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Frank Miller Showdown
by Andy York

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Generally, Out of the Past is a column about old movies. I try to include newer movies as much as possible, but this is a column dedicated to classics. When you have a column on the subject of classic movies the majority of topics will be about old movies. It's not a requirement for a movie to be old to qualify as classic, but "old movies" have much more vast selections due to time. That said this week's subject is the most recent of selections I've ever done. 300 and Sin City have both been released in the last three years. There's better and more classic movies I could compare with each other, but this is a pairing I find interesting. While these two movies are connected by being adapted from the graphic novels of Frank Miller, they're both hugely popular. Now, I don't believe popularity equals quality or the "classic" label, but these are two movies I believe have the ingredients to become some of this decade's most revered films. So, while some may consider including these two movies into a column about classic movies premature, I don't. I give you 300 vs. Sin City!

300

I'm a fan of history, but I had only heard of this story through a movie made in 1962 called The 300 Spartans. Apparently, this movie is a dramatization and fanciful expansion of an ancient battle between Sparta and Persia. As I said, both of these movies are adaptations from Frank Miller's graphic novels. This one in particular tells of three hundred Spartan warriors that stand against one million Persian warriors in attempt to save Sparta from destruction. Now, when I say "fanciful expansion" I mean that, while this is based on history, 300 is a fantasy movie. There's plenty of unrealistic aspects to this movie(ie: monsters), but that's part of its quality. The essence of both 300 and Sin City is mainly visual excellence and out-of-your-mind imagination. I've never read a Frank Miller graphic novel, but I know from these movies that what comes from his mind is an explosion of creative violence. Out of the many movies that tried to be the colossal ancient epic in recent years, 300 succeeds where Troy or Lord of the Rings failed. 300 steps beyond being inadvertently over the top or full-on nerdy of which those other movies are horribly guilty. 300 is perverted and sadistic. All of its disgusting elements are not toned down, but are proudly on display.

I think a large amount of this
movie's legacy will be decided by Gerald Butler. If he is to become a big time movie star, this is where he'll have gotten his start. If he goes on to do some Vin Diesel-esqe roles it will lessen this movie's legacy. 300 may have been released too early in 2007 to receive any Oscar consideration and I can't see a movie with its popularity becoming a "cult" classic. I think this movie one day could be remembered as one of the better movies of the 2000's, but that's yet to be proven right. I have a hard time fully calling this a classic yet. History will decide where this movie ultimately lands. As of today, I see 300 as one of the more impressive movies visually and a fierce fantasy movie. To me, the true beauty of 300 is that its a great statement in the art of violence in movies. I will soon be posting a column on that, but one thing I will say is that, as is with all movie buffs, when other people chime in about film certain statements always get on my nerves. One such statement is "That movie sucked! It was too violent!" Hey, films qualify as art as much as anything. Violence, even extreme violence, is often apart of that art. 300 is a journey into gratuitous violence, but it's a journey that is art all the same.

Sin City

Robert Rodriguez has had a varied existence as a filmmaker. I tend to see him a little as Quentin Tarantino's bitch. That might be a little harsh, but they collaborate a lot and QT is a vastly more talented filmmaker. Robert Rodriguez has made some pretty good movies in his career as a director, but as far as I'm concerned only Sin City is the only one of his films that I would call great. Sin City is a collection of Frank Miller stories that all take place in Basin City, or aka Sin City. The stories include an aging cop trying to save a girl from a sexual deviant, a career criminal that will stop at nothing to avenge the death of a hooker, one man trying to stave off a war between a self-policed colony of prostitutes and the real law and many more twisted stories. I recently spoke with a guy who hated this movie. He felt it wasn't good because there was no running story. I tried to explain that the city itself is the story. Some people will never learn....

Sin City's a world, that if you're a fan of noir, you won't be able to resist. Sin City is in black and white with flashes of color. It combines the 1940's world of The Big Sleep
and Double Indemnity with really shameless onslaughts of subjects that are bewitchingly grotesque. There's plenty of female nudity and violence for the sake of violence to please and offend anyone. Sin City never falls and goes for shock value though. I think that's what makes the movie really work. This isn't a story being told for people who are ordinary or normal. Sin City is told in a manner that the storyteller is speaking to people who understand this level of illness, or at least enjoy it. Sin City isn't just a collection of stories, but a world that you descend into. Each tale is twisted, depraved and extremely violent, but each story is just one of the many stories from Sin City. It's a world that Frank Miller creates and Rodriguez brings to the screen.

Winner: Sin City

300 is a good movie, but Sin City's a masterpiece. The movie is so detailed that the love that Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller gave to this project is so abundantly clear. 300 has massive detail as well, but Sin City has so much more depth. I keep saying that Sin City is its own world, and you really feel that when watching it. It's almost like this is a place in another dimension. Sin City has its own values that are, at least, immoral. It's a place that has its own rules. It's one of the most masterful pieces of storytelling I've ever seen. 300 just can't compete with something so encompassing with its ability to cause marvel. This may be a landslide for me, but I will say I've noticed the opposite is true with the people I've talked to. Maybe it's the success of 300, but the people I've actually asked this question to have picked 300. Sin City is a darker and more twisted film than 300. That might turn off the people that prefer movies with more mainstream ideals. Oh well, brilliance isn't for everyone.

********************

This has oddly been my favorite Showdown to write so far. Maybe it's just that I like writing sentences where I can use the word "twisted". Next time Out of the Past graces Matchflick's main page I will be posting a column about great actors that have done some really bad movies. I hope you check that one out. In the meantime, all of my brilliance can be read through my archive. I suggest you set aside a few hours to pour over it all. It's a lot to take in. Unwarranted arrogance aside, this is my 30th column at this site. I hope you enjoy the next 30!

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Out of the Past
Every other Tuesday

Discussing classic films from City Lights to Apocalypse Now and everything in between and beyond.


Other Columns
Other columns by Andy York:

Top 10 Coolest Movie Characters

Stewart-Mann Western Connection

Academy of Irrelevance

Ride of Terror Showdown

A Guide to the Fiercely Divine

All Columns


Andy York
Andy is a life long movie fanatic. The first movie he saw in the theater was Back to the Future, Part 2 at the age of 3 and he has loved movies ever since.



Contact
If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Andy York by clicking here.


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