Thursday, December 31, 2009


After having survived the year just past, at first I felt like posting a picture of the S.S. Poseidon hitting that infamous tidal wave. ("Oh, my God... an enormous wall of water coming straight for us!") But that really wasn't the image I wanted freshest on my mind as I skipped with caution into a new year which will hopefully be more fulfilling, less stressful and more conducive to peace on the domestic, international and personal front than was 2009. As I considered what image I wanted to hold up as a signifier of hope for 2010 (other than ones of my own family, which I don't usually tend to use for purposes of this blog), it didn't take me long to drift toward the earthy yet somehow ethereal beauty of the donna bellissima who has come to serve as the unofficial muse (gorgeous female division) and siren of this site, the incomparably lovely Claudia Cardinale. In the spirit of best wishes for us all in everything we do, may we approach life in the new year with even just a fraction of the quality of grace and will and intelligence that she brought to the films of directors great and small throughout her career. And may the fortunes of the next 12 months shine for us as brightly as the incandescent firmament on which her status as an icon of cinematic beauty has been firmly and irrefutably established. I just can't think of a better way to say happy new year to everyone I know and all the readers of SLIFR, the usual suspects as well as the newcomers.

Please have a wonderful New Year's Eve, wherever you may be, and a happy and productive 2010, spent at least partially around these here parts! The year-end festivities at SLIFR are just a few hours away, so stay tuned! Ciao!


Monday, December 28, 2009


Yes, though it doesn’t much look like it around here right now I have been writing over the holidays, and now the first of it has come to light. You can press on over to Flickhead’s blog or the main Flickhead site to read my comprehensive review of the new Fox Home Entertainment Blu-ray box set The Mel Brooks Collection. The set, while not precisely complete-- The Producers has been left out, presumably over rights concerns, as have Life Stinks and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (for perhaps less tangible reasons)—is the best look at Brooks’ filmmaking career were likely to get, its manic highs, stupefying lows and all the pop and sizzle in between. It turns out Blu-ray provides the best showcase ever for Brooks’ rarely-seen The Twelve Chairs, and it’s been mighty good, from a technical and documentary standpoint, to all of Brooks’ films, the classics as well as the not-so-classics. Here are my thoughts, excerpted from the piece, on the Blu-ray presentation of Blazing Saddles:

“The seismic shift that came (after The Twelve Chairs) not only changed Brooks’ entire approach to filmmaking, but ended up being a landmark in movie comedy as well. Whether it’s a duplicate or not, the 55-minute interview attached to the commentary track for the Blazing Saddles Blu-ray is an invaluable peek into the process of creating this foul-mouthed, subversive satire. The audio piece details with fond remembrance and not just a smidgen of recalled frustration the difficulties and joys of bringing the movie together. “I wrote berserk, heartfelt stuff about white corruption and racism and Bible-thumping bigotry,” writes Brooks in the introduction to the chapter on Blazing Saddles in It’s Good to Be a King (the 120-page book that accompanies the box set), entitled “He’s Just Crazy Enough to Do It.” Brooks recalls that writing the movie “got everything out of me — all of my furor, my frenzy, my insanity, my love of life and hatred of death.” Seen in 2009, Blazing Saddles is, against all odds, as funny as ever (and this from someone who laughed so hard upon seeing it in 1974, at the tender age of 14, that several of my classmates at school told me the next day, “I heard you at the movies last night!”) To my mind that frenzy Brooks speaks of is channeled here into something truly representative not only of Brooks’s state of mind, but the state of mind of the country at the time he was making it. No other Brooks movie hits the kind of gasp-inducing highs that Blazing Saddles does, or sustains that delirium as well. And maybe part of why the movie plays so well in 2009 is that it taps into our memories of a time that was perhaps less enlightened but also far less suppressed in terms of a culture’s permission to air its filthy laundry in the form of a vicious romp on racism like this. Going into the second American decade of the millennium, we have a Black president and nobody says the “N” word anymore, but anybody with any sense will tell you that the old devils ain’t gone, they’re just well hidden. In Blazing Saddles Brooks fiddles with the enemy, recognizes him in us, and has a hell of a laugh in the attempted exorcism. In the long run the exorcism may not have worked, but it’s good to know that this movie, far from just a well-preserved time capsule, is still in there throwing punches around.”

You can read the rest of the review at Flickhead
and even order it from Amazon there too.


Friday, December 25, 2009


My friend Larry Aydlette sent this picture along for me this morning. The man really knows how to make a Christmas merry! I hope all of you had/are having a wonderful holiday. If you're in Los Angeles, please join us tomorrow night as we stretch the merriment into the weekend at the New Beverly Cinema with a double bill of The Muppets' Christmas Carol and The Muppets Take Manhattan. Otherwise, actual content on the way before the weekend is out, I promise! But these pictures are so much fun! Ho ho ho!




Thursday, December 24, 2009


Here it is, Christmas Eve, and nothing on the work side of life seems to recognize that it's anything but just another day. And I suppose, really, that it is, only everyone in the working world except me seems to be taking off between noon and 2:00 today, including the good folks at the Water and Power Department whose option it is to turn off my Christmas lights if I don't hustle a money order over there in time this afternoon. Anyway, the window for completing my big pre-Christmas plans vis-a-vis this blog is inexorably shrinking, so on the off chance that I don't get another opportunity before the Hour of the Reindeer, I just want to wish you, dear SLIFR Reader, you, dear SLIFR Lurker, and all of your'n the very best of Christmas holiday seasons! Little Baby Jesus willing, I'll be back before the sunrise to fill your stocking with all manner of happy linkage and other fun stuff! Until then, please press "Play" above and enjoy this holiday classic, a favorite Christmas tune my family and I love to sing beneath the tree each year. (Three guesses whose part I take...)

And here's a Christmas Eve question for you: What's the ideal holiday movie for pouring a hot buttered rum, staying in and enjoying on this night?


Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Here’s the December 23rd entry on my wife’s 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said desk calendar:

On Aliens, Terrifying Musical Taste And:

Can we talk this over? It looks like you’re going to sing `White Christmas…' You’ve broken my mind!

-- Christopher Walken, as writer and alien abductee popularizer Whitley Streiber, talking to bug-eyed aliens, in Communion (1989)."

In other holiday-related news: contrary to the testimony of those who see me every day, I swear I’m not dead. It just feels like it. But my relative absence is about to end. I’m thiiiiiiiis close to getting some actual stuff to read ready to go for the holidays. I hope the lead-up to your season of celebration has been good so far. May it continue to be so. See you in what to me will feel like mere moments!


Thursday, December 17, 2009


Psaga, dear friend, confidant and SLIFR reader from way back, has passed along several keen items in the past couple of months, and here she keeps the string going by bringing to my (our) attention Name That Movie, a contest from blogger/illustrator Paul Rogers that sets forth an ostensibly simple task: identify a classic movie by viewing only six stylized drawings by Rogers based on iconic images or other details from the film itself. The scenes are identifiable, obviously more so if you’ve seen the movie, through Rogers’s reconstitution of familiar images, but not necessarily the most obvious or well-known scenes in the movie. His snazzy, clipped and exaggerated drawings make for fascinating exercises in conjuring the mood and style of movies that may share little in their approach to visuals and atmosphere, and are almost to a picture different in tone from the sophisticated slant given by Rogers’s renderings.

(Click on the illustration to the left for a closer look at one of Rogers' posers from Game 5.)

Try your hand at it. It ain’t easy, but it is fun, and there are five different games available, so if one strikes you as too easy, the next one probably won’t. You can access all the games at Roger’s site Drawger.

Thanks, Psaga! (Psaga comes by Paul Rogers' delights via the Observer’s Very Short List. )


Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Is it possible that The Blind Side, the movie directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) from the book written by Michael Lewis (Moneyball), is a sincere piece of work?

For those who may not already know, Hancock’s picture, which has become a big box-office hit in the United States since its Thanksgiving release, revolves around the fate of a soft-spoken African-American boy with bad grades (real-life NFL rookie of the year candidate Michael Oher, played by Quinton Aaron) who slips sideways into a private Christian school with the help of a coach who hopes he might turn out to be a valuable addition to the football team come springtime. All but one of his teachers quickly decides he’s an intellectual lump, but no one notices that, after school hours, he seems to have nowhere to call home. That is, until tough and frosty Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her family spot him lumbering to nowhere in particular on a rainy night. For no apparent reason other than compassion for this boy, the Tuohy’s take Michael under their wing-- Leigh Anne frets later over whether she’s done the right thing, and it’s clear what she’s really worried about is whether they’ll have any furniture or valuables left in the morning. But the more she learns about Michael, and the more the family gets to know him, the more she’s compelled to take responsibility for the boy, to provide him the things that her family can provide him, including enthusiastic guidance when spring rolls around and it’s time for the coach to cash in on his investment in Michael as a worthy football prospect for his team.

The Blind Side comes shrink-wrapped with a big red target on its back, ready for instantly gratifying condescension on the part of those who choose to read it as another self-congratulatory tale of the white man helping the poor hapless Negro on the road to self-actualization, living out a modern-day version of the slave-master relationship in the process. It’s ready to go too, if your game is heaping scorn on white Christian conservatives and their specious motives, a demographic group that isn’t often portrayed minus the closet full to bursting with ugly skeletons ready to fall out onto the floor at the most agonizing moment. But the truth is, the movie, while somewhat rudimentary in its construction and certainly not up to The Rookie’s occasionally poetic visuals, is as secure in its belief that men and children of men can help themselves out of their own circumstances (Michael keeps himself out of the nasty situation in the projects that his mother sets him up with long before Leigh Anne Tuohy ever roars up in her BMW) as it is that righteous charity born of Christian beliefs can and should be subject to self-questioning. (Is the motivation behind the Touhys’ generosity, and particularly that of Leigh Anne, as innocent as it initially appears?)

Sandra Bullock pulls off a neat trick in the movie by showing us the vulnerability behind a woman whose profession (interior design) and religious conviction are not just a front, but at the same time demand the adoption of a shell of outward contentment, satisfaction and surety to reflect back to the rest of the world. We’re encouraged to enjoy Bullock’s spunky rejoinders and headstrong protectiveness toward Michael (Aaron’s performance is a counterpoint of quiet reserve and tentative curiosity about his unlikely benefactors), and Bullock makes that enjoyment a pleasure, especially considering that such behavior exhibited in a real person (Leigh Anne Tuohy, perhaps?) would more than likely come off as annoying at best, smug entitlement at worst. In fact, one of the movie’s almost perversely refreshing moves comes from Leigh Anne’s absolute refusal to apologize for her family’s wealth or how they got it. (Her husband, played with laid-back charm by Tim McGraw, owns hundreds of Taco Bell franchises.) This is only a plus here because Leigh Anne often displays a refreshing self-criticism regarding elements of her own lifestyle (the $18 salads she eats for lunch with her socialite sisters take it on the cinch once or twice), and because she is not lacking in hesitancy to use the power and benefits of her wealth not just to pamper her family but also to help improve the level of possibilities along Michael’s life path.

As I watched The Blind Side I was plenty aware of the melodramatic tactics the film often puts to crude use—the ghetto environment from which Michael escapes could have probably been drawn a tad more subtly, ambivalently, giving us a better idea of how the comforts of this other constructed family and its bad influences can be so seductive, so welcoming. There’s not much juice in the film’s attempt to lead us to believe that Michael may be willing to retreat back into that world if he can only locate his crack-addicted mother—Aaron’s (and Hancock’s) conception of the high-school-age Oher is too much the innocent for that. And the movie’s use of football as a metaphor for how Michael comes to see life has been radically simplified to encourage the participation of viewers who wouldn’t know a left tackle from a place kicker. But if, on the basic level of racial perception, we are looking for a movie that encourages a certain color-blindness (part of what the title of the movie and the book are referring to), then it seems to me The Blind Side is not dredging up all the old clichés for yet another self-righteous drubbing but instead setting a template in which we are encouraged to look at those around us not as blacks (or whites) in need, but simply as children, women and men. Mutual familiarity with cultural traditions, beliefs and practices can come later; for now, let’s get out of the rain. Leigh Anne and her family “impose” their Christian values on Mike as they would any other member of their family—Leigh Anne’s benevolent “my way or the highway” is meant more as a family principle, not overtly religious guidance, and Mike adopts the family rituals as any of the Tuohy children do, with the option to decide for himself whether or not they are relevant to his adult life when the time comes. When the movie was over I asked my daughters (nine and seven) why she thought Leigh Anne Tuohy did what she did. I was not surprised when my oldest did not say, “Oh, to help the poor, oppressed black boy out of his savage existence and into a sheltered life of privilege the quality of which can only be afforded to him by the gentility and generosity of Whitey.” Instead, she looked at The Blind Side as a story of simple kindness, sans religious or racial prerequisites, and fairly judged that had Michael Oher been Chinese or white or Hispanic, the Tuohy’s response would have (or should have) been the same.

Unfortunately, the movie offers an easy mark for cynics, and some reviewers, urban lefties as well as conservative writers, have been swinging for the fences in an attempt to knock the wind out of this unassuming picture on grounds of its supposed white-bread superiority complex. But after I came home from the movie I discovered that, because of my enjoyment of The Blind Side, I was not only misguided--I was also a racist. Denver-based film critic Walter Chaw, who writes for the site Film Freak Central and has never been one to shy away from overstatement, may have topped even himself for hyperbolic tongue-lashing with his review of The Blind Side. (You can read the whole thing for yourself here, as well as some reaction it here.) The review is a pinnacle of sour self-satisfaction, apparently seriously positing The Blind Side as our very own Triumph of the Will, Ole Miss iconography apparently standing in for those swastika thingies. But Chaw’s brand of bombast may suggest to you that Hancock’s evil film may not be the only elephant in the room with an agenda:

"Michael Oher—as played sub-vocally by gentle, Lenny-ian giant Quinton Aaron—is not only the Super Duper Magic Negro who heals a household of rich shit-kickers (“Shoot! We done gots a Black Man living with us ‘fore we even met a Democrat! Hoot!”-- forgetting that wealthy Southern landowners have a long tradition of keeping black people on their grounds without commensurately progressive attitudes), but is the passive mute object around which every single person who likes The Blind Side convinces themselves they aren’t racist for the liking of it. If this movie doesn’t piss you off, if it doesn’t make you nauseated with its dangerous smugness, you’re part of the problem.”

That concluding section of Chaw’s first paragraph (in which his own possible culpability in racism is magically excused by his superior bullshit detector) is filled with enough condescension, presumptions, falsehoods (“Super Duper Magic Negro”?) and specious claims— Hancock and the Tuohys are about as unaware of the history of black slavery and servitude in the South as Quentin Tarantino was of the Holocaust— to make anyone question the writer’s stability, let alone the level of vitriol he seems prepared to let fly at this rather minor movie.

Chaw clearly has distaste for Bullock’s performance, and perhaps also for the sort of stridently religious, moneyed Southern matriarch she represents in the movie, and I must say if I met Leigh Anne Tuohy in the flesh she probably wouldn’t be someone to whom I’d naturally gravitate either. But by denouncing anyone who likes the movie as a racist or an “asshole,” and by saddling the movie with claims of its “manifest destiny as applied to an entire culture as it asserts itself over another in an act that can only be seen as pathological fundamentalism,” Chaw shows himself up as trying too hard in one act of look-at-me posturing after another. If you’re going to claim that a movie as essentially good-natured as this one is an equivalent illustration of American foreign policy since 9/11, then I suppose the language you use to do so must be suitably bombastic and overstated, and helpfully ignorant of the tenor of the actual film as possible. It’s only through self-important haranging like this that Chaw could attempt to sell Tuohy’s introduction of Michael to her family’s Christian beliefs, beliefs that Michael may already share or is at least aware of, as achieved with anything like “overwhelming, relentless intimidation and cajoling.” That’s more accurately a description of Chaw’s review.

But it’s not nearly as funny as Chaw’s description of the game that The Blind Side is built around. Of course Chaw is perfectly correct to suggest that Michael should be asked if he even wants to play football, or whether he even wants to go to college. The implication is that the film itself doesn’t ask these questions when in fact it does, just not as quickly as the reviewer would have them asked. (It’s called dramatic tension.) And how about this one: “With the Tuohys, Michael gets his first bed and first glimpse of football, where, ultimately, he’ll be drafted into the ranks, as an underprivileged black man, to entertain a stadium full of 70,000 richer (at least, relatively) white people.” Now who’s being patronizing? The Blind Side makes it clear that, although the Tuohys help him in academics and well as athletics, he is drafted not as “an underprivileged black man” but as a talented and athletic left tackle, precisely what any football coach at any college is looking for, regardless of the player’s color. But Chaw outdoes himself when he claims that Oher is being groomed for some sort of Romans/Gladiators contest to slake the violent appetites of rich white folks, as if the stadium were filled with 70,000 Mr. Burnses warming their feet on the backs of their Negro valets. On the field, in the stands, and at home in front of the TV (where economically challenged fans of all races, colors and creeds enjoy much less expensive access to the games), blacks and whites fill the ranks of college and professional football fandom.

All this, however, this probably won’t matter to someone bent on seeing The Blind Side as “a horror movie about animals that can’t help the way they are preying on an animal without the power to resist,” “institutional racism as inspirational melodrama… our very own Triumph of the Will.” Anyone paying attention yet? Are these objections merely narrative and aesthetic or do they extend, as the pomposity of the language in which the review is written suggests, to the idea that the real Leigh Anne Tuohy had no business taking in Michael Oher in the first place? Why else would Chaw feel it necessary to point out, right after noting Tuohy’s “patronizing” attitude toward the boy, that Tuohy gets “sanctimonious with any friends who stupidly question the wisdom of bringing in a boarder with an abusive, deeply-troubled past into the same home as young children?” Willful ignorance or smug sanctimony—you get the feeling that in the eyes of some this is a battle the charitable will never win?

I actually like Chaw’s question about what “the same assholes who love this movie (would) say about a Kabul-made film in which fundie Muslims save a white kid from Indiana with dangerous misinterpretations of the Qur’an and teach him how to rock it at Buzkashi?” Personally, I‘d go see it (especially if it had a blistering Steve Earle soundtrack), but I’m guessing most of us, Christian and heathen alike, would be forced/encouraged to ignore that film because it wouldn’t likely have the marketing muscle of Warner Brothers behind it or the distribution arrangement to get booked more than a couple of weeks in one or more of our most radical liberal pinko urban art houses, where it might likely be proclaimed a masterpiece or at least viewed with tolerance. It’d be interesting to read the reviews, wouldn’t it? Especially the ones coming out of Denver, where one lone critic howls against Sandra Riefenstahl and the encroaching and insidious cultural, religious and political treachery that bear themselves on the cold, stiff winds blowing her new movie into town. Evil does, after all, have many faces. I’m pretty sure the Bible told me so. But I’m not even slightly convinced that The Blind Side is one of them. Whether you buy Christianity or not, sometimes helping a fellow man is simply helping a fellow man, and telling that story is simply telling that story.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


UPDATE 12/15 9:56 p.m. It was Blogger and SLIFR friends Nate Y., Chris Stangl, Tommy Salami and Greg Ferrara all checking in with all the help I needed to get my good ol' burgundy background back on and flying early this evening! All the details are in the comments column, and once again, gentlemen, you are fine and true geniuses and friends, one and all! Thanks!

