Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#94 Pulp Fiction (1994)

So yeah, I've seen this one already.  Like, only about ten thousand times.  Just like you.  So let's do this mother fucker.

Plot summary (with spoilers): Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are at the diner, discussing the finer points of armed robbery.  The banks are too dangerous.  The convenience stores don't have much cash.  But last time, Honey Bunny had the idea to rob the customers as they came in.  They yielded a bigger bounty than the register.  Good call, Honey Bunny!  Say, why don't people ever rob restaurants?  Because they're usually huge with multiple exits and lots of windows and people are always coming in and out?  Nah, must be some other lame reason!  It's the perfect plan.  Let's do it!  Okay!  Kisses!  ANY OF YOU FUCKING PRICKS MOVE, AND I'LL EXECUTE EVERY LAST MOTHER FUCKING ONE OF YOU!!

Two men in suits, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, are on a leisurely drive in the Valley.  Vincent is discussing a recent trip he took to Europe.  Jules wants to know if it's true that hash is legal in Amsterdam. It is, but not just out in the open.  It's kind of complicated, and not really the sort of minutiae that movie dialog would ever delve into unless it was really germane to the plot--oh, what's that?  Oh, okay.  Well, it seems that it's legal to grow and it's legal to smoke, but it's not legal to have on your person in public, but that's okay because it's illegal for cops to search you.  Also, there are little differences in Europe.  In Paris, they call a Quarter Pounder a "Royale with Cheese", because of the metric system.  Again, I'm not really sure what this has to really do with anything, if we could just move on--oh, sorry.  Yes, the Big Mac is called "Le Big Mac".  Not that different, really. Nope, didn't go to Burger King.
Vincent and Jules arrive at their destination. The open the trunk of their car, and pull out a couple of very large guns. Conversation turns to an associate of theirs, who was recently thrown out a window by their boss, Marcellus Wallace.  Seems this associate was caught giving Marcellus Wallace's wife a foot massage.  Vincent agrees that this is excessive, but also thinks the guy was asking for it.  Jules thinks that a foot massage is completely non-sexual, and not an issue at all.  Vincent asks if he would give a dude a foot massage.  Jules says to fuck off. Vincent teases him, and says he's tired and could use a foot massage right now.  (Quentin Tarantino yells "cut" and John Travolta says "no seriously, could you give me a foot massage?")
Having proven his point, Vincent heads over to the apartment door they're supposed to enter.  The appointed time has not yet arrived, so they hang back.  Vincent tells Jules that he has an upcoming date with Mrs. Wallace, at Marcellus Wallace's request.  He'll be out of town for a bit, and wants someone to keep his wife entertained.  Vincent assures Jules that there will be no massaging going on, foot or otherwise.  Finally, the time has come to enter the apartment.  Inside are three guys, one of whom let them in and seems to know they were arriving.  Another one is lying on a couch, and another is seated at the table, eating a Big Kahuna Burger. Jules tells the man on the couch to not get up and to keep relaxing.  Jules is very polite.  He asks the man seated at the table (Brett) if he could have a bite of his burger. Brett says yes.  And a soda to wash it down?  Jules basically eats Brett's entire meal, before asking him where the package is.  The one he was supposed to deliver to Marcellus Wallace.  The guy on the couch directs Vincent to the kitchen.  Vincent pulls out a suitcase.  Puts in the combination 666.  And opens it up.  The suitcase glows gold.  Are we cool?  Yes we are cool.  Jules asks Brett what Marcellus Wallace looks like.  What?  What?  SAY "WHAT" AGAIN, MOTHERFUCKER! Does he look like a bitch?  NO!  Then why are you trying to fuck him like one?  Marcellus Wallace doesn't want to be fucked by anyone except Mrs.Wallace.  (So hopefully no one will come along later in the movie and fuck him).
New scene.  Vincent and Jules arrive at Marcellus Wallace's bar, where a boxer named Butch is being bribed to take a fall.  In the fifth, his ass is supposed to go down.  Vincent and Jules are wearing dorky T-shirts and board shorts.  They have no desire to talk about it.  But they have the suitcase, and that's all that matters.
New scene.  Vincent is hanging out at his dealer's house, buying heroin.  The dealer is quite the salesman and upsells Vincent into buying a more expensive...brand?  Mixture?  Rock?  Vincent shoots up and then irresponsibly drives to the Wallace residence.  Shame on you, Vincent!  You could kill someone.  Mia Wallace greets Vincent by intercom, and soon is ready for their date.  The restaurant is fifties themed. Ed Sullivan seats them.  Buddy Holly takes their order.  Hope they don't tip him, Mr. Pink doesn't like tips. Mia filmed a television pilot.  She was going to be one of five crime fighting tough chicks, and she was going to tell a corny joke at the end of each episode. No, you can't hear it.  It's lame.  In 1994, five dollars was a lot for a shake.  Even if they leave that awesome giant silver cup with like, a whole other shake in it.  Mia denies the "foot massage" story, and accuses Vincent of belonging to a sewing circle.  If Quentin Tarantino made a movie about a sewing circle, I would also watch it. Dance contest.  Mia has entered their names.  They stand up, go to the stage, and begin to dance the weirdest and craziest and most delightful dance ever. I think some people might of imitated it.  I think some people might've bought the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and played it every night at the graveyard shift where they worked at Shell gas station while they lived in San Diego and went to junior college.  And danced their ass off to all the songs while they stood all cramped in that little booth.  Who knows, just spitballing. 
They head back to the house.  They dance in through the doorway, holding their first place trophy. The sexual tension is palpable.  "Drinks!" Mia says. "Music!"  She's wearing Vincent's coat. Vincent excuses himself to the bathroom, where he can admonish his boner for a little while. Mia puts on another bitchin song, then sits on the couch, putting her hands in Vincent's coat pocket.  She fishes out the heroin. She thinks it's cocaine, and tries a line. Immediately, her nose starts to bleed and she falls to the floor.  Vincent comes out of the bathroom.  Oh, shit!
Drug dealer Lance's phone is ringing.  He ignores it a first, while his girlfriend yells at him, complaining about the lateness of the call.  Lance agrees, and answers, preparing to give the caller a piece of his mind.  It's Vincent, explaining the situation and begging for help.  Lances says to go elsewhere, then realizes Vincent is calling on a "cellular phone" which can be overheard easily by anyone like a CB conversation. Lance hangs up, but too late, Vincent and the unconscious Mrs. Wallace have arrived.  One Vincent explains to Vince who it is, and how much trouble he'll be in if Marcellus Wallace finds out he refused to help, Lance knows he can't refuse them. He says she needs and adrenaline shot, right in the heart.  Do you have a magic marker, a fucking felt pen, a fucking black magic marker?!  You have to stab her in the heart with the needle!  Three times?  No, one time!  Ready?  One, two, three, GO!  Say something!  Something.
On the way home, again.  Significantly less sexual tension this time.  The joke from the TV pilot was that the father tomato murdered his son for walking too slow or something.
A little boy named Butch watches old cartoons when they were probably new.  His mother lets a guy as creepy as Christopher Walken into the house to talk to him. Christopher Walken has a watch for Butch.  He explains it was Butch's father's watch, and his father's before him, and his father's before that.  When Butch's father was captured by the Japanese, he hid the watch up his ass for five years.  He probably shouldn't have brought it to a war if it was that important, come to think of it.  Christopher Walken had it up his ass for two years after Butch's dad was killed. And now it's yours, Butch.  Wash it, and wear it with pride.
Present day Butch is amping up for the big boxing match.  Round One begins, off camera, and Butch pulverizes the guy, kills him in fact, in the first round.  This is not what Marcellus Wallace paid for. Butch escapes the boxing stadium out a window, and hops into a waiting cab. The cab driver asks him what it's like to kill a man.  Butch didn't know until just now that he had, but he's okay with it.  He calls his bookie at a phone booth, laughing about the dead boxer, saying he shouldn't have ever boxed in the first place and is excited to learn about all the money he won.
The cab drops him off at a hotel, where he meets up with his European girlfriend Fabienne who expresses a fondness for pot-bellies.  (Later interpretations claim she was working up to telling him she was pregnant, and I can see that).  Butch asks Fabienne if she got everything they needed from the apartment.  She says yes.  Butch showers, and I find myself shocked to see more this time than I remember seeing in the theatre.  Go, Bruce!  They discuss plans to flee south of the border, living the good life.  Fabienne is freaking adorable.
The next morning, Butch awakens from a bad dream.  They go to back up their stuff.  Where is the watch?  I packed it.  It's there?  No, it's not.  Did you really pack it?  I believe so.  You believe so?!!  Unbelievable.  A TV is thrown, Fabienne shrinks into the corner.  It's my fault, I should've told you the ass story.
Butch is gone, heading back to his apartment, leery of any of Marcellus's men who may be guarding the place.  He goes into his apartment.  No one's there.  He grabs the watch, looks around.  Still nothing. He decides to cook a couple of Pop Tarts in the toaster, because why the fuck not?  Nothing to do but wait for Pop Tarts.  Guess Butch will just casually look around the room and...say there's a giant gun right there on the counter.  Pretty sure Fabienne didn't leave it there. He slowly walks over to it.  Suddenly, he hears a toilet flush.  He grabs the gun, aims it at the bathroom (which is right next to the kitchen, ew!) and waits.  The door opens and it's our friend and dancing champion Vincent Vega.  He stares at Butch.  Butch stares back.  The Pop Tarts pop.  Vincent is shot two thousand times, and falls into a heap. Guess we'll never see him in this movie again!  Butch forgets his Pop Tarts and scrams. He can hardly believe his luck.  He jumps back in the car, smiling and singing along to the radio.  He stops at red light.  A pedestrian crosses in front of him, and lo and behold it's the big guy himself, Marcellus Wallace.  Their eyes lock.  Butch floors it, smashing into Marcellus Wallace, and then getting hit himself in the intersection.  Marcellus Wallace gets up first, a crowd around him. He stands, sees Butch getting out of his car about a block away and fires his gun, hitting a random pedestrian. Butch staggers away, Marcellus Wallace in hot pursuit, firing wildly.  Butch slips around the corner, and goes into a random shop.  The shopkeeper is confused by his bloddy appearance.  Butch hides around the door and as Marcellus Wallace staggers by, Butch ambushes him.  They struggle, and Butch gets the gun and starts beating him silly.  Just as he's about to shoot him in the face, the shopkeeper cocks his shotgun.
Back away!  Put your hands on your head!  He hits Butch in the face with the shotgun, and Butch falls to the floor.  He grabs his phone, obviously calling 911.  Apparently, he knows the 911 operator and calls him Zed. He wants Zed to come over, right away.  Hmm...
Butch and Marcellus Wallace are tied to chairs with ball gags in their mouths.  The shopkeeper sprays them with water. In walks Zed, a security guard. I don't think this is proper police procedure. The shopkeeper calls for the Gimp.  The Gimp is sleeping.  I guess you're gonna have to wake him up then, won't you?  A person in all leather is removed from a tiny box.  They put him on a leash.  Who's first?  Eeeny Meeny Miny Moe...oh, well as kids we always said "Tiger", but you can do your version, I guess.  It's your shop. Marcellus Wallace is the "winner", so he is dragged off to a separate room for modesty's sake by Zed and the shopkeeper.  The Gimp stands guard.  Butch easily and quickly breaks free of his bonds, punches out the Gimp, and races upstairs and out of the shop.  He stops at the door, hearing a variety of unpleasant noises down below.  He's at a crossroads.  Do the right thing, or let Marcellus Wallace burn? He goes back into the shop, grabs a sword hanging on the wall, and goes back downstairs.  The shopkeeper is sliced and diced.  Zed backs away from Marcellus Wallace.  Was Sir Mix a Lot around in 1994? I bet Zed would've liked that song.   Marcellus Wallace stands and shoots Zed in the dick.  What happens now?, says Butch.  A whole lot of torture.  No, between us.  Oh, that.  You're free to go.  Don't ever come back to LA again.
Butch leaves the shop of horrors, his redemption arc complete, and sees a motorcycle, I mean a chopper, outside.  He picks up Fabienne at the hotel.  Zed's dead, baby.  Zed's dead.
A man is holding a gun, breathing hard.  He hears Jules outside the room, talking about Big Kahuna burgers and the big brain on Brett and Ezekiel.  AND YOU KNOW MY NAME IS THE LORD WHEN I LAY MY VENGEANCE UPON THEE! Brett is blasted.
The man leaps out of the room, sees Vincent and Jules standing there, and unloads his gun.  ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX click click click click.
Every bullet misses both Vincent and Jules.  They quickly dispatch of the man.  Jules is stunned.  Vincent hassles Marvin, the last man standing.
On the drive back, Jules insists that the bullets missing them was a sign from God, a miracle, while Vincent, the hash-loving man of science, sneers at this.  Vincent wants Marvin's opinion.  BLAM!  Marvin just got shot in the face. Both men and the car are covered in blood.  Is there anywhere safe to go and hide out from the cops?  Jimmy.  Jimmy's house.  Jimmy is displeased.  "Is there a sign in my driveway?  A sign that says 'Dead African American storage?  Because I don't see a sign like that.  And yet, I have a dead African American in my garage".  Jules calls still-pure Marcellus Wallace, who sends help in the form of The Wolf.  The Wolf is dressed in a tux and at some sort of cocktail party at 8:00am, because that's The Wolf.  The Wolf instructs the duo on a bunch of basic common sense stuff, like cleaning the car and washing themselves and Vincent absurdly bitches and grumbles the whole time, like they're doing The Wolf a favor. Jimmy gives them dorky T-shirts and board shorts.  They deposit the car in a junkyard. Let's go to breakfast.
At the diner, more chit-chat about the filth of pigs, and then Jules tells Vincent he's leaving the job.  Forever.  Vincent can't believe it, calls him a bum.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom again.  I mean, for the first time, chronologically.
Oh, shit!  Honey Bunny and Pumpkin!  There you guys are!  Honey Bunny surveys the scene while Pumpkin walks around with a trash bag to put all the customer's wallets in.  He approaches Jules.  Jules gives up the wallet easily enough, but when Pumpkin also wants the suitcase, Jules refuses.  Pumpkin aims his gun at Jules's face.  Orders him to open it.  Jules does so.  Pumpkin looks down at the beautiful gold glow.  Is that what I think it is?  It is.  Jules grabs Pumpkin's gun, then produces his own.  Honey Bunny freaks.  Bitch be cool!  We're just three Fonzies.  Vincent finally comes out of the bathroom and points his gun at Honey Bunny.  Now we're three Fonzies and a Vinnie.  Jules orders Pumpkin to remove his wallet from the bag.  Inside is fifteen hundred dollars.  He lets Pumpkin keep it, explaining that today is Pumpkin's lucky day.  Normally, he would already be dead.  But this 1500 dollars is buying Pumpkin his life.  The passage Jules always quoted from Ezekiel was just something cool he liked to say before he iced a dude.  But today...today he realizes that he himself is the tyranny of evil men.  But he's trying to change.  Pumpkin and Honey Bunny leave.  I'm sure the other customers would've appreciated a less costly solution.  Vincent suggests it's time to go.  Jules agrees.  They tuck their guns inside their board shorts, suitcase in hand, and exit the restaurant.

