Female Oriented

I am compiling this list at the suggestion of my daughter; or rather she compiled the list for me, and dictated it to me over the phone. We are constantly having discussions about feminism and most of  the time I agree with her. Movies are one of the things that we most often agree on. Women are under represented in Hollywood both behind the camera and in front of the camera; and in spite of the success of movies such as Bridesmaids, My big fat Greek wedding, and Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker and Zero Dark thirty women are still a neglected part of the Hollywood scene.

The powers that be, would rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars on crap like John Carter (250 Million) which barely broke even, Oblivion (120 million) and Pacific Rim, a 190 million dollar clinker. Luckily, Pacific Rim made most of its income from foreign box office receipts. If these Movies had been entirely dependent of domestic gross they would have lost big money. On the other hand Bridesmaids made 169 million with a production budget of 32 million. My Big Fat Greek wedding grossed over 241 million domestic Box office on a 5 million dollar budget.         Zero Dark Thirty had the largest budget with 40 million but still doubled its money with a 95 million domestic box office gross, with a very limited opening. Women can make Hollywood money but they still get the exclusive boys club treatment (no girls allowed).

Consequently what you get for the female demographic, is a lot of Rom Com stinkers written by men: examples, This means War, and the Five year engagement (see Box office Mojo for their grosses). So now that I’ve ranted like the curmudgeonly old man that I am, let’s get to the list of movies that my daughter swears by, that deal with real female relationships and are female oriented. (Note I don’t have these ranked because I’ve only seen three on the list).

JOHNNY GUITAR

LABYRINTH

PARTY GIRL

MI VIDA LOCA

GAS FOOD LODGING

ALL ABOUT EVE

THE WOMEN

CARRIE

HEATHERS

NEW WATERFORD GIRL

WITCHES OF EASTWICKE

THIRTEEN

LITTLE WOMEN

MERMAIDS

BAGDAD CAFE

9 TO 5

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM

MISS FIRECRACKER

THE CRAFT

HEAVENLY  CREATURES

WHITE OLEANDER

BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER

SHIRLEY VALENTINE

Information and stats for these movies can be found on IMDB http://www.imdb.com/?ref_=nv_home

Oblivion

I’m no professional so unfortunately I don’t have the privilege of seeing early screenings of the newest flicks. So like everyone else I have to wait. So here is my belated review of the new Tom Cruise movie Oblivion. The movie takes place in a post apocalyptic world that was ravaged by the destruction of the moon and followed by an alien invasion. Blowing up the moon should have been enough, to pretty much destroy all humans. Well the earth men did what any group of Survivors of a horrendous cataclysm would do they dropped nukes on the offending Aliens, making the earth even more uninhabitable and thus winning a pyrrhic victory. This is the story that is revealed to us in the opening narration, by the main character Jack, a humble drone repairman. The drones were supposedly designed to take out pockets of alien invaders still roaming the planet.

Jack and his curvy tech support vicky, are biding their time while awaiting the end of their three year tour on earth. In two weeks they are due to join the rest of humanity on Triton, a totally unsuitable ice ball with Cryovolcanos and nitrogen spewing geysers. Why not Europa or Mars? This doesn’t seem to bother Jack or Vicky, nor does the fact that a decimated race that teeters on the edge of extinction, could muster the resources and manpower to build a giant space station.

Although the earth is supposedly too toxic for habitation Jack manages to find a hidey hole surrounded by mountains and greenery with his own private fishing pond out back. He goes there when he wants to get away and shoots baskets, reads books and listens to old albums on his phonograph.

Obviously the movie is called Oblivion, because Jack is totally oblivious to the evidence all around him, that suggest that Earth is not the unlivable radio active wasteland, that he has been led to believe. The rest of the movie after the intro focuses on Jacks journey of discovery, learning the truth and the meaning behind his recurring dreams about a beautiful mystery woman, (Olga Kurylenko). Poor Vicky doesn’t stand a chance. Jack is more or less an unquestioning tool of his masters; he doesn’t even question the reasons for his memory wipe, which is suspicious on every level. That’s all I’m going to reveal about the plot. You’ll have to see it for yourself if you haven’t already.

