Reaction images aren’t that hard to find

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Reaction images aren’t that hard to find.

All these are from one episode of Heathcliff.

“You spilled my warm cup of piss”: Neon noir and the loose-cannon canon

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The Last Boy Scout [Tony Scott, 1991]

You may know The Last Boy Scout as the movie that climaxes with an NFL star taking PCP during halftime, then surprising both teammates and the opposition during a running play by killing three approaching tacklers and shooting himself in the head. If that’s what you’re expecting, you’re wrong, because that actually happens before the opening credits, as a sort of scene-setting exposition that illustrates what sort of a mixed-up universe cynical PI Joe Hallenbeck [Bruce Willis] and cynical ex-NFL star Jimmy Dix [Damon Wayans Sr.] are living in. The actual climax is far more sedate — Damon Wayans Sr., riding a horse down the sideline of an NFL game, throws a football at a corrupt politician to knock him out of the way of an assassin’s bullet, followed by the assassin falling off a stadium lighting stanchion into the blades of a helicopter, followed by the team’s owner getting killed by an exploding suitcase to the good guys’ rapturous laughter. The cold-blooded assassin is played by Taylor Negron, previously known to me as the awkwardly goofy Mexican layabout who marries Rodney Dangerfield’s daughter in Easy Money. The corrupt politician is played by Chelcie Ross, which makes sense.

In this blog’s first month I described Ridley Scott as “perfecting the art of filming dust particles in shafts of sunlight”. Tony Scott, meanwhile, perfected the art of making everywhere look like a hazy blue barroom. In this film’s opening scene both the L.A. Stallions’ locker room and the field of play somehow look like a hazy blue barroom. At one point an office filled with flames is hazy and blue. Unfortunately, actual hazy blue barrooms disappear from the film once Joe and Jimmy ally and Halle Berry is executed [in a “gangland-style” “professional hit” that involves three machine guns on a busy street]. Berry is the only virtuous character, and that includes Willis’s 13-year-old daughter, who calls him a “fuckup” after he responds to her calling him an “asshole” by opening the sliding door and throwing a half-gallon of ice cream out in the yard. I was struck as a child by Roger Ebert’s review:

It is some kind of a tribute to Tony Scott, who directed the film, and especially to Shane Black and Greg Hicks, who wrote the screenplay, that this material survives its own complete cynicism and somehow actually works. Watching it, I felt like some weatherbeaten innocent from an earlier, simpler time. My distaste was irrelevant.

This movie is the future. It assumes the average audience now has no standards except those of the mob.

The only consistent theme of the film is its hatred of women. The two heroes (Willis and Damon Wayans) have a wife and a girlfriend, respectively, who cheat on them – the wife with Willis’ best friend, the girlfriend by prostituting herself. Both men are at home in this screenplay, which hates women with a particular viciousness; the verbal violence begins by calling them bitches and whores and worse, over and over again, and the message is that a man can only really trust another man. The end of the movie is peculiar in the way it insists on this; the hero, reconciled with his cheating wife, embraces her and whispers vile obscenities into her ear. We are intended to read them as tender. Then he strolls off lovingly with his buddy.

He gave it 3 stars out of 4.

The cheating-wife [Chelsea Field is lovable in that thankless role] subplot is overpoweringly gratuitous. Shane Black’s script [I agree with Ebert that it almost deserved its record-breaking price, being exponentially wittier, despite its reptilian cynicism, than any other buddy-cop movie but Black’s own Kiss Kiss Bang Bang] keeps her alive just so she can apologize to Bruce Willis at the end. Halle Berry’s character is introduced as a foulmouthed stripper who sics goons on people, and as soon as she’s killed they find a trail of evidence that turns her into a saint.

"Yes officer, as a matter of fact there is a problem. Apparently there are too many bullets in this gun."

I enjoyed every minute despite all the douchebaggery. At least the good guys don’t off-handedly kill innocent people, a principle that has now been abandoned in buddy-cop projects, with Bad Boys II the turning point.  The pacing is perfect and the casting is perfect. Of any movie made in the last 50 years, The Last Boy Scout might have the best top-to-bottom lineup of sneering henchmen. There’s the big guy [Badja Djola] who tries to beat up Bruce Willis but gets distracted by yo-momma snaps, and the other big guy [Duke Valenti] and his weedy partner [Jack Kehler] who says “Jake attacks his job with a certain exuberance”. There’s the football owner’s gang of three, including Taylor Negron [above] as the cold-blooded metrosexual emotionless-and-methodical type, Kim Coates as the greasy-haired sadistic hair-trigger type, and Frank Collison as the awkward guy doomed to make a mistake. And then there’s “Main Hitman”, “Hitman”, “Ponytail Hitman”, “Cigar Thug”, “Granddad Thug”, and four people credited as “Marcone’s Goon”.

Quotes from The Last Boy Scout are compiled all over the internet. My favorite was Damon Wayans talking to himself about what to do.

Come on, think, Jimmy, think, think, think. What would Joe do? He’d shoot everybody and smoke some cigarettes. Don’t have a gun, can’t do that.

Kim Coates as another greasy thug in your favorite Pittsburgh movie and mine, John Landis's INNOCENT BLOOD (1992).

Other things that happen in this movie:

  • Someone gets hit in the nose with a football and starts bleeding from both eyes.
  • A villain’s office contains an opulent fireplace, which leads to the office being destroyed by fire.
  • A villain’s office contains an opulent fish tank, which does not lead to any mishap.
  • A car lands in a swimming pool and explodes.
  • Both Halle Berry and Damon Wayans spend possibly the majority of their screen time wearing fringed cowboy jackets.
  • Bruce Willis sees Damon Wayans popping pills in his [Willis’s] bathroom, and his [Willis’s] instinctive response, within a nanosecond, is to punch him in the face.
  • This leads to the only sincere moment, the football star’s impassioned speech justifying the painkiller addiction that got him banned from the league. Fans insist players play through injuries. The league treats players like machines by publishing injury reports “so the gamblers can have an accurate spread”.
  • Speaking of gamblers, the plot hinges on the fact that gambling on NFL games is illegal and therefore barely ever happens. Cartoonishly evil L.A. Stallions owner Noble Winningham stands to make a mint if it’s legalized, because for the first time gambling on sports will be a mainstream pursuit instead of something dominated by the Mob.
  • A cassette containing crucial evidence is destroyed when Willis plays it in his car stereo and Wayans pushes fast-forward. Willis blames Wayans for not knowing this would happen.
  • Someone says “Matthews was making Hallenbeck’s wife” – possibly the last time the sixtiesism of using the verb “to make” as a synonym for sex ever appeared in a film.
  • The suicidal running back in the opening scene is played by Tae-Bo impresario Billy Blanks.

From Jason Rugaard’s interview with Tony Scott’s cinematographer at the time, Ward Russell:

In your films ‘Days of Thunder’ and ‘The Last Boy Scout’, there is an abundance of fog, steam, or mist in almost every shot. Was this a part of the ‘look’ you and Mr. Scott were trying to achieve?

WR: That is something that the English brought over. They were used to foggy, overcast days and darkness. So they found dealing with sunlight strange, they didn’t know how to handle it. That’s why they used fog in buildings to create atmosphere. Then it became a visual element and we’d find ways to create smoke in the frame to add another level of visual interest.

* * *

To Live and Die in L.A. [William Friedkin, 1985]

Often has it been said, and I’ve said it myself, that it would be so great if there was a movie about a streetwise, charming, hard-working, hard-punching, fast-driving, fearless loose-cannon cop who breaks the rules, but does not in fact get results, because he isn’t f***ing omnipotent. 

Well, William Friedkin gave us elements of that in both The French Connection and Cruising, and the ultimate undermining of loose-cannon hero-worship is this movie from 1985, right in the middle of the Marian Cobrettis and the Dirty Harrys and the Rambos and the Axel Foleys and the Sonny Crocketts and the Martin Riggses and the Joe Hallenbecks and the John McClanes and the Spermwhale Whalens and the Jack Cateses and the Mason Storms and the Art Ridzics. Not only is William Petersen’s character all those things listed above, he also has been assigned a cowardly by-the-book partner [John Pankow providing a blueprint for Brian Benben’s performance in I Come in Peace], he also is trying to avenge his ex-partner’s death, and he goes by the all-American surname of “Chance”. Not every piece of music is by Wang Chung, but the pervasive eightiesness does add to the 21st-century viewer’s expectation that this guy is going to be unstoppable. And yet this is basically a noir plot in which Chance, our protagonist, is a morally ambiguous but likeable figure whose best intentions lead him into more and more desperate situations. I can’t think of a movie from the original noir era [an era more respectful of authority] that had a protagonist like that who was actually a cop, though TV Tropes suggests Where the Sidewalk Ends [Otto Preminger, 1950].

