Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas...


That time of year where stern, manly and puritanical measures must be implemented to limit one's exposure to the musical stylings of Kathy Lee Gifford.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Homonculae?



So a magic black silk topper is all that is necessary to bring Frosty the Snowman to life as the ultimate yuletide children's entertainer?
But does Frosty the SnowMan have a soul???
I mean its a magic hat that grants locomotion and a personality of sorts, but that doesn't imply that Frosty has a metaphysical relationship with the infinite?
Keep in mind the Mighty Golem of Prague, defender of the Jewish Ghetto from the predations of the Holy Roman Emperor, had no soul to speak of. He was a superhuman mass of clay brought to life by the wisest Rabbi in Europe.
Frosty is pretty much a kid friendly Golem....Thus You see how Goyisher Xmas culture samples the sacred tropes of the Jewish People??

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why Robot(s) ?


Lets face it, vampires have been done to death, ditto werewolves. When they descend to the level of "young adult literature" then it is strictly "Katey Bar the Door" as far as I am concerned.
Zombies?
Zombies are all over basic cable, using the exact same template established in "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), George Romero ought to sue!
Frankenstein...lets face it it, Karloff brought him to life, DeNiro buried his artificial ass.
The Mummy? Two words, Brendan Fraser, nuff said true believer!
***
Nope, only robots retain their allure, after all Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa-Owl Mocking Day is coming, who doesn't wanna get robots as for holiday gifts?!!
And so it is with great pride & Pleasure that Channel Zero (Boston's cheapest entertainment franchise now in it's 16th year of genteel decadent obscurity) returns to the Somerville Theater this Friday December 2nd to screen two "robot rarities" from mid 1960's TV!

1) "The Machine Stops" based on a short story by E.M. Forster, what happens when the all powerful technology on which a lazy decadent future society depends, starts to fail?!

2.) “Little Lost Robot” based on story by Isaac Asimov, robots are very literal minded, never get vexed & tell one to "Get Lost" it puts your space station in a uproar. Introduced by Boris Karloff.


Friday, December 2nd, 8pm sharp!
The Somerville Theatre, Screening Room
Admission Five Bucks Cheap!
55 Davis Square. Somerville Ma 617 625 5700

Oh we've got a fan page on Facebook (Good Luck Finding It)...

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Pan Am"....


has been cancelled. Not even the American Broadcasting Company could prop up Christina Ricci as "The Thinking Man's Sex Symbol".

Okay on to Satellite Radio I guess, surely they can put her over.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Harvard Film Archive


is actually screening an uber-obscure peplum actioner this Sunday at 4:30pm "The Colossus of Rhodes" starring reformed jailbird Rory Calhoun.
Color me chagrined, up until now, the most obscure sword and sandal classic revived in Boston was Mario Bava's "Hercules in the Haunted World", I should know because Channel Zero damn well revived it!
Well, "The Colossus of Rhodes" IS part of the HFA's Sergio Leone retrospective, this being his first directorial effort...Still between this and all the Italian Fascist propaganda films they ran earlier in the fall one gets the uncomfortable impression that Big Red is lifting ideas from "Boston's Cheapest Entertainment Franchise".
If the HFA starts trafficking in Bad Poetry THEN we will know something is up!
Anyhow, that Leone retrospective is pretty spiffy, they are even screening "Duck You Sucker" (AKA "A Fistful of Dynamite") uncut for those of you who can't get enough suffocating close ups of Rod Steiger's beady little eyes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

If there is a more desolate place on Earth


in October, than Hampton Beach New Hampshire, then I'd like to know about it.

A cement colored sky, a fog with the very cold touch of death on it, an enervating breeze and stinging drizzle...If Edgar Allen Poe's House of Usher existed it'd be a ramshackle seasonal rental on 2nd Street.
The whole landscape is devoid of any life, zombies and seagulls studiously avoid it, the only soundtrack is the insatiable waves.
The day after the End of the World looks like Hampton Beach New Hampshire on or about October 27th of any year in living memory.
The very wind off the ocean can be heard muttering "Ah but it all gets soooo much worse!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Channel Zero Returns on Friday December 2nd 2011!


YES!
The Rumors are TRUE!

Join us when...

CHANNEL ZERO PROUDLY PRESENTS:

XMAS ROBOTS!!
Nothing says Holiday Cheer quite like automatons run amok!!


Channel Zero rings in the season with everyone’s favorite Christmas Gifts, ROBOTS!! Specifically rare TV adaptations of classic robot themed short stories!

.1) "The Machine Stops" based on a short story by E.M. Forster, what happens when the all powerful technology on which a lazy decadent future society depends, starts to fail?!

2.) “Little Lost Robot” based on story by Isaac Asimov, robots are very literal minded, never get vexed & tell one to "Get Lost" it puts your space station in a uproar. Introduced by Boris Karloff.






Friday, December 2nd, 8pm sharp!
The Somerville Theatre, Screening Room
Admission Five Bucks Cheap!
55 Davis Square. Somerville Ma 617 625 5700
Channel Zero, Boston’s Cheapest Entertainment Franchise now in our Sixteenth Year of Genteel Cinematic Transcendence!
www.channel0.blogspot.com
Check out the Channel Zero the Fan Page on Facebook!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Barrington State Company heavily


advertised a stage adaptation of Goldman's "Lord of the Flies" this fall.
And very quietly, they subsequently announced that the production was being delayed til 2012.
I wonder what happened?
I'll bet they had casting and logistics issues, minimally you'd need about twenty boys between Middle and Elementary School ages which likely requires tight backstage discipline and a long rehearsal process. To say nothing of navigating the appropriate child labor statutes.
I wonder if this will ever be produced at all...
Of course, stranger things have been adapted for the stage (expl. Moby Dick starring Orson Welles as Captain Ahab)...but they relied on adults as principles.
Well at anyrate, this cuts my visit to the Berkshires down to Shakespeare & Co's "War of the Worlds" which is being billed as a comedy on the "Noises Off" mode.
In other words, no tripod machines.

Monday, October 03, 2011

2011 marks the 70th Anniversary of


the premiere of "Citizen Kane".
And there isn't much I can add to the reams of cyber copy that cluster around this film other than to note that it's main legacy to me, is the enduring power of fiction.
It is not that Orson Welles recounted a thinly veiled life of William Randoph Hearst, it is more to the point that his many fictional additions and revisions somehow told the truth on all of it so admirably.
When Welles' Charles Foster Kane, bloated with power and yet a pathetic failure in love and politics throws a wretched tantrum after his second wife absconds, we feel it to be something someone so great and yet so petty would do under the circumstances.
"Citizen Kane" is full of those moments, so much more vital and true than any smutty palaver about the true original of "Rosebud".
The proof of Welles' particular vision in the rarity of any imitators, when Hollywood wants to do Douglas MacArthur, they don't do a character, based on the four star general, they do the Man as a straight biopic. The same with George S. Patton, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and so on down the line.
In each case something is missed I think, fiction can magnify as well as distort.
The prism of sheer invention is very powerful, stop and think Marion Davies is a nice lady who stuck by her man straight into the footnotes of Hollywood, Susan Alexander (AKA Dorothy Comingore) is a character for the Ages.
Alas I guess Hollywood fears loss of a easy marquee' name and can't find anyone with Orson Welles' visionary skillset.

Although, I would pay good money to see Terry Gilliam take a look at an Andy Warhol type character...just for starters.

What is it with DC Comics?





Whenever they manage to navigate the torturous process of adapting one of the characters to the Big Screen, they make breakthrough casting every time....


Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex? No question brilliant casting.

Shee-it, Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern was a home run, at least til the director shouted "Roll em!"

But be it this or The Green Lantern the films just auto destruct in the third act every time.

Which leads me to the conclusion that you can cast these sonsabitches, but executing a good tight comic book adaptation is an art as much as a science. And more and more, I"m thinking sometimes it's a process of serendipity.
You have to hook in the base and attact casual film goers, you'd think this would be easy, but Hollywood can screw up a two car funeral.
I mean Captain America (Chris Evans) was no better a casting choice than Ryan "Green Lantern" Reynolds, but the Marvel adaptation just clicked with audiences in a way that DC's tentpole summer picture did not.
And that was despite Captain America's lackluster third act which felt cribbed from the Indiana Jones Franchise. The Marvel films though, are building towards something, "The Avengers" their ultimate team up tie in, so even a mediocre Captain America movie moves the ball forward so to speak.
DC Has nothing like this, they spend years negotiating with their corporate parent Warner Brothers, the project passes thru multiple hands, gets made, doesn't ever meet expectation and within six months everyone acts like the film (That EVERYONE Was counting on) never happened.
I mean look what happened to poor Brandon Routh, he is practically an Unperson at this point...ANd don't get me started on that Wonder Woman tv pilot that came and went in a puff of maladroit intentions.
AND DC/Warner Brothers keeps blundering on, hoping that if they throw enough pasta, some of it will stick to the wall.

