Superman vs telephone

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2010 by Damien

Superman suffers a crisis of respect in our modern age. He may not have been the first super (the Phantom is generally regarded to be the first), but the success of his appearance in Action Comics in 1938 was undoubtedly formal adoption of the superhero genre, and so he automatically deserves some kudos. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to fully acknowledge this today. Compared to everyman heroes like Spider-Man, or characters such as Batman who are more suited to gritty sensibilities among modern comic readers, Supes is just yesterday’s jam, a symbol of an American ideal that never truly existed. Even his counterpart in Marvel comics, Captain America, has been more successfully lifted from his origins as a simple propaganda figure into the true meaning behind the patriotic rhetoric.

It’s a shame, but Superman is often still regarded as a big blue boy-scout unsuited to a more cynical age.

And in a way, it is this that makes the phone-booth scene in the Superman movie work. It’s a brief, very amusing acknowledgement of the characters mythology. Clark Kent needs to quickly change into Superman, and so – as is tradition – he heads to a booth make the switch. However, the plan comes to naught when he finds his preferred box-styled booth has been replaced by a kiosk. And so modernity once again defeats the Caped Crusader.

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Shaolin Soccer: Hand in Pocket

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2010 by Damien

Shaolin Soccer is a very special kind of film. It’s different from other spoofs, such as Austin Powers or the awful Scary Movie series, in that it belongs squarely in the genre of film it’s seeking to spoof. Even the revolutionary Airplane does not fully achieve this (despite being a taken almost entirely from the same script as Zero Hour). Really, the only other films that can claim a genuine attachment to the films they’re mocking are An American Werewolf in London, Hot Fuzz and of course Scary Movie’s inspiration Scream.

The reason these films work is simple. They recognise the clichés of their genre, and instead of avoiding them they embrace them fully. In the case of Shaolin Soccer, it’s a kung fu movie that realises the absurdities of kung fu movies, but instead of trying to find some way of having it make sense – ala The Matrix – they just run with it. They know it’s all about fun, and Shaolin Soccer is a very, very funny film.

And this scene arguably captures this better than any other. It’s cool in a badass kind of way, it’s a terrifying display of villiany, and it’s hilarious. Seriously, I literally spent about minute laughing when I first watched it.

The Godfather: Michael lits a cigarette

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2010 by Damien

The Godfather is a difficult film for our purposes. It contains so many brilliant set-pieces that picking out one scene for mention seems an exercise in futility. Such highlights include the “darkies” speech at the meeting of the five families, the restaurant assassination, and Clemenza’s “leave the gun, take the cannoli” remark. Regardless, it’s the cigarette scene that has always been my favourite, as it’s the moment it’s here where Michael’s downfall truly begins.

Michael arrives at the hospital to visit his father and finds it almost entirely abandoned. It doesn’t take him long to realise a second attempt at the Don’s life is about to be made. By chance, Enzo – the young baker who was permitted to stay in the country due to the Don’s influence – has also turned up to pay his respects, so he and Michael have to look like a couple of tough guys to scare away the hit squad. This is not the kind of business a baker is typically qualified for, and understandably he’s panicked. He tries to like a cigarette, but his hands are shaking too much. Michael lights it for him, and notices that his own hands in contrast are perfectly steady.

What I love about this scene is that it marks the point where Michael’s descent into evil begins. Prior to this, he was the one innocent Corleone, refusing to get involved in the family business. Soon after, however, we see him planning hits against the men trying to kill his father. It doesn’t matter why Michael remain so calm. Maybe his nerves were strengthened by his experiences in the war, or maybe it’s just his nature. Either way, it’s at this moment when Michael realises that he will always be the man he has fought so hard not to become.

Gun vs Whip

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 4, 2010 by Damien

Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark

This is a blog about movie grace-notes, and there’s surely no filmmaker with a greater appreciation of this concept than Spielberg. He’s a blockbuster director, to be sure. Yet he repeated shows his skill at celebrating small moments (that little girl in the red coat, or the woman’s face opening like a CD player in A.I.) that lesser directors will overlook. And with Raiders of the Lost Arc, he gave us surely the greatest grace-note of all time.

It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that this scene was a result not of Spielberg’s genius, but Harrison Ford’s diarrhea. The story goes that filming in Tunisia places unexpected pressures on the production. When the script called for a two-page battle between a swordsman and Indi’s whip, the entire cast and crew (save the director, thanks to a personal supply of tinned spaghetti) was struck down by a stomach illness. A weakened Ford read the script and whined: “Can’t I just shoot him instead?”

And thus arguably the coolest moment in matinee cinema was born.