Friday, March 29, 2013

The Evil Dead (Raimi, 1981)

Well, I just came out of watching two movies I absolutely enjoyed - though one you're going to have to wait until a little after the movie comes out for me to release the kind of spoiler containing review on....

I had watched a horror movie that called out to my 'growing up' when my cousin gave me an early VHS of it (which I later had stolen from me) on a big screen and then I saw an advanced screening of its much-anticipated remake.

That's right. Hail to the king, baby! I saw the very groovy double tales to The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi's very first feature film and a landmark in horror cinema, present and to come...

I could pull a hack move and review the entire trilogy at once, but I love these movies too much to subject it to that. Instead, I want to do it one by one. They earned it. They really did. So, let's give The Evil Dead a good shot.

The story is simple enough - now cliched, but original at first instance. Five friends take a trip to a cabin in the middle of the woods. The cabin has a cellar which holds some items you don't particularly see in a cabin - among them a fully working tape player with a creepy recording of a professor and book bound of human flesh and written in blood. The friends mess around with it and unknowingly unleash the wrath of trapped demon souls. One by one the demons begin torturing and mutilating the friends and possessing their bodies. Eventually they realize they will have to fight and possibly kill each other if they wish to survive the night.

Nothing hugely fantastic in the story department. No instance of character really. But who cares? Instead, it's simple enough to allow for a good long set-up of atmosphere and impressive establishing of the supernatural elements of the film in an effective manner. Literature and audio, the naivete of the teenagers... Come on, that's the stuff exposition feeds on.

Then the real scares begin. I mean, they're kind of there from the beginning, but very cheap and silly. Bridge is rickety, almost hit a truck, car is wonky. Creepy stuff, but nothing absolutely scary. The real scares are when the conflict between the demons and the helpless teens begin.

I will have to address a pet peeve at this point. The Evil Dead trilogy has been largely both praised and criticized for its hefty amount of camp. That weight is on the latter two films of the trilogy - the first movie is almost entirely devoid of camp. Anybody who tells you it's campy has not seen it, only the second or third movie and has thought that it extended to the entirety of the series.
The film is marketed as 'The Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror'. It delivers with that.

It needs to be said: This is a rarity in bloody, gore cinema.... In fact, unless I'm mistaken, this is the ONLY horror film that uses gore for more than just shock value. It uses it for emotion.
Bruce Campbell's unforgettable protagonist performance as Ashley J. Williams is forever known as the insane, wise-crackin' everyman in the series, but you don't get that here. Instead, you get a very scared, very confused Ash who has to kill his friends one by one to bring their souls peace as they are completely possessed by the beings from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis.
He is forced to do unbearable things to them. Dismember and hack and chainsaw them all in the hope of bringing their souls peace. Put in Ash's place, these are our friends and we have to watch them suffer. That's the real horror of The Evil Dead.
Made worse is the fact that every successful kill of a demon in the film is a fluke until the end. Ash is just trying to survive and doing whatever he can.

The editing by Joel Coen is outstanding, it really brings out the kinetic style in which Sam Raimi shot and the never-ending fear Bruce Campbell's performance has to elicit. The atmosphere is brilliant and there are things in the movie, little slits of light or fog, that just look like the happiest of accidents. The makeup calls back to the styles of Tom Savini and look right at home at Dario Argento's place and its creepy.

Most of all, whoever mixed the sound for the movie is an absolute genius. The noises the possessed makes, the voice morphing, the room tone, the score, it's just a masterpiece of horror atmosphere.

You can claim it's corny, maybe if you're soulless or feel like you've outgrown these types of movies. But you cannot call this campy in the slightest. This is a real terror and we only hope to see Ash make it through the night. I don't feel like I have to mention the already notorious Cheryl/Tree scene, but hey, it's hard to watch so a fair warning. The rest of the movie is just as hard to watch, but it's worth the struggle. You will feel a reprieve at the end.

There is more to it than its scares and childhood nostalgia that have made fall completely in love with this movie, though.
The movie's existence and legacy is a diehard testament to the ability of many things I love championing in cinema. Originality, independent filmmaking, creativity, practical effects...
Sam Raimi was able to create an absolutely horrific tale using only what he and his friends had. Who knows how grueling the production was and how much dedication the cast and the crew had to put into what was essentially a sleeper hit, with the gracious help of legendary horror novelist Stephen King.
It's an underdog movie and you don't cheer for it because it shouldn't have been a success, but because it was a great movie anyway.

If you have not seen The Evil Dead yet, treat yourself, I implore, I guarantee you will find yourself enjoying it, whether scared or not. Especially see it before you see the remake.
I insist.
Join us.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)

I just came out of a screening of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining last night. It was nowhere near the first time I'd seen the movie, I own a DVD of it and always have it ready, but I had never had a chance before to see it on the big screen and I have been taking opportunities to see more classic films I'm fond of in a theatrical screen whenever I get a chance, the particulars I've caught have all been horror films.

