Monday, August 31, 2009

Uh, ok . . .

I was starting to lose hope. After thinking that this summer might be end up being another big bust, I'm so glad to have finally seen a good film this summer. (although it was still kind of a bust anyway) Well, I should be honest. Make that THREE good films this summer. Oh, shoot. I just remembered Lorna's Silence too.

OK. Let me start over. I am glad to have seen a few good films this summer, even though some of them don't fall into the traditional "summer movie" category. I happily skipped a lot of those, .

I have a question for you. Am I the only one who is underwhelmed by the Avatar trailer? After hearing about the response from Con, I waited for the first real trailer eagerly. I watched it as soon as I could the first day it was up. . . and was pretty disappointed by the VFX. For all their supposed realism, the big blue people looked pretty fake, particularly in the footage when they're on board the ship or whatever it is. Maybe it'll be different in 3D, I don't know. It did look better when I saw it before Inglourious Basterds through a projector as opposed to seeing it in HD on my computer screen. Apparently, based on what I've heard from people that I know, the free footage played in IMAX a week and a half ago was pretty impressive. I'm not completely sure if I'll go see it in 2D or 3D. I do know that I'll be there opening weekend, because anything that purports to change the way movies are made should be taken seriously, particularly when it's being attempted by someone of Cameron's considerable talent.

The big blue guys still seemed fake. Who's with me?

---Also, I'm going to consider my review of Inglourious Basterds my contribution to this month's feature: Thoughts on Tarantino. I've tried to think of something new to contribute on the subject, but I put a lot of my thoughts on QT in that article and couldn't really think of something new that would be worth your time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Season of "Prestige"!

Hey there boys and girls! September is right around the corner and you know what that means. Fall movie season is here! This is the time of year where all the studios try to make you forget how they pounded your brain with endless explosions and special effects in their tent-pole, ludicrously budgeted, summer blockbusters by parading all their “Prestige Pictures” before your eyes. These are the films that are supposedly much more high minded, serious and important than the popcorn fair we’ve been exposed to over the last several months. As usual whether that holds true or not remains to be seen, but for your reading pleasure and movie consuming enjoyment here’s just a few of the titles that I’m hoping will end this year with a bang.

AVATAR: If you read this blog regularly you know my thoughts on this film already. At the moment there is no film I am anticipating ore than this one. I think Cameron may very well have another masterpiece on his hands and guaranteed it will be unlike anything else we’ve ever seen.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: I love Sherlock Holmes and this film looks like it’s going to spread that love to the world at large. Like AVATAR I saw footage from this at Comic-Con and it looks like it’ll be a blast. The casting on every level is perfect and it should be lots of fun to see what Guy Ritchie does with a nice big budget in a mainstream film.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: Laugh all you want but I’m almost positive this will be one of the films that will get its name called a lot when they’re revealing the Academy Award nominees in late January. This film looks so amazing on so many levels I don’t even know where to start. Trust me this one will e something special.

THE INFORMANT: A chubby Matt Damon AND Steven Soderbergh, that’s all I need to know.

THE INVETNION OF LYING: This film written, directed and starring Ricky Gervais has me sold just based on the concept alone. Gervais lives in a world where lying doesn’t exist. One day he discovers how to do it and hilarity ensues. Just the thought of what the always brilliant Gervais can and will do with this concept makes me laugh already. Throw in a cast that includes Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey and Jason Batemen and there’s simply nothing you could do to get me to stay away from this one.

COUPLES RETREAT: The trailer for this film makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. This is the first film written by Jon Favreau to star both him and his partner in crime Vince Vaughn since MADE. Every time these guys get together they seem to create comedy gold and I don’t see this flick being any different.

A SERIOUS MAN: First of all if you haven’t seen the trailer for this movie yet I HIGHLY recommend you seek it out. It’s one of the most uniquely original and awesome trailers I’ve ever seen. I really have no clue what the film is about but it’s done by the Coen Brothers and that’s all I… or anyone else needs to know.

ZOMBIELAND: The more I see for this film the more I fall in love with it. It looks to be a fun rollercoaster ride (Maybe literally) zombie movie. I think this one’s going to be lots of fun. Here’s hoping it lives up to my expectations.

