"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Ahhnold the Barbarian - version 2.0

Revised Monday 29 Aug 2011 -
In the science-fiction magazine Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact of January 1974, Robert A. Heinlein wrote a guest editorial, "Channel Markers", in which he discussed (among other things) the business in which he made a successful living -- writing.

He laid out this ...
 Five Rules for Success in Writing:
   First:  You must write.
   Second:  You must finish what you write.
   Third: You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
   Fourth:  You must place
it on the market.
   Fifth:  You must keep it on the market until sold

I've yet to make it to Fourth and Fifth, and here I am violating the Third Rule 
(because, one of my rules - not at all original with me - is that 
   "All rules have exceptions, including this one.")

So, because I happen to feel like doing so, I'm modifying (hopefully improving) this post by adding photos (the original had none) and even some more of them "word" things (which I'll highlight by giving them a yellow backgound as I'm doing here.


(You don't have to be psychic to suspect that I checked out the new Conan movie. :-)

But this post ain't really about the new movie (of which Harry Knowles, of Ain't It Cool News, charitably said, "It doesn't entirely suck. There's some pretty cool parts"); the coolest of which is relative newcomer Jason Momoa (new to the big screen; he's done a lot of television work, most prominently in Stargate: Atlantis) as Conan.  Now, if he only had a director and writer who knew what the Hell they were doing. Here he is ...

Sadly, the glasses never made it into the movie, perhaps out of fear that people would think he was doing Conan the Librarian (Guardian of the Shelves).
  From 'Weird Al' Yankovic's UHF (1989) ...
    Timid Man: Can you tell me where I can find a book on astronomy?
    CtL: (in a thick Austrian accent while lifting the man up with his bare hands):
      "Don't you know the Dewey Decimal System?"
    Young book customer: (Whimpering before Conan slices him in half):
      "These books are a little overdue."
To Mr. Momoa: You may have missed an opportunity here.

At least, Arnold had John Milius for the 1982 version, as both writer and director.  Milius considers it his sacred duty to tell a tall story and to tell it well (in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), before the opening title, the text scrolling up the screen said something to the effect of, "If this ain't the way it was, it's the way it should have been."), and in his Conan the Barbarian (1982), what he made was nothing less than a legend brought to life.

It took me a while to feel that way; the first time I saw it, I just considered it Ok.  But, over time, I've come to appreciate it more, and notice much more in it than appears on the surface.  I rather doubt that time will give me similar feelings about the remake.

But, my intent here is to focus more on Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that fact may cause a few of you to say "Adios!" right now;  his current problems with zipper-control, his love-child with a former mistress and the resulting break-up of his marriage making a lot of people ready to boycott absolutely anything that has anything whatever to do with him.

My focus is on his rise to stardom and on how consistently he has been underestimated on that journey.

In 2000, director George Butler appeared at the River Oaks theater, here in Houston, to present his new documentary, The Endurance (A retelling of Sir Ernest Shackleton 's ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in 1914-1916), and before taking any questions, he apologized to the audience for putting Arnold on the map with his earlier documentary Pumping Iron (1977),  about bodybuilders preparing for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests.

Arnold featured pretty heavily in it alright, but with all due respect to Mr. Butler, he's simply full of it.  Arnold was a force of nature, and was going to put himself on the map one way or another.  George Butler just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

But, his documentary did show the determination and single-mindedness of Arnold as a competitor, with one scene showing Arnold commenting on his focus before an event,  
"If someone was to tell me that my car had been stolen, I'd just tell my secretary to call the insurance company; I can't be bothered with that just now."

And another scene with Arnold with a bunch of girls in a modeling class, not giving a damn if anyone thought it might look funny, but learning from professionals just how to pose himself most effectively to win.

Arnold had already had a few bit parts in TV and movies for several years prior to Pumping Iron and was obviously exploring career options. 

Conan the Barbarian was his first starring role, and he actually wasn't bad at all (No. I'm never gonna suggest that he should have gotten an Academy Award nomination for it, but within the limited scope of what was required here, he did Ok.)  So, here's Arnold ...
Arnold as Conan - from www.blippitt.com

There's tons of photos showing his physique, but I liked this one because of the eyes.  Momoa plays Conan with fierce exuberance, going into battle with an attitude of "This is going to be fun!".  Arnie plays him as determined, with an attitude of "God help you, if you get in my way".  Trust me, you do not want to get in his way.

