Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Royal Wedding and Thoughts on a nice day

This Friday, the world will watch as Prince William and Kate Middleton marry at Westminster Abbey. Do I particularly care about this bit of new? Not really. But considering the fact that these weddings only happen once or so a generation, a lot of people are sufficiently excited about the occasion. So throw the rice and wear your Will and Kate masks in celebration (to be honest I have no idea how you celebrate a royal wedding).

Young love...

April 29, 2011 is now wedding day. Between the royal wedding and every other wedding in the world piggybacking off of it, churches all over will be packed with relatives that hate each other and watch people go down the aisle. They will be at a wedding or in their underwear, watching the modern day aristocracy on television (which, to be honest, the aristocracy doesn't mean anything anymore). But like I said, I don't really care about it. My whole schedule revolves around not waking up early on Friday. So I'm defiantly not waking up at 6 a.m. tomorrow. The way I see it, we already fought a war so we don't have to care about British royalty anymore. So I'll honor that.

I think the war was about that and tea.

The only thing left to care about the royal family after the wedding is betting on which actor will portray them in future Academy Award winning movies (royalty has long been guaranteed Oscar bait). Hell, Lifetime already made their movie about Kate and William (titled Kate & William). With all the wedding ring replicas and official merchandise, this is more than just a wedding. This is a cash-cow extravaganza. During all of this I just feel bad for Prince Harry. Once again, William overshadows the red-headed bastard. Harry even looks like the kid from Problem Child. To regain attention I'll guess he has to dress up like a Nazi again.


So, like I stated, I don't really care either way about the wedding. So, to fill space and make sure that you feel properly rewarded for clicking and reading this: here are some random thoughts I had on a sunny day a few days ago. I don't feel like putting it in paragraph form so here are just the random thoughts plopped out on the page.

-I hate wearing shorts but my legs feel so free.
-It's the one day a year that all the sports equipment you brought to school pays off.
-The campus actually looks like a real college on nice days.
-Sweaty camel toes aren't attractive (a friend actually mentioned that to me).
-Co-eds sharing blankets on the grass reminds me of nature shows where you watch sea lions sharing a rock.

Kind of like this but with sports bras.

-Although shorts feel nice, my legs are too pale to wear them.
-A lot of people own sandals, not everyone should be wearing them though (i.e. ugly toenails).
-The simplicity of sandals are lost on most girls, whose footwear has more buckles than Batman.
-Short shorts rock (note: this is only true when girls wear them).
-One tool will have a Frisbee and he will want to play with you. He might still be wearing his wool beanie when he asks you to play.
-Thanks to the sun I cannot look at my screen to read my text messages
-Girls wear sandals to show off their super-cool foot tattoos before they get older and regret them.
-There is no way I will ever need all these cargo-short pockets.
-Outside freshman dorms on a nice day are a pedophile's Valhalla.

Pictured: Valhalla (only the one I'm talking about has more half-naked freshman girls)

South Park's decline in quality

Just earlier today, South Park premiered its new season. It's commendable that South Park has made it to season 15. Starting out as a short animated film about Jesus and Santa battling it out, the show has blossomed into a media empire. Pretty good for a show about cursing fourth graders. And while I still watch the show whenever it is on, I can't help but mourn the golden age of South Park. Though still amusing, the show is a pale of its former hilarious self. South Park used to be cutting edge. The kids were shocking and the topics outrageous. While plush versions of Cartman were being sold at Spencer's Gifts, parents were banning the show from their televisions, afraid of how the cartoon will affect their kids.

Proper Condom Use being the first episode my parents watched.

At one time South Park was on the edge of society. It was a cartoon on a channel that most cable subscribers didn't even get. In middle school I remember hearing about the show, but my parents never ordered Comedy Central. The first time I ever watched it was when my uncle from Mississippi (yes, I sang the song as I spelled the state) brought a tape over when he visited. The show was crude, disgusting and amazing. The fact it was on television in the first place was a revolution in itself. Those watching the show now forget just how groundbreaking those construction paper people were.

Who would of thought a kid dying would be so hilarious.

