Thursday, May 31, 2007

Popcorn Cicadas

NBC Nightly News reminded me tonight that periodic cicadas will soon be on the loose and swarming across much of the country, and in West Virginia in particular.

Time to stock up on olive oil!

It was during the last cicada invasion that Mrs. Film Geek and I began a serious relationship and moved in together. The cicadas were thick in our region. She was horrified, I thought they were sorta cool.

Especially when I read that they can be cooked (in a variety of ways) and eaten.

One Saturday, while the future-Mrs.-Film-Geek was out of the house, I became bored and curious. So, I gathered up a couple dozen cicadas from the trees in front of our apartment and prepared them for deep frying. I pulled off the wings, dipped them in an egg batter, rolled them in seasoned flour and plunked them into a large vat of hot oil.

I was finishing off the last handful when she walked in the front door. I'll never forget the look on her face: it was a combination of horror and disgust, and a look I've seen only once or twice since.

And she married me anyway. Go figure.

While I liked the taste of the cicadas okay, my recipe was pretty basic and kinda bland. Here's one that's a bit more interesting, and probably much tastier.

If you try it, you gotta come back and tell me what you thought!

Cincinnati Cicada Stir Fry

2-4 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup chopped cauliflower and/or broccoli
1/4 cup water chestnuts, sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup snow peas
1 cup blanched cicadas
naturally fermented soy sauce

Heat oil (or lard) in a wok or deep-sided frying pan. Add ingredients in the order listed above. When the most recent addition is partially cooked, add the next group of ingredients. Add soy sauce to taste. Serve over the rice of your choice.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Flashback! Bad Movies That Haunt Me: Showgirls

I really liked much of writer Joe Eszterhas' earlier work, particularly Jagged Edge and Basic Instinct. I thought both films blended drama and sensuality really well, and were smart, interesting films.

I read the reviews for
Showgirls, and realized "smart" and "interesting" were most likely out. The critics panned the flick hard from the start, and it was obvious this movie was going the way of Heaven's Gate and Ishtar.

With only "sensuality" remaining as a hopeful possibility, I plopped down a couple of dollars just to see the chick from Saved By The Bell sans clothes. This was Elizabeth Berkley's big movie break, and she took a huge gamble that this film would pay off.

She crapped out.

In what was meant to be one of the most sexually charged scenes in the movie, Berkley's character seduced a man in a swimming pool. The acting during the sex scene is so absurd that I couldn't help but laugh.

The movie was a career buster for Berkley, at least in regard to films. She had a small role in The First Wives Club, but almost all of her other work has been in television. And Eszterhas hit a career snag too, with very little of his work being produced since.


I'm still haunted by it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My Top 5: Movies With Comic Book Origins

After catching Spider-Man 3 over the Memorial Day weekend, I can't stop organizing a mental list of movies based on comic books. So, I'm putting it down here in order to purge the obsession.

Here are My Top 5 Movies With Comic Book Origins:

Spider-Man 2: Terrific action, and lots of emerging adulthood-phase angst. The Spidey sequel captured perfectly the comic book feel.

X-Men: This 2000 movie did visually what comic book geeks have always wanted in a movie. I walked out of the theater after seeing X-Men completely satisfied.

Batman Begins: This Batman flick made the Tim Burton movies feel like Saturday morning animation. People who like their Batman without the yellow moon on the bat suit appreciated this movie for it's grit, accuracy and detail.

V For Vendetta: Based on comics from the 1980s, V for Vendetta seemed to hold a mirror up to modern day America, at least to me.

Sin City: When I read this series years ago, it caused my stomach to flop. So did the flick. Pound for pound, my pick for best movie adaptation of a comic, ever.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Charles Nelson Reilly

From 1971 through 1973, Saturday mornings for me were all about Lidsville. Butch Patrick was cool as Mark, and Billie Hayes was so funny as Weenie the Genie. But the main reason I loved the show was the character Horatio J. HooDoo, played by Charles Nelson Reilly.

Charles Nelson Reilly died Friday at age 76, from complications of pneumonia.

He did a lot of things other than play HooDoo on Lidsville, but that character was my favorite of his roles.

His signature laugh was infectious.

UPDATE: For fans of his work on Match Game, here's a link to a brief video of him as a panalist on that show.

Spider-Man 3

Sometime in Spring or Summer, circa 1976 or '77, I discovered how to access the attic of my parent's home. My Dad was remodeling and adding to the house, and there were new nooks and crannies to explore.

The attic wasn't finished or functional, so access wasn't really that simple. And once I got up there, it wasn't as if I had lots of places to go; there was a piece of plywood covering a 6'X8' area immediately off the makeshift entrance, and a light bulb connected to a power cord.

It became my refuge.

At least once a week I'd roll up the half-dozen comics I'd picked up at the local five and dime and stick them in my back pocket. After making sure I wasn't seen, I'd hit the homemade ladder fast, heading straight to the plywood. Typically, I'd read quickly through The Avengers, Justice League, Daredevil and Batman.

But I'd save Spider-Man for last.

It was the best, in my opinion, and Peter Parker was a character with whom I identified. He struggled with the same life problems as me: girls, finding his personal path, girls, handling responsibility and girls.

Except for the cool web-slinging, spider sense, super strength and increased agility, my life was a Spider-Man comic. I was awkward, and knew it. The magazines were cheap therapy.

While watching
Spider-Man 3, I noticed I felt as if I was hiding out in that attic, reading a giant-sized issue. I didn't want it to end.

Spider-Man 3 has the perfect mix of Spidey-action and Peter Parker angst. The movie is busy--it juggles at least four major plot points--but it gives each the time they deserve. The effects are remarkable, and the action is fast-paced.

But more than anything else, Spider-Man 3 gets across the angst that is pervasive in the life of Peter Parker. The distress, self-doubt and confusion that he struggled though each issue.

And that the pre-teen me struggled with each day.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rocky Balboa

Not as good as the original, but arguably better than all the rest.

Rocky Balboa can't be made, of course, without the set-up of the original. And This-Older-Rocky's perspective on life can only be appreciated within the context set up by the films that came before it. Despite that, Rocky Balboa stands apart from most of the other sequels for it's emotional depth and use of supporting characters. And Sly can still put together a terrific fight scene.

Here's how I know:

I watched the flick in the same room as Mrs. Film Geek, but she was working. Sitting far away from me and working hard doing what she does, she wasn't paying much attention to me or the movie. During the final third of the movie--the big fight scene--Rocky takes a first round beating before coming back in the second round. During that scene, as Rocky is mounting a dramatic comeback, I hear this from the periphery:

"Knock that motherfucker out!!"

Yep, Rocky Balboa is a terrific flick.

Friday, May 25, 2007

This Is Only A Test

"Testing, testing...Is this thing on? Testing...The Film Geek Is Dead."

Look, I said it's only a test.

Way too often, just when I start really enjoing a particular blogger, he or she stops writing. Sometimes for long periods of time--several weeks, or even months--the blogger will post nothing. I'm sure it's because they have more important things going on in their lives. But the fact is, I don't.

So, I keep going back to their site, day after day, hoping to be entertained.

I'm always curious what's going on in the life of the absent blogger. Has he or she taken a vacation? Lost the muse? Maybe he's ill, and in the hospital.

Or worse: Maybe the absent blogger has died.

That's why I've tutored Mrs. Film Geek in how to access the dialogue box for this blog so she can report to anyone (who cares) about my demise, should I die unexpectedly. My instructions? Simply log in, click on "New Post" and type:

"There will now be a brief intermission: The Film Geek has died."

I turned another year older this week. And people who know me well know that means I'm full of angst. So, I'm making plans.

Sure, it's macabre. But, at least you'll know.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Make Me Fries (Pearl Jam Video Spoof)

I'm a serious fan of Pearl Jam. In my opinion, they became the best band of the last 15 years by doing it the right way, by not selling out.


I think Eddie Vedder's lyrics are emotional, and thought provoking. But they are also often unintelligible to the listener. (Although that isn't a serious problem; listen once to Animal and you'll realize it's the raw emotion of the song itself that's important, not the specific lyrics.)

But, I digress...

I just found this spoof of one of Pearl Jam's best songs, Yellow Ledbetter, by way of Pop Candy. The real song is simply brilliant, but the lyrics are hard to understand. This well-done parody pokes some fun at that.

Watch it once for laughs, then listen to it a second time just for the song. It's that good.

We Are Marshall DVD Pre-Orders

Huntington's Herald-Dispatch has information necessary to pre-order the DVD of We Are Marshall.

I'm not sure how big a market there will be for the flick, but not a day goes by that folks from across the country find their way to my blog by searching for this specific DVD release date.

So, there you are. If you worry you won't be able to get a copy of We Are Marshall at Blockbuster when it's released on September 18, 2007, plunk down a few bucks at ($17.99 for wide screen and full screen format, $27.95 for hi-def) to secure your personal copy. And according to the article, some local retailers are taking reservations for $5 bucks.

You gotta provide your own popcorn.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Looks Like Someone Needs A Hug

I tell ya, I got no love for Oprah.

She hasn't done anything to me personally, of course, it's just that I am highly suspicious of (and increasingly annoyed with) people who advertise themselves as having The Answers. Paraphrasing experts who are guests on her show and writing a monthly magazine column titled "What I Know For Sure" might make Winfrey a guru to some, but that sort of soundbite style over substance gets no slack from me. Still, even Oprah doesn't deserve to be used for gain by someone writing a tell-all book about her life. And according to USA Today, that's exactly what's happening.

By her father, no less.

What I know for sure? That kinda betrayal freakin' hurts.

According to the article, Winfrey didn't know her dad was working on the book which, as reported, will be titled Things Unspoken.

So, I feel a little bad for Oprah today. It'll pass, I'm sure, soon after the legal unit at Harpo Productions squashes Vernon Winfrey like a bug. But for today, Oprah gets a polite thought sent her way.

And I'm guessing Vernon Winfrey's upcoming Father's Day gift will be the skimpiest in years...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Want Me To Hold That Ice Cream For You?

Many of the memories I have of my maternal Grandfather involve food. Not the put-on-your-Sunday-best-and-share-a-meal type of food memory, but rather the "does this place have curb service?" sort of eating.

"Want me to hold that ice cream for you?" he'd ask, after noticing the scoop was dripping down the cone, or that I needed two hands to do something at the moment.

"Sure, thanks," I'd say, knowing full well what was about to happen. I always got the cone back, but carrying a little less ice cream.

My grandpa sure loved greasy spoons. I have faint memories of struggling to climb atop an orange counter chair at a Nicholas County pharmacy (one that burned down a generation ago) to eat the cheeseburger he'd ordered for me, and drink a soda from a real soda fountain. I have clearer memories of eating at the Big Rock and Stonewall Jackson inns in the 70s, where he would pass the time waiting on curb service by ogling chicks and singing gospel hymns.

Some of the songs were off key, but I liked them anyway. He was delightfully eccentric, which made him incredibly interesting.

Photo by Chris Dorst

Although he died in the late 80's, I still think about him most days.

More than usual today, however, after reading a story in the Gazette about The Burger Carte, located in Smithers, West Virginia.

Trips through Smithers with my grandpa--which always included a stop at The Burger Carte--felt like such an adventure. It was so far from home, it made me feel almost cosmopolitan.

Sophisticated, even.

I haven't eaten a Carte Wheel burger since the mid-70's, but I might have to make the trip soon.

I miss the old guy that much.

Monday, May 21, 2007


My friend who writes Donutbuzz talks often of how we humans seem drawn more to style than to substance. And I think he's dead-on right, particularly regarding how we appreciate and consume art.

Quick: Shania Twain or Faith Hill?

Whatdidya think of first: Knock-out looks, or the opening lyrics of their most popular songs?

Dreamgirls proves this style-over-substance theory better than any movie I've seen in years. Adapted from an 80's play that followed the evolution of Motown Records (and, more specifically, the rise of Motown's biggest early act, The Supremes), Dreamgirls provides an insider's view of how the incredibly-talented-but-portly Effi (Jennifer Hudson) is given the boot out of the limelight in favor or mildly-talented-but-hot-as-hell Deena (Beyonce Knowles). The story touches on Effi's recovery from the slight, Deena's descent into despair as she begins to figure out her success has more to do with marketing her look than it does her talent and Curtis (Jaime Foxx), the manager of both who recognizes the public is just fine being force-fed style instead of substance, and that he can make a bundle of money giving us just that.

Jennifer Hudson won a couple of important awards for her role, but I went into the movie skeptical that this first time movie actress could deliver the goods as advertised. I was shocked: Hudson's performance--both singing and speaking--was simply brilliant. Eddie Murphy, too, was very good, although during his most intense musical performance I kept expecting his roadies to come from backstage and wrap that James Brown cape on him just before he collapsed from exhaustion.

The only complaint I had about Dreamgirls is something inherent in musicals: I hate dialogue that is sung! Hate it. Still, it was done so well in the flick that I tolerated it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Little Children

Todd Field reminds us in his movie that although children are typically authentic and genuine, they often grow into adults who aren't. We humans are odd in that we like to project proper normalcy, but we tend to live with secrets.

Secrets of desire and of need. And secret fantasies about being something other than what we are.

We can pretend to be like we think everyone else is for short amounts of time each day, but once we close the door behind us after a hard days work, the strange comes out.

Little Children is a fascinating look into the lives of several people who live in an upper middle class neighborhood. Each lives his or her public life in a way they think others expect, only to engage privately in activities considered dysfunctional. Most of it involves lust, but there's always an underlying obsessive need to feel different that's common for each character in the story.

Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson are Sarah and Brad, two lonely thirty-somethings married to other people who find temporary comfort with each other. Larry, played by Noah Emmerich, lives a life that is falling apart day-by-day, causing him to search frantically for something that makes him feel useful, and manly. Jackie Earle Haley (you remember him from The Bad News Bears) is Ronnie, a sex offender who can't seem to overcome his obsession.

Each desperately attempts to appear normal, and each can for short periods of time. Ultimately, though, it takes some pretty dramatic events to make each reach a moment of clarity and find their authentic selves again.

Little Children is a well done movie. It feels creepy, even during times it's not, and the acting is terrific. It's a three star flick you gotta see.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Please, Make It Stop: Part 12

Dear Paris:

I read recently in the
USA Today that you are a bit distraught over your 45 day jail sentence. Believe me, I understand.

Jail ain't the Hilton, no matter how fresh the paint.

But I worry about you. Sure, you're a world traveler with lots of life experience. But not this kind, honey. It's one thing to go toe-to-toe with Nicole Richie, and quite another to bunk with a woman who knows how to carve a shiv out of a spoon.

So, here are some tidbits that may be helpful to you during your 45 day exile. You may want to read them twice, for better comprehension.

1. You've spent a lot of time with rappers, so you're used to the hip-hop lingo. But in the pokey, if someone says you're gonna be their "bitch" or calls you a "ho,"...Well, that ain't good.

2. A kinkajou cannot be added to the conjugal visit list.

3. This might be a good time to come up with a catchphrase other than your usual: "That's hot."

4. "Lights out at 11" means the night vision video cam, too.

5. Jailhouse tattoos are supposed to be tough, and intimidating. Tatts of sunbeams and rainbows will get your ass kicked in the shower.

Every time.

Good luck, Paris. It's only 45 days, after all, and you may even get out a little early for good behavior. Then, it's back to LA and the usual debauchery.

Sleep well!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Holiday

Back in 2002 I really needed a change. I was tired of the mountains, tired of local politics, tired of the same--and only--job I'd held for 17 years. I needed a change, and I needed one badly. So, I loaded up the truck and moved to Bever-ly.

Des Moines, Iowa, that is.

A friend there offered me a chance at the change I desperately needed, and I took it. I decided to stay for one year, then re-assess if I wanted the move to be permanent.

