Hard Candy [2005)

Norma Bates.

[sic]

Meets Paul Kersey.

Vigilante.

You know…

It’s not often I watch horror films.

I had a bad experience once with the schlock of the genre.

Sleepwalkers (1992).

I never really forgave Stephen King for that one.

But perhaps the story was just muffed in the inept hands of Mick Garris?

Well, whatever the case may be:  Hard Candy is compelling cinema.

Yes, charge me with the crime of our age.

The worship of youth.

Ephebophilia is hammered into our heads by the nonstop spectacle.

It is chronophilia from 15-19.  Age range.

You’re attracted to young people.

So many nuances.

There’s hebephilia.  11-14.

Perhaps it is this which is most germane to our film.

Ellen Page is a star.

Sure, it’s a bit trendy…after Monster in 2003.

But I’ve seen that one…and Hard Candy is more compelling.

Ellen Page is more compelling.

Page plays a 14-year-old named Hayley.

Such a quintessential name.  Like Caitlyn (and its derivative spellings).

Top hit?  [Sponsored content?]  Hayley Williams of the band Paramore.

Youth.

Hayley Williams.  27.  Looks plenty young.

The worship of youth.

Red hair.  Porcelain skin.  Not a wrinkle in sight.

Hayley [sic].  Peak U.S. popularity in 1990s.

Et voila!  Hayley Williams born 1988.  That’s about right.

How about Haley?  Also peaked in the 1990s.  And about three times more common than the Hayley spelling.

[This is the honors-student logic of Hayley Stark in our film.  Really a genius detail.]

Let’s try Hailey.  Oooh!  Most popular yet!  And peaked in 2005 🙂

There’s also Haylee (trailer-trash rare…peak 2009), Hayleigh (a recent trend peaking in 2011…almost with a Cajun ring to it),  and the ultra-rare Haylie (a dainty spelling which peaked in 2007).

These are the keys to the safe.

Yes, it’s a very bad day for Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson).

Hell of a performance.

To wake up with your balls in your mouth.

Not just a figurative Quantum of Solace reference.

Sure, it’s a bit like Misery with Kathy Bates.

So, see:  the Norma Bates wisecrack wasn’t so off in another way.

Let me clarify.

Hard Candy is not a great film, but it’s pretty damned good.

The direction is good.

Patrick Wilson is good.

The scenario/script is good.

Ellen Page is great.

She’s not perfect.

There’s a few moments when the tension is so ridiculous that she almost breaks character.

Not a relaxing movie.

My first “horror” review.

I love Psycho.  It’s artful.

But chasing Hitchcock down that path can be a very treacherous exercise for auteurs.

David Slade does a fine job.

This film most certainly does not suck.

But again, Hulu:  I just wanted to watch a fucking comedy.

And your dramas still blow.

Ended up in horror.

God damn, you people suck at your jobs.

 

-PD

Death Wish [1974)

The great American movie.  Paramount.  Gulf + Western.

It grips at your heart.

A Boeing 757 in reverse.  At last.

This inverted haiku serves to give epigrammatic notice.

“Above all, I didn’t want to take any more shit…not from anybody.”  –Iggy Pop

I credit Nick Tosches with turning me on to the album from whence the above lyrics come:  Avenue B.

It kinda sums it up.  Paul Kersey.  Not to be confused with Jerome Kersey (R.I.P.).

They say “vigilante”…  I don’t know.  Doesn’t seem quite right.  I mean, we all know about Bernhard Goetz.  Taxi Driver.

Michael Winner really nailed it as a director here.

But we must face those drones buzzing overhead.  “There’s something dishonorable about killing from a distance,” to paraphrase a line from Godard’s Le Petit Soldat.  Depends on the distance.  Depends on who drew first.

This is, after all, an urban Western.

“In 2010, FOX and the New York Daily News reported that months after the 9/11 attacks, a Pentagon employee invited al-Awlaki to a luncheon in the Secretary’s Office of General Counsel. The US Secretary of the Army had asked for a presentation from a moderate Muslim as part of an outreach effort to ease tensions with Muslim-Americans.”  –Wikipedia

This is, of course, in reference to U.S. agent Anwar al-Awlaki who was subsequently reported to have been wasted by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone in Yemen.  Another American assassinated in the same attack (both killed without due process, if at all) by the JSOC and CIA was Samir Khan.  That is vigilante justice, or (more likely) fake vigilante justice.  Sometimes “reality erupts within the spectacle” (to paraphrase Guy Debord from his masterpiece tome Society of the Spectacle).  Just like those Hellfire missiles erupted (exploded).

I call al-Awlaki an agent (or asset) because that is my analysis of the facts (what is known).  I may be wrong.  I am, however, far more certain about the affiliation of Osama bin Laden.   The story of his “death” (Operation Neptune Spear) is the stuff of straight-to-DVD schlock which makes Death Wish look like Citizen Kane.

Which brings me to my initial inverted haiku:  7-5-7.  Thanks to the wonderful efforts of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, I was easily able to find just what I was looking for in a jiffy.  To wit, the original Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were built to withstand (without collapsing) the impact of a Boeing 707 aircraft (each tower) traveling at 600 mph.

Taking into account the different variants of the 707 (especially the popular 707-320C), we are probably talking about (conservatively) a 315,000-pound aircraft (maximum takeoff weight) carrying 21,000 gallons of fuel (fully-loaded).

Compare that to the 767s which crashed into the WTC on 9/11/01.  Yes, 767s are bigger…perhaps 25% heavier, but with a similar fuel capacity (24,000 gallons).

Yet at the Pentagon, we encountered a phantom 757.  The damage was not consistent with a plane crash, but rather with a missile.  Thierry Meyssan makes this exceedingly clear in his book Pentagate (2002).  And then there was United 93…an actual 757…most likely shot down, but mysteriously being trailed by a jet from Warren Buffet’s company NetJets (owned by Berkshire Hathaway).  Meanwhile, Ann Tatlock (CEO of Fiduciary Trust Co. International) was at Buffett’s charity golf and tennis tournament at Offutt AFB:  the command center of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  Ms. Tatlock would normally have been in her office at the World Trade Center (!) right where flight 175 crashed into the south tower.  Even President Bush decided to drop by Offutt AFB later in the day rather than returning to D.C.  Buffett’s guest list might be quite a piece of evidence for reinvestigating 9/11.

And so…Paul Kersey…an architect (like Minoru Yamasaki, whose masterpiece was brought down by controlled demolition…that is to say, bombs, on 9/11)…living in New York City.  He’s robbed of his family by some punks (including a young Jeff Goldblum) who must have seen A Clockwork Orange (1971) a few too many times.

I’m not gonna give away the plot (if you don’t already know it).  There are some ingenious details and great acting (particularly Bronson and Vincent Gardenia).

We are left with the most frightening wink and smile ever committed to celluloid.  Bronson’s “Gotcha!” is the smirk of justice gaining ground.

-PD

Fist of Fury [1972)

For most of the world, life is an endless battle.  There are precious few who enjoy existence in a comfortable parentheses.  Indeed, we here in the West can look to the beginning of our literature:  The Iliad.  Rage.  Yes, it is the most intense disgust possible.  Perhaps there are few who take the rage to heart.

It often stems from lies.  Honor.  Respect.  Sympathy.  We do not like it when our fellow humans are sacrificed.  It gives birth to divine disgust when we see innocent people murdered.

Yes, some remember.  Some take it to heart.  And some search for the answers.  They know the story is a lie.  It does not honor the dead for them to be buried in lies.

From the start of this film we see Bruce Lee clawing through the lies just as he claws through the dirt which covers the casket of his dead teacher.  Perhaps few can understand this sort of devotion.

There are very strong emotions which cause such lasting connections.  The emotions are imprinted in our memory.  We become bound to others.  It is our duty to honor them in life and death.

Let’s face it:  the Japanese chose poorly.  How on earth did they ever (with a good conscience) ally themselves with the country which nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Likewise, F.D.R. let those men die in Hawaii.  His policies might have been in the best interest of the people, but he was a cynical bastard.  The blood of Pearl Harbor will forever be on his hands.

And so, we have an ethnic, nationalistic slant to this film.  It is China vs. Japan.  And to a lesser extent it is China vs. Russia.

The setting is Shanghai. A man returns in a white suit to marry his fiancée.  But when he returns, he returns to disaster.

In some respects this film has a rather fumbling plot compared to The Big Boss, but overall it is quite an artful film.  Lo Wei’s direction is generally very good.

Paul Wei perfectly plays the sniveling traitor Wu.  Wu is a translator…basically the opposite of Sibel Edmonds.  Though Bruce Lee initially maintains his composure when taunted by Wu, Lee soon enough returns the gift.

We must remember than Gift is German for poison.  Just as Mist is German for shit.  Dick, by the way, means fat.

Yes, the bearers of gifts turn out to be intimately acquainted with poison.  Perhaps we can find hints of their Nazi leanings in Lo Wei’s direction.  The Japanese seem to have an unfair hold on procedural law in Shanghai at this time.

There is another fleeting bit of cultural symbolism when Chen (Bruce Lee) is refused admittance to a park.  He seems to simply want a thoroughfare to return to his school (after schooling the Japanese dipshits).  Yet now he must answer to a Sikh guard enforcing a “no dogs and no Chinese” policy for the commons.  And so we have a short bit of China vs. India.

Ah, but we risk so much by playing the hero.  The true heroes often lose everything.  That’s what they don’t show you in the Hollywood version.  At least in Hong Kong, they seemed to know that life is a constant battle.  There is such a thing as honorable defeat.  Defeat rarely enters into the Hollywood lexicon when describing the protagonists.

But then arrives on Earth the phenomenon of the fist of fury.  It is strength.  It is passion.  It is torque.  It is velocity.

When Chen discovers the truth, he kills the murderers.  But that is not enough.  It’s time now to track down the enablers and the grand conspirators.  Lee does just this.  Talk about cleaning house!

Listen to “Peace Frog” by The Doors.  Sure, it’s great rhythm guitar from Robbie Krieger, but the lyrics might be Jim Morrison’s best.  Blood in the streets.  Up to my knees.  Up to my thigh.  I’m not sure if Morrison ever read Gérard de Nerval, but it wouldn’t surprise me.  It’s hard not to think of Nerval and Vlad Țepeș when seeing Lee gradually string up body after body from that lamppost. 

But let’s talk about more pleasant things, shall we?  Like Nora Miao, for instance.  She is so beautiful in this film.  And what a cute name!  I can’t help conjuring a cat to mind…Chairman Miao perhaps.

On the humorous side we have Inspector Lo and his two assistants…sartorially identical to Bogart from the neck up.  The disconnect comes when seeing their fedoras juxtaposed with traditional Chinese garb.  It is truly surreal!  Marlowe as Mar Lo.

The Russian connection comes from a visiting martial artist named Petrov.  We must remember that Putin joined the KGB in 1975.  Likewise, before Vladimir became a sixth degree black belt (or red and white if you want to get closer to Russian colors) in judo he trained in the Russian art of sambo (beginning around 1966).  So perhaps the Petrov character is a lucky match to current world leaders.

The villain of the film, Suzuki, propagates a massacre of Chen’s school (which bears a striking resemblance to the thuggery from The Big Boss).  What’s new is the Inspector Clouseau aspect of Lee’s persona.  We see him in disguise as an elderly newspaper salesman, a telephone repairman (!), and a rickshaw driver.  There is even a Chaplinesque visual humor to the telephone company employee portrayal–almost like an invocation of Jerry Lewis.

What is more, director Lo Wei eventually adds a further mystical dimension to Lee’s fighting prowess when his hands move with psychedelic tracers trailing in blurred wonder.  But for every true hero a firing squad awaits.  In the end, perhaps it’s better to run towards the bullets.

-PD