ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

JER'S TURN: THE CINEMA TAKEDOWN- WHICH IS THE BETTER DAVID LYNCH FILM? "BLUE VELVET" OR "MULHOLLAND DRIVE"

JER:  Back in May 10, 2011’s blog entry, I introduced a new topic segment titled THE CINEMA TAKE-DOWN! The object is to pick a category and pit one item against the other. This is a UFC No-Holds-Barred fight to the finish…who or what will rein supreme? We will soon find out…The card this week: WHICH IS THE BETTER DAVID LYNCH FILM- BLUE VELVET or MULHOLLAND DRIVE?

In my corner, weighing in from 1991, born and raised in Hollywood, CA: MULHOLLAND DRIVE

In Johnny Chazz’ corner, weighing in from 1986, born and raised in Lumberton, USA: BLUE VELVET

“Let the Take-Dooooooown….begin!”


There is a huge undertaking involved when examining a fraction of any artist’s work… much less, someone like director David Lynch who is greatly admired by many for his “art-house” approach to cinema… thus breaking the mold in obligatory storytelling. There are die- hard fans, occasional viewers of Lynch’s films and then there is the group categorized as the “I just don’t get it” crowd. Die- hard fans may always go to the 1977 cult classic ERASERHEAD or the highly successful 1980 eight- time Academy Award nominated THE ELEPHANT MAN. When it comes down to it, David Lynch and his repertoire of films are not for everyone. It could only be understood that we will have fans of some, but not of all of his films collectively.

I decided to go with a film that I felt more familiar with, MUHOLLAND DRIVE. Why? Simply because it takes place in Los AngelesHollywood, to be exact. I go to Hollywood as often as I can and I know the flavor and intent that Lynch had in mind when making this film. The location can be relatable to a typical Lynch film…the comparisons being that they both dive into the world of fantasy and the feel of reality left on an indefinite pause, the blurring of lines of what is to be considered right and wrong and the euphoric sense of self-being when caught in the eye of the storm…an overwhelming sensation of being someplace where dreams can come true! OK, it’s time to talk about my film…

The film opens with a midnight limousine ride through one of L.A.’s more popular and secluded streets, Mulholland Drive, overlooking the twinkling lights of the Los Angeles nightlife. We meet up with who we can only conclude is a wealthy brunette woman (Laura Elena Harring) riding in the back of the limo along with the chauffeur and another man in the passenger seat…possibly a bodyguard. In one of its never-ending stretch of twists and nerving turns, the limo driver pulls over by a ditch on the side of the highway and pulls a gun on the woman in the backseat. Occurring at the same time with a direct collision course towards the limo, two speeding cars filled with joyriding teens are racing towards the top of the winding road… only to find that one of the vehicles fatally crashing head-on with the limo…concluding the woman is the only survivor.

Walking away amnesic, she makes her way down the hill into the posh neighborhoods along Sunset Boulevard…all the while trying to keep her composure together from surviving both the accident and attempted homicide. The next morning, she sneaks into a high-end apartment as a female tenant loads her luggage into a taxi parked in front of the complex.

We cut to (what we can only assume is) LAX as blonde Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) arrives from Ontario with dreams and aspirations to becoming a Hollywood starlet. The plot thickens when we find out that Betty is the niece of the apartment tenant who allows Betty to stay at her apartment while she is away filming a movie of her own out of town. As Betty arrives, she is startled to find the amnesic brunette in the complex. The brunette introduces herself as “Rita”, taking the name from a Rita Hayworth poster hanging in the bedroom wall and realizes she doesn’t remember who she is. With a kind and sympathetic heart, Betty tries to assist and reaches into a purse belonging to “Rita”, only to find thousands of one-hundred dollar bills banded together in several stacks along with a strange blue key. Rita doesn’t know how she got the money. With no identification to be found, Betty offers to assist Rita in solving the mysteries of who she is together.

The story takes odd twists and turns with other subplots to add to the mix…somehow stringing everything together to create a conclusion. Far too many other story lines and characters involved that I would rather not divulge. It has to be seen than to be read about here.

The film is haunted by an eerie, synth-heavy soundtrack composed by Angelo Badalamenti, who had previously scored Lynch’s BLUE VELVET and his television- produced “TWIN PEAKS”. A constant churning of low-keyed chords carries the film and helps create the dark and emotionally disturbing feel of the film and its characters’ fateful plights. The soundtrack never overpowers the film, yet, it knows when to slightly move into a scene. It is a voyeur who watches from behind a curtain and knows when to strike… but cautiously and cat-like in its introductions. The music slightly finds a more melodic and happier tone when we are introduced to Betty. A change of pace to help create a sense of innocence and optimism we are led to believe is the basis of the character’s introduction.

Director of Photography, Peter Deming, uses a variety of different color palettes to paint on his canvas. Colors are bright and sharp, when they need to be. These are most noticeable during the daytime exterior shots: Betty arriving at LAX, her walkthrough at the apartment’s courtyard, the meal at Winkies…however, things grow dark when the lights go down. Dark blues and blacks become the focus in darkness, both in exterior and interior sequences. A special recognition must be made when the story takes us to Club Silencio…foreboding! Another focus must be placed whenever we see Mr. Roque. Lynch fans will, no doubt, recognize him as the haunting “Man From Another Place” and his rewinding backward dance in “TWIN PEAKS.” The sequences have Mr. Roque sitting in the middle of a bare room… A spotlight illuminating above his seating area and another cascading across a curtain behind him. Much ‘eye-candy’ can be taken away from this film, as do most Lynch films provide.

Lynch knows how to use Los Angeles as its own living, breathing character as well. He could show you a glimpse of the more touristy side of the great city but, instead, focuses a great deal of the film exposing the audience to the seedier side… the side never shown to visitors. It becomes an uncomfortable sight for some: dark, mysterious and slightly dangerous to come across. Los Angeles, like the film, has two sides to it. It reveals a lighter side with hopes and good intentions and it then finds itself decaying with an underlining of deceit and sinful pleasures.

MULHOLLAND DRIVE is not intended to be a film that would have opened in 2,500 theaters on its first weekend. It is not intended to be inundated with advertising and trailers every direction you turn. It would not have its name plastered on t-shirts, mugs or posters through clever marketing teams, nor, would it make a killing on DVD sales after its run in theaters. It is not BLUE VELVET, which proved to be a more commercial film for Lynch… far more than even he could have predicted and more than word of mouth carried the film through with its controversial content and that “ear thing” wrapped around it!

