Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chewing Gum

OK. I've spoken to Mr. Bennett twice about this, and he probably thinks I've gone off the deep end because of how silly it sounds, but hear me out. Chewing gum seems to have a big part in Dr. Strangelove. General Buck Turgidson is frequently shown stuffing his mouth with it. In the airplane when Kong is reading off the list of supplies, he says that there are 9 packs of chewing gum. In a brief scene that shows Mandrake locked in the office with Ripper, Mandrake is sitting on the couch with something in his hand. Look sharply at it. It looks an awful lot like a stick of gum.

So yes, it is possible I am looking for mysteries that don't exist, but you cannot say my reasoning is flawed. There is a lot of chewing gum in this film. But what could it possibly mean? Does it have something to do with being nervous? Certainly that is why Turgidson is chewing so much, and that could be why Mandrake is seen stroking a stick of gum. And if your plane goes down and you land in Russia and you happen to be alive, you may be a little scared and want to pop some gum in your mouth. Or is this just a case where "the cigar is just a cigar"? I really want to hear some feedback, but please try to avoid calling me crazy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


This movie is fantastic. It is so beautifully constructed, which is ironic given the awful tone of the film. I have a lot of good things to say about this film, but I'd rather take this time to address some of the negatives I have heard about it.

The acting is top notch, regardless of whether people could stand the accents or not. Just because you don't like somebody's accent, doesn't mean you shouldn't like the entire movie. I'm not a big fan of mayonaisse, but I don't let that ruin my potato salad. I love potato salad. I'll eat that every day.

Today in class Billy mentioned that the business with the character Mike Yanagita (the crazy Chinese-American guy) was completely unnecessary. Mr Bennett then followed with the point that I was going to make, which was promptly accepted by Billy but he also added, "if they wanted to further the theme, they should have made it more relevant to the plot. This just felt like a waste of 5 minutes". This, I could understand. The original argument that it was pointless bothered me, but the conclusion we reached did not.

Ok, now here is the thing that has really gotten on my nerves since day one. Mr Bennett mentioned on the first day that Fargo is a black comedy, which is 100% true. I am not arguing that. But I think people have forgotten what exactly a black comedy is, because the major argument I hear against this film is, "it's just not funny". It's not supposed to be laugh out loud hilarious! A dark comedy is something that takes a terrible situation and adds elements of humor to lighten the mood. Yes, black comedies can have truly funny moments, but in Fargo, you should not be worried about whether or not Steve Buscemi made you laugh! You should be focusing on the terrific story, the outstanding direction, and the stellar acting. The humor is simply a side note that should not be looked upon as a major factor of the film. That would be like watching Ace Ventura and saying it was horrible because you didn't feel a connection between Jim Carrey and Courtney Cox. If you want to judge Fargo, do not look at me and say you didn't like it because it wasn't funny. Give me sound reasons. I know Benny doesn't like it because it is slow. OK, I will give him that. In most of the Coen Brothers films, there are moments that can be considered slow. I can see that. I don't feel the same way, but I understand what he means. I believe I had a conversation with Benny once where he said "if any other director films, like, a tumbleweed blowing across the desert, it's boring. But if the Coen Brothers do it, for some reason it's genius!" I get what he means, I just don't agree with it. They are, in fact, geniuses.

Yea, so, if you want to dislike Fargo, I hope it is for actual intelligent reasons, rather than the ones I've listed above. I happen to love this movie. It's just so damn funny. (<--Sarcastic remark)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Simple Plan

My thoughts of this film were mostly shared in class already so I'll try not to be redundant (although I probably will be).

A Simple Plan simply didn't do it for me. There were several aspects of the film that I found enjoyable, but the cons outweighed the pros in my opinion. One major problem I had with this film was the main character Hank. Although he is a relatable character because he is a family man who is just trying to do what is best for his newborn baby, he was a doormat that didn't stick to his convictions and a weakling. At the start of the film when the money was first found, Hank came off as self-righteous and reasonable when compared to the two dullards he was with. However as the movie progressed, we find that Jacob is really the only member of the group who has any brains at all. He knows what is happening is wrong and he is having trouble living with that. Hank, on the other hand, digs himself deeper and deeper into a hole and doesn't know when to say when. Worst of all, he lets his friggin wife boss him around, which is just all topsy-turvy and nauseating. I know we were not necessarily supposed to like Hank, but I found myself just being disgusted with his actions and it completely took me out of the movie. Also, I want to punch Bill Paxton in the head. There is something about this man's face or his voice or something that makes me angry with him. In my opinion, he wasn't exactly a strong actor in this film. I found him to be easily replaceable.

