‘Fargo’ Coen Brothers Cult Black Comedy Scaled Down for TV

‘Fargo’ Coen Brothers Cult Black Comedy Scaled Down for TV

In 1984 the Coen Brothers burst onto the cinematic scene with the brilliantly dark noir thriller Blood Simple, four films later, the brother’s made the black comedy Fargo which became an instant cult classic and its now been scaled down for TV. The Coen’s specialize in quirky, The Big Lebowski; bloody, Blood Simple; classic, True Grit and No Country for Old Men; and outside the box, Fargo, Raising Arizona, and pretty much have knocked everything else they’ve made right out of the metaphorical park.

Coen Brothers True Grit (2010)

Well, I had to wait for a month and a half to see the new Coen Brothers remake and wow. Again about two years ago this video, enjoy.

And just in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GkAH7IUWOE

True Grit Sacrilege

This was the first ever video I posted on my channel that dealt with film. I was practically incandescent with rage when I’d heard that the Coen Bros were remaking True Grit. I DID see the remake and I reviewed it later. Enjoy or not, it’s a little rough. LOL

The Oscar’s: Ego’s “R” Us

With all the usual hype and build-up to the 85th Oscar Academy Awards, I suddenly realised that, unlike the ceremonies that I watched growing up, I did not care at all about the upcoming event.

I used to love the Oscar ceremony. The Academy Awards with all its pomp and circumstance kept me glued to the telly for the entire show. I saw my first “streaker” on the Academy Awards and learned that David Niven really was that funny when he quipped, “Now that chap will only ever be known as the fellow who showed the world his shortcomings on national television.”

When I used to watch, Bob Hope was the eternal master of ceremonies and each year a wealth of jokes about his being passed over for the little golden man were trotted out for the audience’s enjoyment. There were some great moments in the “old days” of the show.

I saw John Wayne moved to tears when he got the nod for True Grit. I saw a very young Henry Winkler telling the world about how excited he was and how star-struck he felt. I watched Clint Eastwood forced to “stand-in” for Charlton Heston; fumbling along until Moses showed up and took over. I also watched Sally Fields exclaim (in a statement that has had the eternal mickey taken out of it ever since) “You like me, you really like me!”

I watched Sir Richard Attenborough give his thank you speech where he talked for what seemed like hours. I also saw the resultant microphone cut-off that the producers of the show introduced after his mammoth acceptance speech. I saw  Elizabeth Taylor get flustered when the above mentioned streaker dashed across the stage (or should I say flashed) during her relay of that category’s nominees.

Mega-Star Taylor creasing up at the streaker. Later she couldn’t concentrate on the auto-cue.

I used to go and get a snack and use the bathroom when the live Broadway show of the moment came on and the other live acts that turned the Awards ceremony into a “variety show” came on. But I loved the awarding of the lifetime achievement awards.

I loved everything about the show, even its awkward (if I chose to watch them) live acts; even when Bob Hope ceased to be the master of ceremonies and was replaced by, among others, Billy Crystal.

Then I got older and began to notice things that I’d missed before.

I realised that actors “got the gong” for films that just were not that great. Other actors never got nominated for outstanding performances or never won when they did get nominated. Films won best picture that were not the best picture by any means. Horror films, screwball comedies, science fiction and a few other film genres were never acknowledged by the Academy’s committee.  Steven Spielberg had to make Schindlers List to finally get the bald golden chap.

Films with “a message” always beat out films that were just damned good entertainment. Your chances of nomination went up with how popular you were. But most obvious were the winners who should have won the year before for an outstanding performance, film, score, et al; who were then nominated for and won the year after for a performance that was nowhere near as impressive. Guilt awarding, I call it.

The other type of award was the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement award (which as I said I used to love) these were usually handed out to someone who had been snubbed by the committee for the entire length of their career. Usually trotted hurriedly out when it appeared that the recipient was about to die or, if the timing was off, just after they had died.

I began to realise that the Oscars were not about merit or excellence. It was about egos and agents and publicity and managers who could splurge for the biggest campaigns for their clients. It was a popularity contest. If your peers liked you and, more importantly, liked your political stance you were almost a shoo in.

Liberals were the fair-haired children of the business and right-wing “hawks” were not. Unless you were NRA hawk Charlton ‘Chuck’ Heston whom Hollywood has always equated with God. After all Charlton played Moses for Christ’s sake, you can’t mess with Him.

Moses, I mean, Charlton Heston.

I think the honest humour that used to be present in the ceremonies has disappeared. They all seem to take themselves entirely too seriously. Maybe it’s because the “funny men” have changed or stopped caring. When the actor Chills Wills took out an entire page in Variety to plead his cause for winning the Oscar the ad said:

 “We of The Alamo cast are praying harder than the real Texans prayed for their lives at the Alamo for Chill Wills to win the Oscar.” “Cousin Chill’s acting was great,” he wrote, signing, Your Alamo cousin.” Another ad read: “Win, lose, or draw. You’re still my cousins and I love you all.”

Comedian Groucho Marx, wrote back: “Dear Mr. Wills. I am delighted to be your cousin. But I voted for Sal Mineo. *courtesy of http://www.emanuellevy.com*

Admittedly a somewhat “tasteless” lapse of judgement on Wills’ part, but a damned funny response from Groucho; but the Oscars have grown up and become more cynical, more about the money and the highbrow idea that these people are more than just talented performers, they are royalty and way above mortal men.

When I became older and more cynical, I began to realize that, just as they don’t make actors like they used to, the business itself has changed. Oh not the money bit, it has always been about the money, but the overtly political overtones have become unwatchable.

The cut-off microphone isn’t the only control that has been placed on the show; they also limited the amount of time that acceptance speeches could last. The televised proceedings have been shortened to show what “they” deem important. Lesser categories (foreign films, documentaries, et al) are not shown at all, except in a quick “credit” recap at the end of the show…if you are lucky.

For me, the magic has gone from the event. They might as well change the name to Ego’s “R” Us. It is all about who has the biggest ego and pocket-book to match. It stopped being about talent and the virtue of a single outstanding shining moment, if indeed it ever was about that to begin with.

The laughter of the audience (filled with the crème de la crème of Hollywood) looks forced and the comedic “in-jokes” have lost their ability to be really funny. When the event becomes more about who has been chosen to be the master of ceremonies; or who is wearing what on the red carpet, and less about the films and actors who have been nominated, it’s time to stop watching.

I’ll just wait to read the list on the internet of who won and who didn’t. Because I don’t believe in the integrity of the award any longer and cannot be bothered to see egos catered to and the audience talked down to. I also don’t want to be overwhelmed by the Botox brigade of new surgically enhanced actors who believe that the secret to a great performance is having the least amount of facial movement possible and big boobs, or a six-pack.

If you watch the show, enjoy it if you can. I’ll probably be watching a film instead; preferably one with the Duke in it.

The Duke’s acceptance speech.

Ghostquake: Haunted High (2012) TV Movie Rubbish

One of the “advantages” of living overseas is the ability to watch made for TV movies that are disguised as normal feature films. It is probably my own fault. I have a list of things I watch for: favourite directors, favourite actors, and whether the film is a horror film or not.

I am a sucker for horror films. The only other genre that comes close on my favourite’s list is westerns. But with westerns I am cynical and leery of new ones. Ever since the 1970’s when westerns became a gaunt shell of their former glory (mainly the introduction of the psychological element spelt the death knell of the western) I look at them with a jaundiced eye that wants to be surprised and pleased with what Hollywood has to offer.

