Wednesday, October 31, 2012


While I didn't get as many full reviews in as I would have liked, I did actually watch the films, and so that's something I guess. Here is a series of short reviews of the remaining films I watched.


This was the 2nd of three Mario Bava films I watched this month, and it was way better than Black Sabbath. It's a pretty nifty turn of the century murder mystery involving witches and ghosts. Bava creates the perfect atmosphere for the story and while in the end you might feel a bit shorted, the journey to that point is so good you probably won't care.


Vincent Price and Peter Cushing had oddly enough only been in one film together prior to this film and they weren't in a single scene together, so this must have been like Heat to Price and Cushing fans back in the day. Price plays a horror movie start (big stretch) whose bride to be is killed under mysterious circumstances and causes Price to go a little mad. He returns to his old stomping grounds a few years later and tries to revive his career only to find a new set of murders taking place around him. Cushing plays a close friend who takes him in and helps him try to get his career back on track. The mystery itself is pretty weak; the killer is fairly obvious from the get go. What is extremely interesting is how the film uses a lot of the motifs of the Giallo, and for fans of the Italian sub genre (of which I am a huge one), it's kind of entertaining to see an American verison. Also, Price and Cushing are great as always. This would actually be Price's last picture with AIP so it's kind of a fun last hurrah. This type of Gothic melodrama would go out of style after the success of The Exorcist so it's nice to see all the people involved were able to get one last one in.


I guess the Paranormal Activity movies are critic proof for me because I enjoyed the hell out of this film. I agree with almost all of the complaints lobbied at the film especially with the identity of Hunter being 100% preposterous, but the movie works on the most basic level of horror movies; it's creepy quite a bit of the running time and that was enough for me on this weekend afternoon.


This is a fairly popular late Hammer entry for a lot of fans. I will admit first off to not being the biggest Hammer guy, but that has more to do with still having to see quite a bit of their library, but what can I say? I'm a Universal Monsters guy. And this one didn't really make me change my mind. It involves Jack the Ripper's daughter all grown up and being possessed by her Dad or having the same sickness he had or something. It's never really clear. And the whole sequence of events is more seedy than scary; just wasn't for me. But the film has a lot of fans so if you enjoy Hammer or are intrigued by a unique take on the Ripper story you might want to check it out.


2nd Poe adaptation this month and the much better one. I need to correct a few errors from my review of Masque. There were 8 (not 7) Poe adaptations by Roger Corman, and Price was only in 5 of them (not all). With that out of the way, any Price fan who hasn't seen this yet needs to immediately. This quickly shot to the top of my list of favorite Price films. Like many Poe stories there is not a lot of plot in Pendulum, but they create a very intriguing mystery around the set-piece of the title. Said set-piece makes a very scary appearance in the last sequence of the film and Price is just outstanding in the lead. One of my favorite discoveries of the month.


Wes Craven's third film after his fairly popular Last House on the Left and Hills Have Eyes might seem like a bit of step down in intensity, but that was fine with me since I detest the former and find the latter to be fairly mediocre. Deadly Blessing is by no means a great film, and it was nothing compared to the Nightmares he would give us just 3 years later, but it's not too bad. Craven finds a lot of suspense in a creepy sect of religious zealots - they make the children of the corn look pretty tame in comparison. The murder mystery at the center of the film (seems to be a recurring theme in this last crop of films) has a pretty sloppy set-up, but the denouement is one of the most bizarre you will ever see. I'll just leave it at that. Also early Sharon Stone role,  who gets not 1 but 2 creepy sequences with some spiders. And the last shot just has to be seen to be believed.

These were all of the films I watched for the first time. I also saw these favorites of mine that I had not revisited in awhile:

- An American Werewolf in London (1981)
- Halloween (1978)
- The Ring (2002)
- Deep Red (1975)
- Demons (1986)
- Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971)
- The Invisible Man (1933)

I had a lot of fun and I hope to do this next year with more full reviews and a more consistent schedule. I also plan on keeping the reviewing going after this. I hope to be tackling new movies (in theaters and on DVD) and doing more retrospectives. I also have some other ideas in the works that might manifest into something on this blog at some point. Either way I hope to be back soon. Thanks to everyone who tagged along with me this month, and I hope everyone has had a Happy Halloween.


At 11/30/2012 01:32:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I didn't know you'd done all this! This was great.

Also, I hope Notre Dame dies in a fire.

At 12/06/2012 01:00:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Thanks and I don't know what to say to the last comment, but well spoken.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I've never been a huge believer in the "So bad So Good" philosophy when it comes to certain films. However, I do think that there are plenty of films that while they are not very good I find extremely fascinating. Rocky Horror Picture Show and I'm assuming The Room (Sadly, I have not seen this yet) fall into this category, and one can only hope that one day Society will join the mainstream ranks of cult classicdom that these two have thrived on over the years. Society is no rational thinking person's definition of a good movie, but it is one that must be seen, and with a crowd in a theater if you can manage it (Fellow blogger, Chris, and I got to see this at a horror movie festival at our local revival theater, the Belcourt.)

Society was the directorial debut of Brian Yuzna, who previously had co-produced Re-Animator and From Beyond with director Stuart Gordon. Both of these films are based on H.P. Lovecraft stories, and while Society is not, it is very "Lovecraftian" in nature mixed with body horror that might even make David Cronenberg cringe. While the movie opened up in 1989 in Europe and did quite well, Yuzna was not able to secure U.S. distribution until 1992 (Yuzna had already directed and released 2 other films in this time period) where the movie was essentially released straight to video and quickly forgotten. I do know that I watched this film when it was released, but somehow forgot everything about it. It must have been a late night because I can promise you, this is not a movie you will soon forget.

I don't even know how to describe Society. It could be called a message movie I guess: The rich are soul sucking demons. However, that doesn't even scratch the surface of the events that transpire in the film. Billy Warlock plays Billy Whitney, a rich kid from Beverly Hills who seems to have it all(cheerleader for a girlfriend, shoo-in for class president, nice car, etc.), but can't scratch the feeling that something is terribly off with his parents and sister. His sister's ex-boyfriend, Blanchard (Tim Bartell), gives him a strange recording of his parents and sister in what sounds like a freaking sex-a-thon (or as they keep saying on the tape, "Copulation"). It only gets weirder from that point.

Society builds and builds and builds. Along the way you are treated to some wonderful dialogue that sounds like it was fed through a computer simulation to give us an approximation of what people might talk like in some weird parallel world. My personal favorite bits are "One of these days it will be my party!" and "Would you like cream, sugar, or me to just pee in it?" You will also be led down misleading paths with bizarre red herrings (blow-up dolls performing oral sex and Ken dolls with screws in their heads that squeak left in Jeeps) that you won't realize have nothing to do with the main mystery because you are a level headed individual. And the explanation for these particular incidents might be one of the best damn things about the movie.

But what the film builds to is a twenty minute set-piece of some insane and extremely gruesome effects (by Screaming Mad George) that you will not see coming. And while what happens is fairly gross, it only adds to the goofy atmosphere that the rest of the film revels in. I can also say that you will see things you have never seen before done with the human body and for that alone you have to thank the film for something I guess.

Society was a product of its time. It was made and shelved at a time when the only horror films we were getting in theaters were sad attempts to keep a stale franchise alive (Jason Goes to Manhattan, Halloween 5, etc.) or even sadder attempts to copycat a new franchise into existence (Shocker, Warlock). Society was not playing by any of those rules and paid the price of essential obscurity. And while it is by no means a lost gem, it is a movie that is so bizarre and so fantastically outrageous that it is well worth checking out for all lovers of cinema. I guarantee that you will not be bored. And like I said the bigger the group of like minded people you watch this with the better the experience will be. I cannot stress that enough.


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Monday, October 29, 2012


I was doing so well for the first half of the month, and then everything kind of went to shit as far as being able to post goes. I will get some reviews up over the next couple of days, but probably won't be able to do full write-ups on everything. Will probably be doing a wrap-up of the ones I wasn't able to write about on Thursday. But I'll get as many up as I can between now and Halloween.

I get to go see Halloween (1978) on the big screen tomorrow night as part of Screenvision's rerelease of the greatest horror film ever made. I encourage everyone to seek this out; it will be showing over the next couple of days all over the country. Click here to see where it is showing in your area.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2012


More reviews will be coming; I've been watching the movies everyday but just haven't had time to post anything due to work, 15 month old child, etc. So for the 4 or 5 people reading this, I hope to have the next batch up in the next couple of days. Hope everyone is having a fun month of horror movie viewing, pumpkin patches, parties, etc. So sad the month is almost over.


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Thursday, October 18, 2012


Romero's "Dead" films are a mixed bag for sure. The first two (Night and Dawn) are classics, Day of the Dead is a little heavy handed and dull, but it has moments. Land of the Dead was a fun return that I have grown to appreciate more as the years have gone by (all 7 of them since it opened), but I still think the opening thirty minutes or so are uneven at best.

Then came Diary of the Dead (you can read my review here) which was essentially a modern day reboot. After Land underperformed, Romero decided to go back to his low budget roots and start the story all over again with more present day sensibilities, and by that I mean he incorporated You Tube and other media type outlets into a new storyline of the dead deciding to rise up one day and terrorize everyone.

Survival is the 2nd of this film series - I have heard nothing about whether or not there will be another one - and pretty much takes place right after Diary ends. It even casts a secondary character from the first film into more of a leading role in this one. And that would be Sarge Nicotine Crockett (Alan Van Sprang) who was last seen roaming the countryside with his former troop members and robbing people along the way who would assume the military was still around and trying to help them. Crockett and his team learn about a sanctuary of sorts on Plum Island in Delaware. Since it's an island it would seem to be harder for the dead to be roaming around on it.

The island, however, has its own human problems with two feuding Irish families, the O'Flynns and the Muldoons. Survival has its very own "Hatfields vs. McCoys" saga at the center of its zombie story. The other problem is that in this "Dead" series, Romero has alluded to the problem being related to a disease or genetic disorder; when you die, no matter how you die, you become a zombie (much like what is currently going on AMC's The Walking Dead). Therefore, while they are on an island, there are still people dying and therefore there are still zombies walking around.

Diary was not great, but it was quite a bit of fun. Romero attacked the film with a lot of vigor, and it felt like the first time since Night and Dawn he was actually inspired with one of these films. The acting was not very good across the board, but it was easy to overlook with all of the good things that the film had to offer. Survival, however, feels tired and uninspired. The O'Flynn vs. Muldoon sections of the film are cliched with a lot of silly rhetoric being thrown around in thick accents and the like; if only everyone could have been holding a beer could it have been even more generic.

The zombies don't even feel like that much of a threat in this film either; the human element is much more of a problem. While that might have been Romero's point, the execution is just not there to make this work. And while I know this film was made a year or so before The Walking Dead premiered (although the comic book would have already been in existence) it's hard not to think now about how much better that show provides this kind of "Humans can be more evil than Zombies" scenario - you could also say the same about the 28 Days Later films.

So pretty much the whole film is the families bickering at each other and then Sarge and his crew show up toward the end and cause some more problems for the island to deal with. The zombies barely factor in to any of this until with about 15 minutes left in the film they bring up this idea that the people on the island have been working on giving the zombies a different food source so they are not a threat while people are trying to find a cure. While it's possible there are some scientists and doctors on the island, they sure as hell don't bring that up, so I'm not really sure if these are the people we want in charge of the Zombie situation.

Survival moves along at a decent enough pace; I was never bored. The acting is much better than it is in Diary (Kenneth Welsh has a lot of fun in his role as the head of the O'Flynn family, Patrick). However, there is just very little else to recommend the movie with. And it appears to be the last of the Dead films (for now), so to say the series ended with a whimper is putting it nicely.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012


ATM has a ridiculous premise. Three people (Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, and Josh Peck) are trapped inside an ATM booth while a sinister looking individual stands outside in a Parka. But as Brian Collins at the great site horror-movie-a-day pointed out in his review: "'s terrible to dismiss a movie on concept alone - otherwise I and a lot of others probably wouldn't have gone to see that movie about the guy who dresses like a bat fighting a clown." It's a point I agree with 100%. There are plenty of asinine story lines that have worked very well as a film. However, ATM isn't one of them (for the record, even though Brian made that comment he actually liked the film less than me.).