Even when I go alone, it's always a good time to see these movies like I've never been able to see them before.

With a synthesizer 'Dies Irae' to date the movie unfortunately,
but this is an incredible opening movie moment.
Anyway, The Shining is hardly a movie that I would credit to Stanley Kubrick. I love the man to death and I think a portion of the effect belongs to him but the majority of the movie is owned by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall as Jack and Wendy Torrance, two characters forever attached to their actors, stripped-down in the intent of exhibition of terror. This is an actor's movie... You can shoot it pretty as well as you want, but this horror film relies on the control of the atmosphere in the hands of people like Nicholson, DuVall, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers. If any one of them fall flat on their face in acting, and Lloyd almost seems melodramatic in his performance but he's a child and it's hardly his fault, the movie fails as a horror film.
This is a small scope to concentrate the terror. No frequent gore, no in-your-face scares... just the purest experience in horror, a haunting atmosphere provided by Kubrick and his crew as a backdrop for Nicholson to give out his descension into madness surrounded by a cast of ghouls.

So, the tale of the Torrance family moving in to look over the Overlook Hotel in Colorado starts out somewhat unsettling as we are introduced to young son Danny (Lloyd) who showcases some disturbing behavior in his talking to Tony, a character who may or may not be imaginary. As the family moves into their new job at the large and empty hotel, the hotel's head cook Dick Hallorann (Crothers, an actor I take great pleasure in seeing on the screen everytime - he seems incredibly jolly), we are introduced to the concept of Shining, a psychic sort of ability that reveals too many unfortunate facts about the Hotel. Solely, the phantoms are revealing themselves to the already subconsciously angry father Jack (Nicholson) and the pushover matriach Wendy (Duvall), influencing the turn of the film's events to possibly mirror a previous murder suicide performed by the previous Winter caretaker of the Overlook, Delbert Grady (Stone), with the pleasant company of a bartender appearing to him as an apparition, Lloyd (Turkel in a chillingly slick performance).

This may or may not be a spoiler, so feel free to move along, but I really want to talk about the one scene that chills me most. Torrance has become dangerous to Wendy and Wendy knocks him out in a confrontation and locks him in the pantry. As Wendy finds Danny and herself trapped in the Overlook, Jack is approached from behind the door (or perhaps, even more scary, inside the pantry, we never find out) by Grady, who berates Jack for not yet killing his wife. After a brief talk, Grady unlocks the pantry door to unleash Jack on his family.
This scene is only one shot of Jack talking to Grady. We only hear the locks get removed, never witness it ourselves, but we know it happened. That sound scares the fuck out of me. The ghosts and demons of the Overlook Hotel have now involved themselves, they take this task of murder that seriously. Within that moment, I am scared watching the rest of the movie, waiting for the next point where the ghosts prove they are in total control of Jack and Wendy... the final act of Wendy running through the hotel hysterically is somewhat overly dramatic, but it works, save for one really laughable point where the lobby ends up covered in spiderwebs and skeletons. Come the fuck on, Kubrick, I thought you better than that!

Like a pleasant enough family trip.
All in all, its a near perfect horror film and original to boot with its concept and execution. Like I said, Kubrick has a habit of stripping his films down to the emotion and the picture, like Terrence Malick after him, which is really what makes him more emotional than many film critics say. Anyone who says Kubrick's pictures are cold and non-involving really need to watch his movies again. There's a reason Kubrick's methods have worked. You'll see it soon.

Like I said before, this is an actor's movie - owned by Nicholson and Duvall. Jack Nicholson really devolves himself more than we've ever seen before and since, and if you see Vivian Kubrick's documentary on the film, you'll see him powerup his energy for very climactic scenes. King was disappointed that Nicholson, who already looked crazy, was performing the role, but Torrance already has a temper in the story and clearly holds some resentment towards his own sobriety. If that doesn't make you a little bit on edge, you must be a great being of some otherworldly benevolence. I prefer the Jack Torrance of Kubrick's movie to the one of King's book and that's my opinion.

EDIT: First off, I just realized 'absent-minded' was one of the wrong words to use to describe Kubrick, more so focus-driven.
Second, I also remembered Kubrick did add his intellectual effect to the film and the more ambiguous portions of the haunting of the hotel, with the Room 237 aspect and the idea that Jack has always been part of the hotel, very small hints towards it from beginning to the very huge ending shot of the July 4th photo, so I  think he deserves more credit than I gave him. But it's hardly why this movie is scary...

Shelley Duvall, I think, keeps getting wrongly reamed for her performance. That wasn't acting, that was torture she was going through, and everybody knows the history behind this movie knows it. And it works, Kubrick really made her give a no holds barred, scared for her life moment in cinema. She starts off sort of gullible, is crushed by Jack and ends the movie never being the same again. If she did not provide a brave enough performance in her horror, in her terror, this movie would have been shit and everybody knows it. Duvall carried this movie when Nicholson could not as he was chasing Danny. She provided a polar opposite reaction to the presence of the ghosts to Nicholson's reaction. A duality in the family that tears them apart all throughout the film.

The only very small flaws? The afore-mentioned skeletons and Danny Lloyd's perfomance faltering at points. I take that as Kubrick's attempt to protect him from the fact that this movie is a horror film. It's a nicely show of humanity from Kubrick in public (From what I've read, he is nowhere near as cold as people think him to be - possibly absent-minded instead), but it costs the film a bit, but it doesn't make Lloyd's performance fall flat at all.

Also, I cannot for the life of me, figure out what the fuck is this about...

The best I can think was a pre-emptive Eyes Wide Shut before
somebody told Kubrick, "Yes, Stanley, you can make Eyes Wide Shut."
One of these days I'm going to get to watching Mick Garris' mini-series produced in 1997, as I am already a huge fan of the Masters of Horror series. I have not heard good things about it and it relatively annoys me when adaptations feel required to just do a page-by-page adaptation of the source material, but it would be interesting to see the end product when Stephen King had creative control over the film. The book was kind of good anyway, and I would understand if I put my heart into a work to talk about a hardship I endured (as the book was a catharsis for King's alcoholism at the time).

I do recommend the book to anybody interested in reading it. I prefer King's more connected works like The Stand, Salem's Lot and The Dark Tower series, but the Shining is a very well-written standalone story of his.

On a final note: I remember seeing an IMDb trivia bit that said Kubrick loved Woody Woodpecker and tried to have him included in every one of his movies, but did not get the okay from the creator, who had a mixed feeling to his own decision upon seeing Kubrick's films.
I think I can pinpoint where we would have seen Woody in this movie. There's a bunch of stickers on Danny's wall in the opening shot to his blackout moment in the bathroom. I'm certain Woody would have been one of those stickers.
Just me musing to myself.

Now, how's about I bitch about the fact that somebody thought making a TV show out of Under the Dome was good idea?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

So, tomorrow I'm going to be doing something really stupid and then tweeting about it....

I have a movie mission placed in front of me....

A suicidal one... One that you place yourself in a dark room in the basement of your home to endure...

I will be tweeting while I take on all three Lord of the Rings extended editions... back to back to back...

Clearly, I will not be getting laid for the next week, once I get through this, because I will just be too fucking spaced out to be there, and my already sketch personality will be thrice much as I spout out random Elvish and quote passages from the Simarillion...

My ass will be completely fused with the seat via osmosis.
I will be that weirdo in the near empty screening room between 5:30 p.m. and Odin knows when the hell I will be done watching...

You see, my thing is that I'm a Tolkien fanatic... a severe one in my literature. However, I've never partaken in all of the extended editions in one sitting. I've partaken in the theatrical versions, but that's because I honestly prefer the theatrical films to their extended format. I have enough sense to know when a movie is a movie and a book is a book, even throwing aside my Tolkien fanaticism as a movie critic... The theatrical films have satisfied absolutely enough...
It's kind of why I have a problem with the three-part slashing of The Hobbit, although the movie was satisfying enough...

Being that this is both Spring Break and a lifestyle where I am more preferential to solitude than social activity, it's easy to say I don't have any available friends in the immediate area to undertake this journey. This is a sure sign of being a psychopath just for thinking of going through this hellish celluloid nightmare of Elves, Orcs and greatness in even the smallest of creatures...

All factors point to my needing a psychiatrist to fix up my mental health by the time I finish enduring this massacre of my cranial being.... Follow me on twitter to keep track of my mental deterioration and pinpoint the precise moment when I will stop knowing myself as STinG and begin knowing myself as Strider!

Let's fucking go!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

12 Angry Movies I Really Need to See

So, I have discovered an old movie blog meme going on from Lost in the Movies. The rules are that you name 12 movies that you are making an effort to actually see in the world... and then you tag 5 people... I don't know that many blogs. In addition, the movies in question must not be available over Netflix, but I don't own a Netflix account (never found myself needing one) and so I don't know whether or not they are available on it.

So, here's my list...

Ping Pong (2002, directed by Fumihiko Sori) - Obscure? Check. Quirky? Check. We have enough of those types of movies as it is. But about ping pong? A movie that can be more than a simple Enter the Dragon-parody? (*cough*BallsofFury*cough* - granted i liked that movie). Sign me up at least for one viewing.
Except that the movie's been extremely elusive... I can't find it on DVD, in a library, anywhere...

The Samurai trilogy (1954-1956, directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and starring Toshiro Mifune) - I've found myself becoming more and more accustomed to samurai films over the years. I've been enjoying the culture more so and the discipline of the samurai, but I've also taken to letting this transition to the movies I watch, but in the literal and the atmospheric vein of a samurai picture.
This is the one movie I have not yet tapped. I feel everything other movie I've seen doesn't matter to this, with the esteem and pedestal it has been held at.

