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Category: Million Dollar Movie

Million Dollar Movie

onceupon

Check out Michael Sragow’s admiring review of Once Upon A Time In America and then dig the restored director’s cut that was released a few years back. I haven’t seen the movie since the Eighties. It’s time.

 

BGS: Trading Places

eddieboomerang

This past weekend over at The Stacks, I reprinted Peter Richmond’s 1992 GQ profile of Eddie:

“[My] popularity after Beverly Hills Cop—all that ‘He’s so hot’ shit—everything was going out of control. Everything came too easy … And when the laughs come too easy, you start doing things like walking through movies. You get too comfortable. You start getting out of control. You start tripping. You argue. You get the big head. You wear a leather suit and a glove with a ring on the outside.

“And I let myself get fat. There’s nothing like going into a movie theater and looking up on screen and you’re a fat guy in a bad movie.”

Here he laughs. Not the “Eh! Eh! Eh!” laugh, though—he never laughed that laugh in his customized bus.

“But I came out of that head … Now I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. I’ve got a beautiful chick, a beautiful daughter [Bria, age 3], a great record, a great movie. But it was a long time coming.”

Image via A Quiet Lion.

Million Dollar Movie

orsonchimes

Here’s my pal Malcolm Jones on Orson Welles’s forgotten masterpiece. 

Million Dollar Movie

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I was six years old when Star Wars came out. My father took my brother and me to see it. A few years later, my parents split up before The Empire Strikes Back was released. It was the first time I went to see a movie more than once; by the end of the summer, I’d seen it seven times. I don’t remember how many times I saw Return of the Jedi–what I remember more vividly was a friend of mine who had a promotional poster for Revenge of the Jedi. And oh, how I coveted that–a rarity.

Later, I saw the next three Star Wars movies and I don’t remember anything about them. This routine from Patton Oswalt sums it up.

Now, we’ve got a new Star Wars movie and I bet it’s pretty good. But I just don’t have a strong urge to see it. No offense to anyone who is jazzed about it, of course. Good for them. I just don’t really get the fascination anymore.

If any of you have seen it let us know how it is. Meanwhile, check out this good profile of George Lucas. 

Million Dollar Movie

art

It’s not a pleasant movie but it has some entertaining scenes and moments. 

Hey, if the weather isn’t going to cooperate at least this flick might give you a good chill.

New York Minute

woodwood

I’ve been doing some curating work over at Esquire Classic and if you’re a subscriber you can dig this selection of Woody Allen pieces. Today is Woody’s 80th birthday and I also contributed a short essay about the 6 months I spent working in Woody’s storage closet:

Woody still worked out of the Manhattan Film Center, his screening room and editing suite. The theater was comfortable and somber, the walls covered with an inviting soft forest-green flocked velvet. Woody had prints of current movies delivered to the center. On the weekends, his parents came in with a gang of their friends to watch the latest films. Woody’s father was said to be the real cutup in the family.

Just outside the center was a small storage room where, years earlier, a small workbench had been set up for Morse when she was pregnant. Otherwise it was a storage closet, full of editing supplies and regular office supplies—plus chips, soda, and beer (and the good kinds, too). I was set up in that closet, not quite ready for prime time.

Behind the bench, resting on the shelf next to reels of fill (old 35mm print) and leader (colored strips of film used at the front and tail of each reel), rested a gold mine of unreleased material: the original production of September, a movie Woody shot and then reshot with a new cast (Sam Shepard, part of the original cast, told Esquire in 1988 that Woody and Robert Altman were “pisspoor as actors’ directors”; Michael Keaton’s few weeks of dailies on The Purple Rose of Cairo before he was replaced by Jeff Daniels; and most tempting of them all, outtakes from Annie Hall. Two big reels of them.

What a treasure—tantalizing but unattainable gold. When I closed the door and was alone inside, I never felt so close and yet so far away from such a score; I felt like Woody looking helplessly at Sharon Stone in Stardust Memories. But you can’t “accidentally” borrow a reel of film for the evening. Even if you could sneak it out, which was possible, where would you watch it? Who the hell has a 35mm projector at home?

A definite type of situation.

Still Life

gowest

Because mo’ Buster is mo’ better.

Buster Keaton – The Art of the Gag from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

Million Dollar Movie

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One of the wife’s favorite movies…

Million Dollar Movie

genet

“F” for Fatale.

Million Dollar Movie

frenchconn

Here’s the thing…

New York Minute

warriors

Come out and plaay-yay. 

Million Dollar Movie

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Remastered. 

Million Dollar Movie

raul

You guys know me as a P. Kael freak so you can imagine how honored I am to be able to reprint one of her reviews–of a fun movie too (Damn, I miss Raul Julia):

The movie is a confluence of fantasies, with a crime plot that often seems to be stalled, as if a projector had broken down. A good melodramatic structure should rhyme: we should hold our breath at the pacing as the pieces come together, and maybe smile at how neat the fit is. Here the pieces straggle, and by the end you’re probably ignoring the plot points. Raul Julia, who turns up as the Mexican Comandante Escalante, has a big, likable, rumbling presence; his role recalls the Leo Carrillo parts in movies like The Gay Desperado, with a new aplomb. And for a few seconds here and there Raul Julia takes over; he’s funny, and he detonates. (The character’s lack of moral conflicts gives his scenes a giddy high.) Then the film’s languor settles in again. An elaborate government sting operation waits while Mac and Escalante play Ping-Pong, and waits again while they sit in a boat and Mac talks drivel about bullfighting. (It’s the worst dialogue in the film; for sheer inappropriateness it’s matched only by Dave Grusin’s aggressive, out-to-slay-you score.)

Most of the dialogue is sprightly—it’s easy, everyday talk that actors can breathe to. But Towne’s directing is, surprisingly, better than his construction—maybe because when he plans to direct he leaves things loose. He says, “I make the character fit the actor, I don’t try to make the actor fit the character.” That sounds as if he’s highly variable, a modernist. But he isn’t. He likes bits from old movies, such as having the cops who are planning to surprise Mac be so dumb that they leave peanut shells wherever they’ve been posted. The difference between the way Towne handles the peanut shells and the way a director of the thirties would have (and did) is that he doesn’t sock the joke home; he glides over it. He wants the effect, yet he doesn’t want to be crude about it, so he half does it. Almost everything in the action scenes of the last three-quarters of an hour is half done. Often he gives you the preparation for action and no follow-through; sometimes the reverse.

Huge thanks to Kael’s daughter, Gina James, for giving me permission to share this with you.

 

 

Million Dollar Movie

gfellas-henryacc

Good lookin’ to Pacific Street Films and Cinephilia and Beyond for getting this PBS documentary on Martin Scorsese back out there. I remember when it first aired. I videotaped it and watched it over and over. 

Million Dollar Movie

bluevelvet

I was in high school in 1986  the year Platoon and Hannah and Her Sisters and Something Wild came out. They made big impressions on me. So did David Lynch’s masterpiece. 

Million Dollar Movie

cream pie

Happy Days are here again. 

New York Minute

nycg

Just writing my name and graffiti on the wall.

[Photo Credit: Jack Stewart]

Million Dollar Movie

thirdmancat

Writing for The Independent, here’s Martin Scorsese on Carol Reed’s classic, The Third Man:

About four months ago, I screened a beautiful 35mm print of the picture for my daughter and her friends. “Why do we keep watching this?” I suppose it’s [Joseph] Cotten and [Alida] Valli – that’s the emotional core of the picture. For instance, the scene where Holly Martins (Cotten) finally goes to her apartment. He’s a little drunk, and he tells her he loves her and he knows he doesn’t have a chance. That’s when she says, “The cat only liked Harry.” So that leads right into the great revelation of Harry Lime in the doorway with the cat – which is iconic. But it’s more than that – it’s one of the great epiphanies in movies: the cat turning the corner and nestling itself on those wing-tip shoes, and then Harry Lime being revealed when the light is turned on in the doorway and it shines in his face.

Remember Walker Percy’s great novel The Moviegoer? He refers to that moment in such a beautiful, special way. It became a moment internationally, a shared experience for a vast audience seeing that film. It’s not just a dramatic revelation – there’s something about Orson Welles’ smile at that point that shifts everything to another level, and it sustains no matter how many times you see it. Welles comes into the picture about halfway through. That’s the first time you actually see him, after you’ve spent so much time picturing him in your mind because everyone has been talking about him and thinking about him. So that might be the best revelation – or the best reveal, as they say – in all of cinema.

S’long, Holly.

josephcotten

Million Dollar Movie

mad-max-fury-road-jumping-car-wallpaper

This one goes to eleven.

Remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the airplane is plummeting to the earth and we see the numbers on the speedometer getting higher and higher, faster and faster and finally it says: “Silly, isn’t it?”

I kept waiting for a cutaway to that line as I watched Mad Max: Fury Road. There were moments that I laughed out loud because there’s a Looney Tunes quality to the movies’ craziness–I don’t know what other response you can have. I didn’t find the movie thrilling or suspenseful or even tense. There are some scary moments, but nothing that freaked me out. I felt excited in an over-caffeinated way, but it’s so over-the-top, so fantastic, I almost immediately felt detached and after about 15, 20 minutes, bored. It’s magnificent but not for me.

I was talking to a friend recently about appetites and he called himself a pathological maximalist. Forgive the pun, but I kept thinking about that as I watched Fury Road.

The ads boast that the movie was made by “Mastermind” George Miller and that’s no stretch. This isn’t the work of a director. This is a finely tuned, well-realized orchestration from a mastermind. It’s not pure chaos. There is a keen sense of pacing, there are quiet scenes, with breaks in the action, but really I thought the whole thing was akin to watching two-plus hours of slam dunk highlights. It’s an extended guitar solo, an orgy of technical virtuosity, one stunt more improbable than the next. The technique is formidable and some of the images are captivating–though I dare you to recall any specific images after being bombarded by so many. But the story–which at times suggests Thunderdome as much as The Road Warrior–is corny despite its admirable political sensibility. The dialogue is so sparse that it is easy to laugh at–B-movie fromage. The early movies had that quality too but they also had more of a low budget vibe, a punk vibe. This is Cirque du Soliel, this is Vegas, Grand Theft Auto. Miller’s left punk behind. This is rock opera video game for the hyper modern age.

I’ve read Tom Hardy, who plays Max, say that he had no idea what Miller wanted him to do during filming and I think that comes across. Not that it matters–Max is just an action figure who is playing the role of second banana (the lead is played by Charlize Theron). But it’s too bad because I liked Mel Gibson’s tortured hero of the early movies. (And I liked his dog.) There is nothing of the immediacy and realism of the first two movies here. Even if they were cartoons, there was a semblance of credibility, too Here, Max is captured, chained, and when he breaks free, instead of collapsing from fatigue, he springs to life like the Hulk.

I suppose this movie is in step with the times. Maybe that’s why the critics have fallen all over themselves writing about it. How can you ignore not admire such technical brilliance? But this is the kind of roller coaster that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s remarkable and if you like your thrills and spills larger than life you’ll dig it.

The rest of you can spare yourself the pounding.

 

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