Last evening, after an interesting Risk game, some friends came over, and eventually we sat down and watched Predator.
What is most interesting about this film is how, despite the advances in CGI, it has not really dated. The nominal story exists solely to get the film to a point where it is the most basic struggle for survival, and there so much machismo on display that the film practically reeks of testosterone. Of course, with the exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Dutch, the two most butch characters in the film, Bill Duke's Mac and Jesse "The Body" Ventura's Blaine, are lovers, so I guess that you can take the film's take on masculinity any way you want to (if you are even thinking about raising a question about their relationship, check out the expression on Dutch's face when Mac says, "He was... he was my friend." Really).
Of course, Arnold's recent governorship ("...destined to bear the jewelled crown of California upon a troubled brow...") casts an unfortunate shadow over the enjoyment of the film, but on the other hand the final mano-a-alieno showdown is as tight a piece of filmmaking as has ever been seen (John McTiernan's next movie would be one of the tightest two hours and change of filmmaking ever, the brilliant Die Hard), and has the audacity to have the titular sportsman be bigger, stronger and, yes, smarter than Arnold, who manages to survive with a good amount of luck.
What is really interesting about Predator is that, while it is certainly about survival, it makes the point of showing that the Predator is only a mirror for human behavior. Dutch and his men are hardened killers; the fact that they only do "rescue work" is only a justification for the fact that they are essentially a band of sociopaths. The Predator is hunting for sport, which is certainly recognizable (in fact, that slow realization is one of the more chilling moments in the film).
Oh, that genre...
The DVD of the 1938 production of The Adventures Of Robin Hood features an eye-popping transfer of a restored print of the film. Disc 2 has a documentary on the three-step Technicolor process, which made the radiant, saturated and distinctive images possible.
Technicolor does have an interesting history, but it is tied up so with the musical genre that most of the clips included in the program are from musicals.
Musicals are a genre I have always found less than engaging. With very few exceptions (e.g. The Wizard Of Oz, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut) I have never really cared for them. Although I have an interest in music as well as cinema, with special emphasis on music in cinema, I generally find musicals something of a drag.
Part of the reason is that many of the films themselves are geared to fulfill that which I have no affinity for... bubbling champagne holds no interest for me (neither the aesthetic nor the beverage), and the classic dance numbers of Busby Berkley and Vincent Minnelli, while often featuring stunning sychronization, georgeous photography and, on occasion, feats of great aquatic acrobatics... well, frankly, they bore the shit out of me.
I don't really know. While I am often drawn towards the dark side of cinema, I am certainly amenable to be taken to more sunlit realms (you don't get much brighter than The Adventures Of Robin Hood, after all), but where these flights of total fantasy go, I could care less about. It is not fair to the genre, but I guess that is where taste comes into the picture.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
The colorful score for The Adventures Of Robin Hood is isolated on the DVD - hopefully, when someone gets around releasing The Sea Hawk, that might also be the case.
This certainly has whet my appetiete for the upcoming Marco Polo edition of the score, conducted by William Stromberg. Producer John Morgan has informed us that there will be a DVD-Audio release of this album, and the idea of this package makes my mouth water. Morgan and Stromberg have been responsible for many wonderful Golden Age film score albums (they are partially responsible for rekindling my interest in Max Steiner a few years ago), and the fact that Morgan particiupates in the online communities (not in the obnoxious, snide manner that Ford A. Thaxton does, but in an open, friendly and informative way) has allowed him to be much more conscious of the interests of his audience than many a record producer (such as Thaxton, who does a lot of posting, but very little reading, and even less understanding of what he has read).
The prospect of this deluxe treatment of Korngold's classic adventure score - in thunderous 5.1 audio, no less - well, let's just say that I haven't been this excited about a Golden Age score since Bringham Young University released the complete original soundtrack recording of Max Steiner's superb The Adventures Of Don Juan a few years ago...
Since my desk at work is situated by the elevator bank, Barclay's periodically replaces a potted floral arrangement. Most of the time, I could care less about what they put there, as I find most of them to be rather tacky.
Last week, they placed a rather attractive set with bright, autumnal colors and pleasing shapes (don't ask me what the plants are, I'm a man). Now the flowers have begun their inevitable drying, which will lead to them wilting and fading.
For once, they put something there that I like, and of course it is only temporary.
Many have mentioned to me that they wonder if Quentin Tarantino will get a lot of flack for the violence in this film. He probably will, but it won't matter a damn. Everybody is going to see this film (except for the people who wouldn't anyway), and most of them are probably going to go see it again.
Sure, it's all style and no substance. The film is not about storytelling, it is about having a good time. And if there is one thing that Kill Bill (Vol. 1) is, it is a good time.
Certain elements of the film are quite disturbing (the sequence in which the protagonist awakens contains some truly heinous material), but, interestingly enough, the violence, which is not just highly stylized, it is obnoxious and in-your-face. Geysers of blood spraying gallons out of severed limbs can be great fun (if you don't believe me, go watch Evil Dead 2), and it certainly is here.
All right, I'll admit it. The film is about the glorification of violence. And I don't think that there is anything wrong with that in this case because the violence is so outlandish that nobody could ever, possibly, take it in any way seriously.
Tarantino's mixing of Samurai and Spaghetti Western motives makes perfect sense, given that they are essentially the same genre, despite claims by Western classicists (read: no idea that anybody but white people have done anything ever) that the Western is a uniquely American literary form, and his appetite for pop and trash brings the pop and trash on display in his films to new levels of pop art and trash art.
Kill Bill is illogical, it is ultra-violent, it is shallow, but Tarantino is quite concious of this. We know that he can create true drama, as is evidenced by what is, in my opinion, his best work, Jackie Brown (his least popular film, mostly because people were surprised that it wasn't about the "beautiful young" androids; Jackie Brown is about something, and its characters are much deeper and more rounded than anybody in Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, and it has the courage to have that ending). This is someone who is intimate with the art of cinema out to have a little fun... okay, a lot of fun... and, why deny it?
Kill Bill is fun.