Thursday, January 31, 2019

DM

Dick Miller has died.  Not exactly a major star, and not that well known to the public, but to a certain set of fans, one of the biggies.

He was a short guy who served in the Navy and worked as a boxer.  Then he came out to Los Angeles in the 1950s and started getting work as a character actor.  He met low-budget mogul Roger Corman and became one of his top names.  Miller's best-known early role was probably Walter Paisley (a name he'd re-use in later films), a beatnik artist who, in Bucket Of Blood, becomes a hit sculptor by killing animals, and then humans, and covering them in clay.

Another major credit for Corman was Fouch in the original Little Shop Of Horrors, an habitue of the flower shop in the title.  The film was shot in two days, mostly on the set left over from Bucket Of Blood, yet the final result turned out to be surprisingly entertaining.  Apparently Corman offered Miller the lead but I guess he was so busy he took a supporting role.

Miller kept working throughout the years in TV and B pictures and whatever he could get.  He keeps popping up in small films such as Beach Ball, The Trip and Hollywood Boulevard.  One of my favorite movies is the Corman-produced Rock 'n' Roll High School, and there's Dick Miller as the police chief.

A new generation of filmmakers grew up watching Miller, and they started hiring him.  So he's in Robert Zemeckis's I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars.  He was a favorite of old Corman hand Joe Dante and so is in The Howling, Gremlins and other titles.  Another guy who'd worked with Corman, James Cameron, put Miller in The Terminator.

Miller kept working into the 21st century, though he slowed down a bit--no more five or six parts a year.  Apparently his last completed work, Hannukah, has yet to be released.  His character?  Rabbi Walter Paisley.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tom's Time

Recently I posted about what an amazing decade the 1960s were for music.  Well, I just read The World According To Tom Hanks, Gavin Edwards' sort of sequel to The Tao Of Bill Murray.  While I don't have much to say about the book, looking at the section where Edwards goes over Hanks' movies one by one, I was reminded what a great decade the actor had--this time it's the 1990s.

With films like Splash (1984) and Big (1988), Hanks was already a star by the time the 90s rolled around.  But his career had been spotty, and he seemed to be stuck playing the earnest young guy who has a lot to learn.  And the two films of his released in 1990 were both seen as major flops--Joe Versus The Volcano (which I like and is actually a fair amount of fun) and The Bonfire Of The Vanities.

He knew he needed a change, so took a role that was a bit different, and didn't require him to carry the film. As washed-up ballplayer Jimmy Dugan in A League Of Their Own (1992) Hanks got to be nasty.  He even gained weight so he wouldn't be thought of as a romantic lead.  The film was a big hit, but Hanks was just getting started.

Here are the rest of his films that decade:

Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Philadelphia (1993) (Oscar win)
Forrest Gump (1994) (Oscar win)
Apollo 13 (1995)
Toy Story (1995) (voice)
That Thing You Do! (1996) (also wrote and directed)
Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Oscar nomination)
You've Got Mail (1998)
Toy Story 2 (1999) (voice)
The Green Mile (1999)
Cast Away (2000) (Oscar nomination)

I'm not saying I love every film on this list, but almost all of them were hits, some blockbusters, and almost all of them were respected.  I don't know if any star has ever had a decade like this.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Howard, Howard*

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is making news by announcing he may run for President, perhaps as an independent.

Democrats are discouraging him, fearful he'll siphon off votes, but I doubt anything will come of this.  It's not the first time, however, Schultz has tried to intrude into national politics.

In fact, I posted about a previous effort a few years ago.  Let me reprint it:

Just Serve The Coffee

Starbucks, run by CEO Howard Schultz, has taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  It's a call for the "common bonds that hold us together" including "compassion," "belief in service" and "a willingness to unite despite our differences." Furthermore, we should "pause and reflect" and "go beyond the hatred and vitriol."

Though the message claims to be non-partisan, many see it as an attack on Donald Trump.  Either way, I don't care.  We don't need the guy who sells coffee to tell us what to think.  You want to help?  Cut a buck per cup. (I don't go to Starbucks, so I have no idea if they serve good coffee--I assume they must have a product people want since they're so widespread.)

Even better is the "choice" the ad says we have to make.  There's a list of presumably good and bad things. For instance, division versus unity, or limits versus opportunity.  Some of the words in opposition are interesting:

Isolation versus community.  I like community, but the real question should be is it voluntary.  The last thing I want is community forced on me.  A lot of the time, I choose to be alone.

Ego versus humility.  This from a guy who sells a cup of joe and thinks he knows how the world should work.

Bystander versus upstander.  Upstander is a neologism we can all do without.

Exclusion versus inclusion.  Sounds good, if "inclusion" hadn't become a code word for excluding everyone who doesn't toe the line.

Partisanship versus leadership.  Why are these in opposition?  You can be a leader and a partisan at the same time--in fact, that's usually how it works.

Nostalgia versus vision.  I've got nothing against vision, but this seems to be knocking nostalgia.  Nostalgia isn't bad unless you overdo it, but almost anything is bad if you overdo it.

And here are two words I would have liked to see on the good side, but aren't to be found anywhere--freedom and individuality.

*My titles are usually a play on words or a reference to something, but this reference is so obscure no one could possibly get it--years ago I wrote a song entitled "Howard, Howard." So there it is.

Monday, January 28, 2019

How Convenient

I don't watch This Is Us regularly, though I'll sometimes check it out if I notice it's on.  I watched it last week and was surprised to see their latest plot twist.

Jack Pearson--everyone's favorite father--enlisted to serve in Vietnam as a young man to help out his brother, who'd been drafted.  Jack never talked about his war years to his family, but now his grown kids have discovered their uncle, whom they were told died in Vietnam, actually survived.  In the latest episode they go visit him.

Why is this surprising?  Not because the brother survived--everything about the Vietnam plot is tired, not surprising.  The surprise is this is exactly the plot twist that was used in the first season.  The adopted son, Randall, discovers his birth father, and it turns out his mom knew about the guy for years but never let on.  Now it turns out Jack was keeping his brother's life secret.

