Posts Tagged ‘top five


For Those About to Film: Five Docs on Filmmaking

Where would the world be without the crazed “filmmaking” instinct? Grabbing a camera and some friends you know, making them do things they would normally not do, then sit back and watch it all unfold. Priceless.


Then again there is bad weather, actor and actress personalities, lack of funding, events you can’t control, script problems… you name it.


Below are the Officially Endorsed Top Five Documentaries on Filmmaking. Watch and enjoy, and maybe learn.


5. “Mule Skinner Blues” – I initially caught this one on Cable, and I put it on my Netflix queue. This is truly the little indie movie that could, or rather, the little group of indie people that tried to. Jacksonville, FL is not your typical filmmaking hotbed but several of the locals could cite to you when and where the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” was shot. A group of them living in/around a trailer park get together and make a film called “Turn About Is Fair Play,” about an armless guitar player who turns into a gorilla swamp creature from “pre-history” in order to exact revenge. Note: you can watch the film on the DVD.


4. “American Movie” – For those struggling to make the Greatest Horror Movie Ever Made, this is your doc. Struggling Wisconsin filmmaker Mark Borchardt has a dream: filming his horror opus “Coven” (pronounced Cove-in). Through documentary footage we see that Mark has made several small films, but this is his baby. He wants to be the next George Romero, and will do it at all costs (including cashing-in his life savings). For those who have dared to dream, Mark Borchardt joins the cause. Note: you can watch the film on the DVD.


3. “Full Tilt Boogie” – Robert Rodriguez (“Desperado,” “Spy Kids”) gave Sarah Kelly the opportunity to capture the ups, and downs, of independent filmmaking on his collaboration with Quentin Tarantino called “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Watching this film gives you a new respect on what Rodriguez/Tarantino had to do to get where they are. Favorite part: when production assistants built the bar (“The Titty Twister”) in Barstow, CA before Rodriguez has secured the location from the town.


2. “Lost in La Mancha” – Terry Gilliam invited filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe to film the “making-of” “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” since they had done a “making-of” for his previous film, “Twelve Monkeys.” Murphy’s Law is in full effect and what follows is equipment being washed away, jets flying over during a pivotal shot, nearly all of the people funding the film pulling out, etc. On a plus note, there was good footage from Johnny Depp. Speaking of which, he is trying to get the project off the ground again.


1. “Hearts of Darkness” – The “behind-the-scenes” of behind-the-scenes movies. Filmmakers Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper chronicled the 3-year making of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” From dug use to mistresses to budget and script problems, this is the ultimate documentary of a movie that just barely made it to the screen. I’ll shut up now; the movie speaks for itself.


Top Five Cinematically Portrayed Presidents

Last week I posted an article on the Top Five Actors to play the character of the President of the United States in movies. But what about the REAL Presidents? How many of them have been featured in movies? Who is the most popular? Factoring ONLY movies or films (no TV shows, TV movies, or videos) here are the



#5 Theodore Roosevelt – What can you say about a President that won the Nobel Peace Prize, was the first to ride in an airplane designed by the Wright Brothers, had a photographic memory, inspired the Maxwell House slogan and the “teddy bear,” and was the youngest voted in office? While he may be fifth highest in film popularity, he’s probably #1 in Toughest Presidents Who Ever Lived. This guy took a bullet to the chest before a campaign speech, and still gave his speech! Unfortunately his boss McKinley wasn’t as impervious to conventional weaponry and “Ted” was ushered into the head position. Boxing, hunting, writing, starting the National Forestry Service, buinding the Panama Canal… Theodore Roosevelt deserves his own movie, but for now the 26th President comes in with 27 appearances in the world of film.


#4 Thomas Jefferson – Pea-loving President Thomas Jefferson (the guy cultivated 15 types of English Pea). Jefferson’s influence is seen all across America; virtually every state has a city or town named Jefferson, as well as a Jefferson County. Aside from that, he was known for his 6,000 books becoming the basis of the Library of Congress, keeping bears from the Lewis and Clark expeditions caged on the White House lawn, playing the violin, and owning 200 slaves. He also oversaw the Louisiana Purchase, was a member of Congress, governor of Virginia, Minister to France, and was Vice President under John Adams. The “Big Cheese” is a cut above Roosevelt coming in with 30 appearances in cinema land.


#3 Ulysses S. Grant – Named for his grandfather Hiram and the Greek hero Ulysses, he changed his name before going to West Point because, let’s face it, H.U.G. ain’t manly. Grant was more renown for his Civil War record which included the taking of Forts Henry and Donelson, the Vicksburg campaign, and accepting the surrender of Robert E. Lee at the Appomatox Court House. While he was probably one of the greatest military strategists and leaders, his presidency was lackluster. Of note, he did show support for African Americans. Losing a “third term” election try he went into retirement nearly bankrupt due to bad investments and throat cancer, which he tried to “cure” using cocaine. Just before dying he published his “Memoirs,” which brought in $500,000 for his family. General-come-President Grant storms up the list past Jefferson with 35 appearances in movies.


