Thursday, November 25, 2010

The City on the Edge of Forever

There's good reason for the "legendary" status of this one too...

This is a pitch-perfect episode of Star Trek - the original series, and a great example of sci-fi storytelling at it's best ...of storytelling at it's best.

If you're one of the ten or so people who've never seen this episode - go rent it or buy it or download it ...then tell me it's not one of the most touching hours of TV you've ever seen. If you like to discount stories because Tom Cruise is in them or they have Star Trek attached then please stop reading people who'd rather close doors are of no interest to me. "I don't watch so-and-so..." Fuck off.

*Wiki: "The City on the Edge of Forever" is the penultimate episode of the first season of the television series Star Trek. It is episode #28, production #28, first broadcast on April 6, 1967. It was repeated on August 31, 1967 and marked the last time that NBC telecast an episode of the series on Thursday nights. It was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series and was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The teleplay is credited to Harlan Ellison, but was also largely rewritten by several authors before filming. The filming was directed by Joseph Pevney. Joan Collins guest starred as Edith Keeler.

This episode involves the crew of the starship USS Enterprise discovering a portal through space and time, which leads to Dr. McCoy's accidentally altering history.*

The reason there's an enormous franchise called Star Trek is because of the original series. People's love for it(mine) comes out of the connection with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy ...and they do shine here. All three actors have the characters on a different level in this tale ...complex men playing complex men.

Joan Collin's Edith Keeler is one of the smartest characters ever written on the show. She's as bold and challenging as our intrepid explorers from the 23rd century without even a dash of misogyny present - this was 1966. Her assessment of Spock in relationship to Kirk " your side, as if he's always been there and always will.." is great writing as is her observation/feeling that the great Captain Kirk belongs somewhere else ...bigger ..grander - all delivered with those big beautiful Joan Collins eyes (..madly in love with her since way back). The screen chemistry between her and William Shatner is "big-screen" quality as is the sublety of his "Kirk" ...completely invested portrayal in this one. Again, all 3 actors are just a bit above the usual portrayals ...was it the script? ...the Director? ...or was it Joan Collins that "matured" the boys into their "A" game??

In the minutes between the Captain finding out Edith Keeler must die, his admission to his best friend that he's in love with her, her accident, then Spock's "He knows, Doctor ...he knows.." my palms get sweaty, just like watching it as a boy, but I know what's coming - another mark of great storytelling. Interstingly, the "emotionless" character provides just the right level for the whole scene to work perfectly. The look on Spock's face as she dies - then the acknowledgment, the mechanics of film at work here are as powerful as any of the great big-screen films that use the same tools. Perhaps even more so ...this screen is much more intimate when it's at it's rare finest.

The Shakespearean drama that unfolds is great entertainment, but like all really great stories - there's a lesson inside ...a hard adult's lesson. What a story - love - friendship - pain - and continuance. The tone of it ...the feeling as it wraps up ... like a cold night in the sixties, after 2 friends have had to bury another - it feels like the sadnesses of life that we'll all have to feel - the lonely pain of everyone.

William Shatner's expression, back on the planet, is pained and honest. I think his performance in this episode is as strong as the writing itself, which definitely borders on genius. Again, Star Trek at it's best, with the rest of the crew locked in the Terminator-esque "No future" storyline ...that parenthesizes the whole episode - smart.

I love that the crew has encountered one of the most impressive entities of science-fiction and the last line uttered ...perfectly and painfully is Captain Kirk's "Let's get the Hell out of here." I love love love his delivery on that line. I've had my own dark experiences that I didn't want to speak of (I think we all have)...that talking about wouldn't change. I feel that line.

Rumors abound regarding Harlan Ellison's legendarily big ego, but love him or hate him - he understands how hard it is to be a good man ...a good person in a hard world.

This is one of my all time favorite stories. It always will be.

Monday, November 22, 2010


oday is the day ...47 years ago, that JFK was shot and killed.

More acurately - I think November 22, 1963 was the last day America could look itself in the eye.

There are some bridges that cannot be re-crossed.

JFK is one of the most "watchable" movies ever made. I would call it a modern masterpiece, with only Pulp Fiction topping it in the 90's.

No matter your opinion on Oliver Stone or the topic or period itself, the film is a character-driven juggernaut that pulls you in close and whispers in your ear 'til that very last frame. My friend Harris and I used to put on his laserdisc of JFK to any point ...and watch - could be the last scene or something in the middle but it didn't matter - the quality of entertainment here is extraordinary. The performances are absolutely solid and the energy level is undoubtedly that of Oliver Stone himself, who is a master storyteller when he can manage to get out of his own way.

I get a distinct impression from this eclectic group of actors that there is genuine belief under the surface - a belief that Stone's vision is not too far off center. Maybe they're just great actors - Joe Pesci - Donald Sutherland - Kevin Bacon - Jack Lemmon/Walter Mathau(best team ever!!) and Gary Oldman is Lee Harvey Oswald. But I gotta agree - Tommy Lee Jones Clay Shaw/Bertram is genius, and worthy of the Oscar he won.

