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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Top 10 Fictional Bands

As we all know, some of the best things in life are entirely untrue. This holds no less to be actually the fact with music as well - I think you'll find.

If I'm honest with myself - and I am not - I must admit that many of my favorite musical ensembles are entirely fictional.

Neal Romanek's Top 10 Favorite Fictional Bands

  1. Armada (aka Rod Torfulsen's Armada)  (of "The Kids In The Hall")
  2. Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers  (of "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension")
  3. Buddha Stalin  (of "Strangers With Candy")
  4. Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem  (of "The Muppet Show")
  5. The Heaven Seventeen  (of "A Clockwork Orange")
  6. The Monkees  (of "The Monkees")
  7. Mos Eisley Cantina Band  (of "Star Wars, Episode IV")
  8. Spinal Tap  (of "This Is Spinal Tap")
  9. Tenacious D  (of they who are The D)
  10. Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars  (of "The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars")

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Top 10 Writers To Detain In A National Emergency

There are enemies out there. Many enemies. So many enemies.

But the most dangerous enemy is the enemy within. The Homegrown Enemy.

You know, most things that are made in the home are dangerous. Homegrown vegetables - dangerous. Homemade toys - dangerous. Homespun wisdom - very dangerous.

When the next American National Emergency comes - and it will come - we will have to act fast and act good. The first thing must be an "appeal for calm". And an "appeal for utter silence" is even better. Because if you're about to drive a bus off the road and over a cliff, the last thing you want is a bunch of back-seat drivers yelling for you to stop and ruining your concentration.

So when the Time of National Crisis & Sacrifice comes, I strongly suggest we neutralize the 10 journalists on the list below.

In peacetime we have indulged their extremist and radical views, but as we all learned when we studied the Bill Of Rights in school, extremist and radical views have no place in a society that lost 3880 innocent lives on September The Eleventh or whatever. 

(click a link to learn more about each scallywag)
  1. Juan Cole 
  2. Amy Goodman
  3. Seymour Hersh
  4. Dahr Jamail
  5. Naomi Klein
  6. Paul Krugman
  7. Scott Ritter
  8. Jeremy Scahill
  9. Gore Vidal
  10. Naomi Wolf
These writers are wiley - cunning - and even though recent changes to the law make it easier to deal with their kind, they often will continue to operate below our radar. Luckily, we have means.

Applying terror can be a fine way to get results. By "terror" I do not mean the use of bombs and spectacular, awesome, shocking displays of destruction and stuff like that. I mean simply good old fashioned frightening of people. So how do you frighten a gaggle of smug Cassandras who have no respect for the sanctity of the American System?

What you do is: Arrest Seymour Hersh for making secret classified material available to The Enemy in his various New Yorker pieces. Put him in jail - regretfully, sadly, without bail, but this is a national security matter and all.  Mr. Hersh need not remain detained indefinitely. Only for a few months.  Or for the duration of The Emergency, say - however long that is.

Also apologize repeatedly to the American people about how Judith Miller and Dan Rather got off so lightly, and make a promise that it will never happen again.

After Sy Hersh spends a little time in a Halliburton Hilton, the rest of the gang will shut up and fast.  All except that damnable Gore Vidal. Who does he think he is?

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Top 5 Jesus Movies

So you're probably thinking: "Well this is not a very good subject for a Top 5 List! Just how many movies about Jesus (aka Iesus, aka Yeshua, aka Josh) of Nazareth are there to choose from? Heck, there can't be more than, like ... a half a dozen Jesus flicks altogether, right? I'm afraid I shall have to set your house on fire."

But after reading the following list of Top 5 Jesus Movies, you will be begging my forgiveness. But will I give it? Will I give my forgiveness? Maybe. Maybe not. What's in it for me?

In no particular order:

Jesus Of Nazareth (1977) - Franco Zefferelli shoots right down the middle and scores big-time with this miniseries. This is the Peter Jackson's "Lord Of The Rings" version of the Gospels - a big-budget attempt to illustrate as faithfully as possible the traditional conception of the Jesus story. Every first-rate actor in the Western World appears in "Jesus of Nazareth" and every one gives a fine perfomance. The casting choices themselves are superb - even down to Ernest Borgnine as The Centurion who, believe it or not, works perfectly. And the Maurice Jarre score is wonderful.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) - And on the other side of the coin ... Martin Scorsese finally realized his dream project, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis (writer of "Zorba The Greek"), on a shoestring budget, to popular outrage. Young Marty had wanted to be a priest when he was a pale asthmatic Brooklyn kid, and the inevitability of sin has been a theme in virtually every one of his films. Despite our best intentions, our personal power, wealth, prestige - and no matter how cozy our relationship with God - we will still always go astray. The experiment behind "The Last Temptation" is, in part, to put our traditional understanding of the Jesus story on the other side of the looking glass. Up is down, black is white. The film opens with the crucifixion of a familiar-looking, bearded prophet, for whom the carpenter Jesus has fashioned a cross. This Jesus even assists in the man's execution. And we ask: "How can THIS chap be the Anointed One?" - which might lead us to another question, "How can anyone?" The Peter Gabriel score is superb.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) - People forget what a dynamite filmmaker Norman Jewison is ("Moonstruck", "Fiddler On The Roof", "Rollerball", "In The Heat Of The Night"). For my money, "Jesus Christ Superstar" manages some of the most emotionally powerful interpretations of the Jesus story in cinema. A musical - not to mention a rock musical - a rock musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber - can go places forbidden to straight drama. The relationship between Jesus and Judas is nicely drawn in the film. In fact, the performance by Carl Anderson - outraged, self-important, and at his core lost and frightened - may be my favorite Judas performance in film. The concluding rendition of the title song, with Judas and a host of sexy angels singing down to Jesus from the audience seats of a Roman amphitheatre, is terrific.

