Check out my 3 movie reviews and my Expose on Phillip Dick.
is, for the most part an outsider, his movies are small: small budgets and small
audiences; and is the exception to the rule.
The problem, as I’m defining it, is, so much of financing and distribution of film still is LA based after nearly a century,
that decisions are made as to what the market is, what it will buy, and how it will be made, that such commercial think-
ing tends dominate, and create stasis. Hollywood loves technical innovation, but not in other ways — fields. So if you
want to write to get movies funded and made — unless you fundraise yourself — you join the system and create what
they do. The solution to such overwhelming force is simply to have more methods and more ways of financing from
other places besides southern California, so that film art and the industry itself is not so static. At the moment there is
too much money in too few hands. Disney alone might as well declare nationhood.
Styles and cultures are just that. In classic pop, the Beach Boys represent a west coast form of rock-n’roll; Lou Reed,
an east coast version; Ike and Tina Turner, or the Motown groups, a Detroit version; and the Beatles, an English ver-
sion. It’s all just rock’n’roll, but there are noticeable differences. Same in film. And I believe geography plays a crucial
role in establishing it.
When the movies moved out to
California they had all this open
space at their disposal, cheap
land, and no seasons; unlike
New Jersey where the industry
was born. So they had all this
space for westerns and their
chase scenes (then the rage)
which was limited in NJ. If you
look at some of the old silents
of Chaplin or Mack Sennet,
where they are doing car
chases, even down Hollywood
and Vine, it looks like a farm
field with telephone poles. So
the industry grew up around
the thinking of big open
spaces, action scenes, and
chases, and stories were told that way. Unlike NY in which everybody lives on top of each other, and is the home of
commercial theater, where stories were told more with character interaction and dialogue, than physical bravado. I be-
lieve that remains true. The TV show, Saturday Night Live could not have been born in LA, nor could The Fast & The
Furious have been incubated in NY.
For east coast examples, Woody Allen is almost too obvious; but Martin Scorsese is certainly an east coaster. Not just
because he is from there and a lot of his movies are set there, but because stylistically, his movies have an east coast
cultural feel to them. Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, is obviously a west coaster, despite his diverse catalog.
Ready Player One, one of the few Spielberg movies I hated, and I’m a big fan, is pure west coast, with its rapid editing,
mish-mash of borrowed material from other movies and sources, fast ADHD pacing, and aim at a 12 year old audience.
Michael Bay is pure west coast. So too Shrek, even with its self-deprecating humor to show the filmmakers are in on the
joke, is a very west coast culture kind of product. I don’t mean to make it sound that all west coast movies are only for
kids, I’m just giving examples.
You can even tell with actors. Actors in the LA system, either because that is where they are placed or because that is
how they choose to portray things, are geared more towards stereotypes and looks than actors in NY or Boston who
fight their way through little theaters. The “problem,” as I see it, is not this style versus that style, it’s market domination.
The heart and soul of the film industry is still LA, despite the “democratization of video” since YouTube. Marketing is still
in the hands of the very few and the very big, and they are west coast based, and all of what the rest have created are
just bigger and bigger slush piles of everything else. When one group swallows up all the screens with their product be-
cause they have the money and influence, you have a domination problem. This is what happens in an age of hyper-
capitalism, which is what we are in, when too much money is in too few pots, and these are the ones who decide what
everybody else sees (buys). And these deciders decide in favor of what they think the market takes based on their re-
search; and the research is based on what people think they want based on what they have already seen (enter sequel-
itis). And that stifles innovation. Movies aren’t the first industry to have this problem, just the most visible. So one has to
keep that in mind when one writes a script or makes a film.
of movies under the Stars
With the Covid restrictions gone, our summer under the stars film program can continue
unhindered, and we have a full schedule to offer. Every Saturday night is something new and
something classic offered, plus extra specials on holiday weekends. Each weekend offers a
different theme from our bank of series: New Wave Horror (1st), Surreal Cinema (2nd),
Dystopian Daydreams (3rd), & Directors Cut (4th). So check our weekly, our webpage, or our
Facebook for updates and schedules.
Robert Massimi has sampled some of the films playing this summer and offers a quick critique
on some of them.
Saturday, August 7th
The problem with “Blackcoat’s Daughter” is that it is a non-linear
story that goes for cheap suspense rather than any kind of in-
depth writing. While Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka and Lucy
Boyton are all good in their roles, the directing by Osgood Per-
kins leaves the trio with a vagueness throughout the entire movie.
Not only is there a vagueness but the entire movie is very mono-
tone and aloof to be anything but insincere. Further compounding
the problem of this mundane movie is that the plot line delves into
a plethora of non meaningful subplots. It is revealed that Lucy
may be pregnant is so sophomoric that it catches the remnants of
an after school special. We are given Roberts mysterious charac-
ter but little else. Lack of follow through is continual in Perkins
The movie is set in a cold, snowy atmosphere which Perkins
tries to establish mystery to the movie, The Catholic Boarding
School and the too many empty classrooms add to the dreariness
and the empty suspense. Much like a similar movie a year earlier,
“The Eyes of My Mother”, it thrives on alienation. Both movies
are superficial and lack characterizations and ambition.
“Blackcoat’s” has a sensational lack of channeling the story
through emotion and relies more on aesthetics than storyline. In
“Blackcoat’s Daughter”, it has three timelines that run parallel to
each other which makes the story in of itself very confusing in the
beginning; as the movie progresses, we see that things fall some-
what into place: yet never taking us anywhere important or mean-
“American Psycho” was released to the public April of 2000; af-
ter solid public approval of the book with the same title, this
movie to this day has a cult following. Patrick Bateman (Christian
Bale) is an investment banker who works for his father (we never
meet the father); he wants to fit in to the societal lifestyle that
comes with being a person who went to boarding school, Harvard
University and its business school afterwards. Bateman and his
friends enjoy the lifestyle of success… fine restaurants, pretty and
wealthy girlfriends as well as fine clothes. Although Bale was
originally planned for Leonardo DiCaprio, Bale eventually was
brought back into the role after DiCaprio accepted a different
movie. The reversal of fortune was a good thing for two reasons:
Bale really wanted this role and he was superb in his role as the
preppy, witty and highly complicated Bateman.
For the people who read the book, you maybe disappointed in
the movie. Where the book was more mysterious, suspenseful and
provocative, the movie tries for more comedy as well as tremen-
dous gore. It is a movie, however, with very good acting, deft di-
recting and even better costume designs. Bringing the audience
back to the go-go 80’s, the movie was more nostalgic than any-
thing else; the old restaurants that were in business in Manhattan
at that time, the night clubs and the fashion.
“American Psycho” begs the question : was it all in Patrick Bate-
man’s head or not? Does Bateman fantasize about killing people
he hates, is jealous of: is he a real killer with an penchant for vio-
lence? The movie never really makes this clear like the book did;
nor did the movie spell out some of the problems that Bateman
had with his friends, colleagues and his romantic fantasies. The
movie was able to make up for this with its great cinematography,
however, what lacked in plot line at times was equalized by what
we saw in the plots absence.
“Psycho” has a young but talented cast; Jared Leto, Josh Lucas,
Justin Theroux and Reese Witherspoon add greatly too this com-
plicated movie. Well cast, these yuppies try to navigate through
Manhattan’s social scene; they banter about in different course
and discourse. With tremendous wealth, many of the characters
have tremendous emotional issues; drugs and alcohol play a great
role in allaying what is never explained to us as to why these
young people are so miserable.
John Cale’s musical composition captures the different music of
the 80’s brilliantly, the most popular songs of the time and the
very recognizable ones also, giving an upbeat charm to what is
otherwise a gruesome movie. Some of the jokes fall flat or are not
recognizable for the audience members who did not live in that
era. For the lucky few who were around Wall Street in the 80's,
who had the same suits, ate at the same restaurants and frequented
the night clubs of the go-go 80’s, “American Psycho” will bring
back fond memories sans the violence.
Robert Massimi is the Chief Drama Critic for
Metropolitan Magazine and My Life Publications.
He has produced 14 shows both on and off
Broadway and is a member of
The Dramatists Guild and The Drama League.
Looking back on the life of Phillip K. Dick the great sci fi writer: he is credited with being the first to write dystopian fiction and as such, had a
“cult like” following. Born in Chicago Illinois, Dick moved to San Francisco at a young age and began publishing by the age of 23. Dick did not
receive much notoriety for his works, however, his “The High Castle” ( a story about WWll 15 years after with a different ending) put him
among the literary elite and he would go on to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel at 33 years of age.
Phillip Dick’s fiction explored varied philosophical and social themes, alternative realities, simulacra, monopolistic corporations, drug abuse,
authoritarian governments and altered states of consciousness.
In 1974 after a series of religious experiences, his works went more towards issues of theology, philosophy and the nature of realities: “A Scan-
ner Darkly”(1977) and “Valis”(1981). Shortly after “Valis”, Dick died of a stroke. It would be over the course of many years later that Dick’s
writings would be made into movies: “The Blade Runner”(1982); “Total Recall”(1990) and again in (2012); “Minority Report”(2002) and “The
Adjustment Bureau’(2011). Amazon produced the multi-season television adaptation “The Man in The High Castle” based on Dick’s 1962 novel.
Channel 4 began producing the ongoing anthology series “Electric Dreams” based on various Dick stories. In 2005, Time Magazine named
“Ubik” (1969) one of the 100 greatest English-language novels.
Dick wrote 44 published novels and approximately121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime.
He is the first science fiction writer ever to be included in The Library of America Series. Dick would go on to inspire other sci fi writers and in
the end it gave us more of what Dick pioneered. One movie that comes to mind is “Mad Max”; a movie that I saw in 1980, not well received by
critics and audiences, however, the movie caught fire and several sequels were made over the course of many years.
Considered by many to be one of the great thrillers that ever was,
“Basic Instinct” has it all as far as thrillers go… sex, great acting, great
car chases and murder. Michael Douglas (Nick Curran-Shooter) is a
washed up detective with a penchant for violence; he tracks down bad
guys with reckless abandon. With a past of drug and alcohol abuse,
Curran is always looking over his shoulder, the good guys and bad guys
hate him: he has few friends on the force. Questioned for a murder,
Catherine Tramel (Sharon Stone) first meets Nick Curran; it seems that
she knows everything about him which unnerves Nick and the detective
squad. Tramel is as sexy as she is smart, as a writer and a psychologist
she plays peek-a-boo with the not as smart police force. As a successful
book writer, Tramel has resources at her finger tips for just about any-
thing that she wants; an in town spread in San Francisco, a palatial
beach house outside the city, a Lotus Esprit and a girlfriend named
“Roxy”. The fact that Catherine came from money adds to her allure;
the woman who has it all is also a cold blooded killer.
What makes “Basic Instinct” so appealing as a thriller is the triangle
that develops between Stone, Douglas and Jeanne Tripplehorn (Dr.
Beth Garner). The two ladies are both psychologists, both have a love
interest in Curran and under great direction by Paul Verhoeven, the wa-
ter starts to slowly boil until it rapidly does so. As an audience we con-
tinually vacillate as to who the good person is and who is not; we guess
throughout the movie as to whom is doing the killing and it’s great fun.
Each time there is a new murder we are given different choices, differ-
ent scenarios and it keeps us spinning. Reminiscent of “Dressed To
Kill”, “Basic Instinct” will have you on the edge of your seat. “Basic
Instinct” is relentless in its action, never once does the movie let you sit
there and relax, different character developments keeps one off balance
throughout the two hours and eight minutes.
Looking Back At Dick
Over the past year, SWMGFilmSeries has run a
series of films based on the works of the once
radical sci-fi novelist, now after his death, has
become fodder for mainstream Hollywood.
9 films were shown over the course of several
months, most featuring big name stars and
directors. Why has Dick become such a reservoir of
storylines for a newer generation of movie-makers?
Robert Massimi takes a look back.
Summer Film Program for July/August
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