Sunday, March 29, 2015
(November 1980, U.S.)
I've had two challenges to face for writing this post for yet another concert film. The first is exactly where and when do I include this post in my writings according the order of the alphabet? Should I have posted it earlier under the letter 'M' for McCartney? Do I wait a little longer and post it under the letter 'R' for ROCKSHOW? I finally allowed the movie poster to make my decision for me (sort of) and post it now under the letter 'P' for Paul. That may not be the correct way to do things, but it's the decision I've made here and now. The second is how much am I really supposed to write about a concert film? Sure I've done it before with LED-ZEPPELIN and THE ROLLING STONES, but honestly, writing about a concert film is not like writing about any other traditional motion picture. To be further honest, I'm not exactly dealing with a structured screenplay, credible acting performances or impressive techniques of cinematography. To be even further honest, one's appreciation for any concert film shall depend purely on one's musical tastes. You either like concert films or you don't. You either like Paul McCartney & Wings or you don't. So I suppose the best I can do with any film such as this during an era when the idea of the concert film in the age of DVD and Blu-Ray is practically extinct is to attempt to portray a time in the history of the 1970s when popular music was not only of a very different level, but a whole lot better than the bubble gum pop shit too many young people are listening to today!
So for those who remember and for those who will never forget, let's go back to the year that was marked as "the Spirit of '76". Your immediate musical memory may of the glory days of disco, even before a film like SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) brought it to it's peak! Bear in mind, though, while bands like Wild Cherry was telling us to "Play That Funky Music" and Silver Convention was telling us to "Get Up and Boogie", the music airwaves of FM rock radio were also peaking with artists like Boston, The Eagles, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood-Mac, Led-Zeppelin and Paul McCartney & Wings. The ex-Beatle's super group already had hits with "Band on the Run", "Jet", "My Love", "Live and Let Die" and "Listen to What the Man Said". The their latest album that year, "Wings at the Speed of Sound" had spawned the two hits, "Let Em' In" and "Silly Love Songs". In short, by the Summer of 1976, Wings was all over the radio and I was of the age (nine) where I could really start to embrace all of its musical wonder. This particular concert film captures the band during their "Wings Over America" tour of that year to support the new album, as well as an age where rock and roll was still considered king! Take a look at what Paul looked like back then with his wife Linda at the piano behind him and tell me the whole thing doesn't reek of 1970s rock and roll...
As a film in itself, it's straightforward camera work that keeps its attention on the entire band and all the color, glamour and glitz that surrounds them and the stage. One of the particular pleasures of watching Wings perform is that all of its members appear to genuinely enjoy the time they spend together on stage and their communication with the audience. Drummer Joe English can't help but smile with joy during all of his numbers. Denny Lane is not merely a third wheel of the group, but rather lends his own special input both in instrument and in voice. The audience is pure 1970s, even with it's Bic lighters (before iPhones!) during the more mellow moments (hard to believe any of the hot girls in the audience the camera show us are all grandmothers now!). Again, we're not looking for cinematic genius in a film like this. We merely seek to be taken back in a time capsule to an age of music that seemed to matter a great deal to those who loved it and needed it in their lives.
So having said all that, let me now interject some personal story time into the mix here. During the Summer of 1976, I was just nine years-old and still considered too young to go see Paul McCartney & Wings in concert at Madison Square Garden. However, my own memories of this time are vivid enough for me to write about now. During this particular summer, I did not return to day camp and was free to spend the summer as I chose (sort of). I spend the bulk of the summer at a local Long Island beach club with my dad and his girlfriend at the time. I recall a vast beach, rows of cabanas, a less-than-adequate restaurant and a public PA system that was broadcasting FM radio to all of the club's patrons. That being the case, I remember two new hit songs of the time that the radio was playing several times a day and they were the already above-mentioned "Get Up and Boogie" by Silver Convention and "Silly Love Songs" by Wings. By the time the summer was over, I'd heard those two songs more times than I could count and I loved them! I had learned to love Wings even before I'd really embraces the Beatles themselves. Years later, disco was dead and that sort of musical appreciation had to personally go underground in my mind and my heart until it would become popular again in the 1990s (oddly enough, ROCKSHOW was released in 1980, four years after the original tour was over). Now, all these decades later, with the magic of DVD and Blu-Ray releases, someone like myself, as well as all those others of my generation, can once again take a trip back to a time of music and concert glory when bands like Wings ruled the stage. By 2002, I'd finally seen Paul McCartney in concert with my wife and it was, of course, awesome. Still, I can never help but wonder what it must have been like, "back in the day" as many people of my time and before are so often fond of saying. Who knows.
