Saturday, May 18, 2013


On a creative aspect, an artist may never feel completely satisfied with what eventually ends up on canvas or sculpted from marble. A writer may feel that characters need to be continually fleshed- out or developed entirely different from what ends up as the written form. It must be fair to say that a filmmaker has to feel the same way about what ends up on film as well. Why does the creative mind wrestle with the sense of uncompleted dissatisfaction? Maybe it’s the never- ending imagination that continually builds on the visual or the creator’s mind’s eye, the literal or the expressive side of the creator. Walt Disney said that Disneyland would never be finished… it is a place in which trees would continue to grow and flowers would blossom as well as  attractions will be constructed and created to meet the needs of the guests’ demands. Borrowing a page from Disney’s philosophy, could the same be said of how director George Lucas originally saw STAR WARS when it was released on May 25, 1977? Is it a project that will not stop growing or changing? 
Here is the first trailer seen in 1977 for STAR WARS

Director GEORGE LUCAS on the set of  STAR WARS
Initially, STAR WARS was originally budgeted at $11 million with a very limited resource of visual and special effects that literally had to be created from the ground up because of the lack of existing departments or companies in Hollywood at the time. Without realization of what was going on at the time, George Lucas and his team were seeing the birth of his visual effects company, Industrial Light and Magic. Lucas expressed regret and that sense of dissatisfaction with its original release because the visual world created by Lucas’ mind’s eye didn’t translate as he’d hoped for at the time of production: mainly due to constraints in budget, technology and time. Over the years, Lucas has created a momentum of controversy with the ever- changing additions and removals of scenes, effects and sounds with the advancements in computer- animated software and special and visual effects and the continued growth and expansion of his company. Changes that have made the original hardcore fans huff in disagreement!  

In the wake of celebrating its 36th Anniversary on May 25th this year and the ever- building news and the excitement of a new EPISODE VII installment to be directed by wunderkind J.J. Abrams with announced returns from original cast members Mark Hamil (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Lea Organa) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo)… I felt the topic needed to be brought to light… did the lore of STAR WARS go a little too far?
Early news of ABRAMS directing STAR WARS VII

The original "Early Bird Package" from Kenner Toys in 1977
This might get me in trouble with some of the hardcore fans, so let me list my personal credentials as to why I feel engaged on the subject. I consider myself to be an OG (Original Goer or Geek) of the STAR WARS trilogy! I actually got to see the original theatrical release of STAR WARS back in 1977 right before turning nine years old. Old enough to remember the anticipation and the wonderment of seeing the original cut on a big screen. I was one of the very first to send off for the first four Kenner action figures with the special “Early Bird Certificate” package, making me the first on my block to own Luke, Lea, Chewbacca and R2-D2 before anyone else could. I tried to see the original trilogy as often as I could in theaters as often as possible and catch the ‘Returning Engagements’ as well. I am not trying to bash any of the current youths’ interest and love for the saga and the various storylines and structures, I am saying that the original trilogy of STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI is all the series really needed and without needing to be retouched!

The ‘signs of things to come’ began in 1978 when science- fiction author Alan Dean Foster penned the novel “Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye.” Neither the story or plotline were officially brought upon or masterminded by creator George Lucas and the novel was considered the first story line to retroactively make it one of the earliest Expanded Universe works. The story’s timeline apparently takes place between what is STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and none of the events of the novel are ever referred to or mentioned in any of the films. The book is one that I avoided because it was an imaginary work of science fiction that didn’t reference the worlds Lucas had created on film. The novel, respectfully, was merely a proposed possible “what- if” of events until a captive audience of film- goers awaited the release of the true STAR WARS sequel, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

If you have noticed, I must make note that to this date I still refer to the 1977 film as STAR WARS and not the recently- dubbed and long- winded title of STAR WARS IV: A NEW HOPE! Who is with me on this?

One of my major gripes were my wrestled feelings about the long- awaited prequel trilogy of Episodes I, II and III (THE PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK OF THE CLONES and REVENGE OF THE SITH). Here’s my gripe… a new generation of blu- ray babies will watch the prequels first before, because they are going to follow numerical suit, to only be huffing and puffing over the poorly plotted and visually- disappointing IV, V and VI. I say this only from my personal observations: a new generation notices the difference in production value (or lack of) and don’t care for them, thinking they don’t stack- up to the overly- visual effects- heavy prequel trilogy. Another gripe involves the line of plots that were carefully placed in a particular order to grow awareness and suspense between IV, V and VI. Plot surprises will now be pre- maturely given away in the first three films that originally left audiences gasping with surprise within the original trilogy! Can we name a few? WARNING: Do not read- on if you have been living under a rock and not seen the STAR WARS six- pack! 
A trailer for the Prequel STAR WARS Trilogy

Who can ever forget the theatrical showing of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and witnessing the first time Darth Vader delivered the “I am your father” line as a reply to Luke Skywalker’s thoughts that Vader had murdered his father? I can still remember a sense of disbelief… wait a minute… maybe it’s Vader’s way of deceiving Luke to believe a lie to play with his emotions or pull him to The Dark Side? Could there really be such a connection from the apprentice Jedi and the soulless Sith Lord? The suspense and surprise is now ruined do to the fact that we are not only are introduced to Anakin Skywalker (with the last name giving things away) but we also see Anakin father the twins and become the evil Sith Lord Darth Vader within Episode III: REVENGE OF THE SITH. Speaking of the twins… how about the confirmation that Luke and Lea were siblings? We caught a bit of bait when, towards that heightened moment in Episode V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK that we witness apprentice- in- training Luke prematurely leave the planet of Dagobah due to a premonitioned cry for help from Han and Lea. As Luke departs, the apparition- version of Obi- Wan Kenobi states, “That boy is our last hope” only to have Master Jedi Yoda reply, “No, there is another.” An audience was left bewildered with guesses… who are they referring to? Han? Lea? R2- D2??? Thus, we would find true confirmation within Episode VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI. Well, that moment has been trampled with the premature telling of the secret shrouded within, yet again being revealed within the finale of Episode III: REVENGE OF THE SITH as it reveals mother Padme birthing the twins and literally calling them by their names,” Luke….Lea” as they are being pulled out of her! Did she really have to do that? Or…did Lucas really have to do that? Couldn’t we had been left with an unseen birth and be left to our devices whether it was one child or twins or triplets and find out later on throughout the series what significance it might have? 
A trailer for the Original STAR WARS Trilogy

Let’s talk about the Expanded Universes that have been created and embraced by the “STAR WARS fans.” This is where I have issues and problems, on a variety of different levels. To begin with, there are far too many Expanded Universes to keep track of with too many different characters and galaxies and plotlines to keep in order… there are too many novels to even mention here with the stretched- out worlds built from the original lore. To add more expansion, the world of computer technology has introduced a series of video and/ or computer games including THE FORCE UNLEASED and the recently released THE OLD REPUBLIC. Both games, respectfully, open gamers to even more newly- created worlds and characters than what some novelists have yet to touch. Some familiar characters or worlds still are very much present in the telling, for lore sake, but the stories are shaped differently with only the imagination left as a possible limitation.

One of the biggest  and most recent creations brought forth within the Expanded Universe submissions is the very popular 3D computer- animated STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS series. Like the novel, “Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye” that takes a narrative look at what might have occurred between STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS is a series of stories that chronologically takes place between the prequel’s trilogy storylines of THE CLONE WARS and REVENGE OF THE SITH. It covers a three- year period of events never covered in the films. What makes the series ideally special is that it was produced in association with Lucasfilm Ltd. The animation is a characterization of familiar characters in itself. We are surrounded by the day- to- day threats and adventures of a young Obi- Wan Kenobi and his Padawan Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, as well other STAR WARS prequel trilogy characters like Jedi Master Mace Windu. Although never mentioned within the films’ lore, the animated series has Anakin himself taking on his won apprentice, Ahsoka Tano. The Emmy- award winning series went into five seasons before ending.
An exciting trailer for STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS

It is perfectly acceptable and welcomed to have creative people come up with imaginative ideas and express them, but fans have literally accept anything into their own perspective of the STAR WARS lore without question! Moreover, it has also been intertwined within our pop culture as well. On a recent reality series that based itself on who was considered the biggest of all geeks called KING OF THE NERDS, a challenge had been brought forth to pit two of its geek contestants in a STAR WARS trivia contest. From the ten questions asked, I could honestly recall only two of them being film lore and the rest dealt with novelizations, video games or God knows what else! I call my ruling as unfair! What the hell was all that about? I consider myself an expert on the films and trivia in general, especially when it deals with the latter trilogy, but this was out of control! I felt like I been knocked- off my A- game and that doesn't sit right for me or my ego!

At this time, a barrage of serious geeks are rejoicing with the recent announcements within the STAR WARS universe. Only a select few can genuinely know what and where the STAR WARS lore will go next. As mentioned before, the Walt Disney Company has bought the rights to the STAR WARS name and will be producing and presenting the heavily- guarded Episode VII into the world of geekdom! What we do know is that the announcement J.J. Abrams (STAR TREK, SUPER 8) has been named as Director with a script treatment being written by Lawrence Kasdan, who penned THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK screenplay. Speculation can only predict that the new story will pick up some fifteen years after the events from which RETURN OF THE JEDI took place. One can only also guess that Han and Lea have married and possibly raising a family of some sort as well as focusing on the strengths of Luke’s Jedi abilities that have grown and matured within the years. Could we possibly see Lea embrace her Jedi heritage and learn the proper ways of the Force as well? What evil foes will our Rebel friends be presented to deal with this time? The possibilities are endless, but faith in the well- structured ensemble of a production team  and studios’ blessings can only mean that we will have not only have our expectations met, but exceeded through to the finale.

What are your thoughts of the ever- growing STAR WARS lore? Are you a follower of all or a devoted fan of the films alone? What are your thoughts of another sequel and the direction the story and plots might go?

I look forward to your comments and will post and reply to all! Keep checking back for the next blog topic installment set to be posted on SATURDAY JUNE 1st, 2013. As always, thank you for your comments and for reading!

Friday, March 29, 2013


The name alone conjures up a variety of different images to different people. Genius. Visionary. Perfectionist. Mogul. Bully. Misogynist. His stature and physique is just as widely recognizable to who he is as his name is known by anyone. His silhouette alone would become his calling card and the introduction of every “ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS” episode that originally aired on NBC between 1955 through 1962. But there was more to the man who spoke slowly and selectively that some knew of but many kept a secret for a very long time…

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock is deemed by many to be one of the greatest film directors that came out of the twentieth century. Others consider him to be the “Master of Suspense” and will always be recognized and synonymous with the works of such directorial classics as NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE BIRDS and PSYCHO. A certain belief of the image that is Hitchcock has been fabricated… either by scrupulous Marketing execs within the film studios, self created or placed upon by on- lookers… is one that shows a quiet man of a few words and an atonement for getting what he wants, both on the screen or in his personal life.

Latest discoveries and recent interviews and literature have collectively unveiled that many new layers have been peeled back to reveal a darker side of Hitchcock that were carefully hidden from the public’s eye for many, many years until now. The more notable ‘layer’ to show some true colors was a tell- all book written by author Donald Spoto entitled “Spellbound By Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies” released in October of 2009. The book focuses its attention on three of Hitchcock’s most famous leading ladies: Ingrid Bergman (SPELLBOUND, NOTORIOUS), Grace Kelly (DIAL M FOR MURDER, REAR WINDOW, TO CATCH A THIEF) and ‘Tippi’ Hedren (THE BIRDS, MARNIE) to which some would describe as an obsessive behavior with his main actresses, respectfully, during production of each film.

