Tuesday, November 27, 2012
(August 2009, U.S.)
Let me ask you something...what's your favorite form of movie escapism? Is it an action-packed superhero sequel? Is it a sci-fi alien invasion of the Earth? Is it high school vampires falling in love (Geez, I hope not!). For my own personal tastes, the best form of movie escapism is dialogue that keeps you on the edge of your seat, coupled with a little extreme violence directed at the bad guys who really deserve it. A good example of the latter would be watching New York City muggers getting their asses blown away by Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH (1974). So, in the Summer of 2009, when I was still unemployed during the recession, I escaped to a work day matinee (at work day matinee prices!) and completely lost myself in the dialogue and violence of what I consider to be director Quentin Tarantino's SECOND best film (after PULP FICTION, of course!). Had you been sitting next to me in the movie theater, you would have seen me with the biggest goddamn smile on my face!
The first (and probably the most important) thing to remember about INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is that it's a fictional alternate history tale of two plots to assassinate the Nazi Germany political leadership; one planned by a young French Jewish cinema proprietor (played by Melanie Laurent), and the other by a team of Jewish-American soldiers led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (played by Brad Pitt). Remember the key word here is FICTIONAL (the film even begins with the title on card of, "Once Upon A Time..."). So the first thing you have to do when watching this film is close your mind to any details of historical accuracy because they no longer function. This is a war film, indeed, but it's probably the most FUN war film you're likely to watch. The fun lies in the pace and rhythm of the dialogue that grabs you from the very opening sequence when Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz), nicknamed the "Jew Hunter", arrives at the home of French dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite (played by Denis Menochet) and interrogates him in order to weed out a Jewish family unaccounted for. The immediate surprise is not so much the fact that the family is hiding under the farmer's floor boards, but rather the intense, step-by-step verbal technique Hans Landa uses to determine that they are, indeed, under the floor. As a Nazi soldier, Hans Landa is pure evil, but the evil seems more sinister because it's delivered with a big smile, good manners and an admittedly irresistible degree of sweet charm. Seriously, if this guy wasn't a Nazi, you couldn't help but love the guy!
As one might expect from a guy like Tarantino, this is a film of true violence that even a viewer like myself finds hard to watch at times. But somehow, as a human being with a streak of inner barbarism, you convince yourself that it's "fun" violence because it's happening to a bunch of Nazis that don't deserve anything less than what they get. Just stare into the fierce eyes of Eli Roth as "The Bear Jew" before he prepares to pound the shit out of a Nazi soldier's hear with a baseball bat (this guy must be from Brooklyn!) and you'll know the oncoming violence is going to be sickening to watch (it is!), but well deserved, nonetheless (it is!).
Tarantino loves movies! His fans know that, and it seems only fitting that much of the story lies in a charming French cinema! At a German premiere of a propaganda film, a plot unravels that will not only take out much of the German Reich, but Adolf Hitler himself. Now anyone who knows ever just a little of their World War II history knows very well that Adolf Hitler did not die in a French cinema. But again, remember, this is a World War II FABLE, so all historical accuracy is off. That being the case, to watch a cinema full of Nazi scum burn to death and to watch Hitler get massacred to death by "The Bear Jew's" machine gun is absolutely nothing short of a violently good time. Yes, my friends, it's lots of fun to watch Nazis get killed in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS! Try it! You'll like it!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Lt. Aldo Raine: "My name is Lt. Aldo Raine and I'm putting together a special team, and I need me eight soldiers. Eight Jewish-American soldiers. Now, y'all might've heard rumors about the armada happening soon. Well, we'll be leaving a little earlier. We're gonna be dropped into France, dressed as civilians. And once we're in enemy territory, as a bushwhackin' guerrilla army, we're gonna be doin' one thing and one thing only...killin' Nazis! Now, I don't know about y'all, but I sure as hell didn't come down from the goddamn Smoky Mountains, cross five thousand miles of water, fight my way through half of Sicily and jump out of a fuckin' air-o-plane to teach the Nazis lessons in humanity. Nazi ain't got no humanity. They're the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin', mass murderin' maniac and they need to be dee-stroyed. That's why any and every every son of a bitch we find wearin' a Nazi uniform, they're gonna die. Now, I'm the direct descendant of the mountain man Jim Bridger. That means I got a little Injun in me. And our battle plan will be that of an Apache resistance. We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the German won't not be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the German will be sickened by us, and the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us. And when the German closes their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with. Sound good?
Soldiers: "YES, SIR!"
Aldo: "That's what I like to hear. But I got a word of warning for all you would-be warriors. When you join my command, you take on debit. A debit you owe me personally. Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps. And all y'all will git me one hundred Nazi scalps, taken from the heads of one hundred dead Nazis. Or you will die tryin'!"
Friday, November 23, 2012
(May 1989, U.S.)
In the early months of the year 1989, when I first learned that there would be another Indiana Jones film coming out that summer, my initial reaction was that of extreme relief. Relief, because the thought of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) being the swan song of the legendary action hero's adventures was just too painful to accept. You see, in my humble opinion, THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is one of Steven Speilberg's worst films, second only to HOOK (1991). When I further learned that INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE would not only NOT be another prequel, but would also feature the legendary Sean Connery as Indy's dad, relief turned to excitement and anticipation. And so, on Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend 1989, I braved the insane movie crowds and ventured to the local twin movie theater in Westhampton Beach, Long Island and prepared myself for what I hoped would make up for the tragedy of the last film four years prior. It did...big time.
From its opening sequence, the film takes on new level of originality by showing us Indy as a young boy scout (played by the late River Phoenix) who, nonetheless, knows how to get himself into trouble when trying to protect a precious archeological artifact. The ultimate quest in this film, like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), is religiously-themed as he and his team seek the mystery and the magic behind the legendary Holy Grail, also known as the cup of Jesus Christ that was supposedly used during the Last Supper. Sort of the opposite side of the coin compared to RAIDERS - first something Jewish, then something Christian. Hey, why not? Seems only fair.
Like RAIDERS, Indy battles the Nazis again and is assisted again by alumni characters like Marcus Brody (played again by the late Denhom Elliot) and Sallah (played again by John Rhys-Davies). However, aside from the obvious action and excitement that's expected from an Indian Jones film, the real treat is the ongoing, snappy dialogue and father-son tension between Indiana and his father Henry Jones (Connery). The two actors (and characters) feed off of each other perfectly. Somehow it seems only poetic and just that Indy's dad would be played by the man who made James Bond perfectly famous. Add Spielberg and George Lucas to the mix and you have the ultimate recipe for fun and adventure.
Mind you, I'm not accusing this sequel of being perfect because it isn't. Despite it's incredible improvement over its horrible predecessor, to this day I still have enormous problems with the climax and the last Knight, kept alive for seven hundred years with the power of the Holy Grail. I understand that part of the allure of Indiana Jones films is the supernatural magic involved in some sequences, but this Knight in perfect human and preserved form was just too hard for me to swallow. The second problem I had (and still have!) is the idea that, having swallowed water from the Holy Grail, Indy and his father are now supposed to be endowed with eternal life as a result. By opening up that ridiculous can of forms in the story, we're now lead to believe that the two men will never grow older and will never die. Well, that's just fine if you DON'T continue to use Harrison Ford in the famous role. INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (the OTHER disappointing Indiana Jones film!) proved that wasn't going to be the case. It's also revealed in that last film that Henry Jones DID, in fact, die. You see what I'm talking about? You can't (and shouldn't) open up pandora's box on eternal life unless you're prepared to stick to it somehow. Then again, we're talking about the strange mind of George Lucas, who proved guilty as hell of such inconsistencies during the prequel STAR WARS trilogy...but that's another argument for another time.
And so, in case I haven't been obvious enough about it, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE in the only Indy film I'll be discussing for some time...until I eventually reach the letter 'R'.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Elsa Schneider: "What's this?"
Indiana Jones: "Ark of the Covenant."
Elsa: "Are you sure?"
Indy: "Pretty sure."
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
(July 1996, U.S.)
When INDEPENDENCE DAY was originally released in movie theaters sixteen years ago (has it been that long??), it re-booted two genres that hadn't been seen much in the movies in over a decade. The first was the invasion of the planet Earth by hostile aliens. The second was the science fiction action movie with glorious space battles. Is it any wonder that the trailers for the special editions of George Lucas' original STAR WARS trilogy were shown with INDEPENDENCE DAY? Since then, aliens and monster have been endlessly invading and crushing our planet (usually New York City) on screen and there have been three more STAR WARS films. Even the original teaser trailer for this film didn't need to say much to get people excited to see it come July 1996...
July 2 - The day they arrive.
July 3 - The day they attack.
July 4 - The day we fight back.
Simple, to the point and quite gripping for the sci-fi movie lover, right? However, unlike the many alien invasion films from the 1950s you may have seen on Turner Classic Movies, Roland Emmerich's film focuses much less on the science ins-and-outs of who the aliens are and why they do what they do and treats movie fans to more of the action, blood and guts they crave. Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller is perfect to provide his unique style of humor that only makes the film better. This was the beginning that made Will Smith the action hero of science fiction films he's become ever since (you can look up the films that followed).
Alien invasions can be fun, of course, but the film also does it's best to remind us that the prospect of such an event is quite terrifying. From the moment the alien ships arrive and surround our planet, we know they're very likely NOT friendly. Through the scientific expertease of David Levinson (played by Jeff Goldblum - another science fiction alumni actor!), we watch the countdown commence and finally conclude itself to the big payoff - the attack! And shit, what an attack it is! Our major cities are completely obliterated by laser weapons and balls of inferno that can send chills up and down your spine if you allow yourself the imagination to really take it in.
INDEPENDENCE DAY can clearly be called the Bill Clinton era science fiction film. Actor Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore bears a minor resemblence to our former President. And as his character is also a former fighter pilot who actually takes part in the final battle in which the people of Earth will gloriously prevail over the alien attackers, it's no wonder that INDEPENDENCE DAY was such a favorite of Clinton's. Perhaps he played this movie while he was getting one of his infamous Monica Lewinsky blowjobs to enhance the effect. Hey, anything's possible, yes?
Since INDEPENDENCE DAY, I have not enjoyed nor have I bothered to own any other alien or monster invasion film. Really, what's the point? This film captured everything that's so exciting about the genre, that anything that followed, in my opinion, was just recycled copycat material and a genuine waste of my time. So to the two filmmakers who would eventually give us crap like GODZILLA (1998) and 2012 (2010), I say a great big thank you for all of INDENDENCE DAY's destructive pleasures! Though, admitedly, I may never forgive them for shamelessly placing the Empire State Building in the geographically wrong location just to enhance their effects. Anyone who lives in New York City or close enough to it, knows just how bogus that was!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Captain Steven Hiller (being shot at by an alien spaceship): "Oh no, you did NOT shoot that green shit at me!"
Sunday, November 18, 2012
(November 2004, U.S.)
Ever since TOY STORY first hit movie screens in 1995, it seems that computer-animated films by Disney and Dreamsworks have become a dime a dozen every few weeks or so. Really, I can't keep track of them anymore and neither can my son...and he's just six years-old, for crying out loud! So if I'm lucky, every once in a great while, one of them will catch my attention in a positive way. At this point in my life, I can easily claim my love (or hate) of one of these movies is based on the fact that I wanted to (or HAD to!) watch it with my son. Unfortunately, in this case, I must claim complete and total responsibility for watching and loving Disney's THE INCREDIBLES because it was relased two years before my son was born.
Let me begin with a claim that I never in my life thought I'd ever make about a Disney film, and that's this...THE INCREDIBLES features some of the best hardcore action (for a Disney movie, anyway) that I've seen on screen that would even rival a great Indiana Jones movie! Honestly, the last time I felt that way about a Disney film was the sci-fi spectacle THE BLACK HOLE in 1979. THE INCREDIBLES follows a family of superheroes living a quiet suburban life, forced to hide their powers from the rest of the world due to a an onslaught of lawsuits brought against the world's superheroes after their heroics inadvertantly cause massive public destruction. When the father, Bob Parr or "Mr. Incredible" (voiced by Craig T. Nelson - remember him in POLTERGEIST?) yearns for his glory days and desire to help people drags him into battle with an evil villain and his killer robot, the entire Parr family is ultimately forced into action to save the world. As cliche as it all seems, superheroes HAVE to always be saving the world from some sort of evil, otherwise the film is pointless, yes? The evil, known as Buddy Pine or "Syndrome" (voiced by Jason Lee), is quite a trip because he's really just a dorky kid who once wanted nothing more than to be "Mr. Incredible's" superhero sidekick, and having been rejected too many times, grew up into evil manhood and seeks only revenge on those who have wronged him. At the same time, while creating all of this evil and mass destruction, his ultimate plan is to be the greatest superhero on the planet by conveniently defeating his own evil and taking the world renowned credit of the good guy?
(you getting all this so far?)
so basically, we're talking about a real bad guy with a tremendous ego issue! What finally defeats him is quite amusing considering it involves a transforming baby and the dangers of wearing a cape. See for yourself.
As mentioned earlier, these computer animated films seem quite repetitious...and they are. Besides the great action, though, the design of THE INCREDIBLES is unique in its own way. The 3D computer graphics of the skin for these movie characters gained a new level of realism from a technology to produce what is known as "subsurface scattering", which is defined as a mechanism in which light penetrates the surface of a translucent object, is scattered by interacting with the material, and exits the surface at a different point. The light will generally penetrate the surface and be reflected a number of times at irregular angles inside the material, before passing back out of the material at an angle other than the angle it would have if it had been reflected directly off the surface. Hey, I had to look it up, okay, but you can see the great results of this process when you watch THE INCREDIBLES come alive in front of you.
To date, there's still no sequel to this great animated film. I hope it stays that way!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Syndrome: "Oh, no! Elastigirl? You married Elastigirl?? Ho, ho, ho...oh, and got biz-zay! It's a whole family of supers! Looks like I hit the jackpot! Oh, this is just too good!"
Saturday, November 17, 2012
(December 1967, U.S.)
A bestselling book and successful film based on a shocking true life crime may not play so well in today's world given the fact that these sort of tragic real life events seem to occurr at an almost frequent rate. Think about it...how often do you turn on the news and hear about some horrifying crime and almost write it off in your mind as something that has reached the point of being trivial? It's a tragic attitude, but it's a sign of the world we live in today.
Back in 1959 middle America, though, the detailed brutal murders of Herbert Clutter, a successful farmer from Holcomb, Kansas, his wife, and their children was a horrific incident that captured the minds, hearts and attention of the entire country. When Truman Capote learned of the quadruple murder, before the killers were captured, he decided to travel to Kansas and write about the crime. The 1966 book of IN COLD BLOOD became the greatest crime seller at the time and is almost universally acknowledged as one of the best books of its type ever written. Richard Brooks' film version with Robert Blake as Perry Smith and Scott Wilson as Dick Hickock follows a very detailed and non-linear form of filmmaking and editing as we follow the two would-be killers from the point of conceiving the planned home robbery to the very point that they're hanged for their crimes. Particularly noteworthy is the moment when they've arrived at the Clutter farm and are preparing to exit the car. The film fades to black at that moment and when it returns, a family friend arrives at the house to find the bodies. Police investigation and inevitable capture of the killers follow soon enough and it's only at the point of Perry Smith's lengthy confession do we witness a step-by-step account of the home invasion and the frightening moments that lead up to the family's ultimate slaughter.
That last comment of mine opens up the fact that the actual events of the crime itself are told on film with out-of-sequence flashbacks (or analepsis, as I understand it's sometimes called) and the consequences that follow it. It's a style of crime storytelling that I remember first seeing in Stanley Kubrick's THE KILLING (1956) and decades later in Quentin Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS (1992). It's a formula that's definitely copied around in cinema, but nevertheless a highly effective tool with crime thrillers.
Although it wasn't included in my film collection and this blog, the 2005 film CAPOTE with Philip Seymour Hoffman takes the events of Truman's writing the book and his actual relationship with the convicted criminals preceeding it. It's an intruiging additional step to take after you've read the book IN COLD BLOOD or seen the film, or both.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Alvin Dewey: "Someday, somebody will explain to me the motive of a newspaper. First, you scream, "Find the bastards." Till we find them, you want to get us fired. When we find them, you accuse us of brutality. Before we go into court, you give them a trial by newspaper. When we finally get a conviction, you want to save them by proving they were crazy in the first place."
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
(July 2010, U.S.)
Initially, any science fiction film that could be described as "The Matrix meets James Bond" may seem like a turn-off for me, because the moment a film is described as one previously used element "meeting" another previously used element, the only thing that I can stay focussed on is the fact that it's film that contains previously used film elements. Add to the fact that back in 1985, there was a film called DREAMSCAPE with Dennis Quaid in which people invaded other people's dreams, there remains very little to tempt me into seeing INCEPTION. On the other hand, though, director Christopher Nolan carries a tremendous amount of weight with me. MEMENTO (2000) was one of the ten best films of the last decade, INSOMNIA (2002) was one of the rare and better remakes of any foreign film I've ever seen, and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), of course, speaks for itself. That in mind, INCEPTION deserved its fair viewing.
This is a film that, for my own reasons and experiences, I would put in a personal classification with films like Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963), 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001) and THE TREE OF LIFE (2011) in that they're films I had a lot of trouble understanding the first time around and dared me to challenge my patience and intellect to not give up so fast. You see, for me, the harder a film is to understand, the more I'm compelled to get past the difficulties of it and try, try again. It's frustrating, yes, but when I've given a good film the time and understanding it deserves, it's like experiencing a film revelation in which you finally (hopefully) get it. After watching INCEPTION for the first time some time ago, I immediately started the film again because I was determined to "get back on the bicycle" and master its meaning and its pleasures.
So that being said, we have a film whose essential premise is the concept of invading a person's dream and implanting an idea in their head that will ultimately change their own lives and the possibly the lives of others involved with them. Dominick Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is a dream "architect", who with his team, are hired by powerful Japanese businessman Saito (played by Ken Watanabe) who wishes to break up the energy conglomerate of his ailing competitor by planting the idea in his son and heir Robert Fischer (played by Cillian Murphy) to disintegrate his father's company. Should Cobb and his team succeed, Saito will use his influence to clear a murder charge against Cobb, so he can return to the United States and his beloved children.
Sounds simple so far, right? Not quite...
Once the mission begins, we're into high concept ideas of "dreams within dreams", "kicks" that will untimately awaken the dreamer, dreamer's defense mechanisms that can come in the form of extreme violence and the sub-conscious act of bringing the memories of the dead into play, also accompanied by destructive behavior. This last action is just what's going on in Cobb's head as he suffers extreme guilt over the suicide of his wife and it's just what may jeopardize the team's mission. Dreams mix with reality in such a way that, as I said, can be very hard to follow. You have to take the time to follow just how many dreams are within a single dream and to ultimately remember that reality lies in those who are actually fast asleep on a plane.
This is all my persoanl take on the film, though. There are those out there who are likely smarter than me and may take it all in with no problem the very first time they watch INCEPTION. My hat is off to you, if you can. Most film audiences are completely turned off by any film they're required to use their brain with. As a result, box office returns usually suffer. Not here, however. INCEPTION fared very well with audiences and critics.
Just a quick persoanl memory to conclude things...you may recall that in my previous post for AVATAR (2009) I confessed that it was the last modern "grown up" film for myself that I went to see in a movie theater (it still is!). However, that's not to say I didn't try again. During the Summer of 2010, I tried TWICE to see INCEPTION at the same movie theater in my town. The first time there was a problem with the film and I demanded my money back. The second time the show was sold out. I took it as a clear sign not to try and go to the movies for myself anymore. I haven't been back since...and that's no dream!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Dominick Cobb: "Well dreams, they feel real while we're in them, right? It's only when we wake up that we realize how things are actually strange. Let me ask you a question, you, you never really remember the beginning of a dream do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what's going on."
Ariadne: "I guess, yeah."
Cobb: "So how did we end up here?"
Ariadne: "Well we just came from the a..."
Cobb: "Think about it Ariadne, how did you get here? Where are you right now?"
Ariadne: "We're dreaming?"
Cobb: "You're actually in the middle of the workshop right now, sleeping. This is your first lesson in shared dreaming. Stay calm."
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
(June 1995, U.S.)
Without actually bothering to check into the archives of my own movie blog for clarity, it feels like it's been ages since I discussed a foreign subtitled film. Feels good to return to that genre again.
Looking back at the 1990s, I think I experienced my greatest enthusiasm for foreign films on screen during that decade. From CINEMA PARADISO (1990) to LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (1992) to LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (1998), foreign cinema seemed to develop quite a surge with audiences, critics and Oscar voters, as well. During the 1990s, I was also living in New York City and was affordered greater access and greater opportunities to see these foreign films on the big screen. By the time I got around to IL POSTINO, the massive attention and the Oscar buzz were everywhere. The other big news surrounding this film was the fact that it's star, Massimo Troisi, had died of a severe heart attack the day after filming was completed (Man, that sucks!).
The film tells the fictional story in which the real life Chilean poet Pablo Neruda forms a relationship with a simple Italian postman who learns to love poetry and uses it to win the heart of the woman he loves. SIMPLE is the key word here because like Peter Sellers in BEING THERE (1979) and Tom Hanks in FORREST GUMP (1994) before him, Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi) is the simplest of men who lives on a small, forgotten island in Italy whose very existence seems to be no more than living with and looking after his aging father. This is not a man with wisdom, experience or courage to face any real challanges in life or to even try to make his existence known to the most beautiful and tempting woman on the island, Beatrice Russo (played by Maria Grazia Cucinotta - you may recall her in the opening sequence of the disappointing 1999 James Bond film THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH). And like previous simple men before him, wisdom and experience is slowly fullfilled, in this case through poetry, metaphors and friendship with a world renowned poet Pablo Neruda (played by French actor Philippe Noiret), who in this film, seems to attract hords of crazed fans a lot more like the Beatles coming to America in 1963 rather than a simple-mannered poet.
And so the shy, simple man wins the heart of the beautiful woman and all is NOT QUITE happily ever after. Things get complicated. Pablo and his wife return to their homeland in Chile and Mario realizes that it's time for him to develop his own voice and his own thinking, particularly during a time in history when communism is at its peak in the 1950s. In an epilogue sequence of the film, we learn that Mario, when scheduled to recite is own composed poem a massive communist gathering in Naples, is killed during violent police reaction. Tragic and ironic, indeed, considering the real life fate of Massimo Troisi himself.
Before revisiting IL POSTINIO for the first time since purchasing the DVD years ago, the most recent film I'd watched was last summer's superhero blockbuster THE AVENGERS. If you'd been in my living room with me, you would have seen an expression on my face that seemed to suggest, "Why the fuck am I watching this crap??" If you'd seen my face last night, you would have witnessed a big smile. I smile because sometimes in the life of cinema, it's the simplest stories, the simplest pleasures and the most simple of beautiful world locales (in glorious Italy!) that will put that wonderful smile on your face. MY face, anyway.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Mario Ruoppolo: "Something nice about the island?"
Pablo Neruda: "Yes, one of the wonders of your island."
Mario (speaking into a recorder): "Beatrice Russo."
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
(October 2011, U.S.)
During the course of the last two films I posted, I AM LEGEND and IDENTITY, there was strong evidence of irony, timing and coincidence involved. Well, pay attention, people, because on this, our Presidential election day, I'm here to discuss George Clooney's THE IDES OF MARCH. Is it all of the above-mentioned factors or am I just that fucking good?? You decide.
George Clooney as Governor Mike Morris is probably the best fictitious political candidate I've seen on film since Robert Redford in THE CANDIDATE (1972). He doesn't really exist, but when you hear him speak on what resembles the real life political issues of our time, you'll swear that you'd vote for him if he really ran for office. Hey, don't forget that Ronald Reagan was an actor once...anything can happen! THE IDES OF MARCH, however, is told more from the point of view of Morris' deputy campaign manager Stephen Meyers (played by the very intense Ryan Gosling). From his perspective, the film is, admitedly, very cliche in its story. We have the young, idealistic campaign manager who truly believes that his candidate walks on water. Of course, as time progresses, he'll find that his beloved Mike Morris is as much of a disappointment as every other bullshit politician out there. He'll also find that his loyalties and his ideals have the potential to go out the window when his job, his career and his future are threatened. And of course, we shouldn't forget the inevitable cliche that all seemingly moral politicians eventually end up fucking their interns. Well, let's be honest...would YOU kick Evan Rachel Wood out of your bed??
