Anorak

Film | Anorak - Part 7

Film Category

Includes cinema reviews and trailers for upcoming films. A digest of the best and worst interviews on movies and cinema.

The Greatest Voice in Hollywood, Hal Douglas, RIP

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IT doesn’t matter who you are in Hollywood, fact is, you owe something to Hal Douglas.

You may not know who Hal Douglas is. He’s not exactly a household name, and sadly Douglas has just passed away, aged 89. However, we should pay tribute to Hal because he is the most legendary voice-over artist in Hollywood.

Douglas’ distinct delivery featured in thousands of trailers.

 

 

Douglas was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010 and died with his family by his side. He took with him a remarkable, unmistakable, rich baritone which could go from epic and theatrical, to campy and over the top.

He broke from the booth to star in the trailer, with his face, in the Jerry Seinfeld film The Comedian, where he poked fun at his own work and appeared on-screen for the first time in his 40 year career.

 

 

One of Hollywood’s true, true greats has left us and, should you feel the need to pay your respects to Hal Douglas, you can do so at http://www.ilasting.com/haldouglas.php

Posted: 14th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities, Film | Comment


Their Last Known Photograph: Five Found-Footage Horror Movies That Deserve a Second Look

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THE found-footage horror film genre is one that isn’t often appreciated. The late Roger Ebert himself once wrote that movies of this type often consist of “low quality home video footage,” are “usually under-lit,” are “lacking in pacing” and seem “intentionally hard to comprehend.”

Indeed, there seems to be the pervasive misconception that a found-footage horror movie is somehow easy to shoot and produce. You don’t need a star, for example, or much of a budget either, to make such a film. You don’t even need expensive equipment.

All an intrepid film crew needs is a good concept, and a whole lot of shakin.’

None of this is true.

A good found-footage horror film — while cut-off in large part from the elegance, structure, and language of traditional film grammar — nonetheless has its merits.

For one thing, found-footage films ramp-up the experiential or immersing aspects of the genre. The hand-held camera-work provokes a brand of immediacy and urgency that other horror sub-genres can’t necessarily emulate.

Horror movies in general concern situations that are impossible to escape, set in isolated locations.  The found-footage genre runs with this idea, landing its stars in frightening landscapes and then charting a kind of pressure-cooker intensity as terror boils over.

For another thing, the compositions in found-footage films must appear spontaneous and on-the-fly, all while simultaneously capturing crucial action. This balancing act requires quite a bit of legerdemain.

A unique development of cinema-verite documentary techniques, the found-footage horror film thus requires patient preparation of shots, split-second timing, long takes, and a certain brand of non-theatrical or “naturalistic” performance that not every actor can easily master.

The overt critical dislike and disregard for the found-footage genre reminds me very much of the critical hand-wringing that occurred in the 1980s over the slasher movie formula, or in the mid-2000s over so-called “torture porn.”

Basically, movie critics are always finding some reason to object to horror’s latest trend, even as audiences are ahead of the curve, and excavating reasons to appreciate the new format.

In short, a good found-footage film — such as the genre’s classic, The Blair Witch Project (1999) — isn’t just a case of point-and-run film-making. In The Blair Witch, for instance, artistry can be detected in the escalation of the film’s throat-tightening terror, and there is even a clever sub-text about the camera operating as a “filter” that occludes reality.

The found-footage film genre has many undisputed highs, from [REC] (2007) to Trollhunter (2008), but the five found-footage horror films featured below have generally been dismissed by critics, even though they possess abundant virtues not necessarily associated with this derided sub-genre.

 

 

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1. Apollo 18 (2011)

You know your movie has been poorly received when it is the butt of a joke in another found-footage horror movie (Grave Encounters 2 [2012]).

But reception aside, Apollo 18 boasts a value that found-footage movies aren’t supposed to reflect: excellent production design.

The movie is actually a period piece, set in 1972, during the last days of NASA’s Apollo program.  The film concerns a failed space mission to the moon, and the discovery of terrible creatures on the lunar surface.

In this case, tremendous attention has been paid to making certain that the film’s sets and wardrobes are appropriate and correct to the disco decade epoch.  The film grain is right too, and the result is that Apollo 18 looks very much like footage of a real space program venture.  The retro (low) tech wonders of the film are actually quite remarkable, from the Lunar Lander interior and astronaut spacesuits to the Rover mock-up.  There is no hint in the visuals that this is modern fakery.

Similarly, if the game of the found-footage movie is to find an inhospitable or dangerous terrain, and then chart the mental and physical disintegration of the characters’ trapped there, then Apollo 18 must represent an apotheosis of sorts.  The whole movie is set on Earth’s moon.  The vast, desolate landscape is recreated ably on a low budget, and viewers understand immediately that this is a realm of a million dangers, and virtually no sanctuary whatsoever.

With convincing mock-ups and locations, Apollo 18 asks its audience to dwell, essentially, in an extended moment of fear and isolation, with no genuine hope of escape.  One touching moment involves an astronaut — knowing he shall never see home again — playing a recording of his wife and son over and over; reaching out for something, anything human and comforting.

