Monday, April 30, 2012

RUTZ Rant #2

It started a long time ago, their evil plan. Now we are all united in its path of destruction. I still have hope I promise but it diminishes every minute I get older. The world is caught in one big fuss called world order and they will never get it together. The big boys trying to outdo each in the nuclear weapons department and somehow it seems the whole world is broke. Maybe we shouldn’t have spent all that money on guns. But we need guns because we have enemies, lots of them. Well at least America does and that is America’s story, making enemies. From Native Americans to present time, when you think about it like that maybe we are cursed. No, it is worse than that. Its election year and citizens are once again getting excited on how ONE man will solve all our problems. Very similar to the last election four years ago, when we thought ONE man was going to solve all our problems.  The idea itself is beyond silly and the amount of money people put into these campaigns could have fed millions of starving children or fund thousands of non-profit organizations that actually live to make a difference. NOPE, we don’t believe in that. We believe in giving ONE MAN millions of dollars to tour around the country in first class style and make other people believe that he is the answer to all the country’s problems.  Do we really need someone to blame that bad? Did we forget that the people paying for these campaigns have an agenda? Yeah, you donated a thousand bucks but there’s a business man out there who donated millions so guess who’s going to be able to whisper in the president’s ear. Politics is a sick business. You have to be able to put prices on lives, you must pretend you know what you are doing and you have to be extra careful with your favorite hooker. We fell for this. We are still falling for it. Even with all this secret service scandal, somehow those low lives at the White House have the nerve to say “Oh there’s no White House connection” Really?? Did they hire themselves, or is that just classic damage control. The same country that says prostitution is illegal and wrong goes to another county to ravage a squad of hookers. American hypocrisy at its best, selling bad lessons that goes something like “Do what I say, not what I do”. Whole lot of sense that makes, if we had any respect for ourselves we tell our government to go take a hike. Turn our back on them once and for all. Obviously it is not that easy, someone has to run the zoo. I think it should be a group of people in charge not one MAN or WOMAN.  It shouldn’t be based on looks or because you can sing an Al Green song.  Unfortunately, our species is not there yet in the working together department. Yes, we marvel at our technological wonders but I am pretty sure history will look at us as failures. We will be viewed as people who were so happy with their toy phones that we let things slide to the point of no return. I know some people out there are screaming “revolution” but be careful with that word. Revolution is a sharp double edge sword. It has a hefty price tag plus look how Cuba’s revolution ended up. I am not too keen on any idea in which again I have to believe in some “Leader” who is going to save us all. Leaders sounds better, you know where I can find some leaders? Standing outside in the rain holding picket signs is not going to work. It didn’t work in the 60’s and it is not going to work now. People in the 60’s didn’t have half of the distractions we have now.  A plan must be formed; we truly don’t know what those crooked politicians are up to. I’ve heard strange stories involving population control and Wal-Mart. I wouldn’t put anything pass a government that has behaved so fiendish in the last 10 years.  I cannot do this alone. I will repeat the question; do you know where I can find some leaders?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

RUTZ Classic Movies: Marie Antoinette

Directed by Sofia Coppola

Line that stays with me:  “Did you hear that, she just burped”

Essay Warning: There are no spoilers or story details. I want to offer the emotion that a film can access within us. Plus I think the best way to watch a film is by not knowing anything about it. Just Go In…So if you haven’t watched this film yet please don’t read this essay. Read it afterwards so we can enjoy the “feeling” together.

Sofia Coppola’s $40 million film of “Marie Antoinette” has a mediocre reputation. I for one do not know why. Some were turned off by her use of new wave and post punk music. Others detested the creative liberties she used to tell a historical story. None of those things bother me. I feel this film was made for a certain type of people and I am pretty sure Sofia Coppola knew this as well. Like her father, Sofia was not afraid to take an expensive risk to make her vision a reality. Besides do we really need another standard period piece film with nothing new to offer but fresh film stock? In six years it is crazy how things have changed so much in this world that I have to explain the “energy” the movie was bursting with. I do not like the label hipster but that was the movement at the time. After bands like “The Strokes” and “The Killers” brought back post punk and new wave in a major way, films like Sofia’s “Lost in Translation” truly captured the beauty and feeling of that time. I look at Marie Antoinette as the eulogy to those times. The last hurrah before it became lame and everybody starting wearing jackets and jeans again. There is nothing like enjoying a time and place to its fullest potential, a lesson this film delivers wonderfully. Time will always change everything around you and in a result it will either make you smile with the joy that you took advantage of every minute or sigh with eternal regret. Marie Antoinette has various moments that remind us, we are only human and life goes on, it is not all about you.  I love at the end of the film how tranquil Marie Antoinette is as she says goodbye to the palace. She says it with the maturity of someone who knows that a certain time in her life has come and gone.