Ingrid Bergman was said to had ignored the advances by Mr. Hitchcock, however, the pair did develop a long- lasting friendship. Leaving Hollywood at the peak of her career, Grace Kelly left acting behind in order to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco, leaving Hitchcock in need of finding a replacement. Enters newcomer Nathalie Kay ‘Tippi’ Hedren.

‘Tippi’ Hedren was discovered by Hitchcock when he saw her in a 1962 TV commercial as a cover girl. He immediately contacted her to star in his next project, THE BIRDS (1963), in which he placed her under personal contract. She was 33; he was 64 during the time of production. A made for cable film entitled THE GIRL was released in October 2012 starring Sienna Miller as Tippi and Toby Jones as Hitchcock. The film, based on Spoto’s book (he shares co-writing credit on the teleplay) illustrates the escalating and obsessive behavior Hitchcock blatantly thrusted upon the frail Hedren.

Toby Jones and Sienna Miller in THE GIRL
It is only now, after 50 years of silence, that Ms. Hedren is finally putting closure to her dark past by interviews, talks and the release of THE GIRL. As what had occurred in real life and passages from the “Spellbound By Beauty” book and the film it’s based from, she finally finds the voice to say that Hitchcock’s sexual harassment of her, both physical and verbal, is now being told. Hedren said that there were two sides to Hitchcock that is a contrast… one being the director, or ‘artist’, as she refers him as. This is was the side that she enjoyed working with as both her directorial director and as a ‘drama coach’ that presented itself with memorable moments. Hitchcock was well respected in Hollywood and would constantly have visitors on the set: various actors, directors and other Hollywood elite was an overwhelming sight for the newcomer! The other side of ‘Hitch’ was the darker side… as she referred to as being ‘evil’ because a sense of obsession was placed on her. Feeling locked into a seven year contract, Hedren couldn’t work with other studios or directors. He would remind her that she needed to abide by the drawn contract to help support her and her daughter, Melanie Griffith, who was six years old at the time THE BIRDS was being filmed. 

At one point during the filming of THE BIRDS, Tippi walked into Hitch’s office and asked for two days off to fly to New York to receive an award on television’s late- night talk show THE TONIGHT SHOW. Hitch called the request ‘outrageous’ and said that he would ruin her career if she decided to leave against his wishes. Her reply was, “do what you have to do” and she walked out the door. Hitchcock would make do of his promise to Tippi.

Upon arriving back from New York, a pivotal screen was being set up for filming and Tippi was asked to immediately report to wardrobe and make- up. Arriving onto the set, Hitchcock had devised a scene in which Tippi’s character was being attacked by various birds with different angles and shots included. The impression that Hitch made was that mechanical birds were going to be used… that was not the case. As Tippi crawled into a mesh- wired room that had a couple of hired bird wranglers, Hitch would cue the wranglers to throw live birds at her face for a realistic close- up effect. The scene was relentlessly shot in two extensive days with actual abrasions to Tippi’s face. Not to mention the emotional anguish and continual birds flying at her. A doctor had to be brought onto the set and production shut down for a couple of days while Tippi was placed on bed rest. Hitch would continue shooting other scenes without her as to not slow down principal photography.

Shortly after production had wrapped- up on THE BIRDS, Tippi had to play- off to photographers and the press. What was it like to work with the legendary director? What’s next for the newly- found leading lady? Are you signed- on to star in Hitchcock’s next project? Hedren was taught to smile and answer with carefully devised replies… everything the press loved to gobble- up! At a budget of an estimated $2,500,000.00, the film grossed over $11 million dollars… another success for Hitchcock. It was now time to plan his next film.

Now looking back at the next collaborative effort by director/ leading lady, there are some very noticeable elements of frustration on Hitchcock’s behalf that are evident in MARNIE (1964). The underlining rejections from Hedren of Hitchcock’s advances show his frustrated obsession and her cold anguish.

The key plot point presented in MARNIE is to keep a dark secret away from the eyes of the law. Tippi’s character is a kleptomaniac who relies on her looks to deceive and allure the unsuspected. Let’s stop right here for a moment and analyze that sentence… could Hitchcock feel a ‘victim’ of sorts to the alluring beauty that Hedren naturally was? Remember, Hitch discovered her when she was a cover girl modeling. What could have been going through his head and he hoped for a chance to become intimate with a model, especially a man of his age and repulsive physique? When he couldn’t be physical with her, because of the numerous rejections, Hitchcock found other means to torment and get a rise from her. 

On the set of both THE BIRDS and MARNIE, Hitch was infamous for reciting dirty limericks and crude jokes. It was an act that Hedren found to be repulsive and sounds that she didn’t want echoing in her head as he continuously drew from the approvals and laughs from the crowds consisting of his production staff and actors alike.

But wait…stop the presses! What about Alma, Hitchcock’s wife who was known to be around the sets periodically and his personal assistant, Peggy Robertson? Surely, they had to have witnessed many kinds of tries with his various leading ladies… if so, was there an acceptance (or fear) surrounding the possible approach and making the awareness evident?
Hedren would quote Alma as an ‘enigma’ claiming that no one knew exactly what kind of relationship came from their union. Tippi recalls a point in which Alma approached her and said, “Tippi, I’m so sorry you have to go through with this.” Hedren looked her in the eyes and replied, “But you could stop it”, Alma’s eyes glazed over and she merely walked away without a reply.

Another view point to account for is the time and place that these incidents occurred from. It’s Hollywood 1962- 1964. The age of sexual awareness is beginning to peak. The Playboy magazine celebrated its 10th anniversary of publication and with sex goddesses the likes of Marylyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Mamie Van Doren and Bettie Page already gracing the tabloids or silver screen, men had become the gentleman’s gentleman. He was James Bond or Spencer Tracy when it came to putting a woman in her place and reminding her that she was there to his service! Sexual harassment 1963 is not anywhere as close to what it is today in 2013.

Again, it took 50 years for the silence to seize. But was it even worth it now to talk about Hitchcock this way and not being able to defend himself since his death in 1980? What, if any, is Hedren’s ulterior motive in releasing damaging information that alters his reputation as a sex- obsessed monster and not the revered Hollywood director that has become such an icon?

It comes to the attention of this critic that things happen and that we are allowed many choices in life to decide the path that should be followed. Could Hedren find a voice to confront Hitchcock and walk away from an illustrious career? The answer is YES because she did do just that. She found the voice and stood up to the powerful giant and walked away from his advances and a promising career. However, others may not have the same gusto, ‘balls’ or cajones to do the same. Fear takes over and reputations, careers and lives play a key point in what chess move is made next. The power to appose such behaviors does exist in the 21st century and laws are governed, based on the state or country you live in. Find the voice to speak, be it your own or a legal mouthpiece, use it wisely and swiftly. The more refusals and rejections brought forth will tear down the fabric of such behaviors and will make the wrong- doer stand down and cease with no remorse. Bravo to you, Ms. Hedren. 

MY PERSONAL VIEWPOINT: I am apposed by the behaviors of Mr. Hitchcock towards women. No one person should ever have to suffer such mental and emotional deconstruction. I consider myself a fan, however, of the man who is the ‘artist’, as Ms. Hedren stated. I would and could separate the man from the monster and admire the works of his directorial classics as well as any film fan should. Keep in mind that the man is mortal and with flaws… the ones that do not show its ugly blemishes when projected in abnormal sizes onto the silver screen. ‘Let those without sin cast the first stone’ was quoted by a Man who knew mortality and the sins of being human… for He too was of flesh and blood. 
No one can truly explain why people do what they do... what sets someone out to ruin the life of another because of rejection? What causes obsession? Could wealth and power be the added keg- powder that may had pushed Hitchcock into the explosive reactor he was or were their deeper issues that we may never know about? We could ponder plenty but it is the revealed truth that we have to focus on instead. 

I met Tippi Hedren during a Las Vegas Convention back in the early 1990's. She was very classy in both appearance and demeanor. She graciously signed an autograph and even drew little gulls floating around her name. Perhaps Ms. Hedren feels that 'the birds' will always circle her name and being for the rest of her life. Perhaps it symbolizes the over- night success that a model was given by the appearance and guidance of a Mogul who wanted the attention that couldn't be returned!
My autographed photo of TIPPI HEDREN

What are your thoughts about this week's blog topic? What are your feelings about Tippi's coming out with the truth and your viewpoints on Alfred Hitchcock? Does it change anything for either or does knowing the truth shift your ideals of either?

This is a topic that I would love to hear different opinions on and I welcome all remarks and comments.

I look forward to hearing from you and all remarks shared will be posted and replied with within a day. Thank you so much for visiting and please look forward to the next topic coming at you on FRIDAY MARCH 12th!

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!

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Another year has come to pass and another Academy Awards ceremony has called it a ‘wrap!’ Having its worldwide broadcast on Sunday February 24th, 2013, the telecast presented the best in film: from Art Direction and Set Design to Actors and Films alike. So, after the glitter has faded and the gowns have been sent to the dry cleaners… what were we left with and what will be the memories that will stay in our thoughts for weeks, months or even years to come?

My blog topic will be recapturing the possible highs (and lows) of what was and has been the 85th Annual Academy Awards!

Presented from the newly- christened Dolby Theatre, (formally the Kodak Theatre, just steps away from the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA) the show’s host was first- timer Seth McFarlane. The evening's youthful presenter was able to nab a 19% increase in viewers from last year’s telecast and was considered the most watched ceremony since the 76th Annual Academy Awards in 2004, with 42.40 million viewers.

THE HOST: Creator of the hit television series “Family Guy” and the writer and director of TED, Seth McFarlane created a riff of lovers and haters as this year’s host and the duties performed. The show’s producers actually took a huge gamble with McFarlane, who is infamous for unapologetic, truthful and vulgar humor, yet proved to be a breath of fresh air, to this critic’s opinion. He’s more than a triple threat…he is young and good looking, charming and crude at the same time, witty, a singer and dancer…God, I hate him! Is there nothing this talented twit cannot do? Nonetheless, he held the show together and presented a sense of liveliness viewers hasn’t seen since the glory years of Billy Crystal, Johnny Carson or Bob Hope.

McFarlane looks at the video image of Captain Kirk!
Taking a page from his signature sense of humor, McFarlane had help from some of Hollywood’s best to pull off some incredible humorous moments! He coaxed William Shatner to return to the Enterprise’s Captain’s chair to play James T. Kirk who visits McFarlane via video screen to inform the host of the catastrophic reviews that would await him the following morning based off of his own tasteless humor… including a proposed opening musical number entitled "We Saw Your Boobs" dedicated to “boobs” seen in cinema over the years and the actresses who have bared them! McFarlane also involved Best Actress nominated Sally Field in his own “Flying Nun” fetish- like skit and talking her into an evening of booze and sex…including a nice lip- locked smooch to seal the deal! Amongst other skits and jabs, actor Mark Wahlberg was reunited with his childhood buddy Ted in presenting the Awards for Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Ted kept coaching Wahlberg along to play Jewish so that he could stay in good with Hollywood’s elite... and stay employed!

