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Big Wednesday (1978)
Best feature length drama dealing with surfing
There have been many feature length films out of Hollywood that have latched on to the subject of surfing. Endless Summer is the definitive classic, but it falls under the category of a documentary. The others are somewhere between comedy and drama. Some are cult classics and others are just plain silly 60's teeny movies. North Shore is a cult classic, but as a drama and a story it is basically lame, but I still like North Shore alot. Big Wednesday is truly credible. The story is great, the characters are great and it is worthy of respect as cinema. It is a kind of timeless story which happens to be told using the backdrop of Southern California surf culture. Those who live outside of this world may not fully apprieciate all of the nuances present or understand the surfer-surf-surfboard relationship. Now as to locations for filming: Most of the scenes are shot at Cojo Point, which is in Santa Barbara County, CA. Cojo is located in a remote part of this county and is not accessible by any public means other than by boat (the beach front is all private land). Other scenes were shot in El Salvador at a place called La Libertad. It isn't always easy to tell them apart. Both breaks are well above average in quality when on. The scenes with the more textured water that has a wilder appearance are probably La Libertad. The final and climactic scene on "Big Wednesday" is at Sunset Beach on Oahu's north shore. This is where Rick Kane first paddles out with Occy and Alex in North Shore. Sunset is a heavy wave breaking on an outside reef that can hold size and is no place for the inexperienced. Gerry Lopez does a reasonable job surfing Sunset with his back to the wave. Gerry was better known for his exploits at Pipeline, where he could surf facing the wave. Surfers like Billy Hamilton, Peter Townend and Ian Cairns were probably giving a stronger account of themselves at Sunset in the final scene. John Milius was never a surfer of any particular note growing up around Malibu, so I would question the autobiographical basis. He probably witnessed this type of stuff, but I don't know about actually participating.
Blue Crush (2002)
if you think you're going to start surfing now...
Yeah, go grab a board and charge the peak at Sunset. Surfing is alot harder than the average person realizes. If they wanted to make a film about girls engaging in water sports, it should have had alot more in the area of soaked levis and dripping cotton panties. I suspect that these girls would be much better at such shenanigans.
Ride the Wild Surf (1964)
Big Wiamea Requires Paddling Ability
These guys really need to learn to paddle their boards correctly. They really look lame "out there" when they are paddling into the lineup. Occasionally, you will see the real surfers in the stock footage who are knee paddling their Wiamea guns unlike the actors who look more like midwestern tourists learning to surf at Waikiki. Tab Hunter is, as always, awesome in a romantic lead role; he's just so natural with the opposite sex. Why didn't her mother just come out and say it: I don't want you having a gay boyfriend; it will cause you nothing but grief! The camp value of Tab Hunter resucitates this rag doll of a film after a trip over the falls at Wiamea. There is also stock footage of real surfers like Greg Noll (Eskimo's double) and Mickey Dora (Jody Wallis' double). Believe me, they didn't handle themselves like the actors did when out in 25 foot plus Wiamea.
Camino largo a Tijuana (1991)
I caught this film last night on KWHY-22 in Los Angeles. I found it fascinating. It had a very innovative and creative cinematic style. I really liked how the film swung back and forth from the cafe to the junk yard to the junkie. It had a happy ending. The automobile selection was great. The pursuers of Juan reminded me of characters from the Brother from Another Planet. This film reminded me of something which we might see from David Lynch or John Sayles. Quite unusual. KWHY consistently comes up with little cinematic gems originating in Mexico. The Mexican film industry has been prolific for years and has a long tradition of outstanding actors. KWHY supports this on a daily basis. I am quite fond of the 70s-90s gangster genre which will usually involve actors like David Reynoso, Mario Almada or Hugo Stiglitz. These are B films in the finest tradition of B cinema. What comes out of Hollywood nowadays is so totally overblown and uninteresting, that this uniquely Mexican genre is now able to step up and offer a refreshing alternative, even if your Spanish is limited. Those who are students of cinema and live in LA are fortunate to have a channel like KWHY which in addition to the "churro" genre will also have outstanding Mexican films from the 40's, 50's and 60's.
Husbands and Wives (1992)
Explains how Hillary Clinton won in New York
I have been wondering how someone like Hillary Clinton could just show up in New York, move to Westchester County, and then get elected to the US Senate. This movie explains it for me. There is enough nausea and angst in the little universe of this film as there was sub-atomic plasma congealing just prior to the "big bang". I have absolutely no pity for these folks. They should all take a canoe trip down the Cahulawassie and get shaken into reality. They are so pompous and self-obsessed as they posture in this facade of up-scale upper west side Manhattan and Westchester county hyper cerebral life that they just eat themselves alive. We even have a young acolyte getting attached to the steam catapault ready to launch in the person of Rain (Juliette Lewis). We see the same crowd which is represented by Hillary, unlike people in up-state New York, who are of a much different ilk. None of the characters was likeable or attractive. Woody Allen was seldom ever funny. Mia Farrow was a drag. Sidney Pollack was frighteningly ugly. I just wanted to see Judy Davis go out on a date with Travis Bickle or better yet, have the whole bunch shaken down by the "Bad Lieutenant". Now there are two characters from some real New York flicks. "Broadway Danny Rose" is still number one and stands as the antithesis of "Husbands and Wives".
