Friday, January 28, 2011

"Fer Shur"... It's an '80 Thing

The film blogger over at Colonel Mortimer Will Have His Revenge recently wrapped up his 1980 Project. A personal proposal begun some years ago, my friend examined the lion's share of films for that particular year (and posted on many of them).
"For the last few years I have had a slow moving film geek pursuit. The whole endeavor stemmed from my issues with the annual end of the year top ten film lists. I have nothing against them, I love reading them, though I never regard them as anything close to a true sense of what the ten best films of any given year is, but rather revealing the tastes and personality (or lack thereof) of the writer of said list. Does it contain the prerequisite foreign film that the viewer saw once at a festival and appears on the list pretty much solely in a possessive manner (it's mine, and only mine!), does it contain an out of nowhere mainstream blockbuster to prove the writer's ability to register and enjoy pop art (this from someone who would have included Talladega Nights on his non existent top ten list for last year)? No my issue is with my dogged completest attitude. How could I truly create a Top Ten List if I haven't seen every film released in the year, or at least every film that provided me a modicum of interest or critical attention, since a viewing of say, Wild Hogs, would not have any effect on the process."
The rest of the article has been moved and updated to my current blog, found here.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

William Friedkin at the Sorcerer Screening

On Sunday night, I attended the second part in American Cinematheque Los Angeles' two-day tribute for director William Friedkin. The clear emphasis of the evening for this double-feature though was the neglected gem from 1977, Sorcerer. Screenwriter Josh Olson was in attendance and conducted the intro and the discussion afterwards. Josh has been the clear and leading champion for this film's appreciation: see last year's post on the film which includes his Trailers From Hell clip that lobbied fans of gritty and spectacular cinema of the 70s -- as well as Friedkin enthusiasts -- to check it out. I must say, Mr. Friedkin was in extraordinary form during the on-stage discussion with Josh in-between the screenings. I have to admit, too, it was a strange but exciting experience to be in a setting where a film as ferocious and seminal like The Exorcist takes second billing. But, it's one I savored because it was a long time coming. And if there is a movie that's finally getting the recognition it long deserved, this one (like Hickey & Boggs) is it.

I managed to record the interview (see links below) with only one real hiccup. Because the discussion went almost 20 minutes over the expected half hour duration, my wife's Flip recorder ran out of time -- luckily, I had my digital camera as back-up and that allowed me to finish the session. Some interesting highlights:
  • Josh Olson introduced the film (not recorded) and admitted to the entire audience of Friedkin followers that Sorcerer is his all-time favorite by the director (and no one raised an objection)
  • the director of the hour sat with the audience the whole time and enjoyed watching the stellar print of the film which the American Cinematheque acquired for the event
  • quick survey (show of hands) by Josh showed that the majority in the theatre's attendance had never seen Sorcerer -- Josh was plainly really thrilled by that knowing they would be in for a treat
  • William Friedkin, if you watch the entire interview, can crack a funny line with the best of them; he drew multiple laughs throughout the discussion (and ends the fact- and anecdote-filled interview with a perfect close-out story that was the ideal intro for the second feature)
  • there will definitely be a Blu-ray disc of the film! Friedkin, after he completes post-production of his latest work, should start the BD and remastering process for Sorcerer around March of this year.
  • as Josh Olson anticipated, after the film's quintessential 70s ending played out and Sorcerer's end credits appeared, a loud and boisterous applause was thrown by the audience
Below is the start of that event discussion which began as the lights came up (and here are the links to parts 2, 3, 4, and 5). I hope you enjoy -- I sure did.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Angel Heart Film (& Disc) Review

"Alas... how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise, Johnny?"
It's still winter, yes? I say that because mother nature continues to toy with those of us in the southland. It's been a false spring for L.A. dwellers of late, and it seems few know that it won't last. It's just a wicked joke waiting to be played (this after a weird and very wet Fall). I don't expect to get much sympathy on this point from much of the country given what many have gone through in this cold and snowy January. Still, everyone else is not under constant threat to slide into the Pacific Ocean after a gargantuan quake like us (the fact that we'd be wearing shades and sunscreen when it happens is besides the point). So, it's probably good timing for the Scientist Gone Wordy and I to get the duo post series back on track after the holidays. As usual, the wordy one will examine the text of a famed novel later adapted to film, which I will review. In this case, she'll be looking at the source novel for the 1987 Angel Heart film, Falling Angel. Rachel's book review can be found here:

A brief synopsis of the film: In January 1955 New York City, an archetypical low rent private investigator by the name of Harold Angel hits a jackpot of sorts. He lands a seemingly routine missing-persons case for a wealthy client. It appears some big band singer from years back didn't fulfill a contract with the mysterious vendee, a chap named Mr. Cyphre. It is explained that the crooner was institutionalize long term due to WWII injuries and shell shock. PI Angel's job then is to prove the hospital in question has falsified the records, and using what he comes across, to locate the fellow with the stage name of Johnny Favorite so that a certain 'collateral' can be collected by the patron. The dark elements that the private eye uncovers, and the peril he faces in doing so, will be laid bare in the telling of the tale.

[spoiler warning: some key elements of the film are revealed in this review]

The rest of the review (now updated) can be found on my current blog, located here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Return of Sorcerer

Okay, I'm going to flat out mimic someone else's post about a screening for a little seen and under-appreciated film. In their case, that someone is author Duane Swierczynski (writer of crime thriller fame and various Marvel comic characters), and his post was the one that spotlighted last Friday's showing of a forgotten film he categorizes as one, "downbeat, sunbaked PI movie":

I'd have loved to have been there and watched it on the big screen (as I originally did back in October 1972). I've maintained a firm love of this film coming up on four decades now. Nonetheless, I'll have to settle for another like gem from that same decade, this one closer to my neck of the woods. The 1977 neglected film, Sorcerer. For those who are interested, here's the link to my appreciative post of the film from April 2010:

Strangle-Hold: The Gripping Films of William Friedkin

The good folks over at the American Cinematheque Los Angeles will host a similarly cool event this upcoming weekend. They'll welcome the one-of-a-kind William Friedkin to the Aero Theatre for a two-day retrospective of his films, with a discussion between films with the director each day. While all of the films presented at this function are extraordinary (and most have been seen and lauded over through the years in revival theaters and celebrated DVD releases), it is Sorcerer that has been the least seen of the lot and earned the title of forsaken. And it still doesn't have a decent release on disc. Luckily, as with Hickey & Boggs, that seems to be changing. The film where Mr. Friedkin earned his less-than-affectionate nickname of 'Hurricane Billy' has been climbing in many people's estimations. So, catching this film in a theater will be a treat.
"Friedkin’s most visually awesome film follows small-time crook Roy Scheider from Brooklyn to the sweltering South American jungles, where he lands a job hauling nitroglycerine with hard-luck losers Bruno Cremer and Francisco Rabal. Rather than simply remake Henri-Georges Clouzot’s famed WAGES OF FEAR, Friedkin re-imagined the story as a cosmic vision of man vs. nature, climaxing in the mind-bending image of Scheider and crew literally pushing a loaded truck across a spindly rope bridge." ~ American Cinematheque at The Aero
I would herald the new 35mm print being made available for the show, and forgive me for saying this in the most antithetical of manners, but the event had me at hello.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The L.A. Requiem Book Discussion

A few months back, and one of my best blog post picks from last year, Jeff over at Stuff Running 'Round My Head wrote a more than fine examination of one of my favorite books: The Use of Flashbacks in "L.A. Requiem". And it got a bunch of us Craisies wanting to re-read the novel and re-examine it since many of us consider it the watershed moment in the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series of books. The chief Craisie amongst us, and our dear friend, Elyse (otherwise known as Pop Culture Nerd) came up with a fantastic idea of...
"... an online discussion about it so we can share our thoughts with old and new fans alike."
That event occurred this past weekend. And since Robert Crais is launching another book in the series tomorrow, The Sentry, she expertly summarized the discussion and posted it today as the appropriate tie-in. Of course, I highly recommend it (and the new book):

My sincere thanks to both Jeff and Elyse for this.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Forgotten Film: Sharky's Machine

To put it mildly, Burt Reynolds has had an interesting career. His charismatic presence with early recurring roles on the Gunsmoke and Riverboat TV series got many people's attention (mine included as a kid). He parlayed that into larger and larger film roles. His rendition of the Lewis Medlock character in John Boorman's adaptation of the great James Dickey novel, Deliverance, was the breakthrough impetus for that big screen vocation. Its impact skyrocketed him during the 70s, and his subsequent films successfully propelled him to the #1 box office crown. The world was his oyster. Then, the 80s collided with it like a bad meteor movie. The evidence becomes painfully clear when the films of that span are mentioned (some of which were purely for the paycheck). Among them, Stroker Ace, Paternity, Stick, Rent-A-Cop, and/or any of the Cannonball or Smokey and the Bandit sequels (among others) will tell you which direction his path then headed.

The rest of this post has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Spanish Makes Everything Sound More...

I keep seeing this 30 second commercial on television:

It works on so many levels with me. First, whoever cast this series of commercials for Kahlúa should be given a medal for selecting Ana de la Reguera. She's simply one drop dead gorgeous and talented latina (and besides that she'll also be in Cowboys & Aliens later this year). On top of that, both the actress and the coffee liqueur maker's roots are the same. The unique trade port city of Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico is their mutual birthplace. With its distinctive Spanish, African, and Caribbean cultural heritage, it's one location that has always fascinated me (no disrespect to my family's ancestral home of Chihuahua, mom). Of course, before my stomach swore me off alcohol, Kahlúa was one of my last spirits of choice. Damnit!
"We speak Spanish, mostly because it's the language we speak."
The ad (and series) manages to squeezes out a seriously frisky sense of humor throughout its very short span, too. Plus, Ana in truth plays her part to the hilt with a sexy charm that's palpable. Intriguing really becomes a word and half by the time she's through with it, no? Notice how she even pronounces Roberto. My grandmother would deliver a loud clamor if she heard me admit I couldn't roll an 'R' to save my own life. This admission from one with a double 'r' in his hispanic surname (which to pronounce correctly incorporates the use of the famed Spanish trill). And she has me in her grips by the time we reach, Piano ("Okay, maybe not the best example."). Put it all together and it blends to the best commercial going, IMO. ¡Delicioso!