Monday, November 29, 2010


Last night I received a text message for my friend Karin; R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen. Aw hell, I said to myself.. not Leslie Nielsen! 
Who didn’t love Leslie Nielsen? You’d just see his face (and that great white hair) and you'd smile… then he would do something silly and make you fn crack up! Sometimes you’d just laugh, just because here was this old dude, who was fearless when it came to doing a comedy bit… he just went for it! And you always felt that he was having such a great time doing it too... a true man to admire... he was just getting a second career going, when most men were getting ready to retire. Leslie Nielsen was proof that you were never too old to try something fun & new. The real funny thing was that “funny Leslie Nielsen” wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for a little 1980 movie called AIRPLANE! A rip-roaring parody of the AIRPORT disaster films of the 70’s, co-directed by Jim Abrams and David and Jerry Zucker. They were brilliant with who they cast. Nielsen  with a slew of familiar actor who where famous for playing tough-stoic characters; Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves. Nielsen played the doctor aboard the ill-fated airplane. 
I remember working as an usher at The Village Theater in Westwood, Ca. the first time they screened a trailer of AIRPLANE! It was a Friday night and the house was packed, the crowd was screaming with laughter. The funny thing is nobody believed it was a real … people came out of the theater shaking their heads asking “is that an actual movie?” I said..."aah, I think so?"
 And Nielsen (in my opinion) gave of the silliest (in a funny way) lines in movie history.  When the entire flight crew is knocked out of commission by a bad fish dinner, there only hope of landing is in the hands of ex-fighter pilot, Ted Striker (Robert Hayes.) But now, Striker has a fear of flying and it’s Nielsen’s doctor who tells him that he has to land the plane;

"Surely you can't be serious?"

"I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."

When Nielsen said that line, his career was never the same again. As I had stated, Nielsen (born in Regina, Canada) was a fixture usual cast in the 60's & 70's as a cold-hard ass bastard, who usually turned up as the heavy on such Quinn Martin TV shows as; THE STREETS OF SAN FRANSISCO & CANNON.  As a kid, my favorite role of his was on an episode of Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLERY, called A Question of Fear.  Nielsen played Col. Malloy a tough as nails (one-eyed) ex-mercenary who stands to earn $10,00 if he's brave enough to spend one night in a haunted house. (You can catch it on Hulu for free.)

Nielsen was also one of the last of the MGM contract players starring in such pictures as; RANSOM!, TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR as well as the 50’s Sci-Fi classic FORBIDDEN PLANET. And as ship’s captain in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE… who can forget the look on Nielsen’s face, as he see that giant tidal wave that’s about to hit his ship.
After the great success of AIRPLANE! The guys wrote a TV show around Nielsen; POLICE SQUAD! The show was a parody of the tough cop shows of the 50’s and 60’s with Nielsen cast as the tough but stupid, Sergeant Frank Drebin. Nielsen who had years of experience reading curt dialogue on TV was simply a master now, the creative team gave him the most inane deadpan lines and he delivered them with great relish. Despite critical praise the ABC show was canceled after only a few episodes. But great ideas sometimes don’t die, the Zuckers and Paramount Pictures to their credit brought Nielsen’s Drebin back (six years later), only this time on the big screen; THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD! The picture was a hit and it spawned two hit sequels … erasing practically all of Nielsen’s former career as a serious actor. 

From these pictures on (thirty years) Nielsen was known as a comic actor, as his forte was to be comic parodies from anything from DRACULA to JAMES BOND or THE FUGITIVE. A whole generation only knew him as a man who makes you laugh. I was fortunate enough to meet Leslie Nielsen when I was working on the ABC lot in Hollywood (damn, I didn’t have a camera!) He was doing a guest bit on FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS. It was dinner break and he was hangin' out, being friendly with the crew. I remember that he had this little devise that made loud fart noises as unsuspecting folks would walk by… he truly was a silly, good-hearted fella. Like I said; “Who didn’t love Leslie Nielsen? So long pal… thanks for all the laughs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

MGM LION: 2010

MGM reunites with the Lion...alas, it's only an illusion, as its studio rival 20th Century Fox promotes its new film: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Nothing stays the same... MGM Studios pretty much made Culver City, Ca., it was derailed & dismantled in the 1970's. It's now Sony Studios, blasphemy for anyone who grew up in Culver City from the 1920's to the 1970's.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Every November... I Get The JFK Blues

President John F. Kennedy
Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was ambushed and killed in broad daylight as he drove with the First Lady through Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. On that fateful day this country lost something... and has been haunted by it ever since.


