Sunday, September 30

The Top 10 Tony Scott Films

[This is an entry in my Favorite Directors Blogathon.]

It can sometimes be difficult to separate out Tony Scott's gifts as a populist filmmaker when stacked against less skilled "cacophonists" like Michael Bay who followed in his wake and whom he left in the dust with his late-career reinvention. But in Scott's films are a care for his actors wholly absent for so many of today's blockbusters, and his movies consistently offered up some of the finest, most sincere performances to be found in action films. Scott's unabashed affection for working-class heroes forced to rise to the occasion gives his films a humanity that makes even his wildest efforts (and most savage, like Man on Fire) are not merely meat grinders. Not everything Scott turned to gold, but until his tragically truncated end, he found ways to turn the inherent excesses of blockbuster filmmaking into aesthetic statements rather than wan spectacle. He will be missed, but at least we still have his work, of which these 10 stand out as highlights:

10. Spy Game


Perhaps Scott’s coldest film since his debut, Spy Game serves as one final, “conventionally” hyperactive workout before his entering into his abstract painter late career. Low lighting and muted color palettes stress a gritty realism uncommon to all his work but especially was what coming down the line. A recurring element of Scott’s work concerns the knotty, ass-covering procedures of bureaucracies, whether transportation services or military hierarchies. Spy Game devotes its time so thoroughly to the titular mechanisms of intelligence work, centered on Robert Redford’s CIA agent hoodwinking his own colleagues through a distracting series of flashbacks and subtle misdirects, that one almost forgets he does all this to prevent a friend and comrade’s impending execution. Like a handful of other Scott films, this is deceptively inert, only occasionally livened by an actual action setpiece yet still visceral thanks to judicious editing and kinetic camerawork.

9. The Hunger


Tony Scott’s first feature takes its cues from big brother Ridley, all metallic color tones and carefully ordered chill. The opening montage, juxtaposing Bauhaus’ performance of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” with two vampires lasciviously stalking their prey and a lab monkey shrieking in a bloody rage, puts Scott’s admiration of Nicolas Roeg on equal display. Casting Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie as emotionally removed, sexy bloodsuckers was a coup, and seeing Deneuve play a kind of Lady Bathory role, creating vampiric lovers only to drain away their lives to remain young. The plot convulsions are wild enough for a later Scott film, and it does not always mesh well with the completely-locked down style, but {The Hunger} is nevertheless a strikingly formal debut for a director who would become one of its great populist aesthetes.

8. The Last Boy Scout


Scott’s capacity for finding nuance in ostentation can be clearly seen in nearly every frame of The Last Boy Scout, in which a smoky haze coats even exterior shots. The ultra-cool cigarette smoke of classic noirs thus becomes a carcinogen fog, asthma-inducing just by watching the movie. That disgusting mist visualizes Shane Black’s cynical screenplay, best seen in the stunning opening scene that fell prey to some censorship but still emerged one of the most disturbing, sick jokes on action film audiences ever filmed. Yet the easy rapport between Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans tempers the black-comic vision as much as Scott’s outsized action, and the same football field that provides the backdrop for the horrifying open hosts the almost parodic goofiness of the triumphant ending, which takes such a silly pleasure in violence that it may actually be bleaker than the start.

7. Enemy of the State


A prototype for Scott’s later forays into post-postmodern realms of multi-platform image collages and the feeling of a camera always watching the characters, Enemy of the State finds Will Smith at the top of his game as an almost Hitchcockian wrong man pursued by U.S. intelligence forces trying to cover up their clandestine activities. Scott’s film fits with several of Brian De Palma’s mid-to-late-‘90s works about an overinflated military turning on its country in the wake of the Cold War, and its vision of a citizen pursued with every means at the government’s disposal is eerily prescient of a country that now operates according to its Constitution seemingly only at its convenience. Smith shows a vulnerability here he too rapidly abandoned in his carefully planned (and successful) quest to become king of the box office, and his chemistry with Gene Hackman (all but openly playing off his seminal role in The Conversation) is so believable, tense and ultimately respectful that the movie also emerges 10 times the buddy film the Men in Black series ever offered.7.

6. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3


For some, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 might represent Scott’s emperor’s-new-clothes moment. For his supposedly breakneck, visceral style, the director’s remake of one of the tautest action-thrillers of the 1970s is absolutely languid in comparison, stylish add-ons and all. Yet where the original focus with impeccable precision on its story, Scott's film explores the contours around the plot. John Travolta's Ryder adds a level of pulp commentary, a Wall Street trader busted for illegal practices and seeking vengeance in his unstoppable arrogance. Pit against him is a man in hot water for his own fiscal crimes, albeit of the sort that stem from desperation, not greed. Denzel Washington's character is the sort of person that people like Ryder ruined with their reckless betting, and as unexpectedly poignant as the film's "romance" between its conflicting figures is, there is a bit of a crowd-pleasing element to the sight of a working-class stiff putting a slug into the macho-bluffing demon soul of Wall Street.

5. Crimson Tide


An obvious urgency underscores Crimson Tide, with its fears of international nuclear war exacerbated by divisions within each side. The Russians attempt to prevent fanatical members of their own citizenry from launching nukes, while the American submarine on which the film takes place soon splinters among those favoring a preemptive strike and those unwilling to risk nuclear holocaust. Indeed, the principal conflict of the film does not concern the standoff between the U.S. and Russia but the stalemate between Gene Hackman’s submarine captain and Denzel Washington’s executive officer. With canted angles capturing the tight quarters of the submersible and a play of blue, green and red lights dancing over characters faces, Scott adds visceral intensity to what is primarily a film about a moral stand-off rather than an armed one. “We’re here to preserve democracy, not to practice it,” Hackman chastises Washington early in the film, a statement that becomes the basis for the film’s conflicts of tough ethical choices and how a chain of command can weigh on them. In essence, Crimson Tide is an action film about the need for due diligence, even inaction.

4. Domino


Perhaps the most avant-garde summer movie ever made, Domino followed through on the aesthetic reinvention of Man on Fire with a free-for-all. Narratively and thematically unfocused, Richard Kelly’s emptily heady screenplay leaves wide gaps Scott fills with techniques so ancient they become new and innovative all over again. Superimpositions, multiple exposures, hand-cranking and more tear even the faintest amount of traditional biopic structure to shreds, leaving only an impressionistic abstract of saturated color and collage. Bonus points for getting Keira Knightley’s best performance to date, worlds removed from her day job as a glorified corset model and eliciting a nastiness from her that has been sadly underused since. The image of her snarling, crooked teeth illuminated in bursts of muzzle flash as she takes furious, despairing revenge for her lost comrades is one of the single great images of Scott’s career. Or is it many images in one?

3. Unstoppable


If “pure cinema” can be said to exist, few films qualify for the term like Unstoppable. Forced into linearity by its very conceit, the film sharpens Scott’s kaleidoscopic late career into what has (tragically) become the ultimate send-off. In some ways it is the Platonic ideal of Tony Scott movies: Denzel Washington at his most working-class, bureaucracy at its most noxious, a setting that allows no let up in the action, and character drama that requires no more than one brief monologue for each lead and a series of nuanced interactions that builds mutual respect and admiration. Indeed, Unstoppable is as much a film about two like but separate men becoming friends as it is their united effort to save a town from a disastrous chemical spill. Unstoppable won Scott the best reviews of his career, a shame in retrospect that so many did not finally get him until it was too late.

2. True Romance


Nowhere does Scott’s way with actors shine like it does in True Romance. Aided by Quentin Tarantino’s superb script (which Scott actually managed to improve by straightening out its chronology and giving this demented fairy tale the happy ending it needed), the director always grounds the characters front and center despite all the visual flourishes. Not until Tarantino wrote the first scene of Inglourious Basterds did he top the infamous “eggplant” scene between a sinisterly off-the-cuff Christopher Walken and a doomed Dennis Hopper, a scene so perfectly written that Scott demonstrates a careful restraint and cedes all power to the actors. Elsewhere, the film makes for a more controlled companion piece to Wild at Heart, a pop-culturally hip, oneiric bedtime story for the ‘90s. The climactic firefight, complete with pillow stuffing billowing in the air à la Zéro de conduite, is so nice Scott used it twice when a variant popped up in Enemy of the State.

1. Déjà Vu


Until Pedro Almodóvar made The Skin I Live In, Déjà Vu stood as the only film to not only successfully replicate some of the dense identity crises of Vertigo but to credibly build upon them. Scott’s time-travel thriller uses the hero’s maddening quest to save a doomed woman as a microcosmic wish for saving all of New Orleans, where the film was filmed in the wake of Katrina. The film stands as Scott’s purest pursuit of a happy ending, shattering the physical properties of space-time just to let the guy get the girl. It also allows the director to fully engage in his love of multiple, layered images, culminating in the ingenious car chase in which half the frame shows the pursued car in the past as the other half shows the present-day chase after the vehicle. The current cinematic trend toward aesthetic bewilderment has been nigh-unbearable, but here it is elevated into pure virtuosity.

Friday, September 28

It's Complicated: While x During


This is a great romantic comedy with excellent actors. This is comedy about a couple who have been separated for 10 years, found new lovers, and who start dating again after their divorce. Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) a planning a date, but Jake has to leave his new wife (Agnes) and son at home to meet Jane.






I. Watch the movie segment and decide whether you will complete the blanks with DURING or WHILE.


1. Jane cooked dinner and drank wine _________________ she was waiting for him.


2. ______________ Agnes was working on the computer, Jake decided to take his cell phone to the bathroom.

3. Jake took his son to his bedroom _________ his sleep.


4. Jane kept on waiting for Jake ___________ he was in his son1s bedroom.


5. Jane remained alone and lonely ______________ the whole night.


6. Jake stayed home and didn't go to the meeting. He felt anxious ____________ he was at home with his wife. However, he didn't want to be home __________ the time he was supposed to be having dinner with Jane.




II. Discuss the questions.

1. What should Jake have done?

2. What should Jane have done?

3. Was he planning to do the right thing? What would you do if you were in his shoes?


WORKSHEET

MOVIE SEGMENT DOWNLOAD - IT'S COMPLICATED

Answer key:

1. while
2. while
3. during
4. while
5. during
6. while / during

The Hole (Joe Dante, 2009/2012)

At last getting any form of non-festival domestic distribution, Joe Dante's family-oriented (family-friendly may be a stretch) horror film The Hole can be seen this weekend in 3D in Los Angeles and, surprise of surprises, metro Atlanta. A minor Dante work, it nevertheless shows off the director's capable horror chops with a reference-heavy but straightforward film about children forced to confront their darkest fears. But rather than chuck in every scare he can think of, Dante focuses on the fears based on traumas rather than the irrational phobias (barring that of the youngest child, too young to have internalized the real horrors of the world). The result is surprisingly moving, and part of the welcome handful of recent, all-ages horror movies that challenge kids, particularly the stop-motion work out of Laika. That The Hole, Coraline and ParaNorman have morals to them in many ways makes them some of the best mature horror films in years.

My full review is up at Spectrum Culture.

Wednesday, September 26

Don't Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)

[This is my (very belated) August entry in Blind Spots.]

Don't Look Now begins with a fade out from rain cascading upon a puddle to shutter-shielded glass windows letting a few obscured rays of sunlight through the slats. These are soothing images, the first in a film filled with sights that would normally offer comfort and warmth. In Nicolas Roeg's hands, however, they become unsettling in a way that cannot be pinpointed or explained, an imperceptible dissonance that gradually creates discomfort. This mood carries through to the following scene, in which tranquil shots of a young girl, Christine, in a red coat playing by a pond are intercut with her brother riding on a bike nearby and her parents, John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura (Julie Christie), working in the house.

Roeg sets up the scene with gliding camera movements and dives into and back out of cuts. It instantly establishes the movie as a gravity elevator, constantly sucked through the core, propelled back out and slowed by the pull until the camera begins to fall and start the process all over again. Reflective imagery inverts Christine, who is then warped further by a red-coated doppelganger seen in a slide John has of a Venetian cathedral he has been commissioned to restore. The vague intensity slowly building in these swooning movements and careful editing reaches its apex when the three separate but linked images run together: the boy runs over a pane of glass inexplicably on the ground and crashes his bike; the red-and-white ball Christine was playing with floating on the surface of the water as a stand in for the red-clad, white girl now dwelling under it; and John sensing something wrong when he spills some water on the image and the girl's Venetian "double" disappears in a thick streak of red. A suite of domestic horror, this opening scene captures the full feature in miniature and stands on its own as a complete action of mood, construction and tragic execution that would make for one of the greatest short films of all time if the movie stopped there.

Don't Look Now ripples out from this exquisitely agonizing nightmare, replicating its curving, subtly dissonant layering of natural, even beautiful, imagery until it becomes a breathtakingly tense, impressionistic display of the inner mind. So thoroughly does Roeg visualize John and Laura's grief as an outward manifestation that the next time we see them after their daughter's death, they live in Venice, its renowned waterways an omnipresent reminder of the pain with which they attempt to cope. As with the opening images, the overwhelming beauty becomes a nightmarish shade of itself, some mirror dimension where everything looks as inviting as one would expect but conveys a strange threat. So bizarre and uncomfortable is the tone Roeg creates that the introduction of supernatural elements such as premonition and séances are almost to be expected, if not an outright relief. These fantastical elements ironically serve as the film's anchor, offering a clearer sense of what is happening than the far more naturalistic shots and performances that propel the film. At least with Laura attempting to contact her dead child through a blind medium and John having visions that conflict with the film's timeline, we know something screwy is going on.

Never has a film so strongly given the impression of something lurking around every corner even without the crutch of jump scares or jolting music. Roeg even does throw in his version of a jump scare as a minor joke: at one point, the psychic's sister turns on a light in a room and there her sibling sits cheerily. With the old woman appearing in long shot and her immediate launch into speech rather than a yelp of surprise wryly undermine what shock the moment might have. Otherwise, Don't Look Now operates on its off-kilter warping of realism edited into tone poetry, the knotty European lanes and waterways of the city folded into the constant refraction of the married couple's pain back onto themselves.

Yet the same skewed naturalism that makes the rest of the film so disturbing also makes its most notorious scene, the explicit sex interlude, so overwhelming and affecting. Constantly cutting back and forth between thrusts and images of the couple, post-coitus, dressing, the sequence stuns for the total drop of traditional filmic representations of sex. Roeg visualizes the distinction between "fucking" and "making love," largely by showing that none exists. Sutherland and Christie roll around, laugh, caress, improvise. They communicate the couple's tenderness through the explicitness of their actions. The whole sex vs. love chestnut has become a tired cliché in movies, but only because movie characters themselves have seemingly been warped by movie sex, with its male gaze distortions and pedestal placement. Roeg's editing, in addition to being a deft side-step around major censor cuts, places sex within the context of normal behavior, not elevating the couple's lovemaking to some mythic stratus of segmented body parts and dreamy lighting but a matter-of-fact part of life. Roeg included the scene to show a modicum of happiness amid the couple's consuming grief, and it works so well precisely because it is so unfettered.

But this is but a momentary reprieve for the couple, and especially John, who denies his daughter's death as much as he denies the foresightful powers that account for some of the more bewildering blips in the narrative. Unable to face thoughts of his daughter, John finds himself captivated by images of Christine's photographed doppelganger as she wanders in and out of John's view. The film's climax revolves around John finally chasing down this figure, only to reveal the person as a grotesque creature and the serial killer obliquely referenced earlier in the movie. Yet the premonitions that led John to his fate suggest a complicity in his own death, and the warped figure he sees wearing his daughter's coat may nevertheless still represent his child, whom he puts out of mind as a defense mechanism and whose gnawing memory literally rips him open at the end. It is a horrifying depiction of the capacity for the dead to ultimately kill the living. The only thing more unsettling is Laura's reaction: where her husband drove himself to suicide manifested as a murder by his repressed memory, Laura found demented peace in the clairvoyant's claim that the girl still walked with her and John. Thus, she ends the film in haunting contentment with her husband's death, so shattered that she sees his passing (and, implicitly, her own) as a deliverance back to their child. As if watching the movie herself, Laura twists the dénouement into a happy ending. For the actual audience, however, her muted joy plunges Roeg's elliptical masterpiece to new depths of despair.

Tuesday, September 25

If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise (Spike Lee, 2010)

Spike's follow-up to his landmark When the Levees Broke begins as an incisive continuation of his best documentary, but the sheer range of issues plaguing New Orleans ultimately works against Lee by splitting focus among a throng of horrific problems each worthy of their own in-depth investigation. No longer fit under the umbrella of Katrina, all these issues sideline some of the other topics Lee covers. Rather than build to a unified snapshot of a linking subject, If God Is Willing merely seems to culminate in the notion that someone up there does not like New Orleans. This occasionally makes for moments as powerful as anything in When the Levees Broke, but the overall documentary is too torn between everything that catches its eye that it lacks the same impact.

My full review is up at Spectrum Culture.

The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)

Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell is a man so wracked by his carnal urges that he walks in convulsive, post-coital spasms and pants in ragged thrusts when he runs. At the conclusion of World War II, the seaman joins his comrades on a beach in the Pacific, wrestling, copulating with a woman made of sand and masturbating in a grimly violent celebration of peace. Back home, Freddie reports for a military psych evaluation, a farcical conveyor belt that feeds disturbed soldiers through a handful of perfunctory, still-new techniques in a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. The results clearly show an unwell man, but director Paul Thomas Anderson cuts abruptly to the sailor working as a mall photographer, posing families into the waxy, beaming photos that define the period. Freddie effectively applies mortar to the bricks of postwar conformity, cementing it by turning every family into a false, overlit, eerie perfect image. Eventually, the irony gets to this loner, and he finds himself thrown into the wildernerss to drift.

Unable to fit in with even smaller communities, Freddie eventually stumbles his way to a yacht about to set sail, Anderson follows behind the man and racks the background in and out of focus, signifying Freddie's desire to be a part of the gathering on-board and his knowledge that he would not fit in. (In a less abstract way, it may also just be a visualization of Freddie's perpetual state of drunkenness, brought on by his homemade, paint-thinner-laced hooch.) Soon, Freddie wakes up in a cot on the ship, invited to meet the man in charge. The man (Philip Seymour Hoffman), does not give his name. Instead, he quizzes Freddie with a tone of disappointment, like a father whose boy has come home late. This puts Freddie at ease as much as it fills him with an embarrassment he does not typically feel as a freely fighting and fucking scoundrel. The man invites Freddie to remain with him, and the spastic, vulgar seaman soon finds himself the right-hand man in a burgeoning cult movement.

Hoffman brilliantly lays out the appeal of such a man. His booming, clear oratory stands in sharp contrast to Phoenix's jagged mumbling, and his paternalistic warmth gives outcasts all the love they never received from their actual authority figures. To divert attention from his tyrannical thought control, Hoffman's Master even lets his believers feel as if they get to contribute to the truth that he sells: when Freddie confides that he does not know what the Master is saying at one point, Hoffman responds that neither does he, which is why he needs everyone's help. But this man also relies on the unbending loyalty of others, and he can barely start a debate with a skeptic before his logical fallacies leap into full aggression. At the halfway mark, his name, Lancaster Dodd, is finally spoken by a police officer serving a warrant. The mere mention of his name momentarily breaks the spell of his omniscience as much as the fact he is being charged with a crime.

The extent of Dodd's thirst for control reveals itself in his "processing" of Freddie, a method of interrogation that crosses a psychiatric evaluation with a confessional. The processing starts benignly, with Dodd principally making Freddie repeat yes/no answers to innocuous questions with a game Freddie amiably playing along. After Freddie asks him to continue, Dodd does, and the close-ups that merely relayed a shot/reverse-shot relationship between the two men suddenly pulls back to show Dodd's head in the foreground looking at Freddie as he asks the man much more personal, penetrative questions. The shot holds on Freddie for extended lengths of time as it watches him, per Dodd's instruction, not blink as he answers. Dodd uses the exercise to strip away Freddie's boundaries, but it unmasks the Master as well, laying out plainly the manner in which he sucks in those who cannot conform to society into a life that will demand even more conformity. This agonizing scene shatters for Freddie but also cleanses him in a way the impersonal psychiatric care did not, making him feel as if he finally found a place where he belongs even as he is visibly enslaved by this new master.

From such patches of gripping material, Anderson makes...what? Rather than develop these teasingly strands of setup into a focused narrative or theme, The Master stalls out. Phoenix, so captivating as an outwardly imploding animal, does not turn his performance inward so much as he completely shuts down for periods at a time until he unleashes violence as his old self tugs at the community he feels around others for the first time. Anderson simply repeats a basic formula—Freddie acts as Dodd's most fiercely loyal follower, threatens to apostatize out of his inability to behave, then slowly comes back in with renewed faith—to the point of tedium. The metronomic wood block of Johnny Greenwood's score comes to represent the flow of the film: initially off-beat and jarring, but ultimately repetitive and directionless. Dodd gives this method purpose, the unmaking and rebuilding of converts, but he has the advantage of not ultimately caring about the meaning of his words, while Anderson seems to search for a point to all this at every turn.

The Master is a film of close-ups and almost relentlessly centered compositions, set within postwar interiors that lack the satirical claustrophobia of the decade's melodramas. Nicholas Ray, for example, used CinemaScope more for his domestic dramas than his expansive, exterior pictures, using the extra width to probe the confined bourgeois space around the actors, finding emotional voids in consumerist milieux that only drove those who resided in them to dizzying heights of uncontrollable feelings. Nothing exists in Anderson's close-ups outside the faces, initially captivating (especially Phoenix's, with one side slack and the whole of it criss-crossed with lines and a cleft-lip scar), but eventually powerless through overuse. The detail of the shots is undeniably gorgeous, but compositionally, this is easily Anderson's weakest outing, as well as that of cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., who previously brought formal dazzle to Francis Ford Coppola's digital comeback films.

But perhaps the static, centered frames and languid pace of the film serve to reflect the nature of Dodd's approach, seemingly ordered by logic and rationality but, as Dodd's son would say of his father, "making it up as he goes along." The Master itself operates like a cult, introducing tantalizing tidbits of information presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner. When it comes time to link these pieces together under a cogent, unified philosophy, however, the film leaves only blanks. All the better to lure in the sufficiently intrigued to fill in those blanks with whatever they please, strengthening their bond to the material by making them think what they brought to the movie was there all along. A scene in The Master actually illustrates this: Dodd, in a literal song-and-dance moment to hook his assembled followers, soft shoes around a parlor singing to his guests before the camera cuts to Freddie watching. Cut back to Dodd, and now all the women in the room are stark naked, standing around the Master in a carnal, if still banal, paradise. Constantly cautioned away from his base, "animal" instincts by Dodd, Freddie nevertheless sees the perfect fulfillment of the Cause as Dodd, merry and warm, speaking to a whole room and yet just to him, and a bevy of female flesh to sate his hunger. Similarly, the directionless drift of Anderson's film can be ignored and indeed even repurposed to suit the needs and observations of any viewer who chooses to project into its void.

The muddled themes of the film recall There Will Be Blood in the manner in which it presents two main interpretations: one social, one intimate, both half-baked. The Master both is an isn't a critique of cults and the manner in which this country and its social orchestration facilitates such organizations. Hoffman's subtle snake-oil salesman touches (the constant greasing of his hair into place, his close relationship with Freddie, who effectively makes his own snake oil) hint at a nuanced skewering of such a figure, but Anderson focuses on Dodd's fickle servant so completely that Freddie's constant temptation away from the Cause undermines its foundation as an infectious, consuming idea for social outliers, making the fanatical loyalty of Amy Adams' Mrs. Dodd and Laura Dern's devotee seem airdropped into the film for effect rather than a developed. As a much simpler story of a father-son/master-pupil/Platonic lover relationship, The Master treads such predictable ground that that the "insert profundity here" gulfs it leaves amid Phoenix and Hoffman's most focused scenes serve only to destroy the film's already shaky momentum.

Anderson's work constantly tugs between the juvenile and frenetic and the mature and analytical. The Master makes this split the foundation of its narrative. But by separating out these elements so fully into each lead, the director leaves a hole between these attitudes that only widens and widens as the film wears on. Not until the end do the two fully join for a tossed-off but wickedly brilliant dénouement in which Freddie uses Dodd's processing method as foreplay, debasing the mind control exercise even as he inadvertently reveals that is all the process ever was from the start. It is the most devilishly clever moment of the entire film and, placed of the film, almost gives the impression that The Master was building it all along. But then, it's easy to write to a punchline, less so to craft the setup to get to it.


Monday, September 24

Dredd (Pete Travis, 2012)

Of the many pleasures to be found in Dredd, Pete Travis' lean, nasty bottle episode of a film, perhaps the greatest is the lack of cumbersome setup that so dreadfully weighs down many comic book films. The only backstory for the protagonist and the world he inhabits is delivered by the main character himself in a terse voiceover that condense the hour of setting and character establishment that has become de rigeur for franchise starters to a mere minute or two. The Earth is an irradiated wasteland, and the only inhabitable area in the remnants of the United States is a vast, concrete-walled region known as Mega City One. Keeping the 800 million boxed-in residents of this massive slum in order are a group of peacekeepers known as Judges, authorized to pass and execute judgment on the street. Oh, and one of these Judges is named Dredd.

And that's all she wrote. Cut from this sparest of setups straight into a fracas, Dredd (Karl Urban) chasing down a car full of drug addicts as they fire wildly at the Judge on their trail. Set aside but a few more minutes after this swift action sequence to lay out the film's plot: assigned to take a rookie made psychic by radiation exposure (Olivia Thirlby) on patrol, the two head to a towering slum block to investigate a gang message killing. What they find is a 200-story building entirely under the control of a savage gang leader, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) looking to protect her manufacturing plant for Mega City One's hottest new drug, Slo-Mo. Literally locking the building down, Ma-Ma forces Dredd and Anderson to fight scores of bad guys tasked with collecting their heads.

The resulting film recalls The Raid, another film about elite police forced to clear a hostile complex floor by floor in the hunt for a drug manufacturer. But where The Raid took its pared down premise with distracting severity even as it treated its latent fascism as the elephant in the room, Dredd confronts its endorsement for desperate measures in desperate times with a brutish wit and a clear pleasure in its gory delights. Urban channels laconic, grizzled stars of action films past, the top of his face always hidden behind Dredd's impenetrably tinted helmet visor and his chin always locked into place as it occasionally lets words his through the cracks in his clinched teeth. Urban captures the perverse Platonic ideal Dredd represents as a lawman: he has killed so many in the name of martial justice that he has attained the kind of detached emotional response that is, in theory, the embodiment of what justice should stand for. When the Peach Trees complex thugs fire upon him, he expresses no rage or fear, instead noting simply that they have just committed an offense punishable by death and that he shall now carry out judgment.

Also worth noting is Travis and writer Alex Garland's superb grasp of pacing and flow. A film of nothing but action can be as tedious as an action overburdened with plot. But Garland's script, as punchy and direct as Dredd's occasional dialogue, does not mask the absurdity of its simplicity nor the Manichaean properties of this world. Even when corruption is shown, this serves less to complicate the film's moral absolutism than to reinforce it: if a Judge breaks the law, that Judge will be treated as any other criminal. This deliberately undercuts the impact any twist might have, ensuring that all focus remains on the staging of the action, which is kept fresh enough that it avoids becoming repetitive and dull from desensitization.

But it is Travis' direction that makes the biggest impression in Dredd. The framing and editing of the action occasionally disorients, but Travis makes intelligent of the confining borders of corridors and the open ring of air in the center of each floor. Spatial clarity across a sequence generally holds up even when it disappears a few shots at a time in a hail of tracer rounds. The real achievement, however, concerns Travis' use of 3D to visualize the effects of the Slo-Mo drug, which also passes on its namesake to these shots. Filmed on Phantom Flex high-speed cameras, these sequences slow time to such a crawl that drops of water separate and coagulate in midair, and smoke does not so much get exhaled from the lungs as crawl from mouths like a butterfly worming its way from a cocoon. Travis compensates for 3D's dimming effect by cranking up the brightness for these segments, an ingenious solution that factors in the technology's weakness even as it adds another layer of hallucination to the filmed effect of the drug. Coming hot off the heels of Paul W.S. Anderson's sumptuous use of bright color schemes and slow-motion in Resident Evil: Retribution to get the most dimension out of his three dimensions, Travis furthers the argument that clever B-movie makers continue to use the format in a more inventive, pleasing way than the self-serious filmmakers who look upon 3D as the next major artistic leap.

Dredd also continues the trend of 2012's mid-budget blockbusters vastly outclassing the tentpole features in terms of filmmaking panache and focus of aesthetic and thematic ideas, and all with shorter running times. Hell, Anderson's psychic interrogation with a particularly uncooperative and nasty piece of work, one that turns into a frenetic and surreal battle of mental wills inside the perp's mind, handles the fractured, carnal nightmare of a mental invasion with more visual probability than anything in Inception. Witty but never winking, Dredd is so refreshingly un-postmodern that it may well become one of the few films of recent years to earn a legitimate cult following without being specifically designed to be a cult film. Who knew a work of reactionary fascism would be such a breath of fresh air?


Friday, September 21

Wanderlust: No Matter...



This is a funny movie that went unnoticed in movie theaters. I recommend it, though. This scene is really nice and my Thomas Prime 5 students loved it.


No matter often introduces clauses in statements that express frustration or encouragement. No matter is commonly combined with who, what, when, why, where, or the intensifier how +  adjective or adverb.


I. Complete the blanks with the correct "no matter" clause:


1. __________ the couple do, they will always argue.

2. They disagreed about several issues, ___________________ hard they tried to agree with each other.

3. _______________ tired they were, they kept on driving all day long.

4. They were very tired during the night. They decided they would sleep in a hotel, _________________ it was located.

5. They didn't want to stop during the trip, _____________ they would arrive to their destination.

6. _____________ much they sang and laughed, they would always fight during the trip.

7. No matter ____________ started the fight, they never reached an agreement.


II. Discuss these questions.

1. Why do you think they fight so much?

2. How natural is it for lovers to travel together and argue with each other? Have you ever experienced it?

3. Do you prefer to travel withou previous planning and sleep wherever there is a hotel or do you prefer to have everything reserved by the time you go traveling? Why?


III. SONG - Before you listen to the song try to complete the blanks with "no matter " clauses:



SONG DOWNLOAD - BOYZONE - NO MATTER WHAT

 WORKSHEET

MOVIE SEGMENT DOWNLOAD - WANDERLUST

_____________ they tell us 
______________they do 
______________ they teach us 
What we believe is true
______________ they call us 

However they attack 
_______________ they take us 
We'll find our own way back
I can't deny what I believe 

I can't be what I'm notI know our love's foreverI know 
 no matter what
 
If only tears were laughter 

If only night was day 
If only prayers were answered 
Then we would hear God say
____________ they tell you 

_____________they do 
_____________ they teach you 
What you believe is true
And I will keep you safe and strong 

And sheltered from the storm 

_____________ it's barren 
A dream is being born
_____________ they follow 

_____________ They lead 
_____________ they judge us 
I'll be everyone you need 

No matter if the sun don't shine 
Or if the skies aren't blue 
______________ the ending 
My life began with you
I can't deny what I believe 

 I can't be what I'm notI know
 this love's forever 
That's all that matters now 
No matter what
 

No, no matter what 
No, no matter what
No, no matter 

That's all that matters to me 
 No, no matter 
That's all that matters to me
No, no matter 

That's all that matters to me 
No, no matter 
That's all that matters to me
No, no matter what 

That's all that matters to me 
 No, no matter what 
That's all that matters to me



 Answer key:

I. 
1. No matter what
2. No matter how
3. Nomateter how
4. No matter where
5. Nomatter when
6. No matter how
7. No matter who

III. SONG


No matter what they tell us 
No matter what they do 
No matter what they teach us 
What we believe is true
No matter whatthey call us 

However they attack 
No matter where they take us 
We'll find our own way back
I can't deny what I believe 

I can't be what I'm notI know our love's foreverI know 
 no matter what
 
If only tears were laughter 

If only night was day 
If only prayers were answered 
Then we would hear God say
No matter what they tell you 

No matter what they do 
No matter what they teach you 
What you believe is true
And I will keep you safe and strong 

And sheltered from the storm 
No matter where it's barren 
A dream is being born
No matter who they follow 

No matter where they lead 
No matter how they judge us 
I'll be everyone you need 
No matter if the sun don't shine 
Or if the skies aren't blue 
No matter what the ending 
My life began with you
I can't deny what I believe 

 I can't be what I'm notI know
 this love's forever 
That's all that matters now 
No matter what
 

No, no matter what 
No, no matter what
No, no matter 

That's all that matters to me 
 No, no matter 
That's all that matters to me
No, no matter 

That's all that matters to me 
No, no matter 
That's all that matters to me
No, no matter what 

That's all that matters to me 
 No, no matter what 
That's all that matters to me

Samsara (Ron Fricke, 2012)

Ron Fricke's latest tone poem, Samsara, takes its name from a concept shared among Indian religions pertaining to life, death and rebirth. Its root in the constant change of the world fits the film's structure, which trades the focus of Fricke's own Baraka or Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi trilogy for a more free-associative collage of world imagery. Opening on jarring close-ups of a ritualistic dance performed by three little people, Samsara only gets more bewildering when it moves from this show to the eruption of a volcano and the cooling of lava.

Yet the titular idea also connotes a cyclical movement of life and rebirth, giving order to its vastness, and Samsara soon reveals its unifying theme to be that of various ordering properties. That opening dance, so bewildering as an introduction, soon becomes part of a larger tapestry of ritual, organization and routine of humanity in nature and urban development alike, and even those of the Earth. This explain the footage of the exploding magma and solidifying lava flows, a miniature cycle of destruction and reformation the planet has seen across hundreds of millions of years. Fricke even includes a near-bookend of Tibetan monks playing horns to wake their village, a sort of invocation and benediction that reflects the cycle of the film's loose subject matter and the organizing properties at work on all cultures.

Films like Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka tended to frame their key juxtapositions in the imbalance between "primitive life," with its proximity to (and, therefore, its respect for) nature and urban soullessness, in which people severed their bonds to the Earth but constructed giant, false jungles in a subconscious attempt to remake that which they had lost. Why, as seen in this film, man now makes its own mountains and islands, creating nature for our convenience. Samsara still compares the tribal to the globalized, but rather that show them as diametrically opposed, it positions them as like creatures differentiated only by scale. Rituals for the former may have more individualistic, artful expression than the time-lapsed gridlock and ultra-processed artificiality of the latter, but they serve the same purpose. Besides, the world now has modernized to such an extent that even those in the remote regions of the world have not escaped aspects of change. Near the end of the film, several Africans are seen holding AK-47s incongruous to their tribal tattoos and lip disks until one considers how long such a sight has been (sadly) all too common on the continent and how new weaponry merely marks a new era in centuries-old conflict, not the breaking of long-standing peace.

True, Samsara does have its montages filled with disturbing images of post-industrial life, in which seemingly everything can be manufactured on an assembly line. One shot of what appears to be the entrance to an amusement park gradually fills with hundreds of people all wearing the same color shirt. Just as I began to wonder why people waiting to get into a theme park would have the same outfit, I realized with horror that this was the infamous EUPA factory city in China, and the long line of like-clothed people were the workers. One shot inside a vast factory in this compound (with assembly lines making everything from George Foreman Grills to clothes irons) stretches into the vanishing point. More shocking is the similarity of the developed world's food preparation to this mechanized assembly. Some kind of combine harvester sucks up chickens and propels them into boxes, while pugs are strung up and gutted on a conveyer. Meat gets processed back in an enormous plant in China, and the journey ends at a Sam's Club in America. To drive the point home, Fricke throws in a time-lapse shot of fat Americans wolfing down Burger King in a food court, the sped-up factory work reflected in the unthinking rote of our consumption of cheap, fast crap.

Yet if Samsara suggests, as usual, that modernized humans have gone too far in claiming the Earth, it also implies that the Earth has always claimed us right back. Winds blow desert sands into an abandoned house; eventually it will be completely swallowed into a dune. A library hit by Katrina has its wares soaked and scattered, with a book spine reading "The Village That Allah Forgot" highlighted among the refuse. An Aborigine's hair is formed into dreadlocks by what appears to be red clay, making the human being seem like the dirt and dust all humans eventually become. The recurring image of a Buddhist sand mandala being carefully crafted and, ultimately, destroyed serves as an obvious visualization of this idea.

In such moments, Samsara may be more didactic than its forbears. Fricke's attempts at levity—Muslim women in niqabs standing beside a men's underwear ad with stripped-down models; a montage linking the manufacture of sex dolls, eerily emotionless androids and bikini-clad women with plastered-on smiles in a dance competition—leave as sour a taste in the mouth as that which he documents. At its best, Samsara signals a bold new direction for this film format, one that breaks from the already loose, evocative style to explore an interlinking network of ideas, to make these films about the breadth of life more resemble the chaotic but connected structure of it. At its worst, this is a ham-fisted number that trades a visually sumptuous lesson on one theme for a visually sumptuous lecture on many. Samsara's greatest strength is its occasional ambiguity, seen best in the level of beauty afforded to its silent appraisals of the developed world that always seemed so ugly in the film's predecessors. Having failed to beat this encroaching modernity back, Fricke finally gives it its due. Those aforementioned factory shots have a beauty to them as much as the hand-crafted temples and monuments that make for such breathtaking views elsewhere. Besides, those who made those astonishing wonders of the ancient world were even more hopelessly shackled to their task than the criminally underpaid workers in EUPA today.


Wednesday, September 19

Capsule Reviews: Wavelength, Begone Dull Care, Bezhin Meadow

Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967)


Michael Snow' legendary 45-minute structuralist work feels about three times its length, a slow zoom across a vast, near-empty office to a photo on the opposite wall. Yet the time and space experiment is a fascinating work of cinema, the steady shot using variations in exposure and other in-camera tweaks to subtly transform one space into another, and to turn day into night with a filter change. Further challenging the makeup of cinema (and the audience's patience) is the soundtrack mixing synthetic an oceanic waves into steady wails of unending noise. It is an undeniably infuriating experience, but also one of the most brilliantly conceptual breakdowns of cinema ever made. And as Snow's different filters and exposures warped space and time, I found myself bizarrely moved, the director's intellectual, self-critical use of the camera also something of an exhibition of the "magic" of film. Maybe it's weird to look sentimentally upon a film with a soundtrack gradually building to the hissing shriek of a boiling kettle, but there you go. Grade: A+

Begone Dull Care (Evelyn Lambert & Norman McLaren, 1949)


This 8-minute visualization of jazz music (specifically a three-movement piece by the Oscar Peterson Trio) is a triumph of early experimental filmmaking, using paint, scratches and animation in an abstract ballet of synesthesia. The frantic layering of unclear imagery and sound prefigures so much experimental cinema, yet the sheer giddiness of its dance of light and the complex layering of painted strips and extreme-close-ups on symbols gives Begone Dull Care a vivaciousness that rates it over all but the best of the works to clearly derive inspiration from it. This kind of filmmaking can seem closed off and intellectualized, but from the rolling, danceable bounce of Peterson's licks to the listing of credits in multiple languages, Begone Dull Care is clearly meant to be enjoyed by all. Grade: A

Bezhin Meadow (Sergei Eisenstein, 1937)


Reconstructed from a suppressed work about a boy who prevents his father from destroying the collective's food, Bezhin Meadow is, even as nothing more than a progression of film stills, a work of stunning beauty. The edit of the "film" that I saw opens on lush shots of nature, of branches criss-crossing the frame, before telling the audience that the evil father has beaten his wife to death and now plots against the son for loving the Soviet cause more than him. I normally can't bear to watch reassembled stills presented as a lost film; it's like finding fragments of poetry, or uncollected bars of an unfinished composition. But the stunning composition of Eisenstein's images is so gorgeous and the rhythm of his montage so unexpectedly preserved in the stacking of these static photos that Bezhin Meadow is not only watchable but one of the great director's most stirring works. That's true despite, or maybe because, of its unbearable irony, its propagandic shots in service to some of the most insane public collusions with communism—paranoia over "wrecking" of collective farms, the lionization of the child who reports his parents—apparently insufficient to prevent harsh censorship. This is never more clear than in the scenes in which religious imagery and symbolism is mockingly upended even as the film subtly supplants Christ for Stalin and upholds a new, secular fanaticism that relies upon the stifling religious iconography it seeks to destroy. So many of Eisenstein's film bear the burden of this sad irony in retrospect, but they are never anything less than stunning, even when censoring crackdowns reduce his work to nothing more than a glorified slideshow (and we're lucky to have even that).

Tuesday, September 18

Ornette: Made in America (Shirley Clarke, 1985)

Restored and reissued by Milestone Film, Ornette: Made in America offers a fascinating visualization of some of the most exciting music of the 20th century. Shirley Clarke's techniques illustrate Ornette's enduring avant-garde chops, as well as the clear melody and structure that runs under even the wildest free jams. As a film about a neglected genius, Ornette could have taken the usual biographical tack of offering an overview of the artist's life interspersed with the plaudits of admirers. But though Clarke does amass some colleagues and friends to sing Ornette's praises, she wisely lets the art have the final say in the worth of its maker, using his contemporary performances as proof that he is still a vital, original voice adding mayhem to the American Songbook.

My full review is up now at Spectrum Culture.

Monday, September 17

Resident Evil: Retribution (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2012)

The Resident Evil movies have elevated the "It was all a dream" conceit into the longest-running Simpsons rake gag in cinema. In the series' expansion ever outward, continuity bends and narratives repeat themselves with minor variations that culminate in massive, butterfly effect divergencies. Afterlife, the previous film in the franchise and the first since the original film to feature Paul W.S. Anderson back behind the camera, gave this tendency an extra push by incorporating some of the distinct styles of the preceding three films. It brought back the claustrophobia of the first film's haunted-mansion setup, Apocalypse's street war congestion of bodies, and Extinction's sense of sheer scale and devastation (taken one further by going from a national backdrop to a global one). In folding back the series into this new film, Afterlife revealed itself to be more concerned with the self-reflexive, and video-game-like, aspects of this franchise than its straightforward upheavals with each film.

Nothing in Afterlife, however, can compare with Retribution. In a defiantly metacinematic opening, Retibution plays a sequence in reverse, instantly calling attention to the falsity of the image even before it zooms into into a black void filled with screens dotted with scenes of the Resident Evil films to this point. Alice (Milla Jovovich) pops up on one of the screens and directly addresses the audience, providing a recap of what has happened so far. I'm not one for lengthy exposition, but in a series filled with convoluted repetitions, incessant reversals and an increasing amount of clones, every little bit helps. Yet Alice's clarifications become amusingly irrelevant mere moments after she concludes her spiel, as Anderson soon plunges into constantly shifting levels of false reality that render moot an awareness of the story from sequence to sequence, much less across films.

Following the gorgeous opening and extended narration, Retribution dissonantly cuts to suburban placidity, with Alice waking to a comfortable life with a loving husband (Oded Fehr) and a deaf daughter, Becky (Aryana Engineer). All is well, until someone turns around and comes face to face with a zombie invasion. Alice frantically fights off the hordes of undead as long as possible, and just when all seems lost, she wakes up in a facility run by the Umbrella Corporation, Resident Evil's own Weyland-Yutani. Or is the Alice in suburbia the same one in a prison cell? This is bewildering stuff, made yet more confusing by the fact that this information, and a rescue attempt, is helpfully conveyed by Alice's overseeing nemesis, Umbrella head Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and his operative Ada Wong (Li Bingbing). What's more, Wesker sends a team to extract Alice, featuring a character from a previous film thought dead. Other characters return as well, such as Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), only to find themselves the villain thanks to mind-control devices.

But to worry about the plot of Resident Evil: Retribution or even how the larger pieces fit together is to focus on the precisely wrong aspect of the film and the franchise as a whole under Anderson's guidance. The hows and whys of Alice's unlikely partnership with her enemy and how some characters can return from the dead (to say nothing of Michelle Rodriguez returning as two characters, a "good Rain" and "bad Rain") hardly matter compared to the grandiose funhouse in which Anderson places these characters. True to Umbrella's outsized corporate greed and unlimited resources, Retribution takes place in a remote underwater facility that houses several zones that recreate major cities as a means of running test scenarios for the companies biological weaponry. As such, Retribution operates less through a linear plot than a routine reset of setting and even character as some figures change between the vast rooms. Having started with a tonally faithful adaptation of one of the most cinematic video game franchises, Anderson at last pulls back so far that his camera captures the conventions of video games themselves. Every room is its own game level, with the only sense of linearity in the arrangement of baddies in increasing threat levels. Where the New York mock-up is in relation to the Tokyo recreation is not immediately apparent, but the presence of massive, weapon-brandishing creatures in the former and merely the average zombies in the latter suggests a path of progression toward the intended escape.

Yet for a series already marked by an overwhelming sense of nihilism, this casual use of false environments and a cloned populace to fill them finds new areas of troubling implication. Overseen by the organizing artificial intelligence program known as the Red Queen, this collection of simulation hubs serves only as a killing field for clones programmed with just enough intelligence to react to their own slaughter. In video-game terms, they are NPCs, there to interact superficially in an environment before inevitably dying. This grim revelation could be seen as a commentary on action film as well, in which the same basic character types are reused time after time, occasionally altered as a means of adding "originality" to stale formulas while still keep ing all the components basically unchanged. Anderson even adds a wisp of melancholy to this human recycling, regularly placing Alice with someone she recognizes but who, as a clone of that deceased person, does not remember her.

Elsewhere, there is something darkly amusing about the largest location hub of this testing floor, and the central passage that links all, is not the fake Moscow or New York or what have you but merely Suburbia. It makes a strange kind of sense: suburbia contains all the oblivious, bourgeois contentment that makes a military-industrial complex possible. Suburbia built Umbrella more than all the national governments represented by their replicated cultural centers, just as idyllic suburbia is where bored, inactive children pass their time playing the sort of hyperviolent, vicariously energetic video games that spawned this franchise.

Take away these clever, insidious ideas, however, and Resident Evil: Retribution still works as a crackerjack action film. If the plot is so deliberately convoluted that it makes next to no sense on a surface level, Anderson's direction has a fluidity and coherence to it that makes following along to the spectacle simple. Anderson's love affair with slow motion, not quite at Zack Snyder-levels of obnoxiousness but close on Afterlife, is not so much reduced here but refined, made less into an awkward crutch than a part of the visual rhythm of the shots. Those shots are also frequently breathtaking, such as the holding cell in which Alice awakens early in the film, a geometrically precise, seemingly endless tower that dwarfs the heroine as the director looks down from far away. Light and color within Umbrella's artificial microcosm is used with audacious control, whether in the rush of red lasers down a brilliant white corridor as the hall turns to darkness behind the wall of beams or in the literal blackening of the "sky" when a massive explosion tears through one of the zones. Perhaps the most self-consciously beautiful shot in the film shows zombies underwater floating up to their prey, the frenzied, feeding mass around the poor soul growing so dense it sinks into the pyramidical rise of fresh feeders below.

Nevertheless, even that moment, lit and framed like a demented but magnificent painting, does not distract from the crowd-pleasing momentum. If Anderson brings auteurist tics to his work, he never allows the immaculate framing and self-reflexive cheek to distract from the simple pleasures of putting together a good sequence. He dots Retribution with homages—Becky being drawn into a sort of Newt-Ripley relationship with Alice, a short burst of spaghetti western music played during the confrontation between Alice and Jill, perhaps a vague nod to Extinction's style but also a fun placement of an arid desert duel in the Siberian tundra—but these are all just one more part of the show, metatextual winks to those who spot them but also valid plot directions and stylistic flourishes in their own right. Retribution, like its predecessors, suffers from stodgy dialogue that locks the actors into wooden deliveries. As a simultaneously unpretentious and surprisingly analytical work of popular art, however, this is one of the most fascinating pictures of the year, and Anderson's finest work to date. Given the manner that these films always find new levels of spectacle, thematic darkness and gloriously shot sets, however, perhaps that designation should be reserved until Anderson finally puts a shotgun blast of quarters through the head of this franchise.


Friday, September 14

Patch Adams: Asking Questions



This is such a great movie that I believe everyone should see. The message is awesome and inspiring.



I. Put the cues below in the correct order to make questions:

1. are / why / we / meeting / in here?

..............................................................................


2. heaven/ which / way / is?

...............................................................................


3. how much / taller / Wilt Chamberlain / is / than you?

...............................................................................

4. the / ceiling / where / is?

..............................................................................


5. the / birds/ where / fly / do?

.............................................................................


6. to Hitler / how / you / do / hello / say?

............................................................................


7. Hitler / does / how / say / hello?

...........................................................................


8. how / you / do / check / an elephant / for a hernia?

..........................................................................


9. would/ win / who / a staring contest?

.........................................................................


II. This is a conversation involving a few people. Where do you think they are? Who are they? What are they talking about?

III. Now watch the movie segment and check your answers:







WORKSHEET

MOVIE SEGMENT DOWNLOAD - PATCH ADAMS

Answer Key:





1. Why are we meeting in here?

2. Which was is heaven?

3. How much taller is Wilt Chamberlain tha you?

4. Where is the ceiling?

5. Where do the birds fly?

6. How do you say hello to Hitler?

7. How does Hitler say hello?

8. How do you check an elephant for a hernia?

9. Who would win a staring contest?