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Today I’m focusing on Ephemeral safety films featuring that all-knowing, all-judging voice of reason, The Narrator. This Paternalistic Condescender is the bridge between You, The Viewer and You, the Doofus on Screen. Unlike the overtly idiotic and risky Goofuses from the ‘Goofus and Gallant’-style videos, people in Paternalistic Condescender videos are relatable, identifiable, and make terrible choices. You, The Viewer are in the unique position of sharing the Narrator’s godlike omniscience and wisdom, while still capable of all the foibles of your onscreen counterparts. The idea is to see yourself in the mistakes onscreen, and listen to the literal Voice of Reason (almost always male) to avoid them yourself.


Before we start, remember how I mentioned the one time that guy caught everything on fire in ‘Hospital Safety’?

Hospital Safety no smoking



Hospital Safety see this is why no smoking


The narrator remains calm and impassive even as the ward burns to the ground.

  I’ve written a lot about ‘Live and Learn’ (and made several GIFs of children falling off cliffs), so I’ll let these additional images speak for themselves.

Live and Learn head bandage

Live and Learn scissors


What I didn’t know until recently is ‘Live and Learn’ had a sequel filmed 2 years later in color called  ‘Why Take Chances?’ It features the same Narrator remarking calmly on childrens’ foolish impulses and casually noting their grim injuries. ‘Why Take Chances’ goes a step further and features intertitled cartoon versions of the kids’ injuries. Somehow that seems like it would impress kids with the idea they’d only get ‘cartoon’ killed if they dropped a piano on a pal’s head.

Why Take Chances  kid slam

Why Take Chances  slam

Why Take Chances snapped foot

Why Take Chances oh snap


‘Time Out For Trouble’ is BANANAS. It features a rare female narrator, but since the entire premise of the film is how accidents are caused by EMOTIONS (instead of, you know, boiling water falling on you), of course they have a female narrator. When the narrator isn’t tsk-tsking couples in broken relationships for their psychological pain, the voiceover is provided by (I am not making this up) a psychotic clock bent on killing the leading lady through emotions for calling the clock an eyesore.

Time Out for Safety spooky clock


(Just one of the many ways the clock uses household items and rage to kill)

Time Out for Safety trip


1990′s ‘Range Safety’ is the ‘Don’t Do What Donny Don’t Does’ of gun safety. The narrator has all the outrage and breathless pace of a Hard Copy story intro at the many, many ways people incorrectly use guns.

Range Safety  locked loaded

Range Safety breaker breaker

Range Safety all in a row


Range Safety gunsight


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For a long time now I’ve debated whether Nicholas Cage is a shitty actor who occasionally shines in great movies, or a great actor who for reasons unfathomable loves acting in pure garbage. I’ve been leaning towards the latter for a while now, and this sort of tips it- who among you would not want to get paid for starring in this?

A missing page from John Wilkes Booth’s diary reveals that treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage)’s great grandfather might have actually been the one responsible for Lincoln’s assassination. Gates begins a mission to clear his family’s name. To do that he must kidnap the president of the United States to get access to a secret book that is for the president’s eyes only. The book also has the truth about Area 51 and the missing minutes in the Watergate tapes.

That’s right, he’s going to kidnap the President. Hopefully with ninjas. Will you be a bad enough dude to watch this in theaters? I know I will. Last time it was Ben Franklin’s 4-D glasses and stealing the constitution, this time it’s Presidential kidnap and ALIENS. And Nixon. I can only hope the inevitable 3rd installment has them avoid the obvious investigation of the Kennedy assassination and go for something more historically obscure, like the Boss Tweed scandal or the dark secret behind William McKinley’s assassination.

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Having about 2 hours to kill and still not enjoying the fake dogwood arrangement before me, I have some questions I felt were missing from that poorly written internet movie quiz thing.

A) Favorite cameo by Satan in a movie/TV show?

B) What is the most stereotypically French film you’ve watched?

C) Best use of metal music in a film/tv show not ostensibly about metal?

D) What’s your favorite unexpected explosion in cinema?

E) Fish or Cut Bait?

F) Who are your favorite twins in movies/TV?

G) Worst use of death in a children’s movie?

