No Dog in this Fight: My first viewing of Straw Dogs.

The end of Straw Dogs has Dustin Hoffman’s David Sumner driving an uncredited David Warner’s Henry Niles back to town after the climatic showdown in the Sumner house. Henry tells David, “I don’t know my way home.” To which David responds, “That’s okay. I don’t either.” This final exchange sums up the entirety of what  Straw Dogs conveys. At the end of the day, just what are we? 

There will be spoilers here.

Prior to my viewing of Straw Dogs, the only film by Sam Peckinpah I’ve seen was The Wild Bunch. I took that film as a more visceral version of a Leone western. However having only seen it once, I didn’t get the themes that are prevalent with Peckinpah’s work. This film is rife with controversy and complications and interpretations. It is not an easy watch. Things do not resolve themselves. People are not good and don’t nescesarily become better people by the end of this.

This film is certainly one that earned its controversial status. It raises questions. Even if you answer one question, you may not answer the next question the same way.  Is Straw Dogs a condemnation of violent masculinity? One may interpret it that way. Or is it a celebration of that? It may be as well. Is Peckinpah blaming women for the violence that occurs against them? It seems that way, at least to me it did. Early on David asks his wife Amy (a heartbreaking performance by Susan George) why doesn’t she wear a bra if she doesn’t want the leering eyes of her ex-boyfriend and his cohorts focused on her chest. This moment is actually one of many that show her husband is not only meek, but part of the overall problem. He disrespects his wife at times and belittles her. He blames her sexual freedom for the attention she did not ask for. By time we reach the climax, you’ll see David is no better than the brutes who invade their home. It just took him a little longer to get there.


The controversial rape of Amy is still a discussion point to this day. Becuase of how Peckinpah filmed the scene, there are indicators that Amy at first refuses but then acquiesces. Now I do not see it that way. I saw a woman trying to cope with the violation being committed against her. The scene is brutal and uncomfortable and I actually feel uncomfortable trying to discuss it. Yet this is film criticism and I’d be remiss to not mention it at all despite its notorious reputation.


This is a very complicated film, directed by a very complicated man. Did Peckinpah hate the violence within himself? Did he allow that to manifest in this film? Does he think David is a hero or antihero? So many questions. It’s fitting that this film came out in 1971, the same year as fellow controversial director Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Straw Dogs, like that film are not easily watched. Yet both films hold a mirror to the ghastly primal nature of humanity and at the very least, make you look inside and question just what are you. Straw Dogs, structurally is a time bomb, ticking away during its runtime until it explodes in the climax. 

Is it just a matter of time for any of us? Just another of the many questions it forever brings. Endless questions and endless discussion.

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Iconic? Really? A First timer’s time at Camp Crystal Lake


I have not posted in a long time, a long time (in my Obi-Wan voice). So instead of overextending myself with some grand essay to announce my return to the Shame, I’ll keep this simple. Plus there really isn’t too much I have to say on this.

For years I knew of the great horror Monsters of the 70s/80s. You have Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger, Leatherface and Jason Vorhees. Believe it or not I had never seen a Friday the 13th film. I’ve seen Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but never a film with Friday in the title that didn’t star Ice Cube or Chris Tucker.

Well I knew I missing out, these are the things that when you’re growing up in the 90s are signs of your growing-upedness. “Hey did you see the new Jason movie?” Nope never. I resolved back during the first year of CinemaShame to watch at least the original film. I got collection of the first four for a really cheap price. So what happened? How did I receive these classics of modern horror? These iconic films of the slasher genre?

Answer: I didn’t receive them at all and wondered how they got their iconic reputation. 

There was nothing in the original film that to me came close to the achievements in the films by John Carpenter, Wes Craven or Tobe Hooper. In Halloween we get the suspense of the unstoppable Michael Myers, in Nightmare, the fear of dreams. For Texas Chainsaw we have an almost documentary like shoot of madness and murder. Even if you aren’t scared, you’re always engaged. Friday the 13th had none of that. I felt no tension, no thrills, I cared so little about the characters that I don’t even remember their names. Only Kevin Bacon. And I don’t actually remember his character’s name, just that it’s Kevin Bacon.

