January 17, 2006

Ch. . Ch. .. Chaaaain

I went out and got the three Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels (not remake) just to try to get a handle on where each of ‘em were coming from. I’ve done this kind of thing before in the past with all the Hellraiser sequels (at that time, just five, I think – two more since?) and all the Children of the Corn sequels (five, too, at that time, up to six now, I think), often to find that there were great moments buried in them if not great films. Children of the Corn 3: Urban Harvest, with F/X work by the great Screaming Mad George, being both a great film and possessed of great moments. Some of the most excellently gruesome karo syrup and puppet gore since Carpenter’s The Thing, not the least of its attractions.

I was surprised to be reminded that Tobe Hooper, after something of a mid-career trainwreck (the trouble with Poltergeist, and then there was Lifeforce. What the fuck was that all about?), had returned in 1986 to helm the sequel to his own seminal Texas Chain Saw Massacre - and that Dennis Hopper, in his annus mirabulus, had turned in another button-down psycho performance, unappreciated at the time, that should at least be afforded a quasi-serious re-examination. What I was most surprised to find, however, is a setpiece early on with Leatherface (Bill Johnson this time. Like Gidget, there was different actor playing “Leather” each time) menacing a pair of yuppie scum from the back of a speeding pick-up (a corpse strapped to his chest as literal body armor) that is just unspeakably cool. (Augmented of course, thanks Ian, by the freaking insane use of Oingo Boingo on the soundtrack.)

The decision, derided at the time, of Hooper’s to follow his intensely serious original with a freaked-out sideshow, is easier to appreciate now, I think, with the revisionist praise heaped upon Raimi’s Evil Dead pictures, Jackson’s own Dead films (Dead Alive, Brain Dead), as well as the ‘90s cycle of post-modern slashers – then it was in the mid-eighties when horror was, by and large, serious about its exploitation. Not to say that TCM 2 isn’t gory – it’s legendarily gory with effects work by Tom Savini that has as its highlight a skinned hillbilly, animate enough to mutter “ah, shit” before shuffling off to his great reward – just to say that the mixture of copious amounts of gore with a lot of meta-irony was of a different coin then.

I sense a lot of resignation and mordant self-deprecation in TCM 2 in Hoopers reduction of what had already become a legendary monster in the horror pantheon to a chili magnate and a hyper-sexualized, but impotent, man-child. The thrusting of hips accompanying the chainsaw’s growls the first hint – but the best when he dunks his “member” in a barrel of ice, is unable to start it again against a pretty girl’s thigh, before being “re-invigorated” by her reassurances. Yeah, there’s a tentative love story in TCM 2, and there’s also a chainsaw duel between Hopper’s psycho Texas Ranger and Leatherface himself atop that infamous banquet table.

The key to the series can be found in the quality of the bogey’s skin mask; of how as the series progresses, the excellence of craftsmanship afforded to Leatherface’s other trademark affectation works in conspicuous inverse proportion to the quality of the film. In the original TCM, Leatherface’s mask is a skin bag with eyeholes and hair. By the second film, the mask fits pretty well and sports motley coloration, and by the third, it’s form-fitted and sleek. By the time of its third sequel, Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though, the mask is a hood, including chest, that appears to have been removed without any kind of trauma from what must have been a humongous woman. It has the effect of making this demon of the id, utterly castrated by this point, into something like an unflattering caricature of a squealing, quailing transvestite.


Imagine Jason Vorhees upgrading his hockey mask, film by film, until he’s sporting one of those space-age football-helmet-y things that they wear in the crease nowadays. Now make him a pansy. Though the remake of TCM (a remake that I liked) lacks a lot of the raw brutality and nihilism of the original, it at least doesn’t make Leatherface pathetic and, more, returns his “look” to that of what a giant “developmentally arrested” cannibal with an old Singer could probably fashion out of the pelts of his victims.

Leatherface: TCM 3 (1990) is the one with Viggo Mortensen as a cannibal named “Tex”. It’s also the one with the evil little girl in the room full of children’s bones who drops a sledgehammer on one of our yuppie scum victims – the one where the scream queen is the inflection-less Kate Hodge who not only looks like Nightmare on Elm Street scream queen Heather Langenkamp, but, lamentably, acts like her, too. A legendarily troubled production, director Jeff Burr (not a good director already and fresh off the horrible Stepfather II), already not a good director, was forced to fatally trim the film down for an “R” rating (this in the middle of a “squeamish,” reactionary period in American horror) and to resurrect a hero (Ken Foree) for a “happy” ending who had clearly had this head rendered in twain by a giant, chrome chainsaw.

