top of page

Search Results

876 items found for ""

  • The Camera/Conflict in Frost/Nixon

    Mirriam-Webster defines scandal as “a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions or disgraces those associated with it.” Common culture defines the exposure of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show as “Nipplegate,” the utilization of false documents regarding George W. Bush’s military service during a broadcast on CBS by Dan Rather as “Rathergate,” and the deflation of footballs for use in the NFL as “Deflategate.” What all of these controversies hearken to is arguably the biggest scandal in U.S. modern history: the Watergate scandal. In 1972, a slew of crimes perpetuated by President Richard M. Nixon, his aides, administration, and counselors came to light. The crimes included, but were not limited to, burglary, wiretapping, and misuse of campaign funds in order to secure Nixon a re-election. Once these crimes surfaced, subsequent cover-ups were made to preserve Nixon’s innocence. Ultimately, the country’s outrage and distrust led Nixon to resign in 1974, before his inevitable impeachment. In today’s culture of “fake news” and tweet-crazy politicians, it’s sometimes easy to forget that while the outreach may have been different in the past, there has always been a system of checks and balances between the public and politics. A month after Nixon’s resignation, President Gerald R. Ford pardoned Nixon much to the country’s dismay. It had seemed that the United States would never get the apology, let alone the admission of guilt, it so desperately desired from the Republican party for one of the largest abuses of power in history. This feeling of unrest and injustice brewed for three years. On May 5, 1977, 45 million viewers tuned in to see the charismatic British television host and media personality, David Frost, challenge Richard M. Nixon for the first installment in his four part television series, The Nixon Interviews. Ron Howard’s 2008 Frost/Nixon is a dramatic retelling of those interviews, from conception to execution to reception. Stemming from Peter Morgan’s 2006 play by the same name, the stageplay was adapted personally by Morgan for the screen. While not entirely historically accurate, the film captures the intense desire from both camps to control the narrative of the interviews and guide their respective parties to a “win.” Frost, portrayed with wit and charm by Michael Sheen, is joined by his producer John Birt, ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick, and American journalist James Reston Jr. Nixon, growled to perfection by Frank Langella, is aided by his post-presidential chief of staff Jack Brennan, his literary agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar, and a handful of investigative reporters including a young Diane Sawyer. At the time, Nixon agreed to be interviewed for a hefty sum of $600,000 and 20% of any profits to ease his growing financial woes, and Frost needed the interviews to rehabilitate his stateside television career after his New York based television program had failed. With reputations on the line, both parties approach the interviews as a means to regain former glory. In the realm of Frost/Nixon, the camera is treated as a god. In many ways, Frost and Nixon both pay tribute to it, knowing very well the story and worth of their lives are entwined with their on-screen personas. Preceding the interviews, Nixon recounts that public perception of his debate with President John F. Kennedy changed dramatically between radio perception and television reception. Famously known for his sweaty upper-lip, Nixon was seen as the loser of the debate when witnessed in the flesh, but through voice alone he came across as the winner. Set in a California home, The Nixon Interviews take advantage of allowing viewers into an intimate setting to further control their viewers’ comfort and receptivity to their own chosen narratives. Both men understand the power this setting can have, but by surrounding an intimate living room with stage lights, booms, and producers, the Smith family den more closely resembles a boxing ring. Before each taping takes place, both teams lock eyes acknowledging they’re both ready to throw down. Frost/Nixon treats the four part television special as only four individual days of taping, when in reality the taping took place over the course of 12 interviews, resulting in over 28 hours of material. Clearly, there is no better representation of the phrase, “there’s always more to the story.” While Howard doesn’t delve into each of the 12 tapings, he uses dramatic license to expound on the tension between the two men by creating a series of fictitious telephone calls. At the beginning of the interviews, Nixon uses these telephone calls to establish dominance by engaging in head-games. Moments before the first few interviews, he chooses to bewilder Frost by commenting on his “feminine” fashion choices or asking about his sexual escapades the night before. Nixon knows he is using his most powerful asset, his voice, in order to intimidate Frost, because once the camera starts rolling, he knows his defenses are weakened. Before the last round of taping, however, Nixon drunkenly calls Frost to wax poetically about lost dreams and working their way to the top from seemingly nothing. He speculates that they’re two men cut from the same cloth who just happen to be on opposite sides. He promises that these interviews are going to make their respective adversaries acknowledge their greatness once and for all...but there can only be one winner. It’s this phone call that lights a fire under Frost to come at Nixon with a diligence that will lead him to victory. It would seem as if David Frost’s success is a byproduct of the symbiotic relationship he has with the camera. His charm grows while in the spotlight and he saves his discomfort to only be visible behind the scenes. During The Nixon Interviews, he’s like a socialite Kal-El and the camera is his sun. For the final day of taping, focusing on Watergate, Frost realizes his desire to become “a trusted confidante” in Nixon’s eyes has been his handicap and changes his direction of attack. In a one-two punch of questioning, he gets Nixon to begin to admit, “Look, when you’re in office you gotta do a lot of things sometimes that are not always in the strictest sense of the law, legal…” To which Frost replies, “...are you really saying that in certain situations the President can decide whether it’s in the best interest of the nation and then do something illegal...?” Nixon: “I’m saying that when the President does it, that means it’s NOT illegal.” Out for the count. History classes always teach the story of Nixon and the Watergate scandal, but Frost/Nixon teaches the lesser-known truth of Nixon’s condemnation. While Ford had exonerated Nixon, an outsider and a television personality took it upon himself to expunge that pardon and heal a nation in turmoil. He managed to coax an apology out of Nixon who confessed to letting the American people down, knowing he would never have a political life again. In today’s climate, that would be like a less flamboyant Graham Norton taking Trump to task for his presidential bravado. Frost/Nixon takes place forty years ago this year, and is no less a reflection of our political environment as it was back then. Half of America still is hungry for answers and admissions of guilt. If you haven’t seen Frost/Nixon, I implore you to seek it out. Howard’s film gives hope that even in the aftermath of injustice, wrongdoers can still be held to trial. It even bestows humility and humanity to the corrupt. Living in the heavily filtered social media climate we live in, Frost/Nixon reminds us that a camera can have the ability to strip one to one’s core. If the camera really is a god, it truly can see all. Bernadette Gorman Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes. #Newsletter #Articles #FrostNixon #BernadetteGorman #FakeNews

  • Episode 24: Hot Takes - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

    Jack and Robbie get hooked on a feeling again in Marvel's latest cosmic chapter, filled with tunes, jokes, daddy issues and Sylvester Stallone.

  • Episode 23: Overdrinkers - Closer

    Mike is joined by Bernadette to drink fancy wine and discuss the 2004 stage-to-screen adaptation of Patrick Marber's Closer. #Newsletter #Podcasts #Closer #Overdrinkers #MikeBurdge #BernadetteGorman #Wine #Romance #Drama

  • Milk: The Intersection of Memory and Progress

    This past week I revisited Gus van Sant’s 2008 film Milk, a film about the life and career of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk; I was struck by how timely – once again – the movie felt. Milk’s original release was at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, two weeks before Election Day. Proposition 8 – an odious, homophobic voter referendum to amend the California state constitution to declare that only marriage between a man and a woman was recognized as valid in the state – was on the ballot and a huge topic of controversy at the time. Milk felt like an urgent story, not just about the history of the gay rights movement, but as a reminder of where we as a society should not return to again. Seven years later, when gay marriage was effectively legalized in the United States via the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, (after being declared legal on the state level in a number of places), Milk began to seem almost quaint to me – a story about an unfortunate time period, a relic of a harmful culture from long ago. Now, given who is in charge of our country’s administration, the story has regained a sense of urgency. The film opens with the real-life footage of Dianne Feinstein – then the President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, now the Senior Senator from California – announcing to the press that Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone had both been shot and killed by former Supervisor Dan White. The film then flashes back eight years, to Milk meeting his boyfriend, Scott Smith, for the first time in New York City on the eve of his 40th birthday, where he makes the decision to stop living inside the closet and actually live a life that he can be proud of. When I watch this film, I am struck not only by the way the film’s flashback structure allows us to get viscerally involved in the act of Harvey’s recollection of events, but also by the layers of memory and nostalgia it elicits from me. In the current political climate this meta-remembrance resonates with me far more deeply than ever before. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. In high school I used to wander down to the Castro neighborhood at the end of the day, and get a snack at Hot Cookie and people watch. I’ve wandered by the memorial plaque for Harvey Milk at the former site of his Castro Camera storefront hundreds of times. I’ve seen movies at the Castro Theater. I used to go bowling with friends at the alley next door to the Moscone Center. The story of Harvey Milk was taught to us in 4th grade as part of our unit on the history of California. The footage of Feinstein making the announcement of the deaths of Milk and Moscone is gut-wrenchingly familiar to me. This history is embedded in my heart. It’s in my bones. When I was in 4th grade learning about Californian history and Harvey Milk’s role in it, my teacher was a young man, likely no older than 25 years old at the time. I’ll call him Mr. Barnes. He was a funny guy, able to keep us entertained during the driest of lessons. One day, fairly late in the school year, we were talking about the concept of culture in class. Being that we were in San Francisco, we began talking about the specifics of what is considered gay culture. At this time we were also being taught Sex Ed: egg, sperm, how the sperm gets deposited in the vagina, all the things that make 10-year-olds giggle awkwardly. One of my classmates, trying to figure out how to map gay culture and gay relationships upon the paradigm of sex we were being taught in biology class, expressed curiosity as to how sex works for homosexual men. Mr. Barnes answered my classmate’s question honestly, explaining that typically when gay men have intercourse, the penis goes into the anus. He didn’t elaborate beyond that, he used the correct anatomical terms for all body parts involved, and then the culture conversation continued on. What followed can only be described as a shit-storm. Another of my classmates, apparently extremely uncomfortable by the topic of gay sex, (even within the context of school sexual education), went home and told their parents about the question and how Mr. Barnes had answered. The parents then called the principal. The principal panicked. A letter was sent home informing all of the families what had happened. Mr. Barnes was suspended. A town-hall meeting was organized for all of the parents from my class. My father attended the meeting, and was shocked by the level of vitriol being expressed by the other parents. The fairly innocuous answer Mr. Barnes had given in the classroom had been exaggerated wildly – parents were furious, convinced that what Mr. Barnes had done was extremely gratuitous, lascivious, and unacceptable. One parent declared that he might as well have shown us a gay pornography film for how inappropriate this was for a classroom full of 4th graders. They all called for Mr. Barnes’ head, and the school folded. Two weeks before the end of the school year, Mr. Barnes was fired. You might be thinking that this story must have happened long ago in the 1970’s, the Harvey Milk era. You would be wrong. This happened in 1995. When I look back on this incident, I remember how confused and saddened I was by the way it was handled. Don’t we live in San Francisco? Aren’t gay and lesbian people a huge part of what makes San Francisco’s culture the way it is? Everyone knows that, so what was the problem? My teacher was fired, not for honestly answering a student’s question, but because the answer had to do with homosexuality. It was a scathing indictment of the supposed liberal values of my San Francisco Bay Area private elementary school. 