Friday, November 02, 2007

GRINDHOUSE


This week’s cheesy double feature:

DEATH PROOF

PLANET TERROR


Perfect memory rarely is.

The problem with memory is that the world is too full of detail. And as marvelous as the human brain is, it has a finite capacity. So, to conserve resources, it decides what is worth remembering - the rest is discarded. You know this is true - how many times, while driving, have you suddenly realized that you can’t account for the past twenty minutes? Were you not paying attention? Of course you were, but nothing happened of any importance, so why waste brain bytes? You usually do store a certain amount of detail – but with time, keeping it needs to be weighed against cleaning up the clutter and making space for new memories.

People my age remember the sixties as though it were the Golden Age. They remember the great music and the revolution (everything was a revolution in the 60’s), the Cultural Revolution, the political revolution, the sexual revolution, the civil rights revolution, and the lesser known squid revolution (people started eating more squid for some reason). They remember the excitement of big things happening and especially the music. Ask anybody around at that time and they’ll tell you the same thing, “The music was the best, and things - man, things really seemed to matter. Not like today.” Was it really that great?

No.

But the emery cloth of time sands down the structure of memory until you get a little polished marble that represents just the thing you’ve decided was important to remember, the essential concept. Details like The Cold War, the filth, the bad drugs, the gender gap, the generation gap, the bad music, clashes with the police over civil rights and the war, the “real” war in Viet Nam – these are just sawdust that end up on the workshop floor. Does that mean memory becomes less perfect with time? No, just the opposite. Memory becomes more perfect with time because it becomes more focused ……polished ……..shinier.

I remember a lot of the grind house movies from the 60’s and 70’s (we didn’t use the term “grindhouse” back then). They were just quick and cheap movies that would come out every week (more so in the summer – drive-in theater season) and was just an excuse to go to the movies. They were always sensational with lots of sleaze and shooting and stuff exploding and scantily clad women. I’m sure there was more to it, but those are the kind of details that now lie on the workshop floor.

When the film GRINDHOUSE showed in theaters last summer, it was as a double feature, quite common in the grind house days - two movies, one directed by Robert Rodriguez and the other by Quentin Tarantino. They have now been released as two separate movies on video. While they are not like the cheap grind house movies from back in the day, they are, in essence, the marble that is the polished memory of those films. All the essential elements are there. Shooting, fast cars, a mad killer, scantily clad women, stuff blowing up, monsters. Face it, anything that doesn’t survive the sandpaper of time isn’t worth showing anyway. They’ve just filled up the leftover space with more of the good stuff.

They obviously did their homework by re-watching a lot of old films. They’ve reproduced this experience by making their films look “old”. I’m not sure why – certainly they didn’t look old when the films were new. They’ve added scratches, color gone awry, and in one movie, even a missing reel of film. Each of the directors brought their strong points to their film. Tarantino’s strength is in dialog. In DEATH PROOF, his characters have great revolving conversations with hip dialog. A huge cinephile, he throws in lots of inside movie references – how many can you get? Don’t get them all? Check out the trivia page at the IMDB site. There is an amazing chase scene at the end with incredible stunts. Tarantino made the brilliant decision to hire the stuntwoman, Zoë Bell, as a member of the cast. Zoë Bell plays herself as a stuntwoman – BTW she did all the stunts for Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies. DEATH PROOF is the “cooler” of the two films.

Robert Rodriguez uses his talents to pack a movie with wall-to-wall over-the-top absurd action. In PLANET TERROR, his retro-futuristic vision of horror, there is so much shooting and zombies and stuff blowing up and blood and guts and scantily clad women, that there’s virtually no time for much of anything else – which is OK because why would you want anything else? It’s very very violent – but absurdly so – so much so that it’s actually pretty funny – much like the Itchy & Scratchy cartoons from The Simpsons. PLANET TERROR defies logic. When you watch it, if you try to apply physical logic to anything happening on screen, you will certainly lose your grip on reality and may go completely mad. Not even movie logic can be applied here, not even grind house logic works – only Rodriguez logic exists. I think this is what helps viewers deal with the totally bizarre images on the screen.

PLANET TERROR is the “fun-er” of the two movies. It’s just jam-packed with impossible images and funny dialog. This is the movie that has the missing reel of film. The resulting abrupt disconnect provides one of the best sight gags in the movie. On other memorable sight gag occurs during a romantic interlude and involves a wooden table leg (don’t go there – not what you’re thinking!). I think that the enduring legacy of this film will be the still photo shown above. To me, there is no greater iconic image in the history of cinema than that of Rose McGowan standing in profile, wearing a tube-top and sporting a machine-gun leg. Then again, that’s just me.

To recap. Here’s the top 10 reasons why I liked the two GRINDHOUSE movies: DEATH PROOF and PLANET TERROR.

  1. Rose McGowan standing in profile, wearing a tube-top and sporting a machine-gun leg.
  2. You don’t have to watch both together, as a double feature. With the magic of two separate movies on two separate DVD’s, you can watch them in ay order and at any time you want.
  3. It performs a vital public service by promoting the importance of the seat belt law.
  4. Fergie’s in it, and Bruce Willis too – although not at the same time.
  5. It features the best barbecue in Texas. That’s got to be good, doesn’t it?
  6. Bruce Willis says he shot Osama and I believe him. So, the troops can come home now, right?
  7. Did I mention Rose McGowan standing in profile, wearing a tube-top and sporting a machine-gun leg?
  8. If you remove any restrictions that you have to follow some kind of logic, all new possibilities open up for you. For example, the same gun that chips some splinters out of a door jamb in one instance can knock down a brick wall in a fiery blast a moment later. Another example: Rose McGowan can shoot her leg-gun (how does she pull the trigger? - No, no! Mustn’t use logic! Logic, bad.). She can do this while standing on one leg and blow a door out with the blast ………without any apparent recoil.
  9. DEATH PROOF: Fast cars ……..faster women ………and Kurt Russell.
  10. If you can actually “death proof” a car, why doesn’t everybody have one. Then everybody can “bumper-car” their way to work in the morning. Oh wait – they do that anyway.

As a double feature, GRINDHOUSE makes the IMDB top 250 at #149, between The Princess Bride and Brief Encounter.

DEATH PROOF
PLANET TERROR
Double feature or one-at-a-time – it’s all good.
Enjoy.

view Death Proof trailer

view Planet Terror trailer

2 Comments:

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Ashley said...

I haven't seen either of these movies, but they rent so well. I think after tonight I will have to take your word for it and check 'em out!!

 
At 7:50 PM, Blogger FranksFilms said...

These movies aren't for everybody, so let me add

"You probably won't like this movie" or,

"....not for everybody." or,

"...great movie if you like this sort of thing." or,

"....if you have a particular sense of humor ....." or,

" ...you'll love it - if you don't mind the gratuitous violence, and you don't mind nudity, and the sex doesn't bother you, or the fact that there isn't any plot, and if you don't mind reading subtitles, ..."

or,

"I'm certain you're going to HATE this movie."

......just covering all bases.

 

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