This is Part Three of an interview I held with Nick Kouhi. In this final part of the interview we talk about superhero movies, favorite directors, and generally get off topic. Read the fun below!
Empire Strikes Back or New Hope?
I’m going to go with Empire. Funny thing is that I didn’t like it as a kid. I was very adverse to violence as a kid so when Luke got his hand cut off, I didn’t like it. But over time it grew on me.
Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?
Sean Connery. Both of them are James Bond but only one of them is Indiana Jones’ dad.
Citizen Kane or Vertigo?
It’s a tough question. I love Citizen Kane. I know some say it is boring and unengaging. But it is important because it is meant to be a jigsaw puzzle that is never solved. I think the joy of Citizen Kane is that all the pieces and all the little details that Orson Welles put in there and the fact that he was so young and accomplished this. It is so inspiring. I still love the movie a lot. In terms of sheer storytelling power, I have to go with Vertigo. I like to think of it as Hitchcock’s art movie. It’s sad, beautiful, creepy. I could go on and on about the movie like the score, cinematography, and the ending. It’s the perfect ending to a Horror/tragedy with a little more creepiness. So, Vertigo would be my answer.
The Dark Knight or The Avengers?
The Dark Knight easily. I like Joss Whedon, but the amount of hyperboles surrounding the film is a little much. I think The Dark Knight set the stage for comic book movies to come. It is very dark. It doesn’t have a happy ending. It doesn’t compromise. The interesting thing is that The Dark Knight Rises was no one near as good as The Dark Knight because the villains, their thing was to blow up Gotham, but in The Dark Knight they wanted to prove a point about human nature, that human beings were inherently primal and savage. It made it feel different than super hero movies that came before it and after it. It still can’t be beat. Maybe one day. They had a chance with Zach Snyder’s Watchmen, but they blew it.
Yeah, with Watchmen I feel like they got the comic flair right but they left a lot of important events out like the cutting between Rorschach, Nite Owl, and Ozymandias and the New York City people at the newsstand. Then you see them die. It is interesting seeing what flawed beings do in their last moments alive.
Yeah, the movie is an interesting case where it tries to stick close to the source material but misses the point entirely. It is normal people faced with normal consequences. It was a vast disappointment. I tell anyone who didn’t like the movie to read the book.
I really liked how The Comedian was portrayed in the film, same with Rorschach.
For me, I really liked how Dr. Manhattan was portrayed. He is extremely stylized, especially the sequence on Mars. But it makes sense because the character thinks differently than us, hyperawareness. Why couldn’t the rest of the movie been like that? It was a missed opportunity?
Yeah, my big gripe with The Avengers is that, with The Dark Knight you can keep rewatching it and pulling new things out of it, but with The Avengers, it just loses its brilliance on rewatches. The first time I saw it I was wowed by the action sequences and the effects and how Whedon was able to throw together multiple feature film superheroes into a cohesive group and story. But the second time, the amount of jokes in the film got annoying and some plot holes became more glaring like are they seriously not going to get suspicious of Loki not escaping when Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man fight each other, really?
The scene where Thor comes down with the hammer on Captain America’s shield and the whole forest gets wiped out. I remember watching that in the theater and calling bullshit on that one, especially when we see the hammer on Hulk later. So if we use logic here. The hammer is stronger than the Hulk, the shield is stronger than the hammer, ergo the shield is stronger than Hulk. How does that make any sense? It is a good movie, not a bad movie by any means. I do respect that Joss Whedon puts a little life into this formula and I think that is what he is great at. But when you look at it, it is just the basic superhero archetype. This bad guy wants to come to Earth and take it over, the heroes don’t like each other, someone dies, they stick together, then they save the day. I’ve seen that story dozens of times. It’s a good movie but nowhere near as good as The Dark Knight.
Hitchcock or Kubrick?
It’s a tough one. It’s like choosing between Malick or Nolan, or Bergman or Fincher. They both contribute so much to film. Hitchcock basically made the suspense genre, the way he edits scenes, the way he paces scenes. And yet he is still not a hack, he is an auteur. He’s a brilliant director. But I got to go with Kubrick on this one. If just for the fact he created Dr. Strangelove. His contribution to cinema is just as big as Hitchcock’s if not more. 2001: A Space Odyssey. I know a lot of people don’t like it today, but a lot of the science fiction genre owes a lot to it. The Shining is incalculable for the horror genre. Paths of Glory. Eyes Wide Shut which is severely underrated. But why I love Kubrick is because he has the same theme in every one of his movies: showing pretensions that human beings assume and then tears it away, showing the inner humanity. Even though I’m not personally crazy about Clockwork Orange, ideologically it repulses me, but I think it is in there too. He still has the trademark cinematography, the pacing, the use of the camera. You can watch a Kubrick scene, pause it, and talk about it frame by frame. The only other filmmaker I have felt comes close to the originality and unity is Terrence Malick.
I completely agree.
And yet he is so different. I think my heart does go to Hitchcock, but Kubrick, he expanded film grammar if not more so.
Malick is my favorite director of all time. When I grew up and was able to understand film more, The Thin Red Line changed me. It is completely unlike any other war movie.
The first Malick movie I saw was Badlands. It’s his most conventional movie. It was creepy and I thought it was okay. Then I decided to give Days of Heaven a look, and Days of Heaven was a period piece and beautiful, but it completely took me by surprise by how immersive it was. Many films try and tell the best story they can tell, but few feel rooted in an environment that they are so rich with detail. Wes Anderson does the same, crafting a specific view of the world with each film. Same with Kubrick. Malick, in Days of Heaven, uses so many little details in the film that add so much depth. Sometimes I just watch parts of it to bring me to a good place. There are very few movies I have seen that are like it.
I just bought it on the Criterion Collection. There are so many scenes where I was just in awe by their beauty—like when the Locusts come.
Yeah, I remember we screened that in Film Club last year and it was kind of our gamble. We had screened Shawshank and Rushmore. Then we decided to show Days of Heaven. It’s not a very conventional movie. So, after the film was finished, someone raised their hand and asked, “When was this movie made?” 1978. “Holy shit I thought it was made in the late 80s.” It’s just that kind of a movie. If you know about the 70s, then you can see some elements of the 70s like the cynicism. But, overall, the film is timeless. The amount of details he puts in like the guy dancing on the plank. One of the scenes that have always stuck with me is the early morning before the harvest when they’re all reading the bible. It’s very solemn, not very long. But it is almost like he reveres nature as a church. It is a gorgeous moment. It isn’t for everyone. But I love them. I would love, one day, to meet Terrence Malick. I would just like to thank him.
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