Sunday, October 18, 2020



(December 1984, U.S.)

By the year 1984, I'd only seen Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY when it aired on TV or when I rented it on pan and scan video cassette.  When Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: ODYSSEY TWO was released in 1982, I read it as soon as a copy was available at my local library, and when the film version was announced with Roy Scheider taking over the role of Dr. Heywood Floyd, I waited in anticipation for its release.

I went to see Peter Hyam's sequel with a friend of mine who'd never seen 2001, so I don't think he was too keen on its sequel.  Still, I was persistent about it and he was a good friend.  He approached our trip to the movies with a good attitude, and was willing to at least give it a try.  And to be fair, I took the time to catch him up on the events of 2001 while we drove to the movie theater, beginning primarily with the discover of the monolith on the moon, hardly bothering to describe the Dawn of Man sequence because it hardly fit in with the new movie.  As he listened to my detailed description, my friend sounded genuinely interested, but who could really tell.  Maybe he was just being a friend and humoring me.  My descriptive backstory of 2001 combined with 2010's pre-credit recap of the events of the first movie leading to the point of the sequel’s introduction might have been enough information for him to know what he was watching without actually seeing 2001.  That’s bullshit, of course, because there is no substitute for seeing the entire masterpiece of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, on screen if possible, and certainly a lot more than once.

Admittedly, I would’ve loved to see William Sylvester return in the role of Dr. Heywood Floyd, but Roy was about as perfect as a substitute as I could’ve imagined.  At the very least, Keir Dullea returns as astronaut David Bowman and Douglas Rain as the voice of the HAL 9000 computer (some things can never be substituted).  It's nine years later now, and the world is on the brink of World War III due to international tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Heywood Floyd is now a college professor because he was initially blamed for the failure of the Discovery mission to Jupiter in 2001.  A new mission is in the works, in which U.S. and Soviet astronauts will return to Jupiter together in the Soviet spaceship, the Leonov, to find out what happened to David Bowman, Frank Poole, the Discovery, and HAL.  Questions that are lingering for nine years are due to be answered.  Intriguing is the fact that this joint mission will take place even as it looks like the U.S. and Russia are about to destroy each other.

While en route to Jupiter, signs of life are detected on one of its moons, Europa.  An unmanned probe and a burst of mysterious energy determine that something is warning the Leonov to stay away from Europa.  The Discovery is found continuously rotating in space, which I consider an original visual effect rather than the ship just sitting there like a dead relic.  It's the eventual arrival at the Monolith itself that disappoints me.  It, unlike the Discovery, isn’t moving at all.  It does sit there like a dead relic.  This is a terrible point in the story because it's the mystery of the monolith’s motion and travel through space I find so breathtaking in the first movie.  While I realized Peter Hyams doesn't want to intentionally copy anything Kubrick already did, this decision seems like a mistake.

Still, there are two more groundbreaking moments in the movie: an explanation to why Hal malfunctioned and killed the rest of the crew aboard the Discovery, and the long-awaited appearance of David Bowman.  The first is delivered with some explicit detail by Hal’s programmer, Dr. Chandra (played by Bob Balaban), who explains the reason HAL did what he did is because he was instructed not to reveal the true mission about the Monolith to the ship’s crew.  This conflicted with HAL’s basic programming of his accurate and truthful processing of information.  Basically, he was instructed to lie and he couldn’t handle the stress or the consequences of it.  He became paranoid and had a computer mental breakdown, causing him to commit murder (that's quite a story).  Who knew that computers could act this way, even in what was considered our future (at the time).  

Tensions back on Earth are detailed.  The United States and the Soviet Union are escalating their conflicts to the breaking point of what could become World War III.  In space, American and Soviet astronauts can no longer occupy the same ship.  But it's Bowman’s eventual arrival that creates the circumstances that get them working together again.  His warning to Dr. Floyd is that they have to leave Jupiter in two days, despite the fact that “something wonderful” is going to happen.  Unlike Dr. Chandra’s long-winded explanation, Bowman gives little information to help us understand things.  He appears, he speaks, he transforms himself into the old man and Star Child we’ve seen in the first movie, and then he disappears.  As everyone in space prepares for a mutual departure, Jupiter develops a growing black spot on the planet’s surface that turns out to be an enormous group of Monoliths that constantly multiply.  As suspense and tensions mount, the Leonov escapes danger even as the Discovery is destroyed (along with HAL) and Jupiter explodes.  This explosion creates a miraculous new star in space, and is accompanied by a final transmission of hopeful words to our planet meant to inspire the United States and the Soviet Union to seek peace with each other: All these worlds are yours except Europa.  Attempt no landing there.  Use them together.  Use them in peace. 

In the end, though, not all is resolved and not all questions are answered.  Much like the first movie, we're finally left with the shape of the Monolith standing alone in the swamp of Europa; an intelligent life form that will continue to evolve and raise questions for humanity.  

I recall asking my friend what he thought of 2010 and I have to give the guy credit for doing his best to spare my feelings of enthusiasm by telling me that he thought it was a good movie, when what I’m sure he really wanted to say was, “Dude, I didn’t get any of it.  I didn’t see any of 2001, so how could I possibly enjoy this?”  I’ll never know for sure if that was the truth, but I’m still grateful for his movie companionship, nonetheless.

It’s taken some years of movie maturity to fully understand and appreciate this, but the first rule when judging 2010 is you’re required to put 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY aside to the point where it almost doesn’t exist.  This is a sequel, to be sure, but to make unfair and unwarranted comparisons to Kubrick’s masterpiece is nothing short of futile.  While 2010 can never achieve the poetic mystery or the sense of wonder its predecessor did, I cannot deny it effectively continues the story that Arthur C. Clarke put in print.  This is still a fun and exciting space adventure in its own right, once you’ve accepted the fact that 2001 is meant to stand alone as one of the greatest motion pictures ever created.  Still, I can’t be entirely kind to this film.  Despite the fact that one of the central points of 2010 is to answer essential questions that have lingered for sixteen years between film releases, it’s the answers that I feel ultimately flaw the film.  Keeping in mind that it’s the sense of inexplicable mystery that makes 2001 such an achievement, why would we even want answers?  Yes, HAL went crazy.  Yes, HAL killed the ship’s crew.  Yes, Bowman entered an alternate dimension beyond the infinite, and yes, Bowman was reborn as the Star Child.  Many of us didn’t get it.  Some of us were infuriated by it.  Some of us embraced the great mystery of the unknown and beyond.  Some of us thought the ambiguity of unanswered questions made it all the more appealing.  Bob Balaban breaking it down for us in logical and explicable terms, ultimately pointing to our own government doing what they do best, lying, serves no true purpose but to only ruin what many of us found so delicious in the first place.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Victor Milson: "So, here we are on your actual brink.  My agency's gonna become a part of the military, I've got a president with his finger poised on the button, and you want me to walk across the park and tell him we want to hitch a ride with those very same Russians.  Have I missed anything?"

Sunday, October 4, 2020


 (April 1968, U.S.)

Sunday February 13, 1977 was a truly significant night in my movie life, and I didn't even know it.  It was the television broadcast premiere of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey on the NBC Big Event.  Because it was a Sunday night, I didn't get to watch the entire movie, but even if I'd been able to, there's no way I would've been able to fully understand what the hell I was watching because I was only ten years-old.  I knew nothing of Kubrick; the man or his art.  I was simply watching a movie about outer space and astronauts on TV, and it looked really cool, despite being a very quiet movie with almost no dialogue.

It's important for me to mention the TV premiere of this classic sci-fi film because its purpose and impact caught up with me again years later when I was a high school teenager and watched it again on rented VHS videotape.  You know what?  I hated it!  I was an older kid now, who had lived through the generational impact of the fact-paced sci-fi entertainment of the late 1970s and early 1980s that included two Star Wars movies, two Star Trek movies, two Superman movies, Battlestar Galactica on TV, Alien, Moonraker and Disney's The Black Hole.  For me to watch such a boring display of space exploration accompanied by classical music instead of an adventurous soundtrack was, to say the least, intolerable.  Still, time and cinematic maturity can be kind to almost anything.  I gave the movie another look by the time I got to college and...well, long story short, I'm proud and honored to say that 2001: A Space Odyssey is my favorite motion picture of all time, and Stanley Kubrick is my favorite film director of all time...and none of it may have ever happened without that first TV airing on NBC planting the original seed.

What is 2001: A Space Odyssey about, and how can it best be explained in any conventional sense?  How does one effectively explain a twenty-minute sequence of the dawn of man in prehistoric Africa in which a tribe of apes are influenced by the appearance of a black alien monolith and thus discover how to use a bone as a weapon and, after their first hunt, use this new weapon to drive away their rival apes in what can only be classified as man's first war - over a watering hole?  Perhaps we simply take it at face value that man was destined for war from the beginning, and thus the immediate cut to millions of years later simply show how we've evolved from one weapon of the bone to a far-more sophisticated piece of weaponry floating in space near Earth's moon.