In short, it is a movie that knows how to intrigue you into watching it innocently and it knows how to hold your attention if you don’t know how to pull away from it. Like a horrible car accident, you pass by it; slowly to view, yet, find the scene of the crime revolting and stomach churning… at the same time, your eyes cannot tear away from what it has already taken in. The film should not be taken seriously and you shouldn’t try to figure it out. It is a play on dreams and alternate realities. Stories are revealed to us with our perception and acceptance as ‘real’, when the reality might be that we are experiencing someone else’s ‘dream’ instead. Lynch might be deceiving us, but it is what he does best. He leaves us questioning characters and stories, right from wrong and the ying from the yang. Maybe films should leave us guessing and leaving us to our own devices to walk away with our own individual point of view!



JOHNNY CHAZZ: Considering for a moment the vast, colorful, cinematic and ultra-bizarre directorial career of David Lynch, I am so pleased with the topic selected this week by Jer. Now for the task. So now is my chance to defend what I feel may well be the best film from David Lynch.

My first viewing of BLUE VELVET came in 1988 during a class at film school. If I am not mistaken, it was one of the last films of the course in American Film since the movies we studied were basically in chronological order. My only previous David Lynch experience had been DUNE a few years prior and that, in no way, prepared me for what was to be unveiled during the showing of BLUE VELVET. What is really interesting is the fact that in the same year (1986) Woody Allen stated that BLUE VELVET was by far and away his favorite film of the year.

To be able to appreciate high-quality films as what we have seen throughout the career of director David Lynch, one must have a combination of maturity, a willingness to pay careful and mindful attention, open-mindedness, patience and a raw appreciation for the little things that go into movie-making.. Character, sound, anything bizarre and color – that probably describes Lynch to a “T”. His background as a painter undoubtedly shows up in his films and gives the stylistic and artistic look that is second to none. It takes time, really – and becoming a die-hard fan of David Lynch often times requires paying a visit to all of his movies (and television work: i.e. “Twin Peaks series) to understand the basic idea that he is trying to convey.

BLUE VELVET is unique when compared to most of Lynch’s other works throughout his career. Other than the likes of THE STRAIGHT STORY, BLUE VELVET is a linear narrative that basically maintains a coherent and orderly nature. This is not to say, however, that the plot or the storyline are simple – they remain complex making it a film so intriguing. When compared to more recent films such as INLAND EMPIRE or MULHOLLAND DRIVE (even LOST HIGHWAY is well represented here), BLUE VELVET is really quite simple to follow, but the subject material remains complex.

We are treated to a wonderful opening that will forever remain imprinted in my mind. Bobby Vinton sings “Blue Velvet” in the small-town setting of "Lumberton, U.S.A.". Lumberton really does not exist, but the generic idea is there and Lynch’s homage to his love of small towns becomes immediately apparent. Kyle MacLachlan is our main character, other than Laura Dern, who is home from college on a Spring Break. As he meanders through the yard / fields near his home one afternoon, he discovers a human ear which has been severed and is lying on the ground. Upon discover of the ear, “Jeffrey” (Kyle M.) is immediately in a state of shock and decides to take the evidence of a possible homicide to the local police station. This then leads to a relationship that escalates between Jeffrey and the beautiful Laura Dern who team together to set-out on their own investigation of what was really happening and who the ear belonged to. Eventually, their dinner date at the diner sparks a plan to visit the dingy apartment of nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens who is played by the majestic and captivating Isabella Rossellini. Dennis Hopper soon makes his appearance in the film revealing himself as a sort of psychopath (Frank Booth) and the story progresses in a riveting, yet disturbing fashion from there. Hopper plays the role to perfection like nobody else really can and causes a real fear-factor for other actors and the audience alike.

What keeps BLUE VELVET so interesting and yet so frightening is the idea that the American “Dream” that is portrayed in the opening scene is not only a mockery of, but stand in stark contrast to what we see on the screen for the rest of the film. The only real break that the audience is given is the mild romance that builds between Kyle and Laura which almost signifies a form of puppy love.

The “ear” scene as you alluded to, Jer, is certainly a disturbing one… but pales in comparison to the abusive scenes in Dorothy’s apartment with Frank Booth (the masochistic behavior and the fact that she actually likes it in a sick way). Additionally, the nude scene involving Isabella Rossellini roaming aimlessly outside at night in almost a zombie and hypnotic state is so completely disturbing, but really quite sad and pathetic with the same token. Her addiction to a life serving Frank Booth and a life of broken dreams and surreal nightclub performances (perhaps a career that once was and never came to fruition) finally hits rock-bottom and this is what, often times, takes people and the characters of David Lynch to really “wake up” out of the dream-world he places them into.

The film makes a political statement in so many ways – with one in particular. The “American dream” is one that Lynch has always loved and appreciated, but it is constantly rotted underneath and destroyed by people who are either sick, greedy or both. The dreams of the clean cut grass, the birds singing and the white picket fence are wonderful aspirations, but the world today is going in different directions and ‘the forces that be’ are keeping America from realizing its potential and re-living the golden-age of America seen in the 1950’s and early to mid-1960’s.

The bare fact that this was the first film where Lynch (other than his student short films years prior which few people saw then or even now) portrayed a stark contrast to the way ‘American life could be and the way it really was’ launched his career. BLUE VELVET allowed Lynch to tap into a world that had a nightmarish quality while weaving in bright colors, deep reds, violence that was only seen in the aftermath (the still-body in the apartment; the ear; etc.) and that innocent quality seen in all of his protagonists – something we would see in the main characters of LOST HIGHWAY (Bill Pullman being taken on a nightmarish ride into an alter-world), MULHOLLAND DRIVE (Naomi Watts arriving in Hollywood only to have her dreams of becoming a star actress crushed), and INLAND EMPIRE (Laura Dern travels a road of despair as an actress suffering from her own delusions.)

BLUE VELVET remains in my top-20 best films of all-time and sometimes creeps into that top-10 list. The story is not overly difficult to follow and not exactly engaging either, but a theme which blends the 1980’s with the 1950’s that takes us from the American dream in the opening sequence through the dark underworld of Frank Booth and Rossellini just to bring us full-circle back to the American dream… allows the audience to think about which world we are really living in today. One thing to remember about Lynch, however, is that he never wants his films to be “easy to watch” and BLUE VELVET is the film that gave Lynch his beginnings into developing such a powerful trend.

JER: After reading your entry,JC, I am still a little perplexed by your argument as to why you would think BLUE VELVET is a better film than MUHOLLAND DRIVE. Let me start from my end... to begin, I think that BLUE VELVET is a wonderful film with well- written characters and a driving need for the weird and bizarre. My only argument is that it is probably the most commercially- recognized film from David Lynch. He is not a ‘commercial’ director. I believe studios have tried in the past (case in point, THE ELEPHANT MAN and DUNE) but it doesn’t seem to fit him…like a pair of pants that are three sizes too big. They try to stay on, but it keeps slipping off because it just doesn’t fit! ‘Commercial’ success does not fit David Lynch. I don’t think that Lynch purposely sought- out to make a ‘commercial’ film… but he may have accidentally created one! As you had mentioned, it has all of the classic and key ingredients for a Lynch film. I just think that this batch of cookies came out too perfect. It doesn’t taste as homemade as some of the other baked goods he has in his pantry.

MULHOLLAND DRIVE is a decedent dessert: far too rich for the palates of most but a special treat for those willing to consume what it has to offer. It might even be avoided by most because of lack of general- audience appeal. I think that it is one of the main reasons I thoroughly enjoy this film. I have seen it many times and I still have a hard time grasping all of the many subplots and the final conclusion. It is open to interpretation and I enjoy that option. No two people can walk away with the same thoughts and understandings after viewing this film.

Could it be that maybe we have it all wrong? Maybe, as an audience, we have demanded that plots, stories and characters need to be fully fleshed- out for own selfish ‘understanding’ and not allow interpretation or imagination to be a part of our final deduction of films? Have we created a ‘lazy’ trend in not developing the brain or imagination glands to fully grow because we have dulled them with worthless dribble? If that is the case, then I welcome you to take MULHOLLAND DRIVE as a work-out regiment and request that you start putting those imagination glands to the test!

JOHNNY CHAZZ: The performances in both films are, without a doubt - first rate. To add, the subject material in both films is also extremely unique and creative. Both examine what lies beneath the idealistic ideas and perceptions of what small-town America is (BLUE VELVET) and what Hollywood - or the big city is really about (MULHOLLAND DRIVE). Perhaps the primary difference that we see between BLUE VELVET and MULHOLLAND DRIVE is the idea of fantasy and dreams weaving their way into a picture. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is completely imaginistic from start to finish where BLUE VELVET maintains not only a true essence of realism, but the straight narrative is something rarely seen from Lynch, but certainly refreshing. BLUE VELVET was also much more shocking in terms of subject material for its time than MULHOLLAND DRIVE- and the shock factor is integral to the way directors like to play with their audience. Lynch described BLUE VELVET as ''A film about things that are hidden - within a small city and within people". Now, Lynch is certainly the king of surreal films and has mastered his technique over the years leading up to the extremely surreal, somewhat horrific and dreamlike, such as INLAND EMPIRE. We must acknowledge that Lynch is one of the few directors who have ever been able to take something horrific and disturbing and turn into an object or a moment of beauty through sound, color and imagery. What I will leave you with as a final thought is this, Jer: MULHOLLAND DRIVE may well have been the climax of Lynch's film career, but BLUE VELVET was the breakthrough film that builds that bridge to get him there.

JER: It might have been a tougher task to pit these films against each other than I could have imagined from the beginning. I think the issue at hand is that the two films are both very similar and yet, distinctive at the same time. Both bare the very recognizable markings of a standard David Lynch film, there is no denying that point. The other is that Lynch never followed a conventional nor traditional approach to anything he ever did. As JC mentioned earlier, Lynch began as a painter. How does one go to an artist and ask him or her to describe an abstract piece of work? Artists work on an impulse, sometimes based on emotions, to try to capture those reflexes onto to canvas or their own particular tools of art. Lynch says that images come to him in dream-like visions, to which he tries to reenact them onto to screen. This isn’t any different than a visionary artist trying desperately to recreate those images into a painting, or sculpture or any form used by the creator.

With that said, I believe he might have a “draw” as an outcome to this CINEMA TAKEDOWN. The conclusion has to be rendered based on asking Michelangelo which work of arts does he love best; his sculptures or his paintings? That would also be like asking a parent which child do they love more? The fair and only foreseeable conclusion here is to agree that both films offer a distinctive flavor or representation of this ‘artist’ and marks a point in his life that was expressed and notably captured onto the canvas Lynch prefers… the canvas of cinema!

What are you thoughts? Is there a ‘counterpoint’ you would like to express or offer an opinion on? Please do so, we always invite them. Comment those feelings and let us know if you feel stronger about one or the other. On that note, JOHNNY CHAZZ will draw from his expansive bag of tricks for an interesting take on cinema…so, here’s hoping to continue having you stop by weekly and we will await your visit when we SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Enjoy this facinating video entitled "The Art of David Lynch". Click the link and enjoy the ride!
Don't forget to stop and visit the official YOUTUBE page for CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT! Here you will find vintage trailers, tribute clips and many other great treasures! Click the link below and see "Favorites" for a list! ENJOY!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: "LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!"

JOHNNY CHAZZ: There are numerous advantageous to shooting a film either wholly or partially “on location”. For those new to cinema, this refers to all production and filming being done at the site rather than use of constructed sets. Typically this adds to the realism, the weathered look and the overall shades and image illusionary looks. The advantages to the funding studio are fairly obvious, but must be discussed. Costs are reduced since sets and certain props do not need to be used; the essence of being in “reality” is also enhanced. There is a flip-side however and often times that comes with the natural territory including the likes of public passers-by; temperature and weather constraints halting or slowing down production and the cost of transporting the entire cast and crew to the location for filming which can have a heavy impact on the film’s budget.

Still, so many memorable moments in film have come from those that have utilized specific locations as another “character” in the film. The location can mock the characters, identify with them or simply add a philosophical or psychological element to the overall pace and look of the film.

Let’s dive in and take a look at some of the films over the past 60 + years that I feel have used filming “on location” to add that extra character and mood to the film that could never be accomplished through the construction of sets.

FARGO (1995) immediately comes to mind. The majority of the film is shot in Minnesota, including Brainerd and Minneapolis, as well as on the road heading into and out of Fargo. The dark comedy provides “color” through, not only the cast language, but the sets are priceless and the cold, remote aura made the film a virtual masterpiece.

