Category: 1982


Big

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Certain actors get typecast for a reason. They just exude a specific trait with such intensity that it’s almost impossible to buy them in any other role. Although Jack Nicholson has a marvelous range, 90% of his most memorable roles involve him being some type of crazy because he brings manic energy like few others. Tom Cruise has perfected the cocky but sensitive pretty boy. And, with the possible exception of Jimmy Stewart, no one has been better at portraying the all-American innocent than Tom Hanks. Maybe it’s his big, puppy dog eyes. It’s definitely his boyish good looks. But there’s just something about Tom Hanks that screams purity and tenderness. It’s partly why I think he’s overrated as an actor. He plays the same types of roles so much (Philadelphia a massive exception). But in his original wide-eyed innocent man role, 1988’s sweet and charming Big, I was reminded why I can’t help but love Tom Hanks in comedic roles.

After making a wish at a carnival genie machine to be big, despondent 12 year old Joshua Baskins is transformed into the 30 year old version of himself (Tom Hanks). And when his new form terrifies his mother and makes everyone think he’s been kidnapped, Josh is forced to run away with the help of his best friend to New York City to lay low until they can find the same fortunetelling machine and switch Josh back. But being a grown-up means having grown-up problems and Josh is forced to get a job as a computer technician for a big toy company. And after impressing his both with his youthful enthusiasm and childlike knack for knowing what makes great toys, Josh quickly rises up the ranks of the company and even begins a relationship with the gorgeous Susan (Elizabeth Perkins). Josh is living the high-life but it isn’t long before he finds himself yearning for the childhood he’s abandoned.

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The ease with which Tom Hanks seems to slip into the role of a 12 year old boy stuck in a 30 year old’s body speaks leagues about why Hanks would ultimately spend the rest of his career playing the same type of characters. He’s a marvel. If Hanks metaphorically winked at the camera once or lent the performance even the slightest hint of camp at any time, the whole film would have fallen apart. But what makes Big so special (besides Penny Marshall’s great direction and Gary Ross’s great script) is that it’s played with such sincerity. Hanks seemingly taps into the natural wonder, joy, and innocence of childhood so effortlessly that he’s the emotional center that keeps you wrapped in this film’s heart and whimsy. And he’s buoyed by such great support from Robert Loggia as his boss, the seductive Elizabeth Perkins as the ice queen his warmth defrosts, and the great young talent Jared Rushton as his best friend Billy Kopecky.

But even more than Hanks, the film features a truly winning script. I was consistently bowled over by how much I allowed myself to enjoy this film despite my own sneaking suspicions that I’m a jaded, cynical bastard at heart. The film works on two levels and it’s the interplay between these two competing subtexts that makes Big such a lovely movie. On the one hand (and the primary place this film operates), it’s simply a good-spirited fantasy about what kids wish being an adult meant. It’s escapism but a ton of fun. But on the other hand (and where I got the most pleasure from the movie), it’s also a scathing satire of the greed and narcissism at the heart of the 1980s and the “me” generation. Though Josh is just a child, he’s more caring and giving and level-headed than most of the jerks he works with, particularly the ladder-climbing shark played by Home Alone‘s John Heard. It’s the great type of kid movie that works for both the parents and the kids.

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This is one of those “classic” films that for whatever reason I never got around to watching. It just never had a priority in my personal film education so thank the blog gods that they decided it was finally time for me to dive into this lovely movie. I’m not sure if its great, whatever that means. The satire is there is admittedly surface level stuff but still fun and enjoyable. But, sometimes you have to turn the cerebral part of your brain off and just appreciate something as light-hearted and fun as this movie. I can say without question that this is one of my favorite Tom Hanks performances of all time and easily the best of his comedic performances. Part of me wishes the man had just stuck to comedies because he’s never more charming than when you aren’t actually having to dissect the nuances of his characters or his sometimes shallow dramatic characterization.

Final Score: B+

 

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Maybe it’s just me, but there are certain films that I avoid ever watching. They may be considered classics but because they often don’t fit into any of the preconceived cinematic fields that I know I enjoy or they come from genres I usually know I hate (i.e. chick flicks), I just overlook them even though I consider myself to be a true student of the theater. 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman is an Academy Award winning film and one of the more beloved romances of the 1980s, but because of its reputation as a massive chick flick, I never convinced myself to take the time to watch it. It certainly has a Cinderella romance at the heart of the film, but An Officer and a Gentleman couldn’t be any less of a chick flick. Although the film isn’t without its share of flaws (primarily in the acting department), this was a wonderful surprise and a sort of campy, cheesy pleasure.

