A Movie A Day #165: Big Wednesday (1978, directed by John Milius)


If there is a male bonding hall of fame, Big Wednesday has to be front and center.

This episodic movie follows three legendary surfers over twelve years of change and turmoil.  Jack Barlowe (William Katt) is the straight arrow who keeps the peace.  Leroy “The Masochist” Smith (Gary Busey) is the wild man.  Matt Johnson (Jan-Michael Vincent) is the best surfer of them all but he resents both his fame and the expectation that he should be some sort of role model for the younger kids on the beach.  From 1962 until 1974, the three of them learn about love and responsibility while dealing with cultural turmoil (including, of course, the Vietnam War) and waiting for that one legendary wave.

After writing the screenplays for Dirty Harry and Apocalypse Now and directing The Wind and The Lion and Dillinger, John Milius finally got to make his dream project.  Big Wednesday was based on Milius’s own youth as a California surfer and he has said that all three of the main characters were based on different aspects of his own personality.  Expectations for Big Wednesday were so high that Milius’s friends, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, exchanged percentages points for Star Wars and Close Encounters of  The Third Kind for a point of Big Wednesday.  The deal turned out to be worth millions to Milius but nothing to Lucas and Spielberg because Big Wednesday was a notorious box office flop.  Warner Bros. sold the film as a raunchy comedy, leaving audiences surprised to discover that Big Wednesday was actually, in Milius’s words, a “coming-of-age story with Arthurian overtones.”

I can understand why Big Wednesday may not be for everyone but it is one of my favorite movies.  It is one of the ultimate guy films.  Some of the dialogue and the narration may be overwrought but so are most guys, especially when they’re the same age as the surfers in Big Wednesday.  We all like to imagine that we are heroes in some sort of epic adventure.  The surfing footage is amazing but it is not necessary to be a surfer to relate to the film’s coming-of-age story or its celebration of the enduring bonds of friendship.  Katt, Vincent, and Busey all give great performances.  Considering their later careers, it is good that Big Wednesday is around to remind us of what Gary Busey and Jan-Michael Vincent were capable of at their best, before their promising careers were derailed by drugs and mental illness.  Be sure to also keep an eye out for infamous 70s character actor Joe Spinell as an army psychiatrist, a pre-Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund, playing a fellow surfer and providing the film’s narration, and Barbara Hale, playing the patient mother of her real-life son, William Katt.

One final note: At a time when the shameful stereotype of the psycho Vietnam vet was becoming popular and unfairly tarnishing the reputation of real-life vets, Big Wednesday was unique for featuring a character who not only joins the Army but who appears to return as a better person as a result.

Music Video of the Day: The Chemical Brothers — Hey Boy Hey Girl (1999, dir by Dom & Nic)


Hi, everyone!  Lisa here.

So, as you know if you’ve been following the site, Val is currently having a hospital procedure done so she’s going to be gone for a few days.  Since I love Val’s music video of the day posts, I’m going to share a few picks of my own until she returns!

Hey Boy Hey Girl is not only one of my favorite songs from The Chemical Brothers, it’s also one of my favorite videos.  Admittedly, I could do without the saliva at the start of the film but that’s just because I have a thing about visible saliva.  It doesn’t appeal to me.  But otherwise, I absolutely love this video!

(Whenever I watch this video, I end up staring at my reflection and visualizing what my skeleton looks like.  Usually, I’m impressed.)

This video was one of the many directed by Dom & Nic.  Other videos that they’ve done for The Chemical Brothers: Wide Open, Midnight Madness, Salmon Dance, Believe, The Test, and Setting Sun.

Not a day goes by that I don’t see those dancing skeleton recreated in GIF form.  I guess that’s because I hang out on a lot of horror-themed web sites.

Enjoy!

A Movie A Day #164: Split Decisions (1988, directed by David Drury)


Craig Sheffer seeks symbolic revenge and Gene Hackman picks up a paycheck in Split Decisions!

