Weird Science Joins the 30-Year Old Club and It’s Still as Funny as Ever


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weird science - poster 1

Fewer films have ever made me laugh as hard as John HughesWeird Science. This film is a sign post of my childhood, one that carries tremendous meaning and nostalgia. While this one may not register on many folks’ radar as a top notch Hughes example, I happily rated it my favorite of his oeuvre back in 2013. That it came out in what might be considered the most 80s month of films in the entire decade (along with the original Fright Night, Real Genius, Teen Wolf, Better Off Dead and American Ninja) makes it all the better. So, it is with great pleasure that pleasure that I fête Weird Science as it turns 30 this year (released August 2, 1985), a fantastic example of 80s film hijinks replete with Hughes‘ ability to take something that is on the surface a typical male teen horn-dog film and give it some substance at the end. I am unashamed in my love for this film and I can happily report that even to this very day, Weird Science towers above the poor excuses for teen comedies of today.

weird science - opening

And then, BANG! we hit the city, baby. Dead on. For a little drinks, a little nightlife, a little dancing…

The story of the film, for you unfortunate louts who have yet to see it, is a somewhat standard territory for Hughes – two loveable losers, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall in his finest role) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), cast outs at their school long for nothing but to be cool. However, those dreams are consistently dashed again and again by the masses, especially Max (Robert Rusler) and Ian (a very young Robert Downey Jr.). That Gary and Wyatt are smitten with Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson, one of my all-time crushes), Max and Ian’s girlfriends certainly doesn’t help. So when Wyatt’s parents leave for the weekend, they decide to make a girl…actually make a girl, using Wyatt’s then high-tech computer set-up and know how, a sort of new wave Dr. Frankenstein. When it actually works and Lisa (the stunning Kelly LeBrock) materializes in Wyatt’s bedroom, the boys’ futures start to change for the better.

weird science - kelly

But as always, there are roadblocks. Wyatt’s older brother Chet, in what is arguably the best shithead older brother performance in film history graciously given to us by the incomparable Bill Paxton, is home from college to “watch over” the boys. He harasses and harangues them all while they and Lisa set about changing their fortunes over the course of one weekend. The key to this is not only was Lisa created to be incredibly beautiful (and trust me, in 1985 LeBrock was the pinnacle of beauty) but she also had special, witchcraft-like powers that allowed her certain license to create ideal situations in which Gary and Wyatt could prove themselves to their otherwise unsuspecting classmates. They do so in memorable fashion thus ingratiating themselves to said classmates and more importantly the apples of their eyes, Deb and Hilly.

weird science - chet

Now make yourself one, dickweed!

This is a month that will likely be a one-way Nostalgia Express for me. It’s fitting that it is starting out with Weird Science. I hold this film in the highest regard. While it may not be Hughes‘s “best” film, it certainly is my favorite of his. It may not have quite the same touching ending that both Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club have,but Weird Science earns its ending. It’s honest despite the preposterous nature of the events leading up to it and there is something that we can all likely identify with in Gary and Wyatt. And to me, any film that gives moviegoers a scene like the one where they go to a bar on the Southside of Chicago is complete and total magic. Check it out:

There are very few scenes that are as quotable as this one. That it’s just one among many in the film is a testament to the quality of Weird Science. And despite falling into the shadows of the acting world for a long while, Anthony Michael Hall gives one of the all-time great comedic performances in this film. I wish I could understand why he faded away like he did even though he has resurfaced in the past few years. The same could be said of Ilan Mitchell-Smith who was solid in The Wild Life and really encapsulated the character of Wyatt. This film is a true treasure and deserves mention alongside any comedy of the 80s and beyond.

This film has significant personal meaning to me as I got to see it with my brother and sister at the Rivoli Theatre in downtown Muncie, Indiana, when my parents were in court hammering each other over visitation rights post-divorce. This film was the perfect antidote to the trepidation my siblings and I felt that day. So to John Hughes, the cast of the film and anyone else who had anything to do with the making of this film, I thank you. It’s rare the one can point to one person and call them the voice of a generation, but I don’t doubt that anyone who came of age in the early to mid-80s couldn’t at least tip John Hughes as the most likely candidate.

Enjoy the tasty original trailer and if you have yet to watch this puppy, get there people:

So…the new trailer for the 2015 version of Vacation is out. HOLY SHIT this is going to be awful.


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vacation 2015

So, in the infinite wisdom of Hollywood executives, someone decided to do another version of Vacation telling the story from Rusty’s point of view as he takes his wife and kids to Wally World 30 years later. Jesus Christ, really? The first rule of filmmaking should be, “Don’t touch anything that John Hughes wrote or directed.” European Vacation (even though Hughes wrote it) and Vegas Vacation were fucking tragedies. Christmas Vacation had about three parts that were funny (Shitter’s full!) but as a whole was incredibly uneven. So why do this? It can’t even compare to the first one which is a stone cold classic.