If not for Mortensen (a precurser to his "Joey" persona in A History of Violence) and that brief look into an evil little girl’s evil little room, TCM 3 would be a complete disaster instead of the near-complete disaster that it is. Leatherface is infantilized instead of enfant terrible, and watching the uncut version available on the DVD serves mostly to underscore just how useless and out-of-touch the MPAA has always been. There’s hardly any gore in this thing at all. Unlike Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM 4), which showcases standout performances by Matthew McConaughey as a bionic hillbilly and Renee Zellweger (and what is her superpower but that ineffable aura of "please don't hit me"?) in what might still be her best, most vulnerable performance as the requisite last-girl standing.

The first half hour is just fantastic, feeling every bit a member of the Prom Night cycle, as a quartet of promsters (including Zellweger’s geeky Jenny) get lost in the woods, accosted by psycho-tow truck driver Vilmer (McConaughey), and trapped in the Sawyer clan’s farmhouse. But then, Leatherface (Robert Jacks), finds himself easily cowed with a small prod and a harsh word, the family doesn’t appear to be cannibalistic anymore, and the whole thing is imagined as some kind of government conspiracy. Co-writer on the original, Kim Henkel, takes the blame for this bathetic turgid-piece which, while featuring some humor now and again and, I mean it, a tremendous turn by Zellweger, is submarined without hope of salvation by a final ten minute stretch so ridiculous and self-indulgent that you can feel the universe slowly turning itself inside-out.

What’s fascinating is that all four original TCM pictures sport virtuoso performances. Gunnar Hansen in the original, then Hopper, Mortensen, and Zellweger/McConaughey (and someone, not me, should do an essay on the role of technology in these pictures – especially the bionic legs of Leatherface in pt. 3 and Vilmer in pt. 4 – something going on there…). Each of the sequels (well, maybe not the third), too, has at least a scene worth a Netflix rental. In the case of two, a genuinely good film, and four – more than one scene.

TCM 2 - ***/****
TCM 3 - 1/2*/****
TCM 4 - *1/2/****

In not an entirely unrelated topic, the Hollywood Foreign Press gave out their bally-hooed Oscar bellweathers last night. The HFP, by the way, is fiftyish Danish women who write for the exact equivalent of those Penny Savers that you pick up for free at the grocery store. We're not talking here about the critics for the London Times or Cahiers du Cinema - we're talking about a fan-based group that created themselves so that celebrities would come to a party they threw to collect a prize that they conjured and, somehow, made prestigious. It's fan/junket/star symbiosis: a parasitic relationship that seems to have taken.

That in mind, the parade of winners exactly identifies the kind of mediocrity favored by the almost-6,000 member Academy: glossy, safe, political choices. The preponderance of "alternative lifestyle" wins suggests to me not the dawning of a new age of tolerance, but the idea that gay is the new favored disability. Was it someone in this blog that said that it's the new "retarded"? Whoever it was: bravo. I think you're right dead on the mark.

"I like queers; I paid cash-money to see Brokeback Mountain."

They should've passed out little stickers in the lobby like they do at the blood banks.

BEST PICTURE: DRAMA
Brokeback Mountain

BEST PICTURE: NOT-DRAMA
Walk the Line (indeed un-dramatic)

BEST ACTOR: DRAMA
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote

BEST ACTRESS: DRAMA
Felicity Huffman - Transamerica

BEST ACTOR: NOT-DRAMA
Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line

BEST ACTRESS: NOT-DRAMA
Resse Witherspoon - Walk the Line

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
George Clooney - Syriana

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Rachel Weisz - Constant Gardener

BEST DIRECTOR
Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain

BEST SCREENPLAY
Brokeback Mountain

BEST SONG
"A Love That Will Never Grow Old" - Brokeback Mountain

BEST SCORE
Memoirs of a Geisha

BEST FOREIGN
Paradise Now

Also - Sandra Oh, the angriest woman on the planet, won an award. 'nuff said.

Back at the mothersite, Alex takes a little off the top of The Scalphunters and Bill offers a few words on that steaming pile of shitska: Pretty Persuasion.

Hot off the Presses (January 19, 2006):

Here's the review of Malick's uncut The New World - haven't seen the new one, 16min shorter, I've heard. Also reviews of Albert Brooks' disappointing Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World and Eugene Jarecki's similarly disappointing (but more jingoistic) Why We Fight. Travis, meanwhile, goes after Pacino in Two for the Money while we resume Mr. Hoover's quest to find comedy in the Jerry Lewis world in the Disorderly Orderly. ToynLAYbin!

57 comments:

Jefferson said...

Walter: Lifeforce was about a hot naked chick roaming around England while Steve Railsback chooses, instead, to almost slip the tongue to Patrick Stewart. It was the Brokeback Mountain of bad sci-fi, or the Jeffrey of '80s horror movies. In a word, seminal.

Walter_Chaw said...

In a word, seminal.

In a manner of speaking.

Ian Pugh said...

You really think there's something to the bionic brace in TCM III? Methinks it's just another way to separate itself from its immediate predecessor by strengthening a plot bond to the original film. Kind of a "remember how Leatherface sliced the bejesus out of his leg at the end of the original film" deal. Maybe it's just for the visual connection to TCM 4. Speaking of McConaughey's bionic hillbilly (an adjective-noun combination I need to use more often), I'm usually a big fan of outrageous, screaming performances (see below), but McConaughey's performance strikes me as a little too much for my senses. Though I admit to smirking at his reaction to a button-push the gigantic Atari-style controller.

But I do love Hopper's performance in TCM 2. You're right; it deserves re-examination. (They say the Oscar nom was for Blue Velvet, but I dunno...) The first half of the performance works perfectly, as the obsessive-psychotic sheriff silently tests some new chainsaws at the sporting goods shop, and eventually holsters them. But also consider how (spoiler warning!) he finds the skeletal remains of dearly-departed Franklin and his wheelchair, which turns him into a (more) psychotic version of Robert Mitchum from The Night of the Hunter. The Hardestys of the original TCM are described early in the picture as the sheriff's "brother's kids," but the reaction makes you wonder what the connection is, there. Yet another example of the series' familial bonds. (One family interfering with another?)

And Walter, I'm crushed! How could you forget to mention the drive-by 'sawing scene's brilliant use of Oingo Boingo's "No One Lives Forever"?

Jack_Sommersby said...

Ah, Lifeforce! Saw it at the theatre in '85, and as a 15-year-old I didn't give a damn that there were no scares in light of being afforded a full-frontal female vampire. Terrible acting (excepting Peter Firth, who miraculously escapes with his dignity intact). And terrible, terrible dialogue. Often cite this film as damn near the acme of bad dialogue. And otherwise-respectable actors like Steve railsback are left looking foolish in trying say the lines with the utmost seriousness and intensity, thus quadrupling the unintentional-hilarious factor.

Jefferson said...

Let's not forget the ridiculous premise underlying the ridiculous premise of Lifeforce -- the vampires are discovered during a space shuttle mission to Halley's comet, 91 million miles away.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Ah, yes. One of the true oddities from the Golan-Globus/Cannon Pictures machine. By the way, I've been toying with an idea for a book of New World Pictures, which, like Cannon, churned out a good deal of odd pics in the '80s. Take a look at this list...

http://www.imdb.com/company/co0065427/

...and tell me there isn't potential for a worthwhile film book in there someplace. Luckily, the great Anchor Bay Entertainment owns the rights to New World's stuff, so we're afforded first-rate transfers and packages of highly enjoyable stuff -- like Dead End Drive-In, which I found at a pawn shop and provided oodles of enjoyment.

Scott said...

Why is Sandra Oh 'the angriest woman' on the planet? Just curious.

Alex Jackson said...

Was it someone in this blog that said that it's the new "retarded"? Whoever it was: bravo. I think you're right dead on the mark.

Hey, that was me!

Haven't been too good at predicting Oscars in the past, but dude, Brokeback Mountain is a lock. Golden Globes really was a lark, who was it that dedicated their award to Martin Luther King?

BM is coming to my city on the 20th, which is precisely when I'm going Sundancing. (Terrence Malick's The New World is also opening that same weekend. Argh!) But it should be enjoying a pretty good stay, so I'm not worried. The ban was the decision of a single businessman in one chain of theaters. Plenty of other places to see it.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Saw "nobody knows". Can't say I was as impressed as some of you guys. The usual Malickian "tone" poem in which no one speaks too loud otherwise the... tone will be broken. Don't mean to imply that I disliked it. There is a lot of material here deserving to be loved, but like "Kontroll" it buckles under the weight of it's own pretense. Unlike what Mr. Ebert thinks, people who love good movies aren't "unreal" people and like being manipulated just as much as the joe schmo. I love these poetic realist films, the flawed fairly tales if you may. I just simply dig the genre be it from the founding father himself, Malick or from the chumps that follow him. God love 'em. But they're getting lazy, rehashing and overcooking the films thematically ("child dealing with death", "child getting older than his body due to harsh enviornment", "child's escape to inner heaven created from external hell", "child as parent figure" etc.). At the end of the day, somebody has to push things forward. For all his cinematic sins, Harmony Korine did with gummo. This film is like pulling the gum off bottom of the table to chew it again, it may be the greatest gum in the world but another man's saliva just ruins the taste. Rent this one, "Mean Creek", "The Return", "George Washington" or "Ratcatcher". They are all pretty much the same. "The Return" is the best for my money.

Jefferson said...

Larry Miller talks/doesn't talk about the Brokeback pullout, with video.

Jonathan said...

RE: the Transamerica and Mrs. Henderson Presents review, and while we're on the topic of the Golden Globes...

Gwyneth Paltrow isn't anywhere near this year's Best Actress race, let alone being one of the two locks. With the exception of that Golden Globe nod, she's been completely snubbed by all of the precursors and critics' groups.

