Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How I Spent My Weekend (Part 2)

The Maltese Falcon: Held to a higher standard


After my eye-opening introduction to Scarecrow Video (see Part 1), I hopped back on the bus and headed a few miles north to The Maltese Falcon. I learned about this other Seattle video store from my Scarecrow book, which mentioned it briefly as having "the 2000 best movies ever made," a phrase that intrigued me a great deal. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little less enthused about my trip to The Maltese Falcon, especially when my bus took me out of the University District and into a far less beautiful area of town. After being dropped off next to the no-frills fast food institution Burgermaster and surrounded by strip malls, I thought I may have been in the wrong neighborhood -- but a quick turn of my head proved me wrong.

One look at the sign revealed how long it has been since the folks at Scarecrow had ventured this far out of their side of the woods. Despite being in a small strip mall location, The Maltese Falcon ably accommodated the 6,000 Best Movies Ever Made, and almost all of them were VHS. There was something oddly comforting about gazing through shelf after shelf of pristine VHS cases, and a conversation with owner Alfredo convinced me the store won't be changing any time soon.

Alfredo, a friendly fellow wearing a cowboy hat and a beard, was eager to tell the inquisitive tourist about how he chose the movies in his store. Taking out three well-worn video guides, Alredo explained that he and his wife combed through the guides in the 80s to find out which movies received an average of at least three and a half stars from Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin and others. After coming up with around 2,000 films, Alfredo and his wife started building their collection by frequenting video stores that were going out of business and other electronics outlets. Shortly after opening The Maltese Falcon in the late 80s, they found that having "only" the 2,000 best movies wasn't commercially viable since most people had heard of those films and could pick them up somewhere else.

"I found that there was a large number of movies that fell just under the three and a half star threshold," Alfredo told me.

The mantra at The Maltese Falcon is a customer could close their eyes and pick out a good movie, making it a stark contrast to Scarecrow. Alfredo knew Scarecrow founder George Latsios, and often kidded him that he had "a very good movie collection somewhere under those 50,000 casettes."

"Very good" doesn't begin to describe the quality of Alfredo's collection, which obviously includes all of history's cinematic masterpieces, but also plenty of surprises such as Trinity is Still My Name and My Name is Nobody. Alfredo claims most of his movies are out of print or unavailable on DVD, so it's easy to understand why he (and apparently his customers) has stuck with VHS. A small New Releases section contains some recent films on DVD which comply with his criteria, and he even has a large television section with many hard-to-find British and European series The television section also contains a priceless, CBS-issued VHS complete series of The Twilight Zone.

There are many signs at The Maltese Falcon that tell you it isn't your average video store, such as a hand-written sticky note on Tim Burton's Batman that reads "we have the sequels too, just ask," more than a few replicas of the store's titular movie prop and a man at the counter more than eager to chat with customers about what they want to watch and where they can find it in his store.

The Maltese Falcon has no web site, but it can be found at 9921 Aurora Avenue N and be contacted at 206-524-1940.

Monday, July 30, 2007

How I Spent My Weekend (Part 1)


Even though I've spent almost my entire life in the Northwest, I have had pitifully few excursions to Seattle. Some of this can be blamed on my adapting of a common Portland mindset of trying to pretend Seattle doesn't exist ('You want coffee? We've got coffee! You want water, look over there! You want less rain, hell yeah we've got that too!'). This thinking started to cultivate in the mid-90s when national praise started to be regularly thrown Portland's way in the form of those Best Cities to... lists, many of which put the City of Roses near the top. Well this weekend ending my extended absence from the Emerald City and put an end to any anti-Seattle snobbery I may have had from living in Portland for so long.

I haven't seen much written about it, but Seattle seems to be in the midst of some golden age. It's always had some well-known attractions (Experience Music Project, Pike Place Market, Starbucks), but recent projects have put the city into another plane of modern cool: a city hall, sculpture park and library from the year 2099, not to mention the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which contains many views of what the year 2099 may look like. But to me, all that is in the background to a pair of Seattle destinations I had been hoping to visit for years, and as soon as I made plans to attend a cousin's wedding outside Seattle, they were at the top of my to-do list. Scarecrow Video and The Maltese Falcon have both intrigued me since the moment I heard about them, and until this weekend I considered myself a lesser-Northwest film fan for not having any experience with them. Join me and my (crappy) camera as I take you through my maiden voyage with these two pantheon video stores.

Scarecrow Video: 72,000 movies can't be wrong


My knowledge of Scarecrow started when I picked up The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide a couple years ago. It's a very entertaining and well put-together 800-page guide book, with fun takes on movies brilliant and awful. More than anything it gives you a look into what the video store's credo is, showing you that Scarecrow is the Video Mecca created by and for movie fans. Getting off the bus in Seattle's beautiful University District, I didn't have to look far to find Scarecrow, as its large yellow sign was peeking through some of the city's trademark tall trees. I had this image in my head of Scarecrow being a huge warehouse, but it really doesn't stick out as much as any other business in the area, and when you walk in you know you've found the right place.


Despite the fact that every square foot of Scarecrow seems to be either covered by a movie case or a poster, it's easy to navigate and never seems very cramped. Wandering through the shelves, it's a bit like the scene in Willy Wonka where the kids are invited into the candy room, there's so much stuff everywhere that you really don't know where to start. The ground floor is devoted to DVD sales, new releases, foreign movies (they have movies from Martinique, so I'm pretty sure they have everything) and movies by director. Upstairs movies are broken down into different rooms, which have genre wall that are broken down even further by subgenres on the shelves (for example, if you wanted to find the 1974 television movie Bad Ronald you would enter the Psychotronic room, find the Horror Walls and then the Stalker shelves).

Pricey on eBay, unavailable on DVD, Bad Ronald lives
at Scarecrow Video. Someday I'll see it!

The Pyschotronic room is an easy place to spend an hour, because that's the genre where Scarecrow was born. In the early 80s, founder George "Doctor of Video Pleasures" Latsios had a famously large collection of horror, cannibal and women-in-prison videos that he lent to a local rental shop with his reviews on the covers, and from there the idea was hatched for the ultimate movie haven. That spirit lives on with a thorough cache of hard-to-find and hard-to-believe horror movies, from Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps (not on DVD) to Deafula.

Box reads: "The World's Only Film in Sign-Scope

Ha! Okay, I can take a hint, I'll look for
Michael Jordan's Playground elsewhere.

Whatever your expectations are, chances are Scarecrow will exceed them. They have a Redneck section, a vast collection of television series, Jesus Franco's reshaping of Welles' unfinished Don Quixote project and a comprehensive and easy-to-use computer kiosks that break the news to you that yes they have Pretty Maids All in a Row -- but it's out! To maintain their unprecedented collection of movie rentals, Scarecrow has a disciplined rental policy: some are labeled "rental by approval" and require a deposit of $150 to rent (some as high as $1,000) and late fees are instantly charged to your credit card.

Scarecrow is a true treasure to Seattle and now I'm even more jealous of my cousin who lives within walking distance of it! Stay tuned for my post about The Maltese Falcon, another legendary Seattle video store that has a completely different philosophy than Scarecrow.

"Re-elect John Carpenter sheriff" -- where can I get this sticker,
and where do I cast my vote?!?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

MONSTER SQUAD-A-THON: DVD Quick Take & Finale Screengrabs


I had envisioned a post about the actual Monster Squad DVD to be relatively simple, afterall Lionsgate crafted a product that was far and above anyone's expectations for a movie making its digital debut. But while making my way through the extras today, my excitement for them waned because really if you're going to buy this DVD it's for the movie, and everything else takes a backseat. Don't get me wrong, it's a fabulous DVD with a great documentary, commentaries and outtakes -- it's just that watching The Monster Squad for the first time since 1991 confirmed all the hype I've reaped on it all these years and made me want to revisit the film's crowning sequence. With the aid of a generous person who owns a better computer than mine, I was able to capture some screengrabs of the final act and share them here.

Before that, a few more words on the DVD. Unless you're one of the few who caught Monster Squad in the theater, you've been missing out on its original Cinemascope widescreen for all these years. Director Fred Dekker filmed this movie as kind of a poor man's John Carpenter, in that he greatly utilized the wide aspect ratio in every scene's framing, and as such I can't even imagine watching Monster Squad in pan and scan mode (like we all did on HBO and on VHS). As you'll see in the following screengrabs, Dekker really knows how to fill a frame.

Fans of Monster Squad will do cartwheels over the generous extras on the DVD, with a 90+ minute documentary that covers pretty much everything and a lively cast and crew commentary. The documentary's most interesting elements are when it focuses on Dekker, from his rise up the Hollywood ladder to how his career crashed. After being rejected by the USC and UCLA film schools, Dekker crafted the story for House, a horror movie with its own cult following these days (though I prefer the idiotic fun of House II: The Second Story). His first directing job was the still-not-on-DVD Night of the Creeps, which bombed at the box office but had a positive buzz before its opening that led to Monster Squad's greenlight. Monster Squad obviously did poorly as well at the box office, and Dekker bluntly says it killed his career 'for a couple of years.' This confession is somewhat sad since it comes at the end of the documentary after he talks all the hard work that went into it and the positive reception it has since garnered. Dekker follows up that statement by saying Robocop 3 killed his career again, and he's not lying -- he never directed again. Dekker's only credits following Robocop 3 have come as writer on the television series Enterprise and producer for a few forgettable televison projects.

But hey, he'll always have Monster Squad, and let's take a look at some of the highlights from the movie's unforgettable final act:


Tough talking Rudy puts his Monster Squad membership on the line with a downtown showdown against Dracula's virgin vamps.


I love this shot, especially the placement of his cigarette and how he's firing a full-on inch-thick wooden stake.

Doesn't get much better than this. I love how the streetlight captures the stake and the advancing vamps.


WE JOIN OUR CURRENT BATTLE ALREADY IN PROGRESS: Sean's dad had the sense to apparently pick up one (1) stick of dynamite at the store (minutes before midnight) before coming to help. He puts the dynamite to good use by stuffing it down the Wolfman's pants.


Boom goes Wolfman out the window, and he's going to show that all that business about a silver bullet being the only thing that can kill a werewolf is no joke.


Yup, he's back together again, and no mere State Trooper can stop him ...


Unless they had the help of a rebellious teen with a silver bullet.


Don't mention it, man.


Meanwhile, after The Creature's fabulous manhole entrance, it's time for Fat Kid to shine ...


Those bullies are no help, time to put that shotgun to good use.


"Hey Fat Kid, nice job!"


"My name ... is Horace!" [pumps shotgun]


Awww fuck, Dracula's still here -- and I bet he wants that amulet, too.


"Give me the amulet you BITCH!*

*Sigourney Weaver damn well better have gotten royalties for his delivery of this line.


"Bogus!"


Remember kids, this is an 80s horror movie so the villain will not die easily, in fact I bet he...


... Hey, where'd he go? Ah shit, better just let Van Helsing deal with him -- is that damn portal open yet?


Haha! This movie will surely jump start my career -- who am I again?


Just to add an "E.T." element, let's have Frankenstein get sucked into the portal as well, with the little girl yellinw "Don't go, Frankenstein!" Try and have her sound as much like Drew Barrymore as possible.


In case you got in late ... well, we're The Monster Squad ... and I'm Andre Gower.

MONSTER SQUAD-A-THON: 'Something to do with art'


The above quote, made by Duncan Regehr (Dracula) in a documentary on The Monster Squad DVD, is an attempt to capture just why the movie works so well. This quote struck me -- not just because it's similar to one of my favorite Once Upon a Time in the West lines ('something to do with death') -- as it's about the best way you can sum up all the tight-rope walking done by director Fred Dekker and his crew that went in to making The Monster Squad something that gets better with age. On the surface it shouldn't work, just trying to make sense of the plot and point out all of its holes and detachments from reality would take up most of this page, but it damn well does -- and it mostly has to do with art.

Art, imagination and a specific time in Hollywood when this kind of movie was able to get greenlit. The Monster Squad was riding the horror tidal wave in Hollywood, which would see the genre inundated with slasher movies and also atmospheric fantastical journeys. It would be just a couple of years before the MPAA started cracking down on all the bloodshed, and the CGI revolution would focus on more sci-fi/adventure flicks. But in 1987, horror was what brought teens and young adults to the screens. Despite this fact, The Monster Squad bombed. In the documentary, Dekker and his producer recount that it fit into a niche that didn't (and still doesn't) exist: too scary for kids, but too juvenile for adults. But for a generation that enjoyed it as kids on HBO or VHS and are re-living it now after the long-awaited DVD release, The Monster Squad is wonderful in the fact that there still is nothing else like it, and it remains pure genre-defying entertainment.

Dekker says in the documentary that he wanted to make The Little Rascals Meets the Universal Monsters, and that's exactly what The Monster Squad is. Don't come to the show expecting a revolutionary plot (or even a plot at all), all you need to know is that the classic horror monsters come to Anytown, U.S.A., and a group of kids are our only hope against complete destruction. When I say Dekker and crew walked a tight rope with this movie, what I meant was there are so many opportunities for The Monster Squad to enter 'hey kids, this is funny, right?' mode or even 'gosh aren't horror movies dumb!?' satire. Dekker never lets his film enter either nether-region, as his respect for classic horror and comedy is always on display. Everyone plays it straight, especially Regehr as a terrifying and maniacal Dracula who never tries to be Bela Lugosi.
The Monster Squad checks in at a skimpy 81 minutes, but it never feels lacking in any of the essential departments because there's no time wasted in the gang trying to get parents and police to believe their story and save the day. Nope, the members of the Monster Squad know from the beginning this is their fight, and the adults largely stay in the background. This is the best Little Rascals element of the movie, as the kids' friendship and knowledge of horror monsters are played up as their greatest strengths. Dekker and screen writer Shane Black (who also wrote the Lethal Weapon series and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) were wise enough to The Monster Squad the structure and pacing of a classic horror film -- with the best action backloaded to the final act and a story that gradually builds by giving each villain a grand entrance.

Solidifying the movie are the flawless Stan Winston creature effects and the cinematography by Bradford May. Winston's crew was faced with both a challenging task and a great opportunity for imagination: remaking Universal's monsters. Since Universal passed on The Monster Squad, the film's monsters needed to be different enough from the studio's properties so as not to incur the studio's legal wrath. The result was not only believable, never hokey monsters, but also designs that in many ways were stronger than Universal's. The Wolfman in particular looks much more menacing than Lon Chaney, Jr.'s version, with a more canine facial structure and a transformation that ends up as a working man's An American Werewolf in London. 'Gillman' (the Creature) is simply a triumph, replicating all the best features of the original amphibious beast with a more terrifying face (done beautifully with animatronic eyes and jaw). Mummy, Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster are similar, adding modern macabre and menace to the classic core monster elements. May's photography adds a luxurious touch to the film, and as a result it never looks low-budget or campy. There are several scenes where May's hard work produces rich rewards, my favorite being Sean's discovery of the amulet: the room is flooded with the object's shimmering green light, which is framed by the silhouettes of anti-Dracula crosses and strands of garlic.

When there is genuine satire in The Monster Squad it never infringes on the film. To me the funniest part of the movie is simply the story we're supposed to swallow without any mind to the countless questions that go unanswered: how did Transylvania become Anytown, U.S.A. after Van Helsing's failed battle with Dracula? Why does Dracula need the other monsters' help? Why did the Mummy go from the swamp to Eugene's closet and then summarily leave? Why is Dracula intent on killing Sean? Why does everyone have easy access to dynamite, and how was Sean's dad able to buy fresh sticks of it so close to midnight? Why was a B-17 carrying crates from Transylvania, and where was Dracula's hurse parked that whole time?

Luckly, Dekker never gives you enough time to really ponder any of these questions, and no one in the movie has the sense to seek the answers. The kids and their family have accepted that their nameless Southern town has attracted the classic horror monsters and now they have to destroy them, simple as that. If you need to wonder why, well you wouldn't be admitted to the club in the first place.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Meet ANDRE GOWER, the Monster Squad-a-Thon Grand Marshal!


[Yes, The Monster Squad-a-Thon is upon us! Here's how it's gonna go down today through Thursday: as you look to your right you will see my sidebar which has been updated to be a master list for all the content I'm gonna throw at you. Keep checking back for updates on the list of contributions, and there's going to be a few more updates by yours truly during the next couple days -- including a review of the Monster Squad DVD tomorrow! Again, if you are interested in contributing please email me or leave a comment and I'll add your link to the page (you can also email me a contribution if you are blog-less.]

I promised you lovely readers a VERY SPECIAL GUEST for The Monster Squad-a-Thon, and well -- I think I delivered: meet Andre Gower, the leader of the Monster Squad, and the flag bearer for this momentous day. Before starring in The Monster Squad as S
ean Crenshaw, Andre had a prolific television career with roles in shows such as The A-Team, Mr. Belvedere, Night Court, Knight Rider and T.J. Hooker. After an extended break from acting, Andre is back in Hollywood, and you can keep up with his career via his MySpace blog, where he also gives you some honest advice for any aspiring actors. As you read this Andre is in Los Angeles for a variety of Monster Squad screenings, and has been making his way to Monster Squad Reunion screenings across the country during 2007. Please give thanks to Andre, as he was nice enough to let me have a few minutes of his time:

DVD Panache: What did your monster movie education consist of before being cast in Monster Squad?
Andre Gower: Your basic film going foundation really. Who hasn't seen the classic Dracula and Frankenstein and Mummy movies that had been done til then. I always had a admiration for The Creature From the Black Lagoon, just because I thought he was a cool looking monster. The original concept had a lot of background history and clues to movies and monsters that really was a homage to the great depictions in literature and on film of the past. Then Monster Squad comes along and puts them all together…how cool is that.

D: The idea of Monster Squad must have sounded a little ridiculous on paper, what were some of your initial thoughts on the project?
A: The original script was longer and much more detailed with historical cues and monster lore as well as more interaction with the squad and the monsters. The shooting script (the one we see today) is extremely scaled down and cut up so it may appear to be campy and quick. But Fred and Shane originally had a rather deep concept on paper based on Fred's idea of what if the The Little Rascals fought the classic Universal movie monsters. My initial response to the film was "hell yeah!" I mean, look at it. We get to ride around town, cuss, break stuff, get chased and kill monsters…who wouldn't like that! But again, the original draft was much more involved and had a lot of cool stuff that made the kids, and the monsters, deeper characters.

D: Horror movies have gotten progressively more popular over the past decade, how would you compare today's horror environment with that of the late 80s?
A: The 80s, 90s and today… are so different in terms of what the popular taste is. The resurgence of the low-budget slasher/thriller movie from the 70's has made a "screaming" comeback. I think a lot of the movies in the 80's were more adventure based and took people on a journey. Today, the movies just take you someplace you want to get the hell out of! Some are great, others are easy remakes that fall short. But the formula works. I think that's why MS was so different, it had kids that had intelligence as well as imagination. It had adventure along side of being in rather precarious situations. That's why the fan base is SO spread out between girls an boys of different ages. Everybody has a character they can relate to or wanted to be like.

D: You had a part on The A-Team, what was that set atmosphere like for a young boy?
A: Doing a guest spot on The A-Team was great. I mean, how many kids have ever chopped down a tree with Mr. T?! I might be the only one. They were great to work with, very fun, yet professional set.

D: Even though it's taken this long for Monster Squad to arrive on DVD, it has still remained very popular -- why has it had such great staying power?
A: I think it has to do with the total originality of the concept. Bringing together the classic movie monsters and the classic dynamic of a group of kids put a different spin on the good vs. evil thing. There isn't one part of the story that people aren't attached to in some way. Like I mentioned before, everybody has a character they can relate to or had always wished they could be…the cool kid, the little sister, the best friend, the leader and yes…even the fat kid. And what solidifies that feeling with the movie, is that each and every one of us is the hero of the film. We each play a part in the build-up and the final battle that, if we failed, we wouldn't have won. An absolute kid fantasy.

D: What was the scariest part of the Monster Squad shoot for you?
A: There wasn't too much that was actually "frightening" per se for me. Yes, there is some huge monsters running around breaking stuff, but it was also a movie set. A big budget, complex production with a huge crew and lots of effects. It's a lot of work for anybody, especially young kids to be on a big set and have to perform. I think, looking back, we did a pretty good job. Fred had a lot to do with that the way he approached and handled his complex duties as director/writer and dealing with a group of kids on top of that. He made a concerted effort to treat each of us fairly and professionally yet also as friends and created a real connection with each of us as individuals.
"Yes, there is some huge monsters running around breaking stuff, but it was also a movie set. A big budget, complex production with a huge crew and lots of effects. It's a lot of work for anybody, especially young kids to be on a big set and have to perform. I think, looking back, we did a pretty good job. Fred had a lot to do with that the way he approached and handled his complex duties as director/writer and dealing with a group of kids on top of that. He made a concerted effort to treat each of us fairly and professionally yet also as friends and created a real connection with each of us as individuals.

