Archive for April 11th, 2008

11
Apr
08

Steal this article!

“Wanna copy?”

 

That’s how it always starts. “Tape this,” “burn that,” and even “record it for me.” As the technology for copying intellectual works (and I use that term loosely) gets increasingly better, the cases against copyright infringement pile up. Before I split too many hairs, let me go into the history of copyright infringement as I’ve seen through my lifetime.

 

I was a kid in the Eighties (living in KY) and didn’t have a lot. There was only one TV in the entire house and maybe one radio. I would play cassette tapes off my dual-deck tape player, and occasion dub one (wasn’t that what the function was for?) And it seems innocuous when you’re under 10: someone lets you borrow their tape; you copy it, and give it back. It didn’t have the exact quality, but it did have the songs you wanted.

 

As I got older, getting a “copy” of something basically meant that someone recorded a movie off HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax and gave it to you (which is –very technically- legal due to the 1983 Supreme Court ruling). While the “copy” I would receive was substandard (2nd only to the quality of scrambled porn), I did know of others who went to great lengths to get a VHS copy of a movie without buying it, due to the “scrambling” code imprinted on the tapes (no, I won’t give out names even if I could remember them). Sadly, I had a middle school teacher who had a video camera and “taped” a movie he had rented off his TV screen so he would have a copy to show to his history classes without always having to rent it.

 

Fast forward to a little after the year 2000. I’m sitting in a cafeteria on the college campus. Someone with a new computer and DVD burner is telling me that they’ve just downloaded a movie and burned it on disk. Being a film major I’m somewhat irked because I know that several people go into the making of a movie and this digital “thievery” is going to get worse before it gets better.

 

So, why do people decide to make copies? Here are my thoughts:

 

         Offers from friends: someone says, “Have you seen…?” You reply, “No,” and they follow up with “Wanna copy?” And this “saves” you money because you really didn’t feel like plopping down $5 at the blockbuster for “The Marine” (or whatever film you got a copy of but didn’t like).

         They want the movie, but can’t afford it. Yeah, it happens.

         Lack of “catalog” titles at the local video store. Most video stores keep current titles in their stock, and a few others that generate money. When you’re living in Bum Egypt, Nebraska it might be a tad difficult to rent Hitchcock’s “The Trouble With Harry.” I may be wrong, but you catch my drift.

         Space. A single disc gets tossed around and scratched; rendered useless before being tossed away. If you have the case and the ACTUAL DVD, you may have to be responsible and the chances you’ll destroy it are lessened (or maybe not).

         Don’t care/ won’t get caught. This applies to a lot of people because they’ll only do it a few times, and mostly for their close friends. The idea the guys dressed in dark suits with sunglasses knocking on your door while the SWAT team busts through the window just because you copied “Crank,” does tend to feel ridiculous. But…

         Fileshare programs. I don’t know the current crop on the block but I do know a little about this. The problem that stems from this, aside from the FBI and SWAT, is that the quality SUCKS. The halcyon days of VHS tapes made from the inside of theatres had better quality than some stuff I’ve seen. There are exceptions to this, but not many.

         The movie sucks, and no one should pay to watch it. See “Offers from friends.”

         Stickin’ it to the Man. The movie was made/distributed by Warner Bros. You burned it on an HP disc on your HP computer. It’s all in the ‘family,’ right? (HP is tied-in with AOL, which is owned by Time Warner, which is owned by the WB, which…)

         To get the film noticed. Probably the most valiant or honorable of reasons. With the fact that roughly 300+ American movies get distribution a year, and the fact that sometimes people just don’t have time, there are films that “slip through the cracks;” movies that you would probably liked had they came to the theater in your town, or the video store, or had you even heard about them. This can happen to a few independent films, and a large amount of foreign films waiting for distribution. Sad to say, this truism steady perpetuates itself.

 

I’ll close in saying this: yes, intellectual theft is wrong (even if the product isn’t exactly intellectual to begin with). Should you do it for any of the aforementioned reasons, whatever the case may be, please take it upon yourself to send some money the direction of the filmmakers, especially the independents.

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11
Apr
08

The Best of Hest: 10 Iconic Charlton Heston Films

As some may know, actor Charlton Heston passed away on April 5, 2008 at the age of 84. With regards to his craft, I have sifted through his 126 films and now present to you the Top 10 Charlton Heston films in order of appearance.

 

 

The Ten Commandments (1956)

 

Straight out of the Old Testament, Heston portrays the life of Moses. His nemesis: Ramses, played by Yul Brynner who inhibits the classic cinematic antagonist. Throw in Edward G. Robinson as Dathan and Vincent Price for good measure. Biblical filmmaking has never gotten better than this.

