Top 20 Censored Films

So this has been irritating me for a while now. Believe it or not, films do get censored in the United States of all fucking places (God forbid you happen to live in the UK or Australia). There are more instances than what is on this list, and for all I know there might be films with a history of censorship worse than what I’ve put on here, but this is at least a good start.

Before getting started, it’s worth pointing out some instances of censorship that are bad in their own way, but I’m keeping them separate from the list mainly because they’re censored for the same reason, and censoring the same things.

Music changes on official video releases.
* Where The Buffalo Roam
* Animal House
* Love at First Bite
* Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)

In all of the above cases, the films had some amount of music altered on the DVD/Blu-Ray versions. Where the Buffalo Roam had it’s entire soundtrack replaced, and Gone in 60 Seconds also had the sound effects replaced on top of the music, which is especially bad when the film-maker was a car aficionado who wanted it to be as real and authentic as possible, from the sounds of the car engines and everything else. It’s usually because they are either unable to obtain the rights to the music, or they choose not to re-obtain the rights to the music because it costs too much. Everything is too fucking expensive nowadays.

Disney
Yep, they deserve their own fucking category, even though I’m still going to include a couple films from them on the main list. They don’t want to be reminded that they use to endorse smoking, or racist stereotypes.
* Song of the South (Good luck finding this movie).
* Make Mine Music (no comic gunplay))
* The Three Caballeros (no smoking, at least for Goofy)
* Melody Time (no smoking)
* The Rescuers (they removed nudie images from this film)

The List

20.) Fantasia

Basically they altered several scenes during one musical act, the Greek mythology one, The Pastoral Symphony. No racist black centaur slaves. The film was originally released in 1940, and the redone version was made and released in 1969. Someone did a pretty good comparison video, as seen below.

19.) Hard Target

Made some cuts to the violence upon initial US release and upon initial DVD/Blu-Ray releases, but there’s now a blu-ray release with all the unrated footage intact now. But the main reason this is on the list is because there is a workprint version that changes scenes and makes it more John-Woo-esque than the current cut. Also gets more violent, of course.

18.) Executive Decision


Only one bit is cut here, the scene with the Middle-Eastern guy in the restaurant. In the main cut, he speaks some foreign gibberish. In the original pre-screen cut, he spoke English dialogue before blowing himself and the restaurant to bits. Might be more edited clips done as well. Basically they all downplay the religious aspect of the fanatical terrorists.

The below clip is the altered and official clip. The unaltered clip has him speaking more English, and he’s holding a Quran (digitally altered out here).

17.) Cobra and Night Hawks

Grouping these 2 together because they’re both Stallone films, both cut for violence. But what makes Nighthawks stand out is that Stallone demanded cuts to some of Rutger Hauer’s scenes because, well, he was pretty much out-acting Stallone and making the film his own. Stallone’s ego was too big to handle that. I must confess, I haven’t seen either of these movies, mainly because I know they are altered, and I want to see the workprint cuts first.


16.) The Black Cauldron


Disney strikes again. They removed much of the darker/violent scenes from this film. That’s all I really know.

15.) The Last of the Mohicans


So there’s 3 versions of this movie. The theatrical cut, where the main protagonist played by Daniel Day Lewis has more lighthearted dialogue thrown in. The Director’s Expanded Edition on DVD, where all that lighthearted dialogue is removed, some violence is cut down, some battle scenes are extended, and a dramatic epic speech is inserted at the end, a speech which I believe is mandatory viewing, that should’ve been included in the film in the first place. Then there’s the Director’s Definitive Cut on blu-ray, which pretty much is like the Expanded Edition but with more violence thrown in, some alternate camera angles, and removes the expanded speech at the end. This is problematic because the theatrical edition is nearly impossible to get a hold of, except on television. The expanded edition is only available on an out of print DVD, and the Definitive Edition is pretty much the only one the majority of consumers has access to.

For the record, Michael Mann has done similar things to Heat, just nowhere near as bad as in this film.

Warning, spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie (which you should).

14.) Phase IV


So they cut out the last 5 minutes of the movie upon initial release. The actual ending was considered to be lost forever, until a few years ago where some people got to see a private screening of the lost ending. Which has been put up on youtube. Again, spoilers.

13.) The Crow


Workprint version adds so much to the film. If you can get past the bad quality of some scenes (assuming you can track the workprint version down), the film flows better, some more lore is introduced that improves the film, and violence is added in. To be fair though, considering some of the violence inflicted upon Brandon Lee’s character in a couple sequences, I can understand why they cut those bits out. Too similar to how he actually died. As for the rest, blame the MPAA.

12.) Star Wars (original trilogy)


I don’t think I need to explain why this is on the fucking list. Fucking George Lucas making Special Editions and altering his work and having the balls to say that this is the only version people should ever see, that they should forget about the original theatrical versions. Fuck you!

