Das rosa Boot

National Attitudes toward World War II as Exemplified in Operation Petticoat and Das Boot

The war film has been a popular American genre during the twentieth century — and of these films, those depicting the Second World War have been by far the most prolific and successful. The spectacle of large battles and the celebration of heroic acts have an alluring quality that has inspired the production of epic films such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (Lean, 1957), The Guns of Navarone (Thompson, 1961), The Longest Day (Annakin et al., 1962), and The Great Escape (Sturges, 1963). An important factor in these films’ appeal is that the (American) audience is meant to sympathize with the (Allied) winning side. Indeed, national attitudes towards wars — and war in general — are affected by the outcomes of such conflicts. Two excellent examples of differing attitudes toward World War II are Blake Edwards’s American comedy Operation Petticoat (1959) and Wolfgang Petersen’s German drama Das Boot (1981). Both films take place on military submarines, but the depictions of the two undersea voyages could scarcely be more different. While Edwards shows life aboard the U.S.S. Sea Tiger as easygoing, dynamic, and occasionally thrilling, Petersen depicts the experience of crewing U-96 as exhausting, bleak, and often deadly. Continue reading

Am I out of my mind, or are they out of ideas?

So apparently Footloose is being remade. And apparently TNT has ordered a pilot for an updated version of Dallas. Also, At the Movies is returning to PBS — complete with a speechless Roger Ebert. Is there a single original story idea left in the media business? It would seem not. This summer we received The Karate Kid, an original story based upon… The Karate Kid. Even Avatar, This Year’s Greatest Movie of All Time, is essentially Pocahontas Dances with Wolves in Space. Television demonstrates this trend even more:  how many shows use the Law & Order formula? At least seven? As I’ve pointed out before, Fringe is The X-Files for the A.D.D. generation, and ABC tried to similarly recycle Twin Peaks into Happy Town this summer. (Yeah, I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it.) Sure, the producers latch on to the formulas that make money, but whatever happened to risk-taking? Lost was good for the first two years, until the writers ran out of ideas. House was sort of innovative, but it imitates itself too much. The only really original show currently in production that I am aware of is Mad Men — the only show I watch as it airs.

The current drivel that makes up most television programming may reel in the big bucks, but it doesn’t attract me. Maybe when the History Channel returns to history-centered programs I’ll return. But until then, why would I watch The Universe when I can watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on DVD?

3D: The Latest Recycled Fad

3D is an interesting experiment, both in film and in television. It was used in films during the ’50s, and again in the ’80s. It was a gimmick then, and it’s a gimmick now. Too often I’ve seen shots that gratuitously scream, “It’s a 3D film!” as in many 3D IMAX films. Due to this trend, I’ve actually tried to stay away from 3D films. I want 3D to add to my experience, not dictate it. I haven’t seen Avatar, and I have no plans to. I have, however, seen both Up and Toy Story 3 in 3D — and I loved them both. Pixar demonstrates the same care and good taste with its 3D rendering that it does with every other aspect of its films. The 3D was subtle, and I saw none of those annoying 3D! shots. In fact, after Toy Story 3, I overheard a young boy complaining to his mother: “The 3D wasn’t any good; nothing popped out at you!” She agreed.

And there’s the rub:  the tasteless, corny shots are the ones that grab audiences, and 3D makes money. If people tire of it, it may again fade into obscurity, but I think it’ll stick around in film if 3D television catches on. Still there’s a cloud in that silver lining: if 3D becomes commonplace, it is possible that things will stop popping out as us simply because they can.

Note:  The image dimness that people often mention regarding 3D is not always present, and is the fault of the theater. Many theaters simply do not purchase brighter projector lamps to compensate for the polarized glasses. I saw both the 2D and 3D versions of Up, and the 3D version was no less bright than the 2D one; however, Toy Story 3 (which I viewed in another state) was uncomfortably dim.

Agate Pass (Twin Peaks, part two)

For part one, click here.

WordPress will still not allow me to use italics in image captions, so please imagine that “Twin Peaks” and “Twin Peaks:  Fire Walk with Me” are italicized.

After my visit to Snoqualmie Valley, I spent a few hours in Seattle, where I visited Pike Place Market. From there, I spent several days touring the North Cascade Mountains, before taking a ferry across Puget Sound to the Kitsap Peninsula. It was here that I found my next Twin Peaks location. Continue reading

In Twin Peaks

WordPress will not allow me to use italics within image captions, so please imagine that “Twin Peaks” and “Twin Peaks:  Fire Walk with Me” are italicized.

I am a huge Twin Peaks fan. It’s my fifth favorite television show, and I’ve seen the entire series at least twice thrice (as of 9 July 2010). I’ve seen episodes one through sixteen (the good ones) at least four times. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen both the show’s pilot and Twin Peaks:  Fire Walk with Me, the 1992 prequel film. Since becoming a fan of the show, I’ve given the name Diane to my tape recorder — and my father’s Garmin Nüvi — and I dressed as Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole last Halloween.

For the uninitiated, Twin Peaks takes place in the fictional Washington town of the same name, in 1989. The local homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, turns up dead, and the investigation into her murder uncovers a web of mysteries and oddities. The show was created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, and the latter left his fingerprints all over it — in a very good way. Twin Peaks encompasses many genres, from crime mystery to dramedy to soap-opera parody. Unfortunately, the executives at ABC demanded that Laura’s killer be revealed during the second season. After this revelation the show fell apart, effectively becoming the sort of soap opera it had parodied during its height. ABC did not renew the show for a third season.

This summer, I have had the pleasure of being able to visit Snoqualmie Valley in Washington, where many exteriors for the series and film were shot. What follows is a record of my trip. Continue reading

Human Tales

“Human tails? Humans don’t have tails. They have big, big bottoms that they wear with bad shorts. They walk around going, ‘Hi, Helen!'”

–Batty Koda, FernGully:  The Last Rainforest (1992)

On the evening of 15 April 2010,  I had the pleasure (?) of seeing FernGully for the first time since I was ten. This was also the first time I’d ever seen it in a theater, let alone a theater full of college-aged former fans of this film. I am convinced that this only improved the viewing experience.

I admit at first I was worried that I’d wasted the dollar I’d paid for my admission. The projectionist had initially forgotten to remove the anamorphic lens from the projector, causing the image to be stretched horizontally on the screen. I was on my way to the box office to complain when this error was rectified, much to my relief.

The film is as bad as I remember it to be:  it is a badly-written, barely-decently-animated, preachy, environmentalist diatribe against logging and pollution, based entirely upon emotional appeals. I could go on about why it’s so bad, but that’s what the Nostalgia Critic is for. What really makes this movie so bad is the amount of talented people who contributed to it:  Robin Williams and Tim Curry both provided their voices for this film, and they each performed one song. Curry managed to somehow bridge the gap between his role as Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and  James Wood’s Hades in Hercules (1997). Elton John and Raffi each performed a song as well, adding to the wasted talent. Various other voices are provided by Grace Zabriskie, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, and Christian Slater.

As I previously indicated, what really made the movie worth the price of admission was the audience I saw it with. Bad movies are made bearable by watching them in groups, and you can’t get much better than a crowd of students shouting “That’s what she said!” and “Big-lipped alligator moment!” every so often. One particular couple of girls in the row behind me was very vocal, exclaiming the name of every animal that appeared on the screen — except for that random lizard no one can identify. (Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s a goanna.)

It was pretty fun to see FernGully again, mostly due to the nostalgia it induces, and also because I can now see it the tripe it is. I probably do not want to see this movie ever again — but then again, that’s what I thought before I heard it was playing at the university theater.