The Sickos Do Another One of These
It's the same kinda thing as before but about new stuff now
Hey folks, it’s the Sickos.
No news to speak of in our supposed “newsletter,” rather it’s more like “Tom had two ideas for things to write about and then did.” At this point you should know to expect that’s how it’s going to be. I imagine you’re OK with it since you have chosen to read this. Anyway, onward.
Tom’s Cinema Corner
This newsletter is like 70% “corners.” Well I’m not gonna stop so get used to it.
The Duellists is the 1977 debut film of director Ridley Scott starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel as French soldiers in the early 1800s with an obsessive lifelong grudge that manifests as a series of duels.
As a prestige historical drama, it’s a good film. The two leads are fantastic, the fencing choreography in the duels is realistic and compelling, and the visuals are gorgeous—tons of loving shots of the French countryside and lots of cool old military costumes from back when guys had a shitton of buttons on their army jackets. It’s got its flaws, but a worthwhile watch for sure.
That’s all well and good, of course, but that wouldn’t be worth space in the newsletter. The reason this movie had me buggin is that if you decide very early on to watch it as a comic farce, it explodes in quality exponentially. What was a solid first try from a promising director becomes a classic hoot that I love.
This is a quintessential “found a type of guy” movie. Carradine’s character, d’Hubert, is an aimlessly affable dope who constantly is moving up in the world on pure gormless pleasantness.
One day he is asked by his boss at army to tell a fellow soldier, Feraud (Keitel), that he is in trouble for stabbing some guy in a duel. Already this motherfucker has a boner for duels! D’Hubert goes to him and is like, hey, I got a note from army that says you’re in trouble. Feraud immediately activates like the Terminator except instead of his visual read-out saying combat data or whatever it’s just like “FUCK THIS GUY” “HATE THIS GUY” “GOTTA DUEL”
Feraud goes nuts and is like, you bitch, you say I’m in trouble? You goddamn asshole. You fuck. You’re in trouble. Let’s duel bitch. D’Hubert is insanely confused. This is the totality of their dynamic for the rest of the film.
What makes this movie so fucking funny is that Harvey Keitel’s Feraud literally never expresses a second emotion. He is just a scowling square man whose only thought in life is “God, d’Hubert, that bitch, I need to duel his ass.” D’Hubert obviously also bears a grudge against Feraud, but it’s not as if he, too, is descending into fanatical hatred and becoming Feraud’s twisted mirror image. It’s more like fully-justified annoyance at how this weird guy he barely knows keeps challenging him to duels for no reason.
This is made all the more funny due to the structure of the movie. Rather than one unbroken story it’s split into a series of chapters (I’m told this was due to the movie’s low budget). Well thank god they did it--each chapter revolves around one of d’Hubert and Feraud’s many duels, and as a result you know exactly how each one is gonna go: d’Hubert is going to be like “oh boy, I got a promotion/a new girlfriend/a cool house, and one thing that I definitely will not do is be in a duel” and then mid-sentence Feraud slides into frame making the only face he has ever made and it’s like oh GOD dammit another FUCKING duel
I swear there’s one chapter where d’Hubert is in like a pub or something and some guys over in the background are like hey, isn’t that d’Hubert? And like a dog who heard the can opener Harvey Keitel slides up butter-smooth from the bottom of the frame doing this ridiculous scowl. It reminded me of nothing so much as the famous gif of the Andys from Hot Fuzz.
We’re never more than like ten minutes away from another pointless duel at any given moment and it makes the story into this gleeful farce where some guy just wants to chill da fuck out and a yelling man keeps barging into his house every (what seems to us) twenty minutes demanding they fight each other RIGHT NOW
I gotta be clear that we never find out why Feraud wants to duel d’Hubert! The initial reason is dumber than shit (d’Hubert even goes hey buddy I didn’t decide you were in trouble, I just got orders to tell you about it), and eventually Feraud starts claiming it’s because d’Hubert wasn’t loyal to Napoleon, but no one buys that either. Now as a drama it’d be a huge detriment if one of the two main characters whose relationship is the entire point of the movie turned out to be a one-dimensional cartoon man whose every line of dialogue may as well be replaced with “ooooooo I wants to duel!!!” But as a comedy, this is a masterstroke. This is Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure-level “thought up a type of guy” storytelling. It also makes it much easier to buy Harvey Keitel as a French guy if you tell yourself it’s supposed to be a joke that a French guy would sound like that.
I kept cracking myself up watching this imagining doing a CinemaSins-style nitpick review where I’m like “uh, plot hole? They could just not duel.” Just goes to show cinema is an art form that contains multitudes.
