Wednesday, December 31, 2008

#4 All-Time Favorite Film: Blazing Saddles

When I first saw this film, I was 12 years old; I thought that it was going to be a normal western. I had no idea who Mel Brooks was and I was in the mood for a hero to save the town film. After the film was over, I kept thinking, I can never tell my parents that I watched this film.

On Monday I went back to school and asked my classmates had they just seen this crazy film on HBO, called "Blazing Saddles"? I could tell very easily who had and had not because this film was those who saw exactly what I had seen were trying to explain it to those who did not and , to be very honest, we were not doing a very good of job at it.

At 12 years old, I had never seen anything quite like what I had just seen over the weekend. It was funny, I was laughing so much that, I thought that I was going to, wake my parents. The problem was that, it was hard to explain why it was funny, unless you saw the film. To this day, it is still hard to explain why the film is funny, it just is to me and I hope to you also.

I have owned a copy of this film on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and now Blu-ray DVD. To this day whenever I want a good laugh, I pull this film out warm up some popcorn and get ready to enter a world of kaos. Now this film in not PC at all and if you are offended very easily then this film is not for you,

For those who do not know the plot here it is...

In the American Old West of 1874, construction on a new railroad runs into quicksand; the route has to be changed, which will require it to go through Rock Ridge, a frontier town where everyone has the last name of "Johnson" (including a "Howard Johnson", a "Van Johnson" and an "Olson Johnson".) The conniving State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) – not to be confused, as he often is in the film, with actress Hedy Lamarr – wants to buy the land along the new railroad route cheaply by driving the townspeople out. He sends a gang of thugs, led by his flunky Taggart (Slim Pickens), to scare them away, prompting the townsfolk to demand that Governor William J. LePetomane (Mel Brooks) appoint a new sheriff. The Attorney General convinces the dim-witted Governor to select Bart (Cleavon Little), a black railroad worker who was about to be hanged, as the new sheriff. Because Bart is black, Lamarr believes that this will so offend the townspeople they will either abandon the town or lynch the new sheriff.

With his quick wits and the assistance of alcoholic gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder), also known as "The Waco Kid" ("I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille"), Bart works to overcome the townsfolk's hostile reception. He defeats and befriends Mongo (Alex Karras), an immensely strong (but exceptionally dim-witted) henchman sent by Taggart, and bests German seductress-for-hire Lili von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn) at her own game, before inspiring the town to lure Lamarr's newly-recruited and incredibly diverse army of thugs (characterized by Lamarr as ideally consisting of "rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, half-wits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists" in addition to nearly every other kind of stock movie villain) into an ambush. (In the later scene where Lamarr conducts his hiring event, the candidates in line for consideration include stereotypical bikers, banditos, crusaders, Nazis and Klansmen).

The resulting fight between the townsfolk and Lamarr's army of thugs is such that it literally breaks the fourth wall; the fight spills out from the film lot in the Warner Bros. Studios into a neighboring musical set (being directed by Dom DeLuise), then the studio commissary where a pie fight ensues, and finally pouring out into the surrounding streets.

The film ends with Bart shooting Hedley Lamarr in the groin at the 'premiere' of Blazing Saddles outside Grauman's Chinese Theater, saving the town, joining Jim inside a theater to view the end of the movie, persuading people of all colors and creeds to live in harmony and, finally, riding (in a limousine) off into the sunset.
(From Wikipedia)

Here I was, a 12 year old, trying to explain, the above plot. I and my classmates, who has seen the film, knew it was funny, but, we could not explain why it was funny.

As I grew up, I soon started to watch this film once every few months, so I could see if the humor would hold up. After 30+ years this film is still funny and I still cannot believe all that the director Mel Brooks got away with in this film.

From the DVD "Blazing Saddles" Mel Brooks commentary..

Brooks repeatedly had conflicts with studio executives over the cast and content. They objected to both the highly provocative script and to the "irregular" activities of the writers (particularly Richard Pryor, who reportedly led all night writing jams where loud music and drugs played a prominent role in the creative process). In a similar vein, Gene Wilder was the second choice to play the character of the Waco Kid. He was quickly brought in to replace Gig Young after the first day of filming because Young was suffering from delirium tremors on the set due to his alcoholism.

