Monday, July 31, 2006

Orson Welles - Shakespeare = ?

An intriguing event at the UCLA Film and Television Archive:

Thursday August 10 2006, 7:30PM ( Buy Ticket )

This program investigates the events surrounding the collapse of Orson Welles' Hollywood directing career following the release of CITIZEN KANE in 1941. The evening will center around newly preserved footage from Welles' abandoned project IT'S ALL TRUE, as well as scenes from THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and JOURNEY INTO FEAR, Welles' two other films from the same period that were completed in ways other than he originally conceived. Author and scholar Joseph McBride will present a clip lecture focusing on this brief period at the peak of Welles' fame when anything seemed possible. Catherine Benamou of the University of Michigan will follow the clip lecture with a presentation on the preservation of IT'S ALL TRUE.
In person: Joseph McBride, Catherine Benamou
Approx. 120 min.


For those familiar with Welles' MACBETH (restored to its full 107-minute length by the Archive and shown in previous Festivals), this screening will be unique. We will present the 89-minute general-release version with the original music and sound-effects track, but without the dialogue. Except for a short introductory narration by Welles, not a single spoken word will be heard. While Shakespeare recedes, cinematic language and filmmaking technique-the actors' non-verbal performances, costumes and sets, editing, lighting and composition, and most of all, the musical score by Jacques Ibert-will come to the fore.

Sayin' This-n-That, Cuz This-n-That Was Missin'

Read the new installment of my What's Left column, covering Billy Wilder's media satire Ace in the Hole (1951), at The Fake Life. I'm going to be publishing these columns every other monday, discussing films that somehow manage to remain unavailable on DVD (which gets harder every month).

Blockbuster seems to be SERIOUSLY trying to divest itself of old DVD's. At my local branch (and, I assume, all the other branches), they have rows of DVD's going for $14.99, $12.99, $9.99, $7.99. Not only that, but it's 4 for $20 (only for the $9.99 and under titles, which is most of them excepting recent, popular stuff). My lust for cheap shit got the best of me, and I bought Our Man Flint, Snake in Monkey's Shadow (which I can't wait to watch at the next Kung Fu Night), Eastern Condors and (I can't believe this) the two-disc Freaked! I kind of wish I had gotten the other Flint movie to go with the first one instead of Eastern Condors (which I love, but I only picked it up because it was $7.99, and once I found out about the 4-for-$20 deal, the price of them all becomes equal, so...). I'm probably going to go back for In Like Flint, my shameful guilty pleasure Prey for Rock n Roll, and some other stuff (they had the film noir Criss Cross, and John Woo's A Better Tomorrow, and...God, there was something else I really wanted, what was it?). The bad part is that this cuts into my DVD budget, postponing my purchases of the Boondocks and Ultraman sets that I so badly covet. Oh, and they have what looks like hundreds of copies of The Aviator for $4.99. What the hell, it's Scorsese, it's about old Hollywood, it's the price of a rental...

Tangentially, after rewatching Our Man Flynt, I'm coming to the conclusion that there are no truly great films in that genre (the 60's James Bond spoof/ripoff). There's lots of very cool films, including the Flint films, the Matt Helm movies, Casino Royale, and Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, but none of them are really GREAT movies, like Caged Heat for Women's Prison Movies, or Coffy/Dolemite/Superfly for Blaxploitation.

They were filming a rap video on my street last week. The whole day, our little dead-end block was lined with pimped-out classic cars, lowrider bicycles, and black and latino extras, "gangsta" division. I heard the song as they were filming, and it sounded like Snoop Dogg, but I got the impression it was a latino rapper. Either the song or the group was called "Vatos."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Questionable L.A. History

A description of Central Avenue's jazz clubs, c. 1950, from James Ellroy's The Big Nowhere (please excuse the racist language):

Dusk started coming on, rain clouds eclipsing late sunshine trying to light up Negro slums: ramshackle houses encircled by chicken wire, pool halls, liquor stores and storefront churches on every street-until jazzland took over. Then loony swank amidst squalor, one long block of it.

Bido Lito's was shaped like a miniature Taj Mahal, only purple; Malloy's Nest was a bamboo hut fronted by phony Hawaiian palms strung with Christmas-tree lights. Zebra stripes comprised the paint job on Tommy Tucker's Playroom-an obvious converted warehouse with plaster saxohones, trumpets and music clefs alternating across the edge of the roof. The Zamboanga, Royal Flush and Katydid Klub were bright pink, more purple and puke green, a hangarlike building subdivided, the respective doorways outlined in neon. And Club Zombie was a Moorish mosque featuring a three-story-tall sleepwalker growing out of the facade: a gigantic darky with glowing red eyes high-stepping into the night.

I can't tell what parts of Ellroys historical fiction are researched and which are just made up. The Zamboanga was a real club, but not located near Central Avenue (it was at 3828 West Slauson Avenue, somewhere between Inglewood and Culver City). I've never heard of The Zombie Club, but man, I would love to believe that it existed and matched Ellroy's description. Incidentally, he also seems to have the musician's union local wrong: he writes of Local 3126, but the Los Angeles locals were 47 for whites, 767 for blacks (although I believe they had amalgamated 767 into 47 by the time the book takes place). At any rate, if anyone out there knows anything about this Zombie Club, please let me know.

