Friday, August 25, 2017
No contest, The Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square is screening George Romero's "The Crazies" (1973) tomorrow night at 9:30pm EDT. Its cheap, the acting is uneven (at least one major role is played by an academic renowned for his biography of Orson Welles), the special effects are threadbare and its still one of the scariest movies of the 1970's. A small town in Pennsylvania (is there any other setting for George Romero?) is the mass victim of a US Army biological agent that induces violent dementia among humans. The town descends into gruesome chaos as the Army enforces martial law and a brutal quarantine, none of which puts the police or the armed forces or the government in a very flattering light...or say nothing of remedying the situation. "The Crazies"is pretty much a free range vehicle for the Late Romero to explore his abiding suspicions about police/the armed forces/"the governments" ability to avoid bungling a real crisis....the movie remains scary even today because we've all seen in our own lives how quickly and easily things can go wrong and stay wrong. These are all unpopular themes even today (when is the last time you saw an American Movie just walk away from the prospect of a heroic police or armed forces type character?)...they may seem harsh but they are worthy of exploration all the same.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Its not that the Late Jerry Lewis was Part of the American Zeitgeist, he really WAS The American Zeitgeist...you can just start with his emeritus status as "The Last Man Out of Vaudeville" and then segue into his insanely popular partnership with Dean Martin, the break up, the solo movies, his own comedy production unit at Paramount, his invention of "video assist", "The Nutty Professor" into the 1963 television catastrophe "The Jerry Lewis Show" (two hours live on Saturday Night nuff' said), his own comic book....and then there is the percodan addiction, the "The Day the Clown Cried" and even "Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?"...if that isn't Secular Omnipotence, What Is? The story goes that Woody Allen BEGGED Jerry Lewis to direct "Take the Money and Run", wisely Lewis counseled Allen to be his own director...follow his own ambition to it's logical conclusion. I mean who else DESERVED to be a "God in France??" Somewhere in there, even amidst his gruesome sexism & xenophobia, his famous short temper (the man literally had a fuse sputtering away on top of his head), his spotty tastelessness, his inability to cut his leading ladies in on the funny....there is an object lesson to all comedians on the sheer power and necessity of ambition, he is a living exhortation to all comedians high and low to integrate, write perform and dominate the creative process. And yet right up to the end, Jerry Lewis repeatedly demonstrated the darkest most instructive moment was maybe the last ten seconds before the explosive bolts that held his psyche together detonated and the furies out of Heaven flew out of his head. A lot of THAT went down on the MDA Labor Day Telethons.... If Jerry broke hearts, if he fell short of his own transcendent ambitions, if he failed quite literally, its all in the shadow of his monumental success, from a lowly MC on the vaudeville circuit to an Apex Predator in Hollywood...top that well...anyone. Boston is still a "Movie Theatre Town". It is inevitable that the HFA or the MFA or some likewise outfit will execute a comprehensive Jerry Lewis Retrospective. So I serve fair warning to all and sundry that the programmers of said notional retrospective would be well served to secure local writer, critic & Lewis Aficionado Betsy Sherman as their curator....she has an insight into Lewis worth cultivating.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Last Month, Channel Zero sold out the micro-cinema of the Somerville Theater with a screening of an uber obscure Filipino super heroine film "Darna: The Return" (1994) fourteenth in a successful franchise stretching back to 1951. Well...we had help....Who Knew Boston had a Filipino Community eager to see some of their native cinema on a local screen?? Turns out one of our flyers got tweeted out on Instagram and WHAMMO instant "virulence". My point is, sometime this fall, the Mighty Harvard Film Archive is doing a "1970's Filipino Cinema Retrospective" curated by one Lav Diaz. I doubt the HFA will trifle with genre films, despite the fact that the Philippines in the 1970's produced a steady stream of ribald comedies, police thrillers, super hero & heroine movies, martial arts flicks and lurid horror films...nope it'll be heavy drama as usual. Unless of course they elect to surprise us...Just Remember not matter what Channel Zero Got There First!! Doesn't matter if we are filling 31 seats or 333 seats, we used our small size and rapid decision making powers to out program an apex predator...and for what? Why boasting rights or else why make the effort? Look, if the HFA screens anything good I'll be there for sure, I'm a fool not to go, and the experience will be all the more pleasurable with the knowledge that Channel Zero beat em' to it!
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Why NOT Darna? Is the more likely question. Created in 1949 in Manila by writer Mars Ravelo as a sort of "Local Option Wonder Woman", Darna remains one of the Philippines most durable all out super heroes, immensely strong, incorruptible, patriotic, self reliant, altruistic, chivalrous and decorously feminine in a red spandex two-piece bathing suit & red crash helmet! What is shocking to me is the plain truth that Darna has been a box office powerhouse in some fifteen feature length motion pictures, since 1951!! TOP THAT GAL GADOT!!! And this is on top of three successful television series going back to 1977... Ah but the Philippines is an odd place, a nation of some 100 million citizens, a population more than large enough to support a thriving film & television industry, and yet very little of the product circulates outside the country. We here at Channel Zero think this is an awful shame since Darna is so clearly inspired by this summer's big box office playa, "Wonder Woman". This is yet another example of a fascinating cultural phenomenon in which the movies & television shows of the USA fairly saturate world markets, & those genres, tropes and notions all bounce off heavy objects (like a nationality for instance) and come back to us ineffably changed, in the form of The Beatles, Spaghetti Westerns or superheroes like "Darna". Channel Zero thinks "Darna's Hour Has Struck!" (hell it struck long before Wonder Woman managed to escape to television, let alone the movies), and to prove it we will be screening her last big motion picture "Darna, The Return" (1994) starring Anjanette Abayari as the Pinay Powerhouse locked into a death struggle with her Mortal Enemy, the Medusa, Valentina! The Philippines has always been a cinema market that puts a high value on sheer mythic strangeness, that much Darna always delivers, In Spades!! This is likely, Darna's Debut in the USA after only a scant sixty six years at the top of the box office in the the Philippines!! "Darna: The Return" (1994) he Somerville Theatre (Micro Cinema) 55 Davis Square Somerville Ma Friday, July 21st 8pm (sharp!) Admission: $7.50 (cash only) 617-625-5700 www.channel0.blogspot.com (in Tagalog Language, Subtitled in English)
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Let the record show that Adam West spent about twenty years of his post "Batman" career desperately trying to "Escape the Cape" with absolutely no luck. He eked out a precarious living with personal appearances and the occasional guest starring role on television. The great irony of West's Career is that he was a classically handsome actor whose consistent go-to was to underplay the scene, this served him well when he was playing the Campy Caped Crusader as an island of calm amidst absurdist berserkers. Alas he was fatally typecast as a superhero and an over the top one at that, lost in that stereotype is the Westian dry wit and underplaying that kept the show on track for 2.5 years. I personally think the 1989 Burton-Keaton Batman was weirdly the making of Adam West, the film franchise lurched so far away from the old show's "Gilbert & Sullivan" vibe it gave the actor some territory to defend as the zeitgeist's "Batman Emeritus", West could credibly reinvent himself as the "Bright Knight" the family friendly Caped Crusader whose actions you'd never have to explain away to your kids. Every time the role got recast someone somewhere would track West down to get his opinion of "The New Guy". In the end, Adam West & Burt Ward MADE Batman into a inescapable cultural trope, the endless re-runs familiarized generations of audiences with the depth and extent of the Caped Crusader's priceless Rogue's Gallery, its that very saturation that made it easy for Tim Burton and his successors to bring Batman to the Big Screen. Adam West didn't need to "Escape the Cape" he'd handed it off with dignity and respect...and quietly segued into doing cartoon voice work. Say what you like, but Adam West was on An Odd Counterintuitive "A-List" of a disparate collection of Hollywood Actors whose fame derives literally from the cultural saturation that being in permanent re-run rotation on ye old UHF TV Stations. That is a mad tea party indeed, Co-ruled by William Shatner and Adam West, with its own collection of clowns Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jim Nabors, Lucille Ball, Bob Crane, a vast sub strata of talented character players from Jonathan Harris to Leonard Nimoy & a potent reserve of distaff performers; Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Eden, Elizabeth Montgomery, Tina Louise & Dawn Wells with dozens more. All of these actors had Fame, few of them were able to monetize it or parlay it into successive projects, And Adam West was the deadpan Emperor of Them All. His memoirs are instructive, chiefly but reinforcing the notion that even mediocre actors need to prepare and do their research. Its also a stunning compendium of all the risqué encounters one can rack up when you catch the cultural wave and ride it to glory playing Batman on TV for a few years. He held his ground to the last, and even managed to revive his version of Batman in recent animated feature (the inevitable sequel's voice tracks were themselves only recently completed, reputedly featuring is UHF Co-Emperor William Shatner as "Two Face" typecasting indeed). But time is no friend to the DemiGods of Our Youth and last week leukemia finally fetched Adam West off the way no Giant Carnivorous Clam ever could. If Warner Brothers really wants to honor the man who put "Batman" squarely in the center of the cultural zeitgeist they could start by scouring the vaults for UnEdited Episodes of ye old Television Show, the very expensive DVD release a few years ago while very good looking is still archiving trimmed episodes..."Adam West UnCut!" should be our battle cry!
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Finally! The Amazon busts into feature films as an "all up" tentpole property...seventy plus years after she first debuted in the comics during WW II...but who is counting. Generally speaking, I liked the film, if Gal Gadot keeps her health then she can easily play Wonder Woman for the next decade she has a nice easy comfortable persona and some reasonable action chops which is really all anyone wants in a Wonder Woman Actress. Of course almost all of DC's contemporary Filmography has been so problematic that the bar was set awfully low for Wonder Woman, so it was no shock Gadot vaulted over it with ease. I also wanna give Chris Pine some props for the thankless role of Wonder Woman's nominal SO Steve Trevor, he was neither superfluous nor whiny...he made no mistakes (these day's that the equivalent of a Roman Triumph in Hollywood). With out delving in spoilage I'm not sure how he perpetuates as a character as the inevitable sequels unspool but thats the scriptwriter's issue not mine. No if I have an issue with the movie is that the third act is pretty formulaic and predictable drawing heavily on "Batman v. Superman"....not much new ground was broken action wise for all of Gadot's eye catching aerobatics. If Patty Jenkins does the sequel she'd be well advised to keep a weather eye on that third act thats the very point where you don't want to go on AutoPilot. And I say that with all due respect for a remarkable achievement having finally gotten the DCU film franchise out of the proverbial sand trap. The Film also has the usual handful of plot gaps (a German gunboat goes inexplicably missing, a real life German General dies prematurely, phone lines from the Western Front reach all the way to Fleet Street in London) but thats pretty much the price of doing business in the DCU at this point. But at last DC has their breakthrough movie after dozens of lamentable misfires, I wonder if they can hold on to it...?
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
ya think we will see "Ellie Wood Walker" strolling triumphantly down the Red Carpet? After all Ms Wood-Walker WAS the first actress ever to "play Wonder Woman" even if it was a five minute test reel for a proposed Wonder Woman SITCOM back in 1967....it was never meant to be seen, but if anyone ever finds that elusive thirty five page script, drop me a line will ya!?