Monday, April 26, 2010

TOP HAT (1935)

(The blog writer has just watched the first two parts of Ingmar Bergman’s faith trilogy: Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light. He has been accompanied in his viewing by the invisible being known only as The Presence. For the third part of Bergman’s trilogy, The Silence, the emotionally distraught blog writer leaves The Presence, who has been instructed to watch the film alone and report back to the blog writer. However, left to his own devices, The Presence goes rogue.)

About an hour into the film

Blog Writer: (Approaching The Presence) Okay, I’m feeling bad about making you watch this by yourself. I’ve decided to come and…hey! What the hell are you doing?

The Presence: Don’t you just love Astaire and Rogers? I found this on YouTube.

Blog Writer: I leave you alone to watch Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence and instead you decide to watch Top Hat?

The Presence: Now don’t get cross with me, my friend. I looked at your little 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. There was a listing for Through a Glass Darkly, a listing for Winter Light, and no listing for The Silence.

Blog Writer: That’s impossible. Why would they only list the first two? (He picks up the book and goes to the index.) Hey, you’re right, but-

The Presence: And look at the listing on page 124.

Blog Writer: Top Hat? Why do they not have The Silence, but list Top Hat?

The Presence: Do I look like a book editor to you?

Blog Writer: You don’t look like anything. You’re invisible! I suppose you do have me on a technicality. Well, how is it?

The Presence: Ginger Rogers-exquisite. Fred Astaire-charming. Fred’s playing a confirmed bachelor, until he meets Ginger of course. He pitches woo. She falls for him, but finds out he’s married. But he’s not really married you see, she only thinks he is because of mistaken identity. I’m only about half way through, but I’m sure you’re going to see some more misunderstandings.. They’ll dance some more. They’ll be some funny lines from Edward Everett Horton and Fred and Ginger will be together at the end.

Blog Writer: Guess there’s no “Spider-God” in this one.

The Presence: Will you shut up about Bergman and his Spider-God already? Just enjoy the show! You can go goth and wear as much black as you want another day. I want to see Fred and Ginger dance! Besides, you left me in charge here.

Blog Writer: It does look entertaining, I admit.

The Presence: The scene where Fred shuffles on sand above Ginger’s room to put her to sleep. Wow-love that scene.

Blog Writer: I guess I would like to see that. Hey,who’s that guy?

The Presence: An Italian. Trying to step in between Fred and Ginger.

Blog Writer: Damn Europeans.

The Presence: I think he might be a Eunuch.

Blog Writer: Well, I guess…

(At this point the blog writer feels a force hitting his chest hard enough for him to take a step back.)

Blog Writer: Hey!

The Presence: Oh, sorry. I got excited. It’s my favorite part coming up. Shhhh!
(Singing along with the movie) Heaven, I’m in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak.
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek

(The Blog Writer notices moisture forming on his keyboard)

Blog Writer: Are you crying?

The Presence: (Sniveling) Why they’s angels. Angels just like they’re up in heaven.

(The Blog Writer nods his head in reluctant agreement)

The Presence: (Still singing) Heaven, I’m in heaven
And the cares that hang around me through the week

The Presence & The Blog Writer: (Both singing now)
Seems to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak.
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.

(A spider crawls across the desk in front of The Presence and the Blog Writer, who are too engrossed in the film to notice.)


Sunday, April 25, 2010


(The blog writer and the invisible entity know as The Presence have just sat down to watch the second part of Ingmar Bergman’s faith trilogy Winter Light.)

81 minutes later

The Presence: Well, thanks for making me watch that. That had to be the gloomiest piece of celluloid that I’ve ever seen.

Blog Writer: I’m not sure what to feel myself. I don’t know what to say.

The Presence: That clergyman was probably the worst pastor I’ve ever seen.

Blog Writer: He was well meaning. He tried to help his flock. He never abused anyone. Never stole church funds.

The Presence: But he didn’t believe it God! Isn’t that the first thing they ask you in seminary? Hey, seminary applicant, do you believe in God? No, you say? Well then, maybe you should try law school!

Blog Writer: He was just having a crisis of faith. It happens.

The Presence: What was it he said to the fisherman? “If there is no God-would it really make any difference-Life would become understandable-what a relief-And thus death would be a suffering out of life-The dissolution of a body and a soul-Cruelty, loneliness and fear-all have these things would have become straightforward and transparent-suffering is incomprehensible-So it needs no explanation-There is no creator.”

Blog Writer: That’s when I had to leave the room for a minute and collect my thoughts. But hey, at least it didn’t make me go blow my brains out! So what happened in that scene I missed?

The Presence: The fisherman went outside and blew his brains out.

Blog Writer: Shit! Now you see why I didn’t want to watch this alone.

The Presence: So, do you really think God might just be a spider?

Blog Writer: Well, I never thought about it that way.

The Presence: You’re so evasive. So do you think a being like me has a soul?

Blog Writer: You? Yes. I believe you have a soul.

The Presence: Really? Or are you just saying that because I said you were evasive and you are trying to show me how decisive you are.

Blog Writer: That’s not my motivation. I was trying to make you feel better about yourself by giving you an encouraging answer to a question that I couldn’t possibly know the answer to.

