The Blind Spot Special – The Spike List

For some time now I have been toying with various ideas about getting in touch with the classics of cinema, but unfortunately I couldn’t decide on the form or the content of something like that. Quite frankly, simply going through (or even worse – binging through) the most iconic pieces of film-making I find daunting to say the least and I’d rather prefer to sprinkle some fun into equation by making it a game or a challenge. To certain extent I hoped that “The Blind Spot” reviews would be fit for purpose, but I failed to incorporate the fun factor into it, so in the end, “The Blind Spot” I have decided to keep for more personally relevant stuff.

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Other than that, I still have some ideas to re-invigorate me desire to get acquainted with things I really should have seen by now (like most of Woody Allen’s stuff and nearly all of Hitchcock’s work), but due to my own personal time constraints I think I’ll have to hold back on that though for a little while.

Meanwhile, Spike Lee in an attempt to utilize his high profile now (especially with the anticipated “Oldboy” remake to hit the screen soon-ish) has decided to share some of his film knowledge with the rest of us. In case if you don’t know, Spike Lee is also a teacher at NYU Film School where he mentors countless young aspiring film-makers and, as he put it, every year before he starts off with a fresh batch of young minds, Spike gives every student a list of films he believes a film-maker should see. And now he shared the list with us as well. Now, I’m no film-maker nor I intend to become one, but I thought I’d have a look to see how Spike Lee wants me to see the world of cinema.

And I have to admit, I’m a little embarrassed… Out of 86 films Spike named as absolutely vital for any film-maker to see, I can only say I’ve seen 12. You can have a look at the list here, but suffice it to say that my knowledge of iconic classics lacks severely. Plus, out of those 12 I know, I can only remember 4 of them, that’s how long it’s been since I saw them. Even though I’m not planning on making any films in the foreseeable future, I believe I should make haste and get cracking on them classics. I think it’s always fun to come up with little projects that give you some more things to do in your spare time, so I accept the challenge, Mr Lee. You have uncovered a major blind spot in my knowledge of film and it shall be addressed. Additionally, it’s yet another thing to be writing about.

Excelsior!

One more thing: I wonder if Spike Lee’s list would inspire his fellow acclaimed directors and writers to come up with lists of their own. I’d definitely love to have a look at what Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, or Danny Boyle would like me to see.

The Blind Spot #2 – “Evil Dead” (1981)

It has just occurred to me that in my nearly 30-year-long life I have not seen the original “Evil Dead”. I’ve seen the other two, but the first one… stood there exactly in my blind spot. See what I did there?

Anyway, the reason I’m now sitting and writing is because I am planning to go and see the remake some time during the weekend (it opens in the UK this Friday) and I like going to class prepared. I have to come out and say that I have been a bit hesitant as I hear It’s supposed to be super gory and brutal. But we’ll see about that – challenge accepted. However, whilst plowing through tonnes of articles praising and/or bashing Fede Alvarez’s remake of the cult classic, it just hit me…

Holy crap! I’ve seen “Army of Darkness”, I’ve seen “Evil Dead 2” (exactly in that order – weird right?), but not the first one. Quickly! To the Batmobile! I mean Netflix… It’s not there… Quickly! Lovefilm! Boom! Jackpot! In less than five minutes since I have realized that, I was already watching Ash and the gang roll up to the cabin in the woods. Note to self: Investigate whether the motif of the rundown cabin in the middle of nowhere can be traced back further than Raimi’s “Evil Dead”…

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I realize it might hurt, but as of now, in 2013, and being my age, I clearly don’t understand the hype and consequently – I’m not going to join the cult. I’m sorry, but the original “Evil Dead” is just OK.  It’s bloody and all, but there isn’t enough for me to love it, which makes me think about how all the fantastic reviews out there are written by deadite fundamentalists who adore this movie with religious zeal. On top of that, it is annoying at times to be forced to sit through this ear-piercing shrieking and other infuriating vocal skills of the deadites, as if it was done on purpose. But anyhow…

I was really pleasantly surprised by Raimi’s camerawork, which was very inventive and unusual. He has clearly earned his place in the annals of horror with this one, but it may have been too late for me to be able to fall in love with it. I was taken aback by the amount of gore and violence (plasticky and old-school, but still very persuasive and serious) and now that I’m trying to put it in context of the remake that I’m about to see, I think Alvarez might have tried (and maybe even succeeded?) to pay due homage to Raimi. Because the way I see it (and apparently Bruce Campbell sees it this way too), had Raimi been born 30 or 40 years later and had he been planning to debut with “Evil Dead” just now instead, I think the result would be just as gory and scary as the media make the remake out to be. Raimi’s “Evil Dead” is no parody that his own sequel/remake and the third one all turned out to be. It’s seriously bloody and horrific – for its time. But nothing more than that, I was sorry to find.

