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like it or hate it--a real 1970s film
19 November 2011
I've never been a real Herzog fan, and sometimes when I watch his movies (especially the ones about angels!) I'm saying to myself, "Does this explain what's really wrong with the Germans--is that why they make films like this?"

That said--you might like this film: poetic, non-Hollywood, original, quirky, unique. 'Visionary.' Actually it reminds me of Kaspar Hauser--another of Herzog's films. Again the "mysterious" non-chronological plot line, the historical setting, the spacey images and the unresolved story. --And even the problem of figuring out what on earth is actually happening on-screen as you watch it.

To me, this is a real 1970s film because of that--Bob Dylan's lyrics about "nothing is revealed" and "nothing was delivered" etc. come to mind and capture a lot of the ethos of that era. "Days of Heaven," "King of Marvin Gardens," "The Man who Fell to Earth" and a few other films come to mind.

--Evocative and mysterious, or just artsy-fartsy and fakey? Herzog gets a definite A for effort.

But, here in 2011, I'm not sure how many people will put it on the DVD or BluRay player and actually sit through the whole thing. It gets pretty gruelling or maybe just silly--depends on your point of view and 'level of enlightenment' I guess. These days count me in the front row with Joel and the wise-cracking robot roll-call!
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Ugly Americans (2010–2012)
Looks Like a Big Ripoff of Kim Deitch!
1 July 2011
The visual style of this cartoon is a COMPLETE rip-off of 1960s-1980s underground comic artist KIM DEITCH. Is he credited anywhere? Look at his artwork and his plots and you'll see what I mean. Many of the same characters as this show are in his work--or pretty similar ones.

Check out this YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfqCgf8867c You'll see what I mean.

Deitch is/was a contemporary of R. Crumb, Zap Comics and all the SanFrancisco-engendered underground comic book artists of that era, though his work seemed to have more an east-coast NYC lower-east-side of Manhattan subject or vibe a lot of the time. I could not find any allusion to Deitch on this "U-As" IMDb entry, and when I watched the show--on Comedy Central I think--the credits went by too fast to tell.

By the way Deitch was affiliated with animation artist Sally Cruikshank at one time.
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Factotum (2005)
5/10
not the Bukowski novel
29 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is not the Bukowski novel of the same title. Some of the incidents are from that book, others are from Buk's other stories. But much of the point of Bukowski's writing seems to have been missed. None of his intelligence, skepticism, humor and the grim determination to survive and "get through" life. This film's Chinaski just seems to be only a guy who likes to drink and get into fights (which is part of Bukowski's writing, but only the most superficial). Kind of reminds me of the "dumbed down" Clint Eastwood movie "Every Which Way But Loose" where he is driving around in a truck with a monkey or orangutan or something. Interesting that some of the scenes from another Bukowski-inspired film--"Barfly"--is also in this movie. This film seems to have been made after Bukowski died, so he didn't have any input into it. For Bukowski's own perspective on the whole movie-making process and what it does to his work, see his novel "Hollywood." It's worth reading.

By the way, Bukowski does have another link to the movie business--he used to be a drinking buddy of Leonard DiCaprio's Dad. Any time spent reading Bukowski's actual writings--prose or poetry--is time well spent.--B2
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7/10
a serious documentary--history F Miss Nude America film
11 February 2007
This film began as a documentary produced by students and instructors at two Ivy League universities in the early 1970s. Its conceptual models were the documentary films of the Mayles Brothers (Grey Gardens, Gimme Shelter,. etc.) and the "New Journalism" of Tom Wolf, Hunter Thompson and other writers on American culture and the "media" like Marshall McLuhan. Regarding Naked City, Indiana--it's long-defunct. Dick Drost's role models were closer to James Bond and Hugh Heffner than anyone else. He was always a controversial figure in the "nudist/naturist" movement, because of the sexy/Playboy overtones. Larry Flynt (The People vs. Larry Flynt) for example, started out running a nightclub in Indiana, and Hustler Magazine was just their newsletter when it started. The traditional "real" Miss America contest--hosted by Bert Parks, etc. --is now mostly a memory. But from the 1950s-into the 1980s it was a huge American cultural icon. Satirized by Wood Allen and protested by the 1970's feminists of MS. Magazine fame. This movie was some kind of ironic comment on its more wholesome Miss America predecessor. Most of the contestants in the Miss Nude America film have some connection to the "adult entertainment" industry.--Not porn stars but strippers. All hoping for their "big break"--(This was the same era when Andy Warhol predicted that "in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."--A very "fame" and media-conscious era.)

