Jurassic Park saw classic ’80s blockbuster entertainment give way to the even sheenier, crisper branch of corporate ’90s filmmaking (very similar to ’80s blockbuster filmmaking, but much more interested in pushing the intersection of destruction and technology to its limits). For this reason, we find ourselves at a particularly strange place as we float on by 1993 and into the dark depths of the mid-90s. Cinema was only growing more indulgent, but the strain of American indies that had given light to the darkness of 80’s dramatic cinema was now entering its brightest stage of popularity and ubiquity. With corporate genre tentpoles and the distinctly dirtier world of ’90s indie filmmaking rattling around in a sort of cesspool, the two streams couldn’t but be crossed sooner or later.
It is with this that we arrive at 1994’s The Crow, an unlikely candidate for a ’90s blockbuster, but an important cult film nonetheless and a work which reveals the presence of a particular strain of ’90s filmmaking for all to see: the intersection of indie style/indie awareness of film history with the monetary aspirations of a blockbuster and the general desire to be things like “entertaining and actiony” to teenage males. If anyone needs more evidence as to this film’s peculiar placement in film history: it was released by Miramax films, the independent cinema distribution studio operated by the Weinsteins, right at the cusp of their becoming the film distribution company du jour throughout the back half of the ’90s. Indie cinema was being re-purposed into something corporate, and danger was assimilating into safety. Continue reading
It’s been a couple weeks, so here’s a double-dip of classic cult comic book movies for you, and some prime so-bad-its-good filmmaking on both counts.
It’s the most depressing kind of thing to discover a film that is popular only for its theme tune, only to watch it and realize that the theme works primarily because of the film it accompanies, and that it is the images and sounds of that film in unison that dance together a most magic dance. Wait, did I say “depressing”? I meant absolutely positively exciting and inspiring in the most enchanting possible way, although it is also depressing in the sense that I am confronted with the fact that we remember Queen songs these days more than we remember totally singular, inspired filmmaking. For, terrible as it is in many ways, there are aspects of Flash Gordon that are inspired in a way I cannot even begin to describe. Continue reading
After uploading two of the most depressing British films I can imagine, I decided a nice counter-balance would be in order: a couple of bonus reviews of just about two of the damn cheeriest films in existence. It’s been my pleasure.
Update 2018: As is the case with so many of these roughly college-written reviews, I don’t exactly agree with this anymore, especially in my expression of my ideas, and often in terms of my ability to perceive the film’s ideas in the first place. I’ll let this review stand as is, but at this point in my life, I’d be inclined to argue that the film isn’t really taking pop to task as artificial, proposing a leaden pop and reality dichotomy, but rather using pop dialectically, to discover other avenues to truth – the truths of experimentation, adventure, silliness, spontaneity, artifice – that lie not necessarily outside but at least beyond observational documentary reality as it is conventionally understood.
It’s a rare and beautiful thing that something that should in any sane universe be nothing more than a phoned-in cash-grab is in fact one of the great pieces of pop-anarchism ever essayed on film. A Hard Day’s Night, the film accompanying the album of the same name (the Beatles’ first all-time classic album) in 1964, played a big part in asserting the band’s dominance in the Western world. And, intentionally (wonderfully) it has no real narrative. There’s something in here about the boys and how they get caught up in protecting an old man from his own tomfoolery while they are dealing with preparations for a TV show they are to appear on. But this is merely a clothesline for not only a series of great jokes and gags and the film’s central tension between its technique and its content, but for one of the most thoroughly deconstructive pop manifestos ever committed to celluloid. Continue reading