Friday, September 28, 2007

Paintball, Diary Of The Dead and MySpace

This weekend a friend of mine along with our sons went paintballing. Ever been paintballing? It hurts, especially when you get hit in the back by your son who is on your team and is only about 10 feet away. Evidently there was a national paintball tournament going on in Kansas City last weekend (I'm going to call it NAPUKE or National Association of Paintballers Unite and Kill Everyone) so instead of paintballing outside which is where we would normally do it, we were forced to play inside. And by inside, I mean limestone caves. In the movie Deep Impact, Morgan Freeman talks of retreating to the limestone caves in Missouri to take shelter when the meteor hits. While a giant meteor hitting the world might be the stuff of fiction, the limestone caves of Missouri are not. Lots and lots of stuff is stored in these caves. And did I mention the caves are smelly? So anyway, last weekend we attempted to play paintball in stinky limestone caves against professional paintballers half our age. Our children were terrified and I got a lot of bruises from being shot a lot. But being in those stinky caves made me think of George Romero shooting in the caves of Pittsburgh when he was making Day Of The Dead. The idea that not only could I get shot by a hard pellet of paint anywhere on my body, but might also get attacked by a flesh-eating zombie in those limestone caves kinda gave me the willies.

So here's my train of thought thus far. Paintballing in the stinky limestone caves of Kansas City makes me think of George Romero and more specifically Day Of The Dead. And that lead me to get excited about George's new film Diary Of The Dead. I was not a fan of Land Of The Dead and rolled my eyes a bit when I heard he was making yet another Dead film. But that was before I knew the premise. Going back to the beginning and having a young group of film makers document the zombies taking over is an interesting idea. So yesterday, I spent a considerable amount of time looking for the trailer to Diary Of The Dead and the only real bit I found was on the MySpace page here. And let me just say how much I dislike MySpace. It truly is a testament to the kind of lackluster technology people will settle for. I clicked on this page and immediately wanted nothing to do with it. The navigation sucks and it is not really built for promotion which is funny since its original intention was to help bands network.

So to make a long story short, other than knowing that it is released sometime in 2007, and word that I have read about it at the Toronto Film Festival, I really know nothing more about Diary Of The Dead. Is there a trailer somewhere? Does anyone know when it is officially going to be released? There is a bruised amateur paintballer that reeks of damp limestone in Kansas City that wants to know.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Monologue Mayhem

If a character is written and directed properly, there are many layers to that character. And as it relates to film making techniques, there are many ways to peel that character to reveal his/her substance. In a conversation with a friend. In a confrontation with an enemy. A reaction to a certain situation. And sometimes if the actor's really got some chops, a simple look can says volumes. And then there's the monologue. The coveted scene. A surefire way to perk the ears of peers and get the pens of critics writing sentence after sentence of praise. Of course audiences love them too. And all of this is under the assumption that the monologue is written well, directed well and performed lights out.

Below, I have assembled a selection of monologues through the years. This is not meant to be a best of list, nor even a list of my favorites. Just a sampling. And a very one-sided one at that. There seems to be a great void as it relates to female monologues. I will judge these as all monologues should be judged: The length of the monologue, the impact of the monologue as it relates to the character and the story, and the best line of the monologue.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

The Length Of The Monologue: About 1 minute and 45 seconds. Jimmy Stewart makes his point on the floors of Washington without getting too preachy. And that's really saying something. Rank 8

The Impact Of The Monologue: Up until the filibuster Jefferson Smith is seen as a sweet Boy Scout. Then the gloves come off and we discover that Jefferson Smith isn't the simpleton we thought, making him a serious contender in Washington. Rank 9

The Delivery Of The Monologue: By now Jimmy is hoarse from talking all day from the filibuster. He's a bit overly dramatic, but the sincerity and desperation come through loud and clear and you can't help but love him and his performance. Rank 8

Best Line Of The Monologue: "You fight for the lost causes harder than any others." Rank 9

Overall Rank: 8.5

The 25th Hour

The Length Of The Monologue: Slightly over 5 minutes. It seems long but Edward Norton's monologue to himself is riveting and further proves that Spike Lee is an equal opportunity filmmaker. If he hates, he hates all the sides and let's you sort it all out yourself. Rank: 8

The Impact Of The Monologue: This is where Edward Norton's character comes to the realization that he is to blame. It's not unique that a character has an epiphany like this, but still it's well done. Rank: 7

The Delivery Of The Monologue: Norton is the perfect character for this type of monologue. Angry and a bit whiny. But you have to like angry and a bit whiny. Rank: 7

Best Line Of The Monologue: Lots of good lines. Depending on your hot button, take your pick. But nothing of real note. Rank: 6

Overall Rank: 7


The Length Of The Monologue: Five minutes. I'm not going to lie, this could have used a little trimming, but are you going to tell Patton to get off the stage? Rank: 7

The Impact Of The Monologue: In those five minutes, Patton proves why he was one of the finest military leaders the United States has ever seen. Tell me you wouldn't follow that guy into battle. Rank: 8

The Delivery Of The Monologue: Stoic and mean, George C. Scott takes his time punching some lines and breezing through others. His gravely voice is perfect for this dialogue. Rank: 9

Best Line Of The Monologue: "When you put your hand into a bunch of goo, that a moment before was your best friend's face... you'll know what to do." Rank: 10

Overall Rank: 8.5

Glengarry Glen Ross

The Length Of The Monologue: Almost 7 minutes. Not short, but sweet as hell. Rank: 8

The Impact Of The Monologue: We no nothing more about Baldwin's character then from this monologue so it offers us no true insights. He may be an actual sweetheart to his wife and kids, but he's a no-nonsense ass-kicking business man here. But there's something to his ambiguity. Rank: 8

The Delivery Of The Monologue: Few can masterfully deliver Mamet's writing style and Alec Baldwin is one of those few. And few have made such an impact with so little screen time. This monologue and this performance is unforgettable. Rank: 10

Best Line Of The Monologue: "Fuck you, that's my name. You know why mister? Because you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW, that's my name." Rank: 9

Overall Rank: 8.75


The Length Of The Monologue: Three and a half minutes. Just enough time to tell a story so frightening, it sobers Hooper and Chief Brody instantly. But in looking at it again, it feels a tad on the long side. Rank: 7

The Impact Of The Monologue: In case you were wondering why Quint has such a prickly shell, this story my help explain it. It also helps explain why he might be a little obsessive when it comes to hunting down sharks. Rank: 9

The Delivery Of The Monologue: Shaw delivers this without emotion as if almost in a trance. He's just drunk enough to tell a sea story he wouldn't tell sober. Rank: 8

Best Line Of The Monologue: "So eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out and the sharks took the rest, June 29th, 1945." Rank: 10

Overall Rank: 8.5


The Length Of The Monologue: Three minutes and forty seconds. A good time for an opening monologue. I wonder what he and the producers had planned if he didn't pass out on stage? Rank: 8

The Impact Of The Monologue: These rants of Howard Beale's have made him an overnight superstar. But instead of being seen as a prophet delivering a warning, it's just viewed as a new form of entertainment. Rank: 8

The Delivery Of The Monologue: Peter Finch screams his warnings as he stomps around the stage. He is big and boisterous and his delivery fits in perfectly with what the audience wants, but it's laced with a true warning not from a mad man, but someone who is truly desperate. He knows he's seen as a freak, but he's at his end, so it doesn't matter. Rank: 9

Best Line Of The Monologue: "Television is not the truth. Television is a goddamn amusement park. Television is a circus. A carnival. A traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, side-show freaks, lion-tamers and football players." Rank: 10

Overall Rank: 8.75

Love and Death

The Length Of The Monologue: Around one minute and 20 seconds. Woody is wonderful but in small doses and one minute and 20 seconds is just about right. Rank: 8

The Impact Of The Monologue: Boris tries to summarize what he's learned and he seems at peace with his closure. As much at peace as Woody Allen can be. Rank: 7

The Delivery Of The Monologue: Nothing new here. Woody looking into the camera and stammering about the meaning of life. But this is classic Woody, at a time before he took himself too seriously. Rank: 7

Best Line Of The Monologue: "The key here is to not think of death as an end, but think of it more as a very effective way of cutting down on your expenses." Rank: 9

Overall Rank: 7.75

Blade Runner

The Length Of The Monologue: Around a minute. Short and surprisingly poignant. I am always in awe of how good Blade Runner is and how even now it elevates the Sci-Fi genre to something more. But still, it's pretty short. Rank: 7

The Impact Of The Monologue: Up until this point, Roy Batty seemed like a crazy computer hell-bent on killing everyone. The replicas wanted to prove they were like humans and nothing is more human than the mercy that Roy shows Dekard. Rank: 9

The Delivery Of The Monologue: I might argue that this is Rutger Hauer's finest minute on film. He delivers this perfectly, trying to fight back being shut down so that he can get in these last few sentences. Rank: 8

Best Line Of The Monologue: "I have seen things you people wouldn't believe." Rank: 9

Overall Rank: 8.25


The Length Of The Monologue: About 40 seconds. A man at the end of his rope needs no more time. Rank: 8

The Impact Of The Monologue: Clark is a flake and a kook, so this small monologue does not give us any more peek into his character. Rank: 5

The Delivery Of The Monologue: Chevy Chase does a good job capturing how crazy a father can get when he sets out to make sure everyone has the time of their lives. The writing does the heavy lifting and he delivers it beautifully. Rank: 9

Best Line Of The Monologue: "We're all going to have so much fucking fun, we're going to need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles." Rank: 10

Overall Rank: 8

True Romance

The Length Of The Monologue: Slightly over three minutes. A good amount of time to get in one last insult just before dying. Rank: 8

The Impact Of The Monologue: Clifford Worley seems a simple man living in a simple trailer, but this monologue suggests a more daring side. It's obvious that Clifford is going to die, but instead of going out with a whimper, he goes out blazing. Rank: 8

The Delivery Of The Monologue: Dennis Hopper is a master and it's nice to watch him deliver lines of dialogue that aren't being shouted at the top of his lungs. Despite his looming death, Hopper takes his time to get in one last dig. Rank: 8

Best Line Of The Monologue: "If that's a fact, tell me am I lying? Because you, you're part eggplant." Rank: 9

Overall Rank: 8.25

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Defining Horror For The Willie List

Ed Hardy is hosting 31 Flicks That Give You The Willies next month. He has stated some more specific rules for the list here. A couple of things of note. First, Ed has eliminated any TV from the list so that sucks because I can't include Salem's Lot which I would argue is among one of the best horror movies ever created. And then there's Trilogy Of Terror and if you don't know how I feel about that, well then you're just not paying attention. Second, I have begun to compile my own list and have discovered that coming up with 31 of the greatest horror films that I feel are truly great is hard stuff. I am having to go back and review a few movies that I have in the back of my head as being scary but want to make sure they still hold up. The upside is that it has helped me define the word horror and how it relates to certain films. On The Bleeding Tree, I commented that horror is any film that gives me the willies. Willies is a very technical term.

Anything that gives you the willies sounds simple enough, but in looking at the list it really isn't simple at all. So in an effort to make the simple much more complicated, I have tried to define what kind of films give me the willies. There are three categories. First, there are the films that are just plain scary. These are films like Halloween, The Fog and Hell Night. Nothing against these films because I love them desperately, but they are scary on a very basic level. They set a mood, create suspense and something jumps out at you. Fear is on the surface and it creates a visceral reaction.

Then there are horror films that more psychologically frightening. I put the Dead films in this category as well as most of Cronenberg's work. I don't consider Dawn Of The Dead a frightening film because I am jumping out of my seat, but because it explores the idea of the apocalypse and that one day I could wake up and all hell could break loose. The remake went for more of a visceral response by making the zombies faster and while I like the remake I think it missed the mark in that respect.

Finally, there are films that are frightening to me because of who I am. Horror, like comedy, can be very broad or it can be very specific to the person. For example, one might not describe Assault On Precinct 13 as a horror movie, but to me the idea of being trapped in a remote building surrounded by people who have no value for life is the stuff great nightmares are made of. This has to do more with how I am as a person and no this is not based on some personal experience of being trapped in a remote building when I was a kid. This is an interesting category for me because it's this category that is going to make the list more interesting. It's this category that will stray from the more traditional Psycho and The Exorcist and give us something completely different.

