Tag Archives: Nicolas Cage

Color Out of Space

1. Do you like horror movies? If yes, proceed to #2. If no, proceed to Becoming, a documentary about Michelle Obama that will fill your spirit with hope and strength.

2. Do you like b-horror movies? Perhaps not super low budget, technically, but definitely campy, outrageous, and grotesque. Not going to be mistaken for Ari Aster or Jordan Peele. If yes, proceed to #3. If no, proceed to The Invisible Man, a horror that’s both smart and well-acted.

3. Are you okay with body horror (defined as: intentionally showcasing graphic or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body)? If yes, proceed to #4. If no, proceed to Knives And Skin, a film that mixes fear, desire, and deadpan black comedy.

4. Are you cool with unexplained supernatural or paranormal events? If yes, proceed to #5. If no, proceed to Dead Shack, an ode to 80s slashers and practical effects, it’s a fun, severed-tongue-in-cheek horror that’s been underappreciated.

5. Do you think teenage girls who complain about their rural address and long for fast food but ride barefoot on a horse dressed like Robin Wright in Princess Bride are a) confusing, probably badly drawn characters, or b) exciting and full of intrigue? If a), proceed to Gwen, a spooky and haunting story about a no-nonsense teenager. If b), proceed to #6 and I promise, no follow-up questions even though I have many.

6. Are you comfortable with toxic parent-child relationships? If yes, please proceed calmly to #7 without making eye contact with other readers. If not, feel free to enjoy Game of Death instead – a horror so good it’ll make your head explode!

7. On a scale of 1-10, what is your tolerance for Nicolas Cage gone completely gonzo? If you answered anywhere from 1-8, please check out Prevenge, a film that is daringly transgressive. If you’re sure you can handle a fully bonkers Cage, please see #8, but be prepared to put this in writing.

8. Repeat after me: I, ______________________ (please say your name out loud for the witnesses), do swear not to hold Jay personally responsible, or AssholesWatchingMovies.com generally responsible, if Nicolas Cage adopts and then loses and then finds and then loses and then picks up and then discards an accent that makes no sense, or if he goes completely apeshit on some innocent produce. If you have solemnly taken this oath, you may proceed to #9. If you can’t do it, and I don’t blame you one bit, check out The Orphanage if you got this far and you want a good scare without Nic Cage Nic Caging all over the place.

9. Do you love alpacas? Do you mildly like alpacas? Do you feel fairly neutral about alpacas but wish them no harm? The Cleanse, a horror about loneliness and poop, may be a better choice for you. But if you’re like: “Fuck alpacas!” then by all means, proceed to #10.

10. Wow, okay, you’re still here. Maybe you deserve this movie. I’m partially joking here. This movie is actually well-received by people and critics who are receptive to this kind of thing: a highly stylized, super weird, fairly pulpy, crazy hokey, occasionally downright goofy horror movie that is totally unique, and perhaps fated for cult status. If you’re dealing with any lingering doubts at all, there’s always Zombeavers. Yes, it’s about zombie beavers, but I assure you they’re considerably less ridiculous than Nicolas Cage in Color Out Of Space. But if this is your thing, by all means, have at it. For your efforts, I bestow upon you the following honour.

City of Angels

After a lovely sojourn at the cottage, Sean and I came home to no internet. No internet! So after a nice vacation of living off the grid by choice, we are immediately and understandably enraged that we are now forced to continue doing so IN OUR OWN HOME. And guess what: the Bell guy (internet provider) says they can’t fix it until September. SEPTEMBER. Which is not this evening. It’s next month! Which is a long way of saying there’s a reason there’s been a dearth of reviews on the site lately, and that some of the past reviews were random cottage finds (see: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and many of the future ones will be pulled off the dusty shelves of our DVD collection, which has been housed in the garage ever since DVDs became obsolete. And yet here we are, watching movies like “a homeless person” (I’m quoting myself here, in a moment of admitted hyperbole).

Anyway, there we were on a Saturday night, which is to say, a Sunday morning, watching The Big Lebowski. And no, you’re not having a stroke. That’s not the same title as the one up top. We were maybe 90 seconds into the film when Los Angeles is referred to as the City of Angels. That’s not endemic to The Big Lebowski, it’s a pretty common if misleading nickname for L.A. but at any rate, it DID remind of the 1998 romantic classic City of Angels (I know, not a big leap) and as soon as I learned that Sean never saw it (clearly he was terminally single in 1998), I insisted that Sean go out to the garage to find a copy of the movie I was 36% sure I owned and 98% sure I hadn’t seen this century.

