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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thoughts on horror and scares

Heading back to LA on Thursday. Last stretch of packaging on Slaughter and Digger. Gonna have some announcements on those soon, but best wait til the news is public. Of course you understands. Gracias.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been watching a lot of horror movies. Mostly bad. Kind of tells ya something, especially because we have two on tap for the summer. Hopefully we can make something scary, and hopefully, good as well. Scary first. Scary is a good start.

One thing I’ve noticed about the best horror movies is that it’s the acting, as much as anything else, that makes them work and frightening. I mean, the concept and script of course play their parts, but it’s the communication of fear from the actors to the audience that creates fear. So I suppose that what that tells us is that the fear that we feel when watching a horror movie is sympathetic. Its received from the feeling of the characters, and the better their ability (the actors) to convey that feeling and make us believe it as well, the better the movie works.

I guess that plays into a lot of elements, the believability thing that is. If the effects are not believable, i.e. too schlocky, or the stunts are poorly staged, then it affects the overall believability of fear – not as much as bad acting (to me), but to some degree.

I hope both movies will have the acting and overall believability that’s so necessary to scare the pants off of the audience.

What I am Watching

Lady in the Water - Omigod. What the hell was that. Worse than expected, despite a valiant effort from the always excellent Paul Giamatti.

Idle Hands - Well, at least Jessica Alba is in it.

Dexter - a must see tv series on Showtime. Excellent, consistent, interesting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Classic Email Exchange from Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) and Mark Brazill, EP of That Seventies Show, c. 2001.

Don't have a cow, man

BY Judd Apatow and Mark Brazill

PUBLISHED March 2002

From an exchange of emails in fall 2001 between Judd Apatow, the creator of the sitcoms Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared and a successful writer of Hollywood screenplays, and Mark Brazill, the creator of That '70s Show. Topher Grace is one of the stars of That '70s Show.

* * *
Mark,

I am writing you because I left a message but did not hear back. I understand that you were upset about me not calling you to ask if Topher could do our show. Since Fox executives were talking to Topher about it, I thought it was cool with you. Also, since I hadn't written it yet, I wasn't at the point of asking if it was possible to have him do it. I would have called your show then. I didn't realize it would create a problem. I never wished to offend you. If there is some protocol for people on Fox doing guest shots on other Fox shows, I didn't know what it was. Regardless, I'm sorry that this resulted in such a mess. If you are mad at me about this or something else from our past, please tell me. I only remember us having fun in the early nineties and it troubles me that it seems like you have a beef with me.

Best regards,

Judd Apatow

* * *
Judd,

Yeah, we were friends in the early nineties. And if you don't recall what happened, I'll remind you. I had a pilot at MTV called "Yard Dogs" about a rock band living in Hollywood. I told you about it and you proceeded to completely rip it off, storyline and all, for the Ben Stiller show. You called it "Grungies." MTV and UTA [United Talent Agency] were working on an overall deal (MTV's idea) with me, based on that pilot. When it turned up on your show everything went away overnight. I had just had my son Jack and I had no job, no money, nothing. There's a saying, "I forgive but I don't forget. And I don't forgive." So, now you know. Although I kind of think that you already did.

Mark

* * *
Mark,

I truly don't remember anything you are talking about. Jeff Kahn wrote "The Grungies" sketch, a parody where we did Seattle bands as The Monkees. I don't remember you ever calling me after that saying you were mad. Ben and I would get fifty sketches a week from the writers and then we'd pick the ones that we thought were funny. I never connected the two. Even now they don't seem similar. Ours was a goofy over-the-top parody, not a situation comedy about musicians in L.A. Nobody watched our show so I don't see how that could be the reason your pilot died. I am sorry you are upset. I am not a thief of ideas. I'm sorry you believe differently.

Judd Apatow

* * *
Judd,

The show I wrote was also over-the-top and it let down the fourth wall. Since it's registered at the WGA [Writers Guild of America], you could compare the two. And as an Exec Producer, we both know you have input into every sketch. As for no one seeing the show, everyone knows everything in Hollywood. There are no secrets. Personally, I feel you've made a career out of being a sycophant to Carrey or Shandling or Roseanne, and when you weren't kissing ass you were stealing from lesser-known comics or leeching off other people's ideas ("Celtic Pride," "Cable Guy"). I noticed how outraged you were to not get a writing credit on "Cable Guy" until it came out and was panned. You dropped that cause like the showbiz weasel you are. You may not think you're a thief, but most comics know otherwise. And again, you know that too. Have you ever read "What Makes Sammy Run"? I think you'd like it. Get cancer.

Love,

Mark

* * *
Mark,

Come on, we all wrote for comics at the beginning of our careers. I wrote for Roseanne, you wrote for Dennis Miller. If that makes me a sycophant, then I guess I am. And so are the writers for "Caesar's Hour." I dropped my "Cable Guy" lawsuit not because the film got bad reviews but because I spent eighty grand on it and my lawyer told me I was going to lose. You would be upset if you rewrote the vast majority of a script and received no credit. I wish you had called me about this years ago. I'm sure we could have worked it out. Try not to be so angry. Not everyone is as bad as you think. You should call Jeff Kahn and ask him how that sketch originated. If it turned out that I didn't steal your idea would you still want me to get cancer? I swear to God that I didn't know you were mad about this. Until six weeks ago I was still referring to you as an old friend. Maybe one day I'll be able to say that again.

Judd Apatow

* * *
Mark,

It's come to my attention that you are upset with Judd Apatow about the sketch "The Grungies." I completely understand why you would have been pissed off about seeing something similar to what you were working on at the time. However, the idea for "The Grungies" and all the initial writing and rewriting came from me. I also cast it, acted in it, and edited it. I was and still am influenced by pop music, and I thought it would be funny to satirize the seriousness of the Seattle grunge music scene with the ridiculous superficiality of "The Monkees" 1960s show. I hope that this clears up any misunderstanding. By the way, I am a huge fan of "That '70s Show." Congratulations on its well-deserved success. I also think it's cool you set it in Wisconsin. I went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison and loved it. If you have any other questions don't hesitate to email me.

Jeff Kahn

* * *
Mark,

I have no interest in talking with you on the phone anymore. I know you are very successful and think that gives you the right to judge people and berate them regardless of the facts, but I have had enough of you for one day. I know it's hard to believe that your rock band TV idea, which every writer in this town has thought of at one point, was not on my mind half a year after you told it to me. Yes, you thought of breaking the fourth wall. Groucho and George Burns stole it from you. Why don't you sue the guys who have that new show "How to Be a Rock Star" on the WB? I must have told them your idea. Nobody has ever goofed on rock bands, not "Spinal Tap" or The Rutles or 800 "Saturday Night Live" sketches. I should have told everyone on the show, no rock band sketches, that's Brazill's area. So hold on to your hate and rage, even though it makes no sense. I'll go back to my life of thievery and leeching. As for the cancer, I'll wait till you get it and then steal it from you. By the way, that joke was one of my writers', Rodney Rothman (see, I credited him). See, I have no original thoughts. Sorry I bothered to figure this out.

Judd

* * *
Judd,

How appropriate that you had to use someone else's joke to take a swipe at me. I told you my idea. You did it two weeks later, VERBATIM. Spew revisionist shit all you want. Everyone knows you're a hack. Also, everyone knows how you fucked over Paul Feig on the new show. All your press mentions "your" brilliant "Freaks and Geeks," as if Feig didn't even do the series. It must have killed you when the true genius behind it got nominated for an Emmy. Is your wife still livid about someone in the neighborhood building a house just like hers? Tell her I know how she feels. The reason I called was to tell you to piss off. We'll never be "friends," regardless of the pussy whining from your last email. I respect you zero. See ya at the upfronts, bitch! Well . . . unless you get canceled before that. Until then, die in a fiery accident and taste your own blood. (Is that too angry?)

Love,

Brazill

* * *
Mark,

I hope your anger is a joke, because if it isn't . . . wow. Here's a line by line reply. I have starred (*) the replies if you are confused by my format.

>How appropriate that you had to use someone else's joke to take a swipe at me.

***That was the joke. How interesting that you couldn't understand that. You would think someone with the lineage of "Yard Dogs" would have the intellectual acumen to pick up on that. I feel for the writers that have to pitch to you. Never doubt how much they hate you.

>I told you my idea. You did it two weeks later, VERBATIM. Spew revisionist shit all you want.

***How could I hear your idea, steal it, and then have it air two weeks later? It was a filmed sketch show. Sketches were written months before they aired. They were filmed six weeks before they aired. I thought you were a producer. Shouldn't you understand how these shows are made? Do you start writing episodes two weeks before they air? Maybe you stole "Yard Dogs" from me.

>Everyone knows you're a hack.

***That's why I kiss the ass. Let me know who thinks I am a hack so I can kiss their ass as well. I also suck dick lately. That's how I got my Dreamworks deal.

>It must have killed you when the true genius behind it got nominated for an Emmy.