VERTIGO (1958) must also be addressed. Kim Novak (Madeleine) jumping under the San Francisco bridge into the icy waters of the bay is epic in terms of location. Ernie’s restaurant was another with shots of the interior and exterior. Transfixed by the portrait of Carlotta, we take a trip to the wonderful Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Next, we visit the Empire Hotel with the “ghost,” per se, of Madeleine from the second floor peering out. Especially appealing to the eye are the long shots of Scottie’s apartment on Lombard Stree,t finishing and the concluding haunting views of the Old San Juan Batista mission with the bell tower (constructed however) and the accompanying stables.


Foreign Films are obsessed with “on location” considering the deep and rich European and Asian cultures as well as architecture. Here we must mention the likes of TSOTSI (2005) filmed in the beautiful but rough burrows of Johannesburg and Gauteng, South Africa... making South Africa look so appealing to visit on screen. MEDITERRANEO (1991) is another that is especially close to my heart, showcasing the Greek and Italian seas during the Second World War. The peaceful blue ocean views accompanied by the mountain settings were ideal conditions for such a wonderful foreign film. Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963) along with LA DOLCE VITA (1960) are two more that cannot be passed up. Both being filmed in the black and white scheme, it is the architecture, bizarre locations, cafés and the constant change in locales in and around Rome and Italy (Bassano and Lazio especially) that give it a romantic and exotic flavor that will stand the test of time. IKIRU (1952) and TOKYO STORY (1953) are two others from Japanese cinema that are also in the black and white motif offering us constant changes in locale around Tokyo (IKIRU especially) in the nightlife scenes of the cafes, sushi restaurants, nightclubs, pachinko parlors, street scenes and brothels. What use of “on location” sets... allowing the audience to really see Japan’s culture for what it was and still is today. Finally, I have to honor the locations chosen by Antonioni in L’AVENTURRA (1960) as well as THE PASSENGER (1975) with use of wide and long shots, while characters move out of frame. Focusing on the architecture of the city of Messina and Sicily as well as the Aeolian Islands, reflecting whilst mocking the nature of our characters and the final scene near the bell-tower (reminds one of the climactic scene in Vertigo) are simply amazing. The final scene in THE PASSENGER is also terrific with the camera moving through the window and out towards the bullring and then panning back 360 degrees to the hotel. Other locations used in THE PASSENGER are equally effective including the desert sequences and the orchard with the painted oranges.

American classics such as THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951) filmed in the forests of the Congo, THE HUSTLER (Ames pool hall and the bus station), NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) with the Mount Rushmore scene, Grand Central Station and Midway airport, ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) including scenes in Rome, the Church of Santa Maria and the Piazza, CHINATOWN (1974) with the surrounding Los Angeles areas, the aqueduct and nearby orchards, EASY RIDER (1969) showcasing the cliff reservation of Mulholland Drive, the New Mexico campfire areas, the exterior and interior of the Louisiana coffee shops and the climactic and hallucinogenic scene St. Louis Cemetery #1, SOME LIKE IT HOT (the train interior as well as the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego, CA), and SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) showcasing the Alto-Nido apartments in Hollywood as well as the Getty Mansion; inside and out, followed by the Paramount Studios' front gate, must also be mentioned as being filmed at outstanding locations.

There are countless other films that deserve honorable mention without going into too much detail. If you have seen these films, you are probably aware of the locations that I am referring to and the overall mood that filming “on location” added to the film. If you have not seen any of the following, do yourself a favor and jump onto Netflix in a hurry and begin your quest. Here is my list of remaining films that I would recommend with outstanding location shots:

* ANNIE HALL
* THE LAST EMPEROR
* FIELD OF DREAMS
* THE DEER HUNTER
* THE EXORCIST
* THE CONVERSATION (Opening scene in particular)
* CASINO
* BARRY LYNDON
* PARIS, TEXAS (Opening and closing scenes)
* NATIONAL TREASURE
* HALLOWEEN (The house and the street)
* SCARFACE (The Miami area)
* MULHOLLAND DRIVE (Everything really)
* BEFORE SUNSET (The side streets and walkways of Paris)
* A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
* STRICTLY BALLROOM
* THE STRAIGHT STORY (Beautiful cinematography and locales)
* BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
* THE MAJESTIC (Been there and this theater in Ferndale, CA is wonderful!)
* ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (The tours pay homage to the film’s locale)
* DELIVERANCE (Wouldn’t ever want to go there, but that is the effect)
* SIDEWAYS (One of the most beautiful drives in the world)
* WINTER’S BONE (Recent film that went un-noticed for its’ barren and gritty atmosphere)


JER: This is a great topic of discussion while at the same time, an opportunity for recognition on an unsung role in the construction of a motion picture.

Many wonderful memories come to mind on the topic of “location, location, location!” Epic films will always use the best landscapes for photographic reasons.

I will begin with the principal photography for Milos Foreman’s 1984 film, AMADEUS. Shot entirely in various locations within the Czech Republic, the opportunity was given to include many real palaces and castles for its authentic presentations. The Estates Theatre, located in Prague, is an original standing theatre built in 1783 and was an opera house to which the real Mozart premiered “Don Giovanni” in October 29, 1787.

Director Michael Mann is a master of authenticity and kept his 1992 film, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, very true to that concept. Shot around the Blue Ridge Mountains and other nearby locations in North Carolina, preserved National Forests and picturesque locations would all play a pivotal role in the storytelling of this grand epic.

Exotic locations have always been a key element to keeping the Bond films filled with excitement, glamour and visual spectacles. Some memorable locales could be recognized, for example: the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida would be the hotel James Bond visits in GOLDFINGER. Various memorable scenes within Egypt and India would help the exotic flair of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. Who can forget the adventurous fight sequence within France’s Eiffel Tower in A VIEW TO A KILL? Finally, what Bond film would be complete without a little gambling involved? How about the beautiful Casino de Monte-Carlo in DIE ANOTHER DAY?

Moving from the foreign sites to the more ‘familiar’ grounds I enjoy stomping through, I would like to draw your attention to my favorite street in the world…Hollywood Boulevard!

