Friday, April 29, 2011
(July 2008, U.S.)
During the Summer of 2008, I spent the better part of many weeks resisting THE DARK KNIGHT. After all, I'd already been through FIVE Batman films already and only two of them had been any good. I'd also committed myself to avoiding sequels, remakes and franchise films of any sort. But every self-proclaimed rule can have it's occassional exceptions. By August of that summer I could no longer avoid all the hype and persistently positive critical and audience reactions. I finally caved in one rainy Saturday afternoon and sat down in a small movie theater in Westhampton Beach, Long Island to see what all the hysteria was about...
Well, what can I say? I was pleasantly and amazingly surprised to find that I not only loved THE DARK KNIGHT, but that I can also now claim it as my favorite comic book superhero film since SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE (1978). Simply put, and without any reservation whatsoever, THE DARK KNIGHT completely redefines what the comic book action film can be, should be and will likely never be again because most of today's film makers don't have any respectable vision. Watching director Christopher Nolan's work on screen, you can almost hear and feel him telling director Joel Schumacher to go fuck himself with all of the tragic, over-the-top campy garbage he painfully subjected us to with BATMAN FOREVER (1995) and BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997)! Heath Ledger's swan song performance before his untimely death could not have been more spectacular, though I cannot honestly claim that his portrayel of The Joker was better than Jack Nicholson's in Tim Burton's BATMAN (1989). I mean, come on, in all honesty, who's better than JACK??
The primary theme of THE DARK KNIGHT can be best described as wild excess and escalation. Gotham City (filmed on location in Chicago) has become weak and its citizens blame Batman for the city's violence and corruption as well as the Joker's violent threats, and it pushes Batman's limits, making him feel that taking the laws into his own hands is further downgrading the city. Throughout the film, the Joker devises ingenious situations that force Batman, Commissioner Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to make impossible ethical decisions. By the end of the film, the entire moral foundation of Batman's legend is deeply threatened and he becomes an outlaw again, on the run from the law he tried so hard to help redefine. Harvey Dent (played frighteningly by Aaron Eckhart) is seen as Gotham's "White Knight" in the beginning of the film but ends up becoming seduced to the inevitable evil he's been fighting ("We thought we could be decent in an indecent time!"). The Joker, on the other hand, is seen as the representation of chaos and anarchy. He has no motive, no orders, and no desires other than to cause havoc and "watch the world burn", as Alfred puts it. The terrible logic of human error is another theme that is best depicted in the ferry scene as it displays how human beings can easily be enticed by iniquity. In the end, though, humans triumph over evil intention by having faith in each other's own humanity. Personally, I don't think I would have hesitated to blow up the other ferry housed with hardened criminals. But hey, that's just me.
Are there going to be more Batman films? Shit, I really hope not! While I love and respect Christopher Nolan's work, the story seems dried up at this point. The Joker is captured, Harvey Dent is dead, Rachel Dawes is dead, the Bat-signal is dead, the Bat-mobile is dead and Wayne Manor is still burned down to the ground. It's over because it feels over. Let it be over and end on a truly positive ring before the entire franchise turns into something Joel Schumacher would have given us so long ago. Please!!!
Coleman Reese: "I want ten million dollars a year for the rest of my life."
Lucius Fox: "Let me get this straight: you think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands, and your PLAN is to blackmail this person? Good luck."
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
(February 1998, U.S.)
Alex Proyas' DARK CITY falls under that category of intelligent, high concept science fiction film that perhaps require more than one viewing to fully appreciate it's artistic potential; the kind the average Friday night multiplex moron would never go for if they could help it. There have been others before it like METROPOLIS (a heavy influence on this film) 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THX-1138, BLADE RUNNER, DUNE and SOLARIS; all of which I can now consider some of my favorite science fiction films.
