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The Guest

Wingard and Barrett have a perfect eye and ear for this type of material. They have fun with their influences, paying homage to John Carpenter…

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20,000 Days on Earth

In his music, he routinely celebrates/deconstructs his public persona: brutalizer, coward, agnostic, and wannabe deity. "20,000 Days on Earth" is accordingly not a biography, but…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.

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Cast and Crew

* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

"You're going to need a bigger boat"

I'm under the impression that people settle on an all-time favorite movie at a relatively early age. With time they become increasingly difficult to displace, no matter what cinematic greatness may follow. This is what best describes my experience with "Jaws" (1975). Eventually I may have acquired a greater admiration for "The Godfather" films but by then it was too late. My first viewing of "Jaws" felt perfect. I later learned it wasn't.

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The last days of Tiny Tim

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I first saw Tiny Tim very early in his career, in Greenwich Village in the winter of 1962-63. There was a convention of college newspaper editors, and a few of us -- I remember Jeff Greenfield coming along -- went to the Black Pusssycat and found ourselves being entertained by a man the likes of whom we'd not seen before. He was already locally popular.

In another year, Tiny Tim was famous. I believe no one remembers how famous. The Beatles asked him to sing "Nowhere Man" on a bootleg Christmas recording. He did a night at Royal Albert Hall. He was married to Miss Vicki on the Tonight Show, still one of the top-rated TV shows of all time.

I lived at the Sunset Marquis on Alta Loma, half a block down from Sunset, while I was writing "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." Tiny Tim was a fellow resident, along with Van Heflin, Roy Scheider, Elaine May, Jackie Gayle and Harold Ramis. Tiny Tim kept very much to himself. The one or two times I saw him, he was polite and formal. The friendly all-night desk clerk confided, "I don't think he's much like you see on TV. He seems more serious."

He was very famous for a long time, and then faded from view. He continued to perform all the time. Money was not the object. Dare we speculate he simply loved the songs and the singing of them?

After the videos (there are dozens online), I've included much of the biographical essay by Wikipedia.

From Wikipedia:

Herbert Khaury (April 12, 1932 November 30, 1996), better known by the stage name Tiny Tim, was an American singer, ukulele player, and musical archivist. He was most famous for his rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" sung in a distinctive high falsetto/vibrato voice (though his normal singing voice was in a standard male range). He was generally regarded as a novelty act, though his records indicate his wide knowledge of American songs. He had no official middle name, though some web sites report it to be "Butros", his father's first name, while during his televised wedding his middle name was given as "Buckingham". His headstone reads "Khaury/Herbert B/Tiny Tim/1932-1996".

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Tiny Tim developed something of a cult following. In the 1960s he was seen regularly near the Harvard University campus as a street performer, singing old Tin Pan Alley tunes. His choice of repertoire and his encyclopedic knowledge of vintage popular music impressed many of the spectators. One admirer, Norman Kay, recalled that Tiny Tim's outrageous public persona was a false front belying a quiet, studious personality: "Herb Khaury was the greatest put-on artist in the world. Here he was with the long hair and the cheap suit and the high voice, but when you spoke to him he talked like a college professor. He knew everything about the old songs.

Between 1962 and 1966 Tiny Tim recorded a number of songs at small (almost microscopic) recording companies, with several of them being made as "acetates" and one actually released as a 45 record. These songs illustrate that even very early on he had a decided drive for success and was getting noticed in a positive way, despite his looks and unusual manner. However he also recorded one entire batch of songs that would come back to disastrously haunt him at the peak of his greatest fame.

Tiny Tim appeared in Jack Smith's Normal Love, as well as the independent feature film You Are What You Eat (his appearance in this film featured him singing the old Ronettes hit, "Be My Baby" in his falsetto range; also featured was a rendition of Sonny and Cher's I Got You Babe, with Tim singing the Cher parts in his falsetto voice, along with Eleanor Barooshian reprising Sonny Bono's baritone part. These tracks were recorded with Robbie Robertson and the other members of what was going to become known as The Band. The latter performance led to a booking on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, an American television comedy-variety show. Dan Rowan announced that Laugh-In believed in showcasing new talent, and introduced Tiny Tim. The singer entered, blowing kisses, and sang "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" to Dick Martin.