In the late 1960s and early 70s the nudity/glamor industry was somewhat akin to the "dot-com" bubble of the 1990s--a field where people might aspire to sudden wealth and fame. The 1980's movie "Star 80" is a melodrama that shows what happened to a (sort-of famous) playmate of the month.) This documentary is in some was a rather subtle exploration of this phenomenon and its expression in the lives of some people in small town northern Indiana. As a business endeavor the Miss Nude America film was a complete flop. For a "serious" documentary it was too sexy and had too much frontal nudity to be shown in the local mall theaters. As a "skin flick"--it had very limited erotic appeal: --a portrait of a guy in a wheelchair with life-long MS who runs a nudist camp. --Today this could be the subject of a David Lynch movie--with lots of added weird fictional subtext. But in the early 1970s it just wasn't hot enough to compete with, say, 'Deep Throat' or 'The Devl in Miss Jones.' Sometimes this movie is available on VHS--through a Canadian distributor maybe. If you are serious about having a "fair use" DVD of it, drop me a line. --B2
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why isn't this available today?
1 February 2007
I saw this film when I was in college in the 1970s. It has vanished completely since then. I think it inspired me to become an "underground filmmaker." I like the style, the scenery, the story, the humor, the depiction of life behind the Iron Curtain--particularly for the Gypsies. I still remember the scene where the one character is throwing feathers off the back of a truck, and the fight scene underneath the feathers. And the "wedding" scene where the "monk" says "Any fish in that river, Tisa?" And where the heroine runs away to the big city and attempts to live by singing on the street. (Is this where she is hitchhiking and gets seduced by a puppet-wielding truck-driver?) Also the use of non-actors--local people--in the film. I don't know if the world presented in this movie is realistic or romanticised, but it was a very good film and it deserves to be seen again today.
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Muddy River (1981)
WHY isn't this available on DVD or VHS?
25 October 2006
This film never seems to have been released, on VHS or DVD--WHY? It won several awards when it came out, and it's director is well-known. Was it ever released in Asia on any home video format? This is TOIO GOOD A FILM to be so forgotten!! This film reminds me of--yes--many other films about childhood--"Whistle Down the Wind" is another film few people remember. This film was released in 1981, yet it's setting in post-WWII Japan makes it seem timeless--especially the use of black and white throughout, and the strong ending. But there are many subtler asides--the one father's seeming allusion (as a Japanese war vet)to war crimes they were forced to commit in China ("we did all the dirty work") and all this still overlain with the aura of nostalgia and childhood "mystification" make it a very powerful and subtle film. I wonder if the social criticism and allusion to war crimes are what has kept it out of home-viewings release and in total obscurity for the past 25 years?!?!
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10/10
A great show--too neglected.
13 October 2006
This is a great show, with underrated production values and subtlety. People who watch movies, unfortunately do not always read books. Some complains that it does not follow the Total Recall novel. But in fact it is a loving and exciting recreation of the world of Philip K. Dick--his future dystopias. It owes a lot to "Flow My Tears the Polceman Said"--with its mysterious hierarchy of androids. No, this is not an "action" series like the "Ahnold" movie "TR" was. It's a mixture of sci-fi, mystery, police procedural and a lot of Red-Serling like philosophizing and speculating about the future and human nature. Somebody who judges this series based on one episode seems to be a bit short-tempered. By the way, there are now DVDs of this episode available on the 'net.
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an original and emotional show
21 April 2006