South Park had more bite then. They were actually rebelling against something. They were the underdog. Now the show is the one making the rules. Now it is the mainstream. Success has really brought the show down. And in that success, the show has just gotten lazy. Early in the series, the focus was on the the four main kids and how crazy their town was. Each character was colorful and hilarious. Now, each episodes feels the need to comment on something. While commentary has always been one of South Park's strengths (the 9/11 episode is legendary), each episode should not simply be able to be labeled "the one where they make fun of Facebook." Chalk it up to going on for 15 seasons, but the storylines use be more creative than that.

I miss these episodes.

By trying to stay relevant, they have lost all of the irrelevant charm that they originally skidded by on. Each little pop culture footnote is almost guaranteed to be commented on by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but is that really a way to direct a series? It's no longer about stories but figuring out which figure to draw and make fun of next. Just like with all television shows, when you have to rely on guest stars (even when you aren't using their actually voices, as the disclaimer addresses) you are past your expiration date.

Oh great, the Paris Hilton episode.

With its reliance on such satire, the satire doesn't even have any effect anymore. It's just satire for satire's sake. There was a time when Barbara Streisand was pissed she was turned into a mecha-robot beast in an episode. Now everyone that is lampooned in the show has the same tired, formulaic response. Something along the lines of, "You know you made it when you get made fun of on South Park." That lame excuse says a lot about the relevance of the show. Before the show was the kid in class that talked sense. Now, it's the guy that always yells for attention. South Park once rebelled against the system. Now it's its own institution.

There was once simpler, more hilarious times.

What I truly miss are the supporting characters. Each episode nowadays focuses on the kids being caught up with some outrageous characters and celebrities. But there was a time when it was just about a hick mountain town. Yes issues were touched on, but just listen to the theme song. That's why it's called South Park, because it's about the town. Where is Ned and Jimbo or Tuong Lu Kim? For gods sakes where in the hell is Officer Barbrady?

He was one of my favorites. Now we're stuck with that crappy red-headed cop.

In the early episodes, even though they cursed and went through hell, the kids retained some form of innocence. That's been lost now and the show has suffered for it. While it's hard to retain innocence when you go through 15 seasons worth of hijinks (yes, I just used the term hijinks, which has way too many dots in a row), the kids are now just as foul as those around them. It's no coincidence that Butters, the only kid left with innocence, is also one of the most consistently funny characters on the show. Cartman on the other hand is a pint-sized Hitler (which, then again, is why we love him).

During the "Which South Park Character Are You?" game at the lunch table,
I was voted Butters. I'm not sure how to interpret that.

There was a time when South Park meant something. The 9/11 episode and shit episode were legitimately groundbreaking. Now, it's just lost its edge. It's not about South Park or the kids anymore. Now it's about Randy's new obsession or whatever fad is sweeping the nation. Just because you can make an episode overnight doesn't mean it's a good idea. And while relevance has always been South Park's strength, it has now become its weakness. Its just gotten lazy with its success. And at this point I don't see that trend reversing. They are no longer jokes but halfassed commentary and pre-packaged catchphrases for that one obnoxious friend you have to spout at random times (they took your job! or anything to do with fish sticks). Don't let a cartoon on Comedy Central do the thinking for you. If you liked Family Guy before the Cartoon Wars episode then like it. Just because Cartman doesn't like something it doesn't mean you have to fall in line. In the end, I don't care about Matt and Trey's opinion on the iPad, I just want to spend time with my friends Eric, Stan, Kyle and Kenny.

Yes, I realize they aren't real people.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Heavy Rotation Theater: Slumdog Millionaire

Cable channels love playing movies. Specifically, channels like playing the same movie over and over. I'm sure it has to do with paying the rights to show it. It's why Shawshank Redemption plays on TNT every other day for a whole month. Even for a good movie it can get a bit excessive. Watching the movie every time you're channel surfing leads you to really pick it apart. With that first-watch-amazement faded away, the watcher can actually form a real opinion on the piece. With FX's recent repeat showings of 2008's Slumdog Millionaire, I have formulated such an opinion. Why it is good, it's overrated. I'm not going as far to say it sucks, but there are certainly better films out there (but more on that later in the rant).

I doubt Danny Boyle wants any of his films being considered "feel-good."

