Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This Isn't Over By a Long Shot: A Review of "Carrie" (2013) on Blu-ray

The recent remake of Carrie has been out on DVD and Blu-ray and various download platforms since January 14, which means that I'm way behind in getting a review out.  Hey, look, it is what it is.

Don't take my two-months' silence for disinterest, however; as you might recall from my review of the movie from last October's theatrical release, I am a fan of the movie.  I had problems with it on its initial release, but they did not prohibit my enjoyment.

Returning to the film in preparation for this review, I re-watched the movie four times: once the old-fashioned Blu-ray way; once with director Kimberley Peirce's commentary track; once on my laptop, via the DVD Sony included with the Blu-ray package (for screencapping purposes, and with the sound muted -- I listened to scores from original-series Star Trek episodes during this process, and there were times when the music fit the imagery almost perfectly . . . and times when it really, really didn't fit it at all); and then again with the commentary track for note-taking purposes.

Any good movie -- and a great many bad ones, too -- will offer up its secrets in layers, so that if you revisit it, you will find yourself noticing new things each time.  Sometimes this causes you to appreciate a movie more, and sometimes less; but generally speaking, you will find yourself refining your opinions, for better or worse.

Or, at least, you will if you happen to be a blogger named Bryant Burnette who writes The Truth Inside The Lie.  Others' mileage may vary, I suppose; but this is my experience, and it holds true.

For example, it holds very much true as regards Kimberly Peirce's version of Carrie, which I've now seen (one way or another) six times.  Let's cut to the chase: yes, I still like it.  Yes, I also still have problems with it.  BUT . . . I have fewer problems with it, and the aspects that I liked initially seem even stronger to me now.  So, all in all, my already-positive opinion of the film has become even more positive, albeit still tinged with a slight bit of "why'd-they-do-that" negativity.

This is the first of two posts I am going to do about the movie.  More on that second one later; let's get the first written before we worry about the second, and the first is going to consist mostly of me rambling my way through the various thoughts I've accumulated during the course of my recent rewatches.  We'll be illustrating the review with copious screencaps, too, so if my words bore you, there'll at least be some pretty pictures to look at.




I wouldn't necessarily count that image as one of them, though.  I continue to be unimpressed by the way the movie was marketed, especially the "YOU WILL KNOW HER NAME" tagline.  I mean, is the lack of familiarity with the name "Carrie White" an issue in any way?  Not really, not in-story or in our own world, where we've been hearing the name for forty years now.  It's a tagline that means nothing, says nothing, and gained the movie's box-office nothing.


But a movie is not a marketing campaign, and the movie itself is really quite good.

Let's turn to our screencaps for some specific evidence:




I love the opening scene, in which Margaret gives birth to Carrie, seemingly unaware that she is pregnant at all; possibly, even, unaware as to what, exactly, "pregnancy" is.  All of this is hinted at in the novel, and seizing on it as a means of opening the film is one of the best decisions Peirce made on this project.

[A quick aside: you will note, perhaps, that my previous comment implies that the decision to open the movie in that manner WAS Peirce's.  I have no way of knowing definitively if this was the case.  It could have been, or it might have come from the screenplay, or from one of the film's producers, or from star Julianne Moore.  However, getting across the idea of that complexity of collaboration is a ponderous task, and most film criticism adopts the simpler shorthand tactic of using what is known as "auteur theory."  Simply put, auteur theory posits that a director is THE primary author of a film.  It is a somewhat ridiculous concept, to be honest, but as a shorthand, it works.  I mention this as a means of clarifying that when I say something like "seizing on it as a means of opening the film is one of the best decisions Peirce made on this project," I am not unaware of the fact that film is a collaborative medium.  I am indulging in critical shorthand, nothing more.  That said, on most film sets, the director IS the person who is the most responsible for making ultimate creative decisions; so statistically speaking, auteur-theory assertions are probably correct more often than not.]

I have seen some speculation online that when Margaret holds the scissors in front of the infant Carrie's face, she is stopped by Carrie's already-present telekinetic powers.  I don't agree with that reading; Margaret stops herself.  The infant actor in the scene does wave her arms about a bit, in a way that could be mistaken for Carrie wielding her power; but the simpler explanation is that little Carrie is simply waving her arms about.  She's just been born!  How would she even know that Margaret intended her harm?  She's not Peter Parker; she does not have spider-sense.

Apart from that, does it not seem likely that if Margaret was trying to murder the infant and was then forcibly stopped from doing so, she would have a bit more horrified attitude toward the baby?   She instead picks the child up, tenderly, and cradles her in her arms in a loving embrace that certainly contains no element of "this child is a witch that must be destroyed."

So, I am here to tell you (in a manner I am going to claim is definitive): infant Carrie DOES NOT stop the scissors.




The more I see it, the more masterful the shower scene seems to me.  I think I'd still give Sissy Spacek the edge in terms of portraying Carrie's near-hysteria.

However, I still also think the definitive version of the scene is to be found in the novel.  One of the choices that DePalma made in the 1976 film -- one that Peirce carries over for the 2013 film -- is Carrie exiting the show stall and going to the other girls for help.  She goes charging out witlessly, and begins waving her bloody hands at the other girls.  To me, it seems as if Carrie is simply too shy and reserved and fearful a person to do this; she strikes me as being more likely to withdraw to the corner of the shower where nobody can see her, and then become catatonic with horror until somebody comes along and snaps her out of it.  In the novel, she begins bleeding onto the floor of the shower, does not notice, and is tormented by the other girls for her lack of hygiene and self-awareness.  (Little do they know just how un-self-aware she is...)

So, for the record, I kind of wish Peirce had opted to stick more closely to the book.

[Sidebar: when I finally "make it" and become a prominent Hollywood producer -- which I'm just sure is going to happen any day now -- I plan to wait until about 2030 and then I'm going to produce an eight-part HBO series that re-adapts Carrie for the small screen, and really captures the novel.  The shower scene will not happen until the last few minutes of the second episode.  Go ahead and start looking forward to it now, y'all.]

That said, if this film had to restage the DePalma version of the shower scene, complete with Carrie charging out like a panicked cat, then Peirce's restaging is really quite successful.  Another great decision made for this movie: having Chris respond in an initially helpful manner, and only turn nasty once Sue (who, understandably disgusted at finding another girl's menstrual blood on her own clothes, initiates the throwing of tampons) does so.  The situation quickly escalates, but up until that point the  motivations of the two primary participants -- Sue and Chris -- are believable, human, and relatable.  My problem with the DePalma film is that a great many of its scenes feature characters who feel less like human beings than they do like aliens impersonating humans based on incomplete knowledge of things like emotion and psychology.  Perhaps THE best element of Peirce's film is that it reverses that element, so much so that we can even feel some initial sympathy for Chris Hargensen during this shower scene.

Not long afterward, Carrie visits the principal's office, and Margaret is called to come and pick her up from school.  This leads to one of my favorite visual moments in the film: Carrie is sitting in a hallway at school, eyes closed, seemingly trying to find some measure of inner peace before the storm she knows must be coming for her arrives.  As she sits, a darkness passes over her face, and she opens her eyes to find her mother staring coldly down at her:








The nuances of the cinematography (courtesy of Steve Yedlin) have not survived the screencapping process, sadly, but maybe you get the idea nevertheless.  One of my favorite moments in the movie.
  
As Carrie and Margaret are leaving, Carrie looks over and sees Chris, with her boyfriend, Billy: 
  




Keep that little moment in mind; we will be calling back to it later.

Here's a bit of foreshadowing that doesn't entirely work for me:




I'm also not sure I buy that a kid would actually do this.  Think about it.  Around their neighborhood, Margaret would almost certainly be thought of as a crazy person, and both her yard and her driveway would be high on the avoid-at-all-costs list.  From my memory of being a child, there are two ways to handle such yards and driveways: you either steer clear of them, or you steer WAY clear of them.  But from what I remember, if you somehow slipped up and found yourself in the yard or dirveway of one of these houses, you assumed that the owner was looking down at you while aiming a sniper rifle, and doing an "eenie-meenie-miney-more" game to determine whether to pull the trigger.

So, for me, this asshole kid brazenly running up on Carrie like this -- not only in the driveway, but (horrors!) actually CONFRONTING THE DAUGHTER AND ASSAULTING THE CAR!!! -- is essentially a kiddie-kamikazi action.  It rings false.  Your mileage may vary.




I like the film's production design in general, and I especially like Carrie's prayer closet.  On the one hand, it is obviously a dank little place where much misery has accrued over the years.  But on the other hand, it feels like exactly the sort of place Margaret would think would be instructive and chastening, and, therefore, beneficial.  The prayer closet in DePalma's film was also evocative, but it -- like Piper Laurie's Margaret -- went a bit too far in the wrong direction (i.e., toward camp).

IMDb informs me that the production design in Peirce's film was courtesy of Carol Spier, who is perhaps best known as a frequent David Cronenberg collaborator.  She did the production design on such Cronenberg films as The Fly, Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, Dead Ringers, and, yes, The Dead Zone, to name a few, as well as notable non-Cronenberg films like Blade II, Pacific Rim, and (!) The Santa Clause.




When I initially reviewed the film last year, my choice for standout performance was Portia Doubleday, who plays Chris.  She's probably dropped to third now (behind Julianne Moore, and maybe behind Chloe Moretz), but that's no indication that I've mellowed on the quality of Doubleday's performance; I haven't, and I think she is terrific.

The above screencap comes from the scene in which she is posting the video of Carrie's menstrual mishaps online.  The moment is a bit screencap-resistant; Doubleday has an extremely complicated set of emotions playing on her face during this shot, and they are nearly as resistant to summary as they are to capturing one frame at a time.  So I won't even really try; I'll simply marvel at it, and direct you to the scene itself.

Here's another, which is slightly more screencappable:







The look on Chris's face during this scene is just as complex, but perhaps a bit more explicable: here, Chris knows in one part of her brain that she has made a very serious set of mistakes, but believes in the other part that she is being persecuted in some way.  Put another way, her id knows she has fucked up, but her superego is telling her to commit even further and refuse to accept any blame whatsoever.  Her superego wins, but you can see the conflict playing out on her face here.  It's great acting.

Let's jump ahead in the film just a bit and see one more such Doubleday/Chris moment:







This occurs when she and Billy have snuck into the gym to plant the bucket of blood above the stage.  Again, the moment is somewhat incapable of being captured by still images, but I think you can get a sense of the roiling sea of conflicting emotions at play on Chris's face here.  This is a girl who is devastated to not be going to her own senior prom.  If we're really charitable toward her, we might also speculate that there is some advance sympathy and regret for what is going to be done to Carrie, but I think that's being too charitable; I think her motivations are simpler and more self-centered.  She feels saddened and angered by what (as she perceives it) has been taken away from her.

Let's move on now and talk about the film's star, Chloe Grace Moretz.  Here's one of her better scenes (four frames of it, at least):







I think you can make the argument that Moretz's performance is every bit as nuanced as Doubleday's (or Julianne Moore's).  Speaking personally, though, I have such a greater degree of investment in the character of Carrie White -- and the resultant personal ideas of what a portrayal of Carrie should and shouldn't feel like, and has and hasn't felt like in the past from other actors -- that it can be a little difficult for me to sit back and simply experience what Moretz is doing in this movie.  That is an unfair state of things, and I'm not entirely sure why that seems to be the case (I do not have the same struggles in other such scenarios, such as weighing the various James Bonds against one another) here; and yet, so it seems to be.

During these rewatches, I tried to pay close attention to her performance, and to divorce it from Sissy Spacek's (and from my mental conception of King's original Carrie; and from both Angela Bettis and -- yes -- Emily Bergl, too) as much as humanly possible.  Doing so told me what I already knew: that Moretz was very good in this role 90% of the time, and ever so slightly too confident and assured the other 5% of the time.  An example of that 5% comes when Carrie early on asserts that one of her mother's bizarre sayings is not even from the Bible.  It's a funny moment, but do I entirely buy that Carrie could summon that much sass?  Not really.

That said, in the novel, King has Carrie -- during the equivalent scene -- scream "You SUCK! You FUCK!" at her mother.  So comparatively, Moretz is restrained.  The idea is that her first period has simply unleashed something in her; she is, in the emotional and attitudinal sense of things, literally not the same person she was when she left the house that morning.  It works in King's novel because his prose places us in Carrie's point of view, and we have access to her thoughts.  A movie can't pull that trick as capably, and this one doesn't break new ground in that regard; even as part of my brain (the id, perhaps?) knows that Moretz is playing the scene correctly, the other part is frowning a bit and declaiming that something is amiss.

Not so during the scene pictured above, at the mirror.  Moretz is terrific in that scene and the entirety of my brain knows it.  She's even better in the scene immediately following Tommy asking her to the prom:









We have yet again come up against the limitations of the screencapping process, which are proving to be mostly inadequate when it comes to capturing complex emotion on young girls' faces.  But if you've got a copy of the movie, check out this scene, where Carrie tells Miss Desjardin that she has been asked to the prom.  The way she says it is in the tones of someone who legitimately had never even considered that such a thing might be possible, much less from a Tommy Ross.  This is a girl who has probably spent the entirety of her life believing that she will probably never do much of anything other than live in the same house for the remainder of that life, so much so that not only has the thought of there being anything else never properly occurred to her, but the thought of there even being such a thought probably hasn't occurred to her.  Until now, when all of a sudden she sees that there could be more to life.  She's already gotten a glimpse of such potentiality, thanks to her moment at the mirror, and her subsequent investigations of what seem to her to be magical abilities of some sort; but even that was essentially predicated only upon herself, and lacked any real involvement from the rest of the human world.

Now, suddenly, the prospect of actually fitting in with other humans raises its head and announces its presence.  Carrie is feeling that in all of its complex glory: the rich potential for happiness, but also the crushing potential for even deeper sadness should it fail to work out.  Better to have loved and lost than to have never have loved at all, yes, probably; but better to have loved and lost, or better to have never even known there WAS such a thing as love?  That's a tougher call, and you can see Moretz's Carrie struggling with it in this dynamite scene.

Moretz is also quite good during the prom-massacre scene; she adopts an animalistic posture and very nicely avoids the trap of replicating Sissy Spacek's vacant-eyed alien-ness, which worked so well for DePalma's film.  Moretz conveys, as Spacek (and, for that matter, Angela Bettis in the 2002 television remake) did, the idea that Carrie's conscious mind has more or less vacated the scene.

Let's run through some of that sequence:


It isn't evident from this screencap (unless you already know it), but Carrie's initial response to having the blood dumped on her is to just leave.  GTFO, baby.  But then, something gets her attention:

I can't overstate how great an addition this is to the Carrie White story.  I remember when the news broke that the '13 version would incorporate modern technology and social media; there was a decent amount of hand-wringing from people who objected to the story being modernized in that way.  Balls to those people, says I.  Dumping the blood on her is a knife in the gut; having there be a humiliating video play as a capper to the blood is equivalent to breaking the blade off at the hilt.  Absolutely brutal.

Even so, Carrie's intent is to get the fuck outta there.

She finds Miss Desjardin standing in her way.  Desjardin only wants to help, but Carrie only wants to leave, so she telekinetically shoves the teacher back.

(Which doesn't 'cap very well, hence my only showing Judy Greer's bewilderment over what has just happened to her.)  Even at this point, things might conceivably turn out okay; or, at least, not end in tragedy.  But a poorly-tied-off metal bucket has other plans, and when it plummets down and kills Tommy, Peirce pulls out another stroke of genius: she has Carrie react to Tommy's death.

Previous versions of the movie had more or less ignored the idea that Tommy dying would have a profound impact on Carrie.  It is only hinted at even in the novel (where King references Carrie telepathically feeling a part of her mind close that had only recently opened up, and the thought tommy flits through her mind briefly).  Peirce instead uses it as a catalyst; it is Tommy's death -- which one might even call a murder -- that sparks the match of vengeance.

It is THIS that sets the match to the gasoline:

Carrie looks up, sees Billy's discarded sunglasses (here's that callback I promised you earlier), and knows who has done this thing to her, and why.  It's a subtle moment, and one that I did not notice on my own; you can thank Peirce's commentary track for that.

Carrie's rage is then unleashed, and as she screams, she issues a wave of telekinetic energy outward...

...blowing back everyone in front of her...

...and creating yet another hard-to-screencap-but-excellent moment.

She scrunches a dude inside some bleachers...

...she flings some people into glass doors...

...she gets caught on camera, which presumably was meant to have a much bigger impact.  But it's worth noting that she only kills people who she knows to be friends with Chris, and therefore likely to have participated in her shaming and Tommy's murder.  This is another facet of the movie that I had utterly failed to notice; indeed, it, too, had to be pointed out to me via commentary track.  But this, too, is a terrific alteration of the story, one that was perhaps necessary in these days of school violence.

Another favorite moment: Carrie sees Miss Desjardin again, and picks her up by the throat.



You do not initially know what Carrie is going to do with the teacher; after all, Miss Desjardin (or the equivalent character) died in the two previous movie adaptations.  Here, as in the novel, she is permitted to live.  Carrie -- in what I believe is an addition (and another good one, if so) for the movie -- is lifting her to safety; her next move is to use some downed livewires to electrocute Tina, a move which would have killed Desjardin, who was standing in water.

There is plenty of other stuff, but I couldn't 'cap it all.  It all feels as if it comes to a bit of a premature close, however, and culminates in a fairly unsuccessful effects shot of Carrie flying, witchlike, out of the gymnasium.  I probably should have screencapped that, just to show something I don't like; but I didn't.  Sue me.

*****

Well, what else is there to discuss?












Yes, indeed, Hart Bochner has an uncredited role as Chris's slimy father.  It's one of my favorite scenes in the novel, and the movie adds an interesting wrinkle: instead of having Mr. Hargensen get trumped by the principal, Miss Desjardin gets to knock both him and Chris on their metaphorical asses.  Nice.

Here's a screencap of Chris's never-sent (?) text to her father shortly before her death:




Notice that whatever their previous communication had been, Chris's father had had to bail on something due to work.  That's a miniscule little touch, but it's nice to see that the people making the movie had some ideas about how active a parental figure Mr. Hargensen was being for his daughter.

And because why not, here are a couple of other text messages, both received by Sue:





Nice product placement, Sony.  (I don't actually mind; people in the real world use real products, so why shouldn't people in movies, too?)

My feeling about how this movie uses modern technology?  I think it uses it damned well.  All such devices have a core of humanity to them, because they are all used BY HUMANS.  And humans inherently equal drama.  It's up to the filmmaker to figure out how to incorporate that drama into their stories, and I think Peirce nailed it here.  Not only is it logical for Tommy to text Sue updates, it's also logical that Chris would want to take a dig at Sue shortly before taking a bigger one at Carrie, and -- more importantly -- that that would motivate Sue to go to the prom.  I like the novel's version of these events: that Sue simply knew, somehow, that she needed to seek Carrie out; but it makes dramatic sense for her to go to the prom, which does not happen in the book.

I also like love the fact that Sue inadvertently blocks Billy's car in:




When I first realized that, I thought it was cool, but I also thought there was a slight element of bullshit to it, because how could they have gotten out?  But in screencapping the scene, it is obvious that there is just enough room that Billy could have eventually, with enough effort, maneuvered his car into being able to get through the gap that Sue leaves.  This is great stuff: it provides solid rationale for Billy and Chris being close enough to the gym that Carrie can find them once she leaves, and it also makes logical sense for them to have not been able to get farther away.




We haven't said much about Julianne Moore, have we?  Not in terms of specifics, at least.

I said in my first review of the film that her Margaret was now, for me, the definitive cinematic version of the character.  That opinion has not changed.  She plays the role with a more successful version of the quiet menace that Patricia Clarkson used in the 2002 remake, adding a layer of genuine insanity to it that is more restrained and believable than the camp which Piper Laurie used in the 1976 version.

My only real criticism for the way Peirce depicts Margaret is that I could have used a bit more emphasis on Margaret being a bit of a community pariah.  Maybe one scene of her visiting a neighbor with some Chick Tracts, or something.  But that's a minor criticism; not a "real" one at all, actually.  I'd have to say Moore's Margaret is a near-complete success.


She brings a genuine -- if decidedly crazed -- warmth to the Carrie/Margaret scenes that is a far cry from either of the previous film adaptations.  It's also, arguably, an improvement on the novel, in which Margaret is mostly cold and unfeeling toward her daughter.

One of my major criticisms of the movie overall is that Margaret's antipathy toward Carrie's powers could have used more development.  I mean, sure, it's reasonable to suspect that the very second Margaret sees something like Carrie lifting furniture, she is going to leap to "witch."  But I wish there had been a flashback scene in which something happens during Carrie's childhood, so that we know the seed was planted long ago.  Intellectually, I know it works as-is, though; this is just a case of me wanting more, more, more.








Let's spare a moment to talk about the editing, courtesy of Lee Percy and Nancy Richardson.  A trio of moments -- two great, one iffy -- stood out to me.  Let's have a look.

During the scene in which Chris confronts Sue in the gym, Sue -- stung by the truth of Chris's accusations -- begins walking out of one of the gymnasium doors.  The scene edits, and we see her walking in through the door of her own home.





Nothing complicated about this, but it's a nice example of what film editing can do that very few other mediums can: create psychology through juxtaposition.  After being verbally lashed by Chris, Sue wants to retreat, and to find a more comfortable place; what place is more comfortable than home?  Well, home she goes.  And yet, ask Carrie White how comfortable home is; you might get a different answer.  It seems likely that you'd get a different one from Chris, too.

What does Sue do once home?  She goes and looks at her prom dress, which is itself a rich symbol in this movie: it represents a lot of things, but let's not forget that ONE of the facets it carries in terms of the story is that it was sewn by Margaret White herself.  She denies her own daughter the pleasure of such things, but is perfectly capable of taking money in exchange for providing it to others.  And it is, arguably, this very dress that helps to give Sue the idea that will, in time, put Carrie herself at the prom; and, eventually, in her grave, along with Sue's own boyfriend.

So take another look at that second screencap; it's that dress that Sue is looking off-frame toward.  And whether she knows it or not, she is looking at Tommy's death.

Speaking of that dress, it also appears prominently in the second example of great editing I'd like to point out.  It occurs during a nicely-edited montage that shows what various of the characters are doing after Carrie accepts Tommy's prom invitation and tells her mother about it.  Chris and Billy are in the gym, hanging the bucket of blood; Billy is above, putting it in place, and as he jostles it, a drop of the blood falls onto Chris's face:


We cut from Chris reacting to this to...

...Sue's red dress, which might theoretically be said to serve as a symbol of both Carrie's menstrual mishap AND Chris's "revenge" plan.

Soon thereafter, Sue is looking forlorn and staring out the window, either AT the moon, or oblivious to the moon.  It works either way; that moon, too, is a big ole symbol of the female reproductive cycle.  This one is full, and as we all know, bad things happen when the moon is full.  Add on the fact that -- possibly unbeknownst to us at this time, depending on how we interpreted the earlier scene of Sue throwing up -- Sue is also dealing with her own menstrual-cycle (as in, lack-of-same) issues at the time, and what you've got right here is a very rich, multifunctional image.

And now, for a moment that doesn't work as well, editorially.  One of the things that editors typically try to avoid like the plague is cutting between an actor's takes that vary wildly in tone.  Every production is different, and actors vary one to another, as well; but it is very common for actors and directors to shoot multiple takes in which they experiment with different emphases.  So, for example, they might film a three-person scene any number of different ways:one in which all three people are happy; one in which two are happy and one is sad; one in which one is happy and two are sad; one in which two are angry and one is happy; one in which everyone is stoned; one in which . . . ah, you get the picture.

The challenge for the editor is to then make sure that everything matches tonally.

Here is an example of that not happening:


Tommy declares that he going to go get some punch and let Miss Desjardin talk to Carrie.  Before he goes, he makes a joke about the punch being spiked.  Miss Desjardin fixes him with a withering glare and asks, "Really?!?" in a tone indicating that she is less surprised by the idea that the punch might be spiked than she is by the implication that Tommy could mention such a thing in front of her without fear of reprecussion.  Cut from that to...

...the two of them looking like they've just exchanged very pleasant pleasantries.  Major tonal shift; does not work at all.


There is likely a good reason for this; the editors probably didn't have anything else to cut to.  Or maybe Peirce simply liked both of those individual takes, and wanted to keep them, and then reasoned -- almost certainly correctly -- that so few people would notice that the tonal shift did not matter.  Which is why I almost feel bad for pointing it out.

I've made up for it with copious praise elsewhere, though, so I figure it's all good.

By the way, as Miss Desjardin walked over to Carrie and Tommy at the beginning of this scene, the following was her approach:




It's a "oh my GOD, look how beautiful you are!" type approach, but it's also a forehsadowing of a later moment that will cause Miss Desjardin to cover her mouth in a completely different way:




We haven't talked much about Judy Greer.  She's fantastic, and, just like Portia Doubleday and Julianne Moore, she is now (for me, at least) the definitive version of her character on film to date.  We'll have more to say about her in a later portion of this review.




One of the elements of the movie -- two of them, I guess, technically -- that didn't entirely work for me initially was the casting of Tommy and Sue.  I didn't dislike either Ansel Elgort or Gabriella Wilde, but I found both of them to be a little on the bland side.

I still feel that way about Wilde.  She is good; there is nothing negative I can say about her here, except that she is a little unremarkable.  However, I get the feeling that Peirce cast the role that way on purpose; I get the feeling that she has more contempt for Sue than for any other character in the entire movie (with the possible exception of Billy).  We'll speak more of this later, when covering Peirce's commentary track.

We'll also have more to say about Elgort as Tommy, but for now, I can say that I have gained a greater appreciation of him during these rewatches.




I'd say much the same for Alex Russell as Billy.  I had no beef with him in my initial review, but I felt that the movie underutilized him; and I still feel that that is the case.  I also still feel it was a misstep to have the pig's-blood plot be Billy's idea and not Chris's.  However, the Blu-ray contains a couple of deleted scenes that flesh Billy out a bit more, and I find that I am incorporating that knowledge into my view of this version of the character now.

It's also worth adding that I had no idea Russell was Australian -- or possibly Kiwi -- until seeing a behind-the-scenes interview with him.  His American accent is flawless.  (Gabriella Wilde's is pretty good, too, although I can hear hers break a couple of times.)


Moon imagery on the table lamps.

More moon imagery.

And again.


Lots of moon imagery, certainly in the prom sequence.  But there is also lots of star imagery, at least at the prom.  As a symbol, stars equal fate and destiny to me; this is probably due to Shakespeare, who spoke of "star-cross'd lovers" and of fault being "in our stars" rather than in ourselves.  Keeping that in mind along with the idea that the gigantic moon represents Carrie's humiliation, and that screencap above begins to look like absolute grim-faced doom.  Which, really, it is.

This seems like an opportune time to mention that the movie ceases working for me at a certain point.  I have tried to narrow it down, and I believe that it comes just after the next scene I want to discuss:


Freshly bathed (and chastened), Carrie seeks solace in her mother's arms.

Margaret has other plans.



As Margaret withdraws the knife and readies the blade for another stab, Carrie's telekinetic powers kick in, and flings the two apart from one another.


The shot is very quick and -- again -- resistant to screencapping, but I love how the two go flying away from each other.  As we see Margaret flying off down the hallway, the camera turns -- seemingly in one move (something I had not noticed until advancing a frame at a time hunting for good 'cappable frames) -- to glimpse...

...Carrie flying down the stairs.

Margaret soon comes after Carrie, and between them lies the symbolic richness of the prayer closet, which looks like a torn, ragged vagina, but also, more simply, like evidence of a very broken home.


The rest of Margaret's confrontation with Carrie doesn't work, though.  I don't care for the effects of Margaret's impalement; I wish the scene from the novel (Carrie forcing her mother's heart to stop) had been considered; I wish the hail of rocks worked better . . . or, really, at all.  I wish Carrie simply died of her knife-wound.  I wish there had been some sort of attempt to replicate the novel's chilling scene of Sue being telepathically inside Carrie's consciousness at the moment of Carrie's death.

More than that, I wish the theatrical cut had ended differently.

The Blu-ray has a fascinating option: it allows you to watch the film with an alternative ending.  In that ending, we cut from Sue -- who does not appear at court -- in the graveyard, placing a flower at the Whites' graveside to a shot of her in labor, trying to push her new child out into the world.  She is screaming, and insists that something is wrong, and after a bit, we see a bloody hand come shooting out from between her legs.


Sorry for the poor quality; my laptop will not play Blu-rays, and the DVD, bizarrely, does not include the alternate version with this scene.  So I had to resort to a lousy YouTube bootleg, which was filmed by someone pointing a camera at their television.  But I guess this is better than nothing.


We cut from this to a scene very like the way the DePalma movie ends, with Sue's mother trying to wake her up from what is obviously a very bad nightmare.

It isn't an awesome ending, per se, but I do like it, and it goes for a similar effect to the 1976 film without outright ripping it off.  It's a riff; in jazz terms, it works pretty damn well.

The theatrical cut -- which I will probably not watch again except for academic purposes -- settles for . . . ah, go read my original review.  I complain about it plenty there.  Let's just say that it sucks.

*****

Alright, now for a few leftover screencaps:


I continue to be quite intrigued by the Strain girls, Katie and Karissa.  I wonder if they are related to Julie Strain?  Google provides me with no answer, which means probably not.


I wonder if those are all real books, but am too lazy to find out.  I know the Volk one is, so I'd say it's a maybe.

OF COURSE Carrie would watch YouTube videos on this subject!  Another great modernization.


I felt bad so I am including untouched Bochnerian screencaps.







Nice visual link between Sue and Carrie here.

In this scene, you see the foot pedal going up and down on its own.  I didn't know Carrie was telekinetically making that happen until Peirce's commentary track; I thought that was just what they did!  I am fairly stupid sometimes.


Much has been made about Moretz being too pretty for the role.  It's a fair criticism (she IS pretty), but sometimes, pretty people suffer, too.  I can live with the casting from that perspective.









I hadn't noticed it initially, but it appears that Margaret and Carrie share a grave.  Is that something that happens?  Might it have been in Margaret's will?  Were there, perhaps, no bodies to actually bury?

*****

Now, let's move on to a bit of talk about Peirce's commentary track, beginning with a complaint: it isn't on the DVD!  It's a Blu-ray exclusive!

That sort of thing infuriates me.  Yes, I have a Blu-ray player, so for me personally it is irrelevant.  But what is there to be gained by making that exclusive to one format?  Do DVD purchasers not deserve to hear Peirce's thoughts?  Does it seem likely that the exclusivity will somehow spur Blu-ray player sales?  It's a nonsensical decision.

Anyways, here are some choice tidbits from the commentary:


  • Says Peirce during the opening birth scene:"Margaret White loves her daughter and will do anything to protect her; she just has unorthodox ways of doing it.”  Indeed, her commentary track did help make it plain to me that for all her lunacy, Margaret really does love her daughter.
  • Peirce points out during the shower scene that Carrie being surprised by her menstrual flow has an echo of her own birth, during which Margaret had something she did not understand coming out of her, too.  In both cases, the response initially was to assume something was wrong with her.  (The alternative ending has a parallel of that with Sue's dream-birth, during which she protests, much like Carrie during her period, that it hurts and that something is wrong.)  
  • When Peirce first talked to Judy Greer about Miss Desjardin, Greer already had the character worked out: “She said to me, ‘this is a woman who doesn’t really have interest in her job, she no longer wears the right P.E. clothes; she’s probably hiding cigarettes, smoking in her office; and she’s basically just saving up for her summer vacations.  And despite her desire to get out of there, this girl Carrie needs her, and so it arouses in her a maternal instinct.  She kind of finds Carrie weird; the way she’s dealing with her, she’s keeping her distance, but it’s pulling out something in her that matters . . . her humanity and her maternal feelings.’ ”  Greer plays Desjardin as someone who, earlier in life, was probably a lot like Sue: pretty, popular, energetic, fun.  She's still trying -- with success, mostly -- to be all of those things, and you sense that somewhere along the line, something went wrong for her and caused her to focus on retaining her past, rather than move forward with her future.  It's an interesting, effective performance.
  • Peirce asserts that Margaret's self-abuse comes out because she'd much rather hurt herself than hurt her daughter . . . but that if hurting herself doesn't get the job done, she will resort to beating Carrie.
  • At one point, Alex Russell was going to play Tommy.
  • On the use of the poem "Samson Agonistes": she says she chose it "because the story of Samson is much like Carrie: he has power, and he pulls down the temple.  I thought this was something, in her quest for knowledge, and self-knowledge, that she would have come across and loved, and identify with.  She’s privately reading it, and the last thing she thinks is" [that] "she’s going to be called to the front; but when she is put in this humiliated position and she reads this poem aloud, you see that she’s coming into her own, she’s feeling a sense of power and confidence that she’s never seen.”  This is fascinating.  I loved the use of that poem, and I loved the scene in general, but it had not occurred to me that Carrie would have only recently discovered the poem.  That causes the scene to play much differently, and actually improves it for me: she has found this poem that speaks to her, and goes with the moment in reading it aloud.  And then, a teacher basically shits on her for it.  Having the teacher do that doesn't entirely work (although I can theorize that Carrie's name would be mud thanks to her mother having caused problems for her various teachers), but it's at least better than the equivalent character in DePalma's film.
  • On the subject of Sue Snell: Peirce says, “One of the biggest challenges of this story – even Stephen King talks about it – is, ‘How do we identify with Sue?’  I mean, the reality is, Sue should say ‘I’m sorry’ to Carrie; she should befriend her, and that would fix things.  But a girl with great privilege, she really could only see the world in her own viewpoint, which is to donate that privilege.  Charity.  It was important that we started to stoke that with the dress, which is so beautiful, which Carrie’s mom sewed; Sue had this boyfriend, Tommy, who’s so handsome.  These are the things that are germinating in her mind as to what she should do; a privileged girl will seek to donate her privilege.”  “It won’t solve the problem, but it will make her feel better,” Peirce says during a later scene.  This idea fascinated me, because it had never occurred to me.  In some ways, everything that happens is due to Sue being irrationally convinced that the way to "fix" Carrie is to -- even if only for a night -- turn her into Sue, or a Sue equivalent.  From Peirce's point of view, this was obviously a horrendous miscalculation, and I sense that of all the motivations of the various characters, Peirce identifies with this one the least.  Chris is acting out of pure hatred; Billy is acting out of sexual desire; Margaret is acting out of perverted love.  Sue is acting out of the incorrect belief that if only the world was just like her, it would be okay.  In the long run, on the macro scale, motivations like that are perhaps more dangerous than outright hatred.  That's my speculation of Peirce's thoughts, not Peirce's thoughts themselves, granted; and I'm not sure I agree.  But it's a fascinating idea, and makes me reconsider not only Sue as a character, but also Gabriella Wilde's performance.
  • Peirce sees a metaphorical relation between Carrie in her room practicing her telekinetic ability and a normal young girl in her room practicing masturbation.  I had not thought of this, but once it is pointed out, duh.  Of course.  I do remember making a similar connection during the third (fourth?) Harry Potter movie, when Harry is under his covers practicing with his wand.  Hey, what can I say; I get being a masturbating young boy, whereas I have no experience with being a masturbating young girl.  (I'm also curious to see if including those phrases in this post gets me some Google hits I might not otherwise have gotten.  If so, welcome, perverts!)
  • On the casting of Ansel Elgort:  “I think we were lucky that Ansel" [is] "a very hunky, charming, sweet guy who really fits the bill in terms of" [being] "the boy who could take Carrie to prom" [who] "doesn’t seem menacing or narcissistic.  And that was a real challenge; we looked at so many boys, and they just . . . if they were handsome, they really were narcissistic and self-involved, and" [Elgort] "really transcended that.”  Again, this causes me to reappraise my thoughts on Elgort somewhat.  I was initially a little unswayed by his goofiness, but when I consider the idea that Peirce wanted to avoid having Tommy seem either menacing (which would make us wonder why Carrie would trust him) or narcissistic (which would make us wonder why Tommy would capitulate to Sue's request), the goofiness -- which, to be fair, is very natural and mostly charming -- all of a sudden seems more palatable.  It also serves to distinguish him from William Katt, who played the role so well in DePalma's version. 
  •  Due to child-labor restrictions on the amount of hours Moretz could work in a day, there were many shots in which Peirce played Carrie opposite Moore while getting the Margaret coverage for scenes!
  • Peirce points out something I'd forgotten: the use of the Tennessee Ernie Ford song "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning" is a direct lift from the novel, which references Margaret listening to the song.  Awesome!
There is plenty more, too.  It's a great commentary track; Peirce is informative, not at all boring, and very obviously engaged by the material.  Too bad for you, DVD purchasers.  By the way, you'll also have no access to a short collection of deleted scenes, which includes Billy and Chris speeding through town like maniacs in a scene that leads up to Chris asking Billy to help her do something about Carrie.  You also won't see Carrie and Tommy kiss at the prom, or Chris and Tina kiss on Chris's bed when Billy suggests it.  Nor will you see the scene of young Carrie seeing her neighbor sunbathing, which leads to a rain of stones.
Most of this should have been left in the movie, as far as I'm concerned; the rain-of-stones scene doesn't work, but the others are very good indeed.
Ah, but there is plenty more deleted material than that!  Not on the DVD, granted; but not on the Blu-ray, either.  In fact, there seems to be quite a lot of material that was filmed but never used.

And THAT, my friends, will be the subject of the next Carrie post I make.  If'n you're so inclined, you can head over to Talk Stephen King, where there is a fine writeup about the subject.

But I can't resist flapping my gums about it, so I won't!

See you then, lads 'n' lasses.

44 comments:

  1. It's tough for me to comment, here, as I haven't seen it. But I don't like the changes, I have to say (i.e. Carrie choosing only those who were mean to her to kill at the prom.) That seems... way, way off to me. I'll reserve judgment til I see it, though. But my first reaction to that is "Wow. So so much NO." That makes it completely different. "Might-as-well-say-"It's-hunting-season"-and-shoot-everyone-with-an-AK-47" different.

    Similarly, I'm just a huge fan of the DePalma one, so I have to get over that when looking at the new performances. I'm not a huge Julianne Moore fan to begin with, so I'm probably going to have to work to get over that when I watch.

    "Welcome perverts!" - ha!

    Hilarious screencaps with the Die Hard dude - I love those.

    (And now, crtl-a, copy... just in case...)

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    1. I think I'd have to say that I find it more palatable on a human level for someone to kill specific people in a crowd as opposed to blindly lashing out at the crowd and just killing members of it indiscriminately. I mean, either one is pretty bad, but if I had to pick one as being the more virtuous, I'd go with the personal as opposed to the impersonal.

      It's a thorny issue, though. I think this version of the movie gets it more or less right; it's focused on character moreso than style, so it seems like whatever choices it make have to reflect character in some way. I'd argue that it makes more character sense -- in this version of the story, if not necessarily any other -- for Carrie to fly into a murderous rage and start hitting back against the group of people who have hurt her (and, let's not forget, killed Tommy). If the movie had had her go into the semi-catatonic whiteout that Sissy Spacek goes into, or even the absent-from-your-own-body fugue state that Angela Bettis goes into, and then just start torching the entire joint . . . I don't think it would work for this particular movie.

      The counter-argument I;d make as devil's advocate would be to say that if that's the case, maybe this movie should/could have had an entirely different focus, one that played up the horror more. And that's a valid way to look at it, I guess. But for me, the choice worked.

      When I found out that was Hart Bochner playing Chris's father, it blew my mind. Wen I first watched the movie, I had one of those semi-unconscious tickles at the back of my mind, saying, "heyyyyyyy...that guy is SOMEBODY...but who?!?" And then I read it online somewhere, and may have actually let out a yelp.

      Lame, but true.

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    2. I should also mention -- and might need to add somewhere in the review proper -- that while Carrie is doing all of that prom killing, she IS still somewhat vacant from her own consciousness as she is doing it. She comes to later, and seems somewhat confused to be covered in blood. So, lest it was unclear, it's not like she is swinging the ole Grim Reaper's scythe with 100% self-knowledge of what she is doing.

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    3. Well, like you say, it's a different movie, with different concerns. And apparently an entirely different character and message. I just am really hesitant to embrace that change, as it makes the message of it all so... well, different. I was going to write "diluted" but I'll have to see it before commenting further, I guess. To me, this is really ringing my "Gredo fires first" alarm.

      Think of remaking Taxi Driver that way and changing the ending. It just alters the tone and message to a degree that undermines everything that makes the end of Taxi Driver effective.

      That said, different strokes, and different imaginings, yadda yadda. I might feel differently seeing the whole thing, so I'll stop there.

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    4. You might; then again, you might dislike it even more. Who can say?

      Ultimately, I still feel it's the novel that has done the best job with the story. There's still SO much excellent material in it that none of the adaptations have even attempted. Which is why my definitely-sure-to-really-for-real-happen-someday eight-part miniseries is going to be so great! Just waiting on HBO to call me to set it all up...

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    5. You can count on my vote for that. (HBO - hire this man!)

      I'm more interested in checking this out now, as a result of reading this, at any rate. Personally, I prefer the DePalma film to the novel, but I certainly don't think DePalma's film is some untouchable plateau or anything. You're probably right that the best version of the book has yet to be filmed.

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    6. For sure.

      Episode #1: The untold story of Margaret and Ralph White, culminating in Carrie's "rain of stones" incident prompted by the neighbor girl.

      Episode #2: Carrie's childhood, including the painful history of her being made of fun by all the other kids for years before what we think of as "Carrie." Ends with the shower scene and her (re)discovery of her telekinesis.

      Episode #3: Focuses on three relationships -- Carrie and Margaret, Sue and Tommy, and Chris and Billy, the latter two spinning of from Sue and Chris's relationships with their parents.

      Episode #4: Carrie explores her telekinetic abilities, and Sue and Chris deal with the fallout of the shower incident, culminating in the two of them making requests of their respective boyfriends.

      Episode #5: Carrie gets asked to the prom by Tommy, and deals with her mother's denouncing her for it. Sue and Chris prepare for the prom in different ways.

      Episode #6: The prom, ending with the rope getting pulled. But I'm a bastard, so you don't see the blood land.

      Episode #7: Here's where I put my own spin on it: the episode begins with Carrie and Tommy walking up to the stage, but then -- shocker! -- something unexpected happens: Sue arrives and stops the blood from being dumped. We then follow -- not for too long, but for a few minutes -- what happens next, which is Carrie going on to graduate, be a bridesmaid at Sue and Tommy's wedding, go to college, etc. This will be a montage. But eventually, she goes home, and we sense that something is wrong; she is talking, brightly and happily, to her mother, but her mother is merely sitting in the shadows, staring silently back at her. Carrie is confused. She looks down and sees a spot of blood on her hand. Cut back to the prom; Carrie is standing there, a winner, smiling; but a drop of blood from above hits her hand. She looks down at it and frowns confusedly. Then, the rest of the blood catches up to the first drop. From there, all hell breaks loose. Not sure precisely where this episode will end, but the majority of it will be prom devastation. Maybe it ends with her killing Chris and Billy; maybe it ends with her going into the church and semi-wrecking it.

      Episode #8: I could go two ways on the White Commission stuff. One method would be to sprinkle it throughout the whole series, another would be to deal with most of it in the last episode. I lean toward the former, though; the last episode will primarily deal with Carrie vs. Margaret, Sue's experience inside Carrie's dying consciousness, and the coda, hinting at another little girl in some other town also having telekinetic abilities. It'll need something punchy to end it, but I think the elements are all there; it's just a matter of finding the right way to present them.

      Now, I type all that fully aware that I will NEVER actually get to produce such a series. It's all in fun. Hey, I'd settle for somebody ripping the idea off, frankly!

      You see, HBO? You see what you're missing out on?

      ;)

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    7. That's a great breakdown, particularly episode 7.

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    8. Make sure that the Rain of Stones scene involves the fact that Margaret was trying to gauge Carrie's eyes out with a knife & that the fall of the stones was a good thing, because it saved Carrie's life, from her mother killing her...

      I didn't like how in the 2013 version, it made it seem like the stones were just falling for no good reason, because Carrie was just out of control. In the book, the stones fell for a very good reason. To save her life.

      BTW I noticed in the book that it seemed to apply that the little girl with TK was a reincarnation of Carrie.

      As for the White Commission, there was one part of the script for the 2013 movie that I really liked. It had a pastor, saying, "It was Biblical, what happened to our town. The Lord's Angel of Vengeance, delivering retribution."

      I really liked that because a lot of people think Carrie was the Devil, but really she seems more like a Female Christ as described in the Biblical Book of Revelation when he returns "in a vesture dipped in blood" to destroy evil.

      See another place in the Bible, too: Jesus says in Luke that he had “come to set the world on fire”, and that he wished “it were already burning,” because he had “a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of [him], and [he was] under a heavy burden until it is accomplished” (Luke 12:49-50). Baptism? (Blood dump.) Of suffering? (Carrie’s entire life.) Come to set the world on fire? (The destruction.)

      If not Christ “Himself”, she was at least one of his angels: Matthew 13: “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire.”

      Which harkens us back to the Rain of Stones. In the book, Stella described the event as "an act of God." In the Bible, it describes "Rains of Stones." Perhaps the Rain of Stones happened to save Carrie, because Carrie had a mission to pursue?

      In the book, the destruction is continuously described as though Carrie is on some sort of divine mission. For example, it is stated that “there was something she was supposed to do. Something about – roadhouses, parking lots, and the Angel with the Sword. The Fiery Sword. [She had] to destroy the roadhouse where the doom of her creation had begun.”

      In the book, at the end, Carrie’s mother recites the Lord’s Prayer as she tries to murder Carrie; when she gets to “God’s will be done”; Carrie interjects, saying “My will be done, Mama.”

      In sum I seriously believe Carrie was a female Christ lol

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    9. None of the movies have gotten the rain-of-stones element correct. The 2002 version at least tried; the others deal with it so perfunctorily that they may as well have left it out altogether.

      I don't agree that the little girl at the end of the novel is intended to be a reincarnation of Carrie. That's an interesting way of looking at it, though, and it's one I'd never considered. The way I see it, though, it's an implication that Carrie's telekinetic abilities are due to genetic abnormalities, possibly like a new stage in evolution; so literally kind of like the X-Men. This little girl represents another instance of the tk gene appearing; in other words, while she's not Carrie White, she could potentially turn into a similar problem. That's how I read it, at least; but your way is intriguing.

      Carrie White as Christ figure...? Sure, I can roll with that. I'm guessing a lot of religious people couldn't, but I don't have that problem. I certainly feel more sympathy for Carrie than I do fear; and the movies have almost uniformly portrayed her that way (the Carrie of the 2002 version being a mild exception).

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    10. I personally like to interpret it as a reincarnation of Carrie because the story is really depressing otherwise lol. The new family in the book seems to be more accepting of Carrie's powers. So, to avoid being extremely depressed about the ending, I prefer to interpret it as Carrie being reincarnated into a happier life.

      And it doesn't necessarily mean she could be "another problem." The reason Carrie's powers became a problem was because she was so tortured and abused. Her powers could be put to good use - she could've stopped the planes from hitting the Twin Towers, for example. But she was fed so much hate, that *that* is what burst out.

      I also view the ending of Carrie 2013 as reincarnation, but this time I have more evidence for it:

      See: Carrie was in the house, crying, like "what has my life come to?" Sue comes in, & Carrie is about to harm Sue, but then realizes Sue is pregnant. Did you notice the spark of hope that seemed to cross her face for a split second? Then that's when she decided to save Sue by sending her out of the house safely, and kill herself by remaining in the house. And then if you notice, right after the house is destroyed, Sue holds her hand over her belly.

      I like to interpret this as Carrie saw a chance to reincarnate inside Sue, who will hopefully be a better mother than her own mother was.

      Granted, I like to view the endings this way, specifically because it makes me feel better about the story, because the story makes me want to jump off a cliff otherwise lol, it's so sad.

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    11. It is indeed very sad. But I think the catharsis inherent in it is part of what makes it so vital a work.

      Seems like it was like that for King on a personal level, too; he's written/spoken (can't remember which) about the two girls he knew in real life who served as inspiration for the character, and it sounds like his experiences with them really stuck with him.

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  2. I love that you have an amazing program to grab film shots. I did see the movie and thought it was OK. I didn't think it was as terrible as people are making it out to be. Of course you can't be as good as the original. Usually what can be? I look forward to your next post!

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    1. Well, to be honest, I don't have any sort of fancy-schmancy program; I just use a media player and then use the print-screen button to capture an image from the playback. Then, I just paste the image into Paint and crop it as needed using Picasa. Simple as pie!

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  3. I just noticed (to my shame and horror) that I misspelled "Desjardin" as "Desjardins" roughly gajillionty-seven times during the course of this review. It's now been fixed. Like it never happened at all...

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  4. One good thing that can at least be said about the final confrontation between Carrie and her mother in this film, it avoids the (perhaps unintended?) comedy of the original film.

    Don't get me wrong, I still like the original, but...to put it as lightly as possible, am I the only one who noticed the over the top Freudian symbolism in Piper Laurie's death scene?

    Seriously, there's only one thing that whole scene points to, and it's so blatant it runs the risk of making the audience laugh more than cringe.

    ChrisC

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    1. You are definitely NOT the only person to notice that.

      I'm not a fan of that scene in DePalma's version, but I'll say this for it: it is memorable, it has a VERY strong viewpoint (albeit one I don't like), and the Pino Donaggio score is excellent. I don't much like the scene, but I have to admit that it IS iconic. I don't think the scene in this new version is much of anything other than inexplicably flat.

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    2. I don't like how in the 1976 Margaret is smiling like she's happy to kill Carrie. I prefer the 2013 version where Margaret doesn't actually want to kill Carrie.

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    3. I agree. However, I think there's something interesting in the way Piper Laurie plays the role in the '76 version. When she's smiling, I think she's doing so for two reasons (apart from being nuts in general): she's genuinely happy to be doing what she thinks is serving her Lord; and she thinks that she is saving Carrie's soul by putting her to death and sending her to Heaven.

      Julianne Moore seems regretful, though, as if she feels her job of raising Carrie to have been a failure.

      Both takes on the character are valid, I guess, but I prefer Moore's.

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  5. I've been meaning to watch the Carrie remake. Although I'm a big fan of the original Brian de Palma movie I'm really interested to see Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz.

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    1. My sense of it is that with most people, the more they like the DePalma movie, the less they'll like this remake. I like DePalma's take on it pretty well, but for me, the novel is (pardon the pun) king.

      I was hoping Peirce's movie would stick much closer to the novel, so in that sense it disappointed me. That said, I enjoy it quite a lot, and while overall I'd have to say that DePalma's movie is still the definitive adaptation so far, this one isn't too far behind it in my mind.

      You might not feel that way, of course. When and if you watch it, stop back by and let us know!

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  6. Fantastic write up Bryant. I like the new version too. It works quite well at fleshing out the characters and making them more dimensional than the original did. Where Pierce's falls down for me is the moment the bucket drops. Pierce is great with characters but not so much with action. Her movie really makes me appreciate the DePalma version of the Prom scenes even more. The Psycho sounding violin riffs everytime Carrie uses her powers in DePalma's version are inspired and really sell the creepiness of those scenes.

    An unfortunate unintended inference of the way Morentz embodies the use of her powers is her body language, especially the use of her arms and hands, which make her look like a Star Wars Sith wannabe.

    So if one could merge DePalma's actions sequences with Pierce's character moments, one would have the near perfect Carrie movie.

    Thanks again for your astute analysis.

    Lou

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    1. Thanks, Lou!

      I agree that the prom massacre does, in some ways, suffer mightily when compared to the DePalma version. But there are also things about it that I love, and overall, I'd have to say I like it. Evidence indicates that it got butchered pretty badly during the editing process, so there's that. As for Mortetz's body language . . . for me, that walks right up to the line of not working and then manages to not go over it. I give her credit for doing something different, and if nothing else, I think it gets across the idea that when Carrie begins unleashing this power, it turns her into something not entirely human.

      We'll have to agree to disagree on the use of the "Psycho" stings in DePalma's version. ;) I'm too big a Hitchcock fan to enjoy that at all.

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  7. Hi Bryant.

    I enjoy reading your reviews especially on directors such as Spielberg who is one of my favorites. I noticed you placed him along side your other two favorites Hitchcock and Kubrick. I was wondering if you were going to do worst to best movie lists on Hitchcock and Kubrick sometime in the future? I understand Hitchcock can take some time as his filmography is expansive. I was wondering how you felt about some of my other top favorite directors such as Hawks, Scorsese, and Eastwood? My top 3 are Hitchcock, Spielberg, and Hawks with Scorsese hugging the 4th spot but really I like him as much as my top 3. I still have a lot to see with Eastwood and out of respect I like John Ford and Stanley Kubrick but they aren't my top favorites. John Ford's humor was not my cup of tea most of the time and Kubrick although probably the most talented gifted filmmaker of all, had a few weaknesses in the OCD dept.and the cold detachment of his characters if you know what I mean. Not to mention Kubrick just simply didn't make enough films as a result of his obsession over them delaying their releases.

    -Scott

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    1. Hi, Scott!

      The short answer to your question about doing worst-to-best lists on Hitchcock and Kubrick is: yes to both. However, neither is going to happen any time soon. With Kubrick, I want to eventually do a full set of reviews of each of his films, including (of course) "The Shining." I think doing that is the only way to really deal with his movies.

      As for Hitchcock, I've got plans to eventually do a full set of reviews of his work, as well. But that will be on an entirely different blog, and the amount of energy and time it is going to take is simply not within my grasp right now.

      So yes, definitely, to both; but in the long run rather than the short, sad to say.

      As to your other questions:

      Hawks -- I like what I've seen (especially "Red River"), but I've seen very few of his films. I'd love to change that eventually, but as to whether I'll ever find the time for it, who can say?

      Scorsese -- One of my favorites. Not quite in my top tier, but absolutely in the next tier down from that. I've seen the vast majority of his movies, but I've still not made time for a few of them ("Last Temptation" being the most notable, but also "The Last Waltz" -- surprising, since I'm a huge Dylan fan -- and "Boxcar Bertha").

      Eastwood -- I'm a fan, both as as director and an actor, no doubt. But, especially from the pre-"Unforgiven" eras, I'm actually kind of weak in terms of the number of his movies I've actually seen. Maybe some day!

      Ford -- He made one of my absolute favorite movies, "The Searchers." I also adore "The Quiet Man," and I generally like everything of his I have seen. His style of humor does not bother me (I think of it as being a very particular sense of humor, and one that only worked in those eras), but I see how it could alienate someone else.

      Kubrick's cold detachment -- it's a common criticism, and a great many people can't get past it. For example, Stephen King! And a lot of his fans, too. Here's how I think of Kubrick, though: his films and characters ARE "cold" in a sense, meaning basically just that Kubrick is not interested in manipulating the emotions of his audience. Is this actually true, though? I don't think it is. I think he is just as manipulative as any other director, but that he simply goes about it in a passive way rather than an aggressive one. Most (if not all) of his movies are about VERY emotional subjects, and the way I see his approach is that he -- consciously or not -- was challenging audiences to engage emotionally, but at a remove. In other words, he wants you to feel the same things, but he wants you to have to work harder to get to that place. Theoretically, this creates an even stronger bond. "2001" may not be as easy for somebody to make an emotional bond with as, say, "Forrest Gump" is, but IF the bond can be made, it is all the more profound for the extra work you had to put in accomplish it.

      Personally, I love both approaches.

      But I certainly agree that it would be nice for there to be more Kubrick films!

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    2. Hey Bryant,

      First off, thanks for the response and I must say very well clearly said. I complelely agree with everything you have said as it makes perfect sense. I also get the "time consuming" issue with being able to watch all of these films and place reviews online. That is my problem also and probably for most who are around our age. This is a good hobby for someone retired who complains of not having enough to do therefore getting a job. Let's just say I probably won't be one of those people as I will find lots of time to spend on this in fact very "time consuming" hobby. No worries about your plans to place worst-to-best lists on Hitchcock and Kubrick as I totally understand. Better to have complete reviews with the necessary time it takes to do them rather than rush them out sooner. That said, I will look forward to reading them whenever you are ready down the road because I think your reviews are excellent.

      Good call on "The Searchers" as that is my absolute favorite Ford film also and I think it is one of the greatest films of all time no doubt. Not even the silly romantic subplot with Ken Curtis in the middle can alter the deep profound nature of that film. I am very fond of his Westerns such as "Stagecoach", "My Darling Clementine", and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". I also love "They Were Expendable". I actually enjoy a lot of Ford(in the right mood), it's just that his style of humor can be overdone or excessive at times especially on his second tier rated films therefore impacting them negatively, or tough to stomach(in my opinion) "Sergeant Rutledge" or "The Sun Shines Bright". But on the other hand I completely understand where Ford is coming from in many aspects, one being that he started deep into the silent era. His style is very distinctive in that there is no one else like him. For that reason alone he has my utmost respect regardless of my taste or preference.

      -Scott

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    3. I feel as if Ford is one of those guys who I would be very much into, to the extent that even when I felt the movie was a misfire, I'd find things to enjoy. I need to find time to turn that into a higher priority!

      Thanks for the kind words about the reviews. I agree that waiting and doing them well is the correct approach; some things just ought not to be rushed.

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    4. I hear ya about the time, the one obstacle we can never overcome unless somehow we could add more hours to the day. I have found myself liking some of Ford's stuff after a second viewing so any of that can change over time. I do think Ford is a master behind the camera just like Kubrick but in a different way.

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  8. The same goes for Kubrick and your review on him is spot on. I am aware of his approach as you described in excellent detail and I should have said that it is more or less my fault for not putting in the extra effort usually required for the average person to bond with Kubrick's films and their characters. Without question his films demand repeated viewings to appreciate and also require a certain mood and patience. I like to describe Kubrick as being the "Pink Floyd" or "Tool" of rock and roll and I absolutely love both of those bands so I won't give up on Kubrick. I already think technically he is probably the greatest at least on the art side of filmmaking and aesthetic camera work. That camera work alone of his visual style meaning the camera is his best actor can place his audience on another planet via astral projection or something of that nature. That is mindblowing and for that reason alone Kubrick gets all the respect he deserves regarding one's tastes or preferences due to his extremely intelligent mindset. I have always loved "The Shining" since I was a kid watching it when it first came out. "2001" is a trip and easier to bond with especially on a smoked substance..lol. But for me and my preference overall, I rate the top directors giving the best of both worlds or approaches to their respected films. In other words balancing the art and entertainment to the fullest. For example "The Searchers" is one film that has the best of both, the passive and aggressive if you will. "Vertigo" is another example although that may lean more to the arty side but I still find the entertainment value in it as well. So the point I'm trying to make in all of this regarding Kubrick is basically unfinished business. I still need to catch up on him and his films more before placing accurate judgement. But again excellent review on Kubrick specifically describing the common criticisms(his approaches)and that is precisely how I see it too, meaning the problem is me in that regard. However the one weakness that will always with me on Kubrick is he simply didn't make enough films as a result of his obsession over them. He was a perfectionist that simply hurt him in the second half of his career because of that OCD(never good enough mentality)

    As for Scorsese, have you seen "Shutter Island" yet? He has a Kubrick/Hitchcock(Vertigo) vibe going on in that picture. That is my personal favorite Scorsese film. I also love "Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull", and the recent "Wolf of Wall Street" which I thought was brilliant.


    -Scott

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    1. Comparing Kubrick to Pink Floyd . . . that's an interesting way to look at it! I know a bit of Floyd (the Dark Side era onward) but not enough to be more than an interested novice. What I know, though, I love, and I can see some validity to your comparison.

      I've never seen "2001" on any extracurricular substances. Not my bag. (I've got nothing against, though; I'm just too big a wuss. I'm WAY too afraid of spiders to do acid, because I know it'd be nothing but spiders all over the fuckin' place...! I tried weed a couple of times, but all it did was make my lungs burn.) However, I did once watch "The Shining" while drunk on Zima. True story. Drank about twelve of 'em and sat around the apartment watching "The Shining." My roommates got home and I was hollering advice to Wendy and having a grand old time. That's a pretty great memory, actually.

      "Vertigo" is either my favorite Hitchcock film, or my second-favorite. I occasionally think I prefer "The Birds." Either way, I like "Vertigo" about as much as it is humanly possible to watch a movie. I saw it once in a theatre, and somebody had brought a field trip or something of teenagers, all of whom watched it in rapt attention all the way through. At the end, when the nun -- looking like a spectre or something -- floats her way up into that belltower, startling Judy into falling to her death, one of the girls in the group let out an impossible-to-fake gasp of surprised horror. That was one of the most memorable moments I've ever had in a theatre, and I took the whole experience as proof that that movie still has a huge amount of power to it.

      Scorsese -- ah, yes, "Shutter Island." Terrific film. I was a bit less impressed by "The Wolf of Wall Street." I just couldn't engage with it. Definitely good, though, and I'll give it a econd chance at some point. My fave Scorsese...? Probably "Taxi Driver." That score by Bernard Herrmann is haunting, as is the movie as a whole.

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    2. Funny about the acid, reminds me of the spiders from mars or something. Yeah I leave that alone too. Just a little weed here and there which makes the movie and music experience that much more for me. Your "The Shining" experience sounds like fun and I bet your roommates were diggin it. Ya know as much as I hate to say this, ever since I was a kid watching "The Shining" when it was first released, I always wanted Johnnie to get Wendy. Wendy(Shelly Duvall) drove me nuts and I kept being reminded of her in Popeye which came out around the same time, so needless to say as for myself hollering advice to her, would not do her any favors..lol

      Man I would really love to see Vertigo in the theatre for the experience. Sounds like you had one of the ultimate ones.

      Good call on "Taxi Driver", that movie gets me everytime, a disturbing, haunting masterpiece. Bernard Herrmann sure is missed, his score for "Vertigo" is astounding as well. "The Wolf of Wall Street" is an acquired taste as I can see for many, pretty hardcore but so true and good ol Marty is never one to hold out. The grittiest filmmaker of our times.

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    3. He certainly didn't hold back with that one, did he?

      I didn't watch the movie under the best circumstances. I work at a theatre, so I screened the movie on Christmas Eve, already sort of annoyed to even be working, but determined to watch a new Scorsese movie despite the annoyance. And then there was a fairly serious problem with the projector that happened about two-thirds of the way through the movie and caused me to have to stop, call our tech support for assistance, and move to a different auditorium to finish watching the movie, which was then interrupted several times by the necessity of making sure the problem was fixed.

      Not ideal circumstances. But, as always, work comes first when dealing with screenings like that, and problems are very rare. I liked the movie; I just didn't really bond with it in any way. But that's probably due to the circumstances moreso than to the movie, so whenever I make time to rewatch it, I suspect I'll enjoy it more.

      I think your thoughts about poor old Wendy are probably very representative of the consensus opinion. I think Shelly Duvall is terrific in that role, though.

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    4. I can certainly understand your situation when screening that movie as that would for lack of a better term, point blank suck! Sounds like one of those rare things where one thing goes wrong, everything goes or a comedy of errors, and like you mentioned of all days Christmas Eve! Yeah I agree, just about any film would deserve a second chance in that case if not for the mood factor alone as a result of your predicament.

      I agree that Shelly Duvall was terrific in that role, proof of my reaction whether negative or positive for the simple fact she was able to garner emotions on us with great effect.

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  9. Hawks who is Carpenter's favorite director is in my opinion the coolest, most versatile modern filmmaker of his era. Save for perhaps Wilder or Hitchcock. Check out "The Big Sleep" if you haven't already. In my opinion the most entertaining and brilliant "film noir" ever made. "Rio Bravo" is also one of my favorite films ever and Hawks' most personal one. "Red River" is another of course as you mentioned and in fact was that very film that Ford realized Wayne was a great actor. So I give credit to Hawks for developing Wayne to his fullest potential therefore leading him to his definitive role in "The Searchers", which may or may not have happened had "Red River" not been made. In fact the French critics of the 50's and 60's place Hitchcock and Hawks as the greatest filmmakers of their respective eras defining them as the supreme "auteurs" or "storytellers". Nowadays they place Eastwood as their top tier filmmaker who I have to catch up on as well someday.

    I think we most agree on Hitchcock and Spielberg however. I enjoyed your list on Spielberg and thought the ratings and reviews were just about perfect relating to my current views of his films. It was like you were taking the words right out of my mind in several instances. "Vertigo" is my favorite Hitchcock film but I enjoy just about all of them that I have seen(35 or so), save for a couple literally. Same with Spielberg, "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" is fast becoming my favorite of his now after a few repeated viewings. It gets better each time, another arty picture with a profound message. Great visuals(camerawork) and acting combined. "Schindler's List" is a cinematic masterpiece of the top order. I could go on but I think I've rambled on enough for now.. lol. Again I just want to say it's been a pleasure reading your reviews, most other reviews in general are not either concrete enough or simply too negative/positive based on preference without seeing the "big picture" per se if you know what I mean. Keep up the good work and maybe converse with you again sometime. (Had to post 3 times) ran out of room..lol

    -Scott

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    1. Yes, the dreaded comment-field character limit. I know it well. Just be glad Blogger didn't disappear the comments the second you hit publish on them! It's had some glitches along those lines lately, to the extent that I've developed the habit of copying my entire comment before I try to publish it. That way, if Blogger "loses" it, I can just paste it into the field and try again. (I am complaining, but only a little; this is a free service, and a marvelous one it is, too!)

      Glad to hear I've got a fellow "A.I." admirer! Not only is it a great movie, but it's got extra layers when you try to consider that it is simultaneously a Spielberg movie AND (in a way) a Kubrick movie. You could see it as Spielberg doing a Kubrick imitation, but I think it might also being Spielberg doing an imitation of Kubrick doing a Spielberg imitation! Good stuff. A few moments here and there are maybe a bit iffy, but the best stuff is superb, and there is a lot of it.

      Scott, I don't know if you're a James Bond fan at all, but if you are, check of my Bond blog, You Only Blog Twice. Some of those reviews are fun.

      I appreciate all your great comments here. You are welcome 'round these parts anytime, sir!

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    2. Yeah thanks for the advice on the comment-field character limit. I was lucky it didn't erase when attempting it for the first time. I copied immediately after that whew! You're right, can't beat free anything these days so good on this free Blogger service.

      A.I. to me is like the best of Spielberg and Kubrick which meld the styles perfectly. I bet one of the iffy parts you are referring to is the Chris Rock cameo which was unnecessary but if you turn your head or blink your eye you can miss it, it's pretty quick and over. For me it doesn't get any better for a beginning or ending which I compare somewhat like "The Searchers".

      I like James Bond and will check out your blog for sure. I watched "For Your Eyes Only" on repeat as a kid back in the early 80's on HBO. My wife is an even bigger James Bond fan but she is having a hard time accepting Daniel Craig because she says he lacks the humor of the common Bond.. I like the Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan Bond films for sure. Speaking of Bond, did you see where they call "North By Northwest", which predates the Bond films of a few years as the real 1st Bond film? I read that somewhere more than once in a couple of different sources and I think it makes sense.

      I noticed you're a Stephen King fan, same here but I like his books more than the films overall. I have a lot of his books in hardcover format in mint condition.

      I stumbled onto your page while doing a random google search on Spielberg's films and I gotta say, it's been a pleasure. Thanks and I appreciate all your insights and responses too!

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    3. Thanks a lot, Scott! It really means a lot to me that I can write things and connect with people in this way. It still blows my mind that people Googling something like Steven Spielberg would run across something that I wrote!

      I have heard that North-By-Northwest-is-the-proto-Bond-movie argument before, and really, it's difficult to disagree with it in any way. Allegedly, this was so much the case that Cary Grant was approached to play Bond in the first movie, and Alfred Hitchcock was approached to direct! Can you imagine?!? Things worked out quite well for everyone, of course. Still...wouldn't you love to be able to visit the parallel universe where that happened and give that Blu-ray a watch? I sure would.

      Let me guess: your wife's favorite Bond is Roger Moore? If so, then I salute her on her excellent taste in James Bonds. I love Moore. He's not my personal favorite, and the grown-up, semi-pretentious-film-snob me struggles with some of his Bond movies, but he's the Bond of my childhood, and he holds a place of massive significance in my heart. One of the most fun things about my Bond blog has been that I really unlocked that love again. I can see how Craig's lack of humor would be an impediment for some Bond fans. Me, though, I don't mind the series being very different from one actor to the next; it keeps things fresh.

      I totally agree about the ending to "A.I.," which may be one of the most-commonly-misunderstood endings in all of cinema. "Misunderstood" might not even be the right word for it. But yeah, it's great stuff.

      The Chris Rock cameo didn't bother me, but it wasn't necessarily Spielberg's best idea ever. The bit that comes to mind as iffy for me is that motorcycle chase, which includes one of the worst decisions John Williams has ever made: that lousy techno music that he inserts into the score for a minute or two. I have no objection to music like that; it just didn't fit the movie. Otherwise, it's one of J.W.'s best scores ever, which is saying something.

      I hear what you're saying about preferring King's books to the movies. In virtually every instance, that is the correct way to look at it (at least in my opinion). Maybe "The Shawshank Redemption" is an exception, but that'd be one of the few.

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    4. Sure anytime Bryant! Usually I never comment on blogs, articles, or forums although I do read a lot. It's just I felt your blogs connected. Seeing how you are right around my age with a lot of similar views on films and such, one being that we share the top 2 director preferences, thought it cool to discuss further with you.

      That's an awesome thought Hitch directing a Bond film with Cary Grant. You know Hawks was also one considering doing the 1st Bond film with Cary Grant as well but fell through.. http://www.hmss.com/films/carygrant007/

      Actually the wifey likes Connery the best but she does like Moore. I happen to love Moore for the same exact reason you do, I grew up with him as Bond but these days, I have only watched "For Your Eyes Only" on repeat. You have a good point about Daniel Craig being the new Bond actor with his input in keeping things fresh.


      "A.I." like you said has a hate/love relationship with it's audience and the biggest misconception seems to be the ending for most who hate the film. I know what you mean on the misunderstood conception as you're probably right as an understatement to the fullest due to the contrary vision or message it's trying to portray. I agree also in that the techno music was awkward. I also agree that John Williams is one of if not the greatest musical film composers of all time. It certainly does not get any better most of the time.

      I also most certainly agree that "The Shawshank Redemption" is one of the few exceptions to the King films. What a classic that is and one of my favorite films. Off the top of my head in relation to my books, I do remember enjoying "The Stand" and "Storm of the Century". It's been a long time since I've seen those as I had them on VHS.

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    5. HAWKS was in talks to direct a Bond movie?!? Wow! I'd never heard that before. How cool might that have been?

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    6. Maybe cool enough to place him in my top 2!

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  10. "[Sue's dress] was sewn by Margaret White herself. She denies her own daughter the pleasure of such things, but is perfectly capable of taking money in exchange for providing it to others."

    I think that's why Margaret started cutting herself after giving the dress. She was punishing herself.

    Also, as for moon imagery: Did you notice that Carrie hurled the flaming moon at someone? Massive symbolism.

    Also I'm glad you also noticed the vagina-shaped crack in the door. I've pointed it out & someone was like "well, that seems like a bit of a stretch" meanwhile people make theories that the knives crucifying Margaret White represent penises. Major double standard.

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    1. Hmm...that's a compelling read on why Margaret is cutting herself. Makes sense to me!

      I'm not sure I actually did notice the flaming-moon thing. Very cool!

      Regarding "seems like a bit of a stretch," I'm trying to restrain myself from making any horrible puns. It's not easy.

      In all seriousness, though, I don't know how else you'd look at that crack in the door. OF COURSE it's a symbolic womb, even before the crack appears in the door. And it's CERTAINLY carrying that symbolic weight if you're going to see phallic symbols elsewhere. Especially given that the movie was directed (quite well, in my opinion) by a woman.

      I don't always go in for Freudian readings like that, but sometimes there's simply no doubt that they apply. So I'd say what you've got on your hands there is a case of you being much better at film analysis than whoever you were talking to. Keep at it!

      Thanks for stopping by here -- I'm always glad to hear from someone who's found one of these articles of mine.

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    2. Checking in again because I was looking up more Carrie stuff, and came across your article again.

      As for the flaming-moon thing.

      I figured it out. She threw it at Tina, who was the one who put the video on blast. !! Symbolism

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    3. Nice catch! Thanks for pointing it out.

      I wonder if we're any closer to an extended director's cut of this movie getting released. Probably not, but I guess I can keep hoping.

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