Sunday, October 31, 2010

Helter Skelter (1976)

Helter Skelter aired across the United States in 1976, much to morbid fascination of the multitudes. The made for TV film is based on the 1974 book written by chief prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. In the United States, it aired over two nights on CBS. In some countries it was shown, with additional footage, in theaters.

The 1976 film was directed by Tom Gries and stars Steve Railsback as Manson and George DiCenzo as Bugliosi, Nancy Wolfe as Susan Atkins, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre alum, Marilyn Burns as Linda Kasabian. Screenwriter JP Miller would go on to receive an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Feature or Mini-series Teleplay in 1977.

Helter Skelter is based upon the murders committed by the Charles Manson Family in 1969. The best-known victim was actress Sharon Tate, who was married to director Roman Polanski, and pregnant with the couple first child at the time of her murder. The title was taken from the Beatles' song of the same name which appeared on the bands eponymous titled ninth album, which is more famously known as the “White Album”, that was released in 1968. It was revealed during the trial that Manson used the term, “Helter Skelter”, for the race war he envisioned, and the words had been scrawled in blood on the refrigerator door at the house of one of the victims. Many stories have circulated over the last forty years about how Manson had used LSD and repeated playings of the song to brainwash members of the family.

The film suffers from the same things that most made-for-TV productions do. And the hokey opening in which the narrator speaks directly to the viewers at home doesn't help. What does engage the audience is the strong performances by Steve Railsback and Nancy Wolfe. Railsback is electrifying as Charles Manson, especially in the courtroom scenes in the second half of the film. He manages to channel Manson's manic energy and crazy outlandishness with a terrifying accuracy, that leaves the viewer wondering about Railsback's own mental stability.

Wolfe's performance as Susan Atkins also contains the same kind of intensity but unlike Railsback's/Manson's mania, Wolfe's, Atkins has the cold, unsympathetic, matter-of-fact demeanor of a true psychopath.

Both the book and the film Helter Skelter are sensational examinations of the brutal and vicious crimes that still fascinate and hold our attention forty years later. They provide us with an up close and personal look at the murders that came at the tail end of the peace and love 1960's. For many, the murders are a fitting end to a turbulent decade that despite all its idealism, will always be marred by the violence of the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements, the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, as well as the horror of the Vietnam war.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Irreversible: A Review

Gaspar Noé's film Irreversible was one of the most discussed and debated films to come out in the last decade. The film stars Monica Bellucci (Malena) as Alex, and Vincent Cassel (Ocean's Twelve, La Heine ) as a couple that is about to be doomed by irreversible acts of violence. Noé, wrote, directed, photographed and edited the entire film himself.

The film is told in a non-linear narrative style and opens with disorienting and shaky camera angles and movements. Then we see two men talking in a small apartment suite. One of them is the "Butcher", the protagonist of Noé's film, I Stand Alone. Their conversation is interrupted by the noise coming from street below where a homosexual S&M nightclub called "The Rectum" is located.

Marcus (Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel), are removed from the nightclub by the police. Marcus is on a stretcher and Pierre is in handcuffs. Earlier Marcus and Pierre arrived at the club in a frantic search for somebody nicknamed "the Tapeworm". Marcus finds who he believes to be the man and attacks him. The man breaks Marcus' arm then attempts to rape him. Pierre rescues Marcus brutally crushing the man's skull with a fire extinguisher. It is revealed that this run in was all for nothing because Marcus and Pierre attacked the wrong man.

Marcus and Pierre went in search of “the Tapeworm”, seeking revenge after they discover that he was responsible for anally raping Marcus's girlfriend Alex (Bellucci), and placing her in a coma by beating her severely in a pedestrian underpass. It was rumored that after this scene, which was shot in a single take with one camera and in real time, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival many members of the audience were so outraged they stormed out in disgust. It was even rumored that some were crying or near vomiting.

If the viewer is able to make it through the terrible violence of the first half of the film then one is treated to an equally painful but beautifully told love story. The penultimate scene being when Alex reveals to Marcus that she is pregnant while the two are lying in bed together. Just before this, we see Alex, alone looking at the results of a home pregnancy test that confirms she is now carrying a child. She is then shown sitting on the bed clothed, with her hand on her belly. A poster for Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the tag line "The Ultimate Trip", is on the wall behind her. The final scene of the film shows Alex in a park reading An Experiment with Time by John William Dunne, while Beethoven's 7th Symphony is heard in the background. The film dissolves into more disorienting camera techniques until the final title card appears, which reads: "Time Destroys Everything" which is a phrase uttered in the film's first scene by one of the men in the apartment.

Despite being painful to watch the film does engage the viewer both viscerally and intellectually in a way that very few films ever have. Most of the audience is split as to whether or not they like or dislike the film despite the fact that it Bronze Horse" award at the Stockholm Film Festival and competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From Ray Bradbury

If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From Roald Dahl

I don't care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Passion of Joan of Arc (Pt 1)

For the next eight days I will be posting Carl Theodor Dreyer's masterpiece, Passion of Joan of Arc, starring Maria Falconetti as Joan. The film is a beautifully shot and devastatingly powerful work of art. I hope you enjoy. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dryer's Passion of Joan of Arc

Beginning Monday 10-18-10, I will be posting Carl Theodor Dryer's masterpiece, Passion of Joan of Arc. The devastatingly powerful film, stars Maria Falconetti  who gives what could be considered one of the most passionate performances in the history of cinema.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

From Ernest Hemingway

What a writer has to do is write what hasn't been written before or beat dead men at what they've done.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From Kurt Vonnegut