THE ROAD: The novel may very well be one of the 10 best books I’ve ever read. This is one of those movies that can go either way. If they do it wrong it will be REALLY bad. However if they do it right we could have a modern classic on our hands. The fact that the film stars Viggo Mortensen and is directed by the guy that made THE PROPOSITION gives me hope, but this one’s tricky so I’ve got my fingers firmly crossed until I see just how they bring Cormac McCartney’s masterpiece to life.

NINE: If you’ve seen the trailer for this film or know the amount of ludicrous talent behind and in front of the camera you KNOW this things gonna get nominated for all kinds of stuff. If you don’t I highly recommend you educate yourself right quick.

FANTASTIC MR.FOX: Wes Anderson making a stop animation film; there! It stars the voice talent of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray; double there! If you’ve seen the trailer for this film you know that it looks like Anderson has brought everything that makes him uniquely… him into this children’s tale and I can’t think of anything more awesome.

THE BOX: Fun, creepy goodness from Richard Kelly. This thing looks like a great long lost episode of the TWILIGHT ZONE made into a feature film. This should be lots of trippy fun.

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS: If the Coen brothers made a film about the military-industrial complex I think it might look a lot like this. This film looks hysterically weird and oddball and with George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey it may have the best cast of any movie coming out this fall.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: Disney’s return to hand drawn animation. Nuff said!

THE LOVELY BONES: Everyone and their mother seems to love the book and it’s directed by Peter Jackson. The trailer is breath-taking; I don’t see how this film won’t light up the Awards circuit come the end of the year.

UP IN THE AIR: George Clooney in a film written and directed by Jason Reitman, I don’t see any way this movie could be bad.

INVICTUS: Clint Eastwood once again proves that he is the man and that he will NEVER stop by making this movie starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as a rugby player involved in the 1995 World Cup. This sucker has Oscar written all over it.

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY: Say and think what you will about Michael Moore but the idea of him taking on the big banks and companies that helped flush our nation’s economy right down the toilet should be interesting if nothing else.

AMELIA: Could be great and give Hillary Swank another shot at an Oscar or could be just a middling bore like so many other biopics. Here’s hoping for the former.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: I saw footage of this one from Comic-Con as well and it looks to be an eye-popping visual treat.

NINJA ASSASSIN: People that have seen footage from this one say it looks to be an epically awesome, kick-ass, kung-fu / Ninja movie. The fact that it’s done by the Wachowski Brothers and their defacto director James McTiegue leads me to believe that’s exactly what it will be.

I know I left some movies off the list and I REALLY wish I could put SHUTTER ISLAND on it but apparently Paramount decided to move it to February which makes me very cranky. Regardless, hopefully this gives you an idea of some of the possible treats that await us in the theatre over the next couple of months. There have been some pretty spectacular films that have come out so far this year that will be very hard to top, but here’s hoping these at least give them a run for their money.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gloriously Inglorious!

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is Quentin Tarantino’s opus. It is his masterpiece. It is the movie the movie that he has been building to since he first burst onto the scene with RESERVOIR DOGS. While I need to see the film at least one more time to be able to state this conclusively I am fairly certain it is my favorite movie of his. I truly think I love it more than even KILL BILL. So far everyone else I have talked to feels the same way, BUT that doesn’t mean you necessarily will.

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is as quintessentially Quentin Tarantinoish as it can possibly be. Everything that is Quentin Tarantino and that signifies every single one of his movies is amped up to the nth degree in this movie. There’s simply no way he could have pushed it any further without it becoming a parody of his own work. The reason I mention this is because if you love Tarantino, everything about him and what he does you will LOVE this movie. If you don’t like Tarantino or have issues with some of his idiosyncratic, filmmaking quirks this may not be the movie for you. In this film Tarantino doesn’t hold back in the least anything that makes him… him. This is why certain reviews have been effusive in their praise like mine and others have taken issue with a number of aspects of the film. At this point, with 5 movies to his name you should know where you fall in regards to what you think of Tarantino and his unique brand of filmmaking.

Since I fall firmly in with the die-hard Tarantio geek faction this film tickled and thrilled me in a way that very few films have. I had an absolute blast with this film and I love every single thing about it. This was one of those movies where I wanted to walk right back into the theatre and watch it again as soon as it was over. This flick rocked my world big time.

