Sunday, November 29, 2009

Review: Not Quite Hollywood

When it comes to exploring unfamiliar territory in cinema, I’m always on board. So, when I heard about the documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008), I knew I should give it a watch. The film centers on the decidedly low-brow features produced within the Australian film industry during the 70’s and 80’s. Presented in a thoroughly entertaining manner, Not Quite Hollywood tells the story of exploitation cinema from the perspective of those who lived it. The film not only effectively educates its audience on a group of otherwise little-seen films, but also places them into cultural and historical perspective.

Conveniently, the film divides itself into three sections, each focusing on different genres. The first, Ockers, Knockers, Boobs, and Tubes, zones in on skin flicks and gross-out comedies. These films illustrate the loosening social mores of the time; shattering the boundaries of decency. They also gave Australians an opportunity to poke fun at themselves and other countries perceptions of the Outback. The second segment, Comatose Killers and Outbreak Chillers, focuses on suspense and horror films. Ranging from the ridiculous to the insane, this segment films I won’t soon forget. They may be trash, but you can’t turn your eyes away. From there, the third segment, High Octane Disasters and Kung Fu Masters, covers action films. Shot practically and on low budgets, you’ll likely never witness stuntwork as dangerous as you see in these films. As an actor, you know you’re in trouble when the crew shoots live ammunition toward you! Plus, the Aussie car chases are probably some of the best put to film.

The commentators of Not Quite Hollywood provide the film with one of its biggest assets. As with most talking-head documentaries, the commentators can make or break the film. Luckily, Not Quite Hollywood features some engaging interviewees telling captivating stories. A wide range of experts provide their thoughts, mostly writers, directors, actors, producers, and stuntmen involved in Ozploitation filmmaking. Their enthusiasm and passion for the work on display becomes immediately evident as they tell many entertaining, often outrageous, anecdotes. Even Quentin Tarantino joins in on the fun as he once again proves his cinema expertise. These stories easily create a contagious sense of excitement that I couldn’t resist.

Adding to the sense of excitement is the level of filmmaking on display from director Mark Hartley. He kicks things into high gear with some fast-paced editing, often times set to some adrenalin-pumping tunes. Also, a fair amount of graphics seamlessly incorporate themselves into the mix, helping create transitions and punctuation to the already in-your-face movie clips. With these skillful aesthetic choices the film moves at a quick pace, and, before you know it, the 105 minute runtime comes to an end. And although the subject matter is thoroughly covered, I wouldn’t have minded some additional material. I suppose that signals the mark of an effective documentary – give audiences enough to chew on, but also leave them wanting to explore a bit more on their own.

Not Quite Hollywood will provide movie buffs and genre film enthusiasts a plethora of previously unknown films to enjoy. Yes, the content will turn many (perfectly sensible) people away, but for those adventurous enough, these films will provide viewers with something completely different. The kinetic style and great storytelling make Not Quite Hollywood a quality documentary worth seeking out.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving Thanks

One thing I'm always thankful for on holidays like these are the James Bond marathons. They're the perfect films that you can float in and out of while you catch up with family members and stuff your face. It's easy to zone out of them for awhile and then tune back in for any favorite exciting and/or comical sequences. The actual plots are essentially interchangable and can usually be ignored without much trouble. I've come to associate these films with the holidays as they're something that my entire family enjoys and will watch to some extent. I guess you could say it's a real bonding experience (Get it? Yeah, lame.).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trailer: Greenberg

The trailer for Noah Baumbach's latest effort, Greenberg, has hit the web recently, so I thought I'd take a look. Baumbach's an interesting director. His projects seem so personal, almost to their detriment at times. For example, I was mixed over his last film, Margot at the Wedding, but loved The Squid and the Whale. I felt that the latter used elements from his personal life more effectively than the former. With this new film, I'm definately looking forward to it. The story centers on a 40 year-old man, played by Ben Stiller, who "wants to do nothing for awhile". He decides to housesit for a relative while he attempts to figure things out.
The trailer features Baumbach's usual humor and wit, along with a nice music choice. I kind of perk up when a see something like this that doesn't necessarily fit into a specific box. And it's good to see Ben Stiller branching out from his usual mainstream fodder. I'm interested to see how he handles this material.
Look for Greenberg when it hits theaters next year.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cinerama Recommends: The Movie Club Podcast

The Movie Club Podcast brings together a group of dedicated cineasts who, for each episode, discuss two films in depth. While the episodes come few and far between, they are worth the wait as each show provides some quality discussion. The films chosen range greatly from the mainstream to the obscure. Just as an example, the most recent episode included Artificial Intelligence: AI and Prince of Darkness. The podcast maintains a fairly laid-back tone and includes plenty of humorous moments. Most of the participants come from either Film Junk or Row Three, two quality movie blogs that I read regularly. So check out The Movie Club Podcast for some interesting talk on film. You won't regret it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reworking the Western: High Noon

(This essay was one that I wrote in college, although somewhat modified. It's an early effort and nothing overly impressive, but I've decided to post it anyway.)

In 1952 director Fred Zinnemann presented in new type of western onto the Hollywood scene with High Noon. The results would leave some people praising the film, while others criticized, such as director Howard Hawks and John Wayne. They felt the film violated the western genre through the atypical portrayal of its hero. Hawks felt so strongly against the film that he directed another western as a response, called Rio Bravo (1959). On the surface, High Noon contains all the elements of a typical western: a small town, the local sheriff, outlaws, and unassuming townspeople. But while all those conventions remain present, in actuality the film acts as an anti-western. This film challenged many traditions that the western had stood for and in doing so it changed the way people looked at western heroes. High Noon refused to mythologize the west the way most Hollywood westerns do, but instead showcased a more realistic portrayal of the west and its inhabitants.

One of the primary ways High Noon deconstructs the mythical west is through its portrayal of the western hero. In the “classical westerns” heroes easily save the day and are universally praised by all the townsfolk. These heroes are young, good-looking, and possess an enormous amount of confidence in their abilities. The hero of High Noon, Will Kane (Gary Cooper), represents the very antithesis of this caricature. Throughout the film Kane wears black, which in past westerns would normally be worn by villains. Such a detail suggests that Kane represents a conflicted character; one who may not possess all the makings of a typical hero. Also, Kane is much older than the usual hero figure. Zinnemann avoids flattering photography with his protagonist. Instead, Kane is presented for who he is: a middle-aged, somewhat weary man with no illusions of grandeur.

The set up of the story starts as any western might with a small town threatened by the presence of outlaws. Three rough-and-tumble types arrive at the town’s train station, awaiting the arrival of Frank Miller, a destructive force from the town’s past. Everyone knows that Miller wants revenge on the now-retiring sheriff Kane who sent him to jail previously. Residents of the town naturally become concerned, but hesitate to get involved. Everyone turns down the chance to help Kane for various reasons and some of the townspeople even oppose him. One scene in particular illustrates the isolation that Kane feels. Shortly before the climatic showdown, Kane returns to his office, knowing he will fight alone. He wearily sits down at his desk and then begins to cry, which is perhaps the only time in the film that he allows himself to really let out his emotions. This scene plays out so simply that no dialog is required, but, at the same time, much information is communicated to the audience. The audience can see the pain and anxiety on Kane’s face. This is a man who has done everything that he can do to handle the situation. The town that he has protected for so long has turned its back on him. He knows that he has reached the point of no return and must face his enemies even though he fears for his life. Soon after this moment, Kane begins to write his will, showing extreme uncertainty of his fate. This kind of doubt and vulnerability breaks with the tradition of the “classic western” hero who shows no signs of doubt. Shortly after that, Kane steps onto the empty street and the camera cranes back very far to show how isolated the town has left him.

This scene leading up to the shootout keeps in line with Zinnemann’s European influences by focusing on interior conflicts. Kane wants to do the right thing and protect the town, but at the same time he is frightened to fight when no one will help him. Prince says that the “presentation of a vulnerable, anxious, vacillating Marshal has a certain de-mythifying effect” (66). In this film the idea of the classic “western hero” does not exist. Kane attempts to be the classic “western hero,” even though he realizes that he is not and cannot be that kind of hero.

Visually, most westerns take advantage of the beautiful outdoor scenery that the stories typically necessitate, associating the films with qualities such as expansiveness and freedom. Schatz says that, “These films do not celebrate the past itself, but rather our contemporary idealized version of the past” (63). This is not the case with High Noon. Gone are the picturesque vistas of Monument Valley found in the films of John Ford. With a diverse background in film, director Zinnemann was influenced by European filmmaking and, in particular, Italian Neo-Realism. In fact, Prince says that, “The escapism and sentimentality of Hollywood films appalled [Zinnemann] in contrast to the direct social content of post-war European films” (62). As a result the film practices a minimalist visual style and focuses on the main character’s actions. Prince says that realism is maintained by, “avoidance of elaborate visual or technical gimmickry and an interest in grounding the image in the ongoing social history” (61). Perhaps the dedication to realism explains the film’s constant shots of clocks as they mark the time before final conflict, always grounding the audience as the events of the film take place almost in real time. In this respect High Noon has much more in common with Neo-Realism than the Hollywood western.

One section of the film illustrates how inverted typical conventions of westerns become as outlaws are praised by the mild mannered townspeople, while the sheriff becomes dismissed by them. Midway through the film, one of the outlaws comes into town for a drink. The fact that he feels confident enough to casually walk through the town shows the level of power that he views in Kane. As he walks into the bar, many people greet him with cheer, as if saying hello to an old friend. The patrons talk with glee about his future fight with Kane. As the outlaw leaves, Kane walks up to the local bar to recruit some help. When their paths cross, the outlaw shows no signs of panic whatsoever, while Kane freezes, terrified to spot the outlaw. The look that the outlaw gives Kane is a look of total confidence because he knows that Kane can do nothing to stop him. Kane is put in a position where he is powerless to do anything to stop him because he has not broken any laws yet. This is just one of the many examples that show how diminished Kane, and effectively the symbol of the western hero, have become.

Immediately as Kane walks into the bar, an uncomfortable feeling emerges from everyone present. The bartender talks poorly of Kane as he walks inside. Kane then punches the bartender to the ground as most western heroes would do, but then immediately apologizes and offers to help him up. Admitting any wrong doing is not a practice that mythical western heroes tend to practice since they always do the right thing, at least according to their own code. Therefore, by apologizing Kane admits a sort of defeat.

Standing alone in the middle of the room, Kane then asks for volunteers to help him in his struggle. By the look on Kane’s face he knows that he does not stand a chance at finding any help in the bar, but also knows that he must try anyway, if only out of a sense of desperation. The bartender even points out that many of the patrons present were friends of the man that Kane must fight. As the men simply stare at him in silence, Kane’s level of authority becomes clearly diminished throughout the scene. As he leaves the men start to laugh at Kane for even attempting to acquire their help. Such treatment of Kane, the man who symbolizes law and order, was unheard of in western films.

The scene in the church is one of the pivotal points in the story. In this scene the viewer does not see an idealized gathering of people who unite for a common cause, but one that shows what people really care about. This scene is important because the townspeople are allowed to voice all of their opinions and the viewer gets to understand their logic. All of them seem to think that Kane is a good man, but ultimately decide not to help him. Their reasoning that the town would be better off without a gunfight and all its publicity may have some truth, but ultimately they are just turning their backs on a man they know has been good for the town. In this way the scene plays out like a microcosm for the whole film.

At the end of the film, after the villains are killed, Kane effectively does to the townspeople what they had done to him by throwing his badge to the ground in disgust. Just as the townspeople return to accept him as a hero after the fight, he turns his back on the town. By throwing down his badge he is basically saying “Thanks for nothing” to the entire town. The hypocritical townspeople can only stand in silence as Kane rides away. They know that they have forsaken a decent man during his time of need and, as a result, a feeling of guilt follows as Kane leaves. As with Neo-Realist films such as De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948), High Noon contains an anti-climatic ending. The action plays itself out in a realistic manner without any melodramatic elements.

Overall, High Noon broke many precedents for the western genre. The uncertain sheriff, conflicted townspeople, and outlaws who have some of the town’s admiration are just some of the aspects the film turns against the conventions of the genre. After the success of the film, other westerns began to focus more on interior psychological aspects of its heroes. The criticisms of Hawks and Wayne and the resulting film, Rio Bravo, a popular film in its own right, have failed to diminish this film as one of the great examples of American filmmaking. Through its departures in character portrayal and influences in European cinema, High Noon changed the way that people thought about the western.

Works Cited
Prince, Stephen, "Historical Perspective and the Realist Aesthetic in High Noon," Film Criticism (Spring-Fall, 1994): 59-71.

Schatz, Thomas. “The Western.” Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System. New York: Random House, 1981. 45-80.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Scorsese

Mr. Martin Scorsese, always a favorite director of mine, turns 67 today. I always looks forward to whatever project he becomes involved in and enjoy revisiting his past work. His enthusiasm and passion for cinema helped inspire my own interest in film. So happy birthday, Mr. Scorsese. Here's to many more great films to come!

Monday, November 16, 2009

They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore: Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

“Back in the all or nothing days, the Vanishing Point days, the Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry days, the White Line Fever days, they had real cars crashing into real cars and real dumb people driving ‘em.” - Stuntman Mike in Grindhouse

I first heard of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) through Quentin Tarantino’s half of the Grindhouse double-feature, Deathproof. Tarantino name-checks the film for good reason, as it’s exactly the type of film he was attempting to emulate. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry acts as a gritty, campy, down-and-dirty, romp of a story which exemplifies the type of genre filmmaking that simply doesn’t get made much these days – at least not in this form. And that form is the road movie, more specifically the chase film filled with fast cars wildly driving to avoid the authorities. Now, I’m no gear-head, but I appreciate a good car chase, and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry features some fine footage along those lines. The fact that all the driving stunts had to be accomplished without the aid of CGI or any other modern-day trickery allows viewers to truly become involved in what they’re watching – if not from a story point-of-view, then at least from a filmmaking point-of-view.

Although simplistic, the story serves as an adequate launching point. As it begins, two thieves, Larry and Deke, plan to rob a grocery store and then “head south” (presumably to Mexico). Their plans become complicated, however, when a girl named Mary, who Larry had slept with the night before, almost casually decides to join them as they make their getaway. The rest of the film follows our protagonists as they attempt to avoid the authorities, making for some solid action and car crashes.

While nothing outstanding, the actors involved work to elevate the material into something entertaining. A long-haired Peter Fonda stars as the rebellious Larry, while the other titular character Mary is played by Susan George. These two enjoy a love-hate relationship throughout the film, bickering one minute and making up the next. This dynamic may be formulaic, but it serves the movie well. Adding to that dynamic is Adam Roarke as Deke, the more professional of the two crooks. He’s annoyed that Mary has wound up on the run, but begrudgingly puts up with it. Vic Marrow kind of steals the show as the aging policeman in charge of apprehending the delinquents. His renegade policeman stops at nothing to complete his assignment, essentially attempting to prove his worth.

The real highlights of the film come partially from the dialog. Some of the one-liners thrown out are both cheesy and awesome at the same time. The level of swagger from Larry alone brought a smile to my face. The ending also counts as a highlight. Without spoiling anything, it’s one of the most abrupt endings I’ve ever seen and one that I won’t soon forget. After the credits began rolling, I simply sat there, mouth wide open, at what I had just witnessed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mini-Review: Swimming with Sharks

Movies about the movie industry have been fairly common for many years now – some would even say they’re to the point of becoming worn-out. So when I watched Swimming with Sharks, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a film that stands out from the ordinary. It’s a dark, cynical film that reminded me of Sunset Blvd. in its level of pessimism (and that’s really saying something). Certainly not a film for everyone, Swimming with Sharks cuts deep into the volatile world of the Hollywood machine, where even the best intentions fail for those attempting to succeed.

This low-budget film features some fine performances from its stars, Kevin Spacey and Frank Whaley. Each one attempts to outdo the other in their scenes together, working side-by-side to create an increasingly contentious relationship. The story took me places I was surprised to go and brought up some angles that typically wouldn’t be explored. Although dark, the film provides many comedic moments that are just odd enough to come from real life. Ultimately the film acts as a cautionary tale, asking us to be careful what we wish for.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Ode to Emmerich

I'm by no means a poet. In fact, it's a subject I know nothing about. But, I was suddenly struck with the idea to try my hand at it anyway. So, in honor of this week's big release of 2012, I decided to write a poem on its director, Roland Emmerich. He's the modern-day Irwin Allen, the king of disaster films, and the poem reflects this lofty position.

An Ode to Emmerich:

O Mr. Emmerich
How I love to see
Gigantic disasters
On my TV

Those buildings you crumble
With explosions to spare
You destroy existence
Without a care

That gleeful abandon
Which you spread about
Causes everyone
To scream and shout

You’re truly the master
Of all you survey
In your cinema playground
You alone hold sway

So, should people complain
About all the clatter
You can just say the word
And they’ll be part of the splatter

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teaser Trailer for Clash of the Titans Remake

Well, yet another remake has been shaping up and this time it's a remake of the 1981 fantasy-epic Clash of the Titans. I watched the original recently and thought that it could benefit from a retelling. Visually-speaking, the film looks promising. The creature designs seem interesting and the story appears to be action-packed. And if that's all the film really offers, I can't be too disappointed. The '81 version felt at least partially like a cash-grab opportunity with the studio targeting a Star Wars type audience. They even included a little mechanical owl which blatantly called to mind R2-D2, as it chirped and clicked itself into humorous situations.
The movie stars Sam Worthington, Liam Neesan, Ralph Fiennes, and Gemma Arterton. We'll find out more details in the coming months, but in the meantime, check out the trailer at the link below.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This Could Get Messy: Top 10 Poop/Fart Jokes in Film

Finding a truly universal joke can prove to be a tricky task. With all the cultural differences in the world, many types of jokes simply do not translate from country to country. People miss out on the subtleties and nuances of verbal gags; misunderstand situations that are unique to a particular area, and essentially fail to identify with the cultural norms that jokes are constructed from. So, in order to find humor that anyone can enjoy, you must look toward the most basic functions in life; things that everyone deals with.

Bathroom humor falls under that limited category. Let’s face it, everyone goes to the bathroom, it’s a part of life – and it makes for some of the best laughs.

Now, I know that some people may look down at this type of humor, thinking that it’s simply crass, juvenile, or just plain gross. To those people I would say, “Get off your high horse!” I think everyone has laughed at some form of bathroom humor in their lives. If it isn’t your style, then that’s fine, but just remember, when it comes down to it, bathroom humor is one of the few things that connects us all. As a wise man once said, “Everyone poops.”

To cut to the point, one of the best places to find some good bathroom humor is in the movies. I’ve compiled my own personal top 10 list of these jokes – not an easy task as there are many films to choose from. So, here it is, in no particular order, the best of best, the cream of the crap!

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Every entry in the Austin Powers series contains its share of bathroom humor, but I think the gag that tops them all comes from the first film. When an assassin attempts to strangle Austin while seated in a men’s room stall, hilarity ensues. This joke is so well set up and paid off (“What did you eat?”) that no matter how many times I see it, it makes me laugh.

Dumb and Dumber
Turbo Lax: “one spoonful for fast, effective relief.” Harry (Jeff Daniels) gets his share of laxative and then some when his buddy Lloyd attempts to sabotage his date. His scramble into the bathroom and the resulting effects of the Turbo Lax are a highlight of the film. As he learns that the toilet is broken, the look of horror on Jeff Daniels’ face adds the perfect closer to the scene.

Rocket Man
Do people remember this one? Well, they should. I’ve always been a big Harland Williams fan and this film was his attempt at a starring vehicle. While the film didn’t fare so well financially, it left a lasting impression on me as a kid. Williams’ specific style of humor shines throughout the film, but there was one particular scene which I immediately thought of when compiling this list. If you’ve seen the film, then you know what I’m talking about. But for those who haven’t, I’ll give you two words: space farts. Yeah, you’re sold now, aren’t you?

Blazing Saddles
This film is, perhaps, the pioneer for fart jokes in cinema, so I must include it. We watch as a bunch of grizzled cowboys consume plates full of beans while sitting around a camp fire – all accompanied by a multitude of fart sound-effects that build in frequency. This scene is brilliant in its simplicity and Slim Pickens delivery of the line “I think you’ve had enough” never fails elicit a smile. Thank you, Mel Brooks.

Lethal Weapon 2
We all dread this situation: dying on the toilet. And that’s exactly what Sergeant Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) comes dangerously close to experiencing in this film. Someone wants our hero dead, so they plant a bomb on his toilet. The second he stands up, the bomb will go off. Fortunately, Roger’s got Riggs (Mel Gibson) to help him out. This scene plays out with both humor and intensity; not an easy combination to achieve. If nothing else, it will make you think twice the next time you go to the can.

Me and You and Everyone We Know
I won’t give away the context for this scene, simply because I couldn’t do it justice. Instead, I’ll just quote the signature line of dialog: “Back and forth, forever and ever.” While one of the oddest scenes I’ve ever witnessed, it’s one of the most memorable as well. ))<>((

You know it, you love it, it’s the Swimming Pool Scene. This Jaws parody delivers every time as a Baby Ruth candy bar becomes mistaken for feces floating in the country club swimming pool. The mad dash out of the pool, followed by its clean-up, remains one of the highlights from this comedy classic.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Many of Kevin Smith’s films could qualify for a place on this list as he deals heavily with “low-brow” comedy, but I’ve chosen his most recent work as it goes a bit further than the rest. This is definitely the most visually graphic scene on this list, but funny nonetheless. I won’t describe the details, but suffice it to say that a cameraman is put in a most compromising position while filming a low-angle shot of a constipated porn actress. Things get messy…very, very, messy.

Sasha Baron Cohen would have us believe that when those from Kazakhstan excuse themselves to go to the restroom at a dinner party, they typically return with their waste wrapped up in a bag. While I doubt this is a custom in any country, it does make for one of the most awkward dinner conversations I’ve ever seen. Like most of the material in the film, the real joy in this scene generates from the reactions of the unsuspecting dinner guests – those poor, unfortunate people.

Billy Madison
In a gleefully juvenile scene, Billy and his two friends light a bag of crap on fire in front of an old man’s house and watch as he angrily stomps it out. Their laughter throughout is infectious and the fact that the old man is pants-less while stomping out the bag adds a slightly bizarre element to the situation. Truly, this is a sublime moment.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shamefully Unseen

Even though I consider myself a major fan of film, I'm always hesitant to describe myself as a connoisseur. You see, no matter how many films I watch, there will always be thousands that go unseen. Of course, there are those films for which I simply don't have an interest. I could live my entire life without seeing Dude, Where's My Car? and be perfectly content. But, then there's also a large list that I've wanted to watch, only to remain unseen for one reason or another. Some of these films are well-known, award-winning hits like Ghandi and Malcolm X. Others are smaller, more off the beaten path such as Paris, Texas or The Saragossa Manuscript. Whatever the level of popularity, I think everyone has at least a few films that they've always wanted to see.

When I think of the areas in which I'm most deficient, I'd have to say foreign films top the list. Although I attempt to watch a fair number of them, I know there are plenty of quality titles I've yet to experience. I've seen a few from the likes of Renoir, Kurosawa, Bergman, and Truffaut, but zero from other often-named greats like Ozu, Almodovar, or Ray. I'm certainly not averse to these types of films, but I do sometimes wonder what holds me back from seeking out more than I do. Perhaps it's the sense of familiarity; or ,rather, the lack of it in some instances. Without a full understanding of other cultures, it's impossible to grasp everything a foreign film presents to you. The sense that there will always be something missing from my experience might, therefore, cause me to shy away at times. In any case, foreign films only account for one area of lacking film knowledge.

Some of the other types of films I don't watch as much of include a number of the more lengthy bio-pics, such as the aforementioned Ghandi and Malcolm X. I'm not opposed to longer films either; they just require a little more committment and preparation. Also, I don't get around to watching many musicals. It's usually just not my genre - although, again, I'm not averse to them.

And then there are some films simply fall through the cracks...

Here's a small sample of films on my "to see" list:
Destry Rides Again
The Magnificent Ambersons
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Red Shoes
The Man with the Golden Arm
Elmer Gantry
High and Low
Band of Outsiders
Take the Money and Run
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Barry Lyndon
Opening Night
Empire of the Sun
The Last Temptation of Christ
Leaving Las Vegas
Big Night

What are some of your "shamefully unseen" films?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Year's Oscar Ceremony Hosted By...

Well, it looks as if the Academy Awards will change it up a bit this year since both Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will be hosting. Yep, two hosts for the price of one. It's been quite some time since the Oscars have had multiple hosts - in fact this will be my first opportunity to witness such an event. I'm not exactly sure how the whole multiple host thing will play out, but the change seems in keeping with Academy's tendencies lately, what with the expansion of the Best Picture category from 5 to 10 nominees. I like the choice of Martin, who has hosted previously, and Baldwin seems like an inspired choice. After watching the two of them together on SNL, I think they'll have a good chemistry and I look forward to seeing them perform side-by-side again. This year's show is shaping up to be an interesting one, shaking things up from the usual. The ratings have been down in recent times, so maybe this year will be the shot in the arm that the Oscars need. Only time will tell.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mini-Review: The Blob (1958)

Sometimes it's nice to look back on the film's that, while influential and revered by some, typically get dismissed by most. The Blob (1958) provides a classic example of this situation. Starring a young Steve McQueen, The Blob acts as a prototypical sci-fi/horror film. When people think of 50's sci-fi, this film is exactly what comes to mind.

The story is simple. When a meteor crashes onto Earth, a strange creature begins to creep its way into the nearest town, devouring anyone who comes into contact with it. Soon, the responsibility falls on McQueen and his teenage friends (all played by twenty-somethings) to warn the townspeople of this new threat. Of course, the adults don't believe the kid's wild story, instead blaming them for the disturbances that go reported. McQueen and the gang must find a way to either defeat the creature or warn others of their impending doom.

I suppose the story elements seem all too familiar and it certainly doesn't go above and beyond the typical films of its genre, but The Blob contains enough elements to make it a worthwhile watch. The film was independently financed, with a good deal of the money going towards the effects. While they may seem shoddy by today's standards, I think the only fair way to look at them is through the context of the time in which the film was made. By those standards the effects seemed just fine to me. The blob itself looks alien enough (figuratively and literally) to create a eerie atmosphere. It's also interesting any time you can look back on a big-name star like McQueen early in their careers. If anything, it illustrates that everyone has to start somewhere. Oh, and I should mention the opening title song, which has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it. The song really conflicts with the tone of the rest of the film, as it's this peppy, poppy number that seems added at the last minute (in fact, I believe it was). Still, I enjoyed the song, maybe because it simply defied expectations.

So, if you should come across The Blob some night on TV, I'd say go ahead and watch if science-fiction is your thing or if you happen to be a big fan of Steve McQueen and want to check out some of his early work. If your not interested, just wait for the eventual remake.