Saturday, July 26, 2008

This Week at the Stale Popcorn-o-Plex

I got tagged by the estimable Ja over at My New Plaid Pants to do "The Twelve Movie Meme", originally created by Lazy Eye Theatre. Ja's six nights of double features were a wonderous motley crew of surrealism, family films, film-noir, slasher flicks and musicals. I take ages coming up with great mix CD tracklists so I've decided to really give this meme some thought, even though it was only meant to be a little bit of fun. And, let's face it, everybody wants to be able to program their own mini-film festival, don't they?

I hope the programming at your local Stale Popcorn-o-Plex features something to your fancy. You should totally see all these movies! And if you haven't maybe you could actually watch them as a double bill like I've put them. I'd actually be intrigued to see how well they play together.

Scream 2 (1996, dir. Craven)
Dead End-Drive In (1986, dir. Trenchard-Smith)

Because I figure the first night of my series of double features has to be a little bit meta. So, to fit, I am starting with Wes Craven's slasher sequel to his genre reviver Scream, in the form of Scream 2. It's a movie I have watched nearly 200 times (no joke) and still love with the burning fire of a thousand suns, although I routinely flip flop about which, Scream or Scream 2 I like that minute fraction more so if you asked me tomorrow I'd probably choose to program the original and not the sequel. I am following that with Brian Trenchard-Smith's ozploitation classic Dead End Drive-In. It's set at a drive-in, folks! It totally fits the groove of this whole idea, plus it's a kick arse movie to boot. I actually had these the other way around, but I realised I was silly in not making the very first selection a movie in which PEOPLE GET BRUTALLY MURDERED IN A CINEMA! I think that sets a nice theme for the next six days, don't you?

I'm the One That I Want (2000, dir. Lionel Coleman)
Hoop Dreams (1994, dir. Steve James)

Now for a change of pace. I decided to give Margaret Cho's brilliant stand-up film I'm the One that I Want some appreciation, considering it doesn't get anywhere near enough of it. It really is one of the best films of the decade so far. And I followed that up with Steve James' epic (it's 170 minutes) documentary about the rise of two African American wannabe NBA players as they battle the public and private school system, racism, family issues and the hardships of growing up in an impoverished area. They're both astounding films for what they tried to do and how well they succeed. You'll be beaming when Cho discusses how she got herself out a network television hellhole, and you'll be crying as the mother of a basketball hopeful graduates top of her class.

The Last Seduction (1994, dir. John Dahl)
U-Turn (1997, dir. Oliver Stone)

Night number three I went a bit crazy by choosing John Dahl's erotic thriller The Last Seduction and Oliver Stone's much-maligned and radically bonkers crime flick U-Turn. Watch as Linda Fiorentino gives one of the finest performances of the '90s in Seduction, slinking around like a snake on heat. U-Turn is a much different kettle of fish though. I don't know anybody else who is as open about liking Stone's bizarro-fest as I am, but I'd rather watch this brave and eccentric movie, which stars Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Jaoquin Phoenix, Billy Bob Thorton and Claire Danes, than I would Platoon. It's not a great movie, for sure, but I have a crush on these sort of maligned moments of directorial insanity (see night #5 also)

The Haunting (1963, dir. Robert Wise)
The Birds (1963, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

I had no idea that these two scary flicks were released in 1963. That just makes their pairing even more intriguing. One is black and white, the other is colour. One is more classical, the other is modern. One gets it's immense frights from making the audience use their imagination, the other puts its terror right in front of your eyes. And so on. Both are exceptional films though and two of the scariest I have ever seen.

One From the Heart (1982, dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Beat Street (1984, dir. Stan Latham)

Much like Oliver Stone's U-Turn up on night number three, I am a big fan of Francis Ford Coppola's One from the Heart, the quasi-musical that sent him broke and became a punchline within a day of its opening in 1982. It is, however, my favourite of Coppola's vast filmography. It's not his best film, but it's one I feel like I have a stronger connection to than any of his Oscar winning behemoths like The Godfather movies, or Apocalypse Now and The Conversation (as great as they all are). I chose the film, however, because I want to see it on the big screen. It is the first of two films to be lensed by Vittorio Storaro, and I think it's an absolutely gorgeous movie.

