KAMAD Video History

Although this is a standard blog, focusing on written material, I have tried to include Video Podcast/Vlogs from the earliest time of the blog. Here is a lookback at the history of Video Posts. You can monitor the weight gain and hair color/loss along the way.

This page has two brief videos about this projects first round of Jaws material.

A couple of weeks later I did a short discussion on the process I used in finding movies for the Summer Project. Very informal but the Summer attire is typical of my wardrobe in the summer.

It would be a couple of years before the next VLOG link on the KAMAD Blog page. there are multiple posts on the link but the video here was lengthy and really fun. If you are also a Jaws fan, 43 minutes isn’t too much time do you think?

Amanda and I also did a double VLOG on two classics we saw on the same day, Lawrence of Arabia and Vertigo. 

A long day at the movies capped off by two video posts. That was a full movie experience.

We were a little carried away that month, so we tried another video just a couple of weeks later on Swashbuckling films.

For Father’s day that year, I got a double dose of Sean Connery and thought a brief Vlog would cover it.

It took another year before there was another video for the blog. This was an Unboxing Video that featured a Lootcrate Special “Aliens” package.

I mentioned “The Title Pending Movie Podcast” on my previous look back post concerning podcast history. They had a Summer Movie Draft each year and it was a lot of fun to listen to the wrap up when the winner was revealed. However, in their last year they stopped doing the podcast before they did the Summer Draft Wrap Up. I took it on myself to remedy that and I posted a smart ass hi-jack of their show.

Fogs and crew actually responded by putting together one final podcast and they took my comments with the humor it was all intended for in the first place. Unfortunately the podcast is no longer available for me to post a link to.

Amanda and I started to do a series of Vlogs on “The Essentials”, films designated by TCM as important to movie history. We only did three or four before we got side tracked but here is a pretty good example of what it entailed.

I’d like to come back to this project when I can.

My most recent Vlog Post was an extended defense and re-evaluation of “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”

If you are interested, there are a number of film reviews you can find at the KAMAD Vlog. Also if you dig around the First week of January for the last five years, there is a video to accompany my Ten Favorite film list for each of those years.

I know most of you will probably not go deep on these look back post, but when Covid 19 has you locked in your house for extended periods, I enjoyed doing this, I hope you will enjoy some of it as well.

KAMAD Podcast History

Over the course of ten years, the blog has gone in a lot of directions. I started with a narrow focus, switched to contemporary reviews, added event reporting and some special projects and generally tried a lot of movie related things. On-line movie material was apparently a ripe source of content for Podcasters.

My podcast history starts as a listener. I read a site called “Fogs Movie Reviews” and Fogs had a Podcast with Chris Tanski called “The Title Pending Movie Podcast”. I became a habitual listener but I never made an appearance on the show, I did however get a sense of what a podcast could be. I had also become a member of “The Lamb”, [The Large Association of Movie Blogs] and there was a podcast there as well, and I started listening to this show also.

My first shot at being on a podcast came in 2014. I was doing a special year long project on the films of 1984, and I connected with Todd Liebenow of the “Forgotten Filmcast” who was doing a similar project. He invited me to be on his show and I made my Podcast Debut discussing the Clint Eastwood/Burt Reynolds vehicle “City Heat”.

I really enjoyed doing the show and it encouraged me to look for some more opportunities to be on a podcast. After listening to a “Lambcast” that discussed the various film presentations of “Robin Hood”, including “The Adventures of Robin Hood” [my favorite film], I reached out to the Lambcast and I was invited to participate in an upcoming show. My first appearance on the show was a “roll Your Own” episode where each guest brought a top five list to share.

Unfortunately the link does not work, but let me assure you I was brilliant. As I remember it, I pitched my first Movie of the Month Selection on this show (or maybe it was “The Towering Inferno” episode), and lo and behold, it won, so just a few weeks later I hosted a Lambcast episode on “Streets of Fire” another film from my 1984 project.

For a while, when I was a guest on the Lambcast, I would post the shows I was on here on KAMAD so that followers would be able to find them. I had something going for me when it came to the Lambcast, I was usually available, even at the last minute. The Host, Jay Cluitt, often needed a back up for a guest who dropped out and I was easy to plug in.

Two years after my first appearance on the Lambcast, Jay asked me to be his regular co-host. So starting in Spring of 2018. I have been on the show on an almost weekly basis. My first Solo Hosting Job may be the least listened to Lambcast ever but here is a link to the post where you can link to the podcast.

For nearly two years I have done the show week by week, with a couple of breaks here and there. It is one of the things I enjoy the most as a result of this blog. I have connected with dozens of movie fans, writers and production crew members as a consequence of the Lambcast, and that would never have happened without the blog existing first.

My Daughter Amanda and I have started our own Podcast called “Catching Up” where we are doing a simple review of Television series that we may have missed or did not finish. We started with the Show “Supernatural”, but since she has moved to Texas and the point was to watch together, we are on hiatus for the moment. You can find the shows we have done at this link.

Since I am on the subject, they are not exactly Podcasts, but I have done a number of entries for this site as video blogs, and they are all available at the KAMAD Vlog. 

The lookback posts will continue for the rest of May. I hope everyone is doing well and that these links give you a fun way to while away some time  when you are in Lockdown.

10 Year Anniversary Data Dive

If you are a data junkie, this post is for you. My admittedly small reader base has gone up and down and up again over the years. Sometimes it is clear why, a good movie year will drive readers to your site. Sometimes it is a mystery, large numbers show up and you wonder if Russian Bots have taken over. For this review I have simply used the data that Google has given me for my blogger site. I have not attempted to include the data from the second site on WordPress, even though there are more subscribers there. Blogger is where I started so I feel I should stick to that for a lookback on this Anniversary.

The first set of numbers for you was the easiest to obtain. This comes straight from the analytics of the KAMAD Site.

All Time Numbers

I see inconsistent numbers between the summary that Blogger provides and the individual numbers on the separate posts. Rather than argue about it, I will simply show you the numbers as I found them. I can say that the Post Most Visited on my site is consistent between the above total and the individual post total. You might wonder why “The Deep” is the most popular post in the ten years I’ve been working on this blog. My guess is that it is because of one of the pictures included in the post. Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-Shirt probably comes up in an image search and perverts everywhere can’t resist. Click on the link provided and check for yourself.

The Original Project

I started this blog with a project, writing about the films I saw as a youth in the 1970s, in particular, Summer releases. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, about 95 films were included in that project. The numbers for that series of posts looks like this:

I have already explained why I think “The Deep” did so well. “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is a perennial favorite with film fans so I’m not too surprised it drew a crowd. It is also a very personal reflection so I’m happy it made the list. The other three films are oddities that most people won’t remember, and this may be one of the few sites that bothers with them.

2011 The Launch of the Blog in It’s Current Form

When the new year came around, I switched the format of the blog to a review site, with the intention of posting a review of every movie I see in a theater. I don’t always post on second or third or more viewings of contemporary films, but I do often have a fresh post on classics, regardless of the number of times I have seen them [JAWS and Lawrence of Arabia come to mind].

I’m proud to say that “Jaws” makes it’s second appearance on the blog with the most popular post from 2011. This was part of a Robert Shaw Film Festival Event I ran on the site.  “Rubber” was a film I saw on the USC Campus. I was generous in my initial response by not hating it, but by the end of the year, I had put it in it’s proper place. The Robert Shaw Film Festival scored another spot on the most popular posts on the site with a James Bond Film, “From Russia With Love“.  “The Captains” is actually a VOD film that I went ahead and posted on because of the subject. We also went to three separate screenings of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, a Fathom Event that was an advertisement for the Blu-Ray release. “The Two Towers” got the most attention from my audience.

2012 Hitting My Stride

Once I got rolling, the blog became a ritual. I posted immediately after the film screening. I hated not having the review up as soon as possible. 2012 has the second largest number of entries of any year that I have done the site. It also contains one of my favorite film experiences of the whole decade, the lead up to “Skyfall“.

Although there are several 007 posts this year, it was my controversial review of “Cabin in the Woods” that got the most eyeballs. I was disappointed and everyone else was enthused. So maybe it is the counter direction that made it the post to see this year. I’m not sure why the Gothic horror film starring Daniel Radcliffe was number two, but it does feature scary little girls. Two of the thirteen James Bond posts that I did in relation to “Skyfall”  made this top five list. “Countdown to Skyfall Part Five” featured the Roger Moore era of James Bond films. “Countdown to Skyfall Part Four” featured the 007 outings of Pierce Brosnan.  “The Archlight Poster Wall” was a visual essay of envy.

