Tag Archives: Martin Scorsese

TWO READER RECOMMENDATIONS: AFTER HOURS (1985) & STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997)

Reader recommendations by “Brad.”

After Hours

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Tommy Chong, Cheech Marin, Verna Bloom

PLOT: Word processor Paul Hackett (Dunne) starts out on a seemingly normal night out on the town, until he meets a mysterious young woman (Arquette) who lures him into a series of bizarre, comic situations in a dark Soho neighborhood.

Still from After Hours (1985)
BACKGROUND:

  •  was originally set to direct, but when Scorsese failed to get funding for The Last Temptation of Christ he decided to direct After Hours, which Burton gladly stepped aside for Scorsese to do. Now that’s respect.
  • The film was an assignment at Columbia University by screenwriter Joseph Minion.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Paul plastered as a sculpture in the basement of the Club Berlin.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD AND WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST: The bizarre Kafkaesque tragic comedy of the everyman Paul Hackett’s desperate situations. Now matter how Paul approaches a situation the universe has a cruel reaction waiting for him. Suicide, a bondage-obsessed Soho artist, an unrelenting mob, and two local thieves played by “Cheech and Chong”. All set in a dark sleepy Soho neighborhood that’s a menacing character all its own. This is definitely an underappreciated Scorsese film and a weird gem that deserves a lot more attention.

Starship Troopers

DIRECTED BY: Paul Verhoeven

FEATURING: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Dina Meyer, Neil Patrick Harris

PLOT: Johnny Rico (Van Dien) is a soldier in the Mobile Infantry, a branch set to fight the insectoid “Arachnids”.

Still from Starship Troopers (1997)
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Verhoeven’s satire concerning facism and militarism set in a futuristic war against giant insectoids, and Starship Troopers‘ action movie cliches, help to create a truly bizarre hilarious atmosphere for a sci-fi movie.

CAPSULE: SHUTTER ISLAND (2010)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Martin Scorsese

FEATURING: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams

PLOT: A U.S. Marshall with a tragic past investigates a mysterious disappearance at an asylum for the criminally insane on a craggy, isolated Massachusetts island in the 1950s.

Still from Shutter Island (2010)


WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Scorsese sprinkles a few flakes of weirdness into his mainstream thriller for flavor, but it’s carefully tailored for the mild tastes of the masses.

COMMENTS:  Atmosphere and suspense rule as Scorsese leaves film’s mainland to investigate the genre islands.  With a horror movie aesthetic, a film noir hero and a brainteaser mystery plot, Shutter Island is a mini-history of popular movie mechanics, with some psychology and dark drama thrown in to provide a sense of gravitas.  It’s no masterpiece, but it does effectively draw you into its mysterious labyrinth for two hours.  Overwrought in the best way, this is the type of movie where portentous strings keep coming at the viewer like driving sheets of rain in a hurricane, key scenes take place in darkened cells filled with the criminally insane or in ruined cemeteries, and Nazis, lobotomizing surgeons, and drug-induced hallucinations all play a part in the paranoid plot.  DiCaprio puts in a fine performance as Teddy Daniels, a tough guy whose callous exterior may just be scar tissue from the wounds he’s suffered in a tough life.  A war veteran who was present at the liberation of the Dachau death camps, Daniels may have committed acts that still haunt him; returning home, he turns to booze and then quickly suffers further tragedy when he loses his young wife to a violent tragedy.  Guilt, regret and lust for revenge haunt our hero, and impede his investigation of the murderess who’s disappeared from her locked cell as surely as does administrator Ben Kingsley’s odd reluctance to hand over patient medical files to the two federal marshals.  Scorsese plumbs DiCaprio’s psyche for spooky dream sequences, such as one where he embraces his dead wife while ash falls around them like snow; as the scene progresses her back turn into a burning cinder, while a cascade of blood simultaneously soaks the front of her dress.  As the flick progresses, reality becomes plastic and the seeming illogic of the plot increases; DiCaprio’s flashbacks and dreams take up a larger portion of the action and sometimes bleed into the real world.  Despite a mounting sense of weirdness, though, all is resolved rationally at the end.

You may guess the final twist, or you may not.  The true test of a mystery/thriller is not whether the twist ending surprises you—it’s a bonus if it does and will make the movie a classic, but there are only so many unthought-of tricks that a director can deploy without cheating.  Our capacity to be surprised depends more on cinematic inexperience than anything else.  The true virtue of a thriller is not to fool us but to put us inside the endangered shoes of the protagonist, and fill us with doubts as to our safety, understanding, even sanity.  When this movie’s clicking, the suspense is high and the Gothic atmosphere is thick and beautiful, making it well worth the short ferry ride out to Shutter Island.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…like a Hardy Boys mystery directed by David Lynch.”–Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com (contemporaneous)

HEART OF THE BEHOLDER (2005) & THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988)

Still from Heart of the Beholder (2005)In 2005, Ken Tipton made a labor of love, an indie film called Heart of the Beholder, regarding the true story of the initial video release of Last Temptation of Christ and the effects it has on a family who owned a small video chain in St. Louis, Missouri during the 1980s.

The CFD, Citizens for Decency, arrived when the owners of the chain chose to carry  Martin Scorsese’s controversial film.  These God-loving red, white and blue, flag- waving Americans came out in droves to harass, bully and literally threaten their employees, family, business and life.

These are the same Americans who undoubtedly burned Dixie Chick albums when that group criticized God’s ambassador here on earth, little George W, and are the same Americans who still visit the Heart of the Beholder website telling Mr. Tipton and company that they are going to  hell while undoubtedly pleasuring themselves at the thought of the filmmakers frying  for all eternity.  Heart of the Beholder is a damned important, desperately needed film.

Although Heart of the Beholder got good reviews and even won some festival awards, predictably, no distributor would touch it.  One would surely think that the making of the film would have brought in some support, perhaps from Temptation‘s producers, Scorsese, etc.   Continue reading HEART OF THE BEHOLDER (2005) & THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: AFTER HOURS (1985)

The “Reader Recommendation” category includes films nominated by our readers as deserving of consideration for the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of all time.

by reader “Rajiv”

DIRECTED BY: Martin Scorsese

FEATURING: Griffin Dunne, Rosana Arquette, Catherine O’Hara

PLOT:  One night, Paul Hackett ( Griffin Dunne), New York computer word-processing

Still from After Hours (1985)

consultant, is trapped in SoHo because his last dollar has flown out of the cab window on his way to a late night date with a woman he’s just met.  His dream to score with a pretty woman ends up to be a waking nightmare when one mishap after another strands him in a hostile neighborhood in his quest to return home before morning.

WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST:  From the plot description itself, we should aware that this is a weird film.  The execution is also very weird.  This is technically a black comedy, but it plays like a suspenseful thriller.  A lot of surprisingly unpredictable things happened to force Paul Haggis, who just wants go home that night, stay in SoH.

COMMENTS:  A strange, original, and totally underrated movie from Mr. Scorsese. This film is a little bit ‘Coen brothers-ish,’ full of fantasies and surprises.  This film proves Scorsese is a master filmmaker.  He can create a moments with any subject matter, and make the audience feel certain feelings.  Watch out especially for the ending of After Hours, it will make your feelings turn 180 degrees, it’s a shock!  After Hours really deserved more attention as one of Scorsese’s best works.