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 We Didn't Start The 80s 
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Post Re: We Didn't Start The 80s

Melvin Butterworth wrote:

The 80s were a bit of a disappointment, especially considering the cinematic achievements of the 60s and 70s.


Well, I wasn't putting that much thought into it actually. It was more like "All the popular kids like U2, so I'll listen to Foghat. That'll show 'em."

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 7:31 am
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Captain Terror wrote:

Well, I wasn't putting that much thought into it actually. It was more like "All the popular kids like U2, so I'll listen to Foghat. That'll show 'em."

*fist bump*


Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:23 am
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I like VelJohnson as Powell but I always thought that last scene was the worst thing about the movie.

Given that Karl basically died earlier and only came back to life so that Powell could learn to kill again.


As for Yarn's (?) point, I think there's a decent middle ground of viewing things in their original context without automatically giving things a pass because they were common or popular. I don't know if Die Hard is the best example however, as I think issues people might have with its characters aren't things I really consider the product of its time. (i.e. The dumb cops seem central to its aim to skewer ineffectual authority figures and traditional action heroes, rather than something inherent in its premise.)

EDIT: Anybody shittalking Ellis can fuck right off, however. That guy is a GOAT douchebag.

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:11 am
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Rock wrote:
EDIT: Anybody shittalking Ellis can fuck right off, however. That guy is a GOAT douchebag.

Best product placement Coca-Cola has ever had.


Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:48 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
Best product placement Coca-Cola has ever had.



Nice product placement with the cocaine, too.

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 1:19 pm
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Rock wrote:
Anybody shittalking Ellis can fuck right off, however. That guy is a GOAT douchebag.

YES. I was actually going to make a post about that---
One thing the 80s excelled at is the Punchable Douchebag Character. My personal Hall of Fame would include

Stathis Borans (The Fly)
Image

Walter Peck (Ghostbusters)
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and Die Hard gave us a two-fer with Ellis and Thornburg
Image
Image

Any other submissions are welcome.

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 1:28 pm
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these are movies where you go in knowing that personal growth will be charted in kills so I probably didn't take much notice when the killing of the wrong person for the wrong reason was absolved by killing the right person for the right reason.


Thu Sep 27, 2018 2:48 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
YES. I was actually going to make a post about that---
One thing the 80s excelled at is the Punchable Douchebag Character. My personal Hall of Fame would include

Stathis Borans (The Fly)
Image

Walter Peck (Ghostbusters)
Image

and Die Hard gave us a two-fer with Ellis and Thornburg
Image
Image

Any other submissions are welcome.



David Warner as Ed Dillinger in TRON:

Image


David Patrick Kelly as Sully in Commando:

Image


James Spader as Steff in Pretty in Pink:

Image


Craig Sheffer as Hardy Jenns in Some Kind of Wonderful:

Image

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:08 pm
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I've developed a scientific hypothesis called The Scott Bakula Principle. I theorize that everyone has one actor they want to punch in the face. They may have no personal problem with the guy, they may even enjoy his acting work, but there's something about their face that makes them punchable.

Mine is Scott Bakula.

My best friend/biz partner is James Spader.


I've got to try publishing this thing.

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:12 pm
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Excellent!
Even though it's technically from 1990, I'm also going to nominate Louis Strack (Darkman)

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:24 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
YES. I was actually going to make a post about that---
One thing the 80s excelled at is the Punchable Douchebag Character. My personal Hall of Fame would include

Stathis Borans (The Fly)
Image


I definitely agree, but what I find interesting is how Stathis ends up being the most level-headed character in the last act.

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:55 pm
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Thief wrote:

I definitely agree, but what I find interesting is how Stathis ends up being the most level-headed character in the last act.



"He bugged me."

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Fri Sep 28, 2018 1:07 am
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Death Proof wrote:
I've developed a scientific hypothesis called The Scott Bakula Principle. I theorize that everyone has one actor they want to punch in the face. They may have no personal problem with the guy, they may even enjoy his acting work, but there's something about their face that makes them punchable.

Mine is Scott Bakula.

My best friend/biz partner is James Spader.


I've got to try publishing this thing.

Tom Cruise.
Oh, and fucking Leo.


Fri Sep 28, 2018 3:18 am
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Oxnard Montalvo wrote:
these are movies where you go in knowing that personal growth will be charted in kills so I probably didn't take much notice when the killing of the wrong person for the wrong reason was absolved by killing the right person for the right reason.


The larger point is that he is broken and wracked with guilt over a mistake, resulting in him no longer being able to function as a protector. When his moment comes, he is able to find his mettle and function as a protector. It is our side-character being restored and redeemed. Everything you said is true, nevertheless. In these films, cops must shoot people. Cops shoot bad guys (never mind that many actual cops never fire their gun in the line of duty), so to be a cop, Powell has to find the will to shoot again.

John needs to be restored as well. His masculinity is being threatened. He's a lowly cop losing his wife to a tower of high finance. She makes more money and lives in a more respected world. She has the kids. She no longer claims his last name. Dad has been displaced. He appears to be a bit of a throwback to a time when we need big strong males to keep us safe around campfires. The terrorists revert us back to a more primitive world picture. The high are made low and now we need a big strong alpha male to keep us safe again. This isn't the old western movie where a cowboy stands in for one last shoot-out and then disappears into the sunset, outmoded by modern civilization that is moving West. No, this is proof that we still need cowboys. Yippee Ki Yay motherfuckers! John has a real job, so put some RESPEK on his name! He has an important job in New York shooting the bad people who need to be shot, dammit! In essence, the film reveals that we still living, in some sense, in the Old West and that we still need cowboys, thus John is redeemed by shooting terrorists in the face. His wife realizes this and their marriage is fixed when she realizes that John shooting terrorists in the face keeps her safe and Yuppie beta-males in her office are not up to the task.

In 1988, this served to assuage audience anxieties. Japan was thought to be taking over the world financially and that the U.S. simply could not keep up. This anxiety is expressed in "Gung Ho!" and "Rising Sun." Business is a war and we're losing it. "America has become a second rate power," states Gordon Gekko in a film from the same era. What is a nation of cowboys supposed to do? We're supposed to shoot terrorists in the face because at bottom we're still Americans and we've still got it where it counts. We'll figure it out somehow. We're still relevant.

And then there's the more basic stuff, like the old trope of the high made low (The Prince outdone by the Pauper, The emperor having no clothes). McClane allows us to laugh at our betters as we head off to work at the shoe store.


Fri Sep 28, 2018 4:27 am
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Good calls on Kelly and especially Atherton, who probably deserves a lifetime achievement award. That guy just oozes douche.

Spader is more creep than douche though. I might have allowed him if he didn't look 10 years older than everyone else in the movie.

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Fri Sep 28, 2018 10:43 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I don't mind the word lady. Like most gendered words, it's all in how it's used.

Like "milday"?


Fri Sep 28, 2018 12:27 pm
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Melvin Butterworth wrote:
Have a care to judge the film and not the era in which the film was made.

How in the hell would the filmmakers know that Winslow's backstory would not play favorably thirty years later relative to today's politics?
They couldn't have known how poorly Powell's backstory would have aged in the ensuing decades, which is why I didn't criticize them personally for that; that still doesn't mean that that aspect of the film hasn't aged poorly, or that, regardless of a lack of a bad intentions on the filmmakers' part, that it shouldn't be pointed out, seeing as how excessive use of force by American police remains a major, unresolved issue in this country, and me criticizing the film for its (accidentally) misplaced sympathies on this point is a small thing I can do to counter a normalization of trigger-happy reactions by police in both pop culture and reality (unless you think the two have no effect or relationship to one another). Otherwise, you might as well be saying that I shouldn't criticize the reprehensible racism of something like Birth Of A Nation because that film is also a "product of its time", and should be given a pass as such.

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Fri Sep 28, 2018 2:18 pm
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Rock wrote:
Good calls on Kelly and especially Atherton, who probably deserves a lifetime achievement award. That guy just oozes douche.

Spader is more creep than douche though. I might have allowed him if he didn't look 10 years older than everyone else in the movie.

Yeah, maybe it's just me but Spader's always got a certain charm to him that I can't deny. I don't want to punch him, I want to BE him.
But seriously, after only one viewing of Die Hard I'm prepared to give Ellis the crown. That's some stellar work there. He's the Jordan of this Dream Team.

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Fri Sep 28, 2018 10:23 pm
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More 80's Douchebags....


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Butt Kreese

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Dario

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I think he stole his wallet guy


Sat Sep 29, 2018 1:22 am
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And of course...

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Bad Call Burke


Sat Sep 29, 2018 1:25 am
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Stu wrote:
that still doesn't mean that that aspect of the film hasn't aged poorly, or that, regardless of a lack of a bad intentions on the filmmakers' part, that it shouldn't be pointed out, seeing as how excessive use of force by American police remains a major, unresolved issue in this country, and me criticizing the film for its (accidentally) misplaced sympathies on this point is a small thing I can do to counter a normalization of trigger-happy reactions by police in both pop culture and reality (unless you think the two have no effect or relationship to one another). Otherwise, you might as well be saying that I shouldn't criticize the reprehensible racism of something like Birth Of A Nation because that film is also a "product of its time", and should be given a pass as such.


Sure, but in making that move, you're subtly moving away from aesthetic criticism and moving into moral criticism. We can, for example, speak of Hitler's qualities as an orator without endorsing his message. We can consider "Birth of a Nation" as a film and praise what is praiseworthy about it without endorsing its message.

This isn't to say that we have no business with moral criticism. I think we do. In particular, I find Dirty Harry's disregard for civil rights and constant need to break rules to save lives to be a rather vicious conservative fantasy. Dirty Harry, however, is also a film of its time. This was post-Watts riots, the time of Manson, and the Zodiac. There was a sense of fear with a corresponding desire to restore order. The failing of the film, in part, is a failure of the age itself. Dirty Harry worked as a psychological "corrective" for these fears. This was a fantasy which emotionally set the world right for an hour or so. The film is "good" in that it served the needs of its audience (this is why it sold tickets).

On the other hand, we might say that the film is "bad" for not challenging its audience or finding a better way address our fears. If so, however, we are arguably criticizing it for not being a different film with a different intention and not criticizing the film itself (e.g., a "good" gun is deadly--whether guns should exist is a different question). Did Dirty Harry work as a "safety valve" lowering tensions or did it plant the seeds of a fearful instrumentalism? Both? Do these sorts of tales deserve criticism for promoting solving problems with violence? Yes, but so are today's fascistic super-hero movies.

And how much moral criticism is warranted? How far do you go? How many stars do you take away from Die Hard on your rating scale?

And how "bad" is a film the comes up short on our morality-meter? Do we want to cash in for a panicky media effects attribution of deterministic effects of violent movies? If so, we don't have the empirics to back it up. Research into media effects has always been mixed. Can we, as adults, safely imbibe this content without becoming Hulk and smashing cars in traffic? Certainly. Is there nevertheless something troubling about ALL these power fantasies that deserves criticism? Definitely. But just as most would object to letting this criticism derail their enjoyment of the Avengers, I would object to letting moral criticism of police brutality derail our enjoyment of Sgt. Powell. Lay off the Twinkee Cop. And what of the pure twisted joy of a good horror flick?

I think that the 80s certainly deserves criticism for it's "don't worry, be happy" violent protagonists who kill casually with painful catchphrases. It's not that it has "aged badly" but that the age was bad. This is a failing of the decade and films of the decade, but this is more a property of the time than the artwork. Die Hard is implicated in this pattern, but it also excels in functioning within that pattern.


Sat Sep 29, 2018 1:35 am
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*shrug* if that's how Stu feels, that's how Stu feels.

MB, it's not that you're not making some good points but Stu also said:

Quote:
....the fundamental claustrophobia, tension, and excitement of it otherwise still manages to make the film, if not one of the best, at least one of the better Action films I've ever seen. Lots of personality, great, quotable dialogue, and I like the way its action scenes balance themselves pretty much perfectly between excitement and realism, being over-the-top enough to get the blood pumping in spades while not completely losing touch with reality, unlike the direction its sequels increasingly went in, unfortunately.


so maybe he also thinks it (as you say) excels in functioning within the pattern.

(Stu I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth)


Sat Sep 29, 2018 1:51 am
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Oxnard Montalvo wrote:
*shrug* if that's how Stu feels, that's how Stu feels.

MB, it's not that you're not making some good points but Stu also said:



so maybe he also thinks it (as you say) excels in functioning within the pattern.

(Stu I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth)


Sure. I appreciate that he does not want to judge the film on the historical contingencies of the thirty years that followed. I think that is the most important point.

It seem to me that when we enter into moral criticism of a film, our own criticism reflects the sensibilities of our age as much if not moreso than universal/timeless deficits of the film. My concern is that we judge artworks fairly and not casually look down at them from the presumed perch of contemporary moral superiority. The future will judge us harshly too. In two hundred years people will probably recoil at the thought that we killed animals for food when we didn't need to.

Also, I am genuinely perplexed as to the role of moral criticism. I think it can be over-pronounced and unfairly overtake our discussions of the qualities of a film (basically what I am kvetching about here), but to say that we cannot or should not do any moral criticism is to basically pretend that films don't contain ideas, actual content. I don't know where the balance point is. I just sense that it can be overdone and that indeed, we can unfairly denounce an artwork for failing to live up to modern sensibilities.


Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:06 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
Is there any reason for me to watch the Alien vs Predator films? Because I don't intend to unless someone convinces me otherwise.



The first one is watchable 6/10


Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:13 am
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"Terribly sorry, but I heard something about this being the place that was casting for Top 80s Douche?"


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Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:50 am
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Ergill wrote:
Like "milday"?

I bet that's not even a Kenny Rogers song.


Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:52 am
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Rock wrote:
Good calls on Kelly and especially Atherton, who probably deserves a lifetime achievement award. That guy just oozes douche.

Poor Bill. Started out as a promising leading man in Sugarland Express and Day of the Locust, trying so hard to repress the douche. He's like oak-barrel aged douche.


Sat Sep 29, 2018 3:01 am
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Among other reasons why it makes little sense to say that the current BLM movement sheds a sour light on Officer Al is that shooting kids with toy guns was both not as statistically prevalent in the 80s as more recent incidents of police shootings involving unarmed citizen and, surprising as it may be, was an issue which had actually inspired pretty immediate state action to remedy the situation, as 1988 happens to have been the same year the law mandating the orange marker on toy gun barrels was passed. (It's interesting to note that most recent shootings involving mistaken "toy" guns involve BB or pellet guns which are not required to have markers and look remarkably like real guns.)

To contrast this situation, let's consider the BLM protests in Baltimore, which led to an investigation and court case which, among other things, revealed how at least a dozen police officers routinely carried several BB guns in their patrol cars to plant on any unarmed "assailants" that they may happen to shoot.

Now I'm sure there are some who would knee-jerk equate Al Powell's dilemma with what we've learned is a systemic attempt to protect trigger-happy police officers today. I also wouldn't take their movie opinions very seriously.


Sat Sep 29, 2018 3:23 am
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I won't speak for Stu, but I'll just repeat that whatever BLM-related moment I had while watching Die Hard was simply a word-association thing that happened. Someone said "I shot an unarmed teen" and a bell involuntarily went off in my brain. Didn't mean it as any sort of criticism, just pointed out that it's a minor speed bump my 2018 brain had to contend with. The fact that we passed a toy-gun law in 1988 did not occur to me at that moment. That's my bad. :)

In DH3 there's a shot of McClane in which the Twin Towers are prominent in the composition. This is a movie about a guy blowing up buildings in NYC so clearly this shot has taken on a different significance since 1995. It's nobody's fault, but it's there and I don't feel like I need to apologize that my brain involuntarily recognizes it. My officer Al moment wasn't anymore significant than this. Again, he was probably my favorite character.

If the "redemption through shooting people" angle bothered me, that was separate from any 2018 associations. He shot a bad guy, after all. I just think it's sort of tacky regardless of the decade in which it happens.

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Sun Sep 30, 2018 1:41 am
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DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE

I actually sort of liked this one, but I recognize that a lot of the things I like are the very reasons that it isn't much of a Die Hard film, so I can understand why fans are not crazy about this one. I suspect that if you removed the names McClane and Gruber this would be no more or less than a decent but forgotten 90s film. Calling it Die Hard opened itself for extra criticism.

Lil' Gruber is no Hans, but that's a given. I wasn't crazy about his weird Simon Says scavenger hunt plan either.
But on the plus side (for me), McClane is back to being an unwilling participant in the action, which was much more palatable than his "I'm taking over" attitude in DH2. Sam Jackson is always a bonus. The jokes are there, but the overall tone is less cartoony. Again, that's good for me, bad for fans. I also liked that the characters surrounding McClane were no longer incompetent imbeciles. And I'm always going to be more comfortable with a 90s aesthetic over the 80s so that's probably another factor. DH2 did such a number on me that I'm happy to say I'm back on friendly terms with McClane.

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Sun Sep 30, 2018 2:18 am
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Rumpled wrote:
More 80's Douchebags....


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Butt Kreese

Image
I think he stole his wallet guy



Kreese was an abusive asshole, but not a douchebag. I think douchebaggery insinuates an additional level of sleaziness.


The wallet guy had good intentions. Not a douchebag, but a whiny dickhead.

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Sun Sep 30, 2018 4:59 am
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Rumpled wrote:
And of course...

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Bad Call Burke




Oh hell yes - Burke is top-choice USDA prime douche.


I was talking to a guy online the other day about a dragon's hoard in D & D and it took an Aliens twist:

"I say we take off, nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
"This hoard has a substantial gold piece value attached to it."
"They can BILL ME."

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Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:06 am
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Burke, the guy who
spent the entire movie talking about the bottom line and then betrayed everybody in the end.
What an asshole.

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Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:43 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I won't speak for Stu, but I'll just repeat that whatever BLM-related moment I had while watching Die Hard was simply a word-association thing that happened.

Well, my point being that it's a superficial association, and not substantial enough when you put more thought into it. Plus the film is full of undermining brute police competence (Paul Gleason, Johnson/Johnson) that I doubt anyone can take away from the film an attitude of defending their authority.


Sun Sep 30, 2018 12:01 pm
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The nature of an emotional reaction that you have as a viewer of a film doesn't necessarily lessen just because you realize it isn't "logical" or intentional on the part of the film.

Can the value of a film change over time, due to elements it contains? I think so. That's not to say that the technical or innovative merits suddenly don't "count", but that the enjoyment and engagement of a viewer can significantly lessen.

If the way that someone grades a film is a reflection of their enjoyment, then it's perfectly reasonable that their rating might get dinged if the film evokes a negative response in them.

I find it kind of weird that there's this insistence that we watch film "objectively". Film is art. Art is nothing without a viewer. A response to art can only reflect the relationship between a specific viewer and a specific film. And that response is undeniably going to be informed by the associations of the viewer, both personal and academic.

Telling someone how they should be thinking or feeling when they watch a movie always strikes me as being super condescending. "Oh, you should just be able to ignore that"; "Well, if you actually think it through it shouldn't bother you." I can understand the cultural context of a moment in a film, understand its inclusion, and yet still have an emotional reaction to it that damages my enjoyment of the film. And if "enjoying" a movie means turning off my emotions while I watch it, then what's the point? I suppose it's possible to watch a film purely with an eye to its technical merits, but that's not why I watch movies.


Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:42 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
The nature of an emotional reaction that you have as a viewer of a film doesn't necessarily lessen just because you realize it isn't "logical" or intentional on the part of the film.

Can the value of a film change over time, due to elements it contains? I think so. That's not to say that the technical or innovative merits suddenly don't "count", but that the enjoyment and engagement of a viewer can significantly lessen.

If the way that someone grades a film is a reflection of their enjoyment, then it's perfectly reasonable that their rating might get dinged if the film evokes a negative response in them.

I find it kind of weird that there's this insistence that we watch film "objectively". Film is art. Art is nothing without a viewer. A response to art can only reflect the relationship between a specific viewer and a specific film. And that response is undeniably going to be informed by the associations of the viewer, both personal and academic.

Telling someone how they should be thinking or feeling when they watch a movie always strikes me as being super condescending. "Oh, you should just be able to ignore that"; "Well, if you actually think it through it shouldn't bother you." I can understand the cultural context of a moment in a film, understand its inclusion, and yet still have an emotional reaction to it that damages my enjoyment of the film. And if "enjoying" a movie means turning off my emotions while I watch it, then what's the point? I suppose it's possible to watch a film purely with an eye to its technical merits, but that's not why I watch movies.


Where is the "like" button when you need it?

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Mon Oct 01, 2018 3:11 am
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And I'll just clarify that I'm not responding to anyone specific here, but just generally to this idea of how we are "supposed" to watch a film, or how much we are allowed to let our (contemporary) emotions affect the way we judge films from another era.


Mon Oct 01, 2018 3:22 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
The nature of an emotional reaction that you have as a viewer of a film doesn't necessarily lessen just because you realize it isn't "logical" or intentional on the part of the film.


And that is why there is really no point in arguing a person's pure appetitive response to an artwork. If you like Rocky Road ice cream, you just do. I might persuade you that it is bad for you because of all the sugar and that you should not eat it, but there is no point in judging you for liking the taste of it. With a film, we can be warned that we're being "turned on" by violence, assault, racism, although we cannot tell you that "you didn't really like it" or even that you are wrong for being entertained by it. Think of those stupid old Bronson films. Death Wish movies open with an obligatory rape which is shown in graphic detail and then the revenge tour which is also shown in graphic detail. If you like it, then you like, but we can still criticize the message itself just as we can criticize the cultural promotion of junk food.

And tastes can be cultivated. We can fairly ask people to sample good stuff more than once. We can expose people to more complicated music, slower films with less "pew pew," and literature without pictures to refine their palette, and so that they may explore their interests beyond the obvious (e.g., the "sugar rush" of ice cream confections, explosions, exposed flesh, fart jokes, etc.). Part of the reason why we're here is to be challenged to move into new directions and explore new cinematic experiences which will complicate us as viewers.

More important, we have to keep in mind what it is the we are talking about. Are we criticizing the work or art or your response to the work of art? The work of art itself still remains to be criticized independent of your personal response to it.

Takoma1 wrote:
Can the value of a film change over time, due to elements it contains? I think so.


And what if we are part of a puerile generation or community? Movement into the future isn't by necessity "progress." Sometimes change is only change. Sometimes it is regression or devolution. And to judge a work designed to meet a moment a century ago by the standards of last week is not something which is really fair to the artwork if we are casually and globally evaluating its quality as a work of art. How do modern audiences and standards rate this work of art is not quite the same question as "what is the quality of this work of art?" which is a much wider question which invokes both timeless and timely questions.

Takoma1 wrote:
That's not to say that the technical or innovative merits suddenly don't "count", but that the enjoyment and engagement of a viewer can significantly lessen.


That different audiences enjoy artworks differently is a mere anthropological observation.

And we can do more than just "tick boxes" to count innovations to give a nod to discovery, innovation, ownership, etymology, eponymy, and other literary genetics. Our affective responses are not perfectly recalcitrant. We can, with some effort, "tune in" and enjoy artworks too. When I was a kid I didn't "get" classical music until "Hooked on Classics" gave it a 4/4 beat and then suddenly it clicked. When you first settle into an old film Noir the accents and historical attitudes can be odd, even off-putting, but when you understand the cultural coding of the genre, you can "hear" the music and enjoy it (if Noir turns out to be your thing). And if Noir turns out NOT to be your thing, that's OK too, but I would rather reject from the inside-out than to casually note historical developments looking from the outside-in.

Takoma1 wrote:
If the way that someone grades a film is a reflection of their enjoyment, then it's perfectly reasonable that their rating might get dinged if the film evokes a negative response in them.


Sure, but is this all fimic criticism really amounts to for you? Are you just sharing purely subjective responses to art?

Takoma1 wrote:
I find it kind of weird that there's this insistence that we watch film "objectively". Film is art. Art is nothing without a viewer.


And here is the root cause of the problem. You have a definition "artwork" which asserts that its ontological status is nothing more than the subjectivity of the viewer.

This is not really a tenable definition. Is it, for example, dependent upon each individual viewer? If so, then there are as many versions of "The Birds" as there are viewers of the film. If so, there is no point in even talking about film, because we're lost in the hopeless relativity in individual responses. If, on the other hand, it is the collective subjectivity of viewers, what defines this collectivity? And to the extent that we have intersubjective agreements within communities, why do we have these agreements? The distribution of responses to films we see within communities is never a consensus, but neither is it a random distribution. What we see are pronounced pools of agreement in terms of interpretation and evaluation. And where there are varieties of interpretation and evaluation (controversies), they present themselves within a bounded set of competing interpretations that works in response to the features of the text. That is, we debate whether Deckard is human or a Nexus, and not whether he is a Martian, or ghost, etc.

Why do we see such regularities? Obviously it is because the text itself is in some way "material." It pushes back.

Takoma1 wrote:
A response to art can only reflect the relationship between a specific viewer and a specific film.


This is an assertion from hell.

Takoma1 wrote:
And that response is undeniably going to be informed by the associations of the viewer, both personal and academic.


It will also be informed by our common human nature. It will be informed by our shared culture. It will be informed by conventions of reading (e.g., modern audiences know what a "cut" is). It will be informed by norms. And yes it will also be informed by how you, idiosyncratically and accidentally responded to it on the basis of your stomach ache, the late night you had before, your variety of color blindness, etc., but this aspect is, in most cases, the least interesting aspect of our discussion. It is noise that we attempt to filter out in pursuit of some intersubjectivity (otherwise, why even talk about it?).

Takoma1 wrote:
Telling someone how they should be thinking or feeling when they watch a movie always strikes me as being super condescending.


And it can be condescending to make a global pronouncement upon a work of art without sensitivity to its purpose and context of reception. And it can be condescending to make such a pronouncement on moral terms, "Well, it is not so good a film now, because it runs afoul of today's politics."

Takoma1 wrote:
"Oh, you should just be able to ignore that"; "Well, if you actually think it through it shouldn't bother you." I can understand the cultural context of a moment in a film, understand its inclusion, and yet still have an emotional reaction to it that damages my enjoyment of the film. And if "enjoying" a movie means turning off my emotions while I watch it, then what's the point? I suppose it's possible to watch a film purely with an eye to its technical merits, but that's not why I watch movies.


You have your right to your opinion. And your right to like or dislike a film is your own. However, we should have a care to mark a distinction to whether we are actually criticizing the work of art or simply describing our affective response to it. And we need a definition of art that allows us to see the definition between the two, lest all filmic discussion be reduced to the hollow check-mate of "Well, that's just like your opinion, man."

More than this, to enter into discussion is to expose oneself to other opinions. Our affective responses are not perfectly recalcitrant and if we find others to be good guides we can reasonably expose ourselves to be challenged to cultivate our palates, to give it another watch, to be given information about the key in which the tune was written to "get it" and so on.


Mon Oct 01, 2018 4:24 am
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Pretty sure John McTiernan himself doesn't feel this strongly about Die Hard.

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Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:00 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
Pretty sure John McTiernan himself doesn't feel this strongly about Die Hard.

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I'm due a rewatch on Die Hard because all I remember about it is Bruce Willis digging his toes into a hotel room(?) carpet and also that Carl from Family Matters was in it.

My real affection for the film these days is almost entirely sourced in the fair amount of love and references thrown its way in Brooklyn-99.


Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:48 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I'm due a rewatch on Die Hard because all I remember about it is Bruce Willis digging his toes into a hotel room(?) carpet and also that Carl from Family Matters was in it.

Well, it seems you've retained all the important parts. :D

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Mon Oct 01, 2018 6:59 am
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Bruce Williy also loses his shoes.

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Mon Oct 01, 2018 7:13 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I'm due a rewatch on Die Hard because all I remember about it is Bruce Willis digging his toes into a hotel room(?) carpet and also that Carl from Family Matters was in it.

My real affection for the film these days is almost entirely sourced in the fair amount of love and references thrown its way in Brooklyn-99.


"Fists with your toes" *chuckles*

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Mon Oct 01, 2018 7:13 am
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Top '80s tough douche:

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Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:38 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
Among other reasons why it makes little sense to say that the current BLM movement sheds a sour light on Officer Al is that shooting kids with toy guns was both not as statistically prevalent in the 80s as more recent incidents of police shootings involving unarmed citizen and, surprising as it may be, was an issue which had actually inspired pretty immediate state action to remedy the situation, as 1988 happens to have been the same year the law mandating the orange marker on toy gun barrels was passed. (It's interesting to note that most recent shootings involving mistaken "toy" guns involve BB or pellet guns which are not required to have markers and look remarkably like real guns.)

To contrast this situation, let's consider the BLM protests in Baltimore, which led to an investigation and court case which, among other things, revealed how at least a dozen police officers routinely carried several BB guns in their patrol cars to plant on any unarmed "assailants" that they may happen to shoot.

Now I'm sure there are some who would knee-jerk equate Al Powell's dilemma with what we've learned is a systemic attempt to protect trigger-happy police officers today. I also wouldn't take their movie opinions very seriously.
Well, besides the fact that any child shot for holding a toy gun is an unarmed citizen, and incidents of that specific kind can't be separated from other questionable uses of deadly force as they altogether represent the overall problem with American police, if you had been shot as a child by the police because they thought the toy gun you were playing with was real (or assumed some other random object you were holding was a gun), I have to imagine you wouldn't care how "statistically prevalent" such incidents were at the time; and if you can't see the similarities between the incident described in the film and the shootings of (for starters, sadly) John Crawford, Stephon Clark, and Tamir Rice, then you're just being willingly blind. The fact is, unjustifiable police shootings had happened before the film's release, and they're obviously continuing to happen and remain an unresolved problem in this country, which is why I pointed out how poorly Powell's backstory has aged, and how he's retroactively a less sympathetic character, since, regardless of a lack of any intentional bad faith on the part of the screenwriters, accidentally or otherwise, the film still foolishly conveys the message that the real tragedy is the fatal mistake Powell now has to live with, and how it's made him afraid to use his weapon again, and that makes him the victim in this case, instead of, y'know, his actual victim.

It's an aspect of the film that undeniably ages very poorly, and heck, it didn't even age well at the time, as, even pre-BLM, if you ignore the sad acoustic guitars on the soundtrack for a moment and actually think about his backstory, considering that he shot a 13 year-old simply because A, it was dark, and B, he was holding a toy raygun that, in Powell's own words, looked "real enough" (not even real, just real enough), it raises serious problems with his character. One could (foolishly) argue that only one such incident doesn't automatically render Powell a less sympathetic character, especially since he expresses remorse about it, but how many kids are in this country out there every night, playing with toy guns, accidentally tempting fate? On top of the smaller fact of it just being an unnecessary, pace-killing backstory for a character that didn't need one, it's a fairly obvious defect with his arc, and one that the screenwriters should've easily avoided by just cutting it from the film entirely, but they didn't, and now here we are. Besides that, the main reason why I complained wasn't to completely trash the film as a whole (which I didn't do), criticize the filmmakers for not being able to see the future and know the kind of unfavorable light developing political movements would cast their work in, or assume any kind of nefarious, pro-police brutality agenda on their part, but to do a small part in discouraging the normalization of trigger-happy incidents involving police in pop culture and reality, which is something that still needs to be done, and an effort I assume you support, but then again, we are having this debate in the first place.

As for the point about the new toy gun laws at the time of the film's release, I don't see how that fact casts Powell's backstory in any better of a light, unless we assume including it in the film was the screenwriters' way of sneakily advocating for such reforms and discouraging any similar incidents in the future, which, even after doing so, still doesn't give this element of the film a pass from criticism, as that was only one part of a much larger problem; the much more significant factor is the issue of the escalation-heavy manners in which American police are often trained, along with "better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6" mentality common in law enforcement culture. It doesn't matter if toy guns are designed to look like a toy because of the law, if a police officer still kills you because they instantly assume it's a real weapon because of their shitty training (or assume any other random object in your hands, like say, a white iPhone, is dangerous). And, as for the cherry-picked point about the specific corruption of the Baltimore PD, for the reasons I just listed, the brutality of American police is about more than just the blue code of silence and the "protect our own, at any cost" attitude prevalent in many departments, and more importantly, I shouldn't have to point out that such police corruption would obviously make it more likely overall for cops like Powell in real life to avoid proper scrutiny for such incidents, but then again, we are having this debate.

Anyway, I guess I'm sorry if my short, relevant parenthetical aside in an overall positive post struck you as unfair to the film in question, and worth dismissing my opinions in general, but at any rate, while I think I can guess whose side Sergeant Powell would be on in this debate, I think Officer Winslow would beg to differ, and I'd rather be on his side in this case:



:D

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Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:15 pm
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Stu wrote:
Well, besides the fact that any child shot for holding a toy gun is an unarmed citizen, and incidents of that specific kind can't be separated from other questionable uses of deadly force as they altogether represent the overall problem with American police

By definition, a "specific kind" of act absolutely can be separated from other kinds of acts. As in these acts are not automatically analogous. Specifically, we can separate acts, or a culture of action already separated by some 30 years, by taking into account the widely various changes that have taken place during that non-static period of time. In fact, again by definition, "questionable" acts require such a nuanced view of their specific circumstances. They're questionable because they involve complicated, non-obvious factors. It's clear that you do not make such distinctions here, so all I can do is point them out.

Stu wrote:
if you can't see the similarities between the incident described in the film and the shootings of (for starters, sadly) John Crawford, Stephon Clark, and Tamir Rice, then you're just being willingly blind.

Or perhaps I'm looking at these incidents with a bit more resolution than you're allowing. These incidents are only similar in that they involve either "toy" guns or a mistaken gun. Everything else about these incidents are very different in crucial ways. Powell shot a kid "in the dark", on the street at night. Crawford was in a well-lit Wal-Mart aisle, the very same aisle in which these BB guns were stocked. There was no element of surprise, no rational possibility of danger for the (multiple) cops that voluntarily approached him. There are protocols of engagment here which the police did not follow, and which would not have been applicable in Powell's case. Clark also did not have an element of surprise, being chased into his backyard, again by multiple cops rather than one on his own, and, yes, confusing a white phone for a gun is far less excusable than an object actually intended to look like a real gun. And so we have Tamir Rice, perhaps the closest analogy to make. First, broad daylight, multiple witnesses including one who warned that it may not be a real gun before officers even arrived, no engagment of the suspect on arrival, and again multiple officers on the scene. (Oh, and the attempted cover-up by claiming that the kid looked like an adult, a clear lie.) None of these circumstances involved reflexive action on the part of the police officers. They had options in every case, time to weigh them, and chose to shoot to kill regardless.

What would be blind would be to willingly ignore these various discrepancies. But those are hardly the only ones...

Stu wrote:
The fact is, unjustifiable police shootings had happened before the film's release, and they're obviously continuing to happen and remain an unresolved problem in this country

Good thing we're being specific!

Stu wrote:
the film still foolishly conveys the message that the real tragedy is the fatal mistake Powell now has to live with, and how it's made him afraid to use his weapon again, and that makes him the victim in this case, instead of, y'know, his actual victim.

I completely disagree with this. The film, in no way, exonerates Powell for his fatal mistake, nor suggests that his suffering (in what? Twinkie shopping?) is in any way comparable to the kid that he shot. Powell's remorse, and his loss of confidence, are due entirely to the fact that Powell himself understands who the real victim is. I did not perceive self-pity, but sincere guilt, from his performance and the script.

Stu wrote:
how many kids are in this country out there every night, playing with toy guns, accidentally tempting fate?

I dunno, Stu. I guess this is a good place for some kind of statistical analysis of prevalence?

Stu wrote:
the main reason why I complained wasn't to completely trash the film as a whole (which I didn't do)

Well, good. I'm glad I didn't say you did.

Stu wrote:
assume any kind of nefarious, pro-police brutality agenda on their part, but to do a small part in discouraging the normalization of trigger-happy incidents involving police in pop culture and reality, which is something that still needs to be done, and an effort I assume you support, but then again, we are having this debate in the first place.

Again, I see no "pro-police brutality agenda" in Die Hard, and I think it's weak to try to pin this entirely on a character who, in fact, was deeply remorseful over his admitted overreaction.

Stu wrote:
As for the point about the new toy gun laws at the time of the film's release, I don't see how that fact casts Powell's backstory in any better of a light, unless we assume including it in the film was the screenwriters' way of sneakily advocating for such reforms and discouraging any similar incidents in the future, which, even after doing so, still doesn't give this element of the film a pass from criticism, as that was only one part of a much larger problem; the much more significant factor is the issue of the escalation-heavy manners in which American police are often trained, along with "better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6" mentality common in law enforcement culture. It doesn't matter if toy guns are designed to look like a toy because of the law, if a police officer still kills you because they instantly assume it's a real weapon because of their shitty training (or assume any other random object in your hands, like say, a white iPhone, is dangerous).

I don't believe it was advocacy, but the writers using a then-recent news item for inspiration. But you missed the point of my initial post, which was to point out that society (the culture in general) very quickly decided that mistaking realistic toy guns was an intolerable issue, and attempted to address it through legislation. I'm curious what was the last piece of legislation that you remember being passed which restricted law enforcement? This is precisely why it is inadequete to compare 1988 and 2018, as if there's been so substantial changes in the culture which have directly impacted these issues.

First of all, 1988 crime is not 2018 crime. 1988 was at the tail end of what was a sustained American crime wave. Homicide and other violent crime was nearly double the number that we see today, as was the incidence of police death on duty. There has been a precipitous drop in the violent crime rate, beginning in the early 90s and continuing in a larger trend today (with anomolies like Chicago 2016 bucking the trend). Despite this drop in violent crime, as well as a drop in police deaths, why didn't we begin to see a draw-down of police brutality, incarceration, militarization? Well, money's a good answer, but I'll let you read Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop for a more comprehensive understanding of the situation. The irony is that there has been an inverse increase in police militarization, both in firepower and in training, as the crime wave has dropped. There are a number of theories as for why this is, and, again, I can only point you toward the use of the police as a revenue-generating mechanism of the state. This may surprise you, but this use of the police was only just starting to be implemented in the late 80s, and wasn't a fully-flowered aspect of local law enforcement until the 21st Century. The "Warrior" training of police officers, which teaches police to kill with impunity including the complete unloading of the clip into a suspect (a ubiquitous aspect of most modern police shootings which nearly guarantees a fatality), is also a fairly recent development, and irrelevent to Powell's predicament.

Combine these factors: less crime, but more suspicious cops with bigger guns and less conscience. It's not difficult math, and none of this is in the least bit relevant to a film like Die Hard or the culture at the time.

Stu wrote:
And, as for the cherry-picked point about the specific corruption of the Baltimore PD, for the reasons I just listed, the brutality of American police is about more than just the blue code of silence and the "protect our own, at any cost" attitude prevalent in many departments, and more importantly, I shouldn't have to point out that such police corruption would obviously make it more likely overall for cops like Powell in real life to avoid proper scrutiny for such incidents, but then again, we are having this debate.

You mentioned BLM, so I'm sticking with the stories that are relevant to that cause. Powell was not protected for his shooting, he was demoted, effectively disarmed on a routinely quiet patrol. He wasn't fired or charged because a reflexive reaction to a realistic gun in the dark does not demonstrate the kind of systemic corruption that we've seen in Baltimore or Chicago or Ferguson (all of which are the tip of the iceberg anyway). In the 80s, you have a number of well-publicized incidents which would be reflective of police brutality - planting drugs, shakedowns, murdering informants, "off-book" detentions, etc. This was not the ball park in which Powell was playing. Powell was not a corrupt cop. Powell did not purposely kill an innocent kid, did not attempt to cover it up, did not try to justify himself or ask his department to bail him out. It was a tragic mistake. His dilemma was sympathetic enough that a law was passed to prevent such shootings in the future. And when Powell did shoot, he did not wildly empty his clip in the manner we see with police in the past decade. The fact remains that there's very little that Powell did which would be relevant to BLM's suggested law enforcement reforms.

Stu wrote:
Anyway, I guess I'm sorry if my short, relevant parenthetical aside in an overall positive post struck you as unfair to the film in question, and worth dismissing my opinions in general

Calm down, Stu. I "specifically" addressed this single issue for a reason. It's not a very reasonable criticism.


Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:59 pm
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