You can probably tell by the tone of my synopsis, that I didn’t find Oblivion as entertaining as the trailers had led me to believe it was. I can usually tell if a movie is going to be bad within the first fifteen minutes. However  the premise of this movie was interesting enough to make me believe that the best was yet to come. Oh, how wrong I was! It dragged on and on with the annoyingly perky Boss Sally, asking the same question in scene after scene, “Are we and effective team?” The answer should have been. “Are you an annoying jerk?”

There is some superfluous nudity and male female bonding and no backstory until toward the end of the movie. I found the pacing slow and the scenes in between the action boring, and the plot full of logic holes and inconsistencies. One of the biggest inconsistencies was the fact that in one scene the drones seemed fairly easy to take down; which was the reason for his constant repair jobs. while in others they were almost indestructible. The same could be said about Jack; he takes a forty foot fall onto a hard surface and doesn’t die or get knocked unconscious, but can’t take a hit from a rifle butt that wasn’t meant to kill. Why did they even need to hit him anyway? Actually either one should have killed him or at least given him a fractured skull.

When Jack finally comes face to face with his dream girl she is hesitant to tell him the purpose of the mission which he was a part of . Get real they were on the same mission! So why was she hesitant to tell him the truth? They should have been exchanging stories just out of curiosity,  and we would have gotten to the truth of the matter sooner rather than later. I hate it when movies try to be suspenseful and do it so awkwardly ; this was that kind of movie.

The best thing about this movie wasn’t Tom Cruise; it was Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Nicholaj Coster-Waldau, who should have had a bigger part, rather than wasting time watching Tom Cruise shoot baskets and look wistful, while listening to Procol Harum. I guess that it’s normal in Cruise land that everyone else is relegated to minor significance.

On the upside the movie was beautifully shot, and the special effects were excellent. The set designs were reminiscent  of the Jetsons but were very cool. Over all I’d give this movie a C- Since I didn’t get up and leave the theater grumbling to myself.

The Mysterians: and other matinee favs from the 50’s

THE MYSTERIANS 1957

The reason that I chose the IMDB  link instead of You Tube was that it has been remastered and has a higher quality.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050251/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

They’ve come to steal our women OH NO!

They’re here and it’s not to steal our resources, or our water, they  came  for our women. This is the premise of one of my favorite slices of Matinee cheese, The Mysterians (1957). I guess that the major fear for the Japanese in 1957 was aliens taking all of the cute chicks. Well in view of the American occupation, which had only ended five years earlier in 1952 I understand their anxiety. Movies reflect the hopes, dreams and anxieties of society and the 1950’s was full of all three, but the fear of the Red menace and the Atom bomb pervaded our lives down to a psychological level. All you have to do is watch the sci-fi movies of the 50’s and examine how many of them have themes of impending nuclear destruction, or threatened enemy invasion or doomsday to realize this. The other recurring theme was that of nature turning against mankind. So this week, I thought it would be fun, to show trailers of the movies that kept me out of my parents hair on those saturday afternoons long ago.

RODAN 1956

GODZILLA KING OFTHE MONSTERS 1954

GOJIRA (Godzilla) Original Japanese Trailer

THE ANGRY RED PLANET 1959

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 1951

INVADERS FROM MARS 1953

THIS ISLAND EARTH 1955

FORBIDDEN PLANET 1956

THE BEGINNING OF THE END 1957

EARTH VERSUS THE FLYING SAUCERS 1956

THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED

THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

THEM

THE DEADLY MANTIS 1957

SPECIAL MENTION GOES TO MOTHRA 1961

I know that Mothra is not officially part of the fifties theme, but I thought that it was close enough to rate a special mention. Sorry folks I couldn’t help myself, the pretty japanese ladies made me do it. So here’s a treat for all of the MOTHRA fans, the Remix of the MOTHRA SONG, ENJOY

The Hunger games sequel: I’m so excited

I must admit that I didn’t go to see the original Hunger games movie at my local theater, because I thought that it would be some more Teeny BS like Bella & Jakeward.  I tried to stomach the first Twilight movie and left after only fifteen minutes in search of a barf bag. I was thinking the Lost Boys,, one of my favorite cult movies of all time, but what I got was a teen version of True Blood with corny CGI effects. I hated everything about the fifteen minutes of it that wasted my time and money.

