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.