“Movie Freak” (2016) by Owen Gleiberman

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Legendary Entertainment Weekly  …  now Variety … film critic Owen Gleiberman’s memoir “Movie Freak” is the best memoir of an arts critic I’ve ever read.  As much as I love and admire Roger Ebert’s memoir “Life Itself,” Gleiberman’s memoir blows Ebert’s excellent book out of the water.  The reason?  Gleiberman’s brutal self-analysis of his faults, not only as a human being, but his chosen profession as film critic.  Near the end of the book, Gleiberman recounts a crucial point before he married his wife, when she threatened to leave him over his indecision to one day become a father.  I’ll quote Gleiberman here:

“It dawned on me that so many giants in the world of film criticism … did not have children … What was it about film critics and children that did not mix? The obvious answer is that movies can grow into an obsession that fills that space … A person could become obsessed with any art form or with other things that were just art.  But movies had seduced me because they were the art form that seemed to be the most vivid reflection of life.  The most perfect imitation of it.  The seduction -the insane glory- of movies is that you could watch them and actually believe that they were life.

But of course, they were not … I’d always though of movies as a life force that infused me, and I hadn’t changed my mind. But now I saw that they were also something else.  At the movies, you drank in an alternative existence that did not, in fact, exist … I wasn’t just a man who loved movies. I was a man who worshiped undead images as if they were alive.  I lived under their spell.  And maybe that me undead as well.  Movies had saved my life, but now my life needed to be saved from movies.”

This is one of the best statements about what it’s like to view life as an outsider, instead of participant.  It’s safer to stand in the background and comment on life as it happens than to dive in and f–k up.  And trust me, Gleiberman painfully recounts his many f–k ups in “Movie Freak,” but his admissions are liberating instead of depressing.  This was obviously not an easy book to write, given the ferocious self-analysis, but Gleiberman pulls it off with a great sense of humor and zero self-pity. The book hit home for me in a lot of ways and will be one that I will revisit in years to come.  And if you’re fan of Gleiberman’s writing, he recounts his favorite films and past reviews in a way that’s a total blast. I loved this book so much that I read it twice to be sure that my initial reaction was accurate before I reviewed it.   I’m happy to say I loved it even more the second time.  Dave says “Check it out!”

“Hail Caesar!” (2016) scr./dir. The Coen Brothers

Just saw “Hail Caesar!” … Absolutely loved it!   If the Coen Brothers’ brilliant, but ultra-bleak 2009 film “A Serious Man” was about an absent, or indifferent God, “Hail Caesar!” concerns the opposite.  Easily their sunniest, most upbeat film …  “Caesar” could be the first Coen Brothers film that could be screened in churches.  Of course, it won’t be, because it’s the Coen Brothers and it’s highly irreverent, off-kilter, and weird.  But … it’s the first film in their 32-year filmography that indicates their hearts are not as black as they’ve always implied.  I’m a religious skeptic these days, but if there is a God, you could do a lot worse than Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix character.  Trust me, this is a VERY deep film if you analyze it, but it’s done with such a light, goofy touch, it’s incredibly entertaining and fun even if you don’t dig deeper.   There’s even some affectionate digs at Hollywood liberalism gone amok … with George Clooney front and center gleefully sending himself up.   Critics and audiences have been lukewarm about “Caesar,” but you need to remember that “The Big Lebowski” had the same reaction when it first came out and is now one of the Coen’s most beloved films.  Mark my words, “Caesar” is one for the ages.

Some good news re: Dave’s Strange Radio

Some good news … at least for now … I’m staying on the air for the time being as the new rates don’t appear as formidable as I was originally led to believe. This may possibly change in the next month or two as my carrier has not completed negotiations yet with the various entities that collect royalties, but for the time being, we’re still here! Thanks for all your support. Hopefully, once all rates are finally negotiated, it’s something I can manage.

An Interview with Chip Chipperson by Jennifer Carmody (from the Carmody Central Podcast), April 15, 2014

Aside from Doug Stanhope, there’s no living comedian that’s more painfully honest than Jim Norton.  To say Norton is an open book is an understatement.  He frequently discusses his sex addiction, his numerous encounters with prostitutes, etc. without batting an eye.  And doesn’t care what you think … at all.  In fact, one of his stand-up specials was called “Please Be Offended” and one of his books was titled “I Hate Your Guts.”  Many people are put-off by Norton’s willingness to delve into the darkest parts of his life so openly, but I find him extremely funny and refreshing.  I don’t always agree with him politically, but I appreciate his honesty and his disdain for anyone who isn’t equally as forthright about their dark side.  In a world where pious and sanctimonious bulls–t is increasingly praised, we need more artists like Norton.

Having said all this, my favorite part of Norton’s comedy is his pathetic, creepy, deluded, and brain-damaged alter-ego Chip Chipperson.  Chipperson is a masterpiece of anti-comedy, the equal of anything Andy Kaufman or Sacha Baron Cohen has ever done, if not any character Phil Hendrie has conceived.  But many people, including some Norton fans, HATE Chip.  And I can’t blame them.  Seriously, Chip is THAT f–king annoying and repulsive.  But to appreciate Chip is to love him.  Jennifer Carmody interviewed Chip for her podcast and for Chip fans, this is pure, undiluted Chip at his finest … or worst … I realize it’s hard to tell the difference.

If you’re even remotely sensitive, please don’t listen to this.  The language is beyond not safe for work.  The first 2/3 of this are gold.  However, in the last 1/3, Norton goes into some of his other disturbing alter-egos and while funny, is uneven and isn’t quite as good as the first 2/3.  But if you’re a fan of anti-comedy, strap in.

Dave’s Top 100 Desert Island Films

These may not be the 100 “best” films I’ve ever seen … though most of them are.  However, if I’m going to be alone somewhere with only 100 films, these are the ones that will either put a smile on my face or give me lots to think about.  It’s a combination of the highest cinematic art and the most delicious cinematic junk food.  Of course, I reserve the option to revisit / revise this list in another year.

Aliens
Almost Famous
American Psycho
At Close Range
Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession
Badlands
Bamboozled
Being John Malkovich
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Big Lebowski, The
Blue Velvet
Boogie Nights
Boyhood
Brazil
Breaking the Waves
Bully (2001) dir. Larry Clark
Capturing the Friedmans
Carrie
Casino
Clockwork Orange, A
Coal Miner’s Daughter
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Crumb
Dazed and Confused
Deer Hunter, The
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Ed Wood
Escape from New York
Face in the Crowd, A
Falcon and the Snowman, The
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Female Trouble
Fight Club
Fourth Man, The
Ghost World
Godfather, The
Goodfellas
Great Santini, The
Happiness
Hard Boiled
Hardcore
High Fidelity
Hollywood Knights, The
Hopscotch
Hot Tub Time Machine
Husbands and Wives
Inglourious Basterds
Inside Out
Irreversible
King of Comedy
L.A. Confidential
Love Actually
M*A*S*H
Mad Max
Mad Max Fury Road
Magnolia
Malcolm X
Miller’s Crossing
Mulholland Dr.
Nashville
Nobody’s Fool (1994) dir. Robert Benton
North Dallas Forty
Out of Sight
Out of the Blue (1980) dir. Dennis Hopper
Over the Edge
Performance
Pink Floyd The Wall
Pulp Fiction
Putney Swope
Quadrophenia
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Repo Man
Reservoir Dogs
Robocop
Royal Tenenbaums, The
Salvador
Scarface
Searchers, The
Serious Man, A
Seven Beauties
Short Cuts
Slap Shot
Sorcerer
Straw Dogs
Stuntman, The
Summer of Sam
Talk Radio
Taxi Driver
Thief
This is 40
This is Spinal Tap
True Romance
Usual Suspects, The
Velvet Goldmine
Videodrome
Wanderers, The
Wolf of Wall Street
Wonderland (2003) dir. James Cox
Z
Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Happy 3rd Birthday to Dave’s Strange World!

I wanted to give a shout-out to this blog, which is officially 3 years old today.  Like most 3-year olds, the blog’s ambition often outweighs its ability, specifically my ability to juggle a full-time day job with frequent overtime, a family with two VERY active  but terrific kids, a kick-ass radio station (davesstrangeradio.com), and my debilitating addiction to reading every new and interesting book that comes out.

Still, I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished here and while I’m not sure what my next big endeavor will be, the blog will roll on, discussing all the things that I think are cool and worthwhile.