Review: So...I think there better be something AMAZING further up this list if it hopes to beat out Pulp Fiction.  Like most Tarantino movies, except that awful Death Proof, it works on two levels.  You can appreciate it as mindless and wildly entertaining pulp, and on that level, it's master-class.  It has all the necessary crazy violence and action.  Plus, no ordinary action movie has dozens of quotable lines, reducing everyone who sees it into acting like they're the host of The Chris Farley show, saying "remember that one scene...and then he said...oh, that was awesome!"  It has multiple story lines that intersect in all the right places, and the playing around with time, while gimmicky in some movies, actually enhances the story here.  When he hear Jules tell Vincent that the bullets missing them were Divine Intervention and Vincent scoffs, we already know Vincent winds up dead, so there's no question as to who's right and who's wrong.
One thing that struck me funny this time around, though.  I remember how crazy and dark the adrenaline scene was, and how freaked out the audience was in the theatre.  The other night I thought it actually was kind of tame. I think kids today would hardly bat an eye if they saw this in the theatre, now in the days of torture porn like Saw and Hostel.  Also, a good litmus test for how corrupt you are is how long it took you to figure out what Zed and his friend were up to.  I think most teens and twenty year olds would know the score immediately upon seeing the ballgags.  My friends and I were confused until Marcellus got dragged into the other room.  Times change.
But it works on another level too, about a story of redemption and forgiveness.  When Butch kills the boxer in the ring, he doesn't give a shit, but yet he later takes the time to save his arch-enemy's life. Jules chooses to let Pumpkin live. Both were tested by God, and both passed.  Vincent learns nothing, despite being warned twice, (once with the bullets, and once with Mia) fails and dies.  What's in the suitcase?  I dunno.  Not sure it's important.  But the religious undertones in this movie would compel you to think it's related in some way.  I've heard there are even college courses that teach Pulp Fiction as a class, and I can see that. I think that Quentin gets to stand tall and shoulder to shoulder with Scorsese, Speilberg, Kubrick, and a handful of others.

Stars: Five out of five.  Can I say six?  Oh, fine.  Five.

Does it deserve "Best 100" status: Of course, and it deserves to be much higher up the list, too.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

#95 The Last Picture Show (1971)

