Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Vacation

Le me crossing a river on a fallen tree trunk. I had to do it twice because I turned back around the first time...halfway through. Shit was scary.
 I went on an impromptu vacay! Camping and mountain hiking in North Carolina with my school's Outdoors Program. I currently have no Internet access and am using one of the staff's computer (this is what puppy eyes'll get ya). I should be back by Sunday so to make it up to Marilyn, I officially declare July 1-August 5 "My Month With Marilyn". Something's Got To Give review should be up by Monday. Apologies for the delay.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Week With Marilyn

   On what would have been the mythical Marilyn Monroe's 87th birthday month, I've decided to honor the goddess of cinema with a week filled with various trivia about her life, her career, and her movies. Tomorrow, I review her final and uncompleted movie Something's Got To Give. Stay tuned for Marilyn week!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)


  What can I say about 2001: A Space Odyssey that hasn't already been said? How stunning its visuals? How modern its special effects? How powerful its soundtrack? How big its ideas? The film is one of Kubrick's most dissected works. I don't believe I have anything insightful to say about the piece itself; but I can at least give an insight into my own thoughts and feelings about it. 2001 is a film I love mostly because of how it operated on my mind and the ensuing awareness of something much bigger than myself. I'm not a mega film analyzer (although I can pretend to be). I either feel something from a movie or I don't. I can only speak for myself personally and say that this is the most important film that I've ever seen.

   What do I think the film is about? How tools are what have come to shape how humanity defines itself. Every succeeding era brings with it a plethora of new technological gadgets. However innovative, these gadgets will soon come to possess and destroy us. It also deals with alien life, but not in the shape or form commonly depicted in movies. If my theory is correct, the one question I have left is this: have the film's aliens themselves succumbed to the machines/tools that they've created since the monoliths are far more ominous and play a much bigger part than they? Or have they reached an evolutionary ceiling where they cease to find the need or necessity to create new tools and are instead trying to help weaker civilizations reach their level, from behind the scenes? I like both conclusions to my theories. I probably shouldn't be thinking so hard about the film's grand themes and schemes. The effect 2001 has on me is hypnotic and I'm afraid to break the spell.

   Concluding thoughts. Mette over at Lime Reviews And Strawberry Confessions mentioned in her Star Wars review that she had no idea how Kubrick created his effects for 2001. And I have to side with her and say I have no clue. I tried reading up on it but got quickly confused by all the technical jargon. Suffice to say that the effects are extremely modern; they hold up to this very day. Heck, if released today 2001 could win the Oscar for best visual effects...again. 'Nuff said. The soundtrack is instantly recognizable. I've heard most of it in other films and never realized that their epicness originated from 2001.

   Concluding thoughts extended. My friend hated the Dawn Of Man sequence and the scenes near the ending. The scenes I'm referring to are the hallucinogenic scenes. It did feel like one huge acid trip what with all those shifting colors and terrains. And it did last a fairly long time. But I loved every second of it. Not gonna lie though, my eyelids were getting heavy during those scenes and when Dave reached his destination I had to rewind just to see if I missed anything. So I got to experience the trip twice! My favorite portion of the film is any scene during the Jupiter mission. Or aboard one of the spacecrafts. Kubrick's films are always so stylishly stunning. Even the furniture has character. Hal's a bitch. I was on to him from the get go, or that might have something to do with AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains list.

Some stunning images that say just how much I love this film and why you should too.

Ludovico Rating

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981)

   Mark (Sam Neill) returns home after a job assignment only to be welcomed by a demand for divorce from his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani). He asks her why, but she is distant and refuses to answer, assuring him that it's not because she's found someone else. Lies! As Mark finds out, Anna is having an affair with a man named Heinrich (an amazingly and hilariously colorful character). Enraged, Mark decides to leave both Anna and their son Bob (Michael Hogben). He shuts himself off inside his apartment for more than a week, all the while obsessing over Anna and losing his sense of time. During a moment of lucidity he decides to swing by the couple's apartment, where he finds Bob alone, dirty and neglected. Anna arrives. Mark tells her that he will not leave them alone because he does not think she is fit to take care of Bob. He also states that he won't give up on their marriage.

   Their relationship continues to fall apart as Anna resorts to hysterics and self-mutilation. Anna begins a pattern of disappearing randomly and then reappearing days later as if nothing happened. When Mark tries to confront Heinrich, he is informed that Heinrich hasn't seen Anna in a long time. Where is Anna disappearing off to? When Mark investigates, he discovers that his wife's mental instability may be related to supernatural forces that have got a hold on her far beyond his control or hers. But what's got a hold on Mark when he himself begins to exhibit strange behavior, stranger than his past angst-ridden husband routine? What follows is one of the best horror films of all time.

    This film is batshit crazy. The mad things that happen are not explained. They happen. This culminates in one of the best and most cryptic finales I've ever seen a film have the courage and ability to get away with. Everything that happens, however off-the-wall, seems to have an understated purpose. Possession does not care about spoon-feeding its audience. It seems to be having fun to get away with as many horrifying and disgusting things as it possibly can, and it does succeed. It's like a whole bunch of balloons dancing around in different directions but remaining grounded by a single string. I do think there is common theme behind everything that happens. I've read many of the theories online; each one sounds better than the last so I've come to conclude that this is a film that has many voices. Several demons possess it, and we each get a glimpse at one.

    In general, the acting is nothing to write home about, save for the two leads. Sam Neill, while widely derided for doing a mediocre job in this film, is actually pretty spooky as the husband. He may not be as hysterical as his wife, but when he does lose his temper then those spooky undercurrents certainly do not get lost on the audience. But the film does rest mostly on Isabelle Adjani's stellar performance, which I now deem to be one of the best ever committed to film. Remove all of the horror portions in the film's second half and you still have a brilliant performance of a woman losing her very identity. A woman on the verge of insanity. Still, I have to give her props for perfectly handling the physical demands of the role in a key horror scene where she appears to be miscarrying whatever spawn of Satan is growing inside of her. Seriously, watch the scene below. If anything, the brilliance of this scene should convince you to give this film a chance.

Starting out as a well-handled look into the disintegration of a marriage and then seamlessly delving into horror territory, Possession is a film worth watching. I received a recommendation of it from Tyler over at Southern Vision last year. And I'm kicking myself for just now getting around to seeing it because this film embodies all that I love about cinema: the ability to transform into something other, the ability to take risks, the ability to veer into previously unexplored territory, the ability to scare us and frighten us even if the main source of the horror remains encrypted beneath scenes of pure repulsion. This is a film that you won't forget, whether you love it or hate it. It's a possession on your mind in and of itself. There's no escape.

Ludovico Rating

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Man Of Steel (Zack Snyder, 2013)


    I expected much more from this film. Much more fun. Much more entertainment. Of course, I wasn't expecting something like The Avengers, but still. Man Of Steel simply does not have many fun moments. It's a serious picture with some really touching moments that reveal Clark Kent's inner anguish/backstory --up until the midway point-- and a whole bunch of fighting towards the end. The other reviews in the blogosphere are now especially poignant; now I can see why almost every reviewer was inclined to like one half of the film more than the other. The film is divided into two halves that bear distinctive tones. Thankfully, the tones do align perfectly well, even if not subtly so.

  The plot is kind of reminiscent of The Dark Knight in one respect. Zod comes back looking for Superman on Earth. He sends a message saying that if Superman (Henry Cavill) is not delivered to him within a 24-hour period, he's gonna go apeshit on the planet. That is basically the main plot of the film. Everything else that occurs within the two-hour-plus running time serves as a backstory to show how Clark has coped with feeling out of place in the very place he calls home and how he got home in the first place. His childhood feats and failures are shown, as his adoptive parents (both masterfully played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) try to help him fit in/hone his powers in a way that won't detract people from seeing his human qualities. Those scenes with Lane and Costner are beautiful and touching. Of note is a scene involving Costner that is beyond devastating. The length a man will go to love and protect his son is astounding. It also doesn't help that I saw the film on Father's Day. I cried.

   The problem with those scenes are that they seem to be building up to something greater; something that will conclude in an epic finale. It is what follows after that hour of exposition that is mishandled. The fighting sequences lasted far beyond their welcome. The film could have been over at three different points; and the second point would have made for an epic ending. However, it seems that Snyder was more interested in matching the megawatt legend of Superman with some worthy action sequences. In truth, they are at times amazing. But not only do they drag on, they seem more like the handiwork of a kid who's having fun smashing things around until there is nothing left. It's kind of grating. Snyder lacked self-control in that aspect.

   The other problem I encountered with the film is the lack of fleshed-out characters. This would not be a complaint of mine in a superhero film if Diane Lane and Kevin Costner's characters weren't so well fleshed out, making the rest of the cast somewhat/for the most part pale in comparison.  Lane and Costner were actually able to give life to their characters. They're e very talented duo. Unfortunately, let's be real, there is just no way that Clark's parents would ever be involved in an epic fighting scene with the bad guys. Instead, we are treated to characters I gave two shits about fighting/fighting to live. For example, Laurence Fishburne has a minor subplot where he has to save one of his employees from the rubble. The scene plays out all dramatically-like until at the very last minute...well, you see where this is going. I wouldn't have given a damn if any of those characters perished. I didn't care for them. They were not part of Clark's main narrative. They didn't receive the proper attention prior to their problems being revealed. I cared much more about the buildings and streets being destroyed, and felt sadder for the city workers who'd have to clean that shit up in the next few months (or years).

   Henry Cavill does a commendable job as Superman. He not only looks the part but he embodies everything I've personally come to associate with the character. The vulnerability, the sheer will, the steeliness hiding a sense of not belonging. Superman is a lost soul, a God above men. He bottles everything in, but what lies beneath the surface should feel palpable. Cavill accomplishes just that. I hope his character gets to be more fleshed out in the sequels because there is a lot of promise there. Amy Adams is great as Lois Lane, but there really wasn't that much chemistry between her and Cavill. Not only that but there doesn't seem to be as much to do with Lane's character in this film. She is shoved down our throats. When Superman boards Zod's spaceship, the Kryptonians also ask that Lois boards as well. But I ask why? They did not need her. Her relationship with Clark wasn't evolved yet for them to even know to/consider to use her as a safety net. Amy Adams is in the movie only to serve as a way for Cavill to do Superman stuff and save a damsel in distress.

I just wanna punch him in the face. Thank you, Superman
   Michael Shannon sucked. Yeah, I said it. I think his acting here was too OTT yet stagnant for my tastes, and not in a fun The Joker way. His Zod is always angry. It was far too clear that Shannon didn't believe half of the crap his character spewed out. His was not a difficult role (all he had to do was furrow those brows and shout), and he didn't do much more to make the character complex. I would not have had a problem with that but when a character is constantly mean-mugging on the theater screen and shouting, then I have no reason not to tell them to take their shit elsewhere. It got old super fast. Even then, his character is not given much to do further than being a roadblock. Whereas The Joker served as a magnificent foil to Batman, Zod is nothing more than an annoying critter on Superman's back.

Should have been the main villain
   Still, Man Of Steel  is overall a good film, though not one I will revisit often. Despite its flaws, it stands in contrast to other action/superhero films that would never be able to reach the level of excellence in its exposition during the first half. The cinematography is also a tour-de-force. The CGI is not jarring and actually helps inject more power into the action scenes. Krypton is also rendered unrecognizable from its past portrayals on film. If the action scenes had been toned down, if the two leads had more spark, if thus-far-useless characters didn't pop in and out, and if the villain was more explicitly recognized as going against everything that Clark internally stood for, then Man Of Steel would have no doubt being a 5 star movie. As it stands, I may not be in love with this film but I now do have high hopes for the sequels.

Ludovico Rating

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962)

      Simply put Lolita is not a story I care for. We all know what it's about. A man, Humbert Humbert, goes to great lengths to be with a pre-teen, the titular Lolita, including marrying said pre-teen's mother. Unfortunately, his forcible nature, his possessiveness and sheer obsession lead to a path of despair, death and murder. Eh, not that good of a story. That being said, I don't think Kubrick did Vladimir Nabokov's novel justice. It's hard to take a story that I don't even like and make me pity what it's become at the hands of another creator.

    A lot of Kubrick's shortcomings with Lolita can be attributed to the strict production codes of the time. Much, if not all, of the novel's eroticism is washed away in favor of black comedy, which wouldn't be so bad if at times the film did not take itself so seriously. I couldn't really get a sense of what the film was trying to be. Too much of the plot is only implied at, resulting in an overload of fade-to-blacks. They got really annoying after a while to say the least. If somebody did not read Nabokov's novel prior to watching this film, the image they would take away of Lolita would differ jarringly from the source novel. People would probably think the novel is just as tame as the film! Although a friend of mine loved the film for these reasons, saying that she did not have to endure the repulsive sexuality of the plot and could just pick up on the undertones. To that I told her to go live in the 1960s.

   Kubrick also eliminated a lot of the novel's plot elements that could have helped flesh out the dull story here. For example, he discards all of Humbert Humbert's back story, excluding out the explanation for his fixation on young girls. I'm not saying I wanted to sympathize with Humbert (trust me, I don't); but it would have helped flesh out his character if some of his back story was given. Besides, his vileness is also tamed down in the film so I don't see why they didn't portray his background to drive home the point that we're supposed to sympathize with Humbert. In the film, Humbert Humbert is more of a poor love-struck sap than the manipulating and possessive monster he truly is. The man is like Gatsby on crack. He could have been handled in such a way to make him one of the darkest anti anti-heros of cinema. Instead of a making the film into a black comedy due to the production codes, Kubrick should have made Lolita into a film noir since Humbert would get his in the end anyways as befitting all noir bad guys. Humbert Humbert is only made sympathetic because the characters around him are just so damn annoying. The best of the worst.

   Yet, my main gripe with the film is Peter Sellers. Oh my God, I hated him! This is my first Sellers film and I'm not sold on the man. Sellers' performance as Clarence Quilty feels so out of place. The film opens up with a murder, setting a precise tone for the film. Yet, nothing that follows onscreen matches that foundation. What's worse is that Sellers' character is involved in the murder; but throughout the film, Sellers does Sellers things and assumes different comical guises to deceive Humbert. His performance is too buffoonish even for a black comedy. Everytime he appeared onscreen I wanted to say
because his character is not even that prominent in the novel in the first place. Sellers' appearance here is only a gimmick so he can goof off and waste my precious fucking time. And it veers the film in the wrong direction. This film is not a farce! Quit it, Quilty. James Mason does a formidable job as Humbert Humbert, though not as the version I had in mind. He does the best he can do with the limited script. Admittedly, the Humbert in the film I did somewhat feel bad for. If that's what Kubrick was going for, well he succeeded. Still, I have a problem with the character becoming so vanilla when he's supposed to be so mint chocolate chip, or maybe butter pecan. Definitely not rum raisin though.

    Sue Lyon as the titular Lolita does a decent job. I never got the feel that we got to really know her character though. In the novel, we only see Lolita through Humbert's eyes. However, we are still able to get glimpses into Lolita's personal misery. In the film, since the point of view is switched from Humbert to a general one, I expected for Lolita to become demystified. The Lolita in the film though is just another teenager who likes playing games, and not a girl stuck in a bad situation unable to harness her new-found sexuality. It was evident to me how basic Lyon's performance was in Lolita's final appearance in the film. Her final meeting with Humbert is very disappointing to say the least. None of the blame can be placed on Mason who still retains his desperate act. Lyon just does not really emote very well. She can play seductive very well, but when she is required to bring forth her character's inner woes, well that just ain't happening.

Lol nope
   The only performer on par with Mason is Miss Shelley Winters herself. She's the best performer actually. After she leaves, the story gets duller and the curtains could have just about closed at that point. As Charlotte Haze, Winters is sumptuously loud, overbearing, clueless and annoying. Since Charlotte is supposed to be that off-putting, I did not find it shocking that I felt bad more for Winters herself than her character. Shelly just can't catch a break. In all her films (at least those that I've seen so far), all her lovers are out to get her. A Place In The Sun, The Night of the Hunter, and Lolita. This film is especially a parallel to The Night of the Hunter where both of her characters are widows who get re-married to an unfortunate man fixated on her children. And they both get bumped off. But whereas her character in Night was boring, her character in Lolita is lively and vivacious and oh-so-stupid. I loved it. Her performance was the best balance for what the film was trying to achieve, drama and comedy.

   Lolita is my least favorite Kubrick. The Kubrick marathon just took a major dip. Lolita just does not have the Kubrick touch! Do you know how many Kubrick stares disturbed Humbert Humbert could have given out? Ugh. But it is still a decent film with two great performances, a good look to it, and a title song to die for (seriously, check it out here). Even if I had not read the source novel, I still would not think much of this film. Too many omissions and implications. Too unable to define itself/its genre. Too blatant a failure at trying to be a stand-alone work of art, apart from its source material.The only thing I still wish is that Kubrick would have gone the film noir route with this one. It would have been superb.

Ludovico Rating

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Unknown (Tod Browning, 1927)


  Alonzo The Armless is a circus freak who throws knives using only his legs. His partner for the show is Nanon, the circus owner's beautiful daughter. Alonzo is in love with Nanon, willing to do anything to get her. However, Nanon has feelings for Malabar, another member of the circus,, who is renowned for his strength. Malabar reciprocates Nanon's feelings. There is only one problem and --wait for it, it's perfectly cheesy, you guys-- Nanon has a phobia of hands! See what they did there? All her life, she says, men have been groping at her. Unfortunately, Malabar does not know that and just can't keep his hands off Nanon, played by noneother than wily Joan Crawford. Who can blame him really?

Joan Crawford  publicity shot for The Unknown
     If Hollywood legends are to be believed, Joan Crawford was the one who had trouble keeping her hands off people. But you see, not in this film. In The Unknown, Joan is a beautiful but sullen girl who yearns for love but cannot get over the hangup of being touched. She is guileless and has no ulterior motive. That's not the Joan we know! Read: she was boring in this film. But guess who can't (and as such can) touch her though? Yep, Alonzo The "Armless".

   The wedding bells would be ringing by now except for the fact that Joan really has no feelings for Alonzo and Alonzo is not who he appears to be. Get this, Alonzo is a criminal on the run. His hands are easily identified because he has two thumbs on one hand. So to hide, he pretended to be armless and landed a job at the circus. This plot keeps getting better and better. Alonzo is hellbent on making Joanie/Nanon his wife. When his midget assistant remarks that on their wedding night Nanon will realize that Alonzo has other ~functioning members~, Alonzo is determined to not let this problem stop him. Nothing will stand in his way of making Nanon his wife, not even his hidden arms. Not his past, not his subterfuge, and certainly not Malabar.

Malabar, you in danger gurl
   This film is an enjoyable watch from start to finish. My expectation for the plot was that Lon Chaney as Alonzo would be the hero or at the very least an anti-hero. Yet, this film refuses to be a complete cliche. Alonzo is the bad guy, plain and simple. He's also the main character. In fact, he is the only character we are allowed to identify with because all of the other players in the film are so vanilla. Joan as Nanon is allowed to sulk around and look damn gorgeous doing it, but she really doesn't have much else to do. I was also annoyed that her character could not just explain to Malabar her phobia of hands so that they could work on it together. Instead, when she is touched (eek!), her eyes widen, her body stiffens and she backs away like Vampira from Plan 9 From Outer Space, only backwards. If Nanon won't tell Malabar, then you betcha Alonzo (who has been told her deep, dark secret) will use that to his advantage. In that respect, some puzzles in the plot fit together too conveniently

    Thankfully, a great performance by Chaney saves and makes the film. We watch Alonzo scheme and plot, all in order to get what he wants. He has no scruples. As played by Lon Chaney, Alonzo becomes one of the most chilling villains I've ever come across. Chaney is beyond amazing in this role. There is a scene later in the film where he receives some not-so-pleasant news. He goes from laughing maniacally to crying hysterically to being visibly upset/looking physically ill and then to slump down defeated. And the scene only lasts for less than five minutes. It was one of the best five minutes of my life.

    Lasting only 50 minutes, The Unknown makes for a short and satisfying watch bearing a wonderful performance from Chaney and a slightly cheesy albeit fascinating plot. While I didn't like some of the elements of the plot individually, as a whole all the cheesiness creates a great mood and atmosphere for the film. The Unknown does not take itself too seriously. It's neither the story of two star-crossed lovers or a look inside the mind of a madman. It's just good old, unadulterated fun. It is definitely a film worth checking out.

A Star Was Born

Ludovico Rating

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987)

And the unplanned and fulfilling Kubrick marathon continues~

no spoilers, just basic plot description and commentary

Private Joker
    Full Metal Jacket opens up with shots of new U.S. Marine recruits getting their heads shaved. We are then promptly taken to their barracks where the recruits stand in formation as they are being berated by their Senior Drill Instructor, Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). One of the recruits decides to spoof John Wayne during Hartman's tirade, leading to Hartman gut punching the sucker and issuing a verbal warning against any future horseplay (Hartman's hardcore, like you don't even know). This recruit is dubbed 'Private Joker' (Matthew Modine). Despite Sergeant Hartman's aversion to The Joker's comedic antics, it is overweight and 'slow' Leonard Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio) that receives the sergeant's full wrath. Lawrence, now called Private Pyle (after Gomer Pyle), is made the subject of Hartman's constant ridicule and humiliation.
Private Pyle & Sergeant Hartman: A love story for the ages
   Private Pyle is unable to keep up with his fellow recruits due to his size and simple nature. Private Joker is assigned to help him. Private Pyle does indeed become better, being able to complete the arduous obstacle courses and even proving himself to be a great shot. However, the harassment continues, and now from his own recruits. Private Pyle becomes increasingly unstable and shut off from the rest of the recruits, choosing instead to speak with his gun. This story arc comprises the first 45 minutes of Full Metal Jacket.

Me love you long time
     The next 70 minutes are set in Vietnam where Private Joker works as a photojournalist/war correspondent. His job appears to be more leisurely than his days in the boot camp, what with his dallying with prostitutes and all (Papillon Soo Soo as a hooker is a comedic gold). Those laid back days (if you can call being in a freaking war zone that) are cut short when he is sent to a military unit in war-torn South 'Nam where he reunites with Private Cowboy. South Vietnam suffers several attacks from the enemy. The unit is sent on patrols, resulting in a deadly sniper situation and an epic conclusion.

     Full Metal Jacket is often praised for its first half and put down for its "less-than-stellar" second half. I loved the entire thing. They're both brilliant pieces of film-making. The two halves may not be stylistically cohesive, but the contrast between the two makes for an interesting film. The first half is strictly set in the boot camp where these men have to follow and observe strict rules and receive intensive training. Their days seem repetitive. The second half, however, is less structured and more chaotic as the men are now away from the rules and safety of the boot camp. They no longer are just facing war; they are living it, for however brief a time that the bombings permit. 

First area of protection in war
    While I'm one of the few people who loves the second half nearly as much as the first half, I again differ from most viewers in that I think the film is actually separated into three non-equal parts. Bear with me. The boot camp stage lasts for 45 minutes. That's just a little more than 1/3 of the film since its running time is 116 minutes. Then, the next few scenes are of Private Joker and his current living/work arrangement in Vietnam. Those scenes are what I view as the transitional scenes from the boot camp scenes into the actual battle sequences. I believe that most people focus on those transitional scenes as being the weaker counterparts of the film. I do agree with that. Still, the transitional scenes are still badass and just as entertaining as the humor displayed in the first portion of Full Metal Jacket. You have the barely-intelligible hooker uttering such classic lines as "Me so horny" and "Me sucky sucky, me love you long time". I've been quoting "Me love you long time" all of my life and never even knew/bothered to know where it came from.

    R. Lee Ermey and Vincent D'Onofrio are the stand outs in the cast. Ermey is amazing as the foul-mouthed Sergeant Hartman who can deliver his lines faster than you can suck a golf ball through a garden hose. The man's delivery is simply amazing. Unlike Papillon Soo Soo's hooker quotes, Hartman's quotes are delivered so fast and with such force that only portions of them can be quoted. They're increasingly degrading, which only ups the shock and humor factors. It's been said that Ermey as Sergeat Hartman is playing himself. If any of this is true, he is a character I would prefer not to run into in real life. Although a sadistic part of me would love to see him wipe the floor with somebody's ass in real life. 

   Vincent D'Onofrio as Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence is brilliant in his role. While Ermey gives the loudest and most comically powerful performance, D'Onofrio's performance is the most affecting. To see his character start from the very bottom, make some progress and begin to receive some recognition only to fall back down is a character arc that is without a doubt depressing. You want to root for him. Yet, you realize that the more he succeeds at distancing himself from the simple being he used to be, the more he becomes the killing machine that Hartman wants him to become. He is losing his humanity. He may win the Vietnam battle for his country, but he's already lost himself. The war is already over for Private Pyle. 

   Not many films can carry such an arc for just 45 minutes and not have it feel a bit rushed. Full Metal Jacket succeeds because there is no exposition for the viewers to really get to know these characters. What drives them, where they're from. It's a film about the now. We are thrown into the film almost immediately into the barracks scene where Hartman is already degrading his recruits. By not overtly personalizing the characters, Kubrick shows us not only how war changes an individual but how it changes humanity. Humanity in the face of war is the main theme of the film. During the boot camp, Hartman praises Charles Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald's shooting skills. He blatantly states that he wants to break and rebuild his men in that image. He wants to make them into killing machines. Yikes!

Animal Mother, one of my fave characters
     The other performers in the film don't get a chance to stand out as much as Ermey and D'Onofrio but still flesh out their characters enough to make them interesting. Had the third portion of the film not featured a diverse group of characters that play off each other well, it could have fallen apart. Those men are interviewed by American journalists and we get to see a glimpse into their private thoughts about the war, Vietnam, etc. And Matthew Mordine as Private Joker is also an underrated part of the film. He is the occasional narrator, but his part provides the biggest visualized struggle to retain humanity in the face of war. In Vietnam, he wears a helmet that says "Born To Kill" and a peace sign medal on his jacket. He states that this is meant to represent the "duality of man". He also does not lay off the jokes. This is in contrast to his previous restraint during the boot camp training in the face of Sergeant Hartman's imposing nature. Now in Vietnam with no rules to dictate how one should behave, he chooses to let his personality shine. He seems to be one of the few soldiers who has not been too affected by the war. Most of the other soldiers seem to ignore their own ethics. They have no rules. They were sent here to kill, and kill they will.

    Even when Private Joker finally succumbs to an act belonging the dark side of war, he does it not out of any ill will. He is still human, though this act signals a change within him. Towards the end of the film, he states that he is no longer scared. Kubrick and the other writers Michael Herr and Gustav Hasford (who wrote The Short-Timers, the novel on which the film is based) make a great job of getting their points across. They condemn total institutions and the effects they can have on humanity at large. An inoffensive person, whether it be a simpleton or a teenage girl, resort to dire measures to carry out the plans they believe are above them. Losing themselves to such plans makes them into machines indeed, stripped of their humanity and strapped with full metal jackets. Unable to exude who they are deep inside, the only things they are then able to project are actual projectiles. In total institutions, you are cut off from your natural habitat. You lose your individuality; you are broken down. You are rebuilt in the image that the institution promotes. In the case of this film, the image of a blood-thirsty machine that serves its country. 

   The film's style is in line with its themes. Just as Private Joker stated he wanted to show the duality of man, the film is split into two halves that demonstrate just that. Earlier, I stated that Full Metal Jacket is separated into three parts, which I still maintain. However, those transitional scenes only connect the two main halves. Those halves are the main keys in unlocking the film's themes. The duality of man. Humanity faced with war. The damaging power of total institutions. We see the themes as they're being enforced and their ensuing after effects. Now with my praising the performances and the themes of the film, I realized that I did not really give praise to its cinematography. The composition of the shots is astounding. Everything is perfectly aligned. Even in the messy second half where chaos carries a sort of beauty and order. Kubrick knew how to arrange his scenes. The man was a master of details. For some reason, I've never noticed it as much as in this film perhaps due to the rigidity of the boot camp training scenes since the army requires order and discipline.

   Full Metal Jacket is a film that receives a lot of flack for only being half of a great film. I find it to be whole and full of harrowing vitality. Its humor and its portrayal of war show life itself under dire consequences. It does help that to me this is the most entertaining Kubrick film thus far due to the quick-fire dialogue, the powerful story, and the beauty contained in each frame. Probably now my second favorite Kubrick. We'll see. Either way, this is a film I more than love and that has me excited to check out my remaining unseen Kubricks. 

Ludovico Rating

I am loving my unplanned Kubrick marathon! Next stop Lolita.