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                        Celebrating the Art of Cinema, ... and Cinema as Art


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  Spring 2012
(revised 8/8/14)


(AFER - Broadway Impact / 2012)

Dir. - Rob Reiner
Written by - Dustin Lance Black
Prod. by - Bruce Cohen, Melissa Gibbs

Jessica Leventhal, Justin Mikita

Art Direction - Matthew Russell
Sound - Drew Aldridge
Lighting Designer - Robert A. Dickinson
Running Time: 92 mins.


Those following our articles since the (nearly one year ago) inception of our site … and who have been paying attention while doing so, are aware we at the Cottage have a slight socio-political bent.  From ongoing series such as THE INHERENT POWER OF GENRE, THE CBS WARS, and our “Production Company” installments THE DESILU STORY and THE MTM STORY, on into the “stand alone” pieces THE WILD GEESE, WOLFEN, A PRAYER FOR THE DYING and others, the bulk of our “library material” focuses on how the popular cinematic arts can and do affect cultural change; very often when politicians, religious leaders and other well meaning figureheads can not. 

          While our agenda is usually carried out a bit more “between the lines” rather than overtly “on the sleeve” (for subtlety is often more effective than the full frontal assault), we felt in regards to the presentation of Dustin Lance Black’s play “8” we’d “come out”… so to speak, waving the socio-political banners high.  For the live streamed March 3, 2012 telecast of his powerhouse “verbatim drama” directed by Rob Reiner (STAND BY ME, THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, A FEW GOOD MEN) and detailing the significant California court battle concerning the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 (denying legal marriage between same sex couples) has become near and dear to us.  Why?  C'mon man ... it's simple!


Anyone within the creative arts community knows it’s literally a “Land of Misfit Toys” wherein, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation or other, all who “don’t fit in elsewhere” tend to flock together here in the mutually encouraging quest of realizing those elusive creative dreams which the rest of the world is unable or unwilling to understand. 

     As part of that community we’ve all too often witnessed the cruelty, prejudice, and emotional, psychological and physical abuse directed towards those we’ve come to know and love as not only creative comrades, but as friends and family.  When one is treated with disrespect and denied basic rights to (hmmm? - where have we heard this before?) "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", we understand we are all being similarly disrespected.  Because of this we've often butted heads (and will gladly continue to do so) with government and citizenry
supposedly all for the cause of equality, but through daily action somehow seems to come across as quite the opposite.   At any rate, forgive our "preaching".  A little lapse now and then is okay, y'know.  But on to "8".

     Born in June 1974 - Academy Award-winning writer, director, producer, and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) rights activists Dustin Lance Black, knew from an early age he was different.  Raised in a Mormon household and on numerous military bases, when he found himself attracted to another young man at the age of six, he says his “acute awareness” told him “I’m going to hell.  And if I ever admit it, I'll be hurt, and I'll be brought down".  A childhood of shyness and sporadic suicidal depression eventually saw a slight parting of the clouds upon discovery of a love of theater in high school, then an even greater shaft of light upon graduating with honors from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television in 1996, where he’d also finally come out as gay during his senior year.

     In the early 1990s Black visited San Francisco at a time the AIDS epidemic was blitzkrieging it’s way through the city’s gay community like one of Hitler’s armies through Poland.  The only ray of hope he saw at the time was the groundwork activism which had been laid down over a decade prior by Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay public official who was assassinated with Mayer George Moscone in November ’78.  He had first seen Rob Epstein’s moving Oscar winning documentary THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK while in college.  And now while at the actual “ground zero” of a burgeoning new Civil Rights movement, Black said to himself, “I just want to do something with this, why hasn't someone done something with this?”.  He would begin researching, interviewing and getting to know those who’d worked with and befriended Milk in order to fashion a respectful dramatic screenplay based on the famous activists’ final days.  That script would become 2008’s MILK - directed by Gus Van Sant, and starring Sean Penn, Emile Hersch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, and James Franco.  Nominated for eight Academy Awards the year of it’s release (among them Best Picture), it took home two for Best Actor Sean Penn, and Best Original Screenplay for Black.

Before MILK, Black would write and direct the 2000 gay romance THE JOURNEY OF JARED PRICE, the short film SOMETHING CLOSE TO HEAVEN (2001), the documentary ON THE BUS in 2001, and various other docus and TV series until HBO and Tom Hanks’ Playtone Company hired him, partially because of his Mormon background, as writer (then eventual producer) on the popular cable series BIG LOVE in 2006.  MILK would follow, as well as 2010’s VIRGINIA; then 2011’s J. EDGAR for director Clint Eastwood.   