2013  We Start Getting Serious

This was the year that I saw my first big jump in numbers and I think it had to do with the films rather than any internet trend or technology glitch. There is one film on the list that surprised me by it’s inclusion, but it does contain a reference to a major female star and near nudity, so that is probably the explanation.

One of the things that happens when you go on line is that you meet people. I started reading another blog and as I posted on his site, we started to become friendly. He told me of his childhood Thanksgivings being centered around “King Kong” on a New York TV Channels. That Inspired a Triple Feature on the Three major “King Kong Films“. Eric Friedman, you are responsible for my number one post this year. Simon Pegg’s starring role in Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End” made my end of the year list, so that combined with it’s cult status probably explains these numbers. “We’re the Millers” is the odd film out here. As I explained above, Jennifer Aniston has to be the reason. When I was a kid I followed baseball, but that was a long time ago. The Story of Jackie Robinson however is timeless ans it was also on my end of the year list so that is why “42” scored so many runs on this site. The timeless question we all ask each other, “What’s your favorite movie?” was answered by me this year. I had dozens of students ask the question so I created a post for them to find out. My love letter to “The Adventures of Robin Hood” makes the top five for entries of this year.

2014 The Blog Flatlines

For a three year stretch, the blog visits remained fairly static. It may be that people moved to Podcasts and I was not doing one at the time. Maybe the films were not as great, I don’t see many memorable blockbusters. I covered some offbeat films, and I did a year long project on another site, so maybe I was over extended. Here are the numbers that show what I mean.

Annabelle” is the only one of my video posts to make the top five list in any year. However, I always enjoy watching myself so maybe others did as well. “GumbyFest” was a special event that took place here in my current Hometown. It may have drawn non-film buffs to the post because of the location and subject. “Once Upon A Time in the West” is maybe my favorite Western, so It makes me happy that it is here, the screening was a classic revival at the Egyptian Theater. “When the Game Stands Tall” is an odd film to make the top spots, but it was close to being a faith based football movie so maybe I should not be blindsided here (LOL). Finally, the “Lawrence-a-palooza” post is a hub for several posts on one of my favorite films, so go look.

2015  Normalcy Returns

The numbers here make a little more sense. They are consistent throughout the whole year, and the highest numbers are associated with the two most frequent topics I cover on the blog. I suppose you always want the biggest audience you can get, I just hope that the folks who find their way to the site get something they can appreciate, learn from, or laugh at.

This year featured the last James Bond film to be released [“No Time To Die” I’m waiting for you]. In the run up to that film, I did another series of 007 posts. The leading post this year was a top 007 things I love about “From Russia with Love“. 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of the greatest Adventure film of the century. We love this movie and we went a little overboard this summer. We had four screenings of “Jaws” in theaters, in the same week. There were also a lot of posts on the subject. I put together a list of quotes, focusing on the less celebrated lines, from a terrific script that still gets quoted regularly. It was popular enough to be the second most visited post on my blog this year. Another marathon at the Egyptian Theater brought fans of Marty McFly to the site in swarms. Another post on the fish story, featuring a visit to a Westside Movie Palace was number Four on my list for the year. Rounding out the top five was the 007 Countdown for Roger Moore’s best outing as Bond.

2016 Another Dip

The visits remained relatively stable but lower for all of the top slots this year. I have no explanation as to why things went this way, but I do appreciate that three of the top five spots went to retrospective film experiences rather than a new blockbuster. I really need to do some more film festival style posts for the next ten years.

My favorite Charles Bronson film took the top spot among my 2016 posts. If you like a 70s slow burn, watch this movie. I cannot explain the appeal of readers for “Allied“, it was a kind of bomb and very old fashioned. I sort of liked it but not passionately. The reason for the high numbers for the Vitaphone Shorts post is simple. Ron Hutchinson, the late curator of the Vitaphone Project, shared my post with his followers. It was a kind gesture and I hope it continues to bring fans to this classic film format. Strother Martin cracks the top five for the year with his role in the second Charles Bronson film on this list. “Hard Times” is a great 70s film that was the debut of director Walter Hill. The last of the top five for this year was a post that included three movies that we saw in one day so I put all of the reviews in a single post. “Everybody Wants Some”, “Sing Street” and “Elvis and Nixon” are the featured films.

