Tag Archives: classic films

Holy blinking Ewoks, Mr. Lucas!

I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now, but, for those of you who haven’t, George Lucas has once again riled up the “Star Wars” faithful by making a handful of incredibly nerdy, holy unnecessary changes to the “Star Wars” movies for their upcoming Blu-Ray debut. And yes, blinking Ewoks is one of them.

Oh, you didn’t notice that the Ewoks in “Return of the Jedi” didn’t have eyelids? Well, neither did I. And neither did the rest of the flipping world, but, something tells me those un-blinking Ewoks kept Lucas awake many a night for the past twenty-something years. How else to explain that and the rest of the completely ridiculous changes he’s made to the sci-fi classics? Oy, seriously, somebody get this man a hobby already…

To see a full list of the absurdities about to be unleashed on Blu-Ray, click here, And in the meantime, I’ll be watching my beloved, un-butchered, un-special-edition Original Theatrical Release version DVD’s of the original series.

They might not look as crisp as the Blu-Ray versions of the films, but any world where Han Solo still shoots first and those loathsome little Ewoks have dry, itchy eyes, is cool with me!

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Odd Obsession Movie Rentals, Chicago

In case you hadn’t noticed, I started up another blog recently, but that doesn’t mean I love this one any less. On the contrary, I have been itching to share some of our recent adventures in Chicago (where we were in May) and Portland, OR (where we were in July) before launching into a whole other round of adventures we’re bound to experience in NYC, where we will be next week.

Trust me, it sounds a lot more glamorous than it really is. Hell, anyone who has traveled with a two-year-old can tell you that the going can get pretty damn rough sometimes. And that’s why you need the mellow, “let’s casually explore the city” kind of days in between the sightseeing.

It was on one of those days this past May, when we encountered the staggeringly-well-stocked, totally old-school video store known as Odd Obsession Movie Rentals in Chicago.

Located in the gritty heart of the suddenly-trendy Bucktown/Wicker Park area, Odd Obsession is the kind of classic, deep-catalog video store every great city should have. You know, the type of place you can call up with just a vague notion of the obscure DVD title you’re looking for, and not only do they know the movie, but they carry it too! So cool…

And I swear to God, walking inside that joint was like stepping into a time machine. They don’t carry many actual VHS titles anymore, but, the whole place smelled, looked like, and even felt like your favorite, musty childhood video store. I say felt because those shelves were so packed with super cool titles that you could hardly turn around without bumping into something amazing. Literally. Next time I go, I’m leaving the stroller outside.

We didn’t rent anything, of course, but, just being there and sensing the true love of movies inside every nook and cranny of that place really filled my heart with glee. I’m not kidding, it was like church for film geeks, and best of all, they even had a store cat. You know, the big old, fat kind that sits on the register when you’re trying to pay. I didn’t ask, but, I’ll bet he’s named “Rosebud”.

Anyway, someday very soon (like, next week) video stores will be a thing of the past, something we joke about: “OMG, remember when you used to have to leave your house to rent movies?” and when that day comes, I’ll be glad to know I visited one of the greatest video stores ever…and took lots of cool pictures.

Rock on, Odd Obsession Movie Rentals, rock on!

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Happy 70th, Krzysztof!

I know I’ve been away for a while and I’m sorry about that, but, I guess the allure of summer sunshine has been too impossible to resist this year.

I mean, summers and two-year-olds are kinda all about the outdoors and by the time I finally plop down in front of my computer, well, lets just say Daddy is too tired for much else than a quick rundown of the happenings on Facebook.

And speaking of FB, it was there just now that I was reminded by a good friend of mine that today would have been the 70th birthday of one on my all-time-favorite writer/directors, the great Polish master Krzysztof Kieslowski. Not only did he make some of my favorite films, but his unique visual style and beautifully-interwoven storytelling techniques have informed everything I’ve written or wanted to write since I first saw his film “The Double Life of Veronique” way back in the early 1990′s.

Simply put, the man was a genius who died way before his time. Thankfully, Kieslowski completed at least two other masterworks before his death in 1996, the groundbreaking “Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red” and his indelible, early-career masterpiece, the ten-hour TV miniseries,“The Decalouge”.

If you haven’t seen any of his work yet, today is a great day to start. Celebrate the mad genius tonight by watching one (or if you have time, all) of his films…you will not be disappointed. Seriously, there was no one like him.

Happy birthday, Krzysztof, we miss you…

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Blake Edwards (1922-2010)

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but, it’s raining cats and dogs here and on a day like today I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the late, great Blake Edwards, than snuggling up with the ones you love and watching his classic film version of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Edwards directed dozens of awesome films — I lived for the original “Pink Panther” movies when I was a kid and “Victor/Victoria”, “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Experiment in Terror” were all instant classics — but for me, his most memorable flick will always be the perfect little gem of a movie that it “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Great cast, lushly-beautiful locations — both the real-life and backlot NYC locales look gorgeous! — and that swinging Henry Mancini score…wow…watching “Tiffany’s” is like eating giant strawberries dipped in really great chocolate. Mmmm…sheer cinematic yumminess all around.

Ironically enough, I just recently sat Greta down and made her watch “Tiffany’s” in all its widescreen DVD glory (she loved the music and any scenes with “Cat” the best!) and lemme tell ya, it holds up beautifully.

So, rest in peace, Mr. Blake Edwards. Thanks to you, I have an instant, tried-and-true cure for the “mean reds” for years to come…

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“Surely, you can’t be serious…”

First Mrs. Cleaver, and now Leslie Neilson?! Yikes, people from the cast of “Airplane” need to stop dying already! I know he made like, a million movies in his day, but, Leslie Neilson will always be my man for his iconic roles in the “Airplane” and “Naked Gun” movies.

Hell, they even renamed the most recent DVD release of “Airplane”, the “Don’t call me Shirley” Edition. And if that isn’t testament to the staying power of Mr. Neilson’s crackerjack delivery of an awesome line, I dunno what is!

RIP, dude. Surely, you will be missed…

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“Days of Heaven” on DVD

Criterion Collection geeks rejoice…the company that makes excellent films even better on DVD has done it again with the lush, sprawling epic that is Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven”.

Though this version of the 1978 classic was actually released on DVD last year — for the first time ever in an amazing widescreen transfer — I just finally got around to watching the copy I got for Christmas and let me tell ya, it’s beautiful.

Although I still consider “Badlands” to be Terrence Malick’s finest hour as a writer/director — don’t even get me started on his more recent works, “The Thin Red Line” and “The New World” which both bored me to tears — “Days of Heaven” is, hands down, the most Terrence Malick of all of Malick’s films.

Meaning that not only is “Heaven” absolutely gorgeous to look at — with all that flowing yellow wheat, and those breathtaking magic hour sunsets — but juxtaposed against all that glistening nature is a wry, out-of-left-field voice over by the film’s pint-sized star, Linda Manz, that is vintage Terrence Malick.

Even the most jaded Malick-haters out there — and trust me, I met plenty of them when I was at AFI, Malick’s alma mater — have got to admit that Manz’s hilariously deadpan voice over is probably the finest ever put to film. And considering Malick worked similar magic with Sissy Spacek’s rocking VO work in “Badlands”, that is really saying something.

For while Manz may not have as much screen time as her co-stars — Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and a shockingly young Sam Shepard channeling Gary Cooper big time — Linda Manz and her haunting voice over are the heart of soul of “Days of Heaven”.

Opening in the fiery steel mills of post-WWI Chicago, the movie begins with Gere’s character accidentally killing the foreman at his plant in a fit of rage. Accompanied by his younger sister, Manz, and girlfriend — a positively luminous Brooke Adams — Gere sets out by train for the Texas panhandle.

Hoping to avoid the questions of prying strangers, Adams poses as Gere and Manz’s sister and the trio soon finds work harvesting wheat on a fairy tale farm owned by the handsome, soft-spoken — not to mention, terminally-ill — Sam Shepard. When Shepard falls in love with Adams — I mean, come on, who wouldn’t? She’s like, a force of nature in this movie — things get kinda complicated and quicker than you can say “biblical plague of locusts”, everything falls spectacularly apart.

And while the story itself is filled with enough juicy melodrama for ten movies, the dialog — save for Manz’s aforementioned VO — is surprisingly sparse. Malick said at one point that he wanted “Heaven” to be like a silent film for the modern-era, and that is totally what he created here.

Simple, lush, beautiful, the movie is told almost entirely through it’s visuals and they are truly amazing. You will literally wanna frame every shot of this movie. And if you think you’ve seen “Days of Heaven” on video before…well, think again. This Director-Approved Criterion print will literally knock your socks off!

And the extras are even better. Aside from a very cool audio Q & A with Gere (recorded exclusively for this edition of the DVD) and a brief onscreen interview with Shepard (from 2002), there is also a rocking feature length commentary with legendary Art Director Jack Fisk (Mr. Sissy Spacek), Editor Billy Weber, Costume Designer Patricia Norris and Casting Director Dianne Crittenden.

But the highlight for me was a pair of video interviews with the men behind the cameras; Camera Operator, John Bailey and Cinematographer, Haskell Wexler. Bailey, who went on to become a very well-known cinematographer in his own right, speaks very highly of “Heaven’s” original Director of Photography, the late, great Nestor Almendros.

Not only did Almendros win an Oscar for his work on “Days on Heaven”, but, astonishingly, he was also going blind at the time! I know, crazy…huh?

And make sure and stick around for Bailey’s demonstration of how they shot some of those super cool locusts shots like the one below. Painting peanut shells black, the crew dumped them from an airplane onto the actors, then reversed the film to make it look like the “locusts” were rising from the wheat in mass. Wow…who needs CGI when you got guys like Bailey around? Awesome!

Even more interesting than that is the truly bizarre interview with Almendros’s co-cinematographer, the notorious “mad man with a camera”, Haskell Wexler. From the get-go it’s clear that Wexler is completely bonkers, but even though everything he says is totally crazy, you will not be able to keep your eyes off him. This is probably the strangest DVD extra I’ve ever seen, but I loved it!

That said, I urge you to run down to your local video store or click on over to your Netflix queque and give this modern classic another look. Or if you haven’t seen it before, then, you know, a first look. Either way, it’s well worth the time…

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