And here’s how that panned out.

First I am shocked to recognize Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher). Actually, it took me a while to convince myself I was actually recognizing him – it looked like him, sorta. A younger him to be sure, but really the problem is that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Capt. Holt is the world’s most deadpan character AND HE NEVER BREAKS. I’ve never seen his face express emotion before. I’ve never seen his lips do that slight curling upwards thing known as a smile. Even his voice was different; Capt. Holt is serious, and monotone. Braugher is my favourite part of the show, and he has transformed himself so wholly for the role that I could barely recognize him even though this film does nothing to obscure his identity. Watch carefully and you’ll also see a brief cameo from Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), so all your TV idols really did start off in a Nicolas Cage movie. Just kidding. That’s not a saying. Gross.

I’m actually very surprised that there’s a 1998 version of me that liked this movie. I was young, but was I really that dumb? I pretty much loathe Nicolas Cage and it’s hard to imagine that there was a time that I did not. And this movie gives you LOTS of reason to hate him. Dear god.

Nicolas Cage plays an angel, in a city that is chock-full of them. They creepily hover around people in order to better swoop them away at time of death. Seth (Cage) is doing exactly that, and exactly as creepily, during a man’s heart surgery. His surgeon, Maggie (Meg Ryan), loses him on the table, and unaccustomed to loss, she starts to fall apart. Seth starts to fall in love. Usually invisible to the living, he’s convinced she somehow saw him as he lurked about her operating room. And so he makes it so: he appears to her, and compels her to fall in love with him, and just when it starts to feel crazy for a human who saves lives and the angel of death to be in a romantic relationship, he becomes human for her. He takes the fall from grace.

I remember being a kid in full meltdown mode for like HOURS after this movie. HOURS. Oh the hormones pumping through my little body.

This time I just can’t get past Nic Cage’s cadaverous skulking about. I feel insulted on Meg Ryan’s behalf. Cage is in no way suitable for a romantic role. Deranged psychopath? Sure. I buy that. I still don’t like him. I still think he’s a terrible actor. But I’d buy it. Here? Not for a second. I keep wanting to yell at Meg Ryan that there’s a vampire waiting to eat her face! And frankly, when they kiss, I can’t help but feel like my suspicions are confirmed.

Even though my eyes were extra extra dry at the end of the film this time around, I still had to explain the ending to Sean, who is a robot. He doesn’t get stuff about love and sacrifice and forever. Sean’s review would consist solely of a shrug. Mine is likely far more hostile. This thing just isn’t holding up.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

What’s better than Spider-Man? TWO Spider-Mans (or is it Spider-Men?)!  Either way, take that thinking to its conclusion, like Lego Movie co-writer Phil Lord did, and you end up with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a cinematic universe to end all cinematic universes.

MV5BMjA0MTgwNTM5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTgyODI4NjM_._V1_SX1777_CR0_0_1777_744_AL_.0Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) has hit a bit of a rough patch in middle age, as has teenager Miles Morales, who just got bitten by a radioactive spider and is going through some changes as a result on top of struggling with fitting in a his new school. Right after being bitten by that pesky spider, Miles stumbles into a science lab where another Spider-Man (Chris Pine) is trying to stop the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from opening a dimensional portal.  During the battle, Kingpin kills that Spidey but not before the first Spider-Man, the middle-aged one, is sucked through the portal that the Kingpin’s machine created.

Confused? You should be, but the most amazing thing about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is that this jumble of Spider-Mans (Men?) makes perfect sense on-screen. And that’s a compliment in two ways. First, because there is so much happening in this movie that it has no right to make sense, and second, because there are a whole lot of other amazing things about this movie.

Spider-Verse’s animation, particularly the art style, is stunning. A number of other superhero films have taken inspiration from the comics, whether in using captions,  multiple panels, or bright colours.  Spider-Verse takes that to a whole other glorious level, owning its comic book roots and jumping off the screen even in classic 2D.

Spider-Verse is also remarkably accessible. This is not a solo superhero film with only two or three familiar  characters to track. Spider-Verse is chock full of obscure one-offs, alternate takes that faded away, including an entire “Ultimate” comic book line that was canned by Marvel in 2015 due to lack of interest. All of that can sit comfortably in the background but no prior knowledge of anything is necessary, even of Spider-Man, to understand and enjoy this film.

 

 

 

The Top Ten Best Car Chases

There’s nothing better than a frantic, fast-paced, pulse-pounding car chase.

The kind that sticks you directly in the middle of the action at a hundred miles an hour, keeping you at the edge of your seat as the mayhem unfolds.

The kind that keeps you coming back to re-view (and in my case, “review”) time and again,  just to relive it.

The kind that brings something new to a very crowded genre.

The kind that I’m crazy for not including in my top ten list.  Well, did I miss any?

10. Bank Heist (Fast Five)

This would rank even higher if two Mustangs had been involved instead of two Dodge Chargers, but it’s still fantastic to see Vin Diesel and Paul Walker double-team the streets of Rio de Janeiro with a gazillion ton bank safe in tow.

Bonus points for the fact that when the safe opens, it’s to Danza Kuduro so I’m reminded of every Caribbean vacation I’ve taken since 2010.

9. Mall Escape (Terminator 2)

Normally, if you’re choosing between a dirt bike and a big rig tow truck for chase purposes, you’d take the terminator2truck, right?  But what if the dirt bike also comes with an assist from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800?

What makes this chase all the more awesome is that if you go in to this movie cold, you cannot be sure which killer robot is on little John Conner’s side – a masterstroke by James Cameron which the movie’s trailers spoiled for anyone who’d seen them.

8. Mall Break-In (The Blues Brothers)

You expect a crash or two as part of a chase.  Maybe a car even flips over once in a while.   The Blues Brothers took crashes to an entirely different level.

A total of 103 cars were wrecked during the film, many of them during Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi’s wild ride through a shopping mall.  That triple-digit destruction was a record until Blues Brothers 2000 deliberately smashed one more car during its production.  But it’s the original receiving the crown that matters, namely a spot on this prestigious list.

7. San Francisco Tour (Bullitt)

Steve McQueen takes a spin in maybe the most iconic Mustang ever and tames the bullittstreets of San Francisco and a rival driver in a Dodge Charger.

But it’s not only the car, it’s also that McQueen made sure to keep his head in view of the camers so you knew it was him doing the heavy lifting the whole time.

6. World’s Worst Valet (The Rock)

This is mostly about the car, as Nicolas Cage borrows a beautiful yellow Ferrari F355 Spider to chase down Sean Connery in a Hummer H1.  And fucks it up badly.

Michael Bay puts his own spin on a San Francisco chase, complete with a runaway trolley car, and reminds us that at Bay’s peak his set pieces were as good as anyone’s.

5. Catching the Train (The French Connection)

french connectionThe French Connection’s chase is iconic for good reason.  This claustrophobic subway/car chase was filmed without a permit in real Brooklyn traffic, causing real car crashes that were left in the film (the producers paid for the repairs, but still).

While the choice to film on uncleared streets is one that would never be allowed by a Hollywood studio today, the camera angles used by director William Friedkin and his crew are still being used today.

4. Bellbottoms (Baby Driver)

It’s rare to have a car chase open a movie, but when it’s done right,  why not?

Here, Edgar Wright gets the opening chase scene SO right, in part because he’d been dreaming of making this very car chase (complete with accompanying song) since the 90s.  It was worth the wait!

3. Chasing a Black…Tank (Batman Begins)

Christopher Nolan can do it all, can’t he?  You’d think the streets of Gotham City would be perfect car chase fodder but only Nolan got it right.batman

Nolan also got a Gotham chase right in The Dark Knight, but for my money the chase from Batman Begins is the best one since it shows us how bewildering it would be for the cops trying to keep track of a superhero’s black…tank as it defies the laws of physics.

2. Fourth Quarter Magic (Drive)

As good as Baby Driver’s opening is, the opening sequence in Drive wins out for Nicolas Winding Refn’s patience and subtlety.

This chase feels like it actually could have happened, and more importantly sets the tone for the rest of the film with its gritty realism, a hint of the pulsing synth soundtrack, and amazing attention to detail (only after seeing the chase play out do we understand why Ryan Gosling’s character is such a big basketball fan).

1. The Whole Enchilada (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max: Fury Road is FURY ROADessentially a two-hour long chase scene, so on that measure it has to be number one.