What the hell?

As you may be able to observe for yourself (unless this is a phenomenon restricted solely to me and my hallucinating eyes), I have been besieged by some sort of Photobucket onslaught. According to a Blogger help forum I was able to connect up with, this error may have something to do with linking directly to a Photobucket image from someone else's account that has gone out of service. The rather overwhelming and disturbing implication, if this is true, is that somewhere in the five years of archives of posts on this blog there is an image I once linked to that is no longer available and thus causing this disruption.

But unless I'm mistaken, I never directly link to the originating source of the images used on this blog. Instead, I save them first to my own hard drive and access the images through Blogger from there. This is the way I was initially advised to use photos that would be safe on my end and not result in "stealing bandwidth" from anyone else.

I am awaiting advice from Blogger on the problem, but in the meantime I wonder if any of you in the blogosphere have ever experienced this before. I see a lot of blogs and I've never come across it myself, so I suspect (hope) it's a fairly rare phenomenon that can be easily fixed. Otherwise, I guess I'm in for a very time-consuming fishing expedition to try to find the image amongst all these images that is causing the problem.

Any advice those of you who are far more schooled in the Internets than am I could give would be greatly appreciated! And I will try my hardest to clear my template of this ghastly visual blight as soon as possible!


VAL AVERY 1924 - 2009

Photo of Val Avery in John Cassevetes' Faces courtesy of Margiana.

Val Avery had one of those mugs. It was a facial landscape that for many of us still emanates from the cathode ray light that cuts through the darkened room of our memories. Yet his long career, which began in live television and continued through frequent and memorable guests spots on TV series such as Columbo, The Mod Squad, The F.B.I., Ironside and Mission: Impossible, made an early segue into film in 1956’s with Humphrey Bogart’s last film, The Harder They Fall. He was one of the many go-to guys from which Hollywood had to choose when they needed a Mafia kingpin or a neighborhood tough, a seasoned law-enforcement administrator or a nails-tough beat cop, and he seeded each of these appearances with wit and truth and a sense of joy for acting that spoke to his sensitivity as a performer, whatever the role. (My kids will always remember him as the traveling haberdasher who argues with undertaker Whit Bissell-- while Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen watch nearby-- for the dignified burial of a recently killed Indian local during the opening of The Magnificent Seven.)

Mr. Avery died Saturday at his home in Greenwich Village of undisclosed causes at the age of 85. In his obituary for the New York Times, William Grimes writes of Avery’s life and unusual swerve, after essaying so many gangsters and thugs, into the stock company of John Cassavetes, ending with a hilarious anecdote that would, I’m guessing, be the envy of any character actor. As another piece of Hollywood history now forever gone, he will be missed. As an actor whom I always enjoyed seeing wherever I could, on television or in the movies, an actor who, as so many of his generation did, often meant the movies to me (and still do), he will be missed even more.


Thursday, December 10, 2009


Blecch. The hack is back. The Thanksgiving vacation cold I hoped would be long gone by now has, as I feared it might, this week taken a swerve left toward bronchitis, which explains why I’ve been relatively silent of late. I’ve got lots of stuff to write about and plenty of time, but damned little in the way of energy to do so. But I promise to end the year right, once this cursed cough lets me be, including a year-end wrap-up (alongside the loooong list of 2009 movies I have yet to see), the obligatory best-of-the-decade list and quite a few other items that hopefully won’t seem quite so obligatory.

Until then, there’s another return engagement on the Los Angeles independent film scene that is far more welcome than my nasty sick, and I very much encourage you to clear your calendars at midnight Friday this week so you can see it for yourself.

A few months ago it was my pleasure to see and then write about director-scenarist Marion Kerr’s debut feature Golden Earrings. The movie is a compelling psychological thriller which takes you to some unexpected places (a simple thing, yet fairly rare, even among independently-oriented films such as this), and it has at its center a towering performance by Julia Marchese which is among the best I’ve seen this year. (If you attend the New Beverly with any regularity you’ll know Julia as the sparkling and lovely force behind the theater’s special events programming, and she’s probably sold you a ticket now and again as well.)

When I initially wrote about Golden Earrings my enthusiasm was tempered slightly by a kind of worry over when I would get a chance to see it again, and I talked to several people who were frustrated that they had missed what they assumed would be the only chance to see the movie on a big screen. Well, everyone is going to get at least one more chance after all. The New Beverly has slotted Golden Earrings for a midnight screening this coming Friday, December 11, and again the admission to the screening is free. Even if it’s raining, the trip out to see this film will be worth the effort. I strongly encourage you, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, and even if you have, to come out and support the fine work of this up-and-coming filmmaker and her superb cast. Marchese’s slippery, intense work is truly awesome, and she anchors a cast of supporting players—among them John T. Woods Lauren Mora, Teddy Goldsmith, Anthony Dimaano and Kerr herself—who are more than up to the standard set by their lead actress.

Ironically, I will probably, when all is said and done, not be able to attend the midnight screening myself, and not just because I feel like a bag of rocks right now. I have a date that same evening to take my daughter to the New Beverly to see Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Story, so we’ll be exiting the theater just before the Golden Earrings screening begins. Midnight is far too late for the young one, and the movie is far too scary, and beyond her experience as well. So I’m hoping instead to score one of the movie-only DVDs that Marion is going to have available for sale at the theater on Friday night as a sort of consolation prize. After seeing the movie you may want one too, so make sure to get one while you can, as Marion has hinted there will only be a limited supply on hand. The more fully rounded DVD, complete with extras, will hopefully be available sometime in 2010.

Again, I sincerely encourage anyone in the Los Angeles area looking to see a solid, well-crafted, intelligent drama to come out to the New Beverly Friday at midnight to see Marion Kerr’s lovely and chilling Golden Earrings.


Monday, December 07, 2009


(Mad magazine cover courtesy of Doug Gilford and his amazingly comprehensive site devoted to Mad magazine.)

Look, Ma, my time has come! I’ve been parodied! I always wanted to know how the actors and directors and magicians behind all those ubiquitous TV ad campaigns felt when they found themselves parodied in the pages of Mad magazine. Well, now I know. Greg Ferrara (the very first respondent in the current professorial quiz on these pages), owner/operator of the very well-tread (and read) Cinema Styles, has honored the popular SLIFR quiz with its very own Mad movie satire of a sort—a twisted brainteaser entitled ”Professor Guy-From-Somewhere-In-Time’s Late Year Quiz or Something.” Though my raging ego couldn’t deal with the thought of being made sport of, in the spirit of fun and fair play and getting along and all those other things I’m not sure I believe in anymore I rushed straight away to fill out Greg’s (if that’s really his name) quiz before I could be accused of getting steamed or huffed or miffed or any of the other new jack poses the kids like to adopt these days, thereby accidentally exposing the titanic level of my actual aggravation. How dare he! Isn’t there such a thing as intellectual prop—Oh, well, never mind. You can hustle yourself on over to Greg’s house (or shack, or love hut, or den of iniquity, whatever it is) and take the quiz your own damn self. And while you’re there, write hilarious and filthy limericks on the walls of the bathroom. Thanks, Greg! This was a lot of fun! My answers (followed by the terms of my lawsuit) follow below.

1. Dinah Shore or Russell Crowe?

Dinah. She was way prettier than Russell, she knew how to comb her hair, and her Southern accent was way better than his.

2. What was the last movie you saw on DVD? In a theatre? In a large abandoned warehouse with a Satanic cult in the corner trying to hold a ritual while yelling at you, "Hey man, turn it down!"?

2a) Play Dirty (1968; Andre de Toth) starring Michael Caine and Nigel Davenport.
2b) The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976; Blake Edwards) starring Leonard Rossiter and Colin Blakely.
2c) Pauline at the Beach (1983; Eric Rohmer) Could barely hear the heartfelt, sometimes fumbling, always witty romantic repartee for all the sobbing and cries for mercy.

3. Second favorite Carrie Henn movie.

The Hiding Place (1975; James F. Collier) Huh? Oh, Carrie Henn. The little interstellar ragamuffin from that James Cameron movie? I thought you meant Carrie Ten Boom. I always get those two mixed up. And it’s Corrie Ten Boom. God, I’m completely confused.

4. The Cat From Outer Space. Yes or No?

Only if there’s a version in Ron Miller’s basement somewhere in which Ronnie Schell gets his little eyes scratched out.

5. If you were eating yogurt and I walked up and said, "Mmmm yogurt," then took a big spoonful without asking, then went, "Ewww, gross!" and spit it back into the yogurt cup, would you keep eating it? Why or why not?

If you were at the same time eating, say, a chocolate bar, then we might have the makings of a wildly popular (if slightly repulsive) TV ad campaign in which two tastes, thought to be incompatible, existed together in a delicious, slightly messy treat. But you didn’t say anything about a chocolate bar. So I’d toss the yogurt in your face and have you arrested.

6. Most misunderstood film of 1907.

D.W. Griffith’s scathing undercover documentary expose I Was a Rough Rider for the Ku Klux Klan.

7. When was the last time you punched someone in a movie theater? (submitted by Marilyn)

Only about a month a half ago. I turned this old lady’s head into pulp after she began harping on rather loudly to a group of her blue-haired friends about the trailers before a screening of Zombieland. “Oh, that Sarah Jessica Parker is a doll!” “Why is everything so loud?!” “Ugh, not another Tarantino rip-off!” Right after that they got into this conversation—and mind you, they’re sitting right behind me, at a screening of Zombieland!—about excessive violence in cinema, and when this old bag blurted out something about Grand Illusion being better than Inglourious Basterds, well, I fucking flipped. I jumped over the back of the seat and just started whaling on the vicious old biddy with her own cubic zirconia-encrusted handbag. It took four—FOUR—of her septuagenarian sidekicks to drag me off of her, and as the minimum-wage usher (and a couple of police officers) escorted me out, I whipped my bucket of buttered popcorn at her and nailed her right in her dome. Greased up her little cronies too!

8. Marie Dressler or Robert Wagner?

I’m a little embarrassed to say that this one sent me to my IMDb. I’ve always loved Dressler’s broad (no pun intended) comic style, Tillie’s Punctured Romance and Dinner at Eight being favorites, though I never cared for her in dramatic roles. (Oscar obviously disagreed, giving her the Best Actress award in 1931 for Min and Bill.) On Wagner, however, I drew a blank, and even after scanning his rather voluminous career as a TV and film actor (and occasionally paramour to aged movie queens) I am at a loss to think of one single appearance of his that I have personally witnessed. So advantage, Dressler.

9. Why do the ladies love Bill so much? (submitted by Bill)

I think it’s because of the way he presents himself in his blog-- intelligent, erudite, fun-loving, occasionally cranky. That’s a full-bodied presentation any female would find attractive. It’s only when they meet him in real life and realize he’s not the man pictured in the header of the blog that their enthusiasm turns to bitter disappointment. Goddamn it, if we weren’t all so superficial and susceptible to physical beauty!

10. Favorite scene in a movie where a t-rex terrorizes two children in an electric SUV stalled on a track while the lawyer that was in the car with them has fled to the bathroom and two scientists, one a mathematician and the other a prominent archaeologist, are in another stalled electric SUV behind them? Mine's Marty.

Well, Marty would have been my answer too, but I think Rod Serling did a fine job answering the power of that scene in Requiem for a Heavyweight. Two T-Rexes are always better than one. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Chayefsky.

11. How many fingers am I holding up?

One, and it’s perfectly balanced by the two fingers on the right side and the finger and thumb on the left.

12. Jeff Conaway or Hoot Gibson?

Well, Jeff Conaway had the greatest feathered pre-mullet hair there will ever be. But Hoot Gibson rode with Tom Mix and Harry Carey, and he was a real rodeo rider. And Hoot, all due respect to Conaway, knocked the shit out of Kenickie for the Oklahoma City Community Theatre Association just before his death in 1962. So really, no contest. Advantage: Gibson.

13. Movie you would like to see remade entirely with squirrels?

Roland Emmerich’s 2012. (Conveniently, Amanda Peet could then remain in the cast.)

14. When will Larry Aydlette delete his current blog? Two months from now? Three months? Tomorrow?

Larry, being the omnipresent and benign overseer, created his blog primarily as a figment of the collective blog community’s imagination, an ethereal attempt to remind us that good work can indeed be done. It only disappears when we all get too dependent on it for inspiration.