Favorite songs performed: "Medicine Jar" (performed by Wings member Jimmy McCulloch, who was also dead at the age of twenty-six by 1979) and "Silly Love Songs" (what's wrong with that?).
Sunday, March 22, 2015
(April 1970, U.S.)
When you've embraced film and the history of film into your life and your existence as much as I clearly have, then you may also recall when, where and how you first heard of specific films. Traditionally, you likely sat down at your local movie theater or multiplex and discovered something through previous mass media publicity or for the first time as a surprise. For others, like myself, an introduction to a film may have come from unlikely and anti-traditional sources. For the case of the biographical war film of PATTON, my first glimpse came in an issue of Mad Magazine. Yes, you heard me correct! The first time I ever heard of the film PATTON and George C. Scott, for that matter, was this image in a compilation re-issue of the magazine in the late 1970s...
Even then, I had no idea what PUT*ON was supposed to mean exactly. I was just a young kid and knew nothing of World War II military history and it's prominent figures. Years later, I got my first taste when PATTON was shown on a re-broadcast of the ABC Sunday Night Movie. Of course, I was still a kid with a strict bedtime so I didn't get to see the entire movie. That came later in college with two long play video cassettes. Yes, sometimes it's a long, strange trip to finally get to the point where you really know and appreciate some of Hollywood's finer moments on film!
So let's begin with what every lover of this film already knows and that's the classic opening monologue, delivered by General George S. Patton (played by George C. Scott) with an enormous American flag behind him. It remains an iconic and very often quoted image in film, and believe me, even if you haven't seen the film, you've seen this at least once in your life...
Following this opening image, Patton delivers a raw, profane, rousing and highly motivating speech to unseen troops, imploring his soldiers to do their duty regardless of personal fear, imploring them, as well, to aggressiveness and always constant offensive action. Patton's profanity-laced speaking (well, as much profanity as a 1970 PG-rated film will allow, anyway) is viewed as unprofessional by some other officers but the speech seems to resound well with the men under his command. For there, the film takes us to the field of battle in different parts of Europe, including Italy and France. Like many war films of the latter part of the 20th Century, the battle images and sequences are visually striking and exciting to watch. However, director Franklin J. Schaffner clearly wants us to take in the man who George S. Patton was. A man shown to believe in reincarnation, while remaining a devout Christian. A man who believed in the glory and honor of battle as opposed to those who were there to do a trained job in the name of serving their country. A man who blatantly spoke his mind, even at the cost of getting into deep shit with his superiors and the politicians of war. A man who loved and honored his soldiers and yet, was ready to tear them down and slap them around, fair or unfair, in the face of cowardice or the probability of losing a battle. A man who was dedicated and effective, but who was also, nonetheless, a true fanatic! But one can't help but ask the question of when does fanaticism become on borderline par with brilliance or downright insanity. Patton was a fanatic, indeed, but did that help or hinder the American cause during World War II. Were I an American war historian, I may actually be able to provide a legitimate answer. I'm not, though. I'm here to discuss film and I can only conclude that an already gifted, somewhat eccentric and sublime actor like George C. Scott was perfectly fitted to represent an American military icon whose unorthodox methods and beliefs lead our American servicemen to great victories against Nazi Germany in Europe.
For almost any traditional Hollywood war film, conclusion is often an interesting and important element. For any typical combat film, a great victory with blood, guts and violence is likely the ticket! But for a bi-op as this that focuses more on the man than the action, the film ends with Patton simply walking his bull terrier, and George C. Scott speaking in a voice-over that a returning hero of ancient Rome was once honored with a triumph and a victory parade in which a slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering this warning in the hero's ear - "that all glory is fleeting." In other words, for a man of battle, a man of glory and a man of victory, his quiet and unassuming walk into the distant horizon with just his little dog may be nothing short of the perfect swan song.
PATTON won the Oscar for best picture of 1970, and who could argue that it wasn't well deserved? For my money, though, I would have given it to a somewhat bolder and more daring war film, and that's M*A*S*H!
Favorite line or dialogue:
George S. Patton: "God, how I hate the twentieth century."
I know just how he felt, because sometimes I really hate the twenty-first century!"
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
(June 1992, U.S.)
I must confess that only recently, Harrison Ford has been on my mind. First the news that he'd been banged up and injured in an emergency plane landing. I also just watched him (among many other bad-ass macho figures) in THE EXPENDABLES 3. And to be completely honest, despite the fact that he'll make his return as Han Solo, my expectations for the seventh STAR WARS film are considerably low - perhaps this is only because I haven't liked anything J.J. Abrams has directed, so far. Still, I believe there's a degree of depression involved in watching Ford get old because he's been the true definition of the word hero ever since 1977 when I was just ten years-old. So I suppose the only cure for this is to continuously revisit Ford's heroic films that have made him legendary. In PATRIOT GAMES, he takes over the Tom Clancy role of Jack Ryan that was first helmed on the big screen by Alec Baldwin in 1990.
Let me start by just jumping into the subject of Jack Ryan films, in general. There have been five (so far) and I've only seen three. The last one, in which Chris Pine took over the role, I haven't seen yet, so I shall not judge. Ben Affleck's attempt in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002) is frankly, not even worth talking about. I mention this small fact because in my order of judging the three that I've seen (and loved!), PATRIOT GAMES actually comes last on my list. While the film under Phillip Noyce's direction doesn't nearly have the overall political intrigue and mayhem of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990) and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994), it still remains a solid action-suspense thriller of personal revenge and love of family. Like so many of Ford's other roles, Jack Ryan remains a symbol of truth, righteousness and solid American values (however those may be defined these days). He's exactly the sort of man who would sacrifice his own life to come to the aid of the British Secretary of State under the attack of Irish terrorists' bullets. In the process, Ryan kills the younger brother of one of the terrorists Sean Miller (played by Sean Bean), who has now sworn revenge against Ryan and his family, even if it means turning against the overall cause of the terrorists, the Irish Republican Army and even travelling to the United States to attack his family personally. Whatever else Jack Ryan's character may be classified as, he's a family man first and goes to great feats of strength and endurance to keep them safe.
So having rather simplified the basic story of revenge in PATRIOT GAMES, it still can't be overlooked that this is a film depicting the Central Intelligence Agency's battle against terrorism and it brings several points to mind. First, by all accounts of how history would define the events of our country in the years to follow, this film may be regarded as quite dated. It's the Summer of 1992, it's peacetime even before Bill Clinton becomes president of the United States and we still know exactly who our enemies are and even where they're located. And because this is the movies, we appear to know exactly how to defeat them...and at the same time, we appear to be just as weak and unguarded as we are in real life because Sean Miller and his terrorist comrades DO manage to slip into the United States not once, but twice, to achieve their objective of killing Jack Ryan's family. Still, when we show strength against our enemies, it seems to come with great ease. Watch carefully the sequence when the CIA has made the executive decision to seek and destroy the training camp where our enemies our located - the entire matter plays out as if grown men and women are playing a video game on large screens with keyboard buttons and we simply watch people die in the form of digital screen figures. If it's that easy in real life, one may ask why the world has any terrorists in the first place?? As I indicated, this film would certainly appear dated, if not truly fictional, given the events that took place on September 11, 2001 and the fourteen years that have taken place since. In the movies, we find our enemies and kill them immediately. In real life, it takes us ten fucking years to find and kill Osama Bin-Laden!
