Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'ma Stab George Lucas

Actually, not as bad as Revenge of the Sith.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, 1937-2008

The above album cover was hanging framed on a wall in the office. When I went into the office last evening, it had fallen off the wall and the glass frame shattered all over the place. A few hours later, I learned that Geroge Carlin had died around 6 p.m. DUDE, I'M NOT EVEN JOKING. Freaky.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Find it here.

1) Best transition from movies to TV (actor, actress, producer/director, movie/show)

Everyone who knows me knows I'm going to say Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so just to be different I'll say Eiji Tsuburaya. His rubber suits probably work better on the small screen in Ultraman than on the big screen in most Godzilla movies.

2) Living film director you most missing seeing on the cultural landscape regularly

He's made some lousy films, but I can't believe that there's no room on the cultural landscape for Ralph Bakshi today.

3) Eugene Pallette or Charles Coburn

Oh damn! I had to consult Google to put faces to those names, but they're both so great! Can't decide.

4) Fill in the blank: “I pray that no one ever turns _____________ into a movie.”

I'm OK with anything being made into a movie, provided the movie is approached as it's own thing, with the source just being an inspiration for the filmmakers' vision.

5) Jane Greer or Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake.

6) What was the last movie you saw in a theater? On DVD? And why?

Theater--Baby Mama, because Iron Man wasn't playing in Glendale (where I was doing other things Saturday), and because my wife wanted to support a comedy with two female leads, and because I generally think Tina Fey is great and 30 Rock is the best sitcom on TV right now.

DVD--Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion, as the climax of a 70's women-who-kick-ass triple feature (Switchblade Sisters and Sugar Hill started it off) for Memorial Day/My Birthday.

(Actually, since I wrote this, I've seen the amazing Blast of Silence on DVD)

7) Name an actor you think should be a star

Alexis Dennisoff. Anyone who's seen the later seasons of Angel knows that this guy could so carry an action franchise. And that his wife, Allyson Hannigan, is one rom-com role away from being a huge star. And that Joss Whedon fans who continually bring up actors from Whedon's shows when the question of actors who should be stars comes up are completely annoying.

8) Foxy Brown or Coffy

Not even a contest. I mean, Foxy Brown is a fun flick, but Coffy is just as good as it gets.

9) Favorite TV show still without its own DVD box set

Bakshi and Kricfalusi's The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse. And The Spike Jones Show. And Night Music with David Sanborne. And Cop Rock.

10) Jack Elam or Neville Brand


11) What movies would top your list of movies you need to revisit, for whatever reason?

When I loaned a DVD to my friend Sally and never got it back, I got her to give me her Magnolia DVD. It's a film that I feel I definitely owe a second viewing. But for years, it has sat on my shelf unwatched. It's just never a good time to rewatch Magnolia.

12) Zodiac or All the President’s Men

Haven't seen All the President's Men, but I'd be very surprised if it was better than Zodiac.

13) Using our best reviewer-speak, what is an “important” film comedy? And what is to you the most important film comedy of the last 35 years?

OK, an "important" comedy is one that exposes the absurdity of Man's Inhumanity To Man in a way that makes it impossible to pretend that such inhumanity doesn't exist. Let's see, the last 25 years, so that's 1983...Heathers can't really live up to the above description, because there is literally nothing that can make teenagers aware of their own inhumanity, so that's out. I dunno, the funniest comedy of the last 25 is the South Park movie, for sure.

14) Describe the ideal environment for watching a movie.

1. With a packed crowd at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.
2. My living room with a tub of ice cream.

OK, that's a lame answer. Let's see if we can do a little better. The ideal environment would be one of those Grand Old Movie Palaces, with a gigantic screen and lavish decor, but well-restored with comfortable seats, modern amenities and a state-of-the-art sound system. The audience is composed of passionate, intelligent moviegoers who are excitable enough to cheer, laugh or otherwise react when appropriate, but restrained enough not to be annoying. So far, sounds like The Egyptian, but I'd add one more thing: a full bar. And maybe a tropical/tiki theme for the decor (and matching tropical cocktails).

15) Michelle Williams or Eva Mendes

They're both OK.

16) What’s the worst movie title of all time?

Mother May I Sleep With Danger?