15. Where have all the flowers gone?

Get that piece of shit out of my bar! What the hell’s wrong with this country anymore?

16. Donna Pescow or Lloyd Nolan?

Jeez, talk about two I can never keep straight! Lloyd starred with Diahann Carroll in the smash hit NBC TV series Julia, and Donna starred in her own ABC sit-com called Angie! But I always thought Donna did scowling, irascible, crusty yet benign better than Nolan, when it comes right down to it. (See her Connie in the 1982 “My Friend, the Executrix/Programmed for Love/Baby Talk” episode of The Love Boat.)

17. You know how in Casablanca Louis keeps his mouth shut about Rick shooting the stinkin' Nazi? Isn't that fucking awesome?

Are you saying that Casablanca is a better film than Inglourious Basterds now? Huh?! Come here, you gasbag! You harlequin! You will feel the rapier sting of my mixed-metaphor white-hot knuckle sandwich!

18. What in the hell is that awful smell?

That might have been me.

19. So at the end of The Godfather after the door closes on Kay, Michael opens it back up and says, "You know what, I lied. I did order Carlo's death. Forgive me?" as he makes a puppy dog face. Then Kay says, "Oh okay, I forgive you. [wagging her finger in mock disapproval] This time! Hey, how about ham salad for lunch?" Michael says, "Sounds good. Kissie?" Then they peck a couple of times and rub noses while the other guys all pretend to look at the bookshelves. Then Kay goes off humming "Come on-a My House" while Michael says before closing the study door, "Who's up for a game of backgammon?"

Better ending, right?

I actually prefer the one Coppola talks about on the commentary track of last year’s Blu-ray restoration of all three Godfather films. There was an actual alternate ending shot, and it is available as an Easter egg in that same box set. (Two right-clicks, press “play” and “menu” simultaneously, and then wave your index finger in front of the infrared transmitter on the front of your Blu-ray remote in a circular motion for 6.3 seconds to access the extra.) In this alternate ending, just before the door closes with that awful finality on the image of Kay looking at Michael, you suddenly hear this loud whooshing sound. Kay is enveloped in a lightning flash of electric blue light and you hear the sound of screeching wheels. The door never closes all the way because by now Michael and his capi di cappuccino are all rushing into the room. Suddenly, just as Michael begins to make his way toward Kay he’s blindsided by a little balding man in an aluminum foil suit who buries a sharp, unidentifiable instrument into his chest. Michael falls away, gasping, as the capi di cappuccino perforate the strange invader with gunfire. The invader falls back, twitching in a death dance that directly refers to the death of Sonny earlier at the tollbooth. Only this time the victim falls back against a brushed metal-looking vehicle almost futuristic in design—long, dagger-like, with sharp edges and doors that fold out like wings and a bizarre engine assemblage spewing out of the vehicle’s rear like some sort of twisted wreckage, not at all a car that rolled off a Detroit plant line in post-war America. As the invader slumps, bloodied, against the body of the car now dotted with bullets, we realize that the man in the aluminum suit is none other than Fredo Corleone, who has returned from the future to assassinate his own brother before Michael could have him offed in the fishing boat in The Godfather Part II. As the two brothers lay dying, Kay and the capi exchange looks of confusion, as if they were trying to parcel out the confusing time travel plot line in their heads, in sympathy with the audience. It is on this look of confusion that the door closes on Kay as The Godfather ends.

A couple of interesting notes. Apparently Gordon Willis, director of photography of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (but not the one in the parallel universe), strenuously objected to the introduction of the blinding flashes of blue light that introduce the time-traveling Fredo to the end of the picture. Coppola, on the audio commentary, claimed that Willis was “extremely pissed” at the idea of rupturing his carefully composed chiaroscuro visual scheme that characterized the rest of the movie and wouldn’t be party even to a test filming. So Coppola pulled young cinematographer Dean Cundey out of USC film school to helm the sequence, which he would replicate to such great effect in the Back to the Future films a decade later. Also, Coppola admits that, though he liked the strange, out-of-nowhere twist the new ending brought to The Godfather, Robert Evans and others at Paramount were concerned that if Coppola followed through with it the effects budget for Part II would become astronomically high. Coppola himself later realized that the shocking appearance of Fredo preventing his own death would too drastically alter the tone of the sequel and that audiences, once aware that the familial organized crime saga had suddenly taken a fanciful turn toward science fiction, would stay away from the theater in droves. It was for this reason that Coppola resented George Lucas for several years after the release of Star Wars a mere three years later. This also explains why Robert Zemeckis, once a Coppola favorite, would become persona non grata at Zoetrope Studios, the last of his films Coppola would ever see being Romancing the Stone.

20. 21st favorite question on this quiz.

Ooh, I can feel my soul folding in on itself! And a good thing too, because I could never reach it with my back scratcher!


Sunday, December 06, 2009


Because it rarely gets as good as this...

James Cagney and Gladys George in Raoul Walsh's The Roaring Twenties (1939) could be a perfect movie...

...and Michael Caine butts heads with Nigel Davenport while rolling through the African desert on a doomed WWII mission to knock out a German fuel dump in Andre de Toth's Play Dirty (1968), about as sublimely mean and visually stunning a war adventure as I've ever seen...

May all my attempts to live up to my own modest movie-going proposal be as rewarding as this one was.


Saturday, December 05, 2009


Many thanks to Robert Hubbard and Tim Lucas for passing along news of what Tim describes as a “delightful” and “surprising,” not to mention almost totally improbable event in Internet history, the unveiling, as it were, of Ken Russell’s long-suppressed episode of the BBC’s Omnibus series The Dance of the Seven Veils, in which the director mounts an elaborate and irreverent “comic-strip biography” of composer Richard Strauss. The episode is significant in that it so outraged the Strauss estate that they forced an injunction to keep it out of circulation—the episode was not included in the recent Ken Russell at the BBC box set of a few years ago—but also because it marks the first real flowering of the sensate, unrestrained aural/visual cacophony that would be a hallmark of Russell’s style as a feature director.