This is a 1940's style neo-noir sci-fi film that depicts a mysterious city in which human inhabitants never see the sun, as their lives are manipulated by extraterrestrials referred to only as the "Strangers", who masquerade as humans in black, grimy trenchcoats and hats. They also bear a strong resemblance to and possess collective consciousness just like the "Borg" of STAR TREK-THE NEXT GENERATION. The Strangers are committed to studying the race of humanity and their souls through bizarre experimentation. The film itself explores the violent subject matter of murder, as well as abstract ideas such as hallucination, simulated reality, and the relationship between lost memory and personal identities. As the mysterious unfolds through the investigative findings of our hero John Murdoch (played by Rufus Sewell), we learn the truth of the city's actual existence in outer space and that humanity's hope of salvation will also lie in the hands of Murdoch's inner powers not only over the Strangers, but of the city itself. Murdoch defeats the Strangers who control the inhabitants and remakes the city based on childhood memories, which were illusions ironically arranged by the Strangers themselves.
The dark city itself can easily be compared to many things - to murky, nightmarish German expressionist film noir depiction of urban mechanism and repression, to World War II dreariness reminiscent of popular works by Edward Hopper. It has details from different eras and architectures that are changed at will by the Strangers. The city inhabitants are prisoners who do not realize they are in a prison and live their lives according to what the dominant higher intelligence has manipulated them into believing and experiencing. Perhaps this sounds very much like THE MATRIX (1999). It does, but DARK CITY was released a little over a year prior. And as previously mentioned above, Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1927) was a major influence on the film, shown through the architecture, concepts of the baseness of humans within a metropolis, and the general tone itself.
By the way, just in case one of the "Strangers" looks vagualy familiar to you, you're not wrong. You're looking at Richard O'Brien, the writer of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and player of "Riff Raff" in the legendary film version.
Favorite line or dialogue:
John Murdoch: "When was the last time you remember doing something during the day?"
Frank Bumstead: "What do you mean?"
John: "I just mean during the day. Daylight. When was the last time you remember seeing it? And I'm not talking about some distant, half-forgotten childhood memory, I mean like yesterday...last week. Can you come up with a single memory? You can't, can you? You know something, I don't think the sun even...exists...in this place. 'Cause I've been up for hours, and hours, and hours, and the night never ends here."
Monday, April 25, 2011
(February 2003, U.S.)
One gets a certain feeling when watching any film that depicts any particular moment in history like the Pearl Harbor invasion of 1941, the JFK shooting of 1963 or maybe even the Woodstock festival of 1969. But I have to say, it's another feeling entirely when you experience a film that depicts an event that you remember first hand because you were watching it when it happened. In the case of DARK BLUE, a tough and gritty crime thriller starring Kurt Russell, it's the days leading to and including the Rodney King trial verdict and the subsequent Los Angeles riots of April 1992. I was attending college in Brooklyn at the time and my then girlfriend and I were watching the chaos in Los Angeles unfold right before our eyes on television. I remember my mother actually calling me on the phone beggine me not to step foot outside my apartment dormitory for at least the next several days. Although I didn't say this to her, I remember refusing such a request because I was determined to get to my nearest Ticketmaster outlet the next morning to stand on line for tickets for the Emerson, Lake & Palmer reunion tour of the coming summer.
(okay, I've digressed from the film enough now)
There are several kinds of cop movies that one can consider. There's the quiet, dramatic type where an acclaimed actor like Al Pacino proves his worth by being the only honest cop in a sea of police corruption in SERPICO (1973). There's the overblown, overdone and overacted bullshit action type where guys like Sylvester Stallone prove they aren't worth a damn in a terrible film like COBRA (1986). And finally, there's my favorite kind; the kind where great actors play serious cops with very big mouths who don't give a fuck about anything except doing their job and blowing the bad guy away! Gene Hackman did it in THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971), Clint Eastwood did it in all his DIRTY HARRY films, Denzel Washington did it in TRAINING DAY (2000) and Kurt Russell does it tremendously in DARK BLUE. He's about as corrept as they come and he's more than happy to live with whatever consequences may come with the territory. He's not just a cop, but a soldier who takes his orders without question from his superior-in-command. He's also corrupting his young partner who consciously cannot live with himself wearing the shoes of corruption like that. Tensions build and trust and loyalty fail as police coverups, "bad" shootings and the murder of good people pile up and threaten the safety of a city already on the brink of absolute disaster. But it's interesting to know that it's also disaster we as the viewer know cannot be avoided. We already know what the Rodney King verdicts will be and we know that the city of Los Angeles will burn as a result. We know because we saw it happen for real back in 1992. Now we see it again on film. It's also particularly interesting to note that toward the end of the film, when it appears that the true murderers in this film are going to get away, they are randomly stopped in their car by rioting L.A. gang members and one of them (the white guy) is dragged out of his car and beaten to death. Again, I say it's random, but you know the vicious son-of-a-bitch has it coming to him. Justice can be so damn ironic...on film, anyway.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Sgt. Eldon Perry (opening a telephone bill): "Aw, come on, man, who the fuck is callin' 900 numbers?"
Sally Perry: "If it's anyone, it's YOU and you don't remember."
Eldon (dials a number): "Watch this, it's the damn kid."
Recording: "Welcome to Sorority Slut Hotline."
Eldon: "Yeah, Sorority Slut Hotline! (laughs) Fuck it. Pay it. At least he's not a fag!"
Thursday, April 21, 2011
(November 1990, U.S.)
By 1990, Kevin Costner was a major Hollywood movie star who could seemingly do no wrong on screen. This was his directorial debut of an epic western film which tells the story of a Civil War-era United States Army lieutenant who travels to the American frontier to find a military post. Along the way, he develops a deep friendship and understanding with a group of nearby Sioux Indians. It was credited as a leading influence for the revitalization of the Western genre of filmmaking in Hollywood at the time. The cinematography that captures the frontier as it was filmed in Wyoming and South Dakota is grand and breathtaking, much in the way that director John Ford used to capture decades before.
Costner as Lt. John J. Dunbar (not Dumb-Bear!) finds himself drawn to the lifestyle and customs of the Sioux tribe and begins spending most of his time with them. He becomes a hero among the Sioux and is accepted as an honored guest after he locates a migrating herd of buffalo and participates in the hunt. Dunbar also befriends a wolf he dubs "Two Socks" due to the white hair on its front feet. One day, the Sioux observe Dunbar and Two Socks chasing each other in play and promptly give him his Sioux name "Dances with Wolves." Although I have to say, as a matter of absolute accuracy, Dunbar is actually RUNNING with the wolf in that sequence. But I suppose a title like, "Running with the Wolf" would not have been as catchy. There is also, as cliche would have it, a beautiful romance between Dunbar and "Stands with a Fist", the white, adopted daughter of "Kicking Bird", the tribe's medicine man. By the latter part of the film, Dunbar's identity and loyalties have clearly joined with the Sioux tribe and will ultimately provoke his betrayal against the United States Union army he once served under. Thing is, when you get a look at some of the ignorant, illiterate low-life's that occupy this army, his betrayal will seem all the more victorious for him, for the tribe and for the film's audience.
This is a spectacular film that deserves all the fame it got back in the day. But would you believe that I had no interest in seeing it when it was first released? I was practically forced to see it as a required pre-requisite in order to see a free advanced screening of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in February 1991. So I suppose we can call that an example of some serendipidous film fortune. I should also mention that DANCES WITH WOLVES is my wife Beth's favorite film. I love you, darling!
DANCES WITH WOLVES won the Oscar for best picture of 1990. As much as I loved it, though, my pick would have been for Martin Scorsese's GOODFELLAS instead.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Wind In His Hair: "Dances With Wolves! I am Wind In His Hair! Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?"
Can you believe it, friends and lovers of great films?? It was exactly one year ago on this date that I launched this movie blog, and I have to say, it's been everything and more than I ever expected. I'm happy to say that it's managed to get some modest attention on the web. I've enjoyed writing about my films and the feedback I've received from all of you...and we've only just begun to scratch the surface. To date, I've posted 161 films in one year and I've only gotten through the first three letters of my film collection's alphabetical order. So I think it's more than safe to say that we'll be spending time with each other for at least the next several years and I'll look forward to every moment of it!
And so, to all of you who have read, who have followed (all SEVEN of you!), who have participated and who have commented, I sincerely thank you! To all of you who haven't...WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??
Now, let's continue...
Thursday, April 14, 2011
(December 2008, U.S.)
A fantasy drama film directed by David Fincher?? The same guy who's given us some weird shit like SE7EN (1995) and FIGHT CLUB (1999)?? Turns out...hell yes! This is a simple film about a simple man much in the spirit of others before it like BEING THERE (1979) and FORREST GUMP (1994) and also the third time Fincher directs Brad Pitt on screen.