Also, I've got a myspace page set up, feel free to befriend me or whatever they call it:

Also, a reminder that TCM is showing a marathon of rock movies tomorrow morning. Not one, but TWO movies starring Herman's Hermits! And another one with Roy Orbison as a civil war spy! And tomorrow night, a chance to catch some classic 70's flicks, including The Conversation (which I've never seen) and Nashville (which I really want to watch again after reading Pauline Kael's review of it).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Top 10 Summertime Movies

This is difficult for the same reason it's hard to list summertime albums: any good movie is a good summertime movie, right? I mean, not really, but any movie that could be called a "popcorn movie" (Aliens, Road Warrior, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Spider-Man), a "drive-in movie" (Faster Pussycat, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Caged Heat, Master of the Flying Guillotine), or a "road trip movie" (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure) is automatically eligible, and anything that takes place in a hot, sweaty place, especially if it's got sex in it (I came close to including Angel Heart). Then there's those summercamp movies like Meatballs and Friday the 13th. Jaws seems like it should be on everyone's list: it's a big, summer blockbuster, takes place on the beach over the 4th of July weekend, and it's a great film (I usually find myself watching it on AMC on the morning of the 4th), but...I dunno, consider that an honorable mention. I did pick a horror movie that takes place on the 4th. 1776 is another good 4th of July movie. Great movies to watch on 4th of July could almost be another list.

Anyway, The List:

1. Dazed and Confused
2. Star Wars
3. Do The Right Thing
4. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
5. Wet Hot American Summer
6. Y Tu Mama, Tambien
7. M. Hulot's Holiday
8. Return of the Living Dead
9. Bikini Beach
10. Night of the Iguana

I'm not going to write anything about them now. Instead, this will be my project for the rest of the summer. I'll be posting stuff on Dazed, Do the Right Thing, Y tu Mama and Hulot, and possibly getting into some of the others (probably not Star Wars or Sinbad).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Spittin' Wicked Randomness, Vol. 12

The primary purpose of this post is to move the gigantic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls images off the front page. They're starting to annoy me.

I finally got an exterminator to come out and do something about the ants that have been plaguing us for years. Paid out of my own pocket because the asshole landlord refused to pay for it. Also got someone to fix the ceiling fan.

Last Friday, I drove with Bobbie out to this winery in Temecula for a gig. People were insisting that it would take 3 hours or more, but I looked on the map and it was only 95 miles. It was going away from L.A., away from Vegas, not really even going towards San Diego. I refused to believe it would take that long to get somewhere where there was no possible reason anyone would want to go. Well...I was wrong. Also, when we got there, we parked in this dirt lot, and there were these fucking GIANT ANTS crawling around. Freaked me out. Tried some good wine, though. They had one that was a sparkling red wine. Wasn't really sparkling like champagne, but you could feel it efervesce in your mouth.

Sunday night, I went to the Egyptian for the double feature of 60's spy flicks. The first one, A Guy Could Get Killed, was a pretty fun spy comedy with James Garner mixed up in some smuggling intrigue. The second, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, a spy spoof in the same spirit of the Flint or Matt Helm movies, was a little disapointing considering some of the hype I'd read about it. It's one of those movies that has lots of cool stuff in it, but doesn't really seem well put together. Great spy gadgets, nice location shots in Rio de Janiero, nice bossa nova theme song, possibly one of the all-time greatest Evil Plots, but there were scenes that seemed to drag for no reason. Maybe this was because it was late and I was tired. Still, some great gags: Kelly, the spy, has a chauffeur played by Terry Thomas from Diabolik, who lets loose with righteous martial arts skills whenever anyone threatens to skuff the Rolls. At one point, Kelly, riding in the Rolls with a female passenger, offers her tea. Full tea service appears from the back of the seat. He suggests she add some Irish whiskey, pours some from a fountain, tastes it, and complains to the chauffeur that it's scotch, to which the chauffeur replies "I shall have a word with the mechanic, sir." That kind of stuff.

It's the 20th anniversary of Blue Velvet. L.A. Weekly has reprinted John Powers' review from 20 years ago. It's amazing to go back and here stuff like this:

Halfway through this scene, the theater door opened and a woman sped out, never to return. To my right, a famous movie director and his producer sat giggling and rapt, but one row back you could sense the fidgety silence of disapproval from two middle-aged Brits. When the final credits stopped rolling, a production executive said she’d like to see the movie again immediately, while out in the lobby, two producers began a bitter argument that would last more than two hours. One claimed he’d seen something sick and evil; the other insisted he’d witnessed a great work of art. The rest of the audience simply looked dazed, shocked — and relieved at the lunchtime normalcy of Wilshire Boulevard. As for me, I found it scary that I’d enjoyed myself so much. And now, weeks later, I feel as though I dreamt this movie rather than saw it: I can’t get it out of my head.

There's also a fascinating 20-year-old interview with David Lynch.

One thing that strikes me — and I don’t like to give my views on these subjects — but in a funny way, people are almost more uncomfortable with corny virtues than they are with the sickest violence. Do you understand what I’m talking about?

Yes, but I’d like you to elaborate.

I’m not going to elaborate, but it is strange to me.

People don’t know how to take Blue Velvet’s affirmative love theme. When Sandy tells her dream about the robins and the blinding light of love, she’s dead earnest, but at least half the viewers laugh. Do you want us to take this stuff seriously?

That’s what I’m talking about. The scene with Sandy and the robins puts people in a very uncomfortable position. I don’t know why, but Sandy’s speech is almost more uncomfortable than Frank visiting Dorothy and doing bad things to her. There your stomach gets funny and you squeeze your fingers, but when Sandy talks, you get hot and wonder if you should laugh. Because if you take this seriously, you’re admitting to something. You have to check your neighbor. Somehow you get a bit of a fever.

...(moving on to comparing Blue Velvet to Rear Window)...

But there’s some silly and contrived stuff in Rear Window too, like when “Miss Lonelyhearts” winds up with the composer, who finishes his piano piece.

You say that seems “silly.” What gets me nowadays is that in order to be cool, a whole part of real life gets lopped off just because you might make a fool of yourself. And yet there’s so much there. I think people become narrower and narrower just to play it safe. And in each decade there are things that make people uncomfortable... Now there’s a sort of safety in coldness, in keeping cool.

What made people uncomfortable when you were growing up?

In the ’50s, it was radiation.

Now it’s emotions?

Yeah, radiation has turned into emotion.

Also, a great interview with Lynch on Fresh Air from a few years back.

Finally, I don't think much of online petitions, but if you live in L.A., please sign this one to save L.A.'s taco trucks, one of the most unique and wonderful resources this city has to offer to the world. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Happy Bicentenial!

Photo taken from the car (in barely-moving traffic) on the 91 freeway, just west of the 15. Click for larger image.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Summertime, And The Livin's Easy

Apparantly a water pipe broke at my office, so I'm here with no fucking air conditioning. Insane. And yet, I love summer. Even when it's too hot and I'm bitching and irritable, I'm pretty much happy. I'd rather be too hot than too cold, at any rate (I grew up in South Florida, so I consider anything below 50 to be uninhabitable by humans, whereas it has to get up to about 95 for me to even start complaining about the heat).

So, anyway, this is a list of my top 15 Summertime Albums. Why 15? Why not?

1. The Ramones - Rocket to Russia. How could it possibly be anything else? The Ramones are the band that I most closely associate with summer (possible exception: Fishbone), and this is their best album. Not only does it contain the best mix of classic punk anthems (Cretin Hop, Teenage Lobotomy, I Don't Care, Sheena is a Punk Rocker, etc.) offset by jangly pop tunes like Ramona and Locket Love, but the combination of Beach Boys-inspired tracks like Rockaway Beach and Here Today, Gone Tomorrow* with covers of Surfin' Bird and Do You Wanna Dance? give it a great beach party feel. Although I always thought it was a shame that they'd already used California Sun on their previous album.

*actually, listening to it now, I realize that Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is more an imitation of the Phil Spector girl group sound, but I've always associated it with the Beach Boys.

2. The Go Go's - Beauty and the Beat. If I had to pick just one perfect summer song, it would be We Got the Beat. That song just sounds like a convertable full of girls on the way to the beach drinking wine coolers or Slurpees. Everything about it--the Ramones-like beat, the surf guitars, the giddy girl harmonies--screams summer. And the rest of the album is pretty great too.

3. Angry Samoans - Back From Samoa. Early 80's punk rock is the music that I most closely associate with summertime. So instead of clogging the list up with Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Redd Kross, Agent Orange, Nip Drivers, X and Minutemen albums, I'll just pick this one to be the representative.

4. Fishbone - Truth and Soul. This is a tough one, because I actually prefer their first album, and that one is also a great summer album, with it's wet ska sound that reminds me of waterslides. But this is the one that I most closely associate with summer, maybe because it contains almost every type of music I associate with summer: punk, funk, ska, reggae, classic rock. In particular, the Sly Stone-like combination of smooth harmonies and funky beats on "Ghetto Soundwave," and the 70's rock pastiche "Mighty Long Way," so accurate that you swear you grew up hearing it on the radio (I finally figured out that it sounds like the guitar riff from Steeley Dan's "Reelin' in the Years" grafted onto Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town").

5. Mungo Jerry (s/t). This is the album with "In the Summertime"--you know, "In the summertime/When the weather is high/You can stretch right up/And touch the sky..." The whole album is great, though. Reminds me of Tom and Huck playing on the banks of the Mississippi. And always takes me back to one lazy Saturday in college when me and my friend Doug were driving around in his car, smoking dope and drinking wine, listening to this album, driving down to the lake where we hit on girls that were probably too young for us to be hitting on...good times.

6. The B-52's - Cosmic Thing. The universal soundtrack to the last summer of the 80's. Hits all the moods of summer, with the catchy pop of "Roam," the odes to laziness in "Dry County" and "Dead Beat Club," the dance party hits "Love Shack," "Channel Z" and "Cosmic Thing," and the dreamy, cool-dusk-at-the-end-of-a-long-day, waiting-for-the-lightnin'-bugs-to-come-out feeling of "Topaz" and "Follow Your Bliss."

7. Hillbilly Frankenstein - Hypnotica. Another Athens band. Nothing specifically summery about this, it's just the type of old-fashioned rock-n-roll that sounds great in hot weather.

8. V/A - Dazed and Confused OST. OK, it doesn't contain the movie's opening track, Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," and it uses the radio edit of "Slowride," which cuts off the awesome jam at the end, but aside from these two complaints (easily fixed in the digital age), it would be difficult to come up with a better combination of 70's party rock tunes to crank out at your holiday BBQ or while cruising the burger joint in your camaro. Especially necessary because it has "School's Out," the essential kick-off-the-summer rock song. Although it would be nice if it had "Suffragette City." And "We're an American Band." And "Frankenstein." (The movie takes place in 1976, so that eliminates Van Halen, AC/DC and "Ballroom Blitz")

9. Jonathan Richman - Jonathan Sings. Jonathat may have written more great summer songs than any other artist. This one doesn't have "Roadrunner" or "The Beach," but it does have "That Summer Feelin'," "That Kinda Music (is the Kind I Like)," "Those Conga Drums," and "Stop This Car."

10. Bob Marley and the Wailers - Babylon by Bus. I guess this pretty much speaks for itself. This album reminds me of people dancing in front of a bonfire on the beach at night, as opposed to the Exodus album, which has a lot of the same songs, but makes me think more of a cool breeze wafting through the house on a summer morning.

11. Buena Vista Social Club (s/t). More great tropical sounds.

12. Talking Heads - Naked. Another great tropical album. I especially like "Totally Nude," a song that makes you feel the humidity, and "Mr. Jones," a great sipping-cocktails-by-the-hotel-pool song.

13. Van Halen (s/t). You gotta have one loud guitar rock album on the list, and nobody cranks it out like the brothers Van Halen. And Dave has that surfer dude persona that fits with a day at the beach. It's a tough choice, because the second album is probably beachier, and the third album is probably better, but the first album seems like the best combination.

14. People Under the Stairs - Original Sound Tracks. Since I'm living in L.A., I should have something on the list with a more urban sound, and how can I have a list of summertime albums with no hip hop? This album reminds me of the way L.A. cools down when the sun sets after a hot day. Great to chill out in the dusk between the hot day and the night of partying.

15. Beck - Guero. Another good L.A. album. "Earthquake Weather" is a great track for those days when it's just too fucking hot (like today), and you don't even want to move.

Bonus Round:
v/a - Posh Hits vol. 1
v/a - Rodney on the ROQ, vol. 2.

A couple bonus 80's punk records. These two comps on the Poshboy label have lots of fast, melodic, catchy punk tunes with a little bit of surf guitar sound to them. Posh Hits kicks off with The Circle Jerks' original recording of "Wild in the Streets," one of my favorite summer punk songs (and far superior to the version on the album of the same name), and also has Red Cross' Beach Party tribute "Annette's Got the Hits," The Simpletones' stoner anthem "I Like Drugs," and Agent Orange's killer "Everything Turns Grey." Rodney on the ROQ has Agent Orange's surf instrumental "Mr. Moto," Black Flag's "Rise Above," The Minutemen's "Search," and Geza X's "We Need More Power."

Top 10 Summertime BBQ Albums:

1. Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
2. Bo Diddley's Greatest Sides
3. Willie Nelson - Willie and Family Live
4. BB King - Live at the Regal
5. Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Buck Jump
6. Allman Bros. - Eat a Peach
7. v/a - Chess Blues Box Set (see also: Stax Story, Sun Records 50th Anniversary Collection, History of Trojan Records 1968-1971)
8. Fuck, it's too fucking hot to think...

Well, you get some idea. Once I start, it's hard to stop, because the list of music I love is only a little bigger than the list of music I love to listen to in the summer. But you get some idea of what I think is summer music (although there's more--for instance, I definitely associate Miles Davis' 70's fusion albums with warm weather, and certain songs by REM (Green Grow the Rushes, Flowers of Guatemala), Robyn Hitchcock (Acid Bird) or XTC (Summer's Cauldron/Grass) have a great summer-y sound, even though they also have many winter-y sounding songs). So what isn't great summertime music? The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Television, Pere Ubu, Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Black Sabbath, post-Barrett Pink Floyd, The Cure, The Smiths. I think Led Zeppelin take the prize for having music that sounds equally great in any weather, which may account for their popularity.

Coming up: favorite summertime movies!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Buy My Stuff! And More!

Who wants a TEAC 80-8 8-track reel-to-reel recorder? I sold this for $500 a while back, but the guy brought it back and said it was broken, so I took it to a repair shop. They fixed it up nice, rebuilt the motor, replaced all the springs and stuff, good as new. It comes with a noise-reduction unit, a test tape, and a factory calibration card. It cost me about $275 to fix, so I can't take less than $600 for it. If you're interested, contact me. So far, I'm getting no bites from Craigslist or Recycler.

