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Is “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” the First Real Occupy Wall Street Feature Film?

"Harold & Kumar" Occupy Wall Street?

I can’t tell you exactly how hilariously un-P.C. “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” is until tomorrow—though even without reviews you should be expecting the usual raunchy, racy good time if you’re a fan of the series (in which case you’re likely already getting your best weed together for a midnight showing tonight). What I can probably mention now is that the third “Harold & Kumar” movie opens with what seems to be a direct address of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Harold (John Cho), now employed in some manner of financial profession, is attacked by an angry mob of anti-Wall Street protesters. They throw eggs, splatter feces and urinate in the direction of the character (and the audience—it is 3D after all).

However, these out of control activists aren’t technically part of OWS, which didn’t start until filming on “3D Christmas” was completed, nor is it really the beneficial coincidence that it might seem. Kal Penn, who costars in the film as Kumar, explained to the Asbury Park Press:

“A lot of people forget that the sentiment of the Occupy Wall Street protesters has been around for a while,” said Kal Penn, a Freehold native who plays Kumar. “I think most people certainly understand and agree with the sentiment behind that, which is Wall Street has taken corporate greed to excess.”

In the present context of OWS, though, the scene will play to viewers as if it was an intentional nod to the growing international movement. Even if so, it wouldn’t be the first publicly screened movie involving OWS, as New York’s IFC Center began screening Jem Cohen’s new short film series, titled “NEWSREELS: Reports from Occupy Wall Street by Jem Cohen,” last week (watch #s 2-4 on Vimeo). But as for feature-length and Hollywood takes, it might as well be accepted as a prophetic response. Then again, given the consciousness of the movement right now, “3D Christmas” isn’t the only mainstream movie to at least seem very relative to the times.

A few weeks ago, “Margin Call” opened to reviews and articles relating it to OWS as much as the whole financial crisis (it’s set at a fictionalized version of Lehman Brothers over a 24-hour period on the cusp of the collapse). Now, less directly obvious movies are being linked to the movement through simple thematic analysis. Today Big Hollywood looks at such inadvertent Occupy Wall Street-themed films as “In Time” and “Tower Heist,” the latter of which joins the “Harold & Kumar” sequel in bowing this weekend. Apparently the future-set “In Time,” which I haven’t seen, involves a clash between rich people who can afford to extend their lives beyond legal restrictions and the poor people who can’t. “Tower Heist,” which I also haven’t yet seen, appears to just be a heist film, most of which deal in poor people angry at and then robbing from the rich.

I guess that means “Fast Five” and “30 Minutes or Less” were also early, prescient OWS-themed films this year? Well, “Tower Heist” does specifically involve the financial crisis in having its villainous hotel owner (played by Alan Alda) be an obvious reference to Bernie Madoff. Here is how Big Hollywood’s Christian Toto puts the relationship of these new films to the movement:

What the aforementioned films actually have in common with OWS, though, is that both reflect the incoherency – and violence – of the fledgling movement. […] “In Time” offers an immature rant against the rich, but “Tower Heist” is far more nuanced. Alda’s character isn’t a prototypical snake, and it’s clear that he’s the rich villain in the cross-hairs, not the entire upper class. Neither film can soberly address why capitalism isn’t the answer. In that respect it’s very much in line with the modern OWS protests.

Meanwhile, movies currently in development might have a better chance at direct association, or indirect reference at least. But “The Dark Knight Rises” may not be one of those movies, despite prior speculation and my own excitement that the Batman sequel would be like a modern day “Medium Cool.” Of course, just because it is not involving the actual OWS protesters as background material doesn’t mean “TDKR” won’t still include some address of the real world’s current financial situation. Christopher Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader has already had some parallels with our own world, and I expect this to continue with his final installment.
 


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