Don't you just want to hit him? I do.

My second issue with this film was the fact that it was so damn depressing. I've seen and enjoyed plenty of movies in the past that hold a bleak outlook on life, but this one was a bit too much for me. All the murders and cover-ups and schemes were just like getting beaten over the head with a stick. In the end, you hope Hank learns a lesson from all the crap that just happened and he goes and turns himself in, but instead he shoots his brother in the back thus continuing the cover-ups and lies? Ugh. I feel like I need to take a shower to wash the horrible feeling off of me. Jacob was the only source of reason in this film, and he gets murdered by his own brother. Yea it's symbolic, but it's depressing as all hell, and I don't like it. The fact that Hank just brought a new baby into the world doesn't do much to brighten the mood either. Much like in Fargo with Frances McDormand's character being pregnant, you get that feeling that these kids are just entering a pointless existence and a corrupt world to enjoy it in. While I'm on the subject, Fargo was 100x better than this film. It shares a lot of those noir-ish qualities that Mr Bennett pointed out (actually Sam Raimi, the director of Simple Plan, spoke to the Coen Brothers about shooting in snow, since they made their film 2 years earlier.) It too shows a horrible outlook on the world, but I never felt it get so morose as this film.

The parts I did enjoy of A Simple Plan few, but I'll mention them. The first being Sam Raimi's direction. He showed a great aptitude towards drama, and it makes me wonder why he didn't pursue more films like this rather than his famous Evil Dead trilogy, the Spiderman trilogy, and the upcoming movie Drag Me To Hell. I didn't think his direction was perfect but it showed a lot of potential. If he tried a few more times at drama, he may even find himself on the Oscar ballot. The second thing I liked about this film was Billy Bob Thornton. Simply a great performance. I love when actors immerse themselves in roles. Mr Bennett today mentioned that if you met Billy Bob Thornton you wouldn't really know what to expect. I like that. That takes such an outstanding committment to you work that you can't help but respect it. I don't care if a person is a nut, just as long as it gets results, and in this case it did.

Director Sam Raimi ^

These are not all of my opinions, but I've dragged a bit. I don't have much else to say other than I would like our class to watch Fargo so that we could see all the qualities of A Simple Plan, but in a better film. If we don't watch it in class, I suggest to everyone that you seek it out and watch it independently.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is a Chronologically Correct Memento a Good Memento?

The answer is no. Today I opened up my 2-Disc Collector's Edition of Memento and found the Easter Egg that brought me to the entire film in chronological order. So basically, all the black and white scenes were played in order, followed by all the color scenes played in order. Many people who find the original film confusing will be able to understand it better, but they will lose a vital part of the Memento experience. The scene jumping is the perfect technique to make us feel like Leonard, seeing something for 5 minutes and then being shown something else completely different for the next 5 minutes. That is how his entire life is. He lives 5 minutes, and then another 5 that to him are completely unrelated to the last thing he remembers. By watching the film in chronological order, you lose this genius method, along with all the mystery, suspense, and surprises.

So to answer Mr Bennett's question about whether or not this "scene jumping" is a gimmick or organic, I would say it is very much organic. It would have been simple to just tell us the story of this unfortunate man, but it is another thing to make us feel exactly like him. The fact that it takes most people multiple views to finally understand this film is a testament to how confusing it is. But in this case, confusing is a good thing, because it just furthers the mystery, much like Lenny is furthering his mystery by editing his memories.

Memento - The Little Things

This was my umpteenth viewing of Memento, so I have a pretty good understanding of what exactly happened. I'm still not perfect, but with a movie like this, it is very hard to be. These are just some little things, clues, I guess, that a virgin viewer may not have caught but a frequent viewer like me could see.

In the scene where Burt shows Leonard his room and explains how he rented him a second one, Leonard calls him, Burt. This may not seem strange, but Burt's name is never spoken in that scene. The easy assumption would be to say this was a blooper. I think, however, that this was a subtle clue that leads to the ultimate realization that Leonard's condition is psychological and not physical. This conclusion is backed up by the ending where we learn about how Lenny has probably purposely forgotten things about his past to create this mystery for himself.

This one was pretty obvious: In a brief scene showing Sammy Jankis in an institution, for about one frame he changes to Leonard. I think everybody saw this though. Wasn't exactly hidden well.

In the very beginning of the scene where Lenny beats up Natalie, she walks into her house and starts collecting the pens from around the room. I didn't catch this my first time watching it, and didn't realize what she was doing until after the scene ended.

Teddy frequently shows interest in getting Lenny's car away from him. In the very beginning he tries to trick Lenny into taking a different car but then Lenny shows him the picture of the Jag and says "In a playful mood are we?". Later when they are escorting Dodd out of the hotel Teddy keeps saying they should steal his car to teach him a lesson. Lenny asks Teddy what is wrong with his car and he replies "nothing, wanna trade?". There may be a few more I'm forgetting.

This is my favorite part, but not really a clue or anything, just something that may have been glanced over. At the end of the film, when Lenny imagines himself lying in bed with his wife, she is seen rubbing the part of his chest that was bare throughout the film. In the scene with Natalie he says "Maybe it's for when I kill him". In the flashback with his wife, the spot is not bare. It reads "I've Done It".

Something that I always wondered about was the final scene of the film (which is where the black and white and color scenes combine). That scene lasts about 15 minutes, and Leonard is able to remember everything that happens during it. From the moment he kills Jimmy to when he pulls up in front of the tattoo parlor is a very long time, maybe too long for somebody with Anterograde Amnesia. This could be another clue to the fact that his condition is psychological and that since this situation was rather important and he wanted to be able to get back at Teddy, he was in fact able to keep it in mind longer than usual until he was able to move on. Or I could be looking too much into it. I'd like to hear some feedback about this one.

This movie is awesome. It gets me in the gut every single time I watch it. It's just so damn good. You know how much I like this movie? My brother owned a copy of this film already, but when Circuit City was going out of business, I went out and picked up the 2-Disc Collectors Edition for myself, even though my brother said I could have just had his. I didn't want his. I wanted my own so I can keep it and have it and appreciate it forever.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I freaking love this movie. In my opinion, Memento is story-telling at its absolute best. Christopher Nolan took an already interesting concept (man with short-term memory loss searching for his wife's killer) and made it even more brilliant. The way in which the story is told is in fact a gimmick, but not at all gimmicky (a word which I have always thought of as negative). Every scene is paced perfectly to make you feel just as our friend Leonard is probably feeling as he lives his life. What is it that he says? "It's like waking". Since we are shown the later scenes earlier, we become intrigued as to how a certain thing came about (the scratches on Leonard's face, the bruises on Natalie, the broken car window) so even as the black and white scenes interject, we are thrilled when the colored scenes return. I have seen this movie dozens of times and I still love every moment of it.

I do have one criticism however, and it is not of the movie. I don't usually do this, but I was upset by Mr Bennett's comments while we were watching it. In one particular comment, he gave away a specific piece of information that in my opinion ruins the "surprise" of the film. I hope everyone reading this has no idea what I am talking about, because that means that information was lost on them, and the ending will still make an impact on them.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A little something

Given Mr. Bennetts comment about Keanu Reeves in class the other day, I thought this would be funny.

Monday, May 4, 2009

First Impressions of Dark City


I'm still enjoying it though.

That's it.

Scarface (the Pacino one)

I'll keep this one kinda short.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Scarface is about Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant that rises through the ranks of Miami's cocaine cartel. You've assuredly seen spoofs of the famous "say hello to my little friend" scene, as it still pops up in movies today. Before I watched this film, that scene was all I knew about it. I think maybe I should've kept it that way.

Some parts of Scarface I enjoyed, such as Brian De Palma's frequent references to false paradise in his direction. Montana and his friend came to America to live what they considered to be the good life, filled with money, power, and women. Yet even as Tony gains all of these things, De Palma would show a completely contradictory image. As Tony sits in a giant bubble bath surrounded by luxury, the camera pulls out to make him seem lonely and still completely devoid of what he is looking for. There is one scene where we are shown a beautiful tropical paradise: sand, sun, palm trees, the works. Then, the camera begins to move and we discover it was a billboard we were looking at, and we are now being shown Tony and his friend in a cramped kitchen at a dirty food stand. Another case of this false paradise is a scene where Tony kills a certain character (I won't say who because I don't want to spoil anything) in that character's office. As the character begs for his life, he walks over to Tony and gets on his hands and knees in front of Tony. Right behind the two characters is a wallpaper that once again shows that tropical getaway, this time at sunset. This sunset could also mean that the character being killed is losing his own paradise, but I believe the entire thing is applying to Tony's fake one.

I was also very down the middle with Al Pacino's performance. There were moments when I thought Pacino was spot on, but there were many other moments when I was cringing at his over-acting. I could see why his performance has been iconic because it certainly is memorable. I just don't know if I am going to remember it for the right reasons. I mostly just recall him shouting and cursing in a thick accent that was pretty hard to decipher sometimes. I'm just not seeing the "icon" in him.

So overall I'd give Scarface a "meh" rating. I don't feel worse having seen it, but I also don't feel better. It's almost like it never happened.