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Single-sentence movie summary T-shirts
07:23 am



I really like these deadpan shirts with single-sentence summaries of a few popular movies. Not going to mention any movie titles, so you can quiz yourself, but my favorite one reads, “A framed Coney Island street gang must elude police and rival themed gangs on a race back to their home turf.”

It cheers me to learn that these were designed by Mike Joyce of Stereotype Design; he was also responsible for those rigorously 2D Helvetica gig posters that popped up a couple years back. You can get these at Fab. for $28 each.





More awesome synopsis-tees after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Putney Swope: Most under-rated cult film of the 1960s?
01:07 pm



Robert Downey Sr.‘s Putney Swope is an unusual film that splits audiences into two camps without breaking a sweat: those who absolutely love it and think it’s an unheralded masterpiece, and those who utterly loathe it (Check out Amazon reviews!) A third and far larger category would be comprised of everyone who’s never even heard of this odd little gem in the first place. Back in the early 80s, when super rare cheap to license cult films would often appear on some schlocky video label long before some mainstream films became available Putney Swope would often show up in the “Midnight Movies” or cult films section of video rental shops. After that it more or less disappeared until it came out on DVD. Every once in a while it’s on TV, too, but it’s still, sadly, Putney Swope is not a widely known film.

The Coen Brothers, Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle and Paul Thomas Anderson are all known to be big fans of the film. Jane Fonda declared it a masterpiece to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show in 1969 and the Beastie Boys have sampled from it and rapped about it. Anderson even lifted a scene from it for Boogie Nights.
The first three times I saw Putney Swope I thought it was an incredible masterpiece. I was stunned by it. I laughed out loud. I sobbed. It was amazing. It was profound and symbolic of everything! Then again, the first three times I saw the film I was ridiculously high on LSD and I watched it over and over again, by myself, three times in the same night!
When the acid wore off I still thought it was a great and profound film, perhaps just not as great. That didn’t stop me from being an evangelist for this weird little movie, which satirized race, how race was portrayed in advertising, race in the workplace, black militants, white privilege and corporate corruption (there’s even a hint of Orwell’s Animal Farm in it), to all of my friends. Man did I force this film on a lot of (grateful!) people. I’ve easily seen it 30 times.
The plot goes something like this: Arnold Johnson (who later played “Hutch” on Sanford and Son) is Putney Swope, a middled-aged black man who works at a Madison Avenue advertising agency with a bunch of corrupt corporate buffoons. When the founder of the agency dies mid-speech, the board holds a vote to find his successor while his body goes cold on the table. Everyone writes down a name on a piece of paper. They are informed that they cannot vote for themselves and so each man tears up his ballot. They cut deals with each other and then all vote for the one guy who they think no one else will vote for either, Putney Swope, the only black guy.

So Swope becomes the new CEO with a landslide. His motto is “Rockin’ the boat’s a drag. You gotta sink the boat!”  He promptly fires all of the white executives (save for one), renames the agency “Truth & Soul” and hires a young, idealistic and politically militant black staff who want to tell the actual truth in advertising. “Truth & Soul” refuse to take accounts from cigarette manufacturers, liquor companies or the war machine. They become so successful that the government becomes alarmed. Eventually everyone becomes corrupted, even Putney himself, who takes to dressing like Fidel Castro.
That’s about it, plot-wise, but a lot of stuff happens in Putney Swope that would be difficult to try to describe here. The film is mainly in black and white, but the commercial parodies are in color. Antonio Fargas Jr. (“Huggy Bear” on Starsky & Hutch) has a memorable role as “The Arab,” Putney’s Muslim advisor and prankster Alan Abel is also seen in a cameo role. Putney Swope has great lines like “Anything that I have to say would just be redundant”; “A job? Who wants a JOB?”; and “Are you for surreal?!” that have been quoted over and over again (at least in my house). The US president and his wife are played by midgets who engage in a threesome with a photographer. There is a Mark David Chapman-type weirdo hovering around. It’s hard to describe, you really just have to see it. I think Putney Swope is one of the great, great, great American counterculture films of the 1960s. One day. I predict confidently, it will be seen as the equal to Easy Rider or Five Easy Pieces. I’m surprised that French cinemaphiles haven’t discovered it yet… but they will. They will.