Jack Paar became a big presence in all our lives when I entered high school and got to stay up an extra hour each night. We were living in the Midwest at the time, in the Central Time Zone, so we got the "Tonight Show" on our TV an hour earlier than the East Coast did. 10:30 instead of 11:30 PM. Nightly talk shows were 90 minutes long at the time. --It wasn't until many years later that Johnny Carson shortened it to one hour. We received only two TV channels then, and almost all of the shows on at night were weekly--once a week--and most of them were westerns or detective dramas. But here was a show--with a "cast" of real characters that came on every single night of the week. It was like we were looking into their lives (all of which seemed related to each others')--Hermione Gingold, Mrs. Miller, Charlie Weaver, Alexander King, Robert Merril. These people seemed to live in some universe where they all knew each other and had lives in common and they all talked with Jack on his show. (A 1950s TV show contemporary to Jack Paar's--"WHAT"S MY LINE"--had a similar cast of New York sophisticates who all seemed to hang out together--but it was much more boring--who the hell were Bennett Cerf and Dorothy Kilgallen and Fred Allen?--just talking faces in tuxedos or rather tatty-looking evening gowns.) Maybe none of the people on either of these shows had what producers today would call "TVQ"--personal charisma or appeal on a TV screen-- like the actors on say "Friends" or Dennis Franz on NYPD Blue do. But the people on the Jack Paar show had lives and personalities of sorts, and told lots of anecdotes about themselves. Some of them had written books, which you could go to the library and read--Alexander King "Mine Enemy Grows Older." And Jack's world war two buddy with the Japanese wife who wrote the surrealist humor collections: "My Brother was an Only Child" and "Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver"--kind of like Lenny Bruce colliding with Mad magazine. I think his name was Jack Douglas. In format the Jack Paar show wasn't really all that different from David Letterman today--interviews, skits, Ernie-Kovacs-inspired stunts. Since I grew up in a very conservative household and did not get to go through any kind of "teenage rebellion" I was at home watching Jack Paar each night while some of my more adventurous (or doomed)peers were driving rattle-trap cars around burger joints and trying to get girls' bras off. Maybe that's why my memories of this show are so imprinted in my memory. For decades I thought of Johnny Carson as the "new guy" because the Jack Paar show was such a formative presence in my teenage life. That's another thing that distinguished the Jack Parr show--emotional involvement. In TV/Marshal-McLuhan terms Jack Paar was "hot"--sincere, emotional. While Johnny Carson was "cool"--detached, ironic. Paar, along with other early TV personalities like Arthur Godfrey, had the ability to make you feel like he was talking to you personally through your TV set. This was a mixture of informality and sincerity. Arthur Godfrey for example was such a successful TV character--he had two or three different shows on TV at once sometime--because he spoke into the microphone like someone coming into your living room and visiting you. Not like someone on a stage doing "public speaking" to an "audience."
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The Scarface Mob (1959 TV Movie)
8/10
not the same as the TV series--
13 April 2006
This was a HUGE TV EVENT when it first came on. Yes, it functioned as the pilot of the subsequent TV series, with Eliot Ness played by Robert Stack. But it was longer, and a lot better. Many epic scenes of tank-like trucks with snowplows on them BASHING through the gates of the warehouses where the bad guys brewed illegal beer. Then the feds would jump out of the truck and spray everybody with Tommy Gun fire. (Of course TV shows like this in the 1950s made America more than eager to do the same thing in third world countries--Korea, Guatemala, Vietnam, the mid-East --you name it). Neville Brand as Al Capone was not in the TV series, because he'd already been vanquished by Ness at the end of this TV movie. He was distinguished for his schtick in this film, of laughing and then turning angry and surly in a split second, as his henchmen mobsters sat around a banquet table trying to keep up with his mood swings, alternately laughing and glowering along with him. Bob Hope later did a satire of this scene on one of his TV specials--the laughing and glowering. It was pretty funny. I was a dorky pre-teen in the local Methodist Youth Fellowship when the most memorable scene of the film came on: --Ness had a sweet girlfriend in the movie, who pure as she was, didn't seem to wear a bra under her sweaters, all of which seemed to unbutton down the front. In the key scene, several hulking Italian-American criminals bash down the door to her single-woman's apartment, security chain and all, and then rip open her sweater and "admire" the merchandise. Pretty hot stuff for 1950s family-hour viewing! In the next scene she and Ness are getting married and Ness organizes a parade of Capone's confiscated beer trucks, to get back at him for feeling up his girlfriend, craven non-Anglo animal that he is. Now that's American justice! --Pretty good for the same company that brought us I LOVE LUCY for so many years. Anyway--if you want a TAPE of this movie, be sure it's the original film with Neville Brand, and not just episodes of the later TV show.-B2
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