Fortunately I decided to give The Hunger games a chance on Direct TV and ended up liking it. What I got for my $4.99 was not just a good flick, but a very compelling story with interesting and layered characters and heart. The world building was intricate and multi-faceted, the costumes were garishly fabulous and the acting was above par for the ages of the main characters. I enjoyed this movie so much that I went out and bought the DVD.

I loved everything about this movie and have re-watched it multiple times. So when I heard about the sequel, I was excited right down to my movie lover’s core. I’ve had a chance to view the Trailer of the sequel, and it looks great. If it’s even half as good as the first one I will definitely plan on viewing it on the Big screen. From the looks of it, it might even be better than the first one, no mean feat for a sequel. Too bad that I have to wait until the release date of November 22, 2013

Check out the trailer on this BLOG.

Zero Dark Thirty

The controversy about the movie, Zero Dark Thirty, was purely based on a misconception, at least in my opinion. Maybe the critics were watching a different version of the movie than I was, or maybe it’s just that each brain works differently. To me it was obvious that the protagonist got very little information from torture. The fact that they had tortured detainees for a decade, and never got any closer to Osama Bin Laden proves that it wasn’t  the violence that bore fruit, but the non violent types of interrogation, that actually proved useful. Proper and thorough  detective  work carried out by analyst who actually examined the mountains of information compiled, combined with humane treatment of prisoners and some bribery, yielded the final results that led to finding and killing Bin Laden.

The real controversy should be why did our government employ such archaic, brutal and ultimately useless methods to gather intelligence. Not everyone talks under torture some people just die. Others resist but more often, people will say whatever the torturer wants them to say just to stop the pain. Torture isn’t a reliable source of information. Another thing about the movie that bothered me, was that they received a vital lead from a minor al Qaeda operative, that he had seen Bin Laden in Pakistan, but then failed to investigate that lead. Ultimately Bin Laden was found in Pakistan. It wasn’t the first time that the intelligence service has screwed up and probably not the last; the movie clearly points out this fact.

The criticism that Kathryn Bigelow was some how crediting the discovery of the whereabouts of Bin Laden to torture methods, is in my opinion unfounded. What I saw on screen was an hours worth of horrible interrogation methods, that yielded few results. From an objective point of view the director did not seem to take one point of view over another, but much like a journalist was simply reporting what was happening. We  now know, that torture was used, but even the experts agree that none of the information obtained from torture led to the final results.

It was pointed out to me by an unnamed source, that some of the criticism may be gender bias. Women directors in Hollywood have always had a harder time than men, and Bigelow is infringing on typically male territory. the war/action/thriller. This is Kathryn Bigelow’s second foray into the Iraq war, her first being the Hurt locker (2008) about an EOD team. So there may be some  credence to this theory.

Politics aside, I found the movie’s opening disturbing. The 911 calls of the panic stricken victims of the World Trade center made me want to cry. It was emotional overkill for me, because the last time I was in New York, was on july fourth 2001, when the twin towers were still standing. If I had never actually seen those buildings in reality, the impact of their destruction might have been blunted. Any director worth their salt knows how push the right buttons to draw the audience into the story. The opening did just what it was supposed to do, even though it was a bit heavy handed.

Most of the rest of the movie was depictions of torture, or of the protagonist viewing torture on a monitor. I found it to be redundant and draining and on the verge of boring. The high spots in the movie were the scenes that depicted inter office politics and maneuvering, together with brainwork and investigation. I think the movie would have been more interesting, if more of the foot work of the intelligence community had been revealed to the audience.

The movie picks up again in the last forty-five minutes when the big boys finally decide to do something. After analyzing and agonizing over the information, Seal team Six is finally give the go ahead to conduct an operation, in the territory of another  sovereign nation, without their knowledge or consent. This in it self was not only dangerous, but could and did create an international incident. Bigelow created the perfect blend of  the tension and confusion that comes with the fog of war. By making everything so dark the viewer was stumbling around in the dark trying desperately to keep up with the action on the screen. She resisted the urge to shoot the entire scene through the eerie green light of a night vision scope, which made the situation even more tense.

