“Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood”

la-1556590841-636u7xm57j-snap-image

This month, we reflect on another artist gone too soon. Stories left untold, unseen, unheard, unimagined. Unfelt. He was only 51 years old, so imagine how much Art an artist the caliber of John Singleton had still to contribute. It hurts to think of what he still had to share with us. On this day, we can at least reflect on the work he has left behind.

In 1991, Singleton’s drama Boyz n the Hood was introduced to America in his own voice, from his own experiences in South Central LA. He was a kid when he shared the idea for the screenplay on his USC film-writing program application, was arguably still a kid when he wrote and directed it. At the age of only 23, he saw his own story come to life on the screen to both critical and audience acclaim.

It’s no exaggeration that black filmmakers still weren’t getting their due (or opportunities) in the early 90s when Boyz n the Hood was released. Spike Lee’s impactful Do the Right Thing had only been released a few years earlier, in 1989, to critical acclaim. When John Singleton was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director for his work on Boyz n the Hood, he was the first African American to ever be nominated for the award. In 63 years of Best Director nominations, he was the first (and the youngest).

63 years.

What John Singleton did was remarkable. Boyz n the Hood was his story to tell, and one to which many audiences could not relate. But instead of maintaining that separation, he connected. Through connection, he provided us with the gift of empathy, of understanding. His film’s successes motivated studios to think about diversity, inspired a generation of filmmakers, and promoted changes that are really only being fully realized now. Change has been so slow in coming that Singleton himself did not even get to fully take advantage of his well-earned success. Still, the legacy of work he left us, from Boyz n the Hood to Poetic Justice to Rosewood and many others, is a legacy worthy of celebration and respect.

In memory of John Singleton, we shared our personal thoughts on Boyz n the Hood below. Please join us in remembering.

Boyz n the Hood, 1991

In memory of John Singleton, 1968-2019

Aaron: I’ll be honest and shamefully admit that I did not see this movie when it first came out because it just didn’t appear to be anything that I could relate to in any way whatsoever. But, in college, I took a course called “Character-Centered Screenplays” and this was one of the first films they showed us. I was pretty well blown away by this movie, and was sort of upset at myself for being so close-minded to different experiences before that I had never given this film a proper chance. This movie really was something special. Over the Christmas break, I went to visit my sister and her boyfriend (who is African-American) and watched this film for the second time as they had not seen it yet (Incidentally, we also watched Do the Right Thing, another gem I discovered in that class). The conversation that ensued afterwards with my sister and my (now) brother-in-law was one of the first real conversations about race I had ever had. The shared experience of this movie– a film he could sympathize with, while I could only empathize– opened a door for me and him to talk openly about the differences in our race. He answered questions for me that I had not quite ever had the nerve to ask. He explained, patiently and compassionately, the differences between active and passive racism, and gave me a better understanding of how often I was an accidental perpetrator of the latter. He and I became very close that evening, understood each other a lot better. I’m not sure we could have had that as early in their relationship as we did without Boyz n the Hood.

Karen: I didn’t see the movie until VHS, probably in 1992. I remember its impact on me so much that the memory of watching it is fused to exact details of my surroundings: my friend’s living room carpet texture and color, bay window, angle of light, TV hutch, hallway leading out of the room. I only knew South Central LA from rap, and even then, I didn’t really know. How could I? I grew up in a sheltered childhood in a Mayberry-esque small town in Illinois. There’s no way I could ever relate. But therein lies the beauty of a film like Boyz n the Hood. Films which masterfully connect their audience to the subject matter allow for some level of understanding. And that is what I felt. On some level, understanding. Empathy. Anger. Sadness. Changed in some small way, and I carry that with me.

Greg: This one hit me, and hit me hard. Seeing it, I mean. We’ll get to the creator’s passing in a minute. As y’all know, I (we) grew up in a town that was closed off to what went on in the world on the other side of those corn fields. In fact, there wasn’t much world to speak of outside our school, our coffee shop, our Main Street, our boulevard, our football games, our Rock’n’Roll McDonald’s, our local grocery store, our two VHS video stores, our hardware store, our radio station, our soybean processing plant, our parents, our chores, homework, and our ignorance. When I saw this movie, I thought to myself, “No way. This isn’t true.” Then I started paying more attention to the news in my adolescence to realize that yes, in fact, it was. “Home is where everyone feels safest,” I believed. Until I realized how lucky I was. I never fully realized how closed my eyes were to “the rest of the world” until I really started getting into movies during my adolescence, and realizing that many of them were trying to prove a point or convey an important message. I’m not now, nor was I then, ever naive enough to believe that what I saw in the movies and on TV is (was) true, but I feel like I’ve definitely been curious enough to try and learn more about what I see and hear in the media and on TV and on the big screen to do my own homework and figure out the syntax between the lines of what I am and have always been fed when I flip that knob on the box to ON. Boyz n the Hood hit me hard, fast, and forever. In the early 90’s, I didn’t have to look too far in the news to decide that this movie was not an exaggeration or a dramatization as much as it was a depiction of a day in the life of people far way from the safety of the cornfields, grocery stores, schools, and brick roads of Central Illinois. The film made me angry and sad at once. But, more importantly, it alerted me to a world, a world full of problems, that existed outside the sanctity of my own little village. And when John passed the other day, I was instantly transported to a time when my ignorance (innocence) was in full force, only to replaced by a much more important, and mature, awareness. Movies like Singleton’s are the ones I cherish the most. Not for their bleak morbidity. But for their eye-popping honesty and sledgehammer-to-the-face wake up call they offer audiences willing to step outside the confines of their own safe havens.

Aaron here

If I had been thinking properly, I would have pulled up Greg’s Facebook profile on my cell phone, held it aloft between us, and had Frank take a picture. It wouldn’t have been quite the same as having all three of us there together, but it would have accurately reflected that all three Nerds were at least together in the same room in spirit.

Over the Christmas break, Karen took some time out of her frantic traveling schedule to get together with me and have dinner and a couple of drinks while we, for the first time since high school, had a lively film discussion in person. I met her boyfriend Frank. We talked about Aquaman (they enjoyed it, I didn’t). We talked about Bohemian Rhapsody (they enjoyed it, I didn’t). We talked about why The Favorite might be the best movie Karen has seen all year. We’re certain that Greg’s ears began to itch a time or two because he knew, even in Minnesota, that we were talking about him (Greg is sensitive to Steven Spielberg references even from hundreds of miles away).

It was wonderful to see her.

During our conversation we talked about the future of our blog. We agreed that we’re both exceedingly proud that we got this blog started and have continued to maintain it as long as we have. This month– January of 2019– marks our sixth month of this endeavor. We’ve had four movies of the month so far. We’ve spotlighted favorite actors, favorite films, favorite memories of our experience with the art of cinema. And it doesn’t end here. . . We have plans to include even more content over the coming year. We’re having fun with this project and don’t really want the fun to end.

With that said, movie blogs are time-consuming animals. They require maintenance and nurturing. You have to feed them and care for them when they are sick. And you have to make sure they get plenty of rest when they need it. Just like you do with people. For this reason, we have taken a break this month from our regular format and have opted to not spotlight a film in January to be our Movie of the Month.

One, we’re tired. Karen has spent a good chunk of the month traveling and the demands of Greg and mine’s respective jobs are especially gigantic this time of year. The collaboration that goes into a group entry like our normal Movie of the Month entries seemed daunting and infeasible.

Which actually works out. Sort of. Because . . . Two, we decided many months ago (thanks to an idea from Karen) that we wanted to spend the first month of the year talking about obscure films. We’ve talked about under-appreciated films, but not obscure. The movies that are so far below anybody’s radar that we consistently find that we are the only person who has ever seen them. How do we pick an obscure Movie of the Month? We’re never going to collectively agree on a choice because obscurity, by its very definition, means that whatever movie one of us comes up with has, more than likely, never been seen by the other two. So we’re gonna skip it this month, spend the rest of the month recommending that you seek out movies that you might not be able to find, and then we’ll be back in February with our first Movie of the Month for 2019. (Spoiler alert: It will probably be somehow Valentine’s Day-themed)

I’ll be back next week with an entry about a thought-provoking (and obscure) foreign film. And– tease tease tease– it’s not obscure because it’s foreign.

Until then, we want to take an opportunity to thank each and every one of our readers for your support over the last six months. We are very proud of the work we are doing here and hope that you will continue to enjoy the fruits of our labor throughout the coming year.

Speaking of . . . Happy New Year! I probably should have started there.

“Be excellent to each other!”

bill and tedThis is great advice.

Great advice from a great movie.