Jesus of Montreal (1989) - Denys Arcand's film is a passion play about a group of Montreal actors putting on a passion play. The home run of the movie is the French-Canadian Lothaire Bluteau, as an actor named Daniel who, in the passion-play-within-a-passion-play acts the part of Jesus. He mesmerizes as the compassionate Christ, whose heart seems ever on the verge of breaking at what he sees in the world around him.

Ben-Hur (1959) - It's iffy putting William Wyler's super-epic in the Top 5. Jesus appears as a secondary character throughout the film, but His face is never shown us. It's a simple, effective device, that engages our imaginations and keeps the character slightly beyond our understanding and experience. The story is about the spiritual awakening of a wealthy Jewish nobleman, whose life loosely intersects that of Jesus. So the Gospels are merely the scaffold on which the bulk of the plot hangs, but the movie is so solidly executed, that it stands out as one of the best screen depictions. Stories of a well-known figures are often best told through the point of view of complimentary or antagonistic characters, (i.e., the Mozart story presented as the story of Antonio Salieri in "Amadeus"). Examining the Jesus story through the eyes of one of his less renowned contemporaries is not a bad way to go about it.

Others: Of course, I bet Pier Paolo Pasolini's "The Gospel According To St. Matthew" (1964) should be on the list. Black and white, no professional actors. Must be art. But I ain't seen it yet.

Then there is Mel Gibson's "The Passion Of The Christ" (2004), but it is too much a mixed bag to make the Top 5. When it is good, it is genuinely revelatory, when it is not good, it's a little silly.

Avoid "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965) , except for the Herod scenes directed by David Lean.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Your LOTR Guide

What with so many of Peter Jackson's "The Lord Of The Rings" movies flying around like drunken nazgul on a night out, it's easy to become bewildered and to lose all hope and fall into shadow. After all, you don't want to watch the entire 3 hours of the theatrical release version of "The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring" and then hear later on that the special extended edition is much, much better. That's three hours of your life gone. You're never going to get that back. And to add insult to injury, you've copped a resentment against the "Lord Of The Rings" movies. And you don't want to be in a state of resentment against the "Lord Of The Rings" movies. It's just not right.

What you need is a guide. You need your very own Gollum to guide you through the marshes of the multiple versions of "The Lord Of The Ringses".

I could be that Gollum.

Please. Please, let me be your Gollum.


(in the interest of clarity, I've omitted "The Lord Of The Rings: " from the beginning of each title, but note the title of "The Fellowship Of The Ring", for example, is actually "The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring")

So, from best to not best:
  1. "The Return Of The King", original theatrical release (201 mins) - no, it is not too long, it's almost perfect - almost - and after the triumph of the previous films, it has earned the right for its long, steady, really quite sad wind-down at the end; still have no idea what's going on with that Denethor-setting-Faramir-on-fire thing, though
  2. "The Fellowship Of The Ring", special extended edition (208 mins) - the original theatrical release was a chase film, this extended version has more character moments and, as a result, is more engaging and so actually seems to run much faster than the theatrical release.
  3. "The Two Towers", original theatrical release (179 mins) - a rock-solid Act II.
  4. "The Return Of The King", special extended edition (251 mins) - yes, it's too long - and my apologies to Christopher Lee, but those Saruman scenes really don't work very well; on the other hand, the Emissary Of Sauron, the shattering of Gandalf's staff, the fiery wolf's-head battering ram, and other elements are extraordinary.
  5. "The Fellowship Of The Ring", original theatrical release (178 mins) - good as it is, its story is fairly narrow - the only one of the films where you feel like you really want a little more; but as the first step in an unprecedentedly massive filmmaking enterprise, taking that cautious approach was probably a wise strategy.
  6. "The Two Towers", special extended edition (223 mins) - much repetition of scenes which serve the same function - i.e., Gollum's monologue, so effective in the theatrical release, is watered down by several other, less effective monologue scenes; on the other hand, extended swordplay at Helm's Deep can never be a bad thing.

And watch the Ralph Bakshi animated movie, "The Lord Of The Rings" (1978) which covers "The Fellowship Of The Ring" and some of "The Two Towers".

The film's treatment of Gollum became the iconic image of the character until the Peter Jackson movies. It's also a more somber take than the Jackson versions - exactly what you would expect from Mr. Bakshi.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

10 Pornographic Items at a Hydraulics Co.

What with being a writer and artist, it has been essential to take various kinds of alternative employment from time to time.

The reason for this is not financial, of course. As any artist will tell you, the financial rewards one reaps in the creativity arts are humbling in the extreme. No, the reason for keeping a hand in with the rest of the wretched work force is RESEARCH.

Yes, RESEARCH - meaning "to search and search again and again and again".

What the search is for is never quite clear.

I am reminded of a hydraulics company where I once did some light filing. This place sold pipes and hoses and tubes and ducts and associated paraphernalia for a wide variety of industrial applications - from cooking equipment to aircraft parts, from train engines to chemical weapons manufacturing.

All day long a trio of blue-shirted, neck-tied men sold these various parts to those in need of them. Offers were made, deals were cut, all with a kind of admirable, boisterous devotion to customer service.

The RESEARCH-worthy element of the job - and the one that made me giggle like a ten year old - was the fact that when liquids are conveyed from one place to another, when a tube is inserted into an opening so that fluids may be deposited therein, whether such a thing happens in industry or in nature, certain types of descriptive language begin to emerge.

So as one lightly filed, one would begin to hear - made with dire, blue-shirted, fluorescent lit gravity - the most hilarious turns of phrase.

Absolutely unadulterated, exactly as they came to me:

10 Product Names I Was Exposed To
At A Hydraulics Supply Company

  1. tube nuts
  2. screw type coupling probe
  3. rigid female connector
  4. 2-way hose ball bib cock
  5. full bore ball valves
  6. M/F bleeder
  7. SS male plug
  8. flange seal
  9. GH436-16 hose assy
  10. straight male stud coupling
... and one of my favorites, but which belongs more to D&D than S&M:
  • swage ferrule for spiral hydra


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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Top 10 Movie Wizards

So you're a respected actor toward the end of a first-rate career. What do you do?

You play a wizard.

The Top 10 Movie Wizards and the actors who depicted them:

  1. Yen Sid - "Fantasia" (1940) (segment "The Sorceror's Apprentice" directed by James Algar)
  2. Dr. Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price), "The Raven" (1963)
  3. Obi Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness), "Star Wars" (1977), et al
  4. Avatar (voice by Bob Holt), "Wizards" (1977)
  5. Merlin (Nicol Williamson), "Excalibur" (1981)
  6. Ulrich (Sir Ralph Richardson), "Dragonslayer" (1981)
  7. The Wizard (Mako), "Conan The Barbarian" (1982), et al
  8. Lo Pan (James Hong), "Big Trouble In Little China" (1984)
  9. Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" (2001), et al
  10. Gandalf the Grey/White (Sir Ian McKellan) - "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), et al

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Monday, December 25, 2006

10 Childhood Xmas Gifts

10 Great Christmas Gifts I Received As A Child

  1. Kenner Death Star Playset (with trash compactor & green, rubbery Dia Nogu)
  2. William Stout's "The New Dinosaurs"
  3. Large plastic American versions of Shogun Warriors (Mazinga & Dragun)
  4. Revell Endangered Species model kits (white rhino, california condor, komodo dragon & mountain gorilla)
  5. a taxidermied monitor lizard from Thailand
  6. Space 1999 Eagle spacecraft (huge plastic one with action figures)
  7. "Jaws Of The Shark" (thrilling LP of 3 shark-related adventure stories)
  8. Marx Renegade "Sam Cobra" wild west figure
  9. "Sounds To Make You Shiver" (scary LP of haunted house sound fx)
  10. a sword

jaws of the shark lp


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Monday, December 18, 2006

Top 10 John Williams Scores

Two Years today my wife and I have been married. Happy Anniversary, sweetie.

Two Years.

It makes me want to write a list about John Williams scores. So, here is the definitive list of:

Top 10 John Williams Scores (in order of Best to Very Good)

  1. Jaws (1975)
  2. Star Wars (1977)
  3. Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  4. JFK (1991)
  5. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
  6. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
  7. The Accidental Tourist (1988)
  8. Schindler's List (1993)
  9. Empire Of The Sun (1987)
  10. Superman (1978)


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Monday, November 06, 2006

10 Things I Would Like For My Birthday

It's my birthday this month. Not today, no. But later on in November - later this week, in fact - is when most English-speaking countries celebrate the birth of Neal Romanek.

Often there are festivals.

In case you plan on getting me presents this year - and I can't see why you wouldn't, but only you know how your mind works - here are 10 Presents I Would Like For My Birthday ... please:

1.) peace
2.) health
3.) victory over my enemies
4.) a new iPod - since my old one, upon hearing English pop music a short time after arriving in this country, committed spontaneous suicide (you know - "contact Apple Support" URL + frowning Mac face)
5.) a job where I get paid upwards of £100,000/year to make things up
6.) did I mention victory over my enemies?
8.) a Palermo pizza
9.) forgiveness of my terrible transgressions against man and beast
10.)Age of Empires III for Mac OSX


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Thursday, September 28, 2006

10 UK Culinary Challenges

The 10 Greatest Culinary Challenges
I Have (So Far) Survived In Britain

  1. Chocolate Chip Biscotti of Sobbing and Weeping (Day 1)
  2. Sausage of Sawdust and Paste and Decay (day 3)
  3. Eggs of the Trogolyte Kings (Day 3)
  4. The ur-Bacon (aka "Sahara Road Kill") (Day 4)
  5. The 2nd Worst Cup of Coffee in Christendom (Day 4)
  6. Walker's "Salt & Vinegar Flavour" Potato Crisps (Day 5)
  7. The Worst Cup of Coffee in Christendom (Day 5)
  8. Chili Cheesy Fries of the Damned (Day 6)
  9. Guacamole/Sour Cream/Salsa Compote of Grief (Day 6)
  10. Giant Crab-Apples that look just like Actual Apples (Day 8)


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Thursday, August 10, 2006

10 Movies with Terrorist Heroes

It's easy to find movies with terrorist villains. But what about terrorist heroes?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines terrorism as:

"a policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorising or condition of being terrorised."

That certainly covers a lot of ground.

Fortunately, the official U.S Code of Federal Regulations is more specific. It tells us that terrorism is:

"the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives"

Here are:

10 Movies With Terrorist Heroes
  1. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  2. Braveheart (1995)
  3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  4. Paradise Now (2005)
  5. The Patriot (2000)
  6. Red Dawn (1984)
  7. Spartacus (1960)
  8. Star Wars IV - VI (1977 - 1983)
  9. A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
  10. V For Vendetta (2005)


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Friday, August 04, 2006

10 Countries To Destroy

Some days I wake up and I just want to destroy a country. Actually, sometimes I want to destroy lots of countries. I believe with all my heart that if these countries were destroyed, my life would improve some. But sometimes you realize that there are so very many countries that need to be destroyed, you have to write a list so you don't get off track.

So, here are ...

10 Countries I Would Like To Destroy

1.) North Korea - because I'm not quite sure what purpose it serves.
2.) Trinidad - I'm not quite sure where it is.
3.) Canada - it's so damn big, but it doesn't do anything. It just sits there. Quietly. But a little TOO quietly, if you know what I mean. Really makes me nervous.
4.) Germany - they sent troops into Poland contrary to their agreement with Russia.
5.) Kzerbisakhstan - barbarous and unshaven.
6.) Monte Carlo - den of iniquity that allows nuclear carriers to anchor off its coast.
7.) Finland - not much different from Germans - or Russians - too tall, drunkards, not to be trusted.
8.) Cuba - I'm not sure why, but I'm sure it's a good idea to destroy it.
9.) Afghanistan - because since 2002 it has regained its position as the largest exporter of heroin in the world.
10.) New Zealand - its expert motion picture technicians and superior production facilities are ruining Hollywood.


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Monday, June 05, 2006

10 Lines From "Dr. Zhivago"

Tonight at the Motion Picture Academy is "Doctor Zhivago" (1965).

I never miss a screening of "Doctor Zhivago". Never. I've been known to miss a screening of "The Bridge On The River Kwai" or "A Passage To India", sometimes even a screening of "Lawrence Of Arabia", but I never miss a screening of "Doctor Zhivago".

I'm guessing this screening will be the most recent restoration of the film, with the new Turner titles on the end of it - the one with great sound restoration but a mediocre image (aka "meaty ochre" image).

10 Favorite Lines from Doctor Zhivago

(some great not only for their own sake,
but for how they precede
or follow a line, or play against an image)
  1. "You shouldn't use human beings to move earth."
  2. "My name is General Yevgraf Andreivich Zhivago. I'm looking for someone."
  3. "How would the poet like to see a bit of general practice?"
  4. "I've no amorous experience, if that's what you mean. None whatever. Lara's seventeen. That speaks for itself."
  5. "And don't delude yourself this was rape. That would flatter us both."
  6. "I am the only free man on this train! And the rest of you are cattle!"
  7. "Will you accept the terms of this ignoble Caliban on any terms that Caliban cares to make? Or is your delicacy so exorbitant that you would sacrifice a woman and a child to it?"
  8. "He must have known how ill he was. The walls of his heart were like paper. But he kept it to himself. He kept a lot himself."
  9. "Oh, yes. People will do anything."
  10. "Ah, then it's a gift."

director David Lean w/actresses Geraldine Chaplin &Julie Christie


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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Top 10 Top 10

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Top 10 Best Names from Edgar Rice Burroughs

One of the great talents possessed by the sci-fi-adventure novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs was the effortless creation of elegant, illustrative, poetic - in all ways perfect - names for his fantastic characters, places, creatures.

Here are ten of his best:
  1. Banth
  2. Barsoom
  3. Dejah Thoris
  4. Kerchak
  5. Mahar
  6. Pellucidar
  7. Phutra
  8. Sabor
  9. Tars Tarkas
  10. Tarzan

Read 'em & weep, GEORGE LUCAS! Who's your daddy, beeeeeaaatchhhh ?!!!

Pellucidar book cover

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Top 20 Director/Actor Collaborations

There is a dazzling variety of life-long partnerships between film directors and their favorite actors. In the case of those listed below, it would seem that almost any one name could be dropped and replaced with another. John Mills, for example, was in more of David Lean's films than Alec Guinness, but I believe that, in the masterpieces that Lean and Guinness made together, each artist was essential for the other to do his best work, and the films they made would have suffered without the presence of both. Likewise, Max von Sydow was famously Ingmar Bergman's male lead of choice, but I would argue that Bergman's collaborations with Liv Ullmann reveal the deeper talents of both director and performer in ways that neither could match alone. And, again, one might insist that Federico Fellini's greatest collaboration was not with Marcello Mastroianni, but with his wife, Giulietta Massina, but Marcello - he is more than just an actor, no?

I invite you to submit your own choices - or to shoot down mine - in the Comments section.

With that in mind ...

The 20 Greatest Director/Actor Collaborations
  1. Woody Allen / Diane Keaton
  2. Ingmar Bergman / Liv Ullman
  3. The Coen Bros. / John Goodman
  4. George Cukor / Katharine Hepburn
  5. Federico Fellini / Marcello Mastroianni
  6. John Ford / John Wayne
  7. Jean-Luc Godard / Anna Karina
  8. D.W. Griffith / Lillian Gish
  9. Akira Kurosawa / Toshiro Mifune
  10. Werner Herzog / Klaus Kinski
  11. Alfred Hitchcock / James Stewart
  12. John Huston / Humphrey Bogart
  13. David Lean / Alec Guinness
  14. Mike Leigh / Timothy Spall
  15. Bruce Robinson / Richard E. Grant
  16. Martin Scorsese / Robert De Niro
  17. Don Siegel / Clint Eastwood
  18. François Truffaut / Jean-Pierre Léaud
  19. Wong Kar Wai / Tony Leung Chiu Wai
  20. Zhang Yimou / Gong Li

still from

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Top 10 Red Movies

Ten Best Movies with "Red" in the title:
  1. Deep Red (1975)
  2. The Hunt For Red October (1990)
  3. Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944)
  4. Raise The Red Lantern (1991)
  5. Red Beard (1965)
  6. Red Dawn (1984)
  7. Red Desert (1964)
  8. Red River (1948)
  9. The Red Shoes (1948)
  10. Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1994)

Honorable Mention: Red Scorpion (1989) (written & produced by Jack Abramoff!)

