A film experience in fear

The Exorcist MPW-18719The Exorcist (1974)
Dir: William Friedkin
Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb and Max von Sydow

*** Member of the 1,001 ***

You are surely familiar with that expression that movie marketers use, “You have to experience this film.”  Well, I agree with you – or probably most of you – that the term is overused.  But, The Exorcist is exactly the type of film that deserves this description.  The first time you sit down to watch this horrific film, you find yourself in the midst of an experience.  You can’t think about anything else.  You can’t take your eyes off the screen.  You might find your hands clenched by your cheeks for much of the run time.  You dread what could possibly be coming next.  I’m not trying to be dramatic – it’s just a fact that this is what they mean when they say, “a film experience.”  Let’s consider another marketing term before we get started – “often imitated, seldom duplicated.”

the exorcist 3357_2The Exorcist is about a movie star’s daughter who becomes possessed by the devil.  After her mother tries all kinds of remedies, from the latest medical technology to hypnotism, she takes the advice of the latest group of doctors at a clinic, and asks a local priest to perform an exorcism.  The local priest obliges her after initially balking, mostly due to his own, recent conflict of faith. But, after his initial experience (not to overuse the term, but seriously) with her daughter, he asks his superiors to allow him to reach out to a priest with exorcism experience. Can you imagine that job description and subsequent interview?

Right away the film is polarizing and provocative because it involves faith.  More than that, it involves the Catholic Church, which is an entity with plenty of controversy lately.  The story involves superstitions that may seem completely out of date.  It concerns the very life of a child.  And it’s about a mother that is so worried and emotionally obliterated that she just doesn’t know what to do.  So, like some of the other horror films that consistently reach top movie lists, and for as out-of-bounds as this film seems, it has some very true, emotional connections that viewers can relate to.  Don’t we all want our children to be safe?  Don’t we worry like hell when there’s something inexplicably wrong with them? Aren’t we all able to relate to fear?

The Exorcists - MVS 2520051-6294159330-exor2Let me go step by step to provide an idea of how the film develops.  Like many classic films, it doesn’t really open where you might expect it to.  The Exorcist begins in northern Iraq, at an archaeological dig where Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is working with several local workers to unearth ancient relics.  Some of these relics are clearly giving the poor old guy heartburn: the statues he finds seem to portray a demon.  And the way the sun sets and the dogs around the dig fight and the music screeches, these elements all contribute to a feeling of uneasiness that the priest is feeling. These scenes have very little dialogue, but somehow Merrin is able to convince us that he’s been around evil like this before.

Next, we’re in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C.  The film uses even pacing and is in no hurry as it introduces Father Karras (Jason Miller).  What I mean is, the film never seems slow, it just seems closer to a novel in its pace than modern day films. theexorcist002 Anyhow, Father Karras is having a crisis of faith, driven by the illness and eventual passing of his elderly mother.  In these scenes concerning Karras, two are worth mentioning.  First, he asks to be re-assigned, but his superior insists that his knowledge of psychology is second to none in this region of the church.  Request denied. Second, while traveling home after seeing his Mom, a homeless man in the shadows of a subway asks him for some help, saying, “I’m a catholic, Father.”  But somehow, it’s another unsettling mini-scene, one of which comes back in an unexpected way.

The building conflict that ends in extraordinary violence starts so softly.  Chris notices that Regan’s windows are sometimes open after she’s gone to bed.  It’s really cold in Regan’s room all the time.  Then one night, Chris wakes up to find Regan in her bed.  When she asks her daughter why she’s there, Regan explains, “my bed wouldn’t stop shaking.  I couldn’t sleep.”  Hmmm.  One of those things kids say?  It turns out, NO.  The violence with which the spirit of the devil enters the room and then settle into Regan is – dare I use another overused word? – shocking.

The Exorcist spec effNow, I’d like to make a note concerning the performances, because the acting is a huge reason this film works as well as it does.  Given the wrong actor, the entire production might have been a failure.  Anyhow, I usually draft these entries, then let them simmer, have a read, look for some other thoughts from various sources… one of the articles I found is linked below concerning Linda Blair’s age at the time.  As if the film needed another controversial element, Blair was only 13 at the time the film was made.  Now, I don’t feel I can offer any productive thought related to her involvement in the film (from a moral standpoint), so I’d just like to compliment the job she did.  I simply can’t believe how young she was.  I can’t believe how convincing her body movement was, the makeup and effects that contributed to her performance. Blair’s evolution from a sweet little girl to this living demon is something to behold.  Apparently, Mr. Friedkin considered over 2,000 different young women for the part:

EW’s 10 Creepy Details about The Exorcist

Further, the actor who played the voice of the demon, Mercedes McCambridge, went to extraordinary lengths for her director and The Exorcist - screen-shot-2012-10-30-at-1-24-21-pmrole.  Friedkin wanted McCambridge for the role because he remembered her unique voice and performances from old Orson Welles’ radio broadcasts.  Well, McCambridge was an alcoholic, and advised Friedkin she had gone through rehab.  But, she would need to drink and smoke for the role to be real.  Oh, and she’d have to eat raw eggs, too, to get that flutter in her voice.  I have to say, it’s this level of dedication to the story – which was mirrored by the rest of the cast and crew – that delivers a film classic!

Quick sidebar: while the performances are impeccable, another essential aspect to what provides this disturbing, overall feeling of dread in The Exorcist is how the director, William Friedkin, chooses to use sound.  There is a scene culminating in deafening obscenities (after the child is possessed), which is followed by absolute quiet in a peaceful Georgetown scene.  Sound is used in the opposite way, too.  There are scenes in the house that Chris McNeil (Burstyn) and her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) are living in while Chris shoots a film, which start very quiet – and then explode as the demon rages from Regan’s vocal chords…  I don’t think the use of sound can be under-estimated.  When we think of horror films, we usually think of the blood and chaos and violence and maybe music… but we rarely think of how much a part sound design really contributes.

The Exorcist shotRemember_E_orcist11 jpgI hesitate to say much more.  You’ve no doubt guessed that the priests Karras and Merrin are eventually called in to bring Regan some solace and return her to good health.  But the conflict within Karras is fascinating to watch.  The anguish that Ellen Burstyn, as McNeil, displays is heartbreaking and a credit to her acting.  The violence and special effects required to seamlessly tell this tale of a girl literally rotting to death is something to behold.  Will the priests’ ancient remedies help the girl in time?

It’s that time of year when we dress up for Halloween, re-think old superstitions and ponder our fears perhaps more than other seasons.  We are all human, and to be human is to know fear.  How we conquer or minimize or deal with fear is subject to a great deal of interpretation.  It’s a personal meditation, or process, right?  As I referenced earlier, the film is polarizing in part because it deals with raw, primal emotions, and world religion within the same story.  The Exorcist will challenge your psyche, I promise you, whether or not you’re a person of faith.

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A Head Named “Al”

Bring Me posterBring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
Dir: Sam Peckinpah
Stars: Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Gig Young, Emilio Fernandez and Kris Kristofferson

Before I even get into this one, have a watch of the trailer below!  I figure that this is the best, most honest way to proceed with this particular film, as it’s rather polarizing.  This is either your kind of film, or it isn’t – and if it’s not, that’s fine!  I just want to save you the time…  But, I thought this might be an interesting one to kick off our week of “spooky films” leading up to Halloween this Saturday:

Trailer – Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

For those of you who love Mr. Peckinpah’s work, or the dingy, grungy kinds of films that came out of the 1970s, or bizarre, “Midnight Movies,” (like this one) then Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a must watch.  You feel dirty watching this one.  There are long, drawn-out scenes that are then interrupted by extraordinary violence, violence with which the characters involved seem all too familiar.  And, of course, at a certain point in the film, Warren Oates’ character, Benny, starts talking to the human head in the burlap sack, surrounded by “moscas” (flies) on the car seat next to him.  See what I mean about this film belonging on a Halloween list?

You can surely tell that I think Garcia succeeds where so many other dramas fail.  We’ve all been in that relationship that is troubled.  What I mean is, you hit a certain point where the two of you  agree you like each other – you may even love each other – but there is an event or a disagreement or something that brings the entire relationship to a head.  In this film, the man in the relationship is Benny the piano player.  He has been in the U.S. Army and lived in Mexico for six years or so.  Early in the film, he’s presented with an opportunity to grab a whole lot of money for returning Alfredo Garcia’s head to a group of bounty hunters.  He’s been scraping along all his life, and he sees this as his “ticket.”  I’m sure many of us can appreciate that desire.

Well, Benny’s girl Elita, played by Isela Vega, doesn’t see this situation as any kind of ticket.  She’s known Benny a while, and you get the impression that he’s her favorite.  What I mean is, Elita is a prostitute, which is a fact that doesn’t seem to bother either of them – but, I thought you should know.  Anyhow, the friction between them is that she hung out with Alfredo recently, too.  Of all the gin joints in all the world, Elita dated Alfredo Garcia!  In fact, she’s the one who advises Benny that old “Al” is dead already.  So, when she insists that she just wants to marry Benny, forget all about Al and his head and the millions waiting for them… you can see her side of the coin, too.  We’ve got the guy, the girl, and the friction between them.  And even though these two are not a “movie star” couple, we care about them.

When I describe the film in these terms, making it sound like it’s about two people in love who are struggling to figure out this  fork in the road of their relationship, perhaps I’m piquing your interest.  Where I think folks derail is when you consider the obscene and shocking violence that Peckinpah depicts throughout this tale.  For example, I’m confused by the scene in which Kris Kristoferson and his biker pal show up to Benny and Elita’s picnic…  Like I said, Elita is a prostitute, and perhaps she’s used to being treated poorly by men.  And sure, Benny and Elita have been drinking tequila while driving and picnicking all day… but when the bikers show up and pull guns on the couple – and Benny violently reacts, was this the best way for these characters to handle the arrival of these two criminals to their campsite?  The story indicated they were more “street smart” by this point in the film… And if Peckilnpah’s point was to show how far Benny was willing to go, well… wasn’t there a better way of doing that?

There is plenty that happens after Benny and Elita elude the bikers.  Now that the film has established Benny’s capacity for violence, the real trouble starts.  I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but there are shocking moments in Alfredo Garcia including graveyards, families and flies among other visuals.  In a way, Alfredo Garcia is all about the “how?”  As in, “how will Benny get the head?”  And then, “how will Benny get the million dollar bounty?” – or, “will he get that far?”  It’s a tribute to Peckilnpah’s filmmaking that a grimy, exploitation film like this still has so many compelling questions.

In closing, I will say this – it’s a pleasure to see a character actor like Warren Oates get the leading role after so many wonderful supporting parts.  I’m sure you’ll recognize Mr. Oates when you see him.  But again, I can’t advise strongly enough that this film has grimy violence.  If you watch it, you’ll see a guy crawl out of a shallow grave.  You’ll watch Benny talk to “Al’s” head, and kind of develop a relationship with it.  You’ll see 25 people slaughtered as the poster above alluded to…  Deep feelings of regret and despair are the fare of this film.  I guess I’m kind of daring you to watch it, huh?


IMDB Link – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071249/?ref_=nv_sr_1


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Good Book – 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Quick Commentary

I acquired this useful and entertaining book a few years ago, but only this summer did I open it up and have a closer look at it.

1001-movies-you-must-see-before-you-die-9After a careful, recent review of this book (and I’m referring to the 2003 edition) it turns out as I post this entry that I have seen at least 467 of the 1,001 films you “must see before [I] die.”  I say “at least,” because there were definitely some films covered in this canon that I was aware of, but I’m honestly not sure if I had seen them.  It’s possible I saw them – but it’s also possible I saw only scenes from them in a class, or portions of them on cable, or in clips shown at the Oscars every year…  So, I count 467 for sure.  Not bad, right?

I am bringing this book to your attention because I not only like the contents of it, but also its philosophy.  I think I’m going to start noting at the bottom of posts whether or not the film covered is one of these on the “1,001 list”.  The thing I like about the book’s philosophy is covered in its foreword, written by its general editor, Steven Jay Schneider.  His question is, how can you possibly narrow down an entire medium to the “top 10” or even “top 100?”  Well, he and a team of 70 critics assembled a list of about 1,300 films, then culled it down.  Then, they revised the list over the past ten years as most incredible films are released.  Anyhow, Schneider makes clear, the goal of the book is not only to raise awareness of some of the best films ever made and prescribe them to you, but also to motivate you to see them!

That’s what we here at ronhamprod.com have been striving to do since 2010.  We don’t post these commentaries for money or for ourselves – we write them for you…  And, as I’m sure you can tell by now, we don’t limit ourselves to today’s features.  Or Westerns only.  Or shorts.  We, like the 1,001 book, try to give you a sampling of the entire medium, from action-adventure to foreign films, from shorts to “films you should skip.”

I like that our coverage of the medium seems to share the same motivation as the editors of the 1,001 book: we want to broaden your perspective of the cinematic medium and discuss films that maybe you’ve never heard of – while covering those that you’ve seen 10 times, too!  While some might think of this reference to the “1,001 list” as just an academic exercise, we prefer to think of it as fun with a purpose.

What I mean is, everyone has their “favorite film,” and sometimes you just want to cue it up and watch it one more time to see your favorite scene, or see that character do what you love to watch them do.  I feel like “favorite films” are like mix tapes – you just have to share them with the hopes that whoever you’re sharing them with understands how great they are.  But, what about when you’re ready for a new movie experience?  Close your eyes and think about your DVR queue.  Now, think about that Netflix menu.  Or the latest Redbox display.  Do you ever say to yourself, “Which to choose… which to choose… I wish I knew which one of these is actually GOOD.”  Well, ask us if you like!

Having watched nearly half of the movies covered in this 2003 edition, I can vouch that the editors have good taste.  They know what they’re talking about and when you see “Member of the 1,001” noted at the bottom of a ronhamprod.com post, I hope you’ll earmark that film as one worth watching!



Thanks, as always, for reading…. and stay tuned for a review of one of those films on this list from the 1950s!

More info on this book here: Wikipedia Detail – 1,001 Movies Book

And I’m sure you can find a copy to buy on Amazon.com or another online destination…

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On the Eve of This Year’s College Football Season…

Rudy (1993)
Dir: David Anspaugh
Stars: Sean Astin, Charles S. Dutton, Ned Beatty, Robert Prosky, Jon Favreau – and “Vincent” Vaughn (is that… really?!?)

rudy-poster*** Special Note: if you’ve never seen this film, please don’t Google it or watch the preview… You’ll thank us later. For those of us who have seen it (probably several times), are we alone in our disdain of the poster on IMDB, or the image displayed on the DVD cover?? It seems like a real disservice to the audience who hasn’t seen the film… Would love to know your thoughts on that sentiment! ***

For those of you who know me, you know that on many Saturdays from September to early December, I’m probably out of pocket for much of the day. I always intend to limit my viewing, to watch only the “big game” that day. I’m referring to the one that’s been hyped all week – the LSU/Alabama or Oklahoma/Texas or #1 vs. #4 kind of match ups. However, in my excitement, I usually begin my viewing much, much earlier… I live in L.A., and our games start at 9am out here. And before you know it, I’ve blown the morning watching Northwestern/Purdue go to overtime, or taken in Oregon State upsetting USC – or some other unscheduled College Football craziness that invariably occurs before the “big game”… And that’s right, I capitalized College Football. I’m a sports fan, but I easily place College Football at the top of my favorites list.

The 1993 film Rudy depicts why I have such an affinity for the sport. Oftentimes, the drama that unfolds on the field is equal to or far short of the drama that preceded the game. The film is about an undersized Indiana boy, who dreams of running out of the tunnel and onto the hallowed ground of the Fighting Irish’s field. He announces to his famRudy working outily as a boy that he’s going to Notre Dame. And further, he’s going to play football there. Now, I understand the reaction of the boy’s father, played dutifully by Ned Beatty: his head droops downward until his chin rests on his chest. He’s only trying to protect his son from disappointment because he knows A) Rudy is NOT the best student – in fact he struggles… and B), Rudy is a teeny tiny little man. He has neither the body frame nor the brains to be a Notre Dame football player.

And that’s really what the movie is about, the perseverance of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger as he strives towards his goal while his family, his girlfriend and most of his friends consistently advise him against pursuing this “dream of his”… I think we all see [insert hero here] when we’re young, and we want to be like that. At least for a while. At least until we find out exactly what it’ll take to do [insert whatever the hero does here]. For me it was James Bond. I really thought that’s what spies did. Then I read a LeCarre novel, and… I decided not to be a spy.

Regardless, part of the joy of Rudy is watching Sean Astin in the title role as he constantly works out… as he asks questions of the priests at Notre Dame, “How do I get to go to school here?” and “Am I praying enough – is that the problem? Because I can pray more!” Rudy even gets a job working on the hallowed ground of the field where he meets Fortune, a grounds keeper who mentors Rudy played by Charles S. Dutton. One of the best scenes in the film is between Fortune and Rudy when we find out about Fortune’s history with the football program. In fact, the film is sprinkled with quality scenes between those trying to help Rudy reach his goals – and those trying to squash his dream. To the filmmakers’ credit, these scenes are evenly sprinkled throughout – just the right amount of “don’t do it, kid!” messaging to Rudy contrasted with, “whatever you do, don’t quit, man!”

You often hear people leaving the theater say, “I liked this movie… I wanted to root for this guy!” That’s really Rudy in a concise sentence. You can’t help but grin at the kid as he gets on a stool in the locker room and starts to Rudy-Fortune and Rudyimitate one of the team’s old coaches’ legendary speeches, which he memorized from listening to it on a record player as a kid. You nod to yourself as you see Rudy running around the stadium, keeping himself in peak condition as he anticipates a positive letter from the Notre Dame admissions office. You may tear up as he receives those letters.

The ultimate compliment to the film and its director, David Anspaugh – who I’m sure gets just as much credit for directing another great sports film, Hoosiers – is this… Personally, I can’t stand Notre Dame football. I won’t disclose the specific reasons here other than to say I’ve always been a fan of the underdog. The point is this – when I was confessing earlier to just how much of the College game I watch throughout the fall, I will consistently carve out time on Saturdays to watch Notre Dame – and always cheer for their opponent, unless somehow the Irish are playing a team I need to lose for some reason. So, think of the kind of movie this must be, where I’m rooting for the title character and the program he so desperately wants to be a part of, despite the fact I can’t stand that same entity!

