KING KONG (1933)

Posted: April 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

 

 

 

My day job is centered at the Empire State Building, so I think about this movie literally every single day, but I’m thinking about it today because it went into wide release way back on this date, April 7th, in 1933. Can you even imagine being a kid in 1933 and seeing this movie for the first time?!? Here’s what I said about it back when I force-elected its star one of the ten best movie characters of all time:

 

King-Kong-1933-king-kong-2814496-2400-1891

 

On Skull Island, he was a king. In New York City, he was just another guy brought low by love. This may make me sound crazy, but I strongly believe there’s a case for KING KONG as the great American film. If you, as I do, are convinced that the story of America is one driven by race and by sex, then KING KONG has it all over CASABLANCA, CITIZEN KANE, or VERTIGO as far as tangible cultural relevance. The racial and sexual subtext of KING KONG is barely subtext at all, perhaps uncomfortably. Perhaps that kind of subtext should be uncomfortable. Is the subtext here outright racist? I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’m still not even sure. In this particular country, with our history, it’d be irresponsible not to consider it. That reading of the film might depend upon one’s reading of the title character, though. How are we supposed to view King Kong? Unlike Godzilla, King Kong isn’t exactly a hero. As the Godzilla films progressed, it became more clear Godzilla was here to protect Earth, not just to stomp on Tokyo. (That’s one thing 2014’s GODZILLA got right for sure.)

 

kong-on-stage

 

King Kong, by contrast, is more of a basic-cable anti-hero. He’s a merciless killer, if you’re a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a military biplane pilot or just an adventurer with a gun, but he’s great at it, and here in America we forgive a lot from a character who’s good at his job. Besides that, King Kong is infatuated with the blond ingenue Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), and America does enjoy a good crazy-in-love story too. King Kong’s cataclysmic talent for violence makes him awesome — in the textbook definition, not the colloquial — and his infatuation with the pretty lady makes him human. So to answer the question, I think we’re supposed to find King Kong to be pretty rad, despite how many guys he tosses off a log bridge, and that’s what makes the movie complicated and fascinating. But that’s a conclusion that’s sort of unnecessary to intellectualize — I could have told you King Kong was awesome (in the colloquial sense) when I was eight. That I’m saying the same thing thirty years later doesn’t mean I haven’t grown up at all — it means I’ve grown up with the movie, and that it continues to give me plenty to think about and to dream about.

 

 

— JON ABRAMS.

 

 

 

 

 

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AT LONG LAST, MY TOP MOVIES OF 2015.

Posted: February 28, 2016 in Lists, Movies

 

 

It’s Oscar night, which is surely the last possible instant for anybody to potentially care about my favored titles, as far as last year’s movies go. This list would have gone up on Daily Grindhouse, but due to a transitional phase, Daily Grindhouse has been down for most of the past two weeks, so here we are.

No need for a long prologue. Does anybody read those? If you care about this list in the slightest, you’ve probably scrolled down past this paragraph already. I always joke that the introduction before a top-ten list is the best place to unburden yourself if you’ve ever committed a serious crime. You can alleviate the guilt that’s been burning you up, and still get away scott-free. Far as I know, the only crime I’m guilty of committing without being prosecuted is an egregious sense of timing.

The only thing I wanted to say is that I saw two movies this year that I didn’t feel I could cram inside a top-ten structure. Those are THE LOOK OF SILENCE and CALL ME LUCKY. Both are perfectly-crafted documentaries that provoked a real visceral response from me. Not that I don’t have the same level of respect for every movie I listed below, but as wrong as it feels to me generally  to rank movies (it’s like ranking emotions) it felt borderline offensive in those two cases. That aside, this list IS in order.

 

 

Assassin (2015)

10. THE ASSASSIN

Writing about movies alters your experience as an audience member. As you watch a movie, you can’t help but begin to compose whatever you’re going to write about later on in your mind, while it’s still being projected. For “normal” people it’s probably easier to sit back and let a movie happen in front of you. Writing about movies means you can’t be a spectator. You’re not exactly a participant, but you’re imposing your will and your unique thought process on the experience all the same. All of that is to say that THE ASSASSIN has a determined stillness and an insistent patience that forced me to settle down and just watch. There isn’t much story to it, but that’s part of why I keyed into its frequency — I didn’t have to track over-heated plot developments, or opine to myself about my feelings about each character. I could just watch. Especially in this attention-flicker of a day and age, there’s a boldness to a film that holds on a shot long enough to let a slight gust of wind blow through the frame. And there’s a secret liberation in knowing I can submit to that boldness rather than making myself part of the experience.

 

Chi-Raq (2015)

 

Hateful Eight (2015)

 

9. CHI-RAQ / THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Grouping these two together because they’re two sides of a coin in my mind, and because it delights me to do it. It’s ironic that Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino are often at odds in the press, because they occupy neighboring terrain in the landscape of my thinking. Hard to think of two other filmmakers who are simultaneously so talented and so frustrating, so right up my alley and yet so prone to adding a single scene or a character or musical cue or plot device that threatens to derail my appreciation. As hard as it is for me to choose sides when Quentin and Spike fight, it’s got to be that much harder for Sam Jackson. He’s a signature actor for them both, and he plays pivotal roles in both CHI-RAQ and THE HATEFUL EIGHT. In one he’s the Greek chorus and in the other he’s the de-facto protagonist, but in both movies his war trumpet of a voice is a defining element of the orchestra being conducted by a bold, confrontational, cinematically-hyperliterate director. CHI-RAQ is a modern-day retelling of a classical play told in verse, and THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a “spaghetti” Western with provocation on the brain, so they’re very different movies, but they’re also unified in operatic nature and in thematic concern. These are two movies about race, about violence, about America. Another similarity is that both movies, while definitely engineered to inflame conversation, drew criticisms that were misplaced. I saw many essayists question Spike Lee for making CHI-RAQ about women withholding sex from their men in order to quell violence — despite that plot coming directly from Lysistrata and being a couple millenia old — and I saw others go after Quentin Tarantino for misogyny in THE HATEFUL EIGHT when nothing good happens to anybody in that movie, and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue is by far the most compelling character in the whole thing. (As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I also think Quentin is working in a disreputable genre and honoring its conventions, as troubling as they may be.) I’m sure neither of these movies are particularly easy to like, and they may even be imperfect, but it’s uncommon to have one movie so defiant and lively and formally unruly in a calendar year, let alone two of them.

Oh, and Teyonah Parris is a goddamned movie star. There’s no way to look at CHI-RAQ and think any different.

