Rollerball (1975) review

Rated: 4.5 / 5

The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort.

This is a film that seems to be a cult classic at best, when it should really be an all-time classic.  I find it puzzling how difficult it is to get a hold of this film in a physical format.  It’s not impossible, and it’s affordable, but you have to go out of your way to do it.  Any DVD version that got a release went quickly out of print.  The only Blu-Ray versions tend to be “Limited Releases”.  And it doesn’t exactly show up on television all that much, even though there is no sex, there is a brief amount of nudity (men’s asses in the showers), and the violence isn’t exactly excessive, especially when compared to films we get today.  Hell, this movie is rated R, and PG-13 films get released today that have much more violence and foul language than this film does.  Guess we’ve become desensitized to the violence.  Ironic, given that this relates to one of several messages contained within the film.  Both the being desensitized to violence, and the seeming hindering of historical knowledge.  The messages within this film are more relevant today than they were when the film was made.

Rollerball (1975) - Blu-ray DVD review at Mondo Esoterica

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The War on Film Culture: Part 1: Boxing with Edison and Rector (1894-1897)

Enoch J. Rector
Thomas A. Edison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But political fear is more than an individual experience, and it affects more than personal lives. The morals contributing to it descend from tradition and popular belief, and the rational calculus underlying it reflects the realities of social and political power. Whether by design or consequence—for sometimes the outcome is intended, other times not—political fear reinforces a society’s distribution of power and resources, influences public debate, and compels public policy.

— Corey Robin

In 1894, one of the first films ever was censored by the mayor of Newark, New Jersey.  The films is titled Carmencita.  It was censored because, during the dance, the woman’s underwear is (briefly) visible.  But this was a minor act of censorship compared to what would happen three years later.

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Home Alone review

Rated 4 / 5

The film starts off with an eerie title sequence, beginning with a full moon with some dark clouds around it, which disappears as a lone blue 2D drawn house comes into view along with the title words “Home Alone,” as the single window of the house lights up. It emanates a light creepy and paranoid vibe, with a sense of isolation, a lone individual surrounded by the darkness. If I didn’t know any better, I would say this is setting up for Night of the Living Dead or some werewolf movie. The HOME ALONe title only has the lone letter “e” not capitalized, intentional to foreshadow that it is a young immature individual who will be isolated rather than all the mature people who are capable of being independent and looking out for themselves. A line is underneath these words and the house to give a comforting ground to stand on, but soon disappears at the same time as the title, leaving the house alone, as it grows smaller and smaller within the surrounding darkness. It wouldn’t take much to convince audiences that this could be a slasher film, like this:

Thankfully it gets more cheerful right away, showing a well decorated and lit house. With a cop inside trying to get anyone’s attention. On the one hand, this could be seen as a way to show that (spoilers) villains won’t disturb this family’s fun/holiday. But on the other hand, at least one of the adults could have noticed that a POLICE OFFICER was in the house, which is something that demands attention.

“Kevin, out of the room!”
“Hang up the phone and make me why dontcha?”

The appropriate response would be, “Hang on I’ll call you back,” and then start smacking the shit out of that little asshole so he can learn some discipline and respect his parents, so that he doesn’t grow up to be an even bigger asshole. But that doesn’t happen. Even his dad doesn’t provide any sort of discipline, and it becomes obvious that Kevin is a spoiled brat with irresponsible parents.

“All kids, no parents! Probably living in a fancy orphanage.”

More indications on the theme of parents being around for their children, to raise them/discipline them properly. Or a lack thereof in this case. All the children in the household are living breathing walking representations of the result of irresponsible parenting, and because of that they are selfish with no thoughts of helping others, because their parents never acted accordingly towards them. This is indicated even later on when they’re on the plane to France, where the parents are all in first class, but all the kids are in coach. Only Kevin’s mother questions this, though to be fair first class tickets are expensive, but on the other hand the family seems to be fairly wealthy, what with all the items they have at their house, and that they can even afford to take such a large trip with so many people. The kids are being setup to be the next Alex from A Clockwork Orange.

