Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NEW YEAR'S EVE. As we prepare to put 2008 safely in our rearview mirrors, we can only take a deep breath and hope that 2009 is a little less rough for all of us. Most people I know have been through a hell of a lot this year and I just wanted to wish you all a much better new year. Coincidentally, this just happens to be the 600th post on this blog and in the spirit of new beginnings I'd like to start right here with a little feature I hope to continue all through 2009. Here goes...
One of my favourite books as a kid was the Duncan Emrich compiled treasure trove called THE HODGEPODGE BOOK (seen here on a background of a quilt my grandmother made before I was even born) which contained, according to the cover blurb, "all manner of curious, interesting, and out-of-the-way information drawn from American Folklore". It was this book that probably peaked my interest in folklore very early. In the author's own words: "There are things in this Hodgepodge which are very, very true, or almost always true. For example: 'A bee never gets wet', or 'Rain before seven, stop before eleven,' or 'A penny saved is a penny earned.' Then there are other things here which are true, but in a different sort of way. Examples: 'A ghost is never seen without mittens,' (Have you ever seen one without mittens?), or 'If you can keep your tongue out of the hole where a tooth has been pulled, a gold tooth will grow in its place'. And then there are other things which are halfway between. You can believe them or not. 'If you want to get rid of your freckles, wash your face with buttermilk'..." And so on. The book, then, is filled with old-timey wisdom and folklore which to my mind always evoked the Victorian age and VERY early 20th century. Think of the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis" and you've got the image. So I hope to dig out folky wisdom throughout the year appropriate to the time or season and post them here for your amusement or edification. And since this 1972 out-of-print book was written for children, you can share these with the little munchkins in your life.
That leaves us with New Year's Eve. That's where I'm going to start. According to The Hodgepodge Book:
  • On New Year's Eve place a loaf of bread, a silver dollar, and some salt on the table, and you will have bread, money, and good luck throughout the coming year.
  • Just before midnight on New Year's Eve, set a tub of water out in the yard and into it drop a penny. You will be lucky in money matters for the next year.
  • Watch closely at midnight on New Year's Eve and you can see an old man leave your house and a young child enter.
  • On New Year's Eve, sleep with a horseshoe under your pillow and at midnight, when the bells are ringing, make a wish.
  • Ring out the old,
  • Ring in the new,
  • Ring out the false,
  • Ring in the true!

There you have it; straight from The Hodgepodge Book which, again according to the author, emphasizes "...beliefs and superstitions . . . customs and traditions belonging particularly to children and which contribute to making up their very special and delightful world". I hope these wonderful, old-fashioned excerpts will appeal to the child in all of us. Join me back here tomorrow for New Year's Day!

Friday, December 26, 2008

THE BUTCHER'S BILL 2008. As is my custom at every year's end, I take time out to remember those who have departed during the preceding year. And as a special addition, this being the first year I've done this during the existence of our sister audio blog, you will be able to go over to BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA and listen to those musicians who died during 2008. But for now, here is a list of those we've lost in 2008:
  • MORT GARSON, musician/songwriter "Our Day Will Come", "The Wozard of Iz"
  • MAILA NURMI, actress "Plan 9 From Outer Space", "Vampira the Movie"
  • SIR EDMUND HILLARY, explorer
  • BRAD RENFRO, actor "The Client"
  • REVERAND LYNN LEMON, actor "Plan 9 From Outer Space"
  • BOBBY FISCHER, chess player
  • GEORGE KEYMAS, actor "Twilight Zone - Eye of the Beholder"
  • CAROLE LYNN, actress "The Ghost Train"
  • ALLAN MELVIN, actor "The Brady Bunch", "All in the Family"
  • LOIS NETTLETON, actress "Twilight Zone - The Midnight Sun"
  • SUZANNE PLESHETTE, actress "The Birds", "The Bob Newhart Show"
  • ROBERT DOQUI, actor "Coffy"
  • SHELL KEPLER, actress "General Hospital"
  • JOHN STEWART, folk singer "The Kingston Trio"
  • HEATH LEDGER, actor "The Dark Knight", "Brokeback Mountain"
  • MARGARET TRUMAN, author /daughter of Harry S. Truman
  • BARRY MORSE, actor "Space: 1999", "The Fugitive"
  • JOHN MCWETHY, ABC news reporter
  • ROY SCHEIDER, actor "Jaws"
  • STEVE GERBER, comic book writer "Howard the Duck", "The Defenders"
  • DAVID GROH, actor "Rhoda"
  • PERRY LOPEZ, actor "Chinatown", "The Two Jakes"
  • JOE GIBBS, reggae producer
  • BEN CHAPMAN, actor "Creature from the Black Lagoon"
  • STEVE WHITAKER, comic book colorist "V For Vendetta"
  • BUDDY MILES, musician "Them Changes"
  • MIKE SMITH, singer "The Dave Clark Five"
  • WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, columnist
  • GARY GYGAX, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons role playing game
  • LEONARD ROSENMAN, composer "Lord of the Rings"
  • NORMAN "HURRICANE" SMITH, singer "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?"
  • DAVE STEVENS, comic book artist "The Rocketeer"
  • ANTHONY MINGHELLA, director "Truly Madly Deeply", "The English Patient"
  • IVAN DIXON, actor "Hogan's Heroes"
  • ARTHUR C. CLARKE, author "2001: A Space Odyssey"
  • PAUL SCOFIELD, actor "A Man For All Seasons", "The Crucible"
  • BRIAN WILDE, actor "Last of the Summer Wine", "Night of the Demon"
  • RICHARD WIDMARK, actor "Pickup on South Street", "Kiss of Death"
  • JOHN LIST, murderer
  • NEIL ASPINALL, The Beatles' road manager/driver
  • SEAN LEVERT, singer
  • JULES DASSIN, director "Night and the City"
  • JOHNNY BYRNE, writer "Doctor Who", "Space: 1999"
  • CHARLTON HESTON, actor "The Ten Commandments", "Ben-Hur"
  • CEDELLA BOOKER, mother of Bob Marley
  • HAZEL COURT, actress "Curse of Frankenstein", "Masque of the Red Death"
  • OLLIE JOHNSTON, Disney animator "Snow White", "Fantasia"
  • KAY LINAKER, actress/writer "The Blob", "Drums Along the Mohawk"
  • AL WILSON, singer "Show and Tell"
  • PAUL DAVIS, singer "I Go Crazy"
  • JOY PAGE, actress "Casablanca"
  • BEBE BARRON, composer "Forbidden Planet"
  • JIMMY GIUFFRE, jazz musician "Jazz on a Summer's Night"
  • TRISTRAM CARY, composer "Quatermass & the Pit", "Doctor Who"
  • ALBERT HOFFMAN, inventor of LSD
  • JULIE EGE, actress "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires"
  • EDDY ARNOLD, country singer
  • JOHN PHILIP LAW, actor "Barbarella", "Golden Voyage of Sinbad"
  • ABBY MANN, writer "Judgement at Nuremberg"
  • JOHN FORBES-ROBERTSON, actor "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires"
  • WILL ELDER, comic book artist "Mad Magazine", "EC Comics"
  • ALEXANDER COURAGE, composer "Star Trek"
  • JOSEPH PEVNEY, director "Star Trek - The Trouble with Tribbles", "Star Trek - Amok Time"
  • UTAH PHILLIPS, folk singer
  • DICK MARTIN, comedian "Laugh-In"
  • SYDNEY POLLACK, director "Tootsie", "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"
  • HARVEY KORMAN, actor "High Anxiety", "The Carol Burnett Show"
  • YVES SAINT-LAURENT, fashion designer
  • BO DIDDLEY, singer
  • MEL FERRER, actor "Fall of the Roman Empire", "War and Peace"
  • JIM MCKAY, sportscaster
  • BOB ANDERSON, actor "It's A Wonderful Life", "The Bishop's Wife"
  • BRUCE PURCHASE, actor "Dr Who - The Pirate Planet", "I Claudius"
  • TIM RUSSERT, TV newsman "Meet the Press"
  • TONY SCHWARTZ, sound recorder "New York Taxi Driver", "Nueva York"
  • STAN WINSTON, special effects artist "Aliens", "Terminator 2"
  • CYD CHARISSE, actress "The Band Wagon", "Singin' in the Rain"
  • DODY GOODMAN, actress "Grease", "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman"
  • GEORGE CARLIN, comedian
  • DON S. DAVIS, actor "Twin Peaks"
  • ELISABETH SPRIGGS, actress "We, the Accused", "Spider's Web"
  • LARRY HARMON, Bozo the Clown
  • JESSE HELMS, Bozo the Senator
  • EVELYN KEYES, actress "The Seven Year Itch", "Before I Hang"
  • JO STAFFORD, singer "You Belong To Me"
  • ESTELLE GETTY, actress "The Golden Girls"
  • ERIK DARLING, singer
  • JACK KAMEN, comic book artist "Tales From the Crypt", "Vault of Horror"
  • ROBERT HAZARD, singer "The Escalator of Life"
  • BERNIE MAC, comedian
  • ISAAC HAYES, singer/actor "Shaft", "South Park", "Wattstax"
  • JOHN ESMONDE, writer "The Good Life aka Good Neighbors"
  • JERRY WEXLER, songwriter/producer "Atlantic Records"
  • JOHNNY MOORE, trumpeter "The Skatalites"
  • LEROI MOORE, musician "The Dave Matthews Band"
  • PERVIS JACKSON, musician "The Spinners"
  • BILL MELENDEZ, animator/producer "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
  • DON LAFONTAINE, voice announcer
  • MICHAEL PATE, actor "The Black Castle", "The Strange Door"
  • JERRY REED, singer/actor "Hot Stuff"
  • ANITA PAGE, actress "The Broadway Melody"
  • NORMAN WHITFIELD, songwriter "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
  • CONNIE HAINES, singer "The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra"
  • PAUL NEWMAN, actor "Nobody's Fool", "The Hustler"
  • PETER COPLEY, actor "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed", "Quatermass & the Pit"
  • NICK REYNOLDS, folk singer "The Kingston Trio"
  • ALTON ELLIS, reggae singer
  • NEAL HEFTI, composer "Batman", "The Odd Couple"
  • CHRISTOPHER WICKING, screenwriter "To the Devil-A Daughter", "Scream and Scream Again"
  • EDIE ADAMS, singer/actress "The Ernie Kovacs Show", "The Apartment"
  • LEVI STUBBS, singer "The Four Tops"
  • DEE DEE WARWICK, singer "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me"
  • RUDY RAY MOORE, comedian "Dolemite"
  • STUDS TERKEL, author
  • DELMAR WATSON, actor "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington"
  • ESTELLE REINER, actress "When Harry Met Sally"
  • YMA SUMAC, singer "Voice of the Xtabay"
  • MICHAEL CRICHTON, author "The Andromeda Strain", "Jurassic Park"
  • MIRIAM MAKEBA, singer
  • MITCH MITCHELL, drummer "The Jimi Hendrix Experience"
  • IRVING BRECHER, screenwriter "Go West", "The Big Store", "Bye Bye Birdie"
  • JOHN MICHAEL HAYES, screenwriter "Rear Window", "The Trouble With Harry", "To Catch A Thief"
  • PAUL BENEDICT, actor "The Jefferson"
  • ODETTA, folk singer "No More Auction Block For Me", "Water Boy"
  • FORREST J. ACKERMAN, writer/editor "Famous Monsters of Filmland"
  • NINA FOCH, actress "Executive Suite", "My Name is Julia Ross"
  • BEVERLY GARLAND, actress "The Alligator People", "It Conquered the World", "Not of This Earth"
  • SUNNY VON BULOW, heiress
  • BOB SPIERS, director "Absolutely Fabulous", "Fawlty Towers", "Are You Being Served?"
  • DENNIS YOST, singer "Classics IV"
  • ROBERT PROSKY, actor "Hill Street Blues", "Mrs Doubtfire"
  • BETTIE PAGE, pin-up queen
  • VAN JOHNSON, actor "The Caine Mutiny"
  • KATHY STAFF, actress "Last of the Summer Wine", "Open All Hours"
  • MAJEL BARRETT, actress "Star Trek"
  • SAM BOTTOMS, actor "Apocalypse Now", "The Last Picture Show"
  • ROBERT MULLIGAN, director "To Kill A Mockingbird"
  • EARTHA KITT, singer/actress
  • ANN SAVAGE, actress "Detour"
  • DELANEY BRAMLETT, musician "Delaney & Bonnie & Friends"
  • FREDDIE HUBBARD, musician "Hub-Tones"
  • DONALD E. WESTLAKE, author

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

THE 2008 PENGUIN AWARD WINNERS! Just in time for Happy Krimble, we're going to announce the winners a tad early. Before we being, if you'd like to refresh your memory as to the nominees you can click right here and see them all. Go ahead, I'll wait.
OK, I see you're back. Now turn around so I can see the rest of ya! Ahem. Alright, enough bandlyhoo, let's get on with the winnahs! I must say that the fields for SONG OF THE YEAR and ALBUM OF THE YEAR were both refreshingly crowded this time. Can this mean the music industry is improving?!?!? Well, let's not get silly. But unlike recent years, there was a much stronger competition in these two categories. But typically for recent years, the categories of DUET and COVER SONG OF THE YEAR have again been relatively thin on the ground. That may account for the sure-to-be controversial winner of the DUET OF THE YEAR. But we'll get to that in a moment. First. . .here are the winners.
Listen to Duffy's Stepping Stone here
Listen to Distant Dreamer: a song also nominated for song of the year from the Penguin Award winning album Rockferry


Listen to You Ain't Goin' Nowhere here


Listen to Sailing to Philadelphia here

Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust by SIGUR ROS
So there you have it. For the second year in a row, the song and album winner is from the same artist (an occurrence which rarely happened in the history of the Penguin Awards). Last year Amy Winehouse won song and album. This year it's a Welsh wandswide (hey, who let the ravishing Kay Francis in here?!?) with Duffy taking the two top prizes. The race for album of the year, though very strong, was really no contest since Duffy's album was played endlessly on my metaphorical turntable this year. However, the race for song of the year was tortuously difficult for me this year. Literally at any given time there was a different front runner: The Guggenheim Grotto's VERTIGO, Sigur Ros' VON (LIVE) and Declan O'Rourke's GALILEO being the strongest challengers. But once again, the sheer repeated plays of STEPPING STONE demonstrated to me the staying power of Duffy's song and it's inevitable place as song of the year. Bizarrely, on more than one occasion, I was known to put the song on endless repeat in my car and I listened to that song over and over for an hour without shutting it off. If that don't say somethin' about my unhealthy attachment to the song, I don't know what done do!
