Thursday, August 30, 2007

Saying goodbye to an old friend

In my years on the Internet, I can say that there have been probably three Web sites I have visited regularly, without interruption:, and As of today, one of them is ceasing publication, and I think you can guess which.

Monday and Tuesday mornings have been very similar for me for the past eight years: read the Disc of the Week and see what new reviews are posted (Monday) and read about the latest DVD news (Tuesday). For its entire 9-year run, DVD Journal has kept the same basic look and adhered to the above schedule. There have been almost no changes to the excellent Web site in nearly a decade, and no one was never calling for them -- because it was that good. With a corps of about 10 West Coast-based writers, DVD Journal was impeccable at shining the spotlight on the important releases, keeping you up-to-date on the industry and never letting you down. Since it was based in my hometown of Portland, I had always felt kind of a personal connection to the site, especially since some of the writers (Dawn Taylor, D.K. Holm, Kim Morgan) were connected to other Rose City media. They were all great, but collectively they had a similar style: speaking as wordsmith film fans, but never veering from a high standard of professionalism.

Of course, there were exceptions to this rule, namely the inimitable and mysterious Alexandra DuPont. I think in my early days of reading DVD Journal, DuPont was the first film writer on the Internet I noticed who had an anti-print style to her writing -- the Internet was the only medium where it could exist. Often written in exhaustive length (and appearing sporadically on the site), DuPont's expansive reviews of The Indiana Jones Collection and The Lord of the Rings remain favorites, and her early early theatrical review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is that of Internet fan boy legend. Her bibliography was one of the first links I added to this blog.

DVD Journal proved that there's a place on the Net for simplicity. As stated in its About section, it's "typeset in a simple word processing program because we can't find any HTML software that doesn't piss us off." In light of this, there were never any flashy graphics, frames or even much in the way of advertising. This last bit was something that fascinated some of us: just how was it able to exist? With a great stable of writers and remarkable consistency, DVD Journal obviously wasn't out there to be a cash cow. Even though many Web sites of this ilk aren't raking in the profits, they at least try.

Great reviews are one thing, but DVD Journal was able to attract a loyal following because it payed close attention to that first word in its title. In addition to being one of the best places to find news of upcoming DVDs, the site offered an always updated Editor's Top 25, an expansive list of DVD MIA movies, a history of DIVX and even a handy guide to all those DVD terms you may not understand. With big DVD releases, the Journal always had detailed reviews of not just the movie, but also the extras (even breaking down multiple commentary tracks).

So why am I telling you all this just when DVD Journal is calling it quits? Well, it's not going to stay online forever, so go check out some of their 4,000 reviews and find out what you were missing.

Selected favorites from the DVD Journal archives:

Alien Quadrilogy by Clarence Beaks

Heavy Metal by Gregory P. Dorr

Mulholland Dr. by Damon Houx

The Searchers by D.K. Holm

Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Mark Bourne (Mark's reviews of the entire series are all exceptional)

THX 1138 by Alexandra DuPont

The Wild Bunch by Dawn Taylor

Ed Wood by Mark Bourne

Monday, August 27, 2007

French officials address explosive violence

Note: This post is part of the Bizarro Blog-a-Thon at Lazy Eye Theatre.

By Eve Roth
The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) -- Police officials from Paris, Nice and Arles gathered in the nation's capital city today to address mounting criticism stemming from a recent hurricane of violence that swept through the three cities. In its wake was untold levels of property damage, at least seven civilian deaths, countless smashed cars and the dramatic murder of figure skater Natacha Kirilova. Yet the most damning element of the whole affair was the number zero. As in the number of arrests made by police, and the number of leads about who was responsible.

"We have reason to believe that some of them are still alive, and that one could be an American," Paris Police Chief Raul Beauvais said while trying to look tough, possibly in a poor impression of John Wayne.

French media outlets have been unanimous in condemning local authorities, who they say are contributing to their nation's stereotype as a leaf in the wind when it comes to violent conflict.

"This band of thugs essentially played a game of 'Grand Theft Auto' in our country, and all we have to go on is that a few of them may have had dark hair," blasted crime columnist Frederic St. Videau of the Paris Plain Dealer. "Unless we're targeting stylish criminals as an untapped consumer, then we need to find a new police force."

The carnage began two weeks ago in Paris, when a wild shootout erupted over an apparent arms deal gone bad. After the surviving party predictably escaped, police found four dead Parisian mobsters. It may have seemed like just another Saturday night in Paris, but it was just the start of a maniacal spree of mayhem over the next week.

In Nice two days later, a fantastic barrage of shootings and explosions left residents of the sleepy tourist town stunned.

"I'm fine with guns, but do they really need grenade launchers and bazookas?" echoed longtime village sage Luc Devereaux while lazily filling his tobacco pipe. "And seriously, why do they need to target fruit stands?"

The Nice fruit stand was where the eruption started, with two gentlemen in a Mercedes opening fire on a motorcade of five sedans, with one employing a grenade launcher to great effect. After dispatching two of the cars in spectacular fashion, the party in the Mercedes chased after a Citroen, which met its fiery end through the crosshairs of a well-aimed bazooka.

"You could tell he knew how to handle that little firecracker," observed known vagrant "Sticks," while clutching a sack of carrot stems. "It blew up, then kept sliding down the road. Almost like a badger on election day."

But that was just the opening act of the day's horrible festivities. The cars continued chase, weaving in and out of Nice alleys and even forest roads, smashing into a fish market before destroying a quaint restaurant patio with an outburst of gunfire. Despite a flurry of spilled blood and innocent death, it was here that authorities nearly had their moment of triumph. The Nice SWAT team arrived, however it was only in time to witness the last of the awful visitors speed off in a huff.

"You bet our guys were there, with guns drawn and brows furrowed," grinned Nice Police spokesman Guy Garnier-Fulke, leaning precariously close to the press corps. "But then they drove off, what were our men supposed to do -- run after them?"

The one saving grace of the Nice tragedy was that further casualties were eliminated through the help of the city's "No Afternoon Drives" program, where no one is permitted in their cars past 2 p.m. Because of this, the awesome race-car driving skill of our troublers were left unimpeded -- for better or worse.

One day later, the two men seen involved in the Nice disturbance (both possibly with dark hair) arrived in the historic burg of Arles. Whether this was a tourist stop for the criminals or not, it still resulted in the deaths of two sight-seers by gunshot. Like the Nice authorities, Arles Police came close to apprehending the conspirators, only to watch them car-jack a poor soul and escape.

