Nostalgia with flair (and flares)

For the non-geek filmgoer, the term “lens flare” will mean absolutely nothing. But they will know it when they see it.

It’s a photographic technique that causes light to flatten and streak out into a horizon-like pattern that fills the screen. Director (and producer of “Super 8”) Steven Spielberg used them religiously in his earlier films of the ’70s and ’80s, as seen in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” among others.

“Super 8’s” director, J.J. Abrams, relied on them in his “Star Trek” reboot, but it wasn’t until this latest film that I realized how nostalgic that little cinematic trick made me. Continue reading

‘Three O’Clock High’ reunion with Caitlin O’Heaney, Scott Tiler and Liza Morrow

three_o_clock_high

Title: Three O’Clock High (PG-13)
Directed by: Phil Joanou
Written by: Richard Christian Masterson and Thomas E. Szollosi
Starring: Casey Semazko as Jerry Mitchell
                   Richard Tyson as Buddy Revell
                   Jeffrey Tambor as Mr. Rice
                   Liza Morrow as Karen Clark
                   Scott Schutzman Tiler as Bruce Chalmer
                   Caitlin O’Heaney as Miss Farmer

By Bo from Last Blog on the Left

Pre-screening memories: When you announce anything as “high”, it can mean only one of two things – either you’re talking about your old school buddy who still lives in his parents’ garage, or you’re referring to the time of a duel.  It is in the spirit of the latter that we come to the minor classic Three O’Clock High, directed by Steven Spielberg protégé Phil Joanou and starring Casey Siemaszko.

The movie made barely a splash when it hit the local movie houses in 1987, but the movie quickly found a home amongst burgeoning cinephiles who had never seen avant-garde moviemaking techniques applied to the more commonplace teen comedy.

Boasting talents behind the lens such as director of photography Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Richard Christian Matheson, it is little surprise that a rabid movie lover such as myself would stumble across this film and find that rare diamond in the rough – a movie that transcends mere plot and character and becomes the cult classic. 

(Ed. Note: This podcast marks a first for us here at Natsukashi, in that we were able to track down Scott Schutzman Tiler (Bruce Chalmers), Liza Morrow (Karen Clark) and Caitlin O’Heaney (Miss Farmer) to join us for a little ‘High’ school reunion of sorts. It’s a tad longer (1 hour), but well worth every second to hear what the gang is up to today and have them share their memories of working on the film.)

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Download the podcast here: Three O’Clock High with Caitlin O’Heaney , Scott Tiler and Liza Morrow

Listen to it online:

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Our featured guests:

  • caitlinoheaneymodernageCaitlin O’Heaney (Ms. Farmer) Star of stage, television and film, Caitlin has worked with the greats in all areas: Katherine Hepburn, Norman Lear, John Houseman, Tom Hanks. In the 80s, Caitlin was ominpresent with a hit sitcom (The Charmings), hit adventure show (Tales of the Gold Monkey) and a burgeoning film career. Her role as Miss Farmer was one of the most indelible of the film.
  • tilerScott Schutzman Tiler (Bruce Chalmer): Sergio Leone, John Sayles, Speilberg protege Phil Juanou: these made up half of the directors young Schutzman Tiler had worked for in his career. He is now completing his master’s and coaching a new generation of acting talent. His role in Three O’Clock High was inspired by the film’s producer, some guy named Spielberg
  • Liza Morrow (Karen Clark): Now happily out of the business, Liza made her screen debut as the object of desire in Three O’Clock High, then went on to join the cast of Dynasty as Virginia Metheny in its final season. She is now happily out of the business, but was kind enough to relive her time spent working on the film.

A big thanks  to all of our guests for reliving their time spent on working in this fondly remembered 80s cult classic!

‘Explorers’

Title: Explorers (1985)
Rated: PG
Directed by: Joe Dante
Starring: Ethan Hawke as Ben Crandall
              River Phoenix as Wolfgang Muller
              Jason Presson as Darren Woods
Tagline: “You don’t need a driver’s license to reach the stars!”

By: Bo from Last Blog on the Left

Pre-screening memories: Ah, Explorers, I hardly remember ye.  When a buddy mentioned the movie, I had to freeze in place a moment as synapses not fired in years began to reconnect and offer up flashes of spaceships and a young River Phoenix.  And, then, more came.  I remembered the spaceship, looking much like the riders’ car from a Tilt-a-Whirl at a local fair, and the thing that drew me to the movie in the first place: adventure.

 

Ever a fan of the kids-on-their-own adventures like The Goonies (who are, indeed, good enough for me), and of the sci-fi flicks of my earlier years, such as Star Wars, this seemed like two great tastes that taste great together.  So why has Explorers fallen off the pop culture radar while others achieved ubiquitous reverence?  Who knows?  Prior to viewing again, I thought perhaps it was too fluffy, the Spacecamp-like entertainment that is immediately engaging, but has no lasting value; the cinematic equivalent of the Milky Way bar.  And those films have their place, the Saturday afternoon movies that you don’t feel guilty for falling asleep on, and no lingering urge to seek them out, to see what it is you missed while drooling on the arm of the couch.

