There are some crime-action films that make people laugh, like Snatch. There are some that make people feel uplifted and inspired, like Kick Ass. And then there are some that make people realize the weight and intense life situations associated with crime… or action, like Danny Lerners 2009 film The Assassin Next Door. That is one heavy film! Truely gritty, and revealing of what humans are capable of when they have to fight for their life in the face of oppression. The themes of the film are love and friendship, and they are fought for with unabashed dedication and a fierceness only those of us who have tasted love, loss and grief can imagine. My favourite films are crime-action (I just can’t get enough of them, more on this later) and this one is deffinitely ranked right up there with La Femme Nikita, Sexy Beast and The Way of the Gun.
Fuck yeah Rob Gordon. Or should I really say Nick Hornby, for writing such a kick-ass, awesome character who says things like this quote I have here below. This is one of my all-time, top-five, favourite films. High Fidelity…
"Should I bolt every time I get that feeling in my gut when I meet someone new? Well, I’ve been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains."
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I often wonder what it is like for a deaf person, to watch a film, having never heard music, or having maybe heard it once before. If I were deaf and had heard music before, would I include my own score, imagine the sounds and songs both diegetic and non within the film? Would some films which were not visually rich and exquisite be lacking the added sensory pleasure of music? Music and film have become a kind of marraige of sorts, and unless the film is strong enough visually, music lends it’s hand in an extremely important way, adding texture and depth to the narrative. It is interesting to see how the two mediums have become linked throughout the decades, where some filmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson and Oliver Stone seem to gather their narrative inspiration purely from songs or musical genres, music is obviously a respected method to enrich a story.
Originally, music in film began as an accompaniment to the otherwise silent narrative, adding drama or comedy where appropriate. Also, it was used as a means to cover up the invasive sound of the projector behind the paper-thin screen. So where did the page turn in music and film history? What was the appeal of adding pop music to tell a story? How did we go from silent films with added orchestras to John Schlesinger’s’ Midnight Cowboy (1969), one of the first films to use a song, unaffiliated with the score to add to the narrative? Hitchcock’s The Graduate (1967) includes 3 different versions of Simon and Garfunkle’s ‘Scarborough Fair’, and is also one of the first films to use pop music seperate from the score, creating an almost complete soundtrack. What was the appeal for these pioneers of pop music in cinema? how does a good or mood-appropriate song add to or take away from the narrative? Is it fair to say it adds to the story if you were deaf and couldn’t hear the added music?
An important question for this entry is if certain songs weren’t chosen for a specific narrative, would that narrative have as much impact? For example, in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007), if Eddie Vedder hadn’t written the entire soundtrack to the film, the story may not carry the same weight and certainly wouldn’t be as unique if the filmakers had decided to use pop music instead of an original soundtrack. Opposite to this, Robert Zemeckis’ Forest Gump (1994), has a pop music soundtrack which adds to the timeline of the narrative as Gump and Jenny go through the decades of late 20th century America. For example, Elvis plays when Gump is a child in the 1950’s, songs about war play when Gump is in Vietnam in the 1960’s and disco plays in the scenes depicting the 1970’s. Strangely enough however, once the narrative gets to present day, the filmakers don’t rely on pop music at all to tell the story, or to tell what decade it is in the story. They instead use dialogue and interactions between the characters.
Fimlakers don’t just use pop music in film as a means to identify periods in time, or even specific moods. Tongue in cheek filmakers like Quentin Tarantino are loved because of the bold juxtaposition between their stories and soundtracks. He pushes the envelope, testing the waters to see the reactions of his audience when he twistedly kills one of his characters while a happy pop record plays on in the scene. He also loves to use his music diegetically, having the characters in his films actually listening to the songs, sometimes even talking about them, as seen in Deathproof (2007), when the DJ Jungle Julia wants to hear Dave Dee, Dozie, Beaky, Mick and Tich (LOVE that scene!). Mary Harron did the same thing in American Psycho (2000) when she had Christian Bales character murder Jared Letos character while listening to Joe Cockers “It’s Hip to be Square”, simultaneously talking about the song while he goes to work. Kubrick does the same form of pushing the envelope when he uses the whole of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony put to images of ultra violence on the screen like seen in his A Clockwork Orange (1971). This added to the twisted sense of comedy in the film, and was probably the base for every other film of it’s kind, including all of Tarantino’s (lets be honest, all Greats copy the Greats).