 

At least I can cross it off my list of ‘things to see before I die’. It was nice enough 80 minutes (with the occasional ‘OMG, why can’t she stop screaming?!’), however, I failed to see the supposed Campbell’s charisma that apparently propelled the movie to its cult status. I understand that “Evil Dead” has managed to embed itself into the pop culture with its imagery and the horror creators to this day – knowingly or otherwise – wink towards Raimi’s debut one way or another. Maybe that’s where the cult is, though…

So, if like me, you haven’t seen the original “Evil Dead” yet, go and see it. Stream it, rent it or just buy it. Maybe it’s not a timeless classic by my standards, but it is – even now – a very good horror. It clearly broke new ground in terms of what you can show on the screen and still get away with it (the forest scene says hello) and every serious horror aficionado should know it. Also, the photography – really characteristic and unforgettable. And now, finally, after years of ignorance I can join the club. I didn’t love it religiously, but liked it enough to watch it again in some time.

Now if you excuse me, I’ll go and re-watch the remaining two “Evil Dead” movies before I venture to the cinema to see the remake.

 

The Blind Spot #1 – “127 hours”

While I was writing up my thoughts on “Trance” – the newest product of Danny Boyle’s imagination – I was alerted to a terrible realization. As it turned out, I had not been acquainted with “127 hours” – the one before last of Boyle’s efforts. Taking into account the fact that my life had not been exactly normal for the last three and a half years, I figured something needed to be done to rectify this appalling state of things. You see, as a matter of fact, there must have been a number of films that I simply missed during my tenure as a senior slave in a university dungeon preoccupied with trolling happily towards my very advanced and obscure degree. Now that my life resumed its normal(ish) course, I am free to look back and see the black hole that my life used to be. But no more, I’ll have you know. I know it sounds dumb, but now I get to have evenings and even afternoons (and yes, weekends) to myself and I have plenty of time to make up for everything – including movies.

Therefore, it occurred to me I could turn it into something more fun than just sitting on Netflix and watching random crap. On top of that, there are myriad films that I have never seen and should have since I love movies so much. After all, I’m still quite young (with a bit of a gap in my life, but worry not) and I’ve only been ‘aware’ of films for a relatively short period of time. If you think about it, a body of work that encompasses more than a century has got to have millions of films that I have not seen… yet. So, I’ll probably turn it into a game, as I do with things to make them more interesting to myself. I don’t know the rules yet, but I’ll think of something.

Cutting the waffle short, I thought that I could start tonight with “127 hours”, because I happened to have it – simple as that. Moreover, I have always considered Danny Boyle to be one of my personal favorite directors of our time and having a gaping hole of not knowing one of his newest creations was not something I wanted to put up with any longer. So I made myself a sandwich, poured a tall mug of tea, sat down and proceeded to watch “127 hours”.

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Well, first of all, the sandwich was not the brightest idea of mine. That would be the first thought I had after the credits rolled. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle gore and such (maybe not lately, because “The Impossible” really kicked me in the stomach) and I knew what “127 hours” was all about beforehand, but I came really close to seeing my sandwich again. Other than that, I’m really disappointed with what I just witnessed. The whole story could have been shot as a 30 minute short instead and it would have been a bit more dynamic. In the end, the film is a story about a guy who took a trip, ran into some girls, had an accident, hallucinated a bunch, and hacked his arm off. The end.

I got the message, because the final part really has a cathartic feel, but for all the wrong reasons, I’m afraid. Basically, the entirety of the movie can be cut (sic!) into three parts: the part where you wait for him to hack off his arm, the part when he’s doing it, and the part where you’re happy it’s over. I was actually relieved that the gore was over and everything was going to be fine from that point onward  It had nothing to do with the apotheosis of survival and life in general. I was just glad I don’t have to look at it anymore. I really understand how meaningful this man’s ordeal must have been, but in the end it left me with a message that read: ‘Next time you go and be awesome in the middle of nowhere, leave a bloody note in case s**t happens to you, you dummy! Or simply, take a phone…’

At least James Franco had his moment in the sun, because “127 hours” is, in fact, a one man show and he made use of his extensive camera time. But sadly, the film as a whole failed to live up to Boyle’s standards. It was shot really well and I could see Boyle’s touch in there, but in general “127 hours” looks makeshift and second-rate. I think I can’t be far off by saying that Boyle and his cohorts must have been sitting in a pub when Danny said: ‘Y’know, I just got the Oscar and I think that whatever I want to do now is going be pure gold with unicorn stickers on it. So, I just read this article about a guy who hacked off his arm and I am thinking we can make it a movie…’ Or something like that. ‘It doesn’t really need a budget. You bring your camera, I’ll call Jim Franco, you two bring the rest of things, and we’ll get in my van and go to the desert. Let’s make this movie happen. Surely it won’t cost more than two hundred bucks, now will it?’ And that’s how it happened.

Oh, boy… I think I went too far. The bottom line is – “127 hours” is by far the weakest of Boyle’s films in my book. Nevertheless, I saw it and now I can go on with my life. This concludes the first episode of what shall be known henceforth as The Blind Spot. I understand that other bloggers do something to that effect already, but I don’t care. Nonetheless, I have to come up with a set of rules to this project of mine and I can have some fun.