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

10 Words Never Used By The Queen

Yesterday was Her Majesty The Queen's 103rd birthday.

"The Queen of what?" you ask.

"Why, the QUEEN!" I answer indignantly. "The QUEEN! The Queen of all of us! Queen Elizabeth II of the Rose and Crown and Elephant and Castle of the Garter of Tudor. The QUEEN!!"

"Oh, her," scoffeth you, "She's just like you and me. She's just a human being."

No, she ain't.

I have heard Queen Elizabeth II speak. Or give speeches, at least - which is very similar to speaking. I even have seen the Royal Her in the flesh once or twice. She came down to the University of Kent at Canterbury when I was there, with her hubby in tow, and some of the rest of The Family (like that guy with the ears, who was married to that girl who died - he came) to open the university's new vertebrate vivisection wing.

It rained that day. I'd like to think it was the Queen's divine juju power that brought the rain. Or did it snow? Actually, now that I think about it ... yeah ... it snowed. Either one, I'm sure the Queen was responsible.

But, yes, I've heard The Queen speak. I've seen her speak her Christmas address. And The Queen speaks good. Not like an American, no. No, she speaks like someone from another country. THAT is how good of a speaker she is.

I think one of the things that makes The Queen such a good speaker and speeches-maker is her choice of words to use when speaking them. To prove this, I did some research. I just adore facts and figures. I arrived at some startling results, which I will share here with you, the world (although soon I hope to publish in one of the academiac journals!).

For your study:

10 Words The Queen Has NEVER Used

  1. Femidom
  2. Goyim
  3. Klingon
  4. Pentium
  5. Lobot
  6. Nucular
  7. Pizzazz
  8. Shit-hole
  9. Spliff
  10. Triceratops

And that's what separates Her Majesty from the rest of us.


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Friday, March 17, 2006

10 Movies!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes it's not enough to say what you mean. Sometimes you have to say what you mean forcefully!!!

And speaking the truth is fine, as far as it goes. But speaking truth at high volume will get you places!!!

So here are:

10 Movies With An Exclamation Mark In The Title

  1. Airplane! (1980)
  2. Hatari! (1962)
  3. It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)
  4. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
  5. Oklahoma! (1955)
  6. Oliver! (1968)
  7. The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972)
  8. Salaam Bombay! (1988)
  9. Them! (1954)
  10. Viva Villa! (1938)

FUN FACT: The exclamation mark has its origins in the Latin word "io". Io was an expression of joy, and, I suppose, identical to our word "Yo!"

So don't say "Moulin Rouge!", say "Moulin Rouge Yo!"!


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Monday, February 27, 2006

10 Weepies

Warren Hsu Leonard (he who is ScreenwritingLife.com), a few months back, offered up a list of films that make him cry like a LEEEDLE GURRRRL!!!

Here's my list:

10 Films That Make Neal R. Cry Like A Leeedle Gurrrrl
  1. Brief Encounter (1945)
  2. Black Robe (1991)
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  4. Dangerous Liasons (1988) - Valmont death scene and death speech are a killer, not to mention the rejection (??) of his final message to Madame de Tourvel when she says on her death bed "Enough. Draw the curtains."
  5. Doctor Zhivago (1965) - Every time I see "Zhivago", I'm overcome by a different moment, or two. Usually it's in the last 20 minutes: "She died or vanished somewhere. In one of the labour camps. A nameless number on a list that was afterward mislaid." Or Rita Tushingham's breakthrough: "He let go of my hand! He let go of my hand...And I was lost." But, of course, always, inevitably: "Ah. Then it's a gift." and the dam breaks.
  6. King Kong (2005) - Naomi Watts' sincere love for the creature make his persecution and death utterly heartbreaking.
  7. Robin and Marian (1976)
  8. Spartacus (1960) - It's that very last scene with Jean Simmons going off in the wagon with Peter Ustinov, looking back at the dying Kirk Douglas repeating her farewell to him like a litany: "Goodbye, my love, my life, goodbye, goodbye..."
  9. Stairway to Heaven (1946) - It's the only movie I can think of that has me sniveling in the first 10 minutes.
  10. Whale Rider (2002) - oh, you know the scene.


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Monday, February 20, 2006

10 Things I Like About President Bush

  1. He has declared his devotion to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and I like having a Commander In Chief who puts forgiveness, love, and compassion above all else.
  2. He has 4 letters in his last name, and all real presidents have four 4 letters in their last names. Or they have names that end in the letter "N". All other president's names are strange and creepy.
  3. He is from Texas and I am from Texas and so that's good.
  4. He talks in simple language that I can understand what he is saying at.
  5. He follows instructions.
  6. He is not afraid of serving his country in wartime.
  7. He makes the trains run on time - or would if we had trains.
  8. Because of his fine governmental initiatives, that sad feeling I have that no one is listening to me has vanished.
  9. He's certainly not shy about delegating.
  10. He will make the next Emperor to succeed him seem kind, wise, and just.

Happy Presidents's Day (weekend)!


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Saturday, January 14, 2006

10 New Planets for Star Wars

Before George Lucas was consumed by the Dark Side of the Force, he used his powers for good and not for evil.

One of the great goods he did upon us all was giving us all kinds of wonderful new names - which were not new names at all. In fact they were very familiar names: Han, Luke, Sky, Walker, Millenium, Falcon, Chew, Tobacco. But these familiar sounds had been reshuffled, paired with one another in unlikely combinations. Words which had no extraordinary significance before to us, were slapped onto things strange and wondrous, where they acquired an unexpected depth and weight. So Taunton, a little town in England, became the name of a furry dinosaur with ram's horns. Massassi, the name of an African goddess, became the name of the gigantic stone complex where the Rebels were holed up on the fourth moon of YAVIN.

My favorite star names are those of the Star Wars planets, because those have some of the most mundane and everyday roots - sometimes to the point of silliness - which, as a creator of fictional worlds, I find fascinating.

DAGOBAH, for example, is the name of a kind of ancient Indian temple. MUSTAFAR is essentially a common guy's name in the Arabic-speaking world - the equivalent of Hank or Bob. And NABOO - as far as I can tell - has its origins in an abbreviation for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention, 2000. And, of course, YAVIN is derived from the word we use to describe our own solar system's giant gas planets. It would take a while to explain , but trust me there.

There are other planet names out there which George Lucas could have used - perhaps should have used - instead. I mean, let's face it, MUSTAFAR is a stupid name for a planet. Planet Bob? What was he thinking?

It may be arrogance to think I can compete with the man who brought us CORUSCANT, HOTH and ORD MANTELL, but here are ...

10 New Planet Names for the Star Wars Galaxy
  1. Osama
  2. Tandoori
  3. Moo Goo Gai Pan
  4. Alito
  5. Cirrhosis
  6. Angelina Jolie
  7. Scapula
  8. Mandrill
  9. Pina Colada
  10. Verizon
Honorable Mention: Planet Kasdan

I honestly think my names could have improved the movies even that much better:
"I have chosen to test the station's destructive power on your home planet of Cirrhosis."
"What of the reports of the rebel fleet massing near Angelina Jolie?"

"You must learn the ways of the Force, if you are to come with to Scapula."

or even
"Our scoutships have reached Tandoori. They found the remains of a rebel base, but they estimate it has been deserted for some time."

Much better. Much, much better. Don't you think?

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Monday, December 19, 2005

10 Best Medieval Movies

10 Best Film Depictions of the European Middle Ages

1. Andrei Rublev (1969)
2. Becket (1964)
3. El Cid (1961)
4. The Lion In Winter (1968)
5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
6. The Name Of The Rose (1986)
7. The Navigator: A Mediaeval Odyssey (1988)
8. Robin and Marian (1976)
9. The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)
10. The War Lord (1965)


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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dr. Phanagrams

I don't know that much about Dr. Phil McGraw, to tell you the truth.

I've never really observed the famous psychologist counsel a patient with debilitating psychosis, or initiate the grieving process with a couple whose child has been eaten by Great White Sharks. But I feel confident that Dr. Phil is a good man. A good, good man. Otherwise, why would he be on tv?

There is a rigid screening process, you know, for those who have tv shows. Not only must tv icons possess knowledge and wisdom, they must also possess verve and pizzaz (also "pizzazz", also "pizazz"). What a miracle it is when all four traits are alloyed in a single mortal man - or woman!

No, I may not know much about Dr. Phil (except he is from Oklahoma and his dad sold oil drilling equipment in Texas). But one thing I do know - there exist many fine anagrams for "Doctor Phil". Many fine anagrams.

Here are some...

10 Anagrams For "Doctor Phil"

1. Loch Torpid
2. Dr. Hopi Clot
3. Dr. Pith Loco
4. Lot Rico, PhD
5. Clip Hotrod
6. Dr. Lit Pooch
7. Old Itch Pro
8. Orphic Dolt
9. Proto-Child
10. Cold Trip Ho'

What anagrams of "Doctor Phil" can you at home construct?


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Friday, November 18, 2005

Kevyn Knox's Top 10 Project

Check out TheCinematheque.com. Not the American Cinematheque and not La Cinematheque Francaise, it is a cineaste site by Kevyn Knox - one of the better sites of its kind I've seen lately.

The site features solid film reviews and a real real good compilation of Top 10 Film Lists and Top 10 Directors Lists. Submit your own Top Ten (or more) Lists, and Kevyn will crunch the data using many sophisticated and arcane statistical formulariae, to add your votes to his mighty - and, of course, definitive - Top Ten Project.

Submissions of lists are made via email, which adds a personal touch and also, I have a feeling, sorts out the idiot passerby votes from the legitimate movie fan votes.

My submission:

The Top Ten List

I attempted a balance in my selections, trying to include the "Great" (influential, models of perfection) with personal favorites, as well as selections which excel in their genres though they may not reach the top of most "Great" lists:

Films (in alphabetical order)

The Deer Hunter (1978)
Duck Soup (1933)
Fanny and Alexander (1982)
Jaws (1975)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Psycho (1960)
The Red Shoes (1948)
The Reflecting Skin (1990)
Seven Samurai (1954)

Directors (in alphabetical order)

Woody Allen
Ingmar Bergman
Federico Fellini
John Ford
Alfred Hitchcock
Stanley Kubrick
Akira Kurosawa
David Lean
Michael Powell
Billy Wilder

Your submission?


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Monday, October 10, 2005

Top 5 Carter Burwell Film Scores

Oh, I can hear you: "A whole weekend without posting and all you can do is throw us a TOP 5 LIST."

Yes. That's about the shape of it. But this isn't just any TOP 5 LIST. This is...


What fool would dare suggest that Carter Burwell is not the greatest living film composer? Who would say such a thing? Show me that man and I will show you a man with a sore groin (the groin, we may assume in our example, has been made sore by my kicking it) (I want to clarify that) (I don't want you thinking the man might have developed soreness from disease or an act of God - no, my righteous anger would be the source of this soreness, I can assure you) (I think we understand each other).

So, yes. As I was saying, here are...


"Barton Fink" (1991) - partnered beautifully with the film's superb sound design, the score reeks of grief and solitude.

"Fargo" (1996) - sweeping, epic themes juxtaposed against tiny, tiny, tiny people make for near-poetry.

"Fear" (1996) - on the list only because I fell in love with the opening title track the moment I heard it. It's almost a generic thriller/action intro, with little - outside of evoking "ADRENALINE" - tying it to the film. Much of the soundtrack is contemporary songs, but the "Fear" score rudely elbows its way onto the list because of my fondness for that title cue. It's not available on CD, but it is available HERE at Carter's site, which makes me so happy I could vomit silly string.

"The Hudsucker Proxy" (1994) - manages to make Khachaturian sound like just one more set of themes thrown into the mix (a companion piece to "Raising Arizona" (1987) in this, which chews, swallows, and wonderfully regurges Beethoven - lot of throw-up metaphors today, aren't there)

"Rob Roy" (1995) - a movie that outstrips its worthy competitor "Braveheart" (1995) in almost every aspect, including its beautiful score, which does not recycle Ralph Vaughan-Williams in an "I really, really like the temp-track" kind of way.

Carter Burwell has composed all the scores for the Coen Brothers and for Spike Jonze, as well as composing the music for "Theater Of The New Ear", the stage production which ran at UCLA last month, written by Jonze collaborator Charlie Kaufman and by another mysterious writer under a pseudonym (a pseudonym which could be hiding the name "Coen"?). In the New York version of the production, there was no attempt at a pseudonym and "Joel and Ethan Coen" were left to stand. I feel fortunate to have attended "Theater Of The New Ear" in L.A. and to have seen Carter Burwell in person, conducting his own music that some actors or somebody were reading words to.

Success happens in clusters, they say. Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Paul Schrader came up together out of the same mean streets. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs all scored from the same drug dealers. Hitler, Göring and Himmler used to go see Charlie Chaplin movies together. I wonder if the Coens and Carter Burwell watched "Triumph of the Will" (1935) together. That movie has a great soundtrack. I like the part where the helicopters blow the hell out of the Viet Cong. It's hard not to get the giggles watching it.

I had notions of this post becoming something of a Carter Burwell hagiography. But I thought it best to avoid that because I'm not sure what a hagiography is. I think I might have seen one on tv this week, but I can't be certain. In any case, what we can learn by studying Carter Burwell's career, and examining this truism of success happening in clusters (I call them "succlusters"), is that success flourishes when the right people meet other right people at the right time, each bringing out the best work in the other. Perhaps that's why selfish idiots don't usually last long. Selfish idiots generally do not bring out the best work in others, and they often resent and sabotage good work out of their own dreadful insecurities. Me, I'm content to ride on the coattails of my betters. Not that I'm less insecure than the average selfish idiot, but I do know - and treasure - a good thing when I see it. Or hear it.


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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New Orleans "Horror"

I was spending a lot of my weekend blaming human selfishness and arrogance for the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

But then, I started doing some research and I realize now that New Orleans had it coming all along. New Orleans brought this disaster upon itself, on account of the great EVILS that have been committed therein.

Now I feel a lot better about everything.

I want you to have the benefit of my research, because I want you to feel better about everything too. So, here are:

10 Horror Movies Set In /Around New Orleans
  1. Angel Heart (1987)
  2. The Black Cat (1966)
  3. Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh (1995)
  4. Cat People (1982)
  5. Dracula 2000 (2000)
  6. Interview With The Vampire (1994)
  7. The Monster and the Stripper (1969)
  8. The Mummy's Curse (1944)
  9. The Skeleton Key (2005)
  10. The Unholy (1988)


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Saturday, July 23, 2005

10 Films About Scientists

Inspired by the discussion "Weird Science..." taking place over at The Screenwriting Life, I have compiled a list of...


(I've also indicated whether the main character is practicing pure science or applied science)

1.) Altered States (1980) (pure science)
2.) A Beautiful Mind (2001) (pure science)
3.) Contact (1997) (pure science)
4.) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1913, et al.) (applied science)
5.) Frankenstein (1931, et al.) / Bride of Frankenstein (1935) (applied science)
6.) Jurassic Park (1993) (pure science, main character; applied science, supporting character)
7.) Madame Curie (1943) (pure science)
8.) The Nutty Professor (1963, et al.) (applied science)
9.) The Race For The Double Helix (aka Life Story) (1987) (pure science)
10.) The Story Of Louis Pasteur (1935) (applied science)

I wondered whether or not to put "A Beautiful Mind" on the list, since the character is a mathematician and not specifically a scientist, but I did some research and was reassured that mathematics is, in fact, one of the purest forms of PURE science (correcting the original post where I had mistakenly written "applied science"). If I had kept "A Beautiful Mind" out of it, you would have probably gotten in its stead "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids" (1989).

As a side note, some of the user comments for "Madame Curie" at the Internet Movie Database are quite good and would be helpful for those trying to find out exactly what makes a scientist movie entertaining.

Those with a science background will certainly have better informed opinions than most and I welcome these. I still am not entirely clear on the difference between pure and applied science (though, as I understand it, scientists prefer to practice pure science, while corporations and government prefer scientists to practice applied science). For example, saying that Ellie in "Contact" is practicing pure science in her searching the skies for intelligent life doesn't feel quite right to me...Is there anybody out there with a viewpoint on that?...Or am I all alone in the universe?...


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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Comic-Con 2005 - 10 Things I Bought

10 Things I Bought At Comic-Con

1.) "Artesia #1" (Mark Smylie)
2.) "Autobiography of an Artist" (Charles R. Knight, w/intro by William Stout, foreward by Ray Bradbury & Ray Harryhausen)
3.) "Bear #5" (Jamie Smart)
4.) "Bug Girl #1" (George M. Dondero & Ruben Deluna)
5.) "Cenozoic #1" (Mark Fearing)
6.) Gandhi "Peace" T-shirt (by Damion Scott)
7.) "Johnny, The Homicidal Maniac #2" (Jhonen Vasquez)
8.) "Lenore #6" (Roman Dirge)
9.) "The Red Star: The Battle Of Kar Dathra's Gate" (Christian Gossett, et al.)
10.) "Squee #4" (Jhonen Vasquez, et al.)

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Comic-Con 2005 - 10 Artists

This week it will be all Comic-Con all the time.

Beware. I am unlikely to go on at length about the sneak preview of the "Doom" movie (but Lorenzo di Bonaventura has really put on weight and I am frankly worried about him--and where was Jon Farhat, once attached as director to my very own "Carnival Earth"?).

No, I won't talk about that.

Nor am I likely to relate the highlights of the Kevin Smith Q & A or of the "King Kong" panel--after which Tenacious D played a show to an audience of several thousand fans (Rob AttackCat is the music expert. Check him out for the dirt on The D). Why? Because I wasn't there. And why not? Was I insane? Where the hell I was and wherefore--that I will tell you all about. So stay tuned. Lots of good info to come.

Today, I'll keep it simple. There are scores of excellent artists at Comic-Con. And hundreds of good ones. And thousands of mediocre ones. And it's one thing to see the art in a book, another thing to get to see originals up close. To make a definitive list of "Best Artists" would be an exercise in eel-slippery subjectivity, also an exercise without much merit. It's all a matter of taste, isn't it? And feeling too. And other senses. Definitely not brainwork though. And never beyond questioning.

Here are 10 artists whose work knocked me out this weekend:

1.) Celia Calle
2.) Mark Fearing
3.) Andy Lee
4.) David Mack
5.) David Malki
6.) Alberto Ruiz
7.) Damion Scott
8.) Mark Smylie
9.) Heather Theurer
10.) Chris Wisnia

Who do you like?

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

10 Things I Love About The Film Industry

I get disillusioned. My disillusionment often strikes hardest at the things I most cherish. This suggests to me that maybe my disillusionment has more to do with my own worldview than with actual external conditions. So, in an effort to see the world in a more balanced light:

(in no particular order)
1.) It is the Golden Age of Zombie Movies - "Resident Evil" (2002), "28 Days Later" (2002), "Dawn of the Dead" (2004), "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), "Land of the Dead" (2005), etc.

2.) Netflix - a kid in rural Montana can watch a double-feature of "I Dismember Mama" (1974) and Pasolini's "The Gospel According To St. Matthew" (1964) whenever he feels like it.

3.) "Tarnation" (2003)

4.) Desktop Filmmaking has matured - anyone who really wants to make films can.

5.) Easy Global Distribution of films via the Internet - anyone who really wants to distribute films can.

6.) The Resounding Failure of the recent spate of studio remakes.

7.) The New Asian Cinema

8.) The Documentary Boom, especially of political and agit-prop movies , and their wide distribution via DVD.

9.) Star Wars has been put out of its misery. Hasn't it?

10.) And I have completed a new feature script.

Ah. I feel better already.


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Monday, July 04, 2005

10 Best Movies About "America"

Here is the list of the 10 BEST MOVIES ABOUT "AMERICA", films that could be put in a time capsule to give the generations many centuries from now an accurate picture of what the USA was really like:

Citizen Kane (1941)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Forrest Gump (1994)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
JFK (1991)
On The Waterfront (1954)
Red River (1948)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Note that this is the definitive list. Entirely correct. The only list worth considering. All other lists are illegitimate.

Now start fighting!


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Thursday, June 30, 2005

10 Favorite Autocrats


(in alphabetical order)

1.) Akhenaten, aka Amenhotep IV (1352 - 1336 BC)
2.) Alexander The Great (356 - 323 BC)
3.) Queen Boudicca of the Iceni, aka Boadicea (died 61 AD?)
4.) Emperor Claudius (but only as fancifully depicted in the BBC mini-series "I, Claudius")
5.) Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603 AD)
6.) The God Emperor, Leto II (from the book "God Emperor of Dune" by Frank Herbert)
7.) Henry II of England (1133 - 1189 AD)
8.) King Lear (from the play "The Tragedy of King Lear" by Shake-speare)
9.) Sauron (from the book "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien)
10.) Prince Vlad III Dracula, aka Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler (1431 - 1476 AD)


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