Beat Street on the other hand is probably the best of the 1980s music films of it's style. I see it as a much more dramatic film than teenagers got in the day, and the sort of film I wish were made more of today. Instead we get Step Up. When the characters in Beat Street deal with the death of another it feels strong and real, which is more than I can say for Channing Tatum's pecs. But the real reason to see the movie is absolutely amazing soundtrack, which features the likes of Grandmaster Melle Mel, The System, Afrika Bombaataa, Debbie D, Jazzy Jay, Tina B Treacherous 3 and Brenda K Starr. One of the best soundtracks ever, and I am entirely serious.

Dick Tracy (1990, dir. Warren Beatty)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, dir. David Lynch)

For the final night of my programming series I went for a big finish on non-reality. Warren Beatty's interpretation of Dick Tracy is brash, colourful (lensed by Vittorio Storaro again) and bold. It takes it's aesthetic and runs with it with full force like a bull in a china shop. It's one of the most visually exciting films I've ever seen (it's the first movie I ever truly remember seeing at the cinema, too) and remains one of my all-time favourites. It's like a mad experiment with primary colours and swing music. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, however, is my truly BIG finish. David Lynch's 140 minute prequel to his Twin Peaks television series, Fire Walk With Me takes the character of Laura Palmer and shows us her last seven days, as well as throwing in all sorts of wrenches into the mix (Teresa Banks, Bob, Phillip Jeffries as played by David Bowie in one of the strangest moments of cinema you'll ever experience). The reason that I chose it as the closing film though is because of the final 30 minutes. They are some of the most harrowing and disturbing cinema I've ever witnessed and when it's over - Laura looking at an angel in the Red Room - I feel emotionally and physically drained. It's the type of movie you would walk out of the cinema, see the daylight and soak it up. After six days of endless movie action, I think that's a feeling you would want to have. You want to feel satisfied like you could go without movies for a few days, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me does just that.


Now, I'm supposed to tag five other people with this. I don't know who's already been tagged (sometimes the blogosphere can get quite tangled up) but I'm going to choose Rants of a Diva, Brevity is... Wit, The Film Experience, Rural Juror and Tony Soprano Breaks for Animals. But, really, i bet most of them won't do it so if you're reading you can substitute yourself.


leah said...

sweet double features.

just thought i'd mention i'm a huge fan of 'u-turn', i didn't realise it was so maligned! guess i'm off in my own little world

Kamikaze Camel said...

so there's actually two people who are big fans of U-Turn. I never knew...

J.D. said...

Aw, I feel sad now for not loving The Birds. :-\

Dame James Henry said...

It was while watching Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me that I realized that I just don't "get" David Lynch. That movie was so fucked up! But maybe that was the point, since I can remember individual scenes so clearly in my head (Laura Palmer growling a demonic voice "Fire walk with me...", the scene at the bar where the music is so loud you can't hear anyone talking and the two girl randomly take off their tops and dance for the truckers, the car ride with Laura and her dad). Should I have watched the TV show first to understand it better?

leah said...

dame henry (classic photo, btw),

i don't want to speak out of turn or step on the host's toes if you were asking kam specifically, but you said 'should i have watched the tv show (twin peaks) first to understand (fire wwm) it better?

i would have to say a resounding 'yes'! otherwise 'fire wwm' would indeed seem like a some random bad trip on shrooms or something...

i love lynch but he's a trip; to this day i still can't make sense of 'lost highway' but like you said, maybe that's the whole point

Glenn said...

James, oh yes. YES YES YES. If you haven't seen the series then the movie is even more insane than it is if you have. Even if you only watch season one, it would help. I love season two as well, but it starts to get a bit silly at times (the superhero storyline for one).

Having said that, the movie is completely different. The tv series is "quirky!" and "mysterious!", the movie is brutal, psychopathic and deranged, which is why David Lynch is so brilliant. Only he would've completely turned the show that made him a household name on its head and made the whole universe even more confusing than it was before.

Still, those final 30 minutes almost make me cry whenever I watch them, they're so intense and terrifying.

leah said...

lynch is one of the few directors that i would actually like to crawl into his head and see what weird and wonderful things are going on in there; he's so incredibly unique in a film world filled with so much unidentifiable, uniform mediocrity. i can see how he wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea, though

Paul Martin said...

FWIW, I also loved U-Turn.

IMO, Fire Walk With Me is one of Lynch's finest films, and probably his most under-rated. You definitely need to see the first season of the TV series first. The opening sequence had me in tears, seeing this beautiful young woman alive, knowing that she was soon to die. On a tangent, Edge of Heaven had a similar effect, when each 'chapter' announced the death of an upcoming character. The sight of the young student had such an effect.

Dame JH, sure Lynch's films are "fucked up", but you're not meant to "get" his films per se. They are not intellectual but intuitive. You just take it in and go along for the ride. I like trying to work them out, unsolving the mysteries in my own head, or something like that.

Leah, Lost Highway is my favourite film of all time. I have an essay about it on my blog, with an appendix that includes an explanation of Lost Highway (clearly marked with spoiler alerts if you don't want it all divulged).

Glenn, I agree with your assessment of the power of FWWM, and the brilliance of Lynch in turning the series on its head. Many audiences felt cheated, after the mostly frivolous nature of the series, but Lynch afficionados would have felt that it was the pinnacle of Twin Peaks (pun not intended, hehe).

Leah, Lynch is my favourite director, but I have no desire to get into his head. His films come from and work on the subconscious. I'd just like to sit across a table with him, with a pot of black joe and cookies, and just talking shit (life, the universe and everything).

leah said...

paul, just wanted to let you know i read your piece on 'lost highway', fantastic! much of what you wrote mirrors my own thoughts and interpretations of the film so it's nice to know i'm not alone in my convictions, and you brought up some interesting new concepts i hadn't considered, so i need to watch it again now! sadly, i lent all my lynch dvds to a friend who lent a few to his friend, and when they all came back the 'lost highway' dvd case was empty, a bummer but somehow befitting...

kam, three 'u-turn fans' now, the numbers are slowly growing...a couple more and we can start a 'u-turn lovers club', maybe even a movement ;)

richardwatts said...

The Haunting and The Birds as a double bill? Oh, yesssssss!

Glenn said...

Yay. Such interesting discussion.

I would need to revisit Lost Highway before discussing it, however, such is the one problem with Lynch. There's so much going on that unless you've watched his stuff dozens of times you're always going to be confronted by things you hadn't seen/thought/heard/etc before. Alas, that's also one of his prime strengths.

Leah, Being David Lynch perhaps?

Paul, I wouldn't consider FWWM the pinnacle of the Twin Peaks universe - that initial movie length pilot episode is it for me, the best thing Lynch has ever done and that includes Mulholland Drive, a movie in my top five. So many moments that haunt me.

But, the movie is something else entirely. Definitely his most underrated, although most of his movies are considered classics (FWWM and Lost Highway would be the ones that anger most people with Dune being the only of his film's I couldn't even get through).

I find it amusing that today at the IMDb their "daily poll" is "what's the worst film adaptation of a TV series?", FWWM isn't an option, but another movie that sprung out to me was Miami Vice - a movie hated vehemently by many because it wasn't what they expected from the series and there are movies like Sex and the City which is exactly what the Twin Peaks audience wanted but didn't get.

Richard, I'd be cowering in my seat in the fetal position by the end of it, wouldn't you?

leah said...

kam, your 'being david lynch' comment went right over my head (i've got a tummy bug at the mo so i'm a bit underdone), to loosely quote 'galaxy quest': please explain like you would to a child...

'dune' is one of my all time fave books, i just love it dearly, so when lynch's movie came out i was bitterly disappointed, the only time he's ever let me down. but i don't hold it against him, it was just a miscast, messed up project of an extremely difficult book to adapt for the screen (the miniseries from some years ago was quite good, tho, such an epic story need time to unfold).

i must add,


the image of 'bob' creeping over the end of the bed as seen by laura palmer haunts me to this day, a perfect nightmare created by lynch, who does creepy better than any supposed 'horror' master in working in film, imho!

Kamikaze Camel said...

Being John Malkovich, Leah.

And, yeah, Lynch has created so many moments that are scarier than anything you'll ever find in a Saw or Hostel or whatever. I firmly believe he makes horror movies that just have... other aspects.

leah said...

agreed, kam, lynch is one ticketyboo bastard. 'being david lynch', nice one; pity i'm such a homer j. moron right now

Paul Martin said...

Glenn, fair call with the pilot, perhaps the best pilot of all time. I wouldn't call one better than the other as they're so different. The pilot is the set-up, as a murder mystery and the intro to the characters. Fire Walk With Me is a totally different mind trip and really messed with audiences. It is subversive in that respect.

I don't think Lynch's films are horror stories. They're multi-genred. He mixes mystery, thriller, horror, noir, etc in a surrealist mixed bag of fluid mind channelling (pardon the mixed metaphors).

Paul Martin said...

I forgot to mention, I was at ACMI today and picked up the latest newsletter of what's on for the next two months. There's a doco about David Lynch.