During my year there, I learned a great deal about myself. Having been employed to do what's basically the same gig since the age of nineteen, I had doubts that I was good enough to do it elsewhere, at any business other than the one I'd had a hand in developing. I discovered in Des Moines that I still had the chops, and that I could. And although at the time I hated the closed-in feeling of the West Virginia landscape (and the everything-is-brown-and-depressing look that is Winter here), I eventually came to miss the mountains. (There was something a bit eerie about a flatland across which you could see for thirty miles.) Not only did I miss the mountains, but I missed the culture, the people and I missed family.

I realized my former disdain was more about my perspective on life than it was about my lifestyle itself.

So, I came home.

Happier, wiser and more mature.

Sometimes, you just gotta force yourself out of your life routine to grow, learn and find peace.

It's the same message that can be found in The Holiday.

Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and Iris (Kate Winslet) lead lives that are less than satisfying. Although both are intelligent professionals, each has lost herself in her job, men or in materialsm. As a result, both have reached a point of despair going into the Christmas season. Through an Internet site that facilitates house-trading for people seeking an interesting twist on a vacation, Amanda and Iris swap their homes in London and LA for ten days. During the vacation, each becomes acquainted with people in the new environment who help them see life from a different perspective. As a result, both Amanda and Iris exit their brief respite healthier, happier and wiser.

There are lots of problems with The Holiday that must be overlooked to really enjoy the flick. First, it's a rather cutesy movie, the sort of chick-flick I will generally indulge only if it will guarantee me some action later in the evening. Secondly, there are some plot devices that seem contrived. And thirdly, the movie focuses more on Amanda's story than it does on Iris, and Iris has the more compelling story.


The acting--particularly by Winslet, and supporting cast mates Jude Law and Eli Wallach--is terrific, and is successful in making the viewer care about the characters and their stories. The story is funny and sentimental, and both in appropriate proportion.

And Cameron Diaz sure is pretty.

The Holiday is a two-star movie that overachieves. If you can get by cutesy, give it a shot.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Whatever Happened To...The Bear

For two years, from 1979 through the Spring of 1981, The Bear rode around the country in a semi-truck; fighting crime and getting into misadventure with his human sidekick, BJ.

The Bear was new to show biz and struggled with the pressure. Sitting in a big red rig each week was hard for a chimpanzee that is bipedal only on a part-time basis. There's very little space in the cab of the rig, at least not the kind of space that a chimp needs to just cut loose. And The Bear had some serious crushes on the women who worked for his wing man BJ during the second season. The ladies were beautiful, in a 70s sitcom sorta way, but they paid almost no attention to The Bear.

It was a stressful existence for The Bear. Every day--every hour--became painful and overwhelming.

One day, after a particularly difficult day of filming, The Bear had enough. He cozied up to the left leg of one of the female guest stars--legend says it was Judy Landers, but that isn't confirmed--and brushed his hand softly against the back of her knee.

She kicked him, and The Bear fought back hard.

And dirty.

Almost by instinct, The Bear pooped in his diaper, reached in and grabbed a handful. He knew as soon as he flung it his career was over. The big salary? Gone. The lavish Hollywood lifestyle? Over. The occasional conjugal visit at the San Diego Zoo? Forget about it.

His aim was true: Splat.

The Bear was given a quick sedative, then transported later in the evening to the office of a Beverly Hills veterinarian known to not ask questions.

He was never seen again.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Comic Book Movie List

After reading a blurb about it in Pop Candy, I hopped over to Rotten Tomatoes to read the site's list of Comix: Worst To Best. It's a review of flicks based on comics and comic books, from worst to best.

Which movie was worst? Here's a hint: It starred Jamie Kennedy.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

For Your Consideration

I'm a huge fan of Christopher Guest movies. From a generation ago when he co-wrote and co-starred in This Is Spinal Tap, through his too-short stint on Saturday Night Live and his current kick-ass mockumentaries, I get his sense of humor.

Every well crafted line of dialogue. Every camera shot that stays focused on the scene just slightly longer than it should. And every character that struggles with social awkwardness and angst. His Harlan Pepper, the dog showing country bumpkin slash ventriloquist who delivers a monologue on nut trivia in the movie Best In Show, is one of the funniest characters I've seen in movies.


