Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Given the fact that it often seems to be remembered most for its torture scenes, and notably grotesque torture scenes at that, I have to wonder what kept drawing me back to see Marathon Man so often when it was new. Another year with nothin' to do? Another screenplay by William Goldman? Looking over my list, it appears I have decided this is my favorite thriller, a genre that's all too easy to bollix up and on which there's quite a range of opinion, particularly when it shades over into action (lately I've seen talk about Die Hard as the best-ever thriller, but that's hard for me to go along with). Marathon Man does make me nostalgic for the good old days when you could tell the bad guys—and here they are no less than Nazis and/or their mercenary henchmen—by the fact that they were the ones who resorted to torture.
A more recent look confirmed that Marathon Man remains a taut and effective ride, with ratatat set pieces that just keep coming, all done up with moody music, a stalking camera, razor-sharp editing, and a couple of heavyweight performances from Dustin Hoffman and Lawrence Olivier slugging it out in the center ring.
Perhaps the most obvious mark of its arrival has been its abuse at the hands of "Seinfeld." And the most heartening thing there may have been that no one felt the need to chase the usual obvious "Is it safe?" jokes, but instead took the scene reproduced in the video at the link and worked it up into a bizarre riff with Kramer and a bra for men at its center, a non sequitur that happily denotes only its own silly self. I still appreciate the way "Seinfeld" can get away with that kind of stuff, and I wish I could've found a link to that scene too.
"Der Weisse Engel ist hier!" [video deleted]
Phil #48: Nixon (Oliver Stone, 1995) (scroll down)
Steven #48: Sid and Nancy (Alex Cox, 1986)
Phil shocked us all pretty good, or me anyway, with his pick not only of an Oliver Stone movie, but one about Richard Nixon; with his pick not only of a movie about Richard Nixon, but by Oliver Stone. It was a challenge. I knew the three-part PBS "American Experience" documentary on Nixon from the early '90s (plus "lived through it real-time") so I knew the disinterested dimensions of the story, and that it's a good one. But Oliver Stone: "'ommina-'ommina-'ommina," as Jackie Gleason would say. This has made me realize I need to be more open to Oliver Stone, which is my current position.
Marathon Man was probably the first movie I felt obsessed by—nothing to do with dental phobias, I assure you. But I saw it several times when it was new and something about the sequences of set pieces really stuck with me, and it has always seemed pretty good still as I've checked in with it over the years. Phil remembered it as one he liked too, and later even went to bat for it more than I did after Steven took a look at it for the first time and reviewed it on his blog, giving it a 6/10.
Steven impressed everybody by mentioning that he saw the Sex Pistols show in San Francisco in January 1978.