The World and A Clockwork Orange

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Hi, hi, hi there.

In our upcoming episode of WTM we'll be breaking down Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. To better prepare you, I wanted to set the stage of what the world was like during the filming of the movie.

While watching older films, I often ask myself - what was happening in the world at this time? Film and world events are often intertwined. Art is representative of life, as much as life imitates art. The main themes I pull from A Clockwork Orange are the love of and desensitization to violence, escape and isolation of people, freedom of choice (moral or immoral) and social disorder and fears of the state. With those themes in mind, I analyzed (e.g. Googled, Wiki'd) historical events that took place during the filming and up to the release of the film in New York City (September 1970 - December, 1971).

The events primarily relate to the US and Britain, given the film has an American director and is set in Britain. There are exceptions, but this was the best way to cut to the core of the audiences most represented in the film. In addition, I've added a quote to each theme to support my reasoning and photos for your enjoyment.

Theme #1: Love of and Desensitization to Violence

  Alex DeLarge

Alex DeLarge

"What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolent." - Alex

  • Monday Night Football debuts on ABC thus bringing one of America's most violent sports to prime time TV..
  • In Los Angeles, Charles Manson and 3 female "Family" members are found guilty of the 1969 Tate–LaBianca murders. Charles Manson is sentenced to death.
  • Evel Knievel sets a world record and jumps 19 cars in Ontario, California.
  • Boxer Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden in "The Fight of the Century".
  • In Washington state, a man calling himself D. B. Cooper parachutes from the Northwest Orient Airlines plane he'd hijacked, with $200,000 in ransom money, and is never seen again.
  D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper

Theme #2: Escape and Isolation of People

  Alex and his Droogs

Alex and his Droogs

"What sort of a world is it at all? Men on the moon, and men spinning around the earth, and there's not no attention paid to earthly law and order no more." - Tramp

  • Space race is in full swing, with the US and Soviet Union focusing on exploration outside of Earth:
    • Luna 16 lands on the Moon and lifts off the next day with samples.
    • The Soviet Union launches the Zond 8 lunar probe.
    • The Soviet Union launches Luna 17. This orbiting spacecraft goes on to launch Lunokhod 1 on the Moon, making it the first roving remote-controlled robot to land on another world.
    • The Soviet Union's Venera 7 becomes the first spacecraft to land successfully on Venus and transmit data back to Earth.
    • Apollo 14 lands on the Moon.
    • Mars 2 is launched by the Soviet Union.
    • The Soviet Union launches Salyut 1, the world's first manned space station.
    • Mariner 9 is launched toward Mars and becomes the first spacecraft to enter Mars orbit successfully.
    • After a successful mission aboard Salyut 1, the crew of the Soyuz 11 spacecraft are killed when their air supply leaks out through a faulty valve.
    • The United Kingdom opts out of the Space Race, with the cancellation of its Black Arrow launch vehicle.
    • Apollo 15 is launched.
  • American musician Jimi Hendrix dies from an overdose of sleeping pills.
  • Paul McCartney sues to dissolve The Beatles' legal partnership.
  • An air crash at Rijeka Airport, Yugoslavia kills 78 people, mostly British tourists.
  • Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors is found dead in his bathtub in Paris, France.
  • Intel releases the world's first microprocessor, the Intel 4004. Thus begins the rise of the robots.
  Apollo 14 Crew

Apollo 14 Crew

Theme #3: Freedom of Choice

  Prison Chaplain addressing prisoners

Prison Chaplain addressing prisoners

"Goodness is something to be chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man." - Prison Chaplain

  • The first women's only tennis tournament begins in Houston, known as the Houston Women's Invitation.
  • A ban on radio and television cigarette advertisements goes into effect in the United States.
  • Switzerland gives women voting rights in state elections, but not in all canton-specific ones.
  • The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution, formally certified by President Richard Nixon, lowers the voting age from 21 to 18.
  US President Nixon addressing Americans

US President Nixon addressing Americans

Theme #4: Social Disorder and Fears of the State

  Minister of the Interior and Alex

Minister of the Interior and Alex

"We are not concerned with motives, with the higher ethics. We are concerned only with cutting down crime and with relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons." - Minister

