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Aspen Extreme (1993)
Am I The Only One Who Found This Film Hilarious?
Actually, I know I'm not because I've got a group of friends who watch this regularly and laugh like crazy. If they had hammed this up, like Hot Dog, it wouldn't have had a prayer but playing this ludicrous story straight up has yielded fabulous results. Franz, played by the lead singer of Spandau Ballet, is one of the greatest comic characters in film history.
There are no "rules" for unintentional comedy but there are a few elements that greatly make them watch able and Aspen Extreme has the lot. First off, good acting helps and the cast here is first rate. Berg, Gross, and Polo all deliver their over-the-top dialog as if it were penned by the Bard and the bit players are solid as well, from Franz to Karl Stoll to the Olympic hopeful from Oregon.
"What's the worst day you've ever had." "I dunno, probably the time we were arrested for stealing those telephone poles."
Secondly, nice cinematography and direction are almost essential. This film looks and feels like big budget Hollywood. It's beautiful.
Next, the soundtrack should be campy and Aspen Extreme's 80's rock track is hilarious. A perfect homage to Del Amitri. In fact, the whole movie is filled with 80s iconography even though it came out well into the 90s, "Hi, I'm Andy Mill ."
Finally, the writing has to be badreally badand directed as if it were genius. The great Alan Dwan once said, in reference to comedic camp, "(sic)You can't tell your actors they're making comedy or they'll ham it up. They must believe they're making a serious film." As the above example suggests, and un-funny line on paper, when derived in the proper context, can be much funnier than if the joke actually had a punch line the made sense.
All I'm sayin' is that this film may not be Road House or Endless Love, but it's a dammed fun time and won't even need robots sitting in the front row you help you out.
"I'm not here for the party, azz hool. Zis iz my job!"
Fast Food Nation (2006)
An Optimistic In A Bleak World
I really like Richard Linklater, the director of Fast Food Nation, because no matter what pop culture, market research, or his distributors tell him he continues to make movies where people talk. I don't mean talk as in "Hasta la vista, baby," or some other cliché-ridden "isn't that clever" marketing jargon, but TALK, as in conversations; the kind that were common place before TV, the Internet, and X-Boxes.
In Fast Food Nation, the film's message is mainly delivered through words. Sure, there's sex, and violence, and even a special effect, but for Linklater's film to be truly affecting it requires the audience to listen. And if they do, they will be rewarded. It's a gamble that I hope will pay off because it's a story that we need to hear. And within his story is an underlying hope--or perhaps just blind faith--that an audience will watch a film about real people dealing with real issues.
There are no true good guys or bad guys in the film. In an interview with my friend, Denis Faye he says, "It's like, hey, everyone's doing their best in this world, you know?"
His characters, like all of us, are all flawed. The good aren't all good, nor the bad all bad, which is something mainstream movie goers, particularly in the USA, seem to have a problem with. Maybe it's because we don't watch movies to watch people in conflict because we get enough of that in our own life.
But to me, at least, this is a great statement of optimism and belief in our society; that we will, when given the choice, choose to listen, think, and make our own decisions. Even in a film that shows life to be pretty bleak, it's a very optimistic view of the world.
not nearly frightened enough...
"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."
As I write this I'm enjoying a cup of fine Ceylon tea. Why tea, you ask? Why not and ale, or `something stronger'? Because, I am afraid, when there's serious business to discuss and matters are everpressing, tea is the drink of choice. I sense the presence of evil during these dark times. The Nazgul are afoot. It is not a time for Merriment, or for catching up with old friends. It is a time for action. The ring is near.
Back in the days of the Shoppe, in the quaint village of Isla Vista, we lived an easy and simple life, free of adventure. We knew this would not last for long. My friend Phil often spoke of the ring, saying that any day we may find it, then our paths would be clear. But find it we did not. And, since this time, our lives have become disjointed, muddled, and un-focused. But the forces are amassing in the east. Sauron has again become active. A foreboding sense of turmoil has come to the forefront to my thoughts. Dark creatures lurk in the shadows. Our conversations are not our own. The holidays are upon us but don't be lulled into thinking all is comfortable. You say that you are frightened, but you are not nearly frightened enough.
New light was shed on this last night whilst viewing Peter Jackson's new film, Lord of the Rings. The film chronicles the first third of that great adventure which took place many years ago, before the ring in our story was even conceived. Back then, there were other rings, that were all powerful, until one ring was forged that could rule them all. It is a story of tragedy, hope, and heroic deeds. It is a story that should not be joked about or taken lightly, because it's our history and, as you all know so well, history has a way of repeating itself.
Jackson's re-telling of this epic is about as flawless as could be imagined. Save for the edits that needed to be made for brevity's sake, he has not missed out on much. The film looks shockingly beautiful. The choice of New Zealand was a stroke of genius. For one, it matches the books. But, more important, it's scenery that most of the world doesn't know, so we can't ever feel like it's being shot somewhere that we have pre-formed memories about. It looks, if possible, even better than I imagined it. The acting is so good that it's really beyond even a mention. For these are the characters of the tale: Gandalf, Frodo, Aragorn ... as if they have been brought to life. There will be no George Clooney as Frank Sinatra substitutions here. What we see it how it was. How it looked, sounded, and felt to be there.
If there is one problem with this telling, it's that it still feels a little rushed. The hobbits' journey out of the Shire didn't allow them time to slowly realize the situation that they were getting involved with. Of course, we all knew that Tom Bombadil would not be taking part. Even still, they stumble upon Bree a little too quickly, and the Nazgul are a bit too ever present at their heels. Still, it is remarkable to be able and capture the story as well as it did, because an unabridged LOTR's would have to be 30 hours long!
In Bree, we have what has always been my favorite scene. Where the serendipitous adventures meet the reticent king. It's the gateway to the real world, where life is not going to be easy or simple any longer. We see the rogues of the world. It's like the bar scene in Star Wars, or any number of port scenes in historic tales: The Prancing Pony or Rick's Cafe American. The meeting with Strider is the focal point to me. How this is handled will give insight to the way in which the tale will unfold. Aragorn is a complicated man living what is, on the surface, an uncomplicated lifestyle. Because of this he is misunderstood and feared. A king living as a ranger; a conflicted man; a man full of the deepest torment: a man that is regal and confident, yet scared and torn. This scene must be able to show this, without words or actions. Jackson pulls it off. It is brilliant. Bravo to Viggo Mortensen for understanding this about him, but didn't I say we are above critiquing the players of this performance.
A lot of folks had trepidations about Arwen. My only comment is that she was great. Tyler not only holds her own, but also treats the role with the highest reverence. Ditto for everyone at the Council of Elrond. This could have easily become a melodramatic Hollywood mess, with cliched characters hamming it up for advertising dollars. But it didn't. It remained serious and restrained. Sure, Sam, Merry and Pippin are funny. But that's how life is: always a touch of humor in even the direst of circumstances. And Rivendell: it was even more glorious than what was conjured in my mind's eye.
The final act may have had too much action. Certainly, this is important for audience numbers. It is also important because this film's aim is to visualize a book. We already have the words. But, still, the story is at its best when dialogue, or Tolkien, is being spoken. The action is part of the story, for sure, but the story is in the words and the ways in which they are uttered. Galadriel seems a tad too conflicted and loses a bit of her airiness but, really, she isn't around long enough to make this judgment sound. Boromir, on the other hand, is played and handled beautifully. I think that a little too much torment is caused with the wearing of the ring but, again, it's just a personal feeling about it-after all, it's `my precious' so there has to be some good feelings associated with it. However, maybe it is all caused because Sauron is closing in on it. Perhaps it doesn't always cause such anguish. But, when all is said and done, I am just nitpicking. This piece transcends the art of filmmaking.
In the words of Professor Arthur Ayers in the cult film Icarus Descending, `It is tale I will not tell willingly. A tale that requires, what was it Coleridge said -- ah, yes, a tale that required the suspension of disbelief'
Suspension of disbelief? Perhaps that will work as an excuse for many. As for me, it's a tale every bit as real as my life; it is the world around me in which I live.
"All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king."