Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jason watches DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

And yeah, it's pretty good. Nice follow-on to the last one. Interesting vision of ape culture, and sets up the conflict very well as not apes vs. humans but coalition of good apes and good humans vs. bad apes and bad humans. And of course the CGI was great and there's all the talk of Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar (he won't get it, but he's already gotten tons of praise.)

The thing is, they fuck around with San Francisco geography way too much. Unless I'm confused, they had Market Street running right up to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge. Now maybe I'm confused about the geography in the movie, but I definitely know they erred when they gave the BART a turnstile entrance instead of the opening/closing gates. And I know all of this is tiny, unimportant stuff. But it freakin' bugs me.

Running Time: 130 minutes
My Total Minutes: 367,684

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jason slips into a Vortex during Bummertime and sees BLUE SUNSHINE

Well..."sees" might be a little kind. I might have had tee many martoonis and slept through most of the movie. Fuck it, I'm counting it anyway. I know it was about a particularly strong kind of LSD people took at Stanford in the 60s. Now, in 1978, there's an odd string of baldness, psychosis, and murders going on. And it might be all related. Cool.

Running Time: 94 minutes
My Total Minutes: 367,554

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jason catches a sneak preview of ALIVE INSIDE

Now this was quite a treat. I got an e-mail in the morning inviting me to this sneak preview in the evening at the Camera 7. I was interested because I knew a little bit about the subject--music therapy for senior citizens, a field my aunt has worked in for quite a long time. I had heard her stories about how these old folks with Alzheimer's or dementia would just light up when they hear a song they recognize from their youth. And now I've seen it live on film, and it's beautiful and amazing. And there are many ways this movie could have gone. They touch a bit on the science of what music does to our brains. They touch a lot more on the dismal state of our nation's nursing homes. But the vast majority is about the seniors, and the work of social worker Dan Cohen who brings music into their lives. It's amazing to see a non-communicative man suddenly come alive. Or someone who has used a walker for years suddenly toss it aside and start dancing. It's probably the closest I've ever seen to an actual miracle (note: I am not a religious man.) And for that, this movie is amazing and inspiring.

Find where you can see it here. For my Bay Area friends, it opens August 8th.

And if you want to get involved, even just to the point of donating an old iPod, you can learn more here.

Running Time: 73 minutes
My Total Minutes: 367,460

Jason slips into a Vortex and goes to THE ISLAND OF THE DAMNED

Damned sexy, that is!

Ewwwww! Gross, that's kids!

ISLAND OF THE DAMNED (1976): I'm assuming the title is an homage to VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. Anyway, it's an island off the Spanish coast where the kids have taken over. Murderous, evil kids (the original Spanish title translates to WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?) And, well...after some dangerous adventures our English tourist heroes eventually do kill a child. In fact, children. But...not enough. Now that's entertainment!

Running Time: 107 minutes
My Total Minutes: 367,387

Jason slips into a Vortex for some Bummertime and has a VACATION FROM HELL

Catching up again, as I seem to have fallen perilously close to a month behind in my blog.

Anyway, all month (July) the Vortex Room has been doing a series of Endless Bummer movies. Summertime fun gone horribly wrong. And nowadays I cherish every moment I can spend in the Vortex Room, as it's under constant threat of eviction. Fucking gentrification. Anyway...

A VACATION IN HELL (1979): A group of five vacationers at a beach resort have an opportunity to take a boat out and explore the 'wild side' of the island. And, of course, things go horribly wrong, complete with ridiculous 1970s stereotypes of the savage natives. Oh yeah, and it stars Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady.) And it was made for TV, so we don't even get any good gratuitous violence or nudity. But whatever, it was still stupid cheesy fun.

Running Time: 120 minutes
My Total Minutes: 367,279

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Jason goes to the Broncho Billy Film Festival--Day 3

I skipped day 2 to see a lackluster Quakes lose to the Los Angeles Galaxy at Stanford. At least a full day of tailgating, watching some World Cup Soccer on a big screen, and a fireworks show afterwards was fun.

Anyway, Sunday started off with some Baby Peggy! Or, as she's known now, Diana Serra Cary (I can think of no better way to illustrate the rapid pace of technological change than to say that I am Facebook friends with a silent film star.)

