Wednesday, July 29, 2015
(October 1998, U.S.)
Once upon a time...it was 1998. Geez, when I say it like that, it sounds like such an ancient period! But I suppose seventeen years is a good deal longer than we make it out to be. In 1998, there was no iPod, no iPad, no Cloud, no social media, no widespread and affordable cell phone use, no widespread and affordable DVD players, no DVR machines and the mainstream television that you purchased at your local Nobody Beats The Wiz store outlet (a company that's now defunct!) was still a tube model. It was also a time, as I remember it, when classic TV channels like TV Land were still broadcasting a whole lot of black and white classic shows and would often run twenty-four hour marathons of your favorite episodes. I can still remember staying up most of the night one weekend in my New York City apartment watching episode after episode of "I Love Lucy". Even today, I irresistibly get caught up in the "Honeymooners" marathon that's on TV every New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Ah, yes, the classics never die - even the bad ones! Bad, I suppose, is subject to one's own interpretations and memories, but honestly, I never quite got the appeal of those real goody-goody, ultra wholesome family black and white TV shows such as "Leave It To Beaver", "Father Knows Best" and "The Andy Griffith Show". Were they honestly supposed to be funny?? I catch a moment or two of some of them today on certain cable channels and the use of the laugh track in some of the most unfunny and ridiculous places is so damn obvious, that I just shake my head in puzzlement. Perhaps comedy wasn't the true point of some of these shows, but rather just to promote the post-war safety and security of good ol' fashioned family values...the kind that these bullshit Republican politicians still try to push on us today! Still, that's clearly the theme writer and director Gary Ross wants to bring to our attention in PLEASANTVILLE, and the ultimate effects (and consequences) that just a little bit of change (and color) can bring to such a world.
This is a true fantasy film with just the right amount of comedy and drama that can almost make it a believable fable if you're willing to stretch your mind and imagination that far. In what can only be considered a pre-cursor to many of the fantasy films I find my nine year-old son watching on The Disney Channel these days, a modern day 1998 twin brother and sister (played by Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon respectively), are mysteriously sucked into the black and white world of the 1958 TV show "Pleasantville" after an equally mysterious TV repairman (played by Don Knotts - from "The Andy Griffith Show", no less) delivers to them a mysterious (there's that word again!) television remote control to replace the modern one that was destroyed during a marathon of the show. Clearly, the repairman's purpose to lure these kids into the TV show is intentional because he's so impressed with David's (Maguire) knowledge of the classic show's content, history and trivia. And so, in the blink of an eye, David and Jennifer are suddenly in the show, featured in pasty black and white and must now go by the names of Bud and Mary Sue in order to fit in and make their way around their new and totally wholesome, nerdy and repressed environment. Well, just like Marty McFly's own trip back in time to the 1950s, the shitstorm will get stirred and things will become out of place. Bud, on the one hand, takes to it all very well and willingly because of his fondness for the show. Mary Sue, on the other hand, is a high school slut who's just arrived in a world where holding hands at "Lovers Lane" may be considered risqué. Still, it's a lucky break for the local high school heartthrob who's about to discover (in the front seat of a car) that his idea of "pinning" his date and Mary Sue's are completely different. Just look at his face after he's gotten laid for the very first time to see what I mean. Yes, in a show like "Pleasantville", the word sex has had no meaning until now! On the more subtle edge of things, the arrival of the new Bud and Mary Sue has also suddenly brought on a slow transformation of color into this black and white world; color not only in physical objects, but in skin color, personality, emotions, and even environment, as well. Suddenly, the persistent pleasant, sunny weather is replaced by rain and thunder. Suddenly, the undefeated high school basketball team actually loses a game! Suddenly, the common man and woman of the town itself are not quite the textbook people they're supposed to be, either. Suddenly, father's greeting of, "Honey, I'm home." is no longer greeted by a fresh martini and a hot meatloaf dinner. Suddenly, the twin beds that Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Fred and Wilma Flintstone slept in have become a double (gasp!). Suddenly, the common housewife who cooks a rather overkill version of a hot breakfast for her kids every morning suddenly discovers she's capable of having an orgasm and that she can also bring it on herself in the bathtub if her husband is unavailable or unwilling to give it to her! Suddenly, people are thinking for themselves and discovering their own true emotions, passions, desires and purposes. Sounds totally normal to you and me, but to those who grew up in that era of history may have had alternate ideas about what their perfect life should be.