"We didn't plan on them having a reverse gear," lamented recently-axed Arles Police Chief Carl Peterson, who announced after the press conference that he would retire to his native land of Baraboo, Wisc.

With the knowledge of a crime spree terrorizing the country, Paris Police still decided on the questionable action of an early weekend -- leaving but three constables to patrol the whole city for a span of 96 hours. The timing couldn't have been worse, as the "Gruesome Twosome" -- as the Lichtensteinian press has dubbed them -- made their way into the French capital for a riotous chase.

Clips of this two-car chase have been among the most popular on the Belgian file sharing Web site ClipTubMan, and those who witnessed it will never forget its awesome spectacle.

"Oh my God, it was like Ayrton Senna had come back from the grave to show us mortals how real driving is done!" recalled noted Formula 1 enthusiast, and current NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, who spied the chase from the confines of a Paris lingerie shop.

The infamous chase resulted in the wreckage of 25 cars, killed at least one driver, and shocked untold onlookers as the black BMW and blue Peugeot weaved through oncoming traffic. French Transportation Minister praised Parisian drivers on this black day, noting that many of them were not exceeding 20 kph during the chase, despite driving in a 60 kph zone.

Because of Paris' limited police force on that day, the closest authorities got to the chase was a base-pay constable who gave chase in a tunnel, only to flip his car after driving over a small traffic divider. Adding to the agency's black eye was the fact that the lead car in the chase (the black BMW) crashed over an incomplete freeway segment and even blew up -- yet no one was taken into custody.

"Even if we had our full complement of officers, how many would we have had patrolling at the base of a freeway construction site?" Beauvais asked half-sincerely while pouring the last of the press conference's complimentary wine case.

Tragically, the crime spree ended at the site of esteemed skater Kirilova's death during her famous "Go-Go-Whip" routine. The sniper in the case was never identified, nor were the "dark-haired dastardlies" -- as the Basque press has taken to calling them.

Though no crimes have been committed in days, authorities still believe the two headliners of the spree are at large, with only a disappointing description and an eerie thought by Beauvais in the police department's favor.

"If you ask me, the (suspects) kind of resemble those old disgraced samurai whose masters had died -- what'd they call them, Ronin ... Ronan ... Ronjun?" Beauvais muttered as he exited.

Associated Press reporters John Cocktoasten and John "Stumpy" Pepys also contributed to this report.

Friday, August 24, 2007

FRIDAY SCREEN TEST: Season 1 Wrap-up

Sometime in early January (while in the shower), I came up with an idea that I hoped would catch on for DVD Panache. A take-off on a long-time feature in The Oregonian's entertainment magazine, I envisioned Friday Screen Test as a way to publicize fellow film bloggers while also adding my own personal touch. Most of all, I knew that my fellow bloggers could deliver the goods, with interesting answers that would keep people coming back week after week.

Last week was the 30th Friday Screen Test, and a good signing-off point for the first season of the series. To let me maximize my efforts on other projects here at DVD Panache, and to also set the stage for a re-tooled "2.0" version of Friday Screen Test, the series is being put on hiatus. I want to give huge thanks to everyone who participated, as well as those who enjoyed the series enough to read it regularly. I already have a few good names in the hat for Friday Screen Test's next go-around, and if you have a blog and some unique opinions, don't hesitate to drop me an email to let me know you're interested.

For the season wrap-up of Friday Screen Test, I've chosen a favorite or interesting line out of each week's entry. Here they are presented chronologically, starting with the very first one (the links take you to that person's Screen Test). Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

ANDY HORBAL: 'LSD + Night of the Living Dead = A lifetime of looking over your shoulder...'

PIPER: 'I bought the first season of Venture Brothers on DVD and I can't quit talking about that show. Everybody hates me because I always talk about it and how funny it is and subtle and brilliant.'

DVD GUY: 'Battlefield Earth made me quit Scientology.'

EDWARD COPELAND: 'I've always had great fondness for Julien Temple's Absolute Beginners, so much so that I've been afraid to ever revisit it for fear it might break the spell. As for the opposite, I'm not dumbfounded as to why I dislike them as much as I am as to why others like them (say, Dr. Zhivago or The Thin Red Line).'

PAUL MARTIN: 'The first film to really overwhelm me with a desire to discuss it with others was Lost Highway. I pestered my significant other that night, and the following two days discovered the power of the internet by researching it online. This was also the first film that I wrote a significant review on, which was only relatively recently.'

DAVID LOWERY: 'I've been in a myopic pursuit of the same career since I was seven years old. Of course, it was a movie that set me on that path, so I suppose the question could be rephrased as "Has there ever been a movie that made every other possible career seem entirely unappealing?" And the answer, as it would be for so many others in this line of work, would be Star Wars.'

JOSEPH B.: 'I've had a major affinity for director Tony Scott for years now, and I can't figure out why. I once wrote a 3000 word essay analyzing and dissecting his films (in the late 90's I believe, sadly lost 2 computers ago and a message board now floating in cyber space). So, when films like Domino, Enemy of the State or Deja Vu creep up on my favorites lists, it always baffles some people. And I have a hard time justifying that these films are more than popcorn action flicks.'

ALAN LOPUSZYNSKI: 'My brother spoiled the ending of The Empire Strikes Back for me, and after I watched it I wouldn't have minded having a group discussion with him and my fists and his breadbasket . . . that movie probably was one of my earliest subjects of film discussion with friends. All of us had cut our teeth on Star Wars and this rather soundly rocked our worlds.'

LUCAS MCNELLY: 'On the worst days, the recipe is something like this: pizza, several good beers, and Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Sequel as needed. Alternately, substitute in good wine and some Woody Allen.'

STACIE PONDER: 'Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is THE greatest bad movie in the history of ever. It's really an awful movie in virtually every respect, but it's also a SUCH joy to watch that it's become one of my favorite movies, period. The effects must simply be seen to be believed there's green screens and stock footage galore. I was literally on the floor at times, howling with laughter. The longer it goes on, the better it gets. I want to buy everybody in the whole world a copy; I want to introduce as many people to it as I possibly can; I want to make out with Shark Attack 3.'

DAMIAN ARLYN: 'I don't really believe in not finishing a movie once I've started it. The only time I've ever walked out of a film halfway through it was when I was forced to do so by the people I went to see it with (my family). The movie was Super Mario Bros. I didn't particularly like it up until that point but I didn't hate it either. Years later I actually finished it. We didn't miss anything.'

TUWA: 'I've probably adopted more [dialogue] of Seinfeld and The Simpsons, though for awhile I was fond of "just put that anywhere"; and "he's a good man, and thorough."

TED PIGEON: 'Andy Horbal recently wrote that he considers film study less and less a relexation or hobby, but more like a job. That's essentially how I feel. I keep a log of everything I see and hold a list of films I'd like to see in the future. I try to keep a rigiorous schedule but I don't always stick to it. Right now, I'd guess I see on average about three movies a week. I do, however, see movies in pieces more now, which has been a really interesting way of seeing films. I try never to watch a movie in pieces the first time I see it, but I think it is essential to see movies you're familiar with broken down. It's a great way of getting into the mechanics of the film and to understand how it's doing what it's doing.'

DENNIS COZZALIO: 'It wasn’t central to my decision to pursue a career as a teacher (a career path upon which I am just now embarking), but seeing Nicholas Philibert’s �tre et avoir (To Be and to Have) a couple of years ago helped to rekindle a dormant interest I had in teaching that has now fully reawakened. I want to see this movie again very soon.'

CHRIS STANGL: 'Summer evening 1957, drive-in theater, black & white ’55 Bel Air convertible, girl in tight sweater in passenger seat, Attack of the Crab Monsters double-billed with Not of This Earth. This is where you go when you die. I would willingly chop off a finger to go back in time and experience this.'

THOM RYAN: 'As a teenager I once sneaked a bottle of beer into a small theater showing a midnight movie. I was just trying to impress my friends ("stupid is as...etc."). I had the bottle hidden in my coat and it slipped out. The screening room had a bare concrete floor so there was a crash, and glass and beer everywhere. The worst part was that they hadn't brought the house lights down yet so everyone in the place (including the management who were not amused) knew I did it. I was invited to find the nearest exit. Embarrassing but true.'

STEVE CARLSON: 'I'd do a whole month of Midnight Kink -- midnight showings of movies with oddball sexuality. I'd try not to leave anything out, either. From S&M (Maitresse and Sick) to transvestiteism (Glen or Glenda?) to transexualism (Let Me Die a Woman) all the way to necrophilia (Nekromantik) and bestiality (The Wedding Trough), plus a few catch-alls (Visitor Q, The Telephone Book, a '70s porno roughie or two)... I'd try and represent all I could. Just seeing the crowds that showed up would be entertaining enough.'

SQUISH LESSARD: 'Before I received a tome called 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die for Christmas 2005, I was more a contemporary modern day film fan. Since that time I've delved into, pretty exclusively, classic films and having discovered so many silent era titles that moved me so much, I'm a changed man forever.'

JOHANNA CUSTER: 'I have this thing for About Schmidt and pretty much every movie that has a male everyman character who is just this total slob of a man, lost and unable to connect with anything around him. when I'm bummed and I feel like looking for something that's on my emotional level at the moment I pop in a movie like that. Bill Murray movies tend to be good for that too, as do Wes Anderson flicks. When I was younger and channeled my emotions more physically, I think I would have responded with something sillier, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Life of Brian or Army of Darkness.'

NEIL SARVER: 'I see Hollywood like as an abusive spouse. I'm hopelessly in love with it. I know what it's capable of, and on it's best days, it makes me so deliriously happy that I want to forgive it on the days that it neglects and abuses me. The most basic crime it commits, and has since its very beginnings, is thinking that audiences as a whole fail to respond to anything beyond the surface. If Jaws is successful, perhaps it's not because they are hungering for movies about killer sharks, but for the well-realized characters and greatly crafted thrills in a general way. If the Lord of the Rings movies are successful, maybe there's something more to their success than wizards and dragons.'

PETER NELLHAUS: 'I have had several. The best were at Telluride. Of those, my favorite moments were a brief meeting with Julie Christie in 1974, and interviewing Henry King by a creek, an appropriately pastoral setting ... I had a nice chat with Jonathan Demme about mutual acquintances that I knew from NYU. Part of my neighborhood in Miami Beach was used for second unit filming of Transporter 2. My wife looked longingly at Jason Statham's stunt double ... There was also the time I worked at the Greenwich Theater in NYC, and saw how James Coco kept his weight up.'

EVAN WATERS: 'Historical epics often lose me -- they get a weird buttoned-down solemnity at their worst, which has a distancing effect. Even though major historical details may be changed, you still feel like the filmmakers felt they had a responsibility to Take Things Seriously. The best films of this genre are either so brilliantly executed that the solemnity is appropriate (Das Boot, Schindler's List, etc.) or cast off that feeling completely and work as entertainment (The Aviator, 300). I also tend to be disengaged by that kind of horror movie where you know there's no point getting involved with any character except the designated survivor because everyone else is just there to pad the body count.'

PEET GELDERBLOM: 'I’m a sucker for lyrical tragedy. As far as that’s concerned, nothing beats the ending of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out. It’s a movie so ripe with drama and metaphor that it becomes part of your metabolism. When Jack kneels down to hold Sally’s lifeless body in his arms and the fireworks go off in the background, he’s really holding America’s lost innocence. A profound moment; tragic, beautiful and blackly humorous at the same time.'

TUCKER TEAGUE: 'Sometimes I wonder if watching movies is something I dreamed I used to do. Life has been so crazybusy the past couple+ years that the frequency of my film viewing has been erratic and sporadic at best. If I am lucky I see a couple a week, if not I see one every two weeks (which appalls me, frankly). I used to watch many a films a week, often one a day in college, and several each weekend. But there is a bright spot; I have been introducing the cinematic art to my daughter (7 years old!) and that has given me the chance to see a few more films. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that many of the films I like she shouldn't watch until she’s older. I would like to stay up and watch them, but alas, I go to bed early so I can get up early to do homework before real work. So it makes sense to pick films she can watch too. Lately we have seen several Hitchcock films, among others.'

JEFF IGNATIUS: '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.'

ROSS RUEDIGER: '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.'

ANDRE GOWER: '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.'

EMMA: 'At the best of times, I’m just an angry teen, ready to drill holes in the wall, and watching comedy films really do cheer me up and stop me from behaving this way. Ones that I can watch over and over again are Finding Nemo, Legally Blonde, Harvey, Some Like It Hot, and Sabrina.'

CINEBEATS: '1991 was really special because I met my future husband that year at a screening of the director’s cut of Blade Runner and I can’t forget that. Who knew that Ridley Scott’s neo-noir science fiction thriller could bring two people together?'

JOE VALDEZ: 'I paid money to see Species II in a theater. Is that embarrassing?'

Saturday, August 18, 2007

David Lynch Radio

It was quite a treat to get in my car Thursday and hear the Twin Peaks theme coming out of the speakers. Yup, David Lynch joined NPR's Talk of the Nation for a lively chat with Neil Conan and a handful of callers. I was surprised that Lynch had agreed to do a call-in show, but he is his usual enthusiastic self throughout, and more than happy to give rich answers to everyone's questions.

Even if you're not a Lynch fan, this is a great listen if only to hear how a dedicated artist so values ideas and how he harnesses them. I particularly enjoyed Lynch's reaction to politics in his movies, and his views about returning to television work.

You can listen to the segment here, and it's also available as a podcast. On that same page is a link to a segment from a few years ago when Blue Velvet was re-released on DVD and Dennis Hopper sat down for an entertaining interview.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Joe Valdez has a good thing going at This Distracted Globe. If the spiffy digs don't catch your eye, pay attention to his current examinations of remakes, which looks at the classic and modern versions of such films as The Fog, The Thing, The Truth About Charlie and Rollerball. Joe has a refined, consistent reviewing style, approaching each subject objectively and giving you insight into the production, as well as his opinions and those of other critics. Joe also keeps handy, updated lists of the best and worst movies in addition to a fun gallery of sweet one-sheets old and new. I'm raising a preemptive glass to Joe for his upcoming Paul Verhoeven retrospective, Black Book can't get here soon enough.

'THAT WAS ...... GOOD': 'I've been to a couple of test screenings and gone up to the director afterwards to tell him what I thought of the movie. I met John Lee Hancock when The Alamo was being tested, and Gregory Nava back when he was testing Why Do Fools Fall In Love. They were both too friendly for me to say, "Yeah, so, that sucked." I try to find something positive to say.'

My brother can't wait for Nicolas Cage to make another movie. He loves bad movies. If I enjoy a film that's supposedly bad - like Showgirls - it's not because I'm sitting there loving how awful it is, but because in my warped mind, I think there's actually cool stuff in it.'

FISTFUL O' DVDS: 'They must have audio commentary. Greatest of all time is probably Paul Thomas Anderson talking about Boogie Nights. John Carpenter & Kurt Russell are far less informative but just as entertaining on the ones they do.'

I rarely watch two completely unrelated movies. This week will be a double feature, Searching For Debra Winger and Double Dare, documentaries about women in the film industry. In a couple of weeks, I'm doing the best movies shot in Texas, including The Getaway, The Last Picture Show, Urban Cowboy, Fandango , and Bottle Rocket. When Black Book comes out on DVD, I'll do a Paul Verhoeven retrospective, starting with Turkish Delight.'

SNAIL MAIL: '2-3 movies a week, courtesy of either Netflix or Greencine. I rarely go to a theater anymore. It has to be a movie I can't wait to come in the mail, like The Dark Knight, or the next film from Michael Mann.'

MONEY TO BURN: 'I paid money to see Species II in a theater. Is that embarrassing?'

A tie between "Gosh!" from Napoleon Dynamite, and "Sometimes there's just not enough rocks" from Forrest Gump.'

I never leave my seat until the show is over. I've only walked out on a movie once. Dumb and Dumber.'

TRIP DOWN MURDERER'S ROW: '1984. Splash, Romancing The Stone, This Is Spinal Tap, Sixteen Candles, Once Upon A Time In America, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Red Dawn, Purple Rain, Buckaroo Banzai, Amadeus, The Terminator, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Beverly Hills Cop all came out the same year. For an 11 year old, it doesn't get any better than that.'

SCARE-IT: 'Alien. The ventilator shaft sequence. You know, where Tom Skeritt crawls through the duct work of the Nostromo, and Veronica Cartwright starts to spaz out when the motion tracker shows something moving closer to him. I saw that in a theater for Halloween recently and people in the audience still screamed.'

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Through an Antidote Darkly

If you're not following Damian Arlyn's 31 Days of Spielberg project over at Windmills of My Mind -- well you just better have a damn good excuse. Knowing Damian's knowledge of Spielberg and great writing style, I was looking forward to his Temple of Doom post since the beginning, and just like all the others it's a great read. Like Damian says in his comments section, I too was surprised at just how many Temple haters are out there. Sure, it's an odd movie that deals little in reality -- but it's also wildly entertaining. I felt it was as good a time as any to invite everyone inside my Pankot Palace of Temple of Doom Wonderment, with some additional thoughts on the subject.

Part of what makes Temple so special to me is that it was really the first movie I ever watched. Throw out the Disney movies, edutainment and what not, and it was the opening red credits of Temple that introduced me to genuine film entertainment. I remember the night well: it was before my family bought a VCR so we had to rent one, some night in 1985. While my dad was fiddling with the connection, the image of Kate Capshaw's Willie Scott jumped on the screen and for the next 117 minutes I sat spellbound. Of course my mom expressed some disapproval during the Thuggee rituals, but the ship had already sailed. So I obviously have some biases with this film, and I obviously viewed the movie differently back then since I had not seen Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I frequently point out that one of the redeeming qualities of Temple is its unique place in the Indiana Jones Trilogy. Indy is not set out on some great quest to save the world, nor is he even globe trotting or teaming up with familiar faces -- he is simply trying to get the hell out of India and maybe live out an archaeological dream of saving the some priceless relics all in the name of goodwill. And on the subject of dreams ...

... Does Indy take us with him into this airborne snooze? A theory proposed to me long ago by another fellow Temple fan was that the movie's refusal to deal in reality could be explained by it all being a dream. Sure it's kooky, but let's take a look at what happens before he goes to sleep: gun battle in a night club, narrowly evades death by poison, survives impossible window leap, finds safety in an airplane. Now, after Indy wakes up: survives a leap out of an airplane through the safety of an inflatable raft, survives a fall off a great cliff, is greeted at an English-speaking isolated Indian village, gains affection of sexy nightclub singer, witnesses inhuman Thuggee rituals, is tortured by a voodoo doll, inhabited by the Black Sleep of Kali, survives falling bridge, etc. Things are relatively believable up until Indy covers his eyes, it's after he wakes up that fantasy sets in. Also keep in mind that Indy's random trip into India includes encounters with familiar sights (old acquaintance Chattar Lal, Sankara stones) and his pistol holster deja vu (however familiar it can be, since Temple is technically a prequel to Raiders). Yes, it's a stretch in every sense, but an interesting Temple talking point.

Another great contrast between Temple and its trilogy counterparts are the evil groups Indy encounters. Raiders and Crusade both prominently feature Nazis -- Temple gives perhaps the most feared religious group of all time in the Thuggee, who may have been responsible for 2 million murders during a reign of terror as great as 600 years. The Thuggee scenes are often passed off as exploitation, but George Lucas' story is remarkably historically accurate. The group believed their murders appeased Kali, each one preventing her appearance by one millennium, and they performed a series of rites in her honor after each killing. Even Mola Ram's line of 'maaro maaro sooar ko, chamdi nocho pee lo khoon' has meaning, it translates to 'Kill, Kill the pig, flay his skin, drink his blood.' If you ask me, the Thuggee are much more interesting as villains than Nazis.

Of course, it helps when you have a character played by the late Amrish Puri leading the charge. Mola Ram is my favorite character in Temple, and his casting speaks to Spielberg's brilliance. Despite not making his Bollywood debut until the age of 40, Puri went on to star in over 250 films and was sometimes referred to as the 'Al Pacino of Bollywood.' Puri had a commanding screen presence, and perfectly played the few English lines he had, most notably 'you are in a position unfit for giving orders!' The horrified reaction he gets from Willie and subsequent 'Welcome...' are gold.

If there's one everlasting image of Temple for me, it has to be the bridge climax. Where does this rank in the all-time action set pieces? The fact that it was shot on a real bridge with no miniature work creates a rare level of tension where you really have no idea how the hero will escape. Spielberg's direction in this scene couldn't have been better, especially the deliveries he gets from the actors. Capshaw's line ('Oh my Goooodddd ... is he nuts?!') is probably the only time in the movie when her character actually enhances the scene and can draw no criticism. Short Round's performance adds a different element, showing that he's eternally confident in Indy, but at the same time terrified ('He not nuts, he crazy!'). I remember at an early age memorizing the dialogue in Chinese Indy gives to Short Round -- 'chow chi matzu tantha!' (simply meaning 'hold on to the bridge!').

**This scene made such an impression on myself and my brother that for years any trip over a walking bridge at a park was incomplete without some reenactment (and if time permitted, a brief rendition of Three Billy Goats Gruff). It was probably disconcerting for mom that her kids were the ones always yelling 'prepare to meet Kali ... in Hell!'**

Temple truly is the black sheep of the trilogy, but that's what makes it so great. Why can't sequels like this be made anymore, where it exists as simply another episode in the series? Temple did not pick up where Raiders left off, it was another exercise in classic adventure film making by Spielberg -- merging the nickel arcade storylines of the 1940s with the production sensibilities of the 1980s. We'll never see another movie like it again.

Friday, August 10, 2007

'Gordon's alive?!?' On DVD!!

In the annals of love-it-or-hate-it comic book movies, Flash Gordon sits in a corner all its own. Not only does it inspire opposing sides of praises and pans, but even the growing community that loves the movie usually can't decide on the reason: is it camp or not? This was a point of contention at my favorite DVD review site, DVD Talk, where patriarch Glenn Erickson (aka DVD Savant) proclaims it 'relies too much on camp sensibilities.' But two days earlier, seasoned reviewer Brian Orndorf said of it 'the word "camp" is tossed around quite a bit in any discussion of "Flash Gordon," and I have to be bitterly honest here, I just don't see it.' There you have it, and I'll weigh in on this subject a bit later. With the long-anticipated (and rumored) release of Flash Gordon: Saviour of the Universe Edition this week, we can easily immerse ourselves in the world of Mongo without paying for a Region 2 DVD. It's great to finally have this on DVD, but as I'll address below it's largely a disappointment.

I think one of the problems people have with Flash Gordon is that it takes itself seriously, with virtually no attempts at self-parody. Remakes such as Scooby Doo and The Brady Bunch Movie were sold as big jokes from the beginning to capitalize on how we view those television shows now, while Flash Gordon simply wanted to be a gaudy action spectacle. Looking at the old Flash Gordon comic strips, the story and characters seem more suited for television (ahem) than film, but there's little that makes sense about why Flash Gordon ended up as such high quality entertainment. It certainly isn't due to the plot, which can be summed up in one sentence, from its IMDB page:

A football player and his friends travel to the planet Mongo and find themselves fighting the tyrant, Ming the Merciless, to save Earth.

When talking about this movie, you have to start with the lavish production design, which resulted in perfectly-visualized characters (almost without flaw) and radical special effects. When Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov enter Ming's temple, director Mike Hodges gives us throw-away shots of servants, enemies and who-knows what else dressed in costumes that must have taken a great team of minds to dream up. And they're just in the background -- up front and center we have the jaw-dropping Ming the Merciless, played to perfection by Max Von Sydow. Ming is some combination of Fu Manchu, Skeletor and Donald Rumsfeld, as he's infinitely evil but also just goofy enough to act as comic relief in some scenes. Ming's line of 'Klytus I'm bored!' opens the movie as we Earth through his cross hairs and sets up his character, and the film itself, in entertaining fashion.

At his side is Klytus (Peter Wyngarde), the sinister toadie who hides behind a cleverly-designed face of metal. Klytus is an effective, understated contrast to Ming, and the result is a memorable pair of villains. The supporting characters really make the movie, as Brian Blessed nearly steals the show with his performance of the enthusiastic winged viking Prince Vultan. Most of the characters are simply fun to look at, such as Ornella Muti's Princess Aura, who has one of my favorite shots of the movie as she slyly peeks a glance at Flash as he enters Ming's temple.

But it's bad news when the title character of the movie is maybe the weakest link of the whole film, and that's what we have with Sam J. Jones as Flash Gordon. We meet Flash as he's coming back from vacation (by himself?), despite the fact that his New York Jets are playing a game -- what kind of professional athlete takes a vacation during the season? I'd love to see this on the ESPN bottom line: 'Eagles QB Donovan McNabb out for Sunday's game at Giants (vacation).' I mention this because it's the only nugget we get about Flash's personality, the rest of the script is mostly him throwing henchmen around and making dunderheaded observations ('This Ming is a psycho!'). Jones himself sticks out like Dane Cook in a John Sayles film -- he just doesn't bring it, and his cause isn't helped by the fact that his deliveries are dubbed over. It's odd that the script doesn't give Flash much to work with, but perhaps that was by design once Jones' limitations as an actor were made obvious.