MILES OF SMILES (1923): Peggy plays twins in this one. As a baby, one twin crawls out of their crib and almost gets run over by a train. But the conductor stops in time and raises her as his own. A few years later (now with Peggy playing the twins) she is operating the train herself (a lot of Baby Peggy comedy was based on her doing grown-up work.) But then she gets mistaken for her twin, and lots of wacky hijinx ensue. Very funny.

PEG O' THE MOUNTED (1924): Peggy is playing beside a mountain cabin in Canada (actually Yosemite) when a wounded, exhausted Mountie shows up. After Peggy nurses him back to health, he explains that he was chasing some moonshiners. So now it's Peggy's job to track them down and bring them to justice.

And then there was a real treat, a of piece of a work-in-progress restoration of PEGGY, BEHAVE! (1922) This was especially interesting because I had heard many times (and read in her autobiography) about a stunt she did once where she was tied on top of a goat like she was riding it, but the goat was actually in the back of a pickup truck that was supposed to be going 15 mph. Well, the teenager they got to drive the truck was overexcited, or misheard, or something...because he took off at 50 mph. Peggy was thrown from the goat, but still attached by a length of rope. So she was dangling inches from the spinning wheels. Her dad yelled at her to hold her arms in at her sides so they wouldn't get snagged in the wheel well, and she obediently did. Eventually they stopped the truck and she was okay (although she thought she was going to die.) Anyway, i had heard the story many times, but now I've seen the scene where that happened (although her falling off the goat isn't in the final cut.) There's that scene, and a few other gags, but like I said this was a work in progress so it didn't really make much sense out of context and ended abruptly. But I'm looking forward to seeing the full restoration sometime soon.

And then there was one more screening of BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET. Because Diana shows up as a visiting Hollywood star, which incidentally gives her the record (not yet recognized by Guiness) for having the longest film career ever.

And then the second show in the afternoon was THE SPIELER (1928): Starring Alan Hale, Sr. (yes, the Skipper's dad) as Flash, a small time con man with his assistant and friend The Perfesser (Clyde Cook.) They decide to hide out in the one cleanly run circus in town, run by Cleo (Renée Adorée, from THE BIG PARADE.) Flash becomes a spieler, while the Perfesser learns to walk the tightrope. And Flash starts up a little romance with Cleo, and decides maybe going legit and staying with her ain't so bad. Too bad Red Moon (Fred Kohler) has other plans, and so the double-crossing starts, leading to Flash being framed. A good story, well told, and a fun way to end the weekend festival.

Total Running Time: 152 minutes
My Total Minutes: 367,159

Jason goes to the Broncho Billy Film Festival--Day 1

Still catching up on my blog. A few weeks ago, June 27-29th, the Niles Film Museum celebrated the 17th annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival (yes, the festival existed well before the brick-and-mortar museum)

Early Friday evening all the regulars and pass-holders gathered early for a little summertime barbecue. By which I mean a ton of hot dogs, beans, lemonade, and other snacks. I was pretty damn stuffed by the time the first movie came on.

And that opening film was BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET, made last year by the museum, this was at least the fifth time I've seen it. But each of those previous screenings were kind of a "work in progress" screening. Not that they didn't look good, it's just that some of the lab work wasn't finished (especially balancing the brightness and contrast) and a few intertitles were still being tweaked. And that lab work was delayed as more and more film labs are going out of business. So this was finally the really, really, really final version...and it looked fantastic! I mean, I could have been pretty tired of the movie by now, but it was pretty remarkable what a difference it made. Of course, my favorite addition was at the end of the credits where they thank all the Indiegogo backers and my name appeared on screen!

And then the feature, THE BIG PARADE (1925): This WWI epic stars John Gilbert and was directed by King Vidor. Gilbert stars as an idle rich young man, who has no intention of enlisting (the delight of his mother and embarrassment of his father.) But the patriotic fervor of his friends sweeps him up, and next thing you know he's of to France (to the delight of his father and heartache of his mother.) There he becomes fast friends with two working class soldiers and romances a pretty French girl (Renée Adorée) before his unit is sent to the front. And then the movie gets its classic reputation for the unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war (much like ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT did a short time later.) The scenes of war are still powerful today, and Gilbert's acting, Vidor's directing, and a great script easily make it a classic.

Running Time: 150 minutes
My Total Minutes: 367,006