Long Weekend Roundup: Top Gun, Code 46, & Bill Cunningham New York

Hi everyone! My weekend roundup is slightly delayed this week as I also got Monday off. Well I ended up seeing quite a few movies in the comfort of my home cinema. These are the four films I got to watch in my three day weekend.

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Top Gun (1986)

Thanks to Ted for lending me his Top Gun Blu-ray, my hubby and I watched it on Friday night and despite the inevitable 80s cheese-fest, the movie is still pretty darn entertaining! I remember being so wowed by it when I first saw it on the big screen two decades ago. All the flying sequences made me dizzy on the big screen, but it wasn’t too bad seeing it on my smaller TV screen. Of course, when the Berlin song Take My Breath Away played on, I was swept by the feeling of sweet nostalgia! 😀

It really didn't get any cheesier than this folks... but wait, yes it did!
It really didn’t get any cheesier than this folks… but wait, yes it did!

There were few movies bigger than Top Gun in the mid 80s and Tom Cruise’s career shot up to super-stardom. Amazing that he still remains there today, but the same can’t be said for the rest. I mean, Anthony Edwards became a TV star because of E.R., Meg Ryan became the queen of rom-com, Val Kilmer starred in high profile movies and even became a superhero (Batman), but Kelly McGillis never really got another memorable roles since. But today, Meg seems to have disappeared from Hollywood, Val has lost his svelte figure, and most tragic of all, we’ve lost director Tony Scott to suicide 😦 So not only does Cruise seemed to have drank from the fountain of eternal youth, he’s pretty much still got that movie star status. That’s really quite a feat after 27 years!

Anyway, here are my mini reviews of the rest:

Code 46 (2003)

A futuristic ‘Brief Encounter’, a love story in which the romance is doomed by genetic incompatibility.

I’ve been wanting to see this film for quite some time but when my pal Mark mentioned Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton as his favorite cinematic pairing in this post, I finally decided to see it this weekend. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi romances, and nothing is more tragic when human’s free will cease to exist and totalitarian government enforces rules as to who we can and can’t love.

The film takes place in a not-too-distant future where city security zones are enforced due to a climate disaster, and cloning and genetic manipulation has become the norm. A strict global law called Code 46 is especially troubling, as it makes the union of two people with genetic similarities illegal. The film opens with William (Robbins) traveling to Shanghai to investigate an identity fraud case for the Sphinx Corporation. During his travels, he runs into María (Morton) and though he realizes she’s the one who committed the fraud, somehow he covered up for her. A forbidden affair ensues after they spend the night together, but the fact that William has a wife and young boy is the least of their complications.

Code46_stills

I’m not going to go further into the plot as it’s best that you discover the predicament the two people are facing and what they have to do to be together. I have to admit though that because there are sooo many details about the universe this film is set in that I actually had to read more about it in order to grasp just what the heck is going on, especially involving the empathy drugs and other medical procedures that’s become prevalent in their world.

Though the romance is not explosive, nary of melodramatic declarations or the likes, there is a painful honesty between Robbins and Morton that is so heart-wrenching. Towards the end though, there is one scene as they run away together that I find pretty shocking for its brief graphic nudity. Now, I always think that most of the time such scenes are unnecessary as a suggestive depiction could’ve made the same impact and I feel the same way here. That said, I’m not going to hold it against the filmmaker as the scene is not without emotions. One can’t help but feel for this couple, no matter how ill-advised their union has been from the start.

What makes it more intriguing is the small details of this futuristic world, especially the language used that’s a mix of English with other languages like Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. The characters use “Ni Hao” or “As-Salamu Alaykum” to greet each other, the Spanish word “palabra” for “password”, etc. The most important legal document of that world is called “papelles” which is a made up word that sounds French. Despite the relatively low budget, somehow director Michael Winterbottom manage to make this film look futuristic-looking by using sleek, modern buildings in Shanghai, etc. and some of the gritty market/street scenes has a Blade Runner vibe to it.

One thing for sure, despite the slow and sometimes sullen mood of the film, this is one of those film that linger with me long after the film is over, especially after it’s revealed what happens to William and Maria in the finale. Worth a look for fans of sci-fi romances, I wish they made more films in this genre.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

Chronicles a man who is obsessively interested in only one thing,the pictures he takes that document the way people dress. The 80-year-old New York Times photographer has two columns in the paper’s Style section, yet nobody knows who he is.

Truth be told, I didn’t know who Bill Cunningham was until this documentary was made, but I must have seen his photos on the fashion magazines/blogs. He’s the pioneer of street fashion photography since he published an impromptu set of pictures in the New York Times which then became a regular series. He basically takes photos of fashionistas in Manhattan that catch his eye, using a 35mm Nikon as he rides his Schwinn bicycle around town. His ‘uniform’ is a blue nylon jacket, and a convenience-store bought poncho filled with black masking-tape patches all over it as he refuses to buy a new one when it gets torn.

When you watch this, it’s guaranteed that you will fall in love with this man. He’s just so endearing for his eccentricities, but you’ll also admire him for his integrity and work ethic. I find him to be even more quirky and a rare human being, much rarer that even the most bizarre piece of fashion he photographs, and you’ll see some really out-there stuff in this film!

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All the fashion stuff is fun and dandy, but what I love most about this documentary is to get to know Bill the man, the person behind the lens and all those fashion photographs. He does what he does because he loves it — he practically shuns money almost to a fault, refusing to cash his check according to his former boss at Details Magazine. It’s never fully explained why, but basically the 83-year-old refuses to sell out to anyone as he values his creative freedom more than anything. He’d rather be allowed to do what he wants than being paid to ‘conform.’ He also doesn’t allow himself to get caught up in the glitz and glamor of the fashion world. When he does go to lavish parties (even to Lady Astor’s 100th birthday party), sitting on the front row of fashion shows, he doesn’t even take a drink of water offered to him. He said he always eats before he goes to work and he’s only there to do his job, not to hobnob with the rich and famous.

BillCunninghamWhat really gets him is fashion and he is married to his work, which he doesn’t call work at all as he enjoys it so much. There’s a twinkle in his eye and he has this huge grin on his face when he’s out in his element photographing people and he’s well-loved in the fashion community. “We all get dressed for Bill“, says Vogue editor Anna Wintour who’s frequently interviewed in his documentary, and Bill appreciates fashion. He sees the beauty even in outfits most of us would deem as too weird or even ugly.

What’s fascinates me most is the contrast between Bill’s minimalist, even monastic lifestyle and the glam and glitter of the subject he’s covering. At one time, the filmmaker was baffled to learn that he goes to church every Sunday. Later on he was asked about his personal life, whether he ever has a romantic relationship and whether he’s gay, which he nonchalantly replied. But when the question turns to his faith, as to why he goes to church every weekend, suddenly the cheerful man choked up and grew quiet. It’s clearly a personal matter to him and after a long pause, he admitted that his Catholic faith ‘gives him guidance.’ It’s something he needs in his life, and to me, it makes so much sense and in a way it explains how he’s able to live the way he does.

I highly recommend this documentary to anyone who loves to learn stories about intriguing people. Mr. Cunningham definitely fits the bill and you’ll also meet other fascinating patron of the arts, like Editta Sherman, the 100-year old photographer dubbed “Duchess of Carnegie Hall” who was once Andy Warhol’s muse. Bill and Editta were two of the last few members of Carnegie Hall Artist Studios until the planned building renovation in 2010.


4.5 out of 5 reels


TheVeryThoughtOfYouPosterOh, I also rewatched this late 90s British rom-com The Very Thought of You which I saw quite a while ago because Rufus Sewell is in it. It’s actually a pretty decent movie written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland) and directed by Nick Hamm (Killing Bono). I find it especially amusing as the protagonist Martha (Monica Potter) is from Minneapolis and there’s a brief scene at Mpls/St Paul airport with Tom Hollander. Mostly the movie is set in London though, which is a big plus for me.

The cast is full of talented but underrated British actors: Sewell, Hollander and Joseph Fiennes as three lifelong friends who all fall for the same woman. Oh and Ray Winstone also has a small role as a sympathetic neighbor, a far cry from his usual violent mobster roles! It’s nice to see the normally intense actors playing a light, fluffy rom-com. It’s surprisingly enjoyable though I wouldn’t rate it as the best in the genre. I’d say give this a shot if you have Netflix Instant, especially if you’re a fan of any of the actors.

I will have the review of The Heiress next week. I’m sort of still mulling it over, but it’s definitely an excellent film from William Wyler that can’t be pigeonholed into a certain genre.


Well that’s my weekend viewing roundup, folks. Any thoughts on these films?

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43 thoughts on “Long Weekend Roundup: Top Gun, Code 46, & Bill Cunningham New York

    1. Yeah, it ends up being quite fun watching a variety of movies. I like mixing up genres, and it doesn’t get any more different than Top Gun and The Heiress, ahah.

    1. Hey Chris, it’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood for some 80s popcorn action flick. There’s a reason it’s a classic. That Bill Cunningham doc is definitely worth a look, what a lovely man.

  1. Wow I’ll have to check out that Bill Cunningham documentary, I too have seen the pix but didn’t know who took them. I cannot imagine being so secure that I would leave checks uncashed…most creatives have a lot of trouble getting paid. Looking forward to your thoughts on THE HEIRESS Ruth!

    1. You should give that doc a look Paula, it’s quite fascinating. I don’t think it’s so much about being ‘secure’ financially, he just doesn’t need much as he lives so minimalistic-ally. There’s also something about his past that made him shun wealth and money, so it’s a principal thing. I’ll let you know when my review of The Heiress is up. I think I’ll work on the Edith Head post first though 😉

    1. Ahah, Cocktail is not a good movie, but I remember seeing it on the big screen as we all had a big crush on Cruise. I don’t think the movie would’ve done well without Cruise. We were just talking about it yesterday w/ my friends. I think since you love fashion, you’d enjoy Bill Cunningham doc, Andina.

  2. I can’t imagine a day when Top Gun won’t be a classic film that I love to watch. Always impressed by how well it’s made and the work that Tony Scott went into to make sure it was as authentic as it was. Well… nearly!

    1. It’s interesting that Tony Scott actually wanted to make a darker version of Top Gun, but the studio insisted it to be a popcorn action flick, ahah. But yeah, it was certainly well-made and still quite entertaining to this day!

  3. I have Code 46 in my queue and I’ll now add Bill Cunningham New York in there too. Thanks. No interest whatsoever in the rom-com and Top Gun… well it’s a three strike film for me. Tom Cruise… strike one. Tony Scott… strike two. I’ll never be able to listen to The Righteous Brothers again… LOL. Strike three. The thing most notable about the film to me (other than the huge boost to Ray-Ban and bomber jacket sales) is the soundtrack. Its multi-platinum status made Hollywood stand up and take notice to the fact that they could actually make a boatload of money from an original rock soundtrack. Sure you had Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Purple Rain before it but it was really Top Gun that paved the way for Footloose, Dirty Dancing and the onslaught of rock/pop based soundtracks..

    1. Ahahaha, no Top Gun for you Dave? I didn’t know you have an aversion for Cruise and Scott, what gives? Well at least you like the soundtrack, though that You Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ scene was a hoot and oh so cheesy!! That love scene just made me laugh too, I mean what’s with the bluish tone during that scene, in Indonesia, we refer to porn as being ‘blue movies’ so that’s just comical as it’s not even that racy!

  4. Great post Ruth. Your review of Code 46 is very fine indeed. It’s hard for me to rate as it’s been so long but a 3.5 ain’t too shabby at all. It really struck a cord with me when I see it all those years ago. I do hope that it still ha that effect on me when i see it again.

    1. Thanks Mark! I was actually looking for your review of Code 46 but didn’t see one, I thought you had reviewed it somehow. Yeah, the ending was so heartbreaking, it stayed with me for days. Overall it’s not a ‘masterpiece’ but still, very well worth seeing.

        1. Those are the best kind, aren’t they? When you just stumbled across something that ended up to be a gem of sort. I’m glad you brought it up Mark, I normally am not a fan of Robbins but somehow he was good in Code 46, but Morton is just superb. Too bad she doesn’t get a lot of roles in Hollywood, probably deemed not ‘glamorous’ enough! 😦

          1. Yeah, it is pretty shameful about the lack of work that Morton seems to be getting these days. She was doing well at first, with Speilberg and Woody Allen casting her in film’s but the last time I think I seen her was in The Messenger.

            1. Shameful is the word! It’s frustrating to see talentless actresses keep getting work when the quality ones like Morton, Emily Watson barely get any prominent roles. Not sure which one is The Messenger, the one w/ Woody Harrelson?

              1. Yeah, Watson is certainly another. Why? Is it because they are not seen as “eye candy”? Two very attractive actresses that have a talent beyond most of the dross working today. I’m a big fan of both. Yeah, The Messenger was the one with Harrelson. Great movie!

                1. That’s just it Mark. I’m baffled too! To me they’re both very attractive as they’re not made out of the ‘cookie cutter’ mold of beauty that Hollywood subscribe to. They’re not plastic looking! I just rewatched Equilibrium last nite and Watson was just oh, there are no words! She was able to convey an emotional scene so beautifully yet without overacting. Her co-star was Christian Bale and though BOTH were excellent, as you know Bale’s career shot up but she remains largely ‘unknown.’

                  I should give The Messenger a watch. I didn’t know Morton is in it. I think Ben Foster is in that as well, he’s a good actor too.

                  1. Mark and Ruth… you know I was reading up a bit about Morton to see why you might not have seen her as of late. She had a stroke in late 2006. She had a baby in 2008. She turned down the lead roles in Girl Interrupted (Jolie) and Iris (Winslet). She dropped out of Pride & Glory in 2008 (Norton, Farrell). She was originally cast as Diane Arbus in Fur (Kidman) and as Harper Lee in Infamous (Bullock). Not sure what happened on those movies. She did voice work for the long running children’s animated TV series called Max & Ruby. She didn’t do any acting from The Messenger (2009) until John Carter (2012), which was voice work only. However she did co-write and direct her first movie, the autobiographical The Unloved, starring your man, Mark, Robert Carlyle in 2009. Lastly she has a reputation for being difficult on set, by her own admission. All of this would account for her not being seen lately although she seems to have a full slate for 2012-2013 including working with directors Cronenberg, Spike Jonze, John McNaughton and Steven Bernstein the DP of Monster. Hope that sheds some light on what’s been going on with her.

  5. Sorry… no Top Gun love Ruth. Both Ted and I kind of said our peace in your Tony Scott post after he died. I mean when you say a film has “MTV style”… aka style over substance, you’re basically talking about Tony Scott. It probably came from his background in commercials. Personally I didn’t think he had half the talent his brother had yet Ridley, who also came from the same background, seemed to flourish visually with movies like Alien, Blade Runner, Apple’s 1984 themed MacIntosh Ad, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down. Even the flawed Prometheus was just a visual wonder to look at. It didn’t hurt that Ridley alligned himself with the likes of artist H.R. Giger (The Alien franchise) and futurist Syd Mead (Blade Runner) early on in his career. This is an excerpt from an interview about Syd Mead’swork on Blade Runner:

    To be honest I really only liked Tony’s first film which was the vampire tale The Hunger With Sarandon, Deneuve and Bowie. It was still style over substance but without all that “MTV style” he later became known for. That 10 minute BMW short film with Oldman and Owen is a perfect example of that style. Now that I think about it… there was quite a bit of blue in The Hunger too… LOL… except that movie actually was racy. One of my very favorite movie soundtracks. Nice mix of horror and classical. Especially this particular excerpt (the only one I’ve ever heard with the piano intro) from Delibes’ opera Lakme: You’ll have to search The Hunger-Lakme-Léo Delibes on You Tube as the clip is a bit too “racy” to post on here even though tastefully done. Back in ’83 it was probably one of the earliest explicit lesbian sex scenes in a mainstream Hollywood movie. Especially featuring a major international star in Catherine Deneuve and the still up and coming Susan Sarandon.

