Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hopscotch (1980)

dir. Ronald Neame

After numerous debates with friends in recent years I came to the conclusion that Tuesday is the worst day of the week. Mentally, we prepare ourselves for the shittiness of Mondays, and this day never ends up being as bad as we may imagine it will be. We've resigned ourselves to the awfulness of this day. Wednesday's in the middle. We've already got half the week finished. With Thursday, we're almost there. So much possibilty exists on a Thursday. Tuesday, on the other hand, just sits there like a big dead weight. Being in the middle of the week, Tuesday lulls us into a false sense of security. We may think we're on our way, but we've barely got one day completed and a bunch more waiting for us. There's nothing you can do about a Tuesday.

What these sorts of worst day discussions invariably took for granted, of course, was the self-evident awesomeness of weekends. I learned as a child, however, to be more ambivalent about these supposedly blissful few days. As a young'un, weekends always represented a mixed-bag for me. Although I was eager as hell to be away from school, I dreaded the fact that Saturday was cleaning day and Sunday was church day. Although most other kids my age were able to veg out and watch cartoons on Saturdays, my siblings and I had to do chores. We could watch TV and play with our friends after the chores, but because we dragged our feet, half the day would be over before fun time came around. Sure we had the rest of the day to ourselves, but there was always church to dread the next day. (Damn, wasn't I a morose little fucker.)

It was in this state of mind that I usually spent the rest of Saturday watching whichever edited movies were being show on afternoon TV. It was a great way to escape for a few hours. These movies were generally inoffensive variations of background noise. They weren't anything to get heavily invested in, just a way to look at a glowing box for a few hours and forget about life's obligations. Watching Ronald Neame's spy comedy Hopscotch recently, I was brought back to those lazy Saturdays. Although not a masterpiece, Neame's film is a pleasant way to kill a few hours.

Walter Matthau stars as disgruntled CIA agent Miles Kendig, a man being ousted by his hard-ass, by-the-books superior Myerson (Ned Beatty). The resourceful Kendig has an ace up his sleeve, however. He doesn't have a plan to get back in commission, mind you, just a way to fuck with his former superiors. He begins writing his CIA-secret-divulging memoirs, sending the agency a chapter at a time. The enraged Myerson uses all the power at his disposal to hunt the elusive Kendig across the globe. Although Myerson continually speaks of killing this rogue agent, we know that Kendig will always outsmart him. The stakes are low.

Although officially a comedy, Hopscotch is not crammed with gut-busting moments. We are amused, of course, at Kendig's increasingly clever antics and the joie de vivre he brings to tormenting his former boss, but these delightful moments never produce anything more than a smile. Hopscotch is a delightfully breezy, smart, inoffensive, purposefully measured paced film, the likes of which are woefully few and far between in today's steroid/ADD addled movie market. Hopscotch is pleasant like a motherfucker.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Movies That Could Not Exist Today: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

dir. Robert Aldrich

The Plot: Bette Davis stars as aged, former child star diva Baby Jane Hudson. Hers is a star that burned bright and faded quick. Much to her chagrin it is her plain sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) who becomes a movie star as they reach their twenties. No matter, Blanche goes and gets herself paralyzed when a mysterious car accident crushes her. (How could that have happened?) Blanche is now forced to spend the rest of her days being tended to by her increasingly crazy, deluded sister Jane. The two spend their days hermitized in their decaying mansion. Jane further detaches from reality. Blanche, realizing that her sister has passed the sanity threshold, spends the rest of the film figuring out how to escape the unhinged psycho.

Why this movie could not exist today: Remember the halcyon days of yore when past-their-prime celebrities vanished from public view, never to be mentioned again until their eventual obits appeared in the newspaper? Not anymore. Today's media world is far too conducive to former stars who refuse to remove themselves from the spotlight. Today, both Jane and Blanche's every concern about the other sister would be broadcast on twitter. Jane would plaster herself all over facebook and her blog (because only douchebags have blogs). Whereas in this film, Jane has to sequester herself in her mansion to live in the bubble, nowadays, she could over-expose herself. In a self-feeding celebutainment obsessed news media loop, the constant coverage of her increasingly insane antics would feed her delusion that she is still relevant, resulting in more insane antics. The community at large would enable her, watching every reality show she takes part in: Celebrity Rehab, Celebrity Fit Club, Baby Love (her looking for love reality show), Baby Loves Baio (her reality show chronicling her new marriage), So You Want to Divorce a Movie Star, and finally I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of This Coffin!.