  • An assassination attempt against King Hussein of Jordan precipitates the Black September crisis.
  • The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacks 4 passenger aircraft from Pan Am, TWA and Swissair on flights to New York from Brussels, Frankfurt and Zürich.
  • A bomb explodes in the men's room at the United States Capitol. The Weather Underground claims responsibility.
  • The British postal workers' strike, led by UPW General Secretary Tom Jackson.
  • Five hundred thousand people in Washington, D.C. and 125,000 in San Francisco march in protest against the Vietnam War.
  • The Canadian government declares a state of emergency and outlaws the Quebec Liberation Front.
  • The government of Poland announces food price increases. Riots and looting lead to a bloody confrontation between the rioters and the government.
  • The United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is established.
  • Nixon signs into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
  • Strikes in Poland demand the resignation of Interior Minister Kazimierz Świtała. He resigns and is replaced by Franciszek Szlachcic.
  • The US, UK, USSR and others sign the Seabed Treaty, outlawing nuclear weapons on the ocean floor.
  • Protesting Belgian farmers bring 3 live cows to crash the EEC meeting in Brussels.
  • The Citizens' Commission to Investigate the Federal Bureau of Investigations breaks into their offices.
  • The New York Times begins to publish the Pentagon Papers. The Supreme Court rejects the government injunctions to prevent their release.
  • President Richard Nixon declares the U.S. War on Drugs.
  • British troops are stationed on the Ireland border to stop arms smuggling.
  • Camden, New Jersey erupts in race riots following the beating death of a Puerto Rican motorist by city police. Looting and arson occurred. This is a turning point in Camden's decline to one of the poorest and highest-crime municipalities in the United States.
  • A bomb explodes at the top of the Post Office Tower in London.
  US President Nixon and John McCain

US President Nixon and John McCain

The historical context helps to appreciate the film in it's time and better place you in a theater seat upon it's initial release. This background will ensure your listening of our newest podcast is real horrorshow.

-AJ

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Found Time for Film

  Couldn't help myself.

Couldn't help myself.

Time. It's a motherfucker. Just ask JT.

Between work, school, family, pets (see last weeks post) or other responsibilities, finding time to watch movies can be tough. Although it seems like you'll only be able to watch 1 full feature film a month, there's hope. I found 3 ways that help me continue my passion for film that I wanted to share with you.

1. Watch Short Films (for free)

Strapped for time? This might just be the time to indulge in the film category of "shorts". The Academy of Motion Picture (F)Arts and Sciences defines a short film as "an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits." With attention spans getting shorter and shorter this type of film making can only get more popular. Two sites that offer a ton of free films to watch are www.shortoftheweek.com/ and www.filmsshort.com/. They both include award winning films, films by famous directors and films by the average joe. 

Recommendations: 
Doodlebug (1997), Directed by Christopher Nolan, Runtime 3min
How They Get There (1997), Directed by Spike Jonze, Runtime 3min

2. Bonus Features

Now's the time to actually watch those bonus features on any DVD or Blu Ray you own. Obviously, this isn't movie watching, but education. Find your favorite movie and get to know the film even more. It'll make future viewings and random discussions even more interesting simply because you'll know more than most (as most don't watch these).

Recommendations:
The Witch (2015) - Two features on the Blu Ray copy include background on witch folklore that inspired the movie (The Witch: Primal Folklore) and a panel discussion with some of cast, director and local Salem, MA historians (Salem Panel Q&A). A deeper dive into the inspiration and the historians perspectives show how truly authentic The Witch really is.

There Will Be Blood (2007) - Several features are offered on the Blu Ray copy, but one personal favorite is a 1923 black and white silent film that chronicles the oil business in the 1920's (The Story of Petroleum). The historical context this provides makes this already great film even better.

3. Turn Movies into Mini Series

Break a film up over a period of a few days (e.g. film = mini-series). Ideally, this is best suited for movies you've already seen and know great stopping points. This allows you to pay closer attention to specific points in the movie, leave thinking about them and getting more out of it. Grab a VHS, DVD, Blu Ray, Streaming or pirated copy off your iPhone and chunk that bad boy up.

Recommendations:
Pulp Fiction (1994) - This film has the perfect combination of hidden details and perfect stopping points. These both allow for multiple viewings both in one-sitting or broken up. Here's the structure of the film (without credits), including approximate run times to highlight appropriate stopping points:

  1. Prologue - The Diner/Title Sequence: 7:06min
  2. Prelude to "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife": 14:02min
  3. Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife: 42:23min
  4. Prelude to "The Gold Watch": 5:15min
  5. The Gold Watch: 42:48min
  6. The Bonnie Situation: 22:43min
  7. Epilogue - The Diner: 16:26min

At the end of the day, watching a movie in one sitting is always the #1 option. Hopefully these help in times when that can't be done. Do you have other ways you continue your film watching whens time is tight? Join the discussion below.

  Sorry, I had to do it.

Sorry, I had to do it.

- AJ

A Dog Owner's Guide to Watching Movies

Ripley_Zuzu

Zuzu and Ripley. My two dogs.

About 3 years ago my wife and I (Sam Jones aka Flash Gordon) bought our first dog Ripley. She’s a Chocolate Lab with tons of energy. Naturally, Ripley needed a friend so we recently bought an 8 week old Yellow Lab named Zuzu to join the group. With Zuzu came the idea for this post.

We love movies. We love short movies. We love long movies. We love movie marathons. We even named our dogs after movie characters (see if you can guess the movie and character in the comments section). There were many things in our movie life we didn’t expect to change simply by purchasing a dog (or two). That’s why i wanted to share my wisdom with people to help navigate them through this journey as smoothly as possible.

Before I get into the meat, it’s important you have the right tools for the job. Here’s a list of items to have on hand in your home theater:

  1. Toys
  2. Everlasting Gobstopper
  3. Dog bed or blanket
  4. Post Workout Pooch
  5. Patience

Before the Movie Starts:

1. Exhaust your dog

Run em, play with em, exercise em. Be a responsible dog owner and take care of your dog. This pays off big time when you decide you want to kick back to watch a movie. Don’t be naive and think that if you’re dog has done nothing but chew on a toy all day that they’ll now want to stare at you while you stare at a noisy box with flashing colors. A Post workout pooch is much easier to set up for self-entertainment than one that is bursting with energy (e.g. Common Sense).

2. Set up the Thunder Dome

Place toys on the floor ranging from squeakers, rope and shredders. Now that you’re dogs run off some energy, time to set up their play area (aka The Thunder Dome). Cover all your bases here as you don’t know what those demons, I mean dogs, will prefer at the time. In addition, place a blanket or dog bed in the same area. This allows them to be nearby for resting after they’ve competed in the Thunder Dome. It also gives them space to enjoy the next item.

3. Everlasting Gobstopper

Finally, give the dog a bone, antler, bully stick or other long term delight. This is the Everlasting Gobstopper technique. If you’re dogs been good, it’s time to reward them. This is the ultimate technique to ensure not only a fun movie for you, but your dog as well. Before you know it, they’ll be salivating the minute the disc tray pops open on that Blu Ray player.

During the Movie:

4. Time is an Illusion

Hour and a half movies will take you two hours.. or longer. You may have just popped in It Comes at Night and are ready for a nice hour and half long movie. That’s nice, but your puppies bladder doesn’t give a shit. You’ll be pausing that movie so frequently that by the end you’ll think you just watched The Godfather (Parts I & II). Listen, all puppies are two things: cute and a constant waste disposal. Unless you want your home theatre to truly smell like death during a horror movie, pause the movie every 30 minutes or less and take the dog out. It’s less time than waiting for an accident that forces you to take them out AND clean it up.

5. Keep your head on a swivel

Puppies move quick and pee quicker. Keep an eye out at all times. Set up barriers to limit their movement. Regardless, you’re going to have to share your attention between the movie and puppy. Zuzu is always in the corner of our eyes. Ripley on the other hand is trained, so taking her out just before the movie usually prevents any worries during it. Older they get the easier this becomes.

6. Reactions aren’t just for humans

Dogs pay attention. Dog barks in the movie? Zuzu and Ripley stop what they’re doing and stare, and then join the barking. Dog whines in the movie? Zuzu and Ripley will look concerned and expect me to do something about it. It’s not only dogs, loud sounds too. Ripley will leave the room if the movie gets to intense. Zuzu? Not quite yet, BUT if either one is sleeping keep in mind loud sounds wake them up too. Be smart, turn it down and take advantage of that napping.

After the Movie:

7. Start Over

You’re movie break was their resting period as well. Be prepared to get active with them again and start the cycle over, but this time you can be strategic and tweak things to meet your dogs need better. One thing we learned was that Ripley loves Star Wars, Alien, and Marley & Me (for obvious reasons). Knowing this we watched Marley & Me with Zuzu our first night we had her. So instead of getting annoyed that you can’t watch movies like you once did, embrace the chaos and adapt to it. Eventually, they’ll be old enough to not care, but in the mean time why not make the best of it.

Does your dog like specific movies or any experiences to add? Comment below to join the discussion.

- AJ

Book Recommendation: David Lynch's Catching the Big Fish

I recently finished reading David Lynch’s book “Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity”. The book left me with a greater understanding of how Lynch develops his wildly original ideas, while also providing a light introduction to Transcendental Meditation. This was all accomplished in a very short 192 pages (i.e. 1 chapter was only 1 sentence just to give you an idea). This post will not spoil anything but instead give you a glimpse of the things you can learn in such a condensed reading. In short – highly recommended reading for Lynch, film or meditation buffs.

Here are some topics covered that I enjoyed the most:

  1. Transcendental Meditation – A major influence in Lynch’s creative process and life.
  2. Why Inland Empire (2006) might just be his last film ever.
  3. What the Wall Street Journal, Stanley Kubrick and Eraserhead (1977) all have in common.
  4. The answer to everyone’s question from Mulholland Drive (2001) – WHAT’S THE KEY AND THE BOX ALL ABOUT?!?!
  5. The relationship between the O.J. Simpson trial and Lost Highway (1997)
  6. Blue Velvet (1986) and Twin Peaks (TV Series) influences and fun facts.
  7. His favorite camera to use these days (hint: it’s something most people could afford to purchase.)

Check out, buy, borrow or steal the book and find out more yourself. With the upcoming return of Twin Peaks, there isn’t any better reading to help you prepare for the unique madness that is David Lynch.

-AJ
 

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters

I recently visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) to check out the Guillermo del Toro exhibit "At Home with Monsters". To summarize - it was like walking into a haunted house with the lights turned on. If you get the chance, go see for yourself.

The exhibit features a collection of paintings, drawings, artifacts, and concept film art from del Toro's own house in Los Angeles known as Bleak House. Not only was there actual film used items like Hellboy's gun, Crimson Peak fashion and countless Crono's storyboards, but also family pictures and del Toro created art work. In addition, del Toro loaned out art work he collects unrelated to his films and personal life. As you slowly make you're way through the various rooms, you come to understand (and appreciate) the inspiration that Guillermo uses for his great films.

I'll save my breath and let you get a taste of what I experienced via pictures I took for the remainder of the post. Keep in mind - these are only a sample of what's there. The exhibit is still on display up until May 28th, so buy your tickets soon. You won't regret it.

All picture rights reserved to Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Guillermo del Toro who graciously allowed visitors to capture and share this material with friends who couldn't see for themselves. 

- AJ

Great B&W Films Since 1980

  Pi (1998)

Pi (1998)

With the recent release of Logan (2017), there has been news that a black and white version of the film is already in the works for a potential release on home video. In addition to last years black and white home video release Mad Max: Fury Road Black & Chrome Edition this got WTM thinking - what are some of the best films made in black and white in the home video era (ie. since around 1980)?

Here is a quick list of WTM recommended films that have either a complete black and white version or a memorable portion of the movie in B&W:

Please comment below to let us know any we've missed or debate whether ones on the list should even be recommended.

- AJ

Eastwood's New Flick "Sully" Proves One Thing - LOTTA DUDES!

by Alex Jones

If you travel to IMDB.com today you’ll notice a huge advertisement for the new Clint Eastwood flick "Sully". This is set for wide release in US theaters on September 9th and will be yet another addition to Eastwood's "based on a true story or person" film collection. 

Clint has directed a total of 66 movies, of which 11 are based on a real person or event. It may seem as though he’s done bio-pic’s consistently over time, but it’s really a recent trend. 5 of his last 6 films (including Sully) fall into this category. Here’s a full listing of his “true story” chronology with the person and a few words describing the event it depicts:

  • Sully (2016) -  Chesley Sullenberger (ie. Dude who landed a plan DOWN BY THE RIVER!)
  • American Sniper (2014) - Chris Kyle (ie. Dude who protected America by killing a lot of dudes.)
  • Jersey Boys (2014) - Jersey Boys (ie. Bunch of dudes singin'.)
  • J. Edgar (2011) - J. Edgar Hoover (ie. 1st FBI Dude to spy and arrest dudes… and secretly may like dudes.)
  • Invictus (2009) - Nelson Mandela & Francois Pienaar (ie. Dudes tackling dudes for peace.)
  • Changeling (2008) - Christine Collins (ie. Kinda true murder story about a Lady…. Where’s the dudes?)
  • Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) - WWII Japanese Troops(ie. Japanese dudes in WWII Iwo Jima)
  • Flags of Our Fathers (2006) - WII American Troops (ie. American dudes in WWII Iwo Jima)
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) - Jim Wilson & John Kelso (ie. The story of a murder involving a reporter dude and millionaire dude.)
  • Bird (1988) - Charlie “Bird” Parker (ie. Movie about a jazz musician dude.)
  • Heartbreak Ridge (1986) - Marine Sgt. Thomas Highway & other American troops (ie. A bunch of American dudes invading Grenada.)

So first thing you notice when reading that list - LOTTA DUDES. Second thing you ask - Where the ladies at? Third thing you say - Edgar your skin is hanging off your bones.

Hey we’re not here to judge Clint’s selection in true stories, but if he wants some ideas for a heroine that fits his interests look no further than Lyudmila Pavlichenko aka Lady Death. She was a Ukrainian Soviet sniper during WWII credited with 309 kills. To put in perspective that's 149 more kills than Chris Kyle. I'll pause here so you can collect your brains because your minds have just been BLOWN! 

So, will “Sully” prove worthy or disappointing? We’ll see. But there’ll be plenty of time for Mr. Sullenberger to contemplate this film while he’s landing a plane .. DOWN BY THE RIVER!

Rising Actor: Barkhad Abdi

by Alex Jones

Maybe it's because he's from Minnesota (as are all of the WTM hosts) or maybe it's because he quietly attached himself to several critically acclaimed movies. Regardless, I felt it necessary to highlight fellow Minnesotan, Barkhad Abdi, as a slowly rising star in Hollywood.
 
Barkhad made his big screen debut as Somali pirate, Muse, in 2013's Captain Phillips (RT 93%). Not only did this lead to an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but also launched his career in more ways than one. Since then, he's followed up with roles in 2015's Eye in the Sky (RT 95%) and 2016's The Brother's Grimsby (RT 37%). In that same time period, he's racked up roles on the US TV series Hawaii Five-O and Family Guy (in which he does the voice of a cartoon version of Muse from Captain Phillips). A solid track record over the course of 3 years to say the least.
 
Even more impressive is the recent announcement that he'll be acting alongside Harrison Ford in Denis Villeneuve (Director of Sicario, Prisoners) future sequel to Blade Runner (Source: http://www.slashfilm.com/barkhad-abdi-blade-runner-2-cast/). The guy who went from fleeing war torn Somalia to DJ-ing pool parties in Minneapolis (Source: IMDB) is definitely someone you'll continue to hear more of whether you reside in Minnesota or not.

Teaching Through Cinema: The Dark Knight

by Alex Jones

One thing I always loved about films was how they can make you more aware of issues or current events in society. Some movies are very upfront about the topics they’re addressing. The best ones though initially make you think they are pure entertainment, but you soon learn otherwise. A paper I read recently illustrates this point even further.

The author, Fareed Ben-Youssef, analyzes Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" and uses it to showcase how it depicts the "allure and trap of state surveillance." Here is a summary given by the author:

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” So asks Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) about surveillance monitors featuring a commanding panoramic montage of Gotham City. His rapture encapsulates the superhero film’s tensions—the state’s technologically empowered sight is simultaneously abhorrent and exhilarating. Nolan considers the post-9/11 state's changed relation with its citizenry, drawing a comparison between the untraceable Joker’s terrorism and the subsequent scenario where citizens are seen as threats, creating an urban space as panopticon. I situate Batman’s skeptical view of city-dwellers in reference to Giorgio Agamben’s writings on the state’s conflation of ordinary man and terrorist. Mirrored sonic cues, I argue, reveal how the film blurs the line between the superhero’s and supervillain’s practices; however, by emulating the God-like vision of drones via kinetic imagery, The Dark Knight illustrates the allure of a mechanical eye that represents the culmination of what Paul Virilio describes as warfare’s marrying of camera with weaponry.

