I’m in a hurricane… (UPDATE)

I was in the middle of Hurricane Irma, in the actual eye, in the worst geographical place to be when it hit the U.S.

I’m fine.

However, I have been without power since September 10th. This is now the eighth day without power.

Luckily, I have nice friends that have taken me in for the time being. Two different groups of friends, as I am trying to not overstay my welcome when everyone down here is incredibly stressed out and wants some normalcy back.

But I will be back to writing when life is once again the way it is supposed to be and I have the luxury of my own cool bed and Amazon FireStick.

Looking Back at 500 Posts

Cinespiria has reached the milestone of 500 posts. Not bad for a blog that started back in November of last year. But the reason that there has been this many posts in a short time is due to the massive back catalog of reviews I have from previous blogs that no longer exist.

When I decided that focusing on film was what I wanted to do, I wanted to have all of my reviews and other film centered writings in one place. The blog was started solely as an outlet for me to put down my thoughts and keep them better organized in one place.

Also, for those who also read Cinespiria’s content, I wanted this site to maybe educate people on more obscure films or to draw attention to movies the general public has not heard of or has forgotten over time.

I also like posting lists that rank the films of notable directors, actors and even franchises. The reason for this, is that I love the discussions that they often times generate, as I learn new things from those who have varying opinions or who point me towards movies I might not know about or haven’t seen in a long time.

I figured that I would do something special with this post so I decided to list out my top ten genre categories, people (actors, directors, composers, special effects maestros), years of release of the films I have covered and the country of a film’s origin (excluding the US, as I never tag it).

So here are the most popular tags in each topic.

Top 10 Genres:
1. sci-fi
2. action
3. horror
4. adventure
5. drama
6. thriller
7. fantasy
8. comedy
9. crime
10. kaiju

Top 10 People:
1. Eiji Tsuburaya
2. Ennio Morricone
3. Scarlett Johansson
4. Roger Corman
5. Ishirō Honda
6. Greg Nicotero
7. Dario Argento
8. Lee Van Cleef
9. Bill Murray
10. Peter Cushing

Top 10 Years of Release:
1. 2014
2. 2016
3. 1966
4. 1985
5. 1986
6. 1984
7. 1987
8. 2015
9. 1989
10. 1974

Top 10 Countries of Origin:
1. Italy
2. Japan
3. UK
4. Spain
5. Hong Kong (China)
6. Germany
7. France
8. Canada
9. Russia (Soviet Union)
10. Australia

Top 50 Spaghetti Westerns of All-Time

Spaghetti westerns are better than westerns, at least in my opinion. Sure, there are fantastic American-made westerns but as a whole, the Italian-Spanish (sometimes German) films are superior. There is more grit, more bad ass shit and a level of violence that adds realism and authenticity to a genre that has typically been family friendly in the U.S.

The greatest film of all-time is a spaghetti western. And many of the other greatest films ever also fall into this genre.

I have spent the last several months watching a lot of these films. I have always been familiar with the greats but I had to delve deeper into the more obscure reaches of the genre. A special shout out goes to the Spaghetti Western Database for the hours of research I was able to accomplish in mostly one place. Also, thanks to Amazon, Hulu and YouTube for providing several of these films. The rest were an adventure to track down.

This list is the result of my hundreds of hours of film watching.

1. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
2. Once Upon A Time In the West
3. The Great Silence
4. The Big Gundown
5. For A Few Dollars More
6. Django
7. A Fistful of Dollars
8. The Mercenary
9. Face to Face
10. Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!
11. A Bullet For the General
12. Compañeros
13. Duck, You Sucker! (A Fistful of Dynamite)
14. Day of Anger
15. Keoma
16. Sabata
17. Return of Ringo
18. Death Rides A Horse
19. Cemetery Without Crosses
20. My Name Is Nobody
21. The Grand Duel
22. A Genius, Two Partners and A Dupe
23. A Pistol for Ringo
24. If You Meet Sartana, Pray For Your Death
25. The Dirty Outlaws
26. Django, Prepare a Coffin (Viva Django)
27. Run Man Run
28. Tepepa
29. Navajo Joe
30. Four of the Apocalypse
31. Massacre Time
32. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead
33. Mannaja
34. Django Strikes Again
35. The Return of Sabata
36. A Few Dollars For Django
37. Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming
38. Machine Gun Killers
39. Beyond the Law
40. Ace High
41. The Bounty Killer (The Ugly Ones)
42. Trinity Is Still My Name
43. Hellbenders
44. Django the Bastard
45. God Forgives, I Don’t
46. Minnesota Clay
47. God’s Gun
48. They Call Me Trinity
49. Ringo and His Golden Pistol (Johnny Oro)
50. Arizona Colt

We Need More Revival Cinema

The last few months, I have been taking it upon myself to take advantage of the old school movies that have been playing in theaters near me. Unfortunately, I do not live in a big city. If I did, I would have a lot more places to go and a lot more variety in which classics I could see in the theater.

Being born in December of 1978 means that there are a ton of great motion pictures that I never had the opportunity to see on the big screen. Sure, there have been a lot of great films that have come out in my lifetime but, for the most part, you only get to see something on the big screen once. Plus, a lot of the great films that I have seen in the theater, I saw so long ago.

My first experience seeing a film come back to the theaters was in 1997 when George Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy. Granted, these films were special editions littered with new effects but the experience was still unforgettable. Then I saw E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Alien and a few others that came out on their milestone anniversaries. It was a cool trend in the late 1990s and early 2000s but they still came out pretty scarcely.

Recently, some of the theaters around me have started bringing back some of the classics on a regular basis.

One theater near me hosts a program called Flashback Cinema. Every week, they show a different classic film. The showtimes are on Sundays and Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., which gives you four chances to try and make the show. Recently they have shown Citizen KaneThe GodfatherAliensThe NeverEnding StoryLabyrinthYoung FrankensteinRear WindowThe King & IHello DollyThe Ten Commandments and a slew of others. It’s a cool program and I try to take advantage of it as much as I can. Check their website because they list the theaters that host their program.

Fathom Events also does a good job of bringing back classics, as well. Recently I saw North By Northwest and I know that they have The GraduateSmokey and the Bandit, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Bonnie & Clyde and Casablanca on their docket. They don’t do it on a weekly basis like Flashback Cinema but it is still nice to have two alternative sources for classics on the big screen.

As the years pass, movies seem to get worse and worse. Sure, we have good films that come out every year but it seems like less and less are true classics. Look back at all the Oscar winners for best picture since the turn of the decade, how many of those do you truly consider classics?

MoonlightSpotlightBirdman12 Years a SlaveArgoThe ArtistThe King’s SpeechThe Hurt LockerSlumdog MillionaireNo Country for Old Men? Ok, maybe that one. The Departed? Also, maybe this one. CrashMillion Dollar BabyThe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King? The only clear cut classic. ChicagoA Beautiful MindGladiator? For the most part, do any of these really have much value in repeated viewings? A few do, but just a few. I’m not saying that they aren’t good films but there is just something lacking in today’s best pictures compared to the stellar filmmaking artistry of yesteryear.

Frankly, I think it is important to look to the past and to see what was great in the earlier days of film history. It just seems that the competition among peers was stronger and the quality of the films being put out were better.

When we live in a world where Hollywood is mostly concerned with tent pole blockbuster films, milking every proven franchise till their tits chap, less attention is being given to making thought provoking motion pictures. The industry is losing its heart and its unique ability to challenge the social and political climate of the day. Celebrities giving long-winded speeches about how Trump is a Nazi and how guns kill babies and how vaccines create zombie children and how gluten is a registered Republican isn’t the type of social and political message that we need from Hollywood. In fact, that shit makes most people roll their eyes and ignore Hollywood. Well, except for celebrity obsessed ass clowns that will buy tickets for the next 214 Michael Bay Transformers movies. But those people should just be bulldozed into a ditch and buried because they’re why we can’t have nice things.