Just what sort of family are the Pearsons, where the parents keep the existence of major relatives secret?  If the show continues (and it's a hit so it probably will), will they keep pulling out new characters who were always around but not widely known when the producers are stuck for a new idea?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

ML

Michel Legrand has died, one of the top film composers of the last half century.  He was nominated for a bunch of Oscars and won three.  More important, his music is still being heard every time someone watches one of his old films or TV shows, or listens to one of his albums.






Saturday, January 26, 2019

Who'd Have Thunk It?

In a guest column in the Hollywood Reporter, cultural critic Wednesday Martin pens a think piece on Lorena Bobbitt and female rage.  Early on we get this paragraph:

Real life provides even more dramatic plotlines [relating to female rage].  The humiliating beating Hillary Clinton took for wanting to be the most powerful man in the world.  The literally black-and-white contrast between what happened when Serena Williams and Brett Kavanaugh expressed their anger.  She: docked a point and a game that arguably cost her a title.  He: confirmed so swiftly after a tirade, the spittle had hardly even dried on the table where he'd pounded his fists.

I'm not going to comment on the logic here.  I just want to note that sometimes I marvel at the diversity of human thought.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Weekly/Reader

When I moved to Los Angeles (in the previous century), there were a bunch of lively alternative weeklies available.  The top two were the LA Weekly and the LA Reader

The Weekly was a huge publication with plenty of thoughtful critics, original reporting, and lots of information about what was going on around town.  There were also pages and pages of classified ads in the back that I assume kept them rolling in dough.  The Reader was a bit more compact, but in some way preferable.  It got to the point, any may have been a bit more fun.

The Reader left us years ago, but the Weekly is still with us.  Sort of.  I'm looking at the latest edition and it's 20 pages front to back.  There's scant copy.  It's mostly ads--about two-thirds.  The rest amounts to basic summaries of events in LA and a few short pieces.

It would seem, in the internet age, the Weekly is not long for the world.  I guess we move on, but it's too bad.  I haven't given up reading things on paper, and it was nice to pick up a fresh copy every Thursday and plan for the weekend.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

All In Ten Years

I recently posted about a website that ranks music.  It's based on lists from a lot of critics, and the 60s were clearly their favorite decade.  No doubt the critics were biased--if your music is ragtime, or George Gershwin, or hip hop, the 60s are not your favorite.  Even if you like rock it may not be.

Still, on the whole, if I'm asked what's the best decade for popular music in the 20th century, I've got to go with the 60s.  Why?

First, I guess rock is my favorite music (even though I like plenty of other stuff).  And if that's your music, the 60s should be your decade.

For one thing, you've got pretty much the entire Beatles' output.  After that, do we really need a second thing? Also, there's a lot of the best stuff from the Rolling Stones and the Who and other British Invasion bands.

There are a bunch of great American rock bands, such as the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds, the Doors and CCR.  Then there are more experimental acts, like Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground.  There's also the psychedelic sound, with Jefferson Airplane and Love and so on.


You've also got Motown--almost all their best singles come from the 60s.  Then you've got the amazing records from Stax--Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Booker T. & The M.G.'s and so many more. There's a lot of the best of James Brown.  And a fair amount of Ray Charles.

There are also the folkies--acts like Peter, Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio, not to mention pop acts that grew out of folk, such as Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas and the Lovin' Spoonful.  And, of course, Bob Dylan, who broke the bounds of what popular music could be.

There's the Brill Building sound, with great songwriters such as Goffin and King, Greenwich and Barry, Mann and Weill and many others. Plus the great productions of Phil Spector.

And let's not leave out country music, with acts such as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Roger Miller doing some of their best work.

Then you've got somewhat different sounds that still made the charts, such as the music of Herb Alpert or Burt Bacharach.  And even 60s made-up bands, like the Monkees and the Archies, are fun.

I'm merely scratching the surface.  There are so many great singles from acts I haven't even mentioned, such as "Runaway," "The Twist," "Gypsy Woman," "Stand By Me," "The End Of The World," "Louie Louie," "Telstar," "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)," "Surfin' Bird," "I Got You Babe," "Yes I'm Ready," "Flowers On The Wall," "When A Man Loves A Woman," "Wild Thing," "A Whiter Shade Of Pale," "Build Me Up Buttercup," "La-La (Means I Love You),""Born To Be Wild," "Tighten Up," and "Dance To The Music."

I could list hundreds more, but I'd rather hear what the other decades have got.  Sure, there's good stuff, but does it compare?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Double Dream

I just read Room To Dream, which I have to assume is the best David Lynch biography out there.  I've blogged a fair amount about Lynch--how he's a true artist (and a good one, as well), and how it's sort of a miracle that someone so defiantly unconventional has had such a major career--but maybe the most fascinating thing about this book is the format.

It should be called an auto/biography.  The book, almost 600 pages, has alternating chapters.  First there's a chapter by Krisine McKenna, who tells Lynch story in chronological order.  She's clearly done her research, and talked to people from all parts of Lynch's life--collaborators as well as friends and lovers (and Lynch has been married four times, so there's a lot going on there).  If you just read her chapters, you'd have an excellent biography.

But after each chapter comes a Lynch chapter--it's not clear if he wrote them or dictated them--where he discusses what happened during the years just described.  He adds interesting perspective (not always agreeing with McKenna, though part of her research was talking to Lynch), and also comes across as the Gee Whiz sort of guy he's alleged to be, describing most colleagues as "solid gold," "beyond the beyond" and so on.

I was going to say the book is unique that way, except I recall No Laughing Matter by Joseph Heller and Speed Vogel.  It's about Heller's struggle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which had him mostly paralyzed.  Heller hung out with guys like Mario Puzo and Mel Brooks, but it was less-known pal Vogel who got to write the tale, with Heller adding his point of view in alternating chapters.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Oscaritis

The nominations are out.  Let's look at the big awards.

Best Picture:
“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”

Eight choices, and every one predictable.  The Favourite, Green Book and Roma (a rare foreign language film) deserve to be here.  The rest are just okay or not particularly good.  I get the feeling I'm going to think this for most of the nominations.

Lead Actor:
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Bale did an impressive impersonation, but gee, the movie is just a big joke.  Sort of funny, but not important in any way (or accurate).  It's hard not to believe its nominations are based on political considerations.  Cooper is on a worse bandwagon than Bale, but no surprise. The big surprise is Willem Dafoe--he usually gets nominated once a generation, but this is his second in a row, in a film that no one saw.  He's fine in it, but are they trying to make up for him not winning last year when he should have?  Malek, like Bale, nominated for a great impersonation.  Mortensen is another recent Academy favorite, and probably deserves this more than the others.
 
Lead Actress:
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Aparicio was great, and it's rare to see someone nominated for a non-English role (she speaks two languages in the film--does she speak English as well?) Glenn Close a big Academy favorite who's never won--don't know if she'll win for this, but her nomination, if perhaps not deserved, is no surprise.  Nice to see Olivia Colman get in.  Not so nice to see Lady Gaga make it.  Melissa McCarthy did a decent job in her movie, but this shows if you want a nomination, do a drama rather than a comedy.  I would have liked to see Elsie Fisher from Eighth Grade, but that film got snubbed in general.  Some thought Emily Blunt had a chance to get nominated for two different films--maybe she would have done better if she'd only been in one.

Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Two recent winners, Ali and Rockwell. Ali was pretty good, though I don't know what Rockwell, usually a fine actor, was doing--his George W. Bush was ill-conceived in the script, so maybe there wasn't much he could do with it.  Adam Driver didn't do much in his movie, though I guess he was better than the lead.  Sam Elliott played himself in an embarrassing role that should have been cut from the movie.  Richard E. Grant gives the best performance of this group by far, so I hope the nomination wasn't considered his award.

Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Once again, I don't get all this love for Vice.  Interesting to see Roma getting so many nominations.  I heard so much about King's performance that I was disappointed when I finally saw it.  Good to see both Stone and Weisz here, though it likely means they'll cancel each other out.  I thought Awkwafina had an outside chance, but it was not to be.
 
Director:
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Spike Lee is back with this nomination, though I think he came close to ruining a decent script. (If he or anyone from Vice wins, can we expect them to confuse the Oscars with a political lecture series?)  A true shock with Pawlikowski.  He did a good job, but where's Green Book or A Star Is Born?  Lanthimos no surprise, nor Cuaron, though they do make it a notable international list.  And enough with this Vice nonsense.
 
Animated Feature:
“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird
“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson
“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Once again, no surprises, though no title here is that great--sometimes this category is better than Best Picture.

Adapted Screenplay:
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Buster Scruggs was seen mostly on TV, not in theatres, but it's Academy eligible.  No surprises with the rest, though none of them are especially great.
 
Original Screenplay:
“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay

The only surprise is First Reformed.  What's most shocking, perhaps, is this is its nomination--not Ethan Hawke or Schrader for director.  Believe it or not, Schrader's first Oscar nod.

Best Documentary Feature:
“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu
“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki
“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen

In a big year for docs, the biggest of them all--the one on Mr. Rogers--doesn't make it.  Neither does Three Identical Strangers.  But RBG sure did.
 
Best Foreign Language Film:
“Capernaum” (Lebanon)
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
“Roma” (Mexico)
“Shoplifters” (Japan)

A pretty good list, with no surprises.  But it's odd that Roma is here and also everywhere else.  How can it not win this category if it's the only one good enough to be considered for Best Picture?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Lively

Out here on the West Coast, new episodes of Saturday Night Live are broadcast twice.  First at 8:30, which is 11:30 EST, so we can watch it live, and then again in a rebroadcast at 11:30 in its normal slot*.

Over the weekend, I was watching the live version and they did a sketch about a game show**, "Millennial Millions."  It featured Millennial contestants trying to get money to pay off students loans, etc., before the Baby Boomers take it first.

Early on, Aidy Bryant comes out and sings a song about Baby Boomers.  However, in a flat out technical mistake, she was given a chyron that was meant to be used later.  So I decided to watch the second showing just to see if they would (and could) remove it.  Sure enough, in the rebroadcast it was gone.

So now wonder how many changes do they regularly make?  It's known that they do a full dress rehearsal in front of a live audience before they go on the air.  I've often wondered if something completely fails in the regular show if they use a previous performance because it worked better.

I don't think I'll ever know.  I don't really want to watch the show twice for comparison.  I often don't want to watch it once.

*Actually, SNL starts at 11:29 for some reason.  I guess Lorne Michaels has a lot of clout at NBC.

**They go to the game show well far too often.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Out Of State

Nancy Pelosi has said during the shutdown President Trump should not make his State Of The Union address for security reasons.  While it's a transparent ploy, it's nevertheless a good idea.

All the Constitution requires is the President "give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

Already this clause is outdated.  It was written in a time before television, telephones, telegraphs, or any kind of instantaneous information.  It made sense to require the President to keep the Congress abreast of the latest at least annually.  It wasn't easy for everyone to get together and share things.

It's still required by law.  But there's no requirement for a speech.  The President can just send a report on paper (or pixels, I suppose).  The speech has become completely politicized.  The President isn't informing Congress, he's playing to the cameras.  Meanwhile, the Dems and Repubs applaud or stay silent to make it clear where they stand.

Let's end the modern tradition of a big speech. It's an annoying event best missed.  It would be wonderful it we wouldn't have to miss it because it didn't happen.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Finally

There aren't that many more episodes left of The Big Bang Theory. And after about 270 episodes, they just did something I don't recall them ever doing before.

The episode, "The Confirmation Polarization," aired two days ago.  The characters were discussing how experimenters sometimes win Nobel Prizes over the theoreticians behind their work.

The specific example was Penzias and Wilson, who discovered cosmic background radiation.  They didn't even know what they had.  In fact, they thought their equipment was faulty until someone explained to them the significance of the data.

In other words, they won a Nobel Prize in physics for unwittingly helping to establish the Big Bang theory.

