A to Z of MyLawyerWillCallYourLawyer: E

An occasional series where Astrid & Nick go through their cinema alphabet

Nick: Roland Emmerich (director)
One steely glance through the resume of director Roland Emmerich is enough for you to consider why would I want to make my letter E about him. Here's an appalling set of films for you to consider: Universal Soldier, Stargate, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow, 10, 000 BC, 2012. Emmerich could go down as one of the most disastrous movie makers ever (er... excuse the pun!) I was going to make my E about elephants in the movies (Dumbo, Elephant ManHannibal Brooks etc), but that would have stopped me talking about one my favorite movies ever. Yes, we're talking Independence Day (1996)

I don't know why this film has struck such a deep adolescent chord with me. In many ways it's unbelievable, corny and worst of all, patriotic US garbage. Here are the plus points: Jeff Goldblum, a young Will Smith whopping it to the...aliens. I'm a sucker for any movies with aliens. Lots of famous landmarks round the world get blown to pieces. All the while there is a sly humor at work in Independence Day that rarely gets acknowledged. The special effects (so original at the time) are so-so and have dated badly. But, essentially, this is one of those films where the world pulls together to fight a common enemy, so it's also got a bucket of wishful thinking. Did I mention an emotional pull that's not so hackneyed (at least not to sentimental me) and an energy verging on the anarchic. It's the mother of all disaster movies and after 20+ viewings later it still rocks my socks off. A masterpiece.

The success of Independence Day  bought Emmerich a bigger budget, which he blew on a movie about a rampaging mutated lizard. The much ridiculed Godzilla (2002) is for me a blast. Yes, Godzilla runs riot in Manhattan. Unfortunately, Emmerich gets the casting all wrong with Matthew Broderick as the films nerdy hero. Jean Reno makes up for this as the 'insurance agent'. So, Emmerich's Godzilla, which pissed off the purist fans of the original Japanese movies, is a lot of fun, with great set pieces and a knowing dig at the media. The biggest problem if I'm honest, is Godzilla himself, a pretty awful looking CGI creation. Still, It proves that when Emmerich is not being too serious (check The Day After Tomorrow) he can make cracking, innovative and very smart blockbusters. Having just noticed that Independence Day 2 has been green lit, my own expectations have soared.

Astrid: Emotion
If I was completely unpretentious and in tune with the immediate only, my E would be ER (the tv series), since that is all we have been watching for the last couple of weeks. But although I did not know what my E would be, I decided to go hunting for something more. Something fundamental to cinema. Besides we have already reviewed some ER about a year ago...So I did some 
 research (the kind that took 15 minutes) digging up movie-related names and words that begin with E and got many perfect ones.

My E could be for Eastwood (Clint) – I could re-evaluate my love/hate relationship with his legend and his work, and I could quote David Thompson: "He is our knight––––somehow––––and he shames the astrologers, the alchemists, the courtesans and the robber barons who otherwise run to court" (The New Bibliographical Dictionary of Film p.262). My E could also stand for editing (film). It's is a crucial process in making cinema. It is a fascinating, often overlooked, field dominated by women (throughout the history of cinema). My E could also go to a genre: epic film. I have a fondness for it, especially as winter is here and the nights are endlessly long and perfect for Dr. Zhivago or Reds. In the end I went all out and pompous and chose emotion (affect).

I looked into the Oxford Dictionary of Film Studies and found  an elaborate description of how emotional responses to cinematic experiences have been taken into account by various methods of research (such as psychoanalytic film theory and cognitivist film theory). There seems to be a problem in incorporating the emotional experience in serious studies and criticism. It is funny to realize this when off the top of my head the first meaning of cinema to me is to offer a chance to live and experience feelings and thoughts with and through a given movie. The emotional responses of the viewer is what a movie depends on, if you ask me. If a film does not get a response emotionally no one will want to sit through it.
As a viewer of a film I can go through pain, sadness and fear, happiness, giddiness, lust, nervousness and a million other emotions – I am safely tugged away from the action projected onto a screen – still I am feeling for real. How ironic then that one of the icons of cinema has a face of stone.


  1. I liked all the "E" writings, and especially "emotion". The grammar of emotion is interesting, and the icon of the imperturbable "face of stone" should be on the holy cards of our age... sort of a Buddha in repose before all kinds of gun play breaks out.

  2. great comment Montag! happy holidays!


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