Watch Rudy. If it’s for the first time, I wish I was there to experience it with you. If it’s a repeat, you’ll be glad you saw it again – particularly as a warm up to College Football, which starts this Thursday, September 3 on ESPN. Enjoy the games this fall!

rudy-look at Vincent Vaughn!Fine. You need one more reason, don’t you? OK, sure! We here at ronhamprod.com are always happy to oblige. Look at the picture to the left. That’s right. A young, unknown actor at the time named “Vincent” Vaughn has a nice little supporting role in the film. Now, you really need to watch Rudy.


P.S. – I’m not one to point out the “flubs” in movies… I think it’s a miracle that excellent movies like Rudy ever get made – so who cares if there’s a mistake or two?? But, during my latest viewing, I saw something that I think other College Football Fans will appreciate. It’s less of a mistake and more of something that makes you grin as a College Football Fan… In the climactic scene of the final game, as the Irish are ready to take the field for the kickoff… I swear, one of the extras in the stands is brazenly displaying his “Boston College” flag. See it for yourself – that cracked me up.

IMDB – IMDB Link to Rudy

Apologies, but no trailer for you this time. If you really want it, you can find it… We watched it and felt it let on too much for first time viewers.

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What’s the Best Movie Channel… Ever?

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession
Dir: Xan Cassavetes

I recently heard about this documentary title through a friend.  She and I worked together at my previous job, and had had discussions surrounding film on and off at company social events while I was there.  As you might have guessed by now, movies tend to come up in conversation when I have a drink or two.  Crazy thought, I know… but true!

Anyhow, I come to find out that this pal of mine was an associate producer on Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.  Not only that – she attended Cannes back in 2004 to showcase the film!  How cool!  So, I went onto Amazon, found this title for a few dollars and had a watch this week.

Jerry-HarveyI don’t know about you, but when I think of documentaries, I think of an afternoon at the museum.  Or maybe attending live theater – or the ballet.  I have to be in the mood.  But as soon as the picture starts, I’m always glad I decided to watch.  Z Channel was no exception – particularly for a film maniac like myself!  It’s like this film was made for me.  For everyone, though, I think we can agree that this is a very adept presentation of an important slice of film history.  Bear with me here, but having watched this film, I think several products that we take for granted today were kind of born out of Z Channel.

The film covers the first pay cable station in the country, which launched inselected neighborhoods in Los Angeles back in 1974.  Reception to local TV stations was really difficult for some residences in the hills and canyons around town, so cable TV provided a reliable alternative for a few dollars a month.  Z Channel was one of those networks you could add to thz-channel2e subscription.  It offered a variety of cinema including not only box office hits, but also lesser known world cinema titles.   Under-appreciated titles from well known producers and directors and a bizarre, eclectic and diverse mix of “midnight movies” characterized this outlet’s offerings.

So, there are film buff movies, and then there are film buff commentaries… and this film is both.  It was an absolute treat to watch the odyssey of Z Channel, which was in a way, the precursor to the way we watch TV.  In fact, you might say it opened new distribution models for theatrical films which hadn’t gotten a fair shake at the box office.  There’s an entire sequence within this doc, which describes how movies likeThe Wild Bunch, Heaven’s Gate and The-Wild-BunchOnce Upon a Time in America were released widely in a very abbreviated capacity.  In other words, Sam Peckinpah, director of The Wild Bunch, turned in a copy of the film that was close to three hours.  It was – and remains – the right of the studio who financed the film (in this example, Warner Bros), to shave it down to something closer to two hours.  But, the programmers at Z Channel felt that audiences might not understand the film as well as they would the longer original!

So, Z Channel became one of those bastions for film buffs, cinema students and movie geeks – not to mention established moviemakers like Robert Altman, Michael Cimino and other heavyweights from the 70s and 80s.  At its core was the network programmer, Jerry Harvey.  What the film makes you appreciate about Jerry’s character was his insistence on seeking out films that everyone should see.  Even if it was from his own unique perspective, I have to admit… I agreed with many of the titles mentioned in Z Channel’s catalog – as in, “Hell YEAH everyone should see that!”

For example, If a film failed at the box office, but had an alternative cut, Jerrywould seek out the reel and air both cuts!  In fact, you might say that Mr. Harvey executed the first “director’s cut,” which is a DVD “extra” we’ve become very used to.  He also was partially responsible for James Woods’ nomination for the Oliver Stone directed feature, Salvador.  This picz-channel-a-magnificent-obsessionture was another example of a film with a legitimate story that didn’t find an audience in its brief theatrical run… but Jerry thought it was incredible!  So, he aired it on Z Channel several times – and Woods ended up subsequently receiving an Oscar nomination for his performance.  Again, we’re used to a world where Academy “screeners” are sent and members choose based on the films sent to them… but I think we can agree that Mr. Harvey was ahead of his time in his apparent thinking, “If we air it… they will come.  This film will find it’s audience…”

The film was a treat for me not only because of its interesting subject matter, but also its fun-tactic interviews.  I mean, there’s Alexander Payne, wearing his Z Channel shirt, which he received after he wrote into the station a letter of strongly worded feedback long ago.  There’s Mr. Tarantino, ranting and raving about a foreign film I’d never heard of.  There’s Mr. Altman, quietly explaining the importance of having an outlet where the film community can watch and learn from an eclectic mix of titles…

So, while this title may be difficult to find, it’s worth a purchase on Amazon if you’re a film fan!  There were surprises and some especially tragic elements to the Z Channel story that I hadn’t expected… but in the end, I watched this documentary on the edge of my seat.  While I don’t predict that kind of engagement for all of you, I still say this is well worth a watch!

Note: I don’t own any of the images within this post.

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What games have you played?

This gallery contains 7 photos.

The Badger Game (2014) Dir: Joshua Wagner and Thomas Zambeck Stars: Augie Duke, Jillian Leigh, Patrick Cronen, Sam Boxleitner and Sasha Higgins Please find The Badger Game now available on iTunes for rental and purchase – if you’re in the … Continue reading

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Whether it’s true or not, it’s one of the best…

better poster fargo

Fargo (1996)
*** Burke Favorite ***
Dir: The Coen Brothers
Stars: Frances McDormand,  Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy, Harve Presnell & Peter Stormare

I don’t mind the very beginning, in which a superimposed message tells the audience that this film is “a true story”.  I think “true story” depends on your definition, doesn’t it?  I think that most folks, when you put the two words, “true story” together, they assume it’s based on some tale that actually happened historically or in real life.  In the case of Fargo, I think the lovable Coen Brothers simply meant that this is a very truthful story.  Its events happen to take place in 1987, in Minnesota.  It’s a story full of truth is another way to put it.  But, what’s this truth I’m referring to?  Glad you asked!  I think instead of “story,” you could very well have put “crime.”  Because Fargo really is all about “true crime.”  Most movies involving guns and criminals and murder and ransom and the like have sexy looking actors involved.  There might be exotic locations and incredible chase sequences, heists and shootouts.  But maybe that’s why those movies seem “less true,” entertaining though they may be!  See, to me, Fargo is an incredibly realistic film.  That’s what makes it so scary to me – regardless of whether these events happened, or not.

parking lotBefore we go any further, I should mention what the film’s about: a botched ransom job.  That’s essentially it, isn’t it?  I mean, you could say it’s about one man’s selfish behavior that leads to the deaths of seven people, six of which are innocent.  That’s another way of putting it.  Or that it’s a cautionary tale about how to handle your in-laws.  There’s a lot of ways of describing what Fargo is about – and many of them are true.

The criminals in Fargo aren’t sexy.  At all.  Nor are the heroes for that matter – but the criminals argue over the stupidest things ever: one guy, who hasn’t said a word in four hours of driving, suddenly announces he wants “pancakes house.”  What’re you, four?  What’s the next request – for blanky and a juice?   Anyway, his partner immediately disagrees, saying they just had pancakes for breakfast!  He asks why can’t they have a steak and maybe the company of a prostitute for dinner?  Later in the film, the ultimate demise of one of the guilty parties results from an argument that he didn’t even need to win (see note 1).  To me, that’s the kind of thing real criminals argue about.  They don’t throw down over what you called their mom or girlfriend as often as they argue about things pancakes.  Again, “true” story!  Another element of realism to these criminals is that they underestimate each other.  I’m thinking not only of the moment when one guy (who’s been particularly quiet so far) murders a highway patrol officer, but also about Shep Proudfoot’s handling of his associate, Carl.

Even the action isn’t sexy.  Think of the kidnapping scene.  Poor Mrs. Lundegaard is at home, enjoying her morning talk show and working on her mending, when this jack wagon in a ski mask marches right up on her deck.  She just can’t believe it.  Think about that!  Do you remember that scene?  Mrs. Lundegaard just stares at this villain in disbelief as he cups his hands over his eyes and puts his hands on the glass to get a better look at the inside of the house.  If only she HAD believed what was going on, she might have saved herself.  But too late – he winds up, smashes the window with his crowbar and a scene of textbook black comedy ensues.  And here’s the un-funniest part: the guy that arranged all this mayhem is her husband, Jerry.

Why would her own husband do such a thing?  Well, it seems that he’s in some kind of trouble that requires him to gather lots and lots of money and very, very quickly.  That’s all the information we’re ever provided, isn’t it?  That Jerry needs so much money, not even the 10% finder’s fee on a $750,000 deal will cover it for him.  So, he decides to hatch a kidnapping plan that will require his own wife to be the hostage.  If you were to ask me which characters, in all the films I’ve seen, would qualify to be listed in a “top ten all time villains” listing, I’d have to say Jerry Lundergaard would fit in there undoubtedly.  Why?  I mean, he’s in there with Darth and Hannibal and the rest of them – how would I possibly find room for this guy?  Because I feel like I know him.  I feel like I’ve ridden the elevator with him at the office, stood behind him on the escalator at the baseball game, maybe even had a brief chat with him at the bar.  Truth is, we all know people like Jerry, don’t we?

Which brings me to the Mikey Yanagita scene.  When I first sat the movie in the theater years ago, I thought that scene seemed a bit out of place.  Why were we spending time with this guy when there was such an interesting investigation going on?  Sure, you could argue that even virtuous mikey yanagitamarried women like Marge Gunderson like to be reminded they’ve still got it.  But having watched the movie many times by now, I think I know what’s going on here, finally.  We’ve talked about the violence that results from Jerry’s kidnapping scheme, right?  Well, I think we can agree that at a very base level, lies are the problem here.  As discussed, we never know what Jerry’s motivation really was – all we know is he needs lots and lots of moo-lah.  Well, Mikey Yanagita needs something too: some loving, a little attention, a little human contact.  And how far is he willing to get it?  He’s willing to lie to poor Marge, that’s how far.  He’s willing to make her believe that someone they both knew in high school not only married him, but died, too!

Here’s where the brilliance of the Coen Brothers’ storytelling technique is revealed.  How do they reveal this fact to us?  Does Mikey break down in the restaurant and confess to Marge?  Nope.  Is there a dramatic montage of Marge investingating on her own, looking at old yearbooks and maybe even some resources from her job as a law encorement officer?  Nuh huh.  Instead, Joel and Ethan (sorry for the familiarity, fellas) shoot Marge as she’s packing her bags in her hotel room.  As she folds, she chats with an old pal of hers from high school over the telephone.  It’s this pal – who is never even given screen time, by the way – who advises Marge over the phone that Mikey Yanagita is kind of a sick puppy, who not only was never married to the lady he said he married, but also, he stalked her!


In summary, I think I can bullet point the reasons this film is such a classic, and well deserving of its spot on the AFI top 100 American films ever made – oh, wait… it’s not on the list!  Well here are some reasons to reconsider…

Not One Wasted Moment: seriously, if you were to remove a scene, which one would it be??  Even scenes like the police officer talking to Mr. Mohra about the interaction he had with Carl at the bar are… well, truthful!

Textbook “Black Comedy”: this is a line that is so hard to walk along it’s nearly invisible.  And yet, there are scenes that might make you laugh when you really have no business laughing: think of Peter Stormare’s sick character, Gaear Grimsrud, as he applies ointment to his cut during the kidnapping scene when he notices someone may be in the shower.

Truthful Mise-en-scene: please excuse the use of the d-bag film school term, but I can see how many filmmakers aspire to achieve this kind of tone.  It’s incredibly difficulty to pull off, but through all of the tools filmmakers have at their disposal – from music to editing, acting to cinematography – they created a one of a kind film experience, which overflows with truthful narrative.


Note 1: For those of you who have seen the film, I’m referring to the scene in which Buscemi is arguing with Stormare over splitting the cost of the car!  The guy has a million dollars waiting for him in a case – carefully buried near a fence and marked with an ice scraper, mind you – and he’s going to argue with Stormare over a few thousand dollars…  And then he gets axed to death.  Again, the stupidity of these criminals is almost overwhelming – at least in how far they get before they die or are apprehended.

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A ronhamprod first – guest blogger!

Editor’s Note (Editor? I like the sound of that!): below, please find our first guest blog from ronhamprod fan, Drew Marksity.  If anyone else would like to take a stab at an entry for us, we’d be more than happy to read your material!  I think DM does a find job of covering “Wolf”, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, is now available for home viewing.  We hope you enjoy this entry as much as we did – thanks again for your comments, Drew!


wolf_of_wall_street_posterThe Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Dir:  Martin Scorsese
Stars:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

There is something about The Wolf of Wall Street that’s hard to figure out, that’s difficult to define or categorize.  Let’s be frank that the film is too long.  However, it is also very entertaining.  It has a lot of visual beauty, outstanding acting, and great music.  But the question is:  what were director Martin Scorsese and writer Terence Winter really trying to do with this film?

Let’s start with what we can say for sure.  First, the story itself is compelling.  Americans love to see rich people having fun, even if they’re bad guys.  And if they’re bad, we can also look forward to their downfall!  Wolf delivers in this respect, even though the plot is almost more of a skeleton of a plot, as addressed further below.

Second, in terms of theme, I think it’s purposely stated at the beginning of the film, almost to get it out of the way.  The mentor to main character Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey).  In a single scene, Hanna tells Belfort not to care about the investors, the clients.  Never let them cash out their earnings; convince them to buy more stocks; they’ll do it because they’re greedy; and as a result only the brokers ever make actual, real money (commissions and fees).  More importantly, he demonstrates that Wall Street guys should do anything to keep themselves going and to get pleasure, in his case martinis, cocaine, hookers, and workday masturbation!   The importance of this scene is that it’s as if the filmmakers wanted have McConaughey’s character simply tell the audience the type of characters we will be dealing with, instead of having to actually develop them.  That way, they could get right to the drug use, sex, and general hilarity which make up the main fabric of the film.

Next, we are carried quickly through some pesky plot advancement:  establishing jonahhill_zpsc273bd75Jordan Belfort’s sales prowess, his discovery of “penny stock” sales in which brokers receive 50% commission (instead of the normal 3%), and the assembling of a team starting with Belfort’s right hand man Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill).  Then the actual plot slows down abruptly.  Frankly, not a whole lot happens after the first half hour and before the last half hour.  The characters just party.  Jonah Hill is hilarious.  Supporting cast members like Kenneth Choi steal individual scenes.  There are many more comedic scenes than dramatic scenes, but it’s as if Scorsese cannot quite fully commit to a comedy.

The film avoids detail or much time spent on the particulars of Belfort’s system and the various things that his brokerage firm did to bend – and then break – the rules.  The firm starts selling blue chip stocks along with their penny stocks, they start handling IPOs, but all is treated quickly, keeping the bulk of the time on funny interactions between – and the hedonism of – the characters.  Even the inevitable depiction of moving vast amounts of cash to Switzerland is primarily an opportunity for more comic  scenes.  The film decidedly refuses to portray detail about the investigation by the FBI agent in pursuit (Kyle Chandler), a character who is not developed.  Any spare moment is used to show the lifestyle of these young, wildly successful early 90s stockbrokers.

Leonardo-DiCaprio-and-Jonah-Hill-in-The-Wolf-of-Wall-Street-2013The comedy covers the full gamut.  There’s a scene where Belfort takes Quaaludes all day in order to fall asleep for a plane trip.  He and Donnie Azoff are pulling on their friend’s toupee; they’re aggressively hitting on the flight attendants; it’s out of control and hilarious.  The actors draw us in, the mood reminiscent of the scene in Goodfellas when Joe Pesci’s character has a whole restaurant laughing.  These are not people we like, but we still love laughing with them.  Another memorable scene is where Belfort’s father (Rob Reiner) walks into the office where Belfort and his friends try not to laugh and attempt to justify some outrageous expenses.  This scene is reminiscent of comedies like Old School or even Anchorman.  Then there’s the very lengthy sequence in which Belfort and Danny ingest an older, more powerful type of Quaalude.  Resulting escapades include an incredibly creative and amusing scene of Belfort low-crawling out of a country club and down a flight of stairs.  That scene finds its siblings in true drinking/drug films such as Van Wilder or Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

So the question is:  did Scorsese and Winter start out with a Wall Street drama and decide to turn it into a comedy?  Or, was it written as a comedy to begin with? Regardless, they should have chosen a genre.  If it was supposed to be a true comedy, then we don’t need several scenes.  Cut the one on the yacht where Belfort obtusely tries to briWolf Scorsesebe the FBI agent.  Cut out all but one of Belfort’s long speeches to his ambitious stock broker troops (listen for a newly developed yell/growl by DiCaprio which smacks of Departed co-star Jack Nicholson).  Take out the long “I’m-leaving-no-I-change-my-mind” speech, during which Belfort takes the opportunity to recount his own chivalrous assistance to a newly-hired female broker who went on to became a top seller in the firm.  Leave out the suspense as to whether Belfort will rat out his friends at the end.  Cut the fights and dramatic sex between Belfort and wife; we don’t care what happens there if this is a comedy.

wolf33On the other hand, if the film was supposed to be a true drama, then other scenes could have been axed.  There are too many full, extended scenes of debauchery.  One on the yacht, one at the office, one in the beach house:  that would have been sufficient.   And, we wouldn’t need so many extended scenes with slow-motion close-ups of Quaaludes.  We know the characters use drugs; we don’t need to see them snorting cocaine off of every flat surface in New York, along with every female body part.  Scorsese apparently loves his drug scenes as much as Vince Gilligan and his merry band of directors loved their methamphetamine-cooking sequences in Breaking Bad.  Also, unless the film was meant not only to be a comedy but specifically to be a college-style comedy like Animal House or Road Trip, then there are too many sex scenes.  It’s hard for a red-blooded American male to complain about seeing the beautiful new actress Margot Robbie and a host of other beauties in skin-tight clothes or no clothes at all, but there’s just too much of it. 

Ultimately, the filmmakers failed to pick a single genre, and the result is a three hour movie that tries to do too much.  Maybe they originally intended to make a drama, but as they filmed they had so much fun and ended up with so many funny scenes that they just could not cut them out.  Despite an overall negative feeling as I left the theater, what’s weird is that I still know I’ll watch it again.  Jonah Hill and DiCaprio are laughing so hard and so often; it was clearly a good time, and the result is entertaining.  Years from now, my friends and I will probably quote particular lines, just as we do lines from Goodfellas and The Departed.  And in a couple decades, when I’m flipping cable channels, if I catch The Wolf of Wall Street in the first hour, I’ll probably get hooked and watch it once again.

And now, a billboard that was visible on Sunset Blvd. earlier this year:

Because it's aweseom


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A Double Feature to Make Any Film Nerd Envious

9th Configuration poster2The Ninth Configuration (1980)
A.K.A. – Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane
Dir: William Peter Blatty
Stars: Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders and Robert Loggia

Fat City (1972)
Dir: John Huston
Stars: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell and Nicholas Colasanto

For those of you who don’t know, I live in Los Angeles – and frankly, living in this town has its benefits as a self-described film nerd.  I was looking forward to seeing one of the many new films in theaters over the weekend of 10/25.  As I browsed Fandango (or was it Yahoo movies…), I was distracted by a little double feature offering that caught my eye, which was playing at a theater just three miles west of where I live.  If you’re fat city posterunfamiliar with the Aero Theater, let me advise that as a guy who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes movies, it’s like a cathedral.  So many classic films have played there, and the staff does a great job of playing double features, and sandwiching a nice Q&A with stars of the films as the “meat of the sandwich”, if you will.  In fact, Friday, October 25 is a perfect example of its typical offerings: at 730pm, they were showing The Ninth Configuration, which would have a Q&A session following with the star, Stacy Keach!  Then, as if this treat wasn’t enough, they were screening John Huston’s Fat City, which is an obscure little boxing picture I’d been wanting to see for years – ever since I read one of Huston’s biographies.

How do I even start with The Ninth Configuration?  I mean, it sounds like a Ludlum novel, doesn’t it?  But in fact, it’s the work of William Peter Blatty: if that name sounds familiar, it’s because he wrote The Exorcist.  During the aforementioned Q&A session, Mr. Keach mentioned that Blatty was very interested in faith driven drama, and that The Exorcist was the extreme of evil he was looking for in a story – but Configuration was meant to explore our crises of faith, almost an opposite of The Exorcist.  The story of this 1980 film – which he wrote, produced and directed – cconfig2oncerns a U.S. military psychiatric hospital.  Essentially, Keach’s character, Colonel Vincent Kane is brought in to ascertain which – if any – of the patients have been faking their psychosis to evade battle.

If it sounds intriguing and like high drama to you, let me warn you – this film most definitely qualifies as a “midnight movie” (see our entry on Zardoz for another great example).  Let me give some support to this statement: first off, the damned film has two titles, which will always help a movie towards achieving cult status.  The gent who recommended this title to me (thanks again, AC!)  sent me this link as a teaser – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZCcjzOeXlM  What’s fascinating to me is that this presentation is completely different from the 35mm that played at the Aero! The version I saw opened with a launch of a rocket with some pretty intense voice over and sound effects – and then “Twinkle Twinkle “Killer” Kane” was displayed as the film’s title.  And I’m glad the host, who introduced the film (very old school), mentioned the fact that “this print has a reddish hue to it, I think you’ll notice.”  Yeah, like the whole film was dipped in strawberry jam, chief.

9th Config bikersSecond, Configuration has that scene where you find yourself leaning forward, your hands firmly placed on either side of your face, eyes wide and head slightly shaking side to side as you say to yourself, “what the HELL is going on here??”  The scene in Configuration that I’m referring to is in the second act, when Keach’s character has decided to let the patients have full reign over their fantasies: in other words, the patients are literally running the asylum.  Imagine a hallway with Keach stepping in on the left side of the screen in a nazi Gestapo uniform, talking to Ed Flanders’ doctor character over the course of all of this: there goes Robert Loggia’s character (entering on the right and exiting on the left) flying through frame on a jet-pack.  Here comes Moses Gunn wearing a Superman costume, but with a prominent “N” on his chest in place of the usual “S”.  And, of course, there goes a bunch of guys dressed up like female nurses pursuing Loggia’s character.  I mean, it’s bizarre, confusing and damned funny all at the same time.

And yet, this description is not to convince you that the film is without substance!  Quite the contrary, the discussion between Keach’s Kane and Scott Wilson as Cutshaw is why the film was nominated for writing awards: we all have questions of faith and different ways of expressing those frustrations and confusions.  That’s where Configuration is provocative – it makes you wonder how many times you’ve come across as a crazy person when trying to explain what you believe.  In the end, despite all of the cult status surrounding the film and the scenes that qualify Configuration as “midnight movie,” I really enjoyed myself.  I love these titles with a compelling theme, a veteran storyteller at the helm and particularly all these character actors stuffed into one feature.  I’ve said in other posts that one of the marks of a good film is how often you think of it the next day – and I’ve thought about this one numerous times in the weeks since.

Moving on to Fat City, I remember thinking to myself how this title is a true independent film, despite its heavyweight director and incredible cast.  There is a level of genuine feel that Huston achieves from the film’s sets to the locations surrounding Stockton, CA, to its genuine supporting fat-city-tyrrellcast.  You’ve got Keach, starring as Tully, a has-been boxer who has had his share of defeat in and out of the ring.  He spends most of his days picking vegetables in the fields surrounding the town, fantasizing about “starting to run again,” then blowing the money he’s earned in the fields on beer and liquor.  There’s a terribly young Jeff Bridges co-starring as Ernie, an inexperienced fighter who’s convinced by his would-be mentors that he has the makings of being the next Rocky Marciano.  And just to round out this troupe of seemingly real-life, border-line-poverty-ridden caricatures is Susan Tyrrell as Oma.  What a job she does….

