Henry Silva, R.I.P.

I just read that actor Henry Silva died on September 14th.  He was 95 years old.

Henry Silva appeared in many movies, usually playing gangsters and assassins.  He started his film career in the 50s and was still active up until at least 2012.  He worked with everyone from Marlon Brando to Frank Sinatra to Charles Bronson and Robert Redford.  Speaking for myself, I will always remember him as the heroin-addicted Billy Score, one of the most frightening villains of all time, in Sharky’s Machine.

(If you haven’t seen Sharky’s Machine before, don’t worry.  Despite getting shot several times, Bernie Casey does survive and even makes a joke about how he’s going to have to get a new suit.)

Henry Silva, R.I.P.

8 Shots From 8 Films: Rest in Peace, Jean-Luc Godard

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

One of the last of the French New Wave directors has passed away.  RIP, to the uncompromising Jean-Luc Godard.

8 Shots From 8 Jean-Luc Godard Films

Breathless (1960, dir by Jean-Luc Godard, DP: Raoul Coutard)

Band of Outsiders (1964, dir by Jean-Luc Godard, DP: Raoul Coutard)

Alphaville (1965, dir by Jean-Luc Godard, DP: Raoul Coutard)

Made in USA (1966, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, DP: Raoul Coutard)

Week-end (1967, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, DP: Raoul Coutard)

Number Two (1975, dir by Jean-Luc Godard)

Detective (1985, dir by Jean-Luc Godard, DP: Louis Bihi)

Goodbye to Language (2014, dir by Jean-Luc Godard, DP: Fabrice Aragno)

Scenes That I Love: Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta Perform You’re The One That I Want From Grease

I just read that Olivia Newton-John passed away earlier today.  She was 73 years old.

Here she is, performing You’re The One That I Want with John Travolta at the climax of 1978’s Grease.  No matter what else you may think about this film (and, to be honest, it’s not one of my favorite musicals, just because of the way that director Randal Kleiser framed most of the dance numbers), you can’t deny that both Olivia and Travolta poured their hearts into this climax.

Scenes I Love: James Caan in The Godfather

James Caan has passed away, at the age of 82.  There are a lot of great James Caan performances to choose from and to highlight.  For me, though, he’ll always be Sonny Corleone, the temperamental son of the Don who remains oddly likable, even as he cheats on his wife and threatens to kill every other gangster in New York.  Sonny is a force of chaos, which ultimately leads to his untimely death.  But, at the same time, it also makes him someone who you definitely fighting for you instead of against you.

The scene below is mostly cited for Al Pacino’s quiet intensity as he reveals that he’s truly become a member of the family.  While Pacino’s great, Caan’s reaction is just as important.

In the scene below, Sonny discovers that Carol has been beating up Connie so Sonny beats up Carlo.  Carlo really deserved it.  Now this scene is often cited for featuring one shot where it’s clear that Caan didn’t actually hit Gianni Russo.  That’s fair.  But still, Caan actually did make contact enough times that Russo ended up with a broken rib.  Look past that one shot and you’ll see that, in this scene, Caan clearly shows why Sonny was such a feared figure.  Even more importantly, this scene shows how important his family was to Sonny.  Who doesn’t want someone who would beat someone up for them?

And finally, in this scene, Sonny tells off the FBI.  How can’t you love that?  Apparently, the smashing of the camera was something that Caan improvised on the spot.

That said, there was a lot more to Caan’s career than just The Godfather.  Watch all of his films.  He was one of the greats and perhaps the only celebrity who was actually worth following on twitter. RIP.

Scenes That I Love: Bo Hopkins and Richard Dreyfuss Flip A Cop Car in American Graffiti

I just read that the veteran actor Bo Hopkins has passed away at the age of 84.  The last movie of note that I saw Hopkins in was Hillbilly Elegy, where he had a small role as Glenn Close’s husband.  However, if you’re a fan of older films, you will probably recognize Bo Hopkins, even if you don’t know the name.  He was a handsome but weathered actor with a Texas accent and a reckless attitude.  He was a doomed member of a gang of old west bank robbers in The Wild Bunch.  In Midnight Express, he played a mysterious government agent who turned out to be not as benevolent as he originally seemed.

And, in the 1973 classic American Graffiti, he played the leader of the Pharaohs, the local gang of small town James Dean wannabes.  Even though Hopkins didn’t get a lot of screentime in American Graffiti, he definitely made an impression as the intimidating but ultimately friendly aspiring delinquent.  In the scene below, he and Richard Dreyfuss flip a cop car.

RIP, Bo Hopkins.

Ray Liotta, R.I.P.

I was stunned to just hear that Ray Liotta, that massively underrated actor who appeared in some truly great films and who always brought a dangerous but intriguing intensity to every role, died today.  He was 67 years old.

