Better Off Dead is one of the best high school comedies about the absurdity of adolescence. It presents a myriad of predicaments that could conceivably mire a typical student’s well-being–mental, familiar, financial, social, and sexual, just to name a few–and runs wild with them all for the express purpose of laying waste to the insecurities and hang-ups that concern most people during this weird time in life. Every romantic hiccup is exaggerated to disastrous dimensions; every apparent shortcoming is tantamount to total deficiency. In turn, most of these problems that might trouble a young person are revealed to be completely laughable when they are properly framed for bizarre effect: anything this ridiculous and cartoonish should not be taken seriously, and issues even remotely similar to them should, as a result, become less world-crushing. When it can’t get any worse, it can only get better, and Better Off Dead is leaps and bounds funnier than many other comedies because it’s more than willing to go to some humiliating and hilarious lows before its protagonist ascends the proverbial mountain in the end.
Confession time sans any shame: When I was a wee boy, I would run around in my backyard, sword-stick in hand, playing in imaginary worlds that were mostly inspired by the 8-bit NES maps in Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda. These worlds, grand for a little awesome kid, offered the perfect bird’s-eye view of spatial possibilities, offsetting where you could and could not go–that is, until a major weapon, accessory, magic, or tip was found that would be duly employed to blast through any and all obstacles. Needless to say, life was good. But now that I am old and boring and my penchant for whimsically running around in my backyard returns to me only when I am drunk or deranged, such fancies have passed from my everyday existence–until now. Clearly on a similar wavelength, the gamers behind Google Maps dropped an 8-bit April Fools masterpiece on the world. Take a bird’s-eye view after the jump.
Though it is unquestionably a great film in my mind, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a strange beast of meshing tones, genres, and storytelling techniques. Dynamic as hell, it has the ability to jump at a (strange) moment’s notice from farcical, tongue-in-cheek roguishness more fit for a straight comedy to pensive, anti-western mythmaking more in keeping with late 60s-early 70s westerns. A particularly fitting example is when the protagonists escape to Bolivia: there, we are hit with the wonderful irony of Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and Sundance Kid’s (Robert Redford) professional transmogrification from bank robbers to payroll security; but before this can be relished, both characters are confronted by outlaws not unlike themselves (albeit more lethal), which rapidly culminates in a slow-motion shootout analogous to Peckinpah’s bloody masterpiece The Wild Bunch. The shift is shocking–as one of such a violent nature should be.
Strange Moments in Solid Movies: Prefaced Insanity and Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman Make Beautiful Music Together in Dangerous Liaisons
First things first: a self-indulgent, rambling preface.
I love movies, especially good, solid movies that work cohesively. I watch movies a lot, hoping that they will all accomplish what they set out to do (or, rather, what I think each is trying to do). Of course, every movie cannot be all-time success, because for there to be a good, there has to be a bad, and vice versa; it’s just how it works out. But when I see a solid movie, I take particular pleasure in not just how it works overall–in a well-made, impressive fashion–but how each part adds up to its collective impressive functionality. And when you watch movies a lot, you tend to become more aware of how specific moments, scenes, even sequences function within the stories being told. Ostensibly, these moments are all included in the final work for a reason–and I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that the inclusions were made in an attempt to better it in an overall way, be they by simple character clarifications or complex expansions of the story’s universe.