Iconic? Really? A First timer’s time at Camp Crystal Lake


I have not posted in a long time, a long time (in my Obi-Wan voice). So instead of overextending myself with some grand essay to announce my return to the Shame, I’ll keep this simple. Plus there really isn’t too much I have to say on this.

For years I knew of the great horror Monsters of the 70s/80s. You have Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger, Leatherface and Jason Vorhees. Believe it or not I had never seen a Friday the 13th film. I’ve seen Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but never a film with Friday in the title that didn’t star Ice Cube or Chris Tucker.

Well I knew I missing out, these are the things that when you’re growing up in the 90s are signs of your growing-upedness. “Hey did you see the new Jason movie?” Nope never. I resolved back during the first year of CinemaShame to watch at least the original film. I got collection of the first four for a really cheap price. So what happened? How did I receive these classics of modern horror? These iconic films of the slasher genre?

Answer: I didn’t receive them at all and wondered how they got their iconic reputation. 

There was nothing in the original film that to me came close to the achievements in the films by John Carpenter, Wes Craven or Tobe Hooper. In Halloween we get the suspense of the unstoppable Michael Myers, in Nightmare, the fear of dreams. For Texas Chainsaw we have an almost documentary like shoot of madness and murder. Even if you aren’t scared, you’re always engaged. Friday the 13th had none of that. I felt no tension, no thrills, I cared so little about the characters that I don’t even remember their names. Only Kevin Bacon. And I don’t actually remember his character’s name, just that it’s Kevin Bacon.

That was my face while watching. 

Sean Cunningham does have an interesting found footage type of style to his shooting of the film, it just sucks that there were no thrills until the end. Thankfully the movie is less than 2 hours so it is brisk. It’s just an interesting brisk. 

So after finally seeing Friday the 13th and some of the following films, I can why Jason is an iconic character, but not why this film or series has that same description. It’s not quite the “killer” I thought it would be.

The Magnificent Seven (1960) – An Essay on Another Movie That Became Important Later

I briefly considered going Full Shame on this movie, watching the three sequels and the Chris Pratt remake, but who has that kind of time. Also, I realized that if I wanted to really go Full Shame, I’d also have to watch Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which the film is roughly based on. Again, I really don’t have that kind of time. Especially, if I want to complete my CinemaShame list and prepare for an upcoming CinemaShame podcast.

magnificent 1

The Magnificent Seven was an interesting pick, because I assumed it was a massive hit. A Western with Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen, that earned a remake last year with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and approximately five other guys of varying fame and payscale. Turns out, it wasn’t. It was a box office flop in 1960, and only became popular after it was a big hit in Europe and many of the actors went on to become big stars – Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson all appeared in John Sturges’ next film The Great Escape, which was a much bigger success.

In my last essay on Bulworth, I referenced a book by Chuck Klosterman where he contemplates how things will be viewed differently in the future and how we perceive things now, may be very different. The Magnificent Seven is actually a perfect example of this. It flopped in the box office, only to gain status as a classic much later after success of it’s participants. I find two things about this interesting. First, it’s referred to as a classic and not a cult classic. Second, it received this title, despite it’s problems. That’s right, I went there.

At some point — I could look it up, but I still don’t have the time — the term “cult classic” was coined for movies that weren’t successful, but grew a fandom later. (Okay. I looked it up, the term “cult film” started in the 1970s, no date on “cult classic.”) I would argue The Magnificent Seven was the first, or one of the first “cult classics.” But eventually, it just became a classic, based largely on the merits of the cast and crew at a later date. I then after to wonder, at what point will our cult classics then become classics. I feel like I still hear Pulp Fiction referred to as a cult classic and not just a classic film. Perhaps not enough time has pasted, or perhaps classics will only ever refer to a specific time period. This all has less to do with the film, and more to do with film consumption culture.

magnificent 2

Now, the point where I say it may not deserve the praise. The introduction to the first two members of the seven is amazing and great story telling. The hearse scene shows the kind of men that Yul Brener’s and Steve McQueen’s characters are. They are men of honor and they do the right thing. They don’t know each other, but team together to drive a hearse – a comedically short distance – to a cemetery to bury a Native American where the locals don’t want him buried. They do it because it’s the right thing. After that, the rest of the Seven getting slightly less strong, but still well written introductions, minus Robert Vaughn’s character. This covers the first third of the film and it’s followed by a strong second act where they go to the village in Mexico that hired them for protection. After the initial confrontation, the last third of the film goes downhill.

I found a review from Variety that kind of nailed it for me: “The last third is downhill, a long and cluttered anti-climax in which The Magnificent Seven grow slightly too magnificent for comfort.”

magnificent 3

The last third of the film feels anti-climatic and it’s hard to really feel triumphant as the Seven, now kicked out of the village, go back to win again. A gunfight breaks out and within the fight, each character gets their moment to complete their story arc. It’s a mess though, partially because of the fact that the script never really clarified in which order the final deaths happened. The moments of each character are lost in the hustle on the first view and don’t give a resonance when Yul Brenner says his final line: “The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.”

magnificent 4

The Magnificent Seven is a great film, and probably does deserve the title of classic, but at the same time, I understand why it wasn’t a big success initially. It gives me hope though that Terminator Genisys will one day become a classic after its stars have gained more mainstream recognition.

magnificent 5

Watching Bulworth in 2017 is Different Than Watching it in 1998…Probably

bulworth1

Bulworth came out in 1998 when I was finishing up seventh grade and had this huge crush on a girl in my English class that I really wanted to ask out, but never did. What does that have to do with Bulworth? Not much of anything other than, it’s probably the reason I didn’t see it. I was more interested in this girl than politics at the time. And that was the way it went for a while, because I assumed that Bulworth was a political film and not a dark comedy.

I chose this as my first shame because it has often been referenced over the last year in relation to now-President Trump and the 2016 Election. It’s a valid comparison, a candidate that speaks his mind, says what he actually thinks, and in the end, wins people over. The film in retrospect, leaves me with an alarming take on President Trump making it perhaps a more noteworthy film from this point on.

In the film, Warren Beatty does a fantastic job of playing Senator Jay Bulworth who has reached the end of his limits. His campaign is seemingly dead in the water, he’s compromised his views and himself to stay in politics as long as he has. His marriage has been a fraud for years. He’s in a deep depression. When we join him, he has decided to commit suicide by hiring someone to assassinate him. The only problem is that he doesn’t know where or when it’ll happen, but that it will be sometime that weekend.

When he gets off a plan in California, he’s drunk (presumably in preparation to accept his fate), but now his natural survival instinct has kicked in and he’s running scared. He goes to a campaign stop at a church in an African-American community and begins to freely speak his mind. When it’s over, he realizes how good it felt to stop being a politician and continues a weekend of speaking his mind while continuing to avoid the assassin.

bulworth2.jpg

The film goes from there and there’s no reason to go through it, but I recap all that to make this point: If Senator Jay Bulworth starts to speak his mind and not play into politics, because he has nothing to lose knowing he’ll be dead soon, then did Trump not play the political game in 2016 because he had nothing to lose? A man with nothing to lose is a dangerous thing.

Bulworth wasn’t revolutionary in filmmaking – it feels like a movie made in 1998. It was well-made. There was an almost farcical element to the assassination avoidance storyline and plenty of Warren Beatty rapping. Halle Berry gives a nice performance here as well as many of the great actors scattered throughout do. Bulworth didn’t shatter politics in any radical ways – while it has been reportedly reference by President Obama, I would argue The West Wing had a bigger impact on future politicos in America. Bulworth does explore issues of race, but it didn’t do much for that either. It’s a good movie, but there’s nothing that propels it into a great movie. Not yet at least.

In his book, But What If We’re Wrong?, Chuck Klosterman presents the idea that what is considered noteworthy or culturally important in the future is based on what the future values more so than what was happening at the time of publication. The 2016 Election will probably be the election where politics changed. President Trump gained a lot of supporters by not playing the political game and sounded different than everyone else out there. It’s hard to know for sure, but I imagine this will have an impact on how future candidates run for office. If that’s the case, then I can also imagine a future where Bulworth is of greater note than it is now by the general populace.

bulworth3.jpg

Selma (2014) – An Important Film with a Hopeful Message

When Selma first premiered I caught NPR interviews with director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo and could hear the palpable passion that they had put into this work. I knew I wanted to watch it. Of course, regrettably, I didn’t make the time for it then. But I knew it would make a great addition to my Shame list.

Last February I finally did make the time to watch it, I even began writing my blog post but for some reason I couldn’t push through. It kinda just felt like my write up wasn’t doing the film justice. As it turns out, that may have been a good thing. Not only is the film even more relevant now, watching it again filled me with a sense of hope that I haven’t really felt since our Presidential election. Yeah, sorry folks, it’s going to get political.

Selma recalls a particularly awful time in America’s history. Last year when I first watched it, for me, it represented how far we had come as a nation. Now given the current political and cultural landscape, it represents how little America has learned in fifty-two years.

My thoughts on the film (and other things) continue after the jump, just as a disclaimer these are my own personal views and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of other contributors to this blog.

Continue reading

Cinema Shame 2017

Why has my Shame failed so many times before is what I wondered while I was trying to come up with this year’s list. I came up with a couple reasons. First, I tried to be too hip. I went for all the classics that I know I should watch, but frankly have no interest in really watching. I tried to be “cool” in my selections. I tried to seem “hip” and say, “Yea, I know I’ve never seen this movie, but at least I know about it and now I’m going to watch it. Then I’ll be able to say this cool things.”

The second reason is that I specified the month I would watch each of these movies. So regardless of my mood, I HAD to watch that movie in that month. And then it became a project and homework, and I love avoid doing homework.

This year is different. These 12 movies are not necessarily all on the Top Movie Lists of Cinema, but they’re ones that I want to watch and feel I should have by now. Also, it’ll just be a list of 12 movies with no monthly expectation. Once a month, I’ll pick a movie depending on my mood and I’ll watch it. And hopefully by December, the final one doesn’t feel like homework.

The Shame List:

  1. A Few Good Men – I’m a huge fan of the work of Aaron Sorkin and his writing style, but somehow I’ve never actually watched this movie.
  2. Used Cars – Released at the same time as Airplane, it never got the same reception. I’ve heard a lot of comedians talk about how great this movie is, and as a comedy fan, I feel I should check it out.
  3. Bulworth – Also, often referenced and I feel it’s worth watching given our current political climate. Can’t remember the last movie I watched with Warren Beatty.
  4. Braveheart – I got this on Blu-Ray years ago. Someone gave it to me I think. It stares at me a lot from the shelf.
  5. Broadcast News – An often referenced movie by Aaron Sorkin that I’m not familiar with. And I like Albert Brooks.
  6. Network – I only know the famous scene. It’s also another movie referenced by Aaron Sorkin that I feel I should be familiar with.
  7. Barton Fink – With the exception of their latest, Hail, Ceaser!, and The Ladykillers, it’s the only film written and directed by the Coen Brothers that I haven’t seen.
  8. North by Northwest – Another movie that I’ve started to watch and know some of the highlights, but have never seen the whole thing.
  9. The Magnificent Seven – A classic western that’s been remade for some reason. Even with the talent that’s in it, I still haven’t seen it for some reason.
  10. The Conversation – So many nights I have thought about watching this, knowing how great it’s supposed to be, but always think: “I should watch this when I can actual focus on it.”
  11. Torn Curtain – Paul Newman and Alfred Hitchcock. How have I not watched this?
  12. Spotlight – I’ve been trying to watch this movie for over a year. Hopefully, I fit it in before the two year mark.

As the astute reader may have noticed, there are a couple recurring themes in this list. News, Media, Aaron Sorkin, and Alfred Hitchcock. That wasn’t intentionally done at the start of this list, but one rabbit hole leads to the next. And so my shame begins. Unfortunately, as of the time of posting this, chances are I’ll be a month behind and will cover two in February. Wish me luck.

Third Time’s a Charm? (Shame Statement 2017)

Listen, if they can reboot the Spiderman franchise 3 times with each successive series of films being BETTER than the last…ok obviously we don’t know if Spiderman: Homecoming is actually going to be any good but this analogy started off poor and it’s not getting any better so I’ll just halt it now…

Every new year holds the promise of great accomplishments to come. For the past two January’s I have posted a list of films that I want to watch and write about here on this blog. For the past two years I have petered out after one or two decent entries. (Actually the Spiderman franchise analogy does work pretty well here.) I have barely made a dent in my list of cinema shames over these past few years and I really want to turn that around in 2017 so I’m giving it another go.

I look forward to seeing all of your entries in the new year, and being inspired to finally tackle this list!


January – Selma
February – The Stunt Man
March – Smokey and the Bandit
April – Lawrence of Arabia
May – The Man with the Movie Camera
June – Chinatown
July – High Noon
August – Animal House
September – Rope
October – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
November – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
December – White Christmas