Lady and the Tramp (1955, produced by Walt Disney) - I had embarrassingly discovered that out of one of my college classes I was the only one who had not seen this movie. It doesn't help that I have been relatively unknowing in my Disney classics, having not seen many of the olden Disney animations like Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid and The Jungle Book until intensely recent. So, yea, a Disney animation spree is in effect.

F for Fake (1974, directed by Orson Welles) - I understand Chimes at Midnight is the harder of Welles' efforts to locate as it's rights are completely obscure in their ownership. But I'm more interested in the concept of a video essay, it sounds not so avant-garde and not so documentarian. Is it a narrative based on a thesis? The idea excites me.

Song of the South (1946, produced by Walt Disney) - This is more or less a movie I want to say just because I want to have said I've seen it. It's racial connotations add to its reputation and the story of Briar Rabbit is one that I had read many times in an old children's book I had as a child based on all the Disney stories. It was a great read when I was little and it would be great to see it finally on a screen... as told by a racial outrage lightning pole.
Also, why would you make a theme park ride based on a movie you don't want people to see? Can we expect an Escape from Tomorrow ride sometime soon?

Viy (1967) - Without having seen this movie, the premise alone has inspired me enough to write my own horror movie script in a manner of family drama and requiem. Now, I want to see how this plot came off on a strictly religious standpoint. It's one of those tales of heroes with backs against the wall.

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987, produced by Tsui Hark, directed by Ching Siu-tung and starring Leslie Cheung, Joey Wong and Wu Ma) - Ever since I even took my film ambitions this seriously, I had always been in search of the perfect blend of fantasy, horror, mythology, emotion, romance, humor and color that leave the experience feeling like something else. I think the closest film I found to match my appetite for this perfection is John Carpenter's cult classic Big Trouble in Little China, but you'd be hard-pressed to find that to be a great movie, let alone perfect. It's only good enough.
I've long decided that there's never going to be such thing as the perfect movie. Every movie must have its human flaws and the best of these films have the slightest flaws. This may be the closest to that perfect movie, though.
Now, I sound biased.

The Vanishing (1988, directed by George Sluzier) - As a self-proclaimed buff of the horror genre in all its output (cinema, fine art, literature, music, even video games... which I usually find myself straying from), I find it the biggest disappointment that I have not seen this true shocker classic. Part of it is just that I cannot find a copy of the film, everytime I try, I end up with that offputting remake. I WILL NOT watch that remake, not even after I finally see the original. That sort of fate to me when I've pursued this film for so long is incredibly insulting to me...

La Vieja Memoria (1979, directed by Jaime Camino) - I found it on youtube, but without English subtitles. I don't speak Spanish. I am taking to learning Spanish now for three things... 1) I enjoy the idea of being multilingual in any aspect, especially since I already have been since childhood, 2) it had been kickstarted by a previous relationship and I'm not going to stop just because we did; this shit fun and 3) so I can finally see this movie and feel at peace.

The Tales of Hoffmann (Written, produced and directed by Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell) - Remember what I said about A Chinese Ghost Story? Well, here we have two artists who have shown time and time again that they have the ability to provide such a film that is strictly made of wonder and nothing else, the masters Powell and Pressburger. If A Chinese Ghost Story fails, The Tales of Hoffmann will certainly pick up its slack.
It's also the movie that influenced George A. Romero, so I'm certainly in for that.

Planet of the Apes (1968, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner) - I think a major factor was that, in my childhood, the idea of a planet of the apes was silly to me, the idea of a post apocalyptic world was unappealing and boring to me, and I had already been spoiled the ending. I never had true incentive to see the movie. I still don't, but I think I've gone long enough being a movie buff without having seen it.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982, directed by Steven Spielberg) - I know, I know... hate me later...

I also find myself really pursuant for Spirit of the Beehive, but I don't need to elaborate. If you know the film and what it is, you know why I gotta see it.

In addition, movies available to me but I haven't taken to viewing yet (due to time and work) include Memories of Murder, Satantango, Risky BusinessThe Turin Horse, La Regle de Jeu, Harlan County U.S.A., Out 1, Laura, Gilda and Koyaniqaatsi.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Actor/Director Spotlight: Essential Jackie Chan...

Alright, so I have a very great taste for the physical comedy cinema... It is essentially what I grew up on, other than the wholesome old school Westerns. I had lived sort of on the existence of comic book heroes, but I also lived on Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan.

