Commentary

  • March 21, 2008

    40 Years of 2001: A Space Odyssey!

    The late Stanley Kubrick’s legendary science fiction epic had its world premiere on April 2, 1968 at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C. and was released to the general public just four days later in 70mm format. By the fall of 1968, it was released in 35mm anamorphic format and advertised as Cinerama in movie theaters equipped with special projection optics and a widely-curved movie screen. Although it received mixed reviews upon its release, it is today regarded by audiences and critics as one of the greatest motion pictures ever made.

    For myself, it has been my favorite film since high school back in the early ‘80s. Ironically, I hated it the first time I ever watched it. Having grown up with the action and speed of “Star Wars” and “Battlestar Galactica”, this seemingly slow, intelligent sci-fi story with very little dialogue and existing classical musical played out for me like a very cruel joke. Sometime later, when it was broadcasted on television, I gave it another look…and another, and another, until finally, I started to see the genius of it. For me, the rest is history.

    Here are some more film facts that might interest you:

  • February 26, 2008

    Looking back at “The Day After”

    To be clear,“The Day After”, a horrifying story about nuclear destruction and the aftermath, was not released as a theatrical film (at least, not in the United States). Twenty-five years ago, during the Spring of 1983, it was broadcasted on ABC-TV. The next morning, viewers felt like they were pulverized with a sledgehammer.

    The film was directed by Nicholas Myer (he also directed “Time after Time”, “Star Trek II” and “VI”) and starred noteworthy talents like Jason Robards, Jobeth Williams and Steve Guttenberg. The film opens with a world in political crisis as news of possible war spreads throughout the media. We don’t know why or which side is at fault; we only know that it’s going to happen. The film focuses on Kansas City, Missouri and its citizens coping (and dying) when the big one ultimately hits. There are scenes of death during the nuclear explosion that were considered very risky and very graphic for television at the time.

    When people ask me what movie has ever scared me the most, my answer has always been “The Day After”. No other film has ever put such a dreaded knot in my stomach as this one has. One need only watch the scene just before the bomb hits, when the awful sound of that alarm is filling the streets and people are completely panic-striken. The camera pulls back from the city skyline and the blast hits, creating the ominous, almost beautiful mushroom cloud that follows. Those images have scared me a lot more than anything Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kruger will ever do on screen. What happens next is inevitable. What happens after that is simply, the day after.

  • January 21, 2008

    The WGA strike: When will it end and do we really care anymore?

    I’ve often found from personal experience, that if you are without something for a long-enough period of time (voluntary or not), you’re likely to become used to the situation. I’ve spent a little time browsing through related blogs and comment boards and was surprised to see that a vast majority of people have been able to easily replace the time they used to spend watching broadcast television by instead watching DVD’s, reading and going out. Even late night talk show hosts proved they could still put on an entertaining show without the writers. Perhaps many are realizing for the first time that what was on television before the strike was not so great after all. In a nutshell, it’s beginning to look like we don’t care anymore about this strike.

    I have been and continue to be one of those people! Sure, there are two sides to every argument in terms of sympathizing with the writers, but for me, it’s ultimately about the quality of entertainment that’s being written for the big and small screen. Were I happy with either, I’d be more sympathetic. But I (and many, many others) find it very difficult to be sympathetic to those who likely are making at least three times the amount of money I earn in a year! I mean, would I sympathize with the restaurant chef who wants more money if the food he/she was routinely preparing was just plain lousy?

    What would a continued strike mean for the future of the movies? Well, so far, if it means the cancellation of films like TRANSFORMERS 2 and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, then not only would I not care if the strike didn’t end, I’d probably encourage its prolongment!

  • December 6, 2007

    The CLOVERFIELD movie poster.

    People, I’d like your opinion on this – there is a movie called CLOVERFIELD to be released on January 18, 2008. From what I can make out from the trailer, it is about a monster that destroys New York City and is filmed from the point of view of an amateur film maker (a'la Blair Witch Project).

    The movie poster for this depicts a headless Statue of Liberty in the foreground and a shot of downtown Manhattan in smoke and in ruins (forgive my computer ignorance, but I did not know how to attach a shot of the poster for this commentary. Search the web and I’m sure you’ll find it easily).

    In my opinion, I find this poster incredibly offensive and insensitive to not only those who lost their lives in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, but also to the surviving family members who must live with the horror of that day for the rest of their lives.

  • September 13, 2007

    Loud previews disturb patrons, hurt exhibitors

    Almost everyone has experienced excessively loud trailers before the feature. There have been concerted efforts at NATO conventions to correct this perpetual problem. Still, probably every cinema in the world continues to receive extra loud previews. The consequences include frustrated patrons finding yet another reason to give up on movie-going and theater managers time and again fielding hostile complaints. Despite posting a projectionist/staff person in the booth to adjust the sound, down for trailer & up for feature, the likelihood a picture in a multiplex will be off at the start or even during the meat of the show is unacceptably high.

    We all know television commercials are generally louder than television programs. This is not as obnoxious because remote controls facilitate tweaking the sound level. Heck, my saintly elderly mom just mutes the darn ads.

  • September 4, 2007

    September 11th and the meaning of movies in our lives

    As the 6th Anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches, I find myself reflecting on the weeks that immediately following those horrific events.

    What I specifically remember regarding Hollywood was not only their (rare and temporary) sensitivity to violence (the release of COLLATERAL DAMAGE was postponed until the following spring) but their sensitivity to try and raise the spirits of the United States – nearly every comedy released by every major studio that summmer of 2001 had been immediately re-released for the public’s escape and enjoyment.

    My wife (fiance at the time) and I were not exempt. As soon as we were able to leave New York City, we headed out to Westhampton Beach, Long Island to try and put our heads back together. It was there we went to see SHREK for the second time at the Hampton Arts Theatre. For 90 minutes of our lives, there was no better way to forget the recent events than to laugh along with the insanity of Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy.

    Unfortunately, the brief sensitivity Hollywood displayed was not to last long. Before we knew it, movies like THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, WAR OF THE WORLDS and TRANSFORMERS were out there showing just how exciting it can be to destroy society as much as possible.

  • August 17, 2007

    Chilling at a theatre near you

    I came across an interesting article in the Toronto Star. Apparently, your choice in film can affect your comfort in the theater. And we’re not talking about size of screen and number of seats. Science was never my best subject in school so I clearly hadn’t thought about how temperature in a room depends on the number of people in it.

    Have you ever gone to a movie – say, Nancy Drew or Hostel: Part II or some other box-office dud – only to find yourself sadly alone and even more surprisingly, freezing your ju-jubes off?

    I recently attended one so-called blockbuster and within the first 15 action-filled minutes, I slowly began shivering until my mind drifted off, focused on only one thing: the woolly cardigan in my closet at home.

    Of course, cool theatres are part of the appeal of going to the movies in summer. The relieving chill of air conditioning in a dark theatre can be a soothing break from sweltering, smoggy, 35-degree Ontario heat waves.

    But sometimes cinema houses are so cold I wonder if the theatre is trying to beef up their revenue by hanging meat in the projectionist’s booth.

  • August 10, 2007

    The new concert venue or the new television?

    When the Metropolitan Opera announced last year that some of its productions were going to be beamed to movie theaters, you could count me as one of the skeptics. With attendance down, an artform that’s rather commercially stuck in the past didn’t seem like the proper antidote.

    Then, I realized exactly how little I know about anything. I started hearing about packed houses all across the country. Even the more modern pieces were drawing well. Now,Playbill Arts just announced that the Met will be beefing up its schedule even more this year.

    The Metropolitan Opera is set to present its high-definition simulcasts on up to 400 movie screens in the United States during the coming season — nearly triple the number of venues from last season.

    The company announced today a renewed and extended deal with National CineMedia (NCM) to present the live Saturday afternoon broadcasts at between 300 and 400 cinemas across the country. The operas will be shown at participating AMC, Cinemark, Georgia Theater Company, National Amusements and Regal theaters; according to the Met and NCM, more affiliate locations are being added to NCM’s digital high-definition network.

    The movie theater simulcasts were seen as a bold but risky venture when the Met launched them last season. In the event, they proved an enormous success, with more locations and screens being added over the course of the year and repeat presentations added at some locations. The program attracted press coverage all over the world, and the broadcasts themselves were extended during the season from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain to seven countries on three continents.

    Good for them. It’s great to see not only supporting their local movie theaters, but opera as well. What does this mean for the future of movie theaters though? With a more obscure idea like this working, what will come next?

  • August 3, 2007

    MobMov

    Bitter about the price of your local theater? Sick of all that noise from annoying patrons? Want to go to a place where you can see a quality film on the big screen?

    With all these expectations, why give your local theater a chance when you can DIY it! A new craze called MobMov (short for mobile movie) is catching like wildfire all over the world. Clubs of people in different cities bring a projector to a random location containing a large wall, usually an abandoned warehouse, and literally create a drive-in experience. I’d never even heard of it before I read this story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    The crescent moon over the Bay Bridge was a stunning twinkle of lights through the windshield, but all eyes were sharply focused on the flickering projections on the warehouse wall. We’re parked in a vacant lot in what must remain an undisclosed S.F. location. We are MobMov for the next few hours – a brief and nerdy flash mob of drive-in enthusiasts gathered to view the night’s feature presentation from the comfort of our bucket seats.

    With bags of popcorn and Hot Tamales on the dashboard, about 15 cars nestle like sardines and tuned to the same radio frequency – the short-term sound system that serves as the modern-day speaker attached to the window ledge from drive-ins of years ago. The other reminder that this isn’t 1957: As we prepare for the feature presentation, the projected image is the familiar interface of Microsoft Windows, and the whole event is being fueled by the car battery of a Toyota RAV4.

    Has anyone been to these? Does it indeed preserve the experience like they say it does?

  • July 27, 2007

    Thanks, mom

    Are you kidding me? So I was reading this New York Times article about Disney for the most part banning cigarette smoking in their films. It’ll be completely banished from their family films and discouraged from their others.

    Disney’s action comes amid increasing pressure from advocacy groups and regulators for media companies to purge movies of cigarettes. In May, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that portrayals of smoking would be considered alongside sex and violence in assessing the suitability of movies for young viewers. Films that appear to glamorize smoking will risk a more restrictive rating.

    Mr. Iger said in a letter to Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, dated July 25 that Disney would also “discourage depictions of cigarette smoking” in pictures released by its Touchstone and Miramax units. Last month, Mr. Markey, chairman of the subcommittee on telecommunications, held hearings on the effects of movie images on children.

    Now, let me get this straight. I’m not about to advocate cigarette smoking in any way, much less in a medium that touches millions. My problem is with the idea that this is being addressed in this manner.