Plot summary (with spoilers): High school seniors and buddies Sonny and Duane (a shockingly young and hot Jeff Bridges) are meeting up and hanging out the local pool hall.  Picture it.  Texas.  1951.  A little podunk town.  Tiny, desolate, and bleak.  The kind of town that has scared away all primary colors. The pool hall owner, Sam the Lion, mildly gives the boys shit about not doing so well in last night's football game.  The boys shrug, clearly not giving a damn.  They also play around a little with Sam's son Billy, who is mentally retarded and mute.  They're there to meet up with their girlfriends and catch a flick at the picture show, also owned by Sam.
They meet the girls; dour and unpleasant Charlene for Sonny, and popular and virginal Jacy (a shockingly young and hot Cybil Shepherd) for Duane.  The date goes badly for Sonny and Charlene, and Sonny finds himself breaking up with her. Later that night, after some second-base action with Duane, Jacy returns home and his confronted by her mother Lois, (a shockingly young and hot Ellen Burstyn) who doesn't want Jacy with Duane.  She is afraid he'll slow down her life and keep her stuck in this shitty little town forever. Jacy says she loooooves Duane and will marry him and have ten thousand of his babies and call them all "Dude".  Lois encourages Jacy to use birth control and sleep around, and she'll discover that there's nothing too great about Duane.  Jacy scoffs at this, but privately wonders if her mom's right.
The next day at school, Sonny's gym coach asks Sonny if he could come around to the house after school and pick up his wife and drive her to the "clinic" for reasons unstated.  Boundaries, Coach!  Damn.  Sonny agrees.  I'd like to think that even in high school, I would've told the Coach to cram it.
After the clinic, we see Sonny driving home the Coach's wife, Ruth Popper (a shockingly...well...Cloris Leachman, who...um..still somehow looks at least 60).  She is silent and stoic the whole ride home.  When they arrive at the house, he says goodbye, but she invites him in.  Sonny follows reluctantly.  He sits down at the kitchen table and she offers him a Dr. Pepper. He takes it, (remember glass bottles?!  Aw....) and she immediately begins to cry.  Maybe it was her last Dr. Pepper?  Sonny goes to make tracks out of there, and Ruth apologizes and asks if he'll be back next week for another ride to the clinic.  Sonny says he will, and then bolts.  Wow.  It's exactly like Body Heat.
That night, at a town dance, local school-kid Lester (a shockingly young and not yet crazy Randy Quaid) approaches Jacy and invites her to a naked pool party later that night.  Seems the parents of a rich kid from a neighboring city are going out of town and the rich kid himself likes to invite a bunch of people over for a naked swim when this happens.  Jacy says no, heavens no, I couldn't, that's disgusting, well I'm on a date with Duane, can I get back to you on that?
A few hours later, Duane and Jacy are in the car.  Jacy tells Duane that gosh darn it, her mother is making her go to a Christmas party with Lester and his parents this very night.  Duane protests, and Jacy shuts him up with a kiss.  She then moves his hand to her breast.  The begin to get into it, lots of kissing and rubbing.  Slowly, Jacy takes his hand and puts it under his skirt.  Duane holds his breath.  Then moves his hand.  Jacy suddenly breaks away.  "I'm late!  I've got to get to the party!"  She bolts out of the car, and runs over to the front of the dance hall, where Lester is.  Not cool, Jacy!  Not cool!
Furious and pent up, Duane storms out of the truck and threatens to beat the living shit out of Lester.  Duane's a total Star Whacker.  Local townspeople break them up before Lester is creamed.  Lester and Jacy drive to the party, leaving Duane in the dust.  With nothing to do, Duane hooks up with Sonny and a bunch of other boys, looking for entertainment.  Their big idea?  Getting the mentally retarded kid Billy laid.  They know an obese woman in town who will to it for three bucks.  I can't see how this isn't the most awesome plan ever.
Meanwhile, Jacy and Lester arrive at the pool party.  The rid kid, Bobby, jumps out of the pool to greet them, impressive wang swinging merrily.  Jacy is clearly aroused and excited. There are a dozen or so other pretty naked boys and girls.  Bobby tells Jacy that the first time you come to a naked pool party, you must be initiated.  This is accomplished with a slow strip on the diving board while everyone watches. Jacy does as she's told, flipping off her shoes, then her dress, then about seventeen layers of underwear, before finally jumping in the pool.  Everyone cheers.
The obese woman waits in the car while the boys grab Billy by the shoulders and push him over to her.  The woman is grouchy and yells at him for not knowing what he's doing, then yells out in disgust after he gets his "stuff" all over her, and then pushes him out of the car and onto the ground.  He cries, having gotten a bloody nose.  The boys perhaps begin to wonder what they hoped to accomplish here, in the first place.  The woman says she won't do that again for less than five bucks.  Let's just call this Awkward and Horrifying Sex Scene Part I.
Later at the pool party, everyone's indoors and clothed.  Lester clumsily tries to put the moves on Jacy.  She has no patience for it, and snaps at him, then wanders into the kitchen.  There stands Bobby.  She stammers and smiles and says hi.  He reaches out and grabs her vagina.  Yes, that's right.  "Are you a virgin?"  She nods, swallows.  "Come back when you're not".  And he disappears in a cloud of dust, leaving behind a giant fucking douchebag as his spirit animal.  Jacy quivers with desire.
The boys return to the pool hall to give Billy back to his dad, Sam the Lion.  Sam asks what happened.  Sonny tells him, saying sorry, we didn't mean to hurt him.  Sam calmly tells them that they're all banned from his pool hall, diner, and picture show, from now on.  "You didn't even have the decency to wipe the blood off his face".  Damn.
Another day, driving home from the mysterious clinic.  Ruth invites Sonny in again for a drink.  Sonny agrees. Sonny finally asks her what's wrong, but Ruth only waves that off.  She kisses him.  She asks him to come back to the bedroom.  He does so.  They stand side by side and slowly strip down to their underwear, without making eye contact.  They climb into bed, remove their underwear, and Sonny climbs on top of Ruth as slowly and unsexily as possible.  He begins to thrust, with all the agency and importance of a tortoise climbing on the beach at the Red Sea.  Ruth starts to cry.  Sonny tries to lean back to see her face, but Ruth grips his torso and won't let him.  She cries as silently as she can while Sonny somehow finishes up.   Ruth apologizes for crying and says he'll probably want to leave now.  Sonny says he's going nowhere, and kisses her gently.  They lie in the afterglow.  And we'll call this Awkward and Horrifying Sex Scene Part II.
Sonny goes to the diner sometime later, and encounters Sam's friend and local waitress Genevieve (a shockingly young and still very bizarre looking Eileen Brennan).  Genevieve tells Sonny she's not allowed to let him in.  But Billy is there, and he's forgotten all about the ugly incident, and he wants to play with Sonny.  Genevieve lets him in.  Soon after, Sam arrives.  Sonny says he was just leaving.  Sam calls him back, seeing how sad Billy is to see him go. Sam takes Sonny and Billy fishing, where they talk for a while, and we learn that Sam thinks of Sonny as a surrogate child.  Which is good, because we never do meet Sonny's parents.
Duane and Sonny decide to go on a road trip to Mexico.  They have about forty dollars saved.  Sam gives them another forty in case of emergency, and sends them on their way.  Because we the audience are not allowed to leave this god-forsaken place, the action picks back up immediately upon Duane and Sonny's return.  Duane complains he must've ate something disagreeable because his stomach hurts.  Sonny suggests it might've been a Mexican prostitute who gave him something.  They arrive back at the diner, and are surprised to find it closed, even though it's the middle of the day. They encounter a man on the street who tells them that Sam the Lion died a few days ago.  The boys are floored.  Furthermore, Sam has willed the diner to Genevieve, the theater to a woman who runs the concession stand, and the pool hall to Sonny.  Congrats, Sonny.  You now have roots in this community.  Sonny is devastated by Sam's passing and goes to Ruth for comfort.  They are more comfortable around each other now and have an easy rapport.  Ruth implies her marriage is a loveless one (apparently the director and writer said the Coach was supposed to be gay, which I guess lets Ruth off the hook a little bit, infidelity-wise) and Sonny is her only joy in life.  They are somewhat happy, I guess.
Jacy is determined to do as Bobby required and lose her virginity.  Duane is thrilled to oblige. Okay, finally!  A hot sex scene.  Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepherd, both in their prime, let's go!  Except that Duane is still feeling weird after Mexico and can't perform.  Oddly, Jacy's angry admonishments to hurry up already don't help as much as she apparently thinks they will.  Awkward and Horrible Sex Scene Part III.  Jacy tells him to lie and say they did it. She then later breaks up with him by phone.  Duane is furious and heartbroken.  He decides he can't live here anymore, and enlists in the army, going off to boot camp.  Jacy meanwhile learns that Bobby has gotten married (you should see how he proposes).  She scans around for her sexing options, and after an Awkward and Horrible Sex Scene Part IV with her mom's lover, she decides Sonny is her best bet.  She flirts with him aggressively and asks him out. Sonny, having already made a date with Ruth that night, tries to beg off, but she gets more flirtatious and sure enough, a hot eighteen year old beats out a weepy middle-aged housewife every time.
Sometime later, Duane returns from boot camp and learns through the grapevine of Sonny and Jacy's dalliance.  He confronts Sonny, and tells him to stay away from "his" girl.  Sonny angrily says they're broken up, and after a heated exchange, Duane breaks a bottle on Sonny's head, cutting his face up pretty good.
When Jacy learns of this, she is so impressed with Sonny's bravery that she wants to get married.  I think I kind of hate Jacy.  Jacy suggests they elope, and Sonny's on board.  They are traveling down the road, when Jacy says aloud that she hopes her parents don't try to stop them.  Sonny says they don't even know where they are.  Jacy admits that actually she left a note telling them where they're going and what route they're taking, but that probably result in anything happening.  A police car pulls them over.  The cop asks them to wait, while he radios base.  Turns out, Jacy's parents have reported her missing.  They arrive shortly after, and Jacy's dad tells Sonny to stay away from his daughter.  Jacy and her dad drive back to town in her car, while Sonny and Lois go back in the parent's car.  Lois parks in front of Sonny's house.  Just as I'm afraid that we're about to get Awkward and Horrible Sex Scene Part V, Lois tells Sonny that she knows about him and Ruth, and says that Ruth would be a much better choice for him than Jacy.  Is there no Option C?  She also admits to having had an affair with Sam the Lion years ago, and she misses him dearly.  Sonny thanks her. Aw, that was kind of sweet.
Duane and Sonny go out for a man date, having settled their differences.  Jacy has left town to go to college back east, and good riddance there. Duane and Sonny learn that tonight is the last night for the theater to remain open, you might even say the last picture show if you were feeling whimsical.  Seems the woman who ran it after Sam was unable to keep it going.  Duane and Sonny enjoy the show, then hug good-bye, as Duane ships off to Korea the following morning.  Say hi to Hawkeye for me, Duane. Or never mind, I'll do it myself in about 41 movies from now.
Another cold and lonely day at the pool hall.  Out of the corner of his eye, Sonny sees a truck outside, having stopped in the road.  He walks outside and sees a group of men standing around in a circle, looking at the ground. He walks closer, and with growing horror realizes it's Billy.  The truck driver says he didn't get any warning, the dumb kid just walked out in front of him.  The men are flippant and rude.  Sonny screams at them to back up, then picks up Billy in his arms and carries him over to a table.  He lies him on the table, and covers his face, and begins to weep.  Suddenly, he gets up, goes back to the pool hall, grabs a bag, and jumps in his truck, blowing out of town.  YES!  GO SONNY, GO!   His face is grim and determined.  But suddenly, he relaxes, takes his foot off the gas, rolls to a stop.  He does a U-turn.  NO!!  STOP SONNY, STOP!
He drives to Ruth's house, knocks on the door.  She opens it and is stunned to see him.  He asks to come in. She says yes.  He sits down at the same kitchen table as before, unmoving.  She offers him coffee, then apologizes for still being in her robe. Suddenly, she screams and throws the coffee pot at the wall. No, she's not sorry!  Why the fuck is she apologizing?!  He's the one who broke her heart and ran off with some girl, and now he's come crawling back?!  Just as Ruth is working up to literally ripping his throat out, she sees what enormous pain Sonny is in, recognizes it as similar to her own, and calms down.  "Well, never mind", she says.  "It's fine.  It's fine".  And so it is. She strokes his arm as we fade out.