We’re sure you’ve heard by now that Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are reuniting for a third movie in this series. Twenty-seven years after they first played the roles. Little is known at this time, but we know this: the movie is called Bill & Ted Face The Music. According to an interview in Entertainment Weekly, the film is directed by Dean Parisot (of Galaxy Quest fame) and written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon (the two gentlemen who wrote the first two films). Plot details are scarce, but it has been revealed that Bill and Ted are now middle-aged and are helped this time around by their teenage daughters.

Are you excited? We sure are.

In this week’s bonus content, Aaron answers a question from Karen. Karen will also answer two questions (one from Greg and one from Aaron). Greg is taking the week off, but promises some fun this Friday with a solo entry inspired by our Movie of the Month!

We’ll start with Karen. She was asked the following question by Greg: So the basis of Q4 stems from my observation that you rarely have an unkind word to say about the movies you see. Is this because you choose, as do I, to focus on spreading positive vibes about movies and elect to steer clear in a public forum of the ones you dislike, or is it because you truly love everything on the big screen and have yet to find that flick that pisses you off? I joke a bit here, of course, but if this were question 3A, I’d wrap up by asking in what world your favorite type of movie character would exist, so that you’d see every single movie that type of character is in? Wow – I confused myself with this one. . . it sorta got away from me. I think I’m asking what genre, or what themes, are important to you on film that, when you hear about them, you want to go see a character you hope you will find his/her way around in that world?

Karen’s response: “You’re not the first person to say something like this to me (‘But you love everything, Karen!’). I really don’t. There are some movies I despise. But I don’t really see the point in ruining someone else’s potentially life-changing film experience. Or even someone’s ‘I really enjoyed that day at the theater because of that film’ experience. We all interpret art differently, and I absolutely consider film to be an art form. Also, I am almost always able to find something positive in a movie, no matter my opinion and/or the general consensus. I also have a pretty good sixth sense about what I’m going to like, with or without a trailer. And I’m rarely wrong about that. Maybe it’s the years of obsessively watching all types of films. Or maybe I just know my film self really well?

jodie foster3A! Interesting. . . Science-fiction is my favorite genre, so I guess ‘that’ kind of world. In recent years, Emily Blunt as Rita in Edge of Tomorrow (I love this film – I think it’s highly underrated, both from a sci-fi and an action perspective), Scarlett Johansson as Lucy in Lucy, Amy Adams as Dr. Banks in Arrival, and Natalie Portman as Lena in Annihilation come to mind. And further back, Jodie Foster as Dr. Ellie Araway in Contact and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in anything Aliens (even the ‘bad’ ones). Beleaguered, the last remaining hope for mankind (directly or indirectly), just getting the job done to the tune of aliens, outer space, or alien invasions. I will love it. Every single time.”

Aaron is also a big fan of science-fiction. But one of his truest passions is silent film. He was able to talk about that a bit in this question from Karen: At this year’s TCM Film Festival, Martin Scorsese discussed the importance of advocating for film as art. He suggests that in this age of “content” (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube), cinema is being minimized by its inclusion on multi-media platforms alongside commercials, how-to videos, and easily digested bits of information. What are your thoughts on this? Is the unprecedented availability of film (literally) at our fingertips helping preserve film’s legacy or destroying it? How do we merge the old with the new in a way that helps us take the time to understand and advocate the art behind the film when it’s lumped in with everything else?

Aaron had to think very hard to come up with an adequate answer to this thought-provoking question. He states: “This is an interesting question. And I am of two minds about it.

My immediate instinct is that Mr. Scorsese is absolutely correct. And I say that because I have a Roku TV that has multiple free-movie channels associated with it. There have been movies I have wanted to see and I was able to find on one of the myriad channels. But I found myself consistently frustrated because it was taking me four hours to watch a ninety-minute movie because they were showing five minutes of commercials and advertisements for every ten minutes that the movie was running. So. . . yes, it’s great that I have (pretty much) any movie I want to see available as quickly as I can push the buttons on my remote. But I don’t utilize this service for movie watching because I can’t stand the constant interruption.

The other side of that, though, is that I am a huge fan of silent film. A good chunk of silent films, especially the more obscure examples that have not stayed fresh in the film-goer’s eye, are in the public domain. This means that they are (usually) available online. For free. I watch a LOT of silent movies on YouTube. Without a site such as YouTube, there are a large number of movies I would really like to see that I would not have ready access to. So, again. . . in this case, it’s great that I have (pretty much) any movie that I want to see (provided it falls into public domain territory) available as quickly as I can punch buttons on my keyboard.

What I would like to see. . . because it is a service that I would pay for . . . is just a general on-demand database of any movie ever made. I pay my monthly fee (like I would for specialized services, like Film Struck or Kindle Unlimited) and I then have access to any movie I’m interested in watching. Movies that are currently in theaters could, obviously, be excluded. But if it’s on DVD or streaming services? I wanna watch it for $20 a month! Advertisements before the movie (just like in theaters). Cross-referenced recommendations just like Netflix.

I’m dreaming. I know. This would never happen. For now, I’m happy with renting the occasional movie off Vudu (an invaluable service that I didn’t even know existed until I began communicating again with Greg).”

One more from Karen and we’ll let you go. Aaron asked: What attracts you first to a movie? Genre? Cast? Director? Has there ever been a movie that you were not attracted to initially that you, ultimately, really loved?

Karen’s answer: “It’s about 90% story and 10% actor and/or writer and/or director.

phantom threadAnd I wouldn’t say that I wasn’t originally attracted to it, but I was cautiously optimistic about The Phantom Thread. I enjoy Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, but I don’t love There Will Be Blood. I thought that I would enjoy The Phantom Thread, but I wanted it to be nothing like There Will Be Blood. It wasn’t, and I adored it. It was gorgeous, deliciously weird, and that score is LIT.”

So, what’s the word, friends? Did you see The Phantom Thread? Isn’t it awesome that Karen got to be in the same room with Martin Scorsese? What is Aaron’s obsession with silent film? Don’t you kinda miss Greg?

Don’t fret! Greg will be back on Friday with all new solo content. Come check it out!

Aaron, Karen, and Greg

“No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!”

that's impossibleActually, Luke, it’s not only possible, but it’s accurate.

We are almost out of Q and A material to present on Wednesdays.

And we’re on a roll here. We want to present new content as often as possible.

If you could take a moment to drop us a comment and let us know what sort of material you might like to see on our site, we’d be grateful. Would you like to see reviews of new films by Karen? She lives in Los Angeles, after all, and sees new movies on pretty much the day they open. Would you like Greg to recommend the best of the most obscure films he discovers on late-night trips to Netflixville? What about Aaron? He’s always looking for something to keep him busy.

The way we see it, this site is for you. If we’re not presenting content that’s appealing to our readers, then it isn’t much fun for us. Let us know what you’re interested in!

In our bonus content this week, Greg gets even with Aaron, Karen tries very hard not to hurt Greg’s feelings, and Greg has a bone to pick with the Academy Awards!

Remember several weeks ago when Greg answered a frustrating question from Aaron about remakes? Well, Greg turned the tables on Aaron. Greg asks: Since you challenged me/pissed me off with the “what movie, if you remade it, would you remake and what would you change?” question, I’m throwing it right back at you.

It was a hard question. So hard, in fact, that Aaron had to cheat to answer it: “I posed this question to Greg because I was honestly intrigued by what his response might be. It didn’t occur to me that he would throw the question right back to me, and now I wish I hadn’t asked it. Because this question is very, very difficult to answer.

But not because I can’t come up with a good movie that could use a remake. It’s difficult to answer because. . . I’m not crazy about remakes. As a general rule. The trend in recent years (especially in the horror genre) of remaking classic films is a sign, to me, that Hollywood is becoming devoid of creativity.

With that said, there are three remakes that immediately come to mind as three films that I really, really, really, really love. If a person had anything negative to say about The Magnificent Seven (the 1960 remake of Seven Samurai, not the 2016 remake of, well, The Magnificent Seven), I might consider not being friends with them anymore. The 2007 version of 3:10 to Yuma, briefly, gave me hope that quality westerns (my favorite genre) were making a comeback. And I also consider a quiet, little film that he made in the late 1980’s called Always very close to being my absolute favorite Steven Spielberg movie ever.

It’s possible that the average film-goer didn’t even realize those three movies were remakes until I, just this second, told them. And that’s kind of my point. These are remakes of films that completely flew under the radar and deserve a second look by modern audiences from filmmakers that chose these projects because they really love the originals. Why make a remake of a movie that people still watch?

So. . . if I were to remake any movie, it would have to be a small, obscure film that nobody really paid much attention to in the first place. Something that I connected with personally. Something that isn’t being shown on AMC or premium movie channels six times a week. The smartest remakes, I think, pull attention back to the original film.

harold lloydIt would be quite fun, though, to find an actor with incredible physical capabilities and then cast him in a shot-by-shot reconstruction of anything by Harold Lloyd. I’m thinking, in particular, Safety Last.”

Aaron posed the following question to Karen: Think of a genre that you don’t normally enjoy, but then come up with three movies in that genre that are exceptions to the rule.

Karen responds: “Of all of the genres of all of the films in all of the places in the world, I gotta go with horror here. Greg will disown me, I’m sure, but it’s just never been my jam. I just can’t let go of them. I stew, I fret, I consider, I worry. I take all of the fun out of it for myself. And that’s really too bad, because there are some great horror films to enjoy.

Perhaps as a function of age, or maybe a perceived renaissance in horror film-making, a few newer horror films come to mind as exceptions. IT (2017), A Quiet Place (2018), and Annihilation (2018) – these are fantastic. There’s a different feel to new horror and it allows viewers like me to enjoy them more without taking away from the die-hard admirers of the genre.

leviathanLooking back, movies like Leviathan were what drew me into horror as a kid. Anything with a science-fiction bend, and you had me. Anything with a title that included ‘children’, ‘corn’, or ‘Chuckie’ was a big nope for me.”

And, finally, Greg answered a three-part question from Aaron: Do you follow the Oscars?

“Yes! Is that it? Watch the closed-ended questions Aaron! Lol. . . I’m kidding. . .

In fact, I’ve been doing a bragging-rights pool for years, and it has carried over into work. Even Karen has participated for the last few years. I used to have an Oscar party during which I made my famous nacho cheese-and-chili dip, and invited my fellow nerds to watch and enjoy, but it got to be a lot of work and I’ve already established that I’m growing increasingly lazy over the years. In truth, I don’t reckon I’ve missed the Oscars, or the Golden Globes, for that matter, since the late 80’s or early 90’s. Even the one in 2001 or 2002 or somewhere in there that was nearly four-and-a-half hours long.”

Do they have much bearing on your movie-watching habits?

“Not at all, actually, except I do make an effort after the nominations are announced to try and see as many of the Best Picture noms as I can, so I can have, at least, a clue of what’s going on. Otherwise, I watch the things that look interesting to me.”

Think of two movies that were not nominated, but you believe should have been. What Oscars should they have been nominated for?

“Sorry, Aaron, but I’m going to cheat a tad on this one. Well, sort of. Can I instead suggest movies that were nominated and should have won, but did not? Good. That’s what I’ll do. Okay, look – I’m not meaning to disrespect this process, but the list of movies the three of us have seen spans into the thousands, I’m certain. But two Spielberg movies and one Rob Reiner movie stand out as big huge snubs (since I’ve dodged your question a bit, I’ll throw in a bonus flick). E.T. lost to Ghandi, Saving Private Ryan lost to Shakespeare in Love, and A Few Good Men lost to whatever the hell won that year. Unforgiven, sure. . . give it to Clint Eastwood. Honestly, I don’t recall what won that year – call it an educated guess. But E.T. – they say it was Spielberg’s trademark sentimentality that blew it for him. What the hell? How fair is that? If you don’t like his sentimentality, don’t nominate him. But don’t criticize him for making movies that make people run the gamut of emotions inside of two hours. Saving Private Ryan losing to Shakespeare in Love? Really? They say it was Harvey Weinstein’s power, influence, and his aggressive, yet masterful, marketing campaign that ‘earned’ this lackluster turd of a movie its win. How does the Academy like Weinstein now? Hmmm?. . . Too soon?”oscars

Well, that’s it for this week, everyone. What are your thoughts? Is there an Oscar-nominated film that you believe should have won? What movie would you like to see remade? Have you seen Leviathan? That shit was scary.

Be sure to check in on Friday! Karen will be presenting her second solo entry, an article about a film inspired by The Breakfast Club, our first official Movie of the Month! We hope you enjoy it!

Aaron, Greg, and Karen

“You talkin’ to me?”

taxi driver

Well, no, Travis, not to you, specifically.

But we are talking to our readers, our friends who check out our blog.

Hello, friends. How is your week going?

This week, for our bonus content, we’re presenting more excerpts from our Q and A. Karen asks Aaron a question. She also asks Greg a question. And just to make sure Karen isn’t doing all the work, Greg asks Karen a question, too. The questions this week will, hopefully, let our readers know a little more about us. But all of them require a bit of background information.

Karen, first. Karen loves Wonder Woman. A lot. Greg asked Karen the following question: What is your favorite type of movie character and why? Paint me a portrait of what he/she looks like, and describe for me how he/she fits into the world, and tell me about his/her strengths, flaws, and ideals.

Karen responds: “Oh, you mean like Wonder Woman? IS THAT WHAT YOU MEANT, GREG?? No question — the strong, confident, ass-kicking, name-taking, uber-intelligent save-the-day women types are generally my favorites. They have been since I was a kid. But they have to be relatable. Everyday issues, problems, hardships, character flaws — these are necessary to balance out the perceived perfection of such a character. Otherwise there is no incentive to go along on the ride with her, whether to Themyscira, Berlin, the factory floor, deep space, or an FBI training facility.

I’m also gonna throw a 3a onto this one: Villains we love to hate. It’s perversely cathartic, watching them from a safe distance. J. K. Simmons’ Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash, any of Alan Rickman’s villains, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Cate Blanchett’s Hera, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Agent Smith in The Matrix, Lina Lamont in Singin’ In the Rain, anything Peter Lorre did where he played a villain, Misery’s Annie Wilkes, brilliantly portrayed by Kathy Bates. Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii is a particular favorite of mine (from Kill Bill). They are often more enjoyable to watch on screen than their heroic counterparts.”

Greg next. Greg spent the better part of a whole year devoting his Facebook feed to a “Greg’s Top 100 Movies of All Time”. It was riveting and fun (and, honestly, part of the reason why Karen and Aaron asked him to participate in this blog). Karen asked him this: I enjoyed reading your 100 Favorite Films entries and appreciated the care and knowledge you crafted into them. What did you learn about yourself as a film lover from that process? Do you think your Top 10 will stand firm or has it already changed and why?

Greg said: “I love this question (and all the others as well, by the way). There would be some changes, but only minor ones. This is going to allow me to express something I’ve been wanting to express since day one on this project.

I forget the context in which I discussed this before, but I have been thinking of doing a follow-up list of ten or twenty movies that I’ve either seen since, or maybe didn’t think of for whatever reason the first time around, my own version of Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival. Having said this, I won’t divulge which movies exactly would appear, but I did mention to Aaron that the movie Chef would be in there somewhere, because of the overwhelming sense of positivity I feel whenever I watch it. Of all the movies I watch to love and love to watch, it’s those feel-good (not by way of Lifetime originals, but instead by way of straight-up, well-written, well-intentioned, Ferris-Bueller’y type movies) that truly inspire me to be my very best, whether at work, in my personal life, when I type this silliness I call ‘writing’, and any other facet of my life. I think when you’ve found that one thing that you love and do well, you latch onto it and do it the best you can. For me, it’s movies, which I’ve been fortunate enough to make a career out of. A close second is that whole writing thing, which, love my informal style or hate it, that’s how I do it, yo. . . Therefore, when I see those types of movies, like Chef, about someone who throws caution to the wind and marches to the beat of his or her own drummer, and ends up better because of it, well, man, I’m in. It’s why I feel okay writing exactly the way I want to write. Are my short stories (I write those too, Mr. Polk!) in the same style as my Facebook posts and this blog? Not at all. Well, not usually. But they could be if I wanted them to be, because I watch enough movies to know that I’m not going to be happy unless I do things the way I want to do them. (Wait. . . why am I still single again? What? I’m supposed to compromise? Dammit to hell. . .)

last flagWould my Top Ten change? Tough to say, Page. Tough to say. I recently watched Last Flag Flying, directed by Richard Linklater (to be fair, the fact that he directed slipped by me completely until the end credits – a rare dropping of the ball on my part, to be sure – but I was delighted when I saw his name on screen). It was one of the best dialogue-driven movies I’ve seen in a very long time, which, in the world of strong dialogue-writing, goes a very long way. Would it be in the revised Top Ten, or would it be in the Edmonds Overlooked Top 100 Film Festival? Again, tough to say, Page.”

And finally, Aaron. Aaron reads a lot. And always has. So much so that this fact stands out to Greg as one thing he truly remembers about Aaron from high school. Aaron might actually read more books in a month than he watches movies. Karen’s question to Aaron: Weighing in on Greg’s question about writing and film, what is your favorite movie adaptation of a written work and why?