Tully meets Oma in his favorite bar one afternoon after picking onions, I think it was: she’s sitting there looking kind of sexy, and also kind of like a train wreck.  Her hair’s all askew, she’s on her fifth beer and her third “cream sherry” – I didn’t even know there was such a thing – and it takes us about two thirds into her discussion with Tully before we realize that fellow sitting next to her, named Earl, is actually with her.  For me, Tyrrell’s performance was one of the reasons I loved this title – there’s nothing this actress did with her character to try and convince you to root for her.  That’s a brave choice to make!

fat-city-1972-stacy-keach-jeff-bridges-pic-3Circling back to Tully, I think it’s important to clarify that this is a boxing picture in that you’ve got the main character who insists he’s going to get back into shape.  With Bridges, you’ve got the young version of Tully – who may or may not end up like him, which is an element that makes Fat City so interesting to watch.  Another character that makes this title a very rich cake indeed is Nicholas Colasanto as the boxing manager, Ruben.  This guy acts as if he’s Don King and he talks in a way that convinces you what he’s saying should be included in the Gospel: but yet, he works out of a beat-to-hell gym and smokes his cigars and is always selling someone on something.  The conflict between him and Tully – whether it was over the $20 Tully owed him, or what happened in Panama long ago – was palpable and totally genuine in a way many movies today don’t quite capture.  As a final note, the “big fight at the end” in Fat City is one of the best I’ve ever seen on film, and the fact that Tully’s opponent was a real life boxer explains part of the man’s performance: watch the film if you get a chance, and notice how he enters the film, and leaves it.

Did I have fun at the double feature at the Aero?  Oh, yeah…

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Commentary: on the Casting of Fifty Shades of Grey

Quick Commentary – sometimes the Fanboys run you, and other times you run the Fanboys…

I think the first time I heard about this legendary story called Fifty Shades of Grey had to of been at the end of last Fall.  I won’t elaborate on the circumstances, but let’s put it this way: the conversation I had with the lady who brought it to my attention peaked my interest to the point I had to look into this set of novels.  Once I found that the story was not for me (I distinctly remember two words describing the series – “Mom porn”), I kind of forgot about it.  However, I read the trades pretty regularly, so I was aware that a fairly new director had been tasked to helm the project – and I vaguely remember some backlash about that.  Then, last week at the office, I overheard some ladies talking about the casting and how they weren’t very familiar with this “Dakota lady.”  Again, I forgot about it.  I mean, Ridley Scott’s new film is coming out this October – which do you think is a priority for me?

Then, as I attempted to enjoy my Chipotle chicken burrito this afternoon, I read the trades and happened upon this story –


Which led me to read this link here –


I’ll give you a moment to digest these links: particularly the second one.  (Deep breath.)

OK, and we’re back.  Let me get into this by asking a question of the author of this change.org post: do you think the names that scroll at the end of films are just made up, and the industry runs them because it’s a movie tradition?  How exactly do you think films get made?  Seriously, how do they transition from an author’s computer to your local cineplex?  I can tell you how they should continue to make this transition: without your help.  The bottom line is the producers of the film paid for the rights to the book, they hired the director they wanted, and subsequently they’ve cast those actors that they feel give their project the best opportunity for success.  Simply because you disagree with their casting choices does not – at least, in my opinion – warrant this kind of post.

Mr. Bomer and Ms. Bledel are the perfect cast for these characters, huh?  Perhaps in your mind as you read the book, sure.  Let me use myself as an example: a few years ago, I read several of the Ian Fleming penned James Bond books.  I don’t mind admitting I thought of Clive Owen as Bond as I read them.  But, did I throw a fit or start a campaign to oust Daniel Craig when he was cast?  No, sir!  No, I say: I simply rubbed my chin, scrunched my face and said to myself, “Well, we’ll see…”  The end.  And for the record, Casino Royale is one of the best Bonds ever (but that’s for another post).

All of that said, the point I’m making is this: I am absolutely floored that over 66,000 people – SO FAR – have signed this Change.org petition.  I can think of an infinite number of alternative ways for these fans to spend their time.  Why not catch up on your other reading?  Ever read War & Peace?  Because that’ll take a month of your time, brother.  How about volunteering – have you ever taken the time?  Because Change.org has literally thousands of other petitions for you to sign that – again, in my opinion – are a wee bit more worth while.  I wonder if any number of these 66,000 petitioners also called 911 in Connecticut a few weeks back when their cable was out?  Did you see that story??  Because the local law enforcement had to post a message on Facebook to the effect of, “Yeah, um, people?  Your cable being out is not an emergency…”  I suppose that’s the thought I really want to extend to you, dear reader: Ben Affleck being cast as Batman does not constitute an emergency.  Nor does the casting of Fifty Shades of Grey.  No one appreciates passion and enthusiasm towards film more than I – but there is indeed a limit…

My final thought is this: if you and your 66,000 plus supporters really feel that motivated to re-cast this story and make the film yourselves, why don’t you do so?  As your post says, “WE CAN DO ANYTHING GUYS, ANYTHING” (incidentally, that’s another question I had – why are you shouting?  Try: Caps Lock – Off)

I think I’m on to something here for your – let’s “crowd-produce” a film and see how that works out.  Have all of those supports donate around $1,515.00 each, which will bring you to the $100 million budget required to make the film – that’s step one.  That shouldn’t take long or be difficult in any way.  Then, reach out to Mr. Bomer and Ms. Bledel’s people and advise them that you’ll need them for four to five months sometime soon.  Shouldn’t be hard either, right?  I mean, money talks!  You’ll probably have to produce the film overseas, and have the script re-written.  But again, with your multi-million dollar budget provided by these 66,000 fans, none of that should be hard.  Oh!  And be sure to credit the screenwriter with, “Loosely based on pre-existing material.”  That way, you will have an easier time distributing the film once the crowd-directed-produced picture in your head is complete: I mean, you have plenty of contacts in theatrical distribution, right?  Even if not, who cares?  You’ll have the darling little movie with the perfect cast that’s in your head to watch any time you want forever and ever.  And that’s worth a Change.org petition any ol’ day of the week, Sparky.

Oh, my good heavens: while I’ve been drafting this, the number of signatures has gone from 66,000 to over 67,000.  I’m off to do some push ups.

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