All that aside, in a world of films where we've come to expect the great Harrison Ford to be solid and convincing actor of truth, courage and humanity, PATRIOT GAMES delivers what we want. Still, though, I could have done without that rather sappy and anti-climactic ending in which we're only meant to wonder what the sex of the Ryan's next child will be. Who cares!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jack Ryan (to Paddy O'Neil) "I don't give a shit whether you did it or not! But if you don't help me, I will put such a stranglehold on your gun money that your boys will be out in the streets throwing rocks! I will fucking destroy you! I will make it my mission in life!"
Sunday, March 15, 2015
(June 2000, U.S.)
From one war film right to another! From the action of World War I in Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY right back in time to the action of the American Revolutionary War in THE PATRIOT. Ain't life a funny coincidence?
By the time the 21st Century began, director Roland Emmerich had well established himself as a true leader in the divine art of massive destruction with INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996) and his own (unfortunate) take on GODZILLA (1998). His name would have been the last I'd expect to see attached to a historical epic film on the American Revolutionary War. But then again, I suppose even the best (or worst) of Hollywood's directorial products have their own personal passions about what they'd like to bring to the big screen. I suppose when one really thinks about it, war, no matter how glorified it's been depicted in history books or in fiction, is still a source of pure violence and destruction, even when both sides may look particularly well-dressed in blue coats and red coats. Further more, add the violent likes of someone like Mel Gibson into the mix, and I suppose a historical war film made by Roland Emmerich makes perfect sense, right?
The film primarily takes place in rural York County, South Carolina beginning in the year 1776 and tells the story of an American veteran of the French and Indian War and father of seven Benjamin Martin (Gibson) who is reluctantly swept into the Revolutionary War when his family is threatened and his son is mercilessly killed by the vicious and ruthless English Colonel William Tavington (played by Jason Isaacs). This is where traditional action and motives of personal revenge in a style that made Mel Gibson so infamous come into play, even as part of a historical American tale. Forget everything you may have seen as a kid in paintings of George Washington and any other images of the Revolutionary War because at this point, there will be blood and the heads of the English will roll! Even after Benjamin Martin has almost single-handedly taken out the men who initially murdered his young son, the man with the mission is still not finished. Now our hero has joined the cause and commitment of the American freedom fighters and heads will continue to roll. Yet despite the action, blood, violence and revenge that any film with Mel Gibson can bring to us, it's still worthy to note and remember that this is a period piece that manages to carry itself out with an admirable sense of style and authenticity, both in historical setting and costume design. It's also worthy to remember that despite Mel Gibson infamous screen reputation, he is an actor that can surprise us if the right role comes his way (think HAMLET 1990!).
And so, if we recall our elementary school history lessons well enough, we already know the outcome of the Revolutionary War and how our American freedom was finally attained. Admittedly, it's a piece of war history I haven't seen too much on screen for myself. Fact is, Stanley Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON (1975) is the only other film of this sort I own in my collection and I've never seen the musical film 1776 (1972). So for someone like myself who war film collection mostly consists of World War II and Vietnam, it's a rather refreshing change of pace to experience an epic of this part of our American history (because Heaven know I was bored to tears trying to keep up with the subject in elementary school!). Clearly this is a film that relies heavily on the textbook formula of hand-to-hand combat action and melodrama, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining and fun to watch. Gibson is solid as a man trying to overcome his violent past while still finding it necessary to revisit those emotions and actions in order to protect his family during a time of war and revolution. Interestingly, THE PATRIOT reminds us of what the so-called "gentlemanly" rules of war were during this time in which both American and British soldiers were expected to stand still in a line while the enemy took shots at them and they simply had to wait and see who would fall to their bloody death. Frankly, if that's what was considered being a "gentleman", then I'd prefer straightforward stupidity!
As with any film that depicts war on screen, historical accuracy is always a controversial issue. What did happen? What didn't happen? How faithful is a fictional character to the man he's ultimately based on? Poor Oliver Stone had to endure a shitload of that crap and it didn't make JFK (1991) any less of a phenomenal hit. We don't THE PATRIOT for an accurate history lesson (that's what books and the History Channel are for!), but rather the for the violent fun and emotional drama and sorrow that any traditional war film brings us, particularly during a summer blockbuster season that brought us sequels to MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Benjamin Martin: "Why? Why do men feel they can justify death? Is it arrogance or...? I have long feared, that my sins would return to visit me...and the cost is more then I can bear."
Sunday, March 8, 2015
(December 1957, U.S.)
It feels like I've been away from the legendary Stanley Kubrick on this blog for ages now (the last film I discussed would have been LOLITA well over a year ago!). As my favorite film director of all time, I not only get a very unique and different feeling when I'm writing about a Kubrick film, but also when I'm watching one again...and again...and again. And just like any of his other great work, PATHS OF GLORY is an extraordinary screen experience in its own rights. Despite being an anti-war film in its message, it's visual black and white depictions and photography of the horrors and brutalities of World War I combat in the trenches and in no man's land are not only exciting, but graphically real (at least as real as it could be for a film released in the late 1950s). Take a look...
Kubrick's controversial anti-war message here is not in its brutal combat, but in the military court martial that follows a failed attack to capture a piece of the German's well-defended key territory known as the "Anthill". The mission is considered an undeniable impossibility from the moment it's proposed, even by the ambitious General Mireau (playded by George Macready) who insists (at first) that the lives and safety of the soldiers under his command are the most critical issue to him. This tune immediately changes as soon as the potential for a promotion is raised by his own military superior. Suddenly the taking of the "Anthill" seems not only possible, but is all but promised in order to further promote his own ambitions. This is now where we begin to see Kubrick's filming techniques at their best with his famous use of the tracking camera that he's repeated in many of his other films. One can't take their eyes off of General Mireau as he walks through the trenches asking war-weary soldiers if they're "ready to kill more Germans". Mireau is a French patriot at heart, but the price for this great patriotism is apparently the needless blood and lives of others. The regiment's Colonel Dax (played by Kirk Douglas) clearly sees through Mireau's personal ambitions and outwardly protests that the only result of this pointless attack will be to weaken the French Army with heavy losses for no benefit. And as foreseen, the attack is a bloddy massacre leaving many soldiers dead and causing many others unable to even advance out of the trenches. Here is where the paradox of military laws and hypocrisies enters the tale as Mireau, in a fit of uncontrollable rage of having failed the attack, orders the execution of all soldiers whom he believes showed cowardice in the face of the enemy. In a rather reasonable agreement over tea, this shameful order is eventually reduced to a court martial of three soldiers (picked at random, mind you) to stand as mere examples of those who will be executed for such cowardice in order for the failed attack not to leave a stain on the flag of France during wartime.
As stated, this court martial, in all of its true absurdity, is where Kubrick's anti-war and anti-military message lies. The bureaucracy behind the murder of three innocent soldiers of war is evidently clear not only in its judicial process, but also in its seemingly pre-determined verdict, as well. These soldiers are mere scapegoats for a failed mission inspired by military commanders who only seek to further their own personal ambitions and aspirations during a time when the flag of France and its patriotism during war is under close scrutiny by the press and the politicians of power. We're meant to sympathize and find the plight of these three men intolerable, but one can't also help but consider that this is all taking place under the actions of the country that was considered on the side of righteousness against the Germans, the enemy, during World War I. I'm not only suggesting that Kubrick was attempting to place a touch of empathy in our minds when considering the position of France in history, but rather also that in the case of global war, there may be no right or wrong side to consider and that war in its reality is wrong for all sides and for all reasons. In other words, during war there are no winners. I believe this was Kubrick's message that he would repeat years later in DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) in which he makes a comical mockery of how in the face of nuclear war, there are also no winners.
