44 Days of Paranoia #39: The Fury (dir by Brian DePalma)

For our latest entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia, let’s take a look at one of the silliest films ever made, Brian DePalma’s 1978 horror/thriller hybrid The Fury.

The Fury opens on a beach in Israel.  CIA veteran Peter (Kirk Douglas, who grimaces up a storm) is hanging out with his teenage son Robin (Andrew Stevens) and his friend and colleague Ben Childress (John Cassavetes).  Two things quickly become apparent.

First off, Robin has psychic powers.  We know this because Peter is obsessed with protecting him from being captured by a shadowy government agency that wants to use his power as a weapon.

And secondly, Ben is evil.  We know that Ben’s evil because he’s played by John Cassavetes.  As one of the first truly independent filmmakers, Cassavetes would often raise the money to make his fiercely individualistic films by playing villains in bad B-movies, like this one.

Ben, in fact, is so evil that he’s arranged for terrorists to attack the beach.  After Peter is apparently killed in a ludicrously violent gunfight, Ben takes off with Robin.

However, Peter is not dead!  Somehow, despite the fact that both the beach and the ocean were pretty much blown up with him on it, Peter survived and now, he’s looking for his son.  Peter makes his way to Chicago where he calls up his girlfriend, Hester (Carrie Snodgress), and says things like, “I want your body, baby.”

Hester, meanwhile, works at the Paragon Clinic, which is run by Dr. James McKeever (Charles Durning) who, himself, is secretly working for Ben.  The Paragon Clinic is a front to try to discover other teenage psychics and to turn them into weapons as well.  The newest patient is Gillian (Amy Irving), a teenage girl who might be able to help Peter track down his son.

Of course, what Peter doesn’t take into account is that, in his absence, Robin has turned into a power-mad sociopath who spends his time doing things like killing tourists at amusing parks…

Wow, that’s a lot of plot, isn’t it?  And, with all of that, I haven’t even gotten into what happens during the second half of the film!

The Fury is an enjoyably silly film, an awkward attempt to combine DePalma’s previous film, Carrie, with a paranoia-fueled political thriller.  There’s a certain charm to a film that takes itself so seriously and yet, at the same time, manages to be totally over-the-top and ludicrous.

For example, just consider the performances of the high-powered cast and the fact that none of the actors appear to be acting in the same film.  Playing a character who is a bit of a hero by default (because, seriously, how stupid did he have to be to not realize that Ben was evil to begin with), Kirk Douglas grimaces so manfully that Peter’s stupidity almost starts to feel like a satiric comment on hyper-masculinity.  John Cassavetes, on the other hand, is so disdainful of the film that he actually rolls his eyes while delivering some of his more melodramatic lines.  Meanwhile, Carrie Snodgress is forced to say things like, “Here comes the Pony Express!” and Charles Durning brings the full weight of his talent to deliver lines like, “If you’re having your monthlies, I don’t want you near the patient.”

And finally, there’s Amy Irving.  In DePalma’s Carrie, Irving played Sue Snell, the sole survivor of a psychic rampage.  In The Fury, Irving gets to play the psychic and she gives such a dramatic and emotional performance that you almost get the idea that she was trying to challenge Sissy Spacek.  “This is how you play a psychic, Sissy!” she seems to be shouting.  Of course, the big difference is that Carrie was actually a good film whereas The Fury is a bad film that happens to be watchable.

Finally, no review of The Fury is complete without talking about Brian DePalma’s direction.  To put it lightly, Brian DePalma directs the Hell out of The Fury and the effect is something like what an episode of Agents of SHIELD would look like if directed by Martin Scorsese.  The entire film is a collection of tracking shots, zoom lenses, and sweeping overhead shots with the camera only stopping long enough to linger over scenes of violence and spilled blood.  In perhaps the film’s most ludicrous scene, Amy Irving runs away from the clinic in slow motion while the orchestral score plays out on the soundtrack.  We get close-ups of Irving’s face and close-ups of the faces of her pursuers.  One character gets shot multiple times but we don’t hear the gunshots.  Instead, we only hear the music and watch as the character overacts and dies in slow motion.  It’s almost as if DePalma was trying to win a bet by achieving the most counter-productive use of slow motion in film history.

Ultimately, The Fury is so thoroughly silly and over-the-top that it simply has to be seen.

Other Entries In The 44 Days of Paranoia 

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective
  12. Burn After Reading
  13. Quiz Show
  14. Flying Blind
  15. God Told Me To
  16. Wag the Dog
  17. Cheaters
  18. Scream and Scream Again
  19. Capricorn One
  20. Seven Days In May
  21. Broken City
  22. Suddenly
  23. Pickup on South Street
  24. The Informer
  25. Chinatown
  26. Compliance
  27. The Lives of Others
  28. The Departed
  29. A Face In The Crowd
  30. Nixon
  31. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  32. The Purge
  33. The Stepford Wives
  34. Saboteur
  35. A Dark Truth
  36. The Fugitive
  37. The Day of Jackal
  38. Z

What Lisa, Evelyn, and Erin Watched Sunday Night #96: The 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards

On Sunday night, my sister, my best friend, and I gathered together and watched the 71st Annual Golden Globes.


Why Were Watching It?

Because it was an awards show!  Seriously, I love awards.

What Was It About?

When you think about it, the Golden Globes are a lot like that nerdy kid in high school that everyone tolerated because he had rich parents but who they still made fun of every chance they got.  Whenever his parents went out of town, he would throw a wild but somewhat desperate party.  Everyone would spend the weekend trashing his house and drinking all of his alcohol and then leave without bothering to help him clean up afterward.

(I guess now would be a good time to add that, if Taylor is reading this, sorry!)

Seriously, the Golden Globes are so weird!  Nobody is really sure who is in the Hollywood Foreign Press but, every year, they serve free drinks and give out a lot of awards and, as a result, everyone in Hollywood gets together for one night.

What Worked?

Okay, first thing first — a lot of people on twitter thought that the speech Diane Keaton gave and song she sang while accepting the Governor’s Award for Woody Allen was creepy but I thought it was really sweet!  I know that a lot of people have issues with Woody Allen (see below) but I usually enjoy his movies.

(When they were showing clips from Allen’s career, they showed Diane Keaton in Annie Hall going, “La dee da, la dee da…” and Evelyn says, “Is she playing Lisa?”)

Last year, I was one of the few people who didn’t think that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did that great of a job as hosts but this year, I agree with everyone else.  Tina and Amy should host everything.

I loved it when Melissa McCarthy was pretending to be Matt Damon.  What I especially loved was how Matt Damon played along with the joke, to the extent that when Michael Douglas praised him while accepting his Golden Globe, Matt actually pointed over at Melissa.

I can’t complain about any of the winners, which is a rarity for me.  I was surprised to see Brooklyn Nine Nine win the Golden Globes for Best Actor and Best TV Show Comedy but I’ve never actually watched the show so I can’t complain.

My favorite acceptance speech came from Matthew McConaughey, mostly because he said, “Alright, alright, alright…”

Finally, a most importantly, a lot of redheads were honored this year.  It was a good night for my fellow members of the 2%.

What Did Not Work?

Oh, where to start?  Because of all the alcohol involved and the mix of television and movie stars, the Golden Globes have gotten a reputation for being more fun than the Oscars but, for every celebrity who is a fun drunk, there’s about a hundred more who are boring drunks and the 71st annual Golden Globes proved this point.  For every Emma Thompson, there was a Jacqueline Bisset.  For all the attention that’s being given to a few unexpected moments (and NBC’s reaction to those moments — who would have guessed the censors would get so worked up over vagina?), the Golden Globes were actually rather restrained and boring this year.

The award for most obnoxious presenter goes to Diddy.  What was Diddy even doing up there?

The Golden Globes Ceremony was scheduled to last three hours and, unlike the Oscars, it ended on time.  However, a lot of those three hours were taken up with watching the winners trying to navigate their way up to the stage.  It got boring.  Add to that, I am so tired of nominees who don’t bother to come up with a coherent speech before they win their award.  It’s not that cute.

All in all, the ceremony could have really used a big production number or two.

Of course, Woody Allen can’t ever win an award without his son, Ronan Farrow, going on twitter and whining about how terrible his father is and all of the little sycophants who follow him chimed in with their usual, “Oh Ronan, I’m sorry!”  Uhmmm, just curious — would anyone know who Ronan Farrow is if not for his parents?  A lot of people have had shitty fathers but very few of those people have managed to get their own show on MSNBC as a result of it.  Just saying.

Who exactly told Emma Stone it would be a good idea to wear a dress that appeared to be decorated with sperm?

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I'll Show You Some Golden Globes!

I’ll Show You Some Golden Globes!

Lessons Learned

Award shows can be boring.

A Glorious Fantasy: Final Fantasy IV

Once again I return to this ongoing series, in which I attempt to play through every game in the Final Fantasy franchise that I can get my hands on, from FF1 through FF13-2, and a variety of the spinoffs and other titles not included in the ‘main series’. This list continues to undergo revision, and I seriously considered removing Final Fantasy 9 from it for personal reasons. But we’ll get there. I promise.

For those who are unfamiliar with my premise (read: I would think most everyone), here’s an almost comically thorough recap:

Most people have already played many/most/all of the games that I’m going to write about in this series (weirdly, as I compiled the list of games, I personally have not played a fair number of them). I don’t care. I’m going to look at all (most? I’m bad with structure, we’ll see how long this lasts) of the following things from these games:

– Some objective data. What version of the game did I play, and why did I select that one. This will be less important when I reach the PSX era, but we’re not there yet! One thing I’d like to do is discuss some of the changes between the “original” and the version I end up playing.
– Is the game any good? Seriously! I’m sure some of these games suck! <- Weirdly, most of them do not. This one might get redacted, and you might just have to deal with me bitching about Final Fantasy 9.
– Is the answer to that question, “It just doesn’t hold up”? Why? <– This hasn't come up yet. I'm considering redacting the question.
– How would I place this game in a historical context? I want to watch the series evolve, devolve, side-volve and revolve as I go.
– Did I enjoy this game? What were the emotions and insane facial expressions I went through while playing it?
– How many times I frantically Googled maps for enormous maze-like dungeons because I no longer have the patience to solve them on my own?
– Was it… challenging? Were these games ever hard? Does the challenge ebb and flow?
– No MMORPGs. Sorry FF14 fans, I don’t ‘do’ MMORPGs anymore. Plus, the plan here hopefully doesn't involve spending a bunch of money acquiring and (especially) subscribing to games.

I think all of this is extremely important knowledge, and that the human race will be improved by my research. Let's move on!


Version played: Nintendo DS remake

Wow! Now this is a crazy remake. So, with FF1 and FF2, there were ‘updated’ graphics, which basically amounted to 16-bit+. Not like this though! FF4 has been totally remastered since I last played it on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System… to be rendered in 3-D (sketchy 3-D, but 3-D all the same). It’s been upgraded with voice acting! And, I’m told, the difficulty has been ‘restored’… or even ‘upgraded’. Because here’s the thing. I remember Final Fantasy IV. I played it on the SNES. Granted, it didn’t happen until shortly before I played “Xenogears” for the first time, but it did happen. The fact is… the game was really easy! It was toned down for American gamers, for reasons which were probably solid, but are also infuriating. In the original version, I did not need strategy to face the Four Fiends, even the mighty Rubicante! I just blasted them with my spells / stabs and patted myself on the back.

One thing I will say for the DS remake. It does not pull any punches. Rubicante will end you, if you don’t know what you’re doing. And something about that really appeals to me. Because here’s the truth: Final Fantasy IV’s story is kind of silly. So are its characters.

There, I said it.

Go ahead, cast stones. I can wait.

This is one of the titans of the JRPG genre. It’s Final Fantasy Freaking Four. 4^4. Yeah, your nostalgia is telling you things that aren’t true. The story of this game is silly. Partway through, the writers just start making shit up. It’s okay, because the game is still a lot of fun. Having some voice acted cutscenes actually makes things better, even if the 3-D makes Cecil into a weird cartoon character who is both stocky enough to wear heavy armor and swing a big sword and take some hits, but skinny enough to fit into women’s pants. But the story is still fundamentally silly. This does not mean that I did not enjoy it; it means exactly what I said. It’s silly! And, as an aside, all villains in all genres should take notes from Golbez… who is pretty much undefeated throughout the whole game, until a major plot twist changes things around. Spoilers? C’mon. It’s a SNES game.

I forgive FFIV for its faults. You didn’t even have to ask me. It has The Soundtrack (does anyone recognize the Red Wings’ Theme? It has The Characters. Rydia of Mist? Well, she’s the first proper Summoner, she anticipates characters like Terra Branford and Yuna. And she has green hair. Seriously. How cool is Rydia?

I know that I talked about the ‘connective tissue’ of story, and how it makes games like Final Fantasy I almost unrecognizable when put up against games like Final Fantasy VII. You can see the gradual evolution of this point through the series, like a straight line leading away from audience insert ‘generic’ characters toward fully realized characters that the player ‘watches’ or ‘guides’ rather than ‘owns’. This is fundamentally different from how WRPGs evolved, where the ‘create your own D&D guy’ aspect has remained integral to the experience. With a JRPG, you don’t make any of the characters, and you don’t choose how they respond to stuff. Even the Light Warriors in FF1 are game to save the world, no matter how you, the player, feel about it. At least in “Baldur’s Gate” you were perfectly free to bitch about it to everyone who would listen.

Different doesn’t mean worse. Here, we’re essentially along for the ride as some broken adults work out their issues. Cecil became the Dark Knight of Baron on his King’s suggestion, and in doing so, he gave up his soul. Kain Highwind, despite being the son of a legendary dragoon, has lived in Cecil’s shadow all his life… including in the courtship of the beautiful white mage, Rosa. These characters feel like people in an insane high-powered fantasy story, at least to some extent. This is a significant achievement in the evolution of the RPG. It would be difficult for me to overstate how much influence it feels like “Final Fantasy IV” had on subsequent games of many genres. Forget the sillier plot points. This game remains demonstrably important when placed in a historical context.

It is silly though.

Also, the DS remake is hard! This bears repeating. I had to google the strategy to defeat Rubicante (this was weirdly one of my only Googles during this one. I guess I remembered it pretty well!). I thought that I was a Final Fantasy tough guy entering this game after Final Fantasy III. But weirdly, a lot of the same themes repeat themselves here with bosses… and won’t disappear entirely until (I suspect) Final Fantasy VII. We’re not talking superbosses here. We’re talking about enemies that you have to defeat in order to progress… and those enemies requiring a strategy, not just a level mark. This is something that the RPG genre has kind of abandoned in favour of a more cinematic approach. You can hardly blame them. When the storytelling takes center stage, something has to suffer, and it’s typically the difficulty (notable exception: Baldur’s Gate II. Try a dry run of that game and tell me it doesn’t have its share of brutal challenges). If that’s the game you’re looking for, you’ll prefer the original SNES (American) release of FF4. The DS version has bosses capable of wiping out your whole party with routine moves. Somehow, that was fun for me! I don’t know what my deal is. Also, how did this not apply to the final boss? Your guess is as good as mine, readers! It’s probably related to the ‘defend’ command also reducing magic damage though. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

Dodging attack patterns based on visual cues is more of a ‘Megaman’ thing anyway.

I’m honestly not sure what else to say. This is one of the great pillars of the genre. It’s deservedly beloved. It’s a girthy, fun, game, with characters that are given motivations… lives, hopes, and dreams. The story is ultimately quite silly, but it’s not nearly as silly as Final Fantasy V (oh, we’ll get there!). Crystals, fiends of the elements, and the meteor spell. It was fun to play. I appreciated that it was harder than it was when I played it as a kid. Viva FF4! Let the legend live on.