Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—D is For

Maybe I'm Dazed and Confused But My Pick Is Die Hard

      First off, I want to congratulate my favorite college basketball team, the Uconn Huskies (I spent one year @ Storrs prior to transferring to NYU). Their remarkable and unprecedented run through the NCAA tournament has brought me tremendous satisfaction (those chronicling my Twitter or Facebook accounts since the Big East tournament can attest, and frankly, they were probably getting sick of my variations of "Go Uconn"). Last night's win marks their third National Championship (I was on campus for the '04 title). At this point, Calhoun is a God in my state, and Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb are both Oscar greats. A quick Academy Award Analogy—Calhoun wins Best Director, Kemba wins Best Actor, Lamb takes home Best Supporting Actor, and last night's game takes home the Best Picture gold!

      Now, let me get back to movies. In a quirky, off-beat, almost Coen-kind of way, Richard Linklater's coming of age comedy, Dazed and Confused is phenomenal, but John McTiernan's trademark film paved the way for modern action—a premise interminably duplicated but never matched. Thus, Die Hard wins this Battle of the D's contest. "Yippie-kai-yay, mother@#!%er."
      Prior to Die Hard's formidable box office run, many detractors were dubious of the film. And they had a legitimate cause of concern, in the name of some guy that rhymes with Deuce Phyliss—of course, I'm referring to the bona fide action star and cool ass prizefighter, Butch Coolidge of Pulp Fiction fame, Mr. Bruce Willis. A completely incidental and digressive aside; my oldest brother looks so much like the star that anytime I ever enter a lavish corporate high-rise, I make sure my brother's by my side. Just In Case.
      Bruce Willis' honest performance emphatically proved the scathing detractors wrong. And no, Willis was not Moonlighting as a wannabe action star. His relentless everyman persona, replete with a deft comedic touch and rugged good looks, was perfectly befitting the larger-than-life hero, John McClane. 


      John McClane, a New York cop, arrives at the Nakatomi Tower skyscraper in LA via a chatty, cool-ass limousine driver by the name of Argyle (De'voreaux White)—cool enough to turn up the volume on Run-D.M.C's classic rap song, "Christmas in Hollis.". John's estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), invites him to attend her company's Christmas party; as McClane quips, "Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs." 
      Meanwhile, a group of terrorists led by the ruthless and charismatic Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman in a career-making performance), methodically take over the building. Their nefarious plan is to steal $600 million dollars locked in a high-tech safe. Armed with one handgun, a sweaty undershirt, no shoes, and plenty of hardened brass, McClane represents the only hope for his wife and her co-workers. And who can forget, the Family Matters star, Reginald VelJohnson, who counsels McClane via radio as he plots his next move. Fearing nothing but heights, McClane kills off the terrorists one by one, climaxing with what becomes part of the film's great appeal; watching the "everyman" cop match wits with the haughty master criminal.
      Screenwriters Jeb Stuart (The Fugitive) and Steven E. De Souza (Commando) do a marvelous job in detailing McClane. His decisions and movements are disciplined and deliberate. He bleeds like any of us, crawls through the building's air conditioning system, and grabs whatever weapons he can (including a bag of explosives). Consequently, McClane is the archetypal hero we can all easily root for. 
      Aside from the breathtaking action, one of Die Hard's more appealing qualities is the fusion of fast paced humor, thanks to of our wisecracking hero, John McClane, and the smarmy business man, Ellis. For instance, Ellis (Hart Bochner) quips some classic, grandiloquent dialogue: "Business is business. You use a gun. I use a fountain pen. What's the difference...I close million-dollar deals for breakfast...Hans - booby!"  And then you have McClane uttering such timeless barbs as: "Yeah, I'm still here. Unless you wanna open the front door for me" and my favorite, "Welcome to the party, pal."
      The quintessential Hollywood action movie, Die Hard moves with such relentless energy and vigorous special-effects indulgence. More specifically, it's one of the best action films because it's premise—the story of the solo hero battling a legion of stubborn enemies in an isolated setting—became the common descriptor for later action movies. Speed and The Rock are simply versions of Die Hard on a bus or an island. Moreover, Die Hard's greatest appeal comes from its spectacular action sequences, both beautifully choreographed and rhythmically paced. The breathtaking action—McClane running barefoot through shattered glass and jumping from the fiery skyscraper roof, tethered by a fire hose—helps raise the film's stakes, creating a spectacle born from consequence. In its totality, McTiernan's greatest film (sorry Predator loyalists) is a momentous and cinematic action tour de force. 

*The above video is a great f*cking user-generated, abridged version of Die Hard.


  1. This was one of my dad's favorite films. I lost count of the number of times we watched it together and God only know how many he times he'd seen on his own. I do believe he wore out his copy. Until this film, my dad's only fave actor had been Clint Eastwood. But Bruce sealed the deal in this film. I got caught up in it, too. McTiernan put together a hellagood ride with a stupendous cast. I would definitely go through the door with Willis.

  2. Ha, that's great Melissa! I don't know one Dad who doesn't love this film. And I must agree with your pa dukes. After watching Bruce in this role, he became one of my favorite stars. His Pulp Fiction character definitely helped his badass image as well!

  3. Bruce was quite charming back in the old days with MOONLIGHTING and DIE HARD, and them something just happened to him and he lost his position in Hollywood. I think it happened when Demi started shooting films, bad films, too.

  4. I'm with Melissa one of my dad's favorite! I love watching Die Hard movies there is just the nostalgia that's with it!!! Love it!

    I'm stopped in to welcome you to the A to Z blogging challenge! I'm a co-host, should you need anything don't hesitate to ask! I do hope you'll stop by for a visit!! We're also on twitter (I'm @jenunedited and we're at #atozchallenge)!

  5. YES! This is just a classic. Period. Excellent choice. It really is, as you put it, the quintessential Hollywood action movie, but I'm going to have to agree that the humor is what makes it. The action and humor somehow go hand in hand to create one of the most BAMF action movies ever. And Bruce Willis can really do no wrong in my eyes.

  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Die Hard is one of the best action films ever, Bruce Willis at his best. Well, besides Bruce willis in Pulp Fiction. He was pretty awesome in that.


  7. Die Hard is awesome! I really enjoyed watching them, even bought the series for my dad. :)

  8. Oh,Bruce rocks in Die Hard! And, I'm a complete movie fan so will enjoy catching up on your posts here. Though for the record, my mother is the action movie addict.

  9. It's a classic! What a great movie.

  10. @ Dezmond

    His career did take a strange, almost bizarre turn. I still enjoy his on screen charisma, but he'll never duplicate the badassness of Die Hard—our first glimpse into the man's guy, John McClane.

    @ Jen

    Thanks for stopping by! I commend you for running this fantastic blogging challenge. I'm glad to be a part of it. I'll certainly stop by your blog!

  11. @ M.

    Couldn't agree more! Willis is a walking, talking, take no prisoners, don't f*ck with me guy; more so, John McClane who I just totally admire.

    And yes, what makes it elevate the action genre is its efficient blend of humor and action. Many films try, many films fail. Die Hard succeeded, in resounding fashion.

  12. @ KarenG

    No problem! Thanks for returning the favor! And Bruce's Pulp Fiction character Butch, is phenomenal!

    @ Cherie

    Awesome! I'm sure your Dad loves you, just that much more now, lol!

  13. @ Talei

    Awesome! I welcome you to my everything-thing-film blog! And clearly, your Mom rocks—as do you!

    @ Clarissa

    Classic indeed! Thanks for the comment!

  14. This is such a great film, excellent "D" choice! I haven't seen it in a few years so I think I'm due to watch it again. Fortunately Netflix has it on streaming. :) Willis and Rickman are awesome in this.

  15. Brus in his hay day! great D flick!!


  16. I'd probably only seen Die Hard twice before, but I went out and bought the quadrilogy on BluRay over the holidays specifically for this film, which launched Rickman to stardom, Willis to superstardom, and Reginald VelJohnson to the house next to Urkel. Classic.

  17. Oh, and by the way, UConn's win had little to do with D. Sure, they blocked a few, but it's not like Butler's shots were going in, anyway.

    Well, at least they won, so my friends and co-workers aren't all mopey.

  18. Absolutely one of my top picks of all time - and I will go on record every day and twice on Sunday that all three sequels are fully worthy! I do have to chime in on Bruce Willis a bit - he was amazing in this film, and continued on a high for a while, and then, in the early 90's he got lazy and just showed up for the paycheck - but then the combo of Nobody's Fool and Pulp Fiction turned him back from a lazy movie star to a real actor again - and he's mostly been one ever since. Have you seen 16 Blocks? GREAT Willis performance - solid Donner movie. Thanks for posting this one for sure! Cheers!

  19. @ Liz

    Thanks! Good to know Netflix has it on streaming. I absolutely encourage a re-watch!

    @ baygirl

    Ah, it was Bruce's heyday wasn't it. Good observation.

  20. @ Nate

    Very well said, sir! I need to own that Quadtrilogy, like right now. I'd pop in the first right before I go to bed.

    As for Uconn, their inclusion in my "D" post was purely by chance. I could have very easily been writing my "O" post at the time of their coronation, and as we all know, the offensive display in the championship game was abysmal.

    Although, in terms of "D", Uconn was pretty tenacious and stifling, though Butler's offensive ineptitude was more the problem.

  21. @ Craig

    Thanks! Can't argue with it being one of your top picks of all-time, as I cherish this film dearly, myself.

    You're absolutely right. His early 90's work was putrid. It wasn't until his turn in Pulp Fiction that his career got back on track. He started to care more about the film and his character, and less about the paycheck (at least, that's how it seemed to us Die Hards, right?). I recently watched him in Last Man Standing (my second time viewing it) and remember how great he was in that period.

    I've never seen 16 Blocks. It sounds like my kind of film, so I'll have to take up your recommendation and Netflix it. Thanks!

  22. Die Hard and the other films in the series are all fun and action-packed. My D film favorite might have to go to Day of the Locust, the great film about Hollywood film-making in the 20s or 30s (not sure of the exact time). It's based on the novel by author Nathaniel West, who had an all too short writing career when it was ended in a fatal car accident.

    By the way, you've got me as a follower now.

    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

  23. Loooove Die Hard! The sequel was not as good, but not bad either. The third one sucked. I liked Die Hard 4.0.

    But I have to think that John McClane is the unluckiest man alive.


  24. @ Arlee

    Awesome! Glad to welcome you as a follower!

    Day of the Locust, huh. Very good choice, and I say that never having seen the film. I'm very familiar with West and trust his authorship. I'll definitely have to check it out!

    @ Misha

    Nice! Yeah, the sequel (part 2) was lackluster, 3 was okay (I love Jackson!), and four was pretty good.

    Haha, yeah he must be. He can't walk the street without engulfing a world war.

  25. I agree 'fusion of fast paced humour' is what makes this one of my favourite action movies. Bruce is brillaint in the mclane role, and even proved he still had it in 4.0 (though they should of never toned that movie down as much).
    Die Hard is one of my absolote faves and I'm glad to see it in someones challenge. Nice one Matty

  26. @ Dempsey

    Thanks and nice! Another Die Hard on board, lol. I agree. 4.0 was pretty good, not great, but good.

    @ Elizabeth

    Thanks! I don't know what else I would want to write about each day.