Some Like it Hot (1959) – Billy Wilder (Dir.), Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon
Die Hard (1988) – John McTiernan (Dir.), Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
And so, as chaotic systems eventually come to rest, livers collapse like supernovas and I get sick of spending all of my money buying drinks for girls I’m only half-convinced exist due to paralytic inebriation, so did my Summer of Singlehood. Yes, it’s kind of exciting. I am no longer single and everyone I work with is really glad I’m being less of an asshole. So, you’re welcome. However, with meeting a new partner/lovely lady and delving into her deepest and darkest truths, discovering her most well-kept secrets, needs and desires, analyzing hopes and dreams and generally putting one another through the Emotional Spanish Inquisition that comes with the first month of a relationship, I discovered something that made me squeal with horror.
She. Had. Never. Seen. DIE. HARD.
Let that sink in. I inquired further. “Some Like it Hot?” “No.” “The Big Lebowski?” “No.” “Aliens?” “No.” “Children of Men? The Hurt Locker? Seven? Being John Malkovich?” “No. No and No.” I KNOW, RIGHT? Turns out this chick was taught to ‘read.’ You know every time I watch a movie? She reads a book. Like an entire book. I’m not joking. I have witnessed it. She’s like the insatiable reading queen. Well I must reeducate her! Let’s get rid of that ‘intellectual’ nonsense and in with some explosions! Some drama! Some crossdressing! And so, I have decided to cop out of the whole ‘watching random difficult movies that can be a little rapey’ for the moment (like I haven’t been doing that for months) to return to some of my beloved classics with a new eye. Now, the lady, as she is known (she shares a name with a famous family. See if you can guess which one! And no, it’s not ‘Hitler’) gets to choose which movies we view. I’ve decided, based on her complete ignorance of these films, we shall view the randomly paired tales and I shall do whatever I can to conflate the disparate pieces, attempting to use great art to dig deeper into the creative crust that Hollywood has so buried itself under for years. It shall be a new segment! And, due to the fact that both of us practically race to fall asleep during movies first, it shall be the greatest Narcoleptic Society of Film Watchers this world has ever known! We shall watch great movies and I will cross-examine them! We will have to do it over about four days at a time because we keep falling asleep! Huzzah! So, what do we have first…?
Some Like it Hot? A cross-dressing comedy set during 1929 in Chicago? And Die Hard? The baddest of badasses with a yippee-ki-yay-mutherfucker here and a yippee-ki-yay-mutherfucker there, here a yip, there a yip, everywhere a yippee-ki-yay-mutherfucker? Well…shit. I’m a smart lad, I can do something.
To those of you not in the know, Some Like it Hot is the tale of two musicians, Tony “What Did You Do To Your Face?” Curtis and Jack “When God Gives You” Lemon, down on their luck in prohibition era Chicago. Like the dullards they are, they witness the brutal and, honestly, bemusingly bloodless murder of the totally-based-on-a-real-person’s-name Toothpick Charlie. They have to get out of town and do so by masquerading as female players in an all-vagina band led by the titillating, titalicious and severely drunk Marilyn Monroe. Well, Curtis falls in love while doing an impersonation of Cary Grant, Lemon almost gets mounted by a randy millionaire and all of the mobsters get ruthlessly massacred. Fun for the whole family!
No, nobody mentions that these two broads have Adams apples the size of Lake Manitoba nor do they notice that they both look about as comfortable in dresses as a that one cup does in that video about two girls loving it so (And chocolate ice cream). And no, Marilyn Monroe doesn’t mind that Curtis was lying to her about everything. And no, the randy thousand-year-old doesn’t give a flying fuck that Lemon isn’t a woman. But that shit is hilarious, continue please.
If I have to tell you what Die Hard is about, I will come to your home and person push you out of a 97 story building while looking like my hair is trying to sprint away from my scalp in fear of my deafening manliness. Don’t fuck around. This shit is serious. Game faces people. Suffice to say, it is Alan Rickman at his best, Bruce Willis at his most exasperated (except for every time someone brings up Ashton Kutcher) and Bonnie Bedelia at her most permed. This movie will rock your cock, fry your face, badger your vagger. It is awesomeness incarnate.
Now, there aren’t too many literal links between the two films. Both are perfect personifications of their respective genres. Both hit every single beat precisely and pristinely, never missing a single step. Hot gives us set up, punchline, set up, set up, punchline, punchline. Die Hard, on the other hand, is the epitome of what an action movie should be. We have a villain (the inaccurately titled ‘Terrorist’, Hans “Sounds Like a Sausage Company. Is that Racist? I Don’t Think That’s Racist” Gruber), the damsel in distress, the crazy ballerina dude with a massive machine gun and the black guy from Family Matters. The plot builds with the exact intensity and pace required and indicates the percent completed by way of intelligently projecting itself upon McClane’s physical appearance and bodily deterioration. His shirt becomes bloodier and bloodier with each lethal skirmish, terrorist head squished and Twinkie mishandled, whittling him to a pulp of flesh and bullets by the final showdown. It’s fucking exhilarating and I won’t hear another word about it.
All that said, what caught my eyes was a single item. Both have an interesting take on gender roles (shocker, I know). While Hot deals directly with two men having to sacrifice their masculinity in order to infiltrate panties as stealthily as Seal Team Sex (see what I did there?), constantly subverting their usual roles in order to find a new lot and direction in life, Die Hard is about alpha males standing their ground, whipping out their dicks and flapping it in everyone’s faces. Fascinatingly, though Curtis’ character never particularly changes throughout the film, we see a marked difference in Jack Lemon before the credits roll. While his regular male form is horny as hell and ready to hump the desk lamp given half the chance, his female half slowly and steadily is weened away from that teat and convinced into a life of marriage with a man of wealth. We see this stallion dragged from predation to obedience, willingly giving up his life as a bachelor to take the role of housewife, thereby providing stability, both financial and emotional. What is totally wonderful and peculiar is that Lemon’s Daphne is entirely pleased with the concept to the point that both Lemon and Wilder convince the audience that, with the caveat of having a penis, this is the perfect choice for his life. At first, you laugh at the absurdity, but the more you analyze, the more you can understand the true gravitas of this choice. Jack Lemon and the randy millionaire are in love. Purely and unabashedly. No matter what Lemon does to convince Osgood otherwise, even revealing that he’s one clam short of a bake, the man’s mind can’t be changed. Is this love? Stockholm Syndrome (which, hilariously, is mislabeled in Die Hard as ‘Helsinki Syndrome’. Seriously guys? It’s called research. I do it all the time – INSERT LACK OF RESEARCH HERE)?
Or perhaps this is the first instance of Hollywood actively endorsing an alternative lifestyle. Perhaps, beyond the jokes and the nonsense, this was actually about two human souls connecting, societal norms be damned! Let their love be free of judgement! Let it blossom like a flower! Let it live long against the tyranny of ignorance and bigotry, let it persevere through hate and horror, let it DIE HARD!
(And the award for best segue goes to Andrew Mooney)
Let’s check out this bad boy. Well, between falling down ventilation shafts, blowing up SWAT teams, Ode to Joy, Mr. Takagi’s head exploding and the one really awkward black hacker in a group of Aryan Fabio impersonators (with Genghis Khan thrown into the mix), there is a deeper and more affecting tale at the center of this awesomemess (it’s a mess that’s awesome). This yarn is, most primally, about a man protecting his wife and his kids and this couple rediscovering why, all those years ago, they said ‘I do.’ McClane is a man with gender issues of his own, once the breadwinner while his clan was back in New York, now reduced to the weakened, weekend visitor to his kids while his wife becomes a major executive down in Los Angeles. Early on, we’re explicitly told that he had no intention of following Holly’s aspirations because he assumed they’d fail. He was wrong and now he’s an asshole. And he acts like one two. Granted…the fact that he’s being a shit means that he’s moping in the bathroom and doesn’t get captured due to the clever use of DISTRACTION TITTIES, but he’s still clearly in the wrong. And, though she gets about a minute fraction of the screen time of Willis, Bedelia is given scene after scene where she is standing strong against
Snape’s I, uh, mean Rickman’s vitriol and brutality.
Is it a feminist film? Fuck no. There are metaphorical penis flying every which way. We even get two dicks by the name of Johnson shooting REALLY BIG GUNS from motorboats (they’re actually helicopters, but there is nothing sexual about helicopters.) In fact, very little of what John McClane does would be the choice of any sane gentleman and, if you were fucking stupid enough to try anything he does, you would have been dead at least thirty times over. In the end, it’s about fighting for his wife and realizing why he was in the building in the first place. Yes, she makes the money. Yes, she owns the house. Yes, she…well… does everything. But he knows how to shoot people in the head with a gun taped to his back. That’s, like, really useful and stuff! This is a movie about subverted gender roles finding their “natural” fit (those are “irony” bunny ears. Those second ones are not. They’re just bunny ears to make sure you knew I was naming something. Fuck me, English is complicated). Though Holly is the successful one, she is reduced to the damsel in distress once physicality enters the mix. John is given a place in her life once again. He becomes the hero, forced to return and murder the shit out of some Germans.
But, as we all know from the second movie, it doesn’t last. And it’s because, you know what? People aren’t attacked by terrorists and forced to protect your family with a gun every day. If you’re John McClane, it only happens once a year. And apparently that isn’t enough to keep a successful woman with a real career married to a suffocating, arrogant, chauvinist pig.
Is that offensive? Sorry. Chauvinist pork-based mammal. At least now I know that all I need in my burgeoning relationship is to either lie about everything or to save her from a illustrious career by ruthlessly murdering Germans. But then again, that’s how all Brits start relationships.