Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Greetings from the tailpipe end of what turned out to be a weekend loaded with unexpected technological inconvenience (washing machine went tits-up mid-load), hard-fought baseball (Dodgers split the second NLCS rematch of the season with two walk-off wins against the Phillies courtesy of Andre Ethier) and transcendent movie magic (the little ladies and I saw Up), followed by even more technological inconvenience-- computer division-- which resulted in a delay of weekend office work that kept me up until about 3:30 this morning finishing everything off for a 10:00 a.m. deadline. Boo-hoo. All signs point to a righting of the ship, normalcy-wise, though I do have a ballet recital featuring both daughters to look forward to tonight, a season-closing ceremony for my youngest girl’s tee-ball team on Friday, and in between those events two (2) inevitably teary gatherings to honor the departure of a good friend (coincidentally, the kindergarten teacher to both my daughters) from a 44-year teaching career. It’s one of those weeks that will be well worth the tread worn from the bottom of my sneakers, and with Up priming the pump Saturday night I can accurately predict that there will be a certain level of emotional exhaustion on tap by the end of Friday night as well. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the spending the week expressing to those who hopefully already know it how proud and appreciative my family and I are for their talents and generous effort.

Before all that, however, just a few scribble-scrabbles from the notepad, some of which are a bit musty in terms of date of freshness of the subjects at hand. But the topics have been hanging around and have somehow avoided being deleted out of the on-deck circle altogether, so I will try to address them now and try not to look too tired and oh-so-last week (or month, or longer) in the process.


First off, a couple of housekeeping items. Over the weekend Anne Thompson filed her own report on seeing Drag Me to Hell with us at the Mission Tiki Drive-in last Saturday night. It’s folded into a larger discussion of why it was difficult for many to predict that the Sam Raimi movie would not connect with the mass audience (and why it’s easy to see that Sam Mendes’ Away We Go won’t either). And just in case you aren’t sufficiently enticed yet, there’s a lovely pic of me giving the Anitra Ford-Price is Right treatment to the evening’s signature dessert. Click away!


Last week Craig D. Lindsey, film critic for the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer, invited me to participate in a podcast interview on his newspaper’s entertainment blog, Crizzle’s Critical Condition. That conversation is now available for your perusal. Craig warned me that he intended to hold my feet to the fire about Speed Racer and a number of other subjects, but the conversation, which started with some reflections on Don Siegel and Charley Varrick, quickly turned into an early-‘70s love-fest with the introduction of the topic of Freebie and the Bean. We managed to talk a little about Steely Dan and David Carradine before I finally got the hook. I haven’t heard it yet myself, though while I don’t harbor any illusions that anyone will come away changed by the interview it certainly was a lot of fun and, from my perspective anyway, the 35 minutes passed far too rapidly. I’m still ready to talk about Speed Racer if Craig decides a sequel is in order. I’ll just try not to mention either Alan Arkin, James Caan or Alex Rocco next time.


Okay, it’s the first real box-office bomb of the summer, and though I’m not expecting another Speed Racer, I’ve heard enough from some folks I know who have seen Land of the Lost to make me believe that it still, despite all the retching over it in most of the reviews, might be worth seeing after all. That said, looks like there’s a new trend afoot in idea-starved Hollywood—big-budget adaptations not of old TV series, cartoons or even toys, but board games. Yes, some 23 years after the movie version of the Parker Brothers board game Clue got a raft of withering reviews and made barely a box-office ripple, the movie has developed a modest cult following, and apparently someone in the halls of power has begun to sit up and take notice. Word has it that Tropic Thunder scribe Etan Cohen and Enchanted director Kevin Lima are set to do up a psychedelic version of the popular Candy Land game, and this same package deal with Hasbro may result in upcoming Universal releases based on Ouija, Battleship and—wait for it—Ridley Scott’s Monopoly. (All this is to not even mention the one we’re all waiting for, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a movie version of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. When asked to describe the project, one of the screenwriters said, “Disney had a lot of success with Pirates of the Caribbean, so this is their Pirates movie in space.” Personally, I’ll hold out for the big-budget, rollicking all-star comedy that is just begging to be made, hopefully in a resuscitated Cinerama format, of It’s a Small, Small, Small, Small World.)

But really, why even bother with the annoyance of trying to build a story around a board game? It’s been done, and 24 years ago to boot. Why not just move straight on down the food chain, if you will. If "they" (the Hollywood brain trust) want a pre-sold sea adventure, one with a character attached, a new pre-sold Pirates that could be sequeled well into the next two decades, then what's stopping some genius from developing Cap’n Crunch—The Movie, preferably directed by someone like Kenneth Branagh, or maybe Martin Scorsese, or maybe even Greg Mottola, just so we can throw another indie director into the gaping maw of Hollywood tent-pole hell never to be heard from again? Get Jerry Bruckheimer behind it and not only do you have the breakfast cereal and toy marketing tie-ins sewn up, but you could even shoehorn a cameo from Jack Sparrow in there as well, if things start looking desperate for parts 2 or 3. I need a Bayer. Wait! That’s it! Call Warners! I’ve just got the next big thing—feature-length adaptations of “classic” TV commercials. Mama mia, that’s a spicy meteor-sized meatball on a collision course with Little Italy!


And now that I’ve brought up meatballs, how about some links:

John McElwee offers a fascinating post about a wrinkle I’d never heard of-- Cinerama at the Drive-in-- at Greenbriar Picture Shows.

Marilyn Ferdinand sets her fine descriptive style loose on the uncut version of Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), a consideration which includes thoughts on blasphemy, sexual vs. religious ecstasy, and a vivid recounting of the film’s infamously excised “Rape of Christ” sequence. A must read.

A while back one of the quiz questions was “Best Movie of 1974,” a bountiful year which, upon close examination, is not at all an easy one to boil down in terms of a top five or ten of greatness. Nevertheless, Robert Horton> gives it a shot.

Dave Blakeslee has set himself an even more daunting, and pleasurable, challenge—writing about the entirety of the Criterion catalog, one by one. He’s up to #145.

Greg F., the artist formerly known as Jonathan Lapper, has been thinking about Why Being a Cinephile Matters, and the question, posed in meme form, is one worth thinking about. Greg has some thoughts, as does Marilyn Ferdinand. I have promised to muse upon this one and offered my own, which I hope to have ready for fish wrap sometime this week.

And never one to be outdone, Bill R. passes along the Movie Reading Meme with a tantalizing request for my participation. I accept the challenge, even though one of the biggest sources of frustration of my adult reading life sits squarely atop Bill’s number-one perch: Flicker by Theodore Roszak. I love this book, but I got derailed in my reading of it late last year, during a particularly grueling period of study, and have not picked it back up since. Not for lack of desire to do so, to be sure. But enough time has passed now that I really need to just start over and give myself another chance to luxuriate in this book, which will resonate with anyone who dares call himself a cinephile. In the meantime, I will satisfy myself with as much of Bill’s account as I can greedily consume until the specter of spoilers begins raising its hooded head. My own list is coming, Bill, I promise.

Then there’s Jim Emerson, typically brilliant and thought-provoking on why some -filmmakers have trouble selling themselves and their work, and why some don’t.

Matthew Kiernan, the guy who started the whole Freebie and the Bean revival in my head, checks in with another Movie for Men Who Like Movies, Patrick Swayze in Road House (1988).

After Matthew’s ode to philosophizing bouncers, delve deeply into Noel Vera’s sharp -observations about Richard Fleischer’s equally sharp noir, The Narrow Margin (1952).

And then wash it all down with the tasty brew of love for Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre available from The Self-Styled Siren. Campaspe recently caught up with Don Siegel’s The Verdict, which features the two great character actors, but she doesn’t restrict her musings to that film. Here’s a sample:

“How well these two always managed to flesh out relationships that were somewhat superficial on paper. In The Maltese Falcon their more-than-business association is startlingly plain, but it's all in the playing. When Lorre attacks Greenstreet, yelling `You, you imbecile! You bloated idiot! You stupid fathead!’ we hear not just a criminal sidekick but also a frustrated ex-lover. If it weren't for the year it was made, you would expect Lorre to follow with recriminations about Greenstreet's lack of libido or how he got too flirtatious with last night's waiter. Three Strangers has them playing two characters who, for once, have no history as a couple nor any potential in that way, but the wary way they size each other up suggests all manner of unspoken perceptions. In The Mask of Dimitrios, where Lorre plays a Holly Martins-type writer drawn into Greenstreet's intrigues, Lorre gives hints that his fascination with Greenstreet may have to do with aspects of the big man's lifestyle that aren't being spelled out on screen. `He was my friend!’ Lorre protests at the end of the movie. `Well, he wasn't my friend, but he was a nice man. Compared to you he was...’ It could be the epigraph for their whole eight-movie association.

If you haven’t yet bookmarked Campaspe’s site, for God’s sake, what are you waiting for?

Finally, from the If I Could've Only Said It Half As Well Department, here’s David Edelstein and a beautiful appreciation of David Carradine.

Have a good Tuesday...



Robert Fiore said...

A couple of "is it just me or" observations about trailers/commercials making the rounds now:

Is it just me or is the first impulse generated by commercials for The Taking of Pelham 123 is the urge to see the original again? Is it a certain weariness with the John Travolta bad guy performance do you think or just the absolute certainty that Walter Matthau isn't in this version?

Secondly, you're watching a commercial for some biggity big science fiction action and special effects picture with lots of tough talk, and you're saying to yourself, I'm a sucker for those, maybe I'll bite this time, and then they tell you the movie is G.I. Joe, and your reactions instantly shifts to "Surely, sir, you have mistaken me for a 12-year-old boy."

Marilyn said...

"Cap'n Crunch" may be overplaying the popularity of the seafaring story. Remember the underwhelming performance of the overlooked Master and Commander. I think it would be a safer, um, green light for "Lucky Charms." A good Irish yarn always draws 'em in.

Thanks for the link, though is reference to my "descriptive style" a suggestino that I not tell so much of the story? I know it's not everyone's favorite thing in a review.

Bet said...

You are welcome to discuss Freebie and the Bean on the Hucklebug!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Robert: I will see the new Pelham despite (or is it because of?) my love for the original. But for me it's definitely all about missing Walter Matthau.

Marilyn: Perhaps it was I, in my late-night haste and through my soggy editor's eyeballs, allowed myself the use of the word "descriptive" twice in such a short period. No, your assumption is incorrect! I wanted to emphasize the description of the "Rape of Christ" scene precisely because it has rarely been seen, and I value your attention to the details of the imagery for that reason, and because while vividly re-imagining the movie in my head while I read your piece you made me think about lots of other things and issues about the movie. That's what a good writer is supposed to do, and you did it.

BTW, would a full-on CGI death match between the Cap'n and Lucky be asking too much? (I think so!)

Bet: Listen to the interview first. If you're not completely put off, then I'll consider that an invite! :)

Greg said...

I'm scared to take part in the Siren's comment threads anymore. She gets between 150 and 400 comments on every post now and I feel like an outsider for sticking my nose in. I mean, she is amazingly popular! Also, and this is not to be underestimated, every time I read one of her posts I feel like I know nothing about classic movies.

If I had to recommend a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about the films of classic Hollywood it would be the Siren... and her commenters! They're the most knowledgable group in that area on the internet.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Greg, I couldn't agree more. Campaspe has really achieved something special with her blog. Every once in a while I'm lucky enough to discover someone who makes me understand just how much there is left to learn about movies-- in this case, classic Hollywood-- and Campaspe is the latest in this hallowed and storied tradition. She is the best of all possible teachers-- warm, funny and receptive to the intelligence of others, as evidenced in that comments column-- and a terrific writer.

I too lurk far more than I dare tread at the SSS, for reasons of intimidation but also because it's more fun to see the Siren gang take off on a given topic than to try and think of something to say that won't immediately identify me as the class clown!

bill r. said...

Thanks so much for the link, Dennis. Now please read that book! I would love to read a full, 12-page post by you about Flicker. That's why I recommended it to you in the first place, you know.

Dave said...

Dennis, thanks for mentioning me in your terrific blog - movies and baseball, a perfect combination! I'm still at it over on my Criterion blog - The Lady Vanishes seems like a long time ago, and I haven't actually gotten to #145 (Fireman's Ball) yet. I think you meant 125, Dreyer's Day of Wrath. My conceit there is that I'm watching the films in chronological order of release. Started with Nanook of the North (1922) in January and I'm up to 1944 now, just posted on A Canterbury Tale tonight.

Headquarters 10 said...

Thank you very much for the plug, good sir!

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