Monday, 30 July 2012

Aurora Colorado Tragedy:

No words are adequate to sum up reaction to the horror of the shooting that happened at the Century 16 cinema, in Aurora Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

My heart goes out to the 12 people killed, 58 injured, and the families and friends affected.

May justice be served.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Ernest Borgnine – RIP:

Hollywood lost one of its most talented and prolific actors when Ernest Borgnine died of renal failure, on July 8, 2012, with his family at his bed side, in California.
Not only did I enjoy many of his movies, I also empathize with his strong work ethic, share his opinion on the concept of retirement, and whole heartedly agree with him when he said:

“I think you have to keep going. Otherwise, you know these fellas that say: ‘Boy I can't wait to retire. Boy, I'm going to be 65 years old, and I'm retiring and I'm quitting and that's it.’ Well, two weeks later they're saying to themselves, ‘What the hell am I gonna do?’ And first thing you know they find themselves in a wheelchair, or in a rocking chair going back and forth, back and forth, and that's the end of it. And suddenly you're dead.”

Borgnine’s statement on retirement sums up my own feelings on it: I have no desire or intention of ever retiring. Why should I? When I work at things I love to do, it doesn’t feel like work, so why would I want to stop? Inactivity-induced boredom is a big problem for me. The idea of eventually doing nothing but sit around, counting the hours in so-called retirement mode sounds to me like something close to torture. So, like Ernest Borgnine, I’ll just keep on going for as long as I can.
Born of Italian parents who migrated to America, Borgnine initially had no desire to go into acting. Instead, he enjoyed sports in his youth and joined the navy after graduating at 18. He served for 10 years and left in 1945. Unfulfilled with working dead-end factory and warehouse jobs, he went into drama school. He enjoyed a succession of roles and was awarded the Best Actor Oscar in 1955 for his portrayal of a kind-hearted butcher, in the title role of Marty.
His height and formidable stature, combined with his gruff voice and stern looks made him perfect for tough-guy roles.

He had a natural ability, dry wit and was gifted with a cruel, sardonic grin that added to his authoritive ‘don’t dare mess with me’ image.

Among seven of my favorites are The Devil's Rain (1975), a now dated but still fun horror movie about a satanic cult that starts and ends with a gloopy, gory meltdown fest. Watch carefully to spot John Travolta in an early ‘blink and you miss him’ role.

He had a small but memorable supporting role in The Dirty Dozen (1967), one of the greatest war movies ever made, alongside an ensemble cast headed by Lee Marvin.
Borgnine also played in all three sequels.

He would star again with Lee Marvin, this time in a lead role, in the depression-era movie, Emperor of the North (aka Emperor of the North Pole) (1973), as a railroad worker who ruthlessly bludgeoned, with a large hammer he hung on his work belt, any hobos he caught attempting to ride his train for free.
Lee Marvin co-starred as a hobo who turned riding his particularly train into a challenge and battle of the wills.

Next, I saw him in another supporting role, in Hustle (1975), a gritty and sleazy cop thriller starring Burt Reynolds, Catherine Deneuve and Ben Johnson – his previous co-star from The Wild Bunch (1969).

In Escape from New York (1981), he played an eccentric prisoner, called Cabbie, starring with another great, ensemble cast, led by Kurt Russell, in an exciting action sci-fi, as Cabbie joins a race against time to rescue the President from New York City, which has been walled-off and is the one maximum security prison for the entire country.

Convoy (1978) had cult-hit status when it was released for video tape rental during the early 1980s.
It’s a hugely enjoyable action comedy in which Borgnine played a mean sheriff, ‘Dirty Lyle’ Wallace, who battles against a Convoy of truckers attempting to escape across the border into Mexico after a fist-fight in a diner. The movie gave Borgnine a role to get his teeth into and one he clearly relished.

Last night, I took time out to rewatch The Wild Bunch (1969), a classic western I was fortunate to see in the cinema again a few years ago as a one-off special screening.
Director Sam Peckinpah, who’d later work with Borgnine again on Convoy, made one of the bloodiest, existential, realist westerns in movie history.

