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27 December 2010 @ 09:37 pm
The Movie Backlog, Part Four  
The Fall (2006), Tarsem Singh. Dec 14, 11pm. View count: One.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Robert Wise. Dec 15, 3pm. View count: Two?
The Last Unicorn (1982), Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin. Dec 18, 8pm. View count: Probably around ten?
Tron (1982), Steven Lisberger. Dec 19, 11am. View count: Fiveish?
Tron Legacy (2010), Joseph Kosinski. Dec 19, 4pm. View count: One.
All That Jazz (1979), Bob Fosse. Dec 22, 8:30pm. View count: One.

The Fall I really liked, despite the vague memories of its halfassed trailer that I seem to have rattling around in my head. The heart of this movie is the child protagonist, who really knocked her part out of the park. She's easily the most believable little kid I've seen in a movie in recent memory. Brilliant.
Apparently her parts were shot sequentially, so that her slightly appreciable growth and improving accent (English was not her first language) would be consistent and sensical.
The rest of the movie is rather charming, too; a sort of Baron Munchausen story that plays out in parallel to real life. I found it a little simpler than Baron Munchausen (one of my favorite movies, still) itself, but it certainly is comparable.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a solid 50s fear-of-the-unknown piece, which I remembered not at all from seeing it on television as a kid. As far as I can tell, 'klaatu barada nikto' seems to mean "go get Klaatu" or "Klaatu's dead" or some such thing. (wiki link for the pedantic!) I'm disappointed in a lot of the sci-fi references to this phrase, because they seem to all focus on the "don't destroy earth" part when "Klaatu" is right there up front. It probably does have to have something to do with him, you guys.
Anyway, it's a pleasant counterpoint to the usual Invaders-From-Mars-style alien menace, (Did I forget to write up Invaders From Mars? Dang it.) especially given the child-who-gets-it theme that both have in common.
This is a MAN IS NOT YET READY film, but it goes a step further by having the superior civilization threaten to pulverize earth if they get too gung ho about expansion (such that they threaten other civilizations). Respect.

The Last Unicorn is an enjoyable old childhood favorite. I noted this time how star-studded the cast is (Rene Auberjonois! Angela Lansbury! Christopher Lee!), and they do a fine job with the parts they're given. Some of the songs are... hmm, not the best, but, well, we're all products of our times. The backgrounds are uniformly gorgeous, and the story is just enough out of reach of a normal Rankin-Bass production that you get a kind of hinted-at transcendence. "Come on, old man. I'll write you a reference."

Tron I rewatched in preparation for the new one, and I generally found it to hold up, but I also watched it initially as a child, thus imprinting it on my psyche a bit (although I remember having a really hard time telling in-computerworld Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges apart when I was a kid. Face recognition peaks at 40!). I like the mattes, and the early 3D, and the hilarious fake videogames, and also I really like the "a program is a small facsimile/piece of yourself" concept. I've always found this idea useful for providing amusing mental imagery when talking to programmers, especially those who refer to their code in the first person.
I personally feel as if there's a reason that Tron's a classic, with its 80s-proportioned plot, interesting visual style, and amusing acting. I generally find it to have a richness to it that we don't always get nowadays, and that certainly wasn't present in the new sequel.

Tron Legacy, speaking of which, was mostly kinda lame. It looked like it had the potential to do something fun, but I don't think it ever really did. It also made the grave error of carving its prow into the grotesque CG visage of young Jeff Bridges, which was a significant debit to the respectability of this movie. The actual plot was scattered and overreaching, yet sort of pointillistic in its lack of information. (I said "What?" to the screen several times, as I recall.) The protagonist was so bland and featureless that they may as well have used a sock puppet (MAD magazine will use the joke that the CG character is a more believable person, probably. If they don't, they should). They had Bruce Boxleitner and they barely used him.
It's got some fun in it, and Daft Punk probably raised the movie's bar significantly, but it's not a good movie. It's certainly missing some major segments that the original actually did have.

All That Jazz is actually pretty impressive. I'd had no idea. Apparently based on Bob Fosse's actual life (which is kind of awful), it's the best juxtaposition of Show Biz and Horrible Humanity I've seen since uh, Cabaret (also Bob Fosse. The man knows his way around a seedy underbelly). There're some really beautiful touches with sound and editing, too, that contribute to making it a pretty hard-hitting piece. Roy Scheider isn't much of a singer, but he pulls off the rest of the part well, understatedly, in a way. I started out half watching, assuming that the movie didn't require close attention, but I gradually watched more and more closely until by the 1/3 mark I was watching properly (The long takes and sequences throughout make me feel that I didn't do the beginning a huge injustice by doing this. Maybe just a small injustice). Regardless, it has merit, and Bob Fosse, I now know, was a bit of a horrible man. And, you know, a damn fine director.

Okay! Up to date! Now I can watch more movies!
graydongraydon on December 28th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC)
I love the framing of Klaatu and Gort. Like "you killed me? ok look, first of all that's stupid since I can't die, and second this robot here is expressly here to melt your planet if you keep pulling stupid stuff like that..."

It's like grim cop / really really bad cop.
Matt McIrvinmmcirvin on December 28th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
It's definitely "Klaatu's dead" or "Klaatu needs your help."

Lots of SF fans are still furious to this day about the ending--the idea that even these advanced aliens needed to cede control to a robot police authority to keep from destroying themselves, and the seeming advocacy of keeping humanity down by threats. It's not very Campbellian, either John or Joseph.

I didn't interpret the ending as "puny humans must stay down", though; I interpreted it as "welcome to the big leagues, here are the rules." There were multiple powers out there that had once been smashing each other in disastrous wars; the robots were the only approach they could figure to deal with it, and if humans were going to go into space they needed to join the regulatory regime, or get the stick.

It struck me as very early fifties Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists/"One World or None", this idea that strict international control of nuclear weapons and some kind of transnational authority was the only way we would avoid extinction.

Also, it was an interesting way of taking the simple twist at the end of the original short story and making it topical.
Some Frightening Dingbat: Beetlejuice: Otho rocks out tentativelysanspoof on December 28th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's right! I forgot about the Next Gen Wesley Punishment Zone -style justice system -- good point. I guess given that I'd put the emphasis on "we've imperfectly uplifted ourselves to get to the point we're at, so get with the program if you want to be spacefaring."
(And, yeah, it was more about humans becoming a danger, wasn't it? I should fix that.)
Matt McIrvinmmcirvin on December 29th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
The movie was based on an older short story by Harry Bates called "Farewell to the Master". The Cold War angle wasn't there, but it did have the storyline in which the army kills Klaatu and the robot (called Gnut in the story) tries to resurrect him. But if I recall correctly, in the story, Gnut fails and Klaatu stays dead. Gnut isn't keen on smashing things up, he's just completely impervious to any physical attack.

Anyway, at the end of the story, the protagonist tells Gnut how sorry he is that the army killed his master, and the robot's last words before bugging out of there are "I am the master." (A lot of old SF short stories were like this: they ended in a simple inversion-twist in which the situation was upside down from what the reader expects. It got old, but "Farewell to the Master" was an early and well-executed example.)

In the movie, really, the robot is also the master. But the movie doesn't make it quite so explicit, and there's a reason given for it.
Matt McIrvinmmcirvin on December 29th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)
...And reading Wikipedia reveals that I misremembered a couple of details: in the story, Klaatu is killed by a lone nut, and Gnut actually does manage to make a functioning replacement-Klaatu but he dies almost immediately.
Not Rnotr on December 30th, 2010 05:40 am (UTC)
The Fall
I liked The Cell quite a bit, too, though it's a little more along the "people who are me will care about this" lines. I see Tarsem has a new film in postproduction now, The Immortals, taking on Theseus and the Titans. I hope it's just as twisted as these.