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Displaying Movies Seen In The Past Week Chonologically
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12.04.22 Death WishMichael WinnerDeath Wish. This one's pure vigilante, but both films started increasingly ridiculous franchises that went on too long, both films feature a bleak worldview where the system impedes justice rather than encourages it, both from action mega stars who are better when they aren't talking. To me it's a natural pairing, if not a little too on the nose.

I saw this one later than Dirty Harry (the entry should be shown below). My notes of interest are largely the same: Jeff Goldblum as one of the punks in the beginning, shooting in Old Tucson (as Old Tucson the tourist park), but also this time Jack Wallace popped out with his mustache and his big watery eyes and his supremely odd exit from the picture ("Weird!").

I think what makes this movie transgressive is that the character starts to like killing people. Like, when the police tell him that he's being watched, he could've taken a night or two off ya know? Instead, he snuck around to evade them just so he could get his gun and shoot more people. He's deeper and deeper into a delusion of this old west figure. I'm actually surprised that the movie isn't more heavy-handed with this, just including a few touches (most notably at the end when he tells the final mugger to "fill his hand" and "draw" before passing out).

And just like Eastwood delivering his "Do you feel lucky, punk?" line again, having the movie end with Bronson pointing a finger-gun and smiling at some Chicago goons can't help but turn this movie into a franchise. Two characters who probably weren't intended to be looked up to instead drawing a generation of fans. I guess that's the fine line you walk in dealing with anti-heroes. There will always be a segment who don't get the anti- part and treat them as heroes.

This movie also trades San Francisco for New York. I feel like New York in the 70s is almost a genre unto itself. Subway stations, graffiti, trash in the gutters, overcoats. It's such an evocative vibe.

Just like Arnold in Total Recall, I do think this movie would've worked different and probably better with a more everyman actor in the role. Watching Bronson talk about housing developments and amortization is a little stretch but this does also work for him since he's older and not playing up his physique so much. I dunno, it's so hard to put yourself back before this was a staple. I can see why it was a hit but it didn't feel like a classic to me the way Dirty Harry did.

But it's definitely still a great gateway drug if you will to many of the other double features I have lined up. Till the next one...
12.04.22 Dirty HarryDon SiegelI've got a bit of a dilemma. I gathered a bunch of movies for the year's DVRfest... too many, really; such that even after the fest I still have quite a list on my HD. Then I read Tarantino's book on 70s movie which generated a whole other list of movies I wanted to see. The ease in which I found most of those movies led me down a rabbit hole and... long story short: I have a shitload of movies I want to watch.

Rather than try to cram them into another DVRfest or, you know, watch them one at a time when I'm in the mood like a normal human being, I fashioned the list into a long series of double features that I will hopefully spend the holiday season going through on nights where I stay up a bit.

Many of these fit the DVRfest bill of movies I've always meant to see but they fell through the cracks; some I've seen before this journal started, and there are a few which live in far-off memories of late-night cable viewing which I found out their title and want to watch again.

But all of that starts with tonight's double feature which I think is a good way to introduce this... series? schedule? phase? Whatever it is, it starts with this.

Dirty Harry got the spotlight in QT's book where he talks about - among other things - how the film is political because the bank robbers that Harry blows away while chewing on a hot dog were black. He put a lot of words talking about whether the film was racist or the character was racist. I have to say, perhaps this is in the context of knowing the vibe of all the 70s films to follow, but the racism aspect of Harry in this first film is not much more than a joke involving slurs. He does kill some black guys but he also kills a white guy and he shoots at practically everyone. He's got one Travis Bickle line about throwing a net on all the scum of the post-hippie free-love sleaze around him but to me it just goes to paint that portrait of what became the archetypal movie cop who has to work around the harried lieutenant or mayor and nuisance laws that get between him and justice.

It feels like this movie establishes all the tropes that would follow for this type of picture, but what I found more interesting with this viewing (I'd seen this years and years ago if you don't count the clip shown in Zodiac) was Siegel's committed use of location photography. So much of early-70s San Francisco is on display here. The limited interiors may be sets but the majority of the movie takes place outside and Siegel's direct, efficient, jostly camera is there for all of it. The night photography is like legit all black for some scenes, but often just for moments as Eastwood runs from lighting mark to lighting mark. The result feels gritty and authentic and often kinetic as we follow either Harry or Scorpio all over town.

The story is also interesting in that the second half presents what I thought a stronger viewpoint than the subtle racism in the beginning. It's a condemnation of laws and rights that I think really imprints this as not only a cop movie but a vigilante movie (playing into the double feature tonight). Scorpio's vileness really comes out not when he shoots a kid with his rifle but when he cries for a lawyer and gets off due to an illegal search.

In the end, Harry looms over the road in a way that always reminded me of Michael Meyers in Halloween for some reason. At this point he's a spectre of doom for Scorpio rather than a cop doing his job. For whatever reason my memory had changed it to him shooting Scorpio from the overpass through the bus windshield, probably because the final chase sequence, while showing another interesting location, is predetermined. And in a nod toward the franchise films 10 years in the future, him repeating that speech of "Do you feel lucky, punk!?" all but ensures a wave of fans similar to my friends and I all quoted "And you will know my name is the Lord" from Pulp Fiction when we were trying to act cool.

So in many ways, this movie opens up the decade, opens up the other movies I got, and also sets the tone for a lot of what follows (just as it sorta did in QT's book). I liked it pretty good this time around, probably more than I did last time (it's hard when you're in your film snob period to watch a movie everyone loves and not feel compelled to be underwhelmed by it).

On to the next one, which I think is very similar in many ways. Any guesses?