2541 words on Films
The weather was bad this month, meaning I saw more films that I expected: Clerks Ⅱ, Sitcom, Wild Palms, The Fortune Cookie, Dirty Pretty Things, An Inconvenient Truth, Sicko and The Verdict, C.R.A.Z.Y. and more.
It’s been well over a decade since the original Clerks came out and after numerous viewings, it remains one of my favourite films. Of course I was excited to hear there’ll be a sequel which came out in the US many months ago already and finally made it to Germany now. Having enjoyed many of Kevin Smith’s other films as well I was looking forward to this but I also suspected there wouldn’t be much of a chance that the original Clerks could be matched. Not only has Kevin Smith become old, successful and rich in the meantime – but the film’s protagonists Randall and Dante aged as well. Fearing the obvious, I suspected the sequel couldn’t match the orignal cheap-o black and white style of Clerks and it would have to do without the youthful silliness.
So I had a bit of scepticism towards Clerks Ⅱ. And in part I was right about those obvious points. The protagonists aged, Randall became fat, the location became more colourful and 21st century – but otherwise things didn’t change much. Luckily the jokes didn’t change too much either and watching the film was still good fun and with the new characters, the boss / lover Becky (played by Rosario Dowen who was already hot in Sin City) of Dante and Randall in their new job at a fast food outlet and their Lord of the Rings geek colleague Elias, fitting in well.
Of course the whole film wouldn’t have gone far enough if it didn’t go too far. And with the whole scene on
inter-species erotica they surely managed to achieve that. It was a bit as if my comment spam had been turned into a film… whether or not that is a good thing is a different question.
FranŤois Ozon’s 1998 Sitcom is as weird as it is funny. After opening in gorgeous Palatino Italic, the film features a rich family in the course of falling apart and catches a high note at that. The father brings a rat back home, the son decides he is gay, the daughter fails at killing herself but ends up in a wheelchair, the housekeeper fellates the daughter’s boyfriend, the housekeeper’s husband sleeps with the son, a little bit of incest and we’re all set. Sounds ridiculous but actually makes an amusing and tragic film with just one or two scenes that promise to be a bit too embarrasing to watch them.
Re-watching films is something I do very rarely. Sometimes I find that things become boring when watched the second time. But mostly it is because there are so many more films I haven’t seen yet that I almost always prefer to watch something new to indulging in old treasures. And thus it is all the more surprising that one of the films I have re-watched the most times is Wild Palms which isn’t just a film but a 5 hour mini series.
I thought it was absolutely cool when first seeing it on telly in the mid 1990s and luckily decided to tape it right away back then which lead to all these re-watches. Since I have forced many friends and flatmates into watching the series with me and – trust me – it has been worth it. While in terms of music and style the series has a touch of 1990s modernism, the film gives us some great (timeless?) drama of a big corporation-religion which conquers the world through entertainment. All this is done with a touch of sci-fi with stylish old clothes and cars, and a family aspect to it. A big family aspect in fact where kids are abducted and given other people to raise them. —— All right, I should stop here, I can make any story sound dull and horrible.
Let me just mention some more of the cool concepts and ideas in there: the rhinos along with the Rhinoçeros-style scenes, the pools, the virtual reality stuff and the drugs going with it, the evil old mother-in-law, the evil young kid (who looks like Michael Schumacher if you ask me), the sweet kids (who of course are the good ones), the parallels to the Scientology sect, the evil TV station with its media tycoon, the American-Japanese mix, the Hungry Ghosts (which reminded me of Wolf Parade)… I guess I should stop, otherwise I need to watch it again right away.
The Fortune Cookie is a cool Billy Wilder / Jack Lemmon black and white film from 1966. Lemmon’s character Harry is a sports reporter and gets run into by (American) football player ‘Boom Boom’ during a game. He has to go to hospital his lawyer brother decides to fake a bad injury and sue the stadium for their insecure facilities. That’s how lawyers are but that’s not really how Harry is who just goes along because he senses to the possibility of winning his ex-wife back for the money.
While Harry does the hard job of faking bodily problems to the public as well as the lawyers, doctors and private detective of the stadium they are suing, player ‘Boom Boom’ is really sorry and starts looking after Harry and helping him wherever he can and at the same time loses his edge on the playing field – thus making Harry feel bad for the charade he is playing. Under the close observation of a private investigator who moves in across the road to watch and listen Harry’s life, Harry finally breaks and decides in favour of his friendship with ‘Boom Boom’ and against the money that his brother and ex-wife are after.
You can’t have it all I guess. At least you couldn’t in the 1960s. I think lawyers have become better since…
Dirty Pretty Things touches the problems of illegal immigrants. Okwe and Senay went to London from their home countries for a better life and they are eager to work for it. But the people who employ such illegals are also people who are happy to exploit and pressure them because of their difficult situation. It turns out that the hotel they work at doesn’t just have a sideline as a whorehouse but is also in the organ business. When the owner finds out that Okwe is a doctor, he wants to force him to remove kidneys from people. Ultimately even from Senay who wants to buy her way into a passport and to New York with that. Being the good guy that he is, Okwe has ‘difficulties’ with such a proposition and finds the obvious solution.
While the film isn’t too surprising, it is still quite shocking in the hardship that the protagonists go through. And with all the xenophobic discussions that come up from time to time, it may also be good to remind oneself that people don’t leave their home countries and take those risks without a reason. Their life in our wonderfully rich countries isn’t that great.
We’re the ones who drive your cars, we clean your rooms and suck your cocks.
Now I wonder to which extent the film inspired the band name.
Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth ran on telly and I thought I’d give it a try. People said Gore’s presentation is quite convincing. And sure enough he manages to have a few nice slides in there and does his job to drive home the point. But ultimately I didn’t find the film particularly convincing. Politician and Hollywood rhetorics in themselves aren’t too convincing and mixing them up may give more drama to a presentation but I don’t think it helps the point. Just as I don’t think that Al Gore’s family stories or his excursions around the world help the issue. Sure, these may have been moving for him and gotten him in an emotional setting where he can appreciate the beauty of icebergs, but that’s hardly relevant in the face of earth heating up.
In addition I grew tired of all those number presentations and graphs all too fast. Probably because you – or at least I – expect people to lie when they present such numbers and graphs which just happen to ‘prove’ their point by distorting their context and scales to suit the situation. Why should Al Gore be better at that than some oil company? Finally I always had the impression that places like ‘Africa’ or ‘Europe’ sounded like far out strange places when he mentioned them. I thought the world has become small and global climate change will affect people everywhere. So I was wondering where that came from. Not wanting to alienate the viewers (but to be honest I wouldn’t expect those Americans who actually went to such a talk to be the ones who have difficulties with other continents)? Just not getting the tone right when they dubbed it (they made it sound like a classy infomercial with one of those ‘typically American’ voices)? No idea.
And Michael Moore made another documentary – Sicko (found on the web in low quality). This time he ‘tackles’ the problem of healthcare in the U.S. where many people are uninsured and you better don’t get ill if you can’t afford it. So he puts on his innocent face and ‘explores’ how health care works in other countries. And he is ‘shocked’ by the fact that ‘socialist’ systems in countries like the U.K. or France, where people don’t even have to pay bills, can actually work.
And even if the situation in the U.S. were only half as bad as he presents it, this may be an interesting film for Americans to watch. To just consider whether other ways of doing things might not be better. On the other hand, I sometimes had to wonder. For fairness’ sake perhaps a bit more focus should have been given on the inconvenient fact that the better working health systems do still cost a lot of money and people pay that with their taxes – which Americans might find shockingly high. And systems where you never have to pay or even see a bill also have the disadvantage that you just have no idea what kind of cost you put on the health system. Sometimes it is shocking to learn how much pharmaceutical companies and other equipment companies charge for their stuff – without people even being aware of it.
What I found somewhat amusing was the section about the British NHS. Not that I had any bad experiences with it – people were friendly and the most difficult thing I had was a cold. But generally there were all theses stories about long waiting lists for special surgery which was a real problem then.
The Verdict is an early 1980s film by Sidney Lumet (who also did Running on Empty and Network). As the title suggests it focuses on a trial. A trial about a woman who was mis-treated while giving birth with her baby dying and her falling to a coma. While the church-owned hospital with its famous doctors denies any responsibility, there seems to be evidence that mistakes were made and a few years later a trial is started by run-down lawyer Frank Galvin.
This looks like a sure case and the church with its top-notch lawyer team is willing to settle for a good chunk of money. Just that the useless lawyer discovers his conscience in the meantime and when things come to court his main witness cannot be found. So it takes a bit of extra legal and extra-legal trickery to find another witness.
I thought it was amusing to see the law play out its absurd forms in the film with the jury nonetheless ignoring the law’s bad effects. On the other hand, this highlighted how far wrong the law and its institutions can go and how they can give power and results to the wrong people. It seems strange to me that one should have to be lucky with one’s jury to get a fair result. And with the catholic church in the U.S. just having decided to pay hundreds of millions to enjoy a bit of child abuse, I thought it was refreshing that in this film the upper clergyman organising the defense had about a second in which he wondered whether he was actually ‘right’ in what he was doing.
As I am definitely hooked by the sounds of all these genius Canadian musicians, I was delighted when I heard that there’s a brilliant Canadian/Québecois film as well now: C.R.A.Z.Y which apparently was wildly successful in Canada. It tells the story of a family with five sons who grow up as well as their relations. While it focuses the second youngest of the sons, Zachary, the fact that he ends up fancying guys and the problems that this causes, it’s much more than this as it really shows the whole family – and how their hardened dad loves all of them no matter with whom they go out or which drugs they take.
But what makes this film brilliant for the music addict is its generous (yeah, possibly overly-generous) use of music classics and it’s ode to ancient records. If there’s any fault about the film, it’s the fact that it lasts more than two hours and naturally I didn’t find all the ‘spiritual’ parts of the film necessary.
Re-watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which remains a classic even though it has lost some of its teenage appeal in the past decade or so. It’s amusing to note that German parade in the film. The mid 1990s Chinpira about two young wannabe yakuzas who are scared of fully joining the ‘family’ had an interesting feel about it but I kept thinking that I’m missing its point. Kika is one of Almodóvar’s weaker films in my opinion that revolves around the make-up artist Kika and her lover, but also includes some weirdo almost robotic reporter. The classic documentary Gimme Shelter about the Rolling Stones’ tragic 1969 Altamont Free concert is outstanding in my opinion for how it manages to capture the event and present it directly (not that I’ve been there and could judge that first hand, obviouslyÉ). Compared to these days, loads of things have changed, from the people to the organisation to security to documentary making.
Finally, the obligatory Woody Allen film; this month: Broadway Danny Rose which, despite being from the 1980s is in pretty black-and-white and stereotypically Woody Allen in that it doesn’t just contain scenes with showbiz/intellectual people sitting in restaurants but the whole film is framed by that. Showbiz people telling stories about their not very successful but well known colleague Danny Rose – played by Woody Allen – who manages not-so-great artists but still makes a great effort in doing so. Of course there are a few hilarious scenes in there. Even with the mafia.