Archive for the ‘Cinerama’ Category

I haven’t written a movie review, or a blog post for that matter, in ages.

So here is a short one!

It would be great to do a comparative study of Kasabian’s Empire (2006) and The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tony Richardson (1968).


Empire’s color, light and texture is so reminiscent of the 1960s cinematography and the grainy texture that can be attributed to the manner by which a film stock is developed.

Both films, the music video and the motion picture, also present a case study of the lives of generals and soldiers in that era, in 1854, and of course the overall futility of war – I am thinking from an existential view point rather than a moral one.

Evil must be fought, however, sometimes those who give the orders are no less evil than the ones they are fighting.

Here is trailer for The Charge of the Light Brigade.


Guess this is my way of saying I really love Kasabian, their music and their approach to shooting music videos.

Honorable mention: Vlad The Impaler.


I apologize for not posting regularly but I’ve been going through a lot in terms of work and career changes.

I also been listening to more music part of my life as a radio Disc Jockey and news presenter at Radio Jordan’s 96.3 FM, The English Service.

My shows are on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Hope you are doing well in this crazy beautiful world that is plagued by blood thirsty idiots.

Good day all …

Mike V. Derderian

Writer & Illustrator

May 2014

Cinerama: Blazing Saddles

Posted: November 25, 2009 in Cinerama

Blazing Saddles

By Mike Derderian

“Tu es muerte señor and that rusty old star ya wearing won’t help ya gringo….” shouted Punch O-Wella, the meanest man in the Wild West. Before O-Wella could complete his sentence a speeding bullet fired from my rusty six-shooter went through his leather vest faster than a coyote running after a hen.

“No, es imposible…perro!” gasped O-Wella, before collapsing like a rock sinking to a bottom of a lake on a hot July summer. They call me “The Blazing Saddle Pistolero” and there is a reason why folks call me that. I was trained by the best in the West. Wylie Kal always told me to stick to my guns even though I actually had just one. But it was more than enough.

You see my six-shooter has a mind of its own and every now and then it goes off putting a blazing hole in my saddle and the horse I am riding. Do you know how many horses I had replaced? Too many and getting a license for one of those things ain’t cheap, especially if it runs on gravel-free hay.

But if you are thinking I am loco wait until you hear the story of my cousin The Waco Kid, who starred along Sheriff Bart in Mel Brooks’ 1974 saddle-splitting Blazing Saddles.

This crazy movie stars Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Alex Karras, Mel Brooks, Madeline Khan, Dom DeLuise and Harvey Korman as Hedley Lamarr, the bad guy.

Once upon a time there was a peaceful town called Rock Ridge. It was populated by the nuttiest people. One day the bad dude, Hedley Lamarr, decides to take over the town and the best way to achieve this was to divide them first and then conquer them.

With the help of Governor William J.LePetomaine, played by Brooks who also plays the role of the Yiddish-speaking Red Indian chief, Lamarr appoints Bart (Cleavon Little) as town sheriff. Bart is black and the town folk are racists; this means trouble, the kind of trouble Lamarr wants.

Upon learning that this black stranger, who just waltzed into town, is their long awaited sheriff the angry town folk decide to lynch Bart. Realizing that there is no other way to save his hide, Bart suddenly points his pistol to his head and takes himself as hostage. Using an altered voice he threatens to shoot the sheriff, meaning himself. The shear dumbness of this scene makes it so hilarious. Whoever thought of taking oneself hostage? Well, other than Mel Brooks, obviously no one.

Pulling himself away slowly from the angry mob with his pistol pointed to his mouth, Bart hides inside the sheriff’s office where he meets Jim (Wilder) aka The Waco Kid. Once the fastest gunslinger in the West, Jim is now nothing but a drunkard. The image of Dean Martin’s dude, the boozy gunslinger, in Howard Hawks’ 1959 Rio Bravo, starring John Wayne, Ricky Nelson and Angie Dickinson, immediately comes to mind.

You mustn’t forget that Brooks is the father of parody and spoofing, which is why Blazing Saddles comes out as a chaotic mesh of movies and clichéd corny lines. “We’ll head them off at the pass!” Taggart (Pickens) excitedly hollers. “Head them off at the pass? I hate that cliché,” an angry Lamarr (Korman) shouts.

Little and Wilder’s performance as the dynamic duo was convincingly cool. The latter revealed a side that contrasts with his usual twitchy and neurotic on-screen characterizations. Still they weren’t exactly John Wayne and Dean Martin and maybe this was what Brooks wanted to achieve. Can you imagine the Duke talking jive?

Madeline Khan’s performance as Lili Von Shtupp, the German saloon singer and seductress with a lisp, who is hired by Lamarr to distract Bart from his mission to save the town and its people, was stellar and ridiculously hilarious not to mention “twuly bwilliant”.

Now, if someone conducted a poll on the funniest movie villain ever, Korman’s obnoxious Hedley Lamarr would get the title. The man is a merciless, shameless, dogged, vile-tongued, child–hater, wife beating (I just guessed), bloodsucking despicable schmuck.

