Interlude regarding addictions

Bottoms up.

Bottoms up.

I disagree with people who claim that they’re “addicted to coffee.” I don’t take addictions lightly. That’s why — since I still use that phrase on occasion — I make darned sure that I actually have a debilitating dependence on the stuff. It’s only right.


Top Secret trivia

top secret

The 1984 film Top Secret! was created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, the same guys who did the comedy spoof Airplane! They really like exclamation marks.

Top Secret! is the same sort of film: madcap jokes, no pretense of seriousness, and existing in order to cram as many jokes as possible into a spoof of a common movie genre. This time, they took on two of them: it’s both a spoof of World War II spy movies, and a spoof of Beach-Boys-style boy band films. I think it’s even more fun than Airplane, since the genres it spoofs are more fun. At any rate, the IMDB trivia page on it is fascinating, and explains even more jokes and fun facts behind the film.

The sight gag of Peter Cushing and the magnifying glass is a parody of a similar shot of Cushing from Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein. (Seen here: The Curse Of Frankenstein theatrical trailer.)

The idea of skeet surfing came out of the Zucker brothers trying to outdo each other at press junkets. They would specifically concoct outlandish stories to amuse themselves and bewilder journalists.

When Nick Rivers is in jail, a head shot of Cher can be clearly seen on the wall of the cell several times. Val Kilmer was dating Cher at the time.

Directors were very happy that Omar Sharif accepted the role of British agent, so they invited him to a dinner after he completed his scenes. Sharif accepted the invitation, and a very special dinner was prepared for him. But he didn’t show up, and soon it was found out he already left England. When he was later asked why he didn’t come, he replied, “It’s a tradition in my culture not to ‘refuse’ any offer. Example: someone offers you a drink, you should accept it even though you won’t drink it.” Unaware, ZAZ enjoyed a very expensive dinner, all by themselves.

The “German” phrases Nick was learning on the train were basically gibberish. The translations for those phrases include, “I want a schnauzer with my weinerschnitzel,” and, “There is sauerkraut in my lederhosen.”


The scene in which Lucy Gutteridge looks down from the balcony onto the street to see hamsters and mice was in fact a miniature from Superman. The Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams stated in their DVD commentary that they found it in the old Shepperton studios and thought it would be a great idea to use it in somewhere in the movie.

Cows hate having things put on their feet, so to get one to wear two pairs of Wellington boots, the bottoms had to be cut out and then the boots were attached to the cow’s legs with Velcro.

The film had a budget of $8 million and came in a million under.

~Top Secret IMDB trivia page

Film Review: The Curse of the Golden Flower

I'm not sure they have enough chrysanthemums...

I’m not sure they have enough chrysanthemums…

The style of Curse of the Golden Flower benefits greatly from its connection to Chinese culture and heritage. Everything in the film is larger than life and therefore seems mythic and archetypal. Chinese culture, with its focus on one’s duty to a community rather than an individual’s duty to itself, is ready and waiting to accept the group-promoting agenda of Jung’s “collective unconscious,” which is a prerequisite for archetypes.

Flower’s archetypal leanings are apparent in many elements of its construction, not the least of which is its plot. The dynamics of a very messed-up family take center stage, with plenty of archetypal tropes – poisoning, usurping, brotherly rivals, accidental incest – common to Greek myths and Shakespeare. The story is an epic, classical tragedy with themes of universal corruption and suffering. Visually, the film is also archetypal: an ornate palace takes up most of the scenes, often with hundreds of servants seemingly trained to do nothing but stand around in incredibly straight lines, while picturesque shots of mountainous terrain take up the rest.

There's also an epic ninja battle.

There’s also an epic ninja battle.

It’s all too lush and streamlined to be realistic, and the effect is therefore that of archetypes, those elements of life too true for reality.

Even the soundtrack is archetypal, with pounding drums and hushed chanting serving to build up a rhythmic sense of inevitability. The cinematography heightens the unreal situation at times: several early fight scenes use fast-cut footage to disorient the viewer and to force a focus on individual elements of the scene such as emblems on the breastplates. A fragmented, pared-down view is just as archetypal as a vast, streamlined one.

Flower uses heightened emotions often, in keeping with its larger-than-life style, but also habitually portrays subdued, hidden emotions in all its characters, as every family member is keeping something hidden from the others. Among all the stylized visuals and drama, this element of subtlety keeps the film slightly more grounded. Even so, with all the melodrama so actively encouraged throughout Flower, it was difficult for me to take many overdramatic scenes seriously. As a result, the film didn’t have as deep an emotional impact on me as the director no doubt intended. It was still an experience, though, so the archetypal approach was still a positive, in addition to unique, technique.

The film looks so good I had to use three pictures in this review.

“Nice of you to drop in like this.”

Star Wars Abridged

In which I am the Emperor in a spoof of Star Wars. This one has a lot of in-jokes about my college, so all of you folks out there might not appreciate it as much as we do, but it should still be entertaining.

Fun fact: Since both this film and Poetic Justice aired during my college’s Film Fest, I was able to play an evil cackling villain who shows up for the final battle to get a dramatic death in not one, but two different films.

Fairy tale tropes found in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I was reading the Holocaust book about a tiny kid of a Nazi who befriends a tiny imprisoned Jewish kid a few days ago, and was struck with the fairy-tale style it was written in. Apparently, it’s marketed as a fairy tale, too. I whipped up a few pointers on aspects of the writing that influenced the general feel, in case I ever feel like stealing it for my own fairy tales. All examples are from chapters ten and eleven, for those following along at home.

1. Capitalizing important phrases. “My sister is a Hopeless Case.”

2. Simple emotions starkly stated.

3. Confusingly simple and possibly lengthy chapter titles. “The Dot that became a Speck that became aBlob that became a Figure that became a Boy.” “Shmuel thinks of an Answer to Bruno’s Question.”

4. Clear connections reasonably stated, with both flaws and flawlessness obvious.

5. Blatant centrism: “my experiences are the right ones.” Tiny kids and Nazis have this in common.

Summation: be both confusing and simple at the same time. The resulting insta-childish feel makes for a great fairy tale style.

“The Hailing Taxi” — vote on this sucker.

Here’s a romantic action comedy I wrote. It’s about a young woman who meets a bank robber when he crashes through her fifth-story window in a taxi and holds her hostage. If you have a Stumbleupon account, you can even like the page, which might help me win a contest to get my story looked at by movie producers!

Or you could dislike the page, and make me less likely to win, if you hate the story. Or if you hate me.

But check out the story regardless: