Movie Project #3: Say Anything… [1989]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Say Anything... [1989]

Say Anything… [1989]
Director: Cameron Crowe
Writer: Cameron Crowe
Country: USA
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Starring: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Lili Taylor
Running Time: 100 minutes

Is there a more iconic image of 1980s teenage romance than a young John Cusack standing outside of his ex-girlfriend’s window while holding a boombox over his head? Going into Say Anything…, that scene was pretty much all I knew about the film. It was a bit of a surprise then that this scene was so short. I sat there waiting for this magical moment, and then… she didn’t even look out the window! That’s cold, man. Cold.

John Cusack is Lloyd Dobler, a recent high school grad who is all about punk rock and kickboxing. On graduation day, he gets a wild idea: he decides to ask out Diane Court (Iona Skye), the smartest girl in school. His friends, a group of girls including Corey Flood (Lili Taylor), scoff at his idea, but he’s a man on a mission. He works up the courage to make a phone call and gets her dad, James (John Mahoney), instead. They have an awkward conversation (it ends with Lloyd saying “Good afternoon” in response to the dad’s “Good luck”), but it proves to be fruitful as she calls him back the next day. Much to Lloyd’s (and everyone else’s) surprise, she accepts his invitation to a party later that night.

Say Anything... [1989]

The two of them hit it off immediately and fall into a heated romance. However, there are two obstacles in the way of their relationship: 1) her overprotective father, and 2) Diane is moving to England after the summer. Her father means well — he has even taken certain illegal risks to make sure she can be as successful as possible — but he immediately looks down at the “basic” Lloyd. It’s a matter of two completely different social classes coming together due to an undeniable connection, but it’s a relationship that is difficult to sustain.

What impressed me about this conventional tale is that Lloyd is genuinely a great guy. Sure, he may not be sure what he wants to do with his life, but he knows how to treat a girl. Diane realizes this, too, but it’s her that has to do some growing here. It’s rare that a guy in romantic comedies comes across so well, so it’s refreshing to see things from this perspective.

Say Anything… [1989]

For this being a Cameron Crowe film, I was a little surprised to see music take a bit of a backseat here. There’s the seminal boombox scene in which Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” is the main focus, but other than that, the soundtrack is rather subtle. This is not a fault at all, just a bit unexpected.

There is a bit of melodrama near the end that feels caked on, but for the most part, Say Anything… hits all the right notes. It also certainly says something that such a small scene in the film has made an incredible lasting impression over the years.

8/10

Movie Review: The Conjuring [2013]

The Conjuring [2013]

The Conjuring [2013]
Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
Running Time: 112 minutes

The real-life couple of Ed and Lorraine Warren gained notoriety as the founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research, a paranormal investigative group that attempted to help with thousands of ghost and demon-related hauntings. The Conjuring tells the tale of one of the couple’s investigations, which the opening credits describe as their most extreme case ever.

Set in 1971, the film focuses on a family of seven that moves into an old farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. The parents, Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and their five daughters, are happy-go-lucky during their big move-in day, though they find it peculiar that their dog, Sadie, refuses to enter the house. The very next morning, Carolyn wakes up with a huge bruise on her leg, and poor Sadie is found dead outside.

The Conjuring [2013]

The paranormal activities only get worse from there, and they grow more and more frequent. Items are thrown across the house, doors are open and shut on their own, and children are pulled from their beds while they sleep. To top it off, the youngest daughter claims to have made a new friend, Rory, who no one else can see.

Eventually, the family cannot take any more of the abuse, and Carolyn reaches out to Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren for help. As soon as they arrive, Lorraine immediately notices multiple presences within the house. It’s clear to them that there is a demon that has latched onto the family, and they will have to gain evidence in order to pursue an exorcism on the entire house. The Warrens set up an elaborate system of cameras and audio recordings in order to obtain enough proof, but this quickly becomes a race against the clock as their presence seems to infuriate the demon inside the house.

The Conjuring [2013]

The general concept for The Conjuring feels familiar, and the film itself doesn’t really break any new ground within the horror genre. However, the overall package is well put together, offering a chilling atmosphere with a relentless sense of dread and plenty of scares. The attention to detail is impeccable, as director James Wan nailed the 1970s setting, right down to the household items on display. Wilson and Farmiga are terrific in the lead roles, and the children do well at looking scared out of their minds. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston make for a great couple as well, though the latter looks surprisingly emotionless during the film’s batshit-crazy climax.

The fact that The Conjuring is based on a true story adds even more to its freaky nature. Sure, extreme liberties were taken with some of the paranormal disturbances, but they help make the film even more entertaining. As someone who doesn’t believe in ghosts, demonic possessions or the like, I still found this to be an incredibly entertaining film. Perhaps best of all, it’s intelligent as well, something we really don’t see much of in the genre anymore.

8/10