The trailers bill the film as a sort of DIRTY DOZEN “men on a mission” type film and while I knew with Tarantino at the helm it couldn’t be anything quite that simple, it still didn’t prepare me for the deep, truly epic saga that unfolded before my eyes. For all intents and purposes Tarantino has made a Spaghetti Western / WWII film (Two of my all time favorite sub-genres by the way). This film has more in common with the likes of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY and especially the epically awesome ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST than something along the lines of THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, WHERE EAGLES DARE or the afore mentioned DIRTY DOZEN. It is a film told in chapters that unfolds like a great novel and it really does have a little bit of everything, each little bit handled with expert precision and craftsmanship.

I really don’t want to say anything else about the film because honestly the less you know going in the better. I have no desire to rob anyone of the joy of watching as this film unfolds in so may unexpected ways in front of them. I will just throw a few things out there for you to digest and contemplate.
First; this is a FANTASY WII film. This isn’t SAVING PRIVATE RYAN; this isn’t set in the world of history that we know. It doesn’t have magic or any of the other myriad of fantastical elements that we associate with most fantasy films, but it definitely exists in a twisted, alternate universe that has sprung fourth from Tarantino’s mind.

Second; Christopher Waltz needs to get nominated for Best Supporting Actor. While everyone in the cast is uniformly good (Even director Eli Roth, who really surprised the heck out of me), Waltz steals the movie. His Nazi “Jew Hunter” is one of the most unique and complex villains to perhaps ever grace the screen and right now he’s responsible for probably one of the two or three best performances I’ve seen all year.

Third; and I think this may be the most conclusive, effective point I can ever make about this movie… my parents LOVED this movie. That may not seem like a big deal but I assure you it’s darn near akin to the earth stopping in it’s orbit or pigs flying in it’s gravity. My parents HATE Quentin Tarantino! One of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life was watching PULP FICTION with them for the first time. They have never had a single good thing to say about the man but they had a ball with this film. That right there I think speaks of this film’s quality better than anything that pretty much anyone else can write. It would be like if the Pope came out and gave two thumbs up to THE DAVINCI CODE. As such I’ll close this piece with a blurb I’d love to see on a movie poster but one that I highly doubt I ever will. My parents loved this movie, so you should too!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Inception, Indy and Ideas on Avatar (Why couldn't it start with an "I"?)

OK, don’t ask me why but I felt the need to jump in with a few things here. Just a few quick random thoughts on a few quick random things.

INCEPTION: I just watched this trailer again (I saw it for the first time in front of INGLORIOUS BASTERDS which I’ll be reviewing at some point in the not too distant future) and while I have no clue what this movie is about this has instantly shot to the top of my MUST SEE list. A sci-fi film by the almost unparalleled Christopher Nola starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine. There is no doubt in my mind this movie will knock me and everyone else that sees it on their asses!

AVATAR: The trailer that’s out there is just a small sampling of what we got to see at Con but hopefully now you get the idea why this has melted the eye sockets of everyone who has seen footage from it.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINDGOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL: In the next few days I’m going to post my thoughts on the movie that could’ve and should’ve been made but until then I felt the need to say something. I just watched this film again because I’m working on something and I wanted to check this film out for inspiration / advice on what not to do and I’ve got to admit something. I liked this film WAY more the second time around. I must confess I only saw this movie once when it first hit theatres and I haven’t revisited it since because of how disappointed I was. I’m not sure what happened but I found myself genuinely entertained by the film a second time around and I’d like to encourage everyone else that felt burnt by it to maybe give it a second chance. Don’t get me wrong there’s still plenty of flaws and stuff that shouldn’t have been (I’ll get into that in my other post) but watching it the second time around it honestly felt like an Indiana Jones movie, not a “movie with Indiana Jones in it” like a lot of people, myself included accused it of being. There’s no doubt that it doesn’t hold a candle to the first 3 but up until now the only reason I owned it is because I’m a completeist geek and well I had to round out my collection. After tonight I think I might actually watch it again. Sure I won’t pop it in as regularly as the others but for some strange reason I think the movie worked better for me on the small screen than it did in the theatre. Now I know that’s a problem for any movie that has Indiana Jones in the title, but I think maybe expectations, bitterness towards George Lucas and lots of other factors played into my take on this film the first time around. I could be totally wrong and maybe my meds haven’t kicked in but color me surprised. I’m sort of curious if anyone else has had this reaction.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

They see you when you're sleeping. They KNOW when you're awake.

Inglourious Basterds is a wild ride of extraordinary invention, filled to the brim with rousing episodes of sheer loquaciousness and astonishing moments of unforeseen mayhem. That is to say, Inglourious Basterds is a film by Quentin Tarantino.

Having heard of the project years ago, I mistakenly pictured a gritty story of life as a foot soldier during World War II. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I have seen my share of war films, many of which deal with that very time period, but I daresay that I have never seen a war film that was as entertaining and as much utter fun as this one.

Inglourious Basterds is about a group of Allied soldiers, most of them Jewish-American, placed in occupied France in 1941 to conduct a campaign of terror against the Nazis. Along the way, the film deviates down a number of different paths, introducing the audience to characters large, small, brash, shy, self-reliant, needy, and above all, very entertaining.

A prominent reason for why the film works so well is the screenplay. It's wonderfully well-written. I'm not certain that it's, as Tarantino might believe, the penultimate story in his already venerable collection of narrative mastery, but it definitely deserves a tier all its own. There's a circular quality to the writing that's very rewarding for the viewer. Certain objects and phrases previously alluded to come back into focus and provide a sense of discovery as one realizes that what's about to happen is as plain as the mustache on Brad Pitt's lip.

Speaking of Brad Pitt, he's wonderful here. In the screening I attended, there came a point when anything he said would be greeted by laughter. With this film and last year's Burn After Reading, he's certainly recast himself as a viable comedic actor. In addition, Christoph Waltz is very strong as Col. Hans Landa. He shows a remarkable amount of range in his portrayal of a brilliant, charming, and often vicious SD officer. There's a moment early in the film when his features literally harden right in front of the viewer's eyes that's remarkable. He's almost certain to receive an Oscar nomination.

Quentin Tarantino has come a long way from the life of a cash-strapped video store clerk. It would be fairly simple to say that his films typically fall into a specific genre, and list Reservoir Dogs as his heist film, Pulp Fiction as his gangster film, Kill Bill as his kung-fu action film, and Inglourious Basterds as his WWII film. But discussing his films as mere exercises in genre isn't entirely accurate and does them a grave disservice. Do those films share certain conventions with other films that wear the same label? Certainly. Where Tarantino goes off into different territory is in how he executes those conventions. One could do a random test and compare a scene from any of those films to a scene from just about any other film within its genre and you'd be able to pick out the Tarantino film every single time. In a "regular" gangster film, we'd see the hitmen find their target and blow him/her to kingdom come. In a Tarantino film, we follow the hitmen around town as they drive to their target, listen to their conversation as it touches on a variety of subjects from the metric system to foot massages, watch them scare the living daylights out of their target by trying his Kahuna burger and Sprite, quote Ezekiel to thrilling effect, and then blow the guy away. In lesser hands, a scene with this level of sophistication would be a disaster.

As such, the pacing of Inglourious Basterds is signature Tarantino. What might be seen as slow in someone else's movie is more often than not justified in his work, because it's so specifically structured to build in a certain way. Other trademarks abound, such as the placement of captions to point out specific characters, unexpected asides that provide information, and his ever-present title cards to point out the start of a new "chapter." I've heard the film described by one critic as an art film that keeps the viewer at arm's length instead of providing a fully enveloping experience. This is a fair judgment of the film. He's fully aware that he's making a film, and he's intent on keeping that fact in your mind as a viewer. From a personal standpoint, I find it particularly exciting to have a chance to see a film from a genuine artist who uses film as a way to express a unique creative outlook, as opposed to a film made by the multitude of people working in Hollywood for whom making movies seems to be "just a job."

Some have expressed a sense of disappointment, even revilement, at the liberty Tarantino takes with history. There have been Jewish critics who have taken exception to the way that many Nazis in the film are abused by the Basterds, the tactics that the Basterds use, and the significant amount of charm exuded by Col. Landa, who, apparently, is too charming to be a real Nazi. Personally, my response to to these criticisms is "What exactly is the problem?" Yes, the Nazis in the film are abused horribly by the Basterds. Yes, the Basterds use tactics akin to modern terrorists. However, there's one particular point that needs to remain clearly visible. It's a movie. Tarantino is not trying to to make a political statement or present an historical document with his highly specialized vision of World War II. I think it probably boils down to something as simple as the thought running through his head of "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if . . ." Additionally, I fervently disagree that Col. Landa is so charming that the viewer forgets the terrible actions he's capable of.

I'm a bit confused, to be honest. Last year, The Reader got flak for being sympathetic to a Nazi character and trying to understand her reason for her crimes, and now Inglourious Basterds is getting flak for its presentation of Nazis receiving what, for many of them, they fully deserve. Is there some way of dealing with this time period that's supposed to be more correct than all others? I'm not suggesting in any way, shape, or form that the events that took place in Europe in the 1930's and 1940's are anything less than a terrifying indictment of what is possible when the worst aspects of men's and women's souls are allowed to guide their actions. What I am suggesting is that, as viable material for a narrative, there are a variety of ways to deal with it.

As I sat there in the movie theater as the film neared the end, I had a thought that I might just know where it was going to end, and this thought ticked me off a little bit. "Oh, come on," I thought, "if he does THAT, then this movie has officially lost it, jumped the shark, committed hara-kiri, etc. That's just too much." Then, you want to guess what happened? It ended exactly that way, but something strange happened. It didn't really bother me that much. What's more, as I thought about it later, I realized something. While it's certainly not the way that any story that really took place would have ended, for this wild ride, it worked, and, in its own way, is kind of brilliant.

Just like the film itself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FOTM: "You Can't Take the Sky From Me."

Cowboys and Indians in space. In the wrong hands it could be one of the worst ideas ever. In the right ones it could become something almost unparalleled in the realms of science fiction and television. Luckily the hands that created and molded such a premise belong to uber-genius Joss Whedon.

FIREFLY is one of if not THE single best science fiction show to ever air on television. If you haven’t seen it and you consider yourself a fan of the genre or you know… just anything it is mandatory that you seek out the box-set of the far too brief series and have your mind blown.

This little TV show that almost no one saw became such a gargantuan cult hit on DVD that it inspired a studio to allow Whedon to carry his vision over into the world of cinema with the film SERENITY. Combined the show and the movie created one of the most unique, yet realistic versions of human life in space that has ever graced any screen, big or small.

The earth gets “used up” and mankind has to head into space and begin colonizing new planets. In doing so the “new frontier” becomes very much like the one our ancestors settled and developed centuries ago. The vast prairie of the galaxy is filled with danger and the unknown. The laws are loose or sometimes just plain nonexistent and no matter what the emergent military-industrial complex / oppressive government does they can only tame so much of the land.

While I love STAR TREK to death I have never considered it to be the most plausible future for mankind’s ventures into space. STAR TREK is an optimistic dream; it is Gene Roddenberry’s lofty and applaudable dream of how humanity will behave once it decides to conquer the vast reaches of the universe.

Space is a vast, often times scary place. It truly is the largest and last unexplored frontier. If history has taught us anything it is that every time we as a species forge new ground, every time we branch out and make an attempt to lay claim to more and more it is NEVER easy and is often times very ugly and very violent.

The universe Joss Whedon created captures that idea and that intrinsic understanding of who we are as humans and what each new exploration brings out in us in a way that very few stories, sci-fi or other wise have. It will be centuries if not millennia before we have any hope of reaching the idealistic utopias of STAR TREK and the like. Until then space will be a brutal savage place forged by the brave, unscrupulous and opportunistic alike. There will be savagery mixed in with the wonder and excitement. It won’t all be pretty but there’s no denying it will be very human. Whedon’s creation doesn’t shy away from that, in fact it embraces it and uses such notions and ideas to tell some of the most deeply human, far reaching, yet intimate stories ever filmed. It understands that the greatest, most complex and infinitely explorable landscape will always be a man’s soul and that outer space, just like every other vista will only be a reflection of what we make of ourselves.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Originally uploaded by
Heroine & Pestilence
Remember - your 15 minute, free preview of Avatar is coming up on August 21! Surf the net and I am sure you will find details.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

FotM: Of Moon Landings and Lucky Numbers

So, I want to talk about one of my favorite movies.

To this day, I still think that Apollo 13 is one of the most exciting films I’ve ever seen and Ron Howard’s personal best as a director. It successfully combines the history of America’s first and, to date, only unsuccessful moon mission with a spectacular blend of fine performances, nail-biting moments, and one of the finest endings I’ve seen. Interestingly, I had the chills just now as I recalled it. I wasn’t expecting that . . .

