Monday, December 31, 2007
I started blogging back in July after a few years of thinking -- if I ever gave it any thought at all -- that blogging was not for me. Why would I want to put up what I had for breakfast for all to see?
After all... who cares?
I was aware of political blogs and news blogs. I am politically aware but feel that there are others who are top notch in this arena.
News blogging is interesting -- the alternative view. When I first heard about blogs, many postulated that they would change the way we get news, or at least the real story behind what was going on.
Like many projections or guesses, this did not exactly happen. While the Internet is important as a news gathering tool, most folk still get their news from the major television networks (at least in the good ol' US of A.)
A friend prompted me to start a blog, and after some brief deliberation, I decided to go with it. What you ended up getting is someone who not only talks too much in day to day affairs, but someone who seems to have no problem transposing this transcendent quality to Blogville.
I am having a lot of fun. Thanks, again, to all those who have commented on my various postings. Believe me when I say that it makes my efforts even more rewarding. And thanks to all of you who just drop in and read.
Some odds and ends here:
Someone has already e-mailed me asking if I have a copy of Cyborg 2087. I do not but a friend of mine can get a copy from his supplier for $14. (I might just go in for half.)
I hope to be able to blog about that 1978 Ronnie Howard classic tv movie, Cotton Candy, starring his bro Clint, in the next few weeks or months. As soon as I see it again I will comment.
And Ashley, I am still waiting to see your writings.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
How come they made such cool movie posters back then? Now distributors just take a photo from the production and wrap it with effects and type. There is nothing wrong with that, but if I were a 10 year old kid, I would probably gravitate to the movie theatre displaying these showbills.
Pull out the popcorn and roll the movie; cue the cool music...
Friday, December 28, 2007
Cyborg is a fun picture. At least that is the way I remember feeling about her on my last viewing. Not that I have really looked around for Cyborg 2087, but I don't think I have ever seen a copy on VHS. I know I have never seen a DVD copy anywhere... even one of the 'dodgy' strain.
Make no mistake, Cyborg is what would be termed a cheapie. But I remember being caught up in the story. It was never boring and there were some freaky representations of the future.
By the way, that 'screen capture' above is from this movie. It is, of course, a painting, but I was struck at how much it looks like a depiction of the way the Toronto skyline is going. (A snapshot from the Gardiner Expressway.)
Guess how many of those structures are condos...
I was there for the original release of Star Wars, the original. To this day I think it is grand entertainment and a pretty good film. Lucas is/was a good director. (He had already proven this with American Graffiti.) His story for the first on deck was broad but also carefully and efficiently condensed in such a way as to make it palpable for the masses. And to convince the masses that it was important. Perhaps it was.
Perhaps it still is. Recent history has proven the original to be of definite quality. In case you haven't guessed what I mean by "recent history" (and I don't expect everyone to be a Kenneth Clark), this is the period of 1999 to 2005 in the Star Wars timeline; the so-called Idiotic Period.
The truth is I was never a huge Star Wars fan, I just liked it (which is enough). The dead years between the first batch -- the "good movies", minus Return of the Jedi to a degree -- and the second were not too dead for me. I didn't care if Lucas made another installment in this franchise or not. Years pass and we become interested in other things. (Time is passing even quicker, now.)
So when the first of the second batch, that being The Phantom Menace (or "Episode 1"), came along in 1999, I had no strong urge to see it. I eventually did, on tape, and realized I was smart to stay home. The contraption was every bit as bad as I heard it was. What a mess.
Attack of the Clones exploded along three years later. I had no urge to run out and see it. Same as above; but thought it even worse. Surprisingly boring even though there were an awful lot of action scenes. (Which generally means they are boring anyway... something many producers do not understand.)
What?! Revenge of the Sith was next? Really?
It wasn't as bad, but...
The year was 1983: My Star Wars fan pal, Chris, had just seen Return of the Jedi. He saw it before I did; and at the stupendous University Theatre in Toronto.
Chris, remember he is a big fan, looked me in the eye and said, "I liked it, but I don't care if George Lucas never makes another Star Wars film again".
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I quickly realized she must have killed him. After some time I learned that she pummeled him over the head with what appeared to be a giant, and heavy, figurine.
Now, my memory is pretty good in such matters. I seem to remember that a year or so ago, another young woman killed someone. Yes, she killed her father by pummelling him over the head with an adjustable spanner.
Holy smokin's. There is a lot of murders on that street! It could be renamed "Murderer's Row", I would think.
Is the murder rate really that high in merry olde England? I do hope this is just an epidemiological blip!
This was a retrospective of the show's more than 35 years on the ITV network.
I need my head examined. An Audience was self consciously bad. Talk about self indulgent wanking. The studio bleachers were full of Coronation Street actors. All I thought while watching this abomination, and this is proof that directors must be careful what closeups they cut to, is that some of the actors did not really want to be there. A couple of closeups that I saw revealed either confusion or the expression of "this is so lame".
For some reason I become morbidly fascinated after seeing a special such as the above.
... check out my next blog posting!
Monday, December 24, 2007
A friend of mine is a Joy Division fan: He was the one who told me about the 1970s British band and the new movie made about some guy who helmed it by the name of Ian Curtis. I had not heard of Joy Division but was aware of the band it morphed into... New Order.
Control is one fine film. The director, Anton Corbijn, has a sure hand and appears to understand the language of film (which is not as common as believed). As can be surmised by the above, I had no preconceptions, really, about this film and the story it was telling. I was absorbed into world of Ian Curtis and his band. Sam Riley is outstanding as Curtis; as is Samantha Morton as his suffering wife. (Morton wrote a biography on her husband -- "Touching from a Distance" -- which this film is based on. She is also one of the producers of Control.)
Often what happens with these bio-pics is that the filmmakers feel they have to document the rise of a group by indexing or charting everything from the first meeting of the future band mates, through the first gigs, the signings, the news reports, people snapping up record albums and so on, to take the audience through the story. What Control does is use a lot of shorthand to illustrate the above.
(Many films use shorthand, of course, but often use clumsy narrative instead. Clumsy in the sense of inefficiency.)
Probably due to budget as much as anything, Control's producers assume we the audience know the usual spiel regarding the band bio-pic. Sure, there is the first signing scene -- in blood, no less -- and various club appearances, but what we get more of is a sense of who Ian Curtis is and what his environment is.
We know how a band "makes it". Time to tell a story. A story about a young man who has various problems, including the medical type, but one who is expected to perform -- he is the front man for the band, and the one most want to see.
My perspective is, see this film if you like good cinema. My perspective is one of ignorance; one who barely knows one band from another, but still likes a smashing story well told.
I do like the music.
Control plays a few more times at the Bloor Cinema... http://www.bloorcinema.com/
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I want to thanks all those who have commented over the weeks and months. This makes me feel good (all over) and only encourages this pen to keep refilling.
What really made me post this entry is when I just checked and saw the responses to JOHN HARKNESS.
Just goes to show you that movie reviewing or criticism is an emotional, for lack of a better word, issue for some.
Just to set the record straight: The best mainstream American movie ever made is The Sound of Music.
(Tom Hanks may have said it best when he stated at the AFI, "Citizen Kane isn't the best movie ever made. The best movie ever made is Jason and the Argonauts".)
End of discussion.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Earlier in the year I found him. His name is Justin Lovell and he runs an outfit called Frame Discreet. He is based on Yonge Street (within a one minute walk of the 'Lawrence' TTC subway station), here in the fabulous city of Toronto. Based on the large quantity of film, Justin gave me a good price.
I won't go on too much more about his outfit... but I will say that I was very happy with the technology and the resulting picture quality. Both sharpness and colour rendering are superior. Justin also cleans all rolls before he sends them through his transfer apparatus.
Keep in mind that while a few companies out there do offer the service, and at low prices, they use a primitive system in comparison. They also do not clean the rolls beforehand -- so all the loose dirt and dust is there forever -- and often do not even watch or monitor the transfers. The end result is that you sometimes get a nice new DVD-R of your home movies with jumping splices, chattering images, and other lovely phenomena.
If you don't mind spending more money, then Frame Discreet is the way to go. And if you are a filmmaker who wants their footage to look top notch, then Frame Discreet is the way to go.
Frame Discreet's website... http://www.framediscreet.com
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The story on Harkness was just a blurb in the right hand column. I thought he would have earned a larger obit than that.
Harkness was known primarily in Toronto as the long time resident film critic for Now Magazine. My impression is that he became more opinionated as the years went on; if Now readers' letters (to the editor) are any indication. Harkness appeared to upset or set off many readers with his 'unreasonable' reviews of motion pictures. He had his opinions and that was that: They were immovable.
Some called him "The Hark Ness Monster".
Like the famous American film critic, Pauline Kael, Harkness had an opinion or attitude that did not sit well with a lot of readers. Snobbery, I think it is interpreted as being. I call it being very well informed.
While I like reading Kael -- even though I disagree with a lot of what she said, film to film -- I can't say the same of John Harkness. I detected a bit of baggage in his reviews; although, this is not an uncommon commodity in critics. Theatre critics, anyone?!
However, like him or not, Harkness didn't appear to feel obligated to tell some what he thought they wanted to hear.
Maybe, some day soon, a publisher will release a book of Harkness' reviews. A compendium of film reviews, like what had been done for Canadian film critic, Jay Scott. Now there was a superlative reviewer; and one of a rare intelligence. Even though I did disagree with an awful lot of what he had to say... film to film.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I have read four books on the man; some more reverential than others; and one written by the man himself, about himself. That one in particular is "How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime". It is an enjoyable read -- and I have done so twice -- as it covers a lot of ground. Corman talks about his relationship with American International Pictures, and its main men, James H. Nicholson and Sam Arkoff; how he started in the motion picture business; why he decided to start his own little production company and do things his way; and the changing markets over time.
"How I Made" has the feeling of being pretty honest, or at least, honest enough, considering the authorship. When I read Sam Arkoff's autobiography, "Flying Through Hollywood By the Seat of My Pants", a few months later, a lot of the same stories jibed. (Maybe they worked together to guarantee the Corman/AIP end of things work together, without contradiction.)
A few years ago, former Corman employee, Beverly Gray, penned a book titled, simply enough, "Roger Corman". In this page turner -- all books about this director are page turners -- the author sets the record straight, to a point, about her famous and infamous boss man. According to her, Corman could be very moody. He could be very generous (even while trying to save pennies on whatever current production). He could be a task master -- always testing you. He could be truly inspired. And always, almost always, a great businessman.
Perhaps Gray's book reminds you more than the others that Corman is a human being, and a flawed one at that. One who threw a marble pen holder at a glass window, shattering it to pieces, when something pissed him off.
Qualities, these are, which allowed him to produce some stunning films, by any measure.
... Like, The Intruder, Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Wild Angels (in its audaciousness), The Little Shop of Horrors (funny-stunning), and many other worthy films...
Monday, December 17, 2007
Time for certain geeks to rejoice.
It has been a long time, my friends.
Gleason revealed in the early 1980s that he had many more in storage. These were the kinescoped ones. (A kinescope is a film camera pointing and filming off of a special television monitor. While not finest of quality, this process was the only way to record anything off of a television system. Ampex introduced the first video tape recorder back in 1956 and they were snapped up in quantity.)
The Honeymooner 'kines' were not as good in technical or picture quality as the "filmed 39", but they were sorely needed to expand the show's library of episodes.
The entire Honeymooner cast -- Art Carney, Joyce Randolph, and Audrey Meadows -- was outstanding, but Gleason was the character. A blowhard, Ralph Kramden was always scheming, generally to make things better for him and his put upon wife, but usually amounting to futility at the end of the day... or episode. (Sounds like Fred Flintstone.)
As the moment I am reading "The Life and Legend of Jackie Gleason", by the late Pulitzer Prize winning author, William A. Henry III.
The book is very interesting. Big surprise.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
A friend of mine passed me a rented DVD of the 1999 feature film, Edtv, with the prompt of, "Check this out; tell me what you think, it isn't very good".
He was right.
You could see what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish but it didn't work.
Matthew McConaughey was good but his on-screen brother, played by the Cheers guy, could have been played by anyone.
The story was overly rudimentary -- don't ask Hollywood to add layers of soil to the garden -- which only circumvented any comment on the idea of a television show following someone around in their day to day business. Showing is not commenting, necessarily. There is nothing stated or implied in this one other than "see how this would fuck up your life and those of your friends and relatives!"
(Even the talented Martin Landau is given a role more properly associated with a Farrelly brothers film.)
I was about twenty minutes into the film where I asked myself who directed Edtv. Oh, Ron Howard.
For someone who does have attributes like building a roster of some popular films, at the end of the day, Ron Howard is a very pedestrian director. I don't think he can handle topics where depth and dimension must be displayed.
I was surprised at the film's simple mindedness.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Admittedly, the net allows for more garbage to pile up. There is often little provocation for passing on notes or correspondence, and I am as guilty as anyone else on this.
It is too easy to do; the need to actually structure and think about what you are committing in text is all but eschewed because of the ease and spontaneity of electronic texting.
The real problems begin when you do truly need access to the Internet and your service decides not to behave. As many tasks are now the accepted way to take care of certain business -- as in basic communication, submitting documents, and such -- this break in an essential service can be crippling. Bad timing.
Another problem is, you cannot keep up with the blogging.
... I did use my computer to bank some postings over the last few days. When I get a chance, I will put them up.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
(As per usual, I had seen bits and pieces over the years.)
This is the only Bond film which starred Australian George Lazenby as the title character. Back in high school, a Bond fan friend by the name of Lorne wanted to set the record straight by joking to me, "who is that impostor!"
Some impostor. I thoroughly enjoyed not only the film itself but George Lazenby's shot at the always coveted role of "double-o-seven". In fact, I thought he was outstanding.
The running gag, for those not in the loop, is that most Bond fans pick On Her Majesty's Secret Service as the best of the movie franchise.
I can see why.
I could also see this film being required viewing at the (filmmaking) Academy. It is a real lesson in how to stage exciting action and blend it with characterization to make a well balanced picture or example of the type.
Composer John Barry also brewed one of his finest Bond scores.
The Bloor Cinema is playing On Her Majesty's Secret Service again, tomorrow at 9 p.m.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Bloor Cinema was part of this group and it was in my neighbourhood. (I would visit, often, the other cinemas in the chain, such as The Fox Beaches, The Kingsway, and The Revue, but this particular venue was the 'corner store'.)
I was there with bells on in no time... seem to think that the first picture I saw there was Spinal Tap. The lineup went down Bloor Street and north on Albany. Got inside and, in order to get a seat, my friends and I had to sit on the balcony against the wall at almost the very back. The movie was enjoyable as was my new home.
Have been going to the Bloor Cinema on and off now for 23 years -- youch! My best year was 1993. I would leave work and take the TTC to Bathurst Station and round the corner and line up at the palace. It did not matter what was playing as I loved movies -- still do -- and this was the place to be. By my best reckoning at the end of that year, I had seen around 150 movies at "The Bloor". (Only once did I go to see a movie and, after having gotten into line, realized I had already seen it.)
The Bloor Cinema broke away from the Festival Cinemas group some years ago and went independent. The new owners have done a smash up job maintaining the tradition of Toronto's greatest movie house.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sounded, to me, like the final straw when he met up with an old buddy of his who came to the coffee table with the wrong answer -- he really liked No Country For Old Men.
My pin cushion pal admits that, perhaps, he is reacting to the fact that this movie is being hailed as great and an Oscar candidate for next year's most useless night.
On the Oscar issue, I told him, "well, there's your answer".
Time to see it for myself.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
|You won't find much video or film material shot today which is not letterboxed. It is the new aesthetic. You are not cool if you don't letterbox or widescreen your shows today; whether they be drama, educational, or public affairs, you cannot have a full frame picture ratio.|
Case in point: I sat down to watch the CBC's The Nature of Things Magazine one night last week. On it was a segment which this child of the space race would more than be interested in... the little known Soviet remote controlled moon vehicle, Lunokhod.
This story showcased the problem you have when 'old' archival footage is inter-cut with new widescreen material. The historic footage was more or less shot or composed in the full frame. And instead of the producers of Nature losing the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen, they, in all their clueless glory (and this is not endemic to just these particular producers, as the problem afflicts many other so-called 'producers') elected to keep the bars in.
We as viewers are treated to cut off heads, eyes, mouths, chins, and other non-important details of the image.
Don't ask the average television producer to understand such a basic concept.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Makes ya think. I am easily impressed by such rockin' news.
You know... you know.
... Gotta get a coffee. I need time to think about what this really means.
