Michael Wincott

Movie Rob’s Genre Grandeur: Strange Days (Cyberpunk)

Here is my contribution to Movie Rob’s Genre Grandeur series – the full post is also published over on his site along with other awesome bloggers’ entries. Thanks Rob! Hope to see you all in January for the Westerns genre entries. cyberpunk

For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Cyberpunk Films, here’s a review of Strange Days (1995) by Catherine of Thoughts All Sorts

Thanks again to Becky of Film Music Central for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Catherine of Thoughts All Sorts. We will be reviewing our favorite Westerns set in the “old West” – so, that excludes Contemporary Westerns i.e. No Country for Old Men, Hud, Desperado, Junior Bonner etc.

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Jan by sending them to oldwesterncat@movierob.net

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Catherine!

Let’s see what Catherine thought of this movie:

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Cyberpunk, the chosen genre for this iteration of MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur iteration, is a story that has a future setting, contains advanced technology and has a breakdown of society (as per Wikipedia). I’m very new to this genre so I may have gone with the obvious but the movie that fits these requirements is Strange Days (1995).

I’ll always remember walking out of the cinema back when it was released being totally blown away but also a bit nervous of the future. I haven’t seen this one since then (so, probably a good 20 years) and pulled it out of my collection last week. I was worried I’d dislike it but, whew, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Possibly even more so because some of the messages make a bigger impact now than when I was a teen! Besides, the Millennium has passed and technology has advanced so it is quite interesting to watch.

How does it fit in with Cyberpunk? Well, the “future setting” may not be future today but back then it was definitely so. The story plays out over the 30th and 31st December 1999, just as a Los Angeles is on the verge of collapse and disorder prepares for New Year Celebrations. Lenny (Ralph Fiennes), a former cop, deals in SQUID discs. These are recordings of real events (ranging from the romantic to the violent) that can be experienced by the wearer of a special transmitter device as if they were there. But…the plot thickens as Lenny‘s ex-girlfriend Faith‘s (Juliette Lewis) friend Iris (Brigitte Bako) fears for her life. She is later found dead with her death having been SQUID recorded by the killer. So unfolds a story of murder, addiction, back-stabbing and violence as Lenny, together with friends Mace (Angela Bassett) and Max (Tom Sizemore) work to get to the bottom of this all while being chased by dirty cops and other thugs all trying to stop the truth from coming out.

strangedaysWhile the technology may be old(ish) today and 1999/2000 has long come and gone, I still think the themes are relevant and don’t feel too outdated to watch. For a moment, I was transported back to the big Millenium New Year celebrations – while I didn’t experience the violence, the movie still manages to capture the mood so well. At least I think so – although I was on the banks of the Thames, the masses were still the same, the party spirit and anticipation probably similar world-wide. The technology seems to be almost, if not already, current and I’ve often found myself wondering when personal experiences will become traded as a form of entertainment (and how far people will go).

Some awesome music (which I rushed out to buy on CD way back then), including Juliette Lewis, Skunk Anansie, Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest amongst others, add to the gritty and dark feel. Have a look out for Hardly Wait by Juliette Lewis in one of the club scenes (which also portrays the atmosphere of the movie very well)

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Great acting from a stellar cast that also includes Michael Wincott, Vincent D’Onofrio and Glenn Plummer. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. While I don’t think it did very well at the box office, I personally enjoyed it.

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What a Character – Michael Wincott

wac1I’ve read up a bit around Character Actors and quite possibly, I may not strictly be adhering to the definition but I’m going with the idea that a Character Actor is one who is often cast as a type of character and is not the main character (please note the “often”). I hereby present

Michael Wincott

I know stereotyping people is wrong but unfortunately (or fortunately) I have done this with Michael Wincott. To me, this Juilliard School graduate is a wonderful villain or “shady” character. I’m not saying this in a bad way…I think he is absolutely perfect and takes on these roles like no-one else could. (If you have seen him in other roles contrary to this, please bear with me as I have only really seen him in these types of roles)

Born Michael Anthony Claudio Wincott on the 21st January 1958 in Toronto, Canada, I was first introduced to him as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

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I’m not sure anyone else would have had the appropriate screen presence as Michael Wincott next to Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham. He was the perfect (perfectly evil) complement to the almost comical Sheriff. That raspy voice added to the sinister that couldn’t be “acted” or put on. There was something about him that just drew me in. Possibly it’s sympathy (spoiler coming) when the Sheriff cold heartedly (in the middle of consolation), without so much as flinching, kills him, as Gisborne sheds a tear (having failed the Sheriff). Or, maybe it’s just that he’s a great artist, understated but vital.

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First impressions last…I’m afraid as much as we shouldn’t go with that, we inevitably do. So, for me, that role cemented Michael Wincott as an antagonist in my mind. Can you blame me as the next role, once again a villain, was that of Top Dollar in The Crow? Calculated. Clever. Mean. As is Philo Gant of Strange Days, the next antagonist, a tripping music manager/label owner who goes to extremes to feed his addiction. Doesn’t help that the calm and collected jailer Arman Dorleac who so casually agreed that Dantes was innocent and subsequently whipped him as a first-day-in-jail gift in The Count of Monte Cristo was played by….drum roll please….

Michael Wincott.

In all fairness, he’s not all “bad”. I noticed his name in the Westworld (2016) credits and kept looking out for him in the two episodes he’s meant to be in and totally missed him. I had to Google pictures of him in that series to see who he was…ah, Old Bill…wow…I never.

michaelwincottforsakenI must admit that I never saw his final scene in Forsaken coming…but then, here his role was hired gun doing a job but, actually, never unreasonable. In fact, he mentions that he didn’t agree to the job to work with a bunch of murderers. The “Gentleman” Dave Turner he was after all. Hmmm…to a degree.

I can’t say I’d ever expect him as a lead in a romantic comedy but whatever he takes on, he seems to do so well and is always a pleasure to watch. I have yet to see him in Basquiat which, I think, will throw my expectations of the antagonist roles out the window.

In summary, the roles I’ve seen (many of which are vague in my mind) of this wonderful artist:

Guy of Gisborne: The perfect side-kick to Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham.(Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991))

Top Dollar: He gave me the creeps as the perfectly cast villain with his calm and collected but calculated demeanor.(The Crow (1994))

Conway Twill: I haven’t seen this one in years and honestly cannot remember his role properly. I think a re-watch is long overdue.I vaguely remember him being quite a character (with some humour) and not so dark as previous roles (Dead Man (1995))

strangedaysmwincottPhilo Gant: A SQUID addict who goes to extremes to satisfy his cravings. (Strange Days (1995))

Gary Soneji/The Spider: Another one that I haven’t seen in ages and likewise cannot even recall him in this one. I remember him being the bad guy with an agenda (Along Came a Spider (2001))

Armand Dorleac: Do I need to say he is mean? He is the jailer of the horrid Château d’If. He doesn’t have a large role but still is horrid enough to keep the Dantes imprisoned and tortured. His matter-of-fact approach makes him so much worse (The Count of Monte Cristo (2002))

Hayes: A bounty hunter. From what I remember, he’s not mean to the bone or evil but not totally pleasant either. Seraphim Falls (2006))

Gentleman Dave Turner: In this role he totally surprised me. I was expecting the mean guy to appear but he was more just doing the job he was carried out to do. In fact, he never guns down anyone like his men. Also always calm and collected.(Forsaken (2015))

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Old Bill: Here he doesn’t have a very big role (yet?) but is quite weird to watch him as Will Bill now relegated to being a saloon pianist in Dr. Robert Ford’s quarters (Well, for now anyway. I suspect he may have a greater purposes beyond what I’ve seen)(Westworld (TV Series) The Original and Contrapasso (2016))

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Beyond the Cover of The Crow

The Crow. Tragic. Heavy. Dark. Both the graphic novel and film.

Having signed up for this Blogathon, I’m in a re-watch and re-read position. And I’m just a little scared. A little nervous. Not sure what to expect. I’ve just pulled out my prized copy of the graphic novel and already the first few pages are pulling me down into a gritty world where I’m not sure I want to go right now. But…I’ll get back to you…

…so, book read, movie watched…I’m back.

220px-Crow_ver2I first saw the movie on the big screen all those years ago. I vaguely remember the story and that I couldn’t stop raving about it. It must have been great at the time (with all my teenage angst) because I rushed out to by the graphic novel (well, rushing turned out to be a long process as it wasn’t easily available and involved lots of driving around (I’m talking about pre-online shopping days) and handing over a large portion of my precious student savings). Somehow, it must have made an impression that a few years ago I saw the DVD and just had to have it (but it hasn’t been opened until today).

Now, 22 years later…I’m not sure where I stand. I’m naturally that much older and therefore in a different place emotionally, physically, career-wise etc. And this time round I found both book and film good but not something to “enjoy” as such. Know what I mean? For me, there are certain books and films that are really great, if not excellent, but that aren’t “enjoyable”. Not sure that makes any sense.

The graphic novel, by J.O’Barr, is stunning from an art perspective but you need to be in the right frame of mind for the story. I found it really, really dark (duh…naturally). The introduction by John Bergin states “In a Lonely Place” followed by “One day you are going to lose everything you have” and continues around this theme. This time round I actually registered that it was written because J.O’Barr had someone close to him lost, clearly in a sudden, probably brutal, way. The graphic novel portrays this. Very clearly. Very vividly. You should check it out- wow, the illustrations are so detailed and the style brings across such a realistic mood and atmosphere.250px-The_Crow1_Cover Oh boy! What an artist J.O’Barr is – using no colour at all (except on the cover and some pictures after the END), he is successfully able to portray light and dark times in the characters’ lives, more so than if he had actually used any colour. The “chopping and changing” between characters, scenes and style also adds to the doomed and violent feeling. Rounding off the experience is additional material such as the “history” of the Crow and additional illustrations.

Now the movie. It is also dark and in its own way is well done. For me it lacks that “something” and while it tends to stay true to the book, the fateful incident is different (I’m leaning toward the written version). It took a while to get into but then I started appreciating it especially that most of the scenes are cleverly set up to come across as black and white. The flashbacks weren’t as “light” as in the book and would have given a bit of relief from the relentless dark. Brandon Lee was perfectly cast, giving me a very similar Eric Draven as in the book. I just loved his smooth acrobatic movements, most of all his ‘crossed leg jump’ onto Top Dollar‘s boardroom table. In fact all the actors and their respective characters are spot on and I especially like Michael Wincott who is the perfect villain in every role he tackles (sorry Mr Wincott, I’ve only seen you in these roles). There is much less interaction with the actual crow and some of the wonderful nuances of their relationship existing in the novel are lost. But it is, after all, a totally different form of art.

Both forms come with a deep loss. And by this I don’t mean only the loss of Eric’s fiancée which drives the story. I mean the real thing. The heart wrenching loss of his girlfriend that became the story given to us by J.O’Barr as a means to deal with the situation (you can feel the pain page for page). And, an almost parallel loss when Brandon Lee was tragically killed on set, leaving behind a fiancée. Personal loss created a story which in return created personal loss.

So, having written down my thoughts, I realise this: I actually do still think the graphic novel is pretty darn amazing, however, is by no means the same read I experienced as a teenager. It probably hits home a bit more these days. Of the movie, however, I’m in two minds. Most likely because it too hits home a bit more.

Quotes taken from “The Crow”, J.O’Barr, Kitchen Sink Press Inc, 1994

(I’ve written a second bit for this Blogathon – Beyond the Cover of Jane Eyre)

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