The DOLBY THEATRE in Hollywood, CA
THE TELECAST: The Dolby Theatre is a spectacle all its own, the interiors looks like they may have had a face-lift from its previous Kodak owners, showing off some very lavish d├ęcor. The theatre was literally built with the intensions of becoming the permanent home for future Academy Award presentations, so it definitely knows how to show off great stage space and design. Production of this year’s telecast presented a very refine and classic film look…using everything from state- of - the- art screens to vintage movie cameras and film reels to dress backdrops.

Dancing! (l) TATUM and (r) THERON
This year’s theme was all about movie musicals and there were plenty of numbers throughout the broadcast! Beginning with the lampoonish “We Saw Your Boobs” musical number, as crude as the homage was intended to be, it was presented with a certain through-back flare that reminded me of something along the lines of the “Inquisition” number from Mel Brooks’ HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART I! Things, thank God, got classier from that moment on… highlighting the wonderfully graceful dance number that included surprising performances from the coupling of Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron. She in a stunning white gown and he in the classic black and white tux with spats, the number was a mere reminder of the Golden Era when Fred Astaire danced with Ginger Rogers! Actors Joseph Gordon- Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe joined host McFarlane in a “Rat Pack”- type song and soft- shoe number that probably surprised many viewers but added “singing” to the extensive list of talents portrayed by McFarlane. You wanna talk about music and musicals? Here are some of the highlights in regards!

(l) Gordon- Levitt (c) McFarlane (r) Ratcliffe
MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS:  We can go classic and talk about the wonderfully choreographed number danced by Mr. Tatum and Ms. Theron to “The Way You Looked Tonight” or the “High Hopes” sing- along with Mr. Gordon- Levitt, Mr. Radcliffe and Mr. McFarlane…but that would just the very tip of the extraordinary iceberg that would come cascading down the slopes!

As previously mentioned on a blog topic here on CINEMA: JER’S POINT, this is the year of Bond celebrating its glorious 50 years of excitement! The Academy took serious note and put together a wonderful montage of classic clips highlighting memorable moments and the themes that have become a staple in Pop Culture as well. Notably, who can deny the sultry sounds of Dame Shirley Bassey’s popular theme to GOLDFINGER? The elegance of the 76 year old singer appearing on stage at the tale end of the homage only clued any fan that Ms. Bassey was about to treat everyone to a very ‘live’ rendition of the hit tune! Not missing a beat and still capable of sending chills with every jazzy note and ending on an extended high note only proves that great singer never disappear! Bravo, indeed!

Moving from a more classical to contemporary view, a trilogy of tributes was bestowed to three modern classics. First off, the lovely and very sexy Catherine Zeta- Jones rose from below the stage on top of a piano surrounded by jazz dancers to perform the hit song “All That Jazz” from the Academy Award winning film CHICAGO… razzamatazz and oh so taboo, Zeta- Jones was smoldering and just as sensual as she appeared in the film ten years ago! Up next, Academy Award winning Supporting Actress Jennifer Hudson performs the show- stopping “And I’m Telling You Now” from her film debut, DREAMGIRLS… every note found a chill to be caused with her powerhouse rendition! 


And finally… the ‘dream’ cast from LES MISERABLES: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter all take to the stage in a medley of songs from the film. Beginning with Jackman’s appearance, the medley began with the Oscar nominated song “Suddenly”, Hathaway then comes in with “I Dream A Dream” with other members coming in to reunite with “One More Day” coming to a climatic finale.

Finally, Grammy Award winner Adele takes to the stage to perform the opening number from the James Bond hit SKYFALL. Her classic features and smoky voice brought a feel for one of those European Jazz clubs that Bond could walk into and order a Martini from. Sky- blue crystal beads draped as a backdrop along with looming darkness mixed with rich colors to create the setting with great visuals. Shortly thereafter the performance, we would learn that it would win Best Original Song! Congratulations! 

“In Memoriam” tributes are always difficult to see and deal with. It’s never easy to see images of talented individuals that have brought so much to our worlds through entertainment and being reminded of our own morality when we pay tribute to those dearly departed. This year presented a very special tribute as in the ending of the montage; we are reminded of the passing of American composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch (June 2, 1944- August 6, 2012) as the music from one of his beloved compositions, “Memories”, is played at a low orchestrated presentation. The screen lifts and we are greeted by the silhouette of Barbra Streisand who pays a verbal tribute to the composer who wrote many hits for her and others over the years before singing out the song to a darkened close.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AWARD WINNERS: A rarity as uncommon as an original screenplay these days is having a tie announced anytime throughout the ceremony… and it was! Presented by Mark Wahlberg for Best Sound Editing, the ‘winners’ were Per Halberg and Karen Baker Landers for SKYFALL and Paul NJ Ottosson for ZERO DARK THIRTY! This is only the sixth time it has occurred in Oscar history.

This can only be a sign of many other surprises that that dabbled the night through… this is a list of the more prolific accounts of the evening:

Widely touted but not necessarily a Best Picture favorite, it would seem as if the French- language drama AMOUR found a home on the Best Foreign Film category instead. The story of two retired music teachers in heir eighties find their lives turned upside down when Anne (Best Actress nominee Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a stroke one day and the testament of their love is put to the test with every trying moment of dealing with the issues in hand and the sudden visitation of their daughter and her views of what should happen to her mother.

The magic dream machine that is Pixar strikes Gold again this year with BRAVE solidifying another victorious win for the extended creative world of Disney. BRAVE becomes so many things: a feast of spectacles for the eyes, a rousing Celtic churn of melodies and sutle female swooners gave way to the ears and a well- balanced presentation of touching drama mixed in with over- the- top humor. BRAVE speaks of taking chances and loving the ones who care for us along the way.

I don’t believe that was any real surprise here with writer Chris Terrio’s win in this category. ARGO is a great film…period and behind every great film is a great story line with great dialog to help in the telling. The screenplay found many opportunities to heighten very dramatic, pivotal moments and still be able to laugh at itself when it came down to the operative of making a fake movie as a means to free Americans on the wrong side of the Iranian border. Intense. Humorous. Bold.

There is a lot to be said about the characterizations that have been brought to life from the twisted mind of Quentin Tarantino! Along with these memorable embodiments, has also come an explosion of new catch- phrases that have been a part of modern pop culture for more than twenty years now. DJANGO UNCHAINED has quickly found itself in the arms of Americana cinema for the upright boldness of making a film with a black slave as the hero! Dialog so derogatory and controversial, that only Tarantino is found laughing and pulling his pants down at the face of censorship and high- brow goodie- goodies! He is cool and ethnic, in his own world of where he comes from and his grindhouse- like upbringing!

Waltz’ stand- out performance as the German bounty hunter Dr. King Shultz was nothing less than an absolute treat to watch and a gift to contemporary cinematic characterization. Dating back a mere four years when his Nazi- infused portrayal of Col. Hans Landa in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (also directed by Quentin Tarantino) it was evident that Waltz was a force to be reckoned with. The ability to some how masterfully articulate a certain kind of sarcastic twist mixed in with the foreign accent is looked upon with child-like delight at the marvel of he performance enhanced by the colorful dialog provided by Tarantino’s script.

Anyone who was surprised by this win needs to check themselves at the theater lobby! From the moment that we were reeled into the early previews of LES MISERABLES almost a year ago, one defining moment was made clear and that was the sobbing and choking rendition of “I Dream A Dream” sung by Hathaway with an acapella- sense before crescendoing into an orchestrated fusion of sorrow and chills! The film’s performance only proved to be the deal- sealer to allow Hathaway her first Academy Award!

A surprise in my book, but not to many who have been singing the praises of this extraordinary fantasy adventure intended to be enjoyed and watched in a panoramic 3D theater! A possible “shoe-in” (at least in this critic’s opinion) was Steven Spielberg for LINCOLN, which was one of the evening’s surprise upsets. There is no doubt that one thing sticks out clearly of Lee’s directing and that is that he is willing to take risks and does not fall under any specific genre or category when it comes to his roster. CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, THE HULK and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN are but a brief glimpse of rich history surrounding this very innovating and contemporary director.

Many believed that this category was locked- in for Jessica Chastain for her performance in ZERO DARK THIRTY, the slight upset finally went to Ms Lawrence who has proven to be an Oscar winner since her stand- out performance in WINTER’S BONE, which garnered her Best Supporting Actress nomination back in 2010. If Hollywood plays its cards right, we will see a very talented actress continue to build her repertoire over the next few years and go grow into a world of one of Hollywood’s most respected and hard- working actresses. Continued success!

Here is an actor who has followed along with the recipe for success that I just mapped out for Ms Lawrence… a man who had immediately began to build an impressive list of early appearances in films like GANDHI, 1984’s THE BOUNY and A ROOM WITH A VIEW, before finally stepping out of the shadows with the impressive portrayal of Christy Brown in his first Academy Award winning role in 1989’s MY LEFT FOOT. It would less than ten years later in which Day- Lewis would win his second Oscar in 2008’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD, which now brings us four years later to his third win for LINCOLN. A man of few words, it would seem as if the words that are worth saying are expressed throughout the fine acting that one has come to expect.

I had the opportunity to see ARGO twice, once before my blog topic discussing my choices for Oscar and once more after my topic had been posted. I felt that I may have placed all my chips on the wrong number when I elected LES MISERABLES as my pick for Best Picture and the Academy took my winnings! Granted, I may have lost that bet, but there was no loss aimed at a well- constructed film that is ARGO by any means. I believe that director Ben Affleck was literally robbed of a nomination (and a win) and I feel that justice was served that fateful Sunday evening as he stood along side his fellow producers: Grant Heslov (who has acted in films like TRUE LIES, CONGO and GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK) and George Clooney (OCEAN’S 11, THE IDES OF MARCH) to receive their appointed Oscars for ARGO! The film spoke of an era and a time almost forgotten; it should educate a generation that our government is not all about greed and corruption. As long as the public is aware of agents willing to stick their necks out for the safety of our country and people, then we will continue to sing the praises that rightfully need to be heard.

A political thriller winning BEST PICTURE could only fittingly be announced by First Lady Michelle Obama. Receiving the envelope at The White House, Mrs. Obama read off the winner live! 

This year’s presentation of the Academy Awards saw a spike from previous ceremonies for quite some time. That can’t be bad for business, right? Host Seth McFarlane might very well have been what the doctor had ordered…even though a small audience was not willing to take the medication as prescribed! Will we see the likes of Mr. McFarlane returning back for future ceremonies? If not, can we keep Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s cell numbers on speed dial? Only time will prevail the fate of hosts to come and the audiences it will attract. For now, this show has been laid to rest and a new year will bring a crop of new hopefuls for February 2014!

To you, the reader: what were your thoughts on this year’s telecast? Was it a disgrace or was it the best you have seen in years? What were the highlights or downfalls of the ceremony? I continually welcome all of your thoughts and comments and will post all replies within a short period of time! I look forward to your views!

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for my next posted scheduled for FRIDAY MARCH 22nd! Until then, support Independent Filmmakers and Great Cinema!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Ah, love…cannot live without it and it makes us not think straight when we have it! If it were as simple as the movies would have it, then we’d fall in love with that man that owns his family business and can jet- set the live long day away or she would be the pretty maid or struggling working girl that wants to make a name for herself while coincidentally finding love along the way. They meet, they kiss, the music swells and they live happily ever after.