In telling you what I do consider horror, let me also tell you what I don't. If you don't know how I feel about Eli Roth, well then again you're not just paying attention. In looking at other lists, I stumbled upon a few movies that also don't fall into my "willie giving" category. And those are horror films that are considered cool because they update the genre in new and unique ways. Near Dark is a fantastic movie because it crosses genres and makes vampires relevant but I don't find it scary in the least. And while I am a huge Raimi fan and love all the Evil Dead films, no lump forms in my throat and not a single hair raises on my neck when I watch them. They just don't give me the willies. And as I said before, if it doesn't give me the willies, it doesn't make the list.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Most Beautiful Sport

There have been a lot of sports movies made. Some better than others. Of course the key to every sports movie is to capture the beauty of the sport in action. Some sports are harder than others. I would think that golf would be easy because golf really is about the swing and the courses yet I don't know that anyone has captured that just yet. The beauty of baseball can be about a lot of things. It can be the home run, an old stadium, or the final play at the plate. Football is along the same lines. A beautiful shot in football could be a big hit, or a great leap to catch a touchdown pass, or an unbelievable juke from a tailback. I would say the same for basketball as well. And because of this, there aren't a lot of movies that have truly captured these sports because its beauty means different things to different people.

When you look at the game of Soccer, it's really quite simple. The beauty of the sport is in how the ball moves. You can watch a soccer game for hours for the single purpose of seeing that 10 seconds of brilliant movement. Most people quickly become bored with the sport. To some it's just a ball being kicked around, but to me it's the building of the perfect play. The pass leads to the cross which then leads to the score. To me all the waiting in the world is worth that 5 or 10 seconds of perfection. And while the movie Victory may not be the best sports movie, it captured the beauty of soccer perfectly. The scene comes at the end when the Alliance is mounting an incredible comeback against Germany. Pele has come off the bench to help his team. He dribbles through the defenders, passes it off to another player who centers the ball back to Pele for him to bicycle kick the ball into the goal. What's interesting is how Huston covers the scene. At first, much like every other sports movie, we catch the action. Up close with Pele dribbling and then wider as we see the ball cross. Huston is then back in close with the bicycle kick into the goal. But then we see it again, only as if Max Von Sydow as Major Karl Von Steiner is visualizing it in almost a dreamlike state. Each shot slowed down and put beautifully to music. It is through Major Steiner's eyes that we get to truly grasp the beauty of what we are seeing. Of course as a member of the audience, we are watching Pele do what he does best, but through the eyes of Major Steiner, we are witnessing a beautiful sport in its purist form - uncorrupted by politics or an ongoing war. Major Steiner cannot help but stand and spontaneously cheer for what he has witnessed. And neither can I.

Calling All Screaming Obsessive Compulsives

Do you scare easily and like to make lists? Ed Hardy at Shoot the Projectionist is asking everyone and anyone to submit a list of the 31 Greatest Horror Films for his 31 Greatest Horror Films: Survey Announcement. To say that I'm excited about stumbling on to this would be an understatement.

Neil over at The Bleeding Tree is beginning to tackle this project and has set himself with some guidelines to help narrow his list. You can check that out here. He has some very interesting thoughts about how to define a horror movie. It's a bit too stringent for me, but I might argue that Neil's knowledge of all things horror is a bit more vast than mine, so he has to give himself these guidelines.

Anyway, look for my list here in the upcoming weeks.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Of Blog-A-Thons

I missed The William Wyler Blog-A-Thon at goatdogblog. If you did too, you can check out the posts here.

And today begins The Luis Bunuel Blog-A-Thon at Flickhead through the 30th.

Why I Hate Rain Man

This weekend, my friend Brian e-mailed me and out of the blue asked me why am I so down on the movie Rain Man. It seemed too complicated an answer to give on e-mail, so I thought I would write a post about it. Yes, it's almost 20 years old, but I think some of my concerns are still valid today and although it received numerous awards and huge fanfare from audiences and critics, I think it's a flawed film.

I saw this movie three times in the movie theaters because I truly felt there was something wrong with me for not liking this film. But this film didn't work for me on several different levels. First and foremost, I never bought into the relationship between Raymond (Hoffman) and Charlie Babbitt (Cruise). And by saying that, I mean to say that the depth of Cruise's character was never truly explored. I knew him as a whiny get rich quick salesman and nothing more. One moment Charlie is using Raymond for his own personal gain as a card counter in Vegas, then he's defending him to the Therapist played very annoyingly by Levinson as the end? Granted, we have to give up some things in order to deliver a movie that isn't six hours long, but I felt that leap was too big to take. And I found no entertainment in the fact that Charlie used Raymond's autism for personal gain. I don't see that as some kind of "he doesn't have a disability at all" kind of message one bit and actually find it somewhat offensive.

Second, I'm over the 'challenged person equals Oscar gold' roles. In my opinion, anyone can play someone to some extreme. We cheer for performances given by Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkey's and Leo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape because they are A-Typical roles but to me they are just window dressing in absence of a true character. No doubt what Raymond had was an extreme case of autism. If Hoffman really wanted to give an impressive performance, he should have played someone with a mild case of autism where it only displays itself in certain instances. To me, that would be a much harder role and much more deserving of the Oscar that he was given. I'll take Hoffman in Kramer Vs. Kramer any day of the week because I believe it's much harder to display true human emotion, or at least show some kind of restraint, than to hide behind the most extreme cases of a social anxiety. And while I'm on the subject, I'm also over beautiful people making themselves ugly to strike Oscar gold. That means you Charlize. It's roles like these that give us God awful movies like I Am Sam and Nell.

Rain Man felt like the Hollywood Machine at it's worst. It felt like maybe there was a good script that began about two brothers that never really connected and some Hollywood Executive came in and said, that's boring unless you make one of the brother's have some kind of terminal disease or some extreme disability. Instead, they should have just created a script that truly explored the reasons why siblings who share every waking hour when they're young can somehow become strangers over the years. To me that would have been interesting. But instead, I got a cop out. I got Rain Man.

Friday, September 21, 2007

How Freaky Is This Trailer?

Southland Tales is an apocalyptic movie directed by Richard Kelly that stars The Rock, Justin Timberlake, Sarah Michelle Gellar and John Lovitz? I'm first in line.

Thanks to Nathaniel at Film Experience for the heads up.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Satyajit Ray Memorial Anything-But-Definitive List Of Non-English Films or How I Stopped Listening And Started To Love Subtitles

A while back I was in on the ground level of Edward Copeland's Non-English Speaking Film List and then I opted out because I was not familiar enough in the foreign ways to be a good judge in this capacity. And thank God I did. Just look at this list. I have a lot of watching to do. As always, Ed adds nice commentary giving every selection its due.

Excellent job to everyone involved.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Everyone In Line Now

Sure we celebrate individuality in movies. We like the characters who zig when everyone else is zagging. We like the rebels. The ones who take the path less traveled. But there's something to be said about the conformists. Dozens of people doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. Performing selflessly as a cog in a greater machine. Here's to them.


A Few Good Men

School Daze


Remember The Titans


This Is Me Being An Idiot

This morning I had an epiphany of sorts. But it was a bad epiphany. Is there such a thing as a bad epiphany? Anyway, it occurred to me this morning that I did not give credit where it is so rightly due and that bug has crawled under my skin and won't get out. And rightly so. So now it is time to wrong the right.

I have the distinct pleasure of working with a man named Jeremy Fuksa (have fun with that last name, I do). He is a good man and one hell of a designer. And he is responsible for the Bizarro banners that I offered up to you all for the Bizarro Blog-a-Thon. He is also responsible for a great blog called The Martini Shaker which you should visit right now to help me redeem myself in his eyes.

This praise is late, but it is still due. Thank you Jeremy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sweet Sweet Noise

Damn, I can't get this song out of my head. And why should I, it's an excellent song by Leslie Feist from Toronto. Her voice is scratchy, gurgly goodness. It's the kind of voice you want talking to you every night right before you go to bed. Enjoy.

