Thursday, March 30, 2006

Some Velvet Morning

Lee Hazlewood is one of the Kings of Rock.

This here's a mind-blower. From the 1967 TV special Movin' With Nancy...

(Thank you, Ivanpaya.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Richard Fleischer Brings It On

The obituary headline in the New York Times said "Richard Fleischer, Director of Popular Films, is Dead at 89". He was not a name director but when you look back at his career it's mindboggling how all over the map he was - he made some popular films, true, and some of them were good (10 Rillington Place and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea), some haven't aged well but were well-regarded in their day (Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green and 1967's Doctor Dolittle - nominated for 9 Oscars, including Best Picture!) and some...well, it's a staggering list... I present them here, more or less in order of jaw-droppingness.

Amityville 3-D (1983): Starring Tony (Annie Hall) Roberts and the young Meg Ryan. Some of the 3-D effects in this film include someone spitting a gob at the lens and a pipe going through a car's windscreen and right up to the audience's collective nose - these effects seem especially pointless when watched in 2-D, which is the only way it's been available on home video. How hard is it to put a 3-D movie out in 3-D on video? Oh, by the way, it turns out there's a doorway leading straight to hell in the Amityville house.

Conan The Destroyer (1984): One of the funniest films I have ever seen, with one of the weirdest groups of adventurers ever assembled this side of The Wizard of Oz: Schwarzenegger as the titular Destroyer, Grace Jones & Wilt Chamberlain as warriors, Olivia D'Abo as a pouty princess, Tracey (Repo Man) Walter as Conan's lackey and Mako as an amazing wizard who can find out where things are hidden by closing his eyes and muttering to himself. Just the sight of this motley team roaming across mountainous ranges or inching their way down cavernous hallways made me laugh. When this came out, I think I saw it about 12 times in the theatre.

Million Dollar Mystery (1987): Towards the end of Dino DeLaurentiis' ill-fated DEG studio venture, he had the amazing idea to release a wacky It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World ripoff wherein a wacky gaggle of characters race across the country on a search for a hidden treasure - a treasure that was actually hidden somewhere in the country, with clues to its whereabouts strewn throughout the film for audience members to try to puzzle out and claim. The contest was sponsored by the studio and Glad garbage bags, and the money was actually hidden in the nose of the Statue of Liberty (100% True). By the way - the movie bombed.

The Jazz Singer (1980): Neil Diamond's legendary remake of the first "talkie". I think he was trying to end the "talkies" as well to create some nice bookends, but alas. This film contains no jazz, but does contain
a) Neil Diamond in blackface
b) Sir Laurence Olivier as a rabbi
c) Sir Laurence Olivier as Neil Diamond's father
d) Sir Laurence Olivier loudly renouncing his parentage of Neil Diamond
e) Neil Diamond showing a glam-rocker how to sing 'Love on the Rocks'
f) Neil Diamond walking away from his promising singing career, growing a giant beard and thumbing his way across the highways and biways.

Mandingo (1975): Incredibly hard-to-find potboiler about slavery that I've actually never seen - hard to find; except for a VHS release a long time ago, it has been virtually unseen since its release. This film, the missing link between Gone With The Wind and Caligula, pretty much ended the Blaxploitation era single-handedly. It starred boxer Ken Norton as a powerful slave and James Mason as a sleazy plantation patriarch. Whippings, beatings, incest and full-on bigotry culminating in pitchfork-and-boiling-cauldron-related ultra-violence, yet all intended as a critique; perhaps it should be shown in a double-bill with Von Trier's Manderlay.

Che! (1969): Incredibly, incredibly hard-to-find - never seen it myself, as I've been waiting in vain for either a one-off theatrical screening or a widescreen disc to come out. This is the legendary "What were they thinking?" bomb, a studio picture from 20th Century Fox aimed at "the kids" with Omar Sharif as Che Guevara and Jack Palance as Fidel Castro (sic). It has been SUPRESSED big-time. Not even the vault-clearing of the DVD age has provoked its unleashing (you can buy a DVD-R of it, for the time-being, here). The Saturn International Film Festival will program this one, sight unseen. You listening, Fox? Sight unseen!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Too Soon?

Went to the movies over the weekend - Spike Lee's entertaining Inside Man. There were some trailers before the feature, and one of them had shots of flight attendants and passengers milling about in an airport - you could feel a brief shimmer of excitement rolling throughout the packed-out theatre - finally, the trailer for Snakes on a Plane!

But alas, it became clear that it was instead the trailer for United 93, this spring's docudrama about the fourth plane in the September 11th attacks. Yes, this is what we will have to put up with throughout this fifth anniversary year - the first wave of 9/11 fictionalizations. It will be a few years before the Michael Bay-style Pearl Harbor versions of 9/11 come down the pipe. The first few that get made (like Oliver Stone's forthcoming World Trade Center) will no doubt take the genteeler route - they won't put forth conspiracy theories or out-and-out xenophobia, or overly graphic portrayals of the death and destruction. They will put the horror forward in a matter-of-fact manner; they will celebrate the heroism of the Americans who risked or sacrificed their lives, and America itself by extension. It will be termed "being sensitive" to the concerns of the families affected, treating the subject matter "tastefully". If the filmmakers were truly sensitive, then why would they make fiction out of these events at all? Especially when so much of what we know about what happened that day is still so prone to conjecture? This is what we mean when we say "too soon".

United 93 is directed by Paul Greengrass, who made both Bloody Sunday and The Bourne Supremacy, so I guess I should have faint hope that it won't be exploitative in his hands, but I still have to ask - what is the point of this film now? Do audiences need to go through a simulacrum of dying in a plane hijacking? What is there to understand about what they went through that can be captured in a fiction, one which will take pains to stick to the official version of events anyways? And how's this for tasteful - Flight 93 left westward from Newark, which was as close as it got to New York City that day, but check out the poster design Universal has chosen for the film.

Anyway, there was a lot of muttering in the theatre in the immediate wake of the trailer. It's still too soon. Films that speak to our fears about real horrors and phobias connect with audiences on a wider scale if they are delivered as allegory. Spielberg's porno War of the Worlds alluded to 9/11 with sledgehammers, while Wes Craven's old-school B-movie Red Eye did it more subtly. Films that supposedly take the topic head-on, with high-mindedness and attention to state-sanctioned detail, will meet resistance from the public. For now, anyway.

Now I just hope the ads for Snakes on a Plane are tasteless - in the good sense.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Space Academy

Saturday morning kids shows were sugary enough to rot your teeth out, with or without a side order of Count Chocula cereal floating in a bowl of brown milk. Check out Space Academy, which aired on CBS in 1977, mere months after the summer of Star Wars, a time when kids needed another dose of space adventure so badly they'd rub out their own grandmother to get it, no matter how cheap-ass it was (see also Battlestar Galactica).

(Agentx35 and I were obsessed with the same low-rent Saturday morning TV shows, it seems.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Truth in Advertising

Great Britain is a land with such stringent packaging standards that if a soft drink called 'Iron Brew' contains no iron and is not brewed, it has to be re-named 'Irn-Bru' in the marketplace.

Likewise, if nobody sees a movie in the theatres, the DVD packaging has to indicate this fact by law.

It's either that or the film distributors there have very low self-esteem issues.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Four War Years

So we are now entering the fourth year of 'combat operations' in Iraq. Today Bush held a torturous press conference wherein he admitted he didn't think American military involvement over there would start wrapping up until 2009, which I guess makes the pullout President Condoleeza Rice's problem, not his.

Call me an optimist, but I realized this cloud has a silver lining - can you imagine how much worse this war would have been if America hadn't won it already?

MTV Canada, or Dancing About Architecture

Today is the day that MTV Canada, Mach II hits the airwaves - out in the far reaches of the analog dial (channel 59). There was a wishy-washy MTV Canada a couple of years ago that was a digital music video channel operating out west but it could never really supplant MuchMusic's hegemony.

