A Note on Spoilers

I decided it might be a good idea to make what’s known as a “sticky post” here on the front page for those coming in who might be concerned about spoilers. In these posts I’m going to be talking about varying aspects of movies that I’ve been watching, This may include writing about things that some would consider spoilers, including, at times, the endings of these movies. Those who are particularly spoiler averse may want to avoid reading these posts if they are planning to watch the movie in question. In certain circumstances where I will be discussing events towards the end of the movie, including the ending in at least a vague way, or when a movie contains a particular plot twist that might be considered major, I will try to post a more specific spoiler warning, because I do recognize that even though I may be writing about a movie that is decades old, it’s still going to be new to some people. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Saturday Morning Cartoons #002 – Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle

I’m gonna get out of the way pretty quickly this morning and just let you sit back and enjoy an episode of one of my childhood favorites: Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. The series was made by Filmation, and this episode is from the first season (1976). And to make it all even better, the original commercials are also included.

Enjoy!

 

Classic Television Thursday #002 – Twilight Zone: The Obsolete Man (1961)

om2I could easily do an entire series of entries that solely focused on the screenplays written by Rod Serling. Mr. Serling has long been considered one of the greatest-ever writers for television, and it is easy to see why. Even if one discounts the numerous scripts that he wrote for The Twilight Zone, he would still have a record with an incredible output, writing numerous scripts (many of them either award-winning or well known even today) for series such as Playhouse 90, The Lux Video Theatre, Suspense, Kraft Theatre,  Studio One, and many, many, many many more.

Heck, even if the only thing he ever wrote was Requiem for a Heavyweight, he would still be worth remembering today.

Anyway, today I want to take a quick look at one episode that he wrote for The Twilight Zone, an episode entitled “The Obsolete Man” which was first broadcast in June of 1961. In some ways this script showcases both the best and the worst of Mr. Serling’s writing at the same time. There are definitely places where it can be seen as heavy-handed and pedantic, but at the same time it has a message that could just as easily have been written today as in the early 60s. As a matter of fact, it seems quite prescient, and worth considering now. Here’s a YouTube clip that combines the opening and closing monologues of the episode.

You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be. This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace. Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man, that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under “M” for Mankind – in The Twilight Zone.

om1Like I said, words that could just as easily have been written today, and considering the current turmoil in so many countries (including our own) over not only human rights, but also the way that we need to respond to the technological advances that have been made in the last few years and how to use those advances in ways that help, rather than cause further problems (unlimited surveillance, the 24/7 news cycle, the loss of privacy due to social media, etc,) and how governments can respond to and use those advances both for good and ill, well…

I’ll stop there, because this is meant to be a post about television, not politics. The point is, simply, that in writing those words, Mr. Serling once again proved himself an insightful commentator not only on the human psyche, but also the human condition.

Unfortunately, there’s also, it seems, no place, even with all of the programming that the networks and cable channels eat up today for the kind of anthology series that would prove conducive for writers of Mr. Serling’s caliber to showcase their works.

Anyway, here’s the full episode for you to watch for yourselves:

Oh, one last note. If you watch the episode, you’ll notice that it features Burgess Meridith, who also stars in my all-time favorite TZ episode “Time Enough At Last”. But that’s a post for another time.

The Fragrance Of A Rose, And Its Thorns – Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

This is my entry in the 1984-A-Thon, being hosted by Forgotten Filmcast. Be sure to click on the picture in the sidebar or this link to check out the entire line-up of blogs and reviews that are celebrating this great year of movies. The last time I looked, there were 135 movies being covered by 115 different bloggers, so there should be lots of great reading ahead and something to please everyone. And a huge thanks to Todd for giving me a chance to participate and for host what should be a really fun blogathon.

bdr1

If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns which it bears.
– Isaac Hayes

I’ll admit, I’ve had a sort of love/not love relationship with Woody Allen‘s films over the years. I put it that way because there are some that I definitely love, and others that, well, I feel like “hate” is too strong a word for the way I feel about them, but they just don’t live up to what I would like to see from a man I consider one of America’s most talented writer/directors. I also should admit that I haven’t seen a whole lot of Mr. Allen’s most recent films, a shortcoming I really need to correct.

That being said, Broadway Danny Rose has always been among my all-time favorites of the director’s films. It has just the right amount of tenderness and absurdity to turn what could, in other hands, have gone wrong in so many ways into a true tour-de-force, and a movie that, like many of Allen’s films, reminds us of a time that doesn’t really exist anymore, and probably never actually did, at least not quite like this.

It also contains one of my all-time favorite movie gags, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Broadway Danny Rose opens with an ever-expanding group of comedians sitting around a table at New York’s famed Carnegie Delicatessen swapping jokes and stories. Eventually the name of talent agent Danny Rose comes up, and one of the comedians says that he has “the ultimate Danny Rose story” which he then proceeds to tell.

MBDBRDA OR001The story that then begins to unfold is one of wins and losses, comedy and tragedy, right and wrong, loyalty, betrayal, absurdity, love, hate, anger, forgiveness,  and many other emotions.

But most of all, it’s a story about humanity.

Simply put, and without going too Yiddish, Danny Rose is kind of a loser. More than that, he is a loser who has surrounded himself with more losers. He’s a talent manager (not just an agent, as he actually gets personally involved in almost every aspect of his clients’ lives) who represents clients such as a one-armed juggler and a blind xylophonist.

bdr2His biggest act, however, is Lou Canova, a washed up lounge singer who suddenly finds himself on the verge of a comeback due to a nostalgia craze that may allow the spotlight to shine on him again, at least momentarily. After years of supporting Lou through thick and thin, it seems as though Danny may have finally managed to get Lou his second big break when Canova is invited to audition for a spot on a TV special being put together by “Mr. Television” himself, Milton Berle. Of course, this would be a huge break not only for Lou, but also for Danny, who might finally have that client who hit the “big time” and didn’t leave him as soon as the pastures seemed to be turning green, as has happened to the agent so many times before.

Unfortunately, there’s just one complication to all of this, and that complication has a name – Tina. You see, Lou is on his third marriage, but he has, unknown to Danny, fallen in love with his mistress, a woman named Tina, who he insists has to be at the show or else he’s convinced he’ll completely bomb the act. However, since Lou’s wife will also be at the show, it appears that the only solution is for Danny to act as Tina’s date for the night, or as the movie puts it, for Danny to be “the Beard”.

bdr3Reluctantly, Danny agrees to this plan, but then even further complications arise when, on the day of the big show, Danny arrives to pick up Tina only to find her on the phone having a huge fight with Lou. Having heard rumors that Lou was also seeing someone else, she tells him that there is no way she’s going to come to the show. Hanging up on Lou, Tina runs out on Danny and heads for the estate of her mobster ex-boyfriend, where a party is being held. When Danny is mistakenly identified as the man who stole Tina away, the pair suddenly find themselves on the run form a pair of mobsters who have sworn to avenge their brother’s honor.

It’s during this chase that the gag that I mentioned as one of my all-time favorites occurs:

I’m not going to go too much further into the plot, because I don’t want to spoil the rest for those of you who might decide to give this little gem a try. Instead I’ll simply say that throughout the ensuing pathos and humor, as I mentioned above, the most enduring quality that the film embodies is the inherent humanity that is at the heart of the best of Allen’s films. Because despite what happens, despite the plot twists and chaos and confusion and absurdity, the one theme that underlies the entire film is that of the connections that we make in life. Yes, in the end, people are people, and sometimes they will make choices that disappoint or hurt, but at the same time, in the end, life is about connections. Those we miss, and those we make.

It’s those connections, finally, that this film celebrates, and in those connections it is that Allen finds, in a way that makes it seem, looking back, as one of the transitional films from his earlier, more broadly comedic films to the more serious movies he’s tended towards in more recent years.

And it’s the film’s humanity that shines through the whole enterprise and makes it not just one of my favorite films of 1984, and not just one of my favorite Woody Allen films, but one I think I could happily include in a list of my all-time favorites.

 

 

 

Saturday Morning Cartoons #001 – Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends

samf3Yep, it’s another line-up change here at DMM. I’ll admit, I’ve had a lot of fun doing the Saturday Double Feature, but much like OTR Thursday, it just seemed like it was time for a change.

Back when I was growing up, Saturday mornings were a time when kids got to take over the household television set. Yeah, kids, it’s true: there really was a time when many homes only had one television, and for the most part we only got somewhere between three and five channels on it – the three main networks, PBS, and maybe a local VHF channel or two.. I’m talking about a time before the internet, before cable, even, back when we didn’t have near-immediate access to almost everything that had ever been broadcast. And yes, dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

smaf1And most of the time, it was our moms and dads that got to pick what we watched. Of course, that made sense, because most of the programming was aimed at them, since they were the ones who went out and worked each day, and they were the ones who made the decisions about how the money they made was going to be spent.

But Saturday mornings, on the other hand… That was when our shows came on. No, not the “educational” stuff you find on Saturday mornings nowadays, I’m talking cartoons! Bugs Bunny! Superfriends! Scooby Doo! And so many others.

So that’s the inspiration for this Saturday morning cartoon series. Each week, I’ll feature a different cartoon series and give you an episode to check out. and this week we begin with a series that ran for three years, from 1981 to 1983 on NBC – Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

smaf2The initial idea for this show was that it would be a team-up between Spidey, Iceman, and the Human Torch. Unfortunately, because the rights for the Torch were tied up elsewhere, it became necessary to replace him, and that’s what led to the creation of the character Firestar, who was created specifically for this show, and was not, at the time, a character from the Marvel comic book universe. All three of the characters lived together in Peter Parker’s (Spiderman’s) Aunt May’s house, and they had a secret lab/base that was built directly below the house.

Of course, we all know that the real star of the series was Firestar’s Lhasa Apso puppy, Ms. Lion.

The show also included many guest stars from the Marvel universe, and was thus a great introduction to those characters for kids who might not be reading the actual comics.

For today’s featured episode, since this year saw not only a new installment in the Spider-Man movie series, but also a new X-Men movie, it seemed only natural to pick one that teamed these two groups together, so here’s “The X-Men Adventure”:

Classic Television Thursday #001 – Studio One: Twelve Angry Men (1954)

121After spending quite a bit of time delving into what is known as the Golden Age of Radio, I finally decided it was time to take a break from that, which left this Thursday posting slot open. (I do like having certain regular features here on the blog to intersperse with the other things going on, if for no other reason than a) it gives me at least a self-imposed deadline to get a couple of things written each week, and b) it gives you, as regular readers something you can consistently expect.)

So then the big question came: if I wasn’t going to do classic radio for awhile, (and don’t worry OTR fans, I’m sure, with my love for the genre, you haven’t seen the last of it here, it just, for now at least, won’t be a regular weekly feature) what was I going to replace it with? Well, how about with the medium that eventually replaced the radio in living rooms across the country?

Of course, calling something “classic” television does open up a bit of a quandary: what exactly does the phrase mean? Is classic just another word for old? For that matter how old is “old”? For someone like my 14 year old daughter Hannah, anything that aired before 2000 is before her lifetime, and could be considered “old”. For others, shows from oh, say the 70s or even 80s could be considered “old”. Of course, for folks who are more my age who grew up in the mid 60s to 70s, you might have to go back a bit further, but you get the idea. “Old” depends a lot on your perspective, and therefore probably isn’t the best definition for the word “classic in this context.

So does “classic” maybe mean shows that were originally broadcast in black and white? Well, I suppose that could be a viable option, and we’ll certainly be exploring a number of those here, but at the same time, there are many, many fine shows that many would perceive as “classic” that came after the switchover to color, so no, I don’t think that really works either.

124Hmmm… perhaps we should go with programs that feature certain stars or writers or directors. Maybe those who were either just starting their careers or perhaps finishing them up by turning to a different medium? Certainly that could be an option.

In the end, however, I decided to leave the definition of what I’m calling “classic television” rather open. I suppose you could say I’m just going to make up a definition as we go along and explore some of these shows. Do I expect all of you to agree with the shows I pick to feature? No, probably not. But hey, that’s part of the fun, isn’t t? The discussion of what may or may not be a classic. And I certainly invite all of you to join in on the discussion both in the comments below, and on the Durnmoose Movie Musings Facebook page.

Okay, so with all of that out of the way, let’s begin, shall we?

For this first post, I’ve decided to actually go with a show that fits all three of the above criteria: The Studio One production of “Twelve Angry Men”, which was first broadcast in 1954. Let’s see: Old? Yeah I’d say 1954 probably qualifies. First shown in black and white? Check. How about star power? Well, considering you have a jury with names on it such as Norman Fell, John Beal, Robert Cummings, and Edward Arnold, I’d say it qualifies. Plus, the show was directed by Franklin Schaffner, who also directed such feature films as Planet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon, and The Boys from Brazil.

122Studio One, the television show, was an anthology series which actually had its beginnings in radio, but began airing on the CBS television network in 1948 and had a ten year run, airing its final show in 1958. From 1950 until its demise, it was consistently nominated for various Emmy Awards, and it’s production of Twelve Angry Men actually took home three Emmys: one for Best Written Dramatic Material, one for Best Direction, and Robert Cummings won for Best Actor in a Single Performance.

I don’t really think there’s much need for me to recap the plot of the show, since it was remade in 1957 by director Sidney Lumet in a feature film version that went on to garner awards and critical acclaim of its own. Instead, I think I’ll just invite you to sit back and enjoy with me a show that I think definitely qualifies as “Classic television”.

Top 250 Tuesday #138 – Don’t Look Now (1973)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #138 on the list,  Nicolas Roegs Don’t Look Now. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

dln1Okay, so when I first noticed the title Don’t Look Now on the list, I’ll admit my initial reaction was something along the lines of “Really? Surely this is some other movie that I’m not aware of, and not this rather obscure little creeper from 1973.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious to those who are long time readers of this blog that I have a special affinity for flicks from the late 1960s and early 70s, and I do love me some Donald Sutherland, but not only was it on the list, but it was ranked higher than what is considered one of the definitive horror films of the period, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (#196, reviewed here) and the the movie that almost invariably makes all the Top Horror Film lists, 1980’s The Shining (#156 which I haven’t written up yet, but will eventually get to)? That can’t be right, can it? But yep. there it was.

So, since I was looking for a little bit of lighter fair this week, and since it was right there streaming on Netflix, I decided now was as good a time as any to see what was up. And what I found was surprising.

dln6Actually, now it seems like the biggest surprise is that this movie somehow managed to stay off my radar for so long. I mean, just looking at the names involved – the screenplay was adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier, whose works provided the inspiration for three Alfred Hitchcock films: Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and The Birds, and as I’ve already mentioned, it was directed by Nicholas Roeg, who not only also during the same period  directed such intriguing films as Walkabout and The Man Who Fell To Earth, but had earlier served as cinematographer on a number of movies such as The Masque of the Red Death, Doctor Zhivago, Fahrenheit 451,, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Plus, alongside the aforementioned Donald Sutherland, the film also stars Julie Chrisite who was not only at her most lovely during this period, but was making some truly good and well-acclaimed films herself.

That’s the background, then, but what about the movie itself?

dln3There’s a certain vibe to thriller/suspense movies of the 70s that I’m not sure I can describe, but that seems unique to that particular time period, and Don’t Look Now is a perfect example of that type of film. This is not a film that could have been made, say, in the 40s or 50s, and even if it were to be remade today, it simply would not be the same. Like many of the movies of the time it was experimenting and questioning, trying to push many boundaries, and yet with a certain restraint that not only keeps it from going too far but also, in its own way serves to heighten the tension that is felt not only in the plot itself, but between the lead characters of John and Laura Baxter, played by Sutherland and Christie.

Okay, perhaps I should back up just a bit. The film opens with John and Laura, along with their children Christine and John Jr. living in England. We see John and Julie working inside their house while the children play outside. Suddenly John, for seemingly no reason, rushes from the house to look for the children, but he arrives too late to save Christine, who has accidentally fallen into a creek near the house from drowning.

dln2Some undetermined amount of time later, the Baxters, minus John Jr., who has been sent to a boarding school, are living in Venice, where John has taken a job restoring an ancient church. One day while they are dining, they notice a pair of sisters at a table near to where they are dining. One of the sisters gets something in her eye, and when Laura follows them into the ladies room to see if she can help remove it, the other sister, who not only turns out to be blind but claims to be psychic, tells Laura the she has been contacted by the spirit of Christine and that she is alright and happy. The sisters then leave the restaurant, and Laura, returning to the table begins to tell John about the women, but suddenly collapses.

Upon recovering from her fainting spell, Laura seems to John to be a changed person. Not only has she seemingly recovered from her grief over the loss of their daughter, but she has become obsessed with spending more time with the two sisters, trying to get them to contact Christine again and to speak to her.

dln5From there, the movie takes a number of twists and turns in a plot that involves further exploration not only of the sister’s psychic powers but of  perhaps latent powers within John that are beginning to cause him to have visions of things that may or may not actually be happening, a serial killer who is loose in Venice, and a mysterious figure that John keeps seeing from the corner of his eye and may or may not be the resurrected figure of his dead daughter.

Throughout all of this, Roeg, with the assured assistance of his editor Graeme Clifford, continues to keep the viewer off balance by using a number of techniques, the most prominent of which is intercutting certain scenes with others, which under less skilled hands and eyes would certainly prove more of a distraction, but here serve to heighten the tension in some scenes or, as in the justly lauded and at the same time somewhat infamous lovemaking scene between Sutherland and Christie which is interspersed with shots of the couple getting ready for an evening out afterwards, to provide insight into both the closeness and the separation between the couple.

dln4Roeg also uses the city of Venice to great effect, highlighting and taking advantage of its uniqueness without making it seem as though the movie is continually shouting “Look! We’re in Venice!” as so many other movies shot in that location tend to do.

That is not to say that Don’t Look Now is a perfect film. Even after watching it, and even admitting the mastery that Roeg brings to the enterprise, I still find myself somewhat wondering about its high rank on the list. Without giving away the ending, I will simply say that when all the various threads do come together, it is with an abruptness that leaves the viewer with a certain feeling of “is that it”? Yes, there are definitely films that leave the viewer with a sense of ambiguity and a certain number of questions and do that effectively, but that’s not really the case here. Instead, in the end, the feeling is more akin to “okay, so what”? Even the final revelation, which I suppose is meant to be a shocking twist really, again for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on doesn’t have that sense of inevitability that might have benefited this film more, nor does it really provide any answers to the question of why these things have been happening. Thus, unlike a film such as Rosemary’s Baby (which didn’t even make the list) where the climax truly satisfies in a way that is so disturbing that it assuredly caused many a nightmare, Roeg’s film just doesn’t seem like one that will cause any sleepless nights.

Here’s a trailer:

 

 

So The Psychic Psychopathic Serial Killer Is Also A Tire? Yes. – Rubber (2010)

***Spoiler Warning*** Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and throw a full-on spoiler alert up here, because I don’t think there’s any way to properly discuss this movie without delving into aspects of it that are going to give away some crucial plot points and twists, including events leading up to the ending, so if you haven’t yet seen it and plan to (hey, it’s on Netflix streaming and other outlets, so it’s not like it’s that hard to see) you might want to go watch it first before you read this. You have been warned. ***End Warning***

rubber1So a couple of days ago, I received an email from a friend of mine referencing Quentin Dupieux’s 2010 film Rubber. In it he said “Remember this movie from a few years ago?  I watched it over the weekend, on Netflix.  Egads.  It was… Really bad… I don’t think I have what it takes to understand what the critics saw in this flick.  You ever see it?”

Yeah, of course I remembered the movie. I’d seen the trailers before it came out, had intended to see it when it hit the big screens, but conflicting schedules wound up not allowing that, and it’s been sitting in my Netflix streaming queue for a long time, but for some reason I’d simply just never gotten around to hitting that “watch now” button and actually viewing the film.

Well, since I’m sitting here writing about the movie, I suppose you can probably guess that I’ve since remedied that situation, and, rather than answer my friend’s question directly, have chosen to share my thoughts on it not only with him, but with you. Hey, that’s just the generous kind of guy that I am.

So what did I think about the flick? Do I agree with my friend’s assessment of it as “Really bad”? Well, let’s just say that just like a lot of the critical assessment of the film has been incredibly divided on the topic, this is one of those cases where I think my friend and I are going to have to agree to disagree.

Or, to put it another way, I really enjoyed the heck out of this film.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is certainly not a film for everyone, and I am willing to acknowledge that up front, and I can see, knowing my friend as I do, lots of reasons that he wouldn’t feel the same way, but for me, this truly is a little gem of a movie.

Okay, so let’s go ahead and get the “So what’s it about” part of this out of the way first. Well, the one-line “elevator pitch” version of the movie’s plot would probably be something along the lines of “It’s about a tire that becomes a serial killer”. Yes, I said a tire.

rubber2Obviously, simply knowing that, one has to also know that we’re heading into the realm of absurdity, and that is not only the case, but to a large extent, the point. And for me, really that’s all that I had to know to immediately put this on my to watch list.

So, taking that utterly simple and admittedly ridiculous premise, where does one go from there? Well, first one begins by ignoring the movie’s opening scene which shows a sheriff’s car approaching, an officer getting out of the trunk, and then asserting that quite often things happen in movies for “no reason”, and that what we are about to see is a film full of “no reason”. Actually, it turns out that though the officer is looking directly into the camera when he delivers this monologue so that it appears that he is addressing us, he is instead speaking to an audience that has been gathered on a hillside to watch the film unfold through binoculars which they are each given. Either way, however, it quickly becomes apparent that this is largely a misdirect (as are many things in the movie) on the part of Dupieux, because there is very little in the movie that can be considered truly random or that is without purpose.

So what, exactly, is it that these people have gathered to watch? Well, it appears to be an awakening. When we first see “Robert” (that’s the name given to the tire that is the focus (for the most part) of the rest of the film given during the end credits) it appears that he is just awakening to his own sentience. Seemingly abandoned there in the desert, the tire begins to shake a bit, then rises from its side to a vertical position, much like a toddler learning how to stand on its own for the first time, and that is an image that holds through the entire next sequence, as we see him (yes, I’ll probably use the pronouns somewhat interchangeably during this write-up, though, as will soon become apparent, there can be no doubt that this tire is all-too-male) begin to take his first tentative steps.

rubber3(Another quick aside: I say that Robert is taking his “first steps” – of course, since we’re talking about a round rubber tire, the image is actually of it rolling and falling, then getting back up again, but since the sequence so well mirrors the efforts again of a toddler who is just learning to walk, that’s how I’m referring to it.)

Once Robert begins to gain more confidence in his ability to walk on his own, what it the next thing he does? Well, as would be the case with any child, he begins to explore his environment, seeking to define the world around him and discover its hazards.

At first very wobbly, but quickly mastering the art of rolling, Robert wanders somewhat aimlessly along the desert until he encounters his first obstacle, a tossed aside, partially crushed water bottle. One can almost see the thoughts forming in his mind: “What do I do now?” “Should I detour around this? Is this already the end of the road for me?” Tentatively approaching the bottle, the tire soon realizes that it can simply roll over the object and continue on its journey. This discovery renews his self-confidence, and the next time he encounters a possible impediment, in the form of an unfortunate scorpion which wanders in front of it, he is much less hesitant and simply rolls over the critter, crushing it, and continuing on his merry way.

rubber7Though this may at first seem like a simple random encounter, it’s also an indication of things to come, as it’s not only apparent that in rolling over the scorpion, Robert does indeed crush and kill it, but also that the encounter is one that, once passed, gives the tire no second thoughts. Yes, stepping on a scorpion may seem a small thing, and might be the same reaction that many of us might also have, but again, as time (and the film) goes on this really is a first indication that though the tire may have achieved a kind of sentience, it has not, in parallel, developed any kind of conscience. By definition, Robert is a psychopath who will let nothing stand in the way of his desires.

Just as significant is the next obstacle which the tire encounters: a beer bottle. Now to you and I, that may not seem like much of an obstacle, but to a tire which has just learned to roll along on its own, it proves quite a frustration, as this is the first thing that proves to be something that cannot simply be rolled over. So what is the tire to do now? Well, again reverting to his childlike state, Robert throws a tantrum. Of course, unlike a human child, who would perhaps fling himself to the ground kicking and screaming (hey, it’s hard to kick and scream when you have neither legs to kick with nor a mouth with which to scream), Robert resorts to another toddler-like behavior, and begins to simply shake in a sort of impotent rage.

rubber5Except in this case, the tire’s rage isn’t truly impotent, because that’s when he (and we) learns that along with the ability to walk and reason, he has developed a psycho-kinetic ability to focus that rage which manifests itself in the bottle exploding, thus allowing him to move along unimpeded.

Okay, so imagine for a moment that you are a child who has learned to walk, grown a bit, and has learned not only that there is a larger world around you, but that you have the ability to affect that world in a new and unexpected way. What’s your next step? Well,  obviously, you begin to explore the limits not only of the world, but of the ways that you can use this new power.

However…

Well, remember when I mentioned that Robert was something of a psychopath? Yeah, well, this is where that tendency begins to show itself, as, among the tires next few encounters, he not only blows up random objects, he also causes a passing rabbit to explode into meaty chunks, seemingly for no reason other than to see if he can. And again, this is done with neither hesitation nor remorse, but is shown simply as something he does.

rubber10The next encounter that Robert has, however, is a bit more significant, as he finally reaches the road, and begins rolling down it. At first this seems like a wonderful thing, as it makes traveling much easier than having to navigate the desert sands. Unfortunately, it also proves more hazardous, as Robert begins to encounter things much larger than he is – namely, cars and trucks. Up until this point, all of his interactions have been with objects and creatures smaller than himself, so how will his powers affect these larger beings? That’s exactly what he undertakes to find out, and the answer seems to be that though he can’t simply blow them up. He can however, cause a passing car to stall out, which it itself is a pretty significant achievement. That victory is short-lived, though, as just as he is approaching the car he has just stopped, a passing truck sideswipes him, bouncing him from the road and back into the sand. This also causes him to lose the control that he has on the stalled car, and it’s driver, played by the lovely Roxane Mesquida, is able to restart it and continue on her way.

rubber11Did I mention that nothing in this film happens without a purpose? Yeah, well then you can bet that though both of these people may seem to simply pass Robert by, they will eventually show up again, and in very significant ways. But before we get into that, there’s some other business that needs to be taken care of. namely, we need to return to the audience that has been watching all of this unfold.

See, that’s completely another aspect of this film that invites more than simple casual viewing. Because not only do we get to see the story of Robert the tire unfold, we are also given the reactions of those who are given the chance to watch these events unfold.

Now, I can understand why some people consider this to be the weakest part of the film, or why others feel that these characters, who are obviously meant to be stand-ins or caricatures of typical movie-goers are a bit too spot-on or perhaps too “cute” a move on the part of Dupieux in an attempt to, in a way, make the film criticism-proof by providing his own critique as the movie rolls (excuse the unintentional pun) along. However, as they eventually become more and more integral to the way events unfold, they are actually a very important part of not only the overall film, but also the movie that is being made below.

rubber9Of course, most of them do this through dieing, (or, more accurately by being killed by the filmmakers – or at least their stand-ins, Chad the policeman and the nameless accountant), rather than through their comments, but the lone survivor definitely takes a very active hand in the climax of the movie.

So yeah, there is definitely a reason for including them into the film, and to revisiting them throughout.

Okay, with that out of the way, lets return to our protagonist (and yes, by that I mean the tire) as he hits three more very important milestones in his life.

The first of these is puberty. Yes, you read that right, I said the tire hits puberty. Having already grown from newborn to toddler to youngster exploring his world and his place in it, isn’t that really the next logical step? So how is this represented in the film? Well, remember when I mentioned that the driver of the car that initially fascinates Robert is Roxane Mesquida, playing a character named Sophie? Well, all it really takes is for Robert to get one good glimpse of the lovely Ms. Mesquida to impel his curiosity and to convince him that he wants to see more of her, which he eventually manages to do, by recognizing her car in the parking lot of a motel that she has stopped at for the night, and proceeding to play Peeping Tom while she, unaware of her rubber-coated admirer takes a shower.

(Hey, he may be a tire, but, as I noted way up top, he’s also definitely male.)

rubber4The second important encounter which leads to another milestone in his development is the moment that he catches up to the driver of the truck who so callously sideswiped him and bounced him from the road unfortunately, this meeting is one that has more dire consequences. You see, whereas you or I might, upon catching up with such a person, might try to take some sort of revenge, there are two important differences between us and Robert. The first, of course, is that, being a tire, he can’t simply walk up to him and say something like “Hey, what’s the big idea?!” and challenge him to a fight. The second is that we are (presumably anyway) not psychokinetic psychopaths.

So what’s a poor tire to do in such a situation? Well, for this particular one, the answer becomes obvious: focus your rage and make your antagonist’s head explode.

Yes, once again, you read that right, he blows the truck drivers head clean off of his body and explodes it into thousands of bits of gore.

(rubber8By the way, I should stop here in passing and simply note that the exploding head effects, and really all of the preceding and subsequent gore effects as exceedingly well done.  They prove to be convincing enough considering the budget for the film, but never really crosses the line into the truly offensive. Again, this is a horror-comedy film, not some kind of torture-porn that feels the need to dwell upon the truly nasty aspects of what is going on, and that integrity of tone is another thing that really helps this film.)

The third major encounter that Robert faces which shapes the outcome of this film? A Holocaust. Yea, I capitalized that word. And yes,I did it for a reason. How else would you describe seeing hundreds of beings just like you being casually, even gleefully thrown onto fires and destroyed? That is exactly the scene that Robert encounters when he catches a glimpse of a huge bonfire and stops to investigate further. It turns out that the fire is being used by a couple of redneck-types to destroy a batch of old tires.

So how does our singular tire react? Well, having already established that he is a psychokinetic psychopath with a callous disregard for human life, there really is only one reaction that can be expected.

Yep, it’s time for a bit of serial killer rampage.

rubber6Okay, at this point I really can’t go any further without completely spoiling the rest of the film for those of you who have not seen it, but might have read this far and had your curiosity peaked enough to think it might be worth giving a go, and hopefully I’ve also managed to answer my friend’s question about what there is to see in the film. (As a matter of fact, I’ll take just a line here to challenge him to give the movie a re-watch with all of the above in mind.) Let’s just leave it at saying that I think Dupieux does an excellent job of bringing all of these threads together in a way that I, personally, found completely entertaining.

I will, however concede one point. There is a part of me that feels that the movie does go on just three or four minutes too long. There is a final scene, which, while perhaps somewhat obligatory and in keeping with the horror-movie tradition that the film springs from may be considered a necessary coda, but which, had the choice been mine, I probably would have left out. But it is certainly not something that is in any way enough to “break” the film.

Oh, and for those of you who have read all of this and are still left wondering “Okay, but why make a movie about a serial-killing tire in the first place?” To those who are still sitting there thinking to yourselves Why a frik-frakkin tire?!” Well, to you, I really have only one answer: “Why not?” Or perhaps what I should actually say is, of course, the same answer we are given at the start of the film:

“No reason.”

Hmm… maybe that opening speech has its place in the movie after all.