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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Melies, Moles & Mantises

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, May 22, 2019 07:58pm | 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.

Melies Fairy Tales In Color, Blackhawk Films/Flicker Alley:
I was less than halfway through my first viewing of this when I realized it was one of my favorite things I own. Many of these films have been released many times before. I already own a couple of restored Georges Melies collections and they look good, but they don't look anything like this. To begin with, my old collections are in black & white, but this new set is in COLOR! These weren't colorized by Ted Turner, no, each and every frame of these films was hand painted. Melies was a genius who just couldn't accept the shortcomings of technology. Sure, film had just been invented and was only silent and black & white, but Melies wasn't about to let those basic facts hold him back. So he had every frame of his movies painted with gorgeous color that reminds one of the French postcards that were contemporaneous to Melies' films. The director had fantastic images he wanted to show so he developed a variety of special effects to show them. Double exposures, substitution splices, time-lapse photography... Melies developed and did whatever it took to make his visions real and the results are just as jaw dropping now as they were a hundred and twenty years ago.

The films are surreal, complex, and fantastic, they create a unique world of magic and wonder. This set is worth it just for the restored version of A Trip To The Moon alone. Melies' loose and fanciful adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel has long been considered one of the cornerstones of cinema. I've seen the film many times before but this new color version is like seeing it for the first time. The hand-painted frames make the fantastic lunar world even more stunning and psychedelic. But A Trip To The Moon is just one of thirteen films on this set, and others like The Kingdom Of The Fairies and The Impossible Voyage are equally surreal and amazing. There are scenes on this disc that you will find yourself watching over and over because the images are just so timeless and cool. The person who painted Melies' sets is one of the best painters I've ever seen. I kept freeze-framing the films just to stop and soak up the amazing details of his painted backdrops. Labyrinthine cities, dense tangled forests, haunted medieval towns -- his details were just spectacular. The hand-painted colors add another whole dimension to the films. Often they are more than just coloring and actually react to the action occurring on screen. Melies had an influence on every artist who came after him. At times, artists like Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, and Terry Gilliam just seem to be copying him. His influence on the surrealists especially is incalculable, but elements of his work exist throughout pop culture. Some of the most timeless images in film history are in this set. It belongs in every person's collection.

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Dr. Who, who? Mystery Science Theater 3000 turns 25 today!!!

Posted by Kells, November 24, 2013 09:22pm | Post a Comment


In a not-too-distant past -- twenty-five years ago A.D. -- there lived a guy named Joel, not too different from you or me. It doesn't matter what he did to eat and breathe, crappy movies had sealed his fate, because the comedy world was changed forever on this day in 1988... when Mystery Science Theater 3000 premiered on KTMA in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One hundred ninety-seven episodes and a movie later, the show continues to swell its "tape circulating" fanbase despite having been off the air for fourteen years. With the popularity of follow up ventures Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax ever growing, as well as this years' return of the annual
Thanksgiving Day marathon, it would seem that the past twenty-five years has kindly aged nothing if not the timelessness of Mystery Science Theater 3000. And so:

Happy Birthday MST3K!!! 

I feel like celebrating -- let's!

Here's a short list of some of my favorite episodes (heavily influenced by my access to dubbed VHS tapes of episodes recorded from televised broadcasts over the years) -- any of these would be a great place to start for anyone new to the charms of Mystery Science Theater 3000, beginning with the most beloved:

Space Mutiny (season 8, episode 20)

Ask any MSTie what their absolute favorite MST3K episode is and I guarantee if they don't reply with a hearty "Space Mutiny!" they'll at the very least mention it, ponderously.

Space Mutiny is everything an awesomely fully-realized sci-fi crap-tacular can and, in the case of MST3K, should be. The story follows a space ship called the Southern Sun where, supposedly, a some kind of mutiny is afoot, or something. However, the plot loses focus during the course of the film as at least one person is killed only to appear soon after in a subsequent scene very explicitly and inexplicably alive, apologies are issued for "scanty" information, the leading lady is forever 21 in a GILF-y way and the hero has all the charisma of a poorly cooked steak. Add to that the fact that all the space-battle footage was directly lifted from the TV series Battlestar Galactica (1978) and inserted into the flabby folds of Space Mutiny as if to "borrow" some credibility. The usual bag of film-specific running gags provided by the Satellite of Love's crew only further gilds David Winter's guilty conscience. Relive the malarkey magic with this here highlights vid:




Pod People
  (season 3, episode 3)


While I can't remember exactly but Pod People may have been my gateway Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, it is without a doubt the one that I've watched the most.

Like most films bestowed with the MSTreatment, Pod People is incredibly bad which, in a way, means it's a pretty mesmerizing watch to begin with. But when it comes to making raspberry preserves out of bloody pulp, Joel and his robot friends make it rain with tears of laughter and face-palms a plenty. Plus, this is one of the episodes where all the sketch comedy bits are absolutely on point. Featuring music by various Bay Area Artists and not a small amount of stop-action fuckery. I find it difficult to believe that anyone could keep a cut of highlights from this fried turd under fifteen minutes, however I must offer my kudos to whoever put together the below video. p.s. "It stinks!"


[spoiler alert] "His last words were, 'Huzzah.'"


Cave Dwellers (season 3, episode 1)

I have a sentimental soft spot for the Fantasy genre and whenever I'd tune in to MST3K to find that the night's episode would feature a Fantasy flick I'd think, "what have I done to deserve this?" -- in a good way. And then I'd go play the lotto.

Ator (the Invincible?) is a skilled hero, swordsman, healer, scientist and hang glider with a penchant for skimpy animal skins and samurai-inspired hair styles. He roams the "edge of the Earth" during what I suppose is the great time-collusion between Japan's late feudal era and the medieval retro craze of 17th century Europe -- you know, back when hub caps doubled as ladies' breast plates. Fraught with anachronistic inaccuracies and countless other continuity crimes, Cave Dwellers scores extra points for being, at the very least, rewatchable -- a miracle made totally possible by the good folks of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Mystery Science Theater 3000, alone. Here's another one of those "best of" reels, below. Sometimes I find that watching these fan-made vignettes in a pinch when times are tough is enough to give me the strength and good humor to carry on.


Jack Frost (season 8, episode 13)

Faerie tales can come true, even with Mystery Science Theater 3000! Jack Frost ain't no faerie tale I'm familiar with I can only suppose that this film is pretty faithful to whatever story it's adapted from based solely on the fact that it is batshit crazy in a very un-Disney way. Jack Frost, the man himself, doesn't even show up until the film is nearly half over but there are plenty of distractions along the way in the form of bears, a magical little mushroom man brandishing a tree branch with bells, a house with stumpy tree trunk legs inhabited by a hillbilly witch and bonus b.s. in the form of a magical pig-sled that may or mayn't have been previously barbecued. Man, that sled really books it! At the heart of it all is a young man sporting a patent Prince Valiant 'do and a doe-eyed Cinderella prototype that tread through the most ridiculous nonsensical scenarios to finally solidify their A-type faerie tale relationship. Eat it, Shelley Duvall! See snippets video, below.





Prince of Space (season 8, episode 16)

Starring Japanese martial arts cinema fixture Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba, Prince of Space is almost as preposterous as it's villains' torturously long scenes marked by bouts of extended "diabolical" laughter that sounds more like he's attempting to clear his nasal cavity with his diaphragm. Perhaps that's how it's done on the planet Kankor. Unluckily for the Karnkorians and their leader, Phantom, there is a Prince of Space on planet Earth and their weapons simply won't affect him harmfully or otherwise, not that this deters them from fighting the Prince again and again and again. Some scientists are kidnapped and some kids are put in harms way but, you know, Prince of Space, so, everything's okay.


