Jan de Bont’s piece de whooshing resistance is a blustery tale of a marriage-rekindled swirling against the backdrop of a spirited squad of southerners and their tornado taunting antics. Equal parts cornball and cool, the Bill Paxton/Helen Hunt-led adventure is big budget fun at a time when break-the-bank flicks still had healthy morsels of humanity and charm. With mind-blowing special effects that drop the shame-hammer on the lazy efforts of today, and a superb musical score from Mark Mancina, Twister is fantastical, funnel-filled thrill ride that encourages audiences to have as much fun watching it as everyone involved had making it.
And this one of my favorite camera moves from any movie ever. Not only did they have to time the crop duster flying by, but if you pay attention, the actors are actually performing their dialogue when the camera gets close enough. The finished product is so sweeping and elegant – – but thinking of all the work that went into, well, making it work – – it makes your head spin around like a twister. PUN!
Are you one of the many Americans suffering from frequent bouts of “ain’t what it used to be?” Of course you are. Don’t be ridiculous.
When those waves come a’crashin’ down on me, I often find the best remedy to be a healthy, heaping portion of the good old days. Rich in nutrients and part of a balanced breakfast.
As. . . oh. . . about five or six people close to me know, I am a huge fan of the show Perfect Strangers. For those unaware (and those who wouldn’t mind a whimsically worded refresher), Perfect Strangers was the late 80’s answer to The Odd Couple. Along with Full House (which I not-so-secretly despise), it was the first to anchor ABC’s uber successful TGIF lineup of feel-good, family friendly sitcoms that reigned supreme for more than a decade.
The show starred Bronson Pinchot as Balki Bartokomous, a happy-go-lucky immigrant from the tiny Mediterranean island of Mypos, who drops in the lap of his distant . . . distant . . . city dwelling cousin, Larry Appleton, played by Mark Linn-Baker.
Perfect Strangers enjoyed a healthy 150 episode run from the spring of ’86 to the summer of ’93, thanks in large part to the tremendous comedic chemistry (both physically and musically) of stars Pinchot and Linn-Baker. The format was pretty simple. Cousin Larry’s high-strung neurotic yin would get the boys in high water, Balki’s free-spirit yang would bail them out, and everyone would learn a lesson of some sort.
Warner Brothers released Season 1 and 2 on DVD to decent success followed by a 12 episode “best of” set available on services like iTunes and Amazon Prime. As of yet, there are no current plans to release seasons 3-8 with the studio citing music rights issues (Larry and Balki would frequently burst out into various show-tunes as part of their weekly antics.).
Thankfully, good-natured folk around the ol’ interweb have made it possible to view the series in its entirety. It takes a little digging. But the prize is certainly worth the effort, crappy low-resolution be damned.
Having recently caught up with the cousins of 711 Caldwell Avenue in the great city of Chicago, I truly feel the show is as enjoyable today as it was back then. Sure it comes with the sometimes unflattering baggage of 80’s/90’s cheese, but if you can push your 2015 cynicism aside for an itty bitty minute and embrace the goofy, silly, masterfully effortless comedic rapport of Pinchot and Linn-Baker – – well, you’ll be glad you did. Having the luxury of time to put things in perspective, I look back and realize that those boys were truly unappreciated for the tremendous physical comedians that they were.
I could easily sit here document my love for the show for another eleven and half pages, complete with a best episode countdown, favorite quotes, and explaining how a short, curly haired goofball with no upper lip could land a foxy bombshell flight attendant, but that’s not why I’m here.
Part of my routine when I “rediscover” old movies and TV shows is to dig up various trivia tidbits about said oldies.
After completing my newest trek with the gang from Perfect Strangers, I unearthed this little nugget (pictured above). Did you know that in the early nineties, to cash in on the success of their Friday night juggernaut of family ha-ha shows, the next step in ABC’s master plan was to launch a barrage of Saturday morning cartoons based on the same material? In 1991, there was to be an Olson Twins cartoon, followed by some form of animated Urkel adventures, with – – you guessed it – – a Perfect Strangers cartoon bringing up the caboose.
Now whether or not the intentions noted in the above paragraph are true – – the fact is, I completely made it up. Though it wouldn’t have surprised me to hear there was an Urkel cartoon in development at one point, there was never a plan to spin off Perfect Strangers into its own animated series. And that nifty poster is my own doing. I. . . I just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.
Once upon a time there was a man named Spielberg. After the ridiculous success of Jaws, Close Encounters, and . . . some movie about raiders and a guy named “Idaho”. . . or maybe it was “Indiana”. . . not important . . . Steven Spielberg’s signature jam was to slap his producer cred on just about every movie he didn’t helm from the comfort of his diamond studded director’s chair.
Steven Spielberg presents: Goonies, Gremlins, Back to the Future, An American Tail, Batteries Not Included, the list goes on and on and probably would have included Police Academy and an Earnest movie had he figured out how to clone himself and launch a full scale invasion of Hollywood like ants at a picnic.
One film that failed to see the light of day (or darkness of cinemas nationwide) was an animated film based on the Parker Brothers board game Don’t Wake the Dragon!, released in 1986. This tale of four penguins on an adventure to rescue magic crystal eggs from a sleeping dragon in order to save their home world was quite simple in premise and a no brainer for Parker Brothers executives who, at the time, were licensing just about every Clue character and Monopoly token available in hopes of dipping their toes into the bubbly waters of the 1980’s action figure overload.
It should also be noted that the above paragraph is completely made up and there were never plans to adapt Don’t Wake the Dragon! into any property beyond the fun little save-the-egg board game adventure it was. If I had you going, then pat my back. If not, then pat your own.
Here’s the commercial to get everyone up to speed on what this game actually was:
Having hunted down and purchased said game on Ebay a few years back in anticipation that I would someday be a father, I was overjoyed to discover my two and a half-year old entertaining herself for a solid hour or so after digging it out of storage a week ago. I watched with a proud papa smile as she cried “oh no!” whenever a penguin fell off an iceberg, and stroked my non-existent beard curiously when she started taking the dragon’s side, not letting the penguins steal his eggs.
It was just the inspiration I needed to create the art at the top. I went the route of the rare, lost poster to a movie that almost was because in the 1980’s, they made cartoons out of just about everything. Chuck Norris. Rambo. Mr. T. Wrestling Superstars. Pac Man. Fido Dido. Even John Candy had his own Saturday morning adventures.
Anyhoo, I hope you like it. Perhaps I’ll do a whole line of art based on things I loved as a kid.
With season 2 of The Awesomes squarely in the rearview and production on season 3 fast approaching, I figure now is as good a time as any to declare the month of November “Awesomes Awareness Month.”
What is Awesomes Awareness Month? Well, basically it’s an excuse for me to pimp some of the neato drawings I did whilst riding on that ol’ directing horse (see above and below). But more importantly it’s a friendly little poke to remind everyone that all 20 episodes of the Seth Meyers/Mike Shoemaker supertoon are currently streaming – – for free – – on Hulu.
Season 2 marked my directorial debut and the experience was truly a gift in every sense of the word. In addition to helping guide the creative vision of the show, I got to do fun things like this:
A lot of talented people worked a lot of hours to bring this show to life. And considering we are on the verge of ‘Tis the Season, me thinkst ’tis a perfect time to give back to all the hard workin’ toon maker and makerettes by giving their blood sweat and tears a lookie-loo.
In short. . . watch the damn show! You’ll be glad you did. (You can’t see me, but I am winking and giving you a thumbs up)
As I graduate to the rank of Toddler Belt in the back-breaking, eye-gouging, shin-splinting school of Dadjistu, I still feel more than comfortable dropping the ol’ “I’m a daddy and have no time” card to justify my growing lack of commitment to the theatrical cinema experience. With 2013 now safely packed away with the rest of the holiday decor, the time is nigh to celebrate the year that was in moving pictures.
Per my disclaimer, I didn’t get out to the Cineplex as often as, say – – my faithful old chum, Zaki Hasan – – but I did rack up a whopping 12 talkies in the past 12 months. That allows me to truthfully say “one movie a month” which doesn’t sound half bad for a hard working , home owning, hubby and dada.
Since there were at least one, two, three. . . well, more than twelve movies to hit the big screen in ’13, there is a considerable pile “big’uns” I have yet to dive into. The Wolverine? Missed it. Wolf of Wall Street? Haven’t seen it. American Hustle? I’ll get to it. Fast and Furious 6? Nuh-uh. The New Hobbit Movie Who’s Name I Refuse To Say Because It Sounds So Stupid? Alas.
