Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Get busy learning or get busy being bored

I'm back. I went to Big Bear for the weekend. It was weird seeing stars and sleeping without the sound of traffic rushing by. But now I'm back to the constant hum of car horns and helicopters. Home.

After about three different nightmare discussions with various Indian Dell employees who all told me there was no way they could ship me a $12 part unless I gave them a skin graft and my social security number and the proposed name of my first child, I finally got one guy who was like, "Oh yeah no problem."

Dell, you are a stupid, stupid company.

Anyway so now I'm finally getting my cable, which is great because I've been using my old Acer laptop and every day something new stops working. Today my back buttons have stopped functioning in Firefox and there are no bookmarks.

As a result I haven't been able to write at all for the past few days. That hasn't been a major issue since I've been in the wilderness for four days, but now that I'm home and don't have to work for eight weeks I'd really like to finish my script. I keep staring at my Dell longingly as it rests in the corner all alone, dreaming of the AC current it needs to survive.

In order to not waste my time I've been studying. I'm reading Eric Lichtenfeld's Action Speaks Louder, a book about the origin and development of the modern action film. As I've been reading I've realized how many of these films I never saw, so I'm going through them one by one as I read. I'm learning all kinds of things about symbolism and technique that I would have learned in a film school class. It basically means I'm taking my own class on action for way cheaper than tuition and without having to drive anywhere.

It is my goal to see if I can go a whole week without driving anywhere and to use my bike to get around the city. Fortunately the Beefcake lives about two minutes from me, because if he was in the valley I think we'd have to break up.

Anyway, I'm going to begin my education with Dirty Harry in a moment. Yes, I've never seen Dirty Harry. Beefcake likes to make fun of the fact that if the film was made before 1980 I probably haven't seen it, so I'm attempting to remedy that situation one old movie at a time.

I've seen Taxi Driver and The French Connection and I've already made a big deal about how much I love Three Days of the Condor, but what else should I see? I can't possibly go through all the films listed in the book in the next few weeks but I can see a few. What would you pick for a favorite old action flick?


  1. awww that kitten is so cute!

    as for action films: one I can think of right now is "Dog Day Afternoon," but from the sound of your blog, it seems you are asking for a list of classic 70s action films? if so, then I guess you should check out movies with Steve McQueen. right now I can't think of anything else.

    I'm also struggling with one of my screenplays and I hate sitting there staring at the computer screen. so I just started reading a book about serial killers a while ago. it's refreshing and interesting.

  2. A lot of the old action movies are pretty straight forward. There are some, though, that have great multi-dimensional characters.

    I'd suggest "Dog Day Afternoon", as well. Also, "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia".

  3. Wages of Fear (remade as Sorcerers), The Seven Samurai, The Wild Bunch, Enter the Dragon, Bullitt (most any Steve McQueen movie), Assault on Precinct 13. Going way back, The Great Train Robbery and The General.

  4. Anything by Sam Fuller.

    Vigilante, Death Wish, Death Sentence, The Killer Elite...

    Anything by Sam Peckinpah...

    Get Carter (with Michael Caine), Thief, The Driver, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Mechanic...

  5. Anonymous3:43 PM

    "Charley Varrick" with Walter Matthau and Joe Don Baker.

    Also wanted to add how I came across your blog not too long ago and am now addicted. Keep up the excellent work.

  6. Thanks!

    Let's see, of those listed I have seen The Wild Bunch, Death Wish and half of Death Sentence.

    Only half because my suspension of disbelief had had enough and could take no more.

    Looks like I have a lot of movies to watch.

  7. Some good ones mentioned already (The Driver is very cool, Get Carter is amazing), but I would also add a personal favorite that I've written about before, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. French Connection II is pretty good and so is Frankenheimer's Black Sunday (I guess I'm sticking to the 70s here). For Charles Bronson, Telefon and Mr. Majestyk are worth checking out. For non-stop car chase madness, there's Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. The Seven Ups with Roy Scheider isn't one of the greatest, but it does have one of the single best car chases ever.

    Of course there are others and I'm sure I'll think of them as soon as I post this.

  8. I was waiting for you to weigh in, Peel. Hell I should have just emailed you directly. I knew you'd have a list for me.

    My queue is getting too big.

  9. Any time Emily, always happy to help.

    And be sure to put The Great Escape with Steve McQueen on your queue!

  10. Fear not. I have seen The Great Escape on AMC.

  11. The definition of an action film seems pretty loose here, so I'll follow suit with: North by Northwest, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and (less loose) Bullitt.

    I'd definitely second The Great Escape. And, a little more on the obvious sides, my favs would be Leon, Hard Boiled, and Sneakers (though that's playing it a bit loose as well).

    Also, I give a big thumbs up on a do-it-yourself film school.

  12. Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 was the first thing that sprang to my mind. I'd also suggest The Dirty Dozen, The Magnificent Seven, From Russia with Love and Scaramouche.

  13. SHANE
    ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (the original)

    and especially

    THE NAKED PREY (Mel's Apocolypto owes a lot of this movie, it's all action, it's a classic)


    You've seen SPARTACUS, I presume?

  14. No. I hang my head in shame as I confess I have never seen Sparticus.

    However, I do know who he is.

  15. Well, get busy, it's a treat!

  16. Wild. I mentioned PELHAM 123 to someone else just two hours ago. Great and underappreciated film.

    SEVEN UPS is good for that one chase.

    THE FRENCH CONNECTION has aged poorly, IMO, but is still fun to watch.

    I'm still partial to Leone's stuff -- he makes violence so damned cool to watch.

    GREAT ESCAPE on AMC? My 10-year old son would take you to task-- "cropped to FULL-screen? Edited for time and content? WHAT'S THE POINT?"

    And, stealing some of my comments from from a recent discussion on Martell's blog: you'll go a long long way before you find another movie that is as relentlessly hard charging as NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

    And don't forget MAD MAX. Oooowaaah.


  17. Wow, Brett, your son sounds pretentious already.

    I'm not paying for an old movie in widescreen if I can see it for free on AMC.

    I've seen most Hitchcock films and Mad Max a couple of times.

    I'll check out that 123 movie too. Several people off site have also recommended it.

  18. I think I may have met that Eric dude and discussed his book with him. Friend of a friend of mine. Is it good?

  19. It is good. I'm almost finished and I've learned a great deal. Like how to appreciate the nuanced performance in Missing in Action.


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