Aaron responds: “This question is almost too easy to answer because my response was immediate with almost no hesitation. With that said, I’m cheating a little because I’m picking two adaptations for my answer. However, both adaptations are by the same screenwriter adapting works by the same novelist. So it’s not really cheating, right?

shawshankFrank Darabont’s screenplays for The Shawshank Redemption (which, in my opinion, should have won Best Picture that year) and The Green Mile are anomalies to me in the world of adaptation because they both simultaneously remain incredibly faithful to the source material while still expanding on it. I don’t think anything happens in either written work that doesn’t transpire in the screenplay, but Darabont manages to fill in some holes in both cases with the unspoken things we didn’t get to see in the original novels. As an example, Stephen King’s original novella (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) never leaves the prison. It is stated in the work that inmates become so institutionalized to being inmates that they cannot function in the real world upon release. But we never see evidence of this in the prose. It’s just out there as a statement of fact. Darabont’s screenplay has the luxury of leaving the prison and following a few characters into their release back into society. We see how they are institutionalized, how they adapt for functionality, how they struggle. (And while we’re on the subject of Darabont’s work, his adaptation of The Mist has a better ending than King’s original story.)

There are a couple of movies that I think are wonderful films, but horrible adaptations (such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest or The Lovely Bones), but that wasn’t the question, so I’ll stop there.”

Well, that’s it for this week. What say you? Leave us a comment! Tell us your favorite adaptation of a novel into a film. Don’t you think Greg should repost his top 100 so that everyone could see it? Isn’t Wonder Woman awesome?

Aaron will be back on Friday with new content inspired by our Movie of the Month (which is The Breakfast Club, don’t ya know?).

Greg, Aaron, and Karen

“I’ve seen ‘The Exorcist’ about a hundred and sixty-seven times, and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it…”

Thanks for stopping by today. Did you see any good movies over the Labor Day weekend?

This month will mark the first month of our regular format. Remember our description of a cinematic rabbit hole? Well, that will start this week. This weekend, we’ll be spotlighting a “movie of the month”, a movie hand-selected by all 3 nerds to be our “theme” for the entire month. Our solo entries for the remainder of September will somehow relate to that movie. But since we’re wary of spoilers around here, we’re gonna make you check back on Friday to find out what that movie might be!

For today, we have more excerpts of our Q and A, and a special mention of something movie-related that happened on this day in history 67 years ago.

Today is Wednesday, September 5. This means that one of our favorite actors is celebrating his birthday! Can you guess who it is?

Here’s a few hints…

His first paid acting gig was for three episodes of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood in 1975 (though he was credited by his real name of Michael Douglas).

He starred in a short-lived sitcom called Working Stiffs in 1979 with Jim Belushi.

Any guesses?

Okay. We’ll make it easier.

He starred in Mr. Mom. He starred in Beetlejuice. He starred in Tim Burton’s 1989 version of Batman.

mrbeetlejuiceman

Michael Keaton was especially prolific in the 1990’s, starring in such films as My Life, The Paper, Multiplicity, Out of Sight, and Jackie Brown. He even took on the role of Batman a second time, in a movie probably most remembered for Michelle Pfeiffer’s depiction of Catwoman. His films run the gamut from comedies to dramas to horror films. He has voiced characters in animated films. He can seemingly do it all, including getting nominated for an Oscar for his understated performance in Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Happy birthday to Michael Keaton!

michael keaton

Sound off in the comments and tell us what your favorite Michael Keaton film might be!

For this week’s excerpt from our Q and A, Greg and Aaron answer a question from Karen. Karen answers a question from Aaron.

We’ll start with Karen’s question. She asked her fellow nerds the following question: Why do you think film is so important?

GREG: “Call it a cliché, that’s fine – but I lose myself in the movies. Great escape, right? Movies, along with, to an only slightly-lesser degree music, transport me to a place far, far away from whatever the hell irks me on that particular day. Did I mention I’m evolving into a grouch as I grow older?

But truly, no matter what is happening on the outside, something exciting happens to me on the inside whenever I hit play on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon or HBOGo or Vudu or BluRay or DVD or VCR (yes, VCR, and no, I do not work for, nor am I shamelessly promoting Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBOGo, Vudu, BluRay, or whoever still makes VCR’s these days).

I can remember my older brothers and older sister (note: I am clearly identifying myself as the baby of the family, a sentiment I have milked since I learned how much affection I could get by milking it) being big influences on my movie watching habits. I’d be watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS, and an (older) sibling would change the channel to Real Genius, or WarGames. I’d protest at first because, dammit I’m the baby, and I should get what I want. But within minutes I’d marvel, and I really do remember this, at how friggin’ cool the movies my brothers and sister were watching. And part of it was, again, this is no joke, I did want to be cool like they were, so I wanted to do the things they were doing, but I also thought it was fun to enjoy a joke we were both in on together. Something about those childhood experiences drew me into that world, and something else about the nature of visual storytelling also compelled me at a very early age.

I come from a long line of master storytellers, my dad being perhaps one of the most enthusiastic (and long-winded, which proves something, I reckon, about heredity, though I’m not sure what) and engrossing storytellers I’ve ever met. His stories, coupled with those I was seeing in the movies with my brothers, with whom time was always short as I only saw them on the weekends, kinda sorta drew me further and further into that world. How can one story be told a hundred different ways? In the movies, of course. How can an emotion you can’t communicate effectively or, on occasion, maturely, present itself in a way you hadn’t considered before? In the movies, of course. So many times we see art imitate life, but never moreso than with the movies. As Philip Seymour Hoffman said in Magnolia, ‘They put those scenes in movies because they actually happen.’

Why are movies so important to me? I think I’ve given you about four different answers, I suppose. It’s a loaded question, Page. . . but a damn good one. I suppose I’d have to defer to Steve Martin in the movie Grand Canyon when he said to his friend, played by Kevin Kline, ‘That’s your problem, Mac, you haven’t seen enough movies. . . all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.’ I’m just lucky I had my brothers to thank for changing the channel from dreary old, yet positively-perfect Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood to something infinitely funnier, scarier, and sadder, like movies.”

AARON: “I have a background in theatre (playwrighting, acting, and directing), and one of the things that I have always loved about live performance is the fluid immediacy of it. No two performances of anything I have ever done has ever been exactly the same. Sometimes it’s in large ways (Oops! Carol forgot her lines again!) and sometimes in smaller ways (the table wasn’t placed exactly where it usually is and an actor has to take two extra steps to place his glass down). But it’s constantly evolving. Not-quite ready shows can become damn near perfect in the six weeks from open to close as the actors become more comfortable with their lines or blocking, as the kinks in the light cues get worked out. I once had to request an alternate version of a scene from a playwright because a contraption for a stage effect had been broken and could not be repaired in time for the show to resume between weekends.

This is not an option in film.

Yes, there are multiple takes. An editing crew goes through them. They select the best one. But, ultimately, what is selected is what audiences will be seeing for the rest of time. There’s no evolution. It’s permanent.

This, to me, is why film is so important: Every movie is a permanent record of the time it was made in.

You can track the history of the world and the changes in society by watching one movie in a particular genre from each decade from the 1920’s to the present. Special effects improve from the early days of spaceships on string to today’s CGI-driven extravaganzas. Comedy has evolved (you simply could not make a Mel Brooks film in today’s politically-correct atmosphere). Minorities are given more important roles. Those hairstyles and fashion in the 80’s!

Movies are an exceptional history lesson. One that doesn’t force you to trudge through a bland textbook.”

Karen was asked a similar question by Aaron. Why do you enjoy watching movies so much?

“I love art in pretty much any medium. It’s a source of total joy for me. Film is just slightly more tangible to me, the breadth of life imitated on screen as opposed to on a stage or on a wall or on a page (but only slightly).

There’s a feeling that I think almost every human connects to through art, whatever the source or level of skill or scale. It can propagate a slow slide into something that feels almost supernatural in its power to move the viewer from one reality to another. I love this experience. The click. The light bulb. The slow realization. The warm spread of feeling, whether positive or negative, in reaction to what I’m seeing on the screen. I live for this shit.

Every time I see a film, I experience something new. I discover something I didn’t see in myself before. This is rarely as apparent to me as when I’m watching foreign film, although domestic film is equally as effective. It’s just that immersing oneself in a completely different language and place and way of thinking about the world for a few hours has a way of opening up channels that are sometimes mired by the familiarity of one’s own reality.”

Film as a great escape. Film as the ultimate history lesson. Film as a means of finding yourself. Three different answers from three different people, and probably a million more if we took the time to ask everyone that we knew. And all of those answers are correct. That’s the beauty of the cinema: it’s something different for every one. But it unifies us as well.

Why is film important to you?

Be sure to check back in this Friday! Our Movie of the Month is sure to be a conversation starter.

Karen, Aaron, and Greg

Kismet

Hello, friends. We have a question for you.

What is the first movie you remember seeing? More specifically, what is the first movie you remember seeing in a movie theater?

That’s our theme for today’s entry, the final Friday entry for the month of August. We invite you to comment below and tell us about those films. Are they still well-loved movies for you?