Again, critics want to tell you the characters in the film are indistinguishable and you never care about them.  But this scene of human longing and separation puts truth to that lie.

 

 

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2. Grave Encounters (2011)

Again, this is a found-footage movie that received largely negative reviews, but a positive audience response.  And again, it boasts an intellectual or aesthetic quality that found-footage movies supposedly don’t possess: satirical insight.

In this case, the filmmakers mercilessly and humorously roast reality-TV conventions, and especially those of the Ghost Hunter-type show variety.  In programs of this type, every little cold spot and door squeak is made into a paranormal event of historical proportions.  Accordingly, Grave Encounters involves a team of reality-star wannabes, led by Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), as these actors investigate a purportedly haunted mental institution.

In short order, the audience sees Lance pay a gardener on the sanitarium grounds twenty-dollars to claim that he’s seen ghosts.  And the group’s psychic, Houston, is worried about possibly missing an important audition.  When Houston goes “big” and suggests that there’s a demonic presence in the asylum, he asks — after the take — if was “too much.”

What Grave Encounters tells audiences is that everything you see on reality TV is phony.

Of course, horror movies must punish those who transgress, and these narcissists in Grave Encounters soon find themselves in a hospital where there is no escape. The asylum seems to rewrite reality itself, and the blasé actors – who have used real life tragedy as the source for their “drama” and stardom – are suddenly faced with a true understanding of madness.

Grave Encounters bucks all the stereotypical criticisms of the found-footage genre, and meaningfully (and scarily…) critiques an aspect of our culture: the quest for fame at all costs.

 

 

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3. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

The best of the durable Paranormal Activity films, Paranormal Activity 3 is simply a superior scare machine.

It features some of the best jump scares in the franchise, and more than that, does so by generating the rare quality of attention, or patience.  Again, critics of the found-footage format want to convince audiences that these films are slap-dash cash grabs that appeal to the lowest-common denominator.  They’re cheap and gimmicky!

If that’s the case, how does one account for a film like Paranormal Activity 3, which possesses long stretches of silence and stillness, and demands engagement on the part of the viewer? Here is a film that instead of rewarding a short attention span, rewards patience.

So much of this sequel’s running time is devoted to a camera panning back and forth in a room, or the quiet recording of apparently vacant areas of a suburban house. This technique not only generates suspense, it encourages one to look closely at absolutely everything, to make a mental snapshot in your head of what item is where, what light is turned on, and what, if anything, is moving in the frame.

In a way, this very technique mirrors how it feels to wake up, sleepily, in the middle of the night (after hearing a noise) and scanning the environs.  Paranormal Activity 3 is all about the potent idea of sleepy twilight, of being awake at 3:15 in the morning, and not quite having an accurate sense of what is going on.  The world is at slumber — or should be — but something insidious lurks just at the edges of perception.

We’ve all experienced this feeling, and can relate to the characters’ situations.

 

 

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4. V/H/S (2012)

The first found-footage anthology, this omnibus film is a social commentary on the fact that the home video revolution of the 1980s — now thirty years old — has transformed all of us into  directors, actors,  historians, journalists…even porno stars.

Imagine for a moment millions of people possessing home movie tapes, and then imagine what becomes of those tapes after three decades.

In whose hands to they end up? What purpose do they serve? What value do they possess?

V/H/S explore five unsettling genre stories vetted from a first-person perspective, and the wraparound narrative device involves a group of small-time miscreants desperately searching for one particular video tape in the house of a (presumably) dead tape collector.

Several tapes are viewed, and all are recordings of dark, sinister events.  In virtually every situation, the video camera is used to hurt someone: to trick a gullible woman into sex, to record a carefully-plotted murder, to convince a scared girlfriend  not to seek help when something strange starts happening to her, and so forth.

I once called this film “America’s Scariest Home Videos,” but it’s more than that: V/H/S is s chronicle of the weird turn that the home video revolution has taken.

Today, we have cameras on our phones and on our tablets, and we have the capacity to record our entire lives.  But what if we are recording something else too?  What if all the recording technology of the last thirty years is merely creating a tapestry of suffering and inhumanity?  What if we are simply documenting our cruelty?

Again, it’s all too easy to dismiss this film (and its good, 2013 sequel as well…) as a gore-fest, but V/H/S explores – in horrifying fashion – the nexus of modern technology and modern morality.

 

 

 

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5. The Devil’s Pass (2013)

This found-footage effort from Renny Harlin starts out as a meticulous exploration of the (still-unsolved) Dyatlov Pass Incident in Russia.  A group of hikers died under mysterious circumstances in 1959, on the so-called “Mountain of Death.”

A film that seems in danger of being a simple Blair Witch Project knock-off, however, instead showcases something else that found-footage  movies are often accused of lacking: imagination.

Before The Devil’s Pass is over, the movie has devised a (crazy…) solution to the real-life mystery, offered up a unified theory of conspiracies and the paranormal, and even had the grace and literacy to wink at Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.   The movie incorporates Indian cave drawings and the Philadelphia Experiment, and ends with an audacious final twist that will leave your jaw agape.

