Tag Archives: William Friedkin

Fight Scene Friday — “The Hunted”

by Gabriel Valdez

The video I’m featuring today is not currently embedding properly. Please watch it on YouTube here.

The only reason Liam Neeson still has an action career is because no one’s employed Tommy Lee Jones to chase him down yet. You could run a day-long marathon of films featuring Jones chasing down fugitives from the law: The Fugitive, sequel U.S. Marshals, two Men in Black movies, The Hunted, The Missing, No Country for Old Men, and In the Valley of Elah.

What’s most impressive about that list is that all these movies are good to great, and you can see Jones becoming a more dynamic and human actor as he ages (In the Valley of Elah may be his finest single performance).

The plot of The Hunted is fairly basic – Benicio Del Toro plays Hallam, a special forces operative convinced that the government is trying to kill him for what he knows about secret operations. He hides out in the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest and begins murdering anyone who comes near, including a pair of hunters. This brings the FBI in, who realize they’re outmatched and recruit the man who trained Hallam (Jones’s Bonham) to help track him down.

The Hunted is the least of Jones’s tracker films, still worth watching but surprising in its traditional structure since it comes from director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, Sorceror). Yet it’s also the movie where Jones finally got to throw down in extended fight scenes and take on his fugitive one-on-one. The knife fight above is absolutely brutal, and one of the better ones ever put to film.

This training sequence from earlier in the film helps describe the kind of fight choreography we’ll see later on. It provides emotional background on Hallam, but also acts as a primer to make sure we’ll keep up with what each fighter’s trying to do in the later fight:

The climactic fight does have its weak points, though. As you watch Jones tumble down a waterfall, you’ll realize just how far visual effects have come in 12 years. In terms of the choreography, filmmaking in the 1990s and early 2000s demanded egregious pauses in combat for reaction shots, as well as close-ups of hits and misses. Action films since then, in great part due to the success of The Bourne trilogy, have shifted further toward uninterrupted combat in the service of reality. Since we’ve also drifted away from having reliable action heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, reaction shots and close-ups have evaporated and audiences are trusted to keep up without these breaks.

Additionally, where exertion used to be stressed in our violence, we now focus on the mechanical aspects of it, often to the exclusion of emotion. Neither of these portrayals is particularly accurate, and the idea that there’s a best “type” of fighter or a superior “attitude” to possess is a gross oversimplification.

These shifts in the tone of our fight scenes reflect more what’s popular in the portrayal of action; they reflect changing tastes in filmmaking. Fight sequences that feel more realistic aren’t always actually more realistic. Just as pausing in combat demanded sacrifice in the mechanics of the action 12 years ago, a purely mechanical scene demands sacrifices in the thought and emotion that takes place in a real fight. It’s important to remember that each approach sacrifices an aspect of reality when we discuss fight choreography and how action scenes are filmed.

By the way, we selected yesterday the Best Fight Choreography of 2014 and the Best Stuntwork of 2014. If you haven’t yet, check them out.

Wednesday Collective — Net Neutrality, There Will Be Clothes, & the Laziest Way to Write Strong Women

ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
Net Neutrality

Corporate Feudalism

Let me preface this by saying I’ve worked as a campaign manager, a PAC fundraiser, a legislative aide, and for a state Democratic party. One phone call to an aide is more effective than 50 signatures on a petition. If you care about any of this, yes – sign petitions. But the biggest difference you can make, the biggest way you can interrupt someone’s day and get stuck in their head and make them bring an issue up to the politician for whom they work – is by calling. Your Senators. Your Representatives. Your Governors.

Petitions take a minute to look at. Form letters can be recognized and filed into a folder you know you’re never going to look at again. A phone call has to be taken by someone, because they never know what the topic’s going to be until they’ve already committed themselves to listen. A petition or form letter may make you feel better, but it has little real effect today. It gives the power to the clicking finger on somebody’s mouse hand. Aides are required to pick up the phone, answer politely, and listen. It puts the power in your voice.

The biggest reason you should be worried about net neutrality is that the Internet isn’t really an owned thing. Anyone can hop on and, with a minimum of trouble and investment, start a website – it’s the ultimate realization of free speech. The net neutrality cases the Supreme Court is sleeping through and legislation Congress is drawing up threaten that.

Essentially, service companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon will be able to double-dip. They’ll charge you for your internet connection, and then turn around and charge websites for their ability to get material to you. What this means to you is that the Internet will start to become prepackaged, like cable TV is. You will be forced into deciding which websites you’d like to pay to access, which plan you’d like to subscribe to, and the open access you have now to every single site on the web will disappear. Small websites and independent ones that can’t pay the service companies will lose their voice.

Service companies will also be able to dictate through bandwidth the political opinions they’d like to support, and will be able to relegate the kinds of independent news sources we most rely upon online to the far corners of accessibility.

I’m not the expert on this. If you haven’t already, learn about net neutrality online. The Washington Post published an infographic that shows how easily Comcast extorted Netflix into paying for a service we (and they) already pay for.

Here’s the ACLU’s rundown of information on net neutrality.

Don’t mistake this with the government’s ill-timed pilot program roll-out of the “Internet Driver’s License,” which would be managed by the government but store your information with subcontracted third parties. I mean, that’s scary, too, the government collecting every log-in and piece of information on you and selling it to third parties, who could then bundle it with other users’ data and sell that to third parties. Nothing like that’s ever gone wrong, has it? But that’s a completely different issue that’s just as scary and threatening, and would only take an extra five seconds to bring up to your Congressperson.

There Will Be Clothes
Maria Bruder

There Will Be Clothes

One reason I push our Bits & Pieces series is to write about the overlooked technical aspects we often gloss over as viewers. Even though we may not select out a piece of set design here or a bit of fight or dance choreography there as conveying a message, these details still burrow into our subconscious.

Clothes on Film is a specialty website that talks about, well, clothes on film. It’s an invaluable resource for costume designers and make-up artists. This There Will Be Blood article is just one of several phenomenal pieces they’ve hosted. Not only can you crash through their archives willy-nilly, you can also peruse their articles by a film’s time period, allowing you to get multiple perspectives on how costume designers find ways to burrow their messages into our subconscious.

The Laziest, Most Offensive Way to Write a Strong Woman
A.E. Larsen

300r Eva Green.tiff

300: 300 Harder is in a tight race with Jack Ryan: Kenneth Branagh Takes a Nap and Brick Mansions (no pun here, I feel bad enough for that movie as is) for worst movie of the year so far. Yes, we’re only four months in, but when the fifth entry in the Paranormal Activity canon can’t even make that list, it means you’ve really had some half-assed films.

300: Shameless Play on Star Wars Titling wasn’t actually a terrible movie. I mean, it was, but it had some neat technical things going for it. Its biggest problem, and its strongest claim to win (lose?) that award at the end of the year, is Artemisia. The Persian general is played by Eva Green, who is the only actor in the whole damn thing who realizes how much camp a movie like 300: Leonidas and Xerxes Escape from Guantanamo Bay really needs. Green (and Lena Headey for all of 2.5 seconds) are the only watchable actors in this.

But the character Green plays is offensive. She’s a strong woman. Well that’s a good start, but why is she strong? Because she was raped as a preteen. Welcome to genre fiction, where men can be strong because they swing Freudian swords around all day, but women can only be strong if they’re sexually taken advantage of. It’s like a trade-off. You can be a weak and virginal female character, but if you want to be strong, you’d better get chained up in the bottom of a Greek ship for years on end while sailors have their way with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Arnold Schwarzenegger being strong in Conan or John McClane being badass in Die Hard because either got raped for years on end as a kid.

A.E. Larsen writes about Artemisia’s historical accuracy, as well as giving his own take on the strong-woman-as-raped-woman issue in a fantastic article that bridges history and social responsibility in filmmaking.

So even though Brick Mansions is the worst-told story of the year, and Jack Ryan: Keira Knightley Can’t Play Every Character in This Scene, Can She? She Can, I Guess is the most boring movie of the year, 300: Screenwriters Please Go F*ck Yourselves is really leading the pack toward the bottom.

The Best Movie You’ll Never See
Sam Adams

Sorceror

At The Dissolve, Sam Adams (he really gets around Wednesday Collective, doesn’t he) interviews director William Friedkin about the best movie you’ve never seen. In fact, catch me in the right mood and I’ll admit that Sorceror, William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Wages of Fear, may be the best movie, period. It has one of the finest endings in cinema. Hell, the whole movie is just one great, big ending. Coming off his success with The Exorcist and The French Connection, Friedkin risked life and limb to shoot an existential, Conradian action movie in the jungle.

Despite being a critical success, it was killed by the release of Star Wars, and Sorceror barely survived. I remember watching a poor VHS copy as a kid, not knowing that most prints had been lost or destroyed over a few short decades. Sorceror was finally remastered and released last month. Watch it, you won’t regret it. And read the interview, though it does contain spoilers.

Adam Sandler as Transgressional Hero
Bilge Ebiri

Adam Sandler test

I don’t know that I agree with this article, but I don’t know that I disagree with it. This is rare. Try it on for size.

The Wily Beast and the Desperate Woman
Hadley Freeman

George Clooney

Freeman tips the double standard in celebrity reporting on its head by comparing media reactions to the engagement of George Clooney to the reactions on the engagement of Jennifer Aniston. He was ‘tamed,’ the wily beast, by one of the world’s most pre-eminent humanitarian lawyers (even though she turned him down twice) while Jennifer Aniston suckered in some poor B-lister I’ve never heard of ‘in the nick of time,’ and he can’t wait to get out of it. You know, all allegedly, because otherwise, writers would get sued. Really, I couldn’t care who’s getting married to whom – I was always rooting for Clooney and Pitt to get it together so they could have an excuse to remake old Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn courtroom comedies – but if you’re going to report on people’s private lives, you may as well be equal opportunity about it.

As Freeman says, “In the world of media, women are tragic and desperate and said, and men are caddish and free. Because the media, apparently, believes that people are like characters in a crap romcom you wouldn’t watch on a 14-hour flight.”