Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies, Science Fiction

L13FC: Terry Gilliam’s Trilogy

CindyLucky13Banner (1)Welcome one and all as this month’s film discussion centers around writer/director Terry Gilliam and his futuristic trio spread out over thirty years. I am much obliged to share today’s event with Australian movie buff, Jordan at Epilepticmoondancer, who shared his admiration for Brazil(1985),12 Monkeys(1995), and Zero Theorem(2013) with me; the more we emailed about this set, we discovered there was a lot to discuss. Fantasy Drama? Thriller/Tech noir? Dystopian Dark Comedy? Science Fiction? However you decide to classify them, the eccentric mind of Gilliam is a fun ride. Let’s go!

Jordan’s thoughts: 

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Though a brilliant satire, darkly hilarious and filmed by the inimitable Terry Gilliam, giving the film some crazy angles and busy sets, at its core, Brazil is a love story. Poor government worker Sam Lowry is lonely, and dreams about Jill from the beginning of the movie, while the film is essentially poking fun at the government by making it impossible for Lowry to track down information on this person, burying him under paperwork and government malarkey.

twelve-monkeys-original-600x90012 Monkeys also has dreams that link the film together, but here they are much more thought out, as the dreams slightly change each time we see them. They impact the story in very different ways. Again the film focuses on a lonely protagonist, Cole, played by Bruce Willis. This film is set in a dystopian future, and to begin with it seems that love is impossible for Cole, living underground, a prisoner. But through his travels through time, and his stressed relationship with what was his psychiatrist, he finally finds someone he can bond with, someone he loves. Importantly, this love doesn’t feel forced; it is so psychologically draining it would be odd for the two to not form some sort of connection. Additionally, like Lowry, Cole doesn’t possess much in the way of showing initiative – both seem rather naive to their respective words. Both films satarise society in one way or another too, and this, added to his incredibly unique style, is what somewhat successfully links the three films.
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In my opinion, the Zero Theorem deviated from the formula- the dreams, the love story. Qoen is also a lonely protagonist, another common motif of these trilogies, and he, like Sam and Cole, is naive to the world he lives in. The Zero Theorem also pokes fun at modern society, too. What differs isn’t the lack of dream sequences (though they really were done perfectly in 12 Monkeys) but the fact that this lonely man doesn’t find love is what stilts the film. And I’m not a sentimental guy, I usually hate romance, but the love was what made those first two so special. That love isn’t present in Zero, rendering the story a little jarring and confusing.

Cindy’s impressions: 

I’m a fan of contrasts, and Terry Gilliam delivers oxymorons in abundance to my delight. Through Gilliam’s imagination, the ludicrousness of governmental control is the vessel for all three films: inefficient bureaucrats, Homeland Security(?), preservation of the aesthetically insipid, and worshipping technological advancements, made by humans, cripple them.

For all the invasive warnings in Brazil; the topsy-turvy future where animals rule and humans are caged in 12 Monkeys; and the complete loss of the cognizant individual to the simulated state of being in Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam has been warning us for decades about the devolution of man. With this heavy message, he delivers his ultimate contrast: give the bad news with a healthy dose of laughs. His perverted sense of humor has had me in stitches since I was a teen. His garish sets in Brazil and Zero Theorem, the vaudevillian sound effects punctuating conversations, the askew camera angles and frenetic conversations such as Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys (his best performance) or Robert DeNiro and Bob Hoskins in Brazil, or Tilda Swinton as Dr. Think-Rom in Zero Theorem come immediately to mind. You are scared because you’re in a bad-acid nightmare at the carnival and laughing with the clowns glaring in your face. Brilliant.

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Need more contrasts? How about the artistic images that have you morbidly curious? The baby face, the flying man in glitter, that red techno-suit, the youth-obsessed, cheek-pull of Mom, and the zoo animals running amuck the city? The infinity sets and industrialization displayed like evil traps of the mind and body? Oh, I love that wicked mind of yours, Terry Gilliam. Thanks for the laughs.

Matt Damon never looked better in Zero Theorem.
Matt Damon never looked better in Zero Theorem.

Which dark message resonates with you? Which lonely character at odds with his world do you like best?

directors, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies, Science Fiction

Lucky 13 Film Club: March Topic

A special thank you to my buddy Ruth at FLIXCHATTER and all of you (thanks Robin) who contributed your opinions on February 13 as we discussed 1930s British Female Protagonists. Moving forward to March, we will explore Science Fiction. The March 13th co-host is Pete from Beetley, England. We’ve been tossing around ideas about Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

With a fresh pair of eyes, pledge to revisit one or both films. If either film is your blind-spot, here is your chance to round out your viewing experience. Why are these two Science Fiction classics highly revered? How did Kubrick’s filming cement his reputation as an outstanding director? Are they better than the recent outpouring of Science Fiction films? How so?

Join Pete and I on March 13 and join the discussion.

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1980s, actors, books, Film Spotlight, movies, Science Fiction

The Running Man

This contribution is for my movie buff friend, Rob, who is hosting the MOVIE ROB’S OCTOBER STEPHEN KING BLOGATHON. I selected not a horror film but a 1982 science fiction novel penned by Richard Bachman, the alias of King. According to Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, it took him a week to write The Running Man. Like several of his film adaptations, the transfer from book to film is difficult. You really need a magical director to pull off the magic of King’s words. Is The Running Man as good as The Shining, Misery, or Carrie? No, not even close. Should you watch The Running Man (1987)? 

A good dystopian story contains satire, and The Running Man film reeks of it, and that’s the challenge with appreciating it. The story-line has a superior message which the inner intellectual embraces, while the film surrounds the viewer with all the crass elements about the 1980s I’d just assume forget. The film could have been a Blade Runner or a Mad Max with its themes developed, but as The Running Man tries to illustrate the ludicrousness of society, that is, a populace addicted to reality television and individual freedoms stolen by a corrupt government, the emphasis of the film shifts away from the warning and stresses the absurdity of the stalkers and the deliverance of those silly one-liners we all associate with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus, it lacks the clever special effects admired in Total Recall (1990). 

Richard Dawson as Damon Killian
Richard Dawson as Damon Killian

Does it sound like I disliked the film? No, it is fun if you don’t take it too seriously. After all, you have to admire the cast for they are living examples of the parody and know it. Richard Dawson as the superficial television game host (remember Family Feud?) gives the mob what they want–violence and death in a gladiator-style television show with all the noise and lights and Jane Fonda leotards on dancers who came straight from the MTV set of a Paula Abdul video. How about Jim Brown, the football fullback worshiped for his prowess as a stadium athlete, or Captain Freedom played by Jesse Ventura, the quintessential wrestler famous for his staging in the ring? Or Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac, a performer from another circus ring, the rock star? All this parodying of the entertainer and their fickle fans, grandmothers, and average Joes who are duped by the media makes me cringe especially since the story is set in the future of 2017.

I like watching old science fiction just to see if their predictions came true. Have we devolved? I think humans have always loved the diversion of entertainment. One can easily see the parallels from 1987 to today; we do live in a dystopian of sorts where violence and technology reign supreme. Where that thin line between appearance and reality is distorted for ratings and sales and the wow-factor. The fizz of the entertainment industry. The assault on the senses. A police-state merging with the entertainment industry to brainwash its society. Taken in this vein, the film from the past contains varying shades of our today. When I first watched it thirty years ago, it did feel like science fiction. Who better illustrates this past-present correlation than Arnold Schwarzenegger who has spent a lifetime in front of a camera as body-builder, actor, politician, and returning today as an actor, a nebulous icon of our world?

If you like good old-fashioned kick-ass films with sarcastic tough-guys bludgeoning their way from point A to B, you’d like this one a lot.  I did love the pod-slalom scenes when runners are transported from the studio set to the outside arena. 3.5 out of 5.