Coming around the corner of Las Palmas and Hollywood Blvd, you can almost see Julia Roberts walking up the star- studded sidewalks for 1990’s PRETTY WOMAN. Her apartment, by the way, is also on the same street aptly called the Las Palmas Hotel. On the other side of that very same corner, there is Danny Glover catching his breath as Mel Gibson makes a mad dash after the bad guys in the original 1987 LETHAL WEAPON and Will Smith stops into that same corner drugstore in his 2008 action/ comedy HANCOCK. A very epic fight occurs all throughout the Boulevard as Smith and co-star Charlize Theron ‘take it to the streets’ between the El Capitan Theater and the famous Chinese Theatre. Laura Dern would walk a little further in the opposite direction in a lost glaze in David Lynch’s 2006 film INLAND EMPIRE… and she would come very close to the Frolic Room lounge next door to the Pantages Theater, where Russell Crowe would stop in for a drink in 1997’s L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Incidentally, that is the same bar, now doubling for a lesbian club,  that Aaron Eckhart walks into for a drink and carries on with his investigations in Brian DePalma’s THE BLACK DAHLIA!

A hop, skip and a jump on the map brings us to Boston… home to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Both men would partake in the double duties of screenwriting and acting in the heavily Boston-based 1997 film GOOD WILL HUNTING. Affleck would wow critics and audiences in the very realistic middle- class surroundings of his beloved “Beantown” for his directorial debut in 2007’s GONE BABY GONE. A few years later, Affleck would come back strong in his sophomore submission, 2010’s THE TOWN. We cannot forget director Martin Scorsese’s use of the good and the bad running amuck in his Academy Award winning film THE DEPARTED or the tight bonds created in rural neighborhoods and the collective gathering when something happens to the ones you are closest to in director Clint Eastwood’s MYSTIC RIVER.

Keeping the streets real, let’s go to the other end of the world. Next stop? Japan! Inspiring and overwhelming, the big city would play backdrop to two very different films capturing very unique sides of this grand and mysterious city. The first would play as a large playground for detectives Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia for Ridley Scott’s 1989 action thriller BLACK RAIN. It would then serve as a choking and unknown world for both Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in Sophia Coppola’s 2003 breakthrough film LOST IN TRANSLATION. What the hell… Japan is a land of many wonders and mystique, which served as both location and cultural unassurities in 2004’s THE GRUDGE! Herein, it is the isolation of a haunted home and the beliefs of an unknown culture that make this film a very memorable and intriguing film to watch.

Finally, the homeland of New Zealand would produce a magnitude of location treasures for director Peter Jackson for his LORD OF THE RINGS saga. Providing a lush and fertile backdrop for the Shire, to the rugged mountains during the most climatic sequences, that Jackson would use the scenery to display the beginnings of both comfort and home to the weary travels...ending it into the unknown away from anything resembling safety and known. Jackson would return back to the more jungle-like landscapes of New Zealand for the representation of Skull Island in his 2005 remake of KING KONG.

It is understood that JC and myself missed many mentionable locations within this article, but we hope we have stirred your senses a little to explore and admire the many wonderful locales brought forth.

We hope you enjoyed our location journey around the world and that you will be joining us once again for another flight into the cinematic world next week when the pilot's chair gets turned over to yours truly, JER. For now, I will turn off the seatbelts' sign and allow you to move about freely until we SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!


Check out this great video highlighting some of the most memorable film locations shot in and around the Los Angeles area!
 
Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

JER'S TURN: RECOGNIZING ACTOR GARY OLDMAN

JER: The basis of this article is driven primarily from the ignorance and untrained expertise of a local “movie critic” in my Palm Springs area who went on a rant about Gary Oldman as an actor and how he seems to always play the exact same 'brooding' characters in all his movies. He was tired of the same roles and wanted to see him expand is comfort zone into other roles instead! My friend, it is time to enlighten you since you obviously did not do your homework!

To begin with, Gary Oldman first came to my attention as the heavy boozing, drug infused embodiment of Sid Vicious, bass player for England’s punk band “The Sex Pistols” in the film SID AND NANCY in 1986.

Oldman as Sid Vicious- SID AND NANCY
As an unknown actor, it seemed almost immediate to compare Oldman and Vicious as one and the same! There was a sense of taking on the role and walking in the footsteps of the fallen bassist. Both the film and the actor was something I couldn’t take my eyes off of…try as hard as I could. Oldman played Vicious as a reckless anarchist with spiky punk black hair and a lower –east end British accent. He even wore the iconic chain and lock around his neck as Vicious did as a memento of Nancy’s holding of his heart! This would become the basis of most Oldman characters... unexpecting and unpredictable in behaviors and appearances throughout his career!

Even though Oldman kept himself busy for a couple of years, it wouldn’t be until 1990 when he would play the “loose cannon” Jackie Flannery in director Phil Joanou’s STATE OF GRACE opposite Sean Penn. Using New York’s Hell Kitchen as a backdrop, the story surrounds itself around Terry Noonan’s (Penn) return back from after some years of absence. He runs into his old childhood friend of Flannery (Oldman) who now has connections with the local Irish mafia. The film takes on a life all its own with making the seedy streets and location of Hell’s Kitchen as a character all its own. Oldman would change his appearance by Flannery’s long hair and unkempt facial hair… not to mention the New York/ Irish drawl spoken. With his cleverly choreographed moves and establishment of character, you just didn’t know if Oldman would stretch out his hands and invite you in for a warm hug or pull a pistol out on you and blow your brains out!
Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald

A professional leap forward for Oldman’s career would take place in 1991 when he would take on the devious role of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in director Oliver Stone’s JFK. With more of a  “cast of characters” role in the never ending drama of JFK’s assassination, Oswald would play a pivotal role…yet, Oldman would play him as a victim…a patsy…basically, the one man being ‘framed’ for the actions he claimed to have had no part in. His body language was that of a man who wouldn’t look you straight in the eye, always looking around. The conspiracy is done exceptionally well by both Stone’s direction and the selection of a brilliant cast to help flesh out the people who were involved in the incidents that occurred.

As Vlad in BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA
Much respect and admiration could already be said about Oldman’s style of interchanging characters and being about to mask both his physical appearance and accents… but Oldman would take- on his most challenging role to date in his short lived career thus far. The role of Vlad III Darculea or “Dracula” would take shape in the form of many entities in director Francis Ford Coppola’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA in 1992. Oldman went through many different stages in order to assist in the telling of Coppola’s version of the classic gothic tale. To begin with, there were three different Dracula stages presented. The first would be a younger Vlad who battled the Turks in the year 1462, this is then followed by Dracula’s appearance as an old man when Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) visits the Transylvanian castle in 1895 and then finally appearing as the young Prince of Carpathia, decked out in turn of the century suit and top hat. Along with the physical came the Romanian accent, wavy long black hair with manicured mustache to the wrinkled skinned, ivory haired appearance for Dracula. Don’t forget the demons he would turn into as well, including a full sized ‘man-bat’ and a wolf-like creature. Fellow actors would comment that Oldman kept to himself throughout the production and took on the personification of a diva while working on the film. He hated re-takes and having to break out of character with flubbed lines from his co-stars.

Drexi Spivey- TRUE ROMANCE
 After much acceptance from both critics and audiences alike, Oldman would begin to play more diverse roles. In 1993, he would play a set of different characters in two films now considered to be ‘cult favorites.’ The first would be the Jamaican- accented, scarred- faced, dreadlocked pimp Drexi Spivey in director Tony Scott’s TRUE ROMANCE. Although only on the screen for a short time, Oldman’s character portrayal captivated audiences with his smooth phrases and dirt bag appearance. He sticks out like a soar thumb as a white man thinking he’s Jamaican whilst being surrounded by his burly black bodyguards… jabbering away as if he is one of da guys! The second would be the corrupted police sergeant Jack Grimaldi in ROMEO IS BLEEDING. Going opposite Russian hitwoman Mona (Lena Olin) the film becomes a toe- to-toe battle royale as Grimaldi finds that his target might finally be his match!

Oldman as an older Beethoven
1994 would mark another pivotal step in his acting resume as Oldman would take on the role of Ludwig Van Beethoven in IMMORTAL BELOVED. Playing Beethoven with a German accent and distinguished hairstyles and wigs of the era, Oldman also had to portray Ludwig as a deaf man, keeping certain poise in body language and presentations as well as learning the necessary compositions on piano.

Oldman as Jean- Baptiste Zorg
 1997 would bring Oldman’s oddest and most memorable cult character as Jean- Baptiste Emanuel Zorg In director Luc Besson’s THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Zorg’s character was flamboyant, yet deadly… all the while speaking with a Southern drawl… and living in space! The character is a space-age weapon’s dealer villain of the new millennium. Wearing a futuristic plastic suit and sporting a fashionable futuristic hairdo, Oldman’s character is played for fun and is a definite breakout role for the actor.

We can hop- skip a few years in between and bring it more recently when we talk about Oldman’s contribution to the Harry Potter franchise by fleshing out the character of Sirius Black in 2004’s HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. We meet Black through Potter’s perception of introduction: a murderer; cold, callus and untrusting. Oldman portrays Black in the same fashion… deep and dark. The tide turns once we learn that Black is here to help Potter and that he is a kind, caring and enduring individual. Thus, again, calling on Oldman’s talents to switch portrayals to give both Potter and the viewing audience that element of surprise. Sirius Black would return in 2005’s HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE and 2007’s HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX.

Gordon- BATMAN BEGINS 
Most recently, Oldman’s grand acting abilities are called upon to assist another popular franchise, this time as Jim Gordon in director Christopher Nolan’s 2005 BATMAN BEGINS. Playing a more mature role, both physically and mentally, the character is given a more fleshed- out background and becomes a very important ally to our main character. Oldman would reprise the role again in 2008’s THE DARK KNIGHT.

In conclusion, the actor that is Gary Oldman has been able to show many different sides to his acting abilities by not being type-casted into certain roles, but showing a full and well- rounded body of work in dramatic and comedic portrayals as well as bring a master of disguise: in accents and physical appearances.

Oldman in LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL
 JOHNNY CHAZZ: Intriguing topic this week, Jer, and I can understand your concern in response to the recent words that were spoken by a "movie" critic in your area... First off, I have never really seen anything wrong with the idea of an actor / actress playing the same types of roles over and over. Heck, let's name drop: Robert DeNiro, Joes Pesci, Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, and Samuel Jackson. To add, I could also mention classic actors such as Marlon Brando and Jimmy Stewart as having played similar roles in films over the years. Still, these names that I have listed are all award-winning actors who should rate high on anyone's list (although, as I always state - art appreciation remains subjective in the mind of the viewer). So, allow me to discuss this career of Gary Oldman for a moment. To be real honest, I am not a real fan of his films but with the same token that is not what the topic of discussion centers around here. SID & NANCY with Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious may have been one of his top roles. Servign as a cult classic, I always felt that not only was this role ideal for Oldman, but that his performance dictated the pace and mood of the film - dark, surreal and pretty dark and disturbing. A few years later of course we see him as "Lee Harvey Oswald" in JFK prompting Roger Ebert to label him as one of the best young British actors in cinema. This film (JFK) was also a real breakthrough on an International scale allowing U.S... movie watchers to get a taste for his talents. Over the course of the next five years, we would see Oldman play roles in DRACULA, TRUE ROMANCE, THE PROFESSIONAL (a very good film for the record), THE FIFTH ELEMENT (a disastrous film on many counts in my opinion) and then in 2001 as a revengeful killer in HANNIBAL with that raspy voice and disfigured visage.

What we have here is a talented actor who has played roles that are fairly similar in terms of being dark, disturbing and often times downright evil. However, we must create a distinction between that and what your local critic was exactly getting at, Jer. You state that he went on a rant regarding “how unoriginal Gary Oldman is as an actor and how all his characters always seem to be the same”. Perhaps he is right and in another sense perhaps he is not right. Oldman’s characters are generally “dark” in nature, but we have come to accept that as an audience and those of us who appreciate his work have no quarrels about his leading in these types of roles. To tell you the truth, he does it well. The roles remain original since there is no way to draw a line between the likes of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and Oldman acting the role of a pimp in TRUE ROMANCE.

STATE OF GRACE
I am guessing here that this critic probably has many favorite actors and directors for that sake who tend to become involved in roles and films that have similar “moods”- but the roles remain different. This is where we draw a line – a clear-cut distinction. Take John Ford, David Lynch, or D’Antonioni, Fellini or even Tarantino and the Coen brothers (today) and you will clearly see that the majority of their films have the same “mood” or “feeling” that is captured. However, every scene along with every device and cut as well as use of color, sound and musical score (and lack thereof for D’Antonioni fans) are vital to the success of the film and the resulting impact on audiences.