All that psychotic murderousness stuff in the film? Yeah, that's definitely still plausible.

[The awesome trailer:]

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

dir. George Mihalka

Being rabid movie and general pop-culture geeks, my writing partner and I will occasionally engage in movie what-if conversations—discussions examining the untold consequences of various movie scenarios and other unexamined yet logical avenues that familiar scenarios could travel. Not only is it a fun way to pass the time but it also fuels our creativity. After examining as many genre movies as we have, we are so versed in the character types, plot-intricacies, clichés, stylistic flourishes, narrative arcs, and various other film minutiae that we could probably construct entire encyclopedias on the subject just from memory. This shit has invaded our subconscious. Consequently, when developing stories, outlines, characters, and such; our biggest goal is to show what hasn’t been shown, or at the very least, show familiar things in a novel way. Most of our planning stages involve these seemingly pointless what-if conversations. In a nutshell, we examine what has worked, what techniques we’re tired of, and what filmic things we’ve always wanted to see. [Hollywood, our immense talent is available.]

Of course, we also engage in other slightly less productive (i.e. masturbatory) sorts of geek conversations. One of my favorite time-wasters is the time-travel discussion. This isn’t to say that we discuss movie time-travel scenarios, but rather examine the periods in which we would most love to write. My absolute, A-1, top-of-the-heap choice would be to travel back to the fifties and pen a ridiculous number of films for Roger Corman. I’ve given the matter a lot of thought and this situation would, by far, keep me the happiest. Not only do I dig the works of Corman (and AIP), but I admire the pace at which he churned out (and apparently still churns out) the work. It would be a crash course in film-making. The key word for Corman was and is turn-over. This kind of schedule would enable my desire to work at a Paul Erdos-ish pace, writing scripts 24/7. To top it off, I really dig writing in the style of the fifties AIP pictures. My writing partner and I could freely, gleefully engage in the sorts of genre clichés that we now work so hard to avoid. It would be a glorious time.

Of course, I have many other time-travel choices. While watching George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine, one of my other choices moved up on the list—traveling back to the late seventies/early eighties and writing a bunch of slasher films. [Side note: At the risk of being pilloried by my horror-fan brethren and sisteren (fuck you spell check, it’s a word now), I will admit that I had not seen My Bloody Valentine until this week. (Incidentally, this is a double-shame in that I am also quite a fan of the band My Bloody Valentine, this film's namesake.)]

Because the majority of slasher films are interchangeable, watching one I had not seen previously is still like eating comfort food. My Bloody Valentine abounds in slasher film clichés. We’ve got the evil killer mythology involving a national holiday—Harry Warden was a miner whose coworkers’ negligence twenty years prior, resulting in a mine explosion on Valentine’s Day, left him a psychotic, murderous shell of a man. We’ve got the crazy old-timer warning the dismissive young’uns of the killer’s past shenanigans—the bartender Hap, a man who clearly holds nothing but contempt for the young folks in this town paradoxically goes at great lengths to warn the ingrates that, should they hold a Valentine’s Day party, Warden will fucking kill them. We have the unnecessarily elaborate murder and corpse-presentation scenarios—the sheriff discovers the corpse of a Laundromat owner, killed the day before, tumbling in a still-operating dryer. [Aside from an unquenchable blood-lust, this killer, apparently, has enough quarters to make Billy Mitchell's mouth water.] We’ve got the young, horny kids disobeying town ordinances and engaging in willfully risky behavior—despite the sheriff’s ban on Valentine’s Day parties (what a bummer), the kids go ahead and throw a shindig at the mine, the site of Harry Warden’s demise. [SPOILER ALERT] Finally, we have the final plot twist and sequel-ready open-ending—the real killer, Axel, escapes, sans arm, to continue killing. [END SPOILER ALERT]

All that being said, My Bloody Valentine does veer somewhat from many of the slasher film clichés. Whereas in the other pictures the film’s only virginal female is the final girl to survive the massacre, here the female heroine divides her time banging two different dudes. Talk about a progressive slasher movie.

Another less obvious variance is My Bloody Valentine’s locale. Although most other slasher films are set in summer camps or affluent suburbs, Mihalka’s film takes place among the working class denizens of a depressed mining town. It’s always nice when one of these films recognizes that poor and working class folks actually exist. Not that refusal to acknowledge poor folks is a problem exclusive to eighties slasher films. Hollywood has a long history of ignorance, or just straight don’t-give-a-shit-ness, when it comes to depiction of those furthest removed from the ruling circles and privileged elite. My Bloody Valentine is a welcome departure. All that being said, it’s probably still more fun to watch those slasher movies that off spoiled, affluent, self-centered teens.

As I continue to fill holes in my movie knowledge it is nice when I come across a movie I wish I had seen many years prior. Fortunately, I probably still have many more surprises waiting for me down the road. To my long list of movies I wish could watch again for the first time, I can now add My Bloody Valentine.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gran Torino (2008)

dir. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is one of those few director/actors that I will always give a shot. Although I will always prefer his sixties and seventies films, I love the fuck out of the fact that he continues to make quality movies at his advanced age. Luis Bunuel, Akira Kurosawa, and John Huston are some of the only other filmmakers to pull off such a feat. Most other older filmmakers just give up. "Direct yourselves, I don't care. Where's my paycheck?" It is obvious that Clint, however, continues to put a great deal of care into everything he makes. Of course, Eastwood could film two hours of himself taking a dump and I'd probably still watch it.

Clint has stated that Gran Torino would be his final outing in front of the camera. I hope he sticks to his word because I can't think of a more fitting swan song. Gran Torino has a deliciously simple revenge picture premise. Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is an ornery, racist, Korean War vet, whose wife has just died, and whose children he has cut off from emotionally. Dismayed that his economically ravaged town has become home to a large Hmong community, Kowalski has cut himself off from the neighborhood. He spends his time sitting on his porch, drinking PBR, and growling.

Kowalski has no choice but to intervene, however, when a Hmong gang roughs up the gang-leader's cousin Thao (Bee Vang) on Kowalski's front yard. Gun in hand, Kowalski orders the thugs off his lawn. After a series of events, Kowalski's heart softens and he schools his new protege Thao in the ways of not being a pussy. When the Hmong gang takes things too far, Kowlaski struggles with a way to respond to these gang members. Gran Torino climaxes in a welcome unconventional manner, suited to Clint's advanced age.

Clint imbues his revenge picture with a properly elegiac tone. He is the only person who could have pulled off such a role. Indeed, some of Walt's actions are downright ludicrous for a man his age. Clint brings such a loaded presence, however, that our knowledge of his mystique allows us to suspend disbelief. This is Clint; I don't care what he does.

It is amazing to me that most critics, even though they generally have disdain for this genre, fell over themselves in praise of Eastwood's film. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the fuck out of this picture, but I've got a soft spot for these movies. I'm not deluding myself that it's anything other than a well-executed B-movie.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Over the Top (1987)

dir. Menahem Golan

Although few people may remember, director Menahem Golan's Over the Top was a film hailing from star Sylvester Stallone's avant garde, experimental stage. This film was an exercise in audience frustration. Golan wanted to see what would result when a group of charisma-free characters ambled through a comatose narrative on their way toward an anti-sport competition climax. Indeed, the poster is more entertaining than anything that happens in the film. To truly prove his outsider credentials, Golan directed all of the members of the cast and crew as they took turns defecating on the film negative.

If you ever had any doubts that a movie about arm wrestling could be entertaining, then you would have had well-founded doubts.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Daybreakers (2009)

dir. Michael and Peter Spierig

Because it is so rare nowadays to watch a new horror movie I thoroughly enjoy, when I come across a competent example of the genre I am overjoyed. Yes, I've soured slightly on scare movies in the past few years. Although I used to be a horror fanatic, I find it hard it hard to work up any kind of enthusiasm for these films anymore. Watching vampire movies, in particular, proves an especially daunting task. I'll admit straightaway that I've never been fond of this horror subset. That whole goth, "we're like dark, brooding, sexy, intellectual monsters," shtick just don't do it for me. That being said, my favorite horror movie of the past decade is a vampire flick. Considering that we can't get a horror movie anymore what ain't got fanged-up heroes or villains, I guess it's inevitable I occasionally come across one that I enjoy. So many are out there, it's inevitable some of them will be quality pictures.

And so it was with great trepidation that I watched the Spierig brothers' recent vampire film Daybreakers. Lo and behold, I actually kind of dug the flick. Daybreakers has a few things I quite enjoy in horror flicks: clever scenario, topical story, and suspenseful action. Most importantly, of course, it's an efficient motherfucker. It's nice in this age of overblown, overlong horror and action films, when filmmakers have the good sense and good taste to reel it in. Anyone who can knock out a story at around the hour and a half mark is a mensch in my book. The Spierig's rightly realized that to make a movie of this sort longer than 100 minutes would just be overkill.

In Daybreakers' world of the future (2019) vampires have so thoroughly overtaken the world, that human blood, like fossil fuels, has become quite a sought after commodity. Although some would like to believe that blood is a renewable source of food, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) knows better. Dalton works for a human blood farm corporation. As much as he despises his unethical line of work, he justifies his actions in that he is working on a blood substitute and possible cure for vampirism in an attempt to wean the population of its blood addiction. Familiar much?

Dalton's work is especially important because a lack of human blood has been shown to cause vampires to transform into evil beasties. Yes, a hierarchy exists even in the vampire world. In an effort to speed up his work, Dalton soon joins forces with a ragtag group of humans that includes the former vampire Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac (Willem 'motherfucking' Dafoe). Dalton hopes to learn from Lionel's experience in his quest to find a cure for vampirism. This group is pursued by the military, Dalton's former corporation, and the evil vampire beasties.

Although I would have ranked Daybreakers much higher, it is marred by one ridiculously retarded plot element, which I refuse to elaborate on here, not so much from fear of giving away a spoiler, but because thinking about it makes me really angry. Instead of being a great film, Daybreakers is merely an entertaining flick. In today's world of horror movies, of course, it's a stunning success.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Movies That Could Not Exist Today: Red Dawn (1984)

dir. John Milius

The Plot: Taking place in the near future, John Milius' thoroughly awesome/ridiculously insane cold war right-wing paranoia masturbation fantasy has Cuban (and Russian) troops invading America through the most logical and direct way possible—parachuting into Colorado. These commies thought they had everything figured out. They did. They just forgot about one thing—Patrick motherfuckin' Swayze. He and a rag tag group of good ol' wholesome whitebread American teens (including Charlie Sheen and C. Thomas Howell) band together and give them reds but what for.

Why this movie could not exist today: Who are we kidding? This scenario couldn't even have happened when the movie was released.

[Side Note: Apparently a remake is in the works. Wow.]

[Second side note: WOLVERINES!!!]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Awesome Movie Trailers: Black Swan (2010)

dir. Darren Aronofsky

Although I don't always love every one of his movies (I'm looking at you, The Fountain) I will check out whatever Darren Aronofsky films. Despite any of the faults that any of his movies might have, one thing they are not is uninteresting. And so it appears that Aronofsky's ambitious film streak will continue with the upcoming Black Swan. Yet another trailer I can't stop watching.

[The trailer:]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Slap Shot (1977)

dir. George Roy Hill

I'm about as ill-suited for sports as they come. I've got flat-feet, a lack of hand-eye coordination, and the attention span of a...hey is that a dog chasing a butterfly out there? Until they invent a sport that requires a lack of concentration, stamina, and athleticism, I'll stick to writing. Not that I never gave sports a try. Because I loved playing baseball with my friends as a youngun, I decided to listen to my dad's suggestion and join a little league team. (Seeing as I had aspirations of becoming an artist at an early age, I'm sure my dad suggested little league as a form of anti-gay insurance.)

Little did I realize before joining little league, unlike the games I played with my friends, in these games we would actually have to care about things like keeping track of scores and trying to win. Bullshit. Why'd they have to take all the joy out of it? Sports ain't no fun when you gotta make them all competitive and stuff. (Wasn't I the little hippie.) I much preferred our usual routine of playing until we got bored, at which point we climbed trees and jumped from high branches.

But alas I was stuck playing organized sports. Luckily for me, our team was anything but conventional. Whereas all the other teams in the league had actual major league sports names (The Yankees, The Tigers, etc...), we were given the choice to name our own team. It must have given our rivals a false sense of security when they came to do battle with us, The Simpsons. Obviously we couldn't have taken the game too seriously if we named ourselves after a new fad of a prime-time cartoon about a yellow family with an ill-mannered son.

Seeing me play would have really convinced them that it'd be a cinch to beat us. Although it may have appeared to some that my lack of motivation on the field was a way of rebelling for having to play on an organized sports team, I was actually just bored as hell. My preferred game tactic when stuck deep in the outfield was to daydream while gazing into the distance. It was only when my coach yelled for me to come back to the bench that I would realize an inning was over.

After a long wait, it finally came—the last game of the season. This was a day I had been anticipating for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn't wait for it to be over. Because I never paid attention during warm-ups or pep talks, it didn't occur to me until the final game that it was actually a championship game. Apparently we had been in first place the entire season. Thinking back I remembered, 'Oh yeah, that's right. We never lost a game. Well, I'll be damned.'

With the championship game, came our coach's obligatory 'go out and get 'em' speech. After motivating the hell out of us, he asked The Simpsons, "Alright, who's gonna win this one?" To which my teammates dutifully replied variations of, "We will. We're gonna clober them. They're dead meat." Thinking logically on it, I replied, "I don't know. Didn't the Cardinals give us trouble the last time? I don't know. It's hard to say. I think they could win this one." My coach put his hand to his forehead, which he defeatedly shook, and dispiritedly waved me away. "Just go out there. Just do whatever."

It was no secret that I was the dead weight on the team. Everyone else was so good, though, that my coach could put me in games without fear that I'd cost us a win. Still, it must have worried him to put me in this game. Up until this point, I never got a hit. My preferred strategy was to stand at the plate and wait for the pitcher to throw enough strikes my way so I could go back to the bench where I wouldn't have to worry about things like running around bases. Occasionally, I got walked, but my on-base percentage never reflected any effort on my part. Until this game. Yes, after all those hit-less innings, I finally got a single in this crucial game. We won the game and the championship. I should note, of course, that my hit had nothing to do with our win. We annihilated the other team so thoroughly that I recall we ended it early with the mercy rule. Still, I ended up getting an award for most improved player. Suck it, haters.

I have often traced my love of sports movies to this, my one and only dalliance with organized sports. [Side note: I was on the track team for about a week and a half in high school, but that's not a real sport. That's just trying to be the best at exercising.] Although some may view my little league experience as the quintessential scrappy, underdog, disneyfied sports movie experience; I have always seen it slightly differently. It was during my time with The Simpsons that I realized how unfair life could be. Some people, like many of the motivated players on the other teams, could work their asses off, giving it all they had and still get robbed of crucial wins and championships; whereas I, a person who contributed nothing and did not even care about winning, could still ride on the coattails of other talented players and win it all. Although we like to delude ourselves into believing that we live in a meritocracy, the truth is closer to my baseball experience.

Hence, although I dig sports movies, I have a particular affinity for those unconventional, sometimes downer, films that were so prevalent in the seventies. And few are as unconventional as the hilarious Slap Shot. (How long did you think I could go before mentioning the movie I was reviewing?) Although I have seen this movie many times, it was only after my most recent viewing that I realized, if it weren't for all the spot-on humor, this would be one depressing film.

Paul Newman (in perhaps his best role) stars as Reg Dunlop, the aging, past-his-prime, player and coach for The Chiefs, a second-rate hockey team in an economically depressed, rust-belt town. The Chiefs have been a losing team for far too long and have quite an attendance problem. The townsfolk, of course, have bigger concerns than a hockey team. The factory, this town's largest employer, is set to close, putting most everyone out of a job. Reg, realizing that straight hockey ain't gonna put asses in the seats, decides to make it a circus freak-show, turning every game into a bloodbath. Reg and the team's ultimate goal isn't the glory of winning, it's the hope of getting enough press to be traded to a nicer city in Florida.

Although it pains the team's sole idealist Ned Braden (Michael Ontkean), the Chiefs' rule-breaking style of play earns them a winning streak. Although Ned would like to play "real hockey", Reg puts his lot with the Hansons, a Neanderthalish bunch who want nothing more to bash their opponents to a pulp. The Chiefs succeed by breaking the rules. And when the team finally wins the championship, it does so on a technicality. Although, they don't achieve their goal of getting the team traded to Florida, many of the players end up getting traded to a team in the Mid-West. They can play another day. The town they are escaping, of course, remains fucked. Few other sports movies deal so brutally honestly with, not only the nature of sports, but also with the unfair fucked-up-edness of life.

Dave's Rating:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Awesome Movie Trailers: Pootie Tang (2001)

dir. Louis C.K.

Louie's first season just ended this week with a couple of stellar episodes. Aside from Mad Men, this has been the TV show this year that I have most eagerly anticipated new episodes. Sure it could be a little hit or miss, but it was always surprising. I never knew what an episode would bring. This is one of the most uncategorizable shows I've ever seen. Of course, now that the first season is over, I'm a little bummed that I have to wait another year for a new season. (Of course, given C.K.'s track record we're lucky at least to get another season.) Because I'm going through Louis C.K. withdrawal I thought I'd post this original trailer that C.K. made for his ridiculously underrated film Pootie Tang.

[The trailer:]

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What Were They Thinking: "Great Things Come in Bears"

Most inappropriate tagline/poster combination for a children's movie ever. Their cold, dead, soulless eyes will haunt my nightmares tonight.


Speed (aka The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down) (1994)

dir. Jan de Bont

Because so many of my memories are movie-based, I frequently get overtaken by one of these random movie thoughts. A while ago, a friend and I were walking by Port Authority, when the "Let's Go Fly a Kite" song from Mary Poppins popped into my head. It would take a PHd to figure out what it was about Port Authority that caused whatever random memory chain it was that led to my decision to bless the world with my melodious rendition of the Poppins song. (Side note: my friends seem to be under the impression that I do not have a particularly transcendent singing voice. It is my belief, however, that I am of such an advanced skill that I have to wait for the musical world to catch up to me.)

Honestly, it can be disconcerting the degree to which I remember the particulars of so many movies that I have not even seen in over a decade. If my brain's still holding on to all these useless memories, the likelihood is less likely that my brain will have enough space to store important memories yet to come. (Side note: I don't know anything about how the brain works.) I do find already that my memory ain't what it used to be. While it takes me at least four meetings to remember both a person's face and name, I can still recall, in detail, all the particulars of Speed, a movie which I saw only once about fifteen years ago.

Granted, ain't much going on in this mindless action movie, but I surprised even myself when I recently rewatched it and it all came back. The only thing I forgot was the order in which all of the events occurred. (I could have sworn that Jeff Daniels died in the beginning of the movie.) I'm not gonna bother with a detailed plot recap here because everyone already knows what happens in this fucking movie. For those too young to remember this movie (I feel old), Dennis Hopper plants a bomb on a city bus that will explode if it goes under 50 miles per hour. It is up to Keanu Reeves (whoa) to thwart his plans. Sandra Bullock drives the bus. (Insert random, topical Jesse James reference here.)

Even though I remembered everything about this movie, I didn't think about many of its troubling, confusing, and/or stupid aspects until now. For instance, in the opening scene, Keanu (whoa) and Jeff thwart Hopper's ol' ransom for hostages in an explodey elevator plan. A few days later Keanu (whoa) is stunned when a city bus explodes in front of him. He answers a nearby ringing payphone and is surprised to hear Hopper explaining how pissed off he is that the previous plan he spent years scheming had come to naught because of Keanu (whoa). Now, not only has Hopper blowed up a bus to show Keanu (whoa) how pissed he is, but he has also rigged another bus with the complex aforementioned bomb. Hopper has also instituted a time limit and has warned Keanu (whoa) that if he attempts to get any hostages off the bus, he'll blow it up but good. How does Hopper know what happens on the bus? [Spoiler Alert] He has a live feed from the bus's security cam. [End of Spoi- ah, who even cares.]

Let's not even get into all the details as to why the bus plan would be harder to devise than the elevator plan. Let's just focus on one thing: it took Hopper years to plan and set up his previous plan whereas he only needed a couple days for the second plan. Not only was he able to rig all the equipment and set everything in place in only a matter of days, he also knew enough about Keanu's (whoa) daily routine to explode the right bus at the right time in the right location near the right payphone so as to get Keanu's (whoa) attention and call said payphone and alert Keanu (whoa) to his plan. Either Hopper became a super-genius in a couple of days, or he just had a case of the tards in the previous multi-year planning of the elevator heist.

Not that it matters. Keanu (whoa) ends up foiling Hopper yet again. He manages to get everyone off the bus to safety. Keanu (whoa) and Sandra (insert another random topical Jesse James reference here) slide away to safety and watch as the bus crashes into an airplane and safely explodes. Hooray! Everyone's fine—except for, you know, all those people on the plane who just died. No matter; we didn't spend the previous two hours of the movie getting to know these people. Their deaths do not matter.

These are not the only troubling aspects of the movie, of course. Although I didn't think about it the first time I saw it, I now realize that this film was produced by the oil and auto industry as a propaganda piece to dissuade people from using public transportation. In Los Angeles, a city in which not having a set of wheels is akin to being castrated, Speed is saying, "Guess what, not only is it more convenient to have your own car, you're less likely to get killed by terrorists. Don't get on the bus."

Although most remember Speed for the bus scenes, this film is a clusterfuck of various horrifying public transportation disasters. Not only are city buses dangerous bomb machines, but subway cars prove similarly perilous in the film's climax. At fifteen, my first thought when watching this death-subway scene (aside from the surprise that Los Angeles has a subway) was, 'damn, death-subways are death traps.' I have now come to realize, of course, that aside from the occasional masturbating hobo, death-buses and death-subways are safe and convenient modes of transportation.

All that being said, did I still enjoy the movie this time around? Fuck yeah.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Brief Encounter (1945)

dir. David Lean

Although David Lean is known primarily today for his later period, lush, sweeping epics; his early film Brief Encounter is one in a series that helps prove he was also quite adept at small-scale human drama. This adaptation of Noel Coward's short play of a doomed love affair is almost too painful for words—not that Brief Encounter isn't filled with pained words up the wazoo. What is it about the sun-deprived British psyche that makes these miserable bastards so adept at telling hyper-articulate stories of longing, unrequited love, and doomed relationships?

Brief Encounter contains one of the most understatedly powerful opening scenes I have yet encountered. As with Harold Pinter's reverse chronological Betrayal (a subsequent British doomed love affair picture), Brief Encounter begins with the end. In Brief Encounter's opening, we witness small snippets of various conversations in a British railway station. In the background, two gloomy people, Alec (Trevor Howard) and Laura (Celia Johnson), are seen sitting at a table together. Soon, a woman at the counter recognizes Laura. The daft woman comes over and interrupts what is obviously a painful moment, with the incessant chattering of subjects that are of zero interest to anyone but herself. Alec’s train arrives and he leaves. Soon after, Laura’s train arrives. Unfortunately, the busybody is riding the same train, so Laura is stuck with here. Although she would like nothing more than to be alone at such a moment, she has to put up with her insufferable acquaintance.

This scene flies right in the face of Hollywood convention. Even in those rare tragic Hollywood pictures of the era in which lovers are split, the couple is at least given a grand, or at least dignified, send-off (e.g. Casblanca). Flowery speeches are made and the doomed couple has one last big smooch and/or poignant gaze of longing before separating forever. In Brief Encounter, the forbidden love’s ending is interrupted by an irritating ho-bag in love with the sound of her own voice. Laura and Alec, unable to make known their love, are not even allowed the dignity of looking into each other’s eyes one last time, let alone give each other a final embrace. Alec’s train arrives and he puts his hand on Laura's shoulder, only to disappear forever. Laura is left with this one small bit of contact as her last memory of Alec.

[SPOILER ALERT: THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS] As we soon find out, there is a reason these two cannot be together. They already have other spouses. In fact, they are quite happily married. They had never thought they would be capable of cheating until they met each other. The rest of the film, told in flashback, details the reluctant courtship of Alec and Laura. They only happen to meet at the train station when she gets a piece of dirt stuck in her eye and he helps her get it out. Because they share a similar schedule—both travel to the same town on Thursdays—they continue to run into each other. Both are unaware of the courtship until they discover that their moments leading up to Thursdays are filled with pained longing. They soon begin a very British, subdued love affair. Knowing that this cannot go on, they decide to end it for good. He accepts a new position in South Africa and they meet for one last time at the train station. [END SPOILER ALERT]

Brief Encounter asks the questions about humans, love, and life with which few other relationship movies care to concern themselves. What's the secret to attraction? Are we wired to fall in love with specific types of people regardless of circumstances or settings? Do we just inevitably become enamored of those with whom we spend a significant amount of time? Why do we sometimes become involved in relationships we know are doomed to fail? Are all the cherished memories worth all the pain? Brief Encounter, to its credit, never fully answers these questions.

[Side note: I just farted.]

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating: