Sunday, December 26, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
As I put together a Top 10 for the year I have gone ahead and posted my top 3 unquestionably favorite films of 2010. The important thing to understand is my criteria, anyone's criteria for that matter, really doesn't mean shit at the end of the day. Any of these three could be my number one. Personally, I find them equal in greatness. Only after the horrible application of a film making criteria am I able to come up with some order. In the case of these three. It was very difficult. They are all brilliantly written, beautifully crafted, perfectly cast, scored, edited, directed, you name it. None of these three films fall short for me on any level. All three are worthy of Best Picture.
1. BLACK SWAN
Dir. Darren Aronofsky
2. WINTER'S BONE
Dir. Debra Granik
3. RED RIDING: 1974
Dir, Julian Jarrold
1. BLACK SWAN
Dir. Darren Aronofsky
2. WINTER'S BONE
Dir. Debra Granik
3. RED RIDING: 1974
Dir, Julian Jarrold
Posted by John Levy at 9:08 AM
Sunday, October 31, 2010
On October 27th, Actress and Academy Award Winning Producer Lisa Blount was found dead in her Little Rock home. She had been lying there alone for two days. Bloody nose, cell phone in her hand. There was no foul play. A health complication she had on and off bouts with for years just caught up with her....all too soon. She was 52.
Some of you may remember her as Debra Winger's gal pal Paula in the film An Officer and a Gentleman Many of us could never forget her from Dead & Buried. She worked with John Carpenter in Prince of Darkness worked in off-beat indies like South of Reno as well as appearing in many television shows of the 80's and 90's like Magnum P.I. and Moonlighting.
Like so many great "working actors" Lisa had all the grit fire and passion to create great stories. In 2001 she won an Oscar for her work as producer on the short film The Accountant, also directed by her husband. According to Wikipedia, she also served as the wardrobe mistress on the film.
More recently she had starred alongside Billy Bob Thorton in Chrystal, which she also produced with her husband, actor Ray McKinnon who had also written, directed, and co-starred in the film with her.
If you haven't seen it.....you should. Today.
In Chrystal she demonstrated a talent that was long overdue for exposure. Her gift of song.
We miss you Lisa. We'll never forget you. I never did.
Lisa sings 'Red Rocking Chair' backed by Harry Dean Stanton.
Posted by John Levy at 12:13 AM
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
There are many things about and relating to the AMC original series Rubicon that I would love to point out and discuss in the open, but I would probably be "terminated with extreme prejudice" for doing so. Things relating to the "real" world that we live in and events that have transpired over the last century. Things that Rubicon very subtly touches on in a way that keeps the show from hitting you over the head with a message. It's embedded into narrative, like code.
Subtext is an art of storytelling that most films and some television fail to grasp or bother to utilize today. But AMC original series such as Mad Men and more recently as of this Summer, Rubicon have it down so good, I want to send them a gift everyday to say "thank you" for entertaining me without insulting my intelligence or lulling me into stupidity.
I am not going to get into the plot and characters so much. If you don't have access to the show it's really up to you to gain clearance to such classy-fied material. But if you choose to cross the Rubicon there are things you should know. For starters, you have to pay attention. In return you are given a rich story, thoughtfully unfolding in a way you seldom see anymore. And characters that feel as real as anyone you know and even in the extraordinary circumstances of their daily work-life, make it easy to relate to them. Though this takes place in the world of Clandestine Services, these aren't the people who pull the trigger, these are the men and women who know too much. What they uncover, what they understand, guides the aim of the gun, for better or worse.
IF you dig crossword puzzles, patterns, hidden messages, connecting-the-dots, you'll will have an immediate attraction to the show. Don't misunderstand though, there is plenty for the "non-nerdy" to appreciate. Many shades of grey give way to danger and even romance, like all great espionage stories, just...not...like, other espionage stories. They make it fucking interesting. And like AMC's other originals, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, this drama of specific subject matter deals with struggles of conscience that anyone, who isn't a complete piece of shit or living in a sphere of Bubble Yum should be able to appreciate or at the very least, understand.
