10 Oscar Snubs From the 1980s

Ah, the 80s! Ronald Reagan was president. America was strong. Russia was weak. The economy was booming. The music was wonderful. Many great movies were released, though most of them were not nominated for any Oscars. This is the decade that tends to drive most Oscar fanatics batty. So many good films that went unnominated. So many good performers that were overlooked.  Let’s dive on in!

1980: The Shining Is Totally Ignored

Admittedly, The Shining was not immediately embraced by critics when it was first released.  Stephen King is still whining about the movie and once he went as far as to joke about being happy that he outlived Stanley Kubrick.  (Not cool, Steve.)  Well, none of that matters.  The Shining should have been nominated across the board.  “Come and play with us, Danny …. AT THE OSCARS!”

1981: Harrison Ford Is Not Nominated For Best Actor For Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders received a lot of nominations.  Steven Spielberg was nominated for Best Director.  The film itself was nominated for Best Picture.  (It lost to Chariots of Fire.)  But the man who helped to hold the film together, Harrison Ford, was not nominated for his performance as Indiana Jones.  Despite totally changing the way that people looked at archeologists and also making glasses sexy, Harrison Ford was overlooked.  I think this was yet another case of the Academy taking a reliable actor for granted.

1982: Brian Dennehy Is Not Nominated For Best Supporting Actor For First Blood

First Blood didn’t receive any Oscar nominations, not even in the technical categories.  Personally, I think you could argue that the film, which was much more than just an action film, deserved to be considered for everything from Best Actor to Best Director to Best Picture.  But, in the end, if anyone was truly snubbed, it was Brian Dennehy.  Dennehy turned Will Teasle into a classic villain.  Wisely, neither the film nor Dennehy made the mistake of portraying Sheriff Teasle as being evil.  Instead, he was just a very stubborn man who couldn’t admit that he made a mistake in the way he treated John Rambo.  Dennehy gave an excellent performance that elevated the entire film.

1984: Once Upon A Time In America Is Totally Ignored

It’s not a huge shock that Once Upon A Time In America didn’t receive any Oscar nominations.  Warner Bros. took Sergio Leone’s gangster epic and recut it before giving it a wide release in America.  Among other things, scenes were rearranged so that they played out in chronological order, the studio took 90 minutes off of the run time, and the film’s surrealistic and challenging ending was altered.  Leone disowned the Warner Bros. edit of the film.  Unfortunately, in 1984, most people only saw the edited version of Once Upon A Time In America and Leone was so disillusioned by the experience that he would never direct another film.  (That said, even the edited version featured Ennio Morricone’s haunting score, which certainly deserved not just a nomination but also the Oscar.)  The original cut of Once Upon A Time In America is one of the greatest gangster films ever made, though one gets the feeling that it might have still been too violent, thematically dark, and narratively complex for the tastes of the Academy in 1984.  At a time when the Academy was going out of its way to honor good-for-you films like Gandhi, it’s probable that a film featuring Robert De Niro floating through time in an Opium-induced haze might have been a bridge too far.

1985: The Breakfast Club Is Totally Ignored

Not even a nomination for Best Screenplay!  It’s a shame.  I’m going to guess that the Academy assumed that The Breakfast Club was just another teen flick.  Personally, if nothing else, I would have given the film the Oscar for Best Original Song.  Seriously, don’t you forget about me.

1986: Alan Ruck Is Not Nominated For Best Supporting Actor For Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Poor Cameron!

1986: Blue Velvet Is Not Nominated For Best Picture

Considering the type of films that the Academy typically nominated in the 80s, it’s something of a shock that David Lynch even managed to get a Best Director nomination for a film as surreal and subversive as Blue Velvet.  Unfortunately, that was the only recognition that the Academy was willing to give to the film.  It can also be argued that Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, and Dean Stockwell were overlooked by the Academy.  Dennis Hopper did receive a Supporting Actor nomination in 1986, though it was for Hoosiers and not Blue Velvet.

1987: R. Lee Ermey Is Not Nominated For Best Supporting Actor For Full Metal Jacket

One of the biggest misconceptions about Full Metal Jacket is that R. Lee Ermey was just playing himself.  While Ermey was a former drill instructor and he did improvise the majority of his lines (which made him unique among actors who have appeared in Kubrick films), Ermey specifically set out to play Sgt. Hartmann as being a bad drill instructor, one who pushed his recruits too hard, forgot the importance of building them back up, and was so busy being a bully that he failed to notice that Pvt. Pyle had gone off the deep end.  Because Ermey was, by most accounts, a good drill instructor, he knew how to portray a bad one and the end result was an award-worthy performance.

1988: Die Hard Is Not Nominated For Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, or Director

Die Hard did receive some technical nominations but, when you consider how influential the film would go on to be, it’s hard not to feel that it deserved more.  Almost every action movie villain owes a debt to Alan Rickman’s performance as Hans Gruber.  And Bruce Willis …. well, all I can say is that people really took Bruce for granted.

1989: Do The Right Thing Is Not Nominated For Best Picture

Indeed, it would take another 30 years for a film directed by Spike Lee to finally be nominated for Best Picture.

Agree?  Disagree?  Do you have an Oscar snub that you think is even worse than the 10 listed here?  Let us know in the comments!

Up next: It’s the 90s!

TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Queen of Blood (dir by Curtis Harrington)

Queen of Blood (1966, dir by Curtis Harrington, DP: Vilis Lapenieks)

Here’s a question: what happens when Roger Corman buys the rights to two Russian science fiction films, decides to jettison basically everything but the special effects footage, and then hires experimental filmmaker Curtis Harrington to shoot an entirely new film around that footage?

You end up with the 1966 film, Queen of Blood!

Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. Queen of Blood is actually pretty good and director Harrington manages to smoothly integrate the Russian footage with the new footage. Basically, it works out so that you’ll see a Russian shot of the spaceship taking off or landing and then you’ll see a shot of John Saxon, Dennis Hopper, or Basil Rathbone sitting on a set and pretending like they’re in space.

The film opens with Dr. Faraday (Basil Rathbone) discovering that aliens have been transmitting a message to Earth. They’re sending an ambassador to meet with the Earthlings but the aliens’ spaceship ends up crash landing on Mars! Faraday arranges for an Earth spaceship, the Oceano, to go to Mars and rescue the ambassador.

Aboard the Oceano is a cast made up of a few familiar faces. John Saxon plays Allan, who is the de facto leader of the expedition and also engaged to marry Dr. Faraday’s assistant, Laura (Judi Meredith). A young-looking Dennis Hopper is Paul Grant, an astronaut. Don’t get too excited about Hopper being in the cast. Queen of Blood was made when Hopper was still trying to pursue mainstream film stardom so he gives a rather bland performance here. There’s a few scenes where you can tells that Hopper is on the verge of smirking at some of his dialogue but, for the most part, he plays the role extremely straight. Rounding out the crew is Anders (Robert Boon) and Tony (Don Eitner), neither one of whom would go on to star in Easy Rider, Blue Velvet, or Nightmare on Elm Street.

It’s a difficult journey. The Oceano keeps running into Russian-filmed turbulence on the way to Mars. When they do land, they discover that the ambassador (Florence Marly) is waiting for them to rescue her. She doesn’t talk much nor does she have any interest in eating Earth food. She does seem to like every member of the crew except for Laura. Of course, the ambassador’s defining trait is that she likes to drink blood….

All things considered, Queen of Blood works pretty well. While none of the performances are particularly memorable (though Basil Rathbone does bring some old school class to what is essentially a cameo role), Curtis Harrington does a great job creating and maintaining a properly ominous atmosphere. It takes a while for the crew to finally find the Queen of Blood but, when they do, Harrington gets every bit of creepiness that he can out of the character. The film even ends on an appropriately dark note, suggesting that the human race may be just too stupid to survive.

Queen of Blood is an entertaining B-movie. Watch it the next time you’re in the mood for some intergalactic blood-sucking fun!

Horror Film Review: Night Tide (dir by Curtis Harrington)

Long before he became Hollywood’s favorite quirky character actor, Dennis Hopper was a young performer who was known for his devotion to the method and for being more than a little difficult. In fact, directors like Henry Hathaway had gotten so frustrated with Hopper and his refusal to “compromise his art,” that, by the time the 1960s rolled around, Hopper had gone from being a promising young star to being virtually blacklisted.  He had gone from scene-stealing turns in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant to struggling to get anyone at the major studios to even admit to knowing who he was.

Unable to get a job on a mainstream film, Hopper teamed up with another unconventional talent, director Curtis Harrington. A film critic-turned-experimental filmmaker, Harrington was talented but, like Hopper, he had a reputation for being an eccentric.  An openly gay artist who was living and working a time when that was still a crime in some states, Harrington gravitated to other outsiders so it was perhaps inevitable that he and Dennis Hopper would become early collaborators and make a film together.

That film was 1961’s Night Tide. Harrington directed while Hopper played Johnny, a naïve young sailor who, while in on leave in Santa Monica, meets a mysterious woman named Mora (Linda Lawson). Mora works as a mermaid at a sideshow. Her boss is the overly possessive and somewhat brutish Captain Samuel Murdock (Gavin Muir). Captain Murdock makes it clear that he doesn’t want Johnny to have anything to do with Mora. Is it because he’s worried about losing Mora or is there another, more supernatural reason?

Johnny hears rumors that the men who fall in love with Mora tend to disappear. Mora, herself, explains that she’s a Siren. Her destiny is to lead sailors to their doom. Johnny tells her that’s ridiculous but what if she’s right?

It’s a strange film, one that moves at its own slow and rather deliberate pace. As Mora, Linda Lawson delivers her lines hesitantly, as one might expect from someone who is having to pretend to be a human being. Meanwhile, Dennis Hopper gives a compelling but nervous performance as Johnny. As written, Johnny is a pretty bland character but Hopper plays up Johnny’s sense of isolation. He’s far from home, he doesn’t know many people in town, and the woman he loves just explained that she’s a sea monster. One can understand why Johnny is a bit jumpy. There’s a few scenes where Hopper’s devotion to the method works against him. He’s convincing when he’s at the center of the scene but a bit too fidgety in the scenes where he just has to listen to other people speak. But, ultimately, Hopper’s performance works. He plays Johnny with a mix of fresh-faced innocence and hints of instability.

As I said, it’s not a conventional film. It moves at its own dream-like pace. The film was shot in black-and-white and that’s the version to see. Avoid the colorized version, in which the colors are so garish that they ruin the film’s surreal atmosphere. Night Tide is an experiment that won’t be for everyone but, when taken on its terms, it’s definitely intriguing.

Horror Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (dir by Tobe Hooper)

Welcome to Texas-OU Weekend!

First released in 1986, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 opens with two idiots driving down an isolated highway in Texas.  They’re heading down to Dallas for the Red River Showdown, the annual football game between Oklahoma U. and the University of Texas at Austin.  They’re drunk, of course.  And, being rich kids in the mid-80s, they’ve got a car phone.  They place a call to a local radio DJ named Stretch (Caroline Williams, giving a great performance) and they force her to listen as they harass the driver of a passing truck.  Of course, when a chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Bill Johnson) emerges from the truck and kills both of them, Stretch hears that as well.

Yes, Leatherface and the entire family are back.  When last seen at the end of 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw MassacreLeatherface was dancing with his chainsaw while the morning sun shined down on the Texas countryside.  Now, he and the family have moved to North Texas and the eldest brother, Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow), has become a bit of a local celebrity due to his chili.  (Everyone loves Drayton’s chili but that’s mostly because they don’t know who the main ingredient is.)  Though one of the brothers was killed at the end of the original film, he’s been replaced by the manic Chop-Top (Bill Moseley), who has a metal plate in his head.  Of course, Grandpa (Ken Evert) is still alive.  He’s well over a hundred years old but he still enjoys trying to wield a hammer.

The family is being pursued by Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper), a crazed Texas ranger who is also the uncle of Sally and Franklin Hardesty, who were both victimized in the first film.  (Sally, we’re told, is in a mental institution.  As for Franklin, a skeleton in a wheelchair does make an appearance at one point.)  Lefty approaches Stretch to get a copy of the tape of the two drunk idiots being killed by Leatherface.  Unfortunately, the family also discovers that Stretch has the tape and they soon come after her as well….

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is not as universally beloved as the first film but I like it.  It helps, of course, to know something about Texas-OU weekend.  Imagine Mardi Gras without the nudity or the beads but with a lot more beer and a lot more frat boys and you have a pretty good idea of what Texas-OU weekend is like in Dallas.  The entire city goes crazy as it’s invaded by football fans from Oklahoma and Austin.  Why are they playing football in Dallas as opposed to their own cities?  Dallas is considered to be neutral ground and the fact that they need neutral ground to play a football game should tell you just how invested people get in that one game.  Texas-OU weekend is all about excess and the same could be said about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2.

With the original film, Tobe Hooper fooled audiences into thinking that they were seeing more gore than they actually were.  The first Texas Chainsaw Massacre is nearly bloodless.  Hooper takes the opposite approach to the sequel, filling the screen with blood and viscera.  For that reason, Part 2 is still controversial among fans of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre films but I think Hooper made the right decision.  Attempting to duplicate the original’s atmosphere would have been impossible.  Instead of just remaking the original film, Hooper did something different.  As well, as opposed to the more subtle social satire of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the humor in Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is far broader and a bit more hit-and-miss.  But again, it all links back to Texas-OU weekend.  There may not be much that’s subtle about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 but the same can be said of the Red River showdown and Texas-OU Weekend.  For that matter, the same can be said for much of Texas in general and Dallas in specific.  Like me, Tobe Hopper was a Texan.  True Texans know what makes our state great but we also know what makes our state totally batshit insane.  Tobe Hooper got Texas in a way that all the filmmakers from up North never will.

That’s not to say that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is a perfect film, of course.  The film’s second half, which takes place almost entirely in the underground caverns in which the Sawyers have made their home, is considerably less compelling than the first.  The scene where the Sawyers attempt to get Grandpa to bludgeon Stretch with a hammer goes on forever and it’s far less effective than when they tried to get Grandpa to do the same thing to Sally in the first film.  As well, it’s hard not to be disappointed with Drayton’s transformation from being ambiguously friendly in the first film to being a flat-out villain in the second.  The first film showed that Jim Siedow was a far better actor than one might guess from the sequel.

But here’s what does work.  Bill Moseley’s performance as Chop Top is completely manic and over-the-top and, at times, a little bit annoying.  But he’s also so completely unhinged and Moseley is so uninhibited in the role that it’s impossible to look away whenever he’s onscreen.  Dennis Hopper, who was just starting to make his Hollywood comeback when he appeared in this film, plays Lefty as being so obsessive that sometimes, he seems like he might be just as dangerous as the people that he’s pursuing.  Hopper makes the character sympathetic, though.  There’s a gleam of madness in his eyes but the viewer never doubts his love for his family.  It takes a special actor to pull off the scene where Lefty discovers Franklin’s remains and Hopper was exactly that actor.  And finally, there’s Caroline Williams, giving a strong and inspiring performance as Stretch and never allowing the character to become a helpless victim.  Stretch may scream (because who wouldn’t in that situation) but she never stop fighting.  The scene where she “charms” Leatherface is the epitome of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2.  It’s over the top, excessive, borderline offensive, sickly funny, and yet somehow very effective.  If nothing else, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is one of the few of the 80 slasher films to acknowledge what’s really going on with those boys and their chainsaws, machetes, and knives.

Though it may not be as good as the original, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 holds up well on its own.  It’s an effective mix of satire and horror, featuring a strong heroine and a great performance from Caroline Williams.  Hell, I think I’m going to be Stretch for Halloween this year!

Live Tweet Alert: Watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 with #ScarySocial

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, for #ScarySocial, I will be hosting 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2!

That’s right!  It’s Tobe Hooper’s classic sequel to his classic horror film!  It’s Dennis Hopper vs. Leatherface!  It’s Caroline Williams vs Chop Top!  It’ll make you laugh.  It’ll make you scream.  And the ending …. well, the ending always make me cry.

If you want to join us on Saturday night, just hop onto twitter, start the film at 9 pm et, and use the #ScarySocial hashtag!  The film is available on Prime and a few other streaming sites.  I’ll be there co-hosting and I imagine some other members of the TSL Crew will be there as well.  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.

Film Review: Speed (dir by Jan De Bont)

“Awwwww, Keanu and Sandra are so cute together!”

That was my main thought when I recently rewatched the 1994 film, Speed.  There’s a lot of reasons why Speed remains popular 28 years after it was initially released but I think a huge (if underrated) factor is that it’s just a good love story.  At this point, everyone knows that the film is about a bus that has been wired to explode if it goes under 50 miles per hour.  Most people know that Dennis Hopper plays Howard, the mad bomber, Keanu Reeves plays Jack, the cop who jumps on the bus and tries to figure out how to defuse the bomb, and Sandra Bullock plays Annie, the passenger who takes over driving the bus after the driver is incapacitated.  (If you’re fan of the work of John Hughes, you might also know that Speed was the film where Ferris Bueller‘s Alan Ruck broke free of his Cameron typecasting and established himself as a dependable character actor.)  Most people remember what the cops do in an attempt to trick Dennis Hopper and, for that matter, they also remember the one mistake that led to Hopper figuring out their ruse.

And yet, even though most viewers will know exactly what is going to happen, the film remains a fun watch because of the chemistry between Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.  This was one of Sandra’s first major roles.  This was also one of Keanu’s earliest attempts to helm a big budget, major studio action picture.  (Director Jan de Bont insisted on casting him after seeing him in the film Point Break.  The studio preferred Tom Cruise.)  In Speed, both Keanu and Sandra are young, likable, attractive, enthusiastic, and they have smiles that light up the screen.  As soon as Sandra takes over driving and Keanu tells her that she cannot allow the bus to slow down under any circumstances, the two of them just seem to belong together.  The film’s enduring popularity is about more than just watching a bus try not to go under a certain speed.  The popularity of Speed is also about watching the characters played by Keanu and Sandra fall in love.

Who would have guessed it?  Well, certainly not whoever put together the film’s original theatrical trailer.  Check this out:

As you can see, the original trailer doesn’t feature much of Sandra Bullock.  For that matter, it’s not quite as Keanu-centric as you might expect it to be.  Instead, the trailer is dominated by things exploding and Dennis Hopper’s over-the-top performance as the bomber.  And make no doubt about it, Dennis Hopper is definitely an entertaining part of the film.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in his performance and that makes him the perfect for the role of a man whose response to a cheap retirement present is to go on a bombing spree.  That said, the film belongs to Keanu and Sandra.

That said, it would be a mistake to ignore the other people on the bus.  One of the things that I like about Speed is that the other passengers on the bus come together to survive their ordeal.  They may start out as weary commuters but, by the end of the film, they’ve become a family.  They may get annoyed with each other but, when it comes time to climb from one bus to another, they hold on to each other and they hug one another on the other side.  The bomber, like all terrorists, thought that he could turn people against each other through his threats and his violence.  Instead, the people came together provided one another with comfort and protection.  There’s an important lesson there, one that’s even more important in 2022 than it probably was in 1994.

(On a personal note, I’m not usually a public transportation person.  However, in high school, I would occasionally catch the DART bus — that’s Dallas Area Rapid Transportation — if it was raining.  The buses were often not in particularly good shape.  One that I boarded actually had a hole in the floor and, since it was raining, the passengers would have to hold up their feet whenever the bus splashed through a puddle.  Personally, I was kind of amused by the weirdness of it all but I think I was the only one.  Would the passengers of that bus bonded together to defeat a mad bomber?  One can only hope.)

Speed may be a film about a bomb on a bus but, ultimately, it’s also a film about humanity at its best.  And that’s why, after all this time, it remains a classic.

Book Review: Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel by Peter L. Winkler

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that Dennis Hopper is no longer with us.

Seriously, he’s one of those iconic screen figures who remains as much of a pop cultural presence in death as he was in life.  For an actor who spent a good deal of his career under an unofficial blacklist, Hopper appeared in a number of classic films.  Rebel Without A Cause, Giant, Night Tide, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet, Speed, True Romance, The Trip, The Other Side of the Wind, Queen of Blood, Land of the Dead, Hoosiers, Out of The Blue …. one of the things that they all share in common is the eccentric presence of Dennis Hopper.  Even Hopper’s bad films, like Waterworld, are more popular than the bad films of other actors.  And while Hopper will probably always be best-known as an actor, he’s received some posthumous recognition for his work as a director.  It’s been 12 years since Dennis Hopper passed but he’s still very much a part of the American cultural landscape.

How did this happen?  How did Dennis Hopper go from being a kid from Kansas to being a disciple of James Dean?  How did Hopper go from appearing in big budget films like Giant to working as a member of Roger Corman’s stock company?  How did Hopper come to revolutionize American film with Easy Rider, just to lose the next few years of his life to his legendary addictions?  Remarkably, Dennis Hopper not only inspired the “New Hollywood” with Easy Rider but he nearly destroyed it with The Last Movie.  In the 70s and the first half of the 80s, he was still capable of giving a good performance but the key was to find him when he wasn’t dealing with a fit of drug-induced paranoia.  And yet, even with his addictions and demons, he still directed one of the most important films of the 80s, Out of the Blue.

Remarkably, Hopper did eventually conquer his addictions.  Starting with David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Hopper remade himself as one of Hollywood’s busiest character actors and, to many, he became an almost lovable relic of the 60s.  The former self-described communist became a Republican.  And, even if he never could quite restart his directing career, Hopper stayed busy for the rest of his life.  It was a remarkable transformation.  The rebel who once ran a cult-like commune in New Mexico became a beloved member of the establishment that he once swore he would destroy.

Peter L. Winkler’s 2011 biography, Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel, takes a look at how this happened.  The Dennis Hopper that emerges from this detailed biography is a natural born rebel who was also canny enough to keep one foot in the system that he was trying to destroy.  As such, Hopper could shares James Dean’s dismissive attitude towards Hollywood while also remaining a favorite of John Wayne’s.  Hopper could make the ultimate hippie film without actually becoming a hippie himself.  Hopper had the talent necessary to keep getting roles even when he had a reputation for not being quite sane.  Indeed, the book argues that Hopper’s best performances were given when he had something to prove and that Hopper’s work and his films became significantly less interesting once he was fully welcome back into the establishment.

And while I do think that Winkler is a bit too dismissive of some of Hopper’s later work, he does have a point.  Dennis Hopper thrived on being a rebel, which is one reason why he came to define the late 60s and the early 70s.  One reason why Hopper’s performance as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet remains so powerful is because he’s rage is so palpable.  Booth is trying to destroy the world, just as surely as Hopper once tried to destroy Hollywood.  But, eventually, Hopper’s style of rebellion fell out of fashion and then resurfaced as the subject of nostalgia.  The rebels always eventually become the establishment.

Winkler’s biography not only takes a look at some of Hopper’s best films but it also puts him and his work in a proper historical and cultural context.  The book is as much about what Hopper represented to a generation as how Hopper lived his life.  And while Hopper himself is not always a sympathetic figure (like many actors, he could be more than a little self-absorbed), he does come across as being a fascinating talent.  Hopper often referred to himself as being the epitome of the “American Dreamer” and this biography leaves no doubt that he was correct.

Scenes That I Love: Mardi Gras in Easy Rider

Happy March 1st!

Today is not only the 1st of March.  It’s not only Texas Independence Day.  It’s not only Zack Snyder’s birthday.  It’s not only the day of Texas primaries.  It’s not only the day when the State of the Union address is scheduled to be given (yawn!).  It’s also Mardi Gras!

What a busy day!

For today’s scene that I love, here is the Mardi Gras/Cemetery sequence from 1969’s Easy Rider.  Featuring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Karen Black, and Toni Basil walking through the streets of New Orleans, this scene was actually filmed during Mardi Gras.  Those are real Mardi Gras floats and real Mardi Gras participants staring at the camera.  That’s an actual citizen of New Orleans with whom Dennis Hopper appears to have nearly gotten into a fight.  And, in the cemetery scene, that was real acid that Peter Fonda took.

Here is today’s scene.  The scene is age-restricted so you’ll actually have to click on “watch on YouTube” to see it.

