Movie Matters (the 2nd)

From the Soap Box...

Saw that Yeltsin died. I think for me the defining memory I’ll have or Yeltsin, more than preventing the so-called coup, more than his giggle-fest with Clinton that time is actually a scene from the Simpsons. Homer is drunk and Moe’s and has to take a Breathalyzer before Moe will let him drive.

As Homer blows in the tube his breath goes past Tipsy, Soused, Stinkin’ all the way to Boris Yeltsin.

Now that’s drunk.

I also have to say that I’m officially putting Boris Yeltsin in the Alec Baldwin/Snoop Dogg Memorial Sunova Club.

What is the A.C./S.D.M.S.C., you might ask? Both those dudes can be major-league schmucks, real A-holes. Alec is at least as obnoxious with his uninformed political tirades as Sean Penn, and Snoop can’t seem to go three months without getting arrested for smoking this, shooting that, and let’s not forget the porn tapes…

Yet no matter what they do, you just can’t help but like the guys. For some reason no one has ever held Alec’s personal crap against him like they sometimes do for others. He just seems like a likable S.O.B. Same for Snoop. Even conservatives find him entertaining and non-threatening, and whatever heat someone else might face for repeated law violations doesn’t seem to tough Snoop.

That’s kind of how I see Yeltsin. No matter what he did—and for a guy in power so long, it wasn’t much—you never really hated him like other Russian leaders. People hated Kruschev, and many folks hated Gobachev, before Time Magazine decide to credit Gorby with ending Communism more than Reagan (almost 17 years later and I’m STILL pissed). Even now many people seem to loath Putin.

But Yeltsin? Somehow he skated by. Whatever crazy thing he’d do people would just pass it off. “Oh, that Yeltsin!” He’s definitely in the club.


Monkey Barn has some good stuff right now. Dominique posted an absolutely hiarious video of Gilbert and Sullivan (Pirates of Penzance) doing "Baby Got Back." Check out a VERY young Kevin Kine, eh?

And I reposted one of
Dragon's Question of the Day, because all the answers were either lies or non-descriptive. It involves how much knowledge you'd want over your death, and it's very deck. Check it out.


This brings us to our second Movie Matters column. I went with only one question this time, because the answer turned out to be kind of long. (There are VERY MILD SPOILERS in the question/answer, but far less than the previews, so I think you're fine). Make sure you keep sending in your questions. I think it's going to be a regular feature here at the Institute.

Previous Movie Matters

Movie Matters (the 2nd)

Hey Hype,

Here are two Movie Matter questions for you.

Despite your rave review of the "Departed" on Movie-Hype, I find it hard to believe that Martin Scorsese was finally given the Oscar for best motion picture of the year for it when it is a remake of the Hong Kong movie "Infernal Affairs." Yes, I'm sure Scorsese added his touch and elevated that movie to another level altogether. But still, whatever happened to originality in artistic vision? Do you know how many of my Asian friends are snickering about this?

Also, in both movies, the crime boss planted one of his own inside the police department. For some reason I find that incredibly difficult to accept given how almost all police academy applicants (here in North America) have to go through substantial background checks and security clearances. At least in the movie like "Lake House" one can chuck things under "magic!"

I can accept cops going bad or going rogue or even just plain going insane. However, infiltrating the Police by sending a sleeper through the police academy is just hard for me to accept for a movie that is all about suspenseful realism. If that is actually doable, you figured the Mafia would have done so a long time ago and we would have heard about it.

Would appreciate your thoughts on this.


Let’s address these points one by one.

First, Hyperion’s 5th Fundamental Theorem for watching movies (I really ought to write these down some time) is: “Judge the movie you’re watching based on that movie only, not any previous source it may come from.” This usually comes up with movie adaptations of books, but holds true for “remakes” as well. As for THE DEPARTED, I think it would a stretch to call it a “remake.” The plot is loosely (and having seen both films, very loosely) on INFERNAL AFFAIRS, but is so wholly different a movie it would be like saying THE SOPRANOS is the same thing as THE GODFATHER. Yes, same types of characters, but totally different thing.

For that matter, tell your “Asian” friends that INFERNAL AFFAIRS is in no way original itself, so they should stop snickering and get back to what Asians do best. (Note: I spent twenty minutes trying to come up with a good-natured joke to go at the end of that last sentence that wouldn’t be offensive or obnoxious, but couldn’t do it. I did throw out some real beauties, though.)

Seriously, tell your friends of ANY ethnicity they need to get out more. Hong Kong Crime flicks, heck, most crime flicks are based on the B-Movie Pulp Crime Pictures of the 1950s. Scorsese himself has said THE DEPARTED is his “B Crime Film,” and he purposely throws in a lot of potboiler elements that were classic back in the ‘50s.

More on point: you know I’m big on originality, and I hate how re-tread and unoriginal many movies are today. (This is something Hyperion will NOT have trouble with. Whether you hate my screenplay or not, you can’t say it’s unoriginal.) However, this brings up Hyperion’s 2nd Fundamental Theorem for watching movies: “The quality of a movie is not directly related to or dependent on its genre, cast, budget or especially subject matter,” or as Roger Ebert once put it, “A movie is not what it is about, but how it is about it.” Any film, especially a cultural remake, can have merit on its own. (That said, I cringe when I think of many of the classic Asian films remade in Western Culture, especially since most won’t be done by a master like Scorsese.)

The second question deals with the infiltration of the police department itself. I’m not sure if Marcellus has seen the film (and if not, shame Shame SHAME writing in a question on a movie you haven’t seen), but in THE DEPARTED the Matt Damon character “infiltrates” the police department with a clean record. Jack Nicholson’s character has purposely groomed the boy to keep his nose clean directly to infiltrate the police department.

It’s a great question, though: just how realistic is that? I don’t have a ton of knowledge here, but from what I do know I’ll say this: it’s not very common for a mole to rise up and go through all the ranks of law enforcement, but it is (or at least was) extraordinarily common, even expected for a sizable percentage of police to report to/work for organized crime.

Marcellus cites the Mafia, which is a great example. American history is littered with stories of the Mob having informants on the inside. Heck: any organized crime syndicate without moles in the inside is probably doomed to failure. It’s essential to get tip-offs about when busts are going to happen, as well as just having cops out on the street willing to look the other way.

How can this be? Aren’t cops supposed to protect us? Well, yes. Understand: I am not ragging on cops. Most cops risk their lives to protect the public, and I am very grateful, but that doesn’t change facts. For a long time (and in many parts of the world, still today), working as a police officer was considered more of an “entrepreneurial opportunity” than law enforcement, so that Crime Bosses would have so many cops on the take is not surprising. It might be more surprising that cops have managed to gain the respectable place they now hold in Society. (Well, White Society. Minorities are still generally distrustful of the Police, and not without merit.) As to why cops now hold honor, well, that’s another question.

Just to finish up, why would a cop who signs up to protect and serve be on the take? Several reasons:

1) They don’t make very much. Cops are human like anyone else. When an opportunity comes along to get more money, people often take it.

2) They figure no one gets hurt whom “isn’t in the game.” Part of the operating procedure of Organized Crime for a long time was that they left “civilians” alone, and only did war against each other or people who got in bad with them, like say borrowing money and not paying it back. Ma and Pa taxpayer usually had little to fear. Of course, those were the old days….

3) They see how little being a police officer has to do with actually preventing or solving crime. Unfortunately, being a cop is no less political than any other job. Office politics make up a huge percentage of what criminals get prosecuted or gone after. Cops on the streets sees their bosses time and time again let certain crimes and criminals go and they get very cynical. They figure if the higher ups are profiting on this, why not them?

Which, in a nutshell, explains why THE DEPARTED is such a great concept. As Jack’s character says in the opening. “The priests told us we could either grow up to be cops or criminals. I say, ‘when you’re staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, what’s the difference?’”

That seems like a good place to end it today. If you have a question about a movie, write in and ask! There’s a button set up at the top left; all you have to do is click. (Make sure you indicate whether your want your name used.)

{Up tomorrow: something sexy…}

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