Friday, July 31, 2009

July movies

Obviously the high point of the month of July was the all-night, five film marathon that was Slumber Party. Wow, that was a lot of fun! If you were in the Tulsa area and didn't go--you missed a night of unhinged horror film related glee. I also really enjoyed the music documentary Anvil and thought Bruno was funny (and very filthy) but not the electric charge that was Borat. Two five star films: Metropolitan and Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges I am in awe of you!). Here's the rundown for the month.

Away We Go---2009---usa ***1/2
Lights in the Dark---2005---finland ***
Metropolitan---1990---usa *****!
Anvil---2009---usa ****
The Gates---2007---usa ***
Blue Thunder---1983---usa ***1/2
Dixie Dynamite---1976---usa **1/2
Return of the Living Dead---1985---usa ****
Hausu---1977---japan ****
The Burning---1981---usa ***
Night Warning---1983---usa ***1/2
Race With the Devil---1975---usa ***1/2
Moon---2009---england ****
Bruno---2009---usa ***1/2
Tyson---2009---usa ***1/2
Sullivan's Travels---1941---usa *****!
Funny People---2009---usa ***

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Warren Oates double feature

I love Warren Oates! If there is one actor that goes with the phrase "double feature"--that actor is Oates. I mention him a lot (or it seems I do) on CineRobot and for good reason--he's an extremely watchable character actor. He anchored the last film during Slumber Party recently in Race With the Devil so you know I must love him. The more you watch him, the more you appreciate him. Vern Snackwell and I had a Sunday night double feature of Oates recently and this is how it went.

First up was the 1983 helicopter action film Blue Thunder from director John Badham. I saw this when I was 14 but didn't remember it at all--I didn't remember who Oates was then I'm sure except he was Sgt. Hulka from Stripes (a film I love). Blue Thunder is a fun film that has held up pretty well through the years. It looks good with all the neon lights of Los Angeles at night and has some rousing helicopter action scenes.

How is Oates in this? He's sporting a great cop 'stache, plays an angry police captain and gets to snarl some good one liners such as: answer your fucking beeper! Blue Thunder is a solid genre film from the early 1980s that is worth checking out.

Film two for us was the 1976 low budget drive-in styled Dixie Dynamite. I love the title and the image pictured of Oates and two women on a motorcycle. The film is just so-so though. You'd think a film that has car chases, scantily clad women, really bad dialogue by not so hot actors, moonshine swilling, motocross racing, lots of sweating and numerous dynamite explosions would be off the charts entertaining in a 1970s sort of way. It wasn't.

Dixie Dynamite has some fun moments but it's PG rated. This screams for an R rating--more violence, more cursing and let's be honest, more nudity would have made it truly more worthy of its title and premise. It's a 1976 drive-in movie after all. How would adding any of the things I mentioned damage this film's marketability? It wouldn't. Those additions would have just made a better film and although it's worth seeing for Oates nuts like me and Vern, it should have been better.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Relationship with a film robot

Dating a film robot should leave the imprint of a glamorous lifestyle in your mind. Right? It's the secret world of endless trivia about such and such actor/ director/ producer/ actress/ writer/ production designer etc etc. It's the invitation to participate in conversations that start with things like: What are your three favorite sub-genres? What do you think of Errol Morris' interview technique versus traditional documentary questioning? Let's watch Hal Ashby's films in order of release! What's your favorite Whit Stillman film? These questions and statements are endless.

I've recently been seeing SJ (pictured, in the midst of a studying session), a culturally with it girl who likes movies but has never embraced them the way I have. They entertain her but she is "normal" as they don't consume her free time the way they do with me at times. In a way I feel kind of sorry for her when I want to blather on about some small character actor role or when I try to convince her of the artistic genius of The Bad News Bears or The Terminator (two no-brainers!). She listens, I'm just not sure she's really listening.

As you can see by the photo--SJ has taken to the challenge of being involved with a person who watches a couple hundred films a year. I have high hopes of introducing her to enough great older films that she will one day embrace my love for 1930s movies. First screwball and then who knows what? She loves documentaries, even the bleak and the depressing ones, so that's something we have to build our future on.

I also kind of envy her because as we talk more about film I discover what she hasn't seen that I will try to talk (or coerce!) her into watching in the future. After my exclamations ring out, "You haven't seen Pulp Fiction! You haven't seen A Fish Called Wanda! You haven't seen Hands on a Hard Body!" I add these films to a growing list that is tacked up on my frig: SJ's MUST SEES!!! I'm envious too because she gets to see incredible films for the first time and the first time, no matter what you are doing, is always the most magical, memorable time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

10 nominations for best film?