Steven Spielberg once said that when Stanley Kubrick died in March 1999, among the many films he could have watched first, he chose PATHS OF GLORY first. What particularly caught his attention was the final scene in the inn when the French soldiers listen to a sentimental German folk song that is sung by the young woman who would one day become the future Mrs. Stanley Kubrick, and it's this same final sequence that I'd like to focus on for a moment, as well. These soldiers whom have just survived another horrible experience on the fields of battle are tired and in need of some entertainment, which is likely why they choose to freak out with glee at the sight of a lovely woman on the stage. Their rowdiness quiets down to a mood of somber reflection when the young girl begins to sing. What continues to puzzle me about this scene is exactly what and why their mood changes the way it does. Is it merely because they're quietly content to lose themselves in the sweet, young voice singing to them or is there something deeper in the song that's being sung? The German song is called "The Faithful Hussar" and it's a song of the enemy that the soldiers are clearly familiar with, as they hum the song along with the girl. Is it merely a pretty tune in the face of exhaustion or does it possess some specific and special meaning to them in that particular moment? Even after all these years of having watched PATHS OF GLORY, I still haven't quite figured that one out. Perhaps it's an ambiguous mystery that's best left alone in order to preserve a final moment in a film filled with a hard message and perhaps at the end, even a little hope. Perhaps it's something only Stanley Kubrick knew. Were he still with us, maybe I'd ask him. Maybe he'd even tell me.
Favorite line or dialogue:
General Broulard: "It would be a pity to lose your promotion before you get it. A promotion you have so very carefully planned for."
Colonel Dax: "Sir, would you like me to suggest what you can do with that promotion?"
General Broulard: "Colonel Dax! You will apologize at once or I shall have you placed under arrest!"
Colonel Dax: "I apologize...for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you're a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can GO TO HELL before I apologize to you now or ever again!"
Saturday, March 7, 2015
(December 1998, U.S.)
It's been more than six months since Robin Williams' death and I'm still not over it. Despite whatever uncontrollable medical reasons of his depression that inevitably lead to his suicide, I still can't seem to comprehend how someone with such a miraculous gift for laughter and making people happy could leave this world...and leave me! Did I just really say something so unreasonable? You bet your ass I did! In an irrational way, I can't help but feel that Robin Williams personally left ME, as well as so many others, because for me, his existence in this world made a difference to my world, and now that difference is gone. It's somehow a very strange twist of irony that PATCH ADAMS begins with Williams' character of Hunter "Patch" Adams experiencing a severe case of depression and checking himself into a psychiatric clinic after a suicide attempt. It's also a stranger case of irony that "Patch" Adams entire message throughout the film is not only the medical healing power of laughter, but also the manner in which Adams himself overcomes his own depression by experiencing the joy of bringing happiness and comfort to others. I can't help but ask myself why, oh why, Robin Williams himself couldn't hold onto that idea when it came to battling his own demons. I'm not a doctor, so I can't possibly be expected to understand the medical implications and chemical imbalances that ultimately drive one to take their own life. Still, I loved Robin Williams and I suppose my anger and confusion in losing him is never going to fully be explained or ever fully go away.
Even as the film begins, somehow the thought of Robin Williams in a mental institution is going to be an experience that's a lot more fun and amusing that say, Jack Nicholson in a mental institution in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975). In other words, if you think crazy already when you're locked up, you're bound to be just a little more nuts after you've been with any character Williams is playing. I suppose in his realization that there are some patients in that place that are a lot worse off than he is, it makes the ability to help them a lot more obvious and a lot more rewarding. By the film's account (based on a true story, by the way), it's this new-found ability that leads Adams to his desire to become a doctor of medicine. Once inside the walls of medical school, that's when the fun and chaos begins, Robing Williams' style! From the get go, Adams is a clown and an anarchist, but all in the name of providing joy and laughter to those in the hospital who need it most. Mind you, though, Adams may be a clown, but he's no idiot. Without even needing to study very much, his grade are among the highest in the school and that seems to piss off many of his colleagues to no end! Adams is no rogue, either. He encourages other medical students to work with him and to also work closely with nurses, learn interviewing skills early, and argues that the inevitable outcome of death should be treated with dignity and sometimes even humor, rather than coldness and heartlessness. Like any renegade force in any film where the protagonist is trying to make a difference against the system, the efforts eventually begin to take with those who also want to see change. And like any situation as such, there's always at least one person who will go out of their way to make sure our hero doesn't succeed in breaking the rules and getting what he wants, and that's just what we can expect from the medical school's dean (played by the always-not-so-pleasant Bob Gunton).
