For each movie in the “Denis 2049” series, Taylor and Sam will sit down and bounce some thoughts off each other, off-mic. Their brilliant minds will unleash many words. Make of them what you will. First up: “August 32nd On Earth.”
Taylor: As we embark upon our journey through the many worlds of Denis Villeneuve, full of aliens and drug wars and kidnappings and many other large, scary things, I want to take the time to appreciate the simple humanity of his first feature film, “August 32nd on Earth.” It’s a small, straightforward and heartwarming movie. It makes me want to roll around in my bed going, “BOOP… BOOP… BOOP…”
Speaking of rolling around in bed, this is a movie about a woman who – after a close brush with death – tries to enlist her friend to help her conceive a child in the middle of the desert. I’ve never seen a premise quite like this before. Does this happen often? Have any of your friends ever approached you asking to help them conceive a child in the desert? Would you do this for any of your friends?
Sam: The short answer is yes, of course I would take my friend to the desert to impregnate her. But only if we were married. And only if she made a convincing argument that babies conceived in an arid climate are more physically inclined to survive a nuclear war that leaves the entire world in a perpetual, Mad Max post-apocalyptic Earth desert. Because that would be the place to do it. Google tells me those salt flats are so barren that life does not exist there and that the military uses it for “test areas” and bombing ranges. If my kids were conceived in a place like that, they could survive anything.
Here’s the thing, Taylor, this was a pretty well-made movie. It was about a woman trying to get pregnant (or something), but it looked a lot like Denis flexing. There were signs even then of how good he is. The cuts were airtight — clean and quick to an almost Edgar Wright level — in a movie that seemed like it should go a tenth the speed. His shots slowly went from grand in scope (the desert) to constricting and claustrophobic (the spaceship room), visually forcing these two friends uncomfortably closer together as the plot did the same.
It was really well-crafted, but the writing is what intrigues me the most, not just because he forgot to write it in English, but because it raises some poignant questions.
If I go to Canada, is there a real chance I’ll get run down by the Montreal chapter of the Tokyo Drifters? Did Simone just leave her car on the side of the road in the beginning of the movie? Is it still there? Is her peeing in the desert and seeing the charred remains of a runaway convict a top ten “Holy crap that’s a dead body” moment in movies?
Taylor: I don’t have nearly enough reference points to rank where the dead body moment would fall on the dead body rankings, but I can unequivocally say that is the only time I have ever seen someone find a dead body while squat-peeing in the middle of the desert. Well, in the movies, at least.
As to her car, everyone knows that if no one comes to the scene of an accident for three days, the car itself descends into hell.
What I’m interested in is the aforementioned Tokyo Drifters that seem to have taken up residence in Montreal. I can talk forever about this scene. What were they doing exactly? Where was everyone else who lives in Montreal? Why did Phillipe walk into the middle of the road to smell (?) their tire tracks? Why did they come back? Most importantly, why did they beat the s*** out of him?
My theory: The Drifters were put to the task by Simone. She finally realized that she had led on Phillipe too much, but she didn’t have a change of heart. So, knowing things had gone too far, she realized something had to be done. She had to remove him from the friend zone, and coincidentally, the earth zone. So she hired some hooligans that she met at the hospital after her car accident (cut scene where they had great banter and exchanged numbers for later) and waited for Phillipe to call. After he called (Phillipe always called from the same payphone), she told them where to go. “This whole plan depends on him sniffing the tire tracks,” she tells them. “He can’t resist. He might even lick them. That’s how you’ll be able to get a hold of him. Then take him out, and get back to Tokyo. Kill him.” Of course, when he didn’t die, she went to the hospital to smother him. That happens right after the film cuts to black.
Sam: Taylor, if I may, I’d like to tackle the task you so stupidly recused yourself from. Nothing would bring me greater joy than to provide the best “Holy crap that’s a dead body” scenes in movies for you. (I cut it to five for the sake of this not being five million words long.)
*The following list contains spoilers for Samuel L. Jackson’s fate in “Jurassic Park.”
1) “Jurassic Park” – So Laura Dern is pinned in a cage, being attacked by velociraptors, when she backs into a wall, where Samuel L. Jackson’s comforting arm rests on her shoulder as if to say “Don’t worry, I got you, everything’s ok.” And she’s startled at first but realizes it’s her friend. Wait a sec —
This is easily the best “Holy crap that’s a dead body” moment in movie history because it takes Laura an absurd amount of time (roughly 12 seconds) to realize that the arm of her friend is not attached to her friend. Also, it’s the only instance on this list of finding a dead body while the killers (velociraptors) are watching you and admiring their handy work. Handy work.
2) Con Air – A guy just got his car washed and is driving in traffic when this happens. It’s the ultimate way to come across a dead body. And most expensive.
3) “Goonies” – “I smell ice cream!” Chunk does not get enough credit for being able to smell ice cream from outside a closed freezer.
4) “Dumb and Dumber” – “Our pets’ heads are falling off!”
Finding a dead body still counts even if it died from natural causes.
5) The Scary Episode of “Boy Meets World” – “We’ll always remember he was that tall.” There’s an episode where Shaun has this dream that there’s a killer at the school murdering all his friends. This to me is the scariest of the body finds because six-year-old Sam did not understand that this episode was supposed to be funny.
As to your analysis of the Montreal Drift Gang (MDG), it is very important, and it gets me super excited. I did not realize that this movie was really only the beginning. That scene and subsequent coma is the “It’s not what you did son, it’s who you did it to,” of foreign romance dramas. If “Atomic Blonde” is Jane Wick, then this French-Canadian bloodbath is Jean Wic.
The next chapter will be a $100 million budget sequel, “August 33: Awakening,” a revenge-action movie where Phillipe wakes up from his coma after surviving Simone’s attempted smothering. But here’s the thing about Simone: she’s dead. The MDG pushed her off a Montreal skyscraper when the check for the murder she ordered bounced. MDG wants their due, so they come to Phillipe to collect. Should be an easy job, but they get cocky and kill his dog in front of him. Now, not only is Simone dead and their unborn, un-conceived, child (she didn’t have time to get pregnant, did she?). So is his dog. Should’ve killed Phillipe when they had the chance, because he’s about to battle his way to the top of the street gang — one drift race, one shot to the groin, one kick to the throat at a time — and he’s looking for blood. They have no idea what Phillipe can do, they think he’s just a coma nobody. They forgot one thing. That F****n nobody is Jean Wic.
The problem, Taylor, is that this movie came out 20 years ago. Who plays Phillipe in the sequel? Who plays the leader of the Montreal Drifters Gang? Steve Buscemi? Who plays the corpse of Simone as she flies off the top of a building?
Taylor: These are questions I think we should leave to the one … and only … Noah Hawley, when he signs on to direct this movie in 2021. Villeneuve will be on such a hot streak from “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049” and “Dune” and “Departure” (a sequel to “Arrival” where Amy Adams teaches heptapods how to reproduce with humans through a series of complicated underwater lessons) and his remake of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “2049: A Space Odyssey” (which everyone agrees is far better and more innovative than the original) that literally ever piece of his history becomes super-hot IP that studios want a piece of. Hawley, the casting master, will release the sequel to this movie in ten parts, shown at a different theater each night over the course of 20 nights, and people will rave about his innovation and creativity.
Am I getting too far ahead of myself? We still have like eight movies to go.
Sam: You are getting too far ahead of yourself. I’m tired of talking about “August 32nd.” Let’s move on.
Current Denis 2049 rankings:
1. “August 32nd on Earth”