Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
A bright shining lie.
Cartoonist Carl Giles drew a picture in the early 80's. A Britsh my-lordy, complete with pith helmet, is reading the paper, as is his long-haired hippie nephew. Both papers read AFGHANISTAN. The nephew says "so - those treacherous tribal riff-raff are now our noble and loyal allies, eh, uncle?" And Uncle is reaching over to strangle him...
Welcome to the days of "freedom fighters" who would be Taliban, evil Russians who are now our uneasy allies, and many more dead people than the script planned when they made this classic time-capsule documentary. Martyn Burke, the extremely talented Canadian filmmaker who gave us everything from "Pirates of Silicon Valley" to the last remake of "Animal Farm"(!), set out to show the good guys & bad guys of 1988. And he succeeded all too well. I wonder how this would play out now to a post 9/11 audience? History or propaganda?
(Or, like in the movie "Charlie Grant's War", you pretend everything after didn't happen?)
The Big Sky (1952)
Didn't they read the book? - WARNING- MAJOR SPOILERS
The Big Sky is one of my favourite western novels - because it goes against all the "Western" rules. It's main character is vicious, angry and dangerous. In the first chapter, he tries to kill his own father (a fate the old creep richly deserves). If he's insulted,he pulls out a knife. When someone whips him, he comes back later planning a killing. People die throughout the book,they get scalped and VD and smallpox - kind of the way people did in the frontier.
So what does Hollywood do? Make the lead the supporting character, the sidekick the lead (& make him Kirk Douglas - nice & non-threatening). Start the movie several chapters in, so you don't see Dada cop it. Oh, and the boatload of characters waving at the Indians at the end? Halfway through the book, those same Indians wiped them out. 'Nuff said. If you decide to make a movie of a book, why change it?
Price of Gold (2012)
Wealth is Where You Find It
Mongolia is in a gold rush...but none of its going to the Mongols. Foreign companies have carved up the territory, and the only way the locals can get it is by sneaking in and making wildcat mines. Which is where our story starts. This mind-boggling film shows a bunch of good ol' boys spending a year digging a hole in the ground with a beat-up winch, second hand drills - and mostly, their bare hands. It's a dirty, dangerous, and completely illegal job (the cameraman had to be lowered into the mineshaft upside down, it's that narrow. Meanwhile, they're using dynamite with old fuses & prayer). But as you get to know them, you get to love them. From the big boss (his boast is "I will show my belly in Germany") to the lone woman who has to cook & wash for all of them & put up with their dirty jokes, this is an astonishing portrayal of bottom feeder free enterprise. And remember - none of them are getting paid. They're all banking on finding something (literally) at the end.
The jokes in this show were so illogical they achieved a kind of epic weirdness. There were the ongoing interviews with the beaver on the back of the Canadian nickel (played by a guy in a beaver suit), the Society for the Suppression of Vowels ("Mr. Thrxsct, good evening." "Xysrthck"). And don't forget the communist skyjacker who made Superman fly him to Cuba (the shot of Che Guevera riding Superman - with really,really bad back projection behind it - has to be seen to be believed). I was only 11 at the time, so maybe it seemed funnier than it was. But even the opening was ahead of it's time. The names were read in a sort of backwards/forwards order, then the announcer yelled "Terrific" - in a totally bored & sarcastic voice. Irony on screen, years before SNL! Does this gem of a show still exist somewhere for rediscovery?
His Majesty O'Keefe (1954)
A deeply subversive, yet utterly enjoyable (and kinda true)South Seas movie from the 50's. Burt Lancaster is a typical 19th century trader/pirate whose only ambition is to make money out of the "natives", and fast. He comes to a Pacific Island Utopia where no one has to work... because who needs money?...
Vastly underrrated, this film makes all kinds of points. The Natives (half of whom, admittedly,are white guys in blackface)are dangerous quasi-cannibals. But the white guys (including Burt!)are plain Euro- Trash. The head chief, and Burt's head wife (Joan Rice in a lovely performance - she takes the cliché of the innocent island girl and makes a performance out of it with her eyelashes) are the real heroes.
Did I mention the Chinese dentist who knows more about investments than Burt? Or the German philosophy student who can relate to the natives better than Europeans? Filmed on location in Fiji with a cast that seem to be having the time of their lives, HIS MAJESTY O'KEEFE is a very simple, yet completely fun relic of the non-PC days. (P.S. Check out the other scripts by Borden Chase. Some good ones there...)
Tecumseh: The Last Warrior (1995)
The Best We've Got
Tecumseh was the last great Eastern Indian leader. He tried to establish a pan-Indian confederation from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. He witnessed the destruction of an entire American army in 1793, the destruction of an Indian army in 1794, and died aiding the British during the War of 1812. Without him, Canada probably wouldn't exist today.
So why aren't there any movies about him? This film, and a German(!) one from 1972, are the only ones on IMDb. You'd think a life like that would be the stuff big movies are made of. Anyway, this film is a decent attempt at telling the story that doesn't fall into the Indian-movie clichés. People don't stand around mouthing Deep Sentiments. The battles (especially Fallen Timbers, the big Indian defeat)are very well staged. Jesse Orego,Lorne Cardinal, and Gregory Cruz are three lively lads. My favourite moment in the film is when they spy on "Mad" Anthony Wayne, the American general. "MAAAD Anthony", one of them calls him - like he's a total wacko! Tantoo Cardinal has another thankless role as Tecumseh's mother. (She always has to play long-suffering native types. She needs to do an urban comedy!) The only real problem with this film is... you know it's going to be a downer at the end. The good guys ain't gonna win, folks. For it's attempt to at least tell a great story, though, this is worth a try for any history lover.
Murdoch Mysteries (2008)
Before you praise, please see the Peter Outerbridge versions
I have just finished watching the first episode of the new TV Series on Maureen Jennings "Murdoch Mysteries". I had trouble with the episode for several reasons. In December there were a series of TV Movies starring Peter Outerbridge as Detective William Murdoch that appeared (at least to me) far superior that what I saw on the TV series. Because of the Outerbridge version of the movie I saw, it made me want to investigate further. I looked up Maureen Jennings website and got the names of the books that the movies are based on. I have now read the first book in the series and thoroughly enjoyed it! I am looking forward to reading the other books. Ms. Jennings makes a comment in her website that Peter Outerbridge is the perfect actor to portray Detective Murdoch (and she ought to know). After reading the first book, I tend to agree that Mr. Outerbridge's performance was spot on! There are several things I find not right with the series (which in itself is OK and I would probably have liked if I hadn't seen the other versions and/or read the book).
1. First of all they have Detective Murdoch too well dressed! In the book he is a struggling detective and lives in two rooms in a boarding house so he obviously doesn't have a lot of money to be spending on clothes etc.
2. The inside of the police station is much too posh! In the books they describe the police station as very old and the detectives only have a very small room where they conduct their business. Also, they have to use the same tea leaves over and over again during the day because there isn't a lot of money for luxuries.
3. Next is the portrayal of the character. The books definitely show him as an intelligent person but there is a vulnerability to him as well. I won't give anything away, but he has sadness in his life that he is trying to overcome and this comes across very much in the way he deals with people and in coping with his inner demons. I felt that Peter Outerbridge really did this well! He always questions people with the utmost decorum and often shows kindness and really tries to understand the people he is questioning. The actor in the TV series is definitely to cocky and over confident and abrupt in his dealings with suspects and the people he works with.
The last thing I will say is that in the books that although Murdoch is definitely intelligent and intuitive, he knows that he has bosses to answer to and constables under him that he needs to guide and nurture. Therefore he is neither top man or low man he is somewhere in the middle and he knows his place quite well.
Well, I have droned on enough, but I would urge people to definitely see the Peter Outerbridge versions and see how you like his portrayal of Murdoch or better yet read the books! I don't think you will be disappointed!
Down a Dark Chimney (2000)
Santa goes to Auschwitz
Words cannot describe the grimness of this odd little epic. It starts out like a cheery holiday cartoon, with primitive stop-motion animation a la "Rudolph". Santa is flying through the night with a sleigh full of toys for happy children.
Then he gets shot down by Nazis and falls into a concentration camp...
The story is so far beyond the boundaries of good/bad taste that you really don't know how to react. The litmus test is probably when they torture Rudolph in a "medical experiment" to see how his nose flashes. If you think that's funny, you'll probably think the movie's a hoot. I started off laughing, then it got darker and darker. The last shot was so profoundly disturbing I was speechless - but it was disturbing in a good way, because it reminds of you of what happened (and what's happening all over the world), even in the middle of our festive season. A classic.I hope it's on the web somewhere - it only played on Canadian T.V. late night once, I think.
The most neglected western ever?
This is one of the most lyrical, simple and sweet westerns ever made - and NOBODY (except Leonard Maltin, who gave it 3 1/2 stars) appears to have seen it!
The premise is simple. Three young ladies ( one with the very Victorian name of Charity) meet and bond as they head west for marriages with men they haven't met. One jokes that perhaps they'll meet some western "rogues". Well, they get a lot more than that. From struggling with abuse and death, to learning to love someone even in the face of indifference, to a genuine western gunfight, this movie is really about how people deal with Life.
The director, Ed Stabile, is a film editor. One surprising thing about this film is it's "non"-editing. Stabile locks the camera down for certain key scenes and just lets it run. In one unforgettable shot, the ladies meet - and just cry. And cry. And cry... and get over it. In another, someone has to arrange a funeral. We follow them into the local cabinet maker(he does coffins on the side), and watch them haggle over the price. He at least has the good taste to apologize for it being so steep.
All in all, a wonderful film (and not as heavy as this review sounds). If you can find it anywhere, watch it. And don't forget - the Nebraska locations were shot in New Jersey!