Tag Archives: Nicolas Cage

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)

zodiac

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)

kill bill

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)

spider

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”.

Father-Daughter Movies

TMPFathers and daughters, a topic rife with the opportunity for Hallmark sap, hard to get right, but so rewarding when it strikes just the right chord. Thanks to Wandering Through the Shelves for hosting another great Thursday Movie Picks theme, from two guys who are neither fathers nor daughters, and one fatherless daughter…because who better to judge?

 

Sean:

lethalweaponLethal Weapon – awarded to the whole series as a body of work. These movies are up-and-down but they are fun stupid films that keep adding more and more extraneous characters as sequelitis sets in. Luckily for me this week, Murtagh has a daughter that factors into the secondary drama of almost every movie, from possible love interest for Riggs in the first one, condom ad star in one of the middle ones, and baby mama to Chris Rock in the last one! And possibly more that I have forgotten. So on the list they all go just to be safe.

Taken – Liam Neeson’s tough old guy shtick started right here as far as I can tell, as the tough old dad of a coed “taken” by European gangsters. And like Liam says in the most awesome phone call ever made to a kidnapper, he uses his skills to track down all involved and kill them good. Spoiler alert: it seems that except for saving his daughter’s life he really hasn’t been a good father, but luckily there are sequels where as far as I know he saves her again, or saves his wife, or something. As usual, they should have stopped after the first one but instead really ran this concept into the ground and made me not care at all anymore.

Star Wars – so we don’t actually know at this point that Leia is Darth Vader’s daughter, and I’m pretty sure George Lucas did not have that plan or even the idea at any point when making this movie. As far as I can remember, though, this movie is the only one of the original 3 films in which this father and daughter “team” share a few scenes, so that’s why it makes the list over Return of the Jedi (where Leia actually learns who’s her daddy). Plus it’s such a classic movie! Even the terrible prequels couldn’t ruin it for me. So it makes the list. Can you tell I struggled this week?

Matt

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner- Back in December, I wrote a post describing Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner as Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracey)’s conflict with his own values. He raised his daughter (Katharine Houghton) right- no race is superior to another and anyone who thought they were was foolish and ignorant. Matt realizes he may have done a little too good a job when she brings home a charming black doctor played by the great Sidney Poitier whom she wants to marry. While this unexpected situatGuess who's Coming to Dinnerion may expose some hidden bigotry on Matt’s part, mostly he can’t help but admire his new son-in-law to be and mostly objects to the union because of the unimaginable challenges his daughter will surely be facing. Although he’d hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain, he eventually learns to let go and trust his daughter to be strong enough to face the world. The movie can’t help but show its age a little nearly fifty years later but not in the ways that count.

American Beauty- Lester and Jane Burnham (Kevin Spacey and Thora Birch)  aren’t as close as they used to be. In fact, she asks her boyfriend to kill her father in the first scene. Lester’s a little too busy with his middle-aged angst and Jane with her adolescent angst for the two to really connect and Lester only starts taking interest in her life when he develops an obsessive crush on her best friend. He may not deserve a World’s Best Dad mug but I love that his dying thoughts are of her and happy that she thinks she’s in love. Tragically, his last words to her are “You’d better watch yourself or you’re going to become a real bitch just like your mother”.

Kick-Ass- I have serious reservations about Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage)’s parenting style but, unlike Lester, at least he never forgets to tell his daughter (Chloe Moretz) that he loves her. It helps to have common interests. In this case, taking down the D’Amico family and enjoy the sweet taste of bloody revenge with their hot chocolate. Big DKick-Assaddy has turned Hit Girl into one foul-mouthed ass-kicking 11 year-old who knows how to take a shot to the chest.  Marcus may feel that Big Daddy owed his father a childhood but at least he died leaving his daughter the two most important things: the ability to take care of herself and the knowledge that her Daddy loves her.

Jay

The Descendants – This movie is so emotionally loaded and frought, it shreds me to pieces to watch it. Matt’s wife has just been fatally injured in a boat accident. She’s in a coma, waiting to die, while Matt runs around picking up all the pieces. Two really big pieces are his darling daughters who Matt bewilderingly tries to care for though he identifies only as the “back-up parent, the understudy”. The older daughter initially seems to be pretty hostile toward her father, but we soon see she’s really just covering for a secret she’s keeping from him. Turns out coma wife has been unfaithful. So Matt’s already confused and complicated relationships with his daughters become even more so, leaning on the elder for support and understanding, while trying desperately to shield the younger from the ugly truth about her mother as they all struggle to say goodbye amid the complications of anger and blame. Meanwhile, there’s another father-daughter relationship at play: that of coma wife, and her own dear dad, who copes with grief by putting his daughter on a pedestal and lashing out at all others, blaming not just Matt, but his own granddaughters, for his daughter’s not-quite-perfect life. It’s frustrating for we, the viewers, who know that his daughter is far from blameless, and even more difficult for Matt and the oldest daughter who manage to keep the truth to themselves in a show of compassion, allowing him to kiss his little girl goodbye with only the tenderest of feelings.

Crash – You may remember there are a kajillion intersecting plot lines in this movie, most involving some kind of racial prejudice, but I’ll always be thankful to this movie for introducing me to Michael Pena. He plays Daniel, a locksmith who gets cut absolutely no slack by any of his customers because he’s Hispanic, and this makes the white folk (like Sandra Bullock) jumpy. Even the Persian shop owner gives him hell, misunderstanding a bit about a broken door that needs to be replaced, assuming that the locksmith is trying to screw him over. After a hard day’s work, he goes home to a rough neighbourhood where his crazy-cute daughter is hiding under her bed, frightened by the gunfire overheard. He soothes her with a story about an invisible, impenetrable cloak that will keep her safe. When the Persian shop is re-vandalized, the owner gets himself a gun and blames the guy on the work order. He shows up at Daniel’s house and opens fire – just as the little girl jumps into her father’s arms. For a very long moment we – and they – fear that the girl has been shot, but actually, she has saved the day with her heroic magic cape. Okay, not actually true. The real saving grace? Another daughter – the Persian’s – who protected her father the only way she knew how – by loading his gun with blanks.

Beasts of the Southern Wild – Not a straight forward relationship by any means, it’s still clear that father Wink and daughter Hushpuppy have a relationship central to this story. His treatment of her sometimes seems neglectful, even brutal, but is actually pretty typical within the context of their fictional community where children are encouraged to roam free among the livestock and wildlife. In fact, her father’s occasional disappearances seem to be related to his ill-health more than his disinterest. His ways are rough, but he’s really just preparing her for a time when he’s no longer around, and she seeks his approval by being strong and independant – at the tender age of 6. When the big storm comes, he’s there, with a pair of water wings and a shotgun that he fires at the clouds, trying to chase them away and make his daughter feel better. When Wink’s time is almost up, he tries to find her a safe place to go, but she insists on returning to his side, witnessing his remaining heartbeats.

My father-daughter picks IN OUTER SPACE can be found here.

10 Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away

Andrew’s Fistful of Moments blogathon stumped me at first. He has challenged us to name some movie scenes and moments that took our breath away. I have seen a lot of movies and have had many kinds of emotional reactions but here are 10 that come to mind almost immediately. The rest of this post will be filled with spoilers so read on at your own risk.

jurassic park

Jurassic Park- (1993) I think this is where I started to love movies. I was 11. I’d like to think I would know if a Tyrannosaurus was getting close but Steven Spielberg was generous enough to give us a hint: a close-up of a puddle in the mud as the ground shakes. Despite lacking the gift of stealth, this dinosaur scared the shit out of me. It was the first time I remember being stressed at a movie and liking how it felt. My mom told me later that I was literally on the edge of my seat throughout the last half of the movie.

Face/Off- (1997)  I was 16. I’ve been excited about movie my whole life but this was the first time I ever thought about how they were made and the first time I became a fan of a director. The face offwhole movie worked for me but the scene that did it was a mostly slow-motion shootout with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” playing on a young boy’s headphones. The ironic use of the song, the lighting, the cinematography of Nicolas Cage flying through the air firing two automatic weapons. Nobody but nobody could film mayhem like John Woo did. It was violent but nice.

American Beauty- (1999) I was 18 and couldn’t believe what I was watching. “And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea wamerican beautyhat I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry, you will”. Cue an Elliott Smith cover of The Beatles’ Because. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie where somebody doesn’t join in reciting along with Kevin Spacey’s final monologue. It’s usually me that chimes in but not always.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)- I wasn’t born yet. When I was just finishing high school though I it's a wonderful lifewent through a mad rush of trying to catch up on all the classics that I had missed out on account of not existing yet. It’s a Wonderful Life may to this day still be my sentimental favourite. George Bailey really did have a wonderful life and he finally comes to appreciate it on Christmas Eve, stumbling home through the snow yelling “Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!”. I watch it every Christmas and start crying every time at some point in the last five minutes. If I’ve managed to stay strong though the part that gets me is “Attaboy, Clarence”.

The Sixth Sense (1999)-  Someone had already ruined the ending for me but my favourite part sixth senseisn’t the twist anyway. Haley Joel Osment has seen dead people all along but finally comes clean to his mom at the end while stuck in traffic.At first, she’s furious with him for wasting her time with such a story but she’s won over by his intimate knowledge of her conversation’s with her mother’s grave. “She said you asked her a question and the answer is: ‘Every day’. What did you ask her?” Toni Collette cries as she struggles to say “I asked if I made her proud” and I always cry along with her. Her performance is far better than the film’s notoriously hammy writer-director deserved.

one flew over the cookoo's nestOne Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest- (1975)- Billy (Brad Dourif) is so pleased with himself about last night’s partying that he can finally stand up to Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and isn’t even stuttering anymore. He resists her attempts to burst his bubble until she hits a nerve. “What would your mother have to say about this?”. And the stutter’s back. Nurse Ratched makes me so mad.

Vertigo- (1958)- I spent a long time trying to get Kim Nvertigoovak’s scream in the final scene out of my head and I will not go through it again. I’ve rewatched the movie several times but stop it before the end.

wall-eWall-E- (2008) Three words: “Computer: Define “dancing”.

Memento- (2000) My friends and I watched it on DVD and enjoyed the experience so much we kept pausing it so we could work together trying to piece the whole thing together. Then comes the ending. We had never considered that maybe our trusted mementonarrator was lying to us and to himself. How many lies have I cleverly planted in my own memory and how many lies have we left behind in our writings for future generations to believe. Christopher Nolan’s best film.

eternal sunshine of the spotless mindEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- (2004) After spending so much time reliving painful and ugly moments between Clementine and Joel, I was quite disarmament when we stumbled upon a beautiful and tender one. It seems to catch Joel off guard too as he finds himself pleading with the guys erasing his memory to just let him keep this one. Now I often call this my favourite movie but the first time I saw it, I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. This scene is the exact moment where I realized I was loving it.

Grapes of Wrath- (1940)  This is probably my favourite book adaptation of all time. It’s made grapes of wrath 2of so many tragic and hopeful moments, most of them almost directly from the novel. Director John Ford knew better than to mess with Steinbeck. If I had to pick just one scene,it would be the Joad family piling into a truck leaving the only hope they know after Ma Joad burns the family souvenirs they didn’t have room for.