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Showing posts from March, 2011

Empire List #457: Full Metal Jacket

According to an old saying, war is hell. In Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” boot camp is the pre-amble to the hell that was Vietnam. The story starts off as a platoon of marines are getting their heads shaved before being thrown into basic training. From then on they are trained for combat by Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, one of the toughest, meanest drill sergeants ever depicted on film. Half of the film focuses on Hartman training the men and the second half focuses on the soldiers in Vietnam. The fight scenes are brutal, the violence explicit, the casting is perfect, and the message is clear: war sucks and it fucks people up.

I saw this movie gradually over a few years. First I saw interviews and clips about the film during a show on great movies by the American Film Institute while living in Santiago, Chile. Then I watched bits of it on television every now and then. Eventually my brother bought a copy and we watched the whole thing in the basement of my mom’s apartment while we…

Empire List #458: Batman

Batman. The one superhero I could always count on for entertainment as I was growing up. When I was living in Newfoundland in the mid-90s I used to watch re-runs of that cheesy Batman TV show with Adam West. “Will our heroes survive this dastardly trap? Tune in next time! Same bat-time! Same bat-channel!” My English wasn’t so good back then, but the plotlines were so ridiculous it may as well have been in Punjabi. Actually, that would probably be twice as hilarious.

Around 1996 my family and I moved to Santiago, Chile. It was then that I started watching “Batman: The Animated Series”. During the first few years it only played in Spanish, but that was O.K. It’s an entertaining way to learn a new language. Beats the hell out of taking notes in a classroom.

Then finally one day, Tim Burton’s “Batman” played on TV. Again, in Spanish but I didn’t care. I had wanted to watch that movie for years and finally I could see that cool Batmobile on screen. Before then I had only seen it in a toy …

Empire List #459: Ikiru

Another entry in the list of classics, cult classics, bizarre films, and other oddities I saw while attending one of my Friday night meetings set up by OMASSUS (Obscure Movie Appreciation Society of the University of Sherbrooke). On April 9 2010, it was a Wild Card Special consisting of Akira Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” and Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore”. There is absolutely no connection between these two movies, but it still made for an interesting evening.

“Ikiru” is a 1952 black and white Japanese classic made by acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa, the man behind films such as “Seven Samurai”, “Yojimbo”, and “Rashomon”. “Ikiru” has no samurai, fight scenes, or criminals, but it does focus on the death of one man.

That man is Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) a middle-aged bureaucrat who has spent his life working in the same dead-end job in Tokyo. He lives a boring life: filling paperwork, speaking to the same colleagues every day, and arriving home to his son and daughter-in-law. His wife died …

Empire List #460: Crash

Remember how surprised Jack Nicholson looked when he announced Paul Haggis’ “Crash” as the winner for best picture at the 2005 Academy Awards? It surprised me to, but to be fair, unlike many people I had actually seen quite a few of the movies nominated for an Oscar that year including “Good Night and Good Luck”, “Munich”, and “Brokeback Mountain” which won for best director but not best movie. How does that work again?

Over the years people have questioned whether or not “Crash” deserved the Best Picture Oscar and made sure to distinguish between this movie and David Cronenberg’s “Crash” which one of my fellow film fans from the University of Sherbrooke assured me is a much better picture. Regardless of which is the better movie, the fact is that when first saw “Crash” by Paul Haggis on DVD a few weeks before the Oscars, I found the story to be well constructed, acted, and touching at times. I would have given the award to “Good Night and Good Luck” but I am a sucker for movies abou…