Wednesday, April 15, 2009

10 Favorite Film Characters

The Task: Make a list of 10 of your favorite film characters.

Sure - as Rodney Dangerfield says in "Back to School" - "piece of cake!" Thank God this doesn't say ALL-TIME favorite film characters - as that would be very difficult if not impossible. When you've seen thousands and thousands of films it's hard enough to pick 10 random favorites, let alone all-time favorites...

Actually, I decided to play it pretty basic and simple here. I just...well, I just thought of 10 random and immediate characters that I loved for some particular reason or another and started to look for pictures of them. I won't go into great detail after each selection - some may require no explanation at all. This was very fun and actually not as complicated as I thought it would be. The trick was to just go with first thoughts, if I started to refine and cultivate a list, oh boy, that would be another story altogether!

Ard as portrayed by actor Martin Lavut
Heavy Metal (1981)

The single most bitchy, sarcastic animated character ever. That sly, effeminate, brilliant Ard. "Guards, castrate him..." "If you refuse, you die; she dies; everybody dies." "Norl" The Loc-Nar is mine! - Stupid bitch! Get away from me! - Give it to me! - The Loc-Nar is mine! It's my Loc-Nar."

Ramona as portrayed by Cathy Moriarty
Neighbors (1981)

If you have seen this film then I don't think I need to go into any explanation with Ramona. If you haven't, tsk tsk. GET ON THAT.

Chick Young and Wilbur Gray as portrayed by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

I can't say that I'd want to pal around with Chick and Wilbur all the time, but every now and then would be a hoot! Especially at Masquerade Balls!

Lawrence Woolsey as portrayed by John Goodman
Matinee (1993)

Clearly based off of legendary producer, director William Castle, Matinee's Lawrence Woolsey (beautifully realized by Goodman) is a real sentimental favorite of mine. He tells it like it is and with a great deal of insight and fatherly wisdom. What a mentor he is in this film! Keep your eyes open he advises us - don't cover them up during the scary parts. His parable of the first horror film (much like Plato's Cave) is a bit of movie magic genius.

Maximus Decimus Meridius as portrayed by Russell Crowe
Gladiator (2000)

"Strength and Honor." That's Goddamn right.

Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo "Tracy" as portrayed by Diana Rigg
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

I'll never ever forget the first time I saw this film. I was about 9 or 10 years old and had already seen EVERY bond film save this one. I was watching it by myself over Christmas break. I was wrapped up good and tight on that cold December night, drinking hot chocolate, loving this film. And, when James Bond proposed marriage - in that little shack - with those beautiful lines of dialogue - man, I was having one of my major cinema moments, seriously. A very special, one on one moment with this film. As you might guess then, I cried when the film ended and was depressed for a few days after... "We have all the time in the world."

Rev. Frank Scott as portrayed by Gene Hackman
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

A Fightin' Priest! God save Gene Hackman, in my opinion - America's greatest living actor. "Get on your knees and pray for forgiveness?" "I said I was gonna get everybody out of here and Goddamit I'm gonna do it!" "We have to go UP!" Hackman can do more with a potential throwaway line than anybody. Period.

Salvatore Di Vita as portrayed by Jacques Perrin
Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Quiet, still, understated. Perrin's facial expressions blow you away. He's amazing. The most sentimental, nostalgic film about films of all-time. If someone doesn't get weepy at the end of this film, don't trust them! They're inhuman.

Professor Fate as portrayed by Jack Lemmon
The Great Race (1965)

Those who know me well, and I mean WELL, know that this was my favorite film of all-time for decades. Professor Fate is, quite simply, my favorite Jack Lemmon character. "Push the button Max!"

Frank Galvin as portrayed by Paul Newman
The Verdict (1981)

"So much of the time we're just lost. We say please God, tell us, what is right, what is true. And there is no justice. The rich win, the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie, and after a time we become dead. ... We think of ourselves as victims, we become victims. We become, we become weak. ... "In my religion, we say act as if you had faith. ... If we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves. ... I believe there is justice in our hearts."

Never do you root for a Paul Newman character MORE than in the very brilliant (and my favorite) Paul Newman performance and film - Sydney Lumet's masterstroke, The Verdict.

Well, there ya have it. Ten quick gut reactions. I'm actually quite proud of this post. It took almost no time to put together (except for the Cathy Moriarty and Ard stills which I had to grab from their respective DVDs). It was put together quickly and I like my choices. If this HAD BEEN 10 ALL TIME favorites, I would've been screwed (I did have number 10 ready to go though - Robert Shaw's "Quint" from Jaws). And lastly, if my friend Taliesin should be reading - our review of I, Desire is coming up very soon!

