Clerks (1994)

Written and directed by Kevin Smith
(number 369)

The first time I watched this movie it was when I was 18 and at a sleepover. It was something like 3am and a bunch of us watched it, thinking it was so edgy and interesting and arty. I was annoyed I didn’t know what all the chapter title words meant. I remember watching it again when I was around 24ish, and feeling so smart that I now did know what all those words meant and understanding more of the sex content of the film and generally what was happening.

Then I watched it again in my thirties and I saw how poorly acted it is. How very much this is just Kevin’s Smith’s friends reciting lines we wrote, they aren’t so much having conversations as listening for the end of the other person’s lines and then saying theirs. It’s a subtle distinction to be sure, but once you notice…

Watching it again now it’s a mish mash of slut shaming, over the top vocabulary, whiny people, liberal use of swear words and slurs and generally infantile humour. Yeah, either this movie hasn’t aged well or I’ve aged past it.

Does it make me love the people? No, I can’t say it does. Having said that, I know I loved them when I was a student, when I was dealing with my own knowledge of my cleverness and the unfairness of the world for not just instantly giving me whatever I wanted just because I was so clever.

Bechdel test: No. Veronica is the most featured woman, followed by Caitlin, both of them only speak to men.

Best line:

Jay: I dunno dude, that Caitlin chick’s nice, but I’ve seen that Veronica girl doing shit for you all the time. I saw her rubbing your back, fucking comes and brings you food. Didn’t I see her change your tire once?
Dante Hicks: Hey-hey, you know, I jacked up the car, all she did was unloosen the nuts and put the tire on.
Jay: I dunno, she does a lot for you.
Dante Hicks: She’s my girlfriend.
Jay: I had some girlfriends too, but all they wanted from me is weed and shit. Shit my grandmother used to say ‘What’s better, fuckin’, a good plate with nothin’ on it… ‘ no wait I fucked up. ‘What’s a good plate with nothing on it?’

Jay: there’s a million fine looking women in the world and most of them don’t bring you lasagne. Most of them just cheat on you and shit.

State of Mind: Mehhhh, I’m so not into this film any more. I just… urgh. To me this is a snapshot of a life I no longer care about or connect to. Also there’s the whole thing where this is probably awesome watching high, but that’s not my scene. Kevin Smith definitely found that niche market and is happy there, and this movie found him that audience.

Watched movie count

The Elephant Man (1980)

The Elephant Man
Directed by David Lynch
Written by Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren and David Lynch based on books by Frederick Treves and Ashley Montagu
(number 370)

This is probably David Lynch at his least Lynchian, his most generally accessible. Sure, it’s all filmed in black and white and there’s weird stills and juxtapositions and elephants over a panicking woman at the start of the film but generally the storyline is straightforward and easy to follow.

As someone who hates to witness bullying, this wasn’t an easy film for me to watch. The inevitability of bad things happening was painful. In particular the home invasion sequence with drunk people abusing him was the most difficult sequence but generally it was uncomfortable and bleak.

It’s a story which is based on true events, and generally the themes seem to be that nasty people are really awful to each other and to those who are different. There was a sort of general: rich people are nice and poor people are awful, but then there’s contradictions to that – the other freaks bust him out of the second round of carnival captivity for example. I really don’t know how close to the truth it is, having done no research at all on the elephant man. It feels real enough, it’s all very plausible and like it’d happen again if such a person were to come into the public eye. One of those ‘we’re better than that, now’ things which totally isn’t true. Is this where I make a pertinent comment about how reality tv is just the same freak show spectacle all over again? Let’s pretend I did.

Lynch’s photography, editing and direction are pretty perfect to be honest.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, how can you not love poor John Merrick with his unfortunate life and his gentleness once his voice is unlocked. I also love Treves, he’s trying so damn hard to do the right thing and he’s so unsure that he’s on the right path.

Bechdel test: No. There are a number of named women characters, primarily hospital staff like Mothershead, the nurses and Mrs Treves, Mrs Kendal, but they all talk to either John or Treves, or to each other about John.

Best line:
John Merrick: My life is full because I know I am loved.

State of Mind: Is the ending a good ending? I don’t even know. I was mostly happy the film ended, to be honest. Anthony Hopkins did a brilliant job as Treves and John Hurt did a fantastic job acting under all that make up as John. It’s just generally so hard to watch and so sad, I don’t imagine I’ll watch it again in any kind of hurry. Maybe someday, in 20 years or something but. No. On the up side, I did get a lot of postcards written while I watched it.

Watched movie count

Predator (1987)

Directed by John McTiernan
Written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas (who are brothers, it turns out)
(number 374)

The first ten minutes of this movie is just commandos gearing up and flying in helicopters. It is not so exciting to me. And to be honest, the arguments between the soldiers weren’t interesting to me either. I was hooked on Team Predator from the moment we first got Predator vision. It was cool and creepy and weird in all the right ways.

This film does a great job of a slow reveal, showing bits of monster, hints, weirdness, blood, close ups of it healing itself where you see just the relevant body parts before finally revealing what it truly looks like in a fleeting glimpse between camoflagued movements. I love a good slow reveal, like in Signs.

This is a really solid example of one of those movies where the team gets picked off one at a time. It made me want to play Geiger Counter. I found it really compelling when the predator disarms itself and reveals its face, having clearly decided Dutch is a worthy opponent. That’s something you never see in other alien/monster movies.

Does it make me love the people? I dunno. I was mostly rooting for the Predator, but I guess, yes. Yes, I liked Carl Weathers’ character, and Billy the mystic Native American who was just like ‘yeah, we’re all gonna die.’ I admire Dutch’s ingenuity and the sequences of trying to escape/outwit the predator were interesting, involving. It’s not exactly an arc where a person learns more about themselves, but about the world and the universe.

I loved the Predator, but I don’t think that should count for this particular question.. given my love for it is a kaiju thing, and not a human condition thing.

Bechdel test: There is just one woman in this movie and she doesn’t speak English for the first half of the film. She eventually does and says her name is Anna, but she’s the only woman so no chance of a pass.

Best line:

If it bleeds we can kill it.

Get to the choppah!

State of Mind: I really enjoyed that. I am creeped out more by the alien laughing with such a human voice at the end than by any of the rest of it. Definitely one I’ll consider rewatching at some point. Way more tense and tightly filmed than say, Army of Darkness, and some really interesting concepts. Tempted to watch the sequels, definitely going to read my Archie vs Predator comics.

Watched movie count

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Written by Christine Olsen based on the book by Doris Pilkington Garimara
(number 366)

Urgh. Now here’s a cheerful movie, a part of Australian history which is truly horrifying. How can people be this awful to each other? How can one white dude be given possession of a whole race of people? He controls what they can purchase, who they can marry and of course, kidnap their children to train them as household staff or, if they’re pale enough, send them to a school to be assimilated as white. It’s sickening.

I thought I could sort of cope by playing pokemon at the same time as watching, but when the scene game where the girls were forcibly removed from their mothers I ugly cried. And I think that’s a hundred percent the correct reaction to those events.

The film is shot beautifully. Not so arty as to be alienating for a mainstream cast. Not so slow or dry as to be boring, but certainly stunning, eerie, full of love for the Australian landscape and incomparably aching in its storytelling. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it is an ache. The arc of the huge sky, the dryness of the desert, the meagreness of comfort, it all creates an aching atmosphere.

Does it make me love the people? How can you watch this and not love the three girls? Molly in particular? It’s a simple film, in terms of plot, but he characterisations on this incredible journey are impeccable. The way Molly looks out for each of them, the way she is so single minded about getting home, the clever ways she outsmarts the tracker.

Bechdel test: Yes, over and over. Molly, Gracie and Daisy all talk to each other about getting away, about what’s going on, about not going to catch the tran. Plus they talk to their mothers and Mrs Jessop at the camp.

Best line:

well, not exactly best, but one of the most telling and stark lines from the rehabilitation village.
“They’re checking for the pale ones, they’re more clever than us. They can go to a regular school.”

State of Mind: Harrowing, beautiful, hard to watch, depressing, uplifting. Actually it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be. That early scene was intensely painful, but from there it’s kind of a great road trip movie. I take some comfort in knowing that although this was truly horrible, it’s no longer happening. I know some of the kids in the stolen generations have been reunited with their families. But how does a country recover from such atrocities? And that it went on or what, almost 40 years? And more, most countries have stories like this, events like this in their pasts. It’s horrible. We have to do better. I think movies like this are essential for showing the human cost, and for hopefully stopping things like this happening in the future. I can hope…

I need cuddles. Thankfully, it’s almost time to head to the airport to go on holiday in Rarotonga!

Watched movie count

Rocky (1976)

Directed by John G. Avildsen
Written by Sylvester Stallone
(number 378)

I didn’t know Sylvester Stallone wrote this!

Anna and I sat down to watch this. Neither of us had seen it before and didn’t particularly know what to expect beyond some punching. Anna was a bit hesitant on account of the last boxing movie she watched was Million Dollar Baby which is apparently sad. I didn’t think this one would be as sad.

Anyway, after the opening boxing sequence, there’s a lovely ‘Rocky walking home’ montage which sets the scene in the crappy part of Philidelphia and there’s a sweet bit where he walks past some people singing in the street.

Anna: “He’s a boxer with a street a capella gang?”

This is a hometown hero story. Rocky is a down on his luck every-day guy who takes on the challenge to box against someone famous. He wrestles with self doubt, performs one of the most famous training montages to music of all time and gains the support of the people around him.

Having said that, I’m not very keen on Sylvester Stallone in this role. I’m sure there’s a lot of great reasons that he should have played his own main character, but I don’t find him charismatic as an actor and he is literally hard to understand. That said, it does make him believable as a Philadelphia nobody who’s unaware of his own talents. I dunno.

Does it make me love the people? Rocky talking to his turtles and fish sets the scene pretty early on for him as a sensitive guy with some humour. Then we see him practising the joke he wants to tell to Adrian in the mirror before he sees her the next day. It’s sweet.

Bechdel test: No. Adrian talks to the other woman who works at the pet store but she’s never named. She literally exists as a character to be seduced by Rocky (he has to fight past her shyness and poor self esteem in order to kiss her,) and he makes her more beautiful by taking off her glasses and weird hat, and from that moment on she’s the supportive love interest. Aside from the first moments of her in the pet shop we only see her in the context of Rocky as a love interest, or her brother Paulie as a point of contention. There’s a really dramatically awkward Christmas scene where Paulie is so incensed to see his sister existing outside of the context he knows her in (sad, pathetic, obedient to him, domestic), he’s so angry that he gets physically violent. So yeah, she’s not a strong character to me.

Best line:

Mickey: Your nose is broken.
Rocky: How does it look?
Mickey: Ah, it’s an improvement.

State of Mind: We sort of missed whether he won or not, so I had to check on wikipedia. I can’t say much about this, because neither Anna or I really cared. It’s a bit slow, it’s a bit lacking of plot.. The training montage was fine, but even as a sports movie it didn’t really grab me. Anna wants to be on record saying she didn’t care about it.

Watched movie count

Army of Darkness (1992)

Army of Darkness
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Sam ad Ivan Raimi
(number 380)

Okay this is going to be another of these movies which is only on here for the nostalgia of men of a certain age, isn’t it? Oh, it’s a third place sequel…and the second film in the series is in the top 100? Eh, I’m watching this now anyway.

I don’t have nostalgia for this film, in fact I have never seen it before. In the 90s I was too much of a fraidy cat to watch stuff like this. I would skirt the horror aisle of the video shop, sort of fascinated by the art on the covers but not nearly brave enough to rent or watch any of them. Once I was past 18 I was too interested in arty films like Clerks or Before Sunrise so I didn’t watch them then either. Possibly my lack of ever doing the stoner thing also feeds into this. Video Nasties just generally ain’t my thing, unless I’m watching something like Troll 2 with friends and we’re all making fun of it.

Its an early 90s cheesy horror, totally corny special effects and shoddy over the top acting. Weird moments that make no sense, such as Ash being able to catch his chainsaw on his arm stump in mid air while being attacked by zombie. The mini-Ash sequence was unsettling but mostly because it gave me flashbacks to a play called The Pillow Man, and was weirdly Freudian when he consumed himself. Then it went to creepy body horror and I noped out. This story made very little sense.

Sam Raimi is responsible for a lot of cult entertainment, including other horror movies and Xena and Hercules: the legendary journeys as an executive producer or producer. Actually there’s a lot of similar cheesiness between this and Hercules now that I know that.

Does it make me love the people? neh. I dunno, I liked that Ash was happy to scream with fear and generally get thrashed, but he’s such a cartoon character with sex jokes, being poked up the nose by a skeleton and shaking his distorted face until it goes back to it’s regular shape. It’s not about a human character or understanding, it’s a comedic horror romp and there’s no need for proper humans in that.

Bechdel test: don’t be silly. Girls are just there to gasp at the awesomeness which is Bruce Campbell and be kissed by him/serve him or turn sort of ugly when evil.

Best line: Klaatu Barada …necktie

State of Mind: Look, I’m glad that movies like this exist, because they’re the grandparents of cool stuff like Cabin in the Woods and Dead Snow and Tucker and Dale vs Evil but… urgh. I don’t want to have to watch them. This was poorly written and poorly acted. There were stop motion skeletons and not in a good way. Eh, well at least now I’ve seen it. A piece of crap, says I.

Watched movie count

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Inglourious Basterds
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth (uncredited)
Written by QT
(number 381)

I remember going to see this at the movies, and being somewhat excited about it, and my companion for the movie was maybe dreading it a little. Because if nothing else, you have to be in the right mind for a Quentin Tarantino movie and when there’s a new one you just don’t know how far things will go on screen and how uncomfortable you will be. (Kill Bill vol 2’s buried alive sequence comes to mind as a harrowing bit of cinema.) The way I helped bolster my companion was by saying ‘look, it’s a Tarantino, and you have to know going in that we’re gonna watch him get himself off.’ (metaphorically speaking). ‘And sometimes it takes him a while to get there, he has to take his time, and it may be a slow watch but he’ll get there in the end. He’ll show us the stuff he gets excited about, like women’s feet, and people being terribly smart and clever, and gratuitous violence with lots of spurting blood. And ultimately it’ll be worth it because he knows what he’s doing making movies and it will be entertaining.”

So, with that in mind, I have to be in the right frame of mind for watching QT. The movie’s are filmed beautifully and acted well, these things are a given. The movie is put together in a series of excellent vignettes which ends in a ridiculous orgy of violence and fire where history is rewritten and an American Jew shoots Hitler. I guess we’re not meant to think too hard about that. The movie isn’t about historical accuracy, it’s about looking cool and having an awesome time.

I’ve watched this film a few times. I’m inclined to say it gets more boring and shallow each time I watch it. My favourite part of the film is the underground bar sequence, where spies and Germans are thrown together for drinks, a guessing game and proving how German they are. It’s a beautifully acted piece with slowly escalating

Does it make me love the people? I love Shoshanna, first and foremost. She’s emotional, vulnerable, but hard as nails. Unashamed of her black lover, willing to take on a hugely dangerous and dramatic plot to take out the nazis. She’s bad ass and awesome. I also love Brad Pitt’s Aldo, in part because he’s clearly having so much fun in the role. That broad accent is hilarious, especially when he’s pretending to be Italian.

Bechdel test: Complicated. Francesca talks directly to Shoshanna, but only as a translator for Goebbels, so although they are in conversation about Shoshanna’s cinema and the details of it, she’s just repeating what each of them are saying in another language. I’d have to say that’s a no.

Best line:

Shoshanna: I’m going to burn own the cinema on Nazi night.

State of Mind: For the most part, this is a fine movie. In my mind Quentin Tarantino’s best which is probably why I haven’t bothered to see any of his newer ones than this. But having said that, it’s not very rewatchable to me. Yeah, there are some great set pieces, some great sequences, but ultimately he glorifies death and cruelty in a way I don’t enjoy much. It’s like I said. Quentin has a very specific list of things he gets off on, and they’re all on display here, and I’m sorta over the whole thing. Loved it when I saw it, rate it highly, but I can’t be bothered watching it again any time soon.

Watched movie count