Ken Russell (1927-2011)

Ken Russell (1927-2011) (photo)

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The Associated Press reports that Ken Russell, the controversial British director of such cult films as “The Devils,” “Tommy,” and “Altered States,” died on Sunday after a series of strokes. He was 84. The AP sums it up well:

“Ken Russell got Oliver Reed and Alan Bates to wrestle naked, turned Vanessa Redgrave into a demonic nun and cast Ringo Starr as the pope. Critics and mainstream audiences often hated his films. Actors and admirers loved him. The iconoclastic British director, whose death aged 84 was announced Monday, made films that blended music, sex and violence in a potent brew seemingly drawn straight from his subconscious.”

Russell isn’t a household name, but amongst cinephiles, his appearance in a film’s credits signalled reason for excitement. Russell’s movies might not always have been perfect, but during his heyday in the 1960s and ’70s, they were always interesting. Scrolling through his IMDb page you see the work of a director willing to experiment and push cinematic boundaries. In 1969, he made “Women in Love,” famous for its frank approach to sexuality and the aforementioned nude wrestling scene between Reed and Bates. In 1971, he directed “The Devils” about demonic possession in 17th century France, and drew the ire of the Catholic Church, which condemned the movie and its depiction of the religion. In 1980’s “Altered States,” Russell used a sensory deprivation chamber and some hallucinogenic drugs to, in all seriousness, turn William Hurt into a monkey man. His version of the film drew the ire of its revered screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, but “Altered States” eventually became Russell’s best-known and most-watched film in America.

If you’re a curious film lover unfamiliar with Russell, I’d start there, and then move on to “The Devils.” His bombastic version of The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” is a lot of fun too — the version of “Pinball Wizard” featuring Elton John remains one of most memorably weird musical sequences of the 1970s. Not quite as kooky as those films, but still fun (and available on Netflix Watch Instantly) is “Billion Dollar Brain,” the final installment in the original series of Harry Palmer spy films starring Michael Caine. As the AP notes, Russell was a divisive button-pusher of a director. It’s quite possible you might not like all those movies I’ve recommended. But I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be bored by any of them.

What’s your favorite Ken Russell film? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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