After screening the movie, the head of Warner Brothers Pictures complained about the use of the word "nigger", the campfire scene and the punching of a horse, and told Brooks to remove all these elements from the film. As Brooks' contract gave him control of the final cut, the complaints were disregarded and all three elements were retained in the film with it holding the distinction of being the first film to display flatulence. Mel Brooks wanted the movie's title song to reflect the western genre, and advertised in the trade papers that he wanted a "Frankie Laine-type" sound. Several days later, singer Frankie Laine himself visited Brooks' office offering his services. Brooks had not told Laine that the movie was planned as a comedy, and was embarrassed by how much heart Laine put into singing the song. (The song was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Music, Original Song category)

Mel Brooks also claimed that Hedy Lamarr threatened to sue, saying the film's running "Hedley Lamarr" joke infringed her right to publicity. This is lampooned when Hedley corrects Governor Le Petomane's pronunciation of his name, and Le Petomane replies with "What the hell are you worried about? This is 1874, you'll be able to sue her!” Brooks says they settled out of court for a small sum. A very similar gag, with a male character named "Peter Hedley Lamar, Jr." occurs in the 1941 Buster Keaton short "General Nuisance."

Mel Brooks related how he managed to convince John Wayne to read the script after meeting him in the Warner Brothers studio commissary. Wayne was impressed with the script, but politely declined a cameo appearance, fearing it was "too dirty" for his family image. He is also said to have told Brooks that he "would be first in line to see the film, though."

Mel also put together a collegial group of five writers that included a then up-and-coming young black comic named Richard Pryor. According to Brooks, his group "needed a good black writer" who could help them do "black comedy." Once Pryor was on board, however, he took to the oafish, white Mongo character (ex-NFL player Alex Karras) and Brooks himself ended up writing most of Black Bart's dialogue.

The main nugget on this DVD commentary was the 2 showings that were held at the Warner Brothers studio. Mr. Brooks states that after the film was finally assembled, He showed it to the bosses at Warner Studio. Not one of the bosses laughed and made complaints about the use of the word "nigger", the campfire scene and the punching of a horse, and told Brooks to remove all these elements from the film.

Mel, then arranged another screening, but at this one, got a lot of the Warner's secretaries, common labors and anyone who wanted to see this film. The reaction was very different. The people were laughing through the entire film and as it was over then went back to work and were telling everybody that they had to see Mel Brooks’s new film.

The Warner Bosses then asked Mel what other film Mel had that was making the great "buzz" around the lot. Mel simply told them that it was the same film that you hated and did not laugh at.

The objections of WB about this film stopped. For a film that cost 2.6 million to make and that WB did not want it grossed $119,500,000 (USA) during its numerous runs at the cinema.

Mel has stated a few times that in today's market, this film could not be made and that, to me, is a real tragedy. At time we all need to be able to laugh at ourselves in an honest way. Please see the film when you can.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

All time #5 film. Casablanca

If there ever was a classic love story made by Hollywood, this is it.

For the people who have never seen the film and want to know the plot of the film then please click here.

For a love story to work, you must have a great man and a greater lady. In this film we are given Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). Ricks story is that he is an American Ex-Pat, who owns and operates "Rick's Café Américain", an upscale nightclub and gambling den that attracts a mixed base of customers of Vichy French and Nazi officials, refugees and thieves.

Ilsa Lund fell in love with Rick in Paris; she believed that her husband (Victor Laszlo) had been killed while trying to escape from a Nazi concentration camp. Later, with the German army on the verge of capturing Paris, she learned that he was alive and in hiding. She does not meet Rick on the last train out of Paris and she goes to take care of her husband.

One of the greatest lines in film history set up the reunion of Rick and Ilsa

Ilsa: Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake.
Sam: [lying] I don't know what you mean, Miss Ilsa.
Ilsa: Play it, Sam. Play "As Time Goes By."
Sam: [lying] Oh, I can't remember it, Miss Ilsa. I'm a little rusty on it.
Ilsa: I'll hum it for you. Da-dy-da-dy-da-dum, da-dy-da-dee-da-dum...
[Sam begins playing]
Ilsa: Sing it, Sam.
Sam: [singing] You must remember this / A kiss is still a kiss / A sigh is just a sigh / The fundamental things apply / As time goes by. / And when two lovers woo, / They still say, "I love you" / On that you can rely / No matter what the future brings-...
Rick: [rushing up] Sam, I thought I told you never to play-...
[Sees Ilsa. Sam closes the piano and rolls it away)

The look on Rick's face when he sees her, later in the movie leads to this classic line.

Rick: Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.

This film is filled with classic lines that have been incorporated into all walks of US Entertainment industry. The 2 speeches above have been used in countless TV and films since their introduction back in 1942.

What I have always found interesting about this film is that both of the main stars (Bogart and Bergman) both wanted to be released from their contracts for this film. They both thought that the film was bad and that it could have hurt their Hollywood careers.

The film was shot in a fast mode to get it to the theaters asap. Neither of the main start wanted to be in the film. The film was based on a, then-unproduced play, Everybody Comes to Rick's. Nobody had any real hopes for the film. With all of this it becomes one of, if not the, classic loves story.

