Friday, September 14, 2012

LAFilmcutter.com is about to make a major migration, get a radical makeover and acquire a new name!

Over the course of the past month I've discovered that it's so much easier to post my usual trailer project updates, movie screening / Q&A rundowns, reviews, anniversary acknowledgments, location photos, pop culture rants and general comments about life in LA on the Facebook version of this site.

Because all that noise is going to primarily be happening there, this website will soon transform to more of a visual portal; a creative platform for blending imagery of the movies I love, the actors and characters on the big screen and filmmakers behind the camera I admire, and of course what inspires my work in the film industry.

I also learned through eight years of posting on this site that I really enjoy writing; to envision, to chronicle, to praise, to respond, to stand up, to go off, to cherish, to remember, to look ahead, to dream....and yes, to sometimes put shit in it's place! No pretense or false 'ownership' here.

The name of this site is also about to change. LA Filmcutter is about to become...

'Living in a Trailer'

No, not literally! Just a spin on a common phrase meaning to be broke and residing in a trailer park. Here it equates with my life now in trailers and quite the opposite of that misfortune. Inhabiting the work I do, completely immersing in a given project because you really have to. Plus, this time and place in my career envelopes a HUGE chunk of my life. Perhaps more than I originally imagined, but not in a bad way. Sometimes it does feel like I live here at In Sync.

The domain name is going to change as well. Here's the new address:

www.livinginatrailer.com

This conversion will be happening full-on at the beginning of next week so stay tuned and bookmark now.

So there ya go. If you're new here or have been around for awhile, THANK YOU!!! I sincerely appreciate sharing the interactive ride with like-minded people!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong, First Man of the Moon


I am truly, truly saddened to learn of the death of Neil Armstrong.

To say that the man was a real pioneer and hero is something many will acknowledge, and certainly I very much do as well. But the mere fact that under it all; the dream, the courage, the mission, the accomplishment, the adoration of millions...under it all, Neil Armstrong was a regular guy.

Humble and very grateful to have made that incredible journey with all the pure wonder of exploration most of us have bottled up inside of us when we're kids.

Neil, along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, took an entire generation of boomers up and out of our daily lives, beyond anything that resembled ordinary on this planet. Into that one moment where we were all glued to our television sets to watch those first shadowy images from the moon.

We...all of us...were there with him. Realizing for the first time in this generation, anything was possible.

Farewell, Mr. Armstrong. You made us all dream higher and bigger than we ever had before.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Director Tony Scott commits suicide

What a crazy weekend this was! Not to mention the incredible number of celebrity deaths in the last week alone.

Director Tony Scott took his own life on Sunday by jumping from a bridge near Long Beach. Such sad and shocking news.

What happened? Why was he so unhappy?

Certainly he'd had a very successful career and repeatedly shown a true stylistic vision with the movies he directed. From "Top Gun" thru his last film "Unstoppable", Tony Scott saw the action thriller through an MTV lens.

Whether you like his movies or not, you have to acknowledge the man for creating a style of cinema that will be acknowledged and copied for years to come. I'm certainly waiting to hear his brother Ridley's reaction. They co-headed the Scott Free production company.

Click on the photo of Tony for the full story as of right now. More details about why he did it seem to be arising at this moment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Phyllis Thaxter, Ma Kent from "Superman, The Movie", dies at age 90

The actress who for an entire generation embodied Ma Kent in "Superman, The Movie" has passed.

Phyllis Thaxter died at the age of 90 today after a long bout with Alzheimer's. She had a long and amazing film and television career, beginning with "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" in 1944 and starred alongside some of Hollywood's greatest like Van Johnson, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Mitchum and Burt Lancaster.

Of course our trip to the Kent Farm has even more meaning for me now. Although it was a little under 35 years ago that she, Glenn Ford and Jeff East stood on that ground, their spirit remains. I very specifically thought of Phyllis as Ma Kent sitting on the porch as we gazed up towards the house....just like this photo.

"Superman, The Movie" would be her last big screen role...and to have finished a film career as the iconic adoptive mother of a very special orphaned child she and her husband would name Clark, Thaxter secured her immortality across multiple generations.

Incidentally, Glenn Ford passed away six years ago this month on August 30, 2006. It'll be strange to watch that movie again and realize that he, Christopher Reeve and now Phyllis Thaxter are gone. But the onscreen memories they left us are truly beyond priceless.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Movie location....???

And the winning designation for my traveling to places where favorite movies were filmed?: Movie Location Explorer.

'OK, so just put it in the banner and shut up!'...a one might say. But you know it's the little things in life that sometimes bring me such joy.

Ultimately, terms I'd considered like 'locationist', 'locationast' or 'locationer' beared some explanation and seemed clunky, even though I liked how edgy they were. 'Explorer' is much more about the adventure of it as opposed to something that could be misconstrued as a hipster-type label.

These excursions have become even more a part of my life in the last decade. Although I actually began in 1980 when, during my first adult trip to NYC, I spotted the street address where Peter Falk takes Alan Arkin in a cab to pick up a bag from his office in "The In-Laws". It was only two blocks from the hotel we were staying at and I made a point to check the spot out early one morning.

I've come along way from just walking a couple of blocks. Now it's about traversing North America...and soon the world! I've been to so many of my favorite movie locations, yet there are more to be had as my exploration circle expands.

And believe it or not, I still haven't been to Ferris Bueller's house near Long Beach, CA!! Just a forty five minute drive from my apartment....Hello?!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Kinsella Baseball Field: peacefully timeless


Now to our third an final stop of 'The Farm, The Field & The Tower': The baseball field from "Field of Dreams" located near Dyersville, Iowa.

We decided before our travels to make a side trip to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota. But I'm going to write more about that in a separate post.

In order for us to enjoy a full afternoon at the baseball diamond in Iowa it was necessary to take a very early flight out of Rapid City. So we had to catch a 6am departure to Cedar Rapids followed by a one hour drive to the ball field. This meant putting a lockdown on going to bed the night before.

We'd be getting up between 3:30 and 4am so I wanted to make sure we were in bed between 8 and 9 Wednesday night. As it turned out, by the time we got back to the hotel after Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, we didn't close our eyes until going on 10pm. Yikes! The last thing I wanted was to be seriously exhausted as we drove up to the Kinsella Home.

Quickly I pulled the covers over my head and drifted off. I actually slept pretty well considering. The alarm sounded five and half hours later and we were up right away. I'd smartly made sure my bags were in order the night before so there'd be no delays, as did Rebecca. So as the sky began to brighten ever so slightly in the east, we got in our rental car and headed for the airport.

Luckily we were able to sleep during the flight and by the time we arrived in Cedar Rapids I was feeling very rested and ready to go!

The ball field was still an hour away, but it was nice to just take in the countryside as we went. The exactness of the Iowa road grid we saw from the plane was now spread out in front of us, once again yielding only flat horizon. We'd certainly seen our share of farm land on this week long trip, yet it was still beautiful to behold.

Our flight got in at 11:30am which would put us at the ball field around 12:30. The site was open to the public from 9am to 6pm and I knew that a nice, full afternoon would be more than enough time to explore everything and relax amongst.

Coming from the private land of the Kent Farm to the national park of Devils Tower, the fully acknowledged filming location of "Field of Dreams" was a big change.

As the drive up from Cedar Rapids went by at a pretty good clip, we decided to head to the hotel first to check in and drop our bags. We were now in Dyersville proper. The ball field was about four miles away and it was obvious to the woman at the front desk where we were going. Of course it didn't hurt that we both wore 1918 Chicago White Sox baseball caps.

I'd been playing the soundtrack during our drive from the airport, but now it was time to crank up the selects I'd chosen for our arrival at the location. Originally I wanted to have the end credits track guide us towards our first sighting of the house and ball field. But as I'd just finished listening to that on our final drive to the hotel, I decided to start 'The Place Where Dreams Come True'.

This is the climactic piece of James Horner music beginning with James Earl Jones being chosen to walk into the cornfield, continuing through Kevin Costner seeing his dad, playing catch and the slow helicopter lift shot to show the line of cars coming up the road.

Once again we were on our way to see a coveted movie location for the very first time. And once again I felt that wondrous sensation of anticipation come over me. The rush of connection to a place so special.

The soundtrack cut began to build as we turned the last corner before seeing the house and field in full sight.

WE WERE THERE!!!


This would be one of the most emotional moments of the entire trip, as 'The Place Where Dreams Come True' track suddenly burst into it's finale, almost as if I'd perfectly timed it!

I cried. I really cried.

And as the car came to a stop in the parking lot, the track finished. It couldn't have been a better arrival!!

Then something random happened that was the best 'welcome' and connection with a fellow fan of the movie. A guy in an SUV called out to me as I was closing the trunk of our rental car. He said 'hey' a couple of times until I realized he was speaking to me. As I turned, he said "hey....is this heaven?" And in perfect response I said "no....it's Iowa." Just the way Kevin Costner says the line in the movie. We nodded at one another and smiled as he drove off. I truly was in heaven.

Right off of the parking lot is a souvenir stand which sells all things "Field of Dreams". T-shirts, hoodies, baseball jerseys, caps, baseballs, bats, books, DVDs....everything connected not only with the film but with the history encased in the story; Shoeless Joe and the White Sox.


The first thing we did was walk onto the field and just let it all soak in. BEAUTIFUL!! There, by first base, stood the original bleacher from the movie. The Kinsella house, the ballpark lights high overhead and of course...the corn stalks. I was seriously appreciating the height and the healthy husks surrounding us. This was definitely the best time of year to be here. Temps were around 90 degrees and I suddenly realized it might have been better to be wearing my shorts. No matter. I was just glad to have finally made it to this hallowed place!

We walked out to the corn stalks and looked in. Just as so many other people were doing when they arrived. There was a steady rotation of around 20 visitors present at any given time. Rebecca and I stepped into the husks for a few photos and then walked around the outer row of the outfield.

It was magnificent! The whole place is so incredibly peaceful and utterly timeless.

I continued to listen to the movie soundtrack on my iPhone with earbuds in. We made our way over to the bleacher and found the original engraving on one of the steps which read 'Ray loves Annie', carved into the wood for the scene in the movie by Kevin Costner himself.

Some of the people there, adults and children alike, were playing pitch and catch, hitting balls into the outfield and running the bases. But at this point the sun was beating down on us and we had to find some shade. A small picnic table area sat under an overhang off of third base so we settled in to just relax and watch people play on the field.


It was another moment where we both felt great emotion about this place from one of our favorite movies of all time.

Rebecca put on her glove and I put on Allen's glove which he'd been so gracious to loan me for this trip. Something he'd grown up with and shared with his son...and I felt honored to be bringing it onto the "Field of Dreams" baseball diamond. The glove's return would include a little remembrance: to have actually been played on this field.

We decided to buy an official baseball from the souvenir stand. However it was not to be kept in it's plastic bag until we returned home, but brought out onto the field and thrown about, skipping into the dirt and grass occasionally. It became the best souvenir from our entire trip because in the end it had dirt and grass stains from our game play.

We began thinking about coming back the next morning for a bit. Our flight to San Diego and Comic-Con wasn't until 2:30pm so we had a little bit of time. As closing time neared, we got ourselves together and drove back to town for some wonderful dinner at a local steak house and then into bed at a reasonable hour. The weather would end up being a factor because, as we learned at the hotel, there were scattered thunderstorms predicted for overnight and the next day.

Friday morning we woke to somewhat overcast skies and the concern that we may have to deal with a bit of rain which would kind of ruin our return trip. But luckily the rain never came and there was only a 70% overcast sky. The sun flickered out and about briefly here and there. Still a good day to return to the field.

This time we knew we wanted to hit a few balls into the outfield. So when we drove into the parking lot and got out we immediately went to the souvenir stand to purchase a bat. They carried two different types and I opted for the Louisville Slugger. Mainly because it was the only size of the two that would fit in my checked luggage. The bat, as well as the ball we picked up the day before, are official MLB gear with the "Field of Dreams" movie logo and Universal logo imprinted on them.

Rebecca and I took the field once more as we switched off batting and pitching. We each drove one into the outfield and had fun running the bases and trying to tag one another. It was another perfect day and a good couple of hours to really appreciate where we were once more.

The Kinsella House was not open to the public but we'd been told the day before that they intend to open it up soon with props, costumes, photos and memorabilia from the movie. I would absolutely love to see the inside and I'm sure they'll outfit it to look like Ray, Annie and Karin's fictional home.

Soon it was getting near time to head to the airport. I really didn't want to leave! We took a few more photos on the way out, savoring those last moments as we'd done in Wyoming and Canada. I played more of the soundtrack as we drove out the main dirt driveway.

It was the end of our movie location trip...and yet I wasn't feeling melancholy. The entire week had been seamless in it's execution and beyond compare. As we arrived at the airport and boarded our flight for San Diego and two days at Comic-Con, I began to realize that this was the best vacation I'd ever had! Probably in my entire life!

Once again, you can check out the entire set of photos from the "Field of Dreams" baseball field, as well as the full collection of photos from our entire trip RIGHT HERE!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

JawsFest 2012....WAIT, WHAT???!!!!!

In 2005, a group of "Jaws" fans held a 30th anniversary event to honor the movie called JawsFest on Martha's Vineyard. It included a tour of filming sites on the island with a real appreciation for the history of the film. I was still freelancing at the time and money wasn't quite as steady like it is today.

Having just been to my first Comic-Con, I was thirsty for more movie centric events and was seriously considering going. The only issue: How big would JawsFest be? It could have been a smallish gathering of "Jaws" fans for a multi-day low-yield party.

Was it really worth traveling 3,000 miles to attend? Even though I've always wanted to visit the place where Amity Island came alive, I knew I could go on my own at any time. And so I opted not to go.

BIG mistake!

Turned out that group of fans had partnered with Universal Studios to promote the 30th Anniversary DVD that was just being released. Among the guests in attendance were several members of the cast and crew as well author Peter Benchley who would be making one of his last public appearances. The event boasted an attendance of close to 2,000 people and was much more sprawling than I could have imagined.

SHIT!!! I spent the next several months kicking myself that I hadn't gone!

The following year I eagerly anticipated news of a follow up. Nope. A few people involved expressed an interest to regroup for JawsFest 2. A few fans did return but it just became a small island party and nothing of any size or scope.

I found myself becoming busy with work once again and fell away from checking if anything like what now seemed like a once in a lifetime event would ever happen again.

Flash forward to August 2012.

"Jaws" is about to be released on Blu-ray for the first time this coming Tuesday, the 14th. Anticipation is high and I will definitely be getting my hands on a copy right away.

So here we are driving from Los Angeles to San Jose yesterday to attend a birthday party for one of Rebecca's friends. As we pulled into a gas station along the way, I began flipping through Facebook posts. One of my 'likes' is the official "Jaws" page. Update posts had been sporadic, yet I noticed one on this day about an outdoor screening of the movie somewhere. I clicked the link, which I might not have seen without a random glance.

Now I was on a website with more info. That website is JawsTribute.com and at the top right of the page was the date of a new event to honor the movie, on Martha's Vineyard once again with amazing guests, programming and tours of the filming locations.

The dates read August 9-12, 2012. I bolted up from my reclined seat in shock.

