Monday, March 29, 2010

Almost Famous

I just watched the film "Almost Famous" the other day. I hadn't watched it in a while. What a great movie. The soundtrack is top notch, the acting was very good, but for me it was the story itself that stands out.

Writer/Director Cameron Crowe based the story on his own life. The movie is about a 15-year-old William, while trying to be a rock critic, gets the chance to travel on the road with an up and coming rock back in the spring of 1973. He does this by convincing everyone that he's 18, including the editor of Rolling Stone magazine. It is on this trip that he is able to grow and mature, away from his mother's loving, but cloistered home.

According to Wikipedia, 'The film is based on Crowe's experiences touring with rock bands The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In a Rolling Stone article, he talks about how he lost his virginity, fell in love, and met his heroes, experiences that are shared by William, the main character in the film.'[1]

For me, one of the central relationships in the film are between William, Patrick Fugit, and the lead guitar player Russell, played by Billy Crudup. William views Russell with a lot of reverence. Through he course of the film, he comes to realize that Russell is just a guy, with as many flaws as everyone else.

The other significant relationship is between William and a groupie, or 'Band-aide', named Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson. She starts out as somewhat of a mentor about life on the road. She helps to keep him safe, and to not look so 'starry-eyed' at these guys in the band.

Crowe won and Oscar for his screenplay, and the soundtrack won a Grammy. Crowe has also directed or written, 'Say Anything', 'Singles', 'Jerry Maguire', and 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High', (also based on his real life experiences).


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Movie Theater?

When was the last time you saw a movie in an actual movie theater? Has it been a while? For me, the last movie I saw in a traditional venue was 'Superman Returns', way back in the summer of 2006.

I used to love going to the movies. The big screen, the popcorn with that thick, sorta buttery gel, and the surround sound. It was great. As a kid, I never noticed all the reasons not to go to the theater. I never noticed the broken seats, the sticky floors, the high prices (thanks Mom and Dad), or the idiots yakking throughout the whole movie.

When my brother and I started to buy DVDs back in early 1998, I could watch these movies in the comfort of my own couch. Get up whenever I need to, without missing any of the movie. Eat whatever we liked, even take out. It was great.

And not only could we watch what we liked, we could watch it how we liked. Want to listen to the director's commentary; done. Want to watch a short feature on how the movie was made; done. Want to hear interesting stuff from the composer who wrote the score; done. DVDs ushered in a whole new dimension of films to cinephiles all over the world. And don't get me started on the whole home theater phenomenon. Speakers to the front, sides, and in back of you, all with different parts of the movie environment coming out of them. The first time I heard the water dripping in the submarine battle scenes from 'Das Boot', it was amazing.

Now we have Bluray discs. While very similar to the traditional DVDs that came before, they are able to hold upwards of 10 times the amount of information. They are capable of showing movies in their true High Definition (HD) form, not scaled down for DVDs. They also are able to output much better audio. Instead of being restrained, they can now put out the full, lossless audio that they were meant to have. And all of their special features can also be in HD.

Quite often these days, when buying a Bluray movie, you will also get a DVD of the movie, and a digital copy. (Although for me, that seems a bit over the top). I can only imagine what will happen once they really get into this new 3D phase that's hitting the moving picture scene. We shall see.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Akira Kurosawa

I would like to send out a slightly belated Happy Birthday to Japanese director extraordinaire, Akira Kurosawa. Granted, he's been dead since 1998, but hey, March 23rd is still his birthday.

Kurosawa was a well known Japanese director back when few people knew much about Japanese cinema. He was good friends with American director, John Ford. He was heavily influenced by both American westerns and Shakespeare.

There are many stories about how much of a perfectionist he was on the movie set. One I personally like is, "in the final scene of Throne of Blood, in which (Toshiro) Mifune is shot by arrows, Kurosawa used real arrows shot by expert archers from a short range, landing within centimetres of Mifune's body."[1]

I have watched many of his films, and enjoyed them all. You probably have, too. His movie "The Seven Samurai" was remade as "The Magnificent Seven". "Yojimbo" was remade as "A Fistful of Dollars", starring Clint Eastwood. And George Lucas has identified "The Hidden Fortress" as an influence on his Star Wars films.

So, Otanjou-bi Omedetou Gozaimasu Akira-san!

1. Galbraith IV, Stuart (2002). The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. Faber & Faber. p. 235. ISBN 0571199828.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Be on the look out for...

