Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Hangover: The Movie and The Experience

Tuesday night, I finally went to the theater to see the most recommended movie of this summer: The Hangover. It wasn't on my list of movies to see this summer, but when everyone says it is downright hilarious, I'm in the mood for a good gut busting comedy. Its been awhile since I've seen one.

This film is in the tradition of the "guy comedy" which we've seen plenty of in recent years (Wedding Crashers, The 40 Year Old Virgin, I Love You, Man, and Role Models). What is a "guy comedy"? Well...it is the kind of humour that guys find funny and most women don't. Especially women who are raving feminists (I had tried to convince a feminist once that The 40 Year Old Virgin was actually a sweet movie but she refused to see it because she thought the premise was vulgar). The disagreements I had with feminists boiled down to the concept that men and women are different (they insist that all gender differences are culturally indoctrinated and that if we teach boys to play with Barbies and girls to play with GI Joe, we will live in a world free of gender differences. B.S.!).

Its no use arguing with them because they are "right"...even when I witness obvious gender differences with my own eyes (for example: in 2001, I went to see Kate and Leopold and was surprised that I was the only guy in the theater; when I saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy in theaters, it skewed 80-90% male audience). How hard is it for feminists to understand that the things many guys find funny generally are considered crude by female sensibilities. There's nothing wrong with that...for if a person finds this humour offensive, then this is the kind of movie for them to avoid. But women who watch movies like these and laugh at the funny situations are way cool and worth dating, in my esteem.

The film already proved itself a hit at the box office (while romantic comedies tend to bomb). Since I've already seen the only two movies I cared to see this summer (Star Trek and Angels and Demons), I've been catching up on films I missed in theaters last year (I hate that Hollywood releases its best movies during the last four months of the year, which always means that I can't see every film I want to see in theaters while the rest of the year offers very little that I care to see).

In case you haven't seen the movie, I won't write any major spoilers. Basically, this is a guy's wedding picture. It focuses on the bachelor party. The groom (played by Justin Bartha, the sidekick from the National Treasure movies), his best friend (Bradley Cooper, whose stock is rising into the A-list), another friend (never seen that actor before), and his future brother-in-law go on a roadtrip to the perfect city for a bachelor party weekend: Las Vegas! Someday when I get married, I'd love to spend a weekend in Vegas with a few buddies. But it wouldn't be a wild and crazy weekend like these guys had.

The film shows the guys on the rooftop of Caesar's Palace, toasting the groom to be before they begin their wild night. The next scene is the morning after and the guys (as well as the audience) have to figure out what the hell happened the night before. Their $4,000 a night villa suite is completely trashed with a tiger in the bathroom and a rooster walking around. There's also a baby in the closet (throughout the film, I couldn't tell if the baby was real or fake because it sure looked fake and creepy anytime it cried).

As the movie rolls along and the men reconstruct what happened the night before, hilarity ensues with all the cliches you've come to expect about Las Vegas...mobsters, hookers, strippers, wedding chapels, gambling, drugs, alcohol, washed up celebrities (though I must admit that Mike Tyson about near stole the film. He was hi-LAR-i-ous!!! Especially when he does his Phil Collins bit, which I have to agree. I love that part of the song as well), wild animals, and even a reference to the movie Rain Man (complete with the familiar song Iko Iko). There were plenty of laugh out loud moments and things resolve itself quite nicely in the end. Everyone's heard of the famous ad campaign that branded Las Vegas in recent years: "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." After the weekend these guys had, I'm sure that they would definitely agree with that.

The character played by the actor above (who's missing a tooth) is a kind of pushover as he can't be honest with his girlfriend about going to Las Vegas with the guys. She thinks they're in the Santa Ynez wine country (hasn't she seen Sideways, though?). She's constantly bossing him around and he goes along to get along (I know a few guys like him). I couldn't be in a relationship like that. The idea that one must control the other is not a relationship, but a two person cult. I believe you should accept the person you're in a relationship with as they are without a desire to change them to fit your ideal. By the film's end, she does get her just desserts.

I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to those who aren't easily offended by raunchy guy humour. I certainly wouldn't suggest this film to feminists because I know how they'd react. They are like the controlling girlfriend in the film, castrating men to be more like them (I believe gender differences are natural and necessary for balance).

What truly hit home for me, though, is the idea that you could wake up one morning with a painful hangover and not remember a single thing you did the night before. In fact, this has happened to me once, when I was in the Navy. So, I had a personal connection in wanting to see this film, as I experienced that kind of thing myself (though not to that level of comedic outrageousness).

The year was 1992. January or February. One weekend, I had taken a special trip to Florence and tried Spumante for the first time. It is the Italian champagne, but I did not know that. I loved the taste of it. Also in Florence, I had bought a nice pair of Italian shoes that were green suede and totally not something you'd find in any American shoe store. I loved those shoes! I thought they made me look Medieval for some reason.

A week or two later, a group of guys from Squadron 22 went out to eat at a restaurant in Gaeta, where I had a few drinks. Then we went to a bar because I had been raving about Spumante as well as the Scottish girl I met at a bar. A few of the guys came along with me...including the Chief of Staff of Squadron 22 (a Navy Commander, which is O-5, and the second in command), the Chief Petty Officer who was my direct supervisor, my co-worker, and the newly arrived Command Master Chief (who was the top enlisted guy at Squadron 22). I remember having one glass of Spumante. The next thing I remember was being brought back to the ship in a car. Then waking up in my rack and running to the head before I threw up, but not making it and throwing up on the deck of the berthing area. That episode made me enemies...because I wasn't aware enough to clean it up.

The next morning at work, I had the worst headache of my life. The guys laughed and told me everything I did the night before and I kept saying, "that's not me! I would never do something like that." The horrible thing was, I could not remember a single thing that the guys told me that I did. Not a single thing! That scared me...to have no conscious awareness of my own actions. I immediately saw the danger of it, for I was lucky to be among shipmates who brought me back to the ship.

What happened that night? Well, according to what I was told, I had drunk three BOTTLES of Spumante myself. I wouldn't let anyone else have a glass. I found that hard to believe. I told them that I would most likely be dead if I drank that much (at the time, I could get a buzz going on one glass of wine). The other thing was, I wouldn't have bought all that myself. Nope, my Chief Petty Officer actually paid for it. What the hell? He should've known I had enough to drink and refuse me to drink anymore.

They also said that I had gone outside the bar and threw up right in front of people eating outside on a restaurant patio. Great...give Italians a bad impression of Americans being drunken idiots who can't hold their liquor! I can't remember what else they said that I did, but they said that I had gone into the bathroom and I was gone for a long time, so someone checked up on me and I was passed out on the floor. Not only that, I had projectile vomited all over the walls, sink, toilet. I left a huge mess. The person who cleaned it was the newly arrived Command Master Chief. Not even one month at our command and he cleaned up after me. He earned my loyalty forever after that. He's a great guy, as I learned, but I always felt guilty and bad about what I did.

Because I was so out of it, the Chief of Staff had to call the Commodore's (head guy of Squadron 22) official vehicle to pick me up and bring me back to the ship. A first class petty officer helped me walk across the brow of the ship and in cases like that, I would automatically be taken to Medical to sleep in the drunk tank and written up. Because I was assigned to Squadron, I got special privledges and was taken to my rack, which was a bottom one (they are stacked three high on ships). The Petty Officer knew to have me sleep on my stomach and checked up on me during the night. The next morning, I noticed that I had ruined my cool looking Italian shoes by throwing up on them the night before. Never found shoes like those ever again.

One of the officers in Squadron was so angry about my behaviour that he wanted me sent back to ship's company. I don't know why I wasn't. I really got lucky, but I think the reasoning was that I had not paid for the alcohol and the other guys had wanted to see me drunk, so they were complicit in buying me drinks.

I did get sent to NADSAP (Navy Alcohol and Drug Safety Awareness Program) for a week at the Palau Community Center (where I would end up working only two years later). I hated being there because the group of guys who were assigned that program were all alcoholics. We had to talk about our feelings with the Chaplain and Drug/Alcohol Advisor. I didn't say much, except when they defined an alcoholic as being someone who craved alcohol. Even if you only drank on a special night once a year (like an anniversary), you would be considered an alcoholic because you looked forward to drinking on that one night. I always believed that alcoholism was an inability to control one's drinking. If you only drank one night each year, how is that alcoholism? How was my over-indulgence alcoholism? Especially when I don't like the taste of most alcoholic drinks and I usually am too cheap to want to spend money buying drinks.

That week made me angry about the whole thing. The Navy was full of alcoholics. If you didn't drink, guys would think you were less than a man. In fact, when I participated in the La Madd Hash House Harriers, they called the group "a drinking club with a running problem." To be initiated required drinking beer, and when I protested despite other guys insistence, a Chief intervened and said that I could drink a soda instead. So, I don't feel that I am an alcoholic. I don't crave the taste of alcohol. As a young man in the Navy, I've only been drunk five times and that was it. The last time was at the USS Orion's final Christmas Party in December 1992.

Oh, I'll have an occasional drink now and again. I surprised a co-worker a couple years ago when I went out for happy hour with her. She said, "I thought you didn't drink because of your religion." I said, "whatever gave you that idea?" This was when the rumour at work was that I was a Mormon (not sure how that rumour got started but I nipped that in the bud with my heretical talk). I told this young lady that I don't mind an occasional drink and I usually stop once I feel a buzz, but mostly, the reason why I don't drink is because I don't like a lot of the way alcohol tastes nor do I like the expense. I'd rather buy a book these days than a bottle of alcohol. On top of that, since my spiritual experience in 2001, I learned that you can have the most intense experience that no drug or alcohol can deliver. I prefer to get my "buzz" or "high" by spiritual means (meditation, mostly).

So, that marks my experience with a hangover. It took awhile for me to know my limits, as I did get drunk again in Corfu, Greece and had a bad hangover (the only stupid thing I did was lay down in the middle of a parking lot). But I've never experienced a complete blackout like I did in early 1992. That one incident scared me for life. I truly do like remembering everything I've done. Its scary to have a moment missing in your life where you can't remember a single thing you did. That's why I can relate to The Hangover. It was nice to laugh at someone else's predicament for a change.

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