My answers to the above are
a) Terrence Stamp in ‘In the Company of Wolves’

b) Le Samourai

c) The scene in ‘Wild At Heart’ where Sailor and Lula get out of their car and spazz-dance,

d) a toss-up between the sheep explosion in ‘Bad Taste’ and the head explosion at the end of Judas Priest’s video for ‘You Got Another Thing Coming’(his pants fall off as well),

e) cut bait,

f) Beverly and Eliot Mantle in ‘Dead Ringers’, and

g) Jack Frost, wherein Michael Keaton’s character dies in a car accident, only to come back as a snowman.

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The Great Stone Face turns 111 today. I found the picture above(from an early short called ‘One Week’) in one of my old journals, cut from the New York Times Magazine’s annual housing issue, if I remember rightly. At the time I had no idea who that man was, but the expression on his face, that ‘oh, not again’ look grabbed me. I couldn’t tell whether he’d caused the house to look like that or was attempting to fix it, but felt it would turn out looking the same either way. It’s the same expression I picture Sisyphus having. I could go on about how Keaton’s pessimist streak gives his films a modern sensibility or how amazing and effortless his stuntwork appeared, but there are scads of well-written articles already out there on the subject. Instead, a few choice links:

Some kind fellow has chosen highlighted moments of comedy and animated them just for you folks. The ‘Haunted House’ clip sums up neatly why I love Keaton’s work.

Also, here’s the ‘Steamboat Bill, Jr.’ clip spoofed on in ‘Arrested Development’s ‘The One Where They Build A House’. Do yourself a favor and turn down the volume, unless you think a techno remix of the Dr. Who theme works well with the imagery.

Pie throwing techniques.

Perhaps a testament to how little it happened, The Stone Face Cracks has stills of every time Keaton smiled on camera.

Keaton was given complete creative control of his films, but unfortunately, no ownership. First his alchoholic father, then later his shifty manager bilked him out of a fortune by putting their names as copyright owner. On the plus side, this means most of his works are in the public domain, and you can catch them on GoogleVideo. Alas, no one seems to have an available copy of 1921′s ‘Hard Luck’, starring Keaton as an out-of-work, suicidal fellow who just can’t seem to kill himself properly. I think it’s available as part of Kino’s very thorough boxed set. When he eagerly jumps through a kitchen window to chug poison from a bottle, it turns out that’s where the cook hides his moonshine. A drunken Buster ends up at a zoological meeting volunteering to capture the deadly armadillo, and much hilarity ensues. I’d say it reminded me of ‘Harold and Maude’, but it predates it by about 50 years.

I had the good fortune to catch it as part of Film Forum’s triple feature Keaton Mondays, along with a lovingly restored ‘Three Ages’ and ‘7 Chances’, which has the best chase scene pre-‘Raising Arizona’. I absolutely adore that theatre- it’s as if they read my mind and screen it as a series, with twice the viewing power for my dollar! It’s where I caught the outstanding ‘Sword of Doom’, newly restored ‘Metropolis’(minus the Queen soundtrack) and ‘Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’, and oodles of sleazy, gritty film noir classics. Plus their popcorn is both reasonably priced and delicious. So much better than that snooty Angelika-who has a subway running next to their theatres, no less! If Film Forum’s my bestest buddy, Angelika’s the dour film student who keeps insisting how ‘important’ boring movies are and wears sunglasses all the time. Sunshine’s like a distant grandmother(a strange amalgam of modern and antique, with midnight screenings for the grandkids), and the two multiplexes in Times Square are those giant golden idols everyone’s worshipping in ‘The 10 Commandments’ when Moses comes down and gets all pissed. Two Boots is a stony frat house. Not ‘like’, it actually is, since every time I’ve gone there the employees are hiiiiiiiigh and the viewers are chug-a-lugging to their midnight screening. At the Zigfield I always expect some guy in tails and a top hat to pop out and go “You know what’s dead? Vaudeville. You know what killed it? The moving pictures! But just you wait! It’ll be back like spats in September!” Then he’ll do a backflip and wave his hands like Al Jolson. Anthology always startles me; I forget how raw a space it is. It’s like I walked into an art house in Eastern Europe.

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