 

 

Duke of Burgundy (2015)

8. THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY

By any objective measure, this is one of the most technically impressive films released in the past twelve months. Like THE ASSASSIN, it’s fascinating to look at and to listen to. For somebody like me, who looks at movies as moving pictures more than filmed plays, that’s not something to ignore. It’s arguable that THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY is an emotionally chilly movie, beautiful but impenetrable, but I wouldn’t be the one to argue it. I liked how this movie challenged me; I liked how it made me watch it again almost immediately to reconsider how I felt about it. Doesn’t hurt that I spent a large part of 2015 gaining a newfound affection for the giallo genre, so that by the time I got to THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY, I was waiting right in the middle of its wheelhouse. But I think any grown-up would find this movie equally as mystifying and intoxicating (it’s probably not one for the kids).

 

 

Creed (2015)

7. CREED

If there’s no way to stop the mounting flood of reboots and remakes and sequels and re-imaginings, then at least there’s a movie like CREED to come along and knock a franchise on its ass. I don’t have the same affection for the ROCKY movies so many fans of CREED seem to — to me, Rocky Balboa is less the draw than the friendship he forged with Apollo Creed over the course of the series. In that first ROCKY, Apollo is basically the villain, and the way he subsequently becomes Rocky’s brother-in-arms is what interests me most about the movies. It doesn’t always happen in life that a heated rival becomes a trusted friend, and to my eyes that’s as much the appeal as the victorious-underdog aspects of the franchise. We don’t get an appearance in CREED from Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed, but what he brought to the movies is still present in Michael B. Jordan’s fierce likability (he even looks like the young Apollo Creed at times) and Sylvester Stallone’s familiar but adjusted-for-weight-of-age performance. This is a sequel that comes at the idea from a dynamic angle — the son of Rocky’s most legendary rival comes to him for training in the same sport that killed his father. Rocky sees he can’t stop Donnie and feels he owes it to Apollo to protect his kid. CREED is about a reluctant mentor and an angry, hurt, haunted hero. If we’ve seen that relationship on film before, it’s not often, and never this fresh. On top of that, Tessa Thompson’s “love interest” character Bianca provides such a real, warm, unpredictable, lovable, tangible presence — it’s rare for a male-dominated movie, rare for a franchise movie, rare for an American movie. I suspect the pleasure of revisiting CREED will be less to thrill in the mechanics of the boxing sequences — which are tremendous — but more to spend time with these characters again.

 

Tangerine (2015)

6. TANGERINE

When I first moved to L.A., I got a job in an office building just off Santa Monica Boulevard, which I had to cross to get to work after parking my car in the lot across the street. Since it was a TV industry job, I came and went at all hours of the day and night, which means I got a crash-course in the environment of the neighborhood. This was two blocks from the Donut Time where so much of the action of TANGERINE takes place. So when I join the many voices praising TANGERINE for its sense of authenticity, it’s coming from some direct observation from the field. But I didn’t usually stop too long to talk to the many characters I encountered on Santa Monica Boulevard, and that’s the difference. TANGERINE brings the viewer into that world, by function of form (the film was famously shot on smartphones and favors dynamic close-ups and tracking shots) and by its vivid performances, most notably from Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez. Like its two lead characters, the movie explodes with energy. TANGERINE is exciting because it has real social value, making a marginalized culture spring beautifully to life and doing it not with melodrama but with recognizable relationships and a friendship that would win anybody over. All you have to do is look and listen.

 

 

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

5. BONE TOMAHAWK

I wrote more extensively about this movie when it hit Blu-Ray. The point I’d reiterate is that this isn’t a horror-Western. It really is a straight-ahead Western-Western. Westerns are a uniquely American genre whose usage tends to reflect the tenor of the times in which they were made. The stereotypical white-hat hero was never exactly a reality; pick up a history book or take a look at Deadwood. Westerns tell America what we’re thinking about ourselves — the more idealized Westerns of yesteryear are telling, as were the revisionist Westerns of the late 1960s and the early 1970s, as was the fact that the Western basically went away for a while, and so now is a movie like BONE TOMAHAWK, which is scary as all hell. Because that’s where we are today.

 

 

 

Blackhat (2015)

4. BLACKHAT

I saw this twice in theaters and wrote effusively about it elsewhere. If I’m being completely honest, it’s probably true that Michael Mann has made stronger movies than this one. But there’s still no filmmaker working today whose movies I’d rather watch — over and over.

 

 

Spring (2015)

3. SPRING

Another one I wrote about before now. But I will keep writing about it in case it helps anybody new discover it. SPRING is a jewel. It’s not a monster movie that sort of has a love story in it. It’s a love story that sort of has a monster in it. Huge difference. Astonishingly rare thing. If this is the first you’re hearing about this one, please give it a look.

 

 

Bitch_Better_Have_My_Money_cover

2. “BITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY

This is only seven minutes long, but it was more on my cinematic frequency than almost anything else this year, so I don’t know what all these prestige movies are doing running over the two-hour mark. This video has just about everything I need in a feature film — pretty ladies, freaky character actors, action, motion, color, scope, scary sexuality, dodgy morality, something to think about, something to tap my foot to while I’m doing it.

 

 

Fury Road (2015)

1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Because I saw it three times during its theatrical run and because I bought it on Blu-Ray months ago and still haven’t dared to watch it on a smaller screen. That’s how resolutely big-screen it is.

Because there’s no reason it should have been this terrific. It wasn’t an easy movie to get made, or an easy one to make, and it definitely wasn’t a sure thing box-office-wise.

But mostly because “Let them up!” is the final line of the movie for a reason that’s even bigger than movies.

 

 

 

 

— JON ABRAMS.

 

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This past week, Nitehawk Cinema hosted the latest Kevin Geeks Out show, focusing on Wigs, Toupees, and Hairpieces in movies. It was my great honor to be among the talented and hysterical presenters. I got the chance to talk about one of the greatest movie stars of the past century, as part of my mission to remind people of his greatness. The following is what I presented:

 

000 BURT REYNOLDS

 

It feels like high time to remember what makes Burt Reynolds so important. In the late 1970s and the early 1980s he was the number-one movie star in the country for five years straight. For that reason, Burt’s story is part of America’s story. He met everybody. His memoir is loaded with many of the most famous people of the past century. His book is like Forrest Gump, if Forrest Gump was Burt Reynolds.

 

001

 

Why am I bringing up Burt Reynolds in a show about Wigs, Toupees, and Hairpieces? There are at least two big reasons, and I’ll get to them both. I’d argue that hair is a central theme of Burt’s stardom, and it’s also part of the reason we lost track of him.

 

Burt Reynolds, with his dog Bertha. 1970.

 

002 SAM WHISKEY

 

For a good part of his career, Burt didn’t have his signature mustache. Here he is taking a bath in SAM WHISKEY from 1969. That same year, Burt grew a mustache for his role in 100 RIFLES opposite Jim Brown and Raquel Welch.

 

003 DELIVERANCE

 

But one of Burt’s signature roles had nothing to do with the mustache. Here he is in DELIVERANCE from 1972. It’s a strong movie and Burt is a big part of what makes it that way. In an alternate universe, we can imagine, Burt continued on this hairless path.

 

004 AS ROCKY RHODES IN 'THE TWILIGHT ZONE'.

 

Burt says he grew the mustache because he was tired of being compared to Marlon Brando. This is Burt from an episode of The Twilight Zone, early in his career, where he plays a sort of Brando type actor. In the book Burt tells a story about Brando cornering him at a party to accuse him of cashing in on the resemblance. Burt said, “I’m not having surgery because you don’t like the way I look. But I promise not to get fat.”

 

005 MUSTACHE PARTY

 

So, the mustache. This is the popular image of Burt Reynolds in people’s mind. At one time in American pop culture, a mustache was a symbol of maleness, of virility. Maybe it was a Teddy Roosevelt thing. But as time went on, and especially nowadays, the mustache seems to promise comedy.

Ron Swanson.

Ned Flanders.

Chuck Norris.

 

006 PLAYGIRL

 

That’s the catch-22: It’s partly because of the very sign of his legendary machismo that people stopped taking Burt Reynolds seriously.

 

007 COSMO

 

And this is another reason. In 1972 Burt posed naked for Cosmopolitan magazine. He did it right before DELIVERANCE made him a huge star. Burt did it for a laugh, but it worked against him. People didn’t get it.

 

008 Fuzz (1972)

 

As you can see from this poster for FUZZ, that photoshoot haunted his image.

 

009

 

Most people see Burt as a playboy, as a goofball. They don’t remember how good an actor he was, and how great a movie star he was.

 

010 DANCING

 

This is Burt (on the far right) dancing at a party near Steve McQueen and his wife. It’s true that Burt Reynolds was always fun. It was part of his image.

 

011 DANCING

 

Another thing about Burt Reynolds that makes him awesome, but that also works against him, is his openness and honesty. He called his own movies crap when they were crap, and even when they weren’t. He was never afraid to be the butt of the joke, but maybe people stopped noticing he was in on it.

 

012 SHATNER

 

Here’s another thing: In America, you can’t ever admit you wear a hairpiece. William Shatner is an example of a guy who didn’t hide it, and so he’s generally treated as a punchline.

 

013

 

Here’s a guy who never admits it.

 

014

 

As long as you never admit it isn’t real, you’re invincible.

 

015

 

Even when there’s relatively apparent visual proof that you’ve had work done on your hairline…

 

016

 

As long as you don’t admit it, you’re golden. The second you admit it, you’re Samson post-Delilah.

 

017 Deliverance (1972)

 

Burt says, “I’ve always been frank about my hair, because if you deny it, you’re fooling yourself.  Everybody else will do jokes about it. It’s better if you do the jokes first.” And so he did. But I think it made people forget what an effective dramatic actor he was.

 

017a

 

Fun story about Burt and the hairpiece: “One night at a bar in New York some idiot came over and made a crack about a “pelt on my head and I said, “If you can get it off before I beat the shit out of you, you can have it.”

 

017b

 

Another admirable thing about Burt is his ability to make amazing friendships. He can be best pals with a guy who turned out to be as right-wing as Jon Voight…

 

017c

 

And he can be as close as he was to Ossie Davis, who told Burt, “You’re the only actor in the world liked by both African-Americans and the Ku Klux Klan.” For the record, Burt wasn’t interested in entertaining racists. If you watch his movies, his love for people shines through — regardless of their gender, race, or orientation. If it was a party, everybody was invited.

 

018 White Lightning (1973)

 

DELIVERANCE solidified Burt as a Southern-fried action star. He appeared – still without the mustache – in films like WHITE LIGHTNING

 

019 Gator (1976)

 

…and GATOR

 

STICK, Burt Reynolds, 1985

STICK, Burt Reynolds, 1985

 

…the latter of which also marked the start of his directing career.

 

021 The Longest Yard (1974)

 

One of Burt’s best and most famous movies, THE LONGEST YARD, shows what he can do without mustache power. It’s one of the greatest sports movies ever made.

 

022 Hustle (1975)

 

Coming from the same director a year later, HUSTLE was a very underrated crime film. Guaranteed Michael Mann saw this one somewhere along the line.

 

023 Lucky Lady (1975)

 

Here’s Burt co-starring with Gene Hackman, one of the key actors in the New Hollywood. In this era, guys like De Niro and Pacino, Hoffman and Hackman, began to redefine naturalistic acting on film.

 

024 Semi-Tough (1977)

 

And just as American movies were getting more serious, Burt went the other way.

 

025 Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

 

This is SMOKEY & THE BANDIT, the movie that was a colossal hit for Burt and his friend, the director and legendary stunt man Hal Needham.

 

026 Burt Reynolds, Hal Needham, Jerry Reed, and a bassett hound on the set of Smokey & the Bandit.

 

While most highbrow critics don’t give any kind of attention to Hal Needham’s work, I think it’s very important, not least because of how it showcases the severely under-appreciated art of movie stunts.

 

027 Hooper (1978)

 

HOOPER was maybe Hal Needham’s most personal movie, showing the life of a Hollywood stuntman. It’s great.

 

027a Hooper (1978) Japanese Poster

 

So is its Japanese poster.

 

028 The End (1978)

 

Even amidst the popularity of all the Hal Needham movies, Burt continued to direct, and this is also the era where he buddied up with Dom DeLuise.

 

Reynolds Roast 1977

 

Burt and Dom together are magic, they’re infectious, you can’t not love watching them,

 

029 The Cannonball Run (1981)

 

But they’re also clowns. Their movies together are live-action cartoons.

 

Dom DeLuise

 

If all you know is THE CANNONBALL RUN, it’s very easy to lose sight of Burt’s dramatic talents.

 

030 Paternity (1981)

 

When Burt makes a movie like this…

 

031 Sharky's Machine (1981)

 

…It’s easier for cinematic tastemakers to forget that, the same year, he also made a movie like this.

 

032

 

SHARKY’S MACHINE is really worth seeing. I wish Burt’s career had continued with him directing more of this kind of melancholy, sleazy crime movie.

 

033 Stick

 

Burt made an Elmore Leonard adaptation before it became the in-thing to do.

 

034 Heat

 

There’s a better film out there going by the same name, but HEAT is still pretty special, a perfect showcase for Burt as a tough guy whose glory was beginning to fade.

 

035 CITY HEAT

 

Teaming him up with his old buddy Clint Eastwood, 1984’s CITY HEAT should have been a hit. It wasn’t.

 

036 City Heat (1984)

 

I think the contrast between Clint and Burt at this stage of their careers is very telling. Both of them were stars who appealed to men as much as women. Both of them are better actors than most people recognize. Both of them directed. But only one of them became a mainstream Academy Award winning institution.

 

037

 

I love Clint, never get me wrong, but he would never let himself be the butt of the joke, the way Burt did so many times. Even in the movies he made with the orangutan, Clint was always the coolest guy in the room. In CITY HEAT, he calls Burt “Shorty.” The final line of the movie from Clint is, “You’ll always be Shorty to me.” And he gets the last word. [Clint is 6’4″, Burt is 5’11”.]

