Monday, August 3, 2020

The 007 Project

The name's Project, MacGyver Project.  I've been a big 007 fan since high school and have seen all the movies and read all the Ian Fleming books. I know the movies really well from Goldeneye to the present -- the ones before Goldeneye I don't remember as well, to varying degrees, and I'm looking forward to rewatching them now. At some point I'd like to reread the books -- if I ever do that, I'll update the corresponding post with my thoughts on the book. For now, time to settle in with a vodka martini and get ready to save the world. 

Rankings Page: My rankings of the movies, Bond actors, title songs, villains, and Bond Girls. Updating as I go. 

Dr. No
From Russia with Love
You Only Live Twice
On her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live and Let Die
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Spy Who Love Me
For Your Eyes Only
A View to a Kill
The Living Daylights
License to Kill
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Die Another Day
Casino Royale
Quantum of Solace

Saturday, August 1, 2020

MacGyver Script Analysis: Squeeze Play

It's time for part 10 of my 139 part series where I compare an original MacGyver script with the final episode. My script for Squeeze Play is a revised final draft dated 11/2/90, and the episode aired on 12/17. I couldn't find much online about the writer, Art Washington. 

Below are some highlights from the script, where text in bold and italics is a direct quote. 
  • Probably the most interesting difference between the script and the final episode is that in the script, Willie Mays is the baseball player instead of Reggie Jackson. The Mays collection that Marsh is after includes his uniform, glove, and ball from the 1954 World Series where he made his famous catch. 
  • The script refers to Novis Reilly rather than Novis Riley, which is what appears in IMDB. 
  • Wendy is described as a pert and spunky 25 year-old woman and baseball-chic, and the manager of the card shop is described as strike-a-pose hip, John-Lennon-be-spectacled, long-haired young manager
  • We learn that Mama Colton's first name is Estelle. 
  • In my original Squeeze Play write-up, I expressed some confusion about the "Mets Stadium" that MacGyer mentions, and a commenter noted that he was probably talking about Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota. Indeed, in the script, MacGyver says, "I was a part-time usher at Metropolitan Stadium in college."  Then, Novis says, "Were you there for 'the moment'? My big home run, huh?"
  • In the same scene, Novis says about Wendy, "What do ya do with a woman like that?"  To which MacGyver amusingly responds, "I really don't want to answer that."  
  • Marsh says that business is booming and that he's expanding into Chicago and New York
  • Conversation between Wendy and MacGyver in the car as they get ready to track Willard (Marsh's goon):
    • You think baseball lovers will forgive my father for his gambling?  ~Wendy
    • If they have the chance. I don't think anything in the world can keep your dad out of the Hall of Fame...except lies.  ~MacGyver 
    • I can tell by the twinkle in his eye, that he's real proud of what I'm doing. In spite of the all the consequences, he's pulling for me to win this one.  ~Wendy.  It's not clear what she's referring to here. 
  • Then when they arrive at Marsh's, MacGyver tells Wendy to stay put because he's a little better at getting in and out than you. Turns out he was right. 
  • When MacGyver starts to call the police at the ballpark only for Novis to drive off, the script called for a carikaze: Almost runs MacGyver over as MacGyver must dive out of the way. Big mistake cutting that from the script. 
  • When MacGyver and Novis exchange glances at Marsh's printing factory,  MacGyver rubs his nose, which means steal the entrance door to Reilly, points to the entrance door. Ducks away. Not sure what "steal the entrance door" means here.  
  • Wendy grabs a bat and swings for Marsh but instead accidentally hits Novis, who Marsh pulled into the bat's path.  
  • That's what I call winning teamwork. ~Novis after his big scoreboard hit. 
  • From the denouement at Mama's house:
    • You alright, Novis? ~MacGyver 
    • I've never testified before a grand jury. I guess I'm a little nervous. ~Novis
    • Just think of it like being at bat. Three-two pitch. Bottom of the ninth. Down one run, two men on. World Series on the line. All the eyes, all the pressure in the world is right there on you. ~MacGyver.  Not sure this is the best way to get Novis to relax. 
    • I love that feeling. I love it. I'm the guy who has to do it. I love it.  ~Novis.  I stand corrected. 
    • That's his point. ~Wendy

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Mutt Williams asks Indiana Jones to go to Peru in search of a mutual friend who found a crystal skull. While they battle the Soviets for the skull, Indy learns that Mutt is his son. They take the skull to a temple and reunite it with some other skulls, who then fly off into another dimension. 

Memorable Quote:
There were a few, but they all had the same problem.  ~Indy
Yeah? What's that?  ~Marion
They weren't you, honey.  ~Indy

I like the part at the end where Indy calls Mutt "Junior."

    The lack of any highlights.

    Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
    In an interview with Empire Magazine in October 2011, Steven Spielberg admitted that he never liked the MacGuffin of this movie. It was George Lucas' idea, and Spielberg only put it in the movie because of his friendship with Lucas. He said in that interview: "I am loyal to my best friend", he said. "When he writes a story he believes in, even if I don't believe in it, I'm going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it."

    Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
    • If you're a big fan of this movie, you might want to stop reading because I'm coming in hot. 
    • We're not past the title and I already have a problem. Why not just "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull," which has a much better ring to it? I read that George Lucas insisted on the "Kingdom" part -- this won't be the last time you hear about Lucas screwing up this movie. 
    • The first two minutes of the teens joyriding to the tune of Hound Dog is a wasted two minutes. We're in the 1950s -- we got it. 
    • The opening scene in the warehouse doesn't work at all -- we don't know what's going on or who anyone is, and the dialogue is already weak. 
    • In my Raiders post, I emphatically stated that Harrison Ford is the perfect Indiana Jones -- end of story. He's also one of my favorite all-time actors. That said, it's clear right away that he's too old for this and that they should have moved on with a different actor. It just makes for a better movie to have a younger, more optimistic, more energetic guy who is capable of doing more and can freshen up the series -- it's why they periodically bring in a new James Bond rather than having the old one working into his 80s. 
    • The nuclear test on the 1950s town doesn't have an ounce of bearing on the plot, other than to once again hammer home the point that it's the 1950s. Additionally, the fridge that he climbs into appears to travel a mile at high speed and flip a hundred times, but he's perfectly fine. Oh yeah, he also survived the nuclear blast and the fallout. If you guessed that the fridge was George Lucas's idea, you'd be right. 
    • I don't care for the backstory of Indy as an army colonel who spent the previous decade undertaking missions against the Soviets. Why couldn't he just be a professor who looks for rare antiquities? 
    • 26:11 mark -- he's got a bigger house than I would have guessed.
    • This is the only movie I've ever seen Shia LaBeouf in. He seems like a decent actor, but his character is kind of annoying. He also seems too short to be the next Indiana Jones. Anyway, it's a moot point because it's already been announced that he won't be in Indiana Jones 5.  
    • Indy tells Mutt that he rode with Pancho Villa -- it's cool that they acknowledged the canon of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (Spring Break Adventure).  
    • Indy takes a page out of MacGyver's playbook of fathering a child that he had no knowledge of until much later. 
    • The dialogue with Indy, Marion, and Mutt in the truck is somewhat entertaining, although it feels like a conversation between grandparents and not really what I'm looking for in an Indiana Jones movie.
    • 1:19:01 mark -- With Shia's swordfight in the jungle, we're entering the really bad CGI part of the movie. 
    • 1:22:00 -- OK, now we're at the really, really bad CGI with the edge-of-the-cliff driving scene followed by Shia vine swinging among monkeys. The monkey swinging is not only the low point of the series but also one of the low points in cinema. 
    • I understand why filmmakers use CGI (e.g. it's much cheaper, easier, and safer to use CGI ants instead of real ants), but there should be a threshold for scenes where if they look unrealistic enough, they have to be cut from the movie.
    • Let's discuss a few of the characters: 
      • Irina Spalko: bad character; underdeveloped; uninteresting; wooden; doesn't connect with Indy
      • Ox: an even worse character; pointless; rambles throughout the entire movie and it's not well explained why; also underdeveloped
      • Mack: the worst character of them all; extremely underdeveloped; motivations are unclear throughout; annoying
    • Spielberg and Ford were both against having aliens in the movie and only went along with it begrudgingly. As I discuss in my podcast with the legendary Joe Passman, it was at George Lucas's insistence that there be aliens. Sigh. 
    • "Enough! Enough!"  ~Irina getting her mind blown by the aliens.
    • "Enough! Enough!"  ~Me watching this movie. 

      Final Analysis:
      After Last Crusade, there would be a story every year about how Indiana Jones 4 was in the works, but first they were waiting for the right script. Well, it's too bad they didn't wait longer, because this was painful to watch -- my face was practically melting like Belloq's at the end of Raiders. In addition to all the criticisms I've mentioned above, it's striking that there are essentially no highlights at all and not even one scene that I'm legitimately excited about rewatching or thinking, "I can't wait for this part." Even the soundtrack isn't good.

      Well, I've been working on the Indiana Jones project for 2 years now, and it's time to put it to rest. I'm sorry we had to end it on such a somber note after the glory that was Last Crusade, but who knows, maybe Indy 5 will right this wrong. Hopefully they take the car keys away from George first. 

      Thursday, April 9, 2020

      Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

      Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
      Indiana Jones's search for his missing father propels him on a quest to find the Holy Grail before the Nazis do. 

      Memorable Quote:
      He chose...poorly.  ~Knight

      The middle third of the movie beginning in Castle Brunwald and ending with Jones Sr. rousing the seagulls is 35 straight minutes of pure glory. Scenes include:
      • Discovering the Nazis in the castle and finding Jones Sr. 
      • Elsa and Donovan's reveal
      • Escape through the fireplace
      • Motorcycle chase, accompanied by the incomparable Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra
      • Conversation between Junior and Senior in the sidecar by the signpost
      • Going into Berlin (the lion's den) and coming face to face with the Führer himself (my favorite scene of all of these)
      • On the Zeppelin
      • Plane chase ending with the seagulls
      I don't really have much to say about these scenes individually because I'd say the same thing for each one: iconic...masterful dialogue and script...tremendous action and adventure...legendary soundtrack... amazing acting...memorable quote after memorable quote...suspenseful....humorous. I could go on and on.

      Basically, each of these individual scenes is a tour de force in their own right, and each could be the highlight of the movie. But when you combine them all right in a row, it's unreal. 

      A large part of why this all works so well is due to the villainous Nazis. As the great Joe Passman said on my podcast, "There's just this special thing about hating Nazis. It's just so great. It's just so wonderfully presented...the disgust and the hatred of Nazis." Additionally, there's the always exciting plot of one man versus an army, so when you take the All-American hero and put him up against the Nazis in their own backyard -- I mean, can you ask for any more in a story?  The answer is yes, by adding the quest for the Holy Grail and the idea that if the Nazis get the grail, the "armies of darkness will march all over the face of the earth," resulting in the highest stakes imaginable. 

      I don't know why Brody and Sallah were made to be so stupid. It's good for a few laughs, but I wish Sallah especially was more like his character in Raiders where he was a legitimate wingman to Indy instead of a buffoon. In particular, the part where Indy emasculates him with the "No Camels!" line is hard to watch.

      Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
      Tom Stoppard was paid $120,000 to re-write dialogue, specifically the lines for Henry and the Henry-Indiana exchange. After this movie's release and subsequent success, he was paid another $1 million as a bonus. In "The Last Crusade: An Oral History," an article published in Empire Magazine in 2006, Spielberg said about the "Junior" and "Senior" conversations: "It was an emotional story, but I didn't want to get sentimental. Their disconnection from each other was the basis for a lot of comedy, and it gave Tom Stoppard, who was uncredited, a lot to write. Tom is pretty much responsible for every line of dialogue."

      It's interesting to read about the evolution of the script. It went through many iterations, at one point centered around a haunted mansion and later around an African Monkey King and a garden of immortal peaches. Once it got to Jeffrey Boam (who has screenplay credit), the plot was close to what we're familiar with. But read this great article by editor/producer Mike Fitzgerald about Stoppard's rewrite and see how infinitely better the movie was thanks to Stoppard's uncredited contribution (which was way more than just dialogue). I'm not sure why Stoppard wasn't involved with Crystal Skull -- apparently he was consulted at one point but didn't contribute. Bummer. 

      Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
      • The opening 10 minutes is the best opening 10 minutes of a movie that I've ever seen. The idea of using young Indy was brilliant, and it was perfectly, I repeat perfectly, executed.
        • Beautiful setting amidst the red rocks of the American West.
        • The misdirection of seeing someone who's dressed like Indy but isn't Indy, followed by the reveal of Indy as a teenager. 
        • John Williams's magnificent score. 
        • The chase on the train, which is both exciting and important to Indy's origin story, as we see his fear of snakes, use of the whip, and scar on his chin.
        • The masterful performance of River Phoenix. With respect to Sean Patrick Flanery, who is an outstanding and likable actor, Phoenix brings an edge that's more in keeping with Harrison Ford's portrayal -- in fact, Phoenix worked with Ford on The Mosquito Coast and admitted to studying his traits. When he climbs the rope with the cross and turns to deliver a sly smile, it feels like we're watching Ford.
        • The brief interaction with Henry Jones Sr., which sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
        • The passing of the hat. "You lost today, kid. But it doesn't mean you have to like it."  
      • If things had broken right, the college museum could have had the Ark of the Covenant, the Cross of Coronado, and the Holy Grail. Not too shabby. 
      • A little weird how the students filed calmly out of Prof. Jones's class but then swarm him in his office a few minutes later. They're going to be pretty stressed when they realize that he'll be gone for a month. 
      • Julian Glover, the actor who plays Donovan, is British, but you'd never know it from his convincing portrayal of American magnate Walter Donovan. 
      • I can remember as a kid going to my local library looking for books about the Holy Grail after watching this movie. I vaguely remember signing one out, but there were no clues about a knight's tomb or a canyon of the crescent moon. 
      • Irish actress Alison Doody (Elsa) was only 22 when this movie came out (Ford was 46). The age gap isn't as noticeable on screen. 
      • Goof: As Indy makes the hole in the library floor, the giant X no longer appears. Also, the floor doesn't look like it's from the 1100s.
      • Rankings of what I would least like to be stuck in a room with: 1-Bugs, 2-Rats, 3-Snakes. 
      • Despite being in an 800 year-old tomb, Indy can open his eyes underwater and see just fine. 
      • I could do without the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword guys -- seems kind of weird that they'd go around shooting people with machine guns in the name of protecting the grail. 
      • When I was a kid, there was a picture in my Sunday paper TV Guide of Indy fighting Kazim, and the caption said something like "Indiana Jones battles the Nazis..." As a result of that picture and caption, I thought for several years that the Brotherhood guys were called Nazis (pronounced Nah-zizz in my head), because I had thought that the real Nazis were spelled like Knotsies.
      • A few of the numerous memorable quotes from the middle third of the movie:
        • Nazis. I hate these guys.
        • Germany has declared war on the Jones boys. 
        • I find that if I just sit down and think....the solution presents itself. 
        • My boy, we're pilgrims in an unholy land. 
        • All I have to do is squeeze. All I have to do is scream. 
      • Indy's boat diversion would have worked much better if he would have waited an extra minute before driving off in the sidecar. 
      • I said that the Temple of Doom soundtrack was one of the best ever, and this soundtrack is even better -- it might be the best soundtrack of all time. 
      • It's amazing that Indy is able to locate Elsa at the rally. 
      • Terrible decision by the Brotherhood to attack the Nazis when and where they do. The only thing they have going for them is the element of surprise, and they give that up to launch a feeble attack that accomplishes nothing except getting themselves killed. 
      • The guy who plays Vogel (the Nazi commander) is really good and is actually British, not German. 
      • I'm not sure who set up the grail booby traps (maybe God/Jesus?), but whoever did had kind of a bleak worldview. You'd think the grail is this holy thing that should be celebrated happily, and yet here they are decapitating people, 
      • It makes sense that Indy figures out that he should kneel under the first blade, but how does he know to roll over the second blade coming up from the ground? 
      • The "leap of faith" is arguably the most epic moment in movie history, although it did occur to me that if he had gotten down on his knees and reached out with his hands, he could have felt the bridge and would not have needed faith. 
      • Shouldn't Donovan have at least asked Elsa, "What made you pick this one" before taking a drink?
      • "Indiana, Indiana, let it go." What a line...what a moment...what a metaphor...what a movie. 
      • If Indy could use his whip to grab his father on the tank and to grab Willie's pants in Temple of Doom, couldn't he have lassoed the grail? It was at least worth a try. Then it could have gone in the college museum next to the Cross of Coronado. 
      • Kind of rude of the Joneses not to wave back to the knight when he waves to them -- show the guy some respect, he's 700 years old! 
      • Riding off into the sunset = the perfect ending to the series. Wait, it's not the end? They made another movie?  

        Final Analysis:
        Not much to say here, other than this is the best movie of all time. 

        Friday, April 3, 2020

        Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

        Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
        After jumping out of a plane over India, Indiana Jones helps a poor village by rescuing its children and its sacred stones from a Thuggee cult. 

        Memorable Quote:
        What is Shankara?  ~Short Round
        Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.  ~Indiana Jones

        Indy paying his respects to Short Round for saving him, followed by this tour de force:
        • Indy, now let's get out of here.  ~Willie
        • Right. All of us.  ~Indy
        Indy's transformation from a fortune-and-glory seeker to a savior is complete, as we cut to the majestic Parade of the Slave Children theme and Indy freeing the children while wreaking havoc on the Thuggees. One of the greatest "make you feel like you can run through a wall" scenes in movie history.

        It's too bad that Lao Che was never brought to justice, as far as we know.

        Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
        The diamond that Indy is looking to acquire in his meeting with Lao Che, in Club Obi-wan, is the Peacock's Eye (the diamond that young Indy, and his friend Remy Baudouin) go hunting for after WWI ends, in Chapter 18 of "The Young Indiana Jones Adventures" prequel series.

        Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
        • As a kid, I had a framed Temple of Doom poster growing up, so my relationship with this movie goes back a long way. 
        • On paper, the Anything Goes musical number might seem kind of random, but it works here, in part because of John Williams's great arrangement. It is a little weird in the middle of the song when they show 30 caucasian ladies on a massive stage that looks way too big for the nightclub and that seems to be hidden from the view of the patrons. 
        • It's sad to see Indy reduced to giving a priceless historical artifact to gangsters in exchange for a diamond, but then again his character growth from a "fortune and glory" mentality to saving the children is the theme of the movie. And if the diamond really is the Peacock's Eye which he searched for many years earlier, it's a little more defensible. 
        • 9:02 mark -- I never noticed before how the band continues to play during the commotion, and a bit later they sit calmly a few feet away from Indy while the gangsters are throwing knives at him. 
        • The scene with Indy, Willie, Lao, and his sons around the table is fantastic. If there was an academy award for a maniacal laugh, the guy playing Lao's son (the one who doesn't get impaled by a skewer) would be the clear winner. 
        • Willie is a big American star who is headlining at a popular club, and she's known Indy for 5 minutes, but that doesn't stop her from getting on a plane with him at a moment's notice and without any belongings or knowing where they're going. 
        • 13:22 -- "Nice try Lao Che!"
        • Indy says he doesn't know how to fly the plane, but he knows how to fly in Last Crusade ("Fly, yes. Land, no"). He flew several times in Attack of the Hawkmen, but I don't remember if he actually piloted or not. 
        • 21:51 -- One of my favorite exchanges in the movie:
          • That's more food than these people eat in a week. They're starving.  ~Indy 
          • Oh, I'm sorry, you can have it.  ~Willie. 
          • Eat it.  ~Indy
          • I'm not hungry.   ~Willie
          • You're insulting them, and you're embarrassing me. Eat it.  ~Indy (with a big grin)

          • While I'm much less of a picky eater than I used to be, I'm still a bit picky. And there have been times where I've been at someone's house and have been repulsed by what's on my plate (I can think of one time where there was a fruit salad with mayonnaise), but in those moments I've thought of this scene and discovered the inner fortitude to eat it anyway with a smile on my face. 
        • I like the old guy in the village. Apparently he didn't speak English and recited his lines without knowing what they meant. I also like that Indy is familiar with Pankot Palace and speaks the same dialect as the villagers. 
        • The village scenes have a timeless, classic feel, and I love the nighttime scene where the village is aglow with firelight and the dying kid gives Indy the centuries-old parchment. 
        • Another fantastic nighttime scene when Indy and Short Round are playing poker while Willie is getting scared by animals and then unknowingly flings a snake, much to Indy's horror. That's why they call it the jungle, sweetheart!
        • Ford hurt his back riding the elephants and had to fly from Sri Lanka to the U.S. for surgery, which put the entire movie in jeopardy.
        • I don't know why Indy sternly tells the others, "Don't come up here!" when inspecting the statue and getting blood on his hands. He's already leading them into harm's way by taking them to the palace, so why be concerned by the statue?
        • Dinner scene = classic. While the menu gets all the attention with its eyeball soup and the monkey brains, the conversation between Indy and Chatter Lal is an underrated part of the scene. 
        • The bedroom cat-and-mouse scene between Indy and Willie is tremendous and includes some memorable dialogue, and I've always thought it was cool how the bad guy emerges from blending in with the mural. It's a good time to mention Kate Capshaw -- I don't recall seeing her in any other movie or tv show, but she's incredible in this movie: spunky, charismatic, pretty, funny, and sweet all at once. This movie is where she met Spielberg, and then they married in 1991. Some great lines in this scene:
          • What sort of research would you do on me?  ~Willie
          • Nocturnal activities.   ~Indy

          • She's not coming. I can't believe I'm not going.   ~Indy

          • This is the night that I slipped right through your fingers!   ~Willie
        • From one amazing scene to another as we head into the spiked room. Everything about this scene is perfect, except for the timing of the spikes (i.e. in the amount of time it takes Willie to pull the lever, the spikes would have killed them long before given the height of the room -- it would have worked better if the ceiling was higher). Nevertheless, it's an iconic, first-ballot hall-of-fame scene with memorable music, tremendous acting from Ford and Capshaw, and some of the best lines of the movie:
          • There are two dead people down here!  ~Willie
          • There're gonna be two dead people in here!  ~Indy

          • And then my favorite: We...are die!  ~Indy
        • I'd be remiss if I talked about the spike scene without mentioning the bugs. They are really disgusting, especially the part where Willie pulls the lever and these massive bugs (including a giant centipede) crawl into her hair. Really, really disgusting. 
        • More great dialogue: 
          • Have you ever seen anything like this before?  ~Willie
          • Nobody's seen this for 100 years.  ~Indy
        • That brings us to the human sacrifice scene. This movie led to the development of the PG-13 rating and is usually described as the darkest of the Indy movies, and that label is epitomized by this scene. Obviously, it's a dark scene, but I find it more cartoonish than scary or disturbing, and I don't know that it's any worse than the end of Raiders with the face melting Nazis. 
        • And yet another of my favorite lines! 
          • You could get killed chasing after your damn fortune and glory.  ~Willie
          • Maybe. But not today.  ~Indy
        • 1:08:54 -- It always gives me goosebumps when Indy takes the stones and starts walking away, only to stop in his tracks when he hears a child screaming.
        • Fun fact: the massive bearded Thuggee that Indy hits with a rock is played by the same actor who played two characters in Raiders: the Sherpa in the bar fight and the mechanic that gets propellered. 
        • With all due respect to Short Round, he's not knocking down any adult fighters when he weighs 50 pounds. 
        • Such an amazing set piece as Indy swings from the platform to the mine cart while the main theme plays. The filming of this and the following mine cart chase is all-time great. 
        • One thing about the first three Indiana Jones movies is that there's no wasted scenes or dull moments -- the plot just flies along. 
        • When Indy instructs Short Round to "Watch it on the curves, or we'll fly right off the track," I guess that means apply the brakes on the curves, although I'm not quite sure. Impressive driving for a 9 year-old kid, but remember, Shorty knows how to drive. 
        • Now we get to the climatic rope bridge scene, which my friend Joe Passman aptly described on my podcast as one of the best scenes in movie history. 
        • There's a great video in the special features DVD of Harrison Ford by himself on the rope bridge running at top speed like a maniac. 
        • 1:44:56 -- Hang on lady, we going for a ride!
        • Indy returns the children and the rock to the village and "sees its power now." I see one of the happiest, most glorious movie endings of all time. 

        Final Analysis:
        Quite simply, a tour de force and of the best movies of all time. It's also one of the most rewatchable -- there's not a bad scene or a dull moment, and the plot moves with the speed of a runaway mine cart.  The soundtrack is all-time great (I bought the CD a few years ago and often listen to it when I'm driving), the actors are all tremendous, and India is a magnificent setting and unique for a big-budget American movie.

        Not everyone feels the same way as I do about this movie, including Spielberg who has badmouthed it quite a bit. Some feel that it stigmatizes India in a negative way and is culturally inappropriate -- India was so against it that they didn't allow filming in the country (the India scenes were filmed in Sri Lanka). I don't begrudge anyone who is offended or bothered by it, but I can only speak for myself when I say that it is one of my all-time favorites. 

        Wednesday, March 18, 2020

        Raiders of the Lost Ark

        Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
        Indiana Jones tries to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. 

        Memorable Quote:
        Snakes, why did it have to be snakes.  ~Indy

        The map room scene with John Williams's amazing theme. Powerful stuff.

        The implication behind the conversation when Indy sees Marion for the first time:
        • I learned to hate you in the last ten years.  ~Marion
        • I never meant to hurt you.  ~Indy
        • I was a child. I was in love. It was wrong and you knew it.  ~Marion
        I know what you're thinking, that it's a little weird that she says she was a child, but that's just a figure of speech, right?  Let's ask George Lucas, whose thoughts were preserved in a transcript of a brainstorming session he had with Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan in 1978:

        • We have to get them cemented into a very strong relationship. A bond.  ~Lucas
        • I like it if they already had a relationship at one point. Because then you don't have to build it.  ~Kasdan
        • I was thinking that this old guy could have been his mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven ???!!!!!!??????!!!  ~Lucas (I added the extra punctuation)
        • And he was forty-two.  ~Kasdan
        • He hasn't seen her in twelve years. Now she's twenty-two. It's a real strange relationship.  ~Lucas
        I'm speechless. Apparently the script had Marion at 15 and Indy at 25 when they first met rather than 11 and 42, but that's still statutory rape. 

        Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
        When Brody first goes to Indy's house to discuss the mission, Jones is dressed the way he is because he is entertaining a young woman in his bedroom. The script originally planned to show her before moving to the next scene, to give Indy a more worldly persona (like James Bond). However, her appearance was cut, as Steven Spielberg thought that being a playboy did not fit Indy's character.

        Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
        • Paramount Pictures: the same studio that gave us MacGyver and Mission Impossible. Consider me on Team Paramount. 
        • Vic Tablian plays Barranca (the guy dressed in white who pulls a gun on Indy) and the monkey man later in the movie, and he played Demetrios in Young Indy's My First Adventure and Spring Break Adventure. Alfred Molina plays Satipo, and I know him from Maverick and Chocolat. I'm not sure why Indy has Satipo along -- he doesn't seem to add any value. 
        • Where did the boulder end up going?
        • Notice the plane's tail letters: "OB - CPO", as in Obi-Wan Kenobi and C3PO.
        • Indy is surprised to see the snake in the plane (Reggie), but wouldn't he have seen it before, assuming he was on the same plane on the way down?
        • Great opening that's simple, gritty, and reveals everything we need to know about the character: his rough edge, his daring, the costume, the whip, the fear of snakes, the theme song, and his relationship to Belloq. 
        • It's clear right from the beginning that Harrison Ford is the perfect choice to play Indiana Jones. With all due respect to Tom Selleck and anyone else that was considered, no one else could have done what Ford does with this character. 
        • Now we move to the classroom and see Professor Jones, and his nerdy, clumsy demeanor is a sharp contrast to his macho persona from the previous scene. 
        • I like how a student leaves an apple on Indy's desk and then Marcus picks it up, brushes it off, and puts it in his pocket. 
        • Marcus says, "I'm sure everything you do for the museum conforms to the international treaty for the protection of antiquities." Uh, what?  Indiana Jones might have a lot of good qualities, but he wasn't conforming to any academic standards when he went into the Peruvian temple to steal a gold icon from the natives while making no effort to research the site or do any historic preservation. Lucas makes it clear in the transcript I mentioned earlier that Indy has a bit of a dark side and is not a by-the-book archaeologist:
          • He is an archeologist and an anthropologist. A Ph.D. He's a doctor, he's a college professor. What happened is, he's also a sort of rough and tumble guy. But he got involved in going in and getting antiquities. Sort of searching out antiquities. And it became a very lucrative profession so he, rather than be an archeologist, he bacame sort of an outlaw archeologist. He really started being a grave robber, for hire, is what it really came down to. And the museums would hire him to steal things out of tombs and stuff. Or, locate them. In the archeology circles he knows everybody, so he's sort of like a private detective grave robber. A museum will give him an assignment... A bounty hunter.
        • Watching this movie and Last Crusade as a kid legitimately made me want to work as an archaeologist when I grew up where I would hunt for treasures and pledge loyalty to a museum that would receive all my findings.
        • Why couldn't Professor Abner Ravenwood be in a young Indy episode when he's at the U. of Chicago? 
        • Indy asks if the college museum can have the ark when he finds it, and Marcus says yes. Imagine being a small college museum: "Here we have some old coins, there's some ancient pottery, over here is the Ark of the Covenant..."
        • My second favorite scene is where Indy and Marcus are explaining what the ark is to the two Army Intelligence officers in the college's great hall.  The dialogue and acting is excellent, and I just enjoy it, especially when Indy opens the book (is it a bible?) and shows the army guys the picture of the ark and we hear the ark theme. 
        • Interesting that Indy is described as an "expert on the occult" while also being completely dismissive of "magic, superstitious, hocus pocus."
        • According to the Indiana Jones wiki, Marshall College is in Connecticut, but Indy's plane is shown taking off from San Francisco. 
        • Toht, the nefarious Nazi, is on Indy's flight from San Francisco. On such a long flight on a small plane with several layovers, wouldn't everyone on the plane have spoken to each other at some point?  That would have been a fun deleted scene where the plane stops to refuel in the Philippines and Toht fakes an American accent while making small talk with Indy. 
        • The Marion drinking scene is reminiscent of MacGyver-Eye of Osiris, as noted by me in my Eye of Osiris review. 
        • An incredible entrance by Ronald Lacey as Arnold Toht, a great villain who doesn't get enough screen time.  "We...are....not thirsty!" 
        • It's nice to see Sallah as more intelligent than in The Last Crusade, where he's kind of a buffoon. I'm a little confused about why they say he's been hired about the Germans -- is that because he was forced to or because he's acting as a double agent?
        • Great blasé facial expression from Ford as he shoots the swordsman. Supposedly there was going to be a more elaborate fight scene, but Ford had dysentery during filming and suggested a quick resolution because he was uncomfortable. 
        • Some good dialogue between Indy and Belloq in the bar, though I wonder why they wouldn't kill him there or try to get the headpiece out of him. I guess as my mom would say, then there wouldn't be a movie. 
        • There's quite a bit of important screen time for the monkey.
        • I've always been a bit bothered by Indy's transparency and lack of discretion while digging out the Well of Souls. He seems to think he and his small digging team can operate completely out in the open (and on top of a hill, no less) while surrounded by tons of Nazis. Not that there's an easy way to be discrete about it, but still.
        • It's crazy the lengths that the production team went to in filming the snakes, some of which is recounted in the IMDB trivia. For all that I complain about the use of CGI in movies of today, I understand why someone would choose CGI over bringing in thousands (repeat: thousands) of real snakes.
        • Where does the kerosene bucket and pump come from in the Well of Souls?
        • When Indy and Marion exit the Well of Souls, there's a brief shot of a guy sitting there kind of slumped over -- is he dead, or taking a nap?  Also, shouldn't the exterior where they exited have been a clue to the Nazis that something was in there when they were first looking for the ark?
        • I'm not normally someone who pays much attention to costuming, but the default Indiana Jones costume is spectacular. It just looks so freakin' cool, worn, and comfortable. Apparently it was modeled after Charlton Heston's costume in Secret of the Incas
        • The truck action scene is outstanding, though I wonder why the Nazis didn't just shoot the truck tires. 
        • Indy doesn't have his fedora when he swims to the sub. I guess he must have found a way to contact the sub when he got back to the States and asked them to send his hat back. 
        • As you know, I'm not a huge fan of magic in tv/movies, and so I don't care for the ending where the ark melts everyone's face and burns them with fire lasers. The ark is good at cleaning up, too, because there's not a trace of any Nazi bodies when it's all said and done. 
        • When the bureaucrat condescendingly says "Top men", Indy should slap him. 
        • Well done on the box scene at the end. I'd say that we'll see the box again in Crystal Skull, but I'm still pretending that movie doesn't exist. 

        Final Analysis:
        Obviously it's a groundbreaking, transcendent movie. My impression is that the majority of moviegoers and critics feel like it's the best Indy movie, but I see it as a notch below and as laying the foundation for the next two, which are two of the best movies of all time. I don't mean to put this movie down, though -- it's a great one. The plot is the epitome of high concept -- as you can see above, I completely summarized the movie in 14 words. I also love the high stakes, which Marcus Brody establishes when he says, "An army which carries the ark before it is invincible."

        I'll say it again: Harrison Ford is beyond perfect for this part. His look, his voice, his attitude, his sensitivity -- we're talking about a once in a generation combination. Much like RDA, he's basically playing himself, whether it's as Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Witness, Air Force One, The Fugitive, Patriot Games, etc. But that's not a criticism, given that "himself" is a pretty cool dude and someone we love to see in movies.

        Tuesday, March 10, 2020

        Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 22: Hollywood Follies

        To Watch: Click Here

        Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
        Indiana Jones gets a job in Hollywood to make sure that a perfectionistic director gets his film done by its deadline. Then, he works as another director's assistant on a Western and finds himself on screen after several stunt men get injured and an actor dies. 

        Memorable Quote:
        It's no life for a woman, sharing a bed with a man and his mummy.  ~Harry Carey

        I like the mood of the scenes where the actors and the cowboys hang out at night around the campfire and tell stories -- looks like fun.

        Indy's moral compass goes south when he takes the drunk Italian prince into Mexico and abandons him with no passport.

        Brushes with historical figures:
        • George Gershwin (second appearance)
        • Carl Laemmle
        • Isadore Bernstein
        • Irving Thalberg
        • Erich von Stroheim
        • Jack Ford
        • Harry Carey
        • Wyatt Earp

        Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
        • 5:25 mark -- what an amazing train!  Shouldn't we have better trains now than they did 100 years ago? 
        • Apparently Foolish Wives was a real movie and is described by wikipedia as an "erotic silent drama film." Sounds like a real hoot. 
        • 57:44 -- for being a young writer trying to make it in the industry, Claire has a very nice beach house. 
        • 1:04:50 -- director Ford stops the caravan to shoot a scene with the dramatic sunset, but that wouldn't translate in a black and white movie, right?
        • The scene with the burning cabin looks a little bit like Vazquez Rocks from the MacGyver Location Adventure
        • 1:12:05 - I think this is the first time in Young Indy that his fear of snakes is mentioned. 
        • The horse and wagon stunt is reminiscent of Raiders where he crawls underneath the truck. 

        Final Analysis:
        Overall a good episode. I liked the second half better than the first, and it was cool how they mixed in some black and white footage of the "finished product" during the Western scenes. Ranking it 6th out of 22.

        Final Series Analysis:
        Most of these episodes I watched for the first time, and I hardly remembered anything about the ones that I had seen previously. Let's start with the pros of the series:
        • A production value that was second to none. Lucasfilm has cash, and they weren't afraid to spend it while filming on location all over the world with top-notch cinematography. I'm not a tv historian, but I can't imagine there were too many other network tv shows that filmed in as many exotic locations as this one.
        • The war scenes are likely the best and most elaborate to ever appear on network tv. 
        • Sean Patrick Flanery is an excellent actor, and he brought a high degree of likability and charisma to this role. His softer, more sensitive character isn't really in keeping with Harrison Ford's more macho, edgier portrayal, something that we see in the Last Crusade where River Phoenix portrays young Indy with an edge. But I don't fault Flanery for his interpretation. 
        • The guest star list is incredible: Daniel Craig, Elizabeth Hurley, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Vanessa Redgrave, Max von Sydow, Anne Heche, and Christopher Lee, among others.
        • They found a way to get Harrison Ford involved. Kudos.  
        Now, let's move to the cons:
        • Not enough adventure. That's an understatement, so I'll say it again: NOT EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO ENOUGH ADVENTURE!  I love history, more so than probably 95% of the population, but even I thought there was way too much emphasis on placing Indy in historical situations with every single famous person from the 1910s. That emphasis is evident in the DVD set where there are hour-long documentaries that accompany each episode and explain the historical references in great detail. It's as if the production team (or maybe just George Lucas) was more interested in giving the audience a history lesson rather than making some exciting stories. And as I said, I love history and I love Indiana Jones, but even I thought that the history was too much. With the budget they had, they could have had some amazing adventure set pieces, and there should have been plot line after plot line of "Indy finds a treasure and is chased by a lot of bad guys" instead of "Indy dates multiple women while being a stage manager for a Broadway play" (and that was one of the better episodes). 
        • To continue on that point, the episodes with nine year-old Indy are practically unwatchable given their glacial pace. As older Indy would say, "They belong in a museum."
        • I'm not a Remy fan -- I just find him annoying. 
        • The war episodes go on for too long.
        • Not enough references to Indy characteristics, such as the whip, fear of snakes, and the map screenshots when he travels. Instead of meeting with some obscure 20th century writer that 99% of the audience has never heard of, why couldn't he have had some interactions with a young Belloq or a young Lao Che?
        So there you go.  I'm glad I watched it, but I'm also glad to be done with the kid stuff, because it's time to get serious and move to the movies. Fortune and glory await.