That theme is not all we want to talk about today, however. We found another theme between us. And it happened quite by happenstance. Through the many discussions we three nerds have had about film in the time it took us to decide to follow through with this particular project, we discovered something that we did not know before. Something that would have a year ago seemed like a happy coincidence, but now seems like “a sign”. It’s a silly thing to even consider now, but, perhaps the universe is now telling us that we were always meant to one day join forces and create this blog.

By way of explaining exactly what we’re talking about, we submit this snippet from our team Q and A. Aaron asked Karen the following question: Think of a movie that you like because of the experience of watching it for the first time.

Karen’s answer made Greg and Aaron both pause for just a moment:

“You’re going to laugh. No, really. The first film I thought of was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I’m not even kidding. Summer of 1991. I’m 12. A few months shy of 13. High school looms large and exciting and terrifying (but not for another year). I’m surrounded by my best friends on one of those star-lit, somewhat muggy, smell-of-the-fields-perfect Illinois summer nights. We’re at the Harvest Moon Drive-In running around, getting into trouble, crossing the highway for Pizza Hut, lying on blankets. Watching the opening night of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I’ve always been a sucker for historical (-ish) fiction on the screen, but add a cheesy love story to that? AND Kevin Costner? My 12-year old brain, surrounded by my friends on one of those perfect Illinois nights could barely comprehend how full of joy I was. Full of pre-teen angst, too. . . sure. But also, so much joy. And I will always have a soft spot for that film, forevermore.”

Greg and Aaron both loved this answer. They are both nostalgic and fond of this movie, too. But. . . they were both also there. At the Harvest Moon Drive-In. On the opening night of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Which, we suppose, is not so odd in a small town, but this factoid becomes prescient for us now because Aaron hadn’t met either one of the others yet.

This theme, this idea that we were meant to do this together really began to formulate for Greg while he answered the questions in our group Q and A. It seems that, totally and completely on accident, we had all asked (essentially) the same question of the others. These questions all rotated around the idea of trying to remember the first movies we had ever seen. It seemed to Greg (and we’ll allow him to expound on this idea more in his answers) that something cosmic was pointing all of us in the same direction.

Aaron asked Greg the same question that he asked Karen above. Greg’s response:

“Easy. Gotta be E.T.. . . No, wait. . . Raiders of the Lost Ark. . . No, wait. . . Jurassic Park. . . No, wait. . . E.T.. Seriously: E.T..

In 2016, I challenged myself to complete a Greg’s Top 100 movie countdown that would span the entire year. The whittling-down process consumed me for the first two months of the year, but, in my mind, I knew that E.T. would be right up there in the Top Three. The reason was, and still is, simple: E.T. was the first movie I saw in the movie theater. At the tender age of five. Even today, I have vivid memories of laughing, crying, being terrified (that damned cornfield scene. . . ) and insert any other emotion here. Other early memories of movies are checkered and scant at best, but I’ve never forgotten how I felt about seeing that little Play-doh-ey guy running around and then leaving us forever. . . little bastard. Since then, I go into every movie I see for the first time looking to feel something. . . anything. . . an emotion different than the one I first entered the theater or living room feeling. ‘That’s all I have to say about that,’ said Forrest Gump.”

Later in the interview, Aaron asked Greg the following question, a question that Greg had, by accident, already answered: What is the very first movie that you remember seeing?

Greg again: “Well, shit. I guess I need to read these questions through before I begin to answer them, because I already answered this one at the beginning. However, I will add another early movie memory to fulfill the requirement of answering the question. I am a horror lover through and through. I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty about scanning Netflix in the wee hours to find some schlock that I can pick apart ’cause it just ain’t scary enough. So. . . my mom dropped my brother and I off at Wing’s Cinema in Rantoul, IL when I was probably 6 or 7. He was a teenager. It was a Disney movie, and it was called Something Wicked This Way Comes. It was a film based on a Ray Bradbury novel about a couple of kids who visit a traveling carnival that has elephants and clowns and carousels, and on the side, it sells dreams for a stiff price. Yeah, there are evil spirits and nightmares and spiders. . . big ones. . . So, that night, and for about two weeks later, I checked under my bedsheets to make sure there were no tarantulas crawling around. I didn’t want to see a single one, let alone about a hundred! Oh, remember when I said this was a Disney movie? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding. Dudes…Disney went through a dark period in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I’m tellin’ ya’.”

Imagine Greg typing away that answer on his laptop, in his garage with a Captain and Coke. Now imagine the look on his face when he opened up the email from Karen that contained the following question: What is the first film you remember seeing in a movie theater? What is the first film you remember seeing in a movie theater that you loved? How do you think these films have affected the way you see the world?

Greg’s response: “I’m going to make a small joke that I feel is amusing and not intended to upset the other authors of this blog in the slightest: Clearly, all three of us should’ve read all of the questions and answers posed to each of us by each of the others before proceeding – ha! Aaron has noted that we all have a lot going on and we all are still swimming in the murky waters of starting up this endeavor, but, on a different note, all of our questions were rooted in a certain similarity that suggests the three of us were all on the same page about what this whole thing should be about, which further suggests that we were all three destined to do this together at some point in our lives – better now when we all still have our wits about us as we enter into our late 20s. . .”

Keeping in mind everything you’ve already read, imagine the look on Greg’s face when his answers were completed and submitted and then we discovered the little tidbit about all of us being at the Harvest Moon Drive-In at the exact same time a good year before we could all three meet each other right and proper. A thought that Greg already had in the back of his mind, that he had articulated and typed for one and all to see, was confirmed. The word for that is. . . we think . . . kismet.

More on that in a moment. Greg’s answer continues:

“Nevertheless, I will try and answer, with slightly different sentimentality, especially in part three of this question.

E.T. is the first film I remember seeing in the theater, and it impacted me profoundly. As I said when Aaron asked something similar, I can remember running the gamut of emotions during that in-house theater experience.

Because I felt so wildly ‘all over the place’ emotionally, I can vividly remember absolutely loving this experience and this movie thoroughly, so much so that it wound up at the top of my Top 100 countdown that I spent the better part of 2016 hammering out. Couple this with the fact that I spent a good chunk of the limited time I spent with my siblings watching movies that I wouldn’t have otherwise watched, E.T. was an excellent start to a hobby that ended up being a career for me. So there!

Part three, though, is an interesting follow up. How do movies change the way I see the world? I think I would have to dovetail a bit onto something I said in another question – there’s a reason somebody made these movies or wrote these screenplays – because, especially in the dramas and slice-of-life ‘essays’ for lack of a better term, these things do tend to actually happen once in awhile, and the writers’ and directors’ perspectives on these issues do much to lend us our own perspectives, especially when we are in need of perspective.

Greg too lost on the silver screen? Too slipped on a banana peel (Eckhart, Batman, 1989). Thinks too much that life is like a movie? Well, how is this different than those who lose themselves in music, or books, or stamp collecting, or model building, or video gaming, or sports, or lawn work, or chess? They are all escapes, no? I actually wish to modify what I said earlier about movies being the great escape. Movies are MY great escape, same as sports are for some, painting is for others, and so on.”

Aaron answered this question from Karen as well:

“Before I answer the question, an anecdote: Back in the early 1990’s, I saw a movie at a theater on the University of Illinois campus. I believe it was called The Thunderbird Cinema. Almost as soon as I set foot into the auditorium, I remembered seeing Fantasia there. There were wall adornments and decoration to the proscenium area that just gave me almost instant deja vu. But it wasn’t just Fantasia. I had memories of The Sword in the Stone and The Fox and the Hound as well. Most specifically, I recalled lying on the ground in the aisle and watching The Fox and the Hound as it loomed above my head larger than life. It was an odd memory to have because these three Walt Disney cartoons are movies that, up to that point, I had no real memory of ever having seen from beginning to end.

Later, I asked my mother about these memories. And she confirmed for me that my family frequented this movie theater when I was younger because, during the summer, when classes were not in session, they often did family films for $1. She even confirmed the memory of lying on the ground (apparently, we had been outside at a public petting zoo for a good portion of the day and I had reported not feeling well). So. . . there you have it . . . I guess discounted Disney movies are the first films I remember seeing in the theater (incidentally, The Sword in the Stone has, over time, become one of my most favorite animated Disney films), even though I was a teenager before I actually remembered it.

But. . . to give an honest answer to the question. The first movie I vividly remember seeing in theaters is Return of The Jedi. 1983. I was six. We saw it at Urbana Cinema (which used to be The Princess and, also, showed movies for a dollar). I had already seen the other two films, and was pretty well consumed by them, but the third film in the trilogy was the first one that I didn’t see on television. That I saw while it was still new. While other kids were still waiting to be allowed to see it. It was a big moment for me.”

As of this writing, it has not been confirmed if either Karen or Greg were there watching Return of the Jedi as well.

But, man, what if they were?

One more thing before we sign off today: we’re not sure that we truly believe that something cosmic has a hand in our endeavor. But it sure feels like it sometimes. And we know this: We’ve worked hard on this blog. We’ve had some great discussions. We’ve learned some things about each other (for example, in spite of our initial beliefs, Aaron is far more pushy than Karen). We’ve continued to nurture decades-old friendships in the name of what we love. We have inspired one another, and together, we have created something that is meaningful to us.

We are now a month into our project, and we’re having fun. It seems appropriate to take a moment to thank you for that. For coming along for the ride.

Be sure to check in next week for our first “Movie of the Month” and take a moment to sound off in the comments! What was the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?

Karen, Aaron, And Greg

“The Master would not approve.”

One of our readers randomly mentioned on our Facebook feed a movie that intrigued us here at Three Nerds and a Movie quite a bit. The movie is called Manos: The Hands Of Fate, and our reader states that she believes that this film is the worst movie ever made.
manos posterNow, we try to keep things positive here and don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about movies that we didn’t like, but we had to admit being intrigued. “Worst movie ever made” is quite a distinction.

A little research was in order. . . Written and directed by Harold P. Warren, Manos: The Hands of Fate was released in 1966. The movie itself stars Tom Neyman and John Reynolds as “The Master” and “Torgo”, respectively, and concerns an underground devil-worshiping cult that is accidentally stumbled-upon by a family lost while traveling. This appears to be the only movie that Harold P. Warren was ever involved in.

Consensus would agree that if this is not the worst movie ever made, then it is up there pretty close near the top. IMDB users rate the movie at a measly 1.9 out of 10. The Rotten Tomatoes aggregate critics’ score rates the movie at a 7%. This does, indeed, sound awful. But is it really “this isn’t even worth watching” awful, or is it one of those “awful movies” that is still pretty fun to watch? A lot of horror movies, especially in the 1960’s, fall into this latter category.

It should be noted, before we proceed, that Manos: The Hands Of Fate, despite its apparent awfulness, has achieved enough of a cult status to be made into a platform video game for iOS platforms, including Android phones. Here’s a screenshot:

manos video game

Can it really be that bad if they honored it with a video game adaptation? As we said, we’re kind of intrigued by this movie and may have to draw straws soon to see which one of us is “lucky enough” to get to watch this movie and give it a full review!

Okay. Bonus content this week from our team Q and A: Aaron answers a question from Greg. Karen and Greg answer an overly-complicated question from Aaron.

Aaron first. Greg’s original question: Since you’re such a huge reader, I’d suppose you dip your pen in ink once and again. If I’m wrong, this is a short answer to my question. But if I am right, what types of things do you write about? Ever tackle a screenplay?

Aaron responds:

“I told a teacher in third grade that when I grew up, I wanted to be ‘an author.’ Not a writer. An author (I was a mildly-pretentious little shit even then). I still have notebooks filled with the short stories I used to write in study halls. When I went to college, I knew that I wanted to do something related to writing. Or literature. Or English. There was never any doubt in anyone’s mind about that.

In creative-writing classes my freshman year of college, I discovered that I had a considerable knack for writing dialogue (more so than I did for long descriptions of what the trees looked like in autumn when the thunderstorms struck). Naturally, I gravitated to the theatre program, with an emphasis on playwrighting.

Skip a few years in there (I’m kind of embarrassed about some of the choices I made), but in 2001, I managed to secure a grant from a young playwright’s foundation. This required a lot of traveling (to workshop the plays I wrote in college theatre programs across the country) and a guarantee that I would submit a brand new play for grant-renewal consideration every October. I was 25 years old when I started this gig, and I managed to maintain it until early 2005, when I was offered a job as a script consultant for a major television network. The job required little writing (mostly editing other people’s scripts and whatnot) and I could do it from home via e-mail while I worked on stage plays. In 2006, I was offered the opportunity to create my own television series. I did. The situation went sourly south and I ‘retired from writing professionally’ in early 2007. So…from 2000 (when I started writing the play that would eventually secure the grant) until I retired, I worked solely as a writer, supplementing my income (a young writer needs comic books and beer after all) with part-time jobs when I needed them (including a stint as the manager of a single-screen arthouse movie theater, which may be the hardest job I have ever had in my life).

Typically, I write comedy. Usually kind of dark. I think my best works, though (such as the television series I created) are, at their heart, dramatic works, but the audience is laughing too hard to realize it.

Yes. I have attempted screenplays. I finished one in 1997 (a hitman comedy called Disarmed), but I lost the computer I typed it on in a divorce. I have a full screenplay adaptation of the novel Smoke (by John Ed Bradley) that I wrote for a class in college and have never done anything with because I cannot afford to purchase the rights to the original novel. I have seven episodes of a second television series I created, a project that got abandoned for reasons too complicated to get into.

Presently, I am too unfocused to finish full screenplays. But I have some ideas stored on my laptop that have been floating around for years. Short scenes. Snippets. Treatments. Things I’ve tinkered with over the last ten years. You and Karen have inspired me to start writing again. So, we’ll see. We’ll let time tell if I ever jump back on that horse again.

That horse bucked me off. And it hurt.”

Before we get to Greg and Karen’s question, it should be explained that the intention of the original question was to get Greg and Karen to namecheck a few movies in one example. More movies, more discussion, right? But Greg pointed out that this actually means that they had to answer eight questions instead of five. Aaron would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to them for making them do more work.

The original question, divided into four distinct parts:

Pick a movie for each of the following (and, briefly, explain): A) a movie that you really like that everyone else seems to dislike

Greg: Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2!!! Really, folks, I didn’t pick two. . . together, they make one movie. Also, it took a ridiculously small amount of time to come up with that answer. Those SNL guys each did some fun things on their own, but for my money, they were always at their best when they were together. I don’t really care how juvenile the humor (I own every single episode and movie and half-movie of the Jackass series, people…I’m not kidding), or how bad the acting, or how hard Kevin James tried to emulate Chris Farley in a role that was clearly meant for Matt Foley himself. Love both of ‘em and would watch ‘em anytime you wanna throw ‘em in the DVD player.

Karen: Jupiter Ascending. I love the Wachowskis. They’re great at world building and they paint with a sci-fi palette. Jupiter Ascending offers really pretty sci-fi with Eddie Redmayne in the creepiest role of his career, Mila Kunis with her biggest eyes on screen, and Channing Tatum as a dog-human with an accent. What’s not to enjoy?

jupiter ascending

B) a movie that everyone else seems to like that you didn’t particularly care for

Greg: Guardians of the Galaxy. I hate it. And since I prefer to write about things that make me and (hopefully) others happy, I will end the discussion here.

Karen: Get Out. I appreciated the talent, the message, the writing, and Jordan Peele blowing the lid off a genre. The movie just fell flat for me.

C) a movie that you love because you can completely relate to the protagonist

Greg: This is a good question. I recently re-watched Chef with Jon Favreau. I really enjoy that film. SO much so that I actually kinda wish I’d have included it in the Top 100. In fact, I’ve just given myself an idea to maybe write an ‘Honorable Mentions’ list someday. But anyway, Chef is a total feel-good-like-FerrisBueller’sDayOff-makes-you-feel-good type of movie. There really isn’t a bad vibe about this one at all, even when things aren’t going so well for our protagonist. Favreau finds a way to draw inspiration from dream-crushing heartache using well-written and uber-realistic dialogue, an excellent soundtrack, and food…my God, the food!
chef
How do I relate? I’ve no grand vision of becoming a chef, though I think that would be fun to try and tackle someday. Instead, I like the idear of chasing down that dream of doing exactly what it is that makes you happy. I found that in my career, which makes me one lucky SOB. Now I get to write again as well (not that anything or anyone other than myself was stopping me from doing so). Also, Chef illustrated how important it is to have that strong support network by delivering his audience a shiny platter of well-prepared characters with an equal propensity to spread cheer and hope to our down-and-out dream chaser. Anyway, Chef. Loved it. Can relate to it. Makes me feel good.

Karen: Ten Things I Hate About You. “What is it, Asshole Day?”

and D) a movie that you watched once, really liked, but haven’t been compelled to watch again.

Greg: I suppose the best answer here would be a flick that, once the twist ending has been revealed, it kinda takes the fun out of seeing it again, right? Trouble is, even with those types of movies (The Usual Suspects comes to mind), you still wanna go back and check ‘er out once more at least to pick up on all the shit you missed the first go-‘round. Plus, in my case, I like to use obscure movie quotes to dazzle and impress the ladies (it doesn’t work, by the way) and I don’t learn those quotes by watching movies just once. And so. . . I figure the answer to this question is something a bit more vague, like TV-movie miniseries, for instance. Like, I can remember seeing The Stand once or twice in the early 90’s, but I don’t go running for it. I also remember really enjoying Pierce Brosnan in TV’s Around the World in 80 Days, but have seen it only the once. I don’t know, I guess I don’t have the best answer for this question. Most of the things I watch I give at least a second day in court before throwing them to the curb.

Karen: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Ultimately one of the most moving stories on screen, expertly acted and directed. But I can’t put myself through that again. If you’ve seen it, you understand what I mean.

Wow. We might have set a record this week for the number of movies we can mention in one entry, so we’re going to sign off for today. But we’ve left you with plenty to discuss: Have you seen Manos: The Hands of Fate? Is it really as bad as we think it is? What should Aaron write a screenplay about? Did Greg really make you want to sit down and finally watch Chef? Is Karen right about Jupiter Ascending?

Drop us a line in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

And be sure to check back in on Friday, when the 3 Nerds will spend some time discussing the first movies that they ever remember seeing!

Karen, Aaron, and Greg

“If I could only have one food to eat for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry flavor Pez.”

standbyme
August 22 is a very important date for us in the history of movies we all agree are worth the nostalgia. In 1986, Rob Reiner’s fantastic coming-of age movie, Stand By Me, was released nationwide. It had actually opened in a limited release a few weeks prior, but that original release was only available in sixteen theaters across the nation. When it opened in 745 theaters on August 22, it was the second biggest box-office draw of that weekend. Before its run at the cinema was complete, it had pulled in an estimated $52,000,000 in ticket sales, a take that far exceeded the film’s small $8,000,000 budget.

What do you think, friends? Does Stand By Me stand the test of time? What is your take on this film? Let us know in the comments below!

For our bonus content this week, we present more snippets and excerpts from our Q and A. These three questions are all themed in that each of the people answering found them very frustrating!

Greg asked the following question to both Karen and Aaron: Give me the names of a coupe or three of your favorite filmmakers, be they actors or directors or writers, why you love them so much (briefly – don’t fall into MY trap of not knowing when to quit typing), and what sort of dream project you’d love to see them all work on together.

Both of them had considerable difficulty narrowing down the list.

Karen’s response:

“Dammit, Greg. Great question.

The first three filmmakers that come to mind are:

1. Cameron Crowe. I think Cameron Crowe is beloved, but under-appreciated as a filmmaker. I think people overlook the honesty of what he’s creating by focusing on the emotion in his projects. But it’s the combination of both that makes his work special, in my opinion. He has the ability to tap into Feelings (with a capital F) while telling you a story about your sister, or your dad, or your best friend, or your crazy cousin who everyone loves, but no one really gets. His films are love stories about love stories and music and family. He understands incorporating music into his films as a supporting cast of its own (anyone seen Singles lately???) I think his body of work may well be my favorite, regardless of genre.

“I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen.” Still one of the best movie lines ever written.

2. Spike Jonze. It’s because of Her. It’s not that I’m not a fan of some the rest of his work (except maybe Jackass, which isn’t my thing). It’s just that this particular screenplay smacked me right across the face when I saw the film in the theater. Hard. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea – I get it. But it spoke to me. If I had to choose a screenwriter that I love more, I would probably choose Preston Sturges or Aaron Sorkin. I pretty consistently love their work. The best of comedy in Sturges and witty dialogue in Sorkin.

3. Yorgos Lanthimos. I don’t think there is any filmmaker out there today who sees the absurdity of humanity as clearly as Lanthimos. And to translate that to the screen in the way he does is nothing short of masterful. After I watched The Lobster, I remember sitting up in the theater and thinking, (about dating and relationships) “Yep, pretty accurate.” Somehow this is conveyed perfectly through a story about people who must find a mate or turn into an animal. On paper, it sounds totally asinine. In the art of the film – absolute clarity in the absurdity.

It’s hard to think of the three of these men working together on any project. But when you consider Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky take on Open Your Eyes, then maybe, just maybe, it starts to come together. Based on interview clips I’ve seen Cameron Crowe give on making this film, I get the impression he still may have something a little edgier to give to his work in the future. I picture a think-y, dark, existential science fiction arthouse film. Set in the future. Mildly post-apocalyptic, but more about the human condition than the backdrop of destruction.”
cameronspikeandyorgo

And then, Aaron’s answer:

“My favorite filmmakers are a really hard list to narrow down. Seriously, Greg, this took hours.

After much deliberation, though, I decided on:

Jim Jarmusch. If I’m being honest, I think my own excursions into screenwriting have probably tried to emulate him too much. He does edgy, mildly-plotless, definitely-meandering, completely-relatable character studies (though there have been a couple genre films thrown in, such as Dead Man and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) on a super-low budget (and frequently, in black and white). I love his work because of how god damn ballsy it is. It takes guts to base your whole career on plotless, meandering movies.

Clint Eastwood. Yes, his politics are eyebrow-raising. He’s said a few things that are a tad on the side of whackadoodle, but he has never made a movie (as a director, I mean– those two orangutan movies he starred in are enjoyable garbage) that I haven’t loved. He has transcended genre (westerns, mysteries, thrillers, musicals). He has tricked people into caring about social issues (Million Dollar Baby). He has pinpointed the defining moments of the zeitgeist (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Letters from Iwo Jima, American Sniper). I love his work. And I think it’s safe to say that, on a contemporary level, he is my favorite mainstream director.

Charles Chaplin. I am a tremendous fan of the silent era, and I have a penchant for silent comedy in particular. Sir Charles Chaplin is not my favorite comedian of that era (that honor goes to Harold Lloyd), but he is, inarguably, the best filmmaker. It’s interesting that he is considered so far ahead of his time, when, in actuality, he was behind the times (most of his best films were made after the advent of “talkies”). But there’s innovation as well in refusing to conform, in being the only person still utilizing outdated formats and producing better work than anyone who previously used the format ever did. Charles Chaplin, with his crooked cane and clad in his suitcoat and bowler, may be the single-most-recognized figure in pop culture. There’s a reason for that: Charles Chaplin is the man.

Now that I’ve listed the directors: I would like to see Jim Jarmusch cast Johnny Depp as Charlie Chaplin in a silent, black and white film. An all-new script in the spirit and vein of Chaplin’s classics. Clint Eastwood can do the score, because he is also a damn fine jazz musician.”
jimclintandcharlie

Since Aaron and Karen had such a difficult time answering this question, it was only fair that Greg got a question difficult for him. This question, posed by Aaron, concerned remakes: Let’s pretend that you’re a famous filmmaker. Pick a movie that you would like to remake and explain what you might change to make it a better film.

Greg’s answer:

“Wow. Dammit, Aaron! Let me come back to this one in a minute and I’ll move onto number 4. . .

Ok, I’ve moved on and come back.

And now I’m moving on again. . . let me answer question 5 and I’ll see ya’ in a jiff.

Ok. I’ve just finished answering the final question. And now I’m good and cranky.

All of my favorite movies are ones that I would choose not to remake. When I heard about the Poltergeist remake a couple years ago, for instance, I cringed, yet watched anyway in disbelief that such a travesty could occur. But there is one movie that, to me, is perfect save for one scene that, if slightly different, would make this the perfect comedy. If I had the chance to remake Caddyshack (just wait, please) I’d eliminate the gopher entirely. There. I said it. It just doesn’t fit. Yes, the movie is silly and zany and crazy and goofy. But it is as such using great physical comedy and amazing one liners. The gopher just doesn’t fit. Silly, zany, crazy, and goofy do not all have to equal stupid, and 99% of Caddyshack proves this point. “So what happens to Bill Murray’s character, much of which revolves around the extermination of the varmint?” you might ask. An excellent question that deserves brief examination. His interactions with EVERY CHARACTER IN THIS MOVIE are PERFECT. So, instead of showing him preparing for the gopher battle, I’d just throw more interaction in there. Another scene with Chevy where he actually shows up to the pool or pond. A scene with dynamite down a gopher hole (but no gopher). In fact, all of the gopher extermination scenes would work just fine without the presence of a puppet gopher, to me. Show the holes, have the Scottish guy yell at him about gopher holes, and show Bill (aka Carl) trying to rid the planet of an unseen gopher. Seems silly to pick on such a lauded comedy for such a tiny thing, but Aaron asked, so that’s my answer.”
bill-murray-caddyshack-promo

That’ll do, we think, for today. What are your thoughts? What is your favorite movie by Cameron Crowe? Does Greg have a point about Caddyshack? Is it just as timeless without the gopher? Is Aaron possibly the biggest nerd for loving silent film?

Join us on Friday for Greg’s first solo entry!

Karen, Aaron, and Greg

“Whoever returns the bike is obviously the person who stole it. So they don’t deserve any reward!”

pee-wees-big-adventure-filming-locations-dottie-bike-reward-sign-2

But you do.

It’s been a long week.

We had an unexpected surprise, though, with an actual question from a reader. And it worked out to be a perfect question, because it, coincidentally, coincided with what we planned to use for our bonus content this week.

Justin Dueringer, a reader in Lincoln, Illinois asked the following question via Facebook: Are you as excited about the new Halloween as I am? The 1978 original is my favorite horror movie. Thoughts about ignoring the several sequels and John Carpenter’s return? I love Halloween II as much as the first and am a little disappointed that that it is being ignored. It is a John Carpenter film as well, and, in my humble opinion, as scary and exhilarating as the original.

This is a great question, Justin! And we can tell you that we’re all a little excited about it (even Karen, who is not normally a fan of horror films). But the best answer to this question really needs to come from Greg. He is our resident expert on horror movies.

Greg responds:

I agree that Halloween II is pretty great. I love most the fact that it picks up seconds after the first one ends. That was kind of rare in the movies. Still is. Seen more on TV shows than anything else.

Also, Carpenter IS involved with the new one! He’s executive-producing it! In fact, he disliked the Rob Zombie ones, which partly influenced his decision to get involved again. Now, I’m not saying anything about anything, but I personally enjoyed the Rob Zombies as well. First one more than the second, but both were fun!

The new Halloween is directed by David Gordon Green (who also directed George Washington, a 2000 non-horror film that Aaron, in particular, really admires). It also stars Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising the role she made famous in the 1978 original. Halloween will be released in theaters nationwide on October 19, 2018.

Michael-Myers-in-Halloween-2018-poster.jpg

Feel free to send us more questions, everybody! We’d love to answer them and really enjoy hearing from you.

Our bonus content this week actually dovetails quite nicely with Justin’s question. We have more snippets of our “behind the scenes” Q and A, and Karen asked both Greg and Aaron the following question: What director’s body of work do you feel is grossly under-appreciated? Do you think that’s a function of timing or poor critics’ consensus? Something else? Why do you love that director’s work in spite of critical consensus?

Greg responds:

Aiyeee!!! I’d say John Carpenter, because a lot of his work is seen from the outside looking in as “B-caliber,” but there’s also a shit ton of his work that most horror aficionados, and even the critical world, look at and say, “Wow! That’s a good fucking movie.”

The first Carpenter movie I ever saw was not Halloween, actually. It was Starman. This is when I was too young to know who John Carpenter was, so I didn’t really catch on that I was watching his work when I saw Big Trouble in Little China shortly thereafter, or Halloween and Prince of Darkness after that (when I wasn’t allowed to watch those movies because they gave me terrible nightmares, but I watched them anyway). As I started to remember names of actors and actresses, then directors, writers, composers, and so forth, and, as I developed an affinity for horror (best way to deal with what scares us is to face it head on, right, folks? I learned that from The Karate Kid – booya!!) Carpenter, to me, had a knack for creating visual horror as well as uncomfortable and almost surreal environments. Claustrophobia, isolation, eerie…all of these words can be used to describe a Carpenter flick. In the Mouth of Madness continues to be one of my faves of his for all of the above.

Starman and Big Trouble In Little China being the two exceptions to his horror body of work, those two flicks also proved that Carpenter could be an effective creator of drama in one case, and comedy in the other. Hard to say why the critics didn’t latch on.

I could tell you stories about the labor of love that was The Thing that give him and his special effects team an A just for the effort, and I could relay an anecdote or two about the making of Halloween that would make you sit up and say, “They did that how??” He knows how to get the work done, and somehow or other, his work has just always connected with me. Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness had some visuals that were just downright scary. Halloween is one of the most suspenseful movies I’ve ever seen…right up there with Hitchcock’s work. To be sure, Halloween is to this day critically revered, which doesn’t go along with your question, Karen, but to say the critics love this masterpiece and not the others of his body of work (which follow many of the same rules as Halloween follows) is not being fair to Carpenter.

Was it the timing of his work that made critics shy away a bit? I don’t know. But I do think his work is timeless. I am excited to see where the Halloween franchise goes now that he is involved as a producer again. I hope The Rock never remakes Big Trouble In Little China like he wants to. And someday, I hope Carpenter comes out of hiding and directs one or two final odes to the genre that he and his now-deceased rival Wes Craven helped create somewhere between Haddonfield, IL and Elm St. USA.

Aaron (whose tastes often run a little more obscure) responds as well:

Am I understanding the question correctly? Are we asking for a director that I love that has a massive audience following, despite being critically lambasted? I’m having a hard time coming up with one. Ridley Scott is a director who has done a good amount of work that I greatly admire. But he has also done work that I wouldn’t recommend. And a quick perusal of his overall ratings on Rotten Tomatoes reveals that the movies that are getting critical drubbings are deserving of a critical drubbing. Except for Legend. That movie is awesome.

On the other side of this coin, I reference him in one of my questions from Greg, but I feel personally that independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch does not receive the love and admiration that he deserves, neither critically or publicly. I don’t personally know many people who can even tell you who he is, let alone name a movie he made that they have seen. I recommend his movies a lot. Like westerns? Watch Dead Man. Interested in quirky, character studies that connect different stories thematically and tonally? Then, watch Mystery Train (for love of GOD, watch Mystery Train!). Are you someone who thinks that Bill Murray is incapable of dramatic acting? May I recommend Broken Flowers? Jarmusch is pretty well loved by critics, though. Only two of his films are listed on Rotten Tomatoes at less than 60% (and I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t seen either one of them), but most of them are rated at 80% or more.

In the spirit, though, of trying to answer your question…There are a handful of individual movies that I really enjoy (including one that makes its way into my current list of top 20) that have very, very low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Those movies, in order of decreasing overall ratings, are:

The Sandlot 56%
The Ghost and The Darkness 50%
Natural Born Killers 47%
Three Amigos! 46%
Hook 29%

In related news, I think I just discovered an idea for a column entry: discussing why these five movies are worthy of higher praise than what they have received. Hook? Come on!

If we’re counting Central Illinois as the homebase for Three Nerds And A Movie, the one of us that lives furthest away is Karen, who has lived in Los Angeles for several years now. For Karen’s contribution to this week’s bonus content, we give her a chance to talk about this direct with a question asked to her by Greg: In California, the silver screen comes alive all over the streets. Not to mention that you now have unlimited access to flicks many of the rest of us in no-man’s land won’t have access to until long after you’ve already seen them, if at all. With the saturated movie market that is California, how do you be selective about what you spend your time and money on?

Karen:

Ahhhh… LA. It can be a confusing place. A baffling juxtaposition of beauty and dirt, art and technology, authenticity and superficiality. But in LA, movies are pretty simple. There’s probably no better place to bask in the joy of film than the Tinsel Town pool of magically-delicious, movie gorgeousness that is Los Angeles. Here you can see an original 35mm film print of a classic film that someone just went and grabbed from the Academy archives for the afternoon. Things like that happen here. So many 35mm original print screenings. Crackles and pops in the audio, the muted artistry of color that was captured on an actual honest-to-goodness film camera. A vintage theater soaked in film history. I’m in love with it. LA has woken that up in me to some extent.

But back to your question: I think the answer is that I’m not selective. One of the things I wanted to do while living here was experience every possible movie/film/cinema/arthouse/whatever event/sitting/festival that I could. So I have. A few months ago, I checked out a midnight screening of a 35mm original print of Purple Rain at the Vista Theater with Frank.

purple rain

I love Purple Rain. It is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the Top 5 music films of all time. Prince wasn’t a great actor, but it didn’t matter. He owned a stage. He was a musical savant. And that pours out of the screen and rakes over you in a way that makes Purple Rain really meaningful to fans. Given that, the screening alone would have been enough to fill my little movie-loving, Prince-adoring heart with joy. But wait! There was more. On the docket was a Prince panel promising insight and a brief discussion on the film. Around eight people who actually knew Prince participated in the Q&A. Excitement! Joy! Rapture! One was a record producer who worked with him on the Purple Rain album. His long-time hair stylist. One of his photographers. The lead contractor who worked on Paisley Park. One of his clothing stylists (HELLOOOO, assless chaps???!!! – this was her). They all had intimate insight into his life. And because they live here, they could all just stop by for the evening, remember Prince, and check out a 35mm screening of Purple Rain. It cost $12 to attend this screening. $12!!! In a way, this represents the best of what LA has to offer – music and creativity and film and a lot of love all rolled into one. Basking in the warm glow of beautifully-restored vintage movie theater. There are few things better.

That’s all for today. Karen will see you Friday with her first solo entry for discussion.

In the meantime, sound off below in the comments. What’s your favorite John Carpenter movie? Is Hook a better movie than a lousy 29%? Are you jealous that Karen got to attend that Purple Rain screening? (Aaron sure is).

Be sure to subscribe and receive email notifications whenever we post new content.