Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The 2017 National Film Registry Inductees





Today, the National Film Preservation Board announced its annual inductees for 2017.  The films, as usual, are a variety of important landmark films:

Ace in the Hole (aka Big Carnival) (1951)

Boulevard Nights (1979)

Die Hard (1988)

Dumbo (1941)

Field of Dreams (1989)

4 Little Girls (1997)

Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection (1920s and 1930s)

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

The Goonies (1985)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

Interior New York Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street (1905)

La Bamba (1987)

Lives of Performers (1972)

Memento (2000)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)

Spartacus (1960)

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)

Time and Dreams (1976)

Titanic (1997)

To Sleep with Anger (1990)

Wanda (1971)

With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-38)





Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Essential Films Podcast - Episode #17: The Wizard of Oz (1939)



NOW STREAMING!

SUBSCRIBE ON iTUNES

There’s no place like home. On today’s Thanksgiving podcast adventure, Adolfo and Mark discuss the 1939 MGM classic: THE WIZARD OF OZ! On this week’s show:

More Alamo Drafthouse!
Watching CASABLANCA on the big screen
It’s not an isosceles triangle!
What human being on this planet hasn’t seen Wizard of Oz?
A Thanksgiving tradition
The troubled production and box office woes of Oz
Dark Side of the Moon
The power of watching a movie on the big screen
The rotating door of directors
Wizard of Oz on stage
High school productions
The Jitterbug
A Thanksgiving tradition
Engrained in pop culture
Roseanne Barr as the Wicked Witch?
The bankability of Fantasy films in the 30s.
Why the film was a dream sequence
The darkness of RETURN TO OZ
“Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the film
Dorothy and Scarecrow love connection?
The pros and cons of blu-ray
The amazing make-up artistry
Shirley Temple: The original Dorothy?
Ray Bolger originally cast as Scarecrow
Buddy Ebsen’s allergic reaction to the silver Tin Man make up, causing him to be recast by Jack Haley
Who were WC Fields and Ed Wynn considered to play?
Frank Morgan, the MGM character actor
Margaret Hamilton severely burned on a stunt
Juvenile Oscars
The television broadcast gave the film new life
Urban legends
Midgets groping Judy Garland
There is still one Munchkin left!
Sequels & spinoffs!
Wicked the Broadway Musical
The debut of the Random CHRISTMAS Movie Generator



FILM REFERENCES IN THIS EPISODE:

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1910)
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1925)
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938)
GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940)
CASABLANCA (1942)
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
THE BISHOP’S WIFE (1947)
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951)
SCROOGE (1951)
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959)
MARY POPPINS (1965)
BONNIE & CLYDE (1967)
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967)
WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971)
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
STAR WARS TRILOGY (1977-1983)
MOMENT BY MOMENT (1978)
THE WIZ (1978)
THE SHINING (1980)
BLOW OUT (1981)
THE THING (1982)
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)
MICHAEL JACKSON’S THRILLER (1982)
SCARFACE (1983)
A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)
GREMLINS (1984)
RETURN TO OZ (1985)
CAPTAIN EO (1986)
THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)
THE LOST BOYS (1987)
MOONWALKER (1988)
DIE HARD (1988)
GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990)
HOME ALONE (1990)
MGM WHEN THE LION ROARS (1992)
THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)
FALLING DOWN (1993)
ED WOOD (1994)
BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)
STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
POKÉMON: THE MOVIE - I CHOOSE YOU! (2000)
THE ROOM (2002)
TIN MAN (2007)
500 DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)
THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY (2001-2003)
ROOM 237 (2012)
THE AVENGERS (2012)
THE HOBBIT TRILOGY (2012-2014)
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)
SPOTLIGHT (2015)
THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)
JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)
AMERICAN ASSASSIN (2017)
KINGSMAN THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (2017)
THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017)
IRVING BERLIN’S HOLIDAY INN: THE MUSICAL (2017)
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (2017)
THE POST (2017)



LINKS:
Key & Peele: Gremlins 2
Moment by Moment TV Spot
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)
The Wizard of Oz (1925)
Return to Oz Trailer
Maragaret Hamilton on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood
Michael Jackson in The Wiz (1978)
Moonwalker Trailer (1988)
Captain EO
Tin Man trailer

SOCIAL MEDIA
TWITTER: @EssentialFilms, @FPMoviePodcast, @Adolfo_Acosta, @Sportsguy515
FACEBOOK: The Essential Films


Monday, November 20, 2017

Blow Out (1981)


BLOW OUT
Brian De Palma
1981 • 107 Minutes • 2.35 : 1 • United States
Filmways Pictures

Cast: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz
Screenplay: Brian De Palma
Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond
Producer: George Litto

Awards

National Society of Film Critics Awards
2nd place - NSFC Award
Best Cinematography - Vilmos Zsigmond

MURDER HAS A SOUND ALL ITS OWN!


It's a good scream. It's a good scream.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Jack (Travolta) is a sound effects master, recording some real-life sounds for a low-grade slasher movie one night when a speeding car blows a tire and crashes into a nearby river. Jack jumps into action to try and save the passengers. The driver, unfortunately already dead, Jack is still able to rescue the female passenger, Sally. It's revealed that the dead passenger is the governor and Presidential hopeful, and that Sally was clearly not his wife. Jack is involved in a tale of intrigue and suspense as he goes back to his recording of the accident time and time again, to discover any clues as to what really went down that fateful night. Thrown in a serial killer subplot and this becomes top-notch dePalma.

If the premise sounds familiar, it's because the same basic plot has been done before twice in cinema: first with a photographer as the protagonist in Michelangelo Antonioni's BLOW-UP in 1966 and then a surveillance expert in Francis Ford Coppola's THE CONVERSATION in 1974. And Brian de Palma certainly loves to wear his cinematic influences on his sleeve. See: DRESSED TO KILL/PSYCHO and BODY DOUBLE/VERTIGO.  That said, despite the familiar plot, his take on the story may be my personal favorite.

The movie is incredibly well-written, with a conspiracy angle running through out the plot of the film. As Jack's investigation begins to unravel the mystery, you have John Lithgow's character going on a string of random killings in order to manipulate the media into thinking a serial killer is on the loose. That way when he eventually kills Sally in the same gruesome manner, no one will connect her to the larger conspiracy to kill the governor. This is one of Lithgow's earlier film roles and he delivers as the cool and menacing Burke.

Not to be outdone, this may be John Travolta's finest performance ever. Apparently, I'm in good
company as Quentin Tarantino thinks so as well, which prompted him to cast him in PULP FICTION that performance. (FICTION, coincidentally, my other favorite performance).  Travolta had mostly played heroes or romantic leads in his career. In this film, he really gets to demonstrate his chops as this sleazy sound effects editor involved a exceedingly seedy mystery. The climax of the film (SPOILERS) involves Sally, who has been wired for sound to catch Burke on tap, being tortured and killed while Travolta helplessly listens in. It's a dark ending to kill off the romantic lead, and even darker that Jack uses the legitimate scream as a sound effect in his shlocky horror B-movie. "It's a good scream..."

The fact that Travolta wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this performance is a crime. But what's a real tragedy is that the sound design for this film wasn't recognized at all. That's insane. Never have I heard, perhaps except THE CONVERSATION, where sound effects and recording played such a crucial role in the production and have been so flawlessly executed.

The entire film is a meditation on filmmaking and how sound and images can be manipulated to create a story. There's a brilliant scene of Jack using still photographs and matching them to his edited sound recording to create a "movie" that he believes will shed light on the mystery.

Guilt is also a theme running throughout the film, as we find out that Jack used to work with the police in wiring informants for undercover operations, until one night it all went wrong and one of his informants was killed on the job. Sally, who was hired as a way to stir up controversy against the governor, also has a guilty conscience and the unlikely pair is motivated to absolve their sins by solving the mystery.  The political thriller aspect also smells a little of Nixon-era paranoia as well, with powerful men manipulating the news and media to attain their sinister goals. It's perhaps a sick joke that the climax of the film takes place on the backdrop of a massive fireworks celebration in the city where America was "born", Philadelphia.

While receiving positive reviews from critics, word got out of the films pitch black bleak ending, which ultimately hurt the box office.  Thankfully, with new restorations like the Criterion Collection blu-ray, this film will get rediscovered in the years to come.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A History of Horror



The Essential Films takes you on a journey through terror.

Featuring:
28 Days Later (2002)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Alien (1979)
Aliens (1986)
American Psycho (2000)
An American Werewolf in London (1982)
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Army of Darkness (1992)
Audition (1999)
The Babadook (2014)
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
Beetlejuice (1988)
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
The Birds (1963)
The Black Cat (1934)
Black Christmas (1974)
Black Sabbath (1963)
Black Sunday (1960)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blob (1958)
The Body Snatcher (1945)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Candyman (1992)
Carnival of Souls (1962)
Carrie (1976)
The Cat and the Canary (1927)
Cat People (1942)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Changeling (1980)
Child's Play (1988)
The Conjuring (2013)
The Crazies (1973)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Creepshow (1982)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The Dead Zone (1983)
Deep Red (1975)
The Descent (2006)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Don't Breathe (2016)
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1921)
Dracula (1931)
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Duel (1971)
Eraserhead (1977)
Event Horizon (1997)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Evil Dead (2013)
Evil Dead II (1987)
The Exorcist (1973)
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
The Fly (1986)
Frankenstein (1931)
Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th Part II (1982)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Freaks (1932)
Fright Night (1985)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Get Out (2017)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Godzilla (1954)
The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920)
Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Green Room (2017)
Gremlins (1984)
Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
The Haunted Castle (1896)
The Haunting (1963)
Halloween (1978)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Hellraiser (1987)
Horror of Dracula (1958)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
House of Wax (1953)
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
I Bury the Living (1959)
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
The Innocents (1961)
It Follows (2014)
Insidious (2010)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The Invisible Man (1933)
Island of Lost Souls (1932)
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Jaws (1975)
Jurassic Park (1993)
King Kong (1933)
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Les Diaboliques (1955)
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Mad Love (1935)
Manhunter (1986)
Maximum Overdrive (1987)
Misery (1990)
The Mist (2007)
The Monster Squad (1987)
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
The Mummy (1932)
The Mummy (1959)
Near Dark (1987)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Nosferatu (1922)
The Omen (1976)
The Others (2001)
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Paranormal Activity (2009)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Phantasm (1979)
The Phantom Carriage (1921)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
Poltergeist (1982)
Predator (1987)
Psycho (1960)
Re-Animator (1985)
Rear Window (1954)
[REC] (2007)
Repulsion (1965)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Ring (1998)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Rope (1948)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Saw (2004)
Scanners (1983)
Scream (1996)
Se7en (1995)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The Shining (1980)
The Silence of the Lambs (1990)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Stephen King's It (1990)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
The Stuff (1985)
Suspiria (1977)
The Terminator (1984)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Them! (1954)
They Live (1988)
The Thing (1982)
The Thing From Another World (1951)
Trick 'r' Treat (2007)
The Unknown (1927)
Vampyr (1932)
Videodrome (1983)
Village of the Damned (1960)
Wait Until Dark (1967)
War of the Worlds (1953)
White Zombie (1932)
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Witch (2016)
The Wolf Man (1941)
The Woman in Black (1989)
Zombieland (2009)

Music:
"Abyss (JG Thirlwell Remix)" by John Carpenter