A blog about movies and filmmaking.

A dozen posts and now it’s time for you to leave…

In media, Uncategorized on April 9, 2009 at 3:23 am

This is my twelfth post on this blog and I figured now would be a good time to point out some things about me, my reasons for creating this blog, where I watch movies and where I go to listen to people talk about them. 

So, first of all, I guess a proper introduction is needed. I’m a fan of movies. It started as a little kid, probably younger than I can even actually remember. But, growing up my grandmother had a telephone answering service in my small town, and one of the companies she worked with was the local cable company – and as a form of payment, she received free cable and all the channels. Granted this was in the mid-1980’s, so I think we had about 25 channels then, but these included HBO and Showtime. So, in-between hours of watching PBS shows like SESAME STREET, MR. ROGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD and READING RAINBOW, I would get to sit through and watch movies that no kid my age probably needed to be watching. Like, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and MANNEQUIN. Then, of course there were the movies that aimed more at my age-group, like HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, the SUPERMAN movies and GOONIES. I have to admit that I was never really into STAR WARS – and it’s sequels – or STAR TREK. They were both just boring to me and I slept through them more times than I actually remember seeing them. 

But, it was really one movie that I recall having a profound effect on me and realizing that this is an artform – even though at the time it was still a little over my head what the movie meant – and that was Clint Eastwood’s 1992 western UNFORGIVEN. Strange that a 13 year old would see that movie as a life changing, view-altering experience, but to this day, I still claim it as one of my personal favorite movies of all time. (Even stranger, that along with that, two of my other top favorite movies also happen to be westerns. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE…and could they be movies with any longer names?) So, since then I’ve been hooked. I’ve watched endless number of movies, good ones, classic ones, bad ones and everything in between. I’ve studied up on directors and actors and have an uncanny skill of being able to walk into a room and name the movie on the television, within seconds – even if it’s one that I’ve never seen.

So, with that in mind, it took my recent thinking about starting a blog – previously I was thinking of starting a more journal-like thing, that I could just type up whatever I want about whatever; whether it’s movies, or my work or opinions of people and society, but it took the two movies that I initially wrote about in my first blog post – HERE – for me to say, “I want to just write about the movies I watch.” So, with that, I fretted over choosing a name – one that both wasn’t too stupid and that was actually available – and signed up for this blog. I decided that it was mostly going to be me not really reviewing movies – although, I guess you could definitely call what I’ve done, doing reviews – but more just blabbing on about them. More of trying to recommend the movies that I see, and want to share. I’m not writing about every movie that I see – because they’re not all worth seeing – and I’m trying to remain positive in my views. What’s the purpose in talking about and you reading about someone going on and on about how someone hated something. Yes, I know this is the internet and that’s a great portion of it, but that’s not what I’ve wanted to do. So, these blog posts have been just my mind running amok with the facts and details and (not really that) brief descriptions about the movies and how they made me feel. I’m not a movie critic and I don’t feel qualified in trying to ascribe meaning to the movies I see. So, just think of this place as sort of sitting around with a friend and having them tell you about a movie they saw and how you might want to check it out too. 

Now, having said that, I do love a good analysis of movies every now and again and I also like hearing other people debate what movies mean (to them) and other cool things that I may not know or have seen. And for that I turn to podcasts. This is a new thing that I’ve just recently gotten into, over the past couple of weeks and oddly enough, the few that I’m going to recommend – while all good and well worth your time – I’m going to do a brief little critique of. (How’s that for getting meta?) And so, with that, all of these shows are available on iTunes, where you can subscribe to them, and they’ll automatically download to your computer every week – or whenever they’re posted – or you can play them on their designated websites. Most also have blogs that the creators post to, movie news and reviews and other things, which are also well worth reading. So, here we go:

The Film Talk – is a podcast done by Jett Loe and Gareth Higgins. One is an American filmmaker, actor and seeming comedian and the other is an Irish, Spirituality professor and their show is brilliantly hilarious and very, very insightful. They both come from the viewpoint of being outside the conventional “American” point-of-view. Both having spent either quite a lot of time outside the US, or naturally not being from here and with that, they bring up a lot of interesting points, that only sometimes go into pretentious territory, but mostly is just a fresh eye in how our society has absorbed how we see violence or other profane things and what movies are saying about our world. 

These guys have quickly become my favorite duo to listen to, and I’ve listened to just about every episode that they’ve recorded. Often very funny, they try to stick to a scheduled 30 minute long show, but quite often go over that time limit and wind up discussing a variety of other things besides what their subject initially might have been. I honestly have to say, that if there’s one movie podcast to listen to, this is it! I really recommend listening to the episodes commenting on WATCHMEN, THE DARK KNIGHT, WALL-E and the couple of episodes dealing with the movies of Stanley Kubrick. 

The Movie Hour – is Ethan Thompson and Joe Hilliard, two fellas from Corpus Christi, Texas, who teach film criticism and have a radio talk program, respectively and they do a show where they talk about current movies, have a fun and great little segment called the Living Room Film Festival; where each week they announce a topic and the audience sends in their picks for the movies they’d show to a group of friends having to do with that subject. 

They’re a pretty new podcast, but their sound quality is great and they tend to have some interesting things to say about movies. I have a couple of criticisms about their earlier episodes – far too worried about announcing where and how large their audience is and also sort of ripping on other people who do shows where they don’t sound as good because at least one of the people has to participate via phone or other interactive device, like Skype. As they’ve gotten on  with the series though, they’ve seemed to move away from pointing these things out and are now sticking to what the show is about and that makes it a lot better. And unlike, with The Film Talk people, I have no idea which person is which, and that’s not a big deal but they do sound very much a like. But, again, they’re working on the show and it’s coming along and so far they’ve had some interesting shows and I enjoy hearing what these guys from Texas have to say about movies that…well, you wouldn’t think people in Texas would like. Currently, they’ve not really been around long enough to point out any specific show to listen to, so I’d say just try the most recent one – which ever it might be – and see if you like it.

Slash Filmcast – This is a podcast hosted by David Chen, with regular co-hosts Devindra Hardawar and Adam Quigley, which is actually a continuation and sponsored version of a show these guys were doing on their own. Which, I guess shows the quality of what they’re doing as to have it then picked up by a larger movie news/review site. The other cool, fun thing about this show is that they regularly have guest stars pop in to talk about what movies they’ve seen, discuss recent events and usually review a recently released movie. 

All of the guys have distinctive voices and voice opinions that with the wonderful odd numbering usually means one of them is left as the odd man out in liking/disliking a movie. And this leads to some really great and fun conversations. Also, something fun that I’ve actually participated in a couple of times was on the nights when they record an episode, they do it live online and there’s a chatroom involved where the hosts interact – sometimes – with the audience, and leads to some interesting things happening. (I do have to say, though, that the chatroom can get a little unruly and there are a few glitches where the chat will break down.) But, the show is almost always high energy, and usually some very interesting points and criticism is brought up. This does though lead to my main criticism of the show, and that is that – mainly one person – there seems to be this regular thing where someone has to nit-pick, to the point of tediousness, things in movies; or play the devil’s advocate and seemingly just take a stance opposite of everyone else, just for the sake of creating argument.  It doesn’t distract from the show and maybe it’s just that usually this person is usually standing on the opposite side of the line that I am in caring or digging that deeply into movies, but it does get a little obvious sometimes. 

They’ve done a good number of shows and not only do they have the regular episodes but they do a cool bonus thing called “After Dark”, which is a continuation of the episode where they discuss whatever from the main episode, answer listen feedback and usually just goof off a little bit. Some of the great episodes to listen to are the two shows that had Kevin Smith (CLERKS, ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO) guest starring on reviews of THE DARK KNIGHT and WATCHMEN, a couple of episodes with actor STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY – who also joined the guys for a special Audio Commentary for the movie GROUNDHOG DAY, starring Bill Murray, that Tobolowsky also starred in. But, y’know, most of the episodes are worth listening to.

And finally, I wanted to just point out some of the places you can go, to watch movies, TV shows and whatnot, online; as since I’m usually too broke to go to the movie theater most times – and in case you haven’t noticed, none of the movies I’ve discussed are really New Releases – so this is where I’m watching most of the movies that I do watch. 

