February 14, 2011
Badham's melodramatic, out-dated film was the biggest musical sensation and blockbuster of the late 1970's (from co-producer Robert Stigwood) - adapted by screenwriter Norman Wexler from Nik Cohn's New York Magazine story "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night." It features one of the most famous song soundtracks in film history, and was responsible for the Disco Craze phenomenon, launching hot disco clubs (like Studio 54) and the film super-stardom of 19-year old John Travolta, previously best known as one of the Sweathogs of the television sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. The film's soundtrack is the most recognizable, with a slew of high-pitched Bee Gees songs from the Gibbs: "Night Fever," "How Deep is Your Love," "More Than a Woman," "You Should Be Dancin'," and "Stayin' Alive" (which accompanies a memorable opening scene when the working-class protagonist struts down the sidewalk to the lyrics: "Oh, you can tell by the way I walk / I'm a woman's man, no time to talk").
In the classic coming-of-age tale, a conflicted, teenaged Italian-American anti-hero from Brooklyn, Tony Manero (Travolta with the film's sole Oscar nomination) works in a dead-end job as a clerk in a local hardware store and lives at home with his oppressive, verbally-abusive blue-collar family. But after dark, he becomes the dynamic, white polyester-clad stud (with platform shoes, flared pants, and a wide-collared shirt) and undisputed dancing legend of a local nightclub (the 2001 Odyssey), with dancing partner Stephanie (Gorney) for a dance contest. The uneducated macho Manero seeks escape from his desperate plight of a staid home life and unambitious friends by finding recognition on the dance floor. However, his swaggering, troubled character also expresses arrogance, racism, immaturity, obnoxiousness, and misogyny (he sexually abuses and disregards girlfriend Annette (Pescow).
Additional popular songs on the soundtrack included Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" and the Trammps' "Disco Inferno." Unbelievably, the soundtrack was completely ignored by the Academy, causing a critical outcry and leading to the extremely unlikely Oscar win by the next year's inferior disco film Thank God It's Friday (1978)'s for "Last Dance" (sung by Donna Summer). An inferior sequel, director Sylvester Stallone's Staying Alive (1983) also starred Travolta reprising his Tony Manero role.
Rocky Framed Poster
24.9374 in. x 36.9374 in.
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The phenomenally successful, uplifting, "sleeper" film that was filmed in a record twenty-eight days with a paltry budget of about $1 million, and ultimately grossed well over $100 million. (This low-budget film was positioned between two early "blockbusters" - Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and Lucas' Star Wars (1977).) Its screenwriter and major star, Sylvester Stallone, was an unbankable unknown at the time - an underdog actor/writer in the film industry (with 32 previously-rejected scripts) similar to the boxing 'bum' in the film. Stallone supposedly wrote the script for the sports comeback film over a three-day period.
The action-packed, 'feel-good' crowd-pleasing story, shot mostly on location, tells of the rise of a small-time, has-been, underdog Philadelphia boxer against insurmountable odds in a big-time bout with Apollo Creed (Weathers), with the emotional support of a shy, hesitant, loving girlfriend named Adrian (Shire) and wily fight manager Mickey (Meredith). The low-key film was a combination of On the Waterfront (1954), Marty (1955), and a fairy-tale, Cinderella rags-to-riches story. The original Rocky film, from Oscar-winning director John G. Avildsen, packed movie houses, and beat out formidable competition for Best Picture: All the President's Men, Bound For Glory, Network, and Taxi Driver. It was followed by four inferior sequels: Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990) and another entry titled Rocky Balboa (2006).
Poltergeist, 1982 Giclee Print
9 in. x 12 in.
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A memorable supernatural horror film from co-producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper (better known for his cult horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)). This was Spielberg's first smash hit as a co-producer, paired with Frank Marshall (who later produced Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)). Its classic 'haunted house ghost story' is fascinating to watch, with extraordinary special effects created by George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic team, from a screenplay by Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor.
It was released at the same time as another suburban tale with otherworldly visitors: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and can also be interpreted as a threatening, scarier version of director Spielberg's pre-E.T. film: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Compared to both films, Poltergeist is the dark flip side for Diane and Steve Freeling (Williams and Nelson) in the Cuesta Verde housing development, with ordinary objects that turn threatening (for example, a suburban tract dream home, a backyard tree, a favorite doll, a closet, and a TV screen).
The famous poster reflected one of the more memorable, spookier moments of the film, with young 5 year-old Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke) pressed against a television showing nothing but white noise, saying, "They're here."There were two, less successful sequels in subsequent years: Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) and Poltergeist III (1988). Many filmgoers have been intrigued by the seemingly-tragic legacy of the film, with the unexpected deaths of star Dominique Dunne (in her last film role before her tragic murder by her live-in boyfriend) and O'Rourke (who died six years later just before the second sequel's release).
Poltergeist, Turkish Movie Poster, 1982
11 in. x 17 in.
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Planet of the Apes, 1968
12 in. x 9 in.
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A thought-provoking and engrossing science-fiction film classic - a loose adaptation (by formerly blacklisted Michael Wilson and Rod Serling) of the Pierre Boulle novel La Planète Des Singes (Monkey Planet), about four NASA astronauts, including Colonel 'George' Taylor (Heston), who have traveled for centuries in cyrogenic suspension. After a crash landing on an Earth-like planet, they find themselves stranded in a strange and remote place dominated by English-speaking simians who live in a multi-layered civilization. The apes dominate society, and humans (who possess few rights) have been reduced to subservient mute slaves and are even hunted as animals. In danger of being castrated or lobotomized, Taylor cries out the memorable: "Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" The apes in this exciting and engaging action thriller include archaeologist Dr. Cornelius (McDowall), his scientist fiancee Zira (Hunter) - an 'animal psychologist,' and malevolent, arrogant, government orangutan leader Dr. Zaius (Evans). This Vietnam War, Cold War and Civil Rights era film makes many subtle points about race, animal rights, the establishment, class, xenophobia and discrimination.
The film is most noted for its twist ending when George rides down a beach on horseback in the Forbidden Zone with beautiful mute cavewoman Nova (Harrison), and suddenly he stops when he sees something, and dismounts to stare upwards; as the camera pans forward toward Taylor, through a spiked object, he exclaims: "Oh, my God! I'm back, I'm home. All the time, it was..." He drops to his knees: "We finally really did it." He pounds his fist into the sand and rails against Earth's generations almost 2,000 years earlier that had destroyed his home planet's civilization with a devastating nuclear war: "You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!" The full object comes into view as the camera pans backward - the spiked crown of a battered Statue of Liberty buried waist-deep in beach sand. This film was also a pioneer in modern movie marketing, spawning not only four sequels and a 2001 remake (and two television series spinoffs), but also action figures and other similar merchandising, foreshadowing later merchandising for Star Wars (1977) and the Indiana Jones series.
Patton, 1970 Giclee Print
12 in. x 9 in.
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The epic film biography, shot in 70 mm. widescreen color, of the controversial, bombastic, multi-dimensional World War II general and hero George S. Patton. The larger-than-life, flamboyant, maverick, pugnacious military figure, nicknamed "Old Blood and Guts," was well-known for his fierce love of America, his temperamental battlefield commanding, his arrogant power-lust ("I love it. God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life"), his poetry writing, his belief in reincarnation, his verbal abuse and slapping of a battle-fatigued soldier, his anti-diplomatic criticism of the Soviet Union, and his firing of pistols at strafing fighter planes. The bigger-than-life screen biography is most noted for its brilliant opening monologue by Patton (Scott), delivered before a gigantic American flag to the off-screen troops of the Allied Third Army ("No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country").
The story was based on two books: Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier's Story by General Omar Bradley (portrayed by Malden). As a result of Francis Ford Coppola's breakthrough win for Best Adapted Screenplay as co-screen writer, he went on to write and direct The Godfather (1972). Although Scott portrayed the famous general perfectly and it became his archetypal film, the role was also considered by Burt Lancaster, Rod Steiger, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum and John Wayne. The subject matter was remade as a TV-movie entitled The Last Days of Patton (1986), also with Scott in the lead role.
The Palm Beach Story (1942) is a hilarious, zany, marital screwball comedy by writer/director Preston Sturges - it was his last romantic comedy and one of the last, classic screwball comedies. The witty, nonsensical film of mistaken identities and deception is a satire on sex as an asset. The farcical plot with cynical satire effectively skewers the idle rich (millionaires) and the pursuit of money, with its story of a penniless, separated couple. [Whether coincidence or not, the couple share the same names as MGM's squabbling cartoon characters Tom (cat) and Jerry (mouse).]
The film's premise is that a pretty, but penniless, fortune-hunting, scatter-brained wife, who is at odds with her inventor husband, may travel to Florida to obtain a divorce, and - with her beauty, ingenuity, luck and appealing charms - live the 'good life' in Florida and obtain monetary support ($99,000) from a multi-millionaire to advance the good of her husband's career. Sturges' original title for the film was Is Marriage Necessary? - to emphasize his challenge to the sacredness of marriage. Its title was a takeoff on the similar film title, The Philadelphia Story (1940).
Night Of The Living Dead 3D
27 in. x 41 in.
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One of the most important and influential horror films of all time - George Romero's ultra-low budget debut film shot in grainy black-and-white with an unknown cast reinvented the genre. The film was actually improved by its crude "drawbacks," since they lent a documentary feel and reality that made the film all the more horrific. The screenplay was taken from an unpublished short story Romero had written called Anubis, so-named after the Egyptian god of the dead. In the simple yet brutally relentless plot of claustrophobic horror, the 'living dead' (re-animated corpses) mysteriously rise from the grave for no known reason (though there are vague references to radiation from a fallen satellite), forcing a group of seven strangers to take refuge from the shuffling, hungry, flesh-eating zombies in an isolated Pennsylvania farmhouse.
A capable black man (Jones) assumes leadership as the army of corpses repeatedly try to enter the house during a terrifying siege, amidst both unspoken racial and generational tensions between him and a less capable, older white family man (Hardman). The images of the film are haunting, from the opening scene in the cemetery, where flighty female lead Barbra (O'Dea) is teased by her brother Johnny (Streiner in an uncredited role): "They're coming to get you, Barbra!" before being attacked by one of them, to the shot of the zombified little girl consuming her mother (often taken to be a social metaphor for the late 1960s youth of the nation rebelling against their elders). Meanwhile, news and radio reports from the mass media emphasize the panic and threat. The tragic ending comes from the actions of real mindless zombies -- living lynch mobs. While initially considered drive-in schlock, the film gained in popularity and critical respect, and raised Romero to great heights as a horror filmmaker. He would go on to make a zombie trilogy with the successful Dawn of the Dead (1978) and the lesser Day of the Dead (1985), before remaking his own Night of the Living Dead (1990) in color and with subtle changes to the plot, including a reworked beginning and ending.
The Matrix Art Print
40 in. x 30 in.
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The Wachowski Brothers' popular, imaginative, visually-stunning science-fiction action film - the first in a trilogy with inferior sequels: the somewhat successful but critically derided The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and the artificially-expanded The Matrix Revolutions (2003). A computer software company techie programmer and illegal hacker named Thomas Anderson (Reeves) (with screen name alias Neo) is contacted by the mysterious, vinyl-clad heroine Trinity (Moss) and the super-cool, messianic space-ship captain Morpheus (Fishburne) who is the leader of the rebel forces. He is told (with an Alice in Wonderland reference) via his computer: "The Matrix has you. Follow the white rabbit." Neo is informed that he is the champion or chosen one to save Mankind from a malevolent, sentient machine race, that has entrapped all of humanity, in the year 2199!, inside a computer simulation (The Matrix) dreamworld, and tricked them into believing that the simulation is reality.
The Artificial Intelligence system also uses the brains and bodies of the trapped human beings as expendable "living batteries." Freed by this knowledge, Neo soon learns to take advantage of the Matrix, bending the malleable laws of physics to his will, such as impossible feats of physicality (such as running up walls or leaping impossibly high) and altering his perception so dramatically that he sees bullets in flight in order to dodge them. The true standout of the film is the menacing Machine Army agent "Agent Smith," played with a tongue-in-cheek, edgy pseudo-serious flair by Hugo Weaving, whose mannerisms recall 1950's Cold War governmental "Men In Black" agents. The Matrix became best known for its revolutionary visual effects - airborne kung fu, 3-D freeze frame effects with a rotating or pivoting camera, and bullet-dodging. The film became a smash hit, featuring elaborate fighting and stunt sequences, as well as a convoluted screenplay that blurred the edge between reality and fantasy without losing the audience's grasp of the story.
October 28, 2010
24 in. x 36 in.
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That Oscar-winning title song buzzes in your ears long after the movie has stopped. The attraction here is youthful spirit and a pulsating score, because the weak story is merely a conduit for the song-and-dance numbers.
The plot is every young woman's daydream come true. Jennifer Beals holds down a macho job as a welder by day, but performs erotic dance numbers in a club at night. It's not a strip club, so her morality remains intact. She dates her wealthy boss (Michael Nouri) and practices hard for the day she can audition for the upscale, local dance school, even though she has no formal training.
It is malarkey, of course, unless you view this as total romantic fantasy. It works because you are carried along by the sheer force of the energetic, boisterous, MTV-style imagery by director Adrian Lyne. Beals is a plus as the stubborn, pouty, somewhat eccentric young woman made all the more interesting for her driving ambition. In the end, she is aided by her Prince Charming, who arrives bearing favors. Mind you, this is not the same as a rescue, as Beals is one rather tough damsel who does just fine on her own.