Hal Ashby uses an entire Cat Stevens album in Harold and Maude (1971), adding to the sweetness of the narrative. The films which include original soundtracks go above and beyond musicals in which campy villagers all know the same songs. The films which take original soundtracks a step further are rockumentaries like This is Spinal Tap (1984), Electric Apricot (2006) or the darkly named Brothers of the Head (2005). Then there are Rock Opera type films like American Pop (1981) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). Last, however most certainly not least, there are those unique and utterly superb creative genius films, full-on Rock Operas such as Roger Waters’ 1982 cinematic masterpiece The Wall.
What was the appeal of strengthening the unique relationship of music and film? Why are filmakers so inspired by sound to accompany their fantastic images and stories? How did we go from early silent film to the likes of The Wall in such a short span of time? Music and film have become a marraige throughout these decades, both mediums showing their value when inspired filmakers combine them to tell their stories. And as seen in many of the films listed above, the music in thier unique soundtracks has the ability to take away from a story or to add to it richly, emphasizing its power to set the tone for an entire story.
More later from yours truely:
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Dialogue in film, whether it’s improvised or scripted, has long since been one of my favourite aspects of the medium, as well as one of my greatest forms of entertainment both while I’m watching film and while I’m imitating some of my favourite lines spoken. Hence this post “Whose Line Was it Anyway?” is my means to share some of my fave lines found in the films I’ve enjoyed. Why? Because it’s fun!
I was raised by actors and general comedians and orateurs so the grasp of a line comes pretty quick and easy for my kin and me. My childhood was spent quoting lines from films and songs from films and my young adulthood, thus far, has been spent creating and playing out some of my own lines that I would be happy to hear in a film. When doing weird voices and playing characters comes second nature it’s hard to, NAY, impossible to stop. So, without further ado, here we have some inspiring lines, spoken by some inspiring actors and characters from some inspiring films seen by yours truely…
Christopher Guest’s Best in Show, 2000:
Sherri Ann Cabot: [Discussing her 80 year old husband who’s 44 years her senior] “Leslie and I have an amazing relationship and it’s very physical, he still pushes all my buttons. People say ‘oh but he’s so much older than you’ and you know what, I’m the one having to push him away. We have so much in common, we both love soup and snow peas, we love the outdoors, and talking and not talking. We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about.”
Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guffman, 1996:
Corky St. Clair: [yelling at City Council when they refuse to give him $50, 000 for show. If you’ve seen this movie you know how funny this all sounds in Christopher Guests voice]. “So what I’m understanding here - correct me, if I’m wrong - is that you’re not givin’ me… any money… so now I’m left basically with nothin’, I’m… left with ZERO, in which, in which, what can I do with zero, you know? What can I… I can’t do ANYTHIN’ with it! I need to, this is my LIFE here we’re talking about! We’re not just talkin’ about, you know, somethin’ else, were talking about MY life, you know? And it’s forcing me to do somethin’ I don’t wanna do. To leave. To, to go out and just leave and go home and say, make a clean cut here and say “no way, Corky, you’re not puttin’ up with these people!” And I’ll tell you why I can’t put up with you people: because you’re BASTARD people! That’s what you are! You’re just bastard people! And I’m goin’ home and I’m gonna… I’m gonna BITE MY PILLOW, is what I’m gonna do!”
Corky St. Clair: [explaining in an interview the thrill of a challenge] "What the city council did was really… give me a challenge, and it’s a challenge that I am going to… accept. It’s like in the olden days, in the… days of France, when men would slap each other with their gloves… say, y’know… ‘D’Artagnan!’… y’know, ‘how dare you talk to me like that, you!,’ and… smack ‘em!"
Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey, 1999:
Wilson: [Wilson and DEA Agent discuss Wilson’s situation and this one, I love, because Wilson’s accent is so cool and he speaks with basically no filter, just talkin and rappin to people in his cockney talk, so remember, read it in an accent] “How you doin’ then? All right, are you? Now look, squire, you’re the guv’nor here, I can see that. I’m in your manor now. So there’s no need to get your knickers in a twist. Whatever this bollocks is that’s going down between you and that slag Valentine, it’s got nothing to do with me. I couldn’t care less. Alright, mate? Let me explain. When I was in prison - second time - uh, no, telling a lie, third stretch, yeah, third, third - there was this screw what really had it in for me, and that geezer was top of my list. Two years after I got sprung, I sees him in Arnold Park. He’s sittin’ on a bench feedin’ bloody pigeons. There was no-one about, I could’ve gone up behind him and snapped his fuckin’ neck, *wallop!* But I left it. I could’ve knobbled him, but I didn’t. ‘Cause what I thought I wanted wasn’t what I wanted. What I thought I was thinkin’ about was something else. I didn’t give a toss. It didn’t matter, see? This berk on the bench wasn’t worth my time. It meant sod-all in the end, ‘cause you gotta make a choice: when to do something, and when to let it go. When it matters, and when it don’t. Bide your time. That’s what prison teaches you, if nothing else. Bide your time, and everything becomes clear, and you can act accordingly.”
