January 06, 2006

The Last Detail


A product of Hal Ashby’s early ‘70s output – and still my favorite of his films – I go to The Last Detail (1973) a lot, maybe once a year, to recharge the batteries. It features one of Jack Nicholson’s definitive performances, coming three years after Five Easy Pieces and one year before Chinatown: here, he’s whippet mean and full of snarls, just one step removed from pathetic, and seething with the misplaced, desperate braggadocio of the end of the ‘60s as all the seeds of governmental corruption (and an unpopular war against an invisible, and resolute, foe) took root in our collective as feral Baudelarian flowers. With Nicholson’s personal life a tumult of hidden identities and sordid abandonments and Ashby’s similar (his father committed suicide when Hal was just a kid), the two found a project in The Last Detail that is, in essence, about the inadequacy of surrogate father figures especially when they take the form of traditional institutions of authority.

There’s no comfort in The Last Detail, just the rough-hewn edges of how men are hamstrung by social conventions into roles of aggressor and victim (and, indeed, father and son). It’s one of the saddest, most hopeless pictures about relationships between men to emerge in the fulsome American ‘70s (another: John Huston's Fat City), a classic of observation (listen to the way the characters talk to one another), and a marvel of satire in its ability to skewer race, class, and that most primary of ‘70s concerns, social law and order, with gratifying understatement and the unbearable weight of dread and melancholy.

The story details the last trip of poor kleptomaniac Meadows (Randy Quaid), being escorted to a military prison to serve a bloated (8 yr.) sentence at Portsmouth Naval Prison by career Navy men Bud (Nicholson) and Mule (Otis Young). They’re sidetracked, of course, and spend their travel money showing Meadows what he’s going to miss while he’s locked away. A scene of the three cooking hotdogs in Central Park in the winter speaks to how the film works as an examination and undermining of basic images of Americana as well as, tonally, how The Last Detail is both warm with bonhomie and chilling in its implications. The looming threat of unjust imprisonment colors the piece with melancholy – and just as Meadows is finding his spiritual footing and invited, in essence, into the adult world by men he takes (to his peril) as role models, he’s spirited away - eternally the stunted child - without a look behind. An elegy too, then, as so many films were in this period, to the grand hopes and unfettered idealism of the ‘60s, The Last Detail, on a personal level, represents to me the possibility for a small, dialogue-driven film to mark the line between what we’ve lost and what we’ve become in the losing of it. It's about how men are incapable of being other than what they're programmed to be, and a suggestion that all of our rebellions are just insignificant skylarks doomed to be corrected by our failures as dreamers: aspirants to the promise of our better selves.


The Last Detail is Malick in microcosm: written by Robert Towne and shot by Matthew Chapman, and to our horror, as topical now as it ever was.

Update (1.7.06)

This may be old news, but I just learned that Cache will not be eligible for the foreign language Oscar because it's an Austrian film, but shot in French - not German - leading me to want to break shit.

Also, check out the fair and balanced Fox News' rabble-rousing declaration that the Silver Screen is subversive. Yeah, I wish.

Update (1.8.06)

Aaaaaand, a theater in Utah declines to show Brokeback Mountain.

31 comments:

Alex Jackson said...

Oui, c'est tres bien.

Still, my favorite Ashby so far is the somewhat more fashionable but surprisingly toothy Being There. It's despairaging in the same way as The Last Detail I guess, the old man is rejuvenated by meeting Chance and "isn't as afraid of dying anymore" but Chance is a ciper and a moron, he's not worthy of that kind of adulation. And it's complicated because it's not really Chance's fault that he's a ciper and a moron. It's kind of the perfect antithesis to the magical retard genre.

The live-TV feel of Last Detail (particuarly in the use of dissolves on the train) is a little off-putting to me. So is the sight of Carol Kane's breasts. But yeah, it's understatement is really a tremendous strength. What was Harlan Ellison's definition of "angry candy"? A jalapeno-flavored cinnamon bear?

And along with Chinatown it represents the other extreme of the Nicholson persona. This is the Joker to his Charles Napier. The violent outlaw on the way to the bitterly cynical professional. And man, Randy Quaid really is one of our most underrated actors.

Scott said...

There were rumors around the net about six months ago that a sequel was being planned, with Morgan Freeman taking on the Otis Young role (Young passed away a few years back). I think the writer of the original novel has recently penned a follow-up.

Can't imagine a sequel to this one -- but imagining what became of Bud as he passed through life is certainly an intriguing thought...

George Nada said...

I watched this again myself a few months back, you've summed it up perfectly.

There are two scenes that always stood out for me, the first being when Randy Quaid tries to escape near the end and Nicholson beats him up. The mixture of humour (when Quaid signals he's escaping) and the aggressive reaction is really unsettling. I don't think it's so much an example of crazy Jack but more, as you say, a classic example of father and son.

Jack knows that what's about to happen to Quaid is unjust, but he feels powerless to help him as he's powerless against 'the system' and as many fathers react to not being able to protect their children he takes it out on his 'son'.

What's also interesting about it is as he's repeatedly hitting him we're from Quaid's view point, so in effect Jack is hitting us. I see this as the character damning the audience, blaming us for the system being the way it is as none of us (including him) have done anything, nor feel they can do anything about it.
I could be wide of the mark though.

The second scene is when they finally take Quaid to his prison. What's weird is that normally in films this is where the music would swell for the injustice of it all, and all the characters would hug e.t.c.

What's really unsettling is they don't say a word to each other, there is no music and they barely make eye contact. Quaid is just walked off and that's it, it all feels so pointless which I guess was the idea.

Wasn't there a TV show based on the film? Thankfully I never got to see if it does exist. I think a sequel would be a terrible idea as it would ruin the effect of this movie.

I can never pick a favourite of Hal Ashby's work between this, Harold & Maude and Being There. This was a guy at the top of his game and they're all masterpieces as far as I'm concerned. It's just sad the way his career declined, I guess his way of thinking just didn't fit into the 80's style of life.

It pisses me off that he doesn't get the respect he deserves though, his work in the 70's should put him up there with all the great filmmakers.
Yes I know amongst film lovers he's well respected, but when you often here Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppolla e.t.c spewed out often you just can't help but think "Where the fuck is Ashby in all this?"

Rich said...

Reading some of the responses from readers of that Fox News article is both scary and depressing.

"George needs to go to Iraq and help the so called freedom fighters and get the hell out of the U.S. Personally I don't see people who murder innocent people as freedom anything." — Armand

"Hollywood won't get one dime of my money. Maybe as ticket sales continue to slide, the financial shock will knock some sense into these people. Sooner or later they may realize that their artistic values and twisted view of the world are not shared by most." — Mark


I think I'm equally saddened by Clooney's defenders on the Left:

"Ah the fanatics on the Right like to have everything so simple for their simple little minds. It's a movie! Move on. If you really think that the world's political climate is shifted by a film you need to crawl out of your cave more often." — Matt (Mobile, AL)

I guess that these are people who depend highly on Fox News for their information (enough said), but this is what makes ME want to break shit.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Hollywood won't get one dime of my money

Yeah, right. Put a tail on this guy for a mere week, and it'll be found he's either gone to a movie theatre or a video store or both. And this isn't to sate a need but a want. Such blatant hypocrites, people like this.

Jack_Sommersby said...

By the way, I've never been much of a fan of Ashby's work. He was neither one to lend a distinct visual interpretation onto the material nor bring anything out of the material other than what's been written. Most of his films are poorly paced and mediocrely framed. The reason The Last Detail is made watchable is the same reason the equally-just-average One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is: a stalwart Nicholson performance. Take that away, and neither film, I doubt, would have gotten the attention it did. I do have an affectation for his final film, 8 Million Ways to Die, a messy but colorfully entertaining crime yarn that showcases Andy Garcia doing a classic turn as a Latino cocaine kingpin menacing ex-cop Jeff Bridges. The film got taken away from Ashby as soon as he finished principal photography, and it turned out to be his last film, for he died soon thereafter. Worth a look if you can find it, though it's still not available on DVD.

Alex Jackson said...

I always love how the conservatives believe that attacking innocent civilians in order to affect government change is wrong and yet they fight back with boycotts...which, if they do anything at all, only hurt the poor working slobs that are hired under the system that they hate in the first place.

Everybody who works on a movie in any capacity is evil, not just the actors and filmmakers that come up with the material; just as everybody in France deserves to be out of work because their government doesn't support our War in Iraq.

Walter_Chaw said...

Jack:
Yeah, that's the knock on Ashby (the lack of a distinctive style and the similarity of projects with esteemed collaborators) - and I'm not really even sure how hard I'd fight to defend him. I will say, though, that I've always found Ashby to be an extremely tragic figure and that tragedy (his background - his trouble with his teeth - his downward spiral into drug addiction) has fed into my "appreciation" for his pictures. To that end, though, I've never been that much of a fan of Harold & Maude beyond the soundtrack, of course (and the great Ruth Gordon) - and Being There. . . well, call me a closet Jerzy Kosinski fan and sort of unable to separate memories of the book from the film. Sellers, though, is excellent. Lots of good performances - maybe great - in Ashby's work and for what it's worth, that's seldom entirely out of the purview of the director.

Big fan of 8 Million Ways to Die (and also of The Seven-Ups from the last thread - a film that feels sort of similar to me, actually) - and even bits of Slugger's Wife. I think what appeals about Ashby is a little hard to define. To be frank, I've never given it much thought - this may spur me to try.

Never loved One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, either. Nor anything that Ken Kesey wrote, overmuch.

At the bottom of all that garbage at Fox News is this reality that Syriana is pretty simpering and middle-of-the-road. Sort of wish that Neo-Con outrage were ever inspired by something that was actually inspiring.

Just watched Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight by the way. And that might do it.

Carl Walker said...

Uh, the terrorists weren't freedom fighters (perhaps "sympathetic" as Clooney puts it), they were confused and duped young men. Or was I just lulled into sleep by that point of the movie? Agree that it's too bad that movie didn't actually provoke effectively. And I suppose it goes without saying that they need to change the weird methodology behind the Foreign Film category (maybe it'd just be too embarassing for them if South Korea suddenly had every nomination, though :P). Admittedly, it's still the Oscars, something we'd love to be able to ignore but won't ever really be allowed to. Could be worse... take a look at the Grammies.

Anonymous said...

In a pretty big coincidence (given certain elements of the discussion), the trailer for Paul Greengrass' Flight 93 has hit the 'Net.

http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/flight93/

Sorry for straying off the topic.

Walter_Chaw said...

Take a look at the what? Oh, right. Good point.

Sean Fitzpatrick said...

Hi Walter, off topic, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts on Slate's thoughtful review of Hostel (as it mentions you and your review a couple of times), although I must admit it doesn't sound like anything I'm likely to pay money to endure. Nor does the unflinching portrayal of torture strike me as a particularly grand or interesting achievement. Sorry if this came up in another thread.

Remember that scene in Lessons of Darkness that pans across implements of torture? Now that was disturbing (and moving, and frightening).

Speaking of torture, I was on a plane not long ago (to Las Vegas, no less), seated next to a gentleman who happily chose to watch the in-flight movie, Monster in Law. Five minutes into the the flick, he was delighted to predict, I imagine not inaccurately, that, "Oh man, this is going to be another Maid in Manhattan." Well, thanks, but I haven't seen Maid in Manhattan either and I still think I'll forgo the headphones and maybe take a nap. "You haven't seen Maid in Manhattan!? What, do you live under a rock!? Me and my wife, we LOVE movies!! We watch everything that comes out!" He then proceeded to laugh, joyfully, loudly, with real feeling and gusto, no lie, every 20 to 30 seconds for the entire film. I'm not kidding. His final assessment? "Man, that was GREAT! Just awesome, you've got to rent it when you get home!" Which I estimate means he derived more visceral pleasure and real, unforced enjoyment from Monster in Law than I have from any movie I've ever seen (or anything else I've ever experienced). I don't really have a point, I'm just not sure how to feel about this.

Added The Last Detail to my Netflix list. Never seen it and looking forward to checking it out. Love the site and the blog, great discussions, wish I had more to add, but I can't keep up with you guys!

The Captain said...

Off topic, but vomit - anyone seen this shit on Emerson's Blog? Top 10 Conservative Films List. Everyone say it with me. Blaaaaaargh.

Don Carlos said...

Oh boy! How 'bout Top Ten neo.conservative films, or liberal, or whatever?
How bout Top Ten films with best pizza-eating scenes or the most beautiful christmas tree?

James Allen said...

Re: "Subversive" Hollywood

Hollywood is about as subversive as a hit on the head with a ball-peen hammer. I'm still waiting for some truly subversive political thrillers in the post 9/11 world, I really am.

The George Clooney Heavily Felt Movie machine is about as obvious a move to impress his friends, film awards givers, and mainstream critics like Ebert and Roeper, who can't wait to give such stuff "two thums way up!!" But when I sat and watched Good Night and Good Luck recently, I asked myself, why does this movie exist? Did Clooney feel a true passion to tell such a story, or is he telling it because he thinks it's the kind of story he should tell? The distinction is fine, but it's there, isn't it?

James Allen said...

Ebertwatch:

Haven't done one of these in awhile, have we?

I'll set aside his 3 star reviews of Rumor Has It and Cheaper By The Dozen 2 and instead concentrate on his essay today, defending Crash.

His biggest argument is, hey, black people liked it. I'm not kidding.

A secondary argument is that you shouldn't pick on Crash, not while Deuce Bigalow 2 is out there. (And I for one am glad that Roger Ebert has put Rob Schneider in his place on several occasions. That's fighting the good fight, Rog.)