11.) The Hobbit (1977)


In all versions available on DVD, they don’t have the original fucking sound effects! Do you realize how fucking irritating that is for people like me who grew up on this film and just want to relive the same goddamn thing again!? Not to mention how awkward some of these scenes come off without those sounds. They lose their power.

10.) Warcraft


If you’ve seen this movie, you might’ve thought some scene transitions felt awkward and too fast. Some plot holes here and there. Well that’s because they decided to cut out 40 minutes of footage for the theatrical release. The director stated that he might be able to do a director’s cut with the restored footage if it did well enough in theaters. Well, it didn’t do well enough in theaters, there is no official director’s cut, and the video releases don’t have all the deleted scenes as a special feature.

9.) Event Horizon


MPAA forced them to remove all the really violent stuff. It would’ve made the movie a truly unique nightmarish experience. Now we’re probably never going to get it. Some bullshit.

8.) The Thief and the Cobbler


Disney really fucked with this movie. Thankfully, there’s a recobbled edition to show the director’s intended vision.

7.) The Magnificent Ambersons


Again, studio interference cut down on a lot of footage from this movie, and forced an alternate ending to be shot.

6.) Greed


So there was originally an 8 hour cut which only 12 people got to see back in the day. Nowadays the best you can get is a 4 hour cut. Which is better than a cut that is half that runtime.

5.) December 7th


So this was initially going to be released as a documentary film showcasing how Japanese immigrated to Hawaii, making up a good portion of its population, and successfully running businesses there. Then the attack on Pearl Harbor happened, and they were forced to close their businesses and go to camps, something the U.S. government forced them to do. And the film’s message is that they are U.S. citizens too, they shouldn’t be treated this way, and they are willing to fight for this country and join the army. The film was propoganda humanizing the Japanese citizens. But the higher ups decided that humanizing Japanese citizens humanized “the enemy”, so they removed much of that footage, fired the director, and hired John Ford to finish the film and release an altered cut that pretty much ends up being pure war propoganda. Thankfully the original cut can be viewed, after 40 FUCKING YEARS!

4.) White Dog


So if you thought Disney was bad, and if you thought the MPAA was a bunch of cocksuckers, they are. But now you can throw in the NAACP into the mix. Back in 1981 when they were filming this film, everything was going fine and dandy until an NAACP cunt visited the set (he was invited I believe) to see how the film was going. After he left, he basically told Hollywood to prevent the film from being released. Why? Because he claimed the film promotes racism, even though the film preaches an anti-racism message. Then the entire NAACP organization (or at least a branch of it) takes this stance (as do some other small time organizations). And like the pussy Hollywood is (as we’ve seen from that incident with that Seth Rogan film The Interview), they backed down. The film got shelved for a decade, and it wasn’t seen until the early 90s when it got a limited “art house” release. Then it got a little more well known, up until Criterion got a hold of it (God bless them) and finally helped give it the recognition it deserves.

“We’re against the whole thrust of the film and what it says about racism, especially with the rise of the Klan, which always occurs during bad economic times.” — Collette Wood, NAACP spokesperson, 1981

3.) Don’s Plum


Leonardo DiCaprio is doing everything in his power to prevent this film from getting an official release in the U.S., mainly because, from what I understand, the film depicts how he was back then too accurately. That he was an asshole, along with Tobey MaGuire. Well, that doesn’t stop it from getting put on youtube apparently.

2.) The Day the Clown Cried


This is the only movie I know of where the director is so ashamed of it, for whatever reason, that he has prevented it from ever being released. That’s right, this film is completed, has been since the 70s, but it’s never getting released.

1.) The Path to 9/11


If you want to know the details on this film, I made 3 separate posts on this film in a 3-part series, for a 2-part miniseries. Let’s just say this film is unofficially banned in America, has only aired once on television in an edited format, and will never air again, nor be released on video. This was made by ABC, which is a child company of, you guessed it, Disney.

So there’s my top 20 list of censored films. This is by no means definitive, there are a lot of others out there, such as the majority of the Friday the 13th films, The Land Before Time, among others. But these are the main films which I believe have gotten unfair treatment, either by studios, ratings oversight committees such as the MPAA, political organizations, or the director’s themselves. If you know of others that should be on this list, in that they are so bad they should replace one or more of the film I put on this list, let me know.

Links to others that provide more insight into this issue:
Movie-Censorship.com
The Cutting Edge

Wonder Woman (2017) review

Rated: 3/5

Introduction

Warning, I go off on a tangent right off the bat.