17) Best movie about teaching and/or learning

Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby. No, I don't know, I can't think of a very good answer. I like that scene in Kill Bill 2 where Pei Mei forces The Bride to eat rice with chopsticks after she's destroyed her hand punching the board all day, and she does it, and he gets this faint little glimmer of pride on his face. (There was a very good joke in the script that got left out, for some reason. After she finally succeeds in punching through the board from two inches away, he congratulates her and moves the board to one inch away, and says "Now do it from here." But I guess I like the way it plays out in the movie.)

18) Dracula (1931) or Horror of Dracula (1958)

You know, I never really got into the Hammer movies. They're alright, but I guess they seem like a sort of mushy middle ground between the classic Universal movies and the gory 70's. I love Peter Cushing, but never really thought Christopher Lee was that great, and I don't like the hissing. Whereas Bela Lugosi is obviously great, and then you have Dwight Frye and whoever it was playing Van Helsing, so I'll take The Browning Version.

19) Why do you blog? Or if you don’t, why do you read blogs? (Thanks, Girish)

My usual answer is just that it gives me an outlet for all the thoughts taking up space in my head. But a more honest answer would probably be that I want attention.

20) Most memorable/disturbing death scene

The murder in Heavenly Creatures really gets me, because you can see in the girls' eyes once it starts that it's much more difficult and messy to kill someone than they had imagined it.

21) Jason Robards or Robert Shaw

Robert Shaw.

22) A good candidate for Most Blasphemous Movie Ever

Goldfinger--James Bond disses The Beatles!

23) Rio Bravo or Red River

OK, here's where I'm going to get into trouble. Never seen either one (but I do have a Rio Bravo/The Searchers double feature coming up in my Netflix in a few months). Truth is (and I know nothing says "rube" like admitting to this), I don't really like Westerns. I don't dislike them--there are a lot of movies I love that happen to be westerns--but it's not a genre I've ever really cared for. Even when I was a kid. Maybe it was all those dull earthtones, everything gray and tan, or maybe it's the earnest "A Man's Gotta Do" masculinity (I have a hard time relating to authoritarian John Wayne), but I just don't care for 'em.

24) Werner Herzog is remaking Bad Lieutenant with Nicolas Cage—that’s reality. Try to outdo reality by concocting a match-up of director and title for a really strange imaginary remake.

Building on his success using "real time" techniques in United 93, Paul Greengrass will, for his next project, remake Koyaanisqatsi in real time. Be sure to get a babysitter--the film will have a run time of several months.

25) Bulle Ogier or Charlotte Rampling

This pic convinced me to pick Ogier:

26) In the Realm of the Senses— yes or no?

I dunno. Looks good to me.

27) Name a movie you think of as your own (Thanks, Jim!)

28) Winged Migration or Microcosmos

Microcosmos, but that's because I haven't seen Winged Migration.

29) Your favorite football game featured in a movie

OK, not actually a football game (and arguable the worst part of the movie), but when Flash Gordon is running around Ming's throne room with a metal egg doing football maneuvers all around the Imperial Guard, that's kinda fun.

30) Wendy Hiller or Deborah Kerr

I recognize more stuff on Deborah Kerr's filmography, so I'll pick her.

31) Dirtiest secret you have that is related to the movies

When I saw Independence Day on opening weekend with a packed house, I enjoyed it, and even convinced myself that it was a good movie.

32) Name a favorite film and describe how it is illuminated and enriched by another favorite film.

It took me years to get one of the best (and nastiest) jokes in Life of Brian--the Spartacus reference, which now seems so obvious that I don't know how I could have missed it. The chorus of crucifixion victims crying out "I'm Brian!" is a wicked inversion of the "I'm Spartacus" scene, in fact an answer to the latter, as if the Pythons were saying "that's a great story, but from everything we've experienced in human nature, and read about for 4,000 of human history, that's just not how it works."

33) It’s a Gift or Horsefeathers

The only Marx Bros. movie that's better than It's a Gift is Duck Soup.

34) Your best story about seeing a movie at a drive-in

The first movie I ever saw was Song of the South at the drive-in, complete with one of those "Ant and Aardvark" cartoons at the beginning. I've still never had a chance to see it again. Years later, I did mushrooms in the abandoned lot of the same Drive-In, underneath the dilapidated screen.

I also went to see an all-night women's prison movie marathon at the drive-in once, but it was really boring, so not a good story.

35) Victor Mature or Tyrone Power

Tyrone Power (if only for Nightmare Alley).

36) What does film criticism mean to you? Where do you think it’s headed?

I dunno...talking about films is one thing, but talking about talking about films is a bit too wanky even for me.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Friday, June 06, 2008

Spittin' Wicked Randomness, Vol. XXVI

Ian Masters has a great interview on the latest (May 25) Live from the Left Coast podcast with Christine Wicker, author of The Fall of the Evangelical Nation. Great stuff on the exaggerated numbers the religious right have used to claim more public influence than they actually have. The claim is that there are 16 million Southern Baptists, but Wicker estimates there are maybe 4 million. The National Association of Evangelicals claims 30 million members, when the reality is, at best, 7.6 million. The "religious right" claims to be 25% of the population, when it's actually more like 7%.

Check out this pdf of a profile of Psychedelicatessen (a lineup without me) from a late-80's issue of Maximum Rock n Roll. I forgot that there was a period when Bob was singing for the band (just about everyone in our peer group had the job at one poinr or another)! Here's a new interview with Bob, if you're interested.

I saw The Fiery Furnaces last Saturday, and I've been listening to them obsessively since. I have an epic post I want to write about them, but I don't really have time to write it! Stay tuned, but in the mean time, this live show is pretty awesome.

And if you're in L.A. and want to come to my punk rock party tomorrow night, drop me a line.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Blast of Silence (Allen Baron, 1961)

Because of where I first read about this movie (the RE/Search Incredibly Strange Films book), I assumed Blast of Silence would be one of those cinematic oddities produced from a mixture of vision and incompetence that gains a cult audience over time. I was intrigued to finally see it, but I wasn't expecting a full-on noir masterpiece, which is what this film is.
The key fact to be gleaned from the documentary included on the disc is that Allen Baron, the writer/director/star of the film, was formerly a comic book artist. And you can see it in every frame. The story is told through a series of storyboard shots, each inky, black and white image a piece of art. There's an incredible sequence where the hitman kills one of his contacts, shot as a sequence of fantastic images, one after another. In comic book fashion, the story is accompanied by a constant narrator, translating the protagonist's inner dialogue in the second person ("You enter New York in darkness, whatever time it is"). As a result, this film looks more like a comic book than any of the current wave of live-action comic book movies.
While we're on the subject, TCM played Sam Fuller's Underworld U.S.A., another noir that's been on my list for a long time, and that easily met my expectations. It is hard as fuckin' nails, and a film that can stand next to Fuller's Pickup On South Street and Shock Corridor. It's playing again at 3 in the morning or something on June 13. And on June 24, another Fuller rarity, The Crimson Kimono, will play as part of this month's Asian Images in Hollywood program.

Bo Diddley, 1928-2008

Bo Diddley is dead.

Bo Diddley was, in some ways, my favorite of the early rock-n-rollers (or my favorite bluesman, depending on how you classify his music. Intellectually, I think his sound, which was very modern, urban and electric for the 50's, places him solidly in the rock-n-roll category, but it feels more like music you'd listen to at a backyard BBQ, so blues. Not that these categories mean anything). I bought thehits collection Bo Diddley's Greatest Sides back in '87. I always associate it with Slim Harpo, whose Best of anthology I bought around the same time, and the hilights of both albums made up most of a 90-minute blues tape I listened to pretty constantly throughout college. When my mom died, I had to suddenly get rid of most of the half of my record collection I had stored at my parents' house, and I remember agonizing over the Bo Diddley album. I decided that I still had the tape, and I could probably find another copy of the album pretty easily. But when I started looking for it, I found lots of "best of" collections that had most of the same songs on them, but not that particular one, and I was so attached to the flow of the first three songs ("Bo Diddley," "You Pretty Thing" and "Bring it to Jerome"), I had to have that exact record. Finally found it on eBay. Gotta love the 21st century!

For more:

Locust Street
Rev. Frost
Boogie Woogie Flu
Hipster Runoff

Monday, June 02, 2008

There's An Election Tomorrow

If you live in California, please take a few minutes to go to the polls tomorrow and vote NO on prop 98. Prop 98 is represented as an attempt to stop the government from seizing private property, but is actually a much broader measure that weakens environmental and zoning laws and potentially ELIMINATES RENT CONTROL. I'm opposed to all this on principal, but also because I happen to like living in a house, as opposed to, say, a cardboard box on the sidewalk. And in the middle of a national housing crisis, it's actually quite insane.

There is an alternative measure, Prop 99. I don't really care if it passes or not, but EVERYONE NEEDS TO VOTE NO ON PROP 98.