Quick – Desert island, all time, top three favourite movies:
- Ghostbusters (1984) – There’s just no question.
- Charlies Angels (2000) – Shut up. It’s an awesome movie. I’ll write a blog about it one day and prove it.
- L.A. Story (1991) – With a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes it seems this film is being appreciated more and more as it ages.
(You would think the request itself would imply that High Fidelity should be on that list, but it just doesn’t have the cojones to stand up to those three power-houses)
What kind of snap, blanket, stereotypical judgements can we make from a list like this? They’re all comedies, pre 9/11 films. Two were written by the main actors. Two are ensembles. One has Richard E. Grant (swoon!)
[He’s wearing a scarf and dgaf about it. That man is STEEL.]
In my mind at least, there is ONE factor that truly unites those three films: They’re all ‘FUN’. Uproarious, hilarious, high-paced Eff-You-Enn FUN! Ghostbusters is one inept scientist and his overachieving friends (also scientists) who use quantum physics to capture ghosts. It is equal parts scary and hilarious, and contains some of the most epic ad-libs and improvisations ever captured on film.
Venkman: Egon, this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole in your head, remember that?
Spangler: That would’ve worked if you hadn’t stopped me.
Ad-libbed. At least Ramis’ part. Hi-fucking-larious. Ghostbusters is a film that never takes itself too seriously, at the same time as it demands to be taken authentically. It’s humour, special effects, frights and action all rolled in to one. Most fun I ever have sitting to watch a movie.
Charlie’s Angel’s, though?
Kinda in the same vein, except this is a film that makes sure you know from the opening sequence that you CAN NOT take it seriously. You will be very disappointed if you do. McG’s Charlie’s Angels is pure spectacle, and it never apologizes for this. It contains characters with comically complicated personal lives whose independent actions actually shape the course of the story, yet is dismissed as cheap action fare by most. It makes great use of music (ensuring that no film ever again will be able to use The Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ on a soundtrack without invoking THIS scene.), stages several incredible action sequences and is thorougly enjoyable from start to finish.
Steve Martin demonstrates the ONLY way to visit a modern art museum. I mean seriously, what else do you need to know about this movie, other than Richard E Grant is in it, it features an intelligent freeway sign and has Sarah Jessica Parker in arguably her greatest role? It’s great. It’s 27 years old. Watch it.
‘FUN’s is my hallmark, it’s what I look for in my entertainment, because by my reckoning, entertainment is for enjoyment, and enjoyment is fun.
In the past I’ve pitched a few stories and concepts to people, and one of the bits of feedback I continue to get is “That sounds a little too ‘fun’ for what we’re looking for.”
Que? REALLY? Who’s pitching these ‘dull’ ideas that are apparently so desirable? I’m not sure about most everyone else, but I definitely don’t pick a movie thinking ‘Good, this’ll be a nice and boring time.’ (Okay, maybe I had that in mind when I went to see ‘Tinker/Tailer/Soldier/Spy’ and I was not disappointed. Love that movie BTW, but it’s about as far away from ‘Fun’ as one can get.)
Maybe it’s my idea of ‘Fun’ that’s the problem. I know some people prefer reality over fantasy. I know some people like deep, heartfelt stories over spectacle. I know that some people simply don’t identify with fringe characters, creative plotting or excessive editing. I feel bad for those people.
I spend a great deal of time talking with other writers and wannabe filmmakers (and a few REAL filmmakers) shooting the poop and talking movies/TV 24/7. Talking about a script the other day, I pointed out that this gritty, reality based crime drama needed a showdown, a scene where the anti-hero and the antagonist finally came together for some sharp dialogue, perhaps while stalking each other through the dark at the end of guns, in a factory of smoke & flame?
The response: “It’s not meant to be THAT kind of movie.”
What ‘kind’ of movie is that exactly? Another writer made the pitch to me the other day (which comes from Mamet or some other such skilled writer) that to simply have two characters who disagree, that makes your scene, that is drama. To tell a convincing story inside that construct, two character sitting across from each other, having a disagreement, is truly dramatic. I reply with ‘Yes. Now put both of those characters on a plane, set the plane on FIRE, and you have a movie.’
It’s called a ‘Motion Picture’ for a reason. It needs to move, it needs to be kinetic. It needs to have a life beyond dialogue. Of course there are exceptions: ‘Glengarry/Glenross’ is a fantastic examination of the social male heirarchy and of the capitalist whitling away of the dedicated worker, told almost entirely on one set through dialogue. ‘Hard Candy’ is similar, an almost-play staged as a movie. And these are both fantastic films.
Fantastic films with a small reach, small audience and small objectives. In my world, story, drama and character are BIG things. Big concepts, big emotions, big actions.
Hallelujah for what has come to us.
If you haven’t flocked with the masses to the theatre to see ‘Baby Driver’ yet, you are a disappointment to me and every filmmaker who wants to entertain with fun and humour. This movie is AMAZEDOGS. Go and see it. Seriously.
…(waiting for you to see the movie)…
Wasn’t that GREAT!?! It’s a high paced adventure from start to finish. Every character is memorable in their own right, every scene carefully crafted to match the chosen song, and every stunt is real. It’s easily my most favourite movie of this year, and the best time I’ve had at the theatres all summer. I personally live a world with a constant raging soundtrack, and I’ve always envisioned this translated into the films I write. Everything has music in mind, a beat or mood that permeates beyond just filling the soundtrack. In ‘Raptor Pink’ Astrid raids a Human trafficking operation in a stunning spectacle of militarized poi and gymnastics, all while blasting Madeon’s ‘Icarus’ in her ears and on the soundtrack. ‘Monogamish’ opens with a beautiful dance number set to FUTURECOP!’s ‘Superheroes‘ that still warms by heart. And I have epic plans for Dance With The Dead’s (feat. Kristine) ‘Power‘ in the BRIDGEHEAD prequel series. Treating music as an integral element of the plot, rather than window dressing after the fact, always gets my attention.
‘Baby Driver’ came from visionary brit Edgar Wright, a man who has consistently produced hilariously entertaining fare, at least in my book. ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is a modern classic, and ‘Hot Fuzz’ should be. ‘Paul’ is better than it deserves to be, and ‘At World’s End’ is highly underrated. Now he’s topped himself with a salute to humour, action and all the fun intensity of why we head to the movies. ‘Baby Driver’ isn’t weighed down by overwrought themes. It’s not saddled with a deeply tortured protagonist faced with an impossible choice. It’s about heists and driving very fast through Atlanta. There is romance between Debora and Baby that is so believable and yet still dramatically presented, because I pretty sure nobody in real life meets and courts the way they do.
The movie is about enjoying your two hours, and does that by providing you with a compelling plot, interesting characters and a heavy dash of motion picture spectacle, beacuse when you have the chance to be exciting AND dramatic, you’ve made yourself an excellent film.
And I mean seriously, look at Ansel Elgort. HOW IS HE NOT THE NEW HAN SOLO!?!?! Everything about him in this movie just SCREAMS that he’s a no-good smuggler with a heart of gold. Somewhere along the line somewhere, a casting director missed their big chance.
Which brings us to the other side of this coin:
One of the newest arrivals from Netflix is also one of thier best. ‘GLOW’ doesn’t plummet down a dramatic rabbit-hole the way another female centred Netflix show (OITNB *cough*cough*) has tended to do. GLOW thrusts the audience into the 80’s and demands that you enjoy yourself. It achieves this by generating truly entertaining and unique characters, building a stylized enviroment for them to interact in, and then lets the story unfold.
“You mean, like this?”
Whoops, sorry. That description also fits my OTHER favourite Netflix original. It’ll get it’s own post once I’ve finished it.
‘GLOW’ is a comedy with dramatic leanings, for sure, but the drama is never the primary motivator. Alison Brie’s Ruth Wilder is a fantastic protagonist because we both want her to succeed and we feel comfortable laughing at her failures at the same time. Ruth takes herself more seriously than anyone, which serves as a kind of effective innoculation against sillyness in this title.
Because let’s call it like it is: Wrestling is pretty silly. I’m not disrespecting the performers, they do things on a regular basis that would kill most typical humans and I completely respect the effort and skill they put into their performances, but it IS a little silly. The stereotypes, the soap opear stories, the insane aggressive bravado. Even in calling it ‘silly’ I’m not trying to slight it, merely place it in context with my ideas of storytelling as a whole. GLOW gives the audience the chance to be part of a well structured and hilarious journey through the world of professional wrestling, while also providing social commentary on how women are treated now versus 35 years ago.
I mean, make no mistake, but GLOW is about standing up for women’s rights, women’s empowerment and their fair share in the world. GLOW plays off the social inequalities of the 80’s using a modern perspective in a way that lets the audience laugh at the ridiculousness of sexism and bigotry, while making sure it’s understood that these are forces we all combat, even today.
But it tells this tale with colourful outfits, hilarious mismatching of characters and ugly developments meant to pull at our heartstrings. Unlike OITNB there are no darkly dangerous moments, no real threat to life or limb. The characters move from one difficult situation to another, but there is a sense of enjoyment and ease that follows them. GLOW has a lot to say, and uses its sense of ‘Fun’ and adventure to make sure we never find that story too heavy.
So FUN is back. And I am thrilled by this. I want to see more and more titles move in this direction. We labour under expansive cinematic universes and grim storytelling, full of horror, pain and duplicity. Sometimes it’s great to be able to sit down, ready to watch something, and be excited for the ride we’re about to take. Like a roller coaster.
Imagine a play performed where the audience is on a rollercoaster? Now THAT would be something.