The Presence: Well, you’ve made me feel worse now.

Blog Writer: Sorry. At some point we all have to escape the junkyard of idiotic trivialities.

The Presence: Stop quoting the movie at me! What I really need is a laugh.

Blog Writer: How about this: Nattvardsgästerna! Isn’t that a funny word?

The Presence: No, it isn’t. And now that I’ve watched this with you as I promised, even watched a scene you couldn’t sit through yourself, may I watch a Keystone Kops short now?

Blog Writer: No! There’s still the third film in trilogy to go. You know, The Silence?

The Presence: Oh, no. You’re going to make me watch another Bergman movie with you?

Blog Writer: Not exactly. The next one you’re going to watch for me.

The Presence: What?

Blog Writer: Through a Glass Darkly brought up a lot of questions in my mind on the nature of God. Winter Light brought up some of the same questions and answered them in a little less positive light. I'm afraid of what this is doing to me emotionally and psychologically. It must have been a good film because I’m completely bummed out about the whole thing. But I’ve got to complete the trilogy. However, I’m afraid a Bergman movie called The Silence might put me in therapy in my current emotional state, so I want you to watch and report back to me.

The Presence: But I…

Blog Writer: And don’t forget to take notes.

The Presence: But I…

Blog Writer: And thanks again, pal.

The Presence: You're welcome…I guess.


Saturday, April 24, 2010


(The blog writer contemplates what he wants to say about Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly, the first of Bergman’s faith trilogy. His train of thought is interrupted when the invisible entity known as The Presence, descends upon him.)

Blog Writer: (Putting his hand to his chest) My God! You startled me.

The Presence: I’m sorry. Know you hate the pop-in.

Blog Writer: No, no. Actually, I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been thinking that you were right about me promoting myself more. In fact, I’ve been practicing. Listen to this: L & L Dreamspell’s Dreamspell Nightmares 2 featuring many great stories including “Death Takes Another Holiday” by Christopher Cox is now available…You don’t seem to be listening.

The Presence: No, I heard most of what you said.

Blog Writer: I haven’t gotten to the part where I say the ISBN number, it’s…could you try to pay attention?

The Presence: Of course. All you say is well and good… I don’t know. I haven’t been in the mood for promotion lately.

(It’s at this point the blog writer notices bubbles floating from where The Presence’s presence is.)

Blog Writer: Are you blowing bubbles?

The Presence: You should try it sometime. It’s really cool. (The Presence blows a longer string of bubbles this time.)

Blog Writer: What is going on here? Last time you were here and I was writing about The Haunting, you were acting like a salesman on steroids like…like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross and now you’re acting like some stoned hippie like…like…

The Presence: Dick Shawn in The Producers?

Blog Writer: Yes, like Dick Shawn in The Producers.

The Presence: (Laughing) Yeah, he was so funny. Why don’t you watch something like that? This Bergman picture just gives me the blues.

Blog Writer: But wasn’t it interesting? The underlying search for God…God as a spider…the artist that does his art but doesn’t know how to communicate to his family. And I love those remote Swedish settings and the great black & white cinematography.

The Presence: Sometimes all I want is just an old-fashioned pie fight.

Blog Writer: But a pie fight’s not very deep.

The Presence: But it’s real funny. You know, when the person who the pie is intended for ducks and it hits the wrong person. Especially when it hits a society woman with a string of pearls and a fancy hat and she doesn’t know what to say, because she’s got pie all over her face but she’s trying to still act all proper! Isn’t that a scream?

Blog Writer: Can I promote the book now?

The Presence: I’m not stopping you. (The Presence turns from the blog writer and blows another bubble)

Blog Writer: OK, Here I go: She came towards him, panting with anticipation. Cheeks rosy from the blustering wind…Huh, why did I type that? I was going to mention the book again and I… my fingers just seemed to type out the lines from…

The Presence: (Giving the impression of snapping his fingers) The same lines that the novelist played by Gunnar Bjornstrand typed in Through a Glass Darkly!

Blog Writer: Do you think my subconscious is trying to tell me that I can relate to art more that I can relate to real life?

The Presence: I thought I was your subconscious.

Blog Writer: I don’t know what the hell you are! But, I’m a little scared here. Yet I’m oddly exhilarated. Would you watch the second part of the Bergman faith trilogy with me? I’m not up to doing it alone. Please? I have a feeling this might be difficult for me emotionally, yet I’m driven to embrace it.

The Presence: Okay, Sybil. To tell you the truth, I’m more in the mood for some Keystone Kops or Fatty Arbuckle, maybe a Laurel and Hardy two-reeler...But I’ll do it.

Blog Writer: Thanks, pal.


Friday, April 16, 2010


The Munchkin Coroner and the Mayor of the Munchkin City are Dead (Chapter I)

The Munchkin’s jubilation began to subside the day after Dorothy from Kansas dropped a house on the Wicked Witch of the East. The threat from the Wicked Witch of the West was still very much a problem that no amount of singing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead could abate.

The three leaders of the Lollipop Guild sat on the second step above Munchkin Pond in the center of Munchkin Square as they stared out in the general direction that stretched out past the yellow brick road.