This probably isn’t the best way to watch the film (grab the Putney Swope DVD on Amazon)  but DO watch the first scene up to the point where Putney takes over the advertising agency. If that doesn’t make you want to watch the rest, I can’t do much for you…



If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Los Angeles next weekend, there’s going to be a Robert Downey Sr. celebration to end all celebrations with the great man in attendance (this is a true rarity on the west coast as Downey refuses to fly) held from 12/5 - 12/8 at Cinefamily. TRUTH AND SOUL INC. featuring special guests Paul Thomas Anderson, Louis C.K., and an intimate conversation with Robert Downey Sr. and his son, Robert Downey Jr. about his film legacy. This event is a fundraiser for Cinefamily, LA’s premiere cinematheque for first-run arthouse and repertory films and who better to represent all that Cinefamily stands for than this maverick filmmaker?


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John Cleese names his favorite show he’s ever done—it’s probably not what you were expecting
10:47 am



A few days ago, the Nerdist released its interview with John Cleese of Monty Python. The host, Chris Hardwick, admits to worshiping Cleese—who can’t relate to that?—and they spend a really easygoing hour or so together. Cleese is promoting his new memoir So Anyway, which Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post called “smart, thoughtful, provocative and above all funny,” even if Lewis Jones at the Spectator in the UK called it “a dreary compendium of pompous self-congratulation and tetchy sarcasm.” Ouch.

Anyway, about 58 minutes in, Hardwick asks Cleese about the “favorite thing that you’ve ever done.” What would he pick, do you think? Monty Python and the Holy Grail! Or maybe the Dead Parrot sketch? Oh, how, stupid of me, of course he would pick Fawlty Towers, that’s a no-brainer. Although you never know, it could be his psychology books with Robin Skynner or A Fish Called Wanda (which briefly established Cleese as the thinking woman’s sex symbol) or the business training videos he did for the company he founded, Video Arts. Or The Human Face?

Nope, nope, and nope. Turns out all of those guesses are way off.

Here’s his answer to the question: “I made a little documentary about lemurs in Madagascar once, and there was something about that I thought was very warm and mellow, and I liked that, I liked that a lot. And it enabled me to make a few sort of jokes that I hadn’t made before, and it was something really fresh.” After that, Cleese confides that the making of Fawlty Towers was a happy experience, but the filming of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life was very much the opposite, not a happy experience at all.

The “little documentary” cited by Cleese is called “Operation Lemur: Mission to Madagascar” (although the in-show title, as you can see, is “Lemurs with John Cleese”). It was filmed as part of a series of nature programs that ran for several years called Into the Wild in which they would sent Hollywood celebrities to distant wildlife destinations, such as sending Julia Roberts to Borneo to learn about orangutans or Goldie Hawn to India to witness elephant life.

Cleese has developed a serious affection for lemurs. On Cleese’s Facebook page, his “About” area contains the following text: “John Cleese is a tall person who likes lemurs, coffee and wine. He’s also been known to write and act a bit.” He has also had a lemur named after him—the Bemaraha woolly lemur is also referred to as “Cleese’s woolly lemur.”

The documentary isn’t bad—you’ll definitely learn a thing or two about lemurs, and they are pretty fascinating animals. My favorite bit covers the long tails of the animals as well as the remarkable “stink fights” that lemurs will engage in—nonlethal conflicts in which the band of lemurs that produces the more offensive smell wins.

All in all, though, I wouldn’t trade it for the original 45 episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.....


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’: Storyboard vs. finished film
08:45 am



As the film writer Anne Billson has pointed out most critics were wrong about John Carpenter’s The Thing when it was first released in 1982. In general they hated it and damned the film as “too phony looking to be disgusting. It qualifies only as instant junk.” While another reviewer squealed:

“The only avenue left to explore would seem to be either concentration camp documentaries or the snuff movie.”

The reviews were sadly all rather disappointing, more so for the fact these hacks had failed to grasp how Carpenter had created an adult, intelligent and highly faithful cinematic version of John W. Campbell’s source story “Who Goes There?”—the basis for Howard Hawks’ original production The Thing from Another World directed by Christian Nyby in 1951. Unlike the Hawks’ production, Carpenter kept snug with Campbell’s tale of paranoia and a shape-shifting alien. More importantly, his version was also a major progression in cinematic story-telling as the expected tropes of character and motivation were made quickly apparent without having to be overly explained or developed through dialog. A younger audience understood this, the older critics did not, and damned the film for what they perceived was its lack of emotional depth. This is maybe explained by the release earlier in the same year of Steven Spielberg’s grossly sentimental E.T.: The Extraterrestrial which received overwhelmingly positive reviews. However, as Billson notes, some of the opprobrium heaped on Carpenter had been previously dumped on Nyby:

Variety wrote: “What the old picture delivered – and what Carpenter has missed – was a sense of intense dread.” Which is funny, because in 1951, the same paper had said of Nyby’s film: “The resourcefulness shown in building the plot groundwork is lacking as the yarn gets into full swing. Cast members ... fail to communicate any real terror.”

The negative reviews had a deleterious affect on Carpenter, who later said:

“I take every failure hard. The one I took the hardest was The Thing. My career would have been different if that had been a big hit…The movie was hated. Even by science-fiction fans. They thought that I had betrayed some kind of trust, and the piling on was insane. Even the original movie’s director, Christian Nyby, was dissing me.”

Which was a shame, for John Carpenter is a true artist, one of American cinema’s greatest offbeat film directors, whose movies have had considerable influence on succeeding generations of filmmakers.

Film editor Vashni Nedomansky is a fan of Carpenter’s The Thing, describing the film as one of his favorites and going so far as to claim:

The story, characters, score, location and practical visual effects are some of the most memorable in film history.

He also writes that certain of film’s scenes “destroyed” him and “left me cinematically scarred as a child.”

As a fan of the film, Nedomansky recently edited together a comparison between the original storyboards by Mike Ploog and Mentor Huebner with Carpenter’s finished movie. It’s an interesting comparison as it reveals how collaborative a process filmmaking can be, as Nedomansky explains on his blog Vashi Visuals:

The visuals of both the desolate Antarctic and the ever-morphing alien creatures in THE THING were envisioned long before the movie was shot. Extensive storyboards were drawn by artist Michael Ploog and Mentor Huebner so that all the departments of the production were on the same page in their preparation for the shoot. This is nothing new…but the similarity between the storyboards and the final imagery shot by legendary DP Dean Cundey is staggering. Storyboards are often only a guide, but in this film they were so specifically rendered that they became gospel. The detail and artistry of Ploog’s work up front, allowed the crew to have clear and defined goals on those frigid shooting days in both Alaska and Canada.

To demonstrate this point…I’ve taken two scenes from THE THING and laid down the storyboards next to the shots in the final edit of the film. The video below examines the discovery of the alien spaceship and the transformation of Norris in the shocking scene that still haunts me today. Just like Hitchcock worked with Saul Bass to create the famous shower scene in Psycho…Ploog crafted beautiful storyboards for Carpenter so that the time on set was best utilized to tell the story.

You will find more storyboards from The Thing here and Anne Billson’s BFI Classic book on John Carpenter’s The Thing can be found here.

With thanks to Scheme Comix.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Let Charles Mingus help you with your cat poop problems
07:31 am



Charles Mingus is one of the greatest jazz composers of all time, and he also, it seems, shared some similarities with your typical crazy cat lady. He liked having cats around, and spent a lot of time thinking about the nettlesome issue of feline fecal matter.

On p. 77 of Cassavetes on Cassavetes we find the following anecdote, told by John Cassavetes, about enlisting Mingus to do the soundtrack for his first movie, Shadows. Mingus would only do it if Cassavetes would come over to Mingus’ house and clean up the cat shit—but even that didn’t solve Mingus’ problem:

First we were going to use Miles Davis, but then he signed with Columbia Records and I got so angry I didn’t want to use him. Anyway, someone said there was this great improvisational artist down in the Village who’d cut a few records, so I listened to a couple and oh!—this guy was wonderful! Charlie Mingus. So Charlie said, “Listen, man, would you do me a favor? I’ll do it for you, but you have got to do something for me.” “Sure, sure,” I say. “Listen, I’ve got these cats that are shitting all over the floor. Can you have a couple of your people come up and clean the cat shit? I can’t work; they shit all over my music.” So we went up with scrubbing brushes and cleaned up the thing. Now he says, “I can’t work in this place. It’s so clean. I’ve got to wait for the cats to shit.”

Cassavetes had intended for Mingus to improvise the needed music in a single session, but Mingus demanded to compose it properly. Cassavetes ended up using music composed by Mingus’ saxophonist Shafi Hadi. Meanwhile, two years after the first release of Shadows in 1957, Mingus completed his own soundtrack to the movie. According to Cassavetes, those Mingus compositions are “Nostalgia in Times Square” and “Alice’s Wonderland.” 

At some point Charles Mingus figured out the best method of toilet training a cat, and he felt he had to get the word out. He wrote a short pamphlet called “The Charles Mingus CAT-alog for Toilet Training Your Cat.” You could order the “CAT-alog” directly from Mingus, and it also appeared in a publication called Changes that existed between 1968 and 1975 and was run by Mingus’ wife, Sue Graham. (Interestingly, the officiant at their wedding was Allen Ginsberg.) You can read the entirety of Mingus’ “CAT-alog” at this website, which is administered by Graham. Mingus’ main point is to execute the transfer to the toilet very slowly: “The main thing to remember is not to rush or confuse” the cat. Also, don’t use kitty litter: “Be sure to use torn up newspaper, not kitty litter. Stop using kitty litter. (When the time comes you cannot put sand in a toilet.)”

Recently Studio 360 dedicated a segment to Mingus’ kitty program, even enlisting actor Reg E. Cathey, familiar from such TV shows as The Wire and House of Cards, to read Mingus’ pamphlet in its entirety.

Listen to Mingus’ “Pussy Cat Dues,” after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Visible Girls: London’s lost female subcultures
06:53 am

Pop Culture


Lynne and Penny at home in Kingston, March 1981.
In the early 1980s, photographer Anita Corbin documented the “informal uniforms” of young women’s subcultures across London. Corbin photographed rude girls, rockabillies, mods, skinheads, and some “less defined” female groups including soul, rasta, punk and futurist, as well as those involved “in and around the women’s liberation movement.”  Her photographs were exhibited in a traveling exhibition organized by the Cockpit Gallery Project called Visible Girls in 1981.

In her introduction to the Visible Girls exhibition, Corbin wrote:

In this project I turned my attention to more personal visual details and I became increasingly interested in the effect appearences have on everybody’s lives.

The way we use dress as a means of communication/identification and how it can both inform and misinform us.

I have chosen to focus on girls, not the boys (where present) were any less stylish, but because girls in “subcultures” have been largely ignored or when referred to, only as male appendages.

Corbin discovered that for these young women belonging to a subculture was not just a weekend hobby but a whole way of life.

More than thirty years later, Anita Corbin has reconnected with some of the women in her photographs, but would like to contact them all, if possible. If you recognize yourself or any of these women, then you can contact Anita here.
Kath and Em, at home in Putney, October 1980.
Simeon and Simeon, at the Orchard Youth Club, Slough, March 1981.
Charmine and Janice, at the Orchard Youth Club, Slough, March 1981.
Rockabilly girls, at Shades, Manor House, February 1981.
Titch and Sylvia at home in Sudbury, March 1981.
At the Marquee club, December 1980.
With thanks to Elizabeth Veldon, via Buzzfeed.
More of Anita Corbin’s ‘Visible Girls,’ after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Mojo Nixon debates Pat Buchanan over music censorship on ‘Crossfire,’ 1990
06:36 am

American-style (Republican) Christianity


Ughhhhh, remember Crossfire, that farcical program of political theater that purported to encourage debate by having two politically opposed positions parley in an absurd performance of umbrage? If not, you’re not missing much. The format was stupid, and it flattened politics to a kind of idiotic spectator sport. However, given the right guests, it could be damned entertaining. Take this episode featuring Pat Buchanan and Mojo Nixon duking it out over record censorship—frankly, I’m shocked Pat took the bait! There is some choice pearl-clutching from a Missouri state representative Jean Dixon—heavy supporter of Tipper Gore’s censorship sewing circle, the PMRC, but this was well past their heyday, and Mojo’s clearly the star of this show. 

Look, we all know who gave the most beautiful and inspiring statement against censorship, and that is John Motherfucking Denver (no facetiousness—much respect to the late Country Boy), but there’s something so much more appropriate about Mojo Nixon in this format. Pat “The-Holocaust-Wasn’t -Really-That-Bad” Buchanan does not deserve an impassioned speech on behalf of “Rocky Mountain High.” Pat Buchanan deserves to debate the man who wrote such classics as “Don Henley Must Die,” and “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child.”

Obviously I’m biased, but I’d say Mojo wins the debate, mainly because Buchanan loses his cool, while Nixon is appropriately and unapologetically manic from the get-go. Perhaps Pat is just jealous of Mojo’s lush head of hair???

Parts two and three.

Via Watch This Thing

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Fascist groove thang: Mussolini’s granddaughter recorded a disco number, 1982
06:26 am



Before she went into politics, Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Il Duce and the niece of Sophia Loren, had a short-lived disco career in Japan. She and Japanese producer Miki Curtis formed an axis of funk on 1982’s Amore. With a dagger between their teeth, a bomb in their hands and an infinite groove in their hearts, the pair dropped this tautological single, “Love Is Love.” Listen for my favorite lyric: “The chains of your love make me free.” Nonno would have been so proud.


Mamma mia! That’s-a some spicy meatball!

Ms. Mussolini spent most of the ‘70s and ‘80s acting and modeling, but she’s stuck to politics since she was elected to parliament in 1992. As you might expect, she’s just a real nice kind of a person.

YouTube user PannaCottaTrash has collected the whole Amore LP in this playlist.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Watch a fantastic Prince concert from 1982 that can’t be scrubbed from the Internet
06:19 am



In 2007, Prince threatened to file lawsuits against YouTube and other websites in order to “reclaim the Internet” and put a stop to the unauthorized use of his music and image on the web. Though the threat turned out to be just that, Prince still uses a legal team to monitor the Internet and issue takedown notices for material uploaded without his consent. Recently, one vintage Prince show was added to YouTube without his permission, but it won’t be removed any time soon.

This past summer, the website Music Vault uploaded more than 17,000 concerts to YouTube. Music Vault, a division of a company called Norton LLC, obtained the footage from a few different entities, including Clear Channel, who owned the video archive of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham.

The concert dates from January 30th, 1982, and was captured at a theater show in New Jersey during the tour for Prince’s fourth album, Controversy. Though he had a few hits under his belt by this point, this is still very much a young and hungry Prince. What a treat it is to see him on the cusp of his first major success with 1999, which was released later in 1982. Of course his career exploded a couple of years later with Purple Rain, and he’s now considered one of the definitive pop artists of the ‘80s. In this incredible black and white video recording we see the Prince the masses would soon come to love, one full of confidence and exhibiting the kind of showmanship he’d soon be known for worldwide.

Hopefully Prince is cool with this concert being available online, because it’s truly awesome footage of the man. I, for one, am way-thankful it gets to stay on the web for all to see. Enjoy!


Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Blood Freak! The ultimate Thanksgiving gore film (and a true Golden Turkey!)
11:57 am



For those of you true seekers out there, here is the ultimate Thanksgiving film on so many levels. First thank the universe this was even made, wasn’t burned or left in a dumpster like so many other small weird films and is waiting for you to devour it. From my buddies Something Weird Video, here is the perfect rundown on this, the world’s only marijuana-addict-turkey-monster-anti-drug-pro-Jesus-gore film!

For those that think they’ve seen everything comes Blood Freak, a rampaging turkey monster on a marijuana high!

Finding himself sandwiched between Bible-thumping good-girl Angel and her bad-girl sister Ann, a muscle bound biker named Herschell (Steve Hawkes, star of two obscure Tarzan films) falls under Ann’s seductive spell when she offers him some weed. Quickly becoming a writhing, spastic addict - “I have a feeling I’m hooked!” - the big galoot then gets a job at a turkey farm where he’s fed meat treated with an experimental drug and, like any junkie who eats tainted turkey meat, turns into a man with a giant turkey head. Yes, A Man With A Giant Turkey Head. Who also gobbles like a big dumb bird.

Still hungry for a fix, Herschell-the-Turkey-Man proceeds to attack fellow drug addicts whose blood he drinks with his pointy little turkey beak. In one magical moment, he even buzz-saws the leg off a pusher who holds his stump and howls for what seems like days. All of which is punctuated by philosophical pondering by co-director Brad Grinter (Flesh Feast) before two potheads with a machete decide to go on their version of a turkey shoot…

Wow. A monster movie quite unlike any other, Blood Freak is a jaw-dropping almost legendary milestone in crackpot filmmaking, and the ultimate cinematic turkey. Gobble-gobble!

To top it off there is a narrator who reads from a page on his desk, chain smokes while babbling about the dangers of ingesting chemicals, and at one point has a coughing fit ON SCREEN! This came out on video in the 80’s and it is one of a very small handful of films that still make my head spin.

For those of you who just want a quick dabble, here’s the trailer:

And for the tried and true freaks here is the complete film (with a silly three minute intro by a non-scary horror host)! Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
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