I don’t think Anthony Michael Hall is having anything to do with this nor is the original Audrey Dana Barron. Clearly a fat Chevy Chase needs the $$$ and that’s why he’s involved.

This movie is just a bad idea all the way around. Good to see that the folks in LA are really focusing on original, interesting material. I blame John Francis Daley most of all here. I loved his work in Freaks & Geeks, but give me a damn break. One original script and a sequel to it and this is how he repays the film going community? SIGH.

Here’s the red band trailer if you want to subject yourself to it:

Killer New Mondo Poster for The Breakfast Club by Matt Taylor


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Breakfast Club poster mondo

In keeping up with my nostalgia ride through films that hare hitting their 30th anniversary this year, I would be remiss to let this opportunity pass. As always, Mondo brings the absolute fire to their poster work. I love what Matt Taylor has done with this one. Most fan art posters for The Breakfast Club feature the Shermer Five in some sort of repose. I know of no other posters for this film that feature the scene where the Five try to make it back to the library before Vernon busts them. This is an incredibly important part of the film which is captured perfectly in this poster. And amazingly, there is an equally badass variant version of this poster as well:

Breakfast Club poster mondo variantThese likely sold out in 14 seconds earlier today, but I can guarantee you can find them on eBay at some point in the next couple of days.

If I Chose the Academy Award Winners and Nominees – 2015 edition


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I’ve now seen most of the films that had a release in 2014. This makes me more qualified to vote for the Oscars than 97.548% of the Academy’s membership. With the Oscar ceremony occurring tonight, I’ve picked, as I have the previous two years, who I think the nominees and winners should be in the bulk of the major categories. Once again, the foreign film category will be left off because I simply haven’t had access to enough foreign films to make a comment on them. Those that have made it to my neck of the woods, I will say, have been very good for the most part.

As I look back over my picks from last year, I’m not sure I would change any of them, which is surprising. Usually I have an epiphany about something I overlooked.

Let’s do this…

Best Picture

calvary posterBoyhood
Calvary* (winner)
Gone Girl
Inherent Vice
It Felt Like Love
Obvious Child
Only Lovers Left Alive
Under the Skin

Whittling down the top ten (even though the Academy only inexplicably chose 8 films this year), was difficult. Leaving out films like Birdman, Nymphomaniac, The Zero Theorem and others was tough. But alas, I may look back and see the error of my ways when I do this again next year. No film made an impact on me more than John Michael McDonagh‘s CalvaryBrendan Gleeson gives the best performance (male) of the year as a priest who receives a phone call telling him that he will be murdered in one week as penance for the sins of all previous priests who were pedophiles even though he is not one. The ticking clock nature of the narrative brings real tension and suspense and watching Gleeson‘s Father James try to navigate the uncertainty he faces about whether the threat is real or not grabs you and doesn’t let go until well after the conclusion. It’s simply a stunning film. 2014 brought us really lush, interesting and original films and I think I honored that with my top ten. Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer‘s triumphant return to the cinema, was so visually stunning and featured a top flight performance from Scarlett Johansson as an alien trolling for men to use for nefarious purposes. Jim Jarmusch‘s Only Lovers Left Alive finally gives a meditative, minimalist vampire film that we can sink our teeth into. With incredible music and fantastic performances from Tilda Swinton (as always) and Tom Hiddleston, this is a film that should have been at the top of everyone’s list. Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice is top-form stuff from him as usual. The guy just makes great movies every time. Tackling a Thomas Pynchon novel for adaptation is not an easy task and Anderson made it look easy. Eliza Hittman‘s It Felt Like Love is a gritty look at a young girl coming of age in New York City. This is a film that isn’t afraid of scenarios that befall young women today and embraces them. This is a brave film and one worthy of watching. Gillian Robespierre‘s Obvious Child is another brave film that features the best female performance of the year from Jenny Slate who plays a comedian coming to terms with getting an abortion after a one-night stand. Outside of CalvaryDamien Chazelle‘s Whiplash stuck with me the most. J.K. Simmons’ likely Oscar-winning performance was picture perfect and Miles Teller‘s surprised me. I’m not much a jazz guy, but this story was really quite interesting.

