Upon further reflection, I don’t think I’m going to have the time to do a movie a day over the 28 days of February, but I’ll do my best to get it done! I think I have 8 unwatched flicks in my collection, so I promise to get to them all this month (including the one I’m most scared to watch as I’ve never heard anything good about it: The Godfather, Part III). If you’re fuzzy on my rules, I ask you to read my previous opener on the whole idea of “a movie-a-day”.
In any case, I’m gonna remind you that these entries won’t be reviews of the movie, necessarily… they’ll actually be more to the point of jumping off points. Maybe, in the case of Godfather III, I’ll talk about trilogies as a whole or something equally as germane. I dunno… we’ll see when it gets there.
So, the first movie is actually a TV movie originally shown on SyFy, but with added footage: Battlestar Galactica: The Plan. Hey… like I said, it’s any DVD that I’ve got that I haven’t seen the movie for yet. Sweat not… I’ll get to theatrical releases soon enough. I figure, if I have 7 or 8, you should expect a new one every 4 days or so.
For the only time in this experiment, I did not use a quote from the movie to title the entry. Why? I’ve never seen a more fetid piece of garbage, and I honestly cannot remember any good line from it. So what, pray tell, is this horrible movie? The Wrestler from 1974. Why did I own this? Believe me… it wasn’t my doing! My friend Krzysztof (a.k.a. “Mongoose”) bought it for me as a joke.
See, I was a HUGE wrestling fan from the early 1980s until June 25th, 2007 (more on why I know the exact date in a bit). I watched it every week, be it WWF/WWE’s vast library of shows or NWA/WCW’s also giant library of shows or ECW’s meager television time (showcasing some of the better wrestlers AND storylines) to the “Johnny-come-lately” NWA-TNA. More often than not, I watched the Pay-Per-Views with Mongoose and my buddy Anthony, Bennie, Derek, Duke, Greg, Wade, and a cavalcade of others. Since we were the wrestling boyz, it was a no-brainer that Mongoose saw The Wrestler and bought it for me. I am now honestly curious as to how much he spent on it.
Whatever it was, it was too much.
In any case, the movie was made in the time when “kayfabe” was huge. That means that the wrestling promotions made every effort to have the fans believe everything they were seeing was real in the sense that people were really Russian, guys hated each other, and the moves REALLY did what they looked like they did. The business got away from this in the early 1990s when Vince McMahon, Jr. (of the WWF/WWE) got the idea that by declaring this was “entertainment,” the company didn’t need to do as rigorous testing and rule following as legitimate sport.
Enter the “Attitude” era!
Pretty soon, wrestling became a tantalizing peek behind the curtain. Rumour sites popped up on the web, people were finding more out about the wrestler’s REAL life, and storylines became all but moot. Of course, the unintended side-effect of this was that everything needed to be THAT much more interesting. In order to compete, men needed to be huge and tough. And we’re back to steroids.
See, on June 25th, 2007 (a mere year ago from this Wednesday), my favorite wrestler, Chris Benoit, went crazy and killed his wife, son, and himself. No one knows exactly why, but I knew that I exactly lost my appetite for the show. Since that moment I found out that he and his family weren’t victims of a heinous crime of outsiders, I jut couldn’t bring myself to support the industry that drove him to take massive amounts of steroids and put his sanity on the line every time he performed his trademark flying headbutt from the top turnbuckle. After his autopsy, Chris Nowinski, himself a former professional wrestler now working at a concussion research grant, said that the damage to Benoit’s just over-40 year old brain was equivalent to that of an 85-year old Alzheimer’s patient suffering from severe dementia.
Seriously… how could I support that anymore?
To this day, I’ve watched 1 PPV with my friends and maybe 10 minutes of any sort of wrestling since that night. The PPV was more to be with my friends, and the 10 minutes over the span of a year needs to be understood that, during any given week, over 10 hours of wrestling is aired on TV. That’s 10 minutes out of over 500+ hours when I used to clock maybe 4 or 5 hours of it a week.
The Wrestler was poorly written, poorly acted, and served as a huge ego-stroke to Verne Gagne (look him up), but it was still a lot less seedy than the reality of the business.
Wow… 1 year since Chris died. I’m kinda depressed now.
This is the reason why I’m so late with this one (and the next “review,” now that I think about it): I was dreading watching this movie. See, in 1999, Hollywood released The Thomas Crown Affair starring then-Bond Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo (as well as a great turn by Denis Leary). I honestly cannot remember if I saw it in the theatre, but I did watch it on DVD and absolutely adored it. First, it was a guy stealing shit for the sheer fun of it. Next, it featured a topless Rene Russo. Finally, it featured a topless Rene Russo.
Sorry… didn’t mean to repeat myself.
In any case, I remember telling my dad about the non-topless parts of the movie, and he said “I think that’s a remake of an old Steve McQueen movie!” I visited my favorite site (The Internet Movie Database) and found out that it was, indeed, a remake. I made a mental note to watch the original because, well, I loved the remake. Somewhere between my viewing of the remake (probably sometime in the year 2000) and this past Thursday / Friday, I had heard numerous reports that (shock of shocks) the remake was better than the original!
Imagine my disgust and disbelief when I heard that! How many movies have been taken, raped, pillaged, looted, and left for dead as a remake? The Wizard of Oz begets The Wiz? I could go on, but I won’t because… well… I already did that.
Yes, for the second time in my 18 movies, I watched a remake… and not merely a remake, but a remake which was superior to the original. In that last BLOG entry, I talked about the ways movies were remade and why, but I’m going a little different here.
In 1968′s The Thomas Crown Affair, a movie Steve McQueen called his “favorite,” the filmmakers used the NEW and FRESH innovations that were available back then. The result? Annoyances in pixelated form. See, there was some director which introduced this interesting way of viewing scenes in a film, by showing blocks of the image all over the screen; different part of the scene? Different block! We know it today as a form of “picture in picture” or basically any episode of CSI: Miami, but back then it was brand new. I’m all for pushing technology, but overusing it kills me. Just watch the polo scene to see what I’m talking about.
What is it about us, as a society, that needs to take something fresh and new and drive it into the ground? Think of a song that just debuts! I remember when Pearl Jam’s “Alive” came out. I loved it. I sang it everywhere I could. After a year, I would rather gargle with broken glass than hear that song again. We absolutely kill anything with overuse and overplaying. Another example? Anyone remember the video for Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy”? If you were old enough then to watch MTV without getting into trouble, it was on almost every hour. I shit you not… that damn thing was played more often than the actual MTV logo!
I guess, if I had a point to this entry, it would be this: Please maintain some sort of newness with things by not killing them with an overabundance of attention. Look what happened to the cool “bullet-time” effects which came out with The Matrix! I think they jumped the shark with their inclusion in Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo. Seriously.
Summing up? Don’t bother with this one. Rent the Brosnan/Russo version instead. Besides… Faye Dunaway didn’t get topless.
Yesterday’s movie, one of my final 3, was Shooter; a film based on a book called Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter. Now, I’m usually not a huge fan of seeing a movie based on a book before I read the book, but time was of the essence. In any case, I loved the movie, so reading the book this summer will be pretty much a priority. As a matter of fact, I may try a Book-a-Week thing like I did this Movie-a-Day experiment
In any case, I like reading. I venture to say that I like reading a lot more than I like watching TV, but I just don’t have the time that I used to. I think that it’s safe to say that I like reading because I can develop the pictures of the characters, setting, and other items how I want them to be based upon the information that is given within the text. If you watch a movie, it’s basically how the casting director picked the people, the director moves the story, and the set designer colored things. There’s no reward for independent thinking in watching a movie: it’s passive! No, active entertainment involves being able to create these pictures and scenarios without the help of a celluloid accessory.
It’s like coloring: The outline is there, but you need to fill it in. I pity people with no imagination because those people can’t accurately see these things in their head. They have to rely on movies and television to beam the images and sounds directly into their heads. It’s a shame.
All of that is not to say that movies based on books are “bad,” but I’d always recommend reading first. Of course, you might get something like The Bourne Identity where the screenwriter read only part of the back of the book and figured that he could do the rest by guessing
My sincere apologies, however… I didn’t have time to catch my movie for today, so tomorrow will have to be a double-header. Tomorrow, I’ll have to catch BOTH The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and The Wrestler, so be on the lookout for another late-night update… if I’m sober enough
I don’t remember exactly why I fell in love with vampire lore, but I did. I remember reading a children’s book called Bunnicula and I think it was all downhill from there. I remember begging my mother to buy me Dracula for my Easter present in 4th grade, which I then read starting Easter night. I didn’t understand the full socio-sexual ideas behind vampirism at the time, but I knew something was very alluring, even then.
It should come as no surprise that I have several movies about vampires in my collection (the entire run of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer – all 7 seasons – and Angel – all 5 seasons – in DVD collections, Blade, From Dusk Till Dawn, the complete – and canceled too early – series of Kindred: The Embraced, and The Lost Boys), but it should be a little bit of a surprise that I had one movie about vampires which I did buy, but never watched… until now: Shadow of the Vampire. It’s supposedly about F.W. Murnau’s making of his masterpiece Nosferatu (a movie which I do not own, but am adding to NetFlix just so I can see what sort of care the makers of Shadow did recreating some of the scenes), and his eccentric star, Max Schreck.
I’m going to break ranks a bit, and talk a little about the movie because it was so steeped in legend. Please forgive me for this little aside, but it really was a hauntingly good movie.
Legend has it that Schreck was so good at playing Count Graf Orlock in Nosferatu because he was, in fact, a vampire himself! Of course, he died in the 1930s being born only 40 some years earlier, so if he was indeed a vampire, he got the short shrift on immortality! In any case, Willem Dafoe played an amazing role as Schreck / Orlock, and he basically disappeared under makeup and a hunched over body. John Malkovich, a tremendous actor who simply CANNOT do accents to save his life, played a disturbed F.W. Murnau trying his best to create cinematic immortality. To prove this, he names his movie (which is a bastardization of Dracula, as Stoker’s family did not give him the rights to film the novel) Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror). Again, I haven’t seen the original, but I will. This mockumentary (done in a non-documentary style) has piqued my interest.
Lest you think I go ga-ga for all things vamp, please realize that the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer sucked (no pun intended). Also bad? CBS’ Moonlight, the old independed Dracula syndicated television show, Underworld: Evolution, Bordello of Blood, and the original mini-series of ‘Salem’s Lot (I didn’t see the remake, but the original was so God-awful horrendously bad, that I still have a gag reflex). Also something vampiric I didn’t love? Anne Rice’s novels.
I’m sorry, Sue. I tried reading them, but I just couldn’t get past the 1st person. That, plus, all of her vampires seem to exist on a level of omni-sexuality that kinda loses me. Gay, straight, bi… whatever, but they’ll fuck anything that comes close to humanoid: dead or not. Seriously though? I got through her first few books, but gave up after that. Nothing against Anne Rice’s talent as an author, because, obviously, she’s got the chops… look at her rabid and devoted fan base! No, sometimes it just doesn’t translate into my world. But what do I know… I loved Kindred: The Embraced.
We’re winding down on the movie-a-day thing, peeps. I really would like to hear from all of you to let me know what you thought of this little project; seriously. Was it good? Did it satisfy your need to read? Was it boring? I tried not to talk about the movies themselves, but about what popped into my head as I thought about the movie. In any case, leave some comments. Below is my final stretch:
Wednesday (June 11, 2008): Shooter (2007)
Thursday (June 12, 2008): The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Friday (June 13, 2008): The Wrestler (1974)
After those three (3) movies, every movie (save one) that I’ve purchased (or had purchased for me) has been officially viewed at least once by me. The lone exception is National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets which I am saving for next week. My mom is going out of town, and I’m bringing it over to my parents’ house so my dad and I can grill up a steak and watch it.
I talked a lot about horror movies when I wrote about The Blair Witch Project and Cry_Wolf, but I had one last horror to go before the Movie-a-Day project was complete. That movie? Session 9. This is a movie that my friend Jim recommended and even Steve Morrison (of The Preston & Steve Show on WMMR out of Philadelphia), a self-described horror expert and superfan, said it was one of the creepiest movies he’s ever seen.
That was good enough for me.
Let me ask you: What do Friday the 13th (and its sequels), Nightmare on Elm Street (and its sequels), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the later Halloween movies all have in common? They’re slasher flicks. These movies all feature some psychotic killer who tortures, murders, and mutilates any number of individuals just because they’re there. The horror in those movies comes from the swelling music and the surprise appearance of a man with long razor-nails, a hockey mask, a chainsaw, or a white-painted William Shatner mask, ready to chop up some unwitting co-ed who just lost her virginity. To me, those horror movies are fine for mindless “fun” for those who don’t want to think about things, but for my money, I just get tired of the sick compulsions of the screen-writers who try to figure out new and grotesque ways to murder someone.
No, for me, I need to really be scared. Much like the saying that the mind is the largest erogenous zone, it’s where I need to be toyed with. Twist my mind around, and I’ll be scared. Lead me by the hand down a dark path and let my own thoughts scare me to death; that’s the true sign of a great horror.
Session 9 is great because it tweaks your mind and makes you question your beliefs. As a matter of fact, I watched the movie over 24 hours ago (about 30 hours now), and I’m still having goosebumps as I’m typing this! No, this movie was everything it was billed as. I made a point of watching it during the bright sunlight hours of a blisteringly hot day, and I still felt cold chills. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
Finally, what scares you the most? I tell you what scares me: the tenuous grasp of sanity. If you make me question my senses, I’m going to question everything. If I question everything, I don’t know which end is up. When that happens? Might as well take out the white coat and start the shock-therapy.
Okay… enough. Today’s movie was a horror-comedy-drama called Shadow of the Vampire, and it was nowhere near as scary as Session 9, but it was definitely good enough to be nominated for those Academy Awards
Last week, I watched The Illusionist and was told that it was a superior film to The Prestige, a movie with a similar content which came out at about the same time. Much like the dueling magicians in yesterday’s foray into the end of my journey, Hollywood loves to set similar projects against each other to see which slant will be received better by the audience. There’s Coke & Pepsi, Burger King & McDonald’s, Sirius & XM… all similar ideas with different takes. Hollywood has done it with The Illusionist & The Prestige, Volcano and Dante’s Peak, Armageddon & Deep Impact, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off & Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (both television shows)… it’s an undeniable thing: If it’s good enough for a billion dollars, copy it and make a separate billion!
That is neither here nor there, however. Was The Illusionist better than The Prestige? Truth is, I don’t know. I watched both and enjoyed both. I thought The Illusionist was a superior “film,” but I wasn’t entertained any more than I was after watching The Prestige. In both movies, I knew the “twist” well before the reveal; however, neither movie suffered from that knowledge. I thought both movies equally showed the obsession of knowing the unknown perfectly. Since I too suffer from curiosity, I empathized with both the Crown Prince in The Illusionist and both of the magicians in The Prestige. I mean, curiosity may have killed the cat, but the satisfaction of knowing sometimes makes it worth it.
I guess that brings me to this little nugget of real life: If given the opportunity to read anyone’s mind at any time, would you? I’ve thought long and hard about that thing. Being a curious person, it would seem like the perfect idea, but what if I told you that a person’s mind is not as organized as they might have you believe. What if I told you that you would have to sift through all of their zipping thoughts to get to the ones you want to hear? What if I told you that you would have the power to hear their thoughts, but you’d be forced to hear all the other thoughts too… would that change your mind?
I know me. I know my mind and how it works. I know that if anyone else’s head is as cluttered as mine, there is no way on God’s green earth OR in the shiny blue heaven I would ever WANT to read someone’s mind. There are thoughts within all of our minds that simply must remain unspoken. No one is as nice inside as they pretend to be outside. People who love their friends and family, privately think “Would you shut up already?” if they talk too much; it’s not just me, so don’t kid yourself into thinking I’m the only one with those thoughts. I’ve listened to most of the complaints about your friends and family, so I know it’s the truth. Does that mean you don’t love them? God, no. For the most part, if you have no irksome comments to make about someone, you don’t give a shit about them. Sure, someone may bug you, but if you don’t care about them, you won’t care about the stupid shit.
I guess the point of this one is that curiosity is a great motivator to discover the undiscovered, and it should never be discounted in terms of power. Curiosity causes just as much benefit as it does detriment, you just need to weigh the final answer against the method used to get to it. This is a lesson that permeates every scene in The Prestige and I will echo what I said earlier: Neither movie is “better” than the other, but they are two sides to the same coin. It all comes down to the story-telling.
Anyway, next up? Apparently one of the greatest and scariest horror movies to come out: Session 9. If you don’t believe me, it stars David Caruso! I’m getting frightened already. This is another Jim-recommendation, so I’m looking forward to watching it in the blazing sunlight before my night job
The other night, I wrote about remakes. Well, Saturday’s movie was a remake of an extremely popular television show from the decade of Reganomics, pastel colors, and dump-trucks full of cocaine: Miami Vice. Like a lot of DVDs now-a-days, this one I got was the “Unrated Director’s Cut”; how that is better or worse than the theatrical release, I don’t know, but I need to know when the unending mining of the television of yesteryear is coming to an end.
Certain things deserve to stay buried in the sands at the bottom of the hourglass of time: bell-bottoms, hippie love songs, pink shirts on men, and anything hosted by Magic Johnson. Unfortunately, we are living in a time when no one is creative any longer. Movies are being remade, television shows are being re-imagined, and movies are being created from television shows which were symbolic ideals of bygone eras. Does a movie based on the television show Miami Vice really work in 2006 (when it was released)? The simple answer is no. No, it does not. See… the show was all about the hedonism of the 1980s: drugs, women, and the whole Scarface motif (anyone ever play “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”? Yeah… it’s like that). 2006 (and 2008) are a lot different now. Politically correct assholes monitor the conversations, just salivating to catch someone’s nuts in a set of channel-locks. The president and his cabinet are making billions by milking the American dependence on oil. It’s a different time with different problems.
Long story short: The movie was bad and didn’t need to be made. Michael Mann is a terrific director, but the movie was doomed from the start. I wish there were more to say about this topic, but really? I’d just belabor the point.
Anyway, next up was today’s movie (write-up tomorrow) and the flip-side of The Illusionist from a few days ago: The Prestige. This movie is of special note because, until tonight, this one was the only movie in my list that I had not seen, but Brittany had. Spooky.
I don’t know if anyone has noticed, or, frankly, if anyone cares, but each title for my “Movie-a-Day” posts have come from one of the most memorable lines from the movie I watched for that entry. Sometimes, the quote is just cool, sometimes it’s memorable, but for Lucky # Slevin, it’s so true.
See folks, there was a time when movies were all variations of the same story. Eventually, someone comes along and adds a new wrinkle to that story, but, for the most part, those innovations are few and far between. Maybe it’s because of the tried-and-true formula that I have very few friends who “appreciate” movies like I do. Sure, I have a lot of great friends who enjoy being entertained, but very few actually appreciate the narrative or the technique. This is not an indictment of any of them or their intelligence: it simply is what it is. Just like I cannot appreciate a basketball game for the simplistic ballet of lanky men in short shorts, they cannot appreciate the intricacies of the truly innovative movie. We all have our different ideas, and this is why I have several circles of friends who I truly love. It’s the differences which make our friendships stronger, but even my best friend hates 97% of the movies I like because he sees no redeeming value in them.
It’s all good.
