Friday, December 31, 2010

My top nine movies for 2010

1.) Mystery Team (OKAY OKAY...It was made in 2009, but technically it didn't premiere in Boston til 2010, for once I'm gonna make provincialism work for me). Hi-freakin'-larious movie, satire on the whole "kid detective" genre taken to it's logical conclusion. Best film ever made in Manchester New Hampshire hands down.

2.) It Came from Kuchar: Great documentary on a two filmmaker-brothers whose bizarre post-camp work does not circulate anywhere near as much as they should. If you wanna know who was a bad influence on John Waters, look no further than these guys.

3.)Vliet Harlan: The Shadow of Jud Suss. It takes the resources of a whole state apparatus that is bound and determined to incite genocide to make a film as evil as Jud Suss. And somewhere in that malevolent process there needs to be a reasonably talented hack willing to do the leadership's bidding, hence this documentary about Vliet Harlan, Joseph Goebbels' favorite director and a man did his part to touch off the holocaust with style.

4.) Toy Story Three: Ahhhh mortality, for people for toys its the same story. Some might argue that the Toy Story franchise has revisited this theme incessantly, well hell so did Shakespeare...Genius always knows how to repeat itself.

5.) Get Him to the Greek: I laughed myself stupid at this movie, as far as I am concerned Russell Brand can play variations on his Aldous Snow character til' he is waaa-ay past fifty years of age. Jonah Hill is one good movie away from being this generation's Buster Keaton...And who knew P. Diddy had comedy chops??

6.) Centurion: Director Neal Marshall is a man to watch, he makes movies that I wanna see.

7.) Piranha 3D: It just pleases me on a very vulgar level to single this film out for praise...Very much a throwback to the bygone era of Roger Corman horror films.

8.) The Town: Ben Affleck is a man of destiny, he has turned himself around creatively and has allowed The Hub to become his filmic muse...Like Woody Allen in New York or the aforementioned John Waters in Baltimore.

9.) Machete: Any action film that depends on a sixty six year old Chicano ex-con named Danny Trejo to carry the day is aces high in my books.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

True Grit (1969)

I swore an oath at the Temple of Apollo, the Cinema Godling, that I'd finally screen the original "True Grit
" before I'd see the Coen Brother's reimagining of the same.
Is it a good film?
But for Glen Campbell and a few blood packs though, there is little of anything to mark it of it's time, it could have easily been made in 1959 or 1949 for that matter.
Well what of it?, it is a superlative performance by John Wayne as the boozy frontier Marshal Cogburn shanghai'd by Kim Darby (21 playing 14 if you can believe it) into annihilating her father's killer.
The problem with Wayne by this time was nearly geographic in it's scope, the man was a human mountain range, coming up with challenges equal to his immutable solidity were nigh impossible. So of course, the gag is, that a mere 14 year old girl is the goad that gets Cogburn out into Indian country to slay the malefactors, as P.T. Barnum teaches us the only thing bigger than a big thing, is a very small thing.
And that is Kim Darby's performance in a nutshell, priggish, tightly wound she pursues her father's killers like they owed her money or something. The whole thing makes a right and necessary contrast to Wayne's crusty scenery chewing.
All this is very important, because the mook they are all chasing down is battered, wasted and whiny Jeff Corey, known as an acting coach of no small ability and his refusal to Name Names before HUAC.
That got Corey blacklisted for ten years...this was before Glen Campbell and John Wayne metaphorically finished him off in the High Country.
In a perfect universe, John Ford would have husbanded some strength for a last elegiac collaboration with Wayne, however the olde master was a broken man by 1969 thus dependable Henry Hathaway was brought in to make what amounts to the last Classic Adult Western with "Made in the USA" stamped on the credits.
Hathaway does Wayne proud for the most part, the Colorado countryside makes a suitable noble background for one of US Cinema's exemplars of the Herocracy.
Time though, time is the real enemy here, already the Italians and their spaghetti westerns had seized the high ground in the movie houses, Wayne was past sixty years of age here and his best directors were human shipwrecks, you can practically hear Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods" on the Colorado breeze.
They had to give Wayne the best actor Oscar for this one, incredibly they'd never given it to him before for any of his iconic cowboy roles, a notable failure on the Academy's part in my opinion.
Like the mythic US cavalry, they got there just in time....

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Someone found cut footage from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) at the bottom of a salt mine! The material is in pristine condition and includes among other things the long sought after prologue composed of interviews with real life scientists on the possibilities of extraterrestrial life.
This is huge because Kubrick had the rights to the film's "final cut" and he was notorious for destroying edited footage to all his films. Supposedly he had all the spacecraft models in 2001 trashed to prevent them from showing up on TV in shows like "Lost in Space".

News like this always gives me renewed hope with respect to other films that have gone missing or movies with famous bits and pieces that were excised for various reasons. I'd love to see the famous war room pie fight footage that was the original ending to Dr. Strangelove hell, the missing reels to "The Magnficent Ambersons" would do me for life quite frankly.
Meanwhile I think someone ought to audit the contents of that salt mine quite carefully who knows what else is down there?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My top ten John Lennon Songs (Beatles Era)

It is already the 30th anniversary of his death...time flies doesn't it? And yes, Rock-n-Roll does love it's martyrs doesn't it?

(In no order of preference)

1.) "Help" The First rock-n-roll-celebrity-sucks song, the uptempo melody masks a world class primal scream of despair.

2.) "Dr Robert" Drug humor in 1966, ya can't beat it.

3.) "Tomorrow Never Knows" Any apologia for LSD that has it's origin in one of Ringo Starr's calculated malapropisms is a song for the ages in my books.

4.) "Norwegian Wood" "Cindy I WOULD NEVER CHEAT ON YOU...Its just a SONG!"

5.) "I am the Walrus" John Lennon does to pop musik what TNT does to a recalcitrant brick wall.

6.) "Strawberry Fields Forever". Great song maybe his best, ignoring it diminishes his artistic luster...

7.) "Hey Bulldog" One of JL's best goofs...Besides it is allegedly the last time the Beatles played together in the studio, thus the energy comes across to the casual listener.

8.) "Nowhere Man" Which is a sort of Lennonist bookend to "Eleanor Rigby".

9.) "And Your Bird Can Sing" JL always disparaged the song, but as trifles go this one is excellent and a song others, rock and rock immortals even would kill to have written.

10.) "Dear Prudence" Only a superficial goof, even JK's happy songs sound like dirges...

Okay tawk amongst yourselves...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Watched Larry King last night at the gym...

And apropos of his guest, I can but say this, "Where does Aldous Snow end and Russell Brand begin?"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

H4 P2

“There lives not three good men, unhanged in England. And one of them is fat and grows old."

You and me both Jack, you and me both.

Y'know I enjoyed "Henry the Foutth Part II" down at the Midway Studio last weekend, I really did. I think you have to see both parts in quick succesion to realize just how deeply in denial Falstaff really is with regards to his "friend" Prince Hal's intentions. And that is how Robert Walsh plays Falstaff, childish and given to the sad belief that the good times can just roll on despite all obstacles....That nothing bad is about to happen regardless of all the countless portents and warnings.
I don't know what it is about Robert Walsh but when they pad him up as Falstaff he gives off a faint dissolute air of Kris Kristofferson...Mind you thats a good thing in my books.
My only complaint about the second part of the play is that from my vantage point I couldn't see the look on Walsh's face when Bill Barclay's King Henry the Fifth lowered the boom on him. But by all indications from the rear, to the last Falstaff just didn't get it.
The Phoenix came down hard on Bill Barclay's Prince Hal, calling him"sinister" at one point. Quite frankly though, to an American audience unschooled in British dynastic politics, Hal's plan to repudiate his low born friends to seem all the more resplendent a monarch comes off as perfectly malevolent.
Orson Welles opined that neither Hal nor his father are nice people as we understand them. Henry the Fourth is a coup-plotter and an epic self justifier, his son a brutal opportunistic power hungry man.
"Realists" of the worst and most modern type said Welles, no wonder the late director saw these plays as more akin to tragedy than anything else.
To an American aud, Henry the Fourth isn't about the rise of a Glorious Young Ruler, it is the story of a cruel manipulative young man, less King Arthur and much more Sammy Glick.
Whenever that comes thru, I count it a good production.
But anyway there are still some performances left do go see them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

With the stroke of a P.E.M. or the Return of Rebecca Cathcart-Monet

"Pem" said a voice over the telephone.
"Pem?" I drawled in stupified response "Vas is dat?"
"The Peabody Essex Museum silly! We are GOING!"
"B-but why?" I faltered.
"Cuz you have never been there and I need to inhale some art! I'm taking my floatplane, meet me at 9am Sunday in Salem on the Grand Canal" she rapped.
"Who am I to defy a whim of iron like that?" I thought as I fired up the Black Beauty and roared up Route 128 for yet another fateful rendezvous with destiny.
The Grand Canal in Salem is lovely in the late Autumn, its ancient stones grey with dignity, it's water still tinged red with the reflections of autumn's last foliage. A very definite Ray Bradbury-ish "Martian Chronicles" vibe can be felt.
Promptly at nine AM Rebecca brought her canary yellow SPAD S.XIV float plane for perfect landing on those placid pellucid waters.
Out of the cockpit she sprang resplendent in flying helmet, scarf and goggles "Buy me breakfast ya flatlander cheapskate" she trilled as I was forcibly dragged by the collar to the nearest dinner.
Rebecca is a woman of simple even puritanical tastes, all she wants is a house with an epic courtyard. How else to explain her intense affinity for the foyer of the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum or the Yin Yu Tan House at the P.E.M. with it's tiny fountains and exquisite centeredness. The tiny precisely laid out rooms all opening out into a large almost theatrical space...Nothing hidden everything within the line of sight.
That would seem to be Ms. Cathcart-Monet's natural setting.
How she adapts all this to the winterly blasts in her home town of Niftyborough New Hampshire is another matter.
From there it was a quest across three floors to find "Cleopatra's Barge".
I of course thought this was some contemporary relic of the old budget busting Liz Taylor film circa 1964, but whatever it was Ahab did not seek the whale half so zealously as Rebecca sought the barge.
Turns out the damn thing is an authentic stateroom to a mid-19th century luxury yacht, with fine wood paneling and painted landscapes on the backs of the chairs. The whole thing was a symphony of restraint compared to the ostentation that would characterize the yacht style of the gilded age.
So of course, it spoke to Rebecca...
From there it was off to the Korean art with it's subtle designs and then the "Moon Bed" which is best described as Rebecca's childhood of gigantism by way of dreamland.
By the way, Asian outsourcing goes back to the beginning of the 19th century when enterprising American merchants hired Chinese artists to mass produce facsimile paintings of the late General Washington for sale in the USA.
Who knew?!
This is what you learn when you trail behind Rebecca Cathcart-Monet at a major museum, the woman has taste and with that in hand the whole experience can be mastered fairly easily.
Indeed Ms. Cathcart-Monet can enter a huge hall devoted to maritime art and unerringly lead one to the smallest yet most compelling display, the very toolbox of John Haley Bellamy, a local folk artist of the late 19th century noted for his elaborately carved wooden eagles. But It isn't so much the toolbox as her relationship to it, the artist's modesty, the enduring value and rarity of his work and his status as a notable in the local arts scene.
Taste is Destiny, Rebecca has that in abundance, to spend a day with her in a museum is to further one's education and broaden one's horizons, the arts have no better friend or vigilant guardian.
Ah but even we suffer the pangs of hunger after a while and after a brief stroll around town and a visit to the world's most dangerously stacked bookstore we memorialized the whole afternoon with a picture of the statue erected in honor of Elizabeth Montgomery star of "Bewitched".
A fitting end to a day given over to good taste in extremis.
On our way to the tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel we passed a sort of museum/boutique dedicated to the infamous Lizzie Borden murders.
Well of course, Salem as a town has given itself over to the Halloween tourist trade, but for the life of we couldn't figure out what Salem had to do with a grisly pair of ax murders than went down in Fall River?
The only link we could discern was that Elizabeth Montgomery played the part in a notorious TV movie adaptation back in the 1970's.
And on that suitably bizarre note we ate lunch and repaired back to the Canal where I saw Rebecca's floatplane taxi down the canal, her scarf snapping crisply in the wash.
And once again I had the same thought as last time "In the name of Ghod almighty how do I ever top this?"

Friday, November 05, 2010

Henry IV Part 1 (the Coveted Crown)

Sell the house sell the car sell your dog but get down to the Midway Studio in South Boston for this adaptation of Shakepeare's history play flawlessly executed by the Actor's Shakespeare Company.
Allyn Burrows (whom I last saw tearing up the boards out in the Berkshires at Shakespeare & Co) has found a new home both as Artistic Director of ASP and as "Hotspur" the mercurial rebel and nemesis of the allegedly dissolute Prince Hal (a superb Bill Barclay).
Robert Walsh - CHECK! Loved the man's Falstaff, caught the old knight's slightly childish tinge quite nicely and pratfalled with gusto through-out.
I've always been of the opinion that Falstaff's immaturity is his downfall, he is warned that Hal will one day repudiate him and yet like a child he responds only with cruel mischief (he falsely claims to have slain Hotspur in single combat) thus when King Henry turns his back on him, well...all Falstaff can do is cry.
Its hardly an original theory...but it suits my American character (who could less about who is King of England when Hal's friendship with Sir John Falstaff hangs in the balance).
One of the pleasant conceits of this adaptation is a short prologue depicting the deposition of King Richard II (Marya Lowry) and the ascension of Henry Bolingbroke (Joel Colodner) to the Throne of England. My point being if anyone wants to stake all on an actress playing Richard II, get the abovementioned Ms. Lowry, I at least will be in the front row opening night.
Can't wait to see part II on the 13th quite frankly...

ASP has found a home in Boston, I hope audiences respond there is a crying need for a dedicated classical theater company here in too chilly Boston.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Autumn in Massachusetts

A defiant blue gets into a quiet to-the-death struggle with orange, at sunset.

That chill that comes out of nowhere and a breeze that says "I'll be back next month, with everything I've got".

The dead leaves, always aloft, laughing at us, they can't be raked if they don't stop moving.

The awful empty stillness at 5pm, and that surging Charlton Heston feeling "My Ghod they'll be waking up soon!!!"

Anyone else ever feel like that?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gene Doucette...

Whom you may recall has been a reader and a Poetry Captain for the Bad Poets Society and gone and written a novel, a real novel with a front & back cover and pages made out of paper.
I mean like wow man who'd a thunk it?
Mostly I just know the guy as the man who couldn't get through "A Bowl of October" without collapsing into giggles on the stage at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education...Clearly the boy-o runs deep.

You can order it from Amazon, smart & funny people generally write good books so likely it'll be a good read.

Anyhow I'm gonna try and crash the publication partei tonight, if any of you are there, I'm the one dressed very very nondescriptly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This has to be

your last chance to see Danny Treja in "Machete" before it gets exiled to a dusty and forgotten DVD release.
I mean, this might be the only pro-illegal immigration action movie ever made...likely it will be the only one too despite a sterling performance from Chicano Ubermensch, Danny Trejo.
That hombre btw, is sixty six years old per the IMDB and he rocks this movie like Snake Plissken!
The sad part is the unabashedly controversial nature of the plotline will likely preclude seeing Trejo in any other action type, which is sad cuz he ain't getting any younger.
I have to give it to director Roberto Rodriguez, he has a royally uneven filmography, but this is one is pure genius...he even made Michelle Rodriguez seem feminine and accessible, at least until it was time for her to sport an eyepatch and start gunning down thugs like stalks of corn.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just a Reminder:

Wednesday night,
Channel Zero Proudly Presents:
"Hill 24 Doesn't Answer!" (1955)

Directed by Thorold Dickinson

A rag tag collection of I.D.F. soldiers tenaciously holdonto their embattled position during the 1948 Israeli War for Independence.

At the birth of a New Nation, a Heroic Last Stand!

Starring Edward Mulhare - Michael Wager - Margalit Oved

8pm Wednesday October 13th
The Somerville Theater Screening Room
Admission $8 (cheap!)
55 Davis Square, Somerville Ma

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Many thanks

(I think!) to the Boston Phoenix for their kinds words regarding Channel Zero's screening of "HIl 24 doesn't Answer" (1955). They even got this very URL right. Now doubt even as I write this thousands of new readers are acquainting themselves with the Imperial Glory that is Channel Zero.

Meanwhile tell all your friends, Channel Zero returns next week with the above feature film, Wednesday October 1113th at 8pm Sharp in the Somerville Theatre's screening room admission a paltry $8.
And yes we will screen the Wesley Willis documentary if this mishaugas somehow breaks even, so tell yer friends!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Zach "Watchmen" Snyder has got the nod to direct

the new Superman movie.

Can't say I'm jumping for joy, "The Watchmen" is hardly my favorite movie although I realize that a lot of these "whose gonna direct?" decisions revolve around yesteday's buzz and box office. But I'm hardly emotionally invested in any of the other mooks that were up for the job so...I guess I'll wait and see on this one.

Good bloggers though should court controversy so let me publicly assert that I think Brandon Routh deserves another crack at the title role. He is our best hope to keep the part out of the hands of Keanu Reeves, Justin Beiber, Shia Labeouf or (Ghod help us) that Easter Island Monolith who walks like a man, Tom Welling.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Channel Zero Lives!

Channel Zero Proudly Presents:

"Hill 24 Doesn't Answer!" (1955)

Directed by Thorold Dickinson

A rag tag collection of I.D.F. soldiers tenaciously hold
onto their embattled position during the 1948 Israeli War
for Independence.

At the Birth of a New Nation, a heroic last stand!
Starring Edward Mulhare - Michael Wager - Margalit Oved

Israel's First War Film, Unseen in Boston in Fifty Years!
One of the best foreign films You've Never Heard Of!
Trust us, you won't be seeing this one on Cable Any Time

8pm Wednesday October 13th
The Somerville Theater
Screening Room
Admission $8 (cheap!)
55 Davis Square, Somerville Ma

Just try and find our fan page on Facebook!
Channel Zero, Boston’s Cheapest Entertainment Franchise
now in it’s fifteenth year of genteel video transcendence.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Town" (2010) Directed by Ben Affleck

Did everyone in Greater Boston manage to see this movie this weekend? It is all anyone can talk about at the, I saw it at the Drive In, now more than ever one must be true to First Priciples.
Y'know, Ben Affleck, is maybe one movie away from turning Boston into a specific geographic actor in the way that Monument Valley was key supporting player in all of John Ford's movies.
And this is a key point to remember as between this and "Gone Baby Gone" I'm beginning to think that only Affleck can direct Affleck with any real success...And maybe we can see a day when he'll abandon acting entirely and "Orsonize" himself.
Mind you, the film is nothing new, Ben heads up a gang of Charlestownie bank robbers, he has the bad luck to fall for one of his victims and the whole "twilight of the criminal ghods" mishaugas plays out to it's inevitable conclusion.
Given that, I'm beginning to think that there are only four gangster movie templates, "White Heat", "On the Waterfront" and "The Godfather Parts I & II".
Here, Affleck is in pure "On the Waterfront" mode, the classy dame, the brutish guy, the evil boss man, the ambivalence about his "line of work" it is all there. But for all that, it is a smartly written script boosted by a impossibly tight cast, this is the best heist movie I've seen in years one great scene after another...who knew that anyone could extract a great chase scene in the rabbit warren that is the North End?
And Affleck throws in a subtle indictment of the whole culture of off duty "police details" to top the whole dealio...I mean what could be better?
In fact, I'm wondering why the BPD hasn't picketed this film? They look like useless mooks next to the relentless and ruthless F.B.I.
Anyway...pickets or no pickets, this is a "believe the hype" movie experience...
And Ben Affleck?
I think he can put "Daredevil" behind him finally

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Piranha 3d is

THE BEST film I've seen all summer!!!


Boston is a Utopia for College Students, it is just bracing and invigorating to see a film where the flower of America's Gilded Collegiate Youth are sent violently to the bottom of the foodchain by a school of carnivorous prehistoric piranha fish in 3-D!!
If that isn't Hall of Fame American film-making then what the hell is???
My only regret is that I didn't see this at the now defunct Tri Town Drive in...Front row, eighth pole...The sublime parking spot doncha know?
Elizabeth Shue (remember her?), Jerry O'Connell, Dina Meyer are all in it as well as uick cash and dash cameo from Richard Dreyfuss...But it's the "piranhasaurus rex" that even the score for every Bostonian that has ever had to compete with some undergrad for parking on a Friday Night...

Meanwhile the rumors are TRUE, Channel Zero will be returning to the Somerville Theater very very soon, stay tuned for details!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

So I bought a new Ford...

(cuz I'm olde fashioned dat way) and it comes with six months of free Sirius Satellite radio.
So after two days of fooling around with the gadget I finally found "Howard Stern One Hundred" a round the clock all Stern all the damn time audio channel dedicated to the proposition that Too Much of a Good Thing can be Endured...
And sure enough, I clicked on it and Howard was whining and bitching about his awful employers and threatening to desert to terrestrial radio, his own private space station or the internet (with all the other podcasts that were gonna make their creator millions).
Which is exactly where I left off with the guy back in 2005 when he outran the FCC to the safety of Satellite Radio...
Somethings never ever change I guess.
But the real revelation is...Playboy Satellite Radio!!
Twenty Four hours of bimbos yammering on and on about the contents of their lady spaces and the singular lack of content between their ears...They run the gamut between cooing suggestively to blustery oral pornography and back again.
I hate to say it, but I shamelessly listen all the time, it is unintentionally hilarious on every level, pornstars with opinions and then we get the details of those opinions and the laughter can begin.
Bondage dos and don'ts?
Adult baby call-ins?
Pornstar etiquette?
And the list goes on...
Hugh Hefner is a genius to put Henry Ford to shame, he has built a high tech Asylum for the Criminally Inane and made good money off of it!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Centurion (2010)

I can just hear director Neil Marshall's pitch for this bad baby "It is Saving Private Ryan set during the Roman occupation of Britain, and a whole legion gets snuffed trying to save him, then he has to save himself...Oh and there are amazons and more decapitations than the Reign of Terror in Paris now gimme dat money!"
Shit I know I'm convinced.
Okay so the plot meanders onto well charted military-chase movie territory, no matter the acting is first rate the action intense and well...gory...very very gory. Frankly, Neil Marshall would seem to be another Herschell Gordon Lewis in the making, I mean the man takes an artist's enthusiasm to flinging blood flecked viscera high in the air. Certainly "Centurion" felt like the sort of movie that Lewis would have like to have made circa 1969 before he bailed on directing entirely.
And where is this hymn to mayhem playing you ask?
"The Kendall Square Cinema" the very Temple of Apollo dedicated to art-house and independent Films.
Why is this exploitation flick at Cambridge's premiere high brow cinema you ask?
Because the intelligentsia can still find room on the schedule for kitsch and because there is no more market for all-out b-films with low budgets, no-name casts and scrappy ambitions.
In a properly run universe, "Centurion" would be running on a twin bill with "Piranha 3-D" up at the Tri Town Drive In in Leominster even as I write this.
But the Tri Town is plowed under, the Exeter Theater is gone, the Pagoda, the Cinema 57 all the local screens devoted to lowbrow entertainment are gone for good.
So an action flick that is outside the Vin Diesel orbit just as no chance save as a sort of goof booking in a art house.
Mind you, there is still a b-movie market out there but it has migrated to Basic Cable, just look at the Syfy Channels weekend schedule, stuff like "Giant Octo-Suid versus the Atomic Tornadoquake" for forty eight hours straight.
I mean the B-Market exists but the chances of something like "Centurion' finding a aud outside DVD and basic cable are nil, and that my friends is a bad thing as far as I am concerned.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pick of the Week

The seldom revived "The Loved One" starring Robert Morse at the Brattle Thee-ay-turrr on Sunday at 1pm EDT.
The Loved One has always languished in the satiric shadow of "Dr. Strangelove" despite a writing credit from the late Terry Southern.
I say it is worth a second look just for the performances from Jonathan Winters and Rod Steiger.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Which one of you chowderheads...

Panicked, threw on an Indian Headress and executed a rain-dance????

How many times I gotta tell you, God Almighty loves irony the way the Rembrandt loved oil paints!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Boardwalk Empire"

HBO is heavily pimping this jazz-age successor to their storied "Sopranos" franchise.
It is set in Harding-era New Jersey and stars two Brooklynites (Steve Buscemi and Michael Kenneth Williams) and features a host of players from all points of the compass including a Liverpool scouse as Al Capone.
Well, this is a situation nigh predicted by the Billy Crystal/Bob DeNiro mob comedy "Analyze That" wherein DeNiro's gangster boss is disgusted with a popular TV crime drama that features a Australian as a Tony Soprano type racketeer.
I suppose that I should be glad they even built the Atlantic City Boardwalk set in Brooklyn....usually it's Toronto or Manitoba or points north.
All kidding aside, Scorcese directed the pilot which will make it worth a look...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Something about the tagline "They got their kicks from forbidden feats of strength" makes me laugh.
Otherwise this is allegedly pre Stonewall gay all it's crude veiled closeted glory.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Stagecoach" v.2.0

If you get a chance, take a drive out to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge Mass, in addition to an excellent exhibition of illustrations by William "Shrek" Steig there is also a collection of Norman Rockwell's film poster work.
In particular a huge lobby poster for the now forgotten 1965 remake of "Stagecoach".
I mean look at this bad-baby, the Indian attack the forms the bottom of the poster and the halo of cameo portraits of the cast, it's an amazingly unified piece of work. Never has such excellence been deployed so well to shore up such second rate jobbery.
Alex Cord as the "Ringo Kid"? Ayieeee! okay I grant you Bing Crosby as a boozy sawbones and the ever dependable Slim Pickens but the rest of the casting is plainly inexplicable in extremis. And anyway...why remake "Stagecoach"? What else is there to say after perfection has been achieved?
Still, the poster is a work of art unto itself.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The August Country

That would be the Berkshires here in Massachusetts, where year after year a classic repertory theater ("Shakespeare & Co) toils unceasingly to ensure that Great Theater Shall Not Perish From This Earth.
The very dream of John Houseman and Orson Welles to create an entirely American classical repertory has been brought to fruition by Tina Packer and her successors at the S&C call it "The Mercury Theater Mark II".
The thing that I love about Shakespeare & Co is that I can see actors clearly on the rise, ascend from supporting roles to topmost lead status over a relatively short space of time. This is a company with a great eye for talent, they find em' and hand the big shows over to them. Take for example John Douglas Thompson, who has ascended in less than five years to the ranks of playing a definitive Othello and now this summer a magnificent Richard III. These people can cultivate actors of rare ability, I'm very hard pressed to recall a play produced by S&C that I felt was miscast.
That is what gives Shakespeare & COmpany it's institutional strength.
Still and all that, they don't overlook the contributions of their core players, this summer's adaptation of "The Winter's Tale" is a veritable S &C gathering of the Gods including Elizabeth Aspenleider (a woman born to the Shakespearean stage), Jonathan Epstein (one of the best actors currently working live theater in the Commonwealth), Johnny Lee Davenport (AKA "Mister Thunder and Lightning" a big husky regal sounding player blessed with potent comic chops) and Jason Aspey (an artist whose natural dignity makes Robert E. Lee look like Shemp Howard).
These people are all like my old dear friends, I look forward to seeing the every summer, I associate them with mosquitos, humidity, baking heat, sudden downpours and patient genius. I'd watch them read from the Yellow Pages, they are just that good.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"20,000 Years in Arlington Heights" (#1 in an occasional series)

3:30pm Dr. Who starring Tom Baker on Channel Six

4pm "Land of the Giants" re-runs on Channel 25

TELL ME I didn't have the best adolescence EVER!!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pick of the Week:

"The Wind Across the Everglades" tomorrow night at 7pm at the Harvard Film Archive. I'm told it features Burl Ives as a sort of "King of the Swamp Men" character, which is sheer typecasting if you think on it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sighted on the Red Line last night

A man presumably carrying home to his wife, GF or SO a bunch of sunflowers from a local florist.
This gave me to think, "if the sheer size of the bouquet varies in proportion to the scale of the transgression what did this poor schnook do such that only freakishly huge blooms can mollify the situation?"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Almighty Three-Fer

The Nicholas Ray retrospective at the HFA continues tonight with "The Flying Leathernecks" at 9:15pm, and then Jeffrey "The Man who said no to Star Trek" Hunter as God's notorious beatnik son, Jesus H. Christ in "The King of Kings" tomorrow and then Joan Crawford at her most Crawford-esque in "Johnny Guitar" Monday at 7pm.
Dunno if I have the strength for it all, but I am gonna try at any rate.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When "Casper the Friendly Ghost" started up in 1948

It was waaa-ay darker in tone than the bulbous headed rather twee character we know today.

If you want proof, then just check this PD gem out:

I'm not immune to sentiment, but if Casper is really desperate for friends, then the lesson of this cartoon is, he can create all he wants by going on a killing spree.

Friday, July 09, 2010

PIck of the Week

Once again, the Harvard Film Archive owns the weekend movie firmament, with a long thorough month long retrospective devoted to the works of Nicholas Ray.
Tonight it is "Bigger than Life" (7pm, also on Monday at 7pm) in which a nice middle class family man and teacher goes batsh*t crazy from a cortisone prescription. Tame stuff in today's world, but freaky-deaky fer sherr in 1956.
And on Sunday at 8:30pm "The True Story of Jesse James" (1957) starring Jeffrey "The Man who Turned Down Star Trek" Hunter as the famous outlaw.
The casting alone sells that bad baby.
Now if it is straight movies you want "Despicable Me" is playing at the Arlington Capitol in 4-d...that is of course if you won't do the decent thing and make for the Mendon Twin Drive In.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

When Marcus Aurelius first said that

"Each day should be lived as if it was your last" he had no idea the depths to which Lindsay Lohan was prepared to take this notion.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Official Independence Day Adorable Story...

So it is another stinkin' hot July Fourth hyar in Massachusetts and like a damn fool I'm trudging up the Minuteman Bike Path thru Lexington Center on my way back to my car which is parked in a remote corner of (Romantic) Arlington.
When suddenly, a sweet blonde little girl sprang out of the bushes and trilled at me "We are taking down our wemonade stand, yoo kin have th' las' glass fer a dime, if you don't have a dime, yoo kin have it fuh fwee!"
Genius advertising ploy, I handed her a dollar for the "las' glass" and counted myself richer by one great story.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Pick of the Week (Part II)

Dennis Hopper in the seldom screened outlaw biker epic "The Glory Stompers" @ 9:30pm tonight at the Brattle.
Before Hopper was a counterculture icon, he was a certified b-movie drudge with credits in everything from "Planet of Blood" down to episodes of "Bonanza" on TV.
Years ago, back when we were writing "It's All True" for the now defunct "Boston Comic News" we tried to scare up some interest in a gag presidential candidacy toplined by Dennis Hopper, we had a slogan as well, "Dennis Hopper for President, he is experienced, maybe a little too experienced".

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pick of the Week:

Night Tide (1963) starring the late Dennis Hopper is at the Brattle tonight at 7:30pm.
Directedby the always interesting Curtis Harrington this is a odd gothic story of a sailorman who falls in love with a side show mermaid, doesn't quite rise to the weirdness level of "Carnival of Souls" but what the hell does?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Oh thank Gawd...

The State Senate has voted to ban smoking in any future gambling casinos that might be built here in the Commonwealth.
Thus bankrupt gambling addicts will be forever spared the horrors of nicotine dependence, they may die of starvation having put the mortgage the grovery money all on fourteen black, but they won't croak off of lung cancer, not if the Massachusetts State Senate has anything to say about it.
Yeah I know, it is heavy handed sarcasm to say the least, but those of us in the anti-casino cohort have little sway over the state legislature and are reduced to snarkage as the Commonwealth fatefully lurches towards legalized gambling.

Pick of the Week:

Still, the Harvard Film Archive Seventies Sci Fi retrospective.
Tonight the standout revival is "Deathrace 2000" an admirable prophecy of reality TV in every way and an odd prediction of the coming wave of opportunistic Francophobia as well.
Tomorrow night it is "Glen and Randa", a post apocalyptic movie that almost never gets revived on the big screen and then Sunday it's "Solaris", all in all a tasty schedule, can't tell you which to pick as they are all so good.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

If the Red Line was any slower this morning

the damn train would've left me off in Park Street just in time for the Morlocks to finish off the Eloi in the World Cup finals of the year 800,000 AD.

Honestly, if there is a serious delay or situation the PA system on the Red Line is set to "hoarse whisper" but whenever the train operator feels a need to share their panic and whiny frustration with us, the damn loudspeakers "go up to eleven".
The slightest puff of wind, birds on the wires, not enough birds on the wires, the tracks are too wet the tracks are too try, the ground is too close...and the whole of the Red Line grinds to a miserable self pitying halt.
They say San Francisco is run by gays and hippies, but the damn trains run on time and it's in an earthquake zone too.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pic of the week:

Dark Star (7pm) and Westworld (9pm) are both playing at the HFA tonight. Never did see "Westworld" on the Bi-ig indoor screen...
Since "Jonah Hex" isn't playing at any drive in within sane distance of my home, ah guess ah opting fer th' Crimson tonight.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pick of the Week:

Fritz Lang's Metropolis izzat the Capitol in East Arlington.
Yup this might be yer only chance to see a classic silent movie on the Bii-ig Indoor Screen in Arlington, th' way Ghod intended it to be seen!
Let us face facts, Fritz Lang invented the fembot, Rhoda the Robot,Seven of Nine, Helen O'Loy, Dr. Evil's fembots etc etc are all descendants of the original Maria (AKA "Sweet Parody").

Sunday, June 06, 2010

I took one look at the...

Soap box racer derby that went off on Eastern Ave in Glorious Arlington and thought to myself "Why didn't someone think of this before??!!!"
For the initiated, Eastern Ave in Glorious Arlington, runs straight and true at a good thirty five to forty degree angle for almost a half mile, a nigh perfect soapbox racer course assuming the many connecting streets can be blocked off safely.
The drizzle hardly dampened anyone's ardor to race it seems...Plenty of parents and kids underfoot, looked like fun to this jaded forty seven year old.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Donovan's Reef (1963) or how I learned to stop worrying and Love John Ford

The great movie houses must one day fall, like the topmost towers of Illium. The Mendon Twin Drive In, The Capitol, the Coolidge Corner, that fortress known as the Brattle all will go to smash under the deluge of download culture.
Entropy favors Dunkin Donuts.
And when it becomes time to make my last stand on behalf of the Big Indoor Screen, I know that fate will reserve me a seat at the Harvard Film Archive.
Because only the Harvard Film Archive is willing to hazard all on a screening of John Ford's filmography, the monuments and the misfires.
Completism is a becoming irrelevant in the shadow of Youtube and Facebook, the HFA will have none of that though, they will show it all and compel all and sundry to make up their own minds.
So when it came screening "Donovan's Reef" Ford's 1963 "comedy" starring John Wayne, Lee Marvin and Elizabeth Allen, these are the life lessons I derived from this the master director's south seas swan song.

1.) It is quirte possible for John Ford to drink heavily and steadily through out the entire film making process and still produce an aimless charming derelict of a movie.

2.)Life is about brawls, grown adult men express their love by beating up their friends within an inch of stupidity.

3.) Life is also about drinking, chiefly beer and brandy at all hours of the day and even on Christmas, especially on Christmas.

4.) When in doubt lie to a woman, when really in doubt manipulate and evade if need be, take her water ski-ing over dangerous jumps.

5.) These United States are ruled by a King and he is Lee Marvin.

6.)Prim hawties from Boston will flirt with Cesar Romero but always settle for John Wayne no matter how old and battered the Duke may look.

7.) Modern engagements are sealed with a spanking on the affianced' female's backside...

So there you have it, the very nub of the Fordian Zeitgeist, a code by which to live and love the movies in good times and bad, inebriation and damning sobriety.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A charming domestic scene on the Minuteman Bikeway in Lexington

I love these Moms who get out on the bike path to rollerblade along with their babies in strollers. The go zooming off, rocking it in Mom-shorts and flashing some of the smeariest most ineptly executed tattoos in Middlesex County.

I swear, the minute the Great and General Court legalized tattoo parlors Rhode Island and New Hampshire staged a quiet pogrom and exiled only their worst tattoo artists to the Bay State.
I cannot other account for the proliferation of flaming skulls and celtic crosses that look like they were applied with a Sharpie indelible marker.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Proclamation:

That hereafter the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend be known henceforth as "Squalus Day" set aside as a remembrance of all those members of the United States Armed Forces who died on active duty during peacetime.

They too, paid the ultimate sacrifice and the Commonwealth is hereby encouraged to remember those soldiers and sailors in their thoughts and prayers.

Duly proclaimed under my authority as a Marshal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (self anointed) on this day the 29th of May in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Ten.

Long Live the Republic
Long Live the Commonwealth

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pick of the Week:

Undoubtedly it has to be the "John Ford goes to War" retrospective at the Harvard Film Archive on Quincy Street in Cambridge this weekend.
If ya wanna git yer war on, this is the place to go...

The funny thing about the John Ford series at the HFA is how much I am enjoying his clear misfires, oh don't get me wrong, "The Searchers" is the "Citizen Kane" of westerns, but for all that I got plenty love for stuff like "The Fugitive" (1947), Sergeant Rutledge (1960) and even a complete catastrophe like "Seven Women" (1966).
Hell I'm waiting for "The Fugitive" to come out in a definitive Criterion collection edition!
The reason for this perverse affinity for Ford's critically unheralded films is simple, sometimes a great man, a directorial genius with a lo-ong filmography reveals something more of himself when a film goes off a cliff.
In "The Fugitive" Ford surrenders to his every repressed Murnau-style expressionistic impulse no matter how inappropriate, in Sergeant Rutledge Ford attempts to single handed summon to life a black action hero (the incomparable Woody Strode) a full ten years before the genre would ever be viable and in "Seven Women", the melancholy final film to a storied career a last ardent valentine to all the actresses and women of strength he'd flirted with artistically over a forty year span.
So it goes without saying I'll be at "Donovan's Reef" tomorrow night, I hear it's nothing but an ode to drinking and bar fights with Lee Marvin and John Wayne doing the duties, I can't wait.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What would Abraham Lincoln make of Jack Bauer?

Jack that eager torturer's apprentice from the TV show "24"?

Compare his Bauer for extraordinary interrogation measures with Lincoln's refusal to shoot deserters from the Union Army on grounds that the mere threat might frighten the poor souls to death.
Just sayin'...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Iron Man 2 (2010)

You know why they can churn these sequels out so damn quickly? Beacause it is simply the same script as the original with a rewritten subplot one new additional character and the same climax bolstered by like twenty five hostile robots and another armored antagonist.
Oh and somewhere in the middle there is some dollar book Freudian daddy issues for hero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) to confront, I mean they have to pace the explosions and mayhem somehow.
Nobody seems to mind this because the cast is so god-damned good, from Robert Downey Junior to Gwyneth Paltrow down to Sam Rockwell and even Scarlett Johansson (who had maybe fifteen lines in the whole damn movie), all this rubbish is acted with consummate panache'.
But you know what? When it comes to tent pole super hero movies, casting is destiny. When the actors click even tedious junk like Super-Man III works, when the casting fails you have Daredevil or even worse The Fantastic Four.
Wen you haven't a shred of originality, a stellar cast seems to be a key element, object lesson going forward for anyone wanting revitalize the Superman franchise among others.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kick Ass (2010)

Based on the outraged and appalled review in "The New Yorker", I was expecting "Kick Ass" to come off like Pasolini's Salo mixed in with the classic West-n-Ward Batman.
So of course on the basis of the revulsion of the New Yorker, I ran right out to see dis sumbitch.
Alas it was a good action movie even a great one, nebbisher high schul geek (Aaron Johnson, a kid with a future sez I) becomes overhyped amatuer super hero only to fall in with the serious all up heroes and villians...but was I appalled and outraged?
God-damn New Yorker, played me like a yokel.
I had to make do with strong fight scenes (with real choreography that makes sense and wasn't overcranked past the point of incoherence) and a scene stealing performance from newcomer Chloe Moretz as the foulmouthed omnicompetent junior super heroine, Hit Girl.
If Young Miss Moretz doesn't end up in the Lindsay Lohan wing of the Robert Downey Jr Center, she may have a real career ahead of her in action films.
In all, I liked it, fun, sickening violent and funny, I even overlooked Nick Cage's baaa-ad Adam West impersonation.
No one can do the West, no one.
Sorry Nick.
My one regret is that I did not see this at the Drive In, ah well ya can't have everything....

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Idle thought:

All of earthquake ravaged Haiti could be clothed and likely fed indefinitely on the money that Hollywood has spent to date trying to convince the American People that Sarah Jessica Parker is a sex symbol to put Cleopatra to shame.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Gotta love Calvin Borel

on the ground he is sh*t kicker in extremis, but just put him the saddle of a thoroughbred racer and he instantly transforms into Nietzsche's superman!
And today at the Kentucky Derby he did it again, defied a soupy track, a blazing sun and a cavalry charge of nineteen other horse to carry the day at Churchill Downs for a third time atop "Super Saver".
Even as I write this he is showboating happily and boasting that "Super Saver" is the horse that'll get him the coveted and looo-ong vacant Triple Crown.
Ghod I love it when Lunacy and Ambition team up to take on the world.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Red Line Lemons...

There was a god-awful fire on the Red Line last night at Downtown Crossing, so today the MBTA was being real up front with us predicting all sorts of signal driven delays as we crept in town.
Well, you knew something was up because even Alewife Station smelled of nasty electrical fire type smoke today.
Well, I don't mind it as long as they are prompt with warnings, frankly it is a wonder the Red Line isn't reduced to hitching the trains to teams of oxen at all given the T's financial problems.
Anyhow, I opted to make sweet lemonade out of today's lemons, I bolted off the train at Charles Street and strolled thru the Public Garden and on into work.
If you have a chance do this, the flower beds are in bloom and the swan boats are smartly lined up like destroyer flotillas at anchor.
A very restful verdant scene to be sure, now I am fortified for the day's challenges at the mid level of the life insurance industry.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I give the "V" remake another two weeks

and then pffft, cancellation.

It is a shame but even when you remake a sci fi series that wasn't that good to begin with, there are no guarantees.
I mean "Battlestar Galactica" opened those floodgates but they had the good fortune to be on a basic cavble station where the bar was set mighty low.
Likely ABC will replace "V" with some reality show dross "Who wants to be a pile of organic ashes" or some game show where the prize is being Steve Jobs' simian toady "The Ape-pprentice".
Oh well, poor luckless Laura Vandervoort will be back doing auditions and signing her autograph for $20 a shot at the Motor City Comicon.
I wish her and cast mates well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Biblio Envy on the Green Line

On one side of me sat a tall youthful aryan specimen, obviously a sophomore at BC reading (what else?) Atlas Shrugged.
On the other side of me a slender young woman, impeccably dressed for the office reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".
And across from me a slightly scruffy looking elderly gentleman reading Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics".
And there I reposed undaunted reading Kenneth Robeson's seminal work of post modernism, "Death in Silver".

Well sh*t at least mine had a pirate submarine in it...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Requiem for a Drive In

It is my sad duty to inform you all that the almighty Tri Town Drive In up in Leominster Ma has been torn down this past winter.
The handwriting was on the wall for the past couple of years, rumors of imminent sales clouded the air like mosquitoes for the past three summers, but somehow the blade never quite fell, until now of course.
For a while last year, the patient rallied, that hu-uge outdoor screen had been carefully stone-washed and repaired, it never looked higher or more imposing than it did last summer, like it would outlast the next Ice Age.
But it was in the end, the Twilight of the Gods.
Sadly family issues prevented me from getting out there much last summer, it may well be an ironic matter of record that the very last film I saw there was"The Land of the Lost" starring Will Ferrell.
Well what of it?
This whole mishaugas started on a trivial note as well, "The Sandlot" (1993) on a double bill with "Hot Shots Part Deux" as I recall.
Frankly I saw a lot of irredeemable junk at the Tri Town ("I Love a Mystery, "Warriors of Virtue"), I nearly got my head bashed in by some travelers during a screening of "My Super Ex Girlfriend", And during "A.I." the film kept melting and breaking which was a cue for baffled and outraged families to peel out the exit in a cloud of dust.
Still and all that, going to the Tri Town was an adventure, maybe the lat real film adventure of my life, who knows?
It was The Destination for any bloated summer epic, the Star Wars prequels, the inevitable tent pole super hero movie or maybe just maybe something fun that slipped between the cracks (expl. "Joe Dirt").
I saw S.W.A.T. there, Righteous Kill with DeNiro and Pacino slumming with supreme nonchalance and then ghod help me, Adam Sandler in "Mister Deeds".
Somewhere deep in this improbable love affair with an outdoor cinema, I formulated a radical aphorism "A Bad Night at the Drive In is better than a Good Night at the Multiplex"....Lord knows how avidly I sought to test that notion over sixteen years.
I think my grandest most impossible film fantasy was to somehow "four wall" the Tri Town and screening Herschell Gordon Lewis' "Two Thousand Maniacs" on a double bill with Arch Hall Jr. in "The Sadist",
Like I said impossible, but fun to think about.
One night alone, I drove thru a downpour to see "Deep Impact" , miraculously as I pulled up to the Tri Town the clouds parted, the sun shone thru and wen it set, I was rewarded with the near destruction of the world as we know all up on that outdoor screen in technicolor.
I had quite literally parted the clouds...Does anyone else have such a vivid memory of such an innocuous disaster movie?
That was the sheer power of the Tri Town, it was in the end, a portal out into the Land of Ghosts where the Gods go to war atop pterodactyls and mooks like Seth Rogen can marry Cleopatra sans demure.
But the curtain falls, seemingly on everything we love.
Still sixteen years is a long time, there are happy marriages that do not last so long.

So at last, I bid the Tri Town Farewell, they always started screening early and ran straight thru to mid October so this will be a very bittersweet drive in season this year I think.

Monday, April 12, 2010


The Mendon Twin lights up this Friday night....
This absolves no one in our readership from attending our screening of "The Dragon Lives Again" this Friday night though.
Let us not get ahead of ourselves...


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Idle cultural conjuration...

What sort of a wine goes best with a "Brucesploitation" kung fu flick from the 1970's?

The boys in the back room all chorus "Red Wine of course!", but I wanted to ruminate on the topic a bit seeing as how the Somerville Theater now serves beer and wine.

Anyhow, join us Friday Night April 16th at 8pm for a rare screening of "The Dragon Lives Again" starring Bruce Leong. Admission a mere five bucks to discover just what sort of mayhem the late Bruce Lee got up to in the afterlife.

Friday, April 09, 2010

A Commonwealth and it's Unfinished Projects:

1.) Bond issue for the purchase of a state-of-the-art atomic self destruct mechanism for Middlesex County.

2.)A Klaxon in Every Bathroom (Note: Stimulus funds pending)

3.)Fully fund "Leave no Troglodyte Behind". (Application filed with US Department of Education)

4.) Decommission the Massachusetts State Recluse Academy.

5.)Dam up the Charles River, freeze it using 100% green-certified dry ice and establish a year round "reserve polar ice cap".

6.) New Elementary School drive to suppress early childhood jell-o drownings.

7.) Babes, Chicks, Frails & Skirts.

8.) Establishment of a Umass Amherst School of the Black Arts.

9.) Revise and simplify the state's first in the nation chowderhead certification program.

10.) National Guard Rocket Patrol.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

All I wanna know is...

Which one of you sonsabitches went backslidin' on The Lord and brought down a second Biblical Deluge upon us???

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Up in the Air Junior Birdmen"

My pick of the week:

The Harvard Film Archive is screening "Air Mail" a 1932 aerial drama directed by John Ford tomorrow night at 7pm starring Ralph Bellamy, Gloria Stuart and Pat O'Brien.
I'm enjoying the hell of the HFA's current John Ford retrospective, like a lot of golden age film-makers Ford seems to have had instinctive identification with the underdog, this led him down some odd paths, from a toleration for the groveling antics of Stepin Fetchitt to many many manful attempts to make that redoubt of an actor, John Wayne seem like less than a sure bet.
I gotta hand it to him though, Ford is one of those guys who can shoot gloomy expressionistic interiors a'la Murnau and then turn around and make his next film feel like a documentary in the blazing desert sun of Monument Valley.
Hell "The Searchers" alone convinced me John Wayne really could act...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stranded at Charles Street Red Line Station this morning

due to a disabled train AND a medical emergency in one of the other cars. Usually I'm full of snarkage at delays like this, but when the Fire Department start shouldering their way thru your car on their way to some unknown mishaugas, it is strictly "There But For the Grace of God" time with me.
Anyway it gave me a chance to walk to work and pass thru the Public Gardens as well, which might be a nice walk indeed some weekday morning when Spring really hits.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Channel Zero Lives!

The reports of the death of our film and video series are greatly exaggerated!
Because on Friday April 16th at 8pm, Channel Zero will return at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square for a one-in-a-lifetime screening of the most infamous "Brucesploitation" martial arts film ever made, "The Dragon Lives Again!" (1977.
Ever wondered what happened to Bruce Lee in the afterlife?
Director Key Law did, the genius behind such anti-classics as "Crippled Masters" cast Bruce Leong as Bruce Lee and sent the late Martial Arts Master off to Purgatory where he fights to thwart a hellish coup masterminded by Dracula, The Godfather and "The Exorcist".
Weid doesn't begin to describe this movie! Image an Ed Wood Jr. film with kunh fu throw in and you might start getting close to the truth of it!

Join Us, April 16th at 8pm for "The Dragon Lives Again" in the Somerville Theatre's screening room!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ah Saint Patrick's Day

that day of days when I the very Scion of One Hundred Hardy Sons of Ireland, ardently wish that I was born Italian.

I mean how would you like it if the Gawd Damned beer brewery's took over your signature ethnic holiday?

Friday, March 12, 2010




Of course this is a pending TV monster movie on SyFy...but the crowning glory?
It stars Eric Roberts and will be directed by Roger Corman!
I'm kvelling, simply kvelling.
Geez, remember when Eric Roberts was a Man of Destiny? Golden Globe Award, "Runaway Train" he even had a cute little sister named Julia that everyone thought would end up decorating some sitcom in a supporting type role.
Now look what has happened, Eric is living in Julia's pool-house and paying his rent by acting as unofficial au pair...
Ah but he has landed Sharktopus!
The road to glory beckons!!!

Monday, March 08, 2010

"The Crazies" (2010)

Imagine, George Romero probably has made more on one of these licensed remakes of his old horror classics than he made in ten years as a low budget director.
And for once, the remake is worth the price of admission. Then as now the story is simple, small town sheriff tries to get his pregnant wife past a military cordon when a bio-weapon is accidentally released turning friends and neighbors into raving killers.
In the 1973 original the clumsily executed quarantine is a metaphor for the US involvement in Viet Nam, civilians are gunned down, the army makes fatal mistakes, troops are poorly trained and badly lead.
If the original had a flaw it was in it's cheap ass budget and over-reliance on first time actors, a lot of scenes that ought to hit home are botched for purely technical reasons.
This time Producer George Romero has the scratch to execute a pretty tightly draw survival tale letting the political aspects creep in by inference. In all it is a scary movie one of the better plague-based horror films I've seen of late, I give it three stars solid.

To think that I once dismissed Kathryn Bigelow

as a director of entertaining but preposterous cops-n-robbers movies.
And as of today she stands tall as an Oscar Winner for directing "The Hurt Locker"...The sort of gritty macho techno-drama that her ex-husband James Cameron was trying to make out of "Avatar".
Well, this goes to show yuh, not everyone is Orson Welles bursting out of Zeus' forehead ready for battle armor and all. Some people have to work their way up towards "mature artistic integration", Ms. Bigelow would be in the later category.
Well, whatever the woman is my new heroine, I don't wanna overstate things, but she may have just saved Hollywood from digital triviality last night.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Oscar Memories

Somewhere in the first half hour of Miss Congeniality, Michael Caine's beauty pageant coach turns to Sandra Bullock's tomboyish FBI agent and intones "This-Woman-Has-No-Talent!"
But nevertheless Sandy is up for an Oscar in a movie that wouldn't rate prime time on the Oxygen Network.
I mean forget about "Speed Part 2" and even her Leopold and Loeb homage "Murder by Numbers"...Nope playing some Confederate Shrew with a burning drive to raise up an African American Football player is the path to glory.
Funny how Oscar works...funny.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Today the M.F.A. , Tomorrow the World...

My old college chum Rebecca Cathcart-Monet sworn an oath in the Temple of Apollo in Rochester New Hampshire that in 2010 she'd take me to see the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
"Forty seven is none too late to sample the ineffable Italian sunshine on the Fenway" she chided by email.
And so on Saturday she took off in her orange reconditioned SPAD VII biplane and executed a perfect three point landing on Atlantic Avenue across from South Station. Swiftly we chained the vintage aircraft to a local bicycle rack certain that it would be taken for a mountain bike if push came to shove, we piled into my Buick Sailmaster and rode the harbor trades all the way to Huntington Avenue.
Rebecca duly announced on the way that we needed to "limber up" with Japanese No Robes, Chinese tea cups and sundry Asian tapestries and that meant a storming assault on the Museum of Fine Arts before the Gardner opened.
I demurred not one whit and only added a fond desire to meditate briefly over the Roman antiquities, I am after all, a parochial school survivor and therefore an inconstant slave of the classics.
Y' know I love the MFA, their film series is the last refuge for the footloose cineaste', the collections are huge and impressive...But some of the presentation decisions are plainly inexplicable.
By that I mean the Albrecht Durer exhibition was carefully executed to place the prints at eye level and with good lighting so that the artists eye for detail was readily apparent even to the unschooled observer The smirk on the punim of the Angel of Death fairly leaps out at the viewer.
On the other hand a whole gallery entitled "European Art" (like something out of a Tim Burton movie) is naught but a collection of Renaissance masters stacked up three high on the stone walls like the overdone Foyer of Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering's "Karinhall" palace.
One can just about appreciate the fleshy buttocks of Rubens' Aphrodite and that is about it, the rest of it goes up and up and fairly disappears into the cloud cover.
Ah but the Roman antiquities section still beguiles, the stylized busts of the Emperor Augustus bespeaks two thousand years of robust political toadyism in the West.
A firm little hand on my elbow and I am dragged across the street to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a venue I didn't know from Adam.
Italian sunshine indeed, Rebecca, did not lie, for at the center of the ISG is her own personal renaissance refuge a courtyard warmed to perpetual spring by cunning sky lights and sublimely decorated with statuary and verdant plants by the late Mrs. Gardner.
This is literally the first time in my life I saw a person just commune with a particular space the way Rebecca did. She just raised her sweet face up to the warming sunshine that fell on us like very gaze of God Almighty and smiled like the Mona Lisa.
She sighed, like she had come home at last.
The scale of it all impressed me greatly, nothing out of place, proportions nigh perfect.
There is a line between the excessive and the exquisite, the line is drawn by sheer taste.
Taste can be cultivated, it can evolve, grown and touch all sorts of remote parts of our lives, when you have it, something as beautiful as the Courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is the result, when you don't have it, you end up with say, San Simeon that living monument to gigantism built by William Randolph Heart in California.
"Mrs. Gardner built this for Rebecca" I thought "And all the Rebeccas yet to come".

The collection is varied and fairly crammed into the old Gardner Family mansion, almost none of it is tagged or explained in any way. I felt myself fortunate to identify a Canaletto on the basis of the style alone. There is something so quintessentially Brahmin about building a museum that assumes the patron can already draw on a excellent knowledge of art from the git-go.
Failing that just go with Rebecca, she knows her this stuff like a coyote knows cheap nosh.
Nonetheless for all its eccentricities, the ISG is a place to cherish, it is possibly the only museum on the Eastern Seaboard whose idea of sheer kitsch is one of regimental Standards of Napoleon I's dreaded Imperial Guard.
However when the Madonnas with Child grew to a dozen between two museums, the pangs of hunger finally intervened and thus we tacked over the bridge for burgers in the shadow of MIT.
We came, we saw we imbibed.
Soon enough, she cried "contact" and took off with her matching orange scarf snapping crisply in the wash, I waved as her SPAD VII dwindled into the blue skies and thought "How in Hell's name am I ever gonna top a day like this???"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Searchers (1956)

Forty seven is about as good an age to see John Ford's landmark western for the first time, ah reckon.
John Wayne and a defiantly blue eyed Cherokee "half breed" played by Jeffrey Hunter go off the ranch questing to steal back the Duke's niece from some ubiquitous indians.
In fact, Wayne and Hunter spent five desolate years wandering the wastes of Monument Valley searching for a girl that may have gone over to the Indian's side in the interim. Will Wayne stick by his "principles" and kill his niece (for shacking it up with a "Buck"), will Jeffrey Hunter (doomed by fate to be the Man Who Turned Down Star Trek) find love?
Now, under anyone else's direction this would be unmemorable rubbish, but John Ford turns this into a sort of Odyssey on Horseback, the damn film just gallops over it's inherent cliches.
Frankly, "The Searchers" is the movie "Avatar" desperately wants to be, a mass market adventure film with a strong dramtic core and plenty of high ending opportunities for actors to ply their craft.
Too bad James Cameron's computerized super-fantasy is so fatally hobbled by it's own lavish budget and setting. But then, the poor man didn't have access to the wonders of Monument Valley or that human mountain range, John Wayne...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Idle conjuration on a snow-day

Compare this clip from George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) to the typical coverage you get from "Newspanic Seven" or Fox 25 during a snowstorm...And then tell me what you think....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mystery Team (2009)

This may well be the "Citizen Kane" the "Magnificent Ambersons" of G-rated kid detectives trapped in a R-Rated world movies.
I can filch no no higher praise for this movie...By all means, sell the house, sell the car and sell your loved ones if you must, but all the same get to the Brattle Theater before Thursdays to see this amazing film. Three kid detectives now dorky high school student continue to patrol the playgrounds catching pie thieves and the like until and eight year old girl asks them with all due sweetness to solve the murder of her parents.
A set up worthy of Chandler IMHO in the hands of three aging "Hardy Boys" wannabees.
Filmed on location in Manchester New Hampshire (where I spent my formative years doing nothing with style), Mystery Team is a gross, tasteless and scatological in extremis, but it is also funny a cheap indie production that blew itself right into Superbad's orbit on the first try.
See it, Mystery Team won't be in town long.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fetishes: an informal iconography for straight men

1.) Green slave girls from Orion (Star Trek)

2.) Emily Deschanel

3.) Princess Leia and her Pittsburgh steel yard bikini (Star Wars)

4.) Emma Peel

5.) Uma Thurman's feet (by way of Quentin Tarantino)

6.) The very Late Betty Page

7.) Fembots

8.) Terry Garr

9.) The All American Dominatrix with the fake Teutonic accent

10.) Janeane Garofalo

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Avatar'd (2009)

It is always a bad sign when I have the title of the Mad Magazine parody of a big movie, down cold halfway thru the picture.
Oh don't get me wrong it is an amazing movie, a technical achievement of the first rank. But the script, in which a space marine (Sam Worthington's digital doppelganger) goes native on a planet coveted by a mining corporation only to lead the locals in an attack on their occupiers draws on everything from "Little Big Man" out to "Dances with Wolves"....And doesn't do much else quite frankly.
Spectacular, but unmemorable.
All I can say is, that it ain't no game changer til the script breaks as much new ground as the technology, and that is never gonna happen as long as James Cameron is in the director's chair.
No, Avatar is interesting chiefly for it's meta-context, digital avatars in Hollywood of Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver enacting a script about DNA avatars loping around verdant jungles of the planet Pandora.
Can Sigourney Weaver trademark and copyright the 40-ish version of her own sweet self that Cameron ended up using in the picture? Does that mean that a 40-ish avatar of Sigourney Weaver could be still working in Hollywood for the next ten years?
Can the digitize Buster Crabbe's physique and start making new Flash Gordon movies?
Start touching up everyone's time worn faces?
Why stop there?
Why stop anywhere for that fact?
Does the past now have an ending, with this technology in play?
I'm just hoping on the next application someone makes a better movie, I think I've got a long wait though.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Okay, on the plus side, it is another superlative performance from Robert Downey Junior even if his english accent wavers in and out all thru the movie. He gets the semi-divine curse that is the Holmesian super intellect, quite literally his deductive stills render him remote erratic and yet hopelessly needy.
Jude Law's Doctor Watson is a sort of thwarted man of action, he enables Holmes, puts up with Holmes' bizarre personal habits mostly because the Master Detective brings him the conflict and danger he craves.
Too bad the script is so meshugginah, eee-vil aristocrat plotting the downfall of Great Britain by subverting a bunch doddering old wankers and then massacring parliament. All executed with as much verve and action as any "Lethal Weapon" sequel, and that is the core problem, Holmes is not really an action hero for all his bona fides as a crimefighter. He is a problem solver, when the crisis degenerates into a plot to gas parliament, well that is a job for Batman not Sherlock. Holmes is an intensive character, the action ought to revolve around his thought processes and his interaction with the clues and suspects.
Super-scale settings and sundry explosions and even an ultimate fighting style sequence just don't suit him.
Still I give Director Guy Ritchie credit, he veered off the outright supernatural at the last minute but the whole thing felt less like Conan Doyle and more like Scooby Doo.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A serious moment:

I provide a link to the Red Cross for anyone in my tiny readership who might wanna make some contributions for Haitian earthquake relief.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"Breath stupid! You forgot to breathe again!"

"We ALL put the yeast in!"

"G-U-N-P-O-W-D-E-R....Duhhh TOBACCO!"


"And when it disintegrates, it REALLY disintegrates!"

"As God is my witness, I really thought Turkey's could fly."

"It don't add up!"

"No, I'm delivering a bridge, and I've lost me way"

"Tain't a fit night out, for man nor beast!"

And a classic from my misspent youth in Antrim New Hampshire

"Wrecked em'? Damn near killed him!"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My top movies for 2009

This would be a top ten list but due to my dad's illness I just haven't hit the movies as much as I'd a liked this year.
Hell I was lucky to see "Star Trek" at the drive in.

The Hurt Locker (2009) directed by Kathryn Bigelow Lu-uved this flick, best war movie I've seen in a decade. This and "Saving Private Ryan" are the twin pillars that hold up the heavens in my humble opinion.

Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg (2009) directed by Aviva Kempner Wonderful film about the rise of depression actress/writer/producer Gertrude Berg. She broke thru about three glass ceilings and hardly anyone today remembers her.

Afghan Star (2009) directed by Havana Marking All about the behind the scenes action on a Afghan style "American Idol" type show, proof positive that narcissism, greed, vanity, religious dementia and even sometimes a weird stoic courage can e found even in the remotest parts of this breathing Earth.

The World's Greatest Dad (2009) directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite Normally I loathe Robin Williams and the sentimental rubbish he appears in, but here, as a harassed high school english teacher who turns the suicide of his insolent and appalling son (Daryl Sabara) into a literary triumph, Williams finally pays off in spades. I think Williams is a blight on Hollywood but when he is good he is really good....Which only makes me all the angrier with him. Why does it take him ten yeas to find a script this raw and this good, doesn't he know how to say No to dreck like "Patch Adams".

District Nine (2009) directed by Neil Blumkamp Aliens, segregation, social science fiction, the second coming of Rod Serling in the Twenty First Century...What more could anyone ask??

Inglourious Basterds (2009) directed by Quentin Tarantino Mediocre Tarantino trumps nine tenths of the competition every time. The boy is that good. Besides anyone who is willing to completely re-write history just to give his movie a bang up firefight ending is aces high in my books.

The Informant! (2009) directed by Steven Soderbergh - Oscar class performance from Matt Damon as a sociopathic whistleblower at a chemical concern. Likely this film will be overlooked due to the heavy comedy content...Helluva shame.

Zombieland (2009) directed by Ruben Fleischer. Best zombie flick I've seen since "Shaun of the Dead". great performances, especially from Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, I just wish I'd a seen it at the Drive In.

Me and Orson Welles (2009) directed by Richard Linklater Ah the Sifu has lived to become a film legend all of himself, a Charles Foster Kane of the Theater, Cinema and TV wine commercials. If he had lived, no one would have appreciated the joke better than Welles himself.

As I said it was a tough year, both here and in my personal life, but better times are coming, watch this space for the details.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Sh*t my mother says:

"Drive around the block and see if the roads are icy, if they are icy, I won't go visit your father at the VA hospital. If they aren't icy then you can drive me up there and drop me off".

Friday, January 01, 2010

Idle notion....

Angelina Jolie looks like Wednesday Adams idea of a Barbie Doll.
With those perpetually crazy eyes, that nose seemingly designed by I.M. Pei or a plastic surgeon of the brutalist school and her bloated too wide mouth, she might just fit in as a limb-hacker in the next round of torture porn movies.
Oh and she is in a new spy thriller called "Salt", the preview looks terrible.