Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Essential Gene Wilder

GENE WILDER
1933-2016

On August 29, 2016 the world lost one of its most cherished comedic actors when Gene Wilder passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Wilder briefly appeared in Bonnie and Clyde in a small role before appearing in his first major role in The Producers. A staple of the classic Mel Brooks comedies like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, Wilder also went on to entertain generations of children in his titular portrayal of Willy Wonka. Wilder also starred in several blockbuster comedies with his friend and on-screen partner Richard Pryor. Wilder had been out of the spotlight for over a decade, with his last on screen appearance in a guest role on the hit sitcom "Will & Grace" in 2003, for which he won an Emmy. Gene Wilder will go down in the history books as one of the best. He will be missed.

THE PRODUCERS
1967
Directed by Mel Brooks

Wilder first caught audiences attention with his first major role as Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks' hilarious Broadway spoof, The Producers. Wilder's comedic performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 1968 Academy Awards. In the film, Leo is a straight-arrow accountant suckered into a money-making scheme with sleezy producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel). The con? Sell multiple claims to a tasteless musical, "Springtime for Hitler", to old rich ladies. When the play surely fails on its first night, they won't be obligated to pay back their benefactors. Much to their horror, the play becomes an instant success. The film went on to become its own Broadway musical, which was later adapted again in 2005 as a motion picture starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane.

I'm in pain and I'm wet and I'm still hysterical!

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
1971
Directed by Mel Stuart

In perhaps his most cherished role, Wilder plays the eccentric owner of the titular chocolate factory in this adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's book. In a nationwide contest, the Wonka company places 5 "golden tickets" randomly into chocolate bars. Whoever finds one gets to visit the mysterious chocolate factory for a strange and magical tour. Among the families on the tour are four horribly naughty children and one good hearted child, Charlie Bucket. The children are introduced to the wildly eccentric Willy Wonka, who, as he leads them on the tour, has little surprises for each of the misbehaving children. Charlie, of course, makes it to the end without incident, but what will his prize be? Wilder was nominated for a Best Actor (Musical/Comedy) Golden Globe and this film, while living in the hearts of adults and children everywhere, was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2011. The film was later remade in 2005, to less success, with Johnny Depp in the Wonka role.

So shines a good deed in a weary world.

BLAZING SADDLES
1974
Directed by Mel Brooks

Hedy Lamar, a corrupt political boss in a small western town appoints a black man as sheriff, with the intent of having him fail for his own nefarious deeds. Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) realizes there's a frame-up and enlists the aid of legendary gunfighter, The Waco Kid (some call him... Jim) as his deputy. The two work to reverse the townspeople's hostile (and racist) opinion of Bart, befriend the giant Mongo and turn back Hedy Lamar's henchman at every turn. The film devolves into meta chaos during the over-the-top finale that still holds up today. Wilder plays The Waco Kid as both comedic and as a gunfighter to be taken seriously. Perhaps the funniest film in both Wilder AND Brooks' filmography, Blazing Saddles themes on racism are still sadly relevant today.

What did you expect? "Welcome, sonny"? "Make yourself at home"? "Marry my daughter"? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN
1974
Directed by Mel Brooks

This send up of the classic 1930s Universal monster movies, also came out the same year as Blazing Saddles. Not just one Wilder/Brooks collaboration, but TWO in one year. And both end up essential becoming comedy classics. In this film, Wilder plays Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced "Fronk-En-Steen") the grandson of the infamous mad scientist of the same name, who is trying to erase the shame from his family's name. He travels to Transylvania, where he stumbles upon the process on which to re-animated the dead... which he does to hilarious result. The highlight of the film being when the Doctor and his Monster (Peter Boyle) do a tap routine to "Puttin' on the Ritz."  Wilder received an Academy Award nomination for writing on this production.

 My grandfather's work was doodoo! I am not interested in death! The only thing that concerns me is the preservation of life!

SILVER STREAK
1976
Directed by Arthur Hiller

A major comedic blockbuster at the time, Silver Streak marked the first on-screen pairing of Gene Wilder and the late Richard Pryor.  Pryor was originally supposed to star as Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles, but the world had to wait two more years to see this comedic duo in action. At first thought, it might seem an odd pairing, given the two actors' comedic sensibilities, but they play off each other beautifully here. Wilder plays a hapless book editor on a train, the "Silver Streak", traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago, who thinks he witnesses a murder. When no one believes him, he decides to investigate on his own. All this gets him is a killer on his trail and a convicted thief (Pryor) as a sidekick. The Wilder/Pryor formula proved successful and the two teamed up for three more films in the future.

You stupid, ignorant son of a bitch, dumb bastard. Jesus Christ. I've met some dumb bastards in my time but you outdo them all.

STIR CRAZY
1980
Directed by Sidney Poitier

Two hapless morons, Skip (Wilder) and Harry (Pryor), are mistakenly arrested for a bank robbery and have no way to prove their innocence.  These two criminals have a hard time adjusting to prison life in  series of comedic situations. When the warden learns that Skip has an unnatural ability to ride a bronco, he forces him to ride in a Rodeo competition that will line his pockets when he gambles on him to lose. Skip and Harry immediately concoct an escape plan, but will they make it?  An even bigger box office hit than Silver Streak, the Wilder/Pryor formula proved once again to be incredibly successful, both financially and creatively.

We tried to teach him Charades! He Didnt Get it! He just didnt get it!

Other Notable Films:
BONNIE & CLYDE (1967)
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK (1972)
THE LITTLE PRINCE (1974)
THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER (1975)
THE WORLD'S GREATEST LOVER (1977)
THE FRISCO KID (1979)
THE WOMAN IN RED (1984)
HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1986)
SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL (1989)
ANOTHER YOU (1991)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Essential Films Podcast: Episode 6 - THE SEARCHERS (1956)


Subscribe Now on iTunes!

On today's podcast adventure, Adolfo Acosta and Mark Espinosa join Ethan Edwards and Martin Pawley on the trail of some Comanche when they discuss John Ford's essential classic THE SEARCHERS.

On the show, Adolfo and Mark discuss:
• The insane fact that the Academy Awards ignored the film
• Patrick Wayne’s terrible acting
• How we first experienced THE SEARCHERS
• The stunning cinematography
• The John Wayne “character”
• The “true story” that inspired the film
• The magnificent opening and closing shots
• Ethan and Martha’s secret love
• Ford’s influence on the likes of Lucas, Scorsese, Bogdanovich, Tarantino, Milius
• Ford’s exploration of racism
• Ethan and Scar as mirror images of each other
• Is this John Wayne’s greatest performance?
• Ethan Edwards: the anti-hero

PLUS: Mini Discussions on:
• DUMBO (1941)
• SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946)
• BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE (2016)
• SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)
• BATMAN V SUPERMAN: ULTIMATE EDITION (2016)
• SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975)
• CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)
• THE FLY (1986)
• TRUE GRIT (1969, 2010)
• THE KING OF KINGS (1961)
• STAR WARS (1977)
• The book EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS by Peter Biskind
• Michael Cimino
• THE CONQUEROR (1956)
• TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)
• STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
• HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962)
• BAMBI (1942)
And More!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Batman On Film: Part 11 - Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

NOTE: This film is part of our ongoing "Batman on Film" series. It is not part of The Essential Films series.



BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE
Sam Liu
2016 • 76 Minutes • United States
Color • English • Warner Bros.

Cast: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise, John DiMaggio
Screenplay: Brian Azzarello based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

In 1988, DC Comics published Batman: The Killing Joke, a one-shot graphic novel written by Alan Moore (Watchmen) and illustrated by Brian Bolland (Judge Dredd). It told the story of The Joker's escape from Arkham Asylum and his mission to drive Commissioner Gordon mad. It's also notable for featuring the origin (possibly) of the enigmatic Clown Prince of Crime.  The comics has long been a favorite among comic book fans as one of the definitive Batman and Joker stories. The comic has influenced everything from comic books to the movies. Tim Burton has called this his favorite comic book and the influence of this story can be felt in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight (2008.)  Warner Bros. animation has had a recent string of successes in adapting famous storylines into animated features including Justice League: The New Frontier, Superman: Doomsday, Under the Red Hood, The Dark Knight Returns and Flashpoint. It only seemed natural that they should adapt what many consider to be THE Joker story. Add to that, this is the first DC animated film to receive an R-rating and the fact that they are wading into the theatrical release pool (the film was released last night in select theaters for a limited run through Fathom Events), fan anticipation was at critical mass. So, did the film pay off?

Sort of.

SPOILERS AHEAD. You've been warned.

The screening began with a 10 minute documentary featuring Mark Hamill as he talked about getting his big break in Star Wars through his casting on Batman: The Animated Series to portraying Joker in the Batman Arkham video games. It was a very enjoyable short film in what will most certainly be on the Blu-ray special features.

The film begins with a storyline not from the original graphic novel. Batman and Batgirl are on the trail of Paris Franz (really) an up-and-coming gangster who narrowly slips through their fingers. As Batgirl becomes increasingly obsessed with catching Paris, Paris also becomes increasingly obsessed with Batgirl as an object of sexual desire. Batman realizes this and wants to keep Batgirl as far away from the situation as possible. Batgirl, resents Batman's over protection, and becomes frustrated with his lack of feeling towards her, especially when she harbors romantic feelings for him. This culminates in an extremely controversial sex scene, where Batman and Batgirl consummate their sexual tension. When Batman draws even further away from her afterwards, Batgirl loses her temper while apprehending Paris and nearly beats him to death. Batgirl at this point decides to hang up the cape and cowl.

It is at this point that the Killing Joke, as most comic readers know the story, truly begins in what is an almost direct adaptation of the material.  Batman arrives at Arkham to question the Joker on a series of murders, only to find that an imposter is in his place. Joker has escaped Arkham and taken over an abandoned carnival as his new base of operations. He's on a mission to make Commissioner Gordon (and Batman, for that matter) go insane by doing something so heinous, that it breaks him. After all, all it takes is "one bad day." Interspersed in flashbacks are memories from Joker's "one bad day" that broke his mind and turned him into the Joker (or so we think.) Exactly like the comic it's based on, Joker arrives at the Gordons' house and shoots Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon point blank through the spine paralyzing her. He then takes pictures of her prone, naked, bloody body and displays them for Jim Gordon's horror. Batman eventually tracks down the Joker and defeats him, and the two enemies square off one final time, but this time Batman tries to reach out and "save" the Joker's sanity. What follows is pretty much line for line the dialogue from the end of the original book.

The voice cast is very strong here. Three original animated series voice cast members return to their roles. Tara Strong reprises her role as Batgirl, and brings to life one of comics' most underrated characters. Kevin Conroy, the definitive Batman, is the gravely-voiced Dark Knight. He sounds slightly different than his Batman: TAS and Justice League days, but it's still definitely him and he brings every ounce of anti-hero menace that the audience will love. Of course, the film is all about The Joker (or it's supposed to be) and you can't talk about the cast without talking about Mark Hamill. Hamill, to me, will always be the voice of the Joker. Others have done him well, but never as good as Mark Hamill. Hamill plays him slightly differently than the TAS days. This being a darker film than the original series, his portrayal is darkly funny. But he brings a lot of empathy in the flashback sequences as well. This is an A+ performance for Hamill.

Now let's talk about THE scene. Batman and Batgirl have sex. This happens. It's obvious and there's no denying it. Now, there's no "nudity" in the scene. There's a brief shot of Barbara tearing off her batsuit to reveal her underwear underneath as she kisses Batman, and that's about it. It's not vulgar... but it's extraordinarily out of place. It almost feels like the creators wanted to justify their R-Rating and they threw in a sex scene. It's clumsy and it's very awkward, much like the Batgirl portion of the story turned out to be. Now, I love Batgirl, she is a fantastic character, and I understand the reason for adding the story to the film. By itself, literally translated, The Killing Joke is not long enough to justify a feature, so the creators padded it out with this story. MY main concern is how awkwardly it's accomplished. There is a noticeable shift as soon as her story ends and Killing Joke begins, almost like it's two different films altogether. I also understand wanting to give Barbara more depth so that her paralysis at the hands of the Joker gives the viewer a greater empathy for her. It's just very poorly executed.

Ultimately, the Killing Joke portion of the film is executed almost perfectly, but the 30 minute Batgirl mini-movie that's tied into it just doesn't flow and feels like a DVD extra. (And don't get me started on the cliche gay best friend. Yikes.) It's an interesting experiment for DC/WB and I hope this is not the end of seeing DC animated films on the big screen.

Grade: B-

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Essential Films Podcast: Episode 5 - ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)



EPISODE DESCRIPTION
On today's podcast adventure, Adolfo Acosta and Mark Espinosa are a couple of bums, that were never contenders to begin with, and take a one-way trip to Palookaville in their discussion Elia Kazan's ON THE WATERFRONT.

On this show, Adolfo & Mark discuss:

• The beautiful Criterion Collection release of the film
• Our first introduction to Marlon Brando in his prime
• The masterful cinematography by Boris Kaufman
• The history of the production
• The 1999 Academy Awards where Elia Kazan was snubbed by his peers
• Elia Kazan’s ties to Communism, and his controversial testimony before HUAC
• The parallels between Kazan and Terry Malloy
• Our favorite moments
• Karl Malden: The conscience of the film
• A dissection at the “I coulda been a contender” scene
• The differences in aspect ratios in different versions of the film
• Brando and Lee J. Cobb’s powerhouse performances

PLUS side discussions of upcoming Criterion Collection releases, DE PALMA, DRESSED TO KILL, A FACE IN THE CROWD and more

DOWNLOAD NOW!

SUBSCRIBE on iTunes to get all future episodes as soon as they drop!

WEBSITE EssentialFilmsPodcast.com

EMAIL EssentialFilmsPodcast@gmail.com

FACEBOOK

TWITTER @EssentialFilms @FPMoviePodcast @Adolfo_Acosta @Sportsguy515






Friday, June 17, 2016

FORCED PERSPECTIVE, Ep.81 – Everybody Wants the Nice Green Lobster


The 2016 Summer Movie Season is in full swing!

Join SportsGuy515 & Adolfo, along with special guest BRANDON DRAVEN, as they discuss some of the more recent theatrical offerings of Summer 2016 – Everybody Wants Some!!, Green Room, Neighbors 2, The Nice Guys, The Lobster, and X-Men: Apocalypse! PLUS:

Everybody Wants Some!! is a fun trip down memory lane…

-Why Green Room is Adolfo’s favorite film of 2016 so far…

-The wackiness of Neighbors 2 – is it really better than the original (as the consensus states)?

-The unique plot of The Nice Guys and the awesome chemistry of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

-The refreshing originality of The Lobster.

-Does X-Men: Apocalypse live up to Days of Future Past?

-The wacky history of Cannon Films is encapsulated in a must-see documentary!

-…and MORE!

OVER 2 HOURS OF GREAT FILM DISCUSSION!! DOWNLOAD/STREAM NOW!!!









Friday, May 27, 2016

FORCED PERSPECTIVE, Ep. 80 – You Talkin’ to Me? (My Favorite Film #2 - TAXI DRIVER (1976)



Well who else are you talkin’ to? I’m the only one here!

Kick off your Memorial Day weekend in style with the latest episode of YOUR favorite movie podcast, FORCED PERSPECTIVE! Join SportsGuy515 and Adolfo, along with special guest HEADCASE, as they add another entry into their MY FAVORITE FILM series with a discussion of Headcase’s favorite film – celebrating it’s 40th Anniversary this year – Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. PLUS:

-A film that many people profoundly misunderstand

-The “socially irresponsible” aspect of the original script that had to be changed

-Why Taxi Driver is still embraced after 40 years

-New York in the 1970s…simply fascinating

-Adolfo wants to know why they even sell CANDY at the porn theater…

-A possible misprint on the Taxi Driver Criterion Collection commentary track – was it really recorded in 1986?

-Travis Bickle – “the walking contradiction”

-Filmmaker interpretations vs. audience interpretations

-Bernard Hermann’s score – a hint of romance among hell on Earth

-Betsy and Iris – the Madonna/Whore syndrome

-The greatness of the climactic shootout

-Did the final scene really happen?

-The very weird disclaimer on some TV airings of the film

-The legacy of Taxi Driver

-…and MORE!

