I’ve Missed Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum is back as the Grandmaster in Thor Ragnarok.I didn’t realize how much I missed Jeff Goldblum’s quirky mannerisms until I watched Thor: Ragnarok. He hasn’t been in many high-profile films in the last decade or two. I know he was in the Independence Day sequel, but I didn’t have any interest in seeing it, so I missed his performance. Maybe it was great.

His performance as the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok was a breath of fresh air to a film that was already a lot of fun. He’s certainly a lot funnier and more memorable than the Collector or the other intergalactic villains from the Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy films.

I’d like to talk a little about how I’ve enjoyed his performances over the years, and why it was so wonderful to see him in Thor: Ragnarok. Continue reading

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Movies That Managed to Make Mediocre Songs Sound Amazing

I love movie soundtracks. I own quite a few, which I often listen to as I write. There are some tracks that I enjoy at the start, but once they reach a certain point in the song I find myself hastily skipping to the next track. The reason for this is that they rapidly devolve into an entirely different and inferior tune.

Thankfully, the films that include these songs only use the good parts of the songs on this list and they leave out the lackluster parts. So let’s compare the parts the films used to the full pop songs to discover how the films managed to make mediocre songs sound amazing. Continue reading

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What a Twist! The Sixth Sense Is a Symmetrical Film

The Sixth Sense has one of the most memorable and famous twist endings of all time. But once its secret is revealed is there any mystery left to the film? It turns out that The Sixth Sense does have at least one more big twist that has gone unnoticed for nearly 20 years! And that twist is that the film literally twists at the middle and repeats all of the events in the first half of the film through the second half of the film in reverse order.

This is called a chiasmus. It’s an ancient literary technique that has each part of a story repeat itself to create a beautiful structure. The Sixth Sense is the latest example of Cinematic Chiasmus, and we are going to have a blast finding out exactly how it works in this film! Continue reading

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Before Twilight Was the Original Edward and Bela

Last week I talked a lot about Ed Wood, and it got me thinking that that film was a trendsetter in more ways than one. It didn’t just inspire others to ironically praise the efforts of bad filmmakers, but it also might just have inspired a whole other kind of film genre involving vampires.

After all… Continue reading

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Good Films About Bad Filmmakers

The 1994 film Ed Wood is an odd masterpiece. Johnny Depp is at his most manic and lovable in that film. He plays the titular writer and director of some of the most famous bad movies of all time, including Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space. All of the movies he had a hand in making are so bad they’re good, which is why you’ll find several of them featured on episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Ed Wood was critically praised, won a couple of Academy Awards, and is one of Tim Burton’s best films.

And now The Disaster Artist is getting rave reviews. It’s a film about the infamous filmmaker Tommy Wiseau and his equally infamous magnum opus The Room. Based on this trailer, it looks like it’s going to fall into Ed Wood territory.

It’s funny because the audience knows that Wiseau’s performance is absolutely atrocious in that scene, but the crew is just so glad that he got the lines right that they don’t care that they were delivered in the worst way possible.

Let’s turn our attention back to Ed Wood to see why the struggles of bad filmmakers to make their movies lend themselves perfectly to good drama and comedy.

The Underdog

Everybody loves a good underdog story. Rocky, Rudy, Ed Wood – they all have the same thing in common: they’re about losers who try hard to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. It’s inspiring to think that someone with seemingly no talent who is literally or figuratively out of their league can stand a chance purely by their grit and resolve.

They’re all really likable in their own ways. Rocky is a bit of an ogre with a heart of gold. Rudy refuses to quit against insurmountable odds. And Ed Wood is eternally optimistic despite his lack of skill. Film executives, friends, even his own girlfriend tell him he’s no good. And yet he persists. He fancies himself the next Orson Welles, and he just wants the chance to prove himself.

The one thing that separates Ed Wood from other underdog stories is that the audience knows that he’s doomed to fail. And not just fail in an honorable way like Rocky, who just wanted to go the distance knowing he didn’t stand a chance of actually dethroning the champ. No, Wood never amounted to anything in his lifetime. And after his death, he’s not remembered iconically, but ironically. People adore him for his heartfelt attempt at making real movies and utterly failing at it. It’s rare to find honest-to-goodness sincerity in films and there’s something really funny and sad about seeing someone try their hardest and produce something that is objectively terrible. Ed Wood is the ultimate underdog story because it’s about a man who can see so clearly what he wants, and he never rises to that level. He will always remain an underdog who is dwarfed by the very town he wishes to make his mark upon.

