I don’t want to sound too blase but yes it was cool that she was there, but I had work to do so I moved on.
By the time I headed for an elevator for the lobby around 12:30 a.m., I had completely forgotten she was in the building.
And then this happened: I headed to the two sets of double doors leading out to West 40th Street, my mind occupied with the commute home.
I really was not paying attention when I realized I was sort of sandwiched between a gaggle of people who were also leaving.
I turned behind me to hold the door open for one of these people and it was this guy, who I swear, filled the damn doorway top to bottom and side to side.
No exaggeration, he blocked out the light.
You know that character from “Game of Thrones” who is known as The Mountain?
In real life, that character is played by an Icelandic named Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson who has won competitions to be named the World’s Strongest Man and the first person to win the Arnold Strongman Classic.
The dude is 6 foot 9 inches tall.
Well, the guy in The Times building that night must’ve been his brother.
The Brother of the Mountain gave me a pleasant “thank you” for holding the door but it was only when I turned around that I realize that Rihanna was a mere footstep ahead of me.
And then I realized that this guy was her bodyguard and that I had somehow — inadvertently and stupidly — got between him and his protectee.
That is the equivalent of getting between a mama bear and her cubs: ill-advised and dangerous.
The guy could have snapped me like a matchstick.
When we got outside of the building, a guy in drag called out to Rihanna, who was stunningly beautiful in real life and could not have been more gracious to this fan waiting for her on the street.
She climbed into a big SUV and that was the last I saw of her.
That was my brush with fame — and probably near death if I got any closer to her!
In this final installment about movies set in or about New York City, Rich has this to say:
Growing up in New York City was something else. I was exposed to so much multicultural lifestyles, which my kids will never experience living in a semirural area of New Jersey.
New York City has a unique vibe when it comes to movies made in this town.
Here are three that best capture the city:
West Side Story (1961)
This classic musical adapted the Romeo and Juliet story to the rough streets of 1960 New York City with the gangs of Hell’s Kitchen on center stage.
Watching this as a child, it was funny that I wanted to be a Jet, especially after hearing the rousing song “When You’re a Jet,” which espouses being part of a group that protects you and is always with you.
Being of Puerto Rican descent, I should have been identifying with the Sharks, the rival gang of Puerto Ricans.
New York City was an exciting place filled with opportunity, but was not without its racial tensions. It was a place of immigrants, where so many ethnic groups took up their places and established their turf.
The movie was set in the mid and lower West Side of Manhattan with its chain link fences, concrete parks and endless tenements. It had a very bleak, hard and gray color palette.
I thought of “West Side Story” and wondered if this was a park that they may have filmed around.
From ‘60s era gangs in New York City we move up to the late ‘70s gangs in a time when my brothers and I were growing up.
The Warriors (1979)
This was the story of the rising gangs of the late ‘70s, when New York City was in a fiscal crisis and grappling with high crime, drugs, burned-out buildings and overcrowding.
The movie’s premise is that rival gangs come together to overpower the police and rule the city.
It opens with a view of the Wonder Wheel ride and the Warriors, a gang from Coney Island in Brooklyn, and their journey to the Bronx for a meeting of the gangs of the city.
They travel by subway from Coney Island to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, although as they follow the map it looks like they are headed to Pelham Bay Park.
This is one of the discrepancies that movies have when it comes to navigating the true geography and logistics of the city.
It was all so familiar to me as I had traveled from the Bronx to Coney Island many times to visit Astroland, home of the famous Cyclone rollercoaster, and the Wonder Wheel, a crazy Ferris wheel ride like no other on the planet.
Cyrus, the charismatic leader of the Riffs, holds the crowd of gangs mesmerized with a rousing speech on how they fight for their own turf and never really accomplish anything. But if the gangs can unite, they can overpower the police.
In the midst of his speech and many “Can you dig it?!” lines, Cyrus is shot and killed by the leader of the Rogues but the Warriors get blamed.
The movie then tracks the Warriors’ flight home to Coney Island by train and foot through the neighborhoods of New York, fighting all the gangs that are now after them.
Being born and raised in the Bronx I had personal experience with neighborhood gangs, like the Black Spades and the Savage Skulls. My older brother was actively recruited by one of the gangs but amazingly was able to escape without consequence.
He said one of the initiations was having to walk along a line of gang members and get beat down by each of them. You had to make it to the end of the line to pass.
This movie received a bad rap after its initial release as fighting was reported to have broken out in and around some of the theaters but it has now gained some cult status.
The movie was filmed throughout New York City and included some great fight scenes, including a fight with the baseball bat-wielding gang, the Baseball Furies; a heated furniture- smashing, gun-shooting fight with an all-girl gang the Lizzies, and a subway bathroom fight with the Punks, led by a roller-skating captain.
Leaving the gang world, here’s another movie in another period that holds some infamous New York City crime history.
The .44-Caliber Killer, also known as the Son of Sam, was stalking and shooting people in cars in lovers’ lanes around the city.
The police were not making progress and the city was in a panic.
This movie by Spike Lee depicts a Bronx neighborhood terrorized by this killer but more from their own paranoia and growing distrust of one another.
Again, my neighborhood could have passed for the one depicted in this movie, especially with one memory that comes to mind.
From the time of the first shooting in the Pelham Bay Park area of the Bronx, which was not that far from us, many of the neighborhood people became very concerned and worried about their teenage and young adult children.
One night after one of the shootings, much of the neighborhood was out on the street weighing what to do. My oldest brother Ralph had a car and would cruise around during the weekends and we were all told by our parents not to go out and park anywhere.
There was chaos and worry, which escalated as more shootings occurred.
This movie captured the time and the mood perfectly as we had experienced it.
In this installment of our favorite movies set or depicting New York City, Silvio weighs in.
