Tag Archives: Spaceballs

BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XVI: Silence Is Golden

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Spaghetti is an indulgent meal- at least the way that I make it. Oh sure, I use Soya mince and whole wheat pasta, both of which hint towards a healthy diet. But then I load that bad boy with so much cheese it would make a Frenchmen weep with envy.

Now, via the wonder that is the ‘tenuous link’, I will now segue into how Spaghetti Westerns mirror my aforementioned cooking. Spaghetti Westerns can be seen as a sloppy, messy experience that are intended as a simple indulgence. They are not necessarily designed for a more discerning palette.

C/O http://www.nicolasmanio.com/spaghetti-western/

Yet to underestimate the Spaghetti Western as overly simple is to do it a great injustice. Such an injustice in fact, that Sergio Corbucci would hire a bounty hunter to track you down and kill you just for thinking such a foolhardy thought. You see, Corbucci’s 1968 movie, The Great Silence, is still a piece of schlocky fun but it also dares to be richer. The Great Silence dissects the evils of the law once it becomes just another product to be traded.

 

 

The narrative is fairly simplistic; A boy sees his parents killed by bounty hunters, all of whom are all disguised as officer saof the law. Although these bounty hunters are not quite cold enough to kill the boy, they sever his vocal chords to ensure he cannot report them. This boy is our mute protagonist, known forever more as simply ‘Silence’.

Now an adult, Silence has become a bounty hunter himself, and he has worked out a crafty loop hole to suit his profession. The law of the time states that Bounty Hunters can only kill in self defence. Consequently Silence goes out of his way to antagonise his prey into drawing first. he then relies on his tremendous speed and his imported, and highly unusual, semi-automatic pistol to beat the odds.

Fur is murder!

As the film gathers pace, Silence’s latest bounty takes him to a snow blanketed mountain town in Nevada. En route he finds himself sharing a stage coach with the newly appointed Sheriff Burnett, and a rival bounty hunter, Loco. Although from here on in the plot is fairly thin, it is this trio of characters that really bind the theme of The Great Silence together.

Once the trio have arrived at the town, Silence is hired by a grieving widow to kill Loco. Meanwhile, Loco is waiting in town for thieves hidden in the nearby mountains to come out of hiding so that he can claim their bounty. Simultaneously, Loco is also aware of Silence’s intent and so Loco outright refuses to be provoked into a gunfight. Meanwhile Sheriff Burnett wants them both out of town and begins to flex his legal muscles…. naturally being a Spaghetti Western everything comes to a head with some considerable bloodshed.

The twist though, is that it is only the ‘good’ guys that do any of said bleeding- Loco and most of his flunkies get away scot free. Not only that, but Loco doesn’t even break a sweat!

Is this the most bad-ass rabbi ever??

Barely midway through the film Loco easily dispatches the Sheriff with considerable ease. Loco simply tricks him into a frozen lake then breaks the ice. A murder of one of the three main characters with no fuss and no muss on Loco’s part shows just how in control of events he is.

Skipping ahead to the climax of the film and Silence has had his shooting hand crippled by Loco’s thugs. Left with only one hand, Silence is then blackmailed by Loco into a one-on-one confrontation. Loco has captured the wanted bounties from the mountains, all of whom are revealed to in fact be starving people forced to steal food to survive. Loco threatens to butcher them all if Silence does not face him one-on-one.Despite being crippled, Silence heads for the stand-off…

Silence can’t talk as he’s feeling a little horse.

It is- of course- a trap. Loco’s men shoot Silence from a distance targeting his remaining hand. Struggling to even try to lift his Semi-automatic, Loco blows Silence away. Rather shockingly for a Western showdown, Silence doesn’t even get to draw his gun, he just stands there like a human target. Then to add insult to injury, Loco slaughters Silence’s new lover right before Loco decides to massacre of all of the hostages! Poor Silence is not much of a hero. To quote Spaceballs “Evil always triumphs because good is dumb”.

In fact, wait a minute… Silence is literally dumb!!!

Batman vs The Joker, 1885.

As the film prepares to bow out, Loco remains as an un-flustered survivor surrounded by profitable bounties bleeding at his feet. Loco utters the final- and crucial- worlds of the film, “All according to the law”. Evidently there is no room for mercy when the Justice is for sale.

Loco is clearly the most heartless character in the film, but he is also the only character to achieve everything that he sets out to. More than that, Loco even thrives through his cut-throat actions. By the end of the film he is not just the sole survivor of the three main characters, he is now going to be a rich man. Loco is pure capitalism freed of any consequences. He lives a life of profit driven extremes via villainous actions.

In it for the money

Opposing Loco both narratively and figuratively, Sheriff Burnett exists at the opposite end of the moral spectrum. Sheriff Burnett is the sole character driven to uphold the law purely in the name of decency. At one point Burnett even turns down an impressive bribe from Loco. Yet honour aside, Sheriff Burnett is dispatched as bumbling fool. If Loco represents ruthless profit, then Burnett represents ineffectual idealism.

So where does that leave our protagonist, the titular ‘Great Silence’ himself? Well one of interesting tangents within this film is that Silence himself is not much of a hero at all.

Tellingly Silence has dedicated his life to become a bounty hunter, despite that being the very thing that he hates. Acting as a manhunter, Silence even accepts the job to kill Loco for $1000 which is the very same fee Loco was paid to kill the widow’s husband. Silence exists a walking contradiction.

Even more damning of his nature, not only has Silence become a bounty hunter but he has become a manipulative bounty hunter, at that.

He’s a cold one, make no mistake

In his own way Silence is as cruel and sly as those that killed his parents. He provokes outlaws to start fights then disables their shooting hands. In addition, he uses an imported gun that is faster to reload than any of his adversaries more localised revolvers. Silence ‘cheats’ in ways that a more traditional, John Wayne-esque, Cowboy would most likely sneer at. Like Loco, Silence is a character acting for his own gain through a profession of unfair murder.

Still, unlike Loco, Silence does display small pangs of conscience. In certain regards, Silence is more in line with Sheriff Burnett. After all, at the end of the film Silence does attempt to save the hostages despite having no chance of succeeding. His logic is certainly murky as to why he tries. (It could be for revenge or for the sheer hatred of Loco or to actually help the hostages). Yet the fact is that he does actually try to help, which seemingly puts him one step closer to having a social conscience. Silence has the option to escape but does not take it. Prior to his rescue attempt, Silence also stops a rape which is what costs him the use of his shooting hand.

So perhaps Silence represents the muddled marriage of cold economics trying to fit alongside altruistic humanity. He is neither one attitude nor the other. He is never truly at peace with his conflicted nature, and neither are we as the viewers.

 

We are all at war with ourselves. Good thing we don’t all have guns.

 

So, if Loco is the cruel Right, Burnett is the soppy Left and Silence is the awkward mid-ground, then Both Burnett’s and Silence’s utter annihilation at the hands of the Loco says volumes about Corbucci’s film.There is an unhealthy link between the law as a concept and the law as a business, and when it is pushed too far the innocent will suffer.

The Great Silence services one key message throughout; The actions of the state and its law are controlled by capital. Conversely the state only protects said property.

Why in this very film the state even rewards the notion of the bounty instead of supporting the needs of people themselves. The expense of privatized justice over social services forces the townsfolk to steal to eat, but then they become wanted criminals. In turn bounty hunters are then used to bring in these ‘criminals’. Thus a vicious circle of the powerful few maintaining their status to the cost of the masses can be seen to take place.

This is an idea still topical in today’s 1% environment. Whilst the current British government keep one eye on Privatization options, clearly The Great Silence is a film still relevant for contemporary consideration.

C.R.E.A.M

Now, should today’s piece read as depressingly serious then please check out the Fantoma produced Special Edition DVD of The Great Silence.This version features a rare alternate ending that was designed for an certain Markets whose audience that would not accept such a bleak ending.

The alternate ending features the Sheriff mysteriously surviving his frozen bath, and Silence is inexplicably fitted with a metal hand! Between them, they out-gun Loco and all ends well for the good guys…. don’t you just love a happy ending?!?

A Metal Hand

So if the hidden depths of this Spaghetti Western have piqued your interest at all dear readers, then let me add three quick points as to why The Great Silence is undoubtedly worth a watch.

  1. The score is by Ennio Morricone. Although it may not be one of his most famous soundtracks, to my mind it is one of his strongest. This is less grandiose and more haunting than a lot of his Western work but still makes you reflect on those beautiful landscapes…..
  2. Speaking of which, a snow-covered Western is just an interesting visual change to the genre.
  3. And finally, Loco is played by professional-maniac, Klaus Kinski. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

OK, I need a break from exploitation films. As such, next time I’ll be looking at gentle indie-comedy from the Nineties that could have been a contender.

Thanks for reading.

-MJ

BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode IV: A New Moan

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Before I launch into this entry I’d just like to take a moment to dedicate this to my Granddad Ricky. Anybody whom has read the first of these blogs will know that I name checked him as an influence on my love of film. Well he sadly died a little unexpectedly a few hours ago. Thanks again, Granddad. x

 

 

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Though to be honest, Angel was pants.

 

The last fortnight has seen the release of two Joss Whedon pictures, one as a co-writer is (The) Cabin In The Woods, and one as a co-writer/director is The Avengers (Assemble). Genre, dialogue and the casting of Chris Hemsworth aside these two pictures couldn’t be more different for two key reasons;

 

Firstly The Avengers is a highly budget film rushed to a deadline, fully supported and endorsed. However Cabin In The Woods has sat on a shelf for three years and survived primarily through word of mouth. Secondly, The Avengers is estimated to turn a huge profit and receive a follow-up movie. Cabin is on track to barely break even. I absolutely loved both films and one day dream the Avengers will take on the ______ from Cabin.

 

But love aside, the status of both films at the box office is a concern for me. After all, when a sure-fire hit does well and an attempt at a fresh idea barely survives but both are hailed equally within their respective fields, then you have to wonder what went wrong for Cabin. One potential reason I want to look at in regard to this is situation is online piracy.

 

I wish this was on my keyboard 🙁

 

Piracy is a tough subject to discuss. I’d be lying if I said that I had never downloaded anything illegally. But as I have grown to the ripe old age of 30, I’ve found myself far less willing to do so. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time that I did. When I was a little younger it was easier to justify doing it, but with ever increasing maturity- and I say maturity in a relative sense, since I have a Freddy Krueger tattoo on my leg and a Lego Werewolf figure beside me- has made me re-address things.

 

I’ve just known too many friends who were musicians or artists or film makers struggle to produce things without incurring losses, or worse having people steal their ideas. Does this make me a moral paragon, perhaps even some form of Guardian Angel for the struggling artist? Nope. I sometimes get free tickets to film screenings. Hell, I take leftover newspapers from the canteen at work! What can I say, I love a bit of Dear Deidree…. But no. This decision to avoid downloading does not make me particularly ‘good’. Instead what this makes me is just somebody who has slowly, but actively, chosen to help fund niche projects rather than just take from them.

 

So if it’s not a black and white issue, can we at least discuss the grey areas of downloading independent films? Here are some of the main things that come up when discussing this topic and how I see them.

 

 

SOMETHING THAT I WOULDN’T NORMALLY PAY TO SEE;

This is the argument that it is OK to download a film if the downloader was never initially interested enough to pay to see that film. From the downloader’s perspective, regardless of how enjoyable the film may or may not be, the film makers should not care that the film was watched for free since the downloader was never their target audience.

 

My problem with this theory is simple; how do you know what films are ‘worthy’ of actually paying to see before you see it?

 

At some stage I didn’t know that I’d like pickled eggs until I bought one. I’ve bought a hell of a lot more since. I didn’t just walk into a chippie, pick an egg out of a jar, bite it and then decide it was in fact good, but since I didn’t know that beforehand I could just walk out without paying.

 

Which leads to…..

 

 

 

WORD OF MOUTH

Taking the above example, perhaps a downloader watches something and ends up raving about how good it is to other people. Surely this positive act counters the negative act? Hmmmmmmm…. no.

 

Effectively downloading a film and watching it, even if the downloader ends up telling other people it is great, is making the statement that the downloader’s own voice supersedes that of the people who made the product.

 

They made it, they should decide if you can sample it for free, experience it fully for free or pay the same as everybody else.

 

 

Is it possible that the positive word of mouth from an individual downloader can cause a greater swell in profits? Sure. But if it was generally the case, the best regarded film a would be the most successful. Instead the most successful are mostly tripe. It simply is not your decision to say whether your positive opinion is worth more than the income raised by legal means.

 

 

 

THE MUSIC PRINCIPLE:

“Downloading music hasn’t killed the bands, just the music industry. The same will apply with films”.

Chances are people who use this have never been in a band…. And in the sake of honesty I will say that I never have either. But the fact even I can see this is a flawed argument shows just how dumb it is.

 

Bands have been able to survive beyond the recording industry, but guess what; it’s a different industry. Bands can get paid to perform live. They can have t-shirt sales. Even these are long shots for most bands given they have to self-fund their own tours and merchandise but at least it is possible to survive via slowly building up a loyal fan base. Yet films work the opposite way.

 

It is completely irrelevant if you love a film maker if you don’t support their product. For each film that is made they need to cover their costs to attract investors for the next project. Indie film makers will not get the funding to make any more films if you do not support them. You can’t pay to see the director ‘shoot a scene live’ or get a tour shirt for the latest Bela Torr film.

 

It is absolutely true that copying tapes did not kill the music scene. It gave audiences more incentive to fund bands via other means. Sadly films do not have other means beyond being paid to watch them in some format or other.

 

 

CINEMA’S SUCK

Brighton Marina on a Friday night

 

This is actually hard to argue against in some ways. They sure do cost a lot these days for the privilege of being served by staff who look bored whilst other patrons play on phones and the seats about as comfortable on the knees as brick jammed in your joint. Shocker; Nobody likes to pay for a poor experience! But when you download, you’re getting that anyway. I’m not going to imply that all downloads are poor quality or camcorder jobs. Many are excellent rips from digital transfers. But the ‘quality’ in question is the size of the screen and the impact of the surround sound.

 

It is not good films in bad cinemas that put us off cinemas. A good film makes you feel like it was worth the battle. It makes you appreciate the effort you put into seeing it in its optimum form. It is bad films in over-priced cinemas that disappoint so massively. But with this logic none of us would ever move on from any bad experience. We’d never get back on the horse, nor drink after a hangover nor bother voting in elections. In life you balance good experiences with the bad ones to dictate your future experiences. Cinema trips are no exception.

 

 

THE PUNK PRINCIPLE:

 

Business…..Big Business!

Big Business- the band, not the concept. Go see them.

 

It is giant corporate entities that fund films or at the very least distributes them. So you are only ripping off ‘the man’ not the artists who get paid flat rates.

 

Yeah, yeah. Well that all depends on the contracts which none of us are privy to. Some film makers rely on flat fees, some rely on profit shares. So there cannot be an assumption that the film maker is unaffected with something that they may have sunk their life-savings into.

 

None of this is to mention that indie films are made independently. The clue is in the name. They are then distributed by major studios on very rare occasions. This does not mean anything more than the costs will be covered for years and years of personal labour.

 

 

Now in full honesty, some film makers actually do support this idea of giving something back to audiences. A friend was recently at a Kevin Smith Q & A. Apparently ol’ Silent Bob himself said he doesn’t mind his films being shared by people whom have bought his other stuff in the past. So in all fairness maybe these are exceptions to the rule- so long as you have heard the film maker say it’s fine and you’re a long term financial supporter of said film maker. Unfortunately common sense tells me that is rarely the case.

 

 

Oh, and speaking of the big business mode, how about merchandising?

 

 

“Merchandising, merchandising, merchandising!”

 

If we stick purely with this example of The Avengers and Cabin In The Woods, both films will be pirated. But The Avengers has a toy line, a video game etc. as a secondary source of income. Perhaps a downloader will rip a film for free and intend to give something back via merchandising.

It is very doubtful that this will work to the film makers advantage. Since Star Wars’ merchandise rights were given to George Lucas, studios have gripped onto them tightly. The writers and designers will not see a cut of the merchandise. Earlier I mentioned that bands can sell T-Shirts to help them survive (and even bands won’t see much return in this way), but film makers simply will not get a cut of the merchandise sales.

 

 

ROBIN HOOD

Something I was formerly guilty of; Robin Hood syndrome.

 

The idea that it’s OK to download the big boys but not the little ones. Well perhaps there is some truth to that. Avatar is both the most pirated film of all time and also the biggest box office hit. But Avatar was always a massive corporate entity. Indie films are not. If you steal them you steal from artists and not from artisans.

Besides which, many lower-level employees on film sets are not the fat cats. A carpenter or an electrician still needs to get paid. On indie films they will work for free or for scale. They need to charge a full rate from their bigger jobs on blockbuster sets. Who is a downloader to even begin to erode that job opportunity from a hard working crafts person? Just because downloading blockbusters is ‘less’ wrong than downloading indie films, it does not mean that it is right or that it will not affect everyday people trying to feed their families.

 

 

SO…….

 

 

I don’t expect this article to change how people behave or the choices they make. As I said at the beginning of this piece, I am no angel. It is not a black and white issue. I was given a free cinema ticket so an Indie film screening just today. My personal justification is that it was offered to me. I had the money on me and I would have willingly pay for a ticket. As it happens I did not due to a friend being nice. I consider this to be different to actively seeking out illegal means of stealing films, but perhaps you disagree.

 

All we can do is make choices we believe to be acceptable an try to maintain them the majority of the time.

 

I suppose my real is summary is that if you are going to download any films, indie films in particular, then at least acknowledge what you are doing. As Ian MacKaye of the ‘most excellent’ band Fugazi once said in regards to punk shows; it is not always about how much money you spend but rather where that money goes.

If you are going to skim from artists then you have to accept the consequences- and I don’t mean a bobby knocking on your door. I mean a lack of future art.

 

 

Incidently, for a slightly different take on this topic please read Ti West’s piece here….. then go buy The House of The Devil. It’s intensely brilliant and can be found here.

 

 

If you agree or disagree with me then please leave comments. I’d rather this was discussed. I don’t have all the answers, I just have an opinion

 

Thanks for reading,

MJ