Review: Wow.  What a bleak and desolate story.  This is a piece of America that's all but gone now, but one that should forever be remembered through this movie. Maybe not for everyone, but extremely well told, with a who's who of great actors, bringing the story to life.  The black and white choice fit perfectly, giving us both a sense of being back in time, and a sense of isolation and hopelessness.  This is a damn near perfect movie, accomplishing everything it set out to do, making characters who do unlikable things still somehow likable, because you understand their motivations, and would probably do the same in their shoes. I find myself hoping the best for Sonny and Ruth, and Duane, and Lois and Genevieve, and even Jacy, and wondering about their futures.   That's always a good sign for a movie.

Stars: Five out of five.

Does it deserves "Best 100" Status: Yes oh yes. And Do The Right Thing has quickly been usurped of its title, making The Last Picture Show the best on my list so far.  Although, Pulp Fiction is coming up...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

#96 Do The Right Thing (1989)

We're a long way from Yankee Doodle.

Plot summary (with spoilers): We jump right in to the opening credits with Rosie Perez dancing/sparing to Public Enemy's Fight The Power, right on the street.  Already I'm loving this, much to the relief of my White Liberal Guilty self.  After the song, we open on Brooklyn, and meet its various inhabitants.  There's Mister Senor Love Daddy, the local DJ, there's Da Mayor, the elderly drunken crank, there's Mother Sister, the put-upon object of Da Mayor's affections, there's Smiley, the mentally challenged kid always trying to sell people one of his many pictures of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, there's Tina, the aforementioned feisty dancing Latina, there's Buggin Out, the weird looking trouble maker, there's Radio Raheem, the man with the boom box and the song "Fight the Power" on a seemingly endless loop, there's the Italian pizzeria owner Sal, and his two sons Vito and Pino, and there's Mookie, who works deliveries for Sal.
It's a heat wave.  It's hot in Brooklyn.  Hot hot hot.  But people make do, as they always to.  Da Mayor flirts with Mother Sister, and she rebuffs him with scorn.  The old men sit around outside and one of them says he'd  beat the crap out of Mike Tyson if he ever got the chance.
At Sal's, Pino gives Mookie crap about being lazy and Mookie gives it right back to him, bristling at the term.  Vito plays peacemaker between the two.
Some local kids are enjoying their pizza.  Among them is Buggin Out, who has the occasion to stare at the wall of Sal's joint and asks him why there are only Italians on the wall.  How come there are no brothers on the wall?  Sal's dismissive and condescending and tells him when he gets a pizzeria, he can put whoever he wants on the wall.  Buggin Out points out that Sal rarely has Italian customers, so why shouldn't the wall reflect the client base?  Immediately, Sal goes to a weird place and takes a bat from behind the bar and approaches Buggin Out.  "You a trouble-maker?" he says threateningly. Pino gingerly takes the bat from his dad and then instructs Mookie to make Buggin Out...bug out. Buggin Out gets aggressive and annoyed and tries to enlist a boycott with the other customers.  Everyone ignores him and Mookie shuffles him out the door.  That's one.
We see various people trying to beat the heat, including playing in the fire hydrant water.
Mookie sees Pino be a dick to Vito and advises him to stand up for himself and not let his brother push him around.  Smiley continues to bug people with his photos of MLK Jr. and Malcolm X.
Radio Raheem walks down the street with his giant boom box, blasting "Fight the Power" louder than the local Latinos can play their music.  They angrily chase him off.  Buggin Out goes around the hood, trying to convince people to join his boycott, and is roundly ignored.
At the pizza joint, Pino continues to tell Mookie he's lazy, and Vito sticks up for him. Vito threatens Mookie to stay out of his family's business.  Mookie accuses Vito of being secretly wanting to be black.  Vito responds by talking shit about Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.  (Hmm...Vito has a bit of a point).
Da Mayor sits on the street corner, complaining about the noise some kids passing by are making.  One of the boys turns on him, says he's a drunk and a loser, and no one respects him.  Da Mayor is gobsmacked.
We're then treated a montage of characters speaking directly to the camera and spouting off crazy racial slurs against one another; black, white, Asian, Latino, etc.  It's a well choreographed cavalcade of hate.  These people are getting angrier.  Senor Love Daddy warns everyone to chill out.  It's a warning that won't be heeded.
Mookie asks Sal for his pay; Sal says he'll pay him after the shift is over tonight, if he pays him now, Mookie will disappear.  Mookie's stung and says he'll remember that.
Radio Raheem strolls into Sal's joint, blasting "Fight the Power".  Sal completely loses his shit and screams like crazy at Raheem, telling him to turn off the "jungle music". Raheem is shocked that the old man would speak to him that way, and eventually turns off the music and walks out.  That's two.
Later, Sal and Vito discuss the future of the business.  Vito wants to sell the business and get while they're ahead, and open something in "their own" neighborhood.  Sal says there's too much competition there.  Vito says he doesn't like being on "planet of the apes" and doesn't feel safe. Sal says he's been here 25 years and has no intention of leaving, and is very proud of his impact on the community. Smiley approaches them and tries to sell them the picture.  Vito drives him away angrily, pushing him out onto the street.  And that's three.
We learn Mookie is dating Tina, and has fathered a child with her.  Her mother hates him, knowing he doesn't have enough money to support Tina and the baby, and Mookie knows it's true, too.
That night. Radio Raheem, Smiley, and Buggin Out meet up and bond over their shared anger at Sal and his place.  They decide to make their feelings known tonight.
At Sal's, it's almost closing time, but then a quartet of teen kids show up and ask for one slice--come on, just one slice!  Mookie wants to get paid and go home Tina, but Sal agrees to let them in.  They grab a booth.  Suddenly Buggin Out, Radio Raheem, and Smiley burst in. Raheem is of course playing his theme song on the boom box.
Sal and Vito immediately start screaming at Raheem and Buggin.  They scream back.  The teens and Mookie and Pino call out for reasonableness, moderation.  Sal throws out a couple n bombs, because things weren't bad enough yet, and suddenly the teens are angry and in this fight, too.  Everyone is screaming like fucking crazy.  The two boys head over to the counter.  Sal's had enough.  He takes out his bat, previously seen in the first act, and smashes Radio's radio.  He is now just Raheem.  Dead silence.  Sal tells them to leave. Instead, Raheem leans over the counter and starts choking Sal.  A brawl starts up, and soon spills out into the street.  Vito and Pino and Mookie try to pry Raheem off Sal, while others cheer him on.  Da Mayor calls out for peace, but is ignored. The cops show up and throw Buggin in cuffs.  Raheem struggles against the cops and one of them gets him in a headlock with his baton.  He starts choking him.  Another cop says to lay off, but the first cop ignores him.  Suddenly, Raheem stops struggling. He drops to the ground.  The cops, angry and scared, yell at him to get up. But he ignores them, on account of being dead. The cops hurriedly and unceremoniously scoop him up, toss him in a patrol car, and drive off.  Smiley is screaming and weeping.  The other people on the street, all black, lament not feeling safe in their own neighborhood.  All eyes turn to Sal and his boys. They start yelling at Sal, making him the scapegoat for the actions of the police.  Da Mayor steps in front of Sal and pleads with the others to calm down, to not do anything regrettable, to understand that Sal doesn't control the police. The crowd shouts him down and gets angrier.  Mookie sees the crowd whip itself into a fury, all directed at Sal, and calmly walks over to a trash can, empties it, walks the can over to Sal's front window...and breaks it.
And with that, the fuse is lit.  Swarms of rioters enterer the pizza place and begin smashing everything to shit. Da Mayor hustles Sal and his boys over to a safe corner.  Soon a literal fuse is lit, and Sal's pizzeria goes up in flames, while the crowd chants "burn it down, burn it down!"
The firefighters and more cops show up.  They demand the people disperse, but no one does.  The cops warn the people to leave and when they ignore them, the hoses get turned on the people, while the pizza joint still burns.  When will this fucking night be over?
Mookie sits on the curb, shell shocked.
Suddenly, Mother Sister realizes the horror of the night and begins screaming "NO!  NO!"  Wailing, over and over. Da Mayor tries in vain to comfort her.
Smiley enters the still burning pizzeria.  Suddenly, magically, Raheem's broken and burning radio begins to once again play "Fight the Power", as we see burning pictures on the wall.  Pacino.  DeNiro.  Sinatra. Smiley shuffles over to the wall.  And puts up his picture of Martin and Malcolm.
The next day, Mister Senor Love Daddy recaps last night's events and declares today will be as hot as yesterday.  Mookie goes to Sal, sitting outside his burned restaurant.  Mookie asks for his money.  Sal balls up five one hundred dollars and throws them in Mookie's face.  I might've stuffed them down his throat. Mookie says he only owes him 250.  He throws back half the money.  Sal's stunned.  He asks Mookie what he's going to do with himself.now.  Mookie says he'll try to find a way to get paid somewhere else.  Mookie walks home, strolling through the neighborhood as Mister Senor Love Daddy dedicates the next song to the late Radio Raheem, "we loved you, brother".  In the end credits, we're treated to two dueling quotes. One from Martin Luther King Jr, strongly and in no uncertain terms denouncing violence in all its forms, and one from Malcolm X, winkingly suggesting that violence isn't really violence if it's in self defense.

