Category Archives: Film

“OVATION”— A Backstage Drama

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“Ovation”

A Backstage Drama

Amos Lassen

Director Henry Jaglom takes us backstage at a production of “The Rainmaker” that is being put on by a small theater group. Maggie (Tanna Frederick) is torn between keeping the failing production going with her presence, or pursuing a TV role, opposite hunk Stewart Henry (James Denton), who is doing everything to woo her away. As the two wrestle with their chemistry and conflicting feelings, there are various smaller dramas that orbit around them — Maggie finds herself in a rut with her co-star and longtime boyfriend; the producer will have to close the show if she can’t find a financier, and there’s a romance between two actors that turns violent. Then there is a psychic whose tarot readings keep everyone on their toes.

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“Ovation” is a tribute to the theater and to the power of live performance and the bond among performers and crew to the stars on the stage. The film wonderfully captures that there is “no business like show business”. It is a “stubbornly sharp, sincere and distinctive” film.

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The theater production has had its share of problems and the main thing it has to offer is the star, Maggie, whom is also the reason why Stewart, a television star, comes backstage to congratulate her. As he flatters Maggie, she is taken in by his smile as well as the promise of a television contract and she begins to fall for him. Alongside of there are several subplots. One of them involves a bad romance between a pushy young actor and his female co-star and another is about the attempts to keep the play afloat. The script uses the theme of the value of art over commercialism yet the film never seems to be advocating anything and is just supposed to be a fun time.

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Jaglom’s representation of the theatrical scene feels real and entirely convincing. We do not see much of the actual production and what we do see is structured, organized and controlled to a level of slick proficiency. Jaglom is concerned with what goes on behind the scenes where there is chaos and insecurity and nervous energy that produces art.

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The plot moves forward based on its own anxiety that leads to various events and plot twists keep us totally entertained. We never see the production of “The Rainmaker”; rather we only get glimpses of the actors going on-stage and coming off after curtain calls. We are aware that the entire theater complex is under threat of destruction in a secret high-end real estate deal, unknown to the members of the theater company or the play’s producer (Cathy Arden).

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It all takes place backstage and in various parts of the theater complex, but we never see any of these people anywhere outside of their natural habitat of the theater.

Denton and Frederick both give great performances that are filled with chemistry and are fun to watch. However the others are a bit more awkward. Personally I had a great time watching it.

“LAST CAB TO DARWIN”— To Die with Dignity

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“Last Cab to Darwin”

To Die with Dignity

Amos Lassen

Rex (Michael Caton) drives a taxi in Broken Hill, NSW, Australia. He is a loner even though he has his fellow cabbie as friends and an occasional girlfriend, Polly (Ningali Lawford-Wolf). Then, two things happen. He is diagnosed with terminal cancer and, in Darwin, some 3000 kilometers away, euthanasia is legalized. He begins a lonely trek across the country so that he can die with dignity.

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Rex meets colorful characters along the way, including Tilly (Mark Coles Smith), a native Australian who helps Rex out and cajoles him to take him along, and Julie (Emma Hamilton), a nurse turned barmaid who helps care for the dying man when things get bad for him.

Rex doesn’t want to rely on anyone.  He hears a radio show featuring Dr. Farmer (Jacki Weaver) who discusses the machine she’s devised for euthanasia and we learn that recently it has been made legal and it is then that Rex decides to be the last cab in Darwin.

Director Jeremy Sims has filled his film with a wonderful cast and we soon realize that this is not a film about euthanasia. Rather it is about a dying man’s romantic odyssey of self-awareness. 

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Rex tells Polly before heading to Darwin that he left some things in his house for her and she finds Rex’s dog and his will that says that he has left his house to her.

As he travels, his windshield is smashed by a flying rock and Rex stops in Pussy Willow, (named thus because of its macabre landmark, a tree full of hung feral cats.  An indigenous scoundrel, Tilly, offers to fix it at the local cafe and ends up traveling all the way to Darwin. Rex calls Polly and catches hell, Polly saying she doesn’t want his dog or his house. He then picks up another passenger when British bartender Julie (Emma Hamilton) who also happens to be a nurse and is concerned for Rex’s welfare.  When the trio arrives in Darwin, Rex finally learns what Farmer had been trying to tell him – that there are several legal hoops she must jump through in order to use her machine.

