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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Art & Zombies

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 5, 2019 07:30pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray releases. I figured I’d make things a little more highbrow this month, so I’m starting off with a recent Criterion Collection edition of a classic Orson Wells film:

The Magnificent Ambersons, Criterion Collection:
The Magnificent Ambersons is not a magnificent movie; it's a mediocre movie magnificently made. Orson Magnificent AmbersonsWells was such a genius that he could polish a turd even as weak as this script. As a result, we are just carried along from the beginning of the movie by one beautifully filmed and staged deep focus set piece after another. The cinematography is breathtaking and inventive and flawlessly sharp in this new Criterion Collection remaster. The only problem is that if you stop and think about the movie there isn't much "there" there. The whole thing comes off as the best filmed episode of Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous. Wells was trying to create another definitive American myth of wealth and power but unlike his masterpiece Citizen Kane, the central characters of this film are just not that interesting or likable. The main protagonist George Amberson is especially unlikeable -he's really just a spoiled brat and a jerk. Kane at least had obsessions and demons that drove him to memorable scenes of pathos and drama, George Amberson on the other hand is just kind of a dick. The film follows the ups and downs of the Amberson clan, who were the richest family in Indianapolis, Indiana at the turn of the last century. Some of the most engaging scenes are where Wells examines the changing fashions and technology of those long gone times. After describing the city, the era, and the other family members, Wells focuses his attention on spoiled brat and only child George. Unlike the people around him, George is a hedonist with no goals in life. The only career he aspires to is "yachtsman." George treats everyone around him like shit and views money as an endless resource, but times change and fortunes fall. When things start to go bad, this clan of aristocrats are particularly unprepared for it.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Two British Classics

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 19, 2019 07:35pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray releases. This month I look at two fantastic British films.

The Horror Of Dracula, Warner Archive:
There have been some nice recent releases of Hammer horror films and this is one of the best of them. The Horror of DraculaThis was the first of many vampire movies that Hammer produced and in many ways it is a template for the horror films that came after it. The Hammer dream crew worked on this: screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Terence Fisher. These three men were behind the very best Hammer films. But it's the movie's two central stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who really make this work. Their dynamic was at the core of Hammer's best films and anything that the two of them star in is worth watching.

When this was released in 1958, it was a huge commercial and critical success and, along with 1957's Curse Of Frankenstein, led to Hammer reinventing the classic Universal monsters in lurid modern technicolor. The plot of this sticks pretty close to Bram Stoker's original novel, but where it radically departs from the source material is in its tone. One of the most unsettling things about this movie is Terence Fisher's decision to portray vampirism as a sexualized form of addiction. The victims of Dracula are overcome with a lust where they can't wait for him to come each night and suck their blood, and the portrayals of this behavior are truly disturbing. Christopher Lee's acting is central to this vision; his Dracula can be handsome and charming or an unrelenting sexual predator whose frenzied hunger is almost animalistic. Other than possibly Bela Lugosi, I think that Christopher Lee is the best actor who has ever donned Dracula's cape. Peter Cushing is like the other half of the circle. His vulnerability and humanity are the perfect foil for Lee's undead villain. Watching the two of them playing off each other is pure pleasure. This film works on every level. Even the cinematography is marvelous with every scene soaked in rich gothic colors, which look fantastic in this hi-def remaster. If you have never watched a Hammer horror film, this is a perfect one to start with. It is one of the five best vampire movies ever made.

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Amoebapalooza SF at Milk Bar, February 17

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 9, 2019 06:50pm | Post a Comment



Amoebapalooza SF is back with more Amoebite-powered musical mayhem on Sunday, February 17th. We’re keeping things very local and throwing this shindig directly across the street at Milk Bar (1840 Haight St.). Doors open to the public at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm. Admission is just $5. This is a 21+ event.

This annual celebration of the talented Amoeba employees and FOBs (Friends of Amoeba) is always a hoot and this year's line-up is action-packed. From a provacative live reading by author Jon Longhi to a screening of filmmaker Steven Anguiano's short film to raucous live sets from Use Kleenex (Kleenex coverband), Top Fo'ties (AKA Jesus Dude Mom), novelty rock giants Alan's Cousin, Combo (Michael Cruz and Keith Frerichs), Eli & Adam Play Folk Music, and a mysterious project called I Have Crabs, this is shaping up to be one of the most legendary nights yet.

Thank you to our pals over at SIR for providing our musical back line!

Band spotlight: Alan's Cousin
Imagine Flight Of The Conchords and Tenacious D have a baby, and meanwhile, James Taylor and Alan's CousinSugar Ray have a baby. Those two babies get it on and have baby, but they realize, "Hold up, we were born a few days ago, we simply cannot raise a child." Said baby is given up for adoption and raised by Bob Dylan and The Beatles. That baby is Alan's Cousin.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: The Genius of Dan Curtis

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 15, 2019 07:00pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray Trilogy of Terrorreleases. This month I review three movies created by the brilliant Dan Curtis.

Dan Curtis was one of the most successful director/producers in the history of television. History will always remember him as the creator of the long running TV show Dark Shadows but that was just one of many major achievements. He also produced and/or directed some of the biggest movies in the history of television. Three of these films just got deluxe Blu-ray releases. One of his two biggest films was Trilogy Of Terror, (Kino Lorber Studio Classics). This is a fun little horror flick but no one could have predicted that it would be one of the most watched TV movies of all time. It held the record until Roots was televised later that decade. The movie tells three horror stories that are connected by the main star of the film, the magnificent Karen Black. She pretty much makes this movie. She is the main character in all three vignettes and chews up the scenery so mightily that everyone else in the picture is little more than a bit player. In the first segment she plays a mousy professor exploited by a blackmailer, in the second she's a pair of polar opposite sisters, but it's her role in the third segment, "Amelia," that history will remember her for. "Amelia" is one of the best little horror movies ever made and it scared the viewing public to a degree that few could understand in this jaded day and age. Karen Black's portrayal of the vulnerable, psychologically fragile Amelia makes the horror she suffers even more visceral. The story is fairly simple and all takes place in one tiny apartment. Amelia finds a Zuni fetish doll in a second hand store and buys it as a gift for her anthropologist boyfriend. The doll comes with a curse and, when she gets back to her apartment, Amelia unwittingly brings it to life. What ensues is one of the scariest things I've ever seen on television. This segment really holds up even after all these years. It's tense, harrowing, and genuinely scary. Being attacked by a doll could easily have been laughable, but in Curtis's skilled hands the story becomes utterly terrifying. This was one of the most memorable movies of the seventies and it left an indelible mark on everyone who saw it.

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Jon Longhi's Best of 2018

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 18, 2018 04:07pm | Post a Comment

Brian EnoBy Jon Longhi

Brian EnoMusic For Installations (CD & LP Box Set):
One of the things I've always loved about Brian Eno is that he seems to have an almost limitless output of new music. His body of work is gigantic. I've been buying his cds for decades and it's nice to know that he'll always come up with something new to charm, beguile, or soothe me. His ambient pieces tend to be my favorite ones. In these works, he tries to create a kind of music that sounds like it is going on forever and you are just hearing a tiny excerpt of it. In the book that accompanies this new box set, Eno reveals that he has been obsessed with creating music that doesn't just sound like it goes on forever but actually DOES go on forever. To aid him in this quest, he created what he refers to as "generative systems." These are either tape loops or computer programs that take simple harmonious tones and fragments of melody, and then randomly recombines them in patterns of music that will not repeat themselves for sometimes years or even decades. He even developed a computer program called 77 Million Paintings that creates an endless output of ambient music that NEVER repeats itself and is a truly infinite piece of music. This box set is a retrospective of some of the best of these sonic experiments. The title Music For Installations is quite literal because most of these works were composed to accompany art installations and Eno went to great lengths to make sure that every person who visited the art exhibits heard a different and unique piece of music. Some of these art installations were open for six months but had soundtracks that could play for over two centuries! This is a transcendentally beautiful set of music and it goes on for hours and hours. Like the best ambient music, it can either be in the background or the foreground of your life. The soothing sonic textures are guaranteed to heal your soul and move your troubled mind to tranquil peaceful places. The set is a little expensive, but since you get six CDs and roughly as many hours of music, you're only paying about ten bucks per CD/hour, which in the long run is a real bargain.

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