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SaveTheBlindTiger

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  1. SaveTheBlindTiger

    Episode #91: LABYRINTH

    So, I’ve been listening to The Canon for probably less than about 6 months, and this will be the first vote I participate in. Labyrinth is a movie I love, and I believe it’s Canon worthy. And first of all, let me dispel Devin’s two notions about why he thinks this movie is appealing: first of all, I’m a straight guy. Second of all, I discovered this movie in college (about 5 years ago for me), so there’s no nostalgia embedded in my love of this movie. If I could articulate what it is that I love about this movie, it’d be this: it’s so much fun to watch. There is a certainly ageless aspect where this movie is both very much of its time (this is in every way, shape, and form an 80s movie) and yet it’s also able to transcend that to become something, at least in my humble opinion, becomes truly timeless. 1) David Bowie is David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King: When David Bowie passed away in January, I read a lot of retrospectives on his film career. The same movies came up over and over again. The Man Who Fell To Earth was the artsy, avant-garde choice. The Prestige was a bit of a more modern choice. But, time and time again, Labyrinth came up as one of the definitive Bowie film roles. And for me, as a fan of everything Bowie related, this is probably the most-Bowie-esque David Bowie film role. No other performance embodied his sexuality, presence, allure, charm, and occasional madness than that of the Goblin King. When you see the Goblin King, you’re seeing David Bowie. It’s not Ziggy Stardust David Bowie. It’s not Aladdin Sane David Bowie. But it is, without a doubt, David Bowie. Something to note: in era where Michael Jackson and Prince could make self-serving, self-guided projects like Moonwalker and Purple Rain, respectively (and neither of those films holds up as well as Labyrinth does), David Bowie’s involvement with this film is a little different. Jackson and Prince held considerable sway over those projects, they were more-or-less showcases for each of their respective music abilities. Jim Henson chose David Bowie, and David Bowie responded by becoming the character of Jareth, the Goblin King. No, it’s not one of the best performances ever, but it might just be the best David Bowie film performance ever, or at the very least, one of the definitive Bowie movie roles. 2) Bowie’s performance as Jareth, the Goblin King: I am disappointed Amy and Devin didn’t bring up the specifics of his performance in the episode. Jareth, as Bowie portrays him, can be strange, he can be tempting, he can be enthusiastic, he can get angry. For example, I love when the goblins start laughing when he realizes Sarah’s getting to close, and gets them to stop laughing with a forceful “shut up!” You believe that he has that power and that the goblins have reason to obey his command. From the moment he first arrives on screen, he exudes the charm. The way he crosses his arms and says “what’s said is said…” definitively. I’d say he’s like a Willy Wonka (RIP Gene Wilder) mixed with Gandalf mixed with James Dean, but comparisons like that don’t really work because there hasn’t really been a fantasy character like Jareth before or ever since. He’s like this Casanova-King-Wizard who is both someone that the characters love at some points, fear at others, but Bowie’s committed performance makes you feel why he would be loved, and why he would be feared. Think about this way: I don’t think the movie would even be talked about for possible inclusion status in The Canon if it had been Sting in the role, as Henson originally wanted. 3) The music: In an era where Disney kid songs were still kinda silly (they hadn’t reached the Alan Menken/Elton John/Phil Collins Disney renaissance yet), Labyrinth incorporates a soundtrack that is still a soundtrack to a kids movie, so there’s nothing overtly sexual or offensive about it, but it nevertheless much more resembled the music on the airways than most other kids-movie soundtracks from this era. The real standout song is “Magic Dance” which is so damn good and addicting and fun to listen to, Bowie could’ve done it in his solo career away from the film and no one would have noticed. “As the World Falls Down” perfectly invokes the mood it’s trying to set of a slow dance, it has a beat you can dance to even though it’s a more romantic song. It wouldn’t be poorly placed if it played a senior prom in the 80s. Even the forgettable moments of the movie, like the Fieries song, at least try to have their characters push the envelope by having their characters sing a different kind of song (in that case, a reggae-inspired medley). Labyrinth has one of the best soundtracks of any movie of this era, and for that alone deserves more consideration for induction into the Canon. 4) It’s the definitive non-Muppets/Sesame Street Jim Henson project: Think Jim Henson and you immediately think Muppets. And that’s fine! But the only Muppet project he ever directed was The Great Muppet Caper. In terms of his actual directorial output, very little of it is Muppet-related. His early work was mostly shorts and experimental stuff, so in terms of full-length movies, the choice is between The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. And while I think The Dark Crystal might be considered a more impressive technical achievement, I think Labyrinth deserves a slot in the Canon because it’s the probably the most definitive, most popular, and most influential non-Muppet project from Henson. Henson was a great artist, and to shoehorn him in and only recognize his work creating Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo and Animal seems a massive disservice to him and his legacy. 5) It is the definitive live-action 80s fantasy/kids movie: No, E.T. doesn’t count, because it’s a movie that transcends the “kid movie” genre. (Same goes for Time Bandits and The Princess Bride.) So, what else is there? Legend? Sorry, Amy, but it might be the most skippable movie in Tom Cruise’s filmography. Ladyhawke? Yeah, right. The Neverending Story? An adequate choice, but not one that I think would resonate with as many people as Labyrinth does. (Plus, think about when was the last time you heard someone reference or quote it versus how recent the last time you heard “You remind of the babe…” was.) Return to Oz? Again, a fine choice, but not a popular one nor one that had a big impact. We’re still talking about Labyrinth 30 years after it came out, and I believe that’s because it has everything a typical 80s kids fantasy movie has, just done to the best degree possible. It has the fear-factor (everything from horrifying goblins to the talking hands) to the high-fantasy (the ballroom sequence) to the idea of it taking place in a different realm with fairies, goblins, magic, and Ludos, to the music to the star-power in Bowie to the role of the rising starlet in Connelly. It encapsulates everything about this era so perfectly that I think that, for this particular subgenre (80s/kids/fantasy) it is the best, the most noteworthy, and the most worthy for inclusion in the Canon. I hope I have adequately summed up what this movie means and why I think it deserves a slot in the Canon.
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