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Actor Bob Hoskins dead at 71
04.30.2014
08:54 am

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Movies
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Bob Hoskins

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The actor Bob Hoskins, best known for his roles in The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Mermaids and Twenty Four Seven has died from pneumonia at the age of 71.

Hoskins died in hospital surrounded by his family. In a statement, his wife Linda and children Alex, Sarah, Rosa and Jack said:

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Bob.

“We ask that you respect our privacy during this time and thank you for your messages of love and support.”

There was a humanity and warmth about Hoskins that made him incredibly likable—something that can be seen by the current outpouring of condolences on Twitter. I was fortunate to meet Hoskins briefly once, at the premier of his first major movie The Long Good Friday. Having grown-up watching him on TV in the sit-com Thick As Thieves, the educational series On the Move (which was a reading program for adult literacy, but was a must watch because of Hoskins’ removal man), and Dennis Potter’s Pennies for Heaven, where he was unforgettable as a music sheet salesman, Arthur Parker, playing opposite Cheryl Campbell.

Then came The Long Good Friday where he played one of cinema’s greatest gangsters, Harold Shand, an ambitious and brutal villain who falls foul of the IRA. It was the Irish issue that led some fools to boo the film at its premiere in Edinburgh. As I was leaving the cinema, I found myself beside Hoskins and director John MacKenzie as we walked down the stairs and out onto the foyer. He turned and started talking to me as if we were mates who had gone to the cinema to watch the film. He asked me whether I thought the film was pro-IRA? I said “no” and then we talked a bit about the movie and Edinburgh. I was more keen to tell him how great the film and superb his performance, and he was humble and gracious, but deflected the praise by asking where he could find a good pub?

Back then there were fewer TV channels and hardly any inane reality shows clogging up all the air-time. This meant the bar was far higher and the quality of shows undeniably better. That’s how the country was able to see Hoskins as Iago in Jonathan Miller’s BBC production of Othello. It confirmed that Hoskins as an actor could do anything and successfully, which is what he went on to do over the next three decades.

Bob Hoskins was born on 26th October 1942. His father was a Communist, who brought Hoskins up as an atheist. He later said it was his mother who gave him “confidence”:

“My mum used to say to me, ‘If somebody doesn’t like you, fuck ‘em, they’ve got bad taste.’”

Hoskins left school at fifteen and undertook a variety of jobs (including time at a kibbutz, and working in a circus) before accidentally auditioning and winning his first acting role. Hoskins had been accompanying an actor friend for moral support, when he was asked to audition himself. From this first role, he went on to star in a range of television and stage productions, before achieving success with the series Pennies from Heaven and then The Long Good Friday.

During the 1980s he appeared in The Cotton Club, Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, and the film that made him an international star Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988.

More recently Hoskins showed his support for young talented film-makers by appearing in Shane Meadows’ Twenty Four Seven and A Room For Romeo Brass. Of course, he also made a few stinkers, but then that’s the nature of cinema. But no matter what film he appeared in, Bob Hoskins’ performance was often the best thing about it.

In 2012, Hoskins announced his retirement form acting after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

R.I.P. Bob Hoskins 1942-2014

Here’s the first part on the making of The Long Good Friday, written by Barrie Keefe, which starred Bob Hoskins.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Stupid Club’: Thousands gather to grieve for Kurt Cobain in Seattle park, 1994
04.03.2014
12:24 pm

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History
Music
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R.I.P.

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Kurt Cobain


 
As we near the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death—the Nirvana leader killed himself on April 5, 1994—this morning the Seattle Police Department released two new crime scene photographs that give gruesome glimpses at his final moments.  His body was found on the morning of April 8, 1994 by an electrician named Gary Smith who had been hired to do some maintenance work at Cobain’s Lake Washington home. One photo shows Cobain’s wrist with a hospital ID bracelet, while the other shows his lifeless Converse-clad foot beside a box of bullets:
 

 

 
If you are of a certain age, it’s likely you’ll recall where you were when you heard the news. Thousands of grieving young fans in Seattle felt the need to be together to try to make sense of what had occurred. In “Stupid Club,” this fascinating short documentary from 1994, we meet several of them and it’s pretty interesting stuff, historically, sociologically speaking, whatever. Some of it’s sad, some of it is just goofy.

Worth noting is that the title “Stupid Club” refers to something that Cobain’s mother said in the wake of his suicide:

“Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club, I told him not to join that stupid club.”

Conspiracy theorists at the time—well, at least the ones not claiming that he had been murdered by Courtney Love—speculated that the “stupid club” his mother Wendy was alluding to is the “27 Club” of dead rock stars who never made it to to the age of 28 (Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson) but she was most likely referring to two of Kurt’s uncles, and a great uncle, who had killed themselves.
 

 
Thank you kindly, Reginald Harkema!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Treat yourself to that real working guillotine you’ve always wanted!


 
If you’re going to stage a coup d’etat, you need to make a bold statement to the populace that you’re not playing around, and what says “DO NOT TRIFLE WITH THE NEW ORDER” like public executions? Trouble is, modern methods like lethal injection are too painless and clinical to satisfy the bloodlust of a proper mob, so how’s a budding dictator to quash dissent?

Auctioneer Francois-Xavier Duflos of Nantes, France may have your execution solution. Via The Local:

A working French guillotine is expected to fetch up to €60,000 [about $83,500 USD] when it goes under the hammer on Thursday in the western French city of Nantes. 

The wood, iron, steel and brass relic, synonymous with the French Revolution, was used to execute people in the second half of the 19th century.

The blade of the guillotine bears the inscription ‘Armees de la Republique,” a reference to the Revolutionary Army that was created to defend France from its neighbors in the aftermath of the 1789 French Revolution.

“It was used by the army, it was assembled and disassembled,” Duflos told Europe 1. “It has certainly known several battlefields.”

 

 
“It was used by the army” surely means that people met their doom on this very machine, right? How could it be otherwise? Though the devices are most closely associated in the world’s consciousness with Maximilien de Robespierre’s excesses in the French Revolution, France used guillotines as their primary method of execution until 1977.

Bidding begins on Thursday. Good luck.

This 2004 interview with France’s last living guillotine executioner is mercifully bereft of any actual beheading footage. Its subject only speaks French, but if you turn the captions on, they’re not only in English, they’re sometimes wrong in amusing ways.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Alain Resnais dead at 91: Watch his unforgettable documentary ‘Night and Fog’
03.03.2014
05:54 am

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Alain Resnais
Night and Fog

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The film director Alain Resnais, whose career spanned six decades, has died at the age of 91.

Resnais was described as “a poet of the cinema,” and he was associated with the Left Bank group of film-makers and writers that included Chris Marker,  Agnès Varda,  Jean Cayrol, Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Resnais was best known for his films Hiroshima mon amor, L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad, Muriel ou le Temps d’un retour, Satvisky and Providence. Last month, his final film, Aimer, boire et chanter (The LIfe of Riley) was premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

One of his earliest films was the powerful documentary Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) in 1955. This harrowing film looked at the Holocaust, and told the stories of the prisoners by using footage of the remnants of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Majdanek. The critic and New Wave director François Truffaut described Night and Fog as the greatest film ever made.

Almost sixty years later, this early work by Alain Resnais has lost none of its power and is arguably one of the most important films made about the Holocaust.

R.I.P. Alain Resnais 1922-2014
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘So You’re Dead; Now What?’: RIP Harold Ramis
02.24.2014
11:33 am

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Amusing
R.I.P.
Television

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SCTV
Harold Ramis


 
The news of the death of the legendary comedy writer, performer and film director Harold Ramis—just as credible rumors about the filming of his long-awaited Ghostbusters 3 were beginning to look more and more real—is blowing up the Internet as we speak.

We can think of no eulogy more fitting for the darkly brilliant mind behind Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day than this one, delivered by the man himself, early on in his career, in 1977 on SCTV. You will be greatly missed, sir.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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No More Mister Nice Girl: Maggie Estep, RIP
02.12.2014
05:13 pm

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Books
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Maggie Estep


 
Sad to hear that poet-novelist-spoken word performer Maggie Estep has died at the age of 50. According to friends, Estep, an East Village fixture of the 1990s, suffered a massive heart attack on the 9th and died earlier today.

She is probably best remembered for her numerous MTV and Def Poetry Jam appearances and a music video for “Hey Baby” from her 1994 album No More Mister Nice Girl. Estep was the author of Diary of An Emotional Idiot and several “Ruby Murphy” mystery novels.

The East Village Grieve blog reports that Maggie Estep had been living in Upstate New York while working on a new book.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Italian film maestro Riz Ortolani dead at the age of 87
01.23.2014
01:24 pm

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Music
R.I.P.

