Monday, January 31, 2011

Ivanlandia's Second Birthday Celebration!!

Today is the 2nd Anniversary of the establishment of
The United Provinces of Ivanlandia!

Citizens, start celebrating!
(regular posts will resume shortly!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why I Saw “Citizen Kane” When I Was Nine Years Old

The reason I begged my mother to take me to see Citizen Kane when I was nine years old was not because I was some sort of budding cineaste or junior film scholar—
it was because I was a budding special effects geek, with a bookshelf full of film books, including several on visual effects.

In their easy-to-read, yet info-PACKED book, The Saga of Special Effects (published by PrenticeHall in 1977), authors Ron Fry and Pamela Fourzon devote almost a whole chapter to the visual effects of Citizen Kane:
In the film there are oodles of matte paintings, stop-motion animation, miniatures, travelling mattes, rear projections,
and so many of the camera tricks that The Great Orson W. is rightly famous for
(and let’s not forget the contributions of editor—and future director—Robert Wise).

(BTW, The Saga of Special Effects is downloadable here)

For example, this shot of Boss Jim Gettys (directly above) looking down at Kane on the podium is a combo of about five (if not more) elements. You’ve got:
--Actor Ray Collins
--The actors on the podium
--The two groups of people standing in the aisles (which was two separate elements)
--A matte painting tying it all together

Brooklyn-born special effects pioneer Linwood Dunn (perfecter of the modern optical printer—which has been unfortunately replaced by computers…) is responsible for most of Citizen Kane’s effects.

No matter what side of the fence you’re on
—and The National Film Board of Ivanlandia admits a particular fondness, if not OUTRIGHT LOVE for ALL of Citizen Kane
you have to admit that the flick is a technical marvel.

So of course a nine-year-old Ivan of Ivanlandia HAD to see this movie!
And it was playing in a couple of days at the [I forgot the name of the theater, but it’s across the street from Lincoln Center], which also made an appearance in Annie Hall
It’s the theater where, if memory serves, and no, I’m not going to bother looking it up, Alvy and Annie are three minutes late to the movie—
which I thought was stupid at the time (although now I get it), because mom and I would ALWAYS arrive late to the movies—but we’d sit down in the middle of the flick, watch it to the end, and then stay in our seats until the next showing began—remember when you used to be able to do that?

So of course I loved Citizen Kane, but what’s funny is this:
Back in the day, some art and revival movie houses in NYC would not serve stuff like food or soda. But they—or rather, understanding staffers—would often let you bring snacks in.

So after getting our tickets, mom and I went to a deli and picked up some candy and nibbles. Among the purchases was a candy bar, perhaps a Snickers or Three Musketeers….

We probably started munching our junk food the moment we sat down, but it wasn’t until the lights went down and the projector started that I took out the candy bar.
Now, honestly, I was TRYING to be as quiet as I could be as I unwrapped it, so at the time I couldn’t understand why that ugly old lady with the REALLY short haircut kept turning around and going, “SHHH!”

She’d do that, and I would turn around to try and see who she was shushing.
The funny thing was, I did not realize until we were on the way home that the old bat was shushing ME! I laughed and laughed.

Lucky for both of us, I only had ONE candy bar. What would she have done if I had a bag of chips? I shudder to think.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ivanlandia is the flame, Jack Webb is the fuse, Dragnet ’68 is the bomb!

I'm not going to preach to the choir;
we all know that Jack Webb's late-1960s version of Dragnet is pure Nixonian madness-genius,
the highest entertainment possible.

But how could I explain this to someone who didn't grow up with Webb's
absurdist-conformist law & order melodrama as a childhood friend?
Here goes:
Imagine a man so square
that he has become hallucinatory,
with a rapid-fire delivery that can hypnotize you
better than a cobra,
who then, as producer-writer-director,
presents tableaus of losers in generic homes doing stupid, pathetic crimes
and being severely punished way out of proportion for them.
A sure-fire winner. I love this show.

THIS is a personal, artistic vision of what one man thinks the US should be, and how it should act.
The brilliant audacity!
(And to think that young John Landis had the temerity—or cojones!—
to ask Webb to play Dean Wormer in National Lampoon’s Animal House! Wow!)

Any episode about LSD or weed is a must-see, but “The Big Prophet” (often known as “Brother William”) is absolutely ESSENTIAL.
This is the episode where Sgt. Friday growls the now-infamous, “LSD is the bomb” speech:
"Marijuana is the flame, heroin is the fuse, LSD is the bomb.
So don't you try to equate liquor to marijuana, mister, not with me.
You may be able to sell that jazz to another pothead, but not to somebody who holds some sick kid's head while he vomits and wretches on a curbstone at four o’clock in the morning.
And when his legs get enough starch into them so he can stand up and empty his pockets, you can bet he'll have a stick or two of marijuana.

And you can double your money he'll turn up a sugar cube or a cap or two.
So don't you con me with your mind expansion slop.
I deal with kids every day.
I try to clean up the mess that people like you make out of 'em.
I'm the expert here, you're not."

And that’s fucking GENIUS! Yes!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ivanlandia Under Attack!!!

No coup d’etat attempted by the High Command—whew!—but the Imperial Palace has been under siege by supernatural economic focus, abetted by Evil Old Ones mucking about with their infernal weather machines—resulting in foul, cold, nasty weather which brought plague conditions to 99.9% of the Ivanlandia population.

THEN, on top of that, there was the standard holiday bullshit.
Man, the holidays are like the electromagnetic pulse from a thermonuclear blast: POW!
Lights out.

Once the Secret Police has done its job,
and the kangaroo court show trials
have been concluded,
transmissions and communiqu├ęs
from The United Provinces of Ivanlandia
will resume.

Hail, hail, Ivanlandia!