A few weeks ago the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (also known as the Oscars) announced that they were doubling the number of best picture nominees from five to ten. What a terrible, terrible idea! First off, they didn't just add one or two they decided to go all in and just double the damn thing to ten. I'm trying to make sense of it the best I can and admit I'm having a tough time figuring it out.

The first thing that pops in my head is that this group got in cahoots with film company bigwigs and came up with this bright idea to help promote more movies. It's all about increasing the box office of more movies. The more films in the running for the top prize means more people will try to see that year's better films. Usually there is a spike in tickets sold for the best film nominees after the nominations are announced. More films equals more public relations onslaught for the pictures, the stars, the directors, the magazines and websites devoted to celebrity culture and events--like I said: more money for the entire industry.

Do we really need to have ten nominations? The answer: no. Let's think about the film industry in the year 2009 and the majority of films that are hoisted upon us. Hollywood releases an endless stream of sequels, remakes, comic book or graphic novel adaptations or pure by the numbers formula pictures (just pick the genre and you'll be bombarded by formula). Every so often a wild card slips in like some bastard bad seed that takes off and shocks and surprises us with a nomination and wins (Slumdog Millionaire). The film industry at this point in time is a cesspool of mediocrity, regurgitation, strategic marketing and no imagination. It's usually a struggle to find five films that are truly worthy of best film status so to double it to ten is just plain crazy.

This move will cheapen the award for best picture by turning it into some kind of Golden Globes or People's Choice award where they hand out nominations at such a dizzying rate it's hard to keep up with just who wasn't nominated. Do you want to see the actual best films nominated (granted, I am using this term loosely because they have issues in this regard too but just for the sake of this argument I'm assuming that they nominate the best five films) or do you want to see some great films nominated, some good films nominated and then some that have absolutely no business being touted as lasting works of art?

Why stop at ten nominations? Why not increase the number of actors or actresses or directors to ten? More publicity! More happy botoxed actors/actresses! More money! Why not just increase the total to 15 or 20 nominations? Heck, with all these increases the film anti-Christ himself, Michael Bay, might find himself nominated for a best picture or best director. Naw, they'd have to increase it to 150 nominations per category for that hack to get a chance at an award for anything other than blowing stuff up (this wasn't a planned attack on Bay, honest, it just popped out at the end). Nice job Oscars--you've made your ultimate award mean less than it ever has before. That's smart.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Slumber Party update

We held the first ever Slumber Party at the Circle over the weekend. We had a complete sell-out and had to turn people away. We actually had 77 people stay all night long to get refunds. I don't know what was more surprising--the amount of people who came or the amount to stay all night long. Everyone seemed to have a blast. The first surprise film, Hausu (House) was the hit of the evening I think. It is just such a deranged, bizarre spectacle that gets only better when watched with a full house in the middle of the night.

Here are a couple of photos--one of the crowd at the start of the night and the other of a group of people who took to the floor with sleeping bags and pillows.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Movie tickets #8

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Slumber Party!

If you've ever dreamed of spending the entire night in a movie theatre watching obscure cult films, hanging out with other night owls, eating free pizza and bagels--well, this July 18th at Circle Cinema will give you that opportunity! We are throwing our first ever Slumber Party that night starting at 10pm and going until approximately 9am (depending on the lengths of the breaks during the night). Here's some of the details.

The cost will be $20 at the door but if you stay ALL night for all five films you get $10 cash back in your hand. There will be five films--two of which will be surprises unknown to the audience until the film starts. Here are the films in the order they are running: Return of the Living Dead, film #2 will be a surprise--it is something from the 1970s that is ultra rare and seen by few, The Burning, Night Warning, film #5 is the second surprise film--a hint is Satanists! So, it's kind of sub-genres of the horror/exploitation/drive-in genres if you want to have a theme to the evening.

There will be free pizza between Return of the Living Dead and the surprise film #2 thanks to Joe Momma's Pizza. There will be free bagels before or after the last film courtesy of Old School Bagels. There will be a quiz before the fifth film to test your mental stamina after dedicating your night to cult movies with prizes handed out. If you can make it all night long it's a heck of a deal--spending quality late night time with other film geeks while watching five films, free pizza, free bagels--all for only $10 (well, $20 if you can't hack it and leave early). Anyway, what else do you have to do on a summer night in Tulsa?

***Poster design by Dan Fritschie***

Monday, July 13, 2009


You could hardly pick a film set in a world more foreign than the way I grew up than you see in Whit Stillman's 1990 drama Metropolitan. I grew up in rural Oklahoma and sometimes speak with a drawl; Metropolitan is filled with WASPs from upscale Manhattan locales. Yet, I love this movie so much I included it in my all-time top 100 a few years ago. That's the beauty of watching films--they can reach you no matter what kind of barriers (real or otherwise) that exist to stop you from enjoying the story.