“What do we do now?” said Jerry, the loose cannon of the Lollipop Guild.

Harry, the unofficial leader of the Lollipop Guild drew a heavy sigh. “We wait.”

Paul, the third member of the Lollipop Guild patted Harry on the knee. “Well, I’m completely confident. I’ve never met anyone like this Dorothy before. That girl is simply FABULOUS!” Paul fluttered his fingers to accentuate his enthusiasm.

Jerry growled at Paul, who stuck his tongue back at Jerry before briskly walking away.

“Why do you have to antagonize him?” Harry asked.

“Ah. I don’t get Paul. He’s weird. He never wants to join us when we got tomcattin’ after the Lullaby League. I’ve never seen him even interested in any girl until this Dorothy came crashing down on us. What did he say about her again?”

He said something like “Dorothy rocks my world, I think. Look, you have to admit the girl did save us and Glinda said-”

“Glinda.” Jerry interrupted. “Glinda is a game player. I never understand her riddles. And what was that she said about the ruby slippers? I didn’t get that. And is she ever around when we need her? But…on the other hand, she is rather pleasant to look at, don’t you think? Tell me Harry, do you ever think about…big girls?” Jerry raised his eyebrows as he took a prolonged lick from his lollipop.

Before he could finish, Harry snatched it away from him. Jerry fumed, but stood silent as he crossed his arms.

The Mayor of the Munchkin City came up to them. “Harry,” he said. “I think this is a great day for Munchkin Land. This Dorothy will save us from outside influences. We will then become an autonomous body within the Land of Oz. We will achieve statehood. Independence. We may even become a duchy. Or maybe a regency. Maybe even a province.”

Jerry could only shake his head at the Mayor’s rant.

“I’m not sure what that all means, Mayor.” Harry said. "But Jerry is right in that we are no safer now than we were before and the Witch of the West will be after us more than ever.”

“Hmmmm,” The mayor said. “Do you want me to issue a proclamation? Sign a treaty? Declare a holiday? Should the town engage in another chorus of We’re off to see the Wizard? I’ll think about it and we’ll hold a meeting. But first we must hold a meeting to determine if we should hold a meeting. Then we’ll vote on it. Then we’ll decide if the votes count.” The mayor’s voice trailed off as he walked away from them.

Harry and Jerry turned back to the yellow brick road, which seemed to stretch out even farther into to the unknown than it did just a few minutes ago.

The Munchkin Coroner and the Mayor of the Munchkin City are Dead (Chapter 2)

While making the rounds to make sure that everyone in Munchkin Land was still alive, the Munchkin Coroner was the first to witness the black smoke in the distant clouds. He whistled and the Mayor and the Lollipop Guild came to him at once.

They walked to the tip of the Yellow Brick road with Paul of the Lollipop Guild carting the only known pair of binoculars in Munchkin Land. And they were designer ones to boot!

The mayor signaled for Paul to hand the binoculars to him to read the message, but he took so much time making sure he was situated properly that Jerry grabbed the binoculars from Paul and looked into them.

“S-U-R-R-E-N-D-E-R D-O-R-O-T-H-Y” he read. Jerry brought down the glasses and glared at them all, waiting for a response.

“Liar!” Paul screamed in his high-pitched voice as he grabbed the binoculars back.

When Paul acknowledged that the message was as Jerry said, he dropped to his knees. “Oh, Dorothy. Sweet, wonderful Dorothy. How can we help you in your time of need?”

“Don’t worry, Paul,” Harry said. “That witch will pay for this. And we still really don’t know what’s happening.” Harry turned to the Mayor. “You’ve got to speak to them, mayor. You’ve got to prevent a panic.”

Beads of sweat ran down the mayor’s face. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

“When would be a good time to panic, Harry? We’ve put all our eggs in the Dorothy basket and came up snake eyes.” Paul hesitated for a moment wondering if his comment made any sense before continuing. “The Witch of the East was a pussycat compared to Witch of the West. Dorothy should never have made her mad.”

Paul pushed at Jerry. “Don’t talk about my Dorothy that way. You aren’t fit to shine her ruby slippers, let alone put on a pair.”

Jerry eyed Paul with suspicion. “I’d never want to wear a pair of ruby slippers. But I’m thinking you might.”

“What are you trying to say?” Paul said. Arms akimbo, as Jerry approached to him.

Before they could continue, Harry stepped between them. “Never mind all that you two. We’ve got a crisis on our hands.”

The mayor looked at Harry. “Flying monkeys, Flying monkeys," the mayor said with a stutter. "We need to hold a meeting.” The mayor wiped beads of sweat off his expansive forehead.

“No mayor! Don’t scare them with talk about flying monkeys. We mustn’t forget those creatures are no bigger than we are,” Harry said.

“Yeah,” piped in Jerry stepping in front of the mayor and facing the rest of Munchkin Land. "Except they have sharp teeth, they can FLY and they have direct orders from the wicked witch to KILL us! Nothing to worry about there!”

The rest of the munchkin population that had gathered began buzzing and scampering nervously around the square.