Review: A breathtaking and compelling movie.  It's stylized to an almost absurd degree, with big swooping shots, a breaking of the fourth wall, and a Batman-style slanted camera at the end, when Sal and Raheem start screaming at each other. I watched the movie the first time, furious at Mookie for betraying Sal, and then bowled over by his audacity to ask for his money the next day.  But I read on wiki that many speculated that Mookie deliberately attacked the building to throw people off of attacking Sal himself.  On second viewing, (I have ninety something movies to watch and I'm watching this one twice?  Go figure.) I have to agree.  Mookie saved Sal's life that night by sacrificing the pizzeria.  It's an interesting movie, that sparks a lot of debate and brings up a lot of questions.  Taking into account Spike Lee's own contentious and angry public persona is impossible to avoid as well.  But, he could've made this clear cut.  He could've made Sal and Pino mustache-twirling villains, just like Vito, but he didn't.  He chose to make us like and identify with Sal even more than we did with Mookie.  The two quotes in the end credits are maddening, though.  Which position does Spike take?  Both?  Neither?  I find his refusal to take a stand to be a weakness rather than a strength, ultimately, and prevents me from calling this a perfect film.  But maybe I'll come around when I watch it a third time.  Sorry Blade Runner, you had the award for best AFI Film so far, but it didn't last long.

Stars: Four and a half out of five.

Does it deserve "Best 100" status: Most decidedly, and if you disagree, you're a racist. Spike Lee says so.

Monday, March 21, 2011

#97 Blade Runner (1982)

Plot Summary (with spoilers): Title cards tell us it's the future.  November 2019, Los Angeles.  We learn that in this dystopian future, an evil company called the Tyrell Corporation has invented robots who look like humans to work as our slaves.  They're called replicants.  And eventually the replicants evolved.  And rebelled.  And they have a plan.  The replicants start killing people and are deemed too dangerous to live on earth, so they are banished to the outer third world planets, where they can pick up litter and make our lead-based toys.  But occasionally replicants come back to earth to wreak havoc, and a special human police force called Blade Runners must track them down and kill them before they kill any humans.
On the plus side, flying cars!  Woot!
In the opening scene, a Blade Runner is conducting an interview on a suspected replicant.  The questions he asks are designed to illicit an emotional response from the subject.  An incorrect or insufficient emotional response is considered a dead giveaway that the subject is a replicant.  The dude answering the questions is named Leon, and he's super shifty and cagey right off.  The test is not going well.  The Blade Runner asks him to say any positive things he can think of about his mother and Leon says, "I'll tell you about my mother!" and jumps up and shoots the Blade Runner dead, then flees. The test wasn't finished, but I think he's probably a replicant.
Wandering through the city is our hero, Rick Deckard, a retired Blade Runner.  He makes his way through the smoky streets and the teeming masses to a little outdoor food stand, where a Japanese man serves him the exotic futuristic food known as sushi.  He is interrupted by a creepy looking dude named Gaff, who speaks to him in an indecipherable language that we're told is a mixture of Spanish, German, and Japanese.  Gaff tells Deckard he's under arrest, and someone named Bryant wishes to see him.
We arrive at police Captain Bryant's office, (M Emmet Walsh!  Awesome!) and he tells Deckard the previous Blade Runner has been killed and they need him to come out of retirement and stop the four "skin jobs" who have apparently just arrived on earth.  Okay, Edward James Olmos is in the room and someone just said "skin jobs".  My little nerdy heart just grew three sizes. Intelligence suggests that the skin jobs (squee!) are here on earth to kidnap Eldon Tyrell, owner of Tyrell Corporation and the robot's inventor, and learn from him how to expand their lifespans.  Bryant explains that currently, replicants only live four years before dying of natural causes.  This was put into their genetic code in order to keep them from becoming fully human, and developing complex emotions.
Deckard visits Tyrell and his assistant/girlfriend/concubine Rachel at the office.  Deckard explains the complicated test we saw in the beginning, and how it is a full-proof way to catch replicants.  He assures Tyrell of his safety. Tyrell asks Deckard to show him how the test works and volunteers Rachel to take it.  Deckard agrees, and asks Rachel all the standard questions.  We fade out and come back in after some time has passed.  "Well, how'd I do?" Rachel asks.  Deckard has a shitty poker face and looks uncomfortable and says nothing.  Uh-oh.  Tryell asks Rachel to leave them alone for a minute.  She does. Tyrell says, "you know?"  Deckard confirms that the test accurately pegged Rachel as a replicant, even though it took over a hundred questions and usually it takes over 40 or so.  Damn, Leon blew it in like, two questions.  Tyrell says she is a newer and more advanced model.  She possibly won't even die in four years.  Although Sean Young's career will.  (ZING!)
(I'm not sure why Rachel is allowed to live on earth, or why Tyrell would keep inventing more replicants when they are now considered illegal.  But I guess this is supposed to be a secret.  But why did Tyrell allow her to take the test?)
So anyway, Deckard and Gaff search Leon's now abandoned apartment, and discover a weird scale in the bathtub, possibly belonging to a fish.  They also find some family photos.  Deckard is shocked that a replicant has photos.  I'm shocked that the polaroid is still around in 2019.
Cut to Leon meeting up with another replicant named Roy Batty, played by super creepy Rutger Hauer. Leon bemoans to Roy that he lost all his family photos. They decide to put their plan in action to confront Tyrell and force him extend their lifespans.
Meanwhile, we still have some characters to meet.  Daryl Hannah shows up, walking around in a skin-tight black outfit and glam eye-makeup and straight-ironed hair.  She lays down in the garbage outside someone's apartment.  Sometime later, a man walks up to the apartment, and sees her, she screams and jumps and starts to run away.  He calls out to her, and she sheepishly walks back over.  The man introduces himself as Sebastian.  She says her name is Pris, and she's hungry.  He invites her into his home.  Sebastian says he is an employee of Tyrell Corporation (hmm...) and he's an inventor.  Inside his home are some truly creepy fucking dolls/robots who are all white and black and move about like those animatronic people at Disneyland. I'd really like to know how Sebastian sleeps with those things milling about the apartment.
Rachel goes to Deckard's home with some family photos.  She confronts him, knowing that he thinks she's a replicant, and shows him photos of her as a child.  Deckard doesn't even look at them.  He laconically rattles off some childhood memories of hers, things that she never told anyone.  He says that Tyrell told him he implanted those memories in her and that they really belong to Tyrell's niece.  Rachel is devastated.  She begins to cry, and Deckard's still being a dick to her.  Finally, it dawns on him that robots are people too, and that her whole world has been rocked to its core.  He offers her a drink, and when he goes to get it, she bolts out the door.
The next day, he goes to a computer expert and has the scale analysed.  It belongs to an artificial snake.  He is directed to an artificial snake vendor, who says he sold a fake snake just recently to a stripper.  This part is like a Zelda video game where each townsperson tells you a key bit of info to get you to the next part of the game. Anyway, at the strip club, he sees a woman painted gold doing a dance with a snake.  After the show, he meets her outside her dressing room.  He says he works for the club and wants to inspect her dressing room for holes.  Holes?  Yes, because unscrupulous men drill holes in ladies' dressing rooms to get a peek.  Harrison Ford is speaking in a high voice in this part, which makes no sense at all because it's not like the snake lady knows who he is or would recognize his voice.  Also, his cover story is fucking stupid.  She lets him in anyway, and then takes a shower while he waits outside.  Boobies.
He makes small talk about her artificial snake and then she comes out of the shower topless, and asks him to help her put on a leather bra/harness thingey. He starts to, and then she elbows him violently in the gut, and starts choking him  Apparently the high voice and the "dressing room holes" cover story didn't fool her.  Good on you, replicant lady!  She runs outside, having the passed the opportunity to kill him right then and there, and Deckard gives chase through the city.  An exciting action scene!  Deckard works his way through the throngs of people, jumps on a trolley at one point, all the while brandishing his gun, which no one reacts to.   He finally sees the snake lady in the distance and shoots her in the back, three times.  She crashes through a large window and into a department store in slow motion, while mournful and totally awesome sax music plays on the soundtrack.  Her death is bloody and grizzly and immediate.
The people around Deckard barely react, calmly going about their evening.  Deckard stands over the body.  The police show up, and Decker explains he is a Blade Runner and she was a replicant who has been eliminated.  While the police to their thing, Bryant and Gaff show up.  They tell him one down, four to go.  "Don't you mean three?"  No, turns out there's another replicant.  Tryell's assistant Rachel has disappeared and Tyrell confessed that she was also a replicant.  Deckard doesn't take that too well, but says nothing.   Murdering a fake snake stripper lady is one thing, but Rachel's classy!
Gaff and Bryant take off, and Deckard sees Rachel off in the distance.  He runs to her, but is intercepted by Leon.  Leon proceeds to beat the shit out of Deckard and is just about to kill him when a gunshot rings out and his face explodes.  It's Rachel.  She killed Leon to save him.  Deckard is overwhelmed and grateful.  They go back to his apartment for some sexy time.
But first, more talking.  Rachel, it seems, still needs to unpack this whole, "I'm a robot" thing.  She pointedly asks Deckard if he's ever taken the replicant test, but Deckard, exhausted from his evening of murdering strippers, has passed out asleep.  She wakes him.  They share a tender look and kiss.  Suddenly, Rachel goes to leave, but Deckard follows her to the door and stops her.  He's putting off a weirdly aggressive and rapey vibe all of a sudden, and the soulful sax music gets intense.  He kisses her more forcefully and she finally reluctantly reciprocates.  Then they commence with the sexing, I assume.
Back to the other movie with Darryl Hannah and Sebastian.  Roy shows up, turns out he's in cahoots with Pris (Darryl Hannah).  He explains to her that they're the only two replicants left.  They tell Sebastian that they want to try to live longer, and ask him to take them to Tyrell.  He agrees.
They break into the office late at night, after confirming Tyrell is there.  Tyrell isn't that surprised to see them.  Roy starts in with some techno-babble about how they can modify the genetic whozits in order to let them live longer and Tyrell counters with superior babble with how the whozits can't be modified because of the whatzis and on and on until Roy is convinced that Tyrell can't help him and he will soon be dead.  Tyrell apologizes and says "you're a light that has burned twice as bright, so you can only live half as long".  Rather than tell Tyrell that 4 years is somewhat less than half of an average lifespan, he gently grabs Tryell's face, kisses him, and then proceeds to smash it.  His face. Like, he caved his fucking skull in with his bare hands.  Oh, and there's this robot owl that Tryell has for a pet, who's watching this all go down and not reacting at all.  The owl part was the creepiest.  Should this blog entry have a drinking game where people take a shot every time I say "creepy"?  Maybe just mentally add "creepy" to every sentence.
Sebastian watches all this go down and quickly makes like a tree and leaves.
Sitting in his car, Deckard hears on the police radio that Tryell has been killed and Sebastian was seen running out of the building.  He calls Sebastian's home phone.  Pris answers.  Phones have video monitors in 2019, although they're not portable or mobile, so at least in this world there are still plenty of bees.  Deckard sees Pris on the monitor (why did she answer the phone?) and says, "who's this?"  Pris hangs up.  Deckard makes tracks to Sebastian's apartment.  He breaks in, and starts searching the rooms.  He comes across a room with a bunch of unmoving but realistically human-looking robot dolls. Pris is there too. Sitting, unmoving.  Deckard walks over to her, uncertain.  He bends down to look her in the eye.
Karate Chop!  Pris lays the smack down on Deckard, beating him to a pulp.  Everyone beats up Deckard in this thing. She chokes him out, but he breaks away.  She runs away from him, in order to get a running start to enable her acrobatic flipping attack mode and as she flips towards him, he pulls out his gun and fires.  She screams as a hole is ripped into her chest.  He fires again.  Very dark and thick blood runs out of her in rivers.  She screams in agony.  Who's the hero in this story again?
Deckard hears Roy call out to Pris.  He runs around the corner, gun out.  Roy stalks around the apartment, discover's Pris' body, and lies on top of her and kisses her.  Roy likes kissing. Meanwhile, Deckard his moving down the hallway, trying to find Roy. Suddenly, Roy punches a hole through the wall in the hallway, grabs Deckards arm, and yanks it back through.  Deckard braces himself against wall, terrified.  Roy pries the gun out of Deckard's hands, and breaks two of his fingers.  One for Pris and one for snake stripper.  He then gives Deckard back his gun (?!) and says "give it your best shot".  Deckard fires through the wall, but misses. He's then out of bullets.  He retreats.  Roy wanders aimlessly throughout the apartment, not terribly concerned with Deckard's actions or whereabouts, and occasionally says something taunting.  At one point, he seems to feel intense pain in his hand, and to quell it, he jams a screw through his palm. Not sure what that's about, but I'm thinking it has something to do with the fact that his four years are almost up. He finally confronts Deckard again, having cornered him in a room with no exit. Deckard grabs a pipe and hits Roy several times, to little effect.  He climbs out a window in the pouring rain and slowly up the side of the building onto the roof.  Roy asks "where are you going?" all amused, like Pepe Le Pew chasing the cat.  Roy disappears back into the apartment, and is there on the roof before Deckard can even climb all the way on it.  Deckard tries to run away, and leaps to the roof of another building (people do this in movies all the time like it's nothing. I would totally die if I had to do this) but doesn't quite make it and slips off, grabbing a scaffolding just in time.  Roy jumps over easily.  He stands over Deckard and says "now you know what it's like to live in fear".  Deckard's hands start to slip.  He loses his grip entirely and...Roy grabs him, just in time, and lifts him easily with one arm back onto the roof.  He deposits Deckard on the ground at his feet and says, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain".   He then dies.  Deckard looks on, horrified and ashamed.
Suddenly, Gaff is there.  (Uh...how long has Gaff been there?)  He tells Deckard that his mission is complete and adds, "it's too bad she won't live, but then again, who does?" Deckard goes back to his apartment and finds Rachel asleep.  He realizes Gaff isn't going to kill her. He knows Gaff has taken pity on her because he believes she'll only live four years anyway, but Deckard remembers that Tyrell said she'll live longer than that. How much longer?  Who knows?  But they'll be together until then, anyway.
They ride off together, leaving the dark and dying city and into the sunlight.

Review: Everything in this world is so beautifully realized, so complete.  It was made in 1982, so some of their ideas about the future were a little wonky, but they stuck to a theme and went with it.  The people in this city are jaded and angry, and wear dark clothes and makeup.  There's apparently no interior lighting at all.  Every building has huge open windows that let the light in from passing flying cars and flying billboards.  Spotlights swoop all over the screen and all times, and it's always night.
There's no way to watch this movie without totally getting sucked into this world.  It's an incredibly bleak tale, where our "hero" is practically a predator, picking off people who have committed no real crime other than existing, and who wind up saving him in the end, Rachel metaphorically and Roy physically.  I know there are apparently multiple versions out there, including a director's cut which drops the annoying voice over narration (good) but also reveals that Deckard is a replicant himself (bad).  If Roy spares Deckard's life in the end, simply because they're the same "kind", then it takes away from the gesture, in my opinion.  I also don't, as a rule, like multiple endings in movies (unless the movie is called Clue) because it's kind of a fourth-wall breaker. Don't like that ending?  Well how about this one?   Okay sure, but now I can't avoid knowing this is all bullshit, when before I could pretend I didn't know.
There are a few plot holes, and some things you shouldn't look at too closely, but the themes are powerful.  Plus, it's totally the inspiration for Battlestar Galatica, one of my favorite TV shows, and I'm fairly certain the casting of Edward James Olmos in it was deliberate.  I'm just glad they didn't make Sean Young into Number Six.  So far, my favorite AFI movie, and one that will stick with me for awhile.

Stars: Four out of five.

Does it deserve "Best 100" Status: Yes, on its audacity and creativity alone.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

#98 Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Well great, now I hate America.

Plot summary (with spoilers): Real-life person and Broadway writer/producer/singer/dancer/star George M Cohan is just finishing up his performance of "I'd Rather Be Right", in which he imitates the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt.  He tap dances around the stage vigorously, as FDR was known to do, then finishes to rapturous applause.  His wife greets him off-stage and then shoe-horns in awkward dialog about how it's supposedly controversial to imitate the president.  Suddenly, George's partner Sam interrupts with news that the President is on the phone and wants to speak to George.  George gulps theatrically, and takes the call.  The President wants to see him, and won't say why.  Throughout the movie, everyone talks in that irritating clipped/fast way that they do in old movies, ones where newspaper boys say "extr-y, extr-y, read all about it!"
Cut to...somewhere...definitely not the White House, where George meets up with some servant in the lobby (?) who informs him he can go upstairs to some office where FDR is waiting for him.  There's no security at all, even though it's the President and the middle of WWII.
George goes in and meets the President nervously, still unsure as to why he's here.  I guess FDR says, "tell me your whole fucking life story, please", because suddenly we're in flashback mode, to the 1880's or so, on the day George is born, the 4th of July.  His parents are actors, and soon after, he and his little sister are incorporated into his parent's vaudeville act, which includes a lovely bit of blackface, natch.  As a kid, George gets a big head and starts demanding star treatment, declaring himself the best actor in the family.  He even chases out a potential producer after his list of demands grows too great.  George's dad full-on is about to punch him in the face, but the mom says, "no, he needs his mouth to sing!" so George's dad spanks him instead.  It isn't as awesome as it sounds.
Cut to ten years later, and George is now twenty, and being played by Cagney.  He's in a play portraying an old man with a beard and grey hair, and afterwards, while backstage, a woman approaches him saying she's an actress and would like a part in his plays.  She also is apparently legally blind and/or mentally challenged, because she believes the the beard and hair are real and that George is an old man.  George plays along, and then starts tap dancing quickly.  The woman (Mary) is shocked and worries he'll have a heart-attack.  The irony (?) is that George really is an old man in the opening FDR scene, and he tap dances just a quickly in that scene, so I don't know.  Anyway, George takes off his beard and fake hair, and Mary does a quadruple take and faints or something, probably clutching her pearls.  I think I was on Facebook on that part.
Later, George and Mary are dating and George and his family are performing in like a talent show or something.  One of the acts, a performing dog, is drunk, and George tells Mary she should perform a song he wrote in the dog's place.  He assures her it will go perfectly because he's so talented and what not.  She sings well, but the play's director has a fit, and correctly deduces that George got the dog drunk (seriously) and demands the curtain go down.  George pinches the director's nose and knocks off his hat and the director tut-tuts and says, "I never!" and lowers the curtain during the middle of Mary's song.  Smooth.
They get into a shouting match, then George pushes the director, knocking him into some dudes in tights trying to rehearse some acrobatic act, and they in turn crash into a set and a tarp lands on all three of them, and I think maybe some chimps get lose and start ripping people's faces off.  The director pulls the tarp off his head and yells, "SKINNER!" like Superintendent Chalmers, and then declares George won't ever work in this town again.
Sometime later, George and Mary are married and attempting to get funding for their own show.  Every producer in town turns them down.  One day, George overhears a conversation with the rest of his family and some friends, who tell the family that they could easily start working again if they drop George from the act, but they refuse to do so.  George rightly feels guilty and tells them that he's been hired to write a show, but it will take a while before it reaches the performance stage, so they should feel free to branch off without him for a while.  He then redoubles his efforts to get a gig.  At a restaurant, he overhears another writer and a producer talking about a show the writer is pitching.  Insanely, he joins the conversation, pretends to be the writer's partner and tells him that they just got another offer from some other producer and they don't need this guy.  The producer is as stupid as Mary, and falls for this, and suddenly desperately wants to do their show.  A partnership is born!
We see endless scenes from his play, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and then it becomes a big hit, the rest of the Cohans are summoned to join the show, and we see even more scenes.  A rough estimate, I'd say three or four hundred musical numbers take place in this part.  There's a subplot involving a diva who insists on singing Mary's main musical number, that I won't get into because it's too boring for words.  Then we learn that people began to grow tired of Cohan's patriotic plays and wondered if he could do anything else. In response, George writes a dramatic play with no mentions of the flag and no songs. It is apparently so bad the critics walk out in intermission.  George is devastated, but no sooner can he process the news than a kid on the street yells "extr-y extr-y, read all about it, Germans declare war!" and World War I has begun.  In a voice over, Cagney fully goes, "It always seems to happen this way.  Every time an audience starts to think they're too sophisticated for the American flag anymore, someone comes along and reminds us why it's so important".  Yes, that's right, the Germans invaded France and Russia because George's play sucked.
George tries to enlist,  but he's too old at 39, and the recruiters turn him down.  George insists he's physically fit and to prove it, does yet another fucking tap dance number.  The soldiers are far more polite than I would've been, and turn him down gently.
But that won't stop George from doing more patriotic plays!  Sophistication be damned!  He performs in "Over There", which I'll admit is actually a pretty cool song.  Then there's fifteen hundred more songs.
Years later, George's family has passed away, even his little sister, and he's left show business, living on a farm with Mary.  Some teenagers approach the farm, needing some gas for their car.  George introduces himself to them.  They are polite, but have no idea who he is.  He explains that he used to be on Broadway, and mentions "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Over There" and "Give My Regards to Broadway" as his main hits.  Even though these characters were born before my mother, they have never heard of these songs, and would much rather sing "Jeepers Creepers".  George feels frustrated and impotent.  At the same time, George's old partner Sam needs someone for his new show about FDR.  A reunion tour begins.
Cut back to not the White House, where FDR says "thanks for wasting two hours of my life" and gives George the medal of freedom or purple heart or something because of all his patriotic inspiring songs.  George thanks him and leaves, and sees some soldiers marching in a parade on the street.  They're singing "Over There".  And weirdly--even though it's way too little and way too late, and Cagney has spent the last two hours vainly mugging his way through every scene, trying to make me crack a smile in this "comedy"--this moment is oddly effective.  George joins the parade and starts marching with the soldiers.  The solider next to him notices he's not singing.  "What's the matter, old timer?  Forget the words?"  George assures him that he does indeed remember the words.  "So, sing!" the solider playfully scolds him.  And George does, with tears in his eyes.
Stars: One out of five, for that last scene.