It’s pretty easy to draw straight lines from images, ideas and sequences that occur in Dance of the Seven Veils through to the mayhem wrought in big-screen Russell masterpieces like The Music Lovers (1970), The Devils (1971), and lesser works like Savage Messiah (1972), Mahler (1974) and even the sublimely ridiculous Lisztomania (1975). Strauss is played by Christopher Gable, star of Russell’s wonderful The Boy Friend (1971), while Judith Paris shines as his wife Pauline, Kenneth Coffey does amazing transformative things involving crucifixes and swastikas as Hitler, and Vladek Sheybal does Goebbels as memorably as Sylvester Groth did this past summer. (I always wondered, in the rush to bury Inglourious Basterds with its outrages against history if anybody remembered the kinds of things Ken Russell came up with in this arena.)

The print of Dance of the Seven Veils has time-code markings, and the quality of the color goes wanting, but regardless of those blips this is an opportunity to see this very rare film that, given YouTube’s penchant for taking down controversial material, should be taken advantage of as soon as possible, before it disappears altogether. The film runs just under an hour, and I have posted all six parts for your convenience here. Thanks to Tim Lucas and Robert Hubbard for passing the word along on this eye-popping event. For more information on Dance of the Seven Veils and the entirety of Russell’s career, including his Omnibus period, I refer you to Savage Messiah, Iain Fisher’s comprehensive web site devoted to the films of Ken Russell.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6


Friday, December 04, 2009


Most Amusing/Entertaining Column of the Week awards around here usually go to Glenn Kenny and "Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week" at The Auteurs, and this week there’s two award-worthy entries. Why? Because I missed the one before Thanksgiving, somehow. This week Kenny finds himself with some holiday heartsickness over realizing he misses the now-defunct Spout blog, which then rolls over into regret at writing off writing about awards so early in the season. That’s how I got caught up with the November 20 column—a link within that bit that leads to Glenn’s original wiping-away-tears-hilarious consideration of award season writers crisis. (“Come. Take my hand. Let me walk you through the three stages of an American cinephile's process of dealing with movie awards. Step One: Anger. Blind, filthy rage…”)

But there’s more. All that is followed by my favorite single piece of writing of the week, a compendium of the critical sneers engendered by the new Sandra Bullock movie The White Side entitled “Why Do Film Critics Hate America?” I’m actually hoping that this picture, written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, A Perfect World) from a book by Michael Lewis (Moneyball) might be worth a look, and if it’s not, well, so be it. But I got right tickled by Kenny’s tongue-in-cheek overview of how “hip urban film critics” were taking this one (not in stride, as it turns out). He writes:

“I haven't yet seen The Blind Side, and I admit it'll probably be a while before I do—the last football-themed movie I shelled out money to watch was The Longest Yard. In 1974. Because I'm fey and think sports are icky. And I'm not the only one. Melissa Anderson reviewed the putatively-inspirational-based-on-a-Michael-Lewis-book-
football-star-by-caring-conservative-white-people for The Village Voice (figures!), and not only did she hate hate hate it, she also hated the real-life SEC football coaches who cameo as themselves in the film: "an unintentionally grotesque parade of bad orthodonture and ill-fitting suits." EEEWWW! SOUTHERN WHITE MEN WHO DON"T WEAR BESPOKE CLOTHING!!! THEY'RE GIVING ME COOTIES!!!

In Time Out New York (figures!) David Fear sneered that the movie was designed to "[make] suburban moms feel better about themselves during the post-screening drive to Costco." Fear. Dude. Have you ever been to a Costco? Trust me, it's awesome. The cheese, it...comes in these enormous slabs and...seriously, dude, you have to check it out. Also, suburban housewives think that Antichrist is designed to make hip urban film critics feel better about themselves when they're on their way to have abortions!!”

Don’t worry, I haven’t quoted it all. And just know that it all leads down the road to the Armond White-ism of the Week.

Yes, I know we’re supposed to be above all this kind of stuff—Kenny regularly questions himself and the column’s reputation as being “a repository for its author's snark.” But if loving Glenn Kenny’s snark in “Topics/Questions of the Week” is wrong, well, I at least reserve the right to giggle over it in private. Except when I’m sharing it with you, of course. And if he’s being mean to me.

Have a great weekend, everybody!



Now, that's what I call a football game! Now if I could only afford Rose Bowl tickets. Oh, well, that's why God made HDTV. Quack!

<a href="" target="_new" title="Ducks come out smelling like roses">Video: Ducks come out smelling like roses</a>


Tuesday, December 01, 2009


UPDATED 12/4 10:36 a.m. Part two of Matt Zoller Seitz's "Kingdom of the Blind," a video essay on Eastwood and the motif of revenge in his films, has been added to this post and can be seen directly below after part 1.

As film critics such as Todd McCarthy (Variety), David Ansen (Newsweek) and Glenn Kenny (Some Came Running) begin to weigh in on Clint Eastwood’s latest film, Invictus, which opens on December 11, the Museum of the Moving Image begins its 25th annual salute by selecting Eastwood as its 2009 honoree. On this occasion, the Moving Image Source website has published three rich and fascinating examinations of Eastwood that are well worth your time in considering (and reconsidering) the director’s career, similarities between two late films, and a cogent, passionate revisiting of one of the filmmaker’s most underrated movies.

Esteemed film writer Chris Fujiwara starts out the Eastwood retrospective with his own “Double Feature,” a closer look at the connective tissue between two of Eastwood’s most recent and ostensibly dissimilar features:

“Released only two months apart, Clint Eastwood's Changeling (October 2008) and Gran Torino (December 2008) were, for a while, twin films, in theaters simultaneously in many parts of the world. People marveled at the productivity of the director (then 78) and measured these twin works against each other, saying that Gran Torino made up triumphantly for the routineness of Changeling, or (the minority opinion, I believe) that Changeling, more subversive and less pretentious, was the superior work. Before time gets too deep into its inevitable process of driving the films apart, it might be worth recalling what, beyond the coincidence of their schedules, links Changeling and Gran Torino… The violence of America and the fragility of innocence obsess Eastwood. In both Changeling and Gran Torino, innocence belongs to someone (Sue in Gran Torino, Walter [Gattlin Griffith] in Changeling) who tries to mask it behind a tough pose of premature adulthood—the protection it must wear (in the end futilely) in the fallen world the films depict. Through these figures, Eastwood shows that there are two levels of human efficacy: a social one where people charm and repel one another in games of oneupmanship and trust-building, and a private one ruled by chaos, where everyone is alone and only the essential qualities of a person matter.”

Secondly, Jonathan Rosenbaum, late of the Chicago Reader and current master of his own blog domain, weighs in on one of Eastwood’s most neglected and criminally underrated movies, White Hunter Black Heart and builds an auteurist case for the rediscovery of this brutal, introspective gem:

“The critique offered in this underrated and frequently misunderstood Eastwood film goes beyond egocentric notions of masculinity to encompass certain forms of American arrogance and imperialism, even though the ostensible target is a famous all-American liberal, filmmaker John Huston. Peter Viertel's 1953 novel of the same title is a transparent roman à clef about his own experience of working with Huston as a screenwriter on The African Queen—a job that for Huston was mainly an excuse to indulge in his obsession with becoming a big-game hunter and bagging an elephant on location, before shooting on the film even started… Adapting White Hunter, Black Heart for the screen had been a long-term project. Ray Bradbury, who also worked for Huston (on the 1956 Moby Dick), was commissioned to write an early screenplay in 1959, and the one that Eastwood used three decades later credits Viertel himself and directors James Bridges (Urban Cowboy) and Burt Kennedy (Welcome to Hard Times), in that order. It's an unusually faithful adaptation, and the fact that Eastwood cast himself as John Wilson appears to be the source of most of the problems many have had with the film. For me, it's one of the chief sources of its brilliance.”

Finally, and most tantalizingly, Matt Zoller Seitz unveils yet another of his peerless video essays, this one examining the importance of the theme of revenge and the various shades of it found in the films of Clint Eastwood. Matt’s essay ”Kingdom of the Blind” is printed in full, accompanied by the video work, part one of which was posted today, part two of which will be available tomorrow. The video compliments Seitz’s piercing thoughts on the meaning of revenge for both Eastwood the actor icon and Eastwood the director:

“Clint Eastwood's long career as both actor and director is a homestead built atop a graveyard…. All Eastwood films that deal with vengeance are torn between two impulses: to show that, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”; and to feed the nonrational, lurid, savage craving for revenge—a craving experienced by both the wronged character who seeks it and the moviegoer who lives vicariously through the avenger… Some treat revenge lightly, ritualistically—as a mere ingredient, something one expects to see in westerns and thrillers, Eastwood's signature genres. Others treat it more seriously—as a response to evil that creates more evil; as an extralegal means of seeking justice that society botched or denied; as the result of unseen cosmic forces passing judgment on humankind; as a traumatized person's desperate attempt to regain authority over a life that's spun out of control; and as metaphysical narcotic—an activity that momentarily lets emotionally numb, spiritually dead people feel alive.”

Part 1 of Matt Zoller Seitz’s video essay Kingdom of the Blind

What I hope we can do here is use these three (soon to be four) pieces of film criticism as a jumping-off place for our own thoughts about Eastwood’s work, the difficulties as well as the pleasures that come with it. I am most interested in thinking further about White Hunter Black Heart, because it has always been a movie that I’ve found fascinating, and one which I haven’t seen in nearly 20 years. I’ll be spending some time tracking it down and rewatching it, with some thoughts of my own to come afterward. But I also want to get a sense of what the thinking is about Eastwood as a filmmaker, as an artist, in the twilight days of his career. Is that self-critical, self-examining quality he often brings to that “homestead built upon a graveyard” enough to enlighten the aspect of audience pandering of which his earlier films were often accused? How does Eastwood’s relatively conservative, classical approach function for you as members of his audience, as considerate consumers of films who are well aware of the different variables, styles and sensibilities that make up world cinema as we know it in the age of Netflix? Is Eastwood relevant, or is he just the most recent and most unlikely exemplar of a long tradition of Oscar-bait filmmaking? If you’ve spent any time reading this blog you probably have a pretty good idea what my answers to these kinds of questions might be. I’m much more interested, however, in the discussion based on what you’re thinking about Clint Eastwood as the Invictus release date draws near and the possibility of yet another year-end Eastwood film landing on multiple ten-best lists becomes more and more distinct.

Part 2 of Matt Zoller Seitz's Kingdom of the Blind



From my great and true friend psaga comes word of a terrific animated short by filmmaker James Blagsden commemorating an event Major League Baseball is probably not exactly clamoring to document or verify under its own banner. In the summer of 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Dock Ellis' tossed a no-hitter in a 2-0 victory over the San Diego Padres. But according to Ellis, the bats were not the biggest challenge to his pitching skills that day; more likely the greatest difficulty came from maintaining his equilibrium and an ever-shifting sense of physical reality while under the influence of LSD. The game occurred at a time when unexpected and/or semi-significant events such as these often went flying off into the void of space as TV signals unpreserved by videotape. Apparently no one has ever come up with anything close to a complete video account of the game as it unfolded. But Blagsden’s film takes a different tack and the audience might even be better for it. The movie, Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No, is a black-and-white short film composed of minimally realized, vividly imagined sketches decorated with psychedelic marginalia, all in illustration and elaboration of Ellis’ own recorded account, edited from a 2008 interview, of that strange day when the ball seemed at once larger and smaller than usual, a day when he both cringed in fear of routine grounders and then improbably lunged for unassisted and acrobatic outs at first while the skies were filled with vibrating diamonds and newspaper taxis, a day when no one could get on base against the pitcher with the bloodshot, kaleidoscope eyes.

Blagsden sets up his no-frills approach as an expressive counterpoint to Ellis’ vivid and funny account of the events leading up to the game. Ellis tells of losing an entire day while hallucinating and ending up “high as a Georgia pine” (an image literalized to hilarious effect by Blagsden) as his girlfriend drags him out of bed and toward the park, the athlete still floating on a freshly absorbed tab and amped up by a variety of "bennies." Ellis was never a demon on the mound— his career record is an okay 138-119. But against incredible odds (and isn’t that a recurring theme of many great sports stories, however morally impudent they may be at heart?) and eight walks, Ellis manhandled the Padres that day, providing for some undoubtedly wild choreography for those who saw it live, as well as the basis for Blagsden’s outrageous animated hallucinogenics in the retelling. Ellis’ voice on the audio track is impudent and comic as well; the man seems unable to suppress his own giddy disbelief at the unlikely feat he managed to pull off. But Ellis, who died in 2008 from cirrhosis of the liver, after retiring from baseball and reinventing himself as a specialist in transitioning prisoners back into society as well as a drug counselor for disadvantaged youth, would undoubtedly appreciate Blagsden’s movie on its own terms. Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No is not only a hilarious, stylized remembrance of Ellis’ youthful wildness but also a tribute to a man who found a way through the mutating landscapes of drug abuse and onto the path toward a more constructive life.

James Blagsden's Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No
(Much love and thanks, psaga!)