Thursday, February 24, 2011

TOP GUN (1986)


Possibly the most testosterone driven American film of the 1980’s was the 1986 Jet Navy pilot action thriller Top Gun. A beautiful blonde, the top male star of the decade and planes, trains and automobiles. (Okay, No trains, but a cool chopper and lots and lots of planes!) Yet there are some out there that don’t think this film dates too well. And there are even some out there that think there is even a homosexual subtext within this film. I am a little taken aback by these charges.
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Fellow 1001 Movies blogger Movie Guy Steve (who I usually agree with) is just one of many advocating the gay subtext theory. Now, I admit it has been many years since I have actually seen Top Gun, but I still feel the need to refute these allegations.

Movie Guy Steve says: Top Gun is the most homoerotic film I have seen since I watched Satyricon last year…The most homoerotic moment of the film happens when Maverick, Goose, Iceman and Slider are playing beach volleyball shirtless while Kenny Loggins sings “Playing with the Boys.”

I say: Satyricon? I’m so sorry you brought up Satyricon. Going to see that film years ago was one of the most traumatic experiences of my film viewing life, which I have recounted in a previous blog. But I don’t remember any of that type of man love in Top Gun. You’re off base, mister!
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Movie Guy Steve isn’t alone. Louis Fine Gold Nugget Reviews says: Kelly McGillis’s road to lesbianism can be traced neatly back to her less than stirring love scenes in Top Gun with one Tom Cruise.

I say: That is sheer speculation on your part!
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Holly Martin’s Reviews for the Straight Guys…and Others says: Goose’s death, though not implicitly stated, is actually a suicide stemming from the fact that he is unable to face his real self-that self, being a man in love-a man in love-with his best friend, Maverick.

I say: Come on Holly! Sounds like wishful thinking on your part you…you…guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Goose is married to Meg Ryan and she’s a girl, right?
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Nick and Nora’s Online Movie Review Bar and Grill agrees with the gay angle:
I can’t imagine this isn’t meant to be some kind of kind of covert Homosexual frolic with the gratuitous locker room scene AND the gratuitous volleyball scene!

And Nick and Nora continue with some dialogue examples:

I want some butt!

I want somebody’s butt now!

Whose wazoo do I have to kiss to get in this place!

Your tail is clear!.

Maverick has the ball…or so I’ve heard.

You can be my wingman anytime!
No! You can be MY wingman anytime!

My Johnson is long and distinguished, how about yours?

I can already hold my own, but can you?


And my favorite, “Show me your Top Gun, Maverick.” Iceman said eyeing Maverick’s lower regions.”

Even the name Top Gun. I mean, come on! Do I have to draw you a diagram to this movie’s hidden intent!


I say: Oh please, Nick or Nora, or whichever one you are! You can take anything out of context and make it sound suggestive. I'm not sure of your overuse of exclaimation marks either. Besides, I think you're making up the one about showing me your top gun, anyway.
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Criticism from Elwood P. Dowd’s American Movie Blog doesn’t address the gay angle, but clearly Top Gun isn’t his favorite film.

Take a hackneyed plot, combine it with ineptly written dialogue, clich├ęd and obvious direction, either over-the-top (Meg Ryan) or uninspired (Val Kilmer) performances and action sequences that might be playable if not for their complete and total incomprehensibility, mix them all together and you get: Top Gun!

I say: Lighten up, Elwood! This isn’t supposed to be a Merchant-Ivory film!
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Frank Booth’s 80’s! Music and Movie Watch had trouble with the soundtrack: The 80’s commercial radio overplayed Hall of Fame wouldn’t be complete without Top Gun’s ballad “Take My Breath Away” and Kenny Loggin’s faster paced “Danger Zone.” And if the songs aren’t drilled into your head sufficiently after the first playing during the movie-No worries-the songs are repeated over and over, on and on, forever and ever!

