Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1994 Movie Bracket: Second Round

Apologies on the wait on round 2.  Nevertheless, here are the matchups.

Pulp Fiction vs. Dumb and Dumber

 I think I'll make my Pulp Fiction argument on the merits of one scene, my absolute favorite scene, the Jackrabbit Slims scene.  This scene is better than the "Tic tac sir?" "You sold my dead bird to a blind kid?" scene, or even the "I desperately want to make love to a schoolboy!" scene. I have always adored this scene and it changed the way I watched movies and what I wanted from movies.  It was like that first time you graduate from whiskey to good bourbon.  You enjoy the multiple flavors, you sip your drink, exhale and reflect. 
Jackrabbit Slims is described by Vincent as a "wax museum, with a pulse".  Its one of those diners that you see every now and then, in the world of chain restaurants they become more and more of a rarity, but your booth is built like a car and all that.  The waiters and waitresses are dressed as celebrities from the 50's.  We learn all this as the camera follows Vincent in, as he wanders through the tables, processing it all. Vincent and Mia have a trite, getting to know you conversation. Vincent debates the merits of a five dollar shake, Mia's short lived acting career, they talk about bullshit, and they know it, and the audience is supposed to know it. But its still great because that's the point of the scene.
 Then, there is silence, it isn't an angry silence, which is 99% of silences in movies.  It's just silence. They sit back and just take it in with Dick Dale strumming away on the loudspeakers.  Tarantino lets the scene breathe. Its not rushed, it just is.  Soon enough the silence ends when Mia talks about awkward silences, then the iconic dance contest occurs shortly afterward.
There have only been a handful of scenes that have impressed me as much as that one. Its just awesome in every way.
My most blaring thought is the potential easter egg behind Mia's short live acting career. There is considerable merit behind a theory that her canceled show is in fact none other than the two Kill Bill Volumes. Pretty cool stuff. 

I think Pulp Fiction is super cool. It's one of those movies that you recognize as cool, put it number 2 or 3 on a list of top movies in 1994 and expect it to make it a couple of rounds. But then a co-collaborator describes a really cool scene and you agree with them. Then you remember watch hiding scenes, and McDonalds scenes, and wallets that say "Bad Motherfucker" on them. And all of those are just off the top of your head. That's when you brace yourself for the future, brace yourself for what you're going to have to go through once a movie like this faces a movie with similar caliber. 

But let's take a moment and talk about Dumb and Dumber, they've had a hell of a season and have some scenes that will likely make the hall of fame someday, or at the very least, join their individual rings of honor. My favorite scene in the whole movie is at the end. You've just gone through stupidity redefined and think it's all over. Nope. A bus of bikini models breaks down. Coincidentally they are all wearing their bikinis and they ask for help getting to their next destination and then offering the two hapless guys jobs. I imagine those jobs were on par with being a professional hand bra or suntan applicator. Of course, they decline the invitation and instead just help them with the directions. Based off of some irrational honor they hold dear. The bus takes off and Lloyd or Harry, I can't remember which, realizes the huge mistake they passed up. They flag the bus down and run up to redeem themselves. You, the audience, hope and pray they get everything their innocent, dumb hearts deserve, are only led on to be fooled once more. They didn't want the jobs.. they had just given them wrong directions. This movie can leave with its head held high. 
I hated the ending when I was a kid because I didn't realize that there was no other way the movie could end. Also, the production company wanted to change the ending and have them get on the bus, to make it "happy", Jim Carrey refused to film it.  Hilarious scene though, from the "Do you know what you've DONE?!" to the dramatic pause, the slow turn and the point while saying, "The town is back that way." Great movie.
Winner: Pulp Fiction
Forrest Gump vs. True Lies
Is it fair that Forrest Gump might lose points with me because the screenwriter lifted the Forrest Gump story and format and shoved it around the plot of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? That movie has all the same tricks. The main character is an outsider, but in a special way, there is a girl he loves who treats him terribly, he goes to war and is surrounded by one note characters with funny names, he saves a bunch of guys. Through it all he waxes philosophical without any point.  I think Ron Howard directed that movie too.  The only redeeming part of that movie was the battle scene, well, not the scene, but the cinematography and sound editing was amazing.  Back to Forrest, there is something about this fucking movie that stirs emotion in me.  I alluded to this in the first round, but aside from the hokey bits and the bitching of Lieutenant Dan, there are some rock solid emotional scenes. Some happy, most of them sad. Forrest is a canvass for most of this movie, only towards the end do you see the depth that he has. The monologue that ends with "I wish I could've been there with you" "You were", is perfect.  Terrible things happen to this guy, he loses a lot of people he loves, but he still enjoys the beauty in life.  

