Reality Bites.

I Find Karma (
Sun, 27 Apr 97 17:59:38 PDT


> Btw, did you think Reality Bites was a good movie? (Another one in the
> Golden Age of 80s-early 90s american cinema?) Either way you feel,
> tell me why.

[I'm Ccing FoRK on this response, just to let Rohit know about my theory
of cinema, which says:

All of the best movie innovations were made (roughly) in the years
between 1980 and 1994, starting with The Empire Strikes Back and running
through Pulp Fiction.

That is not to say that there were no good movies before 1980 or after
1994; it is just to say that everything pre-1980 was really leading up
to this "Golden Age" of moviemaking, and that most movies since have
been tripey and garbagey in comparison (and/or rehashes of something
that worked well in the 1980-1994 era, such "Die Hard" copycats...).

So, Reality Bites came at the end of this creative Renaissance of
moviemaking, and yes, I thought it was a great movie. I thought it was
the best movie in the "20something slacker" genre, being more focused in
its cynicism than "Slacker", more capturing the spirit of the Generation
X 1990s zeitgeist than "Heathers", less filthy (and hence more
accessible) than "Clerks", and more focused on the despair of the
generation than "Singles", even though all of those movies were good in
their own right.

Reality Bites is a marvel of deconstructionism, too, taking on the
Baudrillardian challenge. Recall that in that old Baudrillardian
challenge, if one stages a bank robbery and carries the performance all
the way to the bank, fooling even the teller and guards, one arguably
has succeeded in redefining oneself not as an actor, but as a bank
robber. With Baudrillard, the simulation IS the reality.

In Reality Bites, one thread of the movie is about the 20somethings
trying to live their lives, whereas another thread is trying to capture
those lives on film in "reality bites" spliced together to accommodate
the attention span of the MTV slackers living those lives in the first
place. So for the deconstructionism, I give it kudos.

Another gauge of a movie's quality, for me, is the amount of witty
oneliners I can cop out of it. Reality Bites is like Heathers in this
sense: it's a fountain of wit:

1. After the beep, leave a brief justification for man's ontological
evolution in an existential universe.
2. All you do is eat and couch and fondle the remote control.
3. All you do is sponge.
4. BFA? B.F.D. I'm through with the whole wank-a-rama.
5. Could you please spot us a pizza?
6. Did he dazzle you with his extensive knowledge of mineral water?
7. Does this moment HAVE to be memorexed?
8. Evian spelled backwards is naive.
9. Exhale, and get a grip on reality.
10. Have a tude, weinerdude.
11. He is a master of time suckage.
12. He'll turn the apartment into a den of slack.
13. He's so cheesy I can't watch him without crackers.
14. He's strange, he's sloppy, he's a total nightmare for women.
I can't believe I haven't slept with him yet.
15. He's the reason Cliffs Notes were invented.
16. Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent.
17. Here comes the plane. It's looking for the hangar!
18. Here's a tip: next time you make microwave brownies, use a microwave.
19. I dared ask the question, are shifttime snacks subsidized?
20. I feel like I'm on a crappy show like Melrose Place. I'm the HIV
character who it's okay to be nice to, but then I die, and everybody
comes to my funeral in chokes and halter tops.
21. I have a jean folding seminar to attend.
22. I like the 44 ounce Big Gulp. I buy one in the morning and I have
all the nutrients I need for the whole day.
23. I really can't define irony, but I know when I see it.
24. I'll make them take out the pizza part.
25. I'm Audi 5000.
26. I'm a nonpracticing virgin.
27. I'm not a Pepper?
28. If we can get two women on the Supreme Court, surely we can get one
on you.
29. It's like MTV but with an edge.
30. Melrose Place is a really good show.
31. No one can eat fifty eggs. (quoting Cool Hand Luke)
32. Penalty for premature evacuation.
33. She's out the door before the condom comes off.
34. The greatest invention in my lifetime was the Big Gulp.
35. There's a planet of regret on my shoulders.
36. We can't all live in clever clever land.
37. Welcome to the Maxi pad.
38. What is your glitch?
39. You are in the bell jar.
40. You look like... a doily.
41. You're curiously attracted to me, aren't you? You like to watch,
don't you?
42. You, me, five bucks, and a little conversation.

Okay, so it's got the deconstructionism, which I love, and it's witty
(even the title is a play on "sound bites of reality" versus "reality
bites the big one")... but those alone would not make for a choice
moviegoing experience. It needs two other things: good characters and a
good plot.

For good characters, Ethan Hawke is tolerable as the quintessential
everyslacker you want to slug, but what really make the movie are Steve
Zahn as the gay guy trying to level with his parents, the awesome Ben
Stiller -- I love this guy!!! -- as the clueless career dude with a good
heart, Janeane Garofalo as the cynic, and Winona Ryder as the babe
trying to figure out what to do with your life.

So, from an actors standpoint, any movie with Ben Stiller, Janeane
Garofalo, or Winona Ryder is a plus; any movie with all three is BONUS.
Plus, catch cameos from Andy Dick, John Mahoney, Renee Zellweger, Evan
Dando, David Pirner, and Karen Duffy... so the casting is great in this
movie. But -- and this is important to me, as you well know -- the
principles can act, and with the exception of dorky Ethan Hawke, they
are all likeable characters with whom we can empathize.

But the film needs a story to get the kudos I'm giving it, and this film
takes an archetypal story -- the Love Triangle -- and twists it on its
ear, so that the guy Winona Ryder *should* end up with at the end is
unclear: should she go for sweet, nice, yet clueless Ben Stiller, or
should she go with arrogant, slacking, yet one-of-us Ethan Hawke?
Unclear. And it's that ambiguity that makes the movie watchable several
times, just to check out the nuances with each additional watch.

So yeah, to me, Reality Bites was an awesome movie -- I ranked it my
favorite movie of 1994 ahead of Pulp Fiction, Clerks, Hudsucker Proxy,
Hoop Dreams, The Lion King, Forrest Gump, Shawshank Redemption, Speed,
and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Did I answer your question?



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-- Jurassic Park