Geek – it was once a word that was used to hurt people for being different. Now Geek has become a word that people boldly use to identify themselves and their passion for specific interests with pride, be it computer geeks, crafting geeks, gaming geeks, lit geeks, TV geeks, the list goes on.
It’s for this reason that I have always been happy to declare that Greensboro, North Carolina is a geeky town. Few cities with our population size can boast no less than eight video game stores, countless arts and crafting groups, and an army of internet bloggers. And each May, we don’t just celebrate Free Comic Book Day — we declared it an official holiday and renamed our town Comic Book City, USA!
I myself am a movie geek. I love film, and when I moved to Greensboro, one of my goals was to meet other movie geeks. So in 2008, I co-created the Mixed Tape Film Series. Five years later, I’ve made friends with lots of people who are as passionate about movies as I am and watched many others do likewise at our screenings. We’ve had a blast and will continue to do so as we present future Mixed Tape screenings at the historic Carolina Theatre.
But as we celebrate half a decade of Mixed Tape, I am asking all of you to join me in the next step of our journey as we give the rest of Greensboro’s geeks their due. We need a venue where we can hang out and be ourselves. We need a place where we can enjoy a nice beverage and socialize with friends that doesn’t require expensive shoes or a tight dress in order to fit in. We need a place like Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema.
What is Geeksboro? It’s a coffee shop and an “underground” indie movie theater located on 3124 Lawndale Drive that will serve pastries made by local bakeries, beer, and wine. It’s also a social center for people who enjoy crafts, gaming, writing, film and other hobbies, where they can meet and interact with people who share their interests.
In short, Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema is where you belong. For updates, including information on our grand opening, “LIKE” our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Geeksboro.
I can’t wait to see you there!
In the spring of 2007, my friend Mike Compton and I decided to create a film series. A lot of our programming was very hit and miss in that first year. We had no film series beforehand, which meant we had no audience to poll or listen to for programming suggestions. So that meant a lot of the films we played were based entirely on guesswork. Essentially, we were like John Cusack in “High Fidelity,” creating a Mixed Tape (or Mixtape, if you wanna be all hip hop about it), only instead of selecting songs, we were selecting films, and instead of giving the mixed tape to a friend, we were giving it to an entire community.
Over the last half of a decade, we’ve had a lot of fun watching movies with Greensboro. Your laughter made comedies funnier, your fear made horror films scarier, and your cheering made action films more triumphant. So on that note, we at Mixed Tape Productions are excited to announce the lineup for the 2012-2013 Mixed Tape Film Series. As with previous years, a lot of the movies we selected were based on actual suggestions given to us by the audience. In the name of tradition, we are also hosting annual screenings of “The Big Lebowski” and “A Christmas Story.”
As co-creator of the Mixed Tape Film Series, I cannot wait to watch these films with you and reveal some of the major surprises we have in store for the upcoming year.
P.S. All of these films will screen at The Carolina Theatre on 310 South Greene Street located in Downtown Greensboro.
2012-2013 Mixed Tape Film Series
8 p.m. Friday, September 7 – The Big Lebowski (1998, dir. Joel & Ethan Cohen)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 18 – “Beetlejuice” (1988, dir. Tim Burton)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 25 – “Alien” (1979, dir. Ridley Scott)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 13 – “The Muppets Christmas Carol” (1992, dir. Brian Henson)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 20 – “A Christmas Story” (1983, dir. Bob Clark)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, January 10 – “Rushmore” (1998, dir. Wes Anderson)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 7 – “Coming to America” (1988, dir. John Landis)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7 – “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14 – “Spirited Away” (2001, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3 – “Enter the Dragon” (1973, dir. Robert Clouse)
“The Dude abides” — and so does Greensboro’s Mixed Tape Film Series!
The film retrospective will kick off its fifth season of “new classic” film screenings with a special presentation of the cult comedy classic “The Big Lebowski.”
