CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Scene To Be Seen

Scene to be Seen: LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)

by Christopher Beaubien • August 06, 2010 • Start the Discussion!

In light of Roger Ebert’s latest inclusion of Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece Lost in Translation (2003) into his Great Movies archive, I have selected one of its best scenes with dialogue I hadn’t understood completely. Until now.

No, it is not the inaudible whisper before the movie’s end. I don’t ever want to know what Bob (Bill Murray) said to Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) before they parted ways. That is between them and it is none of my business.

The scene in question is the awkward taping of the “Suntory Time” commercial. Like Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt before him, Bob Harris is one of many American actors being paid big bucks for promoting a product strictly for Japanese television. Not knowing a word beyond “saki,” Bob is at the mercy of a hyperactive director (Yutaka Tadokoro) and his kookily incompetent interpreter (Akiko Takeshita). The director passionately delivers lengthy instructions while the interpreter summarizes. This is serious business, but their struggle to communicate is as funny as a misunderstanding between Abbott and Costello. They’re all floundering, but there is no condescension. The human comedy works because the characters are sincere. We really feel for them and laughter alleviates the tension.

CONTINUE READING ►

Scene To Be Seen: MATINEE (1993)

by Christopher Beaubien • May 06, 2008 • 3 Comments

matinee2

Some movies have one great scene lost in a bunch of not so great ones. Then there are some movies where it is a challenge to pick one over the others. Matinee falls in the latter category. It was directed by Joe Dante (Yes! I made three references to Gremlins all in one week!) who specializes in unveiling very dark things under the guise of campy B-movies. This is perhaps the most idealistic autobiography that Dante has ever realized.

Set in Small Town America – 1962, the film affectionately follows Lawrence Woolsey played by the versatile John Goodman as a schlock independent filmmaker who showcases gimmicky monster movies with great bravado. He is a low-rent version of William Castle, the mastermind behind Vincent Price vehicles like House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Tingler (1959), a movie that shocked theater patrons with electric buzzers in their seats courtesy of Castle.

matineeWoolsey’s next science fiction film MANT!, a loving homage by Dante to Kurt Neumann’s The Fly (1958), uses the Tingler Effect and other tricks to offer his audience a unique experience. Releasing an exploitation film about atomic radiation mutations when Americans feared the dropping of the bomb at the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis is to Wollsey’s mind (“What better time to release a horror movie!”) Wollsey is not a cynical man; he genuinely loves making movies and entertaining people, within the confines of his capacity as a showman (the term ‘hack’ should be reserved for Michael Bay).

The Trailer for “MANT!”

Profiled like Alfred Hitchcock, the cigar-chomping Woolsey presents his preview for his cheerful creature feature titled Mant with the same dry humor and zest that The Master of Suspense did with his trailers. The way Woolsey presents the magazines that prove his cheap horror film is based on scientific fact is priceless. Watching this scene, compared to the bottom-line advertising tactics of films over the past few decades, one realizes filmmakers like Woolsey, whose gusto approach to making movies fun, are a dying breed. The only recent example I can think of is Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse (2007). Dante never condescends but celebrates Woolsey the same way Tim Burton did for Ed Wood (1994) — Ed D. Wood Jr., director of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) and Necromania: A Tale of Weird Love (1971), was recognized as the “worst filmmaker of all time!”, which does deserve some reverence.

“You see, people come into your cave with a two hundred year old carpet.”

When I wrote that some films with great scenes are hard to choose from, case in point, here’s another one. Woolsey is accompanied by Gene, a young man not a mile away from myself, and learns some of the showman’s philosophy of movie-making. I still remember by heart the story told by Woolsey about the caveman who paints a Woolly Mammoth on his wall and figures: “Wait a minute! People are coming to see this thing! Let’s make it good!” A prime motive for how going for the jugular is more effective than subtlety (sometimes). The scene continues as Woolsey projects the point of view of any enthusiastic filmgoer’s journey through the matinee lobby and into the movie theater. Sometimes when I open the doors of a movie house with great anticipation I am inclined to call out, “Here I am! What have you got for me!”

For me, Woolsey represents a life path that is in considerable reach: an enthusiastic moviemaker touring far and wide in the pursuit of entertaining people. Another bonus is being accompanied by a sexy dry-wit like the one Woolsey takes along for the ride played by Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull, the REAL Best Picture Winner of 1980). Other idealistic life paths include being a productive yet reclusive painter living in a New York apartment I could barely afford, or becoming a womanizing journalist who drinks too many highballs. This charming comedy about young love and B-Movies is highly recommended. Though I have been deprived of the experience for now, I believe, like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the classic Matinee would benefit viewing on the big screen. Or, at the very least, a deluxe Criterion release.

“Matinee” Trailer

Scene To Be Seen: THE DEADLY FRIEND (1986)

by Christopher Beaubien • May 01, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

deadly_friend

There are some movies that are the sum of their parts which require repeat viewings entirely. And then there are some movies that only have one scene that demand repeat viewings. Sometimes even bad movies can possess one scene that makes the venture almost worthwhile. Emphasis on sometimes.

The selection for my “Scene To Be Seen” today comes from Wes Craven’s 1986 horror-teen-romance The Deadly Friend — a cheerfully gory film that goes like this: Paul is a brilliant, scientific young man (Matthew Laborteaux, Little House on the Prairie, 1976-1983) who resurrects his murdered would-be girlfriend Samantha (Kristie Swanson, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986) using advanced robotics. Unfortunately, his corpse-crush goes haywire and targets the nasty old wench played by Anne Ramsey (Throw Momma From the Train, 1987) who lives across the street.

How malicious is this hag? She makes Mrs. Deagle look like Mrs. Claus. First she snatches a basketball away from our hero because it was on her property. And then (get this!) she opens fire using a double-barrel rifle on BB, Paul’s ultra-cool, talking robot he spent years constructing. And the robot was voiced by Charles (Roger Rabbit) Fleischer! Double-bitch!

Now put on your raincoat and watch the freaky comeuppance Samantha the Zombie Queen delivers to the evil crone! You’ll never think of shooting hoops the same way again!

Fair Warning: Not for the Squeamish.

If my brief synopsis piques your interest, I’d recommend a rental. It’s doesn’t attain the perfection of great trash like Re-Animator (1985) but you could do a hell of a lot worse. Director Wes Craven was disappointed though; he had intended to make a H.P. Lovecraft inspired romance but the studio made him cut back on the love and shoot more gore. Pity. This explains the weird hell-with-logic-for-the-sake-of-a-BOO! ending in the morgue. Then again, any excuse for a scare is a good one.

“BB!”