22 years later, I think of this as the moment when I stopped feeling so confident that the city in which I lived – the most famously gay-friendly city in the world – was actually a truly progressive place. While re-watching Milk this past week I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened to Mr. Barnes. Milk and Smith moved from New York to San Francisco, hoping to live in a place where their relationship would be more accepted. They end up in the Eureka Valley, in the Castro neighborhood, a place slowly being taken over by gay and lesbian people, but historically home to a large community of Irish Catholic families. Milk and Smith are dismayed, when they quickly realize that the local police were more willing to arrest and brutalize the gay population, as opposed to protecting them from hate crimes. This realization – that San Francisco was not as progressive as it was known to be – is what formed the genesis of Harvey Milk’s political career. Milk’s intention, as an activist and a politician, was to be a representative for the interests of the sizable and growing gay population in San Francisco. By running for the Board of Supervisors, debating his opponents, and giving speeches to his potential heterosexual constituents, he brings issues of gay rights to the forefront of San Franciscans’ minds. He normalizes conversations about the gay community in the public eye, which eventually helped to decrease their perception in the city as other, and humanize them for those who did not understand them and thus feared them. Milk’s political strategy makes me remember the nonchalance with which Mr. Barnes answered my classmate’s question. What a bold act of courage that was, to answer in a way that put the idea of gay sex within the overall framework of the human sexual education curriculum we were being taught. It was an answer that sought to normalize the idea of gay relationships – asking us, as 10-year-olds, to not think of gay people as other. Similarly, later in the film, after Milk is finally elected to public office after three previously unsuccessful campaigns, he introduces legislation to enact a citywide gay rights ordinance, as well as spearheads an effort to defeat Proposition 6. Sponsored by State Senator John Briggs, Prop 6 is an effort to ban gays, lesbians, and anyone who supported them from working in California’s public school system. Prop 6 is also a part of a larger nationwide conservative movement that began with a campaign by Anita Bryant (the brand ambassador for the Florida Citrus Commission) to repeal a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida. Milk realizes that the best way to make sure Californians as a whole vote against Prop 6 would be to help them understand how many gay people they actually know. By forcing heterosexual Californians to realize that gay people were their friends, neighbors, and family members, it allowed them to respect their humanity and not see them as bogeymen out to molest young children. Milk instructs his inner circle of assistants, aides, and activists, to come out to their families if they haven’t already – to lead by example and spread the word for others to do the same. Prop 6 was eventually defeated – one of the first significant gay rights victories in California. In February of 2004, nine years after my elementary school fired Mr. Barnes for answering a student’s question, Mayor Gavin Newsom legalized gay marriage in the city of San Francisco. It was another watershed moment in gay rights history. Back then I was taking time off from the second semester of my freshman year in college to seek treatment for major depressive disorder. I spent most of my days back home by myself, lonely and frightened about my future. When I couldn’t bear to be in my dad’s house any longer I would get in my car and drive around aimlessly. I remember driving through downtown San Francisco on the first day gays and lesbians were allowed to obtain marriage licenses, seeing the line of couples, thousands long, snaking around and around the block leading to City Hall. People were so happy. There were balloons and signs and music everywhere, journalists and photographers swarming the area to document the moment. It was one of the most pure expressions of love and joy I have ever witnessed in my life, and the sight of all of those people, finally being allowed to marry their partners, lifted my dark spirits. Over the next month I went out of my way to drive by City Hall as frequently as possible to see the celebrations. Four weeks and 4,000 gay marriage licenses later, the California Supreme Court shut Mayor Newsom down, declaring that what he had done was illegal. In August of that same year, all of the licenses that were issued during that time period were voided. Four years later, in 2008, just as Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, Proposition 8 passed in California, banning gay marriage. It was around this time when I began to realize that gay rights – just like any civil rights movement – comes in fits and starts. Two steps forward, one step back. Milk and Smith ran away to a city where they felt they would be accepted for who they were, and instead, they see police violence towards the gay population. Milk becomes the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in California (and the third openly gay politician to be elected in the United States), and months later is gunned down by Dan White, a homophobic colleague whose lawyers claimed spuriously that his diet of junk food caused a chemical imbalance that made him commit double homicide. Mr. Barnes tries to get us not to think of gay sex as weird, and promptly gets fired. Gavin Newsom legalizes gay marriage in California, and four years later California conservatives push for anti-gay legislation and succeed. President Obama repeals Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 2011. Obergefell v. Hodges legalizes gay marriage in 2015. One year later, Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana who has gone on record saying that he wants to roll back protections for LGBT citizens, and who believes in conversion therapy, becomes the Vice President. While we’re at it: Barack Obama was the first African American man elected to the office of the President of the United States of America. Eight years later, Americans responded by electing a failed real estate mogul, a shamelessly racist demagogue with no political experience who openly questioned Obama’s citizenship, as the next President. Two steps forward. One step back. One of the most remarkable moments in Milk, involves a young man living in Minnesota who calls Harvey Milk in despair after seeing him on the news speaking out against Anita Bryant and John Briggs. The young man tells Milk that he is going to kill himself. His parents are going to send him to conversion therapy and he sees no way out. Milk begs the young man to escape, get on a bus, come to San Francisco, and go to any major big city away from his parents. But he can’t escape. He’s in a wheelchair. He hangs up the phone and Milk is devastated. Later, when Prop 6 is defeated and the San Francisco gay rights ordinance is about to pass, the young man calls him again. He did escape. He made it to Los Angeles. He’s living openly and he thinks he is going to be okay. I look at this scene and I wonder about all of the young gay people who grew up in Mike Pence’s Indiana who were also contemplating suicide. I think about what the future holds for us in a country where Mike Pence could likely become the President of the United States. Hollywood films about gay characters have an unfortunate and notorious reputation – they almost always feature a tragic death, either by disease or by violence, as a major plot point. The most successful gay movies in the past 20 years all hold to this pattern: Philadelphia, Boys Don’t Cry, Brokeback Mountain, A Single Man, Dallas Buyers Club. At first glance, Milk is easy to categorize as another gay martyr film – though based on a true story, it is yet another mainstream media depiction of a gay character who has to die for the story to resonate. But I would strongly argue that Milk, like the story of Harvey Milk himself, is not just a story about a martyr for a cause. It is a story about what it takes to be an effective activist. When Anita Bryant’s anti-gay rights campaign in Dade County succeeded, the Castro exploded with angry and fearful citizens. Riots are suddenly a risk, and the local police are more than ready to begin arresting people. Milk instructs his protégé Cleve Jones, to turn the community’s anger into a protest, and to march them all down to City Hall, where Milk would speak to them as a city Supervisor and let them know that they were being heard, and that Milk would be their voice. As Cleve leads thousands of people down Market Street improvising chants along the way, I was reminded of the unorganized protests that occurred at airports across the country when Donald Trump issued his Muslim travel ban. How those completely spontaneous demonstrations conveyed loudly the strong disapproval of the American people against Trump’s cruel, unnecessary, and poorly thought out policies. How an immediate call to action helped support the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Executive Order and struck it down. I wonder how many times in the next four to eight years we will have to do this. I wonder if the next time it happens we will be marching for the LGBT community again. Milk, in depicting the life of one remarkable man, becomes a story that shows the multiple arenas in which activism can occur. Harvey Milk ran for political office to make his community’s platform heard, but he also encouraged his followers to live openly as homosexuals, to be brave and proud, rather than afraid for their lives, because simply by existing in the world they would change the hearts and minds of those around them. To lean on a cliché, Milk is a symbol of how ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things. Memory and nostalgia – through Milk’s flashbacks, through America’s painful civil rights history and the cultural moment we are living through right now where we are at risk of repeating many of our most shameful moments – intertwine heavily within this story as well as adjacent to it. When I watch the story of Harvey Milk now, thinking about Gavin Newsom and Barack Obama and my 4th grade teacher Mr. Barnes, I realize that the most important lesson we can all take from this film now is the idea that just by showing up and being who we are, and being unafraid to do so, we display an act of resistance against those who wish to oppress us. And from a place of resistance, it is possible to achieve transcendence. Reeya Banerjee Reeya is a food & beverage cost accountant in the hospitality industry with a film degree from Vassar College that she does not use. She can usually be seen playing the bass guitar at various Beacon Music Factory shows, or drinking IPA's at Dogwood in Beacon, NY. #Newsletter #Articles #Milk #HarveyMilk #April #DayofSilence #ReeyaBanerjee

  • Free Fire Review

    Two teams of mobsters meet up for a simple deal, money in exchange for weapons, but a small feud between two hot heads spiral out of control creating an hour- long shootout in Ben Wheatley’s thriller comedy, Free Fire. What separates this film from other gangster movies involving shootouts is that this standoff in particular isn’t saved for the last showdown of the movie; it is the movie. Making fantastic use of its singular setting - an abandoned warehouse in the middle of somewhere - the film’s scenery never feels stale. Most of the flick consists of our two gangs, hiding behind cover, on opposite sides of an open space. Though the film succeeds in making a single shootout last an entire movie, it never quite hits the same emotional highs as some of the earned final standoffs in other films. As much as this film has the “bang bangs” or the “boom booms” of other action movies, what sets it apart is our colorful cast of characters. The fight started between Sam Riley and Jack Reynor is our inciting incident for the shootout, and their banter between gunshots across the room from one another is hysterical. As the shootout devolves into betrayals and team changes, that’s where other characters like Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer really shine. Other performances feel flat, specifically Cillian Murphy, whose character is almost too much of the archetypal “grumpy gangster who’s not all that bad of a guy.” The gunplay and action of this movie feel great but also distinctly different from other films that have come out this year. None of these characters are John Wick, no one is scoring perfect head-shots or laying waist to hundreds of drone like opponents. Every gunshot in the flick feels loud and realistic, and every shot landed is against a major member of our ensemble cast. The way the cinematography weaves in and out of characters crawling on the ground from cover to cover feels more like a World War II movie than anything else. What helps prolong the shootout is that our cast doesn’t get killed off right away, but almost everyone is wounded. Shots are being fired wildly, but for every five bullets shot only one usually hits, leaving a character clipped in the shoulder but still in action. By the time we get to the end of the flick, everyone is wounded and running out of time making the audience feel their fatigue. Though we have group of over ten, distinct characters, no one feels fleshed out enough to care for. Once the deal between the gangs goes sour, the singular goal of the movie becomes survival. No character on either side is a “good guy,” so it leaves the audience with no one to root for. No one really has a fleshed out back story, so when we eventually start seeing some (SPOILER ALERT) death, there’s really no reason to care. There are characters whom I mentioned before are funny, but no one is likable. The movie merely feels like a vessel for banter and gunshots, though that can be a good time, it left me feeling empty by the end of the flick. This movie didn’t have the same weight of say our final moments of Reservoir Dogs, where there is an inherent build up, leaving us at the edge of our seats to see what’s going to happen and who’s going to make it. This movie is that moment stretched out so thin that I just don’t really care. Free Fire is a film that asks a very interesting structural question: “What if an entire film was the shootout.” Though I’m afraid the answer to that question is a movie that can be a lot of fun, but ultimately feels flat by the end. I’m not saying don’t see Free Fire, I just don’t think you need to rush out to the theater to see it. Robert Anderson Robert has a degree in Screenwriting and Playwriting and works in multiple genres. He's just your typical man-child who enjoys most things nerd culture. You can follow him on Twitter @RoBaeBae #Newsletter #Review #FreeFire #BenWheatley #RobertAnderson #Guns #Action #Comedy

  • Episode 22: Hot Takes - The Void (2016)

    Jack is joined by his brother, Jeremy, to take a look at the little-horror-movie-that-could of 2016, The Void. #Newsletter #Podcasts #HotTakes #JackKolodziejski #JeremyKolodziejski #TheVoid

  • A Brief History of Kong

    When researching trends, ideas, and cinematic evolution in the history of film there’s seldom a better reference point then viewing the several interpretations of King Kong. The classic story of a giant beast falling in love with a young blonde woman – exploring an unfamiliar and dangerous world and the destruction caused by what happens when man’s greed tampers with the natural order – remains timeless to this day and can be remade forever, without any aspect tarnished by time. Hollywood certainly agrees, as King Kong has had sequels, remakes, sequels of remakes, reboots, crossovers, rehashes, reheats, reloaded and revolutions! But I digress. The interpretations of the giant ape I’m going to focus on are from the 1933 original, the 1976 remake produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the 2005 Peter Jackson remake and finally, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. What do these films have to say about the decades they were created in? What trends, values, and ideas can we document via King Kong? King Kong (1933) In 1927, the cinematic landscape was changed forever when The Jazz Singer premiered. It blew everyone away by incorporating actual spoken dialogue and sound into film, despite its uncomfortable racist imagery. A mere six years later, films went from putting spoken words into film, to creating whole worlds beyond imagination, thanks to the directorial efforts of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, as well the fascinating and engrossing visuals of special effects wizard, Willis O’ Brien, which truly bring the film to life. Sure, The Lost World was also about larger than life creatures coming to life on the silver screen - the effects were even done by O’Brien himself - but Kong, as well as being a better film, was also released during a time where it made a much more significant impact: in the midst of the Great Depression. Millions of people needed a way to escape from the daily misery of scraping by. They needed a character like Ann Darrow, who was going through the same hardships many were going through at the time. They could relate to her; every person could attach a little bit of themselves to Ann. They needed Kong to transport them to somewhere new and to show them something they’d never seen before, something surreal and fantastic, and something to give them that brief moment of wonder. King Kong certainly delivered. It revolutionized adventure storytelling and Willis O’Brien invented several special effects techniques that were used in films decades later. What’s there to say about this film that hasn’t already been said? It’s still one of the greatest and most influential of all time, and it is also one of my personal favorites. But what happens when other filmmakers attempt to give the giant ape a try? King Kong (1976) The 1970’s are considered one of the greatest decades in film history. “The Age of the Directors,” as some liked to call it. During this decade, a young filmmaker (who some may know as Steven Spielberg), created a quaint little film about a giant man-eating great white shark. Jaws took the world by storm and ushered in a new era of blockbusters. One year later, producer Dino De Laurentiis (some may know his granddaughter Giada from the Food Network) wanted a piece of the action. He wanted the money Jaws made. Instead of creating his own monster to compete with the shark, he went back to the classics and wanted to bring the giant ape himself back to modern audiences. He even approached Roman Polanski to direct the film at first, but instead went with John Guillerman. You thought gritty reboots were a recent development? Far from it! This Kong was going to be darker, grittier, bloodier, slower paced, more dramatic and less adventurous. Instead of the motivation for making a film by Carl Denham, we have Fred Wilson who’s searching for oil, a much more topical subject. It would be set in modern times, Kong would be bigger, the dinosaurs would be removed to make a more grounded and “realistic” story, and instead of the eighth wonder of the world climbing the Empire State Building, it would climb the brand new World Trade Center, as a way to show off the building to the world. The 1976 film is a classic example of financial gain taking priority over artistic integrity. Other than the novelty of watching now veteran actors Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange interact with a giant ape, as well as a few impressive action sequences (including an attack on a train and a fight with a giant snake), as well as the aforementioned climb up the WTC, and creature effects by special effects god Rick Baker, there’s very little this film has to offers. It’s dry, dull, slow, and none of the characters are as interesting as Carl Denham, Jack Driscoll, and Ann Darrow. It’s not an awful film, but other than viewing it for historical context, there’s no real reason to watch this film again. King Kong (2005) It was the early 2000’s, and three-hour sprawling period epics were all the rage. Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, The Last Samurai, and Master and Commander, were all cleaning up the box office, as well as the award season. People were constantly fiending for more, but none of these were quite as monstrous a success story as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, directed by filmmaker, Peter Jackson. From humble beginnings creating cult splatter films such as Bad Taste and Dead Alive in his home country of New Zealand, to being on top of the world, Peter Jackson could do whatever he wanted next. He chose to remake one of his childhood favorites. The film that made him want to become a filmmaker in the first place. What else but Kong? Instead of re-arranging the plot to be modern and run parallel to current affairs, he transported audiences back to 1933, and for the most part, he did a good job. The motion capture effects from Andy Serkis bring King Kong to life and remain impressive to this day. Skull Island, as well as the 1933 Time’s Square, is lovingly crafted with expert detail, even going as far as collecting some of the last of the 1930’s Ford cars to use as props. The main problem with the film was a problem that plagued many of the epics at the time: it was simply too long for its own good. I always welcome when a story wants to take the time to flesh out its characters before jumping into the action and conflict, but this Kong took too long to do so. During the segment on the boat traveling to Skull Island, there is an almost endless supply of filler and awkward encounters between various characters. Instead of keeping you on the edge of your seat yearning for the monster to arrive like in Jaws, you’re left bored and checking your watch. When the film eventually does get to Skull Island, it’s spectacular and fills me with the same wonder and excitement I get while watching the original. In fact, of all the remakes and reboots Kong has gone through, this one is my personal favorite, and despite its length, is of the highest quality. If someone could create a fan edit to make it more in line with the original film’s pacing, it would be almost perfect. Kong: Skull Island (2017) The 2017’s choice of film trend is that of the “cinematic universe.” Popularized by Marvel Studios, the goal is to branch together seemingly unrelated films, sprinkle in references to each other, and eventually come together for a big crossover event film such as The Avengers, Justice League, or whatever the hell Universal thinks it's doing with its monster franchise, and of course, culminate with an eventual showdown between King Kong and Godzilla. Of all the remakes and reboots Kong has gone through, this one is certainly the most different. The setting is changed to 1970’s post-Vietnam War, and gone entirely is the romantic story between King Kong and Ann Darrow (or Dwan, if you will). Kong: Skull Island has other priorities in mind: pure mayhem. At about minute fifteen of the film’s runtime, we’re already in Skull Island. The now 100-foot tall Kong wreaks havoc on unsuspecting American soldiers and does not let up until the credits roll. The tension is constant as the characters are constantly harassed and murdered by gigantic lizards and freakish bugs. The film has a sense of humor and camaraderie the previous Kong films did not have. It takes itself less seriously. Instead of trying to bring us into a whole new and unfamiliar world, Skull Island just wants us to have a good time. If the filmmakers have a creative idea for a visual, they just throw it in there. I don’t want to go into details, and I know this film has flown under the radar for some, but it’s certainly worth seeing while it’s still in theaters, even though it might not be as thematically strong as the 1933 or 2005 versions. Overall, the story of Kong is a good blank canvas for filmmakers of all eras to flex their creative juices and deliver something new in all eras. From the classic story and charming special effects of the original, to the grand scale of the 2005 version, to the pure energetic chaos of Skull Island, hell even the 1976 version has production design and a few select scenes to admire, either way, we haven’t seen the last of the big monkey, because his story is so timeless, and I’m excited to see what future filmmakers will do with him next. Jeremy Kolodziejski Jeremy is younger than he looks, and has passionately studied the art and craft of filmmaking for as long as he can remember. He is currently a freelance wedding videographer, and is also heavily involved in Competitive Fighting Games. IG: jeremyko95 #Newsletter #Articles #KingKong #KongSkullIsland #JeremyKolodziejski

  • Episode 21: QMAAT - The Fate of the Furious

    All roads lead here. This is it. The final 1/4 mile. Jack, Robert and Mike talk about the latest installment, The Fate of the Furious, fresh from their first viewing and talk about the franchise as a whole, as well as how the experience has blasted their friendship into overdrive. #Newsletter #Podcasts #QMAAT #QuarterMileataTime #TheFateoftheFurious #F8 #JackKolodziejski #RobertAnderson #MikeBurdge

  • Episode 20: QMAAT - Furious Seven

    Jack, Robert and Mike hit the NOS at the final sprint of Quarter Mile at a Time, just in time to catch up to the new installment pulling into the driveway, and find themselves looking back on the franchise - and what it's gained and lost. #Newsletter #Podcasts #QMAAT #QuarterMileataTime #Furious7 #JackKolodziejski #RobertAnderson #MikeBurdge

  • Episode 19: QMAAT - Furious 6/Tokyo Drift

    Jack, Robert and Mike go double the speed limit for this one, but not before making sure there's plenty of antifreeze, because shit is about to get cool. #Newsletter #Podcasts #QuarterMileataTime #QMAAT #Furious6 #TheFastandtheFuriousTokyoDrift #JackKolodziejski #RobertAnderson #MikeBurdge #Corona

  • Episode 18: Hot Takes - Kong: Skull Island

    Robert and Jack got around to visiting Skull Island and neither of them were prepared. But would they recommend the trip? #Newsletter #Podcasts #KongSkullIsland #HotTakes #JackKolodziejski #RobertAnderson #KingKong #Kaiju

  • Blue Valentine: The Half-Life of Love & Trauma

    The story of love in modernity is one of growth and decay. Derek Cianfrance captures this sentiment beautifully in Blue Valentine. Through a series of flashbacks interspersed with present day, we are given glimpses of how love persists between Dean, (played by Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) – two people who no longer understand each other, nor are they able to provide for each other’s emotional needs. How do you not stand by the person who stood by you? How do you turn away when you have made a vow stating, “for better or for worse,” in a society that views the dissolution of relationships as a personal failure? From the film’s opening scene, we are confronted with rural isolation and domestic misery. Dean and Cindy’s young daughter, Frankie, calling out for her dog Megan who is no longer there, echoes Dean’s pleas for Cindy to love him again. When Dean tells Frankie that Megan is not dead, just off becoming a Hollywood star, it is clear how his belief in Cindy’s love keeps him from seeing the truth of its death. The lies we tell children about missing dogs are the same lies we tell ourselves when love has faded; the memory of love persists long after its deterioration. This is obvious in the way Cindy tries to comfort Dean over the loss of Megan, in the way he does not listen to what she says, and how she allows him to push her into going to a cheesy sex hotel with the hope of reinvigorating their marriage. The kismet of their meeting – by chance in a nursing home and then, again, on a bus – fits the mold of an idealistic fairy tale romance. The best dialogue in the film is between Cindy and her grandmother: You ought to be careful that the person you fall in love [with] – that they’re worth it to you. How do you trust your feelings when they can just disappear like that? The film jumps to the past in sharp relief to the grief of its present. There are bright spots – as there always are – in the beginning. Dean charms Cindy with music, but only her. He is not some Lothario out for quick action. He is a romantic, in love with the idea of finding the one girl he wants to marry. Cindy is a young woman looking for authenticity of feeling – to believe in the true and undying nature of love despite its seeming lack of existence in her parents’ marriage. She hides in the safety of Dean’s love from her abusive father and ex-boyfriend. When Dean stands by Cindy in her unplanned pregnancy, they create a bond forged in fire and blood. Cindy’s discomfort in the clinic where she plans to have an abortion is so subtly portrayed that any person who has been in a similar position empathizes with her. “Let’s be a family” is a seductive offer when the only other option is single motherhood. Obvious incompatibilities seem surmountable through the lens of young love. The clinic is the turning point of the film – when everything becomes clear. This is the point where the audience realizes that Cindy has traded one abuser for another. The framing of Cianfrance’s film is so powerful that it delivers like a punch to the gut. Cindy and Dean are brought together, while simultaneously being torn apart. Underscoring the unraveling of their marriage in the present are The Platters’, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” – a classic song about how love blinds us from seeing the truth. The young woman who fell in love with Dean no longer exists – his alcoholism and emotional abuse have destroyed Cindy’s image of him – the sensitive artist and her personal champion. This is most obvious when Dean attempts to arouse Cindy with the idea of making a baby together while on their sex retreat. Any woman who has experienced an abusive relationship knows the fear of being tied down by a child and effectively stuck with their abuser forever. The film begs an answer to the question: what constitutes love? It challenges the notion that love and abuse are mutually exclusive. How can you leave someone who loves your child? Who fights for you when your boss makes inappropriate advances? Who provides escape from an abusive home? The decay of love does not diminish its depth, veracity, intensity, nor does it make its experience any less real. It does not make leaving easier. In the words of Junot Díaz, “The half-life of love is forever.” Liz Velez Liz has a background in film & television production and has worked with NBC, Comedy Central, VH1, and Spotify. Her interests include diversity/representation in media, gender & sexuality politics, social justice and the impact of pop culture in shaping popular opinion. She also slays at drunken karaoke. You can follow her on Twitter @telitlikeitliz #Newsletter #Review #LizVelez #BlueValentine

bottom of page