Thursday, November 29, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #29: Border (2018)

But there's no point in being evil, says Tina. It's just a waste of time.

She has every right to lash out at the world, after being treated with contempt and outright aggression for her appearance her whole life. It's literally in her nature to cause harm to humanity, right down to the genetic level.

But Tina is also a good person, and all she wants is somebody to love and share her life with. She deserves it, and no rampage of revenge against a cruel, uncaring world will ever give her that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #28: Bad Taste (1987)

There is no denying that Peter Jackson's films since (and during) the Lord of the Rings have suffered from severe bloat, with storytelling excess that could have easily been cut from the narrative. But it's the blunting of an exceptional sense of comic timing that hurts more.

The Hobbit movies, for all their length, were still overly crammed with action and characters and mad dashing, and moments of genuine wit and humour were lost in the cacophony. Nobody can hear a good gag over all the noise.

There wasn't anything as perfectly timed as the exploding sheep gag in Bad Taste, the film Jackson made with his munter mates for $6.50 on Sunday afternoons in the eighties. Even there, in the raw madness of the director's first film, he still takes a beat to get the moment when a sheep gets blown up by a bazooka just right.

Even among the gunfights and alien puke, it's one of the best bits in the film, and one of Jackson's purest pieces of perfect comic timing. The sheep just has enough time to look out an let out a bleat before exploding into a million pieces, and three decades later, it's still funny as hell.

Jackson isn't quite as funny anymore, but surely you can't lose that kind of timing forever.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #26: Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

If you're going to be The Most Complete Fighter In The World, you can't let a knee that has been shattered into a thousand pieces stop you, you just slam that knee against a hard concrete wall a million times until it's harder than rock.

And you aren't going to go lie down after a long day in hard labour at the quarry, you're going to carry on afterwards and hit the punching bag again until you can't stand anymore.

And, most of all, you're not going to whine about it when they ramp up the work in the quarry in an effort to tire you out before the big fight. Because smashing all these rocks and throwing them into a skip is not punishment, IT IS TRAINING.

I'm not saying you should live your life by the rules of Boyka. But we probably all should.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema history #25: The Devil At Your Heels (1981)

The Devil At Your Heels is a car crash that take 90 minutes to happen. There is no way Ken Carter's rocket car is going to fly a mile across the Saint Lawrence River, just no way. He's dreaming!

But Big Ken is so confident that maybe, just maybe, there is a chance that he's actually going to make it. Maybe he'll pull it off.

The moment in the documentary that the rocket car finally sparks into life and heads down the ridiculously huge ramp that has been built for it is one of the most suspenseful things I've ever seen in my life when I first saw this is a theatre. I was literally on the edge of my seat as Carter raced towards his destiny.

It's a moment that I can not in all good conscience spoil here, you just have to see the whole thing for yourself:

Great Moments in Cinema History #24: Terminator 2 Judgment Day (1991)

Every time James Cameron is working on a new movie project, everybody starts talking about it as an expensive folly which is doomed to fail. Everybody knows there isn't a need for four more Avatar films, especially when he's given them the dopiest titles in movies.

Well, everybody can get fucked, because none of them have ever created something as monstrously cool as Arnold reloading his shotgun on his hand while chasing after John Connor on his motorbike. Cameron's films are smarter than they sometimes look, but that isn't why his films make all the money. The whole world goes to see all his movies just to see if he can do anything as cool as this bit in T2 again.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #23: Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Nobody else in the history of movies can lose their shit the way Bruce Campbell loses his shit in the second Evil Dead film. He's the best.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #22: The Guest (2014)

The word that would best describe this feeling,
Would be haunted.
I touch the clothes you left behind,
That still retain your shape and lines,
Still haunted.
I trace the outline of your eyes,
We're in the mirror hypnotized,
I'm haunted.
I find a solitary hair,
Gone and still I remenice.
I'm haunted!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #21: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead has already shown some of the most impressively gruesome flesh tearing and bullet wounds before one of the most unfortunate zombies sticks its head into a helicopter rotor, but the way the top of the head is sheared away and a river of gore flows out of his head is another step up entirely.

It's a perfectly timed gag - the slow approach of the ghoul, the sudden realisation that it's getting too close to those whirring blades and the instant scalping - it's a genuinely funny moment among the despair.

It also lets the viewer know that while Dawn of the Dead has serious things to say about modern society, and is loaded with ideas about paranoia and desire and rampant consumerism, it is also being made by people who fucking love what they are doing, and are having a great time coming up with new and innovative ways to destroy the living dead. Just because it's taking place during the apocalypse and there are a lot of serious points to be made, doesn't mean you can't have fun while you're doing it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #20: Audition (1999)

It's not just the sudden movement of the bag that is so shocking about this moment, when Audition turns sharply from a fairly sweet romantic movie about a film director seeking true love into something much nastier. It's the strange noise that comes from the bag as it moves - some kind of weird monstrous burping noise that shows that whoever is bound up in the bag is in a very bad place.