OVER 90 MINUTES OF TAXI DRIVER TALK!! GRAB YOUR BAG OF CHUCKLES AND A CUP OF ROYAL CROWN COLA AND DOWNLOAD STREAM NOW!!!


A VERY SPECIAL THANKS to Headcase for allowing the use of the track Taxi Driver off of his album LUNATIC FRINGE: A SELF PORTRAIT (available on Amazon and ITunes now).







Friday, May 20, 2016

RETRO Essential Film Awards: 2009

The Essential Films was first started in 2009, with only a small number of posts. Since then, the site has expanded to include Top 100 countdowns, a podcast and the site's own version of the Oscars: The Essential Film Awards. The first Essential Film Awards celebrated the films of 2010, with Inception sweeping earning Best Film of the Year and most technical awards like Visual Effects and Editing.  In this series, the RETRO Essential Film Awards, we will take a look back at the best films of the years before this site's existence, starting with 2009.  Enjoy.

Celebrating the cinematic achievements of 2009

Official 2009 Selections


 

 


 


___________________

Best Film of the Year


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Quentin Tarantino
153 Minutes • 2.35:1 • United States, Germany
Color • English, French, German, Italian • Universal

Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger, Mélanie Laurent, BJ Novak
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Cinematography: Robert Richardson

____________________

Best Actor in a Leading Role


MOON
Sam Rockwell

____________________

Best Actress in a Leading Role


THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Noomi Rapace

____________________

Best Actor in a Supporting Role


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Christoph Waltz

____________________

Best Actress in a Supporting Role


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Mélanie Laurent

____________________

Best Ensemble


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger, Mélanie Laurent, BJ Novak

____________________

Best Director


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Quentin Tarantino

____________________

Best Screenplay - Original Material


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Quentin Tarantino

____________________

Best Screenplay - Adapted or Historical Material


THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES
Eduardo Sacheri, Juan José Campanella based on the novel by Eduardo Sacheri

____________________

Best Animated Feature Film


UP
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson

____________________

Best Documentary Film


THE COVE
Louie Psihoyos

____________________

Best Foreign Language Film


THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES
Juan José Campanella

____________________

Best Film - Limited Theatrical Release


THE MESSENGER
Oren Moverman

____________________

Best Cinematography


HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
Bruno Delbonnel 

____________________

Best Film Editing


THE HURT LOCKER
Chris Innis
Bob Murawski

____________________

Best Visual Design


STAR TREK
Production Design: Scott Chambliss
Supervising Art Director: Keith P. Cunningham
Costume Design: Michael Kaplan
____________________

Best Visual Effects


AVATAR
Joe Letteri 
Stephen Rosenbaum 
Richard Baneham 
Andrew R. Jones 

____________________

Best Stunts/Stunt Choreography


SHERLOCK HOLMES
Stunt Coordinators: Frank Ferrara, Mark Henson
Fight Coordinator: Richard Ryan
____________________

Best Make-Up


STAR TREK
Barney Burman 
Mindy Hall 
Joel Harlow 
____________________

Best Music - Original Score


HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
Nicholas Hooper

____________________

Best Music - Soundtrack


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Motion Picture Soundtrack

____________________

Best Sound Design


STAR TREK
Anna Behlmer 
Andy Nelson 
Peter J. Devlin
Mark P. Stoeckinger 
Alan Rankin  
____________________

Best Action/Adventure Film


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Quentin Tarantino

____________________

Best Comedy Film


THE HANGOVER
Todd Phillips

____________________

Best Fantasy Film


HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
David Yates

____________________

Best Horror Film


ZOMBIELAND
Ruben Fleischer

____________________

Best Science Fiction Film


MOON
Duncan Jones

____________________

Best Animated Short Film


PARTLY CLOUDY
Peter Sohn

____________________

Best Voice Acting Performance


MOON
Kevin Spacey

____________________

The following films did not win any Essential Film Awards but are noteworthy for their cinematic contributions in 2009:

500 DAYS OF SUMMER
AN EDUCATION
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL - NEW ORLEANS
BEST WORST MOVIE
CRAZY HEART
DRAG ME TO HELL
THE GIRL THAT KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE
THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
PRECIOUS
THE ROAD
UP IN THE AIR
WATCHMEN
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE