Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lexi blogs!

The babe-o-licious Lexi Alexander, director of the criminally underappreciated Green Street Hooligans, has started her own blog as she prepares to make a movie showcasing The Punisher, the Marvel Comics anti-hero whose exploits previously inspired (to use that term very, very loosely) two other films. I am going to go way out on a limb here and predict hers will be a big improvement.

Boll goes Postal

Uwe Boll – arguably the worst filmmaker in the whole, wide world – is playing fast and loose with New York Post logos. The newspaper, not surprisingly, is not amused. And not just because the editors aren’t big fans of BloodRayne or its upcoming, direct-to DVD sequel. But, I have to admit: Boll's faux website may be more entertaining than any movie he's ever unleashed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

R.I.P.: Michel Serrault (1928-2007)

I'm beginning to feel a little bit like Haley Joel Osment today -- I'm seeing too many dead people. Even with 150 films to his credit, French actor Michel Serrault likely will always be known best in the United States (and, truth to tell, most other places) for his campy cavorting as a tizzy-prone transvestite in La Cage aux Folles and two lesser but lightly likable sequels. And yet: As much as I enjoyed his madcap antics those broadly played farces, I much preferred his audaciously stylized, Dr. Mabuse-style portrayal of a seemingly respectable sociopath who preys upon desperate Jews in Nazi-occupied France in Christian de Chalonge's unjustly obscure Docteur Petiot (1990); and, better still, his masterfully understated performance as an aging businessman who refuses to reveal just how much he may long for -- or lust for -- a much younger woman (Emmanuelle Béart) in Claude Sautet's Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud (1995).

R.I.P.: Tom Snyder (1936-2007)

To honor the idiosyncratic talk-show host, here's a montage tribute that includes, among other wonders, a glimpse at a ridiculously young Steven Spielberg, and an unsettling exposure to pure evil.

R.I.P.: Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

It's difficult to know where to begin when taking the final measure of an artist as inspired and awe-inspiring, as justly revered and pervasively influential, as Ingmar Bergman. Right now, I find my mind is swimming with too many memories of powerful scenes and indelible images for me to properly focus. I start to type something about, say, the extraordinary eroticism of Bibi Andersson's mesmerizing monologue in Persona, and I think, no, what I really want to describe is the melancholy grace of Victor Sjostrom's aged professor in Wild Strawberries... or the inconsolable despair of Gunnar Bjornstrand's rural pastor in Winter Light... the evanescent sensuality of Smiles of a Summer Night, or the terrifyingly chaotic civil war of Shame... or Max Von Sydow... Liv Ullmann... and, yes, of course, Death playing chess...

As usual, GreenCine Daily is the place to go for the most complete guide to eulogies and appraisals. The Guardian offers a very clever quiz about the man and his movies -- I can't help laughing out loud at Bergman's brusque dismissal of another noted auteur -- and here is a link to an interview with B-movie mogul Roger Corman, who delights in describing how he turned a tidy profit when his New World Pictures released Bergman's Cries and Whispers.

Regarding the latter: Corman recalled in his 1990 autobiography: "We were the first to get Bergman into drive-ins, the first to book him into multiple cinemas in the same city... The film took in $1.5 million in rentals, or a profit of close to $1 million... When I finally met Bergman years later, he mentioned that he thought it was great that we put his film in the drive-ins. 'Nobody ever thought of that before,' he said. 'I've always wanted my pictures to get the widest possible audience. That's an audience that never saw my pictures before New World.'"

Sunday, July 29, 2007

R.I.P.: Marvin Zindler (1921-2007)

With all due respect to the recently deceased: The first time I visited Houston nearly three decades ago, and channel-surfed to a KTRK-TV “Eyewitness News” segment hosted by Marvin Zindler – or, as he was wont to say during intros and exits, “Mahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-vin Zindler, Eye! Witness! News!” – I assumed I had stumbled onto some kind of local comedy show, maybe a Lone Star version of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

But no: Zindler was the real deal, an indefatigable consumer reporter and tireless champion for the ill-served elderly and the exploited working class. After moving to Houston in 1982, I soon realized that, if the guy came across as a bit bombastic – well, what the hell, he was larger than life, but never too big for his britches. For every sloppy restaurant owner who bristled because Zindler regularly reported on health code violations – Houstonians have long enjoyed his apoplectic tirades about “slime in the ice machine” -- dozens of others had cause to be grateful for his quixotic quests to obtain medical aid for those who couldn’t afford it, and legal redress for the inaccurately billed and the deliberately ripped-off.

