Wednesday, July 31, 2013

THE WRESTLER (2007), ANVIL (2008)

Son of 21st century films month! (Post 12 of 12)

The Wrestler and Anvil! The Story of Anvil

The Wrestler and Anvil! both feature high testosterone subjects (wrestling and heavy metal music) and whose ultimate moral for me is the same. “Hang in there! Do what you believe! Never give up!”

In the case of the fictional film, The Wrestler, aging grappler Randy the Ram is still trying to eke out a living in small wrestling venues while being tossed onto tables, having his head cut open or having another wrestler use a staple gun on him! It doesn’t seem too glamorous, but what else is Randy going to do? That is what he knows and who he is. When he develops a heart condition and is told to stop wrestling, he tries to do something different. The scene with Randy the Ram, hairnet and all, trying to work at a deli counter in a grocery store is one of the most tragic yet funny scenes I can remember. Of course, he hangs in there. Doing what you believe and never giving up may cost Randy his life, but he truly doesn’t seem to have a choice.

Anvil! is a documentary about an actual Canadian heavy metal band and their attempts to make a comeback, or just make another record, really.

This film has a lot of similarites to the fictional This is Spinal Tap!-Anvil even visits Stonehenge! Their sound equipment goes up to 11! They even have a gig in Europe where the owner of the club refuses to pay them! (If I told ‘em once I told them a hundred times to put Spinal Tap first and puppet show last!) And there is even the obligatory falling out between bandmates Lipps and Robb where these best friends will never work together again! Of course, they do get back together. “I was wrong. I’m an asshole. I love you brother. I can’t do this without you!”.

Like Randy the Ram, we see Lipps trying to make money at a “real” job. His attempt is as a phone solicitor. He can’t do it. It just isn’t in him. What’s he going to do? I’m not a fan of heavy metal, but you got to admire their perseverance and root for them to get their record made... Or at the very least have a fan like Sacha Gervasi who might one day become a documentary filmmaker and make a movie about you.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 11 of 12)

The Bourne Ultimatum

There continues to be a steady supply of new books coming into the library featuring Robert Ludlum’s super agent Jason Bourne. It’s especially telling since Robert Ludlum died in 2001. The Bourne movies that these books spawned have proven to be even more popular than the books. I must confess, I’ve never read a Bourne book or seen a Bourne movie before. The Bourne movie on one of the 1001 lists is The Bourne Ultimatum, which is the last one (I think) in the Jason Bourne series with Matt Damon. Since this was the one on the list, this is the one I chose to watch. I quickly realized after the first few minutes of the film, that I probably should have started off with The Bourne Identity because I found myself quickly caught in the middle of a story that I didn’t know where it was supposed to go or why it was headed there. About half way through, I started to catch up a little better on what was happening and thought that overall it was a pretty good action flick, as action flicks go.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 10 of 12)

Million Dollar Baby

Anyone interested in a close look at Clint Eastwood's long career as a movie star might want to read Marc Elliot's American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood. From the Leone films of the mid 60's to Grand Torino over forty years later, how many other stars can really compete with Clint's longevity?

It's hard for me not to first think of Clint as the Man With No Name or Dirty Harry, but it's his career as a director (Over 30 films, two Best Director Oscars) that really makes me take note. Elliot sees him as a flesh and blood auteur, with a recognizable signature on most of his films (Though maybe not for Breezy).

Clint won his second directoral Oscar for Million Dollar Baby, which I don't like as much as Unforgiven, but does have Hillary Swank as The Million Dollar Baby, Morgan Freeman as the trainer and Clint himself as the crusty old manager, training someone who he doesn't want to train because of her persistence. The strong, but at times depressing story, is one of those movies that I saw once and didn't want to watch again. But on my second viewing, I admit to liking it even more. It's really an emotional and dramtically involving movie. Come to think of it, I liked Unforgiven more the second time I saw it, too. Maybe there's something to this auteur theory after all!

Note to self: Watch Mystic River again.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 9 of 12)

Into the Wild

After viewing the movie Into the Wild or reading the John Kraukauer book it is based on, the question you may ask yourself is what is within us that makes us want to throw of the vesitages of our identity and become Alexander Supertramp? Life gives us responsibilities and we either accept them or slowly try to shed them. Can we ever act totally free? Is it worth starving to death to achieve a sense of self or a sense of oneness? Do you feel sorry for Chris McGinnis? Do you envy him? Do you wish you had the courage to do what he did? Or was he just mentally ill?

The heart of darkness may be in all men, but so is the heart of light. Where and how you find it is up to you.

Monday, July 22, 2013

WALL*E (2008)

Son of 21st century films month! (Post 8 of 12)


Muro * E estas pli arto filmo ol io Disney / Pixar blindigi antaŭe. Ekzistas multaj longaj scenoj kun nun dialogo ajn. Mi donas al ili krediton por provi iun differnt. Ho, kaj mia nevino Krista diras ŝi ŝatas la fakton ke ĉiuj en la estonteco dikiĝas.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 7 of 12)

The Kid With a Bike

The Kid With a Bike is 12-year-old Cyril's story and...

The most interesting thing about Cyril’s story is that you really see why Cyril is the way he is and does the things he does. We would dislike Cyril if we just witnessed his actions (like rob someone after hitting them over the head) instead of going through the events that lead up to it. We learn through the film that he is a boy who desperately wantes to connect with a father who wants nothing to do with him and is forced to spend much of his time in an orphanage or with a foster family. The scenes with Cyril being rejected by his father are hard to watch. Ultimately, we hope that Cyril is somehow going to straighten himself out, and the answer is...


is…we don’t know what's going to happen to Cyril. And it seems more real that way.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 6 of 12)

The Class

Boy, just when I was having trouble coming up with ideas of what to write on this blog, I post a movie that I actually watched several months ago and is slowly fading from my memory banks. But let me try. I know that whenever I see any film about teaching inner city youths (be they French, American or Swahili) it doesn’t really inspire me to be a teacher. This was a tough film with no pat answers, no To Sir With Love hero worship, just teachers and students trying to get along under tough circumstances. I do like that it gives you a lot from the teacher's point of view.

Which reminds me of one of my all-time favorite televison shows: Room 222. Why would this type of schoolroom show not be on televison today?. Because it (gasp!) actually shows things from the teacher's point of view! But that's a rant for anouther day. And to Room 222's Karen Valentine, you'll always be my sitcom rerun valentine. xoxoxoxoxo

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 5 of 12)

Children of Men

The focus of Children of Men is really in the background, behind the main focus of what is going on, according to the filmmaker Slavoj Zizek. You can see this in an oblique way only if it remains in the background, a prism in which you see the background even more sharply...

Wait a minute.

I'm not sure if I really want to continue on this route or not. Do I really want to discuss the ideological despair of late capitalism? Do I really want to attempt to wax poetic about fertility being a spiritual renewal that can be transcended through the art of motion pictures?

Where do you go when you reach a crossroads with your blog?

Is anyone listening?

Does anyone care?

Are we, the bloggers, just waiting our turn to put in our two cents?

Has the blogosphere turned us into writers INSTEAD of readers?

On a blog can anyone hear you scream?

Should I continue watching all the movies on this list when I could really be working on my dream blog of reviewing every single cartoon short in the Hanna-Barbera catalog?

I'll have to think this over.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 4 of 12)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Rex Reed factor

There are some critics over the years that I have used as a pretty good barometer to judge whether or not I will like a film or not (Roger Ebert or Eleanor Ringel are examples). There are other critics that I may disagree with but are enjoyable to read (Pauline Kael and David Thompson come to mind). So where does that leave long-time New York Post critic Rex Reed, with his drippy sarcasm and apparent lack of taste for anything remotely offbeat? I'm glad you asked. I use him as a reverse barometer. If the former Gong Show panelist doesn’t like something, it is probably something to check out. Or if one of the co-stars of Myra Breckinridge raves too much about a film, it makes me more than a little hesitant to watch.

The problem in this case is that Rex really liked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…and so did I. Well, I'm still not going to change any of my critical or reverse critical barometers. Let's say that Rex and I will just have to agree to agree on this one.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 3 of 12)

All I know is that if I had seen this film as a kid, the creature in the picture above would have probably traumatized me for life.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Son of 21st century films month! (Post 2 of 12)

La Vie En Rose

The 2007 Best Actress Academy Award went to Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose, the autobiography of Edith Piaf.

When you think about it, it really is a blueprint for what the Academy gives an acting Oscar for. Let's see: She gets to be poor, rich, young, old, abused, an abuser, a singer, a drunk, and a drug addict. She is also portraying a famous person and gets to tone down her good looks, which the Academy always seems to like a lot. She has several emotional scenes, including a mental breakdown, but her big one is finding out about the death of the great love of her life. She also has a great death bed scene just to make sure.. Her only drawback is that this film is not in English, which the Academy rarely acknowledges, but I guess the other present factors trump the fact that she is speaking in French. And let's face it, if Roberto Begnini can win an Oscar, isn’t anything possible?