The climax with the titular ‘Wild Bunch’ (pictured from left to right: Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine) walking to and confronting the entire Mexican army, going out in a true blaze of glory, remains powerful to watch. There were many other memorable roles in his career, spanning over sixty years, on stage, TV and cinema, although not all of his movies were great, and some got him nominated for the ‘Razzie’ award, but he took it all in good humor.
Married five times, he also marched every year for three decades as the ‘Grand Clown’ in Milwaukee's annual Great Circus Parade, and enjoyed touring the US and meeting fans. He remained a prolific and talented actor, outspoken and an active Republican.
We have lost the actor, but his talent will remain forever in the roles he played, to be enjoyed and admired by future generations to come.

I defy anyone not to join in with Ernest Borgnine’s infectious, hysterical laughter during the end credits of Convoy.

In memory of Ernest Borgnine (January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012).

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Pet Sematary, by Stephen King:

I was reminded of King’s novel by – of all things! – a clip from the 1980 episode of The Muppet Show, featuring Linda Ronstadt. One of the sketches in the show had Rowlf the dog singing: ‘The Cat Came Back’, updated from the song by Harry S. Miller, originally written in 1893.

The Muppet version’s a hilarious sketch and hearing the following lyrics from the chorus prompted me to re-read Stephen King’s Pet Sematary:

But the cat came back
She wouldn’t stay away
She was sitting on the porch
The very next day
The cat came back
She didn’t want to roam
The very next day
It was home sweet home.

Yep! A nostalgia trip back through Muppetville brought me back to King’s creepy classic for the second time! As a double-whammy, the song is also mentioned in the course of the story.
In Pet Sematary, Doctor Louise Creed and his wife, Rachel, fall in love with their new home in Maine. They have two children: daughter, Ellie, and son, Gage, who is still a toddler. They also have a cat, Church (named after Winston Churchill). The location of their home is not without its drawbacks: there is a wide road with trucks that thunder back and forth across it at every hour. Their elderly neighbor, the wise and friendly Jud Crandall, saves Gage from wandering into the road before they have even set foot into the house. After Ellie spots the narrow footpath leading into the woods, Jud senses their curiosity and takes them on a guided tour. It’s a long trek that snakes right into the heart of the woods and leads them to a place, created and maintained by children over many generations, called the Pet Sematary. Rachel is immediately spooked by the place as it triggers her phobia of death, relating to the tragedy of her deformed sister, Zelda, a victim of Spinal Meningitis. Ellie is fascinated by the grave markers and Jud explains that cemeteries are places of remembering, where the dead rest and the markers speak. Rachel takes the children to see her folks, but Louis declines the trip because of tensions between him and the in-laws. While the family are away, Church is found dead on Jud’s front lawn, presumably another road-kill victim. Jud leads Louis past the Pet Sematary, to an ancient Micmac burial ground and instructs him to bury the cat there. Afterwards, he urges Louis to keep the incident a secret. The next day, the cat is back, but its nature is markedly different. Tragedy soon strikes again and this time Gage is killed by a speeding truck. Will Louis’ grief drive him to the burial ground again? I first read this novel in 1983, when I was 15. The ending made the hairs rise up on the nape of my neck and the story stayed with me ever since. It was a treat to read it again after so many years.
The characters are rich and there are some brilliantly described passages, particularly the long trek through the woods, where the loons howl in the distance. There are also lines of narrative and dialogue in both the book and faithful 1989 movie adaptation that resonate in the memory: ‘Each buries his own … The soil of a man’s heart is stonier … A man grows what he can and tends it … What you buy is what you own … And what you own, always comes home to you.’
This is one of King’s best stories about tragedy, loss, bereavement, and the high price that can come from giving in to temptation.
Don’t be tempted to mess with burial grounds – Micmac or otherwise. As Jud Crandall warns: “What you put up there, isn’t what comes back. Sometimes, dead is better.”
Stephen King sets the tone for this story brilliantly from the beginning: Death is a mystery and burial a secret.
Pet Sematary is an eerie, morbid pleasure.
Here’s to your bones!