D: You've appeared at a number of Monster Squad reunion screenings, what can you say about those?
A: I can't say enough really. They have been the coolest events I have been to. It's been great getting together with Ryan, Ashley and Fred and we even got to see Ducan Regher and Tom Noonan recently at a convention. Now with the DVD release, I hope we have a lot more great events to attend. The fans make these things though. They simply love this film, they love the story and they love the characters. The original fans are all grown up, but have handed their love for it down to younger generations...and it works there too. They are honest fans who hold this film close to them. I am constantly told and sent mail explaining how MS was the all-time best thing in someone's childhood. You can't beat being a part of that. That stuff lasts forever.

D: What acting projects are in the future for Andre Gower?
A: Hopefully many! I have been gearing towards getting back in to the business full-time this last year or so balancing my current projects and business that I am involved in. But I am always looking for great opportunities and love meeting filmmakers from all over, especially new ones as well as established names. So, if anybody would like to get a hold of me, please do so!

D: What was Fred Dekker's direction like on the famous "wolf man's got nards" scene?
A: You know, it was a hectic scene that originally had a lot more going on before they started editing the shooting script. It was a great set, in a spooky mansion that all of a sudden cut loose with explosions, monsters and humor. You would think a line like that might not work in that circumstance…but on the contrary, it became THE catch-phrase from the film. Fred just set things up as he usually did and pointed us in the direction he needed us to end up. We just allowed the energy of the scene to come through and it worked. The whole movie is like that. Fred never hovered over us with a hammer dictating how to read lines or what expressions to use etc. He allowed us to be us…a group of kids. That's one reason the film plays so well with people. It's not corny, campy acting. It's real kids dealing with an unreal situation. That's how Fred designed it and how it worked out.

Had you read any Stephen King before your Monster Squad role? (Andre's character wears a "Stephen King Rules" t-shirt for most of the movie -Ed.)
I actually screen tested for Cujo a few years earlier and started reading that for background. But other than that, not much back then. His stuff is as creative and imaginative as it gets. Great reads now.

MONSTER SQUAD-A-THON: You're Goddamned Right I'm in the Club


By Ashley Decker

I am eternally grateful and indebted to coal mines. Without them, my existence would cease to happen and my introduction to The Monster Squad and my lifelong love of horror tragically never would have happened. You see, my mother and father had an unusual love story. They met while working beneath ground in the coal mines. This explains how my existence hinged upon a coal mine, as this is where they fell in love and proceded to get married and pro-create. But The Monster Squad, you are asking, how is a coal mine responsible for that?

In the mid-80's, the mine had a massive fire. The miners took side jobs until they got called back to work, and my dad took one at a mom and pop video store, back when they still existed and weren't swallowed like small fishes from the piranha-like jaws of Blockbuster. The job came with its perks. My brother and I were the coolest kids on the block, as we got to see Rambo before anyone else in the neighborhood did. My dad would bring home promo stuff all the time, such as a My Pet Monster to coincide with the VHS release. There was excitement every night about what movie dad would bring home in its brick shaped glory.


It was around this time that I starting to fall in love. Mind you, I was 4, but I already had a blooming love affair at such a tender age. I was falling in love with horror and the monsters it gave birth to. My dad was divorced from my brother's wife, so I eagerly anticipated every Friday when I knew he would be spending the weekend with us. My brother and I bonded over Friday the 13th (I still remember how we grabbed each other when Jason came popping out of the water) and other slashers. They still remain as some of my happiest memories of my life. Before you go branding my parents as unfit, they always monitored what we were watching and as long as we didn't act freaked out or traumatized, they were totally cool about it. God Bless them.

It was while my mom stopped in to see my dad that I spotted THE BOX. I always would wander around the aisles taking in all the covers. This was the first one to make me stop dead in my tracks. The cover had not one monster, but three! And there were kids! This video store had the box cover and then the video was displayed behind the box. You could tell if a movie was being rented because the video wouldn't be behind the box. The video wasn't behind the box. I think it was the first time I ever experienced a broken heart, but it certainly wouldn't be the last. I could have cared less about what mystery brick dad would be bringing home, because I wanted, no needed, I needed to see this movie. Imagine my surprise when the mystery brick ended up being The Monster Squad! My dad had put it aside because he knew I would want to see it, but he would have no idea how much I would want to end up seeing it.

Try every day. Every single day. The preview for The Unholy that began before the film commenced has never left me. I can still conjure up the images in my mind without a second thought. I knew as soon as an exasperated Ben Cross yelled "Dear God! WHAT WILL YOU HAVE ME DOOOOOO?" and then the annoucer omniously stating the tagline "The Unholy: You haven't got a prayer" that the feature film was about to start. And then there was the horse.The horse bursting through the clouds, or a cloud of smoke (I never did decide) with magestic music playing annoucing the company. Then there was the red V standing for Vestron, so beautifully retro.

My mom helped me read the opening lines telling us how old Van Helsing "blew it." I was completely and utterly hooked from that point on. I wanted to have an amulet that could magically create vortexes. I wanted a "Stephen King Rules" shirt. One thing that was never wanting was a desire to be in the Monster Squad. You see, that's the beauty of the film. You never go "Oh man, I wish I was in a club like that," because the movie makes you feel as though you already are. When the kids are up in the clubhouse, you feel as though you are right there beside them. When Fat Kid is pumping his shot gun and proclaiming that his name is Horace, you are standing right next to him. When the kids are in the Jeep and the mummy attacks in the back, you feel the fear as well, because you are right there in the Jeep. You learn with the kids that Scary German Guy is more bitchin than scary.

I think that is where Monster Squad is fundamentally different from The Goonies. I love both films, but people tend to compare the two. I would say the difference lies in that with The Goonies, you always feel separated from the Goonies. You envy them and want to be them. With the Monster Squad, it never feels like a film. Call it the magic of nostaglia, but you always feel like you are right there with the kids.

My love for the film resulted in my dad having to bring it home every night from work so I could watch, no, so I could live it. Over time, track marks began to lovingly show on the tape, a testament to my devotion to it. My dad's boss finally suggested that maybe my dad should just buy it off him. My father has bought me many things in life, including a college education and a car. But for a nominal three dollars, he forever cemented his daughter's devotion and love for him. Not to mention her most cherished possession. Before the DVD was released, I was offered insane and ungodly amounts of money for my VHS. A VHS that I have shared with my little cousins, instilling a love of the movie and monsters for them. I will never part with the VHS. It's a reminder of far too many things for me. It's a reminder of my youth and simpler times, it's a reminder of why I love this genre so much, and most importantly, it's a reminder of a father's love and unending patience for his daughter and the little monster he forever created as a result.