 

M8DCIHE EC004

 

Notice who’s wearing the nice suit and who’s wearing the silly costume.

 

039 Stroker Ace (1983)

 

This is also the era when Burt became more famous for tabloids than for movies. For one thing, a facial injury he sustained on the set of CITY HEAT led to a rumor Burt had AIDS. If you remember the ‘eighties, there was a lot of spite and prejudice in a rumor like that.

 

040

 

This is also around the time Burt met Loni Anderson.

 

041

 

It isn’t like Burt wasn’t famous for his offscreen relationships before, but this was where it started to overshadow his onscreen work.

 

042

 

In his book, Burt isn’t mean about it, but he indicates he got swept up in the relationship in a way he wishes he hadn’t.

 

043

 

Guess that’s hard to say no to, no matter what your type is.

 

044

 

Burt says this was one of the happiest times of his life…

 

045

 

…but then also the worst.

 

046

 

Again, headlines like these are the primary basis of his celebrity in the late 1980s. By contrast, Clint was really taking off as a serious filmmaker, going from BIRD to UNFORGIVEN.

 

047

 

People see Loni Anderson, a blonde bombshell, and they probably make assumptions about her, and about Burt for being into her. But the loves of Burt’s life were girl-next-door types.

 

047a

 

The chapter in the book on Burt’s regrets about it not working out with Sally Field is really affecting.

 

048 Cop and a Half (1993)

 

So real life got sadder, and then these were the kinds of movies Burt was getting. No offense to COP AND A HALF, but it’s no IN THE LINE OF FIRE.

 

TSDEVSH EC011

 

In the ‘nineties, Burt went back to TV for Evening Shade, a show that had one of the greatest ensemble casts ever, but it was on CBS at a time when it wasn’t cool at all to be on CBS, assuming that time ever existed.

 

050 Boogie Nights (1997)

 

Then, towards the end of the decade, this came along.

 

051

 

By the time Burt gives his phenomenal half-dramatic/half-comedic performance in BOOGIE NIGHTS, nobody seemed to remember that’s what he’d been doing all along.

 

052

 

I think movie fans of my generation revere this movie and we revere Paul Thomas Anderson’s work in general. BOOGIE NIGHTS is a great American movie. But it was well publicized that Burt was uncomfortable with it. He’s still never seen it all the way through. Anderson went on to make several more great films, and Burt didn’t. This kind of stuff leads people to take sides, and most go with the brilliant auteur over the so-called has-been. But it’s not that simple.

 

053

 

For one thing, Burt was 62 when he made Boogie Nights. Paul Anderson was 27. Keep in mind Burt started acting back in the 1950s. Imagine you’re Burt and some kid is asking you to do and say some pretty damn out-there things. BOOGIE NIGHTS isn’t porn, but it’s sure got porn dialogue. Burt was the son of a police chief. He was raised to be a gentleman. He had valid reasons to be concerned about his image at this point in time. I don’t think Burt Reynolds is an uptight guy, but I also think it’s okay if he wasn’t too comfortable calling Julianne Moore a “foxy bitch.”

 

054 The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)

 

Burt was incredible in BOOGIE NIGHTS, but just about everything that came afterwards was underwhelming. THE DUKES OF HAZZARD was a movie based on an old TV show that was itself a rip-off of Smokey & the Bandit, and now Burt was getting novelty-cast in the Jackie Gleason role.

 

longest_yard_ver2

 

055 The Longest Yard (2005)

 

Don’t even get me started on what happened here.

 

056

 

So the full-on renaissance he deserved didn’t happen. Burt returned to Florida. He runs an acting school there now.

 

057 Burt Reynolds Institute & Museum in Jupiter, Florida.

 

Can you imagine getting acting lessons from Burt Reynolds? That’s a movie right there.

 

058

 

Burt turned 80 this month. If I had to bet on any human being lasting past a hundred, it’d be him, but still.

 

059

 

Too often the critical re-evaluations come too late. I don’t think it’s too radical for me to suggest that the work of one of the most popular movie stars in history is worth another look.

 

060 IN CONCLUSION

 

Let’s not let a legend go under-remembered in his own time. And one last thing about the book: It not only has chapters remembering Bette Davis, Lee Marvin, and Frank Sinatra, but there’s also one dedicated to the horse Burt rode in the movie NAVAJO JOE. What’s better than that?

 

Navajo Joe (1966)

 

 

— JON ABRAMS.

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Hard as it is to believe, Burt Reynolds turned 80 today. Decided this year I’m making it a personal mission to remind everyone how awesome Burt Reynolds is. Last year Burt released his autobiography, written with Jon Winokur (who runs the very valuable Advice To Writers.) I’ve joked around about Burt’s autobiography being the last book I’ll ever need, but there’s a trace of truth to that statement. For a while there, as one of the hugest movie stars on the planet, Burt knew well or at least encountered some of the biggest bold names of the previous century. His book has chapters on both Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, to name just two, and I’m not sure what else a person would need to know before rushing out to buy and read this thing.

 

The book also has a chapter reserved for Donald Trump. Now, let’s be clear: Burt is far more civil towards Trump than I could ever be. To my eyes, as a native New Yorker having watched this character operate for years, Trump is a bully and a liar — in ways that are as provable and demonstrable as physics — and his apparent lack of self-awareness and self-recrimination makes him despicable. Again, Burt is far friendlier. But even the most generous comments about Trump are pretty damning. And in a calendar year where Donald Trump is improbably, insanely, a legitimately possible candidate for the Republican Party, I think it’s pretty telling (and quietly courageous) that while putting together an autobiography, summarizing a life that surely could have spanned several volumes, Burt went out of his way to set the record straight on Trump.

 

Their paths crossed in the early 1980s, when Burt became a minority owner in the Tampa Bay Bandits, a team in the fledgling and now long-defunct United States Football League. The Bandits were co-owned by a businessman named John Bassett. Trump bought a rival team, the New Jersey Generals.

 

So here’s Burt on the time Trump sank the USFL…

 

“There are always guys who come out of the woodwork and take everything they can get. Donald Trump was one such offender.”

“John and Donald were both rich kids but that’s where the similarity ended. Donald was born on third and thought he hit a triple.”

“In my opinion, it was Donald’s fault that the USFL didn’t survive.”

“Now don’t get me wrong. I like Donald. I hold on to my wallet when we shake hands, but I like him.”

“He was interested in only two things: money and publicity. John summed it up when he said Donald’s ‘ego transcended his business sense.'”

“Every time Donald runs for president, I pray he never gets the chance to do to the USA what he did to the USFL.”

 

 

For his part, and if you’d like to see the difference between a gentleman and a lout, here for contrast is the kind of thing Trump has said about Burt Reynolds.

