Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Vol. 3

June 12, 2010

After taking the first 10 films in a couple of easy-to-digest sets of five, we’ve decided to shove ten (10!) films down your throat this time around in the interest of giving your mousewheel some much needed exercise. Brace yourself for the undiluted loquaciousness that is Volume 3 of this still-viable series.

Previous versions:
Volume 1
Volume 2

Unfortunately for Stewart, Donna Reed succumbed to motion sickness almost immediately. And had just eaten.

11. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Capra’s slick inversion of the Scrooge mythology, in which the protagonist (a do-gooding son of a bitch teetering on the verge of suicide) is visited by the ghost of network TV, which attempts to saves its own ass by dragging family members away from each other and back to their rightful place at the receiving end of the “talking picture box.”

Using Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey as a thin metaphor for television’s unblinking one-way eye, the ghost/angel self-servingly points out how un-wonderful life would be without itself, a brutal vision that includes anarchic riots, the collapse of the world’s economy and families interacting with each other around the dinner table.

While arriving decades too early to depict the internet and the damage done, it is, at the very least, prescient enough to slam various board games and Jumbles.

This summer, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.

12. Sunset Boulevard (1950) Bad Boys II (2003)

[Ed. note: Given that Sunset Boulevard is only famous for its last line, we have replaced it with an equally powerful film.]

Michael Bay parlays his advertising career into a lucrative money-printing machine with the delivery of Bad Boys and its attendant sequel, Bad Boys II. His embrace of style-over-substance and cliche-over-originality can be viewed as “circuitously ironic” by even the most jaded moviegoer.

Combining the comforting familiarity of buddy-cop conventions with the popularity of blowing shit up (in slow motion), Bay concocts a film that defines “lightweight” and “disposable.” It also gives the two leads (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith) a chance to show us what they do best: play Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Hailed as “brilliantly forgettable” and “only in theatres.”

Being a bridge, it was somewhat unprepared for being "shot right in the fucking face."

13. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Light years ahead of its time with its use of “artistic whistling,” The Bridge on the River Kwai tells the true story of American POWs who are put to work constructing an “Overground Railroad” bridge at the behest of the Japanese captors.

Faced with budget issues, lack of motivation and some truly hellish morning stretches/corporate team-building exercises, the POWs surprise their captors with their rather bridled enthusiasm and good old-fashioned American ingenuity.

Will these purpose-driven troops construct this monument of Japanese excess before the war ends/bridge gets blowed the hell up? Only Steve McQueen and his trusty companion, Motorcycle, know for sure. Exceedingly long.

One nipple per ear, just like in the contract...

14. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Some Like It Hot paved the way for the cross-dressing comedic hijinks of Bosom Buddies, the Kids in the Hall and The Crying Game. Following the story of two guys who don women’s apparel to get into Marilyn Monroe’s pants (assuming she too wasn’t wearing a skirt), this controversial comedy was a showcase for the comedic stylings of the two leads, as well as being the perfect display case for Marilyn Monroe, who positively shines with her ability to act coy, surprised and coyly surprised. Filmed in United Artists’ groundbreaking “TechniGray.”

Being a large space helmet, it was somewhat unprepared to be "shot in the fucking eye," not to mention begin surrounded by various robots and upper torsos.

15. Star Wars (1977) The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

[Ed. note: Come on. The 2nd movie is twice what the first one is. It’s just simple math.]

Easily the best of Lucas’ Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back is a fluid meshing of fast-paced action and dark drama, no doubt a result of Lucas ceding the film’s writing and directorial duties to actual writers/directors.

Features Mark Hamill (in his only role ever) as Luke Skywalker, a former carpenter named Harrison Ford (born Jesus Harrison Christ) as the anti-hero, Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher as Hamill’s love interest and sister, Princess Leia.

Skywalker loses a hand to his dad and his sister to an unrelated male. The only black man in space sells out to “the Man,” who also happens to be black, but just on the outside and two robots enjoy the fruits of a common-law marriage.

Much, much better than the belated prequels in which Lucas attempts to skew younger by casting a mannequin to play a young Darth Vader and brings in an anthropomorphic Jamaican.

Another lovely shot of Bette Davis capturing her wearing her iconic "I just woke up on the wrong side of humanity" look.

16. All About Eve (1950)
An icy tale about fan obssession and manipulation, All About Eve tells the sordid tale of a fading Broadway star and the fan club president who steals her role and, eventually, her life. As is the case with these “victimless” crimes, no charges are pressed and everyone agrees to bitchily disagree and occasionally “wrestle it out” in a tubful of Jello.

Famous for the lack of chemistry between the two leads, whose Method-acting approach allowed them to take this film over the top and into the annals of filmery. Jello-wrestling notwithstanding, this film is highly recommended to fans of abhorrent human beings and general cattiness. One of nearly 75 films on this list shot in black and white, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Humphrey Bogart stars in "The Emmett Kelly Jr. Story."

17. The African Queen (1951)
Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn cavort in the African Outback, bantering bitchily and drinking each other under the makeshift table. Pitched as Madagascar meets The Odd (Heterosexual) Couple, The African Queen is prized for its sweeping vistas and plotless storyline. Every bit as good as its 17th place finish would indicate. Keep your eyes open for some bold full-color shots.

Nothing but ninety minutes of half-naked men and women staring meaningfully at each other.

18. Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock shocked audiences and his fellow filmmakers by killing off the only likeable character less than halfway through the movie. The remaning running time combines amateur psychology with taxidermy to weave a harrowing tale of a cross-dressing mama’s boy and the private detective who aims to take him down.

Followed by sequentially-numbered sequels and a shot-for-shot remake which greatly expands the color palette.

Nicholson thoughtfully covered up Dunaway's receding hairline with his chainsmoking habit.

19. Chinatown (1974)
A hardboiled detective story that recalls the great film noirs of the past, all of whom it apparently outranks. The film follows the footsteps of Jake Gittes (who apparently can’t walk ten feet without being physically assaulted) as he investigates an adultery case that somehow manages to involve water rights, corruption, incest and takeout menus. Jack Nicholson turns in an amazingly gritty performance, one he wouldn’t top for nearly three decades (2003’s Anger Management).

Nicholson spots a name he recognizes; appears pleased.

20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Jack Nicholson follows up his gritty performance in Chinatown with his completely unhinged portrayal of an aging actor with easy access to booze and cocaine. Set in a psychiatric hospital, this Oscar-winning film exposes the abuses of the system by the staff and details the complete breakdown of the human psyche.

A triumph in movie myth-making, featuring an unreliable window-breaking narrator and an unreliable coke-snorting actor.

-CLT

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The History of Media: Visual Arts Edition Vol. 3

June 8, 2010
[After what seems like forever, but has only actually been a month, The History of Media is back with the conclusion of yet another cliffhanger (the dreaded ellipsis) and will most likely end in yet another ellipsis. If you’re just joining us, be sure and check out Volumes One and Two, which had blazed a bloody, but dignified, trail up to this point.]

The VCR's patented "dust collection" technology allowed it to look outdated several years before its time.

Post-Ellipsis
The movie industry, flush with success, strutted away from the battle that never was, having fended off its new drinking buddy, television. Up to its collective ears in record-breaking movie receipts, the film industry (yet again) kicked back on its gold-plated laurels and lazily watched the money roll in.

The cinema was enjoying a new Golden Age, ushered in by the advent of the multiplex, the still-viable drive-in industry and some of the finest movie making ever, in the form of Airport, Airport ’75, Airport ’77 and Airport ’79: New Moon.

But as was foretold by the harrowing ellipsis at the end of the last volume, a new enemy would rise (mostly from the East). This new invention would kill the film industry harder that it had ever been killed before.

The first commercial VCR came bundled with six technicians, each assigned a button.

The VCR
Japanese electronics company JVC kicked Old Man Movie right in the throat with their VHS (Video Home System) player that promised a new era of TV and movie-dependent independence. Now people could watch television and movies in the comfort of their own home, on their own schedules.

No more standing in line at the box office or endless waiting for their favorite programs to hit syndication. The public was now in command of its mostly pre-recorded destiny, leading to skyrocketing VCR sales and not much change at all in box office receipts.

Quite obviously, home taping was once again killing an industry.

An apoplectic Jack Valenti (representing the MPAA) stormed a listless Congress, demanding that they get off their overstuffed asses and do something, goddammit. During his Oscar-worthy performance, Valenti compared the theoretical damage done by home taping to a combination of the Holocaust, My Lai Massacre and that time when he got beat up in grade school.

The television industry fought back as well, claiming that the public had no right to watch their favorite shows and movies, whenever and wherever the hell they wanted to. “What of our precious and highly annoying advertising?” they whined. “They’ll be able to skip past it, thus rendering our efforts useless. Not to mention blockbuster lineups like ‘Must See Thursday,’ which will now become ‘Can See Whenever the Hell We Want.'”

"While you were out, the VCR secretly replaced your memories with tangled masses of worthless magnetic tape."

The Positive Negatives of the VCR Invasion
However the film and TV industries greatly overestimated the public’s willingness and ability to program their VCRs, meaning that most viewing was still prerecorded movies or “live” TV. In fact, the general inscrutability of the VCR usually meant that it was regarded as a minor household diety whose mood swings and impenetrable manual were tolerated in exchange for nearly “on-demand” viewing.

Much like any diety, the VCR would periodically demand a sacrifice, devouring random tapes like “Child’s First Birthday” (priceless) or a New Release rental from Blockbuster (considerably more expensive).

Not only that but the VCR’s entropic delivery system caused videotapes to degrade steadily in a short period of time, soon reducing the act of watching an “old favorite” to a tedious bout of dicking around with tracking in a futile attempt to make the movie look like something other than scrambled Cinemax porn featuring dialogue recorded underwater.

Steve got directions to the adult bookstore, only to find he was already there...

“Boon:” Not Really a Dirty Word
Not every industry felt threatened, however. The new videotape proved to be a boon for the porn industry which was thrilled to have another delivery system. Porn theater staffers were thrilled to see their semen cleanup time drop by over 50%. Porn aficionados were thrilled to be able to “privatize” their perversions, without fear of being accosted by women’s right groups, soft news journalists or the Sarasota, FL Sheriff’s Department.

In other news, the trench coat manufacturers fought this turn of events with “Home Masturbation is Killing the Coat Industry” pickets. This movement never coalesced, mainly due to the fact that few people were willing to wear t-shirts or hoist signs with the word “masturbation” prominently featured.

Horrors! Who will gouge me for ancient "New Releases" and late fees now?

As the years went on and prices dropped, the movie industry began to embrace this “threat” as a powerful ally in its constant struggle to make even more money. They were delighted to discover that the public was more than willing to purchase something they had most likely already paid to watch in a theater. They were made positively giddy with the realization that the public would buy the same movie twice, provided one version was slapped with a “Special Edition” label and contained a cursory 5-minute “Making Of” featurette cobbled together from second unit footage and “found sound” recordings.

Movie rental businesses were thrilled as well, what with suddenly having a reason to exist and the opportunity to charge $3.99/night for a tapes that had been on the New Release wall for nearly half a decade.

Coming up next:
A veritable rogue’s gallery of industry killers, each more diabolical than the last.

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Vol. 2

June 4, 2010

Just recently we took on the first five films on AFI’s Top 100 Films list, which much like the movie industry itself, is loaded with obvious selections, most of which exceed three hours in length and/or are shot in black and white. The next five films listed promise to be “more of the same.”

Enjoy?

As was common in those days, The Wizard of Oz starred several SURNAMES.

6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Well ahead of its time (4:20), The Wizard of Oz is universally considered a “stone classic,” full of singing midgets, hand-tinted film stock and gay icons. Much like Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, The Wizard of Oz is an extended hallucination suffered by the main character when she is killed by a [SPOILER ALERT!] tornado.

Oz is really two films in one: the first satirizes the blandness of a flat, arid and witch-infested Kansas while the colorful “back nine” pokes fun at the idea that traits like “love” and “courage” somehow make people more “human.”

The posters for The Graduate preemptively give away the entire movie before the trailer has a chance to.

7. The Graduate (1967)
A cautionary tale of plastics and seduction, The Graduate served notice to well-meaning parents everywhere with its chilling portrayal of ennui-laden and aimless youth, many of whom were headed back home for the summer.

Starring a somewhat attractive, young Dustin Hoffman, Mike Nichol’s film answered the age-old question “It’s late in the afternoon. Do you know where your children are?” with a resounding “Floating angstily in the pool/banging Anne Bancroft.”

Worth a look for its prescient commentary on plastics, which were “the wave of the future” for years until dethroned by the sudden popularity of kickboxing.

Brando looks around apprehensively for the next green-tied assailant.

8. On the Waterfront (1951)
An unflinching look at union labor, boxing and Father-surrogate son relationships, Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront is also known for the powerhouse performance delivered by an oddly coherent and dangerously underweight Marlon Brando.

Shot in Oscar-baiting black and white, On the Waterfront earned Kazan an enormous amount of goodwill, which he quickly pissed away with his extensive sellout of colleagues and competitors during the McCarthy “witch hunts” (which netted surprisingly few witches, but did snare several deadly Communists).

Pitched as "The Matrix" meets "Over the Top."

9. Schindler’s List (1993)
Director Steven Spielberg goes back to his roots as a 1940’s-era director, utilizing the black and white cinematography that was the “all the rage” in the days before color (or colour) film.

Cameo appearances by Robin Williams (as a Good Morning Vietnam-ish radio personality) and Roberto Begnini (as a rubberfaced entertainer whose jokes are all of the “too soon?’ variety) keep the film from sinking into complete pathos. Exceedingly long.

They were later charged with "indecent exposure" and "possession of unlicensed umbrellas."

10. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
The first Oscar winner to feature a dropped “g,” Singin’ in the Rain is a charming musical that takes a very dark turn at the midpoint when it’s titular song becomes the soundtrack from some dystopian ultraviolence. A change in tone is also signalled by a change of costumes, from suits and fedoras to codpieces, jumpsuits and bowlers.

The remaining time is given over to a heavy-handed allegorical songfest, which lays out a devastating condemnation of both reckless optimism and the collected works of Ludwig Van. Recommended for its amazing choreography and surprising amount of nudity.

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Vol. 1

May 26, 2010

Following up on Fundamental Jelly’s dare from a few weeks back, it’s the first volume of our guide to the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest American films. In this volume we take on the top 5 movies of all time, with an eye on quick readability and some general laziness on my part. Enjoy!

Welles' larger-than-life portrayal of Kane was made simpler by his being four times the size of the rest of the cast.

1. Citizen Kane (1941)
The movie against which all other movies are measured. Features a twist ending in which William Randolph Hearst tortures Charles Foster Kane to give up the location of the Rosebuds, a husband-and-wife team of Communist co-conspirators. They are then burned in front of Kane to prove a point. Followed by a sequel, The Third Man. (See also #57, possibly months from now…)

A Berkeley film class re-edit relegates Bogart's role to a cameo. A cameo of supportiveness.

2. Casablanca (1942)
Loosely translated as “White House,” this bilingual romance classic still remains an all-time favorite thanks to the iconic performances of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. To wit:

“Cuando la preocupación en cuenta la forma final al comer también Rick causa estado simple pianoman, especialmente por la noche esquina programa de Nazis difíciles del día la muerte el Thundercats. Ofrecen objetivo elección enlace a veces de llegar públicos básicos murderkill del paso central por el bolsillo, porque la adhesión recta muy thoughtcrime cadena de tratar se sitúan el movimiento pequeño regalo por su vestibule. La introducción circunstancia se makout session con la influencia Rick James necesita saltar los ojos del techo de búsqueda principal deseo enseñar Superfreak de nuevo paquete de clave de bienestar recoger mar diputado kilo of cocaine.”

The Godfather strongly hints that you would be happier with a different long-distance carrier.

3. The Godfather (1972)
The prequel to the best gangster flick of all time (Casino), The Godfather is a true Italian classic, beloved by millions for its stereotypical depictions and large amount of scenery-chewing. Features brilliantly murky cinematography, a surprisingly poignant rape scene and some of Ray Harryhausen’s finest stop-motion animation. (Especially evident during Sonny’s [James Caan] ill-fated tollbooth stop on Monster Island.)

Francis Ford Coppola proved to be an “actor’s director,” coaxing brilliant performances out of otherwise unremarkable thespians as Al Pacino, Marlon Brando and Abe Vigoda. Unfortunately, Brando’s ridiculous demands for “more pastries” resulted in his character being written out of the script via an orange-related mishap. Exceedingly long.

Rhett Butler seals his "cad" reputation by briefly setting Scarlett O'Hara's hairdo on fire.

4. Gone with the Wind (1939)
Praised for its gorgeous hand painted photography and long line of collector’s plates, Gone with the Wind tells the age-old story of an ill-fated romance between a bitch and an asshole.

What sets this masterpiece apart from comparable films such as You’ve Got Mail and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is its sweeping vistas and Civil War backdrop, the latter of which aids the thin analogies that “love is a battlefield” and “ill-fated romances are the equivalent of Sherman’s March to the Sea, only in our hearts.”

Notable for its reckless use of color, colorful language and an actual colored person in a non-singing, non-dancing role. Exceedingly long.

With the invention of aviator glasses still several years off, some privileged gentlemen battle the sun's intense rays with Lasik eye removal.

5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The purportedly true story of D.W. “Lawrence” Griffith, a swashbuckling director/racist whose love of colonialism was unbridled, much like a majority of the horses in this film. A grand epic in the tradition of Gone with the Wind and Epic Movie, Lawrence of Arabia utilizes its breathtaking locations and romanticized portrayal of the main character to distract viewers from the fact that they’re leaking free time all over the place while watching it. Exceedingly long.

(A note to viewers following along at home: AFI apparently tabulates their ratings via a voting system that rewards exceedingly long films. [Known as QPM, or Quality Per Minute, to insiders.])

-CLT

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The History of Media – Visual Arts Edition Vol. 2

May 14, 2010
[Those of you following along will remember the cliffhanger ending of Volume 1, in which it was revealed that “something” would come along and destroy the movie industry with its tiny screen and tinny sound. In this followup, we reveal the true killer of the film industry, which is also one of the many pretenders to the throne. Enjoy.]

 

Early television prototypes often failed to include the only element that would differentiate them from a "really huge-ass radio."

A Disaster Called Television
Little did Roger Philco and Francois Magnavox know when they assembled the first “magic picture box” that it would change American society as we knew it, mostly for the worst. 

There was no indication during its early broadcasts of test patterns, puppet shows and white men in blackface that the daily life of Americans would soon revolve around it. Instead of gathering around the wireless to watch Dad get drunk and curse the Yankees, the whole family would gather around the tiny screen to watch Elvis from the waist up or catch breaking footage from the moon landing set. 

The movie industry understood how serious this new threat could be and stepped hastily over the still-cooling corpse of live theater to denounce the new “tele-vision,” which would surely destroy their precious industry. They lamented this turn of events, cursing every new box office record and crying into their stacks of $1000 bills. 

Representatives of the “dying” industry called on Congress to do “something” about the “talking picture-mabob.” How can we get people to sit in front of our 42-foot screens, enjoy our Technicolor and Sensurround when they have 3 inches of black and white power at home, all coming to them in deafening mono? 

Congress was too busy watching the National League Championship to be bothered by an outdated industry and their rhetorical questions, no matter how many bribes and high-dollar hookers they waved around. Another blow was struck when forward-thinking Dwight Eisenhower announced his bold plan for America: a television in every house, a car in every garage and an epidemic of childhood obesity. 

Still television's longest-running night time drama.

The movie industry was premature in its panic. Americans soon proved they had the leisure time for both activities, which could easily be squeezed in between backyard barbecues and conceiving the eventual bankrupters of Social Security. 

At this point, the average male enjoyed a 25-hour work week, divided between harassing the typing pool, pounding martinis and hitting the golf course. The remaining time they spent watering the lawn, washing the car, pounding martinis and pounding the wife (mostly in a sexual fashion, but often in a physical fashion). 

TV grew and grew, becoming the focal point of American family life. Television producers turned the mirror on the public, reflecting life as they knew it in the form of sitcoms, playing up spousal abuse (I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners) and sexless marriages (every other sitcom). They also went after more respected institutions with uncanny accuracy. (See The Andy Griffith Show and its devastating take on inept law enforcement and artistic whistling or Bewitched and its brilliant satire of the advertising world, long before Mad Men made it cool to be casually sexist again.) 

As its influence grew, television turned its unblinking eye on other “hot button” topics such as the Korean War (M*A*S*H*), teen hoodlums (Happy Days) and greed (every game show/reality show). TV devoured everything in its path over the next 50 years, before going all ouroboros and devouring itself, shitting out show after show containing no actors, no script and starring everyday people like Balloon Boy’s dad. 

As the airwaves were conquered by Joe Gloryhound and his occasionally-swapped wife, the film industry breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that TV’s “tapped-outness” would allow them to continue to collect billions of dollars a year cranking out sequel after sequel. Directors such as Michael Bay were allowed to continue trafficking in explosions and recycled punchlines. All was well in the word, until… 

-CLT 

Coming up next:
Post-ellipsis!

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The History of Media – Visual Arts Edition V. 1

April 28, 2010
[We had a lot of fun with the audio half of this presentation, in which many stereotypes were dismantled and just as many new ones, um, mantled. Now it’s time to turn away from our ears and start listening with our eyes, as we explore the visual media.]

The amazing display of showmanship and rudimentary arithmatic that is the live theater.

Prehistory
Before the advent of motion pictures, there was live theater. Performed live by live actors and actresses (but more frequently by actors in wigs), live theater enthralled thousands with its over-emoted lines, bellowed by all manner of waiters, maitre’ds and pool boys.

While kings and queens encouraged young playwrights to sell out, the general public was amused by bawdy puppet shows and other lowbrow works, including the bawdiest of puppet shows: finger puppets. (You know what I’m talking about.) [Ed. – No one knows what you’re talking about. Ever.] It had something for everybody and this “something” was usually expositionary songs and minimal sets.

Live theater flourished for centuries, becoming the common man’s escape from crushing reality and taking him to places previously only glimpsed in his fevered (and Black Plagued) imagination. Whether it came in the form of Greek dramedy or Shakespearean sitcom, theater was the only game in town.

The lively art expanded and mutated, bringing forth several new artistic forms, both legitimate (opera, musical, kabuki) and illegitimate (off-Broadway, mime, pro wrestling). Others operated at the fringe, trafficking in dubious artistic merit and collecting money no one else would touch (LARPing, cosplay, Samuel Beckett).

Just when it appeared that nothing would loosen theater’s stranglehold on the public’s entertainment dollar, something loosened theater’s stranglehold on the public’s entertainment dollar.

Buy two large popcorns and get 8 minutes of your favorite Uwe Boll flick!

Motion Pictures
Little did Lumiere realize when he debuted his first “moving picture” that his new invention would revolutionize the entertainment industry, mainly by killing off most of it and homogenizing the rest.

Proponents of the established live entertainment industry noted that the proliferation of “movie” houses would adversely affect their business, what with better entertainment being provided at half the price. They staged protests at major theaters, waving placards bearing slogans like “Motion Pictures Are Killing the Theater Industry” and (once the first concession stand was in place) “They’re Also Killing Dinner Theater.” Their battle was also carried to citizens of developing nations via propaganda stating that the “motion picture camera” was capable of “stealing over 30 souls per second.”

The first movies were a spectacle of sight and sound, though most of the sound was nothing more than the projector running or a drunken former cabaret piano player banging away lustily at his instrument and most of the spectacle was of, like, a horse running or something.

With the advent of sound, motion pictures were now on par with live theater’s use of voices, sound effects and coughing audiences. The sky was the limit! With Al Jolson’s game-changing, blackfaced The Jazz Singer, Hollywood knew it had a hit on its hands. An audible hit. With racist overtones.

Soon every Tom Screenwriter, Dick Producer and Harry Director were jamming their movies full of chattering heads, cramming every free space in the film with nonstop, fast-paced talking. Even the dames got into the act, see? No wisecrack was left uncracked. No song was left unsung. No woman ever walked sultrily into a detective’s poorly lit office unnarrated.

This addition of sound proved to be a deathblow for the theater. With the live-r of the lively arts effectively bleeding out (except for pockets of resistance both on and off-Broadway) movie going became America’s favorite pastime, supplanting the wireless, baseball and beating Irishmen.

A new breed of heart-throb rose from Hollywood and spread throughout the nation, taking advantage of swooning women and non-existent paternity laws. The motion picture industry rushed through its Bronze and Silver Ages, riding the crest of fast-paced dialogue and cries of “What a dame!” But no sooner had the triumphant industry kicked up its feet and rested it head on its laurels, then disaster struck.

A disaster called television.

Coming up next:
Volume 2: A Disaster Called Television

-CLT

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Motivation

April 9, 2010

Only one thing counts in this world: get them to sign on the line that is dotted. And initial here… here… and here. This page will need to go to a notary public… two more signatures here… sign and date here… and… one more… here.

While you were out, we secretly switched your coffee with Closer’s Brand Crystals.

You drove here in a Hyundai. I drove here in a leased company vehicle, which prominently features our company name and phone number on the sides. They’re magnetic. That’s free advertising right there.

Now our potential customers no longer have to wonder who it was that crossed three lanes of traffic to flip them off. They’ll be able to put a name to the face that is angrily pointing out their watch to them. And they’ll finally know who’s been calling up their daughter and berating her about her selfishness.

You know what it takes to sell real estate? It takes licensing from accredited agencies. This holds true for any state you wish to sell real estate in. This is a legitimate business, after all.

I’d wish you good luck by I’m not a superstitious person and I really don’t have much sympathy for those who are. I like to say “Be well.”

You see this watch? This watch costs more than your car. You know how I know that? I’ve got a little side business as an appraiser. It gives me a little bit of a buffer zone for those “steak knife” months.

The good news is: you’re fired. No, wait, that’s not good news at all. Let me rephrase that: you’re fired.

-CLT

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Enjoy the Violence

August 10, 2009

Music and violence go way back. Back past the latest GNR riot. Past random shootings on the Jay-Z tour. Past Woodstock ’99. Past Altamont. Historians point to a 1783 riot in Salzburg, when a young Mozart left the stage after only two sonatas, citing “ruling class dabbling” and a general artistic malaise. 

Some music is dying to be identified with violence. Loud, angry men playing loud, angry guitars, making aggressive noises like cornered animals. Other hide it behind 808 beats and posturing, spitting out rhythmic chants of misogyny and brutality.

Some subvert the expectations entirely. The Happy Mondays hid lazy threats under shuffling club beats. Magazine dripped menace over some angular guitar and icy keyboard work. And god help you if you run into Momus. Severely fucked in the head and hides his mean streak under a harpsichord of all things.

This quick tribute is to those great movie scenes which subvert the expected with their juxtaposition of music and flatout violence. We’re all familiar with the techno-tracked club scene or car chase, the intrusion of a lusty saxophone during the love scene or the vicious beatdown featuring the latest thug anthem or Linkin Park-esque howling.

Here are some of my favorite music/violence scenes which turn the tables on these tired cliches:

Layer Cake
A simple request to borrow some money turns horribly wrong, as old memories come to the surface and unleash themselves as a vicious beating using available restaurant furniture and a coffee pot. Some backstory leads up to this point (which you won’t see in this clip) but the scene is still amazingly jarring in context.

Soundtracked by Duran Duran’s comeback hit Ordinary World, which slants, tumbles and breaks off sporadically as if synched to beating victim’s consciousness.

Snatch
In a spectacularly violent movie with a spectacularly great soundtrack, how do you pick just one? (Ed. – Arbitrarily.) Should it be the haunting strains of the Stranglers’ Golden Brown, hovering over Tommy like the angel of death after Gorgeous George goes down in the middle of the pikey camp?

Or Massive Attack’s Angel presiding over the torched pikey camp?

Or will it be Oasis’ Fucking in the Bushes playing backup to super slo-mo camerawork and audacious sound editing, bringing to life one of the best fight scenes ever captured on film?

Fight Club
Why not? As a lifelong Pixies fan, seeing this scene unfold for the first time was the simultaneous feeling of everything being both right and wrong in the world. Another one of those movies that you started dragging people out to see, just for the vicarious thrill of seeing it again for the first time. The acoustic guitar, the drums, Black Francis casually discussing his own sanity while onscreen a man with a gunshot wound in his face embraces the girlfriend he had all along as the world collapses around them.

Pulp Fiction
The unexpected anal rape scene (aren’t the all? I mean, unless you’re watching Oz or Deliverance) brought to you in full saxophoned glory by the Revels with Commanche.

This isn’t about that particular insane juxtaposition of violation and jubilation. This is about what it could have been.

Quentin “Fucking” Tarantino originally wanted to use the Knack’s My Sharona for this scene, because it had a “great butt-fucking beat.” However, the rights holders apparently felt it would be better if it soundtracked “someone dancing around a convenience store with a can of Pringles.” Hence, Revels for Quentin; the Knack for Reality Bites.

That movie pissed me off so much. The only sympathetic character (Ben Stiller) was shit on constantly by slacker lifetime award nominee Ethan Hawke and every other character in the film simply because he has a job. Sure, he’s misguided in his whole monorail scheme, but Jesus Christ, it’s fucking public transportation. It don’t get more PC than that.

As a budding fiscal conservative, I found the slackers’ general listlessness to be a complete turnoff and granting them some sort of “sticking it to the man by doing absolutely fucking nothing” wisdom is as disingenuous as granting every native person in every movie since 1980 “pious martyr” status.

Honorable mentions:
Scorsese’s work on Goodfellas, with nearly every piece of music significant, including some choice Rolling Stones cuts and Donovan providing the soundtrack to one (of several) brutal beatings.

I also would hate to leave out another Tarantino flick, Reservoir Dogs, with Stealer’s Wheel providing some earcutting and rugcutting music for Mr. Blond and his less-fortunate acquaintance. However, this remixed ending scene does it one better:

-CLT

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Profiles in Randomness: Roberto

July 4, 2009
Roberto, pictured here with beloved friend and longtime companion, his Stabbing Knife

Roberto, pictured here with beloved friend and longtime companion, his Stabbing Knife

One of the all-time great minor characters from anywhere at any time, Futurama’s Roberto is a stabbing robot. This is not a malfunction or distressing sign of sentience, but rather his whole purpose. Evidence exists in this clip, in which Roberto (and Bender) are both in line for a compliance upgrade, to better mesh with Mom’s (a worldwide monopoly) new 1-X Robot.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/69647/futurama-going-for-an-upgrade

Another appearance has him sharing a room with Fry at the local insane robot facility and terrorizing him all night long by practicing his stabbing.

How insane is he? Bender and Fry run into him while in line at the bank, which Roberto decides to rob (again).
Bender: I like your style. Robbing the same bank twice. Classy.
Roberto: The first time was to just case the joint and rob it a little.

And, of course, this interjection: You’re not made of Tuesday!

As is my style, I have completely and shamelessly co-opted Roberto’s love of stabbing to serve as shorthand for the irritants in life which make me feel a tad homicidal. Without further ado, an incomplete and disorganized list of the things in life that make me reach for my “stabbing knife:”

  • Centerfield by John Fogerty
  • The Devil Went Down to Georgia by the Charlie Daniels Band
  • Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders
  • Barbie Girl by Aqua
  • Nearly every piece of mainstream country that has been released in the last 10 years
  • Nickelback
  • Any time Bono opines about anything
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Child actors
  • Menthol cigarettes
  • Patrons who order complicated drinks in establishments that serve their drinks in plastic cups
  • Birthday songs in chain restaurants
  • The RIAA and ASCAP
  • People who have decided their pot usage is a “lifestyle choice” and are now sticking it to the man by being underemployed for life
  • Overuse of current slang, ironic or not
  • The ethanol lobby, in charge of lightening your wallet, breaking your car and shoving your food supply into your gas tank
  • Militant anti-smokers
  • Moral panics
  • People who get “outraged” at pretty much everything
  • Fox News – just because you’re louder doesn’t mean you’re correct
  • Jay Leno
  • The TSA (“They took my stabbing clippers!”) and anything other elements of our blossoming police state, all done under the guise of the “War on Terror”
  • Nearly every motherfucker in Washington, DC (except this guy, who has never taken an earmark)
  • Wacky morning DJs
  • The “comedians” of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour
  • The frat boy mentality
  • The New York Yankees
  • Warning labels
  • Paul Ehrlich

Feel free to add your own particular triggers in the comments. I’d love to see what you hate…

-CLT

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Summer Movie Guide

May 27, 2009
So much sucking, so little space.

So much sucking, so little space.

Hollywood’s patented “Blockbuster” season is upon us again and you know what that means: late fees, inarticulate staff and “New Releases” that are still available on videotape.

Will Smith Vehicle #31, starring Will Smith
Having lightly stretched his acting chops in recent years, Will Smith returns to familiar ground for a film dealing with a subject near and dear to Will Smith: Will Smith. Early speculation points to action with a 40% chance of comedy.

Leonard Maltin: The Will Smith of Will Smith movies. Will Smith!

Uwe Boll’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Boll takes on another videogame title with spectacular results. Boll captures the essence of the classic game and its key elements, including car chases, shootouts and some very questionable humor. Starring Scott Speedman, Yasmine Bleeth and for some fucking reason, Daniel Day-Lewis. Best scene: Harlan Ellison, 75 years young, dismembering Uwe Boll.

Harlan Ellison: I’m the Lou Reed of the literary world!

Anybody seen this? I hear it's a passable way to kill three hours...

Anybody seen this? I hear it's a passable way to kill three hours...

Titanic 2
James Cameron returns with a follow-up to his 1997 sleeper indie hit. This time around, billionaire Arland Hubris (Bill Paxton) builds the world’s largest luxury ship (the King of the World) and retraces the Titanic’s ill-fated route. The cast of Airport ’77 joins him.

Boston Herald – Subtle, understated drama. A welcome change from the usual noisy, big-budget summer fare!

Flick Flick (alt. Movie Movie)
Those cutups from over at the Dimension spoof mill are at it again, having ditched any pretense of a contiguous story line. Basically 1-1/2 hours of skewed movie scenes, like a sketch comedy show without the comedy.

Fox-TV – 2nd unit footage of the year!

I Survived
A tragic story of backpacking gone wrong, ripped from the pages of Reader’s Digest. After being mauled by bears, mugged by antelope and sexually harassed by trout, Ben Campbell hikes 1,250 miles through the Montana wilderness with only his faith and his unicycle for company. Starring Shia Lebouf and Michael Wincott as a rogue bear. Featuring large print subtitles.

Onion AV Club – Disturbingly erotic!

Itchy
Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer remade for American audiences. Originally set to be helmed by “torture porn” auteur Eli Roth, a change in studio heads resulted in a push for a PG-13 rating and a larger box office take. Roth, having disappeared up his own ass, was unavailable and uninterested in the project. Chris Columbus (Harry Potter, Night at the Museum) was tapped to helm the remake.

Shifting the action to an American high school, the story features a mysterious foreign exchange student who is known merely as “Itchy,” as no one can be bothered to find out his real name. Itchy’s soon begins to mete out his revenge, stalking the halls and racking up kill after bloodless kill. Also features a comedic subplot dealing with Itchy’s hilarious accent and routine “murdering” of the English language.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune – Chris Columbus continues to show why he is the master of horror!

Thieves and Liars
Michael Moore investigates the UAW, finding nothing wrong there. Just good old American rabbit eaters. Obviously, the real villains are the GM execs and the penny-pinching government. Not featured: the South’s non-union plants, disgruntled taxpayers.

St. Petersburg Times – The fat man makes a point!

Popped! The Orville Redenbacher Story
The inspirational story of America’s favorite popcornier, Orville Redenbacher. Beginning with his modest Indiana upbringing all the way through his reign as the king of popcorn, including such crucial and little-known elements such as his lab accident that resulted in “popped corn” to his strong-arm tactics that kept him on top of such rivals as Henry Butterkist and Melvin “Pop” Secret. Featuring the reanimated corpse of Katherine Hepburn in the title role.

El Paso Herald-Post – Required viewing for Mr. Hermanson’s fifth-grade class!

Candyman: The Sammy Davis Jr. Story
Directed by Mel Gibson and starring Public Enemy’s Professor Griff and Michael Richards, this biopic takes solid aim at who exactly runs this country. Gibson himself describes it as Conspiracy Theory meets Song of the South in Vegas.

Chicago Sun-Times – Like a refreshing blast of whiskey-soaked breath!

Love in a Time of Mono
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s classic, updated for the Twilight set. Starring some freshly-scrubbed youngsters fresh off the Disney Genetic Imagineering campus. Oh, and Diane Keaton.

Elk River Fortnightly – Like going to the mall!

One-half of the world's oldest known rivalry

One-half of the world's oldest known rivalry

Them!
Remake of the classic 50’s atomic scare film. With rampant nuclear testing no longer a threat, this remake posits the theory that the ants have mutated due to hybrid vegetables and steroided cattle. Highlighting the dangers of tampering with nature, the protagonists hope to calm the rampaging ants with protest songs and “Them! Were Here First” demonstrations.

The ants, showing a startling lack of conscience, destroy everything in their path, following the instinctive pattern of “Eat, Kill, Raise Millions of Young.”

NBC TV – More fast-paced than an Al Gore slideshow, and only half as boring!

Oh That Jason!
Cult-classic 50’s sitcom hits the big screens in a long-awaited update. Transported to modern day through a badly-explained mishap involving a malfunctioning TV and a wrathful God, Jason’s family suddenly find themselves face-to-face with the future. Hilarity ensues as they try to purchase a “flying car,” a “domestic robot” and other modern accouterments.

While they try to make heads-or-tails of this present-day future, Jason’s family bands together to help an alcoholic private detective hunt down rogue Replicants, treat the Eloi to some American barbeque with their homemade time machine and spend some family time in the Ministry of Love.

Alan Moore – A complete piece of shit. Please remove my name from the credits or deal with my long-haired and vaguely menacing lawyers.

The Long Dark Lunch Break of the Soul
Looking to build an Office Space-type franchise, this film features the soul-crushing day-to-day experiences of Hamish Industries’ peon, Adam Truitt. Meet an office full of misfits as Alex deals with rogue refrigerators, bad goth albums, incredibly violent business trips and his unrequited love for Carlita. The despair climaxes as Allen finds himself trapped in subplots that are never resolved and “voluntold” for various unpleasant office social functions.

A note: Although the film tested well, studio execs noted that much of the audience, while mildly engaged in the story, would talk amongst themselves at lengths about pretty much any subject, frequently causing the main character to break the fourth wall and join in.

XM Radio – If you only see one movie this year, that’s just kind of sad.

Action Film
Michael Bay and John Woo team up to present the first film to be shot entirely in slow-motion. Tony Scott stops by to fuck with the color balance and film stock.

Woonsocket Rooster – Heart-rending dialogue and edge-of-your-seat romance!

Oscar Bait
A Merchant-Ivory production of yet another slow-paced costume drama. Starring Dame Judy Dench, Liam Neeson, James Wood and Emo Philips. Featuring luscious cinematography, numerous costume changes, stilted dialogue and long periods of nothing much happening so you can pee without missing important plot development.

Salt Lake City Rabble-Rouser – You could bounce a quarter off Dench’s ass!

-CLT