All in all this was a fairly decent movie although I could have done without all of the torture. I don’t think that it added much to the movie beyond the first uncomfortable visit by the movie’s female protagonist.

Apocalypse later

As a young veteran of the Vietnam war I was quite taken by the 1979 epic Vietnam war movie Apocalypse Now; but as an crotchety old 63 year old veteran, my feelings about the movie have degenerated into complete dislike. It’s not unusual for our views to change as we get older;some people for the better and some for worse. However my anti-war feelings are not the reason why I dislike this movie classic. My reasons have to do more with the movies’s detachment from the reality of the war and my prejudice against its source material.First of all let me explain what I mean by detachment from reality.

In the opening scene we see Captain Willard awakened from a nightmare by an ancient ceiling fan, which evoked in him the familiar sound of a Huey helicopter. He is obviously in an alcohol induced state of irritation driven by guilt and war weariness; a common symptom of what we now know as post traumatic stress disorder. This is something that most combat veterans can and do relate to. after this we go to a briefing where the details are given by a very young Harrison Ford who is very convincing as a young Intel officer. His demeanor as an officer was pretty spot on, at least in my experience with this type.

If you haven’t seen the movie I will try not disclose the details of Capt. Willard’s mission. After the briefing we see a refreshed and renewed Willard in starched and clean fatigues ready and raring to go. From this point on the movie degenerates into a slow spiral into the absurdity and perversity of war. Sounds pretty good so far! This scenario is typical in anti-war movies. Then The river interdiction scene happens; this is especially disturbing for its portrayal of trigger happy and unprofessional river boat sailors. No self-respecting navy small craft commander would interrupt a mission to do a routine interdiction. When delivering special forces members it’s in and out as fast as possible. That’s the first detour from the reality of military protocol.After this it only gets worse. It’s amazing that with all of its attention to detail of uniforms, rank insignia and patches, that Francis Ford Coppola chose not to give a more accurate depiction of the workings of the chain of command and military protocol.

The further up river Capt. Willard goes the more chaotic the situation becomes. I know that this is supposed to be a metaphor but in the context of the movie it doesn’t reflect the reality of the war. There is a complete absence of any command structure in the bases that he stops at on his trip up river. We witness some pretty playboy playmates threatened by a mob of horny out of control soldiers who are undoubtedly bent on raping them to death. They are rescued by a helicopter just in time to escape with their lives. This scene is an insult to all service men everywhere and in any era. There has never been this kind of incident at any USO show ever not in the history of USO shows. Our service men are raucous but well behaved and certainly not prone to rioting at this kind of event.They are mostly appreciative for the fact that they are not forgotten by the folks at home.

The mud base could have been any firebase during the monsoon season, but again we have no chain of command. It appears to be mostly abandoned with no external security, no activity just muck and mess and the stranded playmates selling their bodies for chopper fuel, so they can get the hell out of there. By this time they are are bedraggled and unappealing and more than slightly pathetic. Okay! The late Bob Hope who did a show on Guadalcanal, while there was still fighting there, would tell you that the USO and the military would never put women or anyone else in such a precarious situation. So what was the purpose of this scene other than gratuitous sex and more harping about how screwed up the military is. Since the movie was made in 1979 it was still too close to the war to recognize such men as General Norman Schwarzkopf jr. and General Colin Powell both who served as junior officers in Vietnam. Without officers the whole thing would have broken down much sooner than it actually did; and that was more political than it was lack of leadership and incompetence which is what the movie insinuates.

The bridge to nowhere, (not the infamous pork barrel project in Alaska.) Was a bridge that was rebuilt daily and blown up every night. One of the reasons that they have Navy Seals is to prevent this kind of attack. I am pretty sure that the VC or the NVA, (North Vietnamese Army) would have a hard time trying to get to a critical life line such as a bridge, time and time again. They might have initial success, but would find it increasingly difficult once the element of surprise was lost. The panicky soldiers trying to escape this forward operating base is another portrayal of the unwilling unprofessional, often cowardly American soldier. To add insult to injury the scene of the dope smoking soul brothers hunkered down in the bunker was an indictment of black soldiers as useless drug abusers. The one bright spot in the movie was the black machine gunner and the squad grenadier who was obviously a seasoned veteran, who was an expert with the M79 grenade launcher. Taking out the enemy in the black of night just by listening; that was an awesome feat of skill. Once again we find Capt. Willard unable to find out who’s in charge here. The impression one gets is that the American officers of that era were a bunch of slackers who more often than not abandoned their post and their men.

The only officer up river that can be found is the slightly psychotic “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore. Music actually was the sound track of his life. Playing the ride of the Valkyrie over the loud speakers while making a helicopter assault on a village makes a great movie scene but wasn’t par for the course during wartime. The pattern of this movie is that, the only officers doing anything are the ones that are crazy or are going crazy; which brings me to Colonel Kurtz.

Colonel Kurtz is a rogue special forces officer who is the leader of a group of rogues and primitive bushmen that apparently have committed enough atrocities to come to the attention of the U.S. government. He is in such a black hole of depression that he welcomes death at the hands of Capt. Willard. This scenario is a departure from the original novella Heart of darkness but, it is also a departure from the fact that special forces officers are relieved from duty at the first sign of any irregular behavior and not assassinated. When Willard reads a report by Kurtz in the last scene of the movie he is horrified at the words Drop the bomb. This is the solution of bar room bigmouths and phony flag wavers, who have never even served in the armed forces, not of professional military men.

So as you can see my main grievance with apocalypse now isn’t that it’s a bad movie per se, but that many people who don’t know any better, think that it is the definitive Vietnam narrative. It is full of insulting stereotypes
of servicemen and really annoying in retrospect. considering the source material it doesn’t surprise me.

The movie is loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a novella about colonialist Africa; where Conrad worked as a river boat pilot. The story is full of unapologetic racism but not a condemnation of colonialism as some people seem to think it is. It is mostly a condemnation of the African continent for being so destructive and corrupting to the white man. Heart of darkness is not just a metaphor for the dark heart of man but a literal location, the heart of the Dark continent,the Congo river. As in Apocalypse Now the farther up river the hero goes the more decay and despair become the norm. After taking charge of and repairing a badly damaged river boat he is sent up river to retrieve station manager Kurtz. Kurtz is an ivory trading company agent and reputed to be one of the best. In the novella his success is based on raiding and murdering native tribes and stealing their Ivory. Kurtz is also an agent for the International society for the suppression of savage customs, (meaning the suppression of Africans.) Kurtz footnote of exterminate all the brutes. was mirrored in Apocalypse Now.

Despite the fact that Kurtz had gone native, having an African mistress and leading an African tribe he apparently thought that genocide was the only way to settle Africa peacefully. If Conrad was actually an anti-colonialist he never expressed it through advocacy of any kind. In fact he was a complete Anglophile and admired the British empire and the colonial system. Heart of darkness is a story told without true understanding of the nature of colonialism. The instances of blind hatred and brutality are merely incidental window dressing, told in a matter of fact and unsympathetic manner. The narrative is told from the perspective of the colonial exploiter as victim of the harshness of the African environment; just as Colonel Kurtz is depicted as a victim of the brutality of the Vietnam War. There is no clear delineation between Conrad’s real feelings about colonialism and the narrative.

I have read plenty of history books with anecdotal accounts about colonials, most of them about the English and not once was the N word bandied about like in Conrad’s novella. I know that there was no such thing as political correctness in his time, but for some one who aspired to be an English gentleman, his vocabulary was very low class. The harshness of the blatant racism in the story made it almost impossible to read, but between the lines I see a story of racism told by a racist, with no compunction about the brutality of colonialism. “The horror, the horror.”

The fact that this story has been so widely read and re-imagined onscreen as Apocalypse Now proves that it has merit to some. But I fear that this just means that people still don’t understand the awfulness of colonialism, and have rationalized this story as something that it isn’t. If Conrad had been an ardent anti-colonialist I would most certainly have felt differently, but he wasn’t and I don’t.

“BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY LIST OF STUFF & THINGS AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE.”

I Love Jamie Foxx but,

I love Jamie Foxx but, I really don’t think that Django unchained is Oscar material any more than Inglorious Bastards. Yes it was a rousing saturday afternoon diversion and yes I got to see Jamie Foxx all Bad ass and cool, but  let’s face it, this movie was way over the top. It could be called the Bad the Badder and the Baddest. I’m fairly confident that this movie will become a cult classic like Pulp Fiction. Tarantino is very good at creating bloody good action yarns. I have nothing against Django, however my favorite movie of 2012 is Cloud Atlas and it was completely overlooked for the Oscars. While Django was Six gun porn, Cloud Atlas was a truly involving and fascinating story. I judge a story by how engaged I become with the characters and the plot. I was totally absorbed in the trials and tribulations of every character on screen.

I fear that this movie was rebuffed simply because of the genre of Science fiction. Sure movies like Avatar and The Empire strikes back get technical awards but I can’t remember a science fiction flick ever winning a best movie or best actor Oscar. Cloud Atlas goes way beyond just science fiction, it reaches across the ages in a series of interwoven stories that all converge in an uplifting ending. 

I love everything about this movie and can’t wait to get it on DVD. I talked about this film for a week after I had viewed it. It was on my mind from the time I left the theater until today. Some people seemed to find it confusing but I just found it thought provoking. It’s been a long time since I have been stimulated by any movie. Movies like Sophie’s Choice and Glory made me feel the same way but great pics like these are few and far in between. Instead of quality films we are constantly bombarded by live action cartoons like transformers and yet another Spiderman. This year I’ve seen remakes of Judge Dredd and Total Recall, yet again illustrating Hollywood’s lack of imagination. Cloud Atlas is not only imaginative but beautifully crafted with some great performances by veteran actors and talented newcomers.

So why was this more than adequate film ignored by the Academy? Even more puzzling to me is, why was Django ever nominated? It wasn’t as good as Open Range or Unforgiven or  even Tombstone.  It was sort of a cross between Mandingo and They call me Trinity,( a corny second rate Spaghetti western) with a little Buck and the preacher and Skin game thrown in for good measure. In other words it was highly derivative and not terribly original. I know that it was supposed to be an homage to the Spaghetti western genre, but it lacked the grittiness of the Sergio Leone movies. Gratuitous violence and shock tactics do not make a great movie, a great story and great acting makes a great movie. In my opinion Cloud Atlas fits into both the categories of great story and great acting which is why I believe that Cloud Atlas and not Django Unchained deserves at least a nomination.

Why I’ll have to reread the Hobbit

It’s been a very, very long time since I have read JRR Tolkien’s the Hobbit in Junior High: however I still remember the premise of the story. Unlike Peter Jacksons original Lord of the rings trilogy his latest venture (The Hobbit an Unexpected Journey) baffled me. I kept saying to my self I don’t remember that happening. I realize that directors are allowed to take certain liberties with the interpretation of a novel into a movie adaptation, but not at the expense of the story. Although Jackson did not butcher the story as badly as Robert Longo’s screen version of Johnny Mnemonic, I was still disappointed. 

Leaving off less than mid way through the story did not help. Why would he turn a single book into a trilogy when he so skillfully condensed each of the three books of the lord of the rings into only three movies. If he had used the same principles of padding those movies as he did the Hobbit he could have easily stretched each story into three parts. Just think of it, a nine movie epic franchise.

The fact that Jackson is stretching the movie like Mr. Fantastic is not my only beef, he turned it into an actual cliffhanger in every sense of the word. There are numerous scenes where the dwarves and Bilbo are literally hanging by their finger tips over various dangerously deep Chasms. The inexplicable mood changes of Thorin Oakenshield toward Bilbo was annoying and redundant. If he had been resistant to the addition of Bilbo from the beginning it would have made more sense to me.

The Albino orc was another puzzlement to me I do not remember that particular character in the original novel. I could be wrong, but I’ll have to reread this wonderful book again to refresh my knowledge, I am looking forward to it. 

All in all this was not totally a bad experience; it was an afternoon diversion and a chance to stuff myself with chicken tenders, big pretzels and soda, all of the forbidden stuff. This movie might be better suited for preteens than adults especially those of us who have read  Tolkien no matter how long ago it was.