Finally got to see a new movie.  Granted, it wasn’t on opening weekend, but hey, I’ve seen it now.  And it’s basically what I expected.  Just like Captain America: The First Avenger, just like Iron Man, just like The Incredible Hulk, just like Thor, it’s all typical cliched nothing new or interesting superhero stuff.  But that doesn’t mean it’s bad.  All of the above movies may have been typical fluff with no high aspirations, but at least they’re entertaining.  Except Captain America: The First Avenger.  That movie was too bland for my tastes.  I just don’t get why people find that film interesting, at all.  It’s just so by-the-numbers.  The action scenes are typical, the plot is typical, the characters (especially them) are typical, the climax/finale is typical, and Captain America himself is just like fucking Superman, bland as fuck goody-too-shoes without any character flaws.  And I know, I know there’s some exceptions with some stories, but those are rare exceptions.  They’re both fucking boring characters.  Which is why I was surprised as hell that the second Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier, was in every way superior to that film. Great plot, Captain America’s views on the American government and its agencies being challenged and changed, and the action sequences were phenomenal with amazing fight choreography and stuntwork.

So, yeah, I’ve never been too big on the superhero films in general. Sometimes they’re decent popcorn flicks, but they all end up devolving into the same old bullshit. Bunch of action scenes littered throughout. Some (attempt at) character moments which sometimes work, sometimes don’t. And always an action-packed finale where the action overtakes EVERYTHING. I bring this up because that is what ultimately brought down this Wonder Woman film. The finale. That being said, I found it to be in every way superior to Captain America: The First Avenger. Wonder Woman kicks Captain America’s ass!

SAD!

You finally did it post-Nolan DC, you finally made a decent film that most people actually like. Though to be fair, I did like Batman V Superman a tad bit more than the average viewer (though Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luther can suck a bag of dicks).

The Review

So it’s worth mention I went into this after not sleeping for 24 hours, so I was hoping the film would be good enough to keep me awake. Well the opening 5 minutes wasn’t helping. Little Wonder Girl didn’t interest me, but when it transition from Wonder Girl to Wonder Woman (ie when Gal Gadot shows up), finally got more invested, especially since she pretty much shows up in the middle of an action (ie training) scene.

Unlike Superman, she has to make a small effort to avoid taking damage.

And then it turns into a fucking Disney plot. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

Protagonist: I wanna follow my dreams and see the world!

Parental Figure: No, it’s too dangerous and you might get raped or killed. Stay home with me where it’s safe and where you have all that you need, under the sea.

Protagonist: Fuck you! *runs/flies off*

The same goddamn thing that happens in practically every Disney cartoon ever made happens during the first 30 minutes of this! I had to sigh, and was thankfully too tired to do anymore than that.

But anyway, despite that cliche, the film is still entertaining enough, even if it’s basically a glorified rehash of Thor (and Captain America). But in all fairness, I’m pretty sure the comics weren’t all that different either with similar origin stories. Was into Wonder Woman and her “Dundee in New York or LA” gig, and her relationship with Captain Kirk wannabe. And going into a clothing store for a “trying on clothes” montage. Her, I’ll take Gal Gadot over any of those dumb boring bullshit teenage shows with annoying as fuck teenage girls doing that shit.

Oh you Olsen twins.

When the film finally got me hooked was when they went to the WWI trenches, and when Wonder Woman went charging into battle. That whole sequence was fan-fucking-tastic. The emotions amidst her will and determination to fulfill what she considers her purpose. The music that played. The way the action scenes played out, how the other soldiers helped her out from time to time. What drives her to do this. In spite of some spotty CG in some places. That sequence is the main reason to go see this film. It’s the high-point, and nothing else comes close to approaching it, let alone topping it.

When it really goes downhill is when Ares showed up. First of all, why the fuck couldn’t they get some guy who looked like Kratos from God of War? That would’ve been perfect to see her kick Kratos’ ass from her to hell and back again. Second of all, the actor who they picked to play Ares. Third, it just comes off as a tacked on “mandatory superhero film checklist” action sequence when she fight’s Area. Not to mention the dialogue got a little worse as it went on. And 4th, and this is the big one, Wonder Woman goes from being like a Captain America knockoff to a Superman knockoff, going godlike and becoming nearly invincible to everything, while prior to this she could at least get wounded by a bullet which helped provide some tension to the action scenes. Once you become godlike, all that fucking tension is lost! Fuck Superman!

I mean, everything up to when Kratos showed up and did his speech was fine. But after he does his speech and Wonder Woman goes to fight him, it all devolves into the same old shit all over again. Why the fuck do they always end on an action scene? Why can’t the film’s finale be a battle of wills, talking and dialogue, the tension based upon the dialogue and the potential change in character, a character learning of something that affects the plot or his/her character. Some philosophical message to pass onto the audience. Something thought-provoking and/or interesting. About the evils of men, yet also the love they possess, etc.) But nope, just a big dumb action scene.

And then it ends in the present day making the connection with the Batman V Superman movie. Irritating that these films try to link to others so often. Just can’t ever be stand-alone.

Conclusion

So in conclusion, despite my gripes, the film is good enough to be worth seeing in theaters. Now I just need to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

PS: Yes, I’m well aware that this is a DC film and not a Marvel film. That doesn’t mean I still can’t make the fucking comparisons!

