Birdman and Budapest: The Fall Rewind, Part 1


Here’s how I spent the last three months of the year, checking out some celebrated new releases and revisiting some old favorites.

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The Summer Rewind: Dark Knights of the Soul

There’s no getting around it. My summer viewing was piss-poor, almost indefensibly so. Along with that, I’ve let the blog falter longer than ever, and it’s left me unsure why I even still do it, or why I ever did. I’m not that anal about anything else, that’s for certain.

At any rate, I also lost the first version of this piece, so in order to post anything at all, I’m going to have to write extremely brief reviews of the films I watched this summer. Hey, that’s the trend on the web anyway, right? (Buzzfeed!) No one wants to read anything lengthy.

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30 films in 30 days: #1 Casablanca (1942)/#2 Algiers (1938)

In an effort to jump start this blog, I’m committing to watching 30 films in 30 days, chronicling them as I go. There’s no plan, no agenda. I watch whatever appeals to me at the moment. First up: One of the immortals—and one of the, uh, mortals.

I didn’t intend for Casablanca, of all films, to be the one that launched this project, but the Blu-ray (the 2008, not the new 2012 restoration) arrived in the mail and I thought, why not? It’s only fitting. I was first exposed to this landmark as a teenager at the Drexel Theater on the east side of Columbus. And have likely watched it two dozen times since.

To me, it’s neither the greatest film ever made nor my own personal favorite (although I’m not sure I could easily come up with better candidates on either score). Rather, it’s that Casablanca to me encapsulates every reason to go to the movies. I have a bias toward what I might call high-end popcorn films and nothing has ever delivered sheer entertainment quite as effectively as this wartime thriller. Continue reading

Coming Soon: The LA Movie Project

Inspired by a recent trip to Los Angeles (and the fact that I work for that city’s leading newspaper), I’m going to take a stab at listing some of my favorite films set in the City of Angels–along with a few that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see.

LA is arguably America’s largest and most diverse canvas upon which a story can be drawn. So, it’s no surprise that’s it’s given us noir toughguys, cheeky detectives, porn-industry potboilers, absurdist comedies, and urban melodramas. Over the next few weeks, I’m hoping to count down 30 quintessential LA movies, film that have something to say about this region of sun-splashed starlets and dark souls.

We’ll do it in pure Casey Kasem-style, another son of Southern California.

On Thanksgiving, 12 films I’m thankful for

These aren’t the best films ever made—or ones recommended for essential viewing. Few of them could even be called classics–and none is about to play at an art house. Instead, here’s a list of movies that simply give me pleasure whenever I return to them. They’re more like your mother’s stuffing. Somehow you don’t grow tired of it.

In no particular order:

The Big Sleep (1946)

From the moment Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe walks into the Sternwood mansion and meets Carmen Sternwood, played by the electric  Martha Vickers, Howard Hawks’ mystery takes us into a world of sharply drawn characters, all of whom  engage Marlowe with sharp-edged, tart dialogue, usually either challenging or flirtatious.

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Rejected Titles for the New Indiana Jones Movie

Indy’s back–and he’s uh, 65! (Yes, we know it’s the new 55, but still.) Here are some proposed titles rejected by the studio that emphasized the senior side of everyone’s favorite archaeologist:

10. Indiana Jones and the Lost LifeAlert Necklace

9. Indiana Jones and Those Rough Looking Kids Across the Street

8. Indiana Jones and the Corn-Cob of Danger

7. Indiana Jones and Can You Believe They Don’t Serve Egg Beaters in this Place?

6. Indiana Jones and the Mysterious Grandson Who Wants to Study Modern Dance

5. Indiana Jones and the Ten Percent Tip

4. Indiana Jones and the Guy Down at the Elks Lodge Who Thinks He Knows Everything

3. Indiana Jones and the TV Shows These Days That Have All That Swearing

2. Indiana Jones and the Strange Case of the Bus Fare Increase

1. Indiana Jones and the Unexplained Growth

Five Movies for Hillary

As it appears to be heading for the twilight, here are five films that may best describe the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign:

1. Das Boot (1981)

Plot: A German U-boat goes on a long and ultimately doomed quest to return home safely.

Key line: They won’t catch us this time! Not this time! They haven’t spotted us! No, they’re all snoring in their bunks! Or, you know what? They’re drinking at the bar, celebrating our sinking! Not yet, my friends. Not yet!

2. The Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

The plot: A famous but tyrannical columnist competes with a young, ambitious press agent who is forced to adopt sleazy tricks to make it big.

Key line: I’d hate to take a bite outta you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.

3. Primal Fear (1996)

The plot: An ambitious Chicago lawyer is thwarted by a mysterious individual who assumes multiple personalities.

Key Line: I speak. You do not speak. Your job is to just sit there and look innocent.

By the way, the next time I send an audience research report around, you\'d all better read it, or I\'ll sack the f--king lot of you.

4. Network (1976)

The plot: A ruthless and ratings-obssessed TV network executive cynically exploits a deranged ex-TV anchor’s ravings and revelations about the media to advance her career.

Key line: I seem to be inept at everything except my work. I’m goddamn good at my work and so I confine myself to that. All I want out of life is a 30 share and a 20 rating.

5. Red River (1948)

The plot: A young cowhand challenges the trail boss’s leadership and splits from the herd. The trail boss relentless pursues him, swearing revenge.

Key line: Cherry was right. You’re soft, you should have let ’em kill me, ’cause I’m gonna kill you. I’ll catch up with ya. I don’t know when, but I’ll catch up. Every time you turn around, expect to see me, ’cause one time you’ll turn around and I’ll be there.

Honorable Mention: Election (1999)

The plot: An ambitious student sees her campaign for student council president upset by a popular athlete.

Key line: He was no competition for me; it was like apples and oranges. I had to work a little harder, that’s all, see I believe in the voters; they understand that elections aren’t just popularity contests, they know this country was built by people just like me who work very hard and don’t have everything handed to them on a silver spoon.

The people at Slate figured this out way back and produced this great mashup: