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Million Dollar Movie

MadMax2

The Road Warrior is one of my favorite action movies. Mad Max is creepy as hell, too. The thing about the first two Mad Max movies is that for all the unrelenting action, and despite the fantastic premise, it’s all rooted in credibility. I always felt that part of Miller’s achievement was to make you believe you are there–with these guys coming after you. They are a comic book–and the third movie went someplace that didn’t really appeal to me)–but realistic in a strange way; that’s what made them so frightening and effective. (The second movie also has some nice comedic touches).

Plus, I liked Max’s dog.

The new one looks pumped up with the action and pyrotechnics. I hope that same sense of urgency and credibility exist.

Mad Mad: Fury Road is supposed to be dope. Think I’ll have to cart my ass to the theater for this one.

Over at Esquire, our pal Scott Raab profiles Charlize Theron:

Her career is pure stardust.

She was a teenage model in Italy, came to New York City at eighteen, and left for Los Angeles when her knees gave out for good; there she was discovered by her first manager, who was in line at the bank where she was trying—loudly and without success—to cash her last New York modeling-job check to keep her room at the Farmer’s Daughter, formerly an L. A. fleabag. But Theron came up hard in a hard country, on a hard continent.

“On the street where I was raised—75 percent of the people who lived on that street are not alive anymore. For no reason. For nothing. Life means nothing. In my formative years, I was in an environment that was filled with turmoil—political turmoil—in a world that was incredibly unsafe. And still is. In the early nineties, we were number one in homicide in the world. In HIV/AIDS, we’re still number one. We were number one in carjacking; I think we’re now number three. It became a place where the value of life—there was no value of life.

“You can’t oversimplify it; it comes from a very real place. It’s sad, because the people are good. They’re good people, and they’re resilient people, more than anywhere else in the world that I’ve ever come across. There’s something about South African flesh—we get up and we move forward, and we sometimes don’t take a moment for a little bit of self-awareness or self-pity. We’re such beasts at having to survive—I have the utmost respect for that, but it’s not the healthiest way to go through life. We’ve become a generation in South Africa that is driven by very valid anger, but the cost is coming at such a high level—and that’s a painful thing to watch. A lot of my emotional drive comes purely from the fact that I was born on that continent, and that I was raised there, and that it was different. I have a very strong relationship with Africa, one that’s built on lots of love and massive pain.”

Million Dollar Movie

Speaking of Robert Towne, I’m also a fan of his L.A. noir, “Tequila Sunrise.” Another love triangle. Friendship, loyalty, double-crossing.

And more crackling dialogue like this bit between Mel Gibson and Michelle Pfieffer:

Dale McKussic: Nobody wants me to quit. You know, don’t quit. Don’t get caught. Stay on top long enough for us to knock you off. I mean, that’s the motto around here. Nobody wants me to quit. The cops want to bust me. The Colombians want my connections. My wife, she wants my money. Her lawyer agrees and mine likes getting paid to argue with him. Nobody wants me to quit. I haven’t even mentioned my customers here. You know they don’t want me to quit.

Jo Ann: That is completely paranoid.

Dale McKussic: Hey, I’m just talking here. I’m not trying to convince you of a goddamn thing. And I may be paranoid, but then again nobody wants me to quit.

The Kurt Russell role was reportedly written with Pat Riley in mind. Alec Baldwin was considered for the part too before it went to Russell.

 Here’s P. Kael’s blurb from the New Yorker:

You have to be able to enjoy trashy shamelessness to enjoy old Hollywood and to enjoy this picture. Robert Towne, who wrote and directed, is soaked in the perfume of 30s and 40s Hollywood romanticism. This is a lusciously silly movie; it has an amorous shine. The three talented stars are smashing: Mel Gibson is a former drug dealer who longs for a decent, respectable life and is trying to succeed in the irrigation business. Kurt Russell is his friend who’s the head of the narcotics squad in LA County. And Michelle Pfeiffer is the woman they both love. The crime plot often seems to be stalled, and by rational standards the stars’ triangular shuffle is flimsy and stupid, but by romantic standards the whole thing is delectable. With Raul Julia, who has a big, likable, rumbling presence as a scoundrel, J.T. Walsh as a quintessential flatfoot, Ann Magnuson, Arliss Howard, Ayre Gross, and, in a bit as a judge, Budd Boetticher. The golden cinematography is by Conrad Hall; the aggressively offensive score is by Dave Grusin. Warners.

Man, this was Pfieffer at her peak.

Gibson too. And the movie  features one of the all-time cameos by Raul Julia. Damn was he ever good.

Fine work–as usual–from J.T. Walsh as the putz, and Arliss Howard as the snake.

Conrad Hall was the dp:

American Cinematographer reported that:

While Hall wanted the night scenes to be black and dark he wanted at the same time for the daylight scenes to be blindingly bright, like California beaches… ‘We wanted California to look hot so that the audience could feel the glow of light that the beach creates,’ Hall maintained. ‘I felt at first that the colors were too bright for the California beaches. By overexposing them some more in the printing, I was able to pale them out. I’m not sure that California will look as hot as I might have liked, but at the same time I know that it won’t look so clean and well saturated either.’ [37]

When the pair recced the coastal locations, Hall said,

“The whole area down there is unclipped. It was very beautiful yet unattractive at the same time. It comes from people not mowing their lawns. I’m talking about things like weeds growing through the cracks in the sidewalk. That kind of thing. The people down there concentrate on other things they find more important. They aren’t concerned with forcing something to look beautiful.” [38]

Hall explains the rationale behind the decision to employ the Color Contrast Enhancement process in American Cinematographer as follows :

“The CCE process is wonderful because it allowed us to see into the shadows. By putting black into the picture, it gave the print more contrast without destroying the clarity. By picking up the silver iodides, the process eliminates whatever grey coating there is over the shadows. You can now see whatever was visible in the black before it was covered over by the grey. We did a lot of tests with the CCE process and found that it could correct things that we couldn’t do in the timing. For example, the ending of the picture takes place at night in the fog. Unfortunately we found out that fog turns out to be sort of a blue color at night. If you take the blue out of it in the timing you are liable to hurt the skin tones. I wanted the fog to look romantic and this meant it needed to be white. The tests we did with the CCE process were absolutely stunning because the fog came out white –exactly what we wanted. For me, the CCE process improved the visual impact of the film at least 30 per cent.”

Million Dollar Movie

I don’t go for horror movies. Sure, I watched a mess of them when I was a kid–”The Exorcist,” “The Omen,” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” I also saw “Halloween,” and “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “I Spit On Your Grave,” all that stuff and more. I had a stronger constitution then. Now, I just don’t like being scared.

I even worked on a “horror” movie, was the assistant film editor on “The Blair Witch Project II,” although the scariest part of that project was the silence in the screening room after the executives saw the first cut. Scary for the director, I should say, I thought it was pretty funny.

Anyhow, horror movies aren’t the only ones that are scary. Heck, you could argue that “The King of Comedy,” is Scorsese’s scariest movie (and that “Taxi Driver” is his funniest). I’ll never forget the final shot of “Planet of Apes,” when I was little and hiding under the covers wondering about the big questions of life.

The movie I can’t get over, though, is “Mad Max II,” aka “The Road Warrior.” Scared me as a kid and makes me jittery when I watch it today. It’s a comic book but an effective one. Watch this scene and tell me you don’t get nervous in spite of how silly it all is.

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