Archive for the ‘Tributes’ Category

It’s her birthday today. I recommend you read my appreciation of Raquel Welch written for my pals at Daily Grindhouse, in which I argue fairly strongly my case that Raquel is even better than Marilyn Monroe, among other things, but ultimately, there may be only one way to celebrate properly.



Recommended after viewing the preceding: Take two cold showers and punch yourself in the crotch. Quickest way to return to reality.



I’m too fucking sensitive.  You’d think I wouldn’t be, you’d think I’d have toughened up some, having spent most of my life with the kind of movies Tony Scott made, but having heard the news of his death, I’m shocked and despondent.  Never met the man, but as I said, I’ve spent plenty of time with his work and it pains me to think that we won’t be getting any more of it.  I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to comment on anything other than his filmography, except to say that it truly pains me to think of the suffering of anyone whose work brought so much enjoyment to me and to so many others.

Above these words you saw a poster gallery made up of movies directed by Tony Scott.  That’s not even everything, nor is it taking into account all of the influential commercial work he did or the films he didn’t direct but helped produce, including The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert FordCyrus, The A-Team, and The Grey (still my number-one movie of 2012 so far).  As the younger brother of Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down), Tony Scott is often compared to his brother, although they worked together and co-produced many of each other’s films.  Ridley is certainly considered more prestigious and award-friendly, while Tony’s movies generally don’t seem to have lofty ambitions — the main goal of his films is as entertainment.  (A fine goal, in my opinion.)  But those who undervalue Tony do so at the peril of revealing that they don’t know much about movies.

Joe Carnahan, one of my favorite modern directors and a kindred spirit to Tony Scott, said it best on his Twitter account today:  You would be hard-pressed to find a mainstream filmmaker who was bolder and more formally ambitious.  Michael Bay was still an undergraduate when Tony Scott was bringing MTV-style cinematography and editing techniques into popular movies — a formal innovation that is now so commonplace we forget to credit where it came from.  There is an adventuresomeness and a raucous energy to Tony Scott’s films, a distinctive style that many have imitated consciously or subconsciously but few have managed to duplicate.  If you came in halfway to a Tony Scott movie, you’d still know he directed it, a quality that is limited to the great action names such as Peckinpah, Carpenter, Raimi, Woo, or Mann.  But he wasn’t all flash and dazzle, not hardly — his very best movies, True Romance, Crimson Tide, The Last Boy Scout, and Man On Fire among them, show that he knew how to best make use of quality scriptwriting.

True Romance is maybe his most popular movie.  I remember when the trailer came out, way back when — before I knew who Quentin Tarantino was, I was excited about it because it was a Tony Scott film.  (I’d already seen The Last Boy Scout a dozen times by then.)  By all accounts, Tarantino handed Scott a great script, but Scott knew how to make it fly — most notably in his changes to the ending, which I believe were the right creative choices.  Along with his early championing of Quentin Tarantino, Tony Scott is a central figure in the oevre of Denzel Washington, one of my favorite movie stars.  You can’t talk about Denzel’s career without looking at Tony Scott’s contributions.  Besides Spike Lee, there isn’t a director who worked with Denzel more.   Denzel made five movies with Tony Scott, including Man On Fire, which was a high point for both of them.  The character of Creasy is a perfect and unpredictable blend of the scary-toughness Denzel exuded in Training Day with the compassion Denzel was expressing at the time with movies like Antwone Fisher.  A great writer needs a great director needs a great star and so on, in every which direction.

If we were to talk about what Tony Scott did for actors we love, we’d be here all day.  Tom Cruise probably would have been a star no matter what, but it was Top Gun that made him one.  Eddie Murphy became a convincing action star with Beverly Hills Cop 2, unfortunately he was used awkwardly in the actioners that followed.  The initial Bruce Willis persona of Die Hard was solidified with what Tony Scott did with him on The Last Boy Scout (making Damon Wayans a convincing action lead in the process).  Great character actors such as Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, John C. Reilly, Bruce McGill, Gary Oldman, James Gandolfini, Viggo Mortensen, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper, Benicio Del Toro, Ellen Barkin, Barry Pepper, and Mickey Rourke either got a major career boost or simply got another strong showcase for their talents, thanks to Tony Scott’s ability to get the best out of interesting faces.  In fact, Tony Scott brought Mickey Rourke back long before The Wrestler did, with the key role of a tough mentor to Keira Knightley’s character in Domino.