The first individual seen outside of the household is Marley, a man dressed in black, including black rubber boots, who is shoveling snow off the sidewalks and sprinkling salt so that they won’t be slippery. One of the on-looking kids states, “Maybe he’s just trying to be nice,” which is exactly what he’s being. But Buzz, the owner of the tarantula and BB gun in the house (symbolizing his fascination for things that are creepy and dangerous) builds up paranoia for the two kids looking on the man, including Kevin, by telling them a false urban legend about him. This unfounded gossip builds up an unnecessary sense of dread, which makes them want to keep themselves isolated from the dangers that lay beyond the familiar, a callback to the title screen earlier with the lone house and the darkness surrounding it. Therefore the darkness can have 2 meanings in this case, a sense of dread, or a sense of comfort. There can be nice things, or bad things, in the dark unknown. There are some things to be afraid of, but it’s no good having paranoia add to the legitimate fears, especially when they’re misplaced, such as with the crook disguised as a cop at their house.

This isn’t the first time Buzz has made Kevin terrified of something, as the scenes in the basement show later, where Kevin imagines the radiator as a monster.

“I don’t want to see you again for the rest of the night.”
“I don’t want to see you again for the rest of my whole life, and I don’t want to see anybody else either.”
“I hope you don’t mean that. You’d feel pretty sad if you woke up tomorrow morning and you didn’t have a family.”
“No I wouldn’t.”

The way Kevin is acting, this could be attributed either to a light abusive family, or a lack of discipline making him spoiled, or a combination of both. Then again, there are other films and real life scenarios that have kids who act the same way, even if only for small amounts of time. For example, Tree of Life. Either way, the problem’s with Kevin’s attitude can be associated with the parenting. And once he gets his wish for not having any parents around, getting his wish, he celebrates, doing whatever he wishes around the house, having a ball.

1990. Back then, airport security wasn’t too bad, because you could drive from your house, and get to your flight within an hour in that amount of time. Also, plenty of groceries only cost less than $20 bucks, which can get someone by for at least a week. And this movie was made. God the 90s was so fucking awesome.

The film Kevin watches, “Angels with Filthy Souls”. Right after that scene ends, we see Kevin’s dad on the plane reading the book “Nobody’s Angel”. I believe this implies that many children, Kevin included, are angels, but they are naughty on the inside. They are capable of doing much good and providing much love, but Kevin at the start of the movie is dirty on the inside. Watching this film makes him shocked and scared at what he sees, a reflection of later when he realizes how terrible he has been to his family. And the father, well, I guess it’s implied that there’s not much left to him. And let’s not even get started with the uncle.

Eventually Kevin’s mother is the first to realize that Kevin isn’t on the plane with them, after a long amount of time, an unusual amount of time. It soon dawns upon her that she’s a neglectful parent, just like her husband. But she is now in a situation where she may have realized this too late.

As for more consequences of neglect and fear, this is exemplified by Kevin unintentionally stealing a toothbrush from a store. He accidentally stole it by running out of the store with it because of his unjustified fear of Marley, thanks in part to Buzz. There is a twofold message here. One is that paranoia can cause one to do bad things that they normally wouldn’t do if they weren’t afraid. The second is an indirect reference to parental neglect, how that can drive a child to a life that is not respectable, such as a life of crime. The latter scenario is not something that is a plot point or direct lesson in the movie, but simply a subtle lesson within the movie that can be found if one looks hard enough, like the adult humor in an episode of Freakazoid. Or with Marv stating, “We’re the wet bandits.”

Despite how much of an asshole Buzz is, he does have a point when he says that Kevin could use a couple of days in the real world, implying that this would be a way for him to learn some self-responsibility and be less helpless. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens to Kevin through the ordeal. He learns how to run the house responsibly, go shopping (without stealing), become less afraid of the outside world (and the basement), and learn to appreciate family as the loneliness gets to him.

“Have you been a good boy this year?”
“Yeah.”
“Swear to it?”
“… No.”
“Yeah, I had a feeling. Well, this is the place to be if you’re feeling bad about yourself.”

The scene in the church, where Kevin confesses his faults to the man he had been afraid of the entire film, even on how there are times where he says he hates his family, even thinks he hates his family, but really doesn’t. Every child tends to have moments like that during their life.

“You can be a little old for a lot of things. You’re never too old to be afraid.”

And that’s the thing. Fear of the unknown isn’t limited to criminals and monsters. It’s also about what could happen with relationships, if they could get worse, or become irreparable. The fear that you could lose what hope you have left of reconnecting with someone and become more alone than you were before.

