Sunday, March 26, 2006

Strangers in the Night

Gary has been hounding me to write a piece on the short film we made, “Strangers in the Night”. I think, for better or for worse, a film, long or short, should stand on it’s own without an explanation from the filmmakers. With that in mind, I won’t talk about the story itself. But I will talk a little about the making of the film and how it all came about.

Gary and I had been working on a full length screenplay called “Bar Stories”. The premise of this script was quite simple: We would follow different stories that all originated from the same place, the “Bar” of the title. While this script was, at best, uneven, it did have a lot of heart.

When I decided to attend the Motion Picture Pro Course in New York City, I needed an idea for a six minute short. Gary and I plucked part of one of these “Bar Stories”. We did quite a few rewrites, getting the script down to about ten pages. Unfortunately, real life interfered with “reel” life and Gary could not be present for the actual shooting.

My instructor at the school was Ralph Toporoff. He has been in the business for many years and had made his own full length feature, “American Blue Note”. Ralph and I did more rewrites on the script. We cut a few things here and there, trimmed some dialogue, and finally got the script down to a mere six pages. (For some of you who might not know, one page of a screenplay equals about one minute of screen time.) I then started to storyboard and get my shot list in order.

We started the casting process, auditioning real New York actors. I met a lot of talented people in this process. So many in fact that it became tough to make a decision about who to cast! But, in the end, I’m happy with the choices I made.

Shooting went smoothly. We shot about four pages before lunch. The remaing two pages were shot that afternoon. We had to lay down dolly tracks, so it took a little longer to shoot. The cast and crew were all true professionals. It was a joy to work with them.

The film was cut over the next few days. As you now can see, "Strangers in the Night" really has three fathers: Ralph Toporoff, Gary and myself. And so, to make a long story short (pun intended) that’s about it. It was a great experience. What are my feelings now? I’d like to leave off with a quote from Orson Welles from his 1979 documenty “Filming Othello”.

“I leave you with a confession. This hasn’t been as easy as I could have wished. There are too many regrets. Too many things I wish I could have done over again. If it wasn’t a memory…If it was a project for the future, talking about Othello would have been nothing but delight. Promises are more fun than explanations…With all my heart I wish that I wasn’t looking back at Othello but looking forward to it…That Othello would be one hell of a picture…”

My shooting script of "Strangers in the Night". The straight lines with arrows at the ends are the shots. The numbers next to these lines refer to the shot number. The scribbled lines mean the shot has been completed.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Dawn of the Dead 2004

Let's get this straight. I don't like remakes.Given the current fashion in Hollywood, however, it looks like we're stuck with them, and thus, this had to be done sooner or later. And may well have increased my respect for what is rapidly becoming a genre on its own.

Or maybe just for James Gunn and director Zack Snyder.

What we got was what felt like true homage to me -- right down to a sweet cameo of Tom Savini -- liberally splashed with a gutful of gore that George Romero, the father of the modern zombie himself, no doubt would have loved to get his twisted mitts on.

They're bright enough not to mess too much with the Master's sociological insights, yet still manage some pretty decent character background and development -- even a little reformation for you moralists out there -- and, although Ving Rhames was as typecast as ever, it's always fun to watch him grunt a role out. Sarah Polley manages a combination of backbone and low-key likeability that is a relief from the shrill heroines of today's cinema. A thread of humor running throughout, highlighted by a hilariously-faithful swing version of Disturbed's "Down With the Sickness", kept things nicely well-rounded. Singalongable as hell, you'll be snapping along and singing it months later, and in the same smarmy tone, if you can manage it.

The true stars of the film? The makeup department. Gore, gore, and more gore -- they give us everything available to the modern makeup, prop and prosthetic artist and then some -- going to lengths you'll need to watch the DVD extras find out about. I frankly regressed to a 14 year old boy with every splash and splatter, driving Dear Hubby nuts with gleeful "awwwwwesomes!!!" at every in-your-face headshot and flying skull fragment. An incredibly detailed featurette on the makeup and props in the Extras section made me damn near want to rethink my career plans and start playing with corn syrup.

Which brings me to the other great thing about this film -- I've yet to see better Extra's on a dvd yet, and they served as inspired prologues and epilogues to what was already a stand-alone great horror film. What felt like inspired amateur work served to lock you in so completely to the suspension of disbelief that the subject matter required, that by the time it was all over, at least 2 hours later, I briefly regretted not boarding up my doors and windows.

From the perfectly-paced deterioration of Mr. Properly Coiffed TV Reporter to Andy's Lost'll be checking your home's weakspots too after this gleeful and intelligent splatterfest.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Scott Does A Musical Movie Marathon?!-Part 1 KISS ME KATE in 3D!

I have to admit, it there's one genre I really don't know too much about, it's the movie musical. I've always avoided most musicals. I just never gave them much of a chance. But when the Lafayette theatre in Suffern announced a Musical Film festival, I thought this would be a perfect chance to give some of the films I'd been avoiding their due. I would be able to see these movies on a big screen and in a wonderful atmosphere.