 

If you think Trump is funny, if you think he’s smart, if you think he’s worth listening to, you really need to check yourself, immediately. It’s time to renounce any and all support for this goon, now or else go get a T-shirt printed up that reads “I aim to be a bad person too.” Ignorance of Trump’s record of hypocrisy, dishonesty, and ineptitude — let alone admiration for those same traits — is at this moment in American history a severe moral failing. Let’s toss this guy out with the trash, where he’s belonged all along.

 

And that said, I’m going to watch SHARKY’S MACHINE again. Thanks for reading. Buy Burt’s book. Be kind. Be good.

 

 

On Twitter: @jonnyabomb

 

Inspired by Twitter friend Alex Segura, I would like to list here all the books I’ve most enjoyed in 2015. I’m only listing the ones that were newly released this year, or we could be here a while.

 

sellout

 

BTW

 

TheClasp.indd

 

kji

 

gilliamesque

 

gutshot

 

shirley

 

sweetnothing

 

ParadiseSky

 

godloveshaiti

 

whites

 

burt

 

savage

 

Near+Enemy+Cover

 

Print

 

cartel

 

I’m not done yet, and this month is always the one where I race to catch up, so watch this space. It could grow!

 

When all else fails, find me here: @jonnyabomb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are some words I wrote four years ago about a comedian who many people never got the chance to know, one worth rediscovering.

 

 

 

“You know how it ends? We all die, that’s how it fucking ends, and you can’t bring your iPod. Sorry!” — Mike DeStefano.

 

 

Mike DeStefano was a known name in New York comedy, steadily gaining in widespread fame. I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t heard of him until the seventh season of Last Comic Standing, where he made the final five contestants, and at first, I didn’t even like him that much. His voice was loud and abrasive and exactly reminiscent of those big-mouths who stand out in Bronx crowds, the kind of pricks who spill peanuts and popcorn on you in the stands at a Yankees game. He definitely had a distinctive look, unconventional among many of today’s comedians, with his spiky gray hair and tattooed arms and a furrowed brow that looks not unlike the Scottish actor Brian Cox. DeStefano’s manner was equally brash and confrontational – when he got voted off the show, he told America what they could do with their vote.

 

 

That’s the moment I became a fan. A little late to the party, sure, but I made up for lost time by enjoying the tons of clips of DeStefano’s comedy on YouTube and elsewhere. His one recorded album is called OK KARMA and it remains a refreshing blast of noxious energy and battered honesty. It’s still one of my favorite comedy albums ever. It helped that he was a Bronx guy – I grew up the next town over, admittedly in somewhat more comfortable circumstances, but believe me, I know a ton of guys like Mike DeStefano, so I know a little something about what he’s talking about. I’ve walked the same beat, though his stories are way better. If I say I know a ton of guys like him, I’ve rarely heard anyone express themselves as clearly, as simply, and as recognizably. He might sound a little angry, but that’s good, isn’t it? There’s a lot about this world that should make you angry. If you can live in contemporary American society without getting angry sometimes, then I hope you like the taste of sand, because you’re an ostrich up to your neck in it.

 

 

DeStefano’s comedy was unapologetically angry, born of real hard living and pain. In the startling episode of WTF where he was interviewed by host Marc Maron, he laid out the wreckage of his past in raw detail. DeStefano used Maron’s show, one of the most thoughtful and probing venues anywhere in America, to talk about his HIV-positive status. It was just one more brave admission in a long line of them. DeStefano’s rap wasn’t intended to get sympathy or accolades for himself – he talked about his substance abuse issues and his HIV diagnosis in order to show that anyone could overcome similar histories and still live a worthy life. He spoke about recovery and comedy with the zeal of a preacher, and it was both inspiring and hilarious. This was a guy who was on the front lines of truth-telling. He spoke to his own truth, emboldened with the confidence speaking truth gives a person, and personally speaking, it was a truth that I can recognize and that I happen to believe. Every word I ever heard him say about religion, race, and sexuality was more accurate and concise than anybody I ever agreed with who wasn’t nearly as funny. Maybe that’s why I was initially, temporarily put off to his comedy: Because I knew it was true. This was a great comic who had important things to say.

 

 

Mike DeStefano died on Sunday March 6th, at the age of 44.

 

 

 

 

He had been touring a one-man show based on his life and experiences, to strong reviews. Could have been the breakthrough he deserved. I never met this man, and the loss belongs to his family and friends alone, but I still can’t help feeling a great sadness. We really can’t afford to lose people like this one. There aren’t a lot of people in the public eye who are so fearless in speaking such brutal, twisted, and – yes – loving thoughts. Mike DeStefano was a truth-belching bulldog of zen and comedy, and we can only hope that he was able to inspire enough people and change enough minds in his brief career that losing him so soon makes any kind of cosmic sense.

 

 

Mike-Destefano

 

 

 

 

SPRING_MORNING

 

A lot of my film-fanatic friends are on a great site called Letterboxd, which allows you to catalogue all of the movies you’ve seen to date in order of when you’ve seen them.  It’s like a daily calendar for movies.  When you see as many movies as we do, it’s a valuable service.

In the past couple years, as I’ve been writing about movies more and more (over at Daily Grindhouse like crazy — not so much here, unfortunately), I also like to put up a gallery here on Demon’s Resume to chart everything I saw that year.

Here’s the 2011 edition.

Here’s the 2012 edition.

Here’s the 2013 edition.

Here’s the 2014 edition.

I took to doing this for a couple reasons:

For one thing it’s fun to look at all the poster art, both the beautiful and the bad.

For another, it seems like the right thing to do, since I as much as anyone can lapse into an authoritative tone in my writing and in my stated opinions at times and it’s only fair to reveal what I’ve seen and what I haven’t.  I can’t rightly tell you what “the best movies of 2015″ are if I haven’t seen every movie released in 2015, right?  I can only tell you which movies I appreciated the most, out of the ones I did get to see.

And lastly — while it may not feel like it to the average person, who watches sports and politics and CBS procedurals and anything else — it feels to me at least as if I’ve seen far fewer movies this year, particularly theatrically, than usual. So I’m trying to kick myself in the ass a little with this post. The count so far is 38. Everything else I’ve seen has come from before this year, and isn’t listed. But there are only 38 movies from the calendar year of 2015. That ain’t enough!

Since the year’s not over yet, I will be updating this post periodically, all the way through December 31st, so if you want, you can keep tracking what movies I’ve been watching.  I’ll also try to link to my reviews (where I’ve done them) as I go along.  And if I have any stray thoughts, I’ll add them along the way.

Enough engine-revving. Let’s get going!

_________________

 

88 (2015)

[I reviewed it!]

 

Ant-Man (2015)

 

nie_yin_niang

 

Age of Ultron (2015)

 

Backcountry (2015)

 

Bad Asses On the Bayou

 

A Ballerina's Tale (2015)

 

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

 

Big Game (2015)

 

Blackhat (2015)

 

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

[I reviewed it!]

The Boy Next Door (2015)

 

Call Me Lucky (2015)

 

Chain of Command (2015)

 

Chi-Raq (2015)

 

The Connection (2014)

 

Cop Car (2015)

 

Creed (2015)

 

Creep (2015)

 

Crimson Peak (2015)

 

CRIMSON PEAK is still in theaters, at the moment of this typing. Go see it, if you haven’t. See it on the biggest screen you can. Let it enfold you. It’s a film to be absorbed. CRIMSON PEAK cost a lot of money and it looks like it. Hate to say I understand why it’s underperforming in America — with whispers of incest and baby murders, less sophisticated audiences can easily miss the point. Not that those elements are meant to be a draw — quite the contrary, but it’s admirable that a film engaging with the notion of fear betrays little itself. This movie is brave and bold. And subject matter aside, it’s a legitimate marvel of production design and costuming. Director Guillermo Del Toro and his cinematographer Dan Laustsen maximize the frame, infusing every millimeter with rich color and deep shadow. The movie blooms. Of the performers in the film, Jessica Chastain dominates — her role is recessive by design for the first two-thirds of the story, but when she takes center stage, it’s with redoubtable ferocity. Del Toro has said the film isn’t intended as a horror movie — if that’s the case, put Chastain down for all the awards, since horror never gets its due. But if it is a horror movie, then she’s its most fearsome monster, and good God is that a beautiful thing.

 

dark_places

 

A Deadly Adoption (tv)

 

deathgasm_ver2

 

Dope (2015)

 

tian_jiang_xiong_shi_ver3

 

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead The Story Of The National Lampoon (2015)

 

The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

 

Escobar Paradise Lost (2014)

 

Everly (2015)

 

Ex Machina (2015)

 

extraordinary_tales

 

final_girls_ver3

 

Five Star (2015)

 

freaks_of_nature

 

Gemma Bovery (2014)

 

The Gift (2015)

 

goodbaddeadft_{a57b0bb5-6f1b-4704-a725-957d1cd188ee}

 

Going Clear Scientology and the Prison of Belief (tv)

 

harvest

 

hateful_eight_ver10

[I sort of reviewed it!]

 

he_never_died

 

Hot Pursuit (2015)

 

Though I never got around to reviewing it, I saw this movie the weekend it came out. It’s what it looks like, which is a MIDNIGHT RUN riff with Reese Witherspoon in the Robert De Niro role and Sofía Vergara as the Charles Grodin. The director is Anne Fletcher, originally a choreographer, who transitioned into directing the kind of broad-appeal hits that everybody sees except people I know. To be honest, I would not have expected a movie from the director of STEP UP, 27 DRESSES, THE PROPOSAL, and THE GUILT TRIP to be so poorly received by audiences. You know it never had a shot with critics, but audiences tend to eat up these middle-of-the-road big-star comedies like Chicken McNuggets. Uselessness is a difficult thing to quantify, so I can’t explain see why people go to some bad movies but not others. This one isn’t much worse than most, though it certainly could have been better. Can it really be that hard to make a watchable movie with two lead actors as well-liked as these? The problem with HOT PURSUIT is that again, it’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. A good comedy is surprising. A good action movie produces excitement. By those standards, this action-comedy fails twice. There are a couple of promisingly odd bits I almost chuckled over, such as when Witherspoon and Vergara disguise themselves a cow (I think) to escape a police roadblock, but most of the humor bizarrely fixates around Witherspoon’s stature and theoretical boyishness and Vergara’s supposedly advanced age, which are not observations I would have considered about either woman. Next time around, drop the insult comedy and focus on telling a compelling story.

 

in_the_heart_of_the_sea

 

Into the Grizzly Maze (2015)

 

It Follows (2015)

 

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

 

If nothing else, this film was shot by cinematographer John Toll (who also shot THE THIN RED LINE). You can make your little Twitter jokes about whatever you want, but if you’re serious about movies, you do not get to discount a movie shot by John Toll. People who talk about movies without ever mentioning how they look are like people who buy comic books for the writing. It’s not that writing isn’t important — quite the contrary! — but at the same time, these are visual media. How a movie looks is more than half the battle.

And the comic-book analogy fits another way: With so much of multiplex real estate being rented out to super-hero movies based on super-hero comics, Lana and Andy Wachowski have been making comic-book movies too, for quite a while now. It’s just that comic books don’t begin and end with super-heroes. There’s manga, there’s Moebius, there’s Jodorowsky, there’s Jack Kirby’s cosmic comics. That’s what JUPITER ASCENDING is. It’s comic-book space opera with seven thousand international flavors blended together. Sure. It’s silly and it’s absurd. But the Mighty Thor isn’t? Is this movie really too crazy? Or is it the kind of crazy some of us could use more of?

What I liked about JUPITER ASCENDING is what I liked about STAR WARS. If the plot sends your mind wandering, there’s always some random weirdo walking through the background to focus your attention on. I went into JUPITER ASCENDING excited to see the lizard people; I came out of it obsessing over the person with the elephant head. There’s a person with an elephant head in this movie! If there were a person with an elephant head in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, I would have seen THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. This is the kind of movie Eddie Redmayne needs to be making.

 

Krampus (2015)

 

yi_ge_ren_de_wu_lin_ver2

 

Lake Placid vs. Anaconda (2015)

 

Last Knights (2015)

 

 

last-shift-poster

 

look_of_silence

 

lost_river

 

mad_max_fury_road_ver3

 

Maggie (2015)

 

The Man with the Iron Fists 2

 

Manglehorn (2015)

 

Nasty Baby (2015)

 

The Night Before (2015)

 

The Nightmare (2015)

 

People, Places, Things (2015)

 

POD (2015)

 

 

Robot Overlords (2015)

 

Run All Night (2015)

 

Seven Five (2015)

 

SHARK LAKE

 

Sinister 2 (2015)

 

Spotlight (2015)

 

Spring (2015)

 

Earlier this year, I saw IT FOLLOWS the same weekend I saw SPRING. There’s no major similarity between the two films besides the fact they are both low-fi indie efforts of very high quality, but in my mind they are connected due to that simple twist of scheduling. But while IT FOLLOWS was quickly adopted as an instant classic by many horror fans and debated fiercely by the fewer dissenters, I don’t get the sense nearly as many people are thinking about SPRING. Maybe it makes sense.

SPRING is a quiet movie, in comparison to just about anything else out there. Beautiful things don’t usually shout.

Also, it’s sort of hard to talk about this story without spoiling at least some of its surprises.

And the jury is still out over whether or not it can be called a horror film. Aside from a few expertly-paced scenes of suspense, this is not a movie intended to frighten or disturb.