I would imagine this is a “personal” issue in a sense. Maybe it was the legal issues surrounding Oldman or his reclusive nature that bothers your critic, but I always say "Love the art - and don't get too caught up in the artist". It appears (speculation here, but a fair guess at that) that your film critic in your area simply does not care for Gary Oldman as an actor in some way, shape or form and, well...... it is probably as simple as that, Jer.

JER: I don’t believe it was a personal issue, it just sounded as if this critic was just on a rant about how he feels that Oldman plays the same characters, brooding characters was the phrase used, from what I heard…as if there is no originality or growth span from his part. What is most disturbing is the fact that I personally feel this is one of the greatest and most original actors to come out from the 90’s! I think those comments are better directed at others who cannot seem to get out of the vice- grip they have created for themselves.

Thank you for mentioning Luc Besson’s THE PROFESSIONAL or LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, as it is known in special editions available on DVD and Blu-Ray. I forgot about the role of Norman Stansfield… nothing can be more unnerving than when Stansfield pops his little pill; doing that twist of the neck gesture and comes around a completely different person… almost like a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ metamorphic occurrence that has been presented before our very eyes. He delivers a glare so piercing that I was uneasy when I found myself caught in the receiving end of it.

Shall I even give honorable mention for his Russian terrorist role of Ivan Korshunov in director Wolfgang Petersen’s AIR FORCE ONE? Opposite Harrison Ford as the U.S. President, it was a no- holds barred match of wits, talent and actors portraying the common denominator between good versus evil! Oldman sports a Russian accent and that nemesis role that a patriotic individual would love to see his just deserts delivered!

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Staying on topic here, again I impress that we are discussing whether Oldman is playing the same characters over and over. I will conclude with stating what was said previously - his characters remain dark and often times of an evil-nature, but that is his niche and what he does well. How can we possibly fault his ability to perform in such roles if it is performed at such a high level? Again, I am not a fan of his movies, but his performances are certainly memorable and first rate.

HARRY POTTER
JER: JC, I must disagree with you based on your closing statements. Would a majority of his characters fall under the category of brooding? Maybe. Does Beethoven from IMMORTAL BELOVED, Spivey from TRUE ROMANCE, Zorg from THE FIFTH ELEMENT, Gordon from BATMAN BEGINS and Black from HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX define as ‘dark’ characters? This critic sternly says no. They might be complex, even a little misunderstood… but not dark and clearly not a continual representation of ‘brooding’ characters paraded by a fine actor.

Well, my gloves will come off long enough to let my knuckles cool off a bit… in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed our most recent blog entry. On behalf of JOHNNY CHAZZ and myself, JER, we want to say THANK YOU so much for helping us reach past 2000 hits on our blog- page! We greatly appreciate the support from our readers and we hope to continue giving you interesting and unique topics to keep you coming for months to come! Tune in next week when it is JOHNNY CHAZZ' turn to deliver his topic of choice, so unitl then, we will always SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!


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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: BLACK AND WHITE AND RED ALL OVER

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Have you ever stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, CA? Perhaps you have heard the rumors or stories revolving around the haunting by Marilyn Monroe’s ghost on the 3rd floor of the hotel. When shooting “Some Like it Hot”, a film full of illness, false accusations and other rumors, Director Billy Wilder and Marilyn Monroe did not exactly see eye to eye when it came to whether the picture should be shot in color or black and white. You see, Monroe’s contract stated that all of her films were to be shot in color and nothing else as this was where she shined and was most photogenic. Since Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis’ characters were more “realistic” and “feminine” looking in the black and white style, director Wilder decided to film the classic in the black and white motif. Of course, for Marilyn this was not to be. The idea of not filming her in color created a fuming argument as she cursed the set (the hotel also) and the film for years to come.

Intro to THE WIZARD OF OZ
 When color first hit the screen many years ago… they were considered quite expensive and not exactly easy to produce. The first film ever to use a hint of color was released in 1908 which was actually a short film titled “A Visit to the Seaside”. Still, audiences and studios wanted the replacement and with the introduction of Technicolor (a company which actually began in the early 1900’s) in the 1940’s well over 50% of all movies were being made in color whether with Technicolor or with Eastman (Kodak). Perhaps many of us best remember color impacting movies with the introduction of “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939 with the sepia-colored tones used in the Kansas / Real-Life scenes while colors were used in three tones in the dream sequences or “Oz” scenes. Perhaps what was so amazing about “The Wizard of Oz” as a color theme was the richness of the true colors that we also saw in Demille’s classic film “The Ten Commandments”. Colorizing black and white film with the use of technology and computers just simply lacks the effect, the impact, the beauty and the soft resonance on film.

2005's GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK
Color works fine for so many films but is certainly not a requirement for films today. Filmmakers today need to take a good hard look at the material that they are placing on screen to determine if color or black and white should be implemented. That is to say, when it comes to making decisions about color today, the idea of shooting in black and white should only be used if it would some sort of emotional imagery that color cannot replace. Black and white is truly the prime format for any film-noir genre and one only needs to look back to recent films such as “Sin City” (2004) and “Good Night and Good Luck” (2005) to see that mainstream Hollywood understands the value of the old cliché “black and white with red all over”. It is the subtle use of spot color (red for blood as seen in so many black and white films) that really makes it work on another level all together, but the foundation of black and white gives the pulp feel, the gritty feel and adds a sexy and erotic feeling that only Jessica Alba could bathe in.
1980's THE ELEPHANT MAN
Remember “Clerks” in 1994? This was a film that cost about $25,000 to make and the impact and profitability from this film were phenomenal. “The Elephant Man” is another contemporary classic filmed in black and white where Lynch knew that the horrific nature of the film as well as the fact that it was a period piece could only be intensified in a black and white motif. On a final note, we look at “Raging Bull” in 1980 where Scorsese knew that the violence, the sex, and the entire cinematography could only be best reflected in black and white giving the film a rich and authentic feel.

So, this week I simply want to make the point that “black and white” is where we started and in some ways will continue to be a creative and crucial part of the future of cinema. Could you imagine if a somewhat contemporary film such as “Schindler’s List” had been made in color? It is the play on lighting, the shadows and the overall tonalities that give the film its’ mood – such a specific and vital part of the theatrical experience. I will admit that I am quite nostalgic when it comes to film and most of the time I will take a black and white film over anything contemporary - hands down. Still, the fact that it is “black and white” does not necessarily make the film better, but when used properly, there are no limits to the emotions and imagery that are conveyed.

