Thursday, September 30, 2010
But overall the Runabout (Danube class) remains one my favorite Star Trek spaceship designs -- more than a shuttle but less than a starship. In utility the Runabout was something along the lines of Space:1999 Eagle or a Space Academy Seeker -- a kitted-up ship that could navigate deep space or land easily on alien worlds. And unlike the standard Starfleet shuttlecraft, the Runabout was a bit roomier. I even recall a briefing/dining room area (seen in the sixth season TNG episode "Timescape").
The Runabout reflects how I prefer my space adventuring: a ship without too much firepower and personnel to rely on, so characters on the frontier had to rely on their human qualities, not phaser banks, to survive and thrive.
Later in the DS9 run, the Runabout became less important as Sisko took command of the Borg-busting Defiant. I love the Defiant -- an awesome ship for wartime -- but I was sorry to see the neat, versatile Runabouts reduced so much in importance.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I'm proud and very excited to report that my latest film book, Music on Film: This is Spinal Tap, (Limelight Editions, 2010), is available as of today.
This book launches the Music on Film book series, a collection of small (100 -145 pages) volumes devoted to important film titles from cinema history.
Another upcoming entry is Music on Film: West Side Story by the great Barry Monush (Everybody's Talkin': The Top Films of 1965-1969, Screen World, etc.). And I'm already on deadline for my second contribution to the series.
But I just received my author copies MoF: This is Spinal Tap and the book is gorgeous, and beautifully presented. Limelight did a bang-up job.
Here's the official word on the book:
From The Publisher: In 1984, four comedians - Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, and Harry Shearer - unleashed This Is Spinal Tap, the world's first "mock-rockumentary" and a joke that has lasted into the 21st century and inspired a generation of imitations.
Now, award-winning film journalist John Kenneth Muir (An Askew View: The Films of Kevin Smith) escorts the reader through a quarter-century of heavy metal laughs, offering a detailed history of the film's genesis and an up-close look at the reasons why this beloved rock-and-roll movie comedy has endured for so long, - and even met acceptance in the rock-and-roll culture it lampoons.
Features interview material with the cinematographer, editor, and some supporting cast members of This Is Spinal Tap as well as "King of Nostalgia" Joe Franklin.
About the Author: John Kenneth Muir (Charlotte, NC) is the author of Best in Show: The Films of Christopher Guest and Company (Applause, 2004) and The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007). He is the creator of the independent web series The House Between, which was nominated for Best Web Production in 2007 and 2008..
If you can swing it, order your copy of Music on Film: This is Spinal Tap today!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Today, I want to remember a non-genre effort from the same year as Escape from New York, Daniel Petrie's Fort Apache: The Bronx (1981), starring Paul Newman, Ken Wahl, Ed Asner, Rachel Ticotin and Pam Grier.
Although I was only eleven when the film was first released, I still remember the widespread public controversy this film generated. Police advocacy groups felt that Fort Apache: The Bronx was vehemently anti-cop (because it portrays Danny Aiello as an out-of-control, murdering law enforcement official...). At the same time, some people complained about the film's less-than-flattering depiction of the Bronx's Puerto Ricans and African-Americans.
Another group also widely disapproved of Daniel Petrie's film: movie critics. The consensus of the day seemed to be that Fort Apache: the Bronx was episodic and loosely-structured...more like a regular old TV show (Hill Street Blues?) than a legitimate movie.
In retrospect, however, it seems plain that the film's much-complained about loose narrative structure is actually its greatest strength. Fort Apache: The Bronx isn't a neat, canned cop movie in which a crime is presented and then solved, clue-by-clue, by heroic, investigating cops.
Life isn't really like that, so why should movies have to be?
Life isn't really like that, so why should movies have to be?
On the contrary, Fort Apache: The Bronx is an involving, slice-of-life, workaday peek into the existence of a lonely, aging cop in the Bronx -- Murphy (Newman) -- as he contends with with prostitutes, muggers, and corruption on the police force Accordingly, the film never pushes an overly-plotted Hollywood-style narrative, and the result is a cinematic work-of-art in which the characters feel more realistic; more true, and which life (like real life...) is full of unexpected eddies and tributaries that must be navigated.
Director Petrie makes the most of his laid-back narrative approach, never force-feeding on the audience arguments about abstract ideologies. At its heart, the film does indeed present two approaches to law enforcement -- liberal and conservative -- but both prove equally ineffective, and the movie never comes down in favor of one over the other. Both are treated sympathetically, and both are shown to have unwanted repercussions.
Instead, Petrie is a fine observer, not a propagandist. He consistently deploys the tenets of realistic filmmaking (authentic location shooting; deep focus long shots, and pans within the frame etc.) to chronicle the life and times of a man with great conscience, but not necessarily great courage.
What is this, the gunfight at the OK Corral?
|Welcome to Fort Apache.|
A police officer in Fort Apache tartly describes the Bronx of 1981 as a "40-block area with 70,000 people packed in like sardines, smelling each others' farts, [and] living like cockroaches."
He then ticks down a list of considerable problems including "youth gangs," families that have been "on welfare for three generations," "high unemployment," the "lowest income per capita" and "the largest proportion of non-English-speaking" denizens in the city.
As Connolly assumes command of the 41st Precinct and deals with the specter of a cop-killing bogeyman, he orders a huge wave of arrests. The police bring in and book prostitutes, bookies, and other petty crooks literally by the bus-ful. The idea is that by shaking the trees, so-to-speak, something will fall out; a clue about the identity of the cop killer.
"You're just making thing worse," third-generation cop Murphy (Newman) insists, but Connolly continues to go by the book, in the process actually escalating the tense situation. "You're going to war," Murphy points out, again linking the situation of 1981 to the historical Fort Apache battle of 1881.
|Questions of conscience at Fort Apache.|