I guess I’d call it a love story for horror fans, a heart-render for weirdos. It’s more like an alternate-universe hopelessly-romantic version ofPOSSESSION, or DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE if its heart had been on its sleeve a lot more than its tongue was in its cheek.

In the way of plot details, all you need know is that a troubled young American (Lou Taylor Pucci) who recently lost a family member to a cruel disease decides to skip the country for a while after kicking the shit out of somebody who sort of deserved it. After some aimless wandering through Europe, he gets a job and a room at a vineyard in Italy. When he goes out on the town, he meets a smart, sexy, worldly, thoroughly confusing woman (Nadia Hilker) with whom he is immediately smitten. Obviously, she’s hiding something. Obviously, that’s why I’m dancing around calling SPRING a horror movie. It matters, but it doesn’t. What you’ll care about most are these two characters, Evan and Louise.

From the thoughtful writing of co-director Justin Benson, to the warm cinematography by co-director Aaron Moorhead, from the bruised, spiky, but hopeful performance of Lou Taylor Pucci to the even-more-bruised, intoxicating, and daring performance of Nadia Hilker, to the lovely score by Jimmy LaValle and straight down the line, SPRING is a class act, a treat, a cause, a movie I found very easy to relate to, and even easier to love. It may be ironic to recommend a movie called SPRING in October, but it’s a movie to be visited and revisited any day of the year.

 

 

Spy (2015)

 

SPY is a movie which arrived preceded by a gale force of critical acclaim. I was underwhelmed, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

As the current mass-media story goes, writer-director-producer Paul Feig and his star Melissa McCarthy have been doing more than anybody to change the conventional notions of what women can do onscreen. Why can’t a woman who looks like she should be cast as a pre-school teacher or a romance novelist (I’m not being rude — these are her character’s occupations on Mike & Molly) also play a spy in a James Bond style action thriller, or soon enough, a Ghostbuster? I hope I’m being crystal clear when I proclaim I am all for it, with every last erg of my strength. Women can do everything men can do, and often better and with greater style. And any system that doesn’t presently allow for that must absolutely be changed.

I guess it’s just hard for me to get thrilled about Melissa McCarthy falling over or farting just because the comedy guys get to do it, or more importantly, to learn over the course of a movie that she’s too good for jerky guys like Jude Law in SPY, because those are comparatively tame victories, considering how the kinds of movies I watch for Daily Grindhouse and the women who star in them come with a tidal wave of fierceness. That’s why I was so charged-up about Charlize Theron in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. It may not be fair to compare a light goofy comedy to a ferocious locomotive of action, but to me that’s the energy we need right now, in comedy as much as in action movies. When the system is so sorely fucked, it’s okay to get angry. Honestly, it seems necessary. All my heroes, male and female alike, are willing to get angry when things are wrong.

SPY is cute, and stuffed with jokes, but there’s no anger in it, and that’s why for me it’s not that energizing. At the same time, I recognize that maybe my place as a be-penised person is to stand aside and let women handle it their way. I don’t presume to tell anyone how to lead their own revolution.

 

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster.jpg

 

Steve Jobs (2015)

 

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

 

Tangerine (2015)

 

Trainwreck (2015)

 

The Visit (2015)

 

The Voices (2015)

 

war pigs (2015)

 

We Are Still Here (2015)

 

Welcome to Me (2015)

 

Welcome to New York (2014)

 

What Happened Miss Simone

 

Wild Card (2015)

 

kawaki_ver2

 

The Wolfpack (2015)

 

 

Wolf-Warriors-2015-9

 

 

Z for Zachariah (2015)

 

____________________

 

Stay tuned to this page. It’s gonna swell and expand before the year is out.

And follow me on Twitter for near-constant updates:  @jonnyabomb

 

 

 

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973)

 

Certainly as a director and a little less so as a star, Clint Eastwood has worked in just about every genre there is. One glaring exception is horror, or so it would seem. HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER comes pretty damn close. It’s a genre rope-a-dope. You see the star of THE GOOD THE BAD & THE UGLY and he’s riding a horse and carrying a six-shooter, so you think you know what kind of a movie you’re expecting. And then you get hit with something else entirely, but not right away.

 

 

 

Here I find myself in the unfortunate position of spoiling a movie early on simply by describing it in terms of the horror genre – since for a long stretch, the story of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER would not lead one to conclude it should be filed anywhere other than the Westerns shelf of the library.  

 

 

But, at the very least, Clint Eastwood as director and star uses some elements of the ghost-story genre in the construction of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.  The unnamed gunslinger appears out of the haze of the frontier heat on his way into a town that he eventually paints blood-red (literally) and re-names “Hell,” and the wailing score by Dee Barton of PLAY MISTY FOR ME is at all times more horror-movie than Morricone 

 

 

Clint’s second film as director after the aforementioned PLAY MISTY FOR ME, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER was heavily influenced by the styles of Clint’s mentors Don Siegel and Sergio Leone.  Unlike PLAY MISTY FOR ME, which was a then-contemporary thriller, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER would have seemed like a return to familiar genre terrain for Eastwood. But this was no usual shoot-’em-up. It was the first of many sly and bold deconstructions of his own “nameless gunfighter” persona – this is no hero, but a ruthless avenging angel.  And maybe “angel” isn’t remotely the right term.  

Actually it definitely isn’t.

 

 

Written by Ernest Tidyman, creator of SHAFT, and moodily lensed by Eastwood regular DP Bruce SurteesHIGH PLAINS DRIFTER lets you know almost immediately that this isn’t Gary Cooper territory. The townspeople of Lago are nervous about a trio of murderous outlaws, led by Stacey Bridges (played by Geoffrey Lewis), who once terrorized the place and are rumored to be on the way to do it again. So when a mysterious stranger, in a familiar tall, dark and handsome form, rides in from the desert and shoots down some nasty customers, it would seem he’s the answer to Lago’s prayers.

 

 

But when a well-dressed blond lady tries to meet-cute with the stranger by bumping into him, he forces her into a barn and not very ambiguously forces himself on her. This is within the first fifteen minutes of the film. It’s startling and upsetting, and while there are indications the woman seems to enjoy it, that only makes it more difficult to process. Our movie’s hero has done one of the worst things you can do to anyone to a seemingly innocent person. And we’re still supposed to root for this guy? Can you imagine the Salon thinkpieces if this film were to come out today?

 

 

Of course, as it turns out, nobody in Lago is innocent or pure. But we don’t know that at the time of the sexual assault. And even once the truth is revealed, this moment still doesn’t sit right. Nobody deserves such a violation, and even if logic were perverted and contorted enough to make rape seem justifiable, does that make things better? Is anything really resolved? And why are we watching in the first place?