The film also makes a little time for Adams to have a love interest in a bitter young woman named Carin Fisher (played by Monica Potter) whose only purpose there is to study and have barely any human contact at all. Still, how long can you be in the presence of "Patch" Adams and not eventually give in to your own feelings of joy, even when your deep-rooted problems are due to the fact that you've been repeatedly molested by men since you were a little girl. I suppose even a heartbreaking case such as that proves even further Adams philosophy that you can overcome your own personal demons by reaching out and making others happy (again, I ask in vain, why couldn't Robin Williams himself had held onto that philosophy just a little longer!). Still, Carin is a doomed cause from the beginning because even as she starts to come out of her shell and break down the walls of her emotions, she's viciously murdered by a mentally ill man whom she was reaching out to help, based on Adams' teachings. Yes, even the best of intentions can get you killed with the wrong sort of person! But again, in a film like this, adversaries and tragedies are meant to be overcome by the triumph of will, the healing power of laughter and the determination of conclusion (in this case, a free medical clinic that Adams is determined to build)...and again I say...laughter that's all Robin Williams' style!
PATCH ADAMS, despite doing great box office business, didn't do too well with critics at all (these so-called professional film journalists just don't know dick sometimes!) and I simply can't imagine why! This is one of Williams' finest roles and greatest performances since DEAD POET'S SOCIETY (1989), in my opinion. Like so many films prior and since, the humanity this man brings to the screen in a world that is filled with so little humanity is nothing short of refreshing and joyous to experience. We laugh, of course, but we feel, too. And sometimes when we live in a world that is filled with a cynical inability to feel, such experiences on the big screen are a huge compensation. When we feel it with someone like Robin Williams, the compensation is even greater. Now he's gone and that compensation will never be the same.
Favorite line or dialogue:
"Patch" Adams: "Hi. Patch Adams."
Mitch Roman: "Mitch Roman. Georgetown University. I was awarded the William F. Thompson Scientific Achievement Award."
"Patch" Adams: "Mmm. Emerson Elementary. I once drew a picture of a rabbit that got me two gold stars."
Sunday, March 1, 2015
(February 2004, U.S.)
To discuss Mel Gibson's film of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST requires a good deal of research on my part because as an atheist, I know virtually nothing about the Biblical Testaments, both old and new. What little I do know as a person who was born Jewish came from watching Charlton Heston and Cecil B. Demille once a year on ABC-TV. What little I learned about Jesus Christ first came from watching a children's claymation program on Sunday mornings called DAVEY AND GOLIATH (anybody else remember that show?) and then subsequently through other Hollywood epic biblical films such as BEN-HUR (Charlton Heston again!). What I have managed to pick up along the way, at least in terms of Hollywood's version of the tale of Christ, is that most people of Christian faith go quite ape shit when the movies dare to suggest anything outside of the traditional realm of what's written in the Good Book. In 1988, Martin Scorsese shocked the world by daring to suggest that while dying on the cross, Jesus Christ may have experienced temptations of living an ordinary life as an ordinary man with a wife and child in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. As I came to understand it, religious sermons were echoed in every church warning and restricting people of true faith from going to see this movie. When Dan Brown wrote THE DA VINCI CODE, I'm sure he pissed off more than a good share of people is suggesting that the entire life and death of Christ was nothing but a big con job and cover-up by the Catholic church. Yes, it seems when you dare to suggest that the man with long hair in the long robe was anything but a symbol of great purity and divinity, people are ready to have you stoned to death! Thankfully, as an atheist, you can feel safe in the fact that this post shall only be based on my experience and interpretations as a film viewer and nothing else.