See… there was a time when movies went from introduction to conflict to resolution… maybe, if you’re lucky, you’d get a little postscript before the credits. Eventually, people got bored with that. Then men and women began turning scripts on their heads. Men like Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino came on the scene and flipped what we thought we knew on its ass. Movies became surprising again. The rise of M. Night Shyamalan forced the public to think not about what we knew or what we thought we knew, but we were forced to stretch our imaginations past the point of our own ideas into the realm of impossibility. Whether we knew Bruce Willis was dead or not (and, I cry “bullshit” to ANY of you who knew that twist before it happened… there’s no shame in the truth, people), it was a brilliant kick in the head by a rookie filmmaker. Tarantino’s constant manipulation of the flow of time can be confusing to some, but an amazing technique to show interlocking parts of the whole which serve to add up to more than what they would be in a straight-forward run.
See, boys and girls, movies like Lucky # Slevin owe their very existence to people like Shyamalan and Nolan and Tarantino. Movies made by men like them and Guy Ritchie owe their novelty to the ideas we all have, know we have, and are secure in having. Those men look at the norm, say “fuck you,” and then do an about face and charge headlong into the oncoming apocalypse. Look at the facts: Movies that we can predict from the opening to closing credits are just not good. Sure, they may be fun, but they aren’t “good.” Movies which keep us guessing are the ones that are truly worth watching. Movies which emulate real life are boring, movies which show us that real life is an ever-changing mindfuck? Those are where the juice flows freely from.
Wow. Too hyperartistic? Eesh. I didn’t mean to be pompous. Truly, I loved the movie. I thought it was great, and it’s definitely something I’d watch again… soon. But that has to wait. Next movie? Miami Vice: The Director’s Cut. No, I’m not breaking the rules: This was the reboot of the series in film-form starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx.
I forget where I saw it or even why I chose to watch Snatch, but after I was done, I fell in love with the British gangster film. Shortly after came Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (not that LSaTSB came after Snatch… I just saw it after) and I was definitely hooked. Something about the accents and the diversity of the criminals was just so cool. I transitioned into watching BBC-America a lot, and now I will watch pretty much any drama they air. Keeping that in mind, Layer Cake was a no-brainer.
First, in America, gangster films are either placed in the 1920s OR feature a majority of one ethnicity or another. Rarely do we see an American crime film where the syndicate is made up of more than one race. In the British films, however, they don’t give two shits how much melanin they have in their skin: if they can handle the crime, they’ll be more than happy to run with them. It is in that way that I’m running tonight.
Too much is made of race in America today. Instead of saying Barack Obama is the best candidate for the Democratic party, much has been made of him being the first black candidate from a major party. 2 Super Bowls ago, it was the first time a black coach made it (as a matter of fact, both coaches were black). No matter what area, as soon as a person of color gets into the spotlight, the media falls all over themselves to declare their “coolness” by mentioning how much of a credit to their race that person is. It’s unreal! I mean, someone else has got to see that this is just another type of segregation. For the record, I still think Joe Biden should have been the nom, but I think Obama will be a fine choice for the party. It’s got nothing to do with him being black. I could care less about his race. Can he lead the country? Can he garner enough support to beat McCain? These are the questions people should care about. Fuck the racial issue.
I’ve gone on top of soap-boxes regarding race before. I wish to God things were different, but they’re not. How interesting that we need to look to British gangster films to see a level of equality and diversity which should reflect our own society! I’d bring up the fact that, when accused of being racist, the white person will forever call up the image of a black friend or two, but, let’s face it, it’s so trite that it’s laughable.
Anyway, diversity was only one part of it. The other was a cautionary tale about how crime might get you a little ahead, but it will only let you ahead enough so it can slip behind you and slit your throat. Too many of the kids today see these gangsters in television, music, and movies, and they never see the bad side. Hell, young kids are seeing they gangsta rappers getting shot, and they think it’s a badge of honor! At least in Layer Cake, people who fuck people over will get hit by the karma train eventually.
In any case, it’s really different than The Italian Job! Next up? Lucky # Slevin. Question, though: does it count if I start the movie on the day I’m supposed to, but don’t finish it until the next day? I hope so, ’cause that’s what is gonna happen.