This stunt was followed by several more appearances on Laugh-In and a recording contract with Reprise Records. He made a name for himself as a novelty performer, guesting with Johnny Carson, Ed Sullivan, and Jackie Gleason. At the height of his career, he was commanding a weekly salary of $50,000 in Las Vegas, Nevada. "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" became Tiny Tim's signature song. He sang it in homage to its originator, singer-guitarist Nick Lucas. He invited Lucas to sing at his wedding in 1969.

In 1968, his first album, God Bless Tiny Tim, was released. It contained an orchestrated version of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", which became a hit after being released as a single. The other songs displayed his wide-ranging knowledge of the American songbook, and also allowed him to demonstrate his baritone voice, which was less often heard than his falsetto. He did his second recorded version of "I Got You Babe", this time singing a "duet" with himself, taking Cher's part in falsetto, and Sonny's part in the baritone range. "On the Old Front Porch" extends this to a trio, including a boy (Billy Murray), the girl he is courting (Ada Jones), and her father (probably Murray again). Another notable song was a cover of "Stay Down Here Where You Belong", written by Irving Berlin in 1914 to protest the Great War. It is written from the standpoint of Satan talking to his son, and is a powerful condemnation of those who foment war: "To please their kings, they've all gone out to war, and not a one of them knows what they're fighting for... Kings up there are bigger devils than your dad." (The comedian Groucho Marx also used this song as part of his own act, at least in part to irk Berlin, who in later years tried in vain to disown the song.

Reprise followed up "Tulips" with another single, "Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days", in which he sang this "mammy song" in baritone in the style of Harry Richman, and lapsed into his higher register only for a few moments near the end of the song. The record did receive some radio exposure in America but was not nearly as successful as the novelty song "Tulips". "Rockabye Baby Days" fared better in the UK, where music hall songs were still remembered fondly.

Before another legitimate Reprise Tiny Tim album could be released a small record label got hold of some of his very early recordings and overdubbed them with canned applause, creating a fictional "live concert" recording to cash in on Tiny Tim's popularity with an album, Concert in Fairyland.[citation needed] This release damaged Tiny Tim's recording career and sales of his next two albums. Regardless, Tiny Tim recorded and released two more albums for Reprise, Tiny Tim's Second Album 1968, and For All My Little Friends, 1969, a collection of children's songs. the latter was nominated for a Grammy Award. In addition, he recorded six more songs, which Reprise released as his final three singles.

On December 17, 1969, Tiny Tim married Victoria Mae Budinger (aka "Miss Vicki") on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, a publicity stunt that attracted some 40 million viewers. Tiny wrote his own marriage vows, including the promise to be "not puffed up." He and Miss Vicki made even more news a month later with the announcement that they were expecting a baby, with comedians at the time suggesting the name VicTim. The baby was miscarried, but a subsequent child was born healthy and survived. In contrast to the romance-oriented publicity of their wedding, Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki mostly lived apart, and divorced eight years later. Their daughter, Tulip Victoria, is now married and living in Pennsylvania with four children.

In August 1970, Tiny Tim performed at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 in front of a crowd of 600,000 people. His performance, which included English folk songs and rock and roll classics, was a huge hit with the multinational throng of hippies. At the climax of his set, he sang "There'll Always Be an England" through a megaphone which brought the huge crowd to its feet. This can be seen in the 1995 movie of the event, Message to Love.

After the career highlight in the UK, however, Tiny Tim's television appearances dwindled, and his popularity began to wane. He continued to play around the United States, making several lucrative appearances in Las Vegas. When he lost his Reprise recording contract he founded his own record label, and humorously named it Vic Tim Records, as a pun on the combination of his wife's name with that of his own. In 1971 and 1972 his Vic Tim label would release his next five singles, but then it ceased to exist. A lone single followed on Scepter Records in 1972. In 1973 he founded another record company which he dubbed Toilet Records, but this also folded. It was three years before he was able to record and release another record in the United States, but he did release two singles on the Bellaphon label in West Germany in 1973, a combined single from these was released by Polydor Records in the UK and Belgium in 1974. In 1976 he recorded again in the US and, from that point on, one or more virtually every year through 1990.

Also in 1976 a young teenage boy (and aspiring punk-rock musician) named Richard Barone succeeded essentially on the spur of the moment on getting Tiny Tim recorded onto a number of cassettes and then into a local recording studio, and thus recorded two whole albums of material. One of these albums finally saw release only in late 2009.

In 1979 and 1980 Tiny Tim went to Australia where he was able to record his first fully planned studio albums since 1970. Three albums were produced by record producer Martin Sharp. Only a few hundred copies were made of the first and only 1000 of the second. None of these were ever released in the U.S. at the time they were made. These would be Tiny Tim's last albums until 1986.

In 1985, he hired a teenage disc jockey named Rick Hendrix from WHKY in North Carolina to manage his dates. Living at the Olcott Hotel in New York City, the duo began to revive the once-famous icon. Tiny Tim released the song, "Santa Claus Has Got the Aids This Year",and joined the Alan C. Hill circus. In 1986/87 he starred as a ukulele-playing psycho clown in the cult B-grade horror film Blood Harvest (1987), directed by Bill Rebane.

In 1988, Tiny Tim released a country single for the Nashville-based NLT records entitled "Leave Me Satisfied". He spent time promoting it to country radio and fans that year, and made a visit to Nashville during Country Music Fan Fair, now called the CMA Music Festival. He actually recorded an entire country album in 1989 but this has to date never been officially released. Additionally he recorded a follow-up country album which seemingly true-to-form has never yet been released.

In the 1990s, as interest in Tiny Tim picked up, he released several albums, including Rock (1993), I Love Me (1993) and Girl (1996). He also recorded his last music video with New York's punk rock band, Ism.[6] The recording was a remake of "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" but was never officially released. He made several appearances on The Howard Stern Radio Show, made a cameo in Stern's film, Private Parts (1997), and occasionally appeared on other television programs. Tim also worked with a number of other artists, including Brave Combo (his backing band on Girl) as well as Sydney based rock band His Majesty with whom he recorded the albums Tiny Tim Rock and Tiny Tim's Christmas Album, both of which were produced by Sydney artist and writer Martin Sharp. He was also championed by, and collaborated with, the bands Current 93 and Nurse With Wound.

Toward the end of his life, Tiny Tim became a fixture at "Spooky World", an annual Halloween-themed exposition in Shakopee, MN , just outside Minneapolis He also appeared in tongue-in-cheek television commercials for area merchants. He befriended a young musician and neighbor, Conductor Jack Norton, acted as his mentor, and taught Norton how to play the ukulele.

In September 1996, he suffered a heart attack just as he began singing at a ukulele festival at the Montague Grange Hall (often confused in accounts of the incident with the nearby Montague Bookmill, at which he had recorded a video interview earlier that same day) in Montague, Massachusetts. He was hospitalized at the nearby Franklin County Medical Center in Greenfield for approximately three weeks, before being discharged with strong admonitions to no longer perform, due to his frail health and the difficulty of proper dietary needs for his diabetic and heart conditions. While playing at a Gala Benefit at The Woman's Club of Minneapolis on November 30, 1996, he suffered another heart attack on stage. He was led out by his third wife, Susan Marie Gardner ("Miss Sue", whom he had married on August 18, 1995) who asked if he was okay. He responded, "No, I'm not."

He collapsed shortly thereafter and was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died after doctors tried to resuscitate him for an hour and fifteen minutes. He is interred in the mausoleum of Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

In 2000, the Rhino Handmade label released the posthumous Tiny Tim Live at the Royal Albert Hall. This recording had been made in 1968 at the height of Tiny Tim's fame, but Reprise Records never released it. The limited-numbered CD sold out and was reissued on Rhino's regular label. In 2009, the Collector's Choice label released I've Never Seen A Straight Banana, recorded in 1976. The album was a collection of rare recordings of some of Tiny Tim's favorite songs from 1878 through the 1930s, along with some of his own compositions.

Tiptoe through the window By the window, that is where I'll be Come tiptoe through the tulips with me

Oh, tiptoe from the garden By the garden of the willow tree And tiptoe through the tulips with me

Knee deep in flowers we'll stray We'll keep the showers away And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight Will you pardon me? And tiptoe through the tulips with me

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Making contact: Spielberg's Close Encounters and E.T.

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[This resurrected piece is my contribution to the Steven Spielberg Blogathon co-hosted by Adam Zanzie (Icebox Movies) and Ryan Kelly (Medfly Quarantine). Originally published in the (pre-home-video) December, 1982, issue of The Informer, a monthly publication of the Seattle Film Society, when I was just a wee lad, barely a quarter-century old.]

"E.T." is a universal film -- and I'm not just talking about the MCA company that released it. Steven Spielberg's latest celluloid fable is fast on its way to becoming the most popular movie ever made. Yet, unfortunately, critical attention has been focused primarily on the phenomenon of "E.T." rather than on the cinematic merits of the movie itself. So much has been said about "E.T." as an extraordinary entertainment, a masterfully orchestrated work of childlike wish-fulfillment, that people seem to have overlooked the fact that it's also -- dare I say it? -- a rich and resonant Work of Art. Perhaps Spielberg is too unassuming, too unabashedly populist in his style and (overt) subject matter to make critics sit up and take notice of what he's doing from shot to shot.

Nevertheless, "E.T." is connecting with millions of people worldwide -- and for good reason. Like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Spielberg's other masterpiece about intergalactic harmony and understanding (and perhaps the largest-scale abstract/experimental film released by a major Hollywood studio since Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."), "E.T." is above all about contact, about the very nature of communication, and the system of signs we human beings have created to bring ourselves closer to one another: spoken language, gestures, symbolic objects, physical contact -- and any combination of the above.

The ad slogan for "Close Encounters" (hereafter referred to as "CE3K") was "We Are Not Alone," and both that film and "E.T." are about alienated individuals who try to break out of their isolation, who struggle to bridge the void between themselves and others. Perhaps the best way to get to the heart of these movies is to take a look at some of the ways Spielberg's characters communicate with (or fail to reach) each other -- and how Spielberg uses cinematic technique to bring film, characters, and audiences, into contact.

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McLaren & Meyer & Rotten & Vicious & me

"I need you out here," Russ Meyer told me on the phone in 1977. It was 6 a.m. He could not conceive that I might still be asleep. "Have you ever heard of the Sex Pistols?"

"No," I said.

"They're a rock band from England. They got a lot of publicity for saying 'fuck' on TV. Now they have some money and want me to direct their movie."

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Why do zombies prefer to eat only living flesh, anyway?

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Q. I just viewed Charlie Chaplin's classic "City Lights" for the first time, in film a class. After letting the film's spell settle on us, my professor asked us to consider the final scene: specifically, what does the Girl really "see"? Most of our answers felt pretty obvious -- she sees the truth that the man she had loved is the Tramp, and not a millionaire, she sees that he is still the same person she loved and she accepts him, etc.

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Roy Scheider (1932-2008)

View image Roy Scheider in "If I Didn't Care" (2007).

From the Associated Press: Scheider was nominated for a best-supporting actor Oscar in 1971’s “The French Connection” in which he played the police partner of Oscar winner Gene Hackman and for best-actor for 1979’s “All That Jazz,” the autobiographical Bob Fosse film. [...]

“He was a wonderful guy. He was what I call ’a knockaround actor,”’ [Scheider's "Jaws" co-star Richard] Dreyfuss told The Associated Press on Sunday.

“A ’knockaround actor’ to me is a compliment that means a professional that lives the life of a professional actor and doesn't yell and scream at the fates and does his job and does it as well as he can,” he said. [...]

View image A few moments before Scheider utters the now-famous line that he must have known would be quoted in his obituaries.

Dreyfuss recalled Sunday a time during the filming of "Jaws" when Scheider disappeared from the set. As the filming was on hold because of the weather, Scheider “called me up and said, ’You don’t know where I am if they call.’

“He’d gone to get a tan. He was really very tan-addicted. That was due to a childhood affliction where he was in bed for a long time. For him being tan was being healthy,” Dreyfuss said.

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Opening Shots update & lexicon

I still have plenty of excellent Opening Shots submissions to edit and post -- and I'm doing my best to get frame grabs to accompany them whenever I can. (Quiz answers coming soon, too.) To no one's surprise, "Star Wars" (1977) has been the most popular nomination -- and for good reasons. But do keep 'em coming. I think of new brilliant opening shots every day, so if your initial ideas have already been mentioned, keep thinking. (Or, if you'd care to add to the discussion of a particular shot, Comments have supposedly been enabled on certain posts -- though I have to approve 'em first.)

A few notes about terminology, just so we can be sure we're all speaking the same language:

shot: a continuous image on film, from the time it begins (when the camera is rolling) until a cut (or fade out or dissolve) takes us to the next image. Sometimes the word "take" -- as in continuous shot -- is used interchangeably, although it is more specifically used to refer to one of several attempts to "get" a certain shot during filming. The editor often chooses between several takes of a given shot, and may cut them into shorter shots, or inter-cut different takes with other shots.)

pan: when the camera pivots horizontally, usually on a tripod. If a shot is strictly a pan, the camera does not move from its location, it just swivels -- as if you were standing still and turning your head. It can, of course, be used in various combinations with any of the other techniques below. The opening shot of "Psycho" is a simple pan. Later, a zoom and a crane shot are used in the opening sequence.

tilt: like a pan, but a vertical movement rather than a horizontal one. The camera does not "pan" up the exterior of a skyscraper from a position on the sidewalk across the street; it "tilts" up. The last shot of Robert Altman's "Nashville" is a simple tilt up to the empty sky.

dolly shot: a shot in which the camera actually moves -- usually when mounted on a dolly or a crane, and often on tracks which have been put down to ensure a smooth-gliding and precise movement.

tracking shot: sometimes used interchangeably with "dolly shot," but technically a shot where the camera moves with, or "tracks," another moving object in the frame -- whether from above, below, ahead, aside, or behind. (See opening shot of "Birth" -- which also appears to use a crane and a Steadicam.)

crane shot: a movement where the camera is mounted on a crane (and sometimes a dolly as well), usually to rise above, or descend to, the scene of the primary action. Lots of movies end with crane shots that raise up on a crane and sometimes dolly back at the same time (think of "Chinatown" or "Silence of the Lambs").

handheld shot: any shot in which the camera operator simply holds the camera manually, whether standing in one place or moving around within the scene. Often characterized by a certain shakiness that we're used to experiencing as more immediate, immersive, or documentary-like than a solid, mounted camera, which can feel more detached and "objective."

Steadicam shot: a Steadicam is a gyroscopic device that, as its name indicates, can be used to eliminate the shakiness of handheld shots for a smoother, more fluid movement -- as if the camera is floating on air. (See "Halloween" for a dazzling example.) In a landmark shot at the beginning of Hal Ashby's "Bound for Glory" (photographed by Haskell Wexler), the Steadicam operator is actually on a crane and lowered to the earth, where he steps off and continues the shot at ground level.

zoom: a zoom lens is simply a sliding telephoto lens that smoothly enlarges or reduces the size of objects in the frame optically, like looking through a adjustable telescope. The camera doesn't necessarily move (though it sometimes does that at the same time), but appears to magnify or decrease whatever it's looking at. As you zoom in on something, the image appears to "flatten." (Recall the famous shot of Omar Sharif riding toward the camera across the desert in "Lawrence of Arabia" -- he never really seems to get any closer because of the long telephoto lens that is used.) The dizzying "Vertigo" effect (after Hitchock's innovation in that film) involves dollying in and zooming out at the same time (or vice-versa) -- an effect employed memorably in a shot of Roy Scheider on the beach when a shark is sighted in "Jaws."

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What is the Cold War good for? A director's career

On the one hand, John Frankenheimer is of course pleased that the Cold War seems to be over. On the other hand, the timing was disastrous for his filmmaking career. After the success of "52 Pickup" (1986), he made "Dead Bang" (1989), an unhappy experience marked by sharp differences with the star, Don Johnson, and then in 1989, began shooting "The Fourth War," a splendid political thriller starring Roy Scheider as a hot-headed U.S. Army officer assigned to a sensitive border post opposite Soviet troops.

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