Archive | June 2018

The Undefeated

(Catch my previous Western film review here: Broken Arrow)

This Western film is a pretty late one as far as classical Westerns go. By this point in the development of the genre, 1969, the American New Wave had emerged to momentarily put American Cinema back in the hands of auteurs and innovators rather than in Hollywood stalwarts. For the Western, this meant the development of the Acid and Existential Western, and the full force of the Revisionist Western coming into the forefront of the field and directors like Monte Hellman, Robert Altman, and Sam Peckinpah taking over as older directors like John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Budd Boetticher retired and died off.

But the director of The Undefeated, Andrew V. McLaglen, was not your typical classic director, and neither was he one of the upstarts taking reigns of the industry at the time. No, he began his career as a director in the mid-50s helming the Western Gun the Man Down before moving on to drama features, and direction of hundreds of episodes of various Western TV shows like Gunsmoke and Have Gun- Will Travel, before taking up the cause of the trad Western once more in 1963 on the John Wayne vehicle McLintock!. That film began what would become a series of collaborations between the two men in the late 60s and early 70s that would include the action film Hellfighters, and the Westerns Chisum and Cahill U.S. Marshall. On The Undefeated, John Wayne also assisted McLaglen as an uncredited co-director.

The events of the picture are set in the final days of the Civil War. A Confederate Colonel named James Langdon (Rock Hudson) and his men have received reports that General Lee surrendered to Grant three days previously and that the war has technically ended. However, he and his men have continued to fight any unwitting Yankee regiments they could find. After finally suffering a defeat at the hands of Union Colonel John Henry Thomas’ (Wayne) troops, he and his men pretend to give up the ghost and return back to their homes in the South. Carpetbaggers have already descended upon their territory and are offering terribly low financial incentives to sell their ranches and plantations before the banks foreclose them and leave them nothing (something seen as an eventual reality as most Confederate officers invested significant personal funds in their troops and have no slave labor to make the production of next years crops inexpensive and wildly lucrative). As such, Langdon burns down his family home and the lands on which it sits in order to leave nothing but a charred husk for the Yankee vultures.

He next brings his troops out West to rendezvous in Mexico with French colonial troops and the Austrian-born Napoleon III-appointed Emperor of Mexico Archduke Maximilian. There is a violent revolt rising amongst the ranks of native Mexicans to fight back against the French Imperial powers and enshrine their own leader, the elected President of a would-be Democratic Mexico, Don Benito Juarez, and the Colonial Powers have enlisted the help of any Confederates willing to aid them in the fight against these insurrectionist forces with the promise of sanctuary from U.S. reprisal for their actions during the Civil War. As such, Langdon’s men are raring to go, to fight another day, and to hopefully make enough money defending the status quo regime in Mexico to return one day to their one homes and help the South to financially rise again and begin the Civil struggle anew with the United States, its Federalist excesses, and its willingness to believe in freedom of association and union between the States in word alone.

Meanwhile, Colonel Thomas and his men (only 10 remaining from an initial force of 75) have retired from the United States Cavalry. They endeavor to go West, track down and tame a herd of wild horses, and sell them off to the United States government who have promised to buy the herd for $35 a head. As the two rival factions travel West, they butt heads, but eventually work together to ensure each other’s survival against hostile forces and roving bands of vigilantes. They come to know another as friends and Thomas and his adopted Cherokee son Blue Boy even strike up romantic attachments to the sister and daughter, respectively, of the Confederate Colonel Langdon.

Eventually, Thomas and his men gather up more than 3000 horses, but the United States wants only 500 of them now. And what’s worse, they have gone back on their promises and plan to buy them for only $25 a head. Down below the border beyond the Rio Grande, the French Colonial Government of Mexico promises to buy the entire herd, and for an impressive $55 a head. At this chance, Thomas jumps, without as much as giving his own country’s military needs one thought: those bastards weren’t even willing to hold up their end of the bargain after all, and to a celebrated Union Cavalry officer no less.

When Thomas’ men arrive below the border alongside the Confederate crowd, they help fend off a large group of bandits before going their separate ways, engaging with the French Military who turn traitor and decide not to hold up their end of the bargain with Thomas either, and Langdon’s people are trapped within the city of Durango by Mexican troops who have taken over the city. At the end of the day, the message of clear: You can’t trust those with an ulterior motive, whether that be politics or business, but that those with honor (like the two Colonels at the core of the film) will be able to recognize one another, trust in one another, and fight by each other’s side. That being American is something that transcends regional interests and is defined more by a spirit of camaraderie, of fair play, of honor, and of guts. A pretty touching sentiment, but one that isn’t so well born out in these modern times when the divides between Americans culturally and politically are so deep as to appear practically intractable. One can always hope I suppose, but the way I see it you can hope in one hand and shit in the other, and it amounts to the same thing, at least in this case.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: the worst Western of the 1970s? Rancho Deluxe]

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Digimon Films: Digimon Tamers: Battle of Adventurers

(Catch the previous Digimon film review here: Revenge of Diaboromon)

Digimon films beyond the Adventure Canon (and even some points within those films) are often difficult to fit within the chronology of the series in which they take place. The two Digimon Tamers films are notoriously hard to place in this regard. However, I have pinpointed a pretty exact time for the chronological placement of the first of these two films, Battle of Adventurers, which was released on July 14th, 2001: Between episodes 15 and 16 of the series in our real world chronology, though certainly not a sure fit at this point in the series.

In the film, it is summer time. In the series, summer begins after episode 18. In this film, each of the Digimon Tamers can Matrix Digivolve, but only with the help of Calumon: though this Digivolution is not new to any of the Tamers at the time. Guilmon and Terriermon achieve their Ultimate-level forms by episode 18 and Renamon does likewise in this episode. In episode 21, Jeri first meets Leomon and begins to become her partner Tamer. But she is nowhere in this film, which means it most likely occurs before she becomes a full-fledged Tamer as the events of this epoch move quickly toward the gang entering the Digital World in episode 24 (an epoch that begins in episode 22 with the appearance of Vikaralamon.

This means that the events of Battle of Adventurers occur either between episodes 18 and 19 before the battle with Indramon and specifically set during summer time, between episodes 20 and 21 after Indramon has been defeated and before Leomon is introduced, or between episode 21 and 22 before the Vikaralamon saga begins. However, in episode 20 during the fight against Indramon, the Tamers realize they can use the Blue Cards to Matrix Digivolve, which they most likely would have done in the film if they knew they had the ability to do so. As such, we can conclude pretty safely that this film is set immediately following the events of Episode 18 of the series and sometime before those of Episode 19 begin.

Although Chiaki J. Konaka wrote the script for the Digimon Tamers series, he was not the writer on this film. Released only in the first third of the season’s TV release, one might expect that Konaka would have been called in to draft the story. However, writers on anime productions often work only in the preproduction period and leave before the show even begins to air after handing over the script’s execution to the Series Director. As such, Yasuko Kobayashi, a relatively untested writer at the time, was brought in to create a compelling story. And Yasuko did just that.

The film follows the exploits of Takato and his friends Rika and Henry over summer vacation as they go to visit various places in Japan. Takato goes to Okinawa to visit his cousin Kai and his grandfather in a small ocean-side retreat where they plan to fish, scuba dive, and grill out fresh seafood all summer long. Henry heads father South-West to Yonaguni, the Western-most inhabited Japanese Island (a mere 67 miles form the coast of Taiwan) where the natural, though visually architectural, underwater Yonaguni Monument resides. Rika’s mother has been in Paris on a modelling job and is returning to vacation elsewhere with her family while Rika and her grandmother wait for her in Shibuya.

A new digital craze has taken Japan by storm in the meantime: the V-Pet. This cute avatar puppy functions as a virtual pet and a personal assistant for any mechanical device with a user interface that can connect to the internet. It has been developed by an entrepreneur named Ryuuji Tamashiro who is inadvertently also in Okinawa at the same time as Takato. His research laboratory, hidden deep within the interior of an abandoned island, holds only one other man: an Okinawan native and tech designer and coder named Uehara who created the V-Pet originally as a replacement for his daughter’s pet Mei who she lost through negligence whilst body boarding in adverse climactic conditions a few years back. After the poor thing drowned, his daughter Minami was naturally extremely distraught and he thought the V-Pet would help fill the emotional void in her life. Instead, Tamashiro programmed a disruptive virus within the V-Pets that would one day activate in all units simultaneously, engage, and shut down all systems they’re connected to including plane navigational systems (thereby endangering Rika’s mother), hospital equipment, traffic signs, and electronic cars.

The film opens with a scene in which the Adventure Universe Omnimon is battling an Ultimate-level satanic Baphomet-like Digimon named Mephistomon who was born from the remnants of Apocalymon’s Ghost Data. This new beast is way too weak to fight Omnimon one on own, but retains Universe-spanning abilities and eventually makes its way through a vortex in the net and away from Omnimon by virtue of its extremely high dexterity, and into the Tamers Universe. Once there, it took on the human form of Tamashiro and programmed the V-Pets with its own energy to not only disrupt electronic systems, but to manifest as Digimon copies, as lackeys for Mephistomon including the Armor Digimon forms of Baromon, Ponchomon, Pipismon, Sepikmon, Tylomon, Mantaraymon, Archelomon, Pteramon, and Depthmon, as well as the normal Digimon Kokuwamon, BlueMeramon, and Divermon.

Fortunately, Uehara programmed into his daughter’s original V-Pet prototype a powerful anti-V-Pet kill-switch that can immediately sacrifice itself, activate, and destroy all V-Pets worldwide. Unfortunately, Mephistomon knows this as well and sends out his lackeys to track down Minami Uehara to destroy her computer and the V-Pet anti-virus program within it. And fortunately, once again, this digital construct of the prototype V-Pet is more than just a mere program. When Minami is captured, this V-Pet escapes from the laptop and physically manifests itself, biomerges as it were, into the Real World as Seasarmon, or Shiisaamon, whose appearance is based upon the folkloric indigenous Okinawan religious ‘Lion’Dog’ deity Shiisaa (in a manner similar to how the Devas and Digimon Sovereign are based physically upon human deities).

Together with Seasarmon, Takato, Kai, and Guilmon, who quickly Digivolves to Growlmon and remains in this form head out to sea, find Tamashiro’s hideout, defeat his lackey’s, and begin the battle against Mephistomon just as Omnimon metaphysically hails Henry and Rika, transports them through the net vortex to the lab, by Takato’s side, to fight his fight against the remnants of Apocalymon’s data. Fight his fight for him because, as a denizen of the Adventure Universe, he would be unable to return there once he entered the new Tamers Universe (just as Ryo and Cyberdramon before him had to make a choice to leave the Adventure Universe behind forever in order to fight greater evil in the Tamers Universe, where their strengths were currently needed).

As they begin their battle, Seasarmon is defeated and returns to his Rookie-level as Labramon, a form reminiscent of Minami’s old pet dog Mei. As the two bond and Minami comes to realize that digital life forms are every bit as real as physical ones if given sufficient coding complexity, and that she had treated her V-Pet wrongly by ignoring it all this time, despite its love for her. At this moment, she calls her Digimon partner by its pet name ‘Mei’ and thereby enables the passcode, which allows him to sacrifice himself and thereby destroy all of the V-Pets worldwide in the process. Rika’s mother and millions of others throughout the world are now safe from Mephistomon’s first plan, but his next involves taking on the world by himself, on his own steam.

He creates a Digital Plane in which the world appears as if it had been destroyed by him and much of its cities flooded and left to the ravages of time. In this plane, he battles the Growlmon, Kyubimon, and Gargomon, but their teamwork overwhelms him and almost defeats him for good. That is until he Digivolves to his Mega-level form as Gulfmon and threatens to engulf the world in his unrepentant will toward evil for evil’s sake (a form of evil mostly absent in our own world where most can be explained through the sheer banality of evil or the even more terrifying Jean Renoirian adage that ‘everyone has their reasons’, meaning that most people do what they think is right and proper, and their evil can only be seen as such from the outside looking in).

Luckily, Calumon gives the Tamers the strength to Digivolve to the Ultimate-level through his Digivolution Catalyst ability. Together, Rapidmon, WarGrowlmon, and Taomon fight the Mega-level Gulfmon. They become metallic and then melt into pure energy, fuse their energy streams, and attack their opponent with one last ditch frenetic blow that cuts him in two and ends the battle for good. The film ends with the kids all vacationing at Kai’s house for a while and Minami, now partnerless mere days after discovering she had a Digimon partner in the first place, has at least made some lifelong friends in the Tamers from Tokyo, and even more important for the short term, her neighbor Kai in Okinawa, together in their homeland of sand and surf where atop each shrine rests a stone Shiisaa serving as a reminder of those few great hours with Seasarmon and of his will to watch over her for the remainder of her days.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Next up: Tamers: Runaway Locomon]

Broken Arrow

(Catch my previous Western film review here: The Big Trail)

Throughout World War II, American attitudes became much more conservative and xenophobic. The Communist party was now the target of attacks by Americas own would-be fascist black guard HUAC crowd and most relevant to the film at hand is the way films during this period portrayed outsiders. Though many Westerns were made throughout the period, almost none of those that showed Native Americans did so favorably or sympathetically. Delmer Daves’ 1950 Western, Broken Arrow, was one of the first to buck this upsetting militaristic tendency toward demonizing the only true Americans.

The film is a slight revision on a historical reality about the 1861-72 Apache Wars and the eventual, though short-lived, peace relations and treaties between the Apache and the United States Government in 1872-76. In the film, Tom Jeffords (played by Jimmy Stewart) is an ex-soldier in the conflict turned messenger. During a routine mission he comes across a young Apache man who has been wounded by buckshot and is dying in a gorge. He saves the boy, gives him water, and removes the eight pieces of buckshot from his back. After a few days, the kid’s Apache brethren track him down and are set to kill Jeffords as he’s a white man traversing their territory during war time. But the boy saves his life by explaining the situation to his fellow Apache. Jeffords realizes during this moment and for the first time that the Apache have a code of honor and fair play, and are most certainly not the savages they’ve been made out to be.

Later, Jeffords is hired by his general to lead a force against the Apache. But he has lost his taste for blood and for war, and instead gives up his command and decides to learn the Apache language and as many customs as he can in a gambit to reach out to Cochise, the Apache chief, and attempt a peace deal. His bravery in the face of danger and potential death while traveling through Apache territory to reach Cochise, his respect for Apache customs and ways of life, and his ability to properly use smoke signals of peace relations, engenders him close to Cochise’s heart. The two bond, develop a friendship of equals, and eventually, Jeffords secures a deal with the Apache to stop killing American mail carriers who travel through Apache territory as they pose no real threat and are not even the channels for the relaying of military messages.

As Jeffords lives amongst the Apache, he falls for a young woman named Sunseeahray (or ‘Morning Star’, supposedly) who has recently come of age and is undergoing the Sunrise Ceremony. As the sacred Painted Lady archetype for a few mere hours that night, she has the mystic potential to bless and to heal. Cochise advises Jeffords to go to her, and she ceremoniously ‘heals’ his old battle wounds. The two fall for each other at first sight and Jeffords falls in love, apparently for the firs time in his life. The Painted Lady, in this case, has more than healing potential for him, but holds the potential to open his heart that has been closed to so much for so long.

Later, as Jeffords begins living with the Apache full-time after being cast out and called a traitor by his own people, he and Cochise work to develop a potential truce with the United States Military. Eventually, the ‘Christian General’ Oliver Otis Howard seeks out Jeffords, learns as much Apache as he can, and gets President Grant’s go-ahead to make a binding treaty with the Apache for Peace. In the final plan, the Apache are given a wide swath of land that is there’s and there’s alone, on which they cannot be legally molested by any white man’s presence they do not sanction, and on which any legal infractions entered upon by any white man will be tried with the harshest rule of the law by the government.

But before this treaty can go through, Cochise asks for a cease-fire for three months to test it out. Roving bands of Apache who have defected from Cochise’s rule, and who function under the rule of the rebellious, but ultimately necessary chieftain Geronimo, occasionally kill white men who pass through the territory. Cochise’s band protects as many whites as possible from these groups just as the American Military begins to fight off roving bands of xenophobic whites bent on destroying Cochise.

In truth, the treaty would only be respected by the United States for four years, as is to be expected from a regime bathed in blood and grown through turmoil, deceit, backbiting, and disrespect for treaties, even those they sign- signalling a distinct lack of honor on the nation’s part as well. They forcefully moved Cochise’s people into a different, much smaller reservation and eventually stole the land they had already taken from the get go and then given over through signed official documents. At this point, Geronimo’s forces become important as new Apache wars started up and, for a time, struck fear in the hearts of white settlers, militarists, propagandists, and rogues until 1887 when the last real large forces were wiped out or defeated, the West was won, and simultaneously began industrializing and coming to an end with the hegemonic power of the white man’s law reigning in vigilantism and the Wild West mentality that, for so long, made the frontier a truly inspiring land where strength, cunning, and occasionally, honor were held in higher regard than any moral fervor.

The film is a great historical document of changing Americans views on Native Americans in pop culture at a time in America when their treaties and reservation lands were still not respected and were often ‘extracted’ by the United States and given over to business interests for the purpose of uranium extraction. Many workers in these mines later died of complications from working around such hazardous radioactive materials. It would not be until the late 60s that AIM formed and the United States government began to take Native American rights seriously. It was arguably small cultural steps like Broken Arrow’s sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans that began to move us in the right direction morally as a nation in regard to our only true natives.

Before director Delmer Daves helmed this project, he gained a reputation critically as a director of film noirs like the classics The Red House and Dark Passage. After Broken Arrow, he turned his attention more strongly toward the creation of more Western films and later directed great films in that vein throughout the 1950s and all the way until the end of his career as a filmmaker in 1965. Some of the most famous of these pictures include genre-defining pictures like Drum Beat, Jubal, The Last Wagon, 3:10 to Yuma, The Badlanders, and The Hanging Tree. 

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: The Undefeated]

Such Sweet Sorrow (Digimon Tamers: Final Episode)

(Catch part 50 HERE)

This is it. We’ve made it to the end of Digimon Tamers and I’ve managed to review every episode from three seasons of the franchise thus far. Now just four seasons and Tri remain ahead, not to mention whatever new series might be released before I catch up completely with the rest of these seasons. All in all, I’m about a third of the way there. Thanks for sticking around and checking out these reviews, I hope they’ve been entertaining, nostalgic, or even occasionally eye-opening or educational.

The episode opens to Gallantmon Crimson Mode ascending toward the Kernel Sphere of the Mother D-Reaper as Jeri sits inside attempting to find a way out of this mess herself. By the Reaper, MegaGargomon, Justimon, and Sakuyamon’s attacks have hitherto proven useless and completely unable to even leave a dent in the digital beast’s defenses. Justimon, however, has a plan. He asks Sakuyamon to send all of her strength to him, which he will then infuse into his Justi Blade to rend the Reaper asunder. Rika chides Ryo for trying to play the hero, for attempting to impress her through crazy actions in the face of insurmountable odds. The two are obviously flirting (and if a sequel to Tamers is ever developed, this burgeoning relationship is sure to be explored more fully there). She begrudgingly sends her power to Ryo, which gives him the strength to cut the Reaper from head to toe, completely in two!

Back to the Mother D-Reaper, she has sent out a series of OP ADR-06: Horn Striker’s to combat Gallantmon, though he easily destroys each and every one on his way to the Kernel Sphere to rescue Jeri. Inside, Jeri is using the power of her D-Power to completely crush dissolves the cables within the Sphere and seemingly free her from her bondage. However, blue fluid begins to seep into the Kernel Sphere, seemingly a defense mechanism by the Mother D-Reaper to either whip up Jeri into a frenzy as she fights for her life in the hopes of avoiding the acidic fluid, or even worse, an attempt to kill her outright, for the D-Reaper to cut its losses and start deleting all humans beginning with Jeri.

A modified version of the ADR-01 appears from without the Mother D-Reaper and begins to attack Gallantmon and even begins to defeat him just as the Reaper, on the other side of the D-Reaper Zone, re-forms after being split in half, revealing its relative invincibility. Hypnos engages Operation Doodlebug at this crucial juncture and Janyu informs his son that he previously installed a Juggernaut program into the core of Terriermon’s data, just in case it became necessary to go nuclear on the D-Reaper’s ass. And after being instructed how to use this power, MegaGargomon descends into the vortex from which the Reaper appeared and begins to spin in the opposite direction of the vortex. The end result is that MegaGargomon spins so quickly and violently that he reverses the vortex’s spin and thereby reverts time for the D-Reaper’s progression, eventually destroying both the Reaper and the Mother D-Reaper .

However, not before Gallantmon Crimson Mode overcomes the ADR-01 by refusing its claims that human life is unimportant. He repudiates the D-Reaper’s existence instead and finally defeats it. As the Mother D-Reaper is pulled into the vortex, Jeri’s D-Power creates a protection bubble in which she and Calumon are protected and remain behind for Gallantmon Crimson Mode to recover them.

Unfortunately, there is one more problem: Shibumi’s Red Card algorithm did not take into account the Human-Digimon biomerged Hybrids, and as such, they are not protected from the destruction of the Juggernaut program. He alerts the Tamers to this problem quickly enough that they are able to de-Digivolve and escape the Zone with he help of MarineAngemon. Finally, the D-Reaper Zone begins to diminish to negligible size before ceasing to exist entirely.

All of the Tamers meet up in the park after these events, including Ai and Mako and Impmon and suddenly, most of the Digimon de-Digivolve to the In-training level. Janyu appears and tells his son Henry and the other Tamers that the Juggernaut program worked partially by making the Real World a plane in which Digimon cannot sustain their structural integrity for long before disappearing entirely. As such, the Digimon are weakening and will cease to exist, just like the D-Reaper, unless they leave the Real World and return to the Digital World as soon as possible. Hypnos has opened a portal in the park through which they can return and as such, the teary eyed kids go to this area and say their goodbyes to their partner Digimon.

The scene is somewhat odd insofar as some of the Digimon revert back to their earlier forms while a few remain in their current forms. Guardromon reverts to Kapurimon, Monodramon to Hopmon, Guilmon to Gigimon, Renamon to Viximon, Impmon to Yaamon, Lopmon to Kokomon, and Terriermon to Gummymon (many of these Digimon are seen for the first time in the anime here). Calumon remains himself, which makes sense as he is not really a Digimon per se and may be unable to Digivolve or de-Digivolve, hence his remaining in his current Rookie-like form. But for some unknown reason, MarineAngemon, a Mega-level Digimon, remains MarineAngemon. Although he is diminutive in size, he is high in power level and should have reverted to some previous form like Pichimon. He may have remained a Mega because he was one for so long, but Cyberdramon reverted to Monodramon and then to Hopmon, and he was typically an Ultimate. Furthermore, Guardromon reverted back to an in-training level too. Oh well, you just can’t rationalize everything in the Digimon Universe.

As their friends enter the Digital portal, Takato promises to meet Guilmon once again. And later, in the episode’s final scenes, set months in the future, we see him visiting the park and finding a Digimon portal in the back of Guilmon’s old den supporting the view that they will one day meet again. And if we’re lucky enough and the Akiyoshi Hongo decides to deign us with its creation, one day Tamers may be given a sequel and we will be shown this reunion firsthand. At least head series writer Chiaki J. Konaka has voiced his willingness to work on such a project if given the chance. There’s always hope.

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

Honkytonk Man

In 1982, Clint Eastwood directed one of the first pictures of his career in which he wore his musical influences on his sleeve. In the film, he plays the character Red Stovall (based on Jimmie Rodgers), an ailing Country Western singer-songwriter with Tuberculosis and not long to live. He has been playing Honky Tonks for years and making a minor name for himself throughout the country during the post-WWI period and into the epoch of the film, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. And finally, he has been given an opportunity to audition for the Grand Ole Opry at the world famous Ryman Auditorium. But the trip out to Nashville is no easy trek and will cost a pretty penny just to get from where he’s currently settled way out in the furthest Western reaches of the Mid-West.

Though he has little money of his own, Red picks up a few unlikely fellow travelers along the way who ante up a portion of the funds, including his brother’s wife’s father who was born in Tennessee and wants to return to die there, as well as Red’s nephew who has an intense interest in Country music, wants to learn to play guitar, and most importantly, wants to escape the fate of working as a cotton picker on other men’s ranches for the remainder of his life. Along the way, they stop through Tulsa, Oklahoma and track down an old friend of Red’s named Derwood Arnspringer who owes Red $100. The guy doesn’t have the money, and initially tries to pawn some girl off on Red instead of the money before eventually telling him about a fake robbery plot he’s got going with a diner down the street. He sends one of his thugs to take $100 from the till, the owner pockets $100 bucks from the till, and then reports that $200 was taken: a win-win for the robber and for the owner of the joint, and a loss for the government, which everyone holds in contempt anyway.

Unfortunately, Derwood’s son, who was supposed to inform the woman at the diner about the hold-up, decided to forego this responsibility and almost gets Red and his nephew killed in the process as they attempt to rob the joint without the woman being informed. When Red returns to Derwood’s bar, he steals the money from him and his fellow crap players at the poker table in the foyer, as well as an extra $100 for his troubles, and then rides off into the night with the money, and unbeknownst to him, the girl, stowed away in the trunk of his car.

Much of the rest of the film follows the exploits of Red as he plays various dive bars, hits on tons of women, makes a little money and a spreads his legend through every Honky Tonk he can find to play. His pre-teen nephew Whit Wagoneer (played by Clint’s son Kyle Eastwood, and named after Porter Wagoner) has his first experiences with crime, breaking his uncle out of prison, driving a car, boozing, smoking weed, womanizing, and writing music (he even helps his uncle pen the words to what will become his posthumous hit ‘Honkytonk Man’). Together they steal chickens, trick police officers, and see the plains and the forests and the highways of this great land and become closer to the spirit of where they’re music sprung up, to the wellspring of their beings that gives strength to the music they produce (and whose absence is what makes popular music from the 80s onward rootless, meandering drivel for the most part).

When Red reaches Nashville and finally auditions at the legendary home of Country music, his TB begins to act up again and he is forced to leave the stage before he finishes what would otherwise be a great, star-making audition. Incidentally, the player who auditions on stage before Red takes the Ryman stage is Porter Wagoner, one of the greatest Country music stars of all time and a personal favorite of mine for his murder ballads and tales of the down and out, the oppressed, the mentally ill, and the those otherwise on the periphery of society. In the film, Red’s botched audition ensures that he will never play the Ryman on the Grand Ole Opry as the promoters cannot risk him having a coughing fit in the middle of a show.

But his voice and his writing is promising enough for a local recording studio to take a chance on him (something that never happens anymore on account of the restructuring of the music industry toward fewer artists and less chance, and which also necessitates their deaths and bankruptcies to move American music toward anything like a revival of artistry or importance). The studio commissions an album of singles from Red, which he records in his final days before kicking the bucket and that become radio hits that give him fame beyond his death. During these recording sessions, the Country-Western penman and performer of the classic ‘Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’, Marty Robbins, acts as one amongst the session musicians in the room and even contributes a few lines to Eastwood’s surprisingly good tune. This film would prove to be Robbins final public appearance before his death in December of 1982.

The film is an homage to some of Eastwood’s musical heroes and inspirations and would form the first part of what would later become a triptych of sorts in which Eastwood explores his preoccupations with various American musical artists. The second of this triptych would come six years later on Bird, Eastwood’s biopic on the life of Charlie Parker. The third, Jersey Boys, would be released almost thirty years later, in 2014, and explored the doo-wop musical craze of the 40s and 50s. Although the latter is a picture I personally couldn’t stand because of the vapidity and lack of vitality of the music that those bands produced, Honkytonk Man and Bird are every bit deserving of the critical praise they received when they were first released and have continued to received over the following 36 and 30 years, respectively.

 

Cody Ward

[Catch another Eastwood film review here: Heartbreak Ridge]

Christmas in Tattertown

(Catch my previous Ralph Bakshi review here: Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures)

During the production of Mighty Mouse in 1987 and 1988, Ralph Bakshi was developing a follow-up series based on a series of independent cartoon strips he created before beginning work at Terry Toons at the beginning of his professional career. The strip was called Junktown, but for this new series, which CBS was initially supposed to pick up after Mighty Mouse’s run, Bakshi changed the title to Tattertown: a fantastical place where things that disappear end up, become vivified, gain personalities and intelligence, and live together in a city of seedy, urban decay akin to a 70s New York: a time and place Bakshi new well, and one in which I myself wish I was around to walk.

Unfortunately, after the bs with the American Fascist Association’s ‘misunderstanding’ (I’ll be a little generous) over the content of the first season Mighty Mouse episode, ‘The Littlest Tramp’, CBS pulled back from the new property. Fortunately for Bakshi, Nickelodeon was willing to pick up the property. Though not as originally intended as a 39-episode animated series, but as a mere 30-minute long Christmas Special that they could air in late 1988. There was very little compromise in this proposal between Bakshi’s vision of the project and what Nickelodeon ordered, but it was a chance for Bakshi to get the project released and to move on from the Mighty Mouse scandal as quickly as possible. So he took the job, delivered the film on time, and in the process, created the first animated work for Nickelodeon, which would continue to program specials over the next three years before finally moving into the episodic TV animation market in 1991 with the series Rugrats, Doug, and Bakshi’s friend Kricfalusi’s series The Ren and Stimpy Show.

Christmas in Tattertown, which was released four days before Christmas in 1988, briefly explored the dark city life of this imaginary town concocted by Bakshi. Throughout its short run-time, viewers are treated to a characteristic, if not toned down, Bakshi animated urban landscape. There are dive bars and speakeasies, what appear to be drug dens and cathouses, squalor and trash littering the streets, much of it alive and breathing anthropomorphic trash at that. Many of the interior scenes of clubs are animated in a traditional style more akin to 1930s animation than to the modern creator-driven animation revolution that Bakshi and Kricfalusi had helped to usher in with Mighty Mouse, while many of the main characters of this TV special are very modern and closer to an Animaniacs style. The result is an eclecticism that is pretty refreshing and rare in the medium of commercial animation work in the West, but also holds interest as a historical place-marker between two eras of animation.

Running throughout the film is Bakshi’s love for American music, and especially for music with a roots tradition to support it. In this case, Big Band Jazz plays whenever a scene moves to a bar or a club, which often heightens the kinetic energy of those moments and gels perfectly with the classical animation style of many sequences therein. Bakshi even names his narrator after quite possibly the greatest Jazz cat of all time: Miles Davis. This character, Miles the Saxophone (interesting not a trumpet, which was the instrument Davis played throughout his career) has a gruff voice like his namesake and seems to always know what’s on the up and up, what’s on the lowdown, and what’s been happening in and around his town. The referentiality of the short film is something that those in the know will respect and probably enjoy whilst watching the work, though these elements by no means raise it above the level of a mere kitsch, workaday film made seemingly on the fly and with none of the typical overt social commentary or deep reflection of Bakshi’s other street films.

The story told within the film is that of a young girl named Muffet with something of a chip on her shoulder. She treats her toys badly, throws them around, and even rips them asunder occasionally. So when her doll Debbie comes alive, she immediately runs off, gets lost, and finds herself in Tattertown. Unfortunately, so too does Muffet who begins to boss around all of the toys in the area, eventually corralling the forces of the largest, oafish, bumbling morons about who lead her to the area of the town reserved for military toys. She builds an army out of toy soldiers and fighter planes and plans to solidify her power from the defensive foothold of a large doll castle on the outskirts of town.

Meanwhile, back in the city, her doll is becoming friendly with the inhabitants of Tattertown. She finds the decay, the poverty, and the general lack of social mobility in the city appalling, and as such, decides to enliven them by introducing them to the concept of Christmas by celebrating it. As Tattertown becomes increasingly cheery, Muffet loses adherents to her regime who would rather listen to no one and have fun in the city with their friends. Eventually, she launches a full-out attack on the city with her air force, but the fools end up only attacking each other and diminishing Muffet’s air support to zero in the process. She dresses up as Santa Claus and dons her lackey Sidney the Spider (a direct analogue to the Fleischer Brother’s Mr. Bug Goes to Town design) in a reindeer suit. they power their flight into the city with the help of an overzealous fly minion, but are ultimately defeated by the real Santa Claus who has never appeared in Tattertown until this moment as no one had believed in him before hand.

The film, for all of its minor intrigue to a Bakshi scholar or fan, has very little import to an adult and flies in the face of Bakshi’s prior avocation of an animation by and for adults. Moreover, despite its occasional forays into harder edged dialogue, the resulting ethos is distinctly saccharine, unpleasant, and unpalatable. Instead of making the damn thing as quickly as possible for the first person willing to take it in any form, Bakshi would have done better to have toiled away for a few years in meetings with media execs to get it released in some other form than to have released something so supremely disappointing, in the context of his body of work, as this mindless piece of kitsch animation.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: The Butter Battle Book]

Summer Wars

(Read my previous Hosoda film review here: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)

After the critical and commercial success of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, spurred on by a grassroots, word of mouth, cult admiration for the film, Studio Madhouse producer Yuichiro Saito (who produced Hosoda’s first feature as well) decided to find financing for a second Hosoda work. This time, Hosoda was given more creative freedom and allowed to do more than adapt a previously existing work, and instead develop his own script alongside Madhouse screenwriter Satoko Okudera (who also worked on the script for his previous film).

Hosoda had long been fascinated by Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and online life-copying games like Second Life. As a young man, he had seen the 1983 American Sci-fi film WarGames about a young boy named David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) who inadvertently hacks into the mainframe of the Defense Department’s computers and sets off a chain of events that nearly lead the world to WWIII. In 2000, Hosoda used this premise and shifted the hacker into an advanced Digital Lifeform (Diaboromon) who had to be stopped by the established Toei cast of Digidestined heroes in the Digimon franchise’s first film: Our War Game!.

For his 2009 feature film, Hosoda further adapted the narrative into a unique world separate from any franchise and assisted visually by beautiful animation design work on the animated net reminiscent of the Superflat Art Movement pioneered by Hosoda’s friend and collaborator Haruki Murakami, with whom he had worked previously on 2003’s short commercial anime for Louis Vuitton entitled Superflat Monogram. As for the hacker, Hosoda transformed Diaboromon into a Japanese-created, American military initiated AI program called Love Machine bent on destruction of the network and of the real world though ultimately directed toward the accumulation of as much information as it can possibly gain. In this effort, Love Machine takes on the world’s largest social media, virtual reality, and second life platform, OZ, wherein people communicate with friends and colleagues, work in online capacities, coordinate real-life construction and maintenance jobs, bank, work the stock market, buy goods and services, and even ‘safely’ store classified documents and security codes at a federal level.

Love Machine, however, is not a hacking machine by any stretch of the imagination. However, our main protagonist Kenji Koso, an 11th-grade math genius who has been paid to accompany 12-grade heartthrob Natsuki Shinohara to her family’s ancestral home for an undisclosed purpose over summer break, is a hacker. As Natsuki introduces him to her family, he finds that the event is a 90th birthday party for the Matriarch of the family: Natsuki’s great-grandmother. What throws him for a loop is that Natsuki wants him to pretend to be her suitor, her fiancee in the hopes of giving her ailing Great-Grandmother some piece of mind in her final days on Earth, to give her solid hopes for her line’s continuation into the future (a relatively questionable concept in modern Japan as fewer and fewer Japanese youth and young adults plan their lives with children projected somewhere down the line).

Love Machine sends out a text message that night to all employees of OZ’s maintenance boards, including Kenji. The message contains the encryption code for OZ’s mainframe and excludes any information that could link it to OZ. Kenji believes the code is some math problem and manages to solve it in a few short hours before hitting the hay. But the next morning, the local and national news is rife with reports that OZ has been hacked, and the prime suspect is Kenji! We will later find out that he actually failed to complete the encryption key algorithm hack as he missed the last digit, and instead it is 55 other Japanese youths who did complete it perfectly that gave Love Machine the tools to invade the network. As it stands now, however, a local police officer comes by to arrest Kenji, his real identity as an 11th grade student, and not a college educated young man as Natsuki has claimed, becomes apparent. Natsuki’s family, who have come to like Kenji, are disappointed in this turn of events and especially that Natsuki would choose a fake fiancee who was hacker and cyber criminal.

Luckily for him, and not so lucky for Japan, Love Machine’s control of OZ has led to the shut down of many electronic devices throughout the city including traffic lights, bus and train traffic, and even electric cars, which have made it impossible to enter the highway and make it to the police department without waiting a few days in traffic first. As such, he is returned to the Shinohara homestead where he begins his fight against Love Machine together with Natsuki’s cousin Kazma, whose rabbit avatar King Kazma is the highest level elite martial arts champion in OZ, his friend Sakuma who builds Kenji a guest avatar to use until his host avatar is taken back from Love Machine, the Shinohara estranged uncle Wabisuke who helped develop Love Machine in the first place, and the various skills of others in the Shinohara who provide a super computer, a large shipping vessel for energy, which likewise has a massive freezer from which large ice cubes can be brought inside to keep the mainframe cool during the battle.

Ultimately, the battle comes down to the wire as Love Machine takes over the majority of avatars within OZ alongside each of these individuals capabilities. It even takes over the personal account of the Prime Minister, which enables him to engage the missile capabilities of the nation’s arsenal. Love Machine launches these toward various targets and only a few hours remain in which to somehow hack the Love Machine’s new password for the OZ mainframe, win back his guest avatars, and reroute the missiles toward new, low-impact targets.

Like the film before it, Summer Wars was critically and commercially acclaimed despite receiving very little in the way of marketing, and made over $18 million USD at the box office. The film premiered theatrically in Japan and then went on to play theatrically in South Korean, Taiwanese, French, and North American market. It was the first animated film to premiere at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland where it was nominated for the Golden Leopard. And it won Best Animated Film at the Sitges in Spain, the Annie Awards, Mainichi, Anaheim, the Japan Media Arts Festival, and the Japan Academy Prize. Most importantly, it established Hosoda as someone who could continue to grow in stature and potentially even fill the void left by Miyazaki and Takahata, the Ghibli paradigm, when they inevitably decided to call it quits.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: the magnificent, haunting, ethereal, life-affirming drama Wolf Children]

Jeri Fights Back (Digimon Tamers: Episode 50)

(Catch part 49 HERE)

Here we are. It’s been two and a half months since I began my reviews of Digimon Tamers and now I’ve finally made it to the penultimate episode. Hope you’ve gotten a nostalgia kick by following along if you’ve seen the show before. And if not, I hope this review series alerts you to the strong character development, complex metaphysics, and unique iconography distinct to this, quite possibly the best Digimon series.

At the beginning of this episode, Takato leaves his family’s seaside retreat and Biomerges with Guilmon into their Mega-level form as Gallantmon. Grani seeks him out and the two are soon on their way to the centre of the city of Tokyo, in Shibuya, where the Mother D-Reaper agent holds the world in thrall. Sakuyamon likewise heads in that direction. Inside the Mother D-Reaper’s Kernel Sphere, Calumon is being methodically crushed by the wires of the D-Reaper. Jeri does her best to free him and to keep him awake and lucid to avoid what might happen if he passes out within this hostile zone. At this point, her D-Power falls from her pocket to the floor of cables below, and she remembers that it has power and might come in handy if retrieved.

When Gallantmon and Sakuyamon finally arrive, they find a large white orb hovering over the scene. Within this force field, Henry and Terriermon are waiting for them. This protection sphere formed due to the power of the Red Card gifted to the Tamers by Shibumi. Soon Ryo arrives inside the bubble as well and the four Tamers all scan the Red Card through their D-Powers, which modifies the wavelength of themselves and their Digimon partners to harmonize with that of the D-Reaper’s Zone, meaning when they now enter the Zone they will not be attacked and potentially destroyed as foreign bodies invading the larger organic structure.

As the four exit the bubble and once again Biomerge with their partner Digimon whilst heading toward the D-Reaper’s noxious Zone of deletion and hegemonic power, Hypnos is all in a tizzy. Janyu is worried about his son going off once again to fight this seemingly insurmountable foe. Yamaki is too busy initializing some new scheme called Operation Doodlebug to respond to Janyu’s concerns. And the remainder of the team are working to align satellites in the skies as part of this as yet unexplained plan of attack. Later, each member will make reference to more obscure actions like linking sectors, and Shibumi does something with a Higgs Field that causes him to respond, ‘Einstein had it easy!’ Tamers sure knows its literary and philosophical references, but errs here on the side of confusion regarding its physics.

As the Tamers approach the Mother D-Reaper, an ADR-08 appears with thousands of potential ADR-04s constantly pouring out of its hangars. Along the ground, numerous OP ADR-05s wander about and attack the Tamers when they hover to close the surface. Henry and Rika end up fending off these opponents as Ryo and Takato continue forth in their bee-line to the Mother D-Reaper. And inside of this being, Jeri breaks Calumon’s bonds and holds him closely as she recovers her D-Power and begins to activate its powers to shoot out of beams of light that immediately wear away at the Kernel Sphere, and thereby give Gallantmon a potential opening to save Jeri, if he can muster up the strength to reach it.

Back in the city, Guardromon and MarineAngemon are wandering about with their partner Tamers Kazu and Kenta. An ADR-07 appears, which they swiftly decommission, though a military attack helicopter appears overhead and targets them as its enemy. They later inexplicably escape the plane, which is never mentioned again, leading me to believe they merely ran away from it, or had a confrontation with the plane that led to its destruction. At Ai and Mako’s home, Impmon is recovering. The two congratulate him on how great of a fighter he was out there. And finally, a D-Power appears to them, which confirms their relation to Impmon as Tamers. Finally, a DigiGnome is seen fluttering about the city streets. It was thought at the time that all of the DigiGnomes remaining had given their life energy to cede power to Calumon that was then used to Digivolve all the powerful Digimon in the Digital World to the Mega-level in the fight against the D-Reaper. However, this new DigiGnome is a beacon of hope representing the possibility of renewal, and the dawn of a new day over the horizon, as well as a sign of the Digimon Sovereign’s success in the Digital World’s skirmish against the D-Reaper.

Inside the Kernel Sphere, a new ADR-01 appears and tries its best to torment Jeri once more. But it finds itself unable to rustle her jimmies any longer despite claiming that human beings are worthy only of destruction for their violent tendencies in relation to the Earth, to other creatures, and to each other: ‘Human beings desire destruction. human beings desire annihilation.’ The agent explains that humans wage war, fight and kill and hurt each other, and that they only created Digimon to fight and load one another’s data, and ultimately to satisfy the human urge and need for destruction. Jeri rejects this logic, realizes that her destiny is within her own hands, and refuses to be deleted before kicking the unit out with the strength of the light within her D-Power, not to mention the apparition of Leomon that emerges from within it.

The Tamers also hear this conversation and reject the Mother D-Reaper’s logic, but the enemy responds with a blinding light that prevents further advancement by the biomerged Megas. A vortex appears in the floor of the the Zone, which the Hypnos cats recognize as the D-Reaper reaching out and attempting to make a material connection with the D-Reaper in the Digital World. At this point, they believe that the D-Reaper is at its most vulnerable and decide to finally initiate Operation Doodlebug. But before this can happen, the Reaper appears from without the vortex and begins to battle the Tamers with its scythes, rending them asunder and appearing seemingly unbeatable. Its vocalizations, like machine presses colliding, are oppressive in and of themselves and strain the resolve of our heroes.

As Henry, Ryo, and Rika battle the Reaper, Takato hears Jeri’s calls for help by the Kernel Sphere within the Mother D-Reaper. He goes gallivanting off to save her from the D-Reaper, which appears to be trying to absorb her if it can no longer scare her and drain her energy thereby. As Gallantmon approaches the Kernel Sphere, the D-Reaper manifest a large head with which to attack him that appears visually akin to Jeri’s head. Its strength is such that Gallantmon seems surely defeated after suffering from one hit by the being. And when all seems lost, a voice is heard: ‘Do you want to fly Gallantmon?… I will give you my wings.’ Grani descends from the clouds and speaks to his friends: ‘I can no longer move on my own, but I can give you the strength that you remains in me. You can have my wings Gallantmon…. You are my friends, you talk to me. This is my gift to you.’

The remaining energy gives Gallantmon the strength to become Gallantmon Crimson Mode and to manifest magnificent, aethereal wings of light and hope. And more importantly, the strength to fight back against the D-Reaper once more, to destroy the copy of Jeri’s head, and to move toward the Kernel Sphere to retrieve Jeri and return her into the presence of her friends who she has been disconnected from for so long.

 

One episode to go,

The Digidestined Cody

[Concluded HERE]

The Big Trail

(Read my previous Western film review here: In Old Arizona]

The 1930 Western, The Big Trail, is something of a mile marker in the history of the genre. More than just Raoul Walsh’s most masterful exercise in the genre, it was likewise the first time John Wayne played a leading role in a film and one of the first uses to which Fox Studio’s new widescreen format, Grandeur 70 mm, was put to use. The medium was twice as wide as it was tall and lent to the director who used it the new ability to create large, painterly canvases in which foreground and background could both be exposed simultaneously.

The result on this particular film was absolutely breathtaking as Walsh was a real pro at composition. We see here, for the first time, the landscapes of the West becoming veritable characters within the mythos of the genre: impressive, sweeping testaments to the vastness of this great country, which was taken through force and colonized by my ancestors the Europeans, wrested from the hands of my other forebears, the Americans. The film was shot on locations in the deserts and plains of the Western United States, over a four month period in early 1930. The beauty of real landscapes, real caravans of hundreds of actors, real environmental conditions (like the ethereal snows of the winter segments in the film), and the fact that all of these elements could be shown at one time with the new widescreen format, led inevitably to a turning point in the Western, which could never return to its older, serialized, and relatively kitschy origins again, in earnest at least.

Throughout the events of the film, we follow a caravan of settlers pioneering the Oregon Trail with a young trapper named Breck Coleman (Wayne) in tow. He begins as a scout and military minded man for the caravan, but eventually takes on the much headier role of group leader. This upward mobility can only occur, however, once he has ceremoniously doled out his own brand of frontier justice deep within the snowy peaks of the mountains of Oregon. The quarry of his law? Two men who killed a trapper who was friends with Breck, took his furs, and pawned them off for their own gain. As it turns out, these ruffians, Red Flock and Lopez (played by an actual grandson of the Native American spiritual leader Geronimo), are wanted for numerous similar crimes, are in fact the scum of the Earth who must be purged from the Old West before it can take form as a new frontier with social solidarity and the cultural glue of the law, before they can influence it in the wrong direction and extend their lawlessness to the farthest reaches of the fledgling Empire.

Throughout this sprawling epic, the power of the human spirit is championed as a force that can conquer hostile terrain, climate, and forces set out to prevent their onward movement and Manifest Destiny (despite how morally egregious their actions might be, and that they only begin on the implicit assumption that Native American treaties are not worthy of respect). Events unfold and tragedies ensue, but in the spring, new life is born: children, kittens, lambs, calves, puppies, and so on as idyllic incidental music pulls potently at our heart strings and renders us emotionally complicit in the quest of these settlers, despite our misgivings. Loves bloom, people joke around and enjoy the best of life available to them in the moment, and all the while, Breck plans his play against the forces that would dare to darken the aspect of the time and render the beauty of this journey pallid through the brute, scorpion natures inherent to two spiritually-pollutant men.

There are interesting stories and anecdotes associated with the film. For a time, Fox hoped that John Ford- the other great directorial force of his day- would helm the project. For some reason or other, he turned down the tentative picture entitled ‘The Oregon Trail’ and instead suggested Raoul Walsh. Walsh initially intended to hire on Gary Cooper to lead the production as the actor in Breck’s skin. Cooper turned down the picture, for some reason or other, and Walsh again deferred to Ford in asking for a recommendation for a leading man. Ford told Walsh to pick John Wayne, then just a young studio hand with very little experience in acting (20 films between 1926 and 1930, mostly in non-speaking roles and as an extra), but who had served John Ford well on six occasions previously, and who was physically fit, handsome, and very promising as a potential star, if’n he could get the acting chops along the way that is.

Fox Studios usage of the Grandeur 70 mm widescreen film process was much maligned at the time. Audiences didn’t immediately understand the purpose of the new form and very few theaters were willing to spend the costly renovations to show the updated film stock. Instead, those that did, screened the inferior 35 mm version of the film, which received ad critical notices and led to the film becoming a box office bomb. The Grandeur process was a very experimental one in its inception in 1929, cost a ton of money to produce, and seemed to hold very little interest to the public. As such, it was eschewed in 1931 for standard operating procedure once again at Fox. It would be another 20 years until widescreen would be revisited and finally receive the critical and commercial acclaim it deserved as a more artful and realistic medium, which likewise simulated the experience of being there within a film for its viewers.

However, if all films created in the Grandeur mold were made by visionary directors like Raoul Walsh in a genre like the Western so fitting for its scope, history may have been different. In addition to the eye of Walsh, the cinematographer on the picture was another old hand who had been creating visually arresting imagery for years and would do so for years to come. this man was named Arthur Edeson and his other notable credits include The Thief of Baghdad, All Quiet on the Western Front, Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca, to name a few. On very few occasions do all the stars align to produce a film of notable artistic achievement, which goes on to transform notions of what a film can be and what it can mean. But in 1930, on The Big Trail, they did. And for Ford’s later work, for Leone, Peckinpah, Altman, and many others, we have this film to thank for their attention to detail in world-building in cinema, and to the art of constructing mise-en-scene because it broke through and revealed a new way.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: Broken Arrow]

D-Reaper’s Feast (Digimon Tamers: Episode 49)

(Check out part 48 HERE)

The episode opens to our defeated friend Beelzemon Blast Mode falling through the air, blades sticking out of his back compliments of the ADR-09: Gatekeeper. As he phases out and falls toward the D-Reaper Zone wherein he will surely be deleted in his current weakened state, Gallantmon attempts to reach him. Unfortunately, the ADR-09 sends out a series of wires to grasp him, which prevents Gallantmon from reaching his friend in time. Furthermore, Sakuyamon and the others are all too far away from the action, still on the ground fighting the D-Reaper’s agents as it were, to assist him at the moment. He continues to fall and Jeri watches his descent from the isolation of her bubble in the Kernel Sphere of the D-Reaper’s consciousness. At the same time, Ai and Mako are watching these events unfold from the TV at their grandmother’s home in Hongo. At the last minute, Grani, who hasn’t been seen in a little while, appears below with Impmon on his back, and the tension of the moment dissipates as everyone lets out a sigh of relief.

Yamaki contacts Gallantmon once more over his improv satellite communication network and alerts him to the presence of a group of stealth planes from the Global Taskforce arriving swiftly, seemingly to bomb the area. Although Takato is worried about the well-being of Jeri on the off chance that whatever bombs these planes drop are actually effective, he listens to Yamaki’s advice and alerts the rest of the Tamers to get the hell out asap. This they try to do promptly as the planes were 30 seconds away from Shibuya when Yamaki first alerted Takato of their presence. So when they do finally arrive, no on has managed to get sufficiently far enough away to avoid taking recoil damage from, say, some sort of MOAB to bloody the nose of the D-Reaper.

And fortunately, this is not the sort of payload the stealth planes have been carrying. Instead they drop a ton of glowing jamming devices, which stop the D-Reaper’s outgoing communications with its fellow D-Reaper’s throughout the world and back in the Digital World. This plan seems actually rational and helpful and as such, seemingly outside of the purview of military logic in Kaiju scenarios. But when the Monster Maker’s at Hypnos current HQ receive a live stream message of the man who ordered the mission, everything becomes clear. It’s Johnny, an ex-member of the Monster Makers and apparent class act with some head on his shoulders. Hopefully, the jammers will hold up and make a difference over the long haul in preventing the coordination of D-Reaper’s Zones throughout the world.

The D-Reaper responds to this attack by re-forming its ADR-09: Gatekeeper protective shield around its Kernel Sphere. It then sends its ADR-01 spy unit to speak with Jeri and to torment her as much as possible in an effort to increase her fear, anger, frustration, and other negative emotions, which the D-Reaper feeds off of. At the fever pitch of Jeri’s distress, the ADR-01 is suddenly yanked out of the bubble by the cables of the D-Reaper. An explosion reverberates deep within the D-Reaper Zone and a new agent begins to form out of the combined power of the D-Reaper Zone’s Kernel Sphere, the ADR-09 surrounding it, the ADR-01 unit, and all the architectural and mechanical items like telephone wires, fiber optic cables, cords, buildings, cars, and rubble. The being that emerges from this fusion is the Mother D-Reaper, an ability synthesis agent akin to the monsters of the Cthulu Mythos who absorb the strengths of those they destroy, and with a similar drive to delete all things irrational, including humanity. It wears a mask upon its face, which is iconic and makes it appear godlike and omnipotent whilst simultaneously mysterious and uncanny and very visually and aurally similar to the fiendish Lilith of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

After the being appeared, a large red wall of red mass rose up around it, blocking off any view to the inside of its domain and providing a potent second layer of protection that all of the Tamers are wary about attempting to break through. They regretfully retreat and begin to wait it out in the hope that the Monster Makers, Hypnos, Yamaki, or Johnny will come up with some new plan or design some new technology to combat and defeat their foe at last. A week passes and the D-Reaper begins to connect physically with other D-Reaper nodes around the world through long red cables that circumnavigate the globe to found paired cables. Hypnos has moved HQ once more to a new building far outside of town, and all of the Tamers have left town for hotels or inns likewise far away. Everyone’s hands are tied and nothing seems to be giving, no new developments beyond the constant move of the D-Reaper, closing in total world control and eventual deletion.

And then finally, everyone makes their moves at the same time. Takato leaves home at the urging of his cousin Kai (voiced by Davis’ voice actor in the English dub!) to launch one last attack against the D-Reaper. So too does Rika head out, and presumably the rest of the Tamers begin to make their way back to Shibuya as well. Calumon seems to be finally making some headway with Jeri insofar as he has convinced her that by being joyful and happy, she will thereby weaken the D-Reaper, or at least give it no more energy with which to grow more powerful. Finally, Johnny has been analyzing the state of matter and energy within the D-Reaper Zone using a series of probes and devices dropped by the Taskforce stealth planes under his command. They have found that inside of the Zone, all laws of physics are seemingly warped and out of whack: things exist, but the balance of energy, positive and negative, equals out completely as if nothing should be there at all. Further, particles zip around at faster than the speed of light, which is technically impossible. Janyu believes (and this is some warped, weird, constructed fictional physics here) that the D-Reaper Zone is something called a quantum bubble wherein the destruction of the field can be accomplished only by creating a miniature Big Bang that will somehow create a Black Hole and absorb everything therein.

At hearing this news, Shibumi too puts his brain to use to impossible ends and runs off to create a new Modify Card. Janyu continues to theorize and even puts Terriermon into an x-ray machine to study his composition and compare it, as a baseline for all Digimon, to the D-Reaper’s composition. This points toward a new discovery ahead. Johnny continues to analyze the D-Reaper Zone and finds that if they do not do something quickly, the Zones will expand to such large sizes that the intense heat given off by the Zones may increase the temperature of the globe significantly enough to melt the polar ice caps and flood much of the Earth. Finally, Shibumi returns to the lab with a Red Card, which he gives to Henry with advice on its potential power to help them save the world. And finally, like his friends, he too exits the lab and heads toward town for the final confrontation with the D-Reaper (unless Chiaki J. Konaka writes that 2nd Tamers season like so many are speculating).

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

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