Sunday, June 14, 2009


I've seen a trend of laziness in film titling of late. For example, the powers that be at whatever studio is responsible for this monstrosity rejuvenated the Vin Diesel/Paul Walker franchise known as "The Fast and The Furious". What did they decided to call it?

"Fast and Furious." Come on. Remove the thes? That's the best you can do?

Now they are going to do another, I believe fourth, "Final Destination" film. The title: "The Final Destination."

So, now we know where one of the thes from "Fast and Furious" went, but what about the other one? I hope this doesn't continue.

What if they decided to get Clint Eastwood to don the garb of "The Man with No Name" one last time. What would they call that film? "Good,Bad, and Ugly"? Now you got 3 missing thes. Perhaps you could keep it in the family and have Eastwood direct a sequel to his own recent masterpiece, following the life of the young Hmong boy he befriended in the exciting Part 2: "The Gran Torino".

Still got two thes left, though. Hmmm.

"The Dirty Harry"? "Play the Misty for Me"?

I don't know. Perhaps there's a position in the film studios whose main focus is to name all the films in production? His job description?

"The Titler".

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

He Called me Dad

Back in January, I took my 14 year old to the movies. We were in the self-serve soda section, (which is preposterous, if I'm gonna pay $4.50 for a soda, they ought to fill it for me) when I heard a voice say, "Hey, Dad, do you need a straw?"

It hit me like a bolt out of the blue.

He called me Dad.

I cocked my head and looked at my son, much like that quizzical Jack Russell Terrier looks into the antique speaker on those old RCA Victor ads for record players. Thoughts began to pour into my head. Thoughts about how this person is my charge. For now, this human being belongs to me. It reminded me of that old George Carlin riff from the HBO special, "Playin' with Your Head" about claiming lost children: "That's mine, the tall one with the hair."

My son.

And I got a little teary with pride. Where was this coming from? I looked straight into the eyes of my greatest gift and considered those poor orphans of gutless turds who beat on them and their mothers. Fatherhood is not a right, it's a privilege. I felt like a lucky man. I thought about that guy walking his dog who gives my son and I the occasional odd look as we're strolling down the street. Maybe I don't have a booger on my face after all, maybe he's looking at me that way, just wishing he had a son to saunter down the road with. That lucky feeling expanded.

My kid handed me the straw and I looped my arm around his shoulder as we strolled into the theatre together. I wish I could label that feeling. It was somewhere between pride and absolute boundless joy. One of the great "quiet" moments in my life.
Oddly enough the movie we were set to see was "Gran Torino". Not only an incisive look at racial tolerance, but a pretty heady look at the negative gap that can grow between fathers and kids, and the dissonance it can create.

I felt even prouder still as the movie unspooled.

So when you wake up the weekend of June 21st and realize it's Father's day, yes, you should call your Dad. Maybe visit him and bring him a little something. Be sure to do yourself a favor as well.

Look into the mirror for a couple of minutes closely and say the words "He called me Dad." Think about how it makes you feel.

Pretty damn nice, isn't it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

THE 70'S GRIND: Revenge, Poetic Justice, or simple baser human evil?

In the 1970's, the darker side of the filmmakers mindset sold some tickets. There was a slew of movies where a crime committed saw reprisal, and the films did well, either in the mainstream, or on the grindhouse and drive-in circuits. A lot of those flicks have already been, or are in the process of being remade, for better or worse. Obviously they struck some kind of chord with the viewing public.

These kinds of films, "Last House on the Left", "I Spit on your Grave", "Straw Dogs", and "The Hills Have Eyes", to name but a few were successful at the outset, and saw second lives on VHS and eventually DVD. Deeply rooted in Ingmar Bergmann's "The Virgin Spring" mentality, they were classic revenge flicks without the "revenge fantasy" element. Too dark for all that. They also were difficult to watch at best, and each trumped the other in the controversy department.

Still, critics and sometimes the filmmakers themselves labelled the movies as an "examination of violence" and claim the statement being made on celluloid here is that the gap between the barbarians and the "normals" and what they are both capable of doing is not all that wide.

There may be some truth to that, but to compare the awful to the innocent is a mistake and somewhat foolish.
It's all about intent.
After that, all bets are off.

What these so-called experts don't see is the behavior of the protagonists in these movies is merely survival or retribution. These people who have been so grievously wronged act in one of two ways:
1. Self Defense
2. Levelling the playing field.
These two things are a far cry from the depraved homocidal or psychosexual acts of the antagonists. You see, by virtue of their existence, they are not the instigators. Evil is as evil does, it's not a reaction.

To group murderously evil people in with folks on vacation (The Hills have Eyes), or preparing for a daughter's birthday party (Last House on the Left), is not only off base, it's overly cynical.

Because after the score has been evened and the dust has finally settled, The victims will attempt to put back together the pieces of their broken life, not look for their next victim.

Therein lies the difference.

Good and Evil/Black and White.