Rated C for Cameron

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Homages Between Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Mad Max: Fury Road

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The third and final part of my Mad Max list is here. Now it’s time to examine Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) which was released 6 years after the original Mad Max and 30 years before Mad Max: Fury Road. As usual there will be spoilers for potentially every Mad Max movie in this list. Also, for the past two lists I haven’t done a swell job of telling you when I found something as opposed to when I heard something beforehand online and then added it to the list, but not this time. I’ll make sure to let you know what were my findings and what were not. It would take more effort than its worth to trace back to an original source, but I do want to be straight up with you. So here goes the list…

1. Packing Heat, Lots of Heat

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When Max firsts enters Bartertown, in Beyond Thunderdome, he is asked to surrender his weapons, and boy does he surrender a lot of weapons. This parallels when Max first takes The Birthers and Furiosa hostage, in Fury Road, and finds a arsenal’s worth of guns hidden in the cab. This homage was found by someone else before me.

2. But Still Something’s Hidden

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In Beyond Thunderdome, when Max goes through his “audition” in Aunty Entity’s home, he reveals that he still has a weapon hidden, a knife hidden in a flyswatter. This is similar to how Furiosa keeps a knife hidden in the gear shift of the War Rig. This homage was found by someone else before me.

3. Choking Up

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Again in Max’s “audition,” he gets caught by a dogcatcher’s “control pole” (a nice way of putting it.) During the climatic chase scene in Fury Road, Furiosa gets choked by the same weapon.

4. LET THEM UP!

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In Fury Road, Immortan Joe lives high above his hungry and thirsty believers, and it takes a man-powered elevator to get up to his home. In Beyond Thunderdome, Aunty Entity lives high above the people of Bartertown, and it takes a man-power elevator to get up to her home. Of course this kind of symbolism is nothing new, an aristocrat physically being above the common folk.

5. A Blind Love of Music

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Aunty Entity has a talented blind Saxophonist named Ton Ton, and Immortan Joe has the blind guitar-playing/wielding Doof Warrior. I think we can agree which is more hardcore: Ton Ton, obviously. Thank you to reddit’s /u/PowellPeralta for bringing this to my attention.

6. Accounting

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In Bartertown, The Collector handles the economy, but he also bears an interesting resemblance to The People Eater, in Fury Road, who’s job is to “count the cost” for Immortan Joe.

7. Labels

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In Beyond Thunderdome, a man gets branded with “Pig Killer” after (you guessed it) killing a pig. Pig Killer’s job is to act as human machinery, in a way, shoveling the waste of Pigs to fuel Bartertown. In Fury Road, after being captured by the War Boys, Max is tattooed and used a human “blood bag.”

8. Green Thumb or…

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The name of Bartertown’s mechanic is Blackfinger. In Fury Road, Max asks Nux if he is a “Blackfinger” when asking if he can fix the War Rig. This homage was found by someone else before me.

9. Rigged

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In Beyond Thunderdome, Max has rigged his truck to explode if handled by the wrong hands. And in Fury Road, Furiosa has a special code to prevent the War Rig from being driven by anyone but her. This is also similar to Max’s rigged gas tank in The Road Warrior. This homage was found by someone else before me.

10. Gonna Need a Bath

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While this is more of a similarity and less of an homage, Max ends up passed out buried in sand in both Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road.

11.  A Signal

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Just as Savannah, in Beyond Thunderdome, uses a tribal call to signal the tribe of children, The Valkyrie, in Fury Road, uses a tribal call to signal The Many Mothers.

12. A Little Off The Top

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When we start Beyond Thunderdome, Max has grown out quite a mane of hair. When he gets rescued by the tribe of children, Savannah gives him a haircut without his consent (he’s unconscious.) In Fury Road, Max is even hairier at the start, and when he gets captured is given a haircut and shave without his consent. Both films even show a child taking away the scraps of hair.

13. Locomotion

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The scoop on the front of the War Rig, in Fury Road, bears a resemblance to the cow catcher (yes, that’s its name) on the front of the train in Beyond Thunderdome, and both serve a similar purpose in deflecting objects, though the scoop on the War Rig has a dual purpose.

14. All Grown Up

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It seems to me, and many others, that the design of the War Boys, in Fury Road, is a direct homage to Scrooloose, in Beyond Thunderdome. This homage was found by someone else before me.

THE END

For those interested: Cameron’s Ratings of The Mad Max Films

Mad Max: 6/10

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: 8/10

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: 6/10

Mad Max: Fury Road: 9/10

Homages between Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Fury Road

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 3.32.01 PMIts Part Two Time! On Friday I posted my first list of homages between Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max: Fury Road. I was pleasantly surprised by the response I got, and I’d like to thank /r/Movies for directing a lot of traffic my way. This list is focused on Mad Max 2, otherwise known as The Road Warrior, otherwise known as Mad Mad 2: The Road Warrior. In the USA, Mad Max 2 was released as The Road Warrior, because the American general audience was not familiar with the original Mad Max. I hope this list will be enlightening for some, but I have a disclaimer. Most of the homages from The Road Warrior in Fury Road have been analyzed to death, so I am sorry if this list doesn’t give you new information. I worked extra hard to find things that others haven’t found. But enough pre-apologizing… [AS ALWAYS SPOILERS!]