To any fantasy, however, there's often a darker side. Because with change often comes the fear of not understanding such change. It would seem that even the good, wholesome people of "Pleasantville" are capable of lashing out their ugly sides of prejudice and violence when change seems to overwhelm their understanding and their way of living. As if taken right out of true history's past, signs in stores saying NO COLOREDS become visible, though color in this film represents a different physical meaning. Property destruction and book burning also take place in the presence of ignorance in art and literature. Perhaps it's just a reminder of not only where we once came from, but also of the right direction we needed to proceed in, even in the year 1998 that existed in a pre-9-11 world, following which our world's ideas of safety, security and tolerance ultimately all went to Hell! Still, PLEASANTVILLE is a pure tale of morality concerning the values of contemporary suburban America by holding up a social landscape against both the dystopian and the rather fantastic Utopian visions of modern suburbia that emerged in the 1950s following World War II and how change (color) can ultimately alter repression into enlightenment and hope. Ah, if only real life were like that!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Skip: "To be honest, Mary Sue, I didn't think you'd want to come here until we'd been pinned for a little while."
Mary Sue: "Oh, Skip. You can "pin" me any time you want to."
Sunday, July 26, 2015
(May 1972, U.S.)
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM may be the most Woody Allen film for such a project that was not directed by Woody Allen, though the story is based on Allen's own play and features Allen as the sort of character fans have come to know and love in any film that he stars in; overanxious, neurotic, nervous, paranoid, and constantly freaked out. And like many of his own films that followed, he's supported by Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts as friends and/or love interests that are always slightly more on the ball in terms of normal, everyday functional capabilities. Oh, and also like so many of his other film characters, he's divorced and trying to figure out a way to deal with why the marriage failed. In this case, his wife left him due to the sheer boredom of being married to him (big surprise!) and we're made witness to some of their marital complications through the use of amusing flashbacks.
This particular film that Allen hands to another director, Herbert Ross, is about recently divorced writer of film commentary, Allan Felix, being urged to begin dating again by his best friend and his best friend's wife (Roberts and Keaton). Throughout this film, Allan seems to identify well with the black and white classic film CASABLANCA (1942) and the character of Rick Blaine as played was by Humphrey Bogart, even though he knows he could never be like Bogart. In order to deal with complex relationship issues, Allan repeatedly fantasizes about advice on how to treat women from the movie itself, as well as ghost-like appearances of Bogart himself (played by Jerry Lacy). To such an indulgence, I can only repeat what Allen himself says in ANNIE HALL (1977) - "Boy, if life were only like this." I mean, really, how many of us would just love to be more like our favorite movie heroes (take note all of you men who always wished you were more like Han Solo or Indiana Jones!)??
When it comes to women, dating and sex, Allan is the sort that is repeatedly putting on a false mask for them and then covering up his inadequacies with humorous antics and dialogue. The scene in which he tries to defend his date's honor against a couple of bar bikers is particularly funny when he tells them he doesn't want any trouble because he has to be up early the next morning to go to Temple (that's a great big Jewish LOL!!!). The one woman he does feel naturally comfortable with is the wife of his best friend (Keaton). Why not? She's non-threatening and on the surface, he doesn't have romantic tendencies toward her...not at first. When the point comes that he does make a move on her (with Bogart's help), it's a big surprise to learn that she's actually receptive to his affections and they do end up sleeping together. Here's just an idea of what that pre-sexual situation looks like on the screen...
Her husband, a neglectful businessman, is the sort who's constantly telling his answering service exactly what phone number he can be reached at and for exactly how long...and this is only 1972 (Geez, can you imagine what this guy would be like during today's modern age of iPhones and social medias??)! Her infidelity can only be expected from being married to such a man, and because the opposite attraction is Woody Allen, well then, she'll naturally end up screwing him. Such an affair as this is ultimately meant to turn into a complicated love triangle in which one man will end up going home without the prize. Hey, is it starting to sound a whole lot like CASABLANCA without the Nazis?? Of course! That's the whole comedic point of the film. Life imitates art both in content and resolution, ending with an almost identical allusion to the ending of CASABLANCA in which Allan gives up the woman he loves because if she doesn't stay with her husband, she'll regret it...maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of her life. And then, of course, Allan and "Bogey" walk off together in the midst of the beginning of a "beautiful friendship". Ah, as time goes by!
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM can easily be lumped into that period of Allen classics that the man himself has come to identify as "his early, funny movies", even before hilarious riots like SLEEPER (1973) and LOVE AND DEATH (1975). The fact that it's (technically) a Herbert Ross film is something I need to constantly remind myself of because I've strictly related his own work with more subtle comedies like THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977), CALIFORNIA SUITE (1978) and MAX DOUGAN RETURNS (1983). So as I began with, it may be someone else's film in credits, but the film is pure Woody Allen as we've all come to love him and laugh at him. Perhaps this project was more like the Steven Spielberg/Tobe Hooper relationship in the original POLTERGEIST (and coming real soon to this blog!). Who knows.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Allan Felix: "That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn't it?"
Museum Girl: "Yes, it is."
Allan: "What does it say to you?"
Museum Girl: "It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
Allan: "What are you doing Saturday night?"
Museum Girl: "Committing suicide."
Allan: "What about Friday night?"
Sunday, July 19, 2015
(April 1992, U.S.)
Robert Altman's THE PLAYER was interestingly timed in my life as it was released in 1992 at a time when my college education for architecture was starting to come to an end and I was also just starting to come into my own in terms of my screenwriting abilities. With these abilities, I was also slowly learning about what it took to pitch and sell a screenplay in Hollywood, at least in terms of how books, classes and even the movies were explaining it to me. Like anything else in life, everyone has their own opinion and theory about how certain things should be done and sold in the movie business. Different authors of different "how to" books will tell you different things and different professors and instructors of different classes will also tell you different things. So what's the end result? The end result is it's all bullshit and it's almost completely about who you know and how much luck you achieve. This is why, I suppose, more than twenty years later I did, in fact, end up a miserable architect and not a professional screenwriter, as I'd always dreamed. Hey, but at least I tried, dammit, and I continue to try to this day!
(Sorry, I'm digressing into my own pissed-off attitudes about life)!
And so, as part of my education into Hollywood through the movies, THE PLAYER showed me a character in the form of Griffin Mill (played by Tim Robbins), a Hollywood studio executive whose job it is to listen to pitches of stories from screenwriters and decide whether or not they have the potential to make good movies and get green-lit into production. Frankly, before this film, I had no idea that such a position existed in the movie business and I couldn't help but wonder if it was a rather useless justification of ones paycheck. At the same time, I couldn't help but consider just how easy the concept seemed in theory - pitch a story, pitch it well and the executive listening to you will (hopefully) like it and you'll get your movie made. Sure, that's what the ignorant New York architect-to-be thinks because he really doesn't have a fucking clue just how cold, cruel and even corrupt things can be out there in "La-La" movie land! As a film viewer, however, it's easy to recognize the parody of cynicism that Altman brings to his story based on his own career in dealing with the Hollywood system and working outside of it for many years. However, rather than over-preach the injustices of the Hollywood community, Altman clearly chooses to invoke satire with not only the cameo appearance of many popular movie stars and celebrities of the time, but also in the rather naughty cat-and-mouse fun involved with murder and getting away with murder. Griffin is a seemingly