I haven't watch every episode ever on the show, and I don't remember everything the characters have ever said, but I think this was the first time they mentioned the Big Bang theory.  I wonder if the realized they better do it soon before the show was off the air.

Friday, January 18, 2019

SH

I was so busy with the annual film wrap-up that I forgot to mention Susanna Hoffs, the face and voice of The Bangles, turned 60 yesterday.










Thursday, January 17, 2019

Film Year in Review--2018

It's time for our eagerly awaited annual film wrap-up (a little later than usual, but I've been unusually busy).

2018 was not a great year for film. I had a tough time putting together a top ten--most of the finalists wouldn't have made it in a really good year. I should note there were some major movies I didn't check out. I'm not a professional critic, I have to buy tickets, and I just wasn't going to pay to see Venom. I should also note I saw several films starring or created by friends, but I won't be discussing those since I don't think I can be objective.

Before we start, a few ground rules. I discuss only feature films released or made widely available in U. S. theatres in 2018. No shorts, no TV, though the latter distinction is getting tougher to uphold. A number of major titles last year were released in theatres but soon after made available on streaming services such as Netflix. So I split the difference--if I saw a film first in a theatre (such as, say, Roma), it'd be in contention, but if I saw it first on TV (such as, say, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs) it wouldn't.

I will give out some awards, note some trends, tell you which films were good, bad and ugly, and then list my top ten. You can rush to the bottom right now to see the list, but really, the best stuff is along the way.

Feel free to leave a comment, whether you agree or not. In fact, comments tend to be better when you don't agree.

2018 AWARDS

Performances Of The Year: There wasn't a single performance that stood out above all, so here are some that I enjoyed. Anne Hathaway in Ocean's 8, Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade, Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Awkwafina in Crazy Rich Asians, Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Star Of The Year: Emily Blunt, who was the lead in two very different films, A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Return.  Runner-up: Michael B. Jordan, who was the antagonist in Black Panther and the lead in Creed II.

Most Bizarre Performance: Nicolas Cage in Mandy. (Maybe we should just name the award after him.)


 
Best Sequel: Paddington 2 (I actually didn't see Paddington, but the sequel worked fine on its own)

Worst Sequel: Equalizer 2--and the first one wasn't exactly anything to write home about.

Most Disappointing Sequel: Halloween--they actually had me believing they were going to do it right for a change.  Runner-up: The Incredibles 2--it was okay, but just couldn't compare to the original.

Best Reboot: Ocean's 8 wasn't half bad, and I haven't liked any of the Ocean films since the first one (i.e., the first remake).

Worst Reboot: The Predator

Most Pointless Reboot: Mary Poppins Returns. You could call it a sequel, but it essentially tells the same story. Trouble is we've already got the original.

Worst Prequel: The First Purge. We don't need to know about past purges--or present purges or future purges.

Best PrequelBumblebee.  Not that it's any good--I mean in comparison to the other Transformers movies.

Put It Out Of Its Misery Award: A Star Is Born. Aren't we done with this yet?  Even if you liked it (and I sure didn't), this is the fourth version, and the first was kind of a remake of What Price Hollywood?

Best Half MovieThe King. It's a musical journey across America exploring the life and meaning of Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, it spends a fair amount of time comparing Elvis's story to American history, which is pretty dumb, but, happily, easy enough to ignore.

Best Opening Shot: Roma. Soapy water washes over a tiled floor. We don't know where we are, or what's happening, but we'd like to find out.



Runner-up: Searching. A rolling green hill. Feels like we've seen it before. Oh yeah, it's the default screen on Windows XP.

Best Line: From Game Night. Max and Annie, going into their house with grocery bags, are trying to convince creepy, suspicious neighbor Max they're not having a game night.

Gary: Three bags of Tostitos Scoops, I noticed.
Max.  There was a special on these tonight.  Three for one.
Gary: Three for one?
Max:  Yep.

Gary:  How can that be profitable for Frito-Lay?

Best Bad Line: "You sent me to whore school!" Red Sparrow

Most Tired Plot Device: Black male being shot by a white cop. It turned up in a movie about every other month.

Most Generic Title: The Wife

Best Plot Twist: Borders. It's not so much a plot twist as an explanation of what's going on, and it makes perfect sense.

Worst Plot TwistTully. You may figure it out, you may not, but either way, I don't think you'll like it.

Most Ridiculous Plot: Avengers: Infinity War. The bad guy, Thanos, plots to kill half of all life in the galaxy. His reason? There are too many beings and it's destroying the ecology.  I don't care if he is mad--even he knows the galaxy is a pretty big place.

Movie That Was Better Than It Had Any Right To Be: Alpha. Looked kind of dumb, but wasn't bad.

Best Musical Moment: We're well into Cold War, set in the post-WWII years. So far, we've only heard Eastern European folk music, cool jazz and a bit of Chopin. Now our leading lady is at a club and they put on "Rock Around The Clock." This may not exactly be the point of the scene, but it sure reminds you what a thunderbolt rock and roll was when it first appeared.
 


Best Original Song: Mackenzie Davis and Carrie Coon surprise us with a pretty good number in Iggy Gets The F Across Town:



Babette's Feast Award For Best Food Porn: Ramen Heads

Taylor Kitsch Award For The Actor Whom Producers Mistook For A Star: Claire Foy. She may win Emmys, but the audience wasn't there for Unsane, First Man or The Girl In The Spider's Web.

Jason Statham Award For Actor Who Appears In One Bad Film After Another But Still Manages To Be Appealing: Dwayne Johnson was in two lousy films, Rampage and Skyscraper, but we still like him.

You Me And Dupree Award For The Film That While Nominally A Hollywood Comedy Is Actually A Surrealist Masterpiece Where Plot Points Are Introduced And Dropped For No Reason, Dialogue Is Unrelated To The Action, And Characters Do Things That Bear No Resemblance To How Humans Act: I Feel Pretty

House Of Sand And Fog Award For Miserable People Doing Miserable Things That Ends Up In Misery:
Hereditary

Rogue One Award For Unneeded Patches:
Solo: A Star Wars Story, explains so many things--how he got his name, how he got his ship, how he met Chewie, how he met Lando, what the Kessel Run is--and every explanation made Han Solo just a little less interesting.

