Tim Cogshell’s DIY Film Fest: Revisiting Orwell’s 1984

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

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A scene from BBC’s 1954 film adaptation of Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.BBC

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s FilmWeek and Alt Film Guide, and who blogs at CinemaInMind, has another film festival you can put on in the comfort of your own home.

If you haven’t read or watched George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece “1984” in a while, here are the Cliffs Notes: A man named Winston Smith lives in a totalitarian state that used to be England. His job is to rewrite old newspaper articles to make them comply with party doctrine. There are concepts like – newspeak, thoughtcrime and the ministry of truth – minitrue for short. Winston – named for Churchill – is befriended, and then tortured, by a member of the party elite, called O’Brien.

Spoiler Alert: The book does not have a happy ending, unless you’re a fascist dictator – even then it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

There are two film and a handful of TV adaptations of  “1984.” In an era of Fake News, “alternative facts,” and “enemies of the people,” they’re all worth watching.

1. Studio One, 1953

Orwell wrote “1984” in 1948, it was published 1949 – and the first TV production was in 1953 by Westinghouse Studio One – the TV drama series that originated the courtroom drama – “12 Angry Men.”

 Photo of Norma Crane and Eddie Albert on the set of the CBS anthology television series Studio One. This was a presentation of George Orwell's 1984. The show's set designer is at left and the show's director is at right of the photo. (CBS Television)
Photo of Norma Crane and Eddie Albert on the set of the CBS anthology television series Studio One. This was a presentation of George Orwell’s 1984. The show’s set designer is at left and the show’s director is at right of the photo. (CBS Television)

 American actor Eddie Albert played Winston Smith; Canadian Lorne Greene, of “Bonanza” and Alpo fame, played O’Brien, Smith’s tormenter. Appearing just at the end of the Korean War – the production went little noticed.

2. BBC, 1954

The next year, the BBC produced a live televised play, with Hammer horror star and eventual Star Wars alum Peter Cushing as Winston Smith, in one of his earliest TV performances.

Not even a decade after the war, this broadcast was considered subversive – and it was, because it hewed closely to Orwell’s text. Nevertheless it was highly thought of at the time and today is considered among the top 100 BBC programs every broadcast.

3. First film adaptation, 1956

Edmund O'Brien and Jan Sterling in 1984. (Columbia Pictures 1956)
Edmund O’Brien and Jan Sterling in 1984. (Columbia Pictures 1956)COLUMBIA PICTURES

The third version of “1984” is the first feature film adaptation of Orwell’s novel. Produced in 1956, it stars Edmond O’Brien as Winston Smith, and features Donald Pleasence, who was also in the live BBC version.

This adaptation was not well received then – Orwell’s widow didn’t like it – and it’s not highly thought of today because it took liberties with the text, including changing O’Brien to O’Connor. It was directed by Michael Anderson, who also directed “Logan’s Run,” another movie about a dystopian future – though one with sexier outfits.

Edmond O’Brien, who won an Oscar in “The Barefoot Contessa” and was the crazy old guy in “The Wild Bunch,” is all wrong as Winston Smith. Donald Pleasence, Dr. Sam Loomis in the Halloween movies, is still creepy.

4. BBC, 1965

Fourth in our DIY “1984” film festival is another BBC production, this one from 1965. It garnered little attention, and was long believed lost. Though it has been reconstructed, it’s still not very good. So let’s jump to the last and best filmed version of George Orwell’s novel – the second feature film version of “1984” released – quite deliberately – in 1984. Directed by Michael Radford, who was nominated as best director for Il Postino, in 1994 – this version of “1984” was scored – with some controversy – by the Eurythmics – and it was Richard Burton’s last film.

The score has not held up. Sir Richard’s performance has.

Radford’s version of “1984” is extremely faithful to the novel, and it’s the film that looks and sounds the most like the book did in my imagination. The late John Hurt is perfect as Winston Smith. Frail under the constant gaze of Big Brother. His defiance is our defiance. His torture is our torture. His capitulation is our capitulation.

It’s pointless to draw too many analogies between the themes of “1984” and the zeitgeist of any given day – including today but George Orwell’s novel – in all its incarnations – has always seemed relevant to me.