Monday, July 1, 2013


The 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list has officially become the over 1100 Movies You Must See Before You Die if you include viewing all the movies from all the editions of all the books. In order to catch up with some more of the recent listings, I was going to have a “21st century films month!,” but since I’ve done that already, I’ll just call this “Son of 21st century films month!” since I can’t come with anything better..

Son of 21st century films month! (Post 1 of 12)

Slumdog Millionaire

I’m sure the original pitch to the studio for Slumdog Millionaire went something like : We’re going to have a movie set in India that has lots of scenes of poverty and suffering in it. Oh, and did I mention we don’t have any stars. It will be a big hit, really!

But it really did become a big hit. And even won the Best Picture Oscar for 2008! It’s downright inspiring to see the lowly “chai wallah” slumdog and his search for his true love while relating all the questions in of a game show to his life. My favorite charcter was the sleazy yet engaging game show host played by Anil Kapoor, who I think should have been given some Oscar consideration himself while they were handing out so many other awards to this picture. His character does make make me wonder if they really torture contestants such as Jamaal who gets too many questions right. Of course, I certainly can’t picture Regis Philbin or Alex Trebek using thumbscrews or a torture rack backstage.

Speaking of Alex Trebek: This really doesn’t have much to do with Slumdog Millionaire, but I’ll take this opportunity to make a note on that American institution Alex Trebek, long-time host of Jeopardy!.

During the American TV game show renaissance (AKA the 1970’s) Alex Trebek was just one of many quizmasters, such as Wink Martindale, Jack Barry, Allen Ludden and Jim Lang. Alex hosted an interesting show called the Wizard of Odds, where you try to guess the odds of occurrences in a survey sort of like in Family Feud. The curly-headed, thick mustachioed Trebek always seemed like a used car salesman to me. This image was further amplified in the show High Rollers!, where designated dice tosser Ruta Lee (who apparently had no talent for rolling dice) would try to roll certain numbers for contestants after they answered the relatively simple questions posed by your host, Alex Trebek. I always thought there was something a little shady about that show and it wasn’t as fun to watch as The Joker’s Wild or The Match Game. Alex even hosted some game show, which I can’t remember the name of, where the lightning round involves Alex and the contestant riding a glass elevator up to the next floor to participate in the lightning round of some kind. That is really the only thing I can remember about the show.

Of course, the Rolls Royce of game shows from the 60’s to the 70’s was Jeopardy!, where the contestant was given the answer and the contestant had to supply the question. It was fast and it was smart and you didn’t have to feel like you had to take a shower after you finished watching it, like if you did if just watched an episode of Let’s Make a Deal.

The host was the fast-talking and erudite Art Fleming, a man who could have easily been cast as a senator if he had been an actor during the Jeopardy! years. Art definitely had a Cronkitian air of authority to him, and was someone who commanded respect. I was pretty young when Jeopardy! went off the air, but I knew it was a sad day.

In the 80’s, they decided to bring Jeopardy! back. When I heard who the host was my reaction was, “Alex Trebek? Are you kidding? This isn’t Hollywood Squares! This isn’t The Newlywed Game! This…is…Jeopardy!!” But I gave it a chance. And you know, Trebek was good. He was quick. He was clear. He was fair. He was good at showing empathy for about two seconds when a contestant answered a question incorrectly (Ohhhh!) before quickly moving on to the next question. And don’t miss a question incorrectly about Trebek’s native Canada, or he will admonish you. So I completely changed my mind about Trebek. He is now an American (and probably Canadian, too) institution. Now that Trebek has done the show for almost three decades, I honestly can’t imagine anyone else doing it.

Additional Jeopardy bibliography:

A.J. Jacobs, One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, One chapter of The Know It All has a section of A. J.’s interview with Alex Trebek. When A. J. later tries to get on Jeopardy!, he is disqualified because of his interview with Trebek. He has to settle for an appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
? instead.

Ken Jennings, Branniac, From the man who won 74 Jeopardy games in a row, this book has a lot on his Jeopardy! Experience. as well as trips to an awful lot of long trivia nights.

Bob Harris’s Prisoner of Trebekistan, is a very funny and engaging book on his experience as a Jeopardy! Contestant.

What was this blog supposed to be about again? Well, no time. Jeopardy! Is about to come on. Can’t keep Alex waiting!

Alex Trebek and Ken "74" Jennings