Archive for the Special Columns Category
GOODBYE ROGER EBERT!
An Appreciation by L.L. Soares
Roger Ebert died today in Chicago, following a long battle with cancer. He was 70.
Ebert wasn’t just another movie critic. For his generation, he might just have been the gold standard that other critics were compared to. Most people, like me, first became aware of him around 1978, when PBS began syndicating the show he had with Gene Siskel. It was first called “Opening Soon at a Theater Near You” when it debuted in Chicago in 1974, then got its name changed to “Sneak Previews” when PBS started showing it nationally. In 1982, Tribune Entertainment began syndicating it, with a new title, “Movie Views.” And in 1986, it was syndicated by Buena Vista Television as “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.” Doing research for this article, I had no idea the show had so many names. I thought it was always called “At the Movies,” but I was wrong. The show popularized the “thumbs up/thumbs down” rating system for movie reviews, which the duo trademarked.
Ebert was the house movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1975, he was the first film critic to ever win the Pulitzer Prize. His partner on TV, Gene Siskel, wrote for the Chicago Tribune, and they were competitors and sort of enemies. The idea to pair them together on a movie review show was an inspired one. People didn’t think it would work, but they stuck together until 1999, when Siskel died of a brain tumor. It was said that off-screen, over the years, the two of them became very close friends, almost like brothers.
Roger Ebert continued to review movies on TV, going through a period where he had many guest co-hosts, to see who had the most chemistry with him. This rotating co-host system lasted awhile, but eventually, Richard Roeper, another critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, became Ebert’s permanent co-host in September 2000.
A high point of his career was an unusual one for a critic. Ebert wrote the screenplay for the 1970 cult movie BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, directed by grindhouse legend Russ Meyer. Unusual because it was not a high-brow movie, but a crazed smorgasbord of sex and violence, BEYOND is revered by fans of bizarre cinema. Supposedly, Meyer and Ebert were going to collaborate on another film, with the punk band the Sex Pistols, but it fell apart before filming began. The proposed title was “Who Killed Bambi?”
Ebert wrote lots of books about movies, and started the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival, which has been held annually in Champaign, Illinois, since 1999.
Ebert’s long struggle with cancer in recent years included operations on his thyroid, salivary glands and chin. He lost the ability to eat, drink or speak. Recent appearances on television revealed a startling new appearance, due to the removal of much of his lower jaw, and he had taken to communicate using a computerized voice system. Despite these setbacks, he was still intent on returning to television with a new movie criticism show.
When he lost the ability to speak, Ebert also became an avid blogger, continuing to see and review movies regularly (and talk about more personal topics) at his blog .
For many of us, Ebert was someone we watched every week on TV for decades, fueling our own love of movies, and the Siskel and Ebert show was one of the inspirations for the original Cinema Knife Fight column by myself and Michael Arruda.
We here at Cinema Knife Fight will remember Ebert fondly.
QUICK CUTS: Fun with the Oscars
With Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
MICHAEL ARRUDA: It’s Academy Awards time. I thought we’d have some fun and do our own Cinema Knife Fight version of the Oscars, picking from familiar Academy Award categories, but staying within specific genres.
Here’s my take on the Best of 2012 Horror movies and the Best of 2012 Action movies:
Best of HORROR movies 2012:
-Best Supporting Actress- Alice Eve, THE RAVEN
-Best Supporting Actor- Richard Jenkins, CABIN IN THE WOODS
-Best Actor- Ethan Hawke, SINISTER
-Best Actress –Kathryn Newton, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4
-Best Screenplay- Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, CABIN IN THE WOODS
-Best Director- Timur Bekmambetov, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
-Best Picture – CABIN IN THE WOODS
Best of ACTION movies 2012:
-Best Supporting Actress-Kate Beckinsale, CONTRABAND
-Best Supporting Actor- Leonardo DiCaprio, DJANGO UNCHAINED
-Best Actor – Tom Cruise, JACK REACHER
-Best Actress- Scarlett Johansson, THE AVENGERS
-Best Screenplay- Joss Whedon, THE AVENGERS
-Best Director- Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED
-Best Picture- THE AVENGERS
L.L. SOARES: And I’ve decided to do three list, for Horror, Action/Drama and Science Fiction.
