Sunday, April 30, 2006

 

Mystery, Murder and Music! What More Could You Want?

As rising burlesque star Dixie Daisy, Barbara Stanwyck sings the suggestive line "Take it off the E String, play it on the G String," in Lady of Burlesque, a curious mix of a film directed by William A. Wellman (best known for his work on Wings, the first film to win an Oscar for Best Picture) and based on the novel The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee. Part mystery (although one that never rises above the quality of a lesser Charlie Chan caper), part musical (featuring little known songs by the great Sammy Cahn and Harry Akst), and part comedy, Lady of Burlesque, may not be very good, but it's fun and certainly never stops moving, just as its characters never stop talking (the scripty dialogue throughout is filled with innuendos, one liners and manufactured metaphors). The film concerns itself with a couple of nights in the life of a troupe of Burlesque performers -- tough talking and competitive gals, love sick comics, including Pink Lee (who pine for the women from a dressing room one floor above), and a back stage crew left over from the time when the theater, where they perform, was an opera house. The film front-ends the two featured songs and then morphs into a comedic murder mystery when some of the girls are found dead, with g-strings tied around their necks. Still, no genuine sense of danger is ever really created, and the actors go through their paces, and patter patter away, as the mystery resolves itself in an abrupt, and unsatisfying, ending. Regardless, the film is worth watching, if for no other reason than to experience genuine B-level production from 1943.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

 

Bush Buffoonery on Screen

Some may feel (Jon Stewart, perhaps) that one need not look any further than the daily news coverage of President George W. Bush to witness "Bush buffoonery" on screen. And, while Bush is certainly not the first standing U.S. President to be made fun of, somehow it seems too easy with this administration. The tagline of the current film American Dreamz asks us to: "Imagine a country where the President never reads the newspaper, where the government goes to war for all the wrong reasons, and more people vote for a pop idol than their next President." Hmmmm. Imagine. Perhaps the reason the film was not a hit is the fact that imagining that isn't funny. Personally, it's much easier to accept that foreign terrorists attacked this country on 9/11 (as United 93 depicts) than it is to ponder too long on the series of mistakes made following that event, not just by the current administration -- but by the people of this country who voted that administration in A SECOND TIME!

Friday, April 28, 2006

 

Rewriting 9/11

Which of these do you choose to believe: 1) The attacks on September 11, 2001 were the results of years of careful planning by foreign terrorists, and the United States government did not know enough specifically about these plans to stop them? 2) The attacks on September 11, 2001 were the results of years of careful planning by foreign terrorists, but, the United States government knew they would happen, and allowed them? Or 3) The Untied States government itself planned and executed the attacks on September 11, 2001? As United 93, the first major Hollywood film about the events of 9/11, opens this week, scores of (far-flung) 9/11 conspiracy films are gaining popularity via the Internet -- the most popular of these being a film entitled Loose Change, which posits, among other things, that a missile, and not a plane, hit the Pentagon on 9/11. A couple of weeks ago, a regular reader of "Movies on My Mind" (whose name I won't reveal) sent me a link to this film and eagerly encouraged me to view it and to "keep an open mind." Here's the thing -- In a post 9/11 world, especially in a country whose citizens don't even believe we should be hit by a naturally occurring event, such as a hurricane, minds have been opened more than they ever hoped to be. And wild theories begin to fly in. (Do you know the one about folding a $20 bill to reveal the smoldering Twin Towers as PROOF the government knew it would happen? The irony that that was shown to me by a paranoid pothead has never been lost on me.) Unfortunately, these theories are compounded by the current administration's penchant for seemingly continuous lies. So, in the end, here's what you get: the attacks of 9/11, which many Americans (arrogantly enough) felt could never happen on U.S. soil + an administration that seems to be covering thing up = 9/11 conspiracy films. But here's the thing about conspiracies (as a wise friend of mine once pointed out) -- we give the people supposedly behind these conspiracies too much damn credit. Let's face it, people can't keep ANYTHING a secret (especially in this country). Yet theories still abound about widespread, massive cover-ups involving everything from the Kennedy assassinations to outer space aliens! Unfortunately (but understandably), the events of 9/11 have joined that group. And why? The simple answer is: In general, we humans give each other little reason to trust one another. Now, do I always think the "official story" is the real story? Of course not. But some conspiracy theories go just a little too far. Ever watch Oliver Stone's JFK (which I happen to love)? By the end of that film, Stone would have you believe EVERYONE was involved in killing Kennedy, including you, me, and the milkman! (Hey, maybe the The Rolling Stones did have it right when they said, "I shouted out, Who killed the Kennedy's? When after all It was you and me.")

Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

Crisis at the Vatican

Here we go again! Call out the Swiss Guard! Alert the media! Proclaim a boycott! Another movie is opening up that may shake the very foundations of the Christian religion! Really? Hmmm. Is the faith of the Christian religion so fragile that a movie starring the best loved actor in Hollywood, Tom Hanks, and directed by Ron Howard (Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham himself) going to shake it? I don't think so. But the Vatican thinks so (again), and has proclaimed (again), that the faithful boycott a film (again). This time it's The Da Vinci Code, a story which puts into doubt the historical accuracy of Jesus' life. Now, I have these questions. 1) Did the official close to Pope Benedict XVI actually see the film before proclaiming a boycott? (Protestors in general, whether they be Christian -- The Last Temptation of Christ -- or Jewish -- The Passion of the Christ -- generally don't see the film first.) 2) Is this official aware that The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction -- or at best, a work of speculation? (Which, of course, many believe The Bible is as well.) 3) Does he further realize that by calling for a boycott, he will make more people want to see the film? 4) Are Christians worldwide able to have their faith so easily shaken? That would say a lot more about the faith than it would about this film. Don't you think?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

 

