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Bill Margold
 

 

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 12-26-13       CINEMA SEEN                  

                       By William Margold 

      Rocked by the unrelenting number of recent passing of personalities---Paul Walker, Peter O’Toole, Tom Laughlin and Al Goldstein---that made impacts of varying degrees on my life, for those reasons (and many more, including the highly disappointing season that my Detroit Lions are making me suffer through), I feel genuinely relieved that this is my final Cinema Seen page for 2013.

      And although I have a folder of recently seen films that should be commented upon, after I’ve paid homage to the four fallen fellows, the solemnity of the moment, will only be acknowledged by the discussion of one film (featuring yet another fallen fellow) on this page.

                   ************ 

PAUL WALKER---The vibrant co-star of “The Fast and The Furious” series---ultra-high octane films that screeched around the corners of our sensibilities, and made us keep both hands on the wheel all the time, while we pressed one foot all the way to the floor. His cinematic relationship/daring driving friendship with Vin Diesel was the stuff of luminous legend.   

PETER O’TOOLE---Breathtakingly beautiful in his prime, his achingly prefect performance in “The Lion in Winter” ranks high among the best examples of acting ever rendered. And since I’m sure there’s a movie theater in Heaven, God will now have some grand company with Peter at his side…whenever “Lion” screens. 

TOM LAUGHLIN---A very good “bad ass” for the Free Love generation, his character of Billy Jack packed a punch to the soul. I first discovered him in BORN LOSERS---a 1967 motorcycle gang film that laid the skid marks for what is now TV’s mercilessly mesmerizing “The Sons of Anarchy.”

AL GOLDSTEIN---The middle finger on the right hand of X. His rude actions and defiant activities as the creator of SCREW Magazine were landmark in the defense of The First Amendment. And, in fact, they can be immediately validated by the fact that you are being allowed the privilege to be smudging your hands with this

publication!

                  ************

      As for the film to be discussed here, I must admit that the savage wisdom and wincing insight of Nicole Holofcener’s ENOUGH SAID caught me off-guard. WAY off-guard! I went to see it in order to bask in the glow of the recently deceased, dangerously grinning, teddy bear James Gandofini (whose searing Tony Soprano will radiate in my memory banks forever), and came away feeling brutalized by a perceptively cautionary tale about taking a chance of having a relationship in one’s later years. Not only do Tony and his new found, desperately eager to be happy lady friend (eloquently played out by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with just the right amounts of clumsiness), have to feel and deal their way through the maze of freshly ignited emotions, they must also contend with the meddling ways of their friends, highly opinionated associates, and various well into their teenage years off-spring.

      And by the time the film came to its wary end, I found myself---perhaps delusionally thankful (because “fate” always has a way of intervening)--- being quite comfortable in the thought that I will never ever again have to be at the mercy of anyone else’s jealous and judgmental cronies. Of course, being alone has its downside(s), but at least I know almost all of my limitations, and I am almost completely content dealing with them…by myself! Please notice however that I said “almost”…twice!

                    end

 

09-20-12                         CINEMA SEEN

                         By William Margold

 

          Well into September, and my desire to venture out in order to go into movie theaters is at all time low…not really because of the interminable heat…but because there really aren’t any attractions out there that are beckoning to me.

          And even when I did succumb to the lure of EXPENDABLES 2…I was so under whelmed by the experience, and I felt so much like the “museum pieces” that I was putting up with on the screen…that I strongly thought about denying that I had ever seen the “ridiculosity.” Watching Stallone, Van Damme, Norris, and even Willis going through the motions---please don’t ask about Arnold and his porcupine coiffure---painfully reminded me of when Debbie Reynolds tottered up to me a few decades ago in her hotel in Las Vegas, and asked if I would like an autograph, and I told that I would like her to sign it “Tammy”…because I wanted to remember as she was way back when…not as she was in front of me in her moldering opulence.      

          Thankfully…my penurious subscription service with NETFLIX has helped me “keep up”---so to speak---with 2012 titles that either eluded me…or I simply opted to wait for until they were delivered to me.

 

MAN ON A LEDGE---I felt like I was trapped out there with the poor fellow in this cluttered mess that had all of the suspense of a busted rubber band. Playing a decoy while a diamond heist (of a diamond that had already been supposedly heisted…don’t ask) is taking place, Sam Worthington is also a sacrificial lamb for anything even remotely entertaining.

 

WANDERLUST---Strong case for quite a number of people keeping their clothes on, this trivial torture allows city mice Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston to discover that country mice can be rats…no matter how unencumbered and au natural their life style appears to be.

 

FRIENDS WITH KIDS---Looking very much like it escaped from HBO…this one makes a very strong case for sterilizing people who are just too damn smug for their own good. By the time that I was through suffering through this cloying, and highly improbable nonsense, all I could think about was just how much sleeping babies resemble doorstops…or paperweights.

 

THE DICTATOR---As funny as a handful of herniated discs, the remarkably unfunny Sacha Baron Cohen showcase allows him to display almost all of his shortcomings…and less. What really disturbed me here was that Ben (“Ghandi”) Kingsley was also in this thing. If I had been subjected to this film in a theatre, I may well have become the first victim of self-immolation from rubbing two pieces of popcorn together.

 

THE THREE STOOGES---Having loathed this moronic group from childhood, when I was forced to sit through their asinine antics during my incarceration in Central Juvenile Hall, into adulthood when I was forced to sit through their brain dead displays while working at Central Juvenile Hall…I must admit that I was “almost” able to tolerate their idiotic nuances this time around…most likely because they were in color…and there was a remoteness about them that me feel like I was observing them through the telescope of times gone by…and many decades of not having my eyes poked…or my skull knocked. And please note: I did say “almost.”

 

GOON---Having never expressed an interest in ice-skating, and fully realizing that if I tried to, I would most assuredly, and repeatedly wind up on the seat of my black-and-blue’d pride, I was amazed that I found this battle-royal tale of an Ice Hockey hit man, genuinely compelling. If nothing else, “Goon” singularly redeems the value of NETFLIX, for if the service hadn’t of been available---this fine ferocious fare featuring Seann William Scott and Liev Schreiber---would have literally slid through the cracks.

 

                             end            

 

08-23-12                        CINEMA SEEN

                            By William Margold

       With the very gracious (as well as very patient) help of my web master, the legendary Clayton Blacquemore---www.billmargold.com---has recently become enhanced with a number of full color Cinema Seen pages, plus date sensitive (and/or when appropriate) other gloriously luminous images such as alert links to upcoming events (BARE BOWLING).

      Please feel free to checkout my web site, and also to venture beyond its more sociological redeeming first page, into realms of tales (and tails) that most assuredly will “unlock the zipper of your mind.”

      However, not every one of my Cinema Seen pages on my website is worthy of what I call “The Rainbow Treatment”…and that decision is invariably made when the quality of the films being discussed aren’t worthy of any more coverage (including photos) than they are given for their LAXPRESS news rack distribution.

      Therefore, because none of the four productions---featured here in the order that I saw them---really sprang off the screen and into my mind (or elsewhere), the copy on this page will eventually appear on www.billmargold.com…but their pictures won’t. 

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES---I really and truly went way out of my way to try and maximize my watching of this thing by braving the current debilitating heat wave and by parlaying a lunch in the deep West San Fernando Valley into a screening of the film in AMC’s very intimate IMAX in Woodland Hills. And even though I parked myself in the optimum viewing position (back/middle), and I genuinely felt myself being engulfed by the film…I simply could not become involved in any of it. Massively mounted, and full of all kinds of things even more massive, the Christopher Nolan creation felt more like a museum piece than a motion picture. Indeed, for all of its action set pieces, the movie was way too full of itself, and wound up, for much of the time, being simply inert. However, it does merit two images: one of the villain (an annoying fellow named Bane) and Batman grappling, and one of the only interesting (and lively) character in the piece, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. However, although it falls way short of anything that THE AVENGERS offered, I’m a-feared that easily impressed Hollywood may think that it owes Nolan something, and that his final “Bat-bombast” might steal away the Best Film nomination that Joss Whedon’s masterpiece so richly deserves.

 KILLER JOE---A very odd serving of offal from director William (“The Exorcist” and “The French Connection”) Friedkin, that bares more than is necessary, and then sort of backs away when push comes to shove. White trash, and the in-bred glorification of same, is the disorder of the day here, as the film provides a snarling showcase for Matthew McConaughey in a nose-busting, fried chicken thigh (must be seen to be believed) wielding role that is so downright repellant that he may well want to exclude it from his resume.

 THE CAMPAIGN---As funny as a fart in a perfume store, this desperate looking rumbling, stumbling, and bumbling politics and pranks showcase for weary Will Ferrell and the intensely intolerable Zack Galifianakis, is memorable only for a baby…and a dog…being punched. And since the baby is ugly…you might only wince when the hound is hit. The OMG moment here was when I realized that the film’s director was Jay Roach, who also directed HBO’s masterful “Game Change”---which is among the very best made-for TV movies ever made---and which should romp at the Emmys in late September.

 THE BOURNE LEGACY---Jeremy Renner haplessly replaces Matt Damon (the real Jason Bourne, if there really ever was such a character) as the seemingly invincible, interminably expendable super agent/spy/ultra black operative without a country. Essentially Renner’s Aaron Cross is way too good for the very bad world that he is trying stupidly to save, and he expresses just enough of amusing angst here to make us sort of give a damn about his fate. Along for the ride, literally, is Rachel Weisz, who really does appear to be wondering how she wound up in this thing. And there’s a real Big Bad Wolf who winds up becoming a sacrificial lamb…!

                     End

 
07-19-12                      CINEMA SEEN

                        By William Margold

           Determined to try and “keep up” with the onslaught of “summer films”---I must forego the dedicating of entire pages to only one title (as I promised to do for the immensely enjoyable ROCK OF AGES, but am still planning to do for the delightfully deranged TED)---and am serving up a half dozen titles here…in the descending order of my appreciation for them.

 ROCK OF AGES---Being fully aware that I have three left feet when it comes to trying to dance, and that I couldn’t carry a note in a wheelbarrow, I readily admit to being almost always being “easily pleased” when it comes to discussing musicals. Bolstered by a remarkably introspective Tom Cruise (as a rocker who must deal with the fact that “legend” and “lonely” are both six-letter words)---in what I hope will earn him a Supporting Actor nomination---this lively (and lusty) Adam Shankman directed look at the music scene of the Sunset Strip in the late 1980’s is truly a “blast from the past” that stirs the soul and hyper-activates the heart.

 MEN IN BLACK 3---Sci-fi fun and time traveling games are stylishly splayed out by dark-suited dandies Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (along with Josh Brolin as TLJ back in the Sixties), as the third go-round with the guys who keep extraterrestrials from being extra terrorizing is a charm…while in fact, also managing to be quite charming at the same time.

 ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER---Was the lanky fellow really up to the task of splitting more than rails with his trusty axe? Was the Southern army fueled on more than hard tack and chicory? Taxing one’s mind with such historical hysteria is the perversely amusing concept of this film that never fails to provide enough nightmare-inducing scenes that it literally turns the blood cold in the process.

 SAVAGES---I really wish that the action lived up to its title, but as exhaustingly protracted by director Oliver Stone, and burdened with a meandering/monotonic voiceover by its hapless heroine (Blake Lively)…this listless look at the ridiculously evil world of marijuana cartels winds up being (I hope) unintentionally laughable. As pictured here, Lively is the “trios” between “mén-ages” Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, and although I suffer the limitations of being straight, I must admit that both of the fellows are considerably more appealing (as well as more expressive) than she is.

 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN---Can’t resist the obvious temptation to say that this bloated and badly acted experience with the “fearless flinger” is anything but “amazing.” Director Marc Webb made the endearing little film “(500) Days of Summer” a few years ago, and images of that inventive heartstring manipulator linger to this day. But less than a day after I failed to get caught up in even one of Spidey’s web, I can’t remember a single scene.

 PROMETHEUS---The shot of director Ridley Scott seemingly throwing his hands up here should tell you all that you need know about this ponderous, puzzling, perplexing production that is agonizingly “Alien” to anything being even remotely interesting. 

                            end       




06-28-12

CINEMA SEEN
By William Margold

With very rare exception (“The Avengers” to which I dedicated a page to a few issues ago and “Rock of Ages” which will be getting its own page in a future issue)…most of the 2012 releases that I’ve seen have caused me to question my chosen profession of film reviewer to the extent that suffering through a couple of them in a theatre conjured up visions of being incarcerated.
But that feeling must be subordinated in deference to my presenting the following titles for your enlightenment…despite the fact that having to remember suffering through some of them again is tantamount to sticking my hand back in the fire after it has already been burned.

BATTLESHIP---Some films are born dead. This thing was a cinematic corpse from scene one, and it only got worse as it laboriously dragged on…and on…and on and…! Dredged up from a table game, the Peter Berg directed mess assaulted the sensibilities relentlessly, until I began to pray for an act of nature to put me out of my misery.

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN---If it weren’t for the preceding puerility…this meandering fairytale---featuring a perpetually scowling Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart as the personification of blandness---would rank as the worst film (so far) of 2012. What makes it truly torturous is that it painfully appears to the weary eye that the film has absolutely no idea of what it wanted to be. And that’s really sad, because by the time the legendary dwarfs (including “tinified” Bob Hoskins and Ian McShane…huh!), I was so worn down that I was way beyond caring how they were shrunk…or if they would even survive.

DARK SHADOWS---Wrenched by Tim Burton from its TV (1966-1971) series coffin with its only apparent concern being a chance for Johnny Depp to play a vampire, this neither funny nor foul enough affair sucks…in the wrong way. Obviously Master Depp has gotten to the point that his relationship (from Edward Scissorhands to Ed Wood to The Mad Hatter) with director Burton gives him carte blanche to make the role roll in whatever direction he desires…which essentially keeps everyone else in the cast off balance…and gives the viewer little or nothing in which to sink his teeth.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION---Easily the guiltiest pleasure of the year…although after evaluating my reasons for enjoying it I found myself severely questioning my sanity…this Indonesian entry (complete with sub-titles for those who really give a rat’s ass about a plotline), literally evoked moans and groans from me, as I watched in moronic glee as men dispatched each other with an awesomely mounted (dare I say “passionate”) bloodlust that had me squirming in admiration. Like I said, “my sanity was in question.”

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS---Up until I saw Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers”, this lost for a few years (due to distribution problems) Drew Goddard directed and co-written with Whedon twisted tongue-in-cheery cheek very tall tale of terror was the 2012’s “best film.” And I still admire it very much, as it kicks quite a number of scary sacred cows in the udders, and pokes great fun in the eyes of nightmare inducing concepts. And saying any more---like even daring to try and explain the plotline---would deprive you of its grand and genuinely ghoulish pleasures.

end
 

06-15-12                        CINEMA SEEN

                          By William Margold  

 


04-26-12                        CINEMA SEEN

                          By William Margold  

       With TV still providing better viewing experiences than venturing into movie theatres…I nevertheless feel obligated to mention (admit to having endured) the following five titles, and am presenting them here in the extremely hard (with the one obvious exception) to determine order of my lack of affection/contempt for them. 

21 JUMP STREET---My eyes have threatened me that if I ever, Ever, EVER subject them to anything as painfully banal as this puerile/pathetic attempt at dragging a semi-cult TV series from the 1980’s to the big screen again, they will render themselves inoperable for the rest of my life. Perhaps I am overreacting because the FOX show was one of Viper’s (my great love) favorites (primarily because of Johnny Depp, who lamentably and lazily appears in this thing), but even if it wasn’t, it is a flatulent mess that might have been better off not rupturing all of its possibilities by staying super violent because of its high-school based dope-dealing plotline, instead of straining so hard to be funny (as a number of herniated disks) by simply succumbing to dealing with dopes. 

THE HUNGER GAMES---This half-cooked, haphazardly savage, agonizingly empty series opener (wrenched from a trilogy of apparently worshipped by adolescents-themed novels) places youngsters in peril for the entertainment of adults sometime in a future that hopefully none of us will live long enough to get to. Jennifer Lawrence struggles---in more ways than one---with/in the role of a heroine named Katniss Everdeen trapped somewhere between OZ, Sherwood Forrest, and the Twilight Zone. Absolutely no one around her is even the slightest bit memorable, including a perpetually out of sorts Woody Harrelson. There are supposedly two more of these things coming. Combined with the portending doom of a sequel to the above loathed “Jump Street”---I’m starting to hope that those Incas were right! 

AMERICAN REUNION---Magnifying my suffering through this truly unnecessary revisit with the gang from 1999’s rather amusing “American Pie” was watching a hideous example of “life imitating art” right in front of me at a recent Rave Theatres in Culver City screening, wherein a probably fairly cool high school jock was now saddled with a gone-to-bloated-and- whiny wife (perhaps a former cheerleader) and was also being burdened by a most likely unwanted, and of course, bratty child. Quite frankly I laughed more often over his back-and forth to the concession stand plight than I did over the antics of the characters in the seemingly endless/ rather forced film which appeared to been half-heartedly scripted in reverse. Despite the irrepressibly desperate presence of Seann William Scott (Stifler), the only moments of insight (and life) were injected by Eugene Levy as the perpetually overwhelmed Jason Biggs’ wisely unaware father, and the massively preening; Persian cat faced Jennifer Coolidge (as Stifler’s MOM, a legendary character who has easily launched a couple of billion wet dreams). And for good measure, Rebecca De Mornay, makes an unbilled guest appearance as a MOM (or MILF) with whom Stifler finally gets a chance to get the kind of revenge that may well launch another couple of billion wet dreams. 

ACT OF VALOR---After surviving a Saturday morning assault by this rumbling and rambling pretense for a recruiting allurement to those pieces of human fodder in the audience that would like to get to blown to bits for this country, I was asked by the broom wielding theatre attendant, “Were you entertained, sir?” Somewhat shell-shocked, I responded, “That was easily the most unentertaining film that I have ever seen. But I must admit that I was impressed about how easily we are able to kill nowadays.” Littered with the dimensionless presence of a group of real Navy SEALS, the actions of these truly lethal heroes is the sanguine saturated stuff from which legends are carved and graveyards are filled. Yeah, if I were younger (and dumber), I just might enlist. But I certainly wouldn’t recommend the thing as an example of what movie going fun is all about. 

JOHN CARTER---The absolutely perfect example of an “ask it no questions and it will tell you no lies” motion picture, this film’s ad line: “Lost in our world, found in another”…demands a complete suspension of belief, and it is compounded by the painfully bewildered performance by TV’s “Friday Night Lights” heartthrob Taylor Kitsch. In the role of a Civil War weary veteran trying to remain reclusive, Kitsch winds up being thrust into a Civil War on Mars…or as created in the mind of Edgar Rice (“Tarzan”) Burroughs: Barsoom. Like I said, “Don’t ask!’ Just go…and enjoy all the popcorn that watching it will compel you to consume. 

                            end          


03-29-12                          CINEMA SEEN

                           By William Margold

      With the exception of Liam Neeson enigmatically facing a pack of eerily determined wolves in director Joe Carnahan’s visceral THE GREY…my film-going experiences so far during 2012 have more than justified my staying home, and basking in the glow of my overwhelming 42 inch LG/LCD TV, which, as this is been written, is being even more enhanced by the installation of HD just in time for baseball season so, as I have been told, watching my team (The New York Yankees) play on that format will be tantamount to being in Yankee Stadium itself.

      But before I extol what has graced--- and hopefully will grace---my sensibilities at home, I feel that I should warn you away from the quartet of instantaneously forgettable movies that I have squirmed through during the first months of this year.

 

HAYWIRE---Laying claim (and lame) to the first film I suffered through in a theater this year, the incoherent mess from director Steven Soderbergh featuring the nonexistent talents of Gina Carano as betrayed secret agent was only interesting in the fact that it made me perversely wonder, with considerable dread, if I would have to suffer through anything even worse during the year.

 

RED TAILS---Well…it didn’t long for that fear to be fully realized, as this tortuous tripe about World War Two’s iconic Tuskegee Airmen crash landed in my lap, and in the process proved that boredom is most certainly not a racial issue.

 

SAFE HOUSE---And before I could shake off the lack of memorable moments created by the preceding dullard, this Denzel Washington driven tediousness staggered into my view. In his patented sleepwalking (supposedly passing for being cool) through a role mode, Denzel is yet another betrayed secret agent. Struggling ineffectively to figure out what’s going on is a genuinely dull Ryan Reynolds. But I spent a few moments trying to figure out why the gauntly unnerving Joel Kinnaman (from TV’s grimly compelling THE KILLING…see a mention and shot of him later on this page) was wasting his abilities here.

 

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN---From director Lasse Hallstrom who immensely moving HACHI: A DOG’S TALE was inexplicably never released into theatres, comes this minnow of a movie that literally swam through one eye and out the other without causing the slightest ripple in my mind. Wasting picture space on this thing would only tend to magnify the fact that I would have less space to deal with the more exciting TV elements of this page.

 

THE KILLING---The Sunday night series on AMC begins its second season. I knocked off its entire first season during a marathon viewing session. The Seattle-based gloomy affair about the murder of a teenage girl has a quicksand effect on the senses, thanks primarily to the woebegone/little match girl-like performance of the investigating detective (Mireille Enos), and the highly suspicious and unkempt performance by the previously mentioned Joel Kinnaman as her partner. However, my advice is to tape it on Sunday evening, and then watch it when it is (hopefully) bright and sunny outside…because watching in the dark might induce nocturnal restlessness.

 

GCB---Initially damned by me for taking the 10pm Sunday night place of the pleasant-enough “Pan Am” on ABC…the anything but holy Texas-sized soap opera is a laughing out loud hoot of a show. The sinfully satisfying series is headed by sort of good girl Leslie Bibb and her appropriately over-bearing/mad as a high-priced hatter mother (Annie Potts), and is hellishly blessed with the pint-sized presence of trouble making scene stealer Kristen Chenoweth, whose singing of hymns is paradoxically saintly.

 

GAME CHANGE---What might be the best made for TV movie ever made…this HBO delight dragged me deep into it, and it won’t let go to the extent that I immediately watched it a second time…and uncomfortably enjoyed it even more. The very sobering story of the surprisingly dim Sarah Palin (a glowing and jolting Julianne Moore) who might have been elected Vice President on the Republican ticket with a well meaning John McCain (a perfectly cast Ed Harris) in 2008, is rendered with frightening indelibility by director Jay Roach. So much so, that Woody Harrelson’s stunningly subdued yet sharply savage performance as political advisor Steve Schmidt is almost taken for granted, when in fact it is quite simply Emmy award winning worthy frosting on a massive amount of perfectly prepared but amazingly hard to swallow “food for very disturbing thought.”

 

                              end      

 

03-01-12

CINEMA SEEN
By William Margold

With my deadline for this page being Friday February 24, I am precluded from the opportunity of discussing films that were involved in last Sunday (Feb. 26) evening’s Oscar presentations.
Therefore what appears here is an unloading of 2011’s non-Oscar contending titles I’ve caught up with so that you can (for the most part) be warned away from them, although I’m sure that you may well have suffered through a couple of the bigger ones already.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL---Staggeringly unentertaining, numbingly over-plotted, and downright devoid of genuine suspense, this thing “clumbered” along with all the charm of a broken slinky toy. If ever a film made me wonder if perhaps I’ve seen one too many movies for my own good, this cine-mess most certainly did. BTW: the picture from “Mission” can be looked at from any angle…with absolutely the same effect. Hmmm!

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS---A very strong challenger for the above film’s tedious throne, this hectic ho-hummer literally bludgeoned me into submission. A seemingly unending assault on the sensibilities, the latest adventure of the detecting duo will hopefully be the last one, although I fear that it won’t be and a couple of years from now, my submission may well be terminal. And it didn’t even have a picture worth running here.

Now…for the record…and only that…I’ll acknowledge (with absolutely no guilt whatsoever) that I couldn’t last through “Another Earth,” “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” and “Sarah’s Key.”

However…for the record…and only that…I’ll acknowledge (with no guilt whatsoever) that I did last through the effectively evocative “Water For Elephants,” the instantaneously forgettable “Abduction,” the yearningly to be better “One Day,” an oddly endearing thing called “The Future,” and the just thought provoking enough “Anonymous.”

THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE---It’s image alone justifies placement on this page, but it just also happens to be a really damn good film featuring a Best Actor nomination worthy effort by Dominic Cooper as a fellow forced to double for Saddam Hussein’s fetid son. Feeling honored to be sitting through this film, all thoughts toyed with during my suffering through the first two films on this page were invalidated…at least for the time being.

RAMPART---Uh, oh…those thoughts began to return as I endured this hysterically over-hyped---by those sheltered from real life critics who titter when they hear dirty words and who openly giggle at the sight of nudity---look at the turgidly tortured life of a corrupt cop (played with all the nuances of a sledge hammer by Woody Harrelson) against the backdrop of less attractive portions of Los Angeles. Anyone daring to mention this cinematic creature in the same breath as TV’s sterling “The Shield” should have the rest of their breath taken away…forever!

50-50---A stuffed animal of a film…with teeth! I kept waiting for this one to let me down…and it never did. When an excellently overwhelmed Joseph Gordon-Levitt discovers that he has cancer, the roulette wheel of his life begins to spin in various directions. An almost too-good-to-be-true friend (the usually annoying Seth Rogen) rises to the moment, while his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) sinks to the situation. Meanwhile sagacious chemo-partners (Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer) are on hand to provide insight, while an even-too-gooder-to-be-true counselor (Anna Kendrick) presents a rainbow at the end of his Levitt’s tunnel…if he can get there…alive. And I’m not going to tell you if he does, because…!

REAL STEEL---If I were to create a list of my Favorite Films of 2011…this uplifting pleasure would be among my first handful. I can first remember it as a very visceral (and very dark) “Twilight Zone” episode with Lee Marvin almost 50 years ago. Now, all brightened up by director Shawn Levy, and ingratiated with performances by Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo, this is easily the most cheering and stomping inducing film in recent memory.

end

2-23-12                          CINEMA SEEN

                          By William Margold

 

Best Picture---THE ARTIST

 

Best Director---MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS

 

Best Actor---JEAN DUJARDIN (“The Artist”).

 

Best Actress---MICHELLE WILLIAMS (“My Week With Marilyn”).

 

Best Supporting Actor---CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER (“Beginners”).

 

Best Supporting Actress---BERENICE BEJO (“The Artist”).

      Avoiding a page full of “shoulds, coulds, and would ifs” …I’ve decided to end the suspense very early here by leading off this column with my PREDICTIONS for the winners of the six major OSCAR categories that will be presented on Sunday evening during the Academy Awards show which will be televised on ABC.

      I have been a terminally addicted victim of something called TTAWWTS (“Taking The Academy Awards Way Too Seriously”) for six decades, and although having tried mightily to shake my habit, I have nevertheless succumb to it repeatedly by staging modest dinner parties (complete with contests and prizes), wherein I have eaten myself into a stupor while agonizing inanely when one of “very personal” choices lost, or howling insanely when one of my “very personal” choices won.

      As I am writing this, I still haven’t decided whether to nourish a few friends with one of my massive tangy tomato-paste coated meatloaves.

Or to simply endure the evening’s outcome all alone, cuisinely content to hand feed myself into an unsightly, highly aromatic mess with finger friendly half slabs of pork and beef ribs obtained from Culver City’s JR’s BBQ (www.jrs-bbq.com). Slathered with their palate seductive medium hot sauce that sensuously sinks under the fingernails, and that can be nibbled on a day later…all I can say is that “if Adam had known that ribs could taste so good, there would never have been an Eve.”

      And although my mind is more than content thinking about those ribs, I feel that I’ve given my Oscar-izings short shrift, so here’s a little more about each category.

 

Best Supporting Actor---PLUMMER was delightful as a man discovering that there are two sides to the carnal coin.

 

Best Supporting Actress---The joyously perky Ms. BEJO was the perfect definition of what the word “supporting” is all about. Her co-star (Jean Dujardin) would have had considerably less impact, if he hadn’t of had Berenice to sound off of, despite the fact that “The Artist” was essentially a silent film.

 

Best Actor---Without a doubt, the most demanding performance of 2011, the dapper DUJARDIN spoke volumes of emotions…with his eyes…and his nuances. And he made our minds hear every intonation.

 

Best Actress---WILLIAMS gut-wrenchingly infused Marilyn Monroe with a perfect combination of a little lost lamb who could shear almost every wolf who got way too close for their (and tragically her) own good.

 

Best Director---You don’t have a virtually perfect film…without virtually perfect direction. HAZANAVICIUS had a very daring silent thought and saw it in black-and-white. He richly deserves to be rewarded for his efforts that made us think a whole lot about a film that we couldn’t hear, and watch something that never made us think that it wasn’t in color.

 

Best Picture---See above…and then bask in the shimmering radiance of THE ARTIST.
                          end   

 

01-12-12                            CINEMA SEEN

                              By William Margold 

       For almost two decades, although supposedly overshadowed by the overrated and overweight onslaught of portentous parties and pompous presentations, THE LEGENDS OF EROTICA event at Showgirl Video (631 South Las Vegas Blvd.) has invariably been the most memory producing attraction during the entire Adult Entertainment Expo (www.adultentertainmentexpo.com) in Las Vegas.

      And on Friday evening January 20, 2012, it is expected that the inductions of seven searing LEGENDS OF EROTICA will once more be the pinnacle of pleasure for all those who attend the historical program.

      Chosen to be part of The Class of 2012 are JULIA ANN, FELECIA, KAYLA KLEEVAGE, DYANNA LAUREN, KATIE MORGAN, TONY MONTANA and LEXINGTON STEELE.

      What really makes THE LEGENDS OF EROTICA unique and heart felt is that each inductee must choose a special person from their life and/or career to be their inductor.

      And the choices of inductors have ranged from adoring lovers to devoted fans to extremely proud offspring to best friends and admiring co-workers, and even to, in a couple of cases, my having to perform the delicate duty, because the inductee had no absolutely idea that he was going to become a “cemented” member of THE LEGENDS OF EROTICA. 

The soulful results of this unparralled process inevitably produces tears, both from the onstage participants as well as from the audience of ecstatic fans whose camera clicks and flashes and enthusiastic applause, are the lifeblood of the evening.

For further details, please refer to the flyer on this page.

       Appropriately illuminating this page are exclusive LAXPRESS shots of the Class of 2011 inductees that included Lisa Ann, Jill Kelly, and RayVeness. However, as of my deadline, I was still frantically searching for a utilitarian shot of the fourth inductee: the magnetic Mr. Marcus. 

And because it’s been a couple of years since I last posted their eternal glory…I’ve decided to conclude this column by presenting the complete roster of THE LEGENDS OF EROTICA (listed alphabetically/year-by-year):

 

1994---Veronica Hart, Nina Hartley Hyapatia Lee, Porsche Lynn and Miss Sharon Mitchell.

 

1995---Annette Haven, Kay Parker and Seka.

 

1996---Juliet Anderson, Bunny Bleu, Vanessa Del Rio and Kelly Nichols.

 

1997---Christy Canyon, Marilyn Chambers, John C. Holmes, Shanna McCullough and Jeanne Pepper.

 

1998---Erica Boyer, Jeanna Fine and William Margold.

 

1999---Bionca, Jamie Gillis, Gloria Leonard, Candida Royalle and Annie Sprinkle.

 

2000---Rene Bond, Ginger Lynn, Britt Morgan, Joey Silvera and John Stagliano.

 

2001---Keisha, John Leslie, “Reb” Sawitz and Teri Weigel.

 

2002---Justice Howard, Sharon Kane, Amber Lynn, Tori Welles and Randy West.

 

2003---Lee Caroll, Eric Edwards, Jim Holliday, Linda Lovelace, Ed Powers, Selena Steele and Angela Summers.

 

2004---T.T. Boy, Victoria Paris, Rhonda Jo Petty, Alicia Rio, and Jim South.

 

2005---Angel Kelly, Johnnie Keyes, Shayla Leveaux, Lynn Lemay, Mai Lin and Henri Pachard.

 

2006---Fred Lincoln, Cara Lott, Jody Maxwell, Tiffany Mynx, Georgina Spelvin and Paul Thomas.

 

2007---Sean Michaels, Minka, Ruby, Herschel Savage, Serena and Taylor Wane.

 

2008---Brittany Andrews, Debi Diamond, Ron Jeremy, Midori, Mimi Miyagi and Kitten Natividad.

 

2009---Tom Byron, Gerard Damiano, Shane, Stephanie Swift and Sunset Thomas.

 

2010--- Shauna Grant, Roxanne Hall, Kylie Ireland, Cleopatra of the Nile, Peter North and Joanna Storm.

 

2011---Lisa Ann, Jill Kelly, Mr. Marcus and RayVeness.

 

                           end 

 

12-15-11                          CINEMA SEEN

                            By William Margold

       About the same time that it first dawned on me that the female species was capable of coaxing nocturnal explosions from my lanky body…I became aware of a perfectly glamorous etched image of magnetic innocence and entrancing seduction named Marilyn Monroe.

      It was the late 1950’s, and up to that point, girls had essentially been rough and tumble buddies on the playground, and preening nuisances in the classroom. But no matter where I dealt with them, I always thought that they whined too much…and cried too easily.

      Then I saw a film called “Bus Stop” and I was captured by the resiliently fragile paradox of Marilyn Monroe’s character…as well as by the lady herself. And while I felt my heart urgently wanting to protect her, I also felt other parts of me wanting to do considerably more with her.

      Such thoughts, and many more, came rushing back as I watched MY WEEK WITH MARILYN in the cool, dark desolation of one of The Hollywood Arclight’s auditoriums.

And I was painfully mesmerized to extent of almost non-stop tears by Michelle Williams, as she transformed herself eerily into the iconic Sex Goddess.

      While the film itself conjures “My Favorite Year” and is a slight affair based on the perhaps way too wishful thinking memories of a production assistant named Colin Clark (played with appropriate awe by Eddie Redmayne) who worked on a film called “The Prince and the Showgirl” wherein Marilyn was ill-matched against Laurence Olivier (portrayed with the expected amount of idol worship by Kenneth Branagh), it is a shattering showcase for the exceptional Ms. Williams. 

      Although I never met Marilyn, I’ve seen enough footage of her for me to comfortably justify stating that Michelle delivers a painfully perceptive, astoundingly seamless performance of a little girl trapped in a woman’s body who utilized her sexual wiles to get almost everything that she wanted. However, because lust was so easy to exhibit, and perhaps just as easy to dispense, the tragic underbelly of her existence was that she never seemed to really find love, and therefore was horribly lonely in a crowd of leering men who most likely were deluding themselves with thoughts that they were saving/protecting her…from everyone else…including herself.

      I understand this all too well, because over the last four decades, I’ve been deeply involved with ladies in the Adult Entertainment Industry who, while looking for love, will offer and accept lust as a virtually self-defeating form of acceptance. 

And one thing that I can attest to is that, with rare exception, I have never been hugged more powerfully, longingly and desperately than I have been by many of the XXX-rated ladies that I have befriended over the years. Indeed, while they want to get as close as possible, they are so genuinely scared of trusting, that they wind-up pushing back against their own innocent feelings.

A perfect example of this resistance process is that my great love (an adult actress named Viper) always referred to having sex as “Cuddly mocking.”  

      I could run pictures of her, and many of the other legendary adult actresses that I have been honored to hug, but this page belongs to Marilyn Monroe, and how Michelle Williams portrays her, so all the pictures radiating here are of Michelle channeling Marilyn…or if you believe in such spiritual things, and in I what I call “transmigration of the soul”…Monroe channeling herself through Williams. 

                              end  

 

11-24-11

CINEMA SEEN
By William Margold

It’s been many, Many, MANY years since I gave any thought at all to my annual ritual of climbing onto my 1962 Vespa motor scooter (painted Detroit Lions’ Blue and Silver) the day after Thanksgiving and headed it towards downtown Los Angeles, where on the east side of Broadway, I could writhe away countless hours in the squalor of grind houses with names like The Arcade, The Roxie, The Optic and The Cozy.
But now, thanks to Cheezy Flicks Entertainment (www.cheezyflicks.com), memories of those daze (sic) recently showed up in my 8033 Sunset Blvd. #851, Los Angeles, CA 90046 mailbox in the form of DVDs with titles such as INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS, FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF, and the incredibly mystifying double bill of BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA and JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER.
Indeed, these titles (and hopefully a few more that are pictured here: “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes” “The Undertaker and His Pals,” “Doctor Blood’s Coffin” and “The Navy vs. the Night Monsters”) were emblematic (and perhaps even symptomatic) of what I could expect when I ventured into one of those long gone bastions that I would eventually wind up referring to fondly from the forgiving distance of time as “Cinematoriums.”
Sinking into one of those repositories for drunks, servicemen on layovers, and lost souls who needed a place to crash---where what dialogue there was of value almost always fought a losing battle with a cacophony of snores, belches, stomach rumblings, and even occasional death rattles that resulted in annoying moments when the dismal house lights went up so that ambulance workers could lug the body away---I also had to contend with odors that tested my olfactory senses to inhumane lengths…or depths.
And I also had to fear for the life expectancy of my sneakers, because if it weren’t a steady stream of most certainly cheap wine running under my seat (usually on the left aisle about halfway down), it was liquid of an even more suspicious sort that I had to make sure wasn’t setting siege on my soles.
The reason for the latter flow was that what passed for bathrooms in these establishments were ill-attended by the zombie-like staff, and therefore I avoided them, virtually to the point of bursting, because I truly felt that if I ever dared to relieve myself, the incident might be incorporated into one of the theatre’s future fetid features.
But the price was right.
Indeed, for 40 cents, I could enter around 9am, knock off at least three films, then capitalize on my investment, as the titles were changed over around 3pm, and knock off another three or even four films, before staggering out into the cool night, and stumbling toward my motor scooter (which surprising hadn’t been stolen) with a skull shattering sensation that made my eyes feel like they had just played in a marathon game of marbles.
I’m sure however that my enduring of those films in those theaters was some sort of self–imposed “trial by fire” process that helped prepare me for my tenure as film reviewer for The Hollywood Press and currently THE LAXPRESS since September 1972, by providing me with an incredible amount of relatively unendurable reference material that has made me very secure when it comes to criticizing and commenting on the current state of all things Seen Cinema.
And now, thanks to the friendly, obviously fun-loving folks at Cheezy Flicks Entertainment, I must admit that I am perversely excited about the prospects of having the chance to revisit the headache inducers of my past…at least one more time.
And…there are even a few titles in the “Cheezy” catalogue that I somehow missed, or that I have never even heard of…that I can hardly (or something like that) wait to experience.

end
 

11-03-11

CINEMA SEEN
By William Margold

I make lists.
In my tireless pursuit of providing LAXPRESS readers with quality Cinema Seen pages, I take note of all the films that are released each week…and then I place the titles that interest me on one of two lists.
In the left column are productions that I would really like to see in a theatre.
On the right side are productions that I’ll be happy to wait for until they wind-up being sent to me from NETFLIX.
For a short time, because I was provided special codes, I partook of what REDBOX was offering…for FREE. But I quickly grew tired of watching the bewildered sheep in front of me at my neighborhood Ralphs trying to decide what to see. And then when they finally did make their choice, having to endure their befuddlement as they futilely attempted to obtain the disc because all of their credit cards had been max’d out.
Now I must admit that there are an awful lot of titles on the right side of my listing page, and that in all probability some of them might never get seen…and/or acknowledged.
However, because a new TV series glee-oushly fulfills what a recent film didn’t, and I simply couldn’t wait any longer for NETFLIX to deliver one of titles on this page, those titles are mentioned here, but the balance of the page does consist of my latest attempt to make a dent on the right side of my listing page.

LIMITLESS---Somewhat diverting effort about a fellow (sprightly played by Bradley Cooper) who ingests a “thinking pill” and goes to the head of the class in whatever money making endeavor he attempts, this one came out last Spring, and kept eluding me during its first run and discount venues. Robert De Niro aptly provides a certain amount of menace throughout, and the set-up for sequels is obviously “limitless.”

TRUST---Effectively disturbing look at the world of sexual predators who patrol the Internet…this one features Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, and a compelling newcomer named Liana Liberato as the young victim who starts to question if she really is one. Indeed…it takes two to tango…and I’ve always said that computers not only invade privacy… they destroy it.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS/NO STRINGS ATTACHED---As interchangeable as pairs of sweat socks…the genuinely forgettable and passionless (also uncomfortable looking in many cases) frolics of “Friends” Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis and “Strings” Kutcher/Portman satisfied me only in the fact that they were served up to me through NETFLIX…so that I could gloat over the fact that I hadn’t been trapped in a theatre with either of these couples.

INSIDIOUS---Even for those who think that walking under a ladder or having a black cat scamper in front of them brings bad luck…this thing couldn’t raise bumps on an impressionable goose. Only nightmare that could have been induced here would have been if I had found myself suffering through it in a theatre.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY---This queasy television experience (FX on Wednesdays) is the shuddering stuff from which nightmares are wrenched. And I’m here to warn you about it…because no matter how tight you shut your eyes it still manages to crawl up under your eyelids and fester there. And it is so much perverse pleasure---thanks in particular to the presence of Jessica Lange---that you may well feel compelled to watch each episode…at least twice! For the record…I tape it, and then watch it the next morning, because I have a tough enough time sleeping lately as my aging (well over 18 years now) with angst and incomprehensibility, Himalayan cat Samson has his own nightmares to deal with, and he will quite often wake me up to remind me that he is having one.

************
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS---I think that it was eloquently appropriate that this one eluded me until I finally caught up with it in the eerie confines of the Culver Plaza Theatre (located in the vicinity of where I spent my formative years many decades ago) on the bleakest day in recent memory. The only entity missing from Woody Allen’s wonderment about longing for the past but then having to deal with it when it is magically served up is Rod Serling off in a corner café smoking a cigarette. Indeed, the 1920’s legendary Left Bank and its Lost Generation in Paris (with all of its creative characters including Dali, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso and Stein) eventually becomes a nagging Nightmare Alley for a modern-day writer…portrayed with painful perfection by Owen Wilson. Woody wistfully produces a nourishing bon-bon of insight here (in what I strongly suspect will be an Oscar nominated script), and in the process instills the hope that not everything in the present is as obvious as it appears.

End

10-27-11

CINEMA SEEN
By William Margold

That this issue will still be in the LAXPRESS’ famous bright red stands on Halloween night, allows me to bestow a “Trick or Treat” label on my Cinema Seen page…and in the process acknowledge a handful of titles---with their appropriate pictorial representation where relevant…and when appropriate---their obtainable information.
************
THE THING---There is no”thing” about this rancid remake that deserves any”thing” even remotely approaching wasting space on a picture from this thing because the creature is truly a thing that is alien to any’’thing” worth being concerned about… which is the first thing that matters when dealing with a film like this thing. A Trick.

HOMELAND---Only slightly mentioned a few weeks ago when I confessed to my Severe Television Series Addiction…this Showtime complexity---starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis---unnervingly set-ups a situation of “terra-noia” (terrorism and paranoia) that will have constantly looking over your shoulder while trying to focus on what’s in front of you at the same time. The show may well out think itself in the long run…but for now…I’m hooked. A Treat.

MONEYBALL---Last week I headed my page with the word “Guilty”…and I gleefully admit here to being “guilty” when it comes my adoration of The New York Yankees who appear in the opening scenes of this way too cute for its own good professional baseball “inside” look at the marketing machinations of a fellow named Billy Beane during his General Manager days in the early 2000s with the Oakland A’s. Brad Pitt appears bemused throughout as Beane and Jonah Hill (as Beane’s faithful “bean counter”) conjures up such a Humpty Dumpty hero-worshiping image that when Beane (Pitt) finally calls him “a good egg”---the laugh that I emitted was more out of pity than admiration for Hill. BTW: I was once asked if I ever got tired of being a Yankees’ fan, and therefore winning more often than not, and I immediately responded, “Do you ever get tired of breathing?” A Trick.

MORE BRAINS: A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD---This is a case of the documentary about the making of a movie being considerably better than its topic. And I do mean “considerably” as in richly entertaining as well as immensely enlightening. In fact, because the recently deceased Dan O’Bannon (the director of the 1985 film) visited my adult entertainment industry casting office in Hollywood regularly for many years in the early 1980’s until, in fact, I told him that I really didn’t very much of his creation, and because in 1998, I had my brains sucked out by hypersexual scream queen Linnea Quigley (who had worked with my great love Stephanie Bishop---aka Viper in her XXX labors---during her brief exploitation career), I was quite eager to see this one. And I was far from disappointed from my viewing experience (currently available through sales@cavd.com) to the extent that it almost made me feel guilty about disliking what O’Bannon had originally made. Note…that I said “almost.” A Treat.

GLENN FORD: A LIFE---I became aware of this fine page-turner because it was featured in this November’s issue of SWANK as part of Neil Wexler’s “Swank Stuff” column. (I write a monthly piece for SWANK entitled “Those Were The Lays.) For a number of diverse reasons, besides the fact that Glenn was a damn good actor, I contacted a representative of the publisher (www.uwpress.wisc.edu) and requested a review copy. It was immediately sent to me, and I spent a very pleasant Saturday afternoon comforted by Peter Ford’s warm revelations of his father, that were smartly illuminated through insights of the many who knew…and loved…him. As to my own diverse reasons for wanting to page through the book, the first is the fact that the father of a fellow named Chris, a long time friend of mine, is buried next to Glenn Ford in a modest cemetery in Santa Monica, and that once in awhile after Chris has gone to visit his father’s resting place, he will call me, to reaffirm our relationship as well as to reflect on the wondrous magnitude of Glenn’s cinematic career, recalling in the process, the mutual pleasure that we had discovering such films as “Cowboy” and “Fate is the Hunter.” The other reason is that I believe that Glenn was in business with a fellow who ran Consolidated Pet Foods (in fact, there was picture of them with a German Shepard in the office), a door-door dog food delivery service, for which I worked in the Sixties while attending Santa Monica City College in pursuit of a Journalism degree. And it was at Santa Monica City College that I met Chris in February 1963. Therefore…such a convolution of life’s twists and turns…cannot be denied. And I’m glad that they weren’t, as it will now give me great pleasure to provide Chris with the book during the upcoming holiday season. A Treat.

end
 

10-20-11

CINEMA SEEN
By William Margold

Guilty.
Certainly not the first word that one would expect to find as my way to begin this Cinema Seen page…but because of the various themes of the films being discussed here…I suspect that the word will be justified throughout.
************
DRIVE---I should have known better. And therefore I am guilty of falling victim to the fact that way too many of my easily pleased and/or even more easily befuddled and/or bewildered film reviewing brothers and sisters were heralding this one without substantiating its merits. A moody, muddled mess, the tediously introspective adventures of a stunt car driver-cum-criminal getaway specialist (Ryan Gosling at his laconic best…which isn’t very good), makes for one of the most annoying movie-going experiences that I am still trying very hard to erase from my recent memory.

CONTAGION--- I guess that I would be guilty of being a callous misanthrope if I said that the hideously over-populated world needs a good, non-discriminating, incurable plague that will be capable of wiping out at least half of its teeming masses. And while director Steven Soderbergh’s “play no favorites as victims star-wise” disease disaster epic isn’t as unnervingly grim as it could have been, it’s disturbing enough to make you think about smashing in the face of the next person who coughs on you.

WARRIOR---I can’t help but feel guilty for watching a film (and this one was stunningly unremarkable despite being based on truth) based on the idiotic sport of mixed martial arts combat---because the action conjures up images of being forced to witness pit bull battles or cock fights. Now that’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of fights, and that I haven’t tasted my own blood as it leaked down my throat from numerous broken nose events. And that’s also not to say that there are some bloated human thorns in my side that richly deserve to have some sense beaten into them…but I think that anyone who would derive pleasure from glorying in watching these types of grotesqueries would be better off wandering onto train tracks…or at least being tossed into a pool full of piranha.

THE DEBT---I’ve heard that the word “guilty” is commonly associated with being Jewish. So, because I failed Hebrew class four years in a row during my stay in Vista Del Mar in Culver City, and therefore was never Bar Mitzvah’d (although I could recite the Friday night meal prayer so beautifully that our resident Rabbi would blush) I guess that I am the epitome of the guilty Jew. And that sort helped me through this well made film (directed by John Madden), because it is seeped in various forms of guilt. Of course, if I gave away any of its secrets then my Jewish guilt would only be magnified.

THE HELP---Not sure if I should feel “guilty” about being wet nursed by a Mammy (my mother told me that it was our maid named Sadie), way back in 1943, because of the circumstances surrounding my birth in Washington D.C.---but I most certainly felt more than just a little akin to the humanity (and lack of same) depicted in this production (about maid life in Mississippi in the Sixties) that caused me spill tears virtually from the first frame. I’m calling it “Sigh of the South”…and I feel real good that it will at least garner Supporting Actress nominations for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer…but I also wonder just how well it fare against the heavyweight titles due out later this year. And, in fact, I’m wondering if it will be given more honors than it genuinely deserves because an awful lot of shriveled grey-haired ladies are now finally feeling “guilty” themselves.

end

 

10-13-11

CINEMA SEEN
By William Margold

I have been accused of watching way too much TV.
In fact…when I start rattling (or perhaps, I should say “brattling”) off my self-imposed viewing habits…I can see my friends’ eyes spinning wildly as if their skulls have become epileptic slot machines.
Nevertheless…I am quite pleased to admit that I sit (in my inadequately-padded captain’s chair about seven and one-half feet away from the screen) guilty as charged.
And having had an unusual amount of time on my hands during the past 18 months, I also took it upon myself to knock off a few series that had completely escaped my well worn eyes…including the outstanding COLD CASE, and the magnificent FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (which I’ve placed behind HILL STREET BLUES and WEST WING as my third all-time favorite TV series).
Plus I caught up with, and am now current with the supremely disturbing BREAKING BAD (AMC), the sinisterly charming DEXTER (Showtime), and the spectacularly sanguine SPARTACUS (Starz).
And while I am in the process of taping its fourth season, I am perversely pleasuring my way through the first three seasons of THE SONS OF ANARCHY (FX). And although I’ve never watched a single episode of THE GOOD WIFE (CBS), because it was strongly recommended by an almost always “right on the money” associate, I am currently taping its third season, while waiting for its first two seasons to arrive from Netflix.
Of course, because many of my current favorite shows, such as JUSTIFIED (FX), SOUTHLAND (TNT), MAD MEN (AMC), THE BORGIAS (Showtime) and GAME OF THRONES (HBO), the very intriguing newcomer HOMELAND (Showtime) limit their seasons to a maximum of 13 episodes---and I can afford the facility of “On Demand” through my fairly reasonably priced Time Warner Cable service---it makes it considerably easier for me to catch up with whatever I have missed, either because of scheduling conflicts, or because, quite frankly, I still haven’t really ever figured out how to properly program my system.
Now rather than send this column channel surfing off in even more directions that invariably include an abundance of sporting events (especially when my beloved teams: The New York Yankees and The Detroit Lions are playing)…I thought that I would simply present my current TV watching habits on a Monday through Sunday basis.
(Saturday night has currently been rendered a non-contender in world of TV viewing.)
Essentially travelogue-styled eyewash, HAWAII FIVE-0 (CBS) is a calming way to end my Monday evenings.
For the record…I predicted that Monday’s THE PLAYBOY CLUB (NBC) would be a dead rabbit right out of its hole (it was the first new show cancelled). Also a few Mondays ago, I found the first two hours of TERRA NOVA (FOX) to be little more than “Trite-asorous.”
GLEE (FOX)---although almost always emotionally uneven (literally ranging from annoying to adorable)---is my Tuesday evening addiction.
After having my highly impressionable cage rattled by the pilot episode of AMERICAN HORROR STORY (FX)…I shall cautiously pencil it as my Wednesday evening nightcap.
GREY’S ANATOMY (ABC) continues to content me on Thursday evenings.
And FRINGE (FOX) continues to confound me on Friday evenings.
With its remarkably consistent irreverent wit, THE SIMPSONS (FOX) continues to delight me on Sundays…which is always quite a busy evening of TV watching for me---because, although it is staggering toward its finale, I am enduring DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC)---I have also climbed aboard the Sixties-era-evocative PAN AM (ABC)… without any reservations!

end
 

09-29-11

CINEMA SEEN
By William Margold

I was a month and a day away from my 29th birthday when my first film reviews appeared in the September 1972 issue of THE HOLLYWOOD PRESS.
For the record…the featured titles were “Junior Bonner” and “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask.” And there were also mini-reviews of “Jeremiah Johnson,” “Joe Kidd,” “The Carey Treatment,” “The Possession of Joel Delaney,” “Duck, You Sucker,” “The Honkers,” “The Magnificent Seven Ride,” and “Hannie Caulder.”
39 years later, my 68th birthday falls three days after the date of this issue of THE LAXPRESS.
Indeed…it’s been a long, and greatly appreciated relationship with a publication that has always printed what I produce…without any questions asked.
Therefore this page of film reviews richly reflects the freedom of expression that has been allowed me for almost four decades.
And as become my pattern of late, I am quickly eliminating the insufferable “Final Destination 5” (seen only to give a demented friend the unique experience of “an animal screening” featuring fans that validate the concept of “missing links”), the insipid remake of “Conan the Barbarian,” and the astoundingly devoid of any redeeming thought-provoking value remake of “Straw Dogs” without any pictorial acknowledgement…before serving up the rest of this page with a quintet of titles that will be presented in the ascending order (worst to best) that I admired them.

COWBOYS AND ALIENS---Neither science fiction fish nor wild western fowl enough to chew on…this fetid folly was easily the worst major release of Summer 2011. “What the Hell am I doing in this thing?” performances by Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford terminally undermine the puzzling proceedings to such an extent that taxing this viewer’s concentration span during the seemingly endless as well lifeless action scenes made me feel like I was trying to run a marathon in quicksand.

CAMERAMAN---The Life & Work of Jack Cardiff is a rather unremarkable look at a remarkable cinematographer/director and the legendary fellow’s “body of work.” Lots of pretty pictures and lots of proudly spoken words made this one just demanding enough for me to put “The Red Shoes” and “Black Narcissus” in my NETFLIX queue.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE---Intensely amusing, because of its charming insights to the various levels of love, lust, like and longing…this fragile affair from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (whose 2010’s “I Love You Phillip Morris” was a quirky delight) didn’t hold warm and well enough when rethought about when it came time to discuss it here. Too many convenient couplings (and re-couplings) combine here to render the “love” that the cast (Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, the wonderful Emma Stone, and a scene-stealing Marisa Tomei), creates into becoming eventually more “stupid” than “crazy.”

TABLOID---Emphatically proving that “fact is more fun than fiction”…Errol Morris’ dingy documentary exposes the madcap adventures of Joyce McKinney, whose specious (“tabloid ‘Man Bites Bear’ journalism”) claim to fame was first kidnapping and sexually deprogramming a supposedly reluctant Mormon in 1977. And then, many years later, Joyce became involved with the cloning of her beloved dog, Booger. The whole damn thing is so unbelievably nonsensical, that there are moments when, despite lots of interviews and images substantiating McKinney’s tale (or tails), I found myself questioning the authenticity of Morris’ masterpiece. Which, of course, might make for an even more demanding documentary.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES---Magnificent example of how far movie-making magic has come, this present day set prequel to the “Apes” saga, most certainly doesn’t monkey around. And quite frankly, the less I know about how peerless motion-capture performer Andy Serkis was able to render Caesar, the simian star of the sobering storyline, evocative (and, even more importantly, heroic)…the more contented I am to simply bask in awe…as the remarkable action bursts forth from the screen.

end
 

09-08-11                         CINEMA SEEN

                           By William Margold

       Comfortably wedged between Pogo and Samson, my faithful feline friends, the  peacefulness was shattered by the phone ringing shortly after 7am on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

      Trying to extricate myself from my bed without disturbing my furry buddies---both of who simply yawned and stretched languidly before resuming their slumbers---I stumbled to the phone.

      It was Brian Sebastian, my redoubtable partner in a cable TV series called MOVIE REVIEWS & MORE. “Turn on your television set,” he proclaimed in a shaky voice that demanded my doing what he uttered. As the light from my set flickered wildly into my dim living room, I saw an enormous airplane circle as if it were trapped in a grotesque dream, and then slam into an even more enormous building. “Great movie,” I said, to which Brian responded, “It’s not a movie, it’s real, terrorists have just attacked The World Trade Center,” he concluded.

      And as what I was witnessing began to dawn on me, I said, “Boy, I’m glad that I am 57 and not 17.”

      Acknowledging that sometime during this issue’s news rack existence, the 10th anniversary of that mourning (sic) will rise in the east and set in the west, I’ve come upon a remarkable DVD/CD set from Industrial Entertainment (www.industrial ent.com) called PEACE NOTES wherein legendary film composer Ennio Morricone conducts The Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra accompanied by the Choir La Fenice and soprano Susanna Rigacci in Venice, Italy.

Captured on 9/10 and 9/11, 2007, the exhilarating, emotionally supercharged audio and visual experience, most assuredly will get the tears out of you that you might not have expended a decade ago.

      The nervous energy of Morricone’s scores are accentuated by the utilization of what appears to be a veritable menagerie of eccentric looking instruments, which are tweaked and tickled to perfectly blend in with those instruments that you are accustomed to seeing bring forth great music.

      Indeed, watching the impeccably dressed members of the orchestra passionately conjoined with their instruments (particularly the elegant pianist, whose platinum waterfall of a mane is a vision that angels would envy), and becoming overwhelmed by the heart-pounding sounds of the choir, as well as being enraptured by the heavenly urgent tones of Ms. Rigacci---whose winged red gown clad presence is majesty personified---one will find themselves unashamedly sobbing uncontrollably…in awe…as well as in blessed relief.

      I found myself replaying the main theme from “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “Abolission” (from “Quemada), “On Earth As It Is In Heaven” (from “The Mission”), the main theme from “Cinema Paradiso” and “Here’s To You” (from “Sacco and Vanzetti”), and the remarkable “Ecstasy of Gold” (from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”), which instinctively induces me to conduct it with my remote control…so many times…that I am afraid of wearing my disc out.

      But as I am putting the finishing touches to this column, the achingly sweet, agonizingly sincere strains of Ennio’s entities are filling my living room with perfection.

       And although I deliberated about decorating this page with album covers and motion picture images from many of the films that Master Morricone has illuminated with his wondrous work, I’ve finally decided not to, as only his presence here is necessary to compliment his creations. 

                         ************

      Just in case you missed the details of how to order your own copy of PEACE NOTES…go to www.industrialent.com

                          end

09-01-11                         CINEMA SEEN

                            By William Margold

       I stood on a sun-baked cement pathway between two not particularly well-kept-up playing fields, and the unforgiving onslaught of time came crashing down on me like a massive wave, sending my emotions reeling.

And, as the blazing orb beat down on my unprotected head, I wished that I had had the common sense to wear either my Detroit Lions Charities or my 1995 New York Yankees Wild Card hat.

      It had been cool and pleasantly overcast when I headed my faithful VW van toward a southeast appendage of downtown Los Angeles, on a recent Saturday morning.

       Through quirks of fate, and a friendly fellow named Salmon Murphy, I had been made aware that Central Juvenile Hall (located at 1605 Eastlake Avenue) was holding an “Open House.”

      Proud of the fact that, in all probability, I would be the only person in attendance who had lived there as an inmate (for over three months in 1956), and who had then come back to work there as a Deputy Probation Officer (from the summer of 1969 through 1971), I eventually found myself caught up in the realization that a great deal of my past should stay there.

But I am getting a little bit ahead of my tale.

      Admittedly, Salmon was a gracious, albeit perhaps too gregarious a host, and the lovely lady with him eerily conjured up visions of a flame from 40 years ago, but as I wandered about feeling myself smile, but also feeling my heart grow very heavy, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “What was I really expecting and/or looking for?” on this now sizzling Saturday in the summer of 2011.

      With the exception of a slightly remodeled, but still relatively same looking Unit R, where I had showed up bleary-eyed and distraught at 2am after what felt like an endless ride from Santa Monica on surface streets (because the freeway system had yet to rear its hectic head), and was booked as an “Incorrigible” on the last Sunday morning of June 1956, almost every other landmark from my past(s) in “Juvie” was gone.

      As a 12 year old, I had spent 100-plus days and nights in the dormitory setting of Unit W. Sadly I discovered that that building had been demolished shortly before I returned to work at CJH.

      Indeed, when I was released to Vista Del Mar in Culver City, I swore that I would return to “The Hall.”

It took almost 13 years, but I did, and as a DPO, I spent my first year handling the intake duties of Unit R, before I was transferred to Units E/F. And it was there that I truly became “An Overage Juvenile Delinquent” proudly treating my “kids” as fairly (and squarely) as I had been treated in Unit W.

      Of course I was hoping to see that old building during this “Open House”…but like Unit W…it had also been demolished, and in its place stood a rather sterile looking edifice.

By now you are probably wondering about my choice of images (some of which were generously provided by the friendly folks of Hollywood Book and Poster) for this page.

And that brings me back to the opening of this column, because where I was standing, there had been an old auditorium, in which, on selected days, first as an inmate, and then as an officer with my own inmates, such cinematic enchantments as “Gunga Din,” “Beau Geste,” “High Noon,”  “King Kong,” and in particular, “The Crimson Pirate,” would cause me (first, as a wide-eyed child, and then as an even wider-eyed “overage juvenile delinquent”) to spill back out onto the playing fields, and to enact the swashbuckling, gun-slinging, derring-do showdowns that I, and my “kids” had just witnessed.

And the real magic of those moments has warmed my senses ever since…because even the most mean street toughened of the “kids” that I lived with in 1956…and then watched over in 1970 thru 1971…couldn’t help but get caught up in the action that those films, and many others like them, inspired.

So I shuddered a little, feeling a chill despite the heat, as those images rushed at me back faster than I was prepared to handle them. And a few tears managed to escape before I could choke them back. 

Then I slowly turned, and walked away from those pieces of my past---realizing that while I truly treasured them---I could now finally (and perhaps, forever) bury them even deeper in the dog-eared  scrapbook of my mind.

                             end

     

08-18-11                        CINEMA SEEN

                        By William Margold

        After last week’s polishing off of 2010 titles, I am returning to the discussion of 2011 releases.

And I guess that the best way to present the following quintet of titles is in the order that I saw them.

 And because I truly believe that “pictures speak louder than words” (even mine), I am utilizing a couple of shots in a couple of cases, to give you a better idea of the films focused upon here. Just like, in one case, I am utilizing absolutely no image at all to display my contempt for the movie being mentioned.  

 BEGINNERS---The absolutely perfect example of a lovable “little” film…Mike Mills’ deliciously delicate creation about venturing onto the extremely thin ice of sexual and emotional relationships is the only production that I’ve seen so far in 2012 that screams Oscar nominations from its pretty heads to its nail-polished toes. A son (performed with admirable uneasiness by Ewan McGregor) discovers that his dying father (Best Supporting Actor cinch nominee---and mostly likely winner---Christopher Plummer) has blissfully blown the hinges off of his closet door, and is essentially a “happy homosexual.” And while he tries to cope with his father passing, Ewan must also (quite fearfully) deal with the “beginnings” of his own lust/love/like involvement with “too good to be true” Melanie Laurent (my own current cinematic heartthrob, as noted in last week’s acknowledgement of “The Concert”).  And I haven’t even mentioned the presence of the picture’s canine Greek chorus, because I figure that I (and maybe even, he, in various marketing campaigns) will be talking lots more about this movie during next year’s award season.

 SUPER 8---I watched J.J. Abrams’ very personal effort twice before proclaiming it to be a somewhat touching blend of “Stand By Me” with “Invaders From Mars.” But more importantly, I also decided that the evocatively mounted production was/is all just a dream, wherein Abrams’ yearning teenage alter-ego (an appropriately pensive Joel Courtney) is not only the hero of the piece (saving his tiny, rather insulated, late 1970’s based, middle American town from a misunderstood alien), gets the object of his adolescent angst (Elle Fanning), and even finds some solace for the recent death of his mother. Of course, he also has the time to get involved in the making of a mini-movie (with his pals) about zombies that (be advised) runs throughout the credits…so don’t leave the theatre before the lights come up. That will also give you extra time to wipe up your tears.

 THE TREE OF LIFE---If I worked very hard, I might be able to hack out (and/or off) enough natural wonder, volcanic and teeming ocean waves footage (dare I say, “branches”) from Terrence Malick’s inexorably barren experience to fashion a relatively reasonable 38-minute-long IMAX entity called “The Creation.” Otherwise, the insufferable mess is the perfect example of a film that many pretentious critics will genuflect to because they will refuse to admit that they didn’t know what in the HELL was going on during the majority of its interminable 140-minutes.

 CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER---I don’t think that I have ever felt being so “dumbed-down-to” as I did trying to duck and dodge (but also, ironically trying to stay awake) through what director Joe Johnston was tossing at me. In fact, I felt as if I were being bludgeoned into submission by an endless supply of extremely juvenile super-powered hero-oriented comic books. Then again, my own comic book images (from the early 1950’s) were those writhing about in such sensibilities shattering entities as “The Vault of Horror” and “Tales From The Crypt.” And those nightmare inducers were always good (an/or bad) for being almost “scared to death.”

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON---And speaking of “being bludgeoned into submission”…the latest adventures of the clinking, clanking, clunking, calumburous collection of rampaging robots (btw: I still can’t figure out which bucket of nuts and bolts is a good, bad or simply indifferent junkyard joy boy), exhausted every ounce of my patience, and most uncomfortably made me seriously rethink my decision to become a film reviewer…way back in 1968. 

                            end   

08-11-11                         CINEMA SEEN

                          By William Margold

       For no real reason, other than I feel ornery, I’ve decided that this will be the serving of Cinema Seen wherein I say a fond (and no-so-fond) farewell to last titles from 2010 that I was even remotely interested in catching up with.

And in the majority of cases, thanks to the facility of NETFLIX (and to a lesser extent, the cranky monolithic presence of REDBOX), I finally did create enough of a backlog of 2010-ers that it demanded to be dealt with.

      All in small (or thereabouts), a couple of overstuffed handfuls of films will mentioned here, and the only reason some of the lesser ones are being pictorially represented is that the useable artwork for a few of those that I sort of liked, simply got tossed out.

      Therefore the genuinely involving, richly conspiratorial, truth be damned “Fair Game,” and the effectively emotional “The Switch,” sadly find themselves un-pictured, along with the instantly forgettable likes of the remarkably un-cuddly “Love and Other Drugs,” the no-where of “Somewhere,” something called “Catfish,” the seemingly endless “Another Year,” the lack of tension (despite the presence of Russell Crowe) in  “The Next Three Days,” the barren boredom of “The Way Back,” something else called “Casino Jack,” and the squirm inducing cute-less-ness of James Brooks’ “How Do You Know” (which was annoyingly missing a question mark at the end of it title.) ???!    

      BIUTIFUL---I dared to make my Oscar prediction in the Best Actor category before I saw this Inarritu directed intolerability that garnered the immensely watch able but herein achingly angst ridden Javier Bardem his nomination in that category. Let’s just say that Colin Firth (for his remarkable all-consuming performance in “King’s Speech”) really had nothing to worry about. And besides, Bardem added Penelope Cruz to his trophy case within the last year. And he can certainly do more with her than he can with another Oscar (remember he won for monotonically grumbling through “No Country For Old Men’).

 COUNTRY STRONG---Aimed at those who pick their noses with pitchforks and consider chomping on pork rinds to be gourmet dining, this undercooked concoction of road kill wasted the talents of Gwyneth Paltrow, and especially Tim McGraw, during its hell-bent toward self-destruction look at a fictional Country Music industry superstar. Atmospherically vacant, and virtually dimensionless, the slow go show doesn’t even have a memorable tune to hang its long johns and/or bib on.

 NEVER LET ME GO---Disturbing mind stuff here, this perversely poetic venture into the eerie possibility that some people are bred to simply be spare body parts, had me looking over my shoulder ever so often, even though I was watching it in the supposed security of my own home. Note…that I said “supposed”…as Samson, my histrionic Himalayan cat has been lying suspiciously close to my computer lately. And I get very odd e-mails after I’ve been away from home for a long period of time. Well…the joke’s on him, because after over six decades of various forms of brutalization and/or abuse…not many of my body parts are worth much any more.

 THE CONCERT---Despite the fact that she was in Quentin Tarantino’s insufferable “Inglorious Bastards”…I have developed a serious cinematic crush on the radiant Melanie Laurent. Her magic can be cherished currently in 2011’s best serious film (so far) “Beginners” (which I will discuss next week), and is gloriously on display in the sadly unrecognized 2010 production about a music conductor’s eternal journey toward melodic recognition that got strangled in the red tape of political intrigue and turmoil.

 LITTLE FOCKERS---I’ve saved the worst for last here, and I’ve made sure that its picture is much smaller than all of the other shots on this page. If Ben Stiller’s electric carving knife had gone out of control during the turkey sequence and had slaughtered everyone else at the dinner table, and had then turned on him…I might have been able to say something good about this pitiful piece of puerile picture making. If there is ever another one of these things…it had better be called “The Focker Solution.”

                             end

07-28-11                           CINEMA SEEN

                            By William Margold

       Continuing my attempt to “catch-up” with 2011 releases, while three of the titles being discussed on this page are still, most likely, making their way through movie theaters in your neighborhood, and will, most likely, be doing so until Labor Day, I’m leading off with---thanks to www. firstrunfeatures.com---a title that was virtually a blink of the misty eye during its very brief local theatrical run…but is now, most certainly, a thought-provoking force to reckon with on DVD.  

HEY, BOO: HARPER LEE & TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD---While I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life in the very early years of the 1960’s…the cinematic version of Harper Lee’s evocative novel snuck into my soul, and it has resonated there (melodically enhanced by Elmer Bernstein’s simplistically sweet score and Gregory Peck’s sublime nobility) ever since. And whenever things are darkest around me, I mentally shuffle through the dog-eared scrapbook in my mind, and use the memory of discovering Ms. Lee’s creation to brighten up the moment. Therefore, I can’t say enough wonderful things about Mary McDonagh Murphy’s delicate documentary about the enigmatic novelist, as it finally gave me the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the relatively mythic Harper and the tumultuous times that bred her masterwork. However…I would be greatly remiss if I didn’t---at the least---say, “Thank you!” 

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS---All the way through this highly enjoyable effort from director Michael Vaughn (whose “Kick Ass” I loathed), I kept thinking, “Why wasn’t this the “first” entry in the “X-Men” series?” Genuinely under whelmed by all the machinations of the mutants (including Wolverine) that have come before, I was ready for more of the lame same, but herein I got to meet quite a number of the oddly endowed heroes to be at essentially the same time that they discover that they are going to be able to save the world while not being allowed to fit into it. This is stuff of that “growing up painfully” is made of…and it provides immense viewing pleasure.

 PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES---By the time that the third chapter of “Pirates” sailed into its 2007 sunset, while I was sure that there was more than a little of Jack Sparrow in me, I was (almost) equally sure that I really didn’t want to see any more of him. But then (and it’s hopefully displayed here) always on the scene affable Rick Garcia (industrybyrick.com) snapped a weary shot of me at this April’s X-Rated Critic Organization event at The Hollywood Highlands with Johnny Depp looking over my shoulder, and I knew my big screen sailing plans were on the horizon...again! And so I ventured into “On Stranger Tides” hoping for the best but fearing the worst. However, enriched with a search for The Fountain of Youth driven plotline, the masterful villainy of Ian McShane (as Black Beard), the perky presence of Penelope Cruz, some very fishy Mermaids, and the recurring rascality of Geoffrey Rush (as Barbossa), Depp’s Sparrow flies (and flits) about with consummate joy, and in the process caused me to be thrilled over having the chance to be in the company of an old cinematic friend…again!

 HORRIBLE BOSSES---Continuing my policy of not running artwork with films that don’t deserve it, this uncomfortable mess conjured up visions of The Three Stooges (perhaps the least funny group of all-time), and only succeeded in reminding me of how I got revenge on my worst boss of all-time---an autocratic jerk who ran UCLA’s faculty center dining room in 1962. He was known as “The Colonel”---and he tromped around the area smoking a cigar and waving a fly swatter---bellowing out orders like Capt. Bligh. Fed up, I called the Humane Dept. and asked them to send over someone to pick up a mad dog called “The Colonel.” And they did, right in the middle of lunch. And to make my revenge even sweeter (and colder), one of the uniformed dogcatchers found an open mike, and, in front of a packed house of avaricious eaters, proceeded to announce that they had, “Come for The Colonel.” I wasn’t serving pickled beets that afternoon on my buffet table, but if I had been, “The Colonel’s” flustered face would have been in grand, but hardly compassionate, company.  

                              end       

07-21-11                          CINEMA SEEN

                              By William Margold 

      It’s been quite a while since I’ve dealt with any 2011 motion picture releases.

      But gloriously reenergized by the finale of HARRY POTTER…I feel that the time is not only right to play the first installment of a three part  “catch-up” game (look for the second portion next week, and the third part as my August 4 column) by acknowledging a handful (including “Harry”) of the better 2011 efforts with artwork…but to also eliminate (dare I say, “punish”) a quartet of 2011 efforts…without the benefit of any artwork whatsoever.

      Therefore…the squirming unendurability of ”The Hangover Part II,” the overwhelming sense of one-take-ism of “Bad Teacher,” the ho-hum-hero-less-ness of  “Green Lantern,” and the very slightness of “Larry Crowne” are all rendered into fodder for the thought of making a case for cinematic recycling. 

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS---PART TWO: I richly deserve to be sent to bed without dinner for at least a couple of nights for daring to doubt (after not having very much fun struggling through Part One of “Hallows”) that this magnificent series wouldn’t resolve itself in a manner befitting its early brilliance. Indeed…the fantastic, feelings-rich finale is not only the Best Film that I’ve seen so far this year…it is so beautifully fashioned…on so many wondrous levels…that I wouldn’t be surprised if doesn’t garner a Best Film Oscar nomination, and that Daniel Radcliffe (who has marvelously maturated into his role of the heroic Harry Potter) isn’t nominated for Best Actor as the enduring, damned by destiny wizard in the soaring movie-going experience that has dazzled the senses for over a decade. And if I said anymore about what transpires in the climatic chapter…then my going to bed without dinner would have to be extended to at least a week.  

FAST FIVE---Although the cars in this hyper-active high-octane effort have most of the best lines, the friendship between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel continues to blossom in enviable ways. And it doesn’t hurt to have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson along for the rubber-burning, gear-grinding, skid mark screeching ride toward what I’m sure will be a sixth installment sometime in 2013.  

THOR---What the intolerable “Green Lantern” dreamed of being…this genuinely involving visit from (and with) a rather egotistical superego (played broadly by Chris Hemsworth) is…and it has “Starman” qualities all over it. Sprightly hammered out by director Kenneth Branagh, the production is enhanced by Natalie Portman, whose awe eases into affection as the simplistic plotline plays out.  

THE BEAVER---It isn’t what you think it is. And it sure as Hell isn’t what you expect. Mel Gibson sinks into a depression and comes out of it (sort of) fashioning an alternate-ego in the stuffed persona of an affable bucktooth wood nibbler. Jodie Foster artfully directs as well as adorably endures the evocative oddity that may well force Hollywood to take another look at the immensely watch able Mr. Gibson. Is there another “Lethal Weapon” (that isn’t himself) in his future?  

BRIDESMAIDS---Breast comedy of 2011 (so far), the Kristen Wiig created female-powered ferocity is a blow way below the belt to those men who are still naïve enough to think that they are the dominate sexual animal. Smart, sharp, sly and even sympathetic, Wiig (who co-wrote the hilarity with Annie Mumolo…and with whom I’m sure she will co-write the inevitable sequel), slaughters scared male chauvinistic cows with glee. And even when her storyline, and the Paul Fieg helmed film resorts to a food poisoning driven bathroom scene…it is rendered with such natural necessity, rather than gratuitous grossness, that it richly (albeit raucously, thanks to the bigger the better presence of Melissa McCarthy) validates the sentiment: “When you’ve got to go…you’ve got to go!”

                              end              

 

07-07-11                         CINEMA SEEN

                            By William Margold

       Major League Baseball---and in particular---the New York Yankees---have been a part of my life since a cool afternoon in October 1953 when, while ambling home from McKinley Grammar School in Santa Monica, I noticed a headline that read: “Billy The Kid Wins World Series!”

      As I stood in front of the LA MIRROR news rack, shivering a little as the ocean breeze driven twilight engulfed me, my wildly imaginative ten year old mind envisioned one of my favorite cowboy legends blasting away on a massive playing field many, many, many miles away. I had absolutely no idea about what anything else on that front page meant. Or, for that matter, just who (and/or what), the New York Yankees were all about.

      In fact, it really wasn’t until October two years later, when I heard (on a blaring radio…while taking in the sights and smells of Coney Island) the New York Yankees lose the seventh game of the 1955 World Series to the Brooklyn Dodgers, and I watched people going wild all around me, that I began to realize what the game of professional baseball was all about…and just how much it really meant to be a fan of a team.

      But Major League Baseball’s life long impact on my sensibilities, and the solidifying of me as a Yankee fan didn’t take permanent hold until a bright blue October morning in 1956, when, as an inmate in Unit W of Los Angeles’ Central Juvenile Hall, I was allowed (because I had earned---by during chores and behaving just enough---“messenger” status), to watch what would turn out to be the Yankees’ Don Larsen pitch a “perfect game” against the Dodgers. And it was at that time, that I also realized that Billy The Kid was, in fact, the Yankees’ second baseman Billy Martin.

      The indelibility of that moment came rushing back (along with a flood of tears), as I watched Ed Randall interview Yogi Berra (the fellow who caught Larsen’s historical game), as part of an exceptionally evocative DVD series called TALKING BASEBALL (www.talkingbaseball.net).

Randall is remarkably unobtrusive in the presence of the other Yankee “Legends” on the DVD, including Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, and the magnificent Mickey Mantle.

(Regarding Mr. Mantle, a very dear and very special friend of mine known simply as “Reb”…just recently felt that I needed a replica New York Yankees jersey emblazoned with Mickey’s #7 on its back, to wear the next time that I wanted to boldly display my Yankee pride, so he sent it to me, because that’s what life-long Yankee fans, friends, and very special people in each others lives, do.)  

In appreciation of Mr. Randall, while I could sense his genuine awareness of his “great fortune” that the little boy baseball fan in him was now basking in the glow of his “bigger than life” baseball heroes, I admired the fact that he never ever missed a beat in acknowledging their impact(s) on the game.

That Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star game will be played (on July 12) in Arizona, while this issue is on the stands, most certainly justifies my devoting an entire page (although with very limited artwork), to Ed’s treasure trove of material.

Besides the aforementioned Yankees’ DVD, Volumes One of other teams included in the first round of TALKING BASEBALL are the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox (featuring, among others, Ted Williams), the Chicago Cubs (featuring Ernie Banks), the Cincinnati Reds, the Detroit Tigers, the Minnesota Twins (featuring Harmon Killebrew), the New York Mets (featuring Tom Seaver), the Philadelphia Phillies (featuring Robin Roberts), the Pittsburgh Pirates, the San Francisco Giants (featuring Orlando Cepeda), and the St. Louis Cardinals (featuring Bob Gibson).

And, I guess that it is appropriate that I end this column by calling attention to the fact that while TALKING BASEBALL (www.TalkingBaseball.net) includes Volume One of Mr. Randall’s interviews with members of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it also incorporates a couple of gentlemen who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in particular, a pitcher named Johnny Podres, who beat the (my) Yankees way back on that Coney Island October day in 1955. 

                       end

05-26-11

                       CINEMA SEEN

                        By William Margold

 Dear Friend:

      I am a Marine in the Saudi Desert, and I believe in what we are fighting for---FREEDOM---and I believe in what you are fighting for. My troops and I watch adult videos on base in the States. And being over here you see that these people don’t have that FREEDOM. So we don’t want to lose that. We want to come back and watch all the adult videos we want to. We have been over here for six months and we want to put a video in and see a beautiful woman, but that is after we do the real thing with our wives and girlfriends. The important thing is the thought of losing a FREEDOM that people have died for. We can’t let that happen.

Semper Fi

SSgt. Anthony Hairston

Operation Desert Storm

                        ***********

 SSgt. Anthony Hairston’s heartfelt sentiments were sent to FOXE (The Fans of X-Rated Entertainment) in February 1991. The original copy of the letter is safely put away among my most treasured possessions, because it inspired the most enduring, dynamic and thought provoking image ever created for the Adult Entertainment Industry---the “Fighting For Your Freedom”/”Freedom Isn’t Free” poster---and its many subsequent incarnations: ranging from t-shirts to mouse pads, and from lapel pins to wall calendar---to the explosive sentiment (“This is your freedom/This is censorship/Get the point?”) at the beginning of millions of adult videos and DVDs.

