Film Fatale Archive for July, 2006

Miami Vice's Sharpshooter Threat: True or Not?

I will put a round precisely through your medulla oblongata, which is located at the base of your brain, straight through a point mid-distance between your upper lip and the bottom of your nose. And you will be dead from the neck down. Your finger won’t even twitch. Do you believe that?”
Well, do you, punk? Film Fatale asks an expert — a forensic pathologist with the city of New York — to go see the movie and drop some science on us.
While many major film critics got horny for Miami Vice’s sensual (if sometimes non-sensical) pleasures, audiences went wild for the most memorably badass line of dialogue — which was, interestingly enough, not spoken by either of the film’s lead actors. It’s such a hero/trailer line you’d think a star would demand to say it.
And the fact that a star doesn’t say this line is doubly odd because one of them — the Tubbs character (Jamie Foxx) — is standing right there during the tense standoff in which Det. Trudy Joplin (Naomie Harris) is held at gunpoint by some meth-dealing Aryan nation types. One of them dares the cops to kill him — saying he’ll die pulling the trigger on his gun and the switch on an explosive around her neck. But it’s Det. Gina Calabrese (Elizabeth Rodriguez), not Tubbs, who calls his bluff:
“This is what’s going to happen,” she says. “This is what’s going to happen. I will put a round precisely through your medulla oblongata, which is located at the base of your brain, straight through a point mid-distance between your upper lip and the bottom of your nose and you will be dead from the neck down. Your finger won’t even twitch. Do you believe that?”
So, what is the medulla oblongata and does she locate it correctly?
Pretty much, I’d say. I’m used to looking at the medulla oblongata when the brain has been removed. So a sharpshooter is taking a different perspective.
Would a person, getting shot there, be dead from the neck down?
Oh, yes. You’d be dead from the neck up, too.
What about that promise that his finger wouldn’t twitch?
I wouldn’t — I couldn’t — guarantee anything like that. Someone who understands what sort of gun and trigger he was holding could address the risk the police were taking.

So, if she were to ask you again: do you believe that?

I would believe anything that woman said. It’s a great line.
More appreciation of MIAMI VICE:
Boston Globe’s Wesley Morris
New York Magazine’s David Edelstein
New York Times’ A.O. Scott


In Movies, Print Reporters 'Scoop' TV

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post takes note of Scarlett Johanssen’s portrayal of a bumbling student newspaper reporter in Woody Allen’s SCOOP and concludes, “TV journalists might be prettier and better paid in real life than their ink-stained brethren and sistren, but on screen there’s no contest about who comes off better.”
Sure, Scarlett’s character is a naif corners a film director (Kevin McNally) in a hotel lobby in search of an “exclusive,” then sleeps with him without getting an interview, gets a tip about a murder suspect and sleeps with him, too. (She may be inexperienced, but even a seasoned pro like the New Journalism heroine (Allison Lohman) of WHERE THE TRUTH LIES (2005), the luridly entertainingly, lurid at a showbiz scandal, has pretty much the same M.O.: sleep with everyone and sort the story out later.)
But at least she’s not a corrupt, ratings-obsessed TV reporter or executive. From the nutcases of NETWORK (1974) to the dim local TV personalities of ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY, these are not people you trust.
The portrayal of Washington Post metro reporters Woodward and Bernstein in ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) made print reporting seem exciting and noble. The Post piece cites the heroics of these real and ficitional scribes:
Denzel Washington in THE PELICAN BRIEF (1993)
Sam Waterston and Haing S. Ngor THE KILLING FIELDS (1984)
Humphrey Bogart in DEADLINE USA (1952)
Looking for an admirable TV reporter? Except for a few cynical thrill junkies (photographers and camera men) in war movies, the front-of-camera talent is usually portrayed as bubbleheaded compared to the real men doing the fighting.