Sure, the actors aren’t great, and the early scenes are clunky, but The Devil’s Pass’s final act runs on pure, unadulterated, gonzo imagination. The movie goes courageously for broke, breaking out of format conventions and generating a lingering horror that lasts long beyond the end credits.

 

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Each one of the aforementioned films is worth watching, and each one puts truth to the lie that the found footage genre is running on empty.

Apollo 18 is an accomplished period piece, Grave Encounters a satire of reality TV culture and ethos, Paranormal Activity 3 a waking dream that requires active participation on the part of the audience, V/H/S a dedicated critique of  our modern technology, and The Devil’s Pass  is the most imaginative and daring horror film to come down the line in quite a while.

Posted: 14th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment (1)


Watch Staircases to Nowhere: Making Kubrick’s The Shining

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STANLEY Kubrick’s The Shining has yet to get a dread sequel. Those film executives seeking to milk the success of the hit movie can watch Staircases to Nowhere, featuring words from the film’s producer Jan Harlan,  Christiane Kubrick and Brian Cook, the First Assistant Director.

 

 

Spotter: Movies.com

Posted: 13th, March 2014 | In: Film | Comment


The Fantastic Mr Fox And Mr Wes Anderson

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THE Fantastic Mr Fox And Mr Anderson:

 

Posted: 12th, March 2014 | In: Film | Comment


Brilliant Mel Brooks Knocks Them Bandy In This 1975 Interview

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IN 1975, Mel Brooks appeared on Imperial College’s TV station Stoic to talk about his 1975 films Blazing Saddles andYoung Frankenstein. He sat opposite Mark Caldwell. He offers the insight that cowboys “do not make love to women in Westerns”:

“People say I am in questionable taste, you know what I mean? Well, I must tell you that I used the utmost discretion [and] I did not tell the whole truth about the Western, because they do not make love to women, you know that. They are very straight, very Christian and very with it, you know. They do make love to their horses. They do, they do. They don’t marry them, there is no formal ceremony, but they go off somewhere in the night with their horses.”

 

On the set of “Young Frankenstein” in Los Angeles on April 1, 1974, the teenage directors of “Life Times Nine” watched Mel Brooks shoot a scene in Dr. Frankenstein’s dungeon and Peter Boyle in green-monster makeup put a friendly strangle-hold on Marilyn Becker, 17.

On the set of “Young Frankenstein” in Los Angeles on April 1, 1974, the teenage directors of Life Times Nine” watched Mel Brooks shoot a scene in Dr. Frankenstein’s dungeon and Peter Boyle in green-monster makeup put a friendly strangle-hold on Marilyn Becker, 17.

 

Colin Grimshaw writes on this video:

You can see that I have left the original countdown clock at the front because he couldn’t resist being funny even before we had started to record.

 

Posted: 11th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities, Film, Key Posts | Comment


The Greatest Rock Biopics: From Hendrix to Guthrie

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BIOPICS are problematic at the best of times, but get it right and you can cement a person’s place in history forever. Especially tricky are rock biopics because, half the time, the person or people they celebrate, are still alive. Or at least, they were around not that long and you can remember if they were horrible or not.

However, some rock films are better than the actual careers of the artist they pay tribute to.

Have you seen The Doors film? That’s a daft romp through 60s fluff and nonsense with some hilarious mystical sequences and leather trousers. 10,000% better than actually having to sit down and listen to anything The Doors ever committed to record. We can whip the horses eyes? C’mon! You’d much rather see one of Meg Ryan’s boobs and laugh at Billy Idol in a hippie wig!

With a biopic of Jimi Hendrix due to drop any minute now, played by Andre 3000 from Outkast, it seems like a perfect time to look at some of the finer performances in the oeuvre.

 

Jimi Hendrix

Let us start with the newest and most exciting biopic in a while. ‘All is By My Side’ features Andre Benjamin as the late Hendrix. We knew he was a man who could pull off Hendrix’s wild attire, but the footage doing the rounds shows that Benjamin is more than adept at doing an impression of Jimi. Have a look.

 

 

 

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Posted: 6th, March 2014 | In: Film, Key Posts, TV & Radio | Comment


The World in My Window: A Select Filmography of the Space Shuttle

 

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ALTHOUGH Alfonso Cuaron’s blockbuster film Gravity (2013) earned a whopping seven Academy Awards last Sunday night, one crucial supporting player didn’t pick up the Honorary Oscar it so clearly deserved: NASA’s space shuttle.

For thirty-five years now, this durable “space truck” — known officially as the “Space Transportation System” — has appeared in many space movies of the contemporary or realistic variety.

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Posted: 6th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (3)


The Top 15 Scariest Dolls of Cinema and Television

THERE is just something inherently creepy about a doll coming to life. I think it falls into the same category as clowns, kids and the elderly.  Because they are supposed to be so benign or innocent, it becomes all the more warped and vulgar when they take a bloodthirsty bent.

The devil doll trope didn’t start with Chucky. In fact, you could go back centuries via fairy tales and the golem mythology. In terms of cinema, you could start with The Devil Doll (1936) or Dead of Night (1946). However, we’ll concentrate on films from the 1970s and adjacent decades.

So, here are the top demonic doll movie moments from  the 1960s through the 80s. If there’s any egregious omissions, please fill me in, and let’s make this list grow!

 

15. CHILD’S PLAY (1988)

 

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Woefully cheesy, this film just doesn’t do anything for me. However, I recognize it’s earned its place on the list of evil dolls, so here’s Chucky. Moving right along….

 

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Posted: 5th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts, TV & Radio | Comments (7)


May The Verse Be With You: ‘70s Star Wars Music

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IN 1977, the entire planet was foaming at the mouth for anything Star Wars. The frenzy continued for several years with  piles of Star Wars products flooding the stores daily.  It seemed all you needed to do was bear a passing resemblance to the film or utter the words “star” and/or “wars” and your product would sell like hotcakes.

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Posted: 3rd, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts, Music | Comments (2)


Nerdlucks Can’t Jump: Five Science Fiction Movie Basketball Shots That Saw David Beat Goliath

 

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RECENT rumours about Space Jam II (purportedly to star Le Bron James…) serve as a good reminder that the science fiction cinema and the game of basketball are inextricably linked.

Well, not really.

But sci-fi and basketball at least have something of a common history.

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Posted: 2nd, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts, Reviews | Comments (2)


1940: Hattie McDaniel’s Stirring Academy Award Winning Speech As The First Black Oscar Winner

 

ON February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Academy Award, winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for giving life to Mammy, the Gone with the Wind house servant. Fay Bainter heralded McDaniel by telling the audience that the gong “opens the doors of this room, moves back the walls, and enables us to embrace the whole of America….”

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Posted: 28th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback | Comment


Shaken Not Stirred: Five Great Character Moments in the Roger Moore James Bond Era

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I VERY happily grew up with Sir Roger Moore in the role of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, and thus maintain a deep well of affection and nostalgia for his seven films…even if some Bond fans do not

Moore’s epoch as Agent 007 isn’t usually considered the most creatively fertile time in the franchise’s history, in part because the Bond films of the day pursued “hot” movie trends instead of initiating them, as had been the case in the 1960s.

To wit, the Bond movies of the Moore era attempted to jump on the bandwagon of Blaxploitation cinema (Live and Let Die [1973]), martial arts/Kung-Fu films (The Man with the Golden Gun [1974]), and even the Star Wars craze (Moonraker [1979]).

Despite the fact that Bond films of this time period seem desperate to pinpoint some — any — pop culture relevance, the Roger Moore efforts nonetheless boast some surprising character moments that could have been ripped straight from the novels…and Fleming’s literary descriptions of the character.

For instance, at least two films of the Roger Moore era (The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only) make explicit mention of the character’s tragic history — namely his dead wife, Tracy — a background that the last Connery film, Diamonds are Forever (1971) totally ignored.

 

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Although it is undeniable that some James Bond films of the Roger Moore indeed tread heavily into unfortunate slapstick comedy (see: the pigeon doing a double-take at a gondola-turned-hovercraft in Moonraker), the actor’s finest moments in the famous role arrive not when he is called upon to play scenes broadly or cheekily, but rather when he is tasked with expressing Bond’s humanity.

Some of these “human” moments are small, even throwaway ones, but each one reminds the audience that 007 is not just a superhuman quipster in a white-dinner jacket.  He’s still a man who bleeds, sweats, and struggles.

In chronological order then, here are five character moments from the James Bond Era of Roger Moore:

 

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From The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Bond talks to agent Triple XXX (Barbara Bach) about the fact that he murdered her lover.

The Spy Who Loved Me sees British and Russian intelligence join up to solve the mystery of several missing nuclear submarines. Britain’s finest, Bond, and Russia’s – XXX — join forces, and trace the missing subs back to a man named Stromberg (Curt Jurgen).

In a scene set in Sardinia, where Stromberg is headquartered, XXX confronts Bond about the fact that he may have murdered her lover three weeks earlier, on an unconnected assignment.

Bond turns away from XXX (and the audience), before he answers her accusation.  Finally, he tells her that it’s hard to know who you kill when you’re racing on skis at 40 miles an hour…but yes, he did kill her lover.  At this point, she informs Bond that after their mission is done, she will murder him.

This scene reminds the audience both of the constant danger in Bond’s profession, and its emotional toll upon him. Moore doesn’t rush the scene, or play it lightly. Instead, he takes his time with Bond’s response, giving us time to wonder how Bond will answer.  It’s a balancing act for 007, because if he tells XXX the truth, their mission together will be imperiled.  But he also feels he owes her the truth…so he gives it to her.

Bond’s sense of duty and moral code is on display in this scene, and Moore gets that aspect of the character absolutely right.