The mayor sat down and stared up at the witch’s message. “Nothing to worry about…nothing to worry about,” he repeated, trying to convince himself.

The Munchkin Coroner and the Mayor of the Munchkin City are Dead (Chapter 3)

Daylight broke early the next morning. Paul of the Lollipop Guild was on night watch, but before his shift ended he spotted a sight over the horizon. He let out a whistle, which led the mayor and other members of the Lollipop Guild to come out to where he stood.

“What in blazes is that? Jerry asked, looking up. “It’s coming our way!”

With a frightened look of recognition on his face, Harry yelled. “It’s the Wizard of Oz floating away in his Omaha State Fair balloon!”

Jerry began to panic. “He’s escaping! The Wicked Witch has won. We’re doomed.”

The munchkin people scurried around aimlessly, screaming at the top of their tiny lungs.

The mayor silently held up his arms, signaling the Munchkin people to cease their panic, but no one seemed to be paying any attention to him.

“All is well,” the mayor finally managed to get out. But as he looked around at the ensuing riot, he changed his tune. “Never mind. We’re toast.”

The mayor walked to the first step above the Munchkin Pond. He cupped his hands together and dropped face first into the Munchkin pool. As soon as he hit the water, his body remained unmoving, the flow of waves washing gently over his still body.

Paul pulled his own hair and screamed once again for Dorothy.

The Munchkin coroner toddled to the Munchkin pool with his medical bag to check on the mayor. In a blind rage, Jerry grabbed the yummy part of his lollipop and jabbed the butt of it through the coroner’s chest as he was bending down to check the condition of the mayor.

The coroner grabbed at the lollipop, but since it was so sticky, he was unable to pull it out. He looked around unbelievingly and fell to the ground.

“My gracious. Is he dead?” Paul of the Lollipop Guild asked as Munchkin Land fell silent.

“I still feel a pulse,” Harry of the Lollipop Guild said as he went to one knee and grabbed the coroner’s wrist.

The coroner managed to pull himself up and whispered to Harry, “I’m really, most sincerely…dead.” At this point, he dropped to the ground and lay still.

“Now he’s dead,” Harry said and released his grip.

Jerry slunk into a corner and started to cry. Paul went over to comfort him, but Harry pulled him aside. “Best leave him to his thoughts. Munchkicide isn’t something he’s likely to get over anytime soon.”

With the death of the mayor and the coroner, all of Munchkin Land looked at Paul and Harry.

“I guess you’re in charge now, honey. What do we do?’ Paul asked.

Harry of the Lollipop Guild put his hands on Paul of the Lollipop Guild’s shoulders. “No, Paul. You must lead them. I have another destiny. I know it pains you, but we have to assume Dorothy…is dead. We know the Wizard has left Oz. As for Glinda, she’s never really around when you need her.”

Tears welled in Paul’s eyes. “But what are you going to do?”

Harry backed away from Paul to speak to all the Munchkins. “I’m going out there my friends. I’m going to try to find the Wicked Witch of the West. I know the odds are against me, But I’ve got to try. And even if you don’t see me, remember I’ll be around. Whenever there’s a witch not letting us get apples from a talking tree, I’ll be there. Whenever there’s a flying monkey beating up one of the lullaby league, I’ll be there too. And if Munchkin Land ever comes back from this…Don’t forget to look for me…cause I’ll be there too. I bid you...farewell.”

Harry of the Lollipop Guild turned and began his journey down the yellow brick road.

The munchkins joined hands and hummed Red River Valley until he was completely out of sight.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

MARTY (1955)

I just finished reading Joe Eszterhas’s book The Devil's Guide to Hollywood: The Screenwriter as God! and I admit it’s a page turner.

And he’s right about the fact that the screenwriter doesn’t get the credit he or she deserves. They’re only the one that makes everything up after all!

Until I looked it up, I couldn’t name the screenwriter for It’s a Wonderful Life (Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett if you’re scoring at home) a movie I’ve seen 20 times! I always thought of it as Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life or James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life.
But who thinks of it as It’s a Wonderful Life, the movie Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett made up in their head?

Well that’s it then. I’m inspired to do the right thing now. I’ll watch one of Eszterhaus’s movies.
Let me check the 1001 Movie book.
How about Flashdance? Not in the book, huh? But it made $200 million dollars or so worldwide, as Joe reminds us. Oh, well.
How about Basic Instinct? Not there either, eh. $500 million worldwide and Joe slept with Sharon Stone, which he also reminds us of more than once.
Betrayed? No.
The Music Box? Not there either.
Showgirls? Are you kidding?

And I wasn’t really criticizing Joe about Sharon Stone. If I had slept with Sharon Stone, my blog’s URL would probably be

Oh yes, back to the screenwriter.
Looks like I’m going to have to leave Mr. Eszterhas and go elsewhere to find a screenwriter superstar, but I think I have a candidate.

Paddy Chayevsky only wrote the screenplays for a handful of feature films, yet he picked up Academy Awards three times. (Marty, The Hospital, and Network if you’re STILL scoring at home.)
I remember when Network came out. The name that was at the forefront wasn’t William Holden, Faye Dunaway or Sidney Lumet. It was screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky!
I also remember when Altered States came out. What we heard about this film wasn’t about William Hurt or Ken Russell, it was screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky! That and people saying, “Wouldn’t this be cool movie to see after you dropped acid?”

Anyway, the film that made Paddy Chayevsky about as big a household name as a screenwriter could possibly be was Marty.

Plot outline of Paddy Chayevsky’s Marty: Marty Piletti is a lonely 34-year-old butcher who lives with his widowed mother. He considers buying the place where he works, but first must get financial advice from his cousin Tommy. Tommy lives with his wife Virginia, their new baby and Tommy’s mother, Catherine. This living arrangement isn’t working out too well and Tommy and Virginia persuade Marty’s mother to let Catherine move in with her and Marty.

This isn’t Marty’s biggest problem. Marty’s biggest problem is that he can’t find a date. A self-described “fat, ugly” guy that doesn’t have whatever it is that women want, Marty seems to be confirmed to a life of bachelorhood, unlike his younger siblings who have all gotten married. But his mother convinces him to go to the Stardust Ballroom with his friend Angie in the hopes of picking up a “tomato.” Marty doesn’t have much luck there until he finds a plain woman named Clara who he witnesses getting the “brush off.” He comforts her. Gets to know her. And talks about himself. And talks. And talks. Marty is usually quiet, but obviously he has a connection with Clara, who turns out to be a teacher.

While walking the streets with Clara, he runs into some friends who want him to ditch the “dog” so he can help them make time with some nurses. Marty rejects their offer. He takes her home. He tries to kiss her. She refuses. He feel rejected. She tells him she likes him and wants to see him again. He begins to feel better and wants to see her again too.

His mother comes home. She doesn’t like Clara, mostly because she’s beginning to feel that if Marty ever got married, he’d want to get rid of her like Tommy & Virginia did to Catherine.

His friends don’t like her that much either. They talk Marty out of calling her the next day so he can hang out with them. While Marty is with his friends the next day, they basically just talk to each other meaninglessly. “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” Marty realizes he has made a mistake and tells his friends he doesn’t care what they or his mother think, he’s going to call Clara again because he really likes her.

Something else Chayevsky did that Eszterhas recommend for screenwriters to do is get extra screen credits. Especially easy is an executive producer credit! You don’t have to really do anything and it puts your name up on the screen an additional time. (Chayevsky is listed in Marty as Associate Producer, which I’m guessing is pretty much the same thing.)

Marty is really a pretty simple story, but well told and the characters are well drawn. Marty and Clara, of course. But also, Marty’s mother, Virginia and Tommy and Marty’s Friends.

I really liked the scene where Marty’s average Joe friends are talking about the realative merits of novelist Mickey Spillane.

Marty’s friend #1: Boy, that Mickey Spillane boy-he sure could write.

Marty’s friend #2: I read everything this guy wrote. What I like about Mickey Spillane is he knows how to handle women. In one book, he picks up this tomato. She’s hit by a car and she throws a pass at him. Then he meets two beautiful twins and they throw a pass at him. Then he meets a beautiful society dame and she throws a pass!

Marty’s friend #1: Boy, that Mickey Spillane boy-he sure could write.

Another nice slice of dialogue comes from the scene where Marty and Clara first meet.

Marty:You tell me you’re not so good looking. My father was a real ugly man, but my mother adored him…I used to adore my old man because he was always kind. That’s one of the most beautiful things I have in my life. The way my father and mother were. And my father was a real ugly man. So it doesn’t matter if you look like a gorilla. So dogs like us ain’t such dogs as we think we are.
Though I was writing this blog with screenwriting on my mind, I will take a minute to mention Ernest Borgniine, who also won an Oscar for Marty. On my Facebook account one of my friends is…none other than Mr. Ernest Borgine. Now whether or not the 93-year-old Borgnine is actually playing Farmville and Mafia Wars on Facebook or just has an associate representing his presence on Facebook, I don’t know. For all I know, Ernest Borgnine on Facebook might really be a 15-year-old girl with a brass nose ring and a mohawk. But I like to think it’s really Ernie. I do remember seeing a presumably legitimate list on some sight of Ernest’s ten favorite movies, where I believe he listed 5 of his own (You go Ernie!)

Anyway, there was a message from Borgnine on Facebook for his fans that read, “God Belch America and a how do ya do! SEEYAZ ERnie Borgstein.”
Of course, this could have been a message from the 15-year-old girl with the brass nose ring and the mohawk, but I like to think it was Ernie.
“God Belch America and a how do ya do! SEEYAZ ERnie Borgstein?” I don’t think even Joe Eszterhas could have put it any better.

Friday, April 9, 2010


They don’t make ‘em like this anymore. A horror movie that doesn’t go over the top or rely on special effects to give the film its dramatic oomph. We also don’t see anything filmed in black & white anymore, which might really add onto the creepiness factor of some more recent films. BUT NO. That’s too subtle. Not commercial enough. We certainly can’t have that. And another thing…Boy, that’s loud. Excuse me for a second.

Sorry for the interruption.
As I was saying...The Haunting features one of my favorite actresses, Julie Harris…Damn it ! Hold on just a minute…

Sorry, the wind keeps blowing the shutters open, but I’ve fastened them tightly now. As I was saying…what was I saying? Something about Shirley Jackson? No, Richard Harris. I mean Julie Harris. I’m sorry. It’s too loud in here for me to think and now I can’t get the window shut…

(At this point, that which can only be described as a presence descends upon the blog writer. It can be neither seen nor heard, but it is clearly an entity of some kind and its thoughts can be understood clearly by the blog writer.)

The Presence: So, what is it you think you’re doing?

Blog Writer: Before you interrupted me, whatever you are, I was trying to write something about the horror classic, The Haunting.

The Presence: Yes, much better than the remake. But do you think this is what you need to be doing right now? Shouldn’t you be promoting your upcoming short story?

Blog Writer: You mean the story “Death Takes Another Holiday,” from the anthology Dreamspell Nightmares 2?

The Presence: No, I mean Piggy Has a Curly Tail from your collection of poems that you wrote in kindergarten!

Blog Writer: No need to be sarcastic. And I still happen to like my Piggy Has a Curly Tail collection. You know,
Piggy has a curly tail
He plays in mud.
He gives us ham…

The Presence: (Interrupting) Yes, yes, how charming. Anyway, promote your damn story already! Don’t use this venue to drone on about some poem you wrote during the Johnson administration or how you have a belated crush on Julie Harris. Though I would have thought Claire Bloom would be more your type.

Blog Writer: First of all, I was saying I like Julie Harris as an actress. And second of all, I would think Claire Bloom would be anybody’s type.

The Presence: Stay on point.

Blog Writer: I suppose you want me to say something like Dreamspell Nightmares 2 from L & L Dreamspell, a horror anthology featuring many great stories including “Death Takes Another Holiday” by Christopher Cox soon to be available at a Web site or book store near you?

The Presence: Anything else?

Blog Writer: Like visit the L&L Dreamspell Web site at for other great books and story collections?

The Presence: Yes, like that.

Blog Writer: No! I can’t do that. I’m not Willy Loman. I don’t feel right about peddling my wares from door to door.

(The shutters, windows and front door of the blog writer’s house begin shaking and moaning. The front door begins to puff up like a soufflé. The walls start to…)

Blog Writer: Fine! Fine! Visit the L & L Dreamspell Web site at for other great books and story collections! Happy now? But I’m telling you that I’m not really good at self-promotion.

The Presence: I have an idea. Why don’t you try to come up with a gimmicky way to get the information out about your story so it won’t seem like you’re shamelessly promoting the book?

Blog Writer: All right. I’ll try to think of something.

The Presence: And one more thing. I think you should put the cover of the book at the head of this blog entry.

Blog Writer: No! I’ve done over fifty of these movie blog entries and I always have a picture of the movie with every one. I’m very OCD about it.

The Presence: Yes, I’m sure you have a still frame of your sweetheart Julie Harris with quivering fingers pressed to her lips all picked out, but how about the cover of Dreamspell Nightmares II just this one time? Come on...for me?

Blog Writer: For you? I don’t even know what you are!

The Presence: I’m sure you will do the right thing.

(The blog writer feels the Presence disappear from the house and the shutters and windows and front door fall silent. He pulls up his specially chosen black & white image of Julie Harris from his computer, but hesitates before posting it.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I’m struggling right (write) now. It seems I have a bit of writer’s block. I’m just not sure what to say about Sansho the Bailiff. I do know I don’t want to call it Sansho the Bailiff since the translation isn’t that exact. Sansho Dayu...Sansho Dayu...much better. That really rolls off the tongue picture something that rolls off your tongue.I'm not sure what! I told you I had writer's block! Where can I go from here?

I don’t have any silly imaginary dialogue between the characters to make up. I don’t have any unique librarian perspective. I guess I could quote reviewer Gerald Mast…no I just did that. I could write a straight review-no, a lot has been written about this movie by film scholars, that’s too intimidating to compete with right now. And it’s five in the morning and I haven’t had my coffee yet, excuse me a minute.

Much better.

I guess I could write a film essay of some kind in Japanese-maybe I could alternate the dialogue between different levels of honorifics. It would be fitting since in the film, the son of a prominent man is made a virtual slave and escapes to later become a governor and speaks in different levels of honorifics at different times where it is appropriate, but that would require me to learn to speak Japanese…no, not ready for that.

A list! I could make a list of some kind! No, I just did that for Spinal Tap. I could even compare Spinal Tap to Sansho Dayu! Nah, that dog won't hunt.

How about a retrospective on life during the 11th century Japanese Heian period? I could…no I’m not up to doing a term paper right now.

Japanese lit maybe? This is based on an old folktale which spawned the short story by Mori Ogai which led to screewriters Yahior and Yoda which led to Kenzi Mizoguchi directing it…I’m lost already. (Yoda? I know George Lucas liked Japanese films...but I don’t feel like talking about that either, This isn't The Hidden Fortress, after all.)

I could explore Japanese cinema more indepth? Kurosawa vs. Ozu vs. Mizoguchi maybe? No, not up for that. Maybe another time.