1. Exposition, thy name is Opening Sequence

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Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior opens with a montage of stock footage with narration about the downfall of civilization, much like the opening of Fury Road.

2. Carry that Weight

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Just as Max carries the passed out Nux in Fury Road, he also carries the injured Nathan up to the Refinery Compound in The Road Warrior.

3. Medals! We don’t need no stinking Medals!

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What use are military honors when the world is an apocalyptic wasteland? In The Road Warrior, Curmudgeon seems to think that they are worth something, despite being under the command of Pappagallo. Immortan Joe’s medals, on the other hand, seem to have given him some sense of respect, as he sports them on his body armor.

4. A Familiar Skull

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“When Max is tied to the front of one Immortan Joe’s vehicles, there is a skull with a pilot’s skull cap and goggles on a spike above him. This is a reference to the Gyro Captain, who appeared in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).” From IMDb Trivia

5. And A Familiar Tune

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In Mad Max 2, Max finds a music box that plays Happy Birthday in the wreckage of a truck. In Fury Road, one of the Birthers has a similar music box.

6. It’s A Trap!

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In Mad Max 2, Max takes several precautions with his automobile: Booby trapping the gas tank and hiding a knife. This is similar to the precautions that Furiosa puts on the War Rig: A special code in order to turn on the engine and a large amount of concealed weapons.

7. Empty Threats, Emptier Guns

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When Max finds the shotgun shell on the corpse near the Gyro Captain’s trap, in The Road Warrior, he shows that his shotgun had been empty. The Gyro Captain remarks “empty… all this time” as Max had been threatening him with it for days. When Max first threatens the Birthers and Furiosa, in Fury Road, he uses an unloaded shotgun. Furiosa isn’t as kind as the Gyro Captain when she finds this out.

8. Masking

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The similarities between The Road Warrior‘s Lord Humongous and Fury Road‘s Immortan Joe don’t stop at their use of microphones. Both characters use mercy to mask their true intentions. Humongous pretends to want to allow the Refinery Crew to leave without being harmed, and Joe pretends to be a merciful God-king giving his people water. Speaking of masking (segues ey?), both characters are the only Mad Max villains who cover their faces with masks.

9. “You wanna get…”

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Max’s iconic line from The Road Warrior, “You wanna get out of here, you talk to me”, is matched in badassery by Furiosa’s line, “You wanna get through this, do as I say.” While you could say that this is just synchronicity, I think this was an intentional way for George Miller to show that the plot was going to be driven (literally) forward by Furiosa in this film, as opposed to how Max drives forward the plot in The Road Warrior.

10. Brace Yourselves

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After his leg injury in Mad Max (1979) Max sports a leg brace in The Road Warrior, which he still has in Fury Road.

11. Clawing Your Way…

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Not only does Furiosa’s mechanical arm remind me of Bearclaw’s claw in The Road Warrior, but in Fury Road you can see where Max stitched up his jacket after Bearclaw’s attack.

 12. Truck Flip

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It has already been noted by others that the War Rig in Fury Road seems to flip over, in the climatic scene, in a similar way to the Rig in The Road Warrior.

13. Front Row Seat

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***SUNDAY CALENDAR SNEAKS STORY FOR APRIL 26, 2015. DO NOT USE PRIOR TO PUBLICATION**********TOM HARDY (tied to front of car) as Max Rockatansky in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' action adventure movie Just as two members of the Refinery Defenders get tied to the perch of Lord Humongous’ car in The Road Warrior, Max gets tied to the perch of Nux’s car in Fury Road.

14. Misfires

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In The Road Warrior, as Max attempts to charge through Lord Humongous’ gang, he takes aim with his trusty sawed-off shotgun, only for it to misfire. In Fury Road, Max’s sawed-off shotgun misfires when he tries to use it to shoot through Nux’s arm.

15. Poles at it again

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George Miller must have  a thing for poles, because once again they make an appearance in The Road Warrior, when Wez retreats from the Refinery Camp. As noted in Part One, Toecutter’s gang used a pole vault to get onto the gas tanker, and in Fury Road we witness the breathtaking Polecats.

16. Somewhere over the Rainbow

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mad-max-fury-road-6Finally, both The Road Warrior and Fury Road focus on a group of people who attempt to reach a seemingly mythological paradise.


Homages Between Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Mad Max: Fury Road Coming Soon

Homages between Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max: Fury Road

MadMax Title CardRecently, a movie came out that was a breath of fresh air for me: Mad Max: Fury Road. If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and do it. I have seen it four times in theaters since its release, and each time I take something new from it. It is easily the best film of the year so far. This is all rather surprising, considering we are so used to seeing reboots (Fury Road isn’t technically a reboot, more of a mythology, but whatever) that falter and fail to be worth anything, much less reach the quality of the originals. A number of things contributed to the triumph of this film, but what I really enjoyed was the clever use of homages from the originals. So in the next week or so I am going to publish lists that examine the homages from each of the three original Mad Max Films and Fury Road. So to begin, here are the homages from Mad Max (1979). SPOILERS!