I say: He may have a point here. I did prefer Loggin’s “I’m Alright” from Caddyshack and other Berlin songs during the 80’s (like "The Metro") to the fare offered here. I’ll give this reviewer that one.
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Fred C. Dobbs the movie spotter says: Wasn’t that Tim Robbins?

I say: Well, Tim had to use something as a stepping stone to his bigger role in Howard the Duck didn’t he? Full disclosure: I saw Howard the Duck the day it opened. I’m not proud of that fact; I’m just trying to be honest.
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Enough with the critics. As I said, I’m just going to sit back now and enjoy the show. May the naysayers get a snootfull of jet exhaust fumes!
I’ll report back immediately after seeing Top Gun for the first time in over twenty years:

I say after my first viewing of Top Gun in over twenty years: At this moment I feel like Jessica Lange in The Music Box where she has just defended her father against allegations of Nazi war crimes only to find out he turns out to be…guilty. That’s all I wish to say on the subject.

For my penance, I’ll give Movie Guy Steve the final word.

“Don’t ask, Don’t tell, wink wink, nudge nudge”

AMEN

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961)



7 Days before finals, Georgia State University, 1986

Day one: I hate finals. Especially these final finals, coming right before I graduate. I hate them so much right now, that I’ve decided to write in this journal to keep me focused and steady my mind until this is all over. One can only read so much about the importance of media in deciding the 1960 Presidential Election, Gerrymandering and The Assassination of Chilean President Salvador Allende without an outlet of some kind. So, I’m just going to put down my thoughts while sitting on the third floor of the Georgia State library. I’m at the same cubicle where I seem to always sit when I study, the one where I can peek over it and see the small area of the library that houses the Johnny Mercer Exhibit. This exhibit includes blown up photographs from his life, original sheet music, even a softly playing jukebox, but the prize of the exhibit is, of course, his Oscar for the song Moon River from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Did he write the music or did Henry Mancini? No, Johnny wrote the words. Actually, I’m not sure. I am sure that I’d like to get my hands on that Oscar, as I don’t seem to be on the path to actually winning one anytime soon. Nobody ever goes in there, to the exhibit I mean. That’s a shame. Hmmm. Just to hold the Oscar for a minute. That’s all I want. Just for a minute. Of course, the guard is always on duty thwarting all intruders to Johnny’s possessions. Got to find an opening. Oh, I’m just being stupid. As if there’s any meaning in a silly statue. I’m not sure if this journal is helping me. I need to go home. I’m tired of studying. Maybe I’ll go to West Coast Video and rent something to pop in my VCR. Something light. How about…Breakfast at Tiffany’s? I’ve never seen it before. Maybe I’ll see if Johnny Mercer really deserved that Oscar staring me in the face. Breakfast at Tiffany’s it is! Sounds better than watching Out of Africa anyway.

Day two: Back at my cubicle. Oh my God, after seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s I can’t get Moon River out of my head. I’m whistling it now as I study. Ah, you caught me. How could I be whistling and studying and writing this at the same time? I can’t. Don’t want to study today anyway. I’ve made some small talk with the guard. His name is Jim. Quiet fellow. Nice guy. He looks like Morgan Freeman. If you don’t know who Morgan Freeman is, he was the tall black guy on The Electric Company. When I was a kid, I always preferred Sesame Street though. I felt I was being disloyal to Sesame Street if I liked The Electric Company too much. I’m off topic. Oh, yeah! There’s a girl in my Latin American Studies class that looks just like Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s! A girl that looks like Audrey Hepburn sitting in the row next to me at this moment has to be fate. I’m going to ask her out. Johnny’s Oscar is smiling and encouraging me. I could swear it was actually glowing.