Quirkiest Characters: 
Boundaries. It's a story about an old man who deals drugs, his grown daughter who can't help but take in stray animals, and her son who draws people he knows in pornographic situations. Screenwriters like to give their characters quirks, but if it feels forced, they just end up being annoying.

Weirdest Concept: The Green Fog. Guy Maddin retells Vertigo by piecing together bits from old TV shows and movies set in San Francisco.

Best Scottish High School Zombie Musical: Anna And The Apocalypse.

Most Misleading Title: If Beale Street Could Talk--we don't get anywhere near Beale Street, and it sure doesn't talk. Runner-Up: Roma--would you have guessed it's set in Mexico?

Film Most Clearly Done For A Paycheck: 
A tough call, but I'll go with Bruce Willis sleepwalking through a remake of Death Wish.


TRENDS AND OBSERVATIONS

Running Numbers:
Zero, Ready Player One, First Man, The First Purge, First Reformed, Second Act, Three Identical Strangers, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms, 6 Dynamic Laws For Success, 7 Days In Entebbe, Eighth Grade, Ocean's 8, Mile 22, Fifty Shades Freed, mid90s, 1945

We The Animals: 
Black Panther, Isle Of Dogs, Beast, American Animal, Ant-Man And The Wasp, We The Animals, Bumblebee, The Mule, Fantastic Beasts, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Superfly, Show Dogs, Pandas, Peter Rabbit, Thoroughbreds, Dog Days, A Cool Fish, The Seagull, Pick Of The Litter

What's In A Name:
Colette, Mandy, Tully, Becks, Uncle Drew, Blaze, Diane, Hal, White Boy Rick, Jonathan, Lean On Pete, McQueen, King Cohen, Whitney, Winchester, Itzhak, Christopher Robin, Proud Mary, Madeline's Madeline, The Great Buster, Juliet Naked, Carter & June, Stan & Ollie, Holmes & Watson, Mary Queen Of Scots, Peter Rabbit, The Meg

Where It's At: 
Chappaquiddick, Beirut, Soller Point, In Echo Park, Roma, Los Angeles Overnight, Welcome To Marwen, Little Italy, If Beale Street Could Talk, Hotel Transylvania 3, Mountain, Scorched Earth

Color My World: Black Panther, Red Sparrow, The White Orchid, The Green Fog, Little Pink House, Green Book, BlacKkKlansman

Book 'Em: Book Club, Green Book, The Bookstore

Game Night: Tag, Puzzle, Truth Or Dare, Game Night
 
Swinging For The Fences: There were a number of films that didn't work--Hereditary, Sorry To Bother You, Mandy--but at least they were trying something different.

John C. Reilly Needs A Partner: He starred in Stan & Ollie, Holmes & Watson and The Sisters Brothers. He also did the voice in Ralph Breaks The Internet, and though the title doesn't give it away, he sure needs Vanellope.

Job Of The Year: Domestic servant--Mary Poppins Returns, Tully, The Favourite, Roma

Life Imitates Art: In the end credits of The Death Of Stalin, we see photos of the characters being defaced or removed as they're being written out of history. Meanwhile, one of the leads, Jeffrey Tambor, was being written out of his Emmy-winning lead role in Transparent due to allegations of sexual harassment.

What's Up Doc:  Documentaries were hot in 2018.  In the doc world, a $10 million gross is the equivalent of a blockbuster, and four films, with varied content, managed it--RBG, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers and Free Solo.

Not Bloody Likely: Just how much blood does a human body contain? Based on films like Sicario: Day Of The Soldado, Mandy and Revenge, I'd guess about ten gallons, considering how much you can lose and still be walking around.

Actually, A Women Wrote That: Colette, The Wife, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Be Natural

Old White Guys Make The Best CriminalsThe Mule, The Old Man And The Gun, Widows

Make Your Point With Miniatures: Hereditary, Vice, Welcome To Marwen

Crazy Rich Asians: Burning, The Great Buddha+, Ghostbox Cowboy, Crazy Rich Asians

Taking The Rap For Someone ElseFlowers, Thoroughbreds, If Beale Street Could Talk

Good-Looking Women Trying To Look Bad: Nicole Kidman in Destroyer, Margot Robbie in Mary Queen Of Scots (at least when she has pox), Eva Melander in Border

Sobbin' Steve: Steve Carell, a talented comic actor, stars in two films where he'd rather make us cry, Welcome To Marwen and Beautiful Boy.

Odd Creatures Dropping In To Battle An Unready MilitaryRampage, Bumblebee, The Predator

All There In Black And White: A bunch of art films were shot in black and white: Cold War, 1945, The Party, Roma. Yeah, I know, the filmmakers thought it was essential, but at this point, black and white is just an affectation.


RANKINGS

GOOD

Paddington 2, Thoroughbreds, Flower, Isle Of Dogs, Ready Player One, The Green Fog, Avengers: Infinity War, The Rider, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Always At The Carlyle, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, 6 Dynamic Laws For Success, The King, Three Identical Strangers, Revenge, Blindspotting, McQueen, King Cohen, Mission: Impossible--Fallout, Juliet Naked, Crazy Rich Asians, Alpha, Hal, A Simple Favor, Love Gilda, Bad Times At The El Royale, The Great Buster, Border, The Favourite, Be Natural, Anna And The Apocalypse, Cold War, Stan & Ollie
 
OKAY
 
12 Strong, Scorched Earth, Becks, Black Panther, Ramen Heads, The White Orchid, A Quiet Place, Los Angeles Overnight, You Were Never Really Here, Chappaquiddick, Lowlife, Beirut, The Endless, Lean On Pete, Adventures In Public School, Ghost Stories, Beast, Measure Of A Man, First Reformed, Filmworker, Iggy Gets The F Across Town, Puzzle, Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years Of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mountain, Soller Point, That Summer, The Gospel According To Andre, Funeral Day, Ocean's 8, Hearts Beat Loud, The Texture Of Falling, The Incredibles 2, Damsel, Leave No Trace, Hover, Don't Worry He Won't Get Far On Foot, Heels, Scotty And The Secret History Of Hollywood, BlacKkKlansman, Support The Girls, Searching, We The Animals, Lost Fare, Diane, White Boy Rick, Conny Plank: The Potential Of Noise, Knuckleball, Bohemian Rhapsody, In Echo Park, Colette, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, The Clovehitch Killer, Ralph Breaks The Internet, At Eternity's Gate, The Price Of Everything, Ghostbox Cowboy, Mirai, The Great Buddha+, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Getting Grace, Mary Poppins Returns, Vice, If Beale Street Could Talk, Destroyer
 
NOT OKAY
 
The Commuter, Den Of Thieves, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Early Man, Annihilation, Game Night, The Party, Red Sparrow, Death Wish, Love Simon, Blockers, Tully, Deadpool 2, Upgrade, Hotel Artemis, Tag, Action Point, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Hereditary, Boundaries, Rampage, Sicario: Day Of The Soldado, The First Purge, Sorry To Bother You, Skyscraper, Equalizer 2, The Darkest Minds, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Christopher Robin, 1945, The Wife, Madeline's Madeline, Mile 22, The Bookshop, Uncle Drew, Peppermint, The Predator, Life Of The Party, The Sisters Brothers, The Old Man & The Gun, Mandy, A Star Is Born, Night School, First Man, Halloween, Widows, Creed II, Bumblebee, The Mule, Aquaman, Second Act, Welcome To Marwen, Burning, Mary Queen Of Scots
 
TOP TEN (in alphabetical order)
 
American Animals

There are so many caper films, but very few capture how sickening it would feel to be part of one.

Ant-Man And The Wasp

There are too many superhero films, but when they're light on their feet they can be fun.

The Death Of Stalin

Soviet history as farce, which, if you ignore the tragedy, it is.

Eighth Grade

Some people saw hope, but I thought it was the saddest film of the year, and all too accurate.

Free Solo

It's crazy to climb a mountain with no gear, and this film makes you feel it.

Green Book

This movie has become surprisingly controversial--surprising since it's a good old-fashioned crowd-pleaser.

mid90s

I didn't come of age in the mid-90s, I didn't skateboard, I didn't hang around with disreputable kids (much), but I know what it's like to be young and hang out.

Never Goin' Back

A stupid little comedy about a couple of young, white trash gals.  The critics didn't think much of it, and the movie flopped (bet you haven't heard of it), but what can I say, I liked it.

Roma

Even if this weren't based on the director's story, it sure captures what life is like--the big things and the small.

Shoplifters

A film that asks the question what really is a family?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

CC

Carol Channing has died.  She's known, almost exclusively, as the star of Helly, Dolly!  But she had a career before that, of course.

Tall and striking, she first appeared on Broadway in the early 1940s.  By the late 40s she was getting great notices for her work in the musical revue Lend An Ear.  In late 1949 she became a star, originating the role of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, introducing the song "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."



She tried her hand at movies and TV, but never really made it there--her personality seemed to need the theatre for the audience to take her all in.

She has become so associated with Hello, Dolly! that it's easy to forget she wasn't the first choice for the lead.  In the planning stages, the musical, based on Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, hardly seemed like a blockbuster in the making.  Composer Jerry Herman was not yet a big name, and a number of top directors weren't interested in taking on the show.  The brassy lead role of Dolly was offered to Ethel Merman--it almost seemed to be written for her--but she turned it down (though she'd later play it).  Mary Martin also said no.

It'd been a long time since Channing had created a hit, but she got the role.  And it fit like a glove--when Dolly comes back to old haunts and says she won't go away again, it's a lot like what Channing was doing.

The show needed a lot of fixing out of town.  Producer David Merrick even called in other songwriters for new material.  But somehow it all came together--Herman's songs and Gower Champion's staging perfectly showed off Channing, and they had a huge, award-winning hit.  And Channing had a career.  She would go on to tour in productions of Dolly, on and off, for decades to come, performing the role almost 5000 times.  She didn't miss a performance, because there was no show without her.

She never got to recreate her Broadway roles for the movies.  Marilyn Monroe played Lorelei Lee and Barbra Streisand played Dolly.  But it didn't matter.  Channing did something you don't see much any more. She became internationally famous for starring in a Broadway show.  And her indelible Dolly will love on, no matter how many others play the role.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Angelic

Every now and then, a theatrical production becomes an event.  The most obvious example in present times is Hamilton.  It's even rarer for a non-musical to become an event, but such was the case with the massive, two-part Angels In America, playwright Tony Kushner's "Gay Fantasia on National Themes" which opened on Broadway in 1993.  And now, on its 25th anniversary (the book came out last year), comes the oral history of everything to do with the work, The World Only Spins Forward.

It's compiled, edited and written by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois, who talked to almost 250 people for the project, including many who performed in the play over the years, some who directed and produced it, and Tony Kushner himself. The story is told chronologically, with interludes to discuss the eight major characters in the play. (The play is generally performed by eight actors who each have one main role and double in others.)

The story starts during the Reagan era, where the gay community was not just fighting for its rights, but, with the threat of AIDS, fighting for its life.  Kushner was an up and coming playwright who wanted to deal with certain themes, and was commissioned to write this piece.  It was supposed to have songs and be no longer than two hours.  But he kept writing and by the time he was done, he had two plays, each of which were about three and a half hours. And there were no songs.

The first play would eventually be titled Angels In America: Millenium Approaches.  The first reading was at a small San Francisco theatre in 1989.  From the start people could see it was something special.  Even as the first part was being honed, he started writing the second half, Angels In America: Perestroika, which was becoming unwieldy.  (Kushner would spend years fixing Perestroika.)

The book follows the play(s) from the first performance in San Francisco to a London production, followed by Los Angeles, then Broadway.  After that comes the national tour, various celebrated and controversial productions in America and around the world, the TV movie directed by Mike Nichols for HBO, and the recent major revival in London and Broadway.

Many actors were cast, and sometimes dropped, along the way.  The members of the original New York cast are well known to theatre fans:  Kathleen Chalfant as Hannah, David Marshall Grant as Joe, Marcia Gay Harden as Harper, Ron Leibman as Roy Cohn, Joe Mantello as Louis, Ellen McLaughlin as the Angel, Stephen Spinella as Prior and Jeffrey Wright as Belize, all directed by George C. Wolfe.

The HBO version has some big names--Al Pacino as Roy Cohn, Meryl Streep as Hannah and Emma Thompson as the Angel.  The only actor from the original Broadway production was Wright.  The recent Broadway revival featured Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn and Andrew Garfield as Prior.

I was going to discuss the play--which has great wit and beauty, and not a few flaws--at length, but this post is long enough already.  So I'll just note if you want to know anything about the work, and the many people associated with it (and the politics related to it), this is the book for you.  And even if you don't think it's your cup of tea, you might find it an interesting journey.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Got It

Just finished the first season of Get Shorty, the Epix TV series now available on Netflix.  It's based on the Elmore Leonard novel, though, of course, a well-known and fairly faithful film version was made in 1995 starring John Travolta and Gene Hackman.  The TV show is much more freely adapted--as an open-ended series it would have to be.

The original is about a gangster who gets involved in the movie business, working on a specific project and dealing with a specific caper.  The TV show keeps the spine--gangster making a movie--but pretty much everything else has changed.  Now our lead is Miles (Chris O'Dowd), an enforcer for a Nevada mob.  Sent to LA by his ruthless boss Amara (Lidia Porto), he and his partner Louis (Sean Bridgers) end up killing a screenwriter who owes money. (The show could be classified as a comedy, but they don't stint on the violence.)

Miles is a fan of movies, and reads the writer's (blood-spattered) screenplay.  He thinks he could get it produced, which would allow himself a second chance at life.  He's separated from his wife, Emma (Carolyn Dodd), because she doesn't like his gangster lifestyle, especially with their daughter Katie (Lucy Walters) becoming a young lady.

So he meets with low-rent producer Rick Moreweather (Ray Romano) and tries to navigate the foreign world of Hollywood without being killed by his boss, her underlings, or their enemies.

Chris O'Dowd, using his native Irish accent, does a fine job playing both the comedy and the tension. Ray Romano is good, too, though, as the other big name on the series, has far less to do.  The supporting cast is solid, with especially notable work from Bridgers as the often confused partner who has to pretend to have written the script, Megan Stevenson as April, the studio exec who helps oversee the project, and Billy Magnussen as Nathan, a dopey actor who turns out to be talented (in one of the less believable plot twists on the show).

I like the show quite a bit.  It's a bit over the top sometimes--not only in its violence, but also in how Miles can get away with so much illegal intimidation--but overall it works. I hope Netflix soon makes the second season available.

I should note, however, the title doesn't make too much sense any more.  In the book, it refers to a short star (allegedly based on Dustin Hoffman, and played by Danny DeVito in the movie) everyone wants.  There is no such film star in the series, so instead they have the lead character call his daughter "shorty." I can see how he's trying to get back to his wife and daughter, but it's a bit much to name the whole show after that.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Need To Read

Stuart Kells loves books.  Not just their content--the books themselves.  He's been collecting them for years, and also writing about them.  Thus his latest, The Library: A Catalogue Of Wonders.

He discusses the story of libraries, from ancient to modern. For example, there's the famous, and long-lost, library at Alexandria.  There's the Vatican Library.  There's the Morgan Library.  And the Folger Shakespeare Library.  But Kells' book isn't a history.  Instead we've got a series of stories, often anecdotes, about what libraries have been and are today, not to mention all the odd bibliophiles we meet along the way.

It made me think about the very concept of the library.  We all grew up with libraries, but it's not as if they're part of nature.

Someone, or some people, had to first decide it was worth collecting books (or scrolls, or vellum, or papyrus, or whatever medium was being used).  They had to decide to put them in a building.  And how do you organize them?  Do you stack them, or put them in drawers, or on shelves?  How do you catalogue them?  How do you take care of them?  Where do you get the books?  Which do you decide to include?  How do you pay for them?  And who do you let look at them?  (When we think of libraries, we think of lending libraries, but this is a modern concept.)

Then there's the big question today: what is the future of libraries?  Already, they're far more than a collection of books.  But if they're not a collection of books to begin with, are they even libraries?  (The root of "library" is book, of course.) Physical books themselves are becoming outdated.  Books on paper, the library's mainstay, may disappear in the near future.  And reading material is becoming more and more dispersed, readily available anywhere--no need to go to a special building.  Perhaps this generation will be known as the last one to regularly go to the library, or need one.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Annual Story

The opening line of the eleven o-clock news show on a local channel noted we were about to see a story about "the abuse that a ten-year-old suffered for years."

I don't mean to make light of it, but I'm pretty sure a ten-year-old can only suffer abuse for a year.

Over on another channel, the lead story was about a dog who fell out a window. (He can suffer for a year as well, but it would probably feel like seven years.)

I didn't bother to see what the other main channel had to say.  Probably something about a cat in a tree.

Friday, January 11, 2019

They're Back

Last night NBC rolled out their new Thursday night lineup, which just happened to feature my two favorite network comedies, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place, from 9 to 10.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, as you'll recall, was a Fox show that got canceled. Happily, NBC picked it up and so it just debuted its sixth-season opener.  Unfortunately, "Honeymoon" was a so-so episode.  The main plot had Jake and Amy on their Mexican honeymoon, when they meet Captain Holt, who's grieving over the fact he wasn't named police commissioner.  (I guess he couldn't get the job since it would take him out of the show). Meanwhile, back at the precinct, Charles wants to find out from Gina why their parents are divorcing, and Terry tries to give advice to Rosa with Holt gone.

None of the plots really took off.  And yet, the show is reliably funny enough that it was still enjoyable.  And apparently the ratings were decent, so let's hope the show sticks around for a few more years.