I popped For Your Consideration in quickly when the red envelope arrived. The movie about a movie--specifically, the making of a movie called Home For Porim--stars the same ensemble you've seen in Guest's films from the past ten years or so. It's a cast I really like: Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard. A wonderful, talented cast that always makes a Chris Guest movie even better.

Well, least in For Your Consideration they tried.

The movie rarely made me laugh, failed to keep my attention and was pretty forgettable. The plot--that minor Oscar buzz about a small budget movie shapes the production of the movie and how the actors approach their work--is interesting, but doesn't seem to have the stamina for a full length feature. It's funny, but only in spots. The acting is fine, but couldn't elevate the flick above it's other problems.

Skip For Your Consideration and watch Best In Show again. You'll laugh harder.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

We Are Marshall DVD Release Date

According to a story in Huntington's Herald-Dispatch, the release date for the DVD of We Are Marshall has been set for September 18, 2007.

Running With Scissors

Roughly thirty years ago my family and I drove to Swiss, WV and bought 300 chickens. I'm not sure why--my Dad probably got a good deal on the birds--but he went all out, buying hens, roosters and the long metal cages that they roosted in.

(Years later, when the chickens freely roamed our fairly large semi-functional farm, my brother and I were charged with feeding them. We would on occasion lace the cracked corn with those little poppers you buy at gag shops, the ones with thin paper all twisted up, and filled with small amounts of gunpowder. The chickens would peck at the corn until their little beaks would strike one of the poppers just right:


OK, I'm back now.

I may be confused about the timing of events but as I remember it, in addition to chickens we brought home a young girl named Lynn. She lived for the summer with my grandparents, next door to me. I suspect now that she must have arrived at my grandparents' home because she had been abused by her parents or was from a dysfunctional home, but I didn't think to ask her that at the time. I just knew she liked to play in the creek, threw a pretty terrific curve ball and was rather tough for a chick.

Scary tough.

I think it was because she had to fend for herself back in the day. Even though she was still pretty young, I recall her as having the sort of presence that comes with experience, the kind of perspective that comes from disappointment. Lynn left in the Fall, and I never saw her again. Maybe some day I'll find out why she was there.

I was reminded of Lynn while watching the supposedly-true-story of Running With Scissors. The flick, based on the novel by Agusten Burroughs, tells the story of a child whose parents struggle with the challenges of mental illness, and who abandon their son. While seeking psychiatric help Agusten's mother falls under the spell of her Svengali psychiatrist and leaves her child in the care of the psychiatrist and his eccentric family.

The results are disturbing, dark and catastrophic. And you can't stop watching it!

Running With Scissors illustrates the need each of us has for family, and the social, emotional and psychological problems that can occur when that need isn't met. The movie celebrates eccentricity, but points out that while oddity can be interesting and charming, stability is something children need in their lives.

Luckily, Agusten Burroughs figured it out and created a successful life for himself despite his circumstances.

I wonder what ever became of Lynn.

Friday, May 04, 2007

An Only Slightly Exaggerated Conversation

The Scene: Noon. Lunch, at Hibachi.

The Place: Downtown Huntington

The Players: Hoyt (Donutbuzz), Barbie (Stay Away From The Barbies), Bill, and The Film Geek.


The Film Geek: "Barbie, you have no any idea how often friends of mine call me, and ask if I know you?"

Barbie: "Really!?! My life's not that interesting."

Hoyt: "People love honest writing, and you do that really well."

Bill: "What are you guys talking about, blogs?"

TFG: "She does write really honest stuff. Kinda like Don't Print This, which I think is the most honest blog around."

Hoyt: "He does write honest stuff. It's great writing."

Bill: "Who's that? What's it called?"

TFG: " I wish I could write so honestly. Hey, Barbie, why haven't I seen you lately on the message board?"

Barbie: "Have you read my blog lately?!?"

Bill: "Uh, ... You guys have a message board, too?
Check, please."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I awoke this morning consumed by two time related events:

O to Larry King, on his CNN show last night: "I have four or five years left on my show, and when I'm done with that contract, I'm done."

48 hours and counting!

I'm all tingly on the inside!