The film is an endearing tearjerker that deftly and respectfully handles big issues with subtlety and a personal touch. Aside from his dog (named ‘Dog’), the closest thing that Rex has of family is neighbor and part-time lover, Polly. We first meet her when she is in a pink dressing gown, yelling at Rex early in the morning for using her garbage bins. She crosses over to his house and asks him how he feels and we sense the affection, understanding and true love that the two share.

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The film is a visual feast with scenes that emphasize the earthiness and forward motion of the action, tying together sound and image effectively. Rex’s face effortlessly emotes resignation, despair, joy, loss, amusement and a dozen other emotions from first to last. We see, as that old cliché says, “It’s never too late to start living” but here it rings true.

This is a wonderful story of how death and dying can become a spiritual teacher for those who are willing to open their hearts and minds to this unusual source of wisdom Rex’s spiritual journey is a quest for love and meaning.

“MEN & CHICKEN”— An Absurd Danish Comedy

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“MEN & CHICKEN”

An Absurd Danish Comedy

Amos Lassen

“Men and Chicken” is a dark and hilarious slapstick comedy starring Mads Mikkelsen. It follows a pair of socially challenged siblings (who discover they are adopted half-brothers in their late father’s videotaped will). Their journey, is in search of their true father, takes them to the small, insular Danish island of Ork, where they stumble upon three additional half-brothers-each also sporting hereditary harelips and lunatic tendencies. They are living in a dilapidated mansion overrun by barn animals. Initially unwelcome by their newfound kin, the two visitors wear them down until they’re reluctantly invited to stay. As the misfit bunch gets to know each other, they unwittingly uncover a deep family secret that ultimately binds them together.

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 Director Thomas Anders Jensen understands the appeal of the bizarre and the film is an analysis of the peculiarities and grotesquery of nature in both man and animal, and the uncomfortable and unbreakable ties that bind family together. A menagerie of farmyard animals co-inhabits the broken house (including plenty of chickens) and the brothers all display animal tendencies that correspond to the decorated plates that they argue over during diner.

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Those who favor highbrow comedy over slapstick may find the comedy tiresome, especially as the brothers beat each other senseless with stuffed animals and other bizarre detritus, but there’s a smart streak running through the film too. Its disgusting surface is supported by a framework that’s intelligent and it is possible to find laughs in a compulsive masturbator. This is a curious movie that has no real empathetic characters; they’re all disgusting either inside or out – but it is perhaps a more accurate mirror than the shattered screen that cinema often deliriously reflects back at us.

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It is a movie with “a weirdly touching sense of shock-tactic decency and mixes bestiality, fantasy, and coming-of-age into a family farce”.

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“Men & Chicken” is bizarre and beautiful. Yet, Jensen’s empathy for his characters gradually impedes his imagination. The jokes dry up giving the characters little to do. Jensen has an unusual, almost commendable problem: He likes his characters too much to put them through the wringer of farce or even horror, leaving them stuck in a no-man’s-land of silliness.

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Special features include a lengthy booklet featuring gorgeous behind-the-scenes photos and concept art from the film’s production as well as a brief essay from Jensen, trailers for Drafthouse Films releases and a free HD digital copy of the film.

“MACBETH”— The Dark Version

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“MACBETH”
The Dark Version
Amos Lassen

Orson Welles plunged into what was already one of Shakespeare’s darkest works into the primeval darkness and assumes the title role of the thane who, in response to the pre- and post-determinate urgings of four women, hacks and slashes his way to assume the crown of Scotland and spends the entirety of his short reign fearing the similarly presaged events that threaten to depose him wit great violence. In Grand Guignol fashion, Macbeth’s fears and dirty deeds result in his sanctioning further atrocities and self-fulfilling prophecy. The limited scope of Welles’s production design, turns Macbeth into the king of a kingdom that resembles nothing so much as a replica of Stonehenge and ends up making subconscious comments on his perceptibly fallen fortunes. That Macbeth’s crown rests so uneasily makes one wonder if Welles, at this point, wasn’t even less confident in his artistic command than anyone realized.

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Welles, himself, inverts his usual charisma so that it here represents a rotting soul. But beyond him and Jeanette Nolan, who plays Lady Macbeth, the rest of the cast seems stuck in readers’ theater mode. The new Olive Films release offers the long cut with the Scottish accents intact. Some of the more heavily processed sequences bear the mark of age, but there are a few scenes in the darkest recesses of those dripping caves where the black levels are incredibly inky.

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“Macbeth” is surreal and primitive and wonderfully imperfect. The production is a clear act of madness, on par with the insanity that takes place within the story. It is somewhat of a gothic murder mystery–but without the mystery. We know that Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth invent a scheme to commit regicide and take over the throne. They are spurred on by the murky prophecy of three witches, and to take care of business, Macbeth must betray his friends, murder children, and basically transform himself into a tyrant. Haunted by their crimes, both husband and wife go crazy. In addition to the magic of the three witches, Macbeth also sees ghosts. The spirits of the men he betrays return to torment him (or he’s just losing his mind).

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Welles plays up on this, and his “Macbeth” is a spooky horror tale. The rocky walls of his cavernous sets box Macbeth in, trapping him at the crime scene. The sky is dark, and thunder claps echo in the distance (though regularly without the lightning that follows) and the wind whistles through the corridors of the royal caves. The fabric of the plot takes on elemental proportions. Everything in this version is exaggerated. Welles shoots from low angles with ominous shadows on the walls. He frames actors in extreme close-ups so that it feels like we are eavesdropping, particularly during the monologues, which also dissolve into hallucinations. Sound effects are unreal and unrecognizable. When King Macbeth finally does take the throne, it is oversized and perches him high above his people. We wonder if this is just a dream? And if so, is it a delusion brought on by the witches and their smoky brew, or is it a product of Macbeth’s own paranoia?

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Welles has a tendency to be a bit of a ham, but he keeps his propensity of overdoing it well modulated here. The famous “is this a dagger I see before me?” soliloquy is delivered as a whisper with the director saving his blustery temperament for when the fever truly grows hot. Jeanette Nolan, who makes her film debut ere, is fantastic as Lady Macbeth. Her devious, thoughtful performance stays away from anything resembling comical evil, making her slide into dementia all the more disconcerting. She’s too together to fall apart. The scene of her suicide is shocking and Welles pulls off one of the best falling body special effects in classic cinema. Likewise, the eerie lead-in to the climactic battle, with Malcolm’s army advancing on the castle while camouflaged, is fantastic. In terms of cinematic Shakespearian adaptations, tis is easily one of the oddest. It’s an imperfect picture, but it’s a bold one, and is an essential part of the Orson Welles’ canon. Its breathless escalation to the frenzied finale is a desultory rush, and has finally found its way to DVD.
Olive Films’ Blu-ray of “Macbeth” is a careful encoding of the full-length, restored original Orson Welles cut. The materials exhibit a number of flaws here and but the overall appearance of the show is very good, and certainly far better than older TV prints of the short version, which were both soft and dark. The HD image pulls out a great deal of previously unseen detail in makeup, costumes and the massive sets of rocky caves and battlements, complete with painted backdrops.

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OLIVE SIGNATURE FEATURES include
New High-Definition digital restoration
Includes 1948 and 1950 versions
Audio Commentary with Welles biographer Joseph McBride
“Welles and Shakespeare” – an interview with Welles expert, Professor Michael Anderegg
“Adapting Shakespeare on Film” – a conversation with directors Carlo Carlei (Romeo & Juliet) and Billy Morrissette (Scotland, PA)
Excerpt from We Work Again, a 1937 WPA documentary containing scenes from Welles’ Federal Theatre Project production of “Macbeth”
“That Was Orson Welles” – an interview with Welles’ close friend and co-author, Peter Bogdanovich
“Restoring ‘Macbeth’” – an interview with former UCLA Film & Television Archive Preservation Officer Bob Gitt
“Free Republic: The Story of Herbert J. Yates and Republic Pictures”
“The Two ‘Macbeths’” – an essay by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum

“COFFEE AND CIGARETTES”— Seventeen Years in the Making

coffee and cigarettes

“COFFEE AND CIGARETTES”

Seventeen Years in the Making

Amos Lassen

Jim Jarmusch’s “Coffee and Cigarettes” is an unmistakably nostalgic film that takes place in a series of eleven brief discursive vignettes. It tookJarmusch over seventeen years to make this anthology of conversations most among famous or semi famous people, who to a degree play themselves. We see Bill Murray moonlighting as a waiter, Cate Blanchett as a blond movie star, Steve Buscemi waiting on tables, spilling bad coffee on Joie and Cinqué Lee (whose more famous brother, Spike, is mentioned in a later vignette).

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Some of the episodes are slight and anecdotal. Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes discuss the physics of the Tesla coil; Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni talk past each other before one of them goes off to a dental appointment and others sound like good short stories.

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We see that under the influence of nicotine and caffeine, and with too much time on their hands, people have a way of getting on one another’s nerves. You might think that a meeting between Iggy Pop and Tom Waits would be a kind of summit of uncompromising cool, but in each other’s company those musicians turn defensive and passive/aggressive. Even in the most casual exchanges, hidden agendas and unspoken tensions exist beneath the surface. Mr. Buscemi’s idle chatter, and the Lees’ response to it, shows a bit of racial hostility. Two old friends (Isaach de Bankolé and Alex Descas) talk in circles around some unnamed emotional distress before saying their inconclusive and sad goodbyes.

Title: COFFEE AND CIGARETTES ¥ Pers: WRIGHT, STEVEN  /  BENIGNI, ROBERTO ¥ Year: 2003 ¥ Dir: JARMUSCH, JIM ¥ Ref: CAC008AG ¥ Credit: [ SMOKESCREEN/UNITED ARTISTS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION / JARMUSCH, JIM ]

Title: COFFEE AND CIGARETTES ¥ Pers: WRIGHT, STEVEN / BENIGNI, ROBERTO ¥ Year: 2003 ¥ Dir: JARMUSCH, JIM ¥ Ref: CAC008AG ¥ Credit: [ SMOKESCREEN/UNITED ARTISTS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION / JARMUSCH, JIM ]

In the two strongest chapters (one featuring Blanchett and another in which Steve Coogan and Alfred Molina play a deft game of celebrity one-upmanship) we realize that vague discomforts blossom into one-act dramas of envy and suspicion.

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This movie has great music that ranges from Mahler to the Skatalites. Its magic lies in the echoes and unexpected harmonies between the selections. Snatches of conversation and stray thoughts recur like musical motifs.

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In the short film vignettes where one or two characters meet in coffee shops or dilapidated hotels and warehouses, they talk, sometimes have a misunderstanding, and at some point mention that there’s nothing better than the simple pleasures of a cup of coffee and a cigarette. However, at times, “Coffee and Cigarettes” becomes redundant and dull. Not all of the sketches work, but there are highlights: a confrontation between a goofy Iggy Pop and a growly Tom Waits inside a jukebox bar; Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA discussing herbal remedies with a caffeine-delirious Bill Murray; Steve Coogan making a pompous ass out of himself to good-willed Alfred Molina; and especially Cate Blanchett playing twins, sending up her own glamorous movie star image while simultaneously proving her multitalented range as an actress. The ending comes with two old blue-collar guys on a coffee break, with an ode to the workingman (to Mahler’s music). The film is shot in black and white making the whole business seem dreary.

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The characters in the film discuss things as diverse as caffeine popsicles, Paris in the twenties, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide, all the while sitting around sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. Jarmusch seems to takes delight in nostalgia, fine music and absurd dialogue to fully capture just how absorbing the obsessions, joys, and addictions of life can be. 

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As master of minimalism and of using unique camera angles, Jarmusch draws out contrasts in pictures that tell stories without words. The main themes are the nature of celebrity and the misunderstandings that can arise between friends and relatives. The film is original and for that it should be seen.

“HOUDINI”— The Legend

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“HOUDINI”

The Legend

Amos Lassen

In the years following Houdini’s death, the legends about him, like all legends, became much more interesting than the truth. Yet as time passed and the legend, it began to reverse itself and we learn that the truth far more interesting than the legend. We certainly would rather hear that Houdini was the greatest escape artist instead of learning that he was actually boring and had no stage presence. Houdini overcame potentially fatal flaws to become someone whose very name is synonymous with magic and escape artistry and this is the Houdini we want to remember.

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Directed by George Marshall and written by Philip Yordan, “Houdini” is a fluffy, sometimes even comical presentation of Houdini the legend that highlights several key escapes and playing up his fabled interest in the paranormal. It overlooks almost every important fact about the real Houdini but there is enough other stuff to keeps us entertained. Thanks to Tony Curtis we see Houdini as a charming man and he is supported by Janet Leigh as Bess, his wife and the popularity of the couple in real life helped the film.

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The film begins at a cheap sideshow where Harry is not yet Houdini and working as a magician and “the wild man”. He sees Bess in the audience and when the two met it was love at first sight and they were quickly married. Already thinking about the legend, he claims that on their wedding night, he sawed Bess in half. That gives us a hint of where this movie is going. The film jumps around Houdini’s life with little basis in fact (which does not make this any the less entertaining). It just seems that it has chosen to the urban legends (or simply make up new ones).

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Scenes detailing Houdini’s interest in the occult stick more to the truth. After his mother died, we see that Houdini turned to spiritualism in hopes of soothing his loss, only to discover every medium he encountered was a fraud. Thus began Houdini’s side career as professional debunker, but this dealt with on a shallow level.

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The screenplay is more interested in getting back to the daring escapes which are recreated with plenty of excitement that are presented in over-the-top ways. It all ends with Houdini’s death and once again there is no relationship to the truth about how Houdini died. It is certainly more interesting and more fun to see him die as the result of a failed escape than having him die as a result of peritonitis. It might be fiction but it is fun to watch.

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What is missing here is any sense of Houdini’s personality here, and understanding of character. This is simply a straightforward point-by-point account of famous moments in Houdini’s career with no subtext. To an extent, it works, as the film achieves exactly what it sets out to accomplish but nothing more than that.

“J’ACC– USE”— One of the First Anti-War Films

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“J’ACC– USE”

One of the First Anti-War Films

Amos Lassen

Abel Gance mixes stark realism and World War I scenes to give us bitter depictions of trench warfare and the effect of four years of combat on all of those involved, soldiers and civilians alike. “J’Accuse” is an astonishing mix of science fiction and horror elements and he brings together history and literature by using the title of Emile Zola’s denunciation of the injustice behind the Dreyfuss affair. The film combine images and the message behind them, making this one of the most startling films of its era (1938) and gaining a reputation that even today some eight decades later it continues to be relevant.

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Edith (Maryse Dauvray) is married to the gruff and stern hunter François (Séverin-Mars).  She doesn’t love him and was forced into marriage by her father who respects his ruggedness.  Edith is really in love with a poet, Jean Diaz (Romould Joube), and the two try to sneak away for a quiet moment together whenever they can. It is all interrupted when war breaks out.  The citizens are elated that they’ll finally get a chance to bet the Huns, and François enlists immediately.  Jean, a member of the reserves, doesn’t have to report for 40 days however. After basic training, François discovers a love letter to his wife from Jean.  His first thought is to kill the young man, but his father-in-law talks him out of it.  After all if he does that, he won’t be able to fight.  Instead, he sends his wife off to live with his parents in the mountains.

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Edith is captured by Germans on her way to her in-laws, taken prisoner and brutally raped, repeatedly.  When Jean hears of this, he moves up his call-up date and goes to the front to rescue the woman he loves.  There he is stationed with François, and while the two initially hate each other, they soon realize that they are fighting for the same thing.  While the two men are bound together by love for the same woman and the horrors of war, things soon take a more tragic turn that will leave no one untouched.

