Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Top Ten - Favorite Horror Movies

Here they are... my favorite pure horror movies. I left out movies (like "Jaws") which I consider to be more drama, even though they are terrifying.

10. Saw (2004)
So completely original at the time. A great twist. Horrific deaths. Tension throughout.

9. The Wicker Man (1973)
Unlike the 2006 remake, the creep vibe grows and grows throughout this film. Led by Edward Woodward as the police sergeant searching for a missing girl, the film culminates in pure helpless terror.

8. Let The Right One In (2008)
The right balance of horror and story, this Swedish movie of a bullied boy and his strange neighbor has everything - bloody deaths, strong characters and tight plot.

7. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
When I was a kid, this classic scared the living crap out of me. Obviously, it wasn't the effects or acting. It was theme - the loss of identity (which will pop-up later in this list.) Love the final scene.

6. 28 Days Later... (2002)
This film is dark and horrifying but still manages to make a turn toward its end that makes us see who the real monsters are.

5. The Shining (1980)
This Stanley Kubrick film relies on a strange visuals, great acting and eerie mood to tell the story of a man who slowly goes insane while the caretaker of a remote resort. The pacing of the film is methodical, drawing you in to a dream-like state. 

4. Alien (1979)
This horror tale in outer space burst onto the scene (no pun intended) in 1979. It's use of the dark and isolation showed what a true filmmaker could do with the genre.

3. Halloween (1978)
The movie which launched a genre, Halloween set the standard for what horror was for 20 years or more. Great pacing and an expressionless killer with no obvious agenda makes this movie hold up.

2. The Devil's Rejects (2005)
As sick as this movie is, it's actually a road movie wrapped in the horror genre. A sequel to the lesser "House of 1000 Corpses," this film starts with the most depraved main characters you've ever seen and makes you like them by the end. This is one of my favorite scenes, if nothing else for the humor.

1. The Thing (1982)
Do we really know the people around us? Loss of identity of ourselves and our comrades. That's what drives this John Carpenter classic. Great special effects, another isolated location and a solid story make this my favorite horror movie of all time.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Music Monday - "Prejudice, Remains and Freeze Ray"

Love Tim Minchin. One of my favorites from him! (I love the turn.)

This song is "Remains" by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, part of the writing force behind TV series such as "Firefly" and "Dollhouse." I love the concept of the video by director Anton King, loosely based off the idea for "Dollhouse." It's just a moving song.

Speaking of the Whedons, I ran across some clips from Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" while searching for an example of "shared memories" for my improv class. Always reminds me how much I love this short film. The story is told by a villain scientists who has fallen for a woman at a laundry mat. Things are complicated by his nemesis, Captain Hammer, who sweeps his love off her feet. It's worth your 45 minutes if you've never seen it.

I mean, it's Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion - how can you go wrong?!

Hope you have a great Monday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Animals Driving Cars: A Chronological Pictorial, Part 2

Continued from 
Part 1
The 60s also saw the start of the equality movement, with different varieties of  animals demanding the same opportunities that dogs and chimps received. Led by cats, mainly political and social activist Whitey Hoffman, the movement demanded equal chances at vehicular employment and equal wages. Seen above, Whitey defiantly drives through Houston, Texas, in protest of their laws denying felines the right to drive. Unfortunately, only a year after this photo was taken, Whitey was found dead in a hotel room, overdosed from a catnip ball heavily laced with PCP. Though Hoffman had indulged in recreational drugs before, supporters said Whitey had been clean for about six months and thus they suspected foul play.

The 70s saw a rise in films featuring animals driving automobiles, partially due to the act becoming so mainstream.  Genres, such as cat-ploitation films, starred little known feline actors in smaller, cult movie, cheaply produced then distributed to specific theaters where marketing would bring in the best bang for the buck. Here (click picture to see movie), actor Phineas T. Phillips portrays Tabby Jackson, a "bad-ass cat" who fights the drug trade by running over dealers on his neighborhood street corners. Phillips would go on to play more respected roles, such as "Jones" in Ridley Scott's Alien and "Milo" in The Adventures of Milo and Otis, neither of which had scenes with him driving.

The world of animal driving expanded in the 80s to include other capable species including pandas, flamingos and octopuses. Although this started purely for novelty circus acts, these forms of "domestic transportation" - as it was later termed - became more common with the rise of 80s comedies with talking animals. Above, Splash drives to the set of his hilarious hit TV show, "The Otter Guy." 
The rise in animal driving was not without its dark side though. Animals, now more mobile with automobiles, could use vehicles in nefarious acts of crime. Robberies, drug smuggling and even hit-and-runs became common among the animal set. Here, two deer have stolen a car to go joy-riding. They were easily apprehended however as police shined their spotlights on the deer, they froze, allowing the car to roll to a stop.

After regulation of the 90s, fewer and fewer creatures are seen driving on America's roads and highways today. Animals driving cars are now seen more as a novelty, especially on the World Wide Web. Most pictures of animals driving are now used as memes to fill Twitter feeds and silly blog pages. This has given rise to a new lucrative job market for creatures - animals who act like they are driving for pictures so people can comment on or label them for comedic effect.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief examination of the world of Animals Driving Cars. 
For more information, please check with this site. Enjoy your explorations!

Animals Driving Cars: A Chronological Pictorial, Part 1

What follows is a brief pictorial of various animals driving automobiles through the years. Please understand this is only an overview. For proper research on the subject, see my latest book, "Animals Driving Cars: A Complete Chronological Pictorial from the 1890s to Today."

Originally, only the rich owned cars therefore only rich dogs were able to drive. This photograph from 1918 Chicago  shows Delbert Griffin Wickman (aka "Delly") driving his owner, Mrs. Olga Rodin Wickman, to the market. Delly later went on to start Greyhound Bus Lines in 1926.

Chimpanzees were incorporated into the military, beginning with World War I. Mainly used for ceremonial events and on-base transportation, some of these brave simians saw true frontline action as jeep messengers and ambulance drivers. Here, 1st Sgt. Aldus "Race Car" Rogers drives two unidentified Army officers in a homecoming parade in Springfield, Illinios.

After the two great wars, dogs returned to the forefront as animal drivers. Rural area farmers, mainly in the central United States, used their animal companions to make the long drives into town for them, allowing the agriculturist to spend more time working their land. In this picture, Blackeyes Milford, takes his owner's 1951 Ford F-series on the 90 mile trek to Dodge City, Kansas, for supplies.

Monkey drivers came back into vogue in the late 1950s, especially in urban traffic areas. After the Korean War, many chimpanzees had branched into other transportation fields such as long-distance truck driving and piloting commercial flights. Therefore baboons were used as drivers for those wealthy enough to afford one. Here, a monkey driver takes a young woman to a day at Yellowstone National Park. Because of the position of the woman's arm and the blanket below the baboon, the veracity of this picture is in question. Some scholars believe the simian in this picture is actually a puppet - with the woman's right arm controlling the monkey, a common practice in the early-60s by those who could not afford an actual baboon driver.   

Chimpanzees were seen on the road more often in the late 1960s, as baboons - prone to fits of road rage -  became less popular among the middle class. Unfortunately, these road rage attitudes were adopted by the chimp driving set also. Here, photographer John Welsby missed a prime opportunity to capture history on film. "A woman in a station wagon had cut this chimpanzee off in traffic," explains Welsby. "The monkey, obviously furious, beating the steering wheel and flinging feces out the window, followed her to the next stop. I knew I had the chance to get a special picture - he was going to flip her off. Unfortunately, I snapped the picture too early and couldn't reset in time to record the event." Welsby believes he mis-timed the shot because the chimpanzee stared at the woman for a longer than expected time - for dramatic effect - before slowly raising his middle finger. In any case, Welsby is credited as the first photographer to almost capture simian road rage in action.

Thursday, January 5, 2012