#42- Batman

Quick recap: In this installment, Batman battles The Joker (Jack Nicholson). He falls in love as well, but that subplot was a little too Lois Lane and Clark if you ask me and I’d rather just forget that it happened.

Fun (?) Fact: There’s a lot I could put up here, but I’ll just sum it up by saying comic book fans hated this movie.

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My thoughts: I’m going to do my best not to compare 1989’s Batman to the later installment directed by Christopher Nolan because this Batman has PLENTY wrong with it without me needing to reference the rebooted trilogy. There is a lot to trash here but I’ll start with Batman himself. I’m not a comic book fan by any means but even I know how complicated a superhero he is. Batman’s appeal comes from the fact that he is burdened by being a superhero. He is the only one to save Gotham City and I would imagine that takes its toll after awhile. But in this movie, everything is neatly wrapped up in a tidy little package. Everything is explained by the end of the movie so that there doesn’t need to be another, except for more chances to sell merchandise. For starters, the movie makes it seem as if Bruce Wayne becomes Batman because his parents were murdered and he has the means to own cool gadgets. It’s like any person with a lot of money could step into this role. And Wayne for his part, quietly enjoys the attention Batman gets. It’s such an egotistical portrayal and turned me off. As for why he chooses a bat as his symbol, in one scene he says that he likes bats because ‘they are survivors’. NO THEY AREN’T. They are nocturnal animals that enjoy caves and hunting for their food. Now, if someone had held a gun to a bat’s head and it got away, THEN it would be a survivor. An animal being itself is not survival.

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The character of Batman has been reduced to a rich boy showing off his cool toys. I was especially annoyed during the scene when The Joker puts on a parade with a bunch of balloons filled with deadly gas. Batman gets in his Bat plane and uses a BALLOON SNATCHER on his plane to save the day. WTF?

When talked about, most people mention that this movie’s saving grace is Jack Nicholson playing The Joker and I don’t disagree with that assessment. Nicholson stole every scene he was in and I enjoyed watching his various maniacal plans take shapes. But I wouldn’t call him a joker, per se, mainly because he didn’t tell jokes. If anything, he should’ve been called The Prankster or something. A joker he was not. I have no idea how authentic The Joker’s origin story is in this movie, but once again I felt that it was told too simply. The Joker killed Batman’s parents so it was ok for him to take revenge. The Joker has it in for Batman because early on in the movie he pushed him into a vat of chemicals. I felt like there should’ve been less explanation and just left it that some people are just evil.

And finally- Prince writing songs for this movie? Seriously? I know that it was 1989 and he was cool but didn’t any one stop and think that maybe his sound would be a little dated at some point. Any scene with Prince music became laughable and cringeworthy.

Prince transcends time and space

Prince transcends time and space

 

Final review: 2/5. The movie was at best, mildly entertaining. Nicholson was great but then again, he’s sort of known as being the go to for playing ‘insane guy’.

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Up next: The Silence of the Lambs or Spring in a Small Town

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#41- El Topo

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Quick recap: Oh, boy. So there’s this cowboy, called El Topo, who is sort of like God? And he travels around with his naked son as they go around the country killing bad guys. Simple enough, right? But then this girl shows up and El Topo calls her Mara and they do crazy stuff and she convinces him to fight 4 gun masters, as if that won’t end badly. And he does because he wants to keep having sex with her. Being the badass that he is, he indeed conquers all gun masters but does so by trickery and feels guilty about it because he is God. Or something. And then to top it off, Mara runs away with some chick with a man’s voice who shoots him all stigmata style before they run away together. End scene. The second part is even weirder and it involves little people and disabled people and El Topo getting involved in a cultist village and knocking up some girl. My brain exploded at this point.

Fun (?) Trivia: Alejandro Jodorowsky, who played El Topo, cast his young son in the movie to play the naked kid running around in the desert. That’s sort of a messed up thing to do and apparently Jodorowsky felt bad about it at some point and invited the boy to the backyard to dig up a toy and picture of his mother, just like the beginning scene. He then said ‘Now you are 8 and you have permission to be a kid’. Still doesn’t quite make up for your dad showing the world your junk at 6 but it’s something, I suppose.

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 My thoughts: 5 minutes into the film and I think I literally yelled out, ‘WTF!’ as El Topo guides his naked son among the bloody dead villagers. They come across a man who is dying and being the good father that he is, hands the gun to the boy to put the man out of his misery. After that there is some crazy nonsense with the bandits doing all sorts of sadistic stuff to a group of monks and I think at one point I just shrugged my shoulders and told myself to just stop thinking because it wasn’t worth it.

This is the sort of movie that screams, ‘art house’. Jodorowsky is some sort of crazy intellectual guy and put a ton of references to religion into this film of which I caught maybe 10%. It was only after reading the Wikipedia page for this movie that I realized the 4 gun masters represented different Eastern religions. I still don’t know what they are and as I have mentioned, my mind exploded at some point so I don’t care to look it up.