I guess I could just say whether I liked it or not.
That’s easy. The answer would be Yes. I liked it very much.

I will also list the 10 key elements of the film for me in order:
Childhood. Honor. Motherhood. Separation. Slavery. Sacrifice (See picture above). Birthright. Power. Redemption. Mercy.

And on the topic of mercy, I will end with the honorable words of the exiled father from the film:
Without mercy, man is like a beast
Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


1001: A FILM ODYSSEY presents...
The Latterday Baby Boomer list of the 15 most quotable movies of all time during the years 1964-1987. (The contradictory nature of the title is intentional, though hopefully it’s better than one of those cheesy VH1 lists where they actually state that Gary Coleman is the #1 child actor of all time! But I ‘ll complain about that another time.

So what defines a quotable movie? Well, at least by my definition, (and yours may vary) it is a movie with a line or preferably lines that are recognizable to one of your own kind or, even better, one that can be answered as a comeback by another of that defined kind by the next line in the movie.

There are many titles during this period with one famous quotable line. Cool Hand Luke (What we got here is... failure to communicate.), Taxi Driver (You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? ) and Soylent Green (You got to tell them! Soylent Green is people!) all had one real quotable line, but I’m looking for a movies with a slightly longer string of quotability..

Now the parameters. Since the baby boom is usually credited with ending in 1964, this is a good point to start movies for consideration for this list (Sorry Casablanca, On the Waterfront, Gone with the Wind). A good ending point would probably be about 1987, as the influence on a latterday baby boomer’s MQQ (movie quotability quotient) would most likely have peaked by then. Besides, what quotable movies have there been since anyway? Office Space? The Seth Rogen comedy of the week?

Non-English language films aren’t included for this list. It’s just too hard to quote Kurosawa in the original Japanese.

Here are some of the also-rans for this list in no particular order: Dirty Harry, The Terminator, Blue Velvet, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Blazing Saddles, American Graffiti, Star Wars,E. T., Annie Hall, Taxi Driver, Rocky, Network, Deliverance, Saturday Night Fever, Apocalypse Now, Cool Hand Luke, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Exorcist, Raiders of the Lost Ark, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Amadeus, Rain Man, Arthur, Shaft, Billy Jack, Beverly Hills Cop, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, My Dinner With Andre, Soylent Green, Trading Places, MASH, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Five Easy Pieces, The Godfather II, Chinatown, Jaws, Midnight Express, Heaven Can Wait, Manhattan, All That Jazz, Hannah and Her Sisters, And Justice for All, The Elephant Man, On Golden Pond, Tootsie, Aliens, Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, Moonstruck…etc.

And if I leave out one of your favorites (I’m sorry)

Or if I include one you don’t think belongs (I said I was sorry.)

Or if you don’t like my methodology (I said I was sorry already! Make your own damn list!)

Here is The Latterday Baby Boomer list of the 15 most quotable movies of all time during the years 1964-1987:

#15 1776 (1972) I realize the musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence might seem a strange choice, but there must be others out there that have seen this movie multiple times and repeat the dialogue of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin or John Hancock dramatically for anyone that will listen…or maybe that’s just me.
Anyway here are some samples:
Adams: Good GOD! A whole week! The entire earth was created in a week!
Jefferson: Someday, you must tell me how you did it.

Hancock: Gentlemen, forgive me if I don't join in the merriment, but if we are arrested now, my name is STILL THE ONLY ONE ON THE DAMN THING!

Adams: This is a revolution, dammit! We're going to have to offend SOMEbody!

This choice may have seemed better in its formative stage. The next choice is an important cultural movie from the end of my defined era, though I still don’t think I’ve seen it all the way through…

#14 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Bueller?... Bueller?... Bueller? (must be said in Ben Steinlike monotone)

You realize if we played by the rules right now we'd be in gym?

Boy who looks like Charlie Sheen: There's someone you should talk to.
Jennie: If you say Ferris Bueller, you lose a testicle.
Boy who looks like Charlie Sheen: Oh, you know him?

I may not have done as well with the quotes for this movie as someone who is a bigger Ferris Bueller fan, hopefully I can do better with…

(#13)The Shining 1980)
Heeere's Johnny! (for maximum effect, say with a maniacal look and wield an ax if you got one)

Danny’s not here Mrs. Torrance. (must be spoken with the finger of your choice and with a voice that imitates Froggy of The Little Rascals)

Redrum! Redrum! (Preferably said repeatedly in a usually futile attempt to scare someone)

The next one helps if you can say things in the sardonic style of Bill Murray…

(#12) Ghost Busters (1984)
This man has no dick. (If the person you say this too isn’t privy to the line, they may give you a funny look)

He slimed me! (Best said after you spill something on yourself)

We came, we saw, we kicked its ass! (Best said anytime, even randomly. Try it, it’s fun!)

So many lines from (#11) The Graduate (1967)

Elaine! Elaine! (Must be said while banging on glass, though imaginary glass is acceptable.)

Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. (If you say this to a girl and it turns out they aren’t trying to seduce you just tell them The Graduate is your favorite movie and you just felt like quoting it and you didn’t mean anything though they may not believe it and the rejection may cause you to have years of therapy and heartache…not that that happened to me or anything.)

And perhaps the most famous one word quote in movie history…

And so many more lines from (#10) The Godfather (1972)

Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes (Or replace Luca with name of anyone you have ill feelings about or are writing off.)

I'll make him an offer he can't refuse. (Best said directly before tapping someone lightly on the cheek and feel free to let go and do your best Brando.)

Look how they massacred my boy...(A personal favorite line, Don Corleone almost breaks down yet manages to regain his composure, however this is a hard one to fit into conversation.)

I’ve already done a blog on (#9) A Christmas Story (1983), but I really couldn’t leave it off the list…

Only one thing in the world could've dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.

Be sure to drink your Ovaltine. Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!

and of course…
You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

(#8)The Princess Bride’s (1987) inclusion comes mostly from the lisping voice of Wallace Shawn that I can almost here now uttering the immortal line…

INCONCEIVABLE! (Not quite as good as PLASTICS!, but a good one word quote in its own right)

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. (Which proves you can create a movie catch phrase if you repeat it enough times in a single film.)

Have fun stormin' da castle. (A latter baby boomer might say this to their teenage offspring as they are going to a party or on a date, usually to the embarrassment of said teenage offspring.)

And how could I leave out (#7)Young Frankenstein (1974) since I did a previous blog made up of Young Frankenstein quotes
My grandfather's work was DOO-DOO! (I seem to like this line more than others for some reason)

Puttin’s on the Ritz! (Best said when accompanied by a clumsy dance of some kind)

Oh, sweet mystery of life at last I've found you! (To be sung as a prelude to…ah, never mind)

(#6) Animal House (1978)-A movie I probably saw 20 times the year it came out.
The most famous quote would be…

See if you can guess what I am now.
A zit. Get it? (If you don’t have something to explode in your mouth between these two lines, saying it could come across as a little awkward.)

Dean Wormer: Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

Or the other Dean Wormer quote: I hate those guys. (If you can say this when someone is veering down on you about to make your life miserable, this would be the maximum effective use of this quote.)

Animals of another kind can be found in (#5) Planet of the Apes (1968)

Take your stinkin’ paws off me you damn dirty ape (Though if you say this when the wrong person puts their hand on you it could make a bad situation worse)

You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell! (Maybe the greatest end line in movie history even if you know what the ending is.)

Heston:Keep 'em flying. –
Teenage Ape:What?
Heston: The flags of discontent (Just enjoy hearing Heston supporting hippienation)

(#4) Dr. Strangelove (1964), Hard to narrow it down to three quotes here…

Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids. (If you are with your best girl and not in the mood, use this line as an excuse)

Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room. (If your best girl takes offense at the above line and takes issue with you, try to calm her down with this line.)

Mein Führer! I can walk! (If neither of the above lines work with your best girl, try this one as a diversion. In another context, use this line if you’ve been sitting a long time and you try to stand up and your foot is asleep)

(#3) Monty Python and the Holy Grail's (1975) many quotable lines include…

It’s just a flesh wound (Say it thorough gritted teeth after a serious injury for extra points)

She turned me into a Newt!
A Newt?
I got better. (If the person you say the first line doesn’t respond by saying “A Newt?” it can fall pretty flat.)

We are the Knights who say… NI. (Of course, you must then start repeating NI NI NI)

Some may think of Monty Python as a potential winner here, but how could we forget…

(#2)Airplane (1980)
You ever seen a grown man naked? (RIP, Peter Graves)

Surely you can’t be serious
I am serious and don’t call me Shirley. (Anytime anyone says surely in any context, feel free to use.)

A hospital? What is it?
It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now. (Don’t miss an opportunity to say this line if anyone gives you the opening, or you will probably regret it.)

So what could possibly beat Airplane? Well, there’s one and by the title of this blog it’s pretty anti-climactic that the
#1 The Latterday Baby Boomer list of the 15 most quotable movies of all time during the years 1964-1987 is

So strange that the #1 quotable movie on this list was largely improvised…
I was going to do a top 10 list of Spinal Tap quotes, but no,
this list goes all the way up to 11...

David St. Hubbins: He died in a bizarre gardening accident
Nigel Tufnel: Authorities said... best leave it... unsolved.

The official explanation was he choked on vomit…It was actually someone else’s vomit.
You can’t really dust for vomit.

Big bottoms
Big bottoms
Talk about bum cakes
My Girls Got ‘em!
Big bottom drive me out of my mind
How could I leave this behind?

Record review of Spinal Tap-They’re treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry.

Two word record review of Spinal Tap’s Shark Sandwich-Shit Sandwich

These go to 11.

It’s such a fine line between clever and stupid.

Nigel: I'm really influenced by Mozart and Bach, and it's sort of in between those, really. It's like a Mach piece, really. It's sort of...
Di Bergi: What do you call it?
Nigel: Lick my love pump.

The problem may have been there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage in danger of being crushed by a dwarf!

If I told ‘em once I told them a hundred times to put Spinal Tap first and puppet show last!

And the #1 quote from the #1 movie of The Latterday Baby Boomer list of the 15 most quotable movies of all time during the years 1964-1987 is…