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My Thoughts on Die Hard

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Part One: Where I talk about why I’m sharing my thoughts on Die Hard.

Dear neglected blog post reader,

Happy new year! We are just starting post-production for LAC. It’s slow going as I’m trying to learn a lot on my own, but exciting to see and interact with the footage. I think it’s going to be a good movie. It’s just going to take me a while. If you have thoughts or questions about the film, shoot me a note!

In the meantime I’m going to post a series about my feelings on the movie Die Hard. Now you might have two questions here:

1: Um, why would anyone want to write a serialized essay about a 30 year old action movie? (yes, it’s 30 years old. If you start in 1988 and add 10 three times it takes you to last year—you’ll have to carry a one in there but it works out, trust me).

2: What is the relevance to this blog promoting a film about autism?

These shadows were probably made by some custom shadow-making device instead of real blinds.

I don’t have a strong answer to either question. What I know is that when Mary and Angela were on a girl’s night out last week I forced Phillip to watch Die Hard with me. I thought this would be good father/son post-holiday bonding. So I made popcorn and we watched Die Hard. Then he got up, muttered “good movie” and went downstairs to bed. So maybe not epic bonding. But for two hours we were next to each other without being angry/resentful on one side and defensive/reproachful on the other. So it was a good night.

Maybe because I was watching with Phillip and wondering what he was making of the 80s cheeseball brilliance of it all, I found that I watched the movie sort of critically. Instead of letting its Die Hardness wash over you like you’re supposed to, I was actually thinking about why things were the way they were. And yes, this is probably at least in part due to the fact that I’m making a movie myself.

Going into my shoot, I felt pretty confident I knew what I was doing. I’ve been on sets as an actor and a PA and directed a couple shorts. I’d done a lot of planning. I didn’t think there would be major surprises.

There were surprises.

And one of them was really just grasping the extent to which filmmaking is telling lies. I mean I knew this already. When I couldn’t find the perfect location for a school in my movie, I decided to shoot the interiors at a school in Morristown one weekend and the exteriors at a totally different school in Jersey City the following weekend. So I get that it’s all make believe.

But when you’re involved in making the decisions about where cameras are, what parts of a room you’re using, where you position people, you realize “holy shit, they just fake ALL this stuff!” People use the word cheating all the time on a movie set: “cheat that lamp to the left.” In other words, “distort the reality of this room to whatever looks better for this shot because the dumb fucks watching will never know the difference.” Once you realize how much you can get away with it’s sort of intoxicating.  

We shot one scene in a teacher’s room that we thought was way too big and the cinematographer said we’d shrink the room. And I was like WTF does that even mean. Turns out it meant when we shot from one side the rectangular table the characters would sit at was placed next to the window—and when we shot from the other side the table was moved all the way across the room right next to the front door. We’ll never see the whole room at the same time in the movie (as you can in this 2-second video), but in the movie it'll feel like a small room.

And so when I watched Die Hard with Phillip last week I was thinking about the movie-making. The screenwriting, casting, production choices, editing etc. And I realized that while Die Hard is a movie you don’t think about, you do have thoughts about it.

I would guess I’ve seen parts of Die Hard 25 to 30 times. This means anywhere from: “I’m delivering pizza in college and dudes are watching Die Hard and I watch 45 seconds while they scrounge for change” to the older phases where it’s like: “Fuck all the dishes and kids’ clothes on the floor I’m going to settle in and watch the last half of Die Hard right now.” Die Hard viewings come in all shapes in sizes. But they are always warming and familiar. You know the characters, you know the setups and enjoy the payoffs.

That we don’t talk about Die Hard much is weird when you think about because it should be such an easy conversation-starter. You could go up to just about any 35 to 75 year old on the street and say: “have you ever wondered if Hans really used to be a terrorist and became greedy and disillusioned, or if he was just always looking for the big score?” And the person might look at you and go: “I never thought about but…” and they’d give their own detailed take on Hans’s backstory, or they’d spin off onto some other Die Hard thought I reminded them of. The point is our Die Hard thoughts are out there. And next post I’m going to share with a vengeance.

Yippee kai-ay, motherfucker! (Footnote: there appears to be no internet consensus on the spelling of that phrase. If you think you can do better, please comment below).

Stay tuned….

Check out Part Two, where I actually start sharing my thoughts on Die Hard.

Then finish the Die Hard trilogy with Part Three, where it all comes together.

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