It is almost time for some of my favorite movies to come out on Bluray: The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are being released on April 6th. These fantastic movies were a huge hit all over the world when they were released theatrically at Christmas in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

When they were released on DVD, they first came out in their theatrical versions. later, they were released in their Director's Cut versions. At the time, there was some concern that the studio was 'double-dipping', meaning getting double the money from consumers that would buy the first, then the second sets.

For me personally, I did not think this was the case. As most were aware at the time, the studio announced that they were going to release these movies in both version, separately and months apart. So I knew what to expect. It did not stop from buying both sets, though. I bought the first and enjoyed them for several months. When the Director's Cut versions came out, I bought them as well. I then gave my original set to my mother.

The Bluray sets are being released in the same way. I will most certainly do the same thing with these, too. As good as the DVDs looked, the Blurays will blow them away, speaking technically. And if anyone reading this would like my set of DVDs, please let me know.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oscars, tribute

Recently, one of my loyal followers asked me this: "...I must say that without a doubt my favorite moment has to be the tribute to John Hughes. Bueller, Bueller, Bueller...What did YOU think of it, Dave?"

Well, I have only seen part of the tribute so far, just the beginning with Molly Ringwald and Matthew Broderick, (She seemed kind of out of it) and the film montage. Both were very nice, if way too short. I will have to check to actor's personal anecdotes about him later.

Thanks for the question Laurie White

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscars, after

Well, as I'd hoped, The Hurt Locker beat out Avatar. And Kathryn Bigelow won out over her ex-husband James Cameron for Best Director. Incidentally, this is the first time in the history of the Oscars that a woman has won that honor.

And Sandra Bullock won for Best Actress for her role in The Blind Side. Coincidentally, she also won an award for worst actress at this year's Razzies for the film All About Steve. And she accepted that award on stage Saturday. What a great sense of humor.

Jeff Bridges won for Best Actor. I didn't see all of the movie Crazy heart, but I liked what I did see. And he sang all his own music in the film; it wasn't dubbed by someone else. They also did that in the movie Walk The Line, about Johnny Cash. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon both sang their own songs, and she won the Oscar for Best Actress that year. Love that movie.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


This video is one of my all time favorite bits of comedy. It's from the Carol Burnett Show. I love how Carol keeps trying to show that card to Mama, but can't quite do it. And the look on her face is priceless.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Well, this weekend is the Oscars. Should be interesting, especially the Best picture category. This year, for the first time since 1943, there are 10 movies in this category, instead of the normal 5.

Some say the 2 movies vying for gold are Avatar and The Hurt Locker. These 2 couldn't be more different. Avatar is a huge movie; it is said to have cost $200 million plus, and has returned $2.5 billion. Hurt Locker cost $15 million, and so far has brought in about $20 million. Avatar is anti-military, whereas Hurt Locker is pro. Avatar is mostly animated; Hurt locker is live action. Avatar - science fiction; Hurt Locker - semi-fiction.

Of these 2, personally, I am rooting for Hurt Locker. Not just because of the left-wing. tree-hugging, anti-military stance of Avatar (although those reasons play a part). I was able to feel that Jeremy Renner's character was a real person, and not some big blue dude with a USB connection in his tail. I guess I could identify with it a lot more.

But if I had to choose from all 10 movies, I'd choose The Blind Side, with Sandra Bullock. What a great movie. Produced for $29 million, it has made $250 million in its run. And as of today, according to Box Office Mojo, it is still #29 on the charts after 105 days in theaters. Pretty amazing. Its also the highest grossing American film that's led by an actress. And Sandra is up for Best Actress, which I hope she gets.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

John Wayne - correction, slight

(John) Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa.[2] His middle name was soon changed from Robert to Mitchell when his parents decided to name their next son Robert.[3] (Years later, after Wayne became an actor, a publicist's error referred to his "real" name as Marion Michael Morrison instead of the correct Marion Mitchell Morrison. This error infected virtually every biography of Wayne until Roberts & Olson uncovered the facts in their biography John Wayne: American, drawing on the draft of Wayne's unfinished autobiography, among other sources.)[4][5][6]

^ Madison County, Iowa, birth certificate.
^ Roberts, Randy, and James S. Olson (1995). - John Wayne: American. New York: Free Press. pp. 8-9 - ISBN 9780029238370
^ Roberts, Randy, and James S. Olson (1995). - John Wayne: American. New York: Free Press. pp. 8-10 - ISBN 9780029238370
^ Jim Beaver, "John Wayne". Films in Review, Volume 28, Number 5, May 1977, pp. 265–284.
^ Wayne, John, My Kingdom, unfinished draft autobiography, University of Texas Library