Let’s get some discourse out the way. In my travels I have spoken to many struggling and striving filmmakers. Many of them dislike Sofia Coppola and I wish it was for a good reason but it is not. Usually they hate her work because her father is Francis Ford Coppola, which is a weak reason to pontificate. They say “Oh she only got to make her movies because of her daddy”…..and? So what? If you had a daughter and had the money to finance her films, you would do that. Sad jealousy will get you nowhere. She has one over you and, that’s life, so what. However, that sort of conversation adds another beautiful layer to Sofia’s Coppola “Marie Antoinette”. Filmmakers like Sofia Coppola like to tell stories they can relate to personally. “Marie Antoinette” is the perfect story for Sofia to tell. Marie Antoinette was born into a life of royalty; Sofia Coppola was born into a life of Hollywood royalty. We all remember Sofia in Godfather 3. Her whole life has been one long tour of the behind scenes of showbiz. I am sure Sofia knows what it is like to be pampered as a child, like Marie Antoinette was. Probably also knows how one can get bored of the lavish affluent life and its many trappings. She knows what it is like to be criticized in the newspapers, (her performance in the Godfather) she is used to hearing nasty rumors, just like Marie Antoinette had to deal with. Many people claim they can handle that sort of life but that is just something that is easier said than done. You don’t know what you would do till you are there.

One of the reasons people believe they can handle a life in the spotlight is because they are assuming that these famous people know the same life lessons they have learned throughout their lives. I love how in the beginning this film makes it clear that that is not the case. Marie Antoinette was born into that sort of lifestyle, which is all she knew. She didn’t know what’s it’s like to save money, that’s not how she was raised. Everything was given to her and she was told that’s how the rest of her life was going to be. That was her reality and the reality we are born into will direct the course of our lives.  By visually explaining that fact you can’t help but fall for Marie Antoinette’s story. And what a crazy story it is. All great films must make the audience instantly get concerned about the characters situation. Conflict, suspense, and the hope that the filmmaker asks you; what would you do in that person’s shoes?  In “Marie Antoinette” those sorts of moments happen constantly. Marie Antoinette has to abide to ridiculous morning routines, forced to conceive a child with a boy who has not yet become a man, and lastly becoming a young queen. What the hell does this young woman know about ruling a country? It shows how amazing and ridiculous we human beings have been in the past. Makes me feel great, especially when I hear all the nonsense politicians spew, I know history will do its job and reveal how primitive we still are. Only difference from Marie Antoinette’s time and ours is that it’s easier to communicate with each other, it’s easier to put our clothes on in the morning, and men wear less makeup.

Filmmakers who still like to tell their stories through images are a dying breed. Filmmakers these days put more thought into “cool sounding dialog” and special effects. At the end of the day that leaves us with ugly looking films with cool moments and almost nothing to discover.  I love watching films that offer powerful images and I am not being told what to think, but to just think. It is a great opportunity for reflection and self-evaluation. Now I understand, not all movies have to be like this (read my Commando essay) but when this happens it is my favorite kind of movie magic. Perfect film moments that use almost every art form you can think of to get their message across. The mastery of film and music is one of those things that drive me wild. It has made some filmmakers into heroes. Whether it’s Woody Allen and his jazz selections or Martin Scorsese perfectly using a Rolling Stones song, the blend of popular music with powerful images is a true skill. Sofia Coppola’s use of music in this film is extraordinary. She displays moments of mellon collie without any dialog and other times she amazes us like the scene of the masked ball where you watch royalty dance to Bow Wow Wow’s "Aphrodisiac". In that scene you can’t tell the difference from present time and theirs. It looks like a costume party, and that brings a smile to my face. Most films show that time in history with an uptight attitude, like they were never truly human but only characters in a bad play called history. This film reminds us they were just like us, just a different time, with different ideals.