The longer that Bond is in the business of killing people, the more bodies will pile up, and the more angry spouses or family members he will be forced to confront. From this scene, we understand very clearly how Bond’s profession separates him from other people, even from other people in the spy business.

 

 

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From Moonraker (1979): A rattled Bond — nearly pulped in a sabotage training centrifuge — pushes away Dr. Holly Goodhead (Loise Chiles) as she tries to help him.

This is an almost throwaway moment, but it occurs early in the 1979 film. Bond is visiting the complex of industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), and Drax has secretly ordered that “some harm” come to him on a tour of the facility.

Dr. Holly Goodhead – secretly a CIA agent — convinces Bond to try out a training centrifuge, but then steps away, unwittingly leaving the villainous henchman Chang (Toshira Suga) to sabotage the machinery, and nearly kill Bond.

An apologetic Goodhead returns after Bond has disabled the deadly machine, and worriedly asks 007 what happened.

Instead of answering, he staggers out of the centrifuge, pushes her aside roughly, and is clearly pissed.

He doesn’t want to talk.

He doesn’t want to relate.

He’s angry, and this moment reveals that Moore’s Bond isn’t always suave or slick, or on the make.  This is one of the few times in the Moore films that we see Bond genuinely ruffled, and knocked off-kilter.

In this moment, audiences see a hurt and angry Bond, one who momentarily rejects civility and who hasn’t yet restored his façade of charm.

It’s a telling — if brief — moment for the character. The ever-present mask of composure falls away.

 

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From Moonraker (1979): Bond saves 100,000 people from nerve gas…without quipping.

At the end of Moonraker, Bond and Goodhead board a space shuttle, Moonraker 5, and attempt to destroy three globes in Earth orbit.

If these globes re-enter the atmosphere, they’ll spew toxic nerve gas across whole continents.  Bond destroys two without breaking a sweat, but can’t draw a bead on the third and final canister.  He must switch to “manual” control to target it when things get rough.

Meanwhile, both the globe and the shuttle are making bumpy re-entry…

Now, on first blush, this moment might seem like a retread of Star Wars’ finale, with Luke Skywalker switching to manual control to lob two proton torpedoes into the Death Star vent.

But — wholly unexpectedly — this moment proves to the most suspenseful and tense of the entire film, which too often trends towards slapstick humor.

Moore has been accused of playing the 007 character “lightly,” but here he plays the character as hyper-focused and severe.  Bond often carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he has never undertaken that task as literally as he does in Moonraker (1979), with whole populations imperiled. He has one shot to save the world, so he better make the most of it…

There are no quips, no smiles, and no trademark charm.

Instead, we get an extreme close-up of a tense man in action.  Just lots of sweat and those piercing, laser-sharp blue eyes…

 

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From For Your Eyes Only (1981): James Bond kicks a car off a cliff

For Your Eyes Only is far and away Roger Moore’s best Bond film, a grounded, action-packed follow-up to the outer space extravaganza of Moonraker.  The film features many great action scenes, particularly the final mountain climbing set-piece, which endures as another masterpiece of escalating suspense.

But in terms of character moments, Moore gets a great one in this movie.

Near the end of For Your Eyes Only, he fights a merciless assassin, Locque (Michael Gothard).  Locque has been killing agents and Bond’s allies throughout the whole film, and now Bond finally has him cornered, his car perched on the edge of a rocky cliff.

In his car, Locque panics at his precarious predicament, but things get worse when Bond approaches, and tosses him a keepsake: the “Dove” pin Locque left behind at several crime scenes.

Bond returns the pin to Locque….and then kicks the fucker’s car off the cliff.

Again, there’s nothing light or jokey about this moment.  Bond is judge, jury and executioner, and he dispatches Locque with blunt, brutal finality.  There are times for compassion and times for humor…and this isn’t one of them.  Instead, Bond wordlessly metes out justice. He does so in one fluid movement.

This is the very moment, perhaps, when many Bond fans realized how ill-served Roger Moore had been by some of the Bond scripts.  He was capable of being as tough, but rarely had the opportunity to flex that muscle.  He shows here that he can capture Bond’s grace, and killer instinct…with perfect economy.

 

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From Octopussy (1983): Bond explains to Octopussy (Maud Adams) how he treated her father.

In Octopussy, Bond travels to India and meets the mysterious smuggler called Octopussy on her private island.  She asks him a question about an old case, and there’s every chance their meeting could go fatally wrong.  Specifically, Octopussy asks if Bond remembers Major Dexter Smythe.

Bond does remember.

Turns out he was a British agent turned thief who Bond was tasked with bringing into custody. But instead of merely arresting the criminal, Bond gave the man twelve hours to get his affairs in order. Rather than be publicly disgraced, the major took his own life.

Octopussy is his daughter, and she is grateful that Bond gave Smythe time to consider his fate, and avoid public disgrace for his family.

Once more, we are confronted with Bond’s code of ethics. He may be licensed to kill and serve Her Majesty’s Secret Service but he’s not a monster, and when he goes into the field, he interprets orders, rather than simply obeying them.   As I wrote above, there are times for compassion, and this story reveals such a time.

Again, Moore is particularly good in this scene because Bond is in a bind. Lie to avoid consequences? Or tell the truth and face them?

He picks the latter, and earns Octopussy’s respect  for his honesty (as well as historical behavior).   The message is that this Bond is a man of honor.

 

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These days, the Bond films are serious, emotional affairs about a wounded warrior, and that’s all to the good.  It’s easy to look back at the Bond films of the 1970s and decry them as being silly or inconsequential by comparison.

Many aspects of the films do fit that bill, but Sir Roger Moore was the 007 for my generation, and — in moments like the ones I enumerated above — I’m glad he was on the job.

Posted: 28th, February 2014 | In: Film, Key Posts | Comments (6)


Their Golden Years? Five Films About Your Greatest Heroes Growing Old

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WITH J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII in the pipeline comes the news that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher will reprise their iconic roles in the George Lucas franchise for the first time in over thirty years, since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

What impacts have time and ageing had upon courageous Empire-busting rebels Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia?

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Posted: 22nd, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (2)


Portals of Light, Portals of Dark: The Yin and Yang of Contact (1997) and Event Horizon (1997)

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EVERY now and then, Hollywood comes up with a good concept, and then competing studios rush to ruthlessly exploit it. Remember the summer of 1998, and dueling asteroid pictures Armageddon and Deep Impact?

Or 1988, the year of the “body switch” movie like Big, Vice Versa and 18 Again?

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Posted: 20th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (4)


Piña Colliding: Yes, Rupert Holmes’ 1979 Hit Can Make Every Movie Better

ESCAPE (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes is great and it should be in every movie.”

So writes Carol Hartsell and Sean Crespo in an introduction to their Tumblr Piña Colliding. For those of you not au fait with Holme’s 1979 hit, here it is.

 

 

But can the song make everything it touches better? Let’s see:

 

Pina Colada 1: The Lion King

he Hitcher

The Silence Of The Lambs

Jaws

 

 

Posted: 20th, February 2014 | In: Film, Key Posts, Music | Comment


8 Reasons Why Every Movie Needs A Theme Song

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A LOT of people make a lot of films, but sadly not all those films have kick-ass theme songs. This is a crying shame – AN ENORMOUSLY CRYING SHAME – because in an ideal world every film ever made would either begin or end (ideally both) with a song (not an instrumental, they don’t count) sharing a title with the film in question. Filmmakers, heed this advice. Why? Why, you say? Well…

 

 

– YOU MIGHT FINALLY GET THAT KUDOS YOU’VE BEEN AFTER

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Posted: 18th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts, Music | Comment


Nine Things You Didn’t Need To Know About Bill & Ted

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TODAY marks the 25th anniversary of the original release of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, inarguably the best time-travelling-slackers-in-a-phonebox movie ever. Here are nine wholly unnecessary but non-bogus knowledge-bombs:

 

A BAND ON THE SOUNDTRACK DOESN’T EXIST

 

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The song Two Heads Are Better Than One, the closing theme to B&TEE (as all the cool kids call it) is credited to a band called Power Tool. The thing is, there’s no such band. The song was performed by glam metal band Nelson, who co-wrote it with Dweezil Zappa. Nelson were in the middle of contract negotiations at the time so submitted it under a made-up name.

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Posted: 17th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback | Comment


How To Succeed With Brunettes And Blondes Prefer Gentlemen: 1967 US Navy Guides To Etiquette And Women

IN 1967, the Us Government taught the men How to Succeed with Brunettes. Produced by the US Navy, the film was aimed at the officer classes. Never agin would they fail in the brunette etiquette tests. 

The holiday camp music and voice of paternalistic authority add to the sense of watching a well-played joke wrapped about a firm moral message.

Two things: couple are all boy-girl; and the only black face in view belongs to a waiter. This was 1967. Etiquette came before institutionalised racism. But let’s not spoil things. Let’s get down to the pulling:

 

 

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Posted: 16th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback | Comment


Because They All Look The Same: London Paper Mistakes Dwight Henry For Chiwetel Ejiofor

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IN this episode of ‘They all look alike regardless of facial features, height, age, skin tones, hair voices and bodies’ the Lambeth Weekender salutes Forest Gate’s Chiwetel Ejiofor for his work on the film 12 Years A Slave.

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Posted: 13th, February 2014 | In: Celebrities, Film | Comment (1)


When You Wish Upon A Star: Exploring the Spirituality of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

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THE second-highest grossing film of 1977 (right behind George Lucas’s Star Wars) was Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of The Third Kind, a science fiction film concerning mankind’s first official contact with alien life-forms.

Close Encounter’s narrative also involves the mystery behind alien abductions and the truth regarding a government conspiracy to keep the existence of UFOs a secret.

Throughout the film Spielberg cross-cuts between two major plot-lines: a scientist’s (Francois Truffaut’s) efforts to develop a language so as to communicate with the visiting aliens, and one blue-collar worker’s (Richard Dreyfuss) personal journey to better understand their uncomfortable — but growing — presence in his daily life…and inside his very head.

Importantly, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) was described by Science Digest as a film that is “tantamount to faith.”

The same publication noted too that Close Encounters’ sense of faith, so “wondrous and thoroughly spiritual – is registered in nearly every frame, reaching a climax in its messianic ending.”(Joy Boyom, Feb 1978, p.17).

Similarly, Gregory Richards’ monograph, Science Fiction Movies (Gallery Books, 1984, p.61) contextualizes Spielberg’s disco-decade UFO epic “as more of a religious film than a science fiction one.”

 So the primary question that viewers must reckon with regarding this cult classic is: why have so many reviewers contextualized the Spielberg film as one of an overtly religious nature? Does an understanding of the religious allegory open up new avenues for understanding this work of art?

Or contrarily, does the religious explanation of Close Encounters only serve to cloud the secular, humanist message beating at the movie’s heart?

 

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Close Encounters as Religious Allegory

In part, the categorization of Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a film about spirituality and faith arises because Steven Spielberg’s movie so abundantly features what David A Cook, author of Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970 – 1979, calls “an aura of religious mystery.” (University of California Press, 2000, p.47).

Roy Neary — much like the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus according to Paul Flesher and Robert Torry in Film and Religion: An Introduction — experiences a kind of spiritual dawning or awakening.

 In particular, Neary sees a UFO and hears the call of the aliens (transmitted via a telepathically implanted, subconscious “message” or “vision.”)

At first he does not understand the alien message. What is the meaning of the strange thoughts in his head? Why does he feel compelled to undertake a pilgrimage –– a journey to a location of great importance to one’s faith — to some mountain he has witnessed seen only in his mind?

Eventually, however, Neary surrenders to the vision, to his faith. He forsakes all his worldly belongings and connections — including his family — in a devoted (and perhaps mad…) attempt to understand why he has been “chosen” to hear this call from a (literally) Higher Power.

Clearly, Neary seeks communion with the message’s sender…with a stand-in for God. His quest in Close Encounters thus reflects Scripture and Romans in particular. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Here, Neary has heard and honored that word, but it is the words of the aliens.

Neary’s hardship and trials are eventually vindicated. At last, he meets the aliens at the mountain of his vision (ironically at a place called Devil’s Tower), and then watches as a version of the second coming of Christ is re-enacted before his eyes.

According to Flesher and Torry (Abindgon Press, 2007, p.200), the returned abductees whom the aliens release from their landed mother ship symbolically represent the dead rising, or the resurrection of the dead as foretold in Scripture. And furthermore, the ascent of the alien craft to outer space with one of the faithful (Neary) ensconced aboard it similarly represents the Christian rapture, the trip to Heaven, essentially.

 

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Even the physical appearance of the aliens in Close Encounters might be readily interpreted as strongly reflecting Christian apotheosis.

In form, the extra-terrestrial bodies “have no clear blemishes or gender, suggesting that superior beings transcend the normal categories of physical existence and approach the ethereal qualities associated with spirits and angels,” notes scholar Eric Michael Mazur, (Encyclopedia of Religion and Faith (ABLC-CLIO, LLC 2011, page 388).

 

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In his final ascent to the stars, to Heaven, Roy Neary is wholly affirmed in his unyielding faith and belief in the vision he received, over his wife’s cynicism and stubborn skepticism, and over the U.S. Government’s attempt to “control” the meeting of man and alien.

In some sense, Close Encounters is all about taking a leap of faith, and that very idea finds resonance in one of Spielberg’s compositions. Confronted with the government lie about a deadly and toxic nerve gas spill in Wyoming (near Devil’s Tower), Neary chooses to “believe” his own narrative instead. He rips off his protective gas mask and breaths the purportedly contaminated air. But he is proven right…he survives, and his faith is replenished.

 

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Given the alien angels, the metaphor for the Second Coming and even this leap of faith, the overall effect, therefore, of this cinematic journey is indeed, well, rapturous.

Strangely, however, there is a dark aspect to this story of religious awakening that one must also weigh.

While it is true that Roy Neary transitions from an unhappy and spiritually bereft life to one of faith and purpose, the cost of such knowledge of God (or God surrogate, in this case) is his very family. In the act of proving his faith and his worthiness of being “born again” in the stars, Roy abandons his family on Earth. This abandonment is literal, not metaphorical.

The non-believers — including his children — get “left behind” to toil in the world without his guidance or even presence. And again, the message could be interpreted as strongly religious.

If you don’t “believe,” you don’t get saved.

Lastly, even Close Encounters’ famous tag-line “We Are Not Alone,” could be easily parsed in a religious, “God is my co-pilot” sense.

 

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Close Encounters as a Secular Film about Self-Fulfillment

An alternate reading of Close Encounters suggests this cinematic work of art from Spielberg is actually a humanist film, the secular tale of a man who chooses to no longer be enslaved to society’s destructive constructs (including government, career, and family), and to follow his own individual path instead.