I believe somehow, if you’re an American, whomever was President was when you’re born puts some kind of stamp on you, It did for me… so my President was John F. Kennedy. Sure, I was a just two years old when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963… but somehow what happened on that day long ago in Dallas haunts me forty-eight years later… in fact it makes me want to howl at the moon sometimes. Every year right before Thanksgiving, I get a little melancholy, it never fails. Why you might ask? For younger generation the question who shot J.F.K. might mean as much to them as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  With short attention span theater of the mind, many don’t even remember that Americans are still fighting not one, but two wars as I type this blog… why would they care about a president who was around during the time when televisions used rabbit ears (many would even ask what are rabbit ears?)  Because we’re Americans and I think what happened that day ripped into the red, white and blue, and we really never really recovered from it… I speak in the big picture of things. It was a domino effect that has somehow brought our country into the mess we’re in even today!

David Ferrie
“Oh man, why don't you fuckin' stop it? Shit, this is too fuckin' big for you, you know that? Who did the president, who killed Kennedy, fuck man! It's a mystery! It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma! The fuckin' shooters don't even know! Don't you get it?”  That’s a piece of dialogue said by Joe Pecsi when he portrayed David Ferrie in the film J.F.K.. David Farrie was one of the cast of bizarre characters that somehow seemed to be involved in the plot to murder the President… great dialogue that pretty much sums up this gigantic cover up that has loomed large over America the beautiful for almost fifty years.

As I grew up, I remember feeling the silent reverence of my parents and the older generations, the deep feeling of disbelief of what had happened to President Kennedy. It was something that was talked about in hushed tones; it was something so horrible that a child’s ears should be covered; spared from the horror of what happened… it has been like an opened wound for so long. Then the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King and the President’s brother Senator Robert Kennedy only made things even more surreal; it was like stir up the pot and get blown away by a lone gunman! For those like myself, we're not buying into it anymore; at least not the Warren Commissions report of what happened; a crazed lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald is going to protect the United States from a rouge president by blowing his brains out… and then the gunman himself is shot dead (on live TV no less) by shady nightclub owner named Jack Ruby… WTF?! Then Ruby dies in prison just when he wanted to spill his guts. How did this happen? I need answers! One of my biggest fears is to leave this good earth without getting them fucking answers! I'm sure that dogs who did this most surely are all dead... they lay still under cold marble... but the truth remains, waiting to be uncovered. J.F.K. wasn't a saint... we now know. But it truly seemed that he wanted what was best for America. And he was starting to push the envelope. It's been noted that J.F.K. wanted to withdraw the military advisers from Vietnam (that never happened and look what happened!) J.F.K. also wanted to do a major shake up (or even more drastic, the removal ) of The Federal Reserve (the private bankers who masquerade as a branch of the U.S. Government) who many believe rule the roost to this day... Kennedy pissed people off... a lot of people wanted him gone. But who really had the power to remove the President of the United States?
I remember back in the 70’s the theories about a conspiracies started popping up with guys like comedian Mort Sahl; who pretty much stopped being a comedian (and was black-balled when he tried to shed light on this murderous act of treason.) Still this considered a fringe group, not to be taken seriously… after all how could it be? Yeah, every President since George Washington has had his enemies, John Kennedy was no exception; Cuba, the mob, white supremacists...  But you really have to have some dark powers to kill the President of the most powerful country in  the world… a man who only 13 months before brought us back from brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union? Does the Mafia have that kind of juice? I doubt it? Only New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison had the balls big enough to try and uncover this crime (his story was the basis of Oliver Stone’s J.F.K. fill) and to bring a case against someone who might have been part of the cabal to kill the President. That man was New Orleans business man Clay Shaw (he unfortunately was acquitted and his story was almost entirely forgotten for almost twenty years, until Stone’s film.) So many conspirators, so little time.

Clay Shaw
Thank God for the famous Abraham Zupruder film…the wild card, which was something that whoever killed President Kennedy didn't count on. Zupruder was a private citizen, who just happen to be filming the president motorcade that fateful day and caught the assassination in his little movie camera lens…(and for that I think he should have been buried at Arlington National Cemetery with all the other men American heroes.) Amazingly the Zupruder film was not shown to the public until 1975! But when it was, we started to realize how ridiculous the Warren Commissions Report really was. Oswald was right, he was a fuckin’ pasty!

