Friday, May 30, 2008

RIP Harvey Korman

One of my favorite actors of all time, Harvey Korman, has passed away due to complications of an abdominal aneurysm. He was 81.

For those of you out there too young to be familiar with his work, he was a regular on "The Carol Burnett Show" from 1967 through 1978. He is also famous for working with Mel Brooks on the classic films "Blazing Saddles", "High Anxiety", and "History of the World, Part 1".

I fell in love with Korman's work watching old "Carol Burnett" reruns with my parents. I was born in 1975, so it probably wasn't until the late 1980's I started watching them in syndication. That was the best sketch comedy show I have ever seen on television - better than SNL - and one of the big reasons was Korman's inability to "keep it together" when Tim Conway started ad libbing. If you've never seen it, you have to check out the famous Dentist Sketch. Funniest...skit...ever.

Tim Conway and Harvey Korman toured together doing a comedy show several years ago. My wife was also a big fan, so we got tickets and went. We were easily the youngest people there! It was just Harvey and Tim recreating old Carol Burnett skits, and some other new sketches, but mostly it was Conway breaking Harvey up on stage. Priceless.

I also have to give a nod to Korman's role as Heddy ("That's Hedley!") Lamarr in "Blazing Saddles". I could quote his lines all day - including the famous "Go do...that voodoo....that you well!!" Mel Brooks said that Korman had a way of "elevating the material." That certainly seems true. I can't imagine anyone else doing this scene from "Blazing Saddles" and making it funnier:

RIP Harvey Korman - you will be missed!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indy, I Liked You Better in the 40's

Well, several hours ago I walked out of the Hamilton 16 Movie Complex, having seen the new Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It was not what I had expected. So here is my spoiler-free review: it was an average film - closer to NATIONAL TREASURE 3 than an INDIANA JONES movie - but was most disheartening was how far off the beaten path Speilberg and Lucas went to deliver the story line - what made Indy truly great was not just the adventure, but the folklore, the history, and the spiritual element that made every adventure - and every legend - potentially real. Believable. And that's where the idea for this film took a wrong turn. It was more about Indy living in the 1950's than about the adventure itself - which is what we all care about most. Now to my spoiler review....


Now back to my point about the 1950's - it was the start of the Cold War. The Nazis had been replaced by the Reds as the "military villain of choice." I kind of like seeing the Ruskies back in action - it was a throwback to my early adolescent years and classic Cold War movies like RED DAWN - ("That hate'll burn you up kid." "Keeps me warm.") But the 1950's also saw the explosion of classic drive-in sci-fi movies - movies that no doubt fascinated Lucas and Spielberg. And since the Jones character was a tribute to another old film genre that they loved (the adventure serials) it might have made sense that bringing Indy in to the 50's also meant taking him into B-movie science fiction. And the world of science in general.

Sure - it might make sense, but it doesn't work.

Yes, Indy encounters aliens in this new adventure. The movie even starts at Area 51. And I think this, more than anything else, kills this from being a great Indiana Jones film. It has sapped the life-blood of an Indiana Jones adventure, which is believing in the legend. Believing in the magic. Seeing Jones look for flying saucers just isn't something that I can believe in, and in the end it makes the hole adventure kind of pointless. As much as I wanted to love this film, I just had trouble doing it. Thankfully, 1940's Indy can live on in my DVD player - with no Aliens or atomic bombs. Just good ol' Nazis and the wrath of God.

Friday, May 16, 2008

GDT On Religion, Part 2

More quotes from El Maestro on his religious themes:

From The Evening Class blog, December 14, 2006:

"When I was researching the movie The Devil's Backbone, I found the absolutely horrifying—not only complicity—but participation of the Church in the entire fascist movement in Spain. The words that the priest speaks at the table in Pan's Labyrinth are taken verbatim from a speech a priest used to give to the Republican prisoners in a fascist concentration camp. He would come to give them communion and he would say before he left, "Remember, my sons, you should confess what you know because God doesn't care what happens to your bodies; he already saved your souls." This is taken verbatim from that speech. The Pale Man represents the Church for me, y'know? [He] represents fascism and the Church eating the children when they have a perversely abundant banquet in front of them. There is almost a hunger to eat innocence. A hunger to eat purity. I didn't want to avoid it, but I did not seek Catholic imagery. Nevertheless, I understand that redemption by blood and the rebirth by sacrifice is a Catholic conceit. So I accept it without any problems because I think that sexuality and religion come from your imprint in an early age. Whatever arouses your spirit or arouses your body at an early age, that's what is going to arouse it the rest of your life. Everything will be subordinate to that. It's a personal choice and it's a personal experience. I don't shame myself about being a lapsed Catholic and so if that cosmology appears in my movies, I'm fine with it."

From The Mark of Toro, and interview by James Mottram, March 2, 2008:

"At a very young age I discovered many, many things," he says. "Amongst them, death and masturbation. Very anti-Catholic. There were things that happened when I was a child that just made me believe there was no God. It's such an ancient anguished feeling: if God exists, why do these things happen? I'm not totally lapsed. Once you're a Catholic, you are always a Catholic. I saw some pretty horrible things as a child in Guadalajara: violence and evil. Children inflict violence on other children that is terrible."

From BFI Interview, December 2006
"One of the most important movies in my life, emotionally," he says, "is William Peter Blatty's Twinkle, Twinkle Killer Kane [aka The Ninth Configuration ]. It's a movie about redemption through sacrifice and the giving of your blood to save others that speaks to the soul of somebody who believes in a messiah. It deals with the fragility of faith, which is essential to Blatty's work - how faith is almost intangible and yet incredibly strong. And I think it affected me because, although I am no longer a Catholic, I share the belief that there is a state of grace that can be reached not through moral purity but through almost ethical purity - by being yourself and being immune to the world. It's a little ascetic, but it's essentially the thesis of Cronos . In that film the girl who does not mind dying is the truly immortal character. And the character played by Federico Luppi becomes immortal at the moment he decides to die, the moment he says: 'Fuck it, I don't want to kill my granddaughter.' Immortality doesn't mean you live longer; it means you are immune to death. I think that's the same thing that occupies Blatty: faith, the state of grace, immortality, redemption. And these are things that are important for me too."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

GDT On Religion, Part 1

Having described himself as a "lapsed Catholic," a common theme in GDT's movies is religion. Here are some interesting quotes from Guillermo on this topic:

From an interview by Mira Sorvino, August 1997:

"I think the concept of good and evil has to be both moral and religious. Growing up as a child in Mexico, you're exposed to all these images of saints who have no eyes and are bleeding from their sockets, and you're supposed to pray to a Christ who is purple with wounds and oozing substances, and people are kissing his feet, which have chunks of bone showing through the flesh. Religion is supposed to make you feel safe, but here you are, praying to a purple guy who doesn't speak. I can't avoid images like these in my films, although I think they're much less predominant in Mimic than in Cronos...."

"I spent a lot of time with my grandmother because my parents traveled a lot. Actually, my real grandmother, my mother's mother, died during childbirth. The woman I call my grandmother was my grandmother's sister. She was an extremely repressed and religious woman. You know how it is with old school Catholics: You're born and you're already in sin, and you go, Why? I haven't even enjoyed myself yet. What the hell is this about? In Catholicism it's like God is merciless, the Devil is evil, and they aren't that far apart, in the sense that they're both stem figures watching over your shoulder to see which way you teeter. If you go a little too much to the God side, then the Devil is very interested in you. If you go a little too much to the Devil side, then God damns you. And then you have a sense of guilt, which is a key element in any horror movie. The old guy scratching himself in Cronos is a metaphor for many things, from sexual addiction to chemical addiction - compulsive urges that in Catholicism become sin."

"In Latin American countries it's understood that Christ was flesh and blood, Christ was human - let's see him bleed. A saint that has bled is a human saint. A saint that exists only on an altar in white surrounded by halos, what is that? Those people who committed suicide in the Heaven's Gate cult had no idea whatsoever about the real. world anymore. What they looked up to were these emasculated white aliens devoid of any dark side. I think First World cultures tend to homogenize religion and make it more remote. For example, kids in America don't know they're going to die, whereas in South America if you tell a fable about a kid going into a dangerous place, the kid invariably dies - it's about teaching children that if you cross certain lines of safety, you die. It's not like you can cross the safety line and then jump in with John Williams music and everything will be all right."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

For Those Interested in Working on THE HOBBIT

I get a lot of email about wanting info on how to be an extra on THE HOBBIT, or asking how one can work on the production. So here's what you need to know - and I'm afraid it is not good news:

For one, if you are not a native New Zealander (Kiwi), you would need to get a work permit. For anyone specifically travelling to New Zealand to land a part as an extra, this will be very difficult to obtain.

Second, the vast majority of all positions will be filled by Kiwis. The country has a law requiring that non-citizens can only be hired if no Kiwi can be found to fill the position.

Finally, the Weta Workshop has very few jobs to offer, they have approximately 5,000 portfolios on file, and they receive 30-50 portfolios a week. In other words, if you want to get noticed for a position, you better be DAMN good.

There are a couple of links out there I will point you to for more information. The first is this blog entry by Kristin Thompson called, Working on The Hobbit: Harsh Realities for Non-Kiwis. It is a must-read if you are seriously considering traveling half-way across the globe to snag a part in the film, or just to work on it in some capacity.

The other link is the Weta Workshop Recruitment Page. It has some very good FAQ's and other information on applying for a job that you should read very carefully.

The three things that you need going for you to make it on as an extra is this: you have to be resident, you have to be at the right place at the right time, and you have to be very lucky. In some cases, locals could be hired on when shooting on location, but even then the word can get out and you could find yourself competing against thousands of others wanting to be a part of the production.

So think twice (and then think a third time) before you lay it on the line and travel to NZ to follow your dream of working on THE HOBBIT.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Panatrog Website Infiltrated

Lexi came through again, this time supplying the pass phrase to access the Panatrog website. Using her riddle, we realize that the pass phrase is "Grey Elephants Denmark". Type that in at You will have access to all kinds of cool "classified" documents and videos.

I found a great blog out there that is keeping track of all of these HBII Viral secrets. For continued viral updates, check it out:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cloverfield - Monsters on Tape

Well I finally saw Cloverfield. It is one of those movies that demands viewing on a large screen - anything less than a 50 inch television won't do it justice. Fortunately, I have a projection TV in my basement, so I'm covered.

I really liked it. It was a fun monster movie that was not clouded by unnecessary gore or "where did it come from" subplots. These days, it is becoming a bit cliche to have a movie presented as a "hand held home video" - like The Blair Witch Project (the first film to succeed, at least financially, on this level).

J.J. Abrams and his team kicks it up a notch, and deliver some great effects and thrills as a group of young, white professionals get chased through the city by a giant monster (anybody else feel like they were watching a Friends episode gone horribly wrong? I would have paid money to see Ross get chewed up like monster beef jerky).

Anyway, what I most wanted to write about was the presentation - the movie "home video." Some people may think it is becoming cliche to present a feature film as something filmed on a home video camera. I disagree, only in that in can be a very effective story telling technique for engaging "realism." A monster movie is a monster movie, but I think trying to disguise a film as something that actually happened adds to the fun. I think it makes it easier to immerse yourself in the fantasy - it might be the closest thing to making a movie into a roller coaster ride (outside of jostling the theater around with a crane arm). In fact, many people experienced motion sickness while watching the film in theaters.

The main drawback is that it is hard to keep a believable narrative going. The dialogue and such didn't ring true, and I found myself completely uninterested in their various relationships and emotional detachments - I just wanted to see the damn monster. Its like trying to watch a video on YouTube of some insane "caught on video" moment, and you just want to fast forward it through the crap so you can get to the nitty gritty. But I understand the need to build up some kind of narrative and plot (in this case, guy wants to rescue girl), but let's try to be more creative here - maybe next time (Cloverfield 2: Monsters in the 'Hood?) the guy just wants to scrape some scales off the monster so he can sell them on eBay for mucho dinero.

Risking life and limb for cold hard cash? Now that's realism!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Smaug and His Environment

GDT has already commented over at the TORN message boards on some of the things we might expect for Smaug's design.

First, he said that the two best dragon designs, in his opinion is, the Eyvind Earle / Disney dragon from SLEEPING BEAUTY, and Vermitrax Pejorative from DRAGONSLAYER.

I have not seen DRAGONSLAYER (should I?) but I have vivid memories of the Malificent dragon from SLEEPING BEAUTY. I saw it on a huge screen at a drive-in movie theater in rural Indiana. My parents and I were parked in a brown Buick station wagon. The wagon was turned around, with the back opened up and I was lying on blankets and pillows watching the movie. The radio was tuned to the movie audio. On that drive-in screen, the dragon was enormous, scary (to a youn'un such as I) and beautiful. Just as striking was the fire and color that surrounded the dragon, making each frame a feast for the eyes. When GDT said over at TORN that, "Smaug is the perfect example of a great creature defined by its look and design, yes, but also, very importantly, by his movement and -One little hint- its environment", I can only hope he is channeling those images of Earle's dragon, with his black, elegant body traipsing through the fire and brimstone, with each flame, each rock, each cloud of smoke evoking the power of the dragon.

Here are some pictures of the great Eyvind Earle creation, and how the environment exudes just as much power and fear as the dragon itself.

For more on GDT's comments on Smaug, go here.

HBII Viral Marketing, Part 5

In Lexi's latest vlog, Lexi shows a picture of her father. There seems to be a PANATROG logo in the picture and the code SE-514. If you turn the letters into numbers you get 19-55-14. There were reports that entering these numbers into the secret device you could get digital specifications on a tooth fairy, but it doesn't seem to be working anymore. For pictures, visit

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On Smaug and Vader


Those who have read THE HOBBIT understand the weight he bares on its story. He is not just a dragon. Not just a villain. His presence looms over the entire narrative, both through his monolithic physical form, and also for what he IS.

Says GDT on the TORN message boards, "Smaug should be 'The DRAGON' for all movies past and present. The shadow he [casts] and the greed he comes to embody- the 'need to own' casts its long shadow and creates a thematic / dramatic continuity of sorts that articulates the story throughout."

Some LOTR folks may cringe at what I'm about to say, but I think it is a valid comparison: Smaug is Darth Vader with scales.

That's not to say that Smaug is Bilbo's father (although weirder things have happened - did you see BEOWULF?). When I make this comparison, I'm talking really about two things:

1. When most people think of the ultimate science fiction villian - they think of Darth Vader. Some even think of him as the greatest villain in movie history (I do!). His status as a symbol of evil, a symbol of dark power, is unquestioned. When you see the old Star Wars movie posters, it is the Darth Vader helmet that is looming menacingly over the heroes. Smaug needs to have that kind of presence, that kind of stature, in the minds of movie-goers. Given GDT's quote above, I think he has the right idea. Its not just a matter of making a "cool-looking" dragon. This is about building an iconic character that stands out from all other dragons in movie history.

2. The Star Wars saga is not about Luke Skywalker. It is about Darth Vader and the ultimate redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Each character in the film is linked in some way by Vader's destiny. Smaug's impact on THE HOBBIT is similar, although not so profound. It is not Smaug's destiny that fuels Bilbo and his cohorts, it is his "essence". His greed. His pride. These traits are at the heart of Bilbo and Thorin's actions and drives the story. One rejects them, the other is enslaved by them.

(Relatively, Luke rejects power when tempted by Vader in their final confrontation. Vader's "essence", I would say, is power.)

Just a few random thoughts - feel free to comment below. I'd love to hear your take, or if you think this is a worthwhile comparison.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

HBII Viral Marketing, Part 4

GDT has posted some interesting videos over at the Hellboy 2 message boards.

Where did the portal come from, you ask? Maybe this explains it...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

HBII Viral Marketing, Part 3

So, if you happen to watch Lexi Lloyd's ( vlog about dreams and doors, you will see a code in the top left: 07-01-89. Mix up the numbers and put 1-89-7 in the Secret Device (

Now you will see what looks like a bio-spec film on a "Cave Berserker" monster. Not sure of the significance yet...