Watching (and enjoying) this film means opening up your imagination to accept a viable story about a man who is born with the appearance and physical maladies of a very elderly man and proceeds to age and live his life backwards. Does this seems too illogical to accept as a story? Of course it is. But it's the same illogical thinking that allowed movie audiences back in 1989 to accept the fact that if Kevin Costner plowed away his entire corn crops to build a baseball field, "he" would come. As Benjamin grows up over the early years of the 20th century, we slowly witness his physical transformation to that of a sturdy, young man. Along the way, he's falling in love with Daisy (played by Cate Blanchett) who naturally ages in the right direction. There's a very poignant moment where they both realize somewhere in their forties that they have met each other in the middle of their lives and all is well with them and the world. But as Benjamin himself points out, "nothing lasts". By the time they have a child, the realization of what will inevitably follow in their lives becomes very clear. Benjamin leaves so his daughter may have a proper life with a proper father.
This is all being brought to us through Daisy as a dying, elderly woman in a New Orleans hospital as the infamous Hurrica Katrina approaches land; her grown daughter reading aloud from Benjamin's diary. There is an especially touching and heartbreaking moment at the end of the film when we see that Benjamin will finally die as a tiny infant in Daisy's elderly arms. It's actually incredibly sad to watch, especially if you're a father of a small child. But that's just the occassional "wimp" in me.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is the film I thought SHOULD have won the Oscar for best picture of 2008. The actual winner, SLUMDOG MILLIONARE, did absolutely nothing for me.
Favorite line of dialogue:
Benjamin Button: "Sometimes we're on a collision course, and we just don't know it. Whether it's by accident or by design, there's not a thing we can do about it. A woman in Paris was on her way to go shopping, but she had forgotten her coat - went back to get it. When she had gotten her coat, the phone had rung, so she'd stopped to answer it; talked for a couple of minutes. While the woman was on the phone, Daisy was rehearsing for a performance at the Paris Opera House. And while she was rehearsing, the woman, off the phone now, had gone outside to get a taxi. Now a taxi driver had dropped off a fare earlier and had stopped to get a cup of coffee. And all the while, Daisy was rehearsing. And this cab driver, who dropped off the earlier fare; who'd stopped to get the cup of coffee, had picked up the lady who was going to shopping, and had missed getting an earlier cab. The taxi had to stop for a man crossing the street, who had left for work five minutes later than he normally did, because he forgot to set off his alarm. While that man, late for work, was crossing the street, Daisy had finished rehearsing, and was taking a shower. And while Daisy was showering, the taxi was waiting outside a boutique for the woman to pick up a package, which hadn't been wrapped yet, because the girl who was supposed to wrap it had broken up with her boyfriend the night before, and forgot. When the package was wrapped, the woman, who was back in the cab, was blocked by a delivery truck, all the while Daisy was getting dressed. The delivery truck pulled away and the taxi was able to move, while Daisy, the last to be dressed, waited for one of her friends, who had broken a shoelace. While the taxi was stopped, waiting for a traffic light, Daisy and her friend came out the back of the theater. And if only one thing had happened differently: if that shoelace hadn't broken; or that delivery truck had moved moments earlier; or that package had been wrapped and ready, because the girl hadn't broken up with her boyfriend; or that man had set his alarm and got up five minutes earlier; or that taxi driver hadn't stopped for a cup of coffee; or that woman had remembered her coat, and got into an earlier cab, Daisy and her friend would've crossed the street, and the taxi would've driven by. But life being what it is - a series of intersecting lives and incidents, out of anyone's control - that taxi did not go by, and that driver was momentarily distracted, and that taxi hit Daisy, and her leg was crushed."
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
(November 1992, U.S.)