Blazing Saddles is a 93-minute movie packed with hilarious, at times bad, racist and prejudiced jokes that fare well with a Mel Brooks script. For those who enjoy watching campy spoofs it is lots of fun but to those who have “sophisticated” cinematic tastes it will come out as unfunny and dull as hell.

If a movie with such a graphic racial and social stereotyping tone was made in our times, rather than back in the 70s, it would have not been probably tolerated; poking fun at other races is no longer regarded funny unless it is related to the racist stereotyping of Arabs in Hollywood.

Must-see-scenes: Lamarr’s criminal roundup where Jim and Bart pose as two members of the Ku Klux Klan; Bart’s tryst with Lili Von Shtupp; any scenes that include Hedley Lamarr’s bigoted henchman, Taggart (Pickens) and the outrageous finale when the whole picture literally gets mangled up.

Cinerama: Rabbit of Seville

Posted: November 25, 2009 in Cinerama

Rabbit of Seville

BY Mike Derderian

A couple of days ago, I went to my barber’s shop to find the poor man sleeping on the couch. I tried to wake him up but he was in the deep snooze mood. I sat next to him and waited for about 15 minutes until he finally woke up.

After shaking off his drowsiness and shock, I sat in the chair, where this week’s column was inspired. As his electric razor nibbled through my shorter than short strands of hair that dropped to the floor, the screen was filtering images of death from South Lebanon. A disgusted paramedic was holding the limp and gutted body of a six-year old Lebanese child—a tattered torn doll superimposed on the ugly reality of war. All the while my short crop was being mowed and the tiny stalks of hair arrowed to the floor in silence.

My imagination drifted to a deserted park where men sat in barber chairs. A clown went around distributing razors so they can shave their manes off; not their whiskers—they still needed a semblance of make-believe dignity.

It wasn’t a dream; if it was, Bugs Bunny would have given me a hare-cut, the same way he gave one to Elmer Fudd, in the 1950 timeless classic Looney Toons short for Rabbit of Seville. This is where absurdity mixes with reality.

“How do? Welcome to my shop, let me cut your mop, let me shave your crop, daintily, daintily…hey you!  Don’t look so perplexed, why must you be vexed? Can’t you see you’re next? Yes, you’re next, you’re so next!” Bugsy sings gleefully to Elmer.

Rhymed by the 1,000-voice Mel Blanc, Bugs Bunny is at his funniest. I have seen my fair share of Loony Toons shorts and this seven-minute farce is probably one of the best that I saw.

Chuck Jones, the master animator behind some of the funniest and craziest cartoon movies, directs Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan, who voiced Elmer Fudd, in this hare-raising opera of blunders.

They say “it takes two to tango” and what Blanc and Bryan did with the material they had at hand was more than tango. Blanc, however, outshines Bryan’s voice characterization. After listening to Bugs singing his own lyrics to Gioacchino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia ( aka The Barber of Seville) you’ll know why.

With gunshots behind him, Bugs rushes out of the woods and into an opera house where The Barber of Seville is to be performed. Too preoccupied with shooting aimlessly from his never-running-out-of-ammo hunting ACME shotgun, Fudd suddenly finds himself standing on stage facing a huge crowd.

At moments like these you wish you were never; born but when an animated rabbit wearing a barber’s coat pulls you to a barber’s chair you’ll wish you just weren’t there. The problem with Fudd was that he was there and couldn’t get out. I would have simply took a bow and walked away but hey that’s just obnoxious me.

Anyone familiar with “Toon Town” history knows that the gun wielding schnook, Fudd, is the embodiment of everything but the great white hunter; so relax the bunny lives. Now, throw Bugs Bunny in a barbershop filled with scissors, electric razors, nail files and hair fertilizers and tonics and you got yourself “a little shop of horrors”. It is for the unfortunate customer.

“Ooh, wait ‘till I get that wabbit!” Fudd sings. “What would you want with a wabbit? Can’t you see that I’m much sweeter, I’m your little señoriter, you are my type of guy, let me straighten your tie and I shall dance for you,” Bugs, disguised as a Spanish lady, sings back.

Fitting The Barber of Seville opera with lyrics like the above was crazy and Rossini is probably tossin-‘n-turnin in his grave to the tunes of Bobby Lewis’ music.

The rabbit is as loony as ever: He changes into a señoriter, a snake charmer (sorry I meant an electric razor charmer) and a groom. After a crazy contest on who has the biggest weapon Bugs and Fudd, somehow, end up tying the knot to Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, after the latter dons a bride’s outfit.

True the men behind those crazy Loony Toons shorts borrowed a lot of music from well-known classic compositions, however, Merry Melody episodes had their own music that were written by talented composers and musicians like Carl W.Stalling, who worked in this one.

The Rabbit of Seville is a gunshot fast short with a witty dialogue that is delivered with brilliant and hilarious voicing on part of Blanc; composite the voice with the images and you will have lots of fun.

Cinerama: The Director’s Cut

Posted: November 25, 2009 in Cinerama

The Director’s Cut

By Mike Derderian

Things around me no longer made sense and for a couple of weeks I felt like the loneliest person in the world just like Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) before he delivers the best movie quote you will ever hear or read in your life.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die,” Batty recites to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner.

What Scott did was rehash (edit, cut and insert) Blade Runner to come up with what he thinks is a better version. One that is closer to his vision. Now I’ve seen both versions—the first on a VHS tape and the second on DVD. If you ask me, Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut was as good as the first version was when it was first released in 1982.

The Director’s Cut was released 10 years after but was it any different? Yes, Scott cut out some of Harrison Ford’s voice-overs like the ones in the beginning of the film, which I believe were quite good.

“They don’t advertise for killers in the newspaper. That was my profession…ex-cop…ex-blade runner…ex-killer,” Deckard disdainfully mutters as he sits at a Chinese Noodles and Sushi stand in the futuristic gutter-like streets of Los Angeles. Moments later he adds, “sushi, that’s what my ex-wife called me…cold fish.”

Who wouldn’t love this guy the moment he says these words! Coming from Harrison Ford I was dumbstruck as a kid by the actor, who over the years became my icon. I mean I was so into Blade Runner that I fashioned my hair—still do with what’s left of it—after Deckard’s hairdo.

Talk about crazy. However, for a cinema freak like me that was just normal believe me. I am Lucky that my favorite movie was not The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, huh! Still it is a good movie.

By removing the voice-overs what started out as a detective thriller ended up being a story about a man, who learns how to live from a dying humanoid, Batty, who is a replica with an expiry date. Batty knows that after four years he is going to expire. So driven like any other man, who is perplexed by life and it’s true meaning, he comes back from banishment trying to find his creator.

Ridley also added some scenes involving a unicorn that he took from his 1985 fantasy Legend starring a very young Tom Cruise. The galloping unicorn was inserted as part of a dream sequence that Deckard had. It supposedly alludes to Deckard’s own identity; a thing I am still trying to fathom.

Blade Runner presents a perfect argument when it comes to the issue of cloning and its moral repercussions. Can we create and are we allowed to create human-like organisms? If man succeeds in a creating a creature with a soul that would answer a lot of questions about our own existence but at the same time it would obliterate the power and drive behind such an existence.

Every time I watch Blade Runner I re-discover that I am nothing but a mortal, which is why I so much cherish it. If you remember and I don’t think you have that strong memory Blade Runner was the third column I wrote in Cinerama.

Our life is but moments we remember throughout the years that we are destined to live and watching movies has become a part of my years. I remember mother telling me to study instead of watching movies; thank God I did not listen to her because I wouldn’t have had the memories and moments that I write about here. Until next week, remember rain might wash away our sins but it also washes away our memories, may it never rain.


Cinerama: Der Unterganag

Posted: November 25, 2009 in Cinerama

Der Untergana

By Mike Derderian

Funny how the title of a movie can take a person 10 years back in time. I was young and many of my ideologies were similar to what I am stuck with at the moment. I have to admit though that I erased the turn-the-other-cheek rule out of my book. It was simply impractical.

I found myself standing in the middle of my school hall that was packed with parents and children; they were all cheering. A girl called Najwan had just finished reading a paper about Adolf Hitler. “I am proud to say that Hitler is my idol,” she said as she finished reading.

A hero! Hitler is no hero! Her agony at seiing Arabs suffering at the hands of Israelis made her mindset: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

Why the sudden surge of memories? Well, I watched Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 2004 masterpiece Der Untergang at a friend’s house and that’s when it all came back to me. The title of this 156-minute war drama that translates to Downfall chronicles the remaining days of Hitler and that of his loyal entourage at the infamous Berlin underground bunker.

It stars Corinna Harfouch, Ulrich Matthes, Christian Berkel, Juliane Köhler, Matthias Habich, André Hennicke, Thomas Kretschmann and Alexandra Maria Lara, who played the role of Traudl Junge, Hitler’s private secretary between the years 1942-1945 and around whom the movie marginally revolved.

Bruno Ganz’ portrayal of the aging Fuehrer was stellar and helped shed light on a side that was never portrayed. It was not exactly psychoanalysis or an in depth research into Hitler’s inner self, as much as it was a testimony on how he was perceived by his staff of generals, officers, soldiers, secretaries and friends.

The G in Ganz must stand for great for the man was brilliant and for a moment or two you actually feel sorry for Hitler. Now, you won’t be seeing Hitler standing in a corner soliloquizing but you will find out that he has a soft spot for children, dogs and vegetarian meals.

We see a man best remembered for his monstrosity sitting on a table with his staff, enjoying a vegetarian meal, holding a child in his arms as he listens to other children sing German folkloric songs; a man who is in love and cares for the safety of his personal staff.

Ganz’ physical transformation, which was enhanced by his skill as an actor, helped in bringing Hitler back to life. With a bent back he strides the halls of his bunker clutching his nervously twitching left arm—he has been struck with Parkinson’s disease. His black hair covers one side of his forehead, with few locks of gray here and there; however, near the end, most of it turns into a mesh of white and grey.

The stillness in Der Untergang’s is what makes it a really disturbing movie yet highly enjoyable. Violence proves more distressing when it is not incorporated directly on screen but hinted at—this is where Hirschbiegel directorial brilliance lies.

You don’t see someone’s brain coming out of his skull—save for one scene. Even Hitler and Eva’s suicide scene was shoot—no pun intended—behind closed doors. Hirschbiegel took the outlines of one of the most violent days in German history that oozed of death and bloodshed and turned it into an emotional trek.

The material of the plot was derived from two books, Der Untergang by Joachim Fest and Bis Zur Letzten Stunde (Up to the Last Hour) by Traudl Junge.

A segment taken from a documentary entitled Blind Spot with real life Traudl—died at 82—talking about her experience and how she never knew the monster Hitler was, appeared at the beginning of the film and at the end.

“I wasn’t a fanatic Nazi. I could have said in Berlin, ‘no, I’m not doing that. I don’t want to go to the Fuhrer’s headquarters.’ But I didn’t do that. I was too curious. I didn’t realize that fate would lead me somewhere I didn’t want to be. But still, I find it hard to forgive myself,” Traudl says.

Watching Der Untergang will take you there. It was like watching a roller coaster that we know is about to be derailed. Everyone knows that Hitler and Eva Brown, the woman he loved and wedded in his final hours, decided to commit suicide. The roller coaster was derailed and to our shock the awe was unbearable even though we were being emotionally prepped up throughout the film.

Reaching that conclusion—the demise of Hitler and the Third Reich—in Hirschbiegel’s masterpiece proves a painful and exhausting experience, similar to what Steven Speilberg did in his 1998 graphic war movie Saving Private Ryan.

The claustrophobic atmosphere of the bunker, accompanied with a non-stop tempo of siren alarms, air raids and loud shrieks of falling bombs and men in pain, helped heighten the film’s intensity. People with high blood pressure are hereby warned.

Hirschbiegel not only played with our emotions but with our vision too. When Traudl walks out of a Russian packed Berlin, the camera for a few seconds starts to shake. Nothing is more annoying than a shaky camera and this is intentional on part of the director, who wanted to convey Truadl’s nausea and pathos.

All actors especially Corinna Harfouch, who played the role of ice queen Magda Goebbels the wife of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, were on par with Ganz’s performance and managed to invoke one’s emotions.

Must-see-scenes: Truadl’s daring escape near the end, the scene where Magda cold bloodedly kills her children because she believes that a Germany without Hitler is not worth living, Goeblels’ (Matthes) scene where he asks Traudl to write his testament and any scene involving Bruno Ganz’s Hitler.

Cinerama: The Da Vinci Code

Posted: November 25, 2009 in Cinerama

The Da Vinci Code

By Mike Derderian

I woke up to find myself lying on an asphalt road that branched into two paths. The first was craggy and covered with sharp thorns; the second was smooth and I spied no obstacle on its expansive surface.

Jesus Christ was standing at the first inviting me to use his path. “Your road is full of thorns and is hard and can’t you see I am barefoot,” I wept. A voice coming from the entrance of the second path all of a sudden whispered to my ears, “come use my path it is easy, son of man. Why go cross the hard path when I can offer thee ease of mind and body?”

It was Satan. I woke up again but this time I found myself standing in front of a dusty window shop that exhibited a collection of framed paintings and pictures. Inside I saw Christ’s fraught countenance, as a crown of thorns caressed his weary temple, graced within a humble wooden frame. As many before him and many after him Christ inspired millions to a life of spirituality and faith and as the grains of time sift through one side of the hourglass to the other the burden on his battered shoulders grows heavier; yet he still stands firm.

Quoting Adso from Umberto Eco’s prologue to In the Name of the Rose I would like to say, “everything is on the wrong path. In those days, thank God, I acquired from my master the desire to learn and sense of the straight way, which remains even when the path is tortuous.”

How do we know that we are on the right path? A week ago I strayed away from the path. I sinned and bought a pirated copy of Ron Howard’s The ‘Da Vinci Code’ starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina and Paul Bettany. I bought it for JD1 even though I regard myself a staunch advocator of copyrights and original CDs and DVDs and refuse to buy copies.

It wasn’t that I wanted to know what the film was about for I have already read the book. They say curiosity killed the cat but at least it died knowing something or imagining it knew something. Ever since I was a child I regarded imagination God’s greatest gift to us for without imagination literature, science and religion would not exist.

How many of you tried to envision how baby Jesus looked like after being given birth to by Virgin Mary? Now when John Milton wrote his Paradise Lost and Dante Alighieri wrote his Divine Comedy they surely must have antagonized a lot of people especially the clergy. However, many years after the publishing of their works the two writers have become literary pillars and their works are now placed among the best works of fiction humanity have ever produced.