(I'll buy a newspaper so I can read this news in print; and read again. And sip my coffee.)
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Gary talked with aplomb, this evening, about television fare such as Stargate, The Muppet Show, Smallville, Star Trek, Deep Space Nine (I do know it is also Star Trek), and Doctor Who.
My knowledge starts and stops with the original Star Trek, and Doctor Who (as far as the mentioned titles are concerned). This memory bank listened with interest when Gary went on about various aspects of the other series.
John, the other guy, is a harder to pin down in the authority-on department. Even though I have known him for years, I would not venture a guess as to what turns his crank. He is more modest and soft spoken -- this begs the question as to what he is doing with Gary and this writer. As Gary and I discuss, John sprinkles with anecdotes and observations.
The best way to describe the difference between the three of us is that Gary and me are Don Cherry(s) while John would be Ron MacLean.
For those non-Canadian readers I apologize. Obscure references these are.
Call this my regional posting.
Had beer -- lots of -- tonight with a couple of my film/tv industry buddies. I met them both when I worked in post production (as a matter of fact, I trained one of them). Up for discussion tonight was the sorry, sorry state of the film business in Toronto. One friend recently jumped ship to join another company; he already wants to move on.
The other has the sneaking suspicion that his days are numbered at the company he works at; the post business has changed and become diversified, so there is not the money in the field there once was (too many companies can do the service that his offers).
Besides talking of getting out, possibly going back to school to get into something else, he is a little demoralized. Film and television is changing due to the technology... anyone can do almost anything post production wise, and in their basement.
Is this a good thing? Maybe not for steady employment in a company with a sign over the front door. There are more jobs in specific fields as in 'imaging'.
Another friend of mine works in television commercials and he has seen the company he works for go from something like a business with three floors of a grand old house, down to sharing space with a company doing a similar dance. (I'm not too clear on this, but I think the same guy owns both companies so he put them under one roof; or on one floor -- with the washroom in the hall near the elevator.)
We can always say, or claim, that it was fun while it lasted.
I understand there is a (medical) doctor shortage in Canada. The three of us can get together next time for beers and talk about what medical schools we are applying to, and which ones might take us.
Monday, December 3, 2007
I'm not one to load in the holiday movies this time of year.
Me?! I would never be so sentimental.
But there is a reason to watch one of the finest Christmas films of all time -- and I don't mean that certain cloying Frank Capra picture. But the 1983 insta-classic, A Christmas Story (directed by the late Bob Clark). Priceless. It gets auto-shown on television this time of year.
One film which might also be shown every year, although I haven't been monitoring such things, is the kitsch-classic, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
I had not heard of this picture until the book, "The Fifty Worst Film of All Time", came out in 1978. Joyce Davidson, of The Joyce Davidson Show, a CTV (Canadian Television) weekday afternoon program from the mid/late 'seventies, had this book's author Harry Medved on as her guest one day, and I just happened to tune in. A thoroughly entertaining and revealing installment this was.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was discussed: How legendary producer Joseph E. Levine produced it on a small budget in an aircraft hanger and that it starred a very small Pia Zadora. The name of Levine was known to many of us as his pictures by this point, mid-seventies, were of the big budget, star laden variety... like A Bridge Too Far (1977). Epic scale stuff promoted in a method to match.
So when Harry mentioned Levine's name, you got the idea.
Joseph E. Levine (the 'E' has to be in there) distributed Santa Claus Conquers the Martians through his Embassy Pictures Corporation. Even though his outfit went on to give weight to its name, at the time of Santa Claus, Embassy would have made Monogram Pictures look like Paramount Pictures.
Milton DeLugg wrote the film's equally infamous score; with its annoyingly catchy title song, "Horray for Santa Claus". ("When we hear sleigh bells ring. Our hearts go ting-a-ling.")
Admittedly, the song and the underscore fit the film: It is all one extended fever dream. As though we ate some bad Christmas Pudding. ("Hang up that mistletoe. Soon you'll hear Ho Ho Ho.")
I have this one in a Sci-Fi boxed DVD set a friend gave me a few Christmases ago. Time to crack open those uneaten Christmas cookies from two years ago and pop in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
I should invite a particular friend of mine over; he likes this sort of thing.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
... and guess what.
(I do exactly the same thing whenever SNATM plays The Dam Busters -- I think I'm at three times in the last two years now.)
I guess my only point is -- and I do get to the point sometimes, even if in an elliptical manner -- that this film demands I watch it every time it plays.
Tonight, my plan was to just watch the first five minutes (as I have a lot to do) and go back to my regularly scheduled program.
I would have been 12 or 13 years of age the first time I watched Dr. Strangelove; I knew who Stanley Kubrick was (even though I mispronounced his name Cub-rick, as in Cub Scouts) because of a little chamber picture that blew me away at the age of ten, 2001: A Space Odyssey -- and that was enough of a reason to watch.
I was absolutely lost into Strangelove on that first viewing.
Dr. Strangelove, like Kubrick's other great film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Citizen Kane, King Kong (1933), Annie Hall, Wild Rovers, and a few other examples, is almost impossible for me to turn off or away from.
As a movie fan, this is one of those facts of life. To a movie lover, the above items are what a grease-burger and fries are to someone who craves their junk food. Although, the end results, let's hope, are radically different.
I don't know why I don't own this flick on video... I have most of Kubrick's films on the shelf.
Friday, November 30, 2007
We had the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series: The drama here was too much to take for some of us hockey fans, not to mention, Canadians. It was very important that Canada win that. Nothing on a dramatic television series could match this event.
