Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Title change or marketing over sensitivity?

Has anyone else noticed that the title of the soon to be released film Zack and Miri Make A Porno has been slashed in half for the ads? When I saw this trailer a few weeks ago the entire title was in the ad but I bet you can guess what three words have been cut out of the ads I've seen in the past week. If you said "make a porno" as the missing words then you are correct.

I'm confused. In this day and age is the phrase "make a porno" after two people's names really all that offensive? The plain and dull title of the ads now (just Zack and Miri) is not a good second choice and I'm sure it wouldn't be the title if "make a porno" wasn't the intended title. The original title is not only better, it pretty much sums up the premise is only six words--something that few film titles rarely do.

Based on the trailer the film seems to be about Zack (Seth Rogan) and friend Miri (Elizabeth Banks) who are down on economic luck. To reverse these hard times they decide to make a porno. That story is VERY clear in the TV ads I've seen. If the trailer on TV talks about making a porno and shows actual comic scenes from the said porno--why in the world can you not market the movie Zack and Miri Make A Porno?! Ridiculous.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Watching Star Wars with an 8 and 6 year old

Recently I wrote a piece on the Boman Twin in Tulsa and mentioned seeing Star Wars there in 1977 when I was a fairly young kid. Like the experiences of millions of others and this film--it was a magical moment in my childhood. I was completely enraptured by the film's story and the adventure and "otherworld" qualities as I sat near the front row (the closer to the front the better when I was a kid).

While I enjoyed the two sequels (I still have not seen the three recent prequels and don't plan to mostly because I can't stand George Lucas) they did not have the same power over me. I developed a fondness for other sci-fi instead--the world of Star Trek offered me more substance and ideas so I ran with the Federation. Later on I took to more adult sci-fi such as Blade Runner and the Alien franchise or sci-fi literature. Star Wars just seemed about toys to me the older I got.

I hadn't seen Star Wars since the early 1980s when I re-watched it with a friend's 8 and 6 year old (see photo of "MattVader" and "Jacob Fett"). These two boys are both obsessed with the entire universe that is Star Wars. It is a remarkable film that taps into so many things boys like--adventure, villains, heroes, good v. evil, space ships, alien creatures both lovable and strange, talking robots, hot princesses, laser shootouts, danger, suspense and narrow escapes. Star Wars concocts a spell on young kids and its hard for them to resist as Lucas just goes direct into their DNA with this movie.

Sure, Star Wars is still about merchandiseing with all the toys, video games and endless barrage of product tie-ins. The worst evidence of this is when the R2D2 post office boxes were in cities to promote the anniversary of the film. Ugh. Lucas can not say no when it comes to whoring out the Star Wars world as this is one money making franchise and he needs as much money as he can get evidently. But, the first installment, Star Wars, found my DNA in 1977 and it found it again in 2008. It also found the coded wiring of the 8 and 6 year olds who watched it with me. Any film that can do that deserves its reputation as "magical" no matter how much Lucas and co. have ruined it since it came out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I love westerns! I wish I could see four or five new westerns every year. I'd even accept a good TV western instead of in a theatre. Westerns are such a classic "American" genre and the good new ones seem to be popular so I'm not sure why there can't be more. They are too old fashioned I suppose but that's one of the things I like best about them. These days, if it didn't come from a comic book or graphic novel or is some franchise of sequels--Hollywood wants nothing to do with it. I'd take an "old fashioned" western such as Appaloosa over Batman and that ilk any day of the week.

Appaloosa, set in New Mexico territory in 1882, is an amiable little film that offers up subtle delights from start to finish. Directed by Ed Harris, who also stars alongside Viggo Mortensen, Appaloosa takes a lot of the traditional elements from westerns but uses them with a deft touch so the film feels comfortable in the formula.

The story is familiar--a rogue rancher (Jeremy Irons) kills a town's lawmen. New guns are needed. Enter Virgil (Harris) and Everett (Mortensen). Bloodletting occurs. There's a woman of course (Renee Zellweger in all her sour faced, sucking on a lemon glory). There's gunfights, stare downs, Indians, lovable whores, quick draws, smoke belching trains, horses, winchesters, James Gammon and his wonderful gravel voice, jail cells, more shootouts--it's a western after all.

One of the best things about Appaloosa is the dialogue and level of performances of the lead actors (aside from "sourface" as she drives me crazy). There's lots of little moments between characters and in these moments there is a sly level of humor that doesn't exist in the few westerns that come out now. New westerns take themselves very seriously but the characters in Appaloosa have a wry sense of humor and it makes them warmer and more well rounded as characters.

Appaloosa won't break any new molds for the western genre but I don't think that was the goal for Harris and co. It's a satisfying film I enjoyed many levels. Mostly, I'm just happy to see a quality western in a theatre. Hopefully I'll get to see an increase to two of them in 2009.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Movie tickets #1

Friday, October 17, 2008

Love Crazy

Physical comedy, romantic hijinks, quick dialogue, silly antics, William Powell, Myrna Loy, large doses of screwball. Any film that has those elements will be no surprise that I'll be fond of it and those are all present in the 1941 film Love Crazy. It's a sweet and funny picture and one of those films from the studio era that just makes you feel good as you watch it.

The Irelands are about to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary. All is lovey-dovey at the start of the night. Trouble comes when you add a mother-in-law and a flirtatious old flame. By the end of the night four years might be the limit of their time together.

One thing that makes Love Crazy such a charmer is the leads--William Powell and Myrna Loy. The pair obviously have a screen chemistry together as they co-starred in the great Thin Man series and other films together. That ease and comfort is evident on screen. The duo have a natural rapport that money can't buy when it comes to on screen partnering--you either have it or you don't. Powell and Loy have it.

Loy is classy as usual but Powell gets most of the juicy material. Sporting his trademark pencil 'stache, Powell gets to unleash all his comedy moves (he's got a lot of them including some bits of business including pretending to be insane and going in drag) while also getting to do some suave, leading man scenes. Powell is hard to top.

Love Crazy is a formula picture but like a lot of formula from this time--that's not really a bad thing. When the formula is this light, energetic and fun I'll take another dose of studio system by the numbers any day of the week.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Heart Woody Harrelson

Who would have thought the actor playing the bumpkin from Indiana on the legendary TV sitcom Cheers would have have such a lengthy and diverse career? That actor was Woody Harrelson and no one would have guessed his mostly one-note character of Woody Boyd would lead to an Oscar nomination (The People Vs. Larry Flynt), comedies, dramas and even environmentally friendly documentaries. But that's precisely what has happened with Harrelson.

One skill that Harrelson possesses that was evident on Cheers is his gift of comic timing. The use of pauses, line delivery, double takes and so on is something some actors can do and others can not. These little things are most visible in comedies where timing is important to mining laughs. Harrelson draws upon his earnestness and honesty when in dramas to give quality performances in those as well.

Harrelson's most obvious trait is his likability. Most of the people he plays have a plain spoken directness that make the characters likable (aside from Mickey Knox in Natural Born Killers--although even that was a pretty likable guy who just liked to kill people). Even though he's had a long career with roles in comedy, drama, support or leading, he's still kind of under appreciated or underrated as an actor.

Harrelson is also a bit of an activist for the environment and other subjects that have led to his arrest a few times for his beliefs. He's embraced a raw food diet as well and some of these interests feature in the 2003 documentary Go Further which follows Harrelson and friends on a bio-fueled bus, riding bikes, dissing meat and their journey to spread the message. While I don't agree with Harrelson in all his convictions (especially that crazy raw food thing!) I admire the passion he has for non-acting pursuits that might take him away from his "career."

Here are some Harrelson films I like that show the wide range of comedy and drama that he's done over the years. In some of the them he's the lead and in others he is a supporting character. White Men Can't Jump, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Doc Hollywood, No Country for Old Men, Natural Born Killers, Prairy Home Companion, Kingpin, The Hi-Lo Country and Welcome to Sarajevo. If you haven't seen some of these or paid attention to the performances of Harrelson over the years--I think you might be pleasantly surprised by him as an actor and a screen presence.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Boman Twin

As a kid, nothing was more fun for me than driving to Tulsa to watch a movie. It was almost an hour's drive to make it to Tulsa from our house in rural Mayes County and of all the movie theatres we came to regularly, the Boman Twin was my favorite and the one where I saw a lot of classic, memorable films.

Built in 1966, as the name says, this was a two screen theatre. The thing that I loved most about the Boman Twin was its layout (see my crude drawing!). You
entered to face a long concession area that served the two houses. What was really cool about the Boman's houses is they were both mammoth and built into the ground. You'd enter on ground level and make your descent down into your assigned room. As I kid I just loved walking down into the ground to see a movie.

I saw some incredible films at the Boman Twin.
Trust me, any theatre where you watch Star Wars in 1977 leaves a deep mark carved into your childhood film geek memory. Five years later I saw E.T. with my friend Jeff and sat near the front row crying my eyes out (and trying to disguise that fact from Jeff!). My dad took me to see Friday the 13th part 3 in 3-D and I wore the red and blue glasses as Jason Vorhees killed a bunch of people almost "literally" in front of my eyes. Dad also took me to see Raging Bull at the Boman (my dad and I would have serious issues through the years but I'll always be indebted to him for things like that) and I got my first taste of Marty and De Niro. The next day during recess at Roosevelt Elementary I tried to tell my buddies about this crazy and violent movie I got to see that none of them were allowed to watch. Thanks dad. It wasn't all mindblowing films at the Boman though as one of the last things I saw there was Spaceballs.

After the Boman closed it was vacant for awhile and later turned into one of those laser tag places. I never went. I drive by it every so often and its now a furniture store and a used record shop. Each time I pass I think of walking down that aisle and how large the room was and some of the great films I got to see at one of my favorite Tulsa theatres.

***Photo courtesy of Beryl Ford Collection + Rotary Club of Tulsa + Tulsa Historical Society***

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Every third day/film + memory

If you've noticed dear readers, there's been a lot of posts recently on CineRobot. My trip to Seattle has unlocked a myriad of ideas to write regarding film. Also helping--I bought some amazing NAVA notebooks and some incredible Japanese pens (Copic Multiliner SP .3 for the paper + pen geeks out there!) and it's very pleasurable filling pages with ink letter stains. Expect a frequency of posts in the range of every third day for the rest of the year. Seriously.

One topic I'm planning on embracing in the future are memories regarding film. After my post on the Allred Theatre I started thinking about all the little (or big) memories I have concerning films, theatres and things that happened to me while watching movies. Certain films and the experience of watching that film are often burned into my mind. I plan on sharing those memories with you dear readers, along with reviews of new/old films and the occasional rant (likely about the behavior of my fellow theatregoers).

Check back every three days and hold me to these vows!

Monday, October 06, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

I've always had a deep fascination with Communist countries under the umbrella of the Soviet Union. Romania. Poland. Hungary. Bulgaria. Etc. From reading books or watching films from that part of Europe I imagine lots of shades of gray. I imagine a lot of concrete architecture as well. And of course, there's the layers of gloom and paranoia that looms over the populace. Doesn't sound all that thrilling but I've never stopped being drawn to that part of the world no matter how depressing the subject might appear.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is my kind of film. Romania. 1980s. A desperate woman seeks to procure an extremely illegal underground abortion with the help of her friend. The pair begin a gripping quest that not only puts them at risk for harsh Romanian prison time but it could cost them their lives as well.

I loved this relentlessly powerful movie. Directed by Christian Mungiu, the level of claustrophobia is so tense it's hard to watch at times. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is compelling and emotionally exhausting and one of the most harrowing films I've seen recently. Those are good things. Combine those things with the Eastern European setting and I'm completely riveted.

The film works on multiple levels--as social commentary as well as a heart stopping thriller. I felt such an empathy for these women and their plight that I became lost in their disastrous situation. The fact that abuse, prison, bodily harm or death was close at hand at every turn only ratcheted up the anxiousness to a higher level.

I guess a lot of folks would be bothered by the abortion element in the film. Mungiu does not shy away from that aspect as the film has some frank discussion and graphic moments that are pretty sharp and hard to watch. That being said, I didn't find this an "abortion" film (one of those incendiary topics often best not talked about with people who disagree with you) as much as it is a film about freedom. The abortion is just the napalm catalyst to show what it's like to live in a police state like Romania was during this period in its history.

Call me crazy, but even after watching a film like this where there are no freedoms in the face of an all controlling government and living is extremely difficult, I still kind find these places from this era romantic and captivating. I wish I could have visited (by the time I made it to Hungary/ Poland etc. in 1995, the Westernization was already flooding their borders in waves) or even lived among its people. I'll just have to make do with bleak, powerful films like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days to transfer me to places like this I can only imagine.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Paul Newman: 1925-2008

What can I write about the recently gone Paul Newman that someone more elequent than me hasn't already said? Newman was special. He was one of the most talented actors of his era whose on screen charisma swarmed over audiences like humidity in the Deep South. He was the rarest of Hollywood stars--he aged gracefully, naturally and seemed like a gentleman and a decent human being with his Newman's Own products and the fact he was married to Joanne Woodward for over fifty years. A decade in a "Hollywood" marriage is an eternity so to be married for five decades is a stunning achievement.

And oh yeah, the man was in a few films that I love you may recall. Think about Newman's performances in films such as The Hustler, Hud, Hombre, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Slap Shot, Absence of Malice, The Verdict, The Color of Money, The Hudsucker Proxy, Twilight and Road to Perdition. Those films span over FOUR decades of legendary films. The loss of Paul Newman means we've lost one of the great icons of film history.