The story, again, is of Neary breaking free of constraints, but the breaking free in this reading is from a society that lies, cover-ups, and demands his perpetual unhappiness for its continuance.

The fact that Spielberg plays the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” at the conclusion of Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the primary support for this reading.

One lyric in that composition suggests a direct rebuke of faith, or religious identification. When you wish upon a star it “makes no difference who you are,” the song goes. In other words, you need not be affiliated with any particular group or belief system if you hope to achieve your dreams. You need not believe in God or a higher power. Instead, if you must merely “wish” and voice your “dreams,” you will be rewarded for following the best angels of your — human — nature.

In terms of history, Close Encounters of the Third Kind followed closely on many frissons in American politics, and this context, likewise, suggests a more humanist reading.

President Richard Nixon had been toppled in the Watergate Scandal in 1974, for example. His resignation and culpability in illegal activity suggested that “faith” or “belief” in the pillar of leadership was not such a good idea.

Similarly, the Vietnam War had ended in ignominy for the U.S. in 1975. The cause that so many Americans fought for (and died for…) was lost, and this very idea seems reflected in Close Encounters’ final scene.

There, a line of carefully vetted and approved government officials (surrogates for soldiers in Vietnam?) are overlooked by the aliens in favor of the “Everyman,” Roy Neary.

By contrast to these seemingly emotionless, expressionless, thoughtless drones, he is a man who chose explicitly not to believe the fairy tales his government was peddling. He has thus established his independence and his resourcefulness outside of Earthly and national considerations.

 

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In this reading, the “leap of faith” of taking off the gas mask is actually the dawning awareness that — because of Watergate and Vietnam — the U.S. Government could no longer be trusted, or be considered an agent for honesty.

But again, in this reading of Close Encounters, one must reckon with Neary’s pure selfishness, his very questionable decision to leave his children and wife behind for his own individual “self-fulfillment.” And again, one must note that very idea of “sweet fulfillment” is explicitly voiced in the lyrics to the song “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Yet I would suggest that Neary’s act of leaving his family (and his government, and his job…) behind in 1977 would not have been looked at by many audience members as purely a bad thing.

One must recall that the 1970s was determinedly the decade of the “self,” a fact reflected in the hedonism of disco music, and the blazing ascent in popularity of the “self-help” book genre. Popular buzz-words of the day included “self-realization” and — sound familiar? — “self-fulfillment.”

Yet as the movement of “self” grew in the late 1970s, many people were concerned that the new ethos was merely one of “self-involvement. The consumption-oriented life-style of immediate gratification soon gave rise to President Carter’s notorious 1979 “Crisis of Confidence” speech, which warned against judging success on material wealth rather than intrinsic human qualities of character and morality.

Meanwhile, the nation kept building more shopping malls, and imagined worlds futuristic (Logan’s Run) and apocalyptic (Dawn of the Dead) set at these new shrines to materialism.  he 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake deals explicitly with this notion too, of the idea of people “moving in and out of relationships too fast” because they wanted to be happy and fulfilled, all the time.

But in a way, this is what Close Encounters concerns as well. Roy Neary helps himself, finally, to achieve his “dream,” even if his family can’t share in that dream. He gets what he wants — to go with the benevolent aliens to the stars — and in the late 1970s, this result is what qualified as a happy ending.

 

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In his text How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity (Three Rivers Press, 1997, page 291) author Bruce Bawer wrote of Close Encounters of the Third Kind that “salvation, meaning, and transcendence come down from the Heavens in a spaceship.”  The question to ponder today involves the brand of salvation and transcendence.

Is it a spiritual reckoning, or a secular one that the alien spaceship brings with it?

It is a testament to Spielberg’s skill, perhaps, as a filmmaker and storyteller, that Close Encounters can be interpreted through two such opposite lenses or world-views.

Posted: 12th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (3)


Stairway To Heaven? Six Genre Movies That Depict The After-Life

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THE greatest unanswered question of human life is, paradoxically, about death.

What follows our duration on this mortal coil?

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Posted: 11th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (2)


Childhood’s End: The Five Most Terrifying Movies Made From A Child’s Perspective

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ALFRED Hitchcock once remarked that every person understands fear, because everyone was once a child.  “After all,” he declared, “weren’t we all afraid as children?”.

According to the authors of Monsters under the Bed and Other Childhood Fears (Random House; 1993, page 1), “childhood is a time of many fears” and children between the ages of six and twelve “experience an average of seven different fears.

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Posted: 6th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (4)


12 Stupendous Movie Tagline Fails

THEY had one job. Just write a single sentence about a movie.  It’s not quantum physics. After millions of dollars spent and many months of filming and editing, it comes down to the humble tagline writer to simply scrawl a few words together.  Alas, this task is often too much to bear, and a movie poster is forever besmirched by a woefully inadequate blurb which undercuts all the hard work.  Perhaps it’s not so easy to condense an entire film into a few words; whatever the case, here are a few examples where tag lines fail.

 

Loose Shoes (1980)

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There won’t be a dry seat in the house.

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Posted: 5th, February 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (3)