Happy Friday, everyone. Brian Matthew Kim here for the third installment of Criterion Corner. Last week I ranted about Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol, so this week I’m going to cover a movie I really love: Alain Resnais’ directorial debut, Hiroshima mon amour (1959).
What I like about it: Marguerite Duras’ amazing screenplay. Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada’s performances. The use of stock footage to highlight the atrocities of the atomic bomb. An interracial relationship featuring the rare dynamic of a white woman with an Asian man. How Rasnais captures loneliness, isolation, and displacement.
Favorite scene: The opening. You see two bodies, limbs tangled up in an embrace, but no faces. Light comes in at an angle, reflecting off their skin. They look to be covered in ash (which later switches to a gold-like, glittery substance) and then there’s a dissolve and the bodies are clean, glistening with sweat but otherwise pure. There’s no explicit nudity in the whole sequence, but it’s one of the most intimate series of images I’ve ever seen on film.
Fun fact: Eiji Okada didn’t know how to speak French. He learned his lines phonetically, syllable by syllable.
By now, you’ve heard the result of our Jingle All The Way trial. (That’s a hyperlink, in case you didn’t.) And I’m sure you’re thinking, wow, he chose that movie–he must be so disappointed! I’m here to tell you that, I tried the impossible. Movies on Trial is all about rhetoric. We enter these films not as ourselves but as the kind of moviegoer who would enjoy this particular film. We speak not just for these films, for for the people who might enjoy them. All kinds of people go to the movie theatre.
I chose this film, not just because I thought it had unfairly been branded as irredeemable, but because I wanted to test my powers of rhetoric in arguing for a very hard film to sell. And, in doing so, I have failed. Like Icarus, I have flown to close too the sun. Or, like Kid Icarus for NES, I almost beat level one.
But, I have made Jason Fischedick watch Jingle All The Way, and that has made all the difference.
– John Rice
Hey, everyone. Brian Matthew Kim here for another installment of Criterion Corner. Last week I highlighted my favorite Criterion thus far (Paris, Texas), so this week I want to focus on a movie that I did not enjoy: Carol Reed’s 1948 thriller (?), The Fallen Idol.
What I don’t like about it: SO. MANY. WHITE. PEOPLE. As in, the entire cast is white. Now, I know this was 1948, but those “it was a product of its time” arguments are bullshit. And I guess people of color are technically included, however only through the stories of the white man (Mr. Baines, the idol). Baines concocts some seriously fucked-up stories for the young boy, Philippe, who admires him so much. Stories such as: single-handedly quelling an African uprising, shooting (and killing) a native African, and shooting lions. I’m surprised Mr. Baines isn’t wearing a safari hat and a monocle –- he’s practically the face of imperialism. And it would be cool if maybe this were some metaphor about imperialism and how white men have overstepped their boundaries, but spoiler alert: the white guy goes free at the end. Also, I thought the actor who played Philippe (Bobby Henrey) was super annoying and frustrating.
Least favorite scene: Near the middle of the movie, Mr. Baines and his wife get into an argument. Philippe spies on the two of them, running from one vantage point to another. Before he can reach his new spot, Mrs. Baines has fallen to her death. Did Mr. Baines kill her in cold blood? Was it in an accident? This scenario could create a lot of suspense, but Reed instead shows you how Mrs. Baines dies. For a movie that so closely follows Philippe, it’s weird that we get an omniscient, 3rd-person perspective at this moment. I feel like it undermines a lot of tension and suspense that could otherwise develop in the latter half of the movie.
Fun fact: Assistant Director Guy Hamilton once said Bobby Henrey “couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag” and had “the attention span of a demented flea.”
Hey there, everyone. Brian Matthew Kim here. As the resident Criterion Collection expert, I’d like to share with you a few highlights I’ve discovered over my four years of regular Criterion viewing. But rather than focus on the films I enjoy, I’m going to alternate between movies I really like and movies I really dislike. For today’s inaugural entry, I’d like to discuss my favorite Criterion thus far, Wim Wenders’ 1984 road movie (?) Paris, Texas.
What I like about it: Gorgeous cinematography. Ry Cooder’s slide-guitar score. Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski’s performances. Sam Shepard’s dialogue. A slow movie that never feels boring. A pre-Quantum Leap Dean Stockwell. The contrast between setting (oftentimes stark, empty, or soulless landscapes) and the characters’ rich humanity.
Favorite scene: If you haven’t seen this movie and you don’t want me to spoil the end, then stop reading now. I mean it. This is your last chance. Okay, so: The conversation (i.e. two monologues) between Stanton and Kinski. Not only are they amazing monologues, but they also flip my feelings about these characters. For most of the movie I empathize with Stanton –- he’s portrayed as the protagonist. But the conversation at the ends shows that he’s actually the bad guy –- he’s the one to blame for their relationship falling apart. It’s jarring that this quiet, gentle man I’ve grown to like is capable of such darkness. And the way the scene is staged –- with one-way glass –- is just even more heartbreaking. There’s always going to be something between them that makes normal conversation impossible.