People need to be reminded of a time when Hollywood was this bad ass place where a filmmaker could get his message across artistically. There was a time when movies changed people’s lives and opened their eyes to things that they might not have experienced or conclusions that they may have never reached on their own.

In places like Los Angeles and New York, there are a lot of revival cinemas. There are these places that show nothing but old movies: many classics but also some lost gems. Sometimes they even show some real diamonds in the rough. Besides, what one person deems a classic, another might deem as trash. To each his own but variety is always a good thing and art is always a voice. Hollywood rarely makes art anymore. At least not at the same speed that they churn out mindless crap.

The world needs more revival cinema. Every town should have a place, a safe haven, where the masses can go, escape the world and the plastic mass produced entertainment of modern times and challenge themselves with something better than what is spoon fed to us today.

If I had Bill Gates money, this would be a priority for me. I’d open up a revival cinema in every town. I’d have a strong preference for 35mm film and old school projection. I’d want to show movies in their original format. Fuck all this digital HD special edition with new special effects crap that we get when things do come back to theaters.

While the likelihood of my dream happening is pretty slim to none, unless I find out that my long lost adoption records point to me being a royal, people can make the effort themselves. Nowadays, just about everything you can imagine is at your fingertips. You can be your own revival cinema. Granted, there is still something magical about seeing movies in a dark theater on a large screen with a gut full of popcorn, butter, salt, Sno-Caps and Diet Coke (gotta save my caloric intake for that butter).

It is nice to know that there are still people in the world that feel the same way; maybe not in my neighborhood but at least the Internet brings us closer.

I hope that other theaters or other organizations can start getting more of the old stuff back on the big screen. Hell, I’d go to the movies just about every night if there was something worthwhile playing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Hitchcock marathon, a giallo triple feature or a spaghetti western night including a pasta dinner.

Sometimes, though, I just wonder what it was like to grow up in an era where there were grindhouse cinemas and old movie houses that ran twelve hour Godzilla marathons just for the hell of it. I never got to experience any of that and frankly, I don’t know why people stopped supporting these things.

I don’t even know where there’s a damn drive-in anymore, either!

Kudos to the real champions… or reel champions out there like New Beverly Cinema and the Alamo Drafthouse. Kudos to Flashback Cinema and Fathom Events for giving us something old and something different.

History is important. Besides, the future doesn’t really look too bright unless you’re just distracted starring at Optimus Prime having butt sex with a supernova because, at this point, what the hell else can they do with a Transformers movie?

Top 25 Baseball Films of All-Time

It is almost Opening Day for the 2017 Major League Baseball season! So I figured that I would put together something special.

This took a lot of time to compile and I spent over a month revisiting about fifty baseball films, as well as watching a dozen or so classics I had never seen. I also talked to countless people about the subject, whether online or at ballgames over the last month.

A special shout out goes out to those who contributed to the discussion.

So just in time for the season opener, I drop my list of the Top 25 Baseball Films of All-Time!

Top 25 Baseball Feature Films:
1. The Natural
2. Field of Dreams
3. Bull Durham
4. Sugar
5. Moneyball
6. 42
7. The Sandlot
8. A League of Their Own
9. Major League
10. 61*
11. Eight Men Out
12. Million Dollar Arm
13. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
14. Pride of the Yankees
15. Bad News Bears (original)
16. Walt Disney’s The Rookie
17. Bang the Drum Slowly
18. For Love of the Game
19. Cobb
20. Soul of the Game
21. Major League 2
22. The Perfect Game
23. Rookie of the Year
24. Trouble With the Curve
25. Mr. Baseball

