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Zowie! March 1, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in General, Movies, Uncategorized.
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Some like it hot - Osgood Fielding III lee prensa económica

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Let’s Hear It For Cris Shapan February 25, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Art, Movies, Music, Television.
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Perhaps while surfing online,  you’ve come across some amazingly campy magazine cover, or album cover, maybe it was a pulp book from a long-ago celeb and couldn’t believe it existed…

Well, that’s because it probably doesn’t, except in the work of graphic artist Cris Shapan.

I highly recommend following Shapan’s Facebook Page where he regularly posts this stuff, as well as his Funny Or Die page.

The style of humor reminds me a lot of Drew Friedman, who loves to pick out his favorite childhood celebrities and illustrate them all too realistically in bizarre settings. Check out “Jimmy Durante Boffs Young Starlets” for example.

I’m surprised he doesn’t maintain some sort of regular website containing all this stuff, it looks like he’s content to use Facebook. My other theory is that this guy clearly gets his jollies posting this stuff & then kicking back to watch people repost it thinking it’s real. Shapan’s handle on the recognizable & realistic graphic designs of the stuff he’s goofing on from yesteryear is amazing. The colors, fonts, details of wear & tear, etc. are absolutely wonderful. Look at the wax paper lighting effects on that Avery Schreiber bubble gum pack (I wish I had one of those!) giving it real texture and depth. Great stuff.

Nice to see he gets work in Hollywood, hopefully they’l let him apply his comedy genius somewhere.

“They don’t write like that anymore…” – Greg Kihn

I Want To Smell Like Charles Bronson February 19, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in General, Movies.
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Don’t you?

Extra points if you recognized Percy Helton as the redcap like I did. And I can’t confirm it, but this Japanese ad might be the last thing he ever did.

Wait, Charles Bronson PLUS Percy Helton???

THAT’S TOO MUCH GOD DAMN MANLINESS FOR ME

Although thankfully, Percy doesn’t pop a pipe in his mouth and fling HIS shirt off with homoerotic glee like Bronson does.

So I’ll have to close my eyes and imagine that….. oooh yeah

 

The Slow & Ambling Paths of Plot Percolation June 20, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Movies, Writing.
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“So, where do your ideas come from?”

It’s one of the more common questions writers are asked.

While still promoting the current Wagstaff novel, I’m also into the develop-the-outline stage of Wagstaff 3 at this point, even while I hone the edges on a different series of books that will appear shortly.

Bow down, helots! I’m a multitasker!

I also made a fresh fettucine bolognese completely from scratch today, but you already knew I’m a CULINARY GENIUS.

Anyway, to get back to the “where do my ideas come from?” tack, since the Wagstaff series regularly features motifs, actors and plot points from all sorts of old movies and TV shows all mashed up together, damn near anything I watch might wind up in one, somewhere.

Especially if all that pop culture junk turns up in some off the wall dream I have. Every dream Wagstaff has in both of the books that turn out to be clues are ACTUAL dreams I’ve had in real life, by the way.  But that’s for another post.

Today, I wound up watching a couple of obscure movies I can tell you about.

I’ve already thought of the main-plot-drivin’ films I think I want to mine for the plotline of Wagstaff 3, but if any quasi-related tangential material crosses my radar, I usually feel obliged to watch it, just in case some detail or odd factor inspires me to use it. It’s basically the same mentality I use when browsing yardsales and thrift stores – I never know what might turn up, but after something does, it feels totally natural.

Today I started by watching Nick Carter: Master Detective, the first of three Nick Carter movies (more…)

Oscar Predictions 2017 February 22, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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oscar-falls-alseepI don’t think there’s been a year where I’ve cared less about the Oscars, but then there’ll always be next year.

When Hollywood was HOLLYWOOD! we’d have a bunch of films we loved contending for an award during the one evening of the year where awards were given out. Legendary stars like Humphrey Bogart, Myrna Loy, John Wayne, Jimmy Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Liz Taylor, Bette Davis and so forth would either win, be nominated or present in festivities hosted by Bob Hope.

What do we have now? An endless award season where overpaid entertainment-biz royalty continually stroke each other’s egos over largely forgettable fare, with a few diamonds in the rough. I’m always reminded of that when I cull through the screeners I’m lent by bona-fide academy members to see what I actually want to watch. It’s usually pretty thin.

Much the way NFL ratings dropped like a rock this year partly due to overexposure of mediocre product (like having last-place teams play week after week on Thursday night primetime games), the Oscars now blur into the year-long promotional fest of Hollywood telling us how great it is. It used to be a rarity to see our favorite actors & actresses as themselves, commenting on their work. Now, it’s everywhere, every day. Why, then, would Oscar night be a big deal? It’s just another day at the self-congratulatory office now.

Whatever.

Did I mention the show itself is most often a colossal bore? A funny joke here and there, usually depending on the host… but mostly it’s like watching factory gears turning. Every year at the end, I’d find myself saying “I don’t think I can sit through another one of these” and this year, I am keeping that promise.

I will not be watching.

I’ll check winners online, yeah, I’d like to see how well I call the winners, but I can’t sit through the broadcast. Through the boring production numbers. Through behind-the-scenes people who’d have great things to say being played off stage to make time for…. more production numbers. Through painfully unfunny contrived comedy bits like Neil Patrick Harris’ “psychic” act from a few years ago. Through this year’s memorial reel, filled with far too many wonderful people who died this year, and inevitably sitting there annoyed at who they left out. One year they left out DeForest Kelly. Another year, they skipped over Patrick McGoohan. Who will get dissed this year?

And then, this of all years, will be the politics. Movies are a nice escape from real life, or a window onto reality by way of creative fiction. If actors broke character and the 4th wall and speechified during their films, most people would walk out.

Hence, my reaction to the show. I’ll be watching the Columbo rerun, prolly. I have no idea what Peter Falk’s politics were, and I don’t care. They don’t matter.

Anyway, here are my predictions:

Best Picture: La La Land (they love movies about themselves)

Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Actor: Even though Denzel Washington won the SAG award, I’ll go with Casey Affleck for Manchester By The Sea.

Best Actress: All signs point to Emma Stone for La La Land, but a dark horse upset would be an interesting barometer: voting on this took place just after Meryl Streep‘s highly publicized political speech after winning a Golden Globe for Florence Foster Jenkins, not exactly one of Streep’s “major” career roles, but if everyone who agreed with her speech voted for her on account of it, AND rationalized the vote since, after all, she’s Meryl-fucking-Streep-fer-godsakes…. well, don’t be too surprised if her name is announced.

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Rhode Island’s Viola Davis, Fences

Best Animated Feature: Zootopia

Best Animated Short: Piper

Best Original Screenplay: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Adapted Screenplay: Eric Heisserer, Arrival

Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser, Lion

Best Documentary Feature: OJ, Made In America

Best Documentary Short: The White Helmets

Best Live Action Short: Enemies Within

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman

Best Editing: La La Land

Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge Swinging for the fences here… Kevin O’Connell finally winning after going 0 for 21!

Best Production Design: La La Land  

Best Score: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land this is getting monotonous….

Best Original Song: I’ll go for an upset here… “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Best Makeup: It’s always the one with he MOST makeup, so… Star Trek Beyond

Best Costume Design: La La Land

Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

Well, there. My guiding principles in picking these was to pick movies that make Hollywood feel good about itself, either aesthetically (La La Land) or politically (the shorts, foreign film & documentary). We’ll see how I do.

 

Oscar Predictions Reckoning 2015 February 23, 2015

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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Klugman with typewriter 4c

Only 15 out of 24, not exactly a stellar performance.

I missed the documentaries and score (I’m surprised a guy nominated twice in the same category didn’t split his own votes), I handicapped wrong on actor and missed editing & original screenplay. Some of the guild awards were not predictors, others were. Whatever.

I was also wrong about the memorial reel – they ended with Mike Nichols and not Robin Williams.

I got the boredom part right. The show was the usual overlong drawn out snoozefest it always is. Neil Patrick Harris did the thankless job of hosting, and he’s getting the social media blasts today that are to be expected. And so it goes.

As usual, someone totally unfamiliar with Hollywood or movies or American culture in general would look at the Oscar telecast and assume that American film is all about music. Why the hell does this stupid show, year after year after year, spend so much time on songs and production numbers instead of on, oh, FILM??? The only clips we see are for the actors. Nuthin’ else. EVER. And now, here’s another song!

I did not win the pool at the party I attended, but the food was certainly yummers.

And I got to meet Robert Towne & talk a little about movies with him. Movies were better when he was getting screen credit. But forget it, Jake, it’s the Oscars.

Oscar Predictions 2015 February 20, 2015

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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oscarmadison

What better way to return to this blog than with my Oscar handicapping? I did pretty well last year without seeing any of the movies, so here’s hoping for a repeat.

I always tell myself I ought to post more frequently on this thing, but I WORK FOR A LIVING, Y’KNOW?? Although if I posted all the stupid links I put up on facebook on here instead, this blog would certainly be more active and attract more clickbait. It might be a plan!

Anyway, after reading through the nominees and reading the tea leaves, here’s how I think it’ll play out on Sunday night:

Best Picture: Even though it seems people either love it or hate it, Birdman seems to be the one they’ll pick here. It’s a movie about an actor who redeems himself artistically despite a lost career and a needling critic…. one of the largest voting sections of the academy are actors, and any movie where Hollywood can say “Hey, that’s about ME!!!!” will win awards.

Best Director: Alejandro Inarritu for Birdman.

Best Actor: As long as I’m on a Birdman kick, I think they’ll give this one to Michael Keaton over Eddie Redmayne.  It’s really a career award for Keaton, kind of the way John Wayne won for True Grit. The feeling will be it’s probably his best chance at the thing, it’s his time, it’s his turn, etc etc. He’s well liked enough by everyone in the biz, and Redmayne has the “He’s young and will be back someday” vibe to him.

Best Actress: This one is the easiest to pick – Julianne Moore played someone dieing of a mentally debilitating disease, which already puts her at 80% of full Oscar. Moore played Sarah Palin in HBO’s Game Change a couple of years back, a tv movie basically designed to portray Palin as the stupidest person in the history of the world. Considering the way Hollywood feels about Palin, they’ll be giving Moore awards for the rest of her life regardless of what she does. So, we are at 100% full Oscar!!!

Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons. Basically another career award.

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette. They can’t give it to Streep every year, y’know.

Original Screenplay: Usually Best Picture & Screenplay match, BUT since Birdman had 4 writers, and since Hollywood seems to have a hard-on for giving him an Award for who he basically is, I think this one goes to Wes Anderson for Grand Budapest Hotel.

Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game. They gotta give it somethin’

Animated Feature: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Animated Short: Feast

Live Action Short: The Phone Call

Foreign Language Film: Ida

Cinematography: Birdman

Costume Design: Grand Budapest Hotel

Editing: Boyhood 12 years worth of work? It’s gotta take this one, even if editing and picture usually match since editors make up the other large voting block. But I think the actors will outvote ’em for best picture.

Make Up: Grand Budapest Hotel It’s always the movie with the most blatant make-up.

Production Design:Grand Budapest Hotel

Original Score: Johan Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Original Song: “Glory” from Selma, because they have to give it somethin’

Sound Editing: American Sniper

Sound Mixing: American Sniper  War movies usually do well here, and while scifi usually trumps it, the sound in Interstellar has generated a lot of complaints from the geeks who pay attention to this category. So, a slight nod to American Sniper here.

Visual Effects: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Documentary Short: Our Curse

Documentary Feature: Virunga

Other predictions? Well, Robin Williams will definitely end the memorial reel. The production numbers will be boring as watching, well, the Oscar telecast. Neil Patrick Harris will be adequate as host.

Whether or not I win the party pool with these picks remains to be seen. But at least I know the food will be good where I’m going this year, even if it’s a schlep from my house & my kitty. The sacrifices I make for ART…….

What’s The Japanese For “Schlock?” The Films of Noboru Iguchi July 11, 2014

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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Karate-Robo-Zaborgar2

Do you like movies where people’s heads explode into spritzing blood geysers after being cut to ribbons by Japanese ninja darts rapid-fired from the asses of bikini clad girlbots wearing Clockwork Orange dick masks?

I KNEW you did!

Unfortunately I’m not talking about the next Pixar release, but the work of a mostly consistent, reliably fucked-up Japanese exploitation comic gore meister, Noboru Iguchi.  Recently I was introduced to his work via a recommendation to watch Karate Robo Zaborgar, a remake of a 1970s-era tokusatsu silly rubber monster TV show which turned out to be, well, just damn brilliant.  And then by coincidence I got pointed to Dead Sushi, a movie where sushi comes to life and starts killing diners or transforming them into zombies (sort of Dead/Alive at the sushi bar) – and noticed it was the same director.

A little light went off in my head.

Funny how for a film freakazoid like myself, the films I’d see solely based on who directed them fall into the distinct categories of All-Time Great Directors like Hitchcock, John Ford, Kubrick, Billy Wilder and the like; and the difficult-to-pin-down category of directors who seldom disappoint in terms of whatever specific brand of schlock they’re known for – Ed Wood, Russ Meyer, John Waters. The latter category winds up being less consistent than the first in terms of delivering the goods – think of Waters’ later work or Meyer’s lesser efforts – but any time I’d hear of something that sounded mildly interesting, the name of some insane director being attached to the thing would usually make me hit play.

So add Noboru Iguchi to the list.

(more…)

Oscar Predictions 2014 February 23, 2014

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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criswellpredicts

Let me preface the following prognostications with a small caveat: the ONLY movie I saw in theaters in 2013 was Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Yup, that’s right. While I used to see anywhere around 35-50 movies annually, I’ve been so turned off by the entire experience of theatergoing that I’d rather wait for the things I’m  interested in to come out on disc & watch ’em at home, without the cellphones going off, the texting, idiots talking to each other or back to the screen, crying babies (I keep the ones I kidnap in a sound-proof room, so no problemo at home).

So I’m flying blind making these calls, relying solely on my gut feelings of how Hollywood gives out awards and what they give them out for: that wonderful blend of capturing the PC zeitgeist mixed with proper star power & convincing industry insiders you’re setting a trend.