If you know me at all it's no surprise that I love Metropolitan as it is very "Woody Allen" to me (there should be a new genre known simply as: woody). Because I grew up in rural Oklahoma I gravitated to Allen's films to escape the place I was at. His characters and sense of humor was so completely opposite of everything that existed around me in the 1980s. I dreamed of living in New York, drowning in the culture of the bustling city and falling in love. Rather than move there I watched Annie Hall over and over (although I did end up living in New York later and Seattle and London). I had the neurotic thing down from a young age so what did it matter whether I'd been to any of these places Allen was filming--his stories found resonance in me even though I had never come close to stepping on the island.

Stillman's Metropolitan, a low budget talkfest set among a group of college students who call themselves the Sally Fowler Rat Pack, is a wonderful movie. Their evenings are spent going to debutante balls, hanging out in various apartments in Manhattan drinking and smoking, wearing gowns and tuxedos and espousing lots of opinions. Expect multiple references to things like the relevance of socialist theories by Charles Fourier or the emergence of the "urban haute bourgeoisie" underclass that they believe they are firmly entrenched among. Prepare to use your brain some when listening to Stillman's dialogue.

These men and women are lost in their own late-night preppy haze full of witticisms and sadness. Stillman makes it plain as day that they all realize these are possibly the last moments of their youth. Some are ready to move on to the next phase, some are not. A catalyst for much discussion in the SFRP is the emergence of a newcomer in their midst--Tom Townsend. Tom claims he doesn't believe in the debutante social life yet finds himself in tux and tails nearly every night. Despite his reservations, Tom bonds with the group, especially Nick (Chris Eigeman--watching this I'd forgotten how much I like Eigeman) and Audrey (Carolyn Farina). It never hurts when joining a group if there is a really cute girl who is interested in you--this is a universal truth whether in New York, Oklahoma or Mongolia.

Metropolitan is just one of those small films that you'll either take to or you won't. I love it and can hardly wait to rewatch Stillman's next two similar films--Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco. Metropolitan has little in the way of action as it is just people waxing erudite about lots of highbrow topics. It's got some romance and even a little violence (okay, there's a tiny bit of action!). It's got one-liners and has a very scripted feel that might turn some off. Me? I find it utterly charming and sweet and can find a permanent place for it in the newly coined genre of woody films.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sooner Cinema

I have shed the Replicant moniker for a freshly out book called Sooner Cinema. It is a book of a group of essays on films about, set, featuring Oklahoma written by Oklahomans. I wrote an essay on the film Tulsa. Other films that are discussed are The Outsiders, The Grapes of Wrath, Oklahoma Crude, True Grit, Okie Noodling and many others. Sooner Cinema was published by a small book company out of Oklahoma City called Forty Sixth Star Press. 

There will be some upcoming events related to the book that includes free film screenings, talks by some of the writers and traditional book signings--I will be at a couple of them if you are in the area and want to come say hello. I will be at the July 15 and July 17 events. Here's the schedule.

July 11: 1pm at Hastings, Bartlesville, Okla.; book signing with editor Larry Van Meter.

July 15: 7pm at Circle Cinema, Tulsa, Okla.; book signing/discussion with Katrina Boyd, Joshua Peck (aka Replicant!) and Larry Van Meter; free screening of Oklahoma Crude.

July 17: 7pm at The Canebrake, Wagoner, Okla.; book signing/discussion with Joshua Peck, Katrina Boyd and Larry Van Meter; free screening of Tulsa.

August 7: 7pm at Oklahoma History Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.; book signing/discussion with Paul Varner and Larry Van Meter; free screening of True Grit.

August 8: 10am at Best of Books, Edmond, Okla.; book signing with Paul Varner and Larry Van Meter.

August 15: 1pm at Wagoner Civic Center, Wagoner, Okla.; book signing/discussion with Doug Bentin; free screening of Oklahoma Kidding.

August 30: 2pm at Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, Oklahoma City, Okla.; book discussion with Doug Bentin, Larry Johnson and Larry Van Meter; free screening of The Grapes of Wrath

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Shooting in HD ruined Public Enemies

This is not a review but a complaint. I saw Public Enemies yesterday afternoon. Director Michael Mann chose to shoot the movie in HD and this was a catastrophic choice that distracted me, made me angry as I watched it and pretty much damaged the film beyond all repair.

Public Enemies at times, thanks to the HD, looked like watching a high priced TV show beamed up on the screen. If I wanted that kind of photography when I go to a theatre, I'd just skip paying and stay home and watch something on my TV. But even then it would probably look better than what Mann has done with his latest as I'm not sure he's even remotely aware how bad this looks. The HD in Public Enemies is too crisp, too plastic, too digital.

