…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “1985

Best Shot: ‘…mother’s womb.’


My first reaction to Richard Donner’s movie, second to ‘Nat’s Best Shot series is back! Yay!’ is that I have now learned where that hipster singer’s name comes from, assuming of course that all musicians get their names out of thin air unless stated or informed of otherwise. And fortunately, the movie Ladyhawke isn’t as bad as the electro-whaetever musician. Little Boots is better.

An actor’s blocking and personality changes an image in a movie despite of how the camera sticks to the same frame boundaries. This shot of a dirty wall and a hand desperately trying to stick out comes after one that shows three men getting hanged. The first thing that comes to my mind is that this man faced another execution, of getting cemented within a wall or something, suggesting a brutality that the movie might have. It cuts to a scene when knights search for an imprisoned Philippe Gaston to be hanged next and it cuts back to the same muddy surface we see earlier.

And then we realize that it’s just Cooter Burger breaking out of that wall and we realize that he and we are just going to be fine. We see and hear Matthew Broderick’s luminous face and first words – comparing his current state to that of ‘escaping mother’s womb.’ Despite his and everyone else’s wobbly accents, he brings whimsy and youthful physicality to a movie that we’ll discover is anachronistically yet enjoyably cartoony, a Medieval adventure story viewed under a modern lens and a good God soundtrack.

Those are my favourite shots although there were many from which to choose, the movie simultaneously bringing my tendencies to compare the natural compositions with Brueghel, which is coincidental because Philippe’s unlikely road buddy in the cursed Navarre is played by Rutger Hauer, who will eventually play the painter three decades later. Other shots and the colour within them also remind me of Cezanne, Powell, Poussin and Cameron although the silhouettes makes a Western trope into its own thanks to cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. The movie also features Michelle Pfeiffer as the titular love interest Ladyhawke/Isabeau and Alfred Molina as Cesare, a man who works for the three characters’ common and blasphemous enemy.


BTTF: Made in Man’s Image


ph. Universal

The opening credits of Back to The Future is reminiscent of one of the first sequences of Little Children. Just because both movies relatively show the same objects during their first scenes doesn’t mean that Todd Field referenced Robert Zemeckis. Besides, Little Children chooses a montage while Back to the Future pans the length of Dr. Emmett Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) counter top in a long take. But we like to play this game? What else do those movies have in common? Which characters stand for who? Knick-knacky tendencies of outsider characters from suburbia? I’ll get to suburbia later.

Watching this movie in my childhood, this probably got me starting to say…

I believe that Biff Tannen (Thomas J. Wilson) is partly at fault for my bad choices in men. On a trivia contest before the TIFF screening of this film, my friend Sarah answered that Billy Zane was in this movie. I couldn’t see him until catching that still.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) enters 1955 and is a little freaked out by the cleanliness of 1955 Hill Valley. He comes back and finds 1985 ‘great,’ as if having a reverse George Bailey moment because he doesn’t come back to perfection, he comes back to what is his. I’m projecting here, but we’ve been desensitized to the discomfort of seeing a homeless person or a porno theatre that I understand Marty’s slight comfort in seeing those things.

Peter Kuplowsky of TwitchFilm introduced Back to the Future and, paraphrasing, called it Reagan, pro-car propaganda but enjoyable and excellently made. Which makes me question myself in defending the film’s politics and its idealization of suburbia as the meeting point between the urban dirt and rural domesticity, that Marty justifies George (Crispin Glover) earning the right to be routinely mean to his wife’s (Lea Thompson) rapist because there’s a looming threat that it could be the other way around? It’s the fine-tuned innocent approach to this lack of innocence that makes this movie a little richer.


Ran


Ran – a movie about an aging Japanese warlord Lord Hidetora “Tora” Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai), patterned after the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear –  stayed on the grassy hilltops for twenty minutes. I would like to think that I can bear with long scenes with just dialogue but maybe this movie might prove that I just can’t. Is it Kurosawa’s meditative pace again, or the language barrier?

The film’s galvanizing point is when Tora’s ex-right hand man Tango tells him that the latter’s eldest son Taro barred the villages from serving him rice just after he ordered to burn said villages for being presumptuous in their ‘charity.’ He also hears Tango’s interpretation of the third son Saburo’s actions after the latter’s estrangement. His actions alienates the villagers just as it does to his sons. The movie becomes a great one with that scene and every other scene that follows that.

I was also utterly disappointed with the replacement of daughters with sons. The only Kurosawa film I know that has the most/best female characters is his adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. I’m not an expert of Japanese culture so I wouldn’t know what would have happened to Tora’s daughters, or he married off those daughters, or if he had to made his wife and concubines suffer to produce three sons.  I concede that I like the characterization of the sons. Taro is ambitious,disrespectful and affected. Jiro is weak. Saburo is coarse yet loyal. I vaguely remember Shakespeare’s characterization of Regan and Goneril, except for evil and more evil. From what I remember, Regan asks “What need one [attendant for Lear],” which can either be interpreted as cruel or cowering. She shares one or two more bitter arguments with Lear than Goneril did. And Cordelia’s, you know, silent. Back to the film, this was a wasted opportunity for Kurosawa to explore female characters.

But fine, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) is an audience favourite. Having read a lot about her explosive, gutsy performance from Sarah Boslaugh, Harada impresses when she reveals her hatred against Tora. I kept wondering where she was through the stretches of bloodshed that the men have committed. Then she lunges at Jiro. She closes the doors to the Lord’s room while she laughs, not caring if anyone in the palace might hear her. She blackmails Jiro, tears her own kimono with a knife, then kisses Jiro and the wounds she gave him. It’s an extraordinary scene and it feels like watching something demonic for the very first time.

Kaede, then, is Goneril and Regan lumped into one, having to marry to satisfy the lord of the household and therefore appease a patriarchal society, conniving herself from husband, finally owning her family’s castle for at least a short while. She’s also one of the characters that remind the audience of the Shakespearean tragedy’s worldview. Nothing that the hero or anti-hero owns is rightfully theirs, that any property has a lengthy history of thefts, and that just as many wars have conquered nations and killed kings, vengeance after vengeance will come. She’s also a Lady MacBeth in a sense that she’s chosen to become this evil and ruthless to survive the society that would otherwise spit her out. Lady MacBeth because Ran has a Lady MacDuff in the form of Lady Sue, the latter being pure, forgiving and altruistic even if she goes through the same thing as Kaede. The film has one great female character and her foil, but there could have been more.

Unlike Lear and the Fool, Tora and Kyoami have a strained relationship. Tora hits him. Kyoami’s the only person who calls Hidetora ‘Tora.’ At first, Kyoami is able to joke about Tora’s madness, but frustration sets in. Tango and Saburo are loyal to Tora, but it’s like Kyoami’s the only person who actually loves Tora. He wants to leave but can’t. Tora’s death devastates Kyoami while Tango’s stoic. Kyoami’s adrogyny – and Tora’s ghostly concubines – lets him emote unlike the other male characters in the film and puts a bit of subtext to the relationship, if you’re looking for one.

Almost every shot in this movie is a painting.

This was pretty badass.

I guess beginning the film in grassy hilltops makes sense. We drink in the scenery. In the end all we have are red crags, where Lady Sue’s blinded brother is stranded. He gets his land back but it feels more like limbo instead of a vindicated end. He’s a footnote in this land’s bloody history.


Reasons to Like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure


ph. Warner.

Saw this at NFB as part of the LuminaTO festival. Most of these reasons are Tim Burton related.

It’s pre-“Big Fish” Tim Burton. Nothing wrong with that movie, but what’s wrong is what comes after that.

It’s light and colourful, the exact opposite of his moodier films.

Tim Burton actually uses real mise-en-scene instead of CGI, the latter devoid of humanity.

The art director and the director of photography worked hard, especially for Pee Wee’s house. I want that house now.

Because Rube Goldbergs are awesome.

Because Danny Elfman emulates Bernard Hermann (no relation?) in this movie, of all places.

Because as much as it makes fun of childhood’s absurdities, it’s very honest about its fears and losses.

I love children’s movies with dirty jokes. However, don’t bring your child to watch this movie.

Because bikes are environmentally friendly.

It shows Paul Reubens in drag at least twice. And he wears said dresses on top of a suit and never breaks a sweat.

I don’t know exactly what Paul Reubens does in this movie, but it’s acting.

It changed my opinion about white men doing excellent impressions of Mr. T.

And I’ve run out of good reasons. Some parts of the movie were surprisingly tedious. And why does he have all this cool stuff and not have a job?


Bad Movie: Clue


(Camp)

(Sorry for not writing, by the way. I had two days of debauchery)

“Clue” is the first movie screened at the Toronto Underground Cinema. Tickets were free, crowd was amazing, puns are great. Wish you were there. The movie was fun. I guess the slow parts were there to pace the movie because I can’t be laughing the whole time. But it would have been more fun if I drank up while watching.

Just like these people.

NOW Magazine’s review of “Freddy vs. Jason,” where the unnamed staff member said that you could have watched that drunk because the script and the synopsis were pretty much the same. A chunk of “Clue” was like that too. Expect that the butler (the workaholic Tim Curry) rapidly doled out the series of events without breaking a sweat. As Miss Scarlet dressed in a green version of the infamous Scarlett O’Hara red dress, Leslie Ann Warren does her best Susan Sarandon. And the rest of the cast has impeccable comic timing. Good to know that it takes a lot of acting chops to make whatever this is.

Also, I love watching this chick die.

Also, the print that the cinema had is the one with ending A.

The movie was good enough to wear out my friends, and they were hungry, and I was gonna be late for  a party, so we unfortunately skipped “Big Trouble in Little China.”