My review of A Scanner Darkly is up at The Fake Life.

I guess I should say something about the death of Syd Barrett, an important figure in my life. It's a weird situation, since nobody's really heard anything from him in over 30 years. Reading the obituaries around the web, it seems that most people seem to feel his life was entirely tragic. I'm not so sure. 30 years is a long time to come to peace with something like that. Maybe he was happy just being a dreamer/hermit, living in a little house in the country, tending to his garden, writing songs nobody would hear, royalties from his one Pink Floyd album paying for his simple life, all the time with the satisfaction that he had accomplished something signifigant with Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and no longer felt any need to prove himself or pursue the spotlight. Maybe that's a naive view. But I never hoped, as apparantly many fans did, that he would someday get it together and make a big, splashy comeback. I kinda liked it just the way it was. Anyway, if you're not familiar with Syd, now's a good time to check out some of his music (and even though it's not him, The Television Personalities' "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives" is a great song).

Currently checked out from various librarys:

The Ramones - Rocket to Russia
Madvillain - Madvillainy
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Live at Woodstock
James Brown - Live at the Apollo
North Mississippi All Stars - 51 Phantom
The 101'ers - Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited
Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home
Led Zeppelin - Coda
John Coltrane - Live at the Village Vanguard Again
Rage Against the Machine (s/t)
Talib Kweli - Reflection Eternal
The Very Best of Toots and the Maytals
Lee "Scratch" Perry - The Singles Collection
v/a - Rough Guide to Dub
Duran Duran - Rio
Duran Duran - Arena
Duran Duran - Seven and the Ragged Tiger
The Cure - Standing on the Beach
v/a - The Rebirth of Cool, Vol. 4

Yes, I take full advantage of the public library system.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Another fine quiz from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Yes, I am obsessive-compulsive about this stuff.

1) Does film best tell the truth (Godard) or tell lies (De Palma) at 24 frames per second? (Thanks, Peet)

Honestly, I think both ideas are pretty silly, although the De Palma one sounds catchier (especially if you say it as "Cinema lies 24 times per second"). Equating art with lies has always struck me as a poor use of the resources of the English language. Whatever ends up on film is true--of the world created by the filmmaker(s).

2) Ideal pairing of actors/actresses to play on-screen siblings

I dunno. Maybe Stacy Keach and Tom Sizemore, just because I get them mixed up sometimes.

3) Favorite special effects moment

I was going to say the Cyclops vs. Dragon fight in 7th Voyage of Sinbad, but "moment" seems to imply something more specific, so I pick two moments from the first Evil Dead, when Ash gouges one of the demons' eyes, and when a demon jabs a pencil into Ash's ankle. Both are crude but effective--you can tell they're fake, but that doesn't stop you from cringing.

4) Matt Damon or George Clooney?

I don't really have anything against Damon--he seems like an allright guy doing good work, and he has what is probably the most interesting non-superhero franchise right now--but I can't really get excited about him. Clooney.

5) What is the movie you’ve encouraged more people to see than any other?

There's a few, but I think Dazed and Confused, back when it came out, was the one I was most evangelical about. I just felt like I needed to show everyone that movie, especially people that I knew were from that era.

6) Favorite film of 1934

I was going to pick a Betty Boop cartoon, but I didn't recognize any of the titles from that year (all my favorites seem to be from 1933). So how about Tarzan and His Mate? That's a great movie, with Jane's skinnydipping silhouette and the incredible jungle war climax with Tarzan leading an army of apes and elephants against an army of lions.

7) Your favorite movie theater*

The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood is movie heaven. For first-run movies, my favorite is The Vista in Silverlake.

8) Jean Arthur or Irene Dunne?

Honestly, I'm a little fuzzy on those pre-70's second-tier actresses.

9) Favorite film made for children

The Wizard of Oz. I can't really judge this film objectively. If I was seeing it for the first time now, I probably wouldn't be nearly as impressed by it. But it was imprinted on me at a very early age, and now it's just a part of me.

10) Favorite Martin Scorsese Movie

Afterhours. I almost feel like, as I said in the last quiz with Altman and The Player, that this one is more great for its script than for Scorsese, but I think Marty probably brings out the sense of place in the movie.

11) Favorite film about children

Back in the days when cable channels were just starting to proliferate, I saw this movie on AMC or something, a British movie about a bunch of kids who found an escaped murderer hiding in their barn, and somehow got it in their head that he was Jesus. No idea what it was called, but I liked that one.

12) Favorite film of 1954

13) Favorite screenplay written by a writer more famous for literature than screenplays

I like Ray Bradbury's adaptation of Moby Dick. Gets all the great language from the book, but condenses it into version that works as a movie (I think Peck is slightly miscast, but that doesn't effect the screenplay).

14) Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon?

Lemmon has probably done more great work, but I like Matthau's persona better.

15) Favorite character name

Chest Rockwell.

16) Favorite screenplay adapted from a work of great literature, either by the author himself or by someone else

I like Fear and Loathing for succeeding in putting the book so completely on the screen, L.A. Confidential for taking the material and extracting the vein of story to make it work on film, and Naked Lunch for taking the book as a piece of inspiration and coming up with its own story.

17) Favorite film of 1974

It's so hard to pick from any year of the 70's. I mean, look at the imdb top 100 for that year! Godfather II, Chinatown, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Texas Chainsaw Massacre...then there's Dark Star, a personal favorite of mine, and The Man With The Golden Gun, which was the first "grown up" movie I saw in the theater, and probably had a huge effect on my taste in movies. But I'll pick Caged Heat. So many of those 70's exploitation flicks, and esepcially the Women in Prison movies, promise so much more than they deliver. I mean, sure, you get the shower scenes, cat fights, and sadistic guards, but you rarely get a good movie. Caged Heat, though, is wall-to-wall entertainment from start to finish. One of the best genre films of the 70's, which is certainly saying something.

18) Joan Severance or Shannon Tweed?

Shannon Tweed, just because I know who she is.

19) jackass: the movie-- yes or no?

Yeah, I like it. I think it probably gains points by comparison to that Vin Deisel movie XXX, which feels like sort of a Hollywood attempt to try to market something towards that "xXxtreme Sports Generation!", which fails miserably. Jackass is the kind of thing that nobody of the older (my) generation could possibly have thought up.

20) Favorite John Cassavetes Movie

Honestly, never seen one (well, I saw parts of Faces on TV last night, flipping back and forth between that and Planet of the Vampires). If I had to guess, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie sounds like the one I would like.

21) First R-rated movie you ever saw

You'd think I would know this, wouldn't you?

22) Favorite X-rated film (remember that, while your answer may well be a famous or not-so-famous hard-core film, the "X" rating was once also a legitimate rating that did not necessarily connote pornography)

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, followed by Fritz the Cat.

23) Best film of 1994

I had to check the imdb for 34, 54 and 74 (although if I really thought about it, I could probably have come up with 54 on my own), but this one I know. Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures is not only my favorite movie of that year, but probably my favorite "serious drama" movie of all time. And that's a tough competition year, with Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, Drunken Master II, Fist of Legend (I think), Leon, Ed Wood, The Reflecting Skin, and I don't know what all!

24) Describe a moment in a movie that made you weep

It's not even a movie I like. AI just left me an emotional wreck. There are some emotionally brutal scenes throughout that movie, but it was the "happy" ending that really killed me. Seeing that naked wish fulfillment fantasy up there on the screen somehow just destroyed me. And it's even more embarassing to be wiping tears out of your eyes in the bathroom as you listen to everyone around you talk about how bad the movie you just saw was!

25) Ewan McGregor or Ewan Bremner?

I like them both, but I'll give it to Bremmer since he's the underdog.

26) One of your favorite line readings (not necessarily one of your favorite lines) from this or any year

Wooderson: "It'd be a lot cooler if you did." I also like how he says "You got to do what Randal "Pink" FLOYD wants t'do."

27) What, if any, element in a film, upon your hearing of its inclusion beforehand, would most likely prejudice you against seeing that film or keeping an open mind about it?

This condition was probably transmitted to me by my wife, but if it has a woman being raped and deciding she enjoys it, that's a dealbreaker. Granted, my wife has a much broader definition of what fits into this category (any time a man overpowers a woman and she succumbs, or slaps her or manhandles her before kissing her), but even in my more limited definition, it's frightening how often this trope (is that the right word?) turns up.

28) Favorite Terry Gilliam Movie

God, that's a tough one. Brazil is his masterpiece, of course, but that doesn't necessarily make it my favorite. And 12 Monkeys may be my favorite scifi film. I'd probably say Fear and Loathing, although I really have a soft spot for Munchaussen.

29) Jean Smart or Annie Potts?

I'm surprised to hear myself say that I like them both (I still think of them both primarily as castmembers of Designing Women), but I think I like Annie Potts better. She should get more work.

30) Is it possible to know with any certainty if you could like or love someone based partially on their taste in movies? If so, what film might be a potential relationship deal-breaker for you, or the one that might just seal that deal?

Yeah, I don't really subscribe to that idea. There's just more important things to take into account than taste in film (or other art).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Los Cinco Puntas - L.A.'s Greatest Taco?

Last week, I had to attend a training seminar in East L.A. Kind of a hassle, but balanced out by the opportunity to try out some of the places on my East L.A. list. I flipped through the notebook I keep with the names and addresses of places I want to try (indexed by neighborhood), and flipped to the East L.A. page. I decided Gallo's Grill would be a good place to try, but when I arrived at 4533 E Cesar Chavez, I found a boarded-up building. Apparantly, they have moved since I wrote that down. So I looked to see what else was on that street. "Los Cinco Puntas? My Spanish is a little rusty, but doesn't that mean the five ho's or something?"

Actually, it means the five points, as I figured out when I saw the corner the place is located on. It's not a restaurant, but a meat market. People were standing in line in front of butcher cases full of various meats, and I could see tortillas being made on a griddle behind them. My note, probably from a Chowhound posting, said "deli type place-get carnitas and tortillas." So I ordered two carnitas tacos with everything. I agreed to quacamole, but demured when offered some kind of pickled chile strips, and got a coke in the bottle out of the cooler.