Then there was Evil Knievel, who just died today. All the memories came back to those of us who remember the drama inherent in some of his exploits. One of these was Knievel's attempt to jump over Snake River Canyon, Idaho, back in September of 1974.
I was big into auto racing back then -- watched the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. In addition, I became almost obsessed with NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) drag racing. Being a modeller at an early age, it was natural for me to build a plastic model kit of "Big Daddy" Don Garlits' dragster (it actually had rubber wheels).
... also collected dragster bubble gum cards, in 1973. Still have them somewhere.
When I first heard that Knievel would be jumping over the canyon, I naturally assumed that he would use a conventional motorcycle with little solid rocket boosters strapped to the side. (Physics was never my strong suit.)
Imagine the disappointment when the famous daredevil launched his missile only to deploy his parachute at the peak of its trajectory (or whatever part of the curve it was). I think he went down a notch in my great admiration scale.
But he was great.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Technology is wonderful. Now anybody can walk around with a video camera which captures fairly good to excellent quality images...
The proof for me, especially, was in the bit of television I have watched in the last two days.
Last night, the CBC showed an episode of The Fifth Estate which detailed the final days of Laura Gainey's life. She was the young woman (daughter of NHL great, Bob Gainey) who died when swept off the deck of the tall ship Picton Castle last December during a storm at sea. Someone on the crew documented much of the fateful voyage with his video camera.
Normally, what happens in these cases is that documentary filmmakers depict much of the actual incident through dramatic recreations; using actors, shots of existing settings, stock shots, etc. But what we now have, and we have certainly entered this new phase, is that of constant capture: Everyone it seems has a video camera, or a still camera or a cell phone which takes motion pictures.
This 'constant capture' has allowed us for the last couple of years or so to see 'you are there' moments such as people having to walk through a subway tunnel to exit a broken down train... or whatever.
It goes without saying that what I am saying is not really news; it just really hit me last night in a big way.
To add to this, I admit I watched a CBC documentary on Paris Hilton tonight where a member of the paparazzi complained that regular citizen folk are getting the priceless shots -- moments captured because they just happen to be in the right place at the right time.
As he suggested, everybody is outfitted with the right equipment.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
In addition to the comments posted to my blog, "Blade Runner, Final", I have received some in my e-mail box. In a chat with an old friend of mine (since high school) we both took our positions. We dug in, as it were -- it was fun but it demonstarted how there are two camps.
Unless I didn't make it clear, I think that Blade Runner is a better than average picture -- most movies are not very good, no matter how valiantly they try -- but not the classic that some say it is.
A few years ago I saw Elwy Yost say, on his show, Saturday Night at the Movies, and I kid you not, he said this to his guest when talking about our devisive little flick, "... one of the great movies of all time".
Hey, who am I to argue with Elwy Yost?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Fifteen years ago I, with a friend, tried to buy a couple of episodes of a late 1950s CBC drama series. The hook for us was the fact that some name Canadian actors appeared as guests. (This particular series shall remain nameless, which will be obvious in a moment.)
My partner and I travelled to the National Archives in Ottawa to view some existing kinescopes of the series. We got pretty excited when we saw that the kines were in excellent condition... not the usual smokey, beaten up kind. The existing episodes were very releasable.
I continued my research, unearthing some rare stills taken on the set during production, talking with certain actors' agents, etc. The ball was rolling.
This all came to a thundering halt when the head of the CBC's legal department told me one fateful day, "I just do not have the resources to deal with all the rights issues". I had been speaking with this person for a few weeks but we realized it was not going to happen. The final, and somewhat exasperated, comment did not surprise me. I understood.
The various agreements that were signed between the writers and performers with the CBC way back, continue to prove to be a veritable nightmare to this day.
And certain entrepreneurial folk such as yours truly get some bright idea to bless the public with some historic Canadian television.
I am making inquires again about this show again, even though the rights issues are as messy as always. (I know this to be the case after speaking with someone in the CBC's legal department, recently.)
A home video release of this mysterious show -- at least two episodes, that is -- would still be nice.
... I will continue to be stubborn. We'll see how far it gets me.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I really admire the so-called 'showmen'. However, true motion picture showmen are few and far between, certainly these days.
Irwin Allen was a big one when I was growing up; producing such television series as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (based on his very successful feature film of the same name from three years before), Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, and Land of the Giants.
They were awful programs, although not to we little ones, years ago, who were glued to the cathode ray tube. (Voyage could be good in its earliest seasons.) But nothing changes the fact that Irwin Allen sold four, hour-long dramatic series to the networks, between 1964 and 1968.
Irwin Allen finished his television fantasy series run in 1970. He quickly started developing a feature film; one to be titled The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Its great box office success led to an even more financially successful film; by the name of The Towering Inferno (1974).
Irwin Allen was given the honour of, "The Master of Disaster".
Allen was a master of building anticipation for his product, often appearing on film as his geeky self, pitching his wares to the studios, and to us.
He was a true showman -- not to forget, visionary.
I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine a few years ago regarding the moniker of 'movie showman'. We came up with some from the past: Cecil B. DeMille was an obvious pick, as was Mike Todd. "Who would you call a showman from the last decade or two?", was a question put forth by one of us after firing off the historical examples.
We could not think of one. Period. Half hearted, my friend said that director James Cameron, might, sorta, kinda be a showman.
... but, nah.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
I've checked out one of the animated episodes... it is dark as I remember it being. This version of the franchise was made immediately after the 1974 live action television series was cancelled.
Last night I watched an episode of the live action series and was surprised that it isn't as bad as I thought it would be. The two leads, Ron Harper and James Naughton are quite good; and so is Roddy McDowell, of course, and as always. The background music is outstanding; balls and all. You sure don't get that anymore. (What you do get now is Battlestar Galactica and the crappy electro-symphony special.)
Back in the fall of 1974 I was there with bells on when it premiered. While I did like it I realized even then that the series was not anything special.
Apes fever was very real back then. The feature films were still hot off the presses and the Mego toys were out. But it was obvious that unless the television series was going to push past its format of 'the astronauts always having to evade General Urko and his men', then only so many episodes could be done before it ran its course.
(A big part of the reason CBS cancelled the television series after only half a season, I understand, was due to its great cost... and was not pulling in audience numbers to justify the money being spent week to week.)
History has made its judgement and some of us look back at our childhood memories and can see why there was some excitement. What is interesting is how lame television science fiction/fantasy is today: Perhaps some twelve year old watching these series now will look back in thirty years and reminisce in a similar way.
... Beneath the Planet of the Apes was good.
Friday, November 23, 2007
If you are Canadian, or someone who was lucky enough to get exported versions of these shows, you will get a trip down memory lane with this site. I did a quick perusal and found there was nothing that appeared to be missing. Everything from The Friendly Giant, to Wayne and Shuster, to Hilarious House of Frightenstein (pictured above) are included... and a whole lot more; some of which you and I have never heard of.
The proprietors of 'tvarchive.ca' are taking submissions: If you are in possession of anything applicable, they would love and welcome you to submit. I have a few things; some rare, in fact.
Time to get busy.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
There is something called "Great Interviews":
... An interview with Woody Allen caught my eye as it is the first in the series (alphabetical). It is called "Deconstructing Woody":
... and Marshall McLuhan:
Now the above examples illustrate what the CBC excels at; always has.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
* Get rid of George Stroumboulopoulos; but keep The Hour.
* Show more archival NHL and CFL games.
* Give writer and broadcaster David Gilmour his own show; let him decide what it should be.
* Instead of designating a series as a regular series, make even more as limited runs; this way they can be work-shopped to a degree while actually producing a larger variety of series concepts; which leads to more coverage, therefor more chances of finding larger across-the-board audiences.
* They should try doing a fantasy/sci-fi show; these are cheaper to produce more than ever before -- due to the explosion in electronic visual effects technology -- and this genre is always equipped with a built in audience, increasing the chances of building and exporting a potential cult property. (There is a big joke here: Sydney Newman was a producer at the CBC back in the fifties with the drama department. He ended up in England with the BBC and more or less created Doctor Who. That hurts.)
* And last but not least, and certainly tied in with the above, the CBC must start taking more chances... think outside of the box! (Pardon that overused expression.)
The real caveat to the above is that the CBC has always been an "old boy's club". Until that changes...
These new shows are: The Border (to premiere in January), MVP [pictured above] ("the secret lives of hockey wives"... hey, will there be any good fights?), Sophie, jPod (based on a book by Douglas Coupland), and, as I like to say, so on.
To be honest, I think that the Corp is being a little too hopeful. People will just watch repeats of their crappy U.S. prime time 'hits' as opposed to moving over and trying the CBC shows. I am not suggesting that U.S. shows are all crappy; of course not. They make so many there are actually some good ones (so I've heard).
I admit I've seen some of the CBC's Intelligence series. I also admit I was very, very impressed. Have always liked Ian Tracey -- ever since I saw him in Claude Jutra's Dreamspeaker, back in 1977 on the CBC. He is a superb actor.
But it seems hardly anybody is watching.
... case closed.
The CBC's excellent website is at... http://cbc.ca/
It makes sense, eh?
Monday, November 19, 2007
I first watched Blade Runner with my dad -- he looked at me after it ended and asked what I thought. I blurted out something about it being "okay". He found it tough going. My dad was a big movie fan so he would have understood the noir element (and which is a big part of its appeal to the fans). We never talked about it a second after.
Back in 1991 I received a phone call from a filmschool chum, and he asked me if I wanted to see Blade Runner: The Director's Cut at the Uptown Theatre (here in Toronto). The problem was, he wanted to go to the screening which was to start in twenty minutes. I rushed off, watched it, and stayed lukewarm... voice over or not.
I met someone last week who was visiting from Buffalo. As part of his trip to Toronto, he wanted to swing by the Regent Theatre and catch Blade Runner: The Final Cut. There are people who will travel to watch the latest incarnation of the film.
Good for them.
As of this posting, Blade Runner: The Final Cut is still playing at the Regent Theatre...
551 Mount Pleasant Road
Toronto, ON, Canada
Sunday, November 18, 2007
So, you can imagine my surprise when I brought up the topic of the Dumont Television Network and quickly realized that he had no idea what I was talking about. (I'm nothing special; I had not heard of the 'missionary position' until a couple of nights ago.)
Truly, when someone calls Dumont "the forgotten network", they are not kidding.
Dumont was started in 1946 by Allen B. Dumont, a television receiver maker who decided he wanted to start up his own station... and more. One problem right off the top was that The Dumont Television Network never sprung from a radio network -- as ABC and CBS did -- so there was not the bonus of being able to draw extra revenue and talent from an established base.
Budgets were very low, therefor their product had a cheapness compared to the other networks. (ABC did not make an entrance to television until 1948, so Dumont actually had a bit of a head start.) Captain Video and His Video Rangers exemplified the cheapness inherent on the network; although, it was very popular... as was Cavalcade of Stars (hosted by Jackie Gleason, which morphed into The Honeymooners), and Life is Worth Living.
In 1948, the FCC froze new licences which made the expansion of stations problematic as they realized that the VHF spectrum of channels 2 to 12 was not enough to handle all the applications for startups. In order to expand effectively, Dumont had to calibrate into the UHF frequencies. Since very few people had televisions which could tune into these meant that the network went unwatched by many. (UHF-capable television sets were not not made mandatory until 1964.)
