The Hunt for Gollum: Not Your Father’s Home Movie

I noted the other day that Cassidy and I are reading The Hobbit together.  It, along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was a defining moment in my early reading years.  I’ve been looking forward to sharing these books with Cassidy, and we are having a blast.  She has not seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies, and I told her that we would watch each movie together after reading the book.  Just the other night we were lamenting the fact that there is not a movie version of The Hobbit.

Now, thanks to a dedicated director and a bunch of very talented actors/volunteers/fans, there is a very well-done movie inspired by these books that we can use to whet our appetites.  In our reading, we are just past the point where Bilbo Baggins finds the ring and escapes from Gollum and the goblins, with some help from the eagles.  So Cassidy knows about Gollum and the ring.

Filmmaking is not like journalism.  Unlike the ever narrowing gap between traditional journalists and bloggers, citizen filmmakers have not narrowed the gap between themselves and their Hollywood counterparts.  In fact, I think the difference between a Saturday night made for Sci-fi Channel movie and a Hollywood feature film is bigger than the difference between a good blogger and the New York Times.  Words all look the same and stand in their own merits.  Movies are multi-media events, where cinematography, special effects and other factors have a lot to do with the end result.  Accordingly, even talented actors look bad in a film with no production budget.

Which makes it very hard for independent films to measure up.

The Hunt for Gollum is a very pleasant exception to this rule.  This is an excellent 40-minute film, in HD no less.  The fight scenes were excellently filmed, choreographed and acted.  I really enjoyed the entire thing, and intend to watch it again- with Cassidy.

Take a look.  But be quick, because there’s no guarantee that some walking bad decision at New Line Cinema, who owns the rights to the Lord of the Rings movies, won’t try to squelch this little labor of love, and all the good publicity it will generate.  I hope that doesn’t happen.

Because it is a cool and well made film.

Must-See Concert Film

I was channel surfing tonight and came across a 2005 concert film by The Cure, one of my favorite bands.

It’s playing on channel 95 on DirecTV and, I believe, on another non-HD channel.

Robert Smith has always been an absolutely amazing songwriter and performer, and unlike some of my old favorites, The Cure looks and sounds as good in 2005 as they did back in the 80’s when records like Faith, Pornography (<– the Cure record, for the benefit of Google caches), The Head on the Door and Disintegration blew my mind for the first time.

I highly recommend this film for any fans of great music.

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Great Music Film – Festival Express


I watched one of, and perhaps the, best music films I have ever seen tonight.

Festival Express.  It’s available at Amazon, and via Netflix.

In the summer of 1970, a chartered train crossed Canada carrying some of the world’s greatest rock bands. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Ian & Sylvia and others traveled, partied and played great music together for five days, stopping in major cities along the way to play live concerts.

It was all filmed.

The concert footage is great- the first number by The Band is worth the rental all by itself.  But the best parts are the impromptu jam sessions that occurred on the train between concerts.

I love this film, and recommend it highly to any fan of great music.

Movie Recommendation: Monstertorsdag

monstertorsdagI didn’t get this great Norwegian film from Netflix- my TIVO recorded it for me. It doesn’t seem to be available at Netflix, but you should be able to find it on the Sundance Channel or the IFC. It is listed under it’s translated name: Monsterthursday (spelled as one word).

I generally stay away from foreign films, because the requirement of reading the subtitles makes it hard to watch them while you’re doing something else. I watch most movies in my study, where the ability to multitask makes it seem less like I am sitting around wasting time.

I figured I’d watch a few minutes to see what a Norwegian film looked like. I got hooked and watched the entire thing in one sitting.

The vibe of this movie grabbed me from the first scene- a surreal wedding scene where the ex-wife of one best friend marries the other best friend. The ex-husband/best man is in great dismay over the wedding, but after an uncomfortable toast, he soldiers on- mostly. It gets better and darker after that, as the new groom leaves town on an extended business and/or surfing trip and the bride and her ex-husband explore their past, present and future.

Surfing becomes the measure of success and monster waves the demons to be faced. This is in no way an action movie, feeling much more like Lost in Translation than your middle of the road Hollywood drama. And I mean that as high praise.

Surfing, relationships, drinking, and the hatred of golf all play important roles in this film. Pretty much everything required for a good movie.

It’s a pretty somber film, but not totally dark.

Highly recommended.

102 Films

Jason Kottke posts a list by film critic Jim Emerson of 102 movies someone ought to have seen to be considered movie literate. I suspect my list and that of just about everyone else would be different, since we all like and dislike different things, but here’s the list.

An asterisk means I have seen it.

* 2001: A Space Odyssey (overrated)
* The 400 Blows (pretty good)
8 1/2
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
* Alien (defines the modern alien genre)
* All About Eve (good)
* Annie Hall (other than Tiger Lilly, I find Woody Allen’s movies boring)
* Apocalypse Now (great movie)
* Bambi (I liked it and my kids do too)
The Battleship Potemkin
* The Best Years of Our Lives (great movie)
* The Big Red One (pretty good)
The Bicycle Thief
* The Big Sleep (OK, not great)
* Blade Runner (one of my all time faves)
Blowup (never seen it, but would like to)
* Blue Velvet (great movie)
* Bonnie and Clyde (OK, not great)
* Breathless (nah)
Bringing Up Baby
* Carrie (good scary movie)
* Casablanca (as good as its reputation_
Un Chien Andalou
Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis
* Chinatown (pretty good)
* Citizen Kane (great film)
* A Clockwork Orange (famous for being weird, but still pretty good)
* The Crying Game (great ending)
* The Day the Earth Stood Still (great sci-fi)
* Days of Heaven (fantastic movie; a must see)
* Dirty Harry (great Clint)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
* Do the Right Thing (good movie)
La Dolce Vita
* Double Indemnity (one of my favorite of the film noir genre)
* Dr. Strangelove (great film)
* Duck Soup (I actually get the Marx brothers)
* E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial (great at the time)
* Easy Rider (good, but Wild Angels was better)
* The Empire Strikes Back (masterpiece)
* The Exorcist (great horror film)
* Fargo (great, but Raising Arizona is better)
* Fight Club (OK, not great)
* Frankenstein (masterpiece, if he’s talking about the 1931 one)
The General
* The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II (should have added III too)
* Gone With the Wind (I liked it the first few times I saw it)
* GoodFellas (great film)
* The Graduate (great film)
* Halloween (maybe the best modern horror film)
* A Hard Day’s Night (good because it’s the Beatles)
It’s a Gift
* It’s a Wonderful Life (my favorite holiday film ever)
* Jaws (how in the world has Jason not seen this!)
* The Lady Eve (good, but not great)
* Lawrence of Arabia (great epic film)
* Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior (great post apocalypse films)
* The Maltese Falcon (great Bogart)
* The Manchurian Candidate (OK, not great)
* Metropolis (never understood the big deal about this one)
Modern Times
* Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the funniest movie ever)
* Nashville (good, not great)
* The Night of the Hunter (great Mitchum)
* Night of the Living Dead (one of my all time faves)
* North by Northwest (my favorite Hitchcock)
* On the Waterfront (Brando when he wasn’t a cartoon character)
Once Upon a Time in the West
* Out of the Past (Another of my favorite film noir movies)
* Pink Flamingos (great, but I like Hairspray better)
* Psycho (good)
* Pulp Fiction (one of my all-time faves)
* Rear Window (good)
* Rebel Without a Cause (OK, but not as good as its reputation)
* Red River (great movie- there should be more westerns on this list)
* Repulsion (weird, but with Catherine Deneuve)
The Rules of the Game
* Scarface (pretty good, but Casino’s better)
The Scarlet Empress
* Schindler’s List (masterpiece
* The Searchers (another great western)
The Seven Samurai
* Singin’ in the Rain (a rare musical I like)
* Some Like It Hot (OK, not great)
* A Star Is Born (the original is bearable; I hated the remake)
* A Streetcar Named Desire (great movie)
* Sunset Boulevard (another great film noir movie)
* Taxi Driver (great movie)
* The Third Man (great Orson Welles)
Tokyo Story
* Touch of Evil (definitely in my top 5 all time)
* The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (great movie)
Trouble in Paradise
* Vertigo (more great Hitchcock)
* West Side Story (didn’t like it)
* The Wild Bunch (great western)
* The Wizard of Oz (speaks for itself)

I’ve seen 78 out of 102.

All in all, a fairly good list. I would certainly add The Birds, Suddenly Last Summer, Summer of 42, The Last Picture Show, and A Place in the Sun. I would seriously consider adding Full Metal Jacket, the remake of The Thing, Belly of an Architect and the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


An Offbeat One for Your Netflix Queue


I just finished watching Werewolves on Wheels, a 1971 horror film that is part The Wolfman and part Easy Rider. It was a low budget, offbeat movie, as evidenced by the fact that a lot of the production crew have talking parts.

But there is something really compelling about it.

In sum, the movie begins, almost literally, like Easy Rider and then takes a left turn into a B movie-werewolf romp. If that sounds like your bag (it’s certainly mine), check this movie out.

The camera work by Isidore Mankofsky is really innovative and clever, even by today’s standards and the music, both background and semi-featured songs have aged very well.

The best part is the commentary, by both of the co-writers, one of whom was also the director. I almost never rewatch a film with the commentary. Rather, I just rewatch a few of the key scenes with the commentary turned on. I watched this entire movie again just to hear the interesting commentary.

A little trivia: the girl who initially turns into a werewolf is in On the Beach with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. And the guy who plays Pill was Bud on Father Knows Best.