Richard Gere (Primal Fear) stars as Zach Mayo, a cocky loner that decides to join Officer Training School with the navy so he can fly jets. Raised by his alcoholic, whore-chasing sailor father after his mother’s suicide, Mayo has no friends, no sense of community, and no attachments to anyone other than himself. But that type of attitude doesn’t work in the military, and sadistic drill sergeant Emil Foley (an Oscar winning Louis Gossett Jr.) makes it his personal mission to either force Mayo to learn to be part of a team or to break him and make him quit in the process. Along with his only friend in the program, Okie innocent Sid Worley (David Keith), Zach begins dating some local girls known as “Puget Debs” who make it their mission to snare a fly boy as a husband. But when Zach begins to fall for the beautiful Paula (Terms of Endearment‘s Debra Winger), he begins to find something to care for in the world.

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For a film that has such a reputation as being  a chick flick, An Officer and a Gentleman is surprisingly dark and cynical. Although there is a predictably triumphant romance by film’s end, it’s really a movie about men and women who don’t know who they are, that don’t know what they want, and have had poverty, fate, and family dictate their lot in life and not their own free will. It’s about the bonds of friendship and romance and the tragic consequences of having those bonds shattered. And even the romantic subplot speaks to a sense of desperation in the lives of characters like Paula or her friend Lynette in that the only way they think they’ll ever escape their humdrum lives is through a globe-trotting pilot. And considering how this film predates Full Metal Jacket, it’s portrayal of the life of a cadet would prove to be highly influential (but more on Louis Gossett shortly).

The script simply allowed the characters to breathe and grow at a believable pace. Although the film ran a little long, that had more to do with pacing problems and subplots that didn’t seem to go anywhere (until their tragic ends anyways) than it did with any deficiencies in character development. Although the two principal leads were not up to the task of delivering their lines, Zach Mayo and Paula both felt like well-realized and three dimensional characters that traced a rewarding arc over the course of the film. Even if much of what was to come felt predictable from the early minutes of the movie, the trials and tribulations of the heroes seemed so realistic and pulled off with enough honesty that you didn’t care that you could call virtually ever scene of the film twenty minutes in.

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Sadly, Richard Gere and Debra Winger nearly derail the whole production. For the most part, Gere nails the cocky, good-looking rakish mercurial charm that has let Mayo get by his whole life but when it comes time to summon any dramatic emotion whatsoever, he completely falls apart. One of the most famous lines of the film is him telling Sgt. Foley that “I got nowhere else to go” and I almost laughed out loud at Gere’s absurdly over-the-top delivery. The scene became funny. But, at least that’s better than Debra Winger who has proven herself in my eye to be a completely flat, one-dimensional actress with the emotional range of Keanu Reeves. How she garnered an Academy Award nomination for this film is simply beyond me. Along with the film’s hysterically victorious ending sequence, Gere and Winger could rightly be called the film’s primary shortcomings.

Thank god for its supporting cast then. Louis Gossett earned every inch of his Academy Award as the foul-mouthed, vitriolic, bad-ass drill sergeant. Until I realized that this film came first, I thought he had ripped off R. Lee Ermey’s character from Full Metal Jacket, but, in fact, R. Lee Ermey actually helped to train Louis Gossett Jr. on how real drill sergeants behaved (since R. Lee Ermey is a drill sergeant in real life). He was a pure, destructive force on the screen but with enough subtlety and nuance to let you know that he actually cared about the cadets under his care. And David Keith was no slouch either as Sid Worley whose own personal shortcomings provide the tragedy of the film’s final acts that lead to Mayo’s eventual triumph and self-realization.

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I’m not saying this was a great movie, and it had moments that were downright awful, but this was an  undeniably fun movie. It was feel-good in the right sense of the word and only with the film’s god-awful closing scene did it ever feel cloying and overly sweet. Sure Richard Gere and Debra Winger fell flat on their faces, but David Keith and Louis Gossett Jr. were there to make up for it and then some. As far as insightful looks into the life of a military cadet go, you could do a hell of a lot worse than the engrossing character study that forms the beating heart of An Officer and a Gentleman. It doesn’t always have the brains to pull off all of its ambitions, but few films have as much heart.

Final Score: B

Other than having possibly the worst poster tag line in the history of cinema (see above poster image for what I mean), I am proud to report finding a charming little gem of a film that I likely would never have watched if it weren’t for this blog (even though it’s been an integral part of my 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon tactics for years now). Perhaps it’s ironic that I’ve never had any desire to watch director Barry Levinson’s debut picture, Diner, when I recently enjoyed his cutting political satire, Wag the Dog, with such fervor (weirdly, that was only three movies ago after a year and a half of no Barry Levinson films). Praise the heavens then that Barry Levinson’s subversion of the retro coming of age genre (Dazed and Confused, Stand by Me, American Graffiti) was much more than the cliche period drama I was expecting it to be.

In 1959 Baltimore, six friends facing their mid-2os struggle against their inner demons and the challenges of finally growing up. Shrevie (Home Alone‘s Daniel Stern) is realizing too late that sexual passion isn’t going to keep his marriage alive for ever and that he and his wife (Tender Mercies‘ Ellen Barkin) ultimately have nothing in common. Boogie (The Pope of Greenwich Village‘s Mickey Rourke) is a womanizer with a serious gambling problem that threatens to destroy his life when he loses $2000 on what he thought was a sure bet. Goofball Eddie (Police Academy‘s Steve Guttenberg) is getting married but only if his fiancee passes an absurdly difficult test on the history of the Baltimore Colts (side note. didn’t realize they were ever called that) while his best man Billy (Wings’ Tim Daly) tries to convince his pregnant not-quite-a-girlfriend to marry him. Throw in the increasingly self-destructive Fenwick (Kevin Bacon) and the wise-cracking Modell and you have the ingredients for 1950s dysfunction.

Of course, plot descriptions like that are why I wasn’t excited to see a film that I was essentially unfamiliar with other than its role as the launching pad for the careers of Bacon, Rourke, and Guttenberg (it’s really weird using the latter in the same sentence as the first two). It comes from the same school as the coming of age films I mentioned earlier, but it’s honestly the anti-American Graffiti. Imagine if Dazed and Confused had a depressed and cynical older brother who doesn’t think life is completely miserable but finds nostalgia to be an utter load of bullshit; you now have an idea of how Diner operates. Although, the vast majority of Netflix user reviews for Diner praise its nostalgia factor (I think they’re confused by the stellar 50s soundtrack) so maybe I’m completely missing the point of the film.

Because unlike many of the films I mentioned, Diner isn’t about trying to capture the feel of a decade. Change the soundtrack, outfits, and occasional reference, and the film could have been set as late as the 1980s. It also isn’t about trying to capture implicit parallels between the era it takes place and when it was actually made (though as I just said, they are there). Instead, it’s just a character drama (and an obviously highly autobiographical one at that). Characters either grow or they don’t. They come to terms with their new roles in the adult world, and the film captures something intangibly true about the friendships that define men. This is very much a “bromance” film, and with its sports-obsessed, sex-crazed, testosterone-fueled leads, I could easily see the film alienating or being inherently unappealing to a female audience.

It doesn’t hurt that the film’s dialogue is  at an almost Aaron Sorkin level of natural and snappy. If you’re a guy and you’re in your 20s, you either talk just like the guys in this film and spend most of your time getting into the same types of shenanigans or you know people who fit that bill. There’s a scene early in the film where the group is debating whether Frank Sinatra or Johnny Mathis is the better musician. Before long, it devolves into yet another discussion of sexual appetite and methods. I can’t help but think the visual layout of this scene and the tempo of the banter would come to bear on the famous Madonna conversation in Reservoir Dogs. Or there’s the moment when Shrevie and his wife finally have the fight they’ve been avoiding for years as he explains to her the subtlety of his tastes in music (and how his music is organized) that is nothing but subtext for the lack of communication in their marriage.

