Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: Unforgiven (1992)

When you first see Will Munny, he isn't the kind of man you expect, both from Eastwood's past famous roles and your typical western. The opening and closing bookends emphasize this further by highlighting Munny's reputation ("a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition") versus the obviously different person his wife knew. Indeed the first time we meet him he's falling down in some mud trying desperately to round up some hogs. Quite the opposite of a badass, and the arrogant Schofield Kid is quick to point this out.

It's brilliant the way these characters are developed. Munny instantly becomes sympathetic because you see him as a father working hard to provide for his kids but failing miserably. It becomes a running gag how Munny can't even get on his horse without a ton of trouble. Very few movies can take a character you laugh at and turn him into such a fierce fearless man you wouldn't dare chuckle around him, but Unforgiven does that flawlessly. Right from the start, it's building him up as a three-dimensional protagonist with different sides to him.

What's equally as incredible is developing Little Bill as a real person too. At first, you might think Little Bill's sense of justice is warped since the assault on the prostitute doesn't get a punishment befitting the crime, but even if you think Little Bill is too lax here, the reasoning behind his decision is a noble one: he's trying to avoid further bloodshed. The first confrontation between Little Bill and English Bob again plays with the dichotomy of appearance versus reality by making Little Bill seem quite ruthless in his savage attack on an unarmed man. You learn later though how English Bob is a liar, boasting of heroic acts when he did nothing of the sort, and again, Little Bill is trying to prevent lawlessness and murder in his town. But you see another side to Little Bill when you find out how truly awful he is at building a house. This humanizes him. The way this script handles its characters is just extraordinary.

One of my favorite moments is after the Schofield Kid takes his first life and realizes he isn't like Will. It's such a clear contrast that really distinguishes both characters. You realize the Schofield Kid was all talk. Having actually murdered someone, he's disgusted and haunted by it. It shows you how ugly violence really is.

I don't know what it is about Morgan Freeman, but he automatically comes across as sympathetic just because of the way he looks. He never seems like a bad man, and of course, he isn't in this movie even if he did some terrible things in his past like Will. But Ned is really so crucial to the narrative of this film. He has a chance to kill one of the cowboys, but he can't do it. So he's innocent, and thus, it makes perfect sense from a storytelling perspective that he's the one Little Bill tortures and kills. It's a great twist of irony, and it puts you in the protagonist's shoes. You want Little Bill to pay. It doesn't matter who Munny was before. "That's right. I've killed women and children. I've killed just about everything that walks or crawls at one point or another, and I'm here to kill you Little Bill for what you did to Ned." It's such an amazing scene lifted up to such colossal heights by every beat that came before it.

And I love the use of thunder and rain in this film. It really helps establish the atmosphere and the tension especially in the climax. Such a simple thing can go a long way when used right.

Here's something sad and disturbing. Even a masterpiece like this can get shit reviews. Just check out this link on IMDb:

People complain the dialogue is poor, the acting is "horrible," the movie is boring, Eastwood is too old, etc. Someone even has the audacity to call it "one of the worst westerns around." You've got to be fuckin kidding me. How unfortunate is it that no matter how great of a movie you make, some people are always going to shit on it.

New Predator Drawings

I used to draw all the time as a kid. One of my elementary teachers told everyone to draw a clown, but I hated clowns so I drew a Predator choking a clown. The teacher liked it so much she put it up on the wall in the hallway. Here are some new sketches.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Foreign Filmmakers' Guide to Hollywood

Want to know why Hollywood is so fuckin awful? Why
The Ring Two turned out to be an utter piece of trash? It's not Hideo Nakata's fault. Sadly, you'll probably never get to see this in the US, and I'm sure there's a reason for that. This documentary pretty much shows how Nakata got screwed over again and again while trying to make his debut US film. The Japanese filmmaker directed the original Ringu as well as its Japanese sequel and several other films like Dark Water. Obviously, he's talented so what happened? Why did the sequel to the American remake end up as such a disaster? Here's a clue: Walter Parkes, producer of both the American remake and its sequel. This guy seemingly praises Nakata while it's revealed that he undercut him on almost every decision, questioning Nakata simply to cover his own ass in case the movie bombed. Welcome to Hollywood where every jackass with a title tosses out words like "franchise" and begins every sentence with "we" in order to absolve themselves of any personal responsibility. It's pretty sad actually. Nakata got the script for filming just 11 weeks before they were going to start shooting. What's wrong with that picture? You set a date to start filming before you have a director? The guy who is supposed to steer the ship has no clue about where he's going or why until a couple months before? And the guy with actual directing and storytelling experience gets no input on the script? You better believe Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg, the two examples of "sovereign state directors" Parkes mentions, get input on the script and develop it years before shooting.