This new channel is basically just a rebranding of CTV's 24-hour talk channel, launched as TalkTV a few years ago and then left to neglect. Their flagship program was called The Chatroom which was a five-hour live broadcast of semi-hip young people trying to seem even hipper than they were; it was kind of like being trapped in a perpetual martini lounge set up during a Young Conservative or Young Liberal convention, except without the martinis. This was the show which introduced audiences to now-familiar Canadian TV personalities such as Seamus O'Regan and Ben Mulroney; I swear to God I was watching once while Mulroney was defending women getting breast implants (you know, for their self-esteem). So this epic-length daily show repeated a couple times a day and thus sopped up lots of space on their weekly programming grid, the rest of which was filled in with ancient reruns of Live it Up, Celebrity Pets and Vicki Gabereau. By late 2001, TalkTV decided to pull the plug on creating new installments of yammering and were content to just rerun old Chatrooms, making the channel 100% recycled content - and this went on for years.

The funny part is this new rebranded MTV Canada has to respect the rules of the broadcasting license granted TalkTV - it has to be a chat channel, even though the M in MTV is for music; I guess in this respect it resembles its American progenitor, which hardly shows videos anymore, and if they do it's only whatever's in the top ten of the charts. So it's Chatroom redux for us - more thick slabs of blab, with a new slate of non-boat-rocking hipsters who I guess will talk and talk and talk about what we're all listening to without playing or showing much of it - and I'm sure MuchMusic has round-the-clock watchdogs making sure MTV sticks to their mandate. Expect endless "Are you there, caller?" phoneshows where young Canadians will call in to tell the gelled-haired, Bluetooth-equipped hosts what's on their iPod. And beyond that, Laguna Beach ad infinitum.

This isn't the first time an existant specialty channel has had a frontal lobotomy or rearranged the deck chairs in the hunt for new eyeballs - take A&E for instance. This was originally the Arts & Entertainment Network. It was a classy operation, designed for older, middlebrowed Americans who liked to watch the Boston Pops on the Fourth of July along with their Miss Marple/Inspector Morse shows. Back when there were CableACE awards (in the 80's, they were the Emmys for channels you needed a converter to receive), A&E and HBO used to routinely clean up. But at some point blood was spilled in A&E's programming department and the channel's IQ plunged dramatically, focusing on nightly servings of Biography and, in the wake of the OJ murders, lurid true-crime documentaries. Things got trashier in the last couple of years. A&E wholeheartedly embraced the most boneheaded reality television ideas and soon observational programs about mulleted bounty hunters and the daughters of mafia kingpins began saturating their schedule. In January they ramped up the trashiness further with a reality series about a SWAT team in Dallas and another about roller derby queens. I had to take a liedown this week when I saw a promo for a new show called King of Cars, about the exciting world of inarticulate chop shoppers, starring a pimped-out, goateed manchild; the ad ended with the A&E logo forged into a bling medallion.

Then there's A&E's neighbour (on my remote, anyway) - known as Spike, the former Nashville Network. This was the channel that used to show Grand Ole Opry concerts, country music talk shows, reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard and fishing and hunting programs all weekend. But then came the name and format changes. TNN changed it's name first to The National Network and then The New TNN, and the cowboys were shown the door in favour of reruns of Miami Vice, MacGyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation - but all the shows were put through a digital speed-up process that shaved a second off every minute of a show so that they could free up another minute of advertising time into each programming hour, even though the process rendered most of the actual programs funny-looking and unwatchable. This went on for a little while until the network was rebranded as Spike: The First Network For Men, where the only women allowed are babes and all the ads are for videogames and purportedly aphrodisical bodysprays. Oh yeah - and the shows still look digitized and muddy-looking. Over the last Christmas holidays Spike had the Pamela Anderson show V.I.P. playing 24 hours a day for days on end; I was getting close to giving them a call and making sure everything was okay over there.

The final irony is this new Canadian MTV won't be allowed to show many (if any) music videos while at the same time the competish over at Much (which shows lots of American MTV programming as it is) are appealing to the CRTC to lower their music programming content requirements to 50% from the 65% it's at now. But at least Canadians will now have two music channels that will rank the twenty hottest hotties for them; it will be interesting if they each reach different conclusions.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Steven Seagal Brings It On

Steven Seagal is one of my heroes.

Men can learn a lot about deportment from the man - how to hold open a door for a lady, how to make small talk with a shopkeeper, how to keep cool as the shopkeeper gets blasted to smithereens... generally how to handle a bad scene at the local bodega.

But it's not from an article in Esquire magazine - it's all contained in a scene from the documentary Hard To Kill.

(Thanks, Hito.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Killer Valotte

Tonight Cinematheque Ontario kicked off their retrospective on the films of Sam Peckinpah with one of his jewels - Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, with Warren Oates blowing away half of Mexico while sporting goggle shades and impossibly white teeth. They are showing pretty much everything Peckinpah did except for his first feature The Deadly Companions and the Kris Kristofferson/Ali MacGraw trucker atrocity Convoy, based on the C.W. McCall song (there apparently isn't a print of it in North America - anyway, Peckinpah disowned it, but I would have loved to have been put through a screening).

Oh, and they're not showing Sam's final work. I'm not referring to the coked-out, blue-eyed freakshow that is The Osterman Weekend, which is probably playing in Toronto for the first time since the Rio (the grindhouse on Yonge Street) closed. I mean the two music videos he made for Julian Lennon for his 1984 debut 'Valotte', both straight-ahead performance videos shot in a recording studio. Sam was also planning to make a documentary about him, but very shortly after making these videos came his fatal heart attack.

Sam actually appears in the video for the title track but I couldn't find it anywhere, so here's his final completed piece - the video for 'Too Late For Goodbyes'. Not sure where the frizzy-haired mime dancing around in the doorway fits into the Peckinpah canon...

(Good looking out, Nickrj.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Welcome to Shamrock

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, I offer a tribute to a few of my favourite Irish pop-cultural stereotypes. Evergreens, if you will...
The Shamrock Shake
The immortal mint-flavoured shake from McDonald's, traditionally available in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day, then gone like Brigadoon. No longer widely available - not sure if you can get them in Canada, but they are ostensibly for sale in some parts of suburban Chicago, probably in areas where stereotypical Irish cops straight out of The Untouchables live. Can you imagine telling Captain O'Malley's little daughter Kathleen she can't have a Shamrock shake?

Click here and here to see some McDonald's commercials from the 70's touting the Shamrock Shake - I think the corporation must have hired Irish historians to make sure the subtle nuances of Celtic culture were faithfully rendered in these ads.

Starbucks offers an upscale, modern equivalent to the Shamrock Shake, by the way:

Irish Spring

For that top-of-the-morning freshness, indeed. Irish Spring got out of the anti-perspirant business to concentrate on the soap business. Irish men used to slice into bars of Irish Spring soap with their jacknives in a bizarre Hibernian mating ritual intended to prove their manliness to comely Irish lasses, according to their TV commercials. There are at least five varieties of Irish Spring soap on the market now, including a Vitamin version (not to be taken orally).

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about Irish Spring. The second most frequently asked question: "What is soap?"

Lucky Charms

Lucky the Leprechaun is a crazy Irish cherub who's been the personification of a heroic dose of glucose for thirty years. His perpetual routine is to protect a bowl of multi-coloured marshmallows from kids who seem to succeed every thirty seconds or so. Did you know the marshmallow things that constitute Lucky Charms are called Marbits? General Mills have actually phased out and replaced most of the "magically delicious" Marbits I remember from my childhood; the blue diamonds and yellow moons are long gone - only the pink hearts have lasted the entire lifespan of the product line.

Lucky Charms were only available for a brief time in Ireland, and only relatively recently. Not sure why they didn't become popular there.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot

Known at ND simply as The Leprechaun, this mascot means business, and business is mean. His dukes are up and his feet seem to be playing defense. This stereotype replaced the team's previous mascot, an Irish terrier, in 1965. There are actually live tryouts at Notre Dame every year as to who gets to be the mascot for the season, and the lucky charmer gets to dance a jig up and down the side of the field in full buckle-shoed leprechaunery; not sure if he gets a security escort to take him to and from the stadiums on a weekly basis in case he winds up serving as the Punch-Bag of Notre Dame.

The Leprechaun series

An implausibly popular series of horror movies starring Warwick Davis as the pint-sized green-skinned serial killer with the immortal catchphrase: "I want me gold!". They made 4 of these films (including one where he somehow got into space and killed astronauts) before the 2000 film Leprechaun In The Hood (co-starring Ice T and Coolio); this mix of hip-hop and horror became an out-of-left-field hit (relatively speaking) and spawned an anomaly - a sequel to a sequel (Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood)!

Seamus O'Shaunessy

a.k.a. SOS - two time Irish Whip Wrestling International Heavyweight Champion. Not to be confused with UFC champ Ken Shamrock (or that Queens of The Stone Age guy). Seamus' promising American wrestling career was stymied by visa issues a few years ago but he seems to have found his niche in the IWW. I think it's safe to assume that House of Pain's 'Jump Around' is what they play when SOS enters the (Claddagh) ring. He's amazing because of the names of his signature moves, including the SOS Drop, the Celtic Slam, the Clover Dive and yes, the Shamrock Shake (that's a kneedrop to you).
Catchphrase: "Who's your Paddy?"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Shooting J.R.

Soon going to the multiplex to see a movie will be like an elaborate re-enactment of a typical evening of channel surfing in 1979, what with the recent news that Ice Cube is fronting a big-screen remake of Welcome Back Kotter (sic), which may come out around the same time as a just-announced film version of Dallas, starring the former Vinnie Barbarino himself as J.R. Ewing, and perhaps J. Lo as Sue Ellen.

This new version of Dallas is kicking up some dust with the somewhat underwhelming news that the film will be shot in Toronto. This don't go down well with the people at the Texas film commission. But I'm confused. Where in Toronto could you find the equivalent to the Southfork ranch, or those giant oil fields? Wouldn't it make more sense, if they're going to shoot the film in Canada, to do it out west? Wouldn't the skyline of Edmonton or Calgary better approximate big city Texas? I expect public opinion to swing around and this Dallas will wind up filming down south after all. I mean, come on - Dallas is as American as violence and cherry pie.

As long as the studio heads figure people want to go out to the movies to watch TV, what's next on the remake conveyor belt? Highway To Heaven with Kevin Costner? How about Johnny Knoxville in BJ & The Bear?

In honour of a possible Can-Con Dallas, here is the French language version's opening title theme - vive le difference!

(Merci, Sheitan71.)

President Bush the Third

On the Today show over the weekend, George W's nephew Pierce Bush (can you even say that on TV?) came on bright and early to defend the Unc's stand on the whole Dubai-company-owning-US-ports thing. But first thing's first...

Something tells me this guy will be President someday...they can just make the biopic about his years in office now to save us all some time - call it Commander In Cheetos and cast Stephen Baldwin in it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Isaac Hayes Movement

Isaac Hayes announced today that he is quitting his role as the voice of Chef on South Park, citing the show's "inappropriate ridicule of religion", which may prove that he didn't actually watch the show, considering he's been on the program for almost 10 years and has only now gotten the memo.

There might be a connection between his departure and the show's recent episode making the fun of the Scientology. Yes, Hayes is supposedly a Scientologist ( I say 'supposedly' because I refuse, despite all evidence to the contrary, to believe it) along with other "What?!!"-inducing people such as Beck, Jason Lee, Greta Van Susteren and Doug E. Fresh.

I always found it a bit unfortunate that Hayes was more famous these days for his South Park role than for the classic songs he cowrote with David Porter during the Stax/Volt era and of course his amazing run of solo LPs in the seventies (see above album: the words 'Joy' are embossed on some copies - between this and the 'Black Moses' crucifix-gatefold design, he also revolutionized the album cover).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Newt and Improved

Here's a strange development: it seems that the tabloid press in Eastern Europe have fixated on a most unlikely subject - the architect of the 'Contract on America' and former speaker of the US House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich!

I was wondering what happened to him. He was on the cover of every tabloid over there this weekend. It's like Gingrichmania. Maybe he's running for office over there; or perhaps he's the new Donald Trump of Serbia now. But they seem to be obsessed with his every move, whatever he's doing. He's also had some kind of image makeover as well; check out the new hairdo!

Never would have called this one...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Freedom Fries! Forever!

I don't think I'm going to see the new film V For Vendetta . The whole thing just seems too derivative of another, more successful franchise. And the movie's namesake, that creepy aristocratic guy running around acting like some kind of avenging angel - the mere sight of him makes me not want to see it.

On a related topic, what the hell was Burger King thinking with their latest ad campaign? Now that guy is creepy. The first time I saw him I thought I was hallucinating. I wondered whether the ad agency who came up with this idea was actually commissioned to drive down company stock.

No, You Belong To The City

Sonny Crockett has some competish - he might have to relinquish his purported title to the new kid in town, if you will: NeonLeon.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

You Will Be Here

The Ontario provincial government, in a headlong effort to spend money, are on the cusp of announcing the long-awaited subway extension taking the Spadina line up to York University and beyond - up towards the 905 region... this is cause for a celebration for a lifelong subway enthusiast like me. I know there has been some muttering that Toronto can't afford it, that the money would be better served by beefing up the bus service in the region for a lot less money, etc, etc, etc and it's true, it's true, but come on, buses are boring. Boring. I love the idea of tunnels being built and stations being designed and maps being changed and disparate parts of the cities being hooked up to each other subterraneously - let's have some vision in this town and build some subways that actually go somewhere and are interesting spaces to move through.

I think people in Toronto have been less generously disposed to the idea of extending our subway system after the creation of our most recent line - the Sheppard line. I mean, go out to Bessarion station if you don't believe me. Wasn't Bessarion one of the planets from the most recent Star Wars trilogy? Anyway, nothing's going on up at Bessarion that I could figure out. I went through the turnstiles at Bessarion to check out the environs. There's a Country Style donuts store nearby and a...nothing else. Most of the stations on the Sheppard line are kind of boring and seem there purely to provide underground access to the malls along Sheppard avenue. The blandness of the stations and the seeming randomness of the terminus of the line (a few kilometers away from a natural hookup to the Scarborough LRT) only reinforces the pointlessness of its existence. At least this new line being conceived actually goes somewhere, hooking the University up to the city centre, extending a tendril out beyond the city limits, and pointed in the right direction for an inevitable hook-up to the airport, just like other important, subway-equipped cities. Hopefully these new stations that are under consideration will compare to some of the more adventurous designs on the Spadina line, to say nothing of the eye-popping grandeur of the typical stop on the Montreal metro.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Gordon Parks - R.I.P.

A moment to note the passing of Gordon Parks - the great Life magazine photographer and the man who brought us both Shaft and Shaft's Big Score!, a film I would place on my very short list of sequels that I prefer to the originals (along with The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, French Connection II, Aliens and Dawn of the Dead).

Parks was the first African American to direct a major studio picture (The Learning Tree, in 1969 - 1969!!), but his Shaft movies are what he's best remembered for as a director, the first one a milestone in American film history, kicking off (along with Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song) an exciting new wave of black cinema in the early 70's, which itself turned into a flood of Shaft and Superfly ripoffs (though usually with amazing soundtracks) known collectively as Blaxploitation pictures. Both Shaft films are entertaining, but Shaft's Big Score! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the title) is slightly more so, impressive considering it was whipped off by MGM to capitalize on the box office success of the original. It ends with a 20-minute-long, multi-vehicle chase sequence that might be a little drawn-out by today's ADD-ridden standards but is quite spectacularly filmed (the music that accompanies the sequence is called 'A Symphony For Shafted Souls' on the soundtrack LP - Parks composed the music as well.)

Gordon Parks lived a long, productive life - he was 93.

Go here to see a gallery of his wonderful photographs - from the Guardian.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I Have Questions About The Oscars

1. Why did they choose to drown out the acceptance speeches with slowly swelling music (to try to save time I suppose) only to then subject the audience to these drawn-out thematic montages celebrating film noir and the magical experience of seeing movies on the big screen, etc, and then not feature a cinematic montage that actually would have been interesting and poignant, and to me anyway, obvious - one celebrating the city of New Orleans? Think of the films that were memorably shot there, all kinds of movies - A Streetcar Named Desire, Down By Law, Panic in the Streets, Angel Heart, JFK, Tightrope, The Big Easy, Live and Let Die, King Creole, Hard Times, Pretty Baby, Wild at Heart, Hard Target, The Skeleton Key...all right, all right, and Big Momma's House 2, but still!

2. Speaking of those montages - why in God's name did the one about social consciousness include scenes from The Day After Tomorrow and Something's Gotta Give?

3. Can you take an Oscar away from someone based strictly and solely on what they bring up on stage with them when they accept it? I'm thinking of the guys who made March of the Penguins.

4. Why didn't they cut to a reaction shot of Mickey Rooney during the 'Pimp' musical number?

5. How could I have screwed up and picked The Constant Gardener to win for editing?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Colombian TV Commercials from 1987

More interesting retro South American TV clips at the Videoscheveres blog.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Oscar Night

I'm usually pretty good at this, if I may say so. Predicting these things, I mean.

Best Picture - Crash
You heard me. I think the Oscar voters, as a whole, are an older and more conservative group - conservative enough not to reward the Gay Cowboy movie with the big prize. Conservative enough that many of the academy voters may not have actually seen the film. The hint that's out there has to do with all the smirking jokes the late-night comics are making about it. There is a cream-of-wheat alternative for the academy to reward - a 'Message Picture' that will not age well but seems like an edgy choice on the actual evening the awards are handed out. American Beauty won this award in 2000, and Crash will win it this year. God, I hope I'm wrong, but I fear it will happen.

Best Director - Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
This year I think the director award will be a consolation prize. They don't often give it to a first-time feature director, which works against Paul Haggis and also Bennett Miller, who I think directed the best film of the year.

Best Actor - Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
He was fantastic in the film, and he's been consistently good in the movies for the last few years, so give him a major award already. This is the only one of the major awards that seems to me to be a lock.

Best Actress - Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Can't give Oscars to a Hoffman and a Huffman in the same year.

Best Supporting Actor - George Clooney, Syriana
Not only for gaining all that weight (and hinging the film together) but mostly to acknowledge the year he's had as the new Warren Beatty of Hollywood - a prominent liberal movie star who chooses to put his mouth where his money is.

Best Supporting Actress - Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
The Juliette Binoche award this year. She'll run up the middle of a pack of likely winners.

Screenplay winners will be for Crash (original) and Brokeback (adapted). Brokeback will also win cinematography. Constant Gardener will win editing. The penguins will win for documentary. Altman will use the podium to say something uncharitable about the President of the United States.

And the Debbie Allen production number for the pimp song will be in really bad taste.

I Am A Bounty Hunter

Tony Scott has been giving new meaning to the term 'Attention Deficit Disorder' as of late - his 2004 film Man on Fire was the longest, most violent mutual funds commercial ever made, and watching his latest film Domino was like going on a mescaline bender with the head of a Fortune 500 company. I understand he will next be bringing us a remake of The Warriors. What new worlds are there for Tony to conquer? I think I have a winner - a biopic about Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

Check out this video for Love Missile F1-11. It's twenty goddamn years old, but it looks like the trailer for a brand new Tony Scott film.

(Thanks, BiornBorj)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I Like Chopin

Ladies and gentlemen...Gazebo.

(Video provided by Trivan and pointed out to me by NeonLeon.)

Raiders of the Lost Keys

When I saw the ads for the new Harrison Ford film Firewall I said to myself, 'Self'...

1. Movies about computermachines where much of the thrill is watching someone click-clack away on a keyboard are kind of dull and will only get more dull the older they get - check out a early-nineties thriller where suspense is generated by watching the progress of file transfers on the screen, or where a legendary computer hacker mentions he will need a 56K modem and 10 gigs of RAM to do the job. Why would someone work all day lashed to a computer and then go to the movies that night to watch a movie star click away on a keyboard?

2. Harrison Ford is too old to play the parts he's playing these days - in Firewall his character seems to be in his forties, perhaps, as he has a youngish wife and two young children, but Ford is in his sixties now and it really shows. He seems like he just woke up at the best of times but now he's becoming crotchety as well. The last part where he seemed vaguely age-appropriate (despite his Boris from 'Bullwinkle' accent in the film) was as the Soviet submarine commander in K-19: The Widowmaker (which, by the way, he decided to do after dropping out of what became Michael Douglas' part in Traffic).

3. The window of opportunity to make a fourth Indiana Jones film has passed. Ford keeps hint-hinting in interviews that he and Spielberg are just ironing out the details, but unless they are planning a swashbuckling version of Grumpy Old Men, I think he's too old to be running around in the fedora and the bullwhip and getting the girl at this point. When he made the last one in 1989, Sean Connery played his father. Ford is now older than Connery was then. When you are a globetrotting archaeologist and the artifacts you are digging up are younger than you are, it's time to pack it in.