On Friday, September 7, the Mixed Tape Film Series and WUAG 103.1 FM will present the Fifth Annual Big Lebowski Rock n’ Bowl. This city-spanning event will begin at 8 p.m. with a screening of the Coen Brothers’ cult-classic “The Big Lebowski” at the Carolina Theatre on 310 South Greene Street in Downtown Greensboro. White Russians will be sold in the Carolina Theatre’s lobby, and a costume contest based on the movie has been scheduled to take place before the screening.
Immediately after the film, Lebowski fans can knock some pins and drink some “oat sodas” with their friends at AMF All Star Lanes on 910 South Holden Road, where there will be unlimited bowling, a $100 bowling competition and a live DJ set by none other than Jack Bonney himself.
Released in 1998, “The Big Lebowski” follows the life of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, a man of simple pleasures and questionable means who finds himself awash in the seedy underbelly of southern California when a couple of ne’er do wells steal his beloved living room rug. Jeff Bridges shines in the lead role, reacting to brilliant supporting turns by John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi and a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Film critics and audiences originally shunned the film upon its release; however, due to a series of reparatory screenings across the country as well as DVD sales, the film has become the greatest cult success of the last decade. Rolling Stone even labeled the film “the most worshipped comedy of its generation.”
Tickets for the movie and all-you-can-bowl event are $18 (or $6 for the movie only) and are available at the Carolina Theatre’s box-office or online at www.CarolinaTheatre.org.
On May 25, 2012, Wall Street Journal Columnist Tim Marchman angered a whole lot of people while reviewing “Leaping Tall Buildings,” Christopher Irving’s 240-page history of the American comic book industry.
No doubt the first person Marchman angered was Irving himself, given the fact that Marchman was tasked with penning a review of Irving’s work and failed to do so. In seventeen paragraphs, Marchman makes only fleeting references to Irving’s tome. Based solely on Marchman’s critique, a reader could not surmise the present themes or level of craft in Irving’s book, let alone whether or not anyone should actually read it. As a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, perhaps Marchman had more pressing concerns beyond writing book reviews for the Wall Street Journal. It doesn’t seem like Marchman even bothered to actually read the book he was supposed to be analyzing.
Because Marchman obviously had so little say about the book he was supposed to review, he dedicates the rest of his screed to chastising the modern comic book industry. I won’t pretend that the American comic book industry is beyond reproach, especially the Big Two publishers represented by Marvel and DC Comics. That said, Marchman should have at least brought something to the table besides the same tired rhetoric one could find on Internet message boards for more than a decade. The problem with this is that like Marchman’s review, much of the comic book nerd hate on the internet is generated by people who didn’t bother to read the books they are criticizing.
Marchman praises talented sequential auteurs Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware while decrying the inaccessibility of superhero comics with decades long storylines and laborious crossovers such as Marvel’s current WTF-inducing “Avengers vs. X-Men.” Like the oft-repeated “news story” that ‘comics aren’t just for kids anymore,’ maybe all of these ideas seem like relevant headline fodder for general audiences, but nothing Marchman says is news to folks who can tell you the difference between Marvel’s 616 Universe and Ultimate Universe versions of Spider-Man.
More importantly, the people who actually read comic books know that many of Marchman’s gripes are moot.
One of Marchman’s sticking points is the fact that while “Marvel’s The Avengers” has grossed more than half a billion dollars in the U.S. alone, sales of individual comic book issues are currently capped at 230,000 and seldom reach into the six digits. Considering that Marchman works as a journalist, one would assume he of all people would be well aware of the decline in sales for all forms of print media. Sales of newspapers continue to decline sharply while millions of Americans are updated on current events via cable TV and the Internet each day. This is more of a reflection of the public’s attitudes on reading than any supposed failures of the print journalism industry.
But Marchman doesn’t stop there. He also attempts to make the speculator-driven “Dutch tulip” sales craze of the ‘90s seem favorable to the current comic book sales climate. Sure, many comics in the ‘90s sold over one million copies each month, but not because the people who bought them were actually reading them. Consumers inflated sales by purchasing multiple copies these now worthless comics with their “#1 Issue!” debuts, holofoil covers, and mega events like the Death of Superman because of their supposed value.
While comics currently sell fewer issues these days, I would argue that more people are actually reading the books they buy because of the many creators who are now telling great stories. Here’s something Marchman could have said if he had bothered to read something before writing his article: Modern comics are actually better written and more superbly drawn than the books that nearly drowned the market 20 years ago.
A great example of the improved level of quality in today’s comics would be “Here Comes Daredevil,” a new take on Marvel’s blind, crime-fighting lawyer. Written by Mark Waid and drawn masterfully by Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera, the book marks a refreshing departure from the increasingly dark characters and storylines that emerged after the release of Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.” Waid’s Daredevil faces a life of turmoil as always, but he now copes with these perpetually chaotic forces that are beyond his control with a newfound lightness and positive attitude.
Waid is an industry veteran with more than his fair share of great comic book stories under his belt, but his work is currently being matched over at DC Comics by the new talent Scott Snyder, a writer who has rapidly made a name for himself with the work he has done on Batman. Snyder utilizes the Caped Crusader to explore untold histories of Gotham City, and elevates this urban hellhole as the book’s most important character.
Then of course there are good books out there by the creators Marchman specifically crapped on in his article as being “most responsible for the failure of the big publishers to take advantage of the public’s obvious fascination with men in capes.”
Brian Michael Bendis’ 12 year run on “Ultimate Spider-Man” is such an imaginative and nuanced reinvention of the wall-crawling avenger that it makes the upcoming movie reboot look stale by comparison. As for Grant Morrison, I will now avoid pulling a Marchman by talking about books I haven’t actually read. That said, the people who have acquainted themselves with Morrison’s work say nothing but good things.
Then there is the comic book author who received the greatest of Marchman’s insults – J. Michael Straczynski. Marchman’s slights against Staczynski are so hateful and dishonest in their severity that I am going to copy and paste it for you to read below:
Among the writers working on [“Before Watchmen”] is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”)
These comments are so nasty, they reveal one of two things: 1) Marchman knows nothing about writer Staczynski or his work. 2) Marchman knows nothing about filmmaker Uwe Boll and his work. I’ll get to Staczynski in a moment, but first I want to address Boll. Because the German born aut-tard embraces his status as one of the worst directors who ever lived, many critics use him as a punchline without having seen any of his movies from beginning to end. While I am sure Boll does not mind snagging the print coverage, I find this to be dishonest on the part of the critic. To trash someone and their work, you must know about that person’s work first-hand.
Having personally suffered through two Uwe Boll films, I can say with authority that while Marchman took a cheap shot at Staczynski for writing He-Man scripts when he was a young writer, the very worst episodes of He-Man are more masterfully written than the very best films made by Uwe Boll.
As for Straczysnki’s work on its own merits, he did in fact write a comic book wherein Spider-Man sells his marriage to the devil. This story sucked. But what’s also true is that Straczynski would be the first person to admit this. A simple Wikipedia search on the matter would have revealed that this storyline Marchman bashed Straczynski for writing was an editorial mandate forced upon the writer and that Straczynski even threatened to remove his name from the comics to no avail.
The “One More Day” storyline that Marchman is referring to is an example of Straczynski’s work during one of the most challenging episodes of the writer’s career. What makes Straczynski a great comic book creator is that he endured this challenge, and went on to tell some great stories within the medium of superhero comics. Unlike comic book legend Alan Moore, who has given up writing in lieu of a more lucrative career of bashing comic books in newspaper interviews, Straczynski continues to write and create. A recent example of Straczynski’s better work would be “Earth One Superman,” a series of long form graphic novels that depicts the life of a young Superman coping with a more media savvy and distrustful America.
During a brief Twitter war with Marchman, I actually challenged him to do something I don’t think he did one single time while reviewing “Leaping Tall Buildings” and read a book from beginning to end. I told him that if he read Straczynski’s “Earth One Superman” and didn’t like it, I would pay for it. I don’t necessarily blame him for declining.
Why would Marchman actually want to start reading something now?
 Seriously Marvel, what is up with “Avengers vs. X-Men”? First off, in issue #3, we see Captain America betray Wolverine, a total dick move despite the fact that Captain America hates dick moves as much as he loves the United States. Then in issue #4, Wolverine betrays current Dark Phoenix candidate Hope Summers to Captain America, the same guy who just betrayed Wolverine one issue ago. This crossover has more lame double-crosses than a horrible season of “Lost.”
 Many of whom had never even read a comic book beforehand.
 I can say with certainty that we are not buying these comics because they are worth more or even equal to what we paid for them.
 A great place to sample Snyder’s talents would be the hardcover “Batman: The Black Mirror,” a book that is so good, my wife who doesn’t normally read comics finished it before I had a chance to open it.
 Including the goofy holiday special wherein a couple of plucky children teach that ever-cranky Skeletor about The True Meaning of Christmas.
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 31 – “Poltergeist” (dir. Tobe Hooper, 1982) - Often considered the haunting flipside to Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.”, Poltergeist stars Craig T. Nelson as the father of a suburban family terrorized by an angry supernatural presence in their home. With elaborate setpieces and ghastly apparitions, Poltergeist is a horror experience you won’t soon forget. TRIVIA: While the film’s direction is credited to Tobe Hooper (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), many of the film’s stars allege that producer and writer Spielberg was the true director, but was unable to accept credit for his work due to the exclusive contract he signed to make “E.T.” for Universal during the same year. (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14 – “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1988) - Bob Hoskins stars as detective Eddie Valiant in this milestone of film animation. When cartoon star Roger Rabbit is framed for murder, Valiant is forced to put aside his prejudice against toons in order to crack the case. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” seamlessly blends animation with life-action, and delivers an old-school style of comedy that you just don’t see anymore. Also starring Christopher Lloyd, with Kathleen Turner and Charles Fleischer as the voices of Jessica and Roger Rabbit. In 35mm. TRIVIA: Since the movie was being made by Disney, Warner Brothers would only allow the use of their biggest toon stars, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, if they got an equal amount of screen time as Disney’s biggest stars, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Because of this, both sets of characters are always together in frame when on the screen. (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21 – “Gremlins” (dir. Joe Dante, 1984) - Written by Chris Columbus, a fellow Spielberg protege, this film is a manic, darkly comic cross between “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “The Twilight Zone”. Zack Galligan stars as a small-town teen whose pet mogwai, Gizmo, spawns dozens of mischievous critters that threaten to destroy the town. More fun than scary, “Gremlins” makes expert use of animatronic puppets to bring the little monsters to life. Also starring Phoebe Cates and Hoyt Axton. Trivia: Generally credited (along with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”) to influence the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, as many felt the scenes of violence in both movies were too much for a PG rating, but not enough for an R rating. (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. FRIDAY, June 29 – “The Goonies” (dir. Richard Donner, 1985) - In a coastal Oregon town, A plucky band of kids (among them Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and Corey Feldman) discover a treasure map that promises to lead them to the lost fortune of One-Eyed Willy. From the director of “Superman: The Movie”, “The Goonies” is an adventure about the imagination of youth overcoming the harsh realities of life. Trivia: Producer Steven Spielberg directed the pipe sequence in this movie while Richard Donner was off set due to illness. (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12 – “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (dir. Steve Baron, 1990) - The Turtles’ first feature sees them befriending reporter April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) and battling their nemesis The Shredder. A massive hit in its day (the film was actually the highest-grossing independently produced move of all time when it was