To say Jackie Chan is not a man who represents the old school method of physical comedy and talent for storytelling is very harsh and insulting. He is easily my favorite cinematic martial artist, though he's not entirely the greatest.
Most martial artists in cinema base their movies more as a setting for them to show off being fast or powerful without any real care about making us care for their characters beyond being a badass. Tony Jaa seems to be the most forgivable as, rather than trying to ignore it, he actually embraces it, using his movies like The Protector or Ong-Bak more as a demo tape for his ability in the vein of skateboarders showing off their tricks than he does use it as a classic feature film.
Jackie Chan is very different. He tells a story with every movement he makes, like a mime out of his realm. He uses the setting, he involves everything possible. His choreography is intense, yet a real treat for the eye... it would be insane to see a wide shot of each one, given how easily everything could go wrong.
His fights are like Gene Kelly's dances... they are a splash from the rainpool that is left behind by these celluloid fantasies.
He has a face rubber, legs of springs and a true spirit for the circus, which he find of originates from. He writes and directs his true passion projects and has a team he loves working with. He's an auteur in the strictest sense.
And when he gets hit, he makes you feel the hits. His movements are like John Bonham's drumming, off-balance but getting you into the groove.
His screen persona has been lovingly crafted as the sympathetic rebel with a heart and it worked. He is a troublemaker but he stops it eventually.

Not only that but when you see his stuntwork and his outtakes in his older Hong Kong films, he suffers to hell and back again for his craft. The Jackass crew has absolutely nothing on him. Just look at the stunts in those early films of his and realize he is not playing around... those are for real... helicopter chasing, train fighting, electrocution, falling... he's got a death wish for his movies.
The worse degree is when he almost died on set of Armour of God, just from not having a fucking crashmat in case a branch broke (it did).

He is a far cry from a fan of his American films, which I both don't blame him for and yet think he needs to understand he owes part of his international appeal to some of these films. Certainly Rush Hour made him a huge American name and it's arguably the only good Brett Ratner movie made (Maybe After the Sunset was alright), Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights have provided a balance of comedy while portraying a new side of him with their genre-bending and The Forbidden Kingdom, while being a somewhat decent but not great film, opened up to that fandom wish of a Jackie Chan and Jet Li fight... and they make him more accessible to a world's audience with his versatility.

I kind of grew up on the Jackie Chan Adventures cartoon as well, because it had that feel of a great Jackie Chan flick while doing things he couldn't possibly do in real life. And his Uncle's character was excellent. One more thing!

Sure, he's not even close to Chaplin's skill in acting or directing, but he warrants a lot of respect. I demand people watch more of his movies.

Above all, who the fuck hates a Jackie Chan movie? Who the fuck goes to a Jackie Chan movie thinking 'this better be Citizen Kane'? You're going to have fun with a Jackie Chan film... even the bad ones...

So, why do I write this? Because a friend of mine asked me to make a list of Jackie Chan movies he must watch... So I relent...
Drunken Master
Drunken Master II
Project A
Project A Part II - My favorite Jackie Chan film
Rush Hour
Police Story
Dragon Lord
Winners and Sinners
Armour of God
Operation Condor
Police Story 3: Super Cop
Rumble in the Bronx
Who Am I?

.... I really want to put Twin Dragons, but it is not essential essential. So, there you have it. My suggestions for a Jackie Chan marathon. Get to it. It's Jackie Chan...

He's not a bad singer neither. He has pipes...

Whenever somebody tells me they're sad, I show them the following clip to cheer them up...

20 Years of Cinema-Watching Part 6 - 20 Favorite Screenplays

Sorry about the timegap once more. Midterms and work have taken over.

I just took on a challenge by one of my law/film professors (who is the son of a particular Oscar-winning composer, who I will not name because I don't want to be a name-dropper, but come on, that's exciting) to write a screenplay based solely on the title Butt Ugly. So, this chapter in the 20 Years program is very much appropriate to me now.

So, at around the age of 11, I use to have a very heavy habit of reading scripts. Deliberately scripts from the Top 250 of IMDb, but then it expanded to scripts from beyond the popularity list. Many movies I have probably read the script before I've even seen the movie. And as such, it turned me onto the formatting for movie screenplays. Part of my self-teaching of the screenwriting format would be to have an early draft of a script opened up on my computer, like Saving Private Ryan, and install every change from the final cut of the film to the script in painstaking format, trying to word it and format it in a seamless appearance.
Eventually, that got me to writing my own scripts and I can recall the first couple full screenplays I wrote (most of them are juvenile, but I still have some love for them) - The Justice Force, Disturbing the Peace, Defending the Gear, Dude Isn't That Illegal?. It was a great feeling to wrap up a screenplay I would be excited about for a while. Now, it's just habit to be writing something...

Now, most of these choices, I have not read the script for. I'm just basing it on the movie's dialogue and the actions the progression and characters. But I'd like to dedicate this post to the fine craft of screenwriting for all to enjoy, one that gets little respect, one that I heard John Landis in a recent Q&A I attended call out as a "bastard" form, and one that I also read being the most important part of the screenwriting.

Let's go.

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) - Tarantino's scripts have a habit of being leaked. I'd say he's excited to tell the story. I remember really really getting excited about the bar scene and looking forward to its depiction in the movie. I was not disappointed.

"Ten-hut! My name is Lt. Aldo Raine and I'm puttin' together a special team; and I need me eight soldiers. Eight Jewish-American soldiers. Now, y'all might've of heard rumors about the armada happening soon. Well, we'll be leaving a little earlier. We're gonna be dropped into France, dressed as civilians. And once we're in enemy territory, as a bushwackin' guerrilla army, we're gonna be doing one thing and one thing only … killing Nazis. Now, I don't know about y'all, but I sure as hell didn't come down from the goddamn Smoky Mountains, cross five thousand miles of water, fight my way through half of Sicily and jump out of a fuckin' air-o-plane to teach the Nazis lessons in humanity. Nazi ain't got no humanity. They're the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin', mass murderin' maniac, and they need to be dee-stroyed. That's why any and every sumbitch we find wearin' a Nazi uniform, they're gonna die. Now, I am the direct descendant of the mountain man Jim Bridger, and that means I got a little Injun in me. And our battle plan will be that of an Apache resistance. We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us, and the Germans won't be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the Germans will be sickened by us, and the Germans will talk about us, and the Germans will fear us. And when the Germans close their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil that they've done, it will be with thoughts of us that they are tortured with. Sound good? That's what I like to hear. But I got a word of warning for all you would-be-warriors: when you join my command, you take on debit, a debit you owe me personally. Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps! And all y'all will get me one hundred Nazi scalps taken from the heads of one hundred dead Nazis, or you will die tryin'!"

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) - Tarantino's classic. You love it. You know you fucking love it. It's the coolest script ever written.

"I'm givin' you that money so I don't have to kill your ass. You read the Bible, Ringo? Well, there's this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee." I been saying that shit for years. And if you heard it, that meant your ass. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was some cold-blooded shit to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this morning made me think twice. See, now I'm thinking, maybe it means you're the evil man, and I'm the righteous man, and Mr. 9 millimeter here, he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is, you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm trying, Ringo. I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd."

Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005) - I had read this script and approached Rian Johnson himself for the blessings to make my own adaptation of the script (albeit a couple of personal and directorial changes - particularly in the lead character, Brendan Frye, turning him from an ambiguous mysterious protagonist to a real holier-than-thou son of a bitch - there was a backstory almost completely excised from the movie that would have given leverage to that persona and I wanted to add a bit more of it so it didn't seem to come out of my ass). He gave his blessings, but unfortunately the project went through 2 full years of flopping around and then I just gave up with it. It was a dark period in my life, especially considering how I related with the main plot, it was almost a wish fulfillment fantasy for me to make this film as closure.
But that's besides the point, it was also a really great script with such lovely flourishes to the old works of Dashiell Hammett, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler and Humphrey Bogart. It's a real treat of a picture.
I'll never say never on making it (I have one particular potential cast member who insists I jump back on it one day), but I've gotten over the incident that gave me such a passionate feeling for the project and I need to find more reliable people to work with first.

   "So what's the word with Em?"
   "She's gone."
   "Can't raise her?" 

   "No, I can't." 

"Brain, I can't let her go. I was set to but I can't. I don't think I can."
"You think you can help her?
"You think you can get the straight, maybe break some deserving teeth?"
"Yeah. I think I could."
"Kara tried to rope me. She came right out and asked. She was scared. Tell me to walk from this, Brain. Tell me to drop it."
"Walk from it. Drop it. But you're thick, Brendan."
"...Yes, I am."

Chinatown (Robert Towne, 1974) - Largely considered one of the best screenplays ever written, with good reason... the mystery in this film is impeccable, the content is shocking, it kept me at the edge of my seat, the characterizations are three-dimensional and there's always something new to reveal at the end of each scene...
I also have to say it is one of the most realistic endings I've encountered in a movie. Albeit it sucks to feel that way about such an ending.

"Tell me, Mr. Gittes: Does this often happen to you?"
"What's that?"
"Well, I'm judging only on the basis of one afternoon and an evening, but, uh, if this is how you go about your work, I'd say you'd be lucky to, uh, get through a whole day."
"Actually, this hasn't happened to me for a long time."
"When was the last time?"
"It's an innocent question."
"In Chinatown."
"What were you doing there?"
"Working for the District Attorney."
"Doing what?"
"As little as possible."
"The District Attorney gives his men advice like that?"
"They do in Chinatown."

The Third Man (Graham Greene, 1949) - Every bit of praise I gave Chinatown, The Third Man deserves tenfold. I really think it's a bitter script than Chinatown could ever be and they both are easily about the same thing - the true requiem of humanity when power is acquired.
The Third Man only gets its edge for being extremely novel.

"Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs - it's the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I."
"You used to believe in God."
"Oh, I still do believe in God, old man. I believe in God and Mercy and all that. But the dead are happier dead. They don't miss much here, poor devils. What do you believe in? Oh if you ever get Anna out of this mess, be kind to her. You'll find she's worth it. Holly, I'd like to cut you in, old man. There's nobody left in Vienna I can really trust, and we've always done everything together. When you make up your mind, send me a message - I'll meet you any place, any time, and when we do meet old man, it's you I want to see, not the police. Remember that, won't ya? Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly."

True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2010) - Sure, it's basically ripping the book from its pages, but it fits so well as a Coen Brothers script, you can hardly notice it.

