Sunday, December 5, 2010

Five Favourite Villains!

I haven't posted on this blog in a million years, but for the two, maybe three people who read it, I am now reviving it.
Instead of a movie review tonight, I'm doing a little countdown of my personal top five favourite film villains of all time, with references made to because I'm addicted to that website at the moment. Enjoy.
5. Hannibal Lecter
There are so many reasons to love Hannibal Lecter. In fact, there are more reasons to love him than there are to hate him. In my opinion this makes for an even stronger villain. If you continue reading this list, you'll find that many of characters are ones that might consider "Affably Evil".( Hannibal Lecter, however, may be the epitome of this particular trope. Not only is he suave and classy, he's polite. Especially admirable about Lecter is his chivalry toward Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, and in other films, women in general. Unlike so many other villains, Lecter is a murderer, but not a murdering asshole. In fact, sometimes the victims of Lecter's killings don't even gain the viewer's sympathy because Lecter is portrayed as being so polite, we assume his victims must be the opposite, or that he is too classy to kill someone for no reason.
4. Norman Bates
Norm and I go way back. Hitchcock's Psycho has been a favourite of mine since I was about thirteen. In the same way that Hannibal is suave, Norman is average (Norman=normal? just a thought). He's the boy next door. He is attractive and likable. One of the most interesting aspects of Bates' characterisation is the question he forces the viewer to ask themselves: is it really him we're afraid of? Is he really the villain? Or is Mrs. Bates the true evil here? We, as viewers, like to give Norman the benefit of the doubt and assure ourselves that it's not really his fault. His split personality, the one that takes the role of his dead mother, is really doing all the killing. His psychological health makes excuses for him, and this is what makes him such an enjoyable villain--one that is hard to hate.
3. Peter and Paul
I'm appalled that I've never seen this murderous duo on any "Top Villains" list yet. In Michael Haneke's 2008 thriller Funny Games (a shot-for-shot remake of his 1997 German-language film of the same name), two polite, seemingly admirable, respectable boys meet a family at their summer home. All goes calmly until the two propose an offer to make a deal: they bet that the vacationers will be dead by 9 AM the next morning. One of the reasons I love this film so much is the way it and its characters play with the viewer's mind. Peter and Paul are going to kill these people--but somehow it's so hard to not laugh at their quirky off-colour jokes and boyish tendencies to tease each other. As sympathetic as we feel toward the victims, Peter and Paul are terribly entertaining and-for lack of a better word-fun. Funny Games is almost a cinematic lecture to its viewers: forcing them to question what they're watching, forcing them to feel uncomfortable about violence in the media. We must ask ourselves: are we really any different than Peter and Paul? They're watching violence for their own enjoyment and so are we. The most disturbing thing about these two is that they are nothing more than cinematic interpretations of you and me.
2. Alex DeLarge
Alex in A Clockwork Orange doubles as the hero and the villain (the antihero)--another characterisation element I love dearly. Like Peter and Paul, Alex is somehow a terrible person but continues to gain not only our sympathy but our favour. Never have I met a Clockwork Orange viewer who didn't like its main character. Of course during the second half of the film we feel sorry for Alex, as he has become a victim of the government's cruel experimentation and has been deprived of his natural rights. But even in the first half of the film we don't hate Alex. Go ahead and admit it. You were almost cheering him on. He was having so much fun--sure, at the expense of others, but fun nonetheless. Alex is the chaotic evil. He's pretty good at being bad, and he sure as hell knows how to have a good time. He's just a kid and like any other kid finds ways to improvise in times of boredom. He's a delinquent, an assailant; but he just makes it look so damned cool. As stated above, Alex is good at being bad--but not as much so as our final addition to the list.
1. Colonel Hans Landa
That's a bingo!
If anyone's good at being bad it's Hans Landa of the SS. That being said, this baddy happens to be the hardest to like and/or identify with, and yet the easiest at the same time. If you've seen every film on this list, you know how strange it feels to like the bad guy. Inglourious Basterds takes this to a whole 'nother level. Landa is a nazi for Christ's sake--and he's somehow still cool. How is that even possible? The overwhelming genius that is Quentin Tarantino--that's how it's possible. As much as (I hope) we disdain nazis, and as much as we want the Basterds to kill the shit out of every nazi they see, Hans Landa still earns our respect and at times, admiration. He's charming and sociable. Hell, at times he's downright friendly. A most unsettling aspect of this character is the underlying feeling that he just knows everything. Every time Landa is on screen, regardless of what kind of secret is being held from him--he probably knows. A prime example of this is the "German night in Paris" scene, where Frau Von Hammersmark tells Landa that she injured her leg mountain-climbing. She's lying through her teeth and he knows it. He knows her leg was injured in the basement bar, because he'd found her shoe (along with a signed napkin) there. He's so good at what he does it's disturbing. It's hard to decide whether Landa is a Complete Monster or a Magnificent Bastard (Basterd?!), but either way, he's number one on this list for a reason, and will remain there until I see a movie better than Inglourious Basterds--and that's just never going to happen.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Jacob's Ladder.

"That's odd...According to this line, you're already dead."

Let me just start off by telling everyone that I can't efficiently review this film without giving away the ending. So if you haven't seen it, go away, watch it, and then come back. Okay.

Jacob's Ladder, in my opinion, was not only suspenseful and (obviously) entertaining, but it was considerably disturbing to me. It begins with a group of guys in Vietnam, joking around, busting each other's chops, what have you. Before we know it, they're being attacked. But in the mist of this ambush we see people really freaking out--crying out in agony "my head, my head", falling over, spontaneously bleeding, etc. We see our protagonist, Jacob, get bayoneted. Then it skips to what we assume is some years in the future, and Jake is awakening from his nightmarish vision, on a subway. He gets up and asks some creepy old lady where they are, but she just blankly stares at him. He sees some dude with a tail (or something...) and other weird shit while in the subway station. Let me speed up this synopsis here. Throughout the course of the film, Jacob sees some pretty weird ass stuff. This consists of demonic creatures with strange deformities, random people blankly staring, a car speeding down an ally way as if to run somebody down, and the most famous of all--people shaking their heads around. Let me tell you just how effing disturbing it is to see someone flailing their head around at an incomprehensible speed. Gives me the heebie jeebies. hehe. Also, there are a few biblical references. Jacob's girlfriend refers to "weird names" and Jacob quickly corrects her saying "they're biblical names". The demons almost remind us of those said to be in hell. Devilish horns, scales, tails, whatever. Anyway, we learn that Jacob has a wife (from whom he is divorced) and kids. One of his sons, we're told, had died before he went to 'Nam. Jacob is obviously still deeply troubled by it (who wouldn't be?) and we learn this after he has a sudden hallucination. After seeing countless disturbing images at a party and having to go home, our main character is sick and being taken care of by his beautiful yet insensitive bitch of a girlfriend. She takes his temperature, sees that he has a goddamned temp of 106, and decides to fucking put him in a bathtub full of ice. While everybody in the whole damn apartment complex comes up to check on him as he's being submerged in ice water (naked, in a bathtub full of ice, surrounded by your neighbours. aaaawkward..), this experience is suddenly interrupted by Jacob waking up in the middle of the night, with his ex wife again. We also see him talk to his children, even the one who has passed away. He is talking to his wife Sarah about having had "this dream that I was living with Jezzie. Ugh, what a nightmare." The couple shares a light hearted moment as he tells her he loves her. Only to wake up in that goddamned bathtub again. WTF?! This part kinda got to me. I seriously felt frustrated for the guy. It quite reminded me of the scene in Stephen King's 1408 when he gets out of the hotel room and moves on with his live, only to randomly appear back in the room again. Freaky shit man. Anyway, things like this keep happening--is Jake dreaming? Is he going insane? Is this really happening? We don't know. Jacob's chiropractor is very comforting to him, and seems to be the only character in the film who is genuinely concerned about the protagonist. Jake eventually meets with a guy who is having similar strange experiences (who was also in 'Nam). They chat at the local bar about their horrifying experiences, only for the guy's car to blow up as he is about to drive away. Jacob manages to get away unscathed, but is obviously disturbed by the incident. Later on in the film, we meet a character who introduces Jacob to the idea that the government had been testing some hardcore drugs on Americans at 'Nam, in order to make them fight more aggressively. To make this long story short, Jacob is taken to a hospital after an incident and we see him being wheeled down what may be the most disturbing hallway in cinematic history. We see crazy people, amputees, people crawling around on a floor, a woman breastfeeding a child (Oh I see you have a baby! an insane asylum...greeaat...), the gurney constantly wheeling over severed body parts and disembodied organs all while the wheel is squeaking menacingly, etc. They wheel him into what looks like an operating room, where the "doctors" explain to him that he's DEAD. WHAT?!
-That's not the end per se, there are a few scenes after that point, but that's where the WTF moment is. You see, Jake never made it out of Vietnam. When we view him being bayoneted, he dies.
There are so many things I love about this film--Tim Robbins' outstanding performance as the very likeable main character, the constant shifting from scenes of lightheartedness to scenes of incredible suspense, but mostly, the fact that this is so damned thought provoking. Throughout the film we're pretty clueless as to what's really happening and what's a hallucination. But the end makes it all clear--or does it?
There are so many things we've been told about those last moments you're alive--those split seconds you experience as you're dying. Some say your life flashes before you. Some say you begin to make your descent or ascent to the afterlife. But the one solid question this movie asks us is "what does the human psyche experience as it dies?" Once you hear the doctors tell Jacob that he's dead, your mind is immediately open to so many questions. Is Jacob in hell? Is he in limbo? But the most disturbing of all the questions--is this what happens when we die? Do we make our transition to the afterlife in a mind wrenching sense of horrific distorted reality? Do we simply suffer in the fact that we're not alive? Jacob says a few times throughout the movie, "I'm not dead?...I'm not dead..." This tortured soul constantly is reassuring himself that he isn't dead, only to realize that he is. Remember in the movie Signs when we learn that the dead mother started saying random gibberish before she died? She told someone to "swing away" and mentioned other things that seemingly made no sense whatsoever. These things ended up having significance later on in that film, but that's beside the point. The point is, does our mind rapidly deteriorate as we take our last breath? Do we all of a sudden go insane in our dying moment and then, just die? The freaky thing about this movie is that, (in my opinion anyways) the whole life we see Jacob lead after Vietnam--his relationship with Jezzie, the nice chiropractor, the guy who's death he witnessed, even the little things like the fever and the ice bath--all happened in the last millisecond this man experienced as his heart stopped beating. Absolutely disturbing, in my opinion.
All in all, this film was fantastic. It may be confusing at first, but after thinking about it or watching it a second time, it's a lot clearer, and things really add up. It's definitely a favourite of mine, and I really think anybody fascinated by death, psychology, the effects of war, whatever, should see it. Don't miss this one.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Ferris Bueller Fight Club Theory.

Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around once in a while, you might miss it.

This crazy fan theory is some effed up shit, man. Insane in the membrane.

It goes like this: Ferris Bueller's Day Off: a story about a spontaneous, popular high school kid who decides to skip school for a day to go out on the town and wreak havoc, having the best day of his life. He goes to an upscale restaurant, lip-syncs on a float in a parade, goes to a museum, and rides around town in a Ferrari, all with his girlfriend Sloane and his boring, friend Cameron who isn't in school because he's actually sick. The Ferrari belongs to Cameron's dad, who will "kill him" when (and if) he finds out the car was driven all around Chicago. But wait. Let's analyse this for a moment. Ferris is everything Cameron is not. He's fun, popular, cool, all around awesome. Sloane is a girl Cameron obviously likes, but can't have, because she's with Ferris. This offers up another possible interpretation of the film: The whole goddamn day happened all in Cameron's head. Even Ferris and Sloane are figments of this deprived kid's imagination. Cameron is home sick the entire time--just lying there, imagining the perfect day, and the perfect friends. Think about it: that's the only possible way three people could see so much of Chicago all in one day...He even goes so far as to imagine Ferris' personal life, and what's going on at his house in the meantime. Of course the part about Cameron going balls-out insane is probably real--while imagining the whole day, he comes to a realization that he has to stop living in a fantasy world in which everyone pushing him around is okay, which brings him to his breaking point of busting up the Ferrari. It could also be said that Ferris and Cameron are the same person Cameron has created a split personality (or rather, alter ego), Ferris, whom he believes to be a separate person. I won't go too in depth about it, but just think about it.

-Creepy, right? Of course this theory doesn't work on all counts; as there are parts of the movie that obviously contradict it, but it's fun and thought provoking.

"Here's where Cameron goes berserk."
"Ferris Bueller...You're my hero."