Friday, December 31, 2004

Please note...

this blog has been updated with some links to various "friends of the franchise".
This includes Lis Riba's very fine blog, once years ago I think we worked together at the same company, but its all so hazy now. There is also a link to Channel Zero's Artist-in-Residence Joseph Zamparelli Jr's homepage, and link to "The Chimes at Midnight" which is, a very nasty blog indeed.
Enjoy and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Unemployment Movies...

I've been cutting back on my film going since being laid off in July. This is why no one has seen me creeping around the Harvard Film Archive or the venerable Brattle Theater. In place of all that, I've been working my way through a pile of old black and white films on VHS that have been taking up space in my cramped "closet o' video". I bought most of these out of the dollar bins from various collectors and "private source" providers. In many cases they were purchased on grounds that they were old and if they sucked I could always use the tape to record that week's episode of "Lost".
So, with that in mind I present some capsule reviews of the highlights from this "VHS backlog cinema". Don't be surprised if some of these titles end up being screened by Channel Zero-we are a thrifty franchise after all.

"Madame Satan" (1930) Directed by Cecil B. DeMille starring kay Johnson and Reginald "Commodore Schmidlapp" Denny. Utter claptrap from the King of tissue paper thin super spectacles. Kay Johnson plays an uptight society dame who adopts a "masked slut" persona to win back her philandering husband at a ball given on a zeppelin! If the damn gasback hadn't exploded and crashed (neatly prophesying the Hindenburg disaster) the whole thing would've been a waste of time.

"The Miracle Woman" (1931) Directed by Frank Capra starring Barbara Stanwyck, David Manners, Sam Hardy with Charles "Ming the Merciless" Middleton.
Day-um but this was a good movie! Its like a distaff flight-test for "Meet John Doe" except instead of that monolith Gary Cooper we get a grand performance from Barbara Stanwyck. Babs plays "Faith Fallon" a phony faith healer modeled on the late Aimee Semple McPherson. Blind guy David Manners blows into town and shows her the error of her ways and gets her out from under her greedy manager Sam Hardy. My only other exposure to David Manners was his stilted performance in "Dracula", here he shows himself a champ, equal to Stanwyck's histrionics in every way. Why this film isn't available on legit video I do not know.

"Judge Priest" (1934) Directed by John Ford starring Will Rogers, Stepin Fetchit, and Anita Louise.
Oh geez I wanted to like this one I really did, Will Rogers was a funny funny guy...in an era of over-the-top type comedians he had the courage to underplay everyone and everything. Rogers is a country judge je's trying to keep the lid on a insular community still befuddled by the Civil War. Alas, that setting, Kentucky circa 1896 full of happy happy darkies and presided over by derogatory negro caricature Stepin Fetchit makes this a hard sell. Haven't seen racial content this blatant since "Birth of a Nation"...but still I laughed.


"Meet the Baron" (1933) Directed by Walter Lang starring Jack Pearl, Jimmy Durante, Zasu Pitts, Ted Healy, Moe Howard, Curly Howard, and Larry Fine with Edna may Oliver.
This is largely a vehicle for now forgotten radio comic Jack Pearl and his dopey "Baron Munchausen" act. The Baron and his "manager" Jimmy Durante crawl out of the jungle and pass themselves off as fearless explorers at "Cuddle College for Women".
Inane yes, but a lavish MGM style dance sequence in the girl's showers (??!!) occasions an appearance by the janitors played by Ted Healy and the Three Stooges when the water runs out. Blindfolded, they stumble into the shower-room and start hacking away at the pipes with pick axes and shovel! Durante is funny, but he is a manic malaprop comedian paired up with Jack Pearl who pretty much does the exact same routine except with a burlesque house kraut accent. Still, the Stooges are funny in their three big scenes, one can see why Moe deposed Ted Healy, he added exactly nothing to the act.

"King of the Jungle" (1933) Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone and Max Marcin starring Buster Crabbe, Frances Dee, and Sidney Toler.
I once asked my aged father why all the "Tarzan" actors started out as championship swimmers. He wisely replied that the swim champs were the only guys who did the requisite bodybuilding back in the departed days of Herbert Hoover.
Makes sense to me.
This is future Flash Gordon Buster Crabbe's first film after winning gold at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. His main qualifications are his physique and sharp profile, also his willingness to wrestle what looks like an aged but frisky lion.
Crabbe stars as "Kaspa the Lion Man" a game Tarzan impersonator who gets captured with his favorite big cats and dragged back to civilization to perform in a circus. He is befriended by a lovely schoolteacher who educates him on the modern wage-earning ecomnomy whilst Kaspa puts his cats through their paces in the ring. Alas though, you can take the boy out of the Congo, but you can't take the Congo out of the boy, as our hero longs to return to his native veldt. A timely circus fire gives him the opportunity to rescue his pride and prevent a vast horde of frightened animal acts from demolishing Savannah Georgia in what is a scene of unintentional surrealism. you know this isn't a bad film, the producers were smart enough to let the concept run seventy five minutes befoire neatly wrapping everything up. Nobody strains Crabbe's nascent acting chops with complicated emoting or dialogue and an elephant charges a cross-town bus...what more do you want?

TW 2005 is our TENTH Anniversary as "Boston's Most Notorious Entertainment Franchise", undoubtedly we will so something to mark the occasion, but first Humble John needs to find a job.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

There is no greater holiday bringdown than...

Frank Sinatra singing the canonical christmas carols.
None...
It all sounds like the Chairman opted for a "final recording" before swallowing a mason jar of nembutals...washing it down with a water glass of Jack Daniels of course.

So on that cheery thought let me wish you all a merry christmas.
Listen to Jim Nabors if you must but steer clear of Sinatra til after new years.
:)

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Apprentice'd out...

So Kelly Perdew is the new Trumpslave mark II? Tedious predictable choice IMHO. Jenn Messey, in all her vulgarity, anger, duplicity, and craveness, seemed a much better fit with the Trump zeitgeist. Kelly on the other hand, struck me as some sort of upscale android. Passionless, prone to quoting his own resume the way Bishop Lennon quotes the Gospel of Saint Matthew, and seemingly sweating pure talcum powder Kelly seemed two dimensional even by NBC television's standards.
Season Three of "The Apprentice" promises even more bizarre antics, up until now Trump has contented himself with sex-segregated contestants, now he proposes teams divided on classically Marxist lines, the college educated versus the high school graduates. Class warfare may well be the next big thing in American Society, so maybe The Donald is onto something.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Ever noticed...

on "The Apprentice" all the toady wannabees unfailingly address The Donald as "Mister Trump"? Such late Victorian courtesy hasn't been seen on American television since the late lamented "Mary Tyler Moore Show" went off the air.
Even on the worst temp jobs, I was always on a first name basis with the vulgarians and thugs who employed me. No matter how routinely exploitive they might've been, it was always decorously informal, first names only please.
But then Trump's preposterous ego is a carnival freakshow all it's own, attended upon by its own retinue of ambitious frauds and sycophants.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

When yer unemployed...

As I am, you tend to watch a lot of superfluous television. And so it was last night when I sat down to watch Fox’s reality show-beauty-contest-Queen-for-a-day hybrid “The Swan”. The premise is utterly Orwellian in it’s simplicity. Two female” ugly ducklings are selected for their alleged physical and spiritual wretchedness, a crack team of plastic surgeons, cosmetologists, therapists, and trainers are unleashed on these poor bints in an effort to transform them into beautiful women. The one whose “transformation” is the greatest gets to compete in a “swan pageant” for a beauty queen type prize.
Of course this IS a Fox program so a great deal of manipulation and hyperbole goes into the process. Both women in their “pre transformation” phase are deliberately harshly lit and clearly enjoined from using cosmetics of any kind in order to present an image of hopeless schlub-dom. Last night we got a widow and a female police officer both with husbands and children desperately seeking physical salvation and validation.
And what the hell, it worked…to the extend that three months of cosmetic surgery, diet, and a team of make up artists transformed two disparate females into the exact same woman!
They both ended up blonde, thin, with dazzling ersatz teeth and tarted up in the sort of formalwear Donald Trump forces on his fiancee’. Honestly I think “The Swan” is what would’ve been the late Rod Serling’s idea of a “reality TV show”.
I turned it off around the forty five minute mark as I couldn’t figure out which woman could have credibly claimed to have “crossed the most ground” in the journey from wretch to princess. To my unpracticed eye it looked like they were twins…blonde, skinny, ebullient and vacuous. How d’ye judge between them?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

American Movie Classics "celebrates" Veteran's Day

in a curious fashion. They are putting a bunch of movies about soldiers in combat into heavy rotation. These include aging titles like "The Battle of the Bulge" and "The Enemy Below" as well as rightical chic standards such as "Patton" and "Hamburger Hill". Lots of action, lots of warfare, lots of soldiers...but no movies about VETERANS...you know the guys what came home.
There is a difference you know.
Of course warfare is aa apocalyptic natural for the cinema while the trials and triumphs of postwar veterans are mere drama or perhaps comedy.
Think about that...on Veteran's Day we are knee deep in war movies...but precious few films about veterans can be seen anywhere.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

More Unemployment Books...

Here is what I've been reading since the end of September:

The Grand Guignol, Theater of Fear and Terror Mel Gordon
Yellowback Radio Broke Down Ishmael Reed
The American Newsreel (1911-1967) Raymond Fielding
Sabre-Tooth (Modesty Blaise) Peter O"Donnell
The Big Win Jimmy Miller
Paths of Glory Humphrey Cobb
A is for Andromeda Fred Hoyle and John Eliot
The Andromeda Breakthrough Fred Hoyle and John Eliot

Currently reading:
The White Boned Demon Ross Terrill
Napoleon III, A Life Fenton Bresler
Conservatism Revisited Peter Viereck
Imperial Earth Arthur C.Clarke
Totalitarianism (Book Three) Hannah Arendt


Friday, November 05, 2004

The Incredibles....

Anyone notice their strong resemblance to Marvel Comics' "The Fantastic Four"?
Oh the powers are jumbled up and replaced here and there...but the mother's elasticity powers, the daughter's invisibility/force field abilities and dad's cartoonish strength all say FF to this ex-true believer.
of course no member of the family is a mishappened monster a'la boychick Ben Grimm...(although the father "Mr. Incredible" is bloated to the point of hilarity) nonetheless the template is vivid right down to the capeless tights.
I wonder if Stan Lee will sue?
And then maybe we can get him on the stand to explain just how much of the Fantastic Four was really the creation of the late Jack Kirby???
:)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Beside Normal...

I suppose I could get away with one of those gawd-awful Mike Barnicle style posts outlining my mental paralysis induced by Red Sox dementia...
I COULD do one of those, but it would be a lie.
Truth is baseball has never done it for me and it never will.
I got no clue as to what is going on down on that diamond-none.
Now you wanna talk boxing or horse racing...then we've got something...but baseball?
Sorry nada.
What should we do if they win?
I mean besides hiding from the BPD?
An old AAA ball player from the olden days lives next door to me, IF the miracle happens and it may not, I might slip next door and offer him hearty greetings and congratulations.
And then I'm high-tailing to my cellar to crouch behind stoutly stacked sandbags, armed with a fifth of Jack Daniels and my trusty "head buster" twelve gauge.
:)

Speaking of boxing, is Kevin McBride the nigh on seven foot tall "Clones Colossus" still fighting?
I pity the wretch that climbs into the ring with him. McBride is so massive (despite his lack of technique) that you'd have to be armed with a tire iron to hope to do any real damage and even then...
I saw him knock a guy out of the ring once a round for three rounds before his opponent quietly sighed, shrugged, and called for a cab.

Anyhow between the Sox, the election, and the lunar eclipse it is shaping up to be night of howls and phantoms, fire and air as it were.
So enjoy it, and er...GO SOX! Yes that is it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Wish we had better news

Channel Zero only garnered about three paying viewers last night. For a grand total of five since we've moved to the Zeitgeist Gallery in July.
This is to say the least extremely discouraging, other events seem to do well at the Zeitgeist but so far Channel Zero is a bust therein.
Jon Joe and I will have to rethink our format in the sweet by and by.
Frankly, it is no fun to hand distribute twelve-hundred leaflets and shake down our mailing list twice to yield up an audience of two.
I'm coming to a dark and unpleasant conclusion that Boston just isn't as diverse a cultural enviroment as it thinks itself to be.
It is nightmarishly difficult to garner publicity for small events in out of the way venues.
Audiences just don't seem to be primed for the offbeat and bizarre.
Hell, the Coolidge Corner is screening "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episodes at Midnight for free...what does that tell you about the romantic spirit of experimentation in the Hub?
However all blather aside,I'd like to thank Alan Nidle director of the Zeitgeist Gallery as usual he was brisk, efficient and non-judgemental.
For the moment though, Channel Zero has no new events planned and probably won't be doing anything else this year.
We are in need of a new approach.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Whoops...I goofed

according to my esteemed and honorable brother, the Red Sox are on the road tomorrow so there is no game. So tell all your friends baseball fans or not, Channel Zero is at the Zeitgesit tomorrow night!
:)

27 Hours to go...

before the balloon goes up at Channel Zero...frankly we are none too optimistic at this point. The World Series seems to be the only thing on anyone's mind right now in Boston.
But if you wanna get out to an offbeat film, feel free to drop by the Zeitgeist Gallery tomorrow night at 7:30pm. Or at least tell all your friends who don't care for baseball!
:)

Monday, October 11, 2004

R.I.P. Chris Reeve...

news has reached us of the untimely death at age fifty two of actor Chris Reeve.
He had been dealing with extensive paralysis as a result of a horseback riding accident in 1995 and died of complications associated with that condition.
Sad...I feel that we let him down somehow.
After all he never let us down in cape or out.
I think the story was supposed to end a little differently alas though, he passed on while waiting for a cure.
I give him credit, the Superman comic's sales were in dire straits prior to Superman I's huge box office in 1978...he and director Richard Donner may well have saved the franchise as a comic and as a cultural force.
They did it the old fashioned way, by taking the character seriously, by treating Superman as a acting challenge (One shudders to think that everyone from a young Arnold Schwarzenegger to Sylvester Stallone were considered at one point or another) and by having faith in the audience.
Chris remained an anomaly in Hollywood for the rest of his career classically talented and handsome he had the bad fortune reach stardom at a time when male lookism had peaked in Hollywood. By the end of the 1970's Reeves was competing with the likes of Dustin Hoffman or Al Pacino for roles that would've been his sans demure just a decade earlier.

Perhaps Reeves needed the backing of a golden age type studio to reach his potential those days however were over.
Still and in the end he was an actor.
He took his trade seriously and infused his signature role with a huge amount of Capra style dignity and strength.
He will be missed.
I have to say by way of nostalgia, that as much as I enjoyed "Star Wars" back in the summer of 1977 I marked out even harder for "Superman the Movie"come Christmas 1978.
When Reeves catches Margot Kidder in one hand and a falling helicopter in the other I knew the man and the role had come together in a way not seen before in a comic book type film.
Class like that only comes along once in a generation in these types of films.
That makes Reeve's loss all the more poignant.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Channel Zero mailing list, both paper and e-mail

was activated this weekend. So welcome to CZ's own little blog...we will have some reviews, cultural commentary, and the usual blather associated with Boston's most notorious entertainment franchise.

We are also in the market for a decent venue for the legendary Bad Poets Society so if anyone has a reasonable suggestion post it in the comments.
What we need is:
A venue be it bar or a legit performance space.
It has to seat between 150 and 200 people (BPS has trended upwards on turnout every year that we've done it).
We'd like to secure a single Friday night in April 2005 for the reading but are negotiable on the specific night of the week.
We are willing to "four wall" the joint if the price is right.
Said venue needs to be MBTA accessible preferably on the Red Line if we can swing it.
Doesn't matter what side of the river we will listen to any proposal.
All this does mean that IF we do the Bad Poets Society in 2005 we will have to charge admission for the first time.
Meanwhile I'm off to one of the classiest laundromats in Cambridge to drop leaflets for our next show.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Amish in the City endgame...

I'm late with this, but it's been a busy week for a jobless writer in Boston.
As all of you know "Amish in the City" wrapped up last week and the five farmers departed our teevee screens with heads held high.
Below is a recap of my predictions along with the actual outcome.


Mose: Oldest and smartest of the bunch. At twenty four he drawls and makes droll comments like a farmer out of an Artemus Ward sketch. He is also a skilled craftsman and the most outwardly religious of the group. For all that he seems to be wrestling with his Amish status, he keeping coming back to the decision he must make in all his monologues.
Odds: 50-50

It appears that Mose opted to ditch the Amish lifestyle at the conclusion of the show...although he clearly prefers the rural life and will no doubt find a home in a less stringent sect.
I had a feeling he'd go over the side...he is just a little too reflective for the strict life of an Amish elder.

Miriam: blonde and bodacious she outwardly fits in with the SoCal zeitgeist. She seems to be enjoying herself no matter what is on the agenda. I get the impression though, she is just living it up and plans to resume the Amish lifestyle once she’s milked Southern California dry. Her allegedly off-screen pre-show fling with Randy demonstrates that there is a battle of the sexes going on even among the plain volk.
Odds: 60-40….Miriam is goin’ back.

This one surprised me, Miriam freely admitted she wasn't going back to the country nor accepting baptism into the Amish community. Clearly something about secular life struck a cord with her late in the process.

Jonas: Plain and simple, Jonas wants OUT! Don’t be fooled by his frequent confrontations with the “city kids”…all he is doing is flight testing his future “secular persona”.
Odds: 80-20 Jonas is out whether he passes his GED or not.

Jonas made some pro-Amish sounds late in the game but in the end as I predicted he opted out. he also passed his GED so good for him I say.

Randy: Tall blonde taciturn and a bit lispy, Randy makes the least impression on viewers. He is appropriately camera shy although he may be intimidated by the presence of his former girl friend Miriam in the mix.
Odds: 80-20 Randy is back on the first bus to Lancaster Pa.

Even shutmouthed Randy surprised me, he merely said he was returning to the country to resume his carpentry shtick...but he made his baptism into the Amish community contingent on "finding an Amish girl"....interesting.
Clearly Randy was doing some hard thinking all throughout the process...go figure?

Ruth: Ah Ruth….so full of questions…her monologues are things of wonder and delight. Clearly she was good and surprised by a lot of the things they’ve encountered in the city. Watching her deal with the least little thing like parking meters is really what the show is all about. Ruth is a bit like Mose in that she is constantly and guilelessly asking questions. He mind doesn’t seem to be made up and I wonder if she’ll chuck the Amish lifestyle when the klaxon sounds.
Odds 50-50, Ruth is a mystery.

Less of a surprise here, Ruth sounded like she was going back to the Amish life but a lot was contingent on the attitude of her boy friend "Marvin".
Didn't you just KNOW Ruth had an Amish sweetie named Marvin?
The republic is a little safer tonight knowing this...
:)
Overall I enjoyed the show more than I should have, we get so few glimpses into that lifestyle...the five Amish kids were charismatic, countrified and uncomplicated...how often do you see that on TV?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

National Socialist Mushroom Clouds...

What is it about the History Channel?
The are OBSESSED with Nazi Germany's moribund nuclear weapons program.
Every frickin' time I flip on the damn channel no matter what under discussion, be it the Golden Horde of the Great Khan or the Book of Numbers...they somehow seem to come around to Nazi A-bomb projects!

It has gotten plainly ridiculous.

The slightest whiff of the Danzig Corridor and we are locked into fifteen minutes of speculation over the Third Reich's unsatisfying and half hearted hard water experiments.

The facts behind Germany's nuclear research are plain enough; they lacked an advanced cyclotron, multiple ministries competed for the scientific and organizational talent to no profit, and by 1944 Reichsminister of Armaments Albert Speer had diverted most of Germany's uranium stocks for use in artillery shells.
Morever Germany's smartest physicist Werner Heisenberg was working under appalling conditions just trying to produce a sustained and controlled atomic chain reaction-something that had already been done at the University of Chicago in 1940.
In 1945 allies marched in and poor Werner was no closer to pulling off this basic feat of weapons production.

The reality is, the Nazis had nothing, and weren't anywhere close to getting anything.
Yet the History Channel goes on confusing the record, hyping half built V-weapon prototypes and a few barrels of uranium oxide into a "just-short-of-success" a-bomb project.

I don't know what their hang up is, but I wish they'd get over it.

And another thing!
I just read in raymond Fielding's useful tome "The American Newsreel: 1911 to 1967" that battlefield restrictions were so strong in World War One that newsreel companies routinely faked footage on an epic scale.
Remember that the next time the History Channel runs that grainy footage of brave tommies going over the top at Verdun...the shot probably took all day to get on Long Island New York.
:)





Sunday, September 19, 2004

Unemployment Books....

Here is a list of books that I've read since being laid off on July 30th 2004:

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick
Invasion by Eric L. Harry
The Peron Novel by Tomas Eloy Martinez
Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers by Ed Sikov
I, Lucifer by Peter O' Donnell
In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Junior by Will Haygood
The Informer by Liam O'Flaherty
Stan: The Life of Stan Laurel by Fred Lawrence Guiles
Billy Budd: Sailor by Herman Melville
Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party by Graham Greene
Night by Francis Pollini
The Colorist by Susan Daitch
Thomas Hobbes: Radical in Service to Reaction by Arnold A. Rogow
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

I am currently reading:
The Grand Guignol, Theater of Fear and Terror by Mel Gordon
Conservatism Revisited by Peter Viereck
The American Newsreel 1911-1967 by Raymond Fielding
Yellowback Radio Broke Down by Ismael Reed

Nothing like idleness to get a few books read...
:)
PS This blog is going on a brief one week hiatus while I do some serious job hunting. I know I haven't gone "all up" with this blog yet but stick with me a bit-the best is yet to come.
Anyone checking this space out for Channel Zero events here in Boston be advised we are at the Zeitgeist Gallery October 25th for our special "Welcome to Stalinville U.S.A." video show.
The leaflets will be ready in a week and our standard mass-mailing will go out about then.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Pick of the Week...

hands down unquestionably it has to the potent combo of "Paparazzi" and "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" at the Tri Town Drive in this weekend.
Show time commences at 7:15pm directions can be found at: www.cinemaworld.org
lets hope the remnants of Hurricane Ivan keep their distance, the drive in weekends are coming down to a precious few and "Sky Captain" is as good a film to end the season on as any.
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is also on a double bill with "Without a Paddle" at the Mendon Twin Drive In (Route 16 West Mendon Ma.).
However given a choice I'm still going with the Tri Town on this one, their HUGE outdoor screen trumps the Mendon Twin's many amenities when it come to raw action spectacle.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Wordsworth Books in Harvard Square has...

filed for reorganization under the auspices of Federal Bankruptcy Protection.
Jeezus I am always the last one to find these things out.
I went down to harvard Square tonight to buy my brother a copy of Chester Himes' "Rage in Harlem" for his birthday and found Wordsworth locked and dark.
Ghod I've been shopping in that store for something like twenty seven years going back to my dim dark days of summer school at Manter Hall.
Harvard Square has finally gone over the hump once a bohemian paradise now a wretched urban mall with all the usual vices included.
Sad....there were once something akin to sixteen book stores in Harvard Square they are now officially down to three and one of those is a Barnes and Noble.
Thanks to that neat-o global economy and it's herald the internet, localism and local-ness are a dying phenomenon all over the nation. We do a great deal of "heritage preservation" which is naught but an adjunct of boosting the tourist trade but we do very little to maintain a particular local mood or lifestyle.
Which is why whole tracts of Fort Myers Beach Florida looks exactly like the Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington.
Sooner or later this is gonna bite us in the backside.
Meanwhile my heart goes out to Wordsworth's owner Hillel Stavis he fought the good fight and still ended up with his back to the wall.
I wish I could help but I'm on relief at the moment and make a poor prospective investor.

Monday, September 06, 2004

I have a confession to make...

I religiously watch “Amish in the City”.

When it finally goes, it takes my Wednesday night with it that is all I can say.
Yeah….I know it is a “reality program” one that shamelessly exploits the na├»ve foibles of five Amish young people on their once-in-a-lifetime “rumspringa” (ergo “running around” a time when young Amish volk are encouraged and sometimes forced to “get it out of their system” so to speak).
Besides, the Amish shun television and even decline to be photographed…so absent a proper documentary this show is a rare window on their whole lifestyle.
Given that, UPN decided it would be mad phat fun to lock this quintet of farmers and farmer’s daughter’s in a Beverly Hill’s mansion with a collection of photogenic yet callow “city kids”.
This would be a pretty tasteless and ill-mannered program were it not for the essential sweetness and unpretentiousness of the Amish cohort. Whether it’s buying vegetables for a salad, cooking breakfast, cleaning the lav or taking belly-dancing lessons they are a friendly, eager to please bunch.
The show is also thankfully lacking in any challenges and dopey contests…in fact they’ve had one to date and it ended in short term acrimony and unhappiness for both sides.
Frankly, neither the “city kids” nor the Amish seem cut out for the cutthroat world of modern reality programming and so the program generally revolves around helicopter rides and trips to Catalina Island.
They are all a bit too civilized compared to the shopworn freaks on “The Surreal Life”.

If there is inherent drama on “Amish in the City” it is centered on the decision all the Amish have to make as to whether or not they’ll return to their families and be properly baptized into the religion.
“Rumspringa” is fun but it is also a testing time as well…or so the show plays it.
Below are my odds on who will go Amish and who take the secular road:

Mose: Oldest and smartest of the bunch. At twenty four he drawls and makes droll comments like a farmer out of an Artemus Ward sketch. He is also a skilled craftsman and the most outwardly religious of the group. For all that he seems to be wrestling with his Amish status, he keeping coming back to the decision he must make in all his monologues.
Odds: 50-50

Miriam: blonde and bodacious she outwardly fits in with the SoCal zeitgeist. She seems to be enjoying herself no matter what is on the agenda. I get the impression though, she is just living it up and plans to resume the Amish lifestyle once she’s milked Southern California dry. Her allegedly off-screen pre-show fling with Randy demonstrates that there is a battle of the sexes going on even among the plain volk.
Odds: 60-40….Miriam is goin’ back.

Jonas: Plain and simple, Jonas wants OUT! Don’t be fooled by his frequent confrontations with the “city kids”…all he is doing is flight testing his future “secular persona”.
Odds: 80-20 Jonas is out whether he passes his GED or not.

Randy: Tall blonde taciturn and a bit lispy, Randy makes the least impression on viewers. He is appropriately camera shy although he may be intimidated by the presence of his former girl friend Miriam in the mix.
Odds: 80-20 Randy is back on the first bus to Lancaster Pa.

Ruth: Ah Ruth….so full of questions…her monologues are things of wonder and delight. Clearly she was good and surprised by a lot of the things they’ve encountered in the city. Watching her deal with the least little thing like parking meters is really what the show is all about. Ruth is a bit like Mose in that she is constantly and guilelessly asking questions. He mind doesn’t seem to be made up and I wonder if she’ll chuck the Amish lifestyle when the klaxon sounds.
Odds 50-50, Ruth is a mystery.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Welcome to Stalinville USA...

Channel Zero returns to the Zeitgeist Gallery with a screening of:

“IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU, WHAT WILL HORSES DO?”
(1971) Directed by Ron Ormond

In which a young backsliding Christian girl falls asleep during a fiery commie-bashing sermon and dreams (or perhaps…hallucinates) that her small American town has been taken over by the Soviets!

What follows is a fantasmagoric journey into cheap anti-communist lunacy, full of shoddy bloodshed and inept acting.

A triumph of back yard film-making all for mere five dollar donation!

Monday October 25th 2004 7:30pm sharp.
The Zeitgeist Gallery
1353 Cambridge Street
Inman Square
Cambridge Ma.

Suggested Donation: $5


Saturday, August 28, 2004

Having watched VH-1's "I love the 80's"

this afternoon I can safely say that I am rotten glad to live in an age where Andrew Dice Clay is a played out, dried up, over the hill hack.
I hated him then and I'm positively gleeful that he has come to a sad lonely dead end in his career.
To quote whozis..."Time wounds all heels".
:)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

War of the Weird

Word comes from out tinseltown that Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise are hot-hot-hot to do a remake of H.G. Wells' seminal SF novel "War of the Worlds".
I call it a re-make as this version will be have contemporary setting as did the 1953 George Pal production.
Pardon me if I wax blunt but this is a perfectly awful idea...no doubt Tom Cruise and that toothy mongoloid rictus the press calls a smile will be careening around the countryside evading the martian tripod machines whilst two billion gigabytes of CGI effects flail around ineffectually.
What is worse, Spielberg that self effacing cinemapath will be directing...sure he has handed in some quality work (Notably "Saving Private Ryan" and it's Wellesian battle scenes) but as a science fiction auteur the man is played out.
Anyone else out there recall a certain multi-million dollar anesthetic called A.I.?
I do...cars were peeling out of the Tri Town Drive In all night long and believe me it was a long night indeed as Steven Spielberg contemplated the liine between humanity and household appliances...or something.
No if you want to do "War of the Worlds" right, keep the turn of the century English setting and play it like an old Merchant-Ivoey production but with malevolent martians. Get Anthony Hopkins to play the narrator...believe me this will work.
However for ghod sakes leave Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg out of it!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Obligatory Olympics Entry...

I got up this morning and flipped on Bravo which was covering the Olympic dressage event from Athens. The horses and their riders came thundering down a long path and leapt over a huge Greek urn, through a shallow pond and over a pair of ersatz fishing boats and thence to the inevitable fallen pillar.
What?
No ticky-tacky windmill?
The whole course suggested a threadbare miniature golf course in Manchester N.H.!
Frankly, I shouldn’t complain most of the bigtime name sports in the Olympics have gone completely professional in all but name. If you want to see serious hobbyists, enthusiasts, and raw amateurs doing what they love then tune into the beach volleyball finals, the white water kayaking event or the women’s orienteering show-down.
Yeah some of these sports are little more than fancy avocations…but the Olympics are supposed to be about amateurs making a public display of their peculiar abilities.
And besides, there is something vaguely democratic about this niche competitions…everything else in the Olympics has gone so corporate and upscale.
Which makes for dispiriting viewing in my humble opinion.

Meanwhile our own great white aquatic hope Michael Phelps doesn’t seem to be living up to the hype in the swimming events.
I could’ve told you a week ago that Australia’s Ian Thorpe would smoke Phelps like a cheap cigar in the 200 meter free style (or whatever the event was last night).
It is not that Phelps isn’t great, he is, with many more victories before him.
No, the problem is, he arrived at his first Olympics with a lot of irrational hopes and hype attached to his name so the pressure was on to fulfill a pre-sold prophesy.
Ian Thorpe arrived at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with a lot of expectations attached to his own bad self he didn’t quite put them over either.
So now four years later, free of the hype Thorpe can blithely splash off to glory.
So look for Michael Phelps to put paid to his particular legend in 2008.
Hype is a deadly toxin for any artist or athlete, if the U.S. really wanted to carry the day at the Olympics they’d send the entire squad off under a gag order and in disguise. Leave off the Wheaties’ boxes and equipment endorsement til after the games.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Mendon Drive In is celebrating its

FIFTIETH anniversary on Sunday August 15th!
Fifty years young and a nice second screen added to the mix...not bad.
They are showing "The Village" and "King Arthur" along with what should be described as "tweenerpalooza" ergo "The Princess Diaries 2" and "A Cinderella Story" starring the elusive Miss Hilary Duff.
This is my pick of the week on the grounds that Sunday nights are slow on the local Drive In circuit so every little bit helps. Just which double feature is entirely up to you-all.
The Mendon Twin Drive In is located on Route 16 west in romantic Mendon Mass.
for all other details check out:
http://www.mendondrivein.com

Monday, August 09, 2004

Pick of the Week:

All decent citizens are advised to check out the Harvard Film Archive's double feature tomorrow night; two silent World War One themed films, King Vidor's "The Big Parade" (1925) at 7pm and Raoul Walsh's "What Price Glory?" (1926) at 9pm.
we should take advantage of ANY opportunity to see silent classics such as these!
The Harvard Film Archive is located at 24 Quincy Street Cambridge Ma.

Hell I'll be there...




Anyone who knows me realizes I am a huge mark for Tina Packer and her Shakespeare and Company ensemble in Lenox Ma.
Since the acquisition of the Kemble Street property in the year 2000, Packer hasn’t been directing as much, concentrating instead on a round of fundraising and even a bit of acting here and there.
I look forward to her return to the directors chair…back in 1999 I screwed up my courage and lobbied her for a revival of Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus”. She seemed taken with the idea…but I’m sure she is awash in suggestions good and bad.

Here is hopin’ though.

Fortunately, the company still prospers with other directors at the helm.
Which brings us to “The Comedy of Errors” directed by S & C veteran Cecil MacKinnon…rest assured she keeps the action moving fast and furious and mixes her cast with a winning mix of old pros and ambitious newcomers.
This is quite frankly the standard formula for success at Shakespeare and Company they are an authentic classical repertory theater.
Thankfully, Ms. Mackinnon is utterly unafraid of the text-this is critical because the Comedy of Errors is a deceptively tough play for any sensible director.
On the surface it is a farcical knockabout comedy, but with its two sets of contending twins, two masters two servants, four separate comic arcs, the potential for confusion and disaster is very very real.
It is not an easy production by any means.
Tell that to Dan “Dromio” McCleary though-his comic delivery is natural you’d think he was improvising up there.
Nominally he is a twelve season veteran of Shakespeare and Company…now I know he has played both MacBeth and Coriolanus to superlative effect, but when he is cast as some supporting clown (in this case the allegedly witless servant Dromio) it is as if he is channeling the late Curly Howard.
Dan McCleary is a natural clown and was MADE to play the likes of Stephano in “The Tempest” or Silvius in “As You Like It”.
Don’t know if he’d find that particularly complimentary-but it is truth that must be proclaimed.
So anyway, it is a marvelous show, Elizabeth Aspenlieder chews the scenery with gusto as the wronged wife Adriana…only Jonathan Epstein’s Ageon lacks gumption. He plays the doomed merchant a bit too tragically for such a raucous comedy; perhaps it is an artistic hangover from his triumph as King Lear last summer.
Who knows?
So anyway, the Comedy of Errors at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, go see it they have not let us down yet.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

On vacation for a few days...

will return with a review of Shakespeare and Company's "The Comedy of Errors" in due course. Until then, tawk amongst yourselves.
:)

Monday, August 02, 2004

Thunderbirds are Go!

Isn't technology amazing? Someone whomped together a lifesized puppet for this film that walks, talks, and acts just like Bill Paxton.
Okay that was low blow....
can't help myself sometimes.

Yup we went roaring off to the Mendon D.I. last night to see the new "Thunderbirds" re-make...alas it was on screen II known for it's pesky focus problems...most of which were under control so far as we could see.
BTW if have to get out to the drive in this summer, a Sunday night is the time to do it. We arrived a mere twenty minutes before show time and easily procured a requisite front row space.
And what the hell the movie was alright...someone wisely decided that the story of the Tracy Family wealthy and secret members of "International Rescue"-a high tech organization devoted to saving lives-just cried out for the "Spy Kids" treatment.
The SPFX were the usual CGI junk but pains were taken to recreate the design of the original vehicles and mid 1966's retro-future decor'.
The adults play it straight, the kids steal scenes, and Sir Ben Kingsley (who clearly feels cheated of the role of Fu Manchu) camps it up like Tim Curry on a geritol rush.
Special props ought to go out to Sophie Myles who as "Lady Penelope" (International Rescues in house secret agent, peer of the realm and resident sex symbol)chews the scenery with perverse gusto. Her participation is a must for any sequel.
In all it could have been worse, the original after all WAS a kid's show and ought to remain a straight juvenile franchise.

Completists and lud I am one of those, ought to seek out the orginal 1960's TV series on DVD. it depicts an atom powered future prone to sky scraper fires and other mundane accidents that require the constant intervention of a secret hi tech team of experts...a generation of contemporary civil engineers were weaned on this show I assure you.
Producer Gerry Anderson (who didn't make a shilling off the current incarnation I fear) also made two feature length Internation Rescue featues "Thunderbirds are Go!" and "thunderbird Six"...the latter being the one I'd recommend for anyone with restive children.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Pick of the Week plus a personal note...
 
We-ll....it is pretty much status quo movie wise this weekend.
The Tri Town Drive In (3 Youngs Road Lunenberg Ma.) is going with "King Arthur" and "The Village" whilst the Mendon Twin (route 16 west Mendon) has "The Thunderbirds" and "Spiderman II" with "The Village" and "King Arthur" on screen 2.
I gotta go with the "Thunderbirds" this time around...I doubt the film will come up to the original but ya never know.
But then why re-make "The Thunderbirds" at all?
Other than to give series creator Gerry Anderson a nice phat pay day...
Frankly the charm of the original program lies in it's serendipidous mix of old technology (puppets and puppetry) with the high tech symbols of the age, rockets, space travel and the like.
That particular zeitgeist can't be recreated no matter how hard someone tries.
Nonetheless...it is worth checking out-some films just must be seen at the drive in and nowhere else..."The Thunderbirds" falls into this category.

I'll post a full review in due course.

Meanwhile on a personal note, this is my last day on the job at my clerical position within a huge "name" high tech company.
I've been there some twelve years now, stuck perhaps in a job beneath my abilities...but it was a nice place to work and I made many lasting friendships therein.
Besides when I started I was in serious serious debt and needed the money very badly.
Today I'm debt free and oddly hopeful...maybe it is just John Kerry's speech last night...who knows.
Still, it is going to be hard to say goodbye, "the devil you know" and all like that.
However it is time to move on and this is a big opportunity for me.
So opportunity-wise if anyone hears about anything good, drop yer old  pal a little note...
Zolok@aol.com


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Greatest Video Store in Metropolitan Boston...

is undoubtedly Video Oasis at 625 Cambridge Street in East Cambridge Mass. Next to the live poultry butcher and across from the New Deal Fish Market.
Owner Dennis Arruda, surely one of the last independent video store proprietors in the area, has a simple philosophy....lots of everything.
And if it's a cult movie you are after, Oasis is your destination...in fact it's the perfect store from which to start a film's cult!
"Terminal Island", starring Tom Selleck and Marta "Lost in Space" Kristen?...Dennis has it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's favorite muscleman movie "Hercules in the Haunted World"?...again Oasis provideth.
The best horror film section north of New York?
Oasis again....
A Wall stretching the length of the store crammed with Hong Kong action videos...thass Oasis agin'.
Practically every time I go in there I find something new, offbeat or plain interesting.
With 15,000 tapes, DVDs, AND the last local source of laserdiscs there is a lot of stuff to wade through, lemme tell yuh.
Yes the rental prices are a tad higher, but with Video Oasis you get a collection of stuff that will keep you coming back year after year!
Compare that with some jerkwater outfit like Blockbuster or Hollywood Video with it's Mcdonald's marketing mentality.
And the adult section Ohhh LA LA!
Suffice to say Something Weird Video of Seattle's many many classic porno tapes have a place of honor at Video Oasis.
Dennis has no website so I can provide no link...you have to go there...be prepared to spend time and to browse. The sections are broken down by genre there is no other system at work so fortune favors those with a spirit of discovery...all others can simply ask Dennis to look up a title.
:)
Check it out I kid you not.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Howzabout dem Red Sox...?

They finally figured out the Yankee's Achilles' Heel.
The hated New York franchise seems to have a big collective glass jam and thus cannot stand up to a serious whomping...
:)
Okay so anyone who knows me realizes I don't do sports reportage....I've existed quite happily now for forty one years without concerning myself unduly with the Sox, da Broons, or da Pats....but the melee on Saturday was just too good to pass up.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Pick of the week:

That would have to be the Harvard Film Archive's screening of Frank Capra's WWII propaganda piece "Divide and Conquer" part of his seminal "Why We Fight" series.
Capra made lavish use of German newsreel footage and even snatched up bits and pieces of Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will to forge a compelling anti-Nazi argument in film.
Screens Sunday July 25th at 7pm at the Harvard Film Archive 24 Quincy Street Cambridge Ma.

The Archive has always been a court of last resort for the lost and obscure...like Channel Zero they revive the un-revivable...except they have a real budget.
:)
I can recall with the simplest nostalgia the summer Gerald Peary was the acting curator...Betsy Sherman and I sat enthralled in that theater as the first five episodes of the 1940 serial "The Adventures of Captain Marvel" were screened in all their glory. We were the only people in there...it was magnificent to say the least.
And that is the sort of film program all decent citizens should support!

The Last Spiderman II review:

Yeah I know it's old news, but I'm facing a layoff at work and what with the convention and last week's show at the Zeitgeist...I'm running behind.
Fortunately though, I had the good fortune to see the Spidey sequel at the Tri Town Drive In 3 Youngs Road Lunenberg Mass (978-345-5062)...which thanks to it's hu-uge outdoor screen is the perfect venue for any summer blockbuster no matter what!
So given all that was I impressed with Spiderman II...well sort of...
The whole subtext of the film revolves around Peter Parker (Tobey McGuire) and his ambivalence with his heroic role as Spiderman. For a brief time he seems to lose his powers and tries to live as a normal human being with mixed results. Now why exactly Spiderman's abilities fail him isn't made clear....the issue may be psychosomatic.
All this is fine, but since much of Parker's angst comes from his unresolved relationship with girl friend Mary Jane one gets a very strong whiff of Superman II off the script.
Which brings us to the film's strange repetition of un-maskings...Spiderman is un-masked by one of his enemies, he take it off inexplicably as a prelude to saving a subway car and then of course he has to show Mary Jane the truth. Once would've been fine, three time betrays a lack of creativity.
And then there is the film's villain "Dr. Octopus" (Alfred Molina) a reluctant cyborg who fulfills a contract taken out on Spiderman by Peter Parker's best friend Harry Osborne. The Doc needs money to finish off his dangerous fusion experiments...thus imperiling New York City quite nicely at the climax.
Or not....if case you are wondering a out of control nuclear fusion experiment can be safely doused with the salubrious waters of the East River.
However the film is impeccably cast, McGuire was born to the role, Alfred Molina is a suitably conflicted villain and everyone else rises to the occasion with wit and grace. The action scenes are even better than the original and Sam Raimi's direction has never been more assured.
It is just that the movie has these weird deadspots in them that could've been easily edited out. Peter Parker's schlep-like inability to score a canape' at a ritzy reception-once is funny but the gag is repeated three times in five minutes to the point where I felt like screaming "just track down a candy machine you jerk!"

All in all though, I give it a B+ well worth the money at the going rate.


Statement of principles...

Welcome to Channel Zero, a blog that supports and expands on the mission of Boston based film and video franchise.
I will be noting upcoming Channel Zero events, posting film reviews and offering up varied types of cultural commentary as time goes on. I don't think this blog will be updated every day but I will try to post as frequently as possible.
In all things I will try to be informative,
if that doesn't work I'll be funny,
and if that doesn't work I will be brief.