Friday, January 13, 2017

Favorite Scene Friday! The Princess Bride: Get used to disappointment

It's the start of a new year, which here at To The Escape Hatch means only one thing, an Escape-athon! That means we're spending the next few weeks looking at escapist movies, from the realms of fantasy and sci-fi, and I'm kicking things off with one of my favourite fantasy films, The Princess Bride. Regular readers should be very familiar with this film, given that it's received two FSF celebrations before, looking at the climactic fight between Inigo and Rugen and text the wedding scene, included in a compilation post, but today it's all about one of the most famous scenes of the film, the battle at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity.
Artwork by toonbaboon on DeviantArt

Now granted this isn't a terribly fantastical scene - it's inspired by and wouldn't be out of place in something like The Adventures of Robin Hood - but the film is a fantasy, so as far as I'm concerned it counts, and I couldn't think of something from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings that I was really in a mood to discuss. Plus, do I really need that much of an excuse to talk about the boundless joy that is watching any moment of The Princess Bride? For me it's easily amongst the most flat-out endlessly entertaining films ever made, and the reasons why are all over this scene:

The Dread Pirate Roberts, who is really a farm boy named Westley (Cary Elwes), is on the trail of Buttercup (Robin Wright), his childhood love and the intended wife of Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Buttercup has been kidnapped by a trio of apparent criminals (Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant and Mandy Patinkin), and Westley must defeat each of them to save his love, and the first of these three he encounters is Patinkin's master swordsman Inigo Montoya, who is himself upon a quest of vengeance against a fabled six-fingered man who murdered Inigo's father. The two fight and Westley eventually bests Inigo and continues on his way, but not before one of the most entertaining sword fights ever committed to celluloid.

In fact, the fun of the scene starts long before the blades are even drawn. Westley must first reach Inigo at the top of the cliffs and Inigo, who is impatient for his chance to further practise his skills in preparation for eventually encountering the six-fingered man, is willing to help Westley up with the use of a rope, but Westley is understandably cautious of this assistance from a man whose primary intention within the scene is to kill him. I adore the comedic nature of the very premise of the scene, how these two men so intent on battling one another to the death can still respect and admire the skill of the other at combat, and the blase attitude they seem to have to the whole affair, even mid-fight. There's so much emphasis on sportsmanship and fair play to make it almost ludicrous.

The scene allows for some natural exposition - in the break Westley is given to catch his breath after climbing the rope, Inigo provides his tragic back story, immediately empathising us with his character - and the dialogue within the scene is so quotable, as it is with almost the entire film. Plus, everything Inigo says is made ten times more fun by virtue of Patinkin's impossibly thick accent. Imagine Beauty and the Beast's Lumiere, but is he was Hispanic. It's wonderful.

The choreography of the combat gets more than a little goofy, especially once the gymnastics and sword-throwing come into play, but vitally it never gets boring, it's always fun to behold, and I always want it to last far longer than it does..

Do you have a favorite fantasy fight scene?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Escape-athon 2017!

This Friday, Jay's Favorite Scene Friday will kick off Escape-athon 2017! Why are we starting this year's celebration essentially two weeks late? What can I say, I'm kind of a garbage person in term's of blogging and podcasting lately. I haven't posted anything here since October. I have two episodes of a new podcast recorded just SITTING there. Our logo still features Batman V. Superman, which is almost a year old for cripes sake! I just can't seem to get motivated. But hopefully that changes this month.

So yeah, Jay will kick off Escape-athon and we'll have a few more guests sharing fantasy and/or sci-fi scenes this month. ALSO, in the not-being-a-garbage-person department, I'm hoping to watch and review some fantasy and sci-fi films this month that I've never seen. Speaking of, can you help me pick which movies to watch and/or review? Click here and see below for a crude image I screengrabbed from Letterboxd, rather than making an actual collage or something (garbage person here):

Friday, December 16, 2016

Favorite Scene Friday! Home Alone 2: Suck Brick Kid!

Sometimes the hardest part of these Favorite Scene Friday posts is actually tracking down a clip of the scene you want to discuss. When Robert suggested writing about a festive-themed film for the month of December, my mind initially went in a few directions, but eventually settled on a childhood fave of mine, Home Alone, and more specifically the scene which features my top quote from the franchise, Daniel Stern's Marv yelling "Suck brick, kid!" as he throws a brick at Macauley Culkin's Kevin after an evening's torture and humiliation, which included a fair few bricks thrown in Marv's direction. Alas other than that one sound-bite I couldn't find a video of the scene, and what began as a quest through YouTube evolved into me essentially falling into a pit of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York clips, which was a mighty enjoyable way to spend some time, I can tell you. As such I've not picked one scene to discuss today, instead I've gathered a bunch for your viewing pleasure. These all take place in the second half of the film, otherwise known as "the part you're looking forward to".

If you're unfamiliar, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York sees Kevin McAllister alone in the Big Apple after an airport mix-up when he gets on the wrong plane as the rest of his family head to Florida. There he encounters his former foes Harry (Joe Pesci) and the aforementioned Marv, who attempt to burgle a toy store. Kevin bungles their plan and leads them to his aunt and uncle's house, which they have left for renovations, and Kevin has rigged with a heap of traps. Whilst I love the first film, I prefer this sequel as it raises the game in terms of the traps Kevin sets, and has a little more fun in the build-up half as well. Plus. in this film Kevin becomes even more pragmatic, going out of his way to catch the thieves instead of just defending his home from them. Anyway, just like the film you don't want to read my rambling much more, you'd rather see the carnage:

This first scene is the precursor to the later brick-based moment, and it seems stone projectiles are just something I enjoy seeing being thrown in peoples' faces. Kevin is on the roof, and he wants to anger Harry and Marv enough so they'll break into the house and try to catch him. He has evidence of them committing a robbery, and is trying to keep them occupied for long enough for the police to catch them. This is how he riles them up:

It's unknown how many times I can watch Daniel Stern get hit in the face with a brick before it stops being hilarious, but that number is at least four. He has such an expressive face, and plays the increasingly dazed pain so well. Pesci's goading is great too, but this moment is all about Stern's unintelligible blubbering. After this encounter, the pair take their usual tactic of splitting up and trying to work their way into the building via separate routes:

Marv versus the staplegun. By this point you have to understand that what you're watching is a live-action cartoon. Of course most of this wouldn't work for various reasons, mostly involving physics and biology (namely how many times the antagonists would be killed), but Marv getting stapled in the arse is just utter nonsense, but it's a lot of fun. I love the bluff that you think it'll staple his foot when he braces it against the door, only for him to exacerbate the situation with his backside, then his groin, and finally his nose. If anything Pesci gets off comparatively lightly, especially given he's been spared the multiple bricks to the face, here suffering only a short fall from a greased up ladder. It's OK those, because things will soon be getting worse for him. Also, this is the point where Pesci solidifies the cartoon nature of the film by becoming the human embodiment of Muttley. Once they finally get inside the house, they soon wish they hadn't:

Easily two of the most hilarious and ridiculous traps occur adjacent to one another, and really show off Kevin's ability to predict human nature. After Marv enters and gets covered in paint and a bookcase, it's understandable that he'll want to clean himself off at the nearby sink. Alas, the taps don't dispense cool, cleansing water, but a skeleton-inducing amount of power, causing Marv's hair to frizz out and his flesh to literally disappear from his entire body, if only momentarily. Meanwhile, upstairs, Harry gingerly tests the light pulls, all too aware of the iron-to-the-face Marv received last time they encountered Kevin. Here his fate is ultimately worse, as a pull causes a blowtorch to set his hat alight (again! It seems in these films, where Marv has a tendency to get hit in the face, Harry is more likely to fall over and get burned). Once again Kevin predicts the sink will be the first destination, but that's not working either, and the bowl of what appears to be water in the toilet looks very tempting to the aflame Harry, who executes a perfect handstand on the bowl, and realises perhaps a little too late that it's actually full of kerosene. Obviously he'd be several kinds of dead in real life, but here he just receives the classic soot-caked face and teeth.

The final clip is a classic, and the most call-back-heavy of these, as it directly references the paint can swings from the first film, but plays with it by making our villains feint being hit, only to be taken out by a giant, heavy bollard-type object, twice. It's not as entertaining as the others, sure, but damn it's gotta hurt. The scene I'd been really looking forward to though was when the crooks finally make it to the roof (after being apprehended by, amongst other things, a tool chest rolling down the stairs) and see Kevin down below. Marv, hungry for vengeance, makes the obvious move to pick up a brick and throw it at his foe, yelling the immortal line:

I love it. And when the two start to climb down the rope and get about halfway, Kevin sets it on fire so they climb back up, but not quick enough, so they fall back down, land on a big seesaw catapult that fires a load of paint cans into the air, which fall upon them once again. It's like The Bricklayer's Lament, but far, far sillier. It's a very silly film, that also at other times is very touching, but I watch it for the ridiculous cartoon violence, the ingenuity of Kevin, and mainly for the reaction shots of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

What's your favorite scene from a Christmas movie? Does it involve grown men throwing bricks at children? Why not?