Monday, 30 April 2012

Magic Moments-The Coolest Moments from the Coolest Movies

Sometimes cinema is just amazing. Occasionally, for a moment in time, the movies can find just that perfect fusion of sight, sound, and character to resonate profoundly with the audience that first experiences it-then they pass it on for all of time to appreciate.
Without sounding anymore like a prat, here are some chronologically arranged movie moments that have (for one reason or another) achieved immortality...

Boobies! from Inspiration (1915)

Quite simply, and according to most expert speculation, this was the first time in Hollywood history that a leading actress got her kit off in a non-pornographic role (yup, on-screen porn is as old as cinema!!). Yes, it was in fact Audrey Munson who was the first leading lady to bare all. The context was relatively innocent-she was playing an artist's life-model. Nevertheless, the statement was made....

Lil' Kim pays homage to Audrey Munson.

The Big Entrance from Nosferatu (1922)

I considered not including this as I felt as though the film-gods were yelling 'duh' at me with the ferocity of a conservative critic. But, look, this is the moment that essentially created the 'he's behind you' horror sequence that has featured in, um, every horror film since.  As a terrified Hutter cowers (rather foolishly) in the corner, the door to his chamber swings open unnaturally and Count Orlok (they did not have permission to use the name "Dracula") literally hovers in. Max Shrek's animal-like expression is priceless.

A horror legend is born! All slow-build, sudden-jump scares are the offspring of this amazing sequence. So get in line for gratitude Hitchcock, Carpenter, Craven, De Palma, and Argento! (except for Hitchcock, he is dead and cannot form a line).

Friendly competition in The Seventh Seal (1957)

Firstly, this may be the greatest film ever made. Secondly, all things considered, the image of a man playing a chess match with death in the middle of the Cold War is perhaps the best metaphor in cinema history.
So, now that all of the necessary facts are out of the way, here is the scene: Antonius Block is a Knight returning from the crusades. This man has it all, in that he is a depressed, war torn man dying of the plague. Sheesh. During a silent moment on a beach, he meets Death. A playful being, Death invites Block to join him in a chess match. Should Block lose, Death will take him and all those that he holds dear. Not cheery, but amazing. An atomic age metaphor that still feels piercingly relevant today.

Cruisin' form Easy Rider (1969)

Do you like big spokes?! Is Dennis Hopper's big bike what you see when you close your eyes?! Then you, my friend, have already been converted!
Aptly released in the same year as the first Woodstock Music and Arts festival in 1969; this true gem essentially made the American filmmaker young again. In the late 1960s the dated studio system still loomed over the business. Thus, young indie filmakers found it virtually impossible to even get a job after film school, let alone direct their own indie gem. Until, that is, a drug-riddled Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper tore down the highway on choppers to the sound of Stepphenwolf's "Born to be Wild". With this image of rebellion, it was asserted that a new generation of indie filmmakers would define the next era and the death of the old studio system and the rise of Film Brats Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Milius, and De Palma to the ranks of era definers. Thank, Easy Rider!

"I'm Easy" from Nashville (1975)

(*note-this is my first time discussing my favourite movie on this blog-yipee!)

What follows is the perfect ark of an antihero: Of all the onscreen womanizers, Nashville's Tom Frank has to take home the Golden Phallus. This disgruntled folk-rock singer beds every woman he meets. Reporters, bandmates, groupies, nobody is safe from Tom's mighty trouser arsenal. But, like the great anti-heroes, there is soul beneath the gruff exterior. His true love, Lily Tomlin's middle-aged housewife Linnea Resse, eludes him. Amidst his usual sexual barrage, he invites her to a gig to woe her with a song. In a room full of women, everybody thinks Tom Frank is singing to them. This scene represents my favourite use of a song in film, as well as my favourite romantic scene. Keith Carradine won an Oscar for the original song "I'm Easy."

"An old joke..." from Annie Hall (1977)

How important is courage in making a good director great? Well, given the first Oscar win of a skinny, effeminate, Jewish New Yorker, it would seem that the answer is very. With his roots in stand-up comedy, a young(ish) Woody Allen decided to use his best asset to devastating effect in the opening scene of Annie Hall. The opening, Woody looking directly into the camera and delivering a humorous monologue may not have been new to fans of European modernists like Godard, but, for American cinema, this moment of originality marked a self-reflective turning point for American cinema.

Christopher Reeve is the first true comic book hero in Superman (1978)

If there is magic in the first time we see Christopher Reeve soar through the air in that blue and red suit, then it is to be found for the most part in the film's influence. As the world chews over Marvel's new Avenger's Assemble (2012), and obsessively awaits the ominous The Dark Knight Rises (2012), I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the movie that got the ball rolling. Tim Burton's Batman (1989) may have made the most headlines, but, with its nostalgic setting, roguish bad-guy, tentative love story, and momentous-come-tragic leading man, Richard Donner's Superman produced the formula for a phenomenon.

First-Person Horror in Halloween (1979)

For better or worse, John carpenter altered the horror craft forever with this one. Carpenter's biggest innovation, however, may not even be the slasher motif. Instead, how about the opening scene in which the camera is Michael Myers! Indeed, here is a sequence that invites us to witness murder as though we are the perpetrators. Carpenter knew that the scariest way to be introduced to the deathly Michael Myers was to briefly become him. Clever stuff.

Stuck in the Middle with irony! from Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Okay, okay, so Tarantino stole the ear-slicing moment from Sergio Corbucci's Django (1967). Nevertheless, there are moment within QT's daring heist-homaged debut film that resonate on a wholly original wavelength. Particularly, the Mr.Blonde/Marvin Nash tortue scene that seem rather revolutionary in their own right. Tarantino has often remarked on the reaction that this glib scene recieved. I feel this is the case because, in fact, this is the most famous moment at which the pop-culture reference got truly nasty. Think of how Michael Madsen moves to the melody of Stealer's Wheel. As Tarantino points out, the joy we experience as an audience in the first few moments of the scene makes us accomplices in the more gruesome parts. His deadpan glee is a true Generation-X moment. Nice steal then, Quentin.

There's always time for Coffee from Heat (1995)

They appeared together in one of cinema's great masterpieces...they just didn't get to be in the same room at the one time. Yes, for the 21 years after Godfather Part II (1974) it seemed like Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were unstoppable in Hollywood. Evidently, the only for they didn't care to vanquish was one another. Then, alas, after two decades of waiting, there was the mother of all cafe scenes. The plot of Heat builds slowly to the face-to-face confrontation between Pacino's grizzly cop Vincent Hanna and DeNiro's ace thief Neil McCauley. Parallel to lay the fact that every self-respecting film fan knew that the scene represented the first time the pair had shared the screen. Which thespian shall rule them all? Magic.

Raining Cats and...?? from Magnolia (1999)

Of all the movies in all the world, these frogs had to drop into this. Not only did Paul Thomas Anderson prove that with his 1999 masterwork Magnolia that 1997's Boogie Nights was no fluke, he practically reinvented the filmic wheel.  Set over two days in the not-so-sunny San Fernando Valley, Anderson's masterwork evokes the great ensemble pieces of Robert Altman in that it has over a dozen principle characters. It's all about fate and, Anderson says, parent-child relationships. We'll take him at his word that air-born frogs fit the aforementioned motifs.

Have a nice day!!!!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Cameo-A tribute to the Most Memorable Minor Movie Characters

More often than not, the characters that linger in our minds are the main characters of the movie. Be they protagonists/antagonists/or just ugly, they are the ones that will be forever associated with their respective films. And why not? After all, it takes a whole movie just to develop them. Anybody can remember an Andy Dufraine, a Michael Corleone, or a Ferris Bueller...

Forgot me?? Not the brightest, are we?!
Sometimes, however, the plot thickens. On occasion, a character with a minor role will be so ridiculous/bombastic/all-over-the-shop that they will steal scenes and even upstage the principle characters. This is when characterisation is truly ingenious. Though most minor characters are divisive and banal, the following nutty wonders just refused to go unnoticed...

Firstly, we'll take these guys as a given:

Bobba Fett-Star Wars Original Trilogy

The Jesus-The Big Lebowski
Blake Glengarry Glen Ross

....and Gary Busey.
Okay, now that's over with. here are 10 of my most beloved minor characters:


Character: Woman with Three Boobs (Lycia Naff)
Movie: Total Recall (1990)

Who she is: Need you be reminded. Arnie is greeted with many things on the exotic but dilapidated city streets of Mars. Nonetheless, few images of inner city seduction have ever quite captured the shock value of the woman that literally has more than a man could ever ask for.

Stand out Moment: In a midst of a movie that features Arnie, Kuato, and Sharon Stone as a dangerous seductress, this classy gal actually manages to steal the show in Paul Verhoven's futuristic thriller! Seriously, the woman is on screen for all of 30 seconds...and yet who can forget her?! Perhaps the most deserving entry on the list...


Character: Scotty (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Movie: Boogie Nights (1997)

Who he is: Known for playing intensely masculine roles, Hoffman played the camp and closeted Scotty in Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 masterwork. Always lovelable, Scotty is the a solid crew man and an ernest (if lovestruck) friend to the film's large-membered protagonist Dirk Diggler. Whether things are groovie or a drag, Scotty always carries himself with positivity and class. Look out for his gentle tears when Dirk fights with Burt Reynolds Jack Horner.

Standout Moments: Just look at him! Through many stand-out moments, I would have to rate his attempts to kiss Diggler at new years as one of cinemas most bizarrely charming moments.



Character: Mammy (Hattie McDaniel)
Film: Gone with the Wind (1939)

Who she is: Sometimes a memorable character is about much more than just one movie. By the time filming of Gone with the Wind began in early 1939, veteran black actress Hattie McDaniell had long-since grown tired of the racism of Hollywood. With that in mind, Hattie decided to play the negro servant Mammy with both and tongue-and-cheek nod to black stereotypes and an unexpected air of strength and command. She is often the rock of the O'Hara family, particularly when they fall into poverty. By comparison to the weaker servant, Prissy, she appears as a true matriarch.

