Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bigger Than Life

I believe these two are out there in the Smoochiverse together, laughin' and lovin':

We'll not see the likes of them again...

Birdemic - Shock and Terror

Recently, thanks to some promotion from «Riff tracks» the online site with the guys from Mystery Science Theatre 3000 making fun of movies as they watch them, a truly awful film has emerged and is gaining somewhat of a cult status. Some cinemas are even playing the film at midnight and people are coming with props and yelling put downs prepared in advance... just like the old days. What is this modern day masterpiece of «how not to make a film»? It’s «Birdemic - Shock and Terror» and I can vouch for it’s complete and I do mean complete lack of a single element of quality throughout it’s entire runtime.

How bad is it? Many horrible films have stupid plots (if any), bad filming, sound and effects (and this does not disappoint in any of those categories), but how many films are so bad that the actual transitions from one shot to another make you laugh out loud. In today’s computer assisted offline editing environment a simple crossfade is hard to screw up.. yet somehow «Birdemic» makes even the most simple and invisible of transitions into something so poorly executed, you can’t ignore it.

The plot is basically 40 minutes of nothing happening... lots of driving, parking, slowly pulling into traffic with no mention of birds, never mind a birdemic, then it violently collides with another film with a scene of «eagles» (computer generated puppets that I guess might look like eagles if you were really high on something) diving in to a gas station making bomber sounds and squawking (exactly) like seagulls. Oh.. and they explode on contact. And at one point they pee acid on people. They also break every law of aerodynamics you can think of. Why? How? Do you really think you’re going to get a reasonable explantation, or any at all?

Even if the cutting, sound and image quality were acceptable, the acting would drag this film easily into «worse film of all time» territory, but since those elements are equally bad it lifts the bar for bad acting to a level that may never be topped. People come and go in this film for no reason and more than one says «it’s not the eagles that scare me but the most dangerous animal of all, the human race» and then they rant about global warming for 3 minutes and walk away. The really scary thing about this movie is that the director is making a sequel... in 3D!

The thing that makes all bad films amazing to watch is when you can see the film maker has no idea the film is bad at all. In fact, this film like Glen or Glenda, tries so hard to be relevant and meaningful you almost feel obligated to find something good to not just crush the director’s ego completely. «Birdemic» will not provide you with even the slimmest chance of that, but good luck looking.

For those who want to see how bad, bad can be this is the film to see. I recommend the «Riff Tracks» version to keep the pain to a minimum.

THE LOOK - Gilligan style

Sid - a nancy?

Well every Queen must have a Palace - and Hollywood cinema showman Sid Grauman had many.

Sid built the Million Dollar Theater (1918), Egyptian Theater (1922) and Chinese Theater (1927) and first orchestrated what would become known as a film premiere ceremony with a red carpet entrance for the showbiz elite. He staged elaborate pre-film shows and started the footprints-in-cement tradition that keeps tourists coming into the 21st century.

The Indiana-born only son of David Grauman (who died in 1921) and Rosa Goldsmith (1853–1936) had gone to the Yukon with his father to discover gold- but Sid soon found another way to acquire a fortune by setting up entertainments for the miners near the Klondike River. As a newsboy there, he sold papers for as much as a dollar a copy to news-hungry miners. Once he sold a paper for $50 to a store-keeper, who charged miners admission and read the paper to them.

He stayed in the Yukon after his father returned home and staged boxing matches which turned a handsome profit in gold pieces during those 2 years from 1898-1900.

He joined his father and mother in San Francisco and saw his first motion picture. He also saw the earning potential as a theater owner. Grauman's first theater in San Francisco (THE UNIQUE) with its carpeted stairs and stylized entry inspired Marcus Loew and Alexander Pantages for their huge theater chains. The UNIQUE featured vaudeville performers such as Al Jolson, Fatty Arbuckle and Sophie Tucker, as well as movies, including the West Coast premiere of “The Great Train Robbery.”

Grauman took over six theaters in the Bay Area. He later sold his theaters to Hungarian-Jewish immigrant Adolph Zukor (who created Paramount Pictures) and Grauman started expanding into Los Angeles (downtown) and Hollywood.

On Feb. 18, 1918, Grauman opened the 2,300-seat Million Dollar Theater in downtown Los Angeles, with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks in attendance to watch William S. Hart’s “The Silent Man” (the theater still stands on Broadway).

Chaplin reportedly used some of Grauman's Klondike tales for The Gold Rush.

Sid (known for his Mad Hatter hair and demeanor) loved practical jokes. His most notorious practical joke was played on director Ernst Lubitsch, who was frightened of flying. Grauman hired two stuntmen dressed as pilots to run down the aisle and parachute from the plane on which Lubitsch was travelling.

On another occasion, Grauman staged a Chaplin look-alike contest with official judges, with Chaplin himself as a secret contestant (Chaplin lost).

He also once persuaded Marcus Loew to address a meeting of theater owners, who turned out to be 75 wax dummies.

Sid also dressed in drag for blind dates (arranged by Chaplin) so they could clown on the unsuspecting schmucks. They pulled this prank on Samuel Goldwyn and Jackie Coogan's father.

Capitalizing on 20s King Tut-mania, Sid created 1,800-seat Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The Egyptian held Hollywood’s first movie world premiere on October 1922 (before then all films opened in New York) for Douglas Fairbanks’ “Robin Hood,” arguably the actor’s most successful film. One of the theatrical elements that Sid put in place was an actor attired as an Egyptian guard, marching back and forth across the roof parapet with a rifle in hand – calling out the start of each performance. ( I bet Sid enjoyed that casting call).

Real estate mogul C.E. Toberman helped him secure a long-term lease on a piece of property on the boulevard and Grauman developed the plans for the Chinese theatre with architect Raymond Kennedy. Norma Talmadge turned the first spade full of dirt in January 1926 and beautiful Chinese actress Anna May Wong drove the first rivet in the steel girders. Built at a cost of $2,000,000, eighteen months later the Chinese Theatre opened. Authorization had to be obtained from the U.S. government to import temple bells, pagodas, stone Heaven Dogs and other artifacts from China.

Sid (according to legend) invited investors Fairbanks & Pickford over from The Roosevelt Hotel to see the construction of his new Chinese Theater. When the stars stepped in wet cement just off the curb - showman that he was, Sid recognized an opportunity. That night Mary Pickford dated her footprint - (and would later recreate the experience in an official ceremony months later).

fun fact: These original sidewalk block footprints were removed in 1960 for the Walk of Fame and have been kept in an airline hangar by a private owner for decades.

Reporter James Bacon told the story that actor Jack Oakie drove by Grauman’s Chinese Theater on December 8, 1941, the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, and yelled at Sid: “Hey, Sid, aren’t you glad you didn’t call it ‘Grauman’s Japanese…?’

In his personal life, he was known as a gentleman - living at the Ambassador Hotel (across the hall from his Mother) and was a lifelong bachelor. He never chased the pretty skirts working at his theaters - instead he inspected the tidiness of the usherette's costume/uniforms before each shift.

The only non-film related person to put their footprints in Sid's Chinese Theater forecourt cement was his mother Rosa.

Sid Grauman never owned the Chinese theatre outright, but held a one-third interest with his partners, Howard Schenck, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Grauman sold his share to Fox West Coast Theatres in 1929 and was the Managing Director of the theatre until his death in 1950. He received an honorary Academy Award two years before he died. The last cement ceremony he presided over was with John Wayne.

He is interred (in a family crypt with mama nearby) amongst filmdom's golden era greats at Forest Lawn - Glendale.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Go, Charlie GO!