Look at Henry Cavill, the New Superman, no red briefs (too old fashioned I guess) ...which is a shame since the old trunks hid certain things admirably.

Will any of it work? I Don't know, DC/Warner Brothers seems committed to doing the same thing over and over in their live action feature film comic book adaptations with the expectation of a different result.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Congrats to the Harvard Film Archive,

they have successfully "out obscured" Channel Zero in a genre we thought we had to ourselves, namely propaganda films produced under the auspices of the Italian Fascists.
In their current series build around Italian cinema depictions of "the Risorgimento", they've scored for THREE Mussolini era films, Blasetti's "1860"(1934), De Sica's "A Garibaldean in a Convent" (1942) and "Little Ancient World" once billed as Fascism's answer to "Gone with the Wind".
To think we originally cultivated an interest in Italian Fascist Cinema because the HFA already had access to a wide variety of Nazi era and classic Soviet propaganda titles!
Sheesh there is no keeping up with the Crimson.
Still Channel Zero bares them no malice, the Harvard Film Archive is well positioned with "strong brand identification" to extract the widest possible audience for the most obscure title.
Still, pride if nothing else compels us to remind our audience (all ten of you) that Channel Zero got there first! We screened Carmine Gallone's "Scipio Africanus" (1937) at the Coolidge Corner AND Rossellini's anti communist war movie "The Man with a Cross" (1942).
Now what?
Does North Korea have any good propaganda movies?
Are they willing to dicker?
Stay tuned folks...

Monday, September 19, 2011

To date I roughly calculate that Hollywood has spent


about five million dollars trying to convince the movie going public that Christina Ricci is some sort of thinking man's sex symbol.
Despite cankles, a face like a spoon and being upstaged by Lisa Kudrow in "The Opposite of Sex", now broadcast television is trying to seal the deal for Christina R.
I wish them and the cast of "Pan Am" the best of luck...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pick of the Week...

Blasetti's Italian Fascist propaganda epic "1860" screening at the Harvard Film ARchive tonight at 9:30pm.
Nazi, Soviet even Chinese Communist film propaganda all get revived locally, but Mussolini and his blackshirts get bupkiss. This is in part due to creative shortcomings in the Italian film industry at the time (they had no Reifenstahl no Eisenstein)and the lateness by which the Fascist regime came to the making of "positive propaganda".
So tonight's show is unique, however let the record show that Channel Zero has already screened such Italian propaganda films as "Scipio Africanus" (once billed as Mussolini's answer to "Triumph of the Will") and Rossellini's "The Man from the Cross" (1942).
But then, we are never envious when some larger institution picks up one of our ideas, the Harvard Film Archive and the like are in a position to exploit more fully what are in the end worthwhile but extremely obscure films.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Summer in Shakespeare...

Alas I wasn't able to get out to see much this summer, I had to restrict myself once again to Shakespeare & Co's offerings in Lenox.
As usual Tina Packer's artistic progeny did not let me down.
Their Romeo and Juliet was a thorough production with two superlative leads, Suzanne Millonzi & David Gelles.
I have it in my head that R &J is actually one of Shakespeare's problem plays, at least as far as US productions are concerned. By this I mean there is a pronounced tendency to cast the two main leads as close to the textual age of the characters as they can get (which is I believe, 13 and 14).
Thus what they gain in credibility, they often lose in technique relying on players that might not have the necessary acting components to rise to the occasion of what amounts to a Renaissance teen suicide drama.
The other practical result is that inevitably with younger players you end up with a stellar Juliet and a Romeo that at best rises to the level of well meaning mediocrity...And if you aren't careful you leave the aud thinking "what did SHE see in HIM?" as the curtain falls.
happily, S&C "doubled up" a bit on the leads and reaped a good artistic harvest as a result. And just let me take a moment to praise Tod Randolph's scene stealing turn as Juliet's nurse/enabler and what she left untaken was scooped up by Kevin O'Donnell's Mercutio.
Oh and lets not forget Johnny Lee Davenport as Lord Montague..."Mister Thunder and Lightning" never lets us down be it tragedy, history or comedy.
The other notable performance was a small cast version of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" one of the Bard's lesser comedies but put on with real brio in the Bernstein theater. These players are the apprentices and the trainees, but nonetheless, they were very very good and I am rotten glad I dodged a hurricane to see them.
But then this is Shakespeare & Company they get so very little wrong.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/2001

Today marks the tenth anniversary of that terrible day.

And I suppose for history's sake I should set down my end of the whole catastrophe.

Hell, everyone else is....

As I recall, it was a beautiful mild day in East Cambridge where I was working running a mailroom for a big name software company that was truth be told, very much on the skids even before the coming recession.
I had a raving antisemite for an assistant and was working for a frankly piratical crew of office services contractors, but in those days, I had debts to pay.
I went down to the loading dock to pick up the day's mail, and everyone was gathered around the communal TV, the first tower was already burning.
I think until the second plane hit I was naive enough to believe that it was all a terrible aviation accident of some type. Well soon enough I and the rest of the Western World were disabused of that notion. Having no other thoughts at the moment, I actually brought the mail back upstairs where we sorted it all out and prepped it for distribution.
All the while we watched as clusters of the client company's employees kept slinking out the door.
So it goes without saying that when the Towers both disintegrated, we saw it on Yahoo.com.
By noon the building was deserted except for the aforementioned piratical crew who'd received no instructions to adjourn in the face of national catastrophe.
So as fatuous as it may sound, with death and terrorism and war threatening the Republic, rest assured the mail went out that day.
Eventually our Account Manager crept in and told us both to "haul ass".
I went home, East Cambridge was empty already rumors were rife of new terrorist attacks, weaponized viruses, bombs and hijackings.
And for the rest of the day, I watched the towers disintegrated over and over and over again.
***
If I retain one vivid impression from that clear mild morning a decade ago, is the sheer horror I felt derived from the thought "That all over the country, people are watching their loved ones die live on national television!"
Something about that aspect of it all would appall me, but then that is the core goal of all terrorism when it's practiced on this scale.
***
My other great impression of that time is the essential decency of the American People. When leader's fail and a vacuum is created, the nation itself steps into the gap, burying the dead, clearing the rubble, comforting the bereaved, compensating the surviving victims.
There would be an almost endless series of mistakes made by the country's leaders in the weeks and months and years after 9-11, but the citizenry's "will to democracy" remained unbroken. That is the wellspring of that aforementioned decency, a dictatorship could never survive such a public disaster.
A functioning democracy can survive famine, national catastrophe and humiliation, but even the best and most ruthless dictatorships typically fly to pieces given a hard enough shove.
Recall please, Chernobyl, which more than anything else was a huge rebuke to the myth of Soviet totalitarian super statism.
The best thing I can say about 9-11, is that the USA survived it, democracy survived it, the citizenry and their "will to democracy" survived it.
But then we are supposed to survive these things, to remember, take counsel and pass along that will to democracy to our progeny.
***
And just as a final personal note, I"ll just recall that the infamous Bad Poets Society went off on 9-14 2001 at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, we never had a bigger more appreciative crowd, the will to democracy indeed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Steve Soderbergh's "Contagion" (2011)

Is a film for all those old fashioned movie fans out there who long to see Gwyneth Paltrow undergo a cranial autopsy.

And of that isn't enough, Kate WInslet gets zipped into a body bag and neatly dumped into a quicklime pit, truly this is a new Golden Age in Hollywood!

***

Otherwise "Contagion" is a well paced, believable, pathogen thriller with very good acting and the sappiest ending I"ve seen in years.

And no, Ms. Paltrow doesn't git all country on us neither.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Wonder Woman's Obit...


NO it isn't Lynda Carter, I mean Betty Skelton, the daredevil distaff pilot.

I'm impressed with the fact she set a world altitude record in a Piper Cub in her bare feet...
But what really amazes me is that she somehow earned the respect of the original Mercury Seven astronauts who were notably famous for their oinkerish tendencies.
Ah well, in a well run republic she'd a definitely been the First Woman in Orbit, alas that honor had to go to Valentina Tereshkova, a skydiver and a bit of daredevil herself.

G'bye Betty, say howdy to Gus Grissom for us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pick of the Week...

Powerful double feature of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Conan the Barbarian" at the Milford New Hampshire Drive In.
haven't been up there in a while, too bad a hurricane in stalking us....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Strangers in the West or Fear and Roving in Las Vegas...



It is counterintuitive to visit Las Vegas on vacation in high summer, but it is off season there and the room rate is markedly below what I'd be charged for the same stay in the Berkshires.

Everyone is trying desperately to have fun in Las Vegas, happiness amidst such baroque temptation seems impossible so the broad mass of tourists aim for mere fun, and in many cases they fall short even of that.

Its an ancient cliche' but men like to dress down on vacation, women like to dress up, in Vegas therefore one sees elegantly dressed women sipping diet coke thru a straw at a Sbarro's seated across from some unshaved mook in bermuda shorts both busted out like forty niners.

Otherwise, Las Vegas is what happens when career criminals control the zoning board of appeal, the whole city revolves around a five mile stretch of roadway encrusted with casinos.

Aldous Huxley's worst nightmare?
Las Vegas...he anticipated the whole metropolis in "Brave New World".

The Atomic Energy Commission blew so many craters in Nevada with it's above ground nuclear testing that NASA could dual use them to train the moon bound astronauts.

The slot machines in Vegas are unfathomable.

NEVER buy bottled water in the hotels, the mark up is atrocious and suggestive of armed robbery, but your Aquafina from the enterprising homeless on the streets who retail it out of ice filled coolers for $1 a bottle.

Las Vegas, where double entendres go to die.

Only in Las Vegas could the construction of the world's largest Walgreen's be considered a source of community pride.

10 years of this "Classic Las Vegas" horshit and they will be erecting statues to the saint memories of Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano. They already have a memorial to Bugsy Siegel in the courtyard of the Flamingo that artfully avoids any mention of his gangsterism. So there is hope yet for Whitey Bulger. Hell in fifty years they'll be putting up statues to Suge Knight.

In sum you can have a good time in Las Vegas without gambling, but it is also a place you'll never have any pressing need to revisit, unless of course you develop a serious gaming addiction. And of course, here in Massachusetts everyone is burning the midnight oil to harness that impulse and keep it here at home.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"The Devil with Bobby Watson"


Why screen "The Devil with Hitler" (1942)?

Well, there are a number of reasons, it is a comedy very much in the wartime vein of "The Three Stooges" and it stars Bobby Watson an actor whose resemblance to the late Reichs Chancellor is nothing short of uncanny. The photo herein does him no justice, and is posted mostly for comedic effect. When mocking the Fuhrer, Watson gets his essential parvenue essence, the cheap theatrics the cowardice and most of all, a bizarre uncalled for, undeniably funny, and slightly fey Brooklyn accent.
Let the record show that Moe Howard was the first Hitler impersonator to effect a Brooklyn patois, Watson knew a good thing when he heard it.
And let us not forget our supporting cast Joe Devlin as Mussolini a sadly forgotten character player from Hollywood's golden age with more than a touch of Oliver Hardy to him and Alan Mowbray a perpetually exasperated Brit considered good enough to do a few comedy relief turns for John Ford in his day.
Channel Zero screens films like "The Devil with Hitler" in part because they are loaded with a now forgotten Golden Age Tinseltown aristocracy of funny looking character players who one and all had acting chops. Joe Devlin, Bobby Watson, Skelton Knaggs, Rondo Hatton, Shemp Howard, Franklin Pangborn the list could go on for days. All actors heavily typecast but where nonetheless good at their typecasting, we have no comparable modern day phenomenon save SyFy's weekend movie schedule which largely the province of Dean Cain, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and C. Thomas Howell.
There is a line thru modern history and it's called "The Holocaust", we are on the wrong side of it (although no one can claim to be on the right side of it). Prior to that great barbarous slaughter, it was still possible to see Hitler as "a cheap ham", a blusterly parvenue who had some luck at the outset of the war. Until 1945 or so, you could place Hitler in the same category as say, Louis Napoleon, an arrogant faker whose stupidity was destroying all Europe.
This is the comedic approach that everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Moe Howard and Bobby Watson would take to Hitler.
Then of course, the Final Solution's true nature was exposed to the world, and making Hitler out to be silly seemed naive at best and woefully crass in the worst degree.
In time some other comic versions of Der Fuhrer have come forward, John Cleese or Helge Schneider's neurotic bed wetter from 2007's "My Fuehrer...but its always done with a nervous laugh and a backward glance to 1945.
So it's useful to see how we saw the great enemy of civilization circa 1942, how we mocked him and his cause, what we got right, what we got wrong and what still makes us laugh.
So tell your friends, we are screening "The Devil with Hitler" this Friday, July 22nd at 8pm in the Somerville Theater's video screening room, 55 Davis Square Somerville Ma. 617) 625-5700 Admission $5

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I think I owe the Harvard Film Archive an apology

I've been kidding them about "holes" in their schedule this month, to be filled up with notional Charlton Heston or Ray Harryhausen retrospectives (BOTH very goodish ideas still).
But nonetheless the HFA is clearing the boards old school come August and September with a comprehensive Joseph L. Mankiewicz retrospective including a rare big screen revival of "Cleopatra" (1963) (the film that all but annihilated 20th Century Fox), "Suddenly Last Summer" and the original "Quiet American" with Audie Murphy...Among many many others this is the HFA after all they miss but little.
But wait, there is MORE!
A Monte Hellman retrospective which for everyone who wants to see "Two Lane Blacktop" on the big screen along with more eccentric fare like "CockfIghter" and "Iguana" (which is NOT a giant lizard flick trust me!).
Great stuff but it gets even better, when the HFA actually revives "1860" (1934) Alessandro Blasetti's ode to Italian Unification produced under the auspices of Benito Mussolini to get the masses riled up with nationalist fervor. Channel Zero would Kill to screen this movie or any other propaganda films produced during the Italian Fascist era...HFA beat us to it, can't be envious of them either since they know the real worth of the work.
Our only reservation is the notion in the current HFA calendar to the effect that "Blasetti was the most significant Italian film maker to emerge during the 1930's", Channel Zero thinks pride of place belongs to Roberto Rossellini who got his start as the directorial protege of Vittorio Mussolini, Il Duce's mook of a son. But tis' a minor quibble congrats to the HFA for another superlative summer schedule.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sherwood Schwartz, R.I.P.

The producer behind Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch sure loved his cliches and his stereotypes didn't ?
In fact that pretty forms the crux of his humor through out the arc of his career, pound home the orthodoxies like ten penny nails.
Still I admire his work ethic, Bob Denver claimed in his memoirs that he went up to Schwartz's office to discuss some trivial matter on the last day of production during the first season of Gilligan's Island. There he found thirty odd scripts to the second season of Gilligan's Island already written bound and ready to shoot.
And then there is the famous story of the two casts to the Brady Bunch, distaff brunettes and male blondes versus female blondes and brunette men. The latter cast won out, but my ghod it's a prussian file clerk's approach to comedy casting isn't it?
No thought of "Geez I like the brunette Marcia better, lets move her over.."
No, Schwartz survives because of the ubiquity of his re-runs on afternoon television here he is in a very exclusive club along with Gene Roddenberry, Irwin Allen, Barbara Eden, Lucille Ball and Elizabeth Montgomery. Sheer exposure made his programs a paradise for ironyists and retrosexuals, certainly the comedy content was no guarantor of longevity.
So it's unintentionally hilarious to think that local commentator Jon Keller devoted congressionally regulated airtime last night to the argument that Sherwood Schwartz, that Stakhanovite of cliches, was someone a champion of women's rights.
Ironyism indeed.
Still and all that, who knew that puny whiny Bobby Brady had "family annihilator ideations", my money was always on Cindy gotta watch those girls in curls.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ironclad (2011)


Whoever got the idea to cast skinchy dorky bug-eyed Yank Paul Giamatti as King John of the "Magna Carta" fame, deserves a medal. If you've ever wondered how Paul Giamatti a reliable method actor would play "Ming the Merciless" look no further than "Ironclad" the man rants, raves and chews the scenery like he has gone mad on crystal meth.

I haven't had so much fun watching a berserk historical impersonation since the Glory Days of Rod Steiger playing Napoleon in "Waterloo".
The film itself is lugubrious dreck wallowing in the infamous "First Baron's War" in Englandback in the 1200's. All the battle scenes are ruined by shakey-cam histrionics, Ty Burr got that much right in his review in Friday's Globe, but in Giamatti's performance an over the top gem can be found. "Ironclad" is up at the Danvers Mall, likely it'll be gone by next Friday see it if you can...