Standout Moments: Anytime that she displays command over Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) or Prissy (Butterfly McQueen) during times of crisis.


Character: Leon (Chris Sarandon)
Film: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Who he/she(!!) is: In one of cinema's most hilarious reveals, the 'wife' that Al Pacino's bank-robbing, "Attica" screaming thief Sonny Wotzik keeps referring to turns out to be not his spouse, as the police had assumed. Instead, we find his "wife' to be non-other than the colourful pre-operation transvestite Leon. Pacino's character is, in fact, robbing the bank to raise funds for Leon's gender reassignment surgery. Oh, and did I mention this film is based on a true story?!

Standout Moment: It has to be his fainting escapade in the police holding-room. Oh Leon, you' so high maintenance!

Sometimes an image speaks louder than words ever could.

Character: Exploding Toxic Waste Guy.
Film: Robocop (1987)

Who this poor bastard is: Quick-what's the most ridiculous scene in film history?? If you are anything like me, you'll at least give moment some thought.
Sure, there are many, many moments of obscene violence in Robocop. In fact, many of them even involve the Red Foreman form That 70s Show. But, for me, a man getting doused in so much toxic waste that he literally turns to liquid should pretty much take the (extremely disgusting) cake in any film. Don't you?! Paul Verhoeven, what do you dream of at night?...

Stand-out Moment: In a word-this:



Character: Walter Peck (William Atherton)
Movie: Ghostbusters (1984)

Who he is: The property game is tough. A silver-tongued archetype of the 1980's "greed is good" rage, meet the inspector so stingy that he won't even grant lenience to the spirit disposal industry. That damn generator!

Standout Moment: You just have to watch it for yourself:


Character: Carson Welles (Woody Harrelson)
Movie: No Country for Old Men (2007)

Who he is:  Quite simply, carson is the very definition of a great minor character. Indeed, Woody Harrelson's roguish bounty-hunter is not necessary to the plot in the strictest sense. Yet, in a strange way, he seems to define the odd, rustic, strangeness of the Coen Brother's interpretation of Cormac McCarthy's dark tale. Free-wheeling and flamboyant, he is the polar opposite of the film's deadpan antagonist Anton Sigur. This guy doesn't last long, but boy does he relish his few moments.

Standout Moment: His wry job interview: "Tell you the truth, I don't think charm had that much to do with it."


Character: Machine Woman (Brigitte Helm)
Movie: Metropolis (1929)

Who she is: The machine woman-every misogynists dream?? Of all the entries on the list, this is without doubt the most intelligent. I mean, three boobies woman was great and all, but she wasn't an allegory for the Nietzschean Ubermensche and a criticism of rising fascism (or was she?!).
For those who don't know the film's plot, here goes: tired of the human workers in the catacombs, mad scientist Rotwang builds Metropolis leader Joh Frederson the perfect worker-the first of a race of machine men. With more than a few fascist undertones, it is up to Frederson's son Freder to convince his father of just how bat-shit evil this notion is. Interestingly enough, the creep machine woman is played by female star Brigitte Helm, who also plays the female protagonist Maria.

Standout Moment: With a Satanic pentagram in the backdrop, we witness one of cinemas all time coolest moments of pioneering effects work as the machine is being born.


Character: General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden)
Movie: Dr. Strangelove, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb (1964)

Who is he: You would think that an unhinged psychopath responsible for the apocalypse would be a lot less lovable than this. Meet jack D. Ripper doesn't negotiate with terrorists, he doesn't let them last that long. This utterly paranoid lunatic (played ably by the great Sterling Hayden) can drop a nuc' with the best of them and feeds Peter Sellers some of the best straight-guy lines in comic history.

Standout Moment: "I don't avoid making love to women, but I do deny them my essence." This guy makes me want to be impotent!

And, finally, the best....


Character: LT. Kilgore (Robert Duvall)
Movie: Apocalypse Now (1979)

Who is he: Perhaps the very embodiment of conservative anger, this pompous, careless, psychotic is about all you can think, of for the 20-odd minutes of sheer masterclass that Robert Duvall provides us on screen. Every war film has it's lunatics, but its the fact that we can never quite decide whether this guy is a courageous leader or a nihilistic tyrant that gives this guy his astonishing depth. Willard (Martin Sheen) remarks "You can tell he wasn't going to pick up a scratch in this war." Perhaps the scariest thing we learn from this witty maniac is that it takes a hateful man to conquer. We'll never look at a surfboard the same wat again.

Standout Moment: Frankly, all of them! We'll take "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning" as a given, how about "Charlie Don't Surf!"?!

Well that's it!!!!

Ps. Honorable mention:

Jimmy Two Times-Goodfellas (1990)

Genaro-Jurassic Park (1993)

Keep the faith!!!!