Shrinking Film Critic Archive for August, 2006

In Gilda, Glenn Ford gave us the Big Tail

Hate is such a powerful emotion, don’t you think? That was one of the running lines in Gilda, thrown back and forth like acid in the face between Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford, who died yesterday at age 90.
The trick in that movie was for Ford’s character to maintain what I call (when it pertains to my cats) the Big Tail. When cats know they’re confronting a challenge much bigger, stronger, and scarier than they are, they puff up the fur on their tail to look thick and menacing, as if to say — I’ve got connections in the Attorney General’s office, y’know! (I once caught Buzz making the Big Tail at the dishwasher when it chunked into the rinse cycle unexpectedly.)
Rita Hayworth, as you can imagine from seeing her striptease to Put the Blame on Mame, was the dishwasher to Glenn Ford in Gilda, and Ford gave the Big Tail throughout that strange, perfervid movie, playing a character so at war with himself over loyalty, lust, honor and humiliation you thought he’d explode even before the little bigamy subplot.
I can’t say Gilda was Ford’s best work, but it was certainly the most fun. An actor who could stand up to Rita Hayworth in her prime, and pretend to hate hate hate her … ah, but hate is such a powerful emotion, no?


Pluto, Cruise, and other galactic downgrades

Pluto was downgraded from planet to tiny ball of ice around the same time Tom Cruise slipped from star to … cosmic dust? As the universe gets reclassified, it’s possible that certain stars will no longer be the center around which all things revolve.
Tom (“You can’t fire me; I quit!”) Cruise has had one public-relations disaster after another, all of them avoidable if he had just understood that his power came from a slick veneer of unknowability. Cruise needed that aura of mystery because, as we can now see, every time he opens his mouth something distressing drops from it. Mel Gibson merely suffers from garden-variety paranoia and anti-Semitism, but Cruise’s brain blips are so weird they’re scaring the customers. (Has he chained Suri to the radiator? Is he really going to refuse to take that baby out to the park until someone pays him more for her photo than they did for Shiloh?)
According to Box Office Mojo, Cruise is Hollywood’s 5th-ranked star (Harrison Ford is No. 1) by total box-office take. A guy like that should be worth a lot of money to a studio, sure. But Carrie Fisher is No. 13. Why? Because she happened to snag a role in what went on to become a powerfully successful franchise. Doesn’t mean she can open a movie today (although I wish she could), and therefore reminds us that “star power” is not a stable, predictable, heavenly body.
Pluto was a planet — of this we were certain — and now it’s not. Tom Cruise was a guaranteed star, and now Paramount has reclassified him as nothing more than dark matter.


Taste of Spike, Part 2

Another audio files from my interview with Spike Lee on his HBO documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts:
Where were you when the levees broke?

Snakes, snakes, & more snakes on a plane

Snakes on a Plane is silly fun, and delivers on the snakes — CGI creatures with monster-movie attributes. But the one (perhaps only) thing it does well is to recreate the look and feel of a tossed-off movie of the ’70s. Cheesy, pastel sets, bad hair, lame jokes, none of that streamlined, calculated appeal to the bottom line that characterizes movies today. I half expected to see Jan-Michael Vincent show up any moment as a flight attendant.
But what’s with Julianna Margulies? She looks as if all character has drained from her face. I hope she didn’t get “work” done.
New Line didn’t screen in advance for critics, although there was no reason not to. As long as you see this with a late-night, rip-roaring-drunk crowd, it’s quite acceptable — even though horribly directed by David R. Ellis, who misses every opportunity to exploit the personalities of the passengers on the snake-bedeviled plane. The kickboxing dude? The girl who’d do anything for her dog? Come on — let’s get some action going! Kick-boxing with the cobra, perhaps? Last licks on behalf of the lapdog?
Because they’re motivated by an overdose of pheromone spray, the snakes tend to attack the passengers’ sex organs whenever possible, which sent last night’s first paying audience into appropriate spasms of hooted ecstasy. Fangs for the mammaries, indeed.
I’ve spent the Morning After sending personalized greetings from Samuel L. Jackson to my friends, courtesty of the movie’s interactive website.

Taste of Spike, Part 1

I interviewed Spike Lee about his powerful, important new HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, about Hurricane Katrina and its shameful aftermath. The doc debuts Monday and Tuesday nights on HBO (there’s a giant premiere tonight [Wednesday] in New Orleans), and my story appears this Sunday in the TV magazine of the New York Post. Meanwhile, here’s a foretaste, one of several audio snippets from that interview.
Despite amassing 500 hours of footage and 100 interviews, edited down to a four-part, four-hour tapestry of human misery and government incompetence (if not worse), Lee regrets not being able to locate the woman who had the balls to shame Condoleeza Rice as the Secretary of State was blithely trying on pricey shoes at Ferragamo while, as Lee puts it, “people were drowning.”
Listen to Spike’s one regret …
Lee was kind enough to agree to this interview, even though he and I have been, uh, on the outs for about 15 years. More on this and other simmering celebrity grudges in future posts.
Photo by Jami Bernard

Is it real? Wax? Silicone? Shiloh?

The TomKat baby has yet to be unswaddled, but there’s plenty of baby Shiloh to go around. And there’ll be more of her if the temperatures stay as high as they are. Tomorrow (Wednesday), the Madame Tussauds waxeteria in Times Square will feature its first celebrity baby, pouting waxenly in her bassinet alongside the doting faux figures of her parents, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
The Brangelina duo is made of wax, while Shiloh is pure silicone — perhaps in homage to the nip ‘n’ tuck Hollywood scene in which she’ll one day come of age.
The museum will donate $1 to charity for every photo taken. They should also donate $1 to Shiloh’s future analysis bills for when she grows up to find that every tourist in America has an intimate-looking picture taken with her while she appeared to be sleeping. Where were her parents when all these strangers used her as a photo prop?
Waxing philanthropic.

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