Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Katzman’s Cinema Komments # 13–4/13/08

Filed under: Humor,Jewish Themes,Katzman's 13 Vintage Movie Reviews,Katzman's Cinema Komments — Bob at 12:59 pm on Monday, April 14, 2008

April 13th is not just another day.

Not for me, and not for America, either

Thomas Jeffereson was born on this day, in 1742, and he went on to write the Declaration of Independence.  I’ve read that there were approximately 4,000 Americans killed in that conflict, or about 1.3 soldiers a day died to win almost an entire continent from the British.

The first battle of the Civil War began on this day, at Fort Sumter in South Carolina (Rebs won, no casualties) just 68 years after the end of the the American Revolution.  There would be over 600,000 Americans killed in that savage conflict, or about 411 men died a day, in a cataclysmic attempt to see if we could keep most of our portion of that continent.

One hundred and eight-five years later, after the end of the Civil War in April 1865, I arrived in Chicago (four days late, around noon) on April 30th, 1950.  This is not a historically significant date which I’m sure would be universally agreed upon by all concerned.  But thirteen years later, I was a Bat Mizvah boy on April 13th, now 45 years ago, and that still matters to me.

Which, in my typically convoluted fashion, brings me to today’s movie, since at least one major member of that film’s cast had a bar mitzvah, too.  But thirty-five years before mine, when that ancient coming-of-age ceremony was far more obscure in America than it is now, and Jews kept a much lower national profile.

The Magnificant Seven! (1960), one of the most revered Western-themed movies ever made, even though it was based on an equally revered Eastern film, The Seven Samurai (1954).  I saw it when it came out (the US film) when I was just ten and I haven’t ever recovered from that first fantastic experience of an avalanche of charisma pouring off the screen by already famous and soon-to-be-famous macho American and European actors.

Yul Brynner (Chris, the so-cool leader), Steve McQueen (Vin, deadly, casual and philosophic) lead the cast.  Without them, the movie would be one more so-so Western.  But their spontaneous compatible relationship and world-weary attitude gave the film a spin that put a romantic sheen on everyone associated with it. 

Horst Bucholz (Chico), a new and very young German actor, played the 7th man to join the ranks of the immortal Seven.  Oddly, he was selected by the director, John Sturges, to play a brash young Mexican who distained the very peasant farmers he signed on to protect from the hordes of Mexican bandits who ravaged there village repeatedly, even though he was one of them.  His view of life was that the intinerant and frequently impoverished western gunslingers were  muy magnifico!! and he could never be a “miserable cowardly farmer” until Killer Cowboy Philosophy Class 101 cured him of that notion. 

Plus one very hot (and extremely disrespectful to her justifiably concerned father) chick with a single long black braid and a “Do it to me NOW, baby!” attitude, who convinced him that grinding corn on your knees, under blazing sunshine, can be very sexy indeed.

                                                                                                                                                     (Read on …)

Katzman Cinema Komments # 12–3/29/08

Filed under: Humor,Katzman's 13 Vintage Movie Reviews,Katzman's Cinema Komments — Bob at 4:38 pm on Saturday, March 29, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a day (2008).  This movie is still playing, evidently an art house hit, meaning about 5,000 people have gone to see it in the few cities where it’s currently lighting up the screens.  And that’s a pity.

Lots of film reviewers have expressed their opinions about the virtues of this film, so why bother adding my obscure voice to theirs?  Well, I loved it, but not at first.  I responded to different aspects of the movie, and then to the wonderful cast.  It is truly a “Hollywood Movie” except they don’t make delicious kitsch like this anymore.

What struck me was the marvelous attention to detail that the set decorator, or art director, or whoever paid for everything devoted to this movie, to create a fantasy type of hyper-reality in (just barely) pre-war London.  

From the nightclub scenes to the lamps decorating an entranceway of an upper class house, to the great clothes everyone wore, this movie is a triple-scoop banana split for the eyes.  With syrup dripping everywhere.  Nothing in real life ever looked this good.

I went to art school for five years and am the son of an interior decorator who dragged me through the Chicago Merchandise Mart from the age of five to fourteen.  I must have absorbed something from the million hours I was involuntarily exposed to a myriad of color charts displaying thirty paint chips of very slightly different shades of red, or blue, or even blacks and whites. 

Color matters.  It affects mood and attitude.  People who appreciate the vast variations in colors are able to enjoy a significantly different, more vivid world than most people do.

In this so interesting recreation of another time and place that never really was, both the good guys and the bad guys are handsome, and perfectly integrated into their surroundings, like essential pieces of a mosaic. 

To me, a few of the players were like cartoons come to life, instead of flesh and blood actors, and that’s a compliment.  One in particular, in a supporting role is Shirley Henderson.  She is the cheating and especially petty and nasty grasping girlfriend of one of the romantic leads in the movie, the wealthy lingerie designer, Ciaran Hinds. 

                                                                                                         (Read on …)

Katzman’s Cinema Komments # 11 – 3/22/08

Filed under: Humor,Jewish Themes,Katzman's 13 Vintage Movie Reviews,Katzman's Cinema Komments — Bob at 2:43 pm on Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Purim!!

In honor of that wonderfully convoluted  Babylonian Soap Opera, involving Queen Esther or rather, Hadassah, before she Babylonized her name; Mordicai, Esther’s good and watchful uncle, who uncovered and loyally reported the dastardly plot to kill the King to the governing authorities; Haman, the hated, conniving and vain prime minister to the Persian King Ahkashveyrosh (Jewish version) or King Nebuchadnezzar II (their version)  or King Xerxes I (another version) who was the capricious, resolute (and plagued with insomnia) Ruler of all he surveyed. 

Fortunately for present day Jews, the King thought shapely Esther was the hottest chick of all the many women from the King’s Empire, who paraded before him to audition for the position of the Queen.  I imagine the most  common position of the auditioning women was: Missionary. 

It’s good to be the King.

In any event, I decided to celebrate by spreading the very good word about the new Israeli-made movie, Bikur Ha-Tizmoret or The Band’s Visit (2007).  However, even though all of its dialogue is spoken in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English and the movie is entirely filmed in Israel in what appeared to me to be the dry and desolate Negev in Southern Israel, the film was nevertheless rejected by the geniuses at the Academy of Arts and Sciences as an acceptable candidate for an Oscar for the best Foreign Film Award because they decided it wasn’t “foreign” enough!

This movie, by the way, was made possible by Cyrus the Great, the Persian King who released the Israelites from their 47 year exile in Babylonia in 539 B.C., after the great Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C. by his Dad (above) and the surviving Jews were taken as captives.  

Without his kindness and generosity, The Band’s Visit movie wouldn’t have been made and for certain, I wouldn’t be reviewing it.

The movie’s simple story is about an Egyptian Police Ceremonial Band being invited to celebrate the opening of an Arab cultural center in a small town in Israel, and becoming lost along the way in the wrong desert town for a period of one day, before friendly Israelis who befriended them send them on their way to the correct town.  That’s the whole premise.

                                                                                                        (Read on …)

Katzman’s Cinema Komments # 10 – 3/8/09

Filed under: Humor,Jewish Themes,Katzman's 13 Vintage Movie Reviews,Katzman's Cinema Komments — Bob at 4:54 pm on Saturday, March 8, 2008

First, Happy Birthday to my partner in this blog and friend for 47 years (although at 58,  he still remains older than I am) Rick Munden!!

Back to fantasy…

Let’s say you want to dream up a movie that features, say…. the Amish; Wild Indians led by an Italian chief; a sexy postcard depicting a photograph of a less than virginal-appearing Jewish girl; robbing, thieving, drunken, murderous Anglo-Saxons (yes, difficult though it may be to believe, but the movie’s actually fiction!); a cuddling, affectionate cowboy in a bone-chilling and deadly Western blizzard and a remorseful bank robber attempting to learn Yiddish from a previously seen ice-skating Polish Rabbi.  

Then, add scenes featuring a wise-cracking chief Rabbi in an Eastern European Yeshiva with a shaky view of democracy or perhaps just Chicago-type voting mathematics and brutal bar fight in a whorehouse between the earlier imagined (and depicted) nebbishy Rabbi and a beer-barrel threatening assassin.  

Throw in a rough-hewn guardian angel-type Western figure who is determined, come-hell-or-high-water determined, to find himself a whore with “really big tits” (that’s an actual quote and not wishful thinking from this saintly reviewer) who repeatedly saves the trouble-prone young Rabbi’s life while escorting him from the Midwest to a newly built San Francisco synagogue by any means possible; a Rabbi, post-nebbishness, who deftly and courageously steps into the middle of a high noon Western style showdown in the middle of the street between two deadly gunman that hate each other in order to prove that:

        “I’m not a Rabbi for nothing, you know…”

My only question would be:

        Who the hell would you market it to?  The Amish?  Italian Indians?  Bars with brothels?

Well, whoever thought up this lovingly cliche-ridden, culture clashing movie that displays every emotion from two points of view, impressive cleavage (no pun there) and friendship so real it spills off the screen?  

Who decided people wanted to see serious religious devotion, even unto death to save a sacred, flameable, irreplaceable Torah; skilled peyote-using Native Americans who decide getting a true-believing Rabbi high is hysterical; and slyly trying to pass off the world famous actor from Star Wars and Indiana Jones as a sure-enough cowboy Goy when in reality, Harrison Ford has a whole lot more in common with the superb Gene Wilder (on or off the screen) than any average movie-loving person would believe…is such a genius!

           Oy Veyismere!! Such a Genius!! Gott im Himmel!!! 

I highly recommend that anyone: cowboy, Amish or Star Wars addict rent this wonderfully written, charmingly depicted and most likely forgotten movie of many admirable qualities.

Oh, yes!  The name of the movie is: The Frisco Kid (1979)

By the way, if you should know a nice, single, Jewish boy, that actress Penny Peyser is one hot catch!  Just a thought………….

See you, under the Sabbath Lights…

Robert M. Katzman 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note from the Author:

 

Robert M. Katzman, owner of Fighting Words Publishing Company, with four different titles currently in print and over 4,000 books sold to date, is seeking more retail outlets for his vivid and non-fiction inspirational books: 

 

Independent bookstores, Jewish and other religious organizations, Chicago historical societies or groups, English teachers who want a new voice in their class who was a witness to history, book clubs, high schools or museum gift shops.  I will support anyone who supports me by giving readings in the Chicago Metro area.  I have done this over 40 times, and I always sign my books, when asked.  Everyone, positively everyone, asks.  I was amazed, at first, by that.

 

Individuals who wish to order my books can view the four book covers and see reviews of them at www.FightingWordsPubco.com 

 

There are links to YouTube and podcasts, as well.  Or, anyone can call me directly at (847) 274-1474.  Googling my name will also produce all kinds of unusual results.  That other Robert M. Katzman, now deceased, whose name will also appear and who also published, was a doctor.  He actually bought one of my books!  Such a nice man.  Rest in peace, Dr. Katzman.

 

There will be short poems, stories and essays published in this space every two weeks by either myself or my co-blogist Richard G. Munden, or both.  If you find our postings thought provoking, moving or even amusing, please tell others to come view this site.  We will find our strength in your numbers.

 

 Next year, I will publish my fifth book, a collection of my best poetry and essays, called,

                                         

        I Seek the Praise of Ordinary Men

 

Individuals who know of independent bookstores that might be interested in a rough-hewn guy like me, who ran a chain of newsstands for 20 years in Chicago, please tell them about my books, will you?  I am partial to independent bookstores, having owned two, myself, until my last one was killed by the giant chains, in 1994. I still miss it. 

 

I’m also looking to find someone who would want to make a play out of some of my stories in the Chicago area, so I could go there and do some readings sometimes.  I think there’s enough honest sex, drugs and rock n’ roll to hold anyone’s interest, as well as a lot of authentic dialogue from ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  I think the plays would work anywhere, frankly, in some intimate theater with talented actors.

             

 

Katzman’s Cinema Komments # 9 – 3/1/08

Filed under: Humor,Katzman's 13 Vintage Movie Reviews,Katzman's Cinema Komments — Bob at 2:30 pm on Sunday, March 2, 2008

Doc Hollywood (1991) starring Michael J. Fox who was born in Western Canada in 1961, who is now 47 years old and sadly very ill with Parkinson’s disease, which terminated his career in the movies, is one of my favorite, romanticized views of small town life and the discovery of love when you weren’t looking for it. 