Flash Gordon is greatly aided by the musical talents of Queen, which provided the soundtrack. More durable than Freddy Mercury's famous 'FLASH!' yelp are the driving rhythms from Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor. The latter's pulsing drums really fuel the action in a lot of scenes and the movie's final scene is pushed to another level with the band's rising beats. The bombastic music fits with the overall, late-70s style of the film -- with every location and costume giving off a golden hue. It's this aspect of the production that I think critics point their 'camp' finger at, but I just see creative and highly stylized approach to a fantasy story. You'll never mistake this for Star Wars, there are no white plastic walls or tech-talk -- it has a look all its own that never tries to be realistic, and that's a good thing. But even if parts of it can be interpreted as camp, why should its defenders take offense to that? If it stands apart from other films of its era and genre, why should that be a negative, especially when most of today's superhero and action movies look the same?

The DVD: Since it's dubbed 'The Saviour of the Universe' edition, you would expect quite a bit from this DVD, especially since it's the Region 1 debut of the movie. Expectations are further stoked by the DVD's packaging, highlighted by Alex Ross coverart and a nifty design where the packaging opens by flipping up the cover, like a legal tablet. But the clothes still do not make the man, which is where we're left with this DVD. Beyond a great anamorphic transfer and sound, all you have is a retrospective from Ross (who was onboard anyway to design the cover, as well as an upcoming toy line), some reminiscing from screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. and the first episode of the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. The interviews with Ross and Semple would have worked well in the framing of a larger documentary (like the generous one we got with The Monster Squad recently), but on their own are not particularly useful. Ross is more than happy to gush about his favorite movie, but comes off as another fanboy, going so far as to call the ending 'the greatest in cinematic history.' Semple gives us a few anecdotes from the set, but is mostly content to give excuses about why the script wasn't better (no one read it, not even the set designer). The 1936 Flash episode is watchable for about 5 minutes, when it becomes clear that it's mostly made up of stock footage and near-actors.

But a final throw-in tells us why we should not be surprised at the neglected extras: a 10-second promo for the soon-to-premiere Flash Gordon series. If this really was the motivation to finally release Flash Gordon on DVD, then there is no excuse for the weak extras, because I would expect the producers of the new series would have lots of access to the original source material and those familiar with it. Why not a documentary on the entire Flash Gordon universe (in all its incarnations), which would do more to fuel excitement for the series than simply a 10-second promo.


Possessing a love for cinema of the 60s and 70s -- like most of us, except more so -- Cinebeats (aka Kimberly) has spread her affection far and wide across the Information Super Blog-o-Cloverleaf Freeway. It all starts at the Cinebeats blog, where Kimberly digs into fresh discussions such as a look at actor James Fox's underrated career or a confession of her love for Superchick. After that, head on over to the jive happenins at The Groovy Age of Horror or Cinedelica or The Horror Blog Roundtable -- she contributes to all of them. There may be a few more Cinebeats landing pads out there I missed, but there's more than enough aforementioned to go around. Kimberly has some great taste in films (Equinox! Yes!) and actors (Marisa Mell! Yes!), so chances are she'll regularly turn you on to some great movies.

'I had a long distance relationship with a independent director from New York for a brief time, but I’m not willing to kiss and tell about that odd relationship just yet. I will mention that since I live in the Bay Area near Lucas Valley I have come in contact with director George Lucas numerous times, but it wasn’t always in the most comfortable circumstances. I can be a little clumsy and oddly enough I’ve literally bumped into the guy often which became rather awkward. The last time it happened he gave me an odd look like, “It’s you! That weird girl who keeps bumping into me because she’s not looking where she’s walking.” I apologized of course, but I’m still waiting for Lucas to apologize for the last four Star Wars films. As far as directors go, I’ve also met Clive Barker on a few occasions and he’s one of the nicest filmmakers and writers that I’ve ever met. He’s really friendly and open, and he enjoys talking about his work a lot. It’s a shame that he hasn’t made more movies.'

GIMME GIALLO, ANY GIALLO: 'I tend to buy a lot of horror films, cult movies, international films and unusual titles that were previously really hard to find and sadly often go out of print rather quickly. I make a point of buying every giallo and krimi film that I can find since those are two film genres that really interest me. In turn I try and support smaller DVD companies like Mondo Macabro, Blue Underground, No Shame and Panik House whenever I can since I tend to really like the films they release. I also love companies like Criterion and Kino so I try and support them whenever I can afford to since I generally like a lot of their releases as well.'

CINEMA DE CINEBEATS: 'My revival theater would undoubtedly showcase sixties and seventies era cinema since that's where my own interests are really are focused. I would love to run a week long program of International horror movies and thrillers made between 1960-1980 if I could find good prints of them. I would kick off the event with a weekend of British films like Peeping Tom, Don’t Look Now, The Collector and the original Wicker Man followed by some great gothic horror films made by studios like Hammer, Amicus and Trigon. I’d devote Monday to French and Polish horror since there is some crossover there and show movies such as Eyes Without a Face, Blood and Roses, The Beast and some of Roman Polanski and Jean Rollins’ films. Tuesday would be the beginning of a three day tribute to Italian cinema. There’s nothing quite like Italian horror films so I think devoting three days to them within the week long event would be well worth it. The first day I would show gothic Italian horror films which often starred the lovely Barbara Steele such as Black Sunday, Castle of Blood, The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock and Nightmare Castle. I’d devote Wednesday to showing my favorite giallo films and Thursday would be devoted to Italian zombie movies. On Friday I’d play the best German krimi thrillers I could find featuring my favorite German actor, Klaus Kinski. Spanish and Latin American horror would be showcased on Saturday and some of the director’s featured would include Jess Franco, Coffin Joe, Juan Lopez Moctezuma and Jorge Grau. On Sunday I’d wrap things up with an entire day devoted to Japanese films such as Kwaidan, Blind Beast and The Face of Another, along with as many films by directors Nobuo Nakagawa and Michio Yamamoto that I could get my hands on. Naturally I’d invite guests to talk and mingle with the audience as well and since it is my theater, I’d also try and get a liquor license so I could serve booze there. I’ve never understood why American theaters are alcohol free zones. Movie theaters in places like Japan and the U.K. often serve alcohol.'