There are moments in film that I like to call the "Holy shit! What the fuck just happened??" moments. Imagine how audiences first freaked out in 1960 when they saw Janet Leigh stabbed to death midway through Hitchcock's PSYCHO. Imagine how shocked YOU were back in 1995 when you first learned that Kevin Spacey was Keyser Soze in THE USUAL SUSPECTS or back in 1999 when you learned that Bruce Willis was really dead in THE SIXTH SENSE. You get what I mean? Now while I would consider the above-mentioned scene from PSYCHO probably the greatest shocking moment in film, I can't honesty call it MY greatest film shocker because by the time I finally saw the film for the first time on television I already knew that Janet Leigh was going to get it when she did. No, for me, the greatest "Holy shit! What the fuck just happened??" moment in film is definitely the infamous shocker of THE CRYING GAME. Never in my life was I more shocked and surprised to see a man's dick before!
The film, on the surface, is a psychological thriller, but it explores themes of race, gender, nationality, and sexuality against the backdrop of the Irish Republican Army. It's a story that involves us deeply in one premise, and then it reveals that the story is really about something else altogether. Fergus (played by Stephen Rea), suffering from extreme guilt over his inadvertent ivolvement in the killing of a black British soldier by the hands of the IRA, fullfills a promise to look after the soldier Jody's (played by Forest Whitaker) girlfriend Dil (played by Jaye Davidson) back in England. As cliche and inevitability would have it, he gets close and falls for her until that pivotal moment in her bedroom when it's revealed to him (and those watching the film) that she is really a HE (Holy shit! What the fuck just happened??)! Sickened as he is at first, he slowly finds that genuine love, care and affection seems to know no boundaries and limitations, even to the extent of his (Fergus's) doing jail time to protect her (him).
Initially, I had no interest in seeing THE CRYING GAME until it started receiving all kinds of Oscar buzz (back when I actually gave a shit about Oscar buzz!). It was being billed as "the movie eveyones's talking about but no one's giving away it's secret". Never was a film tagline more true! Like many others, I gasped my deepest breath when the gender-revealing moment happened before my eyes. When it was over, I concluded that it was not only a great film, but one of the best independent films of the 1990s.
Deveroux: "Does Pat have a tart?"
Fergus: "She's not a tart."
Deveroux: "No, of course not. She's a lady."
Fergus: " No, she's not that either."
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
(December 2000, U.S.)
Before getting into this, I should make it clear that I do NOT enjoy martial arts films at all. The fighting has always looked about as real to me as so-called professional wrestling, the fighters are always shouting too much and despite all of the hits and violence, no one ever really seems to get hurt. It's this reason that I've never bothered to see a Bruce Lee film. It's this reason that I consider the KILL BILL movies the low point in Quentin Tarantino's career. It's also the reason, that regardless, I can have genuine affection for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, the only martial arts film in my collection. This is not your typical martial arts film, though. This Mandarin film features fighting choreography that can only be callled brilliant, and this is before we begin discussing the magicical element behind it all.
Perhaps the "magic" I refer to can first be accredited to THE MATRIX (1999) just one year earlier, but in this film we are asked to suspend our disbelief and embrace the magic as a very real part of the film, whereas THE MATRIX's reality is questioned throughout. Our heroes and villians in this film scale walls, leap over rooftops and fly through trees during the many fighting sequences. There is awesome imagination and beauty in this and after a very short time it all seems more than believable to the viewer. But unlike the traditional martial arts film, this one also features true love between couples who seemed destined to never be together. Particularly noteworthy is the backflash sequence when we learn the origin and story of Jen Yu's true love for a common desert bandit. But because she derives from nobility, she must be forced to marry into a powerful family and true love will not prevail. Oh, did I also mention she's secretly a real killer bitch with her fists and a sword? It is a sword, by the way, called the Green Destiny that serves as the heart of the story here. Who will ultimately possess it and who will ultimately triumph over it? Watch and see.
It should be noted that CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON was responsible for a boost in popularity of Chinese wuxia films in the western world, where they were previously little known, and led to films such as HERO (2002) and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (2004) marketed towards western audiences. I haven't seen either of those two examples.
Favorite line or dialgoue:
Jen Yu: "You want to know who I am? I am...I am the Invincible Sword Goddess, armed with the Green Destiny that knows no equal! Be you Li or Southern Crane, bow your head and ask for mercy! I am the dragon from the desert! Who comes from nowhere and leaves no trace! Today I fly over Eu-Mei. Tomorrow...I topple Mount Wudan!"