DIY Film Fest: Women I love, in 4 films I love, that need a little more love…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

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Sharon Stone in “The Quick and the Dead”TRISTAR PICTURES

 

LISTEN HERE:  http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2017/01/19/54508/tim-cogshell-s-diy-film-fest-women-i-love-in-4-fil/

I’m a sucker for girl talk movies, true love stories, and movies where a lady rides into the sunset after she shoots the bastard who killed her daddy – in the head. This DIY Film Festival is for films that I love, about women that I love, in movies that should have got a lot more love.

1. “Live Nude Girls” (1995)

“Live Nude Girls” was directed by Julianna Lavin, who directed this film, one episode of Party of Five in 1998, and nothing else.  This happens in Hollywood more often than you’d think, but it happens to female  filmmakers even more often than that. It stars Dana Delany, Laila Robins, Lora Zane, Cynthia Stevenson and, ironically, Kim Cattrall as the over or under sexed member of the foursome – depending on your point of view.

“Live Nude Girls” is a wonderfully funny and intimate movie about  four lifelong friends at an all night bachelorette party for one of them who is getting married for the 3rd time. This film is practically a blueprint for “Sex and the City” which started three years later. It’s frank and funny and sexy and filled with a female energy that reminded me of my very cool big sister and her amazing girlfriends, lounging in conversation, as I loitered near, always at the ready to fetch cigarettes and Fresca. It was the 70s.

2. “Living Out Loud” (1998)

“Living Out Loud,” directed by Richard LaGravenese, stars Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito, Queen Latifah and ecstasy – both the emotion and the drug. In the movie, Holly Hunter’s husband abandons her for a younger woman.

Sure, it’s a well worn premise, but it’s considered thru a wide range of emotions, spoken out loud, sung out loud, and even fantasized out loud. Hunter confronts her circumstances with philosophical introspection about the choices she’s made; with direct confrontation of those who’ve done her wrong … and with the occasional hit of ecstasy.

The highlight is this amazing dance sequence that I still find myself fantasizing about  from time to time. Occasionally, I’m even in it.

3. “Besieged” (1998)

“Besieged” is a Bernardo Bertolucci film starring Thandie Newton and David Thewlis. This is a love story about truest love.  Although, at first glance it might seem like a movie about stalker who plays the piano really well, David Thewlis portrays a man – a passionate composer and pianist – who falls in love with his African housekeeper on first sight. And why the hell wouldn’t he – she’s Thandie Newton – but his adoration is about much more than her beauty.

In her he sees pure intention, resilience, and a strength that his privileged existence could never know. Out of that comes a kind of love that leads him to  sell everything he owns, including his beloved grand piano, to give her the one thing she truly wants.

4. “The Quick and The Dead” (1995)

Last in my DIY film festival about women that I love, in films that I love, that need a little more love is “The Quick and The Dead.” This is Sam Raimi post-“Evil Dead” and pre-“Spiderman” directing a wicked Cowgirl movie. It stars Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman and Russell Crowe star alongside a young Leonardo DiCaprio, with Gary Sinise, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Olivia Burnette, the great Pat Hingle, and the late Tobin Bell of the Saw films.

If you missed this wicked gunslinger revenge flick because you believed the middlin’ reviews from back in the day – you got suckered. It was accused of being too campy. Like that’s a thing.

In “The Quick and the Dead,” the Lady slaps leather with a bunch dastardly bastards, including the one that killed her daddy.  Like I said – I’m a sucker for girl talk movies, true love stories and movies where a lady rides into the sunset after she shoots the bastard who killed her daddy – in the head.

DIY Film Fest: Before they were bald

 

Listen Here: DIY Film Fest: Before they were bald

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

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I’ve been thinking about how some guys can do bald and some guys can’t.

In Hollywood, hair is a big deal. Can you imagine the late great Gene Wilder without those fuzzy curls or Brad Pitt minus those flowing blonde locks in Legends of the Fall? Bucking tradition, some actors not only survive after losing their hair, but excel.

Here are the totally arbitrary rules:

First – they must be now publicly and completely bald. Classic male pattern baldness and comb-overs don’t count. This lets out Burt Reynolds… John Travolta… Nick Cage… William Shatner… and many other actors known to be bald but who won’t cop to it in public.

They must have become or continued to be a movie star after becoming denuded – and last – their name must have occurred to me before I finished this piece. Okay… here we go.