Hulu – is a website, sponsored and supported by the two networks NBC and FOX, and provides TV shows from those networks – and their affiliates (like USA, FX and Comedy Central to name a few) – and movies from the studios/organizations that own them (Fox, obviously and Sony/Universal, mostly). They have a large selection of television series, both old and new; usually with the newer shows being available online the day after – or up to a week later – after they’ve aired on TV. Since I don’t tend to actually be available to watch the shows I like when they’re actually on, this is where the larger portion of what I watch comes from – TV-wise. 

Movie-wise, they’ve got a great selection of mainstream hits – like GO and THE THING – to older not as well known, or regarded movies like THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and KOYAANISQUATSI. Both shows and movies are ad-supported, so there’s essentially commercial breaks built into the viewer, but most of the movies are unedited so it’s kind of like watching them on HBO, with commercials. They also offer two versions of resolution, which is a nice feature. 

Netflix – Until recently, when my account was suspended for lack of funds, this is where pretty much every movie I’ve posted about has been viewed from. And amazingly enough, the majority of those were seen via Netflix’s Online Watch Instantly program. There’s a great selection of movies, both old and new available – I’m talking like DVD’s just out new – there’s TV shows, and most fun of all is the option of not only watching them instantly on your computer, but you can also view them through a special box that they sell – I guess; I don’t really know much about that – or if you have an X-Box, there’s an option through X-Box Live to watch movies (although, you have to fill the Watch Instantly Queue, online before going to the TV). And of course there’s the added bonus, with signing up for an account, of also being able to have DVD’s delivered to your door, in case there’s a movie you want to see that’s not available online and you just don’t feel like heading out to Blockbuster (although they have a mail-order version too, not sure about a Watch Instantly thing though) or stopping at one of the Redboxes.  

And here’s some other interesting places that show movies, mostly older or considered “classic’s” that I’ve just recently learned about but felt like sharing also:

Criterion Online – Criterion Collections, a gold standard of movie restoration and study has a number of it’s movie library online to watch. It seems that they charge $5.00 per movie, but they offer great movies like Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS (the precursor, and original adaptation of the Stanislaw Lem novel, to the Steven Soderbergh movie with George Clooney – which, I have to say, I do like better), Sluizer’s THE VANISHING (a great original movie that was remade a few years later as an American movie, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Jeff Bridges – which I also liked, but like with a lot of foreign adaptations loses something in the translation.) and Stuart Cooper’s OVERLORD, an interesting movie that tells a fictional story about a soldier from bootcamp to war, splicing in a lot of archival footage. It’s an interesting experiment. 

AMC  B-Movie – The link pretty much says it all. There are a couple of movies of note to point out – although I have to admit to having seen neither, but I’ll soon remedy that; one being the movie DARKSTAR, the directorial debut (a student film originally, I believe) of John Carpenter, who would go on to make HALLOWEEN and THE THING; and also THE RUTHLESS FOUR, a western – automatically catching my eye – starring Klaus Kinski, in a Spaghetti Western. 

Special notice that they’re showing all of the episodes of THE PRISONER on the AMC site, HERE. Sort of as a primer, I guess, for AMC’s upcoming re-imagining of the series with a new cast, including Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellan. Naturally,  the show is about a spy – played by Patrick Mcgoohan – who is sent to a small, secret village; where (forced) to retire spies are sent and his attempts to escape both the place and becoming just another number.

The Auteurs – A smaller site, with lofty goals – according to the movies it’s hoping to eventually have available for online viewing. It also features a number of movies, both for a fee and also for free. Mostly smaller, or older movies, but might be worth checking out.  

WB Archives – This one doesn’t offer movies to watch online, but it has another interesting gimmick. Mostly classic – and as of yet unreleased on DVD – movies in Warner Brother’s archives (hence, the name, I suppose) and they’re available for order to be created on-demand and shipped out. I believe the DVD’s cost about $20.00, per movie – and I’m assuming there are no supplemental material involved – but this is a new way of getting little seen, or known movies out to the public and I hope that they will eventually also make them available for online viewing. But, there’s currently a couple hundred titles available. 

So, I hope that this is helpful in getting some people to watch some new movies, a little insight into where I’m coming from and what this blog is about and where to get some great commentary on movies. I’m going to continue writing these blog posts, and I’ll leave the talking to the guys I linked to above. See you around.

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