***I'm sure it's hard for you to believe, but I do not control the national media. That is only true in your paranoid mind. If I create a show they often mention the last show. When they write about "That '80s Show" I am sure they won't ever mention "That '70s Show." I wrote an entire article in the "L.A. Times," a cover story in the calendar, that credited Paul for his work. He went from a struggling actor to an established writer/producer over the course of a year. He is still my friend and I am very happy that he was nominated for two Emmys. He deserved it. I wasn't upset about his Emmy nominations, I already have enough. The certificates are so big you can only hang so many before it starts looking tacky.

>Is your wife still livid about someone in the neighborhood building a house just like hers?

***Yes.

>Tell her I know how she feels.

***I'm on it.

>The reason I called was to tell you to piss off. We'll never be "friends," regardless of the pussy whining from your last email.

***The funniest part of these emails is how bad your sense of humor is. You neither get nor can tell a joke. After you said "get cancer" did you really think I was looking to heal our relationship? Usually the cancer insult is a closer. I'm sure everyone who has suffered with that appreciates your sharp wit.

>I respect you zero.

***Oh no.

>See ya at the upfronts, bitch! Well . . . unless you get canceled before that.

***If you think cancellation hurts me at this point, you haven't been following my career as closely as I thought. I guess you are too busy tracking my real estate problems.

>Until then, die in a fiery accident and taste your own blood.

***That's a Sam Kinison line, you stupid fuck!!!! Hypocrite!!!! J'accuse!!!!

>(Is that too angry?)

>Love, Brazill

***Mark, I have enjoyed this. It's good to see the tragedies of the past few months haven't watered down your passion. I guess if Mark Brazill doesn't go insane over stuff that makes no sense, the terrorists win. Good luck with "That '80s Show." And I look forward to "That '90s Show."

Judd Apatow

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What I am Reading, Watching

William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade - Funny, and interestingly off base sometimes with respect to its predictions of the future (It was written 20 years ago). Its interesting also, to read the writing of those who have made it in the entertainment biz because they are always, to some degree, spinning. They don't totally give it to you straight, because they may have to work with the people about whom they are writing again, or they may just run into them at a dinner party. In any event, this industry classic is more than worth the read for any screenwriter.

Watching...yes, more horror.

The Ring Two - Snore. Chuckle. Snore.
Evil Breed - Porn Stars and Richard Grieco in a "horror movie" - add it up. Very high scores on cliche and unintentional comedy, though. Never saw I guy get strangled by his colon before.
From Dusk Til Dawn II: Texas Blood Money - looks like they were missing Bob Kurtzman on this one. I saw it on SciFi, so it was cut with commercials, so I can't really give much of a real opinion though.

Friday, June 22, 2007

no explanation needed

Still More What I am Watching (You think I get off the couch?)

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown: Leguizamo and Romano can make anything sound good. Starts slow, but pretty decent overall.
High Tension: Yes, I'd never seen it. Quite an exercise in style. An interesting point - I think horror fans particularly forgive the serious plot flaws of the movie, because its so stylish and the violence is so...violent. Its a fun exercise, and Alexandre, well, you see the chops that got him Hills Have Eyes, and entry into the Splat Pack. Got its limitations, but overall worth the ride.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

AFI again rates 'Kane' as top movie

AFI again rates 'Kane' as top movie
By DAVID GERMAIN, AP Movie Writer 10 minutes ago
LOS ANGELES - The years have been kind to "Citizen Kane," including the last decade. The 1941 Orson Welles classic — the story of a wealthy young idealist transformed by scandal and vice into a regretful old recluse — was again rated the best movie ever Wednesday by the American Film Institute.

In the CBS special "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Movies — 10th Anniversary Edition," "Citizen Kane" held the same No. 1 billing it earned in the institute's first top-100 ranking in 1998.

There were notable changes elsewhere, though, with Martin Scorsese's 1980 masterpiece "Raging Bull" bounding upward from No. 24 in 1998 to No. 4 on the new list and Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller "Vertigo" hurtling from No. 61 to No. 9 this time.

Charles Chaplin's 1931 silent gem "City Lights" jumped from No. 76 to No. 11, while the 1956 John Ford-John Wayne Western "The Searchers" took the biggest leap, from No. 96 all the way to No. 12.

"The ones that made the huge jumps are really, really fascinating," said Jean Picker Firstenberg, chief executive at AFI, which has done top-10 lists every year since 1998 showcasing best comedies, thrillers, love stories and other highlights in American cinema.

"I'd like to think this entire series has had a real influence on what people think about a film like `City Lights,' `The Searchers,' `Vertigo.' Gotten them talking about these films and going back to watch them again, and if they've never seen them, to go watch them for the first time."

Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 epic "The Godfather" ranked No. 2, up one notch from 1998, switching places with Michael Curtiz's 1942 favorite "Casablanca," which dipped from second-place to third.

Both 1967's "The Graduate" and 1954's "On the Waterfront," which ranked Nos. 7 and 8 respectively in 1998, fell out of the top 10, "The Graduate" coming in at No. 17 and "On the Waterfront" finishing at No. 19.

The other five films in the new top 10 also were among the original 10 best, though they shuffled positions: 1952's "Singin' in the Rain (No. 5 now, No. 10 in 1998), 1939's "Gone With the Wind" (No. 6 now, No. 4 in 1998), 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia" (No. 7 now, No. 5 in 1998), 1993's "Schindler's List" (No. 8 now, No. 9 in 1998) and 1939's "The Wizard of Oz" (No. 10 now, No. 6 in 1998).

The top-100 were chosen from ballots sent to 1,500 filmmakers, actors, writers, critics and others in Hollywood from a list of 400 nominated movies, 43 of which came from the decade since the first list was compiled.

Of those newer films, only four made the top-100: 2001's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (No. 50), 1998's "Saving Private Ryan" (No. 71), 1997's "Titanic" (No. 83) and 1999's "The Sixth Sense" (No. 89).

Older films that did not make the cut on the 1998 list broke into the top-100 this time, led by Buster Keaton's 1927 silent comedy "The General" at No. 18. Others included 1916's "Intolerance" (No. 49), 1975's "Nashville" (No. 59), 1960's "Spartacus" (No. 81), 1989's "Do the Right Thing" (No. 96) and 1995's "Toy Story" (No. 99).

Some silent-era classics and other old films may have fared better this time because they are more readily available in good quality restorations in today's DVD age as opposed to the VHS days.

Films that dropped out of the top-100 this time included 1965's "Doctor Zhivago," which had been No. 39 on the 1998 list; 1984's "Amadeus," which had been No. 53; 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which had been No. 64; 1990's "Dances With Wolves," which had been No. 75; and 1927's "The Jazz Singer," which had been No. 90.

"Close Encounters" director Steven Spielberg had the most films on the list with five, while Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder each had four. James Stewart and Robert De Niro were the most-represented actors with five films apiece.

In interviews for Wednesday's special, filmmakers and others in Hollywood told AFI they loved the behind-the-scenes story of "Citizen Kane" as much as the film itself, said Bob Gazzale, who produced the AFI show.

It was the first movie by Welles, who bucked studio and storytelling conventions to craft a landmark film about the rise and fall of a William Randolph Hearst-like newspaper publisher.

The film was ahead of its time, a dark tale whose brooding design, murky lighting, overlapping dialogue and ripped-from-true-life Hearst connection created an unnerving sense of realism.

"No one disputes it's a great American film, but what you hear from the great artists of our day is the love they have for this ideal of a young maverick making a movie like this, that a 25-year-old Orson Welles changed the fabric of cinema, and that that ideal still holds today of this jewel everybody reaches for," Gazzale said.

"It's not only the movie, but the embodiment of the man who broke all the rules to tell his story."

While AFI officials have not decided if they will continue the annual lists in coming years, Firstenberg said the institute will do a new list of all-time best American films every 10 years as a guide to changing tastes in future decades.

"With this new list, it became clearer the value of this program was to have five lists to chart rather than one 50-year-old list," Gazzale said. "It's not only celebrating the films again and driving people to see them again, but we get to see what's gone up, what's gone down."

What I am Reading, Watching

Reading: What Just Happened, Art Linson (again, and even better than Pound of Flesh).
Watching: the last few episodes of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, before it goes off the air
Paul Schrader's Dominion - Exorcist Prequel - Paul Schrader dont do horror
Waiting - A rueful guilty and very funny (at moments) pleasure, falling squarely within the humor range of an eighth grader. Perfect, right?

Jury Duty Bloggin

Yes. Its true, don’t laugh.

OK. Laugh. Go ahead. Recycle your salami. What the fuck do I care? Not like I asked to be here.

I think I will be dodging a bullet on this one. I am on the second day. They called a 130 names yesterday out of maybe 200, but I wasn’t called. When they call you, you are one of a group to potentially serve as a juror. Usually they pull about six or seven times more than they need to empanel a jury. The others are released back to the pool.

Wait, they just called me in. Its only 12:30 and they are releasing me. I am free for six years.

Free I tell you. Free Free Free. Fly Little Birdies.

Monday, June 18, 2007

More Watch List, Read List

Watching
Exorcist II: The Heretic (ugh)
Exorcist III

Reading
Art Linson's A Pound Of Flesh - from the producer of Untouchables, Fight Club - very entertaining

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Watch List

The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Cache (Hidden)

Wolfen (not the first time).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

New Movies

One of the things that I love about movies is the fact that you can be surprised, delighted and amazed by a movie unexpectedly. (Unfortunately, that’s become a little too infrequent with the onslaught of studio pablum that gets released.) Another great aspect of this is that a new movie, for lack of a better way of describing it, is any movie you haven’t seen before.

I watch a lot of movies. A lot. But there are always bunches that I want to see, intend to see, read about, hear about. I love the actors, and the storyline sounds intriguing, but for some reason, it falls in between the cracks and I don’t see it during its initial release in theaters, video or television. But the movie has already registered in my personal consciousness and forms part of an unwritten list of movies that I am going to see. (And Netflix’s queue system is actually a perfect analog for this, though my problem is that I often have rentals sitting around for months, so I don’t always get through the queue at all, and it is 120 rentals long).

One of the movies that’s been near the top of this list for quite some time is “The Station Agent.” And what is so great about the fact that its held a place on my own, personal list is that I finally watched it, and it was worth holding a place in my consciousness for that long. Its quite a good movie.

I don’t want to write a full on review of the movie here, because if you’ve seen it, you probably don’t need my review, just read Roger Ebert’s, he’s better at this stuff than I am (though, IMHO, his review gives away a little too much about the movie, so be careful if reading before seeing the movie, or while watching it, something i do sometimes). And if you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to take away anything from your viewing of the movie. Just let me say that cast and direction don’t get much better, Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Canavale (for whom my respect, already high, has gone even higher now), Michelle Williams, and a wonderful Raven Goodwin. It’s a winner of bunches of awards, including a BAFTA Award for the Script, Audience Award at Sundance and an Independent Spirit Award for Patricia Clarkson (who is good but by no means alone in a strong perf).

Walk, don’t run (you might fall), to your video store and rent it. Or Amazon it, its worth owning, or Netflix it. here. And enjoy. Lemme know what you think.

Grumps.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Masses Speak

Well, maybe not the masses, but those with websites.

Both of my last two posts, on top horror movies, and on the last Sopranos, have been covered again and again on the internet. Its interesting, almost all of our horror picks are uniformly present on these other lists at various places.

The Sopranos thing (of ours?) is mostly very negative, from my perusing. I seem to be one of very few, other than Kevin Smith, who seems to have given David Chase a pass.

Btw, I watched Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead yesterday, and while I really liked it, I thought, in a recurring theme on this blog, that the ending kinda sucked. Lots of action with no resolution. The opposite of the last Sopranos episode?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Leaving Jersey



So you may be wondering, probably not, but you may be wondering, what I thought of the last Sopranos.

As every person with his senses in the western world (and maybe much of the rest) knows, Tony and company made their last bows on Sunday, in a very controversial episode that wrapped up about ten years and eight seasons of Sopranos. The irony of the fact that the episode was controversial derives from the fact that very little actually happened, and even more from the fact that it didn’t provide answers as to the fates of most of the main characters, in particular, Tony Soprano. Instead, as you all likely know, the screen just went black at the end of the episode, and then it was over.

When the episode was over, I have to admit, I reran (on TiVo) the last thirty seconds to make sure that my TV hadn’t played a cruel trick. I mean, of course, it immediately occurred to me that the ending was left open by David Chase, and that nothing was wrong with the cable. I saw a short film of the Lady and the Tiger in elementary school (maybe I read it too) and I’ve been very well versed on open endings ever since.

My doubt crept in because my initial reaction to the open ending was that it was highly unsatisfactory and that it was a cheat of people who have stayed with the show over the years, waiting through the long off-seasons, watching the last few which, quite frankly, didn’t always have the zip of the earlier seasons (I particularly missed Ralphie, not that he was around for that long). But I fancy myself some kind of half-assed intellectual, at least with respect to film and things related, and I think some paert of me could appreciate the fact that Chase didn’t necessarily want to tie up the storylines in a neat package. Actually watching these last few episodes, I was a little bit prepared for that ending because I didn’t see anyway to really tie everything up in any kind of satisfactory manner given the limited amoung of time left. And as each week of this final season passed, that seemed to be so much more the case.