all-around nice guy in his business, but the business has also unavoidably turned him into an asshole at times and he has managed to make enemies along the way by repeatedly telling screenwriters that he will "get back to them" and then never does. Those in the business likely know that such a line is crap and is simply a polite disguise for "forget it" and "no chance in Hell". One writer, however, chooses to retaliate against such industry lies and repeatedly sends Griffin death threats on post cards. Fearing for his life and trying to resolve the situation, Griffin tracks down the writer in Pasadena, California at an art house movie theater showing Vittorio De Sica's THE BICYCLE THIEF, which I believe is thrown into the story as such to perhaps combat the onslaught of mainstream Hollywood crap that the public is constantly exposed to and to also remind us of the art house film essentials we should never forget exist. As expected, he encounters David Kahane (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) at the theater, a screenwriter who's also pissed off at Griffin for the reasons I explained above and is also, by strange chance, NOT the one who's been sending Griffin the post cards (coincidence is a bitch, though, ain't it!). Heated words leads to a physical confrontation that inevitably leads to Kahane's (accidental) murder. Accident or not, however, Griffin flees the scene after making it look like a common robbery. He's guilty and we know he's guilty, but the question is now, will he get caught? Perhaps because of his occasional (and more frequent) asshole nature, we want him to get caught. But we also know that this is Hollywood, where corruption and cover-ups can be just as common as that in big corporate business and the Mafia! Like Hitchcock and many of the crime classics of the age (look for the symbolic black and white film noir movie posters that occupy Griffin's office), our protagonist goes to great lengths to cover up his crime and as we watch matters progress, we can't help but feel that same desire for acquittal and freedom from suspicion. You see, Altman, while having a great heap of fun with this story, is clearly implying just how ugly Hollywood is in this story and in reality, as well, and from that ugliness, we know and even accept that Griffin Mill will not only get away with murder, but also gladly step on any toes and graves to achieve and keep what he wants in this business of movies. While he may preach the good work of producing meaningful films by the new John Hustons, Orson Welles' and Frank Capras of the 1990s, in the end, he knows all too well how to sell his soul for the typical upbeat, happy Hollywood ending of his latest project in order to achieve the much-needed weekend Hollywood bucks and keep things running peaceful and smooth within the studio community that he has long embraced and survived.
And so, returning to my own life's hopes as a screenwriter, I can only say that as as East Coast outsider, I have seen and experienced my own small share of inside industry crap that had made Hollywood so infamous. I've pitched stories, I've written countless letters to movie agents according to the exact rules that all these bullshit books tell you to follow and I even attended a weekend Hollywood Pitch Festival back in 2000 in which I was also repeatedly told, "I'll get back to you." Not that I ever believed that line for a minute, but for one weekend of my life, I had a great deal of fun and made some new friends. Still, looking at things the way they are today, in which only those who seem capable of writing and directing stories of comic book heroes capable of generating endless franchises are the ones who are ever going to get their movies made...well, perhaps the unavoidable conclusion is that someone like me, someone who's tried to write simpler and more meaningful stories, will never find a place in the movie place. But I'll keep trying, dammit...at least I can say I'll keep on trying!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Writer (on the car phone): "Hi, Griff. Remember me? I'm the asshole who used to be in the postcard business!"
Griffin Mill: "You?"
Writer: "Yeah, that's right. The king of suspense himself. You remember me?"
Griffin: "I haven't heard from you in a while."
Writer: "Well, I've been busy. I've been writing a script. I got inspired."
Larry Levy (on the car phone): "Give him the pitch. You'll love this, Griffin! It's great!"
Writer: "All right, it's a Hollywood story, Griff. A real thriller! It's about a shit-bag producer studio exec who murders a writer he thinks is harassing him. Problem is, he kills the wrong writer! Now he's got to deal with blackmail as well as the cops. But here's the switch. The son of a bitch, he gets away with it!"
Griffin: "Larry, get off the speaker. I wanna talk privately."
Larry: "Sure thing. This is a winner, Griffin! It's a winner!"
Griffin (to the writer): "He gets away with it?"
Writer: "Absolutely! It's a Hollywood ending, Griff. He marries the dead writer's girl and they live happily ever after."
Griffin: "Can you guarantee that ending?"
Writer: "If the price is right, you got it!"
griffin: "If you can guarantee me that ending, you got a deal."
Writer: "I guarantee it, Griff!"
Griffin: "What do you call this thing anyway?"
Writer: "The Player."
Griffin: "The Player. I like that."
Saturday, July 11, 2015
(December 1986, U.S.)
The original trailer for Oliver Stone's PLATOON calls it "the first real film about the war in Vietnam". That's not to suggest that PLATOON is the first, however. Vietnam War films date back as far as 1967 with a film called THE GREEN BERETS with John Wayne just when we were in the thick of it. This film, however, was considered very anti-communist and very pro-Vietnam with a very gung-ho theme and attitude that would have been likely considered outdated since World War II. In other words, hardly very real at all! In the 1970s, Micheal Cimino gave us THE DEER HUNTER (1978) and Francis Ford Coppola gave us APOCALYPSE NOW (1979). While these are two of the most extraordinary war films ever made, they focused their attention on very unique individuals in very unique tales against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, without specifically concentrating on the general themes of the American solider at war and his comradery with other fellow soldiers in the battlefield. During the first half of the 1980s, our only real (and unfortunate) guides to the plight and turmoils of the Vietnam vet came in the form of Chuck Norris (MISSING IN ACTION) and Sylvester Stallone (RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD-PART II). Stone, a Vietnam combat vet himself, chose to tell a story based on his own experiences in the field of battle, as well as the brothers of war he formed bonds with. In PLATOON, these are not particularly special or extraordinary men. They are simple men from simple places in American who are just trying to survive day by day while fighting for their country's freedom (at least that's what they choose to believe at the time). And yet, these are men you're likely to never forget when the film is over.
Charlie Sheen, back when he may have been considered an actor to be taken seriously, plays Chris Taylor (hey, that was the name of one of my college roomates!), who has dropped out of college to "do his part" because he doesn't feel only the poor kids should have to be the ones who go to war. An idealist, to be sure, and a young man of almost complete innocence when he first arrives in Vietnam. As we all know, because we've seen enough war films to know, innocence is the first thing to go in one's soul if they can manage to physically survive the horrors of the battlefield. The battle scenes themselves are fast paced and full of good combat action. But within Taylor's platoon is a private civil war as half the men believe in the more decent morals of Sergeant Elias (played by Willem DaFoe), while the other half prefer to side with the more hard-ass, immoral behavior of Sergeant Barnes (played by Tom Berrenger), a man who's been shot multiple times, has many battle scars on his face and seems to refuse to die without a fight. Stone, who's character of Taylor may have been somewhat based on himself at that time in his life, shows us the slow character development of Taylor as his innocence slowly and gradually turns to ugliness, aggressiveness and outright murder in the end. The transformation can be seen as physical, as well. At the beginning of his tours in the jungle, Taylor still looks like a decent man of morals...
By the end, however, he's become a ruthless killing machine for the simple reason that the horrors of war and the men who decide what is right and what is wrong have turned him into such a man...
And yet, even when it's all over and Taylor is on his way home, he can't help but cry out his frustrations and narrate to us that his soul, his sanity and his humanity have been the true enemy of war and that he will likely spend the rest of his life trying to reclaim it and return to the decent, caring individual we met at the beginning of the film. One can only wonder if these were the horrific demons that Oliver Stone himself struggled with as a soldier before he finally had to courage to tell his story on film. His story, to its credit, and unlike some other films of war, is at a ground level view and shows us a no-holds-barred vision of not only war itself, but its casualties on men and their relationships with other men in the field. PLATOON may not have been the first, but it's surely one of the best and opened the door for many others tales of Vietnam on film in the 1980s that included FULL METAL JACKET, HAMBURGER HILL and even GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM (all released in 1987). I suppose that just goes to show that it takes a good twenty years before Hollywood (as well as ordinary Americans) are ready to face the ugly side of war, as well as our own history, no matter how faulted it may be.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Chris Taylor (voice-over): "I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. And the enemy was in us. The war is over for me now, but it will always be there, the rest of my days as I'm sure Elias will be, fighting with Barnes for what Rhah called possession of my soul. There are times since, I've felt like the child born of those two fathers. But, be that as it may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again, to teach to others what we know, and to try with what's left of our lives to find a goodness and a meaning to this life."
