In 1986, Clint Eastwood directed, produced, and acted in a war film that cost $15 million USD to make. Although it looked like a TV movie, had the lamest possible war as its central action piece (the 1983 Invasion of Grenada), and was one of Eastwood’s least distinctive projects as a director, it managed to net over a $100 million USD beyond its budget. There are no painterly compositions in the film, no great acting performances, no explosive action sequences, and no intrigue except for the least common denominator consumer of kitsch with a long attention span (surely an imaginary figure, no?), and yet it made a ridiculous amount of money based on the strength of Eastwood’s name alone.
In this Technicolor war film, Eastwood plays an aging Marine named Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway who seems to be in the force for good. He was once a great soldier who fought nobly and won the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Korean War for acts of valor during a skirmish known as Heartbreak Ridge. Later, he apparently went on four different tours of duty in wartime, three of which were in Vietnam alone. but his constant gungho mentality and will to kill and to fight in a combat zone led him to neglect his wife back home, to never raise a family, to never sit back and come to terms with who he really was at core, and as such, his wife eventually left him. Highway becomes a drunk and ends up constantly finding ways to start fights with other soldiers and with civilians as a way to get out his frustrations.
So when he lands a last chance to train a young group of recruits for the front lines, he takes it in earnest and tries his best to turn a new leaf. He spends much of the film attempting to shape up his green recruits into a fighting force worth their salt, whilst butting heads with his commanding officer Major Malcolm A. Powers (played to little effect by Everett McGill: Twin Peaks’ Big Ed) who is himself a young man with no current fighting experience. This desk chair general thinks himself a knowledgeable commander because of all he has learned at the academy before ascending to a respectable position as a leader at a small training camp and Highway does his best to prove the kid doesn’t know the first damn thing about military tactics, which are, he believes, first and foremost, about surprise, good timing, taking initiative, and having the guts to attack even if the odds are against you.
Meanwhile, Highway tries his best to stop drinking heavily and begins to treat his body better in his old age. He gets into a few fights, but mostly against his own platoon soldiers or against his superiors during sanctioned training exercises, which obviates the need to reprimand him for his actions. He begins reading women’s magazines in an effort to better understand the psyche of women and in particular, the needs and thoughts of his ex-wife with whom he wishes to reunite. The whole exercise is relatively campy without being shot in a manner that reflects this zaniness or acted in a manner that makes it apparent. It’s sappy without having a real emotional core as none of the cast of characters are particularly easy to identify with, partially because of the relative drowsiness of their acting, and therefore, I found it pretty difficult to care about any of the struggles of the film’s characters.
As an epic war film, one might imagine that much of the picture would revolve around a war setting. However, much of Heartbreak Ridge is purely human melodrama on the way toward the battle. And when the battle comes, it is pretty lackluster. There is gunfire, and explosions abound, but the numbers of the characters is very restrained, the scenes carry no kinetic weight as they are shot head-on with little concern with crafting epic, sweeping scenes or painterly compositions and it becomes painfully obvious in these scenes that either Eastwood let an unskilled workman-like second unit director shoot much of this material, or worse, that he was uninterested in making the scenes interesting visually (we know he was able to do so as he had done so on previous films and would do so later in his career as well).
The pre-production period of the film was slowed substantially by the Army first endorsing the film, then reading the script, and finally taking back their endorsement as they thought that the character of Highway was too old-fashioned and did not reflect the modern teachings and instruction of the Army. It seems they had not enough intelligence to realize this was the intention of Eastwood: to produce a film in which the modern, weak-willed approach of the military, which often kowtows to progressive morality instead of taking on a total warfare/ war is hell approach, butts heads against a real old school hard ass of the latter mentality. Later, the Marines endorsed the film, but after receiving a screening of the picture, they too retracted their endorsement citing similar concerns to those of the Army. If fatigue at consistently being misunderstood by those institutions he meant to lionize wasn’t enough to weaken his resolve and thereby affect the film negatively, then I don’t know what did, but as established above, there must have been some lack of trying on someone’s part.
Some of Clint Eastwood’s films are amongst my favorite American films of the post-New Hollywood period and include classics like the Hitchcockian thriller Play Misty For Me (his directorial debut); the Westerns High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, and Unforgiven; the music films Honkytonk Man and Bird; the dramas Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Mystic River; and the War films Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers. Many other Eastwood films are ones I enjoy on occasion, and consider good films, but would not place amongst the ranks of these former pictures. As for Heartbreak Ridge, I cannot in good conscience place it even amongst the ranks of his decent pictures and found it overwrought, a little lifeless, dated, and worse yet, boring.
Just after the ADR-05: Creep Hands is finally defeated, a new Mega-level friend appears. His name is Justimon and his outward appearance was consciously modeled after the Super Sentai fighters, or Power Rangers, as one of Japan’s most popular Tokusatsu shows. At first, Sakuyamon, MegaGargomon, Kazu, and Guardromon have no clue who this being is and are pretty wary about the situation. But it soon becomes clear that this is the biomerged fusion of their friends Ryo and Monodramon.
And it’s lucky that he appeared when he did as another D-Reaper agent soon enters the scene and threatens to cause more trouble. This time, the agent is an ADR-06: Horn Striker. This being is an extremely powerful melee combat unit who doubles as a Military Commander agent in the D-Reaper’s proxy army. Justimon decides to take on this unit by himself and advises the others to go and try to save Gallantmon from the D-Reaper Zone within which he was so recently pulled by an arm of the D-Reaper’s Zone’s red mass. While Sakuyamon and MegaGargomon fly off, Kazu and Guardromon realize they will not be able to follow along on account of their relatively lower speeds and instead decide to stay behind to help Justimon take out the ADR-06.
Back at Hypnos, the gang still can’t figure out how to create a new program that could incapacitate the D-Reaper. And even the schematics they’ve received about it’s initial programming reveal little helpful information regarding how one might destroy it or halt its progress. Janyu’s mind, as have the minds of all his fellow Monster Maker’s and Hypnos employees, is racing. He wonders how the D-Reaper could exist in both the Digital World and the Real World at the same time, and whilst studying the footage of the D-Reaper, locates a blue orb that his gut reaction tells him is the core of the program. This ‘brain’ is most likely the site of the D-Reaper’s consciousness. If destroyed or cut off from the rest of the surrounding mass, it would have no extension into the Real World and no way to manipulate its ‘limbs’ to act within the world. Now that he has determined this connection, and disclosed it to his colleagues, he must divine some way to take advantage of it.
In the park, inside of the D-Reaper’s Zone, the ADR-01: Jeri Type clone continues to antagonize Takato. She torments him repeatedly with past stories about how Jeri was cruel to her step-mother and considers herself to be a bad person thereby, as well as explaining that Jeri always thought Takato was weird and too interested in Digimon, even before he knew they were real. All the while, Guilmon does his best to keep his partner Tamer sane through the experience and eventually, the ADR-01 cracks completely and becomes totally unlike Jeri in aspect. She begins to chase Takato down, deleting trees all along the way. Until that is, Kenta and MarineAngemon finally arrive on the scene. The diminutive Mega-level Digimon uses his Kahuna Waves ability, which shoots out hearts of light that scare off the ADR-01 and confuse it simultaneously, as if manifesting some unknown force, the inscrutability of which threatens the D-Reaper’s claim to omniscience.
Outside of the D-Reaper’s Zone, Calumon and Impmon decide to enter the Zone if necessary to help Jeri: Calumon out of friendship and Impmon out of guilt for destroying Leomon. Calumon feels himself called to a specific area where he comes up against an invisible wall. He pushes and prods, but cannot move through the obstacle until Impmon Digivolves into Beelzemon Blast Mode and cracks the wall with his Double Impact hand cannon attack, delivers a well-placed roundhouse to break it open, then claws an opening through which Calumon enters the wall and finds himself within a Bubble. The same bubble, in fact, that Janyu had previously identified to his pals at Hypnos as the potential consciousness core of the D-Reaper. Therein, Jeri resides, sitting by herself, completely unresponsive to Calumon’s calls, and ruminating on her past failures, the loss of Leomon, and her apparent destiny to remain lonely forever. As Calumon continues to try and get her attention, he is pulled into the central bubble within the bubbles and Beelzemon is bound in a series of cables by the D-Reaper who recognizes him as a potential threat.
Meanwhile, Sakuyamon has created a powerful protective field, which surround herself and MegaGargomon and gives them the ability to enter the D-Reaper Zone unscathed. However, the process takes a lot of energy out of Sakuyamon, as does the mere presence of so much chaotic energy, constantly sapping away more and more of her strength. Just as she is about to grow so weak that she might de-Digivolve into her constituent parts as Rika and Renamon, they find Takato, Guilmon, Kenta, and MarineAngemon. The latter uses his Kahuna Wave attack on Sakuyamon, which restores her strength, and also doubles as a tool to immediately destroy any chaos globules it comes into contact with. All six finally exit the D-Reaper Zone and rejoin Justimon, Kazu, and Guardromon just in time to help fight the ADR-06.
Problem is, each time the thing appears to be defeated, it merely absorbs more energy from the D-Reaper Zone, engorges itself, and becomes larger and more powerful. Eventually, Justimon realizes they must cut the chord connecting the ADR-06 to the D-Reaper Zone in order to defeat this Hydra-like mini-boss. Antylamon arrives and grabs the chord while Justimon cuts it with his arm blade. And finally, everyone is back to together in one place. Everyone except for Impmon and Calumon that is, who Antylamon reports have entered the D-Reaper core (she was unable to aid them at the time). And Alice as well, who Rika remembers as being intensely sad after the loss of Dobermon, and regrets not being able to thank her for her help in sacrificing her partner Digimon to give the other Tamers the power to biomerge.
In Calumon’s case, we are given an image of hopelessness and despair as one of our final vignettes as he sits within the D-Reaper’s core unable to get Jeri’s attention and cheer her up. Juxtaposed with this vignette, however, is one of hopefulness. Alice walks the city streets alone, solemn, resigned to her loss. But behind her she feels the presence of Dobermon, turns to see a vortex of blue and red particles momentarily swirling about, and hears his voice, just for a moment. Once the D-Reaper is defeated and the need to Biomerge Digivolve is no longer necessary, will the Tamers be able to give back their ability and the life energy given in sacrifice by Dobermon in order to revive him. Or is such a thing even possible in a Digimon Universe like that of Tamers wherein the first 46 episodes give us not one mention of DigiEggs or of life after deletion for Digimon.
Ciao for now,
The Digidestined Cody
(Check out my previous Ralph Bakshi review here: Fire and Ice)
From 1983 to 1987, Ralph Bakshi had no luck getting any project off of the ground. Too many studios had seemingly lost money on his films, despite many making money as well. Besides, none of his current projects interested in studio execs enough for them to take a chance on it. Since 1981 on American Pop, Bakshi had been working alongside an interesting young animator with a ton of ambition named John Kricfalusi. He had developed a group of characters into an Underground Comix type screenplay called Ren and Stimpy, and the two directors had optioned this project to execs of TV studios alongside Bakshi projects during this time, as well, and again to no avail.
Finally, in 1987, after offering up every project they had developed conceptually to the network heads at CBS, and being turned down for every single one, an exec asked what other projects they could potentially develop. Bakshi decided, seemingly on a whim, to mention a potential new adaptation of an old Terry Toons serial he had worked on, before becoming an independent animator, entitled Mighty Mouse. He told the execs that he had acquired the rights to the franchise, which was a blatant lie as Bakshi had no clue who owned the rights and certainly had not acquired the himself.
The network, sensing profitability in the reboot of a classic series directed and produced by one of America’s most iconic living animators, immediately greenlit Bakshi’s suggestion and hired him and his team to develop the property into a two season series of 19 episode, which were comprised of a total of 48 segments. To his supreme luck, when Terrytoons had folded, CBS actually bought out the rights to their works and had all of the old material and paperwork sitting in a vault somewhere. The execs who greenlit his proposed project didn’t even know that they themselves owned the rights and hence took Bakshi’s ploy hook, line, and sinker. Bakshi’s next move was to find out for himself who owned the rights. And when he realized the irony of the situation, he and Kricfalusi must have had a few laughs over the whole thing. Bakshi simply asked CBS’s copyright department for the rights to the property and was given them for nothing.
In the lore surrounding Ralph Bakshi, it is often assumed that this new adaptation of Mighty Mouse was also directed by him. However, he merely served as a creative consultant in the early stages of the project’s creation and produced the series in an executive role, though he ceded most of the work to four units of animators, each headed by a different young director who had either worked with him on projects in the past or came highly recommended by Kricfalusi. These four men included Kricfalusi himself, Eddie Fitzgerald, Steve Gordon (The Lord of the Rings, American Pop, Hey Good Lookin’, Fire and Ice), and Bruce Woodside (The Lord of the Rings, Fire and Ice). And ultimately, if any creative force was the auteur behind the project, it was Kricfalusi, who gathered the team, worked as an animator, a coordinator, a director, a character designer, and the head writer of the series, which catapulted him to fame in the nineties and placed his name forever at the front guard of that decade’s wave of animators in the creator-driven animation renaissance.
The series was wildly popular for the network and promised to give Bakshi the opportunity to work on many more projects in the coming years as all producers really care about is the success of your last work. It was zany, wacky, quirky, and weird in a way that few animations before it ever had been, and prefigured the TV animation paradigm of the next twenty years, influencing it and likewise making it possible for shows like Ren and Stimpy, The Animaniacs, Cow and Chicken, and even Futurama to air air on network television.
While the show certainly did give other animators many chances to create bolder, more daring, more surreal, and even more true to life animation in the coming decades, it had the opposite effect for Ralph Bakshi himself. In mid-1988, the American Family Association, or AFA, came down against Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures for supposedly promoting drug use. In one episode, titled ‘The Little Tramp,’ a flower is destroyed by the endlessly spinning wheels of industrialism and capitalist excess. Might Mouse, in a break from his battles with this monstrous beast of a foe, finds the flower, which signifies to him the loss of spirit in human workers these forces promote, or at least necessitate through their operations. He mourns the loss of the crushed flower and in the process of crying over it, he sniffs the flower and accidentally snorts it, thereby making it part of himself, absorbing the chaotic potential of nature’s loss and devastation, the revolutionary potential of hatred of the proletariat for the bourgeois modes of economic expansionism that do so through vampirisim of their worker’s productivity.
The AFA said this portion of the episode was meant to promote snorting coke, which was ludicrous. But so many newspapers and media outlets picked up the story that it became a signifier for doing coke, and as such, Bakshi pulled the short segment of the scene from future airings. The AFA took this as an implicit recognition of guilt and de facto admission to the inclusion of revolting content into his cartoons. And despite the series being critically acclaimed and much-beloved by viewers, CBS cancelled the series in 1988. The result of this action was to make Bakshi, once again, a pariah to mainstream studios. And even though Kricfalusi was ultimately in charge of the greenlighting the segment, and Bakshi had warned against its inclusion even before it was aired, he, and not Kricfalusi, took the hit.
Bakshi never again was given the opportunity to create a theatrically-released fully-animated film. Instead, for the rest of his career, he dabbled in live-action/animation cross-overs, in TV films, and in short works for TV series, usually as a one-off director on someone else’s series. But Bakshi was never one to compromise his vision if he could help it. And as such, there are a few more artistic successes in his career past this point, which are worth going into detail about, and which I will be alerting a, hopefully, interested audience to in the coming weeks before moving along to review the short film career of Le Quebecois animation director Frederic Back.
[Next up: Christmas in Tattertown]
For the last two months, my bi-weekly film essays for this blog have focused on the film noir genre. That series was a real success for me as I learned a ton in the process and received quite a bit of positive feedback on it. Thanks for following along, and if you missed it, here are some links to the first in the series and to some of my favorites: Fury, D.O.A., and Pickup on South Street.
For over a year, I’ve had dozens of Westerns staring me down in a stack by my desk. As such, I’ve decided to review many of them, as well as some other classic Westerns on this blog over the course of the next few months. First up: John Ford, Howard Hawks, Sam Peckinpah, Monte Hellman, and King Vidor (you know the one!). I hope you’ll follow along with this series. And if you like it, please like, comment, and share, both here and on social media. And follow TheBoronHeist for more essays on film and animation on a daily basis!
See You Space Cowboy,
Heads up to anyone in the Southern U.S. this weekend, check out South Carolina’s own oldest anime convention: Nashicon. Me and pal Pandasandpaper are heading down that way in a few short hours, so hit me up if you’ll be there too.
On Sunday, we’re co-hosting two panels: the first on why the Digimon English dub is boss, the second on the other studio directors within Studio Ghibli other than Takahata and Miyazaki. Hope to see you there!
In February, I focused my bi-weekly film essays on Independent American films. I took as a jumping off point some of the films slated for re-release with 4K restorations later this year by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn‘s upcoming free streaming service byNWR. Then I moved on to some of the Gosploitation films of Ron and Tim Ormond. Finally, I reviewed two classics of American Independent Cinema: The Exiles and Killer of Sheep.
For the upcoming months of March and April, I want to review some films I’ve had piled up in my room for over a year now. And I have a lot of them. Film noirs. From Fritz Lang to Jules Dassin, Samuel Fuller to Otto Preminger, and Howard Hawks to John Huston, I’ll be essaying and talking about a film style close to heart and in keeping with my own aesthetic and philosophical preoccupations: High contrast, chiaroscuro, dutch angles, deep focus; human essentialism, fatalism, honor, and the cult of death.
I hope you can dig it, can jive with that, and if you can’t you ain’t no cool cat. Catch you on the flipside. In the underground.
Last week, theboronheist managed to reach more than 1,000 views in one week for the first time. So far in this month, in the past 20 days, as of this moment, it has drawn 100 likes!
Again, there are probably many people who would see this and scoff at how small the numbers are compared to their own traffic, but damnit I’m excited!
Thank you for all your help!
The repair work in the Digital World is ongoing and the Digidestined are patching up a damaged bridge. After the work is complete for the day, the group leaves the area and heads off to the next job. Lurking nearby in the forest is the white-haired woman in the red dress who has causes more trouble for the group once again. She pulls off one of her hairs, which straightens out and becomes a Spirit Needle. Once placing the Spirit Needle into a nearby Control Spire, the edifice transforms into a reproduction of a Minotaromon and begins to move in the direction of the newly repaired bridge.
Luckily, the Digidestined have not gone too far from the bridge as of yet and are able to notice the figure approaching. Raidramon, Pegasusmon, and Nefertimon jump into action and destroy the faux-Digimon, though the bridge is damaged again over the course of the fight. In order to more quickly rebuild the bridge once again, Davis suggests that they message Ken through their D-Terminals and ask for his help. Though Cody is still skeptical about asking for the help of the one-time Digimon Emperor.
Meanwhile, Ken and Stingmon have been destroying Control Spires throughout the Digital World. The two reference the white-haired woman and call her Arukenimon, revealing that she is no woman, but a humanoid Digimon instead. After the days work is complete and Stingmon is too worn out to continue much longer, the two return home to the Real World where they continue their discussions and muse over why Ken was able to create the Control Spires as the Digimon Emperor even though he knows nothing about them, their construction, or their source today. Arukenimon calls Ken on his computer terminal and explains that he was manipulated by her into creating the Control Spires and that his entire stint as Digimon Emperor only occurred through her willing it to do so. Could she have been the mysterious sender of the emails that Ken received directly before becoming the Digimon Emperor and after returning back to normal?
While Ken and Wormmon are home thinking about all of these questions, Izzy contacts Davis in the Digital World and tells him that a bizarre signal is being sent out from the area where Ken’s old base as Digimon Emperor went aground. As the Digidestined investigate, they find that the base seems set to explode soon. Davis reasons that since it was Ken’s Crest of Kindness that helped it stay afloat in the first place, and now that Ken has the Crest and is no longer near the base, that Ken must return with his Crest to solve the problem, stabilize the base, and prevent the explosion from wreaking havoc in the area (why this is important I’m not so sure, as the base ran aground in the middle of the Digital desert, far away from any civilization or Digimon who could be hurt by its destruction). So Davis sends out a message to Ken, which is not received for some reason. Davis relays this information to Izzy who phones Ken in the Real World, gets ahold of Wormmon on the other line, and urges them to join the others, which they do posthaste.
But before Ken can arrive, Arukenimon turns a Control Spire near the Digidestined into the powerful Ultimate-level Digimon Okuwamon. Aquilamon, Ankylomon, Angemon, and Nefertimon (the only one of the five to be unable to Digivolve normally and thereby forced to Armor Digivolve from Gatomon the Champion level to Nefertimon the Champion level instead of into Angewomon the Ultimate who could defeat Okuwamon. Deus ex machina?) fight and are quickly defeated by Okuwamon. ExVeemon holds off the Ultimate level Digimon until Stingmon arrives to back him up, though Ken is being stubborn and expresses his desire to fight alone. He reasons that the existence of the Control Spire that turned into Okuwamon is his fault and thereby that he should take up the fight against the product of his past evil by himself. Davis attempts to show Ken the error in his logic by making him realize that fighting Okuwamon by himself would be suicide, and then what could he accomplish if dead? Ken realizes that he indeed has a friend in Davis, his Crest of Kindness lights up, as does his D-3 and Davis’ D-3 as well. ExVeemon and Stingmon then begin to glow and undergo the series’ first DNA Digivolution into the powerful Ultimate-level Digimon Paildramon.
Can this new fusion Digimon destroy Okuwamon? And will this turn of events result in the breakdown of Ken’s stubborn attitude and his resultant joining of the other Digidestined as a team member?
Ciao for now,
The Digidestined Cody
I try to make it a point to keep everyone updated on the progress of this site, so here’s something new I unlocked with everyone’s help today: 1,000 likes! There are probably tons of people who have reached 5 and 10k likes or more, but this is my first really big achievement in that vein and I’m pretty excited about it.
The future’s looking brighter and brighter every day. Thanks everybody!
My friend Dillon Heath (Pandasandpaper) and I are heading out to one of the best regional Anime Conventions in the Southern United States in just a few short hours. We’ll be there all weekend from 3 pm Thursday till 5 pm Sunday, so if you’re going too, hit me in the comments and we can meet up at one of the panels Friday, Saturday, or Sunday!
Also, if you live in or around North or South Carolina, or one of the surrounding states are willing to make the drive, but are just now hearing about the con, I highly recommend you come along. If it’s any indication to the quality of the convention, this is my sixth year at the con!
Ciao for now,