The other thing you should understand about Rubicon is that like Mad Men it's as much faction as fiction. No matter how much you may like to believe so, there really isn't anything about it that should be dismissed as far fetched or fantastical.
I am a great fan of the late great director Alan J. Pakula. Rubicon is in a way, the secret offspring of Pakula. Rubicon has a very specific resemblance to Poppa Pakula. The subject matter for one, of such films as The Parallax View, All The Presidents Men, Rollover, The Pelican Brief, and even moves it's tone at times in a direction remenicent of Klute. Beyond thematics, the tone is very Pakula. Pacing, lighting, visual composition. The score is even often at times like that of the scores done for Parallax View by Michael Small or All The President's Men by David Shire. All these, forgive me, Pakula-esque elements make for a rare, tough, grown up piece of work.
CHECK OUT THIS LINK FOR A LOOK INTO "THE LOOK" OF RUBICON
If you like Pakula's films, you will probably like Rubicon. At least, that's what the latest intel leads us to believe.
Do I recommend it? Strongly. And don't wait, for Rubicon, like it's character's, may be at any time in danger of disappearing. So watch it closely, in fact, don't let it out of your sight, because if Rubicon falls out of our grasp, we will lose much more than a mere hour of entertaining television.
The Season One Finale airs Sunday October 17th at 9pm on AMC. To get caught up watch episodes ON DEMAND.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
WARNING: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW. IT IS A RANT OF PRAISE.
I am thankful for the newer more integral directors present today, like Darren Aronofsky, John Hillcoat, P.T. and Wes (yes, I know they are not related). All too often I hear fans and filmmakers alike making excuses for why some older Director’s now make films that suck or at least, are spineless or insulting to even the most minimal level of intelligence. They settle, get spaded or what not. But some of them still got the stones to blow our minds without having to try. Without having to succumb to the idiotic taste of the masses and their crack whore addiction to sensory overload. One of these is Roman Polanski. And he proved this most recently with his beautifully detailed and darkly comical thriller Ghost Writer.
At 77 years old Polanski continues to craft a great visual story with all the perks. A cast recruited by Fiona Weir filled with great and underused all too frequently type casted character actors such as Jim Belushi, Kim Cattrel, Tom Wilkenson, Timothy Hutton, Olivia Williams, and Eli Wallach (who in his mid 90′s still has incredible presence). A fantastic book to script adaptation by Polanski himself and author Robert Harris, based on his novel The Ghost. An unusual, unforgettable and highly effective score by Alexandre Desplat. The list goes on from cinematography to art direction to set decor and editing. The only quality it lacks that most Hollywood films possess in abundance, is mediocrity.
Polanski’s film manages a consistent sense of doom and dread always hovering overhead. You never know when or in what incarnation it will ultimately strike. And it doesn’t help you as much as it helps the film and story that there are these moments of wonderfully subtle humor that allow you to let your guard down before realizing that it isn’t safe to do such a thing, only increasing your sense of danger. A feeling that you share with Ewan Mcgregor’s protagonist (known only as ‘The Ghost’) and yet, together we cannot help but pursue the mystery in a fearful yet, relentless curiosity and need to know.
The film is marvelously crafted. Beautiful in fact. And yes, clever. But not in that “Oooooh, I’m so fucking clever” kind of way every asshole is out there trying to do. I’m not going to use that fucking word “Hitchcockian” because NOTHING is “Hitchcockian” that isn’t made by Hitchcock. But the influence is clearly there in the writing as well as the execution.
The performances are equally outstanding. Pierce Brosnan is perfectly cast as the former British Prime Minister ala Tony Blair, and beyond his “smooth muthafucka in a suit” look, he is at his most un-Brosnan. Kim Cattral reminds us she was and still is much more than Samantha from Sex And The City. And Ewan Mcgregor, as always, is very easy to identify with and follow as The Ghost. Mentally and emotionally we are completely simpatico with him from start to finish. But the sharpest and most enigmatic performance in the film is from Olivia Williams, who plays Brosnan’s cold and intelligent wife, Ruth. You cannot figure her out, she’s emotional yet cool. Sexy yet prim. Mystified yet, certainly sure of something. What hand does she exactly hold? This performance no doubt comes in part from novelist Robert Harris giving the actress a long list of very contradictory character traits to play off of, which she does without missing a beat.
After watching Ghost Writer the first time I was immediately struck with a realization. That it is in essence a 70′s film. Everything that made the 1970′s such a great period of film has been lacking in cinema ever since. For me, the key ingredient of films from the 70′s was character. Character is story. Thoughtful detail and specificity. People like to say, “Well, that was then and this is now. Films can never be that way anymore.” Talk about making fucking excuses, it doesn’t matter ‘when’ we are. It’s ‘what’ we’re churning out. From time to time we see something that has that 70′s thing. Making it current. Particularly in dramas and thrillers. Heat, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton. All possess the quality I speak of. And other genres possess an enormous and obvious influence of 70′s films. From All The Real Girls to The Royal Tenanbaums there are shades of Malick to Ashby and yet a very clear individual and new voice. It’s not period, it’s craft. It’s about making movies for grown ups instead of the disconnected tweens who determine the box office with there need for more of the same. I’m not saying we need this instead of the other, I’m saying we need more variety so that actual ‘cinema’ doesn’t get killed off by films with 3-dimensional visuals with 1 dimensional characters that are all too easily forgettable. Maybe truly great films can’t break box-office records anymore, that’s just poor marketing and bad executive decisions though, backed up by lame, lame excuses. In the end, what most box-office hits and the hairdresser’s that produce them will never have, is the very thing that director’s such as Polanski and films like Ghost Writer will. Legacy.
Posted by John Levy at 12:44 PM
Friday, May 21, 2010
From the very first episode of LOST there have been many interesting appearances of members of the animal kingdom, in generally an unusual capacity. With the exception of the chicken and the boars, the beasts of LOST seems to play an important role in the island lore. Here are my 6 favorite LOST beasts.
1. THE HURLEY BIRD:
This Mammoth of a bird has appeared several times on the show, usually when Hurley is around. Many still hold out hope of one final appearance. I wouldn't stay perched for that though. Many to this day still debate whether the birds second appearance in Season 2 finale actually has the bird saying Hurley's name. The writer's of the show refuse to answer that question. Funny enough, the fan consensus is yes, it does.
The large bird nicknamed the "Hurley Bird" has a 16-foot wingspan. According to the DVD subtitles, the bird's screeches say "Hurley" in both appearances.
In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Altjira is the sky god of the Arrernte. He was the central god of the Dream time (called Alchera by the Aranda) who created the Earth, then retired to the sky. It is depicted as a large green bird with emu's feet, much like the one seen in "Live Together, Die Alone, Part 1".
After Jin told Hurley a story in Korean while they were camping, Hurley said, "Dude, I love the part about the bird. It was a bird right?" ("Catch-22")
On the March 21, 2008 podcast, Damon Lindelof did not want to comment on the significance of the Hurley bird.
One form of the Egyptian god Horus is a green falcon. This fits with the Egyptian themes of the show.
After Sawyer escaped from his polar bear cage on Hydra Island, he ran past a number of aviary-type cages. Curious???????
2. THE POLAR BEAR:
3. KATE'S HORSE:
One can derive all sorts of symbolism relating to the show and it's characters from this one. I would actually say this is my second favorite of the LOST animal kingdom. The most notable....connection this animal has to the island would be the Black Stallion and it's author. Walter Farley, author of The Black Stallion series, also wrote a book about an Island Stallion, who was on an island with a secret valley and tunnels built by Spanish Conquistadors. He also wrote "The Black Stallion and Flame" in which the Black Stallion finds himself on the Island Stallion's island as the result of a plane crash.
4. THE MEDUSA SPIDER:
Also referred to as, (Latrodectus regina) is a dangerous species of spider found on the Island. Brilliantly used to do away with two characters (Nikki & Paulo) the audience did not respond well to after long demanding them.
Dr. Arzt showed Nikki a female Medusa spider in a jar, one of more than 20 species of insects and arachnids he had collected since crashing on the Island. He explained to her that the Medusa spider was very dangerous and that the female's pheromones were so powerful that, if the jar was opened, every male on the Island would be drawn to her in seconds. When Nikki used the live Medusa spider specimen to attack Paulo she revealed to him that the venom of the Medusa spider wouldn't kill him, but would cause paralysis lasting for approximately 8 hours, so profound that even a doctor wouldn't be able to hear his heartbeat.
Arzt's information about the pheromones was proven correct when multiple male Medusa spiders appeared in the grove following Nikki's release of the female Medusa spider from the jar. Nikki was bitten too, and both Nikki and Paulo subsequently died after being buried alive while paralyzed, having been mistaken for dead by Sawyer and Hurley. Awesome.
The spider used in filming is Argiope appensa which is from a different family of spiders than the genus Latrodectus. The "males" are also females, as the real males are much smaller. Argiope appensa was introduced in Hawaii and is a very common there. It's natural range is in Taiwan and New Guinea. A featurette about the real-world spider handlers used for the filming of Lost is an easter egg in the deleted scenes section of the Lost: The Complete Third Season (DVD)
5. THE DHARMA SHARK:
Sharks have played a subtle, but present role on Lost. A shark with a distinct DHARMA Initiative logo on its tail attacked Sawyer and Michael when they were on the raft. ("Adrift"). A shark with a DHARMA Initiative logo was seen swimming near the four toed statue when the island was submerged.("LA X, Part 1"). The DHARMA Initiative experimented on sharks and dolphins in the aquarium that Jack was imprisoned in the Hydra. ("A Tale of Two Cities") (The World of the Others) The blast door map makes reference to a selective breeding program for Carcharodon carcharias (The Great White Shark). There have also been references to sharks in The Lost Experience. In "The Beginning of the End", in Hurleys Mental institute, there is a picture of a shark drawn on a blackboard. An obvious shout out to JAWS.
6. THE HURLEY FROG:
Sawyer's killing of the tree frog contrasts with his earlier encounter with the wild boar. After he caught up to the boar that had been tormenting him, he unexpectedly spared its life, contrary to his original plan.
Frogs have been used in the research of electromagnetism, which was a field of study of the DHARMA Initiative and the presumed purpose of the Swan station.
The frog was a symbol of fertility to the ancient Egyptians. In Egyptian mythology, there is a frog-headed goddess named Heqet, meaning "frog". In addition to fertility, she was also closely associated with resurrection. Rebirth, both the literal and figurative sense, is a major theme of Lost.
Although the characters refer to the frog as a "tree frog", which are members of the Hylidae family, the actual species of the frog is Dendrobates auratus, which is a member of the Dendrobatidae family (i.e., poison dart frogs). They are native to Central America but were introduced to Hawaii, where Lost is filmed, as means of controlling the mosquito population.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Between Seasons 5 & 6 of LOST, The BAFTA'S had a series of LOST Master classes with writers/executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and Director Jack Bender.
BAFTA GETS LOST
JACK BENDER TALK DIRECTING LOST
-BENDER HAS DIRECTED A MAJORITY OF THE EPISODES-
LINDELOF AND CUSE ADDRESS THE ACCUSATIONS OF MAKING IT ALL UP AS THEY GO ALONG
Posted by John Levy at 11:08 AM
As LOST approaches it's finale I find myself in the wee hours of the night watching old episodes, busting out old Dharma files, re-examining island maps realizing this will likely be the last true all geeked out show for me. It's the ultimate. It tapped into everything I have ever been interested in. Most especially, the duality of man, the connection between two people, how to live outside the parental shadow, and yes....love. But there were all the other interests. You know, the ones you can only devote time to in the middle of the night when no one will question your sanity , that's right, Time Travel, cryptazoolagy, parapsychology, and faith versus science and so much more.
The writing of the show brought me back to the kind of writing I grew up recognizing once in films. Thoughtful and unexpository (that's not a word), layered with subtext and foreshadowing to last you beyond the shows six years. And it has been the only show in television history to know it's ending. Plotted out, much like one does a feature film script, only on a grand scale allowing room to move around. It forced me to up my game as an visual, internal, character driven screenwriter. I will shed light on this and more in the hours and days to come.
But since I am at the computer a lot this week, I've opened a second window and as we near the end I am going to attempt to provide my fellow LOST-ians with a healthy dose of retrospect and food for thought, hopefully finding the time to get my final theory out before the 23rd. I will dole out a bit here and a bit there throughout the next few days and nights. So, for now I will save my island-speak for later and first highlight my favorite piece of Giacchino music from the show.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
In medieval legend, a succubus is a female demon that seduces men in dreams. They draw energy from the men to sustain themselves, often until the point of exhaustion or death of the victim.
So, good times!
Posted by John Levy at 11:27 AM
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
We are gold, you and I
Ejected out of a blast from the rays of the sun
finding each other, hurtling through the atmosphere into a flood of cool
I hold our core
You give our shine
We are timeless
A magnificent nugget
We become stronger
But then, as we merge into yet another layer of color, you break off to shine of a trivial though momentous currency
With no shine, I diminish and soften
Like some Gypsum Alabaster
I am trapped in this weakened rock
Avoiding the shatter of the reckless and greedy heart
A once solid stone, now void of color
Our core is petrified
I become invisible
Our bond anonymous to the elements around us
As though we never happened
As though gold has nothing beyond it's shine
And the ecstasy of gold, is lost
To the hands of those who know nothing of fortune, only greed
...and to your need
to shine without me.
Posted by John Levy at 3:55 PM
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Photo of my 'Quint $10,000 Amitty Fish Taco'
1. A Mexican snack food; a small tortilla with some rice, beans, cheese, diced vegetables (usually tomatoes and lettuce, as served in the United States) and salsa.
2. (US, slang) the vagina. also called pink taco
3. (US, slang) A yellow stain on shirt armpit caused by sweat or deodorant.
Many believe the arrival of the Taco in our culture came in 1914 California cookbooks. Wrong.
3000 B.C. - Excavations in the valley of “Valle de Tehuacán”, in the state of Puebla, reveal the use of fish, locusts and fuckin' snails as the filling of the ancient Mexican cuisine that would later be dubbed by the Spanish as, "Taco".
1519 -Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a Spanish soldier who came with Hernán Cortés to the New World, is the first man to chronicle his experience with the Taco.
Pigs were brought all the way from Cuba to fill the tacos. And he described the experience as a "Taco Bash". The first documented "Taco Bash" occurred in Coyoacán.
The definitions and documentation are an over simplified injustice to the beauty and brilliance of the taco delite, food or flesh.
This College made Documentary is perhaps the most informative of Taco Cuisine lore.
The site of some great cinema and amazing Tacos.
SCHEIDER FEST. It almost always includes the traditional viewing of Steven Spielberg's JAWS, Which is an ALL-TIME FAVORITE, but for this SCHEIDER FEST we're talking up what I will now call, THE BAADASSS SCHEIDER COMPLEX. Which refers to the conscious craziness of the characters. Characters like Scanlon'Dominguez', Buddy 'Seven-up', and Harry Mitchell. Characters who say things like, "I'll get you, you fucker", and step on peoples heads, or carry crates of nitro while suffering from exhaustion and a bad case of the blues.
Let's start with Harry Mitchell.
Harry has it all. Action Slacks, a great haircut, an amazing pair of sunglasses, a wife and a mistress. Harry is in big business. Metallurgical business. With a big fat government contract. His wife Barbara (Ann-Margeret) was once the belle of the ball and is entering politics in an attempt to regain control of her own life. She knows her husband and holds out hope while further pursuing her new found independence. Only, she doesn't really know him. Sure Harry digs his fast classic cars, his Jazz, and his reckless drives along the coast. But he also digs 19 year old prostitutes/porn "stars" (Kelly Preston and Vanity). Like, a lot...and it gets him in trouble.
Trouble in the form of razzamatazz sleezeball pimp, pornographer, blackmailer, murderer, Alan Raimy(The amazing John Glover). A real piece of shit, who loves calling people "sport" and "slick" along with his gang of douches, Leo and Bobby (Robert Trebor and Clarence Williams III)Who pimp, murder, and blackmail their way into Harry's life. For 52 grand.
But that's not clear....
And like all scumbag fucks, they underestimate Harry, his fast cars, his Jazz, and his love for Babs. Raimy doesn't realize because he has fucked with Harry at a point in his life where all things have bottomed out, where the result of Raimy's scheme would more often than not go in one direction, will restore something in Harry Mitchell. Something that swings the pendulum wide in the other direction. A direction of resilience. Of survival. Of redemption.
As Harry reaches his wits end he rediscovers his edge, his cool, his "I'll get you, you fucker" side, and at the pick-up finds a proper way to spend that 52.
52 is much more than a story about rich assholes and sleezy prick fucks. There are themes about partnership, trust, and second chances. The plot is driven through and re-enforced by these themes and makes for rich character conflict. Everyone is lost at it's start. And each and every character has their own ideas about freedom. And it's through the understanding or betrayal of these themes they pursue it. Most expect Harry's 52 to help them get it.
Every ones acting chops shine in this one. And the chemistry between Scheider and Margeret is very natural. I believe their marriage. What it once was, what's happened to it, and what they're holding on to. It's a truly great pairing.
And if Scheider and Margeret aren't enough for you...
And Clarence Williams III......I mean, dude.
This one ROCKS on every level and it chokes me the fuck up in some moments.
So what are you waiting for?
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Seriously, What the fuck?
How in the fuck, do you snub, no, jack this chick. This beautiful, funny, emotionally intelligent woman. This babe. This vision. This talent. This T.V. AND film star. This iconic hotty. This brave soul. This charming gal. This feature film Golden Globe Nominee for best actress. This member of the fucking Academy of 40 years. This.....Angel.
No, I'm sorry, I don't wanna hear your bullshit excuses about time. I mean who do you think you're bullshitting? Just because I don't eat caviar out of peoples assholes doesn't mean I'm an idiot. I know your ceremony better than you. I have a library full of it....chronicling it's decline.
I keep hearing some shit about, "She never did any real films, other than that stupid Cannonball Run." First off, CANNONBALL RUN, Rocks. Second, sucka: No real films huh? What the fuck do you call this:
You know what I call it? A real awesome film. That's what I call it. You know why? Because it is. You know why? Because of Farrah Fucking Fawcett. That's why, you dumbass.
I still don't know HOW you got away with snubbing/jacking Adrienne Shelly back in 2006-07 Oscars. You should have been scalped for that shit. But this one....brother, you are gonna be molded in clay for this shit and cooked over the fuckin' fires of Hell.
It takes less than 3 seconds to flash an image of someone we've lost. It's not like we're asking for 5 other stars to go on stage and kiss her ass for ten minutes. Which I should add IS a waste of time. No. The lady deserves respect. And the twenty minutes spent kissing nominees asses could have gotten her and all the other snubbed/jacked their respected acknowledgment for the LIFE TIME of work they gave us.
You really can't spare those few seconds? Fuck you! "What the fuck happened to you, man? You used to be beautiful."
Here are a few dozen reasons why Farrah is the sweet ingredient of Awesomeness Sauce:
You're lucky Farrah was so sweet. And you're actually lucky you're going to Hell. I wouldn't want to be you when Ricardo, Bea Arthur, and Henry Gibson catch your ass. Plus Dan O'bannon will be conceiving your eternal damnation.
And another thing, I love the guy, but....Michael Jackson. One word, Grammys.
On behalf of all Baadassss Beasts and Beauties....blow me.