Violence And The 9 Year Old Son

Last weekend, I purchased the first season of Heroes. I thought it would be a great show for my son and I to watch in our downtime. He and I are fans of super heroes in general and I have always wanted to watch this show but never had the time. I much prefer getting the DVDs after the season and then watching all the episodes at my leisure anyways.

So we began watching the pilot episode which was never aired for some reason or another. Everything is clicking along fine until we get to the cheerleader Hayden Panettiere. She jumps off a 40 foot ledge and does a belly flop on the dirt. Her shoulder is dislocated, but not to fear because she quickly pops it back into place. Her friend is recording all this because Hayden is disturbed by what has happened to her. My son is a little wigged by this but not much. Later in the show as Hayden talks to her friend who is recording her, he points to a hole in sweater. She lifts up her sweater to reveal that she has two ribs sticking through her skin. Without hesitation, Hayden sticks the ribs back in her skin and goes about talking to her friend. My son then begins to repeat "oh no" over and over again. I'm a little surprised by his reaction, but I go on to explain to him the difference between movie violence and real violence which seems to be of no use. He doesn't describe the violence as gross or disgusting, he just describes it as scary. We continue on with the show and when we get to the scene where Hayden drops her ring in the sink while the disposal is on, I already know what's going to happen and I tell my son to cover his eyes. Even though he doesn't see the scene, he is even more disturbed and asks that we shut the show off. I do as he asks and then I have an epiphany. I ask him if he instead wants to watch 300? You don't know this about me, but I'm an awesome father and a smart one too. Of course my son agrees because there has been much talk about this movie among his friends.

So I play 300 and with the exception of the nude scenes, I let him watch the entire movie. Now allow me to back up and explain my thought process here: I would argue that the violence in 300 really isn't that extreme - at least no more extreme than any of the violence in the Lord Of The Rings films which were PG-13 and which my son has seen countless times. And while there is more blood in 300 than Lord Of The Rings, the blood is no more real than the blood that squirts out of Scratchy the cat in an episode of The Simpsons. So then I compared it to the ending of the animated Lord Of The Rings, another movie that my son has seen countless times. At the end of that, Bakshi pays homage to The Wild Bunch finale with an absolute Orc bloodbath. I thought if my son is okay with that, he should be okay with all this. And you know what, he was. He loved 300 and was not disturbed with the violence at all because it was sensationalized to the point of unbelievability.

No doubt that 300 would have a hard time playing on TBS anytime soon without heavy edits, but you can pop the TV on at any time and watch a cheerleader reinserting her ribs, or watch William Peterson investigate a gruesome crime scene on whatever version of CSI is running these days. I have often enjoyed the restraints TV has put on some directors, forcing them to keep their narration a little more grounded and the violence a bit more in check. A perfect example of this is Twin Peaks the TV Series versus Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. But I've never thought this would work the other way around.

The good news is that my 9 year old son escaped this whole occurrence unscathed. Or so I hope. He could be internalizing the violence and secretly hating me for exposing him to it at such a young age. He could right now be burying that hatred and rage deep inside him waiting for it to release in his early college years with a vengence. And if that's the case, you know the son of a bitch to blame.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mann Goes Commercial

A few months back, a co-worker told me that "I left everything on the field" during a presentation. I didn't know what that meant so he had to break it down for me. It's pretty obvious now and I can't believe I haven't heard that phrase before since I used to play football and am such a football nut now. But anyway, this spot started airing last weekend during the NFL kickoff. You can argue whether Mr. Steroid Shawn Merriman should be included in this spot, but what you can't argue is how good it is. Seamlessly put together with an ending that leaves you wanting more. As Jackson's hand breaks through the crowd to make the touchdown the screen goes to black and the phrase "Leave Nothing" comes up. Michael Mann directed the spot and as a nice little tip to himself, the music from The Last Of The Mohicans is playing underneath.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Nethers Are Confused

I think Cate Blanchett is hot and incredibly sexy.

I do not find Bob Dylan hot nor incredibly sexy.

So what kind of sexual tailspin am I going to send myself into if I go to see I'm not There, where Cate Blanchett plays Bob Dylan?