 

 

Twenty years later, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Science awarded Clint’s film UNFORGIVEN for its canny deconstruction of the star’s own persona and that of basically every American action hero of the past century. But — not to take anything away from UNFORGIVEN, which is a favorite — HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER proves Clint had been doing that all along. The gulf between what an audience expected from Clint in 1973, when he first rides into this movie on a white horse, and then what he proceeds to do in short order, is unfathomable. It’s still shocking today. No action star before or since had been so daring with their onscreen persona. No movie star period would risk such a vicious reversal of expectations.

 

HPD

 

 

Like HIGH NOON, this story is about a lone gunfighter preparing to face off against three outlaws in a frontier town. Like THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, the story finds a town hiring a mercenary to teach them to fight against invaders. But in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, the hero abuses the authority he’s given: He assaults a woman, drinks up the town’s booze, appoints a little person (Billy Curtis, who is excellent in the movie) the town sheriff, defaces the scenery, and ultimately abandons the people in their supposed time of need. He’s an unchecked anarchist at best.

The Western is maybe the single genre where American audiences most expect our heroes to be heroes. Clint Eastwood used the Western to make us ask ourselves what that means.

 

 

 

— JON ABRAMS. 

 

 

ME

 

 

 

 

For the past couple years I’ve been catching up on The Best Show, formerly of WFMU, now a podcast, the creation of Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster. It takes a while to really warm up to it, but I think it’s great. Last week’s show was the first time I listened to it live, believe it or not, and I had fun pitching in on the show’s trending topic via Twitter, which was “The Top 100 Fictional Characters Of All Time,” a subject I’ve spent some time thinking about.

That list got solidified over the course of the show’s live three-hour broadcast, and here it is. The final hundred is a mixture of legitimately amazing stuff and insanely specific left-field choices, and as far as I can tell there’s only one of my suggestions on there. It may not even have come from me! There were some real smart people and celebrities playing along.

But these are very obviously my choices. To anyone who knows me in life or in social media, these are most of my pop-cult obsessions right here. A good amount of these characters are returnees from the list of my top ten coolest characters in popular culture from 2012. A lot of them are things I just like to talk about a lot. I think I’m 100% serious here. But I’m not 100% sure about that. Either way, I just had too much dumb fun doing this to fail to share it on my own site, so here it is, in no apparent order.

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Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Peter.

Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

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Godzilla.

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John Shaft.

Jill.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

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Grimm.

Quick Change (1990)

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Dr. Zaius.

Parker.

Coffy.

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Stanley Roper & Helen Roper.

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Pearl from 227.

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Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

Amazing Larry.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

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Eddie Murphy in “White Like Me.”

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Harry Fishbine & Jennifer.

Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976)

Rosalie Aprile.

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

The Shogun Of Harlem.

Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (1985)

Egg Shen.

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

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Inga.

Phenomena (1985)

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Landlady.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

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Jimmy Serrano & sweater.

Midnight Run (1987)

Marvin Dorfler.

Midnight Run (1987)

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Chino.

Out Of Sight (1998)

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Mr. Eddy/ Dick Laurent.

Lost Highway (1997)

John Milius.

Jesus.

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The monster from the cover of REM’s album Monster.

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Chang.

Only God Forgives (2013)

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Morgan.

George A. Romero’s Knightriders (1981)

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Matt Cordell.

Maniac Cop (1988), Maniac Cop 2 (1990), Maniac Cop III: Badge Of Silence (1993)

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Dr. Octagon.

The “I love your mother’s cookies” kid from The Boy Next Door trailer.

Morris Day & Jerome.

Purple Rain (1984)

Cheyenne.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

King Kong.

Bob from Bob’s Discount Furniture.

Walter SMith from Luck (2011)

Walter Smith.

Luck (2011)

Chandler Jarrell.

The Golden Child (1986)

Neil McCauley.

Heat (1995)

Batman.

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The Owl.

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Master Blaster.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

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Mac.

Predator (1987)

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Lone Wolf & Cub.

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Skeleton with British accent.

Army Of Darkness (1993)

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The Mouse.

Babes in Toyland (1934)

As always, hit me up below, or on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

 

This weekend I watched GROSSE POINTE BLANK again, for the first time in a long time. It’s eighteen years old now! It can vote! As an undergraduate film student, I wrote a seventeen-page paper on GROSSE POINTE BLANK — that’s how convinced I was of its greatness. I still love it, but I’ll try to be more brief here.

 

 

GROSSE POINTE BLANK has a perfect one-liner comedy concept – a contract killer accepts invitation to his ten-year high school reunion due to its proximity to his latest contract – and a sharp fit of a leading man in John Cusack, always the most cerebral of 1980s teen stars, who transitioned better than most into adult roles in the 1990s.

 

 

Cusack and his co-writers fine-tuned Tom Jankewicz’s original script and got the movie made under the direction of George Armitage, a filmmaker who works way too infrequently, having made the way-underrated hillbilly barnstormer VIGILANTE FORCE with Kris Kristofferson and Bernadette Peters, the somewhat-underrated (many cool people know how fantastic it is) crime classic MIAMI BLUES with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the most-underrated-of-all action epic HIT MAN with Bernie Casey and Pam Grier.

Armitage nails the unusual tone of GROSSE POINTE BLANK, a very dark comedy about a paid murderer who kills people for money and who is lovable mostly only because he’s played by that guy who everyone loved in BETTER OFF DEAD and SAY ANYTHING.

 

GROSSE POINTE BLANK is one of the best-sounding movies of its decade, which is quite a feat considering this was the era of DAZED & CONFUSED, PULP FICTION, DEAD PRESIDENTS, and FRIDAY. The score is by Joe Strummer of The Clash. Pretty epic ‘get’ there. The soundtrack is stacked with killer pop, ska, punk, and new-wave songs from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

The supporting cast is pretty deadly – Dan Aykroyd deftly playing against type as Grocer, an insane hitman and rival of Cusack’s Martin Blank, who in true capitalist fashion is looking to consolidate his industry.

Alan Arkin as Blank’s traumatized psychologist, Dr. Oatman, who is terrified of his patient and continually begs him to stop coming back.

Joan Cusack as Blank’s secretary, equally traumatized by her cuddly sociopath of a boss.

Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman as a pair of bored government spooks who Grocer sets on Blank.

MAGNUM FORCE’s Mitch Ryan — a Dirty Harry sidekick! — as the dad of Blank’s high school sweetheart (played by a very winning Minnie Driver).

Stuntman and martial artist Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, who probably has the movie’s single best line. (“It is I…”)

 

 

In retrospect, GROSSE POINTE BLANK is a bit less successful in its action-movie moments as it is any time it’s being a hyper-verbal, deep, dark, and truly bizarre character study. But boy, it’s not like we ever get too many of those. I mean, technically this is a romantic comedy where plenty of people get shot dead.  My kind of movie entirely. If I were making movies, I’d probably make one like this (though maybe not as witty). We flatter ourselves with self-descriptions sometimes.

 

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And in case you were ever wondering where the name of my site came from, now you know!

 

 

 

 

Fire away at me on Twitter: @jonnyabomb