Here is a list of black and white films that I would highly recommend for our CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT Audience. Now I appeal to you Jer…. What are your thoughts on the world of black and white film as a tool and a canvas for movies of yesterday and today? Also, what are some of your favorite black and white films over the years and in recent years (since 1980 etc.)?

*** Chazz’s Black and White Film Suggestions and Recommendations:


2005's SIN CITY
Nosferatu; Ed Wood; City Lights; Stranger Than Paradise; Tokyo Story; Ikiru; Seven Samurai; The Last Picture Show; Wild Strawberries; Some Like It Hot; Double Indemnity; Sunset Boulevard; The Elephant Man; Manhattan; Good Night and Good Luck; His Girl Friday; Psycho; Raging Bull; Schindler’s List; Citizen Cane; On The Waterfront; Jezebel; Now, Voyager; L’Eclisse; Stardust Memories; Eraserhead; Dr. Strangelove; It’s A Wonderful Life; Casablanca; King Kong; The Forbidden Zone; To Kill a Mockingbird; Sin City; 8 ½; Breathless; Metrolpolis; Vivre Sa Vie; The Maltese Falcon; All About Eve

JER:  An excellent and slightly controversial topic this week in deed, JC! I recently revisited an interview by Steven Spielberg for AFI (American Film Institute) where he was mentioning the ‘struggles’ he has within his own home when he wants to show his younger children an older film. The children’s question is always, “Is it a black and white movie?” To which Dad’s reply is simply, “Yes.” The children then argue the point that they do not want to see those kinds of films…Dad’s reply to the moaning and belly-aching? “Too bad, you are going to watch it!” Why does he say that? He wants to raise his children understanding the media and the richness of storylines…be it black and white or color.

To agree with what you mentioned earlier, JC, is that there is a capture of emotions by a mere selection of screen palates. In addition, it would seem as if black and white captures more shadows for facial expressions, lighten or darken the mood of emotions and backdrops surrounding the film and its classic use is best represented to mark an era of filmmaking.

Let’s take a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO for a moment. For a 1960 film, color was already being used for most of its films at the time. MGM was definitely making its mark with filming all of its musicals in color by the 1950’s. Hitchcock, however, saw that the need for black and white would best create the ambiance of the film. Let’s focus on the fact that this is a very popular and respected film and has been reviewed and studied throughout the years as an example of fine film making. There are some elements that equally work today as it did some 50 years ago. So much so, that director Gus Van Sant decided to ‘remake’ PSYCHO for a 1998 release. The reception was very poor and the box office receipts spoke louder than any critics’ voice could. Aside from the fact that you had contemporary actors like Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche playing the iconic roles of Norman Bates and Marion Crane originally presented onto the silver screen by Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, respectfully, it had everything to do with the fact that color was introduced to this version… in my opinion. Let’s take a closer look, shall we? Director Van Sant meticulously went into great details to shoot his remake in recreating details from the original classic. It was known that Van Sant had a DVD player on the set with the original film playing, so that he could reference sets, dialog, gestures and movements. So then, here we have a pretty accurate “carbon- copy” of the original made in color that failed with critics and the audience. It had nothing to do with the fact that the story had been tampered with, the soundtrack was ‘borrowed’ from the original Bernard Hermann score or not even that changed… I honestly will keep going back to the fact that a classic had been sacrilegiously been tampered with and the decision to go color was a failed one.

2003's KILL BILL: VOL 1
 As JC had mentioned, many contemporary filmmakers are actually embracing the use of black and white in the assisting of their story telling. Let’s recall certain highlights of black and white use from director Quentin Tarantino's KILL BILL. To begin with, the film opens in black and white with a bloodied Uma Thurman lying on a dusty church floor. The dark richness of blacks used in this sequence highlights all the bruising details of our heroine’s face…blood, swellness and shadows are dramatically captured as the audience is left to gaze at the gruesome details. Another excellent use of palates is exemplified in what is known as “Chapter Five: Showdown At House of Blue Leaves” in which our heroine is armed with her trusty Hattori Hanzo samurai sword and battles an endless swarm of villains. A scene considered too explicit with a never-ending display of amputations, mutilations and a waterfall display of blood, director Tarantino felt that cutting to black and white during this sequence would lessen the display of crimson red and soften the reaction to just mere blacks and darks for blood would work best… it did. This act probably softened the blow to change the 'Board's' choice from rating this R- rated film to an NC-17.

In 2004, director Stephen Sommers would open VAN HELSING with a homage to the classic Universal Monster films of the 1930’s. At almost 8 minutes of length, the introduction of Dracula, Frankenstein and his Monster along with the laboratory, are all graphically dramatic and well executed... in black and white.

The great Cecil B DeMille realized the impact of technology when he directed a silent black and white version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in 1923 and upgraded to a rich color remake in 1956!

In 2007, director Frank Darabont brought forth Stephen King’s THE MIST to theaters… in color. However, an alternative version of the film was offered in black and white and only available for viewing on either the blu-ray disc or a special 2 disc DVD release. Having seen both versions personally, I can understand and grasp the dramatic elements presented the black and white.
 Click and enjoy director Frank Darabont's take on presenting a black and white version of THE MIST and why 

Having said that, I wonder what other contemporary films would see a dramatic difference in impact if changing from its original color to black and white appearance? Why not try this at home for yourselves? Imagine going to your television set of choice, going to your menu and selecting the color bars and turning them way down until your images go into black and white and now selecting a few movies or films that you would like to see a contrast on…

How do you think JAWS would play out emotionally? Or, what about THE EXORCIST’s tension and build up…would you feel a difference? How about John Carpenter’s THE FOG, Brain De Palma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES or even SCARFACE? Is emotion that critical and obvious when changed by a mere stroke of a brush? A few touches of hews here and there and your view point of a film can change so dramatically?

I, too, would like to end my saying with a few recommendations of my own.

*** Jer’s Black and White Film Suggestions and Recommendations:

1950's SUNSET BLVD.
 SCHINDLER’S LIST, MANHATTAN, SUNSET BOULEVARD, RAGING BULL, PSYCHO, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, ED WOOD, THE ELEPHANT MAN, CITIZEN KANE, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, THE MALTESE FALCON and CITY LIGHTS

Another topic gets placed in the books and another chapter is done. Stay tuned for next week when I (JER) take a whack at the piñata of cinema to see what gifts and treats come pouring out.
Until then, we will always SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

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