It's such an unsettling use of sound design, and the movie is only going to get more upsetting as the piano wire comes out, but from the sounds of things, the poor fucker in the bag has already left  his humanity well behind.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #19 Enter The Dragon (1973)

"Don't think. Feel. It's like a finger pointing at the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all of the heavenly glory."

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #18: It Might Get Loud (2008)

Jimmy Page is one of the great guitarists of our age, shredding his way through some of the biggest riffs and displaying endless ingenuity and creativity with the instrument throughout his career. And he often lived the life of the rock god he was - things got pretty dodgy sometimes, but he somehow sailed through it all and looked fucking cool doing it.

But then there's the scene in the fairly average It Might Get Loud documentary when he's listening Link Wray's seminal Rumble track, and he just can't help himself and has to air-guitar along with the tune. Even though he's been there and done that, there is still that pure, adolescent enthusiasm for a great tune that he has to physically express with some dorky playing along, no matter how stupid he looks doing it.

Even rock gods are geeks about something.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #17: The 25th Hour (2002)

"You wanna know why everybody always writes about their grandmothers dying? It's not because it's so traumatic. It's because it's a guaranteed A+! And you sit there all sentimental 'Oh, Vince it was very powerful, very moving'. No, it wasn't. You didn't care. Nobody cared. That's what grandmothers do. They die."

Friday, November 16, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #16: Blade Trinity (2004)

It's not the best Blade film, not by a long shot, but it does have the part where some dumb flunky refuses to betray his masters because they'll kill him and Blade just says 'Kill you? Motherfucker, I'LL kill you!' like he can't believe this shit, that they are still playing this game, even after he has killed hundreds of vampires and their human cronies. He isn't the good guy, he's motherfuckin' Blade, and he eats pieces of shit like this for breakfast.

It really feels like Wesley Snipes is phoning in a lot of his roles, and most of this movie is no exception. But sometimes he can really nail this shit.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #15: Raw (2016)

It's been an intense few minutes. During the dodgiest Brazilian wax in movie history, an insanely large pair of scissors were produced, and unsurprisingly, a finger has come off. But with her sister out cold and a bloody severed finger right in front of her, Justine just can't help it and has to have a bite.

And it's such a moment of pure joy, that it's almost easy to forget how fucking disgusting the whole thing is. The music swells and Justine soars away on the pleasure of her first taste of human flesh, and you can almost feel her pleasure radiating off the screen.

It's not the end of the whole shocking scene - there is still the unexpected reaction of the waking sister to come - but Justine achieves a moment of rapture that is unmatched in recent cinema. It's still gross as hell, but you can fully understand why she is digging it so much.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #14: Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)

"Hey, you wanna play 20 questions?"

"Okay! I got one!"

"Are you a mineral?"


"Are you a tank?"

"Whoa! Yeah!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #13: Mystery Train (1989)

Elvis is haunting every frame of Mystery Train, he's on the soundtrack and on the walls and in Joe Strummer's hair, and everybody passing through this deserted and dying Memphis is wading through his legend and reputation. Even if you think Carl Perkins is better, Elvis is always the King.

But when he actually makes a late-night appearance in a bemused traveller's hotel room, he doesn't have any wisdom to impart, no advice to dispense, or any knowledge to share about the greater mysteries of his music or the universe.

It's all just a bit of a mistake, really. He's not supposed to be there, and just stands around awkwardly until he fades away again.

Elvis has left the building and he didn't have much to say after all. He's still pretty cool, though.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #12: O Lucky Man! (1973)

"Smile," says Lindsay, and even though it looked like there was nothing to smile about, there was everything. You can't trust anybody in authority, because the political and corporate worlds will smash you down and toss you away without a second thought once it's useful for them, and branches of the medical and military establishments will completely destroy your humanity without a second thought.

But there are other places in the creative community that you can trust. The band that is soundtracking your journey will always give you a lift and a place to crash, and there are film-makers who will give you a chance, when nobody else will. There is a place where somebody with big ideas and bigger dreams can make their mark on the world without actively fucking somebody over.

"Smile," says Lindsay, and you do, and then you can go have a life in this new world, and party with everybody you've ever known. If you're lucky.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #11: Get Shorty (1995)

"E.G., I.E., fuck you!"

Nobody, but nobody, could deliver a line like this like the great Dennis Farina. The escalation of exasperation into purest profanity, the smooth delivery, the venom behind the sentiment and the finality of it all. Farina really was the best.

Great Moments in Cinema History #10: UHF (1989)

"You took the box? Let's see what's in the box!

"Nothing! Absolutely nothing! STUPID! You're so STUPID!"

Friday, November 9, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #9: Freaks (1932)

Somewhere in the late nineties, and my mates and me were so fucking stoned that when somebody suggested they put on a film made 60 years ago, nobody complained, especially when the cover for the video said it was so intense it was banned for decades.

And like the arseholes we were, we had a great time laughing and making fun of the 1930s production values, and the stilted acting, and the goofy freaks at the heart of the movie, and then holy fuck that last 10 minutes.