Monday, July 6, 2015
(February 1968, U.S.)
PLANET OF THE APES, the original film that started it all, is one of the most exciting and imaginative science fiction films of all time, but I swear, you wouldn't think to guess that by judging the content of the original movie poster! I mean, look at it! What exactly is tempting and inviting about a giant cage in an orange/yellow background that would lure anyone into the movie theater in 1968 based on no knowledge whatsoever about this film? Thankfully, film history does not judge on movie poster artwork alone! On the other hand, if one were to actually read the poster carefully for names like Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and co-written by "The Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling - well, then, now we're talking! It's also interesting to note that this film was released just one month before Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. I'd say that makes the year 1968 real damn good for great science fiction!
And so, we begin with simple astronauts on an unspecified mission. We're already caught up in the intrigue, though, because of Taylor's (Heston) recorded description of time dilation (look that up!) in which the astronauts have aged about eighteen months in space, while Earth time has aged thousands of years. Having crash landed on a mysterious planet, Taylor notes that the year is now 3978 AD, approximately two millennia (twenty centuries!) after their original departure in 1972 (four years into the future by the film release account). When discovered and captured by armed and uniformed apes, Taylor cannot speak due to a bullet in the throat and discovers that the various apes, who can talk, are also living in a strict caste system: gorillas are the police, the military, the hunters and the workers. Orangutans are the administrators, the politicians, the lawyers and the priests, while chimpanzees are the scientists and the intellectuals. The apes have developed a primitive society based on the beginnings of the human Industrial Era. They have rifles, carts, ride horses and even have primitive photography. Humans, who are believed by the apes to be mute, are considered inferior vermin and are either hunted, killed, enslaved or used in scientific brain experiments. Animal psychologist ape, Dr. Zira (Hunter) and her fiancé, Cornelius (McDowall), an archaeologist, take a kind interest in Taylor due to the minor examples of intelligence he displays while still unable to talk. When he does finally talk, however, all chaos breaks loose in the ape village with the harsh cry of, "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!" in front of a huge ape crowd. What the hell has just happened? A man just spoke and he insulted an ape, to boot! All one can say while watching this grand spectacle is, "WOW!" Taylor has now gone from human vermin to a mutant and freak of nature, believed to have developed his speech through scientific brain alterations by Zira and Cornelius, accused of scientific corruption and heresy. We know better, of course, but we also know that in a world run by apes, the ugly emotions of racism, prejudice and the unfair treatments of the class system that we're all-too familiar with in real life, the film seems well timed and perfectly fitting during a decade that was filled with racial and political unrest. And like our own society, there are those in power who will do anything to conceal the truth of the current state of things. It's Dr. Zaius (played Maurice Evans), minister of science and chief defender of ape faith and law who will do whatever it takes to conceal the truth of man's existence, which is that man was on this planet before the apes, was superior and inevitably succumbed to their own extinction before the apes rose and took over.
Now bear in mind that the word planet is very key here in the story. The whole time we're following Taylor's adventure, we're wondering just where the hell he is! What sort of "upside down world", as he puts it, is this where apes dominate man? The answer and resolution to this nagging question is both awe-inspiring and shocking to anyone who's never seen this film (Really? Who hasn't seen this film??). As Taylor, a free man by the end of the film, rides his horse along the shoreline with his love interest Nova, he comes upon the horrifying truth of just what this "alien" planet really is and that's this (sorry, can't keep it to myself! It's just too damn good!) - the planet in question is actually our very own Earth long, long after the devastating holocaust of global thermonuclear war. Taylor, angry, defeated and wasted, can only fall to his knees in despair and condemns all of humanity for destroying the world he left behind. It's truly one of the greatest moments in science fiction cinema, and if you know the film well enough, you know I speak the truth!