FUUUUCCCCK!!!!! SERIOUSLY???!!!!

Where were the notifications?!! Where were the news stories?!! How, with all of the cross referencing movie websites and links in my arsenal, did I not see one blip about this in advance???!!!!

It was happening THIS WEEKEND! I have now missed two...TWO...of these 'must see' events! Will they have another one next year? Based on the history, I kinda doubt it. My only hope now is that in 2015, during the 40th Anniversary of "Jaws", there will be another one. Just hit the 'like' button on their Facebook page. I am NOT missing out on any more information! Check out the official site by clicking on the 'Jaws Fest: The Tribute' logo.

Mostly, beyond the sheer frustration, it's just sad that I didn't know about this even just a month or three weeks out. At that point I could have done something. Ugh!

On a final and more positive note, we've already discussed that our next movie location trip would encompass a full-on tour of Martha's Vineyard. Something I've been trying to do since the mid 80's when I lived in Boston and the island was only a ninety minute drive to the south. We'll get there!!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The slow moving path of huge content

Talk about a major undertaking!!

In amongst cutting two project at work, I continue my efforts to upload another large group of photos from and write about the final stop on our movie location trip: the Kisella Baseball Field from "Field of Dreams". Not to mention the fact that I am TRYING to write a proper review for "The Dark Knight Rises"!

I'm also looking to come up with a name which reflects my passion for movie locations. This, to be added to the top banner profile here and on Facebook. The wheels are turning...

'Enthusiast' sounds like I'm a bird watcher and other terms like addict, aficionado, buff, devotee and fanatic are all annoyingly generic. Yes, I know I'm using 'fanatic' with Comic-Con but I've been wanting to change that as well.

I actually really like 'movie locationist'. It sort of combines 'location' and 'enthusiast' (or even 'tourist') but gives it a cool and edgy spin...like The Mentalist. But then I read that a 'locationist' is (quoting the Urban Dictionary):

'a person who bases the way they feel about another by the place that they live.

Example:
- You're from the valley? Ew.
- God, why are you such a locationist?'

Made me wanna drop that one from the running. Unless of course I decide to re-invent the term because I'm adding the word 'movie' before it, changing the tone to:

Example:
'The big spillway at the 101 and 405 interchange? That's where they shot the end credit scene in "Buckaroo Banzai."'
i.e. a specific place or structure will make me think of a specific movie that it's from, as opposed to a slant on someone because of where they're from.

See!...I'm trying to break the term out of it's ugly Urban Dictionary dungeon.

I also weighed 'movie location tripper'...since heading to these sites always means taking a trip. Kind of on the fence about that one though. Could sound a little trippy...LOL! 'Tourist' is completely O - U - T - ! It's SO dorky white T-shirt with a big American flag or name of the place you're visiting in big letters or giant image of wolves from neck to bottom hem. God awful!!!

BTW, I specifically want to keep the words 'movie location'. Those have to be the constant and whatever follows or comes before needs to be short. Oh yeah, and one additional idea was 'movie locationer'. Not sure if that really makes the right statement.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Climbing Devils Tower: ominously foreboding and beautifully spectacular



Once again, the amount of photos we took on this trip is staggering! That, linked with repeated hot spots during the week when a new cut of my "Resident Evil" broadcast spot had to go out the door for the studio's approval, has caused this rollout of the full trip story to take a bit longer.

But no matter. On to stop #2 of 'The Farm, The Field & The Tower': Devils Tower! The location of the extraterrestrial landing at the climax of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Departing Calgary after visiting the Kent Farm from "Superman, The Movie", we vowed to go back very soon and not only visit the other movie locations we opted to hold off on, but also to stay in the Sheraton near the airport once again with that amazing water slide! We also want to check out more of the city as we spent most of the time near the suburbs and amongst plenty of farming country.

Late Monday afternoon would turn into night as our plane touched down in Rapid City, South Dakota. This was the closest major airport to Devils Tower, just a little over two hours drive. I wanted us to travel in daylight so we could see the tower rising over the horizon as we drove. So that night we stayed at a Comfort Inn just off the highway we'd take in the morning.

We were very blessed as far as weather was concerned for this entire vacation! Despite the black clouds near Blackie and the Kent Farm, the rest of the week put temps in the 80's and 90's with no cloud cover or rain whatsoever.

Heading out to Devils Tower on Tuesday morning, this was another first as I'd never been to Wyoming before, much less South Dakota. Around the halfway point a 'Welcome to Wyoming' sign appeared and of course we had to stop for pictures. But not before several other people showed up and we swapped cameras so everyone could be in their own shots. Another hour of drive time passed as we were treated to beautiful landscapes of American flatland.

Soon the object of my movie dreams began to peak over the horizon! Even though I'd heard you can see Devils Tower from 26 miles away, it probably wasn't until we were 16 miles out that I began to recognize that unquestionably familiar shape.

I'd been watching "Close Encounters" on my laptop as we entered the one hour mark from our final destination. However I only wanted to see from the point where Roy Neary is in his car driving through Wyoming and on the way to Devils Tower up through and including the moment when Neary and Jillian break out of the government base camp and head for the mountain. The entire landing sequence would wait until we were actually there...probably that night or in the morning.

