11 posts from August 2011
If you're just joining in, you should know that @DaveG34 and I are debating the merits of the movie Armageddon. The opening statements are here and here; this is Dave's rebuttal to mine. My rebuttal is posted here. We agreed to keep our rebuttals to 500ish words.
As the next step in this debate, @EmGusk, who has declared herself fully neutral regarding this movie, has agreed to evaluate our arguments and choose a winner.
REBUTTAL: YOU'VE BEEN AFFLECKTED
I was impressed but unmoved by your argument. You argue at length that the film touches on three crucial themes - the end of times, teamwork, and romance blossoming in a time of impossibility. You also say a bunch of other things that I will not have time to discuss here due to the word limit. So let's just say, for the sake of argument, that all those other things are wildly wrong. Ok? With that in mind, here are your three themes, broken down asteroid-after-blast style and brought right on back to you like Affleck to a surprisingly-not-grieving Liv Tyler.
Mankind, you say, is concerned with how the world will end. I beg to differ. Perhaps, once upon a time, before mankind and little orphan Annie realized that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow, this was a concern. Now, there are more important things on the minds of Americans - like whether Pippa and Harry will become an item, or whether Angelina does one thing or another, totally different thing. Indeed, the modern world is not concerned with matters of importance, but with flash over substance. Which is exactly why Armageddon grossed a) a lot of money and b) out anyone who previously liked Animal Crackers. By the way, I'm glad animal crackers are a delicious snack and not a lobster-inspired veterinary device.
Teamwork, you say, is another important component of the film. True. But this is a hackneyed plot - did you SEE the Sandlot? How about the Great Escape? How about Midnight in Paris???? Actually, Midnight in Paris is nothing like this film, but I feel compelled to tell everyone to see it. Truly a great movie. Also, Owen Wilson a) has more than five lines, b) survives, and c) isn't stuck hanging out with Bruce Willis for a year. Imagine how fun that set must have been for him:
Bruce: "Yippee kayay, motherfucker!"
Owen: "Bruce, we're eating breakfast. Calm down."
Michael Clarke Duncan: (cries)
Romance blossoming in a time of impossibility is another overused plot. One word for you: Titanic. This movie came out in 1998, which means it hit theaters less than a year after Titanic. Have you seen Titanic? I did. I saw it three times. My favorite part was when Leo stood on the bow of the ship and declared himself the king of the world. That was awesome. Then they all died. Even the old woman, but that was many years later. My point is that Armageddon reused the plot of a movie that grossed a billion dollars the year before it came out. It is nothing more than an ambulance chaser, if the ambulance in question was a doomed, early 20th century luxury cruise ship. At a time when people were clamoring for more romance in an impossible time, Armageddon was happy to oblige - nay - exploit! That it was the highest grossing film of 1998 says far less about the quality of the movie than it does about the mindset of the moviegoing public. I'm shocked Ben Affleck didn't stand on the bow of the spaceship and declare himself the king of the world and then die in icy water while Kate Winslet showed him her boob.
To sum up, Armageddon is bad.
If you're just joining in, you should know that @DaveG34 and I are debating the merits of the movieArmageddon. The opening statements are here and here; this is my rebuttal to Dave's. His rebuttal is posted here. We agreed to keep our rebuttals to 500ish words.
As the next (and final) step in this debate, @EmGusk, who has declared herself fully neutral regarding this movie, has agreed to evaluate our arguments and choose a winner.
Alrighty, Dave. I don't have a lot of space (due to the arbitrary space restraints that I myself mandated), so I'll get right to the point. This movie is a Serial Happening of AWESOME Things, as in, "so good i SHAT myself." (Two can play at the clever acronym game!) And I'll gladly accept your Scrapple analogy, because this movie DOES contain head and heart. So there. Your first paragraph is now invalid. Moving on.
Uhh, well, they speak a weird language that only me and Susan Sarandon (SHIT I mean Sigourney Weaver) understand, but trust us when I say that their answer was "that kind of thing can work out fine." In fact, most movies can be reduced to very common-sounding themes; some of the best movies of all time are, at their core, just meditations on friendship or sorrow or redemption or locking a woman in your home until she agrees to marry you.
(Also, I never saw Deep Impact, but I feel compelled to parenthetically address that piece of your argument as well. After reviewing the IMDB page for DI, all I can say is, WOW--there is NO WAY Armageddon copied this movie! Deep Impact is about a comet hurtling toward the Earth; Armageddon is about an asteroid! And DI's female lead's initials are TL, whereas in Armageddon it's LT. So I think we can all agree that this was just a huge misunderstanding.)
I don't see what the big problem is with the acting is in this movie. I've already acknowledged the film's one true vulnerability--its writing/dialogue--and I think what are commonly perceived as acting problems in this movie are actually just amazing actors like Bruce and Ben and Liv and Owen and all my other BFFs just kinda momentarily choking on a line that they know isn't soooo super great. Aside from that, I think you get some pretty good performances in this film. I agree that I would have loved to see more of some of the supporting actors, like Owen Wilson, but it's kind of hard to focus on their development too too much with the master-weave of epic shit going on.
Instead of a weakness, I posit that the lack of attention to the minors in this movie is just grounds for an amazing sequel, Armawedding In Las Vegas, a hilarious bachelor party movie taking place the night before Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler's wedding. This movie would basically just be The Hangover with all the Armageddon drilling guys doing everything instead, and it would be amazing.*
Dave, I've done my best to refute your key arguments, and my opening statement offers a host of reasons to love this movie--but at the end of the day, it's up to you to suspend your disbelief and join the fun. But if you can't enjoy it, it's not the movie's fault. It's yours. Basically, as the hottie NASA lady (whose hair is down by the end of the movie in accordance with the rule that all women must get hotter as movies go on) says to the crazy Russian cosmonaut while trying to fix the shuttle launching mechanism: YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE COMPONENTS!
*I know that the credits for Armageddon already technically show Liv and Ben getting married, and that to get Owen and a few other characters in this movie would require ignoring the fact that they absolutely and definitely died in the first movie, but I feel we can overlook that in the interest of creating one of the more amazing comic romps of all time.
Note: @DaveG34 and I have agreed to debate the merits of the movie Armageddon. Background info is here. The statement up for debate today is, simply: "Armageddon is a good movie." I represent the PRO side; Dave represents CON. My opening statement is below; Dave's is here.
IF YOU THINK ARMAGEDDON IS A BAD MOVIE, YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE SPACE DEMENTIA
By Lauren McILoveThisMovie,Man
In defending the movie Armageddon, one finds more than her fair share of opponents. Roger Ebert gave the movie one star, calling it "an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained." Countless other reviewers shared his assessment, piling on critiques of its acting, writing, and pacing--not to mention gaping holes in scientific reasoning that you could, I dunno, fit a Texas-sized asteroid through.
Today, I stand up to those critics, and to my debate opponent Dave, to say that Armageddon is indeed a good movie. Now, defending Armageddon is no easy task--but then again, neither is AWESOMELY DRILLING A HOLE IN AN ASTEROID AND SAVING THE WORLD. But that didn't stop Harry Stamper, A.J. Frost, and their lovable band of blue-collar drillers-cum-NASA world-saver-ologists. So it won't stop me, either--because I LIKE this movie, dammit. And you can be all Bruce Willis and tell me not to like it because it's not good enough for your daughter, but at the end of the day I'm still going to go lie by a barn with this movie and let it traipse animal crackers over me while talking to me in a bad Australian accent, because I see the goodness of this movie even if you don't. And hopefully, much like in the movie, you will come to see my viewpoint in the end, just like Harry warmed to A.J. (Hopefully you will NOT be nuclear bombed/obliterated upon coming to this realization.)
The crux of my argument for this movie is thus: you can't deny how unbelievably thrilling and moving it is, even with all its little flaws. See, what its discreditors fail to appreciate is that Armageddon achieves the very height of cinematic drama and suspense by brilliantly combining several of the most compelling themes ever to appeal to human nature into one riveting tale.
Since our earliest beginnings, mankind has been fascinated with the concept of how our world will end. On a grand scale, the movie touches on this mesmerizing concept of armageddon, and combines it with yet another eternally enthralling concept: man's struggle to use his wits to defeat the relentless forces of nature. Few things strike our collective conscious so profoundly as teamwork, whether it is in the larger struggle of humanity as it marshals whatever technology and progress it has at hand to defeat the natural forces that would destroy it without a care or thought--or in the microcosmic setting of a few regular Joes banding together under a gruff but determined leader to achieve success in a daunting, near-impossible task. The layering of these themes within Armageddon rouses fear, pathos, pride, and good ole-fashioned patriotism. Add to that the human angle--a romance blooming in a time of impossibility; a father guided by love for his daughter and hope for her future--and BAM, YOU JUST GOT GOOD MOVIE-D IN THE FACE. The dynamics between Grace (Liv Tyler) and Harry (Bruce Willis), Grace and A.J. (Ben Affleck), and Harry and A.J. make the urgency of the crew's doomsday mission that much more palpable by focusing our attention on a trio for whom everything is at stake. I don't care who you are, that's just good-ass storytelling.
Armageddon has its awkward moments--my defense would be incomplete if I didn't acknowledge them head on. For example, the science is admittedly preposterous. The movie's Wikipedia page has an entire section entitled "Scientific Inaccuracies," which notes: "NASA shows the film as part of its management training program. Prospective managers are asked to find as many inaccuracies in the movie as they can. At least 168 impossible things have been found during these screenings of the film." Fair enough. But I have to ask--need the science hold together for a movie to be good? I'm pretty sure a lot of the shit in Harry Potter wouldn't hold up in a NASA training room either, but people seem to like that.
Maybe that's not enough to convince the real science sticklers out there, but try taking the words of Susan Sontag into account. In her essay "The Imagination of Disaster," Sontag writes that "Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art...to this day there is nothing like the thrill of watching all those expensive sets come tumbling down." Fucking exxxxxactly, Susan, THANK YOU. I took science class to learn science. I'm watching Armageddon on FX at 11 p.m. on a Monday because shit's blowin' up and it's awesome.
Ehhh, the dialogue in the movie is, uh, occasionally . . . thin. I'll just give you that one. But allow me to point out that Armageddon was the highest-grossing movie of 1998. Why? Because people liked it. WHY? Because we can't all be the NASA scientists in the movie who know the best way to do everything and be right. (Those guys were nerds and lame anyway, as a matter of fact.) As the movie points out, sometimes perfection isn't what you need to get the job done. Sometimes you need the rag-tag team of not-good-enough elements to magically come together in literally world-saving Gestalt. Maybe that's what's going on with this script--did you ever stop to think of that? DID YOU?
It is my ultimate position, then, with regards to the topic of this debate, that no, Armageddon is not a good movie; it is a great one. My thoughts about it can, in fact, be summarized with pretty much all of the lyrics to its signature song, Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing." Every moment spent with this movie is a moment I treasure, and when it's on I don't wanna miss a thing. And I totally don't feel weird about calling a movie baby and saying I want to listen to it breathing, because people, according to the transitive property of movie-song logic, Steven Tyler was basically singing that song about his daughter. So I'm the more normal one here.
Note: @DaveG34 and I have agreed to debate the merits of the movie Armageddon. Background info is here. The statement up for debate today is, simply: "Armageddon is a good movie." I represent the PRO side; Dave represents CON. Dave's opening statement is below; mine is here.
To those of you unfamiliar with pork products, Scrapple is created when you take all the tasty, useful parts out of a pig and then throw the rest into a blender, turn it on, and heat the result. Armageddon is the Scrapple of cinema. It takes a bunch of random, totally ridiculous, unexplainable events and throws them together into an action movie. If network executives were being honest with audiences in 1998, they would have named this film “A Serial Happening of Inexplicable Things.” Or, well, SHIT.
SHIT begins in a way only acceptable in a pre-9/11 world, as meteors shower down on New York City, destroying buildings, cars, and human life. The focus, however, remains on the health and well-being of a dog named Little Richard. Priorities, it turns out, are not Michael Bay’s forte. Next, we visit an oil rig1, where Bruce Willis shoots Ben Affleck - with a gun! – and no one seems remotely surprised. Like, oh yeah, this is our friend Harry - he just randomly shoots people with guns. Question: Harry appears most likely to belong to which of the following: a) a world-saving NASA mission, b) Rahway State Prison, or c) J-Date. If you guessed B, you're right. Also, surprisingly, C.
Then there's the whole "rest of the movie,” wherein our heroes become astronauts, land on an asteroid, drill through an undrillthroughable material, and save the day. Meanwhile, the President of the United States is somehow willing to blow up the asteroid prematurely, despite knowing that as a result, EVERYONE IN THE WORLD WILL DIE. This seems mildly irresponsible, doesn’t it?2 But fear not: Harry Stamper, the J-dating Affleck-shooter, has more power in this movie than the President, and he of course saves the day. Another example of crazy-ass shit happening is when Ben Affleck drives a space vehicle over a massive, miles-wide chasm. Really, the film takes on a whole new life if you just watch it as one really long deleted scene from Good Will Hunting.
In addition to its mind-blowing randomness, Armageddon is also a wholly unoriginal movie. And this is not just because a better asteroid-toward-earth movie, Deep Impact, came out the same year.3 Armageddon recycles a plot from every heist/war movie ever. Close your eyes for a second and imagine the movie The Sandlot. Now open them. I realize there are some Armageddon-y plot holes in the whole reading-with-eyes-closed direction, but I’m just getting into the spirit of the film. Now think of Armageddon while remembering the Sandlot. IT'S THE SAME F'ING MOVIE. In the Sandlot, a rag tag group of kids use cunning and high tech gadgets to place themselves at great risk to prevent what they, as kids, believe to be the apocalypse (the signed ball being eaten). In Armageddon, a rag tag group of men use cunning and high tech gadgets to place themselves at great risk to prevent an actual apocalypse. In the end of the Sandlot, the older leader (Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez) risks his life to save his protégé. In Armageddon, the same fucking thing happens! Armageddon is The Sandlot, with higher stakes and less heart.4
Armageddon also misused its resources. I understand that the special effects are the true stars of the movie, but the best actors in this film are given very little to do. Bruce Willis plays Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck plays Ben Affleck5, and Billy Bob Thornton plays the role of a generic bureaucrat. But Steve Buscemi is basically told to play an amped-up version of Steve Buscemi, and Owen Wilson, arguably the film’s most dynamic actor, is barely in the movie. Wilson and Buscemi would be a pretty good leading duo in a comedy these days (undoubtedly about a humorous, brooding Texan and his high-strung, eccentric friend). Here, Buscemi is rightly used as the comic relief (though really, he's cast once more as the most eccentric person of a bunch of eccentric people)6, and Wilson has only a few lines before he dies. I think. I dozed off and when I woke up he was no longer in the movie. Really a phenomenal use of Owen Wilson here, by the way. I’m sure he only got the role in the first place because Sir Lawrence Olivier turned it down. And Michael Clarke Duncan appears as well, playing against type as a large, sensitive, black man. He is actually one of only two people of color in the entire film, but he does share with the entire cast the propensity to overact. The faces made in this movie are amazing. People are sad. People are mad. Brows are furrowed. Frowns are frowned. Armageddon could have accurately been entitled White Men Making Faces. There’s also a crazy Russian guy, because, well, how could there not be?
In the end, Armageddon will be remembered for its special effects, its obnoxiously-overplayed soundtrack, and its exploration of the sexual possibilities of animal crackers. But it should also be remembered as a film that challenged us – in a bad way. Enjoyment of this film on any level requires a suspension of disbelief. So does Spiderman, or for that matter, Congress. But the ridiculousness of this movie lies not primarily in its elaborate plot or its flashy effects, but in its unoriginality and the absurdity of its execution. It not only insults our intelligence, but also challenges our willingness to sit idly by while our intelligence is being insulted. It is a fun movie, no doubt, a blockbuster meant as an escape from our troubles.7 But it is also, for lack of a better word, SHIT. Any honest discourse about this film must acknowledge this truth.
1. Acceptable only in a pre-Deepwater Horizon world
2. Kinda puts Obama-care in perspective
3. Rather than relying on special effects, Deep Impact explores the metaphorical deep impact (not very subtle, but whatever) of the apocalypse on a group of individuals. Also, Morgan Freeman is the President! And while we're on the topic, Armageddon and Deep Impact being released simultaneously would be like Lord of the Rings coming out alongside a movie called God of the Necklaces. It's pretty ridiculous.
4. To complete the analogy, Steve Buscemi is Squints, Owen Wilson is Bertram because he just disappears, Max is Hamilton Porter, and James Earl Jones is awesome.
5. Acceptable only in a pre-Gigli world
6. See also Con Air, Fargo, Reservoir Dogs, Airheads, the Wedding Singer, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, Big Fish
7. Because our troubles are surely worse than an asteroid heading toward earth, a strangely murderous President, and Harry “Challah at Me” Stamper’s shooting spree.
Let me take a moment, if I may, to bring you up to speed on a little Twitter convo that took place yesterday. After watching my pal @DaveG34 make a couple of disparaging remarks about Armageddon, one of my all-time pet favorite movies, I decided to challenge him to a formal debate on the topic. Dave graciously accepted, and after hashing out terms, we decided I would host the debate on this blog and our mutual friend @EmGusk would serve as moderator.
Dave and I are preparing our opening statements right now, and they will be posted here when ready. Stay tuned, because you woooon't wanna miss a thinnnnng.
1.) Jim Carrey, wow
2.) A Kid in King Arthur's Court was a thing
3.) The year I was born, apparently Nicole Kidman was Australian
4.) Keep up the good work, Jake Gyllenhaal
5.) Ditto, John Cusack
6.) The guy at 1:43 should probably rule a state
7.) Sarah Jessica Parker: I like horses
8.) Jackie Chan thing: makes sense
9.) Everything else: sure, why not
Here's a 1956 TV appearance of a man who, at 96, was (at the time) the only living witness of Lincoln's assassination. Interesting clip because of the historical slant AND the fact that the game show is HEAVILY sponsored by Winston cigarettes and the prize includes a carton of cigarettes, which would not fly today. Also, the dude is from Maryland, so heyyyy, just sayin, I got a good amount of mileage out of this one.
Also, don't worry: we're sending Legos to Jupiter.
Word of the Day of the Week: aesopian.
14 Amazing Photos of Dogs Shaking Off Water. Does what it says on the can.
Love this Ron Swanson paper doll.
This house made from a converted train caboose is pretty neat, but maybe sliiiightly claustrophobia-inducing.
What some cities would look like with narrower streets. I don't know why this is interesting, but it sooooo is.
Ohhh, and FYI: parrots name their babies.
PUPPY PICTURES! This cracked me up.