The VALENTINE'S DAY option for 2013???
Did the rock group “The J. Geils’ Band” have it right when they simply stated on one of their hit songs that “Love Stinks?” Oh, come on…we are drawing near Valentine’s Day and love should be in the air. What do the studios have lined- up for the lovers out there? Nothing! I haven’t seen any trailers for anything that spells- out L O V E! Well, now, I take that back…there is one called SAFE HAVEN starring Josh Duhamel (TRANSFORMERS) and former “Dancing With The Stars” darling Julianne Hough (FOOTLOOSE) about a woman with a secret past that ends up in a small town to start anew, while her troubled male past comes back to reclaim what he feels is his… can we say SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY rip- off???  That’s OK; no one under 25 will know the difference! Aside from that little bon- bon of a treat, we are also treated to the romantic A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (aka DIE HARD 6, if you’re counting), the swooning BEAUTIFUL CREATURES about witches and black magic and the animated love letter ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH…ah, yes, love is definitely wafting in the atmosphere!

Let’s face it, love stories have taken- up its own rules to follow and they have all pretty much looked the same since. The typical lead male is either Channing Tatum, Matthew Mcconaughey or even Gerard Butler and the lonely ladies are Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock or Kate Hudson. Well, I decided to put a spin on the talk and bring up the love stories that DO NOT follow the rulebook as such. As I researched and talked it over with my “expert” on such topics, I started to see that some movies…you’ll pardon the pun…don’t receive the “love” they deserve. Here, now, are a few fractured love stories to put a twist on the upcoming Valentine’s Day or any day you need to feel the “love” (OK, that’s enough of that!)

SOMETHING WILD (1986) - This warped little love tale, directed by Jonathan Demme (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) stars Melanie Griffith (BODY DOUBLE) as the free- spirited “Lulu” who runs into the conservative and boring businessman Charlie Driggs (Jeff Daniels) and turns his world upside down when a ride back to the office turns into a “kidnapping” out of town for an adventure to change old Charlie’s ways. Along the way, the couple runs into Lulu’s ex- husband, the recently paroled and violent Ray (Ray Liotta)… and that’s when the adventure really takes place!
Demme has always presented a certain style that veers to the “off- side” when it comes to character development and story telling. The pairing of Lulu and Charlie creates a fun and intriguing tryst as we find that opposites do attract with conflicting personalities. A second ‘fractured’ love line brings Lulu’s ex into the picture who will stop at nothing to get her back. 

WILD THINGS (1998) – Accusations fly high as a South Florida high school councilor (Matt Dillon) is brought up on charges of rape from a snobby rich girl (Denise Richards) and her trashy classmate (Neve Campbell). A detective (Kevin Bacon) suspects a conspiracy is in the works and goes on the case to unravel the real story.
Wrapping itself within the swampy marshes of South Florida and creating a steamy setting, the film definitely knows how to turn up the heat and turn it up as often as possible. The audience is led to believe that some kind of attraction (or lust) is helping keep this game fully amped. The story oozes with passion, greed and betrayal as the main characters find themselves in the oddest of couplings. The film carries a classic noir setting that reminds us of those glossy, yet campy, movies that informs the audience of the cliche roles they play throughout the story telling.

EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY (1988) – Another bright and shiny sexy comedy romp produced in the 80’s. Somewhere, on the other end of the Hollywood sign, a trio of furry aliens accidentally crash- lands into a young woman’s (Geena Davis) pool. The alien leader (Jeff Goldblum) immediately finds an attraction to the Earth woman and desperately tries to help her see the error of her ways by dumping her egotistical boyfriend and hooking- up with him instead! Can Valerie see past the alien and actually find love beyond the stars?
The cult flick is lovingly directed by former music video director Julien Temple (has worked with Michael and Janet Jackson, Madonna and David Bowie) and Temple’s eye for slick video- making is evident throughout the film’s production. Davis and Goldblum were only dating at the time of the production but followed it with a marriage (and quickly followed that with a divorce), but the romance factor is cute and cuddly and never gets overly sappy! Aside from the fact that some great up- and- coming comic actors also made their debut (Julie Brown, Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey) and great bouncy musical numbers are sprinkled along to add- on to the entertainment! 

WHAT’S UP, DOC?(1972) – Director Peter Bogdanovich’s (PAPER MOON, NASHVILLE)  comedy- romantic romp through the streets of San Francisco is a stand- out treat in any sense of the word. The confusion amongst four identical plaid overnight bags brings the union of the overly- smart Howard Bannister (Ryan O’Neil) and a care-free young woman named Judy (Barbra Streisand). Judy finds Howard interesting and toys with his smarts and finds a slightly- off romantic connection that is irresistible. With the mix- up of the bags come stolen jewels and shady characters who just want the right bags returned to their rightful owners. Screwball, zany and a little sexy love make this a highly entertaining film.
O’Neil and Streisand are a perfect match as Howard is more the deadpan, easily distracted character while Judy is the upfront extrovert that wants to help Howard see how exciting life is… all by a chance meeting! Bogdanovich shines as both director and co- writer of this wacky film and presents a wonderful supporting cast that included Madeline Kahn (BLAZING SADDLES) and Kenneth Mars (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN).

