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December 28, 2013
David Kalat
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Drunk history

We are here today to praise the drunkards.  Specifically, drunk heroes.

But let me clarify what I mean by this–because there are plenty of drunks in cinema, and many of them are protagonists or sympathetic supporting characters.  That’s not what I mean.  I’m more interested in the rare subspecies of such characters where their imbibing is actually integral to their heroism, not a character flaw.

By way of an example, let’s start with an edge case and see where it does or does not fit my criteria: Robert Mitchum’s Sheriff from El DoradoThere is a moment where Mitchum is stalking an assassin who has retreated into a saloon.  The killer is surrounded by armed compatriots, and Mitchum actually isn’t sure what the bad guy looks like (he has at best a hazy description).  If he sets foot in the saloon he’ll be wildly outnumbered, and in enemy territory–but he’s got one advantage.  He’s a known drunk who just humiliated himself minutes earlier.

His enemies underestimate him severely, and he uses that to his advantage.

So, for that one scene, Mitchum’s rumminess is a plus.  But in the rest of the film, his alcoholism is a character failing that he must overcome–indeed the point of El Dorado is to highlight how his drinking has become a problem with substantial negative externalities (fancy lawyer talk for “hurts other people”).

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KEYWORDS: El Dorado, Jackie Chan, Strange Brew, The Avengers, The Thin Man
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Here’s to Beer

On this day of October 14 something wonderful happened 34 years ago. Before I go down that rabbit-hole, let me preface this post by stating that I like both my beer and films to be bold and distinct. During the late seventies, something pivotal happened to ensure the beer scene was about to get much better and eventually explode with quality and diversity, and during this same time some pivotal things happened to ensure that the movie scene would slowly become increasingly formulaic and homogenized. Three decades later and we now have over 2,000 craft breweries in operation, while craft films have been eclipsed by a lot of crap films that are as homogenized and market-driven as any bottle rattling down an Anheuser-Busch assembly line. The box office hits for this year are mostly remakes (Bourne Legacy, Spiderman), sequels (Men in Black 3, The Dark Knight Rises), prequels (Prometheus), or some amalgam of a recognizable franchise (The Avengers). This combination of spectacle-fueled and market-driven “product” gets test-marketed to death and is beholden to merchandise sales, delivering the visual equivalent of a piss-clear corporate Pilsner that has virtually no taste and is easily forgotten. [...MORE]

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