Let me conclude now by taking you back in time several years ago when I originally wrote my blog post for APOCALYPSE NOW (1979). I bring this up as a relevant point because I concluded that post by stating that Francis Ford Coppola's fade in and opening shot of the jungle and napalm explosions that follows has been, still is and always will be my all-time favorite opening to any film I've ever seen. So now it's my pleasure to tell you that director Franklin J. Schaffner's final shot of the beach and the Statue of Liberty in PLANET OF THE APES, and I know you've seen it, is my favorite closing to any film I've ever seen...
This image is beautiful, horrifying, captivating and so thoroughly thought-provoking. Honestly, I could stare at it for hours! And when I'm done staring at it, I like to think about how it capitalizes on our worst fears (at least during that era of the 1960s) that mankind could inevitably bring itself to such a destructive and tragic destiny. The image and the idea is just so...final. Yes, it's so final, that having embraced this original film so close to my mind and heart, I have, over the years, deliberately avoided all the sequels that followed in the 1970s. Sure, I've seen them all for the sake of seeing them once (that's what the ABC 4:30 movie on the East coast was for when I was a kid)...
...but I have to point out that sometimes in film, there is what is, and then there is how we choose to remember things in our own way. I choose to remember PLANET OF THE APES as a single tale of man, ape and our final realization of how things could turn out. But exactly how things did turn out could be, I suppose, dependent on ones interpretation of just how Earth started over after its destructive annihilation. You can choose to accept a specific explanation given in the second sequel ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973) in which we're told that in the future, cats and dogs were made extinct by disease and the human race chose to replace their household pets with apes, until the apes eventually rose against their abusive masters and took over the world. That's acceptable if you prefer something rather campy and silly which leaves the door open for two more sequels. For myself, I choose to believe that, just as Taylor believed, man's ignorance and stupidity inevitably lead to his own destruction and that we simply started over again by way of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution in which the ape occupied this planet before us. It's a darker, more frightening explanation of what happened to Earth, and given what human nature is like in all its ugliness, it's the one that makes the most sense to me. So in short, the sequels BENEATH, ESCAPE, CONQUEST and BATTLE just don't exist for me! Who says I have to embrace reality, huh?? I don't! And by the way...FUCK TIM BURTON! Just what the fuck did he think he was doing anyway?? Well, I say damn him! Damn him to Hell!!!
But for the record, I have to confess that I do like and appreciate the most recent reboot Planet of the Apes films of RISE and DAWN that have been released over the last few years. They are, in my opinion, new and original interpretations of a tale my generation of film lovers have embraced since the first dawn in 1968. Just goes to show you that anything is possible with me!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Taylor: "Oh my God! I'm back. I'm home. All the time, it was. We finally really did it! You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to Hell!"
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
(November 1987, U.S.)
Okay, people, let's talk turkey in July! Like JAWS on July 4th, like HALLOWEEN on Halloween and like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE on Christmas Eve, John Hughes' PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (an unexpected diversion from high school tales in the 1980s) has for many, including myself, become an annual holiday movie watching tradition prior to the Thanksgiving holiday! Not so much because it's represents whatever bullshit stories we were repeatedly told as kids by our teachers (and the Charlie Brown TV special) about the Pilgrims arriving to the New World on the Mayflower, meeting friendly Indians and indulging in the first great American feast, but rather something a little more down to Earth for many of us - the sheer hell of holiday travel during those precious few days before the big turkey Thursday! I haven't traveled for Thanksgiving for thirteen years (thank goodness!) and if I have any control over my life, I never will again! Holiday travel is bad enough, but throw in the prospect of doing it with a fat, annoying, chatterbox bastard like John Candy (R.I.P.) and you have all the makings of suicidal and homicidal temptations right then and there. Just look at poor Steve Martin's face on the movie poster and it's all clearly outlined.
