I'm not quite sure how to break this to you, but your Christmas might be really crappy.
I don't mean you're going to get bad presents (though no one really wants socks and underwear) or that your aunt is going to get drunk again and pass out under the table until the 27th just in time to get up and return the giant candle you bought her. No, if you go to the movies this year at Christmas you might be looking at a lot of s**t. The movies show a disturbing trend of having a fiend on for feces and, personally, I think it's time to stop.
The biggest culprit is Les Miserables, the movie based on a musical based on a book based on the suffering of real life people. There is a scene, taken directly from the musical, where our hero Jean Valjean has to escape both his nemesis Javert and save his daughter's lover, Marius. How does he get away? He does what any good hero would do and drops down into the sewer for a clean getaway. In the musical, that's just what it is, clean. On stage, Valjean walks along the revolving stage and there is some splashing noises and blue light that is supposed to invoke the shallow puddle of water that would be in the sewer. Everyone accepts this as true.
Director Tom Hooper, however, will have none of that in his movie. He wants everything to be real, so when Valjean goes into the sewer, both he and Marius practically drown in a river of shit. Yes, some people will like to think it's mud, but it is not. It is pureed turds. And it covers their body. When they emerge from their brown descent Valjean has a big confrontation with Javert and they sing...something. I don't know what they sing. I could not pay attention for the next 10 minutes. The only thing I notice was the human waste that was coating their bodies. All you could see of Hugh Jackman was the whites of his eyes and his gleaming Hollywood teeth (far too white and straight to be "real" in that Hooperian way).
And this isn't the only one.
This gentleman to the left is Radagast the Brown, one of the new wizards that is introduced in The Hobbit: A Title As Long And Unnecessary As the Movie. Do you know why he is called Radagast the Brown? Because he is covered in dung! Yes, that white strip on the side of his face is bird droppings. Every time I look at this creature with a ton of animal friends and magical powers I can't think about how cute the animals are or how awesome sorcery is because all I can think about is his shitty appearance.
Apparently Radagast loves animals so much that he has a family of birds living under his hat. Realistically, a family of birds under your hat would defecate all over your face. Right? Right. Well, want to know the difference? You do not live in a fantasy realm with giant spiders and elves and little men who are gallivanting around caves having riddle fights so they can win a ring that makes them invisible. That is what I do not get. There is nothing at all real in The Hobbit. Everything is about as fake and constructed as the combined faces of the Real Housewives of Everytown USA. Couldn't the birds under his hate be special birds that don't poop? Couldn't he have a spell that makes the guano go away? This is a reality where trolls turn to stone and dwarves have magic writing that only appears in the moonlight. Can't we get the crapola off one of our characters so we can focus on something other than the impolite sensation of being smeared with colonic discharge?
The same thing goes for Les Miz (with a Z, just like Liza). This is a musical where a revolutionary falls in love with a girl who he saw one time for 30 seconds in the marketplace. Then, after extolling the virtues of brotherhood and equality and forsaking his large fortune, has a gigantic wedding in a palace that his aristocratic grandfather pays for. None of this seems to make any sense. (The one thing that does make sense is that Valjean mysteriously dies shortly after wading though all of that poop. He probably caught something from the sewer!) If that is the case, why do we need the reality of all that dung in the sewer? The musical (which, granted, is a genre that prizes artifice over substance) knows that if you introduce the reality of how all the stinky stuff is excavated from our cities, that is all the audience will be able to focus on. All that we can see is the poop. Yes, you may be serving reality, but you're destroying your story for one fleeting instance of verisimilitude.
There's only one movie this year that used someone covered in poop to good effect (yes, I have seen three this year, which makes it a trend for 2012). That movie was the little-seen but excellent Norwegian flick Headhunter. In it, our main character, who is on the run from someone trying to kill him, hides in an outhouse. When the killer is about to find him he takes a toilet paper tube, puts it up to his mouth and conceals his whole body in the swampy disgusting discharge under the toilet seat. He avoids detection.
This instance was just as gross as the others (none of these were played for comedic effect like the poop scene in Slumdog Millionaire) but it wasn't distracting because the poop was the story. Here is a man so desperate that he would plunge himself in dung rather than get killed. He then subsequent runs around still covered in it for a good chunk of the movie which just shows how literally and figuratively soiled his life is because of the man trying to kill him. The poop transcends being actual excrement and becomes something else, a visceral symbol of his suffering. Neither of these other movies invested as much in their crap to earn it. Yes, it may be real, but it is also really gross and making the viewer uncomfortable at the risk of ruining otherwise very good scenes. Letting something like this have that unintended effect and ruining a movie goers experience is just...well, shitty.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures; Warner Bros]