And to be honest – – I hope to see Captain Phillips, Rush, 2 Guns, Elysium, and Cloudy With a Chance of Smaug (dammit!) 2 before making time for any of those.
So rather than rank the Coyle’s Twelve in any particular order, I’d simply like to give a few nods to the ones that stood out the most.
Click here to indulge yourself in my 1300 word love-letter to the Alfonso Cuaron-directed space thriller. But simply put, Gravity was one of the most amazing cinematic experiences of this or any other year. Breathtakingly beautiful and soul shatteringly intense. It is as inspiring as it is frightening. Truly a film that begs to be seen on the big screen.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
The Ben Stiller-directed tale of a timid daydreamer who finally grabs life by its big brass ones was a most unexpected and pleasant surprise. It is sweet. It is thoughtful. It takes you places you never knew you wanted to go. Conceptually, metaphorically, musically, visually, everything-ally, Stiller, as star performer and helmer, delivers an inspiring tale of love, faith, and courage that speaks to the aw shucks-er in all of us. Kristen Wiig is charming as hell in role more subdued that her usual cute, goofball-ish quirkiness. The soundtrack, which features a beautiful score by Theodore Shapiro and Jose Gonzalez, and tracks from artists like Of Monsters and Men, Jack Johnson, and David Bowie, was so wonderfully and meticulously woven into an already vibrant journey that it became a character in the movie. In fact, the use of Bowie’s “Space Odyssey” provided one of the most important, and memorable moments in the film.
MAN OF STEEL
Though the fourth act suffers a bit from “what the hell am I looking at?!” syndrome, Zack Snyder successfully delivered the one thing I wanted most from a Superman movie. He made the character interesting. Man of Steel is, in a sense, an underdog story about a boy who doesn’t fit. Cast away from his home world and raised by human parents, Clark Kent (fantastically portrayed by Henry Cavill) , the man who could literally destroy the Earth if he wanted to, grows to understand humanity in ways even we humans haven’t been able to. He sees something in us worth saving and vows to dedicate his life to defending it, even if it means duking it out all super-smashy-like with his own kind. And why does he do it, you ask? Because Kevin Coster freakin’ rules.
I laughed. I cried. I cried because I laughed so much. I laughed because I couldn’t believe I was crying. Any of that make sense? No? Well neither does Anchorman 2. The sequel to – – yep, you guessed it – – Anchorman, is every bit as weird, overstuffed, and disjointed as the original. Probably a bit more. But it’s freakin’ funny! And – – that’s pretty much it. The one thing I do want to stress though is how 100% necessary the first film is. Part 2 is really more about spending time with characters you fell in love with in part 1. The sequel doesn’t break any new ground, but the humor relies so much on knowing who these people are. By the beard of Zeuss! If you haven’t seen Anchorman 1, go now!
THE WORLD’S END
The World’s End is easily my least favorite film by Edgar Wright. But that’s like saying Donatello is my least favorite Ninja Turtle or that the fourth time I won the lottery was my least favorite time winning the lottery. Edgar Wright has a sense and style all his own and I look forward to every project he is involved in (C’mon, Ant-Man!!!). Teamed up once again with the incomparable Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, The World’s End is an action-comedy romp about five friends reuniting after 20 years to finally finish the mother of all pub crawls, only to find their old hometown has been overtaken by alien robots hell bent on assimilating humans into their collective. Yessir and Aye’. ‘Tis every bit as fun as it sounds.
And there you have it. Five really good flicks from 2013. I’d also like to quickly mention, honorably of course, Iron Man 3(a fun and fitting end to the trilogy, and welcome back Shane Black!)GI Joe Retaliation(it doesn’t aim too high, and that’s why it felt juuuust right),Star Trek Into Darkness(enjoyed on a purely superficial, lens flare-addicted, the story sucked but I really like these characters, sorta’ way), and about 35 minutes of The Heat (Bullock and McCarthy had their moments, just not enough of’em).
Anyone with a creative bone in their skelly understands that inspiration often comes in waves, and that motivation to make good on inspiration usually comes in spurts.
When you’re in the mood, you’re in the mood now. And if you’re like me, the mood often strikes when you’re in the farthest possible position to do anything about it. The temptation to draw and/or noodle with Photoshop, my mediums of choice, all-too-frustratingly-often find their way to the doorstep of my imagination smack in the middle of the day when I am stuck at my desk, at work, without the necessary setup to properly tickle said temptation.
That is why I enjoy days like today where the powers that be are inspiring me to write. ‘Tis a much more manageable mountain to master when one sits in front of a computer all day, ’tis.
As I reflect upon my ten years-and-counting in the entertainment industry, I am:
A) Thankful that I have sustained in such a competitive and sometimes ruthless industry where you are only as good as your reputation.
B) Humbled that, with advances in new media and accessibility to talent and material across all platforms, I am part of a transformation in the entertainment industry that is equally as wonderful as it is frightening, and equally trailblazing as it is potentially destructive.
Good or bad – – or rather, good and bad – – these past ten years will be bracketed, asterisked, and dog-eared in the pages of history as an era that changed the face of the entire entertainment machine.
But beyond the monumental impact the YouTubes, Facebooks, and all their predecessors and copycats have had on the showbiz community, one important lesson I have scavenged and stored safely in my cheeks for the winter is this:
In a young man’s game, I am not the young man anymore.
Now before you go breaking out your invisible violins and banjos – – wait, what’s that you say? You don’t strum an invisible banjo? Fine. Your loss. – – before you go breaking out your invisible violins, I just want to be clear that this isn’t about any sort of mid-life crisis or tale of woe from the land of me.
In fact, rather than telling you what this is about, I should just refer you to this article on Grantland.com.
Writer, Steven Hyden (or as I call him, Steve The-Single-Person-I-Am-By-Far-The-Most-Jealous-Of Hyden) had a once in a lifetime opportunity to “hang,” as it were, with the man himself – – Huey Lewis.
The story is an insightful read about a band who took the world by storm in the early 80’s, struggled to keep up as the music world quickly changed around them, but have always stayed true to what it is that started them on their nearly 35 year journey – – their love for making music.
As the self-proclaimed, Biggest Huey Lewis and the News Fan in the World Who Will Never Actually Proclaim Such a Title Because He Doesn’t Believe in Proclaiming Oneself as the Biggest or Best Anything, and as someone who is on the cusp of completing his own 35 year journey, I take a little bit of – – what’s the word? Comfort? Pride? Giddy Boo-Yas? – – in knowing that I can retroactively model my life by the motto “what would Huey do?”
In an era where iconic professional athletes are being exposed as dope-using douchebags, where our favorite movie heroes are being unmasked as drunks, racists, spouse-abusers, or any combination of jerktastic traits, and where Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber just – – are – – it is this writer’s opinion that the world needs more Huey. And the News.
I left the nest on a wing, a prayer, and a mojo for storytelling. I am blessed to have parents who have always encouraged and supported that dream. I am thankful to have surrounded myself with chums and cohorts who share a similar dream. And I marvel at my wife’s patience as I stress my way through it at times. Now, ten years into that dream with the entire scope of an industry changing around me, I find myself at a crossroads.
Try and keep up by bending and breaking to the whim of Hollywood and its ever-changing trends? Or stay true to who I am and what it is that inspired me to get hip to this square in the first place?
I ask you: What would Huey do?
I recently abandoned the cozy confines and financial security of editorial work for uncertain, yet certainly greener pastures. Something I learned in my time as a professional editor is that – – no one ever plans to become an editor. That isn’t intended to undermine or undervalue the importance of a good editor. I am lucky to have worked alongside directors and producers who valued my role as a creative one rather than that of a glorified button pusher. But being an editor isn’t the sexy choice. And in my experience, most of my fellow editors just happened to be in the right place at the right time and decided to give it a whirl. But great editing makes a difference. And to be a great editor, you have to be a creative person. And the single greatest creative nugget I can take away from my experiences is seeing the storytelling process with a different pair of goggles.
As an editor, you get to learn how to tell a story out of order. You get to start from the end and work backwards and figure out what makes the engine purr like a kitten and what makes it sputter. And that is invaluable knowledge that’ll get crammed in the ol’ fanny pack along with my juice box and graham crackers as I set out on a new trek into the mountainous-y, wilderness-y animation unknown.