Two Triangles

Shopgirl (written by Steve Martin, based on his novella, and directed by Anand Tucker) and Match Point (written and directed by Woody Allen) -- both excellent films -- were both, fittingly, released the same week on DVD. It was interesting watching these films back-to-back, as both deal with a relationship triangle -- in Shopgirl, a woman and two men, in Match Point, a man and two women. While the outcomes of each are quite different, the elements involved in both are rather similar, not the least of which is the involvement of money. In Shopgirl, the central female character, Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes), is willing to leave her wealthy boyfriend Ray Porter (played with great pathos by Martin) -- who she believes she "loves" -- simply because he can't say he loves her back; while in Match Point the central male character, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is ultimately willing to kill the woman he claims to love, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), so he can retain the comfortable life he has established with his wealthy (if somewhat nagging and spoiled) wife. Obviously, men and women come in all flavors, and these two films expose us to six of them. Yet, it is further interesting that insecurities drives the action of both films. Ray Porter and Jeremy Kraft (Jason Schwartzman), his ultimate rival for Mirabelle's attention, both suffer from insecurities, as does Mirabelle herself (she requires anti-depressants). The same holds true for the characters of Match Point, but the difference in each film is the pivotal actions of the person at the point of each triangle. Both of these characters are at a crossroads in their lives -- neither's life has gone as they might have hoped. Mirabelle wants to be an artist, but allows herself to be a salesperson at the woman's decorative glove department at Saks (even though no one buys decorative gloves anymore). Chris Wilton, is a former tennis pro who's career never got passed a certain point. He wants more. So does Mirabelle. And initially, both turn to another with money to give them that "more." Mirabelle allows herself to find sexual and emotional satisfaction with her wealthy boyfriend as well. Chris has neither sexual nor emotional satisfaction with his rich wife and seeks it in the arms of Nola. However, when both reach a crisis point -- and a point of decision making -- Mirabelle opts to leave the money and hope for love (or the closest thing she can get to it) elsewhere. (Is this the pragmatic thing to do?) When push comes to shove for Chris -- as his mistress Nola becomes pregnant, in a rather Fatal Attraction sort of way -- he refuses to lose what he has gained (even though he has subjugated his very self to get it) and is willing to kill to keep it. Both films are amazingly well acted, and shed important insights on male and female relations, and what affects them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

Enough With Jennifer Aniston Already

Can we please have a moratorium on Jennifer Aniston movies -- especially the Jennifer Aniston "indie" film projects? (Is it me, or is Aniston on course to surpass Samuel L. Jackson soon?) In addition to her role as Rachel in the TV series Friends, and special guest appearances on other TV shows, in the last decade, Aniston has made 15 feature films. That's right, 15 films in 10 years. Wow! I can't remember the last Sundance Film Festival that didn't feature a Jennifer Aniston film. Every time I turn, around a new Aniston film seems to be opening: Friends with Money (2006), Rumor Has It... (2005), Derailed (2005), Along Came Polly (2004), Bruce Almighty (2003), The Good Girl (2002), Rock Star (2001), The Iron Giant (1999), Office Space (1999), The Object of My Affection (1998), The Thin Pink Line (1998), 'Til There Was You (1997), Picture Perfect (1997), She's the One (1996), and Dream for an Insomniac (1996). Jennifer, you've perfected the forlorn look and pained smile, so take a break. There is such a thing as overexposure. Go on vacation, perhaps. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. While you're at it, stop posing for magazines (we've seen enough of your breasts and ass, honestly) and stop telling everyone how you are over Brad Pitt (he seems to be pretty over you, too).

Monday, April 24, 2006

 

Paul Icolari, Rocky Psychic

Paul Icolari -- lifelong friend, Best Man at my wedding, my daughter's Godfather -- it turns out, is also a psychic when it comes to Rocky films. Here's a true story -- one I wouldn't believe if I wasn't there to experience it myself. It was November 29, 1985 -- two days after Rocky IV had opened to huge boxoffice, and was well on its way to becoming the most successful entry in the series. I had just seen the film with Paul, and our friends Lisa and Richard. We gathered back at Paul's house that brisk November night and, while playing a game of "Quarters," we wondered what a Rocky V would be like. "Here's what I think they should do," said Paul, "Rocky looses his money, but will be too old to fight. He'll inherit Mickey's old gym, and become a trainer like Mickey, and he'll train a new "Rocky." Then that guy will rape Adrian, and Rocky will have a street brawl with him." Five years later, almost to the day, Rocky V opened. The plot was as follows: Rocky looses hit fortunes. He returns to the old neighborhood and learns that Mickey has willed the old gym to him. He meets an eager young boxer, and takes him under his wing. The new boxer turns his back on Rocky, becomes the new heavyweight champ and ultimately calls Rocky out onto the street for a fight to determine the better man. Wow! I was shocked. How could Paul have been that close five years in advance?! Then earlier this year, I mentioned in a piece here at "Movies on My Mind" that it appeared Sony Pictures was not going to take advantage of the fact that 2006 is the 30th anniversary of the release of the original Rocky. The scheduled release date for the latest sequel, Rocky Balboa, was February 2007. Commenting on here as "Getmeup," Icolari made another Rocky prediction: "Don't be surprised if the release date gets moved up to coincide with the 30th anniversary. Rocky was released November 21, 1976. Can you say on or about?" And Icolari was right again! Sony recently moved up the release date of Rocky Balboa from February 2007 to December 2006. I wonder if Rocky Psychic looks good on a resume?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

 

Hostel & Gretel

Despite its explicit gore, writer/director Eli Roth's latest film -- the boxoffice hit, Hostel (which just arrived on DVD) -- is actually a cautionary tale much in the spirit of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. "Hansel and Gretel" specifically comes to mind. It's no mistake that Roth also sets his story in Europe (the birthplace of Grimm fairy tales), where here, out-of-their-element Americans are backpacking across the continent and are unwittingly drawn closer to their deaths by the allure of "something sweet." But Roth replaces the actual candies and gingerbread of "Hansel and Gretel" with the promise of sweet sex with beautiful young women. It's also no mistake that the real danger only occurs when the young Americans are willing to venture deeper into Eastern Europe (the home of vampires and werewolves of lore). On the surface, the story here is pretty simple -- As in most horror films, sex will eventually equal death. And there is no mistake about the fact that the young (an sometimes "ugly") Americans are on a mission to find European women to bed. So, naturally they are intrigued when a European stranger shows them photos of a hostel (hotel) with beautiful women willing to have sex, and directs them to it. The promise of a "sure thing" sends the friends out "into the woods" of Eastern Europe searching for their "sweets." And like the young brother and sister team of the fairy tale, once they get a taste, they find it difficult to leave. The witch's house is replaced with a "death factory," and the witch, with business men who will pay dearly to have the opportunity to kill humans in any manner they wish. The grisly images of the death factory is what has given Hostel its infamous reputation. But, when you think about it, is "softening up" men with sex, so they can be lured to their deaths, really any more gruesome than "fattening up" a little boy, so he can be cooked in a witch's oven?! Like the witch of the Grimm fairy tale, the "monsters" of this film meet an equally horrible fate in the end as well. What Roth has done is create a fairy tale for our times -- perhaps with more blood, yes -- but certainly with no more of a gruesome nature than the stories so many parents read their children just before tucking them to bed.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

 

Private Lessons - Then and Now

It was 25 years ago...an independent film entitled Private Lessons opened starring soft sore superstar Sylvia Kristel as Nicole Mallow, a French maid who seduces 15-year-old rich boy Philly Fillmore (played by 15-year-old actor Eric Brown). Not a particularly good film, Private Lessons caused an instant buzz and quickly developed a cult following of teenage boys -- all of whom wished they were Philly. In fact, the poster for the film suggested as much -- "What happened to him, should happen to you." Sure! It was every 15-year-old boy's wet dream! The film opened in the "Reagan Era," which is generally considered to have been a move toward more conservative thinking in the country. Yet, ironically, even though in many ways the film is tame by current standards, Private Lessons would not be able to be made today (especially as Congress attempts to crack down on even simulated sex scenes in mainstream films), and certainly not with a 15-year-old lead actor participating in the overt sex sequences of this film -- including watching Kristel undress (a la The Graduate); bathing with a nude Kristel; massaging her breasts; removing her panties under the table at a French bistro; and undressing together for a night of lovemaking. Also, in the 25 years since this film's release, real life "private lessons" cases, involving attractive female teachers, have made the news. Debra Lafave, a 24-year-old middle school English teacher in Tampa, FL escaped jail time for having sex with a 14-year-old student. (Critics claimed being a beautiful blonde helped her avoid jail.) Beth Geisel, a 42-year-old writing instructor at Christian Brothers Academy -- as well as a mother of four, and wife of a bank president -- according to police, had sex with a 16-year-old student inside her own home, located in Colonie, NY (near Albany), as her own children slept downstairs. In 1996, Mary Kay Letourneau -- once a respected elementary school teacher in Washington state -- was 34, married, and the mother of four, when she began having sex with her 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau. She was pregnant with their first child when she was arrested in March 1997. After pleading guilty, her seven-and-a-half year prison sentence was reduced to just six months (on the condition that she enter a treatment program, and have no further contact with the boy). Would there have been a reduced sentence if it had been a 34-year-old male teacher and a 12-year-old female student? Upon her release, however, she continued to have sex with him, and conceived a second child. She was sent back to prison to complete her original sentence. When she was again released on August 4, 2004, she and Fualaau married. Interesting what a difference 25 years makes.

Friday, April 21, 2006

 

Tiny Ads

On Fridays -- in the days before widespread basic cable and home video -- when the major movie studios were opening their films with full page or even two-page ads in The New York Times, the low-budget studio might barely be able to afford more than a three inch ad to announce its film. There was always something that attracted me to the smaller ads. What kind of film could only afford such a tiny ad? Well, they were usually horror films -- the kind you would never hear from again. But these films intrigued me, and I even cut out, and saved a few of the ads -- and have then to this day. Films such as: Terror in the Forest, Night of the Zombies, When the Screaming Stops, Psycho from Texas, the double bill of Driller Killer and Drive-In Massacre, Night of the Bloody Apes, Basket Case, Kill and Go Hide, Cathy's Curse, Axe, Don't Go in the Woods, and Piranha II: The Spawning (which, by the way, was James Cameron's directorial debut). To my knowledge the film that holds the record for the smallest opening day ad ever is The Devonsville Terror -- the entire ad measuring no more that an inch and a half. But these films, and these ads, are testament to a bygone era of moviegoing. These were the types of films that played in independently owned neighborhood movie theaters for a week or two. Then the homevideo market claimed them as its own, and these movies became known as "direct-to-video" products. These kinds of films don't open in theaters any longer. So tiny ads are no longer purchased in newspapers to announce them.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

 

Mamma Mia! Coming to the Big Screen

Hollywood has not given up on musicals yet -- especially if Tom Hanks likes one. Despite poor box office from such recent big screen versions of Broadway hits The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and The Producers, the film industry is forging ahead with the production of big screen musicals based on Dreamgirls, scheduled for release later this year, and the smash hit, Mamma Mia!, based on the music of late 70s super group ABBA, scheduled for a late 2007 opening. Mamma Mia! -- which tells the story of a bride-to-be who locates three men who might be her father and invites them to her wedding -- and has grossed more than $1.6 billion worldwide since opening in 1999, according to Variety, is set to be produced for the screen by Tom Hanks. (The stage show is produced by Judy Craymer, and ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.) So, what exactly is it about ABBA songs that has given them such staying power -- first radio, then live theater and now film? In the Variety report about the film deal, producer Craymer was quoted as saying, "We've never had stars in the show, the music has always been the star, but we are certainly thinking about names as we take this from the stage to the screen," leading ABBA fans on the forums at the official ABBA website, www.abbasite.com buzzing with speculation as to who might play the roles. Casting suggestions for female roles in the film have included (Hank's wife) Rita Wilson, Kate Jackson, Olivia Newton-John, and Nicole Kidman, and for male roles -- John Travolta, Russel Crowe, Heath Ledger and Hugh Grant. If successful, will we see Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp's stage hit Movin' Out (based on the songs of Joel) hit the screen next? Will anticipation for the Mamma Mia! movie keep the flames of this movie musical revival alive or will it be the last flickers of a dying fire?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

Bird Flu Hits America!! (in an irresponsible TV movie)

Don't we live with enough fear in our lives? Does ABC really need to turn it up a notch? In a clear case of fear mongering, ABC kept secret, until this Tuesday, a "worst case scenario" television movie about Avian Flu entitled Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America, which will air during a sweeps month, on May 9. Reportedly, entertainment columnists around the country were shocked to learn of the ABC made-for-TV disaster movie -- which stars Stacy Keach, Joely Richardson, Ann Cusack and Justina Machado -- as the network had been successful in keeping the production completely under wraps. The fictional film details an outbreak of deadly Avian Flu, from its origins in a Hong Kong market, through its mutation into a virus that is transmittable from human to human, around the world. That's pretty scary stuff. The film's co-producer Diana Kerew said in an interview with The New York Post that the network kept the project secret because "The world changes very quickly, and we wanted to make sure at the point we were ready to unveil [the movie] that we were accurate and up-to-date." But I don't believe her. I think ABC saved this one up so audiences would be hit by surprise and not be anticipating it, thus revving up the fear factor of the situation. This movie is designed to scare viewers, but not the way conventional horror movies scare viewers. Horror actually works in reverse of what ABC is doing -- it serves to offer a cathartic release for viewers who are stressed out by the concerns of the "real world" (crime, war, poverty, terrorism, pollution, etc). Here, ABC commissioned a film that exploits our knowledge of a still theoretical outbreak of a deadly flu strain, and "makes it real," thus raising the stress factor for all who will see it. After all, for months now, news programs have been speculating if this strain of Avian Flu will be the worst outbreak of deadly flu the world has ever seen; wondering if, in fact, one in three people around the world will actually contract it; wondering if it will kill millions of people in a short period of time. And ABC decided to pander to these fears. Of course, as with 9/11, if the Bird Flu virus had already mutated and spread, no one would touch such a movie with a ten foot pole. (Look at the outcry that it's "too soon" to make 9/11 movies.) To produce such a film while millions were dying around the world would be deemed irresponsible and tasteless, right? It would be left to the low-budget grunge filmmakers to cover and then be tagged "exploitation." But I think what ABC is doing is much worse. It's kind of like raising the terrorism warning level to orange and hoping it never truly goes to red. Think we'll see repeats of this ABC film if people are dropping around us from the real virus? This is a pathetic attempt on the part of ABC to get ratings and I deplore it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

 

Superman Returns (Again), Just in Time!

"Superman where are you now, when everything's gone wrong some how. The men of steel, men of power, are losing control by the hour." Have those lyrics from Genesis' Land of Confusion ever seemed more prophetic? But faster than a speeding bullet -- as we continue to wage an endless war in Iraq; as terrorists continue to threaten us; when peace talks between Israel and Palestine have never been more distant; as our President has put nuclear weapons on the table to "deal" with Iran; as oil prices soar upwards; as corruption eats away at the fabric of our very government -- Superman Returns is set to hit theaters. Is there any doubt the film will break records? People need Superman now more than ever. (I argued earlier on here that now would be a good time for the Lone Ranger to return to the screen as well. But admittedly, the Lone Ranger is not able to "leap tall buildings in a single bound or bend steel with his bare hands.") Desperate times need super heroes. Superman has been re-invented more times than I care to count at the moment, but those rebirths have also made him a hero for the ages. And like Great Britain's King Arthur, Superman returns when we need him most. And we may never have needed him as much as we do at this very moment. Audiences, I assure you, are ready to line up and watch good conquer evil on screen. It's no accident that Spider-man is the mega hit it is, or that Batman came roaring back to the big screen in Batman Begins. I know America is waiting for its most iconic of superheroes to help them forget that in real life, "the men of power, are losing control by the hour."

Monday, April 17, 2006

 

Must See Film: Little Manhattan

"The truth is you come into this world alone and leave it the exact same way...Love is an ugly, terrible business, practiced by fools. It'll trample your heart and leave you bleeding on the floor. And what does it really get you in the end? Nothing but a few incredible memories that you can never shake." So says Gabe, the 11-year-old narrator of Little Manhattan, a film that got away in 2005, but is just waiting to be discovered on DVD. I have never seen a more sincere or knowing or insightful look at first love, through the eyes of a child. I still remember these moments in my own life. I miss that time in my childhood when I had the luxury of pining for a girl -- a time so uncluttered by responsibilities, I could spend hours, days, weeks on end thinking of the girl of my dreams. Surely you can remember a similar time in your life. A time when your every breath, your every heartbeat was regulated by a response you received, or a gesture in your direction by the person that made your mouth dry and palms sweaty. Surely you remember the thumping of your heart pounding against your chest, or the butterflies in your stomach when you passed this person's house or saw them in the neighborhood. How every day was an eternity, and every waking thought went to your next moment together. Surely you remember. If you do, you will embrace Little Manhattan for its ability to recreate those moments with such sincerity. It's not easy to live inside the mind of the love-sick 11-year-old Gabe, but Little Manhattan's first person narrative style (similar to The Wonder Years) thrusts us into this protagonist's mind in ways that just left me smiling. I remember thinking the same things, for the same reasons. This film enters high on my list of all-time favorites. In ways that a film like Say Anything isn't able to do, Little Manhattan -- in part because of the age of its leads -- is able to convince us of the anguish felt by lost love. This film is filled with raw honest moments. "I love you. I love you. I love you," says Gabe to Rosemary, the 11-year-old girl of his dreams. Then, met with a sheepish silence, he asks "You, um, think you might want to love me too?" But this film knows moments like this are not meant to turn into "happily ever after" when you're 11. You go your way. She goes hers. These moments last a couple of weeks. Maybe a couple of days. If you're lucky, a summer. But you never forget. Sure life changes, and "business of living" clutters your mind. But deep down, you never forget what it was like to have a moment in your life, when all you thought about was her, and her eyes, and her smile and the way you thought your heart would pound through your ribs. If those moments still mean anything to you at all, I implore you to watch Little Manhattan. Because, perhaps, this film is the home movie of your memories from that time. It was for me, in ways I didn't even think were possible. I know this 11-year-old boy. He's me.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

 

Go to the Movies With Your Children!

For you movie lovers who have children -- How great is the feeling of watching the emotions of your child as they sit in a theater, laughing, or cheering, or tearing up at the movie on the screen? As a divorced father of two young children, for me, some of the greatest moments have been taking them to the movies. When I mention we're going to the movie theater, I can see in their eyes, the excitement that "going to the movies" used to hold for me. And when they react to a film, I react to their reaction. I still remember the anticipation my daughter had, soon after her mother and I separated, to our seeing Rugrats in Paris together. It was such a thrill for her to be seeing that movie with her Dad (and I felt the same way about seeing it with her). I also remember how cool it was that my son wanted to see Spider-man 2 with me. And I won't forget his reaction to The Polar Express, and how he was glued to the screen as the train in the film made its final ascent to the North Pole! My children and I have seen so many films together, and I love the fact that they have started to become "movie savvy." They eagerly tell me about new films they want to see, and they know when a particular film will "open" in a theater. Of late, we have graduated from seeing mainly animated films (Ice Age, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Piglet's Big Adventure, The Tigger Movie, The Incredibles, The Jungle Book II, Home on the Range, Clifford's Big Adventure, Robots, Madagascar, Shrek 2, A Shark's Tale, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Chicken Little, The Wild) to also include more live action films (The Country Bears, The Santa Clause 2, Two Brothers, Second Hand Lions, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Racing Stripes, Fat Albert, Garfield, Cheaper By the Dozen 2, The Pink Panther and even King Kong). When my daughter gets sad at the movies, so do I. When my son jumps for joy at certain parts of a film, so does my heart. I love feeling movies through my children's reactions. I love the energy they bring to the experience. I love that, for them, films still hold magic, excitement, anticipation and wonder! And I will keep going to the movies with them for as long as they want me along.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

 

Rascals Race Relations

Long before the Civil Rights movement in the United States, Hal Roach's Little Rascals, of the popular Our Gang comedy shorts of the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, showed white and black children harmoniously playing, laughing, (and scheming) together -- as equals. The African-American characters of Our Gang were not supporting players, but rather key members -- Farina, Stymie and Buckwheat are every bit as important to the history of The Little Rascals as their white counterparts Alfalfa, Spanky and Darla. In fact, in certain episodes you could even argue that Stymie was the "leader" of the gang. Around 1989, an urban legend began to spread that Bill Cosby had bought up the rights to the The Little Rascals episodes to prevent them from being shown on television any longer, because of their demeaning portrayal of blacks. But this rumor is false. King World Productions has owned and licensed the rights to The Little Rascals for more than 30 years. In 1997, video rights to certain episodes were licensed to Cabin Fever Entertainment, but, according to scopes.com (a site that debunks urban myths), "Bill Cosby has never owned any part of the rights to The Little Rascals." Far from being racist, the Our Gang shorts were, in fact, well ahead of their time in showing equality among the races, as it simply depicted "kids being kids."

Friday, April 14, 2006

 

Graphic Novels Take Hollywood by Storm

I was nosing around a Barnes & Noble the other day and...Bam! It hit me. Graphic novels (what some people call "serious" comics) have taken Hollywood by storm. Now, of course, I realize that graphic novels have been popular source materials for filmmakers of late, and I've even written about some of them here. But standing there, staring down at the specialty table set up to display these novels, it suddenly sank in -- the graphic novel is now the source of choice for Hollywood: Road to Perdition; Batman:Year One (which inspired Batman Begins); V For Vendetta; From Hell; Hellboy; A History of Violence; Constantine; Ghost World and (of course) Sin City. The graphic novel may have come of age in the 90s, but really hit its stride in the 21st Century, and an onslaught of films soon followed. When you think about it, the graphic novel is everything a filmmaker could want -- script, storyboard, costume design, and set design, all in one! Plus, as more and more respected directors -- like Robert Rodriguez, David Cronenberg, Christopher Nolan and Sam Mendes -- and A-list actors -- like Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Bruce Willis, Paul Newman, Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, William Hurt, and Johnny Depp -- take on graphic novel projects, the respectability of such films are sure to grow.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

 

Madagascar vs. The Wild

It's already being called Badagascar and Madagascar-lite. That's because the newest Walt Disney computer animated film, The Wild -- a movie about a lion, a giraffe, and their animal friends escaping from a New York zoo, only to end up on a wild island with dance-loving natives -- is reminiscent last year's Madagascar, a film about a lion, a giraffe, and their animal friends escaping from a New York zoo, only to end up on a wild island with dance-loving natives. Both films even invoke the song "New York, New York" -- Madagascar by verbal reference in the film itself, and The Wild as the tagline on the poster, "Start Spreading the News-paper." As I pointed out some months ago, right here at "Movies on My Mind," this is not that uncommon of a trend in Hollywood. With rare exception (Big was one), the latter film released does not fare as well. Dreamworks -- the studio behind Madagascar (as well as the Shrek films) -- is the only animation studio truly giving Disney a run for its money these days. The Ice Age franchise, from 20th Century Fox, is surely a contender, but Fox has not been able to make a non-Ice Age film fly yet. Are ideas actually so scarce in Hollywood that two films, so similar, are released within a year -- from two different studios? Are these creative minds operating in a vacuum? Surely the idea of Madagascar was floating around when The Wild was being thought up...or vice versa. I refuse to believe that neither creative team had no awareness of the other's idea. As one critic pointed out, the lesson here is, "the early bird gets the boxoffice."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

 

Smell of Desperation?

Do you smell what I smell? Just how desperate is the movie industry to draw audiences back to the theaters? Since the new millennium, 3-D glasses (once again) attempted a comeback, but (once again) failed. Now comes word that, during showings of Terrance Mallick's The New World, theaters in Japan will implement a process similar to the Smell-o-Vision process (which was initially developed in the 1950s). The service -- from telecommunications company NTT Communications, Corp. -- will, reportedly, synchronize seven smells to different parts of film. For example, a floral scent would accompany a love scene, while a peppermint/rosemary mix might be detected in the air during a scene designed to make you weep. The smells will come from designated machines under the seats in the back rows of the movie theaters. The New World tanked in the United States. Will this gimmick fill seats overseas? Is Aroma-therapy the answer to a slumping worldwide boxoffice? I don't think so. Plus, keep in mind -- despite a brief (and kitschy) revival in 1981, when director John Waters used scratch-and-sniff "Odorama" cards for his film Polyester -- the Smell-o-Vision process wasn't very popular the first time around. It was introduced in 1960, for the film Scent of Mystery. At the time, critics dismissed Smell-o-Vision as a fad, and the idea quickly disappeared. (Incidentally, Scent of Mystery was released years later as Holiday in Spain, minus the scents.) So what makes theater owners and studios believe that reviving an unpopular idea will work now?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

 

A Tale of Two Women

I had the strange benefit of recently viewing, back-to-back, director Samuel Fuller's The Naked Kiss (1964), and director Nick Broomfield's documentaries on executed serial killer Aileen Wuornos -- Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992), and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003). It's remarkable how Fuller's fictional film and the Broomfield documentaries (nearly 30 and 40 years later) complement one other, as each tells the story of a prostitute and murder. While nothing ever is as it seems in any of these films, in both cases, it's pretty easy to see where each director's leanings are. The Naked Kiss has been called a feminist film noir -- both brilliant and trashy. It may be all those, but what it isn't, is predictable. Its audacious attitude toward the conventions of the genre it "appears" to be in fool the viewer throughout. Just as we think we have our minds around where the film is headed, it takes a turn, reveals a different mood, or changes the story -- much like life. In doing this, Fuller made a film that defies categorization within a specific genre, but one nearly impossible for you not to watch. (I always enjoy a film that out smarts me.) The Broomfield documentaries on Aileen Wuornos are much the same. Just as you suspect you know where this tragic story is taking you, Broomfield's camera reveals a twist, a turn, a piece of information which allows you to at least wonder (if even for the smallest moment) whether Wuornos' actions were indeed murder, or justifiable homicide. Fuller likewise wants viewers of The Naked Kiss to wonder the same thing. And how each director gets you there is quite remarkable. What has society done to these women? Certainly Kelly (in The Naked Kiss) and Aileen (in the Broomfield documentaries), are flawed, but what are we to think when the supporting characters around them are even more flawed than they are? So the stories slowly, but methodically, force us to consider the notion of moral relativism. Is killing still considered murder if the victim is a repeat rapist or a pedophile? The stories of Kelly and Aileen are remarkable, and tragically defined journeys of two women, who couldn't escape their past, and for whom society had already passed judgment.

Monday, April 10, 2006

 

Monkey (Show) Business

Maybe Planet of the Apes wasn't too far off the mark. Monkeys will not act for bananas anymore. NBC recently reported that the fee to hire a monkey to perform in a film has shot up a whopping 20 percent over last year's asking price. Why? Well, apparently one day last year, 16 highly skilled monkey actors gave up the biz. That was followed shortly by the exodus of 12 more monkeys -- some too old, others offered an early retirement by wealthy animal activists. The resulting shortage of monkey actors resulted in the sharp spike in asking price. Some animal activists have lobbied the idea of an Animal Equity Union, which would result in a Kong-sized retirement package (valued in the millions) for the simian thespians. But that idea does not appear to have strong support in the industry. Monkeys have been a mainstay of the movie biz from the earliest Tarzan films on, including (and perhaps most famously) Bedtime for Bonzo, Every Which Way But Loose, and most recently, The Shaggy Dog. In a couple of cases, monkeys have seen their co-stars obtain political positions -- Clint Eastwood as Mayor or Carmel and Ronald Reagan as President of the United States. Can the political ambitions -- like that of their fictitious brethren in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes -- be far behind for these better paid actors?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

 

Mad Genius of Movies

With his latest film -- Cigarette Burns -- director John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) explores the hypnotic power of extraordinary movies to invade our souls. Carpenter has gone down this road before, but the last time he traveled it -- with his fim In the Mouth of Madness -- the subject was Stephen King style books. Now available on DVD, Cigarette Burns (which refers to the visual cue, seen on a movie screen, to remind a projectionist to change the reel), is Carpenter's entry into the "Masters of Horror" film series -- which also includes works from Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Dario Argento (Suspiria), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Joe Dante (The Howling), Mick Garris (The Stand) and Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator). The story is reminiscent of both 8MM and (oddly enough) the documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession. As in both of those films, Cigarette Burns tells the tale of one man's journey to find a rare film, and how it drives him to the brink of madness. In this case, the film is La fin absolue du monde (The Absolute End of the World), a legendary motion picture so infamous, every viewing of it has ended in chaos and murder. Carpenter has directed Cigarette Burns -- his best film in decades -- with all of his visual signatures in place, and then some. The film is a true cinephile's delight, which relishes (albeit in Grand Guignol fashion) the value, the mystery, and the excitement of discovering a lost work of cinema -- as well as the anticipation and the sometimes obsessive need to view it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

 

Good Year, if You're Pierre Dulaine

Having a film made about you, and your impact on society, is a rare thing indeed. So, it's quite amazing that within the span of just one year, dancer and teacher Pierre Dulaine now has two. Last year, the documentary sleeper hit Mad Hot Ballroom gave film audiences a glimpse into Dulaine's "Dancing Classrooms" -- an outreach program of ballroom dance classes for New York City public school children. The film showed how Dulaine's program not only taught children to dance, but also instilled a sense of self-confidence, teamwork, community pride, and accomplishment. Having met Dulaine, it's easy to see how he would be able to start such a program in NYC schools -- he has a very charismatic personality. Now, as Mad Hot Ballroom makes its way onto DVD, a fictional account of Dulaine's life and work, Take the Lead, has opened in theaters, with Antonio Banderas portraying Dulaine. Take the Lead might easily be dismissed as another one of Hollywood's "feel good" movies if it didn't have the weight of fact behind it. I encourage moviegoers to rent Mad Hot Ballroom before seeing Take the Lead, to help remove any of the cynicism which may creep up while watching a film which proposes the notion that teaching inner city school children how to dance can, in fact, help to change their lives. Perhaps what has led Hollywood to make two films about Dulaine and his work within one year is the very fact you simply can't make this stuff up -- convincingly. Well, you can try; but then cynical moviegoers would just dismiss it as Hollywood fakery. Take the Lead joins Lean on Me, and Stand and Deliver as films which show the importance of positively influencing young minds which might otherwise be under challenged, or simply lost in the system.

Friday, April 07, 2006

 

Cinema and the Lost Gospel of Judas

As the Christian observance of Holy Week approaches, the recent rediscovery of the lost Gospel of Judas -- in which Judas, one of Jesus' 12 disciples, goes from being history's ultimate traitor to becoming one of its greatest heroes -- put me in mind of two films which have been influenced by the 1700-year-old text, now come to light again: The Passover Plot and The Last Temptation of Christ. Both films propose the idea that Jesus not only orchestrated own his death to fulfill prophecy, but in both cases, asked Judas to do him the "favor" of handing him over to authorities who would ultimately kill him. For mainstream Christian believers, that notion is tantamount to blasphemy, but those two films -- while perhaps the most radical -- are not the only ones to explore with greater complexity Judas' key role in the passion of Jesus. Franco Zeffirelli's masterful account of the life of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth also proposed the idea that Judas was not so much a traitor as a victim of a double-cross, unaware that his leading the Jewish authorities to Jesus would result in his master's death. The accepted Biblical text actually says very little about Judas, leaving filmmakers over the years to fill in the holes of the story and theorize as to the motive for Judas' actions. So, it will be interesting to see how the newly published Gospel of Judas will impact cinema's exploration of this character in the future.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

 

President Giuliani?

Will Rudolph Giuliani be the next president of the United States? Will he be able win the Republican party's nomination? Will he even run in 2008? These are questions many have been asking as 2006 mid-term elections approach and President George W. Bush's administration appears to be in free fall. Every poll taken to this point indicates Giuliani is the most recognized name associated with -- and the person most likely to receive -- the Republican nomination for president. However, in our media-centric -- and often short-minded -- country, Giuliani's first hurdle to the White House may well come in the form of a politically charged, and reportedly unflattering, documentary entitled Giuliani Time, which is set to open next month. In the summer of 1997, when Giuliani was mayor of New York City, allegations of prisoner abuse erupted concerning Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, who, while in custody, was sodomized by police officers with a broomstick. From his hospital bed, Louima claimed, before his attack, the officers shouted "It's Giuliani time!" Through a wave of negative criticism that followed, Giuliani stood firm, and Louima ultimately recanted his claim and admitted he had lied about the "Giuliani time" statement being made by the officers. Still, producer/director Kevin Keating chose to use the fictitious term as the title of his "documentary." For some, Giuliani is the former crusading U.S. District Attorney who took on the mob, the fearless hero and leader of 9/11, and the no-nonsense, get-it-done mayor who turned New York City around, cleaned it up, and made it safer -- and more prosperous -- than it had been in decades. For others, he's the former Ronald Reagan administration member -- with ties to the Mafia -- and a totalitarian mayor who enacted a zero tolerance, near-fascist policy, turning New York into a fearsome police state, with little regard for the homeless and less fortunate. Giuliani Time seems to lean toward the latter. So, what impact, if any, will it have on the public's perception of the potential presidential candidate? Will it much matter? Afterall, Michael Moore's brilliant Fahrenheit 9/11, which took on the questionable actions of President Bush administration, had no appreciable impact on the 2004 elections. So, if Giuliani Time has any negative impact, it may be far too soon for it to truly sway voters' choices two years from now.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

 

Slither Rips Off Night of the Creeps

When I first read about, and saw print ads for, the horror film Slither, I just presumed it was a remake of the 1986 film Night of the Creeps. Afterall, the plot of the two films were identical. But when the film opened, much to my surprise, no official credit was given to the earlier film. So, I began to wonder if I was the only one who remembered that the events of the earlier film were the same as the new film. I did an online search, and lo and behold, the Internet was buzzing with horror fans who were asking the same question. I further discovered that the writer/director of Slither, James Gunn (who also wrote the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead), participated in a Fangoria magazine sponsored Slither live event which took place in Chicago in early March. When asked if Slither's seemingly undeniable similarities to Night of the Creeps was intentional, Gunn reportedly "swore up and down to having not seen the film while working on the script or directing his movie," though he admits that the features do mirror each other. Mirror each other huh? Hmmm. Do I detected the scent of a lawsuit? Let's examine the facts. In 1986's Night of the Creeps -- written and directed by Fred Dekker -- alien parasites, in the form of giant slugs, enter humans through the mouth, and transform their hosts (mostly teenagers) into killer zombies. In 2006's Slither, a small town is taken over by an alien plague, when slug-like alien parasites, which enter humans through the mouth, turn the residents into zombies and mutant monsters. The tagline for the 1986 film was, "If You Scream...You're Dead." The tagline for the 2006 film -- "What Ever You Do... Don't Scream." Hmmm. Both films actually owe a debt of gratitude to David Cronenberg's 1975 Shivers, in which similar slug-like parasites infect their human hosts in much the same way. (Hell, it almost feels like a David Letterman Oscar night routine: "Slither. Shivers. Shivers. Slither.") Also, compare the "girl in the tub" poster art for the Cronenberg film (when it was known as They Came From Within) with the poster art for Slither. At the Fangoria event, Gunn, at least, apparently, admitted he did "rip off" the Cronenberg film "a little bit." It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, develops.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

Let's Roll...The Trailer!

"Let's Roll!" was the battle cry from the heroic passengers aboard the doomed 9/11 flight United 93 as terrorists' plans to crash that plane into the White House were foiled by these passengers. The plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field instead, killing all aboard. "Let's Roll" -- as in let's roll the film projectors -- should also be the battle cry at the 3000 plus theaters showing the trailer for the upcoming film United 93 which depicts the details of the flight. America Online (AOL) reacted quickly to a supposed outcry to remove the United 93 trailer from theaters and polled its members as to whether the trailer should in fact be pulled, or perhaps shown with a warning label. Here's my emphatic answer to both questions -- "No!" The poll agrees -- An overwhelming 84 percent of those who responded said the United 93 trailer should not be pulled from theaters (and 41 percent of those also believed there should not be a warning label before showing it). An impressive 64 percent of those who responded said they are interested in seeing more films about 9/11. So what if this trailer shocks viewers. The events of 9/11 were shocking. And five years out from the events themselves is not too soon to explore what happened on film. Yes, thousands of families lost members on 9/11, but hundreds of thousands of families lost members during Vietnam and millions of families lost members during World War II, and some of the best films Hollywood has ever produced, tackled the events of those conflicts. The Deer Hunter and Coming Home -- the first significant films to dramatize Vietnam -- came out five years after the war ended. World War II films, such as The Best Years of Our Lives came out even quicker. The events of 9/11 are not off limits; the lives lost on that day no more or less sacred than the lives lost in battles during Vietnam or WW II. Now, some might argue that these were civilian lives. True. All the more reason for the country to see 9/11 films. People should see this trailer and the film itself. What are we shielding ourselves from?