No place to eat it there, so I went out to my car. And Jesus, was this a taco! Big, two or three times the size of a taco truck taco, probably bigger than the Taco Bell variety. The tortilla was a thick gordita type, warm and bubbly. The salsa was hot, but didn't overpower the meat. The pork was incredibly flavorful, and the guacamole smoothed out the greasy, salty pork taste nicely. I really believe this is the best taco I've had in Los Angeles (which is another way of saying the best taco I've had in my life).

Los 5 Puntas
Cesar Chavez and Lorena
East L.A.

Safari Room, Mission Hills

So a while back, we were in Mission Hills, and I noticed that sign and immediately knew that this was a place I wanted to eat. This weekend, we went there for dinner. As far as decor, it was a little disapointing. They had the right idea--the walls are decorated with a variety of Zulu spears, masks and shields, and pictures of lions and stuff--but they didn't really commit to it. Most of the decor is on these ugly-ass white cinderblock walls, so it's not really a transporting experience. And there's TV's blaring the game instead of fake jungle music in the background, which would have greatly improved the ambience.

The place seems to have a regular clientel, mostly old folks that have probably been eating and drinking there since it opened. Some of the old ladies had big, boufant hair-dos. The waitresses were old, too--maybe in competition with the girls at DuPar's for the oldest wait staff in metro Los Angeles. The waitress came by to take our drink order after we were seated. She brought our cokes, then proceeded to ignore us. I suggested that maybe she had pegged us as poor tippers. We finally got her attention and ordered a meal, and she seemed very surprised that we were ordering actual food, so I guess I was right. From that point on, service was very good.

Food was not particularly good, which didn't really surprise me. Certainly wasn't the reason I went there, but you never know when you'll be surprised in these places. I did like the stuffed potato that came with my steak--much closer to my idea of a stuffed potato than the one at Damon's in Glendale.

Oh yeah, and there's also a very cool googie bowling alley down the street on Sepulveda.

The Safari Room

15426 Devonshire in Mission Hills

Monday, July 03, 2006

What's Going On In July

DVD Releases:

Nothing really coming up tomorrow, but here's one from last week that I missed: We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, a documentary on the band with three full shows included from 80, 84 and 85!

July 11: I want to see Brick, the well-reviewed high school noir in the style of Raymond Chandler, and the Chaplin Mutual Comedies set is probably the essential archival disc of the week. Also, Afro Punk is the documentary on black punk rockers, which sounds interesting. And if you don't have HBO, you might want to check out Bill Maher: New Rules, which is the catchiest (but definitely not best) part of Bill Maher's great Real Time show.

July 18: No question, the DVD of the week is Ultraman: Season 1. But there's also The Pee Wee Herman Show, the more "adult" version of Pee Wee's Playhouse that aired many times on HBO during the 80's. I could pretty much recite this show to you right now, but I wouldn't mind having the disc. And the very, very, very well-reviewed African film Tsotsi.

July 25: Obviously, tops on my list is The Beastie Boys: Awesome! I Fuckin' Shot That! But also tempting is the Bogie/Bacall Box. The greatest screen couple of all time. I've never seen Dark Passage, and I can't remember much about To Have and Have Not, but I'll watch anything with these two in it. Howard Hawkes' The Big Sleep is considered their best, but personally, I like John Huston's Key Largo, set in my parents' current home, in an off-season hotel during a hurricane, and starring possibly the best cast of Warner Bros. contract actors ever assembled: Bogey, Bacall, Edward G. Robinson and Lionel Barrymore. I probably won't buy this, since I just picked up a used VHS of Key Largo last year, but $30 is a damn good price.

I missed the 4-hour Ultraman blowout at the Egyptian last weekend, but now the annual Mods and Rockers festival is starting! Ever heard of The Bed-Sitting Room?

THE BED SITTING ROOM, 1969, Sony Repertory, 91 min. Dir. Richard Lester. An ultra-rare lost classic, this surreal dark satire anticipated and influenced Monty Python and blended DR. STRANGELOVE-style apocalyptic barbs with Salvador Dali-meets-FELLINI’S SATYRICON visual brilliance. Lester and British comedic guru/Goon Spike Milligan (who co-authored) concoct a post-nuclear-holocaust Britain as a device to savage every last sacred cow - utilizing absurd characters drawn from a who’s who of British comedy (Milligan, fellow Goon Harry Secombe, Marty Feldman, Roy Kinnear, Arthur Lowe, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore) and leading thespians (Ralph Richardson, Rita Tushingham, Michael Hordern, Mona Washbourne). The film defies capsule descriptions but is universally hailed as the Holy Grail of black comedy by those lucky enough to have seen it. Check out the raves on IMDB. File under "un-miss-able!" NOT ON DVD!

Nice! (double featured with Bedazzled!) How about Privelege?

PRIVILEGE, 1967, Universal, 101 min. From Peter Watkins, director of THE WAR GAME and PUNISHMENT PARK, an uncannily prescient and hypnotically sinister look at the media-controlled future -- where pretty young pop-star Paul Jones (former lead singer for Manfred Mann) is manipulated by Church and State to influence his legions of adoring fans. Sixties supermodel/icon Jean Shrimpton (in her only major film role) plays Jones’ disillusioned girlfriend, who finally convinces him to rebel against the forces controlling their lives. NOT ON DVD!

And on July 16, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die! How awesome might this movie be? It depends on how much you believe Harry Knowles' hyperbole (I usually believe it, sometimes to my detriment!).


Join us in the Egyptian Courtyard for a Royal Southern Californian-style Luau between a double feature of island adventures exotic musical entertainment from King Kukelele and his Friki Tikis There will also be Tiki vendors and other special surprises in the courtyard from 1:00 PM till we shut it down.

4:00 PM - IB Technicolor print!
ENCHANTED ISLAND, 1958, Warner Brothers, 93 min. The movie poster tagline screamed: "He dared to love a cannibal princess!" Director Allen Dwan (SLIGHTLY SCARLET), no stranger to meager budgets, brought his trademark lyrical romanticism to this kitschy, bargain basement adaptation of Herman Melville’s Typee. Shot on location as well as some studio sets, this tiki-laden story of a deserting sailor (Dana Andrews) who falls in love with a native princess (Jane Powell, of all people!) gets the full Technicolor treatment. Co-starring Arthur Shields, Don Dubbins and tough guy Ted de Corsia, this was the last film RKO Pictures produced before going bankrupt. Also a pre-show selection of Tiki short films and surprise guests. Approx. 45 min. All pre-show shorts compiled by Kevin Kidney.
Join us in the Egyptian Courtyard for a Royal Southern Californian-style Luau.

7:30 PM -
BLUE HAWAII, 1961, Paramount, 101 min. Dir. Norman Taurog. Before all the formula sixties movies that turned Elvis Presley from an icon into a self-parody, came this sparkling original that subsequent filmmakers sought to use as the cookie-cutter guarantee to Presley movie success. But this was the original. Sumptuous cinematography, frothy plot, pleasing comic turns and skillful acting by co-stars Angela Lansbury and Joan Blackman, a thin, tanned and rested Elvis – and, above all, songs as enchanting as the island paradise depicted. From 'Rock-A-Hula Baby' to 'Can't Help Falling In Love' and the title song – this is classic Elvis 2.0. Post-army and pre-rhinestone. This Elvis is as luscious as the Hawaiian landscape, as lovable as a tiki god and just as skillfully shot. The movie and the soundtrack were among the most successful of his career. Remember Elvis THIS way… The Mods & Rockers Festival will present our first-ever celluloid salute to Elvis in August. This film serves as a delectable teaser... Plus a selection of "Blue Hawaii-themed" short films and special guests prior to BLUE HAWAII. Approx. 45 min. All pre-show shorts compiled by Kevin Kidney.

Meanwhile, on TCM:

Friday, July 7, 11:15pm - Seijun Suzuki's yakuza flick Tokyo Drifter!
Saturday, July 8, 5am - Kubrick's first major work, Killer's Kiss
Friday, July 14, 9pm - Hot Rods to Hell!!!
Wednesday, July 19, 9:15pm - Sam Fuller's insane melonoir, The Naked Kiss!
Wednesday, July 26, all day rock n roll movies (Hootenanny Hoot!, The Fastest Guitar Alive, Hold On!, and more)
Friday, July 28, 11pm, Spirit of the Beehive

I'm Back!

Man, I've been busy the last couple weeks. Last week is the busiest week at my job (fiscal year end), and at the same time I spent the whole week driving down to South Central after work to teach ESL. The whole week leading up to this, I was utterly freaked out. I've spent a lot of time over the last couple months observing classes, attending seminars, etc., and I knew that it was actually pretty simple, in fact much simpler than many of the things I'm asked to do at my job, but in the back of my mind, I was sure, positive, as sure as I've ever been about anything in my life, that I was going to fail.

When I called up the assistant principal the week before, she assured me that there would be a lesson plan for me when I arrived the next Monday. I got there, there was no lesson plan. So I had to stand up in front of a class of non-English speakers and basically make shit up off the top of my head for three hours. In other words, my worst fears came true. Like a damn nightmare. But on the plus side, it couldn't really get worse from there, right?

So I went home that night and came up with some lesson plans. The next day, I wasn't really scared like I had been the day before, but I was just depressed that I had to go back to that fuckin' place. But having a lesson plan--this is another "duh" thing, but man, it was so much easier. I mean, it's still hard compared to what I'm doing now. Not really hard have to be present, and that's what I'm realizing that I've been trying to avoid all these years. I've been finding jobs where I have to be less and less present. What I do now, I sit at a desk, and through the course of the day, really only have to interact with three people, just barely, and the same three people every day, you know? I can basically space out and...well, write on my blog and shit when I should be working. I don't really have to think about what I'm doing, don't have to interract with I said, I don't have to be present. And that's a pretty unhealthy way to go through life.

And you would think I would feel angry at myself, for having spent so much of my life being mentally absent, but I don't. That's just my life. Anyway, I'm very happy right now that I know that I can do it.

So I'm back. Let's boogie.