Dumont never really died but rather fizzled out; between 1955 and 1956.
Having a fourth network would not have been so objectionable, I think. ABC, CBS, and NBC just sound so political.
Having Dumont fall into the network footnote category certainly makes them more fascinating to some of us.
For an excellent site dedicated to Dumont, check out... http://members.aol.com/cingram/television/dumont.htm
The Dumont Television Network, 1946 - 1956; R.I.P.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I had a coffee with a good friend of mine, and one who does work in the biz, where the whole subject came up. He is now waiting for his next gig but hopes something will turn up in the new year. What I found interesting, and I have discussed this with him before, so I can't claim ignorance, is that he too feels the whole (Toronto film and tv) business has to explode and rebuild. Casting off and out a lot of characters in the process. He feels there are too many jokers who are in film and television who should not be. And are in for the wrong reasons. As impressing, or at least trying to, others with the fact that they work in the film and television business. Pretty impressive.
(By the way, I should add that this friend is genuinely talented and has worked full time in his discipline for over ten years now -- has never had to take an outside job. So it ain't a case of sour grapes the reason he's talking this trash talk.)
Certainly Los Angeles must have a bit of the same career mix of characters but at least they do have an industry down there.
They must be doing something right.
A bit of a non sequitur: This past Wednesday I was walking down Spadina Avenue (here in Toronto), at Bloor Street, to do some business. As I passed in front of three parked classic yellow school buses, I was all but swarmed by a bunch of very lovely, and tall, young women... I guessed they were about to board the buses. One of them, very warmly, offered, "I hope you have a wonderful day".
I stopped immediately -- no surprise, eh? -- and replied to a comment which just had to be dealt with, "thank you... where are you from?" Another answered, "we're from Cambridge (Ontario, Canada)".
I must be doing something right.
If I wasn't over twice their age I would move there immediately.
Are all Cambridge-ites so nice?
There is definitely something in the drinking water...
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Vancouver, which gets the bulk of U.S. productions, has been getting hammered. A big part of this is the WGA strike. Those U.S. shows use guild writers, and the scripts have been drying up leaving hundreds out of work as of this week. The numbers are only going to go up the longer the strike lasts.
When the strike does eventually end, and if the Canadian Loonie is still floating high, then that is the end as far as I am concerned. Come signing time... no one from the U.S. is going to sign.
The really negative side of me thinks its not all that bad a turn of events. Maybe a real film industry will form, utilizing only the strongest elements of commerce and manpower.
The so-called Toronto film and television industry is already devastated... only good will, or should, come out of this: A nice, compact, and efficient filmmaking machine which actually uses Canadian money; and not the 'handouts' variety, will leap up and begin a new era.
If something good cannot come out of this whole series of events -- meaning rebuilt and strengthened through these past experiences -- then, as Archie Bunker once said, "good ribbons!"
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The King of Kensington
Adventures in Rainbow Country
The Beachcombers (pictured on left)
The Trouble with Tracy (sticky as bubblegum under your shoe)
The Littlest Hobo (made twice but the first has the best theme)
This Hour Has Seven Days
The Starlost (CTV/NBC)
Swiss Family Robinson
Hockey Night In Canada (vies with "The Maple Leaf Forever" as Canada's other national anthem)
... I will add more as they come to me.
Someone should release a Canadian TV Tunes disc.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Here is the real hook: Mr. Arpin wrote the famous -- at least for we Ontario, Canada, viewers -- Polka Dot Door theme. (You are humming it already.)
Polka Dot Door ran from 1971 to 1993 on OECA (TVOntario).
It is a very catchy tune and became more than familiar to those of us who watched the show every morning before trotting off to school. Okay, so I was twelve years old; but I admit I needed my fix of Polkaroo and the toy box. That box seemed to have a lot in it. (If you've seen the show, you would be convinced that there was a nice stash of cannabis in the infamous box.)
Perhaps the best part of the show was the simple and gentle theme song... by Mr. John Arpin.
"The Polka Dot Door, The Polka Dot Door... " http://www.angelfire.com/tv2/tvothemesongs/Polkadotdoortheme.mp3
Monday, November 12, 2007
I never have liked fighting in what, to me, is the finest team sport you can find this side of Talos IV.
I think it is unfortunate that a game which tends to be inherently exciting has to be described as being more so when there is a scrap on the ice.
Even as a little kid -- early '70s -- I was frustrated when a fight broke out. For me, it was the equivalent of going to a commercial break. "Where is the hockey?"
I rarely watch any NHL hockey... maybe it is because of the fighting. It is possible.
Ice hockey is superb by it's very nature (the only team sport that even comes close is football/soccer). You do not need a fight to elevate the game.
Fighting in hockey is the equivalent to the Starship Enterprise coming across a bunch of 'space hippies'. (Bizarre and unnecessary.)
On a similar note: I find it amusing that the CBC feels they have to use strobe-like camera techniques, quick cutting, and rock music to help sell the viewer on the game. The tight and staccato imagery is redundant... the game is already very, very fast. I can see why the U.S. networks utilize these techniques for their coverage of NFL football because there is not quite the visual zip in the game itself. (Of course the CBC is copying the technique from the Americans as it gives it credibility.)
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Before I retire for the night I must throw something up.
My work involves video technology. I had to give my head a shake again today when I projected -- via video projector -- video test sample onto a reasonably large screen. I'm reminded how exciting a time this is for we creative visual artists. You can scoop up a broadcast quality image for a very reasonable price. Even the more basic 'digital' cameras, certainly the HD ones, give you a fairly sharp image. This technology allows some of us to look as though we know what we are doing.
Let's all have fun.
I guess the trick is to come up with a good script, still. And darn, if that ain't the hardest little thing for some filmmakers and most television producers to come up with. This is not a slight against my dear (WGA) soul brothers who are striking south of the border in the good ol' U.S. of A. right now.
Personally, I hope a lot of those so-called TV producers are suffering right now. Serves them right for having little respect for the creative soul... and then butchering scripts before they go to camera, just to impress others with their own innovatory prowess.
... They should worry about what fancy new car they can purchase at the expense of those creative weirdos.
And how 'bout that powerful Canadian dollar! Like, that's great, eh?
Monday, November 5, 2007
There is no one like him.
One thing that struck me watching Bananas again after so much time has passed since the last viewing -- the first was as a double feature with Sleeper back in 1974 -- is how nothing has really changed. Allen makes pointed remarks about U.S. foreign policy with this strip of celluloid. I could imagine that if he was able to make this film post-9/11 (and had managed to secure funding) he would be accused of being unpatriotic and anti-American.
Of course Woody Allen hates the United States of America. Didn't you know?
Proof: Woody, as Fielding Mellish, is approached by San Marcos revolutionaries to become the new El Presidente. Woody just does not feel comfortable with the position. He suggests that they give him the role of Vice President instead. "Now there's a real idiot's job!"
Bananas has a wonderful Marvin Hamlish score. It's all very hummable. I'm not a big Hamlish fan but the man can surprise me. The title song, done in a very Latin American style, compliments the marquee-like opening titles.
Before long, Allen would often depend on old jazz tunes to track the audio portion.
Another surprise for me: I had forgotten how short it is. Being consistently funny, although I admit I have seen it far too many times to laugh as loud as I was known to do, helps make Bananas fly by.
Like Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, and Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, Bananas is more a bunch of filmed gags as opposed to real cinema. That would change when he teamed up with cinematographer Gordon Willis.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
And the 'video streaming' issue has to be dealt with now and built upon as the technology and usage grow over the years to come.
Gee, how many ways can creative people be ripped off?! And frequently by inimitably non-creative types. Let me count the ways...
The picture montage I posted above speaks volumes, I think.
For a more text based angle to the argument, not to mention evidence, check out...
Friday, November 2, 2007
I have oodles of respect for these guys, and girls. They are, whether the typical producer would admit it or not, the people who conjure up those story ideas and full scripts; which a film crew later commits to camera. Unfortunately, writers for some reason are not held in high regard by some in the industry.
The WGA (Writers Guild of America) has fought long and hard for what benefits and remunerations they receive today.
This brings me to one of the big issues, if not the biggest: Writers want a percentage of monies accumulated from DVD sales... all those tv boxed sets account for a good chunk of all DVDs sold. And the writers get nothing. When you put down that $40 or $100 or whatever, almost none of those bills make it to the particular show's writing staff. ("Pennies")
You must understand that producers are often the least creative of staff -- this makes this whole issue rather surreal.
This is nothing short of criminal, in my books. It is time to nail this issue down. Personally, I don't care if the strike goes on for months and months as I do not watch the average television program on a regular basis, but this doesn't affect my opinion on the matter.
I read an interesting article in the Globe and Mail today; one titled, "Hollywood writers on the brink of strike"...
Producers say profits from DVDs largely offset the increased cost of production. They also don't want to commit themselves to higher payments for digital distribution at a time when business models are still uncertain.
Well, ya know what? That is not the writers' problem! It is called "the cost of doing business". You pay the writers and others what they are entitled to from the sales, then you calculate the numbers.
If you don't like an equitable arrangement, then get out! Close your doors!
Do something you have a real talent for...
Thursday, November 1, 2007
The second film I saw of his is a little WW2 epic short film entitled, First Op (1999). Actually, it is because of this film that I first met Dom; he dropped by a mutual friend's office to check in on some work that was being done for the production. (This was a couple of years before he got it finished.)
I was introduced to Dom with the note that he was making a film about a RCAF Lancaster bomber raid. Immediately I was impressed by someone who was making a film about a bombing operation, with its technical and production complications.
While First Op is dramatically crude its narrative idea is compelling enough: Will the crew survive? There is a lot of talking which makes it feel Hollywood; and not terribly authentic. Needless chatter was verboten.
Dom executed all of the visual effects. He went back to school and completed a course on Digital Imaging. While there is that video game look, circa 1999, generating these shots on computer allowed such imaginings on a tiny budget. Just a few (few) years earlier and it would have been a no go.
Dom got the film done. And that counts for a lot. He also achieved this feat without any government funding. Kudos!
Tonight, I rewatched First Op for the first time in a while. My respect is maintained.
In the summer of 1999, the CBC played First Op on their Canadian Reflections series. Previously, I had tried to pawn off my own production and the Reflections producer turned me down; so the fact that Dom sold his short to the screening series impressed me even more.
You should check these two films out if you care, like I do, about independent filmmakers who get their projects done.
I eagerly await Dominic Menegon's next endeavours...
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Of course, I am joking. I would not want these two Halloween characters standing, however static, at my entrance. I don't need the neighbours to think...
As far as movies go, my favourites under the Halloween banner would be Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972), and Night of the Living Dead (1968). And most awesome is White Zombie (1932).
Only Night is on my video shelf, but this will go into my player this evening.
Having a corpse on either side of me as I sit on the couch munching my popcorn will make this a Halloween to remember. Now that they are both comfortable...
The doorbell is ringing...
What do Lohan and Hilton want now?
My three movie choices should have given me fair warning.