Thursday, January 31, 2013
(October 1985, U.S.)
JAGGED EDGE, a courtroom thriller, was written by Joe Eszterhas, who also wrote BASIC INSTINCT (1992). I start by immediately pointing this out because there are similarities in the man's story structure of the prior film that would become even more infamous in the latter film. In JAGGED EDGE, the story focuses heavily on the specific knife used in the brutal murder of a young and wealthy California woman. In BASIC INSTINCT, the murder weapon of the ice pick was practically the star of the film. JAGGED EDGE, like BASIC INSTINCT also raises the the point of just how far a person will allow themselves to go romantically and sexually with someone who may very well be willing to kill them. And while I'd never compare Glenn Close to Sharon Stone in the sexual department (not even in FATAL ATTRACTION two years later), she does give a compelling, dramatic performance as Teddy Barnes who chooses to defend the man accused of murdering his wife, Jack Forrester (played by Jeff Bridges), a role I doubt Sharon Stone could have pulled off just as effectively. What she doesn't choose to do, but traditional cliche demands that she does, is fall in love with her client and accused murderer.
By today's standards of television, the simple murder mystery of "did he or didn't he?" and the sinful relationship that follows is likley no different than any two-hour episode of LAW & ORDER, CSI or any of the hundreds of made-for-TV movies you may find on the Lifetime TV network. But this was 1985, mind you, so the window of opportunity for such legal dramas to play out on the big screen was still very much in demand. Jeff Bridges and Glenn Close gave it suitable star quality, and after the mega-blockbuster success of RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), director Richard Marquand could have likely made any film he damn well wanted to! I certainly give him noble credit for moving onto a completely different type of film after doing an episode of STAR WARS, unlike Irivn Kirshner who moved onto James Bond and a ROBOCOP sequel and George Lucas, who unfortunately, refused to let go of his "favorite toy" for decades of his career.
Beyond the traditional courtroom drama and surprise witness testimonies that one would come to expect from such a film, there is the rather intruiging element of these anonymous and mysterious type-written notes which not only declare Jack's innocence, but also point the investigating finger to another suspect and another crime which took place eighteen months prior to the one the film focuses on. These notes seek to exonerate Jack as a murder suspect and eventually get him off, free to pursue a life of happiness with his lawyer. On the other hand, though, a film like this counts on the element of the surprise ending and the viewer isn't meant to know "did he or didn't he?" until the very last moment when the killer is shot dead and his black mask is removed to reveal his face.
This time I'll be kind and not give away the final resolution for the benefit of those who have never seen this film. I will point out, however, one flaw in the story's plotting that I've never been able to let go of. Here we're dealing with a killer who's been very crafty, very percise and very diabolical about every move he's made in order to get away with his crime, even the carefully-planned use of the anonymous notes. Why then, after all that perfectly-conceived planning and execution, is the typewriter used for the notes so sloppily hidden on a closet shelf where anyone could likely stumble on it?? Is the audience's suspension of disbelief supposed to excuse the fact that the brilliant killer made THE one stupid mistake that would inevitably get him discovered? Or was the killer, perhaps, allowing for the legal facts of "double jeopardy" for which it wouldn't even matter once he'd been legally acquitted for the crime? Either way, he obviously decided he had to kill his lover in the end...or try to, anyway.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Teddy Barnes: "Did your mother ever wash your mouth out with soap and water?"
Sam Ransom: "Yeah, but it didn't do any fucking good."
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
(November 1990, U.S.)
Adrian Lyne's JACOB'S LADDER is a great psychological horror thriller, one that holds a proud place in my film collection, but I swear to you, the timing of it's release back in 1990 could not have been more poorly timed in relationship to what I was going through at the time if it had deliberately tried! The film is an ongoing nightmare into one man's world of life, death, angels and demons. It centers around Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer (played by Tim Robbins), whose experiences both prior to and during the war have resulted in strange flashbacks and bizarre hallucinations that continue to haunt him in his everyday life. There are also extreme moments of fear, paranoid isolation and lonliness that I was (tragically) able to relate to at that particular time of my life.
But more about me a little later.
JACOB's LADDER is of a man's apparant existence following his duty during the Vietnam War. As the viewer of one's nightmare, we don't know, nor are we meant to know which world of his is the correct one. The film alternates between two worlds where Jacob is happy at home with his wife and three sons (the youngest, Gabe, played by an uncredited, pre-HOME ALONE Macaulay Culkin) and living a life of joyous sexual pleasure with his live-in girlfriend, Jezzie (played by Elizabeth Peña), also a co-worker at the local post office. By all accounts, we may or may not be aware that these two alternate realities are Jacob's flashes of life in his mind as he struggles to survive a bayonet wound in Vietnam. As the alterations of his mind play out on the screen, each life slowly becomes clear to us. The relationship with Jezzie represent the very real sexual fantasy that every man experiences in life (or some version of it). The other side of his mind remains committed to what is most important in home, family and stability. But again, are we witnessing a man's real life or some twisted version of it in his own mind? The images and sequences are truly terrifying to watch, but even more intruiging is that we, as the viewer, are never given the opportunity to focus on any of the terror for very long. These moments are merely flashes to wet our appetites for the possibility of what lies in Hell, a place where Jacob and his other U.S. Army buddies are convinced they're headed. Even when there are more viable expanations provided with the implementation of a mind-altering drug secretly used in the officer's food supply, we must still remember that even such possible facts are very likely the ones played out in a man's mind as he struggles to hold onto life...maybe.
It should be noted that the terrifying story elements of JACOB'S LADDER should be considered responsible for other shocking film endings that turn out to take place in the minds of people, living or dead; films like THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), THE OTHERS (2001) and IDENTITY (2003). And while the likes of Norman Bates, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger may be what scares the living daylights out of most horror film lovers, it's the fear and the unknown that make JACOB'S LADDER one of the scariest, most haunting films I've ever seen.
Now let's get back to me. I've stated numerous times what an incredibly bad year 1990 was for me (the WORST of my life!). I've also stated that my ongoing temporary relief from my pains was going to the movies. Seeing JACOB'S LADDER (again, a great film!) was hardly the solution for my troubles at the time, though. One early sequence in particular that comes to mind and memory are the empty subway trains traveling through the disgusting bowels of the city late at night which conjour up my own thoughts of lonely subway rides between Brooklyn and Manhattan while I was in college. Jacob Singer lives in Brooklyn in the 1970s and each and every shot of the borough makes it look like a real shithole! I lived in Brooklyn in 1990 and I felt the same way about it (I still do!). Jacob is a man truly scared of his own life and where it may or may not be headed and I was feeling the same way, too. Despite his family, friends and girlfriend, Jacob feels extreme lonliness everyday...ditto for me, too. Jacob has continuous nightmares. I was having my own share of them, too. When I went to see this film on a cold night in November, I came out of the neighborhood movie theater feeling as if my guts had just been ripped out with a spoon. I went home to a large, empty house in Great Neck (Jacob does the same thing in the film just before he dies) and stood under a hot shower for a long time to try and calm myself down. Yes, people, it's very true that a film can be that effective on a person's life and emotions if it's succeeded in touching the right nerve. It touched mine and it took me a while to get over it. It was a thoroughly dark, depressing and painful experience to watch on screen, but still a powerful film, nonetheless.
Anyway, I feel much better now. Thanks.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Louis Denardo: "Eckhart saw Hell, too. He said, "The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you," he said. "They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth."
Monday, January 28, 2013
(December 1997, U.S.)
After the great cinematic miracle of the 1990s that was known as PULP FICTION (1994), director Quentin Tarantino could have made a two hour dog food commercial as his next theatrical feature and I wold have been the first one on line to see it! The first glimpse I had of the film JACKIE BROWN was a series of movie posters depicting the cast gave every indication that it was to be a heist film or a film of con artists in the tradition of THE STING or the like. Based on Elmore Leonard's original novel "Rum Punch", it's everything I presumed it was and more. This was the first glimpse I was getting into Tarrantino's deep appreciation of films of the 1970s, particularly the blaxploitation and grindhouse portion of the decade. No wonder the films stars veteran '70's actress Pam Grier in the title role.
Unlike PULP FICTION, this story follows more of the traditional linear format in the telling of events. Starting out simply enough, Jackie Brown (Grier) is a flight attendant for a small, shitty Mexican airline, the latest step down for her career. To make ends meet, she smuggles money from Mexico into the United States for Ordell Robbie (played by Samuel L. Jackson), a black-market drug dealer and gun runner, and now she's about to steal from him. What makes her a particularly interesting woman is that she's willing to commit major theft against a criminal like Ordell not just for the money (though half a million dollars is nothing to sneeze at!), but because she's willing to accept the fact that she's getting older and that the money will alleviate her greatest fear in life, which is having to start all over again in life (I know just how she feels!).
Somehow, though, half a million dollars doesn't sound like a whole hell of a lot, even in the year 1997. Yet this money, which seems to be floating around town and passed around through many "go between" people around Los Angeles (particularly a very large shopping mall) has everyone involved from Jackie, to Ordell, to bail bondsman Max Cherry (played by veteran actor Robert Forster), to Orodell's sidekick Louis (played by Robert DeNiro), to Ordell's stoned girlfriend (played by Bridget Fonda) to the LAPD drug detectives on the case. It seems everybody's somehow in on the great big bag of money and it's simply a question of who's actually going to get away with it in the end. You want it to be, you presume it's going to be, you hope to fucking hell it's going to be Jackie Brown (it's HER movie, right?). Anyway it goes down, though, like THE STING, you have a lot of fun watching the deception and the deviation of all involved. You'll have a big smile on your face when the heroine gets the cash and drives away into the Los Angeles sunset with a big smile on HER face, too. And she'll be singing the words to "Across 110th Street" by Bobby Womack, one of the best damn songs of the 1970s!
It would have been damn near impossible to top PULP FICTION after the shitstorm it created back in the day, and frankly, it would've been completely unrealistic to expect as much from the next feature. JACKIE BROWN is pure fun and it's pure Quentin Tarantino all the way, just like we expect it to be!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Ordell Robbie: "Here we go, AK-47! The very best there is! When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes!"
Thursday, January 24, 2013
(December 1946, U.S.)
Sometimes timing and circumstances really give me a mighty good kick in the ass! I tried so damn hard to properly time my movie viewing just right so that I could possibly post what is considered the greatest Christmas film of all time on December 24th of last year. Forgive me, readers, for I am exactly one month late! You see...this is what happens when you let a Jewish person review your Christmas films for you (ha, ha, ha!)!
Frank Capra's (hey, TWO Frank Capra films in a row on this blog!) most popular, most endearing film is a prime example of how time can ultimately be very kind to any film. When IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE first premiered in 1946, it was received with either dismissed or negative reviews and performed very poorly at the box office. Then somewhere over the course of several decades, the film fell into the public domain (look up what that means) and was continuously broadcasted on hundreds of local television stations during the Christmas seasons. Today, it's the only black and white film traditionally broadcasted on one of the three major networks (NBC) on Christmas Eve and the traditional film that this particular Jew still enjoys watching on that very same night.
Just how IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE became such a quintessential Christmas film alongside such a dominating story as Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is beyond me because the entire subject of Christmas and its joys and spirits is hardly a real subject of the film until the last thrity minutes or so when our hero George Bailey (played by the legendary James Stewart) has thoughts of imminent suicide on Christmas Eve and brings about the intervention of his mysterious guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (played by Henry Travers) who shows George all the lives he's touched and how brutally different life in his community would be had he never been born. Time is, indeed, a very funny thing.
If you've never actually seen this film before, you may actually wonder why it's actually called IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE when through most of the entire story, George Baily's life seems far from wonderful. Let's face it, man, throughout most of the film, his life really sucks!! This is a man who has continuously, unintentionally and unfairly given up his own great dreams and aspirations in order to help and improve the lives of others in his hometown of Bedford Falls. This is a man who's inherited a nickel and dime savings and loan business he never wanted, lives in a broken down house he never cared for, drives a piece of junk jalopy and whose only victory in life seems to come from being the only one in the entire community who will stand up to slumlord, old man Henry Potter (played by Lionel Barrymore). By the time George has reached the final limit of his existence, he's $8,000 in debt (through his uncle's carelessness!) and wanted by the authorities. Yes, my friends, it almost seems as if suicide on Christmas Eve is the only viable solution for poor George Bailey.
With regard to the famous sequence of George seeing life around him had he not been born, the reality is that it's quite an intense and frightening sequence; one that could have easily been a frightening episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE years later. Under this bizarre visual glimpse, life in Bedford Falls is not just a community minus one man, but one that has become completely unglued and under the complete domination of old man Potter (known as Pottersville, in this scenario). The people appear to live without any moral decency or values whatsoever and all those who were once dear to George are now complete strangers, particularly the wife he loves Mary (played by Donna Reed). Watch carefully the wide-eyed, enraged reaction James Stewart takes on upon witnessing the decay around him and tell me if this seems like any happy-go-lucky Christmas film to you! Definitely no, not 'till the very end, anyway, when things return to the way they should be and George learns the harsh and valuable (and cliche) lesson of embracing and cherishing all that he has in his life, even if it's far from perfect.
(Admitedly, sometimes I need that same occassional kick in the ass to remind myself of life's same lessons!)
When the end finally does come and all is happy and beautiful in the life of George Bailey and in the town of Bedford Falls and we hear his little girl Zuzu tell her daddy that every time a bell rings, it means an angel just got his wings, even this hard-boiled cynic (ME!) can't help but put a great big smile on his face and finally understand why IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is deservedly the greatest Christmas film he's ever seen!
Oh, one final thing - the scene at the high school dance and the swimming pool underneath. Look very carefully and the freckleface boy who's been cast aside by George when he insists on dancing with Mary. That's Carl Switzer, better known as "Alfalfa" from "Our Gang" or "The Little Rascals". Look it up if you have no idea what I'm talking about.
Favorite line or dialogue:
George Bailey (on Mary being caught naked in the bushes) "This is a very interesting situation!"
Mary Hatch: "Please give me my robe."
George: "A man doesn't get in a situation like this every day."
Mary: "I'd like to have my robe."
George Bailey: "Not in Bedford Falls anyway."
Mary: "Ouch! Oh!"
Mary: "George Bailey!"
George: "Inspires a little thought."
Mary: "Give me my robe."
George: "I've read about things like this."
Mary: "Shame on you! I'm going to tell your mother on you."
George: "Well, my mother is way up on the corner."
Mary: "I'll call the police!"
George: "Well, they're all the way downtown. They'd be on my side."
Mary: "Then I'll scream!"
George Bailey: "Maybe I can sell tickets."
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
(February 1934, U.S.)
It's interesting to note that there are some films that can somehow capture the heart and essence of a particular time in history without necessarily diving deep into its content; in this case, the era of the Great Depression. In KING KONG (1933), it's just enough for Carl Denham to be eyeballing a group of women on a long soup line as he searches for his leading lady. In 42ND STREET (1933), we only need witness how much the chorus line girls will tolerate and struggle with in order not to be put out of their jobs and on the street. These small sequences, as examples, are sufficient enought to reflect the harsh and bitter times Americans were experiencing during the decade of the 1930s.
For the great Frank Capra romantic comedy, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, it need not directly indicate that the Depression is up and running, but rather remind its audience with very subtle and familiar hints. It begins when spoiled and pampered socialite Ellie Andrews (played by Claudette Colbert) tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish, wise-cracking newspaper reporter Peter Warne (played by the legendary Clark Gable), whom at the beginning, only wants her for her story. Suddenly she's on a bus from Miami to New York and must contend with the perils of travel, such as having little-to-no money and the theft of her luggage. She's now at the same level as the common folk who are merely just trying to survive hard times and eat whenever their finances will allow them. It's amusing gestures like when Peter shows her how to "properly" dunk her doughnut (commonly referred to as "sinkers" back then) in her coffee without letting it get too soggy that reminded audiences of their current times. And let's not forget the whopping two whole dollars a couple would have to pay out to get a single room for the night! But perhaps one of the finest examples of the times back then can be best described in what would eventually become a very famous (and often very imitated) sequence when Ellie uses the power of her shapely, smooth leg to secure a ride while hitchhiking. Try to understand and appreciate that such a scene as this was considered very risqué and very unladylike by audiences and the censors back in the day...
Sure, it's completely bogus now! Why, even by today's movie standards, a woman flashing her tits on the road to get a ride still wouldn't produce very much of a shock value (PG-13, at best). But in 1934, it was enough to get audiences talking, but even more important, to get them laughing during a time when Americans needed to laugh at the movies more than ever before, all for the price of about ten cents.
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (it happens over SEVERAL nights, actually) may easily be called one of the first "road" films in which unlikely individuals are thrown together by circumstance and must not only learn to tolerate each others annoyances, but as cliche would demand of it, will also inevitably fall in love, too. Of course they will! That's what's supposed to happen in romantic comedies. Even when Peter is so damn infuriated with his love interest's spoiled brat attitude, it's completely obvious how much he loves her and wants to be with her (awww!).
It may be interesting to know of the film's impact with audiences with regard to one particular scene when Clark Gable undresses for bed, taking off his shirt to reveal that he's bare-chested. Urban legend claims that, as a result, there was a noticeable decline in the sale of men's undershirts after that. It's amazing just how susceptible movie audiences are to what they see on screen. On the other hand, I myself am guilty of running right out and purchsing Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses after I saw TOP GUN in 1986. Hey, sue me!
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT won the Oscar for best picture of 1934.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Alexander Andrews: "Oh, er, do you mind if I ask you a question, frankly? Do you love my daughter?"
Peter Warne: "Any guy that'd fall in love with your daughter ought to have his head examined!"
Alexander: "Now that's an evasion!"
Peter: "She picked herself a perfect running mate - King Westley - the pill of the century! What she needs is a guy that'd take a sock at her once a day, whether it's coming to her or not! If you had half the brains you're supposed to have, you'd done it yourself, long ago!"
Alexander: "Do you love her?"
Peter: "A normal human being couldn't live under the same roof with her without going nutty! She's my idea of nothing!"
Alexander: "I asked you a simple question! Do you love her?"
Peter: "YES! But don't hold that against me! I'm a little screwy myself!"
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
(May 2003, U.S.)
Perhaps the most pleasureable element of enjoying a good heist movie is that it gives the everyday morally and ethically honest person an opportunity to truly root for the bad guys; mainly the thieves who are stealing what doesn't belong to them. In many cases, the actions are quite justified because the targets are often the corrupt government, the casinos of Las Vegas or society's-disgustingly-step-on-the-little-guy-filthy-rich! Either way, it's admittedly lots of fun to watch the carefully-planned heist carried out to perfection, and if you're lucky, there may be some surprises along the way...and if you're real, real lucky, you get to stare at Charlize Theron in a black tank top (how come none of MY cable TV service people ever looked like her??).
THE ITALIAN JOB is an American remake of the 1969 British film of the same name, and is about a team of thieves who plan to steal gold from a former associate who double-crossed them during the original gold heist in Italy. Despite the shared title, the plot and characters of this film differ from those of its original source material. I must confess I tried to watch the original Michael Caine film some time ago, but got rather bored midway through it and never finished it, so I have no real frame of reference or comparison. Like most heist films, you have a team of experts in very specific fields of operation, be it explosives, safe cracking or computer hacking. Those cliches don't let you down here. In fact, it's pretty cool to watch the computer hacking nerd Lyle (played by Seth Green) completely fuck up the street signals of Los Angeles in order to pave the way for their target to drive to destination. Edward Norton as Steve, the team traitor and intended target is everything you want in a bad guy; ruthless, paranoid and murderous. This simply makes it a lot more fun to watch the guy not only loose his gold, but also get "taken care of" in the proper justifyable fashion.
Though not the greatest heist film I've ever seen (actually, I still haven't given that one a real title yet), THE ITALIAN JOB is unique in the fact that it offers the viewers the fun of not one job, but two. We know these thieves are good at their job and we know we'll enjoy watching them at work multiple times with the same high-tech tactics to acquire their target. The new and most exciting element, however, is undenyably the use of those Mini Coopers during the chase scenes. In a world where size matters most, this is a case where smaller definitely works for the better (you see - QUALITY, not quantity). It's all pure movie escapism, but with the added bonus of a more skilled professional level of story and performance...for a heist movie, anyway.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Steve: "What do you want?"
Stella Bridger: "You know this was never about the gold."
Steve: "Whatever helps you sleep at night, sweetheart!"
Friday, January 18, 2013
(November 1990, U.S.)
You may have forgotten about this, because IT's been some time, but my film collection also includes some made-for-TV movies and the majority of them are based on Stephen King novels. I read the original book IT way back in 1987, and while I can't say I'm easily frightened by the printed word, the whole time I was reading, IT was easy to envision a truly scary epic horror film at some point. To bring this story to television represents a special challenge, in my opinion, because TV censorships won't allow excessive blood or gore on the small screen. That means such a filmmaker who takes on the project is going to have to rely on true scare tactics wIThout going over the deep end of camp or silliness.
IT is the story that revolves around an inter-dimensional predatory life-form in the small town of Derry, Maine (a frequent Stephen King locale), which has the ability to transform ITself into its prey's worst fears allowing IT to exploit the phobias of ITs victims, in this case, innocent children. Throughout the film, IT takes the form mostly of a sadistic, ultra-wisecracking clown called "Pennywise the Dancing Clown" (played freakishly and devilishly by Tim Curry). The victims here are "The Losers Club", a group of social outcasts who discover Pennywise and vow to destroy him by any means necessary. The series takes place over two different time periods; the first when the "Losers" first discover Pennywise as children in 1960, and the second when they're called back as successful adults in the year 1990 to defeat Pennywise, who has resurfaced to kill children again.
If you've read enough Stephen King in your time, then you know he's not only a man who can scare you to death, but also a man who clearly holds a very special bond to the childhood and friendships he had during a much simpler time in America; a time of flashy automobiles, AM rock and roll, fountain sodas and Saturday afternoon matinee monster movies. Such a simpler time of simpler people makes IT prime hunting ground for the most terrifying of evils. And the fact that the victims are innocent children makes them the true believers of not only the evil that terrorizes them, but also of the strength of their friendship, faith and loyalties they'll need to defeat that evil. Such friendship and loyalties are not only key to this story, IT's also quite touching, as well.
To really get into the evil of IT here, one cannot avoid diving deep into Tim Curry's outstanding performance as "Pennywise". Let's just say that everything he does, says and expresses in this film only defines to a greater extent why I've always HATED clowns my entire life! Let's be honest, shall we? Clowns can more often than not be some real scary looking creatures when they're completely made up (no wonder little Robbie Freeling was freaked out by his stuffed clown in POLTERGEIST)! Really, take a long, good look at this guy and tell me he's not the most sick-ass thing you've ever seen...
(IT's enough to put you off of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey for the rest of your life!)
Continuing my perspective of the evil of IT in this story, I have to say that I was disappointed to learn that in the end the origin of the monster is nothing more than a giant spider. Really, a giant spider?? Was that the best King could come up with? Perhaps from the artist's perspective, IT's a throwback to those 'B' giant monster movies that he remembers so fondly as a child. And whether I accept IT or not, IT's childhood memories and fears that are key to IT.
IT also greatly succeeds in its casting. These are actors we've all seen before, including John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Harry Anderson and Annette O'Toole, but none that could ever be called true movie stars of box office power before. This is a positive point because we're left with people who can actually act and give into the fear that their characters are meant to experience, particularly Ritter and Thomas, who prove they can go far beyond THREE'S COMPANY and THE WALTONS. Harry Anderson, on the other hand, is just about as silly as he ever was on NIGHT COURT. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.
Twenty-three years after the original television broadcast premiered of IT as a two part mini-series on ABC-TV, IT seems that Hollywood is looking into a remake of their own for this story. Surprised? Of course not! Hollywood has no originality of ITs own any longer so it needs to keep the recycling machiine operating as long as possible. Fuck them! IT is perfectly and deliciously scary just as IT is!
FavorITe line or dialogue:
Mike Hanlon (as a kid): "This is the old iron works. One Sunday back in 1930, there was an Easter egg hunt here. But the iron works exploded and all these people got killed. This is the Derry sandpipe. It supplied all the water to the town until a big disaster back in 1900. Maybe the biggest mystery is how two hundred fifty-three settlers just disappeared without a trace."
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
(December 1932, U.S.)
ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, the first film version of H.G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is not only widely considered the best version of the original tale (not by me, though), but it also falls perfectly into the category of those great Universal horror films of the Great Depression era. And although the Wells' character of Dr. Moreau himself was never intended to be a rather bloated sort (see Marlon Brando in the horrible 1996 version!), actor Charles Laughton plays him with an irresistible perfection of English charm and diabolical evil.
There is much to be said for classic black and white cinematography here, because it's how the horror of the creatures-gone-wrong and the monsters truly shine and make the film a perfect late night scarefest. Take particular note of Bela Lugosi as the "Sayer of the Law". The makeup looks cheap, of course, by today's 21st Century CGI standards, but open your mind and put yourself in the audience movie seat in the year 1932 and imagine the fright they must have experienced watching the horrors come alive on the screen. Listen with close ears as the entire community of creatures practically chants the phrase, "Back to the House of Pain!" and tell me you don't feel a slight chill up your spine.
I did read Wells' original novel some time ago, but for the life of me, without going back and re-reading it, I honestly can't remember if the character of Lola the Panther Woman (played by Kathleen Burke) exists or not. In this film, she's a very sexy woman who we're meant to believe was once a panther before Dr. Moreau performed his evil experiments on it. In the 1977 film version, the woman Maria exists and isn't indicated in any way to have once been an animal, though anyone with general knowledge of the original story may choose to presume it. In this film, we're not only given the evidence but we even witness Lola's slow conversion back to that of animal when her finger nails begin to grow to an astounding length. When you allow your movie imagination to get the better of you, this is animalistic horror at its finest because there's really no telling what this panther-woman will do to any man who desires her sexually (talk about getting eaten alive by a woman during sex!!).
It's interesting to know that H.G. Wells was still alive when this film was released and was outspoken in his dislike fo the film, claiming the overt horror elements overshadowed the orginal story's deeper philosophies. Author Stephen King expressed a very similar gripe with Stanley Kubrick's 1980 version of THE SHINING. Not that such complaints are not without merit, but just think of at least two great horror films we might not have had if visionary film directors hadn't put in their own two cents.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Dr. Moreau: "What is the law?"
Sayer of the Law: "Not to eat meat, that is the law. Are we not men?"
Beasts (in unison): "Are we not men?"
Dr. Moreau: "What is the law?"
Sayer of the Law: "Not to go on all fours, that is the law. Are we not men?"
Beasts (in unison): "Are we not men?"
Dr. Moreau: "What is the law!?"
Sayer of the Law: "Not to spill blood, that is the law. Are we not men?"
Beasts (in unison): "Are we not men?"
(July 1977, U.S.)
If I were to ask anyone what film or films they best remember from the year 1977, anyone with half a memory would, of course, be inclined to say STAR WARS immediately and then would perhaps follow up with CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. Well, who could blame them? Those are the logical first choices based on their historic popularity. But just to be clear on something, I didn't actually see STAR WARS for the first time until August 1977 in a small town in the Hamptons, nearly three months after it had opened in theaters. Taking into account the fact that my ten year-old brain was still hung up on the fact that I'd recently seen Dino DeLaurentis' 1976 remake of KING KONG twice, what I was really hung up on at the time were monster movies! And if you do your research, you'll find that there were quite a number of terrifying films involving monsters and beasts that were all surprisingly rated PG. Not that my stiff-as-boards parents were about to let their ten year-old son actually SEE any of these films, but before I discovered the magic of George Lucas' little space movie, my attention was Hell-bent on seeing films like EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, DAY OF THE ANIMALS, THE CAR, ORCA-THE KILLER WHALE (actually, I DID see that one!) and the second remake of H.G. Wells' THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Take a real good look at the movie poster and you'll see why a kid who loved monster movies was attracted to that one.
This actually one of Wells' books that I DID read some time ago and it's the story of the rather mad scientist Dr. Moreau (played by Burt Lancaster) who attempts to convert wild animals into civilized men. His plans and his entire island operation are discovered by crewman Andrew Braddock (played by Michael York) when his lifeboat reaches the island. Things starts friendly and civilized but gradually become dangerous when Andrew slowly realizes just what sort of diabolical evils are taking place by the hands of Dr. Moreau. This is not just a case of simple scientific experiments, but rather a working plan to create an entire race and colony of humans originally derived from animals. With such a plan comes the inevitable element of deity in which Dr. Moreau proclaims himself lord and master over his entire newly-created race of creatures. Watch him stand over his subjects and demand, "What is the law??". Watch in fear as the creatures respond with total servitude to their master.
Like all great creations, though, they're bound to inevitably turn on their creator. The creatures (monsters, really) in the end decide that they're no longer to be bound by Dr. Moreau's commands or his experiments on them and break down the barriers that separate them from their freedom. Dr. Moreau pays the ultimate price for his evil and it's up to the "good guys" to escape the island in the end.
There have been only three English-speaking versions of Wells' original tale, and in my opinion, this second version of 1977 is my favorite, primarily due to Burt Lancaster's performance of Dr. Moreau as the quiet, charming, but very deadly form of the classic mad scientist. Even when he has Andrew strapped down in order to experiment his wills in the reverse order on his body (turn Andrew into an animal!), there's something undenyably kind and subtle about the man's character, despite his evil intentions. It's said that Lancaster's performance is the one that best matches the character originally envisioned by Wells. Marlon Brando as Dr. Moreau in the 1996 remake was one of the WORST things I'd ever seen on screen in my life! It was then and there that I knew Brando should never make another film again!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Andrew Braddock (struggling to recall his human memory): "I was born in Bolton, England, on the twenty-seventh of March 1881. I have two brothers, Phillip and Robert. Robert died in a fire. We used to go sledding in the winter. Yes, there was a hill that ran down from the railway station to the lake. The lake was called...Barrow Lake. The wind, the wind coming off the lake, it was, it was so cold, it, it used to freeze ice to the runners of our sleds...to our hands...to our faces. Oh, Bobby used to laugh! He liked that! He laughed! He laughed! I...I...I forgot that! I...I...I thought I forgot that! My...my...my...my first book was 'A Christmas Carol'. No, no, no, it was 'The Sea Cook'. See? I remember it! I remember it all! I remember it all!"
Dr. Moreau: "Damn you, Braddock! Damn you! Let go! Let go!"
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
(May 2008, U.S.)
One of the most unfortunate things, in my opinion, about the modern movie business of the 21st Century is that it's been diseased with just too damn many superhero franchise films. It started with X-MEN in 2000 and it's been ongoing ever since. Even when you think a franchise has finally come to an end (like SPIDERMAN 3), some jerkweed decides to re-boot, re-think, re-imagine or whatever the hell else they choose to call it in Hollywood the entire franchise all over again within just a few years. It's enough to make someone like me as angry as say...the Hulk?? (sorry!).
However, in all fairness, throughout this entire movie mess, I've given each FIRST installment of all these franchises the fair shake it probably deserves. I loved X-MEN (2000), SPIDER-MAN (2002) and HULK (2003). So it was only proper that I give the first IRON MAN film a fair look when it was first released, despite knowing virtually nothing about the superhero from comic books, cartoons, whatever. You know what? I hated it when I first saw it! Though, by the time the film came out on DVD, I realized it wasn't so much the film I hated, but rather the movie theater experience I'd had at the time while I was surrounded by a bunch of asshole teenagers who couldn't shut their mouths or put away their electronic devices (kill them all!). So I gave it a second look in the privace of my own living room and found that it was not only an extraordinary superhero adventure, but it was also the ongoing wit and charisma of Robert Downey Jr. as billionare Tony Stark that truly carries the film.
The other immediate positive point of IRON MAN for me is that our hero is not spending his time battling some over-inflated, campy comic book villain (you know, the kind that made Joel Schumacher's BATMAN films of the 1990s such stinkers!), but rather true-to-life terrorists in war-torn Afghanistan. This carries a tremendous amount of weight for me because they're genuine enemies of the United States (and the world) that I can truly enjoy watching be destroyed by out hero on film. Even in the latter part of the second half of the film when Iron Man must battle and defeat Obadiah Stane, it's still acceptable to me in that it's just a great actor like Jeff Bridges in a uniform. An evil uniform, yes, but what the hell - it's still Jeff Bridges! I can also appreciate the obvious message that Tony Stark implies in that massive wealth from world weaponry is morally and ethically wrong (not that the real powers-that-be of the world would ever listen to such a thing!).
