“Targets” – 1968. Dir. Peter Bogdanovich

With Tim O’Kelly, Boris Karloff, Nancy Hsueh and Peter Bogdanovich

“Is that what I was afraid of?”

  • Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff)

Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly) is the All American Boy. He’s blonde, handsome, has a beautiful wife and a wonderful family. He has a sporty mustang convertible that was very much in vogue at the time. Then something happens, something makes this guy snap and buy a bunch of ammunition and begins shooting random people, committing random acts of violence that has a final showdown at a local drive-in movie theater where a retiring actor Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff) is attending the final showing of his latest film.

Byron Orlok is an iconic actor who is extremely well established and wealthy. His final film is going to be his last, though he hasn’t told many anyone but his assistant Jenny (Nancy Hsueh). Something has made this well established legendary actor snap, and decided enough is enough – I’m done.

These two men meet together for a final exchange at a local drive-in movie theater where the term “bitch slap” was conceived and born. This film is masterfully guided by novice director Peter Bogdanovich (who also takes on the roll of Karloff’s young and dream-filled director) who made this film for practically nothing for accidental genius Roger Corman.

Tim O’Kelly is magnificent as Bobby Thompson; who on the outside is the perfect mold of an American, but inside he’s hollow – even empty. He’s a returned Vietnam veteran (although the film does a marvelous job of not even slightly using Vietnam as an excuse) and he breaks, he begins killing people who a long distance rifle, sniping them from their cars on the expressway, and then moves to a crowded drive-in. I’ve not seen O’Kelly in anything else, and I don’t know why.

The film ends with one of the most climactic endings to any film I’ve seen. The sniper is on the run from the police; Byron Orlok has spotted the sniper and begins walking him down, the sniper sees Orlok on the gigantic screen behind him, and the towering actor stomping towards him – he doesn’t know what to do! He begins shooting – this does not stop our hero. He approaches the young killer and – I’m not going to give it away, see the film as soon as you can (it’s on Netflix instant!).

Oh, and Boris Karloff is fucking amazing.

Review: 9/10

Oscar Thoughts…and there are a lot of them.

Okay, raise your hand if you’re upset about Quentin Tarantino getting snubbed. Thought so, there are more of you then I thought. I was very disappointed with the Academy Awards last night. It wasn’t only with the awards, and who won and who didn’t win, the production was just bad (maybe more bland, not bad). There were some high points, and I liked of some of the things they did – but that wasn’t enough to save the show. The opening musical number with Neil Patrick Harris was just so fucking atrocious, I couldn’t even believe my eyes. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are two of the funniest guys in show business and I thought they were going to hit it out of the park. They kind of did with some jokes and shorts, but I just thought they weren’t that good.

I was pleased with Christoph Waltz winning for Best Supporting Actor, and I absolutely loved his acceptance speech. I thought it was touching and heartfelt. When it came to Best Original Screenplay, I had a feeling “The Hurt Locker” was going to win (Peyton is my witness). I thought by “Locker” winning that award, it would help “Avatar” or “Inglorious Basterds” win Best Picture. We all know how that turned out. The fact that it has been fifteen years since Tarantino was nominated for anything is too long. The fact he went home empty handed is a crock of shit. What makes “The Hurt Locker” a good film isn’t its screenplay, or memorable dialogue – its Kathryn Bigelow’s direction, it’s Jeremy Renner’s solid performance, and its Anthony Mackie’s supporting performance, the three (distracting) cameos and the near perfect cinematography. It wasn’t the fucking screenplay! Think about “Inglorious Basterds” for a minute. Think about all the characters, the dialogue and the amazing universe that Tarantino has once again constructed! The characters of Hans Landa, Aldo Raine and his version of Hitler! Looking back I am amazed that the Academy didn’t reward the greatest writer/director of our generation. It’s unfair and bullshit. And YOU know it.

I did enjoy the extended acting clips for the supporting roles this year. I think the lack of clips takes away from the emotional connection the audience has with the winner. I am very glad they brought that back. It was truly a treat to see Waltz win. He deserved it hands down, everyone knew it. His speech was very gracious and very sweet. The

"Oscar and Penelope -- that's an uber-bingo!"