But what is most impressive is that I couldn’t pick just one short sequence of that chase to focus on because it’s all fantastic.  The madness and desperation in Max’s world lend an unmatched urgency to the chase, and George Miller never takes his foot off the accelerator even for a minute – fitting for the best car chase scene of all-time.

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

Confession #1: I had no earthy idea what or who the teen titans were. We had tickets to a press screening and passed them to some kids we knew who were keen to go – we were at a comedy festival seeing Will Forte and not that sad to miss it. The kids were big fans of the movie and it was only a couple of days later I found myself actually paying to see this movie because it was in the right time and place.

Confession #2: When the movie started, I was surprised to find that it was about young, recognizable super heroes – super girl, bat girl, etc. Then it ended. Because it wasn’t the movie, it was just a short before the movie. So, okay, not super heroes then. That makesMV5BNGZlZjYwZjEtMDQzYS00MThlLTljNGYtM2ZkYWRmYmQ4ZGNiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzExMzc0MDg@._V1_ more sense. Then the real movie begins, and it turns out it IS about young, recognizable super heroes, just different ones. The group is helmed by a young Robin, and includes Cyborg, and 3 others who I’d never heard of before: Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy.

Confession #3: Okay, I lied. I have heard of Beast Boy before. In fact, I’ve played it with my little nephew, Ben. It’s just that at the time I assumed Beast Boy was a PJ Mask, a compatriot of Catboy, perhaps. Turns out these are DC characters who have been around as long as I have (do not be fooled by an extensive Stan Lee cameo!). Though they live in Jump City, they exist in the same world as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, who all make appearances in this film.

In fact, the old guard kind of get the whole thing going. The Teen Titans kind of live in their shadow, never really getting the opportunity to fight true crime, and certainly never getting to star in their own movie. And it’s the movie big that really rankles, particularly for Robin. He pursues fame quite single-mindedly. And if the only way he can land a movie deal is to find an arch nemesis, he’s not afraid to put friendship on the line and travel back in time to get the job done.

Surprisingly (to me), Teen Titans is full of songs and in-jokes. There were definitely a few winks to the parental audience, but this is firmly a kids’ movie, barely more than an extended episode. Charming enough, I suppose, with bright colours and a certain brand of zany fun. Fart joke within the first 5 minutes. That kind of thing. The kind of movie where every single kid the audience can take a bathroom break, maybe two (AND THEY DID) and not miss much at all. On the upside, I’ve really informed my Beast Boy cosplay, and I know a 4 year old who’s about to be super impressed! That’s right, Ben, Aunt Jay has done some research!

Nicolas Cage: Man of Mystery

So, Nicolas Cage. How to talk about Hollywood’s favourite nut job? I’ve never been on the Cage train myself, he always rubbed me the wrong way, like an overzealous hairy uncle that I just don’t trust. But it’s less fun to dislike him now that everyone else does too. The poor guy just unraveled. His movies all flopped at the same time, his money ran out, and it turns out that money and success really were the only things hiding his extremely bizarre personality from the rest of the world. He’s the kind of guy who, when his cat accidentally gets high on shrooms, does them too, to keep him company (yes, that really happened). When playing a traumatized vet in Birdy, he had a dentist pull teeth without anesthetic so he could “understand real pain” because a) dental procedures are comparable to the horrors of war and b) he’s such a bad actor that he couldn’t just pretend to be in pain. He diets according to sex, and not the way you’re thinking: he only eats animals whose mating he finds “dignified” like birds and fish. If he finds their sex to be unattractive, he can’t bear to eat their meat. He once woke up to discover a man, completely naked except for Cage’s leather jacket, sitting on the foot of his bed eating a Fudgesicle. And of course, he spends money like a legit crazy person. He owns or has owned: albino king cobras (yes, plural), a t-rex skull (he outbid Leo fair and square!), a pet octopus that helped him with his acting, a private island next door to Johnny Depp’s private island (sounds like a bad neighbourhood already), and the Shah of Iran’s Lamborghini.

But that’s not all. As you may have heard, Sean and I are in New Orleans this week and Nicolas Cage has some pretty infamous ties to the town. Of course, owing the IRS $6.6 million in back taxes meant some of his properties needed to be sold, and those included his New Orleans real estate. One of those houses was a murder mansion. It was once home to Madame LaLaurie, a wealthy socialite who tortured and 7adb4-cage_lalaurie_picsmurdered her household slaves in the 1800s. She was discovered in 1834 when rescuers responding to a fire at the home found bound slaves in the attic who showed marks of someone having been cruelly tortured over a long period of time – I’m talking people hanging by the neck, mutilated, limbs stretch or torn right off. The fire was later confessed to have been started by the cook, chained to the oven by a chain around her ankle, in a suicide attempt. Outraged, a New Orleans mob stormed the house but LaLaurie fled to the safety of France. If that sounds at all familiar, you may have seen Kathy Bates play a fictionalized version of her on American Horror Story. Unsurprisingly, the mansion is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the dead slaves, including a young girl who fell to her death fleeing LaLaurie’s whip and was buried in the back yard. It may not be a place you’d choose to lay your head for the night, but Nicolas Cage plunked down $3.45M for it.

The second home is much less spectacular in reputation but quite delightful for fa740-cage_prytania_picsliving in it, I would think. At 13 000 square feet in the prestigious garden district, it was once owned by the catholic church, who took to calling it the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. And then Anne Rice owned it. And then Nicolas Cage, possibly for the nights when sleeping in the blood-soaked house mentioned above got too intense. It’s nice to have an unhaunted backup house just in case. It was actually rumoured that he and his family actually lived in the house next door to this one, and thus owned three properties, because sometimes two is not enough. At any rate, “economic difficulties” led to their sale\foreclosure and now he owns no homes in New Orleans but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t own a place to rest his weary bones.

Just as his homes were being sold, he was busy purchasing a cemetery plot. And not just any cemetery, but New Orleans’ most famous one St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It’s home to the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, who is said to haunt it. Because the water table is so high in New Orleans, the tombs are all above ground, and leave it to Nicolas Cage to take advantage: he’s built himself a pyramid tomb that reads Omni img_4195-nicholas-cage-tomb-omnia-ab-uno-everything-from-one-1024x768Ab Uno, Latin for Everything From One. Now, it’s entirely possible that the IRS just can’t foreclose on a tomb. And some New Orleans locals think it’s also possible that the pyramid is stuffed to the gills with cash. The rest of us just wonder whether the pyramid is a tribute to his role in National Treasure, whether the dollar bill has a secret map that would unlock its door, or whether he’s just mixed up in some Illuminati shit. And maybe, just maybe, his flamboyant, 9 foot tall pyramid mausoleum is where he’ll regenerate his immortal self. Some of the locals aren’t too crazy about this eye sore in their historic cemetery, but female tourists have embraced it – literally, leaving lipstick kisses on its walls. To find out if I’ll do the same, why not follow our travel adventures on Twitter – @assholemovies.

 

TIFF 2017: Bingo! I Got Bingo!, Part 2

Catching 3 films by female directors is easy. The TIFF lineup this and every year has lots of interesting films to choose from, many of them directed by women. Getting full TIFF Bingo isn’t so easy.

I have stress dreams about the Midnight Madness ball and avoid it like it’s a not deep-fried vegetable so that’s out. And, while Battle of the Sexes had its moments, I can’t honestly say that I thought “Now this I’ve got to try”.

But I did…

Thank a Volunteer

Mom and Dad– The festival and the city that hosts it can be a little overwhelming at first. Even though I feel like an expert by the end of my stay, every year I’m feeling a little disoriented when I first get into town. So I’ve just checked into my hotel, it’s 11:40 at night, and I’ve got a Midnight Madness screening of Brian Taylor’s Mom and Dad in 20 minutes. I’m running around trying to find Ryerson theater and I’m getting stressed out imagining all the ways that I could humiliate myself trying to volley a beach ball in a crowded theater. Luckily, a friendly orange shirt is never far away and I was very thankful to the volunteers who helped me find where to line up. I never miss a chance to thank a volunteer and I applaud for them every time the TIFF commercial prompts us to.

So, anyway, Mom and Dad. Taylor (Crank, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence) seems to be just begging us to make this a cult classic. An unexplained virus suddenly hits suburbia in the middle of the school day that infects parents with an uncontrollable urge to violently murder their offspring. Poor Carly (13 Reasons Why’s Anne Winters) and Josh Ryan (Transparent’s Zackary Arthur) are forced to fend for themselves against their now-deranged parents played by Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair.

Mom and Dad is bananas. Almost every aspect of the film- from the basic concept down to the music and over-caffeinated editing- seems driven by the same manic energy that fuels Cage’s typically unhinged performance. The actor, who in the eyes of the enthusiastic Midnight Madness crowd may as well have been John Lennon, already starts overacting long before the virus starts making everyone crazy. He outCages himself in this movie and- while it would be a stretch to call it a good performance- it feels like the right performance for this movie. But it’s Blair, surprisingly, who somehow finds a way to keep this runaway train from going off the rails. From the start, we can tell that her character is a good mom. She loves her kids but she’s exhausted and taken for granted. She’s the only believable character in the whole thing and her presence brings Mom and Dad back to earth. It’s through her that we start to sense that the virus is tapping into an existential crisis that was already in place before the infection.

To call Mom and Dad good would be ridiculous but it’s not really trying to be. It just wants to be fun and, for the most part, it is. It’s often funny, even coming dangerously close to smart, especially when it’s in terrible taste.

Phone Dies

I got some great photos this year, many of which you can see if you follow us on Twitter. I like sitting in the front row so I was able to get some shots of Nicolas Cage, Alicia Vikander, Alexander Payne, and Darren Aronofsky that I’m really happy with. But you won’t see a photo of Ellen Page (who, if I’m not mistaken, counts as a superhero out of spandex) because my phone died.

The Cured– So I did manage to get a couple of pictures of Ellen Page during the Q&A for The Cured. They’re just not tweetable because my phone didn’t have enough juice left for the flash to work. So it’s not a great picture. It’s a shame because I love her.

And, yes, fortunately for my TIFF Bingo card, my phone officially died on my way back to my hotel.

On to The Cured. This debut feature from Irish director David Freyne finds yet another way to breathe new life into a genre that seems to never run out of ways to reinvent itself: the zombie movie. Once this version of the zombie apocalypse has died down, two thirds of the “infected’ have been successfully cured and are slowly being reintegrated into society. Ex-zombies don’t have it easy though. They still have painful memories of the suffering that they inflicted and most people still don’t trust them.

Senan (Sam Keeley) has just been released from a treatment facility and is taken in by his brother’s wife Abbie (Page) who has been widowed by the outbreak. When he falls in with a militant group of zombie rights activists, Senan struggles to find a balance between his desire to fit in and atone for his crimes and his instinct to stand up for his fellow cured.

To Freyne, his film is really about how we treat each other in today’s mixed up world. It’s a serious movie with serious themes that somehow finds time to deliver the goods when it comes to zombie scares. Freyne’s direction is confident and precise, more so than almost any other movie I saw at the festival this year.

So there you have it. I wore out my phone battery, saw 3 films by female directors, thanked every volunteer that I spoke to, and even managed to see some good movies while I was at it. By now, experienced Bingo players have probably already spotted my path to victory but please feel free to stay tuned for more details.

 

TIFF: Snowden

I feel much better now. If you read my Amanda Knox review, you may remember that I was close to TIFF burnout last night. Well,  I did what I hate doing: I made the tough choice of skipping my Midnight Madness movie last night and finally got some good sleep. Nothing like watching four more movies to make an unsettling documentary but a distant memory. I’m excited about TIFF again.

Seeing Oliver Stone take the stage to introduce Snowden (which I’ve been dying to see) didn’t hurt. Stone hasn’t made a particularly good movie in awhile and, come to think of it, has never really made a film that I love, but seeing him at TIFF still feels like a big deal. And, thankfully, my concerns about whether or not he could handle this tricky material were unnecessary.

I mean, it’s not perfect. It tries to do way too much and is about 20 minutes longer than it really should be. But it tells and/or speculates about the story that I felt 2014’s Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour missed out on. It tells us about Snowden the man. Wonderfully played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden is easy to root for and easy to relate to. I’d even argue that Stone’s film does a better job of  making the case that all of us should care about illegal NSA surveillance. Even if we feel we have nothing to hide.

Of course, this isn’t a documentary and it’s easier to inspire outrage in a dramatization of events. Snowden isn’t a substitution for Citizenfour, which is an important documentary that everyone should see. It is, however, an interesting and worthy companion piece that will likely make you appreciate Snowden’s sacrifice even more and think twice about getting changed in front of your laptop.

Twins

TMP

Really, Wanderer? Twins?! There’s got to be more out there than I was able to think of but I’m still drawing a complete blank. Well, an almost complete blank. I came up with these three.

dead-ringers

Dead Ringers (1988)– I rarely know what to say about a David Cronenberg movie even immediately after watching it so the fact that I didn’t get a chance to rewatch this bizarre story of twin gynecologists with a bizarre relationship puts me at a huge disadvantage. What I do remember is that both twins- one devilishly charming and the other wracked with social anxiety- are played to perfection by the great jeremy Irons. They may look exactly alike but we can always tell them apart by their posture and body language.

adaptation

Adaptation (2002)– Speaking of werid movies about twins, weird screenwriter Charlie Kaufman dreamt up a twin brother for himself and got that nut Nicolas Cage to play both of them. Much like in Dead Ringers, Charlie is socially awkward and especially shy around pretty girls while Donald has an almost pathological lack of anxiety. Donald may be a big goof but Charlie has a lot to learn from him. Adding to the weirdness, fictional Donald Kaufman gets a writing credit on Charlie’s screenplay (and even gets nominated for an Oscar because of it).

skeleton twins

The Skeleton Twins (2014)– The gimmick of having the same actor play twins can be a lot of fun but if that doesn’t work casting two actors who were born five years apart and look nothing alike will work too. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader play estranged twins who reunite after Milo’s (Hader) suicide attempt. I’m still not completely clear on why their relationship is so strained or why both twins are pretty messed up but the sincerity of both SNL alumni surprises even a fan like me.

Just off the Top of O-Ren Ishii’s Head: 10 Death Scenes I Will Never Forget

I’m not really a Final Destination kind of guy but with stock dwindling at my favourite video store just two weeks before it closes, I settled on a movie that my friend had been trying to get me to watch for months. Final Destination 2- so far left on the shelves by eager shoppers looking to take advantage of the store’s Everything Must Go policy- has a death scene that apparently I just had to watch.

Watching the movie, I couldn’t be sure which scene she meant. There were a lot. Could it be the lottery winner who slipped on some spaghetti and got his head smashed in by a falling fire escape? Or the grieving mother who was decaptiated when she got her head caught in an elevator door? Turns out I should have been watching for the teenager who was crushed to death by something- what exactly I can’t be sure, things happen fast in this movie- while chasing away some pigeons. Apparently, if you watch closely, he explodes long before anything falls on him. How does she know? She’s watched it in slow motion. Several times.

final destination

While I may not have even been temptedc to check the tape on that one, it got me thinking of my favourite on-screen passings. After all, we just saw some real beauts in Mad Max: Fury Road on Friday. Here’s my attempt at a Top Ten. I left out a lot out, I know. How about you? What are some of your favourite scenes that I might have missed?

10. Count Laszlo de Almásy  The English Patient (1996)

English Patient

One of the movies that I am most likely to meditate on the finality of death after watching. Once we’re gone, everything we’ve felt, everything we’ve feared, everything we’ve loved die with us. It’s painful to watch Ralph Fiennes suffer from his burns throughout the movie and when Juliette Binoche’s Hana agrees to help him end his agony once and for all, I could almost feel his last breath. Even though, technically, the scene ends before Laszlo does. Before this act of mercy, Hana reads him this.

“We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have entered and swum up like rivers, fears we’ve hidden in like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. We’re the real counttries. Not the boundaries drawn on maps, the names of powerful men”.

9. Phil Groundhog Day (1993)

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Condemned to live a bad day over and over until he gets it right, Phil (Bill Murray) uses this opportunity to try new things without having to wake up with any consequences. He makes a move on the girl he likes and punches the guy he doesn’t. He runs around town playing hero. He even gives dying a try. His suicidal phase is one of the funniest and darkest parts of the movie. (I haven’t seen the movie in awhile so I can’t remember if it’s made clear to us whether Phil is counting on waking up the next morning or hoping not to).

Before my favourite of said suicide “attempts”, Phil calmly walks into the lobby ignoring the pleasantries of the hotel staff and steals their toaster. Phil calmly prepares himself a nice hot bath and takes the toaster in with him. This scene would also make my list of Top Ten Reasons I Love Bill Murray.

8. Captain Frye The Rock (1996)

the rock

Ed Harris’ General Hummell is a madman but he really does think he’s doing the right thing. It’s the mercenaries he brings with him to sieze Alcatraz Island that make me nervous, especially Captain Frye. Played with his usual sneer by character actor Gregory Sporleder, there’s just something not quite right about this guy. He always seems to be wishing he was pushing an old lady down a flight of stairs.

A lot of these guys die for their cause in spectacular fashion but director Michael Bay saves the best for last when chemistry geek/action hero Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) shoves a vial of sarin gas in his mouth and smashes it with his fist. Neither Bay or Cage have gotten much right since but they did good here. This guy had it coming.

7. Sydney Barringer Magnolia (1999)

Magnolia

P. T. Anderson gets our attention right from the start and manages to hold it for Magnolia’s entire three-hour running time. Seventeen year-old Sydney Barringer jumps from the roof of his nine-story apartment building only to have his suicide attempt interrupted both by a safety net installed by some window washers and by a shotgun blast from a sixth floor window that killed him instantly. His unsuccessful suicide became a successful homicide when his own mother accidentally fired a shot while threatening his father during a heated argument.

Anderson didn’t come up with this story on his own. It’s an adaptation of a sort of urban legend that had been circulating for years but it sets up the strange events that follow perfectly.

6. Guy in elevator Drive (2011)

Drive

Ryan Gosling is a charmer. He swept Rachel McAdams off her feet both on and off screen and even taught Steve Carrell how to be a smooth talker. Just don’t get on his bad side. This guy’s not fucking around. He understands the golden rule of action movies. When someone’s giving you trouble, sometimes you’ve just got to stomp on their face until they’re dead. He doesn’t carry a gun much in Drive but why would he? He’s got his boot.

5. Edward Bloom Big Fish (2003)

Big Fish

The deathbed scene in The English Patient inspires me to meditate on death. Big Fish inspires me to reflect on life. Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) finally understands the value of myth and the key to good storytelling while seeing his father (Albert Finney) through his final moments. For most of his adult life, Will stubbornly told stories with “all of the facts, none of the flavour” but, when his father asks him to tell him “how he goes”, Will ad-libs a fantastical story fit for Ed’s remarkable life- one that undoubtedly touched so many others, even if the details are a little embellished. I still get chills when I watch it.

4. Cecilia Shepard Zodiac (2007)

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I feel crass talking about an on-screen depiction of something that actually happened in the same post as the twisted thrills of Drive but there aren’t many scenes in 21st century American film that are more effective. All the recreations of the Zodiac killings in this movie are almost impossible to watch without some temptation to look away but this one at the beach is the most chilling. I felt a wave of anxiety every time I found myself anywhere secluded for weeks after watching this movie. The Zodiac killer was never caught or named but this faceless killer- now probably long gone- still haunts me.

3. Elle Driver Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

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I only allowed myself one Quentin Tarantino entry on this post and I could have easily done one just on the Top Ten Tarantino Death Scenes. He’s the guy that knows how to do it, whose mind seems to take him to to places most of us wouldn’t dare. Daryl Hannah’s Elle puts up quite a fight against the Bride but the fight’s pretty much over when Uma Thurman’s antihero plucks out her only good eye. Adding insult to injury beyond anything I can imagine, poor Elle hears a sound that can only be Uma crushing it beneath her feet. Good and pissed but with nothing much she can do about it, Elle thrashes about unitl a poisonous Black Mamba finishes her off.

Elle Driver was an assassin and a bit of a sadist but I can’t help but feel just a little bad. What a way to go.

2. Spider Goodfellas (1990)

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Everyone has a favourite scene here and I could have probably done a Top Ten just on this one movie but Spider (Michael Imperioli) really gets a raw deal. After finally being able to get back to work after being shot in the foot by Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), the poor waiter finally stands up for himself and tells Tommy to fuck off. Tommy’s gangster buddy love it and tease Tommy until he loses it and empties his clip into the poor guy, shocking his buddies. “What the fuck, Tommy?goodfellas We were just kidding around”.

Tommy’s a funny guy (yes, sort of like a clown) and I sure did miss him after he gets whacked. But he really was a mad dog. It’s probably for the best that he never got made.

1. Lester Burnham American Beauty (1999)

american beauty

This also made my list of Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away. Lester makes it very clear from the start that he won’t survive the movie and the final moments are filled with tension as we wait for something to happen. Writer Alan Ball presents us with three suspects and we’re not sure until after the killing shot is fired who murdered Lester Burnham.

The murder is beside the point anyway. The tragedy is that Lester dies in pretty much the instant that he finds inner peace. His life flashes before his eyes as he reflects on all the beauty  in the world. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday”.