BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH.

/ JANUARY 2014

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

CONTENTS
A Love Note
THE MOVIES

152 Reasons I Love YOU’VE GOT MAIL Why Do All Of My Favorite Romances Star Humphrey Bogart? On Love and Art and The Movies November Rain is the Greatest Power Ballad Of All Time Scott Pilgrim vs.Himself

Editor-in-Chief
Devin Faraci

Managing Editor
Meredith Borders Henri Mazza

Associate Publisher Art Director
Joseph A. Ziemba

Graphic Designers
Cara Jackson, Stephen Sosa

Copy Editor
George Bragdon

Contributing Writers
Sarah Pitre, Evan Saathoff, Daniel Hernandez, Henri Mazza, Britt Hayes, Greg MacLennan, R.J. LaForce

Public Relations Inquiries
Brandy Fons | brandy@fonspr.com All content © 2013 Alamo Drafthouse

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mondotees.com

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A Love Note
DeVin Faraci Badass Digest Editor in Chief @devincf Read more at badassdigest.com

Love is in the air this month at BIRTH. MOVIES. DEATH. Yeah, focusing on love during the month featuring Valentine’s Day might be obvious, but the birth part of our title has to begin somewhere, right? Our favorite love stories span a huge chunk of cinema history. This issue we cover everything from CASABLANCA to ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, and all sorts of points in between. Whether Nazis or Evil Exes, love’s always best when it has an obstacle, and we examine how in the end, Scott Pilgrim is his own worst obstacle when it comes to love. Sometimes those obstacles can’t be overcome, and sometimes love doesn’t win in the end. But isn’t

doomed love the most romantic? We take a look at doomed love stories across time, including WEST SIDE STORY. We’re not total cynics, though. We know a swoonworthy suitor when we see one, which is why we’re devoting pages to Humphrey Bogart. And we also have an exhaustive list of reasons why the sometimes maligned YOU’VE GOT MAIL is actually great. Seriously. Don’t worry, the effects of cupid’s arrow will probably wear off by March, and we’ll be back to fist fights and gun battles. In the meantime enjoy the (bitter) sweetness. 6

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Screening In February At The Alamo Drafthouse
This February, the Alamo Drafthouse celebrates the spirit of Valentine’s Day all month long with a slate of love-themed national programming. For tickets, showtimes, formats, and a full list of titles, visit drafthouse.com.
CASABLANCA Dir. Michael Curtiz, 1942, PG, 102 min
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MOULIN ROUGE Dir. Baz Luhrmann, 2001, PG-13, 127 min
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CASABLANCA deservedly remains one of the most beloved Hollywood films; it’s one of the true classics that feels like a genuinely timeless and completely new work of art. Hollywood workaholic Michael Curtiz turns what could have been a paint-by-numbers Hollywood romance into an emotionally draining, incredibly entertaining, perfectly executed tale of love, greed, loss, murder, betrayal and loyalty. Its influence can’t be overstated, its flawless script will never be praised enough. And there’s Bogey and Ingrid Bergman, giving the defining performances of their careers. Curtiz’s too-good-tobelieve cast also includes Claude Rains, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. There are few films that are unmissable for all types of movie fans. CASABLANCA is one of them (R.J. LaForce). ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND Dir. Michel Gondry, 2004, R, 108 min
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If you’re a true romantic, you already know the story: Christian (Ewan McGregor) moves to Paris to pursue a Bohemian lifestyle and then of course falls into a doomed love affair with Satine (Nicole Kidman), the most beautiful girl at the Moulin Rouge. But until you’ve seen the movie and sung the songs and learned that lesson in a movie theater with 200 other heart-swept people, you’ll never really know what it’s like to be in love. Your heart will swell! Your lungs will burst! Your brain will explode with rainbows! Bring a date, or else make sure you choose your seat carefully, because you WILL end up falling in love with the person sitting next to you. As always, we’ll have props for some special interaction, including blinking rings for “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and green glow sticks for the Green Fairy. And start warming up your leg muscles now, because we’re kicking off this whole shebang with a Can-Can dance contest! Your gift is your song, so come give it all you’ve got at the Moulin Rouge. (Henri Mazza) SABRINA Dir. Billy Wilder, 1954, UR, 113 min
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Charlie Kaufman’s inventive script and Michel Gondry’s deep bag of tricks perfectly complement each other in this tale of love and loss. Jim Carrey, who has never been better, and Kate Winslet, continuously perfect as always, are the heartsick couple trying to forget each other in this visual feast. This film will sneak its way into your heart and shatter you from the inside out. Happy Valentine’s Day everybody! (Greg MacLennan)

Charmingly funny and heart-warmingly romantic, Billy Wilder’s SABRINA takes the traditional Cinderella storyline and flips it on its head in this satirical look at class and romance. Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and Audrey Hepburn all shine in this charming comedic gem. And of course, there’s plenty of drinking. So we asked Alamo Beverage Director Bill Norris to whip up some fancy cocktails for this one so we can enjoy it in style. (Greg MacLennan)