I wasn't tagged in this meme - rather I saw it on some blogs and, on the spur of the moment, decided to join in. So, I can't in good conscience tag anyone else. However, should you want to participate - let me know you did with a tag back or comment. Cheers!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Still Very Much in Love with Christina Lindberg

Yours Truly and the amazing Christina Lindberg

This past Saturday night was very special. Over the years, as my career has blossomed, I've been lucky enough to spend quality time with many motion picture actors and directors. This has been facilitated by my good friends at Synapse Films, Jerry Chandler and Don May Jr, and my good friend, the historian, scholar and author Carlos Aguilar. Don and Jerry flew in the legendary Swedish actress, model, publisher, and popular culture icon, Christina Lindberg and her friend, promoter and Klubb Super 8 founder, Rickard Gramfors. This is indeed a rare occurrence - Christina retired from the industry many years ago to go onto a very successful career in aviation publishing. Her appearance at this year's Cinema Wasteland convention was THE cult cinema event of the year. Christina was constantly occupied. CONSTANTLY. Her popularity has not lessened or diminished in any way over the last thirty years - on the contrary, she has more legions of fans than she could possibly imagine. But more on that later. One fan, in particular, had driven from Florida for 20 hours STRAIGHT just to see her and get her autograph before returning back to Florida. Now, that is devotion. Speaking of devotion, check out this tattoo -

(C) Evilnktattoo


After the con shut down for the evening at 7pm, a small party of us went to a nice local restaurant to have dinner and relax. Rickard had asked, "would you like to sit next to Christina?" A rhetorical queston... What followed was a lovely time and what is and what will remain a very sweet and cherished memory.

Christina's trademark - no smile.

In fact, it is VERY difficult to find pics of Christina smiling. I've got a good little behind the scenes pic of Christina on the set of Thriller having a cigarette and coming close to a full-on smile, but not quite (at left). We talked of many matters. Since she had been answering questions about films all day, I steered the conversation more towards aviation, travel, culture, my times in Europe, etc. But, we did talk about Thriller, A Cruel Picture (a.k.a They Call Her One Eye) - she had a lot to say about the making of that film! Some great behind the scenes stories...

Thriller - A Cruel Picture (1974)

For me however, there was a very touching, tender moment. Christina had told me that she was VERY shy when she was young and still shy to this day (a few minutes later, I bore witness to this). When talking about travel, Rickard, Christina and I had a lovely discussion about Japan and the two films Christina made while living in Japan. I told them I had just published a chapter in a book that dealt with three Japanese Vampire films from the same period when Christina was living there. Rickard commented that perhaps a retrospective on Swedish Exploitation with Tokyo playing host would be a really good idea. Christina was very interested and had admitted that she had not been back to Japan since she left in the 1970s. A few moments later, after we had changed the topic slightly, Christina touched my arm lightly and asked "They are still interested in me in Japan?" The humility and vulnerability in her voice was genuine and very moving. I responded, "Yes. They are. Very much so." That moment branded itself in my memory and is what I remember most from our evening. What a remarkable woman.

Film Historian, Distributor, and Promoter - Rickard Gramfors
(Taken by Christina while I was giving her instructions - hence my weird, Hanson Brother face)

Christina Lindberg!

Always a good time in Cleveland

Christina and Don May Jr.

Our small dinner party had to break up as Christina's cult film "Anita" was playing (on a remarkable 35 mm print English dubbed print) at the major cineplex next door for a midnight showing, which Christina and Rickard were introducing. I headed back to the hotel and chilled with me droog Fred for a bit and then hit the road back to Detroit, with a perma-smile that is still plastered across my face. Thank you Christina Lindberg, Rickard Gramfors, and especially to my good friends Jerry Chandler and Don May Jr. for making this possible. You guys are the best.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Universal - Classic Monsters Montage

I ripped this Universal Logo Montage from my Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) dvd.

This was the montage that was cut together for this first wave of Universal Classic Monsters dvd's - long since out of print.

I get a lump in my throat every time I watch it. I wanted to share it with you as I find it timeless and beautiful. It's MY WORLD. Please have a look - it's very short.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Small, But Representative Sampling


Wanna go for a ride on my time machine? If so, read on, and buckle up cuz we're going 29 years back. Yes, grab your Jack Nicholson butcher knife, Olivia Newton John roller skates, and of course, ol' Billy Barool (Billy, Billy, Billy...) as we take a look at several months worth of releases from the year, our Lord, nineteen hundred and eighty.

So, what exactly am I getting at in this blog post? Well, I was gathering data for a large project and stumbled across a listing of release dates, by week, of some major films spread across various studios during these months. The thing is - I've seen every single one of these film, some dozens of times and many at the theaters in 1980. And, it struck me. Motherfucker, that's some list of films.