Monday, April 03, 2006

 

Wal-Mart is a Store not a Church

I am sick and tired of Wal-Mart being used as a moral battleground in the United States. The American Family Association (AFA), the Mississippi-based group which began life as an anti-abortion activist organization -- but has since taken on Walt Disney for what it claims was subliminal sexual content in its films, and this past December attacked Wal-Mart for not saying "Merry Christmas" to its customers -- has struck again. The AFA is now calling on all Christians in the United States to boycott Wal-Mart for the store's decision to stock and sell the Academy Award nominee for Best Picture (and winner for Best Director, Screenplay and Score), Brokeback Mountain -- the story of two gay men carrying on a decades-long love affair in private. Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the AFA, has reportedly said the movie -- despite winning three Academy Awards -- is not "family-friendly," and it does not belong on the shelves of a store that has marketed itself to middle America. Bullshit! Why not? Since when does middle America have a lock on morality in this country? Is Sharp (stupidly) suggesting that simply because Wal-Mart targets families that want (or need) to conserve money, these families are somehow morally superior to families in different tax brackets? Sharp doesn't seem to realize Wal-Mart is a store, not a church. Its decision to offer lower cost products does not make it "family friendly," it simply makes it a discount store. To its credit, Wal-Mart has rebuked the protests, and plans to sell the title at its 3900 locations. Wal-Mart is not pushing a "gay agenda, by trying to normalize homosexuality in society," as Sharp was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying. That would be like saying Wal-Mart is trying to promote a "vigilante agenda" by selling Dirty Harry films, or a "mass murder agenda" by selling the R-rated Friday the 13th titles, or an "organized crime agenda" by selling The Godfather films, all of which it carries. Clearly these films are not "family friendly" either. But Sharp and the AFA say nothing of Wal-Mart stocking and selling of these films. Yet, the media does not challenge the AFA on this, and furthermore gives validity to the AFA's bullshit agenda by covering the Brokeback Mountain protest. Americans still live in a country that was at least founded on the principle that "all men are created equal." Sharp seems to imply that middle American Christians are a little more equal than the rest. Wal-Mart should never bow to a Christian, Jewish (the Wal-Mart watchdog site www.globalwatchwalmart.com recently accused the store of being anti-Semitic for selling the book The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion), Islamic, or any organized religious agenda for that matter. Wal-Mart is not forcing its middle American Christian customers to buy Brokeback Mountain or its Jewish customers to buy The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion for that matter. The packaging for the DVD release of Brokeback Mountain is in no way offensive, and calls no attention to itself. Say, here's a radical idea: when you go shopping at Wal-Mart, if you don't want to watch Brokeback Mountain, don't buy it.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

 

Time for a Return to Gasoline Alley

The progressive comic strip, "Gasoline Alley," created by Frank King in 1919 -- and still running original strips today (now by Jim Scancarelli) -- was made into a quickie B-movie of the same name (and a sequel, Corky of Gasoline Alley) both in 1951, no doubt to cash in on the comic-to-screen success of Blondie. At the time, the strip had already been running in papers for 32 years. Today, the strip has been in continuous daily circulation for 87 years! It's time for a new adaptation to be made -- one that could now encompass the trials and tribulations of four generations of a family that spans the entire 20th Century. When it came along, "Gasoline Alley" was the first strip in which the characters actually aged (as well as got married, became pregnant, and passed away). The strip, which originally focused on a group of garage mechanics, hit its stride on Valentine's Day 1921, when the main character, a bachelor named Walt Wallet finds a baby boy left on his doorstep. The wife-less Wallet decides to keep the baby (nearly unheard of in 1921), which he names Skeezix, and raises alone, until he eventually gets married to Phyllis and has children of his own (Judy and Corky). Skeezix, coming along when he did, became part of the generation to grow up during the Great Depression and fight in World War II. Wallet's attempts to raise Skeezix created a great deal of interest in the strip, which, at its height, reached millions of readers a day. The 1951 film adaptations, both written and directed by Edward Bernds, were clearly an attempt to create a franchise, and had little interest in exploring the scope of the strip up to that point. Rather, the films zoned in on the young adult characters in the strip, namely Skeezix's younger brother Corky, and his newlywed bride. Today, with central character Walt Wallet now more than 100 years old, and his wife Phyllis recently passed on, a filmmaker could take what has become a sizeable family in the Wallets, and create an epic motion picture of small town life in 20th Century America. Afterall, the Wallet clan, and its connections to the small, family-run service station that gives the strip its name, are the essence of working class Americans. Their dreams are our dreams, and their adventures are our adventures. It could be a great film, tailor made for the talents of a Ron Howard, whose fictional boyhood town of Mayberry (and its colorful cast of characters) owe more than a bit to the folks at "Gasoline Alley."

Saturday, April 01, 2006

 

Bogdanovich Nails It!

I recently read an article in The Los Angeles Times by director Peter Bogdanovich entitled, "Moving Away From the Movie Theater." I highly recommend that you read it. (It's still available online at www.latimes.com.) In it, Bogdanovich touches on many of the topics and points brought up here at "Movies on My Mind," including the death of the neighborhood theater, the overall decline of the movie-going experience, the lack of great films, the communal experience of watching a film, and the horror of films being shown on iPods! Over the years, Bogdanovich, who has, on more than one occasion, (including a stint at the L.A.-based DVD Entertainment Conference, which I used to promote) shown a penchant for name dropping, is never-the-less, a true lover of film -- having himself, directed, among others, The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, and Mask. Here's an excerpt from his piece: "Movies, when you used to see them on the big screen, had a mystery that they no longer have. For one thing, they were irretrievable: Once the first and second runs were past, most films were not easy to see again. They were much, much larger than life and therefore instantly mythic (screens and theaters were a lot bigger before the multiplex arrived). And they were inexorable; once a film had started, there was no pausing it or in any way stopping its relentless forward motion." I couldn't agree more. Bogdanovich's passion for film oozes out of the article. Here's an idea he proposes which I whole-heartedly support: "Wouldn't it be a great thing," suggests Bogdanovich, in the article, "if all the studios pooled their resources and opened large-scale revival theaters in every major city as a way of promoting DVDs of older films, which remain difficult to move in the kind of bulk everyone would like?" Yes, it would be a great thing. Most of pop culture has taught us that everything old is new again. If something is retro enough, a whole new generation may be waiting to claim it as their own. (Sony, I think is betting its newly purchased Rocky and Pink Panther franchises on that notion. Lucy Liu is betting the same thing with her revival of the Charlie Chan franchise.) Bogdanovich's article is certainly one of the best I have read on film in many a year and deserves not only to be read, but to be clipped (or printed out) and revisited time and time again -- just like a great movie.

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