This film has a love triangle,(Rick,Ilsa and Victor) For those who have read my past work, I have usually complained about these. But in this rare case, this is what makes the film work.

Ilsa thinks that Victor is dead and, in the most romantic city in the world, Paris, she meets this dashing American who sweeps her off her feet. She feels love again, she feels alive again. She tells her new love that they will leave Paris together but she never shows up for the last train of out Paris. Rick has no clue what happened and blames himself. His love is gone and all that is left is a man who hates life.

The film is a man’s journey toward love and in the end forgiveness for himself. He knows what he must do and it not easy but he does it, he lets the love of his life go.

(In 1987, a specially re-edited version prepared by Joao Luiz Albuquerque was shown at the Rio Film Festival. This version had the ending changed (Ingrid Bergman does not take the plane and goes back in Bogey's arms).

So if you want a happy or a sad film, then you can get both endings with this classic film.

Please see the film when you get the chance.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My #6 All Time Favorite Film:The Battle of Algiers

I know a lot of people have never heard of or seen this film. I finally got to see the unedited version of this film back in 2004. A simple way to describe this film is this.

"The Battle of Algiers" is a film commissioned by the Algerian government that shows the Algerian revolution from both sides, The French and the Algerian. The French foreign legion has left Vietnam in defeat and has something to prove to the people of France and to themselves. The Algerians are seeking independence From France. The two clash. The torture used by the French is contrasted with the Algerian's use of bombs in soda shops. The scenes of torture by the French and the use of Women as bombers by the Algerians leaves no doubts that both sides want to win this war.

For those who do not know the US Pentagon showed this film back in 2003 to try and explain what could and what was going on in Iraq with this statement.

"How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film."

This is why I had a huge problem with the Pentagon stating that they did know how terrorist were thinking. If they watched this film, they got a textbook on how the enemy will win with a guerrilla warfare campaign.

Since I first saw the film back in 2004 and with the continual watching of this film on DVD. I am still amazed how much new information I catch with each showing of this film.

What really takes this film into the next level is the direction by Gillo Pontecorvo. He shoots the film in black and white and experimented with various techniques to give the film the look of newsreel and documentary film. The effect was convincing enough that American reels carried a disclaimer that "not one foot" of newsreel was used.

I recall seeing that disclaimer back in 2004 and when I saw the final scene of this film. I really thought that I was looking at an old newsreel. It looked that real and the film basically said that the Battle of Algiers will continue.

Another thing I loved about this film was that, it shows both side of this conflict. Neither side is an angel in this film. All sides are shown with their ideas and how they will do whatever it takes to win this war. Please look at how the police are killed in this film by the Algerians and how the police proceed to plant a bomb where civilians live at. Neither side is wrong and both sides feel that they are right.

If you are looking for a French Hero in this film, then the film gives you one in Colonel Mathieu (Played by Jean Martin). What I later discovered about this man was that Martin had also served in a paratroop regiment during the Indochina War as well as the French Resistance, thus giving his character an autobiographical element. He was able to draw upon his real experience and was able to show that the French side has a man who was willing to do exactly what his country wanted to and needed him to do to win this war. (Martin subsequently lost several jobs because he condemned his government's actions in Algeria.)

If you are looking for an Arab hero in this film, then the films gives you one in The film begins and ends from the point of view of Ali la Pointe, played by Brahim Hagiag, who corresponds to the historical figure of the same name. He is a criminal radicalized while in prison and is recruited to the FLN (National Liberation Front) by military commander El-hadi Jafar, a fictional version of Saadi Yacef (a producer and a writer of this film) played by himself. You are shown what he will do to win freedom for his people.

At the time of this review this film is #174 on IMDB's Top 250 This is my all-time favorite French film.

If you are looking for a real look at war where everyone is wrong and no one is truly right, then this is the film for you. Hopefully you with think is is worth you time to try and track down a copy of this film and watch it. The films' language is French and Arabic, so please do not let the need for subtitles deter you from watching a very important film about the insanity of war and those who wage it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My all time #7 film: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

To be honest, I had head of somebody back in 2000 trying to make all 3 of J.R.R.Tolkien Lord of the rings books, into a movie. All I remember was my collective "Ho-hum" about it. Even after seeing the previews for months on TV and at the movies, I did not even bother to see the film during the opening weekend. When I saw these #'s on the opening weekend, $66,114,741 (USA) (23 December 2001) (3,359 Screens). I could not believe that these were correct numbers for a 3 hour film.

