Sunday, 31 August 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies - with Dallas and friends

A Week Without Movies... Almost
That's right. This last week we did not go out to see a movie and we didn't get a chance to watch any DVDs. Now, that isn't to say we didn't watch any movies. In fact, last night Helen was babysitting from 7PM till about midnight while I was home with Isabel. In that time Australia's great "free to air" television programming fit me like a glove. I started the night off with Pixar's The Incredibles on channel Seven which was immediately followed by Scary Movie 4 (absolute offal, but better than watching "Spicks and Specks"), after which I turned to channel Ten for The Return of the Jedi (HELLO!). So, watching three movies in one night could hardly be called a week without movies, but none of these movies are recent releases, and the fact of the matter is I didn't feel like doing a review on any of those films. Instead, I've decided to do a short review on a film Helen and I watched a few weeks ago. The classic Don Siegel film Dirty Harry starring the inimitable Clint Eastwood. I've also decided to list my top five Steven Spielberg films. ENJOY!!!

Top Five Steven Spielberg Films
1. Schindler's List
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
3. Jaws
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
5. Munich

Nihilism in the USA
a review by Dallas

Dirty Harry, released in 1971 tells the story of Harry Callahan a gritty San Francisco Police Detective, played to perfection by Clint Eastwood, as he tries to apprehend a serial killer known as Scorpio. This is a fascinating film that explores the power possessed by a maniac with a gun. Whether that maniac is an outlaw serial killer or a police officer with a badge makes no difference. They both wield considerable power that can and is abused.

At the core of this film is a masterful performance by Clint Eastwood. Consider the two ways he delivers his now classic "Do I feel lucky, punk?" speech. His delivery at the beginning of the film exudes an aura of arrogant petulance, which makes the speech feel practiced as though Harry has delivered it on thousands of occasions to minority criminals all over San Francisco. At the end of the film the speech is delivered with a barely contained fury and maniacal menace. Indeed, although Harry Callahan is the protagonist of the film he is far more frightening than the skittish Scorpio. Harry's nihilistic actions deepen his character, and enlighten the audience to the intentions of the filmmakers, which is to state that we tragically live in a world where criminals have more power than the police. But in a way, Harry's character also lessens the suspense. Scorpio is not a villain to be feared, or even wickedly enjoyed whilst on screen. He is more more like a pitiful insect, and is hardly a match for the elemental force of Harry Callahan. With this in mind, it is only a matter of time before Harry Callahan gets his man and wraps up the plot.

Nevertheless, this is still a "must see" film for anyone who enjoys Clint Eastwood, is interested in the exploitation or vigilante films of the 1970s, or would just like to watch a classic film with great location shooting in San Francisco and that classic speech by Mr. Eastwood.
***1/2 Stars


booktapes said...

Never seen Dirty Harry but am a big fan of Clint's directorial efforts, from his early Westerns to Bird through Letters from Iwo Jima. I have to say there have been some definite missteps in there. True Crime, for instance, is God-awful. I also really disliked A Perfect World, The Bridges of Madison County, and Million Dollar Baby. Let's not even mention Space Cowboys. On the other hand, Unforgiven is one of my favorite movies ever, and Flags of our Fathers, and in particular the storyline involving the Native American, I found totally haunting.

And speaking of missteps by acknowledged geniuses, I recently wrote in my own blog about how the Star Wars prequels aren't as bad as everyone says they are. They certainly enrich the myth symbolism of the series and I found the elaborations on the Force theology to be really interesting. One scene in particular that should be rewatched is the scene where Padme, Anakin, and Obi Wan are held captive in the Geonosian Colosseum in Episode II. Realizing that the pillars to which they have been chained are essentially giant fertility symbols completely opened up the symbolic possibilities of that scene for me. Its really interesting how each character reacts differently to this kind of "captivity," and the different kinds of animals they each confront. What comes out of such an analysis pretty well parallels thematic developments throughout both that movie and the rest of the series. By the end I was like, wow, turns out George Lucas is still a total genius even if he has lost his directing chops.

Whoops, kind of a long comment. Sorry Dilly.

dallas said...

i had a look on your blog. interesting assessment of episode II. previously, when i watched that scene i would only get wrapped up in lucas's homage to the sci-fi films of the 50s and 60s, and artists like ray harryhausen. similarly, the clone battle on geonosis is reminiscent of battles in vietnam war films like "apocalypse now" and "platoon".

i also agree that the prequels sometimes get an undeservedly bad rep. as stories they are quite brilliant, but as films, they certainly leave much to be desired. i think the difference between the originals and the prequels just goes to show that the influence of george lucas only goes so far. i think the prequels would have benefited from lucas passing on the directing and scripting duties to more capable individuals, like he did with "empire" and "jedi"... but i digress.

clint is the man. actually, more appropriately, clint is god. i would agree he's had some missteps, but it is hard to ignore his rather prolific career. what have ye against "million dollar baby"? is it the filmmaking that you find distasteful, the overall 'message' of the film, or something else?

ps. have you read matthew stover's novelization of Episode III, Revenge of the Sith? it's actually quite extraordinary.

Brandon said...

YES!!! Finally Clint has hit the Blog! And the timing couldn't have been better. I watched Magnum Force last night on TV because AMC is having a Dirty Harry marathon this week. This means I get Clint every night this week. This may be the best week of my life.

And for all those who can't handle the Clint...Dirty Harry said it best in the closing scene of Magnum Force "A man's got to know his limitations."


ps- come on guy

booktapes said...

I didn't know who Ray Harryhausen was so I google him and found this rad youtube.

Yeah, Lucas totally should have let someone else direct his movies. His real talent is world-making and synthesizing myths in cool ways. I think the big beef people had with the prequels is they felt he was screwing with something almost holy. Like all myth, the Star Wars characters have become bigger than any one medium, and I don't think Lucas really got that until maybe Revenge of the Sith.

The problem I had with Million Dollar Baby was that by the end her suffering seemed almost cartoonish. Like when her family visits her in the hospital, (and those people were total straw men set up just so we could hate them in the same way we absolutely have to root for the Crash character), I was like jeez what now, is a safe going to fall on her? I don't really like moves where "against all odds" is the main point of the story. When it ties in with a larger point, its fine. I will say there were some great things about the way Clint uses light in the final scenes of the movie. And Morgan Freeman's performance. But Hillary Swank needs to either go away or just like become a complete joke and make Karate Kid IV: Revenge of Machio.

dallas said...

yeah, i made helen watch "dirty harry" a couple weeks ago and i think it may now be time for "magnum force". we've been trying to get through "the shining" this week, but isabel has been making it difficult.

god bless amc. i'm glad they have given you the best week of your life. for father's day (it's this sunday in australia) helen has gotten me digital cable, called foxtel over here, with the sports package so i can watch the final month of baseball and enjoy the basketball and football season as well. i cannot describe to you how happy it's made me. this is going to be the greatest MONTH of my life.

dallas said...

yeah, i don't think lucas could have made ANYTHING that would have lived up to the hype of the star wars cultural phenomenon he had created. i really do just wish that the scenes between hayden christensen and natalie portman could have been better. as it is, i find them excruciating to watch, and it really is a shame.

i hear what you're saying with "million dollar baby". that film, like "crash" and especially "in the valley of elah" are like a cinematic crack to the head with a club. i'm usually very skeptical of films like that, and they normally turn me off. "in the valley of elah" made me want to break things and fling my own poo at the screen.

but with "million dollar baby" i find that clint's minimalist approach balances paul haggis's heavy handedness. clint handles the film with such a gentle grace that i can't help but get sucked in. i really do think it's a beautiful film.

booktapes said...

Whoops. When I said "the Crash character" what I meant was the character named Danger portrayed by Jay Baruchel. I don't know why I called him Crash. Maybe thinking Crash Bandicoot?