COVID GOES TO THE MOVIES: POSTWAR

Here’s my last gallery of movie images based on the Facebook meme that Stephen Dedman tagged me into: following on from forays into Speculative Fiction, Animation, the pre-1945 era, and Comedy, are ten (thirteen) modern — ie: post war — movies that have made an impact upon me — that don’t necessarily fit into any of the other categories. You know how these things work.

They’re not necessarily the best (although most are all-time favourites), but they are those that have had the greatest impact and influence on me as a person, artist, and small despairing thing. Stories will be shared as requested.

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COVID GOES TO THE MOVIES: PRE-BOMB FILMS

As previously discussed, I’m throwing up five lots of ten (thirteen) images from movies that have impacted me, as yet another in our ongoing line of Covid-gathers-our-personal-information distractomemage.

Today, I’m hitting up pre-war fillums, from the golden age of talkies, shee, before the big one, shee? Nyaaaah.

Well, before the end of the big one: this is my list of films up to 1945.

Oh, and I should point out, as I haven’t already, that these aren’t necessarily the best movies from each category, or even, necessarily, my favourite; just the ones that had an impact. Anecdotes on request 😉

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LET THERE BE MEMES: COVID GOES TO THE MOVIES — SF/F/H

Time for another Covid-distraction meme that has been doing the rounds of Facebook lately.

This one asks you to post an image — no posters, no titles, and no explanations, just an image from the film itself — from ten films that have had an impact on you. My good friend Stephen Dedman has tagged me.

Yeah. Bloody thanks, Stephen.

Not only have I failed to narrow it down to ten films, I decided to be smart and break it up into different categories — SF/Fantasy/Horror; Animated; Comedy; Pre-War; and Post-War,  and then still couldn’t manage to winnow the SF/Fantasy/Horror list down to ten. FFS.

So, balls to it. Here’s the first of the five lists. And here are the thirteen film images.

Pppphhhh.

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MIXED MOVIE QUOTE: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT

Luscious is out having dinner with friends tonight, so Lord 15 and I settled in for bad pizza and a DVD. Gotham by Gaslight is an alternative universe Batman story set in the 19th Century, pitting the Caped Crusader against — maybe — Jack the Ripper. It’s a little contrived, but has some surprisingly good moments, and casting Selina Kyle as a Suffragette is all the good things.

As always, a movie watched is a Mixed Movie Quote posted……

 

Gotham By Gaslight

MIXED MOVIE QUOTE DOUBLE FEATURE: WAR GAMES and GREMLINS

The nostalgia was thick in the air at the Batthaim last night, as we settled in to expose Lord 15 to a simpler time, when computers had black screens and green writing, and Baby Yoda had three movements and hair.

War Games, surprisingly, holds up extraordinarily well. It’s still tight, tense, and superbly timed. Thank God we watched it first, because Gremlins has aged about as well as Keith Richards’ ballsac. Nevertheless, the law is the law: here they both are, Mixed Movie Quote style.

 

War Games

 

Gremlins

MIXED MOVIE QUOTES: ITSIDE OUT

Karratha has a beautiful theatre complex, which contains exactly one cinema screen in the auditorium that doubles as both cinema and traditional theatre. As a consequence, screenings are very limited: more often than not, a movie will have one-two screenings at best. Miss an anticipated flick, and you’re stuck with waiting until it arrives on DVD at the one store we have for that purpose.

Needless to say, Lord 14 is extremely happy to have secured tickets to the one screening of It 2 for him and his girlfriend.

Which is my little way of saying you can blame his constant chatter for this mixed-up movie quote.

 

It

OCCASIONALLY, MY BRAIN PLAYS ROLEY-POLEYS.

It’s not unusual: you watch one movie, and realise just how perfectly a line from that movie would fit into another movie. So, you know, you download an image, and open it with Paint, and, you know…… right?

Anyway, I was washing the dishes, and my mind was wandering, and that’s how the first one happened. And then I was watching The Untouchables, and I was getting bored (it really hasn’t aged well), and my mind was wandering……. and anyway, it amuses me, and there’s bound to be more, I’ll post ’em as they happen, ‘k?

‘K.

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RUTGER HAUER. 2019. OF COURSE.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Let’s be honest: it’s the greatest death soliloquy in cinema. Delivered by Roy Batty, the hero (YES, HE IS!) of my favourite movie, and classic SF dystopia, Blade Runner. Now the actor who delivered it, who created it as perhaps the most brilliant ad-lib ever devised, has died. 2019. The year of Blade Runner. The year Batty died.

Of course.

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10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

A Night At The Opera

Oh, God. How to describe the impact the Marx Brothers have had on my psyche? You know that thing where my first reaction to everything you have to say is a wisecrack? You know how I’ve had three sons, and if they’re within five feet of me you have to keep telling me to stop rough-housing with them? You know how, every now and again, I tell you that it made sense to me? That it’s not my fault if people can’t keep up? That I’m only here to amuse myself, and everyone else is only watching?

Yeah. That.

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10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: DOCTOR STRANGELOVE

Strangelove

Art should never be comfort food. It should always challenge, undermine, rebel, and otherwise find apple carts to upset. And while humour can be a reassuring reinforcement of your thought patterns, I’ve always been drawn to a rather black variation of the form.

Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, to give it its stupidly full title, is a deliciously uncomfortable viewing experience. It is absurdism writ large and painful, cut so close to the cultural bone that future archaeologists will take it as proof of cannibalism. It is, in many ways, Stanley Kubrick’s misanthropic masterpiece, and the perfect exploration of his working habits– every scene, every moment, cut and recut until they are pared down to their very minimum; no fat, no blether; simply distilled, pure, predatory, poison. It’s all tied together, of course, by the pitch-perfect performances of George C Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, and the never-better Peter Sellers.

I never quite cut it as a stand-up comedian. I couldn’t bring myself to pitch my material at the heart of the beer-and-knob-gags crowd that populated Perth’s evenings, and late in my career I developed a case of the performance yips that sunk me completely. And movies like this were partly to blame– perhaps, had I been less in love with Kubrick’s acidic perfectionism, and more a fan of, well, Porky’s…… but as an artist of a different stripe, the beautiful turns of phrase, the sublime juxtapositioning of elements, the obsessionally fierce holding to point of view and narrative voice, all have been part of my artistic education. And, just as importantly, this movie remains a sublime and simply magnificent slice of perfection, more than 50 years after the possibilities with which it concerns itself have reached their first-run nadir.

It’s still the War Room, and you still can’t fight here.

 

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

Young Frankenstein

For a period of my teenage years, Mel Brooks was the funniest man alive. I was, and remain, an unabashed fan of his off-color, utterly inappropriate humour. Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Producers, Silent Movie, History of the World Part One, To Be or Not To Be…… they make me snort with unrestrained, childish glee.

Young Frankenstein is something better. It’s everything Brooks’ other best films are: funny, scatalogical, sexual (Madeline Kahn was an early, intense, crush), nonsensical, and absurd. But it also shows a deep love for its source material, in a way that most of hos other parodies don’t. And it is also very, very clever. It can be argued, with some success, that the central trio of talent involved– Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Marty Feldman– were never in better form, certainly never better together. And the whole thing just hangs together so beautifully.

For most of my career I’ve been a speculative fiction writer, but the label has sat uneasily upon me. I’ve been open about it– I like being a spec fic writer, but I didn’t set out to be one. I set out to be a writer. No prefix. I’m fascinated by artists who transcend their prime activity, by polymaths, by people who aspire to break out of their artistic restraints.

Young Frankenstein stands out. It’s a sign of artists investing in something so deeply that they transcend their surrounding ouvre. In many moments within the film, their investment transcends the material itself. It’s funny, it’s anarchic, it’s everything you want in a Mel Brooks film… and then it’s a bit more. For an artist who has failed more often than he has succeeded in transcending his own ouvre, it’s an education.

And it’s still fucking hilarious.

Blucher!

 

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER

High Plains Drifter

There’s some damn weird shit going on here. A stranger rides into an isolated town, rapes one of the local women, bullies the local businessmen, shoots folk, and generally terrorises the townspeople until they hire him to protect them from three Very Bad Men ™ who are returning to cause mayhem after a stint in the pokie. In response, he anoints a dwarf as Sheriff, orders the townspeople to paint every building bright red and rechristen the town ‘Hell’, and sets out a giant picnic using every scrap of food the town has to spare……

High Plains Drifter is not your average western. It’s a metaphysical rumination on the nature of evil, and the deals that marginally-honest people will make to keep hold of power. It’s downright spiritual. It operates on multiple levels at once, taking a brutalist approach to themes of betrayal, power dynamics, and heroism. It is, at once, both repellent and utterly fascinating. Its surface layer is skin thin– the expendable loner versus the trio of obvious baddies– like High Noon seen in a fun house mirror. But the surface narrative is simply the delivery medium: what’s really being discussed here is something far deeper, and far more insidious.

Clint Eastwood has always been a master filmmaker, and his record as a total jerk of a human being is also well established. High Plains Drifter is a nearly-perfect vehicle for him– a psychological examination of extreme viewpoints, in which innocence is seen as weakness and the only strength comes from a toxic masculinity that eats the person wielding it, even as it reinforces the might-makes-right conservatism that we know is central to Eastwood’s world view. It is no simple western. It is a brilliant western, and its brilliance lies in the fact that its brilliance as a western is almost entirely irrelevant to its brilliance as a truly weird psychological horror story.

It’s a jaw-dropping piece of cinematic wonder, and I find myself returning to it on a regular basis, just to watch in awe as it remorselessly unfolds its weirdness. It is a perfect lesson in character development, and how to build a narrative from nothing but rotten materials.

 

 

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: THE GENERAL

The General

The General is a stunningly funny film. Thing is, I didn’t realise that until the third time I watched it. The first time, I spent the whole experience with my jaw hovering just above my ankles. The second, with my face pressed up against the screen as I spent my time trying to work out how. The third time was the one where I could sit back, relax, and take in just what an unbelievable genius Buster Keaton was.

And a lifelong fascination was born.

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10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

LOTR

I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was ten years old. I read it in an omnibus volume, all three books together. The one with the cover depicting the Nazgul from the Ralph Bakshi animated movie of which we shall not speak. I read it annually, until I was well into my twenties. There is no single book that has had so much impact upon, or sway over, my life. One of the games that my good friend Sean and I enjoyed playing, as students, was to cast and set our favourite books to film: over the years I developed numerous different variations on a Lord of the Rings films.

Imagine, then, my utter joy, at finding the book at the core of my life was going to be made into a trilogy. Properly done, with serious funding, and a big cast, and all the Hollywood-tentpole-production trimmings.

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10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW

Rocky Horror

I’m going to give my Mum the benefit of the doubt: despite the blurb on the back of the video box, despite the pictures, despite the reputation, it’s entirely possible that when she brought this movie home as the very first we would watch on our very first VCR (a gift to ourselves to help cope with the departure of our Dad after a particularly messy separation fought out away from  our eyes with a startling lack of success), she had no idea what it was actually about.

Otherwise, she was in such an emotional state that a movie featuring cannibalism, blow-jobs, orgies, and songs about cross-dressers wishing they were Fay Wray seemed exactly the movie to show to shell-shocked and traumatised 13 and 10 years old boys.

Whatever. The truth is, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a triumphantly anarchic mess. Part musical, part horror story, part twisted love letter to exactly the same 1950s Z-grade Rubber Suit Monster movies I hold so close to my heart, it is entirely a creature of excess. The Time Warp had been a radio and disco staple for my peers and I since primary school. That was not enough to prepare us for the triumphant entrance of Frank-N-Furter, and everything that followed I’m a Sweet Transvestite. The darker the movie became, the more Mum fell still and silent and disapproving, and the more I responded in exactly the opposite direction.

The seeds of an awful lot of my artistic… is fetishes the right word?… have their beginnings in this movie: the shock theatre (any wonder Alice Cooper entered my consciousness at roughly the same time); the combinations of joy/darkness/sensuality/outrage; the dualities; the sexualisation of fetishism and horror… as a young teen who was suddenly bereft of the father figure he was hoping would actually take a fatherly interest in him (My Dad: not one of those hey-buddy-wanna-toss-a-ball-and-learn-how-to-shave kinda guys), confirmation that the world was a nihilistic freak show where the main guiding rule was to seek out pleasure for its own rewards came at exactly the… well, choose right or wrong as your own personal feelings guide you.

Slowly but surely, I was departing from the paths that my school peers would follow. I was isolating myself: emotionally; culturally; and psychologically. There would be hard years to come, and I would be at University becfore it all began to pay off, but The Rocky Horror Picture Show was an important part of that beginning. There was an entire world out there– other worlds, even– where those things that were repressed and mocked in 1980s Rockingham were not only tolerated, but celebrated. It was a thought to hold onto as my school days became darker.

Seen thirty years later, it’s still a great romp with a fantastic soundtrack. The sexual and horror elements seem slightly twee now, compared to what I’ve seen in the intervening years, but somehow that only serves to add to its charm. It’s an unholy mess of a movie, every element thrown together with joyful abandon with no great care as to where they land. But by God, it’s a fun unholy mess, and one that gave me a life raft just as the water were begiining to rise.

 

 

 

 

 

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI

Caligari

 

Was a time, way back when the world was young and hypercolour walked the earth, that I studied film at University. The course was, not to put too thin a wedge into it, cobbled-together rubbish: the lecturers were minor figures; the practical component seemed created to fit the few pieces of dilapidated equipment available; and the philosophies being touted owed everything to a love of 1970s Australian film and a world that had never heard of Truffaut, or Hitchcock, or, you know, any sort of film theory.

There was one good side, though. While the film analysis was rudimentary, it did, at least, mean that once a week we would gather in a lecture hall and watch movies for seven hours. The lecture hall directly across from the tavern. Just after lunchtime.

Yeah.

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10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

Magnificent Seven

 

Yeah, not the recent still-desperately-trying-to-make-Chris-Pratt-a star remake. Nor the actual original, Japanese Seven Samurai, which is a classic, but which has never had any deep visceral effect on me. No, I’m talking about the classic Yul Brynner-Steve McQueen battle for screen supremacy, with what is, to me, still the greatest assemblage of simply damn cool men to occupy the screen together. Brynner, McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson… if ever there was a movie that typified the when men were men aesthetic, it’s this one. It’s a movie about honour, about obligation, about being smarter and cooler and simply more– when the chips are finally, irretrievably down– noble than the other guy.

But scratch deeper, and there’s something going on under the surface that isn’t immediately obvious. because this is a movie made in 1960, bubbling over with lakonikos and machismo. But, for all their wild west outsider antihero status, the characters in this movie don’t quite act the way that Hollywood lone wolf western outsider antiheroes are supposed to act. For a start, the poor Mexican dirt farmers that need the great white American heroes to rescue them are treated with genuine dignity. They’re smart, capable people, in their own field of endeavour. They learn quickly. They understand what they have brought into their world, both physically and philosophically. They know what they are losing by taking the actions they do. As much as they still suffer the Hollywood treatment, they are people: relatable, individual, and sympathetic.

And the mercenaries themselves: they know what they’ve given up, what they can never recover. When they lose one of their own to– gasp– a woman, and a domestic lifestyle away from the constant gunfighting and pursuit, they view with it envy, and not a little tenderness. The hardest, most laconic of them all, Bronson’s Bernardo O’Reilly, is brought low not by a superior warrior, or overwhelming odds, but because his armour is pierced by something he could never foresee– his love for the village children, who he desperately wants to steer away from his own life choices. Vaughn’s character Lee has lost everything that he counts on– his courage, his speed, the coldness of his heart– and he understands that that is not his tragedy: it is the awareness of his loss, and how his choices have left him in no position to grow from them that is. These are flawed men, on the wrong end of the culture around them, and they not only know it but they know why. And they not only protect those who need them, they cherish those things that are worth protecting.

