Tonight (1984)

Don’t Look Down On This Album

I don’t make any apologies when I say I enjoy this much-dismissed album more than I do some of David Bowie’s more acclaimed works. Tonight is an actual album, unlike Let’s Dance which was more a collection of songs. In fact, from Bowie’s so-called “sell out” period I honestly think Tonight and Never Let Me Down are much stronger albums than Let’s Dance, half of which is comprised of very disposable tracks.

Loving the Alien is one of my very favourite Bowie songs. I didn’t think much of it when I first heard it in a single edit on The Best of Bowie but that changed when I heard the full-length version with the instrumental orchestral second half make for one hell of an atmospheric seven-minute epic. The lyrics are also among some of the most fascinating on a Bowie song, comparing the Templars (Christians) and the Saracens (Muslims) of the Middle Ages to the current Holy War in Palestine today, in other words, history is doomed to repeat itself – and who is the alien? God himself? The one both sides claim to be on their side.

The one issue with Tonight is that most the songs are not actually Bowie songs, they’re mostly covers of Iggy Pop songs but they’re quality covers. Compare them to Bowie and Mick Jagger’s cover of Dancing In the Street, which for the life of me I can’t figure out why people like that cover so much; the covers on Tonight have far superior arrangement and production values. Don’t Look Down is one of Bowie’s most relaxing songs, I don’t know how anyone could listen to it and say “this is a bad song”. Never being a Beach Boys fan, God Only Knows was never a favourite song of mine and I like Bowie’s version more than the original. The orchestral segments of the cover as well as it’s grander and atmospheric nature really does it for me over the original. Tina Turner’s appearance on the song Tonight doesn’t add anything to the song but doesn’t take anything away either, while Neighbourhood Threat is a terrific rocker, it’s so 80’s I love it. I found the final two songs on the album disappointing, I Keep Forgettin’ is disposable while Dancing With the Big Boys doesn’t do anything for me, although even these weak song I consider to be better than Let’s Dance’s weak songs. Also, that beautiful stained glass album cover alone would make Tonight worth buying on vinyl.

Why does 1980’s Bowie get dismissed as much as it does; because an artist who spent the previous decade working in the avant-garde started to make commercial pop music? If David Bowie was a new artist who first hit the scene with Let’s Dance would this output of music be looked upon with more respect? I like both sides of Bowie, the avant-garde and the mainstream pop star. However, if you’re back catalog is only comprised of music which is serious and there’s nothing which is just simply fun and laid back to counterbalance it, then things get stale.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Fortune & Glory

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Ah, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. One of those films which I thought was beloved for many years until the advent of the internet in which I discovered it actually gets a lot of stick. Well never fear Temple of Doom, as I am here to defend you against waves of undeserved criticism. So hold onto yo potatoes, it’s time for a controversial review of unpopular opinion.

I’ll begin my defense of Temple of Doom by discussing the movie’s two not so beloved supporting characters. First up its Short Round as delightfully played by child actor Jonathan Ke Quan. I love Short round for several reasons with the first being the endearing relationship he has with Indiana Jones. Unlike Indy’s other companions, Short Round idolizes Indy. The moment in which Indy places Short Round’s cap on his head after freeing him from the Thuggee cult’s spell perfectly sums up their relationship and it gets me every time. Short Round saves Indy’s life on multiple occasions; In fact, sometimes I wonder how he’s even still alive without him. In comparison to a more beloved character in the series, Henry Jones senior, who almost gets Indy killed on a number of occasions thus rendering the criticism of Short Round being a hindrance to Indy invalid. But I hear you say, Short Round has an annoying voice? – Not at all. Short projects a voice of juvenile innocence and adventure. Short Round is like a kid’s fantasy, what’s cooler than getting to be Indiana Jones’ sidekick? Who wouldn’t want to be Short Round? Well, I’d rather be Indy himself, but being Short Round is the next best thing.

But how do I defend Willie Scott?! This bastion of female serotypes! Oh please, quit the feminist double standard. Outrage is none existent when a character exhibits male stereotypes (not that there should be). Shouldn’t true equality between the sexes allow for a female character to be portrayed as incompetent rather than imposing creative limitations on how women can be portrayed in fiction.

Those who call Willie annoying; well let’s agree to disagree. I’ve never found the character of Willie to be annoying and I believe one of the reasons for this is that she is punished for her selfish actions throughout the film. Her character is supposed to be unlikeable and the movie is fully aware of this by making her receive comeuppance. Willie holds some similarities with Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with her preoccupation with diamonds and her intention to get rich by marrying a particular wealthy gentleman, only to find out they’re a child. Just like Monroe, Capshaw displays a wide range of facial expressions and excels in her comedic timing. During the movie Willie matures, she shows concern for Indy and Short Round during the later portion of the film and even punches bad guys during the mine cart chase, a far cry from her earlier self. I love this trio of characters, so yeah, what are you going to do about it?!

Temple of Doom begins not with the build-up to an action scene but rather a musical number (with the opening shot of the gong is surely a little tribute to the Rank Organisation). I’ve never heard every rendition of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes but surely this has to be the best version of the tune as Kate Capshaw sings it in Mandarin. The superb rendition of the song along with the dance choreography, the costumes and shear sparkling on-screen, this may be the greatest musical number from a non-musical film. It might seem odd to start an Indiana Jones movie with a musical number but as it captures the 1930’s setting and exotic tone of the series so against the odds it works and works magnificently. Temple of Doom even serves as a travelogue for India with its gorgeous landscapes, accompanied by John Williams at his most exotic.

Temple of Doom is a film that doesn’t beat about the bush and gets over the top very quickly. This is another aspect that sets it apart from Raiders and Last Crusade as the action in Temple of Doom is the least plausible from the original three movies; hence why moments such as the trio escaping from the plane via jumping out of it on a rubber raft come under criticism. However, I believe there’s a fine line between action being implausible but not the point in which you can’t suspend your disbelief (yes I’m looking at you Nuke the Fridge) and I feel Temple of Doom achieves this fine line. The second half of Temple of Doom is one huge roller coaster ride with many classic B-movie and adventure serial pitfalls; a room with a descending spiked roof, a conveyor belt with a crushing roller at the end, a scene atop a rope bridge and the best of all, the mine cart chase sequence – an absolute master class of action movie filmmaking. After the trio escape from metaphorical hell, the final kiss between Indy and Willie is one of the most satisfying in all of cinema.

Temple of Doom is too juvenile you say? You’re saying juvenile like it’s a bad thing. I like all the weird creepy stuff; the bugs, the monkey brains, hearts being ripped out of people’s chests. It’s repulsive in the best sense of the word. But Temple of Doom isn’t a stupid film. No one ever seems to mention Indy’s character arc of overcoming his selfish streak. During the first half of the film, he is only concerned with obtaining his ‘fortune and glory’. Even after visiting the baron village, obtaining the Sankara Stones for his own personal gain remains his only objective. It’s not until he sees his own eyes the children in slave labour that he changes his way. Likewise, people praise The Empire Strikes Back for being dark, why doesn’t this logic of darkness being synonymous with quality not work for Temple of Doom?

But let’s get into the real serious stuff – the film’s portrayal of Hinduism. I don’t claim to be an expert on Hinduism but I’ll attempt to the best of my ability to defend this most controversial aspect of the film. The villains of Temple of Doom, The Thuggee, were a cult who resided in India over several hundred years who would strangle travelers and steal their belongings (hence the origin of the term ‘thug’). The Thuggee were followers of the Hindu Goddess Kali, however, in Hinduism, Kali is not an evil entity, but rather the goddess of time, change and energy. As what The Thuggee believes is not what Kahali stands for, it makes the villains more interesting as they religious extremists, desecrating a faith for their own selfish gain, such as The Westro Baptist Church to Christianity or Isis to Islam. I believe the filmmakers are aware of this, as evident in the scene towards the end of the film on the dangling rope bridge, Just before Indy sends Mola Ram to his death, he utters “You betrayed Kali!”.Raiders and Last Crusade show that the God of Christianity exists in the Indiana Jones universe.  Does the spiritual power to the Shankara Stones lend legitimacy to Hinduism then?

Then you’ve got the usual crowd with their screams of “racism”! Does the movie have a stereotypical portrayal of Indians? I don’t see Raiders or Last Crusade having such a loving portrayal of the German people but of course, they’re white so it doesn’t count. I’m sick of engaging in this game. When a film is labeled for apparent racism I think to myself, was there malicious intent behind it? Temple of Doom doesn’t give into any pretense of political correctness with its white saviour protagonist, touchy religious subject matter and stereotypical female lead; deal with it.

I consider Temple of Doom to be no less worthy of a film than Raiders or Last Crusade. Like how Temple of Doom dared to be different and the black sheep of the series, I dare not to bow to the will of popular opinion. What are you going to do about it!? For you see my opinion is always correct, except for the times when I am wrong, which is never.

Grace Quigley (1984)

Seymour! Mother!

Old Hollywood stars who were still working by the 1980’s where usually appearing in films dealing with old age (On Golden Pond, Tough Guys, The Whales of August). Grace Quigley was one such film and would be Katharine Hepburn’s last starring role in a theatrical film. The movie’s alternative title is ‘The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley’ although I’m assuming that title is less commonly used since it echoes a certain 20th-century atrocity.

Starring alongside Nick Nolte, Grace Quigley has a Harold and Maude element of a young man and an old woman becoming an unlikely team but the Hal Ashby comparison doesn’t end there as I’ve read several sources stating he was originally set to direct the project. The plot of the film involves retired widow Grace Quigley and hitman Seymour Flint getting together through a series of events (and eventfully he adorably starts calling her mom) and starting their own assisted suicide enterprise.  Yes, that’s the plot. Grace Quigley is one of my favourite dark comedies with much of the film’s humour coming from the characters talking so casually about killing themselves as if it’s something they do every day as well as the inclusion of possibly the happiest funeral ever.

The film has a pro-assisted suicide message with one scene involving Grace’s neighbour played by William Duell telling Seymour about dying with dignity and her unwillingness to go to a retirement home as well as “dying in front of a TV set”. In one of the more serious moments of the film, Grace takes Seymour to a retirement home to show him the horrors. I applaud the film for having the courage to make these unapologetic statements about one’s right to take their own life and society’s treatment of the elderly.  As Grace Quigley was a pet project for Katharine Hepburn she must have strongly believed in the issues raised in the film (and a sequel was even planned!).

I also recommend looking up Grace Quigley’s UK VHS cover art. The film I not actually that action-packed (although there is one brief car chase) but I still say it is the single greatest piece of home video artwork ever created.