Saturday, October 30, 2010

Detective Hoffman's Opus

It’s popular to be a hater.  But as the trailers say, “If it’s Halloween, it has to be Saw!” I went with my daughter last night to see Saw 7:3D for Halloween and I was so pleasantly surprised that I dare say I loved it.  Yep.  Loved it!

Of course, we are well-known Jigsaw fans.  This movie did not squelch in the Tobin Bell eye/ear candy, either.  Jigsaw’s (pre-recorded) voice and flashback physique appeared in this one, as well.  Nevertheless, the first 2/3 of the movie are utter crap.  Hoffman, as incompetent as he has always been (on the police force as well as Jigsaw sidekick), continues to bungle his way through John Kramer’s elaborate plots.  Once again, John, in his omnipotent glory, had the time on his death bed to craft yet another funny game for what turns out to be the most contemptible Jigsaw victim to date.

The last 3rd of the movie, however, is a thing of horrific beauty! It is a fast-paced half hour of sheer cliff-hanging slasher genius! Hoffman in his farewell tour gets his comeuppance, old friends return, and the groundwork for 7 more films is laid! Sit through the first to devour the last!

Behold, Bobby, the uber-adjusted fake survivor of a Jigsaw trap.  Yes, fake, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, either.  Dear Bobby, with his PR whore and sexy female lawyer, lifelong best bud, and trophy wife craft an elaborate scheme to benefit from the fear and sympathy of a public terrorized by the Jigsaw killer.  Bobby creates a story of his kidnapping and ordeal in the clutches of the heinous serial killer, writes a book, produces a video, goes on talk show tours, and runs support groups.  Support groups where he tells his story and attempts to help other Jigsaw survivors handle their psychological baggage.

Of course, the all-knowing Jigsaw witnesses the blasphemy from his stellar throne and calls down upon the head of Bobby and his pals the justice of the traps.

Bobby, as I stated, is the most villainous of Jigsaw’s victims.  I would yank out a tooth and insert a hot poker for any of the drug addict prostitutes in Saw 3 before I would spit on Bobby’s shoe.  What’s he done that makes him so hideous to the eyes of proper society? He’s a liar.  Yep. A liar.  Nothing he says, does, or feels is real.  He creates his reality as he goes along.  I’ve known this person and he is not amusing. 

Jigsaw attempts to teach Bobby a lesson by running him through the typical grindstone that all chosen players have run before.  Will slimy Bobby pass or fail? The choice, as they say, is his.

The 3D is neat and as I’ve nothing to compare it to, really, all I can say is that it is a lot better than the Polar Express in 3D, which is the only other 3D I’ve seen.

Now, we must get into spoilers in order to analyze this movie to its fullest.  I would advise reading the following only after you’ve seen the movie or if you have no desire to see it.

First, Detective Hoffman, that sweet little firebug.  Let’s examine what he’s even doing here.  We all loved Amanda and it hurt us just as  much as it hurt John to have to get rid of her.  We can accept her as his protégé. What about Detective Hoffman? Detective Hoffman is not someone Jigsaw would have respected.  He did not have the intelligence of John Kramer nor the ruthless instincts of Amanda.  And he did not follow the rules at any point since his appearance.  He fumbles his way through the traps and it’s a miracle that he even survived this long. I believe, after seeing this movie, that this was all planned.  It stands to reason that Jigsaw planned for someone to muddle things up and so he used the only cop stupid enough to throw his life and future away on something as elusive as infamous glory.  Hoffman is like a little five year old boy whose mother swatted his hand and sent him to bed without dinner.  All of his traps and all of his interactions with victims are amateurish and lack the style of John Kramer and the finesse of Amanda.  He is but a tool, in several ways, and that is why John had Jill as his eyes and arms and legs throughout the entire Hoffman legacy.

Jill Tucker.  She’s annoying.  She did not try to keep her home together after the loss of her unborn child.  She did have one redeeming quality:  she continued to support John and give him any help she could in his plight to rid the world of jackassery. Heavy spoilers abound, so tread lightly.  Jill has honed a ruthless edge over the years standing in the shadows behind Jigsaw and helping John through his cancer.  She is busy doing his footwork while Hoffman is messing things up and preparing a trap with a person who seems to be basically innocent locked by the neck to a moving platform in the floor.  John Kramer never broke his established rules and he punished Amanda, the child of his heart, and he would not have appreciated Hoffman going about doing just as poor a job of following a few simple rules as Amanda did.

Nevertheless, Hoffman is having little sadistic playtime, and what does Jill, the former chalice of Jigsaw’s seed, do? Gets in his way by predestined order of her dearly departed.  She is paving the way for what could arguably be called Jigsaw’s ultimate plan:  the destruction of the hapless dimwit Detective Hoffman.  Only Hoffman catches her and does the unforgivable.  He murders John’s lady love.  So much less was done by poor Amanda and she received death.  Hoffman deserves hell on earth.  Jigsaw would not have wanted the innocent woman in the trap nor his own beloved to fall victim to a bonnet of his own design.  He deserves to die.

And he probably will. I predict in Saw 8 he will be the best and opening trap! Yes, Detective Hoffman, this was your opus, and you mucked it up!

But there is one thing I want to look into:  Remember our dear Bobby the Liar? Remember those support groups for Jigsaw survivors? Hmmmm….let’s see.

We had in number 1 the following escapees:  Amanda Young later killed by Denlon, Gordon (confirmed escapee by Saw 7), Jeff rumored to have committed suicide later.
In 2 we had:  Daniel Matthews escapee unaccounted for, Eric Matthews later pulled apart in trap.
In 3 we had:  Corbett Denlon who is perceived as being rescued by Hoffman but warned by Amanda not to trust him (hmmmm), Mark Hoffman confirmed survivor.
In 4 we had:  Morgan who escaped with the help of Rigg.
In 5 we had:  unconfirmed escapee Brit, Mallick who did appear in Saw 3D in Bobby’s support group!
And finally in Saw 6 we had:  Addy who was in the support group in Saw 3D, Brent and Tara confirmed escapees, Emily who is in the support group in Saw 3D, Simone the bitter escapee in Saw 3D.

So, with this nice list of escapees, who were the two unknown pigheads at the end alongside our long lost doctor friend??? With Dr. Gordon tossing out the saw, how will Hoffman get out of the shitter? And if he doesn't what will happen to him? These questions and more will be answered on the next exciting episode of As the Blade Turns.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dance, Drama, and Death: Ballet in Film

From my oldest memory I have loved ballet.  I remember being three years old and making my dad put my hair in sponge rollers so that when I took them out I could dance like Shirley Temple. I especially loved the ballet part in The Little Princess.  I had posters of ballerinas, scores from ballets, and then there were the movies.

These movies make me think of the ballet studio that is one of my comfort places in memories from my childhood.  The smell of the sweaty satin on the toe shoes, the resin box in the corner, freshly washed pink tights, all the pretty girls standing at the barre, arms in arabesque, the record player hissing as the needle bumped and skipped over the grooves.  It would be daylight when I went into the lobby with the other girls, their hair in soft buns, giggling softly waiting for the little ones to come out of the studio.  We would talk about school, getting our driver's licenses, what we were dressing up for on Halloween.  But our hearts were always on pause, and they remained that way until the studio door opened and it was our turn.  Freedom, dreams, hopes, grace, and beauty.  We would emerge from the bright flourescent lights of the studio to the darkness of the world outside that had kept turning, unnoticed, while we danced.

I will always have a soft spot for ballet in movies and below are my top 5, in honor of Black Swan, which I am very anxious to see.

1.  The Turning Point (1977)-  Directed by Herbert Ross, this movie stars Shirley MacLaine as a former ballerina who gave up dancing to marry and have a family.  When her daughter, played by ballerina Leslie Browne, decides to persue a ballet career, her mother must face the life she left behind and the jealousy she feels when her daughter is taken into the studio of a former friend who gave up the option of a family to stay in ballet.  The part of the daughter was auditioned for by Gelsey Kirkland, who was in the same company with Leslie at the time, and in a short-term relationship with Mikhail Baryishnikov, who portrays the Russian defecting danseur who woos Leslie Browne's character (and also did in real life, according to Gelsey Kirkland's autobiography).  The music is beautiful, Shirley MacLaine who was a dancer in her own right was magnificent, and the ballet (the focal point of the movie) is entrancing.

I saw this when I was a young teen and dreamed of being a ballerina myself.  Several of the dancers from my studio got together and drooled over it on many occassions.  This will remain in my heart as my number one ballet movie because of the mirror of real events in Baryshnikov's life at the time, and the whirlwind of Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine together.

2.  Red Shoes (1948)-Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger, The Red Shoes is loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the same name.  In the movie, which uses beautiful sets and camera effects to stunning results, Moira Shearer plays a ballerina who gets her break when the studio owner is forced to put her in the limelight as replacement dancer.  He creates the ballet The Red Shoes just for her and begins to force her to choose between ballet and her lover, who is trying to force her to make the same decision.  A true tragic romance.

The classical ballet in this movie is lovely.  There are some very ethereal effects for the time.  Costumes are breathtaking.  I feel that some of the issues that plague the dancers in this movie are less timely than the ones in The Turning Point, which is one reason that this movie is 2nd on the list. 

3.  Suspiria (1977)- Directed by Dario Argento, Suspiria is a true ballet horror.  Dario Argento.  Joan Bennett, Udo Kier, blood, knives, nooses, witches and ballet.  What more do you need? I was about six or seven years old when I saw this movie and even this could not keep me from longing to dance!

4.  Ballet Shoes (2007)-Directed for TV by Sandra Goldbacher, Ballet Shoes stars Emma Watson, better known as Hermoine Granger.  Three orphans are adopted by an eccentric explorer.  Their only worldly possessions were ballet shoes.  With these shaping their destinies, the girls enroll in dance in London in the 1930s.  This movie has a beautiful, holiday feel to it, as lives are shaped for the good, families are created, and dreams are realized.  Made from the young adult novel by Noel Streatfeild, Ballet Shoes is one that I think will become a new Christmas tradition for my family.

5. The Company (2003)-Directed by Robert Altmas, The Company is a rather light-material film centered around a ballet company.  There are some scenes that will look familiar to dancers, like the ones showing the dancers all crashing together in one person's apartment, the injuries, and the jealousies.  Overall, it is not a great film, but my favorite Altman.  Part of the reason I don't rate it higher is Neve Campbell.  At any rate, the dancing is nice, it is just more modern than I usually prefer in a ballet.  I do love the dancing in the rain sequence that is just marvelous.  That scene keeps this one on my top 5 list of ballet films.  There are also great performances by an ensamble cast including Malcolm McDowell, James Franco, and William Dick.

These last two are honorable mentions simply because number 6 is a short film that isn't entirely about ballet, and number 7 is...something indescribable and not recommended but included because they should be applauded for whatever it was they attempted to do there.

6.  Box  -Directed by Takashi Miike, this short film is one of 3 in the Three Extremes.  The surreal story of twin ballerina/acrobats who are raised by their step-father, choreographer, boss, and lover (?), Box is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen.  With magnificent use of color, metaphore, horror, and suspense, the tale goes from something quite simple (sibling rivalry) to ghost story to WHAT THE HECK?? in the span of only 40 minutes.

7.  Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary (2002)-Directed by Guy Madden, this is, painful, comically serious rendition of Dracula made to look like a 1920s silent film.  Mostly in black and white, and with horrendous effects, the movie takes itself entirely too seriously, attempting to be a high art film, or a cult film like the Call of Cthulhu that made much better use of this style of film-making.  I did not get through the entire thing, regrettably, and the movie was not mine, thank goodness, so I will not subject myself to it again, but a glimpse is all one really needs of it.  But if you can watch the first 20 or 30 minutes, it is good for a big laugh.  The dancers are good, to their credit, and the lovely Asian Dracula dances his little heart out!