ORIGIN STORY: 'I’ve always loved writing and I’ve always loved film so I suppose the two things just sort of went hand in hand. When I was in high-school I started writing for the school newspaper and ended up as a co-editor. I wrote a couple of reviews for horror movies back then and got them published in the paper. At the time I had dreams of writing for Fangoria magazine some day. I still love writing about horror films, but my interests have expanded a lot. I do think it’s a shame that more women aren’t writing about genre films so I often focus on them in my own blog now. That’s one of the main reasons I was inspired to start Cinebeats.'

HOUSE OF THE DVDS: 'I usually watch at least two or three films a week at home. Sometimes more and sometimes less. I rarely go out to see movies unless it’s to see a revival of some older film and that doesn’t happen too often anymore due to the high cost of ticket prices I’m afraid. In all honesty 75% of the new films being released lately don’t interest me much. Thankfully there are hundreds of older films being made available every month on DVD to keep me happy.'

THANKS, DAD: 'My dad is really responsible for getting me interested in horror movies when I was just a kid. He loved the old Universal monster movies and Hammer films, and he managed to pass that passion onto me. We used to spend every weekend together watching something called the “Monster Matinee” on television or going to the local drive-in. He was fascinated with actors like Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee as well as special effects and makeup used in the movies. On the other hand my mom hated horror films. She saw Hitchcock’s Psycho when she was a teenager and it scared her to death so she vowed never to watch another thriller or horror film again. Thankfully she didn’t try and stop me from watching them, but she often expressed her displeasure to my dad when he would let me watch horror films with him. I think my dad was just happy that he finally had someone to watch horror movies with after I was born so he let me watch a lot of films that other kids my age probably weren’t allowed to.'

SPEAK THE CINEBEATS: 'Not a lot, but I’ve been known to say silly things on occasion like “Game Over!” from Aliens or “You sure have a nose for shit!” from Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. I will mention that on any given day you can find me humming songs from my favorite musicals or singing my favorite movie theme songs out loud. I’ve annoyed people with my poor renditions of songs from West Side Story, Funny Girl and Cabaret on more than one occasion.'

WANNA SEE SOMETHING REALLY SCARY?: 'A lot of people assume that since I grew up watching horror films and have seen so many of them that they don’t scare me anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth. Psychological horror is especially disturbing to me when it’s done well. Some of the scariest movies ever made don’t necessarily contain “jump out of your seat” moments. Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, Nicloas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Andrezej Zulawski’s Possession are examples of what I would consider great psychological horror films that are truly frightening. I’ve seen those movies numerous times, but I still find them really disturbing. Particular scenes that have really sacred me are often rather low-key moments in films that sort of creep over the viewer such as when Deborah Kerr spots the shape of a woman standing across the lake in The Innocents or when Roman Polanski discovers a tooth in the wall in The Tenant. Those are both really frightening moments to me.'

NEW HALLOWEEN, YAY OR NAY?: 'I’ve got to say nay. I’ve been really disappointed with the lack of original ideas coming out of Hollywood, including all the horror remakes in recent years. I’m also not a fan of Rob Zombie’s films so I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to his remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween. I have nothing against remakes if the director brings something new to the table and they’re done well such as David Cronenberg’s brilliant version of The Fly, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen with Halloween. Oddly enough one of my favorite remakes is John Carpenter’s version of The Thing which I happen to think is superior to the first film. Carpenter went back to the source material and his remake is actually more true to John W. Campbell’s original story in my opinion and it’s just a really terrific film on its own. Hopefully Rob Zombie will take some cues from Carpenter’s remake of The Thing and bring that kind of imagination and creativity to his version of Halloween, but I think that’s doubtful. Halloween is a film franchise that’s been beaten into the grave at this point and it would take a miracle to breath life into it again.'
THIS IS FOR PRIS!: '1991 was really special because I met my future husband that year at a screening of the director’s cut of Blade Runner and I can’t forget that. Who knew that Ridley Scott’s neo-noir science fiction thriller could bring two people together?'

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

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

DVDs We Love: Universal Monsters (The Legacy Collection)

Release: 2004

Status: In print

Legacy: One of the benefits of Van Helsing being made was that it spurred Universal to give some royal treatment to some of its most famous properties: those wonderful monsters from the 1930s and 40s. Chronically neglected before, Universal's best-known monsters would receive a generous presentation, and the movies' fans were the hands-down winners. For around $20, you wouldn't just get the flagship movie in a given monster's series, you would get all the movies, plus some top-notch extras and elegant packaging. Applied to Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, The Invisible Man, The Creature and The Mummy, The Legacy Collection gave fans an economical and practical way to explore a series they otherwise may have passed on. The collections were spread across two discs, with each offering an expert commentary, remastered picture and sound, a variety of featurettes and ... a look at the film from Van Helsing director Stephen Sommers. The memorable packaging included the book-like case that is now the trademark of Universal Legacy Series, housed inside a crypt-like slip cover with a decorated "window" that created a sort of 3-d effect. The Universal Monsters Legacy Collection gift set includes the Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman collections, along with busts of the three characters, and is still being produced.

Personal: The Frankenstein collection is an absolute slam-dunk. You get two classics in Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, along with the watchable Son of Frankenstein, scholarly commentaries by Rudy Behlmer and Scott MacQueen, and two excellent documentaries on the films. Sure, the last two sequels are subpar, but for the price you're pretty much getting them for free. The Invisible Man collection is interesting since it's the more obscure of the series, and Claude Reins' performances are always entertaining. The Dracula set is also noteworthy because it contains Phillip Glass' excellent, newly-composed score and also the intriguing Spanish version of the film, which was shot concurrently with the English-language version -- sometimes for the better. I'm glad these are all still in print, as it seemed at the time of their release that it would be a limited edition -- maybe it's a sign that they fared better with audiences than Van Helsing?

Availability: Around $20 almost anywhere.

Friday, August 03, 2007


The youngest member of the Friday Screen Test Fraternity, Emma has knowledge and taste in film far beyond her 17 years. As the proprietor of All About My Movies and the host of The Performance That Changed Your Life Blog-a-Thon, she will shatter any preconceived notions you may have about British school girls. In the process of counting down her 100 Favorite Movies, Emma has found time to fill us in on The Eargasm of Thomas Newman and the 10 actors she loathes. If you're one of those types who needs an avatar to show how cool you are, Emma specializes in creating them, just take a look at her sidebar.

