Sights and Sounds

Only the Young

 “Ah, these kids today!”

It’s the collective sigh huffed by every adult generation in history: our youth have no respect, no direction, no values. Fortunately examples like Only the Young (Oscilloscope Laboratories), the debut feature-length documentary from Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, remind us that today’s teenagers are more than pop-cultured iPhone zombies—that perhaps they’re even human, and not so hopeless, considering the world they’re growing up in.

Only the Young follows skateboarders Garrison and Kevin as they navigate their high school years in a small town outside of Los Angeles. Thanks to the rapport the filmmakers earn with the boys, we’re able to roll right along with them—to an abandoned house, to the skatepark, and into their homes and their social circle. We meet Skye, who as the boys’ cohort, confidante, and sometimes-girlfriend becomes an integral character in the film herself.

Tin Man

Tin Man DVD Cover

Tin Man DVD Cover

 

Let me first say that I am a Wizard of Oz nut. No, I'm not talking about the 1939 MGM Judy Garland film, which don't get me wrong, is a great film. I'm talking the Oz books by L. Frank Baum and those by Ruth Plumly Thompson and others who wrote about the traditional Land of Oz. However, I am not a purist. I enjoy movies and stories about Oz that are non-traditional. Phillip Jose Farmer's Barnstormer in Oz comes to mind. The miniseries Tin Man falls into this category. Imagine a Land of Oz that, while still filled with magic, lacks the Munchkins, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. Instead you have The OZ (The Outer Zone) which was once ruled over by a beloved queen and her advisors. The marshals became known as Tin Men because of the tin stars they wore; their appearance is much like that of the modern western lawman with long brown trench coats wearing their guns at their sides.

Tin Man stars Zooey Deschanel as DG, the daughter of the beloved queen of The OZ sent to Kansas as a child to escape the clutches of the wicked queen who has taken over her kingdom. DG is raised on a farm by her aunt and uncle and she has no memory of The OZ. The wicked queen played by Kathleen Robertson has punished and/or exiled all who remained loyal to the former queen. She has removed half of the brain of the queen's main advisor, Glitch (Alan Cumming), leaving him an apparent idiot with a zipper down the center of his skull. DG is forced to return to The OZ and, in a journey that mirrors that of the traditional OZ stories, accumulate an entourage to help her defeat the wicked queen. One of these, of course, is a former marshal or Tin Man (Neil McDonough) of the title who has his own score to settle with the wicked queen.

Tin Man moves quickly with a number of twists and turns, some of them unexpected others telegraphed so you know they are coming. Those familiar with the Wizard of Oz will have no trouble figuring out which of the characters of The OZ correspond to those in the original Oz stories. Tin Man is a more adult story than the Oz books and movies, but still likely to be enjoyed by the whole family. If I had a complaint about the series it is that it is too short by about 45 seconds. It isn't that the ending was unsatisfactory, but I was expecting at least one more line. Everyone I've talked with who has watched this film mentally filled in this line or one like it and it really isn't needed to finish the series, but it would have been nice. (Sorry, you'll just have to figure out what the line is yourself as it would be a definite spoiler.)

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

I will admit to having been both leery and intrigued by the premise of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. The idea of one of our historically beloved presidents being turned into Buffy the Vampire Slayer appalled me. However I like a good vampire film as much as the next person. I also like being surprised.

Jeremiah Johnson

I was once asked what I thought of Robert Redford. My response was immediate. I didn't like him and I thought he was a lousy actor trading on his good looks, though he was certainly a talented director. A short while later the discussion turned to our favorite movies when asked I began naming them: Sneakers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Last Castle, The Sting, The Great Waldo Pepper, The Natural and finally Jeremiah Johnson. There was a sudden pause in the discussion when the person I was talking to said, "Didn't you just say ...?"

Always Heard, Never Known

This is the story of a band that everyone has heard and yet most people don’t even know their name.  They played on more hit records than Elvis, than The Beach Boys, than The Rolling Stones or the Beatles ….combined.  They were responsible for the driving beat of the Motown hit factory.   The riffs you remember to so many songs were arranged and performed by them;  yet  if I mentioned some of their names, James Jamerson,  Richard Allen, Joe Messina, to name a few there would be no flash of recognition in your mind.

Ali

I visited the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville this past weekend, so it naturally occurred to me to watch Ali again afterwards. While the film is noticeably uneven as a bio-pic, it does cover the most notable part of Ali's boxing career from his first fight with Sonny Liston to his "Rumble in the Jungle" with George Foreman. The film also delves into his relationship with The Nation of Islam, his fight against being drafted into the Vietnam War, his appearances on television with Howard Cosell, and so on.

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