May 29, 2010

Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

I don't do obits. As far as honoring the dead, I say we all go watch a Dennis Hopper movie this weekend. My suggestion is RED ROCK WEST. Great effin' movie. Or you could always queue up BLUE VELVET.

(needless to say, this clip is NSFW)

RIP, man.

May 28, 2010

Spend this Friday with Alvin

My latest piece is up at Libertas Film Magazine!

This week's Classic Cinema Obsession? SERGEANT YORK.

May 26, 2010

Midnight Pee Wee

Last Saturday night I experienced Midnight Madness.

By 11:30 PM on a Saturday night, downtown Royal Oak is usually filled with hundreds of drunks stumbling down the sidewalks in packs, a bunch of Sex & the City wannabe chicks and their AXE body spray-soaked boyfriends. Also, at this point on a Saturday night in Royal Oak, a few fat, lonely middle aged cat ladies wander the streets looking to escape their claustrophobic lives. There are also several frayed and grey-haired hipsters, stinking of leather and the early '80s, stalking the city as if looking for an impromptu Lou Reed concert to start.

And amidst them all are the hipster kids, the nerds, the zoom-dweebies, the dorks and punks, all of them from the high school band geeks to the twenty-something slackers, shoulders slumped, skinny jeans, cigarettes and funky black-rimmed glasses dangling on their faces, all of them hanging on street corners, loitering around the town like River Cuomo's locust army. All of them in line to see the midnight showing of PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

May 24, 2010

Faygo Pop of the Week

RED POP! A classic.

One of the original Faygo flavors, Red Pop started life in 1907 as a strawberry soda called, appropriately enough, Strawberry Soda. In the '60s the name was officially changed to "Red Pop" and sold in cans. Red Pop is available in regular or sugar free (if, like Alex Karras, you're trying to slim down).

Faygo also offers Original Red Pop made with real cane sugar (in bottles) for real retro enthusiasts.

For more retro Faygo commercials, go HERE.

May 21, 2010

Don't Be a Slave to the Age! part 2

Free yourself from mental slavery!

My biggest reason for writing this retro-minded blog (besides my obvious passion for Things That Are Old) is to expose others to the vast, seemingly endless surprises and joys of Old Culture and to help them break out of the chains of their current media imprisonment by going back in time to explore the pleasures of Retro.

You see, media today is so pervasive, so flashy and belligerent, that it's almost like we are slaves to what the big media masters want to give us. We can't escape from the mindless filth and idiotic pablum that gets served up by the MSM, so we either acquiesce or we simply tune out altogether and go read a book.

Sure, there are more CHOICES out there than ever before, but we have to willfully MAKE those choices and pursue alternative media on our own -- the MSM isn't going to hand it to us on a shiny Obama Inaugural Collectors Edition platter. And I'm not just talking about the MSM in terms of political media. The entertainment/pop culture mainstream media is as narrow and agenda driven as the political MSM.

But thanks to the Internet and to cable channels like TCM, it is easier than ever to enjoy truly different, truly individual, non-mainstream forms of media. But even though there are endless choices out there for people looking to break out of the cycle of dreck that populates the mainstream culture, it's not an easy thing to do to go exploring off the beaten path. It takes a conscious act of the will to break free from the grasp of the MSM and go looking for Old Stuff, or Unpopular Stuff, or Un-PC Stuff. It's not an easy thing to do to move beyond the superficial and lowest-common-denominator pop culture that the MSM confronts us with everyday. It's not easy to break the bonds of media slavery and free your mind.

But it did just get a little easier. LIBERTAS FILM MAGAZINE is a "new online film magazine that focuses on the idea of freedom as expressed in movies and popular culture." It's a new, updated and expanded version of the old Libertas blog, founded by filmmakers Jason Apuzzo and Govindini Murty, that features tons of film clips, short films, webisodes, trailers, podcasts, and more from independent filmmakers and artists who are interested in the ideas of freedom and liberty.

It also happens to feature me. I've been asked to contribute "visual essays" about classic films in my typically obsessive, crazed-old-movie-fanatic style. My first essay is up now. It's a piece about the Phil Karlson film noir SCANDAL SHEET, which aired recently on TCM as part of their Donna Reed Star of the Month tribute.

What I love about Libertas Film Magazine is the positive attitude the editors take towards cinema and culture. Libertas is interested in providing a platform for filmmakers and independent artists to share their work. It's a website that's interested in having a discussion about film and art and culture and it's not afraid to look outside the mainstream and give voice to independent ideas and pro-freedom artists. It's an antidote to the mental slavery that the current pop culture gatekeepers have tried to keep us in.

And it's not just some place for people to tediously bitch and moan about Hollywood and Hollywood Liberals. I've done my fair share of ragging on Hollywood and its garbage, sure, but after awhile, that kind of negativity gets boring.

Libertas is different. Libertas is interested in championing new films and filmmakers and celebrating the good stuff that's out there (including the good stuff that just happens to be Old Stuff, which is what I'm all about, of course). It's about being a positive force in the arts instead of a negative force. As the editors of Libertas put it: "Libertas’ goal is to show our readers movies they can enjoy – not just to warn them about movies to avoid."

So don't be a slave to the age -- and you can start by reading Libertas Film Magazine.

May 17, 2010

More Lena Horne

I've posted pictures of some MGM movie posters at my tumblr blog. All of the movies featured Lena.

Check them out! (scroll down to May 17)

May 11, 2010

Lena Horne (1917-2010)

A classy, beautiful lady. We're glad there was you, Lena.

May 2, 2010

Nickelodeon has lost its identity

Watch this montage of old Nickelodeon bumpers and promos from the late '80s and early '90s. These little clips are funny, strange, inventive, colorful, sometimes messy, sometimes just plain weird. But they are always fun and creative. They are always offbeat and interesting. They always manage to capture what it means to be a kid. And they were pretty much unlike anything else on television at the time. No other channel had promos like these (except Nick at Nite, 'natch).

You watch these promos and you "get" what Nickelodeon is: A wacky, weird, messy, unpredictable, strange, funny, silly, imaginative place. It's not just a TV channel for kids to call their own, it's like the very mind of a child come to life. There's nothing "cool" or glamorous or slick about it; this is a channel that embraces the geekier, weirder side of life and it works because most kids aren't the popular, good-looking kings and queens of their school and playground -- most kids are the dorks and the geeks, awkward and strange and average, just trying to have fun and be silly and be... kids. No little mini rock stars or glamor girls here.

Contrast with these new Nickelodeon bumpers:

I could only find one clip of a current-day Nick promo advertising the channel itself:

This is very different from old school Nick, which often had SEVERAL 30 second bits that just promoted the channel itself and not any specific show. For current-day Nick, all I could find is this one promo.

This is evidence in my mind that Nickelodeon as a brand and a unique identity is no more. The channel can't do a variety of little 30 second promos to promote the network identity because the network no longer has a unique identity. They tried to make this new promo seem old school with the slime, but really, even the slime is now slick and bland. It's all a pale comparison to the vibrant promotionals that Nickelodeon used to run.

I know I'm late to the party in noticing it, but Nickelodeon is now just "Disney Channel, Part 2" -- a channel filled with tween sitcoms starring glammed-out, gorgeous teen idols whom the network executives hope to turn into the next Hannah Montanas (complete with merchandising, record albums, music videos, and concerts).

All of these shows are heavy on the romance/relationship stuff as well as issues of popularity and status within the shows' settings (i.e.: high school, the fashion industry, the music industry, etc.). Implicitly they suggest that girls must dress in the latest fashion trends, style themselves with lots of makeup, and be overly concerned with fame and celebrity (i.e.: the characters on iCARLY have a web show; VICTORIOUS revolves around a young woman who wants to become a famous singer; TRUE JACKSON VP is focused on the fashion industry and clothing as image; BIG TIME RUSH is about a boy band that wants to make it big).

From watching these shows, one would think the life of a kid today should revolve around Internet celebrity, fashion, and the music industry (specifically the "teen idol" industry). These shows are often funny and entertaining but they don't reflect what it's like to be an ordinary kid. They give kids a superficial and image-obsessed fantasy version of adolescence that is probably very intoxicating for the kids watching these shows, but at what cost?

Now, speaking to my fellow twentysomething nostalgics, let's not kid ourselves: Old School Nick had some terrible, vapid shows too (FIFTEEN, WELCOME FRESHMAN, and ROUNDHOUSE come most quickly to mind). I'm not arguing that everything on Nick was perfect in the early '90s and everything on Nick now is crap. There have always been crappy shows on Nickelodeon, there will always be crappy shows on Nickelodeon.

What I am saying, though, is that Nick as a channel used to have an identity that was more free spirited and fun. The channel itself had an overall spirit of weirdness and messiness and creativity that was stronger than its individual shows. Nickelodeon the channel was as varied and unpredictable as the kids who watched it. There was something for everyone. And it was a place where nerds and ordinary kids could come for television that spoke to them. THE ADVENTURES OF PETE AND PETE, REN AND STIMPY, SALUTE YOUR SHORTS, CLARISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL, ROCKO'S MODERN LIFE, ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?, DOUBLE DARE, LEGENDS OF THE HIDDEN TEMPLE, GUTS -- the list goes on and on.

Once upon a time, Nickelodeon was for real, ordinary kids. Now it's for glamor girls and high-gloss celebrities. Compare and contrast the Nickelodeon kids of the golden age versus the "stars" of today:



Unfortunately, in chasing those Hannah Montana/Disney Channel dollars, Nick has ceded its unique identity for the love of the filthy lucre. In a way, Nick's success as a television channel has been its own undoing. As the channel has become more successful, more money is at stake, and with more money at stake, executives want to take fewer chances. Seeing the success of the teen idol formula on Disney, the Nick execs counter with their own teenybopper stars and soon all of the inventive, unusual, and offbeat stuff that Nickelodeon was known for falls by the wayside in favor of safe, bland, marketable teenage commodities.

Now without an unique brand identity of its own to carry the channel forward, the success of Nickelodeon the channel depends entirely on the success of its tween/teen stars. The channel doesn't have brand loyalty anymore; it has only star loyalty. Kids don't love Nickelodeon, they love Miranda Cosgrove or Victoria Justice. Nickelodeon doesn't mean anything as a brand or as a channel except as the channel that shows iCARLY and SPONGEBOB. Nick doesn't even have The Splat anymore, that iconic, shapeshifting logo that symbolized everything it meant to be a kid to a generation who grew up in the '80s and '90s. Now Nickelodeon is as generic as all the other kids channels out there, one in a sea of many, no different than the rest.

Nick may be trying to hang on to the slime and the faint sense that they are the messier, more rebellious channel, but one need only look at the promos airing on the channel today and compare them to the promos from the '80s and '90s to see how far the channel has fallen. Nick might still have the slime, but it's lost the spirit of messiness and fun that made the slime great.