Archive | May 2018

The Shooting

(Catch my previous Western film review here: El Dorado. And my previous Monte Hellman film review here: Cockfighter)

Monte Hellman began his career as a film director in the late 1950s on an exploitation film entitled Beast From Haunted Cove. The film was produced by Gene and Roger Corman as one amongst their stable of steady exploitation and horror output, and Hellman was one minor name amongst a group who would later refer to themselves during this time as the ‘The Corman Film School.’

Up through these ranks, great American filmmakers and screenwriters began their careers and formed what would become the core of the New Hollywood film movement, or the American New Wave. Names amongst this illustrious group (then just a bunch of vagabonds and art school kids) include Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme, Brian De Palma, Curtis Harrington, George Hickenlooper, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Nicolas Roeg, and Robert Towne, just to name a few. Actors who got their start from this production house included Charles Bronson, David Carradine, Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, and through his work with Monte Hellman and Corman especially, Jack Nicholson.

All four of Hellman’s first directorial projects were for the Corman brothers, including an uncredited co-director position on 1963’s The Terror, and direction of two films back to back in 1964: Back Door To Hell and Fight to Fury. But by 1966, Hellman had managed to secure no more film projects and was itching to develop something with the young, exuberant Jack Nicholson as a star. Corman suggested the two develop a Western, and later expanded his suggestion into a commission for two Westerns, to be made back to back over a six-week period (three weeks each) on a total budget of $150,000 USD, in an effort to save money by using the locations, cast, screenwriter, director, and production staff.

The first of these two projected pictures was adapted from a previously existing novel and seemed a fairly straightforward script about a man being forced at gunpoint to help a woman find a man who crossed her in the past, and who ultimately turns out to be the man’s twin brother. However, Roger Corman decided that once the initial script was completed, it was too dialogue heavy. As executive producer, he removed the first ten pages of the script and removed as much dialogue from the remaining script as possible without also rendering it insensible. The result was dramatic and made the film much more mysterious, the motives and relationships of its characters much more arcane and obscure, and resulted in something of the first true arthouse Western. When the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival that year alongside its partner film, Ride in the Whirlwind, it received near-universal acclaim, went on the following year to a respectable run in the Parisian arthouse circuit, and established Monte Hellman, for a time, as a hot ticket of the the American New Wave (which subsequently allowed him to direct his existential road masterpiece Two-Lane Blacktop, which few studios today would ever even consider producing).

The film begins in media res, as the gunhand and cowboy Willet Gashade (played by one of the greatest actors of his generation: Warren Oates) finishes bivouacking in the desert and resting his horse, and himself, to recommence a journey toward the camp of an old friend named Coley. When he arrives, his friend doesn’t immediately recognize Gashade and fires a few warning shots at him before finally realizing who he’s aiming at. Coley has developed a deep paranoia after his and Gashade’s friend Leland Drum was gunned down, seemingly in cold blood two days prior whilst eating his breakfast. Coley never saw the assassin , but speculates that the man had a bone to pick with Drum as he and Coley moved through a town a few days prior and seemingly trampled a ‘little person’ with their horses. The visuals of this mythic event immediately present themselves to the viewer’s mind, and become even more viscerally challenging later as Coley admits that the ‘little person’ may in fact have been a child. A comparison with later Southern Gothic Western fiction by Cormac McCarthy with all of its brutality, symbolism, absurdism, paranoia, and nihilism is immediately apparent, especially insofar as McCarthy is definitely inspired by Revisionist Westerns like The Shooting in his masterful writing (the best this side of William Faulkner, maybe better).

The Shooting is very obviously a revisionist Western and a powerful piece of Southern Gothic as well. However, the designations that have really stuck with the film since the 1990s when these terms were codified are as an Acid Western or an Existential Western. The film more than subverts traditional Western tropes and moral designations by bringing to bear a nihilistic approach to the topic in which good is not present at all, and evil manages to survive to duke it out with Gashade another day. It is a film likewise about paranoia as no one is sure of the motives of any other character throughout the film, Coley knows not who killed Drum, Gashade knows not why The Woman has hired him to guide her through the desert in pursuit of some man, and no one is truly certain about the motives of the deadly, personified evil gunman Billy Spear (Jack Nicholson).

Uncertainty runs rampant, which mirrors the uncertainty of the counterculture of the mid-sixties and is an unhealthy, drug-fueled way of analyzing the events of the world around oneself. Even the landscapes in the film appear paranoiac as large rocks loom upon the horizon, each potentially hiding the quarry of The Woman who may mean death. The sands are white, bleached out, infinite, as if representing the moral wasteland prophesied by T.S. Eliot, wherein everything bodes salvation and light, but is ultimately just banal, just more desert. And those humans, and horses, roaming throughout this desert come to bad ends the further away from civilization and its constructed, though helpful, moral constructs and ways of operating derived from millennia of social evolution they become.

The film is at turns heady, distressing, mysterious, absurd, and beautiful, but potentially most important is the quest at its core. Gashade moves through this world, not knowing why The Woman appeared in his campsite with a dead horse who seemingly suffered no injuries, why she would offer him and Coley $1000 USD to guide her to Kingsley, why Drum was shot, what the encounter between him and the ‘little man’ really mean, who he is being hired to follow, and at base, who he really is in the first place. He constantly presses The Woman for more information about the journey, but comes up empty each time in his inquiries. He asks her for her name and she only responds that there is no point. But what exactly does she mean here? No point in telling him her name? No point in familiarizing themselves? No point in names when everyone is a lone traveler in a meaningless world made all the more meaningless when friends (‘the little man’) or loved one (‘a child’, her child?) can be cut down in the blink of an eye?

At the denouement of the film, Gashade finds that the man they have been tailing, the man he has been paid to track down is his own twin brother Coin. And Corman made it a point to make sure Gashade mentions that Coin is his brother on three separate occassions throughout the film. However, this is not readily apparent when watching the film, and at no point did I hear him refer to Coin as his brother. The more interesting interpretation in this light seems to me to be that Coin is literally Gashade’s Shadow, his doppelganger, the other side of the same thing which can erupt at any time and metamorphose a decent man into an unrepentant murderer. Here, Gashade’s quest is a dark night of the soul, a realization of the banality of man, of the evil latent potential in each person. And when he tracks his dark eternal opposite down unwittingly, and watches as it is gunned down by The Woman (another Jungian archetype), he is seen no more and the quest becomes a journey of self-realization, and the self-realization leads to the discovery of the self as disjointed and absurd and constructed, and this discovery leads to a archetypal suicide. But the good prevails in killing the darkness within as he wounds Spear’s gunhand as one of his final actions and ensures that at least some evil could be prevented in the future, and that his existence has, in the final equation at least some semblance of restoring order.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: Ride In The Whirlwind]

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No Mon Is An Island (Digimon Tamers: Episode 37)

(Catch part 36 HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

Beelzemon has been defeated and seems to have learned a lesson in humility in the process, ultimately becoming resigned to the darkness within himself and shuffling off from his old Tamer pals to wallow in self-pity and punish himself for all the evil he hath wrought as a servant of the Digimon Sovereign Zhuqiaomon. Speaking of the Mega-level Phoenix Sovereign, the Tamers now stand before the bridge to his castle uncontested. 11 of the 12 Devas have been defeated, one has been converted to the side of the Tamers by realizing her destiny as Suzie’s Digimon partner.

Now, all that is left to do is to battle the Sovereign who created the Devas, which led to the disruptions between the planes of the Digital World and the Real World. Jeri is still too depressed over losing Leomon to go with the others into such inhospitable domain and be of any help. Henry is afraid for his little sister’s safety, especially as Lopmon has seemingly lost her ability to Digivolve for the time being and cannot protect her sufficiently if Zhuqiaomon targets her. As such, Henry forbids Suzie from going along on the journey to the Sovereign’s castle. Kazu, Kenta, and Guardromon volunteer to stay behind to watch the girls and make sure that Suzie is safe, while Takato, Henry, Rika, their Digimon partners, and Lopmon- who believes she may be able to reason with her previous master- head off toward the castle.

Once the gang step onto the bridge, a bubble engulfs them and transports them rather quickly toward their destination. Along the way, Rika wishes she could talk with her mother and grandmother as she misses them and is unsure of whether her and her friends will be able to complete their mission safely and successfully. Takato tells her for the first time about the messages he and Henry sent to her family, ensuring them of her safety. Takato and Henry had been so preoccupied with fighting Beelzemon and Devas over the course of the past day that they had no time to alert anyone to their past adventures in different planes after being spirited away by a Data Stream, or of their complex conversations with Shibumi Mizuno, the architect behind the Blue Cards, the Arks, and a co-creator of the Digimon and the world in which they reside.

Rika chides Takato for not telling her sooner about all of this information. And she becomes even more annoyed when he lets it slip that in the message to her parents, which he sent them as if he was Rika texting in her tone of voice, he included hearts at the end of the message. This feature of the texts is pretty uncharacteristic of Rika, and would normally alert at least her grandmother to the possibility that the sender of the messages was not Rika herself. However, under the extraordinary circumstances and the sheer length of time since Rika and her family have connected, a change in her behavior seems warranted, and would probably alert no suspicions, though the touchy feely nature of the text would ruin her street cred for sure if it got out around town.

When the group finally arrives, they can feel the sheer presence of Zhuqiaomon as an oppressive force before they even spy him. Lopmon attempts to reason with him once he reveals himself, but the Sovereign merely refuses her request to abstain from fighting the humans and their Digimon partners, and instead asks her to return to him as a Deva to help in the fight against the humans once more. She refuses and Henry gets fed up and tells Zhuqiaomon to release Calumon. The Phoenix, naturally, refuses this request as well, referring to Calumon as merely the ‘Catalyst’ and revealing his purely instrumental relation to the Digital Construct turned Sentient Being.

At this, Henry readies himself for battle and spurs on his friends. The three Tamers activate their Matrix Digivolution abilities and bring their partners up to the Ultimate level as Taomon, Rapidmon, and WarGrowlmon, though all three together have little effect upon their adversary and Rapidmon is rapidly losing energy on account of his earlier injuries incurred during the battle with Beelzemon. Henry pushes his friend too far, which results in Rapidmon de-Digivolving into Terriermon, and almost being lost forever, destroyed by Zhuqiaomon’s constant barrages of fire. At the same time, Lopmon is almost hit by a blast from Zhuqiaomon, Suzie is alerted to the danger on her D-Power from afar, which lights up and flies her quickly to her Digimon partner, and she arrives in the building at Lopmon’s side.

The need to protect his friends, his Digimon partner, and now his little sister, spur on Henry to fight his hardest. He Biomerge Digivolves with Terriermon into the massive MegaGargomon and finally gives the Phoenix Sovereign a taste of his own medicine with a series of attacks that result in the complete destruction of the castle and in Zhuqiaomon being bludgeoned down deep within the earth. The two de-Digivolve back into Henry and Terriermon, and the gang decide it’s now time to find their friend Calumon to free him from his quarters as a prisoner to Zhuqiaomon. However, just seconds later Zhuqiaomon ascends from his crater, appearing completely unscathed, unharmed, and raring to go once again.

The scenario seems hopeless, and it strains credulity to imagine a scenario in which the Tamers could even potentially win against such a creature who could take a full barrage from a Mega-level Biomerged Digimon like MegaGargomon. Even Gallantmon’s help and Taomon’s assistance seem as if they would have little effect on a Super Mega-level Godlike being like Zhuqiaomon, especially when he is within his domain, on his own turf so to speak. But the Tamers power of will, of belief in themselves and their ability to overcome adversity have not failed them yet, and hopefully won’t do so in the foreseeable future, especially in the next few minutes.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

The Battle Within (Digimon Tamers: Episode 36)

(Catch part 35 HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

As Gallantmon and Beelzemon begin to duke it out, it quickly becomes apparent that two Mega-level Digimon are about equal in strength. They trade blows and neither seems to be able to gain the edge on the other until Behemoth inscrutably falls from the sky and returns to Beelzemon, forcing him to remount the Digital Construct, but giving him some extra horsepower in the process and a more powerful mount from which to continue his joust with the Royal Knight Gallantmon. Gallantmon tries his best to deflect all attacks whilst attempting to talk down Beelzemon from his anger and elicit some emotional response in the Digimon he knows to have a good heart, and who must feel some remorse for destroying Leomon.

Meanwhile, the other Tamers and Digimon around begin wondering where Takato has gone as they remain uninformed about the new Biomerge Digivolution form. As Kazu and Kenta run off to the nearby waterfalls, where they last saw Takato, in the hopes of finding him there and potentially saving him before it’s too late if he has fallen down them, Jeri sits alone and mourns her friend, becoming increasingly depressed all the while.

Gallantmon attacks Behemoth directly with his potent Lightning Joust attack and destroys the Digital Construct once and for all, rendering it useless and simultaneously forever mysterious in its origins and purpose. The impact of the blow creates a minor quake in the nearby ground, which fractures the space next to Henry and Suzie. Zhuqiaomon sends out the final Deva Caturamon to destroy Lopmon and Suzie at the same moment in which they are already in danger of falling to their deaths. Though Terriermon jumps into actions just in time to block Caturamon’s attacks, Renamon nabs Suzie and Lopmon, and instead, Terriermon, now wounded, falls below the domain of the Digimon Sovereign into a deep crevasse. The fall knocks him unconscious and luckily Renamon notices where he fell just in time to save him from being crushed underground in the event of the next quake.

Beelzemon is still reeling after being forcibly knocked off of his motorcycle, which gives Gallantmon the opportunity to crush the final Deva with a well-placed Lightning Joust. But instead of Gallantmon absorbing the data and gaining enough strength in the process to finally overcome his Mega-level opponent, Beelzemon beats him to the punch and absorbs Caturamon’s data. Beelzemon next attacks Kazu and Kenta at the waterfalls, is blocked by Guardromon, and then beaten back once more by Gallantmon who runs along headfirst into the action, again once in time to save his friends. This time, however, Kazu and Kenta recognize within the voice of Gallantmon, both Guilmon and Takato. when they relay this information to their friends, they are all taken aback at the concept of a human and a Digimon fusing together, and mostly at the realization that if Gallantmon is defeated, both Guilmon and Takato might die.

Beelzemon releases a heavy barrage of gun shots and physical melee attacks against Gallantmon, which rocks him pretty hard and leaves him on the ropes swaying. Guardromon launches his own Guardian Barrage attack to repay the favor from mere moments earlier when Gallantmon saved his metallic skin and the lives of his partner Kazu and friend Kenta. The barrage gives Gallantmon enough time to recoup his energies and hit Beelzemon solidly with a Lightning Joust, then a beam attack from his Shield of the Just. Beelzemon remains alive, but defeated and out of strength, and just as Gallantmon approaches to deliver the coup de grace, Jeri calls out to him, telling him to end the circle of violence right here and now by showing mercy to Beelzemon.

Jeri explains that killing Beelzemon won’t bring Leomon back (though it actually might since Beelzemon absorbed Leomon’s data, and therefore his destruction might free that data up to regenerate as a DigiEgg, if that sort of thing even happens in the Tamers Universe) and would only be an act of revenge, and therefore evil, which would corrupt Gallantmon. Gallantmon de-Digivolves back into Guilmon and Takato as Beelzemon sits there reeling in pain and confusion. His mind cycles back to memories of his past of friendships he refused, of his pointless journey for power without also seeking strength of character, at the horror of his destruction of innocence in the Crysalimon horde and the murder of the just in Leomon. He realizes that it profited him not to gain the world, because in the process he lost his soul to the Devas and the Digimon Sovereign, and even then he was willing to go back on his promises and fight them, becoming traitor even to the devils he sold his conscious to for power.

He leaves the Tamers and their Digimon partners a lost Digimon with no friends, no Tamers, no allies, no purpose, and no longer even his mount Behemoth. Beelzemon turns and speaks aloud to all present: ‘I am nothing now.’ Not even a threat to the Tamers, not even a force of evil for evil’s sake as he is no longer a big bad character whose strength is unmatched, and can instead be defeated, and has been defeated by the forces of good, of friendship, of teamwork, of idealism, and of the very strength of character he once hated so much, but now wishes he were able to muster.

Takato and Guilmon, however, are happy once again. They have gotten past the Megidramon incident together and become closer than any Tamer-Digimon partnership in history and have managed to fuse the very cores of their being, the very essence of their wills, together to create a powerful Mega-level form that allows them to fight as one. And as if to celebrate alongside them, the Digital World generates a new light, which transforms into a new D-Power for Takato.

Elsewhere, Ryo and Cyberdramon are travelling about in a digital swamp. Cyberdramon senses a new power emerging in the Digital World, a power so strong that even he is afraid to challenge it. And Cyberdramon is one-half Millenniummon, and often apt to challenge even Mega-level Digimon. This force, whatever it may be, is something not to be trifled with.

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

His Girl Friday

(Check my previous Howard Hawks film essay here: El Dorado)

This past week, I reviewed two Westerns by Howard Hawks. The first of which, Red River, is generally considered a classic Western and is often classified as amongst the greatest Westerns of all time. This despite the fact that it’s pretty lackluster, relatively boring, and there are hundreds of better Westerns than that film. The second film I reviewed was Hawk’s fourth: El Dorado. This film is a testament to everything a Western, or a film can be, an emotional roller coaster ride, a powerful spectacle, a picture with a strong subtext, which investigates its quarries of pride and honor and civilization rather than merely cashing in on them.

His films Scarface, To Have and Have Not, and The Big Sleep are amongst my favorite crime films from the period and I absolutely adore his classic science fiction film The Thing from Another World, as well as his two late-career Westerns Rio Bravo and Rio Lobo. So when I approached his film His Girl Friday, which is often touted a classic picture and tour de force of scripting and execution of a work using methods perfectly suited to that works concept, I honestly expected something more substantive.

Hawks’ 1940 screwball comedy follows the lives of two reporters at a large New York newspaper office. Walter Burns (Cary Grant) and Hildy Johnson once both worked at the office together. Burns worked his way up to ownership of the paper as Hildy developed her career and her writing to become one of the best editorialists in town. At some point, the professional relationship became romantic in nature, the two married, and before they could even make it to their honeymoon destination, a big story came up in another town and Burns ran off to cover that story, deferring the honeymoon until an indefinite later period, which never came. This was the first strike in a marriage that was doomed to fail.

Hildy left the offices and eventually filed for a divorce from Burns (crucially asking for no alimony as both were professionals making their own money, and Hildy wasn’t a jerk). When she returned some weeks later, Burns expected to hire her on once again to the paper, immediately, and potentially to try his hand at wooing her once again. But Hildy has different plans as she has already met a new man named Bruce Baldwin who works as an accountant (or some such boring occupation) and promises a life of peace and quiet after Hildy’s years of sturm und drang under the employ of a newspaper office and the body of everyone’s favorite leading man in Hollywood.

The film’s dialogue is delivered at a rapid pace just as in real life in a high stress job environment where time is money and being quick on the uptake is a prized skill. The dialogue often overlaps and is often the butt of a joke and the start of some confusion. And although it was one of the most highly praised elements of the script, it’s been done so many times since that I find it hard to be impressed by this element of the film, which seemingly holds so much intrigue for other reviewers.

When Hildy arrives in the offices, and Burns finds out about Baldwin, he does everything within his power to keep the two from leaving town, even going so far as to lock up Baldwin on three separate occasions on trumped on charges by having his associates pin sexual assault allegations and counterfeit bills on the man, amongst other things. Further, Baldwin has a case in mind in which a man obviously mistakenly shot someone, and should have gotten off during the court case if he had a better lawyer, but was pushed through the process quickly and fought by a good state attorney who managed to pin him with the death penalty. The mayor of the town ran initially on a law and order platform and is making sure that no one prevents the man from going to the gallows on the following morning in an effort to show how tough he is on crime, whether truly committed or not.

The urge to bring about justice about through a strong editorial or two, sent directly to the governor in hopes of a reprieve and a potential pardon, is too strong of a lure for Hildy. The will to social justice through responsible journalism is strong with her and brings her immediately back into the frame of mind of all those months prior when she was working full time at the newspaper office. Eventually, she and Burns get caught up in the events in more ways than as mere writers for a local rag, and eventually free the man from being hanged by the neck until dead for what was, after all, merely a mistake.

The film is kinetic and plays out its short 92 minute runtime much more quickly than expected. In fact, the film seems to play at an even quicker rate than some episodes of Twin Peaks (which are often less than half the length of His Girl Friday) or Techxnolyze (whose episodes are only 22 minutes in length including opening and ending themes). As such, my gut reaction is to wish it was longer, took more time to develop tension and emotional connection betweens the viewers and the characters in the film, and added some visual poetry to the mix for good measure. But it is a comedy after all, and as the old adage goes, comedy needs no stylization: is a throw away genre pour la plupart.

What we get with His Girl Friday is a film that most modern audiences would most likely delight in and enjoy. However, the film is shot in black and white and is almost eighty years old. So, no modern audience will ever watch the film in droves, and most would be turned away immediately from it. The only audience such a film could reach today is one composed of film buffs and cinephiles, and if the majority have similar qualms with the film as myself, then it has absolutely no real audience at all today, and has, rather unlike Hawks’ Westerns, become completely culturally dead: unable to stand the test of time because it marketed itself to the average audience of the time. A phenomenon that seems to bear itself out time and again as great films with no box office success become cult classics while the Gone With The Wind’s of the past are relegated to the dustbin of history, where they ultimately belong. Right along with popular taste.

 

Cody Ward

Hey Good Lookin’

(Catch my previous Ralph Bakshi film review here: American Pop)

During production of Bakshi’s 1975 film Coonskin between 1973 and early 1975, he was busy creating a second picture simultaneously. Through Warner Bros. he had secured $1.5 million USD to create a streets picture. It would have been something akin to George Lucas’ 1973 picture American Graffiti, but for the field of animation and cartoons, and as always for Bakshi, it would have attempted to show the harder edged elements of 1950s life with Rock and Roll greaser Street Gangs in Brooklyn rumbling with their counterparts, butting heads with the Mafia, committing petty crimes, and making it with any girl who’d have ’em.

Unfortunately, when Coonskin was released, a small, though vocal, black rights organization came out against the film and threatened a boycott, which meant hundreds of cinemas pulled the film. The organization were misguided in their appraisal of the film which was an attack on racial stereotyping and prejudice, not, as they thought, in support of it. The NAACP threw their crucial support behind the film as a progressive, powerful, and troubling picture, which was ultimately artistically powerful and uncompromising, whilst being at its core anti-racist. But this was too little too late and the film tanked at the box office.

So, in 1975, after a 3-minute preview of Bakshi’s second film slated for release that year, Hey Good Lookin’, premiered at Cannes to critical acclaim, Warner Bros. pulled their backing from the film. The Studio wanted to avoid the controversies that might emerge when the film was released and left it hanging in production hell, despite the film not being a social consciousness picture or one with a political message. Its release date was pushed back from the Winter of 1975, to 1976, to 1977, and eventually forgotten altogether.

During these years, Bakshi’s works began to make money again. He created two extremely financially successful fantasy films in a row with Wizards and The Lord of the Rings, before releasing one of his critical magnum opuses (and again, making a fair bit of money) in 1981 on American Pop. As his budgets increased, and his personal director’s take on the box office increased, Bakshi had the resources he needed to once again tackle Hey Good Lookin’. In early 1981, before American Pop premiered, he began to remove the live-action scenes and sequences from his copy of Hey Good Lookin’ and slowly replaced them all with animation and rotoscoping (unfortunately removing an important sequence in which the proto-punk glam rock band The New York Dolls played a group of drag queens in a dive bar).

The original film brought live-action characters, for one of the first times, into direct contact with animated ones in a lived-in street environment. But Bakshi could no longer stomach this approach as the live-action footage was now almost ten years old and looked dated. Besides a short sequence at the film’s opening in which a Trash Can has a conversation about metaphysics with a pile of garbage before the latter is spirited away by ‘God’ (a garbage truck) out of the city, leaving behind the can and the human garbage constantly filling him up, the film is largely devoid of any subtext. Vinnie and his friend Crazy Shapiro merely roam about the city in the final version, meet two girls named  Rozz and Eva, fight mob members, and gang members from the all-black Chaplins (including the boss Boogaloo), and listen to rock and roll music in great halls, all to the appallingly bad soundtrack of basic 80s muzak.

We as viewers find it hard to emotionally invest in any of the characters except for the girls who find themselves, time and again, in troubling circumstances and danger because of the men in their lives. After a particularly egregious fight with the Chaplins in which Crazy Shapiro and many of his and Vinnie’s own gang members in The Stompers are beaten and shot down by cops who arrive not to stop the fight, but with a vendetta and a taste for blood, Vinnie departs the scene, permanently. But thirty years later, he returns to Brooklyn, a droopy-faced ageing man in a trenchcoat, and tracks down the girl he left behind so long ago: Rozz.

The two reunite, and at first, Rozz doesn’t recognize the old man. And she herself has put on a good 100 lbs and a plethora of wrinkles. She tells Vinnie that she has married and that he must fight her husband to win her back. But he immediately understands that Rozz is merely spinning a tale to try and catch his interest. She isn’t married, is getting old, has never found love, and is down and out. Rozz is emotionally in tatters and wants more than anything to find some stability in her life, to find love, and to find it in the only man she has ever been able to love, the one who left her behind thirty years ago, who never returned to find her in all that time.

She’s so vulnerable in this moment and would be so easy to destroy finally. But the only person who could do such a thing in this moment, could leave her behind once again, would be a totally monstrous individual. Vinnie muses on the possibility of leaving her behind, running away once again from fate, and ultimately resigning himself, for the remainder of his days, to total misery, to meaningless existence with no semblance of joy. And as he mulls this all over in his mind (not in words, but in images whose poignance resides on the level of the highest visual poetry of the medium of film), imagines walking away once again, he turns around and faces her: ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’ They embrace and the film ends, and the emotional core of the film is revealed and Bakshi’s characters once again take on universal significance.

When Hey Good Lookin’ was released in 1982, it was to little critical recognition, though it has gained more respect over the following thirty five years and has a strong cult following. It made little money in the domestic market’s box offices, but managed to do some respectable business in foreign markets (though the numbers haven’t ever been disclosed or are just extremely hard to track down). Though with Ralph Bakshi turning 80 years old later this year, I believe it perfect timing for Warner Bros. to dig out the original 1974 version of Hey Good Lookin’ from their archives, restore it if necessary, and release the film alongside the 1982 cut in a limited cinema run, followed by a DVD and Blu-Ray release of the two versions.

Bakshi is probably the greatest living American animator, and one of the our greatest national treasures. The man’s work is challenging, thought-provoking, innovative, and often just a thrill ride for the senses. And I hope that one day, the sooner the better, the right people will recognize this and rectify an injustice that should have never occurred in the first place.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: Fire and Ice]

The Night of Taneyamagahara

Some animators while away their time working on backgrounds, in-between and key animations, and assistant work on big productions without ever giving thought to eventually directing a work of their own. Some have the drive and the will to create something, but are only ever relegated to work in the lower echelons of an animation studio, if they’re even lucky enough to join a studio and escape the insecurity of freelance. And then there are those who toil away, get a shot at making a film, and go on to become directors in their own right. The story of the 2006 short film The Night of Taneyamagahara, is unlike any of these scenarios.

In the late 1960s, an animator rose up from the ranks of fine art production and moved into the burgeoning Japanese animation field. His name was Kazuo Oga and his work was immediately recognized for its brilliance in rendering background landscapes realistically, evocatively, tastefully, and with powerful emotional resonances. After working for Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki on their short films Panda! Go, Panda! and Panda! Go, Panda! The Rainy-Day Circus in 1972 and 73, he was hired by a new studio called Studio Madhouse (founded in 1972), which would go on to become one of the biggest names in Japanese animation.

The Osamu Tezuka founded studio Mushi Production was going bankrupt and those in the know left while the getting was good to found Madhouse. The four principal founders of this new Studio included the Producer Masao Maruyama (later of Mappa Studios and M2) and the directors Rintaro, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, and Osamu Dezaki, all three of whom Oga would work for as late as 2007. But his professional relationship with this group began in 1975 when Oga worked as a background artist on the animated series  The Adventures of Gamba. Later the two collaborated on Nobody’s Boy: Remi in 1977 and the films Ashita no Joe II (on which Oga worked as Art Director) and Space Adventure Cobra, which ended their professional collaboration in 1982.

Oga’s work for the other Madhouse directors primarily involved background artwork, though he notably worked as Art Director on two of Mori Masaki’s films, Barefoot Gen and Toki no Tabibito: Time Stranger, as well as a film by Osamu Tezuka entitled The Fantastic Adventures of Unico whose animation Madhouse provided and on Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s classic Wicked City. Other notable Madhouse productions on which Oga provided background artwork include Rintaro’s Harmageddon and The Dagger of Kamui and Kawajiri’s Demon City Shinjuku, Ninja Scroll, Goku Midnight Eye, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

Notably, throughout the fifteen year period from 1973-1988, he had not worked on any other productions with Studio Ghibli co-founders Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki despite the two creating six features and numerous animated series during this time. Oga finally rejoined with the two at the tail end of 1988 and began work on My Neighbor Totoro as Art Director. This was to be the beginning of a fruitful career with the new Studio during which he would collaborate as an Art Director or Background Artist another 17 times between 1989-2014 (the latter year being the infamous Ghibli production halt during which animators were fired en masse, directors left to found their own Studios, and no works were commissioned until 2017-though none have, as of yet, been released either).

In the early 90s, a cult following began to surround Oga and his work, which championed his beautiful backgrounds and the quality of those productions on which he had been assigned as Art Director. Tokuma Shoten, one of Japan’s largest publishing houses, commissioned an art book on Oga’s work, most personal and professional, which they released in 1996 and was followed by a sequel nine years later. Art exhibitions were planned and Oga was, in a sense, being enshrined as a cultural and artistic national treasure.

Around this same time, Oga was developing a strong interest in the written works of Kenji Miyazawa, Japan’s great poet and children’s writer of the 1920s and 30s. His works has famously been adapted to the field of animation on dozens of occasions. However, the most important and culturally relevant of these adaptations had been in the 1980s on Isao Takahata’s film Gauche the Cellist (1982), Rintaro’s Matasaburo of the Winds (1988), and the cult classic Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985). Oga decided to develop his own adaptation of a classic work in Miyazawa’s The Night of Taneyamagahara: the tale of a young man working high in the mountains and saving money to buy a plot of land.

One night he dreams that the Oak Saplings and their father Tree deliver to him a message about protecting the forest and letting it remain beautiful. They promise to do their best to change the mind of the current owner of the land so that he will sell the land to the young man one day. However, to gain their trust, the young man must promise not to cut down any of the trees therein and to live off of the land and its sumptuous feasts of mushrooms, chestnuts, grapes and other fruits. And if he must eventually cut a few trees, he should do so respectfully and use their branches fully and to good ends like warming himself or building his home.

The film is a quaint little ecological fable centered around a metaphysics derived from Shinto in which all living things, and even non-living natural phenomena (like rocks and streams), are to be treated with respect for their inherent worth as existing things. In the sense that this approach to ecology, sheer animism, completely loses any credibility once one begins to assess it logically and rationally (stones have no worth, living beings have no inherent worth, there are no gods inside them, we must kill to survive, modernity precludes the need to harvest in favor of farming, there is no nature-civilization distinction, etc.), the film is a failure. But in the sense that it works for its target demographic, children, the film is alright.

The only problem here, however, is that the film contains very little in the way of animation. Like the great Yuri Norstein, Oga prefers to create still images and manipulate particular elements within the stills to merely simulate movement. However, unlike Norstein, Oga minimizes the animations as much as possible to create something of a minimalist animation approach. Adult audiences may find the film extremely visually attractive, from the billowing of smoke from campfires, to the slow dance of the oak saplings, and the softly shimmering light from the fire and from the stars in the sky. But for children, especially children steeped in hyper-saturated imagery of CGI productions in all their banality and lack of art and heart, the film is unwatchable.

And so, it can really only appeal to fans of animation as an art form, which may have been Oga’s intended purpose in the first place. Or, as all great artists will tell you, it was intended for no audience except the artist himself, whose vision was the wellspring of its being. And if we recognize Oga as a great artist, then truly the only opinion on the matter that matters in the final calculation is Oga’s opinion on the work, which he no doubt would not have even released (it is his only animation as director) if it had not satisfied him.

In the Western animation world, such a production would probably squander away in obscurity and never find a production studio to fund it in the first place. But thanks to Studio Ghibli, The Night of Taneyamagahara was created and thereby serves to show just how much Miyazaki, Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki truly value art and the personal vision of those with the imagination to bring it into existence.

 

Cody Ward

Give a Little Bit (Digimon Tamers: Episode 35)

(Catch part 34 HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

The episode begins with Janyu leaving home for Hypnos to do as much damage control as he can after Megidramon’s appearance in the domain of the Digimon Sovereign. As he departs, it comes to our attention that he has explained Suzie’s disappearance to his wife pretty badly, telling her that she has gone to Hong Kong with Henry to visit the Digital World. She knows better and has apparently even had a prophetic dream in which she saw the two together in the Digital World, despite not knowing about the place as of yet. She begs Janyu to tell her the truth, but he refuses to do so and promises to tell her at a later date as the conversation would take some time and he has little to spare at the moment.

Back in the Digital World, Megidramon has launched the full weight and strength of his draconic frame toward Beelzemon, pinning him down and threatening to consume him if he relents for a moment in holding the Dramon back. However, the joke is on Beelzemon as even Megidramon’s saliva is a weapon, the acidity of which burns through Beelzemon’s slick, high end retail leather jacket, pants, and gloves.

As Megidramon gets increasingly angry, the Digital Triforce on his chest begins to glow and pulsate revealing itself to actually be a Hazard Symbol. As the Digital World’s domain of the Digimon Sovereign becomes ever more unstable, earthquakes begin to riddle the landscape and break the ground apart into small pieces. The Tamers and their Digimon partners do the best they can to avoid falling deep within the earth. Hypnos, Yamaki, and Janyu are unable to alleviate the situation in any way, shape or form as of yet, and as Yamaki seems to be optimistic about the children’s chances of fixing it on their own as chosen ones by the Digital World, Janyu laments his lack of speed in developing the Ark (based on Shibumi’s schematics) to get them out of there.

Ryo and Cyberdramon watch the events from afar, but sense that their power is not enough to combat either the Mega-level Beelzemon or Megidramon, and as such, they remain on the sidelines. Makuramon, however, decides to take this time with Beelzemon pinned down by Megidramon as an opportunity to berate him and win the battle already. However, his insolence backfires as Beelzemon extends an arm, crushes the skull of the Monkey Deva, and absorbs his data, becoming strong enough to hold off Megidramon more easily in the process (and leaving one Deva, the Dog Caturamon, left to defeat).

Taomon and Rapidmon attempt to join in the fight and help Megidramon defeat Beelzemon, but their aggressor merely uses Makuramon’s orb technique to trap the two within bubbles, which none of their attacks are successful in breaking. Henry and Rika use their ‘Alias’ Modify Cards to return their partner Digimon back to their Rookie-level forms, which frees them from the orbs in the process, cedes their extra Ultimate-level data to Beelzemon-making him much more powerful in the process, and making the two Tamer partner Digimon useless in the ongoing battle. With all of this new strength, Beelzemon’s power level surges to near Super Mega levels and he knocks out Megidramon with a series of blows and kicks and sheer brute force.

The disturbances in the domain of the Digimon Sovereign and the attendant ones on the other planes of existence, stabilize with Megidramon’s unconsciousness. Yamaki and Janyu take this to mean that the children neutralized their enemy and really were able to do what Hypnos could not, once again. Yamaki, ecstatic, decides to cede the resources and facilities of Hypnos over completely to the goals and purposes of Janyu and his friends. But back in the Digital World, Takato is in a state of shock. He apologizes to Jeri for turning Guilmon into such a monster through his rage (though Guilmon’s rage was coincident with Takato’s and at least half to blame in the end equation). She doesn’t respond and merely stands, mouth agape, D-Power running a static screen, never again even with the possibility of being rebooted.

Finally, as Beelzemon makes clear his next goal to defeat and absorb the four Digimon Sovereign themselves, he approaches Megidramon to absorb him, and crucially, to absorb the data of his first Mega-level opponent, which might give him the power to take over the entire Digital World (though Megidramon’s instability would probably transfer to Beelzemon in the process and make him even more neurotic, unwieldy, and evil, and potentially even unconsciously so). As he approaches Megidramon, Takato stands by his side and manages to awaken his friend, who regains his composure, loses his berserk frenzy, and becomes the old Guilmon we all know and love.

Next, Takato is mentally transported into a liminal realm in which he remembers his time designing and drawing Guilmon before being transferred to a dark red territory wherein hundreds of Guilmon’s with static facades and bodies rotate around him. He calls out to his friend and a red path is laid out before him through sheer force of will, which leads him directly toward the real Guilmon. And the next thing we know, the two are back in the Digital World, Megidramon having reverted back to Guilmon and seemingly standing no chance against the approaching Mega-level enemy.

As Beelzemon shoots his pistols toward the two, Guilmon manifests a Megidramon tail momentarily and manages to swipe away the otherwise potentially fatal attack as if just a minor Rookie-level barrage. A green light engulfs Takato and Guilmon as the two endeavor to reach the Mega-level organically, through human Tamer and partner Digimon recognizing fully the validity of the other’s existence. They wish they could fuse together and fight as one, and just like that, through the power of their wills and the bond of their hearts, the two engage Biomerge Digivolution, becoming the Royal Knight Gallantmon in the process and keying themselves up to strike their lance deep within the heart of their opponent Beelzemon, who now appears to be a relative pushover.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Lionheart (Digimon Tamers: Episode 34)

(Catch part 33 HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

Here we go. The second in a series of sick jokes by the writers of Digimon that never ceases to pull at out heartstrings.

A mysterious voice begins this episode of Digimon Tamers and tells us that long ago there was a light deep within the domain of the Digimon Sovereign, which ceded Digimon the strength to Digivolve. One day the light disappeared, ‘until…’ Next, we see Calumon, the source of this light, as he falls deep down into a pit in the Digimon Sovereign’s domain and lands within an orb that contains him, traps him within. Calumon feels as if he has been within this enclosure before and will later receive an explanation about the situation from the Dog Deva Caturamon. He explains that Calumon is not a Digimon like his friends. Rather, he is a source of Digivolution, which seems to have suddenly and without explanation become corporeal and aware, and eventually took on the form externally of a Digimon before escaping, and thereby preventing the Digimon Sovereign from using his powers any longer in the battle against dire beings attempting to take over both worlds and throw them out of balance.

Leomon and Jeri, Kyubimon and Rika, Guardromon and Kazu, Kenta, and Growlmon (who did not Digivolve to Champion-level in his last appearance and should not even be able to do so without the aid of his Tamer partner Takato- chock it up to a continuity error) wander still through the digital desert. As they do so, they wonder aloud at how Digimon come to the Real World. Leomon doesn’t quite remember how he got there, while Kyubimon arrived seeking the most skilled Tamer who could help her to Digivolve, and Guilmon came into existence in the Real World and never resided in the Digital World beforehand (Guardromon still hasn’t been to the Real World and consequently has nothing to add to the conversation). Jeri expresses her admiration for Rika who is such a great, strong Tamer, and in the analysis, finds herself wanting. However, Leomon tells Jeri that she has a Lion’s Heart and is kind, and is therefore, every bit as deserving as Rika to be a Tamer.

In the domain of the Digimon Sovereign, Takato, Henry and Terriermon, and Suzie and Lopmon are still standing around, trying to analyze the situation at hand. Some DigiGnomes appear and head toward the castle of Zhuqiaomon as if they wish the Tamers to follow them. But Henry is too worried about his sister’s well-being to bring her into harm’s way and Lopmon has not enough strength to fight the Digimon Sovereign as her power to Digivolve derived from them and she is currently unable to surpass the Rookie-level until her and Suzie develop a stronger bond. Henry asks Lopmon, as a Deva, if she knows anything about Calumon and she tells him all about how Calumon is the key to Digivolution, how his power is needed by the Sovereign to protect the worlds, and that the Deva were created to retrieve him as quickly as possible and restore him to the domain of the Digimon Sovereign to this end.

Takato still wants to save his friend Calumon from eternal boredom and subservience to the qualms of the Digimon Sovereign and decides that if he and the Sovereign truly share aims, he should be able to go and speak with Zhuqiaomon directly, which he endeavors to do. Unfortunately, Beelzemon arrives astride his Behemoth bike and challenges the group to a fight before Takato can begin his journey to speak with the Sovereign. Henry quickly Digivolves Terriermon into Rapidmon, but even his Ultimate-level attacks aren’t enough to get past Beelzemon’s defenses and Rapidmon’s Chrome Digizoid armor can’t withstand the attacks of Beelzemon. With Lopmon unable to Digivolve at all, and Rapidmon quickly being beaten to a pulp, Takato feels increasingly helpless and calls out to Guilmon. The sound carries over to Guilmon, and to Jeri, and a Data Stream windstorm starts up just in time to carry his friends from the digital desert to the domain of the Digimon Sovereign.

Once they arrive, Takato tries first to talk down Beelzemon’s aggression and to remind him once more of the times when they were friends, when they roamed about the Real World together and he was the fun-loving, albeit devil may care, Impmon. Beelzemon, however, is too far gone and decides to fight his old friends anyway to gain as much strength as possible. Kyubimon knocks him off of his bike and burns his arms with a Rapid Wheel attack, which do little damage in the final calculation. As he attempts to blast her into oblivion, Growlmon launches Pyro Spheres to no avail, and finally Leomon grabs Beelzemon from behind. He tells him that physical power is not the same as strength of character and that without the latter, he will never feel fulfilled or truly happy, that he will always carry a void within himself.

Beelzemon breaks his bonds and responds by punching a hole straight through the solar plexus of Leomon, which is lights out for our friend (who is not coincident with the Leomon of the Adventure Universe, but nevertheless dies sacrificing himself for his friends and for the greater good as his death will later weigh heavily on the heart of Beelzemon and help turn him back toward the light). Leomon’s last words are addressed to Jeri and tell her to be brave and to keep her lion’s heart. As we watch, we hope to the end that Beelzemon will not absorb his data, which would prevent Leomon from ever returning as a DigiEgg (if such things exist at all in the Tamers Universe- I haven’t seen one in any of these first 34 episodes of the series). And of course, Beelzemon does absorb him.

Jeri’s sadness and Beelzemon’s coldness throw Takato and Growlmon into states of berserk fury and visceral calls for retribution. Growlmon Matrix Digivolves into WarGrowlmon with little effort and begins to do some minor damage to his Mega-level opponent before Takato orders him to Digivolve to Mega himself. Calumon senses the enormity of what he is about to produce, but cannot stop the Digital Triforce Hazard Symbol on his forehead from emitting a powerful red light of Digivolution, which subsequently enters WarGrowlmon and transforms him into his aberrant Mega form as Megidramon. Hypnos registers the disturbances and vast data convergences on that particular digital plane and sense a potential complete network shutdown as Megidramon’s energy throws the balance of that world out of whack. And then, as the monstrous Megidramon readies himself for battle, Takato’s D-Power cracks, falls from his hand to the ground, and shatters into many pieces.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued Here]

El Dorado

(Check out my previous Western film review here: Red River)

Despite not directing a Western for the first twenty years of his filmmaking career, Howard Hawks began his foray into the genre with a groundbreaking work in 1948’s Red River. However, Hawks impact within the genre both critically and commercially was such that he retains, to this day, recognition as a director of Westerns first and foremost. After Red River, he would only direct four more Westerns over the course of the next 22 years of his career, the final three of which comprise a ‘trilogy’ of sorts in which he remade the same story, each time with different actors (though he retained the Duke, John Wayne, in different roles on each picture).

The first of these picture was entitled Rio Bravo; starred John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Walter Brennan in the central roles; and was released in 1959. The second and third films of the trilogy were Hawk’s final two films of his career. The last of which was called Rio Lobo; starred John Wayne, Jorge Rivero, and Robert Mitchum’s son Christopher, as well as the great Western character actor Jack Elam; and was released in 1970. The second film, El Dorado, starred Wayne, Robert Mitchum, and a young James Caan, and was released in 1966.

All three films share a basic throughline in which a group of three men, plus a local deputy, develop bonds of friendship and professionalism amongst themselves. So when a group of outlaws threatens order, peace, and the letter of the law in a small frontier town one of the three (the Sheriff) is tasked to protect, the others come along for the ride and attempt to diffuse the situation the only way they know how: through a good old-fashioned shootout. The forces of civilization battle against the forces of libertine anarchism in a traditional Western trope whose subtext can be read as politically progressive, pro order, and against the darker angels of our nature (whose existence are the supposed basis of the Capitalist order, but are shown ultimately to be self-defeating and erring toward instability and disorder).

One of the best gun hands on the frontier is one Cole Thornton (Wayne). A businessman named Bart Jason (Ed Asner) hires Cole to head up his posse and help kill off the MacDonald clan, or at least scare them into selling their land’s water rights to him. Jason is your average capitalist who believes that if he can’t persuade someone to sell an asset, and he can’t force them to do so through some arcane legalistic means, that he is well within his rights as an ubermensch to do so by force. When Cole heads into town before taking on the assignment to relax and hit the saloons and brothels, the local Sheriff J.P. Harrah (Mitchum), who happens to be Cole’s old friend, comes by and alerts him to the situation he is entering.

Cole immediately trusts his friend’s advice and rides off to the Jason spread to return the money and back out of his deal. Crucially, throughout the film, he will never use extra-legal means, even to later protect the MacDonald estate. Cole and Harrah play it by the books, because not to do so would be to return to pre-legal methods and to support the promulgation of an unjust society (which is the key moral problema at the heart of superhero narratives and vigilante justice, and makes much of today’s Hollywood output essentially fascist at core). Cole departs Jason’s company and rides on to the MacDonald’s property to inquire about working for them instead. As he enters their land, he finds they’ve been expecting him, but as an aggressor and a snake in the grass with a sharpshooting eye.

Luke MacDonald, one of the elder MacDonald’s sons, has been camping out on a ridge, keeping a lookout for Cole. So when he arrives, the boy shoots at him, and somehow manages to miss. Cole shoots back and plugs him in the gut. When he rides up on the ridge to check on the kid, Luke’s freaking out. His father told him that a gutshot man is a goner, and he responds by launching a bullet into his brain and ending his life prematurely, even though he probably could have been saved. Cole brings the body up to the MacDonald ranch, apologizes for what happened after explaining his current alignments, and makes a solemn vow with himself to help the family some time in the future. But on his way out of the ranch, Josephine MacDonald, Luke’s sister, shoots him in the back, lodging a bullet up next to Cole’s spine, which will later slowly begin to paralyze him and cause trouble in his future shootouts with Jason’s men (a good dramatic irony if I’ve ever spied one).

When Cole passes through a neighboring town years later, a young man named Alan Bourdillion Traherne (nicknamed ‘Mississippi’ and played by James Caan) confronts a man in a saloon who killed his surrogate father two years previously. That man and three others were playing cards with his old man, who was a great player, and lost quite a fair amount of money in the process. They followed the man outside after the games, accused him of cheating, and gunned the unarmed gambler down in cold blood. Over the past two years, Mississippi has tracked down and killed three of those men, and now finishes off the third in a duel, beating him to the draw with a knife throw to the gut, of all things. The man’s posse is up in arms and ready to kill Mississippi, when Cole stands up and threatens to intervene and stop the man attempting to exact revenge on the murderer of a murderer.

Luckily for that lackey, his boss recognizes Cole as one of the greatest gunfighter around and calls his man off. The boss’s name is Nels McCloud and he decides to offer Cole and Mississippi jobs in his posse as he has just received a new client: one Bart Jason. Cole turns him down, naturally, and senses a showdown between himself and Nels on the horizon. To complicate the plot, when he arrives in the old town of his Sheriff friend, he finds that Harrah has become a drunk and is unreliable. So a sauced Sheriff, an old Deputy, a nerve-twinged half-paralyzed old gun fighter, and a green knife-thrower with no firearms experience are set to duel with one of the most able and willing outlaw posses in the nation, and the outcome is anything but certain.

And though the film seems to suggest that a more just society is on the horizon if only more people, despite their setbacks are willing to fight, to kill, to bring it about even in the face of staggering odds, this is no utopian vision. As the unlikely cast of characters begin their dance with the forces of dis-ease and death, Mississippi reads off the last two stanzas of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1849 poem Eldorado:

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
‘Shadow,’ said he,
‘Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?’

‘Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,’
The shade replied-
‘If you seek for Eldorado!

The implication being that the challenge set forth to better mankind is never over. That it will never be perfect, that the battle will always be uphill, Sisyphean, and at times seemingly hopeless. But this no more precludes its necessity than the fact of death precludes the constant search for immortality, the fact of moral weakness precludes the road to uprightness, and the fact of distortion precludes the quest for truth. This is what makes El Dorado one of the greatest of all Westerns, what makes Hawks one of the greatest of all American filmmakers.

 

Cody Ward

[Catch my following Howard Hawks film review: His Girl Friday]

[And my next Western film review: The Shooting]

Rabbit Transit (Digimon Tamers: Episode 33)

(Check out part 32 HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

As Takato, Henry, and Terriermon transport rapidly through digital space in the Digivice Ark, they find themselves unable to figure out where the machine is headed. The Ark seems to be piloting itself and may be headed straight for the domain of the Digimon Sovereign if Shibumi programmed it to do so. Henry, however, comes to a different conclusion and speculates that the device is piloting itself, though it is also guided by the laws of the ‘Digital Space-Time fabric.’ He doesn’t really elaborate on the concept, which is vague and adds little to the conversation over their current predicament beyond having the negative effect of confusing Takato and Terriermon more than ever before.

Terriermon tells Henry and Takato that he misses Suzie and is immediately poked fun at by his friends for wanting to go back to her despite Suzie’s proclivity to dress him up in ridiculous doll clothing. Back in the Real World, Suzie misses Terriermon as well, but tries to put on a brave face for her parents. Janyu has fashioned a Terriermon doll for her, though the stuffed Terriermon just isn’t the same. When her father passes through the living room, she gains his attention and convinces him to bring her to the local park to play as a gambit to hopefully take her mind off of Terriermon and her bigger brother Henry’s absences.

Once there, Yamaki appears and begins to ask Janyu about Shibumi. Yamaki has gathered that though Shibumi was a part of Janyu’s college coding group, he never quite fit in all that well. Janyu explains that this was true, as Shibumi was so much smarter than the rest of them, he was operating on his own level. He was almost too brilliant, which led to some eccentricity on his part as he worked toward the goal of creating ‘an artificial intelligence, which could exist and evolve independent of any human control.’ The rest of the group were ambitious, but knew that Digimon were not real. Shibumi was driven by a madness not to prove they were real, but to make them fully real, to cede to them life, autonomy, and moral weight. through this effort, Janyu came to believe that Shibumi was playing god and attempting to create life itself.

As the two continue to converse about Shibumi, his goals, and the current possibility of tracking him down when he can apparently disappear into a puff of smoke at the drop of a hat, Suzie continues to wander about the park. A light appears to her and guides her toward a large slide, which she climbs up. As Janyu begins to broach the topic of the Blue Card that Shibumi designed, a Digital Field manifests itself at the top of the slide, and the Ark in which Terriermon and the others are being transported can momentarily be seen. Suzie sees Terriermon through a transparent glass window at the bottom of the Ark, which prompts her to continue her ascent, eventually being drawn into the Digital World through the Digital Field’s portal, which itself manifested because of the Ark’s passage through the Real World on the way to the Realm of the Digimon Sovereign. Janyu notices her predicament too late to do anything about it and begins to blame himself for his carelessness. But Yamaki just tells him that if the Digital World drew Suzie within it, it did so with some purpose in mind, and she will be fine there.

When Suzie arrives, she finds herself within the Realm of the Digimon Sovereign. A Tapirmon passes by her and she begins to chase the Rookie-level Digimon about, only losing him once he enters his burrow. A group of DigiGnomes approach Suzie, but soon fly off and away from her, leaving her once again alone, and more and more annoyed with the situation. A Champion-level Kiwimon runs by her, snagging her coat as he attempts to attack her with his beak, which results only in the coat becoming caught on his face. After shrugging off the apparel, he attacks Suzie, but misses with his Kiwi missile, and is chided by Suzie for being so rude. Kiwimon runs away too. Finally, a bundle of data tumbleweeds approaches Suzie. She touches one and is mildly burned by it in the process, leading her to realize that this space she has arrived within is a dangerous, hostile, and unfriendly place.

Later, after walking a piece, she finds what appears to be a pond. But upon closer inspection, there is only a waterfall across from a sheer cliff making the water inaccessible. Atop the waterfall is a palace of sorts, within which most likely reside the Digimon Sovereign. The South Bridge and Gate are guarded by a giant Rabbit Deva named Antylamon whose external appearance immediately interest Suzie and reminds her of Terriermon. She approaches the Deva, who is not hostile as she recognizes that this little girl is no threat and is merely lost. The two develop an immediate affinity and eventually Suzie convinces Antylamon to help her find her friend Terriermon. The two run off in the nearby digital fields until exhaustion sets in and as Suzie runs along to find food for the two, Antylamon secretly departs the scene to return to her post as guard at the South Bridge.

At some point during all of these events, Terriermon registers the voice of Suzie from afar and decides that they need to turn the Ark around, which it does automatically as if responding to the wills of its occupants. When Makuramon appears on the scene and spies Suzie, he tries to capture her as a prize for the Digimon Sovereign. Suzie yells out and both Antylamon and Terriermon’s Ark come flying to her aid. Antylamon and Makuramon are natural allies as members of the Devas, but Antylamon feels the urge to protect Suzie as a stronger call than that of alliance with Makuramon. As she begins to fight Makuramon, the Ark arrives, drops off Takato, Henry, and Terriermon, and dissolves into thin air, leaving behind only a momentary quake and sonic boom.

However, the help of the other Tamers is not needed as Antylamon quickly scares off Makuramon herself. As Henry analyzes Antylamon on his D-Power, registers nothing, and eventually comes to the realization that the final Deva was a rabbit like Antylamon, he becomes afraid for his sister who is standing right beside her. Suddenly, a light orb floats down into Suzie’s hands, turns into a D-Power, and Antylamon is absorbed in a funnel of red light, which de-Digivolves her down to her Rookie-level as Lopmon. It seems that Suzie too is a Tamer, and luckily, the Tamer of a Deva, which means that 9 have been defeated, 1 converted, and only 2 are left to fight: Makuramon and Caturamon!

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

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