October 26, 2003


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at October 26, 2003 4:01 PM Since my social calendar emptied out the last couple weeks I've taken the opportunity to see a bunch of movies on my list. I've now crossed off all the must-see items, at least until Friday (when the director's cut of Alien arrives in theaters) so I can now present:

October Movie Roundup

Once Upon a Time in Mexico: For those of you who live under rocks, this is the sequel to one of my all-time favorites, Desperado. It was also the first movie I saw after Kill Bill, and I should have seen them in the reverse order - Once Upon a Time in Mexico seemed tame and slow-paced by comparison. Nevertheless, it was still very enjoyable, in no small part due to Johnny Depp's show-stealing performance. The plot is complicated despite its unimportance; I would recommend not wasting too much mental energy in attempting to follow it.

Intolerable Cruelty: Amusing enough, but also a reminder of why I shouldn't see romantic comedies without a date. The protagonist (George Clooney) is one of those irritating cliches: the guy who has a successful life but feels unfulfilled because he's single. No wonder there's so much relationship angst in this country; my life got much less stressful when I discovered that I could be complete in myself without relying on someone else for happiness, but you don't see films about that. Let's not forget the wisdom of God, as told by South Park:

God: No! You've become dependent on relationships, so you haven't even considered the option of not being with either of them! If you're not sexually attracted to someone, you're not ever going to be, but Saddam isn't right either! He's the other extreme! You need to spend time alone so that you can find the balance, the middle ground! That's what I always do, because I'm a Buddhist!

(Can I get through a blog entry without quoting South Park? It's tough sometimes.)

Anyway, back to the movie: it definitely had the laugh-out-loud moments that you expect from the Coen brothers, but I was (obviously) not in the right mood for the overall themes. I will add, though, that there are worse ways to spend one's time than looking at Catherine Zeta-Jones for 90 minutes.

Bubba Ho-Tep: What's astonishing about this movie is that it's the story of Elvis and JFK fighting a mummy in a Texas nursing home, starring Bruce Campbell, which is not at all campy. Instead it's sophisticated and sincere, and still very funny. I just saw it yesterday, so I haven't had time to fully digest it, but it was a very unique film. Bruce Campbell really seems to nail his role as Elvis (not that I've seen a lot of Elvis).

Kill Bill vol. 1, second viewing: After listening to the soundtrack for a couple weeks I had to go see it again. I enjoyed it even more the second time; I was prepared for some of the gory moments that caught me off guard originally. If I get tired of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as a Valentine's Day movie, this would be a good substitute. A few thoughts:

One comparison that came to mind the first time I saw it was to the end of Sandman - specifically in the way The Bride seems like an unstoppable force of nature in her quest for revenge. Roger Ebert comments in his review:

The Bride defeats the 88 superb fighters (plus various bodyguards and specialists) despite her weakened state and recently paralyzed legs because she is a better fighter than all of the others put together. Is that because of the level of her skill, the power of her focus, or the depth of her need for vengeance? Skill, focus and need have nothing to do with it: She wins because she kills everybody without getting killed herself. You can sense Tarantino grinning a little as each fresh victim, filled with foolish bravado, steps forward to be slaughtered. Someone has to win in a fight to the finish, and as far as the martial arts genre is concerned, it might as well be the heroine.

I disagree. The reason The Bride is able to defeat the yakuza gang is also the reason the gunshot misses, or a board with a nail in it happens to be at hand, or for that matter the reason she survives being shot in the head at the beginning: as in ancient Greek stories, the gods approve of her revenge quest, and in hunting down Bill and company she is acting as their instrument of divine punishment. I had this thought even before my second viewing, where I was reminded that The Bride more or less states this explicitly in her inner monologue. (She speaks in monotheistic terms, of "doing God's will", but the principle is the same.)

There are, in fact, religious overtones all over the dialogue in this movie (sparse as it is), Hattori Hanzo's especially. (Another one that comes to mind is the sheriff referring to The Bride as an "angel"; I have some dim recollection of sword-bearing angels appearing in the Bible as instruments of heavenly wrath.) There's a lack of corresponding religious imagery (unless I was totally missing it), so I don't know how far this can be taken. One guy on Plastic suggested that Bill himself represents God, based mainly on the mysterious way he is portrayed and Hattori Hanzo's repeatedly speaking of God as a future opponent in battle. I have a feeling this theory won't hold up as well in the second part though.

While we're on unsubstantiated theories, one mentioned by my brother is that the yakuza swordsman in white in O-Ren's anime flashback is Bill himself. This is based on both characters wearing heavy rings (though not the same ones), using a katana, and the apparent fact that this particular yakuza evades O-Ren's revenge despite being one of the principal killers. I think the survival of this dude definitely requires explanation, but another possibility that occurs to me is that this is yet another reference, a character imported from some other anime or Japanese film (just as Hattori Hanzo comes from a Japanese series with Sonny Chiba).

Ok, I've probably said enough about this movie for now. I actually have no complaints about the audience for either of the films I saw this weekend; Bubba Ho-Tep was at one of the smaller theaters in Berkeley, where the crowds are generally well-behaved, and Kill Bill, despite being at the location responsible for my previous complaints, was not bad this time - maybe it's just an opening weekend thing. Tags:

"They dyed me this color!"

I am incredibly envious as to your selection of movies. Only seeing one out of your list, I find myself agreeing with you. I didn't think of the Sandman Lyta reference until now. I confess I was wondering how one month of training after being immobile for 4 years could possibly enable one to kick so much ass. The Bride as an implement of the gods revenge is the most convincing reason. Thusly I give grudging respect to Tarantino, though still beleive he is most disturbed.
I watch the trailer for Bubba Ho-Tep twice and am dying to see it. It made it as close as Boston, but is still only in one New York theater! The fates that toy with your weekends are also toying with my Bruce Campbell fix. You can't possibly go wrong with Bruce as Elvis and JFK vs. the evil life-sucking egyptian force. I might have to brave a drive to Boston, all for the love of a B movie actor.


Posted by: Anonymous | October 27, 2003 10:07 AM

All this talk about God and gods, Travis, you're starting to worry me...

Posted by: Tracy Manford | October 27, 2003 12:15 PM


I always get this way during the holy month of Ramadan.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | October 27, 2003 5:44 PM
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