Monday, June 25, 2018

freakboy on film: JOHN'S ABSOLUTE FAVORITE

I have a lot of favorite films.  There was a time when my Top Ten list would fluctuate on any given day, so picking one absolute favorite film was impossible.  This changed recently thanks to a bridal shower.  

No, it wasn't a progressive, 21st Century-style bridal shower, and even if it had been, I still wouldn't have attended because I would have died from boredom or at least lost the rest of my vision from excessive eye-rolling.  My sister attended our oldest niece's shower and then told me all about it.  Only one activity sounded intriguing to me.

The guests took a fun little quiz to see who knew the bride best.  One question was , "What is the bride's favorite movie?"   This got my brain churning because my niece had narrowed it down to one film, which my sister didn't know and I would have NEVER guessed in a million years, but I'm not here to blog about my niece's favorite film.

I initially wondered if I could ever pick just one of my favorite films to hold above all the others.  Then I wondered how my friends and family would respond to such a question about me.  Over the next week, my sister and I frequently discussed the topic.  I guessed her favorite film was The Terminator and she figured mine was Chuck & Buck.  I give her credit for at least choosing a film I actually enjoy, but she ended up being wrong.

During that week, I gave my favorite films some serious thought.  My gut immediately jumped to Desperate Living or Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but somehow this didn't ring completely true.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE these films and practically recite the dialogue as I watch them, and they are in my Top Ten.  I sorted through other favorites, such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, CarrieWelcome to the Dollhouse and so many others, until one film illuminated my mind, with my sincerest apologies to John Waters.

ROSEMARY'S BABY


I'm sure some of you are calling shenanigans on me because of my nearly scary obsession over other films, but I assure you this 1968 film is, hands down, my #1. 

From the brilliant screenplay to the superb acting to the skillful directing to the crafty music score, I watch Rosemary's Baby with a profound sense of awe, respect and admiration.  On top of all that, I am always thoroughly entertained, no matter my mood.  


Roman Polanski took Ira Levin's wickedly clever novel of modern day witches in New York City and masterfully wrote and directed an extremely faithful adaptation.  Sure, he dropped Guy's mom and Rosemary's little sabbatical, but what works in a book might slow a movie down to a crawl.  Polanski keeps the film simmering at a nice pace while the suspense slowly builds from within until it explodes when Rosemary finally discovers the truth about the neighbors and her baby.


Krzysztof Komeda's score is genius.  His music deftly celebrates the happy moments when Rosemary's life seems to be going well, but Komeda's music also fills the atmosphere with an off-kilter, creepy vibe whenever things start going very wrong.  The truly original soundtrack is worth listening to on its own!  


Finally, the acting.  The entire cast has such a natural feel with each of their performances that they should all be celebrated.  The acting, much like the plot, is low-key and creeps up on you.  Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as Minnie and Roman Castevet are perfect in their "We're just a harmless, eccentric, wealthy old couple" routine that it's startling to find out they are witches.  Even more startling is they still essentially give off that "harmless-eccentric" vibe even after the horrific truth is revealed.


Then there is John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse.  He makes the audience believe that Guy truly loves Rosemary in the beginning of the film.  This makes it so much more heartbreaking and repugnant when he sells-out his wife for fame and fortune.  


Last, but far from least, there is Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse.  She illuminates every scene and never makes one false move with her performance.  Mia Farrow epitomizes the character and perfectly captures the innocence, the wit, the vulnerability and the strength of Rosemary Woodhouse.  Two other actresses have played this character on-screen, but Mia Farrow will always be the definitive Rosemary. 

There you have it, my absolute favorite film, which was released 50 years ago this month!  It's weird to have this knowledge, but it feels good to have the question finally answered.  Rosemary's Baby was delivered into my life on January 1, 1998 through a chance VHS rental and it blew my cinematic mind.  Plus, the film cemented my respect and admiration for Ira Levin, whom I already loved thanks to The Stepford Wives.  

So, gather the tannis root, stir up some chocolate mousse, and allow my absolute favorite film to cast its spell on you...

"Tannis, anyone?" 
Freak Out, 
JLH

P.S.  A review of what is most likely my second favorite film...

Friday, June 1, 2018

freakboy on film: LET ME IN ("The Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon" Edition)

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A massive thanks to Gill Jacob of Realweegiemidget Reviews and Barry P. of Cinematic Catharsis for allowing me to participate in THE GREAT HAMMER-AMICUS BLOGATHON!  
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                             2010 
Screenplay by & Directed by Matt Reeves 




"I've been 12 for a very long time." - Abby 






I was in the right place at the right time to experience LET ME IN on the big screen.  Curiosity brought me to the theater because I had seen LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and had read the novel.  To be blunt, I wasn't expecting much out of a version set in the United States, that is until the HAMMER logo appeared on the screen.  


First, I had to check if I was still alive.  Second, I wondered if I had been thrown back in time.  I had no idea Hammer was still in the motion picture business in the 21st Century!  Third, my expectations skyrocketed because of this cinematic revelation!  I must confess that I initially had mixed feelings as I left the theater, but repeat viewings have made me appreciate and thoroughly enjoy this film. 

The story, if you are not familiar with it, centers around Owen, a young boy in the 1980's who is ignored at home and bullied at school.  Owen's life changes when a young girl, Abby, moves in next door with a man who seems to be her father.  Turns out Abby is a vampire and the man is her protector and human blood collector.  Events and emotions become extremely entangled and complicated as Owen and Abby figure out if they should let each other into their damaged lives.  


LET ME IN is ultimately a story about loneliness and the three principle leads capture that isolated feeling.  Kodi Smit-McPhee, as Owen, radiates sadness as he struggles with the divorce of his parents while trying to avoid a trio of bullies.  Chloë Grace Moretz gives a mesmerizing performance that shows Abby is older than her body indicates, but is somehow still a child in her own way.  Richard Jenkins is perfectly cast as the middle-age, kind of pathetic father/protector whose life hasn't quite turned out how he imagined.  

While LET ME IN is different from the classic Hammer films, there are similarities to be found.  There is a lurid quality to the story and in certain scenes.  Specifically when the father/protector dumps acid on his face to disguise his identity.  The smoking-skin effect seems like a loving throwback, but it's still disturbingly effective.  Another similarity to the classics is how it becomes increasingly clear, as the plot unfolds, that the real monster in the film is human.  

So, if you want some moody, 21st Century Hammer horror, break out the Rubik's Cube, grab some Now & Later, and enjoy LET ME IN

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. Click NATURE'S FURY to read a filmic blogpost from the last time I was invited to participate in a blogathon.
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Click JLH for more info on this blogger.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

That Anniversary Post

I started this blog five years ago today and I don't know what to say about it. 

I just hope I've entertained you with my nonsense, which was one of my original goals. 

Thank you for giving me your time over the last five years, and here is to five more.  (clinks imaginary glasses with you)

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  Here is another recent anniversary I celebrated...
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For more info on this blog..

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

freakboy muses music: CARRIE: THE MUSICAL

I am the sound of distant thunder, the color of flame... 
          Music by Michael Gore 
          Lyrics by Dean Pitchford 
       Book by Lawrence D. Cohen  

When I first heard that someone, somewhere created a musical from Stephen King's seminal novel of teen angst telekinetic tragedy and/or Brian De Palma's brilliant cinematic adaptation, I rolled my eyes in disbelief.  My incredulous mind conjured up song titles such as They're All Going To Laugh At You and Plug It Up.  It just seemed utterly crazy to my extremely closed attitude, so it didn't surprise me to hear how it had been a massive Broadway bomb. 

Years went by and I forgot about the shock of such a brave or stupid spectacle, until I signed up for a 3-month free trial of Apple Music.  I was searching for the soundtrack to the 1976 film, which was a ridiculous thing to do since I already owned a copy of the CD, when I stumbled upon a 2012 revival soundtrack to CARRIE: THE MUSICAL.  My mind reeled.  I never thought I'd want or get a chance to experience this infamous pop culture infusion of horror-suspense and song, but there it was, literally at my fingertips.  I held my breath and let the streaming begin. 

"What the hell am I listening to?" was my initial reaction to the emotional chaos of IN, the opening number.  Then slowly, much like Carrie White's burgeoning telekinetic powers, my enjoyment manifested and grew.  After the back-to-back whammy of tracks 5 and 6, I was hooked.  


THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CHRIS is the villain's song, which is often a highlight in musicals, and this proves to be no exception.  It's a wickedly catchy anthem glorifying bullying and intolerance.  This ditty is so politically incorrect that it almost slides into camp until the final, haunting moments, which seem to speak volumes about our world today.  The world according to Chris is better to whip than get whipped...even if somebody bleeds, please, nobody dies from a scar...and that's the way things are.  


EVENING PRAYERS is a beautiful mother-daughter duet that surprised me.  Typically Margaret White is portrayed strictly as a religious zealot, but this song captures the real love she has for Carrie, though it's buried under her extreme beliefs. 

There are so many great, memorable songs to be found in CARRIE: THE MUSICAL, and when I finished that initial listen, I knew I would be listening to it again.  What I didn't foresee was that I'd eventually purchase a copy (thank you, Dave & the late Carrie Fisher) and how it would help me struggle through the early days of my chunk of vision loss.  