I’m going to share two scenes in honor of Ray, I’m sure that others will have more to say.  The first scene is from a favorite of Arleigh’s, Field of Dreams.  Ray doesn’t say much as Shoeless Joe Jackson but he’s already got that trademark intensity.  The second is the final scene from Goodfellas, which features Ray Liotta’s best work of the entire film.  The small moment when he briefly acknowledges the camera while getting his newspaper is brilliant.

RIP, Ray Liotta.

Great Moments In Television History #14: The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever

Today’s great moment comes from the pilot episode of WKRP In Cincinnati.  This first aired on September 18th, 1978 and Johnny Carvaello allowing the spirit of rock and roll to turn him into Dr. Johnny Fever would forever be one of the show’s most famous moments.

Rest in Peace, Howard Hesseman.

Previous Great Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres

4 Shots From 4 Films: In Memory of Peter Bogdanovich

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

I just read that director Peter Bogdonavich passed away earlier today.  He was 82 years old.

Bogdanovich’s directorial career serves as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale.  He achieved the dream of many a film journalist by making the jump from writing about films to actually making them.  He went from interviewing Orson Welles to being declared the next Orson Welles.  His first film, Targets, allowed him to give Boris Karloff one final, great role.  His second film, The Last Picture Show, was nominated for Best Picture.  With his next film, Paper Moon, he directed Tatum O’Neal to an Oscar.  At a time when the so-called “movie brats” were rejecting the old ways of making films, Bogdonavich paid homage to the classic films of the past.  At his height, he made films that were both entertaining and, if you got all the references, educational.

Unfortunately, Bogdanovich’s later films were not as successful with critics or audiences.  Bogdanovich himself would later say that he underestimated just how much some of his former colleagues resented both his early success and his very public relationship with actress Cybil Shepherd.  In short, the critics were waiting for him to slip up and they attacked films like Daisy Miller and At Long Last Love like sharks in a feeding frenzy.  By the end of the 70s, he often found himself struggling to raise the money to make the movies that he wanted to make.  So determined was he to see that his film They All Laughed was released that he distributed it himself, at great financial cost.

Regardless of his later career struggles, Bogdanovich remained a tireless advocate for watching and appreciating the films that were produced during the the Golden Age of Hollywood and he was a regular fixture on TCM, where he would discuss the films of Welles, John Ford, John Huston, Howard Hawks, and others.  He oversaw the release of Orson Welles’s long-delayed The Other Side of the Wind, a film in which he co-starred with John Huston.  Along with directing, Bogdanovich was a reliable character actor and those who don’t know him as a director might know him as Dr. Melfi’s therapist on The Sopranos.

Finally, a lot of the Bogdanovich films that were initially dismissed have subsequently been positively reappraised.  Bogdanovich was correct when he said that many of his later films were unfairly criticized or dismissed.  If nothing else, Bogdanovich’s love of the movies came through in everything that he did.  He will be missed for film historians everywhere.

Here are….

4 Shots From 4 Peter Bogdanovich Films

Targets (1968, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Laszlo Kovacs)

The Last Picture Show (1971, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Bruce Surtees)

Paper Moon (1973, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Laszlo Kovacs)

The Thing Called Love (1993, dir by Peter Bogdanovich, DP: Peter James)

Norm MacDonald, R.I.P.

I’m still in shock about the news that Norm MacDonald died today, at the age of 61. He died of cancer, which he had been battling for nine years.

Norm MacDonald was the funniest man alive, though he often didn’t seem to get the appreciation that he truly deserved. There are so many comedians who claim not to care what people think about them and their jokes but, when it came to Norm, it was no act. He would joke about anything and anyone, delivering his punchlines with deadpan but savage nonchalance.

Like a lot of people, I first knew Norm MacDonald as the anchorman of SNL‘s Weekend Update. He was the last great Weekend Update anchor, which unfortunately led to him losing his job when NBC president Don Ohlmeyer took offense to his frequent jokes about OJ Simpson.

Personally, I liked Norm MacDonald’s takes on the movies:

After he was fired from Weekend Update, Norm MacDonald appeared on David Letterman’s show and said that he had been told that he would still be allowed to be a performer on Saturday Night Live and that he would still be doing celebrity impersonations but “I suck at that.” However, anyone who ever saw Norm MacDonald plays Burt Reynolds knows that MacDonald was being too modest.

After Saturday Night Live, Norm MacDonald continued to be a popular and beloved talk show guest. His appearances on Conan O’Brien were legendary.

My personal favorite Norm MacDonald talk show appearance was when he showed up on The Larry Sanders Show, along with special guest Henry Winkler. Though everyone on the show was concerned about a missing Hank Kingsely sex tape, Norm kept the audience laughing.

Norm MacDonald, Rest in Peace.