Day three. Back at my cubicle. I learned yesterday that “Did anyone ever tell you look like Holly Golighty.” apparently isn’t a good pickup line. “I’m seeing someone,” she says to me. I thought she was trying to tell me something the time she asked me if she could borrow my eraser. Guess I put too much meaning into it. Maybe she just needed to erase something. I wonder if the real Audrey Hepburn would go out with me? Probably not. Reminds me of the last Audrey Hepburn movie I saw. I was in high school. Thought it would be nice to go see a movie with my mother. She wanted to see Sidney Sheldon’s Bloodline. A mystery with Audrey Hepburn in it. Should be no problems, right? Wrong! Let’s just say there may be worse things than sitting next to your mother in a movie theater and watching a sex scene but I’ll be damned if I can think of any right now. Is Johnny’s Oscar laughing at me?

Day four. At my cubicle. It’s funny how the Asian enrollment at Georgia State is probably about five percent, but you’d think it’s closer to fifty percent if you go by the students you see at the library. And none of them remotely resemble Mickey Rooney’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “I’m gonna call the powice Miss Gowightwee!” The less said about that Oriental minstrel show the better. Huh, I tried to change the subject and talk about the Asians in the library and it came back to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Huh. Moon River. Wider than a mile. The Oscar is glowing now. I’m not kidding. It’s really glowing. Doesn’t anyone else see this? I’m not studying for finals with this going on.

Day five. Moon River-Wider than a mile-I’m crossing you in style- someday-Rainbow’s end-Waitin’ Round the Bend-My Huckleberry Friend…What the hell is a Huckleberry friend, anyway? Back at my cubicle, Jim smiles at me and compliments me on my disciplined study and note taking habits. Poor, poor Jim. He just doesn’t know. I confess now to my journal that the notes I’ve taken the last four days have nothing to do with Supreme Court decisions or American isolationism since the Monroe Doctorine or any other supposedly pertinent Political Science topic. My notebooks are full now. I’ve written the words to Moon River over and over. I can fit all the words twice on each page. Of course, I’ve been experimenting with different fonts. Let’s see that’s three notebooks, seventy sheets. Two-hundred and ten times two. I’ve written the words to Moon River four-hundred and twenty times. I could have written it more, but I’ve had to make these journal entries. I’ve noticed when Jim moves off his shift there is an opening where I might be able to move right in an get my hands on Johnny’s Oscar. Plan for that. Act on it. Johnny’s Oscar is beckoning me like a beacon.

Day six. Back at my cubicle. What would I do with it? Thoughts haven’t gone that far yet. Have I lost total grip of reality? Oscar, I think we’re on a first name basis now, is looking at me. Even though it has no eyes and no features on its face. It’s glowing. Let’s not sugarcoat this and I’m not trying to be an alarmist either. Within that little statue is, I know this sounds crazy, a portal to an alternate reality. I’m sure of it. The only question is should I try to stop it or embrace it? I really need to ask Carl Sagan. He’d have some answers. Or maybe Isaac Asimov? Oh, I just don’t know what to do, my huckleberry friends.

Day seven. I think Jim is getting suspicious. I sat in a cubicle a little further removed so he couldn’t see me, but I could still peer at him. I’ll never get to Oscar. It’s not to be. At least that’s what I thought when a miracle happened. Jim started holding his stomach in pain. In his discomfort, I saw my chance.

He spoke to me. “Must have been that burrito I had for lunch. Look, I’m not supposed to leave my post. Could you keep an eye on things for just a minute while I…”

I nodded in approval as Jim ran out of the opening of the exhibit section and headed toward the bathroom. Here was my chance. I cautiously approached Oscar. It was now mine for the taking. I was about to grab it. What would happen if they caught me? Who cares? The entire fabric of the Universe might shift after this. I licked my chops. I started to hum Moon River as I reached for it. I could almost feel it when I felt an arm grab my wrist.

“What the Hell do you think you’re doing?” A voice from behind me said.

I turned around, frightened. A short man with glasses, a panama hat and white suit looked at me reproachfully.