Sometimes I get lucky; the Coen brothers and True Grit, their modern western No Country for Old Men and their noir western Blood Simple. Clint Eastwood and his film Unforgiven, or the cross genre film Cowboys and Aliens. All good and not a bit of dross anywhere, but, I do not take on face value anything that Hollywood trots out as a western as being good. Not, at least, until I’ve researched it…a lot.

But horror films are different. I invariably see a horror film and I’ll decide, like some overgrown wide-eyed Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, that this film is going to be good. “Look at who is in it,” or “Wow look who directed it,” or “That trailer is awesome.” And just like that, I walk into the world of the crap film all innocence and fresh-faced gormlessness.

Of course, these imported made for TV films are doubly disguised. At least in the US, you know from the get-go that it is a TV film. The real giveaway is that it is on TV and it is a “new” film. I don’t know if they have the quaint Movie of the Week anymore, but I’m sure there must be a modern equivalent.

I saw the title of this movie, Ghostquake and saw that one of my old favourites Danny Trejo was in it and that lovely alumni from Buffy and Angel Charisma Carpenter was in it as well, and I thought, “Well this must be pretty good, I mean, look who is in it.” And just like that, I paid a grand total of 3 pounds sterling for the film. New mind you not used or “pre-viewed” but new from Tesco’s; where most films go for between 10 and 20 pounds.

Danny Trejo one of the few times he’s not locked in the janitor’s closet.

I know what you are thinking, “Surely, the fact that it was only 3 pounds should have tipped you off.” But in my defence, I will state for the record that I have found some great films for mere pennies, thank you.

But not often and very rarely, okay?

A great clue as to how dreadful this film is can be gleaned by the fact it has taken me over 500 words to get around to talking about the thing.

Believe me when I tell you it is more than dreadful, it is almost beyond description. But in my attempt to save anyone else from the horror (pun intended) that is Ghostquake (or Haunted High as it was called on its television premiere, presumably on the Sy Fy channel) I will gamely try to discuss the film.

The film takes place in the fictional high school of Halloman. It is a preppy type “school uniform” school and it is haunted by the apparition of the old principal who was the leader of a satanic cult who killed students. His grandson is now attending the school and his presence combined with some cursed gold coins has caused his grandfather (and his evil sidekick, a demonic ex-student with a horrible complexion and very sharp teeth) to manifest and start killing the hapless students who are in the school after hours.

I had a good idea that this was a disguised made for TV film when I realised that there were no lingering shots of the dead students. There was not even a lot of gore. I knew for sure, when I started inadvertently putting in commercial breaks.

The level of acting (if you could even classify what most of the “actors” did as acting) was execrable and apart from Danny Trejo, who has a certain level of believability in most of what he does, the only other actor who even came close to “acting” was Charisma Carpenter.

Oh look! It’s Charisma Carpenter, now don’t blink or you’ll miss..Ah ya blinked.

Unfortunately Mademoiselle Carpenter was in the film for exactly one minute and thirty-two seconds. I know, because I timed it…twice. After meeting her maker by being half swallowed by a portion of the floor that looked suspiciously like that marshmallow stuff that comes in jars she never appears again, except as another name in the end credits.

Trejo made out a bit better as he made until the last reel, coming back as a ghostly avenger to drag the demon ex-principal to the hell that awaits all bad actors. Sadly he could not drag the rest of the cast with him.

I could spend another 1000 words talking about continuity lapses and sound problems (the main one being that the entire film sounded “looped”) and plot holes that were big enough to fly a Boeing 767 through. Not to mention the dreadful combination of over acting and wooden acting.

Most “bad” horror films have the slim redemption of at least being so bad that they are funny. I have seen quite a few of those and, oddly, they become favourites; almost as revered as the really good horror films. Ghostquake did not even come close to the “it’s so bad, it’s good” category.

In fact, I felt strongly like going to Tesco’s and demanding my 3 pounds back.

Final verdict: Avoid at all costs and if you see it, drive a stake though the packaging and burn it.

A rose under any other title would still stink like…NOT a rose.