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TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 25/post 481)

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This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Director: Rob Reiner
Country: United States
Length: 82 minutes
Type: Mockumentary

What can you say about a film that is pretty much perfect in every way. I never get tired of re-watching it, or stop laughing at familiar jokes and new little details I spot. It owes a large debt to Eric Idle's 1978 Beatles spoof 'All You Need Is Cash' but where as that closely parodied one specific band, 'This Is Spinal Tap' managed to send up the whole Rock genre through a fictional group that wasn't any particular band, it was all of them. The terminally unlucky drummers are Keith Moon and John Bonham, the "Australian's nightmare" girlfriend is Yoko Ono and Nancy Spungen, the censored 'Smell the Glove' album sleeve is 'Beggar's Banquet' and 'Electric Ladyland' (or other examples). You don't need to be familiar with any of these references to find the film funny though. Scenes and lines have become Rock shorthand, like the Amp that goes to 11, the side-project follies and when U2 got trapped inside a Lemon stage prop in 1997, everybody knew it was pure Tap, or there's Aerosmith whose latest album as the film came out had Stonehenge on the cover. Then you've got the delightful 2008 documentary 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil' which somehow found the real Spinal Tap story. The two most important reason for the film's believability is how damned rocking the fictional songs are and how the actors all naturally talk over each other and babble like real people in a documentary.

 
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The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)
Director: Marcel Ophuls
Country: France
Length: 251 minutes
Type: Documentary

Director Marcel Ophuls (son of fellow Director father Max) examines the Nazi occupation of France across four totally engrossing hours. It's split into two parts, 'The Collapse' and 'The Choice', the former about the rapid defeat of the French forces and how the people reacted to it, the latter more about how the people chose to collaborate with the Germans, or to oppose them, plus the field of grey in between. The Ophuls family had experience of the Nazi occupation having fled Germany in 1933 and later became French citizens but no discussion of that is contained within the film. But perhaps that personal understanding explains how he was able to elicit such candid interviews about these uncomfortable topics with people who still vividly recall those times (just a quarter century earlier). 'The Sorrow and the Pity' was made for French television but after the studio saw the thing, it was not broadcast and apparently banned from French TV for over a decade. The reason is almost certainly that Ophuls utterly shatters the image of a wide and popular French Resistance movement. Instead he hears from witnesses to many people welcoming the Nazis, co-operating with them openly, French Police enthusiastically helping to load Jews onto death trains, actors dubbing anti-Semitic German films into French (Ophuls plays the French dub credits for the notorious 'Jud Süss' in full to show every name responsible) and finally presents the sickening reprisals after liberation as not a few collaborators being shamed but a nation trying to expunge it's own guilt through violence (often directed at women). Magistrates admit large numbers of innocent people were mistakenly executed and jailed in the rapid thirst for a blood sacrifice.

At one point a witness claims there were no Germans in his town, that it was never occupied, before Ophuls cuts to photographic evidence that there were, such is the denial. In another shocking scene Ophuls takes a wartime newspaper advert placed by a French shopkeeper which boasted he was "100% Aryan" back to the same jovial shopkeeper, who just seems incapable of acknowledging the complicity of that act. I knew about the controversial British attack on the French fleet to prevent in it from falling under Nazi control, I didn't know that Vichy France retaliated by bombing Gibraltar (a brief mini-war between the allies), or that shockingly 7,000 French joined the SS and fought to defend Hitler in Berlin 'til the bitter end. One of those former French Nazis, the aristocrat Christian de la Mazière gives a fascinating and frank confession to camera, a contrasting perspective is given by free-French politician Pierre Mendès France in another fascinating in-depth interview. British PM Anthony Eden is also interviewed but wisely refuses to criticise how the French people acted in those years because he said he was talking from the perspective of a people that never had to confront the terrible dilemma of Nazi occupation. The British like to think we'd have really done what Churchill said and "never surrender" but we never had to deal with an occupation and there were plenty of British Nazi sympathisers I could name, writers, politicians, Royals and Newspaper barons. Ophuls talks to several heroic members of the resistance who are sometimes bitter, or very proud, or pragmatic and humble working class guys. It's interesting that these men who had made the decision to fight for liberation were less keen to exact revenge on the people that had collaborated. One tough old guy claims he knows the name of the man who had betrayed him to the Nazis but choose to just let it go. 'The Sorrow and the Pity' is one of the greatest documentaries I've seen and not just because of it's revelations about WWII but for it's nuanced exploration of human nature.

