[FYI] The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast

baspLOGO

In the summer of 2008, Matthew Hurwitz (of Sissy Laffs, previously of Cinemachine) and I launched An Alan Smithee Podcast. Just under six years later, we released the final, one hundredth episode.

The podcast started as a general discussion of modern film, but soon became a targeted discussion of two films, one good, one bad. Only they were not necessarily films we thought good or bad. Good consensus, bad consensus. Sometimes the bad films were the ones we liked, sometimes not. Sometimes we didn’t like either of them. Only later did we even relent to the common sense of pairing the films thematically.

Until now, all of the episodes have been available on iTunes or through MP3 links on the Alan Smithee website. There has been some renewed interest in the podcast of late, with people finding the episodes linked from who knows where. Matt and I thought instead of letting people stumble onto the podcast, perhaps we should offer some structure.

That structure is The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast, presented here on The Stop Button, every Monday for 30 weeks as we revisit 30 of our favorite episodes.

If you missed these the first time around, now begins your second chance to take a listen. And you should listen. Matt and I are smart fellas.


Subscribe via iTunes.


Halloween2commentary

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode One

Audio Commentary: Halloween II (1981, Rick Rosenthal)

Originally posted: August 22, 2009


robocoptrilogy

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Two

The RoboCop Trilogy: Robocop (1987, Paul Verhoeven) / Robocop 2 (1990, Irvin Kershner) / Robocop 3 (1993, Fred Dekker)

Originally posted: January 9, 2010


psychoII&98

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Three

Psycho II (1983, Richard Franklin) / Psycho (1998, Gus Van Sant)

Originally posted: February 19, 2010


batman89commentary

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Four

Audio Commentary: Batman (1989, Tim Burton)

Originally posted: March 9, 2010


watchmen-fixed

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Five

Watchmen (2009, Zach Snyder), the ultimate cut

Originally posted: April 26, 2010


darkmantrilogy

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Six

The Darkman Trilogy (1990-96, Sam Raimi and Bradford May)

Originally posted: June 30, 2010


piranhaBOASP

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Seven

Piranha (1978, Joe Dante) / Piranha (1995, Scott P. Levy)

Originally posted: August 14, 2010


texaschainsawBOASP

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Seven

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper) / Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994, Kim Henkel)

Originally posted: November 10, 2010


werewolf

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Nine

An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis) / An American Werewolf in Paris (1997, Anthony Waller)

Originally posted: December 9, 2010

Subscribe via iTunes.

Moth (2016, Gergö Elekes and József Gallai)

Most of Moth is “found footage,” only really not because it’s multi-camera found footage and at some point, directors Elekes and Gallai push too hard on the concept and break it. The film tracks the progress of university lecturer Lídia Szabó as she investigates Mothman sightings in Hungary. One of her students, played by director Gallai, tags along. They trade the camera back and forth, though there’s a lot of them talking in two shots in the car. The car has a mounted camera, which eventually helps break the gimmick.

Though, the gimmick is never as impressive as how Elekes and Gallai exploit it and how Elekes edits it (along with Sándor Gál). Gallai’s screenplay is well-plotted. Moth has some rather nicely done sequences–both “first person” camcorder footage and third person dramatic–but between them, only Gallai’s pace and then the editing make the film move well enough. Eventually, the screenplay falls apart and Gallai just becomes a jerk. He and Szabó don’t have any chemistry. The film’s in English, though the stars are Hungarian–and there are way too many American pop culture references to give it a broader appeal. Is it a good commercial decision? I don’t know. I’m not exactly the target audience for found footage horror movies, but the movie certainly would’ve been better if Gallai and Szabó didn’t worry so much about being as Western-friendly as possible.

I mean, that concept–two people from different countries only able to communicate in non-native English while hunting a mothman creature in Hungary–it’s a better story. Because Gallai struggles to give his characters back story, he struggles to give them content. And then he can’t even muster enthusiasm when he’s trying to get through the expository dialogue. It kills run time between thrills, yes, but it doesn’t build anything.

Moth’s real independent and Gallai and Elekes show a lot of creativity with their limitations. The found footage approach does help them get away with some things, but not enough. It’s not the defining thing about Moth, even though it’s technically well-executed.

With better performances, same exact story, same exact filmmaking, Moth would be a lot better. The acting is just too lean, too perfunctory. Both Gallai and Szabó (who has the ludicrous subplot of wanting to be an actress instead of a university lecturer) just seem like they want to get through their lines so they can be off screen again.

Nice photography from Elekes, though not as impressive as he and Gál’s editing.

1/4

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Gergö Elekes and József Gallai; written by Gallai; photography and music by Elekes; edited by Elekes and Sándor Gal; production designer, Zoltán Jakab.

Starring Lídia Szabó (Thora) and József Gallai (Adam).


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[BASP] An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis) / An American Werewolf in Paris (1997, Anthony Waller)

The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Nine

An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis) / An American Werewolf in Paris (1997, Anthony Waller)

Originally posted: December 9, 2010

Subscribe via iTunes.

Black Christmas (1974, Bob Clark)

Black Christmas has a lot of significant problems, but the film’s strengths make up for (or just distract from) a lot of them. But then there’s director Clark. He can’t make the film scary. He can make it disturbing–and often does, even when it’s not successful otherwise–but he never makes it scary. And when Olivia Hussey is running away from the psycho killer, it has to be scary. It’s the first scene with real action in the film and Clark doesn’t do it. In the process, he loses any of the disturbing too.