The film is set in the mid 1930s in the world of bank robbers, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, and the early days of the FBI but by choosing to go the route of HD he has chosen to strip some of the nostalgia of that era. That's fine. I've got no problem with trying to play with our preconceived notions of how history should "appear" but does it then have to look like absolute garbage? The film just looks awful. The interiors are dark and look like crap with over/under saturated pixels blinking away. The clinical, over crispness of the HD is distracting and just comes off as a gimmicky, attention grabbing gesture by Mann.

Public Enemies is the new poster child for digital v. film for me. Vern Snackwell mentioned to me how good Zodiac looked and that's true, when I saw Zodiac a couple of years ago I was surprised something filmed in HD could look so good--this is a major step back. While I wasn't completely enamored by the movie--shooting it in HD ruined it. Shooting this in film would have made it more inviting, more warm, more realistic and more pleasing to the eye. Nice job destroying your movie Michael Mann. Film wins again!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Movie quiz #2

A few months ago we did a movie quiz with questions written by Vern Snackwell. Thanks Vern! It's time for another quiz! The prize this time will be the book in the photo--Violent Screen by Stephen Hunter. In this collection of film reviews Hunter discusses over 100 films, some he likes (The Wild Bunch, GoodFellas) and some he hates (Blue Velvet, Tombstone). 

Like last time, e-mail me your answers ( and I will post your score in the comment field. Also, no cheating! We're on the honor system here so no going to the computer. This book must be won ethically. The contest will last until July 15th. I think this one is a little tougher than the last one so good luck!

1. In which of these Alfred Hitchcock films did Cary Grant NOT appear? A) Suspicion B) Notorious C) Strangers on a Train D) To Catch a Thief

2. Who directed the 1950 movie Sunset Boulevard? A) David O. Selznick B) Billy Wilder C) Howard Hawks D) Sam Peckinpah

3. Cate Blanchett portrayed which Best Actress Oscar winner in Martin Scorsese's 2004 film The Aviator? A) Bette Davis B) Ingrid Bergman C) Katherine Hepburn D) Audrey Hepburn

4. Which actor did NOT appear in the 2008 film Mamma Mia? A) Pierce Brosnan B) Richard Gere C) Stellan Skarsgard D)Colin Firth

5. Which of these actresses was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma? A) Queen Latifah B) Alfre Woodard C) Alicia Silverstone D) Mena Suvari

6. Fill in the bland: Julie Delpy wrote, directed and starred in the film 2 Days in A) London B) Paris C) Tokyo D) France

7. Which of these films is the last one that Marilyn Monroe completed work on? A) All About Eve B) Niagara C) The Misfits D) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

8. Which of these films starred Charlie Chaplin? A) A Night at the Opera B) Modern Times C) The General D) The Philadelphia Story

9. Which of these films does NOT feature both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall? A) The Big Sleep B) Key Largo C) To Have and Have Not D) The Maltese Falcon

10. Tony Scott or Ridley Scott? (Must get all four correct to get credit) Alien, Top Gun, Deja Vu, Thelma and Louise

11. Which of these movies did NOT take place in Chicago? A) Chicago B) The Untouchables C) Ferris Bueller's Day Off D) Once Upon a Time in America

12. Who wrote the novel that the 2008 movie Twilight is based on?

13. What film does this line come from? "Attica! Attica!"

14. What is Soylent Green?

15. Name one feature film directed by Tyler Perry?

16. What film does this line come from? "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the war room!"

17. For what 2006 Pedro Almodovar film was Penelope Cruz nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role?

18. Which 2001 film featured Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal as brother and sister?

19. What actress was Jack Nicholson's co-star in the 1974 film Chinatown?

20. Match the film with its country of origin: (must get all four correct)
Throne of Blood                         Brazil
The Bicycle Thief                      France
Grand Illusion                            Japan
City of God                                 Italy

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

June movies

The highlight of June was watching Jaws in an old theatre I love in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a film print, the house was nearly packed and people were laughing, cheering and screaming. It doesn't get any better than that. The masses can flock to horrible junk like Transformers 2--I'll stick with something as timeless as Jaws for my summer thrills. Plus, Michael Bay is the devil if you didn't already know that. Also, The Hangover is really, really funny.

Drag Me To Hell---2009---usa ***1/2
The Brothers Bloom---2009---usa **1/2
Up---2009---usa ***1/2
Charlie Bartlett---2007---usa **1/2
Valentino: The Last Emperor---2008---usa ***1/2
Objectified---2009---usa ***1/2
Weather Girl---2008---usa ***
The Hangover---2009---usa ****
Pocket Money---1972---usa ***1/2
Center Stage---2000---usa ***1/2
The Limits of Control---2009---usa ***1/2
Goodbye Solo---2008---usa ****
Intermission---2003---ireland ***
Jaws---1975---usa *****!
My Kid Could Paint That---2007---usa ***
Management---2009---usa ***