Ashley Decker is an aspiring mortician in Pennsylvania who is also pursuing a PhD in theology.

Friday, July 20, 2007

FRIDAY SCREEN TEST: Ross Ruediger

Even if you don't agree with what Ross Ruediger has to say at The Rued Morgue, he gets the last laugh because he lives in San Antonio and you probably don't. He probably wrote his answers from the basement of the Alamo just to prove it exists, Pee Wee be damned. Ross is more than just the product of parents with exceptional taste in names, his writing can be found at the wondrous The House Next Door, where he reviews Dr. Who episodes, and at the eclectic Liverputty, where his Rued Manifesto gets a bit of everything off his chest. When he's not talking about himself, Ross has found time for sprawling looks at James Bond to commemorate the year of our spy 2007. And his writings are certainly not limited to the digital variety, as Ross is even an occasional playwright (scroll down to the second story).

NOW SHOWING AT THE RUED MORGUE CINEMA: 'I’d love to do a marathon called “Chick Flicks for Guys” – a series of movies guys might at first glance think “No way in hell”: Tootsie, Love Actually, How to Make an American Quilt, P.S., In Her Shoes, All About Eve, Women in Love, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Hannah and Her Sisters, One True Thing, Grace of My Heart, Shampoo, Truly, Madly, Deeply. Those would be a good start. Or a Ma and Pa Kettle marathon – just to see who’d stay ‘til the end.

JUST ONE QUESTION: 'Christopher Eccleston: Why did you leave “Doctor Who” after only one season? David Tennant’s done an exceptional job of picking up where Eccleston left off, but I’ll always wonder what heights he may have reached with the role had he gone on and done another season or two.'

I ... DON'T GET IT: 'Aside from a couple of exceptions, I don’t get Spike Lee or Michael Mann. I don’t care for Mel Gibson as a filmmaker. In general, I don’t really understand action movies, but maybe that’s got more to do with most of them sucking these days. I remain mystified by the popularity of Will Ferrell.'

SCENES FROM THE RUED MORGUE: 'Since I’ve lived with a TV critic (Jeanne Jakle of the S.A. Express-News) for the past 6 years and watch a fair amount of TV with her, my movie watching habits aren’t quite as intense as they used to be, but hopefully at least 3 DVDs a week and maybe 5 or so more on DirectTV. I’m also the kind of person who enjoys pulling out stacks of movies just to sift through favorite scenes. Whenever people are over at our place that can be great fun for the uninitiated. The other night we had a friend over who’d never seen Jon Voight back when he was young, so I put on the first 5 minutes of Midnight Cowboy and she was blown away.'

ROSS ON THE RUN: 'The Rued Morgue is less of a movie blog than it is something “else”. The goal is to present either entertaining or informative pieces (or ideally both), and from the beginning I didn’t want to box myself into just being a critic. I don’t even think I’m a particularly good critic and tend to shy away from writing about anything I don’t like. I take a lot longer to write my stuff than most and often a week goes by and I’ve done nothing substantial. One thing I do is occasionally throw out something personal – some anecdote or whatever - and attempt to craft it in a way to which hopefully people relate. Generally those pieces get nice responses in the comments sections. I’m as big a nerd as anyone doing this stuff, but it’s even more fun to be a human nerd and remind people they’re not just reading the ramblings of an automaton. Maybe that’s indulgent – and I’m always nervous about presenting those pieces - but there’s value in at the very least making criticism personal as long as it doesn’t overshadow what needs to be said. The thing is there are so many other bloggers out there who are so much more insightful with their criticism, so I gotta find ways to play to my strengths. Maybe that’s the key to great blogging: Figure out what you’re good at and run with it.

'So all that said, to answer your question, Jeanne’s influence can’t be discounted, but I started The Rued Morgue specifically because of admiration for Matt Zoller Seitz’s The House Next Door. Matt busted my blog cherry; before The House I really didn’t know much about or even pay attention to blogs. I used to spend a lot of time reading Ain’t It Cool News, but was always frustrated by how shoddily put together it was -- all the bad grammar and typos and so forth. So in a way I gotta give Harry Knowles some credit because AICN led me to think, “I love this same stuff and I can create proper sentences”. And Roger Ebert. I’ve been reading Ebert for years and think he’s the greatest film critic from a writing standpoint, even though I often don’t agree with him.'

DO YOU PLAN ON BUYING THAT DVD, SIR?: 'It’s pretty simple: Do I foresee myself watching this more than once within the next year. Oh, and it’s gotta be something I’ve already seen and know is worth owning. I’ve burned myself too many times buying stuff sight unseen.'

UNORIGINAL DRUNK: '“There’s nothing more boring than people who love you” from Talk Radio. I met Eric Bogosian once and actually had him sign an autograph with that at the top. I quote so much stuff from so many movies so much of the time, that I’m sure I don’t have an original thought in my head – and anyone who spends time with me will confirm that. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of, “Hey, careful man! There’s a beverage here!"'

I CAN HAS SCRIPT?: 'What the hell has happened to independent film? When was the last time a true indie made some waves? Open Water? There was supposed to be this huge revolution with the technology that’s now available, but it doesn’t seem that anybody’s using it properly or we’d be seeing more breakout hits. Simply put: Digital cameras do not write great scripts. At least Hollywood still has the ability to get behind a handful of great scripts every year and they may even be one of the last hopes for decent, English-speaking film.'

A PRETTY DECENT YEAR: 'At the time, ’94 seemed awfully good, but looking back it probably had more to do with where I was a person more than anything else.'
MY BLOG FOR A MILLION DOLLARS!: 'I’ve got no real problem with Hollywood most of the time. It’s a business, right? If Hollywood keeps making shitty movies, it’s only because people keep going to see them or renting or buying them. The industry can’t be held totally accountable for the public’s lack of taste or class. I’ll tell you what I do loathe, however: Straight-to-video garbage. There’s this entire sub-industry that’s somehow been around for years and years dedicated solely to making a few dollars profit. They don’t seem at all interested in making anything resembling an ambitious film (the major studios at least give the impression they’re trying). And these movies probably cost a mill or two apiece. What I wouldn’t give to have a million dollars to make a little indie film, but nobody would ever give me that money because my pitch wouldn’t look right on the video shelf. If they can’t envision the photoshopped DVD cover, they won’t make it. And who are “they” by the way? Somebody’s turning a nice quick buck by essentially turning out reams of nothing even remotely substantial every year.'