Witherspoon, Huffman, and Dench are all safely in, with Zhang Ziyi, Charlize Theron, Joan Allen, and Kiera Knightley the most likely to take the other two spots, since not even the FYC ads can decide whether or not Laura Linney belongs as a Lead or Supporting actress for The Squid and the Whale. With a handful of people holding their breath that either Naomi Watts or Q'Orianka Kilcher manage to pull in enough first-place ballot votes from the handful of AMPAS members who still think that "Best Actress" should actually be about, y'know, good acting.

Alex Jackson said...

Planning on covering Gwenyth's directorial short film debut at Sundance. I shit you not, Gwenyth Paltrow is a director now.

Jefferson said...

I'm told the title is Apple's First Steps.

Alex Jackson said...

Ha ha!

Actually, it's called Dealbreaker and in interest of full-disclosure is co-directed by a minor film actress named Mary Wigmore that Paltrow seems to be friends with. According to a comment on the IMDB it was issued as insert in the last issue of Glamour magazine.

Again, I'm not making this up.

Bill C said...

You're making this up.

Jefferson said...

Should anyone care, here is Anthony Lane's assessment of 2005 at the movies.

Jackfish Crow said...

Hi there. Been reading this site for a long time now, absolutely love it, and I'm enjoying the blog as well.

If it's okay to sort of stray off topic, I was wondering if I could ask for your help in finding movies about or related to juvenile delinquency. See, I'm TAing for a class in the subject, and the professor is looking to have students relate a movie of their choice to the class material. She wants to make sure they have a list of suggestions. I can think of a few obvious ones, but I figured as long as we're suggesting movies for students, why not suggest some really good ones?

Thus, I present the question to you, because everyone who posts here seems to really know their stuff.

Here's the specific details of her request: "For the juvenile delinquency class we are having the students watch a film that focuses on kids/teens who have committed a crime or commit crimes in general, then have them relate what they see to course material. Specifically I want them to link the kids' family, school, peer experiences to why they committed the crime."

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer, and regardless of that, thanks a million for the website and blog in general.

Bill C said...

What would you consider the usual suspects, JC? Rebel Without a Cause? The Blackboard Jungle? For something more contemporary you might look to Larry Clark's films (Bully, in particular) or, looking abroad, Alan Clarke's one-two punch of Scum and Made in Britain, both of which deal with the organic evolution of the juvenile delinquint and the difficulty of ever eradicating him from the system.

Alex Jackson said...

I had a similiar assignment for my class in adolescent development and I chose River's Edge. I think that that's still a good pic as far as sociological content goes.

Kids is an obvious choice, but it's a goodie; illustrating Bandura's (was it?) theory of encapsulation. Clark's next three films Another Day in Paradise, Bully, and Ken Park take kind of different angles toward the same subject matter.

The 400 Blows is great, particularly since it sympathizes with it's protagonist. Ditto for Wish You Were Here. Rebel without a Cause is justifiably a classic and similiarly soft-edged. Beijing Bicycle might be too tied into it's country of origin, but it's worth a try.

The Good Son is underrated, brings in Nietzche which applies to Elkind's (again, good with the theories but I'm bad with the theorists) personal fable. Much much better than Murder by Numbers. The difference is fucking huge. Of course A Clockwork Orange even goes closer the point, but might be too stylized: it's adults playing teenagers.

Cox's Repo Man and particuarly Sid and Nancy might yield some fruit.
Menace II Society is better than Boys N the Hood but both are pretty good. Political agenda-oriented films though, the antropological gaze might be needed more.

Kevin Reynolds' 187 is better than it's reputation suggests, it's pretty hard edged.

Heathers might make for an interesting essay.

Bad taste aside, lots to squeeze out of The Butterfly Effect. It's kind of genius really.

Good movies that might not apply to the assignment: As much as I love it, Gummo would be a little tough to deconstruct like that as the deliquency isn't really rooted in psychology or sociology. The whole point of Elephant of course is that there isn't really a point. Don't know about Heavenly Creatures. Christiane F. is one of my favorite anti-drug movies, but it's really very much told on the level of a 15-year old and might not have the antropological stare to it. Besides, I think that it's been out of print and will be a kinda hard to find. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills is a definite oddity, in that the teenage murderers appear to not have even comitted the crime; they were arrested and convicted because they looked like murderers.

Chris said...

Off-topic, on an older one, thought you all might be interested in this:

http://www.laweekly.com/index.php?option=com_lawcontent&task=view&id=12416&Itemid=47

Jackfish Crow said...

Wow, these suggestions are great. My first shortlist was pretty sad on its own, and even more so by comparison. Forgive me if I'm too embarassed to post it.

I'm going to pass what you guys have said along pretty much verbatum, with proper credit and all that. I also linked the prof to a bunch of your reviews, so maybe you'll get a new fan or two out of it. Hopefully it'll be more enjoyable for the students, as well.

Jefferson said...

Bad Boys is an '80s classic of juvenile delinquency-exploitation, if you ask me. Looks at the system from within and without. But ultimate props to Alex for his masterful list, in particular River's Edge -- one that haunted me at the time but didn't emerge from memory right away.

Gus van Sant's Elephant, maybe?

Bill C said...

Not as big on River's Edge as I was when I was a kid, but it does have one of my favourite lines of dialogue in any movie, uttered by His Woah-ness Keanu Reeves: "All you do is eat my food and fuck my mother, you food-eater motherfucker!"

Chad Evan said...

If you really want to wierd them out, Francis Coppola's Rumble Fish. I rented it as a twelve year old fan of SE Hinton's novel, and was flabbergasted by this exercise in arty pretension: it looks as though it were directed by Murnau, lit by Russel Metty, and with fights directed by Vincent Minelli. Mix these with Hinton's cheeseball dialogue and a couple of truly strange performances (pretty sure Tom Waits is in there somewhere) and you have perhaps the most bizarre juvenile delinquent film ever made.

Chad Evan said...

Caught Jacques Tourneurs' Out of the Past yesterday. Super-duper. Lots of neat-o lighting and Robert Mitchum at his toughest, but what really surprised me was the voice-over. Ernest Hemingway invented the clipped, wise-guy narrative voice that Hammett and Chandler appropriated and therefore subsequently became the basis of the dialogue and narration in noir films, but this one seemed to take it back to the original source ("It was good in there with the rain beating on the windows," just one paraphrased example off the top of my head.) In my dream world I'd always imagined John Huston directing The Sun Also Rises with Humphrey Bogart as Jake Barnes. Huston can stay, but Mitchum has taken the leading role. If Bogey will take it, he can have the supporting role as Bill.

Also loved how the picture started out with cheesy romantic music and bright, cheery exteriors in small town, USA: at first I was thinking "Am I watching the right movie!?", but then as the flashbacks commenced and the shadows creeped in, it worked beautifully as contrast and metaphor.

Anonymous said...

You might wanna try "Better Luck Tomorrow." That certainly has its own perspective on things.

--Kim

Walter_Chaw said...

Hey Chad - if you still have Out of the Past - cue up that early scene on the beach and watch as Mitchum subtly gets framed against a fishing net like a bug on a web. Brilliant flick - the prototypical example of the form in my head - particularly love Kirk Douglas' baddie: chiseled, angular, razor-sharp.

Delinquent flicks, huh? A whole genre in the '50s, of course, with stuff like Girl Gang - check out Studs Lonigan with a young Jack Nicholson as one of Studs' henchmen. The Outsiders is an obvious Hinton corollary - and I have a soft spot for The Karate Kid and the vampire version of it, The Lost Boys. Lots of the Elvis flicks were about his delinquency, weren't they? Cry Baby is a nice send-up of the '50s cycle.

Shatner as a bad teacher in The Explosive Generation is a hoot, and of course the classics Lolita and Kazan's Splendor in the Grass and Baby Doll. There are the arrested development delinquent flicks, too, like Hud and Psycho and Strangers on a Train - and does anyone remember that flick with the kids elected to Congress and the presidency?

Also, check out if you can, Lindsay Anderson's If. . . with a young Malcolm McDowell. Great flick.

Alex Jackson said...

Incidently, Alan Clarke's Made in Britain and Scum are on my Netflix cue to be watched after I plow through eight more 2005 releases in preparation for my Best Of list.

Harmony Korine led me there first.

Jonathan said...

Scott Foundas goes back at La Ebert.

Jefferson said...

Bill C said...
Not as big on River's Edge as I was when I was a kid, but it does have one of my favourite lines of dialogue in any movie, uttered by His Woah-ness Keanu Reeves: "All you do is eat my food and fuck my mother, you food-eater motherfucker!"


The inexpressiveness of the kids in the movie always pleased me ... Keanu may have been the best at it. These kids, like all kids, feel powerfully, but they can't verbalize it. Keanu and Ione Skye have sex, and all they can say when it's done is "I like you." "I like you too." That strikes me as real.

James Allen said...

Re: Scott Foundas

Very nice retort from Scott, although shooting holes through Ebert's paper thin argument was akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Had to be done though. I still wonder why Ebert threw such a grenade into the crowd to begin with.

And speaking of Ebert, he's on another 3-star kick the last couple weeks (his lists of "current reviews" and "Ebert Recommends" are the same). And you all thought crap came out in January.