 

Explorers is the tale of three kids who start having dreams of circuit boards, which they actually build.  Needless to say, it’s a fantasy.  The circuit boards turn out to be a method of traveling to the stars via some sort of electric bubble.  When they begin to receive strange messages while journeying in their makeshift spacecraft, they follow the signal into the stars and meet irritating aliens.

 

This is a movie that is more heart than brain by a long shot.  The spirit is so willing, too.  The themes of the outcast kids banding together to do something unexpected and wonderful hits all the right notes.  The first act of the movie hums along, introducing its characters well, and even treating the viewer to some post-Tron graphics that have managed to become quaint by today’s standards.  The whole thing goes off the rails, though, once the trio makes it to the aliens’ ship.  There are several too-long sequences that bog down the film as the kids investigate the strange alien vessel, but that’s nothing compared to the out-and-out trippiness of the aliens themselves.  Apparently, they’ve had access to Earth television, which has, in fact, rotted their brains.  They are schizophrenic and the scene overstays its welcome with a weird intergalactic talent show that’s about as entertaining as you remember every talent show you’ve ever seen.

 

New memories

I was happy to learn that I was correct on the Tilt-a-Whirl memory, but that was about the only solace I gained from this mess of a third act.  There are hints of frivolity, such as the school named after Charles M. Jones (or good old Chuck Jones of Looney Tunes fame to you and me).  There’s even a “Hey, wait, where’s the ground?!” Tunes-style joke here, but it feels so ridiculously out of place.  And what about the somber kid, Darren, whose father is apparently occasionally abusive?  What happened with him?  Eh, I just wanted it to be over.  There’s an hour’s worth of fun in Explorers, but the slop that ends the film makes it hard to suggest revisiting it.  This is probably one better left in the memory banks, where time has erased the irritation.

Listen to Bo’s recollection of his re-entry into space with ‘Explorers below or download it here.

‘Jaws’

 

Film: Jaws
Rated: PG
Directed by: Steven Spielberg

 

Starring:
Roy Scheider:  Sheriff Brody
Richard Dreyfuss:  Hooper
Robert Shaw:  Quint

 

Tagline: Don’t go in the water

 

By:  Efferdent Johnson

 

Past memories: In 1975, I was doing my best to propagate the best hair helmet any pre-teen had ever hoped to wear. My interests were few and my fears were many. Some of which were brought to the surface by a frightening grey machine with a zillion teeth and a thirst for blood. By my tenth year of life, the most frightening movie experiences were the ever-so-scary villains of Disney. I can remember sinking in my seat during Willy Wonka’s boat ride, or almost all of Chitty Chitty Bang AHHHHHHHHH!!!

 

Jaws would never affect me… or so I thought. The chances of me seeing the movie were less than my chances for a Senate seat. My mom would make sure that her young sons would not be turned to evil, sexually confused or exposed to the violence of the cinema. The following summer Rocky came to town and my brothers and I were not permitted to go. “It is way too bloody and violent. No. I will not tell you again.” I can remember hearing that daily for two weeks.

 

 Mom, though, couldn’t censor every facet of a 10-year-old’s life.

 

The commercials started and it led to a frenzy of attention in our tiny land-locked community in southern Colorado. Every conversation both of adults and kids seemed to begin and end with some reference to a man-eating shark. On the play ground while sneaking up on the girls, my friends and I would be revealed by our own musical accompaniment, “Dunt Dunt, Dunt Dunt”. After the movie played in town and moved on to the drive-in theater, the book appeared on every shelf not already packed with Rockem Sockem Robots, Hardy Boys lunch boxes or Billy Beer. I even remember the local sporting goods store with a Jaws display in the window next to the fishing tackle and baseball cleats. 

 

Never seeing the movie juiced every waterborne fear a 10 year old could have. As an avid swimmer on the swim team, my paranoia was limitless. If a teammate was to scrape at my toes while swimming laps, the chance of something other than urine coming from my Speedo was possible. I guess Spielberg my have been responsible for some of my best times.

               

I am sure the first time I saw the movie was on network TV probably five years later. Robert Shaw has always been the salty fisherman in my mind while reading books about the sea. I can imagine him now as Hemingway’s old man or Melville’s whale-obsessed, one-legged captain. Ah, what a glorious time before Stakeout, Another Stakeout or a terrible Poseidon remake when Richard Dreyfuss was cool. Or to see Roy Scheider  ( R.I.P) as something more than a douche bag flying a fictitious helicopter.

               

Ultimately, the movie didn’t live up to the expectations of my 10-year-old imagination. It was years later while in high school after watching the horrible sequels that I realized why the original had transfixed my tiny hometown. People from every walk of life could relate in some way to a story that was chock full of the human experience. Man vs Man, Man vs Beast, small town politics and obsession that ultimately leads to a bad and bloody end or just having the crap scared out of you, take your pick.

 

If nothing else my friends and I had so much fun replaying the Saturday Night Live skit “Land Shark” that to this day the mention of it will bring us all too contagious belly laughter.

 

And what did Eff think about his most recent screening of a film he had not seen in more than a decade?

Or to download: Here’s Episode V:Jaws.

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