Friday Movie Talk

What I appreciate about: Sugarland express and Omoto’s Memories

Each week, I’ll try to post a movie discussion on Fridays – this Friday, I want to mention Katsuhiro Otomo's series “Memory”, and Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut: Sugarland Express.

Otomo’s series of three stories (each directed by a different, honored anime director) deals variously with questions of happiness and memory. They aren’t quite as cohesive as I expected them to be, but they still were very interesting, very worth watching. The first seemed a blend between Paranoia Agent and Sunset Boulevard – which is interesting, because I only later found out that Satoshi Kon (the genius behind Paranoia Agent, which will I talk more about later, but now merely say – watch it.) actually got writing credits for the first episode.

The third episode, while perhaps not as entertaining as the other two, is fascinating to think about. It is a presentation of an Orwellian world where the entire society exists in a moving city to create and fire giant cannons at “the enemies” moving city. What sets this portrayal apart from most other writing about dystopia is that no one questions the society. In Brave New World, Animal Farm, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, a character exists who questions the dystopia in which he or she exists. In “Cannon Fodder” no such character exists, and all the characters are, comparatively, happy, and in the case of the child, even ambitious and fulfilled. As with the previous two episodes, part of the joy of this episode is in how well the characters are developed – even the chief who fires the gun is well developed, despite having only one word – it seems clear that he enjoys his work and relishes in it, despite the repetitive nature of his same march every day.

Sugarland express:

Wonderful way of showing a driver’s face in the rearview mirror, and faces in the car ahead, so that the whole shot is a crowd of faces. The clever use of reflections show up at several points in the movie – especially where Clovis foresees his own death in the roadrunner cartoon, with the eerie sounds of a cartoon they shouldn’t be hearing playing along. It’s a sort of interesting montage, a direct metaphor of movie to life within a movie.

Sugarland express makes for an interesting meeting between the entertaining and the educational – it’s an early display of Spielberg’s interest in non-fiction, long before Munich or Schindler’s List. Honestly, I think Spielberg could teach many about making a real-life story interesting, without wholly converting it to fiction… well… sort of…

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