That was my face while watching. 

Sean Cunningham does have an interesting found footage type of style to his shooting of the film, it just sucks that there were no thrills until the end. Thankfully the movie is less than 2 hours so it is brisk. It’s just an interesting brisk. 

So after finally seeing Friday the 13th and some of the following films, I can why Jason is an iconic character, but not why this film or series has that same description. It’s not quite the “killer” I thought it would be.

February on the way to Yuma…

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Year Released: 1957
Running Time: 92 Minutes

Directed by Delmer Daves and based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, “3:10 to Yuma” is the second feature for my 2015 list of Shame. This one is actually a holdover from last year but I still really wanted to watch this.

Van Heflin and Glenn Ford play Dan Evans and Ben Wade respectively. Evans is a rancher who agrees to escort outlaw Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma to get him out of town before his gang arrives to get him.

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I love movies with constrained scenarios and limited settings. While the setting here is certainly no Rear Window, the taut nature of the plot mainly involving two men as they make their way across the desert intrigued me. I loved the manner in which Wade antagonizes Evans throughout. I had seen the 2008 remake with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale and this sort of banter I expected in a modern western, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it in a film from the 50s. This definitely is not the standard Hollywood western from that era.

I love how this movie was shot. It sort of has a feel that borders on film, yet also 1950s style television. The black and white cinematography is very sharp here. And when I say sharp I mean it as if there are edges you could cut yourself on. It’s almost as if it was something you would see on television then, but that’s not to deride it in anyway. I think that is due to the camerawork and very tight script.

Both the lead actors are fantastic in their roles. Ford plays Wade with a balanced menace to become a pure antagonist without slipping into villainy. Heflin is the dedicated family man who even though he may not say much, you can tell in his body language that he has no issue with handling Wade despite his seemingly meek nature. He is not easily intimidated by either Wade nor the situation they are in.

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One thing I was surprised by with this film is its director Delmer Daves. I initially thought after viewing that this is a guy who should have gotten more opportunities. Then I saw he was involved with other classics that I had seen such as Jubal, An Affair to Remember and Demetrius and the Gladiators. It makes me wonder why Daves isn’t talked about as much in film circles, or was he an early example of a gun for hire director? I’ll have to do some more research on him.

It’s cold here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in February so I’m glad I got to spend a 90 minutes in sunny Arizona watching a very good chase feature. Great acting, directing and writing will always make a great film. 3:10 to Yuma is a classic western that is not like some of the cookie cutter westerns of its era and one that should not be missed.

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January with the Replicants

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Year Released: 1982
Running Time: 116 minutes

For the first month of the year I watched Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner from 1982. Now this is a unique film in that I had to watch it twice in order to formulate a proper opinion.

Blade Runner has a few versions available. It’s one of the first films that came into public consciousness in regards to multiple cuts. I have the 3-Disc BluRay which has 5 versions: Theatrical Cut, Director’s Cut, International Theatrical Cut, Workprint and Final Cut. The Final cut is the one that Ridley Scott had full control over.

I watched both the International Theatrical and Final Cuts for my observation. Upon watching for the first time I was amazed at the world Scott had built. A futuristic LA, but still pretty grimy, almost similar to his previous picture Alien. Another thing that I had to do when watching this was change my view on the movie from my initial expectations. This takes place in the future, but it is not Sci-Fi. This is a noir. We have the hard boiled cop, the femme fatale, and we even have a narration by Harrison Ford throughout. Personally I was glad this was removed. Ford just had no delivery on the lines.

I’ve always known about Blade Runner’s history and that it’s a polarizing film. Thank goodness for future technology allowing us to see multiple versions of this film and I would highly recommend it. Even if you don’t like it yourself, it certainly is worth a viewing in some format.