"The jakes is occupied."
"I know it is occupied, Mr. Cogburn. As I said, I have business with you."
"I have prior business."
"You have been at it for quite some time, Mr. Cogburn."
"There is no clock on my business! To hell with you! How did you stalk me here?"
"The sheriff told me to look in the saloon. In the saloon they referred me here. We must talk."
"Women ain't allowed in the saloon!"
"I was not there as a customer. I am fourteen years old."
"The jakes is occupied. And will be for some time."

The Godfather (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) - It's the great American movie, of course the script's going to be an epic in itself.

"I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend, not an Italian. She went to the movies with him. She stayed out late. I didn't protest. Two months ago he took her for a drive, with another boy friend. They made her drink whiskey and then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her. Like an animal. When I went to the hospital her nose was broken. Her jaw was shattered, held together by wire. She couldn't even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life. A beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again. Sorry... I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison, and suspended the sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool, and those two bastards, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, "For justice, we must go to Don Corleone.""

The Godfather, Part II (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) - If you have to ask... you'll never know...

"There was this kid I grew up with; he was younger than me. Sorta looked up to me, you know. We did our first work together, worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During Prohibition, we ran molasses into Canada... made a fortune, your father, too. As much as anyone, I loved him and trusted him. Later on he had an idea to build a city out of a desert stop-over for GI's on the way to the West Coast. That kid's name was Moe Greene, and the city he invented was Las Vegas. This was a great man, a man of vision and guts. And there isn't even a plaque, or a signpost or a statue of him in that town! Someone put a bullet through his eye. No one knows who gave the order. When I heard it, I wasn't angry; I knew Moe, I knew he was head-strong, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we've chosen; I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!"

Network (Paddy Chayefsky, 1976) - Is there anything that suggests this movie is not one of the smarter, prophetic films ever made? Nevermind the fact that it hates my Arab origins (which I don't think is unintentional on the part of Chayefsky), this script really is telling of the newscasting business and we'd be crying if we weren't busy gasping and laughing at the things in this movie. It's a bizarre world, but it's  the one we live in.

"I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.
We know things are bad — worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.'
Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot — I don't want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say: 'I'm a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!'
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!
I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!...You've got to say, I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE! Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin, 2010)  - Dat wit tho. It's sharp and full of flavor. That movie owes 70 percent of its effect to the script.

"Mr. Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?"
"Do you think I deserve it?"
"Do you think I deserve your full attention?"
"I had to swear an oath before we began this deposition, and I don't want to perjure myself, so I have a legal obligation to say no."
"Okay – no. You don't think I deserve your attention."
"I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try, but there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.... Did I adequately answer your condescending question?"

The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)  - The purest of the Coen Brothers tales, rich in allegory, adaptation, mystery and quirk. A true timeless classic of a cinematic story.

"Fuckin' Quintana … that creep can roll, man."
"Yeah, but he's a pervert, Dude."
"No, he's a sex offender. With a record. He served 6 months in Chino for exposing himself to an eight year old."
"When he moved to Hollywood he had to go door to door to tell everyone he was a pederast."
"What's a … pederast, Walter?"
"Shut the fuck up, Donny."

Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima, 1961) - Really hits the Hammett fanboy in me and Sanjuro is just a badass to read about. I'd actually love to just stand up and act out his scenes as I read, trying to sound just as cool.

"You're all tough, then?"
"What? Kill me if you can!" 
"It'll hurt."
"A gambler is not frightened of the blade."
"No help for fools."

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Age & Scarpelli, Sergio Leone and Luciano Vincenzoni, 1966) - A thrill ride of a story to follow. It's a movie that's all story, but it's also a story that's a fucking movie! To not be able to turn an audience on its head in such a race is an injustice to entertainment.

"You think you're better than I am? Where we came from, if one did not want to die of poverty, one became a priest or a bandit! You chose your way, I chose mine. Mine was harder. You talk of our mother and father. You remember when you left to become a priest? I stayed behind! I must have been ten, twelve. I don't remember which, but I stayed. I tried, but it was no good. Now I am going to tell you something. You became a priest because you were... too much of a coward to do what I do!"

Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa and Masato Ide, 1980) - Probably Kurosawa's most fantastic tale, his least Western. It really brings out the artist in him.

"I know it is difficult. I was for a long time the lord's double. It was torture. It is not easy to suppress yourself to become another. Often I wanted to be myself and free. But now I think this was selfish of me. The shadow of a man can never desert that man. I was my brother's shadow. Now that I have lost him, it is as though I am nothing."

The Magnificent Seven (William Roberts, 1960) - I prefer The Magnificent Seven over the amazing classic Seven Samurai and that's for three reasons: It removes the filler that wouldn't work if Kurosawa wasn't at the helm; unlike a certain Leone picture, it stands on its own and doesn't rip off the story; and nostalgia... But the first two factors really showcase my love for its script.

