Category Archives: He Says She Says

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Blindspot / He Says, She Says: Full Metal Jacket

This Blind Spot entry will be done as a He Says, She Says post, because Full Metal Jacket was on the list of twelve films that Jonathan selected from his favorites that he wanted me to watch, which was the original genesis for this series. We never got around to it the year we made those lists for each other, but I’m glad we did now. These Blind Spots lists really are good for getting around to stuff we want to watch. :)

The Movie

full_metal_jacket-posterDirector: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, Gustav Hasford
Cast: Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, R. Lee Ermey
Info: 1987 USA/UK, Warner Bros.
Chooser: Both (Jon’s choice for me to watch, my choice to watch this week)
Date and Method Watched: 2 February 2014, Blu-ray

She Says…

Jandy-avatarGoing into this film, I’d heard that it breaks cleanly into two parts, and that most people vastly prefer the first part. Coming out of it, the first statement is self-evident, but I ended up liking both parts quite a lot. The first part is set at Marine boot camp, with a hard-nosed drill sergeant putting a group of raw recruits through the wringer. The second part is set in Vietnam, following Joker, one of the more accomplished recruits, now a correspondent for a military newspaper.

I can see why people like the first half more – it’s tightly focused and basically flawless. As a microcosm of the boot camp world and how it either makes or breaks you, it’s self-contained, intense, and brilliant. On its own, it would work just as well as an extended short film. Vincent D’Onofrio (who I didn’t even recognize) goes from adorable to terrifying, and I believed every second of it.

The second half is much more sprawling, but that’s what war is. Boot camp is controlled, tight, and regimented. It’s supposed to prepare you for war, but war, especially a war like Vietnam, is unpredictable. There’s no way to prepare for the situations the men find themselves in once they get there, and that’s the point. The first half makes you think the drill sergeant is putting them through hell. But he’s not. War is hell.

There are lots of other things I could say about the film – most of the music seems incongruous and yet is utterly fitting, which I love. There are a ton of great shots, from the tracking shot leading the sergeant around the barracks in the beginning to the silhouettes against a blood-red sky in Vietnam. I didn’t expect to like this movie all that much, let alone enjoy the experience of watching it, but I did. A lot. I should’ve known to trust Kubrick.

My Souvenir: There are so many I could take from this. The sergeant’s opening monologue, Pyle’s success (albeit short-lived) with the Joker’s encouragement, the look in Pyle’s eyes in the bathroom, the intensity of the whole sniper showdown, etc. But I think I’ll take a thematic moment. After the sniper goes down, Joker’s face is half lit, half in shadow – his face showing that duality that he previously indicated somewhat facetiously with the “Born to Kill” slogan and the peace sign button. The whole movie kind of comes together at that moment, purely through visuals and symbolic means. That’s what filmmaking is all about.

He Says…

Jon-avatarI saw Full Metal Jacket fairly early on, either at the end of high school or the beginning of college. A bunch of us knew this guy who would quote R. Lee Ermey’s lines repeatedly and I wanted to see what kind of film would match such aggressive dialog and what would – in a roundabout way – make said guy want to join the Marines.

I dug the film well enough on first viewing but it took awhile for it to become the favorite that it is now. At the time I didn’t really understand the connection between the two parts and couldn’t figure out why Kubrick didn’t just jettison the meandering last half for the pristine filmmaking that was the first. With time and repeat viewing I came to realize that both parts were vital together and that Joker’s duality wouldn’t have played nearly as strong without everything that came before. This most recent viewing really hammered that home and in turn made this even more of a favorite.

And the music! I completely forgot how mismatched the soundtrack was from the content of the film. In lesser hands this sort of thing wouldn’t have had nearly the punch that it did. Case in point: the soldiers singing the theme song to the Mickey Mouse Club as they march triumphantly through wreckage and debris. Pretty much my new favorite scene from that film.