Shame of The Innocents

At this point with a little more than a month left on the year, I’m trying my best to get as many movies in as possible. So most likely my original list won’t be completed but I am certainly still watching. Here is a look at the gothic horror film The Innocents which I had never seen. I previously posted this on my personal blog, I felt this had to be added to my shame because this is a brilliant film. I don’t usually engage in hyperbole so this really resonated with me.

Looking at The Innocents for the first time.

Directed by Jack Clayton

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I picked this up during the semi-annual Criterion Collection sale at Barnes and Noble. I have heard about this film’s legacy for years and had never seen it. I always like to hear of successful genre films from an older era because I feel viewers nowadays dismiss them unfairly. Here we have a nice and atmospheric gothic horror film that as you watch it is actually quite unsettling. Deborah Kerr plays a woman who becomes the governess for a wealthy man’s niece and nephew. I won’t go too much further into the plot as not to spoil anything but there is something suspicious about these kids. I know it sounds cliche, but the mystery behind this is quite intriguing.

The film opens with the 20th Century Fox logo, but no fanfare. It’s just a stark black and white image with the sound of a little girl singing. Very unnerving. I had previously thought that the opening to Alien 3 was very dark and foreboding but this takes the cake. The film oozes menace throughout which really makes it a horror film and not just some scare machine which one would think having seen its trailer. Honestly it doesn’t help sell the film at all. It makes it look like some 60s B-movie and this is far more than that.

As I watched the film, I took note of the splendid craftsmanship in the cinematography. It really reminded me of the work of Stanley Kubrick. Combine that with the tension that permeates the story which is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock, this is probably why I responded so well to the picture.

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A prime example of knowing how to scare people without making them jump. I would recommend The Innocents to anyone who hasn’t seen it or to those who profess to be horror movie buffs. This is a fantastic film, with quality acting and it’s also very well crafted. It’s a shame I did not see this film sooner.

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oh, the shame: a confession by @midairalmacita

I’ll admit it.  I’m stubborn.  A bit of a rebel.  When people tell me to do something, I mostly do the exact opposite.  Because I’m an adult, damnit.  Only I was like this as a kid, too.

When people tell me I just have to do this or that, I mostly just roll my eyes.  I’ll do what I want, okay?

So, this way of being has led me to a lifetime of watching really obscure, bizarre movies or hopeless romantic comedies (that are really quite bad) while missing all the “classics” of my generation.  I also attribute my lack of exposure to certain films to my sheltered childhood.  Growing up with very little, we never got to see films in theaters.  I can only really remember watching Crocodile Dundee.  Most of the time, we were stuck with what was on TV.  Basic TV, at that.  (I think we had cable for 3 months during all of my childhood).  By the time I was a teen and could rent movies, I had pretty weird taste in movies. And well, everything.

Now that I’m 35, I’ve realized that I kind of missed out on some pretty fun stuff.  Or seemingly fun (since I haven’t seen these things, I can only assume…people look like these things make them happy).  I’ve also found myself in many conversations where I have no idea what the Hell people are talking about.

I have a thing called a Mighty List, and–at some point–I decided that I wanted to watch a bunch of movies.  I really wanted to expose myself to new things and get out of my comfort zone.  So, this is part of that.  My list is mostly based on other people’s shock when I tell them that I have no knowledge of said films.