The much weaker field for Cover Song of the Year saw really only one front-runner: Glen & Marketa's cover of Bob Dylan's YOU AIN'T GOIN' NOWHERE just lifted me up every time I heard it. I guess that's why they won an Oscar, innit??? Well, now the pair can add a Penguin Award to their mantle.
As for the winner of DUET OF THE YEAR, you may have noticed that the particularly weak field of nominees has resulted in a song from the year 2000 winning the Penguin Award in 2008. But, as those of you familiar with the Penguin Award by-laws (codified in the year 1622) a nominee of winner of a Penguin Award does not necessarily have to have been recorded in that year. And this Mark Knopfler & James Taylor song (relating the true origin of the Mason-Dixon line) from 2000 is something I simply never heard before this year; hence it is eligible. While I usually weight those songs made this year more than older songs, if the older song manages to demolish all the others -- it wins! And so SAILING FOR PHILADELPHIA did.
Finally, we come to the best album cover. I don't know about you but nekkid asses make me laugh. And the cover of Sigur Ros' album "Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust" really depicts the wacky abandon of the album title which translates as "With A Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly".
So once again, congratulations to all the nominees and winners as this year's Penguin Awards now take their place in the history of modern music as we know it, already! See ya next year. Happy listening!

Friday, December 19, 2008

IT'S CHRISTMAS OVER AT OUR SISTER BLOG: BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA. Why don't you sprinkle a little tinsel on yourself and head on over. Click here and Santa's sleigh will whisk you away! They got egg nog over there, I hear.

Friday, December 12, 2008

BETTIE PAGE (1923 - 2008). There was never any supermodel nor any pin-up queen who could ever approach the earth-shaking iconic status of the great Bettie Page. She never appeared in public once her legendary fame attained cult status because, she said, she wanted all her fans to remember her as she was at her height, in all her glory and youth. In that manner, I'd like to present this pictorial tribute to the breathtaking Bettie Page; who died today at the age of 85.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A YEAR IN MOVIES 2008. In 2008, I watched a WHOLE LOT of movies. Some of them were old favourites but many were movies I was watching for the very first time ever. Last year at about this time I made a list (yes, ANOTHER list) of my 25 favourite films which I had seen for the first time in 2007. These were movies, old and new, which I had never seen until that year. If you want to see what I had newly discovered in 2007 click here. Well, this year I spent much time (and considerable filthy lucre) acquiring movies I had never seen before. So, because of that, this year I've had to expand the list to 50! And believe me, I still had to agonize over which movies did not make the cut. But in my ever-widening quest to track down and see more and more "must see" films, the year 2008 brought these films to my eyes -- movies I had never seen before this year but have now become new favourites. At the end of each brief description, I will also attribute credit to those who encouraged me to seek out the film. So, with your kind indulgence, I would like to once again list (in alphabetical order) these new favourites which I saw for the very first time in 2008:
  • AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD (1972) -- Klaus Kinski, the maddest of madmen, stars as the equally mad Spanish conquistador futilely tracking through the jungle to find the lost city of El Dorado. Apparently both director Werner Herzog and Kinski pulled guns on each other during the filming. Loaded with many haunting images, the final shot of the raft swarming with monkeys is one of the best evocations of madness and futility I've ever seen! Utterly delirious fever dream of a film. Who made me watch this?: Danny Peary's CULT MOVIES book recommended by Terry Frost of Paleocinema.
  • ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955) -- Oh, what melodrama from director Douglas Sirk. Jane Wyman is the widow who falls for younger man Rock Hudson only to have her children, her friends . . . hell, the entire town disapprove and try to ruin their only chance for happiness. Completely soppy and damned effective, too. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • AMERICAN MADNESS (1932) -- The Frank Capra film that probably none of you have seen. This is the first truly "Capraesque" Capra film which finds Walter Huston heading a bank by using the "personal touch". However, when a Depression-panicky public embarks on a run on the bank, Huston's altruism is tested. The "run on the bank" scene is technically brilliant. This film is particularly appropriate to watch now that the economy has tanked here in 2008!
  • ATTACK! (1956) -- One of the best war movies I've ever seen -- and that's something since I usually don't LIKE war movies. Robert Aldrich directs a superb cast including Jack Palance, Eddie Albert and Lee Marvin. An incompetent Captain is getting his men killed while the higher brass refuses to do anything about it. Gripping, suspenseful and mesmerizing. Who made me watch this?: Weaverman over at FLEAPIT OF THE MIND.
  • L'AVVENTURA (1960) -- The first in director Michelangelo Antonioni's groundbreaking "trilogy". A group of friends go off for a day trip to a deserted Mediterranean island and one of the group disappears mysteriously. A truly revolutionary film beautifully shot and starring the sublime Monica Vitti! Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952) -- Surely one of the best movies about Hollywood. Director Vincente Minnelli is blessed with a superior cast: Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan and Gloria Grahame (who won an Academy Award for this one). Tinseltown wheeling and dealing beautifully presented. Who made me watch this?: Terry Frost from Paleocinema.
  • THE BIG RED ONE (1980) -- Yet another war movie on my list. What's going on?!? This is director Sam Fuller's restored DVD version and it's an epic! This is a depiction of World War II from the dogface point of view; from a director who actually fought in World War II. All Fuller's crusty humour and forthright truthfulness is evident. Lee Marvin is a wonder. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • A CANTERBURY TALE (1944) -- This Powell & Pressburger classic has made it's way on to my top ten list of all time. A gentle little tale concerning some English travelers during the Blitz who encounter a mysterious assailant who throws glue into women's hair. But not really. It's about much more than that; the glue hurler is just a maguffin to get the movie started rolling. A truly sublime and spiritually surprising film. Who made me watch this?: Weaverman.
  • COTTON COMES TO HARLEM (1970) -- One of the first of the 70's "blaxploitation" movies and one of the best. This one was actually based on a novel by Chester Himes featuring his two famous detectives Coffin Ed and Gravedigger (Godfrey Cambridge & Raymond St. Jacques respectively). The film is jam-packed with great character actors: Calvin Lockhart, Redd Foxx, John Anderson and Cleavon Little among them. The late Ossie Davis directs with flair and humour.
  • CUTTER'S WAY (1981) -- A bizarre film with no real likeable characters that still manages to hold one's interest. John Heard plays a badly wounded Vietnam vet and Jeff Bridges plays his male hoyden friend who witnesses someone dumping what looks like a dead body in an alley. Heard becomes obsessed with proving a local bigwig has committed the murder while Bridges does everything he can NOT to help him. A true cult movie. Who made me watch this?: Danny Peary in his CULT MOVIES books via Terry Frost.
  • LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT (1967) aka YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT -- Infectious French musical with great Michel Legrand songs, directed by Jacques Demy with exploding colour and starring scintillating Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, Michael (WEST SIDE STORY) Chakiris and Gene Kelly himself; giving the production some real MGM musical cache! You can't stay depressed if you watch this movie! Who made me watch this?: Terry Frost.
  • THE DIVORCEE (1930) -- A pre-code Hollywood movie that doesn't pussyfoot around delicate subject matter. Norma Shearer and Chester Morris are a married couple very much in love until Shearer discovers that Morris has had an affair. Norma decides what's good enough for him is good enough for her and promptly goes out and starts sleeping around. Startling movie if you're not used to pre-code Hollywood.
  • L'ECLISSE (1962) -- The third in Michelangelo Antonioni's "trilogy", this has now become my favourite film of all time. I saw it for the first time this past January and I've watched it 11 times so far this year. Monica Vitti returns along with Alain Delon in a film impossible to describe. Even more groundbreaking than L'AVVENTURA, the final 10 minutes is stunning! Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • EXECUTIVE SUITE (1954) -- Nothing could be more boring to me than the world of high finance. Which is why this Robert Wise film surprised the hell out of me by being so absorbing. The head of a manufacturing company drops dead without naming a successor. His entire board of directors begins jockeying for position as if they were in a Shakespearean play or the medieval court of King Henry II! Absolutely perfect cast includes William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, June Allyson, Walter Pidgeon, Fredric March, Shelley Winters, Nina Foch, Louis Calhern and Paul Douglas. Who made me watch this?: Peter Biskind in his book excellent book on 50's films SEEING IS BELIEVING.
  • FIDO (2006) -- Billy Connelly is perfectly cast as a zombie (he has no dialogue and yet is excellent) in a world where zombies have been domesticated and utilized as servants. Andrew Currie directs with real comic flair. Who made me watch this?: Terry Frost.
  • FRANCESCO, GUILLARE DI DIO (1950) aka THE FLOWERS OF ST. FRANCIS. A religious movie that is truly beautiful and not the slightest bit preachy. Based on a medieval work describing incidents in the life of Francis of Assisi, this movie can truly be called sublime. Robert Rossellini directs from a Frederico Fellini screenplay. A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful film! Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • FREEWAY (1996) -- If you told me I'd watch and love a movie with Reese Witherspoon in it, I would've called you a doity boid. However, this is the one to watch. When she still had "acting cred", Reese stars as a delinquent who encounters a serial killer. The clash of these two immovable objects is jaw-dropping. Basically a twisted retelling of Little Red Riding Hood that also stars Kiefer Sutherland and a surprisingly good Brooke Shields. Who made me watch this?: The Finkmaster Flash, that's who!
  • THE FURIES (1950) -- A Western Gothic that plays like King Lear. Walter Huston plays an all-powerful cattle baron in New Mexico territory battling with his strong-willed daughter Barbara Stanwyck. Another magnificent Western directed by Anthony Mann which also features a stellar cast: Judith Anderson, Wendell Corey, Wallace Ford, Gilbert Roland, Thomas Gomex , Beulah Bondi and Albert Dekker among them. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • GIANT (1956) -- Sprawling adaptation by director George Stevens of Edna Ferber's epic novel of powerful Texas cattle rancher Benedict clan encountering the challenge of newly discovered oil. Notable as James Dean's last film, also starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Mercedes McCambridge, Carroll Baker, Chill Wills, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor et. al. Who made me watch this?: Peter Biskind.
  • HANK WILLIAMS: THE SHOW HE NEVER GAVE (1980) -- Canadian country singer Sneezy Waters is spellbinding as country great Hank Williams. The film concerns an imaginary "last concert" in a honkytonk bar on the final night of Hank's life. The songs are great, of course, and the performance really gets to the heart of the man. Who made me watch this?: Weaverman.
  • HEIMA (2007) -- Concert film of Icelandic group Sigur Ros as they tour Iceland giving free, impromptu concerts for the locals. Breathtaking photography of the beautiful Icelandic terrain is accompanied by equally spectacular musical performances -- particularly the live version of their song "Von" given in what looks like a school cafeteria that sometimes reduces me to tears.
  • IKIRU (1952) -- Akira Kurosawa's meditation on death and the meaning of one's life as it has been lived. Takashi Shimura is a revelation as a bureaucrat who develops stomach cancer and looks back on a wasted life. Can he manage one great task to leave his mark on the world he's about to leave? Who made me watch this?: Weaverman.
  • THE INFORMER (1935) -- John Ford won a Best Director Oscar for this film which, in many ways, is very unlike a John Ford movie. Ford ventures into German Expressionistic shots in depicting a down-on-his-luck man turning in his Irish rebel friend for money. The evocation of the 1922-era "Irish troubles" is a subject close to Ford's heart. Victor McLaglen won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of informer Gypo Nolan. Ford would tell McLaglen that he would not be shooting any scenes that day and then suddenly roll the cameras on him; resulting in a frantic quality in McLaglen's performance which is heartfelt and real.
  • JOHNNY GUITAR (1954) -- Another Gothic Western shot with a bizarre colour palette by director Nicholas Ray. Starring grande dame Joan Crawford as Vienna: a "takes no shit from nobody" saloon keeper who clashes with the strait-laced puritanical townfolk lead by Mercedes McCambridge. Sterling Hayden, Ward Bond and John Carradine also star. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • JUNGFRUKALLEN (1960) aka THE VIRGIN SPRING -- Director Ingmar Bergman takes us back to medieval Sweden as he retells an old folk tale concerning a young girl who sets off to deliver candles to church and is set upon, raped and murderer by three toughs. Unflinching and bold, this won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. A literally breathtaking final reel caps off a surprisingly spiritual film.
  • KUNDUN (1997) -- Martin Scorsese's overlooked depiction of the life story of H. H. the Dalai Lama, his discovery as a young boy and the eventual takeover of Tibet by Communist China. Visually beautiful film.
  • LADRI DI BICICLETTE (1948) aka THE BICYCLE THIEF -- One of the most famous of Italian Neo-Realist cinema, Vittoria De Sica's film about a destitute man who can only land a job if he's got a bicycle; and then someone steals his bicycle. The man and his son search for the bicycle. From this we get an immensely moving and powerful film. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946) -- Yet another superb Powell & Pressburger masterpiece set during World War II. American servicewoman Kim Hunter picks up a radio call from British airman David Niven as his shot-up plane is going down in flames. He has no parachute and bails out to certain death. Only he survives. The battle is then on between those powers in Heaven who demand that Niven head straight for the afterlife and the living who try all they can to let him stay on Earth. Those scenes taking place in the afterlife are shot in black & white while the Earth-based scenes are shot in vivid colour. No one made 'em like Powell & Pressburger. Who made me watch this?: Weaverman.
  • IL MIO VIAGGIO IN ITALIA (1999) aka MY VOYAGE TO ITALY -- Martin Scorsese's documentary examining the groundbreaking Italian movies of the 40's, 50's and 60's by such directors as Rossellini, De Sica, Antonioni, Fellini, etc. Every Italian film on this list is there because of this monumental documentary. Who made me watch this?: Terry Frost.
  • THE NAKED SPUR (1953) -- Another wonderful Anthony Mann western featuring James Stewart giving a rather dark performance as a bounty hunter trying to bring back desperado Robert Ryan. Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker and Millard Mitchell round out the cast of flawed characters in this western character study. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • NATTVARDGASTERNA (1962) aka WINTER LIGHT -- Now officially my second favourite film of all time, this Ingmar Bergman masterpiece concerns a pastor's crisis of faith. Devastatingly vivid performances by Bergman regulars Gunnar Bjornstrand, Ingrid Thulin and Max Von Sydow anchor this bleak depiction of three hours on a wintery afternoon. Masterful, thought-provoking and emotionally raw. Who made me watch this?: Weaverman.
  • THE NINTH CONFIGURATION (1980) -- William Peter Blatty wrote and directed this bizarre film which initially appears to be a cross between M*A*S*H* and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST but, before you know it, reveals itself to be about much more deeper subjects. Surprisingly spiritual as well as funny. Stacey Keach takes over the running of a military insane asylum. Co-starring Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, the magnificent Scott Wilson, and Robert Loggia. This is a movie you want to immediately re-watch after your first viewing. Who made me watch this?: my dear wife Ilsa*.
  • NOTORIOUS (1946) -- Alfred Hitchcock's tale of espionage took a second viewing before I really appreciated it. Party girl Ingrid Bergman is convinced to spy on a South American group of Nazis by US agent Cary Grant. Claude Rains plays the Nazi whom Bergman is asked to romance.
  • OM SHANTI OM (2007) -- The biggest moneymaker in the history of Indian film, this Bollywood musical spectacular is unlike any other Bollywood production I've ever seen. It stands on it's own as a top notch musical. I've never been a particular fan of Bollywood movies but this one surely blows them all out of the water. The ravishing Deepika Padukone co-stars with Indian superstar Shakrukh Khan in this musical which is genuinely funny as well as tragic and romantic. Also famous for cramming 30-some hugely famous Bollywood movie stars into a single dance number. This one's got it all.
  • A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES (1995) -- This documentary is Martin Scorsese's direct riposte to the famous AFI list of 100 Greatest Films. There isn't a much more infectious movie fan than Scorsese and going along with him as he looks at the entire history of American film is a dream come true. Packed with billions of movie clips, this film will send you racing to the DVD store. Who made me watch this movie?: Terry Frost.
  • THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES (1955) -- This is a terrible movie. Grade Z production budget and acting. But somehow I love it. A goofy underwater monster is butchering people. However, the movie seems to forget the monster for long stretches of ridiculous tomfoolery masquerading as a screenplay. This movie features Cathy Downs (Clementine herself from John Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE) slipping waaaaaay down the Hollywood ladder to this film. Pure fromage!
  • PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975) -- This dreamlike movie dreamily directed by Peter Weir retells story of a group of students & a teacher at a young women's college in 1900 who go out on a daytrip to "Hanging Rock" and mysterious disappear. There is a real sense of eerieness evoked in this film which can't be explained. Rachel Roberts is notable as the crumbling headmistress.
  • RED RIVER (1948) -- Classic Howard Hawks western starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift battling each other over the first cross-country cattle drive in American history. This epic western saga is one of the best!
  • SASOM I EN SPEGEL (1961) aka THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY -- Ingmar Bergman's searing chamber piece about a family of four on an island dealing with insanity. All four actors (Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Lars Passgard and particularly Harriet Andersson) give great performances. Andersson's portrayal of mental illness is one of the best performances in screen history. Ever.
  • THE SCARLET EMPRESS (1934) -- If not THE BLUE ANGEL, then this movie is the quintessential statement of the Josef von Sternberg/Marlene Dietrich movie partnership. Deliriously decadent and sumptuously shot, this film traces the life story of Russian Empress Catherine the Great from shy girl to powerful monarch. Dietrich is breathtaking and perfectly cast while Sam Jaffe is superb as her dimwitted consort. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • SERGEANT RUTLEDGE (1960) -- John Ford's little known film about black cavalry officer Woody Strode standing trial for the rape and murder of a white woman. Part Civil War-era western and part courtroom drama. Jeffrey Hunter and Billie Burke co-star.
  • SMULTRONSTALLET (1958) aka WILD STRAWBERRIES -- Another Ingmar Bergman masterpiece. An elderly doctor (Victor Sjostrom) is being given an award and drives to receive it along with his estranged daughter-in-law Ingrid Thulin. This film deals with strained family relationships, past regrets, approaching mortality and crippled emotions. Bibi Andersson and Gunnar Bjornstrand co-star. Who made me watch this?: Weaverman.