Best of HORROR movies 2012:
-Best Supporting Actress- Hannah Fierman, V/H/S (segment “Amateur Night”)
-Best Supporting Actor- Fran Kranz, CABIN IN THE WOODS
-Best Actor- Neil Maskell, KILL LIST/Ethan Hawke, SINISTER (tie)
-Best Actress –Sarah Bolger, THE MOTH DIARIES
-Best Screenplay- Amy Jump and Bean Wheatley, KILL LIST
-Best Director- Ben Wheatley, KILL LIST
-Best Picture –KILL LIST
Best of ACTION movies 2012:
Is DJANGO UNCHAINED really an action movie? If so:
-Best Supporting Actress-Salma Hayek, SAVAGES
-Best Supporting Actor- Leonardo DiCaprio/Samuel L. Jackson (tie) DJANGO UNCHAINED
-Best Actor – Christoph Waltz/Jamie Foxx (tie) DJANGO UNCHAINED
-Best Actress- Anne Hathaway, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
-Best Screenplay- Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED
-Best Director- Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED
-Best Picture- DJANGO UNCHAINED
-Best Fight Choreography – THE RAID
Best of SCIENCE FICTION movies of 2012:
-Best Supporting Actress- Emily Blunt, LOOPER/ Charlize Theron, PROMETHEUS (tie)
-Best Supporting Actor- Pierce Gagnon, LOOPER
-Best Actor – Taylor Kitsch, JOHN CARTER
-Best Actress-Noomi Rapace, PROMETHEUS
-Best Screenplay- Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon, JOHN CARTER /Rian Johnson, LOOPER (tie)
-Best Director- Andrew Stanton, JOHN CARTER
-Best Picture- JOHN CARTER
ARRUDA: Have fun this weekend watching the real thing! Thanks for joining us!
Actor DAVID HESS has died at age 69. Despite a long career as an actor and musician (he wrote several soundtracks for low-budget films), Hess will always be best known as the villainous Krug, leader of the psychos who made the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT so intense.
Born in 1942, Hess originally started out as a songwriter, and even wrote the song “All Shook Up,” that Elvis Presley made famous. Another of his songs, “Speedy Gonzales” was covered by Pat Boone and became a Number One hit. He briefly had a pop music career under the name of David Hill. His soundtrack work included music for LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and CABIN FEVER (2002).
Just some of his films include:
LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)
HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980)
JACQUELINE SUSANN’S VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (TV Movie) (1981)
SWAMP THING (1982)
ZOMBIE NATION (2004)
ZODIAC KILLER (2005)
He appeared on lots of TV shows over the years, including: BARETTA (1977), KNIGHT RIDER (1983), THE FALL GUY (1985), THE A-TEAM (1986), and most recently, the USA Network series ROYAL PAINS (2010).
He also directed the homicidal Santa Claus horror movie TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT in 1980, and the documentary short film “Steel Drums, No Guns” about teenagers in Trinidad in a steel drum competition.
David Hess was a man of many talents and he had several films in production at the time of his death. We can only hope that a few of them were completed at the time of his death.
We’ll miss you, David!
© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares
INTERVIEW WITH MIKE WHITE AND MONDO JUSTIN OF “THE PROJECTION BOOTH” PODCAST
By Colleen Wanglund
Mike White and Mondo Justin love movies. Actually they REALLY love movies. So after years of writing about movies for various magazines and websites, Mike and Justin started the podcast THE PROJECTION BOOTH. Each week the guys and their guests discuss a (usually) obscure or cult film, bringing awareness to their audience. I recently interviewed these movie nuts. ~ CW
COLLEEN: So starting off….You guys are both from Michigan right? So how did you end up meeting each other?
JUSTIN: Orginally….Mike just found me online. He had approached me with this press release of sorts about his new book, IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY: A CASHIERS DU CINEMART COLLECTION. He had asked me to review the book for the web. We exchanged a few emails, and through conversation we realized that we were only about twenty minutes away from each other, so we met up for lunch one day and the rest is history.
COLLEEN: How did each of you get into writing about film?
JUSTIN: I’m not sure if I even consider what I do to be film writing in the traditional sense. I’ve written some fun pieces on particular movies, but not criticisms. In fact I really dislike film writing that deals in theory and criticism. It’s boring, and for the life of me I can’t understand why someone would read that stuff. Why in the hell would you let anyone imprint their opinions in regards to what a film “means” on your brain? Why would you allow someone to tell you if a film is “good” or “bad”? Figure out what it “means” for you. Decide on your own if a film is good or bad. Calculate your own interpretation. I’m more interested in deep researching and then writing up background histories on particular films and how that film fits into a particular context.
Also, I’m big on interviews. Interviews are my life blood. I’ve always been a huge fan of interviews. Above anything else, interviewing someone is probably my favorite thing to do. It’s just so personal. It’s one-on-one, and very intimate. And that’s very relative to how we each experience film ourselves.
MIKE: When I went to college I thought to myself, “What is one of the most useless degree’s I could earn?” Philosophy and Art History didn’t appeal too much, so I decided to go into film. When I graduated I was still very much in “paper writing mode” and had a love for ‘zines. I decided to throw my hat into the ring and start Cashiers du Cinemart.
COLLEEN: Speaking of that Mike, what is/was CASHIERS DU CINEMART?
MIKE: It started as a photocopied rag of rants and ended up as a more polished rag of me being a blowhard about movies or topics I wanted to explore. Along the way I made a lot of friends with other folks who would contribute reviews, articles, artwork and more to it. I put it on hold, thinking that it was dead, back in 2007 but jumped onto the “Revenge of Print” bandwagon that Atomic Books in Baltimore started for 2011 and just published the 16th issue.
COLLEEN: Justin what about your website, THE MONDO FILM & VIDEO GUIDE?
JUSTIN: I just started that site out of boredom really. I was bored and wanted something fun to do. Plus I figured that if would afford me opportunities to talk to filmmakers and actors/actresses that I was really interested in learning more about. Prior to that, when I would go around the web and read interviews with people, I’d only be able to find these horrible interviews that really had no thought behind them. So at a certain point, I just thought to myself, “You can do better than that.” I think I do a pretty good job. People are reading. I started in 2008, and after that first month I had 300 visits.
Last month I had over 70,000 visits — so we’re growing. I mean the studios are looking at it. I did a big interview with a particular actor last year. After I published it online, he notified me that Paramount Studios had contacted him about a project because they had read the interview we had done together.
COLLEEN: Mike, what’s up with you obsession with the movie BLACK SHAMPOO?
MIKE: You’ve seen the film, so I don’t think I need to answer that question. In all seriousness, it just hit a need that my high school friends and I had. It was funky enough to fill our blaxploitation quotient, had some good softcore scenes in there, and was infinitely quotable. It became our ritual to watch that movie as often as we could. After high school it became something more of an obsession in regard to tracking down all the people involved and asking them about this film that was such an influence on us.
COLLEEN: Justin, is there a film that you obsess over in the same way?
JUSTIN: There are a few. But it goes in sprees to be honest. Right now, I’m completely and utterly obsessed with the Orson Welles film, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942). Researching that, and with working on other projects that I’m working on currently, I’m seeing a similar correlation in terms of how that film was mistreated with something like William Peter Blatty’s EXORCIST 3 (aka LEGION). Both films are beautiful disasters that were ripped out of the visionary’s hands and corrupted by their perspective studios.
Then this little movie from 1989 called, SHAG. I’ve loved this movie for so many years. It’s this wonderful little coming-of-age movie set in the south during the summer of 1963. Like Mike with BLACK SHAMPOO, I’ve interviewed almost the entire the cast, the son of the director, the location manager, the producers, the writers etc…
COLLEEN: Do each of you have a favorite movie, and why is it your favorite?
MIKE: I don’t think I could pick one. There are favorites that are such because I think they’re brilliantly crafted and they’ve expanded the vocabulary of cinema. Then there are favorites that are just trashy flicks that tickle my funny bone whenever I see them.
JUSTIN: I don’t think I could pick just one movie either. I have so many movies that I just love the hell out of. Maybe a favorite filmmaker? I love the films of Jerry Lewis because they’re extremely innovative in not just their comedy but also in film technique. His movies are very innocent too. Child-like, even. Then Kenneth Anger I love, cause of the internal response I get from his work. That work is scary as hell to me, and who doesn’t want to flirt with the dark side at times? Todd Haynes, Gregg Araki, Ken Russell as well. I tend to be really interested in strong visuals in film over anything else. Also, I love to champion bad movies with redeeming qualities like SHOWGIRLS (1995) and LAST ACTION HERO (1993). While many find a lot of faults in movies like those I just don’t because I’m always looking for the positives in everything. The acting in SHOWGIRLS is horrible, but does that make it bad? I think it’s entertaining and campy, a bit raunchy as well and the movie is actually really visually rich.
COLLEEN: So what is THE PROJECTION BOOTH, and where did the idea for it come from?
MIKE: The seeds were sown on a long drive that we took shortly after we met one another. We drove down to Franklin, Indiana for a film event/critics panel that will remain nameless. During the drive we listened to some podcasts and found flaws with several of them. I believe Justin suggested that we start our own and really do it up right. We both started making lists of things we wanted to do and to avoid if we ever created a podcast. First we had to have our declaration of principles. It all went from there.
JUSTIN: I don’t think I suggested it, but maybe I did? I recall that it was you who suggested it (but not seriously) and then like six months later I brought up the idea again randomly one day, and we decided to just do it, and “bring it” big time like Hulk Hogan in NO HOLDS BARRED.
COLLEEN: How do you guys decide on which movies to spotlight each week? Does your decision hinge on the guests you’re able to get?
JUSTIN: It’s very simple. Mike makes a pick one week, then I pick the next week. Usually we plan months and months in advance, and it’s easy for a pick to go by the wayside if we are having a problem getting a guest on-board. The guests come pretty easy for us though for the most part.
MIKE: The show really includes films that we both feel deserve more attention or that we can bring something special to. I think we’re both trying to provide a service to let people know about movies that they may not have gotten into before, or giving them more information about them than has previously been known.
COLLEEN: Do you guys generally agree on the films you’re going to do or are there sometimes arguments?
JUSTIN: It’s a free-for-all. There isn’t any final say or anything like that in the sense that Mike or I have to approve each other’s picks. I respect his picks, and I think he respects mine. Now with that being said…We have had a couple heated debates on-air over the last year, but they are only exactly that. Any disagreements about one particular film doesn’t translate into life when the microphone is turned off.
MIKE: It’s almost a little boring if we both agree 100% on a film. What I tend to rely on is that we both come at movies from different angles and pick up on different things. Justin may have a read on a film completely different than mine and that’s what makes it fun. Two guys sitting around saying, “That was cool” would make for a pretty boring conversation.
COLLEEN: For anyone that hasn’t listened to your show that may be reading this, do you have one show that you’ve done that you feel that everyone should listen to it even if they’re not a fan of podcasts?
JUSTIN: Well, that’s a tough question. I mean we alternate picks each week, so what about re-phrasing the question to “What’s one film that you’ve picked each and done a show about that is your favorite to date?”
JUSTIN: I’d have to say the show we did about THE WARRIORS (1979) from New York City or more recently our KENNETH ANGER show. Probably…For some reason I’m really partial to an early show we did this year about RED SCORPION (1988). I think it’s because around the airing of that episode I think it when we really figured out our format, and the show then became a well-oiled machine, I think.
MIKE: If I had to pick one show to submit for the Podcast Awards it’d be Justin’s THE WARRIORS show. My other favorites include the ROBOCOP (1987) show because I got to talk to a lot of great people and had a blast editing that one. But I think I had the best time when Justin lined up an interview with the creators of FREAKED (1993). Listening to those guys was a blast.
COLLEEN: What are you hopes for the future success of the podcast?
JUSTIN: As far as podcasts go…I don’t know. I fantasize that we’ll someday get offered a paying talk radio gig. It’s a fantasy though. I mean our show is doing really good. We’ve been picked up for syndication, and we’re FM radio in the deep mid-west. We’re on iTunes. We get these big guests. There are only a couple other shows out there that get the guests we do, and frankly they’re not very good. I think what makes our show good is that it’s informative, well edited, thought-out and often relaxed and fun. Plus our show has a great diversity to it as well. In any given month we’ll have a spectrum of guests that is as wide as: John Waters, Orson Welles daughter, Dolph Lundgren and then Trina Parks. I think the show is fun, and frankly a little bit of a secret out there.
MIKE: Total world domination…(laughing)
COLLEEN: So what else are you guys working on?
JUSTIN: Right now I’m very busy. Besides THE PROJECTION BOOTH show, I’m working on content for the website mondo-video.com as usual. On top of that both Mike and I have been asked to contribute to this book coming out after Christmas called COMMENTARIES ON MINOR CINEMA CLASSICS. I’m writing the chapters on EXORCIST 3, HARDBODIES and HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH. I contribute one or two interviews each issue to SHOCK CINEMA magazine. Then after the New Year I’ll be co-authoring the biography of actor Wings Hauser with Wings Hauser himself. So maybe you should consider it an autobiography? I don’t know. Exactly how does that work?…(laughing)
MIKE: I’m currently working on an article about horror parodies of the early ‘80s for PARACINEMA magazine. How’s that for specific? I’ve had a lot of fun writing about subgenres for them such as the rash of body swap comedies in the late ‘80s and the myriad of talking genitals films. I’m also working on a piece for COMMENTARIES ON MINOR CINEMA CLASSICS. Keeping with the parody idea, I’m writing about AIRPLANE 2: THE SEQUEL. I’m also working on a biography of Greydon Clark and a book I’m temporarily calling “GOULD AND SULTHERLAND IN THE ‘70S”.
THE PROJECTION BOOTH can be downloaded from iTunes or directly at the website http://www.projection-booth.com/. And don’t forget to check out http://www.mondo-video.com/ where you can also link to THE PROJECTION BOOTH podcast. And Mike White’s website at: http://impossiblefunky.blogspot.com/
© Copyright 2011 by Colleen Wanglund