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Archive for August 4th, 2010

by Kevin J. Olson

So, why am I writing this?  Well, in light of the recent polling for the best films of the past decade – which concluded about a week ago – and Allan’s comments regarding his disdain for Miami Vice, I felt compelled to defend the film I ranked the second best film of the past decade.  I could simply list the other fine bloggers and film critics who agree with me about Miami Vice (an impressive list that, to name a few, includes the likes of: Keith Uhlirch J.D., Doniphon, and Ed Gonzalez); however, I feel like I need to explicitly lay out the reasons why I find Miami Vice to be one of the best films of the decade.

From the onset I should note that I feel like had this film been titled anything else it would perhaps not have been so loathed. Now, I’m not suggesting that a title alone will get people to make up their mind about a movie (unless it’s followed by “a film by Christopher Nolan”), but I do think that some people perhaps struggled to seriously consider that film entitled Miami Vice – an entity that most people solely associate with bad 80’s kitsch – was not only good, but a breakthrough in the crime genre in the vein of Jean-Pierre Melville.  Yes, at first it’s hard not to smile in a way that borders on embarrassment when I tell people about my love for this movie (their reply is usually “you mean that remake with Collin Farrell?”), but when I re-watch the film with someone who hasn’t seen it before they clearly see that director Michael Mann was not interested in simply rehashing the television show he held executive producing credit on; no, unlike the glut of television revamps released at the time (drek like Starsky & Hutch, Bewitched, and Dukes of Hazard) Miami Vice was more concerned with being taken seriously; an existential crime drama that stands out as Mann’s most audacious (until that point as last year’s Public Enemies was an even more ambitious undertaking) and masterful crime picture. (more…)

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Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

There is an apparently seldom seen Akira Kurosawa film, Dodes’ Ka-Den (1970), that closely preceded that director/writer’s unsuccessful suicide attempt, and which provides invaluable assistance in fathoming the comic energies of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985). Kurosawa’s gift for freeing delicate features of coarse circumstances is as pronounced there as ever; but the dire constrictions of the inhabitants of a huge scrap-metal junk yard prompt him to draw upon factors of compensatory tenderness so delicate as to fatally reverse all traces of cogent rigor. There are multiple protagonists, each locked away in melancholy histories, but the leadoff and ongoing figure is a man-child living with his mother in a metallic bunker the interior of which is floor-to-ceiling covered with lovingly rendered crayon portraits of trolley cars. Dressed in a tight suit with pants on the short side, he joins her in overwrought chants to Buddha and is not above cheeky prayers that that spirit rescue his parent from her stupidity. Each day he goes off to work, pretending to operate with special care a much-beloved vehicle (to the clickedy-clack tune of, “dodes’ ka-den, dodes’ ka-den…”) amidst tracks constituted by the pathways of the compactor in the shadow of which his low-to-no-income neighbours must struggle to stave off starvation. Early on he simulates braking his machine at the door of a cottage-trade engraver who carries on with balance and charity in too-good-to-be-true contrast with the decidedly slack and ruthless population. Later, this saint helps a delusional design aficionado bury the ashes of the orphan-sidekick he mistakenly led into fatal food poisoning, after many days of imagining every feature of their dream house. Also using those byways is a sake bike-delivery man who befriends an abused woman who eventually knifes him on not being able to bear the thought of his forgetting her after she kills herself. He recovers and continues to be kind to her.

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