So, why is the film so exciting? A significant contributor to the sky-high level of tension in the film is the knowledge that what’s on the screen really happened to Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert. While it’s relatively easy to think of an incident like this in fairly cerebral terms, it’s a wholly different story when one is forced to consider the reality of conditions on board Apollo 13. When viewed in the light of most films involving space travel, the tasks that the astronauts faced are simple. Can’t they just tell the computer to handle things? Can’t they just send another spacecraft up to rescue them? The reality, however, is much more dynamic and infinitely more complicated. Not only did the spacecraft suffer a massive amount of damage, but the margin for error was razor thin.

That’s a big part of what makes the film so dramatic. In addition, Apollo 13 dramatizes almost everything about what transpired to return the astronauts home. As a viewer, you know how much oxygen they have. You know how many hours the crew on the ground is working to figure out the logistics of bringing them back. You know the exact amount of power that can be spared to reactivate the computers to assist with re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, as someone who’s read Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger’s first-rate book, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, I can assure you that the film has a powerful cutman in its corner: it’s incredibly accurate.

By the end of the film, the tension's built up to the boiling point. Remarkably, you're in the exact same place as the thousands of Americans glued to their TV sets, waiting to see if the astronauts have survived re-entry. That's HUGE. How many films based on actual events of this magnitude create that much suspense? What's more is that Apollo 13 channels that suspense into one of the biggest moments of emotional release that any film has ever given me. Think of it as the type of moment that should have taken place at the end of Slumdog Millionaire.

In 2002, Ron Howard collected Oscars for directing and producing A Beautiful Mind, and a few months ago, all the buzz was about his latest film, Frost/Nixon, with a lot of people saying that it was his finest. All that said, Ron Howard has made some quality films over the course of his career, but Apollo 13 is something else entirely. It's his masterpiece.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

John Hughes

Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, European Vacation, and Home Alone are just a few titles that involved John Hughes a writer or director. Today Hughes died in New York and though he defined the genre of comedy for years Hughes has been retired as a director for almost 20 years. However, not even a few decades could make his work less influential on the generations of teens that have discovered it.

I must admit that I came to the world of John Hughes pretty late. I’m not talking about a film like Home Alone which defined my childhood, but Hughes feats as a writer and director – namely Ferris Bueller, Sixteen Candles & The Breakfast Club. Once I did discover Hughes in my late teens I was hooked.

While Hughes did not invent the teen comedy, he did show how it should be done. He didn’t feel the need to derive humor from sexual situations so common in today’s teen comedies, and more than anything he understood that no matter what film he was making it had to be filled with characters that were genuinely created and treated like human beings. His humor arose from the decisions the characters made based on their personalities and relationships with one another and more than anything they typically became different people by the end of the story no matter how subtly it was done. He was an artist, a comedian, and a hero to the audiences that saw themselves in his characters. Hughes has never had an equal.

Somewhere in Illinois the stars are twinkling bright, the teens are enjoying the summer freedom, and somewhere hearts are light. But there is no joy in Shermer, Illinois for their muse is no more.

"He's gonna be a fry cook on Venus!" RIP John Hughes

NOOOOOO!!! One of the greats, I mean honest to God GREATS passed away today. John Hughes died of a heart attack earlier this morning.

I’m not heartless but a lot of these Hollywood deaths have very little impact on me. People die all the time; it’s that pesky thing that goes along with life. It also helps that a lot of these people have been a bit before my time. I understand the impact they made in the world of film, they may have even influenced some of my artistic tastes but I didn’t grow up with them. I grew up with John Hughes!

If you’re my age it is close to impossible for you not to have been inundated with his work. If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s you watched his movies, it’s as simple as that. Almost each and every one is a classic, films that people from my generation can quote almost verbatim. This is the man that showed us the vacation trials of the Griswolds, introduced us to Long Duk Dong, the most amusing foreign exchange student in the history of cinema, proved Joe Pesci had a funny bone and gave us the one and only Ferris Bueller, THE fun loving, slacker anti-hero of our time!

As a screenwriter Hughes is almost without equal. I dare ANYONE not to laugh uproariously at any of the over dozen screenplays he authored. The man knew how to bring the funny whether it be through absurd and outlandish situations or small, relatable moments that reminded us of our own lives as kids, high schoolers or just very silly people.

Above all else every single thing Hughes touched had heart. While almost every movie he ever made was a comedy each and every single one of them had a sweet center to it that tugged at the heart strings as well. Hughes knew what made people tick, whether it be the desperate family man or horny, rebellious teenagers. He treated each one with equal amounts of respect and good natured ribbing. His movies ALWAYS made you laugh, yet at the same time you knew by the end of them they would touch you in a much more emotionally powerful way as well. Sitting here writing this I can’t help but flash back on the inspired hilarity that is PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES and how by the end of it you may have to question your humanity if you don’t have a lump in your throat when John Candy’s Del Griffith joins Steve Martin’s family for Thanksgiving dinner.

In trying to writing this piece I’ve been trying to come up with my favorite John Hughes movie and I just don’t know if I can. There’s too many great movies with too many great moments. To this day I think Steve Martin’s expletive filled rant at the rental car counter in PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Or there’s the joy of all the terrible things that happen to the cat in NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. Of course then there’s pretty much every moment of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. It’s too much. There’s just too many brilliant gems to sift through in the treasure chest of John Hughes’s filmography. The guy was too good; one of the best and the sadly the world is a little less funny from this point forward. Don’t believe me? I leave you with just some of his best known works and I rest my case.


Monday, August 3, 2009

FotM: The Final Frontier

In 1961 John F. Kennedy set the nation on the path to the moon and ignited the imagination of the American people. Space adventures were a thing of science-fiction movies with characters like Buck Rogers & Flash Gordon; the only people that claimed to be in space already were the Russians and at the height of the Cold War this frightened us as a nation. However, Kennedy ignited our nation with a collective goal – in less than a decade he not only wanted to have men in space, he wanted to have them on the moon.

Traditionally, our nation is a nation of adventurers and pioneers; we blazed across the great west, heralded Lewis & Clark, & romanticized the cowboys and it was natural that we would do the same thing to space. Gene Roddenberry was just as captivated as the rest of the nation and in 1966 “space, the final frontier” was uttered for the first time and though Kennedy’s speech had been eloquent, nothing summed up our nations desire for space better than the words that started Roddenberry’s show. Thirty-seven words changed the face of science fiction, and how we look at space forever.

In the sixties NASA shot into space, but not as quickly as Roddenberry blazed into the final frontier. Though his original adventure series only lasted for three seasons its appeal was so grand that in 1979 his space adventure would hit the big screen with Star Trek the Motion Picture. The first installment of the franchise dealt directly with NASA and its exploration of space, something the rest of the films would not do; with the first Trek to the big screen Roddenberry brought Kirk and crew to V-ger a powerful extraterrestrial being who turns out to be an accidental by-product of our nations original forays into space. Though this film literally played on the space race that spawned Star Trek it did not manage to capture the imaginations of the nation.

However, Roddenberry managed to squeeze a second film out of Paramount Pictures and The Wrath of Khan managed to do what the original series and the first film could not. It made space as glorious as we’d always imagined it, and brought the excitement back to Star Trek; with the perils of revenge, exploration, friendship and sacrifice Kirk, Spock and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise tapped back into the pioneering spirit that fascinates us about space exploration and continued to push into the great unknown that is not just space but the universe and attempt to explain the unexplainable.

Though each Star Trek film would take the Enterprise to a thematically different place what mattered was that Star Trek embodied our future in space, a blend of “adventure, discovery, intelligence…that assumes a positive future for humanity” [NASA]. Only a handful of brave men and women could go into space on the Apollo missions and the voyages that would come after it but anyone who could get to a theatre could take part in the adventures of Captains Kirk and Picard and could imagine themselves as a space explorer, a member of Star Fleet or a crew member on the Enterprise.

As Star Trek continued to influence the imaginations of the public it managed to influence generation after generation of astronauts as well. The first space shuttle was named Enterprise in honor of Kirk’s Enterprise, Roddenberry's ashes launched aboard the Columbia and most recently Paramount let NASA screen the newest Star Trek for its people in space.

Forty years ago we accomplished one of our nation’s most ambitious goals and landed a man on the moon. Just as the memory of the Apollo 11 astronauts will live on forever in the heart of our nation so will Star Trek because it “touches a fundamental nerve in…Americans, because we're pioneers and explorers...things that are the good parts of our country, and Star Trek captures that in a glorious way and gives us a picture towards the future" [].

As it turned out Kennedy was correct “no single space project in this period [would] be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space”, Kennedy just didn’t know he was talking about Star Trek.