#2 George Washington – The first person to be inaugurated as President of the United States (there had been a few others running the country until the position was created) we all grew up hearing the stories of how he chopped down a cherry tree, he had false teeth, etc. While some of this stuff is debatable myth, here is some more trivia: he loved fishing and fox hunting, always carried a portable sundial, once issued an order forbidding swearing in the U.S. Army, was the first Masonic President, grew hemp on his farm, freed all his slaves, and wore size 13 boots. America was just beginning when he was in office so instead of living in D.C., he mainly hung out between Mount Vernon and Philly. He and Thomas Jefferson were the only two people to sign the Declaration of Independence and go on to become president. Number One takes a Number Two in overall cinematic popularity, appearing in motion pictures 51 times (not counting dollar bills). 


Which leads us to the most known of all…


#1 Abraham Lincoln – Honest Abe. The first to be born outside the original 13 colonies (Kentucky!) at an early age his family moved to Illinois. From that point he grew up and took several jobs, including working as a deck hand on a flatboat. His real interest was in politics, becoming a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, teaching himself the bar exam, becoming a lawyer, and finally getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he spoke out against President Polk and the Mexican-American War, saying, “God of Heaven has forgotten to defend the weak and innocent, and permitted the strong band of murderers and demons from hell to kill men, women, and children, and lay waste and pillage the land of the just.” Fearing political backlash, he stepped away from reelection and focused on being a lawyer. The political itch came back in 1854 and he then took to campaigning against slavery (Lincoln-Douglas debates) and running as an underdog, campaigned for the Presidency. The rest is history… Other interesting trivia: he suffered from depression/melancholia, loved wrestling, had a cat named “Bob,” and has a patent for lifting boats over shoals. If you haven’t noticed his likeness is on the penny, the $5 bill, a stamp, and Mount Rushmore. And if you’re not Lincoln’d out yet he’s number one with a bullet: 106 appearances in movies.


And for those who are curious as to how other Presidents have done…


Franklin D. Roosevelt: 21 times.

John F. Kennedy: 21 times

Richard M. Nixon: 18 times

Bill Clinton: 9 times

George W. Bush (current): 14 times

Other trivia note: John Tyler, James Buchanan, and Warren G. Harding have NEVER been in a movie. 














Let There Be Rock: Top 5 Concert Films

“The Last Waltz” 1978  – The Band, known for hits such as “Up On Cripple Creek,” and, “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down,” gives their farewell concert, and invite Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Van Morrison, and others along for the denouement. If that wasn’t enough, it was directed by Martin Scorsese.





“Gimme Shelter” (1970) – Good idea: throw a free concert in Altamont, CA. Bad idea: hire the Hell’s Angels as security. Worse idea: pay them in free beer. And, that’s exactly what happened when the Rolling Stones put on this concert in 1969. While Ike and Tina Turner opened for them (as well as B.B. King, who was not filmed), other bands that took the stage included Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Santana, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The Grateful Dead opted out. During the Stones part of the concert Meredith Hunter was stabbed, which lead to extreme controversy and the fact that the Stones would not play “Sympathy for the Devil” in concert for another 6 years.


“The Song Remains the Same” (1976) – Filmed at Madison Square Gardens and mixed with documentary footage and “dream sequences,” this was, and is, THE Led Zeppelin Fan’s movie. Shot in 1973 but not released until ’76, this was the band at their height (before Plant’s Jeep crash and other factors). The movie has been remixed and remastered, including footage previously not shown.




“Festival Express” (2003) – What happens when you get The Grateful Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band, Sha Na Na, Marshmakhan, Ian and Sylvia and the Great Speckled Bird, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Buddy Guy Blues Band, and throw them all onto a train going from Toronto to Calgary, which makes stops for alcohol and to play an occasional concert? Yeah buddy. Filmed in 1970, it took until 2003 to clear most of the music rights for the film (Traffic and Ten Years After played, but musical clearance could not be obtained). It’s a fun-filled ride. Note: the DVD has the option to play all the musical sequences (there are performances not shown in the Main Movie).


“Let There Be Rock” (1980) – The first of AC/DC’s concert films would unknowingly be the last for then lead singer Bon Scott. Filmed in Paris, France in 1979, the band takes center stage and plays tracks from its first few albums. While they have achieved their place in the Halls of Rock with singer Brian Johnson, this concert is them at their best (#2: Live at Donnington). Note: the only film powered by AC/DC.