More Boot Stamping

Britain continues her march towards INGSOC! The Liverpool City Council is planning to reclassify thousands of classic movies that feature smoking. Any film deemed to offend the sensibilities of Big Brother the council will be given an “18 certificate”, the equivalent of an NC-17 rating in the US (and previously reserved for explicitly violent or sexual films).

Although the rule is supposedly for new films only, there is nothing in the measure to prevent the Liverpool Council from banning older films as well. This could mean that no Liverpudlian under the age of 18 would be able to go to a cinema or rent or purchase almost any movie made before 1970, including such classics as Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane, On The Waterfront and even modern classics such as Titanic and Lord of the Rings. What’s more, several classic childrens films – such as 101 Dalmatians and Disney’s Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid and Pinocchio would become 18+ only.

The nannies on the council have graciously exempted any film in which a historical character was known to smoke (Winston Churchill, for example), and they have also exempted any film which “educates” the public on the “dangers” of smoking (“I love you, Big Brother!”)


This is all made possible by a 2003 law with allows local governments to override the British Board of Film Classification, which normally handles such things.

Read more about it here.

John Hughes Follow-Up

John Hughes, director of such iconic 80s and 90s films as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, She’s Having a Baby, Uncle Buck and Curly Sue and the writer of many more such as National Lampoon’s Vacation, Mr. Mom, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Home Alone and Career Opportunities, passed away of a heart attack yesterday in New York at the age of 58.

Born in Lansing, Michigan on February 18, 1950, Hughes grew up in Northbrook, Illinois, where many of his films would take place (the city was originally named “Shermerville”, hence the “Shermer, Illinois” name in the movies). He married his high school sweetheart in 1970 and remained with her throughout his life. He began his professional life working for Chicago ad agencies, where he created the famous “foam vs. Edge” credit card commercials.

I’m not going to write a long post about how he was the “voice of a generation”… in fact, I’m not sure I really even know what that phrase means. All I know is that Hughes made me laugh, cry and think about my life. His movies were the first to portray “my” generation in a somewhat realistic manner. And when I saw his characters on the screen, I identified with them. These weren’t movies for my mom, my younger and hipper uncle, or even the babysitter… there were movies for me. And for that, I’m thankful we had John Hughes, if only for a short while.

Here are a couple of neat Hughes-related things:

Here’s the complete text of “Vacation ’58”, Hughes’ “allegedly fictional” short story that inspired the Vacation film. It’s a short (but hilarious) read… you oughta check it out!

And here’s a blog entry by a woman who was “pen pals” with Hughes. It seems that she wrote Hughes a long letter, pouring her heart out to him after she saw The Breakfast Club. Hughes sent her a form letter in return, which made the woman so mad that she sent him another long letter, this time an angry one. Hughes actually wrote her back personally this time, and the two exchanged several letters over the years. Reading her post is sad… not only because of Hughes’ death, but because she quotes a few paragraphs from her letters about why he largely turned his back on Hollywood. It’s a sad and poignant post, and if you were a Highes fan at all, you should really read it.

A little help?

Can anyone help solve a mystery here?

Every so often you hear about a film that gets a very limited release. For example, the 2006 film Zyzzyx Road was shown on one screen in one theatre for one weekend, where it officially took in $30 at the box office. Jessica Simpson’s Blonde Ambition was shown at 8 theatres in Texas, and grossed a grand total of $384.

Every time a movie is released like this, “union rules” are given as the reason the film was released at all. Why I wanna know is… what specific union rules are they talking about?

I have a good friend who was a film major and is an editor at TNT, and one drunken night he told me that the union rules require a film to be shown publicly before a member of the cast or crew can add it to their “official” resume, and this is important because their pension or retirement plans are based on how much work they get. But this doesn’t explain people who work on “direct to video” releases. Do they not get an “official credit” because the film was never officially released to theatres? It’s not that I don’t trust what my friend said, but there was so much beer involved that night that I might have misunderstood him, or maybe he didn’t quite explain it correctly.

What’s the scoop?

Great Kate

Congrats to Kate Winslet for finally winning a Best Actress Oscar for her work in The Reader. The poor girl had been nominated five times previously, so it’s about time she got some recognition!

I fell in love with Kate the first time I saw her onscreen in Heavenly Creatures at Cinefest, the student-run cinema at Georgia State University. Admission was free with a student ID, and the snacks were cheap. So I spent far too much time in Cinefest watching movies when I should have been in Latin 201 or Foreign Policy. One afternoon, I decided to skip out and catch this Peter Jackson flick about two teenage girls in New Zealand that killed one of their mothers with a brick.

Kate was so pretty, so fresh, and so new in that film. After seeing her at Cinefest that day, I kind of think of her as “my” actress, in the same way I used to claim a band as my own in my teenage years. And just like the swell of pride you’d feel when that little garage band you liked when no one else had ever heard of them goes on to have a #1 single, it’s been so wonderful seeing her career blossom. And I feel like I’ve… “had her back” the whole time, ya know? We’re roughly the same age, so I absolutely consider her the best actress of my generation.

Congrats Kate – you rock, girl!