I had vaguely read all 3 books back in my high school days and I had somewhat of an idea about what was going on in the film. So I decided my next off day from work I would go see the film. I ended up seeing the film twice that day. I could not believe what I had just seen and I wanted to see it again asap.

This was the start of me actually wanting to read more about Tolkien and to soon get these so-called special edition DVD's that I was hearing about for all 3 of thee movies. For a quick plot summary on all 3 of the films please click here

So as 2002 was moving along I, like many other, were eagerly awaiting any spoiler information on the next film that was coming out. When the 4 DVD extended set of #1 went on sale, I purchased it and went home to watch all 4 of the dvd's.

Then soon it was December 2002 and it was time to join the other fans at one of the many midnight showing of the "Two Towers". By the time the film was over, all I wanted to go was go home take a quick nap and see it 2 more times the very next day. In 2003, I did the exact thing with ROTK, go see midnight film, nap, go see the film two more times the next day. I think I saw the last part 6 times total at the movie theater.

In my DVD collection, I have all 3 of the movies and i want all of them to be released on Blu-ray, so I can see these films in glorious Hi-Def.

Now, as for being a huge fan of the book, to this day, it is still a bore for me to try and read these books. Its style just never really works for me. So when Peter Jackson announced all of the small changes from the book to the movie. It never really bothered me. If it made the film work then I was all for it. If you are a huge fan of these books then the films have left out people and events such as Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire.

The idea of this film is very simple, take a ring into a mountain and drop the ring into a lava fire. Now it sounds very simple, but it isn't and that's what I loved about these 3 films. I really had no idea what was coming next and you had better be ready for what comes next at you.

For the longest time I could not understand the ending with Frodo. I could never understand why he was acting lost. Then while watching the Extended Version of ROTK, I saw a part that explained that Tolkien has fought in the first World War, then Frodo finally made scenes to me.

Frodo had returned from the war but the war was still with Frodo. When he states that his wound has never really healed. To me, Tolkien was talking about the lost men from WW1 who never were really home and suffered the rest of their lives because of what they had seen and done in the war. When I rewatched the film after learning this, Frodo becomes more of an empty person to me. He did all that was asked of him and a whole lot more, but now that the war was over, he had not found love nor joy. I always thought that Gandalf knew this and blamed himself for it.

My best advice for this film is to take a Saturday or Sunday off and watch all 3 of the extended version back to back. This way you will be able to see it as one huge complete film instead of the 3 smaller ones.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My #8 All Time Favorite Film: The Shawshank Redemption

Of all of the films on my list, this is the one film, I really did not like the first time that I saw it. For a long time I never could understand why a lot of people were falling all over themselves trying to praise this film. It then dawned on me the reason was that I had never seen the entire film all the way yet.

By the time I had seen this film in its entirety it was being shown on TNT (USA TV channel) on a regular basis. I had a Saturday evening off and the film was on. I could not believe that after the film was over that I refused to see it at the movie theater back in 1994. At the time of this writing, this film is #1 on IMDB Top 250 movies.

So what changed my mind? Try seeing a film half way into and try not really wanting to sit down to see a film. Then when you finally see the film, that you have a such low expectations of, A great film emerged. I had to admit that I was wrong in my earlier passing of this film.

Now the story is very simple and if you haven't seen the film then please stop reading now and go rent or purchase the film on DVD.

In 1947, a young banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine. Also at the prison is inmate, Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman)who is once again rejected for parole after having served twenty years of his life sentence shortly before Andy's arrival. Andy gradually becomes acquainted with Red's circle of friends in the prison.

What I really liked about the first part of this film was that Andy was not like the other people in this jail. He knows that he is innocent and tries to keep that idea of hope in his mind.

What really started to make this film into a great one was the part where , while tarring the roof of Shawshank's license plate factory, Andy overhears the head prison guard, Captain Hadley, discussing the taxes he will have to pay on an inheritance he will soon receive from his dead brother. Although he nearly gets thrown off the roof, Andy's knowledge of making the guards inheritance tax-free soon earn him the respect of the guards. The only thing that Andy ask for is 3 beers each for his co-workers while they are putting tar on the roof. If only, for a few moments, the men feel free.

Andy is soon given his own little office inside the prison and is doing the warden paperwork when the warden devises a program to put prison inmates to work for local construction projects, exploiting the prisoners' free labor and putting money in the wardens person numerous accounts.

The scene where Andy explains to Red how he avoids a paper trail with all of the money coming into the prison, via the wardens' money working idea. Pay attention to the details of his creation of Randall Stevens. How he pulled it off even amazes Red.

The film ultimately turns when a young prisoner by the name of Tommy Williams, tells Red and Andy about an ex cellmate: Elmo Blatch, who had gleefully described murdering two people who fit the description of Andy's wife and her lover, and how her "hotshot banker" husband got blamed for it and how he got away with it.

