Saturday, April 26, 2008

WORST MONTH EVER: Bad Scenes from Good Movies

Not even the best movies can bat 1.000, and I'm here to tell you about a few cringe-worthy scenes in some of my favorites:

Ghostbusters -- Ray's dream

My favorite part of Ghostbusters has always been the montage following their encounter with Slimer -- seeing them as guests on Larry King, across the magazine covers (the illustrated Atlantic cover is brilliant) and going from job to job. And yet, such a strong sequence ends with a thud, as we see a ghost apparently enter Ray's dream and give him some ecto-lovin. I can live with this scene's concept, but it plays out all wrong and ends up feeling like a deleted scene. As a dream there are endless possibilities, but what we're given is neither funny, scary or creative at all. Is Ray supposed to be Napoleon? Why not a ghost nightmare with some dark humor, or some Zool foreshadowing? Even worse, Dan Akyroyd's acting is terrible (as it is for most of the movie, unfortunately -- see his memorized line delivery in the scene after their firing from the university), his reaction to the ghost's friendly gesture is more 10-year-old virgin than "cool, a slutty ghost!"

The Dirty Dozen -- Divisional maneuvers

Until I read Steve Carlson's recent review of this movie, I was afraid I was the only one who didn't get this scene. Steve's right: director Robert Aldrich does too little with this sequence, which should be one of the movie's best moments. The Dozen are ordered to prove themselves in a vast war games operation, and Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) backs his men by saying not only will they exceed, but his unit will win the operation outright. We immediately see that the bastards' plan is to play both sides, carrying red and blue arm bands to apparently sneak into enemy territory undetected. It's a needlessly complicated sequence, and Aldrich leads you to believe that something amazingly clever is about to happen. Their eventual triumph is somewhat inventive, but far from impressive since it appears' the enemy HQ is defended by three or four soldiers and a single jeep. If they already were outnumbering the enemy, why not just bull rush them? Much more could have been done here, especially since there is almost no action or stunts.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring -- Galadriel goes gonzo

Maybe the strangest scene of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. While the rest of the saga looks like a billion bucks, for a few seconds it becomes a Ronnie James Dio video. Staying in Lothlorien, Frodo has a key encounter with the Elfen queen Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), who offers him a glimpse at the future. Shaken by what he has seen, Frodo unexpectedly has to protect the ring from Galadriel, who nearly gives in to temptation. For a moment Galadriel falls prey to the ring's evil, and that's where the wheels start to fall off: to show how evil Galadriel has become, the frame rate is slowed down, her voice sounds like something from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and she glows with the quality of PhotoShop. Surely there was a better way to do this without looking like a junior college production of Holy Diver.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre -- Howard's end

This scene isn't necessarily bad, it's just the lowest point in a fantastic movie. After parting ways with his gold mining partners, Howard (Walter Huston) finds himself in a Mexican Valhalla, where he is worshiped by all and even has healing powers. Sure it's nice to give the old guy a good send off, but I agree with Roger Ebert when he says these scenes "belong in a lesser movie." I'm not sure what a more appropriate cota for Howard would be, but almost anything would have been more realistic than what we have.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom -- Dr. Grabass

I know, I know -- Temple of Doom shouldn't be listed here, as these are good movies, right? But as a lifelong defender of Temple, I have to point out the scene that makes me want to offer my own heart to Kali. It's well-documented that George Lucas (and to a lesser extent, Steven Spielberg) does not do comedy well, and the same could be said for romance. So when these two get together, it's bound to be bad. At Pankot Palace, we're subjected to a tortuous experiment in battle of the sexes comedy. To repay Indy for giving her an apple, Willie (Kate Capshaw) throws herself at the archaeologist's feet, and he reciprocates by beginning an avalanche of ever-worsening innuendo that would make a morning FM deejay reach for the "eject" button. "Mating rituals"? Kill me. If that's not bad enough, we're supposed to believe that a man would walk away from casual sex because of how annoying she is. The story demands that some kind of conflict develops between Willie and Indy, but what results is similar to a porn scene being aborted because the man forgot to take his shoes off.



Totally agree with every one of these, except maybe the DIRTY DOZEN. That scene wasn't great, but it never bothered me...unlike the GHOSTBUSTERS scene which always bothered me horribly. And made me feel strange for thinking a ghost was sexy.

On a sidenote. I think TEMPLE OF DOOM is the best action movie of all time. I've loved it since the first time I saw it, at 4-years-old and will argue with anyone and everyone about its superiority to RAIDERS (another 5/4 star film.)

Just discovered your blog and found TEMPLE, PECKINPAH and BAVA within minutes. Are you sure you're not me?

Ice said...

As far as the Ghostbusters thing goes, that actually WAS part of a deleted scene where Ray and Winston examine an old historical location. Ray dresses up in period clothes and gets lost, where he's accosted by this ghost. Winston eventually finds him. I believe it took place near the end of the movie (before the scene where Winston and Ray are driving on the bridge and talking about the end of the world). I guess they wanted to salvage some of it for the montage. I agree, it does seem a little out of place.

Adam Ross said...

Joseph -- I watched "Temple" at the same age, right when it came out on video and my family rented a VCR. Thanks for stopping by.

Ice -- Very interesting! Thanks for the good info, did not know that.

Zane said...

Are you familiar with the video to Holy Diver? SO COOL ...

"Ride the tiger."

Zane said...

Damn, I guess the link didn't work. Do a YouTube search. It's heaven.

Damian said...

I won't elaborate on the history behind the "slutty ghost" sequence since Ice already has. I'll just add that it's a scene I didn't even "get" as a kid. I had to hit puberty before I knew what was going on. Incidentally, they always cut that part out on TV.

The rest I think I can pretty much agree with... except for Temple of Doom. Personally speaking, I get a kick out of the screwball nature of that whole exchange. You are correct in that it's certainly not sweet or romantic (especially when compared to the corresponding scene between Indy and Marion in Raiders), but I don't think it was intended to be. Like a lot of things in Temple of Doom, there's nothing subtle about it. The tone is played to the extreme and consequently I find it rather enjoyable precisely because it's so shamelessly juvenile. Even the "love" theme that Williams wrote for the scene seems to reflect a somewhat exaggerated, one could even say "corny," attitude. It's a much sillier, more playful melody than the emotional (even lyrical) tenor of Marion's theme.

J.D. said...

Yeah, that scene in GHOSTBUSTERS always bothered me too. But I disagree with your assessment of Aykroyd's performance in the film. He's great at spouting those epic monologues filled with techno-speak.

As for TEMPLE OF DOOM. I always felt that Kate Capshaw was horribly miscast in that one but the script did not do her any favors either. She ends up screaming her way through the entire film and subsequently doesn't hold a candle to Karen Allen's excellent performance in RAIDERS. So glad that she's back for the new one.

Adam Ross said...

Zane - I actually have Dio's autograph somewhere (from a signing session at Music Millenium), he's a very small man. Cool video.

Damian - The corny romance works for me otherwise (especially at the end), I've just never found that scene to be funny. But a lot of that could be built up hostility from my youth when I was chomping at the bit for the Kali scenes to start. I enjoy Williams' "Temple" themes quite a bit, particularly his one for Short Round.

J.D. - After I posted this I started to feel I was a little harsh on Aykroyd, as he does have a lot of great moments (like explaining the car purchase to Venkman). He does come around, but early on he seems off.

Chris Stangl said...

GHOSTBUSTERS: Why does... What... Who reacts to a blowjob - even a ghost BJ - by crossing their eyes and fainting? That is why this scene is amazing.

J.D. said...

Adam: Actually Aykroyd's first appearance in the movie gets me every time as he's babbling on about ghost sitings completely oblivious to Bill Murray trying to hit on the female co-ed. And then, a little later on, I love his exchange with Murray and Harold Ramis when he whines about putting yet another mortgage on his parents' house. Heh...

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I agree with this because I think these are scenes of the most perfect retro movies I've seen in my life, actually I have a lot of those movies at home.