PPS: And the film stirred up some controversy that we really shouldn’t give a shit about.  But if others are going to make a big deal out of it…   Fuck Lebanon.

Fifty Shades Darker, a drunk review


Rated: 1/5

What you’re in for.

Been playing nice for too long. I need a film to piss me off.

Fifty Shades Darker. Guess that means this will be darker than the last film. Kinda wish they named this Fifty Shades of Blue or something, that way it would be easier to make immature sex jokes, like Fifty Shades of Blue Me, as in blow me. If this film doesn’t have people getting blown in it, in the sexual way, I’m going to get pissed and start watching some actual honest-to-God porn. If this film pisses me off enough, I might lose my cool and actually post porn on this blog page.

And there had also be plenty of ass-slapping like in the last film.

Like every drunk review I do, I’ll be typing my responses in real-time while the movie plays, as opposed to pondering the film when it ends and then writing a review. Because honestly, why the fuck would anyone want to ponder a film like this?

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Thelma & Louise review and the feminism contrast

Rated: 3/5

 

Overlong Intro

Man, the trailer for this film. Talk about false-advertising as to what the film really is. Seriously, if you saw the film and haven’t seen the trailer, watch the trailer:

It plays it out like it’s a typical road comedy, trying to hide how serious it gets. That’s like if someone made this the official trailer for David Cronenberg’s The Fly:

Anyway, I’ve been revisiting the 90s (when I get the chance each week) over the past couple of weeks, and this time I’ve revisited a film that generated a bit of controversy at the time of its release (1991), yet that didn’t stop it from being a financial success, a film considered a classic. The main reason for its controversy, and it’s classic status (though granted films can be considered classic is because they’ve stirred controversy) is due to its feminist message. A real bona-fide feminist message, not some half-assed one filled with bodily fluid and private parts jokes and all that bullshit.

Continue reading

The Dark Crystal review

Rated: 5/5

Some of you may be wondering what my favorite movie of all time is, or if I even have a favorite film. Well I do have a favorite film, and this is it. It beats all the other films I have seen so far in my life, by a mile. Most, if not all, fantasy films wish they had the amount of originality, creativity, philosophical depth, work, effort, and passion put into this film. I have yet to see one that even comes close to this (that includes The Lord of the Rings films).

That glorious opening music. The artwork and practical effects. The epic feel of it all. I find it difficult to comprehend how film-goers can’t hold some kind of admiration for this film, much less enjoyment. The creativity shown on display here is second to none in the history of film-making. This may be a Jim Henson movie, but this is no lighthearted Muppet movie.

What’s it made of?

It begins with some of the best fantasy music you’re ever going to hear in a film. There is not one sequence in this film that isn’t accompanied by a score that feels nothing short of amazing and epic, much less in place. There isn’t one moment that lacks music where one would wish it was playing. For the duration that Jen is exploring the forest, the silence adds to the paranoia of being watched, the fear of what he might find. When Jen and Kira are exploring the caverns beneath the crystal castle, the environment encapsulates the isolation and the dread of being surrounded by menacing darkness. There’s the notes played by the peaceful Mystics are calm and soothing; as is something about their chants, with some power behind it. The festive atmosphere of the pod people. And then just the music of the film itself. Encapsulating the feel of setting out on an epic journey when Jen sets out. The evoking of seeing something grand when we see the planetary movement mechanism in Aughra’s home. The dread further induced when the Gartham show up. The music couldn’t have been done any better.

And who is responsible for this blissful sound that graces our ears? None other than Trevor Jones, whose other major film highlight for containing some of the greatest scores ever put on film is The Last of the Mohicans, another film favorite of mine. In addition, he also composed the music for Labyrinth (of course), Runaway Train, Angel Heart, Excalibur, Dark City, and In the Name of the Father.

Regarding the practical effects, I have to start with the Gartham. Oh man, these are some of the scariest freaky looking creatures I’ve ever seen in my life. These things would make Charles Bronson shit his pants. Crustacean looking creatures that seem part lobster, part shrimp, part crab. One of the greatest creature designs in film history. Designed by Brian Froud, who spent five years working on the costume designs for this film. His only other major works in terms of art design were found in Labyrinth (of course), and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (yet another one of my favorite films). And to think that Studio Ghibli almost got a hold of that one. If anyone was to do a remake or modern adaptation of The Dark Crystal, Studio Ghibli would be the best option. Hell, in Japan, The Dark Crystal scored big at the box office (the same can’t be said of America, who was all gooey eyed over E.T. at the time).