As a whole, El Topo is disturbing. Everything from the nudity to buckets of blood, to the exploitation of the disabled and little people. I knew at some level I was supposed to watch this all the while stroking my fake goatee and taking long puffs of my cigar and every few minutes leaning back and saying, ‘ah,yes. Clever fellow, this Jodorowsky’. But there were too many scenes that I just couldn’t get past. El Topo reeks of pretentiousness, and to find out John Lennon financed its release makes all the more sense.

In order to find some sort of positive in this movie, I will admit that I thought the ending was rather fitting, as El Topo set himself on fire and his son donned the black suit and became the new El Topo. I also liked that last scene because it meant the movie was OVER.

I'm just going to leave this here and let it haunt your dreams.

I’m just going to leave this here and let it haunt your dreams.

 

Final review:  1/5. I understand why this film was included on the list but I’ll be damned if I have to sit through it again.

Up next: Batman

at least he can play a mean flute

at least he can play a mean flute

#39- The Best Years of our Lives

Quick recap: This movie follows three servicemen as they return from fighting in World War II and try to readjust to civilian life. Al, a sergeant in the Pacific, returns to his loving family and job as a banker. Fred, who was in the Air Force, comes home to an uncertain future as he and his wife are barely able to make ends meet. Homer, a veteran from the Navy who has had both of his hands removed, must cope with his new disability as well as try to build a relationship with his fiancee.

bonding over a good smoke

bonding over a good smoke

Fun (?) fact:  Harold Russell, who played Homer, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The board thought he was a longshot to win so they created a fake award for inspiring courage for his fellow veterans. And then he won the Oscar.

My thoughts: Growing up, I always had this idealized view about World War II. In my mind, America universally supported the war effort and when soldiers returned home, they were greeted as heroes and were given everything they needed as reward for keeping us safe.  I became an adult during the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and was able to see more realistically what solders are faced with: unemployment issues, disabilities that aren’t necessarily easy to spot, and the inability for us civilians to truly relate to what they have gone through during combat. After watching this movie,  I realize that soldiers have always faced these issues. I can’t comment as to how things have gotten better over time, but it just seems sad to me that these issues are still very much present.

The movie clocks in at almost 3 hours, but it is important to see each character as they navigate through their old life again.  It was heartbreaking to watch each character return to their family, especially Fred. He had done so much during the war, saving countless lives and yet comes back to his parents living in squalor, his wife MIA and no job. Most people who have seen the movie tend to focus on Homer’s character- the veteran who has had both hands amputated. And there is good reason for that, especially considering he was a real veteran. But for some reason, it is Fred’s story that really stuck with me. His character also had to deal with ‘combat trauma’, what we now call PTSD and it was moving to see him trying to recover from the past the horrors of war, yet knowing that it will never really be gone.

Final review: 4/5. The only issue I had with the movie was the ending. Everyone ends up happy and ‘back to normal’. It would’ve been nice to have had a grittier ending, but I’ll take it.

Up next: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

#37- The Departed

Quick recap:  The film takes place in Boston, where a big time mobster-Frank Costello- owns the place. He does all the stereotypical things like murder people, snort cocaine and have his way with women. The story centers around two cops, one of whom is a mole for Costello and one who is in Costello’s gang, but is a mole for the police. With a synopsis like that, you know it won’t end well.

Fun (?) Fact:  The film is actually a remake of the Hong Kong film, ‘Internal Affairs’ and the characters are loosely based off of real life mobster Whitey Bulger.

don't cross this guy. Also- is that a goat or a dog?

don’t cross this guy. Also- is that a goat or a dog?

My thoughts: I don’t know what it is about Americans loving the mafia, but it’s definitely a thing. Maybe it’s because the mobster life is so far removed from our own or maybe it’s because deep down, beyond all the murders and drugs, these guys just seem sort of badass. I’m only a casual fan of mafia culture, meaning ‘The Sopranos’ is my favorite tv show of all time but I have yet to see ‘The Godfather’. With that being said, as a casual fan, this movie is perfection.

For one thing, the actors did an amazing job making the characters come alive. Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play a murderous, unhinged mobster. Same with Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen playing members of the Boston Police. But the actor that really shone for me was Leonardo DiCaprio. His character was especially complex, seeing as how he had to be a mole for the police and yet convince Costello to let him in to his inner circle. I loved watching his downward spiral as he got closer to being found out by Costello. And in my opinion, his character had more to lose. Matt Damn played Sullivan, the cop who was also a mole for Costello. If he had been found out he would’ve had to look forward to jail time at most. Bill Costigan, played by DiCaprio would’ve at the very least been murdered. Being able to portray such a complicated character takes real talent.

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As for the violence, I don’t see how someone can do a mafia movie without a large body count. This movie in particular had a final count of 22. What I really like about The Departed, though, is how realistic the violence is. No one has a chance to plead for their life or scream or threaten anyone. One shot and it’s over. I especially loved the final scenes with Sullivan and Corrigan. The whole movie had been leading up to this point and to see everyone get what is coming to them, good and bad, is perfectly poetic.

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Final review:  5/5. It’s hard to say whether I prefer The Soprano’s view of the mafia or The Departed, but I love it either way.

Up next: Frenzy