Archives for October 2008

Fright Fest – my “tales of terror.”

This past Monday night as I prepared myself to watch a replay of the new HBO series True Blood, I was watching the preceding program, Shadow of the Vampire from the year 2000.  It was my first time viewing this film about a fictionalization surrounding the filming of 1922’s Nosferatu.  Overall is made for great viewing but it got me thinking, “In my mind, what qualifies a movie as ‘scary’ or even ‘terrifying’?”  After some thought I concluded that this definition for me is very broad.  That is why I use scary and terrifying interchangeably as you will find throughout the passage.

To me, the goal in creating a good it is not merely about the shock-value – although that can go a long way when executed properly.  What is truly scary or terrifying to me are films which upon their first (and hopefully subsequent) viewings to a “mind mess” with me.  In other words, to truly feel terrified or scared, I want to leave the cinematic experience playing with various scenarios of what I have just experienced in my head, almost to a troubling degree.  My television equivalent of what is most terrifying is what the very best of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone had to offer.

In previous entries I have stated my love of (all) things Alfred Hitchcock. For the purposes of this blog entry I will exclude these titles – although I must admit when I think of scary and terrifying I do not immediately think of Hitchcock for some reason.  I do find them suspenseful and full of dramatic tension but around this time of year I do no feel a special need to place his titles in a heavier DVD rotation.

So as we near All Hallow’s Eve this Friday here is a list of what MAY be playing in my queue.  This is not an all-inclusive list I am sure.  A couple that are not on the list but in my collection is The Orphanage ( il Orfanato) and Hard Candy – we’ll see if they have what it takes to make my list!

Meshes on the Afternoon (1943) – a Maya Deren short which has produced a couple of nightmares in my lifetime
Dead of Night (1945) – I really hope that this film gets a proper digital transfer to DVD – this is one for the collection, a real keeper.
Brazil (1983)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
The Shining (1980) – sterility and coldness literally sends shivers up my spine; Kubrick was very effective at capturing that.
The Others (2001) – Who cares if you were able to figure out the plot twist before the big reveal?  My unsettledness had a lot to do with the other-worldly atmosphere.
Heavenly Creatures (1994) – a terrific pre-LOTR adaptation by Peter Jackson.
The Third Man (1949) – part of what makes the visualization and imagery disturbing in this film has to do with its connection to the aforementioned “Heavenly Creatures.”

A Mighty Fine Fella – An Appreciation of Paul Newman


Of course I did not know Paul Newman personally but his presence on and off screen made you feel like you had a personal connection to him. When I was on my train Saturday morning and my dad called me to tell me the news, my heart sank. I felt like someone a friend was gone from my life. Additionally as a dear friend of mine said when I informed her of the tragic news – he was someone for us who represented someone that we thought we would never see pass – despite our 50 plus year age difference. He was a timeless, one-of-a-kind individual whose work and life are an example for all who succeed him.

In being an “everyman”, an “ordinary” man if you will, he was extraordinary. There was the unprecedented charity work that made giving to those in need really, really cool. Butch Cassidy/Cool Hand Luke for goodness sake! The almost mythic for Hollywood 50 year marriage to Joanne Woodward is stuff o’ legend – you CAN make it.

His screen persona (as already noted in several places) was striking, disarming and oh so appealing; “The Long Hot Summer” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” immediately spring to mind.  The defiant, affable rogue/rascal of “Cool Hand Luke,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting” captured audiences.  Granted I speak as a 30-something person who was not even born when the aforementioned films were out in theatres.

One film that I WAS release in my lifetime is one I watched when I was in high for religion class; “The Verdict” showed a real pathos and journey of discovery in my opinion – the troubled man who finds himself crusading in a sense to do the right thing.
It is a credit and privilege that we were able to see this progression of man throughout his career in several stage through the roles he portrayed over the course of over 50 years.

In closing, I refer to a song sung by another man known for his dazzling blue eyes; I feel like this captures the essence of a life that is lived to its fullest:

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
Ill state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and evry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

Farewell and rest in peace, my friend.