Archives for category: Movies

I’ve been kickin’ around now for 52 years (and I still have all but one of my teeth).

If I had to choose a favorite year out of all of those, I’d say it was 1994.  Here’s my breakdown of why:

1. I was seven years into my marriage – and thought it was a good relationship. (The marriage ended five years later.)

2. I’d been doing (local) stand-up comedy for four years, and was having a lot of fun with it.

3. As a punk-pop fan, three of my favorite albums were released: Smash (The Offspring), Punk In Drublic (NOFX), and Dookie (Green Day).

4. As a movie fan in general, I love: The Shawshank Redemption, The Last Seduction, and Pulp Fiction.

5. Bill “Studmuffin” Clinton had been in office a couple of years; of the nine presidents in my lifetime, I have to say he was the best. The country was at least relatively employed, and we had a surplus of cash in the coffers.

6. Beatlemania was in high gear. Wait, that was 1964.

Anyway, I look forward to my new favorite year. I’m guessing it’ll be 2175 (I plan to be cryogenically frozen, then reawakened.)

I was born in 1964. Yeah, I’m goddamned old.

Anyway, here are my top 20 favorite celebrities who are also ’64 babies.

20. Courtney Love


19. John Leguizamo


18. Andy Serkis


17. Janeane Garofalo


16. Guillermo del Toro


15. Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves, host and producer of the documentary film "Side By Side," addresses reporters during the PBS Summer 2013 TCA press tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

14. Laura Linney


13. Clive Owen


12. Russell Crowe


11. Courteney Cox


10.  Nicolas Cage


9. Teri Hatcher


8. Sandra Bullock


7. Rob Lowe (this dude doesn’t age, I swear)


6. Hank Azaria


5. David Cross


4. Crispin Glover


3. Mary-Louise Parker

MARY-LOUISE PARKER at Weeds Panel at 2012 Summer TCA Tour in Los Angeles

2. Marisa Tomei


1. Stephen Colbert



I’m not a huge horror movie fan, but I appreciate any good film that can creep me out or make me jump.

I only have a marginal interest in vampire, werewolf, zombie, monster, alien, etc. stuff.  I find the “slasher” genre to be interesting because the threats are human psychopaths. I guess it makes it seem a little more real.

I saw a documentary recently on the history of the genre titled Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. Interesting movie, and it really made me appreciate writer/director Wes Craven.

His first film (outside of directing some hardcore adult stuff) was The Last House On The Left in 1972. It was one of the more popular bloody exploitation films of the early 70s, and is still a cult favorite. It’s basically a revenge story, but it has a particularly vicious tone to it, especially for the time of release (and it’s still hard to watch).

His third film, The Hills Have Eyes, came out in 1977. It’s another cult favorite, about a family terrorized by cannibalistic inbred mountain folk. Like Last House On The Left, it’s gritty and disturbing.

A year later, John Carpenter’s Halloween came out and, to me, started the whole modern motif of a killer (or killers) terrorizing teenagers in a confined area.

But the emphasis on blood ‘n’ guts and gruesome makeup effects really started in 1980 with Prom Night and Friday The 13th.  From that point on, it seemed like every week there was some kind of formulaic knock-off – usually with a holiday as the theme.

After a few years, moviegoers were getting tired of slasher flicks. Seeing the same thing over and over was getting boring. The genre was dying.

During this time, Craven was fascinated with a story about a man who hadn’t slept in years. The man was terrified that a spirit would kill him if he slept. His family finally convinced him to go to sleep. They soon heard screams coming from his room; when they investigated, he stopped screaming and died. You can guess what idea this story inspired.

A Nightmare On Elm Street was released in 1984. If you’re old like me, you remember what a smash hit it was. Craven had basically reinvented the genre. Sure, there’s a creepy guy stalking and cutting up teenagers with glove-knives, but he does it IN YOUR DREAMS WHILE YOU SLEEP. How are you going to avoid sleep? And is Freddy a monster? A vengeful ghost? Just a crispy-fried man? He’s an unstoppable wisecracker, that’s for certain.

The genre was rejuvenated for a while, and Nightmare was particularly hot. Four sequels followed through 1989. And other independent low-budget straight-to-DVD titles generally sold well.

In 1991, The Silence Of The Lambs won the Best Picture Academy Award. While not technically a slasher film, the main bad guy kills and skins women to make a suit, and the secondary bad guy is a brilliant psychopathic murderous cannibal…so there’s that. Anyway, the horror genre in general got a popularity boost.

Then came Craven’s Scream in 1996. Granted, he didn’t write it, but it’s wonderfully directed. It’s a typical slasher set-up, but the killer’s a cinema buff who knows everything about horror movies. The victims, as well, are aware of all the horror film clichés. By making a quality movie that’s so jokingly tongue-in-cheek, he reinvented the genre again.

Side note: It’s the highest-grossing slasher movie, earning $173 million. There are three sequels.

POINT OF THE STORY: Craven is obviously a talented director with a flair for horror. He didn’t start out making slashers, but he’s put a new spin on and revitalized the genre twice.  So I’m asking:


Dear Mr. Craven,

Please direct another movie with a brilliant twist on the slasher genre. We promise we’ll watch it. You are a genius and we film fans need you to step up here. Thanks! Happy filmmaking!


Gary and the rest of the world

It won’t be long before Oscar nomination time is upon us.  If I could give a special super-duper Oscar — made of chocolate, fairy dust, and pure unadulterated love — to my all-time favorite nominees, these would be my choices (notated <*> if he/she/it actually won the Oscar).


Picture: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975*)

I first saw this around 1982 at my college’s theater and immediately thought, “that’s my favorite movie.”  It just blew me away like no film I’d ever seen, and Jack is brilliant.  I own the DVD and watch it at least once a year.  It was the first movie since 1934’s It Happened One Night to win picture, actor, actress, director, and screenplay.

VERY VERY CLOSE RUNNER-UP: Pulp Fiction (1994, lost to the inferior Forrest Gump)


Director: Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List (1993*)

I think most critics would agree that this is a monumental achievement in filmmaking.  It’s one of those movies that’s so grueling and emotional you can’t imagine anyone wanting to make it.  Right after it came out, a friend told me she’d heard that Spielberg, while filming, would sometimes get so depressed he’d call Robin Williams to cheer him up [citation needed].

SUPER-CLOSE RUNNER-UP: Spielberg (again), Saving Private Ryan (1998*)


Actor: Denzel Washington, Training Day (2001*)

If Denzel weren’t in this, it would be a 7.5-out-of-10-star movie.  But Denz (he lets me call him Denz) puts it over the top.  Electrifying performance, and his character is incredibly morally ambiguous: one minute he’s cracking heads, the next he’s helping somebody.  Very volatile.  Kind of like Walter White.

JUST-MISSED-IT RUNNER-UP: Kevin Spacey, American Beauty (1999*)


Actress: Charlize Theron, Monster (2003*)

Holy crap, what a frightening character.  It’s based on the true story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and Ms. Theron plays her to scary perfection.  Her physical transformation is incredible.  Roger Ebert proclaimed it the best movie of 2003; he said he liked to know as little as possible about a film before seeing it, and he had no idea it was her until the ending credits.

REALLY REALLY CLOSE RUNNER-UP:  Kathy Bates, Misery (1990*)


Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, Twelve Monkeys (1995)

I wish he’d won, but he lost to Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects, so that’s really not a bad thing. I just truly enjoy this performance – he’s a great wacko — and it propelled Mr. Pitt (in my mind) from “pretty boy” to “really quite a good actor; keep an eye on that feller, he might be goin’ places.”

RUNNER-UP (IN A STUNNING DRESS): Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club (2013*)


Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious (2009*)

Another vile character done extraordinarily well.  Miss ‘Nique plays the contemptuous, abusive welfare queen to the hilt.  She took me completely by surprise.  I think much of my appreciation for the performance is that I always admire people who start as stand-ups and successfully progress to serious drama.

GROOVY RUNNERS-UP: Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite (1995*); Ruth Gordon, Rosemary’s Baby (1968*)


Original Screenplay: Alan Ball, American Beauty (1999*)

Ever walk out of a theater, stunned, thinking “what a fucking great movie”?  This is another that I own and watch fairly often.  And while the direction is wonderful (Sam Mendes won Director) and the acting is phenomenal (Spacey won Actor), it’s the writing that makes it work.  Every time I watch, I dissect it as a writer, and everything about it’s great.

WAY COOL RUNNER-UP: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery, Pulp Fiction (1994*)


Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network (2010*)

I think Mr. Sorkin’s easily one of the best screenwriters of my generation — although I don’t always get into his stuff.  But this is a very smart and entertaining adaptation of the book The Accidental Billionaires, about how Facebook came to be.  Great script, David Fincher directs, superb cast – it’s a winner.

THEY MADE ME AN OFFER I CAN’T REFUSE RUNNER-UP: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather (1972*)

I love movies, and have always wondered why directing is such a male-dominated job.  But there are a handful of women in the biz who have orchestrated some good stuff.  Here are my faves:


10. Something’s Gotta Give (2003, Nancy Meyers)

Entertaining rom-com with great chemistry between leads Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.  And Keanu’s actually not bad.


9. Lost in Translation (2003, Sophia Coppola)

Sophia won an Oscar for original screenplay.  Kind of slow-moving, but Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson make it pop.  Best part: they don’t sleep together (too predictable).


8. Wayne’s World (1992, Penelope Spheeris)

Takes a popular SNL sketch and turns it into a very funny movie.  Lots of quotable lines.  And, let’s face it, Tia Carrere is babelicious.


7. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982, Amy Heckerling)

Captures high school in the early 80s quite well.  And it has the best slow-motion topless scene ever to appear on film.


6. The Hurt Locker (2008, Katheryn Bigelow)

The first woman to win the best director Oscar, and deservedly so.  Some intense stuff here.


5. I Shot Andy Warhol (1996, Mary Harron)

Bizarre true story of enthusiastic but unstable 1960s feminist Valerie Solanas, wonderfully played by Lili Taylor.  Harron also directed the great dark comedy American Psycho.


4. The Kids Are All Right (2010, Lisa Cholodenko)

Unorthodox, but very interesting, modern drama with a great cast.  I’m not a big Mark Ruffalo fan, but he’s quite good in this.


3. Boys Don’t Cry (1999, Kimberly Peirce)

I first read the Rolling Stone article on which this is based and thought, “that’s really fucked up.”  Rather frightening, especially because it’s a true story, and Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her performance as gender-confused Brandon Teena.


2. Big (1988, Penny Marshall)

Come on, who doesn’t like this movie?  Tom Hanks is inspired, and it’s just a great comedy fantasy.


1. The Decline of Western Civilization (1981, Penelope Spheeris)

Another Spheeris film, and the only documentary on my list.  Unflinchingly chronicles the early 80s punk rock scene in L.A.  I admit this is #1 because I love punk; it’s a shame so much of the cast died so young.  She also directed the sequel, which follows the area’s metal years.