Head DEA Agent: “There’s one thing I don’t understand. The thing I don’t understand is every motherfuckin’ word you’re saying.”
Stacy: [making fun of everything and anything on a film set. Honestly this one, you should just look up on youtube because the hilarity is mostly in the delivery, much of it largely improvised… gotta love the Katt] "Why don’t they make shows about people’s daily lives you’d be interested in watching? You know, like ‘Sick Old Man’ or ‘Skinny Little Weakling.’ ‘Big Fat Guy.’ Wouldn’t you watch a show called ‘Big Fat Guy’? I’d watch that fuckin’ show. Extra’s, excuse me, background artists. Like ‘hey mom, hey dad. Yeah Hollywood’s great, yeah still a loser!’ I wonder what it’s like to have tits? Jesus are you gay enough or what? Hello studio city!… Fag. Look at this guy, oh yeah, they need that right away. Hey, whats the smartest thing that ever came out of a womans mouth? Einstein’s cock.”
Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa, 2003:
[Willie to Marcus, after he beat up the bully who messes with the kid]
Willie: “You know, I think I’ve turned a corner.”
Marcus: “Yeah? You fucking petites now?”
Willie: “No, I’m not talking about that. I beat the shit out of some kids today. But it was for a purpose. It made me feel good about myself. It was like I did something constructive with my life or something, I dunno, like I accomplished something.”
Marcus: “You need many years of therapy. Many, many fuckin’ years of therapy.”
[Willie passes out and Gin wants Marcus to carry him outside]
Gin: “Look here, get him outta here and I’ll go smooth things over with Chipeska, Tell him it was food poisoning or something.”
Marcus: “What do you mean, get him outta here?”
Gin: “Take him to the car.”
Marcus: “In case you didn’t notice I’m a motherfucking dwarf, so unless you got a forklift handy, maybe you should lend a hand hmm?”
Gin: “That figures. You want all kind of set-asides. Special treatment ‘cause you’re handicapped. You’re all the same.”
Marcus: “Special treatment? I’m 3-foot-fucking-tall you asshole! It’s a matter of physics. Draw me a sketch of how I get him to the car, huh?”
Gin: “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch!”
Marcus: “Sketch it up, you fucking moron. Fucking Leonardo da Vinci.”
Gin: “What’d you call me thigh-high?”
Marcus: “I called you a fucking guinea homo from the 15th-fucking-century, you dickhead!”
Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, 2000:
[talkin about the dags]
Mickey: “Good dags. D’ya like dags?”
Mrs. O’Neil: “Yeah, dags.”
Tommy: “Oh dogs… Sure, I like dags.”
[talkin about London]
Avi: “Eighty-six carats.”
Avi’s Colleague: “London?”
Avi: “Yes, London. You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins… LONDON.”
Charles Crichton’s A Fish Called Wanda, 1988:
[Mostly everything in this film is improv because these guys are so funny, and so talented. Otto says to Archie…]
Otto: “You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, fuck-face, dickhead, asshole!”
Archie: “How very interesting.”
[Archie appologizes to Otto while being hung out a 4 story window]
Archie: “All right, all right, I apologise.”
Otto: “You’re really sorry?”
Archie: “I’m really really sorry, I apologise unreservedly.”
Otto: “You take it back?”
Archie: “I do, I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.”
From Steven Soderbergh’s Full Frontal, 2002, in response to the line: “we need to find a new Eva Braun”, Nicky Katt says…
"You know what? Fuck her. And here’s why. One, anyone who’s offended by drinking blood, obviously doesn’t drink blood. Two, anyone who drinks as much blood as I do knows it has no effect. Three, there is absolutely no scientific connection between drinking a shot of blood a day and being an extraordinary actor. And four, it is impossible to prove Number Three."
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Richard Linklaters Waking Life 2001. This is really one of my all time top five favourite films. In truth, I would switch it with The Limey which I put as #2 in my list from “Intro”. It is truely creative films like Waking Life that I often forget are my favourite until I am watching them. Something about the films gentleness allows me to let this film wander in and out of my mind, allows me to remember it’s profound moments when I am having similar moments of my own. Though I can imagine the finesse of this film: the unique animation, the steady development of the narrative, the rythmic voices of the characters, it is never better than when I take the time to really sit with this film.
I’ve seen it about 5 times since watching it for the first time when I was 17, and every time I’ve watched it, it’s been at that perfect moment, when I am open and ready to recieve the information within, to listen intently to the dialogue as if listening to a good friend explain a complicated thought or reading a book which expresses abstract ideas. This film is as creative as it is intellectual, though I truely don’t think that was Linklaters intention. I think he was just expressing ideas that are apart of his daily life, and doing it creatively because he is a creative person, yet, whether or not it was intended, much of the language is unnaccessible if the viewer is not well read or has not recieved a higher education. This is part of the reason I feel I have to be in a very receptive and perspective mood to watch this film and to properly digest it’s contents.
One thing I love about this film, and what I also think is a sign of a truely well done piece of art, is that when the film ends, I have more questions about it then when it began. For example: what is the significance of the tango orchestra? Besides providing the wonderful music both diegetic and non, why are they shown in the film as an addition to the story? What is the significance of the animation? Does it symbolize the dream world or does it imitate it? The animation certainly mimics what my dreams look like, two dimensional, constantly morphing shapes and colours. Another question I asked myself this time around, but not one I’d thought of before for some reason is: what is this film about exactly? Is it about life, death and moments? Is it simply a vehicle to express all these wonderful ideas Linklater has about life and death and lucid dreaming? Is it based on a dream which was created into a narrative? Or is it exactly as it appears, a story about a man who dies, and then spends hours in a dream-world which is really the afterlife before realizing he’s actually dead, and during his journey, the question is asked of him, are you only alive in your mind and if so, then is that any different then being alive in ‘real’ life?
I appreciate the rythm of this film, and it’s the first time I really noticed how fluid the development of the story is. Wiley Wiggin’s characters journey is seen from 1st person perspective as well as 3rd person perspective so the viewer is, more often than not, being floated along from moment to moment as if they are the ones in the dream, and the other characters speak to Wiley yet also to the viewer since we see them from his perspective. Therefore, the viewer gets the opportunity to discover that Wiley’s journey is really a journey through death almost simultaneously as Wiley discovers the same thing.
There are other signals in the narrative which let the viewer know that Wiley may not just be dreaming, for example the abstractness of the animation gets heavier as Wiley moves from conversation to conversation, until some of the characters are drawn really strangely and are surrounded by things which don’t reveal themselves in a non-dream world. As well, his conversations with the people move from talking about lucid dreaming to talking about being dead and that being dead is like a lucid dream that you can’t wake up from. These conversations begin to shed light on whats really going on in Wiley’s journey and though the idea of dreaming after death is brought up early in the film, it is not really obvious that Wiley is dead until these conversations occur, especially in the last conversation scene with Linklater himself, who speaks of the land of the dead.
Rythm does not just show up in the fluidity of the story, but also within the sounds of the film. Though the animation is spectacular and I would hate to miss out on it, I truely think that this film could be enjoyed with ears only. Most of the film is dialogue, and the different voices along with the realistic ambient sounds of footsteps and background noise, creates a kind of gentleness that almost no film can claim to have these days. Theres something relaxing about the steadiness of the voices and the soft, unabscured sound of movement. The film is gentle, as I’ve said before, because of it’s images, colours and conversations, yet though it’s message is delivered gently, it’s got impact.
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Favourite Christmas movie of all time? Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa, 2003. Why? Never before is the spirit of Christmas more magical and poweful than in this film. The dirty old babe Billy Bob is at his most dirty and gritty in this film. He swears like a sailor, drinks like a fish and smokes like a chilmney, oh and he also beats the shit outa’ some kids at one point, BUT, thats okay, because he did it for a purpose, and it gave meaning to his life, and he learns that people can try to do good even if they’ve been ass-bags their whole life. Every line in this movie kicks ass. Bernie Mac and John Ritter are an excellent side duo and Billy Bob and Tony Cox are the best heist-gone-wrong film pair I can imagine. This movie’s so real and so funny in a total gritty, non slapstick, simple way. I love it. I can’t wait till next Christmas so I can watch it again.
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