One thing consistently pops up watching this documentary, and it's the realization that it's a miracle we get any good movies out of such a broken ridiculous system. Nakata has tons of experience yet he is considered "a first-time American director" by Parkes who hasn't directed a single film in his life (sorry pal, one 55-min documentary seen by no one doesn't count). Nakata is just thought of as a "risk" by Parkes. A big-headed producer like Parkes who really wants to direct and thinks he knows everything is more of a risk than anything.

Take it from Nakata. Hollywood fuckin sucks.

The most revealing moment is when Nakata brings up how Parkes called him in to reshoot an exterior shot of a house. That's right. The producer told the director to reshoot something. Why? Because Parkes didn't like the location. Something he should've mentioned five million years ago when they scouted locations. Parkes even says the shot was stylistically well done and atmospheric and "everything you wanted" yet obviously, it wasn't what Parkes wanted. Parkes complained the farm house looked too "ordinary." Was he expecting a bat cave? Who the fuck is the director here? Nakata even says he was paralyzed. Why? Because he just got stabbed in the back. Parkes admits he may have been overreacting since the shot is in the movie and "it's fine." The way he tries to sleaze his way out of any wrong doing is quite extraordinary by claiming Nakata just wasn't used to having all the Hollywood tools at his disposal so Parkes wanted him to take advantage of that. Bullshit.

You also find out Parkes kept telling Nakata to move the camera to which Nakata responded, "We are moving the camera when necessary. But if it's not necessary, why should we move the camera all the time?" You see this a ton in Hollywood films. The camera is always moving for no fuckin reason, and it's stupid. It's because the filmmakers lack the confidence to know what they're doing is working, and they think moving the camera all the time is what big budget movies do. It's shockingly retarded. Shut the fuck up and let Nakata direct.

You also get more of an understanding of how people in Hollywood talk just by watching the types in this documentary. Julien Thuan says how he really loved the style of Ringu and then that he saw Chaos afterwards. What does he specifically say about Chaos? Pay attention to this: he had a "real appreciation for Chaos," but then he goes on about Ringu and Dark Water aka he didn't like Chaos. But of course, he's not going to come out and say that. Hell no. Honesty? What's that? Good ole Hollywood where stab you in the back is the modus operandi. Fantastic.

Hideo Nakata directing in shitville Hollywood.

Even Roy Lee, an executive producer on The Ring Two and someone who was clearly on Nakata's side, calls the development process a "very painful, tedious long process" that becomes a "mind-numbing affair of everyone trying to put their input." As if that wasn't bad enough, he explains you also have to deal with the corporate level of the studio and trying to make the product appeal as much as possible to the masses wherein often the filmmaker's message gets diluted. So no wonder so many films get compromised and transformed into a hideous abomination of their former selves. Lee is one of the few people in this documentary besides the great Hans Zimmer who talks like a normal honest person.

Joe Menosky is another, and his comments are also revealing about the cluster fuck that is Hollywood. Prompted by Nakata who questions why they so often change writers for no good reason (let that sink in for a bit), Menosky, a screenwriter himself with many credits, tells how a new writer represents progress to studio execs and how that is "institutionalized behavior." Who the hell would ever want to go to Hollywood? It's all too clear the only way you could make something good is if you have the power and the freedom to do what you want but even then you'd have to deal with producers and studio execs. Plus, you could still screw it up yourself. It's just unbelievable how fucked up things are out there.

Menosky also goes on to reveal how projects are usually sold without a script so money is spent without anyone knowing what the hell they're doing. Excellent. That makes sense. Michele Weisler, another honest voice, explains how studios are basically run on fear. Studio execs' fear that they're going to lose their jobs if they haven't gotten a ton of movies made (quality be damned), and the studios are no longer run by filmmakers like they used to be. Now, it's just a bunch of corporations so it's all about the bottom line.

The man who brought us Ringu deserves some respect.

This documentary is also fantastic just in the way Nakata describes the extreme differences between the Japanese system of making films and Hollywood. In Japan, everyone follows the director, and they don't question him. Nakata also wisely points out the flaw of that system: blindly following someone can prevent the amazing spark that can only come out of intense creative collaboration where cast and crew can give their input to make something better. It's pretty obvious which system is better for filmmakers though. In Hollywood, somebody with no experience whatsoever is often in a position of power, and they will screw with the writer or director just to flex their muscles.

The crazy thing about all the stuff in this documentary is it's all for a sequel to a very successful horror film. Imagine the pain you have to go through to get something original made. Jonathan Liebesman, the director of Darkness Falls and Rings among plenty of others, chimes in on how "studios have a tendency to make you feel insecure about what you're doing sometimes, and so you'll find yourself shooting a lot of coverage just to cover yourself without really focusing on what you want to do." Just think about that for a while.

The title of this documentary doesn't do it justice. This isn't just a foreign filmmakers' guide to Hollywood. It's anybody's guide to how truly fucked up Hollywood is and why you have to do everything you can to avoid it like the plague.

Hollywood, on behalf of Hideo Nakata, go fuck yourself.