Through formal analysis of key scenes against controversial developments in post-9/11 Law, my paper ultimately asks: how can genre films be employed in surveillance studies to understand how excesses of executive power become normalized? What is the potential and limit of spectacle to critique such eerily beautiful optics?

Full analysis can be read here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2lhvCb5suVuZmRLNEJEcm4yR1E/view?pref=2&pli=1

Think a super hero movie holds no power outside of the screen? Think again. Analysis like this are great methods for teaching kids and adults about issues they otherwise wouldn't read. In addition, it adds to the enjoyment of putting together the puzzle that is a movie.

Mr. Forsythe, can I buy you a drink?

by Alex Jones

This past weekend I had a chance to sit in on a Q&A with William Forsythe at Crypticon in Minneapolis. The more questions he answered and stories he told, all I could think was “Man, I’d like to drink with this guy.” His stories, his delivery and his appearance easily prove my point, but let me try to drive this home in with 5 reasons why he would make an excellent drinking companion.

1.     Solved one of John Wayne Gacy's murders?

In preparation for his role as John Wayne Gacy in 2010's Dear Mr. Gacy, Forsythe stated that he did in depth research to get into character, including interviewing dozens of people who actually knew the real life serial killer. In his research he believes that he discovered the location of another victim that the police had yet to identify. Although he alerted police, nothing was done about it. Whether he did or didn't find an additional victim, we'll never know, but the fact that he may have and did the due diligence to report it is reason enough to buy this man a drink.

2.    Does a great Sean Connery impression

Bill had the opportunity to work with Sean Connery in 1996's The Rock. The experience and his acting ability provided him with one of his best skills - impressions. Although it cannot be done justice in this post if you ever have a chance to see a Q&A with Forsythe, ask about Connery and then sit back and enjoy. 

3.     Excellent story teller

William has played a gangster or acted in a gangster movie or TV show several times over the years. From his role as Phillip "Cockeye" Stein in Once Upon a Time in America (1984) to Flattop in Dick Tracy (1990) and more recently Manny Horvitz in Boardwalk Empire (2010).  Through his years of research he came to nail down and tell the Al Capone phone prank story. The prank involves Irish gangster Dean O’Bannon having a female associate call Al Capone posing as a friend to Capone and tell him someone has died. As Capone's heart strings are pulled for around 30 minutes Capone asks something to the effect of "Who can I send the flowers to?" to which the female responds, "O'BANNONNNN!". Again, it cannot be done justice in a blog post, you must hear it from Mr. Forsythe himself.

4.     Thigh High Shorts

Bill showed up to Crytpicon in a pair of thigh high shorts, rolled up long sleeve shirt and vest. Although I was concerned we may get more of a show than we anticipated when he hopped onto the tall stool he held his Q&A from, anyone who can rock thigh high shorts in Minnesota during October with such confidence has my respect. See picture below for visual. Baller.

 Host of WTM, Eric Mulder, with WIlliam Forsythe

Host of WTM, Eric Mulder, with WIlliam Forsythe

5.     Always improving and optimistic

Last but not least the guy has a great attitude and is down to earth. Cliche as that may sound, when he was asked "What's the greatest film you've ever done" he responded, “I always believe my greatest film is the next one.” He admits that he's done, what he calls, "stinkers" but that he's also done some great ones. Regardless, he believes that the best one is the next one and he'll be prepared. Now that's a man I could share a bottle of whiskey with.

The First Time: Sam & A Few Good Men

by Alex Jones

I wanted to kickoff this series of blog posts with a recent first time I got to experience with Sam. It’s important to give some background to help set up this weeks first timer. Sam has been mentioned various times on WTM podcasts and is responsible for much of graphic design work that goes into the site. She also happens to my roommate, girlfriend, and partner in crime. We’ve both had the pleasure of witnessing some of each other’s first times. This weeks post will bring you onto the couch of our living room for Sam’s first time watching Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men (1992).

It’s important to understand my emotions going into this viewing. I had seen this film several times, but hadn’t watched it for several years. I remembered A Few Good Men as being an excellent courtroom drama with one of cinema’s most classic lines. In addition, it had an impressive cast to include Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, and Kevin Pollack. Hell, even Cuba Gooding Jr. makes an appearance in this heavy hitter.  Not to mention it was nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Picture. Aaron Sorkin wasn’t messing around when he adapted this book into a screenplay.

With that set up, I knew Sam would so into it that she’d have a paralegal degree by the time credits rolled. So I sat back, hit play and prepared to watch history in the making. About an hour into it, I began to feel as though Sam may not be as grabbed as I thought. The first red flag: her comment on the music. She said the electronic keyboard was “so 80’s” and loud that it was comical. Hmm. That’s not good, but I can’t say I didn’t agree. Regardless, the best performances were yet to come. We’ll get past this.

As the two-hour mark approach, so did the second red flag: her phone appeared. While my eyes are locked on the TV getting into the dialogue and counting how many times Tom Cruise picks up his baseball bat, I see a screen light up to my left. She’s pulled up her phone. I ask what she’s doing and she said “nothing” and puts the phone back down. Meh. Must have just been a habit to check her email. That’s all right. I’m not trying to change behavior, just blow minds with this movie. 

The best part of the movie has just occurred on screen and I’m fired up mouthing, “You can’t handle the truth!” I look at Sam with absolute enjoyment.  Her eyes are watching the screen, but her mind is counting the minutes. Shortly after, the credits roll and before I can ask the ultimate question, “What’d you think?” she yells out “That was the most boring movie I’ve ever seen. The cheesy lines, Tom Cruise and his f’ing baseball bat, and that keyboard. Ugh. I went through all of that just too see those last few minutes of dialogue. I’ll never watch that again.”

SAYYY WHATTTTT?!?! I’m so caught off guard that I burst out in laughter. She laughs as well. Then I proceed to defend the movie and inform her that she just could not handle the truth and that was the issue. In the end, her first time with A Few Good Men was not something she was willing to try again – at least not as long as a keyboard is involved.

The First Time: Introduction

by Alex Jones

videodrome-1.jpg

We all remember our first time. You may have been excited or scared. There might have been many people in the room or just that special someone. The shades may have been drawn or wide open. Regardless, your first time cannot be re-done and will always be the baseline from which you will you base all repeat performances. Clearly, I am talking about the first time you watch a truly great or terrible movie. You know what’s more interesting than your first time? Someone else’s.

We all have our movies that not only do we love, but we LOVE to show other people. Maybe it’s when you were in elementary school and it was showing a sticky VHS copy of Porky’s to your fellow friends just so you could be the one who showed them their first boob. Or maybe it’s showing your friends the movie Saw so that you could watch their reaction to a man cutting through his own leg. Movie nerds like myself thrive for these moments. So the question is why?

Simply put, I want others to go through the same memorable reaction that I did. Whether it was insane dialogue in Pulp Fiction, torture scenes that make you squirm in Hostel, or the internal battle of inspiration and anger I experienced watching United 93. These emotions are validation that what you just watched was gripping on some level. I’ve had many first times with others who experience the same reaction. This only makes the movie that much better. But what happens when the person you’re putting through your little experiment doesn’t react how you expect? 

Assholes. Sorry, slip of tongue. I meant to say you feel like you’ve just been dumped or told that someone close to you has died. You go through shock, denial, sadness, and anger. Why could the movie not elicit the type of emotions you had felt your first time? There must be something wrong with that person or maybe they weren’t in the right mood. Contrary to George Costanza, it’s not you – it’s them.

The focus of this blog series will be to sit you next to me at people’s most vulnerable moments. The time they first get to experience a movie that I have found to be moving on some level.  They won’t know what’s coming, but you are on the edge of your seat hoping they feel how you did. I’ll cover times in the past and present. These will include times with close friends and family, as well some of my own first times. In the end, you can never change someone’s first time. That’s why it’s important to manipulate and argue why their emotions were incorrect or high five the shit out of them when they have an equal reaction.