30 August 2006

RIP Pa Kent (Glenn Ford)

Damn--another great one gone. Glenn Ford, the respected character actor who embodied stoic American decency during his long career (in fact, he was a Canadian, born in Quebec in 1916), was found dead today at his Beverly Hills home at the age of 90. Foul play is not suspected--Ford's health problems were well-known ever since he suffered his first in a series of strokes in the 1990s. He was too ill to attend his birthday bash this past May 1st, and had to appear via a taped message.

Ford acted in approx. 85 features in all genres, from the western ("The Desperados") to the drama (the original movie version of "The Courtship Of Eddie's Father") to even the execrable 80s slasher flick (the Canuck-shot "Happy Birthday To Me"), but is perhaps best known for the Rita Hayworth classic comedy "Gilda" (his breakthrough role into leading-man status), the once-controversial "Rock Around The Clock", and Fritz Lang's essential noir "The Big Heat".

For me, Ford embodies the definitive Jonathan Kent, with his brief screen time in Richard Donner's "Superman: The Movie" accounting for some of the film's most resonant and unforgettable moments--if you can watch him deliver "you are here for a reason" speech to teenaged Clark (Jeff East) with his unforced homespun gravitas and not get a lump in your throat, then you've got a heart made of black kryptonite. Here's a nice fan site devoted to Ford's life and career (and what's the delay on that Order Of Canada?)...

RIP Joseph Stefano

Sad news that one of the genre's greats has passed away: screenwriter (and songwriter!) Joseph Stefano died last Friday at the age of 84. Now considering that this is the man who brilliantly adapted a nasty little paperback novel into a certain chiller called "Psycho" and who also produced the innovative anthology series "The Outer Limits", I would've expected at least a mention in the major news outlets (as of today, the IMDB still lists him as living). I'm certainly not going to underplay Hitchcock's involvement in the conception of his esteemed (and once loathed) 1960 horror classic, but it was writer Stefano who altered Robert Bloch's structure to focus the first act on Marion ("Mary" in the novel) Crane, extend her shower murder into an excruciatingly brutal slashing (a swift decapitation in Bloch's book), refashion Norman Bates as an amiable nerd (he's an overweight, sweaty creep as created by Bloch), and bravely stage the denouement in the form of Simon Oakland's lengthy academic treatise on sexual schizophrenia.

Stefano revisited the Bates character in writing Mick Garris' underrated TV movie "Psycho IV: The Beginning", which featured Henry Thomas a young Norman and Olivia Hussey as "Mother" in a flashback drama that is surprisingly moving and far less cheesy than you'd expect (certainly, it was an improvement over Anthony Perkins' dismal "Psycho 3", but then what wouldn't be?). In honour of Stefano's legacy, you might want to track this one down. He shares his thoughts on "Psycho" in a 1990 interview here.

22 August 2006

Happy Birthday Maggie (One Year Old!)

One year ago today (at approx. 11 pm), Lidia and I were returning from my (belated) fancy birthday dinner at Lee's when we happened upon our neighbours searching our yard for their cat's misplaced litter of kittens. We joined in and found them just three doors down, under a tarp: three shivering mini-felines in total--one orange, one gray, and the other a tortie like her mother, who was quite vocal despite the fact that she couldn't open her eyes or hold up her head. We'd just lost Molly, our beloved tortoiseshell cat of 11 years, and her sister Minnie was clearly lonely without her, so we relented to the cosmic signs and asked humbly if the rowdy furball could be ours. A few weeks later, on Thanksgiving Day, "Maggie" joined our household and has been keeping us on edge and constant alert ever since. So Happy 1st Birthday "Madame"--not like every day isn't your birthday in this house!

08 August 2006

"Brick" Auteur Blossoms..."Blooms"...

If you haven't seen Rian Johnson's brilliant debut "Brick" (one of the year's best films IMHO, if not the best so far...), it's out this week on DVD, so now you have no excuse for denying yourself the pleasure of one of the most original and gripping murder mysteries since season one of "Twin Peaks". Don't be put off by what seems like its gimmicky conceit--"hard boiled" dialogue ala Chandler and Hammett spoken by teens at a modern California high school--what could have been a "Bugsy Malone" for the Larry Clark set is a mournful and surprisingly moving drama that embraces--rather than mocks--the conventions of detective fiction without ever deteriorating into camp.

Johnson is now prepping "The Brothers Bloom", and while there have been few details made available, its official website is already up (here). Johnson told Cinematical: ""It's about these two guys who grow up in and out of foster homes as kids and they learn to survive by becoming con men." And despite the fact that the illustrations show period garb, Johnson says it's a modern day piece.

Otherwise, details are minimal and cryptic--some sketchy storyboards, a quote from Jung, and an excerpt of the song "Paper Moon". What can I say? I'm already there...

03 August 2006

"I Shall Not Walk So That A Child May Live!"

My friend in PA introduced me to Adult Swim's utterly demented "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" series a few years ago (pre-official DVD releases, he'd send me episodes on VHS and VideoCD because no one in Canada was running them) and I became hooked on the cheap-ass, Dadaist misadventures of Master Shake, Frylock, Meatwad, Carl et al. While few people I know have even heard of the series--let alone seen it--obviously, it's got enough of a following to have spawned an alleged feature film, which I've been reading about for eons now. My PA friend insists it's all a meta-ruse from William Street Animation, but according to a bit from AICN today, it's not. "Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The Movie" has had a few test screenings and it sounds like they've done the impossible--to sustain the insane, anything-goes spirit of the 11 minute shorts for 90 minutes. The Mooninites, MC Pee Pants, Abe Lincoln--all that and a vocal cameo from Bruce Campbell! Read the review here. And is it too late to get this thing booked for The Toronto Film Fest?

02 August 2006

When You're Broke From All Those DVD Reissues, You Gotta Make Your Own Toys

Yes, that's Han Solo encased in carbonite--and he's made of Lego! TechEBlog has posted "The Top Ten Strangest Lego Creations", but IMHO, most of them are pretty cool, from an iPod case to a harpsicord to a (working?) knitting machine.

I never really got past making a dog from the stuff myself (two pieces)--and if I had this much free time to concoct something so epic I'd probably devote that concentration and mechanical prowess to building irrigation systems for starving villages or something. Who knows, maybe this is just a warmup to the next big thing, after all, our last Great Hope--"Ginger"-- turned out to be nothing but a scooter...

01 August 2006

If He's Really Sorry, He'll Grow Back His "Lethal Weapon" Mullet...

Mel, Mel, Mel....

The last time you got picked up for DUI, it was right here in Toronto in 1984, when you were shooting Gillian Armstrong's "Mrs. Soffel" with Diane Keaton (I know, a U.S. film shot in Canada by an Australian...) I remember catching a CityPulse bit showing your oh-so-photogenic self being marched down the steps of the city's historic Old Court House to an adoring throng of (mostly female) cineastes. You probably made some young traffic cop's day, being the then-"Mad Max" pulled over for a traffic infraction (not to glamorize drunk-driving in any way)...

Well, it's 20+ years later, and the whole world knows you got picked up in LA last weekend on the same charge but today, you're no longer The Road Warrior and star of cool Peter Weir films. Nope, sadly, Mad Mel's pulled back the curtain and shown himself to be just another irresponsible, belligerent drunk who could have a promising career as a director if he wasn't such an obvious unhinged lunatic livin' La Vida Apocalypto.

So as a long-time fan who championed you from "Gallipoli" and your first hookup with George Miller and even "Attack Force Z" for chrissakes and praised you in "The Bounty" and thought "Payback" was one of your best films and who has forgiven you time and time again for sorry-ass crap like "Bird On A Wire" and "Lethal Weapon 4", let me say "thanks"--thanks for making me feel like a complete idiot now in front of some of my workmates, with whom I sparred majorly when your "Passion Of The Christ" was being labeled an anti-Semitic screed. I defended it on terms of possible accuracy--if not historic, then at least human and thus dramatic (without opening that whole can of grief, my basic position was that there were likely a great many who relished Christ's torture and eventual death, and yes, some of them were possibly Jewish) and that I felt that much of the venom being spat was reactionary and fueled by the same knee-jerk hysteria that called for the destruction of Scorcese's "The Last Temptation Of Christ" more than a decade earlier. Maybe it was just the booze talkin', but your well-documented rant has clued me in that maybe some of your critics had a point...

But, alas, it's not the Jews, nor Dionysis on the vine, nor a corrupt LAPD to blame for your problems. It's the whole damned "world gone mad" by your own sorry "official" explanation (which can be read right here). "Life fades" and "the vision dims" after a few vodka gimlets, right mate?

In the meantime, I hope Parker and Stone are immersed in their Flash animations slapping together that much-needed followup to "Passion Of The Jew"...you got off easy in that one.