The movie tries really hard to make the scenario seem plausible. After leaving an office Christmas party, Josh Peck's character is drunk and hungry and wants Geraghty to take him to a pizza place on the way home that only takes cash (are there any places in large cities like that anymore?). They park far away from the ATM because Geraghty and Eve are pissed at Peck; you have to have an ATM card to get inside the building which is why Parka Man (as I like to call him) is stuck outside, and so on. There are still plenty of holes you can poke in all of this set-up - why wouldn't Alice Eve just drive the car up to the ATM when she decides to go in herself especially after she finds out she can't lock the car door with the clicker but is not bright enough to just use the key. But it's fine; it's a decent beginning to what could be a pretty cool self contained thriller.

The first strike against the film is that our three victims are a pretty unpleasant bunch, especially Peck. Peck is essentially playing a grown-up bully who has goaded Geraghty (who is pretty damn whiny) into finally asking Eve's character out on a date (a likable enough individual but poorly written; to her credit Eve does the best she can). After he finds out Eve likes him just as much, Peck decides to be a bigger dick and force them to give him a lift home which gets them into this situation.

The other problem I have with ATM is that it's just not very suspenseful. Parka Man actually gives them plenty of opportunities to escape; at one point they are easily 100 yards or so from the booth and decide to go back for really no reason at all. One character does make a better attempt to escape only to be foiled by a booby trap that I have no clue when or how it was set-up, but at least the attempt was made. This also seems like a pretty populated area so the movie presents one of those scenarios where literally everything would have to go just right for the villain's plan to work, and the three stupidest people alive would have to show up for his trap. At one point he starts filling up the booth with water, and even though they have been smashing the ATM machines with big poles to try and get an alarm to go off no one thinks to break one of the windows?

There are few decent sequences. Another person enters the booth at one point, and provides probably the movie's most intense moment. There is also a humorous scene involving Parka Man pulling out a fold-out chair to have a seat and watch his plan go into action. And the ending, while a tad predictable, is well executed but would have been a lot more effective if everything that came before it was better.

I was glad to see this wasn't just a Saw rip-off like the previews and plot description made it seem like. I was under the impression the guy was going to make them torture each other or themselves or some such nonsense, and I've seen enough of these torture esq films to last me a lifetime and haven't particularly liked any of them. But actually a couple of simple trims and drop a few of the F-bombs and this movie could very easily be PG-13. Not enough to recommend it, but it is important to know the movie is not what it presents itself to be in the promos.

While I can appreciate that everyone involved did try to make this work, the execution just isn't up to par with the effort. The actors (especially Peck) all do the best they can with pretty uninteresting characters; the villain despite all of his elaborate set-up and planning comes off as very one-note - they do set-up a possible sequel at the end that I would probably check out just to see if the director and writer (David Brooks and Chris Spraling) can do any better with this type of premise. In the end ATM is the definition of a mediocre movie. It could have been a lot worse, but it could have been a lot better.


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Monday, October 15, 2012


Despite a few minor idiotic decisions made by some of the characters in the film and an irritable fascination by Ethan Hawke's character to never turn on lights, Sinister is a pretty great film. It's creepy as hell and has a perfect setting and atmosphere for this kind of film. It also goes for the scare over the gross out which is a pretty consistent trait with a lot of my favorites of the genre.

The problem with writing this review is, I really don't want to tell you anything. I don't want to oversell a big twist or anything like a lot of people did with Cabin in the Woods earlier this year, but like that film I feel it is best to experience this one with as little knowledge as possible.

Unfortunately the previews give away a few things. This isn't he escapes the island kind of territory like in the trailers for Castaway, but it's still a little irritating.

I will tell you that the film centers around the character of Ellison Oswalt (Hawke). Oswalt is a true-crime novelist who found major success with his first book and hasn't really been able to catch that magic since. He gets wind of a story involving a family being hung from a tree in their own backyard and their daughter turns up missing afterwards and feels like he might be on to another best seller. He even goes so far as to move his family into the home where all of this took place. Once there he finds some old home movies in the attic that have footage of the murder taking place at the house plus some other murders in other locations.

From there the film kicks into high gear and never really lets up. The home movies themselves provide for some true thrills. The "Lawnmower" scene, as most people, are calling it is a true highlight and will probably be one of those things you will see on shows like "Bravo's Scariest Moments in Film" a few years down the road. Also, Hawke's children have their own problems involving Night Terrors and imaginary (or maybe not so much) friends that are secondary to the story for the most part, but create even more tension and scares along the way to the big finale. All of this makes you question even more what is really happening, and it got to a point where I wasn't sure I wanted to find out. 

I really don't want to say too much else. This film is by no means a game changer for the horror genre, but it doesn't have to be. It's a cool, scary flick for the Halloween season, and I can't reccomend it enough. Go see it already.


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Saturday, October 13, 2012


I decided to go ahead and do smaller reviews to get myself caught up. I plan on doing full reviews the rest of the way out, but it takes me right around enough time to write each full review that I just don't see how I will ever get caught up at the rate I'm going. After this I will be able to do one at the end of the day or the next morning each time as I view a new movie. So here are the highs and low points of the last few movies I watched. Enjoy!


As much as I love Italian horror films, I've only seen one of Mario Bava's (Bay of Blood aka Twitch of the Death Nerve); I have seen two of his other films but one was a mystery and one was a sex comedy of all things, and not a very good one. So with events like this I'm trying to remedy that lapse in my film viewing history. Black Sabbath is an anthology - which I'm also usually a fan of - and the film has always gotten great word of mouth so I decided to start here. I have to say overall I was a tad disappointed.

The first story, The Telephone is about a call girl getting a string of strange and threatening phone calls; she thinks it's her former pimp who recently escaped from prison and so she calls her lesbian lover over (And why shouldn't she?) to help her feel safe I guess and there are a couple of twists along the way. It's a decent enough story, but it only seems to really get going once it ends. Next is the longest of the three stories, The Wurdalak, and my least favorite. From what I've read this is most people's favorite story, so maybe I'm an idiot. The usually reliable Boris Karloff overacts his ass off as a guy that returns to his castle after being missing for the past five days. The whole affair is a pretty generic vampire story, and it goes on way too long. I wish they had trimmed a little bit off of this story to be able to add a little more to the first one. The third story, The Drop of Water, appears to be most people's least favorite, and I found it to be the most effective. It is flawed for sure and very little happens. However I found the whole affair about a nurse being haunted by the ghost of a lady she stole a ring off of after she was dead to be pretty creepy. Overall I found the film to be pretty mediocre, but I seem to be in the minority with that assessment.


1981 gave us what many people consider to be the two greatest werewolf films, An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. The answer to which of those you prefer divides the horror fan community much like the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate divides sci-fi fans (Trek all the way, baby!). Although you will have the occasional snobbish asshole that will pick Wolfen, which also came out that year, but fuck them!

I've always leaned a little more toward The Howling, but it's very close. I do love me some AAWIL. I decided I wanted to re watch some of my favorites from the past that I hadn't seen in awhile along with watching new horror movies this month, and The Howling qualified. To the best of my knowledge, The Howling  is the first werewolf movie to show the creatures as a pack instead of a sad loner that really hated the curse. These werewolves, including a couple that they turn during the film, seem to relish in what they are, and they all even congregate at this spa resort/rehabilitation center to hang out and kill any non-werewolves that choose to visit.

The film is directed with inspiring intensity and a love of the genre by the great Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace, and the Burbs). And it was written by John Sayles (Lone Star, Eight Men Out), so there is a lot of talent involved behind the scenes, and Rob Bottin's creatures are just as impressive as Rick Baker's are in AAWIL. I personally love the bunny ears. The film manages to be very tongue in cheek and scary at the same time (Ala Scream). It's just a very fun werewolf movie, and there aren't that many of them. I can't recommend it enough if you haven't seen it.


I went through a pretty big Edgar Allan Poe faze in high school. I read pretty much everything the guy had written. I know at the time I tried to watch a few of the film adaptations, and I'm sure they could have been the Roger Corman ones, but I was too much of a book snob at the time to get through them. I was so rebellious in my teen years.

I probably should have started with a different one than this. This was the seventh and final of the Roger Corman directed adaptations, and it was only a four year period that these seven films were made. Not to mention Corman directed quite a few other films in this period as well. It really makes me wonder what a Corman film would look like that he actually spent a year or so on. But the film feels pretty tired, and while Vincent Price is fun, he does seem to be going through the paces (he was in I believe, all of these films as well.).

The main problem is that Masque barely has any plot to speak of, so not only do they have to pad a very short story into the length of a film (87 minutes or so) they have very little action to work with on the printed page. They do something semi-clever by incorporating another Poe story, Hop Frog, in as a sub-plot, and they both deal with over privileged royalty being a bunch of dicks so it kind of works. However, the film just doesn't work that well and I hope I find the other Poe adaptations by this group to be a lot better than this.


This is the original of the wax museum movies; the movie was remade twice under the name House of Wax. Lionel Atwill plays a sculptor whose wax figures might be considered so life like because they are freaking humans covered in wax. A reporter (Florence Dempsey) starts getting suspicious after she is sent to investigate the suicide of a model and finds that a wax figure of Joan of Arc looks suspiciously like her.

The movie is not bad although it is nowhere near as creepy as the premise would suggest, and while I don't have many memories of the 1953 version with Vincent Price, I can tell you this is a hell of a lot better than the 2005 film. The film does get bogged down with a silly subplot about Dempsey and her editor's (Frank McHugh) desire to bang her something fierce; it even ends on the resolution of this storyline and makes the film feel a lot more like a screwball comedy than a horror/mystery. But Atwill is very good as the villain of the piece, and there is enough here to make it well worth watching if you are looking for an older creep fest and you've seen the Universal monster movies enough times already.


I haven't seen Children of the Corn since I was a kid, and all I remember is that there was some dude named Malachi and it freaked the shit out of me. I was an easily persuaded kid I guess, because there is nothing about this movie that is even remotely creepy. I wish I had reread the Stephen King story before watching this (it's only like ten pages), but I'm pretty sure almost nothing in this film was actually in the story. I think the basic set-up is the same but then they just kind of go off on their own after that. Mind you, it's not the in title only adaptation that The Lawnmower Man  was (another ten page story), but whatever it is it's stupid.

It's a very simple premise. Kids take over a small town; a couple of adults show up, and they decide to kill them as well. The kids are possessed by the corn hence the title and worship He Who Walks Behind the Rows. The whole thing is as stupid as it sounds, and the film seems to rely on the scenario that if there is religious fervor (Ala The Exorcist) it has to be scary; well, it's not.

Maybe it's not the worst King  adaptation - the aforementioned Lawnmower Man is worse - but it's not far off. What's kind of crazy though is all of the sequels (most of them direct to video) and even a remake a couple of years ago made for the Syfy Channel that the film spawned. It was a modest hit, but has never been exactly loved by much of anyone so I'm not really sure how all of the follow-ups happened, but obviously someone is watching them. I will not be.


It has been a long time since I've had to resort to the cliche of "I would love my hour and half back," but I'm calling it in for this shitty Canadian import. First off the film isn't much of a horror film - Netflix had it categorized as one so I went with it - and what little I could find written on the film classified it mostly as a mystery, and it's barely that. It's really not much of a film so I don't even know where to go with the genre arguments.

The movie revolves around a horror film festival somewhere in British Columbia. There was a murder in a theater during one of the films a couple of years ago and it paralleled what was happening on the screen. In present day they decide to put on the festival again because the town really needs it or some such nonsense. There seems to only be about forty people that live in the town so I'm not sure how a horror film festival is that important to anyone. They even have a premiere of some huge sequel to a long running series; it would be like if one of the Saw films when they were huge was premiered in some small town in Montana.

The majority of the actors appear to have no emotional investment in anything that is occurring; the one guy who actually shows a little bit of pizazz if you will, is the first one to die in the present day scenario. The story is told so disjointedly and poorly, I didn't even realize toward the end that they were telling us who the murderer was. The movie doesn't even offer up any red herrings; I wasn't really sure if this was supposed to be a surprise. And please understand this isn't a so bad it's funny kind of thing; the movie is just dull. Unfortunately on week nights I'm not getting to watch my movie till around 9 or so and even thought twenty minutes in I knew this film was a bad idea I didn't really have the time to start something else. If this had been a movie I started watching on Friday or Saturday I would have just watched another movie instead.


Burn Witch Burn (aka Night of the Eagle) is a pretty cool British thriller that I had zero intention of watching. I had checked out my netflix queue earlier in the day and decided I was going to watch Witchfinder General. I came to the first movie with "Witch" in the title and hit play. I realized about ten minutes in I wasn't watching the right movie, but I decided to go with it. Maybe I'll catch General later in the month.

Peter Wyngarde plays a psychology professor that discovers his wife (Janet Blair) is practicing witchcraft. He decides to put a stop to what he considers a bunch of nonsense, and soon finds out that not only is it not hooey, but his wife might very well be performing the black magic to protect him from something a little more sinister. All of a sudden a student is accusing him of inappropiate behavior, her jealous boyfriend tries to beat the shit out of him, and his wife comes at him with a knife.

It's a twisty little supernatural thriller, that unlike a movie such as Midnight Matinee, actually knows how to tell a convincing mystery. The reasoning behind all of this mess is so simple it works beautifully and while the title doesn't make a whole lot of sense, the original moniker of Night of the Eagle makes even less. A very slight negative though; this movie is a lot of fun and was a nice surprise that I should have never even seen.


Silver Bullet is an underrated Stephen King adaptation; although it has developed a decent cult following over the last decade or so. It's also adapted from an underrated Stephen King novella, Cycle of the Werewolf. And it's a great werewolf movie which as I mentioned in my review of The Howling, there aren't a whole lot of those.

The story revolves around a small town that has experienced a recent string of murders, and a young boy played by Corey Haim discovers that a werewolf is behind the killings but no one believes him. He finally convinces his crazy, drunk Uncle (Gary Busey) that he's not full of shit.

King wrote the screenplay, which is rarely a good thing (The Shining remake, The Stand, etc.), but it works in this case. With the exception of maybe Stand By Me, I don't know if King's love of small town U.S.A. has ever been captured so well visually. And Haim's inspired performance gives the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" tale a lot more intrigue than it would have had in lesser hands. The movie also does a great job of hitting the ground running; after the first twenty minutes of the film four people have already been killed including a little boy; the movie doesn't fuck around.

One strange narrative choice was to have Haim's sister in the movie be the narrator of the film. First off the film doesn't really seem to need a narrator, and secondly, she's not in half of the film and couldn't possibly know about most of the stuff she talks about. But there is way too much to like to let something like that hamper the film down. It's a no nonsense kind of horror picture that knows exactly what it is and while it's not exactly scary (although one scene with Haim trapped on a bridge and the fact that he's stuck in a wheelchair makes for a pretty intense sequence), it's well done and is just a really fun story. It's one of my faves from my childhood and holds up just as well today.


I had every intention of watching a movie that fell better into the horror category after my wife and I watched this, but I decided actually getting some sleep might be fun after my daughter went to bed exceptionally early, so by default Snow White got counted. There is an evil Queen who's basically a witch and a dark forest. It's kind of a cheat but not a horrible one.

However, the movie is not very good and even though I am only a day removed from watching it, I don't remember a ton about it. I usually make some notes, but since I didn't think this would be my movie for the day I didn't in this case. It follows the more traditional tale of Snow White which is much darker. And while I have not read the original fairy tale, things from the Disney version like the seven dwarfs and the "one true love" kiss feel very forced when they happen. I was very impressed with the special F/X involved with the dwarfs. These are actual sized people like Ian McShane and Nick Frost playing them and made to look smaller; I assume it's the same process used in the Lord of the Rings films, but it's impressive nonetheless.

The one consistent rave about the film seemed to be Charlize Theron's performance as the Evil Queen. And while she does fair better than the rest of the cast (especially Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman who is very hard to understand), I found her to be a little overindulgent with her line deliveries. She also speaks in this very hushed tone that played havoc with the audio; I would have to turn it way up to hear her and then whomever she was talking to would just about make you deaf .

I found the whole affair to be pretty blah.


This is my third King adaptation in a week and my 2nd based on a story that's only ten or less pages. Much like Children of the Corn this one has to be padded out quite a bit, but from what I remember this is essentially the short story. There is some kind of bat like creature and some rats terrorizing an old mill and killing off a bunch of the workers. They just add quite a few more deaths than the short story had.

Still, the best that can be said for the film is that it's not the worst Stephen King adaptation (see Corn, Lawnmower Man, Maximum Overdrive, or The Mangler). The film is played way too straight for a story involving a giant bat creature killing a bunch of people; the only two actors that seem to get this are Brad Douriff (who plays an exterminator) and Stephen Mact (who plays the owner of the mill) and therefore their performances feel like they are coming from a better movie.

Also, the set designers go way overboard with how disgusting the mill is. There is absolutely no way anyone (no matter how badly they needed money) would work in a place like this. It would be very easy to get the place shut down and at the very least there would be a ton of lawsuits by the employees for the conditions they were stuck in. They even mention that some of the workers are union. What union would allow their workers in a rat infested environment that wasn't say a sewer?

Despite that problem, if you just made the whole thing a little more fun I maybe could have gotten behind it better. But I could never take this film as seriously as the people involved did, so it just kind of fell flat for me.

So there you have it. I am now caught up. Tomorrow I will be venturing to the theater to watch a new horror release and might even sneak a 2nd film in for the day. You never know. And once again any suggestions are welcome in the comment section; I would like to watch more nice suprises like Burn Witch Burn and less crap like Midnight Matinee.


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Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Killer kid movies always sound more interesting than they usually end up being. Other than The Omen, I was having a hard time thinking of one I particularly liked before watching this one. There are a few other ones that are kind of fun (Bloody Birthday, The Good Son for example), but none that I would call great or even good. I think the problem is that in the end you are left with a bunch of adults getting outwitted by children, and while that sounds like a lot of fun, it usually just ends up being me staring at the screen dumbfounded wondering why these adults are so stupid.

The British thriller, The Children, tries really hard to make the killer kid scenario a little more legit. I'll give it an 'A' for effort. Two sisters, along with their husbands and children, are vacationing at a remote country home for the Christmas/New Year Holidays. The children, at first, start demonstrating some pretty odd behavior and a few too many accidents start occurring that the kids appear to be responsible for including the disappearance of a family pet. The violence continues to escalate and the parents and the oldest of the children (she appears to be somewhere in the 16-21 age range), unwilling at first to believe their children are trying to kill them, finally (somewhat) come to their senses and take a stand (at least those that are left).

The remote location and the fact that these are obviously parents that don't pay a whole lot of attention to their kids anyways allows you to suspend some disbelief while watching. And while I appreciate the 180 spin the film takes on the parental figures - usually it's the mom that can't believe her baby would be a killer, but in this case it's one of the Dads - this is still the dumbest father I've seen in a movie in quite a while. I would at least listen to my daughter if she came to me and said her younger sister was trying to kill her; this guy just smacks her across the face and runs off with the youngest girl and you can guess how that ends up.

I also enjoyed that you really never find out exactly why the kids have turned violent. There are some instances where you are led to believe it's some sort of disease (sneezing, headaches, coughs, etc.), but no concrete reason is ever given. One of the final shots of the film is also pretty eerie making you realize that this (Epidemic?) is quite a bit bigger than we realize. I say one of the final shots because the actual final shot is predictable and dumb, and I will leave it at that.

And while the film is not extremely gory they don't hold back on the kids' deaths. There is an especially icky sequence involving part of a door and a throat. Once the mom and oldest daughter figure out what's going on, their survival instinct responses are about as much humor as you will get from the proceedings.

In the end, it's an uneven film. Tom Shankland directs the film fairly straightforward which is perfectly serviceable but it makes the whole thing kind of blah as well. The film takes itself way too seriously. However, the remote location and the small group of people do make the whole affair pretty creepy. This is the kind of place where I truly believe cell phones probably would be iffy at best.

I probably won't be making this film an annual Halloween tradition or anything, but if you're in the mood for a killer kid flick and you've seen The Omen way too many times, you could do a lot worse. You could do a hell of a lot worse. Sadly, I suffered through that one last night and will be reviewing shortly. I hope to be caught up by the weekend, but rest assured I am watching one of these every night because I'm sure you were worried about it.


At 10/14/2012 07:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate kids being the antagonists in movies like this. There are specific plausible things they could do to terrify or even kill adults (electrocution, tripping at the top of stairs, looking fucking creepy, etc.), but when an adult is essentially running away from them when they see a homicidal child it looks stupid. I also hate kids. So there.

At 10/14/2012 07:09:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Agreed. I get as a parent I would be a little protective of my daughter but if I saw her purposefully hurting someone I would at the very least get her isolated so I could figure out what the hell was going on.


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Monday, October 08, 2012


I don't really buy that many DVDs anymore other than for my daughter. Frozen is a prime example of why, and this has nothing to do with the quality of the film. I bought this disc a couple of years ago; I believe Amazon had it as one of their deals of the day and it was only 5 bucks. I hadn't seen it but I heard it was good and would be right up my alley, so I snagged it. I have many films in my collection that were bought just like that, and I have many films in my collection that have yet to be watched, so I guess I can check Frozen off that list. Maybe I need to do a year of just reviewing films I own to give me an excuse to watch them all.

Frozen was directed by Adam Green, a man who has a clear love of genre films, but that doesn't always translate to a good filmmaker. Green also directed Hatchet and Hatchet II. Both films don't pretend to be anything other than dumb slasher films, and they succeed quite well in that regard; they are kind of fun at the same time, but really don't offer anything unique that makes me want to watch them again.

Frozen is a film that somewhat demands you take Green a little more seriously. This is more a straight-forward thriller with one of those great "What the fuck" concepts that will hopefully keep you glued to the screen for the 90 minutes it asks of you. Three friends, acted quite well by Emma Bell (Final Destination 5), Shawn Ashmore (X-Men), and Kevin Zegers (the Dawn of the Dead remake), get stuck on a ski lift after the most idiotic of security personell shut it down for the week while our trio our still on it.

It's a pretty great premise, and a challenging one at that. You've got three people in a ski lift for the majority of the film. One of the major critiscims lobbed at that film is that it might have worked better as a thirty minute episode of something along the lines of Twilight Zone. I don't completely disagree, and even at a tad over 90 minutes, the film still could have used a slight trim. However, Green racks up the tension just enough to keep you glued to the screen and keeps you interested in all three of the characters as they try to figure out what in the hell they are going to do to get out of this situation.

Jumping off the lift seems like a pretty harrowing proposition, but that doesn't mean it isn't tried. Possibly scaling the wires back to one of the ladders along the lift is also addressed, and a pack of wolves show up for good measure which look quite a bit better and more menacing than the CG creations in this year's The Grey (which I loved for the record but the wolves looked kind of silly). The wolves provide a pretty cool "Up the Ante" kind of moment in the film, but to be honest I'm not sure they were really needed. Just getting down from the lift was enough of a predicament.

Not to mention, the wolves start making you question the reality of the situation more than you need to while watching a film like this one. I just have a hard time believing a highly populated ski resort would have a problem with wolves coming out at night and eating the skiers, but that's kind of what this scenario leads us to believe. Also, these wolves act more like fairy tale monsters than actual wolves or I guess more notably based on Green's obvious love for the sub genre they act exactly like a killer does in a slasher film.

But as I have alluded to the character moments are really what make the film stand out. Mind you all three of these people are kind of dicks (they bribe their way onto the ski lift in the first place because they don't have enough money to buy the lift tickets), but that doesn't make them unrealistic or mean that you don't care about their fate. Emma Bell's sad story about what would happen to her dog and it possibly starving to death if she couldn't get to her almost brought a tear to this dog lover's eye. There are quite a few good moments like this; these seem like geniune people and they talk and act like I believe any of us would in a crazy and dire situation such as this one.

The actual "Horror Movie" esque sequences involving the wolves attacking and one of our crew breaking his legs, not to mention a pretty severe case of frostbite, all lead to some pretty tense filled and gruesome moments. It's body horror lite or David Cronenberg Jr. if you will, but these scenes work for the most part; playing up the urban legend aspect to the film's storyline.

I was also suprised at how much I liked the ending. Obviously you don't want to see everyone die, but anyone surviving this scenario the way it is staged seems rather crazy as well. Green makes it work though and for that I applaud because while I was watching this I just assumed I was going to be writing something like "Great for the first hour and then runs out of steam." Thankfully, that was not the case.

So, yes, could this possibly work better as part of an anthology series or film? Maybe. Although I think I'm in the minority in thinking that the wolves were not needed, so if you keep those in there I'm not sure how you could make this much shorter. That being said, I'm not going to argue if that is your beef with the film. I still think it's worth checking out if the premise interests you at all.


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Friday, October 05, 2012


As I stated in my Lake Mungo review, I'm a fan of the "Found Footage" films. It seems like this is a particular sub-genre (among many) that divides the horror film fan community. I stand on the pro side for all those that want to now chastise me for everything I say henceforth.

The characters in Grave Encounters work on one of those ghost hunting type shows that you see on constantly all over channels like Syfy and Discovery (or is it History?). Wherever they are I don't watch them. If any of these money grabbers were really ever to run into a ghost (or Bigfoot as one popular show strives for) we would know about it well before the episode aired. Until that happens, color me uninterested.

Because of this, despite the mostly positive word of mouth from the film, I was pretty much avoiding it. Then I read some early reviews of the sequel (which I believe was released on VOD this week), and for whatever reason that gave me the urge to watch this one.

I probably should have stuck to my initial instinct. This movie is by no means bad; it's actually kind of fun in parts. It's budget does constrain it quite a bit (even though this is usually a plus when you decide to go the Found Footage route), and the acting is not that great across the board. I could probably forgive the film for most of this or at least enough to give it a more positive review if it were even remotely creepy. Alas, it is not.

We are told in the film's opening that footage from the show's (it's called "Grave Encounters" if I forgot to mention that) 6th episode was found and was just too crazy and scary for us not to see. The episode is set at an abandoned mental hospital that is supposed to be haunted by former patients and medical personnel. I've never seen more than a few seconds of any of these types of shows so I assume they do a decent job of pulling this off. It seems fairly professional.

Since this is raw footage, we get to see a lot of what would be the outtakes I guess which are actually the most interesting parts of the film. The people involved in the show don't seem to believe in any of this nonsense and even hire a fake psychic (Mackenzie Gray) to make the show seem more legit. The few scenes involving the crew cracking up after a take of them spouting off some mumbo jumbo about feeling a "Dark Presence" and so on is a lot of fun. They even pay a gardener 20 bucks to say that he has seen some ghosts lurking around the hallways of the mental hospital.

Of course there does end up really being ghosts haunting the halls and the crew finds themselves in a  predicament that they are not prepared for. It's a perfectly fine premise, and that alone gets you through the first half of the film with some effective tension building. Per usual when dealing with ghosts (and this is one thing that I have always found strange in movies about hauntings) they like to fuck around with you at first (one of the crew members has their hair played with, doors are opened and slammed, etc.) and then they want to kill every last one of you as brutally as possible.  Why wouldn't the killing just start immediately if that is their plan all along?

Another thing that bugged me was a complete lack of any kind of payoff. I don't need everything explained to me in minute detail. I like the open ended nature of films like Blair Witch Project and even the first Paranormal Activity at least gives you some room for interpretation. But those films did not propose any crazy scenarios within the context of the world they established that gave us pause to question, or at least none that I can think of. The scene in Blair Witch  where they come across what they think is a tree they had already passed hours before kept popping up in my head as an example. You don't really know if it's even the same tree, if it's the witch messing with them, or if they just suck at reading maps. And that's fine; that's exactly how a scene like that should come across. In Grave Encounters, however, we are not led to any of these kind of "Make Your Own Interpretation" scenarios. For instance, the hospital itself seems to be shifting; we see later in the film that the door they came in through from the outside just leads to a hallway the next time they open it; the food they bring in rots within a few hours of them being there; even though their watches say it's 10:00 AM it's still dark as hell outside. These are all very creepy notions, but they need some sort of explanation. You might as well have one character off screen shrugging his shoulders and saying something like "Fucking Ghosts!" because that's exactly how all of the mysteries the film proposes come off.

I probably am being a little harder on the film than I need to be. I enjoyed myself fine while watching it, and I've seen worse in this sub-genre (St. Francisville Experiment for instance). However, much like Mungo you just feel so much more could have been done with this premise and that becomes a little infuriating the more time you spend thinking about the film. I hope this doesn't become a trend this month.

Grave Encounters is available on Netflix Instant Streaming and is available on DVD and Blu Ray.


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Thursday, October 04, 2012


I am a fan of both found footage films and mockumentaries so when you combine the two and give it that always welcome Australian flavor (the Aussies can make a pretty fun horror film) it's a can't miss right? I don't know if I would call the film a misfire, but it definitely doesn't work as well as it should.

Lake Mungo was part of the "After Dark Horrorfest" in 2010; this was the third (and so far last) year of the festival which brought a handful of independent horror features to theaters around the country for a few days. It was a good idea that unfortunately didn't spawn too many good films. Of the dozen or so I've seen two have been pretty good (Deaths of Ian Stone and The Gravedancers), one has been really awful (Lake Dead), and the rest were just straight up mediocre (Tooth and Nail, Dark Ride, Borderlands, etc.). Mungo pretty firmly falls in the latter category.

The film chronicles the events that take place after a young girl named Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) is found dead in the title lake. Death is initially ruled an accidental drowning. Many mysterious events start taking place after this incident (I guess we wouldn't have a movie if they didn't) including what appears to be Alice's ghost popping up in some home videos and photos (this is where the film slightly ventures into found footage territory). I will be delving into some minor spoilers. I don't think this will ruin your viewing of the film if you haven't seen it yet, but you've been warned.

We find out rather quickly that Alice's brother (Martin Sharpe) has been doctoring the photos and videos to help their mother cope with the loss of Alice. This is a pretty cool twist on what usually happens in these types of films, and I was thinking that was going to be a pretty cool story. Then things get weird and not in a very good way.

We of course find out that Alice was not the precious angel her parents thought her to be. Due to footage of their neighbor being spotted in their house (how the hell did he even get in?) they discover a sex tape with him and possibly his wife. It's never really explained. At first this does add some more intrigue to the storyline, but ends up suffering from the fact that they kind of drop the sub-plot not long after they start it. Apparently the family has moved away, but no one knows where they moved to? I'm assuming Alice is underage, so you would think this would lead the police to a little bit more of a search for these possible pedophiles.

Then more footage is found of Alice in a different situation involving a party that I believe takes place around the Lake although the footage is horribly grainy (or I guess it could be the streaming feed on Netflix, but the rest of the film looked fine) and so it's hard to make out exactly what is going on. But this being a horror movie, we are quickly led to believe that her ghost (or someones) really is hanging around.

The ghostly possibilities (although left ambiguous) kind of make the intriguing parts of the film (the brother trying to help his mother out) seem way too coincidental. And not to mention the video from the party just comes out of nowhere; a friend decides to show some footage taken from her cell phone which considering what it contains would probably have popped up much sooner.

The film is well shot. The news footage is done so well a passerby would probably think you were watching a legit documentary. And I really do like the concept; I just wasn't a huge fan of the execution. So while there was plenty to admire, it could have been so much more which makes it all the more disappointing.


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On October 1st I decided to start watching at least 1 horror movie a day throughout this month. Nothing original; a lot of horror bloggers and the like are doing it, but I guess I wanted in on the fun. I thought about blogging it, but then figured per my usual if I started writing about it I would never accomplish it. Well, so far it's been 4 days and 4 movies; although I still have to watch my one today (I watched two on Monday), so I'm going to go for broke and start doing the reviews. I will start putting them up later tonight; hopefully I will be caught up in a day or two and can pretty much just post them as soon as I'm done watching each movie.

There will be really no theme other than I will be watching horror movies. Most of them will be ones that I have been recommended by many people and just hadn't gotten around to watching them. Some will be ones I just haven't watched in quite awhile and feel they are worth revisiting. I might even tackle my personal favorite film that I have chosen to never really write about in depth since just about everyone on the net already has. But since it's being re-released in theaters for a few days this month I might get around to it.

Only rule is that I have to watch at least one a day. Some days (especially weekends) I will probably see more than one, so we might end up with more than 31 reviews. As of right now we would at least have 32. Can't promise they will come before that day ends, so I guess you will just have to believe that I have watched them on the given day.

I implore anyone to join along in the fun and write up some horror themed posts of their own if you contribute to this site; none of us have written anything in a year. Hard to believe. I guess we are getting old. And anyone can throw in some recommendations for me for later in the month; I haven't got anything set in stone. If it's on Netflix Streaming or Amazon Instant Video Prime though that would be a huge plus. Just throw ideas or opinions in the comment section. Let's enjoy my favorite month of the year together. Happy Horror Movie Watching or something. Peace!


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's Time To Stop Apologizing For Chris Johnson

So all I hear nowadays about Chris Johnson is how well, the lockout, and his holdout, are contributing to his sucking this year. I have no doubt that those two things are somewhat factors, but didn't anyone see how Johnson performed last year? It wasn't exactly dynamic, and memories of his 2009 season got him a pay raise that frankly he's not going to be able to live up to. Chris Johnson is fast, and a bit slippery, but defenses are stacked to defend him now, and I think he's got a reputation for not liking contact.

And why would he? He's a tiny guy for NFL standards, and his success came from evading tacklers. Last year he started to get crushed, and the little dance he does to try to juke people doesn't work anymore. It is the basic tenet of Moneyball that Johnson should have been traded while his value was high, so we could have gotten a lot of players in return, like perhaps a guy who could replace Kenny Britt in case he got hurt, which they don't have now. I believe almost any running back that the Titans could put in right now would be at least replacement level if not better, and think of all the rewards the Titans could have had by getting rid of him, instead of caving to the perception, and the fans who believed Johnson was worth the money.

What was good for the Titans while Britt was in the lineup was not that Chris Johnson suddenly had holes to go through because defenses had to cover Britt and Nate Washington (and potentially Jared Cook), but that defenses, geared to cover Chris Johnson, were not able to cover the Titan receivers. It is a passing league, and the Titans were close to becoming that team. But now Britt is gone and they don't have anyone like him out there, and the pickings are still slim for Johnson, while having no one that scares any secondary in the receiving corps.

It's a little upsetting how perception rules everything. It's one of the saddest aspects of sports, making your teams nearly unwatchable at times.

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At 10/18/2011 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I would never apologize for someone I don't know, but I think it's a little early to say he's done. Last year's stats still stack up pretty well against just about everyone else in the league, and just about every great running back has had an off year. You could be completely right; who the fuck knows when it comes to NFL Players? But there's a lot of season left and there's always next year to rebound as well. Look at freaking Steve Smith!

At 10/25/2011 06:24:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I don't know, we've been saying this for a while. I don't think that he's great, just good enough. There's very little upside here.

At 10/26/2011 12:18:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

He's got "explosiveness" as everyone will tell you and so that basically means he's not very tough and won't fight for those hard yards, but he can get on the outside and tear it up for a bunch of yards. He does have a ton of 50 plus yard runs over the last three seasons (more than anyone by a landslide), but his average keeps going down and if you look at his numbers over the last 16 games, they are very mediocre.

I looked into this a little closer and I agree with you guys. He could still have some good games, but I don't think he will ever be considered one of the best running backs in the league again.

I still can't blame the Titans for paying him. Anytime you sign anyone you are taking a bit of a gamble, and at the time I can imagine they thought he was worth it. Just sucks they were so wrong. The Vikings are having that same kind of problem with Adrian Pedestrian...oh sorry, I mean Petersen.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Braves Collapse Is Not Nearly As Painful As Other Past Failures

This season, I followed a Braves team that wasn't very good, yet somehow, they were pulling away with the Wild Card lead. I could never quite put my finger on it. How in the world were they 10 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals at one point? It seemed like every time I watched them or listened to a game, they were doing something ridiculously bad. They lost some painful games this year, yet the stats were showing some fantastic seasons for some players.

The only problem is...when those players had a bad game, it cost them. Being a well-rounded team means that you can make a couple of mistakes here and there and it won't cost you the game seemingly every time. It means, if your pitchers are having a bad game, your offense has the ability to pick them up, and vice-versa. The Braves never had an offense that clicked, because there were too many black holes in the lineup.

Even with the Wild Card lead, I never really believed in this team. The weaknesses were too glaring. At the beginning of the season, the leadoff man was Nate McLouth, and when he got hurt, it turned into Jordan Schafer. Neither of those guys is any good. Then the Braves got Michael Bourn, who pretty much slumped after the trade, although he was much better than those other two guys.

Then the 2nd spot was filled most of the year by Martin Prado, who for the past couple of years could be depended upon to bat around .300. He batted around .260 this year. And since he never walks, that hurts.

Chipper Jones is, of course, well past his prime. He had a decent year for someone his age and constantly injured. But he was being relied upon to be the team's #3 hitter. And I don't care what sabermetrics might say about Chipper, this is a case where the human eye was better than the advanced stats. He never could really be a #3 hitter this year, and probably never again.

Dan Uggla took an entire half of the season to get right. When he did, he was awesome. Unfortunately, nearly everybody else on the team tanked once he got hot.

Brian McCann must have been severely sidetracked by his injury after the All-Star Break. You could depend on McCann almost daily to do something great. But after he got off the disabled list, he was pretty useless the rest of the year.

Freddie Freeman had a great rookie season, and unfortunately, his production, which would be a great compliment to an awesome offense, was relied upon to be one of the main sources. You can't rely on a 21-year-old who is just learning the ins and outs of the majors be your top offensive producer, even if he's having a great season for a rookie.

Jason Heyward was so bad this year, people started remembering the types of things said about Jeff Francoeur during his stay in Atlanta. Heyward was the biggest disappointment of the year, and hurt the offense more than any one person, right alongside Prado. The Braves were relying on Prado to stay the course and for Heyward to get better in his second season. And they got worse, which made them unfortunate, almost automatic, outs.

Alex Gonzalez was a black hole in the lineup from the start. But his bad numbers at the plate only became magnified as the Braves looked for someone to start hitting. I think everyone was OK with Gonzalez' offensive production, as long as the other guys did what they were supposed to do. They didn't, so the presence of Alex Gonzalez at the plate was always a painful sight because now, his lack of production just compounded the other lack of production the lineup was getting.

I like to think in these terms--the Braves had very little room for error when it came to scoring runs, and while, rightfully so, the team was criticized for being unable to get hits with runners in scoring position, it seemed like so many times, they needed that hit with two outs. Since on average a batter is not going to get a hit somewhere over 70% of the time, the odds were always against them.

The pitching kept them winning games for much of the first half, and that had to do with solid presences Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, both who went down shortly after the All Star Break along with seemingly everyone else. With Hanson and Jurrjens unable to put in solid work, the Braves had Tim Hudson, rookie Brandon Beachy (who began to lose it in the second half), the god-awful Derek Lowe (and somehow, the saber stats supported him being just as good a pitcher as Hudson, which...I think more data is needed), and a triumvirate of rookie pitchers who were not ready to be in the majors until 2012 or 2013: Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, and Mike Minor.

With all this inexperience and worn-down veterans, the bullpen was used a lot. Unhittable pitchers like Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel suddenly became wild and hittable towards the end of the season. It would not shock me if I found out Venters needed surgery after this season. The guy was ridiculous all year, and there should have been some regression in his stats, but not to the point where he became absolutely frightening to watch later in the season, walking guys and giving up solid hits. I worry about Venters a bunch.

Venters and Kimbrel each gave up games in September that had they been played in June, would have never happened.

There were just too many holes in this team, and the prospect of going to the playoffs with this bunch was scary. I didn't think they had a chance to make it past the first round, and when the collapse began, I wondered if it wouldn't just be better for baseball that this team didn't make it anyway. They were not going to be a tough first round opponent throwing Hudson, Beachy, and Lowe against any of the playoff pitching staffs. And with this offense, even if they made it past the first round and into the NLCS, it would likely be against Philly, and Philly is way too much of a beast for Atlanta. Halladay, Lee, and Hamels would have carved this team up quickly. Another playoff loss was inevitable. Collapse or no, this team wasn't going to win the World Series.

So when the analysts and the sports pundits talk about "worst collapse" and how that's so bad that they missed the playoffs, I think it's an overblown story. Make the playoffs, not make the playoffs, this team was embarrassing for many reasons, and they were not going to be champions. Manager Fredi Gonzalez, chided by many this season and many times referred to as "Frediot," certainly wasn't going to be the balm this team needed. Just too many bone-headed mistakes. But his bad decisions were magnified mainly because of the team that was on the field. As I was saying before, good teams can overcome mistakes. When Gonzalez made one, it lost the game. When Charlie Manuel in Philly makes one, that team finds a way to blur it out.

Plus, I don't know what this idea was that Gonzalez is just like Bobby Cox. In what way? Maybe philosophy, maybe "player's manager," but not very fiery. I wished so many times he would race out of the dugout and bark at an umpire, but it looked like Gonzalez was always worried that his mom was in the stands or something and just took the "if you have nothing positive to say, then don't say anything at all," approach to leading the team.

The Braves was inevitable. I was resigned to it about a month ago, the last time they got swept by Philly and had an 8-game lead in the Wild Card. It's not worse than Jim Leyritz in 1996 or Ed Sprague in 1992, or Kirby Puckett in 1991. It just doesn't have the same feel. I saw it coming and braced for it, and I feel a little relieved I won't have to see this team in the playoffs. Also, seeing the Rays win in the way they did, combined with the way the Red Sox lost their game, was the type of thing that made me love baseball in the first place. When I saw that, I was totally at peace that the Braves had come up short, yet again.

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At 9/29/2011 02:07:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm irritated that the Braves didn't make it becuase that means the Cardinals did. Now I have to root for the fucking Diamondbacks I guess. That should get me far. I know most NL guys will be all about the Brew Crew. Fuck the Brewers!!!

That Tampa vs. NY/Boston vs. Baltimore simultaneous broadcast was just freaking classic. It's as if the Buffalo Wild Wings equipment caused the rain delay in Baltimore so we could get that kind of finish. One of the best nights for baseball in a long time. And we had that night because of THE WILD CARD!!! Just wanted to point that out to Mike.

So, Tampa vs. Arizona in the World Series? A Cubs fan can only hope. Go Rays!


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Friday, June 24, 2011

Oh, There's Just One More Thing...

So, Peter Falk is dead. Maybe that means very little to you other than it's sad that anyone dies. But to me, I just can't imagine a world without Falk in it.

I grew up with a Mystery loving mom, and she has raised an even bigger fan of the genre. One of the shows/characters that got me into my longest running obsession (if you will) was Columbo. The character first appeared in 1968 with a couple of TV movies and then became a part of a television show from 1971-1978 as part of the NBC Murder Mystery Movie rotation which also included McMillian and Wife and McCloud. The characters was then revived in series of television movies on ABC in 1989 and continued through 2003.

1989 was when I was first introduced to the character (I remember thinking what's the guy from Princess Bride doing) and the later movies are perfectly fine, but due to the new rise in popularity A&E started showing the older episodes, and then I became hooked. Such a simple switch on the mystery genre (we know who the killer is from the opening sequence in most of the movies) created such a new and addictive formula. Of course this wouldn't work if it you didn't care about the character solving the mystery, and that character wouldn't work if you didn't have an amazing actor, and Falk nailed it on every level. Watching Columbo do his thing to figure out who the killer was (usually by amusingly annoying the piss out of the suspects) and how the murder was accomplished is what makes the whole thing work. That look in Falk's eyes when Columbo figured out who his man was is the definition of "Priceless." He is my all-time favorite character on television, and I rank him right up there with the most iconic characters in film like Indiana Jones, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

If you've never watched an episode and you have any love of mysteries or just great storytelling you have to check it out immediately. My two favorite episodes are "Murder by the Book" directed by a very young Steven Speilberg and "Swan Song" with a suprisingly good Johnny Cash as the murderer. The entire original run is available on Netflix streaming, and you really can't go wrong with any of the episodes; I would just start from the beginning and keep on trucking.

But while Falk was mostly known for his role as the quirky detective he was also great in quite a few other things. His friendship with John Cassavettes produced some great team-ups like Cassavette's own films, Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence; they also worked on an episode of Columbo together and a little seen but great film called Machine Gun McCain. And even though I've never been the biggest Neil Simon fan, I loved Falk's Sam Spade esque turns in the mystery comedies, Murder by Death and The Cheap Detective. Falk was nominated for an Academy award in the fun gangster film, Murder Inc. He was also in the original version of The In-Laws with Alan Arkin, and it is so much better than the crappy remake with Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas from a few years back.

Of course, most people from my generation know him best as the storyteller in the brilliant Princess Bride, but in that same year he had a masterful turn in Wim Wender's wonderfully fantastical Wings of Desire.

In the past decade, Falk was still working hard. His last memorable role was in 2001's Made where he had a lot of fun as an aging mobster. He was far and away the best part of the film which also starred Jon Favreau (who also directed), Vince Vaught, Donald Faison, and Sean "Puffy" Combs. He also popped up in Walter Hill's underrated Undisputed, lent his voice to the animated Shark Tale, and was apparently in the Nicholas Cage sci-fi dud Next (but I can't remember very much other than hating that movie).

I hope those that have not seen much of Falk's work will now seek some of it out. As for those that are as big a fan as me, let's light up a cigar (maybe even don a trench coat) and watch our favorite Falk moments.


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Monday, June 13, 2011


George asked me if I thought maybe the mob got to LeBron... and I couldn't dismiss it out of hand. But I do think he's never been forced to work for anything, and is almost autistically incapable of putting into the highest gear.

Also, this NHL Final is looking a lot like the 1960 World Series. Just saying.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden and the Emerging Plot Threads

Above: It's only fitting that the titular movie about Navy SEALS stars Charlie Sheen...and that "winning" is incredibly apt here.

How much would we pay to see video of a group of Navy SEALs assaulting a secret compound with the world's most notorious terrorist inside? I'd love to see the preparations, the tension before the helicopters took off and just before they reached their target.

So Osama Bin Laden is dead, and it took roughly 40 minutes to bring him down, after 18 years or so of being on the national radar. Now that he's dead it seems like it happened all too soon; we didn't get the crazy Saddam Hussein trial, see him led off to prison in chains, or anything. He's gone. This is a good thing.

The big what-happens-now question, I think, is not so much what will al-Qaeda do now that their leader is gone, but what happens with Pakistan.

We have two sides now arguing about two different things:

Pakistan is upset that the U.S. came into their country and violated their air space, and didn't say anything to them that this was happening.

The U.S. is upset that Pakistan is playing dumb and somehow make it look like they had to idea that Bin Laden was living in a mansion, where mansions are scarce and questionable, in their own country.

I don't think the U.S. needs to apologize for their actions, considering the circumstances. This isn't Bin Laden disguised and living in a bunker, this is Bin Laden living in a freaking mansion! Can you blame the U.S. for not saying anything to Pakistan before going in? Especially such a delicate and risky assault where the tiniest thing that goes wrong could mean not only failure, but Bin Laden again on the run? If the tiniest thing that could go wrong could possibly mean tipping off the wrong person, who in turn tips off the target, then you can't possibly make a "due process" call there.

We talk about it in sports all the time, where we see coaches do the wrong thing with timeouts, fouling a team before they can take a tying three pointer, those little things in close games where you increase your chance of success by looking at the big picture rather than using narrow in-the-moment decisions. If there was a 0.1% risk of someone tipping Bin Laden off, then the decision not to tell Pakistan is the right one. They can be mad all they want to.

And I think that's how this might play out. Pakistan will be mad, the U.S. will say, "We're sorry you feel that way," and then move on.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ira Glass' NPR show This American Life is pretty good, and he's been in the game for a long time. For those of us who make art of some kind, and frankly aren't great at it, I think this is fantastic advice to remember.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

35 YOPC - 35 Years of Oscar 1980-1989

For my 2nd segment for the Oscar rundown, we get into the 80's. The 80's truly encompass my beginnings as a huge film buff. While the 80's might not be the best decade of film (the 60's and 70's are probably my two favorites), it's hard to find a decade that was more entertaining. This was also the decade, for better or worse, that the tent pole movies started coming into play. As I said in my previous post, "Jaws" changed the landscape of film, and in the 80's you can start seeing how that landmark of a film really took effect. 1989's "Batman" arguably took the big budget studio extravaganza into a whole new realm, but that's a little bit down the road.

All that being said, the Oscars kind of took a step back in this decade. You can see in the twenty years prior, that while the "Best Picture" winners took some fairly safe routes, there were also quite a few out of left field winners and nominees. Even though there was a lot of potential for the 80's to be the most interesting decade for the Oscars, Big sprawling epics like "Gandhi" and "Out of Africa" along with bio-pics such as "Amadeus" kind of ruled the era; not that they were all bad, but this was the decade where some great genre films (sci-fi, horror, comedy, fantasy) really could have changed the scope of the Oscars for years to come.

But alas, the Academy kind of played it safe. The movies from the 80's that are still talked about today ("Back to the Future," "Ghostbusters," "Blade Runner," etc.) barely got a mention when it came time for the Oscar ballots to go out, but maybe in the end that's a good thing. Here's a look back at what did happen and what should have happened.


- Peter O'Toole ("The Stunt Man") for Best Actor - "The Stunt Man" is actually my favorite movie from 1980, and I have a feeling very few people reading this have even heard of it. It's one of those cool mind-fuck movies where reality and fiction create some extremely blurry lines, and it's really one of the few movie-within-a-movie scenarios that works. O'Toole is just brilliant as the twisted director, Eli Cross. It's a film and a performance I don't want to get into too much detail about since I don't think I could do it any justice nor would I want to ruin the surprises in store for those that have never seen it. But trust me, O'Toole deserved the nomination, and could have been one of the coolest winners in Oscar history, but Robert De Niro had to fuck everything up by being brilliant in "Raging Bull." What an asshole.

Honorable Mentions: John Corigliano ("Altered States") for Best Original Score and Akira Kurosawa's "Kagemusha" for Best Foreign Language Film.

- "The Blue Lagoon" for Best Cinematography - Nestor Almendros is one of the greats when it comes to cinematography ("Days of Heaven," "Sophie's Choice"), but "The Blue Lagoon" is not a very pretty picture any way you look at it. And with great looking pictures like "Empire Strikes Back," "Altered States," and "The Shining" left out in the cold, there is just no excuse for "Lagoon" being in the mix.

Honorable Mention - "Coal Miner's Daughter" for Best Picture.

- Robert Redford ("Ordinary People") for Best Director - "Ordinary People" shouldn't have won Best Picture either, but that doesn't bother me as much as Redford's victory. Redford is a good director, but to beat out Martin Scorsese ("Raging Bull"), Roman Polanski ("Tess"), Richard Rush ("The Stunt Man"), and David Lynch ("The Elephant Man") is just asinine. Sadly this would not be the only time Scorsese lost to a first time actor turned director.

Honorable Mention: Mary Steenburgen ("Melvin and Howard") for Best Supporting Actress.

- Robert De Niro (Raging Bull) for Best Actor - O'Toole would have been a really cool win for Best Actor, but I really can't argue against De Niro in the movie that should have won "Best Picture."

Honorable Mention - "Empire Strikes Back" for Best Sound and Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects - At least it won something.

- "Empire Strikes Back" for Best Picture; "The Stunt Man" for Best Picture; "Dressed to Kill" for Best Original Screenplay; "The Long Good Friday" for Best Picture; Walter Matthau ("Hopscotch") for Best Actor; Stanley Kubrick ("The Shining") for Best Director. Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Robert Stack, and Lloyd Bridges could have all gotten Best Supporting Actor nods for their great work on "Airplane."

- "The Final Countdown" or "Flash Gordon" for Best Original Song. Just to see Europe or Queen performing at the Academy Awards would be pretty awesome.

- "Fame" for Best Original Screenplay - Apparently, "And then they dance" was just some of the best writing the Academy voters had ever read.


- "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for Best Picture - I don't think this needs much explanation.

Honorable Mention - Susan Sarandon ("Atlantic City") for Best Actress.

- "Reds" for Best Picture - With movies like "Body Heat," "My Dinner With Andre," and "The French Lieutenant's Woman" not even on the Oscar radar, this overindulgent and boring ass film had no business even being in consideration.

- "Chariots of Fire" for Best Picture - It beat "Raiders;" I don't care how good it is, it beat fucking "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Not to mention, "Raiders" was the hands on favorite to take down the prize, but fucking "Chariots" just had to ruin everything. We would soon learn that Spielberg's kryptonite is the Brits.

Honorable Mention - The "Arthur" theme for Best Original Song - it would have been much cooler to have seen Randy Newman win for his great song, "One More Hour" from "Ragtime" than for that awful "Toy Story 3" song he won for this year. And of course Warren Beatty beating Spielberg in the Best Director category was annoying, but I feel I already talked too much about the awful "Reds."

- Rick Baker ("An American Werewolf in London") - there is a reason Baker took home his 9th Oscar in 2011, and "An American Werewolf in London" is some of the best make-up work film has ever had to offer.

Honorable Mention - Henry Fonda ("On Golden Pond") finally getting a Best Actor win; thankfully it was for an honest to god good film and performance.

BIGGEST SNUBS - "Body Heat" for best screenplay or Kathleen Turner for Best Actress; Griffin Dunne ("An American Werewolf in London") for Best Supporting Actor; "My Dinner With Andre" for Best Picture; Harrison Ford ("Raiders of the Lost Ark") for Best Actor; Bill Murray ("Stripes") for Best Actor. "Thief" for Best Picture, Screenplay, or Michael Mann for Best Director.

- Kurt Russell ("Escape from New York") as Snake Plissken and Bruce Campbell ("The Evil Dead") as Ash gave two iconic performances that are remembered more today than anyone who was actually nominated in 1981; would have been cool to see either one of them get a nod. Or how about Burt Reynolds best film, "Sharky's Machine," getting a Best Picture or Screenplay nod.

STRANGEST NOMINEE - If you didn't think a low budget fantasy film could get a Best Original Score nominee you would be wrong because "Dragonslayer" did just that in 1981. The score is actually pretty good, but just to see it listed with the likes of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Ragtime," and "Chariots of Fire" is very surreal.


- Jerry Goldsmith ("Poltergeist") for Best Original Score - Goldsmith is not only one of the best composers, but he just picks the coolest movies to be involved with ("Gremlins," the original "Planet of the Apes," "The Omen," "Chinatown," "Star Trek" films, etc.), and his score for "Poltergeist" has always been one of my favorites. I guess it's hard for most to argue against him losing to John Williams for "E.T.," but I think he should have won. Honorable Mentions: "Eye of the Tiger" for best song from "Rocky III" and "Tron" for Best Costume Design.

- Charles Durning ("Best Little Whorehouse in Texas") for Best Supporting Actor - I love Durning, but come on! "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas?" I have no problem with a great performance being recognized even if it's in a bad movie, but Durning is nothing special in this film, and I can guarantee that there was a better supporting performance that deserved to be in his place (Bill Murray in "Tootsie" for instance).

- Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi") for Best Actor - Nothing against Kingsley but 1982 produced three of my favorite acting performances, and they were all nominated: Paul Newman ("The Verdict"), Peter O'Toole ("My Favorite Year"), and Dustin Hoffman ("Tootsie"). Really only Jack Lemmon winning for "Missing" would have made it worse, but it should have gone to Newman (yet another great actor that eventually won for one of his worst roles: "The Color of Money"), and in a close second would be O'Toole and Hoffman. But this was "Gandhi's"year, so it went to Kingsley.

Honorable Mention - A very, very close runner-up is "Gandhi" winning for Best Art Direction; it beat "Blade Runner" for Christ sakes! Like I said, it was "Gandhi's" year.

- "Quest for Fire" for Make-Up - Sadly, there was very little that deserved to win an Oscar in 1982, but "Quest for Fire" was one of the few films to beat "Gandhi" in any category, so it gets the mention here by default.

- Where do I start? How about Eddie Murphy or Nick Nolte for acting honors in "48 Hrs;" Ricardo Montalban for Best Supporting Actor in "Star Trek II;" "Poltergeist" for Best Original Screenplay; "Blade Runner" for Best Picture. "Deathtrap" for Best Screenplay or Michael Caine for Best Actor; Sean Penn for Best Supporting Actor in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High;" "The Thing" for Best Visual Effects.

- George Romero ("Creepshow") for Best Director or Best Screenplay - still the coolest anthology ever made; talk about a sub-genre that has never gotten any love at the Oscars. And John Carpenter's "The Thing" was one of the best five films of 1982, and yes, I'm a Carpenter fan, but there are a lot of people out there that could care less about him that love this movie. And how cool would it have been to have seen "The Dark Crystal" nominated for Best Film?

- "Gandhi" for Sound - Because when I think of "Gandhi" all I can think of is how great it sounds; it did thankfully lose this award to "E.T." If only it could have lost the "Best Picture" award to "E.T." as well; the world might be a better place.


- Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes ("Wargames") for Best Original Screenplay - "Would you like to play a game?" It's rare that such a high concept type film works, and it's even rarer that the screenplay is this good, and it really is this good, and it's even more rare that Oscar would ever recognize a movie like this. Ingmar Bergman was also nominated in this category for his great screenplay for "Fanny and Alexander;" how many foreign films have been nominated in this category? But they both lost to Horton Foote's screenplay for "Tender Mercies," which is yet another film that works almost solely on a great performance (Robert Duvall), so it winning for Best Original Screenplay makes absolutely no sense.

Honorable Mention: "The Right Stuff" for Best Picture.

- Meryl Streep ("Silkwood") for Best Actress - I love Streep as much as the next guy, but this is such an overblown TV Movie of the Week posing as a big screen feature, and Steep is just not very good in it; the screenplay does her no favors; which leads me to my honorable mentions:

Honorable Mentions: "Silkwood" for Best Original Screenplay and Cher for Best Supporting Actress in...wait for it..."Silkwood."

Honorable Mention #2 (aka That Wasn't "Silkwood") - "The Big Chill" for Best Picture - Someone please explain to me the appeal of this damn movie.

- "Terms of Endearment" for Best Picture - Three of the other nominees had no business being nominated: As stated above, I can't stand "The Big Chill," and both "The Dresser" and "Tender Mercies" are more about great performances, but then there's "The Right Stuff." I have some love for "Terms of Endearment;" it's one of only a handful of films that has ever made me cry, but it beat "The Right Stuff," and I just can't figure out a way to forgive it for that.

Honorable Mention: "Flashdance: What A Feeling" for Best Original Song - the other nominees were nothing special (per usual in this category), but I really can't stand this fucking song.

- Jack Nicholson ("Terms of Endearment") for Best Supporting Actor - This is one of the few performances from the 80's on where Jack wasn't just being "Jack" if you know what I mean; it's a very stripped down and honest performance It's the 70's Nicholson that we all fell in love with returning for a brief moment. Like I said I have some love for "Terms of Endearment," and I'm glad this was one of Nicholson's wins.

Honorable Mention: "The Right Stuff" for Original Score.

- "A Christmas Story" for Best Screenplay; Christopher Walken ("The Dead Zone") for Best Actor; William Hurt ("Gorky Park") for Best Actor; "Fanny and Alexander" for Best Picture; Jaime Lee Curtis ("Trading Places") for Best Supporting Actress; "Zelig" for Best Picture or Woody Allen for Best Director and/or Screenplay; Al Pacino ("Scarface") for Best Actor.

- Sure it was a sequel to what was even then considered one of the greatest thrillers (if not films) ever made, but "Psycho II" is not half bad (It actually holds up very well), and Anthony Perkins was top notch in his return as Norman Bates; that would have been a cool Best Actor nominee. Also, David Cronenberg's cult classic "Videodrome" could have made for some interesting nominations: James Woods for Best Actor for instance; it would have been great if his clip would have been him pulling the gun out of his stomach.

- "Flashdance" got nominated for Best Film Editing and Cinematography.


- Pat Morita ("The Karate Kid") for Best Supporting Actor - The Mr. Miyagi character and stuff like "Wax On, Wax Off" has just become borderline parody at this point, so very few people seem to remember how really fucking good Morita was in this film. The film itself holds up nicely as well I might add (especially the hotness of Elisabeth Shue). But Morita deserved the nomination and in a world where the Oscars are fun and have some sort of meaning, he would have won. Yeah! I'm looking at you Mr. Haing S. Ngor ("The Killing Fields"); what have you done since you won your Oscar? I never saw you training Hilary Swank in "The Next Killing Fields" or popping up on the late night skin flick favorite, "Picasso Trigger."

Honorable Mentions: "Beverly Hills Cop" for Best Original Screenplay, Jeff Bridges ("Starman") for Best Actor, and "Ghostbusters" by Ray "Fucking" Parker Jr. for Best Original Song.

- "Splash" for Best Original Screenplay - the fact that "Splash" ever got made is amazing; the fact that "Splash" was actually a box office smash is unthinkable; and the fact that the screenplay would then get nominated is just flat out unforgivable.

Honorable Mention - Glenn Close ("The Natural") for Best Supporting Actress; in fairness, if there was a category for most ridiculous use of lighting of a character I think "The Natural" would be a slam dunk.

- Sally Field ("Places in the Heart") - I'm now starting to think that I just don't care much for Sally Field (she's the first repeat in this category), but either way, Judy Davis ("A Passage to India") and Vanessa Redgrave ("The Bostonians") should have been the two nominees duking it out for this award, and Field shouldn't have even been on the radar.

- "Amadeus" for Best Picture - I say this loosely because all I have to base it on is what it was up against ("The Killing Fields," "A Soldier's Story," "A Passage to India," and "Places in the Heart"), and therefore it deserved the prize. That being said, 1984 could have been a really fun year for the fanboys and girls out there at the Oscars, but the Academy did not see fit to reward us. But still, "Amadeus" is a great film, and most likely the best film that won Best Picture in the 80's so it deserves a mention.

Mention - "Amadeus" for Best Costume Design.

- So "Ghostbusters" doesn't get nominated for Best Picture? Fine; the Academy has never shown much love for big budget comedies, and then you throw ghosts into the picture and you're really fucked. But what I can't forgive is that it didn't get a Best Screenplay nod; this is arguably the most quoted film of all time (My personal favorite line being "Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown"), and yes, even then it was being quoted all over the damn place. So no "Ghostbusters" for Best Screenplay, but fucking "Splash" gets some love? Give me a break. Also, M. Emmett Walsh ("Blood Simple") for Best Supporting Actor, or the Coen brothers for Best Director; Eddie Murphy ("Beverly Hills Cop") for Best Actor; Francis Ford Coppola ("The Cotton Club") for Best Director; "Gremlins" for Best Visual Effects; Michael Douglas ("Romancing the Stone") for Best Actor; "This is Spinal Tap" for Best Picture or Screenplay and Christopher Guest for Best Supporting Actor.

- If all of those fucking Hobbit movies can get nominated for Best Picture then why no love for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?" Seriously, would you rather watch "The Two Towers" or "Temple of Doom?" (F.Y.I. - If your answer is "Two Towers" then you're an idiot.)

- To be honest, all of the nominees were pretty typical for the Academy, so the only thing that really stands out is how much more they could have brought to the Oscars in 84 with all of the stuff I mentioned above.


- Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale ("Back to the Future") for Best Original Screenplay - "Back to the Future" probably deserved to be nominated for Best Picture in 1985, but there is no way in hell it was going to be, so it's pretty cool that the great screenplay got a nod. This might actually be one of the strongest years in this particular category, it was up against "Purple Rose Of Cairo," "Brazil," and the eventual winner, "Witness." I still think it should have won, but a great nomination either way. Honorable Mentions: Harrison Ford ("Witness"), after being looked over for stellar work in two "Star Wars" and two "Indiana Jones" films, finally got a deserving nod, and Jon Voight ("Runaway Train") was a pretty cool nomination in the Best Actor category as well. It does make you wonder why they decided it was okay to nominate a great performance in an action adventure film three years after "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but that is no offense to Voight. He was great and deserved the nomination.

- "Out of Africa" for Costume Design - Costume design has never been the most interesting category to anyone that really doesn't care at all about what people are wearing in a film (count me in that crowd of the non caring), so maybe someone who does follow this category religiously can explain to me what was so special about what they wore in "Out of Africa." There were some natives wearing what natives almost always wear in films, and Robert Redford and Meryl Streep look and dress like most people did in the early part of the 20th Century. I don't know why I care, but this just seems to me to be a throw in nomination since "Out of Africa" was in just about every other category, so why not for Costume Design as well? How about getting a little creative with a movie like "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" (Big and Colorful costuming) or something even more offbeat like "Brazil."

Honorable Mention - "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins" for Best Make-Up - They made Joel Grey look old and Asian, and you thought Robert Downey's character in "Tropic Thunder" could never possibly happen in real life? Oh you would be wrong. Mickey Rooney got so much shit (and deservedly so) for portraying an Asian in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but there is no mention ever of Grey's ridiculous casting. Admittedly, he is pretty good in the role, but that still doesn't make it understandable as to why they didn't just cast an Asian actor in the role, and then for the Academy to nominate it? Oh, I give up.

- Don Ameche ("Cocoon") for Best Supporting Actor - "Cocoon" is fairly typical for: A) A Ron Howard film and B) A schmaltzy and relentless Hollywood tear jerker. Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that Ameche is really good in the film, and as I've said before the Best Supporting category usually has some of the cooler nominations, and occasionally some of them actually win. This was one of those cases.

Honorable Mention - William Hurt ("Kiss of the Spider Woman") for Best Actor - It would have been cool to see Ford or Voight win, but Hurt was great as well, so no complaints.

- Spielberg, it seems early on, would either lose to or get overlooked for a foreign director (when his film was nominated for Best Picture) and in this case Akira Kurosawa got nominated for "Ran," and while "The Color Purple" was nominated for Best Film, Spielberg failed to get a nod. Kurosawa was a great choice to include, but someone else could have been left out; "To Live and Die in L.A." deserved noms for both William Friedkin as director and William Petersen for Best Actor; and yet another great comedic performance got overlooked, and this time it was Chevy Chase in "Fletch" (Come on, naysayers, you know he deserved at least a mention.) And speaking of Kurosawa, "Ran" would have been a great Best Picture nomination.

- How cool would it have been to see Paul Reubens get a nomination for "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure;" I've also always found it strange how horror movies don't even get a mention usually in the special effects category, but 1985's "Re-Animator" would have been a great film to buck the trend; for the detached head performing oral sex scene alone would have made it well worth the nomination. Also, Chris Sarandon, might be the coolest effeminate male vampire in the history of cinema ("Fright Night"); his character's sweater collection alone deserved a nomination (That's some "Best Costuming" people!).

- Robert Loggia is one of the greatest character actors, so I'm not upset he got nominated in the Supporting Actor category, but for an 80's legal/sex thriller like "Jagged Edge" is very odd.


- David Lynch ("Blue Velvet") - This might actually be the coolest nominee ever; "Blue Velvet" was far and away my favorite film of 1986, and Lynch is the main reason why. Sure, standard Hollywood crap got nominated in the Best Picture category over it ("Children of a Lesser God" and "The Mission"), but at least they felt fit to give Lynch the directing nod (Randa Haines got left out for "Children"). His trippy model of suburban life involving a crazed Pabst Blue Ribbon drinker sucking on Oxygen (Dennis Hopper) and a naive dork (played brilliantly by Kyle MacLachlan) getting his world turned upside down by the very sexy and bug nuts Isabella Rossellini is a treasure to behold. And Lynch directs it as if these are the sanest surroundings ever to exist, and it makes the film that much better.

Honorable Mentions - Dennis Hopper ("Hoosiers") for Best Supporting Actor. He really could have been nominated twice in this category (See Above), but he's great in "Hoosiers" as well. He might have actually had his two best performances in '86. And I also have to give props to Sigourney Weaver getting a Best Actress nomination for "Aliens;" very cool.

- Jane Fonda ("The Morning After") for Best Actress - You know after finding out Loggia was nominated for "Jagged Edge," and now this, I guess I didn't realize the Academy showed a decent amount of love for these 80's psychological thrillers, but "The Morning After" (with a by the numbers directing job by the great Sidney Lumet) is just silly, and Fonda's performance (not to mention her hair) doesn't help matters. It's just a stupid nomination especially when you consider Bette Midler was overlooked for two great performances ("Down and Out in Beverly Hills" and "Ruthless People") and Mia Farrow's Best Performance ("Hannah and Her Sisters") didn't get a nod even though the film was nominated all over the place in other categories.

Honorable Mentions - I already mentioned "The Mission" and "Children of a Lesser God" getting nominated for Best Picture was awful, but it deserves another round; these are just two very average, very boring films with some good performances thrown in the mix. Two of the worst nominees in this category in the history of the awards. Oh, and "Crocodile Dundee" was nominated for Best Screenplay, but remember, "Ghostbusters" wasn't two years before. So this was the comedy script they decided to go with? Disgusting.

- Paul Newman ("The Color of Money") for Best Actor - I love, love Newman; I can't stress that enough, but his second portrayal of "Fast Eddie" Felson (This was a semi-sequel to the classic 1959 film, "The Hustler") is just so lifeless. This is by far the worst Newman performance I've ever seen, and it's the one he won the award for? Was the Academy that terrified that he would never do anything good again?

Honorable Mentions - "Room With a View" for Best Adapted Screenplay - just for the fact that it beat out the brilliant adaptation of Stephen King's "Stand By Me." This was a really cool year for nominations. And fucking "Take My Breath Away" from "Top Gun" winning for Best Original Song; "Mean Green Mother (From Outer Space)" from "Little Shop of Horrors" should have easily taken this trophy home.

- "Platoon" for Best Picture - When I said "Amadeus was the best film to win this award in the 80's, I kind of forgot about "Platoon," so I will now change my opinion. "Platoon" was my 2nd favorite film of 1986 after "Blue Velvet," and it wasn't nominated, so I was perfectly fine with "Platoon" taking down the award. I really miss this younger and more focused Oliver Stone. Nowadays he just seems pissed about everything and that is really damaging his filmmaking abilities. Interesting side note, "Hannah and Her Sisters" would probably be my 3rd favorite film of '86 and it was also nominated for Best Picture; like I said, pretty cool year for nominations.

Honorable Mentions - "Aliens" for Visual Effects and "The Fly" for Make-up.

- David Cronenberg ("The Fly") for Best Director; Rutger Hauer ("The Hitcher") for Best Supporting Actor; "Mona Lisa" for Best Picture and Neil Jordan for Best Director; "Ruthless People" for Best Original Screenplay; "Stand by Me" for Best Film; Christopher Walken and Sean Penn both deserved acting nods for the highly underrated (and shot in Franklin, TN) "At Close Range."

- The character of Jack Burton from "Big Trouble in Little China" (I swear this is probably my last Carpenter shout out) has always been one of my favorites, and Kurt Russell embodies every essence of that coolness factor; would have been a sweet Best Actor Nominee. I would also have loved to have seen "Little Shop of Horrors" get nominated for Best Picture; that would have made my year.

- "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" for Best Visual Effects - In some ways its' kind of cool that a pointless horror sequel got any kind of love from the Academy, but it had to be "Poltergeist II?" And from what I remember the effects are actually kind of terrible; especially that scene with the braces attacking the kid.


- Albert Brooks ("Broadcast News") for Best Supporting Actor - The comedic performance Brooks gives in "Broadcast News" is right up there with just about anyone else you can come up with. The scene where he has to fill in as news anchor is one of my all time favorite comedy scenes; the sweating alone got him the nomination I'm sure. As much as I love Sean Connery's winning turn in "The Untouchables," Brooks should have won this by a landslide. Honorable Mentions - Anne Ramsey got nominated for her hilarious turn in the underrated "Throw Momma From the Train."

- "Full Metal Jacket" for Best Adapted Screenplay - The first twenty to thirty minutes of "Full Metal Jacket" is very strong and gutwrenching in a good way, and then the film turns into something that is the exact opposite of that. It's as if Kubrick had this great short film in his mind, but then just didn't know where to go from there; and I would assume knowing Kubrick's takes on "2001," "The Shining," and "A Clockwork Orange" this is very "loosely" adapted.

Honorable Mention - Robin Williams ("Good Morning Vietnam") for Best Actor - I just don't get the appeal of the movie or Williams's performance in it.

- "The Last Emperor" for Best Picture - "Hope and Glory," "Moonstruck," "Broadcast News," and "Fatal Attraction" made up 4/5 of one of the coolest and most versatile lists of Best Picture nominees in the show's history, but then the 5th film has to be a fine, if unoriginal, big sweeping epic and then goes on to win the whole damn thing.

Honorable Mention: "The Last Emperor" for Art Direction - The movie looks great (don't get me wrong), but it's a look that had been done so many times before. The Academy would have been better served to honor one of the other nominees like the intense gangster setting of the "Untouchables" or the fun slice of life on display in Woody Allen's "Radio Days."

MOST DESERVING WIN - Michael Douglas ("Wall Street") for Best Actor - What has always interested me most about this performance is that Michael Douglas is just not that intimidating of a person, so to cast him in this kind of larger than life role of a money hungry, blood-sucking leech was a bit of a stretch on Oliver Stone's part, but it worked out beautifully. Douglas walks the finest of lines with the character; he knows exactly how far to take it and when to pull it back. It's just genius all the way around; he deserved the win 100%.

- Even though all three leads of "Broadcast News" got nominated as well as the script and it got a Best Cinematography nod, but James L. Brooks didn't get a nomination for Best Director? Mickey Rourke ("Angel Heart" or "Barfly") for Best Actor; Jack Nicholson ("Witches of Eastwick") for Best Suppoting Actor; David Mamet ("House of Games") for Best Screenplay; Robert Downey Jr. ("Less than Zero") for Best Supporting Actor; Chris Cooper ("Matewan") for Best Actor; Charlie Sheen ("Wall Street") for Best Supporting Actor and the film for Best Picture.

- I realize it just wasn't understood in it's time, but "Throw Momma From the Train" is a brilliant dark comedic take on Hitchcock's Best Film (IMO), "Strangers on a Train." While Ramsey getting nominated was cool, both Billy Crystal, Danny DeVito, and the film itself all could have been nominated and I would have loved every second of it. And most people just think of it as a dumb action movie from the 80's, but "Robocop" is borderline brilliant satire, and a screenplay nomination would have been well deserved.

- The awful, and I mean awful, Bob Seger song, "Shakedown," from "Beverly Hills Cop II" was nominated for Best Original Song. God, I really hate that category.


COOLEST NOMINEE THAT DIDN'T WIN - Glenn Close ("Dangerous Liaisons") for Best Actress - Glenn Close's scenery chewing performance in the great "Dangerous Liaisons" is just a thing of beauty; the simple fact that she steals a lot of the picture away from the brilliant John Malkovich is reason enough to understand how great she is in this film.

Honorable Mentions - "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" for Best Cinematography; Charles Crichton ("A Fish Called Wanda") for Best Director; "Dangerous Liaisons" for Best Picture.

LEAST DESERVING NOMINEE THAT DIDN'T WIN - Joan Cusack ("Working Girl") for Best Supporting Actress - Best hair maybe, but supporting actress? I don't know; I've never been a huge fan of Cusack, but I'll admit she's given some memorable performances in the past but this wasn't one of them, and they also nominated Sigourney Weaver in this same category for her work in the film which was well deserved; I think Cusack's nom could have gone to someone more deserving from another movie.

- "Rain Man" for Best Picture - Out of all the Best Picture winners in the 1980's, I can't think of one that deserved it less than Barry Levinson's overwrought and just flat out ignorant film. This is one of those films that I've gone back and watched a couple of times since to see if my feelings towards it have changed, and the damn thing just gets worse every time. I will go ahead and include Dustin Hoffman's win for Best Actor in this rant if for no other reason than Tom Cruise (the one bright side to the film) acts circles around him at every turn. And I still can't figure out how this is supposed to be a "Feel Good" movie on any level when it's borderline depressing the whole tedious way through. God, I hate this movie!

- Kevin Kline ("A Fish Called Wanda") for Best Supporting Actor -Since he really doesn't do much anymore, I forget just how great of an actor Kline is, and this is his tour de force performance, and he actually won for it. Amazing! When you look at all of the great actors in the 1980's, Kline never seems to be on anyone's radar, and he damn well should be.

Honorable Mention - Peter Biziou ("Mississippi Burning") for Best Cinematography - I don't have a whole lot of love for this movie, but it's a beautiful picture to look at and Biziou, like Kline, really doesn't get enough credit. The problem is most of the movies he does work on are not all that great, but you can always say that it was a great looking film (i.e., "Derailed," "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," and "9 1/2 Weeks"). The man did do "The Truman Show," "Damage," and "Time Bandits," so they are not all bad.

BIGGEST SNUBS - John Malkovich ("Dangerous Liaisons") for Best Actor (this one peeves me off almost as much as "Ghostbusters" not getting a screenplay nom); Eddie Murphy ("Coming to America") for Best Actor; Tim Robbins ("Bull Durham") for Best Supporting Actor; Stephen Frears ("Dangerous Liaisons") for Best Director; Robert De Niro or Charles Grodin ("Midnight Run") for Acting; Michael Caine ("Without a Clue") for Best Supporting Actor.

- Just like a broken record, I will say again that comedies get noticed rarely enough at the Academy Awards, and parodies are just flat out toxic, but how fucking cool would it have been to see Leslie Nielsen get nominated for Best Actor for his brilliant work in "Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad?" He would have deserved it.

- The tear jerker, "Beaches," got nominated for Best Art Direction. Of what? Fucking beaches?


- Woody Allen ("Crimes and Misdemeanors") for Best Director - This was one of the strangest years ever at the Academy Awards; Allen got nominated for his best film (imo), but the film didn't. He bumped out Bruce Beresford, who's "Driving Miss Daisy" would take home Best Picture. Who cares? It's great Allen got nominated because like I said, they don't get any better than this in the Woody Allen library, and he should have won too. Oliver Stone would take home the prize for "Born on the Fourth of July." Stone did a fine job, but Allen deserved it.

Honorable Mention - Danny Aiello ("Do the Right Thing") for Best Supporting Actor.

- "Dead Poet's Society" for Best Picture - If there is a beloved 80's film I hate more than "Rain Man," it might very well be "Dead Poet's Society." And while I do like the occasional Barry Levinson film, I absolutely love the majority of "Poet's" director, Peter Weir's, work. So I have no idea what went wrong here, but this movie is just so melodramatic and just so...well...awful (I can't think of more fitting term). People learn to love or hate Milton (never really completely got the gist of that) and are able to break out of the mold that their prep school tries to form around them; oh, these poor son's of rich people. And it all comes down to a climax involving a suicide attempt because the dude's dad doesn't want him to be an actor. Fucking really?

Honorable Mention - Dan Aykroyd ("Driving Miss Daisy") for Best Supporting Actor.

- "Driving Miss Daisy" for Best Picture - When the director doesn't even get nominated for the film that wins, that should tell you something. "Driving Miss Daisy" is a film full of wonderful performances (with the exception of Aykroyd), but yet again just because you have great acting doesn't mean you have a great picture, and this is a prime example.

Honorable Mention - "Under the Sea" ("The Little Mermaid") for Best Song - just for the simple fact that the film's other song that got nominated, "Kiss the Girl," is much better.

- Denzel Washington ("Glory") for Best Supporting Actor - It's gotten harder each year to remember why I consider Washington to be one of the best actors working today, but then I go back and watch him act his ass off in "Glory" and remember why.

Honorable Mention - "Cinema Paradiso" for Best Foreign Language film.

- Michael Douglas ("War of the Roses") for Best Actor or the film for Best Screenplay; Meg Ryan ("When Harry Met Sally") for Best Actress; "Crimes and Misdemeanors" for Best Picture; "Do the Right Thing" for Best Picture and Spike Lee for Best Director; "Parenthood" for Best Picture or Steve Martin for Best Actor; "Steel Magnolias" for Best Screenplay.

- Just for the dialogue alone, it would have been cool to see "Major League" get a Best Screenplay nod.

- Can a sequel using the same music be nominated for Best Original Score? Well, apparently because "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" did just that. Good score, but if they are going to be so fucking hard ass with the rules for Best Original Song, shouldn't the Score have to fall under the same restrictions. So that's the 80's, and it didn't take quite a month after the first installment. So, by my rate, we should have the 90's up by the end of May.


At 4/06/2011 02:59:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I'm not sure if it got lost in your post, but 1985 is without a "Least Deserving Win" category. And I would put Out of Africa's win for Best Picture there. I think that might be one of the worst movies I've ever seen win the top prize.

Don't want to be one of "those guys," but I will point out that Haing S. Ngor got murdered in 1996, possibly because of politics...oh, I'll let this IMDB mini-biography say it:

Haing S. Ngor was a native of Cambodia, and before the war was a physician (obstetrics) and medical officer in the Cambodian army. He became a captive of the Khmer Rouge during the and was imprisoned and tortured; in order to escape execution he denied being a doctor or having an education. He moved to the U.S. as a refugee in 1980, and though he had no formal acting experience, he was chosen to portray photographer Dith Pran in The Killing Fields (1984) and won an Academy Award. He went on to a modestly distinguished acting career, while continuing to work with human rights organizations in Cambodia on improving the conditions in resettlement camps, as well as attempting to bring the perpetrators of the Cambodian massacre to justice. On 25 February 1996, Ngor was found shot to death in the garage of his apartment building in Los Angeles. Relatives and friends speculated that the killing was revenge for his opposition to the Khmer Rouge.

And while he likely wouldn't have done much after the Oscar anyway, it's probably important to note that he probably didn't give two shits about furthering his acting career. Not trying to make you feel bad or anything, but it's worth mentioning.

I've seen a lot of opposition to Dead Poets Society, but it still rings as one of my favorite films for whatever reason. I don't think the suicide at the end is just because Robert Sean Leonard's character wanted to be an actor and his dad wouldn't let's pretty cut and dried that his dad wouldn't allow him to do, well, anything he wanted. But, I imagine that even if I turned you around on this one point, that would not suddenly make the movie good in your eyes.

And yeah, I'm not too terribly excited about Glenn Close getting an acting nomination in The Natural, but I think we both agree the film should have been nominated and won Best Picture. *Wink.*

And wait a got done with Carpenter after 1986 and Big Trouble in Little China? No love for They Live? Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David should have been so nominated, man, at least for that marathon fight scene.

Overall, I agree with most of this list. As you pointed out, the films we remember from the eighties got so little love from the Academy for whatever reason. I just don't think they ever had the guts to go for spectacle sci-fi or comedy in the face of the traditional epics. Seriously, someone needs to be shot for that Last Emperor love.

At 4/06/2011 11:03:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I had no idea dude got murdered. That's awful; now my cute Pat Morita joke seems kind of morbid; maybe that's all the better.

And I know I probably simplified the suicide in "Dead Poet's Society," but since the movie overall is just so overdramatic at every turn and preachy as hell that's kind of how I've always seen it.

They Live would have been a cool "Thinking Outside the Box" but I guess I overlooked it, and I felt like I just had too much Carpenter on the list, but that won't be a problem in the 90's section. They should have created a "Best Fight Sequence" award just for that film alone.

Thanks for fixing my post, and I'm pretty sure "Out of Africa" was the one I had in there.


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