experimental george lucas films set to be released

Experimental filmmaker George Lucas announces the release of six of his most obscure films on Blu-ray. The films–which have rarely been viewed since their initial screenings in various basement non-profit film parties in the Bay Area years ago, and reverently spoken about by the handful of cinephiles lucky enough to have actually seen them–will now get their chance to win over the arthouse audience they were always intended for. But considering Mr. Lucas’s sometimes jarring editing schemes, static compositions, dimensional emigrations within the frame, and his reliance on abrasive sound extractions, not to mention the psychodramatic performances from his large cast of non-actors–time will tell whether or not the arthouse crowd is now ready for Mr. Lucas’s erratic, difficult visions. Beloved Hollywood directors Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet are rumored to be penning extensive liner notes for all six films.

You can read more about the release of the boxed set here.

boris karloff blogathon a-go-go!

The Boris Karloff blogathon is now loose upon the world. You can read more about the week-long event here and the first post here, which includes a message from Boris’ daughter Sara Karloff.

I’ll be contributing at least one post sometime this week, although I hope to get two done if time permits.  I do love me some Karloff.

Hope to hear from some of you here or on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else.  And I’m looking forward to reading some of the more than 100 various bloggers who are joining in.

some of my favorite things #6: the cowboys (1972)

I’m not sure how this one slipped by me as a kid.  I’m sure it played on television when I was a youngster–local Portland station Channel 12 was obligated by law to play John Wayne movies every weekend, I think–but I don’t ever remember watching it.  If I did, I blocked it from my memory.

Oh, what a little fool I was.

Having been on a bit of a John Wayne binge of late, I rented the Blu-Ray edition of this and hoped for the best.  I don’t think I’m giving anything away by writing that the film is notorious and legendary in equal measure for being the one where Duke is shot in the back by a dastardly long-haired villain, played by the great Bruce Dern.  It was a jolt back in 1972 and plenty of kids, no doubt, were scarred by seeing the movie icon go down in such a brutal manner.  It’s still a jolt to watch today.

But how was I to know any of it was good?  Most reviews that I’d come across over the years treated it as mediocre late period Wayne.  And people I’ve spoken with who had seen it loved the film, though I suspected they were blinded by childhood nostalgia.

I have to admit it’s a really splendid film, from Mark Rydell’s assured direction to (egads!) John Williams’ appropriately majestic yet lyrical score to the performances from all the kids (half of ’em non-actor rodeo boys) to the stand-out roles by Dern and the great Roscoe Lee Browne, the latter as Nightlinger the chuck wagon man who accompanies the cattle drive.

And then there’s Wayne.

His work with John Ford will always be my favorite–primarily the Westerns–but Wayne’s performance here as rancher Wil Andersen seems the perfect culmination to his long career.  The Shootist (1976) would end up being Wayne’s final performance, of course, but I like the Duke here more.  A bit world-weary but not tainted with cynicism, Wayne seems genuinely comfortable acting opposite the gaggle of cowpokes he’s saddled with, striking just the right balance of obstinacy, fatherly protectiveness, and gentleness we want from our aging cowboy icon.  He wears his heart on his sleeve, but not with the bathetic hard-sell one would expect.  It’s quintessential classic Wayne charisma we get in The Cowboys, but tempered with the wisdom and offhandedness that only a pro can pull off effectively.  There’s insight in them eyes… and when Wayne goes down, it’s crushing.

little white lies magazine #26


Now available in the new issue of Little White Lies magazine is my essay on director Spike Jonze and the “fabled filmmaking class of ’99” entitled “Taking Over the Asylum.” The issue is chock full of Jonze tidbits including an interview with the man. So check it out if you’re inclined. But act fast if you’re interested in snagging a hard copy version of the magazine since they typically sell out. An online version of the magazine will be up in a month or so, though. But I can’t stress enough how wonderful Little White Lies looks in the hard copy format. Great stuff.

Purchase your copy here.

A shorter version of my Jonze piece will also be in the upcoming issue of surf/skateboarding/snowboarding mag Huck… out soon.

I should add that the covers for both magazines are visually linked too. Very nice.

david carradine

Saddened by the death of actor David Carradine, I’ve been wanting to post something about him but I’ve been unable to get a handle on what I wanted to say.  The “perversity” surrounding the manner of his death doesn’t really interest me… and it’s too bad that so many people are focusing on that aspect, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Actors like Carradine–geniunely weird, eccentric, volatile, and frequently great–are a dying breed.  Back when I was eleven or twelve, I came into possession of a treasure trove of Playboy magazines and read an article on Carradine back when he was still riding that post-Kung Fu wave.  I don’t recall specifically what it was in the piece that freaked me out, but I remember being shocked by how untamed and unpolished he came across, shattering my tiny mind regarding how I thought actors were supposed to behave away from the cameras.  Of course, if you can’t deliver on talent to balance out the wildness, then you’re just out-of-control.  Carradine delivered.

Anyway… here’s a link to a piece on David Carradine that pretty much sums up (more eloquently) what I think as well.

charlie kaufman film poll

Over at the always interesting Moon in the Gutter blog, Monsieur Richey is holding a Charlie Kaufman film poll in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Kaufman/Spike Jonze feature Being John Malkovich… our first real encounter with these (still) extraordinary filmmakers.

So head on over and vote.  I’m curious to see what the results are myself.  I’m choosing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York for my two faves.  Who’s with me?!

bettie page


I woke up this morning to hear of the death of iconic pin-up girl Bettie Page.  She’d suffered a heart attack a little over a week ago and so the news wasn’t a surprise but it’s still sad.  My first exposure to the lovely Bettie was through the late Dave Stevens‘ marvelous The Rocketeer comic book in the mid-1980s, where “Betty” (later named Jenny and played by Jennifer Connelly in the 1991 film of the same name) was idealized in pen and ink for a new generation of (mostly) young men who had never yet seen any of her original nudie, bondage, and cheesecake photos from the late 1940s and 1950s.  By the early 1990s, the Bettie Page revolution was in full swing and if you knew where to look, it wasn’t difficult to see her influence everywhere–books, movies, comic books, postcards, posters, porn.  And if it wasn’t the dirty, fun, girl next door Bettie herself, it was  some swishy hottie who wanted to look and be just like her.  Remember that hot retro chick who used to work the bar down at your favorite watering hole, the one with the bangs, the sneer, and the purr every time Johnny Cash came roaring over the juke?  That was Bettie.  Revved-up for a new generation.

The real Bettie, the one beyond the image, didn’t have the easiest life after she quit posing for fetish pictures in the late 1950s.  She became a Christian, spent some time in Portland, Oregon (I was told when I lived there), Florida, and then eventually moved back to Los Angeles.  There were plenty of mostly downs and you can read more about that here, but it seems that in her final years Bettie recouped some of the money that had been made off of her image throughout the decades.

She’ll live on–in books, movies, comic books, postcards, posters, and porn.  Legends only grow hotter with the passage of time.