What follows for much of the film is some of the most beautiful space and space ship imagery ever displayed on screen, accompanied by the powerful music of "The Blue Danube" (my favorite classical piece of music, and I don't like much classical music) and pieces by Hungarian-Austrian composer Gyorgy Ligeti (among others).  Dr. Heywood Floyd (Chairman of the United States National Council of Astronautics) and his team travel to the moon where they discover a recently-found identical monolith which had buried for four million years.  As they examine the monolith, it suddenly emits a high-powered radio signal which is aimed at the planet Jupiter.

Eighteen months later, the US spacecraft Discover One is bound for Jupiter.  On board are mission pilots and scientists Dr. David Bowman (played by Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (played by Gary Lockwood), along with three other scientists in suspended animation.  The ship's operations are controlled by the ship's computer bearing a human personality, a HAL 9000 computer addressed as "HAL" (voiced by Douglas Rain).  After some routing moments aboard the ship, HAL detects an imminent failure of the ship's antenna control device, which ultimately turns out to be a false diagnosis.  This is serious because up until now, the 9000 series of computers had a zero error reputation, and HAL is proven to be in error predicting the fault, though he calmly attributes the discrepancy to human error.

Concerned over this new development in HAL's behavior, Dave and Frank have what they think is a private discussion in which they decide that HAL must be disconnected if he's proven wrong.  What they don't know is that HAL has been reading their lips during their conversation, and is on to their scheme.  In a series of vengeful computer acts, HAL kills Frank and the three sleeping crew members, while refusing to allow Dave re-entry into the Discovery after he's retrieved Frank's floating body in space ("I'm sorry, Dave.  I'm afraid I can't do that.").  Through his own resourcefulness, Dave manages to re-enter the ship through the emergency airlock, and it would appear that HAL is now in big trouble, as Dave systematically disconnects HAL's memory and functioning circuits.  Listen carefully to how HAL, the almighty know-it-all and controller of the entire ship, is now reduced to a babbling (and singing) fool as he fearfully pleads to Dave for his life.  Upon HAL's final disconnection, a prerecorded video message plays, revealing that the mission's objective the entire time is to investigate the radio signal sent from the monolith to Jupiter.

What follows next as the chapter known as JUPITER AND BEYOND THE INFINITE can only be described as a dazzling and totally awesome visual trip of sight, sound, and color (thank you, Douglas Trumbull) as the Dave and the Discovery discover a third and much larger monolith orbiting Jupiter and its moons.  Dave's EVA pod is pulled into a space vortex of colored light and he is carried across vast distances of space, while viewing bizarre cosmological phenomena and strange landscapes of unusual colors (a Stargate).  When his ultimate trip finally comes to an end, Dave finds himself inside a neoclassical hotel suite where he witnesses, and ultimately becomes, older versions of himself until he finally dies a very old man in bed, where the monolith watches at the foot of the bed.  As Dave reaches out for the monolith (my favorite shot in the entire film, by the way)...

...he appears to be transformed into a fetus enclosed in a transparent orb of light, which floats in space beside the planet Earth.  This fetus has become affectionately known as the Star Child.

What does all of this mean, and upon deep reflection, does it really have to mean anything specific in order to be appreciated?  2001: A Space Odyssey is ultimately a story of man's journey and destiny through time and space, in which anything and everything is possible.  While it may not be completely comprehensible on the surface, one can come away with so many different possibilities upon multiple viewings of this sci-fi masterpiece.  Stanley Kubrick himself explained in a 1980 interview of the film's closing scenes where Dave is depicted in old age after his journey through the Stargate...

"The idea was supposed to be that he is taken by godlike entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form.  They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room.  And he has no sense of time.  When they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made some kind of superman.  We have to only guess what happens when he goes back.  It is the pattern of a great deal mythology."

Perfectly explained, in my opinion, and we have only ourselves to blame if we lack the patience and intelligence to allow ourselves the chance to appreciate the artistic intent behind the ultimate journey into the unknown discovery.  Audiences in 1968 didn't get it because it was so dull, that is until late night patrons decided to get high before experiencing the film's awesome effects, thus dubbing it "the ultimate trip".  We can thank these potheads, I suppose, because folks who could appreciate true cinema finally made 2001: A Space Odyssey the legendary cinematic classic it has always deserved to be, and my favorite motion picture of all time.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Dr. Heywood Floyd (recorded): "Good day, gentlemen.  This is a pre-recorded briefing made prior to your departure, and which for security reasons of the highest importance, has been known on board during the mission only by your HAL 9000 computer.  Now that you are in Jupiter space, and the entire crew is revived, it can be told to you.  Eighteen months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the earth was discovered.  It was buried forty feet below the lunar surface, near the crater Tycho.  Except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter, the four million year-old black monolith has remained completely inert.  Its origin and purpose, still a total mystery."



Sunday, September 13, 2020


(December 1988, U.S.)

By the late 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger had solidified his position as A-number 1 movie action star right alongside Sylvester Stallone.  In fact, in Ivan Reitman's TWINS, it's a quick shot of Arnold staring at a giant poster board of Stallone and his muscles in RAMBO III, that I think brings the strongest comic moment, in which Arnold shrugs off his physical competition with a laugh.  Still, back then I never would've imagined that the star of CONAN and THE TERMINATOR could ever be funny in any way.  Well, of course, as life often dictates, never say ever.  In fact, when you take someone as physically grandeur as Arnold and stand him next to a pudgy, little bald pipsqueak like Danny DeVito, and actually call them twins, the promise of comedy seems very self-evident.

And so, the story goes that Julius (Arnold) and Vincent (Danny) Benedict are twins, as a result of a secret experiment carried out at a genetics laboratory in the 1950s in order to combine the DNA of six superior fathers and one mother to produce the perfect human child.  But the unexpectedly split and the twins were born.  The mother, Mary Ann Benedict, was told that Julius died at birth, and wasn't told about Vincent at all.  Vincent was raised in a Los Angeles orphanage run by nuns (one of whom he lost his virginity to when he was twelve years-old) and was told that his mother abandoned him, resulting in his becoming a small time low life jerk in debt over his head to loan sharks.  Julius, on the other hand, was raised on a beautiful island in the South Pacific by a kind scientist from the original experiment.  On the day that Julius becomes aware of Vincent's existence, he believes his long lost brother to be in trouble and in need of his help, and makes his way to Los Angeles, where he immediately takes in some of the local cheap, fast food cuisine.

Tracking Vincent down to jail for a lot of unpaid parking tickets, Julius bails him out and even comes to his aid when the loan sharks, the Klane brothers, come to collect their debt.  He also meets Vincent's girlfriend Linda and her very hot sister Marnie (played by the late Kelly Preston).  Vincent has no interest in locating his real mother, as he believed he was abandoned at birth.  Julius, however, is persistent in his need for family, and tracks down one of the six fathers, who directs Julius to another one of the original scientists located in New Mexico.  Agreeing on a road trip to investigate this further, they proceed in a Cadillac that Vincent previously stole from an airport parking garage run by his buddy, and discovers there's a prototype fuel injector inside the trunk of the car, which Vincent will collect five million dollars for if he drives it to Houston, Texas.  Trouble is, there's a hitman called Webster on their trail who was supposed to drive that very car and collect the money instead.

In New Mexico, the twins learn the truth about themselves, and they're directed to Santa Fe, where their mother supposedly lives and runs an art colony.  Once there, they learn their mother has died.  They leave, unaware that the woman who told them this was in fact, their mother Mary Ann Benedict, who refused to believe their claim to be her sons since she was initially told her one son had died at birth

(you following all of this family drama?)

Frustrated, Vincent heads to Houston alone to deliver the prototype.  Julius catches up, though, using what he believes is his twin telepathy and manages again to rescue Vincent from certain danger and death against Webster, who ends up being killed by a horde of falling steel chains.  The two brothers return the prototype and collect a minor reward, though Vincent has managed to skim one of the five million dollars without Julius knowing (something a little weasel like DeVito would do).  The film ends with the perfectly-predictable happy Hollywood ending in which mother and twins are reunited, and two families live happily ever after with twin babies of their own...and this is the part where we all say, "Awwwww."

And so, to my very fortunate surprise, it turns out that Arnold Schwarzenegger can be funny when he has to be.  Though TWINS does offer predictable modest comic pleasures to those who just want to laugh and forget for a couple of hours, the film certainly does rely on the premise of wackiness to perhaps overcome for any narrative shortcomings in story and character function.  Still, as goofy comedies go, it's engaging entertainment with the right laughs in the right places, and perhaps that's all we need when we're in the mood for a good laugh...even if it's with Arnold.

On a more personal note, my memory of TWINS serves as the first time I was ever aware of just how hot and sexy young Kelly Preston was, and it's the image of her in a white nightie on Arnold's hotel bed, with those shapely thighs and that perfectly-shaped ass, that I'll always hold dear to my horny memories...

Thanks for that memory, Kelly (R.I.P.).

Favorite line or dialogue:

Julius Benedict: "My name is Julius, and I am your twin brother."
Vincent Benedict (sarcastic): "Oh, obviously!  The moment I sat down I thought I was looking into a mirror!"


Saturday, September 5, 2020


(August 1992, U.S.)

Did you watch TWIN PEAKS on ABC back in the early ‘90s?  If you didn’t, and you know nothing about the show, my post for this particular film may go way over your head.  Just the same, give it a shot.  If nothing else, you may be inspired to start streaming the show from the beginning now.

When David Lynch’s groundbreaking TV show premiered on April 8, 1990 on ABC, I didn’t tune in to see the two hour pilot that immediately grabbed the world’s attention.  It was actually a week later when a friend turned me on to the show already several episodes into its story.  Yes, I’d missed the pilot, but I was immediately hooked on this new television phenomenon trying to solve the mystery of “who killed Laura Palmer?”  Those who also followed the show more than thirty years ago know that while it started off with a colossal bang, it died a very quick death after Laura Palmer’s murderer (spoiler alert – it was her father) was revealed and was cancelled after it wrapped things up at the end of just two seasons.  Still, David Lynch couldn’t get his head and his heart away from the world of TWIN PEAKS and wanted to make a film to further explore the material of Laura Palmer and the contradictions of her character – lovely and radiant on the outside, but dying on the inside.  Actress Sheryl Lee, who played Laura, never actually got to live her character’s torment of being the victim of incest, as she was already dead when the series began (only Laura in flashback was ever seen).  There was also the torment of her father Leland Palmer and the dark side of Bob that raged within his soul. 

The final result was the R-rated prequel film TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME more than a year after the TV series was cancelled.  It was released without marketing or fanfare on Labor Day weekend of 1992, which also turned out to be one of the best weekends I ever had with friends at my family's beach house in Westhampton Beach, Long Island.  I went to see it on screen with some college friends.  What we all undeniably had in common was our love of TWIN PEAKS.  During that weekend, the sun didn’t shine even once, but it also didn’t rain.  So while we nonchalantly went about our days without planning too much in advance, one thing that was certain was a drive to Southampton on Sunday night to attend the late night showing of FIRE WALK WITH ME.  The theater that night was practically empty.  Except for my group of friends, there were maybe two or three other people, and they were seated in the back.  So for all practical purposes, my friends and I had the theater to ourselves.  This was our theater, our night, and our love of TWIN PEAKS bringing us together now.  We’d followed the show from beginning to end, knew everything there was to know, and as far as we were concerned, David Lynch had made this prequel for us.  This private arrogance wasn’t without merit, because it's immediately obvious when the film begins and the floating corpse of Teresa Banks is identified on screen, the understanding of this film, its characters and its circumstances are highly predicated on having watched the TV series.

Beginning one year before the murder of Laura Palmer, FBI agents Chester Desmond and Sam Stanley are assigned to investigate the murder of teenage drifter and prostitute Teresa Banks in the town of Deer Meadow, Washington.  The weirdness of David Lynch wastes no time with a woman named Lil, whose physical appearance and actions reveal information about their assignment, including an artificial blue rose pinned to her dress.  While examining Teresa’s corpse in the morgue, they discover a small piece of paper inserted under her fingernail with the letter “T” printed on it (you may recall that Laura had the same kind of paper with the letter “R” printed on it).  Later, while retrieving Teresa’s missing ring, the camera freezes, as if to suggest Desmond has been taken by an unseen force.

At the FBI headquarters in Philadelphia, Special Agent Dale Cooper (with Kyle MacLachlan returning in the role) and his boss Gordon Cole (David Lynch himself) experience a vision of their long-lost colleague Phillip Jeffries, (played by by David Bowie).  He tells them of a meeting he witnessed of mysterious spirits above a convenience store, including the Man from Another Place and the killer Bob (whom we already know to be the evil spirit that inhabited the body of Leland Palmer when he was killing).  One year later, we're once again in the town of Twin Peaks.  Laura is alive, she's addicted to cocaine, and is seeing James Hurley behind her biker boyfriend Bobby Briggs’s back.  In her bedroom, she discovers pages torn out of her secret diary, and then witnesses her own father exiting the house, thus deducing that he and Bob are one in the same.  Leland is abusive with her that night at dinner, and then lovingly tender with her later.  Her dream of being in the Black Lodge with Cooper and the Man from Another Place is creepy and visually haunting, as only David Lynch can do it.  Cooper wants Laura not to take Teresa’s ring, but it ends up in her hand, nonetheless.  When she awakes, the ring is gone.

The scene that follows in the Roadhouse is an example of everything Lynch couldn’t get away with on TV, including drug use, nudity and acts of sex.  We also learn that Laura and Ronette Pulaski knew Teresa Banks.  In a private moment with Laura and father in the car, they're verbally assaulted by Philip Gerard (also known as the one-armed man) who is possessed by the demon known as Mike, when he tries to warn Laura about her father and Bob.  Teresa’s ring is on his finger, and the film flashbacks to a potential foursome with her and Leland.  This doesn't happen when he's shocked to discover that one of the girls is his own daughter and flees the scene.  We're reminded again that we're watching an R-rated movie instead of a censored TV show, because there's a moment when the incestuous nature of Laura’s torment is not only visual, but physical, when Bob comes through her window and rapes her, only to reveal himself as Leland for a brief moment, sending Laura into terror.

Finally, on the night we all know is coming, Laura meets Leo Johnson, Jacques Renault and Ronette at the cabin in the woods.  Leland follows her there, and makes his evil existence known to us all when he attacks the men, and takes the girls to an abandoned train car.  Transforming into Bob, he beats Ronette unconscious and viciously murders Laura.  Now wrapped in plastic, she's placed in the lake until she washes up ashore the next morning, which is where the TV show pilot began more than two years earlier.  In the Black Lodge, Agent Cooper is there to comfort her spirit.  When she sees the angel of goodness, she laughs and cries, and we all believe that Laura Palmer shall find peace in a happier place.

This prequel was likely doomed before it ever hit the screen because if you didn’t follow the TV show, the film’s content would mean nothing to you, and probably just piss you off.  This was a time before streaming, and not even the complete videotape series of the show was available yet.  So it’s no wonder FIRE WALK WITH ME bombed at both the box office and with critics.  Those who “didn’t get it” likely felt the character of Laura Palmer to be uninteresting and non-compelling, in a tale that simply went beyond the standards of TV to feature language, violence, nudity and sex.  The nudity thankfully doesn't disappoint, because we finally get to see some of Laura Palmer we never got to see on network TV, including her topless body sitting next to Ronette at the Roadhouse, as she appears to enjoy getting orally pleasured by a guy under the table...

...and a few brief skin shots of her in her bedroom before going out on what will be her fateful night, including her lovely and shapely ass, and her firm thighs...

Of course, I can certainly appreciate all that, so it’s from the perspective of someone like me who followed the show, and has enjoyed following the bizarre art form of David Lynch, that I can offer all the personal love and praise I bestow on this film.  Like the Italian director Federico Fellini, Lynch takes the opportunity to be as self-indulgent as he wishes to be with material he’s been in love with for much of his career.  Lynch is brave in taking the small American town from TV and showing a darker, more horrific side of it in the life of a beautiful young woman we know is going to die in the end.  It’s this knowledge of Laura Palmer’s pending death that instills a psychological edge in our thoughts in knowing that there’s nothing that can be done to save her: Laura will die by the hands of her own father, and we know it’s coming with every terrifying minute that passes because we’re meant to understand what it’s like to be in her shoes as she suffers so horribly.

Despite its initial negative backlash (even by some die-hard fans of the show), FIRE WALK WITH ME has enjoyed some positive critical re-evaluation and cult status.  But like it or not, for better or worse, the film is every bit as weird and twisted as anything David Lynch has offered us before with films like Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart.  I mean, it’s TWIN PEAKS, for crying out loud, and in the end, may be all but critic-proof due to enough love and support that comes from people who understand the artist…people like myself and my old college friends who were with me that night over Labor Day weekend 1992.

Thank you, my friends, for one of the most personal weekends in the Hamptons I’ve ever experienced, and will never forget.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Special Agent Phillip Jeffries: "Well now, I'm not gonna talk about Judy.  In fact, we're not gonna talk about Judy at all.  We're gonna keep her out of it."

Sunday, August 30, 2020


(November 2008, U.S.)

Just a quick note that I intentionally identify the year of this film as 2008 so as not to confuse it with the 1998 Robert Benton film of the same name with Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon.

By all accounts, there's no reason in the world for me to like a movie like TWILIGHT.  To begin with, I'm not a young adult in high school, and with the exception of the Harry Potter series, I have little-to-no interest in popular series of fiction that's very popular with young adults (including my son) like THE HUNGER GAMES or DIVERGENT series.  Second, vampire films are about a dime a dozen ever since the first adaptation of Bram Stoker's DRACULA, and after a while, if you've seen one, you've seen nearly all of them.

So why the attraction to a movie like TWILIGHT?  I mean, it's not like Kristen Stewart is naked in this movie (unfortunately).  I'm also not a young woman with a crush on  a guy like Robert Pattinson.  So there must be something I deem worthy behind this introductory film to what eventually becomes a series of its own.  Let's see if we can't figure it out together.

Stewart plays Bella Swan, a seventeen year-old outcast from Phoenix, Arizona who's just moved to the small town of Forks in the state of Washington to live with her father, the town's chief of police.  She manages to make friends at her new high school easily, but is surprised to find that the school's heartthrob Edward Cullen is practically physically repulsed by her.  Angered, yet intrigued, she seeks to learn why Cullen is keeping his distance from her, even as he repeatedly tries to talk to her.  Days later, Bella is nearly hit by a skidding van in the school parking lot when Edward instantaneously covers the distance between her and his own car and saves her by stopping the van with just his hand.  Refusing to explain how he did that, he warns her against befriending her.  Of  course, she doesn't listen.  Her native American friend Jacob tells her a tale of a long-standing animosity between the Cullen family and his own, citing that the Cullens are not permitted on his reservation.

After some stubborn research, Bella concluded that Edward's mysterious powers are identical to that of the traditional vampire.  He doesn't deny this when confronted by her, buy says that he and his family are like vampire "vegetarians" who only consume animal blood, and not people's.  However, there are three other nomadic vampires out there who aren't so kind, having already eaten two of the local town folks.  Of course Edward and Bella fall in love, and it's now his obligation to keep her safe from those who would eat her for dinner, while keeping the secret of his own identity and his family's.  In the film's climax at an old ballet studio, Bella is attacked and infected with vampire venom.  After a ferocious battle, Edward saves her from becoming a vampire herself by sucking out the venom, but has to control his impulsive nature to devour her completely.  The film ends rather sweetly with the high school prom, but the door is already open for what will continue in four more films.

So, my not being a reader of the TWILIGHT series of books, it's important to note my reasons for being attracted to the first as a stand-alone film.  The reason is simple in that the film in its own way is simple.  Rather than overplay the card in which most fans would demand a whole lot of overblown action and special effects, the film recognizes the style of taking its time to not only introduce us to a series of mysterious characters, but to carefully explore the mystery of who Edward Cullen is (we already know, of course), what makes him exist the way he is, and what the dangers inherently are of him falling in love with a mortal young woman like Bella.  The film doesn't pretend to be an action thriller, but rather a troubled romance, and I think I'm able to totally appreciate and understand that.  It conveys the magic and the miracle of meeting that one special person you've been waiting for who truly moves you.  Some of us never see that sort of magic in real life.  Or if we do, it doesn't always last forever (amazing how a movie about vampires can teach a life lesson or two).

Favorite line or dialogue:

Bella Swan: "About three things I was absolutely certain.  First, Edward was a vampire.  Second, there was a part of him, and I didn't know how potent that part might be, that thirsted for my blood.  And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."

Sunday, August 23, 2020


(November 2003, U.S.)

Ever since PULP FICTION in 1994, I've become a big fan of films with stories told in a non-linear manner: in other words, where events are portrayed out of chronological order or in other ways where the traditional narrative doesn't necessarily follow the direct pattern of movie events.  But for the purposes of this blog post, it's probably best that I describe things in the chronological order.

Ex-convict Jack Jordan (played by Benicio del Toro) has found a new religious faith in order to recover from alcoholism and drug addiction, although his family has little understanding and patience for his newfound faith in Jesus Christ.  In another part of the same city, Paul Rivers (played by Sean Penn) is a mathematics professor with a fatal heart condition, and unless he receives a new heart from an organ donor, he'll be dead within a month.  Paul's dedicated wife wants him to donate his sperm so she can have his baby if he dies.  And in yet another part of that same city, Christina Peck (played by Naomi Watts) is a recovering drug addict (another one?) living a traditional suburban life with her husband and two daughters.  The lives and stories of these three people become linked together when Jack kills Christina's husband and daughters in a hit-and-run accident, and her husband's heart is donated to Paul.

The loss of her family turns Christina back to drugs, and she comes into contact with Paul, who has deliberately sought her out to find out more about his heart donor.  Stricken with guilt over the accident, Jack turns to drugs again and eventually decides to turn himself in, citing his "duty to God."  While incarcerated, he renounces God and even attempt suicide.  He's, nonetheless, released from prison after Christina declines to press charges, though she will eventually decides she wants Jack dead instead.  When she and Paul finally meet and develop their own romantic relationship, (oh yeah, Naomi Watts is naked, by the way)...

...she convinces Paul to help carry out her obsession with extracting revenge on Jack.  Paul and Christina check into the same motel where Jack is living now, and their plan eventually takes shape when Paul grabs Jack and leads him to an isolated clearing, intent on killing him at gunpoint.  However, Paul is unable to kill, and orders him to just disappear.  This plan backfires, however, and the three of them are inevitably brought together in a moment of gun violence in the motel room, resulting in Jack and Christina rushing Paul to the hospital.  Jack attempts to tell the police that he was the one who shot Paul, but is released when his story doesn't confirm with the actual events of what happened.  Paul dies (spoiler), and the conflict between Jack and Christina remains unresolved.

The filming style of 21 GRAMS is very distinctive in that it involves rather gritty, hand-held camera shots and the use of unique color photographic images to distinguish each character's storyline and their developments.  Jack's story appears to use warm colors, Paul's story appears to use cool colors, and Christina's appear to be more neutral.  While the narrative of the story remains structured to a degree, it's non-linear form provides a very stylish, if not haunting drama of three lives lost, and destined to crash into each other at some point.  The outstanding performances by its three principles are gripping and able to move and astonish us with it's unique (and even satisfying) story of what is supposed to be a look at ordinary its most extraordinary vision.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Paul Rivers (to his wife Mary): "We've been a fraud for a long time."

Saturday, August 15, 2020


(December 2002, U.S.)

Spike Lee is a director I've tried to follow closely ever since his triumphant DO THE RIGHT THING (1989), a film I consider to the best of the 1980s.  Like so many other directors, he's had his hits and misses with me, but I've often been very curious when he decides to make a film that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the struggle of his people.  His film 25TH HOUR was one of the earliest films to directly deal with the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and it's well integrated into the life of of Montgomery Brogan (played by Edward Norton) as he prepares to begin serving a seven-year prison sentence for drug dealing.  He plans to spend his last night of freedom with childhood friends Frank and Jacob (Barry Pepper and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, respectively) at a Manhattan nightclub, as well as his girlfriend Naturelle (played by Rosario Dawson).  Frank is a hotshot, loudmouth Wall Street trader and Jacob is an introverted high school teach with a forbidden crush on his seventeen year-old (underage) student Mary (played by a very sexy Anna Paquin).  His father is a retired firefighter and recovering alcoholic who owns a bar (yeah, I'm sure that helps matters) and plans to drive his son to prison in the morning.

Through the use of flashbacks, we see just how Monty came to be arrested and how his Russian contacts try to convince him that it was Naturelle who turned him in to the Feds.  We see how he met Naturelle in the first place, she being just an eighteen year-old high school girl sitting in the park.  Their love is meant to be genuine and true, but somehow I can never get past the idea that it was simply a horny young man who wanted to get laid by a high school girl fantasy.  The fantasy does turn to love though, but it's hard for others not to suspect the girlfriend of not only living high on Monty's money, but not caring enough to get him to stop dealing drugs.

Back at the nightclub, Jacob is on the verge of turning into a pedophile, and Mary's sexually-motivated interests in him aren't helping matters.  He finally finds the courage to kiss Mary in the bathroom, but both of them appear to be in shock afterwards, going their separate ways and not saying a word about it.  Upstairs at the club, the Russian mob reveals that it was one of their own who betrayed Monty and turned him in.  Refusing the opportunity to extract revenge on his own, he walks away leaving the informant to be killed by the Russian mobsters. 

In the morning, Monty shocks his friends (and us) by demanding that Frank beat his face in so that he won't be such an attractive target of rape when he gets to prison.  An insane request, yes, but it somehow makes sense when you consider the fear Monty is facing and that going in ugly may be his only chance of survival.  On the road trip with his father to the prison, Monty is suddenly faced with the option (and the fantasy) of driving west into hiding, where he could begin a new life and start a family with Naturelle.  This unfortunately is just a fantasy, because when it's over, Monty is still just a beaten man on his way to prison.  Still, we couldn't help but imagine the possibilities of freedom along with him.

As an actor, Edward Norton has often surprised me with his dramatic abilities.  That doesn't necessarily mean I can forgive him for his pointless portrayal of Will Graham in RED DRAGON (2002) and Bruce Banner in THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008).  But what's most unforgettable about him in 25TH HOUR is his personal lashing out at himself in the nightclub bathroom mirror, as he proceeds to angrily rant against all the New York City stereotypes he can think of, from the cab drivers to the corner grocers, to the mobsters, to the terrorists, declaring that he hates them all with an ongoing "Fuck you!"  This act of stereotypical targeting is, of course, very unpolitically correct, but in the wake of 9/11, we all couldn't help but feel a little (or a lot) of Ed's anger toward those who made this country more of a difficult place to live in.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Monty Brogan (staring at himself in the mirror): "Fuck the Wall Street brokers!  Self-styled masters of the universe!  Michael Douglas, Gordon Gekko wannabe motherfuckers, figuring out new ways to rob hard working people blind!  Send those Enron assholes to jail for fucking life!  You think Bush and Cheney didn't know about this shit?  Give me a fucking break!"