But what about this episode. Was it so terrible? If your favorite Sopranos tend to be the gorier, plot-driven mob business episodes, then it definitely was like old canoli. But even for you folks (I am not sure I am one of you, but I am not sure I am not), there were some great moments, like Tony’s visit with Junior (“You and my dad ran North Jersey” “That’s nice,”) was a great way to wrap up the show. In fact, to me, it might have made a lot more sense to wrap up the show with that scene with Tony and Junior, in that way, which could have showed both the scope of the show over the whole of the series, and at the same time, the basic existentiality of the characters (and through them, us) because in the end, all of Junior’s actions became meaningless and disappeared in his own memory. And then, by implication, Tony’s too, and yours and mine. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

More of my problem with the last episode has to do with my problems with the last season or two. Some of the storylines lacked the firepower (hehe) of previous ones. I couldn’t stand the AJ storyline, listening to his whining all the time, his depression. I am not saying the storyline didn’t make sense, Tony passing his empty soul down to his son, but it was like beating a dead horse, and I just didn’t want to spend so much time with this one note character. When he briefly perked up for a while when hanging with the fraternity boys, it improved, but then the storyline reverted and there was nothing new and interesting.

Part of me does feel like they cheated us the last few seasons. While there were good and developed storylines, including this beef with the NY family, there were lots of developments that just seemed to go nowhere, and new characters who were introduced simply for the purpose of being whacked out an episode or two later (like my friend and former client John Bianco). For example, what ever happened to the storyline with Bobby killing the guy in Montreal? That storyline never went anywhere, so why introduce it? And there are many examples of these types of storylines.

And because I am a producer, I always have my doubts about motivation for the direction of any show. Are they cutting down the action to save money? Its always a consideration, in any business, show business included. The well was going to run dry, so why not spend less to make the shows, which results in more for producers and key cast that has leverage. Is it true? I don’t know, but there definitely seemed to be less action in the last two years.

What does seem clear, at least at this point, is that they didn’t leave it open ended for a movie. There seems to be very little interest on David Chase’s part to do a Sopranos movie. I bet Tony Sirico would do it though.

All in all, I got a lot of enjoyment out of the Sopranos. I didn’t start watching it from the beginning, I think I caught up after it had been on two seasons already and was on its third. I had the great pleasure of getting to watch the first two seasons over a week or two period, and those seasons were terrific, the basis of the franchise. It built HBO into the powerhouse that it is. So I can’t complain too much if the last few seasons, the Vito Spatafore storyline (Johnnycakes) and the AJ stuff and some of the other storylines felt a little weak and diluted. How many shows are ever so good that they create this level of discussion? How many shows are ever this good that a mediocre episode or season can create the level of discontent that the final episode did?

I am glad to have been a Sopranos fan. It is a show with some of the best writing, acting, and most compelling characters ever produced. And it ushered in an era of television being edgier and more risk-taking, more anti-hero oriented than ever before. And that has ultimately led to some of my favorite shows, like The Shield (don’t comment you haven’t seen it, I will lose all respect for you). So I can’t complain, but you can.

Hit me.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Top 25 Horror Films to Date: Wrapping It Up

FINAL UPDATE, June 10, 2007
Well, we've gone through another one of these lists, and Im wrapping it up based on everyone's comments. I don't know that i am totally satisfied with my, ahem, I mean, our list, but it is our list, and this really cannot go on and on forever, can it. I mean, we have to finish it. Like the great horror movies, they come to a close.

Um, wait, actually alot of them have sequels. And remakes. So maybe thats not the best analogy. But just jump down to the bottom of the entry, you can find the last bunch. And then, you can lemme have it on all the omissions.

YET ANOTHE UPDATE, June 2, 2007
Its the nite before the tenth PictureStart Film festival and I am just getting used to having my mac back. I've been on a slow PC all week long, and now I am back among the 21st century dwellers. Anyway, need to respond to some of these comments, and bring the list up to date.

DONT GET LAZY, WE"RE NOT THERE YET.
I've succumbed to some other subgenres including Aliens and The Thing on the list, as well as action/adventurer/natural monster movie Jaws, which is arguably the best movie on the list.


SECOND UPDATE, May 28, 2007
Wow, so we have a lot of respondents, including one, John, who nearly wrote his own blog on horror. It kind of raises the issue of what qualifies as horror (at least for the very minor purposes of this survey). Horror has many sub-genres, including monster movies, slasher, ghost/supernatural, torture, and comedy, to name a few. There are also the thriller horror crossovers, like Se7en and Silence of the Lambs and perhaps the Omen (listed below, but maybe more horror, if only judging by the amount of gore in that movie vs. its contemporaries)and the Exorcist. I guess when I was thinking of this, while I thought about the old Universal horror stuff, and the old monster movies, I wasn't necessarily considering that sub-genre. Nor was I particularly considering other related genre movies like Tod Browning's Freaks, or action/sci-fi movies like James Cameron's great Aliens, or monster action like Blade, and straight thrillers like Diabolique, which I saw when I was seventeen or eighteen, and which my father always described as the scariest movie he had ever seen. I guess where one draws the line is somewhat arbitrary.