Fun fact: According to its Wikipedia page, Paris, Texas was both Kurt Cobain’s and Elliott Smith’s favorite movie of all time. I don’t know what that says about me.
This week the honorable Judge Jonathan deliberates on the 1991 Richard Grieco spy/comedy classic If Looks Could Kill. Join us as Dr. Bealer and Jason defend this movie, positing (possibly) that it is a fine satire on both the movie genre and capitalism; while Brian and…
In order to best enjoy the stocking-full of wintertainment that is Jingle All The Way, I’ve devised a little cocktail to help you jingle, it’s called:
Arnold Punched A Reindeer
- 1 bottle of Bailey’s Irish cream (refridgerated)
- 1 & 1/2 oz Fireball (cinnamon) whiskey
- 1/2 oz root beer schnaps
- Peppermint candies (yes, unwrapped)
- Rocks glass
Pour Fireball and root beer schnaps into your rocks glass. Then, fill glass with cold Bailey’s Irish Cream to about 3/4 full. Then, plunk your peppermint candy in, to give it that reindeer-punching good flavor!
I’m giving Jingle All The Way a three Reindeer Punch rating–just enough to get your cheeks rosy, as you nestle by the fire with dreams of Arnold dancing through your head. Soon, he will come for you. Get to the choppa!
*NOTE: Movies on Trial does not, in any way, condone animal violence. I selected this drink title solely on the anti-holiday sentimentality stance this moment in the film embodies. No animals were harmed while Arnold punched a clearly-animatronic (aka, not real) reindeer during this scene. Please do not actually punch reindeer while drinking this beverage or while watching this movie.
The film Robinson Crusoe On Mars (1964) proves how little movie producers knew about space exploration, including (but not limited to) geology, construction of oxygen tanks, battery power, linguistics, monkeys, what counts as walking distance in mountainous terrain, and the atmospheric perspective required for a matte painting of the landscape of Mars.
Also basic storytelling points like transitions between scenes, how quickly someone might pick up a language from another planet, how to convey a sense of time passing between moments, not using the same two shots of flying saucers to convey a whole fleet, and what constitutes a dramatic ending to a film.
I’m giving this film 2 out of 5 stars because, despite it’s abundant, obvious flaws, it still has a sort of rough charm–the appeal of a B-movie–plus, despite being set in space, it actually manages to be an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe in more than name only. Yes, the main character takes a “Man Friday.” Yes, the main character’s quest to conquer an already conquered land hits on the racist/colonial aspects of Robinson Crusoe. (Yes, I’m surprised I had anything like this to talk about, too.)
And, with Adam West in a small, supporting role, a monkey in a space suit, and gratuitous use of the phrase “coy sausage,” there’s just enough here to keep me in my seat.
A light, poorly-made train wreck. Good for a laugh. It’s available on DVD, so I’m sure it’s in discount racks everywhere by now.
– John Rice
The gang debriefs on Jingle All the Way.
1) Cold Opening: James Bond is flying the not-so-friendly skies, putting the moves on a sexy stewardess, when SURPRISE, Bond is about to die, not only because the woman prefers flight attendant, but because she’s also a bad guy.007 is told at gunpoint by the male flight attendant, who prefers Stew, that he’s going down with the plane. A scuffle ensues that ends with Stew bailing out with a parachute. Alone and certain to die in the fiery wreck of the crash, Bond reflects a moment on a plan of action when SURPRISE Jaws pops into the film from thin air, jumps out of the plane with his parachute and drags Bond with him, to provide him with a convenient escape. In an amazing feet of skydiving acrobatics, Bond wrestles the parachute from metal mouth and leaves him to free fall to his death, while he glides to safety. Jaws falls head first into a circus tent and survives which proves SURPRISE he’s a fucking X-Man with regenerative healing powers that will stop his imminent death about twenty more times before the film is over. I give this nonsensical opening one cigar, and only that much because it’s mercifully short.
2) The Song/Opening Credits: Jaws should be a metal-mouthed flap-jack segues into the same type of shadow play I lauded in The Spy Who Loved Me, underscored with the last appearance of Shirley Bassie, singing the titular song. Unlike in the last film, the opening sequence only foreshadows the absurd awfulness of the movie ahead. As for the song: not the best Bond song, but a good one. And can you really go so wrong with Shirley Bassie? I’m giving this three cigars on the song alone, adding nothing but a solid “Fuck you, James Bond” for the sequence and another “Fuck you, James Bond” for dragging poor Ms. Bassie into this mess and sullying her good name. She did “Goldfinger,” have you no decency?
3) The Villain: Our diabolical mastermind attempting to take down James Bond is a millionaire with a space fetish named Drax. Picture Orson Welles, at the end of his career, minus the booming voice, gravitas or genius. His original, not copied, sinister plan for the world? The exact same plan Stromberg had in the last movie, except in space. That’s right, Drax wants to destroy the planet with super powered lasers so he can start society anew on his space ark. Instead of following Stromberg’s plan of choosing the best, brightest and most talented people for his new society, he goes his own way and chooses based on how hot they are, in hopes, I can only guess, of having a massive post-armageddon space orgy. Oh, yeah, and as I said, Jaws is still alive so Drax hires him to kill Bond, because, why not. Jaws attempts his mission at every turn right up until he falls in love and becomes a good guy. I’m giving one cigar here, not because of anything the villains do or say, but because I like the image a full swinging 70’s style space orgy.
4) The Plot: Take a minute and pull up my review of The Spy Who Loved Me. While you’re at it, forget this film and go watch The Spy Who Loved Me. Are you still reading? You really want this? Ok, here it goes. Take the plot I described from the superior Bond movie and add the following: A space shuttle called the Moonraker is hijacked and taken. It’s either owned by Drax, or being rented by Drax from the government, it’s kind of unclear. What is clear is that Citizen Sham has had his own rocket stolen from space and is kicking up a lot of shit because it’s been taken. Now when I say it’s clear Drax stole his own ship, I don’t mean to us, the poor, inflicted upon audience, I mean to everybody! MI6 knows. James Bond knows. Fuck, if Goodnight was in this movie, even she would know and she has the IQ of a sea slug. Bond is sent to Castle Von Drax to investigate, meets his head scientist Dr. Goodhead (you’re reading this right) and his racist Asian caricature of a man servant. After several failed attempts to kill Bond, in the confines of his own mansion, on Bond’s overnight visit, Drax allows Bond to lay some pipe with his assistant, liberate some incriminating evidence from Drax’s safe, and have a goodnight’s sleep and continue on with his mission.
After leaving the Drax compound, the assistant Bond sleeps with is fed to some dogs for her betrayal, and Wong the racist manservant begins his doomed quest to kill 007. One such attempt has Bond escape in a Gondola, which sprouts wheels as he drives it through a crowded courtyard, past a pigeon that does an honest to Christ double take. Yes, they fucking loop the film of the bird moving its head to make it appear that it has done a double take at Bond’s Pontiac Gondola. It was at this point of the film I actually yelled at my TV “Fuck you, James Bond.” Eventually Bond drops Charlie Chan to his death, in a grand piano, after a fight that could have been choreographed by Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies. Bond runs into Dr. Goodhead again, only to discover that SURPRISE she’s a spy too (you know, like XXX). Jaws is hired to kill Bond, meets a cute mute girl in pigtails, cartoon hearts flutter around their heads while the beautiful music of love swells. Eventually everyone is in space, not being murdered by Drax and being given plenty of time to avert the coming space orgy. Once Drax reveals only the hottest of the hottest hotties will be given spot on the orgy ark, (if this ark’s a rockin, don’t come a knockin’) Jaws’ cripplingly poor body image saves the day, causing him to defect and help Bond in his mission. With everyone else’s space sex ruined, Bond and Goodhead get vertical in zero gravity, bringing this abomination to an end. It gets a full five “Fuck you, James Bonds,” but only half a stank cigar.
5) Rapey Meter: Man, I hate having to give this movie anything more than one cigar in a category, but as this is a cartoon, it isn’t rapey at all. Bond has some consensual sex (getting one of his partners killed, surprisingly not with his 00 strain of VD). Jaws legit falls in love with a woman who he respects and literally holds hands and skips with. (The baddass, metal-mouthed assassin from the last movie skips. He fucking skips!) The only real thing I can deduct a cigar for, besides the film’s lack of a real space orgy, is the dismal name Goodhead. So there you go: a begrudging four cigars.
6) Wild Card: Here’s where I get as convoluted as the plot: I’m giving two cigars because I like the idea of the space orgy; one cigar for the strange array of Goodhead’s gadgets, such as poison tipped dart pen and flame thrower cologne bottle; one cigar for getting to see Q snippy with Bond; one cigar for seeing 007 dressed as an extra from The Good the Bad and the Ugly; two cigars for the last line of the movie, which is Q explaining Bond’s sexual spacecapades as “attempting reentry.” Now I’m deducting a cigar for every time Professor X’s favorite student should have died but didn’t: 1) The freefall from the plane; 2) crashing full speed into a 7UP castle, from a runaway skytram; 3) falling off a waterfall. I’m then taking another cigar away for Jaws biting through a steel cable; one more for the Jaws in love plotline and two for being a blatant rip-off of a much better movie. That leaves zero cigars for the wildcard.
All in all, that’s one cigar for Moonraker. In lieu of my usual wrap up, let me suggest other movies you should watch instead of this one. The Spy Who Loved Me for your Bond fix. Happy Gilmore for your Jaws fix. Space Jammin’ for your space orgy fix.