Many, many thanks to all of you who have supported and followed me over these past 3 years.  Please continue to comment or reach out as you see fit.  It’s always a joy to hear from anyone who reaches out.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) dir. George Miller, scr. George Miller / Brendan McCarthy / Nico Lathouris, editor: Margaret Sixel

Believe the hype.  “Mad Max: Fury Road” is one of the most ferocious, heart-stopping, breathtaking movies ever made. When previews for this film started appearing several months ago, they looked amazing, but I stopped short of getting my hopes up because I’ve seen countless terrific, expertly edited trailers for films that wound up being much less than the trailers promised.  Then the reviews started pouring in and not only were they rapturous, they were better than most serious Oscar-contender films usually receive.  Again, I tempered my enthusiasm, because even mass critical opinion can be wrong.

But I was beyond pleased to see that not only did “Fury Road” live up to the hype, it exceeded it on many levels.  As much as director George Miller redefined action films with the first two “Mad Max” films back in the late 1970s / early 1980s, Miller tops himself with “Fury Road” with some of the most brilliantly staged action sequences I’ve ever seen in a motion picture.  I could try to describe what Miller does here, but it would sound lame, if not ridiculous or cheesy.  What Miller does here could have gone disastrously wrong, but he pulls it off beautifully. Trust me, you just have to see the film to know what I’m talking about.  A big part of Miller’s success is due to Margaret Sixel’s wonderfully insane editing.  If there’s a shoe-in for an Oscar this year, it’s for Sixel.

The biggest surprise about “Fury Road” is that while Tom Hardy’s titular character Max Rockatansky is in almost every scene of this film, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa character is the heart of the film.  Theron’s performance is not only the equal of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the “Alien’ franchise (the gold standard of female action characters), Theron exceeds the very high bar set by Weaver.  Furiosa is a character that has been living her entire life facing unspeakable horrors to not only gain the evil leader Immortan Joe’s trust, but to use that trust to escape Joe’s reign of terror and gain the freedom for Joe’s multiple concubines.  This is someone who has been operating on slow burn for multiple decades, someone who has had to keep her emotions close to her vest to risk her life to save the lives of others.  Theron’s character is not only brave, but is someone who has to constantly improvise when things don’t go according to plan.  If Theron does not receive an Oscar nomination for her performance in “Fury Road,” if not the win, it will be a grave injustice.

And this is not to slight Hardy’s performance as Max in the least.  Hardy is a more than worthy substitute for Mel Gibson who justifiably became a star after his turn in the first two “Mad Max” films.  Hardy portrays the right mix of bravery and insanity that we expect of Max.  But despite the “Mad Max” title of the film, this is really Furiosa’s story.  While Max (again) learns to regain his humanity, I hope this won’t be theme of future Max installments.  If both Gibson and Hardy can sell us on the fact that they’re not numbed-out nihilists by the end of “Road Warrior” and “Fury Road” respectively, hopefully whatever screenplays accompany future Max films will take the character further instead of repeating the formula again.  But again, this is not to slight “Fury Road.”  This is the first Max film in 30 years and if we need to be reminded of the original trope, that’s fine.  Just please, Mr. Miller, take the character further in future installments.

I’m afraid if I say anymore, it will dilute your enjoyment of “Fury Road” if you haven’t seen it yet.  Despite the unanimous critical praise, please note that this is an extremely violent film and if you are queasy about such things, you will not like this no matter what praise I or others bestow upon it.  But I will say that the hype is justified and “Fury Road” is a film for the ages, if not a classic.

“Full Metal Jacket Diary” by Matthew Modine (2005 / 2012)

OK, movie nerds with iPads, listen up … There’s an app you must purchase immediately.  It’s Matthew Modine’s “Full Metal Jacket Diary.”  First some background ….

During the making of Stanley Kubricks’s classic 1987 Vietnam War drama “Full Metal Jacket,” lead actor Matthew Modine kept a diary about his experiences while making the film and also shot many photos.  In 2005, Modine compiled his diary entries and photos into a monumentally stunning and awesome metal hardcover coffee table book called “Full Metal Jacket Diary.”  With it’s size, metal cover, and a price of around $50 at the time, it was not going to be a huge bestseller.  But it was highly acclaimed not only because of it’s concept and beauty, but it’s one of the rare day-to-day accounts of what it was like to work on a film set with the legendary and difficult Kubrick.

The book has been out of print for years, but it has been re-released in a very interesting and innovative way: an iPad app. The book has been redesigned with all the text, photos, and now … Modine’s narration … into an immersive audio / visual experience that is incredible, to say the least.  The app’s price of  $9.99 may seem high, but when you consider that you would pay $9.99 or more for an ebook or audiobook … and you get the experience of both in a beautifully constructed new format … it’s actually a terrific bargain.  You can even download the first chapter for free through the iTunes app store if you’re not entirely convinced.

Trust me when I say that if you’re a fan of cinema, this is a must-have app.  And if you don’t have an iPad, I highly recommend buying the audio version of the book through Audible or through Amazon on CD.  Dave says “check it out!”

http://www.fullmetaljacketdiary.com/

Happy Birthday Dave’s Strange Radio!

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Dave’s Strange Radio celebrates its 1st birthday today.  A very heartfelt thanks to everyone who has tuned in and supported us during the past year. The best is yet to come. Stay tuned…

What is Dave’s Strange Radio?  Why it’s the greatest radio station in the world.  It’s a mix of garage punk, hardcore, classic rock, alternative, prog rock, folk, outlaw country, soul, and all kinds of weirdness in between and outside the margins. From the Rolling Stones to Roxy Music, from Iggy to Ike & Tina, from Brian Eno to the Butthole Surfers, from the Doors to the Devil Dogs, from the New York Dolls to the New Bomb Turks, we’ve got you covered. Warning: some of the material is not work or family friendly.

You can enjoy Dave’s Strange Radio in many ways …

At our official homebase: http://www.davesstrangeradio.com

You can also find us in the following places:

iTunes Web: You can find us in iTunes as an official iTunes radio station. When you open iTunes, go to Music, then Internet. You can find us under the Eclectic subheading.

TuneIn Radio: You can find us at the following link through TuneIn Radio:

http://tunein.com/radio/Daves-Strange-Radio-s218280/

iPhone/iPad/Android phone/Kindle Fire: The best way to experience Dave’s Strange Radio on your mobile device is through the free TuneIn Radio app. Just type in “Dave’s Strange Radio” into the search engine and then select the heart to add us to your favorites. Here you can get album art, as well as links to purchase the song you’re listening to. You can also access us through the free SHOUTCast app (though not on the Kindle Fire).

Apple TV: We are an official station on iTunes radio that you can stream through your Apple TV box. Find us in the Eclectic section under “Dave’s Strange Radio”.

Roku: You can enjoy Dave’s Strange Radio either through the free TuneIn Radio app or through the free SHOUTCast app.

vTuner:  We are an official vTuner radio station.  If you have this app on your audio receiver, smart TV, car stereo, game console, or tablet, please tune us in and let us know how we’re sounding!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @DStrangeRadio

“The Amityville Horror” (1979) dir. Stuart Rosenberg

I realize this is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, much of this is fairly laughable and campy.  But … I have a soft spot in my heart for this film, mainly because it was the first R-rated movie I ever saw.

Let’s take the wayback machine to the summer of 1979 … “The Amityville Horror” was the most popular film of the latter months of that summer and my brother and I wanted to see it.  The only problem?  It was rated R.  My mom was fairly vigilant about shielding us from inappropriate content.  But one of her friends told her that the film wasn’t that bad and that she couldn’t understand why it was rated R.  So with this “endorsement,” my Mom took my brother and me to see this at the Circle 6 in Norfolk, VA.

My impressions at the time?  I enjoyed the film, but kind of wondered what all the fuss was about.  I didn’t find the majority of it scary at all.  However, I enjoyed a lot of hip cachet with my peers for seeing an R-rated film, so of course, I indulged … if not embellished … all the sordid things I witnessed.  Allright, cut me some slack, I was 9.

Anyway, the thing that freaked me out the most wasn’t the haunted house shenanigans (i.e. blood in the toilet, flies attacking the priest, the voices saying “Get out!”), but the opening, the true-life event that allegedly made the house haunted.  This was when the son of the previous house owners massacred the entire family in cold blood.  That’s the part that I couldn’t comprehend and that’s the part that actually gave me nightmares.  I remember asking my mom would someone would kill their entire family and the response was that the boy was “insane.”  That didn’t rest well with me then … and still doesn’t rest well with me now, even though it’s probably true.  Tellingly, it was the part of that “Amityville Horror” story that actually happened that frightened me the most.  The haunted house crap … that even at the age of 9, I shrugged my shoulders at … has since been discredited by many people.  I have no idea if what the Lutzes experienced was true or not.  But the opening events which are not in dispute terrified me the most.