THE CRUSH (1993) – OK, so we’ve seen the story told before (ummm, LOLITA, anyone?) but there is a twist! Instead of the older man crushing on the innocent young teen… the tables are turned as the teen becomes the temptress on the unsuspected older man! Who couldn’t help but fall for the doe- eyed debut of Alicia Silverstone as the 14- year old Adrienne presenting a mad- crush on an unsuspecting 28- year old Nick Eliot (Cary Elwes- THE PRINCESS BRIDE) who was just looking to move into her family’s guest house? After Nick’s refusal to accept Adrienne’s sexual advances, he finds himself in a world of sabotage and danger with no safety to be found around the family’s property or even outside of his home.
Love will make you do crazy things at times, but obsessive and compulsive behavior becomes a toxic mix as this teenage drama presents a sexy villain in Alicia Silverstone! The film represents a dangerous kind of love: one- sided and near obsessive and played with a nice mixture of both suspense and believability by Elwes and Silverstone.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) - In the more saddening of love- torn stories, the couple does not happen and the audience is left pining and wishing for a happier ending. However, what can be said about a skeletal dead being and a mad scientist’s creation finding love in a world of Halloween? The stop- motion animation film uses the storyline of love as a secondary plot with the focus remaining on how the Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, becomes bored with the annual celebration of Halloween and curiously discovering Christmas as the new diversion he’d been after! Sally, the sewn and stuffed creation of Dr. Fenklestein, understands that there is a whole other world to be discovered other than the one she is kept in within the confines of her laboratories home. Jack and Sally quickly discover their similarities for another life than the one handed to them and find a love between them through their journeys of rediscovery.
Produced by Tim Burton, NIGHTMARE is a contemporary cult classic in every sense of the word.  The film and its characters have exploded in popularity over the years with a strong marketing push on anything displaying the now iconic resemblances! Aside from the undead characters, the film’s major achievement is the memorable music and lyrics by composer Danny Elfman (who also voices all of Jack’s singing), which helps add another layer of grim and darkness to the underworld setting of the plot.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1986) – The popular musical pays tribute to the sci- fi B- films of the 1950’s as the story is spot- on with the era’s definitions of nerds, babes and the power of the doo- wop sound! Nerdy florist Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) works within the lower side of town at the Skid Row Florist Shop. Blond bouffant cutie Audrey (Ellen Greene) reports to work with visible bruises from her abusive Dentist boyfriend (Steve Martin) and Seymour secretly wishes to take her away to a better life. A mysterious flower pod is discovered and suddenly Seymour begins to grow an unusual Venus flytrap- like plant that becomes the talk of skid row turning the little flower shop into a bustling overnight success! But, with fame comes a price as Seymour finds that the plant not only grows and survives from its victim’s blood, but the fact that it must be human! Do Audrey and Seymour have enough baddies in their lives that deserve to be served as the next meal to the floral sensation they dub as “Audrey II?”
Directed by ‘muppeteer’ Frank Oz (DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS), a marvelous cast including Vincent Gardenia (MOONSTRUCK), James Belushi (K-9), John Candy (UNCLE BUCK) and Bill Murray (GHOSTBUSTERS) flesh- out the characters originally presented as an off- Broadway show composed and written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, before the duo collaborated for such Disney classics as THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and ALADDIN. It literally is a film that presents the love- triangle of man- loves- woman, woman- loves- man and plant- loves- man!

DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988) – A tasty and very twisted storyline that plays with a variety of different emotions including desire, lust and even love. The question proposed is: can a person be subjected into a drawn- in and carefully calculated act of love just for the fun of it? Aristocrats Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Viconte Sebastien de Valmont (John Malkovich) sit around their posh surroundings in 1760 France and plot and propose challenges to the other as to whom they should seduce… just for the sport of it. However, can the act of playing turn into real love as a true challenge presented in the innocent Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) that creates a real ponder for Valmont.
Based on the successful Broadway play written by Christopher Hampton and directed by Stephen Frears (THE QUEEN), this Academy Award nominated picture presents a marvelous amount of talent including cast, production design, set design and costumes. The original plot was based on actual corresponding letters that details accounts of such deceit played out for simple pleasures! 

U TURN (1997) – A story of forbidden passion and the lengths that a man goes through to attempt to have what he cannot have. A drifter’s (Sean Penn) car breaks down somewhere in the desert and discovers a small town inhabited by unusual characters including a beautiful femme fatale (Jennifer Lopez) that temps the drifter into a world of deception as he discovers that her husband (Nick Nolte) decides to hire him to kill his wife…at the same time that she hires the drifter to kill her husband as well! Wait til you see what happens at the very end!!!
Not one of the more commonly recognized films by director Oliver Stone (JFK, PLATOON) but the film literally follows on the heals of the highly- experimental (and controversial) NATURAL BORN KILLERS... which explains the off- setting of the story and the similarity of strange characters and plot twists. Yet, those twisted ingredients still makes this film an enjoyable and intriguing love/ lust yarn! 

REVENGE (1990) – A fractured love fable in every sense of the word. Unsure exactly where his life is going now, Michael Cochran (Kevin Costner) has retired from a twelve year run with the Navy. With the intentions of taking a well- deserved holiday, he decides to go south of the Border to visit an old friend, Tiburon Mendez (Anthony Quinn) a very shrewd and powerful businessman… who might be a little corrupted as well. Upon arriving at Mendez’ compound, he discovers that “Tibey” has taken on a ‘trophy wife’ by marrying a much younger and very attractive woman, Miryea (Madeline Stowe). Playing with some serious fire, Cochran cannot help but see Miryea’s desires as she looks upon him… passion ensues and they are instantly discovered and brought forth to “Tibey.” Leaving them both for dead and taking his whore wife away to hidden away, Cochan finds that he barely survives the beatings left on him only to come back to find Miryea and give “Tibey” the rightful payback for his actions!
A real scorcher of a tale, indeed… directed with heated flair by famed director Tony Scott (TOP GUN), the film captures both the heat of the Mexican desert and the passion of the forbidden affairs of our main characters. A definite must- see! 

As some lessons to be learned, not all love stories have to be storybook- based and not all love stories end with that “happily ever after” wish. Fractured as they may be, their individual and original tales still leave an audience understanding that love comes in many shapes and sizes and that beauty can sometimes be ugly as well!

What fractured love story do you enjoy? What have others have to say about it? Does it really matter? The invitation to forward your comments and suggestions always await your pick- up with a sense of friendly greetings and welcoming arms extended out!

I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed this blog entry and that you keep coming back on a bi- weekly basis for more cinematic fun! Join me as we skip to FRIDAY MARCH 1st for the rundown of the Highlights from the Academy Awards! Thank you and take care!