Daily Archives: February 11, 2008

Mickey Rourke is so awesome in this.

5. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)

My mom is a big Mickey Rourke fan, I don’t really understood why, he’s just some greasy looking dirtbag who has been washed up since like 1987. He tried boxing or something then he played like a transvestite in Sin City. He was pretty good in Year of the Dragon, but really I don’t get what my mom sees in him. Isn’t he just a poor man’s Tom Sizemore? But nonetheless my mom swoons when she hears his name.

A few years ago I went through a brief infatuation with the film Ghost World. I tend to like movies with alienated loners, and this one fit the bill. Plus it had Steve Buscemi and a guy with a mullet. Now as a general rule joking about mullets is criminally passe at this point. But back in 2001, it was still somewhat relevant. That fact combined with the mullet guy being a total non-sequitur in the film make it completely acceptable and even today I believe it still holds up. The other thing this movie has is Matt Doherty. You probably don’t know who Matt Doherty is, so let me explain.

D2: The Mighty Ducks is my favorite guilty pleasure movie. It has Iceland as a world hockey power, a team from Trinidad & Tobago (that happens to wear tie-dye uniforms, and who celebrate a goal by playing steel drums), Kenny Wu (an Olympic figure skater turned hockey star), The Bash Brothers (who rock out to “Takin’ Care of Business”), Team USA learning about the spirit of hockey in a Los Angeles ghetto, The “knuckle-puck”, hockey being relevant in the US, an evil coach named Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson, Gordon Bombay learning about the dangers of selling out to corporate America, and the list goes on and on. It also has Matt Doherty as the wise cracking Lester Averman, always bringing the funny with lines like “They’re bigger! They’re stronger! They’re faster! They’ve got more facial hair!” in regards to Team Iceland.

Matt Doherty only appears briefly in “Ghost World”, as a clueless employee in a video store(which looks suspicially like Blockbuster). A customer can be seen asking the clerk if they have the film “8 1/2“. We cut to Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson walking the aisles, and here’s Lester Averman’s time to shine: “Hello, how are you young ladies this afternoon, can I help you find a particular masterpiece movie?”. Averman is money in the bank. Cut back to the customer and the clerk. The clerk informs the customer that they do indeed have the film: “‘9 1/2 Weeks‘ with Mickey Rourke, you’ll find that in the Erotic Drama section”. The displeased customer informs him that he is looking for “8 1/2” the Fellini film. The clerk looks confused. End Scene. You can actually view the scene here.

As a rule any film that can be described as an “erotic drama” is probably terrible. Not having seen “9 1/2 Weeks” I can’t say for sure if it’s crappy or not. But it does have Mickey Rourke, and to me that’s not really a good thing. I am sure my mom liked it though.

On filmaffinity.com I gave 8 1/2, 8/10. It’s inconsistent and meandering(like all Fellini) but has some great scenes in it. Plus Marcello Mastroianni(father of Pat) is a fine piece of man-candy.

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I broke through the space-time continuum and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Ranking Kubrick:

  1. Paths of Glory
  2. Spartacus
  3. The Killing
  4. Barry Lyndon
  5. Dr. Strangelove
  6. Clockwork Orange
  7. Full Metal Jacket
  8. The Shining
  9. 2001: A Space Odyssey

I think my rankings reveal my love of Kirk Douglas and Timothy Carey, and my general indifference to Science Fiction and Jack Nicholson.

I think it’s best to talk about this film in terms of pro wrestling. Wrestling is about storytelling, namely the battle between good and evil, the babyface vs the heel. A great feud typically involves the prolonged antagonism of the face by the heel. Famous examples include Savage v. Steamboat circa 1987, Hart v. Michaels circa 1997, Austin v. McMahon circa 1998-2000. The fans boo the heel because he is a jerk, and cheer the face because he is being done wrong by the heel. Think of Dr. David Bowman as the face, and HAL as the heel.

Bowman is simply a man on a mission in space, by all accounts a regular guy. HAL in this case was once a face but has turned heel, also known as a heel turn. HAL starts out as a good guy, but soon feels betrayed when Bowman begins to question HAL’s judgment. HAL does a great heel turn by killing off Bowman’s shipmates. The wrestling equivalent is typically the injury angle, where the heel injures the face intentionally. A personal favorite is Randy Savage shattering Ricky Steamboat’s larynx with a ring-bell. The function of this kind of angle is that it establishes the heel as bloodthirsty and unstoppable while causing the audience to sympathize with the injured face. The heel continues a reign of terror until the face comes back to face his enemy.

In the case of “Space Odyssey”, because HAL’s heel turn leaves people dead, another face must come to the rescue. Because wrestling feuds seldom end up with the murder of their participants, there is no direct parallel to HAL’s actions. But the famed Shawn Michaels concussion angle of 1995 gives us something to compare it with. Owen Hart was wrestling Shawn Michaels on a standard televised match when midway through the match, Hart nailed Michaels with an enziguri kick to the back of the head, a move which typically stuns the opponent. In this case Michaels recovered normally and proceeded to throw Hart outside of the ring. It was here that the unthinkable happened: Michaels collapsed and had to be stretchered out. Michaels was diagnosed with a severe concussion which put him out of action for several months, during which time Hart began to gloat about his deeds. Because Michaels was incapacitated it was up to his close friend, partner and former bodyguard “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel to save the day. He wrestled Hart on pay-per-view in December of 1995 and demolished Hart with multiple jack-knife powerbombs, thereby gaining a measure of retribution for his friend.

Bowman is cast as the face because he must avenge his shipmates deaths and ensure his own survival. We sympathize with his plight because we are human. HAL is cast as the heel because he is cold, methodical, and vicious. We don’t sympathize with him because he is a machine. Bowman is the clean-cut babyface, a la Ricky Steamboat, and HAL is the gruff, egotistical, evil heel, a la Randy Savage. HAL has proven he will stop at nothing to get what he wants, he looks unstoppable, he has the power to kill, and he’s smart too. Bowman looks over-matched, he’s got to use every ounce of his intelligence to stop HAL, otherwise it’s over. It’s a great build if I have ever seen one.

Using Steamboat v. Savage as the template, we will find that Savage injured Steamboat by crushing his larynx. Steamboat is out for months and it’s doubtful he will ever speak again, let alone wrestle. Savage in the meantime gloats and continues to dominate. Steamboat has something that Savage doesn’t expect, Steamboat has heart, and through months of rehab he builds himself back up to 100%. The grudge match is set for Wrestlemania III, where 93,173 screaming fans come to see Steamboat v. Savage in a match for the ages. Steamboat goes toe to toe for 15 minutes with Savage and he wins. Great match, Savage is defeated but it takes Steamboat everything he has to win. Good triumphs over evil, but it’s not easy. That’s how you do wrestling, that’s how you do drama.

Compare that with “Space Odyssey”, Bowman realizes he is in danger and starts to plan how he will defeat HAL. So what happens? Bowman enters HAL’s “Logic Memory Center” pulls out a couple tapes, and HAL is down for the count. It takes all of 30 seconds. It’s the film equivalent of Steamboat pinning Savage with a snap mare 5 seconds into the match.

To quote Peggy Lee “is that all there is?”. Does anyone even know who Peggy Lee is? The whole thing is so underwhelming considering how good the build is. And then Bowman goes on a 20 minute acid flashback. What the hell?

So we have chimpanzees, a great wrestling build, a weak payoff, and then an acid flashback. That doesn’t sound like a great movie to me.

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film a 6/10, initially I gave it a 4, but in retrospect the film had a good section in it, it’s just the ending that killed me. To paraphrase Raven, a bad ending kills a good match.

You Can Never Leave The Game.

3. The Rules of The Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)

This is one of those films that I don’t really understand it’s greatness. If you asked me why it’s number 3 all-time, I couldn’t tell you. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just that I didn’t really get it. Basically a bunch of rich people fuck around and some servants and working class folk get involved and then a guy gets shot. It has some screwball elements but never goes fully in that direction and there is an underlying kind of ugliness amongst every character so it was unsettling in some ways. I guess as a viewer I didn’t know how to respond. Was I supposed to laugh, cry, sympathize, or be disgusted? Stupid Euros and their assuming the audience can think.

This is yet another film I think I would need to re-watch to really appreciate. I have now seen 4 of Renoir’s films and looking back I can see how this film fits nicely in with his stylistic and thematic tendencies, namely the relations between the classes and the leisurely pace of everything. It’s one of those films I think where there is a lot more going on than appears at first glance, and given its healthy reputation I expect that I will watch it again and again until I figure it out.

On filmaffinity.com I rated it a 7/10 primarily because it was enjoyable, but didn’t engage me like I hoped it would.

Vertigo is not a color in the rainbow.

2. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

So when I was little, like 7 or 8, I would always get vertigo mixed up with indigo when going through the colors of the rainbow. Even now the two are inseparable in my mind but I seldom get the opportunity to use either word so it really hasn’t affected my life too much.

Anyway, as it stands now I have 12 Hitchcock films under my belt(with more on the way thanks to the swank 4 disc collection of his British films I just got a Wal-Mart for 5 bucks. 5 Bucks!), and Vertigo is the only one I haven’t liked. The whole plot is just so contrived and the first hour is a total waste of time. Sure Jimmy Stewart is awesome and Kim Novak is ballin’, but neither one really was enough for me to like the film.

It seems that Hitchcock is trying to channel Otto Preminger’s “Laura” (Gene Tierney rules the world) through Stewart’s obsession Novak and with Novak’s long dead look-a-like relative(a ghost perhaps). Stewart’s character is hire by an old college pal to trail his wife(Novak) because he fears she is crazy. But in reality the husband is a dick who wants Novak out of the picture. Given where the film ends up, the whole obsession/crazy/ghost thing is so convoluted, kind of like the ending to “Anger Management” when everything is revealed as a big set-up to trick Adam Sandler into being assertive. Yes I just compared a Hitchcock film to a Sandler film. Why would someone go to all the trouble of trying to convince a person that some girl was crazy/demon possessed/or a ghost, and then faking her death, and then giving her a secret identity as a means to get away with murder. What about a hitman, or a divorce?

That being said it might be one of those films that upon re-watching I would enjoy more simply because I would know where it was going and I would notice the details and appreciate the twists. Kind of like a “Usual Suspects” vibe.

At least it has a bitchin’ poster.

On filmaffinity.com I rated this film a 7/10(more out of peer pressure than anything else, but I am leaning towards a tentative 6 with an eye towards a second viewing).

Hello New World.

1. Citizen Kane (1939, Orson Welles)

I first saw this film about 5 years ago in an intro film class I took at Mount Royal College. My response then was that I liked all the Simpsons references. I mean I could appreciate the technical qualities and all but I didn’t really get the hype so to speak. I did write a paper on it though, charmingly titled “Xanadu, There Were Monkeys There.” I think it got a B+.

Before re-watching the film last week, I was going to write that it may be a great film and all, but I don’t know anyone that actually likes it. But upon re-watching it with I guess more experience and my recently developed appreciation for classic Hollywood and Joseph Cotten, I genuinely dug the shit out of it.

The use of “Rosebud” is so simple but so ingenious. Everything that happens in the film can be traced back to an innocuous object that gets about a minute of screen time. But at the same time everything feels very natural in that the search for “Rosebud” isn’t really the focus of the story, but rather the means by which the story can be told. It’s just so well done, and I think that’s the greatness of the film. Visually the movie is great with tremendous set design, and great camera work, but it’s the restraint that Welles shows in keeping “Rosebud” in the background of the film that stands as his greatest accomplishment.

Plus it has those Simpsons references. I read a quote once from Matt Groening that pointed out that you could probably re-make Citizen Kane entirely using clips from “The Simpsons“.

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film a 9/10, meaning that it’s eminently re-watchable and grabbed me on an emotional level(which generally means I was talking to the tv, saying stuff like “that shit is tight” or leaves me feeling gangsta). I try and save 10’s for stuff that makes me wistful, contemplative, makes me cry or makes me wish I was in the film. Yes I am girly like that.