Closer and closer, the tower emerged from the landscape to become the obsession of our wonder.

As we approached the last stretch of road leading to the entrance to the park surrounding the tower I once again reached for my iPod, cranking up 'TV Reveals', 'Roy and Jillian on the Road' and 'The Mountain' from the original soundtrack. Yes, I had exact tracks chosen for those first awe-inspiring moments when we'd arrive at each location. I began to realize that this time was the most important of all; the moment each of these movie locations came full-on into view and we could almost touch them. The vibe of the movies they were connected to became so immediate and all encompassing.


We stopped once again about a mile before the tower to take more photos. Three women we snapped shots of at the Wyoming sign drove up (they mentioned they were heading here) and I ran over to offer my photo taking services again. We all had a laugh and took one another's picture against the rock monolith in the distance.

Rolling up to the entrance to the park, campground and stores at around 11:30am, we found ourselves right where the government officials were encamped in the movie as well as the where Lacombe (Fran├žois Truffaut) and interpreter David Laughlin (Bob Balaban) try to convince Major Walsh that the people who'd come there tonight were in fact invited. Of course this was also the place where Roy and Jillian decide to escape from the helicopter and run for the mountain. There's a KOA campground there now, although there may have been at the time as well.

And right in front of us...Devils Tower!! Majestic, forboding, ominous, spectacular and almost magical!

We stopped in the general store and immediately saw the star attraction on sale right by the register; a rack of "Close Encounters" box set DVDs! As we shopped around a bit and picked up post cards for friends (there was a post office right on site) someone behind the counter told us that they actual run the movie in the restaurant area ever single night at 7pm. So cool!! Unfortunately we wouldn't be able to attend because we had dinner arranged that night.

It was time to take photos then head around the back side of the tower where our accommodations were located; The Devils Tower Lodge. I continued to crank the soundtrack while gazing up at the mountain, wondering how difficult it would be to climb just like they did in the movie.

A couple of weeks before, I read on the official website that there were several trails around the tower. But it wasn't until I called the lodge for more info, I learned that there was a paved trail which ran around the entire base! Wow! Looks like my efforts to actual get around the back side to see where the landing took place in the movie would be easier than I thought. And to my surprise, as the day progressed, I found out just HOW easy it would actually be.

I knew from aerial photos that there was a large field of boulders at the back side of the tower. And of course I knew that nothing had actually been filmed there...only the front side. The entire landing sequence in the movie had been photographed at a large hanger in Alabama and shots of the strip behind Devils Tower were superimposed into a model and matte painting. Nonetheless, this was the place where it all happened in the story and the movie and I had to get there...somehow!!

The Devils Tower Lodge is a bed and breakfast operated by a wonderful man by the name of Frank and he was a most gracious host. We stopped by to check in, change into hiking shoes and clothes, and then head back to the tower for our full-on hike around the base. We were pumped!...as well as me being so grateful that Rebecca suggested I buy hiking boots right before our trip. They really came in handy and helped so much with foot comfort as we were traversing the 1.3 mile trail.

I'd loaded the movie soundtrack onto my iPhone for easy access during our trip and that was the first thing I reached for as we got out of the car. There was a ranger station and gift shop right where the trail began and where most of the other hikers were preparing to begin the walk. Rebecca and I started up an extremely steep hill as Devils Tower loomed ahead of us.

It was time to switch off cameras with some of the other people around us. A dad was trying to take a photo of his large family so I asked if I could take it for him so he could be in the shot as well. Turned out he had three cameras and I happily obliged.

In between photos, his wife noticed that the T-shirt I was wearing was connected to the movie. 'Hey, that's from "Close Encounters" isn't it?", she said. I said yes, appreciating the fact (as I always do) when someone 'gets' what I'm wearing. This was perhaps a bit obscure for the casual glance; the music board from the landing strip with the five tones highlighted in appropriate colors. But she nailed it and I declared that this was the reason we were there.

A few steps later we found ourselves several yards from the boulder field where the landing took place in the movie and I was overjoyed. We took a bunch of photos, but I surmised there had to be a better view of this place from above or the other side. Continuing on counterclockwise around the base, we saw some really beautiful angles of the tower seldom seen. And when we arrived near the front face we could look out far past the entrance gate, campground and stores. Just an incredibly beautiful sight.

Rounding the front of the tower now to the right side of the face, we came upon the place where Roy Neary and Jillian made their final ascent on the way to the back side and the landing strip. This is where Roy loses his grip and slides down a rock hill as Jillian reaches for his his hand. All while choppers with EZ-4 approach. It's certainly a bit grown over now but was unmistakable.

We had to get to this spot by veering off the trail. Signs along the way announced that you had to have a permit to leave the trail and climb the mountain. But I had to climb up there a bit for the best view of the location. Around the back side where we began, we witnessed a father and two sons who were high above the rock field but not climbing the actual tower. Just traversing large boulders in a way I'd hoped I could. Have to admit it seem a bit dangerous.