If you don’t want to click on “watch on YouTube,” here is a shorter version that just features the parade without the admittedly disturbing cemetery stuff.

I like how Toni Basil can’t help but dance, no matter what.

7 Shots From 7 Films: Special Dennis Hopper Edition

Dennis Hopper (1936–2010)

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

85 years ago, Dennis Hopper was born in Dodge City, Kansas.

It seems rather appropriate that one of America’s greatest cinematic outlaws was born in a town that will be forever associated with the old west. Dennis Hopper was a rebel, back when there were actual consequences for being one. He started out acting in the 50s, appearing in films like Rebel Without A Cause and Giant and developing a reputation for being a disciple of James Dean. He also developed a reputation for eccentricity and for being difficult on set and he probably would have gotten completely kicked out of Hollywood if not for a somewhat improbable friendship with John Wayne. (Wayne thought Hopper was a communist but he liked him anyways. Interestingly enough, Hopper later became a Republican.) Somehow, Hopper managed to survive both a raging drug addiction and an obsession with guns and, after a mid-80s trip to rehab, he eventually became an almost universally beloved and busy character actor.

Hopper, however, always wanted to direct. He made his directorial debut with 1969’s Easy Rider, a film that became a huge success despite being an infamously chaotic shoot. The success of Easy Rider led to the Hollywood studios briefly trying to produce counter-culture films of their own. Hopper was given several million dollars and sent to Peru to make one of them, the somewhat dangerously titled The Last Movie. Unfortunately, The Last Movie, was such a bomb that it not only temporarily derailed Hopper’s career but it also turned Hollywood off of financing counter culture films. Hopper spent a decade in the Hollywood wilderness, giving acclaimed performances in independent films like Tracks and The American Friend, even while continuing to increase his reputation for drug-fueled instability. Hopper would eventually return to directing with his masterpiece, 1980’s Out of the Blue. (Out of the Blue was so controversial that, when it played at Cannes, Canada refused to acknowledge that it was a Canadian production. It played as a film without a country. Out of the Blue, however, is a film that has stood the test of time.) Unfortunately, even after a newly cleaned-up Hopper was re-embraced by the mainstream, his directorial career never really took off. He directed 7 films, of which only Easy Rider and Colors were financially successful. Contemporary critics often didn’t seem to know what to make of Dennis Hopper as a director. In recent years, however, Hopper’s directorial efforts have been reevaluated. Even The Last Movie has won over some new fans.

Today, on his birthday, we honor Dennis Hopper’s directorial career with….

7 Shots From 7 Dennis Hopper Films

Easy Rider (1969, dir by Dennis Hopper, DP: Laszlo Kovacs)
The Last Movie (1971,dir by Dennis Hopper, DP: Laszlo Kovacs)
Out of the Blue (1980, dir by Dennis Hopper, DP: Marc Champion)
Colors (1988, dir by Dennis Hopper, DP: Haskell Wexler)
The Hot Spot (1990, dir by Dennis Hopper, DP: Ueli Steiger)
Backtrack (1990, dir by Dennis Hopper, DP: Edward Lachman)
Chasers (1994, dir by Dennis Hopper, DP: Ueli Steiger)

Horror On The Lens: Night Tide (dir by Curtis Harrington)

Night Tide

First released in 1961 and directed by Curtis Harrington, Night Tide stars a young Dennis Hopper as Johnny, an awkward sailor.  Johnny meets Mora (Linda Lawson), who works as a “mermaid” on the pier.  For Johnny, it’s love at first sight.  However, the more that Johnny pursues her, the more he learns about both her mysterious past and the dark fate of her previous boyfriends.

Night Tide is low-key and atmospheric gem of a movie, one that serve as an inspiration for low-budget filmmakers every where.  Lawson is perfectly cast as the enigmatic Mora but the film really belongs to Dennis Hopper.  Hopper’s naturally off-key presence made him perfect for the role of Johnny.

Night Tide is one of those low-budget movies that, because it’s in the public domain,  has been released on DVD (often in inferior form) by dozens of different companies.  Often times, films like this turn out to be fairly forgettable.  Night Tide, however, is an exception.