I could keep going with this list, perhaps I'll add more later. But if you've read this far you're likely already in the club, and so, say it with me:
"WE'VE GOT MOVIE SIIIIIIGN!!!"

Cruise to Mexico: Part 2

Posted by Job O Brother, September 27, 2010 03:52pm | Post a Comment

Bon voyage, bitches.

For the boyfriend and myself, going on a second cruise was like a couple of World War II veterans returning to Truk Lagoon – we knew in our hearts we were headed for a piece of paradise, but past experience kept us on edge, worried for the worst. (It’s hard to come back from a cruise where you order 1 bowl of chicken soup and, instead, are brought 14 bowls of rice and 26 hard boiled eggs.) At least this time, we had company: his mother, Chris, and his father, Fred – two people with lots of cruise experience.


Chris and Fred flew in from Texas, where they reside. Early in the morning, the four us took a shuttle to Los Angeles Pier. The driver of the shuttle was the slowest I think I’ve ever witnessed. I mean, kudos on being safe, but when your passengers start thinking they’d make better time on foot, you’ve got a problem. Seriously – he made the Peoplemover seem like the Starship Enterprise.

Once at the Pier, we were guided through a bewildering array of checkpoints, gates, lines, forms and again, more checkpoints. To add to the confusion, there were both mandatory forms and photos to be taken, and optional, “fun” photos and forms. The whole ordeal was kind of like being led to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, if, y’know, instead of wanting to exterminate people, the Nazis were obsessed with tricking them into buying family portraits superimposed on commuter mugs.

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IF YOU LIKE PINA COLADAS THEN LET'S GET DIVORCED

Posted by Billyjam, September 20, 2007 06:34am | Post a Comment

A couple of days ago I read this story in the paper about a Bosnian couple who are going through divorce proceedings as a direct result of each getting caught cheating on each other --but, here's the twist-- with each other.  It's a scenario that seems almost identical to that portrayed in Rupert Holmes' sappy but engaging 1979 number one pop hit single "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," in which a guy, bored with his relationship, answers a newspaper personals ad to find that he has a lot in common with this blind date (pina coladas, walks in the rain, and a dislike of yoga and health food, etc.). He finally meets up with this mystery woman only to discover it was in fact his own "old lady" that he thought he had little in common with. This unusual and unlikely situation brings the two formerly drifting lovers back together again and they all live happily ever after. But not so in the recent real life scenario with the couple in Bosnia. The disgruntled pair (Adnan Klaric, 32 and his wife Sana, 27) went online in search of new love. There, under the pseudonyms "Sweetie" and "Prince of Joy" each met some seemingly new soul in whom they could confide and find solace, complaining about how awful their marriages had become. Finally they felt they'd found someone who understands. They each thought they'd found their soulmate. So they arranged to meet up in person. And when they did: Shocker! Each accused the other of being unfaithful and they started divorce proceedings pronto.
    
                                               If you like Piña Coladas
                                               And getting caught in the rain
                                               If you're not into yoga
                                               If you have half a brain
                                               If you'd like making love at midnight
                                               In the dunes on the Cape
                                               Then I'm the love that you've looked for
                                               Write to me and escape.

          
So anyway, this whole story was just so reminiscent of the Rupert Holmes hit (except for the outcome) that I had to go back and track down "Escape," as it was originally simply known, on video. On YouTube there are close torupert holmes partners in crime a hundred videos that pop up when you put in a search of "Rupert Holmes Escape The Pina Colada Song)," including the Sims Movie 2 version above and a great many more "visual interpretations," and numerous lip-syncing takes, like the playful one posted by the young courtneySpace and her friend (scoll all the way down). One mime version of the song was done as a college class project for a final test. And of course, there are also numerous cover versions of the thematically timeless song. Interestingly Rupert Holmes himself doesn't have a visual version. He never made a video for the song. It was in the pre MTV/VH1 days, but there is one for the lesser hit "Him" taken from the same 1979 album Partners In Crime (the video clip is from Top Of The Pops, I believe). 

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