As a viewing tradition, I tend to watch this bittersweet farce on the Tuesday night before the big holiday for no other reason that in the film, that's the day when Neal Page's (Martin) long journey commences right out of New York City. From the moment things begin, Neal is under the deluded impression that he'll simply jump into a cab during New York City rush hour traffic, make it to JFK Airport in plenty of time, get on the plane, go to sleep , travel unmolested straight to Chicago and be home with his family no later than 9 pm that same evening. Okay, everybody say it real loud with me...WRONG!!! Those of us who live in or near a populated urban city know that such thoughts are impossible on an average day, let alone during a holiday week. Neal's flight delay is likely a blessing in disguise at first considering he barely makes it to the airport in time. Once on the plane, though, the trouble starts immediately when he's mistakenly bumped from first class to (UUGH!!!) coach and is seated next to Del Griffith (Candy), a man who, despite all of his kind and friendly intentions, simply will not shut his fucking mouth! Add to that his idea that removing his shoes and stinky socks on a plane is an acceptable notion and you have here your ultimate human traveling nightmare!
But let me digress for a moment by saying that I've never had to deal with a strange chatterbox traveling companion because from the moment I sit down on a plane, train, bus, whatever, I immediately put on my headphones and dive deep into a book, making it blatantly clear to anyone with the wrong idea that I'm not available for any sort of friendly chitchat! I don't do it to be mean. I do it because if I don't know you, then I don't want to know you (sorry, but I just had to get that out!)!
Bad weather conditions force the Chicago-bound plane to land elsewhere, and despite Neal's better judgment, he agrees to hook himself up with Del, thinking that perhaps his new-found traveling companion may be of resourceful use in helping him to get home in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Several cheap hotel rooms and several broken down modes of transportation later, Neal and Page are still together, getting on each other's last nerve, and still managing to appreciate and respect each other along the way, while joyously cracking up as their viewers. Of course - even the best of crazy comedies will offer the morals of human decency, respect and friendship in the end, right? I mean, what sort of holiday, good-will-toward-men message would this film be sending if Neal and Del still hated each other's guts in the end?? Admittedly, though, a man like John Candy, despite whatever obnoxious role he played on screen, always managed to be irresistibly lovable as the story went on. How can you not want to just wrap your arms around this pudgy bastard and give him a great, big hug after all the troubles of holiday travel have come and gone and we can all look back on them with laughter? In the end, as we'd expect, everybody's happy to be home surrounded by family and what inevitably constitutes the best damn meal of the entire year!
Just to share some of my own personal feelings now, I must say that Thanksgiving has always been and continues to be my favorite holiday of the year. Whether my family chooses to host the big day at our home or if we hit the local expressway and drive to one of our relatives, it's always a great day for family and scrumptious food! Though my family always slices up the turkey and serves it and all the other goodies buffet style in the kitchen. That's all fine and good, but just ONCE I'd like to experience that classic Norman Rockwell image of the great, big turkey being served all juicy and golden brown in the middle of the big dining table! And then there's also the small array of classic monster movies I enjoy watching every year at Thanksgiving (see my original post for the original 1933 version of KING KONG to know what I'm talking about). It's how I make the holiday special for myself and I personal tradition I continue to carry on with year after year.
See you in November!
Favorite line or dialogue
Car Rental Agent (annoyingly cheerful): "Welcome to Marathon. May I help you?"
Neal Page: "Yes."
Car Rental Agent: "How may I help you?"
Neal: "You can start by wiping that fucking dumb-ass smile off your rosey, fucking, cheeks! And you can give me a fucking automobile. A fucking Datsun, a fucking Toyota, a fucking Mustang, a fucking Buick! Four fucking wheels and a seat!"
Car Rental Agent: "I really don't care for the way you're speaking to me."
Neal: "And I really don't care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn't fucking there! And I really didn't care to fucking walk, down a fucking highway, and across a fucking runway to get back here to have you smile in my fucking face! I want a fucking car RIGHT FUCKING NOW!"
Car Rental Agent: "May I see your rental agreement?"
Neal: "I threw it away!"
Car Rental Agent: "Oh, boy."
Neal: "Oh boy, what?"
Car Rental Agent: "You're fucked!"