"I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to see a village like this. So much restlessness and change in the outside world. People no longer content with their station in life. Women's fashions — shameless! Religion! You'd weep if you saw how true religion is now a thing of the past. Last month we were in San Juan, a rich town. Sit down. Rich town, much blessed by God. Big church — not like here, little church, priest comes twice a year. Big one. You'd think we'd find gold candlesticks, poor-box filled to overflowing. You know what we found? Brass candlesticks. Almost nothing in the poor box."
"We took it anyway."
"I know we took it anyway! I'm trying to show him how little religion some people now have."
"That I can see for myself."
"No! You don't see! What if you had to carry my load, huh? The need to provide food like a good father to fill the mouths of his hungry men. Guns, ammunition — you know how much money that costs? Huh? Uh?"

Casablanca (Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, 1942) - Suspenseful, romantic, patriotic and wonderful in every dimension that paper allows for it to be. Then came the wonder of the movie itself.

"I've often speculated on why you don't return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Did you run off with a Senator's wife? I like to think that you killed a man. It's the romantic in me."
"It's a combination of all three."
"And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?"
"My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters"
"The waters? What waters? We're in the desert."
"I was misinformed."

Crank (Neveldine/Taylor, 2006) - You can already picture the chaos as you read the script, the complete sheer nonsense that it just leaks out and spills all over its pages. And it's really fun. I had to see the movie the moment I finished reading the damn thing.
Oh and it's a ticking time bomb that's going to kill in the end, even on paper.

"Hey doll. Looks like I let you down again. You were right about me ... funny, you really have time to reflect on things when you know you're going to die... seems like all my life I've just been going, going, going ... I wish I'd taken more time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, but well, I guess it's too late now... you were the greatest, baby."

Iron Man (Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, 2008) - To put it shortly, it is everything I want a superhero film to be. An origin story that gets through the origin effectively but impactfully, a primarily character-driven piece and extremely relevant yet timeless. Let alone the Tony Stark wit that helps sugarcoat his extreme flaws as a person. And the Avengers touches that makes the film comic book in style.

"You've been called the Da Vinci of our time. What do you say to that?"
"Absolutely ridiculous. I don't paint." 
"And what do you say to your other nickname, the Merchant of Death?" 
"That's not bad. Let me guess... Berkeley?"
"Brown, actually."
"Well, Ms. Brown. It's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we got. I guarantee you the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals." 
"Rehearse that much?"
"Every night in front of the mirror before bedtime."
"I can see that."
"I'd like to show you firsthand." 
"All I'm looking for is a straight answer."
"OK, here's a straight answer. My old man had a philosophy: peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy."
"That's a great line, coming from a guy selling the sticks."
"My father helped defeat Nazis. He worked on the Manhattan Project. A lot of people, including your professors at Brown, would call that being a hero."
"And a lot of people would also call that war-profiteering."
"Tell me, do you plan to report on the millions we've saved by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intelli-crops? All those breakthroughs, military funding, honey."
"Have you ever lost an hour of sleep in your life?"
"I'm be prepared to lose a few with you."

Barton Fink (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1991) - My favorite screenplay of all time and its about screenplays itself. And it's poetic in a huge sense, a purgatory, a genrebending twist that you could read as a horror, a comedy, a drama. It's what a script should be before it becomes a picture... limitless.

"Mister Fink, they have not invented a genre of picture that Bill Mayhew has not, at one time or other, been invited to essay. Yes, I have taken my stab at the rasslin' form, as I have stabbed at so many others, and with as little success. I gather that you are a freshman here, eager for an upperclassman's counsel. However, just at the moment, I have drinking to do. Why don't you stop by my bungalow, which is number fifteen, later on this afternoon, and we will discuss rasslin' scenarios and other things lit'rary." 

Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi, 1990) - I think it's very hard not to be attracted to such a film with such an engaging tale. It's the one bad guy you don't feel any damn shame for rooting for that Henry Hill... he makes this gangster business seem fun... well, until he gets disillusioned with it. And Tommy sounds just as psychotic even without the Joe Pesci touch.

"You know, we always called each other good fellas. Like you said to, uh, somebody, :You're gonna like this guy. He's all right. He's a good fella. He's one of us.: You understand? We were good fellas. Wiseguys. But Jimmy and I could never be made because we had Irish blood. It didn't even matter that my mother was Sicilian. To become a member of a crew you've got to be one hundred per cent Italian so they can trace all your relatives back to the old country. See, it's the highest honor they can give you. It means you belong to a family and crew. It means that nobody can fuck around with you. It also means you could fuck around with anybody just as long as they aren't also a member. It's like a license to steal. It's a license to do anything. As far as Jimmy was concerned with Tommy being made, it was like we were all being made. We would now have one of our own as a member."


with a tip of the hat to Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Batman Begins, Ed Wood, The Shawshank Redemption, The French Connection, Young Frankenstein, All the President's Men, The Thing, The Terminator, Unforgiven, Syriana and Black Swan.