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Tag Archive: Powaqqatsi


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Review by C.J. Bunce

Some call them guilty pleasures–those films that are more bad than good, but have some quality you can’t quite identify that cements them in your own memory.  You might not admit how much you like those films, but you do, and you’d also willingly admit the quality of the film is still bad, bad, bad.  As you watch writer/director Mark Hartley’s new film about two cousins that created one of the most well-known independent B-movie film studios, I will wager you will see at least four movies from the 1980s that you’ll admit only to yourself “hey, I loved that movie.”

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films chronicles two Israeli cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, successful filmmakers in their home country who took America by storm, taking over Cannon Group in 1980 and churning out more movies than any other studio, eventually releasing about a movie a week before it ran out of money.  The documentary highlights one of the studio’s defining, over-the-top and embarrassingly bad movies: Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.  Cannon helped the careers of names like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren and helped propel the second phase of the careers of actors like Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, and Sylvester Stallone.  The list of surprising names showing up in their films included Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Marina Sirtis and Patrick Stewart, and Sharon Stone, but even once big names like Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing could be found in a Cannon movie.

electricboogaloo

Delta Force, Missing in Action and Missing in Action 2, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lifeforce, Hercules (with Lou Ferrigno), King Solomon’s Mines, Runaway Train, Invaders from Mars, American Ninja, Bloodsport, Cyborg, Death Warrant, Masters of the Universe, Powaqqatsi, and Superman IV, for good or bad, emerged from Golan and Globus’s years at Cannon.

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Iconic scenes 2001 A Space Odyssey

If you love 2001: A Space Odyssey or Stanley Kubrick, just walk away now.  More than any other science fiction movie it stops me in my tracks.  Every five years or so I re-watch it, thinking, like tomatoes, I may finally bite right in and say “tasty!”  The movie is absolutely a treat for the eyes in much the same way as Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  These are great looking movies.  But when it comes to storytelling?  Ask fans of the film, those with a critical eye, and no two will describe what the film is about in the same way.  Yet 2001: A Space Odyssey is often on lists of the best movies of all time, lists made by clever people who know good movies.

Only after reading the Cliff’s Notes version of 2001 (the film, not the book) do I understand what Kubrick was going for.  I’m still left scratching my head.  The dialogue is flat like the lines in the Star Wars prequels.  Kubrick admitted he wanted the viewer to have his/her own understanding of the film.  That’s “the point”.  Hey–if you’re a fan of ambiguity it’s the film for you.  If you tried making a movie like it today you’d end up with something like Punch-Drunk Love or the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Slow, boring, long, dull.  Most of the film is just banal.  But the star baby!  The black monolith!  So he takes a film and overlays it with well-known classical music and juxtaposes some cryptic symbolic imagery.  Just because someone hasn’t done it doesn’t mean it’s groundbreaking.  If I want cool images and great music sans linear story, I’ll take Powaqqatsi.

2001 huh black monolith

Maybe it’s because I like excitement in my science fiction, not this documentary-style filmmaking.  For that give me a NASA IMAX movie and educate me along the way.  Give me Star Wars or Star Trek II.  Has anyone ever referred to 2001 as exciting?  Great looking films minus a big story to back it up may be why I shy away from mainstream science fiction movies, the kind that get nominated for film awards like Gravity or Interstellar. 

So why is it on the American Film Institute list of best science fiction films at #1 and on the Library of Congress National Film Registry?

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