This week’s entry is “Ed Wood” (Touchstone, 1994), Tim Burton’s biopic about schlock movie director Edward D. Wood Jr. Wood made the 1959 film “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” which many consider to be the worst movie ever made. He also wrote and directed the awful cross-dressing (and semi-autobiographical) pic “Glen or Glenda,” (which I think is the worst movie I’ve ever seen) along with “Bride of the Monster.” Filmed in glorious black and white and directed in the style of, well, an Ed Wood movie, the story follows Ed (played by Johnny Depp) and his crazy entourage as they do everything they can to get their movies made. The film also focuses on the relationship between Ed and actor Bela Lugosi (brilliantly played by Martin Landau, who also won an Academy Award® for the role). Ultimately, the movie shows a character who is incredibly in love with what he’s doing, even though he’s not very good at it. A classic film and definitely made for grown ups. Also stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Jones and Patricia Arquette. Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. Directed by Tim Burton. “Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else’s dreams?”
“Ruthless People” (Touchstone, 1986). When clothing magnate Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) steals the ideas submitted to him by talented-but-naive fashion designer Sandy Kessler (Helen Slater), she and her also-naive husband Ken (Judge Reinhold) decide to get back at him by kidnapping his wife, Barbara (Bette Midler), and demanding a large ransom for her safe return. The problem is that Sam wants his wife dead–he and his mistress want her large inheritance–so he is thrilled by the news. Thus starts this uproarious, hilarious (and somewhat naughty) film. A very funny script, stellar comedic performances by the great cast, totally 1980s production design, and a fun soundtrack make this a great guilty pleasure for me. Also stars Anita Morris and Bill Pullman. Definitely made for grown-ups. Written by Dale Launer. Based on a story by O. Henry (according to IMDB.com; I need to research this more). Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, the team that brought us “Airplane!” and “Top Secret!” “Well, let’s face it, she’s not Mother Teresa. Gandhi would have strangled her.”
And now for something completely different from Kurt Russell, it’s this week’s Guilty Pleasures selection–the dystopian sci-fi action pic “Escape from New York” (Avco Embassy Pictures, 1981). Russell plays Snake Plissken, who is probably one of the coolest anti-heroes ever. When the President of the United States (Donald Pleasence) crash lands in the island of Manahattan, which has now become a maximum security prison, Plissken, a convicted criminal and former special forces solider, is tasked with safely retrieving the president along with a highly confidential and highly important cassette tape. If Plissken can get the president out of the hell that is now the Manhattan Prison along with the cassette tape in 24 hours, he will receive a full pardon. Plissken’s got skills and he gets plenty of chances to use them as he fights through the grit, grime and scum of the Manhattan Prison to get to the president. Definitely made for grown-ups and definitely a blast. Also stars Lee Van Cleef as Hauk, Harry Dean Stanton as Brain, Adrienne Barbeau and her cleavage as Maggie, Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie, and Isaac Hayes as The Duke. Written by John Carpenter and Nick Castle. Directed by John Carpenter. “The name’s Plissken.”
Did you get a chance to see the beautiful animated short “Paperman” from Walt Disney Animation Studios that’s been playing in theaters in front of “Wreck-It Ralph”? Disney Animation recently posted the entire short film on YouTube. It’s definitely worth watching (and watching again).
Last summer, Jerry Beck, animation historian and editor of the great animation website CartoonBrew.com, posted an interview with “Paperman” director John Kahrs. The short uses an innovative technique and software system that makes computer generated (CG) animation look more like hand-drawn animation. Kahrs stated:
“It really came out of working so much with Glen [Keane] on Tangled. Seeing all that drawing, being at Disney, being surrounded by that legacy. How exciting, and how much punch there is in the drawn line, how expressive it can be. And how hard the CG guys have to work to try to match that charm. I thought, Why do we have to leave these drawings behind? Why can’t we bring them back up to the front of the image again? Is there a way that CG can kinda carry along the hand drawn line in a way that we haven’t done before?”
“Paperman” has also been nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Animated Short Film. We’ll find out if it wins on The Oscars® broadcast on February 24, 2013 on ABC.
A live-action Disney favorite from my childhood is “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” (Disney, 1969). Set at the fictional Medfield College (home to the Disney classics “The Absent-Minded Professor” and “Son of Flubber”), student Dexter Riley (played by Kurt Russell) and his fellow classmates want the school administration to buy a much needed super computer for the campus. The students persuade A.J. Arno (played by Cesar Romero), a wealthy benefactor of Medfield College, to donate one. While Dexter is working on the computer, he gets zapped by lightning and all of the computer data gets transferred to his brain. The strange event turns Dexter into a walking encylopedia, which spurs the school’s administration to enter him along with some of his classmates in a TV college quiz tournament that could potentially win big money for the school. Unfortunately for Dexter, the computer also included secret information about A.J. Arno’s illegal gambling business. It’s the college students vs. the administration and the crooks in a movie that’s simple, silly fun. Also stars Disney regular Joe Flynn as Dean Higgins, Michael McGreevey as Dexter’s friend Schuyler, and William Schallert as Professor Quigley. And for today’s Dexter Riley trivia, the film spurred two Dexter Riley sequels, both starring Kurt Russell: “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t” (1972) and “The Strongest Man in the World” (1975). Written by Joseph L. McEveety. Directed by Robert Butler. “Don’t worm me, you worm!”