Domino is a crucial movie towards understanding why Tony Scott deserves our appreciation, I think.  It’s an oft-maligned and mostly-misunderstood genre blend which admittedly isn’t entirely successful.  Tony Scott reportedly befriended the real Domino, daughter of an old-time movie star who led a wild life in her career as a bounty hunter.  The movie shows that Tony Scott’s films have always been about assertive, capable women as much as they have often been about tough guys, and it has intriguing notions about how sex and violence and the media are so inseparable in America.  Again, it’s not entirely successful, but I’ll take an interesting mess over a flawless bore anyday.  In Domino, Scott pushed his formal aggressiveness about as far as it could be pushed in a mainstream movie.  Undeterred, this restless camerawork and insect-twitching editing continued throughout his next three films, Deja Vu, The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3, and Unstoppable, with varied amounts of effectiveness.

This wasn’t an artist at rest.  This wasn’t a successful filmmaker repeating a formula, or taking the easy way out.  You can argue with me all day over which of his movies you like better, and how I may or may not be crazy to defend one over another, but one thing you cannot ever do is call a Tony Scott film boring.  Not a one of them is.

Rest in peace, Tony Scott.  Thank you deeply for the inspiration.

— Jon Abrams (@jonnyabomb).


Here is a short film directed by Tony Scott from 2005, starring Clive Owen, Gary Oldman, Danny Trejo, and James Brown.  That’s right — James Brown.


This beautiful portrait was taken by @SethKushner.

Hollywood legend Ernest Borgnine passed away Sunday, July 8th, 2012.  He was 95, which is not young.  But anyone who suggests that his age makes the loss much easier would be mistaken.  There are people who are irreplaceable, and this was most certainly one.  Ernest Borgnine, or Ernie to his fans, had more than sixty years in the movie business — just think of how many stories he must have had left to relay.  Though he gave plenty of great interviews over the years, that probably was only a fraction.  With Ernest Borgnine goes a unique and eternally ingratiating talent, and a pivotal bridge that spans Old Hollywood, New Hollywood, and the modern age we’re currently living in.  For this post I’ve collected a ton of pictures and posters of the many movies I’ve seen Ernest Borgnine in.  I will touch on most of these movies (and maybe more) in the longer appreciative piece I am working on, but in the meantime, please enjoy these movie memories of a true original.

Check out this great interview also.

Find Ernie in the southwestern hemisphere.


broken flowers




Hey, there’s Bob Balaban!

I don’t exactly know why I did this, so don’t even ask.  Mostly it’s because, as you probably already have seen, I’m a tremendous fan of Bill Murray, and I noticed how he happens to look particularly happy when being photographed with Tilda Swinton.

Why is that?  Beats me.  Why does peanut butter taste good with jelly?  I mean, they’ve been in a couple Jim Jarmusch movies together (Broken Flowers and The Limits Of Control), so they’re probably friends.  It could also be the glow of two completely unique artists basking in each others’ orbit.  Or maybe they are fellow travellers in the universe, bound by a mutual regard and a rare insight into the secrets behind reality.

For whatever reasons, it’s a winning combination.

Also note:  Most of the pictures I found of Bill Murray with Tilda Swinton were from the Moonrise Kingdom press tour.  A lot of those pictures also have film director Wes Anderson, who kind of resembles Tilda Swinton.  Maybe that’s not a coincidence.

Whatever grand cosmic design brought all of us to this moment together, it is my hope that we can cherish it as the philosophical zenith it clearly is, however fleeting it may be.  Viva Nepal!

DISCLAIMER:  All of the pictures came out of a Google Images search.  If they’re yours and you don’t want them to be here, let me know and I’ll comply.  This site, and this posting in particular, are all a matter of love.

More of me, as ever, on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

This one is harder than most. 

Growing up in my house, there were several records that were on steady rotation and became the foundation of my love of music and popular culture.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  New Edition’s self-titled second album. The Ghostbusters soundtrack.  And this one:

I remember this cover better than any of them, mainly because of that face.  I think I fell in love with that face a little bit.  It wouldn’t be an incomprehensible instinct, and surely I wouldn’t be the first or the last.  But what a rare thing that someone who looks like that would have a talent to match, or even surpass, her physical beauty.

Quite obviously, Whitney Houston started her career as a model and she easily could have kept going that way, since it’s not a stretch to argue that she was prettier than any of the most well-known of them.  Even more uncommon than her appearance, however, was her singing voice, a talent which demanded the world’s largest stages.  Whitney was noticed by Clive Davis, the music executive who discovered Alicia Keys and many others, and under his direction she was shepherded to fame, beginning with a truly massive debut album.  Whitney Houston was released in 1985, when Whitney was just 22 and I was nearly 8.

That first album is the one with “You Give Good Love”, “Saving All My Love For You”, “How Will I Know”, “All At Once”, and “Greatest Love Of All.”  Here’s “How Will I Know”, just because it makes me happy:

After that, Whitney became first-name-famous, a pop star known and loved so well that she could put out her next album title with just that one word:

That’s the album with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “So Emotional”, and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”, among others — songs which I’ve not heard in a while, but songs which I am scarcely surprised to realize that I remember entirely just by typing out the titles.  The same goes for her next album.

It’s quite surprising to realize, looking back on the discography, that after these three star-making, legend-cementing albums, that there were only four more records to come.  It’s unusual for a pop star of Whitney’s stature to have only seven studio albums.  (By comparison, Madonna has twice as many, and still counting.)  Part of that is because she went into the movies in the 1990s, most famously in The Bodyguard — the soundtrack to which was half made up of songs by Whitney; that’s the one with “I Will Always Love You”, “I Have Nothing”, “I’m Every Woman”, and “Run To You”.  The Bodyguard was a huge success worldwide.  Whitney never exactly became a movie star off of it, though she probably could have.  That’s for others to speculate upon.  That’s not why I’m here today.

I’m not going through this story chronologically because we know how it ends, which is why I’m writing about it at this specific moment.  On a more personal level, it’s also true that by the time of The Bodyguard, my musical interests had diverged.  I was moving away from the kind of singer-based pop that Whitney had mastered, and I was getting more into rock and deeper into hip-hop.   I’m more of an omnivore these days, but when you’re in early adolescence, it’s jarring to toggle back and forth between top-40 and Public Enemy.  It’s also not easy to explain.  And so you eventually forget how much certain artists meant to you, until a day like today arrives.

But while there is plenty of pop music I listened to and enjoyed and later became embarassed by, I would never feel ashamed of liking Whitney Houston’s music.  Wasn’t then, and I’m not now.  In fact, those early records hold up as well as any pop music ever.  The primary reason for that is because Whitney’s voice overpowers any of the dated instrumentals that may or may not be present.   Subtract time and what you’re left with is Whitney.  It’s more than enough. 

Without a doubt, Whitney Houston is one of the most historically important and genuinely talented popular performers to have emerged during my lifetime.  As one of the earliest musical influences I was exposed to, she’s also one of those for whom I hold the most affection.  I don’t believe it’s my business or my right to know about the personal lives of the entertainers I admire, but in this culture it’s impossible to avoid, and everything I know about Whitney Houston’s life, and everything I am inside, leads me to view this as a tragic day.  It would be monstrous to view this loss as anything other than an abbreviated and tragic end to a remarkable and now-legendary talent.



Farrah Fawcett 1947-2009.

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Opinions, Tributes

IMDb’s front page reminds me that Farrah Fawcett was born on this day. This in turn reminded me to revisitwhat I wrote the day the news broke that she passed. I regret it wasn’t more of a specific tribute, but I like the fire I was writing with. I think I was getting at something big. Of course, then MJ kicked the bucket later that afternoon and everyone moved on immediately. Please check this piece out and comment if you are so inclined.

Originally posted on 6-25-2009, while covering pop culture for another site.

Farrah Fawcett passed away today in California at the early age of 62. Cancer was the culprit.
I don’t have much to say besides to report the shocking news.
Not exactly sure why it’s so upsetting to me personally – Farrah Fawcett was hugely important to a generation, but it was a generation one or two ahead of mine. Mine was the rerun generation – I got to see Charlie’s Angels only in syndication, and only then when I was home sick from school. Cannonball Run, I only got to know by the time it hit cable (although she was adorable in that). Of course, once introduced to Farrah onscreen, I quickly understood what the big deal was about. She had a real liveliness on screen that cannot be manufactured.
On second thought, I think what makes this news so upsetting is right there in my first sentence up there – “at the early age of 62.” 62 is way too low a number to go out on. I didn’t see Farrah’s recent cancer special, in which she documented her treatment and her daily routines throughout her illness, but I read that it was pretty heavily watched. That’s good. People should be constantly aware of the massive threat that cancer continues to pose to our country . More importantly, POLITICIANS should be aware.
How we have time or money to spend on anything else before working on a cure for cancer is beyond me. I can’t tell you how deeply I despise politicians who spend time on war-mongering, or decrying gay marriage, or having sex scandals, when instead they should be focused on pressing national concerns like promoting cancer research. Any politician who spends their time denying gay couples the right to live equally (to take just one modern example), rather than raising money to address the cancer scourge, is an idiot, a coward, and a villain. I’m sorry to turn this sad news into an angry diatribe, but other news outlets can memorialize Farrah better than I can. I think that this particular angry diatribe is important, and I suspect that Farrah would agree.
If any good can come out of the terrible tragedy of the loss of an inarguable American icon today, it’s that maybe other people will feel the same shock I do, and will be moved to promote cancer awareness – the way Farrah did in her last days.


This past fall, I went to a screening of Scarface at my local theater where they showed featurettes from the recently-released BluRay.  It has some useless interviews with unrelated ‘celebrities’ who are Scarface fans, but if you push past those, it also has some fascinating Pacino outtakes (and by the way, I found out the hard way that if you type “Pacino outtakes” quickly into an iPhone, auto-correct translates in into “puttanesca.”) 

Most interestingly, however, the Blu-Ray features a shocking revelation from Scarface cast member Robert Loggia, who plays Frank Lopez, Tony Montana’s mentor-turned-adversary.  Loggia talks about drug use on the set of the neo-classic, reporting that one of the primary cast members allegedly was “getting high on [his or her] own supply.” He actually uses a gender-specific pronoun which makes the allegation fairly obvious, but I’m too afraid of litigation to repeat it.  

Robert Loggia has no such fear of litigation.  This is one of very many reasons why he is the most underrated of cinematic badasses.

Robert Loggia has had a film and television career lasting more than fifty years.  He started out as a handsome leading-man type, but for the last three decades or so, he has looked basically the way he looks now, which is like a stone carving of every guy you’ve never wanted to fuck with.  He’s got one of the great tough-guy voices ever, which is why he’s so often cast as authority figures or crimelords.  You may think you don’t know Robert Loggia, but believe me, you do.

Obviously I adore Robert Loggia.  Badassed old guys and underdogs represent most of my favorite people, and who’s more badass yet less name-checked than Robert Loggia?  He’s an Italian guy from Staten Island who kicks ass in every movie I’ve seen him in, of course I’m a fan.  I even made Robert Loggia a recurring character in my weekly comic strip in college.  [I’ll try to dig those up and insert them here.]  I think the guy is overdue for an appreciation, which is a weird thing to think about someone who was nominated for an Academy Award, but I think it.  His role on the later seasons of The Sopranos as the mythic Feech LaManna was a fitting tribute, but let’s see some more of them.  

I’m not famous enough to successfully launch a Twitter hashtag, but I had some fun with #RobertLoggiaRevelations and maybe you will too.

                                                        Robert Loggia Revelations

(excerpted from Loggia! A Life, by Robert Loggia with ghost-writing by J.M. Abrams)

  • Page 137:  Of all the Italians in the Scarface cast playing Cubans — Al Pacino, F. Murray Abraham, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, etc. — I was the most. 

  • Page 149:  Scarface is the first and only time I shed a teardrop on film. You’re gonna have an easier time finding water on Mars than anywhere on my face.

  • Page 151:  My mustache from Scarface has since been used to clothe a hairless cat.  I care about animals.

  • Page 145:  As the only person on the Scarface set licensed to pilot a Zeppelin, that was me driving the ‘World Is Yours’ blimp.



  • Page 205:  On the set of Over The Top, I taught that Stallone kid everything he knows about arm-wrestling. 


  • Page 208:  In addition to serving as arm-wrestling consultant, I also handled all the scenes with trucks in Over The Top. I used to juggle them as a boy.



  • Page 415:  On the set of I Love Trouble, I taught that Nick Nolte kid everything he knows about growling. 

  • Page 626:  I also served as his stylist for this:


  • Page 501:  On the set of Armed & Dangerous, I was both.  


  • Page 502: Ask Meg Ryan.



  • Page 3:  To maintain this voice, I start every morning with a meal of flapjacks, bacon, gravel, and the fear of lesser men.


  • Page 360:  The giant piano I danced on with Tom Hanks in Big was a trophy I brought back after defeating the mighty Cyclops.  Little-known fact of mythology:  The Cyclops used to tickle the ivories before I blinded him with a red hot poker. 


  • Page 599:  Lost Highway was originally a straightforward, linear, completely comprehensible movie until, in a fit of anger, I punched it senseless.


  • Page 54:  Many of the movie titles on my IMDb page were inspired by words that have been used to describe me in the past — Cold Blooded, Relentless, S.O.B., and Dream Breakers


  • Page 55:  …But those lousy screenwriters don’t know the real me.  Before my voice changed, I was a ballet dancer.  Little-known fact:  I inspired the movie (and musical) Billy Elliot

    "I'm a dancer!"


  • Page 10:  I like to save my talent for violence for the big screen.  But if you’re tempted to refer to me as “R-Lo”, that can change in a New York instant.


  • Page 93:  Women?  That’s for goddamn sure.


  • Page 522:  Least believable part of Independence Day? They didn’t unleash me on those alien pansies in the first five minutes.  But then, of course, there’d be no movie.



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