As I stated before I don’t understand people’s hate for this film. If anything it offers beauty on such a constant level that it is worth watching for that reason alone. From beautiful locations, costumes, colorful makeup, wild hair designs, the list is long. All of that would be worthless under a director with less care, but if there is one thing Sofia Coppola knows and that’s how to work a frame. Obviously she was taught by one of the best, her father, who believes in filling the frame. You don’t usually see films like this anymore because it costs more to fill the frame and, it takes more dedication. Sofia Coppola doesn’t only find the best possible angle for a specific scene she fills the frame to the point where your eyes have to keep up. It is a great approach and makes you excited to watch the film again to find what you might have missed.  These are shots that need no explanation but make you feel something instantly, if you watch this film at the right time in your life. It is this layer of cinematic grace that makes her films special compared to films that just get by. I can only imagine all the hard work that went into making those shots work. Sofia Coppola’s dedication made me fall for Marie Antoinette’s story, visually it told me everything I needed to know and it was never objective.  Sofia simply presented to us an isolated view of a group of human beings who were on this earth over 200 years ago living their lives according to the times. Sofia Coppola’s grand idea accesses the simple pure feelings of being human. It puts a scope on life and the inescapability of pitfalls in our lives. That sort of truth brings a sense of peace to my heart, like hey “It’s Okay”.  Yep, life, the story continues but sometimes as history demonstrates we human beings have lived through some interesting strange times.  

ABOUT RCM: Rutz Classic Movies is dedicated on writing film essays for films that in Rutz's opinion, have not gotten the credit they deserve. Next Essay: David Cronenberg's Naked Luch


Sunday, April 15, 2012

RUTZ Music Video: "Always Here"

Here is my first music video. I want to thank everybody that has supported my work and I hope this music video brings you joy. Your excitement and conversations are invaluable. This is a song I made a long time ago for someone very dear to me. I always wanted to do a video for it and everything just came together rather quickly so I feel very fortunate. Enjoy, I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

RUTZ Classic Movies: Commando

Directed by Mark L. Lester

Line that stays with me:  “Want to see me kick some ass?”

Essay Warning: There are no spoilers or story details. I want to offer the emotion that a film can access within us. Plus I think the best way to watch a film is by not knowing anything about it. Just Go In…So if you haven’t watched this film yet please don’t read this essay. Read it afterwards so we can enjoy the “feeling” together.

How many more overly serious and, lame, message filled action movies do we have to sit through before Hollywood starts making films like “Commando” again? An action movie not one bit ashamed of being exactly what it is, loud and action packed fun.  Made in 1985 during Hollywood’s last hurrah in creating action stars, Commando is a special, perfect blend of star power and a director’s strong vision. This is the sort of film critics ignore, for it has too much fun and doesn’t try to give us a meaningful message.  Those aimless feelings are to blame when films like “Ordinary People” beat out films like “Raging Bull” for best picture. Any movie can be great, no matter what the subject or genre. I do not think one film carries more importance than the next. At the end of the day they are just stories being told, each with their own different set of merits. Still, to be honest it is really hard for me to respect any great drama after watching an amazing martial arts film, yet the last martial arts film to get heavy Academy attention was “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.  “Kill Bill” with its fantastic, now classic “Crazy 88’s” scene got nothing.  That is the fate of all films that go against traditionalism and deliver surreal exciting activity with cinematic perfection. When this sort of movie is done right, it is usually the most fun you ever have at the movies. That’s why I love Commando, it wants me to have a good time, laugh at its jokes, and enjoy the bloody carnage; and I do.

Commando is the movie made for the inner child still in all men. My generation grew up on these type of films from Stallone’s “Cobra” to Van Damme’s  “Bloodsport”.  These are the action movies released in the 80’s that later turned up in what seemed like on a weekly basis on TNT’s “Movies for guys who like movies”.  As a person that thirsts cinematic experiences of all kinds, it was a blast to watch an “Above the Law” and “Roadhouse” double feature. Now, the films I just mentioned are fine for the moment but “Commando” is on its own level.  It’s one of the few films that sits next to the first “Highlander” as odd cinematic perfection. After watching “Commando” you are left with the fascination of trying to figure out why you truly like the film even though it has its misgivings. Commando has plenty of mistakes in it. You keep asking yourself “Is this movie serious?” or “Was that intentional?” I am here to tell you it doesn’t matter.  In one scene you can see the entire crew off a reflection of a car and in another you see Arnold lose his wallet but somehow the wallet finds its way back to him later in the film.  None of these errors were powerful enough to destroy director Mark L. Lester’s vision, Steven E. De Souza screenplay and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star power.

It starts really slow. First, you laugh at the dialog. Dialog this fun and direct does not exist anymore. It seems to me that the screenwriter was having the time of his life trying to stick as many puns and zingers into this movie as he could. As a tribute to his excellent work, I have compiled a list of my 20 favorite lines of dialog. 

Commando Dialog Top 20 (No particular order) Steven E. De Souza Tribute

·         “All that matters to me now is Jenny!” 

·         “Let off some steam, Bennett!” 

·         “You have enemies all over the world John” 

·         “Your training, Matrix!” 

·         “I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I'm very hungry!” 

·         “Slitting a little girl's throat is like cutting warm butter.” (WTF!)

·         “Put the knife away and shut your mouth.”

·         “Someone’s killing your men…”

·         “Tranquilizers…. I wanted to use the real thing!” 

·         “The bird is flown”

·         “You know what I like best about this car? The price.”

·         “Silent and smooth just like always” 

·         “Don’t bother my friend he’s dead tired” 

·         “You're a funny guy Sully, I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last”

·         “John... I'll be ready, John.”

·         “John, I'm not going to shoot you between the eyes. I'm going to shoot you between the balls.”

·         “Ever since you had me thrown out of your unit, I've waited to pay you back. Do you know what today is Matrix?... Pay day!”

·         “They offered me a hundred grand. You want to know something? When I found out I could get my hands on you, I said I'd do it for nothing.”

·         “I don't need the gun John. I can beat you. I DON'T NEED NO GUN!”

·         "Welcome back John! So glad you can make it!"

Once you become well versed in Commando’s dialog it is almost impossible not to quote the film with friends who also fell for Commando’s choice of words.  It is silly and fun without losing a bit of credibility or story thrust. A hard act to master and it took the star power of Arnold Schwarzenegger to pull it off.  Politics and personal tidbits thrown to the wayside, Arnold Schwarzenegger the superstar is a force to be reckoned with.  It is almost proven that any series that tries to move on without him fails miserably (The Terminator, Conan, and Predator) Good luck new version of “Total Recall”. He’s visual presence and unique dialect just works to make him the perfect action star of our times. Movie magic at its best; cast the world’s strongest man in a role that could only be played by the strongest man in the world. Never under estimate the strength of a true star’s presence. It was something Hollywood was great at. From Humphrey Bogart to Jack Nicholson, a star’s charisma can land him in 10 similar roles and still excite us. Yes, we are watching a character but mostly we are enjoying the unique abilities that only this star can do. Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep”, “The Maltese Falcon” and, “Beat the Devil”, are a perfect example of that sort of star power.  Who else but Arnold could get away with saying lines like “Get down” and “I’ll be back” in almost every other movie he’s in?

Naturally a film cannot achieve greatness with star power alone. It can survive as many actions films do starring Jason Statham but to achieve cinematic greatness you have to deliver the goods in various basic movie fundamentals. Director Mark L. Lester and his screenwriter were very smart in giving Arnold great visual moments, properly setting up this action piece for him. I hate watching a great action star go to waste in a film that doesn’t exhibit any of the star’s gifts. (The Rock in “The Tooth Fairy”) In Commando we watch Arnold single handily push what looks like a Chevy Trailblazer downhill, rip off a car seat, rip up a telephone booth, hold the character Sully upside down with one hand and, Arnold running through a glass wooden door even though I am pretty it wasn’t necessary. The filmmakers were very keen on how to best utilize Arnold’s strengths just like James Cameron did in the first two Terminator films.   

One of the reasons I think people don’t revere Commando as a great movie is because it moves so seamless. That’s the signature of great work. The simple “I got to save my daughter “story works and the filmmakers set up a great tone that will not exhaust the flow by executing highly in other areas. For one the supporting cast in this film is very strong. It is filled with great character actors. Dan Hedaya is great as a stereotypical dictator, Vernon Wells is too perfect as John Matrix’s back stabbing partner Bennett, which might be the most out of shape villain in any action movie ever. That’s when you know the filmmakers have done their job, when you actually believe that Bennett could ever compete with John Matrix. Watch the film again and enjoy how badly out of shape Vernon Wells is. Enjoy the formidable talents of Bill Duke and one of the best sleazy looking character actors ever, David Patrick Kelly also adds so much zest to the mix.  Watching this cast kick macho lines back and forth to each other is just plain fun and hilarious. Plus, let us not forget James Horner’s crazy wonderful score filled with wild jazzy horns and steel drums. The score alone makes me laugh, it is very effective, but man those steel drums do it to me every time.

Bottom-line, if girls just want to have fun than guys just want to see things blow up, crazy shoot outs, and some sexy vixens. We are men. We were once boys playing with fake guns, while taking crazy chances trying to pull off our own dangerous stunts. Great movies like “Commando” allow you to enjoy that side of you, that side of you that still likes to play and raise hell. The movie has no tear jerking moments; it is fun all the way around. That’s why the opening has that silly moment where Arnold is feeding a deer with his daughter. It is a funny moment but it’s also poking fun at itself to make sure you don’t take the whole thing too seriously. The movie is proudly immature. It knows we don’t need a sappy ending like “Con-Air”; we just want mayhem and a cool one liner to close the film out. Obviously “Commando” is geared towards a specific gender and that’s the way things are. Women get excited about watching films like “The Notebook” and “The Vow” films that tickle their interest. Films that play on woman’s childhood built dreams of getting married and living happily ever after. Our childhood dreams was being an action hero or super hero, ideas that live off our testosterone.  Unfortunately, they are not a lot of filmmakers left trying to be that bold and manly. “Taken” is pretty much the same movie as “Commando” but it’s Commando with “realism”. I miss a good ole movie that doesn’t care about “realism” but impresses me with its style and great storytelling. I am not saying “Taken” is a bad film but it is not my idea of a fun film. Signs of the time I suppose.  Commando wasn’t afraid to say I know what the boy in you wants. You want car chases; bloody shoot outs, explosion after explosion, limbs being cut off, someone getting stabbed with a pitchfork, machine gun frenzy with unlimited ammo, that’s what we want! 

Who wants to watch realism when you can watch the 1st48 on A&E? Commando is make believe in every sense of the word with cool make up effects, stunt doubles exploding into the air, exaggerated gun fire, it’s soul was created from the good ole days of playing make believe with your friends. “I shot you, I shot you, you got to get on the ground” that sort of fun.  The only difference is that the filmmakers that brought us “Commando” had 10 million dollars to play with and a great crew.  The film delivered on its promise of wild, action packed fun. It didn’t set out to please everybody because that is impossible. Most action films these days try to please everybody and stick some sloppy romantic subplot that goes nowhere, dragging the movie down. Not “Commando”, in “Commando” even Arnold’s kidnapped daughter is tough. There are no drags, it opens with guns ablazing and closes with the catchy, silly yet appropriate PowerStation song “We fight for love”. Will there ever be a film this fun, silly, over the top, and straight forward ever again? Well as John Matrix said at the end of the film, “No chance”. 

So rejoice and enjoy this excellent parody "Commando: The Musical"   

ABOUT RCM: Rutz Classic Movies is dedicated on writing film essays for films that in Rutz's opinion, have not gotten the credit they deserve. Next Essay: Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette


Sunday, April 1, 2012

RUTZ Rant #1

Free writing rants by RUTZ

Everything I have in a paper cup. Nobody asks what. Time keeps ticking everything is cliché and redundant. Some have lived the best times. Competition will never stop. I take everything I have to make this strong. You wouldn’t understand. You keep walking in the right direction. The smiles look better each year. Dear what a delight to have you for the holidays screaming let’s get away! Running all the time especially when you speak in that manner. Feed those crooked lowest of low villains to the sharks.  You can never tell. I thought everything was fine. Everybody has a bomb, things got better. Celebrities’ having babies why is that important to my life. I am being selfish, who cares. Time to shrug off everything that used to make sense; I am no longer that person. New ideas make sense now but how long will that last. I do not want to fight the power in my late forties. I have the energy to fight the powers that be right now. What if things go terribly wrong 20 years from now? They’re already creating synthetic meat!! Beef prices will rise to ridicules amounts in order for the elite rich to relish what is left.  I sound crazy now but so does synthetic meat. I do not want to eat fake meat bedazzled with food coloring. Maybe McDonald’s been doing it for years.  Who envisioned this future? Only a madman will commit his species to a path that will devour all natural resources for future generations. Guess they know something we don’t. Nothing like being carefully distracted to make you feel like everything is OK. Hey! Look over there!