Wylie Overstreet took his telescope out to the streets of LA, and showed people the moon.
Wylie Overstreet took his telescope out to the streets of LA, and showed people the moon.
This year, Emmet Otter turned 40. It aired in Canada first, for Christmas 1977, before hitting HBO the next year, and network TV 2 years later.
Here’s a nice oral history. You probably remember it fondly from your childhood, but it’s also a tour de force of groundbreaking puppet filmmaking. No, I’m not kidding:
Though filled with old-fashioned charm, Emmet Otter actually employed a savvy blend of age-old puppetry techniques and cutting-edge animatronic technology. Engineering wizard Franz “Faz” Fazakas, a frequent Muppet collaborator, designed the rowboat that could be steered along the set’s 50-foot river, and rigged versions of Ma and Emmet that could be operated via remote control while they were on the water.
The tale of Frogtown Hollow continued to hold a special place in the hearts of those involved — including Henson, who included one of Emmet Otter’s songs in the musical program he designed for his memorial service [in 1990].
Paul Williams: The last thing that I ever expected was to hear “When the River Meets the Sea” at Jim’s funeral. It was an especially emotional moment in the funeral for me
(Oh, and, don’t miss the actual no-kidding blooper reel, shot during the 33 takes it took to get the “drum rolls out of the shop” shot.)
Except, well, this time. How can you argue with this?
Here’s the whole list. Enjoy.
Black Panther opens in 121 days.
Sure, the trailers LOOK good, but so far the DC films haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory, so I was kinda keeping the whole thing at arm’s reach.
Then I noticed something important, largely because (a) The Hollywood Reporter tweeted something ignorant/clickbaity that was (b) then shamed into my timeline:
Sold. Hey, Mrs Heathen, when are we going?
Word comes that Roger Moore has died at 89.
Moore, obviously, is known as the post-Connery Bond, but true nerds recall that he was actually the third guy to play 007 (in the Eon Productions films, which are all that really matter). When Connery bowed out after his fifth outing (You Only LIve Twice in 1967, which is the one where he teams up with a Japanese agent and goes undercover in, basically, yellowface before the final fight in a volcano base), Australian model George Lazenby took over for a single picture (the underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, co-starring Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas!) before Connery’s code (Diamonds are Forever, featuring a thinly-veiled Howard Hughes proxy and Crispin Glover’s dad as one half a very creepy assassin team). Moore first appears in the next film, 1973’s Live and Let Die.
At right, a GREAT cast photo. There’s a LOT going on there, which fits given the lovable mess of a film it’s from, but allow me to point out:
The skinny young thing at the lower left? Yep, Jane Seymour, then a largely unknown 22-year-old ingenue.
Not pictured is David Hedison, who makes his first of two appearances as Bond’s CIA pal Felix Leiter here. He comes back in 1989’s License to Kill, opposite Tim Dalton (that’s the one with Robert Davi as a ruthless drug lord who has, amazingly, Benecio del Toro as a henchman; Wayne Newton appears as a televanglist). The only other guy to play Leiter twice is the incumbent, Jeffrey Wright. Hedison is now 90 and retired, and Wikipedia contains the amusing bit of data that he’s now Jodie Foster’s father-in-law.
After this auspicious debut, Moore went on to have the longest tenure in the role: a total of 7 films over 12 years. His swan song came in 1985 and is, sadly, is almost certainly the worst of the bunch. By then, Eon Productions was completely out of Fleming books to adapt (with one key exception they wouldn’t touch for 20 years), so I guess it makes a little sense that, in the middle of the 80s, they’d feel fine about a 58-year-old Bond chasing a crazed millionaire (Christopher Walken!) whose aide-de-camp is Grace Fucking Jones. Hey, while we’re at it? Why not a fight on the Eiffel Tower!
Of course, it’s not his fault that the films had veered hard into silliness and camp by that point; he had some great ones — the debut, obviously, but also The Man With The Golden Gun (a prosthetic nipple!), The Spy Who Loved Me (hot Russians! submarine sports cars! the greatest opening scene ever!), and Moonraker, about which more later.
He was a more suave, mature, and sophisticated Bond than Connery or those that came after (though maybe Brosnan’s version was close), and for most people of my generation he was our first exposure to the character — sort of the Tom Baker of the series, really. As noted, Moore’s got the most films and the longest tenure, a record that doesn’t seem likely to fall. Connery did only 6 films to Moore’s 7. Brosnan and Dalton together only account for 6 more. Craig may or may not do a 5th film, but he’ll certainly be done by then.
My first Bond film was Moonraker. I saw it in a drive-in with my dad, in a time when drive-ins were already well on their way out. It was obviously derivative — Star Wars made everyone want to do SF all of a sudden, so Bond-in-space was in some ways inevitable — but it’s held up okay, especially considering that it’s only the second time Eon Productions was “on their own” with no novel to draw from. We got the second coming of Richard Kiel’s 7-foot, steel-toothed Jaws, memorable weightless nookie, and a “Bond girl” whose naughty name (Holly Goodhead) flew entirely over my 9-year-old head. I was obviously smitten immediately, and quickly devoured the back catalog via the newfangled VCR my newly-divorced dad would soon acquire. Impossibly, my Baptist grandmother even bought me some of the books.
Anyway. Godspeed, Roger Moore. I noted not long ago that we’re likely to lose several more Doctor Who actors in the short term. The first three are already gone, and Tom Baker is 83. The same can be said of the Bond men: Lazenby is 77; Connery is 86. Tim Dalton is 71. Brosnan is 64. And we are, all of us, getting older right along with them.
This short asks, and answers, the question “Has Reservoir Dogs Aged Well?”
(Spoiler alert: Yes.)
Mrs Heathen and I are suckers for prestige TV, and I love gangsters, so we dove into Boardwalk Empire when it started. Unfortunately, it just didn’t hold us after the 2nd season — and frankly, we stayed longer than we might’ve otherwise, in part because of the incredible charisma that Jack Huston imparted to the tragic, disfigured Richard Harrow.
The show concerned organized crime in Atlantic City in the years between World War I and the end of prohibition, more or less. The central character, played by Steve Buscemi, was based on a real person, though obviously they took liberties. Michael Pitt appeared as Jimmy Darmody, young man who’d run off to war and come back physically whole, but mentally shattered.
Darmody befriends Harrow, and introduces him to the criminal underworld of Atlantic City — a role that, as it turns out, Harrow takes to like a duck to water.
Anyway: it’s through Harrow that I first learned that, after the war, many who had facially disfiguring injuries were fitted with tin masks molded and painted to resemble their prewar faces.
Here’s how Harrow enters the show:
So I finally got to the tab I opened the other day about Bill Paxton, which reminded me of his short-lived New Wave band Martini Ranch, and their two videos, which support my long-held view that all the cool famous people know each other and hang out together.
Martini Ranch was a pair: Paxton was collaborating with the band’s founder, Andrew Todd Rosenthal, and sounded nothing if not period-correct in 1982. Given that it was the 80s, OBVIOUSLY there are music videos — though, sadly, the count is two. Both date from the late 1980s, and boast casts and crew
The first clip was for the improbably named “How Can The Laboring Man Find Time For Self Culture“, and looks and sounds like someone put Metropolis and Devo in a blender. And here’s where the connections start, too, because the cast for the video includes Paxton and some pals of his: Anthony Michael Hall (with whom he’d starred in Weird Science) in 1985, plus Lords of Discipline (1983) cronies Rick Rossovich, Judge Reinhold, and Michael Biehn — the latter, of course, also with Paxton in Aliens in 1986.
The second video, for a song called “Reach“, was more high concept: a bank robber (Paxton) rolls into a post-apoc western-esque town, pursued by a cadre of improbably attractive female bounty hunters. Where it gets connect-the-dots fun, though, is in the cast and crew.