Facts are facts and anyone who thinks it was one bullet and one guy can go watch Romper Room - but again, like Zodiac - what is the truth?
Who did this? How many men? Why? Who, if anyone, knows the whole truth?

Hmmm, I think this years Zodiac Fest - "Psycho Night in Canada" will evolve into a comment on the 60's itself as a decade. JFK first ...something in the middle ...what says mid-60's best?? ...then Zodiac to finish. That should shut those hippies up...

I went to see my all time favorite band, THE POLICE in Boston a couple years back. Great show - great day - close second on the trip was my visit to the JFK museum the next morning. For a couple hours I felt like I was in a different era with Marilyn Monroe and dinner parties put on by Jackie O era filled with hope. Watching those old newsreels with other sniffling tourists, I felt like America was still young ...nice feeling. I guess I could finally taste what was in the air then ...and had gone away on that november 22 forever.

I think I'll watch JFK tonight and continue this tomorrow.
It's been a while...

Forbidden Planet - legendary, for good reason

What a fantastic film.
I'd heard and read about it for years, but I had no idea what to expect. Wow, how many of my favorite films' authors/directors/fx gurus sat and loved this movie? I can't even guess but I can say that I'd have loved this movie were I a 50's kid ...if even just for Anne Francis.
I have had such an instant crush on a moviestar since I was a boy ...but boyoboy, she is absolutely spectacular.
I like "smart" science-fiction. That, combined with "Robby-the Robot" kept me from watching FORBIDDEN PLANET all these years. I figured it'd be of the same calibre most of the 50's genre fare was and disposable, but the template alone has inspired half the science fiction since.
The obvious ones are ALIEN and STAR TREK ...I think Gene Roddenberry walked into Paramount and said "Let's do Forbidden Planet weekly" - that's basically what Star Trek is.
**Spoiler Alert**
That cerebral psychology ending - This is the other template used over and over since - "The Enemy Within" idea ...that our dark nature - ourselves, if you will, is every bit as dark as any other villain ...and we cannot hide from it, smart writing.

The sets are very impressive, as is the pacing and overall look. The first fully electronic film score, it's spooky and appropriate and probably inspired the awesome Doctor Who theme. I can't guess how many of my moviemaking heroes have filtered this film into their work ...plenty who don't do sci-fi, I'll bet. It has a great script and some very smart decisions up there on the screen with that beautiful face in the middle. The chemistry between her and Leslie Nielsen is worth watching the film for - fun, quick - entertaining.
I love Anne Francis ...those legs...

When was the last time you saw a stunning blonde in an intelligent science fiction film where the human ID was a red demon embodied by Disney animation?

Smart movie.

Friday, November 19, 2010


This is the short film I'm making - love your input - Love your help...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Me 'n' you, '82 ...

My brother and I were on a road trip with our Mom that summer. I was eleven years old.. ..what I consider to be a boy's true "last age" ... and I was a very young, happy eleven.
We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but my mother still took us on a trip every year - some of the best memories of my life to be honest. She'd rented a cottage on the water, then took us to a little diner for a bite. It was rustic and cozy and I think it was getting dark when Mom picked up the paper to see if there were any good movies playing in Sydney. She asked me to check the listings and I suggested "The Best Little War House in Texas".
God love my Mom - she tried to hide her laughter ...I remember reading more titles ...probably Tron and The Thing in there...then noticing Mom's menu bouncing up and down as she tried to contain herself. I hadn't seen my mother laugh that hard in a long time, if ever. Her attempts at explaining "Whore" and "Whorehouse" became a highlight of the trip for two little goofballs, who would end up producing films together many years later.

The end of July would see the release of Night Shift family's personal favorite from what I consider to be the single most important year for film releases ever. I love Night Shift - I think it is a perfect comedy ...but I won't argue that it's the best film of 1982. That's a tricky one, with no definite answer...
Blade Runner and The Thing were released on the same day - The Same Day!! That's wild for me especially those two are my most watched films by far(Zodiac's different...) and I'll never have a favorite of them like picking a favorite child. Now, I wouldn't actually see either film for years - the Cowie Hill days again, and then years more to truly appreciate the material. Not since 1939 when Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz were released has there been a more relevant year in film. By June, Conan, The Road Warrior, and Das Boot had hit the cinemas locking it as a pretty good genre year but June/July ...these two months changed Sci-Fi forever...

If I could go back in time and see the summer films of '82 ...well, I'd start with Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan ...actually, bad example - I did see this one in the theatre and that was that - totally hooked. Same with ET's just a part of our generation to love that little alien. Tron, Blade Runner and The Thing would take years to become favorites, but First Blood came along before them - I love love love First Blood and watch it every spring. I think this was the first film I felt that "link" ...that "I know this film is going to keep me company forever " feeling. Like The Terminator, it was a midnight watch, me curled up on the couch with my sleeping father across the room in his chair. Charming little Herring Cove memories of renting VCRs and begging to see Star Trek II and Night Shift again.
That September I started grade 7 with a legendarily scary new teacher named Minichiello, who's playing the lead in my Stephen King film this year - the one I'm producing with my brother. Anyway, I recall Brock Beazley asking me who my favorite actor was..."Clint Eastwood ...are you crazy? ...the monkey guy?". I took a lot of flack for that answer, but Mom loved him and if it wasn't Restricted we saw the new Clint Pic every time - Honkeytonk Man annnd Firefox at the Spryfield Cinemas that year. He's my adult hero now - for simpler reasons than I'd've ever guessed - basically a love of film and an extraordinary work ethic. One element I possess I desire.

Q (or Quetzalcoatl - go rent this) and Deathtrap would both make good impressions in the years to come, as would Diner and Ghandi - so many good films but Walter Hill's 48 Hours is one of the few I saw soon after it's release and it still holds up as the best buddy-comedy of the 80's. How many boys were guiltily loving this with their Dad's?
On that note, my buddy Brock's dad took us to see The Toy the same December Mom and Barb Harrigan would take groups of us kids to see Tootsie and The Dark Crystal. Now obviously one o' those aint quite like the others(I'll never watch The Toy again ...last thing I want to do is discover it isn't so good...) but December '82 would also see The Verdict and Sophie's Choice ...quite a month. Quick aside ...Brock's folks dropped us off at the Hyland Theater one afternoon to go see Ghandi, and they wouldn't let us in - ratings stuff. We waited 3 hours in the sun that day ...which seemed appropriate years later when I finally did see the film.

Victor Victoria was one of my first adult style comedies, and I really liked it, but Bob Clark's Porky's holds that claim to fame for many. Many consider Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid to be Steve Martin's best - same for Richard Pryor's Live on the Sunset Strip, with Pink Floyd's The Wall marking the only time I found them interesting. Creepshow(where Stephen King turns in an incredibly funny performance) and A Stranger is Watching round out the horror/suspense nicely with Costa Gavras' Missing as #1 on my "must-see movie" list.

*addendum - Cheers, Remington Steele, and St.Elsewhere all debuted in 1982 ...need I say more?

The year itself, and all of it's spoils that would unfold in the years to come have profoundly influenced my life, and my desire to make movies. They were some of the best times and best people I'll ever know, accompanying some of the best work by filmmakers EVER - amazing days.

Thanks 1982're the best.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Skeleton Cruisin'

I had the good fortune of another conversation with a wise friend I don't get to talk to often enough..."Everyone online's a film critic ...they've all got blogs tearing everything apart...". It kind of stuck with me - why am I doing this? Because I love movies. Love them. Lots of people do and I realize this makes me ununique to the extreme ...but my weird brain and my personal experiences do give me a voice I'd like to share with anyone who wants to listen.
This blog isn't about ripping movies apart, or telling everyone how I could do it better. No, it's mostly about how incredible a good movie really is - how so many people - so many decisions can come together in something extraordinary. They can give voice to our experiences and our deep inner thoughts. Though they're often about single characters on singular missions, we know we're sharing the experience with millions, maybe billions of people and it's obviously speaking to them too. They give strength to our roughest days when we can ask ourselves what a particularly memorable character might do. We watch our own stories unfold and they can be scary as hell ...then sometimes they're incredibly funny. I see my own time here as a bit of a black comedy ...and mostly fantastic.
I named it Skeleton Cruise because I was reading Stephen King's Skeleton Crew at the time and I'm in the process of making short film based on one of his stories. The theme itself was really about trimming the fat, so to speak. I wanted to look at those who used to be great and weren't anymore but it felt too negative. I mostly ignore the stuff I don't like. I don't really touch on Star Wars since the new ones came out ...what's the point? ..half the "Net" talks about the disappointing junk out there ..nah, I want to embrace things like Psycho 3 at the same time as genuinely appreciating the genius of Citizen Kane. I love Kane.

Skeleton Cruise is keeping it's title since 50% of my writing will be about Horror films as I want to make them. Good ones too. I'm also very thin, and skeletons last ...the skeletons of pop culture - the skeletons of relevance.
I like entertaining and I like being entertained. This is both for me, and if you do read any of my occasionally goofy but always passionate writing you might just watch one of these movies and see a little something new. I think comments are awesome and if you're going to leave a mean one - try to make it really funny.

Cheers, A.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Little left-field, this one. World at War is a BBC series from the 70's about World War II. Hosted by Sir Laurence Olivier, it's a dry, informative, and oddly compelling series with a nice dramatic score. It feels like sitting down with that one Professor who genuinely cared, and discovering he was actually in the war. I've ditched most of my "box sets" but something about this one ...maybe it's comfort food of a sort.
My generation grew up with grandparents who faught in 'The War" and all us boys theorized about what kind of soldiers we'd make. Until maybe 25 or 30 I still believed there was a chance I'd be "drafted" if another war began, and it was a scary but romantic thought. I suspect that the generation coming up behind us sees WWII as something Hollywood conjured up ...tricky to text from a trench.
Like everyone out there, I've faced some difficult days, but war...
I can't imagine.

I'll spend today's spare hours watching The World at War, reminding myself that men and women born a long time ago fought for the freedom I enjoy very much.