First up was "Kiss Me Kate" shown in it's original 3D format. This was one of my favorite films of the festival. A very clever adapation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" the story backstage mirrors the play onstage. The score is by Cole Porter and the film also features some early work by Bob Fosse. Also of note is the footwork of Tommy Rall.
What was great about seeing this film was that I got to meet some Tommy Rall fans, Beth & Jeremy, at the screening. Beth sent me some neat trivia about the film:

"A little trivia about Kiss Me Kate - the sailor who appeared at the end of "Always True to You..." is Hermes Pan, the choreographer of the film. He was a long time work partner of Fred Astaire and they looked a lot alike."

"The three male dancers choreographed their own sections of "From this Moment On" at the end of the movie. This was the world's first opportunity to see Bob Fosse's style. Also, the girl who danced with Bobby Van was Jeanne Coyne, an assistant to Gene Kelly and his future wife."

"Kathryn Grayson's character had to say the word "louse," because the censors wouldn't allow her to say "bastard," which was in the script for the original stage version."

Beth has a great site dedicated to all things Tommy Rall. It can be found here:

Coming in Part 2- Scott does a musical triple feature! "42ND Street" "Swing Time" & "Singin' in the Rain"!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hammer Glamour-Caroline Munro!!

Caroline Munro is arguably one of the most beautiful actresses to appear in a Hammer film. But what makes her so special is her genuine charm. You'll never hear a bad word about Caroline and that translates to the screen.

After making brief apperances in such films as "Casino Royale", Caroline landed her first big role in "Dracula AD 1972". The film takes place in "hip" London. Viewed today, the only thing that stays really hip are Lee, Cushing and Munro! (Although I must admit that I do also like the performance of Michael Coles as the Inspector) The film is a hoot and, taken with a grain of salt, fun to watch. Poor Caroline turns out to be Dracula's first victim in the film. The real missed opportunity for this flick is Caroline's early exit. She would have been a terrific vampire! Caroline talked a little about the experience of making the film on the Hammer documentary "Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror". "That was the first time in my short career (at that time) that I realized I wanted to act. That was really it. Because I believed in what I was doing." On working with Christoper Lee: "You don't have to act much because he's very frighting when he has all his gear on, his white face, the contact lenses. He's very tall! I'm not small and he's VERY tall! At that moment, I WAS bitten by Dracula and I believed it!"

"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" was also made in 1972 but the film was not released until 1974. Poor distribution hurt the films grosses but I think the film really stands up well today. It also provided Caroline with one of her best roles, that of the gypsy Carla. It's one of her favorites. Caroline talks about the film on the "Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror" documentary: "Possibly, (Kronos) was too romantic. Maybe it was either ahead of it's time or the other way. Maybe it was lost in time. I'm not too sure. The timing was wrong anyway." Ironicly, time has been kind to this film. Check out the DVD for the commentary track with Caroline and Director Brian Clemens.

Other non Hammer films that Caroline has appeared in. The fan favorite "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and as the ill fated Helicoptor Pilot Naomi in the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me".

A publiciy shot for a proposed "Vampirella" Hammer film that never got off the ground.

As Naomi in "The Spy Who Loved Me"

Christopher Lee surrounded by female cast of "Dracula AD 1972"

As the Gypsy Carla in "Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter".

Mina's blog questionnaire

List a couple of your "least"  favorite movies:

  • The Man Who Wasn't There -- one of the most incredibly
    depressing films I've ever seen. I'm sure that
    technically-speaking, it's impressively done, but when
    it was over I frankly wanted to kill myself.

  • Misery -- No doubt to avoid an R-rating, their depiction
    of Annie Wilkes was ridiculously tepid.

List a couple of your favorite movies:

  • Poltergheist -- the juxtaposition of thoroughly
    likable-yet-realistic suburban family alongside the eruption
    of decades-old erupting coffins, gave us a story that was all
    the more horrifying for our ability to identify and sympathize with them. That and they didn't pussy out on the gore.

  • Land of the dead -- Finally George can give it to us the way he's always wanted to because now he's fucking George, instead of just George! Plus I love Greg Nicotero's work. I also liked the strange emergence of Big Daddy as the film's first zombie anti-hero.

List a couple of your favorite directors:

  • Quentin Tarantino

  • George Romero

List a couple of favorite movie quotes (dialogue):

  • "Did you see a sign out in front of my house that said Dead Nigger Storage?", Qt -- Pulp Fiction

  • "Half! Give me half eddie. Give me half Mr. Fuck-you man", Eddie Murphy -- Raw

  • "You haven't a womb! Where's the fetus gonna gestate, you gonna keep it in a box?", Monty Python -- Life of Brian

List a couple of your favorite genres:

  • Horror

  • Heist

List a couple of your favorite movie moments( with or without dialogue):

  • When Bruce Willis shoots off Jack Black's hand with the 50 cal.
    in The Day of The Jackal.

  • When Shaun (of the dead) and Ed stare in shock at the female zombie in their backyard...then crack up, snickering, "She's so drunk".

A short paragraph on why you like movies and why you want to write about them here on this blog and what you hope to accomplish by putting your thoughts down here:

Movies are society's safty valve. Without regular doses of fantastical violence, we'd be left with no release and be forced to act out our aggressive fantasies on each other. Or maybe that's just me.

Anything else you would like to include on this Bio. sheet?:

Make something up for me and slap an 18+only warning label on it. xoxoxo

Scott's blog questionnaire

List a couple of your "least"  favorite movies:

  • Pearl Harbor and anything else directed
    by Michael Bay!

List a couple of your favorite movies:

  • North by Northwest

  • Yojimbo

  • The Maltese Falcon

  • Schindler's List

List a couple of your favorite directors:

  • Hitchcock

  • Kubrick

  • Scorsese

List a couple of your favorite movie quotes(dialogue):

  • "If they move, Kill em!", The wild bunch

  • "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the war room!", Dr. Strangelove

  • "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!", Casablanca

List a couple of your favorite genres:

  • Horror & Crime,  but I like any well told story.

List a couple of your favorite movie moments (with or without dialogue):

  • That last walk before all hell breaks loose in the Wild Bunch.

  • Janet Leigh's last moments in Psycho

  • Sterling hayden realizing it's all over in the last few minutes of The Killing.

  • Toshiro Mifune walking into town and seeing a dog with a human hand in it's mouth in Yojimbo.

A short paragraph on why you like movies and why you want to write about them here on this blog and what you hope to accomplish by putting your thoughts down here:

I hope to maybe influence someone who hasn't a clue to who Toshiro Mifune is. We have a wonderful history of great films.

Instead of getting that "hot" new release. I would love it if someone checked out a Kurosawa film for the first time. I hope to maybe turn someone on to a gem like "yojimbo".

Or let them know that Christopher Lee made some great films way before "The Lord of the Rings trilogy".Or that a great part of the influence on the "Star Wars" films comes from Lucas's love of Kurosawa's films.

I would love to get the "newbie" interested in classic films from the masters. And I hope to discover gems from others!

Anything else you would like to include on this bio. sheet?:

I miss my days at the chess and water polo clubs...My days of laughter...

Gary's blog questionnaire

List a couple of your "least"  favorite movies:

  • Any movie that tacks on a "happy ending" just for
    comercial purposes. Any movie that is more concerned
    with being "polically correct" instead of being truthful.

  • Oh and Forrest Gump, I hated that movie!

List a couple of your favorite movies:

I wanted to list my personal favorites, movies I've watched over and over...
  • Millers Crossing -- A coen brother's masterpiece.

  • Kiss Me Deadly -- Noir at it's parinoid best

  • King Kong vs. Godzilla -- Best Monster movie hands down.Only thing missing? Aliens trying to take over the world with the help of the monsters.

  • You only live twice -- I know almost every line of dialogue in this entire movie.

  • First Contact( Star Trek Next Generation) -- "We've engaged the Borg",....Nuff said.

List a couple of your favorite directors:

I wanted to list directors who had at least 4 or 5 masterpieces. When you watched their movies you knew you were watching art.
  • Alfred Hitchcock -- The master of suspense and the build up.

  • Woody Allen -- Funny is funny plus he's about the only one left who makes films that require thought.

  • Martin Scorsese -- He's always mentioned in any list of the best because he is one of the best.

  • Stanly Kubrick -- I regreat that we don't have more films by him., but if he had worked faster would the movies we do have have been as good?

  • Quentin Tarintino -- I have a love/hate relationship with him but I have to give him his props. Everything he's put out has been stellar.

List a couple of your favorite movie quotes (dialogue):

  • "Okay, nobody move, Popeye's here!", The French Conection

  • "Forget it jake, it's Chinatown", Chinatown

  • "This far And no farther!, First Contact (Star Trek The Next Generation)

  • "Godzilla!!!!!", King Kong vs Godzilla

  • "I'd hate to take a bit out of you, your a cookie full of arsenic", The sweet smell of success

List a couple of your favorite genres

  • Crime
  • Thriller
  • Action

List a couple of your favorite movie moments(with or without dialogue):

  • The 20 minute, totaly silent bank heist in the middle of the movie Riffi.

  • The overhead soaring shot of James Bond running across the rooftops of the Kobe docks in You only live twice.

  • Zefran Cochran jitterbugging while counsler Troi tries to explain the situation to Riker in First Contact.

  • Dallas hunting the Alien in the airshafts in Alien

  • Willard getting stinking drunk and exorcising his demons
    at the begining of Apocalypse Now

A short paragaph on why you like movies and why you want to write about then here
on this blog and what you hope to accomplish by putting your thoughts down here:

There are enough review sites already. I wanted to be a part of a place where you could explain how a movie personally touched you, be it an old one or new, and create a community of sorts where you had a give and take disscussion over it's merits.

Anything else you would like to include on the bio. sheet?

I regreat that this is too short and I have left out too many great movies...