True Lies, as you have articulated, is a fantastic action flick. It's a barrel of popcorn and a seven dollar soda kind of movie. Forrest Gump makes you think a bit, and I think it blows Arnold out of the water on this one.
Forrest Gump can't lose points because it was imitated! That's the highest form of flattery. And Button wasn't so bad. Pretty terrible, but not that bad. You have to wonder why Brad Pitt refused to have Blanchett when she was so young and beautiful. Not to mention all the times he just walks away after she tells him to walk away. Who does that?! 

Anyway, True Lies compared to Forrest Gump is like comparing AC/DC to Led Zeppelin. Of course AC/DC will always have a place at your beach picnic once all the kiddos have ventured off to test their mettle against the tide and the adults break out the beers, but it will never be used for thorough cleansing of a soul. Led Zeppelin washes over you in a therapeutic way that reinforces whatever insecurities need consoling. Despite how cool True Lies is, I can't really find many good cases to watch it again. Probably if you find out a friend of yours has never seen it. Or I could see some guys getting together on a saturday/sunday in a shared house and playing it while they recover from a hangover. However, it just doesn't have that ability to be appropriate in any mood. With Forrest Gump, you have a movie you can watch if you're happy or sad, energetic or lethargic, or if you had just seen it a week earlier. The movie is so well made that it feels like 18 different movies in just one. You have: child Forrest, high school/college Forrest, army Forrest, ping pong Forrest, fishing Forrest, running Forrest, married Forrest, and finally, single dad Forrest. And each of those parts have there own scenes that steal the show. The first time you meet LooteNINT Dan, Bubba's ability to name shrimp dishes, hold on- I must stop myself- Forrest deserves some originality still for the next round, it'll only get harder from here. Really quick though, thinking about all those life events of Forrest, all I can think about is how well edited the transitions are made. Brilliant flow. 
Pat: I agree that True Lies fits the ACDC billing, but Forrest Gump and Led Zeppelin? Comparing such an innocent movie to a band that lifted a great many of their famous riffs from uncredited blues musicians, whose lead guitarist kidnapped a 14 year old girl and got away with it, and wrote more nerdgasm rendering fantasy lyrics than Rush? I'll let that one slide, as we both agree on the outcome here.
Winner: Forrest Gump
Red vs. Lion King
I believe my argument can be summed up thusly:
The thing that really appeals to me about The Lion King is that it was such a classical story.  The story was inspired, or lifted, from Hamlet.  The legendary "to be or not to be" speech perfectly encapsulates the conundrum of Simba in The Lion King.  It has the same measure as the "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'" monologue from The Shawshank Redemption.  It is something everyone can identify with.  Setting out and living, opening yourself up to pain, rejection, in order to achieve that which is most fulfilling.  This is the crux of so many stories..  Sure, The Lion King presents this story through animation and celebrity voices, but the point remains.  Michael Mann's Collateral presents this through a flurry of bullets and a cab ride. Realizing that the "What the fuck are you still doing driving a cab?" bitchslapping from Collateral follows the same thinking makes me realize I'm just a sucker for these kinds of monologues.
Long way around to get to this, I'm sure there are a lot of movies that attempt these great redemption stories, and fail to evoke any kind of emotion.  The Lion King succeeds.  That's why that clip I sent you exists, people grow up, and the movie pulls deeper than nostalgia.  The Land Before Time was a movie I loved as a kid, just adored, I probably saw it 10-12 times in the theater. I bought it in college in a fit of nostalgia, it was weird and unsettling.  I don't have any nostalgia about The Lion King, I see it as it is, a great movie. And yeah, I just waxed philosophical about a fucking Disney movie, what of it?
Joe: I am red with rage when I admit to myself that The Lion King deserves to move on past Red. Kierslowski was great, Red is an amazing movie- ripe with existentialism that resonates with honesty in a way all independent films set out to accomplish but always fall short. For every Ruled, there is another movie can counter or almost counter. I give credit to The Lion King, because it is an absolutely amazing Disney film. It more than appeals to children without being too trite. In fact, it has a fresh feel to it, a culmination of what was started with Beauty and Beast and Alladin. It was the first animated film to have a star-studded cast. Beauty and the Beast had Angela Lansbury and Aladdin had Robin Williams, but The Lion King had Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cheech Marin! Are you fucking kidding me!? The Lion King was the zenith of the second golden era of Disney. It is the highest grossing animated movie of all time. Pocahontas (more on that in the next round) dropped the goddam ball. Only Christian Bale was in that, and only in a bit role. Fucking Pocahontas. You're just the afterbirth, Pocahontas, slithered out on your mother's filth.
Winner: The Lion King
Pat: I watched your acclaimed White, as a man of honor and fair play should.  I feel like the movie will need to be digested,but here is a couple of thoughts, including why I don't believe it can advance past Shawshank.  I didn't watch White with the intention of poking holes in it, I just watched it.  I think that, having seen White and not Red, I would enjoy Red more as the story of Red appeals to my nature more than White.  However, White in itself was very interesting in its own right.  I don't know the guy who plays Karol, but I feel like he was perfectly cast.  His build and mannerisms seemed childlike in nature, awkward, innocent and insecure.  When he gains his fortune, he looks like a guy new to the role of success, dressing and acting how he thinks a rich businessman should, rather than embodying it.
I think what is so fascinating about White is that Karol is constantly unbelieving that Dominique loves him.  He doesn't believe that she truly loves him until he fakes his death and she cries at his funeral. Once he has his proof, once he feels validated, he goes about seeking revenge, all the while still crazily in love with her, or the idea of her, I am not sure which.  It's an amazing treatise on the pain we choose to inflict on the ones we love.  

