Too much of a good thing
One thing I’ve found over the years is that watching a favourite movie too much can actually work against you. Like saying a word over and over until it loses its meaning. There comes a point where the film tends to unravel, and becomes a sequence of set pieces. I sometimes find myself imagining what might have happened if key characters weren’t killed at particular moments, things like that (what might have happened if Apone hadn’t died?).
A good set up never gets old
After the initial fascination of a movie ends (sometime after the 20th viewing) the large action set pieces become less engaging. The one thing that always keeps me interested however is the opening set up. There's something engaging about watching the characters before everything goes wrong, you can see the aspects of their personality that will be conveniently tested to breaking point later on.
There's also a measured calm-before-the-storm atmosphere, especially for movies that take place over a single night. There's a continually mounting tension as the sun goes down. In Die Hard this is really nicely done, with a beautiful amber dusk and vague hint of Christmas here and there.
For me, the end of the beginning, so to speak, is the meeting of McClane and Takagi. Shortly after that the bad guys roll in and kick off the main event. Takagi makes a nice subtle joke in there, but it took me a while to hear it when I first saw the movie, many years ago.
- McClane wanders around the party, unsuccessfully avoiding yuppies
- He meets Takagi who recognises him right away
- They look for McClanes wife, Holly in her office
- We meet Ellis, the archetypal 80’s power exec powdering his nose at the desk
- Takagi apologetically introduces them
- McClane quips about the party, stating that Japan doesn't celebrate Christmas
- Takagi retorts with ‘Hey were flexible, Pearl Harbour didn't work out so we got you with tape decks’
- Ellis buries the joke with his over the top laughing
And that's it, immediately after that Holly rushes in and the story moves on.
Letting things go fallow
The key to enjoying your favourites is to space them out. Watching Die Hard today was a lot of fun because its been about a year since I’ve seen it, there was a sense of freshness and familiarity. Watching movies you used to watch (a lot) when you were a teenager is also a lot of fun, as you are anchored to those previous experiences.
Do yourself a favour and pop your copy in the DVD player some evening, a great movie is always fun no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
Oh I almost forgot..
You don't “have to”, you “choose to”
One of the things I realised a few weeks back while laying out goals was that its too easy to forget why you are doing something. Why do I want to make movies? I had to take time aside and remind myself that the next 15 years (and of course those that follow) are supposed to be fun.
Yes, strange concept isn’t it? I got too used to repeating things like ‘success takes hard work’ or ‘it’s not easy to follow your dreams’ that I forgot that its not about the destination, its about the journey. As Alan Watts says, you don't dance to travel anywhere, you dance just to dance.
Why I’m doing this..
So it should be with your life's major goals, they should be their own rewards. So then, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite movie scenes with you (future) readers.
Every Sunday I’ll talk about a specific moment in one of my favourite films. These are moments which shaped my film tastes, and someday, I’ll count my own scenes somewhere amongst them.
I remember when this film was released, way back in the early 90’s. I was too young to see it in the cinema, but I do remember the posters. Thankfully I had easy-going parents and saw it on video a few years later. This is one of my all time favourites. The great storyline with its mind bending twists, the fantastic action sequences, the hilarious violence, and last but not least, the truly immersive sense of Mars. This was one of the last great science fiction/action movies (which sprung up in the 80s) that was smart and entertaining without selling out to merchandising, pre-teen ratings, or ridiculous and/or frustrating endings.
If Arnold Schwarzenegger runs up behind you in an escalator, duck
There's a lot of scenes to like in this film, so instead of choosing a favourite, I picked this one at random. Here's how the scene plays out:
- Schwarzenegger is trying to get away from some bad guys and decides to escape via a slow moving escalator full of commuters.
- Some more bad guys appear at the top and open fire.
- This guy is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and takes one for the team.
- He makes a handy shield though.
- The other bad guys catch up to the escalator, and Schwarzenegger spins the corpse around to take a few more hits.
- Finally, the body is flung down the escalator like a rag doll, and buys Schwarzenegger a few precious seconds of escape time.
It’s hard to point out one specific aspect of this that I don't love. The fantastic squibs and bullet hits, with puffy cotton plumes and red mist. The frenetic action. How about the hilarious disregard for human life? This is perfectly demonstrated by Richer (Michael Ironside) stomping on the chest of one of his dead goons as he scrambles after Schwarzenegger. I cant help thinking that it would actually be more difficult to stomp on a chest than weave around it, and it’s that malicious attention to bloody absurdity that makes this so enjoyable.
Wont someone think of the Children?
This kind of action is sadly lacking in today’s cinema. The last film I recall that had the same kind of bloodthirsty glee was Gamer, which was an enjoyable flick, but wasn’t quite there. Don't get me wrong, I laughed, God knows I laughed, and it was 10 bucks well spent, but its over the top attitude is more of a parody of the greats than a continuation of them.
Now I remember why I care so much about films
It’s been a pretty interesting experience writing this, grabbing the shots of the scene, and just flat out enjoying the spectacle of it. No matter which way you slice it, a classic film (and yes, I consider Total Recall to be a classic :) will always pull you back into a different world. It’s a strange combination of the memories of seeing it before, and the possibilities of watching it again, there's just no comparison.
It’s worth a lifetime of dedication to be a part of that experience.