Fox is a skilled, overworked, underpaid, wise-ass, self-centered and tense emergency room doctor in a public hospital in New York City, repairing gunshot wounds, drug overdoses and other grim urban disasters who is totally unpopular with his fellow workers.   When he receives an inventation to join a very upscale plastic surgery practice in LA, he finds that no one wants to come to his farewell party, and he leaves his years long job without making a ripple.

That is our first impression of Fox, a subtle, sensitive, funny and very ingaging actor, whom audiences don’t so much like him as they want to adopt him.  Slight in stature at about 4’10”, he projects confidence, and irony and a willingness to endure what he cannot change, in this complicated story.

Eagarly leaving NYC behind on the Interstate going west, he encounters a road block far from any major urban areas and had to make a detour which takes him deeper into rural fantasyland in South Carolina.  He is driving his beloved snow white sports car, his prized possesion, and after suddenly missing a turn and becoming confused, plows into the white picket fence of the Mayor’s house.

Sentenced to community service, until his smashed up but rescuable car is repaired, by that Mayor, whom I believe is also the judge in a typical small town movie role where one character has multiple and unrelated jobs, just like in Baby Boom, (last week’s column) where the guy who comes to fix Diane Keaton’s dry well (or was it the roof?  Or both?  It doesn’t matter…)  is also the featured singer at the town dance.

After meeting a range of amusing townspeople, some who like him and some who scorn him as too stuck up for their little town, he is assigned to work with the very old but (naturally) beloved cranky Town Doc, who measures his wealth in babies born long ago who now are having their own babies, instead of material wealth.  His nickname, Doc Hollywood, is not attached to him with admiration.

There is a plan afoot, hatched by the devious Mayor and other co-conspirators, to somehow lure the dashing (to them) big city doctor to stay in their beautiful homey little town.  They even offer him a house, for free.  Not as chance, responds Fox, who yearns for the big bucks he will pile up reshaping floppy breasts, double chins and sagging rear ends.

                                                                                                     (Read on …)

Katzman’s Cinema Komments # 8–2/23/08

Filed under: Humor,Jewish Themes,Katzman's 13 Vintage Movie Reviews,Katzman's Cinema Komments,Love and Romance — Bob at 1:29 pm on Saturday, February 23, 2008

Baby Boom (1987), one of my favorite fish-out-of-water romantic movies is closely related to Doc Hollywood (1991), both depicting very self-assured, smug, sophisticated, highly educated New York City people who unashamedly act openly condescending toward rural towns and types.

Both involve an unexpected re-evaluation of core values, re-categorizing old priorities and slowing w-a-a-a-a-a-y down.  Or, to quote Simon and Garfunkle (both men, unbelievably, now creeping toward seventy years old!) : Slow down! You move too fast! Got to make…the moment last…just kickin’ ’round the cobblestones………………

This week, I’ll attempt to transmit the magical romance that the first film, Baby Boom, bathes me in whenever I see it.  Farm Country real estate brokers ought to make seeing this sweet film a requirement before they show city people rural acreage, and perhaps make those buyers more aware of what already is, doesn’t need an injection of giant and ugly boxy architecture just because there’s so much land available at much cheaper than big city prices.  Just because a person can afford to dramatically change his surroundings doesn’t mean that is reason enough to do it.  Charm is a fragile thing.

Diane Keaton, the film’s star, unlike most film heroines is more linear than curvy, yet to me she conveys an irresistible allure of intelligence, spontaneity, unorthodox speech patterns and pronunciation, sexy indignation and exasperation, studied humorous theatricality in her movements and gestures and did I mention I think she’s beautiful?  Not just twenty years ago, but today too? 

Well, she’s the dream schiksa to me.  Endlessly interesting to watch on the big screen, and the little one, too.

She’s an account manager of some big name companies in a high-powered marketing firm, who has chosen to remaine single because she’s ‘married to her career’ and no man she’s met yet has the stuff to deter her from her hungry ambition to dominate her surroundings and be universally recognized for her accomplishments.  She is the self-described “Tiger-Lady” and buddy— better stay out of her way.

(Read on …)

Next Page »