released), “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a bit darker than the cartoon series that spawned it, but is nonetheless a perfect time capsule of early-90s nostalgia. Trivia: Playmates toys, the company that produced the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” line of action figures from the late 1980′s well into the mid 1990′s, declined to produce any movie-based toys off of the film due to the violent content, language, and overall dark tone the movie presented. (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19 – “Maximum Overdrive” (dir. Stephen King, 1986) - The Master of Horror’s only turn behind the director’s chair, “Maximum Overdrive” is a goofy yet thoroughly entertaining tale about machines with minds of their own. After a passing comet causes machines to go haywire the world over, a band of misfits find themselves trapped in a truckstop as driverless big-rigs circle the building like vultures. With a pounding soundtrack by AC/DC, “Maximum Overdrive” is a uniquely absurd chapter in North Carolina’s film history. In 35mm. Trivia: Stephen King, being a former cocaine addict, later admitted that he was “coked out of my mind” the entire time he was making this picture and often didn’t know what he was doing. He remarked that he’d like to try directing again someday, this time sober. (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 26 – “Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn” (dir. Sam Raimi, 1987) - Both a remake and a sequel to Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking original, “Evil Dead 2″ veers deeper into slapstick territory as our hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) endures another round of ‘deadites’ in the original cabin in the woods. This time around, Ash gains his now-trademark chainsaw and boomstick, and fights off some truly gruesome monstrosities. Filmed in Wadesboro, “Evil Dead 2″ is outlandishly silly, yet still tons of fun for horror and comedy fans alike. In ULTRA RARE 35mm. Trivia: Stephen King was such a huge fan of “The Evil Dead” that he convinced producer Dino De Laurentiis over dinner (who was producing King’s “Maximum Overdrive” at the time) to have his production company DEG (De Laurentiis Entertainment Group) finance “Evil Dead II.” (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 2 – “Super Mario Bros.” (dir. Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel, 1993) - When a studio gives you $48 million to make a film based on the most popular video game of all time, what do you do? Apparently you try to remake “Blade Runner”. This film finds Brooklyn plumbers Mario and Luigi (Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo”) transported to a parallel universe ruled by the evil King Koopa (Dennis Hopper). Resembling nothing of the video games, but still oddly entertaining in its own way, the result is one of the strangest films ever released by a major studio. In 35mm. Trivia: The set for Dinohattan was built in an abandoned cement factory in the woods outside of Wilmington, North Carolina. Set designs were adapted to the existing structure of the building. (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 9 – “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (dir. Adam McKay, 2006) - Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s goofy send-up of red state America stars Ferrell as a driver with a one-track mind. Ricky Bobby’s sole motto in life is “I wanna go fast!” Ricky’s life is thrown into complete disarray when a French F-1 driver (Sacha Baron Cohen) challenges Ricky’s status as The Best. With racing scenes filmed in Charlotte and Rockingham, “Talladega Nights” is a racing spoof that will have North Carolinians feeling right at home. Also starring John C. Reilly, Amy Adams and Gary Cole. Trivia: According to Adam McKay, the ridiculous number of company logos that appear during the racing scenes as well as the infamous dinner scene were intentionally included as part of his running satire on corporate American culture. None of the companies whose names and logos appear in the film paid product placement fees. (Click here for tickets!)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 16 – “Blue Velvet” (dir. David Lynch, 1986) - David Lynch’s hauntingly compelling look at the dark underbelly of suburbia helped kickstart Dennis Hopper’s comeback, and it’s easy to see why. Returning home to take care of his father, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) discovers a severed ear in a vacant lot. His investigation leads him to a strange woman (Isabella Rosselini) and the far stranger and more dangerous Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Filmed in Wilmington on a tight budget, Lynch’s film is often hailed as a modern classic. In 35mm. Trivia: In interviews, David Lynch has told of how Dorothy’s nude scene was inspired by a childhood memory of his, when he and his brother, going home from school, came across a dazed naked woman walking down the street. Lynch has said that it made him cry and left a profound impression on him. (Click here for tickets!)
By Joe Scott
Between May and July of this year, we comic book fans are living in a time of nerd fantasy. And no, I am not referring to a non-stop convention of women who dress up as Princess Leia with the outfit she wore in Jabba’s Palace. I’m talking about the Ultimate Comic Book Movie Summer of 2012.
Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, like many of my fellow fanboys, I suffered through the indignities of Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies, Dolph Lungren’s “The Punisher,” Nicholas Cage’s thank-God-they-killed-it-in-pre-production Death of Superman film, as well as the rumors in Wizard Magazine that Fabio was “in serious negotiations” to star in a movie based on “The Mighty Thor.”
If a time traveler were to go back to those years and tell me A) that Hollywood produced no less than five movies based on Marvel Superheroes who were not Spider-Man or Wolverine, all of which led up to a massive team-up Avengers film, and B) that a talented director was allowed to present a bold, daring vision of Batman in one of cinema’s greatest trilogies ever made*, I would probably have said something along the lines of “Holy f_ck, you’re a time traveler!”
In all seriousness, though, being alive for the Ultimate Comic Boom Movie Summer of 2012 feels like a waking dream. Now that we’ve made it this far, the ridiculous things we never dared to hope for could come true. Anything is possible! For instance, Quentin Tarantino could be hired to write and direct a Wonder Woman movie with copious shots of her bare Amazonian feet. Marvel could cash in on “The Walking Dead” craze by producing an alternate universe Marvel Zombies film. We could even see a six-hour DC vs. Marvel crossover movie event directed by none other than Terrance Malick himself.
Okay, so maybe I went too far with the last one, but the point I’m trying to make here is that while our society has yet to conquer world hunger or invent a flying car, in terms of producing comic book movies, we’ve come a long way. Things we used to only dare utter in online forum discussions are now playing on thousands of screens across the globe. Best of all, we get to watch our children grow up sans memories of nipple-suited Batmen who drive cars powered by disco lights.
The Mayans supposedly believed the world is supposed to end this year. So long as this happens after July 20th, I think we can all agree that the humanity’s time on this earth ended on a high note.
Joe Scott is the Creative Director of Mixed Tape Productions and the co-creator of the Mixed Tape Film Series.
By Joseph Wade
Stand By Me may have come as something of a surprise to audiences in 1986. At the time, Stephen King was the top dog in popular horror, with film adaptations by Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick, and a solid library of bestselling horror novels. Based on King’s novella “The Body,” Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me was something different. It was a coming-of-age story dripping in ’50s nostalgia and encompassing all the insecurities that come with adolescence, with not a vampire or demonic car in sight.
Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Vern (Jerry O’Connell) march through the backwoods of Castle Rock, Oregon thinking they’ll be heroes for discovering the body of Ray Brower, a kid their age who was hit by a train. Not far behind them is a high school thug named Ace (Kiefer Sutherland) and his gang of bullies, who want the recognition for themselves.
As Gordie and his friends navigate train tracks and leech-infested swamps, the boys air their grievances with the world one by one. Small talk like whether Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman gives way to deeper issues, such as Chris’ hatred of his family’s bad reputation, and Gordie coming to terms with the death of his parents’ favorite son.
While the film succeeds at recreating a 1950s setting that feels like a darker shade of Mayberry, its true strength lies in building the relationships between Gordie and his friends. Stand By Me lives and dies by the performances of its four leads, and each one gives their character considerable depth. These kids are forced to do a lot of growing up on their weekend journey, and while each confronts their problems in markedly different ways, the bond amongst the group grows noticeably deeper with each passing moment.
Stand By Me illustrates some of life’s harder lessons through trivial exchanges and minor trespasses. Vern, for example, learns that “two for flinching” means absolutely nothing; if someone wants to slug you in the arm, they’ll do it regardless of The Rules. Teddy, on the other hand, has a hard time dealing with his father being institutionalized, and even the slightest insult sends him in to fits of rage.
Nobody wants to be called a weakling, and everyone wants to be a hero, or at least recognized as a tough guy. It’s not until late in the film that our boys understand the true meaning of masculinity. They do everything from taunting junkyard dogs to dodging trains, but eventually realize that being a man means more than acts of violence and hurled insults. It means standing up for yourself and those you love, even in the face of certain death.
Rob Reiner would go on to adapt another Stephen King story to much more chilling effect with 1990′s Misery. Of the two films, though, Stand By Me has easily fared better over time. It’s a basic cable staple for lazy weekend afternoons, and continues to connect with new generations even today. The 1950s may be further behind us, but the bond between friends and the trials of growing up will never become outdated.
Joseph “Jay Dub” Wade is a film critic from Greensboro, NC. He is a paid contributor for the movie news website www.SomethingAwful.com.
By Joseph Wade
During the 1991 awards season, no film could match the raucous energy of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Even up against the pedigree of Francis Ford Coppola’s third Godfather film, Goodfellas clearly outmatched the competition at every turn. As charming and witty as it was brutally violent, the film turned the harsh light of day on one of cinema’s most alluring genres, and created one of its most enduring masterpieces in the process.
Goodfellas tells the story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), an idealistic kid who tells us, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” During the 1960s and 1970s, Henry works his way through the ranks of the Lucchese crime family along with his associates Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). Together, the three take on a number of heists and jobs that cement their status as wiseguys. Over time, that status is put to the test as Henry, Jimmy and Tommy fall victim to the many excesses offered by the Mafia lifestyle.
More than anything, Goodfellas is a much-needed demythologizing of the American gangster film. In the wake of such sweeping crime sagas as The Godfather and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, Scorsese’s film makes no attempt to gloss over the realities of the mob lifestyle. Heists are committed quietly and efficiently, and rats are disposed of just as easily. A single act of disrespect can get someone killed, while a well-placed bribe can grease just about any wheel. The film opens with Tony Bennett belting out “Rags to Riches,” and after witnessing Henry Hill slide ever deeper into the lifestyle, it closes with Sid Vicious howling through Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
By no means Scorsese’s first foray into crime drama, Goodfellas infuses the genre with a more modern sensibility than the director was known for at the time. Implementing quick cuts, a contemporary pop soundtrack and an often meandering camera style, Goodfellas eagerly thrusts its audience right into the thick of Henry Hill’s world. It is a colorful, energetic film that hooks viewers early and refuses to let go until they’ve seen what this world does to the people inside it.
Goodfellas earned six Academy Award nominations that year, including nominations for Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Supporting Actress for Lorraine Bracco. The film’s only win of the night was awarded to Joe Pesci, beating out fellow gangsters Andy Garcia and Al Pacino for the honor of Best Supporting Actor.
Since its release, Goodfellas has found itself on numerous Best-Of lists, including the American Film Institute’s “100 Years, 100 Movies”, Time Magazine’s All-Time 100, and Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies” series. It has even been inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Having inspired scenes in such works as Swingers and The Sopranos, and parodied in everything from the Grand Theft Auto games to NBC’s Community, Martin Scorsese’s film about life in the Mafia remains an American classic that’s as popular as ever.
Before I review “The Hunger Games,” I want to promise my readers that I won’t accuse this film of ripping off the Japanese thriller “Battle Royale.”
I also want to assure the fans of the young adult novel by Suzanne Collins that I am one of you. Despite the seemingly random appearance of werewolves and the author’s frequent use of the word “stuff” as a catchall wonder-noun, I enjoyed the book a great deal because of its engaging, tough as nails female protagonist and potent theme that love and creation are far more challenging in this world than hate and destruction.
That said, I completely hated this movie. Its greatest failure comes from the fact that in trying to cram all of the plot details of a 384 page book into a 142 minute film, they rushed through the story, omitting its meaning as well as the reasons that made me care about the characters so much.
There’s no need to recount the plot as I’m certain most surface dwellers already know it by heart, but a crucial difference between the book and the film is the timespan in which the titular child-on-child televised bloodsport takes place. In Collins’ novel, the Hunger Games that Katniss Everdeen endures is no less than a two-week ordeal and surviving it requires our hero to be put through the wringer. She’s burned, she’s dehydrated, she’s stung by mutated bees with trippy LSD stinger venom, she loses her hearing in one ear, she watches a close ally die like a stuck pig, she watches another ally lose his leg to savage dog-beasts, and she gets cut in the face by a sadistic opponent. That she endures all of these setbacks and still manages to emerge from the Games with some shred of her humanity intact is something to applaud.
The Hunger Games that Katniss must endure in the film seems trivial by comparison. Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) endures no more than three days of PG-13 rated turmoil and emerges co-victor with her District 12 buddy Peeta (played by the miscast Josh Hutcherson). Even worse, the movie omits the detail that concluded the novel so deftly: That Katniss is unsure of her true feelings for Peeta and only pretended to love him during the Games in an attempt to curry favor with the live TV audience.
Why would director and co-writer Gary Ross leave out this detail, which sets up the main conflict for the entire series? Were they worried it would alienate mainstream audiences? My guess is that the financiers who ponied up the cash for this film wanted to play it safe – the same strategy behind the movie’s key offense.
By choosing to play it safe, the film was clearly shot with a more commercial PG-13 rating in mind. Problem is, this is a story about children who are forced to kill each other with knives, arrows, blunt objects, and swords. Collins knew this when she wrote the book. She spares few visceral details when her child combatants meet their gruesome ends.
In shying – or cutting – away from the cruelty and savagery of their actions, Ross’ film takes the terrible act of children forced to murder other children and does something unforgivable by making it look casual. Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles understood this risk when he made his unflinching child gang war epic “City of God.” I can imagine right now that there are children reenacting the events from “The Hunger Games” as if they were ‘fun’ and ‘cool,’ thus replicating the worldview of the soulless Capitol dwellers from Collins’ novel.
This is why I can’t say that “The Hunger Games” is a rip-off of the superior “Battle Royale.” Despite the Japanese thriller’s tongue in cheekiness, there’s a pervasive awareness throughout the film that what is taking place is one of the most horrible scenarios ever imagined. Part of this has to do with the film’s special effects makeup, which is gory without feeling exploitive. The bigger reason the games in “Battle Royale” seem horrible has to do with Fukasaku’s insistence that we view his combatants as more than just pieces in a game, they are fully realized characters with back stories and hidden motivations for their behavior onscreen.
With “The Hunger Games,” it seems that characters are a luxury, something the filmmakers cannot afford to give us as we quickly leap from one plot point to the next. And while Peeta’s ultimate desire is to be more than just a piece in this heartless game, the real tragedy of this cinematic failure is that this is all he’s allowed to be.
In 2012, the Force will be with Greensboro!
That’s when the Mixed Tape Film Series and ACME Comics will present the international filmmaking experiment “Star Wars Uncut” on the big screen at the Carolina Theatre.
This exclusive screening is a fundraiser for the Masonic Children’s Home in Oxford, North Carolina. Before the screening, there will be a silent auction for original Star Wars artwork created by local and national comic book artists, painters and fiber artists. Also, members of the Carolina Garrison of the 501st Legion Star Wars costuming organization will be attending this function dressed as Storm Troopers and other characters from the Star Wars movies.
The show begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, January 26 at The Carolina Theatre on 310 South Greene Street. Tickets are $10 or $7 for college students with I.D. and 100% of the box-office will be donated to the Masonic Children’s Home at Oxford.
For tickets and information, call the Carolina Theatre’s http://vimeo.com/6788001-http://vimeo.com/6788001 at (336) 333-2605.
Check out the trailer by clicking here.