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Posts Tagged ‘movies’


Now that the seminal 70’s musical Grease is being run ad-nauseum on ABC Family Channel and Summer Lovin’ has been remixed for the dance floor of every wedding reception you’ve ever been to, people seem to have forgotten that the movie is fairy subversive when it comes to modern morality and social morays.

“Subversive” be damned; it’s downright hedonistic.

If you remove all the upbeat song and dance numbers and then boil the plot down to its most basic elements, you’re left with something like the following:

SlutIn a 50’s era highschool, a band of society-spurning renegade teenagers and their group of kept women have unprotected sex, stage dangerous automobile races, and engage in underage drinking with utter abandon. As one teenager comes to terms with her own teenage pregnancy, another outcast drops out of school amidst confusion and indifference about her lackluster future. Yet another must deal with the advances of a pedophile television host with a dangerously aggressive sense of entitlement. The boys callously ruin reputations by spreading tawdry rumors about sexual conquests that never happened (Summer Lovin’, indeed), while the girls deride each other with cruel disdain. And in the midst of all of this depravity, all eyes are on Sandra Dee, a wholesome outsider who must shed her comfortable skin by changing her appearance, subverting her morals, suppressing her own personality, and hyper-sexualizing her persona in a desperate attempt to keep the man she thinks she loves.

Kids, get the popcorn!

But if you look at it through slightly more forgiving eyes, Grease depicts real issues of real teenagers that most movies gloss over with saccharine sentimentality and unrealistically altruistic outcomes. Grease is different. The teenagers act like teenagers and learn lessons like teenagers and act like teen-aged idiots, and in the end the outcome does not exactly teach the lessons that your mama wants you to learn. By adding in song and dance numbers, Grease also gets the “wild, frivolous heyday of youth” aspect spot on as well. It’s all just a party to kids. It may seem goofy, but it’s probably one of the more realistic portrayals of stupid teenagers in all of film history.

And don’t feel sorry for Sandra Dee. Lord knows there are a lot of Betty-Sues and Sandra-Dees in the world — goody-two-shoe fuddy-duddies who are unable to let their hairs down. You’re only young once, and Sandy had some catching up to do. Good on her.

The morality of Grease is effing awesome.


 

In a three-hour movie full of WTF moments, it’s a simple smile at the very last moment that makes the biggest impression.

Magnolia is a movie that starts with a seemingly irrelevant but frenetic opening sequence about fate versus coincidence, moves onto Tom Cruise shouting the C-word like its his job (which it kinda is), pivots with an absurd full-cast singalong/karaoke jam, and climaxes with a rainstorm of amphibians. But it’s that damn smile that will kill you every time:

The entire scene is simply one long shot that’s set perfectly to the accompanying song whose lyrics act as a substitute for the barely audible dialog. All you need to know is that she’s buying whatever is being said to her, and by this time in the movie she’s in some serious need of a friendly word or two.

1999 was a new rennesaiance in filmmaking, with Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, Eyes Wide Shut, The Matrix, Office Space, and American Beauty all raising the bar for the respective genres. But Magnolia stands alone. Genreless. Inscrutable. And thankfully — because of that one little smirk — uplifting.

The Last Scene in Magnolia is effing awesome.


 

Basic Instinct

Erotic thrillers get a bad rap. Maybe that’s because they are rarely ever thrilling or erotic. Or maybe it’s because their popularity has recently waned after peaking in the late nineties, when access to ubiquitous internet porn began to make big screen erotica seem a tad boring in comparison. Or maybe it’s because they all pretty much suck, as a rule.

But unfortunately, the erotic thriller’s bad rap has really obscured the reputation of what is most definitely the genre’s purest example and one of the most underrated movies of all time: the Paul Verhoeven masterpiece, Basic Instinct.

The very premise of the movie – that a sociopathic woman may have written a novel as an alibi to a murder she planned to commit later – is actually pretty brilliant. And the rest of the screenplay is a twisted whodunnit that actually keeps you guessing right up until the very last shot.

The only thing most people seem to remember about the movie is that infamous scene where Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs while the camera lingers. People gasped, but in all actuality, you never really seen any naughty bits, even if you pause and squint really hard. The sad thing about this is that all the hoo haw about her hoo haw only served to distract from what is clearly one of the finest examples of screenwriting you’re ever likely to lay your ears on.

Seriously, listen to this dialog, and watch Sharon melt the celluloid with what would turn out to be her only really good performance in anything, ever. And if you can, try to overlook Micheal Douglas’ rather hammy performance altogether.

(obviously, a tad NSFW)

Not sure if a nude Michael Douglas could ever actually be considered erotic, and it certainly isn’t thrilling, but there’s tons of nudity all around, so if you can’t find anything to float your boat then you may as well stop trying.

Erotic or not, Basic Instinct is effing awesome.


 

Before Aaron Sorkin stretched-out the exact same material to fill six seasons of The West Wing, he got high on crack cocaine and wrote The American President.

Seriously. He actually admitted to being high on crack when he wrote it.