“Fort Apache, the Bronx” (1981)
What a controversial film. There was massive pre-premiere hostility in the form of protests by Hispanic groups about the treatment of Hispanics in the film.
It did nothing to stop the release and did everything to increase its box office draw.
Regardless of the content, controversy or Paul Newman’s beautiful blue eyes, this movie at the time was a cinematic pariah but today is a visual snapshot of a Bronx I remember.
In the mid 1980s, I worked in the very area they used as a backdrop.
I worked at two different knitting mills on Third Avenue between Tremont Avenue and 176th Street.
Before that, my father worked there in the ’60s and ’70s. As a toddler and whatever it is that is the next stage after toddler, I ran around the filthy floors that later in life I would patrol as a supervisor in a knitting mill.
One of the reasons this movie resonates with me is the authentic Bronx locations.
When Paul Newman and Ken Wahl chase after a purse snatcher, the event starts right at the corner of Third and Tremont Avenues.
The building behind the police car is Expert Knitting Mills, where my father and I worked.
In fact, the corner clearly visible behind the screeching police land yacht was a pizza parlor where I spent many a lunch break.
The police chase the thief up the steps of Tremont Park.
In the scene blocking Newman, the facade on the building directly behind him are the windows of my knitting mill.
Just behind those windows were huge tables and huge scissors where I dropped off knitted pieces for quality inspection from the owners.
The movie’s location supervisor did a great job in identifying visual representations of the Bronx at that time.
The final scene features a genuine backdrop of the burned-out South Bronx that could never be recreated in a studio with master prop and studio coordinators.
Today that backdrop is gone. Fortunately, it’s lost to history and preserved only in pictures and film.
“The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three”
Four heavily armed men daringly kidnap and take hostage an entire New York subway train with passengers, gripping the city in paralyzing suspense.
They pledge to carry out hideous consequences if their ransom demands are not met within one short hour.
The only way to teleport the viewer of this fine thriller is to set the scene in an actual subway car under New York City.
That’s exactly what the creators of the original “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (1974) did.
Court Street Station, an abandoned subway station since 1946, doubled from different angles as two of the stations depicted in the film, 28th Street and Grand Central.
A stretch of track and an actual subway car were also used, extending the realism of the drama.
Today that abandoned station serves as the New York City Transit Museum.
Above ground, wide shots of the desperate car and motorcycle transportation of the ransom money were shot on location through Centre Street, Park Avenue, Astor Place and 28th Street.
A wonderful scene with uniformed police and the film’s New York mayor is captured with the backdrop of the 28th Street subway entrance.
Earlier in the film, one of the four gunmen, Mr. Green, portrayed by the late, great Martin Balsam, is seen descending into the 59th Street subway entrance.
Near the end of the film, when he is seen exiting the subway, it is through an actual subway grate in the sidewalk on Union Square East (between East 15th and 16th Streets) in Manhattan.
I love the incredible attention to detail this film took in using New York as its backdrop, but also equally important was the accurate representation of the character’s New York accents and attitudes.
A fun fact: A train’s name designation comes from the originating station and the scheduled time it left the station.
In the case of the film’s No. 6 train, it left the Pelham Bay Park Station in the Bronx at 1:23, hence Pelham 123.
After the movie was released, the No. 6 train would never be scheduled to leave Pelham station at 1:23 a.m. or p.m. by order of the New York City Transit Authority.
“A Bronx Tale”
Growing up in the Bronx was incredibly diverse, fun, scary, exciting and many times eventful. I loved every minute of it — looking back at it through nostalgic glasses.
The title character of “A Bronx Tale” goes through his own growing up in the tough streets of the Bronx, caught between his friends, the streets, the local mob men and his dad.
This movie, directed by one of New York’s favorite sons, Bobby De Niro, was written by a Belmont native, Chazz Palminteri, and it is semi-autobiographical.
The Belmont area of the Bronx is called “The Bronx’s Little Italy.”
Today, there is even an emblem with the Italian flag’s colors in the road at the corner of Arthur Avenue and East 187th Street. That is the street that the narrator of the film, Cologero Anello, tells us he grew up in.
He even points out his stoop. I remember having to explain what a stoop is to my friend from Alabama and his wife who were watching the movie with me and my wife.
The characters were so authentically New York that it really sells the movie.
The locations too give a real feel of 1960s New York, but the filmmakers had to go out of the Bronx to find the buildings still standing, unchanged that gave that authentic 1950 through 1960s New York look.
The locations for Calogero’s stoop, the Chez Bippy bar on the corner and all the street scenes were in Astoria, Queens. Although it was not the Bronx, it was still New York.
A fun fact: De Niro plays a bus driver. In order to drive the bus during filming, he got a commercial driver’s license with an airbrakes license after training with the New York City Transit Authority.
“Saturday Night Fever” (1977)
We find Vinnie Barbarino playing Tony Manero, a Brooklyn boy who works in his neighborhood paint store in Bay Ridge and he is the borough’s best disco strutter.
He’s great on the dance floor or dancing on the Verrazano Bridge. Just don’t hit his hair!
“Escape From New York” (1981)
Yeah, yeah, I know.
Except for the shots on Liberty Island and that famous cooper lady in the background, nothing else was filmed in New York.
John Carpenter worked magic to make St Louis and Los Angeles locations take on the grit and attitude of the titular city in the lawless future of “1997.” Ha!
Columbia University; Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company # 8 in TriBeCa as their office.
The New York City Public Library on 5th Ave was also used along with the building located at: 55 Central Park West (actually at 66th St.) was known as “Spook Central.”
The movie also featured one of my favorite ambulance conversions a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor.
I enjoyed seeing the old blue and gold New York license plates. I also liked “Ghostbusters II.” which had the Statue of Liberty, along with some other New York gems. Here they also pointed out the Statue of Liberty license plate too and wove it into the script.
The movie was mostly filmed in Boston and Massachusetts but some shots were filmed in New York City.
Columbia University was featured.
14 North Moore St., was their main headquarters, which was FDNY Ladder 8 featured in the 1984 version.
“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”
Subway entrance at Lexington Ave & East 59th Street, Manhattan.
Gracie Mansion, East End Avenue and 88th Street, Manhattan.
Astor Place and Lafayette Street, Manhattan
Court Street Station, Brooklyn.
Grand Central Terminal, 89 East 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, Manhattan.
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel 301 Park Avenue (between E 49th & 50th Street) Manhattan.
The Manhattan Bridge East River located in Lower Manhattan.
“You’ve Got Mail” (1998)
As for “You’ve Got Mail,” it was a clever AOL tag that had me hooked on this romance movie. Kind of sappy but reminded me of talking with people in the old days of AOL.
It’s why I changed my AOL email to John31NYC because in a chat room they’d ask what’s your name, how old are you and where are you from.
Now some 23 years later it’s still my email address and when it appeared on my resume I hoped that they thought I was much younger than advertised. I guess its perception that counts.
Filmed on the Upper West Side.
The Shop Around the corner-106 West 69th Street
Fox and Sons Books-Broadway between 66th and 67th Streets
Cafe Lalo-83rd Street and Amsterdam
H&H Bagels-2239 Broadway
Zabar’s-at 80th Street and Broadway
The ending of the movie takes place in Riverside Park’s 91st Street Garden.
At AMR, we are an opinionated stubborn lot, each with our own heartfelt views of movies and each with our own personal favorites for which movie shined the best spotlight on our hometown.
So over the next few days, each of us will weigh in with our “Best Of” lists. Turns out some of our picks overlap but many do not.
What movies set in New York City were your favorites? How far off base are our picks?
Let us know. You can comment on our Facebook page or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or be like a New Yorker and just scream at your computer screen loud enough to wake the neighbors.
Here’s my picks:
“The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three”
For me, this is the quintessential New York movie. Maybe it explains why it ranks as my all-time favorite (Shhhhhh….Don’t tell “Star Wars.”)
Let’s start with the basics: The No. 6 line (aka Pelham line aka Lexington Avenue line ) was the one I grew up with, so it’s close to home.
The thing about “Pelham” is that it so perfectly captured the attitude, passion, dark humor and grittiness of New York and its 8 million inhabitants.
The plot is terrific and the dialogue is like listening to a beautiful symphony of smart-ass street-savvy New Yorkers.
The authentic feel of the cop cars, the politics and the trains coupled with the dynamic soundtrack make this a must-see celebration of the city.
This is another one of those dark gritty movies with some smaller light moments to break up the grim.
Set largely at night with an overwhelming sense of menace lurking behind every corner, this 1979 movie captured the dispirited nature of New Yorkers who were contending with high crime and a broken subway system.
Despite its almost relentless hopelessness, there does come triumph in the end.
It’s a bit schlocky in places and maybe the production values are not the highest, but it stands out for the sense of place it delivers about the city.
Bonus: In recognition of a big blowout cast reunion in 2015, I interviewed one of the leading actors, Terence Michos, who played Vermin in the movie.
WARNING: This episode of About Men Radio contains spoilers for SW:TLJ!!!
A small arthouse film by the name of Star Wars: The Last Jedi was quietly released in a few theaters across the known universe this past week. It’s getting good reviews from critics but decidedly mixed reviews from its paying customers.
While it comes as no surprise that not everyone loves the most recent installment of the venerable space saga, what has been unexpected is the legion of fans that believe the movie disrespects the legacy of the original trilogy.
On this episode, Chris and Pedro examine the controversy in that understated and tasteful way you’ve all come to know and love.
One of the best movies this summer far and away has been “Wonder Woman.”
The movie stars Gal Gadot, who is not just a pretty face.
She’s got poise, comic sensibilities, acrobatic fight moves and a presence that really lights up a screen.
And a special bonus: The movie is now the highest-grossing live-action film to be directed by a woman.
The superhero adventure eclipsed the $609.8 million racked up by “Mamma Mia!,” the Abba musical that was directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Variety reports.
“Wonder Woman” was directed by Patty Jenkins, who previously oversaw the Oscar-winning “Monster.”
So what’s not to like?
Well, for those misogynistic knuckle-draggers out there who don’t want to see women succeed — in Hollywood or anywhere else — there is lots to complain about.
In this episode, Pedro and Chris sing the praises of “Wonder Woman” and explore whether it marks a turning point in movie-making’s male-dominated culture or whether this was merely a one-off occurrence.
They also push back against at the groundless criticism of the movie, especially by one guy who objected to an all-female screening at a theater in Austin, Tex.
Give a listen and tell us what you think. Express yourself on our Facebook page or write us at email@example.com.
When friends of a certain age get together, a bucket list – things we want to do before we die — can become the center of conversation.
There are fun and exciting things to do in far and exotic places that are probably completely out of reach due to lack of money, energy and testicular fortitude. Zip-lining through a rain forest and para-gliding over a stretch of the Gobi Desert (is that even a thing?) are waaay too intense for this geezer and most of his About Men Radio friends.
No, the bucket list I have is a lot simpler and cheaper.
I’ve written before about doing my part to expose my kids to the classics – no, not literature or art.
My classics are the movies that I have quoted many times — those great movies (at least I remember them as great) — from yesteryear.
These are movies that I grew up with, some old black-and-whites as well as some from the late 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s. These are movies that are too old to be on my kids’ millennial radars.
In our house we have movie night and I would exclaim, “It’s a Dad’s pick movie night!”
And the groans would go up from my clan. My wife would groan because it may be a movie I dragged her to when we were dating that she probably (definitely) hated.
So, how was I going to expose my kids to the long list of classics I know they will enjoy, or tolerate, if they just gave it a chance?
That’s when I came up with the Bucket List. Actually it’s more of a list that is cut up into pieces and placed inside a bucket.
That’s right. I have a small bucket next to our TV that has scraps of paper in it, with the titles of many classic movies my kids have yet to see.
So, here is how this works: The bucket is filled with titles. About 85 percent of them are ones I put in there such as “The Great Escape,” “The French Connection” and “Taps.”
It’s an eclectic list of great and not-so-great flicks.
On a night that the whole group is home (my daughter is 21 and my two boys are 18 and 16, so getting them all together is challenging) I will call out, “Bucket List Night” and wait for the groans to subside.
We randomly pick a movie from the bucket. To have any chance of getting them to agree to this, I let my kids select a few of their favorite titles to include in the bucket.
One of them reaches in and pulls out a title and I read it out loud.
The most powerful one in our group — my wife — gets to employ a single veto. If she is unhappy with the selected title she can veto the choice. But the following selection MUST be watched!
The vetoed title goes back in the bucket and if it is selected again in the future, it cannot be vetoed a second time.
We have strict parliamentarian rules. After all, we are not savages.
Another rule I gave into: No horror movie titles. Arghh! That cut me hard like a mutated cornfield dweller’s machete!
Once a title survives the veto, it gets watched. And here is where my soft heart bends a little: If at 60 minutes, the movie hasn’t captivated everyone, we can terminate it. (Insert a poor imitation of Arnold here.)
We have watched a few of my favorites — along with some snark from my kids — but overall we enjoyed watching “Adventures in Babysitting,” “The Lost Boys,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Truman Show,” “The Green Mile” and “Midnight Run.”
My kids have had luck on their side as they had only a few titles in the bucket, yet they were rewarded with back-to-back selections they made.
It was my turn to groan but I endured because sooner or later they will have to watch “Rambo: First Blood,” “Spies Like Us” and “Commando” with me.
I love movies and I am a guy. So I really, really love guy movies.
There are a few things that are undisputed that make up a guy movie and one of them is it has to have one or a few memorable quotes.
It’s the quote that gets repeated anytime guys get together. I wrote about it at About Men Radio. But there are movies that are guy movies determined not just by a quote but rather an entire monologue.
I selected these five not as the top five best ever but simply as five great and memorable monologues.
Wall Street – Michael Douglas Gordon Gekko(1987)
Ahh, the 80s. When corporate greed was acceptable, allowed and admired. The divide between the robber barons and the rest of the population was wide but accepted because the economic meltdown had yet to occur.
In this came an antihero who in his famous monologue explained why greed was good. And we all applauded.
Key quote: “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”
Classic movie monologues don’t always have to be serious. They can also be from one of the greatest comedy movies ever made. This infamous monologue is delivered brilliantly by the late great John Belushi.
The director John Landis said Belushi had the most expressive face he had ever had the fortune of directing. Think to the laughs he generated in the cafeteria food line scene without ever speaking a word but then near the end he gives one of the most rousing comedic monologues ever delivered on the big screen.
Key quote: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”
Blade Runner– Rutger Hauer Roy Batty(1982)
What would a guy movie be without a great villain? In the great sci-fi adaptation of Phillip K. Dick “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep,” the villain of the movie, now titled “Blade Runner”— because really, electric sheep?! — delivers a monologue in the pouring rain.
As scripted, the monologue was fantastic and masterfully delivered.
But then Rutger Hauer, playing the part of the replicant Roy Batty, improvised the final line, “Like tears in the rain,” transforming a great monologue to a masterpiece!
Key quote: “All those moments will be lost in time. Like tears in the rain”
Silence of the Lambs– Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lector(1991)
And while on the topic of villains, has there ever been a larger than life one than Hannibal Lector? Watching the great Sir Anthony Hopkins perform it simply freezes my spine, and it isn’t even the famous Chianti line. It is his final farewell to Clarice. Even though there is an interaction with the film’s protagonist, the delivery of the questions can be pieced together into a single, unforgettable and bone-chilling monologue.
Key quote: “You think if Catherine lives, you won’t wake up in the dark ever again to that awfulscreaming of the lambs.”
Jaws– Robert Shaw Quint(1975)
The Indianapolis speech from the blockbuster “Jaws.” Very little introduction or explanation is required of this monologue. Any true card-carrying guy can almost completely recite this one. But no one can ever deliver it with the gravitas that the late great Robert Shaw did. Reportedly Shaw did not like his first delivery of it. The following day he re-did the scene and was supposedly very drunk.
Key quote: “…and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.”
For many people I’m sure it represents some superstitious beliefs about the number 13, bad luck and ominous happenings on this day that can possibly occur three times a year.
For many people who are fans of a certain movie genre, it is a cause to celebrate one of the most successful horror movie franchises in history, “Friday the 13th,” and all of its sequels and recent reboot.
I just attended a “Friday the 13th” showing of the original 1980 movie in the town where much of the movie was filmed.
Blairstown, N.J., is the home of the Main Street and diner where many of the beginning scenes were filmed.
The nearby infamous Camp Crystal Lake where the story takes place is actually an active Boy Scout camp Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco that occasionally during times when no camping is taking place will hold tours for the movie’s fans.
They even have a display of memorabilia from the original filming on site.
Every year, Roy’s Hall, which was also known as the Historic Blairstown Theatre, screens the original film that gave birth to this franchise.
I finally was able to go this year and it was a great fun-filled experience.
Jason was in the lobby wearing his iconic hockey mask and wielding a bloody machete — perfect for a photo op.
He didn’t utter a word but was agreeable enough to pose but stay in character.
If you check out the Blairstown News Facebook page, it chronicles Jason’s tour through town and the diner “entertaining” and giving the local folks some scares and laughs on his way to the movie screening.
My daughter and her friend joined me, as they both love to watch horror movies.
They had seen the movie on video, but I had to laugh when they both jumped during a couple of jump scares, especially when Jason comes out of the lake and grabs Alice in the canoe. (Oops! Should I have prefaced that with a “Spoiler Alert”?)
This is so the power and delight of watching a movie in the dark on a big screen that being at home on TV can never compare to.
It was a packed house and the start of the movie was met with cheers and applause.
Each name in the opening credits was shouted out with hoots and hollers.
Every killing was met with shouts and clapping –- a real hardcore slasher movie crowd.
When the character Annie first appeared on screen, the crowd went wild, as she was walking down Main Street in Blairstown and then right by the theater that we were all sitting in.
More cheers and claps as she goes into the Blairstown Diner, where she asks for directions to the camp and gets a ride from a local truck driver and is dropped off at the Moravian Cemetery in nearby Hope, N.J.
It was a great time had by all. I’m looking forward to next year and hanging with Jason.
As Chris and I discuss on this episode of About Men Radio, the original Star Wars trilogy continues to be an important part of our lives and a cultural touchstone for the entire AMR posse.
While Chris has gone “all in” and is already set to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens multiple times over its opening weekend, my plan is to tread cautiously.
The crushing disappointment of the prequels forced me to reconsider how much I would continue to emotionally invest in the Star Wars universe now that it appeared George Lucas was no longer in tune with his creation. Georgie-boy broke my heart.
J.J. Abrams did an amazing job with the Star Trek reboot so I hope he can make lightning strike twice. I miss Luke Skywalker. I miss Leia, Han and Chewie. I especially miss the Millennium Falcon.
I want nothing more than to be that 13-year-old kid watching Star Wars (minus the “New Hope”) for the first time, totally swept away by the epic adventure.
When I read that a former colleague of mine, Germain Lussier, had interviewed Harrison Ford – among other leading lights from the new “Star Wars” movie – I could not think of a more worthy person to celebrate such a professional milestone.
I knew Germain from my time as an editor at The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. I was a news editor and he was an entertainment/features reporter.
He was quiet, diligent and dedicated. And above all, he was passionate about his craft and the beat he covered.
He pulled up stakes from his native New York to California for what he thought would be a career at a national magazine.
As you will read below, things took a different turn.
Germain graciously agreed to this Q/A for About Men Radio.
Apart from sharing in his reflective glory of rubbing elbows with Harrison friggin’ Ford (!), I wanted to tell his story because it is an excellent reminder to us all to pursue our passions with all our might.
There’s no telling the places you’ll go or the people you will meet.
Work does not have to be drudgery.
It can be a labor of love – something that Germain exemplifies here.
— Chris Mele
Tell readers a little about yourself: Where you grew up and a little
about your career path.
I grew up in Monroe, N.Y.
And from as early as I can remember, I wanted to be a movie critic. I thought getting paid to watch movies would be the best job in the world.
As I got older, I realized that there were other ways to do that too. So I went to New York University and majored in Cinema Studies, where I just studied, analyzed and wrote about film and film history.
That led me to internships with magazines such as Premiere, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly.
Eventually, I got a job as an entertainment reporter at my local newspaper, The Times Herald-Record. I worked there for six years before deciding I wanted to move away from where I grew up.
So I moved to Los Angeles and found a niche working on movie blogs.
For five years I worked on a site called Slashfilm and was able to write about movie news every single day, visit the sets of films like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Anchorman 2,” “Ender’s Game” and so many more.
It was a dream come true.
After a few years though, I got an offer to move to a bigger site, io9.com, and that’s where I am now.
Tell us about your passion for films: What are its roots and what is it about movies that fascinates you?
Honestly, I don’t know where my love for film comes from.
Neither of my parents love movies that much, but somehow by the age of 8 or so I already knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Now though, the passion comes from so many places.
First, the ability to go into a dark theater and be transported somewhere else emotionally never ever gets old.
Also, when you write about movies you have something new and exciting to look forward to every single week.
There are always new movies. Of course some are more highly anticipated than others but there’s always something exciting on the horizon.
Tell us about your current position at io9.com: How long have you been there, your title and duties.
I moved to California in June of 2009.
I started working at Slashfilm in September of 2010 and I started at io9 in June of 2015.
On the site, I’m the primary entertainment reporter, meaning if there’s news or an assignment having to do with movies or TV, I usually get first crack at it.
On a daily basis, I’m expected to write however many news stories are necessary and develop longer feature stories, which can be about almost anything.
Tell us about what led up to securing one-on-one interviews with the leading players connected to “The Force Awakens,” including Harrison Ford: How did that come about?
Everything lead up to it. Seriously.
I’ve been a “Star Wars” freak for as long as I can remember.
It was anticipation of Episode I that led me into the depths of the Internet and familiarized me with the websites that would become my livelihood a decade later.
It was those “Star Wars” websites that gave me my first opportunities as a college student to get a glimpse of the life of a Hollywood journalist.
As a college student, I interviewed the cast of the first two “Harry Potter” movies, as well as John Travolta, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle and Hugh Jackman for “Swordfish.”
My college graduation was in May 2002, the day Episode II was released in theaters and on that day, I set a goal for myself to be working somewhere I’d be able to write about the next movie, Episode III.
That happened in 2005 at The Times Herald-Record.
And ever since 2012, when Disney bought Lucasfilm and Star Wars, I had been developing relationships with people at that studio and in the industry not ONLY to prime myself for this event, but it was always on my mind.
So, as we got close to the release of the movie and I was invited to cover the press junket, I requested interviews with every single actor and filmmaker available.
I expected to maybe get one or two and I knew Harrison Ford was a long shot.
But, those relationships and my unrelenting passion for the franchise got me not just one interview, but five (four on the day as one got cancelled), including Ford.
And talking to Ford was a dream come true.
As long as I’ve been a “Star Wars” fan, I’ve been a bigger Han Solo fan. I also love Indiana Jones, so he’s always been my favorite actor and kind of an idol.
Plus, I collect Han Solo stuff so Harrison Ford is never too far from my face.
So actually getting to sit down with him was kind of a culmination of everything both in my personal and professional life, stuffed into eight short minutes.
Describe the interviews themselves. You openly expressed a certain disbelief that they were happening/did happen. What were those moments like for you?
These interviews are always extremely weird.
They take place in very sterile environments (hotels, offices, etc.) and are kind of an assembly line as a star sits in a room and then a string of journalists just walk in, talk to them, and leave.
For “Star Wars,” it was even odder as we were at a massive convention center and the interview rooms were bigger than most houses.
So you’d wait outside, walk in, sit on a white couch and talk for 8-10 minutes. And even more odd, with “Star Wars,” it’s the first press junket I’ve ever done without seeing the movie.
Sometimes there are “long lead” days where a company will show you a few minutes of a movie and then you do interviews but a week away from release, you always see the movie so you have something to talk to the actors about.
With “Star Wars,” you hadn’t seen anything and they were unable to talk about anything directly related to the movie.
It made for an interesting challenge.
Thankfully, I’ve been following this film since the second it was announced — literally — and I had plenty of questions for the likes of J.J. Abrams, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie and Mr. Ford.
Things only got weird on a few occasions with Isaac and Christie when they told me they weren’t allowed to answer a few questions.
I think my disbelief at being there was just kind of the resonance of feeling that so much of my life had led to this.
I’d finally arrived.
You have posted video of how you turned over your apartment to just about every piece of “Star Wars” memorabilia you own. As such a diehard fan and as a film critic, what are your expectations and hopes for the new movie?
My hopes are for something that makes me feel the way I do when I still watch the originals.
Those are my expectations too. I just want it to be something that’s worthy of “Star Wars,” that spawns conversation and answers questions I’ve had for decades about what happens next.
I mean I was ULTRA excited for the prequels.
I saw “The Phantom Menace” nine times in the theater I was so hyped for it. But with those movies, ultimately, you knew how they had to end.
Anakin becomes Darth Vader and his kids get separated.
But now, finally, after 32 years, we finally are going to find out what happens after “Return of the Jedi.”
We don’t know how it’s going to end, who the characters are, etc.
It’s all a mystery.
And that infinite possibility just gives me goosebumps.
On paper, the summer movie “Inside Out” is the story of a prepubescent girl from the perspective of the emotions inside her mind as personified by Joy, Anger, Fear, Sadness and Disgust.
And on paper, the movie, by Pixar, is a kids’ flick.
In reality, it is a good excuse for adults to sit in a darkened theater and have a good cry.
I warn you that if you go to see this movie, bring a box of tissues.
Or, if you are prone to snotfests like me, bring a roll of paper towels! It’s a gusher!
Seeing the movie was a reminder of how much more prone — and open to — I am to having a good cry.
It was not always this way.
In my 20s and 30s, I would have turned my emotions inward, even if something was upsetting me or making me sad.
But as I entered my 40s and endured a divorce, the death of a loved one and other life events, I found myself more accepting of crying as a natural part of living and not a sign of weakness.
It’s clear that if you try to deny these emotions, they will come out in other ways anyway.
It’s like squeezing a balloon: The air bubble will shift but does not disappear.
In this podcast of About Men Radio, Pedro and I discuss the culture we grew up in (“Big Boys Don’t Cry”), what kinds of TV shows or movies tug at our heartstrings (one of Pedro’s triggers was a complete surprise) and how, even with our openness and acceptance of crying we still use terms like “wuss” and “man up” to deflect attention from what is a common human experience.
Case in point: We agreed that we have never discussed this topic before in 40 years of friendship and that even if we were sitting together in a movie and crying, we would never speak of it!
We also discuss what science and research has discovered about the differences between how men and women process their emotions.
So, get out your hankies, put in your earbuds and give a listen!
But for memorable movie watching — as in like impossible to erase the imprint for your brain — the first-place trophy goes to AMR crew member Rich Rodriguez who a few years ago brought to the man cave “Requiem for a Dream” and “Human Centipede.”
We were crowded into a small room to watch “Requiem,” of which I knew nothing. It was an incredible movie about addiction but so dark and heavy that I needed a drink when it was over.
And then, as if that did not harsh our mellow enough, Rich popped in the DVD for “Human Centipede,” which was so vile and disgusting and repulsive that we demanded we watch it on fast-forward! (For an idea of how bad it was, consider that its sequel was banned in Britain!)
On a more uplifting note, there was the time we gathered at Pedro’s to watch “Ted,” the story of the raunchy, foul-mouthed stuffed teddy bear who comes to life.
At points we were laughing so hard and loud that we had to stop the movie and replay scenes because we were missing dialogue. That was a good time!
On June 20, 1975, movie entertainment changed forever.
I was 11 years old when “Jaws” was released, and my mom, a faithful moviegoer, took my friend and I to the Capri Theater on Fordham Road in the Bronx to see the movie everyone was talking about.
The theater was packed and it was like riding a rollercoaster, with the crowd screaming and shouting as we watched the masterpiece of cinema that Spielberg had created.
The one scene that to this day has still freaked me out was when Ben Gardener’s head popped out of the hole in the boat and surely made Hooper crap his wet suit. (Oops! Spoiler alert!)
We left the theater energized and spread the word that this was the movie to see.
Little did I know that 40 years later I would be sitting in a theater and watching this movie, now my personal all-time favorite film, with two of my kids and another packed theater of enthusiastic fans, enjoying every memorable line, the great performances, and of course, Bruce the shark.
This was not the first time my kids watched “Jaws.”
I made the mistake of showing them the movie on DVD when they were much too young and surely traumatized them. They all slept in my bed that night. Luckily we are not frequent beach goers.
I wonder why?
Over the years I drove everyone in my house crazy, watching “Jaws” every time it was on TV, during Shark Week and “Jaws” marathons. Always hated when I missed the original and got stuck watching “Jaws 2” or the even worse, “Jaws 3.” I don’t think I ever saw “Jaws: The Revenge.”
One night I drove my daughter out of the room because I kept rewinding the movie playing the “That’s some bad hat Harry” scene, and laughing each time.
The movie is filled with classic quotable lines like this.
My favorite scene and line is when Brody is complaining about chumming and the shark rises up out of the water and shows itself for the first time, totally shocking him, and he goes to Quint and says “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
So many gems like Ellen Brody’s “Wanna get drunk and fool around?” and, of course, Brody’s “Smile, you son of a bitch!”
During this 40th anniversary screening, the theater was packed again and we had to sit in the second row.
Some ladies next to me also saw the movie in 1975, and we were shocked during the scene when the two kids were pretending to be a shark in the water with the cardboard fin.
The lifeguard was standing blowing his whistle and the camera angle was from below and you could see right up his shorts. I had to turn my face away, but boy those ladies next to me got a big kick out of it.
They exclaimed “I didn’t see that in 1975!” I had to laugh out loud!
The crowd had a fun time, laughed at the classic lines and cheered at the end.
We all clapped during the credits,which my kids thought was strange.
A great nostalgic evening was had by all, and maybe some newbies discovered something special.
I am looking forward to the 50th anniversary and reserving my tickets now.
We guys, including my About Men Radio brothers, subconsciously crave that special moment when we transcend mere mortals and not only nail the quote to the moment but organically live it or make it larger than life.
I felt my wife’s hand on my forearm but instead of squashing my moment she whispered, “Relax Sonny.”
She recognized the scene without any prompting and added her own line to complete my moment! Typically a second guy completes a guy moment by delivering the final line, but unless my wife started going, RAT-A-TAT-TAT-TAT and then kicked me in the face for good measure, she couldn’t complete the actual scene.
But she recognized my moment, added her own line and made it memorable. She completed me.
I didn’t think I could love her more, but I was wrong.
As my wife and I sat in the movie theater waiting for “Fifty Shades of Grey” to begin, she squeezed my hand and said:
“Are you excited?”
“I’m going to be open-minded,” I replied.
“Careful,” she teased, “or your brains might fall out.”
If only they had. Then my head would have been as vacuous as this movie.
To be clear, I am no prude when it comes to sex or nudity.
As part of a misspent youth, I visited many theaters worthy of the trench-coat crowd and have seen some pretty far-out stuff, sexually speaking.
What goes on between two consenting adults? Get your freak on, folks.
Clown make-up, scuba suits, dripping candle wax: Whatever curls your toes, have at it.
But this movie did almost the impossible: It made sex scenes that were antiseptic, turgid and utterly lacking in heat.
In sum, it made for boring boning.
Christian Grey makes Anastasia Steele go through what amounts to some kinky “Simon Says” exercises. (The difference being that when she failed to follow the specific instructions, she got spanked.)
But there was zero spark or chemistry between the lead characters. It was like they were acting in two different movies, each shot separately against a blue screen and then spliced together.
My problems with the movie ranged from irritation (ridiculous over-the-top product placements for Apple) to disbelief (Anastasia is a modern-day college senior and she is using a flip-phone, plus she’s a virgin?) to exasperating (she is supposed to be falling in love with this creepy borderline stalker-abuser but she seems mostly uncomfortable in his company).
But most of all, I found “Fifty” demeaning to women to the point that it made my blood boil.
Anastasia is on the cusp of graduating college but she appears not to have a brain cell in her head and is painted as a total dolt, following Christian around like some hapless puppy.
Add to that a paddling scene that looks more like a vicious beating by an abusive spouse or boyfriend and a sex scene bordering on rape.
It felt like two hours and five minutes of “torture porn” masquerading as mainstream movie-making.
At one point, Christian says: “I don’t make love…I fuck. Hard.”
I *get* dirty talk, and I’m all for it, but in the context of this movie, it sounded silly, at best, and like an excuse for engaging in misogyny at worst.
Both are hugely popular movies based on controversial bestselling novels but only one will forever be the quintessential “Guy Movie”.
While the sexual adventures of Christian and Anastasia in Fifty Shades of Grey are a big hit with female audiences around the world, the operatic tale of the CorleoneFamily in The Godtfather trilogy continues to fascinate men forty-plus years after the release of the first film.
I’d wager a bet that Francis Ford Coppola’s epic about a mob family and their quest to achieve the American Dream would make the Top 10 list of most men you know.
On this episode of the AMR podcast we challenge posse member Tom Delgrosso to take the ultimate Godfather Quiz. Play along and find out how well you’d do against our Godfather super-fan.
Also on the show, Chris reads selections from the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” as he and El Kaiser do their best to figure out the appeal of the BDSM phenomenon.
How is it that an appallingly bad book as offensive to women and BDSM aficionados as this one can be such a huge pop-culture happening?
The gents from About Men Radio do their entertaining best to figure that out.
Based on the sizzling best-seller by the same name (one in a trio of books), it explores taboo topics of bondage, domination and punishment as a sexual outlet.
In other words, this is not a kids’ movie, unless, of course, you could picture SpongeBob LeatherPants in thigh-high boots, wielding a riding crop. “Ooooo, Patrick! Spank my KrabbyPatties!”
Though none of us at About Men Radio have yet to see “Fifty,” that did not stop Pedro and I from commenting wildly about it in our latest podcast, due out later this week.
About Men Radio follower Lyndsay Buonforte did the see “Fifty” on Monday.
This is what she wrote:
“Fifty Shades of Grey is raunchy yet tasteful, romantic yet vulnerable, intense yet awkwardly funny, seductive yet sweet. It is not just a chick-flick. The film was brought to life with every sensation. Fifty Shades leaves the audience needing more.”
I do have plans to see it and will weigh in with my own review. In the meantime, the hoopla about “Fifty” did make us wonder what ingredients go into making a movie sexy or steamy or sultry. (Is it getting warm in here or is it just me?)
My thinking is that for a movie to leave a lasting impression as sexy, it has to sort of sneak up on you and surprise you.
It is more about building an atmosphere and tension than simply having characters parading around showing off their naughty bits (though nothing wrong with that, either).
We asked AMR followers to suggest their favorite sexy movies.
Titles ranged from “Unfaithful,” (recommended by About Men Radio contributor Richard Rodriguez and AMR follower Rahadyan Timoteo Sastrowardoyo to “The Big Easy,” which Adrianne Montgomery Reilly cited for the “best sex scene with their clothes on. Ellen Barkin, DennisQuaid.”) That movie also got a thumb up from listener Leslie Jean Thornton.
Classic movie quotes. Together with my good friends from About Men Radio, we quote our favorites frequently. We are all of the same era, most of us the same age, hitting the mid-century milepost in the same year.
We love these movies. We watch them over and over, but we unknowingly view them with the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. With these specs on, our heroes and our movies can do no wrong. They are perfection. And boy, do we love to quote them.
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
But the true test of time for our beloved classics is the scrutiny of today’s teenagers. In the La Frossia household, I put up my classics to the viscious, modern critical eye of my kids.
All three of them teenagers, ranging from 13 to 18. Will they revel in the satirical violence of “RoboCop”? Or will they cut it down to size for the terrible sins of cheesy dialogue, phony sets or non-convincing FX?
“Your move, creep.”
What ends up being the most fun for each movie viewing is delighting in the reactions of my kids.
If the time is right, I will announce to the family that it is “Retro Movie Night.” It is sometimes received with a groan.
For them, they have to be in the “right mood” for a Dad classic. I usually win and I present a title for the evening.
I typically get bombarded with questions, especially when I mention a title and tell them to trust me and I do not give them a preview description.
Sometimes I get the most genuine reaction because they never heard of the movie, such as the original “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3.” My kids have never visited the Big Apple, so they have never experienced a subway, much less one from the 1970s.
And they didn’t need to. The expertly crafted movie that is TToP123 quickly engrossed them and they bought into the suspense and drama.
“We had a bomb scare in the Bronx yesterday, but it turned out to be a cantaloupe.”
But that was an easy one because it is considered by many movie experts as a timeless classic. How will they react to a Dad classic such as “Westworld”? With its ’70s special effects, ’60s computers and Yul Brynner?
“Your move. Draw!”
They overall liked the movie. Of course, the snickering at the hovercraft effects, the comments about the computer command control — they informed me that they held more power in their iPhone than was in that control center — and the comments about Yul’s accent for a western U S of A gunslinger were intense.
The banter though added another layer of fun to my classics and gives me a chance to enjoy them all over again, almost as if seeing it for the first time as I live it through their eyes and join in their commenting.
“Get your stinkin’ hands off of me you damn, dirty ape!”
Thanks to an extensive VHS and DVD collection as well as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon I have a wealth of classics to unleash on them. If they are to enjoy today’s future classics like “The Hobbit,” “Lord of the Rings” or the Harry Potter franchise, they need to see “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad.”
To love “Pacific Rim” they have to experience “Destroy All Monsters.”
That one line uttered by my mother absolved me from all guilt in the events that transpired on that summer weekend in 1981. It was not my fault but my brother Pablo still points the finger at me. I was forced by that order from Mom to have him come along to the double feature, at the Palace Theater in The Bronx, that I had planned to see with fellow AMR host and childhood friend Rich.
Rich and I shared a taste for the macabre. We read, traded, and re-read every Stephen King novel, Famous Monsters or Fangoria magazines plus anything we could devour that was horrific in nature and certain to provide, if not nightmares, at least a sleepless night or two.
By this point in time both Rich and I had watched the seminal Night of the Living Dead, originally released in 1968. But honestly, what self-respecting horror buff hasn’t?
That masterpiece of horror from George Romero predated another classic of the genre, The Exorcist, by five years and was the first major horror film I caught in the theater.
I was 9 years old.
I somehow convinced my Mom back then to take me to see what has been called, “the scariest film ever made.” And I loved it. It horrified me yet also solidified my love for the genre. And I hadn’t yet completed my first decade.
On that summer weekend Rich and I planned on taking in a horror double feature—that’s two movies for the price of one kiddies. On the bill was a slasher film, Mother’s Day and the headlining flick, Dawn of the Dead. The sequel to Night of the Living Dead was released 10 years after the original.
In order to attract an audience of horror and not porn lovers, the movie poster and newspaper ads had the full MPAA rating as “There is no explicit sex in this picture; however, there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted.”
Well, in the summer of 1981 I had not yet reached 17 years of age and I don’t think Rich had either. Not only were we technically sneaking ourselves in but we were attempting to smuggle someone in who was a full seven years younger than the intimidating “No one under 17 will be admitted” warning allowed.
No one batted an eye.
Rich and I stayed cool walking my baby brother in between us to our seats for the opener.
Mother’s Day was a blast of early 80s gore and hillbilly nonsense but it freaked my brother out. To his credit, he didn’t show it …much. Rich turned to him and told him, “You think that was bad, wait until you see Dawn”.
Dawn of the Dead scarred my young brother, giving him nightmares for days but Pablo went on to love the horror genre and I was wholly responsible for that. In an interview conducted outside of a horror convention, he both blames me (not Mom) and thanks me for his introduction to (and eventual love of) horror.