 

 

 

Touch of Evil (1958)

 

If you’re a film noir person like me, this is on your must-see list (right after “The Maltese Falcon” and “Sunset Boulevard”). Heston plays Ramon Miguel ‘Mike’ Vargas (yes, a Mexican) who is recently married to Janet Leigh and is investigating murder in a Mexican border town. His nemesis: Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), the epitome of police corruption. I can’t recommend this film enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Ben Hur (1959)

 

Taking a few cues from the Ten Commandments, this time Charlton is Judah Ben Hur, a rich Jewish prince put into slavery by his Roman friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd). What follows are the trials and tribulations of regaining freedom and vengeance. Oh yeah, and some impressive chariot racing.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

El Cid (1961)

 

Heston is the titular character El Cid /Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, the Spanish hero who drove the Moors from Spain. Also stars Sophia Loren. How can you go wrong?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Dundee (1965)

 

Cinema has had its fair share of megalomaniacs, from Charles Foster Kane to Daniel Plainview. One of the most overlooked of them is Major Amos Charles Dundee (Heston). It’s the post-Civil War years and a band of Apaches raid Army bases in Texas. Dundee decides to go after them, inducting a group of Confederates (headed by Richard Harris) and ignoring protocol by going into Mexico. Heston is great in a role that’s equivocal to Captain Ahab going after Moby Dick. Other reasons to watch the film include the supporting cast of Richard Harris, James Coburn, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Brock Peters, and Slim Pickens. Of note, this was the first major film from director Sam Peckinpah.

 

 

 

 

Planet of the Apes (1968)

 

The Hest is George Taylor, one of three astronauts that crash-land on a planet where simians rule and humans are the hunted. If you’ve never watched the original, make yourself do so. While current pop culture has given away the ending and every line has become part of American vernacular, there is something about sitting alone and watching this on your own. While Heston came back for a few minutes for the sequel, he did that for the paycheck. This is THE version of the film, unless someone makes a version closer to the book (where the apes had technology, like helicopters).

 

 

 

 

The Omega Man (1971)

 

In the second incarnation of Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend” story, Heston takes the role Vincent Price played previous, except this time he’s up against the mutations caused by biological warfare whom have came together and called themselves the ‘Family,’ headed-up by Paul Koslo. Most notable about this movie (aside from the amount of times it’s been referenced on the ‘Simpsons’ or what the new ‘I Am Legend’ ripped from it) is the scene where Heston is driving down the streets of abandoned L.A. He stops, grabs his machine gun, and starts firing at a mutant. Classic.

 

 

 

 

 Soylent Green (1973)

 

The year is 2022 and the Earth is overcrowded, which doesn’t bode well for the already overcrowded New York City and Detective Robert Thorn. When a murder is linked to the obsessive food Soylent Green, Thorn investigates and finds out the deadly secret behind the new food. Also stars Brock Peters and Edward G. Robinson. Go ahead. Tell them, tell them all.

 

 

 

 

 Airport 1975 (1974)

 

I’m guessing they were going for a later date of release… Besides that Heston is Alan Murdock, a man who takes control of a 747 after a small plane collides with it, rendering the flight without a pilot. Somehow, they must land that plane! Also stars Gloria Swanson, Karen Black, Linda Blair, and Dana Andrews (no relation to me).

 

 

 

 

Earthquake (1974)

 

It’s still 1974 and Heston takes a shot at another disaster film: “Earthquake.” In it he plays construction engineer Stuart Graff, estranged from his wife Remy (Ava Gardner) and is having an affair with the widow of a co-worker (Genevieve Bujold). One of the eponymous disaster flicks of the Seventies, it also stars Richard Roundtree, Victoria Principal, and Walter Matthau.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable mentions:

 

While Heston’s ‘leading man’ status waned around the late Seventies/ early Eighties, he became a supporting actor in the Nineties. His bit parts included:

 

Almost an Angel (1990)

 

He played God to Paul Hogan, but went uncredited.

 

 

Wayne’s World 2 (1993)

 

When Wayne (Mike Myers) is doing his homage to ‘The Graduate,’ he replaces Al Hansen (‘Bad Actor’) for Charlton Heston (‘Good Actor’).

 

 

True Lies (1994)

 

Heston is Spence Trilby, who overlooks the organization Ah-nuld works for. Oh yeah, and he wears an eye patch.

 

 

In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

 

I put this one in here not so much because Heston was in it, but it’s a fave movie of mine. Heston is the boss of a publishing company who’s looking for their star author, Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow). If you a fan of horror/ H.P. Lovecraft, check into it.

 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your own Hest-Fest.