Friday, February 24, 2017

Favorite Scene Friday! A Clockwork Orange: Yarbles

Our final Oscars appreciation FSF is by none other than Nick Rehak from French Toast Sunday!

When people think of A Clockwork Orange, they tend to think of a woman being brutally raped by a gang of bizarrely dressed men while the leader sings "Singin’ in the Rain" and kicks the woman’s husband, who’s being held down and forced to watch, repeatedly in the stomach. I’m not talking about that scene… today. Instead I’m discussing something that happens earlier in the film. In today's Favorite Scene, a woman is nearly brutally raped by a gang of possible neo Nazis and is somehow rescued (I use that word lightly) by a gang of bizarrely dressed men. But when you really sit down and watch the scene, it becomes apparent that it doesn’t belong in the film. Yes the juxtaposition of classical music over moments of violence are there, the hedonistic and sometimes animalistic tendencies of man are there, but this moment is unlike any other that happen in the film.

By Wikipedia

The moment begins after a quick introduction of Alex and his three droogs, that is, Pete, Georgie, and Dim. We cut to a classic style painting still life of roses in an assumed marble vase. We hear screams over the french horns, oboe and violins of Rossini’s "The Thieving Magpie". The camera pans down and we find we are in an old derelict theater, even though Alex refers to it as a casino. A gang of men, dressed in World War Two garb, is clawing at a woman, ripping her clothes off in hopes of bedding her. Ugh that sounds gross. Doesn’t that sound gross? Bedding. Yuck. Anyway, they pull this woman over to a pile of old disgusting looking mattresses when out of the darkness steps Alex and his droogs. Distracted, the gang pays no attention to the woman and she makes her escape. Alex then tosses some very light, almost elementary school level insults. Very tame in comparison to the rest of the Oscar nominated X-rated film.

But here’s where it gets interesting. For most of the film, anytime Alex is on screen, he is in control. When the film begins, it’s on his face and as the camera pulls back, it looks like he lifts a glass of moloko drencrom to us, toasting us as guests of honor as he guides us through this hellacious dystopian future. But in this moment, as Alex hurls insults at Billy Boy, we don’t see Alex. We see Billy. The camera is holding on Billy and comes across looking like a moving portrait. Billy doesn’t blink or flinch. Steadily chewing gum, for nearly ten seconds, then lifting his switchblade to show Alex he’s ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence. Why does this happen? In any other film, the camera would be on Alex and it would cut between members of the gang as they snicker in agreement or grimace in denial. Is it to strike fear? If we look at Billy’s attire, he’s wearing a Nazi Officer’s cap along with an Iron Cross medal. Clearly he’s the bad guy. In strolls Alex in all white, a metaphorical savior, even though he’s just as bad as Billy, if not worse. Is this an overall metaphor for society? That every country has a violent history of raping and taking, it’s just the name they claim it in is different. It’s a lot to read into in just ten seconds, but it’s the only time in the film this happens.

In the rest of the film (SPOILERS) we see Alex go from criminal to reformed man to a broken man on the verge of returning to his primal nature. But every time he’s on the screen, he controls the scene. Your attention is on him. Yeah, I get it, he’s the main character, it’s his story, but if he has such disdain for Billy Boy, why hold on him for so long? Why not further degrade the guy and show everyone else but him? These questions are abruptly forgotten as we spill into violence. But it’s not the ultraviolence this film is known for. Instead we get something that looks and feels like a standard bar fight in a western. Somebody spills something on someone or steps on a toe and suddenly bodies are flying through tables and windows, and chairs are being broken off left and right. The EXACT same thing happens here. It’s almost a Looney Tunes level of violence that gets further downplayed by the juxtaposition of "The Thieving Magpie". A man literally dropkicks another through a table.

But as soon as it begins, it’s over as Alex takes control of the narrative. He whistles to his droogs like a trainer to his dogs. We see now they’re not Alex’s friends or companions; just his droogs. Just people he has around to do his viddy well bidding. The best line though comes from Alex as he challenges Billy, “come and get on in the yarbles! If ya got any yarbles.” It’s wonderful and I wish it was cool to use that slang. It’s a shame the film didn’t take home the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1972. I believe the film is absolutely more deserving than The French Connection. Thing is, people see this film as nothing but shock violence with a boring second half. This film is so much more than that. It’s a satiric meditation on human nature and the inherent violence we grow up with. It takes a fun house mirror and points it at society, showing us where our priorities lay, rather than where they should. Now there’s something you can wrap your rassoodocks around for a few hours.

Note - this week's scene contains graphic nudity and violence. NSFW.

What's your favorite scene from A Clockwork Orange?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Favorite Scene Friday! Moonlight: Chiron's Revenge

More February, more Oscars appreciation! Jacob from Panned Review takes a look at a nominee for this year's Best Picture Oscar - Moonlight.

“I ain’t no boy,” Chiron says at the police station, as he ices his bruised face, which has just been smashed by Kevin, a guy whom Chiron thought was his closest friend. Chiron’s physical pain is nothing compared to the feeling of betrayal, and this is a particularly cruel treachery. But betrayal seems to be the only consistent factor in Chiron’s relationships. Chiron feels betrayed by his drug-addicted mother, by Juan, a kindly, gentle father figure who happens to be a drug dealer, and now by Kevin: they kissed on the beach once, and the kiss went further, a moment of intense passion, an unexpected urge between them, one bound to generate confused feelings, guilt, and shame, in a world that is militantly homophobic. Betrayal has tainted every relationship in Chiron’s life (with the exception of Teresa, Juan’s wife, played by the fabulous Janelle MonĂ¡e, whom readers may recognize as one of the three stars of Hidden Figures), rendering them as ineffectual as saltwater to a parched mouth.

By Source, Fair use, Link

Moonlight was, for me, the most moving film I saw last year. Although I loved La La Land, which has become trendy to hate on, Moonlight deserves to win the Best Picture Oscar (I’m not sure it has a chance, especially against a popular favorite that’s an adorable, Hollywood-obsessed confection.) Where La La Land feels clever and charming and happily content with its own nostalgic view of a particularly sun-dappled world, Moonlight feels deeply urgent and lyrical and honest about a world where the sun doesn’t bring warmth so much as blood-boiling heat.

In its story of a young black boy becoming a man, Moonlight casts three different actors to play Chiron, in three different stages of his life: as a young boy, called “Little” (Alex Hibbert), as a teenager struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, the only time when he’s referred to by his given name (and played by Ashton Sanders), and as a grown man, now called “Black” (played by Trevante Rhodes). Somehow, these three actors have created a seamless vision of Chiron, guided by the knowing instincts of writer-director Barry Jenkins.

The scene I want to bring into focus involves Kevin’s betrayal of Chiron. It’s really the only scene in which Chiron acts out because of his anger. Being both black and gay is a particularly difficult battle to fight for Chiron, who’s already endured enough torment when a high school bully pits Kevin against him, urging Kevin to “knock his faggot-ass down.” These are boys playing at manhood, questioning their own vulnerabilities, their own insecurities, which they see as signs that they are not men. Insecurities like these must be purged, by violence. And so, out of fear and hatred of himself, Kevin strikes Chiron, in a modern-day Judas kiss.

Chiron’s anger wells up inside him. He’s used to keeping quiet, he’s learned the value of not stirring things up. But while keeping control of his anger worked for him as a child, it is no longer enough, or he is no longer able to control it. But it’s not Kevin who receives Chiron’s fury, but the instigating bully. Is Chiron sparing Kevin? Cutting him some slack? Or maybe, does Chiron realize that Kevin has in a sense already punished himself in the act of betrayal? Regardless, when Chiron returns to school, he coolly walks into a classroom and smashes a chair over the head of the boy that goaded Kevin into hitting him. In that moment, the consequences of attacking the unsuspecting punk matter little; the feeling of vindication acts like a mantra that cannot be ignored; there’s something intoxicating about this revenge, both for Chiron and the viewer.

Moonlight is an intoxicating film, after all. And this scene encapsulates the complexities at work here. Moonlight explores the world from a very particular angle, and in so doing, offers us something very true: We cannot expect to survive in our own heads forever. Sooner or later, we crave human connection. Chiron, having bottled up so much, walks around with very thick armor (as I’ve already mentioned, he has good reason to be so guarded). Yet the feelings and the thoughts and the workings of his mind are palpable, as powerful as thunderclouds. There’s a tempest inside him, but there is also tenderness and love and compassion, too.

Moonlight is a gracious movie, one that deeply feels for its protagonist without offering him up as some object of pity. Instead, the film offers Chiron a moment of grace: In the third act, when “Black” appears, just as quiet and guarded as ever, but now physically tougher, harder, more in control, Kevin re-enters his life; the bad blood between them has dissipated, and what’s left is a lingering memory of that night on the beach. Moonlight wonders what might have been, had Chiron’s life been less fraught with hopelessness; but it also finds hope anyway; it isn’t too late for him to carve out some kind of happiness, some kind of life for himself.

What's your favorite scene from Moonlight?

Who do you think will take home the Best Actor prize at this year's ceremony?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Peek Through the Hatch: Robert's Most Anticipated Films of 2017

We have left 2016 behind. 2016, a figurative dumpster fire, but almost as if it were some alternate reality where the Grand Canyon was turned into a giant landfill through some sort of federal legislation. That big of a dumpster fire. 2017 is upon us. Let us look ahead and dream. Like last year, superhero films have been excluded and I've only gone "in depth" on my Top 5. Without further ado, here are the 10 upcoming films I'm most looking forward to.

10. Dunkirk (July 21)

'Nuff said: Christopher Nolan's first feature-length film since 2014's Interstellar.

9. War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)

'Nuff said: Ape shenanigans are always great.

8. The Masterpiece (?)

'Nuff said: Adaptation of "The Disaster Artist", which is a behind the scenes look at The Room.

7. The Girl with All the Gifts (?)

'Nuff said: Fresh zombie flick.

6. Kong: Skull Island (March 10)

'Nuff said: Ape shenanigans are always great.

5. Alien: Covenant (May 19)

Let me get this out of the way: Prometheus sucked. Here's my review. Covenant could be the proper Alien prequel we've been wanting. Plus, while Prometheus did fall short of expectations, it at least left off on an interesting note, and I'm wondering what's become of David the android (Michael Fassbender) and Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). Oh, and I recently completed the video game Alien: Isolation, and it's seriously renewed my interest in the Alien mythos and franchise.

4. Ghost in the Shell (March 31)

I haven't seen the original but I'm hoping to fix that. Despite the uproar surrounding ScarJo's casting (and that whole weird digital yellow face controversy) I'm definitely excited for this. It looks amazing.

3. Blade Runner 2049 (October 6)

I'm a huge fan of the original Blade Runner. Here's hoping they can recapture that film's look and tone. Harrison Ford's last two revival projects were a miss (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and a hit (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) respectively, so it'll be in interesting to see what this turns out to be.

2. Baby Driver (August 11)

Edgar Wright is one of my favorite directors. It's always hard waiting for one of his projects, and we've been waiting oh so long after he pulled out of Marvel's Ant-Man. But we don't have to wait much longer for Baby Driver, which will be more of a thriller compared to his other films, from what I've heard. Sounds like the trailer and the movie are gonna be awesome.

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 15)

I'm surprised this is my #1 but there ya go. The Star Wars renaissance has been going great and I'm not immune to its spell. That said, The Force Awakens was basically a remake of A New Hope, so I'm hoping this is a truly original film with some unexpected surprises.