The set designs themselves are every bit as outstanding as everything previously mentioned. There aren’t just floors, clothing, and walls to walk beside and thrones to sit on. Oh no, there are small intricate details carved into the floors, into the walls, carved upon the sand, welded into metallic objects worn by several characters. Patterns emerge if one pays attention closely, the triangles and circle within the triangle, and circles within those triangles, and on and on, and how it all connects to the 3 planets for the great conjunction. The moon shaped staffs. The mechanical solar system model in Aughra’s home. The made up letters and language that are embedded in the floors of certain rooms within the structures. The film is deceptively deep with the amount of lore hidden below the surface of the film, something viewers can catch onto if they look close enough. It’s something on par with The Lord of the Rings, though the film isn’t in as grand of scale or length to show as much of this world as Lord of the Rings does with its world. There is much to ponder upon with the things you only glimpse within the film. It’s all in the details, something only a genius like Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Brian Froud (a dream team come true) could come up with.

And speaking of lore-building, there’s also a brief moment where Kira is sitting on the throne in the ruins, implying that Gelflings used to rule, may have once been a great society, that she feels a small calling to be a queen, like her ancestors were, just as how Jen felt a calling (some music) that led himself into the ruins. A forgotten world, a forgotten time, in the age of wonder.

Plus just about everything was built to scale. The only thing not built to scale in the film (some landscape paintings aside) is the actual crystal castle itself. That in of itself is a major feat.

And then there’s the cinematography itself, done by Oswald Morris, the last film he would ever work on as cinematographer. He worked on The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, The Man Who Would Be King, Fiddler on the Roof, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Lolita, and A Farewell to Arms. This film is arguably his greatest achievement as a cinematographer, so at least he ended his career on a high note. Aside from just about every shot in the movie, the scenes with the mystics journeying through the land stand out in a good way. The vast background paintings add to the fantastic feel of the film.

The tagline for Dune, “A place beyond your dreams.  A movie beyond your imagination.”  Yeah, that should’ve been for this film.

 

What are the themes?

There is an underlying theme of power and control that can be surprisingly relevant to today’s society. The Skekses use the power of the dark crystal to brainwash and mind control the masses, parasitically thriving upon them in their dumbed down state. There are the mystics who don’t use the crystal at all, but rely on nature for control, which gives them wisdom and understanding. Wisdom and knowledge of nature is a power in of itself, as demonstrated when they use those powers to make the fearsome Gartham powerless. The Gartham, which represent the power of the dark crystal. They rely completely on it, and are literally nothing without it. Something born from such a power used for evilness, as strong as it may be (something capable of wiping out species mind you) becomes nothing in the face of those who use the power of nature. So there is a subtle environmentalism theme going on, which is difficult to catch onto because what is normally obvious to the viewer in terms of being a metaphor for technology seems like something that may exist naturally in this world. It’s all part of the mystery of the world.

However, it is shown that relying only on nature, or only on technology, is not the best thing to do. As strong as each power can make each race that only relies on one end of the power spectrum, those races have been slowly dying for the past thousand years (the thousand years being a semblance of Indian religion). Regardless of the good intentions of those who don’t rely on dark technology, it is not enough. By the end of the movie, it is clear that these sides must come together, as they once were. Harmony can be achieved by technology and nature, a good path and come from such a union. There is a way for technology to be used for good if used for the right reasons in the right hands. Should there be discord and disagreement, there with be a violent separation between beings (the population), which will be bad for everyone. An imperial use for technology is not the same, nor as good, as opposed to a humble use.

Duality is something that must also be considered. As stated earlier, the Skekses and Mystics eventually meld together, each individual mystic melding into their Skekse counterpart, to restore their long ago state of godlike beings. Two made one. The evilness, then, of the Skekses and their use of power is not entirely evil in of itself. Evilness is an illusion. Their use of power is one side of the same coin, the other side being the mystics use of power. When two are made one, it is implied that they are capable of having great power and responsibility to use power in each way. Their wisdom shall let them know what the best way to use such power is under specific circumstances. In addition, both races initially had different approaches to death. During the first act, when the Skekse emperor is dying, he remains fearful of death, struggling to stay alive ’till his last breath, having violent spasms in an attempt to reject death’s embrace for as long as possible. But then there are the mystics, who accept that death is the natural order of things, and embrace it, and go through it peacefully. The joining together of the two sends a message that a fusion of the two approaches to death must be considered. Death is a fearful thing, and steps probably should be taken to avoid it. But if it is meant to be, then accept it.

One could consider the other interpretation, an alternative to Dualism. That the Skekses are evil, representing selfishness, genocidal natures, enslavement of the masses, a physical form that indulges in the wants of the body (encapsulated by the dinner scene with the Skekses). The Mystics, on the other hand, are more spiritual by nature, displaying elements of Christianity and Buddhism with their pilgrimage to bring peace back to the world and their habit of creating sand mandalas. Their state of enlightenment contrasts with that of the Skeksies, who also have traits of ignorance, which leads to fear of a race they deem threatening, which leads them to carry out genocide. Sound familiar? Once the mystics arrive, the “spirit” fuses with the “body”, giving form to heaven-like beings who are somewhat transparent and give off a white glow, and eventually ascend to the heavens. A somewhat Christ metaphor, indicating that the spirit must overcome the wills and desires of the body in order for a needed ascension to occur for the greater good.

A key factor in considering both views is the consequences of death between those two species. The Skekses are evil, so they should be killed off, right? Well the film quickly hushes any cheers that would go on when a villain dies, as when a Skekse gets his, so does a Mystic, who disappears in a brief fiery blaze them moment the skeskie counterpart is killed off. When a Garthim is killed, so is a Landstrider. The film never allows for a chance for viewers to cheer at the death of anyone, or anything. Killing is bad, killing is not the answer. The desire to see enemies killed off as encouraged in most films, both for kids and adults, is vanquished in that instant. To have a satisfying resolution, bloodshed isn’t the answer. Peaceful resolution is. The fusion between the two species is a metaphor for resolving large world-shattering problems with peaceful negotiation, with compromise. This further supports dualism theme, an Eastern religious viewpoint.

So if dualism is to be accepted, then that implies that there is a flaw to both sides. It’s obvious what the flaws of the Skekses are, but what about the mystics? Well, they move slow, live largely in an environment absent of greenery (though granted they leave near greenery), and seem unable to accomplish that much. In fact, they even seem like old exhausted creatures, going along with their snail’s pace. Their slow, spiritual, and meditative lives aren’t enough to make changes in the world, even though they are changes that they know must be done. They rely upon those more physically capable than they are for the task to be done.

So in other words they’re hippies.

Another interesting thing about the Mystics vs. the Skeksies. The Mystics all look and act the same, while the Skeksies try to look as different from each other as possible in their voice, mannerisms, clothing, personality, etc. It’s a clash of individualism vs. collectivism, the desire to be together and act as one vs. the desire to be independent. Now, you could easily say that collectivism is portrayed as being the superior morally good choice, but don’t forget that the whole point of dualism is that two sides must be one in order to be complete and fulfilled, and much closer to perfection. In other words, there are pros and cons to both individualism and collectivism, that neither are perfect in of themselves. Yet another layer this movie has to it.

It is also worth noting that the protagonist of the film, Jen, a youthful individual is the one who heals the crystal, allowing the union of the two races to be possible. In essence, this drives forward the idea that it is the young generation, with knowledge granted from their elders, and experiences with their friends, to fix the world, to repair the mistakes made by those in power many years ago, mistakes still be carried out by those in power in his time. There is more going on here beneath the surface of the usual “lone young hero must venture forth and save the world” plot.

The whole duality theme can also be a metaphor for love. The skekses, the mystics, love thy enemy, because they are a part of each other. Similar to how Jen and Kira, while they more or less lived alone without any other gelflings, find that they don’t want to be apart once they learn of each other’s existence. It’s as if they found a piece of themselves that had been missing this entire time.

There’s a perfect moment that encapsulates this division and bringing together all in one perfect shot:

Jen to the left side, Kira on the right, the dark crystal between them both, with the Skeksies below. The crystal acts as a barrier, keeping them apart, much like the the crystal’s current state is what keeps the world broken and in disarray, the mystics being separate from the skeksies. The desire to fill this void, to fix what is broken, the desire to be whole again, is what drives everything to this point, Jen and Kira, the skeksies and the mystics.

And amidst all this there’s the Garthim to consider, empty shells of existence that only exist because of emptiness. How can they live in such a state? By being fueled by an unnatural power. The power that gives them form and a lifeforce, the dark power of the crystal, a metaphor. Being broken creates monsters. Separation, the loss of love, creates destruction and hate. Jen felt this after Kira’s village was destroyed, so he tosses the shard of the crystal in anger. And again at Augra’s home, when the Garthim show up, it’s no coincidence that they destroy the Anvil of Eternity, that machine that shows the movement of the planets in their system. It’s also no coincidence that we see Augra toss a planetary object at them. This emptiness and separation causes nothing but destruction, a universal truth.

Even when Jen restores the crystal, things are destroyed when changes happen. The Garthim are shown to be nothing but shells of emptiness. The castle appears to be falling apart. Kira lies dead. Despite all the change going on, whether it be for better or worse, whether it will mean his and everyone else’s death or not, Jen doesn’t care. All he cares about it that he lost Kira. He is broken, now that he realizes he can’t live without her, further emphasizing the dualism philosophy. Nothing matters if you are alone.

The best thing about all this? These are themes not dealt out heavy-handedly. They are done subtly, without any fancy speeches, and the film can be watched and enjoyed without consciously knowing that such themes are present.

Other Notes

So aside from the theme, production quality and all that, what do I actually think about the moments that are in the film? Well, I’ve already mentioned how badass the Gartham are. But a second runner-up for best creature in the movie would have to be the Landstriders. These giant four-legged creature are awesome, and can kick ass in a fight against the Garthem, but they can’t take on a large group that outnumbers them 4-to-1. And, man, hearing the sounds those Landstriders make when they’re being attacked by the Garthem, it kinda brings me to tears.

Fizgig is great. It’s awesome seeing that Kira has wings, and can communicate with animals which brings up some great moments where animals fight against the Skekses and Garthem. Jen is basically a typical cardboard fantasy character, regardless of his thematic implications. Kira has just a tad more character than him, but not much. The Skekses each felt more distinct and full of character than Jen and Kira.  But honestly though, for a film like this, the characters fit in just fine as plain individuals living out an existence.  Not every character in a film has to have some fantastic trait/personality to them.  That only becomes necessary if it is a character-driven film.  That is not what this is.  The film’s strength and focus is in its world, its details, its philosophy, its lore.

Critters ripped this off.

The amount of original creature designs and number of plants and animals in the forest scene alone puts any 3 fantasy movies combined to shame.

If you find this film enjoyable enough that you want to get more out of it, seek out the unnofficial director’s cut, as well as the book The World of the Dark Crystal, written by the costume/creature designer himself, Brian Froud. That book will take you knee-deep into the lore that the film only touches upon, and let you know just how much work and effort Henson put into the creation of this world.  You will be amazed at how much depth they went into writing out the details of this world, much of left was left outside of the film or only vaguely/fleetingly implied within it.

You will never find me giving a film a higher recommendation than this one.  This is a film that could only have been made during that time period, and nothing like has ever been made prior to it, or after it.

 

Other reviews:
jaysanalysis.com/2011/02/27/the-dark-crystal-%E2%80%93-esoteric-analysis/

www.ruthlessreviews.com/8005/the-dark-crystal/

filmconnoisseur.blogspot.com/2012/06/dark-crystal-1982.html

reflectionsonfilmandtelevision.blogspot.com/2012/03/films-of-1982-dark-crystal.html

The Maltese Falcon (1941) review

Rated: 4/5

“If you lose a son it’s possible to get another. There is only one Maltese Falcon.”

I’ll tell you what, you’re engagement level better be 5/5 with this movie, or you’re going to miss plot details so important that you will probably get lost with the story. Not since Bullitt, Miller’s Crossing, or Inception have I seen a crime film that demands so much attention from the viewer.

Humphrey Bogart is an absolute slick badass who is every bit as good with his words as he is with his fists. And he knows it, which is why he also plays a scoundrel and an anti-hero who “may” be as corrupt of a detective as the criminals he investigates. I have seen African Queen, and Casablanca (didn’t care much for the former, don’t remember much of the latter), but it’s this film that made me realize why this guy was such a big name during that era of film-making.

So, onto the analysis. The title itself, The Maltese Falcon. Maltese has a two-fold definition, both of which I’m positive are important. Firstly, Maltese refers to someone/something that is a resident of Malta. That’s where the Maltese Falcon statue itself comes from, so that’s self explanatory. The second definition refers to a small breed of dog with a long silky coat. I considered the second definition important once the film brings the viewer to the office of Spade and Archer, two private detectives, Spade being played by Bogart. If you observe the desk of Spade, you will notice that there is a small statue of a falcon and a dog on it. That’s no coincidence, and an obvious use of mise-en-scène (mine as well as keep up the French terms, as noir is also one). After seeing another dog statue in the District Attorney’s office, it’s my theory that the dog represents justice, doing actual police work, a detective’s code of honor, etc. The falcon itself, well, they say it’s “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Put the two together, and it’s like investigating/chasing a dream.

This kind of symbolism can also be found in Gutman’s abode (he’s also named Gutman because he’s fat, hahahah). Above his fireplace are two small horse statues. This represent galloping after or chasing something. Spade has a horse picture at his home, indicating that he is a detective who will chase after leads. The horse picture at home, the dog and falcon statues at his office, indicate he is a detective who his heavily invested in his work, at least during the course of this movie, because his work follows him to his office and home throughout the film. Gutman, obviously, is chasing after the Maltese Falcon itself.

Another thing I thought about in this film is the use of colors on the coats the characters wear. This is where I’m likely stretching things. The darker the coat, the more corrupt or involved with dirty dealings a character is. Gutman, for instance, is always wearing the darkest suits in the film, contested only by Miles Archer’s widow. Gutman’s is always dark because he’s obviously the most corrupt and dirty of all the characters in the film. He’s willing to have people killed and bribe whoever to get what he wants. Mrs. Iva Archer is in black from head to toe the entire course of the film. This is when my thoughts on clothing style could be called into question, as she is a woman in mourning, and isn’t involved in the dirty dealings that Spade is getting involved with. But upon a second viewing, I picked up on the fact that Spade and Iva were once in love with each other, and may have been lovers up until Archer showed up and eventually married her at some point. Others know this, which is why a couple people question Spade and Mrs. Archer’s motives, wondering if they were involved in the death of Miles Archer. Despite her state of mourning, Mrs. Iva Archer asks Spade if he killed Miles because of this. But she is likely asking this question out of hope that he did, so that she can be with him and they can be lovers again. If that’s the case, that would keep my thoughts of use of clothing in this film intact, and would make her not so pure of a woman. Spade even mentions offhand that she probably hates Miles. She once again confirms the fact of her belonging with dirty people when she calls the cops on Spade, because she sees him with another woman, his client Brigid, who originally hired Spade and Archer. She does this out of jealousy, because she believes Spade to be sleeping with this woman instead of her.