The Green Lantern (2011), an autopsy.


If your idea of a superhero extravaganza is two hours of close ups of Ryan Reynold's chin shot in the 3-d with a reverence previously reserved only for Adolf Hitler in "Triumph of the Will", then the Green Lantern is the movie for you.

If your idea of a slam bang summer tentpole franchise is built on a good first act, a middling second act and a third act that depends on a cosmic shitstorm that grunts and groans like Charlie Callas, then the Green Lantern is the movie for you.

If your idea of a great thrill ride night at the movies is watching DC comics botch another no-brainer, where all they had to do was COMPETENTLY rip off Iron Man...then the Green Lantern is the flick for you.

Honest to Rao, I give up, DC Comics seems to be on the Biblical high road to annihilation, they can assemble a good cast around a sure fire property (as was the case here, outwardly Ryan Reynolds was born to play Green Lantern) but then the script and the direction just auto destruct...Every god damned time!
Now I hear the geniuses behind this film are tasked to "Re-Launch" DC's line of comic books in September, all starting with new #1's, even Action Comics (til now in continuous publication since 1938!), with brains like this at work, they'll be on relief by Christmas.
DC probably makes a million dollars a month off of comic book sales in total, maybe one and a half, if I'm to be generous. So it just makes me laugh that a misfire like "Green Lantern" made more money in one day (and will be marked down a failure still) than the whole of the DC comic line makes in a year.
Comics aren't dying but they are becoming a niche market, and in the case of super hero comics, it is a niche market with an aging fan base. Now those characters all have universal appeal (put up a billboard to Green Lantern or Batgirl in Moscow or Buenos Aires or Johannesburg and everyone will recognize those characters immediately)...but the primary means to consume said universally known characters is limited to floppy comics with sales in the range of 20 to 50,000 books per month. So I'm thinking this is not a sustainable situation, not when you are producing misfires like "Green Lantern" and depending on them to pull along your staggering line of floppies a few more years.
What comes next I do not know I doubt I will like it whatever it is.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Punchlinez Part II


"I keep tryin' ta think, but nuthin' happens!"

"Remember you are fighting for this woman's honor which is more than she ever did!"

"Mice!"

"Watch out for that Tree!"

"If I could walk that way I wouldn't need talcum powder!"

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!"

"It Ain't Wendell Willkie!"

"It was a woman that drove me to drink and I never had the common decency to thank her!"

"You knew this job was dangerous when you took it".

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Congrats to the Great State of New York


for coming around on gay marriage.

It is the right thing to do, and besides the outer cape needs the Honeymoon dollars.

Man if I owned a gay friendly B & B in Provincetown I'd be advertising special honeymoon rates all over Fire Island and Greenwich Village right now.
I mean think about it, if you are getting married to your longtime partner in New York, you don't wanna go to the Hamptons on your honeymoon?
It is like going down to Horseneck Beach after your nuptials.
No, you wanna go to Provincetown...class all the way, safe, artsy, the ice cream is superlative,the prefect honeymoon destination.
In fact why stop there? Tour the whole Commonwealth, see the majestic Berkshires, the placid Charles River, thrill to the obscure wonder of "The Devil's Kingdom", meditate over the ruins of Umass Amherst and check out what is playing at the Mendon Drive In.
And if just if, you stop off in Somerville next month, you could do worse than to drop by for Channel Zero's screening of "The Devil with Hitler" (1944) Friday July 22nd at 8pm in the Somerville Theatre's video suite. After all, nothing is so conducive to marital bliss like a good old fashioned wartime parody of Nazism.
Admission $5 cheap!

:D

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad's Wit and Wisdom, an Informal Bill of Lading for Father's Day...


1.) "Don't Borrow Trouble".

2.) The sense of humor is the last thing to go.

3.) General George S. Patton was "A Big Grouch".

4.) An appreciation of music is the second to last thing to go.

5.)"Don't do this in a restaurant".

6.)"This never woulda happened if Hubert Humphrey had won!!"

7.) Titles are always good (Expl. All Highest, Son of Destiny, Supreme Leader, Boss of Bosses).

8.) If you want to learn how to drive well, get a one eyed man to teach you.

9.) Sport an eye patch, every politician in the Commonwealth down to the Lenox Town Clerk will affect to recognize you...I mean if you like that sort of thing.

10.) On the day I left for college, this is what he said to me "Write if you find work!"


Happy Father's Day Dad, I tried to keep it brief.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

And while we are at it...


and again since the Harvard Film Archive's July calendar is practically wide open, how about a long overdue retrospective of Ray Harryhausen's work?
I mean name another Hollywood special effects technician with a multi-generation fan base???
So lets assemble a short tight filmography shall we?

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) So much goodness extracted from short story by Ray Bradbury ("The Foghorn"). Harryhausen's big breakthrough movie.

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) If Ray Harryhausen had an ingrained prejudice it was against strictly science fictional-futuristic settings...Which is a shame cuz' this monster from Venus movie is a premiere example of the genre.

Jason and the Argonauts (1963) This was Harryhausen's "Ben Hur", the famous living skeleton duel set a technical standard for stop motion animation that likely stands til today.

The Mysterious Island(1961) Normally shoe-horning a disparate collection of monsters into an adaptation of a classic work of science fiction never works. But of course, Ray Harryhausen makes it look easy and as if the giant crab and prehistoric squid monster were all a part of the Jules Verne original.

The Valley of Gwangi (1969) A prehistoric allosaurus loose in a old western town? A script derived from Willis O'Brien and the SPFX aby his protege Ray H??
I'm so THERE!

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) Greatest kids matinee feature e-verrrrr! Tom "Dr. Who" Baker versus "John Philip "Diabolik" Law? No contest great movie.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Harvard Film Archive's July Calendar


Looks awfully bare, there are some nice things being screened don't get me wrong, but for most of the month the theater is dark.
To think last year at this time we were already knee deep in an excellent and thorough John Ford retrospective.
Oh well, helpful soul that I am I'd like to suggest a retrospective for this summer, spotlighting an actor-director long overdue for recognition and review.
I speak of course, of the late Charlton Heston. Much as I disliked his politics at the end of his life, he is nonetheless in a lot of movies I like, love or even revere.
Hell Heston will "get heaven" (To quote my olde Irish Mother)just for ensuring his lifelong pal Orson Welles directed "Touch of Evil".
So herein I propose my own highly idiosyncratic list of Heston Films for a notional retrospective:

The Naked Jungle (1954) Heston as a brooding South American planter at war with his mail order bride (Eleanor Parker) and a farm endangered by army ants of all things. All derived from a script by Arch Oboler, this would be Heston's first breakout role.

Ben Hur (1956) C'mon YOU KNOW you wanna see this bad baby on the big screen! It has everything, revenge, Romans and in a featured cameo, the Son of Man.

The Private War of Major Benson (1955) Heston as a starchy headmaster of a failing military school, closest thing he ever came to an outright comedy. Great supporting cast with everyone from Julie Adams to William DeMarest and Tim Considine in on the action.

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) One thing I like about Heston, he has no fear of being overshadowed by talented and or strong willed scenery chewers. He is Michaelangelo to Rex Harrion's Pope Julius toe to toe over the Sistine Chapel's ETA.

The Buccaneer (1958) A feast for typecasting, Heston as Andrew Jackson and Yul Brynner as the Pirate King of Louisiana, Jean Lafitte.

Khartoum (1966)Heston again cannot escape a penchant for historic impersonation, this time doomed British General "Chinese" Gordon surrounded by Muslim warriors on all sides, lead by none other than Sir Laurence Olivier.

Will Penny (1968) Heston as a cowboy staging his last stand on a ranch suffused with character actor wattage like Bruce Dern, Donald Pleasence, Anthony Zerbe Slim Pickens and Joan Hackett.

Skyjacked (1972) There has to be a disater movie in here somewheres, I'm going with the obscure hijacking melodrama as it puts Heston in the middle of the action (in some of the other disaster pix of the era he is naught but a tiny picture at the bottom of the movie poster) with as usual a superlative supporting cast including Rosey Grier, Walter Pidgeon, Susan Dey and James Brolin.

The Omega Man (1971) For me this is the best of all of Heston's iconic sci fi movie roles, I mean who else could play the Last Man on Earth with such operatic brio? There are those who revere "Planet of the Apes" (And lets face it, Heston made science fiction respectable for the A-List not Stanley Kubrick)...but there is a strong performance that anchors this film single handedly and it is Heston's to be sure.

Studio One (1950) "MacBeth". True story, Heston loved Shakespeare, and I'd pay good money to see a kinescope of him playing the doomed Scottish King in a live TV broadcast, I just would. Lets hope that kinescope exists.

Heston was an actor whose career path was very contemporary, he was a reliable journeyman actor in television plays all thru the 1950's. When he broke thru in Hollywood, he consciously reverted to a leading man type one associates with tinseltown's golden age, a sort of post war Clark Gable if you will. So for all that I think the man deserves a retrospective...don't you?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

"The Luck of the Irish" a partial exegesis


I have always defined "The Luck of the Irish" as the surviving kind of luck, not the prospering kind of luck.
Thus if a natural disaster strikes your community and your house is destroyed and all around is chaos and woe, but you and your family are alive and well, then you have in abundance "The Luck of the Irish".
Which brings me to My Old Man who has the "Luck of the Irish" in spades.
He has survived being orphaned, the Great Depression, war, frostbite, stopping an 88mm shell with his head, seven days of coma, forty separate plastic surgical proceedures to put him back together over five years,partial deafness, partial blindness, sepsis, vino, bleeding ulcers, anemia, bouts of vertigo, skin cancer, a broken hip and now Alzheimer's disease.
Today is his birthday, he is ninety.
The famous doctors who pieced him back together after World War II have all been measured for their harps.
Somewhere in a Veteran's Hospital even as I write this, Father slurps down some ice cream.
Even with all that reckoned above, he is the only man on this breathing Earth I've ever wanted to be like.
Why?
Because he never ever let his sense of humor fail him, and never once in forty eight years did I hear him say "If Only I Hadn't Been Shot".
If you can survive all that, and laugh, well then truly you have overthrown destiny.
So happy Memorial Day, Birthday and Father's Day Dad...I can't cure Alzheimers or get you up out of that God Damned wheelchair, all I can do is write this and eat a cupcake with you tonight.
No chocolate, don't worry that much I remember.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Channel Zero Returns!


Channel Zero returns to the Somerville Theatre on Friday July 22nd @ 8pm with a screening of "The Devil with Hitler" (1943).

Satan in a bind, his demons want to fire him and place Adolf Hitler in charge of hell!

The devil (Alan Mowbray) can retain his old job only by tricking the Fuehrer into committing One Good Deed. MEanwhile back on Earth, Mussolini (Joe Devlin) and General Tojo (George E. Stone) plot the Fuhrer's assassination as part of an insurance scam!

A comedy very much in the spirit of the Three Stooges and starring Bobby Watson, the greatest Hitler Impersonator of Hollywood's Golden Age (discounting his faint Brooklyn accent).

The phun begins at 8pm and includes a few relevant short subjects on the program, admission $5. Bring your friends we will have plenty of room on this one!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The best time to go down to Cape Cod for a few days

may in the week before Memorial Day.
Granted the Cape is still fitfully stirring from it's annual Odinsleep, your favorite restaurants may be entirely seasonal and thus it's impossible to get a good meal after 9pm.
Moreover a fitful Nor'easter may be battering the peninsula as well, drizzle and wind at night and whole of Nantucket Sound churned up like Captain Ahab's worst nightmares during the day. The sun usually batters its way out by noon, but at four pm the mists come loping back across Provincetown Harbor with studied insolence.
But you shoot right over the Sagamore Bridge, there is little traffic on Route Six and no lines for anything at all. You can cruise the Cape Cod Rail Trail from Eastham to Wellfleet in a Charlton Hestonish Omega Man solitude.
You can explore the last of Primeval Cape Cod on the Fort Hill Trail with it's Red Maple Swamp, on a grey drizzly day you could actually believe just for a moment that these were the wild moors around Culloden and Bonny Prince Charlie's Highlanders are about to make their last stand for Scottish Liberty.
Of course you never quite escape the sound traffic on Route Six, but if you close your eyes and imagine real hard....
I saw a surfer on Nantucket Sound at the Cape Cod National Sea Shore braving the obvious rip tides, as he sped along a seal black and curious surfaced to the height of the animals shoulders about a hundred feet away. The beast gave the surfer a disdainful looking over and seemed to think to itself "AMATEUR! Needs a board to float...."
By the way, seals have made a comeback on the outer Cape, How Cool Is THAT???
I walked from the Coast Guard Station to Nauset Light and thanked God that President Kennedy had the foresight to sign off on the Cape Cod National Sea Shore, otherwise it would all be the ruins of Howard Johnsons by now.
Provincetown has lost none of it's charm or it's Boho street cred. The streets were just filling up when I got there. Those dunes over Route Six loom over the Cape like the Alps.
I also bought a bottle of wine from a local vineyard in Truro of all places, will advise when the bottle is appropriately sampled.
For the record, the daily wine tasting therein was packed.
And I even got an opportunity to see "Pirates of the Caribbean IV, On Stranger Tides" and "Thor" at the Wellfleet Drive In. If all else had gone to smash, that alone would have made the trip worthwhile. For the record, the Wellfleet plays the National Anthem before each Double Feature, I heartily endorse this practice.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

If you are in a mood for some old timey Samurai Action

You could do a lot worse than to see "13 Assassins" currently playing at the Kendall Landmark Cinema.

True is is almost completely derivative of "Seven Samurai", right down to the savage village based swordfighting showdown...but what the hell, if you are gonna steal, steal from the best sez I.
Besides there is a tactical deployment of enraged bulls that is the most original movie combat gimmick I've seen since Tsui Hark's missing masterpiece "The Raid".

Monday, May 16, 2011

Smallville: An Autopsy


Tom Welling has cast a spell of sheer enchantment over me.

He makes me nostalgic for Dean Cain.

Granted he did not accomplish this overnight, no, it took Tom Welling ten years of boring scripts and mechanical acting to get me to reconsider completely "Lois and Clark, the New Adventures of Superman", but in the end he prevailed.
It seems hard to remember that ten years ago, Smallville was nothing more than a rip off of "Buffy the Vampire the Slayer" with a buffed up male protagonist, a built in audience and a completely cowardly core concept...I.E. Young Clark Kent no tights no flights no nothing really.
And what the hell the damn thing was a success and a malign precedent as well.
D'ye know what you get when you do Clark Kent without the costume?
Without the mythos?
Sans cape?
You get Hugo Danner, the pitiful superhuman "hero" of Philip Wylie's 1931 novel Gladiator, except this poor schnook feeling sorry for himself because he couldn't think of single practical application for being faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.
And that is what was wrong with Smallville (regardless of Tom Welling's suspended animation performance style), it was whiny self pitying nonsense...directless for lack of a unifying concept.
Year after year Smallville piled up ever more inane excuses to keep Clark out of the cape, other characters from DC comics were introduced seemingly at random (What the hell has the Green Arrow have to do with Superman, other than the show's producers couldn't get the rights to Batman) all to cloud and obscure and obstruct any progress towards the debut of Superman.
Whenever they got two steps forward Clark would lose his powers or his confidence or wanna snuggle with Lana Lang (Played by Kristen Kreuk possibly the worst actress on this breathing Earth), and this went on for years!
Smallville did the impossible at the end of a decade I was entirely in sympathy with Lex Luthor maybe Clark was an alien interloper after all...Maybe Clark Kent is the threat. And even if he isn't when is that Big Mary gonna snap out of it??
And the audience kept coming back for more despite yearly rip-offs that stagger the creative imagination.
Until last week the producers could bail out the Titanic no longer and in the last fifteen minutes of the two hour season finale they CGI'd Welling into the costume and had a cheap computer animated Superman at last save the day.
A more blatantly disrespectful conclusion cannot be imagined.
My Ghod Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster AND Kirk Alyn are spinning in their graves.
What is wrong with Smallville and what will live on long after it's finale is the bad precedent that it sets. That it's okay to run far away from the character's core concept and that you can fake out the comic book audience for decades sans reproach.




I fear the next time the Man of Steel hits TV, the wrong lessons will have been learned from Smallville and even worse indignities will be meted out to Kal El and his mythos.


But thank Rao it's all over, and unless he has made some formidable investments we can expect to buy Tom Welling's autograph for $20 a pop at the Framingham Super Mega Fest sooner or later.

Jerry Lewis Deposed


as the host of the Annual MDA Labor Day Telethon.
This comes as no surprise to me, the word on the street is, that the Muscular Dystrophy Association has long been looking for a decent honorable way to ease Jerry out the door. Contributions are down, the telethon itself hardly even functions as "So bad it's good: kitsch and Jerry spent most of last year's screen time trading risque quips with a sixty five year old Charo.
Time for a change.
Alas though, I'll miss Jerry and his annual orgy of ego-mania, at it's height the weird mix of oddity acts (Czech blob-dancers and or Sandra Bernhard), the last die hard remnants of the Las Vegas Olde Guard and the Osmond Brothers...it was a heady heady brew.
And on good nights when Jerry's manic phase (or simply his meds) would kick in, the man would literally self inflate like a demented Zeppelin, his voice would go up an octave as he berated a stagehand for some trivial offense and for a moment, Jerry Lewis would look like the explosive bolts that held his head together were finally about to detonate.
It seems no accident to me that Jerry's abdication comes on the heels of the news that the Rat Pack's own Fortress of Solitude, the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas is shutting down for good.
Twilight of the Gods indeed.
But if this is IT for Jerry Lewis, who is literally The Last Man Out of Vaudeville (well him and Mickey Rooney)...Trust me you won't wanna miss the last hour of this year's telethon. It'll be like they they legalized above ground nuclear testing for one night only in Beverly Hills...The man's famous volatility will go super critical at long last, after all there will no encore after Labor Day 2011.

And if the MDA needs a new host I say they go with Mickey Rooney assuming Andy Dick isn't available...

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

I say must that DC Comics


picked a really bad week to have Superman renounce his US Citizenship.

Maybe Cousin Supergirl seize power at last & get Superman relieved of his Iconic Superhero Status under Article 184 of the Justice League of America code of conduct...

Only if Herman Wouk wrote Action Comics...

Seriously though, I get the birther symbolism of it all, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest that comic book super heroes are no necessarily the best and more efficacious mirror to hold up to society. The personnel therein just don't have enough points of conduct with the real world to long keep up the pretense of relevance.

Monday, May 02, 2011

OBL DOA...

The best comment I've heard so far today on Bin Laden's overdue demise was from a co-worker from South Africa (all places)....What she said was "This gives me hope that they can get Whitey Bulger after all".

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Cosplayground...Or Robur the Conqueror in the Back Bay


If power in the classic democratic sense is being redistributed from the producers to the masses via games, cosplay and social media, then the age old question must needs be asked "What are the people gonna doooo-oo with The Power?"

Dress up as Batman apparently.

But then there is nothing more disheartening than to see a perfectly turned out Batman costume at a convention, the cowl, the cape, the utility belt all of it exactingly rendered and the whole rig is worn by a guy whose body type exemplifies a "Chinless medicine ball".
We've all seen this, in fact it's become a sturdy cliche at comicons and sci fi conventions all over the nation, a very very true cliche at that.
The problem with your perfect home made Batman or Wonder Woman costume is that unless you put double the amount of time into hitting the treadmill yer gonna undercut the costume's effect when you debut it at the BiMonthly Sci Fi Con (or wherever).
The problem with this type of cosplay is that it tends to favor a limited range of body types...Unless of course you are one of those feckless souls who are Out and Proud about your muffin top.
And then there are the Star Wars cosplayers and the inevitable Klingons, there I've seen some pretty amazing costumery and it's a little more figure flattering for the portly or the undersized owing to the heavy traffic in robes and platform boots.
The problem with the Jedis, Stormtroopers and Klingon warriors is that the best they can aspire to is perfect reproduction of the designs developed and designed by Industrial Light and Magic. These are the more inclusive cosplay groups and also the least imaginative.
For my money the most inclusive and imaginative of the rising cosplayers are the Steampunks. They aren't reproducing someone else's trademarked costume nor to they need Tarzan's physique to wear their own neo-Victorian Jules Vernian sci fi rigs.
The possibilites here are limitless, you can go with James Mason's "Royal Navy" style of uniform for your Captain Nemo costume, or you can get tarted up in a princely turban and scimitar for a Captain Nemo closer to the Indian exile favored by Jules Verne.
And the possibilities presented by H.G. Wells from the invisible man to Doctor Moreau are nigh infinite.
Sherlock Holmes meets the Time Traveller?
DONE!
And that is only the beginning...yes its a "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" universe, but it lets everyone play to the absolute limits of their imagination.
Besides any fanbase that favors clockwork top hats, welders googles with Edwardian cricketer costumes is aces high in my books.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Y'know its funny...


I was at Comicon today at the Hynes Center, (good time even if no one was selling interesting DVDs) and the joint was crawling with persons in elaborate costumes. This has been a fairly recent phenom in Boston, as recently as two years ago, you never saw anyone done up in Superhero costumes or whatnot at a con.
Now down in Jersey, at the Infamous Chiller Theatre show, you'd see all kinds of cosplay going on, up here, bupkiss though.
Not any more.
This goes hand in hand with an even odder phenom I've noticed, the aging comic book buyer (Newbury Comics is crawling with persons thirty and over on Wednesdays getting their books) and the perpetually youthful comic book convention goer.
So IF, these kids aren't buying floppies on a monthly basis how are they getting aligned so to speak with all these characters?
They could be buying graphic novels straight up at Barnes & Noble, I think that is part of it, but I also suspect that they interact more with these characters in on line RPGs, video games, movies TV etc.
However it happens they are then inspired to don extremely elaborate costumery and go a' paradin' at the Comic Book Convention. The kids in the above pic had good costumes all around but you should have seen the incredibly detailed rigs favored by the Star Wars fanbase.
I'm starting to think that all these characters are being systematically "claimed" by their respective fan bases regardless of what the copyright holders may have planned for the property.
There is something quintessentially American and democratic about that...
***
Other than that I ran across "The Horror Haven" table, who are some peeps doin' th' lord's work in ensuring that Late Nite TeeVee Horror Film Hosts Shall Not Perish From This Earth.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Parts II & III have been canceled???

Noooo!!!!
The most gut-bustling preposterous parts of the book had yet to be filmed!!!

Well, all I can say is, live by the free market die by the free market, produce a cheap humorless film adaptation of a cult leader's holy book and all the exploitation film tricks in the world will not stop you from going bust.
I mean so much for playing entirely to your base, I guess even hard core objectivists require a little more bang for their buck at the box office.

Really though, was it something I said????

***
The ironic part of all this mishaugas is, that to date, Ayn Rand has had a pretty good filmography, "We the Living" an epic 1942 adaptation of her anti-bolshevik novel executed under the aegis of the Fascists in Italy, and later on "The Fountainhead" starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.
Ah but really, it takes close intellectual cooperation between free market fundamentalists, hard core objectivists and reactionary cultists of all types to produce a film as bad as "Atlas Shrugged Part One". It took fifty years and ghod knows how much money and effort but they finally managed to do their beloved Prophetess' legacy lasting damage.
These are people with "believing minds" (to quote H.L. Mencken) and as he famously observed they are never more destructive of their ideals when they try to put them into practice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"First Man" James Hansen's authorized biography


of Astronaut Neil Armstrong, must be a very engrossing book. I sat down with it on the Red Line at Alewife, and somewhere between there and South Station the burly African American fella who sat next to me changed into a skinny caucasian college student without your humble narrator ever noticing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Ayn Rand and the Forty Thieves" Or "Who is Kroger Babb?"

Once upon a time in post war America , risque titillating movies circulating furtively thru the land under the aegis of "The Forty Thieves", hard core road showmen who arrive in town, rent a theater, paper the place with flyers, ruthlessly target a sensation hunger audience and all on behalf of ragged moralizing tripe like "Reefer Madness".
The uncrowned king of the Forty Thieves was one Kroger Babb, who for some twenty years toured America with a film called "Mom and Dad" a half titillating, half educational melodrama depicting the dangers of unwed teenage motherhood. The movie's key selling point was it's much ballyhoo'd "Birth of a baby" scene which was in reality some old Army training film footage ineptly spliced into the storyline.
Babb did all this mishaugas up big and included the use of carnival barkers done up as "Elliot Forbes the eminent hygiene commentator" who job it was to hawk war surplus bith control pamphlets during intermission.
According to Babb's apprentice, the late David Friedman, Babb made about eleven million dollars off of "Mom and Dad" when all was said and done.
Trust me, I've seen "Mom and Dad" it is cheap moralizing trash sold to the unwary as a social problem film with some sex education footage thrown in for good measure.
Of interest only to franchises like "Channel Zero".
As Babb himself so frequently observed "You sell the sizzle, not the steak".

Which brings me to "Atlas Shrugged" Part One (2011) now screening at the Landmark Kendall Square the Framingham Fourteen and elsewhere.
A lot of different people have tried to get this novel adapted as film, I can recall as a teen serious rumors that NBC wanted to option it as a TV miniseries more recently Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were supposedly interested in the property as a starring vehicle. Rand herself once opined that her sprawling 900 page semi-science fictional denunciation of "big government" labor unions and uppity intellectuals was inherently unfilmable.
So it is ironic that here we have a low budget film with a cast of wooden unknowns, a labored script and a marketing plan that depends on word of mouth, lots of flyers and the activation of a particular subset of the moviegoing audience.
Truly, Kroger Babb lives.
Indeed given the divisive nature of the Ayn Rand novel on which the film is based, the only smart thing for the producers to do is cut costs remorselessly and sell this turkey exclusively to hard core libertarian objectivists.
I saw this bad baby in Framingham last night, and I half expected Elliot Forbes himself to stroll up the aisle selling copies of Ayn Rand's "The New Left: The Anti Industrial Revolution".
The film itself is cheap looking, ill-lit in certain scenes and features actors who artistic range compare unfavorably with the monoliths on Easter Island.
And this is only Part One!
Ultimately though, the films problems start with the source novel, a long boring work of libertarian utopianism churned out by Ayn Rand in 1957 in desperate attempt to generate a capitalist free market ideology that would have the same pseudo-religious appeal of Marxism Leninism.
That much worked, "Atlas Shrugged" is a book nigh venerated by conservative mediocrities toiling away in cubicles all over the USA convinced that the EPA, "community activists" and Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms Bureau are all that is keeping you from inventing an aircraft powered by the limitless power of your own resentment.
The book itself is trash, female railroad tycoon Dagny Taggart is desperately trying to hold her empire together even as all the other smart rich people in the nation disappear literally "going on strike" to protest a government given over to wicked wicked leveling and egalitarianism. The book's machine worship & veneration of wealth is perfectly comical, Dagny Taggart all but copulates with a locomotive as the Dollar $ign finally triumphs and new age of financial super heroes is proclaimed.
If you are a libertarian with a grievance, then Ayn Rand wrote this book for you, it is a massacre of straw men, have at it sez I.

God imagine how much more beautiful and exquisite New York City would be if Donald Trump took John Galt's advice and went on strike against "big government"?
Imagine how many people would still have their live savings if Bernie Madoff & Lehman Brothers had run off to "Galtsylvania" in a huff prior to the 2008 market crash?
Wealth=heroism in Ayn Rand's cosmology, remember that the next time one of British Petroleum's cheap ass oil platforms blow up.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Its a world built for impersonal Orwellian cubicles

That is where most of us make our money however much or little that may be.
So it's imperative to personalize and individualize that space as much as possible.
The whole "You Big Mary" movement is nothing but an attempt celebrate individuality in impersonal workspace, so check their site out out, they've got needlepoint, tee shirts and lots of other snarky tchotchkes in thepipeline.

In hard times when the boss is breathing down your neck like Captain Queeg gone mad on crystal meth, needlepoint proclaiming "Suck It Up, You Big Mary" is a vital necessity in everyone's cubicle.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

THE DRIVE INS ARE OPEN THE DRIVE INS ARE OPEN!!!

Praise the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!!!

Well...The redoubtable Mendon Drive In is open at least, thats a start.

Seriously tempted to go see "Limitless" there...Now if only Suckerpunch would git on th' schedule...

When the Drive In opens, winter ends officially for me, not a moment too soon this was a bad one from start to finish.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The People's Republic of China...



has officially outlawed the use of Time Travel as a storyline in movies and TV.

My Gjod what next...mass burning of "Dr. Who" DVDs???

Totalitarian societies can survive a lot, but they teeter when they look foolish and Beijing looks pretty damn stupid with this one.

Must be all those movies where enterprising Chinese go back and time and successfully convince Chiang Kai Shek to go over onto the defensive on the Yangtse River, wear down Mao's communist troops and wait for Stalin to get sick of bankrolling stalemate in China.
:D
What would Herbert George Wells do? (As played by Malcolm McDowall in "Time after Time")?

He'd go back in time and PREVENT China from outlawing "The Time Tunnel" - THAT is what he'd do!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My heroes have always been Englishmen ...


First Welsh born Christian Bale becomes "Batman", now word comes that one Henry Cavill, born in the Channel Islands, is on track to play Superman in the upcoming 2012 film.
What is going on here? Who the hell WON at Yorktown anyway?? How'd all these limey's get into the Justice League of America????
Granted Toledo Ohio native Adrianne Palicki is currently playing Wonder Woman in a David Kelley pilot, but likely thats because Sporty Spice wasn't available.
Besides, she is running around in stretch pants for ghod's sake, it's like putting Tarzan in a track suit and Nike running shoes.
***
Honestly I am starting to miss Dean Cain and Val Kilmer...
***
Nope for true down home old fashioned hard R-Rated superheroic action, I strongly recommend you seek out James Gunn's "Super" over at the Landmark theater in Waltham and elsewhere. Because amidst all the purely terrifying grue and gore is a pair of scintillating performances from Rainn Wilson as "The Crimson Bolt" a down on his luck masked avenger who wields a lug wrench like it's the Hammer of Thor and Ellen Page as his utterly psychotic sidekick "Boltie".
What I liked about "Super" was simple and yet profound, I had the good fortune to sit with an aud that was utterly shocked at the film's gleeful excesses, I was truly the only one laughing as Rainn Wilson's Crimson Bolt tries to abort a purse snatching only to severely injure both perp and victim.
What can I say...sometimes the violently transgressive is hilarious or at least for once it worked in this case.
BTW all bluster aside it is a standout performance from Ellen Page who goes a long way towards stealing the show from Rainn Wilson, which believe me, is no small feat.

Many thanks to the Big Sell Out Aud

we had at Friday Night's screening of "Wesley Willis's Joy Rides". What a pleasure to see so many new faces at Channel Zero. Our humblest apologies to anyone who was turned away at the door...it is a thirty one seat venue what can we say?
If it is any consolation there will be plenty of room at our next screening (Hopefully in July), as we are planning on screening something incredibly obscure and fun.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

At Last Validation...


The Boston Phoenix's on-line edition devotes some critical digital space to our screening of"Wesley Willis's Joy Rides" tomorrow.
You kin read it Hyar:

Meanwhile the curtain goes up on this mutha in just 24 hours...

“Wesley Willis: Joyrides” is a unique documentary experience about one man’s journey out of homelessness and schizophrenia to Rock-n-Roll Redemption.

Friday April 8th at 8pm (sharp!)
Admission 6.50 (Cheap!)
The Somerville Theatre, Screening Room
55 Davis Square.
Somerville Ma 617-625-5700

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Wesley Willis?


April has always been "National Poetry Month", despite Channel Zero's manful attempts to turn it into "National Bad Poetry Month" thru the good offices of our annual reading of the world's worst verse "The Bad Poets Society".

For years now, Wesley Willis' lyrics have fairly anchored the Bad Poets Society.
Audiences from Central Square to Somerville have rocked with laughter when read the lyrics to such songs as "I Whupped the Mighty Thor's Ass".
For a franchise that heavily trafficked in oddball 19th century substandard poets, Wesley was a rare contemporary lyricist with a strong transgressive quality (exp "Casper the Friendly Homosexual Ghost" possibly THE MOST cringe worthy song lyrics ever recited at the Bad Poets Society).
So when We found out he had a career as a singer/songwriter going on in Chicago and had not one but TWO feature length documentaries dedicated to his amazing story, We knew Channel Zero had to do a screening.
My thinking is, at long last we are allowing one of the Bad Poets Society's stalwarts a chance to "talk back" and give us his side of the story.

When someone produces a GOOD documentary on the life of Francis E. Dec (He of the Cannibal Frankenstein CIA Monster God fame) or Julia Moore "The Sweet Singer of Michigan" (Otherwise know as America's answer to William McGonigall), trust me, Channel Zero will conspire to screen it.
Meanwhile on Friday April 8th at 8pm (At the Somerville Theatre) the spotlight shines down on the late Wesley Willis, singer songwriter and inadvertent star of the Bad Poets Society.
Be there, admission is $6.50 (cheap!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor is Dead...


If there is any justice in the Heavenly Firmament, she was met at the Pearly Gates by Sir Richard Burton who had a vodka bottle in one hand and two common water glasses in the other...

