Friday, April 30, 2010
(November 1992, U.S.)
There are a couple of things I should probably make clear to you before I get into this one. First, I can't honestly say that this movie (or any other family film) is part of MY collection anymore because I have a four year-old son and they now make up HIS collection. Second, (and pay attention to this, people!) I generally do not like musicals as a genre. You're going to find very few musical titles as you go through this blog.
Regarding ALADDIN, if it weren't for the fact that I think Robin Williams is one of the funniest people on this planet, this movie would never have crossed my path. It's his insane comic genius as the Genie that makes this one worthwhile for me. This was enough to get me to go see the movie on screen when it was released in 1992. Add the voice of Gilbert Gottfried into the mix and there are enough reasons for me to laugh when I'm watching this movie, even if I can't tolerate the singing. Sometimes even now, when my son says something predictable to me, I'll catch myself saying (in my best Gottfried impression), "Oh, there's a big surprise!"
By the way, I have a general question regarding many Disney animated musicals; why is it that so many Disney princesses do not have a mother? Didn't you ever wonder about that? Cinderella had no mother. Ariel had no mother. Belle - no mother. Jasmine - no mother. Mulan - no mother. I'd say somebody at Disney has had serious mother issues over the years!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jafar: "Patience, Iago, patience. Gazeem was obviously less than worthy."
Iago: "Oh, there's a big surprise! That's an incredible - I think I'm gonna have a heart attack and die from that surprise!"
Thursday, April 29, 2010
(March 1977, U.S.)
When this film was released, the big screen had already seen every kind of disaster imagineable; capsized cruise liner, earthquake, high rise inferno, mid-air collision and a tidal wave. So what was left? Why, crash a 747 into the Bermuda Triangle in AIRPORT '77, of course. You know what? It wasn't a half-bad idea? The plot surrounding the plane's highjack, crash and rescue was far more original than its predecessor, AIRPORT 1975. In this film, the jumbo airliner owned by Jimmy Stewart is carrying priceless works of art which two men attempt to highjack and smuggle to St. George Island in Florida by knocking out the pilots and passengers with sleep gas. Things go wrong when the plane flies too low and hits an offshore drilling platform. The rest is, of course, airport movie thrills. The moments between the highjack and the crash in the water are particularly filled with good suspense and dread, as you wait for the inevitable to happen. John Cacavas' music score adds to the tension.
By the way, while I can't claim to have seen every film that Jack Lemmon ever made, I think this role of the airline captain is perhaps the closest he ever came to any sort of action-type hero.
I remember really wanting to see this movie as a kid from the moment I saw the cool movie poster of the submerged airliner in the water in the newspaper. By the time I did actually see it broadcasted on NBC-TV, there was 70 minutes of extra footage added. I think it was then I first started to realize that there was a REASON extra, unused footage ended up on the cutting room floor. Another thing I can remember is that by the time I took a trip on a plane for the first time in September 1978, I had already been exposed to three "airport" films and the hype that surrounded them. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about my first flight.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Karen Wallace: "Excuse me, I don't mean to intrude, but could you move your ass, dear? Thank you!"
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
(March 1970, U.S.)
In my last post, I mentioned "airport" films of the '70s. Well since the alphabet ultimately takes its course, it's time to discuss a couple of them...
When the film version of Arthur Hailey's AIRPORT was relased 40 years ago, it was actually rated G. This means if you saw it on screen when you were a kid, you were treating yourself to a soap opera drama that involved infidelity, pregnancy, divorce, a crippling snowstorm, airline fraud and domestic terrorism. Not exactly Disney stuff, is it? AIRPORT ushered in the new decade of the disaster film, and yet with the exception of the last 30 minutes or so, very little of the story involves the traditional disaster themes of the time. As a drama, the film works surprisingly well, much of it attributed to the performance of the late, great Burt Lancaster. The film is characterized by ensemble acting in which many of the personal stories are intertwined while critical, minute-by-minute decisions are being made by the airport staff during one of the worst snowstorms in decades.
Not that I'm advocating a remake of this film, but I've often wondered how this story would play on screen today, in a post 9/11 world. Even if you avoid involving terrorism, certainly stories of passenger frustration, inadequate security, overcharging for airline extras, racial profiling, etc. - that material alone would make for a nice dark drama, rated PG-13 as a minimum.
Hollywood, if you're reading this, I'm just speculating. Please don't remake AIRPORT. Please don't remake anything ever again!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Mel Bakersfeld: "Don't talk to me about consequences! When Congress voted to cut airport appropriations, you never even sent in a letter of protest. And where were you when the airlines and the pilots and the rest of us were pleading for more airports and better traffic control? You were picking out the colors in the ladies lounge. So now you've got your consequences!"
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
(June 1980, U.S.)
When AIRPLANE! was released 30 years ago, it spoofed all of the "Airport" films that had been popular in the '70s as well as Paramount's own 1957 film, ZERO HOUR. Even back then, though, the idea for a comedy with spoofs, silly jokes and bad puns was not exactly original. Mel Brooks had already been doing it for nearly a decade. However, AIRPLANE brought on a fresh degree of rudeness, ludeness and crudeness that created a comedy classic that still cracks me up even 30 years later (it's even part of the film library at Turner Classic Movies!). This is a movie that seems to have its style of humor all perfectly and tightly packed into a simple 87 minutes of screen time. Because of this, I've never felt the redundant need to own any of the films from THE NAKED GUN, HOT SHOTS or SCARY MOVIE series. It's like I'm always telling my four year-old son; if you say something too many times, it's not funny anymore.
One thing in particular I've found interesting is that even when you think you know a film inside and out, there's always one or two things you're apt to discover as you get older. I first saw AIRPLANE! when I was a pre-teen and continued to see it multiple times on on pay cable channels. It's only in my adulthood that I manged to pick up on a few things. For instance, I never realized this when I was younger, but that young black man checking under the hood of the plane before takeoff is none other than GOOD TIMES' own Jimmie Walker himself. Here's another one: as a kid, everytime Ted Striker (played by Robert Hays) mentioned "the war", it was always my presumption that because of the old black and white combat footage shown in the film, that he was referring to World War II. Clearly, as time and age would dictate, he must have talking about the Vietnam War. As a kid, though, I simply didn't pick up on that.
And now, just when you think you know everything about everything, here's one final revelation about AIRPLANE! that I've only just recently discovered. Ready? AIRPLANE! is practically a remake of an earlier Paramount adventure called ZERO HOUR (1956). It's practically a duplicate of everything AIRPLANE! (including the hero named Ted Stryker!), but without the jokes. But it's completely unfair and inaccurate to say it's a copy of AIRPLANE! when it came out first in the 1950s. So, out of intense couriousity, I watched it recently and tried very hard to take it seriously. Impossible! I've been weaned on AIRPLANE! for three decades now and I can't possibly listen to a serious piece of dialogue like, "Can you fly this plane and land it?" from 1956 without hearing the natural response in my head: "Surely, you can't be serious!", followed by, "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley."
And so, even to this day, I'm ashamed to admit that occassionally one of my best friends and I will find ouselves quoting one of the many quotables from AIRPLANE! to get a laugh out of each other, particularly when it comes to two white guys trying to speak "Jive". Hey, if the woman who played June Cleaver on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER could do it, why not us??
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jack Kirkpatrick: "Shanna, they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let 'em crash!"
(July 1997, U.S.)
Watching AIR FORCE ONE again last night for the first time in many years, I discovered a couple of things about my age. One, it seems you're never too old to enjoy watching Harrison Ford play the hero and kick some major ass! Two, even at my age I still find myself getting excited and cheering inside, things like, "Kill that terrorist motherfucker!" (Note: any disrespect to terrorists with that last remark was purely intentional!). This movie is pure action and excitement from beginning to end. And with Harrison Ford at the helm, it saves this kind of story from resembling a cheap action film that Chuck Norris would have made with Cannon Films back in the '80s.
I think I also discovered that when you watch any kind of film where hostages are taken, especially aboard a plane, in a post 9/11 world, you watch it with a certain degree of intensity and reflection that may not have been there when you watched it before 9/11. Perhaps that's only natural now.
Favorite line or dialogue:
President James Marshall: "GET OFF MY PLANE!"
Monday, April 26, 2010
(June 2001, U.S.)
There's a lot I have to say about this film. But the first things I should tell you is that Stanley Kubrick is still my favorite director of all time. He died in March 1999. Steven Spielberg is my favorite LIVING director today.
When I first heard about a story by Stanley Kubrick to be directed by Steven Spielberg, I thought my movie dreams were about to come true. After Kubrick passed away, it seemed only fitting that Spielberg would take the reins on a project Kubrick had been kicking around for some time. The result was A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.
I don't know about you, but as an adult, I've always enjoyed high concept science fiction films. Films like 2001, THX-1138, DUNE and SOLARIS that have challanged the mind and forced one to ask questions and perhaps watch them again to get a better feel for the film are far more rewarding for me than the traditional action of any STAR WARS film.
A.I. puts a new futuristic twist on the story of Pinocchio and raises questions of love, committment, responsibility and humanity. When does a robot child actually become human? If this child is capable of loving, what obligations does society have to love it back? These concepts, accompanied with some dazzling special effects, in my opinion, make it one of Spielberg's best films to rival even that of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and E.T.
There is sequence toward the end of the film where we see the icy, frozen plains of what was once the island of Manhattan, 2000 years into the future. There is a shot of what remains of the tops of the twin towers of the World Trade Center sticking out of the ice. Excuse the bad pun, but watching this scene now is particularly "chilling" given the fact that less than three months after the film's release, the twin towers were destroyed on September 11th.
A.I. is without a doubt one of Steven Spielberg's most underated films. In my opinion, it not only should have been nominated for the Oscar for best picture of 2001, but I consider it to be one of my top ten favorite films of the last decade.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Female Colleague: "It occurs to me with all this animus existing against Mechas today, it isn't just a question of creating a robot that can love. Isn't the real conundrum , can you get a human to love them back?"
Professor Hobby: "Ours will be a perfect child caught in a freezeframe. Always loving, never ill, never changing. With all the childless couples yearning in vain for a license, our Mecha will not only open up a new market, but fill a great human need."
Female Colleague: "But you haven't answered my question. If a robot could genuinely love a person, what responsibility does that person hold toward the Mecha in return? It's a moral question, isn't it?"
Professor Hobby: "The oldest one of all. But in the beginning, didn't God create Adam to love him?"
Sunday, April 25, 2010
(February 1952, U.S.)
Watching THE AFRICAN QUEEN today reminds me of a very valuable lesson in modern moviegoing. You know what that is? If you're lucky enough to find a film with viable actors in it, playing actual people, shot on location in an actual part of the world without the use of back lots and CGI, then you've struck cinema gold!
The film takes place on the rivers of Africa and director John Huston shot it on location in Africa. Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn were two major movie starts who could actually ACT. The story is a simple one of an adventure down the river and the rapids aboard a decrepid boat in order to sink an enemy German patrol ship during World War I.
There is one major point of this film that attracts my attention above all else, and that's the transformation of Hepburn's character, Rosie. When we first meet her, she is (in no uncertain terms) a very proper and uptight Christian woman (just two clicks shy of being a bitch, quite frankly). One of the best examples of this attitude is her shocked face when Bogart produces a bottle of gin and drinks it in front of her. With each step that their adventure takes, though, she is becoming a different woman. Her hair comes down, her clothes and her face get dirty, her prissy uptightness is slowly replaced with her raw instict for survival, the rush of adrenaline she feels when she navigates the boat and the river, and the deep, dark feeling of vengeance she carries to strike back at the Germans for the death of her brother. Oh, yeah, and she's also fallen in love with Bogart's character, Charlie.
The other point I'd like to discuss is a particular sequence in the film that has always stayed with me. Charlie and Rosie have reached what they conclude is the end of their journey together, as they find their boat stuck in the dry mud of the river, unable to go on. Believing they are about to die, Rosie says what she concludes is her final prayer and falls beside her true love on the boat. The camera pans upward and we see that (unbeknownst to them) they are no more than 100 yards from the lake where the German enemy boat is patrolling. You can't help but be filled with an unreasonable urge to scream, "Wake up, you two! You're almost there! Don't give up!"
This is how and when a film can reach you; when you feel that an emotion (any emotion) has touched you. THE AFRICAN QUEEN has that moment, and it's enoguh to make it a true classic for me.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Rosie: "Would you hang us together, please?"
Charlie: Oh, wait a minute. Hey, Captain."
Charlie: "Will you grant us a last request?"
Captain: "What is it?"
Charlie: "Marry us."
Charlie: "We wanna get married. Ship captains can do that, can't they?"
Charlie: "Why Charlie, what a lovely idea."
Captain: "What kind of craziness is this?"
Charlie: "Oh, come on, Captain. It'll only take a minute. It'll mean such a lot to the lady."
Captain: "Very well, if you wish it, absolutely."
Captain: "By the authority vested in me by Kaiser Wilhelm the Second, I pronounce you man and wife-proceed with the execution!"
(May 1938, U.S.)
Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era, because I occassionally fantasize about what it must have been like to be a kid in 1938, attending a Saturday matinee at the local movie house (that's right - I said LOCAL MOVIE HOUSE - now virtually extinct, replaced by the dreaded multiplex!) for a mere ten cents and watching Errol Flynn swashbuckle across the screen in living Technicolor.
By now, the legend of Robin Hood is no stranger to anyone who's ever read a book or been to the movies. He's been played by the likes of others like Sean Connery, Kevin Costner - hell, even Daffy Duck! This summer he'll be played again by Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott's version. It's a character that's been played in the movies probably nearly as many times as Dracula (it's SO nice to know that Hollywood has such a huge array of material they can keep recycling over and over again).
To watch this 1938 film is definitely an exercise in one's imagination and open mindedness, especially by today's action movie standards of speed, violence and CGI effects. But take a moment to look closer and you can appreciate the action, the thrills and even the dialogue of another time, when American films were just a bit more innocent in content, and just as much fun as they can be today. Any blockbuster film you've seen over the years involving pirates, King Arthur or ancient titans of Greek mythology would likely owe a great deal of gratitude to director Michael Curtiz's unique style of adventure that comes through on the screen.
And something else to remember, people of today's generation - back in the 1930's, actor Erro Flynn WAS the adventurous Russell Crowe of today (he was also Australian). He WAS the Saturday matinee movie idol that children and adults enjoyed paying what little money they could afford (during the Great Depression) to go to the movies.
You know what else I've come to realize about Robin Hood? He was a British legend and only ONCE has an actual British actor played him on screen - it was Cary Elwes playing him in Mel Brooks' ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS, a comedy spoof of Robin Hood, of all things.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Bishop: "Is it of your own freewill that you juxtapose your brother, Richard the Lionheart of England?"
Prince John: "Richard no longer exists! From this moment forward, I John, am king of England!"
King Richard: "Aren't you a little premature, brother?"
Friday, April 23, 2010
(August 1989, U.S.)
I am writing this post on James Cameron's 1994 re-released director's cut of the film...
Let me start this off with a general rule of film - so-called "special editions" and "director's cuts" are very rarely better than the original film released in theaters. There's a good reason that most extra footage ends up on the cutting room floor. However, there are occassional exceptions and THE ABYSS is one of them.
When the film was first released in 1989, I have to say I wasn't too interested because it seemed to appear merely as the third film in a string of underwater thrillers that had already hit movie theaters that year, DEEPSTAR SIX and LEVIATHAN being the first two. So I didn't go to see it. By the time I rented it on video, I was generally impressed and entertained by this adventure that at least one critic had called an "underwater E.T.". This was also the first time viewers were seeing CGI (computer generated image) on film, and damn if it didn't look incredible!
The ending of the film, however, left me with my jaw dropped, feeling like I'd just been royally screwed out of a viable ending! The motive and purpose behind the underwater aliens was only touched upon in the vaguest sense inside of less than two minutes of film time. Part of this was due to Cameron being forced to cut much of his material due to 20th Century Fox's opinion that the film was running too long. They should know, right? NOT!!!
Three years later, the director's cut fully explains the alien's purpose and threat when we see that the world is on the brink of disaster with the creation of enormous megatsunami-level waves that are positioned and stalled over every coast line to counter-attack humanity's self destruction. Eventually believing that humanity IS capable of caring and self-sacrifice, the waves retract and our planet is saved. The expanded ending ties the entire story together and answers questions that were left unanswered in 1989, and that's ultimately what can make or break a good movie.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Bud: "Look, I don't know what kinda deal you guys made with the company, but my people are not qualified for this. We're oil workers."
Navy Commander: "This is Lt. Coffey. He will transfer down to you with a seal team and supervise the operation."
Bud: "You can send whoever you like, but I'm the tool pusher on this rig and when it comes to the safety of these people, there's me and then there's God, understand? If things get dicey, I'm pullin' the plug."
(June 1948, U.S.)
I think one only need listen to or watch their legendary comedy skit, "Who's On First" to know that Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were one of the greatest comedy teams of the 20th Century. They made numerous films together, but this one is often considered their most quintessential. And why not? You're not just getting Frankenstein, but Dracula (played again by Bela Lugosi) and the Wolfman (played again by Lon Chaney, Jr.). This had to have been a major event for Universal International to not only have their great comedy pair-up, but their legendary Universal monsters, as well. Frankly, just listening to the sound of Costello gettting scared out of his wits each time a monster appears is worth a look at this great comedy horror film, which in my opinion, even outsours Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).
Favorite line or dialogue:
Chick: "Look, Wilbur, we've always been pals, haven't we?"
Wilbur: "Oh, yes."
Chick: "We've always shared and shared alike, haven't we?"
Chick: "Well now, look, let's be reasonable, come on."
Wilbur: "I've always shared with you."
Chick: "Yes, you have!"
Wilbur: "If I had two cigarettes, I'd give you one."
Chick: That's right!"
Wilbur: "And if I had two pair 'a shoes, I'd give you a pair."
Chick: "Don't I know it?"
Wilbur: "And if I had two girls..."
Chick: "Eh, well?"
Wilbur: "Why don't you light that cigarette, put on those shoes and take a walk for yourself."
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Just another thought before I get started...
It is particularly pleasing that the first film I shall talk about is a classic black and white one. Ever since college, when I discovered the films of the golden age of Hollywood, I've become a classic film addict. There's so much I've seen, on TV, DVD, video and occassionally on the revival movie screen. There's also so much I haven't seen. How could I? They've been making movies for over 100 years, and I've only been alive for forty-eight.
People have actually asked me why I love these films so much, citing that they were "before my time". This kind of argument is asinine, in my opinion! Mozart, Elvis Presley and the Beatles were before many of our times, but that doesn't prevent today's younger generation from loving and appreciating their music. Another thing to consider is that when I was a kid in the '70s and early '80s, black and white classics WERE the movies that were being shown on local TV stations like WPIX Channel 11, WWOR Channel 9 and WNEW Channel 5. The exposure was there. It was unavoidable.
Those days are gone, but now I thank all that is good in the world for TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES - the only channel on cable TV worth a damn! I thank TCM film historian ROBERT OSBORNE - the only TV host whose voice I enjoy listening to on a regular basis.
With that in mind, let's begin...
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Thank you, Emerson, Lake & Palmer!
Welcome, my fellow lovers of film and the opinions that make them special to you. This is a blog about movies (obviously!). Now, I know what you're thinking..."Oh, great, another blog about movies. Who cares! They're a dime a dozen. Why should I waste my time with THIS one???" Well, normally I'd say you're absolutely right - the last thing you need in your life wasting your time is ANOTHER blog about movies. In fact, now that I think about it, what the fuck am I doing here bothering with this crap???
(just kidding! Don't go anywhere!)
Okay, what I really hope will make this movie blog different from others you may have seen already is that I will not be writing typical film reviews because I am NOT a professional film journalist. However, it might be helpful for you to know that in addition to being a practicing architect on Long Island, I have been writing screenplays for nearly 20 years and I was a film critic for my college newspaper at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. So rather than waste your time with traditional bullshit babble you can read in the newspaper or watch on the news, what I will be sharing with you (besides a quick and brief review) will be the thoughts, feelings and memories I have with each film I watch and discuss.
I'm 49 years old and I've been a movie lover nearly my entire life! When I was a kid, it seemed that I lived and breathed movies, especially since they seemed so few and far between. My parents were both not ones to take my younger brother and I to the movies much. For them, it typically seemed like a waste of time and money. So there you have it...a kid who loved movies and barely got to ever go to them (how's THAT for being born under a bad sign??).
For those of you born in the late 1960s and early 1970s, you'll still remember a day before the DVD player, the laser disc player, the VCR and the Betamax - when, if you wanted to see your favorite movie again after its initial theatrical run, you had two choices - hope to Hell the studio would re-release the movie in theaters or wait for the movie to be broadcasted on pay-tv and television. And when your favorite movie was going to be shown on TV, chances are you spent at least a week prior in great anticipation of being in front of the TV from the moment the ABC Sunday Night Movie started. Sometimes I still think those WERE the days!
Then in 1984, the impossible finally happened in my house - we got our first VCR! It was a Quasar with a pop-up eject tape insert and fake wood finish on the top of the machine. From the day I learned how to operate the RECORD button, I literally went apeshit! I taped nearly every movie on television! I would actually sit there with the remote and hit PAUSE on and off every time the damn commercial came on so I would have as clean and smooth a recording as possible. And my video tape labels - shit, don't get me started on that! I've had pathetically neat handwriting my whole life and it came through on my video labels. You want an example? When I taped STAR WARS, I wrote it down on the label to look just like it does when the movie scrawl opens. How's that for a lesson in anal retentiveness, people?
Now, as I've said, I love movies. As I got into my adulthood, I had the freedom to pretty much go whenever I wanted. By the time I was in my twenties, it seemed that I was going to see EVERYTHING - every blockbuster, every sequel, every remake! I was going to my local multiplex so often, the management was preparing to put in my own private salad bar!
Then, about ten or so years ago, something happened to change my entire outlook on going to the movies. You know what it was? Perhaps one of the most inconsiderate inventions ever to populate our species...THE SMART PHONE! It is this gadget that has managed to destroy what used to be my favorite personal leisure. Yes, movie pests have existed for decades upon decades. But these electronic gadgets of mental masturbation have brought out the worst in people's rudeness and inconsideration inside a dark movie theater. And even if most people have enough of a tiny brain to know that they shouldn't be talking on their iPhone during a movie, when the fuck did it become acceptable to jerk off with your brightly-lit, incredibly distracting iPhone during a movie when it's pitch dark???
The other point I should probably mention happened to me about five years ago. I suddenly had this realization that I was wasting my time, money and whatever brain cells I manage to use in a day on seeing sequels, "threequels", remakes and franchise films. We all know that Hollywood does not know the meaning of the words "original story" anymore. But it seems that during the last decade, the recycling of previously-used screen material has become like a serious cancer! And let me tell you, I never used to feel my age until they started remaking movies from the '70s. But what I consider more important about movies is that I believe they're meant to be more than just your average Friday night Hollywood greed-grubbing event that is meant to sucker the average "Triple Ms" - MASS MULTIPLEX MORONS!!! The fact is I truly believe that when done with a certain degree of wit, intelligence and originality (whatever's left of it), movies have the power to reach us, teach us, inspire us and perhaps enable us to discover a part of ourselves we never knew existed. In the words of John Lennon, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
Well, the end results of my frustration are two - the first is that when and if I do decide to take a chance and see a movie, the first thing I do is wait at least a week after something has opened and preferably, it's an art or indie film that is playing in whatever remains of local neighborhood movie houses (and there ain't that many of them left!). The second is that since I finally went DVD back in 2001, I have built up a very extensive movie collection of over 800 titles of every genre. It's a collection I've spent time and money building and one that I do take a certain degree of pride in.
So now, with your patience, I'd like to share it all with you. What I propose to do is start watching every one of my movies from the beginning of its alphabetical order (from Abbott to Ziggy) and share my words with you after each viewing. I invite you to take part, to comment, to share, and maybe, if it's possible, to look at movies in a different way than you may have before reading my blog.
So, here we go...