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Riz Ortolani


 
Italian film composer Riziero “Riz” Ortolani died in Rome today at the age of 87. Sadly, Ortolani—who worked with directors like Vittorio De Sica, Dino Risi, Damiano Damiani, Lucio Fulchi, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Pupi Avati—would have celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary of marriage to his wife Katyna in just a few days time.

Ortolani’s music first gained worldwide exposure with his score for the infamous Mondo Cane. The film’s title theme “More” won him a Grammy and an Oscar nomination. It’s been covered by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, Judy Garland, Andy WIlliams, Herb Alpert and many others.

In a career that spanned decades, Ortolani wrote the music for around three hundred bloody giallo films, “Mondo” documentaries, zombie flicks, exploitation films and spaghetti westerns. In recent years his work has been heard in the films of Quentin Tarantino and in Drive.
 

 
The gorgeous theme music to Cannibal Holocaust:

 
Mondo Cane’s theme tune, “More” sung by Judy Garland in 1963:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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It’s been ten years since Spalding Gray disappeared
01.10.2014
05:39 pm

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R.I.P.

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Theater
Spalding Gray


 
It’s ten years since the actor and writer Spalding Gray disappeared in New York. He is believed to have committed suicide by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry. His body was surfaced in the East River two months later.

Gray achieved international success as a story-teller, who used the events, adventures, traumas and fascinations of his life to create the acclaimed productions Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box. Gray enthralled with his personal tales, told in a direct though intimate style, seated behind a desk, with a minimum of props. He drew an audience in and kept them engaged, amused and thrilled with his unique, moving and often hilarious tales of life.

It was probably a car accident in Ireland, June 2001, that started Gray’s severe depression. He suffered a broken hip, that left his leg almost immobilized, and a horrifically fractured skull that left a jagged scar across his forehead. It was said that during the operation to replace part of his shattered skull with a titanium plate, the surgeon found shards of bone embedded in Gray’s frontal cortex. Thereafter, Gray suffered from a debilitating depression.

He tried various therapies to cure his condition. This included a course of treatment with neurologist Oliver Sacks. On the first anniversary of Gray’s disappearance, Sacks suggested that suicide was perhaps a part of the writer’s “creative” end to his life:

“On several occasions he talked about what he called ‘a creative suicide.’ On one occasion, when he was being interviewed, he thought that the interview might be culminated with a ‘dramatic and creative suicide.’” Sacks added, “I was at pains to say that he would be much more creative alive than dead.”

I met and interviewed Gray some twenty-odd years ago. He was in Glasgow to perform Monster in a Box, and we met in an hotel off the city center. He was tall, friendly, polite, enthusiastic, dressed in his uniform of plaid shirt and back jeans. Though jet-lagged, he entertained with amusing answers to questions he must have been asked innumerable times before. Then for the camera, he improvised about traveling and performing and living in hotels, and how he’d asked for a quiet room, a hushed room, away from the city tumult, and instead found himself perched over a cobbled lane where the click-clack-click-clack of late night revelers and day-time shoppers kept him awake, leaving him sleepless to count down the hours between shows. 

The day he disappeared, Gray said to his wife, Kathleen Russo:

“OK, goodbye, Honey.”

“And I go, ‘You never call me Honey!’

“And he goes, ‘Well, maybe I’ll start!’

So I left for work that day being hopeful that there was a future for us, that he was really going to try to get better.”

When Gray went missing, his disappearance was featured on TV news and America’s Most Wanted. Sadly, the hope he would turn up one day and recount magical tales of his misadventures were all too quickly destroyed.

This is Splading Gray in Gray’s Anatomy, directed by Stephen Soderbergh, in which our monologist talks about his rare ocular condition, and interweaves it with his Christian Scientist upbringing, Elvis Presley, sweat lodges, and his own fears around surgery.
 

 
H/T NPR;

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Something Weird Video founder dies: RIP exploitation film guru Mike Vraney
01.03.2014
10:37 am

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Movies
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Sex

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Something Weird Video
Mike Vraney


 
Mike Vraney, founder of the underground/exploitation film distro concern Something Weird Video, died yesterday after a long struggle with lung cancer. He is survived by his wife, artist Lisa Petrucci.

Something Weird (warning: boobies) was founded in Seattle in 1990, and has kept thousands of filmed oddities alive and available that almost certainly would have lost were it not for Vraney’s curatorial ministrations. From SW’s about page:

Here on your screen is a whole world of film that just a few short years ago was considered lost or worthless. The industry that produced and distributed these films had long since vanished and there was no sign of the men who actually created these bottom of the barrel celluloid wonders. That is until now.

In 1990 (roughly), we started Something Weird Video with the idea of releasing films that had never been on video. In my mind, the last great genre to be scavenged were the exploitation/sexploitation films of the 30’s through the 70’s. After looking into this further, I realized that there were nearly 2,000 movies out there yet to be discovered. So with this for inspiration, my quest began and wouldn’t you know, just out of the blue I fell into a large collection of 16mm girlie arcade loops (which became the first compilation videos we put together!) Around the same time I received an unexpected phone call that suddenly made all this real - my future and hands-down the king of sexploitation Dave Friedman was on the other end of the line - this would be the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship for both of us. Dave’s films became the building blocks for our film collection and he has taught and guided me through the wonderful world of sexploitation - introducing me to his colleagues (Dan Sonney, Harry Novak, H.G. Lewis, Bob Cresse, and all the other colorful characters who were involved during his heyday) and they’ve been eager to dive into the business again. (And initially, most are shocked that anyone is even interested in this stuff to begin with!)

 
Mike Vraney
 
Anyone—everyone—interested in strange cinema owes Mike Vraney a debt. The video shop that I mentioned in a DM post just yesterday carried so a huge a selection of his wares that they ultimately wound up simply giving him his own Something Weird wall, so much of worth did he preserve. Very little of SW’s stock is work safe—sleaze was the order of the day—but this relatively tame trailer imparts the kitschy, campy, sexy, goofy fun of the films he rescued from oblivion. We salute you and your legacy, Mr. Vraney, and we’re very sorry to lose you.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Bizarre Deaths from the Victorian era
12.26.2013
07:01 am

Topics:
Amusing
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death

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In the 1800s and early 1900s, more people died at a younger age than today. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions allowed disease to spread quickly and with devastating effects. This period, which the British term the Victorian era, also saw a high incidence of bizarre deaths, a selection of which have been listed by the BBC News Magazine:

1: Killed by a mouse

In 1875, at a factory in south London, England, a mouse dashed across a work table startling the employees. One worker made to grab the fleeing rodent, but the mouse escaped his grasp, and ran up the man’s sleeve, out through the neck of his shirt, and straight into the young man’s open mouth.

The Manchester Evening News reported:

“That a mouse can exist for a considerable time without much air has long been a popular belief and was unfortunately proved to be a fact in the present instance, for the mouse began to tear and bite inside the man’s throat and chest, and the result was that the unfortunate fellow died after a little time in horrible agony.”

2: Killed by a coffin

Henry Taylor was a pall bearer at London’s Kensal Green Cemetery. One day, whilst carrying out his duties at a funeral, Taylor tripped over a headstone and fell backwards on to the ground. As he fell, his fellow pall bearers let slip the coffin they were carrying, and it dropped directly on to the prone Taylor’s head.

The Illustrated Police News reported in November 1872:

“The greatest confusion was created amongst the mourners who witnessed the accident, and the widow of the person about to be buried nearly went into hysterics.”

 
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3: Death by eating her own hair

The woman’s death was a mystery. Doctors could not fathom why, or even how, she had died. It was only after a post mortem that the cause of death was revealed. Inside the 30-year-old’s stomach was a solid lump of human hair, curled like a bird, and weighing two pounds.

The Liverpool Daily Post reported in 1869:

“This remarkable concretion had caused great thickening and ulceration of the stomach, and was the remote cause of her death. On inquiry, a sister stated that during the last twelve years she had known the deceased to be in the habit of eating her own hair.”

4: Killed as a zombie

At a funeral in rural Russia, the mourners were horrified when the coffin lid burst open, and the deceased climbed out.

The villagers ran in terror, locking themselves in their houses. The priest hid in the church. As the villagers armed themselves, the priest realized the deceased had most likely been in a coma, and had regained consciousness. One old woman failed to lock her door, and the suspected zombie staggered into her house. The woman’s screams alerted the villagers, who, now armed, were ready to dispatch the zombie. By the time the priest arrived to explain what had happened, the “zombie” was dead.

5: The man who laughed himself to death

Farmer Wesley Parsons was sharing a joke with friends in Laurel, Indiana, in 1893, when he began a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Nothing could stop Parsons horrifying attack of the giggles, and after two hours of non-stop laughing, he died of exhaustion.

Read more truly bizarre deaths here. Below, a collection of photographs of “The Victorian Book of the Dead.”
 

 
Via the BBC News Magazine

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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