I have to admit, for a kid who didn’t know how to pack a suitcase, he sure does know how to lay traps for the burglars. And that’s the part of the film everyone remembers. And it is glorious. The stuntwork combined with the hilarity. That said, this movie is responsible for spawning the terrible kids films that would follow suit for the rest of the decade. The 90s were full of children’s films that had bumbling criminals/jerks who are outdone by kids or animals and their ingenious methods. And they all had the same thing in common, they had some dumbass fucks who are much more stupid then the protagonist(s), and/or the protagonist(s) were ridiculously smart. The 90s had the worst of it. Unfortunately, the 2000s weren’t exactly victimless of this either, but at least less and less of them made it to theaters. This includes Home Alone 4 and 5 (I can’t believe they made that many of these fucking unnecessary sequels).

One other thing. Is that “M” on the doorknob a tribute to the movie M?




 

Now, I believe I’ve got a critic’s review that I near to tear to shreds. I’m talking about Aaron and his negative review of this movie. He had this to say:
“Home Alone is terrible because it is a mean-spirited film populated by nasty people that emotionally manipulates its audience in the most cynical, unconvincing ways possible. It is a misanthropic hatefest masquerading as a jovial holiday jaunt.”
Alright then, show me.

“The McAllisters, we may stipulate, are awful people. [] They treat each other deplorably with little-to-no regard for the impact of their actions on others.”
Well, yeah, especially the uncle and Buzz. But you may be exaggerating that a bit.

“This creates several problems for Hughes’ and Columbus’ goals. For one, little Kevin is supposed to be the put-upon youngest child, alternately pestered and ignored and viewed as a burden, such that he has our sympathies. But little Kevin, disrespectful budding sadist that he is, is no more sympathetic than his self-absorbed, hate-filled relatives. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too harsh toward Kevin—after all, he has learned his behavior from a pack of howling mongrels—but a child who says to his parents things like, “Hang up the phone and make me, why don’t you?” and “I am upstairs, dummy,” is not some meek, beleaguered urchin. He is a child who has willfully entrenched himself on the naughty list and deserves at best a stocking full of coal (or perhaps hot manure), not our rooting interest.”
Most children who get raised like this do turn out this way. But I would say it’s too early to be rooting for Kevin. More importantly, the intention was to have the audience shocked at the current relationship between Kevin and the family. It’s not until later in the movie when he learns to take a look at himself and realize how terrible he has been, and tries to be better, starting with taking some responsibility.

For another, this deplorability makes the entire goal of the story—the reuniting and reconciliation of the McAllister family—an impossible proposition to desire.
Or to see that at least some members of the family learn the neglect is not a good trait to have. The biggest problem is lack of discipline, which we never see any parent do. Well, not do well enough, as the worst they did was a “Go to your room!” type of line, but even then Kevin had to be escorted there. That’s not just a fault of the movie, but I feel a fault with society in general. When’s the last time you’ve seen a children’s film where the kid gets punished, a film made within the last decade? At least A Christmas Story kept that element in, and used it well.

Even if one overlooks the thorough reprehensibility of the protagonists, contrivances and inconsistencies of convenience abound. The McCallisters, for example, apparently live on the only street in America where every single family (save one deus ex old man) leaves home for Christmas
Well, 5 families. But for a film with a concept like this, there’s going to have to be some contrivances. Hell, I can find a bust-load of contrivances in the Kill Bill films, that doesn’t make them terrible (at least not for you).

And not only is the street deserted, but it has no small amount of bad luck, what with power and phone outages that are, incidentally, central to the film’s plot– [] We need the McCallisters to seem like concerned parents, after all, even if nothing that goes before would so indicate. And we need Kevin to be phoneless so as to make the central dilemma harder to solve—until, of course, Kevin needs to demonstrate what an “adorable scamp” (read: entitled enfant terrible with unchecked anger issues) he is by ordering a pizza solely for purposes of torturing the delivery boy. How, with no phone and no internet, does Kevin order that pizza?
Good point. Only thing I can say in the film’s defense is that the phone lines were repaired at that particular time, and the parents never bothered to call back when the lines were repaired, because they assumed they would be down for the holidays. Even so, you could argue for another contrivance, which again is one that a film like this needs in order for the concept to work. Otherwise, the concept would either have to not be tried at all, or the film would need to be set back a century or two, back in the day where if there were robbers, the kid could probably easily get a hold of a gun his papa taught him to use and blow the crook’s heads off if he didn’t kill them with bear traps first. As for the pizza thing, I think he just wanted pizza, and figured he could do so with help from the video tape, and thought he mine as well as have fun with it in the process. I mean come on, you have to admit, that would be really tempting for anyone age 13 and under. People do pranks like that (or worse) all the time, even people who are older and more mature than Kevin.

Even worse are the character inconsistencies. Granted, Home Alone is not intended to be King Lear (though its implications are just as tragic), but requesting some sort of plausible character arc is not exactly asking for the moon. At the beginning of the film, Kevin is presented as something of a dullard (what the French might call les incompetents), so thoroughly inept that he is panic-stricken at the thought of having to pack a suitcase. Yet once left to his own devices, Kevin becomes something of a wunderkind, able to leap tall plot contrivances in a single bound. As Roger Ebert put it, Kevin “single-handedly stymies two house burglars by booby-trapping the house. And they’re the kinds of traps that any 8-year-old could devise, if he had a budget of tens of thousands of dollars and the assistance of a crew of movie special effects people.”
That part can’t be defended. I wouldn’t exactly call being able to lay such elegant traps a character arc so much as a flat out impossibility for a kid that age in that time period to do without the aid of the Internet. I certainly wouldn’t call it a character arc, it’s a skill capability. The character arc of him turning from asshole to less of an asshole, on the other hand, was handled well.

“Kevin needs to hate his family? Eh, sounds good. Now Kevin, for no apparent reason, sorely misses them? Great, alright, swell. [] But Kevin’s wild veering from ill-tempered holy terror to wise-beyond-his-years lover of family is so obviously driven by cynical plot manipulation that it rings utterly hollow.
I wouldn’t say it’s wild, but it is cynical plot manipulation. I’ve seen the same type of arguments made against just about every Steven Spielberg movie ever made, and especially against Forrest Gump. When it comes to this, it’s more a matter of personal taste. What some may find cynical, others may be ok with, and vice versa. But I can see where you’re coming from with this, such as when he sees a family in a house all happy and celebrating. Or when he’s at the church. That said, it is not for no apparent reason that he misses his family. The first indication is when he shouts for his mom after watching that scene from that movie. The second is when he’s watching television, again, but is starting to get bored with it (and at the same time is starting to do less and less crazy “freedom” stunts because after a while the excitement is bound to wear off), and he starts to get lonely. So no, it isn’t for no apparent reason. It’s due in small part to fear, in large part to loneliness.

“But the mercenary emotional contortions of Hughes’ and Columbus’ story and its myriad gimmicks wouldn’t grate so intensely were it not for the mendacity of their true (not pretended) central thesis: That how you treat others doesn’t matter”
On that I disagree. Kevin eventually realizes that he treated his family like shit, and his mother realized how far she has gone with her negligence. Both make a journey to fix these flaws in their traits. I doubt either one has fully succeeded in completely fixing these flaws, but they’re not as great at the end of the film as they were in the beginning.

Guess I didn’t shred the review as much as I’d hoped I would, but I do believe I’ve left some scars.

 

Hey Arnold! The Movie (2002) review

Rated: 4 / 5

This review is ported over from Letterboxd.  Just you you understand the context of some criticism I make later on in the review.

“Maybe we could paint the house with vanishing cream. Then it would be invisible.”

“That is the stupidest idea I ever heard. What if it rains? Ding-dong! You ever think about that, Kokoshka? It’ll wash the vanishing cream off, and then everyone’ll see us.”

Wow was this a lot of fun! Every single character was great (especially Ernie, the guy with the red hair who had dynamite hidden under his bed). It masters the craft of blending serious moments, down to Earth moments, with over-the-top cartoony and hilarious moments. I was surprised this movie managed to make me laugh as much as it did.

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The Mule (2018) review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

“You have to take time to enjoy these moments in life.”

“I think you enjoy these moments too much.”

It’s films like these that are a bit difficult to review for me.  Yeah it’s a solid film, one of the best Eastwood has done since Gran Torino, which was a decade ago.  But trying to find things to talk about when I enjoyed the film, and padding it out to a respectable length, I find that difficult for something like this.

mule 4

I could talk about how there’s a surprising amount of comedy in this, with his anti-PC quips that I know for a fact several people knew ahead of time were coming.

mule 1
You got a problem with that?

I could talk about the crowd I saw this with, which was made up primarily of old people, Vietnam and Korean War veterans.  And how there was this one old lady who laughed too often a little too loud.

I could talk about how this is loosely based on a true story (ie inspired by), where the film mainly gets the jist of the real-life events and character, but took plenty of liberties with it.  But that’s why the film itself never really prides itself on being a true story.  It’s not trying to be that per-se.  It is its own thing.

Any day now…

I could talk about how crazy it is to see Eastwood directing and starring in a film at his age.  How I keep thinking that this is the last film he’s  going to do, and then he does another one.  I always keep wondering just how many more he still has in him.

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But the fact of the matter is that this is a fairly straightforward movie, without any real twists and turns.  So I figure it’s more important to focus on the message Eastwood is trying to deliver here.

The film starts off in 2005, where Eastwood’s character Earl Stone (name changed from the real life individual Leo Sharp; that’s how loose of an adaptation this is) is doing his usual florist business.  But he sees an early sign of things to come, with cell phones and the Internet offering a new avenue of selling and purchasing products.  Sure enough, 12 years later (roughly a year after Leo Sharp actually died), his home is foreclosed due to his business doing terribly with everyone opting to buy flowers (among other products) online rather than in-person.  His business is over, and other businesses are closing down as a result.  There is always suffering to come with change.  Out with the old, in with the new.

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Thankfully, the film also doesn’t shy away from the other downsides to the Internet.  As efficient as it makes things for various businesses, whether it be retail, talking/texting over cell phones, among other things that can also be used to help drug cartels run their business; it also makes people too reliant on it.  This is demonstrated in this one scene where Eastwood helps this black family out who suffers from a flat tire… who don’t know how to swap it for a spare.  Becoming too reliant on one thing has its downsides.

While change has its upsides with more efficient business with technologies and ways of social life have their upsides, there are also downsides, as demonstrated with the drug cartels who have no problem killing off one another to gain a higher position of power, who may not be as intelligent as they think they are when it comes to running a business.  Just as the drug business has its upsides and downsides.  In this film’s case, on the one hand one can make a lot of money in the business.  On the other hand, many tend to have a short life expectancy doing that sort of business.

So the film is partly a reflection of the past, and taking jabs at the way things are now, while also having a sort of acceptance to it regardless.  While showcasing that times have changed with how people are meant to speak to one another (by “filtering” their words), it also doesn’t have a problem showing that there are still some towns that are still about as xenophobic as they were in the 60s, where Earl stops at one point to have a sandwich with his Mexican “friends,” and the whole time everyone is giving them “looks;” and a cop shows up who is about as racist of a caricature as many would have you believe is the rule rather than the exception nowadays.  But the reflections mainly happen with the people Earl hangs out with, those he financially supports; and the songs he sings during his drug runs while taking in the scenery.

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And, of course, there’s the whole issue of family.  This usually tends to be Eastwood’s weak point when it comes to film-making.  He never seems to be able to pull off family aspects without coming off as way to sentimental, overdramatic, etc.  The prime example of this can be found with True Crime.  The black daughter in that movie needed to die; the mother/wife needed to take a chill pill and shut the fuck up; but the dad was ok.  Let alone that stupid zoo scene.

Seriously, I can’t not laugh at how melodramatic this scene is in True Crime (1999 film).

Thankfully, in this film, the family drama is actually solid.  Which is something I honestly wasn’t expecting.  Especially with Alison Eastwood, Clint’s daughter, playing the role of his actual daughter.  It worked.  Which helps, considering the other major theme revolves around the consequences of putting family second to work.  The film doesn’t go as in-depth with this as I would’ve liked, considering how work is usually necessary, financially-speaking, to keep a family together.  But it’s implied that it was prioritizing his time socializing with others and being the center of attention at parties, rather than prioritizing his time with his family, so it’s not exactly a weak section of the film.  Just wanted it to be a bit stronger is all.

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And yes, the film does get tense at times; but there’s plenty of laughs to be had too at many points throughout the film.  The kind of laughs those of us can appreciate who aren’t overly sensitive.  And honestly, the quips aren’t anywhere near as anti-PC as in Gran Torino (I wish they were, but that’s not where the film has its priorities).  The humor, in fact, acts as a good way to cut the tension, especially considering that Earl is naive to just how out of his depth he really is, until much later on in the film.  To the point where when someone attempts to intimidate him for the first time, he starts making jokes about the guy being a dictator for several minutes.  The film is as funny as it is tense as it is dramatic.

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All around solid, albeit straightforward.  Recommended.

 

Berserk (1997) anime review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

WARNING: If you haven’t seen the show before and intend to watch it, SKIP THE FIRST EPISODE!!!  That first episode should be the last episode, because it acts as a sort of epilogue to the entire fucking season (seriously, fuck them for putting that episode first and spoiling much of what is to come).  That aside, there will be spoilers in this review, which may make that warning pointless.

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