Tagged: movies

Theatrical Thursday – Big (1988).

The year was 1988. I’d spent countless hours begging my mother incessantly in that desperate, nine year old beggary voice…begging for the chance to see Big in the theaters. I went so far as to cut the picture of it from the film section of the newspaper (it was a big, goofy picture of Tom Hank’s face), and I’d carry it around and show her with the hope of annoying her into taking me to see it. When she finally did, I loved it then and for many years to come. I’ve seen the film about 786 times to date, but seeing it again recently after a very long while opened my eyes to a few key elements that a nine year olds eyes will never see. The main character, Josh Baskin, wished “to be big”; he got his wish, and woke up one morning looking like grown up Tom Hanks. Most of the movie involved Tom acting like he was twelve, but what I hadn’t noticed before was the emphasis on choices. I had no idea that the movie was so complex; taken apart, it had some very deep inner workings.

As an adult, the kid found great success working at MacMillan Toys, great love with Susan (the love interest), and a maturity that most twelve year olds don’t possess. He also earned a pretty powerful conundrum that most kids don’t have to endure; having to choose between prematurely continuing a successful adult life, or reverting back to the comforting reality of his youth. In my opinion, the most powerful scene in the film was when he went back home, in adult form, and witnessed firsthand what he had, and ultimately would, miss out on if he chose the adult path. The ‘innocence’ of youth; friends, games, and family stared him in the face, and either decision that he made was bound to hurt someone. It showed that life revolves around choices, great or minor, and how ultimately, you have to make the decision that’s best for you.

He followed his heart and went back to his family and his young self in the end, but his decision to do so was embedded in my head for a few days after I’d watched the movie. So many of us in life, when confronted with great decisions, freeze up from indecision, and rather than formulate a well-calculated battle plan, we end up making none and float through life under the mercy of fate. It takes incredible character to exert the power of choice, despite the odds. Hey, if the kid in the film was able to make a sound decision that would affect the lives of everyone around him, then we should all be able to, right? Twenty-eight years after seeing Big, I finally got a sense of the soul of the movie; follow your heart, and you can’t go wrong. It’s never too late to learn that message.

Theatrical Thursday, featuring Joe Versus the Volcano (1990).

Have you ever seen a movie six thousand times, but only gotten half a whiff of the real depth of that movie after the most recent viewing? Case in point; I’ve seen Joe Versus the Volcano at least 30 times since 1990, but only recently came to understand the immense truths contained within it. The film was always on in the background, and I’d often half ass watched it without really seeing it for what it was. The realization and understanding came slowly; a little bit here, a little bit there, until one day I said “fuck it” and sat down and really watched the film again for the first time. I took it all in with a renewed sense of awareness, and a considerably open mind. I dissected it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d enjoyed the movie time and again previously, but I’d only just seen the surface of it. And in truth, I was sincerely blown away. For all of its cheese, the movie was an acutely effective, multi-layered glimpse into a man’s thirst for knowledge, meaning, purpose, and self discovery. Looking beyond some of the dated, clunky 90’s camp, it’s quite a deeply rendered portrait of the journey that we all endure in order to accomplish whatever it is we want to accomplish with our lives. It is a great little tale about overcoming obstacles, standing up for your beliefs, and never giving up. Who can’t relate to that, right? And if you’ve ever hated your job, the “I quit” scene below is a revelation.

Theatrical Thursday, featuring Stalker (1979).

In honor of its limited theatrical re-release, I am duty bound to share my appreciation of this cinematic gem.  If you’re lucky enough to catch this one, please do.  It’s a journey that you won’t regret.   Thanks for reading…good day to all!