But its birth wasn’t as easy as you would think.

I was living with the notorious adult actress, Viper at the time, who had served in the Marines for six years. So when I suggested that I was “going to take the legendary Iwo Jima picture and put five more adult actresses in it besides you” she grinned, politely thanked me for thinking so highly of her, but also matter-of-factly cautioned, “You had better get their (the Marines) permission.”

Charged with that mission (although even my most naïve associates fully know that I would have proceeded with plan---permission…or not!) I ventured off to the Marines’ offices off of La Brea Ave. and Rodeo Blvd. near Baldwin Hills.

After wandering around the corridors for a while, with just enough expression on my face to suggest that I knew where I was going, I located a formidable Gunnery Sergeant named Enrique Torres, who just happened to be in charge of public relations.

When I boldly announced, “I’m going to take six adult industry actresses and put them in the Iwo Jima pose,” Torres bristled, and immediately all sorts of images from Leon Uris’ “Battle Cry” flashed before my eyes. Hmmm, could a civilian be put on KP? Was there a special stockade for “public nuisances?” Having been refused by the Marines when I tried to enlist in 1960 (because I had been “incorrigible” during my juvenile delinquent days), would I now be forced to serve?

Torres quickly dispelled any of my concerns, by following up his bristle with a smile, and a quick response, “sure, Sir, and I’ll be happy to help choreograph it for you.” After insisting that he call me anything but “Sir”…I told him that I would start rounding up the ladies, and a photographer, and report back to him in the near future.

Realizing that I needed the very best photographer available, and having just become aware of Brad Willis’ striking box covers for a couple of major adult video companies, I contacted him, and rather easily persuaded him to help me create “an image for the ages.” Of course, he would be “volunteering” his photographic services, and those of his wife, who would function as make–up artist and set director. FOXE would cover all of the other production expenses (film, developing, studio rental, etc.).

It’s interesting to note here that when I dropped my idea on the table of the next Adult Video Association board meeting, I was told not to do it, and in fact, “that it would be unpatriotic.” Essentially their resistance guaranteed the project’s completion, as the five most important in the (my) adult entertainment alphabet are R-E-B-E-L.

Finding adult actresses to join Viper in the shot wasn’t very hard, as every lusty lady I contacted absolutely demanded to be part of the project. The only problem was their extremely busy schedules. And I’m talking about a smoldering spectrum of stars including Nina Hartley, Jeanna Fine, Britt Morgan, Ashlyn Gere, Raven, Cameo, and Brandy Alexandre.

As I wanted to premiere the poster at July 1991 Video Software Dealer’s Association convention in Las Vegas, I knew that it to be shot by the end of May, in order to allow enough for printing…which had been volunteered by Michael Warner and Great Western Litho.

Therefore, on the Sunday before Memorial Day 1991, in a tiny studio in Culver City, the six “Freedom” femmes who slipped into tattered battle garb and struck the powerful pose were (clockwise) Viper, Porsche Lynn, Alicyn Sterling, Taylor Wane, Selena Steele and Ashley Nicole.

The shooting took over seven hours.

Willis snapped off 60 shots.

Gunnery Sgt Torres was on hand, and watched in awe at the enthusiastic desire by the six, as Selena would call them, “Warriors.”

      It was very hot and extremely uncomfortable…both factors exacerbated by the presence of a smoke machine. Brad’s wife tried to keep the ladies’ spirits up, but the precise posing pressures began to fray the nerves of all involved. Finally, as the atmosphere neared intolerability, Willis announced that he had what he needed.

      Driving home in the hazy twilight, emotionally drained, I told Viper that she had just been part of “something great.” She smiled and responded, “I hope so.” Four days later, she left the adult entertainment industry, driving, as I heart achingly pronounced, “out of history into legend.”

      And the legend of the flag raising image lives on as well, as it has been 20 years since that sweltering photo session in Culver City, and the radiance of what was rendered that day now glorifies a stunning t-shirt---which, whenever I wear it---never fails to be commented on quite favorably…and is always the topic of “obtainable” conversation.

                      ************

      So…to that extent…the t-shirts are being re-issued through LOUIE MAX’S Custom Imprinting (www.info@louiemax.com)…and should be available for YOU to wear proudly this summer.

 

                               end

 

05-19-11
                        CINEMA SEEN

                          By William Margold

 

      It’s hard to be humble when one has been thought worthy of getting the chance to fondle a Golden Flying Penis.

The delicately hand crafted Lifetime Achievement Erotic Award will be presented to me on Friday, May 20 at the Night of the Senses Ball in London, England by Dr.Tuppy Owens, and is emblematic for those who “counteract negative attitudes to sex and sex workers by honoring artists and activists who have devoted their lives to making the world a sexier, more liberated place.”

Although toying with the concept of flying over there to accept the honor in person, I trust that whomever does latch onto it for me will care for it long enough to package it up safely, and then post it over to me, so that I can I place it in a prominent position on my stylishly swollen  “awards” shelf. 

Acquiescing to “commonsensorship”…I fully realized that displaying the trophy on this page might rattle the fragile cages of readers with delicate sensibilities, so I’m running the event’s website instead--- www.eroticawards.co.uk---in the hope that bolder readers out there might take a peek at trophy as well as learn considerably more about Dr. Owens, The Grand Jury of Conspicuous Sensuality, and the charity--- www.outsiders.org.uk---that will be benefiting from The Night of the Senses Ball.

(In place of a shot of my latest award are shots---with many of my all-time favorite X-rated friends---from adult industry events---that should provide indelible proof that my being honored is fully justified.)

What follows are parts of a press release from Dr. Owens’ organization, wherein the basis (dare I say, “justification”) of my award is overwhelmingly delineated.

William Margold’s involvement in the American adult entertainment industry has spanned almost four decades: actor (in over 160 films), scriptwriter, director, agent, critic, activist, welfare counselor…and the voice of conscience… in an industry commonly thought to lack one.

He has devoted his life to the letter X, with an uncompromising honesty and passion, earning him the nickname “Papa Bear” from those who he refers to as his “kids”---the overage juvenile delinquents who populate the world of hardcore entertainment. He calls this world “The Playpen of the Damned”…and states, with a great contempt toward a hypocritical society, “That my kids are jacked off to with one hand and then denied with the other.”

In October 1985, he began his testimony in front of the anti-porn Meese Commission with “In a society that is drug-infested, violence-wracked and polluted by chemical greed…no one has ever died from an overdose of Pornography.”

He has been a tireless fighter against censorship, serving for over 15 years (1988-2003) as a director of The Adult Video Association and The Free Speech Coalition, for whom his imaginative fund raising items (including the iconic---currently celebrating its 20th anniversary---“Freedom Isn’t Free” flag-raising image) have been the high spot of numerous adult industry trade shows.

Tired of the favoritism that he saw in the early adult film award ceremonies, in 1984 he co-founded, with the late Jim Holliday, the X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO) to present honors untainted by commercial bias.

And when, in 1989, he recognized that the adult industry frequently had no respect for its consumers, he conceived, with his great friend and love Viper, Fans Of X-Rated Entertainment (FOXE), to give the viewers---through legendary annual shows---a chance to meet and mingle with their favorite performers.

But perhaps his most significant creation is Protecting Adult Welfare (PAW) www.pawfoundation.org---a non-profit outreach organization (established in 1994) that provides an umbrella of support for anyone in the adult industry.

His current campaign is “21 in 2012” through which he hopes to persuade the adult industry to raise the age of performing hardcore sexual activities on screen to 21.

Since the passing of X’s first historian, Jim Holliday in 2004, Margold, faithfully adhering to his motto---“There is no future, if in the present, we fail to pay homage to the past”---has proudly accepted the role of XXX’s preservationist, making himself freely available for interviewers and documentary film makers who want to learn about “The Golden Era of X.”

In their book “Once More, With Feeling” Victoria Coren & Charlie Skelton declared of William Margold: “He is pornography.” 

                     end

04-28-11

                        CINEMA SEEN

                         By William Margold

       David F. Friedman was a raconteur par excellence and the robust ringmaster of an adult entertainment exploitation era long gone, wherein his productions were based on what you thought that you saw instead of what you really saw. And then, because you were somewhat ashamed to admit that you had gone into the movie theatre hoping to see more, and you really hadn’t seen very much, you said that you saw lots more than you really did.

      You are encouraged to read the above concept over a couple of times.

And by the time that you are done…I’ll bet that you’ll be laughing out loud---at yourself…and with yourself---in a manner emulating Dave himself.

      David F. Friedman passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2011.

He was 87 years old.

His body simply wore out.

But his spirit will burn brightly forever. 

                         ************ 

      A decade before I met him (in the mid-Seventies), because I regularly attended The Majestic Theatre in Santa Monica, I was acutely aware of his productions, and in particular, the 1964 “gory girlie” called BLOOD FEAST”…that unlocked the zipper of my mind…in many more ways than one!

Coincidentally, the Herschell Gordon Lewis directed production starred my all-time favorite Playboy centerfold…June 1963’s Connie Mason. And while she didn’t bare much at all in the film, my anticipation of seeing what she had so coyly kept away from my eyes in her layout, fueled my frenzy to a fevered pitch.

In 2000, Dave, fully aware of my adoration for Ms. Mason, invited me to a screening of a documentary about him and his cronies at which Connie was making a guest appearance. And while I grinned like a demented Cheshire cat as she signed the yellowing (from age, etc.) centerfold that I laid out before her, and I babbled my dedication and delight…she confided, “You know that it was because you really didn’t see any of me at all.” 

                   ************ 

Within a couple of years of my entering the X-rated industry, one of my activities had become regularly reviewing adult films in a number of adult-themed street papers…including The Hollywood Press…the precursor of the publication that you are holding in your hands. Eventually…and apparently…my reviews became so troublesome, that I was called to appear on the carpet of David F. Friedman’s office on Cordova St. It was 8 in the morning…but he offered me a cigar…similar to the miniature telephone pole that he was brandishing. I politely declined. And then I noticed a poster for “Blood Feast”---along with quite a number of other posters from my mid-Sixties Majestic Theatre movie-going days…and I realized that this portly gentleman had indeed been my “Wizard of Ahhh’s”…and that therefore considerable genuflection was due…for many more reasons than one!

Dave proceeded to mildly scold me for being “too severe a critic”…and sagaciously suggested, “it would be better to promote rather than pillage…since we are a considerably smaller village than the mainstream world.”

I would have been foolish to misunderstand his meaning. And besides…I was anxious to tell him just how important his films had been to me during my Majestic Theatre going past.

We went to lunch.

We became friends.

We went to many more lunches.

And eventually…as my adult entertainment industry activities expanded all the way from actor to activist…with scriptwriting, directing, talent representation, public relations and advertising/marketing included for good measure…most importantly, we became mutual admirers. 

                  ************

And so it was in February 1985, when The X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO) was struggling to bring “truth and honor” to the award giving game---in the fearsome face of Dave’s very powerful but highly suspect Adult Film Association of America (AFAA) award bestowing process---that I showed up on his Cordova St. carpet to plead its case.

It was a two-cigar meeting.

With lunch in the middle. 

But, by the time I staggered (because I inhale anything that I’ve smoked) out of his office, the XRCO had his blessing.

Oh yeah…it might have helped when I told him that he was going to be the first person inducted into the XRCO’s Hall of Fame.

Therefore…as his laughter resonated with volcanic warmth---and he said, “God damn, Billy, never stop being you”---I sensed that a torch was being passed to me that had to burn as brightly honoring the past, as it would have to glow in the present, and that was going to be needed to help illuminate the future.

 

                        end

 

04-07-11                       CINEMA SEEN

                         By William Margold

       It all began with her eyes.

      Although I couldn’t help noticing, thanks to the last vestiges of the setting sun, that she was wearing only what she had been born with under her white dress…it was the mischievous glint radiating from her autumn green orbs that captured a great deal more of my attention.

      It was April 7, 1986…and I was in the presence of a lady who I would name VIPER (for reasons to be explained below), and my life was about to change…forever!

The lithe (5’9’’) redhead announced that she was hungry.

Anxious to please, I took her to the long defunct Ah Fong’s (next to Greenblatt’s) on Sunset Blvd., and during the next two hours, I sat in awe, watching her delicately work her way through quite a number of Chinese dishes, and two bottles of white wine, listening to a considerable portion of her life story.

Raised on the East Coast, she had studied ballet with The American Ballet Theatre. But not achieving the level of performing that she aspired to, she then joined The Marine Corps.

During her six-year stint, she managed to “service” her country more than it was used to, to the extent that she was discharged for “fraternization.”

Back on the East Coast, she went to work…hustling on The Block in Baltimore, and then pleasure providing on Arch Street in Philadelphia. There she met a notorious tattoo artist named Harry Von Groff, and over a nine month period allowed herself to become adorned (from left tit to pierced clit) with a spectacular image of snakes, foliage, and a tiger…a portion of which appears here…as displaying its starting and ending points would most certainly violate this easily accessible news rack publication’s relationship with the community.

And now she was sitting opposite me expressing her desire to perform in the Adult Entertainment Industry for a reason that would sum up her truly remarkable ability to come right to the point, “So I can have sex with 10,000 men at a time rather than just one.”

(That sentiment is dutifully designed and documented here…courtesy of Carnal Comics.)

I hadn’t said very much up to this point, content to listen, and eat, and even drink my fair share of the wine. And of course…I hadn’t seen her infamous body artwork.  But, perhaps bolstered by the wine, I felt compelled to interrupt her, and I cautiously offered, “Your adult industry performing name is going to be Viper.”

Her eyes flashed with the fire of acknowledging something well analyzed, and richly deserving of considerable appreciation. 

And during our walk back to my apartment on DeLongpre Ave. in West Hollywood, when I reached out to hold her tiny left hand, she took it willingly, and she clutched it intensely.

Later that evening I got to see her tattoo, as well as everything else I had already sort of seen through her dress.

But it wasn’t until the third night that we slept together.

That waiting period proved to be the best decision of my life

 During the next couple of days, I took her to see many of my X-Rated industry associates, including World Modeling’s legendary talent agent Jim South, who immediately realized Viper’s potential, and proceeded to book work for her. She expressed her great admiration for Jim, and called him, “a true gentleman.”

For the record…Viper’s first hardcore film appearance was in “White Trash.” It was shot off of Coldwater Canon on a Saturday morning in early May 1986. I mention this because back in 1986, making adult films in California was illegal. And while I was playing football at 1100 Coldwater Canon that morning, I was horrified to watch a number of siren blaring police cars zoom up the street. But my fears were thankfully for naught as Viper returned home later that afternoon with a big grin on her face. She gleefully reported, while luxuriating in a tub of extremely hot water (her routine after every performance), that her first boy-girl scene had been with Tom Byron. And as her eyes grew wide with an expression of amused wonderment, she exclaimed, “He kept calling me ‘Mommy’.”

(Almost all of her credits can be found at www.iafd.com.)

One day, well into our second year of being together, I asked her what she would have done had we slept together the first night we met. Instantaneously she responded, “I would left the next morning. But I sensed that you wanted more from me. And when we didn’t have sex on the second night, I figured that you wanted to be my friend.” At that point, Viper began to cry. I rushed over to hug her. Instead, she extended her tiny left hand, and I clutched it intensely with both of mine. She looked at me with tear-reddened eyes that ate their way deep into my heart, and sobbed, “I’ve haven’t had many friends.”

Hopefully, a few of the shots on this page will reflect that way beyond anything else in our five-year relationship---as well as forever---Viper is the best friend that I’ve ever had.
                        end

 

03-10-11

                         CINEMA SEEN

                             By William Margold

       Although I am relatively content in having picked four out of the six major categories (including Best Director/Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”) correctly in the recently bestowed Academy Award---I feel obligated to discuss those who prevented me from being perfect as well as those who seriously contended (and in two cases…won!)---and many of those who were just taking up space.

This page will also serve to acknowledge a number of the titles in the ridiculously expanded to 10-titles Best Picture category…that was won most deservingly by “The King’s Speech.”

      And, in fact, I will lead off by suggesting that if the Best Picture category had been kept down---or reduced back to 5---then most likely “Winter’s Bone,” ”127 Hours,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “True Grit,” and “The Fighter” would have all been left to settle with the fact(s) that, at least, they had performing nominations.

      However…a few performing nominations came from films that didn’t make the 10. I was truly astounded that the unspectacular nuances of JACKI WEAVER (“Animal Kingdom”) even wound up in the Supporting Actress group. And I was equally unimpressed with what Best Actress nominee MICHELLE WILLIAMS brought to “Blue Valentine.” But Best Actress nominee NICOLE KIDMAN was powerfully (and painfully) understated in “RABBIT HOLE”…and she would have been my Best Actress pick…if it weren’t for my being shattered by Natalie Portman’s (“Black Swan”) tortured twists and turns.

      I suspect that it was as difficult to deny perky HALLIE STEINFELD her Supporting Actress nomination, as it was to challenge JEFF BRIDGES’ Actor nod. But The Coen Brothers’ remake of “True Grit” was truly unnecessary…to such an exasperating point…that I lamentably wound up labeling it “No Western For Young Boys.”

      I found “The Fighter” to be remarkably ordinary. But it did feature a number of admittedly strong performances. And while I preferred what Supporting Actress Amy Adams did with her less showier role, I knew that MELISSA LEO’s worn down but not worn out Matriarch would be victorious in that category. (For the record…I placed my hopes in Helena Bonham Carter’s corner for her sterling support throughout “The King’s Speech.”) And, in what also amounted to a futile gesture, I knew that CHRISTIAN BALE’s punch drunk Pollyanna would be unbeatable in Best Supporting Actor category. But…I really and truly hoped that Geoffrey Rush’s perfect complimenting of Best Actor winner Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech” would be recognized.

      “The Kids Are Alright” (which finally lapsed into a rather annoying and terminally depressing rant) featured a couple of nominated performances: an admirable effort by ANNETTE BENING (Best Actress) and an appropriately anguished Supporting Actor exercise by MARK RUFFALO. But the exclusion of titian-tressed Julianne from both the Actress and Supporting Actress categories, made it genuinely difficult to consider Bening and Ruffalo as serious contenders.

      “127 Hours” was literally a one-man show. And JAMES FRANCO literally pulled it off as best as he could. But the immensely likeable James couldn’t have beaten Colin Firth for Best Actor…even he would have been able to use two arms.

      And finally it’s time to deal with “The Social Network”---a stunningly soulless film that frigidly exposed the malevolent machinations of the creator of Facebook. As Mark Zuckerberg, JESSE EISENBERG (nominated for Best Actor) gives serious rise to just what part of his performance was acting…and what part wasn’t. Personally…I’ve avoided being lured down the Facebook “friend” path…as it appears to me to be a barbed wire treadmill populated by a legion of mean spirited (and for most part, pseudonymous) hamsters. I am neither desperate or bored enough to clutter up my days with the prattle of those who spend their entire lives feeling that they need to be heard when, in fact, they have absolutely nothing to say in the first place. And, in more cases than not, they proceed to take seemingly forever to flatulently prove it.

                          end           

 

02-24-11                         CINEMA SEEN

                             By William Margold

      In that annual riot of cinematic congratulations known as The Academy Awards---wherein I put my own cinematic critiquing abilities on the line by predicting the winners in the six major categories---inevitably there will be at least one (and perhaps even two) categories in which I will suffer ridiculous rage and the inane temptation to toss my TV out of the window.

      Therefore…unless you are one of my way too noisy neighbors…I would strongly suggest that you avoid walking beneath my apartment on Sunday evening, February 27.

      Although the limited number of images on this page should tip you off as to my choices, I will try and provide some suspense by presenting each of the six major categories in the ascending order of my preference, with my pick in each category appearing in CAPITAL LETTERS. However…I will refrain from using all capital letters in my reasoning(s) for my predictions.

 

                      ************

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jacki Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”)

Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”)

Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”)

Amy Adams (“The Fighter”)

HELENA BONHAM CARTER (“The King’s Speech”)

Ms. Bonham Carter’s love for and loyalty to her hapless husband (Colin Firth as King George VI) was a painfully portrayed piece of a perfect puzzle of priceless performers.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone”)

Mark Ruffalo (“The Kids Are All Right”)

Christian Bale (“The Fighter”)

Jeremy Renner (“The Town”)

GEOFFREY RUSH (“The King’s Speech”)

To ignore Rush’s (essentially Mr. Miyagi in English tweeds) tough/tender teachings here as speech therapist to Colin Firth’s King George VI, would be like not acknowledging Patty Duke’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar win as Helen Keller learning from Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan worked her communicating magic (and won the Best Actress Oscar) in 1962’s “The Miracle Worker.”

 

BEST ACTRESS

Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”)

Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”)

Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”)

Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”)

NATALIE PORTMAN (“Black Swan”)

A stunning as well as shattering showcase for Ms. Portman who never missed a step as a brutalized (internally as well as externally) ballet dancer. Her all-consuming role truly frightened me in the same way that Heath Ledger’s Joker did a couple of years ago. 

 

BEST ACTOR

(I did not see Javier Bardem in “Blutiful.” But this category was won the in-in-in-instant that its wi-wi-wi-winner st-st-st-stuttered his fir-fir-fir-first word.)

Jeff Bridges (“True Grit”)

Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”)

James Franco (“127 Hours”)

COLIN FIRTH (“The King’s Speech”)

Guilty of making me cry so much that my eyes burned…Firth (as King George VI) delivered a heroically helpless performance for the ag-ag-ag-ages.

 

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (“True Grit”)

David O’Russell (“The Fighter”)

David Fincher (“The Social Network”)

Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”)

TOM HOOPER (“The King’s Speech”)

Making his movie magnetic from frame one, Mr. Hooper helmed his moving masterpiece---in such a seemingly effortless manner---that they appeared to be destined for each other.

 

BEST PICTURE

“Winter’s Bone”

“Inception”

“True Grit”

“The Kids Are All Right”

“The Fighter”

“The Social Network”

“127 Hours”

“Black Swan”

“Toy Story 3”

“THE KING’S SPEECH”

It would be really great if “Toy Story 3” (my favorite film in 2010, which justifies its artwork on this page) could win---or maybe even tie---with the excellent, emotionally rich elocutionary experiences of  “Speech.” But realizing that miracles are rare…I won’t be doing any TV-tossing when the magnificent “King” is crowned.

 

                             end   

 

01-20-11                        CINEMA SEEN

                          By William Margold 

      As the acclaimed (by virtually anyone worth a damn) highly controversial Historian and proclaimed (by even those not worth a damn) eternally outspoken Patriarch of X…I feel that it’s my duty to alert LAXPRESS readers to the fact that NINA HARTLEY---the Adult Entertainment Industry’s “Bowl of Sunshine”---is having medical problems that has caused a website: (www.giveforward.com/giveitawayfornina) to reach out to all of her fans for financial assistance.

      Therefore…with limited editing and minimal addition…I am offering the bordering on “too much information”--- soulfully created by a fan of Nina’s---sentiment…that is calling attention to that website.

                  **********

      Nina Hartley is seeking funds to cover her recovery from surgery, tentatively scheduled for late January/early February 2011.

Recovery will take 2-4 weeks.

Nina has fibroid tumors in her uterus. They are genetic and not cancer, nor will they turn into cancer. So that’s a blessing right there. However, they are unsightly, and they are starting to cause other, negative side effects. After dealing with them for nearly twenty years, the time has come for a permanent solution. She thought that nearing menopause would cause them to shrink, but they show no signs of doing so. So…surgery is the next step. She’s lucky enough to have medical insurance to cover the cost of the operation. What she needs is money to cover her expenses during recovery.

In her 26 years as perhaps the most beloved adult entertainment actress/activist of all-time…she’s never needed help more.

And she’s never asked for help before. So it’s very hard for her to do so now.

                 **************

My own very highly valued relationship with the perpetually radiant, seemingly tireless (she eagerly “volunteered” for every anti-censorship fundraising event I created for many years) trooper Nina Hartley extends way back to late 1985, when I choose her to be the (X-Rated Critics Organization’s “Heart-On” Girl for its February 1986 event. I remember her very innocently asking me why I had picked her. And with absolute confidence, I told her, “Because you are going to be one of the very best that will ever be.”

By 1989, she had taken over the duties of the XRCO’s Mistress of Ceremonies.

And it was in that capacity, during the XRCO’s 1990 frosty event in the Merry-Go-Round area of the Santa Monica Pier when the ocean wind-chilled-aided temperature sank below freezing, that she persevered, without a whimper, throughout the proceedings, clad in the scantiest of purple outfits.   

In 1991, realizing that she was unparalleled in her awesome ability to create a mutual admiration (and adoration) society between herself and the fans, I humbly asked her to host the first FOXE (The Fans of X-Rated Entertainment) awards.

And finally, when The Legends of Erotica were established in 1994…there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that the very first performer I wanted have inducted would be Nina Hartley.

So it was fitting that during the recent Legends of Erotica inductions in Las Vegas, that I held up one of Protecting Adult Welfare’s bear buckets---featuring a beautifully drawn image of Nina---and told the fan-packed audience that, “One of our very best needs help.”

And it was extremely gratifying that the fans’ thanks for the multitude of molten memories provided by Nina Hartley, resulted in Protecting Adult Welfare being able to donate $333 to her through www.giveforward.com/giveitawayfornina.

Now…it’s your turn! 

                     end                

 

12-30-10                      CINEMA SEEN

                        By William Margold 

      My annual pilgrimage to the city of Las Vegas (which I’ve often referred to as “Greedy Gulch,” “The Mecca of Misery,” and “The Neon Nightmare”) will begin a few days after this column hits the stands.

      And although Protecting Adult Welfare (www.pawfoundation.org) has been very generously donated a 20x20 booth at The AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2011 (www.AdultEntertainmentExpo.com)--- wherein I will attempt (with the greatly appreciated aid of radiant volunteers including spectacular “SuperTanker” Minka, ebullient ebony entity Izzy Charms, human hand warmer Kandi Hart, fearsomely feline Ava Vincent, always unpredictable Anita Cannibal, and the  aroused/anxious newcomer Luna Azul) to raise monies for the non-profit adult industry helpline---my primary purpose for traveling over 300 miles from Los Angeles is to help stage an event called THE LEGENDS OF EROTICA.

      And on Friday evening January 7, The Class of 2011---LISA ANN, JILL KELLY, DYANNA LAUREN, MR. MARCUS, PATTY PLENTY and RayVeness---will be honored during the induction ceremonies inside Showgirl Video located at 631 South Las Vegas Blvd.

      The sextet of X-rated industry notables will cause the roster of THE LEGENDS OF EROTICA (initiated in 1994) to swell to over 90, and I’ve already jotted down close to 20 more deserving additions to deal with over the next few years.

      Particularly noteworthy this time around however will be the taking of some time out of THE LEGENDS OF EROTICA proceedings to honor one of the most important elements of the X-Rated Industry…its FANS.

With the recent passing of the formidable fan Howard Hurley (pictured here receiving his Fan of the Year award during the 1992 FOXE Follies), I realized that an appreciation and acknowledgement of those who derive vicarious thrills from what the erotic performers provide was way overdue. However, common sense made me want to protect the seven others who won FOXE’s Fan of the Year from society’s derision, so I felt listing them by first names only---Andrew, Calvin, Ernie, James, Jay, Joseph, and Munson---would suffice.

But I would be negligent if I didn’t mention a few of the current generation of Super Fans by first name as well: Anthony, Curtis, Eric, Joe, Larry, and a couples of Toms.

I would also be negligent if I didn’t acknowledge another feature of THE LEGENDS OF EROTICA presentations: The Carnal Medal of Honor.

Conceived by Showgirl Video’s owner Raymond Pistol a few years before I surprised him by presenting the first one to him in 1999, it has since become an emblem of esteem for service to the Adult Entertainment Industry way beyond one’s normal duty…and concern.

And with only one exception (truly a severe lapse in judgment on my part in 2002)---for a seemingly endless series of reasons including his obsequious journalistic verbosity and his litany of egregious adult entertainment history errors---the name of the 2002 recipient, who perpetuates a bilious horned toad visage, will be permanently missing from any Carnal Medal of Honor list with which I am involved.

However, it has been the proudest of pleasures to bestow Carnal Medals of Honor upon “Dirty” Bob in 2000 (pictured here in between 2001 recipients John Douglas and Dave Michaels), Dr. Phillip Berman (2003), Christi Lake (2004), Stevi Secret (2005), Anita Cannibal (2007), Summer Haze and Steve Nelson (2008), and Jared Rutter (2009).

For the record…Carnal Medals of Honor were also prepared for Rachel Worth (2006), for Charlie LaTour (2009), and for Dr. X (2010)…but they have yet to be bestowed.

Although there will no Carnal Medal of Honor recipient during the 2011 LEGENDS OF EROTICA…many other well-deserving souls are under serious consideration for future presentations.

Finally, and with the heaviest of hearts, I am concluding this column by announcing that the wall behind the perpetually busy clerk’s counter at Showgirl---which is already emblazoned with the images of those LEGENDS OF EROTICA (including John C. Holmes, Rene Bond and Shauna Grant) who have passed away---will now be sadly enhanced by portraits of Jamie Gillis and John Leslie. 

                         end

 

12-23-10                      CINEMA SEEN

                        by William Margold

 

      Although DEATH (the use of capital letters is a display of respect), and I have a deal that will allow me to be a thorn in the side (and elsewhere) of my enemies until The Detroit Lions win The Super Bowl…it also has the highly unpredictable ability to make me alter my plans when it comes to preparing a Cinema Seen column about one topic, and then having to switch, at the very last moment, to another.

      And so it was with the recent passing of the awesomely gifted Adult Entertainment Legend JOHN LESLIE.

      Of course I honed something to read at his Celebration of Life (held on Wednesday December 15 at The Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City). And I also encouraged many of his Legendary Co-Stars (and Classic Contemporaries) to send me their sentiments…if they weren’t going to be able to attend. However, as the length of time began to wear the audience’s attention span thin, I was unable to read any of their thoughts…so I am presenting them here…in alphabetical order…while saving mine for last. 

TRACEY ADAMS---From the minute I laid eyes on John. I wanted to have a drink sitting in some restaurant in a red leather booth with him and get to know him over a bottle of Red. Not as one comes to “know” another in the sense of the word that make US all famous like rock stars but as John Nuzzo…the quintessence of John Leslie. His class and dignity held us all up in the face of relentless objection and ridicule in the 80’s not by shaking a fist and going newsworthy, but by maintaining an air of pride and elegance in what we were doing through some inherent magnificence he possessed. John came through for me on a couple of occasions. With just one phone call he righted some wrongs that befell me in a manner not unlike many in Italian history that followed the kissing of a gold ring. All the while I felt challenged as an actor working with him, intimidated by his awesome looks, and more or less like a toad in his presence. Then I had the opportunity of a lifetime to be Beauty to his Beast. It was at this time I became aware of a subtler John. The John I sadly never got to have that drink…never really got to know.

LARRY FLYNT---John was a pioneer in the industry. Everyone will most certainly miss him.

GLORIA LEONARD---As part of the original East Coast talent pool back in the mid-late 70’s---before Blue Movies headed to the Golden West---John and I spent considerable time together on a number of movie sets---yes, gang---movies, not videos---perhaps some of you can remember that far back. What a man, what a man, what a man! It wasn’t just his dazzling good looks combined with THOSE eyes…it was his remarkable intelligence, outrageous sense of humor, and considerate compassion that I remember most. I’d seen some of his fine art, sampled some of his culinary creations, and listened to him wail on the harmonica. Talk about your Renaissance man---way before the term was widely used. John was the real deal…always full of life and lust. I can remember a time in the mid-80’s when I was recovering from surgery and John came to see me. Out of the blue, he remarked that he though I had “young eyes.” It wasn’t until sometime later that I came to understand his observation. And if indeed the eyes are the mirrors to our souls. I will always and forever feel connected to one of the most incredible men I had the good fortune to cross paths with. Rest in peace, beautiful John.  

SEKA---First and foremost John was interesting, handsome, strange, a force to be reckoned with. At times difficult to be with, around and understood…he knew what he wanted, how he wanted it, and would not settle for anything less. He will always be revered and forever missed. 

SERENA---John was the one that was a pleasure to work with in the 1970’s when we both were hired to act. He was a Bay Area guy, very handsome with olive skin and a tight butt. The Italian stud…he was always reliable, always ready with a hard-on when required, and always a complete professional. I am in shock that he is gone. Together we made some good movies in The Golden Era of Porn. Which means that he is in Heaven. 

RANDY WEST---John was one of the most talented guys we ever had in the business, both in front of and behind the camera. He was a class act and always professional, which is not a common trait in the entertainment business. He was demanding, but also had a good sense of humor. When you worked with John, you knew that you were working with a real actor, which would always make your performance better. That’s what real actors do. And he was also just as talented, if not more so, as a musician. We’ll miss you, John. You’re gone too soon. But you didn’t get cheated. You had a hell of a life and saw and did it all. And you got lucky enough to find a beautiful, smart and loving wife as well. Now I’m getting, you bastard. Have a good journey my friend. And may your next life be as interesting as this one was. God bless, brother.  

      Quickly adapting to the fact that none of the above was going to be heard, I used the following to encourage any and all performers in attendance from John’s early days to join me on the stage for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. And while they struggled with their sorrows as well as their physical depreciations to join me, I, feeling myself starting to shake under tremendous emotional strain, bellowed out: I’ve labeled this evening THE LAST RENDEZVOUS…in the realization that carnal cinema contemporaries---who I am immensely proud to be a member---of the gentleman whom we are honoring here---was one of Explicit Erotic Entertainment’s MOUNTAIN MEN. During the 1970’s, we seized and shattered society’s sexual sensibilities as scaled mammoth mammaries, ventured deep into captivating caves of copulation, and navigated up furious rivers of flesh. And in the pulsating process…we created The Golden Age of X. And without a doubt…the most unique of our lusty legion was a magnetic, mesmerizing monument of masculinity named JOHN LESLIE. By now, confident that John’s multi-faceted adult industry credits---and his remarkable talents as a musician, artist, and culinary master have all been reverently acknowledged---I am content to conclude my homage by offering the following image for your minds to digest: JOHN LESLIE is the only man I’ve ever met that could chard the Venus De Milo into giving him a hand job. 

                             end

 

11-18-10                          CINEMA SEEN

                           By William Margold

       It was the summer of 1958, and I was nervously pacing about the patchy grass and dirt that approximated right field of the baseball area at Vista Del Mar, a home for children of the Jewish faith with various sociological problems in Culver City.

       I was a gangly 14 year old, and I was foolishly trying to “fit in”…so, although nicknamed “Fours”---because I wore heavy glasses with exceptionally thick lenses---and being fully aware that my baseball playing skills were a pathetic combination of uncoordinated hand and eye activity that reduced fielding a ball (hitting one was whole other nightmare) to a state of genuine panic, I tried to look cool by neurotically pounding into the well worn leather glove on my left hand with my right hand that was rapidly turning a deathly color of white because I had been keeping it tightly clenched for way too long.

       At the plate, the batter was busy fouling off a series of pitches. Then he connected with a mighty thwack, and I shuddered as the softball rose high into the bright blue summer sky. I knew my team was now watching me. And as the forces of gravity started to pull at the ominous looking spheroid and it began to hurtle back down to the piece of earth that I was standing on…terror coursed through my sensibilities!

      At this point…I will leave you (hopefully) dangling in suspense…so that I (and my pal, the redoubtable Joey “Speedy” Alkes) can deal with the reason that this column exists: JEWS AND BASEBALL: AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY---a documentary (from Udy Epstein’s Seventh Art Releasing) that opens on Friday, November 19 at Laemmle’s Music Hall (9056 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills), and Laemmle’s Town Center (17200 Ventura Blvd. in Encino).

      And since Joey’s (who lists himself as a “little post World War Two kid second baseman”) effusions far surpass my thoughts about the empathically (obviously!) educational Peter Miller directed production to the warm extent that he will sending his Dad a copy for Chanukah…I’ll turn the page over to him…and his richly reflective images.

      One of my favorite memories as a child was my father’s 9-inch screened piece of 4-foot furniture that would broadcast crazy little men running around a diamond-shaped trail after hitting a ball amidst a flurry of snow we called “reception” in the mid-20th Century. Baseball seemed to consistently tantalize and delight my dad. It was a break from the Holocaust/WWII veteran chip on his shoulder.

I also recognize today, what I didn’t as a kid, that I was uniquely blessed as one of the “chosen people.” Let’s face it, in American baseball lore, being a New York Yankees fan truly does make you one of baseball’s “chosen people”…if I may? Unfortunately, my mother’s side of the family was almost all avid Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants fans. The arguments over the dinner table were Talmudic debates.

Baseball introduced me to the paradox of life. Here I was a “to be buried in my Yankees jersey young man”---but my favorite ballplayer (for many years) was Sandy Koufax of the hated Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. Talk about massive amounts of Yiddish angst.

Therefore I understood completely when Rabbi Albrecht states that one of her first Jewish baseball heroes was Jackie Robinson, “because the iconic Jewish star ballplayer Hank Greenberg was to later say that for all the harassment he took as a Jew in Major League Baseball, it did not compare to the abuse Jackie had to suffer through.”

(Besides pictures of Los Angeles Dodgers Sandy Koufax and Detroit Tiger Hank Greenberg, this page is graced with shots of Cleveland Indian Al Rosen, Boston Red Sox Kevin Youkilis, and baseball’s first designated {as in “chosen?”} hitter, New York Yankee Ron Blomberg.)

And now it’s time to return to my moment of reckoning in right field. While trying to shield my eyes from the glaring sun with my right hand, I forlornly raised my gloved left hand in the desperate hope that the ball, seemingly making the sound of a meteor as it descended upon me from above, would somehow manage to land where it should. But as fate would so fittingly have it (perhaps because I had perpetually failed Hebrew School, and was, in fact, never Bar Mitzvah’d)…the demonic object somehow found its way between my upraised hands and smacked me right between the eyes, breaking my glasses, and knocking me down on the ground…as well as out of playing baseball ever again.

But, very much like Joey, I had already “chosen” to be a New York Yankees fan…and have been playing baseball vicariously through them ever since.

                         end        

 

09-16-10                          CINEMA SEEN

                            By William Margold 

      Although the viewing circumstances (Arclight’s pristine Cinerama Dome in Hollywood) were about as far away from the seedy theaters of my younger film-going daze---wherein caution and commonsense were abandoned so that I could roll in the cinematic carrion that was regularly regurgitated onto the decaying screens in downtown Los Angeles well over 40 years ago---experiencing Robert Rodriguez’s maniacal MACHETE brought back lots of bad---as in being real good---movie-going memories.

      From my favorite vantage point (Row Z Seat 30), which I insured reserving by arriving early enough on the Sunday before Labor Day matinee screening, I was able to watch the modest crowd enter the massive auditorium. They were a combination of boisterous young adults eagerly looking for some cheap thrills, and hunched over middle-aged folks seeking a couple of hours of escape from their routine lives.

      Although teasingly lured by the inescapable, always-freshly-exploded odor of the Dome’s delicious popcorn, I resisted the temptation to rush down and buy a cylindrical container of the delicately oiled and salted concession stand staple. Instead, I opted to look around, and in particular, at the ceiling. I felt a twinge of reflective sadness in the realization that almost 50 years ago, Dennis, my very best teenage friend (who passed away in 2004), had in fact, worked as a lathe and plasterer on the original building that is now the landmark piece of architecture for the very edifice in which the lights were now starting to dim.

      And as MACHETE began to furiously flicker onto the massive screen, and the audience’s expectations became audibly palpable, I smiled soulfully in the knowledge that if Dennis were still alive…he would have most certainly been sitting right beside me prepared to wallow in the bombastic burritos, the chorizo con carnage, and the frenetic frijoles that were about to be ladled out…because that’s a great part of what being very best teenage friends is all about.

      Breech-birthed from a trailer that was part of 2007’s horrendously uneven “Grindhouse”---a collaboration between Rodriquez (whose “Planet Terror” portion was a perverse pleasure) and his sycophantic associate Quentin Tarantino (whose “Death Proof” was an egregious embarrassment), MACHETE unleashes the appropriately specious talents of monosyllabic Danny Trejo (a leatherette version of Mickey Rourke) as a “take no prisoners” man who would prefer to cut a hand off…rather than shake it.

      Pitted against the mean-spirited (anti-immigration) machinations of Robert DeNiro and Steven Seagal (as well as Don Johnson and Jeff Fahey, plus gory make-up legend Tom Savini, whose mincingly evil character’s fate is never realized)…but then I guess that’s why there will most certainly be an “unrated” DVD “Director’s Cut” version…Trejo hacks his way through a virtual slaughterhouse of expendable extras.

      Aiding him, until he’s crucified (that scene unleashed the loudest roars of shocked approval from the very appreciative audience), is Cheech Marin. And “a-bedding” him are Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan (fashioning a nun’s habit), and a genuinely compelling Michelle Rodriguez. All three ladies elicited the appropriate responses from the audience as well…for various vicarious reasons.

      And once the film ended, I stayed to listen to the audience applaud, and then to hear them burble their glee as they departed, tragically aware however of the fact that many of them would be forced by the lifestyles that they have chosen, to deny having ever seen MACHETE as soon as they were 100 yards away from the theater. 

But I, anxious to share my demented delight with the affable staff of the always-reliable (and very generous) Hollywood Book & Poster Co. (6562 Hollywood Blvd.), rushed over to the store to obtain the images that illuminate this page.

And then I rushed home to phone a good friend of mine named Steve, who is a Michelle Rodriguez “aficionado”…and left a message advising him how good his lady was in the film, and that he should rush right out and see it…because that’s a great part of what being good adult friends is all about.

                      end 

 

 

08-05-10                        CINEMA SEEN

                         By William Margold

 

          RELIGION.

          POLITICS.

SEX.

          MOVIES.

          Which of the above four topics really doesn’t fit when it comes to igniting conversations that might end in finger-pointing, name calling and derogatory inferences…and maybe even the shattering of friendships?

          Well…I guess that I should clearly state my position in the first three areas…just in case some “friends” would like to bail out early.

          RELIGION: When an interviewer tried to catch me off-guard by asking if I believed in God…I quickly responded, “The Detroit Lions haven’t won The Super Bowl.”

          POLITICS: “Those who live here…should speak here!”

          SEX: “Talking about it means that you haven’t had enough of it.”  

          MOVIES: Emperor, I mean, director Christopher (“Wears No Clothes”) Nolan’s INCEPTION (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) is incredibly insipid and immensely intolerable. Domineeringly (and deceptively) designed to lure in viewers (and critics) who are “easily overwhelmed”…and who then refuse to admit that what is incomprehensible to them can also be insufferably devoid of entertainment…”Inception” made me feel like I was a marble trapped inside a tin can the size of The Grand Canyon.

          But I am getting a little bit ahead of myself here...as I really wouldn’t be subjecting you to the semi-seriousness of this page, if it weren’t for the fact that a photographer “friend” named Dave, decided to tritely taunt me with his unsolicited sermon about “Inception”: “Within the madness and chaos lies…total logic. Best film of the year---maybe decade.”

          To which I responded: “Told the person I went to see it with (and who walked out of it) that you would be “easily overwhelmed” (etc.), and that I was going to excoriate it. In fact…I had to go see not one, but two, films the next day to try and get the bad taste of Nolan’s nothingness out of my mind.”

          (For the record…the two films were “Knight and Day” and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”…both of which will be discussed next week.)

          To which he responded: “I can see why he walked out. The man only eats pizza and burgers. I knew that you would hate it. The most brilliant and intelligent film of the decade, so many beautiful levels of writing and filmmaking.”

          And, now obviously trying to tread to water in a life preserver made of toilet paper, he then quickly followed up with: “That came off wrong, I just meant that ‘man cannot live on burgers and pizza alone’, but has to take a trip to the international buffet once in awhile.” And (uncomfortably combining his futility and ignorance): “I know you look for good films to write a bad review and use multiple words with the first letter of the title of the film, that’s the kitch (btw: it’s kitsch, kid), but do you ever really look at the whole of the film with multiple levels…which, for this film, was figurative, but in essence, much more.”

And finally, mired in muddlement, “That’s actually an interesting analogy (‘marble trapped in a tin can the size of The Grand Canyon’) since it shows we are but a small part of everything. Oh, and watching those two films to get the ‘bad taste’ out is like having a paper-cut and instead of applying medicine, throw on salt and alcohol and then lit a match to it. How could have that been better?”

          To which I responded: “I hope that you realize your dreams/delusions will be worked into my “Inception” column. Stick to photography…and leave the art of writing to those who can paint pictures with words.”

          And if “Inception” were worthy of such painting, even in the cheapest watercolors, I would be slathering on the imagery with bold brushstrokes that would make tapestries and rainbows jealous.

But tragically…all “Inception” does is tediously transform the potentially wondrous world of dreaming into a bad and bombastically boring cinematic experience.

                               end 

 

07-29-10                          CINEMA SEEN

                           By William Margold

 

      I still like to think of myself as an ornery 12 year old…dedicated to the preservation of that period of my life--- before the torturous trials of adolescence and eventually the taxing tribulations of being an adult---overwhelmed the last supposedly carefree vestiges of my childhood.

Paradoxically however, I spent the final three months of my 12th year in Los Angeles’ Central Juvenile Hall.

But the one “childhood” thing that I can’t really remember before I turned 13 (in 1956), was if I ever had a favorite toy.

      Because my first 12 years was an unsettling road show adventure that led from being born in Washington D.C. (in 1943) to being whisked off to Hawaii (in 1947, after my father died) only to return to California (in 1948) to begin a march through numerous military and private boarding schools (all of which I ran away from) pockmarked by futile attempts to live with my mother in various parts of Santa Monica, I never was able to keep any plaything long enough to consider “treasuring it.” In fact, even when I was living at home, I spent as much time as possible staying away by maximizing every facet of my local beaches and numerous playgrounds. Indicative of this is that only items I have left from those years are a dwindling collection of far from cuddly marbles as well as some scars on the upper half of my right thumb from being pretty damn good at making my shots count.

      (BTW: they were “dwindled” down by 50 a few years ago, when I bestowed that amount upon a dear friend when she celebrated a numerically coinciding birthday event…just in case, she had lost a few of hers…mentally!)

      Therefore, I strongly suspect that the emotionally introspective as well as soul enriching effect that director Lee Unkrich’s exhilarating TOY STORY 3 (wisely and warmly written by Michael Arndt) had on me was laced with envy for the characters (toy as well as human) as they were able to act out their dreams, provide mutual comfort, and more importantly, create eternal bonds fused by memories, that I never had the chance to experience.

      I also strongly suspect that that’s the reason---well into my sixth decade of existence---I am word processing this column surrounded, and being closely observed by, a smothering amount of teddy bears. Plus…there are MANY more wide-eyed rotund woolies on the way, as, due to an economically unsettling situation of adulthood, I have just had to clean out my Protecting Adult Welfare office.

      And while not wanting to spoil any of your personal viewing pleasure during the first great film of this new decade (and certainly the first of this year to be considered worthy of a Best Film nomination), I found it dementedly delightful that the villain of TOY STORY 3 is a cane wielding, glad-handing crimson hewed ursine that most certainly bears close attention. 

                               end

 

CINEMA SEEN - "Memorial Daze"
By William Margold

     The rich and wonderful way that my page has twisted and turned since I started creating it for THE HOLLYWOOD PRESS (way back in the late summer of 1972), that quite often I have been tempted to re-title my column "Splices of Life."
     Faithful readers who have followed my work into THE LAXPRESS would be hard pressed to deny the fact(s) that in many cases, what I have always been doing is---with an ego substantiated by the fact(s) that I have led a remarkably fascinating and complex life---not-so-subtly styling my movie reviews as my auto-amazing-and- arousing-biography.
     Therefore...this Memorial Day issue based page shouldn’t really come as a surprise, as it is filled with the memories of four recently deceased individuals (presented in the order that they made their impact on me), who each, in his own very unique way, contributed to making my own life even more memorable.
     Indeed...they were very special "Splices of Life."
     
     FESS PARKER---I first spotted him as a guitar-strumming (and humming) recruit in 1954’s "Battle Cry"---the soulfully savage saga of the United States Marines activities during the Pacific campaign in World War II. (Leon Uris’ book---much more than the movie---would become my very sincere inspiration for wanting to be a Marine. But I was denied enlistment when I turned 17 because of my record of "incorrigibility" and my time spent in Los Angeles’ Central Juvenile Hall in 1956.) However...it was as Davy Crockett in late 1955 on TV’s Walt Disney series, that Fess made his indelible impact on me, when his heroic yet humble character proceeded to go down swinging Old Betsy at The Alamo. I was a pretty naïve 12 year old, enduring the harrowing image in a grainy black-and-white while sitting on the floor of the dormitory-styled house of a fancy prep school in Harrison, New York, and it was my first experience with dealing with the death of a person (character) that I had come to idolize. And while I didn’t don a coonskin cap and style a buckskin outfit, I sang along with his theme song (most likely to the ear-torturing horror of every dog in the neighborhood), and I was completely shattered by his demise.
     
     SAM MENNING---A remarkable gentleman who befriended me in 1973, when I began managing Reb: Sunset International, a Nude Theatrical Modeling Agency located at 6912 Hollywood Blvd. Sam was an adult entertainment industry photographer whose career, after he was discharged from the Merchant Marines, dated back to the early Fifties. By the time I began modeling for him in countless adult shoots of varying sexual explicitness, Sam had developed the incredible ability to chain smoke, drink inordinate amounts of beer, load, focus, shoot and unload and then reload a couple of still cameras, while carrying on a reasonably coherent conversation...all at the same time! Leaving the adult industry in the late Eighties, Sam capitalized on being able to "look even older than he was" and appeared in many mainstream movies including "Twins," "Road House, " and "Life Stinks, and such TV series as "Married With Children," "Malcolm in the Middle," and was a regular on "My Name is Earl." Plus...he was cast in numerous commercials. And whenever I spotted him, I was thrilled to point him out and to be able to exclaim that he was my friend.
     
     JAMIE GILLIS---The legendary X-rated ("The Opening of Misty Beethoven," "Through The Looking Glass," "Lust at First Bite") actor was my idol. He had already made quite a name for himself in New York when I met him in early 1974. He was Sam Menning’s favorite male model. In the article about his passing for my "Those Were The Lays" series for SWANK, I called him "The Darkest Knight" and led off the painfully etched piece with "If you were to put pubic hair around a light socket, Jamie Gillis would immediately stick his dick in it." And I’m not at all hesitant to admit that if I really knew what to do with my own dick, I would have been honored to play with Jamie’s. But my legend of being exceptionally clumsy as well as brutally inept, precluded the opportunity to eat what I’m sure would have been considerably more than just my words.
     
     PETER GRAVES---Although I had caddied for the friendly fellow during the early 1960’s at The Riviera Country Club, it was almost two decades later than he secured his place in my memory banks. He was very pleasant, and he always paid me more than I expected. Even better...he graciously saw to it that I was well taken care of (to the extent of two hot dogs slathered with mustard, relish, and onions plus a large grape soda, after the eighth hole, and again (if he sensed my stomach could handle it), the thirteenth hole. But it was as the straight-faced but hardly strait-laced pilot in 1980’s "Airplane" that he caused me to laugh so hard that I genuinely feared my bladder would betray me during a press screening at Paramount Studios. And that would have been a memory that I would still be living down to this day.
     end
     NOTE: Originally published in LA Xpress, May 27, 2010 issue.

[/journal] permanent link

04-02-09

 

                       CINEMA SEEN

                         By William Margold

 

     

      A copulating confluence of events spanning over 30 years of my life will be coming full circle when AMERICAN SWING opens on Friday April 3 at Laemmle’s Sunset (8000 Sunset Blvd.).

      Matthew Kaufman’s and Jon Hart’s broadly amusing little documentary about New York’s most notorious swing club during the late 1970’s---Plato’s Retreat---and the lusty life and testicular times of its creator---Larry Levenson---made me sit up and take notice, if for no other reason than in clips from 1979’s “Plato’s The Movie” (shot in Hollywood) that Kaufman and Hart use to “flesh out” their production, I appear, in almost all of my glory, as Roger, the “blue-ward-robed” manager of the infamous swing club.

      (In fact, because of the limited images from the AMERICAN SWING press kit, some of the artwork---including me in my blue bathrobe---on this page is from “Plato’s The Movie.”)

      But I am getting way ahead of my tail.

      Back in the early 1970’s, when I was just starting to get my feet (etc.) wet in the Adult Entertainment Business, I was introduced to the warm and writhing world of swinging by the legendary adult filmmaker (and very dear friend) Titus Moody. One balmy evening in the fall of 1973, Titus brought me to a swing house known as Chris and Flora’s in Sherman Oaks, and then wandered off with the first friendly lady that came his way. Within a few minutes an aggressive redhead reached out, and not for my hand, and led me off to a corner of the living room, where a comfortable couch became our passion pit…until our passion was pitted. Then I was encouraged to go off and find “more passion partners.”  Eventually I found myself in a dimly lit area, wallowing in a massive hot tub, replete with mountains of bubbles, partaking of whatever literally fell into my lap. And to this day, I still think that there was something four footed and remarkably wooly in the hot tub that might also have played “bare bumper tag” with me that evening.

      My “Swinging Saturdays” segued into “Stumbling Sundays” as I was playing (with very little left in my legs) in a football league during that period, and I opted out of the orgy scene (although I did keep a few intimate relationships on the side), because I was getting more than enough action making X-rated films. Which eventually led to my being cast as the lead opposite Seka and Lisa DeLeeuw in the hardcore feature film look at what was supposedly going on in New York’s Plato’s Retreat. Shot in late November 1979, at what was called Plato’s Retreat West (on Ivar in Hollywood), the production took six days, with everyone taking Thanksgiving Day off to celebrate the holiday, which provided me with the chance to watch my beloved Detroit Lions win their only other game that season. And of course I returned to the set, with renewed sexual vigor (Lions victories have always had that effect on me) and proceeded to bang my way through quite a number of scenes…on camera…as well as off.

      In 1981, the garrulous Al Goldstein, a perpetual guest at Plato’s Retreat during its brief heyday, and who had championed Larry Levenson on the pages of Screw Magazine, (and who appears throughout AMERICAN SWING) asked me if I thought that I would be able to “knock off more women than Larry” over the period of an evening. In fact, Al was willing to bet on me against “The Baron of Balling.” I was tempted. But then I thought about it with the head above my shoulders, and not wanting to squander whatever the magic was that made me able “to get up, get in, get out and get off” in front of the camera on an evening of meaningless sex, I declined.

      I forgot all about Plato’s and Larry Levenson until the spring of 1999, when while visiting New York for a convention called EROTICA USA at the Jacob Javits Center, I was befriended by a bundle of investigative reporting energy named Jon Hart. He told me that he was in the process of interviewing Larry, and that he was eventually going to make a documentary profiling him and his club and the era that allowed them both to proliferate. I wished him well, and basically forgot about his project until recently, when word of AMERICAN SWING (www.magpictures.com) came bubbling up from the depths of life’s very own massive hot tub.

      At first, my DVD player, and even my computer’s DVD player, did not take to the screener that I was sent. But from I could see in the surprisingly (and delightfully) explicit to a pretty fine pulsating pubic point, what Hart and Kaufman, utilizing a crazy quilt of evocative interviews, had come up with was a non-judgmental look at an innocent nebbish named Larry Levenson, who decided to bring swinging out of the suburban bedrooms, and for a brief steamy and sweaty moment, elevate it into the mainstream---wherein sex was guiltlessly transformed into the three letter word: FUN.

 

                              end      

CINEMA SEEN - "A Noble Enterprise"
By William Margold

     Bandit was an enormous black-and-white cat.
     The formidable feline waddled into my life in 1964, and spent over six years providing me with numerous memories...mostly having to do with his seemingly bottomless pit of an appetite for anything that I or my roommates at a tree house like apartment on Second Street just off Montana Avenue in Santa Monica were eating. Indeed---his uncanny ability to tempt the fates of the roaring flames of our oven’s broiler (the door of which fell off and was never replaced)--- and deftly extricate a hot dog, a chicken thigh...or even a small t-bone steak...and then find a secluded hiding place behind one of the many holes that led to the rafters behind our walls to polish it off, were the stuff of legend laced with laughter.
     And anything, including sour cream and chive stuffed baked potatoes, pieces of bacon, and even pieces of butter soaked and maple syrup drenched French toast, placed on the kitchen table was always fair game.
     Finally, if our meals did manage to survive long enough to be carried into the living room, Bandit was always in position for that opportune moment when one of us was distracted, and then he would grab our most delectable looking item, and head toward sanctuary in the rafters.
     I guess that it was fitting then that early one eerily cold and foggy morning in 1970, I found Bandit dead---his massive head immersed in the trough-sized porcelain food bowl that he would converge upon regularly, and literally protect with his enormous paws while he voraciously devoured his own daily ration of kibble, pausing only to growl and clutch it even tighter if someone ventured too close---apparently the victim of a heart attack.
     However...all of Bandit’s eating escapades pale into comparison to the cool September evening in 1966, when he decided to join a couple of us just as the first episode of a new TV show on NBC called "Star Trek" was about to come on. Eyeing the big black metal box that was our Admiral television, and realizing that it would be nice and warm if he could figure out a way to jump up and sprawl out on top of it, Bandit began to prance about at its base like an anxious athlete...taking in modulated amounts of air before hunching as low to the ground as his rotundity would allow...as he tensed up for the leap.
     Then, expelling a grunt that sounded like a meow mixed with thunder, he propelled himself upwards, his claws scraping hideously against the metal side of the set, and landed on top of the box with a thud, positioning himself so that a couple of his oven mitten sized paws and his bushy tail hung over the edge of the set, thus managing to obliterate a considerable portion of the flickering screen in the process.
     And that’s how "Star Trek" (starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock) along with a crew of special supporting players "enter-prised" its way into my life. And through the three years of the original TV series...and many films (concluding with a final "full regular cast sign-off" in 1991’s "The Undiscovered Country")...they would become iconic as well as comforting presences.
     Thankfully...I didn’t have to contend with any furry distractions during my first viewing of J.J. Abrams’ magnificent STAR TREK...the film that I have anointed as not only the Best Film of 2009...but also as my Favorite Film of the last decade. And after three more visits to what Master Abrams has wrought, my passion for the production only continues to magnify in its appreciation of the fact that I am very much looking forward to watching it again...and again!
     Resonating with the glorious vibrancy of friendship, loyalty and honor, the early adventures of Kirk (an excellent Chris Pine) and Spock (an evocative Zachary Quinto) abroad the U.S.S. Enterprise, along with a new crew of familiar characters (particularly enjoyable is Karl Urban as Medical Officer Leonard "Bones" McCoy), made me feel like the torch that the series creator Gene Roddenberry ignited back in 1966, had been handed over seamlessly, and that while "Space (may well be)...the Final Frontier"...the future bodes well for all involved in this new enterprise...on both sides of the screen.
     Only problem is that it’s going to be awfully difficult for my current cat companion, Samson---although nowhere near the size of Bandit---to figure out to how to lie on top of a plasma TV set.      end
     NOTE: Originally published in LA Xpress, April 1, 2010, issue.

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CINEMA SEEN - "Oscarizing 2010"
By William Margold

    That I take the predicting of Oscar winners in the six major categories (Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Film) way too seriously should strongly suggest to you that my sanity is highly suspect. Nevertheless, my annual prognosticating of The Academy Awards (set for 5pm on Sunday afternoon March 7 on ABC), is a ritual long ago established (in fact, dating all the way back to the mid-1950’s), and despite momentary disappointments, when one of my picks is off-target---I have invariably gotten more many more right than wrong--- sometimes even surprising myself in the process.
    And so it is I that enter into this year’s fray, comfortable in the knowledge that after decades of analyzing movies, my choices are always a thoroughly thought out combination of insight, instinct and intuition that admittedly, every once in awhile, has been known to veer toward insanity...or something like that.
    
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS---Among the performing categories, this is the easiest one to predict. Neither Vera Farmiga or Anna Kendrick were particularly special in "Up in the Air"...and even if they were, they fall victim to the "balancing each other out" syndrome. Maggie Gyllenhaal appeared to be an undeveloped afterthought in "Crazy Heart." And Penelope Cruz was perky but not particularly powerful in "Nine." No matter...because MO’NIQUE was devastating as the personification of misery and frustration in the miserable viewing experience called "Precious."
    
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR---A much more difficult category to figure out because history may well get in the way of common sense. Quickly eliminating a not creepy enough Stanley Tucci ("The Lovely Bones") and a bland Matt Damon ("Invictus"), I was genuinely moved by Woody Harrelson’s tortured bearer of bad news in "The Messenger" and admired Christopher Plummer’s bravado and even felt some of his anguish as Tolstoy in "The Last Station." However Christoph Waltz’s engagingly evil Colonel Klinky Nazi antics throughout Quentin Tarantino’s tedious "Inglorious Basterds" is the obvious "best", if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t think that anyone has ever won an Oscar for playing a member of the Third Reich. So...I’m going to play the "being rewarded for many years of service/strong screen presence" game here (think James Coburn and Alan Arkin), and pick CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER.
    
    BEST ACTRESS---Helen Mirren ("The Last Station"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education" and Gabourney Sidibe ("Precious") are simply filler here. I found Sandra Bullock, in the remarkably unmoving "The Blind Side" to be an annoying, very pale carbon copy of Julia Roberts’ Erin Brockovich effort. Luminously overshadowing everyone in this category is MERYL STREEP who quite amusingly (and achingly) consumed the role of Julia Child ("Julie and Julia"), and then served her up delectably...scene after scene after scene. Or perhaps I should say..."dish after dish after dish."
    
    BEST ACTOR---The weakest category of all. Jeremy Renner was way too enigmatic in "The Hurt Locker." Morgan Freeman was way too noble in "Invictus" (which I wound up calling "Inflictus"). The immensely likeable George Clooney appeared to be playing the immensely likeable George Clooney quite adequately, but not particularly memorably throughout "Up in the Air." Colin Firth’s semi-fastidious suffering through "A Single Man" would be my pick, but for the sake of making my record look good...I must predict the way over due to be honored JEFF BRIDGES as the self-battered but not completely beaten country singing warrior in the emotionally tone deaf "Crazy Heart."
    
    BEST DIRECTOR---It’s called "dancing with the one who brought you" as Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds"), Lee Daniels ("Precious") and Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") all pale (and/or pall) in comparison to what JAMES CAMERON wrought with his monumentally magical "Avatar." When Michelle Rodriquez (a feisty character in the film) says "You should see the look on your faces" to a couple of her co-stars as they discover the spectacular rainbow-colored world of Pandora for the first time, I felt like she was directing that line to me, because I could feel my face absolutely glowing in wonderment over what JAMES CAMERON (whose picture is incorporated into a shot from his movie) created.
    
    BEST FILM--- In this ridiculously bloated/over-expanded to ten titles category that I called "Pandora and the Nine Dwarfs" in last week’s column, no other film but AVATAR should be anointed. But to leave no turn un-stoned, I will acknowledge all the sacrificial lambs that AVATAR will slaughter in ascending (from worst upwards) order of the minimal indelibility they had on my mind: "An Education" "District 9" "The Blind Side" "Inglorious Basterds" "The Hurt Locker" "Precious" "A Serious Man" "Up" and "Up in the Air." And as mentioned last week, J.J. Abrams’ "Star Trek" (to be discussed next week) was my favorite film of the past decade. But I must admit to feeling a certain amount of relief that it wasn’t even nominated in the Best Film group, as I’m sure it would have saddened me greatly when it wound up losing to AVATAR.
     end
     NOTE: Originally published in LA Xpress, March 4, 2010, issue.

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CINEMA SEEN - "Pandora and the Nine Dwarves"
By William Margold

     Whenever I write a column worthy enough to be rolled over to my website (www.billmargold.com), Jay Bee...my greatly appreciated Guam-based web master...insists that I give it a headline/title. Therefore, since I’d like very much for this column to have a life after its current LAXPRESS run...it’s going to be called "Pandora and the Nine Dwarfs."
     In what appears to be a desperate attempt by those in charge of The Academy Awards to b-r-o-a-d-e-n the appeal of the Best Picture Oscar by expanding that category to 10 nominees--- almost everything went wrong to the extent that with the exception of James Cameron’s competition annihilating, awesomely "Pandorable" AVATAR, and perhaps two or three other titles---there really aren’t that many valid Best Picture contenders among the rest of the nine. And with the egregious exclusions of the magnificent STAR TREK, the joyful JULIE AND JULIA, and the enchanting (500) DAYS OF SUMMER from the grotesquely overstuffed list, plus the inane inclusion (since it was also nominated for Best Animated Feature) of the admittedly enjoyable UP, further accentuating the flatulent double-fisted folly, the whole damn thing strongly resembles "a cinematic cluster copulation."
     However, even though they were seemingly dumbly dealt, I’ve got to play the couple of mangled hands of mostly forgettable Best Film nominee cards out.
     Thankfully however, at least in the case of PRECIOUS, I am blessed with the following sentiments from Cinema Seen contributor Pam Jones. Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire, the raunchy, raw movie, starring Gabourey Sidibe as Clareece "Precious" Jones as an overweight illiterate black 16 year old in Harlem with one child (and close to giving birth to her second) and Mo’Nique as her mother will indeed capture your attention, and maybe even scar your brain tissue. I only wish that the movie didn’t look so cheap. But maybe it needed to be like that to put that extra edge on the film. As for my own thoughts about the dismal film, which makes a very strong for mandatory birth control, other than acknowledging Mo’Nique’s devastating performance, I don’t think that it’s any accident that the words "precious" and "hopeless" both have eight letters.
     I could spend the rest of this column burbling about the wonders of AVATAR, but I’ve still got eight other titles to discuss (four of which were handled in previous issues). UP was a nice little animated movie, although, as previously noted, it has absolutely no business taking "up" space here. DISTRICT 9 eventually became tedious in its attempt to be ironic. THE HURT LOCKER failed to detonate any emotional response from me...except yawning. And Quentin Tarantino’s ridiculous INGLORIOUS BASTERDS was simply a ponderously imitative travesty.
     Joining "District 9" as two other movies with virtually no reason whatsoever to be in the Best Film category are the emotionally vacant AN EDUCATION and the uncomfortably cloying THE BLIND SIDE. On one hand, I couldn’t help thinking about the trouble I’d get into if I were to frolic about with an underage girl, as the activities within "An Education" unraveled, and yet there was nary an iota of outrage evident by anyone in the film. And on the other hand, although based on fact, the simple witted fairytale nonsense of "The Blind Side" (poor black football player gets adopted by a well to do white family, and even winds up as a Baltimore Raven) caused me to have sardonic visions of such a storyline being recklessly played out many more times...with disastrous results.
     Of all the titles being discussed here ...only Jason Reitman’s UP IN THE AIR, featuring a very ingratiating George Clooney as a boy/man with terminal wanderlust, is a production that most likely would have made the final cut...even if the Best Film category had stayed at five.
     And finally, the Coen Brothers’ delightfully quirky A SERIOUS MAN is noteworthy, if for no other reason than it "almost" made me feel guilty about failing Mr. Solomon’s Hebrew School classes at Vista Del Mar repeatedly, and therefore never having gone through the Bar Mitzvah experience. Note...I said "almost." And as exasperated as I always made the frantically gesticulating Mr. Solomon, by rendering Hebrew into a truly lost language, he never failed to provide me with a tiny blue box of glistening rock candy at the end of every class. Indeed...while some memories may well melt in the mouth...they will never melt in the mind.
     end
     NOTE: Originally published in LA Xpress, February 25, 2010, issue.

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CINEMA SEEN - "The Stunning Six!"
By William Margold

     I’ve decided to wait until after the Oscar nominations (due very early next Tuesday morning) to start dealing with titles from 2009 that made the final five (or in the case of Best Film...final ten) cut. And at that point---depending on the Best Film fate of J.J. Abrams’ STAR TREK (still due an entire Cinema Seen page acknowledging it as My Favorite Movie of the 21st Century’s first decade)---I might NOT devote as much space as usual to this year’s Academy Awards. But that’s a decision to be made a couple of issues (and weeks) away.
     Herein...feeling slightly guilty for not mentioning the rest of the titles that failed to make my (2000-2009) Top Ten list (see my 12-31-09 page)---and having the press materials available---I thought that I would compliment that wildly diverse roster by revealing (in the order that I was entertained by them) the "stunning six" that just missed the cinematic cut.
     And just to confuse or clutter (depending on your point of cinema-seening) a little bit more, the four fine films that didn’t make this list were "Blood Diamond" "Hollywoodland" "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Iron Man."
     
     GLADIATOR (2000)---Away from the battlefield and out of the arena, this sinewy epic was not particularly compelling. But when Russell Crowe (as Maximus) was slicing up his competition and "fighting the good fight"...director Ridley Scott’s brutally mesmerizing images ignited the soul.
     
     A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001)---A lyrical excursion deep within the convoluted brainwaves of a mentally gifted but equally challenged gentleman (etched achingly by Russell Crowe), director Ron Howard’s masterwork was so riveting that I was as surprised as the film’s hero that a considerable amount of what he (and I) were watching wasn’t really happening.
     
     CHICAGO (2002)---I proclaimed it "All That Fosse" and knew immediately that director Rob Marshall’s heartfelt homage to the dazzling dance master would stylishly strut its way to the Best Film Oscar. It’s interesting to note that the two titles preceding this one also won the Best Film Oscar. It’s even more interesting to note that no other titles in either this list (or on my 12-31-09 page) reaped such a prize.
     
     LITTLE CHILDREN (2006)---Easily my most perverse pleasure of the last decade (I loved listening to the audience that first I saw it with...squirm!), Todd Field’s savage, sardonic stare at characters who don’t want to grow up and those who must confront the nightmares attached to taking on adult responsibilities was an acid bath for the sensibilities. And yes...I squirmed...too!
     
     EASTERN PROMISES (2007)---Visceral stuff that made the blood boil. Viggo Mortensen’s stunning performance was laced with as many conflicts as there are confrontations. And speaking of confrontations...the shattering set piece in a steam bath will be very hard to top. I hope though that all involved with this production (including director David Cronenberg, writer Steve Knight, and, of course, Mr. Mortensen), are considering that challenge as well as that of making a much-needed sequel...because there is a great deal of "family business" that still demands to be taken care of.
     
     WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007)--- As evocative as it was enchanting, the Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan scripted (directed by Kasdan) overview of the music scene from the "Rock n’ Roll" 50’s forward---slaughtered sacred record rendering cows with glee, while waxing eloquent on the high price of attaining fame and the sacrifices that must be made to keep it. John C. Reilly sang up a storm...and in the process... produced lightening bolts of laughter along with a few clouds full of tears.
     end
     NOTE: Originally published in LA Xpress, January 28, 2010 issue.

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CINEMA SEEN - "Favorite Films...Minus One!"
By William Margold

     What I noticed as I whittled down my list of Ten Favorite Films that were released during the first decade (2000-2009) of the 21st Century, is that it really wasn’t all that difficult to come up with the nine that are mentioned here.
     Yes...GLADIATOR fell by the wayside ...and EASTERN PROMISES missed the cut...and A BEAUTIFUL MIND came up just short...but they can all be comforted by the fact that they were in "very close" consideration.
     (Please note though that as of this writing...my Favorite Film of The Decade---STAR TREK---will be dealt with after I have seen the rest of 2009’s major holiday attractions...hopefully right around the time that it is one of the TEN Best Films of 2009 nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Oscar.)
     Desirous of not playing my "favorites" by the degree that I admired each movie here however...I’ve decided to present the nine films in the chronological order that I discovered them.
     
     ALMOST FAMOUS (2000)---Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical look at the wild and wanting ways of the music world is as lyrical as it is insightful. And while a lament is wailed throughout, one can’t help envying the very youthful journalist for earning a band’s trust...and then being given the chance to become part of its traveling road show family.
     
     THE CONTENDER (2000)---The puerile practice of politics and the sacrifice of the soul (etc.) to be victorious is at the rotten core of Rod Lurie’s mesmerizing effort. Joan Allen is painfully honorable as a potential Vice President nominee over whom Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldman wage a take-no-prisoners war...creating quite a hellish Capitol Hill affair in the process.
     
     SHREK (2001)---A green boy-man and his scene stealing doggy-like donkey (voiced with hilarious humanity by Eddie Murphy) venture forth to save a princess only to discover a rainbow of emotional awakenings along the way. Hallelujah!
     
     GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (2005)---The sobering saga of sagacious TV reporter Edward R. Murrow (acutely etched by David Strathairn) versus venomous Joseph McCarthy (artlessly evoked by the foul fellow himself...thanks to the magic of some seamless editing) was easily the most eloquent motion picture of the decade.
     
     HUSTLE AND FLOW (2005)---I saw this one three times before I felt comfortable enough to write my opinion of it: first by myself, then with a onetime pimp (and proud of it), and finally with a fellow in the rap world (and equally proud of it). Terrence Howard’s earnestly aching pursuit of success sears the sensibilities as it instills hope of the highest (and rawest) order.
     
     PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST (2006)---There’s a little of Jack Sparrow in all of us. And if there isn’t...there damn well should be. As broadly splayed out by Johnny Depp across a panoramic trio of supremely rousing and rambunctious films...Master Sparrow is a character for all ages...and all situations...and perhaps even all sexes.
     
     FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (2006)---Clint Eastwood’s superbly solemn homage to the facelessness of accidental heroes, unfurls as a painfully perfect example of patriotic picture making. Long may it wave!
     
     THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (2007)---Extrapolated from my all-time favorite animated TV series, and expanded gleefully onto the big screen...the rascally but ever-so-wise adventures of Springfield’s first family is a film frolic worthy of multiple viewings, during which the consumption of an endless supply of do-nuts is mandatory.
     
     TROPIC THUNDER (2008)---War can be swell...when it is masterfully mocked. And Ben Stiller’s sly send-up of war movie making goes way beyond the world of special explosive effects. Politically incorrect on virtually every level imaginable---particularly the radically racial romp by Robert Downey Jr.---the film evokes enough laughter to shatter quite a number of ribs.      "     end
     NOTE: Originally published in LA Xpress, December 31, 2009 issue.

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CINEMA SEEN - "Lip-smacking Leftovers"
By William Margold

     With last week’s column being served up as a "Movie Menu"---that featured a five course Thanksgiving Day spread---this week’s sextet of offerings should be looked upon as "Lip-smacking Leftovers" although as you will read...the lip- smacking of "almost all of the titles" presented here faded very quickly...much like the taste of food dissipates after a few days of improperly wrapped refrigeration.
     (Please note that I said "almost all of the titles"...as the last production discussed is a quite a meal in itself...and more than makes up for all the rest of the rather stale cinema snacks on this page.)
     
     FOOD, INC---Appropriately leading off this page is Robert Kenner’s mind (and stomach) unsettling look at how truly unpalatable what we are ingesting really is. But secure in the knowledge that my stomach acid can melt the chrome off a VW van’s bumper, I rarely flinched as the images of callously clumped cows and cruelly constricted chickens flashed before my eyes. Indeed...while not starving after enduring the ponderous proceedings...I must admit that my only real concern a few minutes after the dim documentary ended was where I would be dining that evening.
     
     CORALINE---Some rather unnerving blather about button-eyed doppelgangers directed by Henry Selick (who combined with Tim Burton for the magnificently imaginative "The Nightmare before Christmas" back in the early 90’s) makes for one of the most tedious stop-motion animated features that I’ve ever counted the minutes enduring. Accompanied by the scrawniest cat that I’ve ever seen, cranky Coraline discovers another seemingly better world on the other side of the wall of her new home, and repeatedly escapes into it---learning with each visit however---that perhaps it really is better to stick with what you’ve already got.
     
     IS THERE ANYBODY THERE?--- At first this was somewhat evocative of the early 1960’s when I hung around the caddy shack at The Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades lapping up considerable history lessons from those who "had lived them." But the opportunity for a young boy (Bill Milner) to absorb knowledge as the son of a couple who own a retirement home, and in particular, one of its most eccentric residents---Michael Caine as a rather muddled magician---dotters about way too much to have any impact...which eventually makes death the most enviable way to escape the plotline.
     
     SIMON SAYS---When flying pick axes have all the best lines in a horrifically rotten fright film...then you quickly realize that you’re being subjected to the wrong intended-to-be-scary viewing experience. Crispin Glover (who should have gotten Best Supporting Actor consideration for his role as Michael Fox’s father in 1985’s "Back to the Future") is terrifyingly dreadful as demented twin brothers who like to make a seemingly endless supply of capricious campers targets of those aforementioned axes...as well as other forms of backwoods butchery.
     
     RIDE AROUND THE WORLD---Thanks to the combined efforts of Greenleaf and Associates and Image Entertainment (www.image-entertainment.com) yet another IMAX production ("Dinosaurs Alive!" and "Mummies" have already been acknowledged in previous columns) is given credit here. But I must admit that I found this 40-minute travelogue-like look at the history of horses and their riders galloping in so many directions that by the time it was over...my mind was saddle sore.
     
     SPLINTER---Sort of "Assault on Precinct 13 Meets The Thing"---director Toby Wilkins and writer Ian Shorr have concocted a perversely plausible little nightmare about the end (and/or the beginning) result of one too many government experiments with the natural order of things. Stars Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, and an immensely effective Shea Wigham (in the hero by default role) take refuge in a gas station when a ghastly beastie of questionable lineage goes on a cast- consuming (in more ways than one) rampage. Greatly enhanced by Elia Cmirai’s bone crunching, synaptic creaking score, this feisty ferocity literally gets under your skin...and stays there...no matter how hard you try to dig it out!
     end
     NOTE: Originally published in LA Xpress, December 3, 2009 issue.

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CINEMA SEEN - "A Movie Menu"
By William Margold

     Coinciding with the fact that this serving of Cinema Seen is dated to hit the street on Thanksgiving Day...I thought that I would present a quintet of recently viewed films as if they were the courses in the festive and reflective Holiday’s meal. And speaking of that meal...I am planning on dusting off my cooking utensils as I will be creating the magnificent center attraction---a massive golden bird stuffed with many secret ingredients that will insure that it will be juicy all way through---and then will be partaking of it with a cross section of associates in what I’m sure will be a warm (and festive) as well as tasty (and reflective) experience...or something like that.
     
     WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE---Wrenched solemnly by director Spike Jonze from Maurice Sendak’s apparently very popular children’s picture book---this genuinely un-cuddly creature feature is a very under nourishing combination of sour soul searching soup and soggy sentimental salad---that had me questioning my own perpetual juvenile delinquent ways throughout the ponderous proceedings. But I eventually shrugged the whole damn thing off as simply being a nightmare that I had been subjected to watching with my eyes open.
     
     2012---If ever the time was ripe for a film being labeled "a turkey"---the arrival of this foolish special effects stuffed flatulence about the (near) end of the world had me gobbling in glee---as I couldn’t wait to hack away at director Roland Emmerich’s fetid fowl. And although the visual of Santa Monica slipping into the Pacific Ocean ghoulishly fulfilled a recurring nightmare of mine (but that’s another story), the meandering misery of featuring various landmarks being decimated finally made me wish for some semblance of apocalyptic reality...even it meant that the theatre that I was squirming about restlessly in would fall down on my head.
     
     LAW ABIDING CITIZEN---Truly a hefty helping of potatoes example of filling up most of the senses filmmaking, director F. Gary Gary’s perverse offering deals with a wronged fellow (Gerard Butler) hell bent on exacting revenge pitted against the toothy determination of Jamie Foxx’s on the right side of the law character. And the grotesque gravy---slathered on thick---is the amusing way Butler rigs his seemingly endless series of traps. However...not wanting to divulge too much...all I will reveal is that from my first bite many decades ago, I also realized another use for a t-bone steak...after I’d gnawed all of the meat away. I just never met anyone worth the effort. Yet...!
     
     AMELIA--- This is a remarkably bland assortment of side dishes (overcooked peas, limp green beans, and mushy corn) eerily enhanced by the fact that Hillary Swank is the spitting image of the famous 1930’s aviatrix Ms. Earhart, whose legend still radiates because she vanished on her attempt to fly around the world. Ironically, although most of its soaring through the clouds action takes place 20,000 feet in the air, the Mira Nair directed clunker never really gets off the ground.
     
     WHIP IT---Absolutely the pecan pie dessert of this page is Drew Barrymore’s delicious look at the wrist shattering, rib-cracking, knee-dislocating world of ladies Roller Derby in Austin, Texas through the innocent, wistful eyes of Ellen Page. And the "whipped cream" on top of Barrymore’s spirited concoction are the nicknames of her roller/warrior women including Babe Ruthless, Smashley Simpson, Maggie Mayhem, Iron Maven, Eva Destruction, and my favorite, Bloody Holly.
     end
     NOTE: Originally published in LA Xpress, November 26, 2009 issue.