Despite criticisms that Mel Gibson deliberately departed from historical accounts of first century Judea and Biblical accounts of Jesus Christ's actual crucifixion, some religious scholars still defend the film as not meaning to be that historically accurate. I suppose it's all about faith. Therefore, as I've come to understand it (you're going to hear me say that a lot because when it comes to religious history and accuracy, I really don't pretend to know shit from shinola!), the last days of the life of Jesus Christ were those of betrayal, persecution, violent beatings and floggings, his inevitable crucifixion on Good Friday and subsequent resurrection two days later on Easter Sunday. According to director Gibson, the primary source material for this film is the four canonical Gospel narratives of Christ's passion and the Gospel of Luke. Those of true faith generally don't dispute the depictions of what took place that lead to Christ's eventual demise. The real controversy in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST lies in its incredible use of bloody violence in the torture and punishment of Christ before his trial and during the long trek he makes carrying the heavy wooden cross that he'll later be crucified on. But again, as I've come to understand it (there, I said it again!), this is the way it supposedly happened in the tales of history. Death is not a beautiful thing, even when it's happening to Jesus Christ! There will be blood! Even in the churches (as I've come to understand it), the general consensus among religious leaders was, "Hey, like it or not, this is the way it happened. So go see the film if you want to." There's a healthy attitude I agree with! Despite the violence, though, the film also managed to receive many positive public endorsements from evangelical leaders and is also the highest grossing R-rated movie in American movie history (go figure!).
And so, as a Jew and an atheist, I'm left with only my cinematic wits and intelligence (what there is of them!) when I sit down to watch a bloody horror show like THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Mind you, though, Gibson is trying to make a point even with such a graphic depiction. Gibson, despite his loud mouth antics that made him so despicable in the press ten years ago, is a devout Christian who believes in the love and gentle kindness that Christ had stood for. Upon its release, he was quoted as saying, "This is a movie about love, hope, faith and forgiveness. He died for all mankind, suffered for all of us. It's time to get back to that basic message. The world has gone nuts. We could all use a little more love, faith, hope and forgiveness." How much of this you want to take to heart is completely up to you and your own religious faith, if any. For me, it's a matter of film making, performance and effective use of language (reconstructed Aramaic and Hebrew, in this case). Jim Caviezel's portrait of Jesus Christ works for me just as well as any other actor who has played that big role before. For any actor playing Jesus, we're likely searching for a gentleness and kindness not only in the face, but in the mannerism, as well. Jim possesses it and uses it well to convince us that Jesus was a loving and forgiving man, even in the face of his own bloody persecutions and death. Those of the faint-hearted cannot consider this an easy film to watch visually. But if you're of the faith, then you likely know that (like I said before), like it or not, this is how it supposedly happened, and stories of the Bible may not have always been historically pretty. Blood has always been shed by those who believe they're doing it in the name of whatever God they choose to believe in, and sadly, the world has not changed one bit even today! I used to tell people that if God does really exist, He or She should come back to Earth for a week with a very large bat and beat the ever-living shit out of certain people of the world! I still believe it today!
Hey, want to hear a strange piece of irony? When watching this film, sometimes the violence has gotten so out-of-control bloody, I've actually found myself sitting on the sofa in shock and uttering, "Jesus Christ!" to myself under my breath! Sorry. Can't help it.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Pontius Pilate: "Truth...do you want to know what my truth is, Claudia? I've been putting down rebellions in this rotten outpost for eleven years. If I don't condemn this man I know Caiphas will start a rebellion. If I do condemn him, then his followers may. Either way, there will be bloodshed. Caeser has warned me, Claudia. Warned me twice. He swore that the next time the blood would be mine. That is my truth!"