Achievement Unlocked: The Wright Stuff II

This is a recap post of Edgar Wright’s two week series of films at my favorite theater, the New Beverly Cinema. I wrote this a while back and I’m still not done, so I’m just going to go ahead and post this first part, so it doesn’t get lost forever. Hopefully I’ll finish part 2 soon. This is really long, so only read if you’re supremely bored.

I, like many other people, have recently been blown away by the fantastic film series put together by Edgar Wright at the amazing New Beverly Cinema. The New Beverly programs $7 double features year round, but for the past two weeks, Edgar Wright took over the programming and hosted a slew of famous guests, resulting in a generally mind-boggling extravaganza of cinema. This may be obvious, but I love cinema. What I hope is not obvious is that fact that I feel woefully behind in my cinema classics. I’ve seen a lot of movies, but most of them are not the kind that change the course of visual storytelling forever. That’s why I was so excited about Wright’s programming stint. Here was a two-week period where I could attend two movies (at least) for a reasonable price and I was almost guaranteed to enjoy and learn from them. Now, I make it sound like I planned on attending every single film in The Wright Stuff II, but that was definitely not the case. I was so bad at planning that I had to get standby line tickets for a majority of the doubles. In fact, I initially only bought a ticket for Run, Lola, Run. The only other screening I knew I wanted to attend was the premiere triple feature of Shaun of the Dead; Hot Fuzz; Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Three of my favorite films??? Hells yes. I’d have to try the standby line…

(N.B.: I’ll be avoiding spoilers for those who might still want to see the following movies, so fear not)

Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Friday, January 14)

Standby Line Time: 4 hours

I hadn’t seen Shaun of the Dead since it came out, and I was thrilled to watch it again with fresh eyes. The long takes of Simon Pegg walking from his house to the convenience store? Still amazing. You’ve got Red on you? New favorite line. Bill Nighy? Perfect. The most striking thing about Shaun of the Dead for me was the ending. It was hilarious and yet, so very sad. A wonderful mix of emotions that pulled me in all sorts of directions at once.

Hot Fuzz is my favorite Edgar Wright movie, and needless to say, I’ve watched it more times than I can count. This time around, it was just as awesome, and possibly awesomer with the addition of a rowdy, Wright-fan-filled, crowd. Hot Fuzz has a fantastic sense of recall, both with itself, and even Shaun of the Dead at times. It seems that every little nuance early in the film becomes excruciatingly critical in the end sequences. Repeated lines and actions are deployed at just the right moments; the film’s comedic timing is incredible. And can I tell you how cool it was to watch Hot Fuzz directly after Shaun of the Dead? So cool. The mirroring fence scenes in both films work great in contrast and are funnier when seen so close together. All in all, a great pairing.

Next up, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. This one I’ve seen in theaters a few times, and it was great seeing it with a theater full of people who got it. Scott Pilgrim is a fantastic mix of video games, comic books, creative transitions, and hilarious dialogue. It feels like this film was made for our generation. I’m currently 22 and unemployed, so the film feels completely in tune with where I am and how I feel. I can’t seem to get enough of Scott Pilgrim. My favorite bit in the film remains to be the jumping out of the window scene. Great physical comedy and timing, especially with the added coat grab.

A great night out for all in attendance, but I still didn’t know if I’d go to any of the other screenings. I hadn’t seen any of the films in the series, and some I’d never even heard of.

Brazil/Delicatessen (Monday, January 17 )

Standby Line Time: 0  (Got there at 7:25 and walked right in)

This was a last minute decision on my part. I hadn’t planned on seeing these two films, but I felt restless Monday night, so off I went. I drove down to the New Bev and got there just in time.

Brazil. What a movie. Part dystopian and totalitarian future; part bureaucratic office comedy; part wacked-out dream sequences; and all parts awesome. Jonathan Pryce (Sam) is a mild-mannered business man who dreams of a woman, then becomes obsessed with finding her once he sees her in real life. And these dreams are no normal forgot-to-study-for-the-midterm-type dreams. These are full-throttle, kick ass fairy tale dreams with flying cages, creepy masked citizens, and a huge-ass samurai statue warrior. The film starts with a wrongful imprisonment of one Mr. Buttle in place of a Mr. Tuttle. Sam’s life gets all mixed up in the bureaucratic mistake when Buttle dies during interrogation. Cue Robert De Niro as Tuttle, vigilante electric engineer and suspected terrorist. In an effort to find out more about his dream girl, Sam finally takes a promotion he’s been avoiding. His new office building is a foreboding, corporate tower with small offices and massive interrogation rooms. The film constantly negotiates the line between the ridiculous and the serious, to create scenes that are both hilarious and terrifying. The tone is surprising and keeps you on your toes. Things I loved: Sam’s plastic surgery-obsessed mother; a scene between Sam and his dream girl where she’s trying to throw him out of her truck; Robert DeNiro; the last shot of the film (haunting). Also, the reference to Battleship Potemkin in the film’s final sequence. I freaked the fuck out, but sadly had no one to share it with. Let me set the scene: bullets are flying; main lobby of Sam’s office building; someone get’s shot through the eye; soldier’s are marching on the steps; a floor buffering machine careens down the stairs. Odessa Steps FTW.

