About

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Thanks for stopping by—for some opinions, some facts, some fun. The accent here is on fairness, skipping highbrow snob snorts, p.c. bleats and petulant ax-grinding.  While your host does not isolate in a darkened room, spilling diet sodas while talking back to the screen, and can run, jump, dance & throw a ball like a quasi-normal, over six decades I’ve somehow managed to see more than 6,500 movies. It’s fun to share my takes on the stories they tell and the people who’ve told them.

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Kid with special effect, fort and friend. 1962, maybe just after seeing “Lawrence Of Arabia”, “The Longest Day”, “Mutiny On The Bounty”–or, hey, wait a sec –“The 300 Spartans!”

We’ll struggle to keep write-ups succinct, balanced enough to applaud what works in a film and nudge what may be lacking. We favor putting things in historical and thematic context. As to synopses, keep those as brief as possible. It’s a cheat when reviewers use up six paragraphs and several minutes of your life to rake over the plot in detail. Here’s a concept: let’s be surprised by what happens. War Of The Worlds—Martians attack the Earth. Bingo! All you need to know.  Now, is it good or bad, and why, why not?—that’s what counts.  Instead of relying on star-symbols, grades A thru F, or dangling angled thumbs, I gamble you’ll read all the way to the end of a piece, get a few clues and some handy info without losing patience or feeling the experience of seeing the movie was ruined. Cut to the chase, turn off your phone, can the chatter and roll ’em.

Often we will note the ages of cast members at the time the film was made, with the idea that this sort of places these screen-people we feel we “know” in their relative stage of development as flesh & blood humans & gifted (hopefully) artists. “Yikes, Lancaster was 44 and he could still jump over that log like a teenager!”

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Academy Award winners and nominations are cited since—nod or sniff—they’ve always been the industry gold standard.  Naturally, I have opinions on the choices and comment on them, hopefully for perspective, assuredly for fun.  The speech-summoning statuettes provide, aside from yearly amusement, a nice way of saying “Bravo!” from those toiling in the same field. In the bleachers, gushing “Oh my God, it won seven Oscars, it must be fabulous!” or “Those dumb statues don’t mean a damn thing!” are two sides of the aisle that both need to stop kicking my seat.
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Again, kill that cell phone. It’s not murder if the victim wasn’t breathing to start with.
Figures on production costs and grosses are included with the caveat that they are rarely 100% reliable, as accounting was/is/will be often be shifted around by studios to address other outlays, punish errant producers, hide, cheat…With demonic inflation, things get ever more screwy to pin down.  Let’s leave it to the reader to factor in that a million bucks in 1952 doesn’t equal the same amount today.  Looking at $$ figures can also help place a film in a greater historical context regarding The Market—“Wow, it’s so famous, yet no-one went to see it!”  A little romantic comedy that cost a million-five in 1962 now swallows sixty times that.  Today’s astronomical grosses reflect inflated prices and a surged population.
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Comments are welcome, as we’re keen to hear and share viewpoints and impressions, but we draw the line at getting into ego-dueling hissy-fits over defining “art” v. entertainment, and keyboard battles on restrictive interpretations of the creative process according to prevailing political tides: the dwindling supply of life sand is too precious, better spent re-watching The Wind And The Lion or The Magnificent Seven for the fortieth time. Want to trade lines from It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World or The Wild Bunch, compare Bernard Herrmann to Jerry Goldsmith or just plug a farce, adventure or monster movie you like? Your click is my command.

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Oh, and the concentration is on feature films from the Sound Era. We’re silent on Silents. Also not included are documentaries, shorts, made-for-TV films (with a handful of exceptions) or mini-series. While many will bemoan it,  animated pictures are not present, unless they are blended with live-action. So, Who’s Afraid of Roger Rabbit and Mary Poppins make the cut, but greats like Bambi, Fantasia and Toy Story find a home elsewhere. As with the exclusion of notable silent movies, that’s not a reflection on their quality.

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Some of my musings you’ll agree with, others you’ll dismiss, but do come along on memory trips to steamy jungles, raging seas and distant planets, to boudoirs and battlefields, peals of laughter and screams of fright. Rumble with Jets and Sharks, try to reach ‘The Big W’ before Ethel, see ‘the varmint’ with Linus, take Aqaba by camel and Ft. Knox by Galore.    Cheers, Mark

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Larry Pennell, actor and a great brother-in-law

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