“I…I …don’t know…I …Hey, I know you. You’re Truman Capote! You used to be on The Merv Griffin Show all the time and you were in that movie Murder By Death. What do you have to do with Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”

He looked ready to slap me, but seemed to think better of it and just lecture me instead. “Oh, I only wrote the novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Made the whole thing up. Made Audrey Hepburn an icon. Gave Blake Edwards a license to mangle my story, and of course gave Johnny Mercer his precious Oscar. Don’t mind me, I’m not important. The whole thing just sprung out of my imagination. I know that probably doesn’t impress you as much as me being on the damn Merv Griffin Show!”

“I’m sorry.” I said.. “I…I knew you were a writer. But aren’t you dead?”

Truman took a deep breath and released his grip on me. “Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been playing the grass harp for a couple of years now. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give you some advice. I’m no psychiatrist, but I think you’re just using this whole Johnny Mercer thing to put off finishing your last quarter of school because then you have to decide what to do with your life.”

His words felt like an anvil being dropped on my head in a Roadrunner cartoon. I knew he was right. All I’ve been doing, thinking, feeling and imagining the last few days was just an elaborate delaying tactic. I felt ashamed. I looked down and began to walk out of the exhibit area.

“Hey.” Truman said. “Take this.”

It was a copy of his book In Cold Blood.

“Thanks.” I said. “But what’s it all mean?”

“Think. You’re in a library. A ghostly literary genius, if I do say so myself, has given you a book. A last edition, you might say. What do you think I’m trying to tell you might be a good career path?”

I thought for a moment as I stared at the cover of the book. “You mean I should get a job as a criminal investigator? Or maybe work in a book store?”

“You’ll figure it out…someday.”

I studied the book again, but when I looked up, Truman was gone. Jim came back and thanked me for covering for him. I said that it was no problem and went to my cubicle to study for finals in the little time I had left.


Day eight: I took my three final exams. I passed. Three C’s. I got my degree and I’m off to see the world…there’s such a lot of world to see.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES (1969, ARMENIA), SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS (1964, SOVIET UNION)


Wife: Hey, honey! Do you feel like going to see a movie?

Husband: Absolutely! I think we should see The Color of Pomegranates.

Wife: That new comedy with Sandra Bullock is opening. That looks pretty funny.

Husband: Well, the film I want to see is from 1969 and about the famous 19th century Armenian poet Sayat Nova! I hear he’s famous anyway. And it’s in Armenian!

Wife: Maybe an adventure film. There’s that new one opening. You know looks a little like Indiana Jones.

Husband: You see it’s Armenian!

Wife: Or a sci-fi. That might be good. Or something supernatural.

Husband: Did I mention it's Armenian!

Wife: You know on second thought, I don’t really think I feel like a movie after all. Why don’t we order some Chinese food?

Husband: Well, I, uh guess Chinese…would be fine.

Wife: All right. All right. We can watch your movie.

(88 minutes later)

Wife: I just have one question

Husband: Yes?

Wife: WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ABOUT?

Husband: I...I understand it wasn’t a straight narrative

Wife: Which would be fine if it were a Talking Heads music video from 1983, but I expect a little more from a hour and a half movie!

Husband: Parajanov has been called a God of the aesthetic and a master of style of the pathos of epoch.

Wife: Do you even know what that means or are you just being a pretentious bore again?

Husband: I don’t think I like your tone.

Wife: Well, you’re just going to have to forgive me. Armenian lute music is still ringing in my ears!

Husband: The symbolism was vivid, didn’t you…

Wife: Oh, you didn’t get it any more than I did. You just don’t want to admit it so you can pretend to be artsy-fartsy.

Husband: I resent that! I liked the part with the sheep in the monastery and the squishing of the grapes and you know all that, you know Catholic symbolism...stuff.

Wife: And?

Husband: Okay! Okay! I didn’t get it either! You happy now?

Wife: Yes. Besides, I’ve always said that you were the man whose life and soul are torture.

Husband: Hey, I guess you were paying some attention.

(Husband and wife kiss each other on the cheek before putting on their respective black tunics, sever the head of a chicken and ride off into the sunset on a donkey to the rhythmic sound emanating from a floating balalaika.)


ONE WEEK LATER



Husband: I’ve got, um, another movie.

Wife: It’s got to be a step up from the last one. You know, that Pomegranate one from that Armenian dude. What was his name?

Husband: Sergei Parajanov.

Wife: Yeah. I don’t even want to think about it. The first level of purgatory is probably filled with screenings of what’s his name again?

Husband: Sergei Parajanov!

Wife: Right. Let’s put that one behind us. What’s this film about?

Husband: Uh…Uh

Wife: Uh, what. (She grabs the DVD case from his hands and begins reading the label) Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors directed by Sergei-oh no! Not another artsy-fartsy Ukranian love-in!

Husband: I resent that. This film has a pretty straight narrative. Besides you’ve got to learn to live outside the box a little more and appreciate artistic interpretation.

Wife: Oh, please! I suppose we could go out in the yard and stare at a pile of poo and render an artistic interpretation of it…Wait a minute.

Husband: What?

Wife: I would never say ‘pile of pooh.’ That’s going too far.

Husband: What do you mean? You have to say it. It’s my blog! I’m the one writing this!

Wife: No. It was bad enough you made me say artsy-fartsy, but I draw the line at ‘pile of poo.’ I think I’m going to go take a bubble bath. Enjoy your movie.

(She leaves the room and closes the door behind her.)

Husband: Honey! Could you come back? (He knocks on the door) Honey? I’m sorry I made you say ‘pile of poo.’ Are you still there? Honey? Okay, fine! I’ll just watch Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by myself!

(The man’s daughter comes through the opposite door)

Daughter: Hi, Dad.

Father: Hey, sweet pea. You want to watch a movie with your old dad?

Daughter: Is this another one of your artsy-fartsy blog movies?

Father: You just said artsy-fartsy. I didn't force you to say that, did I? I want to make sure that you don’t have a problem saying artsy-fartsy. And what's your opinion on pile of poo?

Daughter: Pile of what?

Father: Never mind.
(Loudly, hoping wife might overhear) I’m just glad that you’re being a little more cooperative than your mother. Now, have a seat.

Daughter: All right. Just don’t make me cuss.

Father: What are you talking about?

Daughter: Mom would really scold me if I cussed…

Father: Who said anything about making you cuss? Besides, you wouldn’t actually be cussing if I did have you cuss, because I’m the one who’s writing this! Forget it! Let’s just watch the movie.

(94 minutes later)

Father: What did you think?

Daughter: Colorful. Lots of snow. Lots of red. Big moustaches. And why so many goats? The romance was interesting.

Father: A true Carpathian love story.

Daughter: Carpathians? Is that like the Summerians?

Father: No, it’s not like the Summerians. I don’t think so anyway. But overall what did you think? Did it speak to you in any kind of artistic way? Personally, I thought the narrative was crisp. And this director’s eye for images is really starting to grow on me. I can honestly say I’m coming around to the Parajanov camp. Of course, the last part was a little bit, what’s the word?

Daughter: Yeah, that part at the end was a load of….Hey, wait a minute!

Father: What?

Daughter: I was about to say load of…and then a bad word. You were going to make me cuss. Weren’t you?

Father: No! I was not going to make you cuss!

Daughter: I’m telling mom! You were going to make me cuss. She’ll never get me my Nintendo DS now!

(Daughter storms out of the room as the father stares at the door after she closes it behind her. After a minute, the man's Golden Retriever comes into the room and nestles beside him.)

Dog Owner: (He pets her) Hey, girl. I know I’ve got someone who won’t run out on me when the going gets tough. What’s say you and me watch the extras of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors?

(The dog looks up at him confused and walks away, but not before depositing a ‘pile of poo’ on the carpet in front of him)