When Andy goes to the warden, the warden fails to believe him and then throws Andy into solitary, while the warden set into motion of killing Tommy. Now Andy fells that he has lost everything. He tells Red that if he ever gets out of prison he should go to a specific hayfield near Buxton, Maine to find something that has been buried there. The following morning, Andy is missing from his cell. In a fury over Andy's disappearance, the warden throws one of Andy's rocks through a poster of Raquel Welch, revealing a large hole that Andy had used to escape.

Andy has used the Randall Stevens alias to walk away with over $400,000 of the wardens money. At one of the banks that Andy visits he ask the clerk to mail off a package for him. The package has the ledgers and deposit slips for all of the wardens illegal activities. When the police come to arrest the warden, he commits suicide.

The film ends with Red getting out of jail and going to Mexico to join Andy in a fish boat venture.

To me the films main story is "Hope." We see a man who should have never had gone to jail ultimately become a better man for it. A lot of other critics have also discussed the hope of this one man and how it helped to save some of the other prisoners. That's why the film work and becomes a great one in my opinion. Hope in man and in the end hope in himself.

Please see the film when you get the chance.

Friday, December 26, 2008

1st Battallion 4th Marines, Bravo Company 3rd Platoon. Out of ECP1 in Fallujah, Iraq. We would like to thank everyone who has supported us through the first half of our deployment. This project was a challenge for me but in the end quite worth it. Merry Christmas everyone! -Nick Hesselgrave

1- full resupply of TP
2- megafones
3- crappy humvees
4- portajohns
5- hours of sleep
6- rusty dumbbells
7- months deployment
8- IPs(iraqi police) dancing
9- sentries standing
10- hours posting
11- bags of trash
12- freakin' flies!

ENJOY these 2 videos.

To everybody, Merry Christmas and I hope that you enjoyed the cartoons.

If your father or mother returned home for the holidays then please watch these next view videos.

Then children young and old you have received the best Christmas Present that Santa could possibly have given you. To you all I say Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.

If the above video is your Christmas, them I am sorry for your pain. I lost my mother on 20 November 1979. 2 days before Thanksgiving. The anger, the pain and the hurt was not what any child needs to feel. IF THIS IS YOU,THEN PLEASE TALK TO SOMEBODY, talk to anybody. I did not. I kept it all inside and to myself. It did not work. Right now you are not normal and you are thinking, will it ever be normal again? If you get help yes, if not, you will carry this until it just makes you numb. This is not living, it will slowly kill you. Please try and let your friends help you and try and work through this holiday mess. It does get better..

Merry Christmas and have a safe New Years.

All We Want for Christmas... Written by Milblogger Major Dad - 2004

Twas the night before Christmas, the house seemed so sad,
Early this year, this family lost “Dad.”
He’d been a soldier, in Afghanistan serving,
To help people live free, now thankful, deserving.

His wife and the kids have cried a river of tears,
They had known this could happen, through all of the years.
It’s a dangerous business, no place for wimps.
Some don’t come home, some others with limps.

As I slipped down the chimney, I really did dread…
That I’d fall straight apart in this house with war dead.
I crept from the hearth, wondering what would I see,
What my eyes would behold, in this land of the free.

The home was decorated, with the tree and some lights
The milk, plate of cookies, and some other tasty bites.
Next to this was a note, from the boys up in bed,
I picked the page up and here’s what it said.

“Dear Santa we know that you’re busy and need to be speedy So we’ll keep it short, we don’t want to sound greedy. You know already that our Daddy’s not here, He went to heaven, that's perfectly clear. Tonight as you travel across the cold Christmas skies. We want you to help, take the tears from the eyes. Of the other kids missing a Mom or a Dad. Please help them to realize that it’s not so bad.

Our Dad died doing what was just, what was right.
His nation had called him, to head off to the fight.
To free the oppressed and protect us all here,
He went with a smile, a heart without fear.

One month ago, we had gotten the news
An airplane was missing, along with its crew.
Up in the mountains with weather so cold,
One of the missing, our daddy…a pilot, so bold.

Later we learned that God had called him that day
He needed a pilot, so tough and so brave.
We cried and we cried, the tears would not cease,
Daddy’s West Point friends wrote, “Mike…be thou at peace.”
We need your help Santa, for our Mommy tonight,
She misses him so, they were so tight.
All we want for Christmas is for her to be happy,
Knowing Daddy still watches over us, a flier so scrappy.”

Could I help these kids? I scratched my old head.
I snuck up the stairs and found Mom in bed.
Her eyes were still red, it was plain she’d been crying.
But a smile on her face, in her dreams she was flying.