It’s a pity that most folks outside Texas know him only as the real-life inspiration for the crusading moralist who looms large in the stage and movie versions of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. To his credit, Zindler actually was amused by his caricature in the original Broadway musical. But he was far less pleased by the way Dom DeLuise played him in the movie version. And, really, who could blame him?

Husband of the bride

Congratulations to Steve Martin, who married girlfriend Anne Stringfield during a ceremony at his Los Angeles home yesterday. I haven't seen any wedding pictures posted on line yet, so we'll have to make do with this. Which, by the way, later triggered this. Frankly, I'm not at all surprised that the wedding was a hush-hush affair. Take it from me: Martin is very protective of his privacy, and you have to respect that.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Red Nightmare

Talk about a blast from the past: More than two decades before Red Dawn, Jack Webb warns America about threat of a Commie takeover in this paranoia-infused artifact from the Cold War era. Just keep telling yourself: It's only a movie... It's only a movie... (Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the tip.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"I hate these movies. I won't see these movies."

In the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, in a provocative mini-essay that, alas, isn’t posted on the magazine’s website (yet), critic Lisa Schwarzbaum explains why she was more than happy to turn the chore of reviewing Captivity over to fellow EW scribe Owen Gleiberman:

“It’s quite simple: I hate these movies. I won’t see these movies. Never saw Saw or its sequels, never will. I’m not impressed with the ‘quality’ of the gore or the ‘wit’ of the filmmaking. I’m not enjoyably scared; I’m horrified, and not in the way horror fans get off, groaning and screaming with pack-mentality excitement. Instead, my horror is one of disturbance and anger: Who makes this vile crap? What is remotely defensible about a movie like Captivity, in which a woman is abducted and tortured for the sake of ticket sales? Nothing, that’s what. While moviegoers can vote with their wallets, I vote with my computer keyboard. Or rather, the silence of the keys, as I stay away from stuff I have no stomach for seeing, even on the job.”

Busted again

The ongoing train wreck that is Lindsay Lohan's life has taken another turn for the worse -- just a few days before the release of her latest movie, a thriller with a title that, at the rate she's going, I fear may prove terribly ironic. Or, worse, prescient.

Poster posting

The marketing gurus at Lionsgate are taking a fairly nervy approach to their poster art for 3:10 to Yuma: No attempt to hide or even soft-pedal the fact that it's a Western, but no close-ups of top-billed Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Instead, a dramatic rear-view of a supporting player -- Ben Foster as Charlie Prince, second-in-command to Crowe's outlaw chief -- in a sepia-toned illustration with a vaguely Sergio Leone-ish look. It's attention-grabbing, to be sure. But will it be audience-attracting?

Monday, July 23, 2007

American Cinematheque honors America's Sweetheart

From Variety: "Julia Roberts will be honored with the 22nd annual American Cinematheque award. Kudos will be presented at a tribute gala in the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom on Oct. 12." Which, what the hell, is as good an excuse as any to run the above photo.

In defense of spoiling

Film critic Nathan Lee argues that, more often than not, spoilers are entirely justified: "To spoil or not to spoil involves larger questions about the role of the critic, the needs of the reader and the changes to both caused by the scale, speed and outlaw spirit of Web-based commentary...

"It’s silly to insist that the critic never spoil. In practice, spoilers can be irresponsible, motivated by laziness, vindictiveness or snark, but if the ambition to inform the reader outweighs the need to protect them, then spoilers are warranted on principle. The integrity of the critic doesn’t revolve around whether or not they’re willing to spoil, but why they chose to do so.

"Our obsession with spoilers has a diminishing effect, reducing popular criticism to a kind of glorified consumer reporting and the audience to babies. People outraged by spoilers should avoid all reviews before going to the movies or reading the book they’ve waited so long for, because the fact is all criticism spoils, no matter how scrupulous."

BTW: It's worth noting, by the way, that spoilers were being sprung long before the advent of the Internet. I still get angry -- well, OK, maybe not angry, but at least mildly miffed -- when I recall how I learned (accidentally and unwillingly) the identity of Luke Skywalker's father long before I got to see The Empire Strikes Back.

And another one bites the dust

Anne Thompson reports that film critic Michael Wilmington is departing his post at the Chicago Tribune. Her piece doesn't indicate whether he jumped, or was pushed. Either way, however, it's never a good sign when a major paper loses "one of the most erudite film critics working today."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good reading: David Denby on rom-coms, from It Happened One Night to Knocked Up

Bless his heart: David Denby of The New Yorker remains one of the few gainfully employed film critics of our age with the insight, intellectual heft, movie-history savvy and graceful writing style to produce provocative and engrossing essays such as this one on the current state of romantic comedies. Mind you, it’s the sort of lengthy piece that is best savored away from the computer monitor: You should print out the article, or maybe even buy the magazine, and page through it at your leisure, perhaps while Mozart wafts from your stereo and a glass of fine wine is within easy reach. But, then again, since he spends so much time focused on Knocked Up – about which Denby expresses profoundly mixed feelings – perhaps you could substitute an ice-cold beer or a tightly-wrapped doobie for the vino.

BTW: According to early weekend box-office reports, Knocked Up (which, Denby rightly notes, “feels like one of the key movies of the era — a raw, discordant equivalent of The Graduate forty years ago”) has grossed enough to remain in the top ten for the eighth consecutive week. Not shabby at all.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


And just what can Seth Rogan do for a follow-up after the humongous hilarity of Knocked Up? Would you believe... The Green Hornet? No joke. (Or, maybe, lots of jokes.) But who could be Kato? John Cho?

This morning

When you look out your front window and see a sky like this over Houston…. trust me, going back to bed becomes an extremely inviting option.

“Morality is always an issue when such brutal incidents occur"

I used to require all students in my college-level film courses to write at least one term paper each semester. Recently, however, I have dropped that requirement (though I still allow some students to submit optional, extra-credit essays to boost grades they receive on multiple-choice tests). Why? Well...

The following are verbatim excerpts from actual student term papers I have received over the years. They're not all from one class, one semester or even one institution. But I promise you: Not one is the work of a student enrolled in a Remedial English or an ESL course. And most are from juniors or seniors.

Again, let me emphasize: These excerpts aren't from e-mails, or blog postings, or hastily scribbled answers on exams. These are from term papers.

“By killing so many people at war, I can see how mental illness can come to you.”

“There is this one part when a gun comes out his coat and starts shooting people.”

“Travis Bickle, portrayed by Robert De Niro, portrayed a psycho-pathic veteran, eager to dispose the world of anybody associated with death, corruption or sexual practices.”

“Captain Willard, played by Martin Sheen, stretched his emotional limits to a high notch.”

“From the Left that perspective centered on negative nations of our evolvements inherent immorality, racism, stupidity, duplicity, and overzealous world police role.”

“Now America had leaders who lied and made broken promises, similar to the 1980s war films, the government’s trust shook the nation.”

“America was viewing some truth to a veterans’ eye.”

“In films, bloody killings, drugs, sex, and rock music overshadowed films and people wanted the truth.”

“However, there was the American film industry that gave the normal public of what Vietnam was really about.”

“As the films goes on the audience see it develop as a path that the characters metamorphosis into something that they were not originally.”

“Both films truly a masterpiece set the standards for all films which came and went that 'Platoon' and 'Apocalypse Now' are the pioneers of films portraying the horrors of war.”

“Throughout the course of the semester coincided with the growing face of war through time.”

“As time progressed, the wars being waged out in the world and the movies shown in and around these times increased, not only in tactics and technology, but in a war’s ability to be supported and evocative of compassion if the proper means of setting public agenda.”

“Martin Sheen plays a character distraught by war, accompanying feelings of carelessness for life and people in general.”

“Politically, I know that I am allowed to say such things at the expense to which such mentality has provided mine, as well as the rest of the nation’s security.”

“The film being that it was made in the late eighties, times were turning and the nineties, more expressive views were becoming prominent in America.”

“Deniro’s character comes out better of the two but only proving that he has a strong will to begin with, that war not for the weak of heart, which I guess is everybody who has a problem blowing their brains out.”

“This ‘madman’ is played by Marlon Brando and is a man who has figured it all out but seems to have crossed some line in doing so.”

“This movie was criticized by not portraying the war how it really was and I believe it was not to the American’s public appeal because this war to begin with had a rough start.”

“I also believe that by having this movie be narrated in the thoughts of this soldier hits the audience at home that this is how their loved one feels and suffers out there.”

“Among those three friends, Steven that was married just before he came to the Vietnam War loses his leg and become a legless amputee.”

“There would be a lot to take on in production, budget and marketing with the real situation of the front. Film makers accurately representing the war on screen would be quite difficult to portray on low budgets, not to mention all the negative attention toward our own soldiers and our bleak situation would look bad to the people.”

“Morality is always an issue when such brutal incidents occur.”

The horror. The horror.

It's "Sicko Night in America," and you could be a winner!

An open letter from Michael Moore:

Thursday, July 19th, 2007


Good news! Sicko, after less than three weeks in national release, has become one of the top five grossing documentaries of all time! So, this coming weekend, the distributor is expanding the movie by opening it in nearly 500 new theaters in small cities all over the country (for a total of nearly 1,200 screens nationwide)! From Rapid City to Carson City, from Gettysburg to Pearl Harbor, from Juneau to Battle Creek -- they're all getting Sicko tomorrow (Friday). Scores of cities that never have a documentary come to their local theater will now be able to see this one. It's happening all thanks to you who live in the larger cities and have supported Sicko so strongly. It's led the studio to say, "Let's make more prints and ship them to Oshkosh (and Beaverton and Brattleboro and Sault Ste. Marie and...)."

The entire country goes Sicko in less than 48 hours! (Check here for the complete list of theaters showing Sicko in North America.)

So, friends, this is it. This is the weekend to go see Sicko if you haven't seen it. I get a lot of letters from people saying they plan to "get around" to seeing it "soon." Well, soon is here! Trying to get theaters to give us screens when we are up against huge summer blockbusters is an almost impossible task. Sicko won't be around forever. And if you're waiting for the DVD, ask anyone who's seen Sicko -- this is a movie you want to see with a crowd of people in a theater. So let's pack the movie houses this weekend! Send an email to everyone you know, call your friends and tell them, "It's Sicko Night in America!"

And, to show my thanks to all of you who'll go see Sicko this weekend, I'm going to send one of you and a guest on a free weekend to the universal health care country of your choice! That's right. You'll get to pick one of the three industrialized countries featured in the movie where, if you get sick, you get help for free, no matter who you are. All you have to do is send us your ticket stub (make sure it says Sicko on it and has the name of the theater and this weekend's date on it -- Friday, Saturday or Sunday - July 20th, 21st, 22nd). Attach the stub to a piece of paper with your name, address, phone number and email and send it to: Sicko Night in America, 888c 8th Avenue, Suite 443, New York, NY 10019. (Yes, you have to use that old 18th century device called the U.S. Postal Service, and it has to be postmarked on or by Tuesday, July 24th).

First prize is a weekend in the city of your choice: Paris, London or Toronto. This includes airfare, hotel, meals and, most exciting, a representative from their fine universal health care system who will give you a personal tour so you can see how they treat their fellow citizens. You'll meet people who pay nothing for college and citizens who are in the fourth week of their six-week paid vacation. Oh, and you'll have time to see the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or whatever they have in Toronto that is old and tall. (If you don't have a passport, we'll pay for that, too!)

Canadians who are reading this -- you're probably thinking, "Hey, what about us? Where do we get to go?" Quit complaining! You're already there! But just to make it up to you -- and to prove we don't hold it against you for smugly walking out of a hospital with the same amount of money in your wallet that you went in with -- we'll let you participate in the drawing, too.

Thanks again to everyone who has gone to see Sicko. Take a friend or two this weekend and celebrate "Sicko Night in America."


Michael Moore

P.S. I'll be on The Colbert Report tonight (Thursday) on Comedy Central. On a sadder note, my appearance on CNN with Wolf Blitzer has been moved to a later date. Wolf just called to say he had a death in his family and that we would have to re-schedule. Our condolences to him and his family.

Cowboys and Indians and Emmys

Westerns may be scarce at megaplexes these days, but they're attracting viewers -- and earning honors -- on television. Indeed, you could say the Emmys went Western this morning, as the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced 17 nominations for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the epic HBO movie based on Dee Brown’s non-fiction best-seller, and 16 for Broken Trail, the AMC miniseries starring Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church.

Wounded Knee loomed large in the marquee category of Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Broken Trail rode tall among the Outstanding Miniseries nominees, and, not surprisingly, Duvall was nominated as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie.

In several other categories, however, the Westerns will be competing against each other for top honors. For example, Church will face off against Wounded Knee co-stars August Schellenberg (as Sitting Bull) and Aidan Quinn (Sen. Henry Dawes) for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie; Greta Scacchi (Broken Trail) and Anna Paquin (Wounded Knee) are rivals for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie; and Walter Hill (Broken Trail) and Yves Simoneau (Wounded Knee) are among the honorees for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special.

Speaking of Hill: After Thursday's early-morning Emmy announcement, the veteran filmmaker (whose feature credits include the Westerns Wild Bill, The Long Riders, and Geronimo: An American Legend) seemed at once grateful and flabbergasted that Television Academy voters would be so appreciative of Broken Trail. "What can I say?” he told the Associated Press. “They're too kind. We were on so long ago, we were on last June, so I've been surprised and very pleased that people remember."

Dick Wolf, executive producer of Wounded Knee, said the clutch of nominations for his HBO movie was a validation of a very difficult project: "Anybody who says it's not nice or it doesn't mean anything to get this many nominations, it's the ultimate sour grapes because it sure feels great.”

(A complete list of all Emmy Award nominations is available here.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Too many movies, too little time

Thanks to GreenCine Daily for a link to Michael Atkinson, whose melancholy lament gave me, I'll admit, a not-entirely-pleasant shock of recognition: "Thanks to my late father-in-law, I have a mountain of VHS recordings from TCM, now piled in a separate corner away from the already excessive "library" of video’d films I’ve amassed on my own over more than a decade of film reviewing and home-video reportage. It’s a blessing, of course, but also a cautionary tale to cinephiles: when do you stop acquiring? How many films can you see, and then see again (the only reason to own, right?)? ... I no longer record off of cable (my area only recently got TCM in any case), I no longer buy DVDs, and am very stingy about buying books (whereas I used to be a slut). I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see and read everything I already have."

Home improvement

I'm glad to see that Josh Duhamel is spending his Transformers paycheck wisely. And I'm sure Fergie is every bit as happy.

A Simpsonization of myself

I dunno, I think it makes me look a bit beefy. See if you can make your very own Simpsons avatar appear a bit more, well, svelte.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cash for candidates

George Clooney has backed Barack Obama. Oliver Stone is putting his money behind Obama and John Edwards. Steven Spielberg has contributed to Edwards, Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson. But Jerry Bruckheimer thinks John McCain is the man. Those are just some of the revelations offered by a Wilshire & Washington report on campaign contributions by Hollywood notables.

Hold the phone! It's Jack Carter!

OK, I’ll admit it: I thought I was being punked when a friend alerted me to the existence of YouPorn, a kinda-sorta X-rated version of YouTube. But sure enough, the site does exist – and, better still, it offers this steamy sequence from Get Carter, Mike Hodges’ classic 1971 Brit gangster drama. Steely-eyed bad-ass Michael Caine phones hot-to-trot sexpot Britt Ekland – and the conversation becomes progressively more, uh, intense… (Warning: This isn’t one you’ll want to watch at the office. Unless, of course, you’re alone. Or the boss.)

Oh, and by the way, I wasn't exaggerting about the steely-eyed bad-ass stuff. Just take a look at the original 1971 trailer.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Better late than never: Kevin Costner on Mr. Brooks

Due to a series of unfortunate technical delays, my MovieMaker.com Q&A with Kevin Costner -- originally scheduled to be posted right before the release of Mr. Brooks -- has only recently appeared on the website. My apologies to Costner, who was very generous with his time, and to the other folks involved with Mr. Brooks, which deserved a much better reception at the box office. If it's still playing in a theater anywhere near you -- check it out. If not -- well, look for it on DVD.

David and Lisa

If you’re a film aficionado of a certain age, you may remember a time – i.e., the early-to-mid 1960s – when Frank Perry’s David and Lisa practically defined independent moviemaking in this country. David Sterritt offers a thoughtful and respectful evaluation of the 1962 drama on the occasion of its DVD release.

What To Do In A Zombie Attack

Think of it as infotainment.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Lord works in really, really mysterious ways

From the New York Times, via Movie City News: "Some people have their midlife crisis in reverse, like Ronald Boyer, who for most of his professional life has been better known as a star of pornographic films, Rod Fontana. After 30 years of sowing the wildest of oats, Mr. Boyer, 54, has searched his soul and chosen, to the surprise of family and colleagues, to seek a priesthood in the Episcopal Church."

Please don't misunderstand: I am not making fun of Mr. Boyer, or questioning his religious beliefs. Indeed, I'm actually a little envious, because I, too, am 54, and I cannot imagine anyone paying to see me having sex in a movie (or anywhere else, for that matter). But I find it very revealing that, acording to the NYT, he's disturbed by an uptick in the violence directed at women in hardcore movies: "[H]e has resisted what he sees as a trend to choke or hit women during intercourse, or use what he considers degrading language." Sounds like he wouldn't approve of "torture porn" flicks such as Hostel 2 or Captivity.

Crash II: The Sequel

I almost never purchase the extra "full coverage" insurance when I rent a car, because -- well, because I'm cheap. But because I had left my regular proof-of-insurance card at home -- and, yeah, because someone else was paying for the trip -- I agreed to the additional coverage when I rented from Budget in L.A. this week.

Well, I don't know if God or Truffaut or Elvis was looking out for me, but I made the right move: The very next day, while heading back to my hotel after attending a screening at Lionsgate, I was driving along 405 South, having just entered from 10 East, when a truck veered into my lane and... Well, let's just say that, hours later, I found that I still had tiny bits of shattered safety glass in my hair. But, what the hell, I was still alive. And, not incidentally, I also had another rental car to drive.

No, this is Spinal Tap

While I was out in L.A. this past week, doing legwork for a magazine article and reviewing Captivity for Variety, the long-suffering Mrs. L. was left home to tend to our son when he started complaining about headaches and neck and back pains. Fearing the worst -- i.e., meningitis -- she brought George to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a viral infection. (Thank God that, unlike some folks in Sicko and a lot of folks who review movies, Mrs. L. has a real job with real medical insurance coverage.) Naturally, I was more than a little upset when I heard about this, especially since I was thousands of miles away and unable to do much but worry. But I have to admit that when I heard George was given a spinal tap, the first thing that sprang to my mind was...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Elvis lives!

OK, maybe "Night of a Thousand Stars" is a bit of an overstatement. But there will be, oh, I dunno, maybe a couple dozen or so notables in attendance for that Aug.16-18 shindig when actors and actors who once shared screen time with Elvis Presley gather in Memphis to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The King's (alleged) demise. Among the participants: Will Hutchins, Sue Ane Langdon, Celeste Yarnall, Edy Williams, L.Q. Jones, Jack Carter -- yeah, don't worry, I didn't know he was still alive, either -- and event organizer Suzanna Leigh, who co-starred with Elvis in Paradise Hawaiian Style. Previewing the event, Associated Press writer Woody Baird notes: "For many of Presley's co-stars, his films were career highlights." And if that sounds a trifle snarky, well, consider: Leigh's other credits include The Deadly Bees, Lust for a Vampire and The Fiend --none of which sound like a hunka-hunka burnin' fun.

Monday, July 09, 2007

He says "chick flick," she says...

Gloria Steinem makes a novel suggestion: If the derogatory and demeaning term "chick flick" is to be used when describing movies about women, then an equally insulting appellation should be used to describe, among other things, "[a]ll the movies that portray violence against women, preferably beautiful, sexy, half-naked women. These feature chainsaws and house parties for teenage guys, serial killers and sadistic rapists for ordinary male adults, plus cleverly plotted humiliations and deaths of powerful women for the well-educated misogynist."

Naturally, Ms. Steinem is not at all shy about stating just what that appellation should be.

Next possibility: The Bates Motel

I likely will be in L.A. for a few days later this month, so I've been pricing hotels on Hotels.com. And I noted this as part of the website's blurb for the Mayfair Hotel: "When visiting local attractions, taxis and shuttles are the suggested mode of transportation due to safety concerns in the immediate area." Hmmmm. Guess I should cross that one off the list of possibilities, eh?

James Hetfield: Threat or menace?

Maybe the UK airport security people never saw Some Kind of Monster?

Tasty Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters

Over at The Hot Blog, we’ve been having a very, uh, animated discussion about the demographic breakdown of the audience for Transformers. Some of the more heated debate has revolved around the question of whether a movie seemingly aimed squarely (if not exclusively) at young guys really could, as exit surveys indicate, have so much appeal for females of all ages. And the ongoing discussion over target audiences has reminded me of…

Well, let me put it this way: Anybody else out there remember Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills? It was an exuberantly junky Mighty Morphin Power Rangers knock-off that made the Rangers TV show look as lavishly produced as Transformers (the new live-action feature, not the '86 cartoon movie). The half-hour series ran briefly on the USA Network 1994 to ’95 – and, yes, I frequently viewed it with my son. Of course, it was a bonding experience, completely innocent and wholesome. (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) But if you look at this clip, you’ll see the reason I suspect other fathers wanted to watch that “kid show.” At least one of the “teen” protagonists went through a very dramatic change whenever she transformed from mere mortal to alien fighter. Like, from a C cup to a D cup, I'd say.

What the hell?

Memo to Hellboy: Don't ever try to enroll in a Catholic school in Australia.

And if you think this is harsh, just wait until you see what they do with I Trust You to Kill Me

According to Sky News, Iraqi insurgents are behind a nefarious scheme to post on the Internet mock-up Hollywood movie posters designed to give "a chilling message for US troops in Iraq." Obviously, they're armed with Photoshop, and should be considered dangerous. Sky News asks the question that I'm sure is on everyone's mind: "Could the extremists behind this image campaign be Mel Gibson fans?" No, I'm not making that up.

Sicko sullies Blue Cross image

From Crooks and Liars: Michael Moore got his hands on a secret internal memo from Blue Cross (.pdf) worrying about the ramifications of Sicko. Money quote: "You would have to be dead to be unaffected by Moore's movie, he is an effective storyteller."

What is the most-translated film of all time?

I'll give you a clue: The most-translated film is not Gone With the Wind, Star Wars or even Transformers. On the other hand, like most popular movies, it has a traditional three-act structure, a charismatic hero with a strong sense of purpose, dramatic reversals of fortune -- and a happy ending.

Come together

From Reuters: "Talk of monetary union and wine quotas gave way to controversy over orgasms and innuendo at the European Commission on Wednesday as it defended a risque Internet video clip highlighting its backing for European cinema.

"The EU executive's usually dry daily news briefing sprung to life with questions over whether a 44-second clip of 18 couples achieving ecstasy in a variety of positions and venues was the best way to show how Brussels uses taxpayers' money.

"The raunchy clip is made up of snippets from various general release films that have been funded by the EU, including Amelie and Good Bye, Lenin!

"Some reporters also took a swipe at the title of the sequence, asking whether 'Let's Come Together' was acceptable innuendo -- and if it was, whether the pun worked in the 27-member Union's other official languages.

"A Commission spokesman insisted it had not received a single complaint in the 14 weeks since the clip first appeared on Internet site YouTube, suggesting the Brussels press corps should relax and get with the times.

"'Let us for once also have a good sense of humor and let us not start the old wars of the fifties about what is sex, what is pornography and what is simply normal to watch on television,' spokesman Martin Selmayr appealed."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

'1776' Redux

At the end of a lazily decadent July 4th holiday – much of it spent chomping down hot dogs and watching my beloved Astros get pounded by the Phillies – I sat down to watch 1776 on Turner Classic Movies. I had vague memories of seeing the 1972 musical back during its original theatrical run, and even vaguer recollections of being none too impressed. Nevertheless, I tuned in – partly because I had nothing better to do, but also because I’d heard rumors that the movie (one of the last Old Hollywood musicals based on Broadway hits) had been substantially improved by the restoration of scenes and songs that had deleted by producer Jack Warner (at the insistence, according to Hollywood legend, of no less a notable than Richard Nixon) before its ’72 release.

Alll I can say is: I’m glad I made the effort. Mind you, 1776 still is something less than an unadulterated masterwork. (Although director Peter H. Hunt manages some impressive wide-screen compositions, he’s a tad too literal-minded in some aspects of his stage-to-screen translation.) Taken as a whole, however, the movie is wonderfully entertaining – and, better still, undeniably inspiring -- as it offers an intelligently yet playfully romanticized account of events leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But wait, there’s more: The cast includes most of the major players from the original 1969 Broadway ensemble – including William Daniels (John Adams), Howard Da Silva (Benjamin Franklin) and Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson), all at their finest – along with an absolutely luminescent Blythe Danner (who was pregnant with Gwyneth Paltrow during filming) as Martha Jefferson. And the heated debates over individual rights and tyrannical rulers is, alas, every bit as relevant today as in 1776 or 1972.

I can easily see how this restored 1776 might eventually become a holiday season staple (much like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story) over years and years of TV reruns. For some background on the restoration, along with fair appraisals of the movie itself, see here (at the end of a review of the 1997 New York stage revival) and here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

In honor of the holiday, I give you the ridiculously corny yet tremendously affecting speech given by a beleaguered U.S. President (played by Bill Pullman) to rally a final push against invading extraterrestrials in Independence Day. Seeing this clip again reminds me that, as recently as 1999, you could portray the Commander in Chief as the take-charge hero of a summer blockbuster without inviting derisive jeers from mainstream moviegoers. Flash forward to today, and you have Michael Bay's Transformers, an even bigger blockbuster that depicts the U.S. President only fleetingly, as a mostly unseen doofus with bright red socks and a taste for Ho-Hos, while a grimly determined Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight, who played the heroic FDR in Bay's Pearl Harbor) does the heavy lifting. Gee, do you think this says something about how the makers of Transformers view -- and how they assume mainstream audiences view -- the current resident of the White House?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

July 4th viewing tip: Neil Simon mini-marathon

If heavy rains dampen your plans for parading or picnicking on Independence Day, and you’re in the mood for an indulgent wallow in ‘60s and ‘70s nostalgia, you might be mildly amused by the line-up of comedies based on Neil Simon plays that Turner Classic Movies has to offer. Barefoot in the Park (11:30 am EDT) may be especially entertaining for anyone who doesn’t remember, or who never knew, just how sleek and sexy Jane Fonda and Robert Redford were back in the day (circa 1967, when this movie was released) before they became activists as well as actors. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not criticizing either star for his or her politics. Rather, I’m indulging myself a bit by gazing back through rose-colored glasses. Hell, I can remember exactly where I first saw Barefoot -- the old Fox Theatre on Elysian Fields in my hometown of New Orleans -- and how hot Jane Fonda looked (even before she undraped for Barbarella) to a hormonally inflamed adolescent.

The July 4th mini-marathon on TCM also includes 1963’s Come Blow Your Horn (7:30 am EDT), with Frank Sinatra as a ring-a-ding-ding chick magnet; 1975’s The Sunshine Boys (9:30 am EDT), with Walter Matthau and George Burns as long-feuding ex-vaudevillians; and 1968’s The Odd Couple (3:30 pm EDT), arguably the finest and funniest of the many pairings of Matthau and Jack Lemmon. I haven’t seen any of these movies in decades – though I frequently reviewed the plays on which they’re based while covering dinner theaters, community playhouses and summer stock in the '70s and '80s. And I'm more than a little curious to see how they hold up so long after Simon ruled the Great White Way (and, to a lesser degree, movie theaters and drive-ins everywhere) as the undisputed King of the One-Liners.

Also on the program: 1977's The Goodbye Girl (1:30 pm EDT), an original Simon script later adapted into a Broadway musical, with Richard Dreyfuss giving an Oscar-winning performance that, for better or worse, forever defined his prickly on-screen persona. (Yes, even more so than Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.) I hope he -- and, for that matter, Neil Simon -- will have a very happy holiday. And, dear reader, I hope you do the same.

Transformers sell out

Yes, it's selling a bunch of movie tickets. But can it also sell cars and trucks?

More on Michael Moore

Indie movie maven John Pierson continues to attract impassioned responses to his IndieWire critique of Michael Moore. In the L.A. Times, however, Patrick Goldstein take a somewhat more respectful (albeit skeptical) approach to judging the incendiary documentarian. Speaking of Sicko, Goldstein writes: "At the center of the film, as always, is Moore. Like Bono, Spike Lee and George Clooney, he occupies that amorphous space in the pop culture given over to bold-faced names whose activism is indistinguishable from their celebrity. A walking inspiration for op-ed page pieces arguing the merits of his latest exposé, Moore has, as Clifford Odets once said of Orson Welles, 'a peculiarly American audacity.'"

Goldstein continues: "What makes Moore so compelling is that he has a cultural magnetism that seduces us while simultaneously arousing our suspicion. It's an unusually combustible equation: Infuriate + Inspire = Ambivalence. Bill Clinton's entire presidency was consumed by it. Courtney Love had it for a minute, as did Oliver Stone. Terrell Owens and Barry Bonds have brought it to the playing fields. Love 'em, hate 'em, often all at the same time."

True enough. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how the debate over Moore might be affected -- if at all -- if the documentary that has become Pierson's pet cause would get some theatrical play.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Blast from the past

Houston film critic and bon vivant Michael Bergeron has posted on YouTube this clip of a 1992 TV featurette on White Men Can't Jump. Ace sports broadcaster Spencer Tillman is at the top of his game here. But one of his interview subjects -- a rather portly Houston Post writer -- most certainly is not. Thanks a lot, Mike.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Thanks for nothing, Mr. Moviefone!

If you go over to Moviefone right now, and look at its excerpts from the Metacritic guide to reviews of Live Free or Die Hard, you’ll see a Variety review by yours truly quoted thusly: “Criminally short on laughs as it tries to wring humor from dull activity by dim bulbs.” Also: Metacritic interprets the overall review as giving the movie a 30 score out of a possible 100.

There’s just one problem: I didn’t review Live Free or Die Hard for Variety – Todd McCarthy did. And he liked it. And, not incidentally, so did I.

So what review is Moviefone quoting? My 2006 Variety review of the similarly titled Live Free or Die – a movie that, to be brutally honest, really did deserve a 30 score. You can see for yourself by clicking on the “Read the full review” link on the Moviefone page – it’ll take you right to this.

This would be, at best, mildly amusing if it weren’t for the nasty e-mails I’ve been receiving from people who really, really like Live Free or Die Hard, and who want to, ahem, chastise me for daring to give it a mere 30 score. (A verbatim quote cut-and-pasted from one: “Some of us are looking for real constructive cricism[sic], not some washed out loser who can't hack it with the ladies, so i'll[sic] take out my problems on people who have a real job...The movie was great, it was action packed, and kept my attention, definetly[sic] not a 30.”) I wouldn’t describe the response as a flood – more like a trickle, actually – but the fact that anyone would send me such an e-mail is.... well, pretty freakin’ weird. See, these people had to have clicked to the full Variety review to get my e-mail address, right? But if they did this – well, couldn’t they see it was a review of an entirely different movie?

You know, I read in Time magazine recently that, according to the latest results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than a quarter (27%) of high school seniors are functionally illiterate. I see evidence of this in college classes I teach all the time. But it’s a bit disturbing to see more confirmation in my Microsoft Outlook inbox.

Life imitating art imitating life

Or, more accurately, 7-Eleven imitates Kwik-E-Mart. (Yes, you guessed it: It's a promotional tie-in with The Simpsons Movie.