Rebecca and I were now past the front and slowly making our way around to the back of the tower. We were both a bit tired due to the 90 degree temps. Another major suggestion she made that really paid off; wear shorts! Something I haven't done in more than a decade. California climate is mostly a dry heat and I never felt the need to wear them, always opting for jeans or khakis. Not to mention the fact that I am a very white Irish boy and not a big fan of showing off my gams. LOL! BTW, since the trip ended I've not only started wearing shorts again on the weekend, but have purchased a few additional pairs.

Along the way on the trail there were benches and markers explaining how Devils Tower came into existence and some of the history surrounding the native american tribes who honor it. We were now completely at the back side and I could tell the end of the trail was nearing. I watched in anticipation to see the boulder field and the site of the extraterrestrials landing from the movie. What we were about to approach was so much more than I could have hoped for.

The trail forked with one path going right into the woods and another other veering left towards the back side of the tower. We took that one in high expectations.

Suddenly....THERE IT WAS!!!



A marker that documented how the portions of the tower had broken off sat almost right in the middle of the boulder field where the trail ended. We were there!!! We were right in the exact spot where the landing strip was located in the movie! Again, I know they didn't film anything back there, but still...this was IT!!!

Camera shutters flashed as we soaked in the area, the moment, and the climactic scene from "Close Encounters" that occurred on this very spot!

Outside of this wonderful connection to another of my favorite movies of all time, this was a starkly beautiful place. We were looking straight up the slope of the back side of the tower...and the sun was in just the right spot making for perfect photographic lighting.

Something I became aware of as we made our way around the entire tower; the geography of Devils Tower had been 'cheated' (an editing term for 'putting two things together that aren't necessarily in the same scene or location') during the filming of the movie. Most of the climb that Roy Neary, Jillian and Larry make up the front side of the tower is correct. However during the final ascent, where Larry falls asleep after breathing in EZ-4 gas and Roy and Jillian have to leave him behind, cameras moved to the back side and the boulder field to make for a more foreboding, climactic end to the climb.

Another movie observation: when Laughlin (Bob Balaban) realizes that the numbers being sent by the extraterrestrials are actually Earth coordinates, the final geological map we see on screen showing that they intend to land next to Devils Tower is somewhat incorrect. During an official's meeting to decide how the populace will be cleared from a 300 mile radias of the tower, a close up of this map shows an 'X' and the precise spot where the landing will take place. In real life that 'X' is actually located where the government base camp sits on the front side. The parking area loop is in full view to the left of the tower on the map which is in fact near the back side.

After spending many moments breathing in the back side and boulder field, we were aware that exhaustion was starting to take over. It was nearing time to head to the lodge and get cleaned up for dinner. Yet we still had a little over two hours to go so we decided to get to our rental car and head back around to the front side of the tower to check out the Devils Tower Trading Post, another store with soveneirs, books, T-shirts and other paraphenalia for those wanting to take a piece of the rock with them. That was something I'd already done when we were in close proximaty to where Roy and Jillian made their final climb to the dark side of the moon; dig up a small rock to bring home as a memento. One that had obviously been undisturbed for decades or even hundreds of years.

At this point all I wanted to do was sit down and have an ice cold drink. We'd earned it! Inside the Trading Post we found an ice cream stand and decided to have a nice cold treat, sit and really relax. Looking around the store a bit more before heading back to the lodge, we discovered a few large sized display cases. Inside was a merchandise treasure trove from "Close Encounters"; Magazines, books, the soundtrack on record and tape, puzzles, a frisbee, trading card sets, a lunch box....all original items from 1977 and 1978!! Some of these were still in their original wrap! A sign inside the cases read 'display only - not for sale'. Incredible collection! And of course there was another rack with many more copies of the movie box set for sale. I was so very appreciative of this representation and love for the film on site!

Now it was time to head back to the lodge and get ready for dinner. We were served a fine meal of Mexican food in the main dining room as were other guests in attendance. Several people were there to rock climb and we saw climbers way up on the face of the tower several times while hiking the trail. Absolutely amazing and just a little scary to behold!

As night fell I suddenly got the crazy idea that it would be cool to go back to the trail and see the tower at night. Not walking around the entire length though. Just heading up the hill to the fork that began the loop. I had my iPhone with me and decided to play 'Wild Signals' from the "Close Encounters" soundtrack. I envisioned that it might be a little creepy listening to that in the near dark. But we did it anyway as I blasted the track (if you can call it 'blasting' with iPhone speakers alone) with only the two of us there. It was another moment that brought us closer to that sequence from the movie. Hearing the five tones and the exchange from the mothership echoing in the woods as the tower loomed overhead was truly an exhilarating moment! At one point I could feel the hair on my arms rising.

We traveled back to the lodge for a good nights sleep in a big comfy bed...Devils Tower eerily shadowing us out our window.

Wednesday morning came and I knew I wanted to experience a few more aspects of the tower just one more time before we left. I was a bit tired the night before and missed the opportunity to watch the end of the movie at night with the tower in sight; a very appropriate time and setting. So we decided to drive around the back side once again, sit in the car and watch the landing sequence from the point where Roy and Gillian first glimpse the landing strip right through the end credits. It was a fitting end to a very full 24 hours there.

Snapping a few more photos, mailing post cards and enjoying the morning, we turned the car around for one more wide glance. This is another place I would return to in a heartbeat and hopefully next time we'll bring a tent and camp out.

It was time to hit the road for a little side trip we decided to take before flying off to Iowa and the "Field of Dreams" baseball field. But I'm going to leave that for the next post because this one is JUST SO BIG!!! LOL!

You can check out our full set of photos from Devils Tower as well as all the images from 'The Farm, The Field & The Tower' by clicking RIGHT HERE!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Arrival at the Kent Farm: only the sound of the wind in the high grass



So here we go! Photos and the tale of the first stop on our movie location trip, 'The Farm, The Field & The Tower'! As mentioned, I've decided to write separate posts for each location because there's just SO MUCH to tell!!!

On Saturday, July 7 we flew out of LAX, heading to Calgary, Alberta Canada and the Kent Farm filming site from "Superman, The Movie"! As I spoke of earlier, I had a flurry of e-mails the day before we left from several contacts / fellow fans of the movie in regard to visiting and shooting at this location, which is privately owned. There's a very long and complex story behind all of it that reached some rather inflated heights. At this point and out of respect for those involved, I don't think it's that crucial to elaborate...not to mention the fact that the it would take forever to transpose here!

After flying over the beautifully snowcapped Canadian Rockies, we landed at the Calgary Airport where I began to experience my first time time outside the US. But from the very first moment we were inundated with why everyone else seemed to be in the area; The Calgary Stampede! An annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July. We were completely unaware of this event but right away noticed that a lot of men were wearing cowboy hats and every eatery and hotel was decked out with some type of western motif....like hay bales in the lobby!

"Are you going to The Stampede?", we were asked by everyone. "No, we're just going to the Kent Farm." Believe it or not we actually said that a few times just for a laugh.

Our first night in Calgary was a bit of a revelation; it stays light for a very long time in the evening. How late? Try 11pm before the sun actually sets!! Crazy!

The hotel we stayed in was really nice and just over an hour from the Kent Farm. To our surprise, the pool area (which we'd hoped to enjoy) actually housed a THREE STORY water slide!! Saturday night was pretty packed, but on Sunday when we made our way down to see if we could try it out...the place was a ghost town! For the simple reason that everyone and his brother staying there was attending The Stampede! Yay!!

Smiling broadly as we walked in to discover the space void of people, the water slide appeared to be off. One of the attendants came by and we asked if maybe it might not be working. Nope, we were told. They'd just shut it down because no one was there. At which point the switch was happily thrown and we had a couple of hours all to ourselves! It was A-MAZING!!

Midday was turning into afternoon and I knew it was time for us to get ready to head to the farm. I'd also planned for us to visit a couple of other Smallville filming locations from "Superman, The Movie" while we were in the area; the Smallville Cemetary, Smalville High School and the tracks where young Clark jumps in front of the train.

The weather predicted 80 degress and clear skies all day. But as dark clouds surprisingly appeared to the south, we wondered what things would be like when we arrived at these locations.

As we started our drive south from Calgary to Blackie, I began thinking about how much time we'd want to spend at each stop. Surely the Kent Farm would be the center piece of our trip and I knew I'd want to spend the most amount of time there possible. So I made an executive decision; if we travelled the additional hour south to two of the three additional locations (over two hours total from the hotel), took all the photos and absorption time we desired, then back tracked to the farm, we could be in serious jeopardy of missing the best light possible for enjoying the site as well as taking great photos. Not to mention actually savoring the prime time of the day there!

Verdict: this trip we'd pass on the additional locations.

It was a tough decision but one I was fine with almost immediately. The farm held the most amount of emotion for me and what with the flight only being three hours to Calgary from LA, I knew it'd be easy to take even a weekend trip and return in the future.

Clouds continued to close in as I monitored the situation while guiding Rebecca (who drove everywhere during this entire trip...her election) with directions.

I had Google map coordinates for the farm on my iPhone (provided by someone who'd posted a couple of photos he'd snapped of the farm online), even though we were trying stay away from incurring roaming rates which were astronomical! Having shunned usage from the moment we arrived in Canada, I really felt the need to just shuck it and use the best tool we had in the car for navigation and communication.

As we arrived in Blackie a few drops began hitting the wind shield. This was NOT good as Sunday was pretty much our one day to make this trip before heading off on Monday afternoon for South Dakota and Devils Tower. Somehow we got turned around a bit from where I knew the farm had to be, heading down a road that actually turned out to be two roads to the west. It was now around 5pm. I wasn't worried about day light...just how those rain clouds would pan out.

Suddenly we found ourselves coming up cold on where the farm was actually located. I began scratching my head because according to what I had in front of me on the phone, we were in the right place. But with a little road assistance and perseverance, we at last found ourselves heading down the right road.

Within a few kilometers the barn of the Kent Farm started to peak over the horizon. A wonderful chill came over me as we began to recognize and grow closer to those iconic structures.

THERE IT WAS!!!



Yes, it was a bit overgrown some 34 years on. But still beautiful to behold!!

We drove down to the house just next door to turn around. At that moment, and quite miraculously, the sun started to peak out below the dark crowds, shining glowing afternoon light onto the farm and surrounding area. My fears of a darkened visit had lifted and an underlying back-up plan that we might have to return early the next day before our departure was swept away!

