#290. Muppet Adaptations

Since their big arrival in the 1970’s, the Muppets have managed to make their mark on popular culture. Most of this is due to Jim Henson’s unique and fanciful style of puppetry. While his puppets have taken different forms, from the kid-friendly monsters of Sesame Street, to the underground cave dwellers of Fraggle Rock, to David Bowie’s minions in Labyrinth (1986), the one segment of Jim Henson’s repertoire that has consistently endured over the decades has been the Muppets. While their early films focused on the Muppets interacting with the world, it has taken a long time for them to return to these types of films. In the 1990’s, prior to a twelve-year hiatus, the Muppets took to the big screen to recreate some famous stories from classic literature. This week’s two films highlight these films.

                                                   The Muppet Christmas CarolThe Muppet Christmas Carol
Year: 1992
Rating: G
Length: 85 minutes / 1.41 hours

The Muppets have always been a group focused on comedy. What makes the choice to adapt Charles Dickens with Muppets interesting is that Dickens is rarely considered a comedic writer. Sure, he has his moments of satire and wit, but they are very British by any standard of comedy. This dichotomy somehow works for this film, as it had almost a decade earlier for the animated Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983). In fact, since the musical, Scrooge, in 1970, the only film adaptations of A Christmas Carol have been animated, with the only semi-live action version being that of The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). Classifying the Muppets is a difficult task because they aren’t animated, but they aren’t really “live action” either . . . lying somewhere in between. Needless to say, The Muppet Christmas Carol remains as one of the most popular adaptations today because of its Muppet comedy.

Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) is a bookkeeper for Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), a stingy and greedy old man whose only focus is on one thing: money. On Christmas Eve, Bob asks if he and the other bookkeepers can have Christmas Day off, as it is considered a holiday. Initially declining the request, Scrooge eventually relents and goes home for the night. As he dozes off for the night, Scrooge is awoken by apparitions from his past, warning him to change his miserly ways. For the next three hours, he is taken on tours of his life by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, respectively. With each vision into better times, Scrooge’s attitudes change, finally being pushed over the edge by the depressing vision of the future. Awakening on Christmas Day, Scrooge is now a changed man and heads to Bob Cratchit’s house with some generous gifts to prove it.

Muppet Treasure IslandMuppet Treasure Island
Year: 1996
Rating: G
Length: 99 minutes / 1.65 hours

In the hiatus between 1999 and 2011, where no Muppet films made their way to the big screen, they still managed to create a few made-for-TV movies. From the It’s a Wonderful Life-esque It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002) to The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005), they’ve tackled some classic films with their adaptations. Before this, their last film adaptation of a classic piece of literature was none other than Muppet Treasure Island (1996). As is the case with most all of the Muppets’ productions, many of the main characters of these stories are portrayed by famous actors and actresses. In the aforementioned The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Michael Caine played Ebenezer Scrooge, whereas in Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Long John Silver was portrayed by Tim Curry. If anything, the Muppets are merely a vehicle to get celebrities more exposure for their career.

Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) is entrusted by his friend, Billy Bones (Billy Connolly) to keep the treasure of Captain Flint (David Nicholls) safe. This is shortly before Bones dies from receiving a black spot from one of his former crewmates. Now Jim and his friends, Gonzo and Rizzo, board a ship to find the treasure. Once on board, Jim becomes friends with the shady, one-legged cook, Long John Silver (Tim Curry). After Silver and most of the rest of the crew mutiny, they take Jim ashore to help them find the treasure. Being an upstanding orphan, Jim doesn’t give into Silver’s request to use his deceased father’s compass to aid in the treasure hunt. Even despite this setback, the pirates still find where the treasure was buried, only to learn that it has disappeared. The pirates are then subdued by the loyal crew of the ship and the mutinous Silver is exiled to the island as Jim sails on to a better life.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Muppet masterpieces

#289. Charles Dickens

Much like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens is one of the most adapted authors ever to have lived. While the number of adapted works of Dickens isn’t necessarily large, especially when compared against those of Philip K. Dick, the sheer number of times Dickens’ writing has been adapted is what gives him this distinction. One does have to wonder if the prolific amount of adaptations has to do with the singular fact that Dickens’ name caries a certain amount of gravitas with it. Of course, his writings have withstood the test of time, even if their original context and political satire might be lost on modern audiences. If anything, these adaptations may be the only exposure to Dickens most people will experience. While we’ll feel guilty about having not read The Pickwick Papers, at least we’d know what it was about. This week’s two films highlight some unique adaptations of Charles Dickens’ works.

Oliver!Oliver!
Year: 1968
Rating: G
Length: 153 minutes / 2.55 hours

When it comes to recognition from the Academy Awards, Dickens is definitely in the same class as Shakespeare. Both have had four of their adapted stories turned into films that won nominations for Best Picture. Both have had one of their stories win said Best Picture Oscar. Both aforementioned Best Pictures were also musicals. On Shakespeare’s side, we have Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Henry V (1944), and Julius Caesar (1953) as nominees and West Side Story (1961) as Best Picture (with Romeo and Juliet being nominated in 1936 and 1968 as well). In terms of Dickens’ achievements, there’s David Copperfield (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), and Great Expectations (1946) as nominees and Oliver! (1968) as Best Picture. The fact that the 1960’s saw two literary musical adaptations win Best Picture merely shows you what kind of decade it really was.

To quote another famous, musical orphan, Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) had a “Hard Knock Life”. Shuffled from an orphanage to the service of an undertaker, the young boy finally escapes and travels to London to start a new life. Because he has no family or connections in London, Oliver is soon taken in by a gang of thieves and pickpockets. While he doesn’t necessarily want to commit these crimes, he still needs to eat. After he’s accused of stealing a wallet from a Mr. Brownlow (Joseph O’Conor), a bookseller comes to Oliver’s rescue with the truth of his innocence. Partly because Oliver reminds him of his niece, Brownlow decides to take Oliver home with him. Despite the luxury Oliver now finds himself in, his past acquaintances kidnap him and attempt to bring him back into a life of crime. The golden heart of a barmaid is the only piece of hope Oliver has of being saved.

The Muppet Christmas CarolThe Muppet Christmas Carol
Year: 1992
Rating: G
Length: 85 minutes / 1.41 hours

Just like we’ve seen a huge amount of Romeo and Juliet retellings, there have been plenty of versions of A Christmas Carol. I would wager that any holiday-themed story will be retold as long as that holiday remains relevant. Heck, even if it’s not relevant, people will continue to “celebrate” by reading or watching these stories. From watching Groundhog Day (1993) on Groundhog Day, to Independence Day (1996) on the Fourth of July, to V for Vendetta (2006) on Guy Fawkes Day, there are plenty of obscure holidays to celebrate with a movie. But Christmas always takes the cake in terms of holiday-themed adaptations. Of these adaptations, none is more recognizable than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Because it is such a timeless story, it has been reproduced in a large number of mediums, including puppetry (as seen in The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)).

Narrated by Charles Dickens (Gonzo the Great), The Muppet Christmas Carol follows Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), a miserly old man who has pushed everyone close to him away. Because the following day is Christmas, Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog), asks for all the bookkeepers to get the holiday off. After begrudgingly agreeing to Cratchit’s terms, Scrooge arrives at his home and spends the night alone only to be awoken by the ghosts of his past: Jacob and Robert Marley (Waldorf and Statler). They warn him that his current path will lead to his demise. To emphasize the point, three more spirits visit him in the night and show him what once was, what could be, and what is to come. Gradually, Scrooge realizes the error of his ways and wakes up the next day full of the Christmas spirit.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Dickens adaptations

#288. Orphans

While orphans are often considered to be some of the most disenfranchised people-groups in the world, there certainly seem to be a large number of them as main characters in a number of films. Granted, this is an artifact of a few different genres, most of which want to give the protagonists enough flexibility to go on adventures without being tied down to a home life. Even the ones who do have guardians either don’t have the best ones (as in the “step-mother” archetype) or experience tragedy again when these guardians are also killed. Despite the number of orphans decreasing in the real-world due to better survival rates for parents, somehow the stories of orphans always seem to find interested audiences. Some may fault the writers of these stories for this common ploy, but if it keeps working over centuries of writing, there must be some merit to it. This week’s two films feature orphans as their main characters.

                Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate EventsYear: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

In part due to the fact that there are less orphans in the world than there used to be, less authors are using them in their stories. That being said, there are still a number of notable literary orphans, the most famous of which is Harry Potter. With the rise of the popularity of superhero movies, we also see that many of their main characters are orphans as well. In fact, some have given Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) the facetious title of “Orphan Fight”. Even Marvel superheroes have this trait as well, including Spider-man and Captain America. This trait isn’t even constrained to American comic books, as the long-running Japanese manga, Naruto, had its eponymous character orphaned during a disaster that hits his home village. While many of these orphans have no siblings, one notable group of orphans is the Baudelaire children of Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004).

After the mysterious death of their wealthy parents, the Baudelaire children find themselves in the care of their unscrupulous uncle, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). When the children narrowly avoid an accident with a train, they are taken to live with their other uncle, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery (Billy Connolly). Through unfortunate circumstances involving his beloved reptiles, Dr. Montgomery is killed and the children are then moved to live with their Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep). Olaf appears again and lets some ravenous leeches kill Josephine. With the children now under his control again, he puts on a play about a wedding with the eldest child, Violet (Emily Browning). Unfortunately, the play is not an act and Olaf now stands to inherit the children’s bequeathed fortune. Fortunately, the two younger Baudelaires save their sister from her marriage while also learning of the source of the fire that killed their parents.

Oliver!Oliver!
Year: 1968
Rating: G
Length: 153 minutes / 2.55 hours

To many it may seem strange that orphans are as musical as they appear in film, but we can certainly blame Disney for this oddity. I know I wouldn’t want to sing in the tragic circumstances of an orphan, but time-and-again we find Disney princesses (as well as other main characters animated by them) cheerily singing despite their lack of parents. This is probably because many of the Disney stories are pulled from old stories, where parents often died from a variety of factors. Even Disney’s most recent success, Frozen (2013), features two women orphaned by a shipwreck that killed their parents. Outside of Disney, there are still examples of musical orphans, including that of Lil’ Orphan Annie, who has had many musical adaptations. But, above all these is the most famous orphan of all: Oliver Twist. The musical adaptation in 1968 won Best Picture, as well as five other Oscars.

Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) has a difficult life as an orphan. After asking for more food at the orphanage, the owners sell him into the service of an undertaker. When he gets in trouble, he’s locked in the basement only to escape and head to London. Once in the big city, he becomes involved with a gang of pickpockets and thieves. Wrongfully accused for a crime, Oliver is almost sent to prison were it not for a bookseller who witnessed the crime and could exonerate the orphan. The victim decided to bring Oliver home in the process. Unfortunately, even though Oliver now lives in a life of relative luxury, his past comes back to haunt him. Some of the thieves find Oliver and force him back into stealing. Meanwhile, his benefactor goes about trying to prove that Oliver is the child of a niece of his. Tragedy ensues as a friendly barmaid tries to help Oliver escape the clutches of the thieves, but justice eventually prevails.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 outstanding orphans

#287. Emily Browning

What’s interesting about child actors is watching them grow up on screen. As mentioned a few weeks ago, sometimes they seem to grow up too fast (like in the case of Jennifer Connelly’s more adult roles). Of course, this phenomenon always leaves the audience with the sense of loose familiarity. They’ll ask themselves, “Isn’t that ‘so-and-so’?” only to find out that the completion of puberty can sometimes drastically change an actor or actress. Depending on how committed to acting they are, these child actors will sometimes undergo a hiatus to finish schooling before committing their careers to acting. Because of this hiatus, the change can seem just that much more extreme. Of the number of child actors still acting today, Emily Browning has moved into the role of a more serious actress almost seamlessly. This week’s two films highlight recognizable films on either side of her hiatus.

Sucker PunchSucker Punch
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

A lot can happen in seven years. A sixteen-year old girl can grow up into a twenty-three-year old woman in that time. However, with a number of starlets at that age, it can be easy to interchange them. For instance, Emily Browning was chosen to be the main heroine of theTwilight series, but turned it down, thus opening the role to Kristen Stewart. On the other side of this exchange, she has replaced a number of actresses in a number of films. From replacing Mia Wasikowska in Sleeping Beauty (2011) to replacing Ophelia Lovibond inSummer in February (2012), Browning has stood in and made the roles her own, thus making it seem like she was meant to play these roles as the first choice, instead of the second. One of the first films after her school hiatus, Sucker Punch (2011), saw her replace Amanda Seyfried in the main role of Babydoll, but I don’t know if I could ever envision anyone else in that role.

Wrongfully imprisoned in a mental institution, Babydoll (Emily Browning) imagines her new home as a brothel where her fellow inmates are dancers for high rollers. For her first dance, she hallucinates a world filled with giant robotic samurai, but she also meets a Wise Man (Scott Glenn), who tells her that there are four items to an escape, as well as a fifth, unknown item. With each subsequent dance, she hallucinates a different scenario to help her gain the items. From steampunk war trenches to obtain a map to killing a dragon to obtain fire to disarming a bomb on a train to obtain a knife, most of these items are obtained without incident. However, the knife operation was botched and one of her friends died. Finally understanding that the fifth item is a selfless sacrifice, it is revealed that the whole scenario was a pre-lobotomy vision in Babydoll’s brain.

Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Year: 2004Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Rating: PG
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

Before she went back to school to complete her education, Emily Browning already had a number of films under her belt. While the one she is most known for was the one released prior to her hiatus, Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), wasn’t nearly as dark as her other films. From Ghost Ship (2002) to Ned Kelly (2003) to Darkness Falls (2003), these films were decidedly more dramatic or horrific than the more family-friendly fare of Lemony Snicket. This is what makes a recognizable role a bit of a problem. Just because an actress appeared in a film that made her name recognizable, doesn’t mean that the rest of her filmography fits in that genre. If anything, Lemony Snicket was an outlier in a career that has since become much more serious and much more adult.

The eldest of the Baudelaire children, Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), holds their small family together after their parents’ deaths. Along with her younger brother, Klaus (Liam Aiken), and baby sister, Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), Violet outsmarts their closest relative, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who is only interested in them because of the money he could inherit from them. In a series of unfortunate events, including a near-miss with a train, the poisoning death of an uncle, a violent hurricane, the leech-related death of an aunt, and a play with false pretenses, the children manage to survive only to be found by Count Olaf again and again. In the last event, he manages to marry Violet and is thus entitled to the fortune of her parents. Fortunately, at the same time, the two younger Baudelaires discover the origin of the fire that killed their parents while also saving Violet from her marriage.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best from Emily Browning

Bacon #: 2 (Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events / Meryl Streep -> The River Wild / Kevin Bacon)

#286. Inside the Mind

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

This quote by Arthur Fletcher can be interpreted in many ways aside from its original intent. One of these additional interpretations could be that the imaginations and creative muses of all people are unique and should not be ignored. After all, with as many new and interesting pieces of media being created each day, there seems to be no limitations to what our minds can do. Unfortunately, this power can be a bit overwhelming to some. Much like savants, who have startling mental prowess, usually at the detriment to social skills, many with mental disorders will have overactive minds. When the line between true reality and perceived reality is blurred, problems ensue. This week’s two films examine the effects of overactive minds and what the world looks like inside of them.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

If Inside Out (2015) taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot that goes on inside a person’s mind. Besides the variety of emotions we can experience, it’s where we go to solve complex problems, recall memories, or engage our imagination. But what if our imagination compensates for other aspects of our lives? What’s difficult to understand about mental disorders is that people who seem normal on the outside can have their own internal struggles as well. Often, we are shocked to learn that some famous person suffered from depression, mania, or multiple personality disorder. If we can overcome the stigma of issues of the mind, perhaps some headway could be made on the medical front to solve some of these maladies. Of course, sometimes it’s these different mental conditions that give people the creativity and intelligence to solve some of the world’s most interesting problems.

Upon arriving at Princeton University in 1947, John Nash (Russell Crowe) meets his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany). While John is an up-and-coming mathematician, he gets along with the literary student. One evening, while he socializes with his mathematic friends at a local bar, he accidentally develops a new theory of governing dynamics. This new theory allows him to move to MIT, where he meets Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). He has to be careful around her not to reveal the work he’s doing for the government via his handler, William Parcher (Ed Harris), as it could jeopardize the whole operation. Partly because of this, Alicia becomes suspicious and learns that John is imagining some of the people in his life. She stays with him through his treatment, despite the difficulties it places on their marriage.

Sucker PunchSucker Punch
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

When the world is too difficult to handle, sometimes the only way to make it bearable is to retreat into our minds. If we fabricate fantasies to help us perform simple tasks just to get through our day, then it can be easier to deal with the harsh realities of our situation. The trouble with this approach is understanding where the line between fantasy and reality lies. After extended time in a fantasy, it becomes difficult to know what reality is. This was one of the main problems encountered in Inception (2010). Manipulating dreams inside the mind of a target is just as dangerous for the target as it is for those manipulating the dreams. Because it’s easier to create a world where everything works out, suddenly reality no longer has its appeal. I suspect that becoming trapped in our minds will increasingly become a problem as virtual reality becomes more ubiquitous.

After being wrongfully admitted to a mental institution, Babydoll (Emily Browning) escapes into her mind to deal with the harsh realities of her new life. Imagining her new home as a brothel, she connects with four of the other “dancers” in an attempt to escape. Since she is new to the brothel, she is asked to perform a dance. When she begins to move, she delves even deeper into another fantasy world, fighting robotic samurai giants as part of her “dance”. Recognizing her trance-inducing dancing, she continues to dive into these deeper fantasies in order to obtain four items to help her escape. Unfortunately, the owner of the brothel, Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) gets wise of their plan and Babydoll has to realize that the escape she has been planning isn’t for her, but for one of the other girls. When reality is revealed again, a lobotomy has erased everything in Babydoll’s mind as one of the girls boards a bus to freedom.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 mental manipulations

#285. Jennifer Connelly

In the world of child actors, very few last long enough to continue working in the industry. Sure, there are exceptions; actors and actresses who eventually develop their craft into award-winning performances. Most people could count the number of these exceptions on one hand. This begs the question: what helps a child actor eventually arrive at success? It is my opinion that the earlier a child actor can work with an excellent director, the greater their chances are of achieving recognition later in life (should they not be hindered by alcohol or drug addiction before then). One of these anomalies is Jennifer Connelly. Her very first role in film was in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984) when she was only 14. She’s only gone up from there. This week’s two films look at Jennifer Connelly’s best roles.

Requiem for a DreamRequiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

While Sergio Leone’s crime drama was her first role, many consider Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) to be her breakout performance. That being said, there was plenty more to be desired for her acting. Fortunately, she has managed to stay out of the limelight partly because of her heavy involvement in independent films. Granted, this is often seen as the reason why she mostly appears in darker and more nudity-filled films (which may also be tied to shedding the “child actor” label), but it’s what eventually landed her in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000). If audiences didn’t consider her a serious actress before this film, they certainly do now. A decade and a half later, she would team up with Aronofsky again for the Biblical epic, Noah (2014), but most claim their previous collaboration as one of their best.

Harry (Jared Leto) spends most of his time shooting heroin with his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Because it is such an expensive addiction, they decide to turn to drug dealing in order to pay for the habit, as well as to realize their dreams of starting a business, becoming a clothing designer, and moving out of the slums, respectively. At the same time, Harry’s mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), is convinced that she has been chosen to appear on TV and takes drastic measures to lose weight so she can wear a favorite dress again. Through this process, she becomes addicted to amphetamines while her son and his posse find their own unwholesome fates, including hospitalization, incarceration, and prostitution. In a hallucination, Sara imagines that the world is all right for her, her son, and his girlfriend. That dream is far from the truth.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

Another big-name director who cast Connelly in their films was none other than Ron Howard. We all have forgotten about the regrettable The Dilemma (2011), but Jennifer Connelly likely wouldn’t have appeared in that film had she not impressed Howard earlier in her career with her work in Inventing the Abbotts (1997). This inspiration is what led him to cast her, along with Russell Crowe and Ed Harris, in the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001). Not only did this film win Best Picture and Best Director, but it garnered Jennifer Connelly an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She had already worked with Ed Harris on his directorial debut: Pollock (2000), portraying the mistress of Jackson Pollock (who himself was played by Ed Harris), but it took many years before she appeared in another film across from Russell Crowe: the aforementioned Noah.

John Nash (Russell Crowe) is a promising mathematics student at Princeton University in the late 1940’s. Because of the high hopes for his career, he is under large amounts of stress to publish, but he wants to publish something original, not just a derivative work. While at a bar with his mathematics friends, he develops a new idea that leads to his publication of the Nash equilibrium (a modified game theory). Meanwhile, he falls in love with, and eventually marries, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). At first, their life together is idyllic, but soon Alicia discovers that John’s roommate in college never existed, and John’s “boss” from the Pentagon also doesn’t exist. Despite John being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and his refusal to take his medication, Alicia stays with him and helps him to an eventual recovery.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 key Jennifer Connelly roles

Bacon #: 2 (A Beautiful Mind / Ed Harris -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

#284. Don’t Do Drugs

If there’s anything that the “war on drugs” has taught me, it’s that “drugs are bad.” While their educational approach may have worked to keep some people from drugs, it did little to curb the enthusiasm of people already hooked. What’s unfortunate about illicit substances is the glamorous lives that certain drug users come from (a la The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)). Obviously, those in the business of drugs (like in Blow (2001) or Scarface (1983)) are more likely to partake of their product, but certain criminal organizations, like the mafia, know the dangers of getting involved with drugs (like in Goodfellas (1990)) and do their best to abstain from them. Still, the allure of a chemical high appeals to the common masses, so it’s up to film to show the horrifying consequences of drug abuse. This week’s two films show us why we shouldn’t do drugs.

TrainspottingTrainspotting
Year: 1996
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

The drug culture of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was perhaps epitomized by films like Easy Rider (1969). This, along with the comedic stylings of Cheech and Chong, showed that some drugs are practically harmless. The stoner comedies of today reinforce this fact, but don’t show any consequences of extended use. When harder drugs are used, the slippery slope truly comes into play. There’s a lot someone will do to keep up a habit, but when they realize that their life has become controlled by the controlled substance, they find it difficult to remove themselves from it (either by the company they keep or the sheer difficulty of going clean). Drugstore Cowboy (1989) is a good example of this, whereas Pulp Fiction (1995) brings us the reality of the overdose. Unfortunately, films like Limitless (2011) and Trainspotting (1997) show that a few choice benefits make the choice to do drugs worth it.

While there are certainly many terrifying moments in Trainspotting that should drive us away from doing drugs, it’s the dark-comedy nature of the film that somewhat lessens the impact of the consequences of illicit drug usage. Scenes like “the worst toilet in Scotland”, or the hallucinations of a dead baby crawling over the ceiling certainly do their part to drive the audience away from drugs, but the comradery of these four heroin addicts makes the experience seem welcoming and social. In reality, the risks of contracting HIV, being arrested for robbery (to fund an expensive drug addiction), and outright overdosing are very high and hold very severe consequences. After many attempts to get clean, the main character, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), finally has enough motivation to leave his drugs behind, along with most of his friends.

Requiem for a DreamRequiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

Addiction is a powerful drug. By the time we realize we have a problem, it’s often too late to change things. The long road to recovery can only be completed with an admittance that we have a problem and a support system to help us reach the clean and happy ending. A common theme amongst the works of Philip K. Dick was that of drug use, which was most undoubtedly pulled from his own life experiences. A Scanner Darkly (2006) focused on drug users, law enforcement, and the companies that profit from said drugs, all tied together in a trippy package. What’s more startling is when the addiction is portrayed in a more realistic setting. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a friend or loved one continue to go back to the comfort of their addiction. Robert ZemeckisFlight (2012) drives this point home, but the true consequences of addiction were best portrayed in Requiem for a Dream (2000).

The world of a junkie is an interesting place. Time no longer holds any relevance as everything seems to be traveling in slow motion or unbearably fast. Requiem for a Dream follows four addicts on their downward spiral to ruin. The intriguing thing about addictions is that sometimes they aren’t to illegal substances. Even household activities like watching television are artistically represented in the same way that getting high on cocaine are. However, even if it seems like everything is working out well and nothing could go wrong, consequences lie just around the dark corner. Requiem for a Dream begins to get intense as the consequences rear their ugly heads. From prostitution to prison to hospitalization, the results of a life of addiction are painfully obvious at the end of this film. If ever there’s a film to get people to stop doing drugs, Requiem for a Dream is it.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 cautionary tales