'It was the 7th of January, 2006, and I’d just had my heart broken watching Brokeback Mountain. I realised there and then that I had to spread the word about how much I loved it, et voila, a few days later, I had me my very own film blog!'

JUDGE. BOOK. COVER: 'If I haven’t seen the movie, then I must have heard something good about it from someone who’s opinion I trust. That said, there’s been many an occasion where I’ve just seen the DVD cover for a movie, thought, “Hmm, that looks interesting”, and paid for the film, without having had researched it much. As for movies that I’ve seen, then it either has to be something I rate 8/10 or more, or have some incredible DVD extras in which there are interviews with hot actors. I’m deep, I am.'

THIS WEEK AT CINEMA EMMA: 'A marathon of films with my “Holy trinity” of filmmakers, and the three in that Trinity are the incredibly talented and versatile Alfred Hitchcock, the beautiful and classy Audrey Hepburn, and the best actor, and most alluring man ever to have walked the planet, Marlon Brando. The films I’d show of theirs would be a combination of my personal favourites from theirs – Rear Window, Roman Holiday, On the Waterfront, as well as those that contain their best work – Vertigo, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and A Streetcar Named Desire. It shall be exquisite.'

GLORY DAYS: 'I used to watch movies ALL the time. Like, one or two a day. I literally couldn’t function without them, they were as vital to me as oxygen, as water, as earrings. But in the past year, schoolwork has really gotten on top of me and I’ve had to give priority to revising for my ASs and writing essays, as I’m in the year where our grades are a huge decider in which Universities we get into. So now I usually see about 2 per week. I hate that I’m sacrificing my one true love in order to study (and a lot of the time, studying things I don’t enjoy), but here’s to hoping that all my hard work pays off, and in the future, my nice job will mean I can watch as many movies as I so desire!'

I ... DON'T GET IT: 'David Lynch, and whatever genre he’s supposed to represent. I enjoyed The Elephant Man and The Straight Story, but I really do think his other films are a severe case of “the emperor has no clothes.” What a pretentious hack!'

SO SHE TURNED HERSELF TO FACE HER ...: 'At the best of times, I’m just an angry teen, ready to drill holes in the wall, and watching comedy films really do cheer me up and stop me from behaving this way. Ones that I can watch over and over again are Finding Nemo, Legally Blonde, Harvey, Some Like It Hot, and Sabrina.'

TALK LIKE AN EMMA TODAY!: '“I wish I knew how to quit you” from Brokeback Mountain has been repeated so much by me, and often I just say it when I can’t think of anything to say. Also, from Brokeback, “goddamn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation” is said quite a lot from me. Also, I’ve taken to saying “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me” in a Dustin Hoffman-esque voice to my friends, but no-one really gets the joke. Blah.'

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: 'Antoine Doinel in Les quatre cent coups [The 400 Blows]. Like Antoine, I’m a kid who’s not bad, my intentions are good, I’m just severely misunderstood! On many an occasion I’ve felt like the round peg for the square hole, though, unlike Antoine, I’ve never had quite the pluck to just roam around the streets and bunk off school. I also connect with Lost in Translation’s Charlotte (though it is not a film I like at all). Like Charlotte, I often feel neglected and can’t find my place in life. Also, I'd like to think that there was something of me in Andy from The Shawshank Redemption, which just so happens to be my favourite film. Like in Andy, I'm quick with numbers, I'm pragmatic and I'm trapped in a "prison" of sorts (Sixth form), and I hope that one day, I shall see redemption like him.'

MARVELOUS VILLAINY: 'Probably Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire… because I’m a total Harry Potter fangirl! I read the books when they first came out and I’ve been obsessed with the franchise ever since. The image of Fiennes as Voldemort still haunts me, he’s amazing in that role. Can’t wait for the fifth film.'

OH WHAT A YEAR: '2003 – I watched over 400 films in this year, and realised that films were my life. I’ve been under the spell of cinema ever since.'

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

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Kodos and the disappointed voters

Much has been written about The Online Film Community Top 100, which I contributed to, most notably some thought-provoking pieces by Dennis Cozzalio, Weeping Sam, Peter Nellhaus, Ted Pigeon and Neil Sarver. I felt the need to chime in as well because 1) I'm a member of the generation of film fans who have received the most grief over the list and 2) I'm an eternal glass-overflowing-full optimist.

In Dennis' comments section I said that the Simpsons quote of 'Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos' was what sprang to mind as I looked at the list, as in 'hey, don't look at me!' This is a product of a project like this, where the fingers get pointed everywhere, but never at anyone in particular, least of all the person with the extended finger. But to a greater extent, I'm reminded of my favorite Deep Thought by Jack Handey:

In a way, we were all guilty -- we all shot him, we all skinned him, and we all got a complimentary bumper sticker that said "I helped skin Bob."
So we're all guilty -- of caring about film much more than the average person, and that's why we're never satisfied with these lists. There are simply too many great films and too many ways to look at them. I'll never understand how a close friend of mine from college could hold Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead in the same regard as Casablanca, but he obviously has his reasons. This is why I'm happy to read collaborative lists like this, because it opens your eyes to films that others feel so strongly about, even if you'll never agree or understand why. I would have never guessed that The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would be ranked so high -- I thought it was good, but would never place it on a list like this, yet looking back I can see how someone would be greatly affected by it.

And since a lot of the reception to the OFC Top 100 has focused on the group of voters who gave their nods toward the TNT Saturday Night Movie Hall of Fame inductees, I would like to offer a defense on our behalf. Yes, we are young and often misguided, but we are also mostly aware of our shortcomings as film fans. Myself, I still don't feel very good about my own Top 100 because I still have so many movies to see that probably belong on that list. I know that I'm like a few of my fellow young movie bloggers in that I'm insecure about my film knowledge. For most of my life I fashioned myself a film snob, but at some point after college I realized just how many great movies out there I had not seen. And so my movie intake for the past few years has focused heavily on classics, leading me to neglect new releases probably more than I should.

Lists like these help motivate me to branch out more, as my foreign film intake is still woefully malnourished. On the other hand, I feel like I've seen about 80 percent of all well-regarded Westerns, and my ballot reflected that. Anyone who votes will have a certain bias based on their favorite genres or eras, and that's why it's impossible to make a list that pleases everyone. So while we may not like to look at Bob's dead body, let's be honest and recognize we all shot and skinned him.