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Your July 2008 RMC Results Are In!

Tagline: It's 4 a.m... do you know where your kids are?

Preshow Entertainment: Scandal's GOODBYE TO YOU video, some performances by Chet Baker and Elvis Costello, and just when you thought there couldn't possibly be any more footage of Simply Red, Simply Red on Arsenio Hall



Patty Smyth, Scandal, Goodbye To You
Making our way through television I taped in the 1980s, tonight we came upon that boppy chestnut by Scandal called GOODBYE TO YOU. Though the hair, wardrobe and effects seem like parody now, the video somehow still works. This was the dawn of MTV when videos were exciting and even growly rock songs made you smile (HOT FOR TEACHER, anyone?). Following this, we watched two live songs by Chet Baker featuring Elvis Costello from the video Live at Ronnie Scott's. A musichead himself, Elvis was always looking to expand his stylings, and I offer this as proof. Together they performed THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU and YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS. Sadly, Baker fell out of a window (killed himself, some say) within two years of this performance. The heroin and cocaine found in his system (plus his lifelong addiction) may have helped. Speaking of wasted lives...


Wow. BULLY. If there's a more frank and honest rendering of disaffected teens in a movie, I've yet to see it. Though some parts are exaggerated to near comedy, and a few even make you say, "Oh, come on now," BULLY is a frightening study of teen slackerdom at its finest. We all knew kids like these. In my high school they were called Swampies because they hung out at the swamp near the school. They'd skip school, smoke, drink, have sex, and didn't care if they got caught. In a way, they were hippies with teeth. But at least hippies cared about something. And unlike the kids in BULLY, hippies generally didn't rape and murder anyone.

Teens Bobby (Nick Stahl) and Marty (Brad Renfro, who himself died a heroin-related death in 2008) have been friends forever, and that's also how long Bobby has been picking on Marty. Not just picking as in nya nya nya, but doing things like punching Bobby in the face with a closed fist or forcing him to dance in a gay strip club. That kind of picking on him.

Brad Renfro (Marty) in BULLY
The film opens with Marty performing gay phone sex (we learn later that Bobby makes him do it). In a close-up, he tells the person at the other end that he wants him to do you-know-what to you-know-where. Then, off screen, we hear Marty's mom: "Honey! Dinner!" This cuts to a tracking shot of bright green lawns (a guy is even working on his). This is suburbia, where nurturing your lawn is sometimes more important than nurturing your kid. Seconds later, dark clouds fill the sky.

At their job as sandwich makers in a supermarket, Marty and Bobby meet two girls. Bobby hooks up with the It's-Impossible-To-Dress-Any-Sluttier (not that I'm complaining) Ali (Bijou Phillips, who gets an actual screen credit for her wardrobe), while Marty gets the angel-faced yet dim Lisa (Rachel Miner, the former Mrs. McCaulay Culkin). While they're chatting each other up, Bobby slams Marty's head into a pizza warmer. So the stage is set.
Bobby (Nick Stahl) and Marty (Brad Renfro) at work at sandwich shop
Evil lurks in suburbia. And though Bobby sure is a bully, he's not the evil I'm talking about. I'm talking about kids with minds so unformed and uninformed that they can commit evil without even realizing what they are doing is wrong. So when Lisa corners Marty with "Why do you let Bobby treat you the way he does?," their logical answer is to kill Bobby. And since these kids were evidently brought up to believe there are no consequences no matter how bad your actions may be, this sounds like a fine idea to them. So where do these impenitent kids go to discuss their murder plan? Pizza Hut.

It's easy for stoner kids to have one bad thing lead to another since they possess no real logic. So it makes sense that their simple plan takes forever, yet the unraveling is immediate. The irony here is that Bobby was the only one in the group who had any brains, as he's seen doing homework and talking college with his dad. He's also the only one from a semi-affluent, unbroken home.

The BULLY Gang
Assisting with the crime: Donny, who makes Tommy Chong look like Stephen Hawking. Michael Pitt does a fine job in the role, providing a comic relief through his stoned personality. Heather (Kelli Garner) is Ali's friend since they were both teen prostitutes together (how cute). Completing this less than magnificent seven are Lisa's cousin Derek (Daniel Franzese) and mealy-mouthed KIDS alum Leo Fitzpatrick as a Beavis-y faux gang-member they call "The Hitman."

There's a lot of psychological subtext going on here. Why exactly is Bobby a bully? Well, apparently he's a homosexual in denial. He watches gay porn and once or twice even tries to get his friends to watch it with him. He's also best friends with Marty, a relationship that can only be described as Battered Wife Syndrome (because he can't leave the relationship, Marty begs his parents to move them away, to no avail). When Marty and Lisa become an item, Bobby is threatened and acts out. He even derails a possible hook-up for Marty, clearly out of jealousy. Does Bobby know he's a bully? Mostly not. But in some moments, like when he looks at himself in the mirror and spits at his own reflection, we know there's some self-awareness going on in there.

The murder scene is brutal. It reminded me of
TORN CURTAIN. Just how hard is it to kill a man? It sure is easy and in this case fun to talk and plan, but to kill a human being? But it's not the murder that makes BULLY so harsh. It's the decisions these brainless kids make before, during, and after the murder. Or perhaps it's their lack of decisions. It's their cavalier stance. This is what makes you scream at the screen.

Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner and Brad Renfro in BULLY

Director Larry Clark, who also did the even more stunning (believe it or not) cautionary mod-fable KIDS (not a date movie, believe me) has been accused of exploitation and even child pornography (because apparently teens in real life don't have sex). But what I accuse him of is making a sugar-free movie about teenage wasteland. BULLY doesn't just turn the rock over like THE BREAKFAST CLUB. No, BULLY holds the rock up to your eyeballs and screams "See this!?" Because so many people don't "see this." It's denial. It's "my kid's a good kid." But it's there. I've seen it. And so have you.

When I saw KIDS, I thought, "Man, this should be required viewing for kids." When I saw BULLY, I thought, "Man, this should be required viewing for parents." It's obvious that parents are much to blame here.

To me the casual and plentiful nudity, underage sex, drugs, drinking, rape, murder, and nonchalant attitudes aren't the worst part. The most shocking thing about BULLY is it's based on real teens who in 1993 killed their friend in Cooper City, Florida (coincidentally five minutes from where I sit writing this while visiting family).

Some movies make you cry. Others make you laugh. Bully will jangle you. A strange but effective amalgam of 80% BOYS DON'T CRY, 10% BANNED FROM TV and 10% F TROOP, BULLY is like a very bloody accident on the side of the road. You don't want to look. You really don't want to look. In fact, if you look you'll just slow traffic up even more like all those other idiots who are looking. So you don't look. Then, as you pass, you look, and what you see affects you for a long, long time. And that's BULLY.

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