    Ruth I think the term “blue movie” was bigger here in the 60’s and 70’s. There’s a great story about Stanley Kubrick and his unmade “blue movie”. From Empire magazine:

    “If the idea of Kubrick making a porno seems daft, he was actually pretty close to doing it. If you exclude the X-rated Eyes Wide Shut, which of course we do despite its orgy falling only a German plumber short of making the cut, consider Blue Movie. Based on Dr. Strangelove writer Terry Southern’s satirical novel, it was a none-more-meta satire in which a lauded auteur based on Kubrick sets to work on a glossy, high-budget porn flick. Well, we told you it was meta. In truth, Blue Movie never came that close to making it to the screen, despite Kubrick sitting through a hardcore porn film with Southern and later concluding, “It would be great if someone made a movie like that under studio conditions.” His wife Christiane had other ideas. She’s reported to have calmly presented her feedback. “Stanley, if you do this I’ll never speak to you again.” I guess we know who was the king of that castle. LOL.

    1. Fair enough Dave. I personally prefer Ridley’s work to Tony’s as well. Very interesting tidbit about ‘blue movie’ and Kubrick. Well, I’m siding with his wife, glad he listened to her! Wise woman 😀

  6. Glad you liked Bill Cunningham New York. I found that one so oddly touching, and I agree with you – the contrast between his life and the people he surronds himself with through his work really was fascinating.

    1. Hi Alex! Yes, very touching indeed. He’s far more fascinating to watch than any of the fashion and parties depicted in the film. Kudos to Richard Press for choosing him as the subject of his doc, Mr. Cunningham’s ethic & integrity is quite inspiring.

      Btw, nice job on the Motifs in Cinema post on Love. Check out my take on the Marriage part of that equation 😉

  7. Ted S.

    I remember seeing a trailer for Code 46 but it never got a wide release or did it even got a theatrical release here at all? I might give it a rent soon.

    Ahh, Top Gun I don’t even know if I can sit through it again now. I bought the BD back in 2008 and watched it once and that’s it. Before Tony Scott killed himself, the talk of a sequel were heating up. Even Cruise said he’d be interested in reprising his Maverick role.

    1. I don’t know if Code 46 ever got released in theaters, it might’ve gone straight to video as neither actors are exactly movie stars.

      Yeah, I thought Tony Scott had signed on to do Top Gun 2. I could see it being a modest hit again, alas now that he’s gone I doubt they’d ever pick that up again.

  8. I finally got around to watching Beginners,which thankfully met my high expectations. And speaking of older cheesey movies i watched Point Break. I liked it, even though some of the dialogue comes off a bit silly now 😛

    1. Oh I still haven’t seen Beginners! Glad you like that one. I quite like Point Break but yeah, pretty cheesy. That movie launched Keanu’s career as an action star I think.

  9. I haven’t seen Top Gun in years. Not sure if I’ll ever do so again. 😉 Glad you liked Code 46 and The Heiress. Bill Cunningham New York and The Very Thought of You look interesting. I might check them out.

    1. Ahah, fair enough Josh. So what did you think of Code 46? Seems like not many people have seen that one. The Heiress is another Wyler masterpiece!

      1. Really liked Code 46. Loved the performances and the relationship between the characters. Great production design and cinematography in that film too.

  10. I give Code 46 same rating, I agree the story and the chemistry were good but something was missing for me. That said, that movie has amazing atmosphere and one of my all time favorite soundtracks – the music in this one was just incredible and it went so well with the movie.

    1. I agree about the atmosphere, it just seems unsettling and morose, which perfectly suits the theme of the film. I quite like the music too, I have to listen to the whole soundtrack.

  11. Interesting variety of films there, Ruth. I actually haven’t seen any of them, not even Top Gun. Bill Cunningham, New York sounds like a fun documentary though. I’ve had that on my Netflix queue for ages, but I keep forgetting about it!

    1. I’m surprised you haven’t seen Top Gun yet. Well I think it’s still quite fun to watch, cheesy yes but that’s how it is w/ 80s popcorn flicks. Bill Cunningham doc is so profoundly moving, do give that a watch, Eric.

  12. Top Gun is one of those 80’s faves I don’t have on DVD. Subsequently I haven’t seen it in years! Might be time to pick it up on blu-ray as I’m sure it’ll look good.

  13. the only one I am interested to see is Bill Cunningham…to be honest, I didn’t read the other reviews, only that Bill one 😉
    I have never heard of the doc before…but documentary is do rare here 😦

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