Along with her pilot…her husband…her mate…
This lady was special, so obviously great.
My task wasn’t tough, really it ain’t.
After all, my name is Nicholas and I am a saint!

I straightened my suit, combed back my long hair…
Then as quiet as a mouse, I pulled up a chair.
I touched her calm face and closed tight my eyes…
My mind it was reeling, I started to cry.

Then inside my head, I heard a soft voice…

“Santa it’s Mike. Buck up, you don’t have a choice.
You know where I am…and I’ll tell you quite clear,
If I can’t have Christmas there…it’s not so bad being here.

I’m no longer with them, they know that it’s true,
That doesn’t mean I can’t see what they do.
When you pray for my wife and my kids Christmas night,
Let them know I’m on duty and I am alright.

My crew's here too and we’re flying tonight…
Take a look over your shoulder, make it your right!
You need to be careful. You need to “check six.”
That’s us behind you…Chief, give the lights a few flicks.”

Santa it’s time. Your job here is through…
The night’s not half over,
you’ve still plenty to do.

No need to worry, you need to be quick.
They’re in great hands, Jeanette’s got the stick,
You prayed for them all and showed them the way,
A soldier still stands guard over them every day.”

I knew Mike was right, it was getting late.
The world only half covered, I just couldn’t wait.

I stopped by the rooms of each of his boys…
I had to be careful to avoid clothes and some toys.
Mike Jr., Thomas, and Ricky lay snug in their beds…
I gave this blessing to each as I touched their heads.

“Your daddy was special, fighting for peace.
May you boys be spared from combat when all conflicts have ceased.”

With that I took leave from this Hawaiian home,
Through the skies I’d be flying, though not alone.
I did look back a number of times, more than a few.
And yes, on the horizon was my escort crew.

Across the world tonight, I saw the same scenes,
Homes full of sorrow, homes full of need.
After you read this, give it some thought.
Can I be happy with just what I’ve got?

Dig deep into your pockets, you’ve got spare cash.
Drop it in the kettle; it’ll help tighten your sash.
It will make you feel good; it will make you feel right…
Merry Christmas to all, and to all….a good night!

I wrote this in memory of LTC Mike McMahon, USMA 1985 and his family.


If I could do whatever I want to do
To make complete your gladsome Christmas-Day,
I would not bring a single thing to you,
But I would come and take some things away.

I'd take away all trouble from your heart,
Each pain and sorrow I would have relieved;
And every word that caused a single smart,
And every hour through which you sadly grieved.

I'd have them all begone - forever gone
Forgotten like the things that cannot be
And then each hour would be a joyful one
For only good things would be left, you see

Now that is what I'd really like to do,
If I could do the things I wish for you.

-Author Unknown

#9 All time Favorite Movie: Gojira (1954)Japan AKA Godzilla

What if you had only heard a rumor of a film for 30+ years and in in 2004, through Rialto Pictures, the rumored film had finally become reality? If you have waited to see a lost film, then welcome to my #9 all time favorite film "Gojira/Godzilla"

Now before we go forward something needs to be stated about this film and the 1956 American remake film Godzilla, King of the Monsters! For many years while I was growing up in the USA, they would only show the 1956 version of this film. Whenever TV stations would have a Saturday or Sunday monster movie marathon the 1956 version was the only one that would be shown. It was not until I have graduated college that I first heard that their was actually a earlier Japanese version of the film that did not include Raymond Burr.

This was before the internet and massive print media that we have today. I had looked for a bootleg copy of the 1954 version but all I could find was the 1956 version. This is why for many years, I believed that this film was a myth. No one in the USA where i went to could get me the 1954 version. I had just about stopped looking for the film that was until I heard that a small American film company, Rialto Pictures, would be re-releasing the uncut 1954 version of this film.

To this day I have no idea how I did it but I won a free ticket to see this film. I remember being very anxious to see this film. My fear was that after waiting 30+ yeas to see the original, that there was no way that the film could possible live up to my expectations. As you can see by my ranking, It was even better that even I could imagine.

For many years I wondered why was Raymond Burr even included in this film if he was not in the original 1954 version. After seeing the 1954 version there was not anymore question of why their had to be 2 versions of this film.

Now for the back story of Godzilla. You must remember this was Japan 1954, This county has just ended being occupied by the US Military. They had lost World War 2 and 2 cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had been attacked with atomic weapons. There were in the middle of 2 huge nuclear powers (USA AND USSR) who were both doing atomic bomb testing. With a total sum of all of their fears, it was not hard to believe that Japanese cinema could come up with a warning to the so-called civilized world.