Delicatessen. Fantastic. Another film set in a dystopian world (this one post-apocalyptic), where desperate people do desperate things. Clapet is the landlord of a small apartment complex with a butcher shop on the ground floor – his butcher shop. Times are hard and food is scarce. The tenants pay for their rent and meat with grain. Louison, ex-circus clown with a knack for fixing things, replies to the butcher’s ad for a repairman. We learn that repairmen don’t last long in this building, however, as the ad is a ruse to lure strangers to be butchered for consumption by the apartment’s tenants. This is not to say that the building doesn’t need constant repair. There are a multitude of delightful and hilarious scenes involving Louison and his problem solving skills. One particular favorite: Louison identifying the squeaky spring on a bed by bouncing from right to left in unison with the bed’s owner, the butcher’s mistress This is particularly amusing as we’ve already been introduced to this particular bed’s noise problems through an earlier scene involving the butcher, his mistress, and the spring in question. As he fixes the building, Louison befriends Julie, the butcher’s daughter. They begin a whimsical love story only darkened by Julie’s knowledge of Louison’s fate. She fights throughout the film to keep him safe from everyone’s cannibalistic intentions. Other great characters: the man in the basement who lives in a water-drenched room filled with frogs and snails; the two mischievous and adorable little boys who affect the film’s outcome seemingly by accident; and Aurore, a woman who hears voices and, though she tries her damndest, cannot commit suicide due to a variety of random factors. The film has a wonderful visual style and a dark charm. Loved it.

Dirty Harry/The Super Cops (Tuesday, January 18)

Standby Line Time: 4 hours

I’ve been meaning to see Dirty Harry for the longest time, and I was definitely not disappointed. Finally hearing the “do you feel lucky” speech in its original context was almost a religious experience. Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright did a fantastic job of setting up the film’s social and political context, which made the viewing experience even more meaningful. It was interesting seeing a movie that has spawned so many imitation movies – Dirty Harry is one of the first, if not the first, serial killer movies. The film was made before the term serial killer was even coined. When the movie came out, Harry’s renegade, less-than-legal tactics were revolutionary and downright frightening for a large portion of the country. Now he just seems like a total badass, but at the time, people would not have seen Harry’s actions as those of a protagonist. Hearing Quentin and Edgar geek out about the movie, its initial reception, and the movies it inspired was amazing. One of the coolest experiences of my life. It was like I was back in film school again, but way less boring and way less expensive ($7? Say WHAAAT?!?). And I agree with Edgar, the best part about the “Do you feel lucky” speech is Albert Popwell’s “I gots to know”.

Since his first double feature, Edgar Wright had been talking up The Supercops, and it did not disappoint. The story follows two police cadets who become besties and rock out loud at being cops. The story is based on two real cops, David Greenberg and Robert Hantz, who are portrayed as wacky, do-anything-to-get-their-man guys who shake up the New York police department by making over 600 arrests. People on the street dubbed them Batman and Robin, while police within the force doubted their integrity. Everyone was convinced that these guys were dirty cops because no one could comprehend making so many arrests in a legit way. Their methods are crazy and the movie has some great lines. Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., the man who brought us Flash Gordon (1980), the dialogue and shenanigans are both hilarious and intriguing. A great movie overall with a well-timed comic book “Pow” ending the film on a high note.

American Graffiti/Animal House (Thursday, January 20)

Standby Line Time: 6 hours (yes, I know I’m crazy)

I knew I should have already seen American Graffiti by this point in my life – it’s such a classic – but I’m like that with a lot of classics. It’s not that I actively avoid them, but the opportunity to see them doesn’t present itself very often. I only just saw Casablanca this past weekend. I think I’ve already said this, but I’m not the best film major. Anyway, American Graffiti was funny, which I didn’t expect. I expected nostalgia, but I wasn’t sure what else to look forward to. Lots of new actors, who have since turned out to be huge stars, populate the screen. Ron Howard, a personal favorite, plays a variation on Richie Cunningham, but a definitely not-so-nice version of Richie that was really intriguing. Richard Dreyfuss is adorable and hilarious in his attempts to contact a beautiful blonde woman he sees driving by him at the beginning of the night. Wolfman Jack makes an appearance as himself, although he pretends that he’s not. He and Dreyfuss have a fantastic scene involving melting popsicles and life advice. Great stuff. After the movie’s fairly lighthearted and comedic nostalgia, the ending took me by surprise with its poignancy.

Having gone to Washington University in St. Louis, alma mater of Harold Ramis, I’d seen Animal house a handful of times and I’d even met Ramis once. The times I saw the film, however, my fellow students didn’t really get into it very much, leading me to adopt a rather blasé attitude towards Animal House. I’m happy to report that seeing this movie with an enthusiatic crowd and hearing John Landis (OMG) talk about it has converted me. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I love me some John Belushi and D-Day’s rendition of the Lone Ranger theme song using this throat and face is fantastic. The film is wild, crazy fun that is absurd as it is entertaining.


~ by lharbron on January 29, 2011.

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