Kevin Smith: Thanks For Sharing

Writer/director Kevin Smith did his best to promote CLERKS 2: he did hundreds of interviews, he met fans at promotional screenings, he bashed Good Morning America’s Joel Siegel, who noisily walked out of a critic’s screening during the bestiality scene.
And Smith fucked his wife Jennifer and told us about it on his online diary. His hot wife, as he often reminds his readers. Two journalists who spoke to him a couple of weeks ago told me that he began the conversation—or performance—by lying down on a couch, making a great show of yawning and then saying, “I’m soooo tired—I just got done fucking my wife.”
Great. Thanks for sharing.
Maybe he’d like to make a movie sometime?
Ever since CLERKS (whose garage rock cool was ruined by one long, dumb dick joke), The Onion, “>Smith’s filmmaking career has been more about talking the talk than anything else. His ten year old viewaskew website is more accomplished, with a clearer point of view (self promotion) than any of his films.
I’m delighted to hear that Smith might be sitting in for Roger Ebert for a few weeks. Who better than Smith, the pop culture critic who broke down the absurdities of STAR WARS and LORD OF THE RINGS, to review the dregs of summer movies?
The Onion “>sums up Smith’s career.

In Praise of Brief Reviews

What do movie fans hate most about movie critics?
1. Spoilers.
2. Genre haters. If you’ve never liked video games, horror, sci fi — don’t review those movies. We know what you’re going to say.
3. Plot-summarizersIf a review’s nothing but synopsis, that’s a good sign that the critic has no opinion at all.
4. Unstoppable typists. A review shouldn’t take longer to read than the movie takes to watch. 5,000 words on CLERKS II? Why?
Slate praises the New York Times television film-capsule writers, especially the late Howard Thompson, whose forty years of miniature reviews still run in the TV listings. A couple of samples:
THE GUNS OF NAVARONE. Allied commando mission. Strong on scenery, but it weighs 10 tons.
MATILDA. A boxing kangaroo. What the world needs now.
His successors include Times TV editor Jody Alesandro, Anita Gates, and Lawrence Van Gelder. I love this review for HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS “The usually holiday fare”
The web site Four Word Film Review lets readers compose ultrabriefs, but nothing delivers the icy blast of the true Times snub: “Not reviewed by us.”


Toronto's Midnight Madness Lineup

The Toronto International Film Festival has announced the lineup for its popular Midnight Madness screenings, the programme that can launch horror, action and comedy movies. A couple of years ago, Midnight Madness’ breakout star was director Eli Roth, who went on to make HOSTEL – a reprehensible movie, but the sold-out of CABIN FEVER must have been the highlight of his life — every first-time filmmaker’s dream come true. Last year, the belle of the festival was Sarah Silverman, who rocked the house with JESUS IS MAGIC.
Sacha Baron-Cohen, who wore a startling red thong in Cannes, stars in the first midnight movie is BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKSTAN. Expect him to completely dominate all the early red carpet and party photos: Especially if he brings his own camera crew.

I have great hopes for SEVERANCE, the second thriller from Britain’s Christopher Smith. His debut CREEP was a nightmare ride on London’s Underground — and probably the last to be filmed on location there due to the 2005 terrorist attacks. In the new movie, a corporate team-building retreat in the wilderness goes terribly awry — someone (or maybe something) takes a cutthroat attitude to the competition.
With horror movies from Russia, Spain, Korea and France and the USA, this is one of the most diverse lineups in many years (I don’t know what to make of the New Zealand entry BLACK SHEEP, in which the national animal goes bloodthirsty…sheep are so damn cute.)
The 2006 Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept 7-16


Belated 'Crash' Diss From William Macy

William Macy knows acting. See him in TNT’s truly unsettling summer series NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES, as a private detective who’s rewriting his life from within the pages of a pulp novel, see him his new movie EDMOND, an adaptation of David Mamet’s least-produced, most fascinating play. So it’s interesting to hear a great actor — and sometime teacher of acting — critique other performers.
This week he spoke to Michael Musto of the Village Voice
“Beyond Crash’s great acting and self-assured filmmaking,” he said, “a lot of the scenes were not true, they were manipulative. You’re thinking, ‘Why are these people acting this way?’ ” Adds Musto: To win an Oscar, I guess.

'Crash' Feud: Everyone Still Racist, Unpaid

Sharon Waxman, the New York Times’ ace film business reporter, writes about the ongoing feud among the makers of CRASH, the winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Picture.
When the movie’s name was announced, it seemed as though half the audience rushed the stage to celebrate the independently produced movie’s upset win over BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Not just the mob of producers, but a slew of actors, too — Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle (among others) who’d deferred their paychecks. The movie was made for $7.5 million and has grossed $180 million worldwide — not bad for a grim, talky, repetitive message movie. You’d think everybody would be pleased to get the message out — and be paid fair and square for contributing, right?

Wrong. As the New York Times piece reveals, the producers are still fighting over credit, and those who deferred salary haven’t been paid at all.
Here’s a choice quote from an unnamed agent or manager for one of those concerned. (Remember, if the actors don’t get paid, their reps don’t get paid for they work they did.)
“You’d think that for a movie that won best picture, what you would do is write the actors a check against their profits, or you give them a car, or something,” said a representative for one of the leading actors, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his client had barred him from speaking on the record. “That would be the classy thing to do.” He added: “The money is dribbling in. It’s almost offensive how little money it is.”
Not as offensive as racism, Mister.

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'Pirates' Gets a Chilly Exit Poll in NYC

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHESThas been the most popular movie in the U.S. for three weeks in a row, earning $321 million at the box office. Can that mean that people are actually sitting through this movie more than once?

Maybe when the weather gets unbearably hot, ticket buyers don’t really care which movie they’re seeing, so long as it’s funny (Johnny Depp, present and accounted for), attractive (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, check), and mildly diverting (running time 151 minutes: check your watch. I did. Frequently.)
New York magazine’s exit poll confirms that some filmgoers are satisfied simply to get out of the heat. For once, an overlong running time may be part of the attraction. That and Johnny Depp’s eyeliner: nice.

Eye To Eye With the Pang Brothers

John Hodgman of The Daily Show visited Danny and Oxide Pang on the set of THE MESSENGERS, their forthcoming English-language horror movie, to write this profile for the New York Times Magazine.
Though it’s not exactly news that Asian horror directors have crossed over with U.S. audiences (J-horror gave way to K-horror. The Pangs come from Hong Kong.) The New York Times piece focuses on the Pangs collaboration with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert’s Ghost House Productions. Though Raimi’s biggest success was in mainstream film (SPIDER-MAN) and TV (XENA, WARRIOR PRINCESS), Ghost House has allowed him to get back to the genre that he began with. Interestingly, many of the international filmmakers he’s now working with were influenced by his earliest work on the EVIL DEAD movies.

For all aspiring screenwriters, the formula for thrills is right here on the page: “Initially, Raimi and Tapert thought they would give a Ghost House movie a very specific, recognizable structure, going back to the formula they had teased out of the drive-in. “We did start with a very hard formula of five sequences of six minutes of suspense,” Raimi recalled, “no less than 18 scares. Because we knew that three or four would be cut, and three or four wouldn’t work, but we’d end up with 10 or 11 really jolting, leap-out-of-your-seat moments for the audience.”
Hodgman also illustrates something that I’ve often wondered about: how do directing teams divide their work? With the Pangs, there are Oxide days and Danny days — they alternate who is in charge.

Sacre Bleu! Will Luc Besson Retire?

In an interview with the Guardian, director-producer Luc Besson, 47, says he plans to retire. Is he serious?
And if he is, who’ll point his camera up the skirts of little gun-toting gamines? Your work on earth is not not finished, Luc Besson! Cinema needs you. Pre-adolescent boys need you.

Until we get this madness sorted out, we’ll have to live in hope of ANGEL-A, the story of a small time hustler who is rescued from suicide by his guardian angel. It’s what reporter Xan Brooks describes as “Besson’s remake of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, except the angel is a peroxide vamp who offers to solve the hero’s money worries by prostituting herself in the nightclubs of Paris.”
You know, like you do.
“As played by newcomer Rie Rasmussen, Angela proves a very Bessonian figure: leggy and lippy, a grungy euro-chick with a heart of gold.”
US audiences won’t see ANGEL-A till early 2007, but the Besson oeuvre is very much in evidence in DISTRICT B-13, the movie he produced. A martial arts and guns and jumping off buildings action story called BANLIEU 13 in French, it showcases the sport called “parkour” – that gravity defying bouncing you’ve seen in Nike ads. The inventor, David Belle, is the star, and it’s really entertaining, like a human Roadrunner vs. Wiley Coyote movie, when he does his thing.
Unfortunately, director Pierre Morel permits frequent interruptions for dialogue, execution style shootings, and the patented Besson female character, the pouty, supposedly deadly yet actually quite helpless gamine, who is treated at least once to a camera angle that lets you see up her skirt, up her crack, and possibly well into her lower GI tract.
Send an encouraging word to Luc Besson at his official site.