Not to claim that IRON MAN is perfect by any means. For my film patience, I feel the ongoing repetition of Tony Stary designing, building and perfecting what will ultimately become the great costume of Iron Man becomes rather tedious to watch after some time. You reach a point where you think to yourself, "Oh man, just build the fucking thing already and get to work!" Geez, I AM a real nitpicker, aren't I!! Gweneth Paltrow (her first film since motherhood) is fine, more or less, as Tony's loyal personal assistant and budding love interest Pepper Potts. Really, though, she's serves no better or worse than Superman's Lois Lane, Spider-Man's Mary Jane Watson or even Underdog's Sweet Polly Purebred.
And so, knowing my ongoing intollerance for franchise sequels, you can probably surmise by know that I didn't see IRON MAN 2 (2010), nor do I have any intentions of seeing IRON MAN 3 this summer. I watched THE AVENGERS dvd recently and, well...you can guess...hated it! But at the same time, knowing there are exceptions to nearly every film conviction I have, and if it'll make you feel any better, I DID love SUPERMAN II (1981), X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003) and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Tony Stark: "They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far. I present to you the newest in Stark Industries' Freedom line. Find an excuse to let one of these off the chain, and I personally guarantee, the bad guys won't even wanna come out of their caves. Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration...the Jericho!"
Sunday, January 13, 2013
(July 2004, U.S.)
As I begin this post for i, ROBOT, I have the instrumental title track of the Alan Parsons Project 1977 album called "I Robot" going through my head. Could I BE any cornier???
If one were to dig deep down into printed literature and film going as far back as over a hundred years ago, we'd find that there were those who tried to warn us that man's scientific and technological advances and achievements would one day turn on us. Mary Shelley warned us with FRANKENSTEIN and H.G. Wells warned us with THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. On screen, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, BLADE RUNNER and THE TERMINATOR warned us that our own machines had the capability to eventually turn on human beings and destroy them. Even author Stephen King wrote a 2006 novel called CELL in which a horrific global phenomenom turns all of those who happen to be using their cell phones at the time into crazed creatures of the dead (you GO, Stephen!). Personally, I think we've all become pathetic slaves to our gadgets of technology and it wouldn't surprise me one damn bit if one day they all destroyed us where we stood. But that's an entirely different debate.
Alex Proyas' captures i, ROBOT, which is only very loosely based on Isaac Asimov's short story colllection of the "Three Laws" (look them up), with much of the same dark, grim, high-tech atmosphere he gave to two of his previous science fiction efforts, THE CROW (1994) and DARK CITY (1998). Will Smith, in another one of his great sci-fi roles, plays detective Del Spooner in the city of Chicago in the year 2035 (only twenty-two years from now!). In this time, anthropomorphic robots enjoy widespread use as servants for various public services. The robots look like this, by the way...
...and the main protaganist robot known as Sonny sounds very much like Douglas Rain who provided the voice for HAL in 2001. The subtext of human prejudice is key here because Spooner is a man who hates robots because of their inibility to feel anything beyond what they've been programmed to do. He also deeply haunted by a past accident in which a robot saved him, but allowed a little girl to drown, and as a result left him with a robotic prosthetic arm to replace the one lost in the accident. It's because of Spooner's well-known prejudices that he's chosen to investigate the apprarant suicide of one of the robot's creators which will eventuallyly lead him to the dark plot of revolution behind all of the robots that inhabit the city and the top level computer technology that rules them all and inevitably commands all of them to turn against their human creators. Sonny, of course, is the one robot on the side of righteousness that will assist humans in their triumph - that's because he's the one robot in the entire film who's learned to experience feelings and emotion. You see, they DO count for something!
This film is a wonderful, high concept, intelligent and even mean science fiction film with some of the best action sequences I've ever scene, particularly the car chase scene in the underground tunnel. There's also a particular moment when hords of robots are scaling a tall glass tower like angry, hungry ants that's actually rather freaky to watch. You can tell they're out for human blood and it's scary to think of what might very well happen if then win their victory over humankind.
So you see how it is, people? Man creates robot, robot serves man, man hates robot, robot turns on man, man fears robot. But fear not, because film cliche protects the human race as the robots will ultimately be destroyed or be returned to their original program of human servitude. That's in the movies, though. I've often told people how much I hate, hate, hate the 21st Century, so beware the machines, people! They're going to get us!!!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Detective Del Spooner: "You are the "dumbest" smart person, I have ever met in my life! What makes your robots so perfect? What makes them so much...goddamn better than human beings?"
Friday, January 11, 2013
(November 1933, U.S.)
If you were a kid growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s, you very likely got your first exposure to the classic Universal monster horror films through late night television broadcasts like "Fright Night" or "Chiller Theater" or something similarly-themed depending on where you grew up. The first time I was ever exposed to THE INVISIBLE MAN was a startling black and white image that I saw in an elementary school book on famous monsters of the movies that looked like this...
The great Claude Rains (in his first American film role) portrays the Invisible Man (Dr. Jack Griffin) mostly only as a disembodied voice. Rains is only shown clearly for a brief time at the end of the film, spending most of his on-screen time covered by bandages and his eyes obscured by dark glasses. From the moment the film opens to a howling, manacing winter wind with no musical soundtrack, we see the mysterious stranger making his way through the snow storm to an isolated English inn. During an enraged encounter with the villagers, Griffin takes off his clothes, making himself completely undetectable, and drives off his tormenters before fleeing into the countryside. By comparison, the effects of invisibility are justifiably incomparible to the computer-generated effects of today's movie industry. But take a moment to open your mind and remember that this is the year 1933 and the technical achievement is all the more viable and impressive. As much as the premise of being invisible, the film focuses as much attention to the insane madness Griffin experiences as a side effect to the drug that caused his invisibility. This strange, new power and homicidal intention clearly don't mix. Stealing money from a bank, derailing a train, strangling a man's throat, sending a man to his fiery death in a car over a cliff seem only a fraction of the damage Griffin could cause with his extraordinary abilities. The train derailment scene, by the way, is shocking in its own worth, even for the year 1933.
Like all seemingly powerful men, the Invisible Man has his weakness in the woman he loves Flora (played by Gloria Stewart - today's generation will know her as the very old woman Rose in James Cameron's TITANIC). The genuine humanity he feels toward her, like any film cliche, doesn't come through until he's on his death bed when his physical being is finally revealed in a film effect that, again, one should take close notice of as impressive for it's time.
Speaking of the film's effects in a little more detail, it's interesting to know that when the Invisible Man is without his clothes, the effect was achieved through the use of wires, but when he had some of his clothes on or was taking his clothes off, the effect was achieved by shooting Claude Rains in a completely black velvet suit against a black velvet background and then combining this shot with another shot of the location the scene took place in using a matte process. Simple, yet complicated for its time, the effect presumably unimaginable to the film viewer who witnessed it way back when, or to the young kid who got to watch it on late night television when his parents weren't around to stop him.
I must confess an extremely corny weakness for watching many of these Universal horror films real late at night alone in the dark, particularly at Halloween time. You'd have to experience it for yourself, as well as appreciate this classic type of black and white cinema, to really understand where I'm coming from. Try it the next time you can't sleep.
Favorite line or dialogue:
The Invisible Man: "Power, I said! Power to walk into the gold vaults of the nations, into the secrets of kings, into the Holy of Holies; power to make multitudes run squealing in terror at the touch of my little invisible finger. Even the moon's frightened of me, frightened to death!"
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
(December 2009, U.S.)
Clint Eastwood's directed INVICTUS is not exactly the film to watch if you have a special interest in the life of South African militant anti-apartheid activist and politician Nelson Mandela. It's not going to even scratch the surface of the real man's life and struggle. This film is a biographical sports drama based on the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted in that country following the dismantling of apartheid. According to the story, Mandela took advantage of the World Cup as a means to bring ALL South Africans together as one glorified nation. The title INVICTUS may be translated from the Latin as "undefeated" or "unconquered", and is the title of a poem by English poet William Ernest Henley.
As Nelson Mandela, this is probably no one in Hollywood today who could have played him better than Morgan Freeman. Watch him and you'll likely agree that he nails the man's characteristics, both physical and emotional, with startling accuracy. Matt Damon as François Pienaar, captain of the Springboks rugby team is not just playing a role here, but seems genuinely passionate and enthusiastic of the challenge he's taking on not just as a sport role model, but as a shining example of peace and tolerance through the game he clearly loves to play. The improbable and unexpected final victory in the end is not just for the professional sports team, but a celebration for all South Africans.
INVICTUS has wonderful screen moments evoking great emotion. Besides the traditional sports finale, I would call particular attention to when the black and white members of the presidential security detail, men who would clearly love to kill each other at the beginning of their detail together, inevitably learn to agree with the excruciating difficulty of having to serve together to protect their man. There's also another moment when François is shown inside the prison cell where Mandela was held for those long years on Robben Island. When he stands there and spreads both his arms out to get a feel of just how confined Mandela's life in that cell was, you can sense his empathy for a man he never knew before, the suffering he must have endured and the great faith he (Mandela) had for his rendezvous with history.
As a director, I've often stated that Clint Eastwood films are hit and miss with me. Some work and some don't. INVICTUS is, happily, a shining example of the power of professional sport competition and their enduring effect on the people that treasure it. Recalling a personal memory of similar sorts, I'll never forget the New York Yankees playing in the World Series of 2001 just after the events of September 11th. Never before had New Yorkers NEEDED their sports heroes to achieve victory following great tragedy. The Yankees lost the Series, but it was comforting, just for a time, for our heroes to come out swinging!
By the way, this was the last film my wife and I saw together (just the two of us) before I made the committment to never again go to the movies for myself (going with my son to a kiddie movie is another matter entirely) due to the intolerable stupidity and inconsideration of other people in the theater! Kill them all!!!
Favorite line or dialogue:
François Pienaar (to his rugby teammates): "Heads up! Look in my eyes! Do you hear? Listen to your country! Seven minutes! Seven minutes! Defense, defense, defense! This is it! This is our destiny!"
Sunday, January 6, 2013
(December 1978, U.S.)
The opening sequence to the 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a creepy sight, indeed. It's an alien arrival and invasion unlike anything you've seen on screen before because it comes in a very subtle and unsuspecting way when a race of gelatinous creatures abandon their dying world, are pushed through the universe by solar winds and then make their way to Earth and land in San Francisco. Some fall on plant leaves, assimilating them and forming small, manacing-looking pods with pink flowers. It's creepy because it defines itself as a new form of human violation through our plants and flowers; life that we, as humans, are exposed to every day. The seed is now planted and the terror is about to begin...
Updated from it's preceeding version of 1956, the plot involves San Francisco health inspector Matthew Bennell (played by Donald Sutherland) and his colleague Elizabeth Driscoll (played by Brooke Adams) who discover that human beings are being substituted by aliens. The duplicates, who appear to be perfect copies of the persons replaced, but are devoid of any human emotion, attempt to install a tightly organised and conformist society. Like the first film, they "attack" and develop through the use of freaky-looking pods when the genuine human being is asleep. Like the first film, as well, it doesn't appear the invaders are, nor will they be defeated by humankind. Unlike the first film, though, the action and the terror take place in a major city and most of it is at night, which visually and psychologically add to the film's intensity and fear.
While Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams play their roles just fine for a Hollywood remake, I'd like to call special attention to the presence of Leonard Nemoy as psychiatrist Dr. David Kibner in this film. For myself, it's one of the few times I've seen the man in front of the camera that didn't involve STAR TREK in some way. So to watch him in this role smiling all the time with those bright, white teeth is unusually intruiging. There's also a very deep irony in his character in that as Mr. Spock, he plays a character virtually devoid of any human emotional qualities. As Dr. Kibner, he's attempting to rationalize to our heroes as to why society around them is mysteriously behaving in a state devoid of any human emotional qualities.
This version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is not only a thrilling science fiction spectacle, but it's also, in my opinion, one of the greatest remakes I've ever seen, and THAT, my friends, is not something I'm accused of saying too often. It not only matches the original black and white classic in horrific tone and effect, but exceeds it in both conception and execution. It's a film that effectively updates itself with the modern flavor of the 1970s and also a film where director Philip Kaufman knows how to properly borrow the right inspiration from terrifying predecessors like THE EXORCIST (1973), CARRIE (1976) and THE OMEN (1976), films that knew just how to offer the right amount of fear and creepiness without necessarily going too far overboard with traditional blood, guts and filth. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was rated PG (today it would've likely earned a PG-13 rating) and it's a truly scary event not only in story, but in the effect it can have on its viewers who enjoy a good scare. And speaking of a good scare, tell me this final shot of Donald Sutherland at the film's conclusion where he betrays his last remaining human friend is not something that would give you the shivers in a dark viewing room...
Favorite line or dialogue:
Elizabeth Driscoll: "I have seen these flowers all over. They are growing like parasites on other plants. All of a sudden. Where are they coming from?"
Nancy Bellicec: "Outer space?"
Jack Bellicec: "What are you talking about? A space flower?"
Nancy: "Well, why not a space flower? Why do we always expect metal ships?"
Saturday, January 5, 2013
(February 1956, U.S.)
Over the past year, I started watching DVD binges of CBS' THE BIG BANG THEORY (laughing my ass off!). Since then, though, I'm almost hesitant to get into any sort of discussion or blogging of any science fiction or fantasy film without sounding like some sort of Comic-Con nerd (bless their hearts!). Imagine how I'm going to feel when I inevitably get to the STAR TREK and STAR WARS films! I suppose when that feeling hits me, I need to simply remind myself that I'm exploring such films not only in terms of their content, but perhaps their place in cinema and world history.
So, with history as the key word here, let's discuss a very popular sci-fi classic that hit movie theaters during the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Even back in the 1950s, Hollywood knew just how to market itself and rack up the ticket sale grosses based on American fear and paranoia (Hollywood continues to do just that in our time ever since 9-11). The original black and white film version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS depicts an extraterrestrial invasion in a small California town. And even if you've never actually seen this film before, if you're a sci-fi film enthusiast, you've likely seen this popular still photo of the heroes running for their lives...
The alien invaders proceed to replace human beings with duplicates that appear identical on the surface but are devoid of any human emotion or individuality. The local town doctor, Miles Bennell (played by Kevin McCarthy) uncovers what is happening around him and tries to stop the invasion and takeover. The duplications come in the form of some rather freaky looking sea pods (freaky even in black and white 1950's cinema). Slowly and systematically, the town is being taken over by these "pod people" and it's ultimately up to the one man who stands alone against the potential threat. Unlike many other cheap 'B' science fiction films of the era, the invaders are not necessarily defeated in the end. In fact, the ending resolution of the entire threat is left very vague and unanswered. Will mankind win or be taken over in the end? Perhaps that's not even the point, but rather that the hero of the film will triumph in getting other human beings of reason, rational and emotional response to believe his story and join him in the fight against an alien invasion.
Kevin McCarthy is an actor I know hardly anything about beyond this classic and a the brief homage cameo he has in the 1978 remake (coming next on this blog!). Despite his extensive career, this is the role he'll be most remembered for. Not a bad thing at all. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS serves as one of the quintessential sci-fi films that only marks great cinema of its own style, but also a time in our American history when we allowed our fears of the unknown, whether from foreign countries or from "somewhere out there" to get the better of us. More than six decades later, we haven't come very far, in my opinion.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Becky Driscoll: "They're like huge seed pods!"
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
(October 2003, U.S.)
Let me just get this out of the way right now - Catherine Zeta-Jones is (or WAS, at least), in my male hormonal opinion, the most incredibly smoking hot woman of Hollywood that I've ever seen in my entire young adult life (there, I said it!). To watch her on screen in any of the number of films she did in the beginning of the 21st Century is to sit there with your mouth gaping wide open and think, "Damn, she's just amazing!" Even though I don't consider ENTRAPMENT (1999) such a great film, it's the one I enjoy the most when it comes to just watching HER (and her body!)!
So, that having been said, let's move onto the Cohen Brothers' INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, the subject of divorce and (apparently) why it's so damn funny. I have this belief that the more outrageously ridiculous and unbelievable a film story is, the more likely that's it's based on some sort of true account of real life people. Back when I first saw WAR OF THE ROSES (1989), I had no reason to think that such a story of a married couple with such psychotic hatred toward each other could ever be more than incredible fiction. Then I started hearing TV commercials for stupid talk shows featuring "real life War of the Roses". And so, when you accept the concept that ANYTHING in life is possible, the over-the-top premises of love, infidelity, divorce and divorce lawyers are more than likely and humanily (or INhumanly) possible by real people, and it can all be very funny.
George Clooney plays divorce attorney Miles Massey in a role that he's clearly having a lot of fun with, particularly with his obssession over his newly-whitened teeth. Massey is charming, seductive, deceptive and the crazy equivalent of a cheap, ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyer or even a sleazy used car saleman. Divorce, by his profession, is a game of wits where the ultimate winner is determined by who gets more of the other person's shit in the end. From the moment he meets his client's gold-digging-soon-to-be-ex-wife Marylin Rexroth (played by Zeta-Jones), he clearly knows that it's his job to take her down without mercy. But, hello, we're talking about Catherine Zeta-Jones here, and it's impossible not to be attracted to her with lust and desire. Professional etiquette and decency says he can't persue her until the ink on her divorce is dry, which, by the way, will leave her twisting in the wind with nothing when Miles is done with her. In the end, love between them will triumph, but it's impossible to care about such film cliche when all else around them is hilariously coming apart.
From the point of view of this film, divorce is absolutely nothing civilized or human between two estranged people. It's a cut throat game of wits in which each person is trying to "nail the other person's ass"! But then again, if the subject of divorce were a more serious and dramatic subject a-la KRAMER VS. KRAMER here, then we wouldn't have the silly Cohen Brothers comedy that we have here, would we? What's more, this is CALIFORNIA divorce we're dealing with, where the people are richer, the women are more spoiled rotten and where the process of divorce can realistically take as long as ten years, I understand.
Well, if I can personal for a moment (and I often DO!), my parents were divorced in 1975 when I was just eight years-old...and I was RELIEVED over it! Yes, people, how many eight year-old children do you know who are relieved when their parents get divorced?? You see, according to my tiny little mind at the time, the only thing I could really wrap my head around was the fact that the ongoing fighting between them would now be coming to an end. That was the idea, anyway. I would soon come to learn that the anger, the bitterness and the vindictiveness would continue through the legal and courtroom appearances. The real punchline of ita ll, however, was that after all the crap of their divorce, they were foolish enough to get back together and try again just two short years later. Ain't life just too funny??
Favorite line or dialogue:
Miles Massey: "Were there any other specifications?"
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy (in an outrageous French accent): "She spe-cif-i-cated a silly man."
Freddy Bender: "Objection, Your Honor!"
Judge Marva Munson: "I'm going to allow it."
Heinz: "She spe-cif-i-cated a man who, though clever at making money, would be easily duped and controlled."
Freddy: "Objection, Your Honor!"
Miles: "Shut up, Freddy! She's allowing it!"
Heinz: "She spe-cif-i-cated a man with a wandering pee-pee. How you say? A philanderer whose affairs would be transparent to the world."
Freddy: "Objection, Your Honor!"
Heinz: "Finally, a man whom she could herself brazenly cuckold until such time as she might choose to, uh - we would say, "faire un coup de marteau sur des fesses." You would say, "make hammer on his fanny."
Freddy: "Your Honor, objection! Irrelevant!"
Judge: "I'm going to allow it!"
Miles: "Tell us, Baron, did you introduce her to such a man?"
Heinz: "Sir, I am the concierge!"
Miles: "And to whom did you introduce that calculating woman?"
Heinz: "I introduced her...(points to Rex Rexroth)...to that silly man!"
Freddy: "Your Honor, objection!"
Miles: "Let the record show that the Baron has identified Rex Rexroth as the silly man!"
Now, I've never done this before on any of my other blogs, but I just have to put this down as a very close second because I laugh my ass off when I hear this...
Marge the waitress: "You want a salad?"
Wrigley: "Yeah. Do you have a GREEN salad?"
Marge: "What the fuck color would it be??"