So impressive in fact that it got me thinking just how much less we appear to demand from our culture industry "these days." Now, granted, that's not saying much, but look at the partial list of films below and, well, you be the judge. Not a bum film in the lot as far as I'm concerned.

Also granted, I'm looking at this list of films through the perhaps "corrective" lens of 29 years. So, just how much of this is nostalgia and how much of it is valid is debatable. However, I saw many of these films in the theater at the time of their release and the rest within a year or two later - on home video, on "ON TV", or on network television and I loved every single one of them. I ask you, when was the last time we had a four or five month stretch that read like this?

Friday, February 08th 1980
"American Gigolo"
"The Fog" (saw in theater)
"Midnight Madness"

Friday, February 15th 1980
"Saturn 3"

Friday, February 29th 1980
"Don't Answer The Phone"

Friday, March 07th 1980
"Coal Miner's Daughter"

Friday, March 14th 1980

Friday, March 21st 1980
"Forbidden Zone"
"Little Darlings" (saw in theater at least twice)

Friday, March 28th 1980
"The Changeling"(saw in theater)
"Don't Go In The House"

Friday, May 09th 1980
"Friday the 13th"
The Nude Bomb" (saw in theater)

Friday, May 16th 1980
"Breaker Morant"
"The Long Riders"

Friday, May 23rd 1980
"The Shining" (saw in theater)

Friday, May 30th 1980
"Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!)" (saw in theater)
"The Hollywood Knights"

Friday, June 06th 1980
"Up the Academy" (saw in theater)
"Urban Cowboy" (saw in theater)

Friday, June 13th 1980
"Mad Max"
"The Island"
"Wholly Moses!"

Friday, June 20th 1980
"The Blues Brothers" (saw in theater)

Friday, June 27th 1980
"The Stunt Man"

Wednesday, July 02nd 1980
"Airplane!" (saw about 4 or 5 times in theater)

Friday, July 04th 1980
"The Blue Lagoon"

Friday, July 11th 1980
"My Bodyguard" (saw in theater)
"Oh! Heavenly Dog"
"Used Cars" (saw in theater)

Friday, July 18th 1980
"The Big Red One"
"Cheech & Chong's Next Movie"
"Honeysuckle Rose"
"Prom Night"

Friday, July 18th 1980
"Caddyshack" (saw at theater at least twice)

Friday, August 01st 1980
"Close Encounters Of The Third Kind" (saw in theater)
"The Final Countdown" (saw in theater)

Friday, August 08th 1980
"Xanadu" (saw in theater at least twice)

Some of my favorite movies of all-time (as well as most beloved by the public) are in this short and modest list. Caddyshack? The Blues Brothers? The Shining? Friday the 13th? Airplane? Mad Max? Caligula? Not to mention total cult faves like Little Darlings, The Final Countdown, The Long Riders, The Stunt Man and Xanadu. What the fuck do we get nowadays? For me, it amounts to a film I feel like seeing every two or three months and one that I actually go to every 4.

At any rate - if I dug up this time capsule and found these many reels of film, were I a cultural anthroplogist, I might conclude that - well I think you know what I would conclude...

I don't belong here - I belong there. Sure could use me a Tardis.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Favorite Endings...

Probably my favorite ending of any movie in the last twenty years is Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming. I LOVED this movie. It was exactly about "me" when it came out (1995) - I was in the exact same place as the central characters, a quarter of a century old, a bachelor's in hand, the ability to think deeply about seemingly important matters but completely impotent at attending to them, not a farthing of wisdom, and a personal and professional compass that was impervious to magnetism - in other words... stuck.

The film centers around, among other things, a relationship between protagonist Grover (Josh Hamilton) and Jane (one of my favorite actresses, the lovely- Olivia D'abo, at left). The story is intentionally fragmented and disjointed - told in flashbacks and in the present. It is a beautifully realized relationship and it is expertly revealed to us, aided by remarkable dialogue and sparkling performances by the two leads. We are given bits and pieces of the many stages of their relationship (all the while knowing that Jane is currently in Prague) just as we are given bits and pieces of a telephone message that Jane has left from Prague. A message Grover can't really muster up the courage to listen to in its entirety. This propels us to the film's daring, original, and sentimental conclusion. I can watch it over and over and over and over...

Clearly, it is not my intent to discuss the ending - just to say that it is one of my favorite endings of all time and certainly claims the top spot for the last two decades at least. Can't recommend this film enough - especially should you find yourself at "Bachelor's End."

Cinematic Perfection: The ending of Kicking and Screaming

Friday, February 13, 2009

Alain Delon et Qui?

Could use a little help on this one. Does anyone know who the girl is in this photograph with Alain Delon? I have a few guesses, but...