Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Sunday, April 23, 2006
REVIEWING TOUCHSTONE HORROR FILMS
While doing research on a current project, I looked at several (actually, a heck of lot) of modern horror films. A few films stood out because it appeared they were there first. They are not necessarily the best in each category but they were there first and that counts. This is not a complete list. It will need to be revised as I gather more information but these movies seemed a good place to start.
PSYCHO (1960) -- Hitchcock’s story of a city girl who runs into a serial killer at a small, off-the-highway motel. Think about all movies where the plot revolves around city people who encounter country madmen and killers such as Deliverance, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and The Hills Have Eyes. Countless film killers can trace their roots back to quiet, polite Norman Bates. Oh, yeah, there's that pesky shower scene, too.
THE BIRDS (1963) – Hitchcock again. What would horror films and thrillers be without him? The first nature out-of-control storyline. Jaws may be the best film in this category but Sir Alfred was there before anyone else.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) – While there had been zombie movies back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, this Romero low-budget movie really kicked off the undead plotline and basically established the rules of the genre.
ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) – Think about all the movies where mankind has battled Satan like The Exorcist and The Omen. Rosemary faced him first.
HALLOWEEN (1978) – While Michael is a descendant of Mr. Bates, this started the teen slasher genre. Pick any holiday and you’ll find a let’s-kill-those-darn teenagers storyline. It’s this film’s fault.
ALIEN (1979) – Several movies have had an alien creature in outer space as their monster before this film premiered but this one got it right and the creature never looked like a guy in a rubber suit. Which it wasn't.
Will Hostel be a touchstone film? Haven’t seen it yet. I will. But the basic storyline is college students run into trouble in Europe. First reaction is Psycho country moved to Europe. An American Werewolf in London did that. We’ll see. More later.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Friday, April 21, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Saturday, April 15, 2006
The other day I walked over to my DVD library and looked to see how many films I had where the bad guy or guys were the focus. Here’s what I found:
Cool movie. Period. Terrific characters and quotable dialogue. Michael’s rise in the family business is worth watching and rewatching. A top ten movie of many lists and justifiably so.
THE WILD BUNCH
A personal favorite. An outlaw gang is their last ride down in revolution-torn Mexico. Complex and fascinating characters. Moral debates. Hardboiled and violent. I can’t recall a single “good” person in the entire story.
COOL HAND LUKE
Southern prison movie with one of Paul Newman’s best performances. The religious symbolism seems a bit heavy-handed now. Didn’t notice it at all when I was younger. But I can watch this movie again and again. “What if have here is failure to communicate.”
BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID
A fun movie. Well-written and terrific dialogue by William Goldman. Newman and Redford are cool. Katherine Ross has never been lovelier. They are the exact opposite of the The Wild Bunch outlaws. These guys you'd like to ride with.
ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES
This movie isn’t on any top ten list. It was one of the ‘30s films that Warner Brothers used to grind out by the week. But I just plain like it. Cagney and Bogart as gangsters and Pat O’Brien as Cagney’s boyhood friend who became a priest. Love the ending.
BONNIE & CLYDE
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are smart people but in this tale you believe they are dumb punks who think they’re slick bank robbers. The real stand-out however is Gene Hackman as Clyde’s brother Buck. This was his breakout role. You believe the movie producers hired a dumb-as-dirt, two-bit crook for the part.
Eastwood, Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris. What a male cast. Hardboiled, violent, well-done. This isn’t your grandpa’s western
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
A bad man attempts to change but his past catches up with him. You’ll either love this film or hate it. Ed Harris is memorable as one of the big-city villains who is after the anti-hero.
Not a classic by any means but only Cary Grant can be a cooler thief than Sean Connery. Add Catherine Zeta-Jones to the mix and I’m hooked.
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR
This is the remake. Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. Fun and sexy.
One of the few films adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel to get it right. I’m not a big John Travolta fan but his Chili Palmer (who is a mob loan shark) seems to fit right in with the Hollywood crowd. Add Hackman, Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina, and a before-The-Sopranos James Gandolfini and you have a terrific film.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Thursday, April 06, 2006
The other day I read that the American Family Association has begun a massive letter-writing campaign to Wal-Mart and in the letters they are protesting Wal-Mart’s sale of the DVD Brokeback Mountain. A boycott of Wal-Mart for pushing a “gay” agenda has been implied.
I haven’t seen Brokeback. Haven’t seen Crash either. Batman Begins was my favorite film of 2005. I digress. Two family members, whose opinions I trust, both said independently that I’d be bored by the movie. Way too slow. A friend said he figured I’d see it because Larry McMurtry co-wrote the screenplay and it’s about cowboys. Probably wouldn’t but now who knows.
A little background.
I have a first-edition copy (somewhere packed away in the garage) of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. I bought the book because the Ayatollah Khomeini called the book blasphemous and issued a “fatwa” (death sentence) for Rushdie. I still remember buying the book and the sales clerk asking me if I wanted a security escort to my car. I was young and macho so I declined. It was no big deal. No one cared that I bought the book. By the way, I tried reading it and never got past chapter one.
When Simon & Schuster decided (supposedly because of a feminine staff backlash) not to publish Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, I bought a copy when Vintage published it. I bought it despite the fact that I’d read another novel by Ellis in a college class and truly dislike his writing style. I found AP to be more of the b.s. style of Ellis’ earlier book. Never finished it.
Back to Brokeback, Wal-Mart, and AFA.
I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart but, occasionally I do shop there. I wonder if I write a letter saying that I won’t shop there if they cave-in to AFA if it would do anything. Probably not. Bottom line: Business is business. Wal-Mart will do whatever the executives feel is best for their business. End of that part of the story.
As for AFA, why don’t they have a problem with Wal-Mart selling Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Hostel or Land of the Dead or, one of my personal favorites, The Wild Bunch? Why do they feel so threatened about a story about two men in love? That’s rhetorical. I know why they object. Objecting is okay. In the U.S., we have the right to our opinions. We have the right to voice them. I will always encourage that. I can write a story or screenplay then attempt to get a someone to publish it or make a film based on it. If I succeed then the reader or viewer can decide whether or not to read it or see it. That’s a free marketplace. A free exchange of products and ideas. Some I will accept, some I won’t.
Are the makers of Brokeback pushing their own agenda? Probably. So what. Why doesn’t AFA make their own film and see if anyone goes to it or wants the DVD later? Then the people that don’t like their movie can write letters to Wal-Mart and threaten a boycott.
I could ramble on but I’m stopping here. Final statement: Wal-Mart should offer Brokeback Mountain. And the DVD buyer can then cruise into the store and decide for themselves if they should purchase Brokedown Mountain or The Passion of the Christ or one of the Harry Potter series or Texas Chainsaw Massacre or nothing.