Ray McGuinn (Jeff Fahey) is a contender.  Ever since he let his father’s gym and signed with a sleazy boxing promoter, Ray has been waiting for his title shot.  His father, an ex-boxer turned trainer named Dan (Gene Hackman), has never forgiven Ray for leaving him.  Meanwhile, his younger brother — an amateur boxer and Olympic aspirant named Eddie (Craig Sheffer) — worships Ray and is overjoyed when Ray returns to the old neighborhood to fight “The Snake” Pedroza (Eddie Velez).  But then Ray is told that if he doesn’t throw the fight, he’ll never get a shot at a title bout.  When Ray refuses, The Snake and a group of thugs are sent to change his mind and Ray gets tossed out of a window.

Eddie is determined to avenge his brother’s death.  Does he do it by turning vigilante and tracking down the men who murdered his brother?  No, he turns pro and takes his brother’s place in the boxing ring!  Dan reluctantly trains him and Eddie enters the ring, looking for symbolic justice.  Symbolic justice just doesn’t have the same impact as Charles Bronson-style justice.

The idea of a barely known amateur turning professional and getting a chance to fight a contender feels just as implausible here as it did in Creed.  The difference is that Creed was a great movie so it did not matter if it was implausible.  To put it gently, Split Decisions is no Creed.  The boxing scenes are uninspired and even the training montage feels tired.  Look at Craig Sheffer run down the street while generic 80s music plays in the background.  Watch him spar in the ring.  Listen to Gene Hackman shout, “You’re dragging your ass out there!”  In the late 80s, Gene Hackman could have played a role like Dan in his sleep and he proves it by doing so here.  Underweight pretty boy Craig Sheffer is actually less convincing as a boxer than Damon Wayans was in The Great White Hype.

Split Decisions is another boxing movie that should have taken Duke’s advice.

Marlowe at the Movies Returns!: Bogie & Bacall in THE BIG SLEEP (Warner Brothers 1946)


cracked rear viewer

It’s been a long time since we last visited with Raymond Chandler’s fictional “knight-errant”, PI Philip Marlowe. Way too long, so let’s take a look at THE BIG SLEEP, starring Humphrey Bogart as the definitive screen Marlowe. This 1946 Howard Hawks film was a follow-up to 1944’s hit TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, which introduced audiences (and Bogie) to luscious Lauren Bacall . The pair was dynamite together onscreen, and off as well, marrying a year later. Their May/December romance was one of Hollywood’s greatest love stories, lasting until Bogart’s death from cancer in 1957.

For me to try and explain the plot here would be futile, as it takes more twists and turns than a “Balinese belly dancer”. Marlowe is hired by elderly General Sternwood, whose sexy young daughter Carmen is being blackmailed. The General’s other daughter Vivien, a sexy divorcee, is also in trouble. This takes Our Man Marlowe…

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A Movie A Day #163: Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979, directed by Ivan Nagy)


America’s most patriotic beach bum is back!

The infamous international terrorist, Miguel (Christopher Lee), is demanding millions of dollars from the U.S. government.  If he doesn’t get his cash, Miguel will unleash a formula that causes rapid aging.  Who else can stop him but Captain America (Reb Brown)?  While Cap searches for Miguel in a small town that appears to be full of bullies, comely single mothers, and children in desperate need of a father figure, Doctors Simon Mills (Len Birman) and Wendy Day (Connie Sellecca) search for a way to reverse the aging process.

This is the second of two pilots that were produced in 1979 in an attempt to start a weekly Captain America television series.  This Captain America had little in common with his comic book counterpart.  In the two pilots, Steve Rogers was a laid back beach bum who drove a Chevy Van and owned a really groovy, red, white, and blue motorcycle.  Having recently gotten out of the army, Steve would have been just as happy to spend his time sketching the beach as saving the world from HYDRA.  Whenever he put on the costume of Captain America, he carried a transparent shield that was supposed to be bullet proof but which looked like it was made out of flimsy plastic.  In Captain America II: Death Too Soon, Cap uses his shield to protect himself from a wild dog and the shield literally bends when the dog jumps against it.  Reb Brown played Cap in both pilots and, while he was more likable than Matt Salinger, he was no Chris Evans.

Still, the presence of both Christopher Lee and Connie Sellecca help to make the second pilot a marginal improvement on the first one.  The second pilot is almost good enough to make the case that, if not for that damn transparent shield, a weekly Captain America television series would not have been that bad.  It was not to be, of course.  It would be over 30 years before a movie finally got both Captain America and his shield right.