‘Continental Divide’ with cinematographer Richard Walden

movie poster
Film: Continental Divide (1981)
Rated: PG
Written by: 
Lawrence Kasdan
Directed by: 
Michael Apted
Starring: 
John Belushi as Ernie Souchek
Blair Brown as Nell Porter
Allen Garfield as Howard McDermott
Carlin Glynn as Sylvia

By Efferdent Johnson

belushifingerPre-screening memories: There were many reasons I was excited to see Continental Divide many years ago. And while it may seem strange those same reasons applied when given the opportunity to view it again.

Growing up in Colorado, just an hour or so west of the continental divide, I was hoping some of my extended backyard would be in the movie. As my friends and I watched the flick for the first time we argued about locations. “Oh, that’s just above Wagon Wheel Gap,” Scott said. “No, that’s just off Slumgullion Pass near Lake City,” was my ill-informed retort. We looked for landmarks throughout the film and not one of us had a clue.

belushimountainsNow with the advantage of IMDB I found that we were all off by a few hundred miles. We all picked the wrong mountain range. Any of you familiar with the Sangre De Cristo range in southern Colorado might recognize some vistas. I sure didn’t.

Familiar landscapes aside, I would have set patiently for a chance to watch any flick that included John Belushi. He was a hero for my friends and I. We all imitated his Samurai Tailor from Saturday Night Liveor Blutarsky from Animal House. In fact, Dave Wilson did such a spot-on impression of Blutarsky running deceptively to avoid detection on the Faber Campus that we all would do spit takes just recalling it. After 25 years, I still grin when I recollect Wilson’s impersonation.

hikingMost people choose predictable role models. Men like John Elway, Han Solo or John Lennon are obvious choices. Me, I chose guys like Belushi, Bill Murray and John Bonham. Have you ever heard the quote “Fat dumb and stupid is no way to go through life”?  Well, my role models seemed to do a pretty good job of it if only for a short time for two of them. Me, I haven’t done as well. Don’t get me wrong though, fat, dumb and stupid are not an issue for me.

I was the only one in our group not disappointed by the movie so many years ago. My friends wanted debauchery and drunken profanity laced with pratfalls and catch lines. I was satisfied with, “It’s so quiet up here you could hear a mouse get a hard-on.” To this day it is my favorite movie quote and usually the only one I can remember. I watched the film any time it came on HBO and each time found something new to latch onto.

brownsmileNew memories: Ernie Souchak was a window into just how much charisma resided within Belushi’s body. A body obviously built by ingesting copious amounts of “Little Chocolate Donuts”. He was a man of the people, approachable, funny and sarcastic. A model I wish to emulate to this day. In this window you can glance of what might have been Belushi’s future if not for a tragic end.

Now, as I live on the East Coast I will watch Continental Divide for the same reasons as I did in the 1980’s. I’ll watch hoping to rekindle fond memories of the Rocky Mountains and of my long gone hero. I also look forward to seeing Blair Brown’s very pretty smile.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Continental Divide podcast with Richard Walden here

Or you can hike a little further down the screen and listen to it online:

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Our featured guest: Cinematographer Richard Walden

dream onNow in his third decade behind the lens, Richard has been a part of some seminal films in our memory’s library,  including: Heaven Can Wait, The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, 1941, American Gigolo, Xanadu, Cat People, 48 Hrs., War Games, Top Gun, Lethal Weapon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and many, many more.

Walden  got his start on the 1972 TV movie Fair Play as a painter, and his worked steadily in the business since. His extensive resume (and memories) has been a wonderful advantage to us here at Natsukashi, and we thank Richard for sharing them with us.

He has also worked on TV, serrving as   cinematographer on the popular HBO series, Dream On.

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‘The ‘Burbs’ with fx artist Peter Kuran

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Film: The ‘Burbs (1989)
Rated: PG
Written by: Larry Brezner and Michael Finnell
Directed by: Joe Dante
Starring: Tom Hanks as Ray Peterson
                   Bruce Dern as Mark Rumsfield
                   Carrie Fisher as Carol Peterson
                   Corey Feldman as Ricky Butler

By E Dagger from CruJonesSociety

hanksPre-screening memories: When I was a kid, I think I felt obligated to like The ‘Burbs. One of my favorite movies as a young lad was definitely Big, although that was mostly for the sweet apartment he had in Manhattan with the basketball hoop, soda machine, and huge trampoline. But Tom Hanks still served as that movie’s icon and got to live out every young boy’s fantasy by trying out toys for a living, getting to have a Pepsi whenever he wanted, and feeling a boob with the lights on.
 
I remember hoping he’d do more awesome stuff like that in The ‘Burbs, but what I got instead was one creepy, weird-ass, maddeningly uneven jaunt through the anarchic imagination of Joe Dante.
 
Parts of it were still childishly funny to 9 year old me, like when Tom Hanks runs face first into the screen door and angrily crushes the beer cans or Rick Ducommon getting hit by a pickax flying over the fence, but I vividly remember being more than mildly freaked out by the unshaven Hans, the ghoulish-looking Reuben, and bizarre scene of Tom Hanks looking out his bedroom window to see the three shadowy Klopeks next door digging what appears to be graves in the pouring rain.
 
coreyThis was a dark movie. And having grown up in the suburbs, I had a decidedly rosier perception of life in a seemingly idyllic hamlet on the outskirts of town, but here was Rick Ducommon talking about the local ice cream man losing his mind due to suburban monotony-turned-madness and butchering his entire family. As a third grader, what the hell am I supposed to do with that? This was supposed to be a Tom Hanks movie, dammit!
 
bruceNew memories: This movie is still dark, but compared to some of the really dark comedies I’ve seen and enjoyed since (the borderline-evil Death to Smoochy comes to mind), The ‘Burbs comes off as mostly tame. It strikes me more as a live action satirical comic book than anything else. The plot moves along briskly, macabre situations contrast against the bright, picturesque background and perfect weather of suburban tranquility, and we’re treated to some genuine laugh out loud moments along the way.
 
Special mention must go to Bruce Dern and Corey Feldman who give my favorite performances here. Bruce Dern has the funniest lines delivered with a brusque, confrontational assertiveness all ex-military guys have. He doesn’t have time for your crap and let’s you know as much. When nosy neighbor Ricky (Feldman) asks him what he’s doing on the roof, Dern responds gruffly, “Shut up and paint your goddamn house.”
 
Feldman as Ricky almost serves as Dern’s counterpoint. He’s the surrogate for the audience to experience the action. At one point, he narrates the story of his street and all its players to a date, and at another invites friends over to watch the proceedings. He and his friends applaud, cheer, and “call the pizza dude” as Ricky’s neighbors go completely insane acting. Ricky and his friends serve as a Greek chorus to the action, or perhaps more appropriately, as a less sardonic Crow, Servo, and Mike.
 
The ‘Burbs is still an unusual movie, but expecting anything less from certified weird dude Joe Dante would be foolish. As an adult, I think that’s what I like about it best. Sure it’s uneven and the “suburbanites are repressed lunatics” theme is hideously tired in 2009, but it’s got a vivacity and anarchic spirit missing from a lot of today’s offerings. It’s weird. It’s fun. It knows it’s a movie. It’s not Shakespeare. But it is a great freaking time.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘The ‘Burbs” with Peter Kuran podcast right here

Or, you can hop the fence and merely listen to it online below:

Our Featured Guest: Peter Kuran

kuranAt the tender age of 17, while most kids are contemplating colleges, struggling to find out just what the hell they want to do with the rest of their lives, Peter (pictured far left, next to that robot guy) decided he would kick it with some new friends on a little movie “made from the guy who made American Graffiti. ”

Yes, before he was old enough to vote, Peter was hustling around the set of Star Wars as part of the Industrial Light and Magic crew. That endeavor obviously left an impression on his young mind, and kick-started a career in film that reads like a fantasy film geek’s fever dream: The Thing, Conan the Barbarian, RoboCop, BeetleJuice, Critters 2, Gremlins 2, Ghostbusters 2,Edward Scissorhands are but a few of his more than 250 films.

In 1982, he founded VCE Entertainment, which went on to provide effects work for numerous mainstream features, ranging from X-Men 2 and Men in Black to Thirteen Days and The Last Samurai, ultimately earning an Academy Award.

Kuran has also produced and directed five award-winning documentaries on Atomic testing, history and weaponry.

‘Shocker’ with its star Camille Cooper

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Title: Shocker (1989)
Rated: R
Written and directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Peter Berg as Jonathan Parker
                   Mitch Pileggi as Horace Pinker
                   Camille Cooper as Alison

By Shelley Stillo

chairPre-screening memories: If this site has taught me anything, it is that I witnessed far too many age-inappropriate movies as a child. I bore witness to more acts of violence, mayhem and destruction before I was even able to remove the training wheels from my bike.

I will leave the analysis of its effects for a therapist to deal with, but all that viewing has instilled in me a life-long admiration of the horror genre. And of all the beasts and boogeymen that made it into my living room television set, Wes Craven was the one I connected with most frequently.

glowy camiThere was something more under the surface of Craven’s brand of horror, commenting on our culture, or state of society. And even though my brain was barely beyond what was on the Saturday morning cartoon showcase, it still seemed to pick up the impulses of Craven’s transmitted messages.

Shocker was a film I discovered on the shelves of my local video store, after A Nightmare on Elm Streethad made its permanent mark on my mind. I would search for anything with his name affixed to it, and I eagerly grabbed it and brought it home.

It is a film that today divides its audiences, between those who ridicule its over-the-top scenario, its dime-store special effects, and its lapses in logic, and those who enjoyed it as a wild ride laced with a commentary on a television-obsessed society. I fell into the latter category, realizing that, despite its limitations, Craven still had more on its mind than just the standard slash-and-scream horror.

armchairNew memories: Time may not have been kind to its already-limited special effects budget, and there are certainly more than one moments that illicit an eye roll, but I still find myself connecting with the film’s message and its gritty charms.

Sure, Horace Pinker will never be synonymous with Freddie Kreuger, but he did, and still does, make an indelible mark on this young horror fan.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Shocker’ podcast with star Camille Cooper here

Or, plug in to our player on this very site below:

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Our featured guest: Camille Cooper

camiCamille Cooper has worked professionally in film and television for a number of years, starring in five films, including Meet the Applegates and Like Father, Like Son, and television series including General Hospital and Knots Landing. She has been featured in numerous commercials and print ads (for Coke, Milky Way and Campbell’s Soup, among others). She has been interviewed and photographed for such publications as Premiere Interview, Egg, and The New York Times, and has appeared on the cover of Working Mother. Recently she was a guest on a little program called The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Cooper quit the biz more than a decade ago and dedicated herself to speaking out about the effect of media on young women and body image

Since her show business retirement, Cooper has co-chaired the Committee for the Empowerment of Young Women since 1994, and has lectured across the country, educating and encouraging young women to question what they see, to define themselves by their abilities and their dreams, and to take action to promote positive change.

She was gracious enough to share her memories of working with Wes Craven and the Shocker set, and we thank for for her humor and recollections of the film.

‘Gung Ho’ with actor Rodney Kageyama

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Title: Gung Ho (1986)
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Edwin Blum (story); Lowell Ganz (screenplay)
Starring: Michael Keaton as Hunt Stevenson
                   Gedde Wattanabe as Oishi Kazihiro
                   George Wendt as Buster
                   Sab Shim0no as Saito
                   John Turturro as Willie
                   Rodney Kageyama as Ito

By E Dagger from Cru Jones Society

gedde and michaelPre-screening memories: I think Gung Ho might be one of the most poorly chosen titles for a movie ever. Whenever I ask one of my friends about it, no one knows what the hell I’m talking about. Yet, when I start describing the plot and listing off the stars, you can see the light slowly go on as they remember it piece by piece no thanks to the title.
 
Like so many movies I grew to love, I saw this repeatedly on basic cable. In fact, for a recent Christmas, I gave my dad the gift of our basic cable trifecta: Gung Ho, The Warriors, and An Innocent Man. We watched these movies together all the time, and it’s one of the reasons I think of those films (among others) so fondly. This movie is full of quotable lines. One of our favories was when Kazihiro asks Satio where his uncle is, and Saito responds with “Ramada Inn coffee shop eating silver dollar pancakes.” Once I joined the working world, I met my dad at some event we were both invited to, asked where his boss was, and that’s how he responded. That wasn’t even close to true, but it made my morning.
 
I also remember watching this in my freshman “Intro to Business” class in high school and seeing a bunch of surly teenagers gradually get warmed over by this movie’s great humor and excellent performances. And that’s what I remember most about it. This movie is just plain funny.
 
geddeNew memories: I’d like to say I was compelled to revisit Gung Ho because the scope of the current collapse of the United States auto industry weighs heavily on the collective consciousness of Americans everywhere and this movie provides a prescient yet humorous look into our current situation nearly 25 years previous chronicling the plight of America’s eroding manufacturing base and de-unionization. I’d sure like to say that.
 
The truth is, I happened upon Sixteen Candles on one of my 50 or so movie channels some hungover weekend recently, laughed at the garishly racist portrayal of Long Duk Dong, and remembered how much I also enjoyed his performance in Gung Ho. Many years later, his performance is still a delight. He’s like an adult version of “The Donger” – a nice guy, well-intentioned, hard working, and very polite but a messy drunk, subjugated by those around him, and always in the middle of some sort of weird crapstorm.
 
wheel fallsI enjoyed Gung Ho a great deal when I re-watched it recently. The movie hits all the right notes in capturing small-town, American working class psychology. The movie is loaded with familiar faces from the 80s in George Wendt, John Turturro, Mimi Rogers, and Michael Keaton who was a very hot property at the time. Wendt and Keaton in particular give excellent performances. Wendt is your typical overweight, obnoxious, bloviating meathead whom you hated in high school, and were you to see him again now, would hate even more. Keaton plays the guy who was popular in high school and tries to coast on that type of easy charm the rest of his life.
 
The thing that struck me most was how the film attempts to humanize the Japanese executives which served as a departure from other films of this ilk. They’re not just evil marplots bent on taking over America; they have families, worries, and insecurities just the same as us. The movie is a step forward in breaking down the culture of fear associated with assimilation that still exists today. No one is trying to destroy our culture and run us out of business. When you get right down to it, everyone is just doing the best they know how to survive another day in a tough world. And once we learn to get along with one another, taking the best from each of our experiences and moving forward, the work gets easier.

 Download: Natsukashi’s ‘Gung Ho’ with Rodney Kageyama

or steer into the player below

Our featured guest: Rodney Kageyama

rodney k baseballRodney started his career on stage in San Francisco as a founder of the Asian American Theater Company, the first of its kind in the area. While in theater, he earned multiple awards as an actor, designer and director of his many performances.

He then set his sights on film and television, co-starring in such film as as Karate Kid II and III, Pretty Woman, Teen Wolf, Quantum Leap, Newhart and Home Improvement.

But Rodney is also well known outside the entertainment industry as a tireless volunteer for Southern California’s Cherry Blossom Festival, pet adoption and as a docent at the Japanese American National Museum. He is also an advocate for pet adoption and is the proud owner of several pugs.

In 2007, Rodney was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma for which he underwent chemotherapy and is now living a cancer-free life to its fullest.

Rodney has more than given back to the community, and we appreciate the time he gave us to share his tales of working on Gung Ho.

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