Without further ado…

  • Labyrinth (1986) – I attempted to watch this once, back in 2004. My then-fiance was completely perplexed that I hadn’t seen this movie.  He was a big science fiction geek who tried and tried to expand my horizons.  (He once gave me every Kurt Vonnegut book ever simply because I’d never–gasp–read anything from that guy).  I was actually trying really hard to watch the movie–even though I had a hunch I probably wouldn’t like it.  I’m not much of a science fiction/fantasy person, to be honest.  But it was weird, and there was David Bowie–and ooh, Jim Henson.  Yea…totally fell asleep ten minutes in.  Like dead to the world asleep.
  • ET – The Extra Terrestrial (1982) – This is another one my ex-fiance tried to get me to watch…that I tried to watch.  I passed out about 15 minutes in.  This one really took some doing to get me to agree.  I’ll admit–I avoided it on purpose my entire life simply because people said it was an Alma film.
  • Star Wars Original Trilogy (1977) – I think this is the one I get crap about the most.  I’ve had past boyfriends try to convince me to watch it, telling me all about the mythology (which does seem cool).  But I always refused.  I had to draw a line somewhere, and I just couldn’t go there.  I guess I am now a bit more curious about all the fuss.
  • Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – It just never occurred to me to willingly watch this movie.
  • Inception (2010) – Another movie that all my friends said was an “Alma” movie.  I just could never go there.
  • The Matrix (1999) – I once had a friend who would talk for hours about this movie, and I had no clue what they were even talking about.
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – Absolutely no excuse. They do midnight showings every weekend at the theater in my neighborhood.
  • The Godfather (1972) – I have absolutely no good reason for avoiding this one all my life.  I actually love a good mob flick.
  • Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – I actually think I’ll like this one.
  • Bull Durham (1988) – I adore Susan Sarandon, so I pretty much have to see this one.
  • Road House (1989) – For me, Patrick Swayze began and ended with Dirty Dancing.
  • Die Hard (1988) – I still have no clue why this is a Christmas movie.

There you have it.  Make fun of me.  Share awesome romantic comedies.  (I swear I’ve seen all the good ones, and everything else is just terrible).  I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

March #1: Get ready for greatness, Kerry. Say Anything

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Say Anything (1989)

“I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen.”

Lloyd Dobler, a bright, sweet underachiever loves Diane Court, class valedictorian. It writes itself, doesn’t it? She’s headed for a promising future and he’ll be lucky if he graduates. Opposites attract and they do sort of a modern Romeo and Juliet thing complete with dueling parents and Lloyd wedging a cross into the door of the high school gym at graduation. Or…they have a short romantic summer in which they learn to be open-minded about people and not take them at face value, then have a moving break-up scene and we see them at different colleges starting their lives apart. Be still, my heart. Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut could have skated by on a thin premise and the charisma of John Cusack, but the plot, characters, and acting chops of the entire cast lift Say Anything to a higher level of teen angst films.
First, the plot allows us to see Lloyd and Diane fall in love, but it also deals with their relationships with family and friends. It’s not all dates and necking and will they or won’t they. Diane has a dad and a job and a desire to step outside her academic life and see the world. Lloyd has military parents stationed overseas and a grown sister (real-life sister, Joan), her young son, and nagging doubts about his own future.
The characters and the actors who play them make this a denser film as well. John Mahoney, as Diane’s father never disappoints and his single-minded single dad gives a terrific performance as both Diane’s best friend and the first guy to let her down. He also has a wonderfully touching scene. He flirts with the attractive saleslady in a shop and asks her out as he acts the big man and places a large order. She tells him, awkwardly that his credit card has been declined. Embarrassed, Mahoney makes an excuse and leaves the store. The scene speaks to Mahoney’s character and part of the motivation for his misstep. Joan Cusack is solid, as usual. Lili Taylor has a nice smaller role as one of Lloyd’s close friends and has a great line. When Lloyd decides he won’t try to get back with Diane he says it’s “because I’m a guy. I have pride.” Lili says, “The world is full of guys. Be a man; don’t be a guy.” Eric Stoltz, Lois Chiles, Jeremy Piven, Chynna Phillips, Philip Baker Hall, and Bebe Neuwirth have small roles and the entire ensemble works together nicely.  Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson even appears as Lloyd’s martial arts coach.
Cameron Crowe wrote Say Anything’s screenplay and his dialogue has a natural sound to it. Nothing is forced and the story flows along nicely. The iconic scene with Lloyd holding the boombox over his head playing “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel has less impact in the film than I thought it would, but it carries more emotional weight for me now that I understand it in context.
Say Anything had fully formed characters, an interesting plot, and John Cusack.  It didn’t fit into the usual teen mold and had a less stylized ambiance than a John Hughes film. I enjoyed Say Anything and I’m glad Cinema Shame gave me a reason to see it.
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