I had to watch the film that I know would be banned in Jordan for I wanted to see how Howard worked with Dan Brown’s book. The albino drew a pistol from his coat and aimed the barrel through the bars, directly at the curator. “You should not have run.” His accent was not easy to place. “Now tell me where it is.”

“I told you already,” the curator stammered, kneeling defenseless on the floor of the gallery. “I have no idea what you are talking about!” The above excerpt is from the book’s opening, which is very literally used in the opening scene of Howard’s movie but of course with a different dialogue.

Brown’s book is more disturbing than Ron Howard’s panned film. As the pages kept turning in my trembling hands I reached the last line: I was shocked at the idea that Christianity’s greatest symbol wasn’t what I grew up with, and which became intrinsic within my soul.

One of the film’s taglines reads “Seek the Truth” now if I am going to embrace this truth because Dan Brown wrote that Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper had Mary Magdalene sitting next to Jesus I am not worthy of my religion. So I say nice try and a good plot for a book but nothing more.

Cinerama: The Thief of Baghdad

Posted: September 12, 2009 in Cinerama

The Thief of Baghdad

By Mike Derderian

Inspired by the Arabian tales in Arabian Nights: A Thousand and One Night, Clive Donner’s 1978 film The Thief of Baghdad recounts the adventures of the dethroned prince of Sakhar and his magician friend against the evil forces of the sorcerer. Brief as the adventures are in this version they are still enjoyable. The Thief of Baghdad, Taj (Kabir Bedi), sets out to save Baghdad from the clutches of an evil sorcerer and vizier known as Jaudur (Terence Stamp).

The original The Thief of Baghdad was produced in 1924 by Raoul Walsh and starred Douglas Fairbanks. However, Donner’s version depicts the hero, as apposed to Walsh’s original, as a real prince and not a thief as portrayed by the roguishly handsome Fairbanks.

This 104-minute fantasy stars Sir Peter Ustinov, Frank Finlay, Ian Holm, Pavla Ustinov, Daniel Emilfork, Marina Vlady and Roddy McDowall as the charming but not-so-lucky market magician Hassan.

Most people would remember McDowall as the boyish yet wicked Caesar Augustus Octavian in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1963 un-Shakespearian lavish production Cleopatra that starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

To no surprise McDowall’s portrayal of Hassan was a show stealer and Bedi’s character Taj that started out quite audaciously suddenly turned flat especially near the end. The supporting actor ended up being the lead; and knowing McDowall’s formidable acting background I would not blame Bedi, who two years earlier brilliantly shone in the role of Sandokan the Tiger of Malaysia, a character created by Emilio Salgari, in a 1976 Italian television series based on his novel.

Did you know that Jordan television (JTV) aired Sandokan back in the 1980’s! However, Bedi’s austere stare and statuesque posture will forever be engraved in the minds of people thanks to his portrayal of Gobinda, Kamal Khan’s ruthless henchman in the 1983 James Bond movie Octopussy starring Roger Moore and Maud Adams. Bedi also had a memorable role in Kevin Reynolds’s 1988 political and military masterpiece The Beast of War.

In this movie Bedi was the charming gallant prince Taj Al Molouk, who was unjustly deprived of his throne by his father’s evil vizier. On his way to Baghdad to seek the hand of the Caliph’s daughter Princess Yasmin, Taj’s caravan is ambushed. The henchmen kill by mistake an innocent man.

Believing that Taj is dead, the Vizier poses as the ruler of Sakhar and heads out to ask for the hand of the princess. Taj miraculously finds his way to Baghdad. Upon being saved by Hassan in the marketplace he is more than ever determined to win the princess’s hand. So they pose as royalty.

What do you know? He meets Jaudur at the Caliph’s court and a conflict of interest ensues. Yasmin and Taj’s hearts click; however, some members of the court identify Hassan from the marketplace and thus Taj is deemed an imposter. The Caliph (Ustinov) then realizes that someone is lying so he asks all four suitors including Taj to prove their love to his daughter by brining the most expensive item in the world.

Now, The Thief of Baghdad is hardly ever a lousy movie but still it has its shortcomings. A critic might say that it was too bloody fast. Jumping around from one place to another did not allow the characters to evolve and become more credible. Then again, after movies like The Matrix, do we need credibility to enjoy a good film, and do we have to see the marks, touch them and feel them to believe? No.

The final confrontation between Taj (Bedi) and Jaudur (Stamp) was so ill-conceived. I mean as a kid, when I was almost 10 and when I first saw it on a video, I really loved it but now it looks like breaking an egg. I mean a man with Jaudur’s dark powers should have been given more screen time before pulverizing him. Yes this is a movie where good actually wins. The special effects were highly admirable considering the year it was made; so don’t push the technical envelope.

Terence Stamp’s performance was coldly evil and Jaudur as a result was the embodiment of both avarice and apathy. Let’s face it Stamp knows how to act buddies. The acting is enjoyable and sincere and the actors’ pronunciation and grasp of Arabic terminology is highly admirable especially on the part of Ustinov senior—yes my dear reader Pavla Ustinov is his daughter.

Must-see-scenes: Hassan’s magical antics and disappearance act that saves the life of Taj, who was being pursued by police for stealing a watermelon; Jaudar’s flying horsemen vs Taj and Hassan during their magic carpet ride; and the eerie passage that leads Taj and Hassan to the Temple of Wisdom, where the all seeing eye exists—the most expensive item.

Cinerama: Words of Parting

Posted: September 12, 2009 in Cinerama

Words of Parting

By Mike Derderian

People come and people go just like the sea’s ebb and flow. In our office they came and they went. It is the cycle of life they say but to me it was like sitting close to an oasis, where people thirsting for water arrived every full moon. I arrived like many before me but I decided that it wasn’t water that I only wanted.

I thirst for words that I can arrange every week in my Cinerama. Last week I found myself scouring for words at the seabed of my soul. It wasn’t easy for alas, Ali is gone. He decided to move on; I stayed, I don’t know why?

Ali, my editor, once told me that a person should not hang around his workplace more than five years or people would call him/her a failure. A person must move on and move up in life, he told me.

So why is Ali leaving The Star? As Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 The God Father would aptly put it, “the company that he will be working for made him an offer he could not refuse.”

One thing though, it is not easy to part with your memories or the people you have been working with. Every week I do it by writing about a movie that I have seen on television many years ago. Movies that I fell in love deeply. Sure every now and then I write about newly released pictures, broadcast on some satellite channel; but if that is a crime lock me away and throw away the key. I breathe, eat, drink and even sleep holding movies instead of a pillow.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) kissing Marion (Karen Allen) in Steven Spielberg’s 1981 Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Last Ark; Sally (Liza Minneli) crossing her left leg over a reversed wooden chair in a nightclub in Nazi Berlin in Bob Fosse 1972 Cabaret; Cary Grant dodging a two winger in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 North by Northwest; Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) dragging an unwilling Paul Varjak (George Peppard) to Tiffanys in Blake Edwards’ 1961 Breakfast at Tiffanys; Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) fighting her way up into life in Clint Eastwood’s 2004 Million Dollar Baby; Salvatore watching a bewitching Grace Kelly from Alfredo’s (Philppe Noiret) projection room in Giuseppe Toranatore’s 1989 Cinema Paradiso and David (Haley Joel Osment) crying after his mother in Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence: A.I are some of the thousands of scenes that stuck in my mind over the years.

My friendship with Ali is now forever part of that cerebral repertoire despite of our differences as individuals. I mean whenever our views clashed I always pictured myself wearing a Darth Vader outfit (James Earl Jones voice kit included), hurling with all my might my light saber against Ali Wan Kenobi’s light sabers.

Ali was more than an editor to me; he was a catalyst and a tough one too. I admit at times I hated being pushed to a corner but that’s what life is all about: You being pushed against corners.

The assignments, broken deadlines, heated arguments, disappointment and satisfaction, omitted sentences and paragraphs and punch lines were what we had.

“I grew accustomed to his face”, quoting Dr Dolittle (Rex Harrison) in Richard Fleischer’s 1967 musical of the same title. This time there is no “I’ll be back” for captain Ali, who “will boldly go where no man has gone before.” Maybe this week’s column should be dabbed Cliché-rama instead of Cinerama.

The following lines are dedicated to Ali, who as life sometimes dictates has to move on:

Shivers of immortality/ Trembles of futility/ Brought about/ At twelve thirty/ It is past midnight/ All by now are alight/ All alone am I affright/ Even though I am surrounded by light? / An urge I hopelessly feign to fight/ So I write and I write/ Before in haste I to my den flight.

Remembering Han Solo’s (a very young Harrison Ford) words to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) before he boarded the X-wing fighter in George Lucas’s 1977 Star Wars, all I can say for now is “Hey, ‘Ali’… may the Force be with you” the same way it always was with me.

‘Movie Parody in Bun-O-Vision’

By Mike Derderian

As the guitarist brutally strummed the strings of his Gibson guitar an electrifying overflow of heavy music reverberated from a colossal Peavey amplifier. The strong lights coming out of the stage spotlights gave the guitar’s worn out enamel a glistening look. The electrifying solo went on until the lead vocalist broke out in a deafening shouting frenzy. “Put the bunny in the bag… put the bunny in the bag.”

Moments later a powerful electric surge echoed on the stage. All of a sudden the amplifier died out and the guitarist was strumming a mute instrument. A breakdown, ain’t that a stinker! The vocalist was gazing at a rabbit holding an electric plug. “What’s up doc and what’s with the ‘put the bunny in the bag’ song,” sardonically inquired the white-gloved rabbit.

“Nothing Mr Wabbit…uh I mean Bugs I was inspired to sing about bunnies after watching a re-enactment of the Highlander by Bunnies at,” the perplexed singer said.