Tom’s Lecturing Corner
The following is something I wanted to put in The Food Episode but it wasn’t funny enough for a segment plus Joe didn’t have much to add so it would have ended up a solo lecture rather than a conversation. Luckily, I am free to lecture as much as I want in the newsletter. Enjoy:
I generally am uncomfortable with performative hyperbolic praise and/or criticism of stuff, but nothing sets off my anxiety like the endlessly recurring thread about “What foods are TRASH??” Invariably people end up saying “bell peppers taste like HUMAN SHIT” or like “eggplant is worse than PUKE” or some other hyperbolic, mean-spirited statement that casts food as their personal enemies. Fuck! I hate seeing it!
With food and cuisine it seems almost obscene how dismissive you have to be to summarily declare an ingredient or dish “trash.” Is it that hard to just assume that the majority of things humans customarily eat were chosen for a good reason? Like, for me personally, I can’t stand the taste, smell, or texture of cooked eggs. If you gave me a hard boiled egg, scrambled eggs, a burger with an egg on it, or ramen with a floatin’ egg, I would gag and find it inedible. At the same time: I know eggs are very good. How do I know? Because eggs are food, and food is very good. I want to enjoy eggs, because I know they are good, and I like to enjoy good things. I know the problem is with me, not eggs, and so it will be for any competently prepared food I do not enjoy in the future.
So when I see people loudly and confidently proclaiming that this or that food is irredeemable trash I get bothered! Food is culturally important to people and anything that gives sustenance is to be respected! To put it simply: seeing some rando’s dumb ass hold court on one of humanity’s most sacred arts steams me up!
All of which is to add context to my reaction to this recent post:
(Note: do not actually go look at this post--the top reply now is some guy posting a shock gore video of a slaughterhouse going like “they do this to make your meat and you think THIS is horrifying?” What an asshole)
The post depicts a spit of vegan al pastor made of nopales, portobello mushrooms, and black al pastor seasoning. In the post’s defense, green, brown, and black have not historically been a visually appealing color palette for food. In the post’s non-defense, it and the vast majority of its responses got me mad!
In short: stop whining, guys! Like, shut up! (The irony of my saying this here is not lost on me). It is categorically impossible for someone to make a good faith argument that nopales, portobellos, and al pastor seasoning would not be an objectively pleasant flavor. I’m sorry, that’s simply how it is—and I don’t even like portobello! The performative wailing and rending of garments over how yucky it is comes off so hollow and mean! Why not consider shutting da fuck up?
Another angle about this specifically is that the al pastor had the audacity to be vegan, the most hateful thing food can be to a huge swath of people. I say this as a meat-eater, but anti-veganism is such a childish mindset—I know this because I used to share these beliefs, but then I stopped once I ceased being a child. I understand why someone would fall into such thinking—American food culture historically does not set one up for success with regard to having a good meatless dining experience. But it sucks to see a ton of grown-ass adults still doing it! Like all ways of dismissing food out of hand, it’s just a shit thing to do, but now with an extra dose of reactionary bullshit. Performative meat-eating is the province of right-wing maniacs and le epic bacon types—this is not the company you want to keep.
Guesto, Skewer co-producer, and friend erica dreisbach wrote a bit in her first piece for the Skewer that sticks with me to this day. I will paraphrase because I don’t have the exact wording. erica was at a meal with an acquaintance who made some laughing, offhand comment about how she could never go vegan, haha. erica replied with a murderously flat deadpan “adapt or die.”
Folks, the earth physically should not be producing this much meat for us to eat!! It’s insanely so bad!! Plus, did you know pigs can game now? They’re sickos!!! We gotta eat more vegetables! I don’t even mean this in a moralizing way—to be clear, I eat meat and will continue to, and vegan food production under capitalism is still soaked with incalculable cruelty and injustice. I mean it in the “these are simply the facts, folks” kinda way.
Hm, this ended up being a big humorless naggy scolding that argues for something that everyone in our audience almost certainly already agrees with. Perhaps we were more right than we knew to not do this segment in the Food Episode. I guess the takeaway is, uhhhh don’t whine about other peoples’ food!
Oh unless it’s some gross wet novelty burger full of a ton of sweaty cheese that they cut in half and squeeze in front of the camera so all the cheese runs out onto the table. That shit sucks dude
Joe’s Video Corner
Joe was not able to contribute to this newsletter as he has been busy the last few weeks closing on a new home. As this video proves, it’s a task that requires all his focus.