Poll: Which Films Are You Most Looking Forward To Seeing In October?


It’s in the end of the month and you know what that means!

It’s time to combine two of my favorite things: a poll and a list of film titles.

Which four films are you most looking forward to seeing in October?  Let us know by voting below.  You can vote up to four times and, as always, write-ins are accepted!

Happy voting!

Dance Scenes I Love: “America” from West Side Story

There’s no way that I could ever write about the dance scenes that I love without including at least one scene from 1961’s best picture winner, West Side Story.

Sadly, people tend to underappreciate West Side Story.  They focus on the fact that the singing voices of Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer are overdubbed by Marni Nixon and Jimmy Bryant, respectively.  They laugh at the sight of “tough” street kids dancing around and singing that when you’re a jet, you’re the best.

Well, they’re wrong.

West Side Story is still one of the best musicals ever made and every time I see it, it’s a magical experience for me.

I think my favorite number from the film remains America.  Watching this scene, you can tell why both Rita Moreno and George Chakiris won Academy Awards for their performances.  They both bring a lot of fire and passion to their roles and nowhere is that more apparent then in America.

Trailer: Parkland


This year is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and I have to admit that I’m surprised that there aren’t a few hundred JFK-related films coming out this year.  Seriously, since January, it’s something that those of us in Dallas have had to hear about it on a daily basis.

Then again, it’s because I’m from Texas that I’m somewhat glad that there aren’t a lot of films coming out about that day back in 1963.  Quite frankly, I don’t need to sit through a hundred films featuring a bunch of character actors butchering my state’s native accent.

If you can’t do the accent, don’t accept the damn role.  End of story.

However, just because there aren’t a lot of them, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be films looking to exploit the anniversary.  For example, there’s Parkland.  Judging from the trailer below, Parkland appears to be an ensemble film about “ordinary” people dealing with the assassination of President Kennedy.

A lot of critics have been saying that Parkland might be a dark horse contender for best picture but it looks dreadfully earnest to me.  Add to that, this seems like just the subject matter to bring out the pompousness that always seems to be hiding underneath the surface of producer Tom Hanks.

That said, I know I’ll end up seeing it.

It’s about my hometown, after all.

Dance Scenes I Love: Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings

Today’s dance scene that I love comes from the 1957 musical Silk Stockings.

This is a special scene for me because it features one of my favorite dancers, the legendary Cyd Charisse.  Many years ago, before I discovered that I wanted to be a writer, I dreamed of growing up and being a beautiful and talented dancer like Cyd Charisse.

In Silk Stockings, Cyd Charisse plays a humorless Russian who, when she comes to Paris discovers that life doesn’t have to be drab and boring.  She discovers the joy of freedom and what better to express freedom than through dance?

Song of the Day: Dreaming Wide Awake (by Poets of the Fall)

Dreaming Wide Awake

The latest “Song of the Day” comes from the Finnish rock band Poets of the Fall.

“Dreaming Wide Awake” is such a cinematic-sounding song. From the vivid imagery brought up by the songs lyrics to the band’s frontman Marko Saaresto’s singing full of emotional power. I was first introduced to this song when I came across one of my favorite anime music videos almost three years ago now in Chiikaboom’s “Against All Odds”.

The song is about one’s inability to cope and move past the loss of a loved one. How one tragedy could compound another as one loses their grip on reality in an attempt to try and return their dead loved one to them. While this is an extreme version of such an experience I’m sure everyone has felt a similar feeling when one has gone through a very emotional break-up with someone they care about for a very long time.

For a song that sounds wistful and somewhat full of hope in reality this song is actually quite dark.

Dreaming Wide Awake

Too late, the melody is over
The joke seems to be on me cos I’m the one not laughing
Down here on the floor

Deflate, the mystery of living
In the most heartless fashion I could ever Imagine
No pretense of decor

Another place and time, without a great divide
And we could be flying deadly high
I’ll sell my soul to dream you wide awake

Another place and time, without a warning sign
And we could be dying angel style
I’ll sell my soul to dream you wide awake

I’ll dream you… wide awake

With me, disaster finds a playfield
Love seems to draw dark, twisted pleasure tearing at me
Cos I can’t let you go

Mercy, like water in a desert
Shine through my memory like jewelry in the sun
Where are you now

Another place and time, without a great divide
And we could be flying deadly high
I’ll sell my soul to dream you wide awake

Another place and time, without a warning sign
And we could be dying angel style
I’ll sell my soul to dream you wide awake

I’ll dream you… wide awake

It’s like I’m racing to the sun, blindly face the blazing gun
Cos I’m afraid I will be left here without you
Like I’m racing not to run, give more when I have none
Cos I’m afraid I will be left here without you… wide awake

Another place and time, without a great divide
And we could be flying deadly high
I’ll sell my soul to dream you wide awake

Another place and time, without a warning sign
And we could be dying angel style
I’ll sell my soul to dream you wide awake

I’ll dream you… wide awake.

International Trailer: Blue Is The Warmest Colour


It’s hard for me to think of any film that I’m as eager to see this year as Blue Is The Warmest Colour.  The film already won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year and it’ll be interesting to see if it duplicates the success that the previous Cannes winner, Amour, achieved in the U.S.

Guilty Pleasure No. 11: Terror In The Family (dir by Gregory Goodell)


For my latest guilty pleasure, I want to take a look at Terror In The Family, a well-intentioned, out-of-control youth film from 1996.

Certain moments of Terror in the Family felt painfully familiar because, much like the film’s main character, Deena Marten (played by — yes, it’s true — Hilary Swank), I went through a period, when I was teenage, where I was seriously out-of-control.  Much like Deena, I would sneak out of the house, I would hook up with guys who were obvious trouble, I had absolutely no impulse control, and I said and did a lot of hurtful and self-destructive things that I still would do anything to take back.  I was 16 while, in the movie, Deena is portrayed as being 15.  The main difference between me and Deena is that I was out-of-control because I was having an undiagnosed manic episode.  Deena, however, is out-of-control because she comes from one of the most dysfunctional family in the history of dysfunctional families.

And that’s why, despite the fact that I can relate to the painful subject matter, Terror In The Family amuses me more than it disturbs me.  Seriously, anything that can be wrong with a family is wrong with this family.

Consider this:

Father Todd Marten (Dan Lauria) spends all of his time down in the basement, making wooden bowls and then taking pictures of them.  Usually, he avoids his family but when he’s finally forced to confront Deena, she ends up smashing his fingers with her bedroom door.  “HOW CAN I WORK NOW!?” he bellows while holding up his bandaged hand.

Mother Cynthia Marten (Joanna Kerns) is an alcoholic who spends her spare time standing in front of a mirror and rehearsing being a disciplinarian.  When Deena flees the house, Cynthia attempts to win her back by bringing her a huge, home-made pizza.  “I made your favorite!” Cynthia drunkenly cries before accidentally dropping the pizza on the floor.

Grandmother Ivy (Nan Martin) is, without a doubt, one of the most evil and unpleasant characters that I have ever seen in a movie.  When Cynthia tries to tell her about the difficulties of raising Deena, Ivy responds by literally punching her in the face.

Deena’s younger brother, Adam (Adam Hendershott), is a talented pianist who deals with his family by playing video games and literally sleeping with a bottle of vodka in his bed.

Finally, there’s Aunt Judith (Kathleen Wilhoite).  Judith seems to be the only stable person in Deena’s family.  That’s mostly because Judith left home when she was young and was apparently some sort of groupie for several years.

With this family, is it any wonder that Deena is spending all of her time with Garrett (Andy Kavovit), her 17 year-old boyfriend who, along with introducing her to drugs and sex, also speaks wistfully of killing his mother and her boyfriend?  Garrett, not surprisingly, has a band and Deena soon finds herself staying out past curfew so she can perform with him at various seedy clubs.  The film blames a lot of Deena’s bad behavior on Garrett but you know what?  Back when I was 15, I would have been totally in love with Garrett too.

Seriously, Deena, you go girl!


