Sunday, December 2, 2018

Obit: Nicolas Roeg ( 15 August 1928 - 23 November 2018)

Nicolas Roeg has worked on many films and Tv projects but his output as director is relatively small, only 14 films total. Starting out as a cinematographer on films like Lawrence of Arabia and Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451,  he earned a reputation for excellence - and eccentricity.

As a director he developed a style all of his own and hard to describe. He was able though editing, to pass the limits of space and time with a seamless cut or fade. many of his cuts would take you into the past or mind of the character and then back again with ease that only Roeg has ever accomplished in my opinion. It makes for fascinating, complex and sometimes confusing works of art.

He also broke the mold by hiring musicians as actors, rock musicians in particular. He saw in them the ability to project an image on stage that, while not traditionally acting, was nevertheless engaging and presented characters in a way trained actors had not done before.

Despite his acclaim and influence, not many, if any, of his movies were considered financial successes. Even his adaption of Roald Dhal's The Witches which boasted an over the op performance by Angelica Huston and puppetry by Jim Hensen's studio never made a splash a the box office that it should have. Even so, Roeg films had star power behind them. Actors like Donald Sutherland and his ex-wife Theresa Russel appeared in a several projects as did Christopher Loyd and Gary Oldman.

While the movie studios and theatre chains might not have given him the respect his work deserved, a couple generations of actors, film goers and critics (me included) mark him as one of the great filmmakers of all time.

There is nothing like a Nicolas Roeg film. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Documentary: Men for Sale 2008 directed by Rodrigue Jean

11 male sex orders are followed over the course of one year and open up about their lives, past and present. As you might imagine, it's pretty hard to watch and you won't feel sympathy for all the men presented I'm guessing. Though if you don't, you have some self reflection to do.

Simply filmed, the interviews are non-judgemental and very intimate. Needless to say, by the end of just one year, many of the subjects have slid downwards in every way possible, a couple seem to have  a have maybe changed their lives.

While started as a film about sex workers, it is more about drug addicts who have become sex workers, the sex work is  part of everything else they do to get drugs which includes robbery, etc.

I was left thinking how far we still have to go with getting people the mental health care they need sooner and with less stigma.

Many of the comments below the film wanted a follow-up and that would be amazing and heart breaking. I doubt it's possible to find these lost men after 10 years. I live where it was filmed and don't recognize any of them.

A hard watch but important.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Prophecy 1979 directed by John Fankenheimer

In a Halloween special review, the Celluloid Slammer brings you Prophecy... a late 70s horror film that is basically about a mutant bear attacking people. The mutant part is brought about by about by chemicals that are changing the wildlife into improbably deformed creatures. For example, a fish that eats a duck.

I saw his film in the cinema, the Everett Park Theatre outside of Boston, with much anticipation from all the full page ads, TV spots and trailers I had seen. Some mentions were made about being more of a thinking man's horror film with a message. That message was pretty much the same one as in Godzilla VS the Smog Monster, basically - don't pollute. Sadly thinking is not something the writers of this movie did much of, in my opinion. There are some suspenseful scenes at the start, a mystery about killed loggers and the introduction of a Native American legend possibly responsible but that all gets forgotten when we are face to face with the terrible man in a mutant bear suit. The lead up is for something big and horrifying and that bear isn't those things. It becomes unintentionally campy as it goes on, culminating on the best scene ever filmed in motion picture history.

The sleeping bag attack.

Even in 1979 I was rolling on the floor and to this day I have friends who will bring up as one of the stupidest things they have ever seen in a motion picture. Did that kid sleep with explosives? Seriously, that sleeping bag pops like a balloon!

See this movie? Maybe don't unless you have a banking for bad horror films or monster movies. It's all of clichés, bad acting, worse effects and even ends with the audience being made aware there is another mutant bear about, ready for a sequel. Thank goodness, that never happened!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tell Tale Heart at Another Hole in the Head film festival!

This year, the Another Hole in the Head film festival has chosen my short animated adaption for Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell Tale Heart to be part of the films shown!

If anyone is close, please go and be sure to mention to everyone how much you love my movie! I would like to keep making them and word of mouth is about all I can afford these days to find support for them!

15th Annual Another Hole in the Head
SF IndieFest’s Genre Film Festival
November 28 – December 12, 2018

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Excalibur 1981 directed by John Boorman

John Boorman's attempt to put the Arthurian legends into one coherent film was an enormous effort, one that I think pays off.

The film was a big success, something Boorman really needed after the failure of Exorcist II - the Heretic bombed at the box office. It was also a passion project for him and getting it on the screen was one of his most impressive accomplishments. Not everyone was sold on his interpretation of the legend or on the merits of the film - some saying the dialog and characters were poorly rendered but pretty much across the board, it was lauded for its visual style.

Spoilers and a really simplified plot synopsis.

The story is more centred around Merlin than Arthur which is a good choice as Merlin has first hand knowledge of much more going on than Arthur. It also allows us to see some back story of how the sward Excalibur is given to merlin form the Lady of the Lake and ends up in a stone and only able to be extracted from that stone by England's future king.

Arthur's personal tribulations of betrayal and ego lead to Morgan, an evil sorceress imprisoning Merlin and causing the kingdom to wither and die. Arthur has caught his wife sleeping with his best knight and friend, Lancelot and left Excalibur stuck in the ground between their sleeping bodies. Arthur goes on a quest to find and drink from the holy grail which restores both him and the kingdom to health. On his return his wife returns Excalibur to him and they reconcile. Lancelot, non the other hand, has left the kingdom out of shame and guilt from betraying his king and friend.

Meanwhile Morgan and her son Modred, whom she has produced from an incestuous relationship, have gathered their forces against Arthur and his remaining knights. Merlin tricks her into using up her powers and she loses her eternal youth, becoming an old hag. Her son, disgusted by this, kills her and goes off to conquer the kingdom. He is defeated by Arthur with the help of Lancelot who has returned to redeem himself in Arthur's eyes and the men reconcile in time for Lancelot to die with a clear conscience. A bloody battle between Arthur and Modred leaves Mordred dead and Arthur about to die. Before he passes into legend, Arthur manages to make his way back to the Lady of the Lake and returns Excalibur to her. He is last seen lying on a boat attended by three maidens on their way to the isle of Avalon.

This film is gorgeous. And I disagree that the characters and dialog are low points. It all works together to make a dreamlike spectacle that while it might be hard to keep ahold of the plot at times, like most dreams, makes its own sort of sense.

It started the careers of future stars like Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne. Nigel Terry makes a convincing King Arthur and Boorman keeps the supernatural and magic elements to a subdued minimum saving the effects budget for elaborate armour and incredible looking settings. The R rated version is pretty bloody,  but the explicit sex scenes with Nicholas Clay's full nudity is more likely the case for the adult rating. He pushed that further in Lady Chatterley's Lover with full frontal. So - not a shy boy. Not a bad actor either, his performance in this is a great asset to the movie.

This film really holds up to this day, Partly because of it's timeless setting but mostly because of the director's decision to focus on elements like character, costumes and set pieces instead of magical special effects which can really date a film quickly. it is long, but its also hypnotizing from start to finish.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

New Animation short: Dramatic Readings: Side Effects

This time out, Charles Webster Billingsworth the 3rd warns about the side effects of acne medications in his own dramatic style, of course.

Mike Luce again provides the voice and we pushed the performance farther this time. It's a third longer than other shorts with him as well. I originally had all the side effects of isotretinoin in the script and read out but seriously... the short would have been twice as long! I also took out things like suicide which while I could have made a joke from it, I decided against it and cut out some repetitious symptoms as well for time. It's not a real PSA afterall and I don't think Charles screaming every single symptom was really necessary to get the point across!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Harold and Maude 1971 directed by Hal Ashby

My first experience with this film was at the Harvard Square theatre in Cambridge, MA somewhere around 1979-1980 and was, maybe appropriately so, an odd one. As I approached the ticket booth I was pulled aside by the cinema management and I immediately thought they somehow knew I had a bottle of vodka hidden in my coat pocket but it was much stranger a reason. I was told I was getting in free for my excellent costume… apparently I looked exactly like Harold and for a free ticket I played along. I have never seethe movie, not did I know much about it but I have to say - they weren’t wrong - I truly did look like I was dressed as the main character. I left the cinema with a new favourite film that night and I had barely touched the vodka I bought. 


The story is quirky and certainly not for everyone. The humour is pretty dark but the emotional responses it brings are equally bright. Harold is a rich teenager, emo and goth long before they were a thing who tries to get his mother’s attention by faking suicide on a regular basis. He goes to funerals for people he doesn’t know and that’s where ehe meets Maude, a woman close to 80 and they fall in love. Maude is a firecracker, interest in death like Harold but a lot closer to it, in so many ways we discover as the film goes on, that she is hell bent on living as full and crazy a life as she can. She steals cars and trees. She poses nude. She teaches Harold how to live free and to enjoy what he has. 

There is a dark side to the humour and a dark side to Maude. Harold’s suicides attempts go beyond bad taste as his mother tries to set him up with various young girls to marry. He sets himself on fire in front of one and in a very funny scene stabs himself in front of another who decides he (rightly), like her, is acting and then she stabs herself. His mother checks in on them to see him standing over her in a pool of fake blood. Maude gets him out of military service by faking her own death at his hands and his military uncle does not call the police but instead decides to cover it up. The most poignant part of the film passes so quickly many don’t see it on first viewing. As Maude and Harold talk, he see a number tattooed on her wrist. She was a victim of the holocaust, she never says anything about it but it becomes obvious that a lot of her outlook and behaviour is coloured by that terrible experience. 

Then ending of the movie is either unbearably sad or life affirming depending on what you bring into it yourself. Maude had decided long ago to kill herself at 80 and despite Harold proposing to her she goes through with it, leaving him screaming and crying in pain and grief. He brings his sports car turned into a here to cliff and drives it off the edge. But he hasn’t killed himself, he has killed that old morse part of himself and plays the flute Maude gave him as a gift and walks away from the cliff’s edge. 

Critics and audiences did NOT like this film on release, it was too strange and morbid many thought. I suspect the idea of a teenager having sex with an elderly woman was also a huge factor and for that reason I think the film missed out on the second life many others get on TV after the theatrical run is over. 

Colin Higgins who wrote the original story, had a prequel and sequel planned, but they never materialized. Maybe that is for the best, it’s hard to imagine adding more to this story in any way that would work. There have been many stage productions in both English and French that I have somehow managed to not see over the years. 

Ruth Gordon is so amazing as Maude you’ll never forget her performance. She is inspiring. She lived in nearby Quincy when I lived in Boston and gave a talk a the Boston Public Library that is was privileged to attend. She did not disappoint. Bud Cort as Harold was also inspired casting.

Does the film hold up? It’s still one of the oddest and funniest films made so if you have not seen it, give yourself a real treat and do it NOW. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Filthy Sheep - 2 new animations completed!

This first one is the longest, 1 minute and the second is about ½ that.
Small warning: the sheep has a potty mouth that is bleeped out.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Incendies (2010) directed by Denis Villeneuve

Budget 6.5 million$
Box office 16 million $

Denis Villeneuve production schedule for this move was only an amazing 40 days with most f it being shot in Montréal and only 2 weeks in Jordan. The story of fraternal twins uncovering the terrible history of their mother and the search for their until now unknown brother and uncle is not for the light hearted. It is well filmed, deliberate and heart breaking. I don’t want to give too much away as seeing it unfold is the beauty of this film and even though its release was ten years ago, its a sure bet not many of the readers here have seen it. 

Performances are understated and fantastic and while I am not a big fan of Rémy Girard, he is great as the family’s notary. The connecting elements at the pool visually bring the various storylines together in a way that hits an emotional cord few movies pull off. 

I won’t lie, this can be hard to watch. Honour killings, rape and violence are important elements in the screenplay but they are handled in ways that add to the story being told. The limited budget and short shooting schedule are not apparent in any way during the runtime, its just proves a good story, with great actors and a careful director can pull off something meaningful and as high quality as any film with ten times the resources.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Max Mike Movies - new podcast!

Mike Luce has a new podcast with his friend Max. The conversations are loose and fun and they need support! So look fro them on tunes which is the process of getting done but in the meantime.... listen to them here

I have heard a sneak preview of a couple and they are well worth checking out! DO IT!