Saturday, October 29, 2011

Anytime, anywhere

I've not had the good fortune of walking through Times Square in the mid- to late 1970s. Good fortune? Yes because that was a time when it looked like we, as a society, were mired resolutely in the sewer and there's something to be said about experiencing a hellish, lurid reality that opens your eyes to the goodness of life.

1970s Times Square - the Deuce - was wall-to-wall movie theaters but not as we currently know them. These theaters catered to the basest of humanity, focused on grindhouse and pornography for the lowliest and lonliest people on the planet.

There's a strange nostalgia for the Deuce now and its probably in response to the the neon-blasted falsified cheerful Times Square of today, which was "cleaned up" years ago to appeal to mainstream America.

Don't let 'em fool ya - this chain-restaurant, chain-retail smeared corner of the earth is just as sleazy as it was back in 1976. But its sleaze is based on pop culture marketing, selling the masses crap that they'll consume and throw away within minutes. But I'm not complaining, Times Square is, if anything, entertaining. The predominance of hookers and drooling junkies are just buried within the masses of roustabout teenagers, families and happy loving couples.

If you want to see remnants of the 1970s, just take a walk down Eighth Avenue between 42nd and 50th.

Or - better yet - watch Martin Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


By the time 1972 came around we were good and fed up with the Vietnam War. We were sick of minority oppression and we were slowly discovering that the United States political system was completely corrupt and led by a popular - albeit crooked - president who eventually embitters and almost single handedly destroys a nation already embroiled in domestic and global violence while struggling with crazy out of control inflation. News was peppered by outrageous stories like that rugby team resorting to cannibalism to survive after their airplane crashed into the Andes Mountains.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes hit audiences like a visceral blow to the solar plexus. Never mind its already built-in sequel cache. This was a film ripe for revolution - serious and violent. The opposite of its predecessor, Escape From the Planet of the Apes, but a fitting sequel/prequel/dystopian nightmare (that is if you were a human; to an ape it was verging utopian).

I first saw the film's poster hanging in the lobby of the Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove, IL about two weeks before its release on June 30, 1972. I spent those next two weeks in a hyper pre-adolescent rage, rambling endlessly about what I thought the film was to be based on my impressions inspired by that poster.

I wasn't entirely right in my predictions about the movie. After seeing it, I didn't grasp (on the surface anway) its political and humanistic implications. I saw it as an action film first and foremost. I related to the apes and saw it wholly from their perspective.

Now? As a human being, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is terrifying.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Seven-Ups

The chase in The Seven-Ups isn't as innovative as the one in The French Connection (remember the chase in The French Connection is car vs. elevated train) but I find it more exhilarating than the chase in Bullitt. While Bullitt was one of the first to bring the viewer inside the car and intercut with shots from outside the car, The Seven-Ups chase was faster, sloppier, more desperate and dangerous.

This poster doesn't allude to the chase in the film (a movie that's pretty much cat and mouse) and its minimalist design points to the plot's bleak nature. Its not your typical "show the action" marketing ploy and raises more questions than it answers, which is what you want a movie poster to do. Roy Scheider's expression here is more resigned than angry although it's both. He's obviously been pushed over a cliff - whether society and/or career driven or purely psychological.

Philip D'Antoni (who produced Bullitt and The French Connection) was, I believe, attempting to explore the complexity of a cop's psyche. I think the film missed that mark but its still explosive.

And the chase? It's the film's raison d'etre.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Una 44 Magnum per L'Ispettore Callaghan

I never really warmed up to Dirty Harry. Don't get me wrong - I love the 1971 film but I just can't relate to Eastwood's portrayal of the cop Harry Callahan, whose super-human, right-wing swagger puts me off. He's too mechanical (and righteous) as opposed to Gene Hackman's flawed Popeye Doyle in The French Connection - a film I consider a classic of early 70s American cop cinema. I tend to go back to Doyle more than I do Callahan. Doyle's swagger is human and The French Connection just feels real.

The Dirty Harry franchise became a parody of itself (even though Dirty Harry is itself a parody) and I find the sequels unwatchable, particularly Ted Post's drab Magnum Force. At least Harry, despite his conservatism, dukes it out with his own kind - ultra-conservative cops (albeit crooked).

Even though I don't care for Magnum Force, I think this poster - from Italy - is more spellbinding than the movie. What's great is how it captures the film but puts a sort of psychedelic spin on the proceedings. It certainly emphasizes Harry's appendage - his .44 Magnum. And I think the title, Una 44 Magnum per L'Ispettore Callaghan basically translates to "A .44 Magnum for Inspector Callahan," which hilariously deflates the power of the film's title: Magnum Force (BTW, Callahan in the Italian title is spelled incorrectly).

Ultimately, the movie simply can't live up to the swagger of its American title nor the wonkiness of this crazy Italian poster.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Movie posters don't have the marketing cache they once did. In fact, you rarely give them a second look when you walk through the multiplex to the shoebox that acts as a theater.

When's the last time a movie poster caught your eye? When's the last time you saw a movie poster and thought, "I gotta see that!"

What I love about this poster is it tells it like it is yet, at the same time, you can't help but wonder what you're in for. This film came out in 1965 and is decidedly non-conformist and anti-Hollywood. Its a big "F-You" to the movie studio system and a double dare to the movie going public. This poster is action packed and proto-feminist despite accentuating the Russ Meyer obvious.

Action, speed, thrills, kicks...its all here on this fantastic one-sheet.

Monday, October 10, 2011


A sentence ends with a period and a period denotes an ending.

If you keep rereading the same sentence over and over, you'll never get to the next sentence.

Writers stuck editing the same sentence over and over never write a new sentence.

People on rewind, running the past over and over never move on.

When this happens, they wrestle with those things in the past that went "wrong." The frustrating part for them is that you can't "right" those "wrongs."

So while every second, every minute, every hour and every day ends with a period, editing and rewriting isn't an option.

You have no choice but to write the next sentence.

And the next.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I didn't do anything

I took a couple vacation days right before a long Columbus Day weekend because I need to burn some before the end of the year. I'll be taking the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas off as well and will still have days left over.

I work a lot and rarely take time off - even those given to me as part of the company's vacation plan. I like my job, so I'm not scrambling to take time off. Even when I'm not there for a day, I miss it.

I get that everyone needs time off, including me. So when I do take a handful of days for myself, my goal is to disconnect. No checking voicemail and absolutely no checking e-mail.

The not checking e-mail is a challenge for me - I use my phone for lots of stuff so when I do something with it during time off, its tempting to check that e-mail monster. But I won't. Because if I do, I'll get caught up in work and vacation time - even if a couple days - is meant to recharge so that when I do go back to the office, I'll feel refreshed.

Granted, I'll have hundreds of e-mails to go through and half of those will be on fire. And while I could get a jump on them during my time off, then what's the point of taking the time?

So today what did I do on my day off? Not a freakin' thing. I could feel my mind empty.

And it was great.

P.S. I actually did do something. I watched Brian DePalma's SCARFACE on Blu-ray. Truly a feat of greatness.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I run. Five to seven days a week. Two to five miles a run. It helps alleviate stress, the biggest reason I do it. It also helps to keep fear at bay.
Fear. Of what? Failing? Winning? Dying?

I can't remember the last time I failed at something that was debilitating. I've walked away from stuff by choice. But doing so didn't mean I failed. I just walked away and was better for it.

Yes, people close to me have died. And it was horrible. But fear of this happening didn't stop it from happening.

I've had winning moments where the win was overshadowed by the fear. Ironically, the win came easily when fear was pushed away.

But often fear, it seems, is actually unfounded and is more of a low-grade constant psychological aberration that plagues many, if not all of us most all of the time.

I see people living in fear everyday. The truly fearful overcompensate - they're either hyper-confident, hyper-funny, or bully their way through life, or they brag, or they mumble their words and give up trying anything that's unfamiliar or in the spotlight. Or they back-pedal without answering you straight. They drink a lot. Or they condescend. The fearful rarely raise their hands. They let people run all over them. And the truly fearful don't even know that they do any or all of these things.

Fear. There's an uncertainty - always. That's the way it is.

And since that's the way it is - stop. Don't hide behind out-of-character behaviors.

Be self-aware. Ask yourself: "What are you so afraid of?"

You never know. One day you might answer, "Nothing."