1. “I’M DRIVING!”

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At the beginning of Mad Max two cops argue over who gets to drive a pursuit vehicle, with the driver saying he was assigned to be driver. At the beginning of Fury Road, Nux and Slit have an argument over who gets to drive a pursuit vehicle, with Nux saying he was assigned to be driver.

2. “HE SAW ME!”

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The Nightrider, who stole the pursuit vehicle, screams “Do you see me Toecutter?!”, Toecutter being the gang leader, and main antagonist. In Fury Road, Nux gets very excited when Immortan Joe sees him, exclaiming, “He looked right at me!” Also, Toecuter and Immortan Joe were both played by the same actor, Hugh Keays-Byrne.

3. Car Acrobatics

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Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 5.28.40 PMWhen Goose runs out of the diner he flips over a car in the exact same manner as the War Boy who is chasing Max at the beginning of Fury Road.

4. Bug Eyed

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In Mad Max, during the explosion of the Nightrider’s stolen Pursuit Vehicle, you see a pair of bugged out eyeballs, not unlike those in Mad Max: Fury Road during one of Max’s nightmares. This also shows up again when Toecutter meets his demise at the hands of a big rig.

5. Crows and Woes

MM#7In Mad Max, there is an appearance of crows right after Toecutter’s gang viciously attacks the couple in their car. Crows appear in the devastated Greenplace in Fury Road. Crows, being scavenger birds, have long been associated with death and decay.

6. Upside Down

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In Mad Max, when Johnny the Boy crashes the truck Goose is driving, we see a close up shot of Goose, upside down in the driver’s seat after the crash. This shot is similar to the one we see at the beginning of Fury Road when Max’s car gets flipped by the War Boys.

7. Sweet Dreams

MM#9Max’s nightmares date back to the first movie, when he wakes up terrified from a nightmare after having witnessed Goose’s burned body.

8. Old Ladies With Guns

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Enough said.

9. Poles

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When Toecutter’s gang boards the gas truck to siphon gas, one of the gang members uses a pole vault to get onto the truck. Evoking a similar image of the Polecats in Mad Max: Fury Road.

10. Kick off your Boots

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At the end of Mad Max, Max finds Johnny the Boy stealing the boots off of a corpse. Exchanges of boots are a reoccurring action in Fury Road, and Max himself steals the boots off a corpse.


Homages between Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Fury Road Coming Soon

Short Term 12 and Monet Films

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Short Term 12 is available on Netlfix

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2370248/?ref_=nv_sr_1


What is lost sometimes in the conversation on the merits of film is the fact that it is a form of art. I know that sounds like the most obvious sentence to ever be written, but I mean something more by it. Film as an art is what makes things like Award Shows all the more useless, not because of subjectivity but because of the diversity of art. If I pose the question “Who is the better artist: Monet or Dali?” That’s one tough question, because both are amazing in their own right. Some might answer the question as if it was the question “Who do you like better?” and in that case the question becomes something completely different. Personally I like Dali. And so rages on my ongoing war on objectivity versus subjectivity. The point is that Monet and Dali are apples and oranges and can only be ranked against each other in some sort of 4th dimensional ranking system.

The rocky cliffs of Étretat by Monet.jpgMonet’s The Cliffs at Etretat

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Dali’s The Persistence of Memory

I brought up Monet and Dali as examples for a reason. To me the two are great representations of one of the simplest divisions in film. Monet made beautiful paintings, but the subtext wasn’t really there. Analysis of Monet seems to mostly focus on color theory over what he was trying to say with a piece. This isn’t to disparage Monet in the slightest. Look at The Cliffs at Etretat. Now if that isn’t a breathtaking work of art, I don’t know what is. But what is it trying to say? Well nothing, it’s a painting of cliffs. Then on the other hand we have Dali. Dali might as well have been called the human-metaphor. Dali’s art was rich in subtext and metaphor. Frankly had his work not had a deeper message it would have just been weird. But just because Dali has more metaphor than Monet, doesn’t make him a better artist. And this is the same case with film. I would like you to imagine a sliding scale from a film that is completely surface with its message (most likely a heavily story based film) to a film that is completely submerged in metaphor (think David Lynch or Jodorowsky). To me all films can be placed somewhere on this scale.

So why did I spend 2 paragraphs talking about that and not Short Term 12? Well to be completely honest I don’t really know what to say. Short Term 12 is a very Monet-like film. It’s a representation of the story it shows, like being a fly on the wall in this story. Its not lacking in metaphor, but all of its metaphors are tied up nicely by the end of the film. I’m trying my hardest to make my writing more about analysis and less about “the acting was good, the script was good,” so Short Term 12 is terrifying to write about. So in fear, I changed the subject. And just to let you know; the acting was good, and so was the script.

Check out the IMDB page to see the synopsis. If that synopsis sounds interesting, you will enjoy this film.

Cameron’s Rating: 8/10

Repeat Viewing Quality: 1/5


PS: If I offended anyone who is more knowledgeable of art than me, I am deeply sorry.

Cameron’s Top 10 Favorites of 2014

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I posted this on my Facebook page a few weeks back, but I figure I should also put it here for posterity.

10. Guardians of Galaxy
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
8. The Raid 2
7. John Wick
6. Under the Skin
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Nightcrawler
3. Gone Girl
2. Whiplash
1. Birdman

Most Disappointing Movies of the Year

-The Purge: Anarchy
-Fury
-Let’s Be Cops
-Snowpiercer (Don’t hurt me)

Cameron’s Top Ten Favorite Movies (As of Jan. 1st, 2015)

Well, to begin with, I feel it necessary to explain myself. Though it may sound weird, because it is, my rating of a movie is not indicative of how much I like that movie. When I rate something here (or on IMDB) I try to be more objective and refrain from purely thinking in terms of enjoyment. For instance, I didn’t enjoy Children of Men too much, but I gave it an 8/10, because regardless of how much enjoyment it gave me it is a well made movie. Vice versa, I went and saw Into The Woods on Christmas, and while I personally enjoyed it more than Children of Men I gave it a 7/10. And you will note in this list that my favorite movie is rated 9/10 while #2 and #3 are 10/10. My point is this, I can subjectively list my personal favorite movies, but I am not saying my favorite movie is the best movie ever made. I don’t know what the best movie ever made is, but I hope I haven’t seen it already.

As this list is based completely on my personal opinion, it likely will change year to year as I watch new films or lose interest in others. For instance I can see one day putting Birdman on this list, but I’ve only seen it twice so I need some more time before that.


Now the list, with a specially chosen (non-spoiler) quote for each movie…

Number 10: Tropic Thunder (2008)tropic-thunder-poster

“I don’t read the script. The script reads me.”

–Kirk Lazarus

Cameron’s Rating: 8/10

Number 9: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

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“It was the pioneer days; people had to make their own interrogation rooms. Out of cornmeal.”

– Marty

Cameron’s Rating: 9/10

Number 8: The Social Network (2010)

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“Look, a guy who builds a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who ever has built a chair, okay? They came to me with an idea, I had a better one.”

–Mark

Cameron’s Rating 9/10

Number 7: Submarine (2010)

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“My mother is worried I have mental problems. I found a book about teenage paranoid delusions during a routine search of my parents’ bedroom.”

-Oliver

Cameron’s Rating 10/10

Number 6: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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“I don’t wanna kill anybody. But if I gotta get out that door, and you’re standing in my way, one way or the other, you’re gettin’ outta my way.”

–Mr. Pink

Cameron’s Rating: 8/10

Number 5: Hot Fuzz (2007)

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“Is it true that there’s a point on a man’s head where if you shoot it, it will blow up?”

-Danny

Cameron’s Rating: 9/10

Number 4: The Big Lebowski (1998) index

“Are these the Nazis, Walter?”

“No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Cameron’s Rating: 8-9/10 (I go back and forth)

Number 3: There Will Be Blood (2007)11168971_800

“I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.”

-Daniel

Cameron’s Rating: 10/10

Number 2: Synecdoche, New York (2008)

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“I will be dying and so will you, and so will everyone here. That’s what I want to explore. We’re all hurtling towards death, yet here we are for the moment, alive. Each of us knowing we’re going to die, each of us secretly believing we won’t.”

-Caden

Cameron’s Rating: 10/10

Number 1: Goodfellas (1990)

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“One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother’s groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.”

-Henry

Cameron’s Rating: 9/10

Same time next year


Look at this list on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls073658662/

PS: I will hopefully be coming out with a Top 10 of 2014 or an Oscar related list in the next month or two.

To and Fro: The Babadook

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Twas two nights before finals week, and Cameron wanted to see The Babadook. Cameron isn’t good at coming up with witty parodies, so just forget I even started. Anyway, Saturday the 13th, after my Sister’s graduation from college (YAY!) I made my Step-dad, Doug (a fantastic guy who writes and reports for laughingplace.com), take me to The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana to see The Babadook. Now, The Babadook is already on video on demand (Amazon, Google Play, etc.), but seeing as this might be the only time I could ever see this movie on THE BIG SCREEN, I thought it was worth it. But, because I love coming up with cool ways to make my reviews each a little different, I came up with “To and Fro.” Well, actually the idea comes from CinemaSins Before and After reviews, basically recording two guys driving to the movie talking about it, and then the drive after the movie with their reactions. Since I don’t have an adequate set-up for recording (and who wants to see my face anyways?) I recorded my conversations with Doug, and then went through and made a transcript of them. I took away some unneeded fluff and things that were specific spoilers for the film. But, bear in mind that the second half of this review is an analysis of The Babadook, and if you want to see the movie with absolutely no information, don’t read past the first part. So now, dear reader, journey with Doug and me as we go to The Frida Cinema to see The Babadook.


To

Cameron: Tell us, what movie we’re going to go see…

Doug: We are going to see… Marmaduke.

Cameron: Yes, The Marmaduke.

Doug: The most horror filled film you could ever imagine. No. We’re going to go see Bah-bu-duke.

C: Its actually pronounced Ba-buh-dook

D: Ba-buh-duck

C: Yeah. Have you seen the trailer for this movie?

D: I have not. I have been reading reviews and all of the reviews have been uniformly excellent for this film. And they describe it in terms like “unsettling” “psychological thriller”, and “horrifying, but not in a traditional sense.”

C: Yes. The words I’ve heard them say is it doesn’t have jump-scares, or at least it doesn’t rely on jump-scares

D: And my wife [my mom] has declined to see this, because she does not like films in which it depicts children in peril.

C: Yes. And that actually was what I was going to talk to you about next. I was thinking, I was gonna ask you the question “What are your favorite horror movies?” But, before I do, I was gonna say that when I was thinking of this question I thought of Coraline which although is a children’s movie I do consider it to be a horror movie…

D: Oh its definitely.

C: And I would also say The Shining. And, I don’t know, you’ve probably not seen the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, which is not really a horror, its more of a “creepy-fantasy” than a horror movie. But, what all of the three of them have in common is the theme of child-parent relationships. But, what are your favorite horror movies?

D: In terms of horror, easily, the earliest film that absolutely horrified me and stayed with me for years and years was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Strangely enough, not one of Hitchcock’s best films, not considered to be by most people. Yet, for me, it was the idea that something so ordinary as just little flocks of birds could bring such horror and such terror was very unsettling to me. And as a youngster it had a big impact on me.

C: So when did you see that movie?

D: I saw that movie when it was on television when I was a kid. When I was probably no more than eleven or twelve years old. Especially for those times, the gore was kind of graphic, people with their eyes gouged out.

C: Funny enough, the first horror movie I ever saw was the movie Final Destination.

D: Oh you’re kidding?

C: No, I saw it when I was like nine.

D: Why would you have seen that movie?

C: Oh, because Hilary had a friend over, and they wanted to watch it, and I was the bratty little brother who wanted to watch the horror movie with them. And I regretted it.

D: I’ll bet you did. Now another great horror film that I liked very much was the original Halloween.

C: The one with Jamie Lee Curtis.

D: That’s right, the one with Jamie Lee Curtis. Well actually, the second had Jamie Lee Curtis too, but we all prefer to forget that one. The original Halloween, I actually saw that on the recommendation of the reviews. I though it was a really well done movie. While it is the one that is considered to have been the one to kick off the slasher genre, it is not really a slasher movie per se. Its more of a psychological thriller, and it created this incredibly creepy atmosphere and sustained it all the way through. It also had kind of a jokey premise, and yet at the same time was satisfyingly horrifying without cheap terror.

C: And I will answer my next question first. What was the last horror movie that you saw for the first time? The last one for me, which I’d call it a horror movie, was a movie called Cube. That I watched last night. It was good, and they used a lot of practical effects for the gore. Which reminded me a bit of Hellraiser. The thing about Hellraiser is that they spent so much of their budget on certain practical effects that they ran out of money for all of them. So some of the practical effects look really good, and others looked awful.

D: I can’t even think of the last time I watched a horror film, because I’m not a big fan of them these days. Most of them are just designed to gross you out. And I can see enough of that on the evening news. Hilary and I saw one horror film together, Red Eye. And what was both endearing and irritating, because I’m very film-savvy, and because I saw a lot of the precursors of these kind of films, I spent most of the movie leaning over and telling Hilary when the next thing was gonna jump out of where. As in “it’s coming in from screen right.” And sure enough someone would jump in from screen right. And afterwards Hilary said, “How did you know?” And I said, “How could you not.” And that’s the reason why for the most part I don’t go to these types of movies nowadays.

C: That’s the thing. I was watching that movie Cube, and there was a minor little twist, nothing story changing. And as I was watching the movie I couldn’t recall if I had heard of the little twist before, or it was just a little too obvious. So when it was revealed I was like “Well yeah.”

D: Does it ever bother you in horror films when everyone on the screen is amazed at a revelation that was so patently obvious?

C: Yes, and Cube suffered from a bit of that along with some over-dramatic acting. But it was a good film, a little bit cheesy and funny.

D: Well, one of the things that I think helps a lot is having a low budget, and having a group of immensely talented people. It forces them to make really creative choices.

C: That does happen a lot with horror movies. It’s funny, cause in the recent past, there was Paranormal Activity, was really well received, but then the subsequent film series just got worse over time. And then the first Saw movie was really well done, and then the rest of the film just turned into torture fests.

D: Well because they had a lot of money. And it became “Oh, look what we can do with this.”

C: Well, while we’re finding parking. Let’s lead in to The Babadook. I’ve heard the basic premise is “kid has an obsession with monster from a storybook, and the mother starts to believe the child’s obsession.” And I guess we’ll find out if its any good, but just so people know you do not have to drive all the way out to Santa Ana to see this movie, it is already on video on demand. And now that we’ve parked its time to go in and see the movie. The Babadook. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Cameron: Well, first of all, what a creepy kid they got to play the son. I have to imagine that they did some sort of psychological testing to make sure that kid would be okay filming this movie. So what would you say is your initial take on the film? Because its one of those movies where the plot, in this case a monster movie, isn’t really what the film is about. In this case it was more about a wife moving past the death of her husband.

Doug: It’s about how people deal with loss. Or don’t deal with loss. The monster was more what she wasn’t dealing with.

Cameron: Yes, and you know this film. It has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, which means 98% of critics gave it a positive review. I think this film definitely deserves really positive review, but it wasn’t perfect.

Doug: Yes, there are definitely some major flaws, not the least of which was that they couldn’t really quite decide what to do with the ending. So we got a couple of false endings.

C: The one problem I had was the set design. I felt like the house was a little too obviously creepy, like everything was in shades of gray and black.

D: You know as the movie descends further and further…

C: Well that’s kind of what I’m saying. I felt like it didn’t do that. I felt at the beginning the house was a little too Tim Burton-ish. Because with these kind of horror movies the setting is normal, but the circumstances are abnormal. Unless maybe they’re saying that her grief was so much, that the house is sort of reflecting that.

D: You know speaking of production design. Something I thought was very good in this film was the sound design. I think the sound design did so much for the film. Just the ambient sound and the sound reinforced things.

C: And here’s something that I’m sure you’ll agree with me on. While at some points I was afraid. The thing that made it so creepy was how well they made you see things in the background of the scenes. And at some pints they were obviously making you think things, like “well obviously these shadows are supposed to look like The Babadook.” But at other points, I’d catch myself going “Oh, what is that! Oh its nothing.” It made your eyes play tricks on you. And you know I will probably end up rating this as an 8/10. If this movie had been less, I’d call it, sophisticated, and been more run-of-the-mill it would have been a 7/10. But the fact that they really went the extra mile to refine it, I think it deserves an 8/10 simply for that.

D: In terms of shortcomings, what would you say is a shortcoming of the film?

C: Well, at some points it felt like instead of “the audience should be confused at this point” it was like the filmmaker was confused. I think its best when the filmmaker knows what the truth of the matter is, and is then creating a sense of ambiguity. And I’m not saying that the director didn’t know what was happening; it just felt like that at some points.

D: I think what it suffered from, was that they set up an amazing premise and then could not find the same amazing resolution.

C: But I especially enjoyed the way they showed The Babadook, with that sort of stop motion vibe.

D: And then too, there was a lot in it that referenced, what I would call, antique or Stone Age films. And that they actually inserted some of those films into the movie.

C: Yes. I don’t want to call this film an homage, because it isn’t, it has elements of homages in it. I mean, there are some horror films that are as a totality an homage. This movie was not an homage, it had homages in it.

D: Well, the design of the storybook and then The Babadook was clearly referencing early film and German expressionist cinema.

C: The whole movie had a very storybook design to it. I mean in the set design and the production design there were really no extraneous elements, very simplistic.

D: Yes the production design was very good. Although you found the house to be a little too obvious.

C: And that is probably my single concrete issue with it. If anything the reason I don’t give a higher rating, like a 9/10, is because, while it is a sophisticated well-done film, it’s not remarkable. But, last but not least, if someone you know who loves horror movies asked “should I go see that movie?” What would you say?

D: It would depend on one important thing. If they were a person who liked horror movies that involve splatter and gore and things jumping out at you, I would say “perhaps.” I might have to consider if they might find it a little too precious. On the other hand if it’s someone who loves horror and who loves films I would not hesitate recommend it.

C: And I would agree.

Cameron’s Rating: 8/10

Repeat Viewing Quality: 3/5


Movie Recommendations from this review:

Coraline

The Shining

Pan’s Labyrinth

The Birds

Cube

PS: The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana (where we saw The Babadook) will be one of the theaters showing The Interview on Christmas (Dec 25, 2014 thru Dec 27, 2014), so if you live in Orange County and want to see The Interview, I would recommend this theater. It’s a bit outdated, buts its got a lot of heart and it is decent of them to show The Interview. Happy Holidays, Everyone!

In Theaters: Interstellar

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Brimming with amazing images and intense moments, Interstellar is very much worth seeing in theaters, the larger the better. I would describe it as “intensely cinematic”, which is not out of place with Christopher Nolan’s recent films. Nolan really works best in the atmosphere of a filled movie theater, where plot and dialogue issues are easily glossed over for the beautiful imagery and well done set pieces. This has been my point of view of Nolan’s films since The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises are hardly bad films (none of which I would rate lower than a 7/10), but watching them on a television or computer screen takes some of the suspension-of-disbelief away that comes more naturally in a movie theater. This is why I find it hardly surprising that Nolan is a supporter of filming (with film) and film projection. He wants to have complete control of the way he meant for his movie to be shown.

The same way a director can have trademarks for things that are intentionally reoccurring in their films, Nolan also has some trademark issues. My biggest “trademark Nolan issue” with this film has to be the writing of the dialogue. Movies will not always have realistic dialogue, and sometimes the unrealistic dialogue, for example Sorkin or Tarantino, is better than the realistic dialogue. Sorkin and Tarantino write dialogue in a way that romanticizes the way we actually talk. Nolan deglamorizes how actually we talk. Almost all the dialogue is written in a way where it is all too clear that it is there simply to explain something to the audience or force forward the plot. So instead of feeling like the film is naturally progressing, it feels like an intensely thought out Rube Goldberg machine. And when the dialogue does have earnest moments, they feel out of place in the milieu.

Nolan does make up a lot for dialogue by having good actors say the dialogue. Matthew McConaughey’s inherent sincerity elevated the script in places where many other actors would have fallen flat. I don’t mean to bag on Nolan so much, as I do have great respect for him. It seems like an incredibly backhanded compliment to say that Nolan knows how to pick actors that can work around bad dialogue. But, it just feels so true. Especially when you look at the times in a Nolan film when one of the members of the supporting cast is spectacularly bad (I’m looking at you The Dark Knight), and it is almost always the dialogue to blame.

Despite all my moaning on dialogue, I really want to say that you should go see Interstellar in theaters. There are many times when I could hardly believe what I was seeing. It is clear to me that Nolan went the extra mile to create mind-blowing set pieces and really give us something truly unique. This is especially true considering the reverence the film gives to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The homages that are included to 2001 are very well placed. At the same time the film does not linger on its influences, it rather uses them as a jumping-off point for its own story. This is why I find it funny when people describe Nolan as narcissistic. Nolan is clearly a lover of film, and is not afraid to be clear about his influences, without being weighed down by them.

While I was returning from the theater after Interstellar, it seemed to me that Christopher Nolan has the auteur qualities of Tarantino, the writing qualities of James Cameron, and just a pinch of the philosophies of Charlie Kaufman. Though the one quality he draws from all three is an unyielding individuality. Nolan serves a great purpose for us as moviegoers, by making Blockbuster-type films that strive for more, and almost always have an influence on Hollywood as a whole.

Cameron’s Rating: 8/10

Repeat Viewing Quality: 5/5


Movie Suggestion: 2001: A Space Odyssey


I reached my 400th rating on IMDB about a week ago! Check out my ratings page: (http://www.imdb.com/user/ur55232746/ratings?ref_=nv_usr_rt_4) to see my ratings. Please let me know if there is something you think I should watch or something I should write about, I love writing, but sometimes I need a little bit of outside influence to get my creative juices flowing.

In Theaters: Nightcrawler

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Though I’m pretty premature on the subject, I really think that the future will hold 2014 as one of the greatest years for movies, especially in the 21st century. After going to see Birdman, and being blown away, I can’t lie, but my expectations for Nightcrawler dropped slightly. It’s like when you have an amazing meal, the best meal of your life, no matter what your next meal is, it lacks the same appeal. I fully admit that this happened to me, and heck it may have skewed my opinion of Nightcrawler, but I’m certainly not saying that Nightcrawler was bad, far from it.

Nightcrawler was an extremely satisfying and impressive film. Especially considering that it was the directorial debut of Dan Gilroy. Made with a budget of 8.5 million dollars, an incredibly low amount for a film with such a cast, and the fact that it was filmed on location in Los Angeles really added to the film for me. As someone who lives in Orange County and often spends time in LA, the film really captured the city very well. Though I know this sentiment won’t affect the film’s quality for those of you who haven’t gone to LA. Often times there is a schism in films that depict Los Angeles. Some go too far to show the glitz and glamour of the city, others dwell too much on the strife of the tough areas of the city. What is forgotten many times is that while LA contains plenty of either of these things, there is much of the look and feel of Los Angeles that can be found in almost any city. I guess what I am saying is that LA is more normal than many people think.

Back to the film. I think going into the film I was expecting some deeper message. But at its heart, Nightcrawler is truly a character piece. While it shows some of the more vile practices of the American news media, it doesn’t really reveal anything, because most of what it shows is the kinds of things that we were already assuming. As a character piece though, it truly succeeds. Despite the writing or directing, what will make a character piece is the performance of the main actor or actors. An example I would give is the movie Chaplin. A lot of people hold Chaplin in very high regard. In my opinion the film is a standard paint-by-numbers period story of a rise to fame, a downfall, and then redemption. What made Chaplin good was the performance of Robert Downey Jr., completely immersive and realistic.

While Nightcrawler is no stock story, in fact it’s mighty unconventional, what made the movie was Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance. The movie made me really think about the possibility of how a sociopath might rise through the ranks of society. His performance is darkly humorous at times and frightening at others. My next comment contains some minor spoilers for the beginning of the film so I will write it in a separate paragraph with spoiler markings.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

As other commentators have said, I didn’t like the addition of Lou beating up the security guard at the beginning of the film. In my opinion it was dissonant to how his character acted throughout the rest of the film, and may have harmed the rise of the film’s tension.

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At times Gyllenhaal’s character, Lou, will go off on tangents about business tactics and advancing in a profession. While some actors (along with a director) might have taken this as Lou being sincere. Gyllenhaal makes it subtle yet clear that his character is not being sincere, rather he is merely saying what he believes will make people respect him, trust him, and even be submissive to him. Being as Lou is an obvious sociopath, his circumstances change throughout the film, but he is unfaltering in his unnatural behavior. Rene Russo, as the news director of a struggling morning news show, does go through developments, exhibiting how a person can be manipulated and succumb to the will of a threatening person.

I must note however the performance of Bill Paxton; it is impressive how Paxton constantly chameleons himself into his roles. I’ll admit that on more than one occasion I was not aware that he was in a movie until the credits rolled, and that was true for Nightcrawler. If you’re interested, just take a look at the dichotomy between his character in Nightcrawler and his character in Edge of Tomorrow.

If I were to give any criticism of Nightcrawler it would be on the pacing. The film felt a little repetitive at points, and rather than moving forward consistently it often seemed to go back to scenes that felt slightly unnescary. I understand that interstitial moments were needed to separate the night scenes of the movie, lest the audience not be aware of a time change. However rather than relying on similar scenes, such as Lou in his apartment, they could have provided a bit more variety. But it is so hard for me to deeply criticize this film, as it is Dan Gilroy’s first time directing. I see great potential in him, and the first films of great directors rarely define the rest of their careers (Scorsese, PT Anderson, Fincher).

Cameron’s Rating: 8/10

Repeat Viewing Quality: 4/5


Movie Suggestion: Chaplin


PS: You may have noticed my unique banner for this review. I made it myself, rather than using images I find online, I hope to use more of my own work in the future.

Criticizing the Criticizers: The Title of Star Wars Episode 7

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While I’m sure that others have made or will the observations that I am about to make, I thought that I might as well get these ideas down in some way.

So this morning, Disney announced that the title of Star Wars Episode 7 would be The Force Awakens, while the general response that I have seen so far has been pretty positive, there are some who don’t enjoy it. Some have said that the title is dull and vague. They draw comparisons with the trend of the “Rise” title, (The Dark Knight Rises, 300:Rise of an Empire, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), which I’ll admit has gotten a bit stale in recent past. A quick look at IMDB shows me seven franchise movies in the past seven years that use some variation of “rise” in their titles. However, the use of the word “awaken” hasn’t shown the same prevalence.

So for what reason do I defend the title The Force Awakens? I think in the fad of certain people rushing to criticize any movie news they hear, they may have lost some sense of retrospection. First let’s look at the original trilogy of Star Wars films. I am aware of the fact that the first film, Star Wars, was rereleased as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. But many people will lump this change in with the many, sometimes terrible, changes that George Lucas made to the original series. What they might not know, due to young age or unawareness, is that this change was made for a rerelease in 1981, just 4 years after its original release, one year after Empire Strikes Back’s release, and 2 years before the release of Return of the Jedi. So it seems clear to me that this change wasn’t made for kicks and giggles, it was made so that there would be a clear distinction between the movies. Empire had just been released, and Lucas knew that he had plans to do at least 4 more films, so it does seem logical that he wouldn’t want the first film to be a source of confusion when the prequels would come.

Besides all that though, in examining the title A New Hope, it is not a stunningly deep title, and that is perfectly fine. I think of all the things one could criticize about a film; its title is hardly something to hold up as a main argument. And as we look at the two other films of the original trilogy, if we try and forget our feelings toward the films, their titles aren’t exactly full of rich meaning either. Recently, in my Birdman review, I pointed out that titles for blockbuster films are mostly a brief description of the content of the film itself. If we pretend like we are someone that hasn’t seen any Star Wars films, what do the titles tell us? A New Hope tells us that not only is there a hope, but it is new, meaning that before it there was some sense of despair. The Empire Strikes back tells us that an empire, a word often holding a negative connotation, is striking back at something, probably an opposition to its rule. Return of the Jedi tells us that some group or thing called “Jedi” is returning, and the use of the word “return” means that their/its return is of some significance.

I won’t delve deep into the titles of the prequels, but it is worth noting the distinction in Episode I’s title. The Phantom Menace is definitely a distinct title in comparison with all the other films. In my opinion the title is too unclear and any interpretation doesn’t really make it a better title. Who is the “Phantom Menace”: Palpatine, the dark side, Darth Maul, Anakin, Jar Jar? A literal interpretation could be “ghostly danger,” but that doesn’t really say anything, now does it? The other two films in the prequel trilogy (Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith) follow a similar style to the titles of the original trilogy, and almost have a sort of parallel with them.

Down to brass tax, though. The Force Awakens is not a vague title. Vague implies that this title doesn’t tell us enough to suggest the plot. The title is actually extremely not vague, if I do the same literal interpretation as I did before. It tells us that there is a force, a word that implies power or strength, and it is awakening, meaning that it has been dormant for some length of time. This actually says a lot about the plot. And let’s be frank, the lore of Star Wars, particularly what “The Force” means, is something that is now deeply ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist.

So besides my need to rant on things, I felt the need to write this for a reason. Before you (in the general sense) go out and criticize something, at least take some time to reflect upon it and examine how it relates to the past and the future. Everyone has a right to be critical, but being critical just so you can be an opposing force (no pun intended) is really not worth its reward.


For Reference: my Birdman review https://cameronbarrettstewart.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/in-theaters-birdman-or-the-unexpected-virtue-of-ignorance/