Review: Sucked.  Su-u-u-u-u-cked.

Does it deserve "Best 100" status: No, Hell-to-the.

Friday, March 18, 2011

#99 Toy Story (1995)

So...this is obviously one of the 31 I've already seen.  I don't live under a rock, people!  However, I can't say for certain, but I don't think I've sat down and watched it all the way through since it came out in the theatres fifteen years ago...until today, that is.  DUN!

Plot summary (with spoilers): A little boy is hanging out in his room playing with his toys, which include a cowboy, a slinky dog, a potato head, a T-Rex, and a Little Bo Peep porcelain doll, like all the little boys have.  The boy's name is Andy.  He grabs the cowboy and bounds down the stairs into the living room, where his mom mentions that he needs to get ready for his birthday party later that afternoon.  Andy scurries upstairs, drops off the cowboy toy, and exits stage left.  Suddenly, the cowboy, previously lying inert, begins to move around.  Holy crap,  we were right!  Just as we always suspected as kids, the toys really do talk and move around when we're not looking!  I told my GI Joes years ago that I was onto them, and they still never had the class to admit it.
Anyway, the cowboy's name is Woody, and he snaps to attention, and calls the rest of the toys to order.  He attempts to casually announce that today is Andy's birthday party, a week earlier than expected, because they're going to be moving shortly afterwards.  The toys all panic, because new toys always mean the possibility that the old ones will be replaced.
Plastic green soldiers are dispatched to spy on the party, and see what gifts Andy receives.  Most of the gifts are clothes and boardgames, which apparently have yet to gain the power of autonomy and sentience.  Andy's toys are relieved.  But wait!  One final toy is taken out of the closet as a surprise.  Andy opens it and is overjoyed.  He and his friends run upstairs to put it in his room.  Woody and the rest freeze in their places, because the...I dunno...Toy Governing Body,  let's say, forbids exposing their ability to move around or speak  to the humans.  (Maybe Toy Story 4 will be a prequel?)  Andy bounds into the room, casually shoves Woody aside and off the bed, and deposits his exciting new toy.  Then because Andy is exceedingly polite, he goes back down to the party and his guests without so much as touching the new toy.  Andy's mom taught the boy right, despite the fact that she is a single mother and therefore a horrible sinner.
Woody, Potato Head, Rex, and the others climb up onto the bed to check out the new toy.  It's a spaceman named Buzz Lightyear.  Buzz doesn't know he's a toy, and instead thinks he's a legit superhero.  All the other toys are enamored of Buzz's flashing lights and pop-up wings, while Woody stews in jealousy and worries he'll be replaced.  Tom Hanks does the best acting job of his life pretending to find Tim Allen in any way threatening.
Turns out, Woody's fears are well-founded.  The cowboy-themed posters and  bedspreads are replaced by space themed ones.  Buzz becomes the toy of choice, residing on the top of the bed, as Woody once did.  And all along, Buzz doesn't even know he's a toy!  One night, when Andy is allowed to just one toy with him to Pizza Planet, Woody knows it won't be him that's chosen unless he can hide Buzz by knocking him back behind the desk.  He tries to use the remote control car to knock Buzz off the desk but misjudges and winds up knocking him out the window.  The car tells the others what happened, and they are furious at Woody, and openly threaten to totally murder him.  We are spared learning what that would actually entail, though, because Andy arrives at just that moment, and when he's unable to find Buzz, takes Woody with him to Pizza Planet.  Down in the yard, Buzz sees Woody being carried into the car, and he grabs onto the bumper of Andy's Mom's car, Cape Fear style (or Sideshow Bob, if you prefer) and goes with them to Pizza Planet.  Mom stops for gas, and Woody escapes from the car, and discovers Buzz.  They start a full-on brawl, which ends suddenly when Mom and Andy take off in the car.
"I'm lost!"  cries Woody.  Buzz, still not accepting his toy status, decides to take off and find his spaceship.  Woody realizes he can never return to the playroom without Buzz, sees a Pizza Planet delivery truck and tricks Buzz into hitching a ride on it, so they can meet up with Andy there.  While at the pizza place, Buzz sees a rocket ship that is actually one of those games where you can use a claw to grab a toy and win it.  Buzz thinks that ship will return him to his home planet (stupid Buzz!) and craws inside.  Woody exasperatedly follows.  Inside are a bunch of religious zealot rubber aliens who worship the claw as a god and let it decide who stays and who goes.  Definitely the movie's funniest gag.  Suddenly a boy shows up at the game.  It's Sid, Andy's neighbor and an evil little shit who tortures and blows up toys.  He uses the claw to grab one of the aliens.  Then he sees Buzz inside.  He uses the claw again, and snags Buzz.  Sid is the best claw player in the history of the world.  Woody tries to keep Buzz from being pulled up, and is pulled up himself as well.   They are taken back home, where the rubber alien is fed to Sid's evil little pit bull, and Woody and Buzz are left in the room, with an assortment of mute, mangled toys with mixed-up and missing body parts.  They're both terrified and attempt to escape the room.  Outside the room, the dog chases them, they split up.  Buzz wanders into the living room and sees an advertisement for himself on TV.  He suddenly realizes he really is a toy.  This breaks him psychologically. Sid returns to his room and decides to launch Buzz on a rocket, actually a highly illegal rocket-shaped firework of some kind.  Unfortunately for Sid, it's raining.  So he straps Buzz to the rocket and goes to bed, prepared for a launch in the morning.  The next morning arrives, and Buzz is taken into the backyard.  Woody gathers the other freak toys and announces a plan, although they "may have to break the rules".  The rules established by who?  Damn you, Toy Story-verse!
And now for the best scene in the movie. Woody and the rest of the toys sneak outside and spread out, Woody lying in plain view. Sid sees Woody scoops him up, and puts him on the barbeque, planning to have a roast later.  He then turns to light the fuse on Buzz's rocket.  Suddenly, the recorded Woody voice begins to speak "reach for the sky!"  Sid is intrigued, but thinks the toy is busted.  "No, you're busted, Sid Phillips!" the Woody voice says.  Sid is terrified.  He goes on to threaten Sid to stop hurting his toys, and the other toys slowly rise up and surround Sid.  "We see everything".  says Woody.  And then he moves and speaks live.  "So. Play. Nice."  Sid screams and throws Woody into the air, and runs inside.  There he discovers his little sister holding a doll.  "The toys are alive! Keep them away!"  The sister gleefully starts chasing Sid around with her doll.  Later that day, Sid's mother found him curled up in the closet, rocking back and forth and silently weeping.  She asked him what was wrong. He explained how the toys in his room came to life and threatened him, but his mother didn't believe him, and wound up taking him to the doctor.  After seeing several specialists, the doctors could find nothing wrong with Sid, and said the problem was all in his head.  Meanwhile, Sid refused to go near any toys, or indeed anything that even appeared to look like a toy.  Was a TV considered a toy?  A wristwatch?  What about clothing?  Literally anything could come alive at any moment!  Sid eventually refused to even leave his room, even after clearing it of every inanimate object.  Ha, "inanimate".  That was a fucking laugh.  Eventually, Sid's parents had him committed to a mental institution, where he resides today.  It's been years, and day by day, bit by bit, Sid gets a little bit better.  He uses silverware now, reasonably confident the knives won't try to cut him, or the forks poke him.  There are good days and bad.  He met a girl.  She thinks she's Eleanor Roosevelt, but other than that, she's all right.  There might be something there.  Sid can go most days now without thinking of toys at all.  But every once in awhile, when he's had too much to eat, or had a bad day in the rec room, he'll wake up in he middle of the night, bolt upright in his cot, and hear those three little words all over again: "So. Play. Nice". And then the night terrors come.
Woody and Buzz attempt to dash across the yard, and just miss Andy and his mom in the car.  Instead they attempted to chase down the moving van behind them.  Unfortunately, Sid's dog is in hot pursuit.  Woody manages to get on the truck, but Buzz is cornered by the dog.  Woody finds the remote car and uses it to rescues Buzz, but the rest of the toys still think he's a toy killer and knock him off the truck.  Eventually, they see Buzz and the car, and try to use Slinky Dog to pull them back on.  This fails, but then Buzz uses the rocket and blah blah you know the rest.
The end.

Stars: Four out of five.

Review: I'll be honest.  When I first saw this movie, I was somewhat underwhelmed.  I didn't think it stacked up to some of Disney's greats, and while the computer graphics were interesting, I didn't think they would ever look as good as hand drawn stuff.  Obviously, hand drawn cartoons are all but gone in the movies now, and CGI has improved by leaps and bounds.  (The humans in this didn't look that great, frankly).  When I watched it this time, I liked it a whole lot more.  I still think the story kind of drags until the last twenty five minutes or so, but really all the Toy Story movies are kind of like that, even TS3, my favorite of all Pixar movies.  TS2 and 3 delved into real human emotions and themes, where here the big emotional moment is Buzz learning he's a toy, which isn't really anything we can identify with.  It's not like the fear of abandonment that gets explored in the other two.  (I'd bend your ear about how in this movie Andy is a metaphor for a parent, in the second, a lover, and in the third, a god, but that would make me seem weird).  I still like this movie a lot, but think it belongs in the bottom tier of Pixar movies.  Well, let's say the top of the bottom.

Does it deserve "Best 100" status: It's not as good as 2, 3, or a bunch of others. But it was the first.  So...yes?  I guess.  You know what, no.  I say no.  Give it to WALL E, Up, or Toy Story 3, dammit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#100 Ben-Hur (1959)

So, as mentioned earlier, it is my personal goal to watch all one hundred AFI top movies in reverse order.  #100 was Ben-Hur, a three hour and forty five minute epic flick that I watched over the course of two days.  

Plot summary (with spoilers)A new Roman governor and his second-in-command, Messala, arrive in Jerusalem to throw a parade in honor of the new Governor's recent promotion.  While there, Massala arranges a meet up with his old childhood friend, Judah Ben-Hur.  The two are overjoyed to see each other. (Although perhaps Massala is more overjoyed than Ben-Hur.  In the documentary The Celluloid Closet, which talks about gay characters in film, Gore Vidal relayed an anecdote and said that apparently the director and the actor playing Massala agreed that his character and Ben-Hur were lovers in their youth, and Massala loved him still.  This is very evident in the actor Stephen Boyd's portrayal.  The funny part was, they both agreed "don't tell Chuck.  He'll freak out".  Which is also evident, though one wonders why Heston didn't at some point say, "why do you keep looking at me like with those 'fuck me' eyes during our scenes?").
They eagerly talk about old times, laugh, reminise, Massala strokes Judah's arm about a thousand times, says "I missed you' while tearing up and then they drink wine from chalets while interlocking their arms.  I mean, seriously, Chuck, you didn't question any of this?  The upshot is, Massala is eager to climb the ranks of the Roman political scene and become governor one day himself, perhaps even beyond that.  He knows Judah is a Jew and knows that many Jews oppose the Romans.  He asks Judah to spy on other Jews and find out if any of them are plotting against him.  Judah refuses to do so.  This breaks Massala's heart, and they part company.  
The next day, the governor arrives in town.  Judah and his sister are watching the arrival from their balcony overlooking the road, and Judah's sister accidently knocks some lose tiles from the roof onto the road, which startles the governor's horse, causing it to buck.  The governor is injured in the fall, and Judah, his sister, and mother are blamed for a deliberate assisnation attempt.  They are all three arrested.  Judah begs Massala for mercy, saying he should know they would never do such a thing.  Massala says he knows very well Judah would never do this, but an example must be made of them anyway.  Judah saysn, "please, I'm begging you!" and Massala screams at the top of his fucking lungs, "WHAT ABOUT ME?!  I BEGGED YOU!"  This makes zero sense without the context mentioned above, but for some reason, Chuck doesn't question it.  Anyway, Judah is chained up and is made to walk across the desert for probably a long time.  While Judah is dying of thirst, a strange man whose face we don't see gives Judah water.  Judah is shocked by the man's compassion, and wonders who it is.  (It's totally Jesus). Then Judah is  put on a slave ship and his sister and mother are sent to prison.  
On the slave ship, the captain (Arrius) sees that Judah is the strongest rower and decides he will take him off the ship and make him ride in chariot races.  Before this happens, the ship is attacked by...some other country that also has ships, like three of them or so, and they ram the ship Judah is in.  The slaves are all chained up and panic, realizing they will drown.  Judah manages to choke out a guard, steal the key and swim to safety, clinging to a piece of the boat.  He soon discovers Arrius struggling to keep from drowning, and he pulls him onto his little makeshift raft thingy.  They float for an indeterminate amount of time until they are rescued by a Roman ship passing by.  Arrius is so grateful, he pardons Judah and grants him his freedom, though asks him to hang around still and race with his horses in order to make enough money to get back home to Jerusalem.  Judah agrees.  After four years, Judah has made enough money racing chariots for Arrius--and a white guy with brown facepaint who calls himself Sheik Ilderi--in order to get back home.  He vows revenge on Massala.  Some other dude who is friends with the "Sheik" cautions Judah about the futility and evil of hate and advises him to forgive Massala.  Judah fears he cannot do that.  
He gets back to Jerusalem and discovers his former home, which is half torn apart and in shambles.  Living there is a hot girl named Esther and her father.  I forgot to mention he met Esther in the beginning of the movie, and they were all schmoopy with each other.  Esther tells Judah that his mother and sister are dead.  Judah is sad and is more determined than ever to kill Massala.  To that end, a big chariot race is coming up that weekend, and Massala is one of the racers.  Judah enters the race.   Massala's chariot wheels have big pointy spikes on them, which should totally be against the rules.  During the race, Massala rams the other chariots with his total cheater spike wheels, causing them to crash, and creating an urban legend about dead stuntmen to manifest two thousand years into the future.  (Look on snopes, it never happened, and I didn't realize until just today).  Massala tries to ram Judah's chariot, but he avoids him.  He starts whipping Judah with his whip for the horses.  Judah manages to grab the whip and yank Massala off his chariott.  He is then dragged along the track and then run over by other horses.  Judah FTW!
In the next scene, they've dragged Massala back to his house so he can die in private.  Judah visits him.  Massala thinks he's come to make amends, but Judah wants to know where his sister and mother are.  (Oh yeah, Esther's father let it slip that they're actually still alive, but he doesn't know where they are).  Massala says they're in the third cave on the right, but "you won't recognize them".  Then he dies, while, I shit you not, while clutching and stroking Judah's arm.  Judah pushes he dead hand away and makes tracks to the cave.  Esther intercepts him and says that she knew all along his family was still alive, but they don't want to see him.  They have leprosy, and have been banished to the caves.  Esther says they are too ashamed to have Judah ever see them like that.  Judah goes anyway, and tries to take them back home.  They're upset, but agree to go.  In the main village, people throw rocks at them and shit, because that's what you do with lepers. All of a sudden, a parade comes marching down the main road.  No, it's not a parade, it's a crucifiction.  Someone (Jesus) is being crucified right now.  He's carrying his own cross up the road, right past Judah and this family.  Judah recognizes him (Jesus) as the guy who gave him water (Jesus).  The mysterious man (Jesus) falls down.  Judah rushes forward with a cup of water, practically going "remember the water?  In the desert, you gave me water?  Now I'm giving you water!  Crazy, huh?!"  The man whose face we don't see (Jesus) whispers in Judah's ear and then keeps walking.  
Esther asks Judah what the strange man (Jesus) said.  He said "forgive them father, for they know not what they do".  Who the fuck knows why he said this to Judah.  Though it seemed to have an affect on him. Later that night, when Jesus is buried, suddenly sister and mother are magically healed!  Hurray!  

Stars: Three out of five.

ReviewI was absolutely dreading this, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared.  The story is quite strong, and the set pieces and design are epic and grand.  The ship battle and the chariot race were especially amazing.  You'll never again see a another movie that has real ships lobbing real flaming arrows at each other, not when CGI is so cheap.  There's something viscerally satisfying knowing it's really up there on the screen and not being drawn by some nerd with a Mac.  The acting is uniformly great except for the awful Heston, of course. And most of the dialogue is good too.  Weirdly, even though the Arab character is obviously a white guy, he's still as a character treated respectfully and non-sterotpyically and his friendship with the Jewish Judah is pretty surprising.  The first two thirds of this movie were very watchable.  It definitely falls apart in the third act, though.  Massala's death should be the end of the movie, as that was what we and Judah were working towards all along.  The leper/Jesus stuff is a good forty five minutes and completely anti-climatic.  There were also other trims here and there that were needed.  All in all, though, I don't regret seeing it, which surprises me.