Do Lon Chaney and more importantly, Bela Lugosi, belong on this list somewhere. Yeah, of course (not that they care), but that again raises the issue of where to draw the line. Lugosi is one of the godfathers of horror. But movies like Phantom of the Opera, to me, dont really feel right on this list. Great, influential in effects, acting technique, maybe even music (though I believe it would have been performed live, no?), yes, but horror, not so sure.

Anyway, with the obvious issue of arbitrariness now out in the open, lets update the list a bit.

FIRST UPDATE
My mac is broken (ugh, took it to apple in soho today, waited forever so that they could send it back - i should have it back in a few days or a week (maybe ten???) but if my computer skills (or for those of you who know me, my email response time) is less than stellar, well, now I have an excuse) and Im working on my ass-old PC.

The updated list from your write-ins is below. And I may up it to 30, because it appears I may have bit off more than I can chew. And just cuz your suggestion didnt make it in yet, doesnt mean it wont, I am just conserving space for the time being.

Cool thing about the list, it makes a good netflix or to watch list for aspiring horrorphiles.
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So by request, I was asked to write a blog about the best horror movies ever made (before I started making em, right- maybe I’ll make one some day that can be on the list). I didn’t really do anything about the request, and I certainly know a bunch about horror, but would not consider myself an authority at all. I’m no Eli Roth (haha, wink wink).

What we did before here was to let people make their comments about the best teen movies of all time. Given my immersion in the horror world over the last six months or so, seems like a good time to make a new list, a horror list. I went to the horror Fango Con in Burbank this past Sunday, to hang with Bob Kurtzman, special fx wizard and the director of upcoming films like Dimension Films’ Buried Alive, and the independently produced The Rage. Bob is an authority on horror, and his work shows it. He’s also a great guy and I think we’ll be working together for a long time, or at least I hope so.

So anyway, now I am sitting in my little hovel in Hollywood, and having grabbed a bunch of DVD’s from the main house, I’ve been focusing on watching horror in preparation for Digger and Slaughter. So because of this, I have the first two (lets go for twenty five) entries, films I watched yesterday and today, for the list. Lets get the list (and blood) flowing.

1. Psycho – An original. Groundbreaking, and a film that has been copied from so much, in films considered classic themselves, like Silence of the Lambs, Dressed to Kill, and this next film…
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Toby Hooper’s classic horror oevre. I remember watching it at age 13 or 14 in Garden City. Middle of summer, late nite, everyone else was asleep. After the girl got hung on the hook by Leatherface, I proceeded to close every window on the first floor and lock em. Remarkably, there is next to no gore or blood in this movie. Other than a few rotting corpses, its all done by suggestion.
3.Halloween- Simply one of the best, and deserving of a top stop on any list. Back story goes that Moustafa Akkad approached John Carpenter after seeing Precinct Thirteen and told him that he wanted him to write and direct a movie about babysitter murderers. Carpenter and Debra Hill sat down and wrote Halloween in three weeks, on spec. They made the movie, and history, for about 300K (1979 style or whenever that was, maybe 1978).
4.Scream - One of the great scripts, one that took an overwraught genre and turned it on its head. Not the craziest about Neve in the role, but no one is perfect. Totally reinvigorated a dying (nopunintended) genre.
5. The Shining- The definition of scary. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven't why are you sitting there.
6. The Exorcist - The thinking man's (or woman's) supernatural horror thriller. Maybe not as gory as some of the entries on the list, but cemented into the minds of everyone who saw it. Created a sensation when it was released, with lines around the block, becoming one of the original blockbusters (without the bloated budget). Hopefully, Friedkin's return to the genre, Bug, will hold a candle, but I digress.
7. Suspiria - Considered by many to be Dario Argento's masterpiece for your more erudite horror fan, cant leave out the foreign entries, which brings us to...
8. The Ring (Japanese version)- the start of the japanese horror remake brigade, with The Grudge, which we making slaughter happily understand.
9. The Omen (original) - Gregory Peck and Lee Remick in another child-oriented supernatural thriller, with Richard Donner at the helm. The original is really good, a point made more clear when you watch the remake (which has its moments, mostly involving Mia Farrow and Pete Postelthwaite).
10. Night of the Living Dead - One of the groundbreakers in low budget horror and the godfather of Zombie movies.
11. Nightmare on Elm Street - The house in the first one was recently for sale in LA. Thanks, I will keep renting. Pirates on Elm Street, anyone (Johnny Depp's jump to movies from tv - and another Wes Craven entry).
12. Evil Dead - while i prefer its comedic sequel (remake), one of the standard bearers in no-budget horror, complete with arborial rape.
13. Alien/Aliens - Ridley Scott sci-fi horror (yeah so I guess the parallel works) with Sigourney running around in her underwear while we all wonder if the cat has the alien inside of it. And action horror sequel, from the sequel-meister James Cameron, with great performance from Weaver (Oscar-nommed), Bill Paxton and Paul Reiser.
14. Jaws - By proclamation, this great movie is a horror movie, for purposes of this list. A masterful piece of cinema, not just belonging on the great horror movies list (as if), but on the list of the great American movies.
15. The Thing - John Carpenter's 1979 remake classic with another great alien monster that had some unbelievable effects and more of his go to guy, the incomparable Kurt Russell.
16. Dawn of the Dead (2004) - Widely considered, here and elsewhere, a modern horror masterpiece, better than the recent Rodriguez entry in Grindhouse.
17. Poltergeist - Still the subject of a raging debate as to whether this is a Tobe Hooper movie or a Spielberg movie (answer is, probably both), has some of the great spooks and plenty of gore for the bloodhounds.
18. Manhunter - Michael Mann directing William Petersen and Brian Cox, with great villany and support from Tom Noonan as the toothfairy. Perhaps not as well knownm as the other entries on the list, and unfairly so. A great movie. Which brings us to...
19. Silence of the Lambs - I couldn't justify not including Jonathan Demme's scarer while including Michael Mann's movie which covers most of the same ground. I have to admit, I don't know why Mann's feels more horrific than Silence, maybe its the lower budget. Perhaps neither of them belong on the list, I don't know, but I love them both and enough of you said they belong.
19. American Werewolf In London - A great exercise is horror/comedy that works, because its scary and never lets up, and the Rick Baker gore factor is in full effect.
20. Carrie - There is nothing quite as terrifying as a high school girl without a date for the prom. Not one of my personal favorites, but
21. Salem's Lot - Yet another Stephen King entry. I saw this movie, and I cannot remember much about it except for the vampires having a very scary, cool look. Anyway, Heidi, now its on here. So shuddup.
22. Hellraiser - Great villains, another that isnt quite one of my favorites, but got seconded a few times, (or thirded? fourth-ed?), and Pinhead rulls. So lets do it. And it gets Clive Barker on the list.
23. Saw, which began the huge horror resurgence in the last seven to ten years and set the initial baseline in torture/horror.
24. The Amityville Horror - Original scarer was not a movie, it was a part of the average kid's consciousness after it came out. One of the best uses ever of the "Based on a True Story" marketing hook of all time, and a darn scary movie killed by terrible sequels (and a doughy remake).
25. Frankenstein - Needed to have some classic old school horror, and Boris Karloff somewhere on this list.

So Many Honorable Mentions: Friday the 13th (very much a genre creator), Hostel, From Dusk Til Dawn, House of A Thousand Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, The Grudge, Curse of the Catpeople, Freaks, Prom Night, The Fly (Cronenberg), Re-Aminator, Murnau's Nosferatu, The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney version), Murder in the Rue Morgue, The Grudge, The Phone, Ichi The Killer, High Tension, Magic (which I absolutely love and is scary as fuck), The Birds, Evil Dead II/III/ Bubba Ho-Tep), Phantasm, The Blair Witch Project, The Eye, The Sixth Sense (which I really like but leave off the list cause I dont really consider it horror, and many consider it a gimmick movie) and Jacob's Ladder (another great great, is it Horror entry) and Angel Heart (yet another, left off maybe for more than this, but a fascinating, stylish, although flawed entry from Alan Parker), Masque fo the Red Death, Braindead (aka Dead Alive), Blade, Misery, 28 Days Later, Hell Night (a personal fave for no particular reason)I Walked with a Zombie, Diabolique (again left off as I can't really consider it horror), King Kong (1933), Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, Cujo, Candyman, and April Fools Day.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vote for a movie goddammit :)

Come on people. Weigh in. We're only at 19. Can't just be John and Bobby and Scott and Bitter and a few others. I know you're out there. Silent. Stalkers. Leave a comment. It wont hurt. Im sure there is some movie that sends chills up your spine, or second someone else's vote.

Now, go.