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Episode #91: LABYRINTH

  

161 members have voted

  1. 1. Is LABYRINTH Canon?

    • Yes!
      74
    • Throw it in the Bog of Eternal Stench
      87


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Speaking as an illustrator, Labyrinth's influence is all over the illustration scene. And while a lot of that comes down to Brian Froud, there's a lot to be said about a young artist seeing something like Labyrinth come to life onscreen. It's a soft yes from me, but I think Labyrinth's thematics and few key dramatic scenes elevate it above something like Dark Crystal, which is near unwatchable as anything other than a visual exercise. I also see the handcrafted feel of this movie coming out in the small stop motion boom we seem to be having.

In response to Devin's reaction to the deep silliness of a lot of the goblin designs, I actually find that one of the film's strengths. In terms of monster psychological niches, goblins represent monstrous childhood. They're silly, and they can be cute in the same ugly way that a pug is cute, but they're also cruel in the thoughtless way that a child can be cruel. Before a certain age, children are functional sociopaths. It's not an intentional or mature sort of malice - goblins are cruel because they're bored or they think it's funny or out of a careless lack of empathy (Bowie tossing baby Toby up in the air in "Dance Magic Dance" and appearing to simply forget about the kid and step away while he's in mid-air is a perfect example). They've got to be threatening, funny, and pathetic all at the same time, and that's a fine line to tread.. Again this is more to do with the movie's themes as opposed to its execution, but that monstrous childhood makes the goblins perfect villains for this film about accepting maturity.

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A soft no, but a no nonetheless. I have a tremendous amount of love for Henson, I really admire the design and craft of the movie itself, and it's still fun to put on at parties or unwind to with friends. But I'm with Amy in being wary of letting in too many perennial nostalgia favorites. It's a great entry in a genre that I have a lot of affection for, but I can't say that it transcends the genre in any meaningful way.

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I see the argument for being stricter on nostalgia films, I just really wish we weren't drawing the line on the movie with the positive female protagonist for young girls.

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I just have to add: Given the amount of (understandable) criticism thrown Jennifer Connelly's way in this week's episode....she did get better as an actress.

 

I first saw her In The Rocketeer, one of the most - honestly - influential films of my coming-of-age years. Not only is it a wonderful film from top to bottom, but literally EVERYONE in the cast gives a good performance. Billy Campbell, the INCREDIBLE Timothy Dalton (long before I knew him as a very under-appreciated James Bond), Paul Sorvino, Alan Arkin, Terry O'Quinn. Connelly plays the damsel-role (not a shocker ever, but for a 1930/40sish serial-inspired adventure, all the more unsurprising), but I still appreciate that the film - for an early 90s mainstream film - still spends a good amount of time looking at the events on-screen through her perspective, motivated by her desires. She's not objectified, she's just the only female character in a movie almost entirely about dudes. Which...happens.

 

But I maintain that it's nonetheless a really fun movie for kids, adults, men, women, genre-philes or history-phobes. It's an Art Deco, pre-WWII campy blast. Easy to love, easy to watch, fun all around. Holds up wonderfully.

 

And, to the point, if you've been hung up on Connelly's less-than-great performance in Labyrinth, but don't want to go the full-on wrist-slittingly depressing Requiem For a Dream to see her do something good...well...

 

...Darren Aranovsky's Noah wasn't bad. Very, very interesting film, with a kinda-crazy take on the pre-Biblical Bible stuff, with good production values and a solid supporting cast....

 

...But if you wanna see young Connelly in a really, really, really, really, really under-rated film: The Rocketeer. $3 rental on Youtube or Amazon. I'd totally do it right now, if I haven't done so many times over the years. And if I knew how to hook either up to my television. Stupid 00s-brain.

 

Comparing Phoebe Cates, or Mia Sara, versus Jennifer Connelly, as Devin and Amy did for a good five minutes, just doesn't seem fair. More than most, we know these actresses were limited by the material they were given, more than by anything else. So, to be fair, look to the best material they were given. I feel comfortable in saying that - apart from that one episode of Arrested Development that Mia Sara guest-starred in - The Rocketeer is the most enjoyable film any of them have been in. Not necessarily best, from a dramatic standpoint, just most enjoyable. Which is absolutely worth something. A lot of somethings, actually.

 

It's well worth a watch. Two hours, $3. For the best of early-90s Disney fare. An easy sit, and a pulpy delight. And if you see it, and don't like it, by all means give me $#!+. I guarantee I will reply. I love the film that much.

 

I just, really, really wanted to pimp that out. Because I love that film, and I grew up loving it. So...why not?

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I grew up on this movie and have always loved it, but I'm most definitely voting NO for Canon inclusion. As a Henson fan, I'm still astonished by the puppetry in the film, and as a Bowie fan I get a kick out of his presence, even if his original songs are hardly his greatest work. I feel like there's a fantastic skeleton holding LABYRINTH together, but not nearly enough flesh holding it together. I love the themes introduced about female empowerment and the stuff in the Garbage Lady scene, but I don't think these are fully explored. You can see hints of what could have worked, but I think too much was lost in the multiple drafts of the script. I saw Terry Jones speak at a Python reunion event last year and someone in the audience asked him about Labyrinth and his response was to the effect of that he doesn't even recognize his script in the finished product. I think the reason it's having a cultural resurgence is that the entertainment media is now being run by the children who loved these films when they were growing up but were too young to see any flaws in them, with nostalgia keeping them from seeing them now. This is also why indisputably awful films like HOOK and HOCUS POCUS seem to be celebrated so much today as well. I still have a lot of love for the individual parts of this movie, and if it pops up on cable I'll watch the shit out of it, but I've grown up a bit now and have started to see the cracks. My heart says yes but my mind says no. But I'm all on board for voting in THE MUPPET MOVIE.

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I always feel like a dick for criticising child actors (she's definitely not the worst). I think Jennifer Connelly is solid in later works. I've never seen Rocketeer, I guess you just decided what I'm doing with my night.

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I grew up on this movie and have always loved it, but I'm most definitely voting NO for Canon inclusion. As a Henson fan, I'm still astonished by the puppetry in the film, and as a Bowie fan I get a kick out of his presence, even if his original songs are hardly his greatest work. I feel like there's a fantastic skeleton holding LABYRINTH together, but not nearly enough flesh holding it together. I love the themes introduced about female empowerment and the stuff in the Garbage Lady scene, but I don't think these are fully explored. You can see hints of what could have worked, but I think too much was lost in the multiple drafts of the script. I saw Terry Jones speak at a Python reunion event last year and someone in the audience asked him about Labyrinth and his response was to the effect of that he doesn't even recognize his script in the finished product. I think the reason it's having a cultural resurgence is that the entertainment media is now being run by the children who loved these films when they were growing up but were too young to see any flaws in them, with nostalgia keeping them from seeing them now. This is also why indisputably awful films like HOOK and HOCUS POCUS seem to be celebrated so much today as well. I still have a lot of love for the individual parts of this movie, and if it pops up on cable I'll watch the shit out of it, but I've grown up a bit now and have started to see the cracks. My heart says yes but my mind says no. But I'm all on board for voting in THE MUPPET MOVIE.

 

I won't try to change your mind about Labyrinth (I get where you're coming from), but I nonetheless feel compelled to ask, on the topic of The Muppets:

 

How many Muppets film do you love, and do any of them, you feel, belong in The Canon?

 

Personally, I love The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Muppets Take Manhattan, and A Muppet Christmas Carol. But, aside from perhaps the first (on a greater legacy-based vote), I wouldn't vote any of them into The Canon. Which...kinda hurts, in a pre-phantom-pain kinda way. I can easily vote for stuff like The Neverending Story or Labyrinth, films that, aside from their wonderful merits, apparently made ZERO impact on filmmaking of their day, and which, at best, can claim to have become cult films that inspired future studio moguls....to greenlight one Transformers movie after another. At best.

 

Pre-LotR fantasy is a lost era, I understand. Probably forgotten, by the masses. As if nothing preceding Fellowship ever impacted anything in the fantasy realm. Total BS, really, but.....I fear it's nonetheless true, given....everything.

 

I'll just stop this post here. I think I kinda had a point. Now, I think I've just depressed myself.

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I always feel like a dick for criticising child actors (she's definitely not the worst). I think Jennifer Connelly is solid in later works. I've never seen Rocketeer, I guess you just decided what I'm doing with my night.

 

You mean, you're gonna watch The Rocketeer tonight? I sure hope so. I think I'm gonna watch it again too. It's one of those films I can't get enough of.

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Yeah it's been recommended enough times that I'll give it ago. I think I understand what you're trying to say about the muppets as well. I feel like people are being really hard on Labyrinth and the nostalgia argument this time around and then turning around to elevate the muppets to this strange level of canonocity that makes very little sense to me. I don't want to misrepresent what you were trying to say but that's kind of how I took it. Maybe I'm just projecting.

 

 

Afterthought I also love the muppets and have major respect for all the work that goes into them but most of their movies don't even come close to canon-worthy for me.

Edited by mak

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Yeah it's been recommended enough times that I'll give it ago. I think I understand what you're trying to say about the muppets as well. I feel like people are being really hard on Labyrinth and the nostalgia argument this time around and then turning around to elevate the muppets to this strange level of canonocity that makes very little sense to me. I don't want to misrepresent what you were trying to say but that's kind of how I took it. Maybe I'm just projecting.

 

Well, I do love The Muppets. But every movie they've made has had flaws. I don't know how much of that to base on Henson and co.'s focus on puppeteering over...other filmic stuff. But all Muppet films have the same shortcomings, I think: shallow characterizations, a focus on the puppet-related visual over the...I guess, substantial? Movies that occasionally stop dead in their tracks to show off the latest puppeteering trick they spent several weeks working on. Which must've meant a lot to the, but which only translates to us over a few-second clip.

 

I can't hate any film that shows this much crazy ambition. But, sometimes, it just comes off as a stunt reel of a different sort. And not a fully-cohesive cinematic experience.

 

EDIT: Just watched it again, after may two years. Still love it. A perfect template for how I want all action/comic book movies to be.

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I see the argument for being stricter on nostalgia films, I just really wish we weren't drawing the line on the movie with the positive female protagonist for young girls.

 

I would say we drew the line at THE GOONIES, which did not get in.

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I would say we drew the line at THE GOONIES, which did not get in.

 

Well, if Labyrinth doesn't get in either, the line is drawn a little tighter then, isn't it?

 

I do feel it's a little weird that both of you would acknowledge that 80s' "boy" films would be so well-represented, and that "girls'" films wouldn't, then you turn right around and go for an all-boy 80s movie.

 

Maybe instead of just giving Amy a list of choices, you could let (if "let" fits, is she not an equal co-host?) Amy program a month's worth of episodes. To start. If you really believe there's a disparity in The Canon thus far. Whether she picks "chick flicks" or not, I think you'd at least get a slate of films that could be easily viewed from a female perspective.

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Well, if Labyrinth doesn't get in either, the line is drawn a little tighter then, isn't it?

 

I do feel it's a little weird that both of you would acknowledge that 80s' "boy" films would be so well-represented, and that "girls'" films wouldn't, then you turn right around and go for an all-boy 80s movie.

 

Maybe instead of just giving Amy a list of choices, you could let (if "let" fits, is she not an equal co-host?) Amy program a month's worth of episodes. To start. Whether she picks "chick flicks" or not, I think you'd at least get a slate of films that could be easily viewed from a female perspective.

 

I think you're jumping to a lot of conclusions about how we pick movies for this show.

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I think you're jumping to a lot of conclusions about how we pick movies for this show.

 

Well, near as I can tell, you're not being very transparent about your selection process. How am I to draw conclusions? Based on today's episode, you gave Amy a list of choices, and she picked one. That still comes off as more your choice than hers, from where I stand. It's kinda like "Chinese Democracy", y'know?

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Well, near as I can tell, you're not being very transparent about your selection process. How am I to draw conclusions? Based on today's episode, you gave Amy a list of choices, and she picked one. That still comes off as more your choice than hers, from where I stand. It's kinda like "Chinese Democracy", y'know?

 

And Amy has sent me lists of movies and I have picked one. This isn't some kind of conspiracy to keep your favorite movies out of the Canon or to keep it all boy movies.

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Well, near as I can tell, you're not being very transparent about your selection process.

 

Dude, just ask him. The other day I asked why there were so many 80's movies (about 25%) and he gave a pretty straightforward answer.

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And Amy has sent me lists of movies and I have picked one. This isn't some kind of conspiracy to keep your favorite movies out of the Canon or to keep it all boy movies.

 

I'm not saying it was, only that I find it odd you'd (collectively, if two counts as a collective) admit that there's a very era-specific gender bias, then you'd both jump right back into the thick of it in, possibly, the most extreme case. It was hard not to notice.

 

At no point did I raise the issue of my favorites being denied me*. I accepted, years ago, that my faves are never gonna be acknowledged by the masses. It's internalized. It really needn't be even hinted at these days.

 

* FWIW, my favorites are all slam-dunks, and I wouldn't hear otherwise....

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Dude, just ask him. The other day I asked why there were so many 80's movies (about 25%) and he gave a pretty straightforward answer.

 

Well, I already have a pretty solid assumption as to why there are so many 80s films: A) it's something both Devin and Amy are VERY familiar with and can talk about at length and B ) it's something they suspect a lot of their audience are familiar with, for similar reasons.

 

I have wondered, many times, if Devin and Amy (and/or Earwolf) are in any way motivated by clicks or whatevers. So many other vid/podcast sites are. I get it. I know I'd be crazy to assume they'd spend as much time talking about Gary Cooper as Kurt Russell, or Douglas Sirk as Steven Spielberg. I suspect I know what floats their boats, and can suspect what pays their bills (metaphorically speaking, as I'm under the impression Devin and Amy do this for fun, and the ads just cover the basic Earwolf administrative costs).

 

I don't mean to come off as challenging, or attacking, anyone. I just absolutely agree with recent sentiments raised during the Breakfast at Tiffany's (which I still don't like) or Labyrinth episodes. There needs to be a stronger focus, if not on female filmakers (I've recently been put in my place by other threads as to how little I know about the subject), at least on what films women grew up loving. Men's 80s/90s nostalgia is well-represented thus far, so why not try to make good on women's nostalgia to keep pace? Working Girl and Election aren't my thing (sorry), but I'm sure there must be others. And I would really love it if the podcast would shine a spotlight on them. I'm not trying to push "women's films". I've suggested Walk Hard and Rocky IV for The Canon. I enjoy silly films. I've also suggested Alfie, a film brutally depicting a very sexist double-standard-laden 60s.

 

Or maybe I just have a thing against Steven King. I can't dismiss that. I understand lots of people grew up with his films, but I didn't, and, personally, I think Kubrick is the best thing that ever happened to his works. Yeah, I mean that.

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I was leaning yes before the episode, then went with a soft no after listening, and am coming back around to a yes after the consideration here in the forum.

 

While nostalgia is undoubtedly a powerful factor in this film's endurance, I still think that the world it creates is so unique and compelling, and stands alone among Arthurian and Tolkien-inspired fantasy. It successfully mixes new romantic 80s fashion with the grotty low fantasy of Henson's non-Muppets creations -- I feel like, especially in the wake of his death, his legacy is being reduced to only the puppet comedy he's most known for but his imagination drew from more complicated, shaded places (check out his 1969 film The Cube). The elements of Labyrinth that are responsible for the positive impression it's left today are still interesting and worth examining, despite the tendencies of modern nerd culture to regurgitate it in banal ways.

 

Other commenter have said it better than I could, so I'll just echo the sentiment: Labyrinth is one of the very few films for children and young adults that has an empowering arc for a female protagonist. The moral of the story is realistic without being cynical and resonates even more now in the nostalgia tunnel vision of ComicCon and Tumblr reposts. Sarah confronts her own confusing and powerful sexuality in Bowie's Goblin King, recognizes the lame responsibility and small joy of her family, and ends up a more fully realized adult with agency.

 

Again, there were so few of these stories -- this can't be underlined enough. The only other one I can remember from my childhood is The Last Unicorn. Other fantasy films I loved represent women only as minor princesses to be saved. As much as I love (LOVE) The Neverending Story, it's a much weaker movie that's simply a power fantasy (saving a cute girl, beating up bullies, imagination is the most important thing ever); Legend gives us a typical princess to be saved (and no pants for Tom Cruise); The Princess Bride gives us two male lead characters and a woman who exists to be passed around; Dragonslayer, Krull, you can go on and on through a vast sea of Campbell hero journeys in cinema that are about dudes and the ladies they save on their way to being a more important man.

 

For that reason, but also for Labyrinth's pervasive influence two decades later, I have to say this belongs in the canon.

 

Bowie's crotch having its own zip code is obviously a major factor as well.

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I ended up voting no for this one, but I think it was very close. The film is extremely imaginative and like others have said, it's nice seeing a fantasy film with a female protagonist that isn't just another princess movie. I really enjoy the themes of growing up in the film and there are some incredible individual scenes, but as a whole it's poorly paced and the editing is sloppy. I didn't know about all the different script rewrites until I listened to the podcast but it makes sense. A lot of times this feels like there's a much more interesting movie hiding inside what we get.

 

A part of me really wants to vote yes for Labyrinth but I just don't think it's strong enough. It's not as ambitious as The Dark Crystal nor is it as well-made as The Neverending Story. As far as nostalgic kids movies being revisited, it's definitely better than something like The Goonies and I'm happy that it developed such a strong cult following over the years, but it still ends up being a reluctant no for me.

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I would say we drew the line at THE GOONIES, which did not get in.

 

That's valid. I just feel like we're trying to equate two films along a gender divide that are vastly different and I would say the problems in Goonies way outnumber the problems in Labyrinth. (which you did mention in the episode) It feels like Labyrinth is incurring some of the backlash from the nostalgia picks that have gone up for vote. There appear to be two schools of thought with opposing ideas on what the canon should be. I like the idea of a big canon and think there is room for a lot of different types of movies even ones that are not considered high art. In the same way Amy seemed to feel some Horror fatigue during the Re-animator episode I think people who want a more refined canon are really drawing a line in the sand on this pick.

 

At the risk of sounding like Jennifer Connelly it just seems unfair.

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I think that Labyrinth belongs in the Canon for its cultural influence. Labyrinth is a significant and indefinitely relevant cultural reference point. You can increasingly locate Labyrinth's visual influence in works produced today to an extent not matched by films like Goonies.

 

I think you can make a case for the seemingly dull filmmaking in Labyrinth. This is a movie as much about puppetry (muppetry?) as its story, probably more so. Therefore the visual language of the film should facilitate the muppet craft, rather than principally convey the themes of the story. Everything about the film should shape itself to meet the goals of the craft.

 

In order to find that argument compelling, I think you have to get on board with the idea that there is something special to muppets. You need to feel that the existential significance of muppet-ness is meaningful enough to carry a film. A muppet alone it a work of art, which uses the medium to transcend its existence as a physical object operated by a person and become a being dissociated from an external animating consciousness. Art allows a muppet to transcend into an actual being, though one still trapped in a labyrinth of the story it performs. Sarah's assertion of agency over fantasy distinguishes her humanity and therefore allows her to escape the labyrinth of muppet-ness. It's very telling that Jareth's dominance is presented as its own form of slavery.

 

If you're starting frame of reference for interrogating the film is, "what does it mean to be a muppet/human?" then you can start to build a more compelling viewing.

 

Anybody buying that?

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It's a big yes for me. I can't pretend to divorce my enjoyment of this film from that of the young me (36 now, must have seen it in the late 80s on VHS first), but I don't think that means I'm simply being nostalgic. I get nostalgic about Flight of The Navigator, but I don't think I'd push for that to go in the Canon. I think Labyrinth definitely belongs in for the beauty of the fantasy world and creatures on display, the dreamy tone, and the non-aggressive path to victory / self discovery.

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