Academy sure got this one right. Finally, an actor won an Oscar for being in a Tarantino film. It’s perfect too, Hans Landa may just be Tarantino’s finest character yet. Welcome to America Christoph, enjoy your ride while it lasts. And as much as it pains me to admit it, so was Mo’Niques. I still think she’s a self righteous diva. It seems fair that the star of “Soul Plane” get an Oscar the same night the director of “Pulp Fiction” gets snubbed. Nice.

I was very disappointed with the songs nominated for Best Original Song weren’t played (but for Original Score there was some odd dance number?). I would have enjoyed seeing Ryan Bingham perform “The Weary Kind”. And listened to the other Randy Newman songs that were nominated, I guess they were more worried about showing tribute to horror films. What the fuck was that about? Horror is the most bullshit genre there is because there aren’t any good horror films. If I stretch myself, I can think of 20 good horror films. And I’m talking horror films, not thrillers or mysteries that have scary elements; I’m talking real horror films. I’m sorry but “Silence of the Lambs” isn’t a horror film, and what was with the clip from “Marathon Man”?

One of my favorite parts of the Oscar telecast has always been when they show clips of people from the film industry who passed away the previous year. The addition of James Taylor performing The Beatles “In My Life” was a very nice touch, although I think “Fire and Rain” would have been better. I have one small question, why wasn’t Farrah Fawcett in that montage? She may not have been the best actress in the world, but she was in an Altman film (“Dr. T and the Women) and Robert Duvall’s “The Apostle”. The Academy released a statement this morning saying, “It’s impossible to pay tribute to every star that has passed away.” You’re going to show Brittney Murphy, but not a huge pop culture icon like Fawcett. Really?

Those of you who read my blog and know me know that I am no fan of “The Hurt Locker” and it’s Godlike momentum. I think it drags and doesn’t have a lot of substance to it. I think it’s good, but not great. It’s very ironic that the one Oscar I think it deserved (Best Achievement in Cinematography) was won by “Avatar”.

The fact that Barbara Streisand presented Best Director was the biggest ploy ever and so utterly transparent. How is it possible that Bigelow has a Best Directing Oscar and Stanley Kubrick, Alan J. Pakula, Terrence Malick, Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino don’t have any directing Oscars? With “The Hurt Locker” winning Best Picture, it follows in suit with my opinion that the Academy keeps awarding the wrong film Best Picture. But that’s just my opinion.

There are a lot of things I like about “The Hurt Locker”. The shot of Renner pulling the six secondary bombs around him is great. The cameos are great. The greatest shot of the film is when Renner is home and is standing in the cereal aisle, and has no frame of reference of what to get. It’s just such a haunting long shot of Renner standing there and you know he’s thinking about Iraq. His character is a slightly more intense Willard from “Apocalypse Now”. Bigelow knew what she was doing, but putting gender aside, the film wouldn’t be as big of deal and you know it (at least give me that Kevin). I’ll say it again, “The Hurt Locker” is a good film, but it’s not Best Picture caliber.

I think the biggest upset of the night was Jason Reitman not winning Best Adapted Screenplay for “Up in the Air”. I thought since he was nominated for “Juno” (even though I don’t like the film) and was again nominated for “Up in the Air”. I almost like the fact that Reitman didn’t win because he is the embodiment of nepotism. But to his defense, he is extremely talented – more than his father Ivan Reitman – but still had every opportunity in the world to make films. I resent that.

"Thank you, mom and dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession."

I am very happy that Jeff Bridges finally won his Oscar! Even though he shouldn’t have and Colin Firth should. It was a very sentimental moment, watching Bridges holding his Oscar up in the air. I was worried that Jeremy Renner was going to follow in suit with the Academy’s gushing for an above average non bias (but is anti war?) war film and win Best Actor. I would have lost my mind. Bridges’ acceptance speech was wonderful. I love how he is just a beatnik. Deep down inside, he’s more like the Dude than any of his other characters. I think Renner being introduced by his “Swat” costar Colin Farrell cheapened his nomination. They should have gotten Brad Pitt for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” or Charlize Theron or Richard Jenkins from “North Country”. If “Swat” is your best achievement next to “The Hurt Locker”, that’s pretty sad, although Colin Farrell was delightful as always.

I am getting extremely tired of Ben Stiller. I don’t think he’s as funny as much people. I thought it was somewhat humorous, but I think he dragged it a little too long. But I will give “Greenberg” a try.

The one thing that I really wanted to see was Roger Corman giving his acceptance speech for his Lifetime Achievement Oscar. More than half of the people in the auditorium got their start from Corman. I don’t know why he didn’t speak. That’s pretty shitty.

I love Sean Penn. I think he’s a huge asshole, but a great actor and director. He didn’t let me down with shitting on the Academy. I believe when he said how he and the Academy share that they ignored a great actress the past two years, I believe he was referring to Robin Wright (Penn?). He didn’t thank her in his speech last year, and he thinks she should have been nominated for “The Secret Lives of Pippa Lee”. He’s just so great.

As for Sandra Bullock winning: why? She’s a one trick pony. Her Oscar will follow along the lines of Halle Berry’s and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Best Actress Oscar – people will look back and shake their heads. I feel bad saying this almost; because she seems like a really cool and fun lady, but I think she knows too, that she didn’t really deserve it. As funny as this sounds, I do feel bad for Meryl Streep. She should have won this year and last.

Tom Hanks running out and just announcing the winner was a nice touch. I liked that.

I liked the John Hughes tribute.  That was very classy, and very well done.  But Molly Ringwald scared me.

Maybe Bridges can pull a next year with “True Grit” and win back to back. Wishful thinking?

Did you almost feel like Streisand alluded to Bigelow winning just because she was a woman as well, or was that just me?

And for the love of anything that is holy, please Academy, don’t have ten nominations for best picture next year.

And why wasn’t Jack Nicholson sitting in the front row?

“A Decade Under the Influence” – 2003. Dir. Ted Demme.

I’ve always felt that with documentaries, it’s difficult to chronicle the subject matter in a coherent fashion. Most documentaries that I’ve seen have agendas that are driven by the “documentarian” sometimes I agree, and sometimes I don’t.  “A Decade Under the Influence” is as coherent as it can be considering the subject matter. Director Ted Demme (Jonathan Demme’s nephew) explores the films and filmmakers of the 1970’s. It’s refreshing that there aren’t any off camera questions thrown out at the interviews, although there are certain parts where the interviewer and cameramen off camera at what the interviewees have to say. There is a great moment when William Friedkin talks about the first studio poster that was shown to him for “The Exorcist”, and how it was a white poster with a small girl’s hand holding a bloody crucifix, and the tag line was “For God sake help her!”, and Friedkin goes on to say how appalled he was at the imagery and the use of the word “God” on the poster, saying you can’t use God to market your film, and how it looked like a poster for a “shitty B-movie”.  Another great moment is when Peter Bogdanovich talks about how he was struggling on how he was going to shoot “The Last Picture Show” and how he and the production team were considering painting the town gray.  It wasn’t until Orson Welles told him, “Of course you’ll make it in black and white!”  This film is filled with great moments like that.

At the time of the late 1960’s the Hollywood studio system was in disarray and essentially collapsing. Money wasn’t being made like it used to, and the films were out of touch with the radical changes in American society. The generational gape rufused to accept the American archetypes like John Wayne and Rock Hudson.  The civil rights movement, Vietnam, Woodstock, and the assassination of our leaders all formed this explosive impregnation of the film industry. The artists that are interviewed were the groundbreaking men and women who pioneered the greatest era in film. Some of the interviewees are: Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Pam Grier, Peter Bogdanovich, Roy Scheider, Francis Ford Coppola, Bruce Dern, Julie Christie, Robert Altman, William Friedkin, Paul Schader, Sidney Lumet, Sydney Pollack, Dennis Hopper, and Roger Corman. The only people I believe the documentary is missing are Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson.

The best part about the film is that there aren’t any film historians, or third parties.  All the people interviewed were the ones who garnished firsthand experience during this era. It’s so thrilling to hear how Dennis Hopper was giving a limited budget and a camera to go to Mardi Gras and shoot film there before the producers gave him and Fonda the green light for “Easy Rider”. Hopper talks about how he told his friends not shoot anything without his direction, and how every time he had his back turned they were shooting whatever they wanted. Hopper got so fed up, he took the camera and the film, and what was left of the money back to the producers and told them he was sorry, he didn’t know what he was thinking – there’s no way he could direct a movie. The producers were so impressed with the footage, and with Hopper going on irate tangents about how he wanted a “green light” and not a “yellow light” and screaming about the placement of chairs, that they knew he would be a great director. If it wasn’t for “Easy Rider” making hundreds of dollars on the pennies it cost to make, there wouldn’t have been such a loud and thunderous bang of GREAT films.

Most of these actors and filmmakers were all “Corman trained”, referring of course to Roger Corman. They were filmmaker who knew how to make films, and make them cheaply – that is exactly what the studios were looking for. All these young filmmakers felt that Hollywood was so out of touch with America, how the films lacked realism. These young filmmakers turned to foreign filmmakers like Goddard, Fellini, Kurosawa, and Bergman. What they saw in those films were real. They saw real life though the language and cultural barriers of the films by those filmmakers. Those are the films and filmmakers that inspired them to make their films, make their films about society – essentially make films about whatever they wanted. They took cinema back – briefly.

There is one person who is noticeably missing from the documentary and that is Steven Spielberg. When people like Dennis Hopper and John Cassavettes were running wild making ultra personal films that resonated with their generation all the while making bucket loads of money in ticket sales, Spielberg came along and made “Jaws”, a film that appealed to the masses, and essentially crippled this movement in film and brought the studio system back into play.

The documentary isn’t just entertaining and interesting, it’s an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. It goes from Bruce Dern stroking his ego about his role in “Coming Home” and saying, “I am the fucking movie! They (Jane Fonda and Jon Voight) are just the backdrop, the love story”. Then Demme cuts to Jon Voight talking about Hal Ashby (the films director), and what a wonderful man he was – and Voight beings to become sentimental and cry. It’s so refreshing to hear the artist themselves talk about these films, and how much they meant to them as an artist, and how valuable they were to society. It’s great to hear Scorsese talk about “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver” or Roy Scheider talking about how when he saw “The French Connection” in theaters, the audience was mainly all black, and applauded at Gene Hackman’s line, “You dumb ginny, don’t you know never to trust a nigger.”  Scheider goes on the explain that:  “They knew whitey was thinking that, and finally somebody made a movie where whitey actually says it!”  What truly makes this a great, great documentary is that all the people interviewed are gushing with passion about what a remarkable era this was, not only in film, but in America.

REVIEW: 10/10.

Accidental Genius: Roger Corman

“I’ve never made the film I wanted to make. No matter what happens, it never turns out exactly as I hoped.”

I was so pleased when it was announced that Roger Corman was awarded the Academy’s Life Time Achievement award. There are still others that are just as deserving: Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers, Sergio Leone, David Lynch (although her has time for a long overdue Oscar), the list can go on and on. Roger Corman picked up where Ed Wood left off, making nothing but B Movies. His filmography is filled with bizzaro titles and a bunch of lame movies but Roger Corman is responsible for the birth of the greatest generation of filmmakers. He was the only producer who would give people a chance to make films as long as they would stay within his extremely low budget. Corman directed a few films, most of them were mediocre cult films, but he does have a masterpiece, “St. Valentines Day Massacre” (1967) starring Ralph Meeker as Bugsy Malone and Jason Robards as Al Capone. The film also co-stars George Segal as Peter Gusenberg and two small parts for Corman players Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern. Corman also directed “The Trip” staring Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper and it was written by Jack Nicholson. The film is essential about a group of people who embark on an acid trip. Corman reportedly took LSD along with Dern, Hopper, Fonda and Nicholson to “get the effect” of the film he was making. How cool is that? Corman is responsible for the careers of: Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Jonathon Demme, Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdonavitch, Ron Howard, John Sayles, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese. How impressive is that? Corman has had cameo appearances in “The Godfather, Part II”, Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13” and in every film Jonathon Demme has made.  I love how the filmmakers he gave a chance too, never forgot about him and still to this day pay much homage, and give him much credit.  This is a man who was notorious for shooting films as cheap as possible, and in the shortest amount of time. Corman remains bedrock of the 1960’s and 1970’s and was the father of the greatest generation of filmmakers. There is an excellent Corman Boxset you can get, and I would strongly advise the serious movie watcher to invest in it.