In May 2009, the non profit organization AFER (American Foundation for Equal Rights), filed the lawsuit Perry v. Brown(formerly Perry v. Schwarzenegger) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of two same-sex couples.  The suit challenged Proposition 8 (a state voter-approved amendment eliminating same-sex couples' right to marry) as being unconstitutional.  On August 4, 2010, Chief District Court Judge Vaughn Walker eventually ruled that Proposition 8 violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, though the judgment was stayed pending appeal.  In February 2012 the Ninth Circuit upheld the decision of the district court, but to date the stay continues to be in effect.  Most anticipate the case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.

When the federal court refused public access to video recordings of the trial, Black wrote the play “8” in the style of a verbatim theater reenactment, closely based on trial transcripts, journalistic records, along with interviews from plaintiffs, defendants and proponents involved in the actual proceedings, so that the world-at-large might know what had transpired behind closed doors.  “8” opened to critical praise at the Eugene O’Neill Theater in NY in September 2011.  Among it’s powerhouse cast it starred Morgan Freeman, Bob Balaban, John Lithgow, Bradley Whitford, Christine Lahti, Ellen Barkin, Matt Bomer, Yeardley Smith, and Anthony Edwards. 

     On March 3, 2012, AFER board members Dustin Lance Black, director Rob Reiner, and producer Bruce Cohen would stage a live streamed performance/reading of “8” worldwide via YouTube and -  broadcast from the playhouse of LA’s historic Ebell complex.  It would feature an equally impressive all star cast of known political activists including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, Martin Sheen, Jane Lynch, George Takei, Jamie Lee Curtis, John C. Reilly and many more.  AFER and Broadway Impact, the play’s sponsors, have since licensed “8” for nationwide readings on college campuses and in community theaters free of charge to all interested parties.  They’ve also made the March 3, 2012 performance from the Ebell available free of charge that others may become familiar with the topic under discussion - a Civil Rights topic ultimately affecting all regardless of sexual orientation. 

     We at the GullCottage are proud to be one of many conduits for Dustin Lance Black’s “8”. 

                                                                         Enjoy, … think, … then act  locally !

                                                                                                                                    - CEJ


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(Zupnik Curtis - Chevy Chase Films -
20th Century Fox / 1984)

     Released late in the summer of 1984, director Joseph Ruben's slim budgeted but nifty sci-fi / horror / MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE-esque thriller mash-up impressively managed to hold it's own in a year crowded by blockbusters such as GHOSTBUSTERS, BEVERLY HILLS COP, FOOTLOOSE, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, GREMLINS, ROMANCING THE STONE, THE KARATE KID, SPLASH and STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK.  Not only that, but it managed to snag a cast far impressive than any of those films (Dennis Quaid, Kate Capshaw, Max Von Sydow, Christopher Plummer and Eddie Albert), make a modest profit, and go on to develop a fervent cult following (thanks to the early days of the VHS player) enough to influence later movies such as Tarsem Singh's 2000 film THE CELL, and especially Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION in 2010. 

     Dennis Quaid (in his third film for director Ruben following OUR WINNING SEASON-1978 and GORP-1980) stars as Alex Gardner, a man with natural born psychic abilities who is inducted by old friend and former teacher Dr. Novotny (Max Von Sydow) into a research program wherein he and those similarly gifted are taught to enter the REM dream states of others in order to help them sort through deeply buried psychological trauma.  When the program is co-opted by Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer) - an ultra conservative CIA operative unhappy about the US President's (Eddie Albert) nuclear disarmament policy,  Alex finds himself entering the President's recurring dystopian nightmare-scape to save him from a "he died in his sleep from a heart attack" assassination attempt by one of Blair's more psychotic-ly gifted recruits (David Patrick Kelly - pretty scary in the nightmare as the metamorphosing "SnakeMan"). 

     From an outline originally conceived by science fiction novelist Roger Zelazny (DAMNATION ALLEY), the final story by Ruben, David Loughery (STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER, MONEY TRAIN, LAKEVIEW TERRACE) and Chuck Russel (THE MASK, ERASER) cleverly integrates classic horror, sci fi, conspiracy theory and even comedic elements (CHEERS' star George Wendt as a Stephen King-like horror novelist!) into a zippy 99 minutes which for sheer enjoyment still rivals many of today's CGI laden but often hollow "franchise" epics.

     DREAMSCAPE would be director Ruben's step up from the low budget "B" world into more prestigious "A"s.  He'd follow with, among others the 1989 James Woods / Robert Downy Jr. legal thriller TRUE BELIEVER, Julia Roberts' SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY-1991, MONEY TRAIN-1995 and his return to TWILIGHT ZONE-ish sci fi - THE FORGOTTEN- 2004, starring Julianne Moore.  


Dir. - Joseph Ruben
Pro. - Stanley R. Zupnik,
Bruce Cohn Curtis, Jerry Tokofsy
Screenplay - David Loughery, Chuck Russell, Joseph Ruben
Story - David Loughery,
Roger Zelazny (uncredited) 
Ed. - Lorenzo de Stephano,
Richard Halsey
Dir. of Photo. - Brian Tufano
Music - Maurice Jarre
Running Time:  99 mins.




(Universal - Columbia / 1979)

     Upon initial release in December of 1979, the film 1941 quickly became the most maligned of director Steven Spielberg's career.  Panned by U.S. critics, it became part of a group of big budget director-driven projects over the course of three years (1977 -  '80) cited by detractors as overblown, self-indulgent film making from the new crop of cinema wunderkinds who just a few years earlier had so impressed.  Martin Scorcese's critically lauded MEAN STREETS ('73), ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE ('74) and TAXI DRIVER ('76) were followed by the expensive and financially disappointing musical-drama NEW YORK NEW YORK ('77).  And just around the corner Michael Cimino's opulent period piece HEAVEN'S GATE ('80) would come on the heels of his Oscar Winning THE DEER HUNTER ('78), and be blamed for the demise of United Artists.  Now it was Spielberg's turn to be the poster boy for "arrogance and excess" ... and it was mostly unfair. 

      With a huge cast (incl. Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Ned Beatty,  Lorraine Gary, Christopher Lee, Treat Williams, Warren Oates and Toshiro Mifune ... many of them vying for laughs) is 1941 overblown and excessive? And does that excess take away from some of the film's better aspects. You bet!  But it's certainly not the "middle finger" raised at the studio system and society it was unjustly painted to be.  It has more positive than negatives, especially for film lovers.  And it's humor, while at times bawdy, is far from the shameless (tasteless?) school of many contemporary (so-called) comedies.  In fact there really is a kind of naive' innocence to 1941's "bawdiness".  The film is also very post modern in the sense that as a movie it is acutely aware that it is indeed a movie.  No characters talking to the audience or anything of the sort.  But in it's cinematic style it precedes the Tarantino-esque movie geek's love of film expressed via ... homage to the medium itself. 

          Dir. Spielberg fraternizes with cinema legends Christopher Lee (left) & Toshiro Mifune (right)

For example a great deal of 1941's humor is of the physical Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and even Three Stooges sort.  Some love it, others don't.  It's certainly Chaplin-esque in it's minute and detailed execution of the timing of the physical gag.  The famous scene in RAIDERS OF LOST ARK (1981), where Nazi goon Toht enters the desert tent and extracts a "torture device" which humorously turns out to be a harmless plastic hanger, was first done in 1941 with Nazi representative Christopher Lee aboard the Japanese sub, but it was never carried off to Spielberg's satisfaction, and therefore removed.  And the mind-boggling choreography of the hilarious "jitterbug contest" (the movie's highlight - arriving approx. 48 mins. into the film; and later re-worked as TEMPLE OF DOOM's opening nightclub brawl / shootout) even impressed the hell out of the film's harshest critics. 

      John Williams' thunderous score is "guts 'n glory" John Phillip Sousa tongue-in-cheek without being cloyingly so.  And the film's visual effects, sound, and smashingly gorgeous cinematography by William A. Fraker (ROSEMARY'S BABY, BULLITT) all earned well deserved Oscar nominations.  Removed from the hot-bed context of it's initial release there really is a lot to enjoy in 1941.  Judge for yourself.


Dir. - Steven Spielberg
Pro. - John Milius, Buzz Feitshans
Writ. - Robert Zemeckis &
Bob Gale
Ed. - Michael Kahn
Dir. of Photo. - William A. Fraker
Music - John Williams
Running Time: 118 mins.

*NOTE* At present Hulu is not authorized to run 1941 on TV or mobile devices.  As a
precaution it is therefore only available to view via Hulu directly.  Watch and enjoy
by clicking

Hey, it's free! What more do 'ya want?


Nightmares in Red White and Blue


The Evolution of the American Horror Film
(Midnight Movies/ Lux Digital / 2009)

     Intelligent, lovingly detailed (and pretty damned cool) documentary tracing the history of America's love affair with the cinema version of "things that go bump in the night".  From it's literary, then European Expressionists influences; through World Wars, economic depressions, and social change, the rise of the genre in the U.S., from silent classics to the modern slasher flick,  is examined by some of the art form's most experienced practitioners including LARRY COHEN (SALEM'S LOT, CARRIE), JOE DANTE (THE HOWLING, GREMLINS), JOHN CARPENTER (HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, THE THING), MICK GARRIS (THE STAND), GEORGE A. ROMERO (NIGHT OF LIVING DEAD, THE DARK HALF, CREEPSHOW) and others.

Narr. - Lance Henriksen
Dir. - Andrew Monument
Written by - Joseph Maddrey (based on his book)
Running Time: 96 mins.


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