Re: Albert Brooks

You know, I've never been the greatest Albert Brooks fan in the world, but I was willing to give him a chance with his latest film (Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World ). I'll admit, I was lured in by the title. Well, I just came back from it and I have now concluded I will never again go see an Albert Brooks film. The man has absolutely nothing to say about anything (comedically or otherwise). Anything remotely resembling a possibility in the film is steered clear of. Walt calls it infuriating, I'd also call it cowardly.

Reading Walt's review (after I saw the film) I have to say it's pretty much dead on, except that I liked it even less than him. Is this the new post-moderism? (i.e. making comedies that aren't supposed to be funny, in an attempt to be funny in an anti-funny kind of way?) If this is the case, it gives me the shudders.

P.S. Ebert gave it (what else?) 3-stars.

Justin said...

Hee hee--I'd been down on Foundas since his pan of Oldboy but he redeems himself here.

cory m said...

All this talk about Albert Brooks makes me wish I had a copy of Defending Your Life squirreled away somewhere. I love it, but I've seen it so many times, over so many years, that I don't dare trust my own opinion on it.

Bill C said...

Defending Your Life is sensational, and probably the least narcissistic of Brooks' movies. Nice work from Rip Torn while we're at it. The "Past Lives Pavilion" kills me every time.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Bill,

Not as big on River's Edge as I was when I was a kid, but it does have one of my favourite lines of dialogue in any movie, uttered by His Woah-ness Keanu Reeves: "All you do is eat my food and fuck my mother, you food-eater motherfucker!"

The quote my friends and I would consistently spout is Crispin Glover's, "What I doooooo for my fucking friends."

Truly doubles one the hell over every damn time.

Bill C said...

Glover has a gift for putting the absolute zaniest spin on the most pedestrian dialogue. I'm also partial to his "I'm making my lunch!" from Wild at Heart.

That reminds me: how inexplicable is it that Crispin G. is in Robert Zemeckis' new movie? Even as recently as last year they were still nursing their decades-long feud.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Ha! My friend, Michael, dug that line, too -- though I myself never went agog over it. When I think of Wild at Heart, I always think of Willem Dafoe's introduction of his character: "Bobby Peru -- just like the country."

And, yeah, Glover can make the most indelible impression with just one word -- like his "Sorry." after opening the refrigerator and awakening Mary Stewart Masterson next to a sleeping Sean Penn in our fave, At Close Range. Ah, memeories!

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Saw "The New World". Wouldn't say that I was blown away, but certainly impressed. Few major problems:

Colin Ferrel sucks.

For the first time Terrence Malick had a hint of irony in his tone. Prime example of that would be the royal palace scene where he ends it by Pocahantas looking at a caged animal. It's clever and subtle but strange coming from the guy who believes in futility of rebellion.

Too much recognizable imagery. Malick's first three films were different from each other as chalk and cheese but this one thematically was like "Thin Red Line" on steroids. At one point I just wished people would stop performing reike on each other.

Also this new Camera work is starting to get on my nerves. Where the elegant static shots of "Days of Heaven" defined Malick's technique of a detached, anthropological perspective, this one feels like cinematographer should cut down on coffee. Constant swaying and moving in, moving out. Fuck ! Relax. While we're at it, this is the worst edited Malick film. Where in his earlier films he would hold shots just a little longer to show the moments that would usually be left out, this one was too much chop-and-change.

Did I mention, Colin Ferrel sucks ?

Overall, it didn't grab me by the balls and even though Malick's worst is better than most's best, that's just disappointing.

Nate said...

I think it's a masterpiece. It had me mezmerized from the first shot to the last. Certainly it's in the same stylistic vein as The Thin Red Line, but it's a very different picture. I think it tops my personal 2005 list.

Chad Evan said...

Been a little slow lately...anyone want to play a game?

This one's motivated partly by my dissatisfaction with my alma mater's film class, which included as examples of classic cinema pictures by Lasse Halstrom and James Ivory.

Anyway, you're a proffessor at a university, and you get to teach a weekly film class. You use nine films as texts (and some essays if you so choose.) What would the class be and what films would you choose?

Mine: Film Noir. The syllabus is divided into three blocks:

I. Proto-noir
1. Huston's The Maltese Falcon (the hardboiled detective)
2. Wilder's Double Indemnity (the femme fatale)
II. High Noir
3.Siodmak's The Killers (fractured structure)
4. Welles' The Lady From Shanghai (inpenetrable narrative maze)
5. Tourneurs' Out of the Past (the hero with the inescapable past)
6.Welles'Touch of Evil (apotheosis of the noir visual style)
III. The Neo Noir
7. Altman's The Long Goodbye (Parody)
8. Polanski's Chinatown (homage)
9. the Coens' Blood Simple (Rural Noir)

Anybody else wanna take a swing?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I don't know, Nate. Maybe it's just me because I am really starting to annoy my friends too. I just can't seem to like most films these days, even the ones that I'm supposed to like or atleast would have loved a year ago (The New World, Nobody Knows etc.). Somehow I feel that film-makers are just not putting their balls on the line.

Most of my dissapointment was made up for by the "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson" today. What an astonishing movie ?! I can't believe people don't talk about it more. I think this is the best Altman movie after "McCabe & Mrs. Miller". It certainly cleared up some of the problems I had with "The New World". I mean, if you have to make a parallel allegory of relationship between White America and Native Americans, this is how you do it. One could pass off the Noble Savage syndrome in "The New World" as a subjective opinion of Capt. Smith and a natural human reaction that stems more from fear than bigotry i.e. something that should be empathized with more instead of condemned because it's seed is primordial and not intellectual, but at the end of the day irony doesn't translate well on cinematic medium.

Chad:

How about adding some spice to your list with "The Big Labowski" ?

Chad Evan said...

Brilliant, H-man, brilliant.

The Captain said...

The conversation drying up so fast; I'm hoping the next blog posting will invite us to post our Bottom 10's for 2005, but in the meantime, here's a question for all: what do you all like/hate about James Cameron's Titanic?

Bill C said...

Duly noted, but consider any list we put up an implicit invitation to post your own, folks.

cory m said...

Bill:

Ah, thanks for confirming my vague suspicion. Sometimes it is dangerous to throw out an opinion on a movie that you loved before you started really thinking about movies. I said it before, but I must say it again: Rip Torn never disappoints me.

James Allen said...

Re: Albert Brooks' Defending Your Life

I agree that Defending Your Life is the Brooks film that doesn't suffer from the writer/director/star's more annoying tendencies. The great supporting cast (Torn, Streep) helps. It gets way too sentimental towards the end (and the Brooks' character's redemption isn't fully earned because no real risk was involved) but the clever vision of the afterlife and the aforementioned supporting cast make it more that worth the while.

Re: Rip Torn

I'm with you Cory, this man elevates whatever he's in, whether it's broad comedy (Dodgeball), satire ("The Larry Sanders Show"), or drama (last year's incredible Forty Shades of Blue); the man can do it all.

Re: Walt's comments on the Golden Globes

Yeah, Brokeback Mountain will garner all the awards, but the following question pops to mind: will it have staying power? I'm reminded of the film Philadelphia, which also seemed "important" at the time, but barely comes up in conversation anymore. Watching it today, divorced from the zeitgeist that spawned it, it's just a by-the-numbers, flatly directed courtroom drama, no better or worse than an average TV movie. Will Brokeback Mountain become similarly irrelevant 5 or 10 years hence?

Jefferson said...

Do "important" films recognized as such at the time really become unimportant? Or do they change/influence the environment they're born into so that their own importance becomes a given, and therefore part of the wallpaper?

Anonymous said...

Re: Rip Torn

And don't forget Beastmaster

Nate said...

what do you all like/hate about James Cameron's Titanic?

I never miss an opportunity to defend Titanic. I love it, always have, though it has lost some of its sparkle in the eight years since its theatrical run. What most people seem to hate about it (the "fake" love story minimizes the tragedy of the sinking ship) is exactly why I love it - I can relate to the characters (while acknowledging that they are archetypes), and their plight puts faces on the people who died there. Some screenwriting problems, as everyone knows, and the acting from DiCaprio and Bill Paxton is pretty cheesy at times, but structurally and visually the thing is dead brilliant, and it's probably the shortest-seeming 3.25-hour film I've seen.

I think all of Cameron's work holds up beautifully, with the possible exception of the blatantly-racist (but no less entertaining) True Lies. He is a Republican, after all.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Saw "Hybrid". Great doc. Wish it was on dvd.

Rich said...

Hrm, never considered racism in True Lies. Could you elaborate, Nate? I thought that while the terrorists are portrayed as evil and unsympathetic, this was not a race statement as much as something in keeping with the film's caricature-like portrayal of traditional good guys/bad guys. Love to hear another view, though.

Bill C said...

My problem with True Lies actually lies in the mistreatment of the Jamie Lee Curtis character, which frankly startled me after Cameron showed so much sensitivity to women in Aliens, The Abyss, and T2. And her every humiliation is played for laughs.

Raphael said...

Hi
Long time reader and fan of FFC.you´re one of the few bastions of thoughtfull and smart movie criticism in the internet.So thanks for 3 years of meaningful insights even if i might not always agree,your reviews are always a deeply fascinating read.
My two cents on Cameron´s Titanic:
it´s been said a thousand times before but i love how the movies harkens back to silent melodramas.
I agree with Nate about the characters being archetypes but i think the our protagonists somehow overcome their stereotyped gender and social roles and become endearingly courageous and romantic human beings.they´re children in a coming of age movie about the end of a world and an era.As Maryann Johanson puts it in of her texts about the movie,this is also a movie about the loss of inocence of the still young and naive twentieth century.Dont get me wrong,i wouldnt look to Titanic for factual history (the only real problem i have with movie is the portrayal of 1st officer Murdoch who in real life did everything in his power to warn people of the oncoming disaster and was impotent to get the life boats filled to their maximum capacity.)but as a faithful portrayal of class strugles and as every other Cameron movie a dire warning for the irresponssable misuse of technology with catastrophics results.It´s not that Cameron has a Luditte view of technologuy,since he obviously fetishizes it,but he´s conscious that technology is a Femme Fatale that can obvioulsy lead to doom.Wether it´s a shiny skeletal steel arm,a sunken submarine or a terraformed planet,technology in Cameron is always alluring and beautiful but ultimately deadly mainly due to the foolishness of men(So is Jessica Biel beautifully shot in Dark Angeland then she tries to act and the all thing falls apart.).
I dare say that Titanic is the most visually stunning experience i had in a movie theater and also one of the most romantically touching movies My two cents on Cameron´s Titanic:
it´s been said a thousand times before but i love how the movies harkens back to silent melodramas.
I agree with Nate about the characters being archetypes but i think the our protagonists somehow overcome their stereotyped gender and social roles and become endearingly courageous and romantic human beings.they´re children in a coming of age movie about the end of a world and an era.As Maryann Johanson puts it in of her texts about the movie,this is also a movie about the loss of inocence of the still young and naive twentieth century.Dont get me wrong,i wouldnt look to Titanic for factual history (the only real problem i have with movie is the portrayal of 1st officer Murdoch who in real life did everything in his power to warn people of the oncoming disaster and was impotent to get the life boats filled to their maximum capacity.)but as a faithful portrayal of class strugles and as every other Cameron movie a dire warning for the irresponssable misuse of technology with catastrophics results.It´s not that Cameron has a Luditte view of technologuy,since he obviously fetishizes it,but he´s conscious that technology is a Femme Fatale that can obvioulsy lead to doom.Wether it´s a shiny skeletal steel arm,a sunken submarine or a terraformed planet,technology in Cameron is always alluring and beautiful but ultimately deadly mainly due to the foolishness of men(So is Jessica Biel beautifully shot in Dark Angeland then she tries to act and the all thing falls apart.).
I dare say that Titanic is the most visually stunning experience i had in a movie theater and also one of the most romantically touching movies i have had the pleasure to fall in love with.
As for True Lies,i kinda agree with the laughs at the expenses of Jamie Lee Curtis character but at least she comes into her own at the end of the movie with that hilarious catfight with Tia Carrera.and you gotta admire the chutzpah of setting an impossibly romantic moment against the backdrop of a nuclear explosion.It would be kinda funny if it wasnt so foreboding of real events to come...

Nate said...

Rich-

As I see it, the racism comes in the form of the sheer incompetence of the terrorists. The scene, for instance, when the Middle Eastern guys blow themselves away with their own RPG because they don't know which direction to point it is pretty unbelievable. The lead baddie is droolingly over-the-top as well, particularly in his suicidal insistence on killing Schwarzenegger's kid in the final action sequence. It feels really one-sided, which is fine in action films where the bad guys are more theoretical and less specific than they are here.

Bill-

I never read it as misogynistic because Curtis's character is, in the end, elevated to her husband's status as World-Class Spy. Sure, he puts her through the ringer, but I thought that said more about his character than Cameron's attitude towards her (or housewifes in general, however you want to read it). Also, I find the interrogation scene, in which Curtis breaks down, really moving - Schwarzenegger looks like a complete asshole, and Curtis is clearly the victim.

Chad Evan said...

I don't know what it is, but I've always found Jamie Lee's strip tease in True Lies incredibly sexy.

Rich said...

Chad:
I like the scene just before that strip-tease where she's fixing herself up in the mirror. It's sexy in a voyeuristic way, but also strikes me as kind of pathetic and sad somehow.

Bill:
I agree with you about Jamie Lee Curtis character. She gets to be a spy with her husband in the end, but we never really get to see Arnold taken to task for lying to and manipulating her (the interrogation scene and the forced strip-tease in particular seem pretty cruel and demeaning to me).

Nate:
Yeah, the terrorists are shown as ridiculously incompetent and bloodthirsty but some stuff is done at the expense of Americans, too. I'm thinking of Bill Paxton's character mainly, but also a bit of Arnold's treatment of his wife could be seen as comment on and satire of American life. I do wonder whether some things like the over-the-top terrorist leader chasing the girl in that final action scene are being used for visceral excitement or tongue-in-cheek humour, especially when Arnie flies up in a fighter jet and sweeps her away then fires the terrorist-missile into a helicopter. I take it as some kind of American male macho gun-love wet-dream with the terrorist character taken to an extreme stereotypical caricature straining credibility.

niash said...

your review of movies is pathetic and sad. there is nothing wrong with most of the movies listed.