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
(September 1986, U.S.)
Sometimes I can't believe the people and things (even animals!) that pop culture considered "hot" back in the 1980s. That computer-generated guy Max Headroom, Larry Bud Melman, Spuds McKenzie the dog, and Paul Hogan. Why were we all so turned on by this guy? You'd think Americans had never seen an actor from Australia before! Today, a guy like him would likely be dismissed pretty quickly, given that we have actors from Australia today like Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman; guys who can actually act!
But lets move on to the film that is CROCODILE DUNDEE and the major hit that it was back in the day. The concept in itself was itriguing enough; take a tough, rugged and weathered crocodile hunter from the Australian outback and put him in really, really tough situation - namely NEW YORK CITY! But we don't stop there. Throw in an attractive New York reporter first, who travels to Australia to get the big story on this guy and learns a little about survival in the wild. Once Mick Dundee arrives in New York, he needs to learn about its pitfalls like moving escalators, subway crowds, transvestites, muggers with knives, street hookers and the occassional violent pimp. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Well, it is (to watch, anyway), if you're already mildly familiar with what it's like to survive in any big city. Oh, and of course, it's absolutely inevitable that Dundee and his New York blonde squeeze will fall in love. They will, and they'll go on to make two crappy "Dundee" sequels after that...VERY crappy!
As I mentioned before, a character like "Crocodile Dundee" would likely be a failed one by today's Hollywood standards, despite the more recent popularity of a guy like Steve Irwin ("The Crocodile Hunter") when he was alive. So perhaps a DUNDEE remake is nothing to fear. But then again, Hollywood has remade ARTHUR, for Christ sakes!
Mugger: "You got a light, buddy?"
Michael J. Dundee: "Yeah, sure kid."
Mugger (flicks open a switchblade): "And your wallet!"
Sue Charlton: "Mick, give him your wallet."
Dundee: "What for?"
Sue: "He's got a knife."
Dundee: "That's not a knife. (pulls out his large bowie knife) THAT'S a knife."
Monday, April 4, 2011
(May 1995, U.S.)
I've seen my small share of submarine films. From as early as RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (1958) to as recently as K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER (2002) and I can honestly claim that Tony Scott's CRIMSON TIDE is the best I've ever seen of the genre. I can also claim that it's probably the last great film I've ever seen from the same director as TOP GUN (1986). Now while DEJA VU (2006) is a noteworthy film for it's own reasons of plotline, Tony Scott has (unfortunately) spent the better part of the last decade making films that feature intolerable quick edits, jump cuts and camera work that moves at the speed of light. Some find this technique of film making exciting. I find it downright nauseating!
But getting back to this great submarine action film, it takes place during a period of political turmoil in the Russian Federation, in which ultranationalists threaten to launch nuclear missiles at the United States. It focuses on a clash of wills between the seasoned commanding officer Captain Ramsey (played by Gene Hackman in what I consider his last great role) and executive officer Lt. Commander Hunter (played by Denzel Washington) of a nuclear missile submarine, arising from conflicting interpretations of an order to launch their missiles at Russia. During their initial days at sea, tensions between Ramsey and Hunter become apparent due to a clash of personalities: Hunter's more analytical, cautious approach towards his mission and the men, as opposed to Ramsey's more impulsive, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants approach. Tensions rise to their ultimate level and all-out mutiny breaks between those that stand with each man and their principles. It's an exciting series of events to watch because each "team" is at the command of an actor who in his own right commands his own powerful performance and attention. Each man, both in volume and in strength, can cause the viewer to take both points of view seriously. But in the end, when we learn that Hunter was right in his presumptions and his action, we can't help but smile and say, "Yes! The son of a bitch was right all along!"
CRIMSON TIDE, by all cliche definitions, can certainly be called a "man's" movie that excites the intellect as well as the adrenaline glands with snappy, pop culture inflected dialogue. This is a rare kind of war film that can not only thrill the viewer while watching it, but can also perhaps provoke us to actually discuss the relevant issues, as well.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Captain Ramsey: "Mr Hunter, we have rules that are not open to interpretation, personal intuition, gut feelings, hairs on the back of your neck, little devils or angels sitting on your shoulder. We're all very well aware of what our orders are and what those orders mean. They come down from our Commander-in-Chief. They contain no ambiguity."