***
Otherwise, Liz was the recipient of one of the greatest put downs in the history of modern journalism. At the height of the whole Eddie Fisher - Debbie Reynolds - Elizabeth Taylor - Richard Burton quadrilateral, the Vatican accused Taylor of "erotic vagrancy".
And thus commenced Liz Taylor's superstardom...
John Waters and his cross dressing muse Divine (AKA Harris Glen Milstead)would have KILLED for snark like that when they were up and coming.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yet another sign that we are in the midst of a Second Gilded Age


Details of Steven Spielberg's new yacht.

I mean you wouldn't mind so much but this IS the yacht owned by the man who directed "Hook" and "A.I."...Good taste must draw the line somewhere.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Channel Zero Returns Next Month!!!


Channel Zero And The Bad Poets Society
Proudly Present
“Wesley Willis’s Joy Rides” (2008)
Directed by Kim Shively & Chris Bagley



The Wesley Willis story, IS ROCK-N-ROLL!

See the incredible but TRUE story of the homeless man whose lyrics & fearless singing style took the Chicago music scene By Storm!
Composer of such songs as “I Whupped Batman’s Ass”, “Kris Kringle was a Car Thief” and countless others, Willis was the ultimate Outsider Artist.
“Wesley Willis's Joy Rides” is a unique documentary experience about one man’s journey out of homelessness and schizophrenia to Rock-n-Roll Redemption.

Friday April 8th at 8pm (sharp!)
Admission 6.50 (Cheap!)
The Somerville Theatre, Screening Room
55 Davis Square.
Somerville Ma 617-625-5700

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Redlining on the Red Line

Y' know the MBTA used to be able to transport my fat Irish ass from the hills-n-hollers of (Romantic) Arlington to Drydock Avenue in South Boston in jig time.
But that was back in 2005 when the Red Line was young and full of life.
Now the Red Line just sits there, torpid, injury ridden and waiting to be traded off to Cleveland in return for a team of oxen to pull the trains.
***
Yup I was late to work today, the trains just sat there will the explanations blatted over the PA (disabled train, signal problems, switching problem, inauspicious dove entrails...). I am in peril along with a trainload of other commuters of losing my job due to "tardiness" but yet the train still sits there like an pouting brat.
Ah yes it's another February in Boston, honestly the Moscow Metro was communist-ridden but the god-damned thing ran on time, stick that in your pipe and smoke it Ayn Rand.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2011 Oscar Notes


I've only seen two out of the ten movies nominated for Best Picture, which is my personal best in the category of cinema-detachment.
For that fact, neither motion picture will win, Toy Story Three because it's an animated film that is nominated already for best picture in that specific category and a sequel to boot, True Grit on the other hand is a remake of a film that landed John Wayne an Oscar in 1969 and the Academy is sentimental about things like that.
Don't know who to pull for in the Best Supporting Actress category, I like Hailee Steinfeld but you know Helena Bonham Carter will wear some hilarious abomination to the Academy Awards, a sequined bunny costume or some sort of lace trimmed jocket gear the sort of fashion atrocity they'll be talking about in the year 2100.
How the hell can a talented 14 year old actress top that without getting confined to quarters?
I ask you it is an unequal struggle.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Eagle of the Ninth and Rebecca Cathcart-Monet


Some people have trouble making decisions.
Some women cannot figure out even to this day what they want to wear to work in under a half hour.
Rebecca Cathcart-Monet is all-decisiveness, except when she struts out onto the tarmac of her private aerodrome in Niftyborough NH and wracks herself with feminine indecision as to what classic style of avionics she favors when flying off to the movies.
For the record, she finally went with the Curtis Goshawk modified torpedo bomber...And you haven't lived til you've seen a Curtis Goshawk modified torpedo bomber execute a perfect three point landing in shopping mall parking lot in Newington NH.

Well whatever, biplane or turboprop I could still see her trademark orange scarf a mile off...this was a special day, I got to pick the movie (I think likely she was keen on it and simply never mentioned it to me, Rebecca is phlegmatic that way)..."The Eagle"!
No Satan, no demons, no Nick Cage muttering incantations...nope just hardly Roman soldiery and their devoted slaves scouring ancient Scotland for the lost eagle standard of the annihilated ninth legion.
So its a buddy movie, I mean forget about Tacitus...this is "Lethal Weapon" on horseback!
Channing Tatum's Marcus Aquila is a stalwart Roman soldier who wants to avenge his father's annihilation at the hands of the Picts by recovering the legionary eagle standard, James Bell's Esca is a local who is along for the ride. Considering that he hates the Romans with a passion he sure is steadfastly devoted his his nominal master...But then a trip home is a trip home for college students and Roman slaves I guess.
But then, there is always a whiff of hetero life partner love to these kinds of movies, the fun is solely invested in watching the buddy movie tropes get effortlessly exported to Roman occupied Britain.
The only thing lacking was Joe Pesci done up in Centurion drag, as such the duties of "exposition delivery & all around familiar face fell to a white bearded Donald Sutherland.
Otherwise, the movie doesn't make a lot of sense sense (Esca sticks by his master despite many opportunities to run off and pretty much turns on his own) and the big payoff battle in the end involves deux et machina Roman deserters rallying to the colors at the last minute.
Sort of like "They Died with their Sandals On"...but with an upbeat ending!

A mess but a hawt mess nonetheless...and yes I covet Channing Tatum's superheroic chin.
Rebecca though, smiled serenely as we exited and opined that the whole thing was a sort of peplum version of "Apocalypse Now" to which I rejoined that I'd a paid good money to see the late Marlon Brando painted up as a blue-assed Pict.
She laughed, cried contact!
And I spun the propeller, I'm getting good at this...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Does the literary estate of Stieg Larsson

has some sort of buy-in-bulk agreement with the MBTA's Red Line?

It seems that his novels are all anyone is reading from the marshes of Alewife to the Ramparts of Braintree.
I mean for the first time today, I actually saw someone reading a Non-Larsson novel right there out in the open on the train, it was "The Confederacy of Dunces" as a matter of fact.
Good book, good choice to defy the trend.
Me?
I'm making my last stand with books three & four of "The Gulag Archipelago".

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Devil and Rebecca Cathcart-Monet...


What is it about my old pal Rebecca and Olde Scratch?
A film built around the earthly machinations of the Devil has but to waft north on the breeze and she takes to the skies in her vintage Sopwith Pup kayoodling like one of Wagner's valkyries and biding me to join her at the cinema.
So of course, being a gentleman I fire up my classic modified 1972 Ford Galaxie 500 (powered entirely by the slow radioactive decay of my hopes & dreams) and made for the worker's paradise, Salisbury Beach.
We thrilled to Nicholas Cage in "Season of the Witch" if for no other reason than to watch amazed as Ron Perlman never once condescended to unfurrow that prognathous brow of his.
But of course if I was a disaffected medieval knight and I had to transport a real witch to some monastery for exorcism I'd want Ron Perlman at my side as well, the man is a like a smirking redwood tree.
Besides it was just nice to see Ron in a role where he isn't covered with three inches of colored latex appliances.
As for Nicholas Cage what happened to him? He raked in 20 million from pay-or-play deal on an meshugginah unproduced Superman movie AND STILL he ends up making B-movies fighting CGI demons like he was Sarah Michelle Gellar or something.
Its an object lesson in making good investments in hard times lemme tellyuh.
And then there is Anthony Hopkins in "The Rite".
I like Anthony Hopkins he is a scary guy, scariest Welshmen to ever play Richard M. Nixon in the movies as a matter of fact.
He just knows where in the script to put on that reptilian "Dr. Hannibal Lector" voice and let the chills radiate out from the movies screen and across the audience.
So when it came time to find an actor to play the Vatican's best exorcist who ironically become demonically posessed, I mean who ya gonna call?
Burt Reynolds?
NO, Sir Anthony he is your man!
Pretender to the vacant throne of Cinema's Malefactor Maximus, Boris Karloff, because like all great golden age horror film actors, Anthony has one edge on the locale competition, he is a foreigner and therefore exotic by the standards of Peru Massachusetts and beyond.
No my problem with "The Rite" was simple, like Kevin Smith's love letter to the sheer mystic power of Canon Law "Dogma, this film depends on validating Catholic theology in order to deliver the chills.
And maybe just maybe the film's biggest shock is director Mikael Hafstrom's naive belief that moist pink eared Colin O'Donoghue could ever shout the devil out of Anthony Hopkins.
Well whatever, I had a grand time twice...although I'm beginning to suspect Ms. Rebecca Cathcart-Monet has a sort of love-hate relationship with The Prince of Darkness.