Best Director

The Moet & Chandon Lounge at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Day 8

Paul Thomas AndersonInherent Vice* (winner)
Jonathan GlazerUnder the Skin
Eliza HittmanIt Felt Like Love
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman
Jim Jarmusch – Only Lovers Left Alive
John Michael McDonaghCalvary

This was an especially tough year to whittle down this pool. So many fantastic films out there as evidenced by my above list. So I had to cheat and add a sixth director to this group. That I had to leave Richard Linklater, Damien Chazelle, Gillian Robespierre, Ava Duvernay and David Fincher was really hard to do. But what’s done is done. Glazer just killed it with Under the Skin as he has with his other two films. Many people didn’t care for Birth, but I think it’s wonderful. The almost ten year wait for his big screen return was well worth it. Jarmusch is at his best since Ghost Dog with Only Lovers Left Alive and maybe his best since Down By Law. Every beat, every scene are calculated and meticulous. I fucking loved it. Eliza Hittman‘s gritty effort It Felt Like Love hit me like a ton of bricks, so elegant. Birdman is Iñárritu‘s best film since Amores Perros and may well be his masterpiece. The life he was able to coax out of this tale is insane. Such a breath of fresh air, really. McDonagh, like his brother, embody the age old notion that the Irish are superb storytellers. Calvary hits you on every level and does so unapologetically. It was hard to pass him over for my choice as best director, but as far as I’m concerned, as long as Paul Thomas Anderson is making movies and they are as good as Inherent ViceThe Master, There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, he will get my vote for best director. There is no single director working today that gets my blood pumping for one of their films. He’s that fucking amazing. I’m glad he sticks to material that he likes because his films don’t register on the radar of many filmgoers because they tackle material that asks more of the viewer than just their time. He makes you complicit in the actions of his films and to me that’s the experience I want from the medium.

Best Actress

obvious child - jenny slateCharlotte Gainsbourg Nymphomaniac
Julianne Moore Still Alice
Scarlett JohanssonUnder the Skin
Jenny Slate – Obvious Child (*winner)
Tllda Swinton Only Lovers Left Alive

For once, there was an abundance of really great roles for women this year. It’s a shame that the Academy didn’t delve a little deeper into films that were little off the beaten path, but I guess we’ve come to expect that. I will admit it’s hard to pass over Julianne Moore for this award especially since she has earned it 4 or 5 times by now. Jenny Slate just knocked it out of the park and it’s a shame that more comedic roles aren’t rewarded at the Oscars. Frankly, it think it’s a lot harder to be funny, but what do I know? Scarlett Johansson merits mention in this category for her performance in Under the Skin. Did we ever think that we would see her as an alien cruising for dudes? That all of scenes with her picking up guys were filmed in real time with the men not knowing that they were being filmed makes it all the more interesting. Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s performance in Nymphomaniac is among the most brave I’ve ever seen. There is plenty available to read about Lars Von Trier‘s approach to working with actors and let’s say it isn’t the most warm of environments. This story is tough and she dove right in. Loved it. Tilda Swinton brings it every time and to me, her performance in Only Lovers Left Alive is second only to her’s in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Great fucking stuff. Julianne Moore is spectacular as she always is. This, couple with her turn in Maps to the Stars, certainly merits many awards. I’m happy that she will win the Oscar finally.

Best Actor

brendan gleeson - calvaryBrendan Gleeson – Calvary (*winner)
Tom Hardy – Locke
Tom Hiddleston Only Lovers Left Alive
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Joaquin Phoenix Inherent Vice

Brendan Gleeson gave my favorite performance of the 90s as Martin Cahill in The General and has given so many great performances since then. And then he delivers another career defining performance as Father James in Calvary, which came as no shock to me. Largely ignored by awards talk, I couldn’t pass this one up. It is simply outstanding and indicative of Gleeson‘s efforts during his 30+ years acting. Tom Hardy is such a joy to watch. That he can take a role that is situated for 95% of the time in car talking on his cell phone and make something as special as he did is simply amazing. I can still hear him saying, “the traffic is fine…” Good shit. Hiddleston was off his ass, much like Tilda, in Only Lovers Left Alive. A musician vampire lamenting the decline of humankind’s ability to care for themselves…what more can you ask for? Michael Keaton‘s comeback film and performance are simply outstanding. It’s hard to look past him for this award as he was so incredibly good. Many people say that he is basically playing himself in this one and even if that is the case, which I don’t think he is, he’s crafted a wonderfully complex character. I think that in Doc Sportello we have found Joaquin Phoenix‘s finest performance. Stoner private detective mixed up in multi-layered hijinks is a perfect fit for him. To me, the Oscars always weight performances in biopics far too highly and this year’s crop 4 of the 5 nominations fit that bill. Boo to that. I will say this, David Oyelowo is as deserving as any of the men listed above. I thought he gave a terrifically powerful performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.

Best Supporting Actor

whiplash - simmons

Josh Brolin  –  Inherent Vice
Edward Norton Birdman
Alex Rennie Awaful Nice
Mark Ruffalo Foxcatcher
JK Simmons – Whiplash (*winner)

I hate it when I agree with the Academy as much as I did with this category, having three of the same nominees, but I can say that I enjoyed each of the three and agree with who we all know is going to win this award, JK Simmons for Whiplash. As Fletcher, the hardass music conductor/instructor and tormentor to Miles Teller, Simmons channels his character from Party Down and turns it up to 11. Painful to watch, it’s still hard to look away. Edward Norton is back much in the same way that Keaton rose like a phoenix in Birdman. When he’s on, he’s on and this is the best performance from him in quite some time sort of parodying his reputation as a tough-to-work-with actor. The dark horse in this group for me is Alex Rennie, who gave the funniest performance of the year to me in Todd Sklar‘s criminally underwatched Awful NiceRennie encapsulates the manchild better than anything that Judd Apatow has ever committed to celluloid. It’s truly a shame that more people haven’t seen this film. Ruffalo is a nice counterpoint to the other characters in Foxcatcher. As always, he really delves deep into David Schultz‘ tragic story. And lastly, Josh Brolin is fucking amazing in Inherent Vice as the meathead cop Bigfoot Bjornsen. How the Academy overlooked this one is beyond me…oh wait, it’s the Academy. The film didn’t earn $300 million at the box office. Sigh.

Best Supporting Actress

stand clear of the closing doors - ana suarez

Jessica ChastainA Most Violent Year
Maggie GyllenhaalFrank
Andrea Suarez PazStand Clear of the Closing Doors (*winner)
Emma StoneBirdman
Tilda SwintonSnowpiercer

Here is another case where I and the Academy have differed greatly. It’s obvious that I have left out Patricia Arquette from Boyhood here. While I loved her performance, I think these above hit me on more of a gut level than hers. The standout performance here is Andrea Suarez Pazthe distraught mother of an autistic teenager who is lost in New York City. This was the most impactful performance of the year for me. It’s a shame that few people saw the film as it, too, is equally wonderful. I adored Maggie Gyllenhaal in Frank, so caustic yet protective. She made me laugh and cringe equally and I loved every minute of it. Jessica Chastain had another incredible year between Interstellar, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and her incredible turn in A Most Violent Year. She really can do it all. Get this woman an Oscar for the love of all that’s holy. Emma Stone is another gem in the cast of Birdman. She seems to make the most of the roles she is given (well, except for Gangster Squad, but then again, who did in that one?). And here we are again with Tilda for her role as Mason in Snowpiercer. Aside from JK Simmons’ character in Whiplash, she creates the most loathsome character of the year. To be able to do that requires talent, something that Ms. Swinton has in spades.

Best Documentary

Finding Vivian Maier poster 2Citizenfour
Finding Vivian Maier (*winner)
Life Itself
One Million Dubliners
The Unknown Known

I love documentaries and 2014 was exceptionally strong year in that category. It’s hard to disagree with the choices the Academy made for their nominees as the four that I’ve seen are quite exceptional (The Salt of the Earth is the only one I have yet to see), but my three replacements captured my interest and attention more. Citizenfour is one of the most intense films I’ve seen in some time and it will win the Oscar. It’s crazy to think that Edward Snowden had the wherewithal to contact director Laura Poitras to have her document everything that unfolded with his document and information leak. AMAZING. But, Finding Vivian Maier just edged it out in my opinion. An almost unbelievable story – a young man comes across a trove of old photographs and undeveloped film at an auction and unearths and undiscovered genius. That he is able to track down people who knew her and get a full backstory on her is just amazing. The film is very reminiscent of Jessica Yu‘s In the Realms of the Unreal which is incredible as well. That the Academy chose not to nominate Steve JamesLife Itself about film critic extraordinaire Roger Ebert and his last days battling cancer was the most egregious error in this category. Life Itself is so touching and a really in depth look at Roger’s journey to becoming the most recognizable film critic of my generation. I had the pleasure of seeing the film with director Steve James in attendance at the IU Cinema this past fall and it was incredibly amazing. Shame on you, Academy. One Million Dubliners (see my full review of the film here) is a film that may not have made it across the pond in time for Oscar consideration, but I loved it. Ostensibly about Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin where nearly all of its famous political figures are buried, it also becomes a portrait of one of its tour guides, Shane Mac Thomáis. A truly moving film, this one left a mark. And lastly, Errol Morris‘ The Unknown Known is the last of the group. Done in similar fashion as his Oscar-winning doc The Fog of War with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in front of the interrotron, The Unknown Known (read my full review here) queries controversial Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld. Interesting to say the least, I really wish Morris would have pushed the envelope more with that bastard Rumsfeld. Despite this, the film was quite fascinating and certainly helped solidify my feelings that Rumsfeld is an unapologetic douchebag who truly deserves to be in prison.

Best Original Screenplay

calvary - jmm on set

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando BoBirdman
Jim Jarmusch Only Lovers Left Alive
John Michael McDonagh
Calvary (*winner)
Lars Von TrierNymphomaniac

While it seems like so many of the films that landed in my top 25 or 20 this year were adapted from other source material, I think that the list above offers a really wide spectrum of terrifically interesting and wonderful films. Funny, serious and a mixture of both, all of these films blew me away with the quality of writing and their ability to transport me to Ireland, the mountains of Europe in the middle of last century, to Detroit and Tangiers of present day and to various decades of England. Wes Anderson does it again in his finest film since Rushmore. Chock full of familiar quirk, The Grand Budapest Hotel is typically funny and incredibly engaging and features an ensemble cast that most directors would kill to work with. As of now, Budapest‘s main competition for the Oscar is Birdman which has been flying quite high leading into today’s Oscars. A story perfectly suited for Michael Keaton‘s reemergence, Birdman mixes superhero lore, backstage theatrics a la All About Eve and magical realism to create one of the most interesting films of the year. The four writers credited on this film really knocked it out of the park. Don’t be too surprised if it takes home multiple awards including Best Picture. I can’t speak highly enough of Only Lovers Left Alive as you can tell from my asides in the above categories. Jarmusch brings his minimalistic writing (and directing) approach to the vampire genre and frankly shuts the door on it (Ana Lily Amirpour‘s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night that also came out in 2014 helped as well), effectively torching the damage done by the shitty Twilight franchise. The winner here, and it should be no surprise, is Calvary. A deeply moving film littered with black humor, I frankly don’t think the Best Picture can possibly win without having the best script. If it does, and I’m looking at you James Cameron and the incredibly awful Titanic, then the Academy voters should have to answer for it, because there’s no reason for that to happen. As the basic building block for the film, it has to be solid. Lars Von Trier has been on fire lately, despite the ridiculous shit he says at press conferences. I really loved Melancholia and Antichrist was a thinkpiece that really stretches the audience and both will leave you think well after they’ve ended. Nymphomaniac is cut from the same cloth. Brutal and honest, like the great bulk of Von Trier‘s films, Nymphomaniac is epic in scale and among the more provocative films you’ll see at this point.

Best Adapted Screenplay

whiplash - chazelle on setPaul Thomas Anderson Inherent Vice
Damien Chazelle – Whiplash
Walter Campbell & Jonathan Glazer Under the Skin (*winner)
Gillian FlynnGone Girl
Gillian Robespierre – Obvious Child

Rare is the year that I will pass up giving Paul Thomas Anderson the nod for best writing work. He’s been spot on with all of films before, but this is the year it happened. Inherent Vice is wonderful and he did as good of a job as one might be able to do in translating a Thomas Pynchon novel to the big screen. It’s fun and weird as shit and all I could hope for in a film. Whiplash, as noted above, is a film that has stuck with me far more than I expected. Damien Chazelle, the writer-director, made something far more tolerable for me than I ever thought possible…jazz. Well done, sir. Under the Skin is the hands down winner for me. I’d like this film to Shane Carruth‘s Upstream Color in tone, and that one blew me the fuck away. Jonathan Glazer got a bad rap for Birth, which I really loved. This film is like anything you will see this year and that’s what I look for in a script and film. Gone Girl is a movie I was surprised that I liked it all. David Fincher never fails me, so I should have known, but when a film is based on a novel as popular as Gone Girl, I had to be skeptical. I’ve not read the novel and I know there were some alterations to the narrative. Kudos to Flynn for this one. And lastly, Obvious Child rounds out the group. This script was built for Jenny Slate and the approach that Robespierre took towards the decision for the Donna Stern character to take regarding her abortion was fresh and insightful and I hope it made people think a little deeper about what it takes to make a decision like that. Filled with humor in a movie you don’t think could be, Obvious Child represents some of the best writing of the year without a doubt in my mind.


girl walks home alone at night

Robert Elswit Inherent Vice
Yorick Le SauxOnly Lovers Left Alive
Sean Porter It Felt Like Love
Lyle Vincent A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (*winner)
Bradford Young Selma

I’m a sucker for black and white photography and this year Lyle Vincent‘s work in A Girl Walks Home Alone was flat out amazing. The photography should add another level to the film and that’s precisely what Vincent achieved with this one. An Iranian vampire movie shot in B&W…how does that not sound interesting to people? Elswit, already an Oscar-winner for his work in There Will Be Blood, proves that working with the same director over time pays off in Inherent Vice. The photography was lush and he did such a great job recreating the 70s look of the film. Really a true achievement. Le Saux, a frequent collaborator with François Ozon, did such a good job shooting in the darkness that the vampires in Only Lovers Left Alive inhabited. Films shot only at night are so difficult to light and Le Saux did an incredible job. Sean Porter‘s work in It Felt Like Love was quite inspiring. His photography really gave another level of grittiness to a film that already had an abundance of grit. It served the story well and that’s what you need in the photography of the film. And last, but certainly not least, Bradford Young‘s work in Selma was inspiring. The crane shot on the Pettus Bridge is award-worthy in and of itself. Two years in a row Mr. Young has given us work nothing short of amazing (last year’s was Ain’t Them Bodies Saints).

So there you have it. Once again, 2014 had a ton of great films to offer and it’s a shame that the Academy, in typical fashion, stuck to giving accolades to their big budget fare and ignoring the down and dirty films that really offer so much more. And I will say this – if American Sniper wins even one award tonight, it is one too many. That it received 6 nominations is an absolute tragedy.

Enjoy the show and hopefully Neal Patrick Harris will be mildly entertaining. Personally, I think they should have stuck with Ellen DeGeneres. But what do I know?

John Hughes – The Best Five Year Run in Film History?


John Hughes would have been 65 today. My feelings about his 5-year run haven’t changed since I first blogged this two years ago. Strong as any out there…

Originally posted on Spirit of the Thing:

john hughes

John Hughes would have been 63 today. His death in 2009 shocked me even though he had been out of the public eye for years and hadn’t directed a film since Curly Sue in 1991. Hughes was the absolute MAYOR of the 80s. His youth/teen films raised the bar for the genre and, in my opinion, have yet to be eclipsed. But he was more than just a teen film director. His adult comedies were as pertinent as anything he did in the teen realm, echoing the same themes of acceptance and understanding all while bringing the funny sprinkled with moments of levity.

I knew you'd come around... I knew you’d come around…

Hughes‘ films are important to me. I hold them as dear to my heart as any film(s) that I’ve ever seen. I saw Weird Science at the Rivoli Theater in downtown Muncie, Indiana, when my parents were in court over visitation…

View original 3,432 more words

Remakes? We don’t need no stinking remakes! Blazing Saddles is being remade…as an animated film. SIGH.


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blazing saddles - poster

So, in another genius move by Hollywood, the Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles is getting remade…as a fucking animated film about cats and dogs called Blazing Samurai. SIGH. How can this even happen? What is Brooks thinking allowing this? Blazing Saddles is one of the funniest movies of the 70s and the best western comedy ever. Example:

How the hell is the guy who animated the first two Alvin and the Chipmunks movies (Chris Bailey) and a story artist on Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon (Mark Koetsier) going to do justice to the humor and quality of the original while making it a family friendly animated film? The whole point of the original was that it wasn’t family friendly.

And if this new film doesn’t reprise this scene:

the filmmaker clearly don’t know kids’ humor very well.

Fuck it. End rant.

Paul Newman would have been 90 today


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paul newman

Although Paul Newman passed away seven years ago, I still miss him. His charisma on-screen and his incredible charity off-screen made him almost too good to be true. A dedicated family man who didn’t care for the distractions of Hollywood, Newman went about his business as I wish many actors would today. His roles were many, his talent deep, his love of life unparalleled. Today would have been his 90th birthday, and while he may well have quit acting by now if he were still with us, having him as a resource for stories and anecdotes about old time Hollywood should would be nice. He is my favorite actor and his approach to his roles has given them life well beyond his own. I would assume that’s what every actor would hope.

And while we’re at it, here’s my list of favorite roles. Newman had the capability to bring something you might not expect to each role he inhabited. He, to me, is the blueprint for what an actor, and human being, should be.

Here we go:

Ben Quick – The Long Hot Summer

paul newman - long hot summerNewman plays a bad boy who can only be tamed by the love of a certain woman. That that woman also happens to be played by his future wife Joanne Woodward is pretty damn awesome. Orson Welles, Angela Lansbury and a gorgeous young Lee Remick round out this fantastic tale based on the Snopes stories by William Faulkner.

Lucas Jackson – Cool Hand Luke

paul newman - cool hand lukeOne of Newman‘s most iconic roles, Cool Hand Luke shows us the story of Lucas Jackson as he tries to weather his time in a rural prison. Unwilling to adapt to rules, Luke butts heads with everyone from the prisoners to the guards to the superintendent in what has been famously said is “a failure to communicate.” Newman is off his ass in this one.

Hud Bannon – Hud

paul newman - hudHere is Newman in another role as bad boy, although this time he can’t be tamed. Hud takes what he wants, when he wants it. Some find this endearing…others not so much. Newman lost out on an Oscar to fellow co-star Melvyn Douglas for this role. Patricia Neal also won for Best Actress in this one. A truly incredible film, exquisitely shot by James Wong Howe.

“Fast” Eddie Felson – The Hustler

paul newman - the hustlerMinnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) vs. Fast Eddie Felson – one of the great battles in cinema history all done over 9′ x 4.5′ table. Pool table, that is. Easily one of Newman‘s most recognizable roles (he reprised it for Martin Scorsese‘s The Color of Money, for which he won his only Oscar), Fast Eddie is a cautionary tale as much as a hero. I didn’t see this film until I was in my 20s. A shame really. It’s worth as many watches as you will allow.

Butch Cassidy – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

paul newman - butchWhat to say about this role other than it is so fucking good? Newman operated so well in any genre. He tackled the Western with as much vigor, humor and gusto as he did with any others (he would go on to make two more Westerns in iconic roles as Buffalo Bill Cody and Judge Roy Bean). Acting opposite Robert Redford in his breakout role, Newman created one of his most memorable characters.

Brick Pollitt – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

paul newman - cat on a hot tin roofOozing with sex appeal, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof pits Newman alongside Elizabeth Taylor at the height of her career as they battle one another in the adaptation of Tennesse Williams‘ play. An angry Brick wants nothing to do with his wife Maggie (Taylor) as he rests at his rich father’s estate after breaking his ankle while consumed with grief over the loss of his friend (and possibly lover) Skipper. In one of the great depictions of spiteful marriage, Newman shines as only he can. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the confluence of everything I adore about classic Hollywood.

Reg Dunlop – Slap Shot

paul newman - slap shotIt should be no small surprise that I would rate Newman‘s performance in Slap Shot as my favorite. It is, after all, my favorite film of all time. Newman owns his role as Reg Dunlop, the lovable loser player-coach for the failing Charlestown Chiefs. Blue collar to the bone, Dunlop’s schemes raise the profile of a hockey team that everyone has written off, even its owner. That we get to see Newman in a caramel-colored leather suit (see above for its deliciousness) as well as other amazing 70s threads make it all the more worthwhile. I can’t really describe my love for this film enough. Watching a foul-mouthed Newman skate and mix it up on the ice is truly one of the great pleasures of my life.

So there you have it. I’m so nostalgic right now, I wish I could hunker down and watch all of these films in a row. Another day perhaps.


Another Year, Another Fucking Mess By the Academy


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81st Academy Awards¨ Press Kit ImagesLast week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences blessed us with their annual masturbatory list of what their (old and white) membership thought were the best films, performances, and technical achievements of the year. In typical form,  they got it wrong and in many cases VERY wrong. Of course, they got it right in some places, too. But, as usual, the missteps fair outweighed what they got right.

So let’s get into it…

Screw Jobs

selma_ava_duvernayAva Duvernay getting screwed a la Katrhyn Bigelow for Best Director for Selma. Now, I’m in the same position as I was with Zero Dark Thirty not having access to the film yet. I will be getting a screener soon as I’m voting in the Independent Spirit Awards, so I will be able to pass full judgment then on the merits of the film. However, this is a film that has been so universally praised that it is hard to figure how Ms. Duvernay was passed over except that she is an African-American woman, one of whom has never been nominated in this category. That the membership of the academy is overwhelmingly white (93%) and male (76%) makes this hard to dismiss.

lego movie posterThe Lego Movie not getting any nominations except for that annoying ass song is really sad. This is a film that appeared on a lot of Best of 2014 lists…for the whole year, not just for animation. That is was passed over is incredibly curious. It, like Selma, above has been universally praised as well. Perhaps the Golden Globes actually predicted this when How to Train Your Dragon 2 stole the award away on Sunday night. I’m frankly baffled by all of it.

obvious child - jenny slate

Jenny Slate being passed over for a Best Actress nom in Obvious Child might perhaps be the biggest error of all. She brought such life to her character, Donna Stern, and was able to tackle one of the most polarizing topics in America today (abortion) with grace and wit. So, it’s no wonder that the largely male population of the Academy dismissed the film and her performance. Shame on you, Academy.

gone girl posterGone Girl getting NO love. I was surprised at how much I liked this one. I didn’t read the book, because why do that when you can see the movie, right? The script by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the novel, was solid and David Fincher is always on point (unless he does an Alien film). Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch‘s score was just as good as the one they won for for The Social Network. So what missed here? HUGELY popular novel, great cast, great performance, a director at the top of his game…I don’t understand. After seeing American Sniper, I honestly can’t understand how it having such a terribly sentimental and hokey script, one that literally made me laugh out loud several times because of its ridiculousness, was able to secure a nomination over Gone Girl.

The Moet & Chandon Lounge at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Day 8Paul Thomas Anderson not getting a nom for his direction in the wildly awesome Inherent Vice. Arguably the finest director working today (he has had ZERO misses in his oeuvre), it’s hard to process this one. While not the most easy film to connect with, Anderson’s abilities are on full display and from a technical sense, this should be all one needs in a film. I guess if this is that case, perhaps Jean-Luc Godard should have also gotten a nomination for his 3D masterpiece (from what I’ve heard) Goodbye to Language.

calvary - gleeson

And lastly, I would like to point out that once again, Brendan Gleeson delivered one of the finest performances of the year in Calvary and was overlooked. Smaller and foreign films are so often passed over for these awards, and I understand in a way – Hollywood hosts these “look-at-us” awards every year to perpetuate their own machine, so if foreign stars take home the prizes, the lights grow a little dimmer in Hollywood. I get that. But fuck – get this man a nomination! He deserved the award for his amazing portrayal of Martin Cahill in John Boorman‘s The General. Funny enough the award that year went to Roberto Benigni, an Italian, for his super sappy performance in Life Is Beautiful. SIGH. I fucking give up. If you haven’t seen Calvary, get there. It is my #1 film of 2014. It will blow you away.

I could go into great detail about the films they passed over, and will do so closer to the awards in February when I release my list of who and what I thought the nominees and winners should be.


two days on night -mc

Marion Cotillard‘s nomination for the Dardenne Brothers‘ latest opus Two Days, One Night was a bit of a surprise as most people were expecting Jennifer Aniston to grab one for her lauded performance in Cake. We all know that Cotillard has the chops as she has already won an Oscar for her role as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. But as I stated before, it’s rare we see actors from foreign countries get the nods. While this film is still rolling out here in the US, I can’t wait to see it. Both the Dardennes and Cotillard make great choices and the premise of this film – a woman has to convince her coworkers over two days and one night to vote to keep her job rather than firing her and splitting her salary as a bonus between them all – is one of the more intriguing of the year. I do wonder why it missed the Best Foreign film cut.

most violent year - jc

Jessica Chastain, like Amy Adams (who could have easily gotten a nod herself for Big Eyes), is somewhat of an Academy darling nominated twice already for her roles in Zero Dark Thirty and The Help. I thought she was a shoo-in for A Most Violent Year, playing a role similar to Jennifer Lawrence‘s in American Hustle.

wild - laura dern

But alas, Laura Dern took home the nod for her role in Wild. Honestly, I didn’t even know she was in the film. So, yeah, I was a little surprised.

foxcatcher poster

In the “How the fuck did this not happen” category – Foxcatcher gets nominations for Best Director (Bennett Miller), Best Actor (Steve Carell), Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Best Original Screenplay (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman) and Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling (Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard). How the fuck does it not garner a Best Picture nomination? I have yet to see the film, but this simply doesn’t add up.

american sniper

And lastly, I’ll end with American Sniper‘s 6 nominations. I saw the film last night and I just can’t believe the Academy is as ridiculous as this. 6 nominations? Are you serious? Get out your pom-poms and let’s kiss Eastwood‘s ass some more…except not enough to give him a Best Director nod. Does this mean that the film was good enough to make the Best Pic cut in spite of Eastwood‘s direction? They did nominate him in that fucking mess that was Mystic River and he won for the awful Million Dollar Baby.


That does it for the 2015 edition of Hey! The Academy Fucked It Up Again.

Check out the poll below and vote for which film you think should win Best Picture:

RIP Taylor Negron


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taylor negron

Many people may not know who Taylor Negron is, but they may well recognize him from his many wonderfully bizarre and hilarious roles mostly as pizza deliveryman or mailman. All he did was quite memorable at least to me. With over 100 roles, Taylor certainly kept busy and it’s no wonder.

Another sad loss to the cruelty of cancer.

Here’s a little bit of Taylor that I always loved and should be used to best remember him:

“Smile my boy, it’s sunrise” – Robin Williams’ last words spoken onscreen couldn’t be more perfect


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night at the museum 3 - rw

It’s been a while since I rapped at you (to take words from the mouth of the legendary Jim Anchower), and I apologize for that, but I wanted to throw this out as we careen towards the end of another year and set our sights on the new beginnings of a fresh 12 months.

Yesterday, I took my two amazing sons to see the third installment of the Night at the Museum franchise. While mostly middling films that certainly can capture the imaginations of youngsters watching them, the presence of comedy heavyweights Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan and of course Robin Williams in the Night at the Museum films gives the adults accompanying said youngsters something to watch as well. As I sat through the silly chase sequences rather reminiscent of the first two films populated by CGI dinosaurs, constellations and other antiquities come to life, I realized that I was seeing Robin Williams final on-screen performance (he does have another role, voice only, in Absolutely Anything coming out in 2015) and the enormity of that overwhelmed me. My sons only recognize Williams from playing Teddy Roosevelt in these films, so they certainly didn’t grasp the weight of this performance, which in every way was typical Williams – done with gusto and genuineness and peppered with a little crazy, but in a way that is all good and expected.

But as the time ticked away on the screen life of one of the big screen mainstays of my life, a man who was only one year older than my own father when he took his own life earlier this year, I got a little teary-eyed knowing I wouldn’t ever again see him doing what he did best. And when his final line was spoken, “Smile my boy, it’s sunrise,” I’m not sure he could have had a better cinematic send-off. While perhaps insignificant outside of the context of the film at the time of the filming, this line carries a tremendous amount of weight in light of the circumstances of Williams passing. Part of me felt like we lost him all over again.

I’m not sure what else to say about this other than seeing this film affected me in a way I didn’t expect. I was happy that I was there with my boys, that I was able to hold my 7-year old’s hand as we walked out of the theater closely followed by my 9-year old as they happily recounted their favorite parts. While Williams‘ line didn’t make their list, I quietly pocketed it in my own memory as my favorite part.


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