The Filming

Ed Wood shows how the director managed to make his three most famous films. A big part of the fun of Ed Wood is all of the winks it gives to the audience. Anyone who’s seen Glen or Glenda or Bride of the Monster or Plan 9 from Outer Space will be delighted to get a behind-the-scenes look at what happened before, during, and after famously awful scenes were filmed. For example, Bela Lugosi loses his temper to the point of shouting at a crew member just before filming his monologue about pulling the string in Glen or Glenda. He pulls off the scene beautifully without even missing a beat, and it takes Wood’s breath away. That’s just one example from the film. There are many scenes that we get to see Wood filming.

The effect is amazing. Scenes are recreated quite faithfully while also cutting loose a little by showing Wood being enthralled by the performances and by just hearing his lines of dialogue coming to life before his eyes. Check out this video someone made comparing the scenes in Ed Wood to the actual scenes from the three films as Wood directed them.

The Triumph

The climax of the film comes as Wood has a chance encounter with his idol Orson Welles at a bar. They both express their frustrations to each other about outside interference on their creative expression and the many other problems they both face. Very few people outside of Wood’s close circle of friends have ever said anything positive about his work. So when he hears Orson Welles tell him to never give up on his dreams, but fight for them, it gives him the courage to soldier on and complete his masterpiece of bad cinema, Plan 9 from Outer Space.

He completely believes in what he’s doing, which makes it that much more heartening and heartbreaking to see him finally declare it finished. We think we know what’s coming next. At the big screening in front of an audience of cultured people, it’s going to be mocked and ridiculed, just like both of his previous films. But the film does something very smart. It doesn’t show the audience’s reaction. We only see Wood’s reaction. He’s so elated that he proposes to his girlfriend right then and there, and the two leave to get married. It’s an ending that tugs at the heartstrings and leaves us with a hopeful impression. After all of his struggles, he’s finally found happiness. We’re informed at the very end that Wood did not have an easy or successful life after the end credits roll, but he lives on in people’s imaginations. Even if he is mostly the subject of ridicule, he is still remembered just as much as his idol.

A Worthy Film

Ed Wood is a black-and-white film, in honor of the way all of Wood’s early films were made. It’s a worthy film of his talents that I could see him actually appreciating. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more loving tribute to an incredibly flawed man as this film. Hopefully The Disaster Artist will capture that same spirit of having fun with its subject while also finding an odd respect for what that writer/director managed to accomplish with his own film.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again… in the future.

The video clips are the copyright of their respective owners.

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The Many Attempts to Recreate the Magic of 1982

They say you can’t go home again. But some filmmakers seem to think they can. 1982 was one of the best years for films. In fact, it was so good that many of the films from that year have been re-released, remade, or sequelized decades after the fact. And very few of those revisits have been able to capture the magic of that year. Whatever it was, it’s gone. Just take a look at some of the amazing films that came out in the summer of 1982 alone! Continue reading

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Criticizing Films, Not Fans

I didn’t care for Wonder Woman. I liked a few scenes in it, but I found most of it to be just okay. When I told that to a friend of mine a little while back, he got mad, as though I had insulted a loved one of his. He really took my words personally. I didn’t intend to insult him, but that’s how he took it.

Sometimes people take umbrage at the thought of someone disliking something they love. They seem to think that when someone criticizes a film, they are also criticizing anyone who likes that film.

For example, take a look at this Angry Video Game Nerd video. He’s simply pointing out 10 popular films that he doesn’t like as much as everyone else. It doesn’t mean he hates them, but he simply doesn’t understand why they are praised as much as they are. Some of the films include The Godfather Part II and The Dark Knight.

For the first three minutes of the video, James Rolfe goes out of his way to assure people he’s not trying to be inflammatory by sharing his opinions, and he even says that fans of the films he includes on his list should take it as a compliment because he acknowledges their popularity. It’s ironic to hear a man billed as the Angry Video Game Nerd say that it’s never his intention to make anyone angry, but I take him at his word. The point is, he’s just sharing his opinions and he understands that simply doing that can upset quite a few people.

What’s the solution to this problem? Should we always begin film discussions by saying that our critique of something we don’t like doesn’t reflect poorly on our opinion of people who do like it? I don’t think that’s practical. A better solution is for all of us to roll with the punches and talk it out.

I try to reserve judgment when someone shares something with me that they hold dear. After all, my wife is the one who brought my attention to Pride and Prejudice, and I’ve loved it ever since. I never would have read it if I hadn’t been willing to put my personal prejudices aside and see if it was actually worth reading. On the flip side, I also try to keep an open mind when someone points out flaws in pieces of entertainment that I love. I once heard someone criticize Speed as a one-trick pony that is never as good once you know the film’s secret. I had to admit he was kind of right, but that still doesn’t stop me from enjoying every bit of it.

So whether you loved Wonder Woman or not, I hope you don’t take anyone else’s opinion of it personally. I try to always offer reasonable justifications for why I like or dislike films so I won’t come across as contrarian or mean-spirited. So if I ever say something negative about a film you love, feel free to call me out about it. But remember, it’s nothing personal.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.

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