This Week In Actual Movie Taglines

A look at the taglines for this week's major releases. How do studios try to hook us when they only have a sentence?

The Invention of Lying


Actual tagline: In A World Where EVERYONE Can Only Tell The TRUTH... He's Just Invented The LIE

Because the title The Invention of Lying (which is reminiscient of Snakes On A Plane in its explicativeness) apparently wasn't enough, a two-part sentence hammers home the high-concept premise from star/co-writer/co-director Ricky Gervais.

I can't get past the logical contradiction involved- clearly, if he invents the lie, then it's no longer a world where "everyone can only tell the truth." It should more properly be "In a world where everyone has heretofore only told the truth..." and so on.

Whip It


Actual tagline: Be Your Own Hero

But what if I'm not eligible for women's roller derby? How will I be my own hero? Does that mean I should join the military?

Zombieland


Actual tagline: Nut Up Or Shut Up

OR: This Place Is So Dead

Dead! Get it? Like zombies are dead. And I'll "nut up" when I join the military- all right, movie taglines? Stop telling me what to do with your informal second person commands!

L.A.M.B.! What what?

Welcome to anyone linking here from The Large Association Of Movie Blogs, of which I am now a member.

Links that may interest you: my introductory post, the post introducing the imdb top 250 project, the list of all entries in said project.

And click HERE for the entry on the movie Crash (when I flipped out and picked apart every scene) which is pictured in my LAMB induction post.

Hope you like what you read! (You can always subscribe to the feed or become a follower if so).

IMDB #207 The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button


Today we reach an entry that I've already written about at some length: 2008's The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.

It was a dilemma: do I search for more things to say than I had in February, or do I just go ahead and link you to my write-up during Oscar Coverage and my 2008 top ten list (it was #6) and do something a lot less serious than normal?

Aaand just guess which route I took.

So without further ado, today I eschew the regular format once again and present The Curious Case of Benjamin Button In A Nutshell.

This is my second parody attempt, done much in a style that I hope is somewhat distinguishable from Cleolinda Jones' Movies In Fifteen Minutes.



The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button,
In A Nutshell:

Click for More...

OUR LADY OF PERPETUALLY UNNECESSARY FRAMING DEVICES MEMORIAL HOSPITAL

Hurricane Katrina rages outside the window

CAROLINE: So mom, I know you're about to die, and I really just wanted to say-

OLD DAISY: (In between Darth Vader breaths) There was this guy who built a clock, one time..

CAROLINE: Uh, what?

OLD DAISY: His son died in WWI, so he made the clock run backwards.

CAROLINE: I don't really see how that relates to-

OLD DAISY: Even Roosevelt saw how totally thematically relevant it was.

BLACK NURSE #1: Excuse me white folks, do you mind if I make a call? My son might be underwater right now.

CAROLINE: Sure, go ahead- though why you'd need our permission I'm not sure.. So anyway mom, I was trying to have sort of an emotional moment with you, and-

OLD DAISY: Let's read an old diary from my bag instead.

CAROLINE: I, um.. what?

OLD DAISY: Just the sound of your voice comforts me. But not your feelings and crap.

CAROLINE: Er, all right... this thing is pretty heavily art-designed... Ahem: 'April 4, 1985. New Orleans. This is my last will and testament, though mostly a testament since I have no possessions or heirs...

We transtion to New Orleans on Armistice Day, 1918. The street is full of dramatically-lit revelers, pretty happy that we avenged Franz Ferdinand or whatever. Benjamin takes over the diary reading duties in Voice Over.

BENJAMIN (VO): My name is Benjamin, Benjamin Button, and I was born under unusual circumstances. A war ended, my mother died, my father nearly drowned me in a river: I've been told it was an especially good night to be born.

We see most of that stuff happen at The Button House, culminating with MR. BUTTON leaving the wrinkly little BENJAMIN on the steps at a Nursing Home.


NURSING HOME

QUEENIE: Oh, it sure is a nice night not to need a surname. What's on your mind, Mr. Weathers?

MR. WEATHERS: Well, you know about how we have our own personal lives, outside of these white folks? Your ex-boyfriend's come back from the war, and-

QUEENIE: Look! A wrinkled white baby!

MR. WEATHERS: Lord! We should probably leave that for the po-lice.

QUEENIE: Grotesquery is no match for a southern matron! I will name him Benjamin.

Benjamin, now a young apparent-octogenarian, begins growing up in the old-folks' home.

BENJAMIN (VO): It was a fun place to grow up, among the mentally infirm. Once I met a young girl named Daisy, and I never forgot her blue eyes.

BENJAMIN: Mama, I'm still kinda old and creepified. Am I going to die?

QUEENIE: You already lived longer than that doctor said you would before he fainted at the sight of you. You just remember what I told you.

BENJAMIN: 'You never know what's coming for you'?

QUEENIE: Not even if it's a box of chocolates.


QUEENIE'S CHURCH MEETING

PREACHER: Here in black church meetings we don't just DO NORMAL CHURCH THINGS, we are compelled to SHOUT THEM AND SORT OF SING THEM AS WELL!

CROWD: Hallelujah!

PREACHER: Lord, compel this OLD CRIPPLED MAN to WALK! RISE UP!

Benjamin indeed walks, in a totally not Gumpian way.

CROWD: Hallelujah!

BENJAMIN (VO): Then, his purpose served, the black preacher keeled over and died for comic effect.

CROWD: Halle...lujah?


NURSING HOME, Some time Later

DAISY: Psst, Benjamin! Wake up! Let's go downsairs to my fort!

BENJAMIN: Uh..okay!

DAISY: I've been asking old people to my fort all night, and you're the first taker! You're odd- odder than anyone I've ever met.

BENJAMIN: I'm not as old as I look. But you're a little kid with Cate Blanchett's dubbed-in voice, so we're even.

DAISY's GRANDMOTHER: AMBER ALERT! Back upstairs, the both of you!


THE DOCKS, Later still

LIGHTNING GUY: Did I ever tell you I was struck by lightning seven times? Once when I was just reading a Winston Groom novel.

CAPTAIN MIKE: Is anyone here so starved for life experience that they'll enjoy doing menial labor on a tugboat? There's really no screening process.

BENJAMIN: Ooh! Right here!

BENJAMIN (VO): He was the best crazy-mentor ever: he taught me to scrub poop off things, took me to a brothel, and ranted about his tattoos for a while. One time I ran into a guilt-ridden looking guy at the brothel.

MR. BUTTON: Your condition must be awful to endure.

BENJAMIN: It's not so bad being old, really. What line of work you in, Mr. Button?

MR. BUTTON: Buttons. Our slogan is: 'Button's Buttons: The Buttoniest Buttons that ever Buttoned in Button-town!' You mind if I drop in on you on occasion, even though we're allegedly strangers?

BENJAMIN: Just keep these drinks coming.

BENJAMIN (VO): In 1936, at the age of seventeen, when I still looked mid-sixites old, I left for Russia. I promised to send Daisy post-cards from everywhere I traveled, because whatever we had was less creepy via post.

FRAMING DEVICE HOSPITAL

OLD DAISY: Can you believe it? He really sent me cards from Newfoundland, Glasgow, Liverpool..

CAROLINE: Looking at the actual post-cards You mean...this is all true? Why didn't he go to the doctor? His genetics could have contained the secret to eternal youth!

OLD DAISY: Norway...

CAROLINE: ...

BACK IN RUSSIA

At a bar

CAPTAIN MIKE: I'm telling you, hummingbirds are amazing creatures! They're enduring cinematic images, for one thing, and their wings make the symbol for infinity!

BENJAMIN: What does that have to do with a backwards clock?

CAPTAIN MIKE: What?

BENJAMIN (VO): Then, I had an affair with a classy British woman, mostly because she mistook my youthful sheepishness for aged wisdom (and I looked like an old Brad Pitt). I figured I'd write Daisy about it, no big deal.

DAISY (in New York): HWHAT?!

Back in the Russian bar

CAPTAIN MIKE: Listen up, you! Since I wasn't already enough like Lt. Dan, our tugboat's been conscripted to serve in World War II. All of my crew are free to quit, or each you and and your one notable personality trait better be ready to fight!

Somehow the tugboat pwns a submarine in a doubtlessly very expensive scene, but several are killed and Benjamin finds Captain Mike with approximately seven hundred bullet-wounds in his chest)

CAPTAIN MIKE: You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You could swear, curse unresolved plot-holes, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go.

BENJAMIN: Wait! How did you ever tattoo your own back, anyway?

CAPTAIN MIKE: ...

Benjamin and one other survivor are rescued- Benajmin poignantly sees a hummingbird at sea, even though he's somewhere in Europe and hummingbirds are native to the Americas.

BENJAMIN (VO): Then, in 1945, I came home, looking kind of like Atticus Finch right after retirement.

NURSING HOME

QUEENIE: Sweet lord you're home! What'd you see while you were away? Sadness? Joy? Things that came for you even though you didn't see them in advance?

BENJAMIN: Pretty much.

LIGHTNING GUY: Did I ever tell you I was struck by lightning seven times? Once I was just sharing a birthday cake with John McCain.

DAISY (now a woman): Benajmin! Wow, you look way age-appropriate these days! It must be fate, us meeting again like this, even though I showed up at the old folks' home long after my grandmother's death. Or kismet. I'm a dancer now! I live in New York. You want to see me dance, just for you?

BENJAMIN: Well, I, uh-

DAISY: I have to go back tomorrow, it's a shame. If only there were something we could do for one night. Well?

BENJAMIN: I'd like to, but not tonight is all.

DAISY: Hmmp.

BENJAMIN: Plus, you're a smoker. Seriously- ashtray.

Daisy leaves- sometime later, MR. BUTTON shows up.

MR. BUTTON: Yep, the war's been pretty good for the button industry- lots of money. Sure is a pretty good time to be a Button...also I'm your dad.

BENJAMIN: WTF!?

MR. BUTTON: I just though you were a monster, is all! Also I'm about to die and again, millionaire.

BENJAMIN: Well, it was past time I got around to having a surname anyway.

LIGHTNING GUY: Did I ever tell you I was struck by lightning seven times? Once I was just golfing on top of the Sears tower during a storm. I think it's god's way of telling me I'm lucky to be alive.

BENJAMIN: I think it might be his way of trying to kill you.

NEW YORK, A Few Years Later

DAISY: Benajamin? What are you doing here? If I'd known you were coming, I would've tidied up this den of sin we call New York.

BENJAMIN: Well, I rejected you, so I thought I'd give you a shot at payback. It's only fair.

DAISY: No way! I happen to be dating some douchebag!

SOME DOUCHEBAG: So, you were a friend of her grandmother's?

FRAMING DEVICE HOSPITAL

OLD DAISY: Then I went all over Europe as a dancer.

CAROLINE: You never told me about any of that!

OLD DAISY: Well, you're kind of a square.

PARIS

BENJAMIN (VO): Now, in a very extreme turn of fate I met Daisy again. A truly monumental set of coincidences contrived to lead to Daisy getting hit by a car, so I rushed to Paris to be by her side. Clearly this was the extreme circumstance that would finally bring us together forever, or I wouldn't spend so much time building up to this moment.

DAISY: Benjamin? Get out before I MELT YOUR FACE OFF WITH RAGE!

Audience: Wait, what?

NEW ORLEANS

BENJAMIN (VO): I went home, posed for some Tommy Hilfiger ads, slept around- the usual. Then, in the spring of 1962, she came back.

DAISY: I'm sorry- I couldn't let you see me that way, before.

BENJAMIN: Well, can I see you...naked?

DAISY: And how!

BENJAMIN (VO): It was everything the life of the beautiful and rich could be. We traveled the world, made love, got an apartment. Queenie died, but life was otherwise pretty great... then we ruined it by having a kid. Typical.

FRAMING DEVICE HOSPITAL

CAROLINE: Hold on for just a minute here.

OLD DAISY: Questions at the end, please!

NEW ORLEANS

BENJAMIN: How I can I be a father when I'm heading in the other direction? I'm gonna get shorter, lose mental faculty, need diapers...

DAISY: How many obvious jokes about that being the same as old age do I have to make before you change your mind?

BENJAMIN (VO): When you were one, Caroline, I pulled the old cigarette routine and left. I traveled the world, but I sent you post-cards, so we're cool, right? Button out!

FRAMING DEVICE HOSPITAL

CAROLINE: Worst. Twist. Ending. Ever!

Awkward pause.

CAROLINE: What ever happened to him, anyway?

OLD DAISY: Well, he showed back up once, you met him and we lied to you some more, then I cheated on your "father" with him.

CAROLINE: ...

OLD DAISY: Then a few years back, he showed up as a little kid with Alzheimer's, and eventually died in my arms as an infant.

CAROLINE: ...

OLD DAISY: That was the same year they took down that backwards-moving clock.

CAROLINE: Who cares about the stupid clock? I'm gonna go get a drink.

Daisy looks to the window in her last moments of life and sees a hummingbird, even though they weigh as much as a nickel and Hurricane Katrina had winds of up to 175 MPH.

END.


Overall:

The Verdict: Slightly Lower.

The more I watch this movie, the more I sour on it a little each time. Sophie pointed out that it's not that it's bad, it's that it could have been so great. I like it for the occasional humor, Lightning Guy especially, and as a massive technical acheivement, but Eric Roth's screenplay just kills me, more and more.

Coming Up...

Thursday, September 24th: Bringing Up Baby

Tuesday, September 29th: The Battle Of Algiers

This Week In Actual Movie Taglines

A look at the taglines for this week's major releases. How do studios try to hook us when they only have a sentence?

Fame


Actual tagline: Dream It - Earn It - Live It

How does one "live" fame, precisely? Also, it's important to follow those instructions in that order- you can't Dream It and then Live It, not until you Earn It.

All the other taglines for the remake of Fame come from the title song, "Fame." Question: can you name anyone from the original Fame? No? Me neither. Ironic, no?