Contact DVD Panache if you are interested in being featured on Friday Screen Test.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DVDs WE LOVE: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (The Criterion Collection)


Release: 2003

Status: In print

Legacy: Though it was long-established with the movie community and DVD collectors, this release was what put Criterion Collection on the mainstream map, and it's easy to see why. It wasn't the first time Criterion had released a contemporary, big studio film (see: The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rock, Chasing Amy, Armageddon), it did serve as the company's first foray into re-releasing a mainstream film that deserved a definitive edition. It was the perfect time for such a venture, because Fear and Loathing was gaining steam as a cult classic on video after its theatrical release bombed. Suddenly, Hunter S. Thompson was being introduced to a new generation of readers, and the strange comedy produced by Johnny Depp and Benecio del Toro in the film was starting to resonate as other movies followed its batshit lead. The DVD was also riding Criterion's new wave of ultra editions that came in sleek radical packaging and contained a bounty of print essays in addition to a new level of video content. Early Criterions, even their sterling examples of Notorious and The Third Man, were hardly stacked with extras -- leaning mostly on archived articles presented on screen or old radio spots (which were still appreciated). But Fear and Loathing represented the new Criterion standard, featuring full-length documentaries both classic and contemporary to go along with first-rate commentary tracks and impeccable audio and visual transfers. This would go on to be Criterion's best-selling DVD and serve as a gateway to the masses just what the company does and why so many pay a $10 or $20 premium for their releases.

Personal: I'm conflicted about how good this movie is, but I'll always be amazed by the Criterion's DVD. It has become an example of how relevant DVDs can be: just listen to Thompson's amazing commentary track, is there a better or more candid into the writer's brain? Sitting in his Colorado home with his wife and a producer of the movie, Thompson alternates between talking about Depp and director Gilliam to shrieking wildly and even taking a call from a University of New Orleans professor for an impromptu interview. For someone from my generation who didn't grow up with Thompson, this is a rich introduction since it includes two of his essays and two documentaries following his life (one made in 1978, another during the filming of the movie). The extras are generous enough, but you see what Criterion is all about in the details: the packaging is fun just to look at, and it has one of the best menu screens of all time (Steadman painting the film's chaotic logo in real time).

Availability: Often discounted to around $30. A steal.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Next week: The Monster Squad-a-thon!


Exactly a week from today, The Monster Squad: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD will go on sale, and with it comes The Monster Squad-a-thon at this very blog you are reading. The inaugural blog-a-thon at DVD Panache will feature a VERY SPECIAL GUEST who will help ring in this momentous day Monster Squad fans have been awaiting for years. And in the spirit of our VERY SPECIAL GUEST, I'm hoping for some especially monstrous contributions from bloggers near and far. For those out there who are too shy to ask questions, let's answer a few:

Q: Do I have to be a Monster Squad fan to contribute to The Monster Squad-a-thon?
A: No! The blog-a-thon is dedicated to the movie's long-awaited DVD release, but the subject matter concerns monsters and monster movies.

Q: How long will The Monster Squad-a-thon last?
A: I'm leaving on Friday, July 27 for Seattle, so that morning will probably be the end credits.

Q: I don't know what a blog-a-thon is and am too ashamed to ask anyone.
A: A blog-a-thon is when a group of bloggers all post on a similar topic, and the 'host blog' of the blog-a-thon acts as a headquarters of sorts, with links to all the corresponding posts. It ends up being a lot of fun for all parties involved.

Q: This Monster Squad movie sounds interesting, can I see it before July 24?
A: Not likely! Until next week the only way you can see Monster Squad is on the same VHS tapes that have been circulating since the late 80s, that's why the DVD release is such a big deal.

Q: I want to contribute, but am helplessly uninformed.
A: It's simple: write a post on your blog (or if you don't have a blog, email me the post and I'll publish it here), make sure to reference the blog-a-thon with a link to DVD Panache, and email or leave a comment to me that your post is up. Simple, right?

Q: Who is this VERY SPECIAL GUEST you keep talking about?
A: Tune in next week to find out!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The New Blood...


Full disclosure: my father was born on Friday the 13th in 1956, on the day before the videotape format was introduced to the NARTB convention in Chicago (you can thank Wikipedia for that one). So it's pretty much my destiny that I contribute to Friday the 13th Blog-a-thon hosted by the incomparable/irreplaceable/funny-as-a-fork-in-yer-eye Stacie Ponder. For my contribution I give you an expanded version of a story I wrote for the last Friday the 13th for PLAY Treasure Valley, my newspaper's entertainment magazine. If you're reading this you probably don't need any reasons to have a Friday the 13th marathon, but here's my sell to the general public:

**************

Paraskavedekatriaphobia — or fear of Friday the 13th — is a condition that affects many people. Paraskavedehockeymaskphobia — or fear of the movie series “Friday the 13th” — likely afflicts even more.

What started in 1980 as a slightly inventive fright flick riding the coattails of the original “Halloween” movie, devolved into a seemingly bottomless ‘Crystal Lake’ of sequels filled with witless teenagers finding dumber and dumber ways to die inside a dark cabin (or bathroom, or closet, or malfunctioning car).

But really, how else do you plan on celebrating today, the last Friday the 13th until ... well, July? To keep you from viewing this date with any sort of trepidation, here are 13 reasons you should watch all eight movies contained in the $50 “Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan” box set.

1. Jason Bond: The opening credits sequence for “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” takes a cue from 007 movies. In the place of a gun barrel, we get an extreme close-up of Jason’s eye, where the retina “opens” to reveal Jason, who then slashes through the screen to reveal the title. It’s one of the series’ rare moments of actual style. (I've watched this intro more times than necessary, and it's definitely worth your while).



2. The Corey Factor: Before Corey Feldman endeared himself to a generation of kids as the bilingual “Mouth” in “The Goonies,” he played a key role in the “Friday the 13th” series, killing Jason in “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.” Of course, a better-than-expected box office return brought him back to life. (Is it wrong to say that Lil Corey is one of the creepiest aspects of the whole series?)

3. Evil never drowns: The startling ending to the original “Friday the 13th” remains the pinnacle of the entire series — and can still shock just about anyone. And we’re not telling. (I. Love. This. Ending. I first watched Friday the 13th when I was like 9 and my friends and I kind of laughed our way through it, but the ending on the canoe really put us in our place).

4. Will the real Jason please stand up?: On the other side of the spectrum is “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning,” which is without a doubt the lowest point of the series’ abyss. While you watch it, ponder the fact you may be viewing the worst flick you’ve ever seen — it’ll help get you through it. (If you've ever actually tried a Friday the 13th Marathon, it really grinds to a halt when you get to 'A New Beginning.' It certainly spelled doom for the marathon I was a part of in college).

5. 3-Deplorable: Yes, “Friday the 13th: Part 3” was filmed in 3-D. But it does not wear the crown of the worst 3-D threequal of all — that honor goes to “Jaws III.” (I've only seen parts of this one, but I'm pretty sure it's still quite a bit better than 'Jaws III').

6. Cribs — Crystal Lake: “Friday the 13th: Part 2” allows a rare look into Jason’s house — and look what’s on the table! (Why didn't the other slasher franchises pick up on this device? I mean, doesn't Michael Meyers need a lil' place to map out his killings and take a nap? Doesn't Pinhead have somewhere to spend his downtime?).