The Good Place, meanwhile, is coming back from hiatus.  As with any of their 13-episode seasons, a lot is going on.  When we last left the main characters (spoiler alert), they had finally made it to the actual Good Place.  There was a lot of speculation as to what would happen next.  The only thing we knew for sure is they couldn't find ultimate happiness, since nothing kills comedy more than happiness.

As we discover in "The Book Of Dougs," they're actually more in the anteroom of the Good Place, though even that is very pleasant.  While the rest of the characters are dealing with relationship problems, Michael, who's getting bolder (and nobler), confronts a team of Good Place bureaucrats.  He argues that the system for deciding who gets in has been tampered with.  They promise to look into it, but it'll take millennia for any decision.

It looks like another dead end, but then Michael has an epiphany.  The reason the system broke down is life has gotten more complicated on Earth, so even simple actions resonate as they never used to, and it's all but impossible not to leave a negative footprint.  So, it would appear, the system hasn't been messed with, but it may be outmoded.  Thus the gang needs to get out of there and meet with the Judge to figure out what to do next.

Not one of the funnier episodes, unfortunately, but there's still no show on TV quite like it.  Too bad the second "half" of season three consists of just three episodes.  But try to look on the bright side--for two more weeks we'll get this one-two combination. (And moved to 9, so they don't have to compete with The Big Bang Theory powerhouse.)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

They've Got A Lotta Lists

I've found an interesting website, Acclaimed Music.  Someone (or some group) has gone over thousands of music critics' list, combined them all, and figured out the rank of everything.

Of course, even if you think lists mean anything, this compendium is still of questionable value, since it combines wise lists with absurd ones, wide-ranging lists with blinkered ones, etc.  Still, it's fun, and that's what counts.

You could spend hours at the site, but let's just go over the big winners.

Top ten albums of all time:

1.  Pet Sounds
2.  Revolver
3.  Nevermind
4.  The Velvet Underground & Nico
5.  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
6.  London Calling
7.  What's Going On
8.  OK Computer
9.  Exile On Main St.
10. Blonde On Blonde

Clearly these lists are rock-centric and 60s-centric. (Based on just this top ten, you could say '66  to '67-centric). They're also a bit ridiculous (especially the absurdly overrated Pet Sounds--and OK Computer, really?), but that's how it works.

Top ten songs of all time:

1.  "Like A Rolling Stone"
2.  "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
3.  "A Day In The Life"
4.  "Good Vibrations"
5.  "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
6.  "Johnny B. Goode"
7.  "Be My Baby"
8.  "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
9.  "What's Going On"
10.  "My Generation"

I certainly have my disagreements, but at least they're all classics.  And a strong showing by Marvin Gaye.

Top artists of all time:

1.  The Beatles
2.  Bob Dylan
3.  The Rolling Stones
4.  David Bowie
5.  Bruce Springsteen
6.  Radiohead
7.  Led Zeppelin
8.  Neil Young
9.  The Who
10.  Prince

I don't think the top three were in question, though perhaps the order was.  But where's Elvis or Chuck Berry--no love for the 50s?  I like Bowie, but top ten?  At least I can see him, but 5 and 6 shouldn't be here at all.  And note the Beach Boys didn't make it, even though they've got the top album and the #4 song of all time.  (They're #11, if you're wondering.) Pleased to see Neil Young rated so high, and perhaps The Who should have been even higher.

Anyway, explore for yourself.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Baby Pictures

I recently read (though it was mostly photographs) This Is No Dream: Making Rosemary's Baby. The book was released last year on the 50th anniversary of the film.  I think it's one of the best films of 1968, and still holds up today. (Still, I was a bit surprised the book came out, since RB is not quite as iconic as, say, The Graduate or 2001.)

The book does a good job explaining how the project was put together.  First came the bestselling Ira Levin novel, about a young newlywed in New York who's used by her actor husband and a bunch of devil worshipers to bear Satan's child.  (Sorry if that was a spoiler, but I think the statute of limitations ends after half a century).

The story was bought (before it got big) by producer William Castle, who usually did schlock.  Robert Evans at Paramount was interested, and the studio got the talented young Polish director Roman Polanski to come to Hollywood.

They then hired Mia Farrow as the lead.  She was known for TV, and for being the young bride of Frank Sinatra, but was perfect for the role.  For her husband they get John Cassavetes.  They would have liked Robert Redford--not quite a major star yet--but Paramount was suing him at the time, so that wasn't going to happen.  They considered Jack Nicholson, definitely not a star yet, but Polanski found him a bit too devilish, which would give the game away. (Polanski would later work with Nicholson on Chinatown.  And Kubrick showed in The Shining he didn't care if Nicholson starts out a horror film being really nasty.)

They also hired a bunch of veterans, such as Ruth Gordon (she won an Oscar for the role) and Ralph Bellamy to play members of the coven.  And Charles Grodin got his first big movie break playing an obstetrician who unwittingly betrays Rosemary.  For years people would come up to him on the street and berate him for what his character did.

Polanski was painstaking, and the film, shot both in New York and Los Angeles, went significantly over budget.  Charles Bludhorn, who ran Gulf + Western which owned Paramount, was not happy, but Evans backed his boy.  When they film came out, it earned so much there was a large profit, so everyone was happy.

It's a good study in paranoia.  Rosemary isn't quite sure what is happening to her, and the film is her descent into madness, except it's really happening. The title of the book comes from the movie, and the original novel--Rosemary has been drugged and imagines she's having sex with the Devil, except she tells herself she's not dreaming.

Before this film, most horror was Dracula, Frankenstein, or weird monsters, often with a gothic background.  This film was mod, present-day New York and was mostly realistic.  It changed how horror was done on screen.  And it also made Satan a lot more popular in films.  Ira Levin would later bemoan how a lot of cultists picked up on this kind of thing, even thinking it was cool--though, as Levin noted, he still cashed the checks.

Anyway, lots of great photos taken on the set.  And a good behind-the-scenes story of how a successful motion picture is (or at least was) put together.

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