  • STROMBOLI (1950) -- Robert Rossellini directs and Ingrid Bergman stars as a woman who marries an Italian fisherman in order to leave a prison camp. She goes to live on his home island of Stromboli and immediately hates it. Vivid character study of people who know nothing about each other and understand each other less. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) -- Another classic film about the seedy wheeling and dealing that goes on in the show business world. Burt Lancaster plays a ruthless, all-powerful newspaper columnist who can make or break careers. Tony Curtis is the small-time reporter who wants to be something more. Exceedingly acidic portrait of New York celebrity nightlife.
  • THE TALL T (1957) -- The best of the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott westerns. Scott plays an aging cowpoke who stumbles into a deadly situation. Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard. Richard Boone is fantastic as the head desperado. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) -- Epic fantasy film with still-incredible special effects, brilliant colour, charming lead part for young Sabu, marvelous villainous performance by Conrad Veidt and magical whimsy. A stunningly perfect fantasy film. Who made me watch this?: Terry Frost.
  • TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (1955) aka HANDS OFF THE LOOT! -- Classic French gangster film which brings back aging tough guy Jean Gabin (Pepe Le Moko himself) in a terrific gangland movie. Who made me watch this?: Weaverman.
  • TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932) -- My favourite Ernst Lubitsch film. That's right; even better than NINOTCHKA. Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins play two cat burglars who fall in love and join forces to burgle rich hottie Kay Francis. But while attempting to swindle the wavishing Kay Fwancis, Marshall instead falls in love with her. A movie that sparkles like good champagne. It's pre-code status also makes it more daring than you'd think. Urbane and classy to the nth degree. Who made me watch this?: Ilsa*.
  • UMBERTO D. (1952) -- Another classic Italian neo-realist film which will tear your heart out. Director Vittorio De Sica dedicated the film to his father. Carlo Battisti plays an old age pensioner about to be thrown out of his cheap apartment; his only friend is his little dog. With nowhere to go and no money at hand, Umberto becomes desperate. Beautifully heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.
  • VIAGGIO IN ITALIA (1952) aka VOYAGE TO ITALY -- Masterful Roberto Rossellini film which stars Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders as an estranged married couple who go to Italy upon inheriting some property. Wonderfully acted character study finds both Bergman and Sanders in top form. Who made me watch this?: Martin Scorsese.

Well, there you have it: the best 50 films I saw for the first time in 2008. Trust me, there could've been about 25 more other top contenders but I vowed to keep it down to just 50. I can't recommend these movies highly enough and, again, if you ever find yourself at a loss as to what to watch, do yourself a favour and seek some of these films out. I don't think you'll be sorry you did.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ALPHABET MOVIE MEME THINGY. Good buddy and Surrogate Daddy Pax over at the horror blog Billy Loves Stu was recently tagged by another one of those memes. Like the true gentleman he is, he declined to tag 5 other people and simply put his list up for all of us to see (and quite a great list it IS, too)! For the heck of it, I thought I'd give it a try; you know how us boys love lists! The original Alphabetical Movie Meme originated here and you'll find the rules in detail. In miniature, the rules are as follows: in short, list your favourite movie for each letter of the alphabet. Simple, huh? Until the agonizing over which movie to choose, that is. Daddy Pax stirred things up interestingly by adding a theme: one "guilty pleasure" movie for each letter of the alphabet. One more rule is that you don't use the words "A" or "The" as the first letter of the movie, natch. There you go. I too will not "tag" anyone but feel free to make your own list is you're so inclined. However, like Daddy Pax, I too am going to tweak the meme a little. First I will list my favourite films of each letter in the alphabet. Then I will list my favourite HORROR films of each letter of the alphabet (what could be more natural on THIS blog?!?). And finally, I will list those movies which I'm sure most of you reading this have never seen but should -- those favourites of mine which might be a little more obscure -- for each letter of the alphabet. So here goes:
So there you have it. As you've no doubt noticed already, those films which I'll bet most of you haven't seen (but should) have links so that you can go take a look and see what they're all about. I heartily recommend all the movies up there and, when you're stuck for something new to watch, try a few.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

FORREST J. ACKERMAN (1916-2008). Please join us over at our sister blog BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA where we will have a special audio tribute to the late great Forrest J. Ackerman: creator of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine and major champion of the horror and science fiction genre. Very few have had the major impact on the genres we love so well as Forrest J. Ackerman. FAMOUS MONSTERS debuted in 1958 as the world's first magazine about horror and science fiction movies. Back in the 50's, 60's and 70's, FM was the bible of every monster fan who devoured every new issue like the Creature from the Black Lagoon presented with a bowl full of scientists! The movie stills were treasured and the Ackermonster's notorious puns were legendary. Countless horror movie fans had their initial love for the genre confirmed and strengthened by Uncle Forry and his magazine: from nameless, faceless fans like myself to slightly more well known devotees like Steven Spielberg, Jon Landis and Stephen King. I can't think of anyone else who carried the flag of horror and science fiction better or longer than our dear old Uncle Forry. His passing leaves a space in the world of horror fandom which no one else can fill.