Now the 1954 version opens up with a boat seeing a huge flash and then the boat is destroyed. One old fisherman, tells everybody "Godzilla must have done it". Godzilla is a monster god that lives in the sea that comes from the ocean to feed on mankind. Whenever fishing was poor, the natives used to sacrifice young girls to prevent and to feed Godzilla from attacking the village because he was hungry and the fish were gone.

Without Raymond Burr in this film, this film was taking on a different tone and even though I had seen the 1956 version numerous times, I was still unsure of what was going to come next.

What struck me next was the scene where Dr. Kyohei Yamane discovers that the sediment from Godzilla's footprint contained a massive amount of Strontium-90, which could have only have come from an nuclear bomb. So this monster was made by atomic weapons but from which countries test and why has this monster decided to attack Japan only?

The scene of chaos that broke loose in the Diet Building about do we keep the Strontium-90 secret or do we tell the world as a warning was a classic with both sides tying to convince the diet that they are right.

What really stuck me next and was not included in the 1956 version was a ladies reaction to Godzilla, "She was not going back into the bomb shelters, she had survived the atomic bomb so she could survive Godzilla" Her words appeared to me and others in the audience as a direct shot against the USA. I remember thinking "Wow, well I know know why this was not in the 1956 version"

The other major part of this film, that I never could grasp from the 1956 version was the 3 way love triangle between Emiko,(Dr. Kyohei Yamane daughter) is engaged to Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, a colleague of Yamane's. Emiko, however, is in love with Lieutenant Hideto Ogata of the Nankai Steamship Company. Emiko was engaged to Dr. Serizawa, but he was seriously injured during WW2 and has lost one eye and his ability to love.

Now, normally, every time I see an Asian love triangle story, I want to puke. This was one of the rare times that it was actually needed in a film. Because Emiko is Japanese she hold a promise to a loved one very dear and when she is given a demonstration in his lab, by using the "Oxygen Destroyer" device in a fish tank. All the fish are disintegrated, only leaving skeletons. Shocked by this discovery, Emiko leaves Serizawa, promising not to tell anybody of what she witnessed. The part where she tells Ogata about the weapon her face of betraying his trust and he reaction of shame is what was making this film into a great one.

What I noticed about the 1954 version was a much better telling of why the Dr. actually allowed the weapon to be used against Godzilla.

Ogata and Emiko visit Serizawa to ask that they are allowed to have and use this new weapon against . Serizawa basically screams hell no and storms down to his basement to destroy the weapon. They both follow him down in order to prevent him from destroying the weapon and losing any chance of killing Godzilla. However, this only results in a short fight between Ogata and Serizawa, with Ogata receiving a minor head wound. As Emiko treats the wound, Serizawa apologizes, and explains: "If the Oxygen Destroyer is used even once, politicians from around the world will see it. Of course they'll use it as a weapon", Serizawa says. "Bombs versus bombs, missiles versus missiles, and now a new superweapon to throw upon us all. As a scientist - no, as a human being — I cannot allow that to happen."

Ogata tries to convince Serizawa that he is the only one who can save the world. "Humans are weak animals", Serizawa argues. "Even if I burn my notes, the secret will still be in my head. Until I die, how can I be sure I won't be forced by someone to make the device again?" Serizawa also worries about the weapon "falling in to the wrong hands." Ogata finalizes the situation stating "You have your fears, which may become reality. And you have Godzilla, which is reality." (From the subtitled 1954 Australia Mad Man Co Ltd in Region 4 DVD)

This scene set ups the end of the film and when its over, I could not believe how the ending was changed from the 1956 version.

"I can't believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species", Dr. Yamane ponders. "If we keep on conducting nuclear tests, it's possible that Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world, again." It was a warning to any nation and these words were not included in the 1956 American remake.

As I was watching this movie, I was the little kid again and he was wanting to watch a classic monster movie. i saw a lot more that i was expecting and I now shun the 1956 version entirely. When I give an introduction to films from Japan I always include the 1954 and 1956 version on 1 DVD, in the 2nd round of the introductions, so they can see a classic and a joke of a film together.

Now for the bad thing that the 1956 version and other Japanese monster films had on me was that I only believed for about 20+ years that Japan could only make monster or low cut Samurai film. I also believed that same thing for other Asian countries films. I did not change my opinion until the early 2000's when the Korean and Japanese films started to gather notice on

Now a tab bit to Korean film trivia to end this movie review. This film was released in South Korea on 17 May 1960. This was the first film from Japan to be shown in Korea since the end of the occupation of Korea by Japan in 1945.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bing and Bowie: An Odd Story of Holiday Harmony

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2006; C01

One of the most successful duets in Christmas music history -- and surely the weirdest -- might never have happened if it weren't for some last-minute musical surgery. David Bowie thought "The Little Drummer Boy" was all wrong for him. So when the producers of Bing Crosby's Christmas TV special asked Bowie to sing it in 1977, he refused.