There’s very little snappy dialogue — people talk like they do in The French Connection or The Limey, giving nothing away and not trying to lessen the tension with levity. There’s very little romance — Chance does nothing more than exploit his cynical love interest Ruth [the tall and lithe Darlanne Fluegel], and the viewer is meant to be repulsed by the decadent canoodlings of the ruthless villain [Willem Dafoe] and the sensual ballerina [Debra Feuer, sister of Luton Town, Molenbeek and Los Angeles Salsa goalkeeper Ian Feuer]. Dafoe’s performance is practically a Thomas Harris character, albeit without the need to control other humans, and you share Chance’s desperate desire to defeat him as soon as possible and wipe that reptilian smirk off his face. Finally, John Turturro [four years before Do The Right Thing!] plays a key role as a potential informant, and even if you merely like Miller’s Crossing instead of ranking it your favorite film as I do, you need to watch To Live and Die in L.A. to see this modern-day variation on Bernie Birnbaum. Ten stars out of ten.

Bernie Birnbaum and Carl Cody

Thanks to Movie Screenshots and Automatic Screenshots for the screenshots.

Thanks to Internet Movie Firearm Database for being one of the best resources on The Last Boy Scout.

Partial filmography: Jessica Lange

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Also THE GLASS MENAGERIE (2005) on Broadway

  • Grey Gardens (2009)
    Big Edie
  • Prozac Nation (2001)
    Mrs. Wurtzel
  • Cousin Bette (1998)
    Cousin Bette
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1995)
    Blanche DuBois
  • Rob Roy (1995)
    Mary MacGregor
  • Night and the City (1992)
    Helen Nasseros
  • O Pioneers! (1992)
    Alexandra Bergson
  • Cape Fear (1991)
    Leigh Bowden
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1984)
    Maggie
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
    Cora Papadakis
  • King Kong (1976)
    Dwan

Ringerblogging IV: The Highschoolening

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Episode Five: “A Whole New Kind of Bitch”

Episode Six: “The Poor Kids Do It Everyday”

Both these titles are lines said by Juliet, which I really really hope does not herald Ringer’s transformation into a half-high-school, half-adult show. Zoey Deutch may stand out among CW starlets for rarely having a totally blank look on her face, but her character is not fascinating. In episode 5 we catch her in the apartment ingesting narcotics with a friend named Erica, we follow her to a dance club named Barfield’s where her reaction to her dad barging in is adorably immature, and she follows Bridget/Siobhan to B/S’s first NYC NA meeting, leading to a very tense dinner-table scene [she tells her dad that his wife is secretly going to NA meetings, blindsiding Bridget[ whose shattering consequences are immediately nullified [Bridget tells Andrew she was doing research on addiction or something].

Billy Miller attending another anonymous gathering on The Young + The Restless.

You know, this show has quite a lot of moments of incredible tension leading to what appear to be shattering results for interpersonal relationships, which are then cleared up and never referred to again. Juliet points out that she hates Siobhan because “she’s a whore who sleeps with married men”. What? She knows about Siobhan and Henry? No, she’s referring to when Andrew cheated on Juliet’s mother with Siobhan seven years ago. Gemma refuses quite rightly to believe that Bridget is a twin sister who Siobhan had kept completely secret? Five minutes later she notices that Bridget doesn’t have Siobhan’s wrist scar. Problem solved. And then there’s all the visual fake-outs. Henry scrubbing up blood with a thousand-yard stare in the preview of Episode 6? No, he actually didn’t know where the blood came from and was just being nice. The word “WHORE” scrawled across the giant white Siobhan portrait? Written by Gemma, no doubt? No, by Juliet. Why would Juliet write that? See above.

The way this show is set up, the underlying impersonation plot can’t move too fast or else we’ll have Bridget on the lam again (or a pile of people who died right after finding out her identity) by Episode 12. There’s a traditional-tragedy element to that, so I welcome all these fake-outs and misdirections and strategic information withholdings as diversions to delay the inevitable.

In Episode 5 Janice Cooke becomes the series’s first director to make her presence felt, using swooping camera, fragments of a phone conversation, rhythmic cuts that evoke blinking, and a weird techno song in the scene where Juliet is blinded by rage at Bridget’s searching her room for drugs and reverse-ransacks Siobhan’s wedding dress. The rest of the episode is standard Ringer, with a striking juxtaposition of red hair and a red wall around minute 33.

This episode’s new actor is Billy Miller as Charlie, Bridget’s new friend from Narcotics Anonymous. I haven’t seen any of his 559 Young and the Restless and All My Children episodes, but here he does a good job in what may be a very easy role, a guy with the zeal of the convert who recites the friendly rote aphorisms he was taught to believe in. Noah Watts is unsubtle as Bodaway’s henchman in the worlds-away scenes set in the Wyoming community college/parking garage/strip club complex. Did Mike Colter ever meet any of the other leads in this show? He could have filmed all his scenes while actually being kidnapped by thugs and tantalized by heroin in a parking garage, while the rest of the production carried on.

Henry continues to threaten to spaz out and stop being so rational and patient. Polaha may not be a great actor but his character is written terribly. [Sample line: “I know what your plan is, all right, and I am one step ahead of you.”] If Siobhan would let him get a word in edgewise in the flashbacks, we could see how he behaves normally. Because really, in the first four episodes he shouldn’t be perceiving his situation as fraught, because he doesn’t know anything about the Bridget/Siobhan switch! And yet he always seems like he’s about to have a nervous breakdown, and that’s not just Polaha’s default hurt facial expression, it’s the writing. And speaking of writing, Henry’s writing career is not going well. Still no word on whether he actually had a writing career in the past, or if he is an unusually boring dim-boy-toy-hipster who pursues fiction instead of visual art or style or other hobbies.

Oh, and Henry and Gemma have children! Did you know that? It must have been mentioned before. Where do they live? How old are they? Presumably old enough for boarding school, because they play no part in Henry and Gemma’s daily lives.

Gage Golightly plays Tessa the bully. Gage-golightly.com is currently a site of cybersquatting by perfume-related spam.

In Episode Six we enter public school. Within the first minute of Juliet’s first class, her nightmare occurs. This is not an exaggeration. She sits down, and a girl styled for the grunge nostalgia issue of Elle calls her “rich girl”, telegraphs eagerness for class war, and literally demands money. They have a violent altercation after, again, what appears to be Juliet’s very first hour of class at this school. The rest of the sullen plebes back Tessa’s word against Juliet’s. Andrew gets called in to the principal’s office, where Juliet’s teacher saves her bacon by lying that he saw Tessa start the fight.

Andrew’s parenting style is severely inconsistent. Last week he was outraged that his wife would accuse Juliet of lying about drugs, and particularly outraged at the idea of invading Juliet’s privacy by searching her room. Now he’s rejecting out of hand any attempt by Juliet to explain the fracas. And she does make a good point [“You do understand that today is my first day here, right? You understand why I wouldn’t have anyone rushing to my defense?”].

So the road is rocky at this ethnically heterogeneous high school that seems clean and new but has no other rich students. But from Juliet’s uncharacteristically nice behavior at the start of this week’s episode, I now think she’s being presented to us as a protagonist, so either she’ll make new friends and be enriched by the experience, or she’ll continue to have no friends and will try doing well in school instead of being vapid and thrill-seeking. Of course, both scenarios I envisioned at the beginning of this episode [becomes popular through the club-drug trade, or seduces a teacher] are still in play.

In the Bridget story, things are falling apart. There hasn’t been a bit part for a coded-gay guy in two weeks, because there’s no time for frivolity. Henry apparently came home to find Gemma missing and blood all over the place, spent a few hours incriminating himself, and now, just because Siobhan used to say she wished they could kill Gemma, he thinks Siobhan had something to do with it. Bridget/Siobhan fails to convince him either that she had nothing to do with it or that she doesn’t remember any of those conversations, and her emotionless denials look like nothing other than a series of statements that she intends to frame him for the murder. The next day an intruder sneaks into her room, wearing a hemp bracelet, and seizes her. After the commercial break it turns out to be Henry, and this time he’s in more of a mind to believe her. He must be, because she hasn’t come up with any more convincing arguments since yesterday. Polaha is once again done no favors by the script, having to suddenly trust Bridget/Siobhan while still seemingly being framed by her. Who the hell else could have killed/abducted his wife?

Speaking of the script, two characters in this episode make conversational use of the phrase “foul play”. I’ll be keeping an eye on that.

A Patridge in a daring tee.

Back in the wine bars of Montmartre, the real Siobhan apparently is responsible for killing/abducting Siobhan. Her motives remain unclear, but her plan seems to be working. Not only does Henry do all that work to incriminate himself to protect her, Bridget then goes to the bloody dumpster and rifles through the evidence therein — first wearing Asami’s black gloves from Audition, then ostentatiously taking them off to fondle a broken vase, then calling 911 so Detective Saldano and Detective Towers can get her fingerprints. It’s also unclear whether the show knows identical twins don’t have identical fingerprints.

Meanwhile, Detective Kemper has isolated Noah Watts’s DNA from a pile of cigarette butts. How will the FBI ever solve any crimes when hitman no longer stand in one place smoking for hours as they wait for their quarry?

This episode has two more good songs, both of the moody and romantically torn variety [Mates of State, “Unless I’m Led” and Lindbergh Palace, “Scary”]. I also like the soulless dance song in the Audrina Patridge for Bongo by Kmart ads. With Professor Malcolm Ward about to show up in New York, I’m looking forward to seeing if any obscure hip-hop songs will be chosen for inclusion in Ringer.

Why Morgan the Goat is called “Morgan the Goat”

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Knowing as I do the search results that bring people to The Ascetic Sensualists, I believe most people who find this site either find what they are looking for, are looking for something I am not able to provide [e.g. “domestic violence with children in scotland posters in public domain” or “charles aznavour armenian autograph“], or have a request that will easily be answered elsewhere [e.g. “what was parallax ‘s name before being evil” or “pilgrim kick her in the balls wallace gif“].

That vest, those sideburns ... caprine.

There’s also one question that I should have answered in my post on the topic, but didn’t. There are many people in the world who have enjoyed the classic nostalgic pastoral comedy The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain and are curious as to why Colm Meaney’s character Morgan is called “Morgan the Goat”. I hope this post will satisfy those queries.

As you know if you’ve watched the movie, Welshmen only have a handful of surnames, like North Koreans, and in provincial regions they only have a handful of first names as well. So the yokels in TEWWUAHBCDAM are commonly referred to by their profession or other distinguishing feature, such as “Williams the Petroleum”, “Johnny Shellshocked”, and my personal favorite “Davies the School”.

In the case of Morgan the Goat, I believe “the Goat” is a reference to his propensity for randy lustfulness. It doesn’t quite fit with occupation-based monickers like “Thomas the Trains”, but it’s more evocative than “Morgan the Inn” or “Morgan the Pub”. His name is Morgan, and his distinguishing characteristic is sexuality. He’s the one the gossips all gossip about, rolling in the hay with this wench or that. In British tradition, goats are associated with sexuality, connected to the Greek god Pan, satyrs, joyful fertility, and so forth.

That’s why he’s called “Morgan the Goat”.

Click here [warning: PDF] for a discussion of the god Pan in British literature of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, by one Dr. Richard Stromer, who may be a crackpot but has extensive historical knowledge.

Pan’s erotic nature, like that of the satyrs with whom he often kept company, was largely oriented toward the pursuit of purely carnal gratification. In part, this aspect of Pan is related to his role as guardian and facilitator of the fertility of herding animals. More significantly, however, Pan’s erotic appetites and ithyphallic image are simply a reflection of his own goat-like nature.