1. Yul Brynner  

Brenner appeared in only one film with a full head of hair. In 1949’s Port of New York, Brynner played a debonair gang leader with fabulous dark wavy hair. He’s good. He didn’t need hair– even back then.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 12: Actor Taye Diggs attends the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations at the Pacific Design Center on December 12, 2012 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – DECEMBER 12: Actor Taye Diggs attends the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations at the Pacific Design Center on December 12, 2012 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/GETTY IMAGES

2. Taye Diggs

Nevertheless, you can see Taye Diggs with hair in a stint on The Guiding Light – 1997- where he played Adrian ‘Sugar’ Hill – a sexy business shark – with hair! He’s still got hair in the movie that launched him to movie stardom -1998’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back. He still needed a brush in The Wood – 1999 – but by 2000’s, The Way of the Gun – Taye was a handsome bald man, on-screen and off, and has been ever since.

3. Morris Chestnut

Morris Chestnut had hair from before Boyz N’ The Hood – 1990 – thru the 90’s, including that first Best Man – opposite Taye Diggs in 1999. It was the last time they’d have hair together. By 2002’s Half Past Dead, Chestnut had also gone clean shaven. By The Best Man Holiday in 2013, both Diggs and Chestnut had been bald for years and were bigger stars than ever.

4. Vin Diesel 

Vin can be seen pop-locking in an instructional dance video in the late 1980s with a serious head of hair. He still had a whisper of hair when he got his big break in Saving Private Ryan – 1995, and when he got first starring role in Pitch Black – in the year 2000. There was even still a shadow of his former fro in the first Fast and Furious film – 2001. It was as Xander in 2002’s Triple X that Vin was first a wholly bald badass.

5. Samuel L. Jackson 

Sam has lots of early movie credits with hair – dating back to 1972. You’ve seen him with hair in School Daze and Goodfellas and Jungle Fever and Jurassic Park. In 1998’s The Great White Hype, Samuel is wearing an interesting wig – it’s straight and frosted white – and perfect for this character – a shady boxing promoter a’la Don King.

Sam’s best hair is found in Unbreakable also at the turn of the millennium. It’s kind of Frederick Douglass meets Sugar Foot – the late front man for the Ohio Players – it’s stately – yet funky.

Sam appears in Unbreakable opposite our next pre-and-post hair movie star, Bruce Willis.

6. Bruce Willis

Bruce had a long career with hair – on Broadway and on TV – even before his hit series Moonlighting in the early 80s. He had hair thru the Die Hard movies, though, truth be told, it was always wispy. By Death Becomes Her in 1992, it’s getting very thin. For Pulp Fiction in 1994, his hair was thinner still. Then, finally, Bruce Willis goes boldly-bald in 1995’s Twelve Monkeys.

Both Bruce and Sam are avid movie-hair actors – which I love. Sam will rock a Pulp Fiction gerri-curl or a long straight Tina Turner ponytail like he did in Jackie Brown, if the role calls for it, while Bruce Willis has been known to wear any number of pieces to top off a character – so to speak.

So in a town as shallow as Hollywood what’s the thing that not only gets some actors past the loss of their hair – but catapults them to greater stardom? Here is my totally arbitrary answer: Some guys have bad heads for bald… and know it. Some guys have good heads for bald… but don’t know it. But some guys have good heads for being bald and do know it. For these guys hair is an accessory– fun but never really necessary.

‘Loving’ inspires a DIY Film Festival of miscegenation films and shows you need to see…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp   

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You don’t need to wait for the local art house to put on a themed film festival. Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, and who blogs at CinemaInMind, is producing a series of DIY Film Festivals for Off-Ramp listeners to throw in the comfort of their own homes.

WATCH HERE:

 

LISTEN HERE:  ‘Loving’ inspires a DIY Film Festival of miscegenation films and shows you need to see

This DIY film festival is about miscegenation. Don’t know or remember what it means? Good.

Miscegenation is sex or marriage between people of different races — usually whites and blacks. It was illegal in much of the U.S. until the 60s, and was also either taboo or forbidden in cinema. This DIY festival, including a documentary, a short silent film, and even a few TV episodes, is inspired by Jeff Nichols’ new film “Loving,” which is about the 1967 miscegenation case that changed the law and the movies.

1. “The Loving Story” 2011

“Loving” was inspired by the HBO documentary, “The Loving Story,” which is the first film of our festival. Mildred and Richard Loving were an interracial couple who married in 1958, despite Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws.

 Richard and Mildred Loving in "The Loving Story," the 2011 documentary
Richard and Mildred Loving in “The Loving Story,” the 2011 documentaryTHE LOVING STORY

As good as the new narrative film is, the 2011 doc is better.

The Hays Code, the rules the movies were governed by, stated explicitly: “Miscegenation (sex-relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden.” When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Lovings, the 1930 Hays Code was replaced by the Classification and Rating System Administration. But before that, miscegenation was still fodder for Hollywood.

2. “What Happened in the Tunnel” (1903)

The earliest film to take on miscegenation may have been Edwin S. Porter’s very short 1903 film “What Happened in the Tunnel.”  It was considered funny in 1903, but the film probably contributed to the earliest rules on the miscegenation.

3. “Imitation of Life” (1934)

In the first “Imitation of Life,”  Fredi Washington plays Louise Beavers’ fair-skinned daughter who rejects her black heritage — and her mother — in favor of passing into the white world and landing a white husband. It barely made it past the censors, but today it’s in the National Film Registry, and Time called it one of “The 25 Most Important Films on Race.”

You might also want to check out Douglas Sirk’s 1959 “Imitation of Life,” which is still popular among African American women of a certain age.

4. “Pinky” (1949)

In “Pinky,” Jeanne Crain is a young woman who slips into passing as white almost by accident when she goes away to nursing school. She feels guilty, but yet so aware of what being white could mean to her life. Pinky doesn’t hate being black, she just wants what life being white could offer … including the white man who wants to marry her.

5. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” (1967)

Next on our list, Stanley Kramer’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” from 1967, in which a white girl falls in love with a black man, played by Sidney Poitier, and when the families meet for dinner, they hash it out earnestly. This film took a beating from the left and the right from the day it was released, as we saw in “The Butler,” when David Oyelowo’s young Black Panther disparages Sidney Poitier. It’s problematic for any number of reasons, but I defend its intention — fervently. Before the change in the movie code or the Loving decision, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” faced down the nations’ bigots.

6. “Movin’ with Nancy” (1967)

After the Loving case, the notion of miscegenation in film and television evolved. Soon we saw the first kiss on American prime time network TV when Kirk and Uhura kissed in a 1968 episode of “Star Trek.” The suits from the network resisted the interracial kiss — but the tepid peck made it to air and is said to be the first such kiss on network TV.

Or maybe it wasn’t:

The December 1967 episode of “Movin’ with Nancy” features a kiss between Nancy Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. more than a year before that “Star Trek” episode. The easy, friendly kiss comes at the very end of the photo session scene. A few years later,  in February of 1972, Sammy would go on plant the kiss that sealed the deal for anti-miscegenation attitudes in America once and for all.

Sammy Davis, Jr. kisses Carrol O'Connor on "All in the Family"
Sammy Davis, Jr. kisses Carrol O’Connor on “All in the Family”CBS

When Sammy kisses Archie Bunker, it was effectively the first kiss between a Protestant-white-male-bigot and a black-male-converted-Jew on American television.

It was on the cheek, and in many ways is reminiscent of that original kiss in Edwin S. Porter’s short silent film. Only this time it’s not racist and is actually funny. It left the nation a little stunned and ended the issue of miscegenation in American media — forever — although the state of Alabama would not repeal its miscegenation laws until the year 2000.

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

DIY Film Fest: You know Jack Nicholson can act, but did you know he directed three films?

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

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You don’t have to wait for the NuArt or the American Cinematheque to throw a film festival. Make one of your own! Every few weeks, Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, releases another in his series of DIY Film Festivals for Off-Ramp listeners to throw in the comfort of their homes.

Listen here: DIY Film Fest: the 3 movies Jack Nicholson directed are better at home

Jack Nicholson has over 70 credits as an actor. But — pop quiz – how many movies did he direct?

Nicholson has 12 acting Oscar nominations and three wins. He and Michael Caine are the only two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. From Easy Rider in 1969 to About Schmidt in 2003. Jack’s acting rightly overshadows his directing efforts – of which there are three or four – if you count his un-credited work on Roger Corman’s “The Terror,” with Francis Ford Coppola, among others.

1. ‘Drive, He Said” (1971)

Nicholson’s solo directorial debut is the 1971 adaptation of Jeremy Larner’s novel, “Drive, He Said.” The title is from a Robert Creeley poem about human disconnection in an uncertain time. It perfectly suits the  subject of the movie: the unease of zeitgeist. It’s about a horny  college basketball star who has an affair with one of his professor’s wives, played by Karen Black. It touches on the social revolution and the still lingering sexual revolution, featuring a long single take sex scene between William Tepper and a dazzling Karen Black, which Nicholson says he filmed “contranudity,” with Black wearing a huge fur coat, so the stars look like two bears wrestling.

“Drive, He Said” premiered at Cannes to mixed reviews, with equally tepid reviews and box office upon it’s release, tho’ Roger Ebert called it “often brilliant” and Vincent Canby liked it greatly. The original score is extraordinary and was composed by David Shire, then married to Coppola’s sister, Talia.  I just watched the other day for the first time since 1990 and it’s still relevant – and even  better than I remembered.

2. “Goin’ South” (1978)

Jack directed his second film, “Goin’ South” in 1978. It’s an odd caper comedy set just after the Civil War. The plot is nuts – tho’ apparently based on something they actually did during those days when men were sparse because so many died in the war: men could be spared from hanging if they could find a woman to marry them.

The movie failed at the time and most critics give it faint praise today. But it’s what I call a “chuckle in every scene” funny.  You never really laugh out loud, but you never stop chuckling, because there’s something funny happening in every scene; including a good bit of slapstick. It’s a movie that actually plays better in an intimate setting – like in your own personal DIY film festival — when you clock every nutty expression Jack Nicholson, John Belushi, and Christopher Lloyd make,  and hear every very funny line of dialogue … of which there are many.

“Goin’ South” was meant to star Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen, with Mike Nichols directing. But, when another film Nicholson wanted to make fell through, Jack stepped in to direct and found himself drafted to star.  His best work on “Goin’ South” was his discovery of his leading lady, Mary Steenburgen, who was working as a receptionist. It was great call. In her second feature – “Melvin and Howard” – she won an Academy Award.

3. “The Two Jakes” (1990)

Jack Nicholson’s third directorial effort is the sequel to Roman Polanski’s 1974 neo-noir classic “Chinatown,” “The Two Jakes.” I really like this movie. It only has one problem, it was made 10 years too late – literally. Originally set for 1985, and meant to be the middle film of a trilogy, “The Two Jakes” had issues from the start.

“Chinatown’s” producer, Robert Evans,  wanted to play the “second” Jake, a role that went to Harvey Keitel. And “Chinatown’s” writer, Robert Towne, wanted to direct, and didn’t want Evans … in the picture. (Ha ha ha!) But it finally got made in 1990, with most everyone in their original role  and Jack Nicholson directing and reprising his role as Jake Gittes. But for the “The Two Jakes” it was too late. Once again, reviews were mixed, though Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars and Vincent Canby called it “…an enjoyable if clunky movie.”

“The Two Jakes” polls  6 out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes these days, and if in fact it turns out to be the last film Jack Nicholson directs, he can and should be proud of it, along with other directorial efforts, each are worthy additions to our DIY Film Festivals.

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

DIY Film Fest: 5 movies with major, minor, or moot continuity errors…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

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Film critic Tim Cogshell talks Oscars buzz at AirTalk’s FilmWeek at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on February 18, 2015.BILL YOUNGBLOOD/KPCC

Tim Cogshell is film critic for KPCC’s Off-Ramp and Filmweek, and for Alt Film Guide. He blogs at CinemaInMind.

Continuity errors in cinema are legend.  There are a some classic doozies, like the croissant Julia Roberts is chomping in “Pretty Woman” that becomes a pancake.

The errors come in a number of categories, from crew and equipment earnestly working to get the shot they are in, to props magically appearing and disappearing between cuts, to material or narrative anachronisms.

Sometimes they matter, sometimes they don’t — who cares if Rick’s trench coat is wet when he boards the train in Paris?! — and sometimes they make the movie.  Here’s a quick DIY Film Festival of films you might want to see for their dubious continuity – and you can judge for yourself if they break or make the movie.

1. Deep Purple burns Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous”

Deep Purple’s “Burn” figures prominently in the background of a scene from writer-director Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous,” set in 1973.

A precocious teen, Crowe was a writer for “Rolling Stone” in 1975. He spent time on the road with The Eagles, the band on which he based the fake iconic rock band, Stillwater, in “Almost Famous.” And he wrote the definitive cover story on The Eagles. But he got a lot of the music wrong in the movie. That Deep Purple album was released 1974. There are a few of those in “Almost Famous” – along with some T-shirts for tours that wouldn’t happen for another decade.  To fans of classic rock these errors ruin the movie, but most people don’t even notice them.

2. No Justice No Peace for Peebles’ “Posse”

Director Mario Van Peebles 1993 film “Posse” is set in 1898, but a crowd shouting “No justice, no peace” is straight out of 1992, along with the late great Nipsey Russell asking, “Can’t we all just get along?!”

These anachronisms were controversial at the time.  Some critics and audiences – out for a rooting-tooting cowboy movie – called it blunt political commentary that the broke suspension of disbelief … As if casting Big Daddy Kane and Tone Loc didn’t already do that.

3. A slice of American Pie in “Born on the 4th of July”

Don McLean’s “American Pie” is forever associated with Oliver Stone’s “Born of the 4th of July.” The song is played and heard by characters in the film several times … in scenes set 1969.  The problem? The album was released in 1971. Still – would any other song do? The of loss of an American ideal represented in Don McLean’s ode to Buddy Holly is a perfect metaphor for the American ideal lost by Ron Kovic. This movie and that song go together, continuity be damned.

4. YouTube in “The Hurt Locker?”

At one point in “The Hurt Locker,” specialist Owen Eldridge, played by Brian Geraghty, says “…. they’re going to put me on YouTube.” Nope. “Hurt Locker” is set in 2004 and YouTube did not launch until 2005, which the producers of this film, which came out in 2008, should have thought about in 2007. Or maybe not, because it won a bunch of Academy Awards in 2009.

5. Hair AND Wardrobe:  “TNT Jackson” and the magic panties

But my favorite continuity mistake of all time is in an early 70s Blaxploitation classic called “TNT Jackson.” It stars stars Jeannie Bell as a young black karate expert out to avenge her brother’s death on the mean streets of Hong Kong.

There are a number of badly staged karate fight sequences in the movie, and Jeanne kicks much fake karate ass in all of them. But this was an exploitation film after all, so one of those fight scenes takes place when the exciting TNT Jackson is wearing nothing but a pair of panties and a wicked afro. During this perfectly fabulous scene, TNT kills the lights to even her odds against her multiple attackers.

TNT JACKSON (1974)

When the lights come back on, the intrepid Ms. Jackson is wearing different panties. They were brown. Now they’re white. The lights go out and come back on again. And the panties change again. You can’t help but notice … because she’s only wearing the panties and the wicked afro. This is a perfectly crazy continuity mistake. And I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

OFF-RAMP – Tim Cogshell with a DYI Film Festival – Noir is a Style not a Genre…

OFF-RAMP FOR SATURDAY, JULY 9, 2016

Tim Cogshell has another DIY film festival for Off-Ramp listeners, this time looking at 3 important films in the film noir style. Because noir is a style – not a genre’.

Listen here:

 

TheyLiveByNightLobby Poster 2 odds against tomorrow one sheet. 2 Touch of Evil One Sheet

Lobby Cards: They Live By Night | Odds Against Tomorrow | Touch of Evil

 

Tim Cogshell, Film Critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; Tim tweets from @CinemaInMind

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

DIY Film Fest: The last slavery movies you ever need to see

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp 

Listen here: The last slavery movies you ever need to see – really.

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GLORY

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, has joined Off-Ramp’s team of commentators. Cogshell blogs at CinemaInMind, and in this commentary, Tim uses the N-word in context.

Here’s what Snoop Dogg said about the remake of Roots:

“I don’t understand America. They just want to keep showing the abuse that we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But guess what, we’re taking the same abuse.”

He said some more stuff too, but that’s what we could broadcast.

On this thing, I’m with Snoop. I’ve had my fill of slave, maid, butler and chauffeur movies, thank you. Yet recently Snoop and I have endured “The Help,” “The Butler,” “Django Unchained,” “12 Years a Slave,” the re-conception of “Roots” and “The Free State of Jones,” and the eagerly awaited Nat Turner saga — with its appropriated title “Birth of a Nation” — is on the horizon.

I have all kinds of issues with movies about slavery in America, but I’m a professional film critic rather than a hip-hop maestro, so as part of my series of DIY film series you can do at home, here  are several exceptional films about slavery in America that will get you up to speed on the subject, and get the subject out of my life — and Snoop’s — forever.

1. “A Woman Called Moses”

A 1978  television miniseries you can find online, “A Woman Called Moses” is the story of Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave who helped organize and conduct the Underground Railroad — and who will soon appear on the $20 bill. Sometimes irony is exquisite.

The film stars the great Cicely Tyson, who had the distinction of playing most notable black women in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s — no matter their age, complexion or actual nationality — from a teenage Kizzy in the original “Roots” to a 100-year-old Miss Jane Pittman in “The Biography Miss Jane Pittman.”

2. “Glory”

I applaud “Glory,” from 1989, because the title applies mostly to a bunch of black men. It’s ostensibly a movie about a young white colonel and his command of the first all African-American volunteer company in the Union Army. Smartly, director Edward Zwick knew the movie had to actually be about these black men at war to set their people free. So that’s the movie he made, and by doing so he gave us Denzel Washington in his first Oscar-winning performance, a young Andre Braugher, and Morgan Freeman all on screen together. That’s almost as good as Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle kicking pretty good ass in “Captain America: Civil War.” Even though they are not all on the same side and technically the movie is still about the white guys.

3. “Beloved”

A lot of people don’t get this movie. They’re missing it. Adapted from Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, this 1998 Oprah Winfrey vehicle is deeply affecting and wonderfully acted by its whole cast, which includes Danny Glover in that period-correct Frederick Douglass hairdo. It’s the story of a former slave who drifts in and out of brutal memories of her life as a slave, while haunted by the present spirit of the child she killed to keep it from slavery. As a journey into the psychological effects of slavery on a woman, it is unrivaled.

4. “Brother Future”

“Brother Future” is a 1991 TV movie that  asks: “What would I do had I lived during slavery?”

The answer is almost universal: “Lead my people to freedom!” Phil Lewis plays a young brotha from 1991 Detroit sent back in time to the American south in 1820 to do just  that.

5. The “Nigger Charley” series

The last  movies I’ll mention in our DIY slavery film festival are “The Legend of Nigger Charley,” “The Soul of Nigger Charley” and “Boss Nigger” — hard R’s, down the line.  Released in 1972, 1973 and 1975, the titles were controversial back then, too. The N-word was replaced by the word “Black” for broadcast purposes in the first two films, and the third film was often called Boss Charley, or just Boss. Which is a shame because it misses the point of these very pointed post-civil-rights era blaxploitation films. Films that star Fred “The Hammer” Williamson as a brotha who by the end of the series is buying the freedom of black folks like Oscar Schindler, and slapping the snot out of every white man who looks at him funny.

OK, those are all of the movies about America’s peculiar institution you will ever need to see. Choose amongst them to build a DIY Slave Movie Film Festival of your own, and you’ll never have to see another movie about slavery in America, ever, and neither will I, or Snoop.

DIY Film Fest: 6 time-travel flicks you’ll go back to (sorry) time after time

I’m Talking Time Travel Movies on John Rabe’s Off-Ramp. You can listen now… or in the future. No Time Machine required, just click below.

LISTEN HERE:  http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2016/05/24/49154/diy-film-fest-6-time-travel-flicks-you-ll-go-back/

By: Tim Cogshell

Off-Ramp has been after me asking me to do another DIY film festival, and I’ve been asked to talk sci-fi flicks with the sci-fi nerds over at the DigiGods podcast.  They have a great audience and I know they are going to want to talk time-travel movies. Sci-fi nerds always want to talk time travel movies. So let’s kill two birds with one stone.

1. “LOOPER” (2012)

Let’s start with a modern film that’s fast becoming a cult classic. The nerds love Director Rian Johnson’s 2012 time-travel thriller “Looper,” and so do I.  It stars Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt as the same guy from different moments in time. What I like most about Looper is that it’s a love story wrapped in a thriller hidden in a time-travel movie.  And that it’s Johnson’s own original script. He worked it all out beat-by-beat in his head and “Looper” is tight as a drum.

2. “THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT” (2004)

Sci-fi nerds love Ashton Kutcher movies. Plus, it’s a pretty good flick. Like “Looper,” “The Butterfly Effect” is actually a love story, this time wrapped in a drama hidden in a time-travel movie.  And it almost gets Chaos Theory right. There are several alternate endings for “The Butterfly Effect.” All easy to find. Some of them happy.

3. “TIME AFTER TIME” (1979)

Malcolm McDowell and David Warner in "Time After Time"
Malcolm McDowell and David Warner in “Time After Time”

For something vintage I usually go with director Nicholas Meyer’s “Time After Time.”  Weaving together the Jack the Ripper mystery with an H.G. Wellsian time-travel adventure and a contemporary romance, it’s Nick Meyer’s directorial debut. With Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells, a pre-“Time Bandits” David Warner as the Ripper, it’s surprising how well this classic straddles time from its settings in 1893 and 1979 right through to the present day. And it will premiere as a series on the ABC television network in the fall. It’s certainly a debut film, but the Nick Meyer who would go on to write and direct the more cerebral “Star Trek” films is definitely in there.

4. “SOMEWHERE IN TIME” (1980)

Christopher Reeve in "Somewhere In Time," the time travel date flick
Christopher Reeve in “Somewhere In Time,” the time travel date flick

I love Jeannot Szwarc’s “Somewhere in Time,” a time-travel romance starring a young Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and a beautiful John Barry score.

5. & 6. “LA JETÉE” (1962) & “TWELVE MONKEYS” (1995)

Chris Marker’s “La Jetée” and director Terry Gilliam’s “Twelve Monkeys” are in some ways the same movie at different moments in time. “La Jetee” is a short film constructed almost entirely from black-and-white still photos, voiceover and the atmosphere of time and place.

It’s the specific inspiration for “Twelve Monkeys.” Aside from being a flat-out brain freeze of a time-travel movie, it’s a different kind of Terry Gilliam movie – austere, stark and character driven. Plus, the film has Brad Pitt in his first Oscar-nominated performance.

Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in "Twelve Monkeys"
Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in “Twelve Monkeys”

Those of you paying attention will note that both my first and last picks star – yep – Bruce Willis.

OK, I think I’ve got the sci-fi movie nerds covered.  Mix and match to build a DYI Time Travel Film Festival of your own. And remember, if you go back in time, don’t change anything!

 

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, has joined Off-Ramp’s team of commentators. Cogshell blogs at CinemaInMind.

 

How Hollywood can make more money: Cast women of color…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

Listen here: How Hollywood can make more money: Cast women of color

Film and culture critic Tim Cogshell, of KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, has joined Off-Ramp’s team of commentators.

I’m now going to name almost all of the women of color in or on TV (or a TV-like platform). And that’s a big problem.

On the heels of #Oscarsowhite, the Nina Simone controversy, the whitewashing controversy, and every other diversity issue Hollywood is facing, it’s an important question: how many women of color are on TV and on platforms like Amazon and Netflix and Hulu? So here’s an almost complete list of women of color in the industry who are the boss, storyteller and/or hero who saves the day and gets the boy — or girl.

At the top are the one-namers — Oprah and Shonda. You know Oprah. Shonda Rhimes is the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” and executive producer of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “The Catch.” She’s a black woman who owns a night of network television. Steven Bochco once owned a night of network television. And I had to say both of his names.

TV executive Shonda Rhimes
TV executive Shonda RhimesMS. MAGAZINE

Then there’s Cookie on the hit series “Empire,” played by the Academy Award-nominated, Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe Award-winning Taraji P. Henson.

Cookie is an archetype — not a parody — of a particular type of African-American matriarch that’s seldom, if ever, portrayed on American TV: a self-made, outspoken, rich and sexy mom who will do anything for her children. Cookie is outrageous — but J.R. Ewing was outrageous, and we loved J.R. And he was a lousy father.

Let’s get back to our list.

There’s Regina King on HBO’s “The Leftovers,” Uzo Aduba on “Orange is the New Black,” and Danai Gurira, the sword-wielding lead in “The Walking Dead.” Lucy Liu is the Chinese co-star of “Elementary.” And then there’s Indian-American Mindy Kaling of “The Mindy Project,” Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin,” Cristela Alonzo on “Cristela,” Eva Longoria in “Telenovela,” and Kerry Washington and Viola Davis on the Shonda Shows.

These shows and characters are popular across a broad swath of American audiences, which puts the lie to the old myth in Hollywood greenlighting suites that women of color — as attractive leading ladies and authority figures — won’t be accepted by American audiences, that they need to be mammies, hookers, best friends … or non-existent.

I’ve always known this was a myth. I grew up watching Pam Grier above the title in major motion pictures, where she kicked ass just like Steve McQueen, and with more personality. In the early ’70s, the late Teresa Graves became the first African-American woman to star in her own hour-long series, the cop drama “Get Christie Love.”

To me, a black woman on TV was beautiful, tough and smart. Which was a reflection of my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, my aunties, my big sister and ultimately my wife. All beautiful badasses not to be underestimated, like Christie Love — and Cookie.

It’s true that compared with the movies, TV is doing better. But it’s still not acceptable that I can name everybody in four minutes on the radio.

If you’re the kind of person who greenlights things in Hollywood, and you’re not investing in diversity in every possible way, you’re stupid. Because you’re not only contributing to racial and gender inequity, you’re leaving money on the table.