Pandorum


Actual tagline: Don't fear the end of the world. Fear what happens next.

Oh....kay? I'm not sure what I'm fearing, then, Pandorum. Some sort of judgement in the afterlife? Radiation poisoning?

Maybe fear itself?

Surrogates


Actual tagline: How do you save humanity when the only thing that's real is you?

This one leads me to wonder- why are so many tags in the second person? I really don't know the answer to your question, Surrogates, because I am not Bruce Willis, star of Surrogates. Also I can't really answer your question based on the material available to me: based on the poster I'd say...grow a goatee?

IMDB #208 The Lost Weekend


Another day, another Best Picture winner on the countdown- this one 1945's The Lost Weekend.

Here for the first time, Hollywood takes on the evils of liquor and the troubles of alcoholism, with the downward-spiral film to end (or begin, rather) all others.

The Key Players:

Billy Wilder, legendary Golden Age director, makes the first of six appearances on the countdown (including Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17, Witness For The Prosecution, Some Like It Hot, and The Apartment). He also helmed the well-known Marilyn Monroe vehicle The Seven-Year Itch and the Charles Lindbergh biopic The Spirit of St. Louis.

Our marquee idol is Ray Milland, a Best Actor Oscar winner for this role, who also starred in future entry Dial M For Murder in a long-storied career.

Jane Wyman co-stars- her career includes four Oscar nominations, one win (for Johnny Belinda), the longest cinematic kiss in history (3 minutes, 5 seconds), a late career resurgence on "Falcon Crest" with Lorenzo Lamas, and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (for Film and TV). She's also the only ex-wife of an eventual president, divorcing Ronald Reagan in 1948 for her Belinda co-star (remember?).



Click for More...

The Story:

A 33-year old failed writer named Don Birnam (Milland) begins the film distractedly packing for a weekend trip with his brother, Wick. Don's girlfriend, Helen (Wyman) and his brother say the trip will be good for him after what he's "been through," but Don claims he hasn't touched the stuff for ten days.

Clearly though, he has- Don has a hidden bottle of rye whiskey (his drink of choice) hanging suspended from the windowsill, and he waits only for his brother to step out of the room before trying to hide it in his suitcase. What follows is a no-holds barred descent into alcoholism, as Don convinces Wick and Helen to leave him alone for a few hours, cons the cleaning lady out of $10 (which is like $88 today) and buys two bottles of whiskey and several more shots at the bar.

The bartender, Nat (whose accent cracked me up every time he called Milland "Mr. Boinum") is a little reluctant to serve a known alcoholic, but he takes his money anyway, and listens as Don recounts exactly how he got such a caring and upwardly mobile girlfriend (Helen works for TIME magazine). They met, as we see in flashback, when their coats were switched at the Opera- Don had ducked out early to get a bottle of whiskey in his raincoat, but without the right ticket to give the checker, had to wait out the remaining acts until Helen appeared. They hit it off, and Don even lies about the bottle of whiskey when it falls from his coat, claiming it to be for a sick friend.

Later, we see Don, an unemployed writer who can never start what he finishes, back out of meeting Helen's parents when he overhears them wondering about what kind of future he has. He needs one drink to face them, but one drink becomes two, and so on, until Helen finds him in a stupor at his apartment and learns of his alcoholism for the first time. But with true 1940s stick-to-it-iveness, she shrugs it off and vows to help him, and help him get a job, and kisses the drunken wretch! If this woman and Don's saintly brother can't save him, then surely nothing can.

Coming back to the present of the narrative, we're reminded Don still hasn't changed. He decides, in a moment of clarity, to finally write That Novel (oh, That Novel. I've been writing my That Novel since February) and runs up to his apartment and begins click-clacking the typewriter.

About a half shake of a lamb's tail later (does that expression mean time? Or is a "lamb tail shake" a measure of distance?) he's tearing apart his apartment, looking for the second bottle of whiskey he drunkenly hid the night before. He finds it, dramatically, hidden in the overhead light, and drinks himself to sleep again.

The next day, avoiding the phone, Helen's visits, and his landlady (Wick has given up and gone on the weekend trip without him), Don tries to pawn his typewriter for more booze money, but finds the pawn-shops all closed. He finally pathetically begs one shot from Nat, who kicks him out, and some money from a barfly girl that he stood up the night before. But he (hilariously) trips over a child's bicycle on the stairs and wakes up in an alcoholic ward!

There, an orderly tells frightening tales of small animal hallucinations brought on by withdrawal, and Don witnesses the frenzied shouting of the other inmates.

Has he finally hit rock bottom?

The Artistry:

The Lost Weekend was the first real look at the perils of binge-drinking and chronic alcoholism, at least in a serious manner- plenty of drunks and lushes had been played for laughs in the pictures to that point. The liquor companies even allegedly offered Paramount $5 Million dollars (which is like $44 Million today) not to release the film- curiously, temperance groups also lobbied against it, claiming it would promote drinking.

People even told Milland, a classic hero/leading man type, that the role of a slovenly drunkard would ruin his career- as it turned out, it was his most memorable role. Milland, in a performance that's sort of a dark mirror of Jimmy Stewart-like histrionics (because it's not, you know, funny), really succeeds at portraying a hopeless depression along with the addiction- all of the tropes we've come to expect from cinematic fall from graces started with this performance, in a lot of ways.

The novel that The Lost Weekend is based on has one key element that Wilder and co. removed: the Birnam in the book is driven to drink by the memories of a homosexual college experience that he still finds confusing- movie Birnam is just a writer that can't write and can't admit that he should do something else. I can't imagine that making the cut in the days of the Hayes Code, but it clearly would've been an entirely different film. The Lost Weekend still fares plenty well, and in a more universally relate-able way without it.

From a technical standpoint, it used some standard hazy lenses to get us into flashbacks, and I admired the way the plot was broken up, but the most memorable element was the score: the first film to use a theremin in the score, the drinking sequences were given shrieking notes of terror akin to anything from The Day The Earth Stood Still.

THE ENDING! SPOILERS!

Well, Don just up and walks out of the alcoholic ward (apparently they were pretty lax back in the day), and finds Helen on his doorstep. She comforts Don as much as she can (he's now hallucinating a rat coming out of the wall, which is then attacked by an hilariously fake looking bat), but the next morning sees him stealing her coat and running to a pawnshop. She goes to buy back the coat, only to find that Don had pawned it for a gun!

Don writes a suicide note (advising his brother to go with a small service and "a couple of good jokes"). Helen returns, sees the gun, and tries to distract Don with a drink. But he won't even take it, such is his resolve all of sudden to end it! All looks bleak.

But the Nat shows up at the door, miraculously, returning Don's typewriter, which he had dropped when he fell down the stairs. Taking it as a sign, Don sits down to write a novel based on his lost weekend, putting out a cigarette in his whiskey instead of drinking it.

He ends the film speculating to Helen about how many more poor schmucks must be out there, wondering where the next drink will come from, just like him.

END SPOILERS


Overall: Should it be Higher or Lower?

The Verdict: Lower

Paving the way as it did for the Leaving Las Vegases of the world, it wasn't that much fun to watch, and the score was terribly distracting, to be honest. I appreciate Milland's work, but I'm more excited for most of the other Billy Wilder films.

The Legacy:

Can four Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplay) and the Palm D'Or at Cannes be wrong? The Lost Weekend was also referenced a couple times in "Looney Tunes" (including a mouse reading a book titled The Lost Squeakend) and its influence can be seen in every "waking up surrounded by bottles" scene ever.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Psychadelic fake bat freakout!



Leftover Thoughts:

-Ray Milland gave the shortest Oscar acceptance speech ever- he just bowed and left the stage. That is bad-ass.

-I am currently a 25-year-old unpublished writer. If I'm still unpublished eight years later (Birnam was 33), maybe I'll be way more into this movie.

Coming Up...

Tuesday, September 22nd: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Thursday, September 24th: Bringing Up Baby

On Film Festival Coverage

When I am a famous film blogger, and I fly to TIFF and Telluride and TRIBECA and Cannes and Sundance and so forth, I promise, I absolutely promise that I will cover them like so:

TITLE: SOME FILM YOU HAVE NOT HEARD OF YET

STATUS: Unsold/ Sold to THIS OR THAT DISTRIBUTOR

WHEN IT IS SET TO OPEN IN NEW YORK/LA: THIS DATE
WHEN IT IS SET TO OPEN IN WIDE RELEASE: THAT DATE

THEN I will say it is directed by SOME PERSON and starring SOME OTHER PEOPLE and it is about SOME SORT OF PLOT OR WHATEVER.

And THEN, only THEN, will I give an opinion on said film you have not heard of yet, and it will be a relatively BRIEF one, because WHO HONESTLY CARES UNTIL IT IS RELEASED?

Not to be annoying, but I am sick to death of reading about Toronto and Utah and France and all these other places that I am not currently existing in, and seeing complete reviews of films that either will not be released for a very long time, will not be released wide enough to come even to Milwaukee, Wisconsin (where I live- represent!), or will never be picked up for wide distribution at all.

I liked reading, in summation, that Up In The Air was wowing everybody at Telluride, because I do care about the bigger picture and Oscar chances and things like that, but I don't need to read your review, do I, because it will not be released in a non-festival setting until Thanksgiving! But thanks for rubbing it in.

My girlfriend Sophie, who is a Young Adult lit blogger, was talking the other day about how YA bloggers who get Advanced Reading Copies (or ARCs) of upcoming novels have an unwritten rule about not posting reviews of those books until they're actually released. And it struck me as a perfectly logical and not-douchey way to go about things.

But hey, what does an amateur like myself know? If I can scrape together some expendable income, I might even attend some showings at the Milwaukee Film Festival, but I solemnly swear not to post full reviews of anything- I know it's contrary to the entire "blogging" phenomenon to write something and then sit on it for an extended period of time, but by golly that's what I'll do.

There. Regularly scheduled countdown entries resume shortly later today.

IMDB #209 Letters From Iwo Jima


Hey readers! Remember when we learned about how terrible it was to be in World War One? It turns out World War Two pretty much sucked as well. My question is, when the hell does war ever get fun? Is In The Army Now on this countdown?

No, no it isn't. This means we're faced with the grim reality of 2006's Letters From Iwo Jima, containing much more pathos and realism (and absolutely no Pauly Shore).

The Key Players:

Clint Eastwood becomes our first countdown threepeat! See #229 Mystic River and #213 Changeling for the skinny on the originator of the "Batman Voice."

Iris Yamashita wrote the screenplay, and shares a story credit with the inscrutable Paul Haggis, once again proving he belongs not in the director's chair, but behind the proverbial typewriter.

Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe, known to us uncouth Americans from The Last Samurai and Batman Begins, headlines a nearly all-Japanese cast that I know from nothing else. Co-star Kazunari Ninomiya is apparently a popstar/actor/radio host in Japan of Timberlakian proportion, notably.



Click for More...

The Story:

Letters tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective- Eastwood's previous, much less lauded film Flags Of Our Fathers had just depicted the American side (though it focused as much on the famous flag-raising photograph and its effects as on the battle itself).

Eastwood, as much as he courts the moral grey area by depicting both sides of the same battle, still populates the film with effectually good guys and bad guys: our audience surrogates are General Kuribayashi (Watanabe), a forward-thinking general, former Olympic horse jumper Nishi, and Private Saigo (Ninomiya), who just wants to return home to his wife and child.

Those three stand in arms at many different moments with the traditionally uyielding, suicide-in-the-face-of-defeat officers Oshugi, Hayashi, Ito and Tarida.

Anyway, we follow Saigo as he digs trenches and tunnels preparing for the coming siege by U. S. troops, watching his comrades die from dysentery and missing his young wife and child. Kuribayashi laments the lack of support from the mainland- Iwo Jima is ultimately to receive no air, ground, or naval support, despite its prominence as a Pacific launching pad.

The enemy arrives, and the defenses at Mount Suribachi, with Saigo among them, are quickly overwhelmed despite the heavy losses dealt to American troops landing on the volcanic ash beaches. By radio, Kuribayashi orders remaining troops to retreat to the northern caves- the officers on hand, however, honor tradition instead of the general, and order all troops at Suribachi to commit suicide.

After a hoorifying scene in which Saigo watches all but one of his compatriots hold grenades to their chests as they explode, he convinces one other nervous soldier named Shimizu to retreat with him, claiming it is more honorable to continue fighting.

We follow them through a series of harrowing confrontations as they survive ill-fated charges ordered by bull-headed officers, leave behind a blinded-by-shrapnel Nishi (who then commits suicide), and finally near the north tunnels. Shimizu, Saigo's last friend, surrenders to the Americans in an effort to avoid a pointless death, but is carelessly shot by a GI that didn't want to stand guard duty (mirroring the earlier bayonetting of an American POW at the hands of the Japanese).

Finally Saigo and a handful of others reach Kuribayashi, and prepare to mount a last, doomed charge.

Throughout this entire narrative, we see Nishi, Kuribayashi, and Saigo write letters to their wives and children that will never be sent.

The Artistry:

I neglected to mention a modern day framing device in which said letters are discovered in the present, because it adds pretty much nothing other than some archaeologist-type dudes finding some letters. Oh, modern-day framing devices, will you ever go away?

Anyway, Letters From Iwo Jima is nearly our second black and white film in a row, except that its just nearly colorless- it's sort of washed out with grey, letting only the occasional orange explosion or red spatter of blood through the filter, and it certainly sets a bleak tone.

Eastwood, still making everything a western, pits our "fight to the death" cowboy type Japanese officers (Nishi even brings his horse with him) against the "die as soon as you fail at fighting" Japanese stalwarts, and its easy to read it as a condemnation of the quasi-religious Japanese fervor that stoked the war effort for so long.