Lt. Commander Hunter: "Captain..."
Ramsey: "Mr Hunter. I've made a decision. I'm Captain of this boat. NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
Sunday, April 3, 2011
(October 1989, U.S.)
By the year 1989, Woody Allen had not starred in one of his own film since HANNAH AND HER SISTERS three years prior. Actually, the closest he'd come was a short film as part of NEW YORK STORIES (1988). CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS is set in New York City (where else?)and follows two main characters: Judah Rosenthal (played by Martin Landau), a successful ophthalmologist, and Cliff Stern (played by Woody Allen), a struggling documentary filmmaker. The two men are each confronted with their own moral crises. Judah faces the harsh reality of guilt and anguish over his "crime" of instigating the murder of his unstable mistress who threatens to expose their affair to his wife and family. Cliff faces the far less complications of his "misdemeanor" which is infidelity and perhaps portraying a negative image of his pompous television producer brother-in-law Lester (played by Alan Alda) through a documentary film of his (Lester's) life. According to Cliff, "What is the guy so upset about? You'd think nobody was ever compared to Mussolini before."
While most any Woody Allen film would care to focus on the insanity and ironic comedy of life, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS is what I would consider one of his more serious films in that it not only deeply explores one's guilt and remorse over the taking of another human life, but also concentrates on the religious implications (in this case, Judaism) that drives that guilt and the teachings of childhood religion that some are incapable of letting go of even when attempting to reject it. Although Jewish himself, this is probably the one film where Allen really makes a point of Jewish upbringing and the teachings of God's knowledge and watchfullness (if that's your belief, anyway).
In an interesting final scene, Judah and Cliff meet by happenstance at the wedding of the daughter of Ben, Cliff's brother-in-law and(coincidentally) Judah's patient. Judah has managed to conveniently work through his guilt and is enjoying his life of wealth and priviledge once more; the murder having been blamed on a drifter with a criminal record. He draws Cliff into a supposedly hypothetical discussion that draws upon his moral quandary. Judah says that with time, any crisis can pass; but Cliff morosely claims instead that one is forever fated to bear one's burdens for their "crimes and misdemeanors." Food for thought, I suppose, if you're even hungry for it.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Lester: "If it bends, it's funny. If it breaks, it's not funny."
Friday, April 1, 2011
(November 1982, U.S.)
I gotta admit, after getting a little broodingly deep and personal with a movie like the preceeding CRASH, it feels good to move onto some light-hearted horror fun like CREEPSHOW. And when you combine the talents of author Stephen King with George A. Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), you know you're in for a treat.
The film consists of five short stories referred to as "Jolting Tales of Horror": "Father's Day", "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill", "Something to Tide You Over", "The Crate" and "They're Creeping Up on You!". Two of these stories, "The Crate" and "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" (originally titled "Weeds"), were adapted from previously published Stephen King's short horror tales. The segments are tied together with brief animated sequences and is bookended by scenes, featuring a young boy (played by Stephen King's own son, Joe King), who is punished by his father for reading trashy horror comics. Stephen King makes an appearance as Jordy Verrill himself. The man can't exactly act, but he is quite a trip to watch on screen, regardless. While each segment has its own elements to give anyone the classic feeling of "jeepers creepers", there are some particular parts that can just make your spine tingle. The first that comes to mind is the tasmanian devil from the mysterious crate under the stairs; his long sharp teeth, the hungry drool from his mouth and the horrible moment when he takes a huge bite out of a young man's neck (DAMN!!!). The second is, as you might expect, all of those nasty cockroaches! That final scene where they explode from E.G. Marshall's mouth and stomach is enough to put you off of your food for a week!
Romero and King approach this film with good humor and loving affection, as well as with an appreciation of the genuine macabre involved. It's also noteworthy that the film features its own carefully simulated comic-book tackiness and the gusto with which some good actors of the time assuming silly and outrageously-fun positions. CREEPSHOW is as funny and as horrible as the filmmakers would clearly love it to be for all those involved. So go ahead and enjoy it!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Doctor: "This is going to be EXTREMELY PAINFUL, Mr. Verrill!"