“It’s Strictly Personal”: A Book Review

I started my movie version of the blog in 2010. I was interested in films from my years growing up as a teenager during the 1970s.  The project was originally intended to run the length of that summer and then I would be done with it, but movies have a way of steering your life in directions that you can’t always anticipate. I was over fifty years old when I started working on the project, and I was not particularly adept at using the social media that was available. As I became more familiar with what I was doing, I discovered of course that I was not the only person who had opinions about movies, and that included films from my preferred time line. I started searching for other bloggers who, like me, were not only interested in reviewing a movie but also cared about the context of the times and the personal history that they had with the movies they loved. I had searched a few movie blogs for sites similar to mine, but I struggled to locate the right mixture. Everybody had opinions about movies, and many had opinions about old movies, but where were the ones who wanted to share more than just their opinions but a little something about themselves?

Two sites came to my attention in 2011. One was recommended to me by a blogger who for a time posted on a daily basis and seemed to have a very committed community following him. He sent me to “It Rains…You Get Wet”  written by a guy here in Southern California who was once a theater projectionist. We have connected many times since then in the real rather than the virtual world, and he has become a friend that I look forward to meeting at screenings here in the Southland on a regular basis.

The second site I discovered on my own, simply by scrolling through movie sites listed on the Blogger Platform. Unlike my colleague from So.Cal. , this guy was ten years younger than me, and he lived on the other side of the country. He was reviewing films in his own library, going through them alphabetically. That seemed like a fun approach so I started reading some of his reviews and lo and behold, they were not simply reviews but often microcosms of his life and movie going experiences. This was very close to what I did originally and still attempt to do from time to time. I have been a loyal reader of “My Movies, My Words” since early 2011. The author of this site is Eric Friedman, and he has taken his concept one step further and produced a book, based on the same principle but organized with a very specific theme in mind. My copy arrived two days ago, even though I ordered it the minute it was available last week. I feel a little proprietary toward the book, having interacted with Eric for so many years and sharing stories about movies we loved and experience we had in common.  I was a little jealous of others who were able to read it before me, but now that I have caught up with them, I can safely say that I have joined the club of satisfied customers.

Eric is usually my favorite read each week when he posts another one of his reviews. He is opinionated, intelligent and passionate about what he likes in a film. I have not always agreed with him on his perspectives on some movies, but he always makes a reasonable argument for what he believes. He also shares some information about his history with a film, and that is what his new book, “It’s Strictly Personal” does in depth. It is an autobiography of a man you have not met and almost certainly never heard of before, but it is a story that all film fanatics share. Starting as an eight year old and moving up to the point at which he turns 16, Eric tells the story of how movies reflect his life history. This is something that all of us movie bloggers could do if we took the time to work it out. We all have that first film going experience in our memories. We can recall the scenes that frightened us as children or made us laugh out loud. My guess is most of you can remember a movie that you did not understand as a child, which later became a beloved touchstone of your life. That is the story Eric is telling here.

The book is written as if we are having a long conversation with an old friend, and he is filling us in on his life and the movies we share in common. He is honest in his description of a somewhat dysfunctional family life growing up, but he is not maudlin about how things turn out, they simply reflect the personal history that recalls as the movies play out like the soundtrack to his life.  He is well spoken of many of the critical elements of film making, but like me, and I suspect most of you, he is a well informed hobbyist rather than a scholar. The other thing he is, is a good writer. He has a direct way of expressing his views but he also includes the details that make each story interesting. Although he has done some historical research to make sure his dates are accurate, he relies on his vivid memories to tell these stories.

A a Generation X kid, his encounters with films often include the frustrating but essential background of having to see a film for the first time on television. His parents were not like the permissive generation that would allow a child of eight to see “Jaws” [that of course would be a fault my generation would be guilty of. mea culpa] It’s fun to live through his frustration of wanting to be part of the cultural zeitgeist when your parents don’t approve of horror movies and you lived through the age of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”.

Also, Eric having grown up in the NYC area, we get a bit of history concerning movie theaters of the suburbs and those in the city itself. HBO is an heroic figure in Eric’s life and the stories related to sleepovers with a friend and watching in a more permissive household, will certainly seem familiar to others of that generation. Reading about how a kid changes from a naive child to a more engaged adolescent may seem like a strange journey to you, until you realize we have all made the same journey. The delight of this book is that the author has put words to paper so we can take that journey together again. You may not have the same inventory of films in your memory bank that Eric shares, but those of us who do love movies, have similar stories that his experiences will help us to evoke.

Social Media may sometimes be a pox on the world. Twitter is filled with trolls who want to shame, virtue signal or generally act like the smart ass kid in the back row. Blogs allow the most wretched of people and ideas to be available to anyone unfortunate enough to trip over them. Despite those drawbacks, social media also allows us to connect with others who we would never have met otherwise. I have several virtual friends that I know because of our shared love of movies. I am happy to say that Eric Friedman is one of them. After having read his book, I feel like we are closer friends than I am with some of my childhood buddies, simply because we speak the same language, …AND THERE WERE MOVIES!

Advertisements

Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse

I had originally dismissed this as a piece of television animation that was getting a theatrical release to boost interest in DVD sales and streaming. Well that turned out to be wrong. After hearing a number of my colleagues on “The Lamb” rave about it, and seeing a half dozen really positive reviews (which I scanned rather than reading), I became a lot more motivated. I can now see why there is a lot of enthusiasm, and while I am not inclined to say it was the best film of the year as some of the hyperbole had it, I can say it was excellent.

The story does take a while to set up and you have to be patient with it. Not only do most of us know the origin story, but when the various dimensions start crossing paths, we get it partially recapped, although with slight variations each time. The main focus in this telling is on Miles Morales, a kid from Brooklyn who is starting at a charter school where he stays in a dorm during the school week. This story is immediately different because Miles has a loving Mother and Father present in his life. He is not alienated from them but he does have some of the usual adolescent angst that comes from trying to be your own person but also needing your family. Miles is gifted but more in the arts than the sciences, and his radiated spider bite is not a result of his involvement with a science project but rather, a graffiti experience he undertakes with his uncle in the subways of N.Y..

The look of the film is interesting because it contains a variety of painting styles, animation techniques and comic book themes. There are multiple panels being used at once and the progression thru the story is sometimes abbreviated by that style. This really is a hip hop version of a Spider-man story, complete with street art and music to lead us through our hero’s tale. The backgrounds are textured with the kind of pixelation that you would see in an old school comic book or maybe video game. In the traditional Spider-man films, whether from Sony or from Marvel/Disney, the character does look like a cartoon in a real world setting at times. This movie makes all the world look like a drawing so you stop noticing how different the animation is in the action scenes. I had a slight problem because the image sometimes looked blurry to me, as if it was created for 3-D and I was not wearing my special glasses. I assume this was an intentional choice rather than an exhibitor error. It was the main fault I had with the way the movie looked.

The story is self aware, making slight insider references to the other films in the Spider-man universe. There is also a version of the character that looks like a Warner Brothers cartoon, and a Porky Pig reference is made. Multiple villain appear and they seem to be altered to some degree by the intersection of the dimensions as well. Dr. Octopus for instance will probably surprise you a bit. The Kingpin is the main antagonist and we are given just enough information to understand his motivations for the actions he takes and his desire for what he sees as revenge. Some new villains (or at least I assume they are new, I’m not a reader of the comics) also appear in the story, and there is a twist that comes but it is signposted well before it arrives so it is easier to swallow.

We end up with six different versions of Spider-man, aiding one another in trying to stop the scheme while also dealing with the possibility that they will glitch our of existence.  My favorite was Noir Spider-man, who looks like Darkman but even better, is voiced by Nicholas Cage. The mash up of styles for the different heroes is not as jarring as you might expect and in the end it all works pretty well. Some storlines could be a bit more complete but as a comic book film, “Into the Spider-verse” achieves its purpose. I was entertained and enjoyed expolring different variations on the same theme. Plus there is a really fun shot taken at Sam Rami’s “Spider-man 3”. That should give the comic book geeks something to look forward to as well. If you stick to the end of the credits, you will also get a nice nostalgia moment for old timers like me.

2018 Film Year in the Rear View Mirror

55 New Films this year, here is a video inventory for you.

20 Posts Covering Older Films, Special Events and Assorted others.

5 Movies I Want Everyone to See

I have been restoring posts that were originally published on Fogs Movie Reviews back in 2013. Fogs closed his site so the material I wrote has to be re-listed. I’ve been doing it piecemeal, so here are the links for the five entries I updated this year.

Podcasting

I was a very active member of the LAMB community this last year. [Large Association of Movie Blogs for you neophytes], and I started off the last year with the Movie Of The Month Podcast I championed, Ishtar. You can listen here:

After being on at least seven other of the LAMBCast episodes, Jay, the Shepard of the LAMB, decided that he might as well just automatically fill a weekly spot and give himself the chance to take an occasional episode off, by naming me as Official Co-Host of the LAMBCast. Since assuming my position in June, I have co-hosted 20 episodes with Jay, and flown solo on another half dozen.

In addition, My daughter Amanda, joined the LAMB this year and was a participant on three of those podcasts, including hosting the December MOTM, a Christmas themed show on the film “Meet Me In St. Louis” which she championed to victory. You can listen here:

Three of the shows we did in the last year were Draft Shows, where the participants draft a slate of films in a genre or category and then the community votes for what they think was the best slate. Frankly, having lost on Lambardy a year earlier, I was determined to do as well as I could on these competitions. Thanks to friends, readers and enlightened members of the LAMB community, I went three for three. I won the Spielberg Draft,

The Modern Animation Draft

and the 1960s Draft.

Jay would like to attribute my victories to superior campaigning, and that might be the case, but if you look at the lists, I think you will see that the results are due to superior selections.

I also had a wonderful time talking with Todd, the host of the Forgotten Filmcast, about a Strother Martin film “The Brotherhood of Satan”

Click to find a link to the podcast

2018 Big Screen Re-visits

Between Fathom, The TCM Film Festival and The American Cinematique, here are the films I revisited on the big screen from years past.

Favorite Movie Related Posts

This is post in praise of Physical Media.

This was a special Screening of a film starring a Radio God and Podcaster, Mark Thompson of the Mark and Brian Show.

A Live Musical Performance of Jaws, with the Family

A Pop up Laserdisc Sale, and boy did we make out.

The L.A. Philharmonic does Kubrick

Not So Great

A few films that are guaranteed to be disappointing. Sometimes my review was more positive than my real feelings for the films.

10 Great Moments in 2018 Films

Image result for ready player one gifs

Related image

Related image

Related image

Image result for incredibles 2 gifs

Related image

Image result for the meg movie gifs

Image result for the sisters brothers gifs

Image result for anna and the apocalypse gifs

Image result for you were never really here gifs