Just hours before he was supposed to go before the cameras, though, a team of composers and writers frantically retooled the song. They added another melody and new lyrics as a counterpoint to all those pah-rumpa-pum-pums and called it "Peace on Earth." Bowie liked it. More important, Bowie sang it.

The result was an epic, and epically bizarre, recording in which David Bowie, the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, joined in song with none other than Mr. "White Christmas" himself, Bing Crosby.

In the intervening years, the Bowie-Crosby, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy," has been transformed from an oddity into a holiday chestnut. You can hear it in heavy rotation on Christmas-music radio stations or see the performance on Internet video sites. First released as a single in 1982, it still sells today -- to add to its quirky afterlife, it's part of an album that's ranked as high as No. 3 on the Canadian charts this month. How did this almost surreal mash-up of the mainstream and the avant-garde, of cardigan-clad '40s-era crooner and glam rocker, happen?

It almost didn't. Bowie, who was 30 at the time, and Crosby, then 73, recorded the duet Sept. 11, 1977, for Crosby's "Merrie Olde Christmas" TV special. A month later, Crosby was dead of a heart attack. The special was broadcast on CBS about a month after his death.

The notion of pairing the resolutely white-bread Crosby with the exquisitely offbeat Bowie apparently was the brainchild of the TV special's producers, Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, according to Ian Fraser, who co-wrote (with Larry Grossman) the song's music and arranged it.

Crosby was in Great Britain on a concert tour, and the theme of the TV special was Christmas in England. Bowie was one of several British guest stars (the model Twiggy and "Oliver!" star Ron Moody also appeared). Booking Bowie made logistical sense, since the special was taped near his home in London, at the Elstree Studios. As perhaps an added inducement, the producers agreed to air the arty video of Bowie's then-current single, "Heroes" (Crosby introduced it).

It's unclear, however, whether Crosby had any idea who Bowie was. Buz Kohan, who wrote the special and worked with Fraser and Grossman on the music, says he was never sure Crosby knew anything about Bowie's work. Fraser has a slightly different memory: "I'm pretty sure he did [know]. Bing was no idiot. If he didn't, his kids sure did."

Kohan worked some of the intergenerational awkwardness into his script. In a little skit that precedes the singing, Crosby greets Bowie at the door of what looks like Dracula's castle (actually, it's a set that's supposed to be Crosby's rented London home). The conceit is that Bowie is dropping by a friend's house and finds Crosby at home one snowy afternoon.

They banter for a bit and then get around to a piano. Bowie casually picks out a piece of sheet music of "The Little Drummer Boy" and declares, "This is my son's favorite."

The original plan had been for Bowie and Crosby to sing just "Little Drummer Boy." But "David came in and said: 'I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?' " Fraser said. "We didn't know quite what to do."

Fraser, Kohan and Grossman left the set and found a piano in the studios' basement. In about 75 minutes, they wrote "Peace on Earth," an original tune, and worked out an arrangement that weaved together the two songs. Bowie and Crosby nailed the performance with less than an hour of rehearsal.

And that was almost that. "We never expected to hear about it again," Kohan said.

But after the recording circulated as a bootleg for several years, RCA decided to issue it as a single in 1982. It has since been packaged and repackaged in Christmas compilation albums and released as a DVD.

It's still the most played Christmas duet on WASH-FM (97.1), airing once or twice a day when the station plays nothing but holiday music, said Bill Hess, WASH's program director. Hess likes how the two men blend their voices. The real clincher, he says, is Crosby, who has been associated with holiday music for generations. " 'White Christmas' really helps sell it," he says.

Also among the song's fans is Roger D. Launius, who remembers watching the original Crosby TV special while he was a graduate student and the parent of two children, ages 1 and 3.

"It was a very hectic time in my life, and the song was very peaceful and beautiful," says Launius, chairman of the space history division at the National Air and Space Museum. "I don't remember anything else about the special, but I remembered that song."

Launius hadn't given it too much thought until about seven years ago, when his now-adult daughter sent him a Christmas CD. Among the selections was the Bowie-Crosby duet.

The other day at his office, Launius checked the hard drive on his computer. Yep, there it was. With a couple of clicks, Launius let the warm harmony, and the memories, come flooding back.
Merry Christmas 2008.

I hope that you all enjoy the cartoons.

To Claudia and Sean McStay, It was a sad Christmas without you 2. I hope that Santa was good to both of you this year.