Archive for April, 2014

File:Sorcerer77poster.jpg

Sorcerer (1977)

D.  William Friedkin

Starring:  Roy Scheider

It was the Summer of 1977 and a movie came out that changed my life and the life of so may others.  That movie was Star Wars.  Lucas’ prequels have somewhat tarnished the legacy of the original trilogy but I will always love those movies for what they meant to me as a young child, getting to see all of them with my Dad who loved cinema as much as I do.  God only knows what JJ Abrams has up his bloody sleeve for the recently announced sequel trilogy but I do I’ll be there to see them.

But I’m not here to talk about that venerable franchise.  I’m here to bring to light a movie that came out about a month later, a movie that drowned under the massive tidal wave created by audiences flocking to the theater to see the beloved space opera time and time again.  This film was ignored by audiences, dismissed by critics, and quickly faded into obscurity.

The film was a remake of the French classic Wages of Fear, itself based on a novel.  Directed by William Friedkin, the thriller was set in the jungles of  South America.  It told the tale of 4 desperate men, exiles of a sort, hiding out and waiting for a chance to elevate their positions, to reclaim some aspect of their former lives.  The men volunteer to transport old dynamite, precious but highly volatile cargo, over two hundred miles through treacherous terrain.  The dynamite is necessary to extinguish an oil field fire but it can only arrive by truck and is highly unstable. It’s a high-risk proposition with a hefty reward.  It’s a near suicide mission.  It’s their last hope.

The film starred Roy Scheider who had previously worked with the director on The French Connection.  He was fresh off the success of Jaws but he was miles away in character from his heroic Chief Brody.  All of the players were on point.  Each man is on the journey for a reason.  Each desperate for reward.  Each knows they may not survive.  Each of them do not care because they have nothing else, no other choice.  They’d rather die by fire than waste away in exile.

The film was brilliantly filmed.  Friedkin made excellent use of his shooting locales.  He conveyed the squalor of the village in which the men have taken refuge.  He showed the danger in the jungle through which the men travel.  There is a set piece on a bridge, a perilous trek as a truck creeps across old wooden planks.  There is more tension in these ten minutes, I think, than in any other movie I’ve ever seen.

The film featured the first soundtrack by German electronic band Tangerine Dream.  It launched their careers and they went on to create some of the most memorable film music of all time.  The score fits the film perfectly.  One would not work without the other.

The film was spectacular.   But nobody knew it.  It was gone as quickly and as quietly as it arrived.  The dismal box office caused the studio and the director to part ways.  But Friedkin always believed in the film.  He never stopped believing.

The film popped up on cable from time to time and was finally released to the home video market in 1990 on VHS and Laserdisc.  Eight years later, it would appear on DVD.  It was a truly terrible product, copied over poorly from the laserdisc in the wrong aspect ration.  There were not many options by which to see the film.

Friedkin eventually sued the studios over the rights to the films as they were making no positive steps to release it on the new popular Blu-ray format.  The case was eventually dropped and Friedkin was given control over a fully restored theatrical and Blu-ray release.  And finally, 37 years later, it has arrived in the best possible format.  It is available to you.  It is waiting.

If you’ve already seen the film, I’m preaching to the choir.  If you haven’t, you don’t know what you’re missing.

But you should probably find out.

 

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horn

 

That horn.  That smile.  It’s the image that launched a wave of outrage across the internet.

Last Monday, if you weren’t crapping on a show you probably never watched, you were probably busy watching the series finale of How I Met Your Mother.  The third option is of course anything but the previous two.  Actually, the majority of you were probably doing that.  But who’s counting?

I find it necessary now to advise you of potential spoilers from here on out.  I’ll be talking about that HIMYM finale.  So, yeah.

SPOILERS

After 9 seasons, 208 episodes and 25 years of television time, Ted Mosby ended up right where he began.  Holding up a blue horn as an offering to his future/former girlfriend, Robin Scherbatsky.  In that span of time, he had many near misses and a wife he loved with whom he fathered two children.  The serialized show (a rarity in the world of sitcoms) was about how Ted met the mother but it was just as much about everything that happened to him before that fateful moment.  And as the finale, in my humble opinion, so eloquently established what happened afterwards.

Ted very much loved the mother.  That was made perfectly clear in the brief glimpses of their future lives together that the final season offered.  But then she got sick and then she died.  And Ted mourned.  And after six long years, the torch he had always held for Robin burned bright once more.  And with the blessing of his kids, he went to see if he could get his second happy ending.

I thought it was lovely.

But I was in the minority.  It seemed most people hated it.  And I’m not sure why.  They said it shouldn’t have ended that way.  But this is what the creators had intended from the beginning.  So the question then becomes why can’t we respect the vision of the creators?  Why must we second guess the people who created the characters and, in this case, shepherded them through 9  years of ups and downs to get them to the place where they were meant to be?

The answer, I think, lies in the way we watch our favorite programs.  Before Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Instant we were forced to savor television shows in 9 month chunks with 3 month breaks.  This can be especially frustrating when you’re dealing with serialized storytelling.  I wonder if those who binge watch shows might not be better off.  Cramming three seasons of Game of Thrones into a weekend in anticipation of the fourth season doesn’t really allow time for speculation. And that speculation is what ultimately and almost inevitably leads to disappointment.  Because let’s be honest, NO ONE’S ideas are as good as our own.  So when a show fails to match the lofty ideas we’ve set in our own minds, we get disappointed.  We get angry.  And then, we get on Twitter.  Can you imagine what would have happened had the internet existed when entire series like Newhart and St. Elsewhere were ‘Bobby Ewinged’ in their finales?  It would have been insane.

But no more insane than the numerous negative reactions to the finales of Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica and Lost.

We are a notoriously difficult audience to please.  In fact, it’s impossible.  Someone’s going to get pissed.  Someone’s going to get disappointed.  And people have a right to feel however they feel.  But before you allow yourself to become one of the naysayers, ask yourself why you’re so pissed off.  Was this story well told?  Was it well produced?  Well acted?  Now be honest with yourself as to why you didn’t like it.  You might be surprised by the answer.  We’ll never all agree on anything but I think we can all agree to be fair and give a show its due.  It’s why we were fans in the first place.

Actually, hold on.  I think there is one thing we ALL can agree on.

Breaking Bad was the best show ever and the series finale kicked ass.

Okay, carry on.  It’s settled.

 

What?

You hated Breaking Bad?  The finale sucked?

*sigh*

Never mind.