Whatcha' lookin' for?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It's up to you. RONDO or no? Help keep our beloved Uncle Forry in the Punshine!

Voting for the RONDO AWARDS ends tonight, April 3rd, at midnight! Please follow the instructions below and do your part to help insure that FORREST J ACKERMAN SHALL NOT DIE!

You do NOT have to vote the entire ballot. Just the categories you are familiar with or care to vote for. If you just wanted to vote for The Forry Tribute, here's how:
  • Write an e-mail to Rondo administrator David Colton at: taraco@aol.com
  • In the e-mail field, write: Best Fan Event - Tribute to Forrest J Ackerman
  • Include your name!
  • Hit "SEND" - You're done!

If you'd like to vote the entire ballot, you can find it here: RONDO BALLOT And here's the link to the DreadCentral Tribute article if you'd like to revisit the 4e event: FORRY TRIBUTE

Other Forry-friendly candidates: Steve Vertlieb's 4e article, The Drunken Severed Head blog, DreadCentral.com, lots of Rue Morgue, and you can also write in Forry pal and foremost woman of Horror - for Monster Kid of the Year: Jovanka Vuckovic and Best Indie Production: RED VELVET - featuring Forry's final cameo.

Thanks for helping to keep Uncle Forry in the genre spotlight. Even if you don't vote for our tribue, please consider voting. It's fun! The Rondo Awards help to keep our genre undead!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Me and my pal, FJA in very happy times and very LOUD Aloha shirts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Magical Places Where Monsters are Born!

Here are a couple of rare stills from a negative strip I found in a box of old Forry Ackerman papers. They were labeled "Universal Studios Makeup Dept." These images represent the very type that got me most excited whenever they were featured in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. Even today, pics like these inspire me to look deep into the frame to discover any clue to the magic that went on in the studio. I posted them here for you to explore and enjoy. Make sure to click on the images to enlarge them. Then you can pore over every detail, just as I have!

The luckiest Monster Kid in the world

I dreamt of being the man in the picture above, didn't you? Alone in the mad lab where all the creatures of my dreams were brought to life. If I were the man in that picture, I would sit there forever at my station and just work and imagine. And when my eyes got tired, I'd get up and run around the place like a loon, taking in all the familiar objects and mysterious scraps alike. I'd learn all I could. I would invite my friends to take a tour of the place. I would tell them, "Watch your step! Mind your head! Exercise your eyeballs! Oh, and TOUCH EVERYTHING!"

One man's junk, another man's treasure

The heap above looks like a landfill to most. But you and I know that it is composed of the precious relics of our obsession. Among the crumbling stacks of plaster molds and rubber flashing, some of our favorite monsters emerge. The Gillman from the Black Lagoon! A Mole Person! Bleached lifemasks of iconic faces and unknown players, side by side. These pieces of filmmonster history, cast-off. Never meant to survive past their use in the movies we love. Lucky for us, Forry and people like him just had to get their hands on this stuff and turn it into memorabilia.

A skylight reveals secrets in clay

Somebody was inadvertently looking out for us, even before we existed. If we'd been there ourselves, we would have definitely climbed up on a shelf or counter to get a picture of the sunny alcove above. The mother lode! Wow! Is that an early Gillman design? Do I see a Metaluna Mutant maquette or two. A T-Rex? From what movie? And whose faces are hanging on the wall? Is one Katherine Hepburn? If you recognize any of the objects of places in these pics, please post and share your thoughts with the rest of us. What was your first monster makeup? Hmmmm?

Sunday, March 21, 2010


"Seul Sur Son √Čtoile"
by Becaud & Vidalin

...then Vikki Carr got hold of it...
(English lyric by Mark David)

"It Must Be Him"

My Grandma and I used to marvel at
the crocodile tears that would run down
Vikki's cheeks as she belted out that song on
every variety show the 60's could dish out.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sci-Fi High (school)

I wonder what the James Abernathys and John Addlemans on this yearbook page thought of their young classmate, our future mentor - Forrest Ackerman? Did Forry preach the virtues of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror to his peers? Did he ever get busted for sneaking peaks at an Amazing Stories magazine during class? Was his notebook scribbled with cartoons of spacemen and monsters? Forry has said that in high school he was, "the resident crazy!"