Slumdog Millionaire is a story about destiny, poverty and learning random trivia from those around you. It's about retaining innocence through a horrible life and undying love that lasts for years. The main character, Jamal Malik, barely survives instances of his life, yet all of his dreams come true by perseverance . It's a nice story. A modern day fairy tale set in India and revolving around a game show we all got tired of ten years ago.

Surprisingly still on television.

It's a lot of things. It's a love story, a coming-of-age tale, a snapshot of modern day India and a view of slums and poverty (slum is in the title after all). All of these aspects should come together nicely but, with its reliance on fate as a plot device and clear cut moral, it just turns out saccharine. Saccharine is, of course, sugar substitute. And while trying to be sweet and nice, it just turns out to be artificial. Much like Sweet'n Low, Slumdog Millionaire attempts at having a world unifying message but just feels fake. Slumdog is a manipulative tale about prime time deus ex machina and having a crush on that girl you grew up with.

Sorry Malik.

I did like the movie, but it's not even one of the best Danny Boyle films made. As a director I respect Boyle completely. He's revolutionized cinema with his own style and consistently makes quality and original films. But this is the director of Trainspotting I'm talking about here (I've recently named Trainspotting as my fifth favorite film of all time). How could a director with such edge and fearlessness end up making such a sterile movie. Slumdog is clear cut with no real overreaching message aside from a juvenile moral about destiny. It's an over stylized parable that we've seen done countless times before. Yes, Malik goes through horrible things in his life but the movie literally ends on a dancing number. Yes I know the ending is an homage to Bollywood but that doesn't excuse the whole movie feeling hollow. The best I can say about it is that it beat out Milk for best picture.

I hate Sean Penn.

I didn't hate Slumdog, I just found it consciously trying to make itself an audience-pleaser, which is the antithesis of my view on Boyle. The whole movie was just overdone. The best thing it did was tell a story of a boy raising himself out of the slums and not falling subject to the crime around him. There are films that told that message better though. One film in particular represented everything I wished Slumdog to be.

The chicken in the foreground makes more sense then it should after watching it.

City of God is a 2002 Brazilian film about life in a crime-ridden slum outside Rio de Janeiro. It's a kinetic, unflinching view of life in a desperate community, where you either become a criminal or find a way to rise above it. Unlike Slumdog, City of God is authentic in its storytelling. And not just because it is based off a true story, but because it does not hold any pretense or judgment over its characters. The slum itself is not merely a setting to be exploited like in Slumdog, but a character itself. It's an organism that either assimilates you into its corruption or allows you to escape. It's the kind of movie Boyle would of made 15 years ago.

I hope success doesn't go to his head. It's already pretty bulbous.

Compared to Boyle's past films, Slumdog is almost pedestrian. I don't want to call it overrated, because I did enjoy it. It's just that there are movies like City of God that tell similar stories and tell them better. City of God isn't a movie that makes you feel good about life. It's a film that makes you reflect on it and marvel at it. Director Fernando Meirelles holds no pretense in his film. He instead allowed the story to tell itself. Boyle on the other hand started his movie out with pretentious musings about fate.

Somehow the chicken poster for City of God makes more sense than this poster.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In defense of Nicolas Cage

While in New Orleans on April 15, Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage was arrested for public intoxication. This, sadly, is one more setback for the movie star. Between getting busted for taxes, being in crappy movies, losing his hair and now this, Cage has not had the best run of things. Now, I don't know the man personally but by some accounts he sounds like a total, yet hilarious, dickhead.

Who would of thought he was actually toning it down in his movies.

His acting style is off the wall but commendable nonetheless. Amazingly he both lazily recites lines and chews the scenery in the same scene. Embodying both listlessness and derangement with a single line reading. Is it a stretch to consider this man unbalanced? His career itself shows a balance similar to his mood. In 2009 he starred in both Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Knowing, an underwhelming sci-fi/conspiracy flick.

Whose poster looks a lot like War of the Worlds' to me.

