Monday, August 29, 2005

You are entering another dimension; a dimension not only of great cinematic moments but also of unjustified erection references. That signpost up ahead--your next stop:

Sombrero Grande’s “Boner” Moments in Cinema Four-ever

(Check out Part One to find out what this is all about!)

Punch-Drunk Love

* Barry discovers he can control his rage. Barry is a victim. Even though he owns his own small business, he’s not really in control of his life. His seven sisters used to pick on him mercilessly as a kid and still do today. As a result, Barry has an extremely volatile temper and he can’t control his sudden bursts of destructive rage when something angers him. He wants someone he can trust and confide in but, everywhere he turns, the people he opens up to betray their confidence. Barry becomes so desperate that he calls a phone sex line just so he can talk with someone anonymously about his life. The phone sex operator in return blackmails him with all his personal information, demanding he pay her rent for her. But then he meets Lena. At first I wondered why Olive Oyl’s song “He Needs Me” from Robert Altman’s Popeye was used in Punch-Drunk Love, and then it came to me: Lena is Barry’s “spinach.” Her love is the thing that gives him great power and ultimately enables him to control his strength and rage. The great “boner” moment in this film occurs when the phone sex operator’s hoodlums attack Barry’s car. They plow right into the side of it, sending both he and Lena inside spinning. The moment Barry looks over and sees a drop of blood running down Lena's panicked face, he snaps into action for the first time ever. Cue Popeye’s spinach-eatin’ music here. Without so much as a blink, Barry’s out of the car and dispensing of the hoodlums one-by-one, wielding his strength and mettle with same mastery that Aragorn wields the Sword of Elendil in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. He’s finally figured out how to channel his anger and violent outbursts. Barry is no longer a victim; he’s in control now and fighting back.

The Gold Rush

* No matter which way the Tramp moves, Big Jim’s gun is always pointing right at him. Nearly every critic or film historian will point to the “teetering cabin” moment from this film as its greatest, but for me, seeing Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp constantly trying to “dodge the bullet” while Big Jim and Black Larson fight will always be my favorite part. Its greatness is evident in the fact that, as the scene progresses, it just keeps getting funnier and funnier.

Rat Race

* Jon Lovitz at the WWII rally. I know what you’re thinking: “Rat Race?! You’re going to include Rat Race in a list of great movie moments alongside Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush?!” Stick with me here, folks. Remember the scene where Jon Lovitz’s character accidentally breaks into the WWII veterans rally in Hitler’s car? Here’s another scene that seems to defy what’s comedically possible in that it just keeps getting funnier as it goes along. Watch it again and see if you don’t agree with me.

The Big Lebowski

* Meet Jesus. The introduction of John Turturro's Jesus Quintana at the bowling alley is the scene that I just have to keep rewinding and rewatching whenever I see The Big Lebowski. First we see the purple socks, then the gaudy rings, the “affectionate” acknowledgement of his pink bowling ball, the stitched name on his increasingly purple outfit: Jesus. All the while, a Spanish tune scores his arrival on screen--a tune we later find out is merely a Spanish mix of the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” To contrast this lightly humorous, larger-than-life introduction to Jesus, John Goodman’s Walter gives us another introduction to the character, far different in both presentation and content. Far more realistic and sad, we watch Jesus walking door to door dejectedly to announce to his new neighbors that a pedophile has just moved into the neighborhood, and it’s him. The flashback mercifully cuts out just as we see Jesus opening his mouth to give a rather surly man the news. It’s a fantastic moment in a wonderfully elaborate and multi-faceted character introduction, making it a real shame that Jesus isn’t in more of the movie afterwards. I guess that’s just the overall shortcoming of The Big Lebowski: fantastic set-ups, no real satisfying conclusions.

Pirates of the Caribbean

* Meet Jack Sparrow. Another fantastic character introduction. We first see Depp’s pirate Captain Jack Sparrow valiantly perched atop the crow’s nest of a ship, rolling through a dramatic sunset-filled sky. He looks down and the film cuts to the reason why he’s perched up so high on the ship: ‘cause his tiny vessel is sinking. Jack hops down to continue futilely bailing the encroaching ocean water out. Moments later, amid the bemused and puzzled gazes of every crewman in the harbor, Jack steps onto the docks just as the rest of his doomed ship all but disappears below the waves. Here we’ve gotten to know all we need to love this unique character right off the bat thanks to a simple but truly ingenious grouping of cinematic gestures.


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