While THE IDES OF MARCH is busy being predictable, yet entertaining, there's one particular moment that I take to heart. During a scene in a quit cafe, Marisa Tomei's character of a New York Times reporter tells Stephen that regardless of which presidential candidate wins the election, it will likely not make one bit of difference to the average "fucker" out there who wakes up, goes to work, comes home, goes to sleep and does the same thing all over again the next day. I never thought I'd take anything that Marisa Tomei says to heart like that, but she does, admitedly, make a good point worth considering. It's an opinion, anyway. But the last thing I'm going to do is get into any sort of political discussion on this blog of mine.
So, that being said...WIN, OBAMA, WIN!!!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Governor Mike Morris: "You know how you fight the war on terror? You don't need their product anymore! Their product is oil! Just don't need it and they go away!"
(George Clooney for President!!!)
Sunday, November 4, 2012
(April 2003, U.S.)
Before I begin my blog for this film, let's take a moment and take a little tour of what I can only describe as either strange irony, bizarre timing or insane coincidence...
My last movie post for I AM LEGEND told the story, in part, of disaster, devestation, and isolation. Two days after that post, Hurricane Sandy hit the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticuit with an extreme wrath that had virtually never been seen before, and because of disaster, devestation and isolation, I was unable to really get to a computer to post my blogs. Now, this next film, IDENTITY, deals with, in part, disaster and isolation. Is all of this just bizarre coincidence, something a little more spiritual or just really fucking weird???
I think that we can give special credit to novelists like Robert Bloch and Stephen King and filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick for making the idea of the isolated, abandoned motel or hotel a very creepy element for any scary film. Take a look at the motel in this film and tell me if you'd want to stay here...
In IDENTITY, which is greatly inspired by Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, we're not only given the storyline of the isolated motel and the group of stranger (lead by great actors like John Cusack and Ray Liotta) who are trapped there, but also the added cliche of the violent thunderstorm. Cliche, yes, but highly effective. A storm is scary, an isolted moted is scary, and a group of people who begin dying one by one is truly scary!
When you watch the story of these strangers, we're also being shown the circumstances of Malcom Rivers (played by Pruitt Taylor Vince), a vicious killer who is just one day away from execution. His psychiatrist (played by Alfred Molina) is, predictably, playing the insanity card to save his patient's life. You wonder what the hell one story has to do with the other. You also have to remind yourself that you're very likely being set up for what will turn out to be a great payoff of revelation in the film's plot.
Like AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, people start dying and dying in rather frightening and violent manners. What's really freaky is that eventually those bodies start mysteriously disappearing. Is this the work of a truly diabolical killer or something a little more sinister and supernatural? This is where you have to be ready for what will inevitably link the story of a group of stranded strangers and the circumstances of Malcom Rivers. Without unfairly giving anything away, rest assured that the revelation is scary and very effective. I will, however, direct your memory to this line from Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) that goes...
"You see, when the mind houses two personalities, there's always a conflict...a battle!"
Nothing could be further from the truth in the case of IDENTITY. Moviegoers have often been floored by the climactic ending of a scary film that would suggest the protaganist was actually DEAD during the entire time (see JACOB'S LADDER or THE SIXTH SENSE). This film takes it a step further, in my opinion, in showing the complex and truly creepy conflicts going on inside of the mind of a convicted killer who happens to suffer from multiple personality syndrome. What's even more frightening is when you consider the fact that it's very possible that a story element such as this is likely conceived from a true case history of a real human being (or more). In other words, there stranger the story, the more likely it is that it was inspired from a true life incident or person. Scary, indeed.
Like too many scary films of decades before, IDENTITY does NOT suffer from bad story, bad acting and bad dialogue. It's intelligent scares and frights that can stand proudly with films like THE EXORCIST (1973), HALLOWEEN (1978) and THE SHINING (1980). That's a nice position to have!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Edward Dakota: "Alright, I was, uh, driving this actress and we got stuck at the motel. There was a storm...and we couldn't get out...we couldn't get out...because of the storm."
Dr. Mallick: "What happened at the motel?"
Edward: "People started dying...and their bodies...it doesn't make any sense...they, they disappeared."