With flicks like Sorcerer's Apprentice and Bangkok Dangerous coming out, it's obvious that Nicolas Coppola is working anything he can for a paycheck. God knows he needs the money for his 20 houses. Not that being in a lot of movies at once is a bad thing. Liam Neeson himself was in six movies in 2010. Neeson is more forgivable though, not only for his reason (I'm sure he wanted to keep busy after his wife's tragic passing) but also the fact that Neeson himself is very respectable. Maybe it's because his voice is so badass or maybe because he played a Jedi. Cage, on the other hand, seems more coked out than badass. And playing Ghost Rider is not nearly as cool as being a Jedi.

Did anyone really pretend to be Ghost Rider as a kid?

I'm here to defend Cage though. Yes, anyone can see that a full-length, live-action movie based off of a Mickey Mouse skit in Fantasia will be bad. But what other actor would jump into that role as elegantly as Cage? And with all the recent crap his name has been attached to, to the point where seeing Cage in a trailer is almost a joke, he has been in a lot of good movies. People forget his role in Moonstruck or his Oscar win for Leaving Las Vegas.

Not to be confused with Honeymoon in Vegas, a completely different Cage movie.

His career started out with bit parts in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. His big break came in 1986 with his uncle's movie Peggy Sue Got Married (arguably Francis Ford Coppola's last good film). 1987's Moonstruck and Raising Arizona cemented his place as a talented actor. Most of his films during this period consisted of movies your mom would watch. That all changed in 1996 with The Rock.

Wrong picture of The Rock.

Playing the horribly named Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, his character teams up with the always fun Sean Connery to infiltrate Alcatraz Island when terrorist take it over. It was Michael Bay's best movie and it was the first of many partnerships between Cage and super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Action star Cage would also be in the Con Air (awesome), Gone in Sixty Seconds (why the hell was Robert Duvall in there?), and Face/Off (not produced by Bruckheimer). John Woo directed Face/Off. Cage costarred with John Travolta, another actor that was big in the 90s but is now irrelevant.

This was the last Bernie Mac film released? Seriously?

After his action movie phase came a more serious Cage. This period would include his best movies. The movies that I feel validate his acting career. City of Angels started off this Renaissance for Cage. To be honest, I've never seen City of Angels, it seemed like a generic Meg Ryan movie with theology thrown in for good measure. It did however have a Goo Goo Dolls song in it that has been stuck in my head since 1998 (don't act like you don't love that song). So that counts for something.

Don't tell me you don't singalong to this song.

In 1999 Cage starred in Bringing Out the Dead, Martin Scorsese's most underrated film of all time. That is not hyperbole, I stand by that statement. In 2002 he starred in Adaptation. From the winning combination of Spike Jonze (he's come a long way from Jackass) and Charlie Kaufman, Cage was nominated for thirteen awards. Matchstick Men was another fantastic film starring the actor as an OCD addled con man. During this time were also movies that weren't fantastic but still pretty good. The Weatherman, Lord of War and National Treasure were all enjoyable. Yes, National Treasure is just Dan Brown-lite. But then again, Brown isn't exactly the most original person around.

Da Vinci Code before Da Vinci Code.

He has been kind of weak lately. I won't let him get off scot-free. But he was also in Kick-Ass, a wonderful comic book movie brought to you by the talent Matthew Vaughn (big Layer Cake fan). Between all the Wicker Man and Next crap he has released, there is one movie that stands out. Directed by Werner Herzog, 2009's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was one of the best films of 2009. Some may call the movie outrageous or over-the-top, but I don't. I find that its outrageousness only adds to the craziness unfolding on screen. And between all of that crazy is genuinely touching moments and characterization. Herzog masterfully creates a film that just toes the line between unwatchable and brilliant and Cage is the person the movie hinges on. He's magnetic as an officer who makes bad cops look like heroes. Anyone who doesn't like the film misses the point completely.

Crazy German bastard.

So yes he was arrested for being drunk in New Orleans. Yes he allegedly battered his wife. Yes he is in financial trouble and, therefore, stars in any movie he can get his hands on. But the man also has an Oscar. He has acted in films directed by Coppola, the Coen Brothers, Bay (if that's your kind of thing), Woo, Brian De Palma (then again I don't even like De Palma), Joel Schumacher (see note under Bay), Scorsese, Jonze, Ridley Scott (who I consider one of the most consistent directors ever), Olive Stone, Herzog and Vaughn. He has earned the right to be called a good actor, no matter how many cash-grab scripts he accepts. So give him a break. Plus, Dog the Bounty Hunter was the one that bailed him out of jail in New Orleans. That's pretty gnarly.

You definitely just played the show's theme song in your head
(bonus points if it's the Cartman version).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Checking my mail for the first time in months

On the right, in my about me, you will find an email address. When I made that blog specific email account, I was not expecting to ever hear any feedback. I mostly just get feedback on my Facebook or my friends when I see them (thank you all for reading). So I never check it. I mostly use it to send myself blog topic ideas. And, as you can tell by my recent drought of quality, I haven't even used it for that lately. So imagine my surprise a week ago when I found I got a few emails from actual people.

So many Nigerian princes offering me money.

There was a lot of spam. After accumulating for months My spam folder was overflowing with penis pills and urgent requests. I never knew there were so many people in need and all requesting some money from me. Don't they know I'm a college kid? I don't have this money. Hidden between the fraud was some actual emails from people that wanted to talk to me. I was honored. Even though they didn't really amount to much.

One was from a women doing a final research project on Tim Burton, his popularity and the debate over him selling out or not. I'd like to take the time to apologize to her for not getting to her survey in time. She sent it to me more than a month ago and I doubt she needs me anymore. It was nice to hear from her though.

I do love talking about how much Tim Burton sucks.

Another email was from a band, The Boxing Lesson. Now, I know nothing about them but they were kind enough to send me a press release. God knows how many people they sent the press release to but I figure I might as well give them a plug. They are, after all, the first people to send me a release. So as a show of thanks here is the video for their song Three. I'm not sure how I feel about it though. If you like people that wear cat masks then this might be for you.

The third email I got was the one I was the most excited about. Back in October I wrote about my childhood crush on Alanna Ubach. Growing up, she was in a lot of the movies and shows I watched. She was different and funny and I think that's why I liked her so much. She had a personality and an energy that nobody else had. Then again, I was eight years old, so what did I know about girls? She was also in the Legally Blonde films. Anyway, she used to be cute when I was little. Now, watching her on the television show Hung, she's pretty damn hot. And she must be the nicest person ever because somehow she found the blog I wrote about her and emailed me.

She's awesome.

Now, I'm not totally naive. I know that it could not be her. Probably somebody just messing with me. But even if that's the case, it still means somebody cares enough about my blog to mess with me. And if it really is her, that's amazing. It's an awesome form of validation to have someone that I wrote about actually email me and tell me how much they liked the post. This blog doesn't seem like such a big waste of time anymore. So thank you readers and thank you, Alanna Ubach. If anyone wants to contact me just email me at I promise I'll try and check it more often.

Snooki: A catalyst for change

Jersey Shore is overrated. Now, bear in mind I have not said it sucks or that it doesn't belong on television. To be honest, it does make for good television. While, at it's heart, it's either a watered-down version of Real World or an over-stylized episode of True Life, Jersey Shore has a house full of enough character that it has earned its prime time spot. Whether it deserves to get rerun twenty times a week or have whole parties devoted to it is a different matter.

We will have to explain this phenomenon to our children.

I've tried my best not to comment on Jersey Shore. To me, it just seemed like a trite subject. Everyone has an opinion on the show so what's the use of commenting on it myself? I doubt I have something new to say on the matter. And the whole point of me writing this blog is to try and say something new. But, some people are actually starting to take the phenomenon seriously. It all started with Snookie stopping by the prestigious Rutgers University.

As you read this, half of NJ is getting hammered and eating unholy Fat Sandwiches at Rutger's Fest.

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, arguably the most recognizable member of the Jersey Shore cast, stopped by Rutgers University. Rutgers, New Jersey's state university, paid $32,000 for her appearance at the school. Her appearance included two Q&A shows, both of which were packed with students. A lot of people weren't happy with her getting such a big paycheck though. Maybe those people are just mad that they were never invited to Jersey Shore parties. The displeasure with paying Snooki eventually reached the statehouse. Enter: Joseph Kyrillos, republican state senator.

Pictured: Not Joseph Kyrillos, republican state senator.

Kyrillos is mad that the school paid for such trash. He doesn't think that public university students should be forced to pay for a girl whose aspirations include, "Being tan. When you're tan, you feel better about yourself." This may be true, but should it really be taken to the statehouse floor? I'm sure they have a lot more things to currently worry about than a girl whose still considered a midget, even when you factor in the poof. Students were quoted as saying they had a great time. And while the senator might not get it, it's not his place to worry. Yes it's a crime that Snookie got paid more than Noble and Pulitzer prize-winning author Toni Morrison, but that's just pop culture.

No offense to Miss Morrison but I doubt students lined up to her like they did Miss Polizzi.

Yes Snooki doesn't really have any talent. Yes people find her annoying. Yes she can be considered trash. But people happen to find that trash entertaining right now. Jersey Shore is an unexplainable and irrational hit. And even after a weak third season people will still watch it. The validity of Snooki's celebrity is not something to be argued in a government building. It's just immature. Proudly saying that you've never watched an episode of Jersey Shore is as lame as saying you've seen every episode. Because with both answers you are still giving it attention. And that's what the show thrives on.

Attention and Jager.

Each generation has things it has to atone for. The 80s had crack, the 70s had disco and the 40s had the atomic bomb. Jersey Shore is just one more thing to laugh about when we all get old and start wearing shirts and ties (you do know what shirts and ties are right? It's what you wear to corporate hoes and CEOs themed parties). But, like how our parents all gathered round to watch The Thorn Birds, so do we turn on the television to MTV on Thursdays at 10. And the majority of the people I know would love to see her on campus instead of lame the lame stuff they usually have at the student center.

It'll end some day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

R.I.P. Sidney Lumet

I get most of my news from Facebook. That's a lie actually. As a journalism major I pride myself on buying a newspaper every time I go to Wawa or any other convenience store. Facebook is a source of some of my news though. I learned through Facebook the Kanye West/Taylor Swift debacle and it was interesting seeing everyone's reactions during the 2008 election (surprisingly a lot of "Gobama" statuses). Currently I am finding out about Tiger Woods' comeback through status progression. On Facebook, there is one dear friend of mine that knows about movies almost as much as I do. I usually go to her statuses to see what's going on in movie news. It is with a heavy heart that I read her status yesterday.

"RIP Sidney Lumet... wow... that is one tough loss."

Sidney Lumet was responsible for some of the best films ever made. This is not my humble opinion or some gross exaggeration. While his name may not ring out as loud to layman as Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese, Lumet helped shape the cinematic landscape in his own way. And if you don't believe, just look at his first theatrical film: 12 Angry Men. I have long considered 12 Angry Men a perfect film. I mean that as in, every little aspect in the film could not be improved on whatsoever. The acting, lighting, writing, framing and directing all synergized in a way that elevated it from a television anthology episode into an AFI acknowledged film.

Less to do about knives and more to do with sitting around.

In the AFI's top 10 courtroom dramas, 12 Angry Men took second place, only being beat out by To Kill a Mockingbird (Also on that list was Lumet's 1982 film, The Verdict). I have no problem with the fact that it got beat out by To Kill a Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird is, arguably, one of the best, most quintessential American films. But, back to Lumet, 12 Angry Men gets everything right. And, in turn, making a bunch of men talking at a table into a harrowing spectacle. It could of been as boring as real jury duty, but instead it turns into a passion play. In my opinion, a big part of this came from the camera work. There was not a single wasted frame of film in the whole movie. With only one room and 12 men to film, Lumet milked that set for all it was worth. The audience was at the whim of the director, who could make the room as claustrophobic as he wanted or control the pace frantically with reaction cut after reaction cut.

Lumet would team up again with Juror #8, Henry Fonda, in Fail-Safe. Fail-Safe was a thought provoking, rich meditation on nuclear war. The movie had a problem though. It was released in 1964, the same year as Dr. Strangelove. Now, I'm sure you, dear reader, can guess which movie stood the test of time and which fell into obscurity. Not saying that Fail-Safe was bad, it was in fact a very good movie. It just never stood a chance. The novel of the same name was even sued by the author of Red Alert (the novel Strangelove was based off of) for plagiarism.

Peter Sellers in three different roles in Strangelove ensured Fail-Safe's demise.

The 70s were a true Renaissance for Lumet. Between the years 1973 to 1978 Lumet made a film each year that was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. To be fair, 1978's was The Wiz, but we won't judge him too harshly for that. In 1973 he released Serpico. Sadly, I've never seen Serpico so I can't in all good conscious comment on it. After Serpico was Murder on the Orient Express, a movie made solely to cram as many actors into it at once. There are ensemble casts and then there is Orient Express. Based on the Agatha Cristie mystery, the movie stars Anthony Perkins, Sean Connery, Michael York, Ingrid Bergman (my silver screen movie star crush), Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave, Martin Balsam (who was also in 12 Angry Men and co-starred with Perkins in Psycho), and Albert Finney, visibly enjoying himself as the detective Hercule Poirot.

Half of the budget was reserved for Finney's mustache wax.

Next came Dog Day Afternoon, which is the best heist movie ever made. Inspired by true events, the film is stars Pacino as a desperate man trying to acquire money for his boyfriend's sexual reassignment surgery. What follows is the worst bank robbing attempt ever and a film that every heist movie since has been based off of. Pacino co-stars with fellow Godfather actor John Cazale, the most underrated actor in cinema history. I may get more into this in another post, but, while Cazale was only in five movies, these five movies were considered some of the best of all time. His acting credits are The Godfather, The Conversation, Godfather: Part II, Dog Day Afternoon and Deer Hunter. Name anyone else with a track record like that.

He died in 1978 of bone cancer.

In 1976 Lumet came out with a film so mind-blowing that it resides in my own personal all time top five. Network is not just a film, it's a religious experience. It's commentary on the media, America, and everything wrong with the world, not just in the 70s but even past then. The film is a mad prophet, raging at the world. Starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty and Peter Finch, Network is a tour de force about a news anchor whose nervous breakdown/existential crisis becomes ratings fodder for a fledgling television network. Written by Paddy Chayefsky, Network has a wit so sharp that it still cuts today. It is one of the best written screenplays of all time, one of the best directed films of all time and one of the best acted. Finch himself was so memorizing as Howard Beale, the mentally unstable news anchor, that he was the first actor to win a major Academy Award posthumously. That feat would not be replicated until Heath Ledger in 2009. You may not of seen the film, but you've heard the line "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

One of the most iconic scenes in movie history.

Lumet continued to make films throughout the years. His last film, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, premiered in 2007 to critical acclaim. Lumet was a master of his craft who knew how to get the best performance out of everyone he worked with. His filmography is not just a gift to his fans but a gift to movie fans everywhere. We have truly lost one of the greats. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to watch Network for the 20th time. Lumet died of lymphoma in his Manhattan apartment on April 9. He was 86.

Tune in next episode when I talk about Snookie.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My love for Planet of the Apes

I overuse a lot of different phrases. Calling something "Bad news bears" was an old favorite. "I don't have this money" is currently in my arsenal. And starting a story with "I'll never forget when..." is used ad nauseam by myself (the stories themselves I will probably forget in five years). Currently, in order to qualify my love of something, I usually start by saying "I grew up on [insert random franchise here]." Jurassic Park? Grew up on it. Hook? Grew up on it. Mighty Ducks 2? Grew up on it. But for the most part it's true. My childhood consisted of watching a crap load of films. It was the best way I could think to spend my time. One series of movies I always watched was Planet of the Apes. It seemed at least once a year, Sci-fi Channel ran a marathon of the five movie series. My mother and I would sit down and watch them all.

First one was the best one.

Casual readers of my blog may have already picked up the fact that I acquired a lot of my taste in movies and television from my mother. She was the one that sat me down and showed me movies that I still cherish today. She was the one that showed me Twilight Zone. And, like Twilight Zone, the original Planet of the Apes was written by Rod Serling. While it was originally based off a French book, Serling was the one to give us the movie we know today. Really, the movie unfolds like one long Twilight Zone episode.

Have you seen the episode with the guy and the masks? It was crazy...

Everything about the movie still stands up to time. Even the monkey makeup remains impressive. It's a testament to the quality of the filmmaking. The movie has a charm all its own and an ending that still shocks audiences today (that is, the 15 people in the world that don't know the ending). Like with the Pink Panther series, the sequels were unnecessary but still interesting in its exploration of ideas. The concept of mutants worshiping a bomb is brilliant. Being sandwiched in a lesser Apes sequel does nothing to hamper the idea. And, like any good sequels, the concepts and ideas behind the first movie are expanded further. Where this is detrimental or not to the first movie is a different matter entirely. The series did however respect the mythology as it grabbed whatever cash it could by releasing an Apes film every year for the next four years.

Thankfully keeping Roddy McDowall in work.

Two television series, comic books and lunch boxes were all adorned with Dr. Zaius, Cornelius and other damned dirty apes. The public grew tired of the series, attributing it to the constant barrage of Ape entertainment and products. If they had video games back then, they would of made Plant of the Apes games and it would of probably sucked.

As I stated before, the quality went down as the series chugged along. This added reason for the public not to care about men in ape costumes anymore. Beneath the Planet of the Apes was basically a remake of the first film in it's plot structure. Escape from Planet of the Apes was borderline boring for my eight-year-old self. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was too scary. And Battle for the Planet of the Apes seemed more like a television movie than an actual film.

I'll still watch it though.

To me, Planet of the Apes is a charming film that is impossible not to enjoy. If I've said it once I'll say it again, I will not marry a girl unless she likes Plant of the Apes. She's just not worth it if she can't enjoy at least the first movie. Planet of the Apes was, in my opinion, one of the first cash-grab movie franchises. It was almost ten year before Star Wars, giving us an entertaining, sci-fi merchandise empire before Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles blew up the Death Star.

If you don't know who Wedge is look him up.
He's the Jesse Hall of Rogue Squadron
[Jesse Hall being the best/most unappreciated Mighty Ducks player.
It's a crime he wasn't in the third Ducks film.
Then again that movie kind of sucked (longest caption ever on my blog.).].

After people were bombarded with Apes they lost interest, leaving me to watch marathons of it on Saturday mornings in peace. Then Tim Burton decided to remake Planet of the Apes with Markey Mark. Now bear in mind, this was back when Burton wasn't a talentless hack. Back when he still had that crazy hair having, sunglasses wearing magic. The movie had no heart though and was nothing but a heartless reflection of the original. I also blame the remake for destroying Burton's credibility. The remake was the first time Helena Bonham Carter and Burton worked together. Becoming partners with Burton, she is now his muse. But, considering the fact that his past few movies sucked, he should get a new muse.

Is it bad I consider this the movie she looked most attractive? That's probably sick right?

Chalk the remake as a misguided mistake. Now they are trying to make another one. This one called Rise of the Apes and centered around Caesar, the ape who helps lead the rebellion. James Franco is set to star in it (not as an ape). Franco has been blowing up recently, so I'm not disappointed to hear his name attached. He does have talent. His name is also attached to the Blood Meridian film, which I am also curious about. Blood Meridian was the most brutal book I've ever read, so the movie should be awesome.

Every line of this book would make an awesome metal band name.

The movie, as it sound so far, is messing with the mythology though. It may be a series about talking apes but the original series had a very strict philosophy. The remake deviated but it still kept the basics and at least retained the "men in make up" aesthetic. This aesthetic being one of the most visible parts of the Ape media franchise. But to hear that they are making CGI apes disappoints me completely. That and hearing how Caesar is a test subject for a Alzheimer's cure. Is it just me or is this sounding like a monkey version of Deep Blue Sea? Deep Blue Sea also involved experimentation to find a cure for Alzheimer's that led to a deadly, smarter version of the animal.

Remembered for the best death scene ever.

With CGI apes, the most recognizable part of the series is gone. Yes Andy Serkis is going to be doing the motion capture, but just because he was a good Gollum doesn't mean he should throw on dot-covered spandex for every part he can. He already played an ape in the King Kong remake and that was disappointing. So, even though I love the Planet of the Apes films, Rise of the Apes is probably going to do nothing but disappoint me. The reboot is just bad news bears.