The "sense of wonder" evident in Forry's 18-year-old eyes, sparkled right up until his final moments. It's great to see his face here among his classmates. I wonder if any of Forry's contemporaries ever found themselves buying (or destroying) copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine their kids brought home. Forrest J Ackerman shall not die!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Over My Head in Hollywood

Fresh off the boat from Hawaii In 1982. Special FX dreams swirling, I walked into the red brick offices of Don Post Studios on Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood and begged to do something - I dunno? Anything! I had learned of Don Post, the man, years ago in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I'd fallen in love with his deluxe, "over-the-head" classic monster-masks from the striking photos in the Captain Company catalog in the back of the mag.

My Don Post mask: Schizoid

As a teen I corresponded with Don Post and was a huge fan. By the time I made it to Hollywood, Don Sr. had passed away. But on that exciting day I visited the studio, Don Post Jr. actually remembered my gushing fan letters to his father and took pity on me. I didn't have so much as a portfolio or snapshot of any work to speak of. Yet, within an hour of my first visit, Don Jr. had loaded me up with a plaster armature/mask-form, modeling clay and a handful of sculpting tools to get me started. He also gave me a guide-sheet to follow to his specifications. He said, "go to it, kid." I felt like this was the biggest break in the world for me.

1983 Don Post Catalog featuring MY mask!
(courtesy the Halloween Mask Assoc.)

I worked diligently in the kitchen of my apartment in Northridge, California. After a couple of weeks, I dared to bring the sculpt into the studio. It was a mask of a humanoid creature with an underdeveloped twin growing out of its head. Don Post was not only receptive, he was downright encouraging. He called a meeting of his staff and they did an on-the-spot critique of the piece. They educated me about doing more to sculpt wrinkles that would contribute to the "stretch factor" of the mask, making it easier to pull over a head. They told me to tone down my detail as too many lines would cause the plaster mold to develop razor sharp grooves that might cut a worker's hand.

Bottom - center on a shelf of painting-masters at DP Studios

Don then offered to take over my sculpt or to give me another chance to implement his notes, which of course, I did. In a couple more weeks, I turned in the finished piece and it went into production! My original name for the mask was "Johnson & Johnson," but Don thought we might get into trouble using that familiar corporate brand name. So, "Schizoid" it was! Having my mask join the Don Post family was a highlight of my young life. Viewing it in the company CATALOG was just crazy! I saw it in stores and at Disneyland too! Don gave me 5 copies of the mask to give to my family and friends. One went to my high school art teacher Jean Noguchi, one to my Mom, one to Dad and one to my best monster-pal Sean. Naturally, one went to Forry and his Ackermuseum where it lived happily among fellow monsters until the big old place was shut down and we moved to the mini-mansion.

Schizoid - proud to be at home at Forry's Ackermuseum

The entire Don Post Studios family was so generous and nurturing at a time when I felt myself a stranger in a strange land. Contributing professionally to the Post legacy that had inspired me as a kid was an incredible confidence builder for this island boy. Today, when I see Don Post Jr. I feel such gratitude. When I shake his hand and tell him my story, he looks at me a little funny. I recognize that look. It's the reaction of a person who is so used to doing kind turns that it's almost embarrassing to be singled out for doing a kind turn. But truthfully, Don's kindness allowed me to conquer one of my life's dreams. Thanks to him, I can say that I fulfilled my fantasy of designing and sculpting a Don Post, deluxe, over-the-head mask!

My fist born goes the way of all rubber...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Universal Monster Army: Onward Genre Soldiers! Marching as to Horror!

A campaign of Shock & Awe(someness)!

The Universal Monster Army is a fan-boy or girl's best friend. Unlike the olden times when young people ran away from home to join the Foreign Legion to "forget", here you'll want to run toward the UMA, enlist and become a Creature of the Dark Platoon - to remember! To remember all of your favorite horror movies, toys and memorabilia in the company of people who know everything there is to know about the subject.

As is the case with the best people in our genre community, these men and women channel their energies into perpetuating the things they love by sharing collected art, props, photos and treasured objects of their obsession. Their research and handling of material is world-class, all leading to the creation of museum-quality displays and projects for the rest of us to enjoy. And I have enjoyed their displays immensely! A highlight of any Convention or event I have the pleasure of attending.

A UMA Forry-display and my brilliant pals who done did it.

Forry lived to see some of the early UMA displays and was mesmerized. After our very first viewing of one of their monster-toy displays at Ron Adam's MONSTER BASH, Forry remarked that he'd wished these folks could have preserved and displayed his own collection. I reminded Forry that, before his taking up the mantle (maybe creating) the art of "collecting", nobody held a value for these throw-away objects and ephemera. He nodded his head and agreed that he felt somehow responsible for setting the UMA on its path. The baton has been passed!

All of my fellow fans and friends should seek out the UMA. Go enjoy one of their displays, visit and participate in their BLOG, buy a T-shirt. Support them any way you can. They play a great hand in inspiring new recruits with the same "sense of wonder" that started us on our journey through a world of movie-magic and monsters. These people are true friends of the genre we love and passionate fans and champions of the memory of our common mentor Forry Ackerman. They're also incredibly kind-hearted and fun folks to be around. Let's all get together at WONDERFEST - Louisville, KY - in May!

And vote for them anywhere they appear on your RONDO AWARDS BALLOT! I wish they could collectively be awarded Monster Kid of the Century!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jovanka Vuckovic: A hook-up with Rondo?

Or: Why Jovanka should be Monster Kid of the Year!

Jovanka and Ann "War of the Worlds" Robinson at the Forry Tribute

I hear February was Women In Horror Month. So, naturally, my contribution to the cause is to write this love letter about my pal Jovanka Vuckovic - in March! Why a month after WIHM? Because every month should be WIHM, that's why. And there is no more horrible woman than Jovanka. Her stewardship of RUE MORGUE magazine during her tenure, not only elevated that mag to prominence, but she always, ALWAYS made room for a classic horror presence. Today, Jovanka's moved on to other glorious mischief, but Rue Morgue (under new editorship of Dave Alexander, hi Dave!) continues traditions she nurtured and remains a balanced voice in our genre; attempting to give the young uns' what they expect, while tossing us old folks a bone and indoctrinating those snot-nosed squids into a world of horror, pre-1980's (or even 40's, schweetie).

Jovanka also keeps the torch burning for our most favored Uncle; Forrest J Ackerman. Forry was quite fond of her and the whole RM staff. Jovanka and her crew's presence at the Forry Tribute was incredibly warm and comforting. It was on that sad day that Jovanka coined the term "Monster Grandkids" to acknowledge a brand new generation of monster lovers AND, again, to remind us geezers to eat our fiber and to embrace the new ranks of horror-youth - cre-e-e-eak, squish! (Make sure to also vote for a Rondo for the Forry Tribute: "#17. Best Fan Event"). Look, I don't need to tell anyone how dear the classics are to Jovanka. She's a map of love and commitment to the genre, with most of our icons (Chaney, Karloff, Lanchester, etc.) as badges of Scour-age permanently tattooed all over her loveliness!

Forry used to say that female fans were as rare as "Pterodactyl Pteeth!" Well, Forry may have lamented the scarcity of femme fans, but he also encouraged many a fair lady to tryst with the dark(ish) side. Principle among them, Jovanka, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Katherine Moore, Pam Keesey, Heidi Saha, Terri Pinckard, Lucy Chase Williams, Ann Hardin, Bjo Trimble, Jessika White, Candy Clark, Meechie Simpson, Debbie Painter, Brinke Stevens, Trina Robbins, Edith Eyde, Naomi Magaziner, Jennifer Brooks, Tigrina and on and on. And Jovanka is not only basking in the radioactive glow of our genre, she's manufacturing more fans as we speak! Not by merely contributing quality works of creepy depth. She's actually got a Monster Kid on board! She's gonna have a lil' one! Now, don't get all steamy just because this is proof that Jovanka's had sex at least once! Really think of it! What better way to perpetuate the genre? Monster-momma's gonna be a monster's momma! Yeah!

The flash-vote was cast the day Rondo voting began. Now ghoul-er heads are prevailing, taking their time, approaching their RONDO AWARDS BALLOT with serious scrutiny. Now's the time to remember our Jovanka! She's a modern gal creating a healthy future for our continuing legacy of quality art and entertainment. As a young horror maven, she represents our best hope for a flourishing world of Broads and Monsters! I dedicate the rare pic below of an early "vampire" and foremother of the German stage - to my pal and a rightful Monster Kid of the Year: Jovanka Vuckovic!

Frau Wilhelm Herzog aka. Erna von Hart aka. Erna Morena
(1885 - 1962)

"Fraulein Erna von Hart is known throughout Germany as a breaker of male hearts. She portrays "vampire" roles on the stage and that she gets her characters across the footlights is evidenced by the fact that she has received thousands of proposals of marriage from love sick swains. Fortunately for her and perhaps unfortunately for her suiters the lady already has a lord and master (Eeew, the olden days - Joe), in the person of Wilhelm Herzog, the German revolutionary journalist."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Al-o-o-o-o-ha! Back at my little grass shack.

Dad, my little brother Danny and me! c. 1966?

Weird, huh? Proof I was born a bona fide island boy. That handsome brown man is my Father, Josefa Moe who was a well-known Hawaiian entertainer and artist. He did the spectacular Samoan knife dance on that stage I'm sitting on (International Marketplace: Waikiki, Hawaii) and many others throughout our childhood. Yeah. He was the guy who spun those long knives like razor sharp batons, sometimes on fire! Dad was multi-talented. Aside from performing, he painted the sign you see in the picture AND carved the tiki behind us. Don't quote me, but I honestly think he may have had a hand in weaving the coconut hats Danny and I are wearing. My Dad - May 1st, 1933 - Nov. 3rd, 2006... You would have loved him.

Dad doing his thing in a 60's promo shot.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Terri-cloth In The Ack's Museum!

The Old Man and the Me!

More puzzling than the shrunken Terri-cloth bathrobe are the two wristwatches! Until now! I ran across this pic of me and Forrest J Ackerman c. 1999. It was during this period that Forry (briefly) wore two watches. One was to tell time and the other was an alarm that would roust him from his frequent naps to catch a favorite TV show or pop in a VHS movie he wanted to see.

[Note: Ha! I just recalled that in the above pic, I wasn't asking the time. I was actually trying to turn off the watch alarm - the sound of a crowing rooster.]

It's odd how many memories a seemingly mundane photo can hold. From my glasses frames (my first pair) I could tell the era. From Forry's bathrobe, I remember that this was a time when he was growing older and snoozed a lot more often. The two watches came as a result of pal Lee Harris beginning to regularly supply Forry with a stack of old VHS movies that Forry wanted to wake up and revisit. That it's so dark and I'm dressed so T-shirty reminds me that I was living at the Ackermanison at that time. And my sitting on the carpet meant that there was likely a pile of paintings and props on the floor that I was still in the midst of organizing for Forry, trying to get the Ackermuseum back to its former luster.

Back then, Forry was healthy and independent so my job was simply to manage his day-to-day affairs and to try and maintain a great quality of life for him. And I did this while working a full-time restaurant job too! But the byproduct of my 4e-work was a world of incredible discovery and privilege for me! Laughing with Forry and planning our exploits was a daily gift. Forry was wildly appreciated by the genre fans and well enough to enjoy that recognition. This was a happy time for our Ackermonster and an incredible adventure for this Monster Kid.

I miss the ol' man like mad.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Shrunken Revered Head (of Rondo)!

Cheney's wicked blog is up for a RONDO AWARD!

Max Cheney is an adored figure in our genre. He's smart, kind, generous and funny as hell to be around. All of these qualities are hardwired to his acclaimed blog: THE DRUNKEN SEVERED HEAD.

Now three years old and still drunken, Max's blog is a virtual Horror-town-square of info and entertainment. Genre news, anecdotes, inside scoops, unique pics of events and even cocktail recipes are standard entries at this kitchen-sink blog. Max even featured lil' ol' ME in a Forry-memoir last Halloween!

If the excellence of this blog wasn't enough to warrant a trophy, Max has been so supportive of fandom in general and many of us personally. He is also a bona fide Forry fan and nephew! Don't take my word for it. Just visit Max's blog and you'll be convinced. I hope you'll consider giving Max your well-deserved vote for:
  • 15. BEST HORROR BLOG - The Drunken Severed Head (Max Cheney's Unique blog about it all)
Vote here: RONDO AWARD BALLOT. Max and I will be at WonderFest in Louisville, Kentucky this May, 15th-16th 2010. The Rondo Awards are presented at that incredible Con. I'm a guest this year! Do yourself a favor and come out and play with your monster cousins!

Meanwhile, here's a nice chat I had with Max about his life, Blogoraphical stuff and the importance of the Rondos:

Horror heavyweights Tim Lucas, Max Cheney and David Schow

Joe Moe: Hey, Max! Aside from being a Monster-magnet, what was your inspiration for starting your blog?

Max Cheney: I discovered I could telepathically control my cat to type faster on the keyboard than I could peck out messages with my nose. This was before I got a used prototype android body originally built for the head of Walt Disney. (They got rid of it cheap because it had a rather bulgy fuel container around the midsection and a tendency to jitterbug at random.) Also, I had long been in love with the online community of classic horror film fans-- I met my wife there! I wanted to increase my presence and get to know more folks.

JM: I should have known it would have something to do with cats and Disney. How has your blog evolved since that very first post? Has it lived up to or exceeded your expectations?

Max: It's longer than it used to be. And I'm not sure it's lived up to ANYONE's expectations! But, okay, seriously: It's lasted longer than I thought it would, and I've been floored that it has been nominated in the Rondo Awards each year and done decently well in the voting each time. It has led me to discover some kind and interesting people from all walks of life. They're found in my links, in the interviews I've done, and the comments I get. I'm grateful.

JM: The popularity of your blog has helped to make you a beloved figure in genre fandom. Well, that and your loveliness as a human being. How has that affected you?

Max: ME? A beloved figure? You musta been smokin' somethin' POWERFUL when you thought up these questions! [Note: Kids, we don't condone the use of whatever I was smoking when I thought up these questions - Joe] Though I do have a photo of Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas and and author David J. Schow making goo-eyes at me! But you're a nice guy to say that, Joe, and getting to know interesting fellow horror enthusiasts like yourself HAS affected me greatly. I'm more aware how lucky I am to know so many warm, smart people who share this interest in the weird, the wacky, the macabre and the monstrous. And I'm immensely pleased that the film blog; Cool Ass Cinema complimented TDSH by describing it as being like Famous Monsters magazine for adults. I never really expected any of this.

JM: Adults? Never heard of em'. Y'know, receiving the Rondo for "Monster Kid" last year was an honor I'll treasure forever. What would winning the Rondo Award mean to you?

Max: An end to years of therapy. And that the voting is rigged. Okay, really, it would mean I'd no longer have to lower my eyes in the presence of such past winners as Jovanka Vuckovic, except to pass my gaze over her attractive figure. Okay, really truly it would mean encouragement. A visual reminder to strive to be more creative with my blog and in my future writing goals.

JM: Ha! Straight, gay, animal, vegetable, teamster, blob - no matter. EVERYBODY loves Monster-Sis Jovanka (maybe this year's Monster Kid! Nudge-nudge). Assuming that "blog-master" isn't the end-all to your ambitions in the genre, what are some of your dreams for the future?

Max: I have in mind producing a CD that will interest classic horror fans and an article for one of the major genre magazines. Hopefully both will appear this year. Also, after testing the waters with my short, improvised mostly-in-a-few-days film The Drunken Severed Head Show, I'm planning on working on something more elaborate and thoughtful. And to have time in my old age to read more Shakespeare.

JM: Ah, Shakespeare! The man who wrote King Lear! I dunno if King Lear ever wrote back...(thanks Uncle 4e) So, where do you think blogs (including yours) are headed in the future?

Max: That's an excellent question. Blogs have increasingly become more like websites than the personal online journals they started out as. And they've multiplied like the rats in Willard! (Or maybe the rabbits in Night of the Lepus.) I think they are increasingly going to become blogs with multiple contributors, and ads may appear on more and more as the rules for internet access becomes increasingly influenced by large commercial interests. As for my blog, it will experiment in the year to come with narrow-focused theme weeks or months where I can get more detailed on some subjects that fascinate me, and include more interviews and more posts on genre artists. But the same love of odd news, cheap humor, beautiful women and enthusiasm about Boris Karloff, Frankenstein's Monster and Forry Ackerman will continue.

JM: And so, dear pal, say it with me!

Max & JM: Forrest J Ackerman Shall Not Die!

JM: See you in Louisville at WonderFest, Max. Here's hoping we both get a little head there (a Rondo statue, that is).

[Max Cheney is a Monster Kid originally from the hills of north Arkansas, who now lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Jane, who he married on Halloween in 2005. He's been a teacher, an actor, a plainclothes security guard, a caricature artist and a flunky at a funeral home. Now he's an online head in a pan, who enjoys being one of the moderators of the Universal Monster Army boards!]

A nod to Red Velvet from Argento himself!

Henry Thomas and the Red Velvet Maniac!

"I enjoy with red velvet is a good work also for you producer. I hope a day to meet you all best - dario argento"

Dario Argento, undisputed Maestro of Italian horror, likes my movie RED VELVET! So much so that he sent a personal e-mail (quoted above) to my dear friend and RV producer Sean Fernald, saying so! This was an incredible validation for our creative team, as we'd hoped to pay homage to the master in our visual design of the movie. SUSPIRIA was a very big influence on our lighting design and color palette, not to mention some of the surreal elements we went for.

Not that our cake needs more frosting, but if we were to indulge, the icing on the cake is that the gracious Argento biographer and film reviewer Maitland McDonagh is also in our corner. You can read her comments and columns here at: MISS FLICKCHICK! If you haven't seen our movie, what are you waiting for? We made it just for YOU! Order your DVD or BluRay copy here: RED VELVET.

Also join our Red Velvet FaceBook page to keep updated on the comings and gore-ings of the film.

[Joe Moe served as co-writer, co-producer and a production designer with John Goss on Red Velvet]

Sunday, March 7, 2010

2010 carries Horror-Heavy Oscars Show!

This year's Oscars show credited the Horror genre as the most popular in the industry, honored Roger Corman at the Governor's Ball and featured a montage-tribute to horror movies. So, a red-letter night for our genre and industry! Flashing back on all the fresh faces that first emerged to be slashed and splattered across the silver screen was a real eye-opener. To be reminded that many A-list stars began their auspicious careers in horror projects was a terrific thing to see.

Sad to say there was no obit in the farewell reel for veteran actor (and iconic Count Yorga) Robert Quarry. Bob was much more than just a horror icon. He was a talented stage actor, gourmet chef and Bon vivant. He was also a razor sharp, bellowing wit and a best friend of his contemporary, Katherine Hepburn. He had such a big, undeniable voice in life. It was odd that the Academy would leave him silent, overlooking him in their good-byes. He was a friend of mine and I hoped he'd be remembered. Well, I'll never forget him.

Perhaps the most real-life-horrifying point in the show for me was when producer Elinor Burkett pulled a Kanye West, rushing the stage and bushwacking her director Roger Ross Williams in the midst of his acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short. When I realized - a) what she was doing and b) that I couldn't understand what the f#*k she was talking about, I put my fingers in my ears, squinted and recited the alphabet until friends assured me she was through. I was just mortified. How anyone could interrupt a person's once in a lifetime triumph is just awe inspiring. Well, congrats on winning for MUSIC BY PRUDENCE, Mr. Williams! That's YOUR statue. I hope Ms. Burkett is thrown out of every party in Hollywood. She should be forced to sit alone in her sparkly purple trash bag and eat stale pie at Ships Coffee Shop until she learns her lesson.

[Note: There's interesting inside info about this flap here: MTV MUSIC Apparently Burkett was removed as producer from the project nearly a year ago - sheesh! She's even worse than I'd imagined]

Congrats to Katheryn Bigelow - Best Director! I was pulling for her all the way. Also a big YAY to Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow for Best Makeup. And a special hats-off to THE COVE, A documentary so profoundly disturbing that I still haven't been able to bring myself to watch it. But, being familiar with the subject matter and hearing of how viewing it affected people I respect, I am confident it deserved its Oscar. So who in our family will get one next year?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Famous Monsters Collaboration

FM#25: Forry's Concept. Warren's finished product.

Friday, March 5, 2010

An oddly familiar WONDERLAND - that you've never seen before...

I went to see Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND today. I've had a problem with Burton's projects for nearly a decade now. I was in love with him from PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS but slowly lost my faith in him so much so that I actually resented his slaughter of classics like PLANET OF THE APES. I wouldn't judge any artist for choosing style over substance, but to makeover beloved, sophisticated stories with deluxe jumbo crayons, to the point of making them into slaw, seemed like a waste to me. Worse, I felt like I wasn't being allowed to get into the stories.

Well, the maestro is back and better than ever! This ALICE has such heart, wit and visual whimsy it's going to be hard for anyone to deny it. While the performances are caricatures, they are imbued with such consistency and charm, you'll feel like you know these strange people. The production design is deep. There are Easter eggs and details that you'll be picking out from now right through the Blu-ray release. Johnny Depp is pure, mad love. And this endorsement comes from a person who loves the idea of the man but has never found his performances very convincing. Here Depp gets hold of your heart and doesn't let it go. Helena Bonham Carter belongs in this movie whether she happens to be Mrs. Burton or not. She achieves that delightful loved-to-be-hated quality we cheer for in our screen villains. It's great to see Crispin Glover again in a role that lets him stretch (literally). Anne Hathaway is really funny in a part that could have been not much fun at all. She's Billie Burke crossbred with Fay Wray. And finally, the breathtaking Mia Wasikowska is an Alice that every little girl will want to be, every little boy will want to love and every adult will want to parent.

The movie is truly an original treatment, but maintains a referential affection for the many iconic versions of the story that preceded it. The book, the Disney animated movie and even more obscure imaginings all are serviced here. This incredible balancing act between the familiar and the unique enhances the mystical quality of the movie. You actually feel like you're in a dream populated by people you feel you know but in a world where you can't possibly have been before. I went with my pals Ogre and Ashley and all of us were just tickled and exhilarated by the experience.

For the first time in recent memory, I'll be buying tickets to this movie again. I hope you let it wash over you some afternoon. Surrender to it for a little while. You'll leave the theater reminded of why you love movies and Tim Burton.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Right to Life after Death

“Is she supposed to smell like that, Daddy?” Rebecca put her face close to the Plexiglass. Paul lurched reflexively but only caught a handful of pink hair extensions. Just enough to prevent the 13-year-old from making cheek-to-plastic contact. Rebecca recoiled harshly, like a dog reaching the end of its choke-chain, "Ow, Dad! That really hurt!"
Paul shrugged, “Honey, if you can smell Grandma, she can smell you.”
On cue, Grandma rushed the little girl, slamming into the clear wall of the box. A tooth broke off from the force and clung to the surface like a morsel of sticky rice crispy treat. Rebecca watched the tooth slide down the Plexi leaving a trail of tobacco colored juice. A thick liquid stream of the brown fluid made its way from Grandma’s over-painted red lips to cast a gooey web across her paisley, Easter-bunny nightgown. Rebecca watched the whole oozing tableau.
“Eeeew! Dad! That is so wrong!” she hollered.
Paul mustered all the disappointment he could fit on his face, “Rebecca! So wrong? So wrong! That’s so my mother - your Grandma! Have some godammned respect!”
Rebecca was having none of Paul’s indigantion. “Respect? Did you not see her try to eat my face like a dog eats its dead master?”
Paul took Rebecca by the shoulders, “Honey, she’s not all there, is she?" And then dealt the guilt card, "I hope there’s somebody who’ll be around to understand your quirks and odd-ball behavior when you’re...her age."
“Dad, when I’m grandma’s age I intend to be ashes. If you stuff me and force me to hang in this house (that I hate), I swear I’ll get free and eat your face!” Hands on her tiny hips.
“We don’t eat family, Rebecca. Your grandmother has…"
“She’s a zombie, Dad! Noticed?”
“Do not call her that, young lady! She’s your grandma! Thankfully preserved by "Extended Family" so that we can continue to be together. Where is all of this hostility coming from? Do I need to ground you?”
Rebecca snorted, "What-ever! I’m going to my room. The smell of rotting flesh is less obvious there."
“You do that.” Paul lost the rest of his patience. "And don't come back down without an apology for me and your grandma, you brat!"
“Oh, good one Dad. And, by the way, if I ever try to eat your face, you have my permission to smash my brains out.”
Paul waited a few beats until the expected door slam, “Oh, if only.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Barefoot to the Peak

I am kneeling down before a shadowy Buddha. I am in a temple, so I assume there is a Buddha at the other end of it. So dark and cool in the deepest part of shade. Vapor of ancient wood planks seep up to me through amber, knee-polished shellac.

Minutes before, the temple was closed. But children on rollerblades circled me in a frenetic cluster of broken hellos and, "where you from?". They buzzed me with smiles then quickly disappeared like a hand full of seeds thrown into tall grass. Then, a tentacle of poppy-colored robe lilts around a corner on a breeze, preceding a gentle man. Butterscotch skin, stark against the orange fabric. Not really butterscotch. More the color of where milk meets tea. I look at the dots where a shaved hairline or eyebrow might have once been. He stands, haloed by the black silhouette of the alleged Buddha. Light at the end of a tunnel smile, he unlocks the double-door chain that falls to the sidewalk with a pleasant, haphazard melody. A clatter made profound by place and moment.

Every wisp of scent and sensation reminds me I am in Thailand. I am here for business, or as a tourist or, most likely, because I am in love. And I’d thought love had been disappointed out of me long ago. The monk bids me to observe the obscured teakwood deity. He seems so sure it's there. Squinting, I can't see anything but darkness. But the monk gently insists that I wait. I hunker down hurting my knees, unaccustomed to bearing my weight on them. The monk disappears for a moment then returns with a jelly glass of cloudy water. I take it gratefully and pretend to drink. I am a little nervous now. What is it I'm waiting for? What's in the darkness?

The answer arrives in the form of an ancient electrician. He shuffles barefoot and dragging a toolbelt that looks like a greasy shop-rag. But within seconds he throws a switch and the entire temple lights up like a carnival. There is the Buddah! Right there! That and a hundred strands of primary-colored Christmas lights. Gold leafed relics throw light into my head. The monk is giving me a knowing look that reads, "yep, happens every time". The look is similar to the one my mother gives me when she's trying to impress me with a DVD of Yanni performing live at the Acropolis. But I might as well be all alone. Here, in this temple. I am at one with this confusing sideshow. I am in heaven with this Buddah, on this day, in this country. I can no longer feel my knees. I could sit here sipping this boggy water forever.