The Contender (2000)
I needed a couch to fall asleep on
I try as much as possible to see the latest film at my neighborhood 75-year old theater which is a really neat venue with half of the original seats taken out and a fine example of 1920's ornamental Egyptian facade interior design. I did not get that chance and instead was forced to endure this film in a 7-plex cramped stadium theater. I sure could have used a sofa, because, by the 1 hour mark I was ready for a nap. I am a big Gary Oldman fan because he is perhaps the great character actor of our time. This man is an absolute chameleon. He is reminiscent of the great Sam Jaffe. I also like Jeff Bridges. I found many of his facial expressions in this film to take me back to Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. However, such expressions are believable in a Cadillac convertible somewhre in Montana, but not in the oval office. This film really scared me. Perhaps it is a really good look into the spiritually corrupt amorality of the neo-fascist cabal which is trying to run the country these days. Their sham facade of humanistic pretense and all of its phoney social justice is an attempt to mask what is in the end some Orwellian-style tyranny. The climactic scene of the movie certainly prescribed such a world. The incredible moral and psychological violence of these power-addicts in Washington should be a stern warning to us all; we must be constantly vigilant and do all we can to confine this ugly game that they play so they cannot squeeze the life out of this nation.
The Day After (1983)
Adulterous Passion for Phallic Rockets
Perhaps the real theme of this movie would be that of a farm mother's adulterous yeranings for a young african-american airman tending his country's subterranean phallic symbols in a world wide contest for supremacy. She is annihilated in an intense flux of neutrons and the airman survives to drag about with a vest full of baby ruth candy bars, wearing some really cool shades, accompanied by his diminutive side kick as his hair falls out in clumps. The masses of dazed survivors shuffling along the roads of Missouri in the fallout darkened twilight reminds one of Napoleon's battered army retreating from the gates of Moscow. Both the farm woman and the forbidden airman suffer the consequences of the damned in this modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. The acting in this made for TV epic is magnificently bad. I mean it really has a surrealistically campy quality. I just love to do this nuclear holocaust dance on my living room floor as the warheads come zeroing in and everything goes topsy turvy. Getting zapped by thermonuclear warheads exceeds any acid trip I can imagine. A good dark film to watch on a holiday like thanksgiving.
Road Rage (1999)
Not enough road rage.
I drive 500 miles a week on metro LA freeways, so I know about road rage. There is alot of potential for such a topic, but this made for TV movie exploited only a small fraction. The actual topic was stalking. Actual road rage is very anonymous stuff, acted out from behind the shell of your automobile. The script is very unoriginal, but I guess that it is the norm nowadays, especially in network prime time. I saw bits of "Duel", "Crash", "Play Misty For Me" and "Cape Fear". On the other hand, I really appreciated the film as part of the genre of "bad drama". It was really bad. I mean you get a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and a rent a stud Contractor with a 16 year old daughter who has a hard time looking under 25 and then you get a frustrated pitcher out of the San Diego Padres bullpen in a big Ford Bronco and then give them silly dialogue and, well, its made for TV as seen on TV.
This movie works if you have been stuck in a hospital bed for two days waiting to go into labor, as has my wife, so we considered it the high point of an otherwise monotonous day.
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Allen's Best By Far
I have never been able to relate to many of Woody Allen's films, although I would say that nearly all of them are quite well concieved and executed. Broadway Danny Rose is something quite unique, I mean that the script is simply beyond belief. How someone could concieve of all those lines is truly remarkable. It is one of the most quoteable films I have ever seen. The lines which are memorable are tinged with this incredible satiric and ironic sense of humor. The scenes are at once super realistic and very funny. Woody Allens way of making fun of people is at its best here. The opening scene where Lou Canova is at the lounge singing "I Like The Look Of You...", wow, the cast of characters assembled, how could anyone have found these people. I guess alot of credit is due to the person who cast the film. If you look at the credits you see that most of the faces which appear were appearing in their only film. This is the basis of the movie's genius. Then there are lines like: "I'll open with Volare and You Make Me Feel So Young... or "I don't know whether to go with Boulevard of Broken Dreams or Three Coins in a Fountain as an encore... or "Lou's probably drinking out of a promotional sized whiskey bottle by now.. or "If anything happens to that car I'll be furious... or "He made juice for the mob?... or "Allow me to interject one point at this juncture... or "Weinstein's majestic bungalow colony is a classy joint, I need a classy act, how about Sonny Chase, he's fast, he's funny... or "Pee Wee has been eaten by a feline, that comes under the act of God clause... or "If you take my advice, you'll probably be one of the great balloon folding acts of all time. I really wish I could find this for sale. It's a film which can be watched repeatedly without risk of boredom or redundancy. A great film around Thanksgiving time. Joe Franklin, Howard Cosell, Milton Berle. New York City circa 1972. The Waldorf. The 70's garb. New Jersey Italians by the dozen. Angelina the fortune teller and her little dog and assistant. "And yet he cares for you... Don't go to him, take care of old buisness... Time out... "Lou, the directions were good, it was a Gulf station... "A cheap blonde, Lou... I could keep spouting fragments of the script for an hour and I don't mean to be didactic or facetious.
The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
Hall of Famer Stars in Movie About Himself
It isn't very often that you get to see a hall of famer as a star in a movie about himself. Jackie Robinson actually acts in a leading role in this essentially B movie. This is vintage Truman era B&W which portrays an important slice of Americana. While we get a glimpse of Babe Ruth and Bill Dickey in Pride of the Yankees and a campy set of performances from Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in Safe at Home, Jackie Robinson actually does his best to give a serious performance about one of the most important events in the history of American sports.