7. Jason vs. Carrie: That’s the nickname for “Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood,” as the villain squares off against a psychic girl, possibly to draw in some fans from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” crowd. (I remember seeing the trailer for this one where you see Jason getting electrocuted, and you think for a moment 'maybe this is really the last one! That blue electricity can do anything!').

8. FrankenJason: Good idea — going to Jason’s grave. Bad idea — trying to “finish” Jason by sticking a big spear in his corpse during a lightning storm. See “Part VI: Jason Lives” for the electrifying result. (Combined with the aforementioned Jason Bond intro that follows up this Frankenstein bit, the opening of 'Jason Lives' truly exists in the top half of my favorite all-time sequences).

9. Jason on a boat: Though it was called “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan,” unfortunately, most of the movie takes place on a cruise ship. Also noteworthy for exposing the horrible truth that New York City’s sewers are filled with toxic waste. (They really should have had a spin-off franchise where Jason 'takes' other locales -- 'Jason Takes the Alamo,' 'Jason Takes Fort Sumter' and 'Jason Takes It All Off' have potential).

10. Look out below: Proving that he’s more than a machete wielder (and also that the writers were running out of ideas), Jason throws three people through windows and to their doom in “The Final Chapter.” (But not Corey!)

11. Cold Bacon: A young Kevin Bacon stars in “Friday the 13th,” the only other actual “star” to act in the series besides Feldman. (This is probably my favorite death scene in the whole series, it's unexpected and pretty damn gruesome).

12. The boy in the bag: Another of the oddities of “Part II” is that Jason spends the movie masked in a flour sack, with one hole cut out for his eye. In “Part III” he gains the hockey mask and apparently grows back his other eye. (I've always thought about going as this Jason for Halloween some year, and when people ask who I am I would get really belligerent, accosting them for not seeing 'Part II').

13. Down for the count: A man unwisely tries to box Jason in “Part VIII,” and guess what? Jason wins. With one punch. (You think he would have tried this kill tactic earlier in the series).

FRIDAY SCREEN TEST: Jeff Ignatius

Proprietor of the most elegant site in the Friday Screen Test cohort (edging out Burbanked), Jeff Ignatius' Culture Snob has been on the blog circuit seemingly since the Internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore's eye. Debuting in 2003 as part of the patriarch journal site Diaryland, Culture Snob has enough fun material in the archives to keep you occupied well into the last third of a 24-hour Bill Pullman marathon on TNT. Jeff is not only gracious enough to give us his Top 100 Albums, but he has also crafted a Box Office Power Rankings criteria that almost makes too much sense. I found Culture Snob through its marvelous Misunderstood Blog-a-thon in May that ended up being far from misunderstood -- it just plain rocked.

I WANT IT!:
'This Is Spinal Tap's Stonehenge, so that I might protect it from being trod upon by a dwarf.'

SO THERE'S THAT: 'In 1991, my girlfriend at the time nannied for Gary Sinise and Moira Harris, and I spent a week (or two?) helping out in the Chicago apartment where she was living. She was in Curse of the Starving Class at Steppenwolf. I never met him. But I can say I cared for two of Gary Sinise's kids.'

NOW PLAYING AT CULTURE SNOB CINEMA: 'Although movies are too collaborative for me to subscribe to the auteur concept, I love to see filmmakers whose body of work reveals themes that might not be apparent from the separate movies. Peter Weir is fascinated by diaspora and isolation. Christopher Nolan appears healthily obsessed with destructive obsessions. Egoyan loves to explore perspective and the mutability of truth. So I would probably program marathons by filmmaker to highlight themes. Compare Memento to Batman Begins, for example, or Picnic at Hanging Rock and Fearless and The Truman Show.'

DAYS OF ESSAYS PASSED: 'I can't think of any particular prompt, but at some point in the mid-1990s, for a period I wrote an essay about every movie I saw, and the one that sticks in my faulty memory is Atom Egoyan's Calendar. Steve Buscemi's Trees Lounge and Hitchcock's Vertigo were also important movies for me at that time, and what I wrote about them helped me better understand how movies work and my relationship with them. Writing about film turned me from a passive viewer to an active participant.'

WE'RE GOING TO THE PICTURES!: 'We typically watch two to three movies a week at home. I'm also watching something during my twice- or thrice-weekly workouts. (Presently I'm re-watching the first season of The Wire.) We've gone "out" to the movies three times so far in 2007: Pan's Labyrinth, 28 Weeks Later, and -- at the drive-in -- Spider-Man 3. Because of a flat tire, we caught far more of Ghost Rider than we wanted.'

BOUND TO THE BOOK: 'I don't see the point of period chamber dramas of the Merchant Ivory variety. They seem better suited to novels than cinema, and -- more to the point -- they seem a particularly bad match for what movies do well.'
PREPARE FOR LANDING: 'The final depiction of the plane crash in Fearless. The beautifully re-created violence is balanced by the patience and ache of Gorecki's third symphony, and the choices related to non-music sound and dialogue are surprising and meaningful without drawing undue attention to themselves.'

TALK LIKE A CULTURE SNOB TODAY: 'Lesser-known lines from This Is Spinal Tap, such as "I envy us." "Inconceivable" and related dialogue from The Princess Bride.'

DON'T JUDGE ME: 'My movie education is woeful, in part because I wasn't a film major -- I've never even taken a film course -- and in part because movies have always been an avocation rather than a vocation. From the BFI's most recent polls, I've never seen (although I own it), 8 1/2Battleship Potemkin, Bicycle Thieves, Rashomon (recorded on the DVR at home), La R├Ęgle du Jeu, Seven Samurai, Singin' in the Rain, Sunrise, or Tokyo Story.'

THE YEAR THAT WAS: '1999 seems like a particularly good year: American Beauty, Being John Malkovich, eXistenZ, Fight Club, The Insider, The Iron Giant, Magnolia, Three Kings, Toy Story 2. Those are nine relatively wide-release movies that I'd be happy to watch at any time. That was also the year I met the woman who would become my wife, so it's special for that reason, too.'

Contact DVD Panache if you are interested in being featured on Friday Screen Test.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Date with Loneliness


Many of you know Lucas McNelly from his excellent blog 100 Films, on which he frequently shines the spotlight on uber-indie filmmakers who make their art mostly on their own dime and definitely their own vision. Lucas champions these artists in part because he is one himself. His d press Productions is responsible for projects such as L'Attente and Guard Duty, and the latest is his most ambitious -- Gravida.

Gravida premieres July 12 at the Hollywood Theatre in Pittsburgh, and I was more than happy to post an advance review (these are the kind of perks you can expect as a Friday Screen Test alum).