It’s still a Western, and a Hollywood Western at that. It still has all the trappings. But, like all spectacles, once the novelty wears off there is a sublimely human story of loss and gain at work, here, performed by actors at the peak of their powers and directed with grace and intelligence. I’ve seen more complex movies. I’ve seen more philosophically ambiguoius Westerns (indeed, there’s another coming up later in this list), but The Magnificent Seven was the first movie I saw that combined all the things I wanted to be, with a message about the responsibilities and consequences of becoming that creature.

There’s a part of me that still wants to ride into certain death with this coolest collection of Real Men Ever ™, but this is the movie that taught my younger self that every freedom comes with a price, and that no character should exist in a single dimension. It is, on the days that Blade Runner is not, my favourite movie, and one I will watch countless times before I die.

 

10 DAYS, 10 MOVIES: BLADE RUNNER

Here we are, with the companion piece to the 10 Albums meme that I discussed yesterday. This time, it’s movies, and I’m starting with what is, on more days than not, my favourite movie.

 

10 Movies: Blade Runner

Blade Runner

 

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…”. Is there a more eloquent and ambiguous death soliloquy in modern movies? certainly, I don’t believe there is one that spins an entire movie around on its axis the way Roy Batty’s final speech does. Blade Runner has such a harsh, utilitarian beauty running throughout it– splashes of neon glinting on rain-soaked concrete, beams of light through decades of dust– that this sudden revelation of a beautiful soul, destined to die by uncaring, scientific hands, hits you like grief, and never really, fully, departs.

I’ve loved science fiction since I was a child. At first, like all children, i loved the simple and hopeful iconography– space flight, new planets, alien life. I bypassed the formative children’s texts of my time– my first book was a collection of adult stories, and I pretty much went straight to the Masters and stayed there for many years. Star Wars, a simplistic 1930s story that was already obsolete by the time it encompassed my ages of 6-11, never really took. Doctor Who did, because at its best, it reached for adult answers to questions I didn’t quite understand, as a young teen. The science fiction I loved as a child– and still do– had consequences, and death and pain and loss weren’t pretty.

Blade Runner was something else again. Grey areas folded back upon each other until the moral ambiguity itself became something fascinating– an entity in its own right, where I could watch the movie again and again, from any number of different angles, and always find a new sympathy, and new belief. And this was coupled to a story that rollicked along, with death and danger and very cool things. On top of that, the iconography and imagery spoke to something urban and decaying in my own world view, right at the point where I was maturing into a thinking adult creature, in the concrete-and-steel-and-nukes-for-all 1980s.

Blade Runner struck me at the right time in my personal and cultural development, and posed questions that I can revisit and unpack again and again. The action is tone-perfect, the music drills right through me, and the visuals still give me a shiver. It’s a narrative, visual, and thematic experience that has leached into my bones, and I love it deeply.

 

So, there’s my first movie. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss another album, and then we’ll go back and forth until both lists are exhausted, and we will be, too.

 

 

 

 

5 FOR FRIDAY: ANIMATED ATROCITIES

The news this week that The Emoji Movie became the first animated movie to win a Worst Movie Razzie sounds like a good excuse to look back at five of the worst animated movies I’ve been forced to endure. I love animated movies: at their best, like Akira or the Toy Story trilogy, an animated movie can be a dazzling, inspiring whirlwind of imagination and technical wizardry.

These are not that.

 

5 For Friday: Won’t Someone Think of the The Children?

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IMDb: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5979874/

20 years after humanity is driven from Earth by kaiju, the remaining 4000 survivors return, determined to destroy Godzilla and reclaim the planet. A planet that– due to time dilation– has spent 20,000 years evolving into a perfect environment for the species’ that now inhabit it.

So, essentially, 4000 humans set out on a deliberate campaign of environmental genocide out of a hubristic sense of entitlement (If I had a dollar for every time a character cries “It’s our planet!” I could afford a really nice lunch.) and somehow the audience is expected to side with them.

Nobody watches a Godzilla movie because of its intelligent, nuanced scriptwriting. But this is as stupid a movie as I have ever seen. Not even the beautiful graphics– and the big G is beautiful— can save it. This movie is simply too dumb to live.