In my lifetime we've had the breath knocked out of us three times; J.F.K., 9-11 and the devastation of New Orleans during hurricane Katrina (Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Lincoln, the other two great tragedies that have momentary knocked our great nation to her knees.) For me the murder of J.F.K. doesn't leave my consciousness… it's in me, it will always be with me… every November it haunts me like a ghost.  Say what you will about Oliver Stone’s 1991 sensory overload film; which if nothing else kicked up the dirt again and asked again those questions about November 22, 1963. Do you care? You should… as Garrison says in Stones film. 
Jim Garrison
Jim Garrison: All these documents are yours. The people's property, you pay for it! But because the government considers you children who might be too disturbed or distressed to face this reality, or because you might possibly lynch those involved, you cannot see these documents for another seventy-five years. I'm in my early forties, so I'll have shuffled off this mortal coil by then, but I'm already telling my eight-year-old son to keep himself physically fit, so that one glorious September morning, in the year 2038, he can walk into the National Archives, and find out what the CIA and the FBI knew! They might even push it back then, hell it may become a generational affair, with questions passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, but someday, somewhere, somebody will find out the damn truth.

Yeah maybe it’s too big, and maybe David Ferrie was right? Maybe I’ll take the big sleep and never know? But I’m gonna give it a shot and try and stick around as long as I can, and maybe someone will crack this mystery once and for all? 

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: The New Steve McQueen?

I just found the new Steve McQueen! And she’s a girl (and she’s Swedish!) Yeah, really and she sports a dragon tattoo on her back. Every few years a breakthrough foreign film merges from the ranks and more likely than not with a interesting female in the lead; Run Lola Run and Amelie come to mind.  Well, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (a trilogy actually) is that film and NOOMI RAPACE is the girl.  Thanks Blockbuster Express and Redbox kiosks I’ve seen parts one and two of the smash trilogy (the other THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE.)  Directed by Daniel Alfredson the films are based on the novels (which are nicely stocked at the moment at my nearby Costco) by the late author Stieg Larsson.

 In TGWTDT he weaves an intriguing tale  about a rough hewn little gal, a computer hacker with a dark past named Lisbeth Salander. While dealing with her own problems, Lisbeth takes an interest in the investigations of a disgraced journalist Mikael Blonkvist (Michael Nyqvist) who’s computer she’s hacked into. The journalist has been hired by an aging industrialist who last wish is to find out what happened to his niece who disappeared without a trace in 1966. The two desperate characters reluctantly join forces to solve the mystery and unravel something very dark indeed.
By accident I watched the second film THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE first, so for me the first film was a giant flashback… I actually kind of glad that it turned out like that. I enjoyed having the pieces fall into place while watching TGWTDT. I don’t want to write too much about it, because I want you to see these films (although I have not yet seen the third film, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS NEST… I give it the benefit of the doubt that it’s on par with the previous two.)

So you ask me so where do I get the McQueen comparison? Well as of late, I have been on a McQueen jag (the 30th anniversary of his death was yesterday, November 7th.)  Unfortunately unless you’re a really hip or of a certain age, he’s amazingly just not well known anymore to the American public as say Clint Eastwood his cinema contemporary (both born in 1930 and both ruled the screen with action and few words.) In TGWTDT Rapace’s tight-lipped character of Lisbeth goes through the trials that McQueen did in so many of his classic movies. Rapace rides a motorcycle (The Great Escape), she’s has a revenge aspect (Nevada Smith), she’s an investigator (Bullitt) she’s on the run (The Getaway), she’s an outsider with a technical abilities (The Sand Pebbles), she’s physically beaten and has a tattoo (like McQueen in Papillion) and even a caper aspect like The Thomas Crown Affair.

Am I stretching? maybe, but can you think of anyone else out there better? I can’t? An American version of TGWTDT is in the works, so yourself a favor and catch this trilogy (yes, watch it with the subtitles) because you know and I know Hollywood will screw it up.

* Update (Febuary 2012) I saw the NEW VERSION of TGWTDT directed by David Fincher (of Zodiac and Seven fame)... and the new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is excellent. See Link Below.