Billed as 'a study in loneliness,' Gravida is equally about hope and identity. With a running time of 24 minutes, the film is tight with real conflict and emotion, taking great advantage of its short duration. The film is simple, but its themes and resolution is anything but -- and any further exposition or story lines would only detract from the end product. As the credits open we wake up wearily with Kristin, who only has a few more months of living alone (she's pregnant). The other character is Guy, a courier who frequently stops by Kristin's office and is a bit shocked at her forward invitation to dinner at her house. The evening seems to be going well, but there's always the lingering element of Kristin's pregnancy, and how she's not being forward about it with Guy. This issue is brought to a head in the film's final minutes, where Gravida reaches its touching apex.

Gravida deals with a delicate subject matter, and could have lost the audience's interest and trust without a careful hand, but Lucas is certainly up to the task. Lucas' camera is never obtrusive, acting more as an invisible observer even when the story's emotions peak. Actors Rachel Shaw and Adam Kukic find their stride as the story builds and are able to sell the idea that their characters are facing troubling, adult decisions.

Since the characters are obviously lonely subjects, much of their intimate moments are spent reconnoitering whatever line has been drawn between them. Because of this there is little dialog, but the film slowly gains momentum as the tension builds between Kristin and Guy as they must decide the fate of their night. This isn't a sob story. Gravida is honest and sweetly brutal in how it deals with its subject matter, and leaves you wondering how you would react in the same situation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Adam's Top 100 ballot (sort of)


Jonathan Burdick at Cinema Fusion has quite a project going that I was more than happy to participate in. In forming the Online Film Community's Top 100, Jonathan accepted nominations from many film writers, bloggers and editors to form a list of 502 nominees, which voters will narrow to their top 100, ranked from top to bottom.

It's hard enough to assign a number to anything you love, and this was no easy task -- but it was also a lot of fun. Cinema Fusion's end product doesn't have a release date as of yet, but the deadline for voters is July 15, and in a rare showing of professionalism I actually finished my work quite early. Instead of publishing my official ballot, I'm going to show you what my list would have looked like if all my nominations had made it in. Entries in red represent films that were not included in the list of nominees.

To me this is a pretty good amalgam of what is essential to me as a film watcher and what are the truly best films ever made. By no means is it unbiased, as there is a general lack of classic romances, dramas and comedies, as well as films made in the last 15 years. Foreign-made movies are included in Cinema Fusion's list, and I was somewhat disappointed that my ballot didn't include more. There were a lot of hard decisions with this list, and admittedly a few of the exclusions were made because I have not seen them.

  1. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
  2. Bicycle Thief, The (De Sica, 1948)
  3. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
  4. Third Man, The (Reed, 1949)
  5. Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)
  6. Searchers, The (Ford, 1956)
  7. Wild Bunch, The (Peckinpah, 1969)
  8. Notorious (Hitchcock, 1946)
  9. Night of the Hunter, The (Laughton, 1955)
  10. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick, 1964)
  11. Once Upon a Time in the West (Leone, 1968)
  12. Godfather, The (Coppola, 1972)
  13. King Kong (Cooper/Shoedsack, 1933)
  14. Big Sleep, The (Hawks, 1946)
  15. M (Lang, 1931)
  16. Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990)
  17. Passion of Joan of Arc, The (Dreyer, 1928)
  18. Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)
  19. Pinocchio (Luske/Sharpsteen, 1940)
  20. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981)
  21. Stagecoach (Ford, 1939)
  22. Battle of Algiers,The (Pontecorvo, 1966)
  23. Bride of Frankenstein (Whale, 1935)
  24. Fort Apache (Ford, 1948)
  25. Wizard of Oz, The (Fleming, 1939)
  26. E.T. (Spielberg, 1982)
  27. Bridge on River Kwai, The (Lean, 1957)
  28. 400 Blows, The (Truffaut, 1959)
  29. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)
  30. Sunset Blvd. (Wilder, 1950)
  31. Red River (Hawks/Rosson, 1948)
  32. Laura (Preminger, 1944)
  33. Ox-Bow Incident, The (Wellman, 1943)
  34. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
  35. Ride the High Country (Peckinpah, 1967)
  36. Sullivan’s Travels (Sturges, 1941)
  37. Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
  38. Point Blank (Boorman, 1967)
  39. Frankenstein (Whale, 1931)
  40. Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
  41. Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
  42. Alien (R. Scott, 1979)
  43. Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954)
  44. Dracula (1931, Browning)
  45. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Lucas, 1977)
  46. Godfather Part II, The (Coppola, 1974)
  47. Hoop Dreams (S James, 1994)
  48. Cutter's Way (Passer, 1981)
  49. Badlands (Malick, 1973)
  50. Heat (Mann, 1995)
  51. Treasure of Sierra Madre, The (Huston, 1948)
  52. Last Picture Show, The (Bogdanovich, 1971)
  53. Robocop (Verhoeven, 1987)
  54. 3 Women (Altman, 1977)
  55. Birds, The (Hitchcock, 1963)
  56. Rules of the Game, The (Renoir, 1939)
  57. Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
  58. Thin Man, The (Van Dyke, 1934)
  59. Sting, The (Hill, 1973)
  60. Schindler’s List (Spielberg, 1993)
  61. Scarface (Hawkes, 1932)
  62. Forbidden Planet (Wilcox, 1956)
  63. Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997)
  64. Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947)
  65. Nashville (Altman, 1975)
  66. Annie Hall (W. Allen, 1977)
  67. Apollo 13 (Howard, 1995)
  68. Miller’s Crossing (Coen, 1990)
  69. Day the Earth Stood Still,The (Wise, 1951)
  70. Aguirre: Wrath of God (Herzog, 1972)
  71. Big Lebowski, The (J. Coen, 1998)
  72. Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977)
  73. Fitzcarraldo (Herzog, 1982)
  74. Spartacus (Kubrick, 1960)
  75. Young Frankenstein (Brooks, 1974)
  76. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel, 1956)
  77. Rio Bravo (Hawks, 1959)
  78. Blade Runner (R. Scott, 1982)
  79. Targets (Bogdanovich, 1968)
  80. Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir, 1975)
  81. This is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984)
  82. Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 1961)
  83. Dazed and Confused (Linklater, 1993)
  84. Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1996)
  85. White Heat (Walsh, 1949)
  86. Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The (Leone, 1966)
  87. General, The (Keaton/Bruckman, 1927)
  88. Dark City (Proyas, 1998)
  89. Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962)
  90. Manchurian Candidate, The (Frankenheimer, 1962)
  91. Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958)
  92. Duck Soup (McCarey, 1933)
  93. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971)
  94. Network (Lumet, 1976)
  95. THX 1138 (Lucas, 1971)
  96. Aliens (Cameron, 1986)
  97. Sisters (DePalma, 1973)
  98. Royal Tenenbaums, The (Anderson, 2001)
  99. Straw Dogs (Peckinpah, 1971)
  100. The Holy Mountain (Jodorowsky, 1973)
Painfully missed the cut: Ghostbusters, Freaks, Die Hard, In the Heat of the Night, Ed Wood, The 39 Steps, Brokeback Mountain, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, L.A. Confidential, El Norte, Cat People, The Bank Dick, The Battle of Algiers and The Narrow Margin.