And then there’s Brigid herself. When she first appears, she has a distracting black headdress (if that’s what you call it) on her head, indicating that her head is filled with dirtiness. Dirtiness in this case being lies. During the rest of the film, she dresses in more white colors, but by the end of the film is back in the darker set of clothes, now fully stuck in the dark world she tried to dip her hands in but stay out of, but has failed. At certain points she wears all white, but then there are times when she wears white but sits in a dark chair, or has on dark gloves, or dark heels, or has the dark headdress back on her head again. This indicates hypocrisy, which other characters in the film are also guilty of (including Spade himself).

Another interesting bit of symbolism can also be found briefly on Spade’s desk as he burns the address to Brigid’s home after briefly looking it over. The address is burned next to a ridiculously small book (it’s probably a prop used for decoration rather than a book) that is labeled “DEPENDABLE”. I feel this represents the idea that Spade doesn’t have much to depend on in this world, that what he depends on isn’t anything material or outside of himself because that would cause him to be burned (metaphorically). Instead, he has to depend on his own instincts and knowledge, which is kept in his head. He acts accordingly by not trusting anyone, Brigid, Iva, or even the police investigating him. His experience with detective work has taught him to be this way, and he is fully justified in this, as just about everybody tries to deceive him.

One last metaphorical element to the story. The names of Samuel Spade and Miles Archer. Spade says to Archer in a joking manner, “You’ve got brains.” He says this because he knows that Archer has decided to take the case and follow Brigid because he’s not doing so due to his intelligence, but due to his lust. Brigid is a beautiful woman, Iva doesn’t like him (as implied at several points), so Archer figures why not follow her, maybe he’ll get lucky. It’s similar to his heart being hit by Cupid’s arrow, hence the name Archer. Unfortunately, his heart ends up taking a bullet instead. Samuel Spade’s name, I believe, comes into play by him metaphorically burying his partner’s name, but also honoring his memory in his own way. This is discussed directly near the end of the film.

I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. The pace is quick, the dialogue is smart and witty, and Bogart is awesome. He is in constant danger, and so he is consistently using his experience and methods to keep him one step ahead of death, or arrest. He does so when he doesn’t have much of an idea of what situation he has fallen into. At several points I was asking how selfish he really is. Is he doing this just to save himself, or for money, or for something else? There is one moment where his intimidation and badassnes is on full display when Cairo draws a gun on him. As he gets up and walks with Cairo, you can tell from his height, face expression, and figure, that he is in no way intimidated by this man. Once he inevitably gains the upper hand, his smirk says everything, as does the look of dread on Cairo’s face. There are several moments when he just has to smile and laugh despite how much of a pickle he is in, just taking in the fun of the moment to alleviate the stress, as evident by how his hand shakes uncontrollably at one point after confronting Gutman.

Despite how awesome he is, he is also a scoundrel, and a cold-hearted bastard at times. He is more than happy and willing to take money from people, especially Brigid, even when she seems to need it. He talks shit to other detectives and to the district attorney, and he acts care-free about his partner dying and of the widow’s grieving. And despite all that, I still had to root for him, because damnit he’s cool.

If there is any flaw in the film, I can only catch onto one. There is one instance when the editing got distracting. The camera cuts quickly during the scene when Spade is talking with Iva for the second time in the film. It’s just a minor complaint in an otherwise very entertaining film. Easily one of the best oldies I’ve seen.

P.S.: Apparently there is a version of this film made in 1931, titled Dangerous Female, directed by Roy Del Ruth. This intrigued me for one reason, it has a nude bathing scene which it was able to get because it was made during the pre-censorship period that was eventually established by the Catholics. Well, guess I’m dirty too.

Ghostbusters (2016) review

Rated: 1/5

NOTE: This is an older review I made a while back that I just never bothered to post on this website until now. Just in case some of the references seem dated.

Review (aka Bitching and Moaning)

I was ready to write a scathing review of this movie, a scathing review full of energetic negativity. I thought I would feel energized for doing so, like all those other times I took out my frustrations on past films that I severely disliked. I even had a nice intro in mind prior to seeing this movie, something along the lines of, “Fuck me sideways with a cracker jack box, this was bad!”

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