Ryuzo Kikushima and Akira Kurosawa, 1961

#7 (chronologically) in Mike D'Angelo's list of twelve films to which he would give a score of 100 out of 100.

A samurai wanders into a small town which is in the grip of a feud between two rival gangs. He decides to stick around, figuring that he can pocket some money from both sides while manipulating them into killing each other.

Okay, this one is very well done. I can't judge the line deliveries because I don't speak Japanese, but the movie is beautifully shot and uses music in a bold and interesting way — those two elements alone were worth the time investment. The story was less to my taste — this is one of the ur-texts of Badass Cinema, which is not a genre I usually go for — but it's so well told that even I was able to enjoy it.

I'm now a bit over halfway through watching the movies Mike D'Angelo said he would give perfect scores. I'm watching them because he is one of my favorite movie critics — I find his reviews very entertaining and insightful, even though it's become clear that he's a lot fonder than I am of puzzle movies and of movies that tread the line between the natural and the artificial. Another of my favorite movie critics is Vern, whose reviews are often even more entertaining and insightful, but whose tastes are even less in tune with mine — he loooooves this badass stuff. It's what his site's all about. You have to pick carefully through his archives to find the few titles that aren't about some super-cool motherfucker kicking ass, taking names etc. in my opinion. And the fact that there are so very many titles that do fit this description indicate that there's a whole demographic out there of ostensibly straight males with an affinity for icons of masculinity.

Now, I grew up reading superhero comics — I totally get power fantasies. I can understand how dudes might find it pleasing to identify with some scruffy badass who saunters into town, roughs up a couple of scumbags, and quickly has everyone dancing to his tune. But there's a segment of society for whom this goes beyond identification. When Chris Matthews looks at Fred Thompson and purrs, "Can you smell the English leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man's shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved?"; when Roger Simon coos over Mitt Romney's "barrel chest" and "shoulders you could land a 737 on"; when Gordon Liddy admires the way George Bush's fake flight suit "makes the best of his manly characteristic"... to borrow from Nina Gordon, they don't want to be that guy, they want to be with that guy. As Duncan Black has suggested on his blog, American political discourse has come to mirror that featured on Archaeology Today.

But apparently people are starting to react against the domination of the airwaves by sad men splashing around in the middle of the Kinsey scale instead of actually reporting on politics. I am writing this shortly after the New Hampshire primary, in which Hillary Clinton pulled off a surprising victory in the popular vote following a series of polls all of which showed her about to lose by a large margin to Barack Obama. (Delegates were a tie.) I mention this because it appears that to a great extent her showing, which so surprised the media, was actually brought about by the media — specifically by a pundit class that harped on the fact that her voice cracked in answering a question. That's not badass! And it's certainly not making the best of her manly characteristic. The howler monkeys got so whipped up over the notion that Hillary Clinton had cried that people voted for her as a well-deserved "fuck you" to said monkeys. Even though Clinton is my least favorite of the remaining Democratic candidates (largely because of what the team she has assembled says about the direction her administration might take) I had to approve of this message.

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