is what drives this book’s protagonist, this isn’t much of a romance.  Romance isn’t even the point.  More important than the boy-meets-girl drama that keeps the characters in Super Sad True Love Story busy is the setting in which all of this happens – a self-obsessed, totalitarian America of the future that is about to die.  It’s a country and culture in all ways bankrupt: in which everybody wants to be a teenager, in which Facebooking permeates every aspect of real life, and in which the Chinese are the debtmasters of the United States.  In other words, it’s frighteningly plausible.

Anchoring this bleak vision is a pudgy old schmuck named Lenny, a spinster in his late 30s who is as pathetic a specimen as can be found in these slick ruins.  He spends his days selling the promise of immortality to “High Net Worth Individuals” while simpering toward his boss, an old man made young whom Lenny has elevated into a father figure.  He also reads, which has become a serious social taboo.  His ratings in Personality and Fuckability – both real and legitimate assessments in this world – are doomed to always be low.

Yet in the midst of an exile to Rome – a place which, he notes, has accepted its decay with dignity – his life changes.  While wading through all the resigned, mechanical hedonism of the place, he meets Eunice Park, a hot mess of baggage who nonetheless inspires Lenny to never die.  In a match of convenience, Eunice moves into Lenny’s New York pad, and they begin an awkward, bumbling relationship.

The purpose of their union is not to incite Lenny and Eunice to grow together, but rather to refine their senses of alienation while around one another.  Part of this separateness comes from the fact that almost everybody in this story is disgustingly loathsome, yet another key reinforcement is the fact that both are children of immigrants (Lenny is Russian Jewish; Eunice is Korean).  Their America has become increasingly unfriendly to new faces, and so their parents are breathing reminders that they do not belong.  It’s oddly appropriate that Eunice’s family causes more damage to her than Lenny’s does to him, yet she is the person who better fits in with the pricks and sleazes.  Nonetheless, both ultimately act on their estrangement, and while they come to different conclusions they both become better for the change.

Super Sad True Love Story certainly qualifies as a sharp satire of the current (and probable) state of American culture.  Yet there’s an urgency to its depiction of America’s last shuddering moments that gives it an unexpected weight and sympathy.  It’s this end which proves most fascinating.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Flight of the Living Dead

Long story short - this is the best thing about this movie.

Movie: Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane (2007)

Director:  Scott Thomas

Starring: David Chisum, Richard Tyson, Erick Avari

Written by:  Sidney Iwanter, Mark Onspaugh, Scott Thomas

Wow.  This movie does not screw around when it comes to stating its purpose.  The long and overly clever name says it all; this is pretty much Snakes on a Plane with zombies.  Yet this airborne setting, which works for a terror story about our serpent friends, is a ridiculous circus when playing host to the living dead.  I know that filmmakers like to pretend that airplanes are gigantic labyrinths where heroes and villains can spin kick in the aisles, but flight is more often than not an exercise in claustrophobia.  A venomous snake loose among the humans and slithering and squeezing through the plane’s hidden passages is terrifying.  A big dumb bitey human trying those same horror jump moves in such a space is idiotic.  But they tried.  Someone had to.

Actually, what happens is the zombies tear a giant ass hole from beneath the walkway, and then hordes of the living dead spew from this cavern to chew on the living.  Which is funny, because before the outbreak, there seemed to be about 20 people on the flight – and not a screaming child among them.  Were the dead breeding down in that formless, infinite chasm beneath the passengers?  No one can say.

Of course, the straights aren’t going to take this undead invasion in their locked and upright positions.  After the douchebags, stewardesses, and one well-dressed old Japanese guy get weeded out, those who advance to the lightning round band together to, well, shimmy through (giant) crawlspaces and throw zombies out airlocks.  I guess I would have liked one of them to throw caution to the wind and light up a cigarette, but these characters are barely hanging on as it is.

Among our contestants is professional Val Kilmer impersonator Richard Tyson playing a dick in a beret, improbably revealing himself to be an armed dick in a beret.  There’s also a Tiger Woods clone who, as his bitchy wife looks on disapprovingly, struts around with his lucky putter.  You know, because he’s a golfer.

If there are good characters in the film, they would be the laid-back federal agent and his captured quarry, whose back-and-forth is as lively as this film gets.  Additionally, the evil scientist played by professional Ben Kingsley impersonator Erick Avari slides from sneering opportunist to raving victim with a maximum of presence.  His character is largely a plot point, but Avari owns any scene he appears in – and once he turns to the dark side, his Glasgow smile makes him the leader of the dead.

Yet ultimately, this is another crappy zombie film, with the added distinction of having no spatial awareness whatsoever.  Worse, there’s no Samuel L. Jackson screaming about those motherfucking zombies on his motherfucking plane.

Even me?