Honorable Mention:
-Damn Yankees!
-The Pride of St. Louis
-Pastime
-Bad News Bears (remake)
-The Stratton Story
-Fear Strikes Out
-Headin’ Home
-The Jackie Robinson Story
-Fever Pitch (only because of how it shows the love of the sport)
-Angels In the Outfield (original)

Dishonorable Mention:
-Major League: Back to the Minors
-The Babe
-Angels in the Outfield (remake)
-Ed
-anything with Air Bud in it

Top 10 Baseball Documentaries:
1. Ken Burns’ Baseball
2. Catching Hell
3. Baseball: Pelotero
4. The Lost Son of Havana
5. No No: A Dockumentary
6. Pride & Perseverance
7. The Battered Bastards of Baseball
8. Knuckleball
9. The Heart & Soul of Chicago
10. The Life & Times of Hank Greenberg

Joe Bob Briggs: A Texan of Exquisite Taste and a Man Who Influenced a Generation

For those who read my blog Cinespiria, you know that I am a pretty big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It is a show that helped me appreciate my love of film in all its forms, especially that low brow stuff they like to make fun of as the basis of their show. MST3K wasn’t the only influence I had, however. There is a man who came out before that great show; a man that taught me a lot about b-movies and cult films, especially horror flicks with a high level of absolute awesomeness. That man’s name is Joe Bob Briggs.

All men are not created equal and the same should be said about Texans. As far as I’m concerned, Joe Bob Briggs is the greatest Texan ever born. He is certainly the most entertaining and knowledgeable when it comes to the things I love most: motion pictures.

In the early 80s, Joe Bob took offense to the redevelopment of the Times Square area in New York City. 42nd Street was well-known for its multitude of grindhouse theaters that specialized in b-movies with double and triple bills. These theaters typically ran films 24 hours a day. Briggs encouraged a campaign that saw film fans write to city officials, pressuring them to preserve the area. Briggs referred to 42nd Street as “the one place in New York City you could see a decent drive-in movie.” Briggs wanted to preserve a piece of Americana and referred to these theaters as places where “Charles Bronson can be seen thirty feet high, as God intended.”

In the mid 80s, Briggs started a one-man comedy show called An Evening with Joe Bob Briggs. He eventually re-branded the show as Joe Bob Dead in Concert. The show was a bit of a variety piece, showcases Briggs’ many talents. It encompassed comedy, storytelling and music. Joe Bob’s show toured the country and played in over fifty venues within two years.

In 1986, Joe Bob Briggs was hired by cable giant The Movie Channel (the sister network to Showtime) to host a new show called Drive-In Theater. This was the gig that first brought Joe Bob Briggs into my life.

I didn’t discover Drive-In Theater until the summer of 1989 when I was ten years old. I often times spent the night at my cousin’s or my friend’s house and both of them had The Movie Channel. Back then, parents weren’t in helicopter mode like they are now. As long as we didn’t commit atrocious acts out in the world, our parents were pretty lackadaisical about censoring what we watched. Truthfully, they were usually asleep and had no idea what we were watching, as long as we stayed quiet enough. Plus there weren’t all those parental controls on cable boxes and whatnot.

I watched a lot of great flicks, many of them probably way too intense, sexual or scary for a ten year-old mind. Still, I turned out pretty okay and what these weekly experiences did was help me develop my love of film. That love already existed but what Joe Bob Briggs did was he introduced me to films I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. He spoon fed me giant helpings of feature films that the art house snobs and penguins at the Academy would thumb their noses at.

Drive-In Theater was the highest rated show on The Movie Channel and it was nominated twice for a Cable ACE Award. It ran for ten years and I got to see most of it. But when Joe Bob’s run at The Movie Channel came to an end, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, things got even better.

In 1996, Joe Bob Brings joined the TNT network where he would go on to host their spectacular MonsterVision movie show for four years. Now TNT couldn’t show the gratuitous violence and boobies that The Movie Channel could get away with. However, TNT geared a lot of their movies on MonsterVision towards a horror and sci-fi format, hence the name.

Most of MonsterVision‘s offering were 70s and 80s horror and sci-fi classics. It also showed some older films in the genre but the show was at its best when Joe Bob Briggs got to add his commentary and two cents on films like the Friday the 13th series, Return of the Living Dead, PhantasmSwamp Thing, Gremlins, They Live, The WarriorsThe FogMetalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-SynCritters, Logan’s RunDeadly FriendSoylent GreenSalem’s LotThe BeastmasterHalloween III: Season of the Witch, the Poltergeist series, The FunhouseNight of the LepusThe Fearless Vampire KillersThe Fly (1986), Child’s PlaySaturn 3Back to the FutureThe ExorcistThe Wraith, PredatorMad Max 2: The Road WarriorGhoulies, Godzilla vs. MothraThe Last StarfighterNightbreedHighlanderTron, The Black Hole and so many more.

Joe Bob Briggs would often times have guests on the show as well. MonsterVision opened their doors to horror greats and scream queens and allowed them to talk about these films. Briggs was a hilarious and thoughtful interviewer and his appreciation for a lot of the movies he was showcasing was apparent in how he talked about them and how he shot the shit with his guests.

MonsterVision existed in my later teen years and I am glad that it was a part of my life then, as I was growing into a man with a more refined taste and a pretty discriminatory palate in regards to film. It was a major influence on me and it inspired me to scour the mom and pop video stores for more obscure titles in the horror and sci-fi genres. Luckily, the Internet was becoming a big thing by this time and tracking down some hard to find movies was made a little bit easier.

After MonsterVision ended, I went through Job Bob withdrawal. The same thing happened when Mystery Science Theater 3000 left the airwaves too. Unfortunately, both of these shows disappeared around the same time and never has anything else come close to being as genuine in its appreciation of low brow cinematic art as these two shows were. But my love of these things never ceased and I never stopped watching the films that fit the type of ilk as those featured on both shows.

About five years ago or so, I was a political and economic blogger. My site, at that time, was getting about 100,000 hits per month. I sometimes got shares and mentions by famous people on Twitter. Kelsey Grammer once shared a post, as did several political pundit types. However, one day I was taken aback. The Twitter account for my site got a follow from Joe Bob Briggs. He even reposted a link to some story that I had written. Now I don’t know if he actually read my words but it was a pretty cool fucking feeling seeing a guy I looked up to for most of my life, share something that came from out of my head.

I miss Joe Bob Brigg’s presence on television tremendously, even to this day.

Things are starting to look up though, as Mystery Science Theater 3000 is returning in less than a month, after a nearly two decade hiatus. However, I am still waiting for the day that Joe Bob Briggs returns to the small screen, now in widescreen high definition, to grace us with his two cents once again. I don’t know if that will ever happen but damn it, it needs to.

What’s Wrong With You People?

id4-nycNo reason to take this too seriously, sometimes I rant when I run out of bourbon.

I was originally going to call this article Tentpoles & Assholes but I thought, “Hmm… that isn’t fair.” Besides, I’d have to include myself as an asshole and really, I’m just a lovely person. That’s what my therapist says, anyway, after I hand her three hundred bucks. She refuses to talk to me, otherwise.

But seriously, what is wrong with you people?

The reason I ask this of you (and myself, really), is because we are constantly bombarded with shit movies. Someone keeps paying to go see all of this crap. Therefore, Hollywood keeps making all this crap. Yes, I am guilty of it but probably on a smaller scale than most people. I, at least, don’t rush out to every big tentpole movie. However, I am sometimes lured in by franchises that once had great films or that are based off of things I have liked in the past – mainly awesome shit from my childhood.

I don’t think we realize how good we had it. Well, people from my generation and the ones before it. Most of you millennials, and this isn’t a diss to your group, don’t really know what it was like to grow up with Star WarsIndiana JonesBack to the Future and Spielberg movies when the guy was making absolute magic throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Sure, you have probably seen those films and love them, but you didn’t truly grow up with them. At least not at the time when they were new and when they were in the theater and taking over pop culture. And sure, you had your Star Wars prequels and that fourth Indiana Jones movie but let’s be honest, they don’t even compare to the original runs of those franchises.

In the 1990s, there was Jurassic Park, a mostly decent film, and Independence Day, an awful movie when you break it down but it still wowed the balls off of people because of the scale of the visuals. Compared to the films today, neither of them are really that big of a deal when it comes to scale or special effects. Sorry to shit on them but they weren’t as magical as the blockbusters before them, they were just decent placeholders while filmgoers were waiting for that next Star Wars experience that never came.

Then you had all those even shittier films: The Mummy, Men In Black, Twister, Armageddon, Titanic, the Batman sequels, Mission: Impossible, Face/Off, Volcano, Anaconda, Deep Impact, the American Godzilla, all those other Nic Cage moviesthe 90s Bond movies, the later Lethal Weapon sequels, Beverly Hills Cop III, Speed, Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Mask, Wild Wild West – all shit.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things I find amusing in several of those movies but ultimately, they aren’t good.

In fact, the only really good stuff to come out of that decade was independent films. The stuff by Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Wes Anderson, Kevin Smith before he totally sucked and a slew of others that clawed through the mess of mediocrity and rose to be unique and different. There was also Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the first Matrix movie, which are impossibly hard to try and knock.

The other good films were the movies that weren’t trying to be tentpole films. The likes of Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Good Will Hunting, The Green Mile and The Silence of the Lambs immediately come to mind.

Americans, and the rest of the world now, just want bigger and louder. CGI has created a way to make that happen much easier than in the past. The entire film industry is now so reliant on it that filmmakers don’t even need to worry about the scale of something, they just do it. They are now locked in this competition to outdo each other. Each new movie gets bigger, louder and cares less about overall plot or even trying to make a lick of sense.

The destruction levels in films these days are incredibly ridiculous. Between the destruction of Metropolis in Man of Steel and a spaceship the size of the Atlantic Ocean in the sequel to Independence Day, filmmakers have become Dr. Frankenstein. They are stitching together monsters and playing God. To paraphrase the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

On one hand, we the people keep paying to see these films. There is just something about seeing this stuff on the big screen. It surprises me though, that fatigue has not set in. As the movies get bigger and louder, they also seem to get dumber and less believable. They’ve become really poorly written cartoons. But maybe people are getting dumber and this is truly what they want. I mean, television has a larger variety of stuff to watch than the movie theater but the most watched shows are the ones that are usually complete dog shit.

On the other hand, maybe we have submitted to the will of our Hollywood masters. Maybe the filmmakers really just don’t care. Hollywood has figured out that they can pump out shit and if all that they pump out is shit, all people can choose from when buying a ticket is shit. Do you want to see robot shit, alien shit, zombie shit, superhero shit or Sparkles the Vamp Boy?

But at least the shit is available in 8D and on screens the size of a large inner city hospital in Ubertechtronic Psychic Surround Sound. What better way to witness the squish of a massive turd by an alien ship crashing into it following its destruction by giant robots that can transform into common household items covered in Pepsi and Verizon logos?

Sure, good films are still made. The problem, is that they aren’t marketed like the shit ones are. Well, unless they get nominated for something but the awards show nomination game is another dragon I’ll have to try and slay at a later date.

But ultimately, if I have to sit through a hundred Suicide Squads or Fantastic Fours to get to one Mad Max: Fury Road or The Dark Knight, the game is still worth playing. I’d just like to live in a world where people care about movies again. But how much do people really care if they are content watching a film in three minute increments from an iPhone screen in the line at Subway?