Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy

“No words. Should’ve sent a poet.”

That’s where I come in. 

The George H.W. Bush years are some of our most culturally significant in terms of oddness. The Reagan years were over and it was no longer morning in America. It was early afternoon and there was a strange cultural hangover from the eight years of red state repression and red scare conformity. Something was coming. Nobody knew it was an economic boom led by a charismatic pedophile but it was coming. Only in retrospect do those tea leaves make any sense. And one of the biggest and clearest is 1990’s Dick Tracy, the story of a tough-on-crime pervert with a politician’s good looks and a politician’s moral vacuum in place of a heart.

When I saw Zombieland in theaters I remember being pissed off by how cynically “aimed at me” it was. Not “me” the individual but “me” the demographic. The plot of Zombieland is the story of a room of producers brainstorming “things 18-34 year old straight white middle class men like” on a whiteboard. In contrast, Dick Tracy seems aimed at “me” the individual. A straight-faced noir parody full of gruesome monster makeup and go-for-broke scenery chewing performances set in a neon and preposterously clean 1940s big city, all filtered through the “affairs for everybody” lens of the late 80s/early 90s. I am a fish swimming towards this movie even though the hook is as clear as day. I don’t care. Did you see that fucking worm?

Warren Beatty is an actor I don’t actually know very much about. I know he’s old, he’s sexually motivated, and he’s on the You’re So Vain suspect list. That’s okay. I’ve driven further on less gas. From what I can tell, this is why he was born. He was born to direct and star in Dick Tracy. This movie would slide unacceptably far into parody if the director wasn’t playing Dick Tracy and didn’t believe that Dick Tracy was the coolest man who ever existed in either reality or fiction. The amount of trust this movie places in you to understand that it’s funny is dead now. If Dick Tracy was made in 2020 It would be directed by Taika Waititi and would star Chris Hemsworth and we would hear Dick Tracy say “that’s not a thing.” I realize I’m coming perilously close to romanticizing the past and falling headfirst into becoming a reactionary but don’t worry. I don’t think all hope is lost. We’re in a bad moment but I think there’s a way out. The UCB theater going out of business fills me with hope.

This movie is a slick world where all women are almost medically horny and all men are a head nod away from shooting a guy with a tommy gun for a solid thirty seconds. It’s an eleven year old boy’s fantasy, directed by and starring a fifty three year old eleven year old boy. This movie, like Dick Tracy at a crime scene, certainly left the world a worse place than it found it. But also it’s extremely well lit and the production design is better than every single movie that has come out in the last twenty years. So who’s to say? Seriously, this production design is just immaculate. In a just world Vitrorio Storaro would’ve gotten a nickel for every dollar spent at Johnny Rocket’s. 

If you’re hard up for time I guess you could just watch The Great Piggy Bank Robbery but you and I both know your time isn’t very valuable. You know you’re trash. Come wallow in it.

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