Yes bunnies my dear reader. I’ve been watching 30-second bunny shorts on the Internet through out the weekend. Puffy tailed bunnies everywhere. After two and a half hours I started to feel like a bunny. But unlike other bunnies I refuse to be lured by a carrot the same way Arabs are lured and preoccupied with reality TV and star-hunt programs. All what people care about nowadays is the carrot. How to get the carrot! Is the carrot delicious? Well what about the land where carrots are grown.

No more land for after the big bad wolf known as Sam huffed and puffed the three little pig’s home away, he became a real-estate agent and started selling parts of the land cheap to bloodsucking boars.

As you can read watching movie parodies by bunnies is not like watching giant man-eating rabbits (believe it or not a movie with such a plot exists and is known as Night of the Lepus circa 1972). It is more like watching very short intervals of hilarious fun, squeaky dialogue, violence, gore and classic movie moment all in one.

Talkative, gifted, lecherous, murderous, envious and hilarious these little bunnies that were created by Jennifer Shiman basically sum up an entire classic movie in less than a minute.

Remember watching an alien coming out of John Hurt’s character in Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien; Leonardo De Caprio sinking to the bottom of the ocean in James Cameron’s 1998 Titanic; John Travolta and Uma Thurman twisting to Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell at the Jack Rabbit Slim contest in Quentin Tarantino’s 1995 Pulp Fiction and Jack Nicholson’s Here Comes Johnny line in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 The Shining, well it all has been re-enacted by Shiman’s talented bunnies.

Alien; The Big Chill; Brokeback Mountain; Casablanca; A Christmas Story; The Exorcist; Freddy vs. Jason; Highlander; It’s a Wonderful Life; Jaws; King Kong; Night of the Living Dead; Pulp Fiction; Reservoir Dogs, which comes in two versions, the bleeped and un-bleeped version; The Rocky Horror Show; Scream; The Shining; Star Wars; Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Titanic and War of the World are the bunny shorts that are currently available at the bunnies’ library at

The animation is not exactly top notch Pixar—it is done using the usual flash media software—but the simplicity is what makes it so enjoyable. Each of the above bunny shorts has easy mellifluous contours, tons of characters, great sound effects and an abridged dialogue that still delivers the message of the parodied original.

Shiman according to her website “creates and draws her characters by hand using a lightbox, scans her drawings using Adobe Photoshop, converts the bitamap art to vector art using Adobe Streamline” and then uses Flash software to color and animate her characters.

The voices of Shiman’s furry troupe of carrot nibbling actors are provided by Shiman herself and Douglas McInnes. Voice altering softwares are probably used to augment their vocal talents and help create the squeaky bunny pitch.

Shiman and McInnes tried to capture the magic and lure of the actors they were parodying as much as they can. In most shorts they were successful. Of course it was bunny style so don’t get any thoughts of watching the real deal on that computer screen of yours. The Jimmy Stewart impersonation in Frank Capra’s 1946 It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t exactly a hammer on the nail, contrary to the Michael Madsen impression in the parody of Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 Reservoir Dogs. “You’re gonna keep barking all day little bunny. I like torturing cops,” a gruff Madsen-like bunny says through out the blood drenched violent short.

Shiman’s website promises the creation of six more classics re-enactments: Rocky; Caddyshack, Superman (the Christopher Reeve 1978 version); Office Space; Raiders of the Lost Ark (a bunny with a Harrison Ford attitude—this I got to see) and The Ring.

Shiman basically winzipped some of Hollywood’s cult classics into less than a minute shorts starring adrenalin pumped bunnies that speak who knows how many words per second. Parallel to every movie in La La Land there is a parody and a bunny parody has no parallel. Well, at least not yet but who knows what will happen in the future when everyone starts paying you carrots instead of money.

To sum up Shiman’s bunny troupe concept is brilliant and a treat to anyone who enjoys watching classic and cult movies around the hour. It was for me and I hope it will have the same magical effect on you especially after you watch and listen to a classic line that you’ve known all your life coming out of a bunny’s mouth.

Must-see-bunny-scenes: The Exorcist, King Kong, Pulp Fiction, The Shining, Reservoir Dogs, Brokeback Mountain and Casablanca, which is come to think of it my favorite and I know fans of the “play it again Sam” line will simply adore it. It is simply Bogart and Bergman at their cutest and furriest performance.

Cinerama: My Name is Nobody

Posted: September 12, 2009 in Cinerama

My Name is Nobody

By Mike Derderian

Whenever I meet different people I wish if I can introduce myself to them without having to pronounce my 12-syllable name. Just tell them that my name is Nobody. A poet sitting next to a shackled raven argued: “whether we like it or not we are all nobodies bearing worldly names that we inherited from long dead ancestors.”

The raven croaked as if unimpressed with the poet’s word. The charcoal bird was more concerned with the silver shackles that bound its feet to the ground than with the poet’s existential outburst. “We are but tenants inhabiting the face of the Earth with leased names. Mein Name ist Nobody,” the poet added before he turned to the crow and asked, “Have you seen Terence Hill in Tonino Valerii’s 1973 My Name is Nobody?”

After watching this 117-minute spaghetti western comedy, the lyrics of The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes echoed in my cranium and Henry Fonda’s unshaven visage was the only thing that kept popping up there. “No one knows what it’s like/ To be the bad man/ To be the sad man/ Behind blue eyes.”

“If you want to know. It’s like being Henry Fonda playing the bad guy,” The Who should have sung as an answer. Well, Fonda after all was the blue-eyed bad guy, who cruelly shot a child in the back, in Sergio Leone’s epic Once Upon a Time in the West. My Name is Nobody, which is Fonda’s second movie with Leone, is a slapstick comedy starring Jean Martin, Neil Summers, R.G. Armstrong and Geoffrey Lewis as the leader of the Wild Bunch.

Just in case you didn’t know Geoffrey Lewis, who appeared along Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter (1973), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Bronco Billy (1980) and Pink Cadillac (1989), is the father of Juliette Lewis, who is best remembered for films like Cape Fear (1991), Kalifornia (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994) Strange Days (1995) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Technically each and every psycho packed flick that was ever made.

Based on an idea conceived by the godfather of the Spaghetti Western genre, Sergio Leone, My Name is Nobody is a mesh of serious acting, fast-forwarded gun slinging, over the top dubbing, clowning and Terence Hill. If you look up the name Terence Hill in the comedy dictionary you would find his picture placed in the slapstick page. No such dictionary exists… I repeat no such dictionary exists.

The opening is so dead serious you’d think you are watching Once Upon a Time Redux but somewhere exactly right after that it becomes a Terence Hill movie but without the apocalyptic Bud Spencer element. Thus no hammer-hand bashing is ever seen or used in the film. Despite his age Jack Beauregard (Fonda) is still the fastest gun in the West but after years of shooting people—mostly bad looking bad guys sporting the dirty shave look—he wants to retire or so he thinks.

Three baddies arrive to town hoping to ambush Beauregard at the local barbershop. After incapacitating the barber and his son one of the bad guys pretends to be the barber, another acts as if to be grooming his horsie and the third starts milking a cow. Got milk material but still serious. Beauregard coolly struts into the barbershop and asks for a shave.

Fonda brilliantly demonstrates how a cowboy should really walk: Fonda strut style. The barber—the bad guy in disguise—lathers Beauregard’s sandy beard. He springs open the shaving razor. Is this the end of our brave old gunslinger? No, sticking his gun under the barber’s groin Beauregard manages to get a nice clean shave without getting his throat slit.

Brilliant and at the same time dead hilarious. Kind-a-like sticking your thumb in the gun barrel of a six-shot pointed at you. I think I have seen this somewhere in a Western movie starring James Garner.

With Ennio Morricone as the composer of the film’s soundtrack My Name is Nobody is a movie that you not only should watch but listen to. Who else than Morricone dares to re-arrange Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and use it as the accompanying theme song for a gang of rough riders known as “the Wild Bunch”!

By creating a wild west roamed by cynical heroes, cold-blooded killers and clowns Italian spaghetti directors the likes of Leone redefined the Western genre forever. Watching a Spaghetti western can be dubbed—excuse the pun—a psychedelic journey embarked on by a cowboy wearing electric spurs. The experience is like no other.

The characters were meaner or at least they were in the serious flicks that starred a young Clint Eastwood. The action sequences became more outrageous and the music simply evolved from brisk country to pure electric guitar riffs and howling solos. Watching Leone’s spaghetti productions would make anyone realize that the harmonica was given a boost and became an integral element in heightening the intensity of a scene or a showdown.

Another admirable element in My Name is Nobody is how the two main characters have a theme music that plays each time they appear on screen—a cinematic sound technique heavily used in spaghetti westerns. Hill was given a chirpy feel-good tune supplemented with high-pitched female voices, while Fonda was given a music theme similar to the one that accompanied his screen presence in Once Upon a Time in the West.

Now, not all actors in a spaghetti western are actors in the real sense of the word but Fonda and Hill were definitely the actors in this one. Fonda was the serious one and Hill the comic relief and the action tilted between seriousness and playfulness faster than a ricocheting bullet.

Nobody (Hill) has been keeping track of Beauregard’s shootouts and has been following him. The latter is somewhat his childhood hero and Nobody wants to give Beauregard the chance to retire with a big bang. He has a plan.

The events basically stream slower than a snail rushing on a hot pipe but the tediousness is broken every time Nobody confronts a hotheaded stupid baddy. The dialogue comes as witty and sharp slapstick body language. Most lines were delivered in punch-line form: Short and straight to the point in the case of Hill, and longer with Fonda.

Must-see-scene: the scenes that involve Beauregard and Nobody—especially the hat shooting routine that they both enjoy doing; the Wild bunch annihilation scene; the glass cup shooting contest in the saloon when Nobody is challenged by a teeth clenching bad guy called Squirrel; the final scene when the Wild Bunch leader poses as a barber and gives Nobody a clean shave.