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He Says, She Says: In a Lonely Place

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This series started a couple of years ago when my husband Jonathan and I started taking turns choosing movies we care about a lot to share with each other. We abandoned the series as our lives got busy, but now we’re ready to give it another go, except now the subject isn’t quite as restrictive. We only have time for one or two movies a week now, so we’re still alternating choosing them, but not necessarily from those lists of personally meaningful films. We won’t write up everything we see, but whenever we see something that strikes us both, we will.

The Movie: In a Lonely Place

in_a_lonely_place-posterDirector: Nicholas Ray
Screenplay: Andrew Solt
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame
Info: 1950 USA, produced by Santana Pictures, released by Columbia Pictures
Chooser: Jandy
Date and Method Watched: 12 January 2014, recorded off TCM (why don’t I own this?!)

She Says…

Jandy-avatarNo sooner do I say we’re changing the parameters of this series when we watch a film that completely fits the old parameters. In a Lonely Place has been among my favorites for years – I still remember how leveled I felt the first time I saw it.

It’s a noir, yes, with a self-defeating main character (Dixon Steele, one of Bogart’s very best performances), but it’s also a melodrama, and a Hollywood Gothic, and a romance, and a tragedy. Sounds like a mess, and Steele is a mess, but the film is anything but. His struggling screenwriter hasn’t had a hit since before the war, but he’s still reluctant to go to the bother of adapting a sure-fire hit bestseller. He has a history of violence, which puts him under instant suspicion when a girl he was the last to see turns up murdered. He’s capable of great kindness, but rages at the merest slight. His future looks bright with the support of new girlfriend Laurel (a great role for Gloria Grahame), but even his expressions of love are colored by possessiveness.

Everything about the film is more complex than you expect – every time you think it’s going one way, it goes somewhere different, usually somewhere far darker even than other noirs of the time period. There’s no pat resolution for Dixon or Laurel, and by the end, you desperately want there to be. It packs one of the biggest emotional punches to the gut of any film I’ve ever seen.

I could go on listing all my favorite things or scenes in the film but then we’d be here all day. Seriously. I’ll make an itemized list available upon request.

He Says…

Jon-avatarThere’s the Humphrey Bogart you know, and then there’s the Humphrey Bogart in this. His Dixon Steele is harsh, unrelenting, and absolutely amazing. I went into this film thinking that I would get something akin to his turn in Casablanca, but was pleasantly surprised when he went in a much more complex direction. In one moment he gives his washed out actor-friend the attention he craves, and in the next he nearly beats a stranger to death. We never really get to wrap our head around this tragic character, which is what makes him so damn interesting.

I loved all the story touches as well. Can’t say I’ve seen a noir before that featured a screenwriter as the lead. It was interesting to see him wrestle (however briefly) with adapting a trashy bestseller into a film, something I hope to one day cross off my screenwriting bucket list. The ending was a huge bummer too, which means I dug the hell out of it. My wife sure knows me well, and I am grateful she picked this one out.

I seriously need to get cracking on the rest of Bogart’s filmography.

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He Says, She Says: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

My husband Jonathan and I have been taking turns choosing movies we care about a lot to share with each other; both of us getting to catch up on a lot we’ve missed. We’re posting about a selected ones of these films on our blogs.

The Movie

Movie: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
Info: 1990 USA. Director: Steve Barron. Starring: Judith Hoeg, Elias Koteas, Josh Pais, Michelan Sisti, Leif Tilden, David Forman, Corey Feldman, Robbie Rist.
Chooser: Jonathan
Date and Method Watched: May 14, on DVD

He Says…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is one of those films you bring out to the significant other with hesitation. I’m reminded of an episode of How I Met Your Mother where one of Ted’s (many) issues was showing his girlfriend Star Wars for the first time. Would she be all over it, or would she laugh at all the ridiculous puppetry and special effects? How would that affect the relationship? As it turned out, she actually DIDN’T like the movie, but was able to appreciate it because Ted loved it. And while I wouldn’t say I hold TMNT:TM to a similar level of excellence, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of nervous about showing off this treasured piece of childhood to my wife. I mean, what if she DIDN’T like it?

Well, I’ll let her fill you in on what she thought. What I will add are some thoughts from our recent re-watch. As it turns out, TMNT:TM has aged a lot better than I was expecting it to. Having not seen it for almost ten years, I was partially ready to start apologizing for this part and that, much like I would for something like Super Mario Brothers. The puppetry and special effects held up quite nicely, hitting a realism at times that most CGI still has trouble getting right. The dated elements were more charming than cheesy, and the more somber moments still hit the absolute sweet spot for me – Raphael’s and Splinter’s private conversation being the prime example. The overall goofiness held up as well, and remains the part that makes this film near and dear to my heart.

Now to dust off my copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and cross my fingers once more!

She Says…

Of all the movies Jonathan kept mentioning to me as his touchstone movies growing up, the kind of cheesy but fun movies that he has strong emotional connections to, this one initially gave me the most pause. I was like, really, you’re going to eventually make me watch a movie about overgrown talking turtles who break out ninja moves and eat pizza? Yet when it came down to it, it was actually me who suggested we go ahead and take the plunge. And I was actually kind of weirdly excited about it, too. Probably it was the somewhat scary degree to which I’ve gotten into comics and superheroes lately, and with enough comic books under my belt, the mental jump to mutant ninja turtles apparently isn’t actually that large.

And you know what, I actually quite enjoyed the film. Sure, it’s cheesy, and it’s very much a product of its time, but those things give it a quaint charm that may not be exactly what the creators were going for at the time, but made it work for me now anyway. Definitely the kind of film you just have to give yourself over to, though, what with the mixture of an investigative journalism story and, well, mutant ninja turtles. Between the goofiness of the turtles, the “gangs are bad!” message, the meet-cute of the logically incompatible love interests, and the over-earnest wisdom of the giant rat Splinter, there’s a lot here that could easily be turn-offs, but thankfully (for both my evening and my marriage!), I just found it all pretty endearing. Up to and including the special effects, which are actually much better than I expected. I like practical effects anyway, and the puppets and animatronic elements are right up my alley, and the puppet work on the turtles’ faces is quite good.

All in all, I expected to at most enjoy it as a so-bad-it’s-good movie, but I actually enjoyed it for real. I’m sure we’ll get to the sequel soon enough, and I’ll get more ooze than I know what do to with (this is starting to sound like a not-very-subtle euphemism, so I’m gonna stop right there).

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He Says, She Says: Wayne’s World

My boyfriend Jonathan and I both love movies (thankfully!), but we’ve found that even though we have fairly similar tastes a lot of time, we’ve each seen a lot that the other hasn’t, simply due to what we’ve been exposed to over the years. So we’ve been taking turns choosing movies that mean a lot to us for the other one to watch. We thought it would be fun to share some of this journey, covering both our viewpoints – why the person choosing the film likes the film and thought the other should see it, and what the person who hadn’t seen the film before ended up thinking about it. I wouldn’t count on us doing it for EVERY film we get each other to watch, but we’ll try to for a good portion of them, starting with this one.

The Movie

Movie: Wayne’s World
Info: 1992 USA. Director: Penelope Sheeris. Starring: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Tia Carrere, Rob Lowe.
Chooser: Jonathan
Date and Method Watched: December 3rd, at home via Zune rental on Xbox Live

He Says…

There are a few films out there that have shaped my sense of humor into what it is today. I’ll quote them without hesitation and many of their gags will make way into conversation without me even thinking about it. In college, if one of us started talking about any of these movies, the rest of us would begin barking quote after quote to try and get the other laughing. I can’t count how many times we would mimic John Cleese talking about the terrors of that evil rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail or how many times we’d try and out-quote each other from Mystery Men. But it was one film that stood out among the others in terms of defining my sense of humor, rising above the rest in quotability and being able to match my silly outlook on life; and after the fourth or fifth time I quoted Wayne’s World to Jandy without her having any idea what I was talking about, I decided it was time to share.

It’s difficult to pick one thing to like about this film; there’s so much fun to be had. The humor here is self-aware, something that I immediately take a shine to. There’s a scene in particular where Wayne and Garth tell Rob Lowe’s character that they won’t bow to corporate sponsorship, all the while being advertisements themselves. The humor is also kind of abstract, making references that not everyone my age might necessarily get. For example, there’s a scene where our heroes re-create the opening to Laverne and Shirley which gets me laughing every single time I see the film. Garth interrupts it fairly quickly to get us back to the plot at hand, which goes back to that whole “self-aware” thing. Absolute gold.

And furthermore, Wayne and Garth keep from falling into the “idiot” stereotype that plagues other buddy films (Dumb and Dumber being perhaps the most prevalent example). I tend to like my buffoonery laced with a bit of smarts and this film does it plenty. There’s a scene fairly early on where Wayne tries to woo chick-rocker Cassandra with his rather quick adoption of Cantonese. The interchange is hilarious and I usually “lose my shit” when he stops talking and lets the subtitles continue for him.

I could go on and on with this film, citing moment after brilliant moment, but I think you get the idea. What made it fun this time around was watching Jandy’s reaction to the film. None of the jokes or references were lost on her and it was kind of awesome to realize that we share much in the way of humor. It was also nice to be able to give Jandy some context to my overall silliness.

Jonathan’s Flickchart ranking: 82 out of 1174

She Says…

There are a lot of early ’90s films I missed because I was too busy watching classic films – I say that neither as an excuse nor out of elitism, but purely as a fact. Thus there are a lot of films like Wayne’s World that all my peers just assume I’ve seen, and Jon is slowly but surely helping me make sure I get around to them. I actually had written Wayne’s World off as a stupid comedy of the sort that I don’t really like – along with Dumb and Dumber, which we watched a few months ago and I enjoyed decently enough, but isn’t really my style. In fact, I had those two so closely associated in my head that my first thought when Jon suggested we check out Wayne’s World next was “will I like it more or less than Dumb and Dumber?” He assured me I would like it a lot more, and he apparently knows me well, because I really liked, borderline loved this movie.

I’d seen a couple of the skits on SNL, so I had a little bit of an idea of the cable-access show premise, though the film does quite a nice job of fleshing that out with a corporate buy-out plot with a smarmy Rob Lowe trying to cash in on Wayne and Garth’s youth demographic appeal. That’s all pretty predictable. But what makes the film so much fun is the devil-may-care attitudes of Wayne and Garth themselves, more intent on partying on and enjoying their lives (even when that consists of nothing more than hearing a band at the local club or playing street hockey in between passing cars) than anything else, and the extreme level of self-awareness the film displays. Wayne and Garth are constantly talking and mugging directly to the camera, even to the point that when another character starts giving his life story, Wayne pulls him aside, warning him that only he and Garth are allowed to talk to the camera. Other times, the pair tell Lowe in no uncertain terms that they’ll never sell out for sponsorship, while eating Pizza Hut, drinking Pepsi, and wearing Reebok apparel. It’s quite obvious there, but it’s still funny, simply because it’s so shameless about the jokes it’s going for.

I also loved how these apparently dumb and aimless characters would suddenly start saying incredibly smart and learned things. Like when Wayne learned enough Cantonese to speak to Cassandra using big words and advanced concepts, and Garth knew how to reroute the satellites to get Cassandra’s band a big audition. Of course there’s nothing truly believable here, but the film takes that and runs with it, even giving three different endings with Wayne and Garth choosing which one to show next. This is my type of fun – very meta, very knowing, playing on expectations in really unusual and interesting ways, while never really being false to the characters of Wayne and Garth as initially set up. Several of the scenes or lines were familiar to me, through cultural osmosis, I guess. It was great to see where they came from and enjoy them in context – as much context as anything in Wayne’s World has. And yeah, I see what Jon means when he cites this film as being really influential on his sense of humor. Lots of the jokes he makes are obviously in this vein. :)

Jandy’s Flickchart ranking: 527 out of 2839