 

 

 

I’d fallen asleep on the sofa in front the TV one Friday night (years ago) and awoke on Saturday morning to this mysteriously surreal little Russian gem, a dreamy, thought provoking tale guaranteed to drum up a few intelligent discussions about man’s quest for knowledge and his insatiable hunger for the unknown. Directed by legendary filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and adapted from the novel Roadside Picnic, it deftly explores the depth of human want and need and desire, and trails the journey of a Stalker (a hired guide) and the two men who call upon his expertise to lead them into the gritty bowels of “The Zone”. It is there that they intend to enter the fabled room within the ruins of The Zone that enables any wish to come true. The journey is not without its trials though. To gain entry into The Zone (a deserted city that fell victim to a mysterious incident), they must first bypass a thickly guarded military checkpoint; but the true challenge is navigating the desolation of The Zone itself, an entirely barren, ever changing landscape full of unseen and unbeknownst dangers that have tested the will, searched the souls, and claimed the lives of countless Stalkers and wish seekers.

A beautifully minimalist film, shot in unfortunately toxic, abandoned Russian industrial locations, is said to have contributed to the early cancerous deaths of several cast and crew, including the director Tarkovsky. But the often several minutes long takes, the haunting landscapes, the telling score, and the philosophically rich dialogue combine for a journey that will not soon be forgotten.

SaturdayDreaming – The Unique Power of Television.

This SaturdayDreaming installment just so happens to be my very first post on this blog, penned waaaaay back in 2009.  It’s been a fun ride.  Hope you enjoy, and happy Saturday! 

You heard it here first; I’m a massive film fan. When I was a kid, my older brothers and I would literally watch the same crop of movies pretty much every single day after school. We would craftily rotate between current and old stuff, based on the mood. For the hidden singer in us, we had classics like “Grease” and “Westside Story” on standby; for the action hero side of our imagination, we watched “Excalibur”, and “Total Recall”. We didn’t merely watch these films; we became a part of them. I can recall many serious discussions/light hearted arguments involving which characters we wanted to be in the movies that we saw (we each wanted to be the coolest character, of course). We didn’t just watch Bruce Lee annihilate Chuck Norris in the Colosseum; we were Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris duking it out kung-fu style that day. We didn’t just watch the suave Ludlow brothers of “Legends of the Fall”; we were the brothers (and of course, I was the coolest). So much of our childhood developed around the TV that we can, to this day, readily quote lines from films that clinically intertwine with our day to day conversations.
Movies and television became our way of self expression. Our lives unfolded watching “A Different World”, “Yo MTv Raps”, and “The Cosby Show”. Our lives were lived through these larger than life characters, doing larger than life activities. Sure, we created our own characters, and re-enacted our own daring adventures, but the television was the catalyst that thrust us into that imaginative void; that realm where dreams become reality, and thoughts and deeds transcend what’s perceived to be real. We were not couch potatoes, I might add; our heroic deeds spilled into the backyard, where we became mighty sporting heroes and dauntless explorers. In short, movies and TV helped to mold and shape me into the man I am today. My artistic endeavors can all somehow be traced back to those days, huddled in front of the TV, dreaming about the tales and characters that were being projected into my psyche (and of course, I was the coolest one).

Theatrical Thursday – Paths of Glory (1957).

Stanley Kubrick, a legendary filmmaker of great renown, has been at the helm of some of cinema’s most well-known and iconic pictures; who can forget Lolita (1962), Spartacus (1960), Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), and Full Metal Jacket (1987)? His resume reads like a greatest hits list, the multitude of his work being critically acclaimed and pioneering in their own right. Quite possibly my all-time favorite Kubrick flick, though, is the utter masterwork that is Paths of Glory. Set in WWI, the film’s focus involves the trial of three men accused of cowardice in the face of the enemy after a failed assault on the enemy German positions. Kirk Douglas, a personal favorite, plays the role of French Colonel Dax, a visceral portrayal of a man tasked with defending the accused soldiers, who all face death by firing squad. His character faces the daunting task of proving the unwavering character of his men, while facing the impossible brutality that was WWI.

The film itself is wrought with a tension befitting the backdrop of one of the world’s most brutal conflicts, with themes of honor, duty, nationalistic pride, greed, betrayal, family, and idealism laced tightly within. The stark realism on display in the raw and gritty set pieces and the intricately placed details add to the brilliant performances of the actors. The grand scale of the set captured the sheer scope and intensity of the conflict, and the dramatic, solemn tension vividly captured the perilous plight of the condemned men. An outstanding achievement in film from a director and cast known for their remarkable performances.

Check it out!