That said, it's not as if Eastwood is stretching the facts: of 10,000 Japanese soldiers at Iwo Jima, only 216 were taken prisoner. It's just a little convenient that the two opponents of this seemingly irrational belief system, Nishi and Kuribayashi, both think fondly of time they spent in America. Nishi is also the one shown connecting with a wounded American captive, chatting with him about the States, while the other POW is violently stabbed to death.

Saigo is a more effective surrogate, since he just wants to go home, and he has a more universal soldiers tale of enlistment, disillusionment, and a sense of self-preservation above all. His journey may as well be that of a German soldier in All Quiet On The Western Front.

Though the entire story is told with Eastwood's typical one-take directness, it's a pretty stolidly paced two hours twenty minutes- it drags a little bit before the enemy arrives, but really drives home the length of the battle thereafter.

Cinematographer (and frequent Eastwood collaborator) Tom Stern is pretty seamless with the battle mise en scene- I noticed that the camera would be steady as we watched soldiers prepare to fire, and the shake as the guns went off, mirroring the recoil effect. Touches like those (and the Oscar-winning Sound Editing) really put you into the battle, something we sort of take for granted in a post-Saving Private Ryan world.

THE ENDING! SPOILERS!

Kuribayashi, having twice earlier saved Saigo from the wrath of other officers, saves him a third time by ordering him to stay behind and burn important intelligence while everyone else stages the final charge.

That charge, of course, goes disastrously, and Saigo emerges onto the beach to find a dying Kuribayashi, pulled away from the mayhem, and grants his last wish- to bury his body where "no one can find it." Kuribayashi shoots himself, in order to die while Iwo Jima is still technically Japanese soil.

Saigo is later taken captive by American troops, and the Battle of Iwo Jima finally ends.

END SPOILERS


Overall: Should it be Higher or Lower?

The Verdict: Slightly Lower

Definitely a worthy war-movie, as restrained in its bleak and unflinching portrayal of a lost cause as All Quiet On The Western Front was over the top in the wake of the silent movie era.

I only wish that there were more of an effort to understand the culture that was in the last throes of war, rather than glorify the more modern-thinking characters. And I'm not asking for a complex voice-over digression, just perhaps characters that bridged that gap more effectively (to be fair, there was Lt. Okubo, who didn't mind the order to retreat, but shot a fellow soldier that wanted to surrender).

The Legacy:

One Oscar for sound, a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film (it wasn't eligible for the corresponding Oscar, which might be more correctly called "Best Foreign Production"- it requires a foreign director, and shooting location. Letters was filmed mostly in California and Eastwood is as American as they come).

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

The troubling scene in which people blow themselves up- I appreciated that this is presented without an excess of dramatic framing or heavy score. Just one by one.



Leftover Thoughts:

-I was pretty ready to be pissed if this stole the Oscar from The Departed at the 79th Oscars, but in retrospect it stacks up pretty well against that film. It was more of a spillover from Scorsese still not having an Award for directing at that point, and Million Dollar Baby over The Aviator the year before.

-I first saw this in an empty, very cold theater in January 2007, and I remember getting chills when characters were supposed to be sweltering in extreme heat. It was odd.

Coming Up...

Friday, September 18th: The Lost Weekend

Tuesday, September 22nd: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

IMDB #210 Ed Wood


Greetings, my friends! Today we take a look into the past, for that is where you and are have spent the entirety of our lives: the past! Tim Burton gives the sympathetic biopic treatement to "worst director of all time" Edward D. Wood, Jr. with 1994's Ed Wood.

And if I take one thing away from this film, it's the idominitable nature of the human spirit, whether you're a closeted transvestite/movie director longing to be accepted, an aging screen legend/drug addict hoping to reclaim the spotlight, or just a film blogger/wannabe entertainment writer not able to keep up with watching three movies a week and writing about them analytically. No matter your dreams, just get them done whatever way you can.

The Key Players:

We once again visit with Tim Burton, director of previous countdown entry Big Fish, wherein I already wrote up his credentials. (sidenote: would you believe me if I told you that Tim Burton has only one Oscar nomination to his credit? Would you further believe if I told that that one nomination was for Corpse Bride in the Animated Film category?)

This is of course his second of approximately eight hundred billion collaborations with Johnny Depp, our nation's favorite pirate.

In support are:

Martin Landau ("Mission Impossible," "Space: 1999," North By Northwest)
Sarah Jessica Parker ("Sex and the City," Sex and the City: The Movie, the upcoming Sex and the City 2: The Quickening)
Patricia Arquette (the aptly-named show "Medium," Bringing Out The Dead, Flirting With Disaster)
Jeffrey Jones (forever known as the principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off
And the legendary Bill Murrary (who I'm sure we'll get to later on other things*).

*NOTE: further inspection reveals the only other top 250 entrant will be Groundhog Day. WTF? What about Ghostbusters? Caddyshack? Any Wes Anderson movie? Lost in Translation? Sometimes you fail me, internet.



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The Story:

We open on a ramshackle 1948 playhouse, where an audience of a half dozen or so watches a play put on by our hero, Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Depp). He and the cast and crew, including his friend Bunny Breckenridge (Murray) and girlfriend Dolores Fuller (Parker), stay up to read the review in the paper- it's a scathing one, but Wood pleasantly notes that the costumes are called "realistic."

We then see that very little daunts Wood as he goes to work delivering plants on a movie studio lot- he stops by the film stock warehouse to view stock footage that will just linger in storage, unused and comments on what a shame that is. Then he overhears that a movie is being made about Christine Jorgensen, one of the first widely known transsexuals.

He talks his way into a meeting with the producer of the proposed film, George Weiss, by claiming that he's "specially qualified" to direct the project- this qualification turns out to be his secret life as a tranvestite, which he has never before revealed (Wood was heterosexual, but had a thing for angora fabric due to some latent "being raised a girl" related mother issues. No biggy.). Weiss shoos him out the door as an underqualified nut.

Wood is dejected, but a chance encounter turns everything around: he runs into the now elderly Bela Lugosi (of Dracula fame) outside of a funeral parlor (where Lugosi was trying out coffins, you know, like ya do). Befriending the aging star by offering him a ride home (and effusively praising his work), he returns to Weiss armed with a real live (if washed up) movie star for the project, and offers to write a script as well.

Weiss gives in, and since rights to Christine Jorgensen's story were never acquired for I Changed My Sex!, delivers an entirely new screenplay which is mostly a delirious mix of tranvestite sympathy with a bit of sex reassignment at the end (bookended by a vague and dramatic monologue from Lugosi) and is now titled Glen or Glenda.

The film is a flop, but Wood is only momentarily disheartened- he secures independent financing for his next film, Bride of the Atom, a horror movie starring a local wrestler of circus-like proportions. During the course of filming, he recasts Dolores's role on a misunderstanding, talks Lugosi into wrestling with a stolen octopus prop in a swamp at three A.M., befriends a cheesy TV psychic (Jones), and is forced to changed the title to Bride of the Monster by a meat packing tycoon who takes over financing (in addition to finding a major role for the tycoon's idiot son).

Dolores, who had tried but failed to take Wood's earlier revelation of his cross dressing in stride, leaves him at the wrap party, fed up with his circle and his lifestyle (Breckenridge, for example, openly talked about plans for a Mexican sex change operation). Lugosi also repeatedly calls Wood late at night in a drugged stupor, until forced to admit his problem and enter rehab.

But things look up as the premiere of Bride of the Monster approaches: Wood attends with a new, cross-dressing-accepting girlfriend on his arm (Arquette), Lugosi, the psychic Criswell, Vampirella (the host of a local horror movie tvcast, and a direct precursor to Elvira), and the hulking star of the movie- it's as if the film had been buliding to this moment, where the purveyor of the odd is flanked at his finest moment by an All-American girl, a vampire and vapiress, a bow-tied psychic and a behemoth.

The film is roundly booed, and the gang are chased out of the theater by an unruly mob. But can the intrepid Edward D. Wood, Jr. dust himself off again for Grave Robbers From Outer Space?

The Artistry:

Burton was excited to make a film that didn't require storyboards and focus on character, and not to be critical, but it mostly shows. Shot in black and white (a decision that caused Paramount to back out of the project), Ed Wood mostly gets out of the way and lets Johnny Depp's performance, all 50's Casey Kasem style enthusiasm, take over the reins.

Which is fun enough, and some pretty great supporting performances buoy the film even higher- Landau's turn as an addled, egotistical Lugosi that bristles at the mere mention of Boris Karloff won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and Murray's quiet turn as well as Parker's shrill part are both fine work.

As a newcomer to Wood's work, I was a little befuddled with the opening homage to Plan 9 From Outer Space: Jeffrey Jones, in character as The Amazing Criswell, sits up out of a coffin and gives a wandering speech introducing the film, much like in Wood's infamous fail-tacular. But by the second Jones' monologue at the end, I was all for it.

It's just- who doesn't want to make movies? It looks like fun, even if it's frustrating. Depp portrays Wood as the kind of film-lover that didn't just move on after one take because he had limited time and budget- to him, each take was perfect, because he was living the dream, man!

I kept expecting a little more of a hammer to fall, given Wood's reputation as a spectacularly bad director, and found myself a little anxiously cautious early in the film, but that feeling ebbed as I realized it was nearly as much a labor of love as the films of its subject.

THE ENDING! SPOILERS!

Lugosi, after filming hardly one scene for Wood's next project, sadly passes away, leaving our hero with no star and no financing for his next project. He manages to convince his landlord's Baptist church to bankroll Grave Robbers From Outer Space telling them the way to make money for their intended film series on the 12 apostles is to first turn a profit on a film in a proven genre.

He gets his girlfriend's rather tall chiropractor to stand in for the majority of Lugosi's role (with his arm over his face), gets the now-unemployed Vampirella to take a part, and proceeds to start filming an over-the-top mashup of space invaders, vampires, and shoddy productions values, with cardboard tombstones and flying saucers with clearly visible strings.

As the Baptist change the title (to Plan 9 From Outer Space, grave robbing being morally uncouth) and insist on casting and plot changes, Wood becomes frustrated and storms to a nearby bar in a huff (and in drag). There he has a chance run-in with none other than his idol, Orson Welles! Welles, over a drink, sympathizes with tales of studio interference, and tells Wood not to compromize his vision for anything. Wood returns to set, demands to have things his way, and end the movie by driving off to marry his girlfriend after a triumphant screening of Plan 9.

END SPOILERS


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Oh man, I know it might be because I have a huge soft spot for movies about making movies (I was even thinking about making a list until the Onion A.V. Club freaking posted this on Monday), but I say higher.

The Legacy:

Rick Baker won an Oscar for his makeup, in addition to Landau taking every other Supporting actor award under the sun that year. Commercially Ed Wood was a bomb befitting its subject material, but critical acclaim has preserved it in memory.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

"Well...somebody misplaced the octopus motor, so, when you get in there and fight with him: shake his legs around- looks like he's killin' ya! Okay!"



Leftover Thoughts:

-"Really? Worst film you ever saw? Well, my next one will be better!... Hello?"

-Fun fact: Martin Landau's daughter Juliet Landau, who has a minor part in this film, is much like Lugosi most famous for playing a vampire: Drusilla on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

-Actual tagline for this film: Movies were his passion. Women were his inspiration. Angora sweaters were his weakness.

-I was pretty proud that not only did I know it was Vincent D'Onofrio playing Orson Welles, but also that his voice was dubbed over by Maurice LaMarche (The Brain from "Pinky and The Brain").

Coming Up...

Thursday, September 17th: Letters From Iwo Jima

Friday, September 18th: The Lost Weekend Yeah, that's right, three days in a row! Boom!

This Week In Actual Movie Taglines

A look at the taglines for this week's major releases. How do studios try to hook us when they only have a sentence?

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs


Actual tagline: Prepare to get served.

I was under the impression that getting served involved being humilated in a street-dancing competition, but apparently it also means being crushed to death by giant food from the sky in oddly generic-looking bastardizations of beloved children's books.

The Informant!


Actual tagline: Based on a tattle-tale

Meh on this one. But why does the tag lack punctuaction when the title is exclamation-pointed?

Jennifer's Body


Actual tagline: She's evil...and not just high school evil.

A line from the trailer becomes the motto for the new Diablo Cody "I know how young people talk"-athon. Isn't she so hip you just want to punch something>

Love Happens


Actual tagline: Sometimes, when you least expect it.... [Love Happens]

Is Love Happens a natural descendant of Snakes On A Plane (and Death Bed: The Bed That Eats), in that it's too lazy to make any sort of metaphor or pun in the title? Or did they just write the cheese-ball tagline and love it so much they used the second half for the title?

Plus, is it really that unexpected? Sometimes, when you're two attractive, sucessful single people that look like movie stars...[Love Happens]

This Week In Actual Movie Taglines

A look at the taglines for this week's major releases. How do studios try to hook us when they only have a sentence?

9


Actual tagline: When Our World Ended, Their Mission Began

Not a terrible offering from 9, which comes out today to capitalize on 09-09-09. There are actually mini-taglines on subsequent posters that explain what the mission of each rag doll is, "to defend us," "to define us," and so on.

Sorority Row


Actual tagline: Sisters for life... and death.

Aw yeah, that's the stuff. I think the font on that tag should really sell the ironic punnery, like: Sisters for life.... AND DEATH!!!!!.

Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself


Actual tagline: Hope is closer than you think.

I feel like these film's should just be called Tyler Perry's Latest Film, Featuring Tyler Perry: A Tyler Perry Film. The design of the poster seems to be trying to tell me that, despite the presence of Perry's signature Madea character, this will be a serious ensemble drama.

Thus the tag is a seemingly maudlin inspirational message (or, if you're a cynic, a bit of Obama-based marketing synergy!).

Whiteout


Actual tagline: See Your Last Breath.

See your last breath, make your last lame joke about how it looks like you're smoking. Thanks for the instructions, Whiteout!