Loving "Mommie Dearest" With Mr. DVD

Bravo to Charles Taylor, Mr. DVD of the New York Observer, for his appreciation of Faye Dunaway’s “reckless and extreme performance” as Joan Crawford in MOMMIE DEAREST.

While Christina Crawford’s tell-all book dredged up every never-published rumor (verbal and physical abuse, bizarre obsessions, creepy sexual competition with her adolescent daughter), the movie was something more. “Ms. Dunaway gave audiences something they didn’t want: a sense of how they helped create the monster before them.
As Taylor points out, the film opened to mocking reviews in 1981, but it soon became a camp classic. That’s how Paramount’s home entertainment division is marketing the new DVD of MOMMIE DEAREST–it’s the “Hollywood Royalty Edition,” with astute critical commentary from John Waters and John Epperson, aka Lypsinka.
Have a look at Paramount’s DVD offerings.

Samuel Jackson: Voice of God

How I love these random news items about projects said to be in the works. So often, the casting announcment, when it emerges from someplace other than a major industry trade paper, turns out to be wishful thinking on the part of fans or some wheeler dealer with a big idea and no money.
Here’s a big idea that actually sounds promising: an audio version of the New Testament read by popular black actors and musicians. To play the Man Upstairs, the producers — unnamed — say they’ve called upon Samuel L. Jackson.

But don’t you hear Jackson as more of an Old Testament God, all smiting and vengeancing? In Pulp Fiction, he put the eek back into the Book of Ezekiel. (“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”)
The New Testament God?
More of a Morgan Freeman role.

Zombie Fest: Cambridge

Summertime is Zombie time at Cambridge’s Brattle Theatre, where the undead can walk (slowly, of course) to ZOMBIE INFESTATION (July 21-24).

The festivities include the revenant version of the Run for the Roses. the Boston Zombie March, which begins at South Station at 6pm. Scary movies include NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (obviously), with a special appearance by undead daughter Kyra Schon and a midnight SECRET SCREENING that no one will TELL ME THE NAME OF. The weekend concludes with Sunday showings of EVIL DEAD 2.
Here’s Kyra’s official website — she didn’t make any more movies, but she does have the distinction being the cutest little zombie girl to eat her real life dad in an American Film Institute classic. So there!

Summer of Samurai

So many filmmakers, from Jarmusch to Tarantino, pay homage to Japan’s classic Samurai movies that it’s sometimes a shock to find that somebody’s still making the genuine article. Yoji Yamada, the seventy year old director who earned an Academy Award nomination with THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI, returns with another elegant tale of traditional warriors in conflict with a changing world.

In HIDDEN BLADE, a sword-for-hire (Masatoshi Nagase of MYSTERY TRAIN) longs for love that’s out of reach (she’s of a lower caste) and faces an enemy he doesn’t understand (they use guns and cannons). He’s a hero whom John Ford and Sam Peckinpah would understand.

Tartan Films
is known for importing the the classier Asian horror films, but this indie outfit is also known for bringing the best Asian drama to US screens (the “VENGEANCE” trilogy from Chan-wook Park) and some of the more adventurous European independents, too. They’ve got the DVD of Michael Winterbottom’s 9 SONGS and Richard Jobson’s SIXTEEN YEARS OF ALCOHOL.
Read a few more reviews of HIDDEN BLADE:
New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis
The Onion: Keith Phipps of The Onion
Village Voice: Michael Atkinson

Stephen, King of All Media

If you missed the premiere of TNT network’s “Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King,” you’ve got another chance tonight at 11pm to catch the ripping opening episode.
How fitting, too, that the teleplay for “Battleground” — a nearly wordless showdown between a hitman (William Hurt) and a miniature army — was adapted by Richard Christian Matheson, son of the prolific author and screenwriter Richard Matheson.

Matheson, senior, wrote the script for TRILOGY OF TERROR, the mid-1970s TV movie starring Karen Black (and Karen Black and Karen Black) in three tales that probably gave you nightmares if you were young enough to be traumatized by the medium’s Golden Age of original horror movies.
In the best of the three, the heroine unpacks a “Zuni fetish doll.” But the toothsome little warrior comes to life — and it wants blood. Now you can welcome your own Zuni friend into your home. Just don’t sent one to me, okay?

Read the full article »

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon