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  1. ShowofShows

    Episode 128 - Starship Troopers (w/ Jordan Hoffman)

    My vote is yes. Starship Troopers is a provocative response to All Quiet on the Western Front which is appropriate since they have virtually identical stories. Both films follow young people who go on a dehumanizing odyssey through the horrors of war. However ,where Paul Verhoeven breaks with Lewis Milestone is that the meat grinder of war doesn't turn soldiers into disillusioned shells but mechanized tools of the state; an effective social control to pull young people further towards the credos of racism, nationalism and militarism. In that respect it's even more pessimistic than Verhoeven's RoboCop where Alex Murphy ultimately overcomes his dehumanization by the corporate state to reassert his humanity. Conversely, Johnny Rico descends deeper into the propaganda of the Federation until his sense of self is completely subsumed. I've always found his speech at Dizzy's funeral the most chilling aspect of the movie and the moment we realize Rico is lost for good:
  2. ShowofShows

    Episode 121 - The Matrix (w/ Cameron Esposito)

    It's a yes for me but I'm a little reluctant. I've always found it to be a perfectly decent film but nothing too special even though I really enjoyed Cameron Esposito's advocacy for it as a queer film. In many ways I wish Bound could have been submitted because I found that one more entertaining and original. Just as a story I find the opening a lot more intriguing as a sci-fi paranoid thriller. Once it gets into that pastiche of Asian cinema gun play and martial arts I sort of check out a bit. But The Matrix is inescapable as a cultural phenomena for good or ill. It permeates a lot of what we've seen in the past 20 years as far as how films are marketed (their viral marketing campaign was ahead of its time), the influences they borrow from (in Hong Kong cinema, anime and video games) and even the emphasis on characters and set pieces over snagging big name stars. Conversely, like Cameron and Amy said, there are elements of this film which don't hold up. I do feel though what ages just as poorly as Carrie Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves being made over to look like Asian characters is the depiction of assault rifles in this movie. I'm under no impression the Wachowskis were gun nuts or had some sort of agenda in place. Like many elements of the film it seemed to be an homage to directors like John Woo or Ringo Lamm. But I think even in those films there was nowhere near the fawning depiction of guns as these romantic objects that make a character powerful or important. Even in a lot of the hard R action film in the 1980's like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon the guns are just a means to an end. To the Wachowskis credit they did pair back the gunplay significantly in the sequels, knowing that the culture had changed in a short span. But in addition to being co-opted by the men's rights groups I think The Matrix has also rested as this weird cornerstone to modern gun culture as well and that remains part of its legacy.
  3. ShowofShows

    Capturing the Friedmans

    Errol Morris is one of the best directors of my lifetime. About 5 or 6 features he's made are easy candidates. Capturing The Friedman's is definitely a film worth talking about. I've yet to meet a person whose seen it that didn't come away wanting to discuss it at length. One of my favorite nonfiction films ever.
  4. ShowofShows

    Let's Stray Away from Geek/Genre/Gen-X Faire, Just for a Moment

    I've been wanting to see a John Waters film in the Canon. His contribution to pop art, independent filmmaking, LGBTQ Cinema etc. And it is a big break from all of these geek genre films mentioned in this thread.
  5. ShowofShows

    Micheal Jackson's Thriller

    I haven't seen anything specifically in the guidelines about music videos or short features but I have to believe that Thriller is one of the seminal works in modernizing music videos as well as an effective short feature on its own terms. Strikes me as a good topic on a lot of levels.
  6. ShowofShows

    Episode #90: PENNIES FROM HEAVEN

    This is a film I have a lot of strong feelings about. I went into it cold on my local PBS station and it sort of sparked in me this interest in Dennis Potter as a young man and I gobbled up his BBC work going backwards and I'd recommend that everyone see The Singing Detective and Lipstick on Your Collar. Pennies From Heaven is not as good as the BBC series, I want to state that off the bat. The BBC series is a commentary on a very different kind of culture - the culture of the Depression era dance hall music in England that sort of manifested itself in the mind's eye of its listeners without any particular visual cues. So fantasies about those songs seemed more in line with the imagination of the listener. Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello's parents were musicians in this older dance hall culture and it influenced their work greatly. The Herbert Ross/Steve Martin Pennies from Heaven is very much steeped in Americana and visual dynamism - explicit references to Busby Berkeley musicals, Edward Hopper paintings, Depression era photographers like Dorothea Lange etc. In that respect its a little harder to pivot and let the characters indulge in fantasies tailored to their own dreams and desires since its so specifically manifested in those works. I don't think Pennies From Heaven is a great movie, but I'll vote yes for the Canon but it strikes me years later as a work I've never been able to shake and there's really nothing like it even in downbeat musicals like All that Jazz and Dancer in the Dark; both which I like better. Per usual I think I'm somewhere in between Devin and Amy in my take of this film. On Devin's point, the "reality" of the film is not portrayed as reality. This is a film which indulges in nightmare and pleasant dream imagery. The nightmarish stuff is cribbed explicitly from famous Hopper Paintings and New Deal-era photographers, I think, as an explicit acknowledgement of the fears of the era. So the reality of Arthur being implicated in murder is more of a psychological terror in an era defined by fear of poverty and violence. That the wrong decision or naive move, picking up a mentally unstable drifter or taking some money from a pimp, could result in your own ruin. At the same time I think Amy does give Herbert Ross a little too much slack. In many ways he doesn't rise to the challenges of the script, production design or performances I agree that Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters are the right people for these roles. They come across as bizarre funhouse mirror images of screen icons of the era - keeping with my point that nothing is this film is supposed to scream out "gritty realism." But I think Ross doesn't do enough to humanize their dreams and desires especially in regards to Peters who is implied to be a dreamer herself. Even if their meant to be dark visions of matinee idols, Ross takes their performances at face value and doesn't really pivot to give the audience a deeper understanding of who they are and what they want beyond "the songs are so lovely, what if we could live in them." Martin and Peters do the heavy lifting and at times they could really use the help of a more capable director. Ross takes the most superficial reading of Potter's work and the BBC series' doesn't rest on those laurels. The unsung performance of this film I think is actually Vernel Bagneris as the Accordion Man. His arc seems oddly poignant and a good anchor to Arthur's doomed romanticism. Here's a man who is undeniably broken and disturbed and I think does attract some sympathy even in light of what he's done. It's a great and explicit echo of Arthur's own arc, he tries to be decent but is broken in some fundamental and hideous way which leads to the misery of others. So I do have a lot of problems with the execution of this film obviously. Yet I can never forget it. It works on a part of my mind which grapples with depression, even listening to both Amy and Devin argue about this film depressed me in their recollections of the film. I think its a valuable addition to the Canon because its unique and unforgettable not necessarily because it gets everything right.
  7. ShowofShows

    Episode 77: SEVEN

    I think this pretty much sums up my feelings on Seven. I'm just not a fan of the hyper-intelligent serial killer cliche. When it was done with Hannibal Lecter, it was more of an interesting contradiction. That Lecter had this crude animal inside of him in spite of his education and cultured upbringing and not because of it. I also wonder if Seven is premised on taking place in the real world or some hyper-realized fantasy city because the way the film is put together is so disjointed. The idea of intellectual heavyweights like John Doe and Somerset in the police and criminal element seems very much in the realm of fantasy but the story purports to be about the sins committed in this world so the tone is never really all that consistent. Seven's really never fish or fowl. Also on Devin's point on nihilism - it's a tough string to thread in any sort of story and you have to really come at it with more emotional heft than in a film about a serial killer who acts like an a first year art student. Some of the more effective nihilistic or nihilistic leaning tracts usually deal in more common place realities and are interested in the potential emptiness of daily interactions as opposed to grotesque quasi-operatic gestures. As an aside I love Zodiac. It's a far stronger, more provocative and fully realized look into the moral void of crime and our fascination with it. Seven doesn't really touch that film's maturity and seems like a rough draft for a more assured work.
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