Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Frank Sinatra!

12/12 is the Birthday of one of the world's greatest entertainers/icons/singers/bon vivants, Mr. Frank Sinatra, a true hero of mine and many others.  Here are 3 clips that sum up for me some of what made him great.  As Louis Armstrong once said about jazz and I think life itself, "If you don't get it, then you never will...."    Cheers Baby!

Here's Howard Cosell's brilliant ad-lib introduction of Sinatra from his Main Event Live Concert from Madison Square Garden.

This is Sinatra in 1965 with the mighty Count Basie Orchestra performing one of his greatest song with the furious Quincy Jones arrangement of "You Make Me Feel So Young."  If you're not familiar with Sinatra here he is at his swinging best. 

Pete Hamil in his great book Why Sinatra Matters, writes that the greatness of Sinatra's singing was how he projected the heartbreaking sadness of lost love or the euphoric joy of a love that is found.  Here he is performing the epic torch song by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer"One For My Baby (and One More For the Road)."  Quite possibly my favorite song.  A Hemingway short story as song.  Sinatra truly owns it and performs it brilliantly.  As one musician said during a recording session of Sinatra's genius for torch songs, "he really believes this shit..."   Radio personality Sid Mark had a Sinatra radio program throughout the 50's until the 90's would devote an hour every week to just Sinatra doing torch songs and it became nicknamed famously, "the suicide hour..."  
Enjoy, you if you don't get why Sinatra is great or matters after seeing these clips amongst hundreds of other, then you never will.   Cheers Baby! 

Below is an extra that I added to this post with the wonderful NYC writer and acquaintance of mine Pete Hamill discussing Sinatra and his excellent book Why Sinatra Matters.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Andrew Sarris: A Touchstone, America's Greatest Film Critic

RIP Andrew Sarris. America's finest film critic and theorist. A man who changed the face of how films are made and seen. He was a lovely and gracious gentleman whose brilliantly written books taught me more about film and how to think than anyone else. Reading his books and watching the films that he wrote about by the directors he championed were the best film school anyone could want. I used to sit in on his classes at Columbia and they were days that I'll always remember. It was a real highlight. He was very nice to this interloper. I told him that if movies are my religion, he's the pope.... 
Andrew Sarris and I when I used to sit in on his classes at Columbia for a few years back in the 90's. 

"I consider Andrew Sarris to be one of the most fundamental and valued teachers," writes Martin Scorsese. "His writings led me to see the genius in American movies at a time when the cinema was considered a mindless form of entertainment, worthy of serious attention only if it came from Europe or Asia."

I will be doing a long form piece about this great man in the near future, there were tributes from all over today to this man.  Below are some links to some of the very good ones that I read.  A very nice piece ran in the Hollywood Reporter by Todd McCarthy was posted today.  

Roger Ebert wrote a nice piece also: 

A nice piece from Richard Brody in The New Yorker: 

This is a very good post on Fandor's site with lots of quotes from several top film writers:

Lastly there's a link from 2001 from the Columbia News celebrating the collection of essays by various writers including Martin Scorsese and 39 other contributors, Citizen Sarris:

As I remember upon meeting the excellent director Sam Fuller once, I asked him to autograph "the bible" Sarris's seminal book The American Cinema, and Fuller said "sure, this is a very good book..."  

Upon reading the vast amounts of tributes today remembering this man's life and his contribution to movies as a serious art form, I can say that he was a true touchstone to mine and many other's lives.    

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Spaghetti Westerns at Film Forum! Bravo!

When I was a kid and movies would come on TV some of the ones that always fascinated me were the weird, crazy movies that seemed and looked like westerns but were somehow much different.  Obviously they were dubbed into English, had really cool music soundtracks, were very violent, the women were really sexy and everybody was very sweaty and had lots of makeup and unique costumes on.  Yeah, these cowboy movies were different all right from lame "Bonanza," or "Gunsmoke," they were made in Spain and Italy financed by Germans, with an American star directed by Italians with Italian crews and using actors from all over Europe, these were Spaghetti Westerns.  Originally this term was derided by the craftsmen who made these films on shoestring budgets but the genre became such a hugely successful worldwide box office sensation, that they didn’t mind.  From the Mid-Sixties until the Mid-Seventies, these movies were very, very popular with worldwide audiences making international superstars out of some unlikely actors like Lee Van Cleef who spent years appearing in small parts in features and television and Clint Eastwood who co-starred on "Rawhide" for years, Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Terence Hill, Bud Spencer and Charles Bronson. In the upcoming posts, I’ll be going through this wonderful genre of films.  Right now the great Film Forum will be showing a bunch of these films and if you get a chance to see these crazy movies on the big screen do yourself a favor and go see them. 
Here’s My Top 30 Spaghetti Westerns: 
For A Few Dollars More 
 Once Upon a Time in the West 
 The Great Silence 
 A Bullet For The General  
 Duck, You Sucker
 The Big Gundown 
 Death Rides a Horse 

 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 
 Fistful of Dollars  
 The Hills Run Red  
 Django Kill 
 Face to Face 
 The Hellbenders 
 Django The Bastard 

Day of Anger 
The Mercenary 
Navajo Joe 
 If You Meet Sartana, Pray For Your Death 
 And God Said to Cain  
Return of Ringo
Any Gun Can Play
My Name is Nobody  
Adios Sabata 
The Ruthless Four

Alex Cox’s Top Twenty Spaghetti Westerns

    1. For a Few Dollars More
    2. Once Upon a Time in the West 
    3. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 
    4. Django 
    5. The Great Silence 
    6. Requiescant 
    7. Johnny Hamlet 
    8. Arizona Colt 
    9. Django Kill 
    10. A Bullet For the General 
    11. Tepepa 
    12. Cemetary Without Crosses 
    13. California 
    14. Today It's Me... Tomorrow You 
    15. Black Jack 
    16. The Ruthless Four 
    17. $1,000 on the Black 
    18. Bandidos 
    19. And God Said to Cain 
    20. Dont Touch the White Women 

    Quentin Tarantino’s Top Twenty Spaghetti Westerns
    1.    The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
    2.    For a Few Dollars More
    3.    Django
    4.    The Mercenary
    5.    Once Upon a Time in the West
    6.    A Fistful of Dollars
    7.    Day of Anger
    8.    Death Rides a Horse
    9.    Navajo Joe
    10. Return of Ringo
    11. The Big Gundown
    12. A Pistol for Ringo
    13. The Dirty Outlaws
    14. The Great Silence
    15. The Grand Duel
    16. Shoot The Living, Pray For the Dead
    17. Tepepa
    18. The Ugly Ones
    19. Viva Django
    20. The Machine Gun Killers    

    Sir Christopher Fraling's (genre expert) Top Ten Spaghetti Westerns
    1. Once Upon a Time in the West 
    2. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 
    3. The Great Silence 
    4. For a Few Dollars More 
    5. Django Kill 
    6. The Big Gundown 
    7. Django 
    8. My Name is Nobody 
    9. The Mercenary 
    10. A Bullet For the General 

    Most of these movies will be playing at the Film Forum here in NYC for the next three weeks.  I hope that you might catch them there on the big screen or on DVD or streaming on Netflix or YouTube.  I sure that you will thoroughly enjoy them, they're a lot of fun. Feel free to comment.  Enjoy!

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Favorite Character from a Favorite TV Show: Ian McShane as "Al Swearengen" of "Deadwood."

    Hey friends, sorry for the absence but have been in production and have had a full plate.  Anyway, just posting a quick one but a great set of clips from one of my favorite shows of all-time!  "Deadwood," created, written by and executed by David Milch.  One of the main characters of the crazy ensemble from this lawless town in the old west was the owner of the Gem Saloon, "Al Swearengen" masterfully played by Ian McShane in an award winning performance.  I think "Deadwood" was one of the finest works of film/tv in the past 20 years.  David Milch has a new show on HBO called "Luck."  I hope that it can approach the quality of his western saga.  Enjoy McShane doing the words of David Milch in a terrific performance in these following clips.

    A great performance in a very missed series. I hope that David Milch and the ensemble reunite for maybe a "Deadwood" movie.  One can only hope.