Crawling through the mud in the storm, intent on hideous revenge, the title characters go from lovably human to straight-up Monsters From The Id, the horror of their merciless advance still seeping through on videotape all those years later. All that 90s irony we were relying on didn't stop it from being massively, truly disturbing. And then to go out on the deformed chicken woman, and we weren't laughing at it anymore.

Nobody was laughing anymore.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #8: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

"What are these fucking iguanas doing on my coffee table?"

"There ain't no iguana."

"...Yeah, there are."

"There AIN'T no iguana."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #7: Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Maya Deren's arthouse masterpiece has a fantastic dreamy atmosphere throughout its short running time. There isn't much of a coherent plot, but there is a deeply unsettling vibe to the whole affair, unlike anything else produced on film during the same period.

But the first time you see the figure with the mirror face is so striking and so unusual, it makes the film feel truly timeless. There is something uncanny and deeply unsettling about seeing a reflected surface where facial features should be, it's an icon of an image and a truly horrific moment in cinema. And when you're half convinced you're going to see yourself staring back if you look too long, it's one that sears into the memory forever.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #6: Gone With The Wind (1939)

Even if you've never seen Gone With the Wind, you'll be familiar with some shots and scenes - Scarlett declaring to a blood-drenched sky that she'll never be poor again; the pull-back reveal of all the wounded confederate soldiers lying in the railway yard; the camera swooping down on Rhett Butler as he waits at the bottom of that glorious staircase.

But when you actually watch it, it's a little surprising how hardcore it gets sometimes: Scarlet straight up shoots some dude in the bloody face, and just when she needs a little more tragedy in her life, her young daughter Bonnie is killed in a horse-riding accident.

It's an awful sight, but also darkly hilarious. Poor little Bonnie goes straight through the jump head first, and her cute little legs stick straight up into the shot when she hits the ground. It's also a joke of repetition, after our heroine's dear old Dad died in the exact same way, but Scarlett is too busy thinking about how much she wants to fuck her best bud's husband - a lifelong obsession - that she doesn't even notice her precious child barrelling towards that same fate.

As unintentionally funny as it is, it is still a genuinely shocking moment, far removed from the gentle reputation of a Hollywood classic. No wonder you never see it in a montage of magic moments at the Oscars.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #4: Brazil (1985)

For a moment there, it really looks like Sam Lowry is going to get away from it – the attack on the party headquarters allows him to escape his vast torture chamber. It's all a bit fantastic, but no stranger or any unbelievable than anything else in this crazy, rambling story of a fucked-up dystopia. And then Harry Tuttle gets his foot caught on a piece of paperwork.

When Tuttle disappears into the paper, it's the first real confirmation of the truly fantastical in the climax, and it's a dread confirmation that this isn't real, just another sad fantasy of a deluded mind. It's not long before he's riding off into a happy sunset with Kim Greist, who suddenly isn't dead again.

It's no real surprise when his torturers crash back into the dream in the final seconds of the film, because that dread that this isn't the happy ending it looks like has been building, and it starts with a receipt caught on a foot.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #3: Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars threw a lot of the laws of physics right out the airlock. Explosions might not work like that in the vacuum of space, and you can't hear laser beams sizzling through the void, but they made the movie far more exciting to watch.

But, crucially, the laws of acceleration, speed and momentum were carefully followed, and they are clearly on display in the final attack on the Death Star, especially when the tiny fighters charge down from on high and start blazing down that vital trench.

This point-of-view shot of the approach to the trench - which is so good and so striking that they use it multiple times during the climax - sets the standard for decades of fast space action. It's not just that roller-coaster flow of sliding down from a great height, it's the way it smooths out again at the bottom and uses the momentum of the fall to shoot straight down the canyon without losing any speed.

And it's that little bounce, right at the end of it, that really sells it. It goes by so fast and you're already racing down the trench towards destiny, but it truly makes you feel like you're really there with Luke Skywalker, bouncing in your spring-loaded seat and ignoring the impossible physics around you.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #2: Rubber (2010)

"You probably never gave it a thought, but all great films, without exception, contain an important element of no reason. And you know why? Because life itself is filled with no reason. Why can't we see the air all around us? No reason. Why are we always thinking? No reason. Why do some people love sausages and other people hate sausages? No fuckin' reason." 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Great Moments in Cinema History #1: Blind Fury (1989)

When blind swordsman Rutger Hauer cuts the power to the elevator that henchmen Lyle and Tector are riding in, their exasperated cry of: 'Shit!' 'Fuck!' 'SHIT-FUCK!' isn't just one of the greatest uses of profanity in modern cinema, it's one of the great henchmen moments.

The synchronised profanity from the two scumbags - named after their slightly less sleazy counterparts in The Wild Bunch - shows that they are a duality, each an individual entity adrift in this vast cosmos, but also singular of purpose and goal. They are literally brothers, and answer to the same boss, and have the same enemy, but after years of working as partners, they have similar thought processes and the physical expressions of such thoughts. Each is his own man, while part of a two-man team who only ever do their best work together, even if they do end up semi-accidentally shooting each other. They are apart, and together, in this eternal dance of life and henching.

One of them is a Shit, and one of them is a Fuck. But they are both Shit-Fucks.