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Most of the men used in the film were in the army and were tragically killed weeks later.  Aside from the use of real soldiers, Gance employed many innovative techniques to get his point across.  He used a lot of superimposition used through the film, to great effect. He did not need to use tricks while editing. He made powerful statements about war and in one of the scenes, we see a young child, still in diapers, running up to his playmates and declaring “It’s war!” The use of tender and brief moments show how families felt about the war and there is no melodrama here. The most amazing scene we see it when a man who is obviously crazed imagines that all of the dead soldiers from the war get up and go back to their hometowns to see if their sacrifice had been worthwhile. 

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Some feel that Gance oversteps a little in his agenda with a confusing storyline and an unfocused, shock-value ending. Quite simply, his scenario that was too good and idealistic to be true. History seems to teach that war is inevitable because it is a part of human nature. There has always been war, and there always will be war. We try to repress that nature, so that when war comes, we can only justify it by dehumanizing our opponents. If we just accepted that it is a historical part of our nature, we could better understand one another and actually avoid war by admitting that we are prone to it. In recognizing our dark nature, we would be more honest and willing to seek out a more peaceful solution instead of letting our war-like instincts take over. Gance argues here that war can be prevented with love, and while this might be true in a perfect world, it simply goes against what we know of the history of mankind. , and it actually fuels the repression that leads to dehumanization.

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This is supposed to be a riveting film that stands against the notion of war, but it eventually comes across as so idealistic and naive that it nearly patronizes its audience. Gance argues that the World War II could have been prevented with love, and that the French, and the entire world, were foolish for entering into it. While on paper, this looks good but who can blame Europeans for defending their homes when the Nazis came to destroy their homes?  In its final moments, J’Accuse! becomes a pseudo-fantasy film with the resurrection of the soldiers of the world who died in the Great War being sent to the battles of World War II.

This is a film built on good intentions and a premise that was simply too good to be true. Gance needed to realize that in addition to being idealistic, the hero of his film was also wrong, and instead of trying to stop another war he—and his film—should have tried to understand humanity’s tragic drive to fight it.

“SMART: Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team”— Saving Animals

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“SMART: Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team”

Saving Animals

Amos Lassen

I would probably be crazy if my Jack Russell got herself into a situation in which saving her would be nearly impossible. Did I say impossible? That is a word that the members of SMART do not have in their vocabulary. In this documentary, we meet Armando Navarrete and Los Angeles’ Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team. The film looks at Armando’s journey as he works to get his team off the ground. For anyone who has ever had a pet or loved an animal, this is a must-see film.

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Here is a group of highly trained, adrenaline-fueled professionals who risk their lives to rescue animals! They will save anything and everything, wild or domestic, from an all kinds of dangerous situations. The film was shot over a three year period and it follows team leader Armando Navarrete as he helps lift a horse from a river by helicopter, tranquilizes a deer in Pee-Wee Herman’s back yard and falls five stories from the top of a tree. These animal rescues come at great cost; both personally and professionally and at the same time there is another struggle that is being fought at animal shelters. Armando refuses to let an animal die alone in the dark, but in the end, Armando may be trying to rescue himself.

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In February 2012, the Small Animal rescue Team (SMART), Department Air Rescue Team (DART), Wildlife Program and Permit Section were consolidated into one Special operations Unit. The Department further unified the Small Animal rescue Team (SMART) and Department Air rescue Team (Large Animal Rescue Team – DART) into one joint venture now called, the “Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team” (SMART). This reorganization resulted in leveraging staff to do more than one function, and existing staff was cross-trained to support each other. The end result is more staff is available for emergency call outs and Departmental field support. Most importantly, the Department is able to provide increased quality and improved services to the public while maximizing safety and support to personnel.

SAN PEDRO - 04/16/12 - (Scott Varley, DAILY BREEZE Members of the L.A. Animal Services Small Animal Rescue Team (SMART) climbed to the top of a 2-story building to coax a cat named Gizmo down. The cat had been on the roof for nearly a week and eagerly walked to its rescuer before being put in a bag and lowered to the ground. Rescuer Annette Ramirez lowers Gizmo to her partner on the ground.

SAN PEDRO – 04/16/12 – (Scott Varley, DAILY BREEZE Members of the L.A. Animal Services Small Animal Rescue Team (SMART) climbed to the top of a 2-story building to coax a cat named Gizmo down. The cat had been on the roof for nearly a week and eagerly walked to its rescuer before being put in a bag and lowered to the ground. Rescuer Annette Ramirez lowers Gizmo to her partner on the ground.

The SMART team now has a 100% perfect save rate since they began using their specialized training, experience and knowledge for rescuing small and large animals in distress. The Special Operations Unit, including the SMART team, is under the command of Director of Field Operations, Mark Salazar and being led by Acting Lt. Armando Naverrete. The SMART team consists of ten LA Animal Services Officers and one Registered Veterinary Technician.

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This is a fascinating movie and one that I will remember for a long time. It is interesting how pets have moved to the forefront of the protection movement and it seems that we now realize their importance.

“THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY”— Retirement

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“The Night of the Grizzly”

Retirement

Amos Lassen

 After Marshall Jim Cole (Clint Walker) is left some land in Wyoming when a relative passes away, he hands in his lawman’s badge in the Utah territory and with his family and former deputy Sam (Don Haggerty), he makes the journey to start a new life away from trouble. However, it seems that trouble follows Jim around as not only does he find one of his new neighbors, Jed Curry (Keenan Wynn), trying to force him off the land so that his own sons can have it but there is also a big grizzly bear known as ‘Satan’ in the area. Cole decides to hunt the bear down to claim the $750 bounty that will help him keep the land. Unfortunately a bounty hunter that Cole had once arrested shows up and to get his revenge and decides to kill the bear to stop Cole from getting the reward money.

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The title might fool you into thinking that this is a horror film and it is nothing near that.It is a family western and as such has something for everyone. Jim (Clint Walker) is an all around nice guy and he plays his part with brilliance. In fact everyone plays their parts well. (Don Haggerty as Sam and Nancy Kulp as shopkeeper Wilhelmina adding plenty of humor to the mix).

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The film is made up of little stories that range from local illegal whisky distillers to troubles with a local rancher and so on and it all works.

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Adventure is what we see in this action-packed, western. Directed by Joseph Pevney, the film boast a fine cast and an interesting story and even though it was made in 1966, it is still relevant today.

“THE QUIET MAN”— Finding Love

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“The Quiet Man”

Finding Love

Amos Lassen

A retired American boxer returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he finds love in this romantic comedy that John Ford directed in 1952.Set in the 1920s. American exile Sean Thornton (John Wayne), the quiet man, a former boxer with a dark secret, goes to his birthplace of Innisfree to buy the cottage that he was born in from the widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick). This upsets wealthy farmer Squire ‘Red’ Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), who has had his eye on the property and resents that the Yank bought it. To make things even worse between the rivals, Sean falls for Will’s fiery redheaded sister Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) but local custom says the brother must give consent to the marriage. 

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The heart of the story is Sean who controls his love interest and becomes involved in a brawl with Will and the entire village turns out and divides up sides in their betting.

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The was the first American feature to be filmed in Ireland and director Ford richly imbued this masterpiece with his love of Ireland and its people. The film is held together as propelled by its characters. Director Ford is known for having said that this is the most personal film that he made and he was able to relate to Thornton’s journey. Many have seen the character of Thornton to actually be Ford himself. The film is actually about the tempestuous romance between Thornton, a man with a secret in his past, and fiery Mary Kate Danaher (O’Hara), whose brother, Red Will (Victor McLaglen), opposes the match. Even once the two are married, the trying times aren’t over. Will withholds Mary Kate’s dowry, and she won’t allow her new husband into her bed until he is able to get the money by any means necessary.

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John Wayne’s Thornton is the kind of man every guy would like to be and that every woman wishes she could be with. He’s strong, silent, patient, good-natured, and, above all, willing to forgive. He is solid and reliable. When complications threaten his relationship with Mary Kate, he shrugs them off and moves on, refusing to accept defeat. And when Will’s stubborn refusal to hand over the dowry endangers the happiness of his union, Thornton takes action.

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The film gives us a chance to see a different side of John Wayne. The majority of the Duke’s films were serious and here we see him an old fashioned romantic drama. Having been cast against type, Wayne is fine probably because his screen presence allows him to get away with what would sink other actors.