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Monthly Features & Artists Archives

Monthly Features Archive


Warren Oates

Best known for his performances in the films of Sam Peckinpah, Warren Oates carved out a memorable career playing a variety of offbeat roles with an astonishing range. Relegated to supporting roles for the most part, he landed starring roles in a number of 1970s films such as "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" and "Two Lane Blacktop" that have assured him of something more than cult status. Today, the actor is remembered for his wide range of colorful outsider characters. His uncommon, alternately crude and loveable persona is admired by directors such as Quentin Tarrantino and Richard Linklater.

Warren Mercer Oates was born in rural Kentucky in 1928, where his father owned a general store. He began his acting career in the Mid-1950s after a stint in the Marines. For six years he appeared in a variety of television shows including "Playhouse 90," "Have Gun Will Travel" and "Wagon Train." While working on the television on show "The Rifleman" he met director Sam Peckinpah who was also serving his apprenticeship. With the popularity of the western feature beginning to fade, Peckinpah would direct one of the last great westerns of the classic era, "Ride the High Country" in 1962, giving Oates a defining role as one of the scurvy Hammond brothers. Oates would go on to appear in three more of his films including "The Wild Bunch" and "Major Dundee".

In addition to his acting for Peckinpah, Oates worked with many other top directors of the era, including Joseph L. Mankiewicz in "There Was a Crooked Man," Terence Mallick in "Badlands" and Norman Jewison in "In the Heat of the Night", memorably playing a racist police officer. He then went on to a brief career as a lTwo Lane Black Top - Warren Oatseading man in film such as "Dillinger," "Race With the Devil" and "Cockfighter." "Two Lane Blacktop," a film by frequent collaborator Monte Hellman, was a box office disappointment at the time, but has since become a cult favorite in a large part due to Oates performance as an aging hot rodder. His final years found him working in "A" budget films with directors like Stephen Spielberg ("1941") and Ivan Reitman ("Stripes").

Oates died of a heart attack in 1982; his final movies released posthumously. Today, the actor is remembered for his wide range of colorful outsider characters.





James Cagney

James Cagney Kiss Tomorrow GoddbyeOf all his movies, perhaps surprisingly, Cagney’s favorite was Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). The urban-centric, rough-necked image portrayed in his gangster movies was in fact, unlike him. “Though I soon became typecast in Hollywood as a gangster and hoodlum, I was originally a dancer, an Irish hoofer, trained in vaudeville tap dance. I always leapt at the opportunity to dance in films later on.” He spent as much time as possible on his farm, away from the bright lights of Hollywood; someone more comfortable with a shovel in hand than a pistol. This, if anything, makes his convincing hoodlum manner all the more impressive.

Cagney - YAnkee DoodleSomewhat more bizarrely, he was only forced into doing the patriotic sing-a-long because of accusations made claiming he was a communist. The controversy caused him to do everything in his power to make a film that would convince people once and for all where his heart lay. This for Cagney was pure luck. He quickly shook the shackles of his stellar performance in The Public Enemy. After years of sharp shooting and hanging out with the filthy deadbeats of society, Cagney was in his element: singing and dancing.

He was always a pleasure to watch, an actor who used his most powerful tool, his eyes, to Cagneygreat effect. Not since Peter Lorre had an audience been so mesmerized. He had eyes that you would quickly glance away from on the street, if you ever had the misfortune of meeting them. However, as opposed to Lorre, the audience was not filled with fear or suspense; rather, they were excited. You knew whoever was in the lock of those eyes was surely doomed, and you waited eagerly for that boom-boom-bang. I always felt that Cagney was the kind of guy you would end up thanking for slapping you in the face, probably out of respect. He set the tone for Napoleonic angry men, who would resurface at various intervals in the timeline of cinema; famous examples being Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

Locations in Hollywood Cinema: The Diner

The KillersThe diner is a symbol of America. Its twenty-four hour nature and endless menu symbolize the countries’ commitment to give people as much freedom as possible to do as much of what they please. It is not surprising then that cinema has chosen the diner as a location that draws those who desire to do exactly what they want, without concern for others. Serial killers, punks, hoodlums and drunks, are but a few of the patrons in any movie diner; sitting next to students, teachers, miners and preachers. They choose this explicitly public place, this icon of Americana, to leap from the confines of normal social behavior. As the gathering place for all of suburban America, the diner has been chosen repeatedly in American cinema to reveal the countries’ more sinister side.


The opening scene from 1946’s The Killers takes place in a run-of-the-mill New Jersey diner. Two hired guns enter the diner, disrespect the owner, tie and gag the cook and only other customer, then wait guns at the ready, for a regular patron to walk through the front door. As the killers sit patiently the nonchalant regularity and calmness of their actions seems to suggest that this occurrence could happen on any given night at this diner, and not just this Brentwood, NJ diner but any one of them across the country. Because of their mundane feel Dinerand transferable itinerancy it is easy to see the diner as a location of national symbolism. Their furniture is similar, their waitresses dress alike, and they all have photos of Buddy Holly on the wall. The collective dinginess of all these establishments creates shadows for the dregs of society to operate in; they are the playgrounds of society before the bars open, and after the barman’s gone home.


Perhaps the high points of the diner’s role in cinema comes when those social dregs step out the shadows and disturbAmrican Graffitti (sometimes gravely) the rest of the good, honest, paying customers. Oliver Stone chose the diner as the location for Mickey and Mallory’s murderous coming-out party location in 1994’s Natural Born Killers. As truckers, those with mischief or murder on the mind, those who have nowhere else to go, or those who simply need a coffee or some bacon, gather and mingle many violent climaxes have been reached in American cinema history. The Diner, American Graffiti, and Pulp Fiction all used the diner as a location, and in seldom few films was it a pleasant one. They are usually motionless places of regularity, with Hopper-like nighthawks frequenting them throughout the night. Yet, every so often they are the witness to explosive levels of rage and violence, after all what better place to announce your criminal intent to the town than in the modern day version of the Wild West salon: The Diner.

Ennio Morricone Musico!

Ennio Morricone Musico!Ennio Morricone was born in Roma in 1928, and can, some 80 years later, be considered a man who changed not just his niche of the film industry (music), but also the production of movies in general. His scores, perhaps more so than any other composer, show us how much music can add to movies. His influence spreads far and wide, from Eastwood to Metallica, who are said to start their shows with an instrumental of Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo’s ‘The Ecstasy Of Gold’. Intensity, humor, suspense and drama; all aspects which amplify when Morricone assembled the music. He arranged the music behind many of the Spaghetti Westerns, especially those of school friend Sergio Leone, yet also took time out to emphasize his wOnce Upon A Time In The Westork in other genres: “I'm not linked to one genre or another. I like to change, so there's no risk of getting bored.”

Within his field he is greatly appreciated, as needs require. In his long career, he has received many awards: the Golden Lion and the Honorary Oscar, among which 8 Nastri D’argento, 5 Baftas, 5 Oscar Nominations, 7 David Di Donatello, 3 Golden Globes, 1 Grammy Award and 1 European Film Award. In the 2009 the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, has signed a decree giving him the rank of Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honor. If we fail to recognize Morricone’s genius, we may fail to see how much a musical score can add to a film. Even silent films, many of which are shown today with musical accompaniment, can benefit from music.Fistful of Dollars - German

Of all the genres, it is horror that benefits most from music. The sounds can be used not only to build suspense as the inevitability of the killing becomes apparent, but also to add to the intensity of the climatic killing. Dario Argento’s Suspiria is filled for the first half hour with a plethora of peculiar sounds, all of which add to the nervous feeling the viewer has, when they know that someone will surely die. Perhaps then it is a shame that Morricone was not so involved in horror movies. Regardless, his legacy as a musician and film contributor will life on eternally, and hopefully be added to in the coming years.



Rear WindowJimmy Stewart is one of America’s best-loved and finest actors. His career spanned nearly 60 years, and included a wide variety of roles. He can be regarded as a Western star, a leading man in thrillers, or as the quintessential American family man. His amiability on screen was equaled off screen where he was an impressively decorated veteran, and pioneer for black and white films. The Naked Spur


He held the highest active military rank of any actor in history. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps and rose to the rank of colonel. This bravery as a soldier was not matched by some of his more “macho” co-stars, in particular John Wayne, who has a reputation as a recruitment dodger.

One image that is easy to picture is of Stewart and best friend Henry Fonda settling down to their favorite activity of silently painting model airplanes together.

In this day and age of actors who more frequently makes us roll our eyes than inspire us; Stewart would be a simple and welcome change. He was liked in many sectors of society, for example Former President Harry S. Truman, who was once quoted asCome Live With Me saying that if he had a son, he would want them to be just like “just like Jimmy Stewart;” and while always gracious with his fans, he was always very protective of his privacy. A notable example of this occurred when a nervy family of tourists set up a picnic on his front lawn. Stewart came out of his house and, without uttering a word, turned on the sprinklers. It is nice that an actor of such talent didn’t have the pretensions to match: “I'm the inarticulate man who tries. I don't really have all the answers, but for some reason, somehow, I make it.”

Film taglines

Film taglines are still used today, but only a few studios Easy Riderappreciate their importance in film history, and appreciate how much we need and love them. It takes a good tagline to hearken back to a film, or to "reinforce that one iconic image. " If creative, they can be powerful tools of advertisement. This Monthly Feature recalls some of my personal favorites, and I hope that by doing so; I can speak to the continued importance of this niche of film advertising.

Some are great because of their simplicity, and ability to sum up a film in one line:

1. "Crushed lips don't talk." ('I Confess')
2. "Check in. Relax. Take a shower." ('Psycho')
3. "The film that will satisfy every over-sexagesimal adult." ('Orgy of the Dead')…what, even moi?
4. "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven." ('A Clockwork Orange')
5. "Pathetic earthlings, who can save you now?" ('Flash Gordon')…or Jack Bauer.
6. "They're tobacco chewin', gut chompin', cannibal kinfolk from hell." ('Redneck Zombies')…bet you'll rush out a see this film!

Yet other films choose to be suggestive instead, trying to entice potential viewers with peculiar statements, which generate more questions than answers:Clockwork Orange

7. "From the moment they met, it was murder." ('Double Indemnity')
"A man went looking for America and couldn't find it anywhere." ('Easy Rider')
"This was the weekend they didn't play golf." ('Deliverance')…this film must be the best advertisement for golf ever.
10. "In space no-one can hear you scream." ('Alien')…classic!
11. "Does for Rock and Roll what 'The Sound of Music' did for hills." ('This is Spinal Tap!")



And now, because I'm very self-important, my all time favorite:
"Hombre means man. Paul Newman is Hombre." ('Hombre')

Voyeurism: The Next Level Of Creepiness

Peeping TomIn 1960, Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell were two of Britain’s most prominent filmmakers. Their projects that year, although similar in theme and content, received wildly opposing reactions from moviegoers. ‘Peeping Tom’ sent Powell’s career into a tailspin, rendering his earlier classics, ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948), ‘Black Narcissus’ (1947), and ‘The Thief of Baghdad’ (1940), as nothing more than distant memories. ‘Psycho’, on the other hand, was a commercial success, and Hitchcock went on to create even more success stories.

PhyscoNot many like to be watched, but most like to watch. Voyeurism alone is an unnerving phenomenon, but when a filmmaker explores it, the creepiness reaches new levels. Filmmakers’ dealing with voyeurism is disturbing enough, given that they spend half their lives behind cameras, watching. But when Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell explored it in 1960 they went one step further; by inserting themselves and their audiences into the mind of a voyeur, they forced voyeurism as an issue.

Hitchcock’s fascination with this phenomenon can be seen in earlier films such as ‘Rear Window’, but in ‘Psycho’ he chose to use a 50 mm lens on his 35 mm camera, which I am told, gives a closer representation of human vision; thus enabling his viewers to take part in the voyeuristic exploits of Norman. We are unnerved upon meeting Anthony Perkins’ character because of his eerie smile and peculiar hobby of taxidermy (stuffing birds), but we only find out about his sinister motives when he peers through a hole in the wall at his motel guests. In other words, we become enthralled by, and afraid of Norman Bates, only when we learn he is a voyeur. Psycho