Unlike in years past on this blog, I think I’ll predict the ENTIRE ballot with some commentary here and there…. we can see my batting average after next Sunday. Here we go!

PICTURE: 12 Years A Slave

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (another year where pic and director won’t match, I think… Cuaron’s been around for a while and made a big CGI epic, but they’ll go racial guilt big-time in picking picture, one to sneer in front of all the anti-Obama flyover folk they look down on anyway, and also to show up Oprah who tried to guilt ’em into letting her ram her own racial guilt movie down their throats. A twofer!)

ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club

ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupia Nyong’o, 12 Years A Slave

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Spike Jonze, Her

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave

FOREIGN FILM: The Great Beauty, Italy

SCORE: This one is tough since they all sound alike except really for Thomas Newman’s score for Saving Mr. Banks. But I think they’ll give it to Steven Price for Gravity

SONG: “Let it Go” from Frozen

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Another tough one, but I’ll go with The Act of Killing

DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Lady in No. 6 (it’s about music saving the spirits of a Holocaust survivor… Holy Oscar slam dunk, Batman!)

LIVE ACTION SHORT: Helium (it’s got the best visuals)

ANIMATED SHORT: Mr. Hublot (visually the most dazzling)

BEST ANIMATED FILM: Frozen

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gravity

EDITING: American Hustle (it’s gotta win something…)

COSTUME DESIGN: 12 Years A Slave

PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Great Gatsby

MAKEUP: Dallas Buyers Club

SOUND EDITING: Gravity

SOUND MIXING: Gravity

VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity

The best I’ve ever done is 20/24, narrowly missing the Oscar party pool pot of several hundred dollars by ONE goddamn pick! This year I’ll be at a party where the pool is strictly for honor & glory, so the food better be good while I, once again, sit through one of the ABSOLUTE WORST, MOST BORING, SELF-CONGRATULATORY HEAPING PILE OF MOOSE SHIT SHOWS known to humankind.

And (sigh) I’ll be back again watching next year. I hear Carrot Top is hosting.

Let Us Salute Non-Stop Silliness July 10, 2013

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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hellzapoppin-chic-johnson-ole-olsen-1941_i-G-67-6716-Z8WA100Z

Somehow over the years, the work of Olsen & Johnson somehow flew below the Wagstaff radar. I’d made a point of seeing the material from other comedy teams of yore whose works have not been elevated to the contemporary recognition that the Marxes or the Stooges regularly receive.

Usually that non-recognition is deserved – much of the material is dated, and while it worked well in its day, various aesthetics & sensibilities in comedy have passed it by. A lot of what I’ve seen by Wheeler & Woolsey fits this category – two guys thrown together for a Broadway hit who found their way onto the screen for a series of 1930s comedies, most of which qualify more as curiosities rather than film buff bucket-list items. Diplomaniacs is probably the best example since it fits in with the early-30s antiwar/anti-Europe vibe (also in Duck Soup, and even featuring the very same Louis Calhern as the antagonist), but much of the schtick & one-liners fall flat in comparison to Groucho, Harpo & Chico. Not as painful to watch as the Buster Keaton/Jimmy Durante material (since you’re basically watching Keaton’s slo-mo alcohol-fueled humiliation while his true talents are brushed aside by Hollywood)

So when I finally got around to Olsen & Johnson, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, much of their routine is dated 1940s silliness, but enough of it still works to keep it interesting, and perhaps most importantly, the lightning-fast pace of one surrealist gag after another is fairly innovating for its day, and perfectly inline with later comedy. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In certainly owes a ton to Hellzapoppin, with the rapid-succession of throw-away cartoon gags and quick edits.  I suppose you could draw a line from O&J to The Monkees, Frank Tashlin, Russ Meyer, as well as Airplane! and its comic descendants if you really wanted to.

Hellzapoppin, based on their hit Broadway show, is mostly about their efforts to put on the ol’ big show at a resort & how they have to improvise various wackiness to snare the financial backer. The movie takes it a few steps further, with an opening reel of non-stop sight gags introducing the framing device of the entire movie being described by the scriptwriter, played by gangster-movie staple Elisha Cook. There’s plenty of 4th wall breaking with Shemp Howard as the movie’s projectionist, impossible costume changes, a totally nonsense plot, and a fun & catchy swing era Jazz score throughout, with the highlights of Martha Raye & a group of lindy hoppers. Mindless fun, perfect for its wartime audience, and most of it holds up very well.

It was certainly good enough for me to want to check out other efforts of theirs, so I also found Crazy House on youtube. This one is more of a musical revue interrupted by sketch comedy, loosely (very very loosely) centered around a plot of O&J trying to make their big followup movie to Hellzapoppin. The bits this time don’t work as well and the music is less memorable, except for a Count Basie appearance, but on the mindless fun scale, this one still ranks fairly high.