Tag Archives: Indiana Jones

The Films That Made Us — U-571

By Nathanael Griffis

Every film I’ve ever seen has had some personal impact; it is simply the degree of impact that differs. I would argue, that it is the point of something artistic, to have a personal impact. Art is meant to reach out to a viewer and affect them somehow. Quality does not necessarily lead to impact. Citizen Kane is one of the best films I have ever seen, but it does nothing for me personally. This does not diminish its value as art. It is simply to state that personal impact is just that, personal and not tied to quality. I love the film Troll 2  because of all the Friday nights I’ve spent sharing this film with friends, but it is undoubtedly one of the worst films ever made.

Still, one film has always stayed with throughout my life: U-571. This is by no means the best film I’ve seen, or even my favorite, but I’ll always love it for what it meant to me and what it still means to me. It was late April 2000 and I was on spring break. I had always liked films, but truth be told I was a bookworm and saw movies simply as entertainment. I liked Schwarzenegger movies, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Monty Python, and that was about it. Movies with kissing were lame, stupid, and girly, and as such to be avoided. Basically, I was a teenage boy.

 

 

I saw U-571 in the theaters on opening weekend, which was unusual for me. I know you expect me to say I came out of the film changed, that my vision toward film or something was shaken, but the truth is U-571 is not that kind of film. What was important to me was that I went with my Dad and a friend of his who was visiting in town. This mattered to me greatly, because they let me choose and I trusted my instincts, which turned out to be good. We all enjoyed it. I remember my father’s friend and my father turning to me as we left:

“Good pick, Nate, that was one intense film. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time,” my father’s friend said.

“Yeah Nate, that was a good movie. I’m glad we saw it. You did a good job picking that one,” my father said.

Now sure, we could say this is nothing more than a clichéd response to liking a film. Where’s the depth right? Shouldn’t I be talking about a movie that resulted in a long three-hour conversation over coffee and left me a different person? No, sorry. This film matters more than most others, because I had chosen a film and people I respected enjoyed it. It lifted me up and made me realize that my opinion mattered and that I could contribute. For a child this is a profound moment; this is truly a moment when one finds an important aspect of one’s identity. It had little to do with the film, which I still think is fantastic and has some of the most intense scenes in film. It had everything to do with the idea that I could choose a good film.

How many times do we look at kids and discount their opinions, because they’re kids. Hey, it’s cute that they watch silly Disney Channel shows. We throw away what they like and neglect to even give anything from music, books, or movies that they enjoy proper consideration. It meant so much to me to know that my Dad respected me and thought I’d made a good decision. It made me feel like an adult. It made me realize I mattered. Teenagers’ opinions are brushed off and thought of as ridiculous fads (sometimes rightly), so much so that we sometimes see adolescence itself as a fad of sorts. We see it as a phase that a person just needs to get through until they matter and can start contributing.

U-571 made me want to love films more, but not because of its filmmaking prowess, the depth charges, Matthew McConaughey or Harvey Keitel’s acting, or that insane scene where McConaughey willingly sacrifices one of his men to save the rest. It was because I wanted that affirmation. Simply put, I wanted people to like me. I wanted my Dad to be proud of my choices. It seems trivial and if I look at it objectively it is, but I’m a person and people are subjective. I have since seen at least 100 more films that are better and have a strong impact on me. WALL-E reminds me of the amazing bond and value of love and friendship. Up in the Air spoke to me when I was in a time of personal struggle between being single or in a healthy relationship. A History of Violence made me reevaluate my ideas about violence in film and in life completely. A Beautiful Mind gave me hope in my own ability to conquer whatever challenge was set before me. Singin’ in the Rain is nothing short of good memories of my family and sheer elation on screen. Finding Neverland helped me address issues of imagination and reality and their relationship to mortality.

None of these matter more to me than the simple act of my father being proud of me.

Webstuffs — Mr. Spielberg & Dr. Jones

Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite film ever, #1 on my Flickchart, and probably the film that has contributed more to my love of cinema than any other. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is so close to the first Indiana Jones film in quality that, aside from a handful of very specific problems, it is also one of my favorite films. And I am a bit of a Temple of Doom apologist, though I will admit it is far from perfect.

Like so many who grew up on the Indiana Jones legend, I looked forward to the long-awaited fourth adventure starring Harrison Ford as the reluctant adventurer with bated breath, only to be disappointed by the final product. (Although, unlike the hordes who dismiss it is pure garbage, my grievances are more localized. I happen to think it also displays some of the most amazing stunt work ever to grace the silver screen, as well some of the best Indiana Jones moments of the series.)

"I'm going after a find of incredible historical significance, you're talking about little green men!"

That said, I still have hope for a fifth installment, but it is cautious hope. (Spielberg and Lucas have hurt me before.)

Here are a couple of short articles on the not-yet-announced fifth Indiana Jones film. My reactions? Someone needs to remind Lucas that Indiana Jones is a genre, and someone perhaps needs to advise Spielberg to fire Michael Bay from the Transformers franchise.

–Tom

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Got a little something on your face there...nevermind I'll leave you be.

Korean Cinema — The Man from Nowhere

By Nathanael Griffis

We all know the story: secret agent loses wife and child, becomes a lonely drifter, grows close to someone, and is dragged back into the action when that person is threatened. It’s a classic tale that normally involves stupid criminals surprised that the neighbor is apparently Jason Bourne. Advice for all criminals out there: if the steel-eyed neighbor takes out five of your guys, fifty more of your guys won’t help. Make a deal and then you can go back to your human trafficking, gambling, cocaine, or exotic animal munching in peace. Normally this storyline is nothing more than an excuse to have an action star beat up on unfortunate stuntmen, a la The Protector (never take Tony Jaa’s elephant). The Man from Nowhere, is a unique entry into this category.

It’ll probably hurt when he lands.

Never ignoring the tropes of the action-revenge genre, The Man from Nowhere starts simply enough. A quiet pawnbroker builds a friendship with a young girl. The young girl’s mother steals some heroin from drug dealers. Drug dealers kill mother, kidnap young girl, and try to make quiet pawnbroker the fall guy, but what they weren’t counting on was that he was a former secret agent. It’s the kind of ridiculous plot that only works in the movies. The pawnbroker is really Cha Tae-sik, played by Bin Won, who if you’ve been following my blogging you’d note was the semi-retarded son from Mother, who’s grown callused in his lonely drifting through the streets of Seoul, as one does. What this movie does so well is build up the relationship between Tae-sik and the little girl So-mi (played by child actor Sae-Ron Kim) he is trying to save.

Tae-sik is clearly a father figure, but only a figure. He never fully steps into the role until So-mi is taken from him. He constantly pushes her away, treating her poorly and ignoring her. He feeds her and provides a cot for her to sleep on when her mother has kicked her out of the apartment, but he never gives her the love a father should. So-mi sees her own life as worthless and accepts the abuse. She’s been so degraded that she’s adopted the nickname of “Garbage” because her mother wanted to throw her out at birth. A little dark, I know. It’s a dark film. Did I mention these drug dealers are also organ harvesters on the side? Oh, and not just adults, but children, whom they kidnap, let mature, and then harvest. It’s frightening stuff.

Thankfully blood can just be hosed right off the marble.

The realism of such an impossible story is what is truly haunting. The occurrences and situations are all but impossible, but the characters are fully composed and rich. The film has a wonderful picture of the psychology of the criminal, the working poor, and the abused child. There is a scene in an alley where So-mi confronts Tae-sik about his callused nature, and I challenge anyone not to cry. Adding to the realism is a surprising band of police that aren’t idiots. Normally in films like this the police either have to consciously back off and let the vengeful killer accomplish what they cannot, or they’re incompetent and constantly screaming lines like “who is this guy?” and “where did he come from?” That’s not the case. Tae-sik is pursuing the drug dealers/organ harvesters, and literally a step behind him are the police. It builds tension and provides for a satisfying and realistic ending, because in the real world if you slaughter some twenty people, drug dealers or not, the police don’t look too kindly on it.

What is truly a revelation here is Bin Won. The actor builds on his past performance in Mother and delivers a nuanced action performance. The entertainment value of film is never forsaken, and Bin Won brings an excellent edge to the action scenes. His cold brutality towards those who’ve threatened So-mi is never one dimensional. There’s guilt brimming with each villain he dispenses, but he seems to take a strange pleasure in it all. The final scene, just as a sidenote, is the best knife fight I have ever scene, bar none. It’s rare to find an action film with this much depth, because they typically end up transcending the genre and aren’t thought of as action films: Indiana Jones, The Matrix, and Inception come to mind. This film really is a must see. I know I say that about a lot of films, but I have no caveat for this one. Just watch it, it’s on Netflix, or here at Hulu if you don’t want to pay and don’t mind the ten commercials.

Even his fingernails are mad!

Classics I Can Live Without

–Steven Moore

Blade Runner is an amazing and important film. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a masterwork of theme and composition. The Godfather: Part II defines the word classic. Yet I don’t really enjoy any of these movies. They mean something to film as an art but not to me as an individual. I can easily put them farther down my list than Zack Snyder’s fun-as-hell remake of Dawn of the Dead or Dreamworks’ endearing Kung Fu Panda.

You meet a girl. She is beautiful, smart, funny, sexy, and, why not, rich. She wants nothing more than to lavish her attention, beauty, and fortune on you. But that spark isn’t there; she just doesn’t hit you where it means something. You don’t actively dislike her; you just forget about her. When people talk about how stunning and perfect she was, you just kind of shrug and stay quiet.

The movie experience is not simply the sum of its parts. If that were the case, Singin’ in the Rain would be a long-since forgotten disaster. If you were to try and look at Singin’ in the Rain as a whole, the movie barely holds together, a hodgepodge of scenes loosely connected by a weak story. Yet there’s something mystical that happens when I watch it. I am watching a movie that rises beyond its material, however flawed, becoming not just entertainment, but a magical experience. Singin’ in the Rain is magical, and I surely can’t say why.

On the podcast we often tease Tom for his love of Citizen Kane. In truth, I think our teasing is more a result of our own uneasiness. We wonder if being uninterested in Citizen Kane is a sign of our own intellectual inadequacies. It’s all very Freudian and probably stems from mother or father issues.

Nonetheless, Citizen Kane is an amazing film. Its contributions to cinematography are immeasurable. All films made today use techniques birthed in the belly of Citizen Kane‘s production. Yet I could live my entire life never sitting down to watch those innovations again and be perfectly okay. I know, in my head, that Citizen Kane is an important piece of cinema, but it doesn’t get me. It doesn’t pull me into another world that I want to stay in, to inhabit for two hours.

Charles Foster Kane reacts to Steve's lack of interest.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomStargateTop GunThe Goonies: these movies are flawed, silly, sometimes just plain bad; but they wrap me in a world that I revel in, and for that I love them. For that I place them high in my canon, films I must watch until I can quote every line. I want to be in their realities again and again until I have my own address.

I’m not sure what that magic formula is. Maybe only Christopher Nolan knows. The recent Indiana Jones film proves that if Spielberg knew, he’s forgotten. Maybe it’s undefinable, like pornography. You know it when you see it. So the next time someone is going on and on about Taxi Driver, you can just say, “Look, it’s not you, it’s me.”