The movie as directed by Rob Reiner, of When Harry Met Sally fame, is structured as little more than a romantic comedy set in the political realm, complete with a meet-cute introduction of the two main characters and the sexual tension of their first kiss in the White House. As their love grows and their relationship deepens, the topic of politics swirls around them at the periphery, usually only rearing its ugly head when it specifically affects the development of their burgeoning love. Seemingly, it’s all fairly rote romantic comedy kind of stuff.

You just know that at some point the president will eventually have to betray his new love in order to protect his own political agenda, but you assume it will all be resolved with a last-minute moment of clarity and their subsequent climactic heartfelt reconciliation. And this is indeed essentially what happens.

Except Sorkin, balls out and literally high on crack, sets his climax not at the point of their reunited embrace, but rather with the president, alone, in front of the White House press corp, talking about gun control. It sounds kinda bonkers, maybe even a little subversive, and yet it’s surprisingly invigorating.

Even if you don’t agree with its left-wing rhetoric, you have to admit it’s pretty much the best speech an actual contemporary American President has never given. It’s the kind of speech that all of America is clamoring for. It’s articulate, resolute, sincere and unapologetically free of muddy political posturing.

He gets mad without seeming insane, unlike a cranky McCain. He gets passionate without crying, unlike a baby Boehner. He’s concise and surprisingly reasonable, unlike a slack-jawed Bush. He’s bold without dodging risky subjects, unlike a milquetoast Obama. He’s assertive and confrontational without being condescending, unlike a fallacious Palin. He’s everything you ever wanted a president to be.

Yeah, he’s an actor reading a script. And yet he seems more real than any of our modern day politicians, whose wishy-washy rhetoric and fear of re-election have literally turned them all into quivering piles of wasted mush. Not only did Aaron Sorkin baffle his audience with an unconventional climax, he invented the best president ever.

The climax of The American President is effing awesome.


 

The Crying Game

* SPOILER ALERT *

Even when it was released way back in 1992, you’d have to have been pretty slow-witted not to have foreseen the “plot twist” that made The Crying Game such a huge word-of-mouth hit. One look at those man-hands and you knew that the lovely lady was tucking in more than just her bedsheets every morning.

So saying that the movie succeeded on that plot twist alone is a disservice to what is otherwise an emotionally-complex, thoughtful, and engrossing movie… if that’s your cup of tea.

You know all there is to know, believe me.

Because the other reason that The Crying Game is still so awesome today is due to the fact that it’s one of those movies that acts as a litmus test to judge your probable compatibility with new acquaintances. They may not need to have actually enjoyed or appreciated the movie to make judgments about the person — because to each their own — but you can instantly tell what kind of person they are simply by their reaction to it. As they say, stereotyping can be a real time saver.

Basically, if you want to get to know a person quickly, just turn the topic of conversation to movies, bring up The Crying Game, and interpret the following cues as such:

  • If they titter and make gay jokes, then they are most likely into NASCAR. You can decide from there that you probably don’t need to add them to your Rolodex.
  • If they claim to have been surprised by the aforementioned plot twist, then you know they are probably a tad more socially prudent and refined than you are, or that at the very least they aren’t very observant. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if they could peek inside your mind they would probably be appalled.
  • If they thought it was boring, then they probably prefer action movies or Adam Sandler. Which is fine in theory, as long as you don’t expect to have any thoughtful discussions about politics or social justice over a glass of wine.
  • If they liked the movie okay but don’t seem overly enthusiastic about it, then they are probably even-keeled and mild-mannered. You will probably get bored with them and their incessantly-laid-back whitebread attitude.
  • If they hated the movie because it was poorly paced and overwrought — “typical Neil Jordan” — then you have met a film snob. Film snobs can be fun, but they eventually end up hating anything and everything. Including you, most likely.
  • If they roll their eyes at you for even bringing up the movie, then you have met a hipster. See Film Snob above.
  • If they’ve never heard of the film, then they are either far too young for you or they are one of those anti-TV and media people who know way too much about organic food.
  • If they can sing the theme song, then they are most likely homosexual. Congratulations, you just found yourself a new best friend.

It’s thrilling when you can discover so much about a person just by discussing a single movie. Of course this has all been a very tongue-in-cheek exercise in blatant, one-sided judgmentalism. But it’s also been eerily accurate.

It’s too bad Jaye Davidson has since disappeared from the limelight, because The Crying Game is effing awesome.


 

Stanley Kubrick

Knock Knock

He made some of the most incredible motion pictures of all time, filled them with some of the most indelible images ever filmed, and inspired some of the most memorable performances ever caught by a camera.

A Bit of the Old Utralviolence

He dealt with some pretty heady topics: nuclear war as a punchline, pedophilia and sexual obsession (based on the bestselling novel!), the decay of civilized society, sex and the married man, the very existence of humanity, etc.

Purity of Essence

We worked with nearly every genre, trying to turn it on its head. Some people called his work cold and acerbic, almost clinical in precision. As if that meant they were less worthy or effective in some way.

Behind the scenes of The Shining:

A Kubrick film festival could literally alter your personality. His movies were all-enveloping and distinctively his.  So much so that it created a new adjective: Kubrickian. Which is like the opposite of Capraesque.

For making some of the best movies of all time, and for being distinctive enough to inspire his own adjective, Stanley Kubrick was effing awesome.


 

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