2017 Big Bounce

Russian Bots or good films? It is hard to figure which resulted in a tripling of the numbers for the top five posts in this year. I did see steady growth in the numbers through the year and the high points all hit when it was awards season, so maybe I should stop being overly suspicious and just accept that it was a good year for the blog.

The top post this year was on a film that was my least favorite of the Academy Award Nominees for Best Picture that season. “Call Me By Your Name” was the most boring film I saw since “The Tree of Life”. I am delighted on the other hand that the second most viewed post this year was my commentary on “Darkest Hour“, the well crafted and spectacularly acted film on Winston Churchill. I cannot explain why “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is on this list. The post was brief and there was not a lot to say about the movie. Maybe the hashtags brought people to my site. I had to change my Top Ten list for the year when I saw “I, Tonya” at a late night screening on December 31. “White Christmas” is not my favorite Holiday film, but this year it was my favorite Holiday experience and the audience for this blog appears to have felt the same way.

2018 Suspicion

All of the top five for this year were in the first quarter. There was a drop off in numbers after March, so maybe European Crackdowns on internet sites had some impact on the numbers to my site. I do get traffic from around the world so policies in the EU might very well impact me. I can’t get data for the Worldwide audience for 2018 but this week’s audience for my site looks like this:

I wish I had kept track of the data for prior years but the Alltime numbers on the right list a suspicious category “Unknown Region” . This worries me a little.

Here are the top five posts by views from 2018:

The top post is a freeform article I did on Physical Media. Inspired by a Twitter Post, I shared my views on collecting physical media with several illustrations. I do think that pictures often bring eyeballs to the sight through Google images. “Den of Thieves” was a testosterone driven piece of January Action, not sure why it would be near the top. On the other hand, “The Florida Project” was a well respected indie film that I saw at an Egyptian Screening wit star Willem DaFoe. The next post is another unique one so I am not that surprised by it being here. It is an Unboxing Video for a James Bond Lootcrate style box. One of the dogs makes a guest appearance and that probably helps. I have a continuing series on the blog for “Movies I Want Everyone to See” [MIWETS], this is a carry-over from the series I did in 2013 for “Fogs Movie Reviews”, a defunct site that I wrote article for over a five month period. The numbers for the “Ishtar MIWETS” likely reflect that it was a Movie of the Month on the Lambcast, and I hosted and promoted that show with this post. I’ve included one other post on this list because I know why it was widely viewed. “The Assassin’s Code” was a film starring a podcaster/radio host that I follow, and I left links to my post on those social media sites.

2019  Back Where We Belong

The numbers settle down and are consistent throughout the year. It is possible that since I became co-host of the Lambcast, more people visit my site because I can promote new work each week on a media platform for movie fans. Every week all the guests get an opportunity to talk about what they are working on, and since I am on 90% of the shows these days, I get plenty of facetime. I recognize that all views do not equal a red of the material, but it is the one measure I have and it makes me happy to think there are a few hundred people listening while I go off on a rant or rave.

In similar fashion to the previously mentioned “Call Me By Your Name”, the most popular post from this year was maybe my least favorite film of the year. Having bitched about it frequently on the podcast, “The Lighthouse” drew a lot of spectators, just as a traffic accident does.  For a completely opposite reaction, I can proudly point to the post on a special screening of my wife’s favorite movie, “The Right Stuff” . The writer/director Phillip Kaufman spoke at this event. The political Documentary “No Safe Spaces” shows up on the list I’m sure because the groups who share it’s perspective certainty shared the post when they found it. I think some people want to live vicariously through the site, I mean I get to do some cool things because of where I live. The American Cinematique at the Egyptian Theater hosted a marathon of the three “Lord of the Rings” films in their extended editions. What self respecting geek would want to miss out on 14 hours of Hobbits, elves and Wizards? Finally, there was a lot of looking at a retrospective screening of “Meet Me in St. Louis”, another Fathom event that went over with my audience.

2020 Who Knows?

We were barely two months in, when the roof caved in on the theater business and everything else that was normal. It will be hard to assess this year when the time comes. There have only been 18 posts, and most of those are not on new films. For the record the top 2020 posts at the moment are

1. My Top ten List of Last Years Films

2. “Bad Boys for Life

3. “Underwater

4. “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his own Words

The number one post is three times as visited as the others and they are all grouped together.

So that closes this navel gazing post. I have a few more 10 Year Anniversary posts that will be going up. Hope everybody will come back for the next ten years.

10 Music Related Posts From the Last Ten Years

I am not a musician, unless you count two years of piano lessons when I was eight. I do however love music and I really love film music. One of the things I’ve done over the past ten years is include musical movie related material on the blog. What follows are posts that highlight a musical event more than the visual splendor of a motion picture. Travel back in time [or measure] and check out some of the posts that should strike a right chord with you.



Like everyone, I love John Williams and his music, but my favorite film composer happens to be the late Jerry Goldsmith. 

Here you will find a tribute I wrote about him, his music and a DVD Concert that I owned and shared my thoughts on.

Another composer that I have been aware of for fifty years, but did not appreciate as much until more recently is Paul Williams.
The actor, singer and composer has also been President of ASCAP, and late in his career, people thought he had passed away years before. He was the the Subject os a documentary that I reviewed on the site, but before that film came out, I had a chance to experience the music from his film with Brian DePalma, and see him interviewed as well.
 
 

In recent years, many orchestras have created presentations of film music by replacing the scoring track on the film with live accompaniment. Inspired by that practice, some Film Archives have made Special Presentations out of films they control with their own cultivated orchestras. “The Godfather” is one of those films, this presentation played at several venues across the country.

Of course the greatest source of these types of presentations for me will be with my hometown heroes the Los Angeles Philharmonic. For a dozen non-consecutive years, I have been a series subscriber to the L.A. Phil at Walt Disney Hall. We always tried to include a presentation like this with our subscription, but if it was not available that way, we bought stand alone tickets.


L.A. Philharmonic West Side Story

We usually look for a special Christmas Event to share as a family each year. This sing-a-long presentation of “White Christmas ” was a lot of fun but there was no orchestral accompaniment. That seemed strange but a good time was had by all. 



“White Christmas” Sing-A-Long

 The masthead on this site tells you how important the movie “Jaws” is to me. The fantastic score to that film by John Williams is famously memorable with just a couple of notes. There is of course a lot more to the music than those notes however. This time the LA Phil is in their Summer Home, the Hollywood Bowl, hallowed ground for our family, we visited eight or ten times a summer for most of the years my children were growing up. This visit is bittersweet because it was the last time I went with my wife of 38 years, just a few weeks before her passing.


One more visit with the LA Philharmonic, this time it is mainly a concert rather than a film presentation. Oh there were film clips but we were not seeing a whole movie, rather the concert featured music that Stanley Kubrick included in his films. Some of it is very familiar but there were some esoteric choices as well.

 

This post is not strictly a film related post because the subject is the artist not a movie. Jeff Bridges is a fantastic actor, but he is also a talented musician and let’s face it, a fan like me can’t really miss an opportunity to spend some time with a film star, even when they are not acting. It was a weekend trip to Vegas and the Concert was a gas,

 


The most recent of my music related posts is from earlier this year. Again, it is not strictly a film experience, but since I have seen several versions of Hamlet on screen over the years, I felt obliged to share it on this site. I think it was a One Off booking, but if it shows up anywhere near you, I think you will enjoy the effort to make it work on a limited budget.





I had an insight on a Saturday morning a few years ago and I followed thorough with a post. There are some interesting similarities in the music of these two films and I just wanted to talk about it at the time. Maybe you will want to as well.



 

10 Year Milestone Number One: My Favorite Film of Each Year

I started blogging for my classes a little earlier than May, but the project that launched my movie blog started in May of 2010. A new class schedule was starting and I ended up with a three week gap between when my Spring Semester classes ended and my Summer classes began. Frustrated by the delay in getting started on the new term, I chose to fill some of the time with a project. I decided to write a post everyday that Summer on films I’d seen as a youngster growing up in the 1970s. I limited my selections to films that opened in the summertime and the posts were not always reviews, sometimes they were simple trips down memory lane. I posted something everyday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, hence the title of my blog.

There were a few random posts to fill out the year, including a top ten list, and then January 1, 2011,  I adjusted the blog to review/comment and report on film going experiences that were contemporary.  Most of the subsequent posts are immediate reactions posted the same day or one day later from the event. I decided that anytime I saw a film in a theater, there would be a post on it. So this blog has been a fairly accurate measure of my movie going but not necessarily my movie watching. Home video and streaming take up a lot of my time but it is rare that anything like that is included except for special occasions.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to post some lookback articles and add some commentary along the way. If you are a longtime reader, I hope you will enjoy the retrospective, if you are new to the blog, take a deep dive and look at some of the things from the last decade. Just because it did not come out this last weekend, is no reason to miss a discussion of a movie.

Favorite Films of Each Year of the Blog

2010

There may not be another movie on the list that is so satisfying to me as this pastiche comic book, comedy, action, superhero, movie geek porn.  I don’t have a full review of this because it came out before I started the project. I will have to do a retrospective review of my love for this movie at another time, let me simply say, I love all the characters in this movie, but Hit Girl is my favorite. The second movie was never going to be as great as the first but I enjoy it as well and there is a review of that on the site that you can find here.

2011

If ever a movie needed to be rediscovered on home video, this is it. This terrific story is brutal in the fight scenes and in the emotions that it forces us to face. The fact that it was not a box office hit just goes to show how marketing can fail an audience. People should have been embracing this movie and sharing it with their friends. I did what I could, and now I’m doing it again. If you have not seen this gem, put it at the top of your watchlist.

2012

You had to know there was going to be a James Bond film on the list somewhere. 2012 was when I became very active in a cinema blogging community as I discovered a number of sites that had enthusiastic 007 content. I did a series of posts in anticipation of Skyfall and we shared them on one site where everybody could collectively pump each other up for the film. I was so happy that it exceeded my expectations, and I was not the only one who had “Skyfall” as their top film that year.

2013

This movie was a complete surprise to me. I was surprised at where the story went, I was surprised by the actors who turned up in the film, and I was really surprised that Matthew McConaughey, was so good in the film. He won his Best actor Award the next year for a different film, but as often happens, the Academy was simply catching up for what they had missed in an earlier year. This is a small film, it is a coming of age story mixed with a crime thriller. It also has a couple of great performances by the young co-stars.

2014

One of the most brutal movies you will ever see, without violence. This was an emotional assault that spares no one. When you think of Frankenstein, do you see the Doctor or the Monster as the villain of the piece? This movie asks the same question. The cruelly sadistic teacher in pursuit of perfection meets his match in a surface level sympathetic character who may be as twisted by ambition as the “mentor” is in his objectives. Miles Tellar must have worked his butt off to be able to carry off the drumming sequences. J.K. Simmons however, will give you nightmares for the rest of your life. This movie was edited like a thriller and it will hold you in your seat as it bashes you around and wrings you out at the end.

2015

This is a basic science fiction idea, turned into a beautiful movie with some ugly people involved. The premise is as contemporary as you could wish for, but the ideas go back a century. What is human intelligence? Can a machine learn to be human? How will we be able to tell the difference between Human Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence? Oh, and just as you are getting comfortable with the philosophizing,  the story structure takes over and you will become emotionally invested and maybe heartbroken.

2016

I admit that I have cheated here. When my original list for the year went up, “La La Land was at the top. It was the stylized movie and the most beautiful I saw that year [barring Kubo and the Two Strings]. The more I watched “hell or High Water” however, the more I admired it and it’s performances. I wrote a second post for “Hell or High Water” for the Lamb, and I think that was the point where I could no longer decide which one I liked better. So this will be the one year where there is a tie. If you feel a compelling need to break the tie, flip a coin, I’ll be happy with either outcome.

2017

I rarely get embittered about the Academy Awards. They are often the Film Industry’s way of virtue signalling and will miss merit for a good social image at the drop of a hat. Somebody this year dropped a hat. “Dunkirk” is a movie about a critical historical moment that needs to be part of every persons knowledge of WWII. The fact that it lost to a fairy tale of invented prejudice, with a monster of a human being as the villain is unfortunate. This film tells three stories, set days, hours and minutes apart, and it does so coherently with craft that is hard to imagine. My second post for The Lamb was not second guessing, it was a second chance to champion this film.

2018

It’s a Wes Anderson movie, and it’s an animated movie, and best of all, it’s about dogs. This is incredibly inventive, a little weird but charming as heck. The effort to make the movie is worth of a high ranking, even if the film did not hold together. Joyfully for us, it does hold together very well. Amazingly enough, it not only was not nominated for Best Picture, it lost to another good film in the Best Animated Category. This was a perfect example of recency bias, as it came out early in the year and was neglected at awards time. That’s OK, I did not neglect, it was the Best Film I saw in 2018.

2019

A technical masterpiece that will seem to some a repeat of two years earlier. That’s because it was a war film which deserved so much more, that lost out to a virtue signalling Foreign Language thriller. The way the movie is shot, as a continuous  take, and the way it is photographed are marvels of modern film making.  You won’t feel like you are watching a movie, you will feel like you are living it.

Obviously these are all personal favorites. They may not represent in all cases my opinion of what the Best film of the year was, but rather, the one that I most appreciated.

Pop Art Podcast

My online blogging colleague Howard Casner started a Podcast recently with a great conceit. His guest will choose a popular picture and he will match it with a counterpart that may be more obscure, artsy or off center. I was honored to be the second guest on his show and we had a fun time talking about spies. Have a listen.

 

Laser Wall Update

Well we’ve all been locked out of theaters for a while, so clearly there will be time to make a few adjustments at home. This week I took all the Laserdiscs off my Walls and out of the 2×4 Kallax shelves in my office and relocated them to the vacant 5×5 Kallax unit in my daughters former room.

Originally I’d planned on rotating the discs on the walls and doing themes from time to time, but because everything was so tightly packed and close to the floor, I only managed once or twice to move things around since I first put up the system for displaying them.

The original films on the wall sometimes were subsequently covered up by Big Sleeve Editions on contemporary films or newly acquired discs without much of a plan.

 

 

I’m going to try to keep the look less clustered but my first new theme did use all three walls. You should be able to tell where this is going.

So there you are, a virtual tour of the display in my office. When I get tired of this theme, I’ll try something else. Feel free to leave some suggestions.

King Kong: The Eighth Wonder of the World

Do you ever sit down for a movie with a rush of excitement pumping through your chest? Have you ever broken your face from grinning from ear to ear? Have you ever been so happy that you gasp at, laugh at and cheer lines from the movie you are watching? If you have done none of these things I can confidently say you have not seen King Kong on the big screen. Another Fathom Event presented by TCM got me out of the house during this time of “Social Distancing” and although I am a little lightheaded, it’s not due to exposure to COVID-19, rather it is a result of being contaminated by this 87 year old treasure.

“King Kong” is a cultural touchstone for cinema fans. The groundbreaking special effects laid the groundwork for the kinds of fantasy films that we see today. The mix of animated articulated models, stop motion photography and rear projection. made it possible for the world to imagine the impossible and we have done so ever since. Kong continues to be a character in films but even more importantly, the concept of bringing our imagination to life has accelerated every decade, exponentially, ever since. Young audiences need to forget their prejudices about B&W films, old style acting and antique special effects. It is the heart of this movie that matters and the energy it imbues in a viewer should always be inspiring.

I get as caught up in the excitement of the film as Carl Denham does when he tries to convince Ann Darrow to join his expedition.  He is the antithesis of Ian Malcolm. The devil with the natural world, he is going to subjugate it and exploit it and do so unashamedly.  John Hammond is Carl Denham on tranquilizers. As the film moves along you can quickly understand why. We are in awe of the towering gate that the natives of Skull Island hide behind. We are amazed at the animals from the “dinosaur” family that we encounter, and we are terrified but also thrilled at the appearance of the majestic alpha of the island. Denham want to photograph the native ceremony, put Ann in a scene with Kong himself, and finally he gets the idea of capturing the beast and bringing him back to civilization.

The opening of the film in New York during the Great Depression is haunting with it’s sadness and desperation. It is also a nice time machine to let us see the world of that era. The electric lights that make up the ads around Time Square are dazzling today, much less 87 years ago. The women lining up at the shelter are haunting but not in the way that today’s homeless population is. The sexism of Jack Driscoll would have him tarred and feathered today, but even in 1933 it seems quaintly romantic. It’s not toxic masculinity, he has old fashioned thoughts but mostly in a desire to protect the female of the species. He is not a bad guy, just a product of his times.

“Kong” is of course the real star, and the combination of special effects and story make him a compelling character, even though he is a monster. You may sympathize with him occasionally, but then you watch him stomp on a native villager, or bite one of the sailors into pieces. Remember, he not only derails and crushes a carload of people on an elevated train, he grabs a sleeping women out of her bed in a high rise, and when he sees that she is not Ann, he simply tosses her away, twenty stories to the ground and death.

The music from Max Steiner innovativly creates suspense and character. It is not simply filler or background music, it is part of how the story is being told. The Overture goes for five minutes before the film starts and it gets you worked up for what is coming very effectively. This was a TCM Event so Ben Mankiewicz hosted and provided a nice into and brief exit for the film. The reason to go however id that you get to see The Eighth Wonder of the World in his natural habitat, a movie theater.

Onward

The strength of Pixar films has always been the way they manage to take an original idea and flesh it out into something the audience can relate to. Some of the concepts have been straightforward; a family of superheros, the secret life of toys, cars as people. Other concepts have been downright strange; a rat who cooks, a lonely robot, a princess who turns her mother into a bear. Regardless of the oddity of the conceit, the Pixar crew has managed to make these movies work to a large degree. Our current example is one of the weird ones. In a fantasy world that has forgotten magic, two elves must finish a spell to bring their dead father back for just one day.

I think the reason that the films of Pixar succeed for the most part is the way the creators wholeheartedly embrace their idea and run with it. Director Dan Scanlon and his collaborators Jason Headley and Keith Bunin have grabbed their idea and run with it. They commit to the universe they are creating and try to play with it as much as possible. There may be occasional inconsistencies, but they hardly matter as we plunge quickly into the story and become familiar with the characters.  The plot is a basic mash up of a high school coming of age story and a fantasy quest. The fact that these ideas are familiar to us may explain why we don’t worry too much about the characters we encounter. We will just go with the flow if we can have some characters to relate to.

“Onward” gives us two characters that we will understand immediately but also come to care for by the end of the film. Tom Holland is not really stretching much by playing an awkward teen with unforeseen powers.  We’ve seen the Spider-Man movies. Here the character is animated but it continues to be Holland’s slightly nasally voice and young sounding pitch that sells the character to us. Ian Lightfoot is turning sixteen and it makes him nervous. In fact everything makes him nervous, partially because he missed ever meeting his father who died before he was born. Lack of confidence is not the weakness of his older brother “Barley” however,  he dives in head first with enthusiasm to most things. The bravado of the character is also perfectly realized by the voice talents of Holland;s Avengers co-star Chris Pratt. The two of them together are a mismatched pair of brothers out on a road trip. The scenario creates plenty of opportunities for humor but you know that a Pixar film is not going to forgo the sentiment. There is an interesting switch in the purpose of their quest, which manages to make the movie more poignant at the end. It is another example of the writers taking a concept and finding ways to work it that are not obvious from the start. Maybe the quest is predictable, but the emotions are not.

As always with these computer generated dreams (or nightmares if you remember Cars 2), there is a fantastic look to the production. The characters are realized in ways that give us shorthand on their archetypes,  but they still look original. The two brothers are Elfish but in very distinctive ways. Their Mom’s boyfriend is the nice guy cop, who maybe is a little bit of a nebbish despite being a centaur. The path that the kids take is fraught with adventure, but the biggest fright is simply being a new driver trying to merge onto the freeway. I loved the way they played with unicorns in the story, they are essentially the scavengers of this world, and like our own scavengers, they can look benign like a raccoon, but they can be pretty nasty as well. Spites turn into bikers and dragons are made of rubble, and it works because the creatives found ways for us to relate to those images.

The secondary characters fill in some space and provide a little more opportunity to play with the fantasy world, but the focus is correctly placed on the two brothers. As usual, the music cues us in on emotional moments, but like many contemporary films, it relies on our knowledge to find the right feeling. You will hear some passages that sound like they are out of a spaghetti western, and some motifs that belong in a fantasy film. There are clear action beats as the Indiana Jones moments are playing out as well. I don’t know how well the Disney team has marketed the film. I did not have a high degree of anticipation for it, but having seen it, I now know they have a solid film. I hope it lands with audiences the way it did with me.