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

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SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD Dir. Edgar Wright, 2010, PG-13, 112 min
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SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is a film of pure joy. A love letter to geek culture from Edgar Wright and Bryan Lee O’Malley, this film was criminally underappreciated during its initial theatrical release, but of course Alamo audiences immediately knew we had something special on our hands and so a bunch of us flocked to the theater to watch it again and again. All of those repeat viewings led to an even deeper appreciation of the film, and before long we noticed that a lot of lines from the movie had crept into our every day speech. “Bread makes you fat?” “I have to go pee due to boredom.” “You punched me in the boob! Prepare to die, obviously.” Okay, we don’t have a lot of occasion to use that last one, but any time a boob is punched that is definitely

the line we use. The point is, we love love love SCOTT PILGRIM so much that you could say we’re in lesbians with this movie. Not only that, but the film itself is so romantic, albeit in a somewhat strange way, that we knew it was the perfect new addition to the Alamo’s celebration of love for February. Because when Scott realizes that he wasn’t just fighting for Ramona and was also... wait. That might be a spoiler to some of you. We love SCOTT PILGRIM. We love you. So once again we’ve built a separate subtitle track for all of our favorite lines of dialogue, and we’ll project them on screen alongside the movie karaoke-style so you can say all of them perfectly in time with the characters. We’ll also have lightning sticks for everyone to use whenever we’re rocking out with Sex Bob-omb or fighting off an evil ex, and every time an ex is destroyed we’ll shower the theater in gold coins. It’s the SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD Quote-Along, and it will punch the highlights right out of your hair. (Henri Mazza)

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

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WEST SIDE STORY Dir. Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, 1961, UR, 152 min
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YOU’VE GOT MAIL Dir. Nora Ephron, 1998, PG, 119 min
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WEST SIDE STORY is a musical that encompasses songs both catchy and emotional. It knows when to make your feet tap and when to make your heart feel. It’s one of those films that’s equally exhilarating and heartbreaking at the same time. But what really sets this cinematic masterpiece apart from the rest is its striking, effective and mesmerizing combination of realism and stage performance. Shot on location in Manhattan, the film’s gritty aesthetic is juxtaposed with some of the best stylized choreography in film history. This combination allows the film to shift from a strong visual sensibility to stagey, melodramatic performances that find themselves in the same movie as powerful, grounded acting. One minute you’ll have a hoot while the Jets sing “Officer Krupke,” then your heart will melt when Tony and Maria share a love song and then you’ll cry as the film goes from inspired, life-affirming fare to tragedy. WEST SIDE STORY remains the greatest example of the Hollywood musical. (R.J. LaForce)

While some of Nora Ephron’s other films are far more critically acclaimed, there’s something about this movie that never fails to make me feel absolutely wonderful. Maybe it’s the charming chemistry between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Perhaps it’s the deliciously quirky supporting actors like Steve “Nut Shop” Zahn, Greg “Lone Reed” Kinnear, Parker “She Makes Coffee Nervous” Posey and Jean “He Ran Spain” Stapleton. Then there’s the adorable email banter with dated AOL references and dial-up modem connections. And of course, the fact that the entire film is basically a love letter to New York City certainly doesn’t hurt. But if I had to choose the one element most responsible for this film’s greatness, it would definitely be Nora Ephron. She wrote the screenplay, and her dazzling insight and humor shine through every single line. She also directed the film, infusing each scene with a lovely, sparkling vibrancy and a deep comprehension of the human heart. With YOU’VE GOT MAIL, Ephron managed to capture 152 insights into our souls, and we’ll celebrate her cinematic greatness at this month’s Girlie Night. Oh, and if anyone wants to bring me a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils, I won’t mind. (Sarah Pitre) 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / NOVEMBER 2013

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152 Reasons I Love YOU’VE GOT MAIL
SARAH PITRE Alamo Drafthouse Programmer @poshdeluxe Read more at badassdigest.com

Confession: I have watched YOU’VE GOT MAIL about 200 times. Just kidding, I’ve seen it at least 300 times, but I wanted to cleverly reference the part in the film when Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) tells Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) about her obsession with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, because I am that much of a nerd about this movie. In honor of Joe’s AOL handle, NY152, I’ve created a list that explains why YOU’VE GOT MAIL is my favorite film of all time. p.s. You can see the list on full display this month at the Alamo, where we’ll be screening YOU’VE GOT MAIL as part of our Girlie Night series. You’re welcome! 1. Nora Ephron. 2. A bouquet of newly sharpened pencils. 3. Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan, a.k.a. the ultimate movie couple. 4. As the Storybook Lady, Kathleen reads from Roald Dahl’s BOY. 5. “Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one! It got on at 42nd and off at 59th, where, I assume, it was going to Bloomingdale’s to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake, as almost all hats are.” 6. Brinkley the dog. 7. Parker Posey as Patricia Eden. 8. F-O-X. 9. The Cranberries montage of NYC in the fall. 10. A happy ending. 11. Rose, the cashier at Zabar’s. 12. A Starbucks cappuccino only costs $2.95. 13. Steve Zahn as George. 14. “What should I pack for my summer vacation? Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” 15. The Shop Around the Corner. 16. Daisies are the friendliest flower. 17. Dave Chappelle as Kevin.
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

18. Commentary on the internet age: “The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.” 19. Cafe Lalo. 20. Wonderfully dated AOL references. 21. A scene that passes the Bechdel test. 22. “You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life.” 23. Twinkle lights. 24. The Shoe Books. 25. Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” 26. “He ran Spain.” 27. Heather Burns as Christina. 28. The Nut Shop, where it’s fun. 29. “Patricia makes coffee nervous.” 30. Meg Ryan’s adorable haircut. 31. Twirling. 32. Greg Kinnear as Frank Navasky. 33. The neighborhood carnival on the Upper West Side. 34. “Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?” 35. Frank’s off-key Christmas caroling.

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36. Caviar: Garnish or Not a Garnish? 37. Jean Stapleton as Birdie. 38. Joe’s charming grandfather (“I think we might have had a date once.”). 39. Kathleen’s cozy apartment. 40. “WHERE ARE MY TIC-TACS?” 41. The time they thought Frank was the Unabomber. 42. “My father’s getting married again. For the past five years he’s been living with a woman named Gillian, who studied decorating at Caesar’s Palace.” 43. Dabney Coleman as Nelson Fox. 44. Louis Armstrong’s “Dummy Song.” 45. “I tried to have cybersex once, but I kept getting a busy signal.” 46. Saying hello to New Jersey. 47. Joe’s dislike of Joni Mitchell. 48. Gillian running away with Nanny Maureen. 49. “The number of people who think he looks like Clark Gable.” 50. “One hundred and fifty-two people who think he looks like a Clark Bar.” 51. Kathleen, finally delivering a zinger. 52. Kathleen’s face, after delivering the zinger. 53. Joe’s dysfunctional “American” family. 54. Meg Ryan’s super cute wardrobe. 55. “Confession: I have read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE about 200 times. I get lost in the language, words like ‘thither,’ ‘mischance,’ ‘felicity.’” 56. Kathleen and Joe’s amazing kiss (seconded by Brinkley). 57. Frank’s typewriters. 58. When Birdie talks to Kathleen’s dead mom. 59. Barney Greengrass. 60. 1998. 61. Based on PARFUMERIE by Miklós László. 62. Kathleen: “And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?” Joe: “Uh, nothing.” Kathleen: “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.” 63. Ultradorm. 64. Joe pretending to strike out on the carnival Strongman Game. 65. Internet love. 66. The preciousness of Matt Fox. 67. Gray’s Papaya. 68. The moment when Joe falls for Kathleen. 69. The moment when Kathleen falls for Joe. 70. Bobby Day’s “Rockin’ Robin.” 71. The ease of channeling Kathleen when recommending a book. “Read it. I know you’ll love it.” 72. Joe’s certainty that Shopgirl is pretty. 73. “Well, as far as I’m concerned, the Internet is just another way of being rejected by women.” 74. Kevin’s romantic advice about taking things to the next level. 75. Kathleen and Joe’s shame over how much they love checking their email. 76. The charmingly outdated opening credits.

77. Kathleen’s lame mirror trick at Cafe Lalo. 78. George’s eucalyptus candles, which make his apartment smell mossy. 79. “Brinkley is a great catcher and was offered a tryout on the Mets farm team but he chose to stay with me so that he could spend 18 hours a day sleeping on a large green pillow the size of an inner tube.” 80. Kathleen, pretending to be Muhammad Ali. 81. A lone reed. 82. Patricia’s commentary on the Rosenbergs. 83. Wondering what Kathleen’s book will be about. 84. “If she turns out to be as good looking as a mailbox, I would be crazy enough to turn my life upside down and marry her.” 85. Joe’s hatred of the squeaky mice voices in CINDERELLA. 86. The clichéd meet-up device: a book with a rose in it. 87. Living in a boat. 88. The delightful farmers market. 89. Social commentary about big box stores buying out mom and pop shops. 90. The fact that big box stores are now suffering. 92. “Mr. 152 insights into my soul.” 92. Zabar’s. 93. Kathleen and Frank’s fight in the movie theater. 94. The excitement over getting an email from your crush. 95. Joe’s strategic competition for Kathleen’s affections with his AOL alter ego. 96. Harry Nilsson’s cover of “Over the Rainbow.” 97. Kathleen rising like a phoenix from the ashes of her bookstore. 98. Verdi Square. 99. “I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.” 100. Picturing George working for Fox Books. 101. The poster of Eloise in the Shop Around the Corner. 102. Tom Hanks’ ad-libbed line, “Good thing it wasn’t the fish.” 103. Kathleen wondering if Mr. Darcy and Lizzie will really end up together. 104. New York in the spring. 105. The way Joe looks at Kathleen when he says, “Oh, how I wish you would.” 106. The Upper West Side as a character in the film. 107. Frank’s bizarre chemistry with the TV interviewer. 108. “Thank your.” 109. Kathleen thinking that NY152 would never do anything as prosaic as using his address in his AOL handle. 110. Dave Chappelle’s swagger. 111. The gun hand signs Joe and his grandfather make to each other. 112. Kathleen’s pajamas. 113. Frank: “Name me one thing, one, that we’ve gained from technology.” Kathleen: “Electricity.” Frank: “That’s one.” 114. The Storybook Lady hat. 115. Kathleen, gesturing with a knife.

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116. 91st Street Garden. 117. “Happy Thanksgiving back.” 118. Parker Posey’s snores. 119. Joe sending Kevin to check out Shopgirl. 120. Kathleen’s ridiculously adorable sick voice. 121. The Wayne Thiebaud poster in Kathleen’s kitchen. 122. Christina’s tie and sweater combo. 123. “Good night, dear void.” 124. Joe and Kathleen would never fight about which video to rent on a Saturday night. 125. Birdie Conrad’s name is the reverse of Conrad Birdie. 126. The cute prehistoric nature of Joe and Kathleen’s laptops. 127. Nelson: “Perfect. Keep those West-Side liberal nuts, pseudo-intellectuals…” Joe: “Readers, Dad. They’re called readers.” Nelson: “Don’t do that, son. Don’t romanticize them.” 128. Kathleen’s handkerchief. 129. Fox Books’ attractiveness in spite of your inclination to hate it. 130. Joe’s obsession with THE GODFATHER. 131. Matt and Joe rocking the oversized sunglasses. 132. The way Kathleen grasps at her throat because she’s too overwhelmed with emotion over Joe’s declaration of affection.

133. How Joe and Kathleen mouth the words “You’ve got mail.” 134. Patricia’s unabashed cattiness. 135. “This is the Upper West Side, man. We might as well tell them we’re opening up a crack house.” 136. Joe falling off the treadmill. 137. The New Yorkers behind Kathleen in line at Zabar’s. 138. “As if you were one of those stupid 22-year-old-girls with no last name? ‘Hi, I’m Kimberly!’ ‘Hi, I’m Janice!’ Don’t they know you’re supposed to have a last name? It’s like they’re an entire generation of cocktail waitresses.” 139. Joe squished into the kids’ ride at the carnival. 140. Christina on cyber sex: “Well, you know what, don’t do it. Because the minute you do, they lose all respect for you.” 141. H&H Bagels. 142. The guy with the cape that walks into Cafe Lalo. 143. “Never marry a man who lies.” 144. Birdie’s glasses. 145. Dial-up modems. 146. Joe’s classy grandfather clock. 147. Christina’s disdain for Brooklyn. 148. “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your life does.” 149. The flowers in 91st Street Garden. 150. Annabelle’s performance of “Tomorrow.” 151. Kathleen’s shock over receiving an instant message. 152. The romance of written correspondence. 6

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Why Do All Of My Favorite Romances Star Humphrey Bogart?
EVAN SAATHOFF Badass Digest News Editor @sam_strange Read more at badassdigest.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

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Genuine big screen romance is a hard one to pull off, so hard that many films don’t even bother. Rather than develop a relationship that feels real on all levels, filmmakers often communicate love through a kind of shorthand. Here’s a handsome guy. There’s a pretty girl. Something cute happens. Maybe they bicker. At the end of the film they’re totally making out. It’s about as emotionally moving as watching some new lady fall in love with James Bond. Of the cinematic romances that actually stay with people, many gain poignancy through unconventional pairings. Films like HAROLD & MAUDE, ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL and newer entries such as MOONRISE KINGDOM all focus on atypical romantic couples and yet supply warm, meaningful relationships. For whatever reason, it’s easier to fall for a romance between two ugly aliens than some cinematic fling between Sarah Jessica Parker and, say, Dylan McDermott (unless they’re playing ugly aliens). No actor I know of has succeeded at illustrating this notion better than Humphrey Bogart. A quintessential representation of an increasingly antiquated era, Bogart’s highly specific particularities would have little chance of making it in films today, save maybe as a character actor. Even as a young man, he resembles someone’s grandfather. And yet, my absolute favorite romances are all Humphrey Bogart films. I don’t see how any straightforward love story could top THE AFRICAN QUEEN. The film grows even greater

the older it gets because it so frequently teases modern expectations only to casually avoid them and give us something pleasantly surprising instead. Bogart’s rogue riverboat captain and Katharine Hepburn’s straightlaced spinster are neither as roguish and straight-laced as we predict. He ends up being a total softy. Meanwhile she shamelessly revels in the dangerous excitement and violent freedom fighting their adventure provides. While they bicker and flirtatiously eye each other in turn, their romance occurs with the flip of a switch and even catches us a little off-guard. The film’s chastity is part of its charm. The couple’s closest proximity to sexual tension comes via baths on opposite sides of the boat in full-body undergarments. Their sudden unity comes across not with physical passion but mere smiles and the warmth with which Hepburn shifts from calling Bogart “Dear” instead of “Mr. Allnut.” But they are, put simply, absolutely adorable together, and because their journey involves leeches, makeshift torpedoes and an impromptu wedding at the gallows, it’s an adorability that exists within an adventure context, rather than driving the story altogether. Whether they fall in love or not, they are still going to drive the Queen right into a massive German gunboat. They are badasses first, lovers second. This idea carries over somewhat into the wartime lostlove we find in CASABLANCA. Among so many other merits, CASABLANCA succeeds because it tells the

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story of a sub-hero who must give up the woman he loves to a far bigger hero than himself. In typical love triangle narratives, we usually expect the pining party to have greater merits than the jock-y jerk who ends up with the girl, but in this case Bogart’s Rick Blaine never had a chance with Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund. His rival, Paul Henreid’s Victor Laszlo, is an already legendary man of action and importance. Furthermore, his love for Ilsa is just as genuine and large as Rick’s, if not larger. Rick holds the key to Victor and Ilsa’s shared escape from Casablanca. He could have her, free and clear of Laszlo. Doing so, however, would not only split up a near mythical romance already in progress, but could also rob the Resistance of a powerful ally. So Rick forgoes his own happiness for the greater good, a conclusion with all the sadness of a tragic romance but without the benefit of death or histrionics. This could also be said for Nicholas Ray’s IN A LONELY PLACE. The romance here between Bogart and co-star Gloria Grahame explores a much darker love than the slight bitterness found in CASABLANCA. While THE AFRICAN QUEEN highlight’s Bogart’s stance as a rugged everyman and CASABLANCA smolders with the weary but quick-witted charm that informed many of his private eye characters, IN A LONELY PLACE is all about psycho Bogart.

Bogart’s Dixon Steele and Grahame’s Laurel Gray meet when she supplies him with an alibi for a murder we slowly realize he may have committed after all. The two fall in love soon after, and the new romance invigorates the normally hotheaded and unhinged Steele. He stops drinking and grows almost giddy with happiness. But at his worst, Steele still displays severe anger issues and violent tendencies that put Gray in danger. Steele and Gray’s entire relationship dances on the edge of a knife and paradoxically generates a better romance for it. Bogart supplies the film with a character equally terrifying and compelling, and you genuinely want to see him keep the happiness he finds with Gray. The film’s central tension revolves around whether or not Gray can fix this broken, dangerous man and ends with her giving up the fight. You don’t blame her, but that does’t make the conclusion any less heartbreaking. There’s just something about Humphrey Bogart. For a guy defined either by toughness, street-smarts or insanity, he stands as one of cinema’s all-time great romantic leading men. Even the largely platonic female relationships found in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA or KEY LARGO, for instance, still feel particularly moving and special. If I were a lady, and if I had a time machine (that worked!), I would totally try to hook up with him and/or have him walk me down the aisle at my wedding. Maybe to Jack Palance. 6

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On Love and Art and The Movies
DAN HERNANDEZ Badass Digest Contributor @dreamofelectric Read more at badassdigest.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

All love is doomed to end in tragedy. God, but that’s grim. It’s cool, though. The basic truth that love, especially romantic love, is going to end is part of what makes it so special. Love would be meaningless if it were not fleeting. This is something that we, culturally, have struggled to fully internalize, nevermind comprehend. This idea, that love is worth seeking even though it must surely end, has been the basis of great art throughout the course of human history. “It is better to have love and lost,” and all that jazz. All forms of art have their own inimitable methods of communicating. The immediacy of a painting cannot be captured by even the most eloquent poetry. Music affects our souls before our minds in a way that

architecture, for all of its ability to utterly transform space, cannot approach. Comic books are unique among the narrative arts in that this medium is the only one that can express internal monologue and external dialogue simultaneously. And then there is cinema. There is no other art form that can reflect human truths as directly and honestly as movies can. And some of the all-time greatest films have explored the yearning for and ultimate loss of romantic love. CASABLANCA, WEST SIDE STORY and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND feature three of our greatest screen romances. But while the stories of Rick and Ilsa, Maria and Tony, and Joel and Clementine are each beautiful and moving and tragic, they also very clearly and very directly speak to their times.

Much of the beauty of great movies lies in the depth of meaning that can be found in them. This is part of what contributes to their timelessness. Love stories in particular hold up well over the years for this very reason. All love stories are metaphorical. 1942’s CASABLANCA is the story of American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), running his bar in the titular city of Casablanca and generally trying to be at peace despite the effects of World War II encroaching on his comfortable life. That life takes a turn when former lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) reenters it and Rick must decide between winning her back or helping her husband, Czech Resistance leader Victor Lazlo (Paul Henried), escape Morocco and continue his fight against the Nazis. Rick’s ultimate decision to join the war effort despite the loss of his personal happiness reflects American popular opinion during the years leading to the United States’ entry into World War II. In 1942 America had not yet committed to the war that was engulfing Europe and threatening to overtake the rest of the world. But many Americans at the time felt it was their duty to fight against the Nazis and the Axis forces. Rick’s sacrificing of his love for greater virtue is heroic and inspiring when seen in the context of the generation CASABLANCA was made for, a call to arms against a tyrannical force even if it means surrendering personal comfort. Skip ahead nearly twenty years to 1961’s WEST SIDE STORY, an adaptation of the 1957 stage play of the same name and one of the best musicals ever put to film, and we can see that the theme of the tragic end of love is still being explored and used to reflect the world. But where the loss of Rick and Ilsa’s love in CASABLANCA is seen as righteous sacrifice in service of a greater good, WEST SIDE STORY’s central romance is tragic in the classic sense of the word. In the film Tony Wyzek (Richard Beymer, with a vocal assist from Jimmy Bryant), the former leader of the New York City street gang the Jets, falls in love with Maria Nuñez (Natalie Wood, with Marni Nixon singing), who is closely associated with the Puerto Rican rival gang the Sharks. Maria and Tony’s budding romance stands in stark contrast against the rising tensions between the Jets and

Sharks, tensions that lead to violence and dire consequences for all involved. Tony eventually finds himself dragged into the escalating conflict, avenging the murder of his best friend and setting in motion a cycle of violence that only ends with Maria’s impassioned and terrifying reaction to his own death. WEST SIDE STORY is explicitly about race relations and the hardships New York City was facing in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Maria and Tony’s tragic romance is a warning against that escalating violence and hatred. Decades later, Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman explored the notion of romance and memory in the 21st century with ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. The premise -- two people meet for the first time after having their entire previous relationship erased from their memories -- is indicative of a generation desperate to run from pain and hardship without understanding what that actually entails. Do you remember 2004? 2004 was a garbage year. It was the perfect time for ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND to hit the popular consciousness and eviscerate the very idea of denial. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski, and through a series of flashbacks in the form of Joel having his memories of Clementine erased, we see the entire course of their relationship play out, from stale and bitter ending to promising, hopeful start. At the end of the film, Joel and Clementine have rekindled the relationship they didn’t know they had extinguished, only to be confronted with the worst parts of that relationship. And they fall in love anyway. That’s the underlying truth of these three films. Love hurts. In CASABLANCA love leads to sacrifice. In WEST SIDE STORY it leads to suffering, but a suffering that heals all wounds. And in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND love is stubborn and bull-headed and maybe idiotic, even (especially!) in the face of disaster. All love is doomed to end in tragedy. And it is always, always worth it. 6

November Rain Is The Single Greatest Power Ballad Of All Time
HENRI MAZZA BMD Associate Publisher @henrimazza Read more at badassdigest.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

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The year was 1983, and the band at the time was called LA Guns. But even though the album USE YOUR ILLUSION I wouldn’t be released for another nine years, Axl Rose was already working on the single greatest power ballad of all time: November Rain. “When we were doing that EP for L.A. Guns, like ’83? He was playing “November Rain,” guitarist Traci Gunns has said in interviews.“And it was called November Rain — you know, on piano. The guitar solo is amazing. Way back then. It was the only thing he knew how to play, but it was his. He’d go, ‘Someday this song is gonna be really cool.’ “And I’d go, ‘It’s cool now.’ ‘“But it’s not done,’ you know, he used to say. And, like, anytime we’d be at a hotel or anywhere, there’d be a piano; he’d just kinda play that music. “And I’d go, ‘When are you gonna finish that already, ’ you know? And he’d go, ‘I don’t know what to do with it.’” So Axl took his time with it, and he struggled with composing for strings and orchestras and everything bigger than what Guns ‘n Roses had traditionally been. And he pulled the rest of the band through their uncertainty about recording a “soft” song like that, at one point getting them to record a 20 minute demo before they all arranged it down to a much more manageable eight minutes and 57 seconds. Was that struggle worth it? Of fucking course it was. Because it is without a doubt the greatest Power Ballad in the History of the World. Now, that’s a grandiose statement, the kind of statement that argumentative readers are going to love to attack. But while there are all sorts of indisputably great power ballads out there, I will forever stand behind November Rain as the ultimate best. Let’s break it down: What is a power ballad? There are several definitions, usually used to help sell different compilation albums and Time Life CD collections, but for the most part a power ballad is what happens any time a hard rock band slows it down a little bit and shows their soft underbelly so they can sing about love, heartache and emotions. Bands in the ‘70s and ‘80s started recording power ballads on their hard rock albums for a couple of reasons -- they would become enormously popular, and it was a great way to get laid after the show. So if power ballads have been around since at least the 1970s, then how can anyone say that some song by a crazy person released in 1992 is the best of all of them? Let’s start by looking at some of the competition.

First off, the obvious granddaddy: Stairway To Heaven. Song for song, album for album, legend for legend, Led Zeppelin is clearly a superior band to Guns ‘n Roses. But November Rain has something really strong going for it that Stairway is missing simply because of the time it was released, and that is an incredible music video. Plus, while Stairway is such a staple of guitar playing that Wayne Campbell has his Stairway denied when he picks up his dream guitar in the music store, Slash’s solo in the middle of November Rain, with that helicopter flying over him, pretty much epitomizes the vision of the rock god that everyone who has picked up an electric guitar wants to become. Aerosmith’s Dream On has a lot of similarities to November Rain, even a music video built around the band performing on stage with a string section behind them. But that wasn’t an official music video release, and was just part of MTV’s ten year anniversary… so that video and the string arrangement and everything that happened after November Rain was clearly capitalizing on that song’s success. Of course, Aerosmith had every right to steal from Axl, since he was so clearly inspired by the band’s earlier power ballads from the ‘70s. But still, no scenes based on a short story by Del James? Keep on dreaming, Dream On. Points to November Rain again. Then there’s the other obvious choice, Free Bird, but unfortunately that song is now mostly a joke yelled out by drunken douchebags at any concert for any band in the world, so it’s automatically disqualified. I know it’s not the song’s fault, but that legacy can never be escaped. Now some of you have jumped ahead and are already thinking, “Wait! What about Bonnie Tyler? What about some motherfucking Total Eclipse Of The Heart?!?!” And yeah, that’s another really, really great power ballad. And it has one of the most famously awesome music videos of all time, too. It does have one strike against it, in that if you’ve ever worked as a karaoke DJ you hate that song more than any other by any recording artist from any era due to the fact that you’ve had to watch sorority girls sing it and think they’re hilarious five times a night, so, yeah. That hurts it. That’s also what kills Journey’s attempt to win the crown. Don’t Stop Believing is another incredible power ballad that people in karaoke rooms across the world consistently think they are the first people to ever “remember.” Plus there’s no video, just a live concert recording from a show in Houston. It’s great, and Steve Perry’s jeans are very, very tight, but it doesn’t feature a model in a wedding dress with a mini-skirt front that

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

shows off alllll of her legs, so if you’re a junior high kid watching MTV in the 1990s, it’s simply not as powerful, and that’s an important part of becoming the Best Song of All Time in any category. But again, THESE ARE ALL AMAZING SONGS. And there are so many other great power ballads, too, which is obviously why we’ve produced the Action Pack’s Love Bites Sing-Along parties at Alamo theaters everywhere for so many years now. I mean, I love love love the song and crazy music video where you watch a couple age and die while REO Speedwagon looks off camera very earnestly and sings I Can’t Fight This Feeling. I love crazy Meat Loaf and his Michael Bay-directed “I guess the one thing he won’t do is turn you into a vampire” music video for I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). I straight up cry every time I watch the video for Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, and I really hope someone eventually told Foreigner what love is. I could go on and on and talk about other really good power ballads, but the fact remains that there can only be one Best of the Best, and it’s gotta be November Rain. It’s beautiful and soaring and epic and batshit fucking crazy all at the same time. In the video it starts raining during a wedding and so someone JUMPS THROUGH THE WEDDING CAKE. To get out of the rain? Why would you do that? And thanks to the Internet, we can now all go to Scribd and find a copy of the short story it was based on, “Without You” by Del James, so we can start to understand a little bit about what is going on in the video. Not much, mind you, because “Without You” is sloppy, terrible writing, but we can see that it’s a

story about a rock star whose girlfriend kills herself by shooting herself in the head, and so in that scene at the end of the video with Axl’s new wife in a coffin, the mirror is there because the other half of her face is gone. And then Axl keeps having dreams about it, so he drinks a lot, and… I think that’s it. BUT THAT’S ALL YOU NEED. Here’s a typical passage from “Without You”: Sipping deeply from the bottle, he flipped through the photo album that was all too short, carefully avoiding the final page. He rarely looked at the last page. As always, he wound up back on page two. With the bottle twothirds empty, he pulled his pants and briefs down to his knees and poured the remaining champagne onto his palms. This was part of the ritual. Fine champagne was something he and Elizabeth enjoyed sharing. He could still share it with her. As he took hold of his wet erection, his thoughts began to slip… Now imagine, if you will, Axl Rose in the late ‘80s, still working on the piano piece for the song that would become his masterpiece. There’s a moment where he reads this short story in its entirety, and he says, “YES.” The man at the time was a Rock God, but immortalizing that story with the text at the end for his greatest music video ever was the most baller thing he could have possibly done. But there’s one other reason November Rain is the greatest power ballad of all time -- it’s one of the longest. That means that if you’re lucky enough to get to dance with someone you like and that song comes on, you’re going to be awkwardly close to them for almost nine full minutes. That’s two minutes longer than seven minutes in heaven, so use your time wisely. 6

SCOTT PILGRIM Vs. Himself
BRITT HAYES Badass Digest Contributor @missbritthayes Read more at badassdigest.com
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

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BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

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Edgar Wright’s SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD pits its titular protagonist against many foes, chiefly the seven evil exes of (literal and figurative) dream girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but no enemy is greater than the one lurking within. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is one of the greatest modern comic book films, and one of the most underrated. It’s a film that creates a hero by asking him not to save the world, or even to save a girl, but to save himself by defeating the ultimate villain: himself. With every new relationship comes infatuation, that hormonal and uncontrollable concoction of simmering feelings and impulses that drive us to be our best and our worst. When Scott (Michael Cera) meets Ramona, he’s already at a low point: still reeling from an ego-

crushing break-up, the 22 year-old aspiring musician is dramatically compensating for his low self-esteem and crippling neuroses by dating an Asian high school girl, using the naive Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) to put a little extra pep in his step -- much to the chagrin of his bandmate and ex-girlfriend Kim Pine (Alison Pill). Scott takes the cowardly, long and drawn out approach to breaking up with Knives, still seeing her in secret while Ramona’s seven exes (including one girlfriend -- she had a phase), intent on controlling the future of her love life, challenge Scott to a series of fights -- if he can defeat all seven of them, including the ultimate evil ex, arrogant record exec Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), then Scott will prove he deserves to date Ramona free and clear of further reprisal.

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

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Ramona’s exes are symbolic of the way our past relationships continue to haunt us long after we’ve left them behind, and the way they imprint themselves on our lives. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing: we can choose to take what we’ve learned from these experiences and incorporate them, our past selves, and who we were with these people into who we are now, while accepting that we are an evolution of what once was -- or we can let that past continue to hound us, trapping us in a state of arrested development. While Ramona has mostly moved on, her exes clearly haven’t, but it’s Scott’s past that’s the real problem. He’s oblivious to the hurt he’s caused others, so narrowly and selfishly focused on the instant gratification he derives from his infatuation -infatuation that drives him to act like a total jackass. Whether it’s treating Knives like an accessory to boost his confidence, blowing her off and taking the long way around to ending the relationship after he’s met someone new (or “new-new”), or going along with whatever Ramona says she likes or dislikes just to get

her to like him more the first time they hang out, Scott is a coward... and he’s always been one, but he’s blind to it. No matter how many times his friends point it out to him, he can’t seem to grasp that he’s been a participant in his own misery. We are by nature so self-involved, refracting every situation through a slight lens colored only by ourselves and our own feelings and desires. Undermining Scott at every turn is himself: he doesn’t think he’s good enough for Ramona because he’s intimidated by how great she is; he’s placed her on a pedestal in his mind, as we so often do in the early infatuation stages of a relationship with people we hardly know. But the more we discover their flaws, the more the pedestal crumbles. That’s not a reflection of their problems; it’s a reflection of our own. With Scott’s self-esteem making him second-guess every little thing he says and does around Ramona, seven exes aren’t helping matters much. His delicate ego is rattled by jealousy, and the prospect that there

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might have been so many more people who came and conquered before him, who pleased and mattered and inspired feelings that his broken heart so desperately wants to feel and make someone feel again. Beating Ramona’s exes on the surface is a macho exercise, for the unemployed and underachieving young Scott to prove his worth as a man both physically and romantically. But Ramona never asks or demands for him to embark on this journey -- ultimately, it’s an exercise in futility. No matter how many exes he pulverizes, Scott is just exploiting and massaging the petty jealousies and neuroses within himself. As long as he remains preoccupied with her past instead of focusing on himself and his own issues, he’s just another evil ex in the making. And that’s one of the biggest villains we face in relationships: turning our attention to the past of our loved ones instead of remaining in the here and now and staying focused on ourselves and where we come from. All that should matter of Ramona’s past is the way it’s shaped who she has become. If we let jealousy

balloon up into a giant monster in our minds, it will always, always win, defeating not only us, but those we love in the process. In the end, Scott realizes -- almost too late -- that he shouldn’t be fighting for Ramona or the dishonored Knives (who has learned to take care of herself ), but for himself. Scott earns the power of self-respect and becomes his own man, recognizing his flaws and the harm he’s done others, defeating Gideon and earning the respect of his friends and peers in the process. All of the negative qualities within himself -- the self-doubt and neuroses and jealousy and cowardice -- are embodied in one final villain, but rather than destroy this Nega-Scott, Scott embraces his flaws. In order to become a hero, to become the kind of person capable of love and respect, we have to embrace our past and reconcile the good and bad within ourselves. Sometimes the person worth fighting for is us. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT
oN AND AT

FEBRUARY IS down with love month
GO TO IFC.COM OR DRAFTHOUSE.COM FOR THE FULL CINEMA SCHEDULE
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

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