Two years later, director James Cameron became perhaps the first to work out how to really use Arnold effectively in a little sci-fi masterpiece, The Terminator (1984).

He originally wanted Arnold to be the hero soldier coming back from the future to save Sarah Conner from the terminator (meant to be played by Lance Henriksen; whom you might remember as the android Bishop in Aliens).  Cameron's original idea for the terminator was someone who could blend into the crowd and come at you from nowhere.
 Lance Henriksen as the android Bishop in Aliens - from gb93.com

He wound up in a small role in The Terminator, as Police Sgt. Hal Vuckovich.  This is the guy Cameron originally had in mind to play the terminator.

But, Arnold was savvy enough to figure, "Who the Hell watches Star Wars to see Luke Skywalker?", that the terminator was who everyone would have their eyes on, and requested that role instead.  Cameron agreed (even though it blew Hell out of "blend into the crowd";  Arnie just doesn't).
 You-know-who as you-know-what - from network.nationalpost.com

Although a robot (Ok! Get it out of your system about how this makes a perfect role for Arnold), it's actually a very interesting character.  Not at all a villain;  it just has a job to do.  If you interfere, it'll swat you like a fly, but if you get the Hell out of its way, you're no longer even in its frame of reference.

I'm not really sure, but I believe it was Arnold who added a subtle touch to the actions of the terminator.  When his eyes are scanning the area around him, his head is perfectly still while the eyes move to their limits at whatever side it's checking, then the head begins to follow; a very efficient and machine-like  quality that's a bit unsettling because it's not really obvious what it is that just doesn't seem natural.

This was two years after Conan, but Arnold was still pretty new to what this business was and what it sometimes entailed.  In the DVD commentary, Arnold and director James Cameron discuss the "guerrilla" film making involved in shooting the movie;  meaning that because of time and budgetary constraints, they were more than a bit casual about getting necessary permits to shoot on the streets in various neighborhoods.

There's a scene in the movie where the terminator acquires some necessary transportation by walking up to a parked station wagon and punching through the side window with his fist to open the door and get in.

So (according to the commentary) they are set up on a side street, watching out for police cars (being in Los Angeles, the film capital of the western hemisphere, I suspect the police pay more attention to and watch out for stuff like this) and Cameron tells Arnie, "Ok, now I want you to punch your hand through that glass.", which Arnie does, not even thinking to ask, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN, PUNCH MY HAND THROUGH THE GLASS?!!!"  I suspect Arnie knows better, by now.

He learns all the time.  Early in his movie career, Roger Ebert had an interview with him, catching him with a bunch of books from night school courses where he was working on his MBA.  When asked about that, Arnold's reply was, "What's the point of having all this money if you don't know what to do with it?".

A few years after Terminator, he was in Predator (1987).  In that one, he was mostly working with other athletes and body builders, including Jesse Ventura and Sonny Landham (a story in himself; the insurance people insisting on a 24/7 bodyguard for Landham; not for his protection, but to protect other people from him; his idea of fun being starting fights in bars.).  Here's the guy we're talking about ...
 Sonny Landham as Billy, in Predator - popstar.com

I hate to confess this, but if I was in a bar and he walked in, I'd probably do my level best to not catch his attention in any way and just quietly slip outside.  The Wikipedia entry on him makes for some very interesting reading.

The most professional actors among them were veteran character actor R. G. Armstrong (who played the General that sent the group in), and Carl Weathers (better known as Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" Movies).

In the commentary on one of the DVD issues of Predator, director John McTiernan noted that when scenes were being shot that didn't involve Arnold,  instead of lounging in his trailer, he would be at the back of the set staying out of the way and just studying Carl, watching and learning from him.
Carl Weathers as Dillon in Predator, and some guy he may have unknowingly mentored.

He has a great sense of humor and an equally great sense of comic timing, but few of his attempts at comedy did well in the theaters.  Kindergarten Cop (1990) and True Lies (1994) were probably the best (and best performing) of those attempts.

So far, his most successful forays were into science-fiction, with Total Recall (1990) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

He was on his way to really becoming something, and then he took this detour into politics. Now that he's (hopefully) got that out of his system, he already has a few movie projects in the pipeline.

Don't ever underestimate this guy.


Foxfier said...

The guy is...what, sixty-something, and still impressive.

Yes, he's flawed. I still like the guy.

Just the other day Elf and I were playing the Conan online video game-- it's free, now, and probably the best media presentation of the Conan world-- and Elf started to laugh. He'd been making a character of the same nation as Conan and caught himself wondering "Can they have black hair?" Arnold is so iconic as Conan that, even seeing more-source-accurate Conan on his throne at the login screen, we still picture Arnold instead.

Kindergarten Cop is still one of my family's favorite movies, too. ^.^
"Who is your daddy, an what does he do?"

*snip* Sonny Landham (a story in himself; the insurance people insisting on a 24/7 bodyguard for Landham; not for his protection, but to protect other people from him; his idea of fun being starting fights in bars.)

*gets a good look at the guy*
Yeah, I can see that. He's got a pretty sort of "baby" face that, with a huge chip on one's shoulder and a jock sense of humor, would definitely find beating the blank out of folks who underestimate him funny....

Paul Gordon said...

Arnie's 64 (as of July 30). I hope he manages to stay around for awhile.

Expressing that hope as a lot of heavily muscled people, who have probably used steroids, seem to be prime heart-attack candidates.

On the other hand, given the history I've noted above about how he studies and prepares for things, I'll bet he's totally aware of that and probably watching himself there (even if he does a lousy job of watching himself when it comes to zipper-control).

Sonny Landham played Billy, the tracker in Predator, and is another example of what I tried to define as "presence" in my post The Return of Mickey Rourke, not really striking me as that much of an actor, but one of those you have a hard time taking your eyes off of.

Foxfier said...

I kind of wonder if he avoided them, or somehow worked it so that they didn't hit him as hard, because he doesn't seem to be showing any of the usual signs of steroid use-- he still looks masculine, for starters... moderation? Good genetics? No idea....

Sadly, most of my actor IDing is talking with my sister along the lines of "That guy with the head band in predator, who looks like (person we know)."

Paul Gordon said...

I suspect that Arnold has a Hell of a lot of discipline when it comes to taking care of his body, as it was a major asset to him in his early days.

He noted, in the commentary on Conan the Barbarian, having to spend two hours every day training for the bulging muscles he had to show in that film.

On the other hand, he cut back on that while working on Predator, and lost weight so he would appear a bit more like the kind of people who go on those missions.

Special Forces types often appear more like grocery clerks, except you don't see an ounce of fat on them.

They aren't really looking for people who can pick up one end of a truck with their bare hands -- although Arnie does precisely that in the movie -- expecting them to use their brains instead.

What they look for most is endurance; people who absolutely will not quit.

Arnie appears to tailor his body to the needs of what hes doing. If he used steroids at any time, I'll be he was in total control of what he was doing; he just strikes me that way.

Ummh - I've just realized that I'm making a pretty good description of fanatic. Let's hope it's in a good way. :-)

Foxfier said...

Seeing as I am a fan-girl-- and the root of "fan" is "fanatic"-- I hope being a fanatic can be good!

Also, your list of traits for special missions left off "freaking insane." (Usually more quietly, but still....)

Paul Gordon said...

"freaking insane."

I believe members of those groups would be the first to agree.

I absolutely love these conversations, but I'm shutting down for the rest of the day.

You may recall, from my "In a dark place ..." post that I was whining about not having enough hours, and really needed more.

Well, "Be careful what you wish for."

Have a good 'un. :-)

Foxfier said...

Best "bad" news I've heard in a while. ^.^

Paul Gordon said...


Apparently, some idiot argued to management that Paul Gordon need more hours; a lot more hours.

Oh, wait! That was me. :|

Foxfier said...

Reason this doesn't fall under The Rules:
the blog is always a work in progress!


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