Monday, April 30, 2007

Paying Proper Respect

Moviezzz (or should I call him my muse) has inspired me to write another post. He pointed out that I didn't include one of the best if not the best chase scene in my Chase Mayhem post. That being the chase scene from Bullitt. That caused me to comment that I didn't really care for the chase and man, I could hear the collective jaws drop.

First let me say that what Moviezzz has done is to demonstrate all that is great about blogging and movie blogging specifically. First, I have written something that has caused him to write something in response. That gets me all goose-pimply because that's why I do what I do. But further, Moviezzz has extended the debate past my page and put it on to his and as a result that has inspired weepingsam at The Listening Ear to post his favorite chase scene. To me, this is what it's all about and if all of you out there feel so moved to continue this further and write about your favorite chase scene on your blog then by all means, please do.

It's obvious that the Bullitt chase scene is the foundation for a lot of great chase scenes. And probably the inspiration for every chase scene to ever be filmed in San Francisco, but to me there are so many better chase scenes out there. Chase scenes that are shot better, edited better, more interesting and more action packed. The most recent chase scene from Death Proof immediately comes to mind. So that raises the question where does the praise lie? With the inspiration or the better execution? And even that statement is debatable because by saying "better execution" I'm already alluding that I think something is better. But for the sake of argument, let's keep it.

I love comedy and know that we wouldn't have There's Something About Mary and Caddyshack and Young Frankenstein without first having Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy and W.C. Fields. And I will willingly sit down to watch any of those first three movies, but you would have to hold a pretty big gun to my head to get me to watch those latter three. Why? I just don't think they're funny. I understand what they've done in the scheme of things, but I just don't enjoy them.

On the flip side, I get all uppity when people quickly dismiss John Carpenter for I think that he is one of the masters of modern horror. He, along with Wes Craven, George Romero, Dario Argento and David Cronenberg are responsible for much of what we see today. We wouldn't have a lot of it, if it weren't for those people. And I'm sure a lot would argue that the Dawn Of The Dead remake is superior because it's faster and scarier and bloodier while at the same time there would many, including myself, crying fowl saying you wouldn't have one without the other. And while I very much liked Zodiac, I couldn't help but compare it to All The President's Men and in doing that, I realized that All The President's Men is a much superior film.

The argument changes for every generation. I'm sure that there are a lot of people who would much rather see Cary Grant on the screen then say Brad Pitt. There's evidence of this when you hear someone describe an actor as a "modern day Cary Grant" or a "modern day Audrey Hepburn." For the longest time, I thought Roger Moore was the superior Bond because that's what I grew up with. And then I went back and watched Dr. No and Goldfinger and Thunderball and I realized that Connery was the best Bond. But then I saw Casino Royale and made the claim that that was the best Bond movie ever. And people responded with "better than Goldfinger?" and I said yes. And then the eye rolls and audible sighs were quick to follow.

When I had first learned of Kill Bill, I had read that it was influenced by several Martial Arts movies. So I wanted to watch them and see what Tarantino used as his inspiration. So I watched The Drunken Master and Iron Monkey and The Five Deadly Venoms and while I liked some bits of those movies, I didn't enjoy them half as much as I enjoyed Kill Bill. And yet, Enter The Dragon beats all of them hands down.

And Blow Up is a good movie, but I would much rather watch Blow Out over and over and over again.

The argument of inspiration or better execution really tests the timelessness of a film. All The President's Men is a good example of this. And I would put Renoir's Rules Of The Game up against Gosford Park any day of the week and there's 60 years between those movies. Nathanial over at Film Experience Blog recently talked about Blade Runner and I would still argue that that movie is the best science fiction movie around. Lucas and Cameron be damned, Blade Runner is better. And I'm sure there are a lot of people who might call me an old hack for saying that.

As always, films are creative and subject to different interpretations and judgments. And I think I've confused myself by taking both sides of my argument. The thing is, I don't think I'm wrong for not liking the Bullitt chase scene as much as I should or liking another chase scene better. But I would be wrong for not paying it the proper respect because it deserves it for all that it has done, whether I like it or not.


TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

Great post (and you should give Chaplin another shot, his films really do hold up. At least for me).

Another great example, Lenny Bruce. You can't deny his importance to the world of comedy. Influenced countless comedians. But, have you ever tried listening to him today? Yikes, he does not hold up.

PIPER said...

You're right on Chaplin. Harold Loyd too.

Anonymous said...

Alright, Piper ... you must've lost your damn mind. LOL

First of all, stop praising Tarantino so much, and especially do not praise "Death Proof," which is easily his worst film.

And "Kill Bill," while interesting, is not nearly as good or as entertaining as "Iron Monkey." KB is over-wrought, egotistical nonsense that had a story fit for a short film, rather than three damn hours.

Ugh ... Tarantino is overrated.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of overrated: Ray, I thought your film was a by-the-books waxing of your car. I also didn't like the part where Jamie Foxx can see. Why didn't he sing the songs himself? It would have made it more believable.

Wait -- ?

weepingsam said...

It's the kind of post that inspires responses - especially since it sends you off to YouTube to see what you can find... couple hours later.... Anyway - I liked your original idea, posting a bunch of different kinds of chases - like this: you could probably post half of Banlieue 13, but that chase at the beginning - oh, that is tasty. The art of the chase is alive and well in France...

Damian Arlyn said...

That's a very honest and humble post, Piper, and I sympathize with your position (even if I don't completely agree with all of it).

And Blow Up is a good movie, but I would much rather watch Blow Out over and over and over again.

I think you captured the essence of yor argument in this one statement. What's interesting is that I actually feel the same way, but not necessarily because I think Blow Out is the "better" movie (because I don't), but because, for whatever reason, it "connects" more with me personally; it hits me on a gut level (a little bit of Annie Hall for you there, Ed!). Plus, I think Blow Out is a great film.

One of the things I've noticed as I've been watching a lot of old classics recently is that there are some which I find it is easier to admire, respect and/or appreciate more than I necessarily "love" or "enjoy" them. I can acknowledge, for example, that Nosferatu is a hugely influential masterpiece(certainly one of Murnau's best films and arguably his greatest), an important piece of film history which I can respect and admire, but I would much rather watch his Sunrise, which is not only a great film but one that I also happen to love passionately. I also finally saw Sullivan's Travels for the first time the other day. I thought it was delightful and I quite enjoyed it, but for some reason all it REALLY made we want to do was go back and watch The Purople Rose of Cairo again.

I think as long as we don't ignore (or as you said "pay proper respect to") the classics that inform our modern movies, i.e. the ones without which our more contemporary products would even exist, it's okay to prefer whichever one we want. As long as we remember what which informs (and is informed by) what, we are allowed to go with a "newer" model, as long as we never make the mistake of confusing "newer" with "better."

Adam Ross said...

Ahem, someone say Bullitt?

Joe Baker said...

I don't know if anyone's seen the early 70's Roy Scheider cop film, "The Seven Ups", but that has a pretty damn good car chase scene as well. And, the chase has a fairly unconventional ending that will surprise even if the film itself feels like a "French Connection" knock-off.

PIPER said...


That's what started this whole thing. Me and a buddy at work were talking about great chase scenes and that was the first one we talked about.

Anonymous said...

French Connection.

PIPER said...


Great chase scene and one of my favorites.