My son has agreed to watch #BlackWidow with me, but on the condition that we will make fun of it, MST3000-style, as we watch.
10 minutes in. Good news: it cannot be called the worst movie ever made in a world where Indiana Jones-4 exists.
Bad news: it's the worst movie ever made.
Where do I start?.. Hey, let's start in the beginning, as the scriptwriter, undoubtedly chained to a concrete chair with the words "MAKE IT AS AMERICAN AS POSSIBLE" written in blood on all the walls of his windowless room, decided to begin in the most American of all states.
OK, so they are clumsily rewriting The Americans plot, but with 1000 billion fewer brain cells involved. Fine, I don't care. But here we are, as the Jennings family is forced to... gasp... leave America.
So, let me tell you a little about hamfisted scenes.
In the 1970s, a Soviet movie called Solitary Voyage came out. It was about Soviet Navy men defeating evil American CIA assassins through the sheer power of historical imperative, didactical materialism and karate.
It was pretty popular.
Anyway, in the opening shot of the film...
A sailor and a midshipman are standing on the deck of USSR SS "Vera Ivanovna Zasulich" and stare into the sunrise, in the direction of the Glorious Motherland.
"Comrade midshipman, I miss the glorious Russian nightingales", says the sailor.
"Did you know, there aren't any nightingales in America?"
"Hm... They obviously couldn't survive in the infernal capitalist nightmare of the imperialist hellhole", answers the midshipman in all seriousness.
This is how the film generally proceeds, but with more karate.
What I am trying to say is that #BlackWidow, which gives us the poor-man's Jennings family's pain at leaving Glorious America through listening to "American pie" as illuminated US flags, Burger King signs and a motherfucking high school football game float by - IS MORE HAMFISTED!
Like, son of a bitch, did they just forget to throw in a "Dole 1996" yard sign in there, or was it left on the cutting room floor because Bob Dole is considered a communist now?
Fuck, why not have them stop by a drive-in theater to catch Apollo 13 while they were at it?
OK, let's skip through fighty-explody scenes and here we are... in Cuba? Because in 1995 Russia is obviously still Communist and Cuba is its allies and KGB is still a thing, because sure why not, American audiences are still teary-eyed because the girls have to leave Ohio.
I guess the girls aren't happy about having an opportunity to listen to nightingales for the first time, huh...
But hey! The girl is speaking actual, real Russian! Wow, I can't wait until she grows up and Scarlett Johansson will have to deliver the lines. I bet she'll do great!
You know, girls, you should be more grateful. There are little starving children in Africa who can only dream of being able to leave Ohio one day.
But wait a second!
Drakeov????!!! This guy's name is DRAKEOV???
Wait, American followers, this is a genuine question. I am actually curious. Do you really think Russian names are made by taking a random rapper's name and a attaching an "ov" to it?
Like, here is Comrade Usherov! Colonel Jay-Zov, reporting for duty. General 50centov's orders!
OK, we will watch some more and then continue the blow-by-blow. This is extremely hilarious comedy so far.
I am really sorry for calling this script hamfisted. No, this is actually some pretty nuanced shit right here.
"Are we the baddies?"
Only the latest of Russian technology was used in making this robot mimic "Natasha" "Romanoff's" stupid superhero poses.
And Scarlett begins to speak Russian, which is a Pavlovian signal for my brain to attempt to bleed out of my ears. It's absolutely incredible that an actress of her caliber is so utterly incapable of even making a single plausible sound in a foreign language. It's almost sublime
Here is my explanation of what it sounds like when Scarlett "speaks" "Russian."
Imagine an old, Khrushchev-era Soviet toilet, gurgling noisily in the hallway (no room for it in Khrushchev-era bathrooms). Now, imagine an extremely sick cat hacking a hairball into it.
Now, imagine a company of drunk Somalian firefighters driving to rescue this cat, which is also on fire.
Now, imagine all of this occurring in a nightmare of a dying dog as it's succumbing to the venom of a toad croaking nearby.
This is Vivaldi compared to Scarlett's Russian.
So, apparently, as Natasha's Russian got so much worse, her sister's English has also acquired an accent. I mean, it's plausible in the way that makes no sense at all, but fine.
One of these women is clearly a better actress.
And it's not Scarlett.
OK, her Russian is better too!
You know, Scarlett, you could've skipped a few Superhero Pose classes in acting school and attended more Actually Speaking With a Believable Accent classes, like this here girl clearly did.
Barton and Scarlett spent two days hiding out in this place, and one of them has obviously lost all wits, as manifested by this absolutely appalling game of tic-tac-toe.
Too early to tell, but this scene may redeem the entire movie.
Absolutely amazingly written (probably by a different script writer from the one who did the opening scene) and superbly acted. Why couldn't this be the entire fucking movie?
I have just realized something!!
They are punting on 4th and 6 in a high school game???? This is blasphemy! No red-blooded American football team has a punter worth shit! This entire movie is a lie! I bet we will find out everything happened in a Russian's dream!
And, of course, nothing says "This is not America, the country we love and want to still be in" like MOTHERFUCKING SOCCER ON MOTHERFUCKING TV.
So sad for the girls right now.
Wait, what?
"Solovyev Air"? It says Solovyev Air. The Russian name Solovyev and the English word "Air", spelled out in Cyrillic. On a helicopter. Solovyev, by the way, means "Son of a Nightnigale."
This movie was made with the explicit purpose of killing my brain.
OK, let's first establish something very important about the prison scene.
Which is: they speak THREE different languages here. Not 1. Not 2. Three!
1) English, cheesily accented, in no way similar to actual Russian accent
2) Russian, actual
3) Russian, brain-meltingly horrible
See, this is what I don't understand about scenes like this. I get it when, in Chernobyl, they had all characters just speak English and let our imagination do the trick.
But what is the purpose of having actors fake silly accents only to switch to Russian and then back again????
Siberian Gulag's racial composition is quite impressive, I'll say.
But back to Red Guardian's English. It was accentless in Ohio. Why the sudden accent? Is this because he's actually speaking Russian? But he isn't! He speaks Russian later! Why English here? Why bad English? Fuck!
And his tattoos are even more confusing. He has a woman's face with "Luybov" (either a name or the Russian word for "love") on one shoulder, "Gospozha Udacha" ("Lady Luck") around his neck. Which is totally fine and quite common of Russian criminal culture.
The other shoulder has his daughters' names - Natasha and Yelena. Which is weird and stupid, because Natasha is a diminutive for Natalya, while Yelena is a full, formal name. It would be logical to go with Lena or Lenochka here, since she is his youngest. But fuck logic.
Yes, I cannot overstate how believable and authentic this Siberian gulag is.
But they did get someone to consult on the tattoos.
The star on the shoulder and the onion dome on the chest indicate a very high position in the prison hierarchy. One has to be a "thief in law" (a lifetime professional criminal) to have the right to wear them.
Or a superhero.
And here we are. Guard 1 speaks horrific, pain-inducing Russian. Guard 2 speaks actual, accentless Russian. Red Guardian speaks English w/ a bullshit accent.
(And really, you couldn't find 2 actual Russian speaking extras?)
Also, they call him "Krasnoarmeyets" ("Red Army Man"), while in the Russian release he is called "Krasny Strazh" (literally "Red Guardian"). Why?
Both names aren't great, by the way. Much better one would've been "Krasnogvardeyets", which is both Red Army Man and Red Guardian.
You know what they guy in the background is thinking?
"Why am I, an actual Russian speaker, saying like one word, while this moron, who can't speak Russian at all, gets two whole lines of tortured, incomprehensible text? Fucking actors' guild!"
That's what he is thinking.
I would like to once again point out that this guy's tattoos had to be made in 1995 at the absolute earliest, but likely much later. His commitment to a long-dead ideology of a long-dead country is curious, to say the least.
This is very scenic for a Siberian gulag, but of course they needed something snowy, blizzardy and deathy. I guess, it's been like 6 months since the summer-time Budapest scene, right?
Oh, right, I forgot. It's always snowing in Siberia, I guess.
See, I know that explody things and 100-lb women sending 300-lb men in full riot gear flying with a very choreographic kick puts asses in the seats, but this here is actually good moviemaking.
This actress is a treasure. The entire movie should've been her and her only!
OK, my son has bailed on this scene. It's grossed him out completely. He ran out of the room, actually moaning "Think of puppies, think of puppies, think of puppies."
Poor kid. I feel guilty.
OK, Comrade Guardian, have a normal one. But as we are talking 1995 here, you will have to be more specific about which party you mean.
Was it the Communist Party of Russia, by now in opposition and a minority? The democratic party Yabloko? LDPR? Congress of Russian Communities?
Again, what language is he supposed to be speaking? His inexplicably accented English? Or is it implied by this cheesy accent that he is speaking Russian? Which would be weird because in Russian this sentence makes no sense (as Party and party are not the same word).
Ah, wait, HERE is his Russian.
My apologies, Scarlett. Hopper actually makes your Russian sound like Vivaldi now. This is what my old teacher of Russian literature will listen to in hell, hopefully.
The lower part of the tattoo does indeed say "KRASNY STRAZH."
So, my explanation is, they had to replace their Russian translator midway through the film, because the first one's brain exploded.
Sir, your left nipple contains a spelling error. The word "Svoboda" (Freedom) is written as "Svobouda." And while spelling errors aren't unheard of in Russian, this word can never be misspelled in this particular way, unless by an English-speaker trying to transcribe it by ear.
"Russians drinking vodka vodkaly" is a scene that must happen in every Russian-themed movie because otherwise the entire Hollywood sign will drop into the Pacific, so OK. But hey, the Olivier salad is real! They had someone make a real Olivier but couldn't spell a fucking tattoo.
And now that our roles are over, I have acquired a silly non-Russian Russian accent because reasons.
This is a proper Russian table. Everything in the topple-ware better be in various degrees of pickled. No food issues in this film. Major actor issues, though.
Every scene without the blond woman is a total waste, basically.
And now, we are finally asking the right questions. Why is Yelena's name a proper Russian female surname while Natasha's is a surrogate Frenchified male one?
So many mysteries in that mysterious land of Russia, I tell you.
Here is the thing. They hired a Russian speaking extra to deliver this line. But the line is translated verbatim ("Melina, stoy tam!") and makes no sense in Russian. They couldn't have asked the guy, "How would you actually say this?"
Or did they just get a mouth-breathing rando?
I've always considered Lundgren's screams in Rocky IV the absolute worst Hollywood Russian. But this beats them hands down. This is gibberish. Drivel. Garbage. Gasses escaping from corpses of XIX century Russian literary classics. It's cultural desecration. Be ashamed, Scarlett.
Director: "Scarlett, you have to deliver this line in Russian"
Scarlett: "I literally can't. This language makes my mouth hurt. My tongue wants to escape my body by excavating my cheek. It's like hearing myself fart out of my throat"
Director: "Don't care. More poignant this way"
I feel Yelena's sorrow in this scene. Who wouldn't?! To use an informal nickname Natasha and a stupid Frenchified, MALE version of the last name Romanova on a gravestone is the ultimate insult.
Did she deserve such a fate? Nobody deserves such a fate.
OK, here is the thing. Of all these kick-fighting women, only one was played by an actual Russian speaker, Olga Kurylenko. Who also happens to be a model. So, they slapped a pizza over half her face and GAVE HER ZERO LINES!
A punishment for being an actual Russian in Hollywood.
Also, though this hardly matters at this point, Antonia isn't an actual Russian first name (would've been so easy to make her Antonina), Dreykov is not an actual Russian last name, and can't be given to a woman in any case.
But hold on a sec...
Is the mom's name Melina Vostokoff? Not a real Russian first name, not a real Russian last name, not a female ending AND Frenchified? This is like a quadruple play in baseball: utterly impossible, completely unnecessary and incredibly badass.
So wait, Vostokoff... Hold on...
So, instead of upending "ov" to a rapper's name, we are not upending "off" to a name of Soviet spacecraft? Cool, cool. Vostokoff, then? Was she a sister of the great Lurleena Soyuzoff? And of the memorable Sovietina Sputnikoff?
I am so done with this film. So, so, so done.
PS. Wakanda forever.
Yes, this is precisely right.
Which is impressive, considering the clerks in a typical Russian store in US can't understand or say two words in English. They probably sent one of the misused extras to order "Odin paund Olivier" and "kolbasu na-slice-tee"
So, wait! They could change the whole Hulk, Rhodey and Fandral actors and nobody batted an eye, but switching a silly non-Russian name to a proper one would... what, destroy continuity? Compromise realism? In movies about flying people punching aliens?
OK, so to summarize.
1. I finished the film, my (American) son could not
2. It's not the worst movie ever made in the world that still contains Indiana Jones-4. The character of Eye-ree-na S Palkoi, acted by a woman-shaped piece of wood, from IJ-4 will haunt my nightmares forever
3. The blonde sister character is played by a wonderful actress and is written extremely well, but, of course, the Marvel trope of "the less gorgeous one gets to be evil for a bit" holds in the end.
4. Finally... When will Hollywood stop doing The Thing?
Let me explain...
The Thing that Hollywood does with Russians is when everyone must drink vodka, roll their "R's" and speak with a cheesy, grumpy, growling accent. The Thing when actual Russian-speaking extras are given like 1 word, while long lines are delivered by people who can't speak Russian
The Thing when the lead, understandably played by an American/English actor, is forced to speak Russian at unnecessary times, exposing their horrendous accents (The Americans was guilty of this as well) and ruining the entire effect.
When will it stop doing this Thing?
This tells me that the thinking here is either or both of these:
a) Hollywood thinks Russian is a language of barbarian subhumans, without nuances in pronunciation, and as such can easily be mimicked by anyone just mouthing the words in growling voice...
b) Hollywood doesn't give a shit about realism when it comes to Russian characters and Russian audiences, even though it absolutely obsesses about weird details like elf armor and Klingon makeup.
Will Hollywood ever stop doing The Thing?
I am finally done. Off for a jog.
Fuck, no! I am back from my jog and I am still full of rage! While the blonde sister actress redeems some of the film, the rest is completely inexcusable!!!
1) Why, WHY, WHY is Red Guardian a Communist ideologue in 1990s Russia? The Soviet Union is long dead!
... there is no such thing as "The Party" anymore, nobody gets send to Gulags for political speech! Does Hollywood thinks that all Russians always live under Stalin? WTF is this???
2) Why are there so many black people in the Russian gulag? I would LOVE to hear the reasons...
To me, this seems like the director's thinking was along the lines of "Well, OK, this is clearly a Siberian gulag, but our audience will not get that special prisony feeling unless we stick a black person in every shot."
Could Hollywood directors be extremely racist? You tell me.
So, add this to the list of my takeaways.
* In Hollywood's reality, Russian = Stalin, no matter the time period.
* In Hollywood's reality, prison = black people everywhere, no matter the geographical location.
Great job, Hollywood! Why do people think you are liberal?
Slava out.
Yup. Here it is. The Ukrainian Revolution of 2014, which Russian propaganda claims is the work of dark secret forces, is indeed, according to Black Widow, just that.
Russia has used this lie to invade Ukraine, annex a part of it, kill 100s of thousands.
You know, fuck this. I revise my verdict. It is indeed the worst movie ever made, despite the Blond Sister Actress.
At least Indiana Jones-4, with its horrible Eye-Rhenal S Palkoi actress and stupid truck fencing scenes, did not slander Ukraine and peddle Kremlin's propaganda.
Except Yeltsin and Putin are shown in the opening sequence, so, no, Russia is not still communist in the 1990s. It's just Marvel Studios thinking (rightly?) its audience are morons all around who think Russia is still ruled by Stalin.

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9 Aug
Biblical masculinity? You mean like that guy who got drunk and was raped by his own daughters? Or like that guy who was so hurt by kids' making fun of his bald spot he got god to send some female bears to murder the children?
That biblical masculinity?
My favorite Bible story is about when an entire city was gay, and god was butthurt and wanted to burn it, and these god-fearing dudes went "No, wait, let us find one straight guy", so they did, and god was like "Oh, fine, save him", and then TURNED HIS WIFE INTO A BIG SALTY PENIS
Another is about the general who was like, "God, help me win a war", and god was, "Yeah, whatcha gonna do for me", and the guy was "I'll kill the 1st thing that comes out of my city to meet me", and god made his daughter come out and the guy killed her & burned her corpse for god
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Another baseball question. When the infield looks like this, why the hell wouldn't you bunt to third base? Looks like a guaranteed single to me. Image
I'm sure there is a rationale here, otherwise nobody would do it, I am just curious what it is.
Wow, extremely analytical answers. Glad I've asked this. Definitely not something one would pick up instinctually.
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So last night, my 12-year-old and I had a very deep and difficult conversation about the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most disturbing and hideous character, Iron Man. My son found Tony Stark unpalatable for multiple valid reasons, but I was unsettled on a deeper level.
Thing is...
Tony Stark is the most Russian character in the entire bloody saga. I am not hyperbolizing or being coy. Anton Starkov is extremely, horrifyingly Russian for all the wrong, most problematic, most repulsive reasons.
Consider the following...
It's not just that Stark is ostentatious and vulgar in his displays of wealth and bangs his secretary (and also everyone else), both of which are mandatory by statute for all Russian oligarchs. Tony lives by two core principles, that consume his entire being:
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The entire idea of Avengers: Endgame is "Hulk may have six PhD's, but Tony Stark is a billionaire, and billionaires are magic, so stuff your degrees up your green asshole, egghead."
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Wait, Pepper Potts is a superhero, too? What's her superhero name? The Golddigger?
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At some point the world's sports community will understand that it is absolutely impossible to make Putin's Russia stop cheating in sports. It will not stop cheating. It can't stop cheating. Cheating has become an integral part of Russian international sports.
It's really a pretty simple dynamic: there is no downside to cheating for Putin. Any gold Russia wins is a political win for him. Any time a Russian athlete gets caught, he spins it as the evil West being afraid of glorious Russian athlete. The public buys it wholesale.
Even liberals don't blame Putin for doping scandals. The narrative is always the same:
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In the entire history of the NHL, there has never been a non-expansion team that was a bigger embarrassment than the Buffalo Sabres that would go on to survive long-term.
At this point, to close up shop would be the best-case scenario.
This level of incompetence is unsustainable.
Usually when people say "I could coach/manage better", it's a hyperbole. Not here. Forget even me, I am a professional sports writer who is famously never wrong. Imagine yourself, a lay plebeian. In what imaginable way could you mismanage Buffalo worse than these "pros" have?
Think about it. What could you possibly do to make it worse?
How can Briere/Drury be screwed up more? Inspirational captains who led the team to a Presidents Cup season - allowed to walk for nothing after the team completely alienated them with disrespectful, low-ball proposals
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