The film has a distinct visual style that once again specifically avoids the need to perfectly capture the romanticized aesthetic of the 1950s. Where many films in the 1950s slave over nailing the colorful period outfits, the pastel colors, and the gorgeous cars (to be fair, the film does nail the cars), the movie uses its visuals to reinforce the darkness and despair creeping at the corner of every scene. By the 1980s, Baltimore began to feel an economic squeeze that started in the 60s and 70s, and you see some of that hopelessness in the film. It doesn’t scream for your attention, but if you know anything about the cultural history of B-More, you can feel the hurt in the frames. Almost all of the scenes are either shot at night or in run-down interiors. The two noticeable outdoor day scenes only reinforce some of the class themes at the edges of the film.

Like all of the great films I mentioned that Diner tries to subvert, the movie knows that even when you’re trying to break the mold, a fantastic ensemble cast is stillthekey to success, and Diner hits a home run. Even a quick look at Mickey Rourke’s pre-career implosion films as well as his career resurrection roles (The Wrestler, Sin City) shows you that he should have been one of the biggest stars of his generation. He had baby-faced good looks and a fierce, naturalistic acting style that would have made Brando and James Dean proud. It shouldn’t be shocking that he’s the best part of the film. He’s kind of a dick and he’s got a line of horse-shit a mile long when it comes to the ladies, but his natural sensitivity and awareness of his own shortcomings make Boogie the most compelling character in a film full of well-crafted protagonists.

Kevin Bacon gives Rourke a run for his money in an explosive turn in one of his first film roles. His Fenwick is a viciously angry and flippant young man that might also be savant-style genius, and Bacon’s career as the arrogant, seething villain or foil got its start here. As with all of the characters though, he never once felt one-dimensional or crudely drawn (even when the film’s plot was more impressionistic than actually narrative-driven). I mostly think of Daniel Stern as the inept bad guy in Home Alone, but his tale was perhaps the most relatable (if not the most entertaining) in the film. Stern finds all of the joy and passion that Shrevie feels when he’s with his friends and then contrasts that with his ennui and dispassion when he’s with his wife. Tim Daly also delivers a star turn  as Billy who can’t seem to understand why his girlfriend doesn’t want to marry him and releases his anxiety in a raucous scene at a strip club with one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

The film does wind up a little uneven for all of its strengths. The ending is wound up a little too neatly (something I suspect might have been the result of executive meddling), and on rare (but sadly there) occasions, the movie can get a wee bit heavy-handed in its message. Still, those are all small prices to pay for a director/writer in his debut feature making one of the most refreshing coming of age tales of the 80s. Perhaps it’s because the characters should have already grown-up by this point in their lives. Maybe, it’s the darkness. It’s most certainly at least partially the cast. Whatever reasons it takes to get you to watch this seriously under-rated film, do so if you want a great take on one of my favorite genres of film.

Final Score: A-

 

For horror film enthusiasts (which I do not especially consider myself to be one), there are generally two opinions about what was the creative hey-day of the genre. It’s either the 1920s and 30s at the height of the Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney era, or it’s the horror resurgence of the 1970s and early 1980s (also known as the rise of Wes Craven, George A. Romero, and Tobe Hooper). I don’t really think I have much of an opinion there because horror isn’t exactly my forte. Still, among my horror-loving friends (of which there are many) opinion is pretty evenly split. Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist (with a script written by Steven Spielberg) is on the films that always comes up as a classic of the early 1980s horror genre. While I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I did when I was younger (it simply wasn’t as scary as I remembered it being, unlike say The Exorcist), I did pick up on some not-so-subtle social commentary that I missed the first time around. There’s certainly no denying that back in the 80s Spielberg was one of the all-time masters of capturing what it was like to be a child, and the way that Poltergeist fed on very literal childhood fears remains pretty impressive. Also, though some effects are obviously quite dated, the film managed to remain visually impressive despite being 30 years old (this year).

In an archetypical American suburb, the Freeling family are the poster-child for the well-adjusted and loving WASP family. Husband Steve (Craig T. Nelson) is a successful real estate agent for the realtors that built the entire development where the Freeling family (and dozens and dozens of others) lives. Wife Diane (The Big Chill‘s JoBeth Williams) is a loving stay-at-home-mom (who smokes the occasional joint in the evenings) that looks after the family’s three children ranging from 5 to 8 to 16. When the youngest daughter, Carol-Anne (the late Heather O’Rourke), starts hearing voices talking to her out of the static of the television, the Freeling house is quickly taken over by the supernatural. Though the incidents start off as seemingly innocent (chairs and people moving on their own across the kitchen floor), it isn’t long before the malicious side of the spirits break through and Carol-Anne is sucked through a portal into a limbo-dimension and the son is nearly devoured by a tree into the same dimension (or possibly another). Diane and Steve have to enlist the help of parapsychology experts who quickly learn that they too are in way over their head.

This film is not subtle whatsoever in making a statement about American consumerism and the hypocritical lives of the average WASP-ish suburbanite. It’s especially obvious during the scenes before the haunting gets out of hand. We see these people living in an almost disgusting level of comfort, and their biggest problem is that the remote controls of the Freeling neighbors are at the same frequency as the Freeling house and they get in a remote control war. They can waste food. There is a recurring visual motif about things that have been buried getting dug up (which is taken to its logical and horrifying conclusion in the film’s climactic final scene). All of these things are fine. While Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) directed the film, it was written by Spielberg, and all of his films operate on two levels. You have the story and then there’s the obvious allegory (i.e. E.T. is really about divorce and not actually aliens). And I’m always down for some good finger-poking at the suburbs. And when the film delivers the scares, they are often (though not always) pretty successful. Still, good lord, the exposition in this movie could have came out of one of the later Star Wars films. They would just talk and talk and talk and try to explain things in explicit detail that would have been better served by leaving more to our imagination. Poltergeist suffered from the one thing Spielberg usually gets right. It tried to tell more than it showed.

This is going to be my shortest movie review in ages (they’re usually more like 5 or 6 paragraphs instead of 4), but I still feel like I’m dying from my sinus infection, and my head is still buzzed on enough allergy medicine for me to float away on a wave of suphedrine. And I just think about Breaking Bad every time I take it (cause Suphedrine is a major ingredient in methamphetamine, although not in Walter’s cause he found like a work around in making it which is why his meth is blue. I think. I’m not a chemist). Slowly but surely, all of the energy I’ve been expending doing posts over these last couple days despite being sick has turned my mind into total mush. It’s not good. Anyways, if you’ve somehow managed to not see Poltergeist in the last thirty years, it’s still a really good movie. I’m not sure if I would call it a great film, but it’s fun, and it manages to deliver some legitimate scares. And for all movie buffs, it’s cultural legacy is pretty substantial so that alone would justify a viewing.

Final Score: B+

Discounting Tim Burton’s Batman which rang in the end of the decade, the 1980s were not a kind period for movie adaptations of comic books. Whether it’s the painful to watch bastardization of Frank Castle with Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher or Howard the Duck (which is a regular contender for Worst Film of All Time) or any of the god-awful Superman films from the 80s but especially Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, the comic book movies from those days are pretty much all universally horrendous. For a long time I knew that in 1982 Wes Craven had adapted DC fantasy horror comic Swamp Thing into a movie. Alan Moore’s run on the series (after the film had been made) is fairly legendary in the comics world as a writer revitalizing an all but forgotten character into one of the hottest properties of the era, and since I loved both Alan Moore and Wes Craven, I believe that I purposefully added this film to my master blog list (because after watching it, I’m positive it wasn’t nominated for any types of industry awards). Voluntarily subjecting myself to this film was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in ages because without question, this is the worst Wes Craven film I’ve ever watched.

After being sent to supervise a government research project helmed by charming plant geneticist Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise), Alice Cable (Carnivale‘s Adrienne Barbeau) is quickly forced on the run when mad scientist Anton Arcane (Louis Jordan) destroys Holland’s lab and apparently kills Holland to steal his work. Though Cable is able to escape, she is pursued by Arcane’s thugs because she possesses Dr. Holland’s final notebook detailing the last steps of his process to essentially solve humanity’s hunger problems with crops that can grow anywhere. As Arcane’s men chase Cable through the treacherous Louisiana swamps, an unlikely savior comes to her side. Mutated into a half-plant/half-man hybrid by the chemicals that everyone thought had killed him, Dr. Holland is now alive and Cable’s protector as a monster with the heart of a human.

This review is going to be really short because this movie is really bad and I’d rather spend my time watching one last episode of Doctor Who before I go to bed than devote 1000 words to this film (though it managed to pull legitimately poetic moments out of its ass from time to time but that’s Wes Craven for you). The plot is completely nonsensical and it fails to capture the fantasy-horror/psychological elements that makes the comics so memorable and is instead a series of action sequences tied together by a borderline incomprehensible plot. The acting is truly terrible as well and everyone seems to be taking pleasure in making things as campy as humanly possible. The special effects are egregiously bad. Understanding that this is 1982 and not everyone has a George Lucas budget to work with, but I had to control my laughter every time I saw Swamp Thing on screen. The editing is also atrocious and whether it’s the silly transitions the film would use for screen swipes or just the general lack of anything tying the events together, the film was a mess. Even the lighting was horrific and there were many moments in the film where it was just too dark to see what was happening and not because that was the director’s intention. I can’t even recommend this film to people who love “so bad they’re good films” because this one is simply so bad it’s terrible.

Final Score: C-

I remember my first introduction to the works of Alan Moore as if it were yesterday. I turned 17 in 2006, and the very first R-rated movie that I bought my own ticket for at the movie theatre was the Wachowski brothers’ (The Matrix) adaptation of Alan Moore’s beloved graphic novel starring Hugo Weaving as anarchist/terrorist V and Natalie Portman as besieged heroine Evey Hammond. I loved that movie when I was in high school, and at times, I still appreciate its fairly vocal outrage against the dangerous path this nation was traveling during the Bush administration. However, much like Alan Moore has with all of the adaptations of his books, Alan Moore was an especially vicious critic of this particular re-imagining of his book. I had never understood why when I was younger since the film seemed a clear indictment of fascism and a call to arms for citizens to take responsibility for their own freedom and the governments they give free reign to run their lives. I get why Moore doesn’t like the movie now (though it doesn’t forever ruin the movie for me) having now read his original graphic novel. Whereas the movie is an almost clear-cut tale of a superheroic freedom fighter in a not entirely subtle knock at the Bush administration, Moore’s original graphic novel is a far more morally ambiguous and challenging tale centered on an uniquely British take on the danger of rampant Thatcherism which makes V less a superhero and more of a flawed prophet for his unique vision of the seeds of a new anarchic England. While both versions of the work have their strengths and weaknesses, Moore’s ability to craft a tale that makes you think more than a self-aggrandizing vision of liberal victory against neoconservatism makes his original adaptation the far superior product.

Set in 1998 (or 16 years after the book was first published), V for Vendetta is a vision of a dystopian British near-future where a nearly worldwide destruction at the hands of nuclear war has caused England to fall under the tyrannical rule of a fascist political regime known as Norsefire. At the center of the tale is a terrorist named V who wages a practically one-man war against England’s new rulers. Wearing a Guy Fawkes mask (the anarchist who attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605) and spouting Shakespeare and other literary luminaries, V is the keeper of culture in a world where the fascists have erased all aspects of society (blacks, Jews, gays, intellectuals) that don’t fall in line with their Nordic vision of humanity. At the beginning of the story, V rescues 16 year old factory worker (and attempted prostitute) Evey Hammond from this world’s equivalent of the Gestapo who are about to rape and murder her. She soon finds herself drawn into V’s world where he plans on destroying every inch of the current society so that humanity can rebuild from scratch and finally take responsibility for their own future. Along the way though, he sets in motion an elaborate revenge scheme against key members of the party who committed terrible atrocities against him and others at a government sponsored concentration camp.

I’m having difficulty making up my mind on how I feel about the artwork in V for Vendetta. It certainly improved as the series progressed, and there was a certain artistry in a lot of the individual frames where David Lloyd was able to accomplish quite a bit without the need of any dialogue or thought bubbles (no sound effects for the entire series). However, on the whole, it wasn’t especially aesthetically pleasing to the eye. There was a certain ugliness about every character and every building. That was probably intentional considering the story, but I certainly preferred Dave Gibbons’ artwork with Alan Moore on Watchmen. I can attribute a lot of the early awkwardiness though to the fact that this strip was originally done in black and white with color being something that was stitched on to the final product when DC would pick up the strip years after it had laid on the shelf when its original home went under. There’s a lot of strange, muted color palettes used for the strip, and while, yet again, this makes sense from a story perspective, it is very rare that is comic is ever pleasant to look at. The one great thing I will give to David Lloyd is how he handles the moments when Alan Moore would provide absolutely no dialogue pertinent to what was actually happening on screen and Lloyd had to tell the entire story (rather than the subtext Moore was providing) through his pictures. Lloyd is very gifted at visual storytelling; I just wished he approached the aesthetic part of his drawing with more of an eye for beauty, but then again, I’m probably complaining about an aspect of his drawings that he was actively trying not to achieve.

This was Moore’s breakthrough novel, and as much as this man certainly represents (along with Neil Gaiman) the apex of the literary ambitions of the graphic novel market, he was still in his formative stages when he was putting this book together, and it really shows. A lot of the dialogue (V’s excepted) is rough, especially in the stories written before the book’s years long hiatus. Moore often layers so much external dialogue over what is happening that it becomes harder to understand who is speaking and what is quite going on than in a Robert Altman film. Despite Moore’s attempts to flesh out his character, the Leader, Adam Susan, still comes off as almost cartoonishly villainous and by book’s end, comically inept. You never see any of the charisma and manipulativeness which would have needed to exist to propel this strange man to power. Nearly all of the primary antagonists of the piece are one-dimensional political strawmen, and there’s one, a Scottish gangster, that I couldn’t understand most of what he said because of Moore’s decision to spell out his dialogue phonetically. Outside of V himself, none of the characters in this book have the mental staying power that every single character in Watchmen portrayed. What made Watchmen so good was that not only were the heroes often fatally flawed, the villains often made their fair share of points. In V for Vendetta, the only character with much depth is V, and while his motivations and methods spark debate, there’s no villain worthy of the kind of thought Ozymandias provoked in Watchmen.

You have to understand though that any complaints or quibbles I have about this work are all in relation to Moore’s later work. When this first sprung on the scene, it was light years ahead of everything else out there in terms of quality and content. This was the book that let Watchmen happen. It allowed Frank Miller to write something like The Dark Knight Rises (the more I know about Miller’s personal politics, the more it puts all of his comic writing in an increasingly negative light). Neil Gaiman would be able to craft the apex of graphic novel storytelling with Sandman thanks to this early experiment. Yes, it’s flawed, but that tends to happen when you’re crafting the beginnings of a comics revolution. Watchmen remains one of the greatest novels of all time (regular or graphic), and he laid the foundations for his dystopian vision in this book. If you’re a fan of comic books, this is must read. It helped to usher in the modern world of comics where people finally took them seriously, and at the end of the day, it’s still a great read from beginning to end.

Final Score: A-

I’ve discussed this on this blog before, but I have a love/hate relationship with the romantic comedy genre. Two of my three favorite films of all time are romantic comedies (Annie Hall and Chasing Amy) but most are awful and I suspect directly tied to stimulating something related to the production of estrogen (wow that sentence sounded sexist). Anywho, I just watched one such romantic comedy, 1982’s Kiss Me Goodbye, that was only saved from complete and utter mediocrity by charming performances from its two male leads as well as some slight subversions of where exactly I thought the film was going to go.

 

Kiss Me Goodbye is a unique spin on the love triangle story. Kay (Sally Field) is engaged to stiff and cold Rupert (Jeff Bridges) and has recently moved back into the house that she shared with her Broadway choreographer husband, Jolly (James Caan), who died three years before the story takes place. Kay’s engagement is impeded when Jolly returns as a ghost and casts doubts in Kay’s mind about whether or not she should marry Rupert, because even in death, Jolly is still more full of life than Rupert ever could be. The story is pretty simple, but they do manage to add a few twists here and there on the way to the perhaps predictable ending.

 

I mostly know James Caan as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather and some roles he had later in life. I never guessed that he could be such a talented comic actor. He is quite charming and roguish in the part. Jeff Bridges, who I know is hilarious, is shockingly young in this part. This is (I believe) the earliest role of his that I can remember watching. He looks like a weird cross between Riley from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and David Duchovny at this age. I’m used to him looking like The Dude. It was cool to see him cleaned up and younger. I didn’t dislike this movie. I didn’t love it either. It was over and I won’t think much of it in the future. You might enjoy it more than I did though.

Final Score: B-