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Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

I have of late lost all my mirth, foregone all custom of excise...


I have of late, and wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth...foregone all custom of excise...that includes blogging. I desperately want to blog something, I just have nothing to say - I'm watching few films, and lousy ones.

So I'll type a response to EW's 15 most violent movies and see if it gets the juices going. It's usually a subject that puts me in a chatty mood. Drumroll please.

15. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN - seen it, didn't like it. It just didn't inspire me at all - iI felt there was nothing new there for me. Not so much that I'm calling it bad, mind - it was clearly very well made.

As for the violence, this is the only 15 on their list. As Emma was, rightly or wrongly, a little suprised by this, I feel it's only fair to tell you all why. I attended a fascinating BBFC lecture; when asked, the lecturer told us that it was violent enough to warrant an 18 rating, but mitigating factors were deemed more important:

1) that it was not gratuitous. Most violent films want you to be excited or grossed out by the bloodletting - SPR's violence was absolutely necessary, and shown in a realistic manner unlikely to make anyone go "aw, cool!" when legs fly off.

2) that it was educational. It was important to let young people see this film, regardless if they'd be a little disturbed.


14. HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER

Haven't seen it. Don't want to see it. I've read a description of a scene in the excellent book Shocking Entertainment, and that's well enough for me.

13. HANNIBAL

I'm unlikely to see this as well. Serial killers were never my thing. Their psychology is never as interesting as crims or crimes of passion.

12. SEVEN

I am going to see this, despite the twist being ingraned into my brain and blood. Friend 3 is desperate to see it, so we'll watch it together sometime. With a bucket.

11. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

The official word on this from my parents is that it's so unsettling, I'm still a bit too young to sit through it. While it's a classic - and I shall probably see it eventually - it's a pleasure I'm happy to forego for a while.

10. RESERVOIR DOGS

Nothing to say. Which hasn't been said. I'm trying my hardest to mention it as little as possible as I figure everyone else must be sick of it. Perhaps that's why my inspiration's dried up?

9. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

I was intially quite excited about this - real Aramaic and Latin dialogue! The violence put me off. I don't think it's gratuitous though, crucifixion's a nasty thing. I'm unlikely to see this any time soon - I don't think I'd go out of my way for it.

8. SAW


No! This is bad, but not that bad. It's more about an unsettling atmosphere than unwatchable gore. Saw 2, on the other hand - grief, I shudder to think of the opening trap with the eye. Seriously, Jigsaw, seeing if someone is willing to carve a key out of their own eyeball is not a reliable test of how much someone wants to live. Could you actually, phyisically do it anyway?

7. THE HILLS HAVE EYES

Highly unlikely to see this.

6. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

oooh, now this one interested me. Even at the time I wanted to see it.

5. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

Friend 2 managed to smuggle herself a copy of this on DVD. I asked her what she thought of it. Her reply was "I don't know, I turned it off, it was too violent" - which really amused me. Of course it was. It's a Clockwork bloody Orange, what did she expect? From this whole list, this is the film I want to see both most and least. Kubrick is a god - Full Metal Jacket and 2001 are masterpieces, Barry Lyndon was pretty if a bit tedious, and I've got to see The Killing (see no. 10). And what I've heard of the film's message - that inhumanity is part of our humanity, about forced social adjustment and all - is right up my street. And then there's the 'ole ultraviolence lingering in the corner of my mind, putting me off. One day there will be a horrible crunching moment, and it'll be cheap in Oxfam, or a friend will ask if I want to see it...

4. PAN'S LABYRINTH

This film didn't need to be that violent. I was shocked by how horrid it was, I really did not expect it. Twas more the suprise than anything else.

3. HOSTEL

One word: ankles.

2. IRREVERSIBLE

Yes I want to see Irreversible. See A Clockwork Orange. I almost don't need to - I know the story, the structure, the details. Do I want to see cinema's most graphically nasty murder ever? Possibly not. Do I want to see it as a double bill with one of cinemas lenghiest, nastiest rape scenes? Definitely not. Why the hell do I want to watch it at all? No idea, but I do and one day, if the oppertunity presents itself, I'll watch it on my own behind a cushion.

1. AMERICAN HISTORY X

I caught the middle of this, and wasn't particularly impressed. The characters were just far too loathesome, I couldn't sympathise with them at all. I know this is a tad hypocritical coming from a fan of gangster films, but shooting someone for profit does make a kind of horrible sense, whereas racism never makes any sense at all.

Incidentally, did you know there are twice as many comments on the IMDB board complaining about the casual racism than the violence? It's a funny distinction I've noticed. We're so used to seeing gore in the media, but very few films are daring enough to risk offending people; especially like this, where there is no cosy moral cushion at the end. I for one don't mind it. Or rather, yes I'd mind it a lot if I actually met someone who spoke like this, but in context I can deal with it. Who ever heard of a nasty criminal? Shocking! It isn't even an integral part of the plot, cut it and you've still got the same film...

That didn't make me feel much better, but oh well.

We're going on a free school trip to Canada, sponsored by the Imperial War Museum's "Their Past, Your Future" project. As part of the trip, we've been given our own blogs - you can read mine here. That's easier said than done - one member of the team was a little outspoken on their blog, and was squished like a bug by the Powers That Be. And the only reason I'm telling you this is you might be interested in some of my more movie related ones. Naturally, I'm putting my cinema first and foremost in everything I've added so far. I highly recommend our movie-style radio trailer for the trip, which is hilarious. We made it in about 20 minutes. I'd say it was fairly obvious who was in charge of the soundtrack here...I'm also whacking away at the personal blog - I did an unecessarily extensive one about the in flight movies we'll be enjoying on the way, as well as a reference laiden account of our prep trip to England. What did you expect?! I had a miserable day, the restaurant served both burgers and shakes, I had to experement...it cheered me up no end, I quoted all evening - and the combination tastes amazing. But I couldn't have danced the Twist on it...

But my true baby on the site is Part 1 of FILMS TO SEE BEFORE YOU GO - a ten minute podcast recommending my 4 fave war films. You don't have to listen to it; my voice is very annoying, the things I wanted to express about them sound cheesy when I say them out loud and you've probably heard my viewpoints at least once before. But what you might enjoy is my defence of the war film.

On the prep trip, one of the lecturers saw fit to deliver critisism of war movies. Not an artistic criticism, a moral one: veterans don't like realistic war movies, he's met people who thought Saving Private Ryan was deeply tasteless. It is wrong to make, watch and enjoy them. Naturally that struck the core of my being - art should be able to express everything. There's an Oscar Wilde quote on this I can't quite remember. But I felt I couldn't let it pass without a reply...

Folks, do any of you enjoy murder mysteries? Action movies? Anything with sex or death? Yeh, they might not be based on actual events, but for every Poirot about a man clubbed to death with an antique vase, I can find you a real life incident. And while it might not be bad to see a fictional story about X, it is at some level based on fact. One of the strands of In America focuses on the grief of parents who have lost a child. Of course, it’s not based on a particular true story. But that doesn’t mean that feeling isn’t universal, and there are many out there who are dealing with it at this very moment. Even within far-out fantasy like Lord Of The Rings big themes can be found – losing friends, the struggle to do what is right.

This isn’t wrong. I can’t think of a single film that isn’t about humanity. Even Watership Down tells us more about men than bunnies. War happens. So does murder. So does rape and torture and ballroom dancing. If we were to say just because these actions are wrong in real life, we cannot show them on screen for fear of offending, then we’ve just destroyed half of the world’s fiction. Name me a film without a single piece of bad behaviour and I’ll give you a cookie. Even Bambi starts with violence. The fear of death is something none of us can get away from. Clint Eastwood says this of murder in Unforgiven: “you take away all a man has, and all he’s going to have”, which is a ponced up way of saying death is a very bad thing. Films allow us a safe environment to explore ideas and concepts we can’t comprehend from our couches – if a film can give you half the experience of war, it is no less important than the experience of loss or grief, or of joy, felt in films such as Big Fish.

The difference is that these events are all ultimately fictional while World War 2 is real. But you're following fictional characters, and herein lies the crux: the war is used as a backdrop for a fictional story, in the same way that the post-9/11 climate of fear keeps impacting films made today. I don’t just mean United 93 or World Trade Center. I mean things like Munich – ostensibly about the Black September massacre back in the 60s, but actually trying to make a point about the way governments react to terrorism. A lingering shot of the still-standing towers just pummels the message in case you missed it. Is it wrong for Monty Python and the Holy Grail to be set against the Black Death, or The Fountain to figure Spanish politics as a backdrop to its outlandish plots? In fact, if you’re going to get itchy about war movies, surely you should frown on the films following real characters more than the fictional ones. A Very Long Engagement follows some characters a long way from the action of a World War (blow me, I can’t remember which one!), which merely sets up the situation for some fictional adventures. This is as defensible as Saving Private Ryan, which put its fictional characters right in the middle of the war. The war is no less a of a backdrop, the characters no less real than all the girlfriends left behind.

There’s a good book called Shocking Entertainment about how audiences respond to movie violence. It analyses a lot of interesting information and comes up with a very simple solution: “Real violence is not entertaining. Film violence is.” Hold that thought.

Saving Private Ryan was violent enough to warrant an 18 certificate, but the BBFC passed it as 15 because the violence wasn’t gratuitous or exploitative – you’re not meant to enjoy it, and when heads explode you go “ew!” instead of “cool!” Violence, shown as a very very bad thing. Surely anyone who has experienced it would praise that approach, instead of (say) the Matrix – which glorifies civilian massacres and presents gunfire with almost no consequences. The Agents always survive. The heroes are nigh-on unstoppable. If anything is being sick, it’s these action films which show violence as victimless. The Matrix = film violence = not entertaining. SPR = highly realistic violence = not entertaining. Veterans can disapprove of the attempt to immerse the audience in their experience, but the uber-realistic style makes the audience squirm instead of going “lets go kick the Krauts yeah!”.

According to lecturer no. 2, the veterans disapproval stemmed from conveying the true experience of war – it’s not right, they say. Why not? So now all our fiction must be hammed and glorified? We can’t show grieving parents, because it’s not right to attempt to show their sadness? We can’t show people dying, because there is no way it’ll equal the real thing? It would have been a crime to doll the war up as a whale of a time, invite coos of bloodlust instead of sheer horror?I’m going to be honest – I like violent films. The Killer – amaaaazing film! You should see Chow Yun Fat armed with two .45s, taking out a whole army of rival gangsters. Cinematic violence can be very exciting – just watch any James Bond film. Explosions! Car chases! Gun fights! Please reassure me I’m not a psycho – tell me you feel the thrill sometimes. Anyone here seen Hot Fuzz? Don’t you just love the end? Now of course, being in the middle of a gunfight feels nothing like Hot Fuzz or The Killer. It feels like Saving Private Ryan - it's loud, messy and very very scary. Yet this is what veterans object to – the attempted realism. Would they have preferred the Hot Fuzz approach? Even though I personally disliked it for lots of picky pretentious cinema buff reasons, I stand by my recommendation of Saving Private Ryan. I’m not saying those few vets are wrong to find it sick – they went through hell, I didn’t. I only saw the movie. But looking at the wider picture, condemning realistic war films has a far wider impact – on every film about life. You would be sick to enjoy it the same way you do Star Wars, which is where the realism is so damn vital – not gratuitous, not exploitative, just very very hard to watch. It is never disrespectful, and if it conveys a tenth of the terror on Omaha beach, then it stands as a worthy tribute to any man brave enough to get out of his boat.

PART 2, if I ever finish it, is going to be films related to the stuff we're going to do on the trip. Only I can't think of any I've seen, and I shouldn't recommend anything I haven't seen. I'll mention The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan, and probably Jesus of Montreal - Canada's best film (we visited the Canadian embassy, and this really enthusiastic tour guide wanted to tell us how AMAZING Candada was, really proud of all its achievements. But I caught him off guard. I asked him to think of some good Canadian films, and he really did not do very well. He only barely disguised the fact he couldn't think of any. My Kubrick-lovin' English teacher since recommended me Jesus of Montreal, and it's brilliant). After that it gets hard - the theme of the trip is rememberance and the forging of Canadian national identity. Not really a cinematic topic. We're doing a lot of WWI battlefields, and I know no WWI films; we're gonna do a "Native First Peoples Experience", and I've never seen a pro-Indian movie I've enjoyed;we're going to see ice hockey, and I haven't seen Slap Shot. Perhaps I'll just skip part two....

7 comments:

bbrown said...

How old are you again? Because Silence of the Lambs is not that disturbing, and it's really, really good. You should watch it. Like, right now. Se7en, too. And A History of Violence, which is one of the best movies of the decade, and one I'm sure you'd have mentioned in that "real violence vs. movie violence" discourse if you'd seen it.

There's some good WWI movies. Off the top of my head, I rememeber Gallipoli, Paths of Glory, and The Grand Illusion (easily one of the greatest movies ever made). Hockey movies tend to be mediocre though, and I've no idea about Native First People's Experience (some Herzog perhaps, maybe Malick's The New World).

And you sound like Emma Watson. No? Way off?

Rob said...

Bah, that list is terrible. Where's Salo? Braindead? Hell, where's The Wild Bunch??

Salo has scalping and tongue razoring, Braindead has rib cage removal, face crushing, graphic amputation and zombies being lawnmowered! It's the goriest movie of all time, for crying out loud! The Wild Bunch is just the Wild Bunch.

I disagree with A Clockwork Orange being incredibly violent. The rape scene and the brawl are the only scenes that really spring to mind, and the latter wasn't graphic in the slightest. It has been awhile, though....

And I think I can sympathise with the veterans with their feeling on SPR, and other war films for that matter. I think once you've been through an experience that traumatic, to see it up on a big screen for the perceived entertainment of others and earning poncy actors millions of dollars through acting out real pain, it'd be understandable to be upset.

I think Saving Private Ryan should be 15 the same way many argue Requiem For A Dream should have a lower rating too (SPR is 15+ here, RFAD is 18+, I imagine it's the same over your way). Their ability to affect even the desensitized is something that should never be understated.

I agree with you that art should be able to express everything and I hardly think we should avoid filming real life stories, not matter how tragic. But I can certainly see how a selection of veterans, and I know many hold the film in high regard, could be offended by it.

Speaking of war and Kubrick, you should really see Paths of Glory. It's my second favourite Kubrick after 2001 and closes on what is nearly always regarded as the most emotional scene Kubrick ever filmed. It's my favourite war movie and it's a truly powerful condemnation, without being unnecessarily sappy or over the top.

Ninquelosse said...

Thanks guys, interesting responses.

--> bbrown
17, almost 18, and definitely not Emma Watson the last time I looked. But it's a fair comparison... :) I've been looking out for Paths of Glory, but it hasn't turned up in HMV yet...definitely picking up History of Violence if I see it though. Looks like viggo's next film is going to be good too.

--> Rob
Precicely, it's the 15 most violent films which most people have heard of. Saw certainly doesn't deserve to be there. the majority of people haven't seen the truly foul of cinema. I count myself in that majority...but at least I know it's there...

On ratings, Ken Loach was really annoyed when his Sweet Sixteen was rated 18, and the people it was about weren't allowed to see it. I'd certainly be happy to scar a child for life by putting them through Requiem, SPR or similar if it was in order to make a point.

And you are right, the veterans are completely within their rights to complain. But still...

Rob said...

Well, we need to give kids a good scarring every now and again.

It keeps them in line......

Ninquelosse said...

Mwahahaha!

Anonymous said...

that clockwork orange thing was a joke! yes it was violent but mainlyihaveashortattentionspanandwantedtoreadabook. >_> also- how do you physically get a key INTO someone's eyeball?

you're not too young to see silence of the lambs. for crying out loud!

Ninquelosse said...

Hence why I found it hilarious :) As for the key, don't ask me!

 
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