Aki’s Top 100 Movies 2015, pt. 9

Movies 4-2.

Is Hollywood system good for movies?

Quentin Tarantino said a long time ago that he was fine with it, because it produced enough good movies each year. Is this enough of a justification? Sure, they make enough good movies each year, but they also spend a lot of money doing it. They do produce some epic movies that simply couldn’t be done with the resources.

I know a lot of people do berate the system for not producing good movies. They use examples from both the indie world or foreign movies and comparing them to the latest flop from Hollywood. The thing is, this just isn’t fair. The real problem here is that we hear about every shitty movie that comes out of Hollywood, because they all have plenty of marketing dollars. On the other hand, we only hear about the best indie or foreign movies, because they requite word-of-mouth to propagate. They can’t get that unless they have something special to them.

Could Hollywood be doing a better job? Yes, they could. They could get out of the current paradigm of making seemingly safe movies that just don’t work. On the other hand, you can’t always know what’s not going to work when you start the process. I think the best that could happen is that producers learned to keep their meddling to the minimum so that directors wouldn’t have to juggle their requests with the actual needs of the movie. I think this has been the source of quite a few recent disappointments and I bet I’m not alone with my opinion.

Also, this isn’t new. There have always been disappointments and flops. We just don’t see those movies of the past. Its actually pretty much the same thing as with indie and foreign movies. From the past, we only see the better movies, while from the current batch we have to be inundated by pretty much all of them.

4. The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995, USA)

Memorable moment: The iconic moment of the five thugs standing side by side used widely in the marketing.

A group of five career criminals is taken in order to find the guilty party for some crime. There’s a more devious reason, however. Someone wants to put them together, so they can use them for their own purposes. This ‘someone’ is apparently known as Keyser Soze and he seems to be near-mythical in both his ability and lack of belief in him.

The whole story is told in flashbacks during an interrogation of Verbal, one of the members of the gang. Verbal is crippled, so he’s seen as weak and thus an easy subject, but (and hopefully you’ve seen the movie, but if not you’ve probably been spoiled by now anyway) this is just a ploy. He knows everyone will underestimate him based on physical appearance, so he can easily manipulate the situation by letting others make their own (false) conclusions.

This movie has been designed to be watched again. It might not work that way quite as well as Sixth Sense, for example, but it still holds secrets you’ll uncover from repeated viewings. However, it has other strengths. That one viewing is enough to see the complex plots involved, as well as the crew of characters, who really make up the movie.

3. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996, UK)

Memorable moment: Renton hallucinating about a dead baby in the ceiling.

Renton is a heroin addict, who remains so, because he can’t face a normal life sober, or his friends for that matter. He does make attempts to clean up, but he is always dragged back into this life, often by the actions of the very people who would like him to stop. Its a complicated situation with seemingly no way out.

Although its easy to miss certain things (such as that the timeframe of the movie is supposed to be pretty long), I like how the story is told. We often leave the confines of the real world to get a glimpse of Renton’s experiences on drugs and the hectic pace with which the movie moves keeps us always on our toes.

The antics of Renton and his friends are often depicted as funny, but they are quite horrific for most of us. Begbie’s impulsively violent nature is especially notable and his friends are also fully aware of it. Sick Boy is almost as bad, but seen as preferable, because his way of exploiting his friends is not violent, just making his moniker quite fitting. Tommy and Spud are more like victims here, bringing a whole other side to the equation. Rents does have some sympathy for them, but is often too busy with his own shit to actually care. Or simply uses their misfortunes as yet another excuse to go back to heroin.

Their whole world is pretty dark and seedy, but they don’t seem to quite fit there, with the exception of Sick Boy, who probably thrives. Even Begbie is too volatile for the life.

2. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999, USA)

Memorable moment: Bob pressing the Narrator against his massive breasts.

Our Narrator finds his life in a rut. His office job, IKEA-filled apartment, and pretty much non-existent social life (he calls the people he meets on planes during his work trips single serving friends) leave him trying to find some meaning in strange places. One of his single serving friends is Tyler. But Tyler’s different and when our Narrator finds his apartment burned down after returning from a work-related trip, he decides to call Tyler. Tyler offers to take him in.

Together they decide to let out their bent-up male aggression by simply fighting. Soon they are not alone and before long fight clubs are everywhere. After learning he has such a power over people, Tyler hatches a more sinister cause for all those disaffected men.

Someone I knew back in the day said he’d never seen, or would see, this movie, because he didn’t like action flicks. That’s quite short-sighted. Its categorized as drama in IMDb, because in their system they don’t have anything better. It does have a certain feeling of speculative fiction, but it pretty much defies all conventional genres.

What it definitely isn’t, is an action film. Sure, there’s violence and plenty of it, but its not stylized violence of action movies. Maybe a psychological thriller of sorts?

No one is happy in this bleak and stylized world. Eveyrone is either a prisoner of their conventional and boring life, or have escaped it, but haven’t really found anything better in their freedom, or are dying.

From all this Fincher manages to extract a compelling story, full of weird shit… and use Where Is My Mind? by Pixies in a magnificent way.

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