Anyway, with all of this going on, can we really be shocked that Deena eventually ends up swinging a landline phone at her parents and demanding that they stay away?

Terror In The Family shows up on Lifetime occasionally and recently, for reasons that I don’t quite understand, it even turned up on Showtime, playing in between showings of Dexter and The Seduction of Misty Mundae.  It’s worth watching because it really is the perfect marriage of good intentions, over-the-top melodrama, and intense cluelessness.  For the most part, future Oscar winner Hilary Swank gives a good performance as Deena but the best parts of the films are the parts where she joins the rest of the cast in going totally and completely overboard.

The mix of melodrama and hindsight combine to make Terror In The Family into a true guilty pleasure.

Ten Years #28: Týr

Decade of last.fm scrobbling countdown:
28. Týr (1,101 plays)
Top track (75 plays): Hail to the Hammer, from various albums
Featured track: Regin Smiður, from Eric the Red (2003)

Viking metal, pagan metal, folk metal, call it what you will–it’s pretty impressive that Týr have managed to capture an extraordinary vision of the Norse past with absolutely no traditional instrumentation or synth choruses to speak of save the human voice. Since their second album, Eric the Red, Týr have revolved around Heri Joensen’s breathtaking vocals. Their unique brand of progressive rock instrumentation is heavy enough to blast out your stereo and yet entirely subservient to the driving vocal anthems. I would be very interested to gain a better understanding of where Joensen’s dedication to tradition gives way to his unique creativity as one of the most innovative musicians making music today–of the extent to which his vocals are derived from Faroese tradition. With an educational background in both vocals and Indo-European linguistics, he probably has a better idea than most of how traditional Germanic and Norse singing must have sounded, and I feel a sense of solidarity between the band and other students of folk vocalization such as Latvia’s Skyforger. At the same time, I gather that Norse musical tradition is a far more elusive beast than its eastern counterparts.

As a modern band, Týr seem to me the most central act of the whole “viking metal” scene. The term is a bit of a ruse, in so far as it lacks both the stylistic conformity of most genre labels and the acknowledged generality of catch-alls like “folk metal”. Whether a band might garner the label depends upon so many nuance factors that it is much easier to agree upon which acts ought to receive it than to discuss why. Attempts to properly define it are few and far between. The Wikipedia article on “viking metal”, for instance, is largely substantiated by a thesis on folk metal submitted by Aaron Patrick Mulvany in 2000. That is only 12 years removed from Bathory’s Blood Fire Death–now a quarter of a century behind us–and two years prior to one of the most significant bands of the “genre”‘s debut. With the utmost respect for anyone who acknowledges folk metal as a legitimate subject for scholarship (I’m looking forward to reading Mulvany’s thesis, available online, over the next few days), I would ascribe to him the gift of prophecy were it not hopelessly dated. But while I would say that Bathory was fundamentally black metal, Amon Amarth death metal at their core, Falkenbach hopelessly under-appreciated, and Thyrfing given to fantasy, the inherent catch-all-ism of progressive metal (not the Dream Theater worship standardized derivative) lends to Týr a sense of authentic originality. As a metal act they do their own thing, and that makes their tradition-influenced vocals and lyrics emerge with no strings attached.

Týr’s music is neither too confrontational nor too fanciful to be generally accessible. They are, in the very least, the first band I would recommend to an inexperienced listener who asked me what specifically Norse-derived folk metal sounded like. Their sound bleeds an authentic scholarly interest in Norse culture and plugs the myriad gaps with progressive rock that is both down to earth and impressively original. You’ll find no fallback to Tolkien here (album cover aside), and no hell-raising or Transylvanian hunger either; it’s something a bit more Apollonian, and exciting all the same. If I could pick any one artist to spend an evening in a pub with, Heri Joensen may very well top my list.

Trailer: The Dallas Buyer’s Club


A lot of people, like me, felt that Matthew McConaughey deserved an Oscar nomination earlier this year for his performance in Killer Joe.  It looks like he’ll get a second chance this year with his performances in both Mud and the upcoming Dallas Buyer’s Club, the trailer of which can be found below.