Powell, far more disturbingly, used his family in ‘Peeping Tom’s’ bizarre home-movies: his wife plays ‘the successor’ to Mark’s mother, and his real-life son plays the young Mark. In fact, Powell himself plays the character of Mark’s Father, the most voyeuristic and disturbing of all the film’s players, and every camera that the film’s lead uses is marked with the name ‘Michael Powell’, linking the director to both members of the film’s voyeuristic Father and Son duo. Although both directors are interested in voyeurism, it is perhaps this heightened level of personal inclusion by Powell that makes ‘Peeping Tom’ that much more unsettling. It could even be suggested that it was this that prompted the film’s initial commercial failure and controversy. Regardless, both films offer an interesting insight into voyeurism, and do so not by stepping back and observing it as a psychological phenomenon, but rather by engrossing the film in it, and exploring their own voyeuristic fantasies, for us to observe.

Saint joanSaul Bass

The style imprint of Saul Bass can still be seen today in modern commercial advertising and graphic design alike. The Art Director’s Club notes how “it's virtually impossible for any North American to pass through a day without encountering a Bass design, artifact or image.” Granted, his title sequences are rightly what he is renowned for, but his contribution to movie poster has not gone unnoticed, and he can easily claim to have changed the art of film advertising and posters forever.

The MAn with the Golden ArmThe abstract, crooked hand, which the Half Sheet for “The Man With The Golden Arm” centers around, is not only striking, but also somewhat revolutionary. For many years leading up to it, it was the stars that were captured in the poster, and it is Bass whom we are indebted to for this change. Anatomy of a Murder

Rather than a poster glorifying the star, Frank Sinatra, we have a work of graphic art. His influence has been felt ever since in the world of movie posters, inspiring an alternative approach to film marketing, based more on aesthetics than reputation.

Perhaps his best design work comes in the US-One Sheet for ‘Anatomy of a Murder’, where his abstraction extends from the arm to the whole body, giving an image that hearkens, in every beholder, thoughts of criminal acts, crime cinema, and, perhaps most importantly, graphic design: moving movie posters one step closer to that much sought-after title of ‘art’.


Gadget-Man Stan: The Use of Machines in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey

Dr. StrangeloveWhile watching these two Kubrick classics the thing that stood out for me was the long, detailed shots of machines. The emphasis put on machines in Dr. Strangelove shows how powerless man had become over what is man-made at that time in history. Or, as Dr. Strangelove puts it the machines had been designed to “rule out human meddling,” which in the end leads to our total destruction. Ironically, with all those gadgets General Ripper believes the Russians are poisoning the water, an ancient way to bring-down societies. Further, with all the gadgets available, man is still unable to benefit from them because of their own failings. Captain Mandrake struggles to use the phone to call the president because of a suspicious officer, and the destroyed radio on the Maj. Kong plane makes it impossible to recall the order to fire on the Russians.

Kubrick juxtaposes marveling in the beautiful majesty and complexity of the machines, and showing how dangerous the machines can potentially be. It seems to me that Kubrick was at that time almost having an experience of numinous: he is fascinated by the intricacy of the machines, but fears their consequences. Regardless, like a mystic he must portray this phenomenon that surrounds and confronts him and the 1960s audience. Although the conversation between the two world leaders shows how far we have come technologically,2001 in that two people from opposing sides of the worlds can speak as if face-to-face, but also shows how useless all that technological development is if the people who are using them are foolish, or drunk!

Timothy E. Scheurer sums up the relationship between man and machine in 2001 by saying: "For all the science, technology, and intellectual speculation about the future…they are still primarily concerned with the human condition and the reaffirmation of our humanity...Science fiction traditionally has also been a site where the belief in progress (especially scientific of technological progress) comes up against a distrust of the very same science and technology."

Perhaps the climax of this tense relationship comes not as the world ends in Dr., since man is still somewhat to blame there, but as 2001 ends with a computer that can reason and destroy without the meddling of man. This may well be Kubrick’s ultimate fear, as a machine is humanized in the form of HAL 2009, with the calm, collected, but moreover eerie voice of Douglas Rain. Kubrick shows us how complex the machines are, but how easy it is for us fallible human beings to suffer because of them.