I think I succeeded as a writer because I did not come out of an English department. I used to write in the chemistry department. And I wrote some good stuff. If I had been in the English department, the prof would have looked at my short stories, congratulated me on my talent, and then showed me how Joyce or Hemingway handled the same elements of the short story. The prof would have placed me in competition with the greatest writers of all time, and that would have ended my writing career.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cincinnati Reds All-Time Home Run Leaders

The Cincinnati Reds baseball club originated in 1882 as the Cincinnati Red Stockings In 1890 they settled on the “Reds”, though they used the name "Redlegs" for part of the 1950s to avoid any perceived association with Communism. The Reds have a long successful history and many of the games best hitters have worn the uniform including Pete Rose, Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, and Ken Griffey Jr. The most famous era of Cincinnati Reds baseball would have to be the years of the “Big Red Machine” which lasted from 1970 to 1976. The years of the “Big Red Machine” also produced two of the top five all time home runs leaders in Reds history.

Ted Kluszewski is number five on the list with 251 home runs. Kluszewski was born in Argo, Illinois in 1924. "Big Klu"was a career .298 hitter with 279 home runs and 1028 RBI in 1718 games. In ten of his fifteen seasons, Kluszewski walked (492) more often than he struck out (365). In 1955, he hit 47 homers while striking out only 40 times. No player since him has hit 40 homers and struck out 40 or fewer times in the same season.

Coming in at number 4 and the only active player on this list is Adam Dunn with 270 home runs hit while playing for the Reds. Despite a high strike out rate, “The Big Donkey” is one of the most consitant power hitters in the game today. On July 4, 2009 Dunn became the 123 player to hit 300 home runs for his career.

Tony Perez and his 287 home runs are number three on the list. Perez was a key member of the “Big Red Machine” in the 1970's and after his playing days ended he went on to manage the Reds in 1993. In 1998 Perez was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, but the greatest honor would come in 2000 when The MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown opened its doors to him.

In at number two is possibly one of the top players in Major League history. Frank Robinson hit 324 home runs as a member of the Reds between 1956 and 1965. Robinson is the only player in history to win the MVP award in both the National Leage (Reds in 1961) and American League (Orioles in 1966). He also voted Rookie of The Year in 1956 and won a triple crown in 1966. In 1975, Robinson became the first African-American manager in Major League history. In 1978 Frank Robinson was elected into both the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. Then in 1982 he was elected into The Major league Baseball Hall of Fame.

Johnny Bench, arguably one of the best catchers to ever play the game, comes in at number one with 389 career home runs as a Red. Bench was another member of the feared “Big Red Machine”, who played with the Reds from 1967 to 1983. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1968, and was voted NL MVP in 1970 and 1972. In 1986 Bench was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, followed three years later by his induction into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1989.

The Cincinnati Reds have had many great hitters over the years and with the likes of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce currently playing for the team, the future looks as bright as the past.

Monday, October 11, 2010

St Louis Cardinals All-Time Winningest Pitchers

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball organization is second to the New York Yankees in regards to consistently producing winning teams. The Cardinals long, storied history is predominately known for the hitters and fielders that have worn the uniform with the likes of Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, and Albert Pujols being the big names. What has been generally overlooked is the excellent pitching that has helped the Cardinals win 10 World Series titles, 17 National League Pennants, and 11 Divison Titles.

Coming in at number five on the St Louis Cardinals all times win list with 144 is Bill Doak. Doak was born January 28, 1891, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He played 11 years with the St. Louis Cardinals and is among the Cardinals' top ten in eight pitching categories, with his 32 shutouts second behind Bob Gibson.

Bill Sherdel is 4th on the list with 153 wins. Sherdel was a tough left-handed pitcher that played fifteen seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Braves. Besides ranking 4th in wins, Sherdel is 3rd in games pitched (465), 4th in innings pitched (2450.7), 5th in games started (242), 8th in complete games (144), in Cardinals franchise history.

3rd on the Cardinals all-time wins list is Bob Forsch with 163 wins. In a 16-season career, Forsch is one of the very few pitchers, and the only Cardinal, to throw more than one no-hitter. The first came against the Philadelphia Phillies in 1978, and the second happened in 1983 against the Montreal Expos.

Jesse Haines ranks 2nd on the Cardinals all-time wins list. Haines born in Clayton, Ohio in 1893 and pitched for the Cardinals from 1920 to 1937. He retired from the Cardinals in 1937 with 210 wins. He is also the first Cardinal pitchers to toss a no hitter when he blanked the Boston Braves in 1924.
Haines was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1970.

With 251 wins, Bob Gibson is first on the all time St. Louis Cardinals wins list. From 1963-1970 Gibson was quite possibly the most dominating pitcher in the game, posting a record of 156-81 during that span. Gibson was also awarded, Cy Young Awards in 1968 and 1970, World Series MVP Awards in 1964 and 1967 and 8 Gold Glove Awards.

1968 was the year of Bob Gibson. He would finish the season with an incredible 1.12 ERA, 13 shutouts, and at one point a streak of 47 consecutive scoreless innings. Due to a weak Cardinals offense that season he would only post a 22-9 record, losing five 1-0 decisions. The Cardinals would go on to face the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series. In Game 1 of the series, Gibson struck out 17 Tigers, setting a World Series single game record that has yet to be broken. The Cardinals would unfortunately go on to lose the Series 4 games to 3.

In 1981 Bob Gibson had his #45 retired by the St. Louis Cardinals which coincided with his election to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

The tradition of solid pitching in St Louis continues on into the 21st century with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright who each have a strong shot at breaking the top five wins list before their careers are over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

From Harper Lee

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.

Monday, October 4, 2010

the hobo got too high and other adventures