Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
Coulrophobia aka “fear of clowns” appears to be gripping the land these days. But as we all know clowns (whose intended purpose is to make us laugh) have long been a source of terror for many. Consider “Twisty” on American Horror Story: Freakshow. Consider the numerous iterations of “The Joker,” on screen or on page. Or watch any of the following films…if you dare.
Poltergeist (1982) William Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) directed this instant horror masterpiece that was written and produced by none other than Steven Spielberg himself. While the movie’s main focus is on the evil ghosts that kidnap the Freeling family’s youngest child, added frights come from a possessed clown doll who attacks the family son. It has an 88% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, was nominated for three Academy Awards, and made AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space(1988) This is the sole film written AND directed by the notorious Chido Brothers who did the puppets and effect work for such movies as Critters and Team America: World Police. Starring Grant Cramer (An Inconvenient Woman, Raptor) and Suzanne Snyder (Weird Science, Night of the Creeps). Evil aliens descend on a small town planning to capture, kill, and harvest the human population. The twist is that for some unknown reason, the aliens all look like circus clowns. It has since become a cult hit with a 71% fresh rating on the Tomatometer.
Clownhouse (1989) Written and directed by Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers) and starring Nathan Forrest Winters, Brian McHugh, and Sam Rockwell in his film debut. Three young brothers are left alone one night while their mother is visiting relatives and so they visit a circus despite the youngest boys coulrophobia. Of course pretty soon all three of them will have coulrophobia when their home is invaded by three homicidal, escaped mental patients disguised as clowns. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
It (1990) This supernatural horror mini-series based on the Stephen King bestseller of the same name originally aired on ABC to good reviews. The story revolves around an inter-dimensional evil lifeform who can transform into people’s worst fears. It’s most popular form though is that of Pennywise (Tim Curry whose performance was widely praised) a sardonic, sadistic clown. A group of misfit kids known as the Losers Club discover Pennywise and vow to destroy him; first attempting to do as children and then later as adults. Also starring Annette O’ Toole, John Ritter, Tim Reid, Michael Cole and Dennis Christopher. Richard Bellis received an Emmy Award for his work on the musical score.
Saw (2004) The cult hit that kicked off one of the biggest modern horror franchises owed its success to many factors. It’s pioneering efforts in how graphic on screen violence could be, Tobin Bell’s performance as the cunning and sadistic Jigsaw Killer John Kramer, and also for its use of “Billy” the malevolent little clown puppet, that Kramer uses as his ‘voice.’
Did you know that September 22, is National Elephant Appreciation Day?!? Neither did I. But now that we do know, I think we can all agree that it’s an excellent day to take a day to appreciate these gentle giants with one of the following films.
Dumbo (1941) The fourth animated Disney film based on the children’s story by Helen Aberson revolves around Jumbo Jr. a young elephant cruelly nicknamed “Dumbo” by his peers for his big ears. But it turns out these ears can also help him fly! Even despite the advent of WWII, Dumbo was still the most financially successful Disney film of the 40’s, and today holds a 97 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and in 2011 was named one of ‘The 25 All-TIME Best Animated Films” by Time Magazine. It’s titular character has also become an internationally recognized icon.
White Hunter Black Heart(1990) Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, the film is based on the Peter Viertel novel of the same name; which was in turn a thinly disguised account of Viertel’s experiences working on the 1951 film The African Queen. Filmmaker John Wilson (Clint Eastwood) travels to Africa in the early fifties for a shoot bringing along young scriptwriter Pete Verrill (Jeff Fahey of Wyatt Earp and The Seventh Scroll). But once on location, Wilson neglects film preparations for his new obsession with hunting down a big tusked elephant -a goal he even acknowledges is sinful. It has an 88 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and has been described as Eastwood’s best work before Unforgiven.
Born to be Wild(2011) David Lickley directed this nature documentary short about orphaned orangutans and elephants and the people who rescue them. It has a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes for the movie’s heart-warming story and nature footage that is both charming and really, really cute.
The Eyes of Thailand(2012) Windy Borman directed and produced this documentary about Soraida Solwawa who opened the world’s first Elephant Hospital. The Friends of Asian Elephants Hospital in Lampang, Thailand took in two elephant landmine survivors Motala and baby Mosha who had lost their legs. Solwawa and her team developed the first elephant prosthesis to help them walk again. Besides celebrating elephant’s the film’s also a cautionary tale about landmines and won the Ace Documentary Grant.
When Elephants Were Young (2015) This French-Canadian documentary was directed by World Elephant Day (a separate holiday from Elephant Appreciation Day) co-founder Patricia Sims and narrated by Will Shatner. Twenty six year old Wok in Thailand has been caring for his elephant Nong Mai since she was three. Nong Mai was one of thirty five captive elephants in Wok’s village as part of a (now rapidly fading), tradition of elephant keeping. The family’s business is street begging with Nong Mai in Bangkok. The film follows how the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation offers to buy Nong Mai to reintroduce her to the wild. The film had its international premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival where it won Best Documentary Feature.
USA! USA! Starting August 5th, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games commence in Rio. Sadly, this year’s athletic spectacles are likely to be overshadowed by the Zika virus that is ravaging Brazilian society at the moment and indeed many competitors might not participate this year for fear of infection. In fact 150 doctors signed a letter to the World Health Organization asking that the games be canceled or at least postponed this year for exactly that reason. Other issues dogging the games include pollution, problems constructing the necessary infrastructure, the notoriously high crime rate in Rio, ongoing doping scandals, etc. Still, those supporting Team USA will still want to watch our amazing athletes compete. To get into the mood, why not watch a film about the Olympic games?
Tokyo Olympiad (1965) This documentary directed by Kon Ichikawa (47 Ronin) about the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was considered a milestone in documentary making, being very much a cinematic and artistic recording of the events more concerned with the atmosphere of the games and the athletes themselves than simply recording the winners and losers. That turned out though, to be the exact opposite of what the Japanese government (who’d financed the film) wanted and they made Ichikawa significantly edit it to get the 93 minute version they wanted rather than his 170 minute version. The latter version though is considered to be one of the best films about the Olympics AND one of the best sports documentaries of all time.
Chariots of Fire(1981) Written by Colin Welland and directed by Hugh Hudson, Chariots tells the true story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) a devout Scotsman who runs for the glory of god, and Cambridge student Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) who runs to overcome British anti-Semitism. Considered to be one of the greatest sports movies ever filmed it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Score.
Cool Runnings (1993) Directed by Jon Turtletaub (While You Were Sleeping, National Treasure) this tells the story of the debut of the Jamaican National Bobsled’s team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics – despite the fact that the team members had never even experienced winter before. Funny and surprisingly touching with the late, great John Candy in one of his final roles, it was an unexpected box office hit making over $150 million on a $14 million budget.
Miracle (2004) Directed by Gavin O’ Conner, it recounts the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. hockey team in a startling upset defeated the Soviet team and won the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. Kurt Russell (Escape From New York, Tequila Sunrise) is the lead as coach Herb Brooks, Patricia Clarkson plays his wife, and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Cellular,) as Brooks’ assistant general manager this one has an over 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Top Spin (2014) This feature length documentary was directed by Mina T. Son and Sara Newens follows three American table top tennis players: Ariel Hsing, Michael Landers, and Lily Zhang, on their journey to the 2012 Olympics. The film premiered at NYC DOC 2014 where it received and audience award and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2015 CAAMFest. It currently has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.