Even though the final act is a flop, the film does still look good. It’s not exquisitely directed anymore–Clark does a beautiful job introducing the film and its characters in the first act–but it’s always well-produced. Reginald H. Morris’s photography is always competent, even when he’s not doing anything special. His use of focus is particularly gorgeous and it really brings personality to the film in the first third.

Clark just can’t direct the scary part. And he never does, because neither he nor writer Roy Moore, have anything interesting in mind for Hussey. She’s initially just one part of an ensemble, but once she becomes the lead, there needs to be something to the character and there isn’t. Hussey’s not good, but she’s not bad and she does have a few strong moments. She just doesn’t have anything to work with. Her character has the film’s least thoughtful story arc–she’s pregnant with creepy boyfriend Keir Dullea’s baby and she doesn’t want to keep it. Why doesn’t she want to keep it? She doesn’t love him. And her “ambitions.” What ambitions? No idea, Clark and Morse don’t care. They care enough to immediately establish Margot Kidder’s backstory because Kidder does wonders with it. It’s like Clark doesn’t want to ask too much of Hussey.

If it’d been any of the other stalked sorority girls–Black Christmas has the psycho killer terrorizing a sorority just before Christmas because narratively pointless gimmick–the film would’ve been better. Hussey plays the script. She doesn’t bring any personality of her own. Everyone else acts. Hussey recites. And Clark’s mostly responsible. He shoots Hussey differently than the other actors. Lots of close-ups, lots of boring close-ups. Almost every other shot is interesting (until the action), but never the ones of Hussey. It’s frustrating.

Like I said, great supporting performance from Kidder. She’s hilarious, charming, sympathetic, profane, gentle. John Saxon is fine as the cop. Marian Waldman’s awesome as the drunk den mother. She has the same kind of sipping sherry stashed all over the house–it’s a fantastic subplot and far more imaginative than the psycho killer one. Andrea Martin is good as another sister. James Edmond is fantastic as one of the girl’s fathers. When Edmond’s still part of Christmas, it’s a special film in how it deals with grief and fear amid cheap horror gags. Art Hindle’s good too. Doug McGrath’s funny as a dumb police sergeant. There’s so much texture to the supporting cast, it just makes Hussey and Dullea stand out even more. I neglected to mention Dullea’s awful. There could be a drinking game for his lousy performance in this film. Anyone would’ve been better.

Or, even better, the character wouldn’t exist because there’s no place for him in the film. Clark and Moore’s problem is how they anticipate the narrative. The characters have nothing going on except what they’re doing at a moment–Black Christmas takes place over thirty hours or so–even when they’re in the middle of another subplot. The setup for the psycho killer is infinitely better than the psycho killer because there’s nothing to do with the psycho killer. Clark and Moore completely cop out.

Okay music from Carl Zittrer. Okay editing from Stan Cole. Sometimes excellent direction from Clark, sometimes not. Truly great performance from Margot Kidder. Black Christmas has a lot going for it, it just doesn’t really get anywhere.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bob Clark; written by Roy Moore; director of photography, Reginald H. Morris; edited by Stan Cole; music by Carl Zittrer; released by Ambassador Film Distributors.

Starring Olivia Hussey (Jess), Keir Dullea (Peter), Margot Kidder (Barb), John Saxon (Lt. Fuller), Marian Waldman (Mrs. Mac), Andrea Martin (Phyl), James Edmond (Mr. Harrison), Doug McGrath (Nash), Art Hindle (Chris) and Lynne Griffin (Clare).


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THIS POST IS PART OF THE O CANADA BLOGATHON HOSTED BY RUTH OF SILVER SCREENINGS AND KRISTINA OF SPEAKEASY.


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Welcome to Eltingville (2002, Chuck Sheetz)

“Welcome to Eltingville.” You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You must be cautious. I suppose the first thing to say about “Eltingville” is it has a very, very limited audience. It’s a spoof of fan culture from the inside. It’s knowingly spoofing the absurd.

It’s not just spoofing the idea of obnoxious fan culture, it’s spoofing the idea of spoofing that culture. Writer Evan Dorkin (the pilot is based on his long-running comic book series) has to limbo through all the references and who gets to say them. It’s a really sharp, really tight script. The time flies by, but “Eltingville” still has time to make distinct impressions.

Excellent voice acting from Jason Harris and Troy Metcalf in the leads. In the supporting parts, Corey Brill and Larc Spies aren’t anywhere near as impression. It’s partially because of Dorkin’s script, partially because Brill has nothing to do and a lot because Spies isn’t giving a performance, he’s doing an accent. But they’re fine enough. They’re still funny when they need to be funny.

“Eltingville” is an awesome twenty minutes. Though I can see why it didn’t get picked up to series. There’s just too small an audience for a show.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Sheetz; written by Evan Dorkin; music by Denis M. Hannigan; aired by Adult Swim.

Starring Jason Harris (Bill Dickey), Troy Metcalf (Josh Levy), Larc Spies (Pete DiNunzio), Corey Brill (Jerry Stokes) and Tara Sands (Jane Dickey).


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