Listmania: Top 10 Drug Scenes in Film

Drugs scenes can be very interesting in films. Sometimes they are moralizing and judgmental. Other times we laugh at the hilarious hijinks. Either way they are very often well made and contain moments which linger long in our memories. Here are my top 10 drug scenes in films, some obvious but perhaps there are a few ones you haven’t seen before:

10) Almost Famous – 2000 – Cameron Crowe

I am a golden god!

This scene triumphs in its random spontaneity as well as following with a group chorus of Tiny Dancers.

9) Big Lebowski – 1998 – Joel & Ethan Coen

After he is drugged on his search for Bunny, The Dude enters this dreamy bowling-themed fantasy world.

8) Requiem for a Dream – 2000 – Darren Aronofsky

This film shows the ups and mainly downs of a group of New-Yorkers. And while it’s an extremely depressing, and often disturbing film, it’s visually stunning.

7) Easy Rider -1969 – Denis Hopper

It would be hard to make a list about drug scenes without the king of drug scenes. A crazy hippy fulled acid trip through the heartland of America. Like On the Road… but with more drugs.

6) A Scanner Darkly – 2006 – Richard Linklater

Your sins will be read to you ceaselessly, in shifts, throughout eternity. The list will never end

My favorite scene in both the book and the film, an inter-dimensional alien comes to read Freck all his sins when he mistakenly takes psychedelics instead of sleeping pills when trying to commit suicide. The poor boy can’t even get suicide right.

5) Pulp Fiction – 1994 – Quinten Tarintino

I couldn’t choose between the two scenes because I love them both so much. Vincent makes heroin looks pretty damn tasty in the picture above, while Mia accidentally overdosing shows the rather shady side to it. And it’s a pretty epic moment, of course.

4) Trainspotting – 1996 – Danny Boyle

How to choose in this film. The drugs never really look good and yet they keep doing them, and often we keep laughing. There’s the overdosing, the dead baby crawling on the ceiling, but the crawling into the toilet of ultimate scum that is gag-worthy every time.

3) Enter the Void – 2009 – Gaspar Noe

While slow moving, and this film definitely did not need to be 3 hours long, the scene in the beginning where our main character smokes DMT is undoubtedly the closest anyone will ever come to showing the effects on screen visually. The rest of the film, in which the main character floats as a soul above Tokyo contains memories of the neon-lit city scape which are pretty psychedelic  in themselves.

2) Altered States – 1980 – Ken Russell

I literally cannot pick one scene from this movie. It is seriously tripped out. But what would you expect from a film that is about a scientist experimenting with hardcore ayahuasca and other psychedelics  while going into a sensory deprivation chamber?

1) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – 1998 – Terry Gilliam

Probably the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think of “drug-movie” and with good cause. The film is a hallucinatory adventure in which dinosaurs roam and your friend tries to kill you with a giant knife. And everything in between. But of course, it’s Hunter S. Thompson. No one can beat that. Set against the backdrop of Las Vegas, this film makes you feel as if you’ve taken a little bit from their drug suitcase yourself.

Bonus: Drugstore Cowboy, Knocked Up, Natural Born Killers, Black Swan

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5 Books That Should Never Be Made Into Films

Yesterday I was reading an interesting list on cinemablend about their five novels they thought should never be made into films. This was a very interesting concept to me, seeing as how one of my hobbies is comparing novels to their film interpretations. I ask, what do novels add to films? What subtleties do films miss from the novels? More often than not the novel is better than the film. But there are those rare circumstances when, in fact, the film is better than the novel.

So without further adieu, my 5 novels that should never be made into films:

1) Nightwood – Djuna Barnes

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Nightwood is a twisted and torrid account of a love affair, and one of the first novels to explicitly detail homosexuality. The novel, however, is at times incomprehensible. A beautiful novel which recounts the effect the character Robin has on the other players. Robin is in a perpetual motion moving away from that which makes her unhappy without any real notion of what actually makes her happy. To really outline how difficult this novel is to read at times, T.S. Eliot proclaimed that “only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it.” The novel is essentially poetry written in novel form, any attempt to make this novel into a film would destroy the absolute poetry one encounters while reading it. In fact this is a novel more about the poetry than it is about the plot or narration.

2) Island – Aldous Huxley

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Aldous Huxley’s final work Island and the sister to his influential novel Brave New World. The Island for Huxley represents his ideal Utopia. It chronicles many of his ideals for society, culture and economy. In fact many of the favorable conditions he outlines in Island are in direct opposition to those in Brave New World (Wiki does an excellent job showing the opposition). The novel also uses magical mushrooms as a spiritual guide. All of these elements would come off as trivial, and I doubt the screenwriter would keep all the lengthy conversations that exist throughout the novel, nor would they be able to capture the spiritual nature of the psychedelic experience.

3) Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

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Salinger’s most famous novel, Catcher in the Rye follows teen antihero Holden Caulfield. The ultimate novel to deal with complex teenager issues of identity, sexuality, and belonging. If this novel was made into a film I highly doubt that one could capture the complexity of this character without Holden coming off as a, well, whiney teenager. The good news is that Salinger was absolutely against a filmic conversion of his novel and this  is being upheld posthumously.

4) Nadja – Andre Breton

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A non-linear tale of a 10 day torrid love affair with the inexplicable Nadja. A semi-autobiographical novel, like Nightwood, the novel is written in prose form and is at times incomprehensible. The beauty of the novel is in the language, and again any “action” in the novel seems secondary to the very words which make them up. The visual imagery is arguably more beautiful than any photographic imagery a person could conjure up.

5) Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges

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This collection of highly imaginative stories are entirely dependent on the reader’s imagination to come alive. I took a class once in which we attempted to draw what we thought the Library from the Library of Babel would look like and everyone had a different interpretation  Making any of these stories into a film would be excellent creative fuel but would destroy the individual experience which makes the stories so unique.

Just For Fun: Splatter-fest

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The ridiculous, contemptible, preposterous, and just plain disgusting.

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You cringe, you laugh, you gag. These are movies so ridiculous at times you have to stop and ask whether they’re taking themselves seriously or not.

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The best, or worst, features of these films often include excess bodily fluids. The likes of spit, vomit, blood, semen and “ugh what is that!”

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And the best part of these films? Watching them with a big group of people, and drinking during the appropriate times. When are the appropriate times? Never, but thats what makes the genre so much fun.

Here are simple rules:

  1. Drink when someone dies
  2. Drink when you laugh out loud
  3. Drink when someone gets seriously maimed
  4. Drink when there’s a false lead or pseudo-scare

Adapt the game when you’re watching your favorite film or series in a marathon. Fun for the whole family!

Films for Splatter-fest, a rough list:

  • Cabin Fever
  • The Saw Franchise (the later in the series, the more ridicuouls, the better)
  • The Evil Dead (1,2,3)
  • Planet Terror
  • Re-Animator
  • Return of the Living Dead (a personal favorite)
  • Drag Me to Hell 
  • Friday the 13th (again, the later in the series the more random, I also thought the newer remake was fun)
  • Halloween (seriously, try and find Halloween 3 and not die of laughter. Hint: Nazi’s and the Stone-Henge in one glorious film??)
  • Nightmare on Elm Street (more and more ridiculous deaths as the series goes on)

I’ve omitted a lot of film titles, because personally, other than the notable omission of the Saw Franchise I don’t enjoy torture-porn style films like Hostel or The Human Centipede.

Nolan vs. Aronofsky

Recently I watched Christopher Nolan’s film Following. While I was watching it, I kept linking some strange similarities to Darren Aronofsky’s Pi. For example, both were made in 1998, both were the first feature films for these directors, and both chose to work in a black and white, highly realist style . I never really made the connection between the two directors before, despite the fact that I absolutely love both of their volumes of work.

I also found both films to be extremely characteristic of their subsequent films. We’ll start with Following:

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The film centers around a loner who beings to follow people at random. Not for perverse thrills, but merely to gain inspiration for his writing. He soon encounters Cobb, a thief who takes him under his wing. The young man quickly tail-spins into a world he was never meant to be a part of and one which is way over his head.

I feel this film is similar to the rest of Nolan’s work in that it envolves a character thrown into an unknown world, stuck in the middle of a puzzle he may only be a pawn to. This is true of Memento (2000) in which the main character is actually running around in a puzzle of his own making, and one that can never really be solved. The Prestige (2006), in which Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are in a magicians death-match. Inception (2010) where the characters are literally in a world of dreams and layers of puzzles. Even the Batman movies share some of these attributes. It seems all of his characters are at one point or another asking “How did I get here?”

And then we get to Aronofsky:

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(Ha, I had to, sorry.)

Pi follows Max through his quest to find a universal set of numbers which will unlock everything: nature, the stock market and even god. Max, who routinely suffers from crippling migranes, in his pursuit becomes increasingly paranoid and delusional.

Aronofsky’s code is easy, and I feel falls into all his films (this is not to say his films are easy, just an easier concept to explain than Nolan’s) and can be described with one word: Obsession. All of the characters in all of his films are obsessed with something. Sometimes this spins them into strange and unknown worlds, often ones that can put them in danger. With Pi it is the obsession with numbers and trying to make sense of the world around him. In Requiem for a Dream (2000) it is the obsession with drugs, and all the characters trying to live life through the hardships. The Fountain (2006) – My all time favorite film ever, I might add – Hugh Jackman’s character is consumed with grief over the loss of his wife, and obsessed with both love and death. Black Swan (2008) concerns the obsession with one’s art and is a character study of just how far one’s devotion to their art can take them.

Both films are immensely interesting not only as separate autonomous films but also as the first chapter in each directors’ volume of work. While some film-makers sizzle out after their first film, I feel that these two get stronger with every film they make.