 

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^Wow, had never heard of this, thanks for putting it on my radar. Where did you find this doc?
 
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I watched the sharp HD Arrow Academy blu-ray transfer:

large_the_sorrow_and_the_pity_subs1_blu-ray_.jpg


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You can rent it on youtube in the same HD transfer I believe:

 

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Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Country: Spain
Length: 89 minutes
Type: Comedy

This Pedro Almodóvar film looks so 90s but was really shot in late 1987, so perhaps it’s vibrantly colourful clothes and decor were influential on the next decade. The deliberately artificial open-plan apartment set with balcony looks a lot like the 'Friends' main set and the clothes look like a "United Colors of Benetton" advert. The film is very stagey, most of it is a farce in that one apartment. It’s fun, frothy and provocative with an absolute tornado of a main character. The dialogue is so rapid fire that I’m sure I missed bits of visual humour while keeping up with reading the subtitles. I watched this just after 'Broken Embraces', so I hadn’t realised that the film-within-a-film "Girls and Suitcases" was an unmistakable homage to this earlier Almodóvar comedy.

 

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An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Director: John Landis
Country: United Kingdom / United States
Length: 97 minutes
Type: Horror, Comedy

I saw this first when I was a teen, on late night TV in the 90s when it scared the hell outta me. There were a few good jump scares but I remember the one with the curtains causing me to leap about a foot in the air. It was burned on my brain, so inevitably these shocks didn't work a second time. About 25-years later there were other elements to enjoy. John Landis observes the mundane details of early 80s Britain so well and the differences between the north and south of England. The drizzle, bad service, fog, queuing, graffiti covered phone boxes, country pubs, hospital food, grotty Soho porno theatres, strikes, punk kids and the line where American David says "Lot of weather we’ve been having lately" to a stranger is so comically English. I’d forgotten Cockney acting legend Alan Ford has a wee monologue, accompanied by many other top drawer character actors. I loved the film-within-a-film cheesy porno "See You Next Wednesday", one of the lines had me in stitches. Another thing I hadn’t appreciated when I was younger was the significance of the main characters being Jewish. The nightmare sequence originally seemed totally bizarre and random to me but now I could see that a gang of hideous monsters in Nazi uniforms bursting into David’s safe and cosy home and machine gunning his family was a very specific type of nightmare. The Nazis were also obsessed with Wolf and Werewolf imagery, so that’s a more subconscious type of horror at finding yourself suddenly one of them. Griffin Dunne is an absolute treat as David’s morbidly sarcastic sidekick Jack. I think he gives the best line delivery in the whole film when he describes being undead as "It’s boring". Jacks is trying to make light of his predicament but Dunne delivers it in a chilling way that says "I’m staring into the void, at an eternity alone in purgatory, for the love of God please kill me". I must seek out some more Dunne movies. A lot is made of the contrasting comedy/horror tone but it mostly works just fine but I'm still not sure about the incongruously upbeat ending song choice.



Mark of the Beast: The Legacy of the Universal Werewolf (2019)
As this feature-length doc was on the 'An American Werewolf in London' blu-ray, at first I was wondered when it'd get round to talking about the 1981 movie, then I twigged it was actually an overview of the whole Werewolf movie genre. Oops, silly me. I didn't realise that a lot of the stuff we consider ancient Werewolf "lore" originated, or was cemented by Curt Siodmak's script for the 1941 Lon Chaney Jr. film. The doc only seemed to have access to trailers, so occasionally the interviewees talk about a scene and it isn't shown as illustration which felt odd. The super hi-res scans of vintage posters (god those old Universal monster posters are beautiful!), magazine articles and trade papers are really wonderful. I've never seen the poorly received 2010 Benicio del Toro film but the assembled Werewolf-film experts talk about it with a lot of respect and Rick Baker was involved with the FX, so this doc has made me want to check that out.

Beware the Moon: Remembering 'An American Werewolf in London' (2009)
I made a mistake by watching this definitive feature-length doc about the making of 'An American Werewolf in London' after seeing most of the other bonus material on the Arrow blu-ray because I'd heard several of the same anecdotes 4 or 5 times by then. It's the kind of making-of that says everything that needs to be said and has interviews with just about everybody. The section where Rick Baker takes us step-by-step through the separate elements that made up the transformation sequence is excellent.
 

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Brazil (1985)
Director: Terry Gilliam
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 143 minutes
Type: Sci-Fi, Comedy

I love 'Brazil' more each time I rewatch it. It's like ‘Duck Soup’ (or “duct” soup) meets ‘I'm All Right Jack’, ‘The Third Man’, ‘Blade Runner’ and of course ‘1984’. I re-watched this not long after a few Adam Curtis documentaries about late-70s/early-80s Britain, so Terry Gilliam’s dystopian vision of a crippling bureaucracy, an authoritarian patrician class, powerful unions and social strife, stuck in the 1950s felt even more dead-on than before. The bit where a jovial Helpmann tells Sam “I’ve brought you a bottle of barley water” as some sort of compensation before he’s horribly tortured is a perfect observation by Gilliam (and his co-writers) of British behaviour. The scope and tone is wild, mixing goofy comedy, with bleak political satire, with genuinely disturbing horror, often in the same scenes. The bit where bumbling Sam has to visit the widow of man who has been killed due to an administrative error and she just screams at him is nightmarish, especially as we’ve just been laughing at the ridiculousness of the predicament she’s in. Only Gilliam would make the apex of the romance subplot the line “Care for a little necrophilia?” and make it charming. There is some beautiful comedy dialogue to savour like when Sam says to Jack “Say hello to Alison and the twins”, Jack corrects him “Triplets!” and Sam absent-mindedly replies “Triplets? God, how time flies”. The epic high speed pull-back on the massive torture chamber at the end is always stunning. I wonder how it was done.


 

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The Son's Room (2001)
Director: Nanni Moretti
Country: Italy
Length: 99 minutes
Type: Drama

A beautifully observed, low-key and humane Italian drama about a family grieving after the sudden and random death of their teenage son. The father is played by the film’s Director Nanni Moretti, he’s a therapist who finds dealing with patients becomes difficult as a result of his own tragedy, leading to resentment of their comparatively minor problems. I believed every moment of pain the family work through. Nicola Piovani’s wistful piano theme is very strong.

 

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Amarcord (1973)
Director: Federico Fellini
Country: Italy
Length: 124 minutes
Type: Drama, Comedy

I’ve not been that keen on Federico Fellini’s films so far but ‘Amarcord’ might be my favourite. It reminded me of later films like ‘Life is Beautiful’ and ‘Nuevo Cinema Paradiso’, less romantic and humorous than either but with the same bittersweet nostalgia for pre/post WWII Italian village life. It mostly consists of intertwined comedic vignettes, raucous, vulgar moments often pricking the pomposity of the Italian Fascists. Fellini employs conversational, conspiratorial 4th-wall breaks by a number of narrators. Like his others films I thought it outstayed it's welcome and got too bogged down in directionless diversions, instead of an identifiable story. The lilting score by Nino Rota and the warm Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno are gorgeous.

 

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The Last Picture Show (1971)
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Country: United States
Length: 127 minutes
Type: Drama

I thought I might have seen this on late-night TV back in the 90s but I remembered so little of it that I reckon I hadn't. I watched the 1992 "Director's Cut" today, mostly because the Theatrical Cut hasn't been released since the days of Laserdisc but the additional 8-minutes sounded like they were worth watching. Spending more time with this fascinating range of characters is definitely a bonus. You feel that any one of them has enough depth, troubled history and uncertain potential to sustain their own movies but Timothy Bottoms' Sonny is the main focus. Cybill Shepherd's capricious Jacy is an unforgettable character, a nexus of the simmering sexual tension in a fading Texas town. The soundtrack is crammed with melancholic Hank Williams numbers, always somewhere on jukeboxes and car radios setting the mood. Apparently the decision to shoot the film in black and white (unusual for the time) was at the suggestion of Orson Welles, which was a great decision because the cinematography by Robert Surtees looks stunning. The bleak sadness of the ending is intoxicating.


I might as well watch the sequel too...

Texasville (1990)
Peter Bogdanovich's
belated sequel to 'The Last Picture Show' had a poor reception and still has a bad reputation but I really liked it. It might have helped that I watched the 28-minute longer Laserdisc "Director's Cut" (rather than the theatrical version you'll find on DVDs) and decided to switch it to black and white, plus upped the contrast so it looked more like the first film. This movie catches up with the same characters (all of them return, including nearly all the supporting cast) in middle and old age and the tone reflects that. It's much less angry and sad like the first film was, it's more laid back, more comedic, more contemplative but no less melancholy under the surface. The new story takes place in the run up to the County centennial celebrations, while Duane's oil business is going under, his marriage is on the rocks and Jacy comes back into his life, precipitating a meandering mid-life crisis. The town full of oddballs felt a bit like 'Twin Peaks' (in it's cosier moments) and the humour has the tone of a Coen Brothers comedy, sometimes very dry and very dark, sometimes kooky and broad. There are some really laugh out loud moments like when you hear what sounds like a baby crying and the camera pans over and it's the mother crying holding a baby, or the town meeting where the folks are taking great pleasure in winding up the puritanical preacher over public drunkenness, or the titanic egg throwing fight at the town party. There are also some great lines, like when Jacy reluctantly agrees to play a part in the town's centennial by dressing up as Eve "Hey, tell that woman I'll be Eve. I've gotta stop bein' so reclusive. Causin' the fall o' humanity might be just the kinda challenge I need". One thing that is definitely worse is the soundtrack, cheesy 80s Country songs can't compare to the old Hank Williams classics.


A nice essay comparing the two movies: https://www.brightwalldarkroom.com/2019/02/06/last-picture-show-texasville/
 

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The Last Picture Show (1971)
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Country: United States
Length: 127 minutes
Type: Drama

I thought I might have seen this on late-night TV back in the 90s but I remembered so little of it that I reckon I hadn't. I watched the 1992 "Director's Cut" today, mostly because the Theatrical Cut hasn't been released since the days of Laserdisc but the additional 8-minutes sounded like they were worth watching. Spending more time with this fascinating range of characters is definitely a bonus. You feel that any one of them has enough depth, troubled history and uncertain potential to sustain their own movies but Timothy Bottoms' Sonny is the main focus. Cybill Shepherd's capricious Jacy is an unforgettable character, a nexus of the simmering sexual tension in a fading Texas town. The soundtrack is crammed with melancholic Hank Williams numbers, always somewhere on jukeboxes and car radios setting the mood. Apparently the decision to shoot the film in black and white (unusual for the time) was at the suggestion of Orson Welles, which was a great decision because the cinematography by Robert Surtees looks stunning. The bleak sadness of the ending is intoxicating.


I might as well watch the sequel too...

Texasville (1990)
Peter Bogdanovich's
belated sequel to 'The Last Picture Show' had a poor reception and still has a bad reputation but I really liked it. It might have helped that I watched the 28-minute longer Laserdisc "Director's Cut" (rather than the theatrical version you'll find on DVDs) and decided to switch it to black and white, plus upped the contrast so it looked more like the first film. This movie catches up with the same characters (all of them return, including nearly all the supporting cast) in middle and old age and the tone reflects that. It's much less angry and sad like the first film was, it's more laid back, more comedic, more contemplative but no less melancholy under the surface. The new story takes place in the run up to the County centennial celebrations, while Duane's oil business is going under, his marriage is on the rocks and Jacy comes back into his life, precipitating a meandering mid-life crisis. The town full of oddballs felt a bit like 'Twin Peaks' (in it's cosier moments) and the humour has the tone of a Coen Brothers comedy, sometimes very dry and very dark, sometimes kooky and broad. There are some really laugh out loud moments like when you hear what sounds like a baby crying and the camera pans over and it's the mother crying holding a baby, or the town meeting where the folks are taking great pleasure in winding up the puritanical preacher over public drunkenness, or the titanic egg throwing fight at the town party. There are also some great lines, like when Jacy reluctantly agrees to play a part in the town's centennial by dressing up as Eve "Hey, tell that woman I'll be Eve. I've gotta stop bein' so reclusive. Causin' the fall o' humanity might be just the kinda challenge I need". One thing that is definitely worse is the soundtrack, cheesy 80s Country songs can't compare to the old Hank Williams classics.


A nice essay comparing the two movies: https://www.brightwalldarkroom.com/2019/02/06/last-picture-show-texasville/
The Last Picture Show.

Now there is a movie. I am dying to get my wife to see it. I had the distinct pleasure to watch this at one of the TCM Classic Film Festivals that I used to go to every year prior to COVID. It was a beautifully restored print, though I cannot recall if it was the extended Director's cut. I'll need to watch both versions to see the difference. I was absolutely blown away when I saw this and of the 10 years I went, it stands out as one of my favorite 'finds'. My group always checked in with, what was the movie that wasn't on your radar but turned out to be one of the films that made the festival that year. Last Picture show is one of those films. The depth of the characters really gripped me, the lonesomeness, the listlessness and the drive, the various social forces and generational crossroads..

I never did see the sequel, but now I will need to add it to the list.
 

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The Last Picture Show.

Now there is a movie. I am dying to get my wife to see it. I had the distinct pleasure to watch this at one of the TCM Classic Film Festivals that I used to go to every year prior to COVID. It was a beautifully restored print, though I cannot recall if it was the extended Director's cut. I'll need to watch both versions to see the difference. I was absolutely blown away when I saw this and of the 10 years I went, it stands out as one of my favorite 'finds'. My group always checked in with, what was the movie that wasn't on your radar but turned out to be one of the films that made the festival that year. Last Picture show is one of those films. The depth of the characters really gripped me, the lonesomeness, the listlessness and the drive, the various social forces and generational crossroads..

I never did see the sequel, but now I will need to add it to the list.

^ Great review, thanks. I think the non-Director's Cut was only available on the very earliest VHS release, so it seems unlikely the restored print you'd have watched was the shorter one. I was tempted to find a VHS copy and use it as reference to remake the short cut just for completeness.

If you watch the sequel, definitely go with the much longer Laserdisc version (it's on the spleen) and watch it in b&w. The first movie was a young film about young characters, the sequel is a middle-aged film about middle-aged characters. 'Texasville' has gained some pounds, gone thin on top and likes a nap in the afternoon, it's got that vibe IMO so not the same tone but far better than I was led to believe.



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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Country: United States
Length: 83 minutes
Type: Horror

There is something deeply weird and disturbing down in the DNA of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ that isn’t like other Horror movies. There are thousands that are far more bloody and explicit but Tobe Hooper uses sound, editing and pacing to disorient the viewer, to put you on edge, it’s like somebody very slowly grinding their nails down a blackboard for 83-minutes. I’m sure most of it was deliberate but some is a result of the film's low budget, independent, documentary-style improvisation and production limitations. Improbably Hooper had hoped to achieve a PG rating by showing almost no blood. But not directly seeing the violence leaves us to imagine it, so Hooper made it worse, it almost got an X-rating and was banned on home video in the UK for 25-years. The pacing also adds a lot to the terror. I’m also unsure of this was deliberate, or accidental genius. A conventionally structured movie would never spend 20-minutes setting up all our protagonists, then kill all but 1 of them in a few 5 minutes, then spend a full hour assaulting us with the sickness that she is subjected to, like we’re trapped there in real time. It goes on for far too long, longer than a mainstream movie would allow and doesn't feel like a movie. The lack of any recognisable actors (before and after it was released) adds to the believability of the opening credits claim to be a dramatisation of a real crime (which is only true in the loosest sense).



Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000)
An excellent feature-length documentary about the making of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. There is a lot of bitterness from the cast and crew about not getting royalties because of financial mismanagement on the production. Especially bad as they’d endured truly horrible conditions on set for long hours and little pay.

 

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The Tin Drum (1979)
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Country: Germany
Length: 142 minutes
Type: War, Drama, Comedy

I was expecting ‘The Tin Drum’ to be a war film but not for it to be so comic, weaving together black humour, absurdity, horrors and sadness. 11-year old David Bennent plays Oskar a boy who “decides” to stop ageing at 3 and to always play his tin drum but the world around is ever changing, set against the turmoil of Poland before and after the Nazi invasion. It’s like ‘Forest Gump’, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and ‘Jo Jo Rabbit’ combined but darker in tone and there is little sentimentality. The scenes with the Jewish toy-maker, the supplier of Oskar’s drums are particularly tragic, taking on a hint of fairytale observed from a child’s eye level. The 2.5-hour runtime felt a bit excessive around the mid point though.

 

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I watched a trio of 9/11 documentaries, two new, then one from the period and included on the '1001 movies' list:

Surviving 9/11 (2021)
This new feature-length BBC documentary weaves together testimony of the survivors of the attacks on 9/11 with insights into how their lives have been permanently affected to this day. Their stories and their descriptions of the nightmare things they saw is jaw dropping. However, I didn't care for the glossy way the documentary was put together, obscuring the real pain of the witnesses with a layer of artificiality. Massively cropping down all the vintage 4:3 news footage to a scope aspect-ratio purely for a more "filmic look" was a bad idea too. I think the overbearing score was trying to mimic Philip Glass' soundtrack for 'Koyaanisqatsi'. 'Surviving 9/11' is still well worth a watch though.




9/11: Inside the President's War Room (2021)
A truly excellent new BBC feature-length documentary giving an almost real-time experience of how President Bush and his advisors dealt with each new revelation as the 9/11 attacks unfolded. Just about everybody on Air Force One and in the White House bunker is interviewed, an unbelievable level of access and information. Unlike the accompanying 'Surviving 9/11' documentary the period footage here is wisely preserved in full-frame 4:3 and it doesn't use overtly glossy editing techniques. Instead, stark aircraft controller graphics are used to plot the events, leaving the viewer to imagine the horror of what those little dots on the screen represent. Hundreds of photos of the President and his staff really tell the story of the first few hours and days through the looks on their faces.




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Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Director: Michael Moore
Country: United States
Length: 122 minutes
Type: Documentary, Comedy

'Fahrenheit 9/11' was a huge hit in 2004, in that year's box-office top-20 and still the highest grossing documentary of all-time. Over a million people had marched on London (and all over the world) protesting the Iraq war the year before and been ignored, so Michael Moore's angry and frustrated film had a huge ready-made audience of angry and frustrated people (not that I'm suggesting that was his impetuous for making it). A couple of decades later, after all the bullets, bloodshed, chaos and the post 9/11 wars ending in inevitable failure this past week, it's easy to forget the naked financial corruption that was going on. Plus after a few years where President "Dubya" has undergone somewhat of a positive reappraisal in light of another occupant of the same office, rewatching 'Fahrenheit 9/11' is a reminder that "No, him and his administration really were that bad". I'd forgotten that Tony Blair is mentioned only once in the film, when you'd think he was a central component of this sorry story. It was interesting to watch this just after the BBC's new '9/11: Inside the President's War Room' documentary because the two films put completely opposite readings on the famous footage of Bush hearing of the 9/11 attacks during a school visit. I reckon the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

 

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^That middle clip you posted from the BBC doc... almost looks like Bush Jr. convinced himself he was "waiting for the appropriate moment" to excuse himself and deal with his country being attacked. Thanks for posting. Shows you how the doc crew got so many people in his cabinet to go on record. It's always a dilemma with docs: access vs the narrative presented.
 

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"I didn't want to do anything dramatic... I didn't want to lurch out of the chair, and scare the children." - W. Bush

Right, because a bunch of kids reading a picture book would have been alarmed if a busy, Very Important adult they barely had any understanding of had quietly stood up, and calmly walked over to huddle with the other adults in suits. Hogwash. It would have been entirely understandable if he'd completely zoned out in shock, but that's self-evidently not what happened, because he was clearly fully alert the whole time. As I understand it, alcoholics in AA are taught to accept, on a fundamental level, that they are powerless against their addiction unless they rigorously practice complete abstinence, which, to his credit, W. did. I don't see any other explanation for his behavior in that moment, therefore, but horrified self-awareness of how utterly unfit he was for the challenge that had been thrust upon him.

That's not a political opinion on my part, I don't think. I can't possibly imagine a John McCain or a Mitt Romney just sitting there and waiting for the caterpillar story to finish, because they are/were confident adults, whereas W.'s defining characteristic is deep insecurity, awkwardly hidden by bluster. I don't believe he was concerned about not scaring the children in that moment, though that obviously became his immediate excuse. I believe he was concerned about letting the extent of his personal fear show. He was practicing abstinence in a moment of crisis - while knowing full well that this wasn't a drink he could simply pass up, walk away from, and forget about.

Whatever one's politics, however, it certainly is a fascinating instance of completely and objectively observed human psychology at a hugely historical moment. I can't, offhand, think of anything quite like it.
 

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^ That's a thought provoking interpretation. I'm sure his own recollection of waiting for a moment to leave is part of the truth, part consciously taking some time to think before everybody hits him with "what are we gonna do Mr President!!!" but I think he was sitting there for 7-minutes, so part of it also has to be fear/shock/paralysis and probably partly Moore's interpretation that the full horror of how unprepared he was for the top job had just hit him.

A detail that gets mentioned in the doc is that everybody was doing so much shouting and panicking on air force 1 that they started to get drowsy and realised they'd depleted the oxygen in the cabin. Also the communications didn't work on board because they had no satellite phone. It's crazy to think back to a more innocent time when that could have been overlooked.

Another bit I didn't know about was Condoleezza Rice calling Putin to tell him they were stepping up all the US forces to maximum alert and him replying that he'd already ordered all Russia's forces to step down their levels to avoid any misinterpretation.



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Alien (1979)
Director: Ridley Scott
Country: United Kingdom / United States
Length: 117 minutes
Type: Sci-Fi, Horror, Action

'Alien' is a practically perfect Horror/Sci-Fi/Drama/Action movie, excelling at all those elements, so there isn't much to criticise. Beyond the grimy, grungy, kit-bashed, weather-beaten, low-res, analogue feel, I'd forgotten how beautiful it looks at times. It's not on the level of Ridley Scott's follow up 'Blade Runner' but a few shots are damned close. I might have realised before but there are at least two monitor graphics that are reused in 'Blade Runner'. I love a well structured and paced film, so I noted the chest burster scene occurs at the exact mid-point of the movie. I also noticed that the women in the hyper-sleep couches are wearing a thin strip of white tape over their nipples (blink and you miss it), a little like Leeloo's costume in the later 'The Fifth Element'. Probably a wise decision to have not really shown that as it would've looked a bit too "Sci-Fi" for the overall grounded "space truckers" vision of the future. I love all the clunky tech of the Nostromo, especially the self-destruct mechanism, looking like pulling control rods from a reactor. When you've watched 'Alien' a few too many hundred times you can see how much trouble they are having trying to hide how awkward the Alien costume is to move around in and really struggling to keep the spacesuit helmets from steaming up. I bet they had to wipe them down between each and every shot and they still look very foggy. I think quiet modern micro cooling fans and heating have largely solved that prop problem now.

The original iconic "shows absolutely nothing" teaser trailer in 35mm glory...


...and a modern HBOmax trailer:

 

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Straw Dogs (1971)
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 117 minutes
Type: Psychological Thriller

It was a little distracting that I had seen movies homaging, referencing and influenced by Sam Peckinpah’s film (like ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘Home Alone’) long before the actual celebrated and controversial ‘Straw Dogs’. Peckinpah was in the Hollywood “dog house” at the time so ended up making a British film. Transporting his usual old-west genre preoccupations to modern day (but backwards) rural Cornwall could have felt shoe-horned but it works perfectly. Peckinpah has a real feel for the specific details of isolated, insular English country community life. It helps that he’s working with the crème de la crème of 1970s British character actors like David Warner, Peter Vaughan and Colin Welland. The way opposing and contrasting imagery is rapidly intercut is extraordinary and the violence and oppressive sense of threat is still disturbing. The uncut version of ‘Straw Dogs’ wasn’t available on home video in the UK for 30-years.




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Deliverance (1972)
Director: John Boorman
Country: United States
Length: 109 minutes
Type: Drama, Thriller

This was the second time I've seen 'Deliverance', I well remembered the violent scenes and the duelling banjos but I'd forgotten the environmental themes that run all the way through it and make it still very relevant today. It's about human violence toward the natural world and that violence being revisited back on our protagonists. Apparently the film had no insurance (which a character jokes about in the dialogue) and the actual four main actors did most of the dangerous stunts. It's impressive when you can see it's really them riding the rapids and climbing rock faces, all the time staying in character. Some of them have the easy job of looking terrified but some have to look confident doing it. If you look up "rugged masculinity" in the dictionary it probably says "Example: Burt Reynolds in Deliverance" and he also looks a lot like young Marlon Brando. I read that Sam Peckinpah was originally in line to be the Director but because he was in Warner Brothers' bad books (after a chaotic flop) he went to England and made 'Straw Dogs' instead, while English Director John Boorman went to the US and made 'Deliverance'. I think both men being "strangers in a strange land" made them the perfect fit to make authentic feeling films about the threatening backwaters of each other countries.

 
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