Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I was twelve going on thirteen when I first saw a dead human being. It happened in 1960, a long time ago...although sometimes it doesn't seem that long to me. Especially on the nights I wake up from dreams where the hail falls from my eyes.-Stephen King, The Body

Stephen King states in his afterward of the four novellas from his Different Seasons collection that his publisher was a bit troubled that the stories that lay within its covers weren't about haunted hotels, possessed prom queens or demonic dogs. They were character studies, two of which were later made into successful movies that are well thought of enough to be included in the 1001 movie book.

The Body became Rob Reiner's Stand by Me, a coming of age story set in 1959 about a group of four kids who know where the body of a dead boy is and set off on foot to try to find it. There are some changes from book to movie as there always needs to be, but the core of King's story is intact and this continues to be a beloved film by many. And you got to love the pie eating scene.

Five hundred yards. The length of five football fields. Just shy of half a mile. He crawled that distance, maybe with one of those small Penlites in his hand, maybe with nothing but a couple of books of matches. He crawled through foulness that I either can't imagine or don't want to imagine. -Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

A movie that has become even more revered is The Shawshank Redemption. This film was only moderately successful when released, but quickly became a movie so acclaimed that it soon became (and is currently) the number one rated movie on the IMDB top 250 list. Shawshank is a prison picture in setting only. It is really about injustice, friendship, survival, renewal, transformation, and salvation. Frank Darabont's adaptation of King's story is a prime example of how to keep the original voice of the author in a screenplay while still making needed cinematic alterations.

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Afterward: My favorite of the four King stories is actually Apt Pupil, a character study of a former Nazi war criminal who gets involved with a middle schooler who may even be more twisted that he is.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Some preliminary reports for the listing of new films for the 2014 edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die include the Saudia Arabian film Wadjda. We showed this film for our foreign film series at the library last week and though we didn't get a big turnout, the film was well received and I was quite taken with it.

It's a small scale film that draws obvious comparisons with the neo-realistic classic, The Bicycle Thief. However, the stakes are different here. Wadjda's bicycle isn't an economic necessity like in The Bicycle Thief, but a dream of something she desires while the society she lives in frowns upon her having it.

I would be predisposed to rooting for this movie after reading about the difficult odyssey of female Saudi filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour in getting this movie made. Financing it was difficult in that Saudi Arabia has no film industry to speak of and the fact that she was a female director didn't exactly open doors.

Luckily, the finished product is a most interesting character and societal study, and al-Mansour's difficult decision to shoot it in Saudi Arabia pays off. I feel I'm inside a society I've never seen before and really get to know the struggles of Wadjda, her family, her friends, her schoolmates and teachers.

Obviously, I'd be happy to see this one on the next 1001 list.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll! or 
If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 7 of 7)

Plot synopsis: Documentary on the free 1969 Altamont rock concert that quickly turns from an unforgettable night of music to a night remembered chiefly for its violence.

It's 60's kind of quotes...

Gram Parsons: "Please stop hurting each other man! You don't have to."

Paul Kantner: "Hey, man, I'd like to mention that the Hells Angels just smashed Marty Balin in the face, and knocked him out for a bit. I'd like to thank you for that." 

Grace Slick: "You got to keep your bodies off each other unless you intend love"

Mick Jagger: Hey, hey people. Brothers and Sisters.come on now. That means everybody just cool out!"

Jerry Garcia: "Oh, Bummer"

Hell's Angel Sonny Cutler: I didn't go there to police nothing man. I ain't never gonna pretend to be a cop. And this Mick Jagger put it all on the Angels, man. Like, he used us for dupes, man. And as far as I'm concerned, we were the biggest suckers for that idiot that I can ever see."

Iconic 60's shot: Mick Jagger performing next to the ominous presence of members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang.

Sex: Some in the crowd at Altamont decided to shed all there clothes and inhibitions, but my vote in this category goes to Tina Turner's sensuous performance of I've Been Loving You Too Long.

Drugs: Hashish...L.S.D...Psilocybin...or whatever else you may want.

Rock and Roll: Ladies and Gentlemen...the Rolling Stones!

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll!
or If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 6 of 7)

Plot synopsis: Mob enforcer Chas runs afoul of his bosses and takes refuge in a basement room of an ex-rock n' roll singer named Turner.

It's a 60's kind of quote: What a freak show!...I tell you, it's terrible...It's a right pisshole...long hair...beatniks...druggers...free love...foreigners...you name it!

Iconic 60's shot: The final shot of Chas being driven away. Or is it Chas?

Sex: Healthy doses of S and M, androgyny, a menage a trois and quick cuts of Rolling Stone girlfriend Anita Pallenberg in various states of undress.

Drugs: Chas gets the mushroom treatment from Turner and his girlfriend and changes his perspective of life

Rock and Roll: Musical credits include Jack Nitzsche, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Buffy Ste. Marie, Civil Rights rappers The Last Poets and Rolling Stone front man Mick Jagger as Turner.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll!
or If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 5 of 7) 

Plot synopsis: Documentary of the fabled 1969 rock concert that featured three days of rock and peace.

It's some  60's kind of quotes...
The Organizers: (Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld) This culture and this generation...You see how they function on their own. Without cops, without guns, without clothes...everybody pulls together and everybody helps each other.. and it works. It's a free festival...It's hard to think financially when you're talking about something like this..Look at what you got there...You can't buy that for anything...This is really beautiful, man. These people are communicating with each other.

The Farmer: (Max Yasgur) This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place, and I think you people have proven something to the world: that a half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I God bless you for it!

The Vendors: Some people call it a bum trip. I don't think there's such a thing as a bum trip. People been saying that some of the acid is poison. It's not poison! It's just bad acid...It's manufactured poorly. So anybody that thinks they have taken some poison, forget it. If you feel like experimenting, only take half a tab.

The Crowd: My parents knew there'd be drugs there, that it'll be a bit wild. They didn't want to come. I know they'll be drugs everywhere and I wonder what it will all be like. I've never been away from home before. I wonder what will happen to us.

The Crowd: Like wow! These people are really beautiful, the cops, the storekeepers, the army, everybody!

The Teachers: Yoga means union. It's the same energy drugs can give you...It's the same channels, only drugs do it for you and this way you can do it yourself. You can do it when you want to and you don't have to score to be able to do it, all you have to score is some clean air.

The Squares: You want me to explain it in plain English? A shitty mess!...They were all on pot!

The Performers: (John Sebastian) Just love everybody all around you and clean up a little garbage on your way out and everything gonna be alright.

The Performers: (Arlo Guthrie) Far out, man! I don't know if you can dig how many people there are, man...Like I was rapping to the fuzz...Can you dig it? New York State Thruway is closed, man! Lotta freaks.

And of course, you don't get much more 60's than Wavy Gravy: Good morning! What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for four hundred thousand!

Iconic 60's shot: Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner.

Sex: Lots of the crowd sheds its clothes as well as its inhibitions.

Drugs: I do believe there were some drugs taken at Woodstock, but if you take the Brown Acid, don't worry, it is not poison!

Rock and Roll: So many icons of the era: Joe Cocker, Jimmi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Ten Years After, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Country Joe and the Fish (below) and many others...Though I still can't figure out what the hell Sha Na Na was doing there!

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll!or 
If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 4 of 7)

Plot synopsis: Starts off like a Strawberry Statement student protest movie and eventually becomes a kind of cross between a desert Bonnie and Clyde meets Blue Lagoon kinda thing.

It's a 60's kind of quote: (Drug quote part 1) After the girl offers him dope the guy says "This group I'm in had rules about smoking, we were on sort of a reality trip." The girl replies, "What a drag."

Iconic 60's shot: The girl imagines her bourgeoisie lifestyle blowing to bits (below).

Sex: Desert sex between our two rebels evolves into kind of a great desert orgy with people rolling in the sand we don't know that just appear in the movie, but it's like...it's all groovy.

Drugs: (Drug quote part 2) The girl smokes dope and takes in the desert in a whole new way. The guy says, "It was nice of you to come (to the desert) with a guy that doesn't turn on." The girl replies, "I'm pretty tolerant."

Rock and Roll: Original music by The Rolling Stones (that's 60's!) Pink Floyd (that's very 60's!), Jerry Garcia (that's very, very 60's!) and  Patti Page's Tennessee Waltz...which is not so 60's, but is a pretty nice tune.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll! or 
If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 3 of 7)

Plot synopsis: .Texan Joe Buck moves to New York City to become a street hustler where he teams up with a street wise loner named Ratso in the first adult film ever to win the Best Picture Oscar.

It's a 60's kind of quote: Joe Buck's confession, "Hell, the only thing I ever been any good for is lovin!"

And Ratso (below) "I'm walking here! I'm walking here!" (I know I always want to do that when a vehicle gets too close as I'm crossing an intersection.)

Iconic 60's shot: Nothing more than the cowboy Joe Buck and the street rat Ratso ambling down the streets of New York.

Sex: Well, Joe Buck is all about the sex, even when he isn't successful at it. With the exception of his encounter with Shirley who he meets at a hippy dippy trendy drug party, he seems to have an awful lot of problems getting money out of women or men he encounters.

Drugs: The hippy dippy love party that Joe and Ratso attend even includes Warhol regulars such as Viva and Paul Morrissey. Lots of drugs here. Most notable when Joe doesn't want to let go of a passed joint that he thinks is a cigarette. Look out Joe! That can lead to impotence!

Rock and Roll: The theme song "Everbody's Talkin'" by Harry Nilsson as well as a very early musical selection from one of my rock and roll heroes, Warren Zevon!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll!
or If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 2 of 7)

Plot synopsis: Three go-go dancers kill a guy in the desert, kidnap his girl friend and begin a quest for loot from a creepy old man and his oddball family.

It's a 60's kind of quote: Opening narration: "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains... sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn't only destroy, it creates and molds as well. Let's examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female, the surface shiny and silken, the body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don't drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level, any time, anywhere, and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor's receptionist... or a dancer in a go-go club!"

Iconic 60's shot: The ladies...either causing mayhem, posing for the camera or basically just standing around looking hot.

Sex: Of couse! It's a Russ Meyer film! The three go-go dancers, and Linda their bikini clad-kindnapee, provide plenty of sex appeal. Though the real star of the show is the catlike and ample bosomed Tura Satana (pictured below.)

Drugs: The only drug use I see is the use of "knockout pills" on Linda.

Rock and Roll: The theme song Faster Pussycat! by the Bostweeds.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll! 
or If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 1 of 7)

Plot synopsis: A hip photographer in 60's London takes some outdoor photographs that may contain something sinister lurking in the background.

It's a 60's kind of quote: Abstract artist talking about his work: That must be five or six years old. They don't mean anything when I do them. Just a mess. Afterwards, I find something to hang on to, like that...quite like that leg. Then it sorts itself out and adds up. It's like finding a clue in a detective story.

Iconic 60's shot: Mimes playing tennis without a ball.

Sex: Our unnamed photographer protagonist has a threesome at his studio with two model wannabes while wrapped in the photographic backdrop paper.

Drugs: Looking for his friend Ron at a club, the photographer goes to a pot party. He questions a stoned model, "I thought you were in Paris." "I am in Paris," she replies. When he finds Ron, he is unable to convince his stoned friend of the ramifications of finding a dead body and leaves.

Rock and Roll: The Yardbirds play a set for a rather somnambulistic audience who only come alive when the lead guitarist smashes his guitar and tosses the neck of it into the crowd.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Today's guest blog post is from Spencer Blohm

 9 Years Later, Sin is Still In

            After over 9 years of waiting, fans of Sin City have reason to rejoice; the sequel is almost here (August 22nd to be exact). The neo-noir crime thriller by dynamic duo Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez is a cult favorite among fans of the genre and broke the mold of what the new era of digital filmmaking could be. It may be nearly a decade later, but Sin City: A Dame to Kill For promises to be just as visually stunning, gritty, and fantastic as the first. For those who are a little rusty (or simply haven’t seen) the first Sin City, it’s absolutely necessary you rewatch the first to keep all the characters and storylines fresh in your head, and luckily you can stream it online or view it on demand through providers like Direct TV.
            For fans of the original, it’s certainly about time for the second film, especially when you consider the fact that Rodriguez confirmed a sequel back in May of 2005. Frank Miller, author of the graphic novels the films are based on, even stated that he was writing the screenplay back in 2006 and that he expected production to begin in 2007. However, we all know how Hollywood works, and clashes with the power producer Weinstein Brothers regarding the script and casting held the film up for years. In addition, managing to get the schedules of all the actors the sequel required took extra planning and coercing.
            The sequel retains a few stars from the first film, including Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Carla Gugino, Jamie King, Bruce Willis, and Mickey Rourke. They’ve also added newcomers like Eva Green, Juno Temple, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Josh Brolin, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, and even landed a cameo from Lady Gaga as a waitress named Bertha. There are also a few character swaps, notably Dennis Haysbert taking up the role of Manute, originally played in the first by the late Michael Clarke Duncan. Jeremy Piven will be taking Michael Madsen’s role as Bob, Josh Brolin takes over for Clive Owen and will be playing a pre-plastic surgery Dwight, and due to a pregnancy Devon Aoki had to drop out as Miho, who will now be played by Jamie Chung.
            As far as the new additions go, there isn’t an actress out there with the old school, screen siren look favored by Rodriguez and Miller quite as stunning as the French bombshell (and former Bond girl) Eva Green. Her character, specifically, has been responsible for a lot of buzz around the film, especially after the trailer featuring her was banned by ABC and deemed too steamy for the general public, and a nearly nude film poster resulted in the MPAA getting in a huff.
            For her part, Green is featured heavily in the first part of the film, which, like the first, is broken down into four sub-plots; “A Dame to Kill For”, “Just Another Saturday Night”, “The Long Bad Night”, and “The Fat Loss. The first and third sub-plots appear to be those featuring the new characters, mainly Johnny (Gordon-Levitt), Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), Dwight McCarthy (Brolin), and Ava Lord (Green). The other two sub plots revolve around Nancy, Marc, and Hartigan.
            Of course, the films wouldn’t be what they are without the incredibly cinematography and digital techniques used. The first Sin City was filmed almost entirely on green screens, and Rodriguez and Miller kept that technique for the sequel as well. They also decided to film in 3-D (as opposed to creating it post production) meaning all the blood, gore, and glorious violence will be more present than ever. In all, the project promises to be a must see for fans of the original, those who are new to the franchise, or those simply ready for a night of sin.

Friday, August 1, 2014

STAR WARS (1977)

The first time you see a movie as famous as Casablanca, Citizen Kane, or Gone With the Wind, it comes with the additional baggage of being called “the greatest movie of all time” or at least one of them. There is so much pressure on the viewer to see what others see in it, the viewing experience is often not what it should be. The viewer may lean toward nodding their head in agreement not to appear obtuse or take an opposite tack and say, “What’s so great about that?”

Star Wars (subtitled A New Hope IV) has similar problems. So iconic in stature, so many sequels, so many have seen it and so many toys have been sold, I’m sure a bias will kick in as I watch and will be tempted to say, “What’s so great about that?”

What’s the solution to achieving objectivity? Well, the only solution has to be a mind meld (intentional Star Trek reference) to make me forget and my use of the newly released Apple iwayback machine that can take me back to 1977…1977…1977…

...I feel a bit woozy and disoriented but I’m still excited about seeing this new film called Star Wars from the director of one of my favorite films, American Graffiti. Wow, the screen seems so big! But aren’t all movie screens this size? Huh. Wait, it’s about to start:

The theme song during the opening credits. Lush, orchestral makes me think of dramatic events. A good start... IV A New Hope? Did I somehow miss the first three in this series? Or is it like I. V. as in needing a transfusion? Roman numerals can be confusing. These rolling credits are fun. Reminds me of those old Flash Gordon serials they show on late night TV. It seems Mr. Lucas is a filmmaker that respects the past.

The plot: There seems to be trouble within the galactic empire and the rebel force. I think the empire is represented by the ones in white body armor, but it’s a little hard to tell who is who. There is a princess. I remember reading about her. She’s played by Debbie Reynolds’s daughter. Great, now I just had a flashback to Singin’ in the Rain. I don’t know why my concentration is so off.
Wow, look at this guy. A hard breathing, black cloaked and helmeted authority figure. Wonder if he’s bad guy? Wink, wink. I thought there was suppose to be more gray area in films today. Not that it might not be Travis Bickle underneath that cloak. The figure has the distinctive voice of James Earl Jones of The Great White Hope. For some reason the phrase “This is CNN” keeps running through my suddenly pounding head. What the heck is a CNN?

There are a couple of androids that are beginning to remind me of the supporting characters in Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. In fact the swipes between scene breaks is also reminiscent of Kurosawa and other older films. Like I said, a filmmaker that respects the past. The gay android is CPO3 (reminiscent of the gay robot in Woody Allen’s Sleeper) and the other is D2R2. (I might not have their names right, I was jotting this down quickly). CPO3 reminds me of a metallic Dr. Smith from Lost in Space. D2R2 reminds me of the cute little robots from Silent Running. Like I said, a filmmaker who respects the past, but let’s not go overboard shall we George?

The robots come to a planet, battle some little Sand People (can’t decide if they are supposed to be cute or menacing) and deliver a message that gets to Luke Skywalker, who I presume is the hero of this piece by the softer version of the movie's theme that plays every time he appears on camera. Earlier, we learn that Luke wants to go away from home, but his Uncle wants him to till the crops or something like that until next year. Now what film does this remind me of? I got it! It’s a Wonderful Life! George Bailey has to work at the building and loan as Harry gets to go off and be a football hero at Fill-in-the-blank state. Damn you Harry.

Anyway, when Luke says anything, even something innocent like “I was going to Toole Station to pick up some power converters!” He sounds like a teenage girl complaining about not getting invited to the prom by the right guy.

Luke runs into the android’s old master played by (Hip Hooray a familiar actor!) none other that Sir Alec Guinness. Obi-Wan Kenobi. Got to admit that’s a pretty cool name.

Well, the Empire’s men, called storm troopers (As in Nazi storm troopers?) kill Luke’s remaining family. After Luke’s discovery of his murdered family, I can definitely feel a bildungsroman story coming on!

Oh, sorry. I must be getting a migraine. I kept picturing an obnoxious and strange creature that looked like an anteater named, Jar Jar I think? Where did that come from? Well, it was scary in an annoying way. I’ve taken a couple of aspirin. I must say after my daydream about this Jar Jar creature, CPO3 now seems much more palatable to me. Back to the movie.

Luke and Obi-Wan (still a cool name) try to get a pilot and a ship to take them to the Alderon system to rescue the prince or fight the empire or something. Sorry, I lost some of the plot thanks to this dream about this stupid anteater.

Anyway, they come to a kind of intergalactic biker bar and come across this hotshot pilot named Solo and his furry co-pilot he calls Chewy. They are hired. Solo kills a bounty hunter and tells an alien named Jabba that he’ll get his money. What happens to Jabba? We never see him again!

Throughout, Obi Wan is teaching Luke to use a mind/religion/yoga technique called the force. I almost called it the Schwartz, though I’m not sure why. Solo thinks the force is a waste of time. Luke is a willing disciple of the force. Is this a metaphor for the battle between religion and science? I could be reading too much into it. Of course, Obi-Wan’s (still a cool name) mind probes remind me of Mr. Spock’s in Star Trek. I’m growing a bit weary of Mr. Lucas’s “tributes.” to other sources.

Alderon is destroyed by the empire and Governor Tarkin (played by horror star Peter Cushing). Too bad we don’t get to see a one on one confrontation between Cushing and Guinness, though we do get to see a battle with fancy laser swords between Obi-Wan and Tarkin’s subordinate black cloaked figure. And what happens to Obi-Wan? He just kind of disappears in the middle of battle.

I’m feeling kind of faint now. I’ve got to keep moving through this. Alderon’s destruction reminds me of Star Trek when a Vulcan ship is destroyed and Spock feels it on the Enterprise (Obi-Wan feels a disruption in the force), the tractor beam reminds me of Lost in Space. The weapons called blasters remind me of Forbidden Planet. OK! George likes to copy other films and TV shows. Looks like it’s something I’ve got to accept.

Moving on. Solo and Luke try to rescue Debbie Reynolds’s daughter from the giant Star of Death. Debbie Reynolds’s daughter is a lot less whiny that Luke, in fact her voice is quite manly. They battle the storm troopers, fall into a garbage chute (a good scene, but the troopers aren’t very observant to not find them in there sooner)and escape the star of death. They regroup and Luke joins the rebels to attack the star of death. Most of the rebels are killed. Luke uses his mind trick to get to the Star of Death, aided at the last second by Solo.

The Star of Death is destroyed. Debbie Reynolds’s daughter gives Luke and Han a Nobel Peace Prize or something. I assume Luke and Debbie Reynolds’s daughter get married. And fittingly, Chewy gets the last growl of the movie.

Sure, Mark Hamill as Luke is whiny. But I think that’s the point. I think he’ll go on to do bigger and better things. I just read he’s doing a movie for next year called Corvette Summer. Now, that sounds like a hit. I’m not sure about his co-star Harrison Ford. His cynical character Solo is a good contrast to Luke’s exuberance, but can this actor play anything else? I noticed Ford’s not going to be in Corvette Summer. (Prediction: Corvette Summer will make three times as much money as Star Wars. I didn’t say life was fair!)

This film was quite a departure for George Lucas after the more personal American Graffiti. I don’t see Star Wars as being a big hit, but it has the opportunity to gain cult status as the years go by. I predict this movie was just a diversion for Lucas. I think he’ll go back to directing smaller, more personal films after this.

I’m also not sure about calling this episode IV. I really don’t see any room for future films here. Good already conquered evil and owww…Damn, why can I not get this picture of the Muppets out of my head now?

You know, I did enjoy this movie, but I would have liked it more without these damn headaches! That’s all for now, I’ve got to rest, only a couple months to go before the premiere of Close Encounters of the Third Kind!