First, it was directed by James Cameron. Sure, it was only about 1988, but by then he already had a couple directorial successes under his belt (Terminator and Aliens, with Abyss probably already in production); he’s shooting this because they’re pals. Cameron would go on to cast Paxton in 5 films (the first Terminator, Aliens, True Lies, Titanic, and Ghosts of the Abyss), which is more than any other actor. (Cameron’s 4-time club includes Lance Henriksen and Biehn, though the latter got the better deal, as I’m not sure “Piranha II: The Spawning” should be seen as the pinnacle of Cameron’s work.)
Paxton’s band of outlaws is especially delightful: it includes colleagues from Aliens and Near Dark (Henriksen and Jenette “Vasquez” Goldstein were in both films; the video also includes Paul Reiser from Aliens and Adrian Pasdar from Near Dark) — plus Reinhold makes a return appearance.
The final note is that I’d totally forgotten Pasdar was in Near Dark, and now I can’t remember if he managed to be on Agents of SHIELD at the same time as Paxton as well.
TL;DR? It’s neat to see all this repeat work, even in obscure music videos.
Also also? This brilliant tweet:
Via Kottke, we find The Beastie Americans: footage from The Americans cut into an alternative video for the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” I almost always HATE mashups of any kind, but this is kind of awesome. Enjoy.
With a headline like that, how can you NOT click through and see what the hell I’m talking about?
Mark Hamill, on TV in the late 1970s.
Highlander is now 30 years old, which just kills me. Forget the sequels and the TV show; the original film is a lovely gem of urban fantasy. Aren’t you glad it’s getting a new 4K theater run and updated DVD/Blu-Ray options?
Here’s the 4K trailer. Enjoy. UK release early next month; no set date for US, but you know it’s coming.
One of my favorite sketches ever is from a super obscure place: something called The New Show, which ran for a grand total of 9 episodes in 1984.
Produced by SNL founder and emperor Lorne Michaels, the show really only existed because of what we might call The Michaels Hiatus Period in SNL history. Sure, he founded the show in 1975, and ran it through 1980, but after 5 years he felt the need to seek out other opportunities. He left the show to Jean Doumanian, who was replaced after a single season by Dick Ebersol (who’s more of note for his role with NBC Sports, but whatever).
Anyway, so, Michaels is off doing other things after 1980. Late in his hiatus — he took SNL back in 1985 — Michaels was back with another sketch show. This one was entirely pre-taped, and had no shortage of serious talent, but for whatever reason it failed utterly.
I remember watching it, but hand to God the only bit I can say I truly remember is this: Roy’s Food Repair, featuring John Candy, Paul Simon, and Dave Thomas (among others). It’s the absurdity and the delivery that still kill, 32 years later.
You love it? Yeah? Well, have I got a story for you. Turns out, the whole thing is based on truth — including the idea that the kids wouldn’t even know their parents’ real identities. Tim and Alex Foley were caught completely by surprised when, in 2010, the FBI raided their home and took their parents away in handcuffs. (It was the same operation that netted Anna Chapman, as it happens.)
Born in Canada to “illegal” agents just like Paige and Henry on the FX show, they eventually naturalized as American citizens living in Cambridge. Both citizenships have been rescinded thanks to their parents’ clandestine careers, so the only passports they hold are Russian — i.e., a country to which neither have a real connection.
What’s EGOT? It’s when you’ve won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. That’s a rarefied group — think Richard Rodgers, or Rita Moreno, or Audrey Hepburn, or Mel Brooks.
What’s a MacPEGOT? It’s an EGOT winner who’s also bagged the MacArthur and the Pulitzer, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is well on his way.
Miranda won two Tonys in 2008, for his first musical In the Heights.
He picked up his first Grammy the next year, for the show’s soundtrack album, and then got another this year, for the soundtrack to Hamilton.
He wrote a song (with Tom Kitt) for the Tony Awards in 2014, and won an Emmy for it.
And, of course, this year he’s picked up the MacArthur and the Pulitzer.
Turns out, the only one he doesn’t have is an Oscar. But he’s doing the music for an upcoming Disney animated feature (“Moana”), and a filmed adaptation of Hamilton seems inevitable, so…
Oh, we should probably mention that “MacPEGOT” isn’t actually a thing yet, because no one’s done it. (Only Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch have added the Pulitzer to their EGOT.)
(There’s obviously a Wikipedia page about the EGOT, which helpfully includes lists of folks with 3 of the 4 EGOT awards.)
You may or may not be aware of the fact that Antoine Fuqua is remaking the 1960 classic The Magnificient Seven; he’s pulled together a hell of a cast for this retread — Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, D’Onofrio — but at the end of the day it still makes me ask “um, why?”
However, in discussion of this on Facebook, something actually interesting cropped up. I’m assuming anyone reading this is aware that the original Magnificent Seven was itself a US retelling of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1954 film Seven Samurai. Remakes are one thing, but cross-cultural adaptations can actually be interesting.
Such adaptations are mostly east to west, at least heretofore, but turns out, Japanese cinema can do it, too. In 2013, they made an adaptation of Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar-winner. Ken Watanabe stars; it’s also called Unforgiven, at least in English (in Japan, it’s apparently “Yurusarezaru Mono”).
Here’s the trailer:
I think I need to see this.
This excellent commercial for a British film download service stars Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Bacon. Enjoy:
(I think the best part is that the jerk — who turns 58 this summer — has aged so well he can plausibly reprise characters from 1980 (when he was 22), 1984, 1992, 1995, and 2000 in one commercial and have them all be immediately recognizable.)
He’s been instrumental in getting Don Coscarelli’s late-70s cult horror film Phantasm restored and released on Blu-Ray and DVD, on account of BIG FAN. Coscarelli:
It started a loooong long time ago in a graveyard far, far away. J.J. Abrams called up, oh, about 12 years ago, back when he still doing TV stuff. I didn’t know who he was. He said “I’m a TV producer, and I love Phantasm.” And we started talking about it. In fact, at the time, I think we were finishing up Bubba Ho-Tep. And I got a little trouble with the editing process, and I was having trouble making that movie come together. And I brought it over and showed it to him and we hung out and he was a real cool guy. And, over the years, from time to time we stayed in touch. I introduced him to Angus Scrimm [ed. note: the “Tall Man” villain in Phantasm], and he ended up putting Angus into a recurring role on his Alias TV series. Angus really appreciated that and really enjoyed it.
Flash-forward to about a year and a half ago, I got another call from J.J. and he wanted to screen Phantasm for his workers over at his company Bad Robot. And I told him that the only choice he really had was my scratched-up old 35mm print, or the standard-def DVD. Those weren’t really great choices, so he said “Oh, we gotta fix that!” So he put [me] in touch with their head of post-production, a guy named Ben Rosenblatt, and he came up with this plan as to how to restore the movie efficiently. So that’s how it started.
I’m not really a horror fan, and I’m no fan of Abrams, but this is a cool story.
“We’re all standing there and Malick hands out these pieces of paper to all of us,” Lennon said. “And the one he gave me said, ‘There’s no such thing as a fireproof wall.’ And I ask, ‘Is this something I’m supposed to say in the scene?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’”
Lennon learned, after talking to the director, that there was no script, just a phrase that might inspire him when cameras started rolling.
“And then Malick goes, ‘Would you like some more? Because I have a whole stack of these.’ And I was like, ‘I think I’m good,’” Lennon said.
Lennon later asked Bale while Malick was away:
Lennon: “Is this how it goes?
Lennon: “Every day?”
Lennon: “How long have you been doing this?”
Bale: “This is, like, day 25.”
I mean, COME ON how could this NOT be awesome?
Apparently, someone has found and restored an original 35mm print of Star Wars. It’s online. Somewhere.
Does this trailer for the new film High Rise make anyone else want to have sex with Rebecca De Mornay on a train?
Ok. Pretty sure it’s not just me, though.
(Sure, movies use songs that have previously been used all the time, but this particular track was actually written for the earlier film — the title is even taken from a line of dialog.)
I hadn’t noticed, but apparently Bobby Draper was played by eight different actors over the course of the show. (Also surprising: two actresses played Sally, though the other girl was only in the pilot). Some were apparently one-offs, and the last two carried the bulk of the episodes, which is probably why we as viewers didn’t really notice.
Because I was curious, I looked it up. According to IMDB, the character appeared in 74 of the 92 episodes (Sally is in 89). * The last Bobby, Mason Vale Cotton (b. 2002), had the role for 33 of those appearances. * His immediate predecessor, Jared Gilmore (b. 2000), was in 19 episodes.
That leaves 22 episodes where someone other than these two played Bobby.
Look, lots of things are shitty, but Spike Lee’s new film Chi-Raq is coming, and it looks kind of amazing. Lee has elected to work with a play this time. Given that the play in question is over two thousand years old, it needed some updates for modern sensibilities, but I think you’ll find the basic argument of Lysistrata pretty easy to grasp whether it’s set in ancient Greece or modern-day Chicago.
As is often the case, Lee has managed to wrangle a hell of a cast: Nick Canon, John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, and Isiah Whitlock (“Sheeeeeeit“) are just some highlights.
Out December 4.
Jeffpardy is sort of perfect.
Remember when Hollywood fucked up that time, and did two big-budget volcano movies in the same year? Obviously Dante’s Peak was the superior of the two, but everyone who saw it experienced at least some thrill in seeing LA destroyed in the creatively-named Volcano, released only 2 months later.
You see things like this, and you wonder “are they even trying?” I’m pleased to report that the answer is, at least much of the time, “No, not really.” Here’s this year’s PAIR of “fuck it, we’re out of ideas” films:
On the heels of I have no idea what, we have two upcoming films about the two most famous and disturbing psychological experiments. Obviously, The Stanford Prison Experiement is about, well, the Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971. This one’s famous enough it’s even been riffed on in Veronica Mars, and in truth this isn’t even the first feature film to tackle it. (Trailer.)
The other famed experiment is, of course, the eponymous work of Stanley Milgram. The nature of the work (about obedience) was provocative enough that, as with Stanford, the upcoming Experimenter isn’t the first film based on it, but it’s the newest and biggest. Here’s the trailer.
On a lighter (?) note, slasher inversion/dark comedies called Final Girl (trailer) and Final Girls (trailer) will be released soon despite their near-total name collision –something about which we’re sure the studios are SUPER happy.
What’s even MORE hilarious here is that they both star the same actor, a relative newcomer named Alexander Ludwig, whose agent surely knew better.
The films themselves are only superficially similar beyond the obvious trope-inversion aspects. The former is about the eponymous Final Girl (Abigail Breslin) who has been recruited as highly-trained bait to eliminate a cabal of murderous fratboys led by Ludwig. The latter is a (possibly) witty romp through slasher films and involves some teenagers being transported to a 1980s summer camp where, obviously, a slasher awaits (as does the lead’s mother, apparently a scream queen back in the day). This one looks like Wet Hot American Summer meets Cabin in the Woods, whereas the former is more Carrie meets Rambo.
Even so, you’d think someone would’ve adjusted one or both titles, no?
Sesame Street presents “Game of Chairs,” featuring Grover Bluejoy.
Owing to the appearance of the Cradle of Love video (which is fun for lots of reasons, not the least of which being the prominent placement of both a cassette deck and an ancient Macintosh) in this morning’s drink-from-the-Internet-fire-hose, I’m now in a position to remind you that David Fincher directed a shit-ton of pretty iconic music videos in addition to the “Cradle” clip before he started making movies, from artists like Paula Abdul’s (“Straight Up”, “Cold Hearted”), Madonna (“Express Yourself”, “Vogue”, “Bad Girl” (which featured Christopher Walken)), Don Henley (“End of the Innocence”), Aerosmith (“Jamie’s Got A Gun”), George Michael (“Freedom ’90”), and others.
I urge you to watch “Wooper” immediately. Rian Johnson says to.
Patton Oswalt’s mashup of Rudolph and Apocalypse Now really must be seen to be believed. It’s only about 4.5 minutes long.
There I was … at MADtv, struggling to explain to a network suit what Apocalypse Now was, and how it could be funny if done through the prism of a Rankin Bass special.*
They eventually shot my idea—a year after I left the show. Well, I really didn’t leave. They didn’t have me back. And with good fucking reason. I was a judgmental, sour asshole of a writer. Quick with a criticism and never with a fix. A comedy and film snob who rolled his eyes half the time and turned in typo-filled scripts. But they shot it. And put my name in the credits. Misspelled. Revenge? They were entitled. The sketch was called “A Pack of Gifts Now,” and it was lovingly animated by a stop-motion genius named Corky Quakenbush. An elf [actually a reindeer—Editor] is sent by toy makers to the North Pole to terminate “the Kringle” and his cultlike operation of toy makers “with extreme prejudice.” And, ironically enough, one of the producers I clashed with, Fax Bahr—who codirected the documentary Hearts of Darkness, about the making of … Apocalypse Now—shepherded the sketch through, with all of my visual jokes and references intact, and plenty of his own, which made the sketch even better. Even got a mention in TV Guide. Thanks, Fax. Sorry I was such a dick. Part of being in your twenties is not knowing an ally when you see one.
Seriously, do not miss this. Hard to believe it was on MadTV.
Given how thoroughly Lucas destroyed Star Wars with the absurdly bad prequels PLUS the fact that Abrams is objectively terrible when it comes to continuity, I’m shocked at how many people are excited about the new teaser trailer. There’s basically zero chance this film isn’t garbage.
Key & Peele do Steampunk.
So, Mrs Heathen and I just decided to take in the Edge of Tomorrow which, surprisingly, isn’t a soap opera but is instead a big Hollywood Tom Cruise movie.
I’ll state at the getgo that it filled our need for “big dumb movie,” but holy FUCK the entire thing is completely devoid of any original content. It’s amazing.
The plot is a straight rip of Source Code replacing “terror attack” with “alien invasion,” which is itself a national-security/action-movie retread of Groundhog Day. At least Groundhog Day was an actually decent film.
Oh, we fight in armor? Imagine that.
Wait, the unit includes a foul-mouthed vaguely-hispanic woman? Well, at least her name wasn’t Vasquez.
It’s a goddamn shame they didn’t have the sergeant say “game over” at any point.
There’s multi-tentacled bad guys attacking aircraft? You mean, like the ones in The Matrix?
We have a lovely blonde character who fights with an anime-scale sword? Seriously?
You put the bad guy, for much of the movie, in a giant concrete well with tentacles going everywhere? Gosh, where have I seen that before?
And because the filmmakers have NO SHAME AT ALL, the end credits are a straight rip-off of the first Iron Man film.
So yeah, now I know what it’s like to watch a movie made entirely of shameless ripoffs. It is, of course, no surprise that it made tons of money. Sigh.
My favorite Jan Hooks bit ever:
Empire Online has an exhaustive and delightful retrospective up on The West Wing which is worth your time.
The closing quote is from Sorkin:
During one of our monthly cast lunches in the first season, Brad Whitford said, “No matter what we do from here on out, this show is the first line of our obits.” Martin, who was in Apocalypse Now, said, “I’m good with that”. Me too.
If you don’t have time for the whole thing (it’s long), DO make time for the 15 Things You Didn’t Know, which is fun despite the clickbaity headline.
If you have not seen last Sunday’s Simpsons Couch Gag, well, here’s your chance. It’s very, very weird and wonderful:
The onscreen text is brilliant:
AMUSEMENT IS CONTROL
HAIL HAIL MOON GOD WATCH WATCH YES YES
PUT IN THE EYE HOLE GROW LIKE PLANT
BEAM EPASODE NOW INTO EXO-SKULLS AND VIGOROUSLY TOUCH FLIPPERS
CONSUME NOW CONSUME IT RUB IT ON YOUR FLIPPERS
ALL ANIMALS CAN SCREAM