IMDB #211 The Conversation


Do you ever feel like someone is listening in on you? That's because they probably are. And as today's entry The Conversation will demonstrate, it was possible to listen to people talking virtually anywhere at anytime in 1974 using equipment that appears comically outdated to our iPhone and Blackberry adjusted eyes. Just imagine all the various wiretaps, microchips, satellites, and other indicators of the coming robot war that could be monitoring your every word these days!

The Key Players:

Our director is a gent named Francis Ford Coppola, who made this film in between two other films that are about the father of god or some nonsense like that. I'll let you know when we get to them in a long, long time.

Gene Hackman is of course a star of the silver screen that will State your Enemies, Burn your Mississippis, Tide your Crimsons, Royal any Tenenbaums you may have, and give you a good Hoosiering any day of the week. He's got two Oscars gathering dust on his mantle for The French Connection and Unforgiven.

The only other real notable in the cast is a very young Harrison Ford.



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The Story:

Our story centers nearly entirely on the life and mind of Harry Caul (Hackman) a fastidious and reserved surveillance expert. The films opens with Caul and some hired help recording everything a couple says while walking around a crowded park square- they accomplish this by means of long distance microphones and handheld recording devices right next to them.

The job, which only Caul could've had the wherewithal to accomplish, is done, and Caul goes to hand the tape over to the CEO that commissioned it, only to find the man out and his aggresively polite assistant (Ford) all-too willing to take the tape meant for the CEO's eyes only.

Caul decides to return later, but obsesses about the tape. The girl, clearly the CEO's wife, seems to be having an affair with the man walking in the park with her. Caul fiddles with the three audio sources until he hears the man say: "He'd kill us if he had the chance."

Caul goes to a local security convention as a featured guest (where he brings some associates back to his workshop, basking in his relative celebrity among surveillance specialists). He reveals to a groupie (apparently there were surveillance groupies in 1974- who knew?) that he once made a tape that led to a man and his wife and child being killed.

Clearly the weight of that has led to his reticence and perfectionism, and the connection to the current case is clear. If he turns the tape over, will the couple be killed as well?

Alas, the floozie seduces him (apparently his balding, nearly incommunicative magnetism was irresistable) and when he awakes the tapes have been stolen!

He goes to receive his payment from the clearly irate CEO, as the assistant ambiguously looks on. That afternoon, knowing that the couple mention a meeting at a hotel on the tape, he rents the room next door and listens in. He hears yelling! And the tape being played! Then crashes!

He goes to the balcony and sees a hand smear blood on the window, and begns hyperventillating in fear- clearly his nightmare is replaying itself and he's caused more deaths.

Or has he?

The Artistry:

The Conversation is a very slow, deliberate film, made by a director clearly in epic film mode, even for a more fleeting thriller plot. It opens with a minutes-long aerial shot of the park, unclear initially where our focus is meant to be placed until it follows Hackman.

For a slow, silent movie, it delves into Caul's psyche more than I expected, showing us his absolute devotion to privacy and method- he plays the saxophone along to jazz recors in perfect sync, and only makes calls on pay phones (despite owning a phone). David Shire's atonal piano score helps underscore Caul's isolation from the world.

Coppola, inspired by the themes of Antonioni's Blowup, wanted to make a film about observation versus particpation and perception versus reality- it was just dumb luck, as it turned out, that the Watergate scandal and revelations of illegal wiretapping very similar to the film broke months before its release. Many people saw The Convesation as a reaction to the Nixon Administration's transgressions, but the script was completed in the mid-sixties.

THE ENDING! SPOILERS!

Caul wakes up, and breaks into the next room to find no blood on the window, no bodies, nothing. But then the toilet backs up and blood comes spilling out, and he flees in a panic.

He goes to confront the CEO, only to have his entire perception flipped- it's CEO who is now dead, the wife who inherits control of the company, and the man from the park by her side.

Caul rapidly rethinks what he has seen and heard- the blood on the window could have been the CEO's as the man killed him, the line on the tape could have been "He'd kill us if he had the chance."

He gets a call from the assistant (who may or may not have been in on it the entire time) on his home phone somehow, and he ominously warns Caul not to tell anyone what he knows- he then proves that Caul's impenetrable apartment has been bugged by replaying Caul's own saxophone practice over the line, and says "We'll be listening."

Caul then systematically destroys his entire apartment, furniture, floorboards, mini-statue of the madonna and all, looking for bugs, but finds nothing. The film ends with Caul playing his saxphone, unaccompanied, in his stripped bare apartment.

END SPOILERS


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

It seems properly placed to me, in the low 200s- a good film with some timeless (if technologically dated) motifs, but not quite the engaging story of brilliant performances to push it to the top.

The Legacy:

In addition to three Oscar nominations (for Sound, Screenplay, and Picture), it won the Golden Palm at Cannes that year, and has been preserved in the NFR.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Not much to choose from, but here's the ending with Hackman ripping up his apartment. Spoilers, I guess:



Leftover Thoughts:

-Caul also has a mistress (or something) that he pays to put up in her own apartment (I think) but visits only sporadically and never opens up to. It was hard to get jazzed about it, since he's not a terribly engaging character to begin with.

-Here's a confession: Coppola's rhythm puts me to sleep. I can't watch his films when I'm tired, it's bad news (even those films about those Italian dudes in suits).

Coming Up...

Thursday, September 10th: Ed Wood

Tuesday, September 15th: Letters From Iwo Jima

Transfigurations: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


It's the fourth Transfigurations entry, everyone, and coincidentally the fourth in our six-part Harry Potter series (technically it will eventually be eight parts, but that's neither here nor there). Today, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Multiple questions abound this time out- can a new director maintain the impossibly high standard set by Cuaron's last film? Why does Harry Potter's hair grow so much faster than mine does? Does J K Rowling want us to inherently distrust authority?

And most importantly, why hold an international, much-publicized wizarding competition that consists of two events (out of three) that spectators can barely see?



The Crew:

Steve Kloves remains our screenwriter. Meh.

Our new director is Mike Newell, mostly known for dramedy-type British films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Enchanted April. After Cuaron declined to film two films back to back, Newell took the job fresh off Mona Lisa Smile, which in addition to being schlocky and mediocre did feature students- so perhaps the producers saw Newell as well-suited to handle the burgeoning relationship melodrama that the fourth book contains.

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Patrick Doyle also takes over composing from John Williams, but stays mainly within the themes Williams previously established.

The Cast:

Our biggest notable addition is Brendan Gleeson as the wonderfully grouchy Mad-Eye Moody (sort of, see later). He's been covered in these here internets before.

MAJOR DIFFERENCES:

Well, once we get past the third book, Rowling just sort of goes nuts with the page counts (GOF clocks in at 734) and stuffs in the subplots. Newell and co. initially thought about making Goblet into two films (much like the upcoming pair of Deathly Hallows films) before deciding to condense it into one.

So things like the Quidditch World Cup (at least the match itself) are cut for time, the Weasley twin's gambling winnings bit, the characters of Ludo Bagman and Winky entirely.

House elves on the whole are nowhere to be seen, even Dobby and Hermione's growing S. P. E. W. movement (not something that would have translated. And Rita Skeeter's insiduous journalist has only one scene, which is part of a growing trend of the films toning down the parts of the book that are aggravating.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

Well, it's longer, like I said. Moreover, it sets up the eventually revelation that Mad-Eye Moody is not himself a little better, by mentioning more than once that he was attacked early on, along with all of the Polyjuice potion hints.

It's also got classes in it, something laregly absent from all of the films- we usually see one or two Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons and one Snape class on film, but the books are still structured around the school year.

And as part of a larger world, the book has a HUGE advantage over the film- the filmmakers chose to exclude what I feel is one of the most important scenes in the book, near the end when Dumbeldore and Fudge have a sort of stand-off in the school hospital wing.

That scene (which sort of shows us why Dumbeldore is such a revered figure) sets up so much in the fifth book I keep forgetting that it's not in the film at all. Nor does the film explain what "Priori Incantatem" is in the slightest, despite the fact that it allows Harry to escape Voldemort with his life.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THE MOVIE

It's funny.

Not something I'd really say about the earlier films, even the third, which is wonderfully atmospheric, but darkly so. Goblet of Fire manages to play the fish-out-of-water Moody to a T, get the Yule Ball chicanery just right, and is a showcase of moments invented just for the Weasley twins.

It has the advantage of building on the first three films, in that it doesn't have to introduce us to anybody- thus, after the initial rush through the World Cup and expositional Triwizard Tournament bit, it can stretch its legs a little and let us see Snape whack the back of our young heroes' heads for talking during a test, see Neville's love of dancing, and the twins repeating things five times fast while taking bets on the tournament.

And as stilted as it can be at times, turning the final task maze into a generic attack-hedge and madcapping the dragon and merpeople bits, the instant Harry and Cedric touch the Triwizard cup it completely nails the change in tone- the graveyard battle and especially the chaotic return to the field.


CONCLUSIONS

Goblet of Fire might be the closest film to the book that still has a life of its own. It streamlines the plot, but keeps the high points and contributes its own funny moments.

It would nice if it were as jam packed with magical details as Prisoner of Azkaban, but I can't have everything. A worthy entrant to the series, Newell's film would be a suitable substitute for the book, if you really don't have the time, but it's not the greatest experience on its own.

Of course, it's the first one I saw after becoming a fan of the books, so the differences might have struck me harder than before- I notice that Kloves kept Harry and Ron's extended disagreement (despite glossing over Harry's fight with Hermione in book three)- in his ongoing Ron exclusion, but Grint and Radcliffe managed some nice moments out of it.

OTHER (MINOR) DIFFERENCES/OBSERVATIONS

- I notice the Death Eaters in the film have KKK hoods. Totally subtle, guys.

- Bummest note in the film- the Weasley's tent at the World Cup is small on the outside but huge inside- a point that might've been deftly handled last film here gets a musical flourish and then Harry literally says: "I love magic!" Me, too, Harry. That's why we're all here. Thanks for spelling it out.

- Some people don't care for it, but I like Michael Gambon's much more reactionary Dumbeldore in this film, as he shakes Harry's shoulders when his name comes out of the Goblet. He's important to set the tone for what's to come, even if his scene of badassness was cut for time.

- Sirius in the fireplace ash in the film- meh. That seemed like FX just for the sake of FX to me.

- No Maurauder's Map in the film, as useful as it would have been..

- Not to hark on this, but people watching the Triwizard Tournament must be bored as hell: after a relatively exciting dragon first task, they get to watch the surface of the lake for an hour, and then the edges of a hedge maze, while merely guessing what could be happening. Nothing unites the international wizarding world like being bored out of your minds.

Next time on Transfigurations: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- featuring Luna Lovegood! an entirely different screenwriter! more of Gary Oldman than his face! and possibly my favorite scene not in the books!

So, I took a week off

...and I felt horrible about it. Are you happy now?

But seriously, one of those lags that might have just kept on to a month or so before will end at just one week, I promise. I feel a strange obligation to my 6 Blogger followers and 7 Google Reader subscribers (hey, you guys! You're all awesome!), not to mention the people who just keep googling "kinematoscope" to get back here (according to my stats this happens six times a day or so). I'm still number two to the Wikipedia entry for the kinematoscope, btw. ::Shakes fists:: WIKIPEDIA!!!

Anyway, some moving image things I've been up to:

1. My friend Kate spent a week or so vehemently recommending the recent HBO miniseries "Generation Kill," which I got from the library and devoured in a weekend- immediately I found the show to be on par with The Hurt Locker as an unflinching account of the reality of Operation Iraqi Freedom, only even more because it's FREAKING TRUE!

And it did recently get 10 Emmy nominations, so I definitely insist you watch it. The best part is it's only seven episodes, so it's not the lifelong investment that The Wire represents (a similarly much-ballyhooed show of social consciousness from the same creators).

2. Movies I have seen recently in theaters: Inglorious Basterds, District 9, and a local midnight showing of Jurassic Park at which a troupe of weirdos acted the film out, Rocky Horror style in front of the screen.

These movies were, respectively, pretty good, totally awesome, and oddly fun, but I really didn't feel a whole review or post generating from them. There are so many reviews out there, I'll wait until I get credentials to bother you with my opinions on new releases in long form.

3. On tv randomly last night: 1988's The Vampire's Kiss, an absolutely ludicrous Nicolas Cage movie in which he plays a pompous literary editor who may or may not be turning into a vampire.

The common theory seems to be that he just lost his mind sometime in the mid to late nineties and started over-acting in terrible pieces of camp, but clearly he had that capability all along. Just check out the highlights:



People were paid money to make that. I swear, it's true.

Coming up this week on your friend neighborhood kinematoscope: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Conversation, Ed Wood, more taglines of course (I wrote all those out a whole bunch in advance because they're so much fun), and perhaps more...

This Week In Actual Movie Taglines

A look at the taglines for this week's major releases. How do studios try to hook us when they only have a sentence?

All About Steve



Actual tagline: None.

Couldn't be more shocked that a movie that's already fully embraced terrible punnery doesn't have a bad tagline.

The poster instead just tells us "From the producer of Miss Congeniality." That producer? Sandra Bullock. Shocking, I know.

Carriers


Actual tagline: None.

Once again nothing official. Don't these people know I have a weekly feature to write? The poster does have a lot of helpful instructions on surviving a creepy pandemic.

Clearly it's the recent rise of star Chris Pine that caused Paramount to dust this one off and release it after three years, but I'd like to think it was because useful tips like "the sick are already dead" speak to our current, healthcare deficient times.

Extract


Actual tagline: Working for the Man Sucks. Being the Man Blows.

OR: He's not a lover. He's not a fighter. He's a small business owner.

Extract actually has seven tags, just to make up for the others. And they're mostly not terrible, though I'm not sure when "small business owner" became the equivalent of "The Man."

Gamer


Actual tagline: In the near future, you don't live to play... you'll play to live.

That's what I'm talking about! Obvious wordplay to end the week off.

But why is it "you" and then "you'll"? I demand parallel structure from my lame movie poster slogans!

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