(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)

My Top 10 2008 Movies!

What a strange year for movies… There’s almost always some super-pretentious “Oscar-bait” film out there… but not so much this year.

So, without further ado: my favorite films of 2008:

1) Slumdog Millionaire

Remember the first time you saw Trainspotting and how you were blown away by the pacing and style? The same director – Danny Boyle – takes on the story of a poor kid from the slums of Mumbai that somehow makes his way to India’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and wins it all. The film captures all the color and grandeur of India, while at the same time showing you the ancient dark side of Indian culture that still exists today. It’s a lovely film, and would be the perfect date movie were it not for a few “rough around the edges” gangster scenes.

2) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

OK, so the film’s not perfect. But it’s lovingly done and absolutely beautiful. Oh, and it’ll remind you that yes, Brad Pitt can, in fact, act his ass off! “Smashing the sub” aside, anyone that doesn’t tear up at least once during this film has no soul. None.

3) The Bank Job

You know those movies you don’t really have high expectations for? I saw the ads for this and thought, “Oh, Jason Statham in a bank heist film! Looks like fun!” Well, The Bank Job is a heist film, it does star Jason Statham… and it is a lot of fun. But there’s so much more to the story than that. This film might (or might not) be based on a true story that might (or might not) involve everyone from the Royal Family to MI6 to the Black Power Movement. We won’t know for sure until sometime in the 2050s, when government records can be unsealed… but in the meantime, enjoy this movie!

4) The Dark Knight

What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said? You might think, “oh, it’s just another Batman movie”. And, technically, you’d be right. But there’s it’s so much more than that. This is a Batman film that’s damn near Oscar worthy, and not just because of the “Oh, Heath Ledger died” nonsense. Heath (and Christian and Morgan) really do kick ass in this film, and director Christopher Nolan’s insistence on actual stunt work in place of CGI really shows. An excellent, excellent film… perhaps the best comic book movie ever.

5) Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Wow! Scarlett Johanssen and Woody Allen go together like Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham, don’t they? And yes, I meant that as a compliment. Although named for the two title characters, the film’s really all about Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz , who steal the show as (ex?) lovers that really are made for each other. Sort of. And the scenery! Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities on earth, and it shows in this clever (but not too clever) film.

Continue reading “My Top 10 2008 Movies!”

R.I.P. Don LaFontaine

Dammit – would people stop dying today?

Voiceover actor extraordinaire Don LaFontaine – who lent his voice to thousands of movie trailers, and even turned “In a world…” into a catchphrase – died today at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from “complications in the treatment of an ongoing illness”. He was 68.

Read his obit at Yahoo! here.

Looker is real!

In the 1981 film Looker, Albert Finney plays a Hollywood plastic surgeon. He becomes troubled when four beautiful young models come in to his office and demand tiny, almost imperceptible changes to their looks. When the models start turning up dead, Finney investigates further, and finds out that they were all linked to a market research firm called Digital Matrix. As it turns out, Digital Matrix has developed a technology that scans the girls and makes perfect digital copies of them that can be used in commercials and movies. The models are initially all for it, thinking that they can get a paycheck for doing nothing once they’re scanned. Digital Matrix, however, has figured out that the models need not exist at all once they’re scanned. So Digital Matrix just kills them and keeps them money for itself.

Looker was a neat sci-fi film in its day. It didn’t have aliens, starships or guys in glorified gorilla costumes. The plot seemed almost feasible at the time. Of course, computers in 1981 weren’t nearly powerful enough to pull off lifelike 3-D modeling. But computers today are. Behold:

This is a computer generated version of actress Emily O’Brien created by facial animation studio Image Metrics. And here’s a video of the CG O’Brien talking about her creation:

It’s not completely lifelike yet… but man, is it ever close!

Veronica Mars: The Movie?

Fans of the late, great Veronica Mars… prepare to pee in your pants!

Word on the Intarwebs is that series creator Rob Thomas and Kristin Bell got together last week for some “serious discussions” about bringing our favorite teenage supersleuth to the silver screen. Word on the street – and this is very preliminary – says that the movie might be based on the “Veronica Joins the FBI” trailer\teaser that Thomas put together for the folks at The CW for a 4th season of the show… which, of course, never happened. The teaser is available on the Season 3 DVD set. You can also watch part 1 of the “FBI Trailer” on YouTube here; watch part 2 here.

Could it really happen? Let’s hope so! If crap shows like The Dukes of Hazzard can get made into movies, why not a show that Buffy creator Joss Whedon called “The. Best. Show. Ever. Seriously, I’ve never gotten more wrapped up in a show I wasn’t making, and maybe even more than those… These guys know what they’re doing on a level that intimidates me”. Kevin Smith (of Clerks fame) said that “Veronica Mars is, hands-down, the best show on television right now, and proof that TV can be far better than cinema. Some of the best TV ever produced”. Stephen King called it “Nancy Drew meets Philip Marlowe, and the result is pure nitro. Why is Veronica Mars so good? It bears little resemblance to life as I know it, but I can’t take my eyes off the damn thing.” And comic book legend Ed Brubaker called it “The best mystery show ever made in America.”