I can't tell you how much of an emotional moment it was to stand there on the road and see the place where the Kents and their special adopted son live in "Superman, The  Movie"! The road in front of the farm where Clark surprises a group of school mates, claiming he'd ran home ahead of them. The barn where young Clark discovers the crystal that would change his life. And the field where Ma Kent found Clark looking off in the distance, realizing it was time for him to leave.

As Rebecca parked the car by the side of the road, I immediately reached for my iPod and did the first thing I was waiting to do the moment we arrived; play "Leaving Home" from the soundtrack.

At the end of the opening, foreboding crescendo of discovering the green crystal, the low strings started and began to grow...

...and I just wept.

I couldn't believe we were there. I couldn't believe we were standing at that very place. It just took my breathe right away.

I predicted to Rebecca long before we made this trip that because this place was so far away from everything, even down a very long dirt road, that the only sound we'd hear would be the wind in the grass. And that's exactly what we experienced as we got out of the car. It was so peaceful...so gentle. I'll never forget that sound.

The entire time we were there only three cars passed by. This is a giant swath of farming land and residents were far and few between.

It was time to take photos and we took A LOT! It may seem like there are only a handful in the set, but in fact we had multiple angles of everything in our camera lenses. The pics you see are the best of the best of the best.



I knew there was only one thing to wear to the Kent Farm and it became my mission to find it no matter what. I just knew that someone out there online had to be selling a Christopher Reeve Superman 'S' T-shirt. It didn't take long to find a seller on eBay and shortly thereafter the 1978 shield was in my possession. I proudly donned it after we arrived and now everything was right and perfect. BTW, I even purchased a black one with white 'S' as well which represents Jor-El's robes from the movie.

We were there for probably close to two hours as we brought snacks to enjoy in the car just to give us some extra time enjoying the scenery.

I plugged in my laptop so we could watch the entire Smallville sequence from the movie, much of which takes place right where we were standing. This is something I've enjoyed doing at every single movie location visit and trip. There on the screen were Glenn Ford and Jeff East talking about not showing off and that young Clark was here for a reason. We watched intently, occasionally gazing up at the farm in wonder with only the dialog in our ears. We ended with the crane shot over Ma Kent and young Clark into the wheat fields.

With one last very long look and some more photos, it was time to go. 8pm and the sun was still up and bathing the Kent Farm in it's continual glow.

You can view the entire set of photos from 'The Farm, The Field & The Tower' on Flickr which begins with this location...RIGHT HERE! I'll be posting specific photos to this set from each of the next two stops as I write the story of Devils Tower and the Kinsella Baseball Field, respectively.

I was now in a wonderful buzz of where we'd just been, continuing to listen to John Williams sweeping score as we drove away and back to our hotel. But not before having some well deserved dinner.

Ultimately we were very lucky to have made the decision to not go to the other locations. I really, REALLY want to see them at some point! Hopefully sooner rather than later. But we truly arrived at the Kent Farm when we were suppose to....and I took the sun coming out at that precise moment as a true sign of that.

The next morning we got up and ran a couple of errands; I forgot to bring my car adapter for the iPod so we had to pick one up at a local electronics store. Then it was off to the Calgary International Airport just 2 miles away to head to destination #2...

Next trip post: Devils Tower!

Mary Tamm, "Doctor Who" companion Romana, dies at age 62



Celebrities usually die in three's...or so the legend goes. Yet so far this past week there have been four! But it wasn't until I happened upon the news just now that Mary Tamm had passed away that I had my 'oh, wow' moment out of all of them.

There are certainly a few that I did not acknowledge that I really need to (Ernest Borgnine), but this is for Mary.

She was the first actress to play one of my absolute favorite companions on Doctor Who...Romana. This was back in the days of Tom Baker towards the late 70's and she only played the role for one series. Lala Ward, who would go on to become Mrs Tom Baker for a time, took on the part for a further two series.

She's probably more known as the first time lord and near equal to The Doctor on the show. Yet the both of them combined created a character more than just a damsel in distress at a time when companions, especially female, were someone for the Doctor to rescue rather than be a driving force in each adventure. Romana took the show in a new direction and I always felt that they should bring back the character, possibly even to have her own series.

I actually met Mary Tamm in Philadelphia in the mid-80's and she was very nice and very gracious. I didn't know she had cancer, although the actress has certainly just been a part of my appreciation for "Doctor Who" over these last three decades.

She died after a long battle with cancer and I'm very saddened to learn of her passing. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.

You can read more about Mary's indelible mark on "Doctor Who" right here.

Review of "The Dark Knight Rises": not yet

After the midnight show of "The Dark Knight Rises" one week ago tonight I found myself a bit unsure of how I completely felt about Christopher Nolan's end to his Batman trilogy.

My consensus, as well as a few other people's I've spoken with, is that it's good...but not great.

I really wanted to let the film gel in my head (because I really wanted to love it with little or no question!) and then have a very open minded second screening within the week. We're doing just that by returning to the Arclight Dome tomorrow night.

Rebecca will be with me this time as she was not feeling well last week. I'm certainly hoping to like it a bit more than the first time, even though I did enjoy the movie overall.

Once screening #2 is done, I'll be writing a proper review here.