I  imagine you're raising an unbelieving eyebrow.  Well, one thing CARRIE: THE MUSICAL vividly captures is the emotional mess of being a teenager.  Needless to say, I was an extreme emotional mess in late 2016 and early 2017, so I related to the whirlpool of feelings behind the lyrics.  I found a safe and effective way in dealing with my anger, frustration, fear and sadness over the unstoppable change in my life.  I was Carrie White in the shower, terrified of what my body was doing without warning, seemingly without explanation.  There's a movement in my head...Saints and Angels, what can it be?  It's growing...it's stirring...it's churning...shifting...bending. 

This is why I believe CARRIE: THE MUSICAL is better than its reputation suggests and should be given another chance.  Hopefully the recent spectacular episode of RIVERDALE inspires another revival.  Maybe a touring production so this Nebraskan freakboy would have a realistic chance of experiencing these songs of endless wonder live on stage.  


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. To experience a previous blogpost about one of my music obsessions...
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For more info on JLH...

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Deceptively Easy

Maybe I make it look too easy. 

You will see me confidently walking at a brisk pace down the sidewalk. 

You will see me staring at my tablet or a computer.  
You will see me watching television or you will see me at a theater watching a film. 

You will see me occasionally looking through a book or a magazine. 

Maybe I make it look too easy, so you forget that I'm visually impaired. 

Maybe you don't realize I'm walking down a sidewalk I'm familiar with.  I know where the bumps and cracks are, though new or unsuspecting obstacles are always waiting to challenge me. 

Maybe you don't realize that whatever I'm doing on my tablet or a computer is on a website or app I had often used before my vision loss, such as this blog.  I know from memory what's what and where I need to click.  Plus, my tablet reads me the words I cannot, including the words I type. 

Maybe you don't realize how I miss subtle facial expressions and movements, or how easily I get lost during action scenes in films and television.  Though I recently experienced subtitles that I could decipher just enough of the words to figure out what was being said.  This was at a theater, and the subtitles were large enough, with a stark enough contrast, but I still didn't catch every single word.  

Maybe you don't realize how little I can read physical print.  I occasionally flip through a book or a magazine in bittersweet memory and to see what I can see.  I can sometimes decipher a title of a book or magazine article, but the regular text is often too small for me to figure out.  Maybe I'll be able to decipher a letter or two, or a small word, but the grey blob in my right eye obscures little details and sometimes larger details, too. 

Maybe you don't realize I am able to do all that I just described because of my Mad Scientist Glasses, except for walking.  Walking while wearing my M.S.G would be dangerous and stupid to attempt.  

I typed this post because I was recently in a situation where people who know of my half-blind eyes seemed to have forgotten my current reality.  It made me realize I needed to put out a friendly reminder.  

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. For more insight into my half-blind eyes, please click INFO
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John L. Harmon is an indie author, blogger & videographer.

enter---> THE JLH COLLECTIVE <---enter

He currently resides left of center in the state of Nebraska and has been visually impaired since December of 2016.

Monday, April 9, 2018

freakboy on film: THE LAST JEDI

2017 
written & directed by Rian Johnson 




"Ah, Skywalker.  Missed you, have I." - Yoda 

 
 
 
 
 
 


I could blog about how THE FORCE AWAKENS left me eager to get to know Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren better, but how Episode VIII turned them into one-note characters.  I could blog about how THE LAST JEDI is the most plotless, pointless, endless STAR WARS film since THE PHANTOM MENACE.  

Instead, I'll be a good Jedi and blog about the three scenes I enjoyed in an otherwise painfully dull, forgettable installment.  SPOILER ALERT: each scene deals with the original characters.  

1) The scene where R2-D2 plays Leia's message from A NEW HOPE.  It was an amusing and touching moment between a boy and his droid, albeit 40 years older.  

2) Yoda burns down the Jedi tree.  It's totally something Yoda would do and seeing the long-dead Jedi master again was the only real surprise in this film.  

3) Luke says good-bye to Leia.  This moment was beautiful on many levels, but Carrie Fisher's passing makes it profound.  

On a side note, Laura Dern was a welcome addition to the cast.  Too bad her character and Leia won't be around to salvage whatever crap Disney shoves down our throats in Episode IX


 
Also, the narrator for the Descriptive Audio option on the DVD, which I borrowed from the library for a second viewing, tries really hard to add excitement to the prolonged action, but there is no escaping the tedious boredom.

So, sit back, relax, extend your lightsaber and watch THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK instead!  

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  Click FORCE to read my thoughts on Episode VII.
______________________
John L. Harmon is an indie author, blogger & videographer.

enter---> THE JLH COLLECTIVE <---enter

He currently resides left of center in the state of Nebraska and has been visually impaired since December of 2016.