Sunday, July 29, 2007

Episode 150

Sunday, July 29th is the 150th episode of Maverick at the Movies. Since the show started, in May 2004, I have reviewed 382 films and played approximately 90 hours of music. It has been a privilage and a blast to do this show every week and I hope to continue.

I want to thank everyone who has supported this show, namely KMSU staff members James Gullickson and Karen Wright. I'd also like to thank fellow KMSU show hosts Nick Iverson of The Downshift, Tim Lind, and Shelley Pierce of Shuffle Function, Herb Kroon of Best of Broadway, Ton and Dustin Wilmes of The Five Count, and Bob Pavlenko of Here There Be Dragons for their assistance and support. I would also like to thank former and current Southern Minnesota News Project News Directors Melissa Specken, Julie Kroon, and Page Schuette for including my reviews as a part of their Friday newscasts. And lastly, I'd like to thank all of the listeners for supporting the show and KMSU FM for keeping us on the air and showing such support for independent radio.

As stated on the About section on the Maverick at the Movies website, the purpose of the show has been to "provide an outlet for serious discussion about film and film music . . . Maverick at the Movies is intended to open up a greater understanding of the medium, making us all better consumers." Over the past 150 episodes I hope that I have improved your movie going experience and added something unique to KMSU and the rich southern Minnesota arts and culture scene.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Who Has Hit Rock Bottom: Lindsay or Us?

Over the past few months Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears have provided enough scandal to give the Bush administration a run for its money. With this week's arrest of Lindsey Lohan on DUI and cocaine possession charges, its seems that another of Hollywood's so called "Girls Gone Wild" will face potential prison time. And since everyone loves a scandal, especially if it involves a young beautiful woman falling from grace, many "news" organizations have jumped on the story, letting it lead news segments and allowing the coverage to eclipse other issues like Iraq, Afghanistan, the 2008 Presidential race, or natural disasters. In the past few days I have observed a number of "news" programs flashing Lohan's mugshot with titles like "Girls Gone Wild" and "Hitting Rock Bottom" and diagnosing Lohan's legal issues as a symptom of addiction. I am not prepared to make a determination as to whether or not Lohan actually has an addiction, although I must say that substance abuse does not necessarily equal addiction and "rock bottom" means more than getting arrested for a DUI.

But the bigger issue here is the attention given toward the gossip. It's nothing new, as this MSNBC article illustrates. An excerpt:

When the newsmedia zeroes in on the indiscretions of a larger-than-life actor, entertainer, athlete or politician, it’s often accompanied by plenty of lofty clucking about how tabloid journalism has gotten out of hand. But we’ve always had Paris, or some other eye-poppingly wayward personage like her.

The reality may be that it’s the rampant proliferation of media in the digital age — not the public’s seemingly growing hunger for the trials, tribulations and unfortunate video moments of the famous — that has magnified the amount of celebrity journalism with which we’re inundated. Where we once got our news from the old living room Philco and the nearest newsboy, most Americans are now addicted to an intravenous drip of cable news crawls, wireless headsets and the bottomless World Wide Web.

There were, to be sure, certain factors beyond a relatively compact news industry that limited the extent of celebrity coverage in the early half of the 20th century. When told of Mitchum’s arrest, Howard Hughes’s first reaction was to ask where to direct the hush money. Police, reporters, politicians and other gatekeepers of information were more prone to back-alley arrangements then than now, in our ever more transparent age.

Sportswriters and campaign reporters, it’s now well known, were disinclined to reveal the secrets of the athletes and politicians on whose livelihood they depended. The indiscretions of Babe Ruth and John F. Kennedy are just two of the best-known examples of public figures whose statuesque shoulders have been spattered by insinuation and inference since their deaths.

Many topics were taboo. Were Montgomery Clift, for instance, acting today, he almost certainly would be expected to submit to a Barbara Walters sit-down about his sexuality. William Faulkner might have been hounded into a public apology after one of his alcoholic episodes was caught on videotape, in the next suite over from David Hasselhoff’s.

Not that the newsmedia once knew only the high road. The mysterious death of starlet Virginia Rappe at a San Francisco bacchanal hosted by the silent-film comedian Fatty Arbuckle set off a national debate about Hollywood morals — even as editors and readers alike obsessed over the sordid details.

The article, written by James Sullivan, makes some important points, that there is a strange love-hate relationship between the consumers, the media, and troubled starlets. It strikes me as a sublimated misogyny. The culture loves its beauties but it also loves to see them corrupted and ultimately destroyed. It is a symptom of sexual repression, in that we look on and lust after the bodies and lifestyles of the Lindsays and the Britneys but in order to reconcile that lust with our guilt, we relish in the degradation and punishment of the starlet. And if, by some chance, she is able to turn it around and be redeemed, that gives us a chance to now hold her up as a Madonna-figure (think Christianity, not the singer). But either way, our obsession with the corruption of women is troubling.

In recent months, I have begun to include a five minute news segment in the weekly episodes of Maverick at the Movies and I made a conscience decision to exclude celebrity gossip, partially for this reason. I believe that this obsession with gossip has polluted the discussion of film in the mass media to the point that the evaluation of film has been tainted by what celebrities are alleged to have done in the tabloids. The show has attempted to be a antidote for this and I hope that listeners can appreciate the effort.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

AFI "100 Films" List Commentary

On last Sunday's episode, I finally talked about the American Film Institute's new 100 Years, 100 Films list (see the entire list here).

Here is a breakdown of some of the changes from the 1998 list to the 2006 list:

  • Doctor Zhivago was 39
  • Birth of a Nation was 44
  • From Here to Eternity was 52
  • Amadeus was 53
  • All Quiet on the Western Front was 54
  • The Third Man was 57
  • Fantasia was 58
  • Rebel Without a Cause was 59
  • Stagecoach was 63
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind was 64
  • The Manchurian Candidate was 67
  • An American in Paris was 68
  • Wuthering Heights was 73
  • Dances with Wolves was 75
  • Giant was 82
  • Fargo was 84
  • Mutiny on the Bounty was 86
  • Frankenstein was 87
  • Patton was 89
  • The Jazz Singer was 90
  • My Fair Lady was 91
  • A Place in the Sun was 92


  • 18. The General
  • 49. Intolerance
  • 50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • 59. Nashville
  • 61. Sullivan's Travels
  • 63. Cabaret
  • 67. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • 71. Saving Private Ryan
  • 72. The Shawshank Redemption
  • 75. In the Heat of the Night
  • 77. All the President's Men
  • 81. Spartacus
  • 82. Sunrise
  • 83. Titanic
  • 85. A Night at the Opera
  • 87. 12 Angry Men
  • 89. The Sixth Sense
  • 90. Swing Time
  • 91. Sophie's Choice
  • 95. The Last Picture Show
  • 96. Do the Right Thing
  • 97. Blade Runner
  • 99. Toy Story


On both lists there are a few film that I found surprising, objectionable, or just seemed out of place on this list.

Titanic (No. 83): Against my better judgement, I've often defended this film. It is a great big sentimental romance set against the backdrop of a natural disaster. It's a great crowd-pleaser and it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. However, the stilted acting, thin characters, the lack of substance, and music by Celine Dion ought to disqualify it from being considered the greatest films of all time.

The Sixth Sense (No. 89): M. Night Shyamalan has certainly had a checkered career with The Village on the high end and Signs at the bottom. This is one of his better films but it is very much a one trick pony. Once the twist of the film has been revealed, it does not play as well on repeated viewings, which ought to be a requisite of a list like this.

M-A-S-H (No. 1970): I've never been a fan of Robert Altman, who I always thought was a bit of an art house fraud. He was famous for allowing his actors to improvise, but the result was scenes that went on forever and films that were more fun for those involved in the production than for the audience. The spin off television series was far superior to this picture.

Forest Gump (No. 76): Another film that isn't bad, but seems out of place next to other films on the list. It is a great piece of nostalgia for baby boomers, but the movie does not really reveal anything about our history seeing it through Gump's eyes.

Tootsie (No. 69): Of all the films on my "What the hell?" list, this is the one I am most willing to relent on. Dustin Hoffman's performance is amazing and this film plays on the man in a dress gag better than Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, or Tyler Perry. Tootsie is noteworthy, but compared to other films on the list it just seems a bit out of place.

E..T. the Extra Terrestrial (No. 24): By no means am I a Spielberg hater. He has emerged as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, filmmaker of his generation and I was pleased to see Schinder's List and Jaws on the list. But this particular film is just too damn sentimental.

Toy Story (No. 99): I'd like to see the AFI embrace animation more than they have, so this is probably a step in the right direction. However, compared to other animated films, even recent films like Finding Nemo and Monster House, this particular choice seems odd.


Here are some films that I'd like to propose for consideration on the list. I'm not sure what films these ought to replace, if any, but they are well made, important films that are worth consideration.


  • Halloween (1973)
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • Dracula (1931)
  • The Exorcist
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973)
  • Evil Dead 2


  • Caddyshack
  • Airplane
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Ghost Busters


  • Moulin Rouge!
  • Chicago

Historical and Epic Films

  • Kingdom of Heaven
  • Braveheart
  • Nixon
  • Gladiator (2000)

Fantasy Films

  • Superman: The Movie
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  • The Matrix
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • The Empire Strikes Back


  • Bowling for Columbine or Fahrenheit 9/11
  • Woodstock
  • Hearts and Minds


The AFI's 100 Years lists have been a great asset to film viewers, especially for those who haven't gone through a film studies program. There are plenty of films on the AFI's lists that are worthy and that audiences may not have heard of, and the Institute's endorsement may connect films with viewers that might not have seen them otherwise. On the other hand, there is the risk that viewers will take the list at face value and not question what was chosen and how it was compiled. And, as I've pointed out, there are certainly some questionable films here. But over all it is a boon to the advancement of cinema as an art form.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Family Movie Night in Mankato

Free, family-friendly film screenings will be held outdoors the next three Friday nights at dusk at the intergovernmental center in downtown Mankato. This is the same area that Songs on the Lawn occurs.

July 13: Happy Feet
July 20: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
July 27: The Princess Bride

The screenings are sponsored by Century 21. The films will be projected onto a large outdoor screen and refreshments will be available for 25 cents. Bring your blankets and lawn chairs.

See an interview with the coordinators from Century 21 here.