Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
So, I'm gonna post the write-up and then not say which one won! This is mostly because I don't really have a firm winner. I'm leaning one way, but I can be persuaded.
I had seen this before, but it was on TV and edited quite a bit. Upon rewatching it, I found that it was a pretty great film. It's a smart satire of high schools and democracy and it's a great look at rises and falls. Broderick and Witherspoon give career great performances in this film. Broderick is great as the kind of antithesis of Ferris Bueler. His seemingly idealistic views get degraded to the point of rigging the Student Council President elections in order to make Witherspoon's dreams of absolute power die a much-needed death.
The best thing about Election is that it doesn't really take a side. We can see how despicable Broderick becomes and how Witherspoon's quest for power is really just an issue of misguided enthusiasm. I know I'm not really saying this well, so let me illustrate this point with a counter-example. If this were a South Park episode one character would be the paragon of virtue and rightness. The other would be the most horrible person in the world. And after the bad person wins we would get a speech from one of the boys about how everything that happened was stupid and wrong. Election is smarter than all that. It knows that (CLICHE ALERT) there is no good and evil, just shades of gray (CLICHE ALERT). The only character that comes off well is Chris Klein (in his first role), mostly because he is too stupid to realize how he is being played and how stupid he is. Even he, though, gets to ponder existential questions, albeit at a frat party.
The last thing I'm going to say about this is that it is really, really funny. Allow these two screenshots and the quote to make my case for me:
[all praying to God]
Tracy Flick: Dear Lord Jesus, I do not often speak with you and ask for things, but now, I really must insist that you help me win the election tomorrow because I deserve it and Paul Metzler doesn't, as you well know. I realize that it was your divine hand that disqualified Tammy Metzler and now I'm asking that you go that one last mile and make sure to put me in office where I belong so that I may carry out your will on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Tammy Metzler: Dear God, I know I don't believe in you, but since I'll be starting catholic school soon, I though I should at least practice. Let's see. What do I want? I want Lisa to realize what a bitch she is and feel really bad and apologize for how she hurt me and know how much I still love her. In spite of everything, I still want Paul to win the election tomorrow, not that FILMSPOTTER! Tracy. Oh, and I also want a really expensive pair of leather pants and someday, I wanna be really good friends with Madonna. Love, Tammy.
Paul Metzler: Dear God, than you for all your blessings. You've given me so many things, like good health, nice parents, a nice truck, and what I'm told is a large penis, and I'm very grateful, but I sure am worried about Tammy. In my heart, I still can't believe she tore down my posters, but sometimes, she does get so weird and angry. Please help her be a happier person because she's so smart and sensitive and I love her so much. Also, I'm nervous about the election tomorrow and I guess I want to win and all, but I know that's totally up to you. You'll decide who the best person is and I'll accept it. And forgive me for my sins, whatever they may be. Amen.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
I (infamously?) kicked out Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man in my first verdict. Everybody hated me for it. Then the all powerful and all-knowing pixote came and realized that Orlando, the film I picked over Dead Man, was really a British film. This may or may not have actually happened, and it may or may not have been pixote, but go with me here. So my heinous decision was reversed. Dead Man lived to see another round. Now, later in the bracket, I am entrusted with another Jim Jarmusch film. I can see some of the similarities with Dead Man and Ghost Dog. They're both stories of loners who don't really belong in their own world. And they both have respected musicians making kick-ass scores (Neil Young for Dead Man and RZA for Ghost Dog).
But Ghost Dog is more about two kinds of people who are outdated and in danger of extinction. The first kind is Ghost Dog. He is a modern day samurai. He trains and uses the old ways to be an assassin for the other kind of person. This other kind is the mobster. I have gone on record about how stupid I think the mobster idea is. Jarmusch, it seems, agrees. He shows how dumb the whole way of life is and how easily the organization can be brought down.
This all seems like a big, serious film. But it's not. It's actually pretty funny. The mobsters are stupid, but in a lovable kind of way. And Ghost Dog isn't a super-serious samurai like I thought he would be from the DVD cover. Check out this little exchange:
Louie: Goddamn it. You shot me in the exact same CINECAST!ing place as last time!
Ghost Dog: I'm sorry. I mean you no disrespect. You're my retainer. I don't want to put too many holes in you.
And, here's the film in a capsule:
Vinny: You know, Louie, there's one good thing about this Ghost Dog guy.
Louie: What's that, Vin?
Vinny: He's sending us out the old way. Like real CINECAST!ing gangsters.
So, in all, I liked this one quite a bit as well. I was a little afraid to see that the film involved gangsters because I can't really take any more glorification of the lifestyle. But this doesn't do that. It's smarter than that. Also, I discovered that the gangsters were part of the Dharma Initiative! It's right there on the wall!
I am now ready to be talked into a verdict.