Monday, November 27, 2006

Joe Dante Blog-a-thon


Joe Dante has been a favorite of mine since I was young. I loved Gremlins, and my wife is a fan of Innerspace. A favorite of mine is Matinee which I think shows a love of B-movies that only Dante could bring to the screen. Then there’s Small Soldiers which was a cute little film that my son’s really like. But what is it that makes Joe Dante that special sort of filmmaker. I do have a theory and that is Dante’s film’s have a humor about them that the audiences connect with. Mr. Dante’s films also contain a certain amount of anarchy which we all love.

My first Dante film was Piranha, which was his first film he directed for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. His first film which he co-directed with Allen Arkush was Hollywood Boulevard and is legend on how it was created using stock footage from numerous films. The film is a homage/parody of ultra low budget movies, and is required viewing by filmmakers of all ages. But the one film that I went ga-ga for was Dante’s The Howling. The film was a re-telling of the werewolf legend and it was a brilliant horror film that contained a lot of Dante’s signature of comedy and horror. In an early scene in the film involving a character being killed by a werewolf, Dante intercuts a cartoon that reflects the victim's predicament. As a teen I was struck how Dante used comedy in the film. I’m sure this is all due to Mr. Dante’s training as a skilled editor for Roger Corman.

Some critics have criticized Dante for getting lost in his cartoon like world, and using it too much, but that isn’t true on several of his other films. The Burbs is a story that takes place on one city block, and is about the boredom of suburban life, and the embracing of the unusual, or Innerspace one of Dante’s best films with great comedic performances by Dennis Quaid & Martin Short. Both films show a flair for good performances and good storytelling.

Which brings me to Matinee. This is a film that is a love poem to the B movie, and who better to make it then Joe Dante. Dante shows off his love of old films (especially that of the 50’s moviemaker William Castle) and the ritual of going to the movies, while poking gentle fun at Castle-like film extrodinare Lawrence Woolsey who is played by the great John Goodman. As the kids in the theater watch the film with-in a film unspool we the audience cannot feel some sort of nostalgia to our own past.

Joe Dante’s filmography is extensive, and there are too many films to talk about all in one blog, but one thing that stands out in Mr. Dante’s films is his love for the cinema. Having worked on all levels of productions Mr. Dante is a filmmaker who has worked his way up the ranks from low budget films. Happy 60th birthday Mr. Dante, and thanks for the memorable films, and here’s to a lot more years of making memorable work.

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