I have traded in my editing horse and saddle for a Cintiq drawing monitor and a handful of magic beans. But since I don’t eat beans, I guess I need to make my own magic.
Why? Because I’ve got pictures to draw and stories to tell.
All change comes with a side order of “holy shi*t!” But that’s what makes life fun. And saying “that’s what makes life fun” is only a half truth because of course there’s a part of me that wants to shout “holy sh*t! I’ve made a terrible mistake” from the tallest building in all the land.
But here’s what I’ve learned in the last ten years. And here’s what Huey reinforced. When you’re doing something you love – – even if the world around you is changing – – even if the world around you is crumbling to itty bitty pieces – – just keep doing it. If you’re planting a tree and discover the world is going to end tomorrow – – don’t let that stop you. Keep planting the tree.
Don’t fight the things you love and don’t make excuses as to why you’re not ready for those things. The universe is going to do what it wants. Stay true to yourself and you’ll find your place in it. It may not be where you expected or how you expected to get there, but when you’re there – – you’ll know.
You’ve gotta say it’s all right. Have a good time. ‘Cuz it’s all right.
And as a tribute to Huey and a thank you for reading, I now present to you, my five favorite Huey Lewis and the News Albums.
#5 Four Chords and Several Years Ago (1994)
I was 16 and working in a department store electronics department. On my dinner break, I moseyed on over to Sam Goody (remember those?), breezed from A through G and stopped dead in my tracks at the bottom of section H. Huey Lewis and the News had a new album?! Why was I not aware? Is it possible the teenagers really are wrapped up in their own Dawson’s Creeky drama (jeez, remember that?) that they miss out on the special things in life?
With a belly full of Arby’s, my break-time running low, and birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, I slapped down my 16 bucks (because nothing ever cost 12 at Sam Goody) and went back to work with a new lease on life.
I made a B-line for the Bose surround sound set-up, popped in my new Huey, and cranked it up so loud that the opening saxophone riff on “Shake, Rattle & Roll” shattered glasses in the housewares department next door.
Huey Friggin Lewis and the Friggin News were back, with a new sound, covering old favorites, and I was a changed man. Seriously, I discovered a chest hair or two that day. Coincidence?!?!
#4 Plan B (2001)
After expanding The News and re-inventing themselves with a big band element to compliment their always present rhythm and blues sound, 2001’s Plan B is a vibrant feel-good album that sounds and feels like it was made by a bunch of musicians just having a good time.
Though the two singles to crack the adult contemporary charts were the slower, easy going “Let Her Go and Start Over” and “I’m Not in Love Yet,” it is actually the album’s first track “We’re Not Here For a Long Time (We’re Here For a Good Time)” that sets the tone for this pleasureful musical experience. Easily in my list of top ten songs by the band.
#3 Sports (1983)
Yes, it was their most successful album. Yes, it is the album that put the band on the map. Yes, nearly every song on the album was a radio hit. Yes, the album itself was #1 on the Billboard Charts in 1984!
By the way, I’m not arguing, I’m just stating facts.
Sports was the very first cassette tape I bought with my own money. I was nigh the age of 6-ish, saw that the cover of the cassette had the word “Sports” on it, and for some reason liked that the guy’s name was “Huey.”
And just like that, this guy’s (pointing to myself in case you can’t see me) magical mystery tour began. “The Heart of Rock and Roll” kicked my six year old ass. “Bad is Bad” had a cool doo-woppy thing going on. “I Want a New Drug” had a bitchin’ opening riff. “If This Is It” was pure magic. And “Honky Tonk Blues” had the words “honky” and “tonk” in it.
What cool things has your six year old discovered lately?
#2 Hard at Play (1991)
By the narrowest of margins. One that is only wafer thin. I give a slight, slimmy, slim-slam edge to the overlooked and vastly under appreciated Hard at Play over the worldwide phenomenon, Sports.
Why, you ask? Perhaps it is because Hard at Play is home to my #2 favorite HLN track of all time, “Couple Days Off.” Maybe it could be the opening harmonica riff on the album’s first track, “Build Me Up” that locks you in, shuts you up, and demands that you keep listening.
But I think what I appreciate the most about the album is its perfect balance between old Huey and new Huey. In a time where music as a collective was suddenly unsure about what it was supposed to sound like – – Garth Brooks was a crossover sensation; C&C Music Factory was makin’ us sweat; Metallica was scaring us to sleep; and oh yeah, that whole Nirvana thing – – Hard at Play, the most formless of all the band’s albums, is two parts rock and roll, two parts 80’s synth, a sprinkle of rockabilly, and a dash of saxophone solos.
Unintentionally, it was the perfect transition between the safety of 80’s music and the uncertainty of the 90’s.
Oh, and if anyone needs any last minute gift ideas – – a copy of Hard at Play on vinyl would be a most welcomed addition the growing collection hanging on my office wall.
#1 Fore! (1986)
41 minutes and 40 seconds of ear-pleasuring magic, 1986’s Fore! (don’t forget the exclamation point), the multi-platinum follow-up to the multi-platinum Sports, is unquestionably the band’s best album.
Critical acclaim and album sales aside, the album as a whole is simply a perfectly paced journey of ten killer tracks from the best band to ever pick up a guitar, a harmonica, a keyboard, a saxophone, and drumsticks.
See how I avoided that “better than the Beatles” argument? The Beatles never used a harmonica. And if they did, we’ll pretend they didn’t.
Let’s go track by track and let you truly feel the experience.
1) Jacob’s Ladder – “Whoa, what’s this? It’s kind of intense, yet kind of caring, let’s see what this album is about, yes?”
2) Stuck With You – “Aww. I love you too, man. No, thank you. I will stick around for the rest of the album.”
3) Whole Lotta Lovin – “If I don’t get up and dance right now, then there’s something wrong with me.”
4) Doing it All For My Baby – “Phew! After all that dancing, I need to cool off, relax, and think about the woman I love.”
5) Hip to Be Square – “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”
6) I Know What I Like – “I’ll like what I wanna’ like! You can’t tell me what to do!”
7) I Never Walk Alone – “Having friends is awesome!”
8) Forest For The Trees – “Ah yes, every great act needs a “message” song. Proper.”
9) Naturally – “No instruments?!?! You sneaky beavers! I’m gonna’ sit down and enjoy this. I’m also gonna’ learn how to snap my fingers.”
10) Simple as That – “Well, that was an amazing show, time to say my goodbyes and work up the nerve to kiss that girl in the parking lot.”
And speaking of Hip to Be Square – – unquestionably their best bit o’ musical mastery and one of the best songs ever – – let it be known kiddies. Way before all you Glee and Big Bang Theory posers thought you were breaking new ground proclaiming “square” was the new “boss,” Huey Lewis and the News were preaching that message with a barrage of e-mazing e-lectric guitars, killer keyboards, and a sexy saxophone solo (hi Dan!) you’d step over your own mother just to get an ear-full of.
You know what? Just stop what you’re doing and check this out!
And thanks for stopping by!
UPDATE: I listened to Fore! today during my morning commute. I’m not wrong. It totally rules.
My usual jam is to tickle your movie fancy with what I call “Movies 101” reviews. Thoughts on films, past and present, wonderfully contained in a 101 word candy coated shell.
But every now and then, a picture comes along – – “talkies” as they’re referred to these days – – that warrants the time and effort of 101 words and then some.
A friend of mine summed up the new Alfonso Cuaron-helmed – – holy crap I’m never joining the space program – – space epic, with a single, perfect word.
Gravity is a brilliantly orchestrated, intense ride that allows little opportunity for the audience to catch it’s collective breath. And yet, for a movie that follows the increasingly frustrating and tragic tale of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock somersaulting through the insane vastness of space, the film manages to be a remarkably intimate and gratifyingly immersive journey of life, death, and, rebirth.
In short, it’s a tale about soul searching. A visually stunning, eardrum tickling tale about soul searching.
Now, before I go any further, I’d like to step aside for a moment and give myself a “good game” pat on the ol’ fanny. I am proud of myself for avoiding any and all reviews, spoilers, and promos beyond the initial teaser trailer that debuted a few months ago. I wholeheartedly encourage everyone who’s anyone and anyone who’s someone to stay the flippy-flapjack away from anything that even remotely mentions to the film – – and just go see the film.
Oh, and dish out the extra few bucks for 3D. Don’t ask. Just do.
Now, I consider myself to be pretty well versed in the how’s,why’s, and huh?s of cinematic storytelling. I usually have a pretty good gauge of what a movie will probably be like before even seeing it. And, that’s not me being some snobby movie elitist. It’s just that when you’ve seen a bazillion or so flicks in your day, and given the usual Hollywood trends of studios trying to outdo one another by basically Xeroxing the same scripts, whiting out the names writing in new ones – – you develop a sort of Spidey sense for how movies work, and mine gave me a pretty strong inkling of how Gravity might play out.
“Oh, it’s ‘Open Water’ in space” I says to myself, I says.
And you know, yeah, it kinda’ is. But holy shnykies, Mr. Bill! That’s not even half of the half of the half of the half of the half of it.
I consider myself a storyteller. It’s what I love. It’s what nudged me on my merry way to La-La land. It’s what keeps me employed in this crazy and often nightmarish business where hopes and dreams come and go without warning or remorse like bits of space debris wreaking havoc on Jorge and Sandy.
I came to this town to make movies and I have been ridiculously blessed to have been a part of the magic in so many different ways. Yet every now and then a movie comes along that makes me think “y’know what? I have no business being here.”
Alfonso Cuaron is a master. He has vision. He has ideas. He has a way of bringing stories to life unlike anyone else. And in a day and age where the common theme in movie-making seems to be “we need to throw more money and more CG and more plot twists and more . . . STUFF at the screen” to the point where most new releases are drowned into obscurity in the wake of their own obnoxiousness; Cuaron manages to take a very simple idea and make it simply extraordinary.
That’s not to say this movie isn’t brimming with computer generated visual goodies. Nearly every shot involved hours of compositing and effects work. But there is a functionality to his method. There is no gimmick. There is no spectacle. Nothing about this film is done for the sake of being done. Much like how the good composers score music to be a character in the movie rather than just background music, AC (as we’re calling him now) works the camera in such a way that his visual style becomes an integral part of the story. We truly see every frame through his eyes – – a trick of the trade only a select few directors have mastered.
I’m not claiming he’s the next silver-screen messiah or anything. Of his other work, I have only seen Children of Men, which is really good – – albeit bleak – – and thus, not really worth multiple trips to the well. And I hear great things about Y Tu Mama Tambien.
But I still feel comfortable in saying that, as a director, as a filmmaker, and as a storyteller, Cuaron takes a giant (and might I add, confident) leap toward the title of “visionary.”
Admittedly, I had my hesitations about the cast. And that is with me being an admirer of both Clooney and Bullock. I’ve been a huge George Clooney fan since The Peacemaker and (especially)Out of Sight. And Sandra Bullock has always been one of those “chick flick” actresses who is not only easy on the eyes and the “like” button, but actually has range as an actress. She is now at the stage of her career where she has nothing left to prove, and seems legitimately excited to take on vastly different roles from picture to picture.
Though we hear other actors, most notably Ed Harris as NASA mission control, we only see Georgy Porgie and Bullock Pie through the entirety of the picture. Going back to Open Water; I remember feeling how incredibly distracting it would have been had the two actors in that film been big names. With Gravity also being such a contained, intimate concept, knowing it was Clooney and Bullock, I feared the film might suffer from Tom Cruise syndrome where – – as great a talent as Tom Cruise is, he is always still, to some level, “Tom Cruise.”
Before even stepping foot into the movie theatre I kept thinking, “I wonder what this would be like if they went a potentially less distracting route and wrangled the likes of a Kyle Chandler or Sam Rockwell to team up with Jessica Chastain or even new uber-IT girl, Jennifer Lawrence.”
But hear me now and listen to me later, those woes were quickly thumped by the business end of my Doc Martin’s (just kidding, I don’t wear Doc Martin’s) because – – what’s the term? Oh yeah. Holy nuts! – – Ms. Bullock and Mr. Clooney (or Georgdra Cloonock for short) were an absolute triumph.
Clooney’s role, though not as demanding, was brought to life wonderfully in large part to his natural charm and effortless likability. Some might argue that he’s George Clooney being George Clooney. Say what you want, he brings a certain tenderness and calmness to the table as a wily, been-around-the-block, NASA vet who feels more at home drifting through space than on his own home planet, which juxtaposes quite nicely with Bullock as the distracted, easily rattled science officer on her first mission.
And speaking of Sandra B. It feels silly to fling a term like “career defining role” into the universe to describe the performance of an Oscar winning actress who has tickled both our funny and dramatic bones over the years. But this may be her most mature performance to date. It’s easily one of her best, if not the best, dramatic turn of her memorable career.
I would love to cannonball into a deep-rooted discussion of the metaphorical and philosophical flavorings of the movie; and perhaps by slipping the terms “metaphorical” and “philosophical,” I’ve given too much away already. But to wrap-up my relatively spoiler-free praise for the film, allow me to simply say that Gravity is every bit as thoughtful as it is intense, every bit as unique as it is familiar, every bit as encouraging as it is frightening, and all-together, a wonderfully crafted work of cinematic mastery. It begs to be enjoyed on the big screen. And it deserves to be appreciated for years to come.
Eat your vitamins. Say your prayers. Listen to your mom and dad. The motto of little Hulkamaniacs everywhere. I think my dad added the bit about abiding by the words of your parentals, but I didn’t care. I was seven years old and I loved that I could file my fandom for Hulk Hogan in that special “Daddy and Me Only” folder along with GI Joe, Willie Nelson, Baseball, Cheers, and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
What a novel idea that a childhood role model endorsed a positive M. O. Are you listening, 21st century?!?!
It’s weird to sound like the old coot, talking about the 80’s as “simpler times” and how “sh*t just ain’t what it used’ta be, dag nummit!” But it’s the honest to God truth. Sensibilities have changed. Technology has advanced so far that as much as it enhances our quality of life, it also makes the world a very small, cynical place where everyone knows everything about everyone. The most gabbed about people in the world are ones who make sex tapes and repeatedly plow their Porsches into a sea of paparazzi. We crave the most appalling tripe and are easily bored with calm, cozy, feelgood-edness.
Oh and I forgot to mention that I am a home-owning, tax-paying, husband and father, striding into his mid-30’s who is rather comfortably removed from anything and everything that makes “them young people” tick. I am still coming to grips with the idea that I am no longer the star of my own movie. So I can’t help but roll my eyes and “pfft” at the lameness of Facebook status updates and Twilight movies and Katy Perry videos and anything associated with the letters M, T, and V.
That’s why people like me – – good, fine people – – fill their free time living in the days of what used to be. People like me will never have a “new” favorite band or a “new” favorite movie. And we sure as hell are not going to assimilate ourselves into a culture that A) we don’t understand and B) doesn’t want us old dudes stinkin’ up the joint. Do kids still say “joint?”
I’m at peace with my place in the world. Do what makes you happy and don’t be a douche. Words to live by. Words I live by because I said’em. And I thank my pops for celebrating (early) Hulk Hogan because a positive train of thought has to start somewhere, and mine started here (I don’t care what you say. There’s no denying how awsome this is):
As my career enters a hazy, post-Tron state of “wha?” and “huh?” I figured now is as good a time as any to remind myself and the big scary world out there, why it is I decided to pack up my life in suburban Chicago almost ten years ago and treck across the good ol’ U S of A to give the glitz and glam and trafficy jams of Los Angeles a whirl.
And if anyone hasn’t noticed how much – – well, just nicer – – Vimeo has become compared to web vid juggernaut, YouTube, I highly suggest giving that site a lookie-loo.
Fans of the Mr. Boy franchise will be familiar with the work and, noted, not everything I’ve ever worked on is showcased on the Vimeo page. I tried to limit my career “highlights” to things that have garnered media praise, and what best exemplifies my talents as a commercial and short-form director.
Like this Mountain Dew spec commercial for 20th Century Fox.
And this “Most Interesting Man” spoof done in honor of the great Zaki Hasan.
Spread the word. Tell your friends. And tell your friends to ask their friends if they know of any talent agents looking to take on new clients named Sean Coyle.
Happy Hump Day to all! And to all, a good night!
* Note to the universe: I owe all my creative success thus far to the wonderful brains, cinematic visions, and undying support of Brian Hall, Zaki Hasan, Paul Shirey, Chad Freet, Blaine Ross, Steve Arenas, Cleve Nettles, Dan Hall, Chris Whittier, Kevin Otterness, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, Tony Scott, Jeff Thomas, Charlie Bean, Mom, Dad, Wife, Baby, Dog, and Horse. *