I still believe that The Shawshank Redemption is a better movie than White, although I respect White immensely for its layered story and portrayal of humanity.  Shawshank provides a purer catharsis. Karol experiences his own strange validating catharsis at the end of the film, but Red and Andy meeting at the ocean, although not as deep as the last shot of Karol in White, is more gratifying.  I didn't find myself rooting for Karol, while throughout Shawshank you are more invested in the characters.  Their freedom, their happiness, their last release, finally free of the constraints of prison and society, at the ocean, because the ocean has no memory, is as pure a moment as any in movies.  The purest core emotion of why we go to movies, is to feel good, to feel hope, to be amazed.  Shawshank drags you through two hours of shit, with brief moments of fleeting happiness until the ending. Its a movie driven by hope, and finally, the hope is rewarded.  White's amazing and there is a place in film for White, but The Shawshank Redemption is a place you go time and time again because we never tire of stories that make us feel good.
The thing I liked about White was its storytelling. Same reason Shawshank is compelling. Both movies refuse to pander to the audience- in terms of making sure the lowest common denominator is on board with the plot, although Shawshank does rely on narration to move the story along. Typically that is a weakness, so I'll count it as such and at the same time pardon the verdict without further thought. While both have fluid stories, Shaw shanks my heart more. 

I like what you said about Karol acting like a child. Spot on. I'm glad you took the time to watch it, hopefully you'll finish the trilogy and maybe we could even argue about the merit of the useless movie Blue. 

Editor's note- saving my best shank related puns for the next round. 
Winner: The Shawshank Redemption
Final Four:
Pulp Fiction vs. Forrest Gump
The Shawshank Redemption vs. The Lion King

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