Anyway, it seems like the great Ebert is getting more and more defensive, what with this essay and even some comments in his Movie Answer Man column about his unusually high star ratings.

Speaking of which, in his 19 reviews since December 16, a mere 4 films were given less than 3 stars (2.5 for Memoirs of a Geisha and Fun with Dick and Jane, 2 for Casanova and zero (!!) for Wolf Creek.)

The odd thing about his Wolf Creek review is what seems to be a growing habit of quoting other critics in his reviews. For a guy who basically touts everything, it's bizarre to see him get on critics who like the one film he actually hates.

George Nada said...

I will say, though, that I've always found Ashby to be an extremely tragic figure and that tragedy (his background - his trouble with his teeth - his downward spiral into drug addiction) has fed into my "appreciation" for his pictures.

That's an interesting point. It does seem that when someone leads a tragic life or dies young you sometimes tend to put them on a higher pedestal than maybe they deserve ala Bill Hicks, John Lennon (Jesus? haha) e.t.c.

However I think to discredit Ashby for lack of a visual style is a weird one. Yes, he often liked to hold a static shot without often going in for a close up, but if this is a lack of visual style then Stanley Kubrick was a hack! I just felt Ashby often kept at a cold distance with his shots most of the time as the moments/subjects themselves were cold. I guess everyone sees things differently though.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Man ! Ebert's defense of "Crash" has gotta be the stupidest and the most hypocritical thing I have read all year. What a joke this guy is. The whole of his argument rides on the fact that people liked it and he is the people's voice. Yet as he says over and over again, good (indie mainstream)films are not for everybody, as only bad ones (Rob Schneider films) are. Here's a sample:

believe that. The success of the film suggests it struck a lot of people the same way; opening last spring as a low-profile release, it held its box office and slowly built through word-of-mouth, as people told each other about it. It opened in May with a $9 million weekend, and by September had grossed $55 million. "Crash" and "March of the Penguins" were the two most successful "word of mouth" pictures of the year.

So what does that make them, the best films of the year ? When did box office start indicating the quality of the film ?

It is useful to be aware of the ways in which real people see real films. Over the past eight months I've had dozens of conversations about "Crash" with people who were touched by it. They said it might encourage them to look at strangers with a little more curiosity before making a snap judgment.

These real moviegoers are not constantly vigilant against the possibility of being manipulated by a film. They want to be manipulated; that's what they pay for, and that in a fundamental way is why movies exist. Usually the movies manipulate us in brainless ways, with bright lights and pretty pictures and loud sounds and special effects. But a great movie can work like philosophy, poetry, or a sermon.


I just puked a little in my mouth. Can this guy get any more paternalistic ? Does that fact that we like to think during our movies makes us "unreal" people ?

I think this is a very foolish ploy by him because he is alienating everyone that gives two shits about cinema. His attackes on the critics in the article are vicious and seem like they are from someone who is cornered. Last year everyone went along with him on Paul Hackis, but I don't see that happening this year. Dude's lost his rep.

Foundas is too cool for the room. He is so wise, knowing and cynical that he can see through "Crash" and indulge in self-congratulatory superiority because he didn't fall for it.

What he is really saying is: "I am an uncool dumbass who fell for Crash and now I feel like a dipshit so I'm writing this article to salvage the leftovers."

Rog, get Charlize Theron off your lap and start writing "real" reviews.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Which I estimate means he derived more visceral pleasure and real, unforced enjoyment from Monster in Law than I have from any movie I've ever seen (or anything else I've ever experienced). I don't really have a point, I'm just not sure how to feel about this.

I know the feeling, buddy. Me and this girl sitting next to me on a flight balled our eyes out over "The Notebook". She, because she loved the movies so much. Me, out of sheer physical pain the film inflicted on me.

Makes you think if you're missing out, y'know what I mean ?

Nate said...

Walter-

I just heard about Cache as well - tragically stupid. Why do we care about the Oscars again?

Also, I must speak up in defense of Hostel. I thought it was more satirical than you gave it credit for, and I really didn't find it homophobic (the characters are homophobic, sure, but that's pretty common, and they're duly punished for their small-mindedness, just as the characters in Cabin Fever are). I did get the feeling that the Josh character was a closeted gay guy and that he had some interest in the Dutch man, but when the Dutch man reappears later in the torture scene, I concluded that he probably didn't reciprocate those feelings. It seemed to me that the Dutch man was referring to vocations rather than sexual excursions when he advised Josh to do what he wanted to do with his life.

I liked the film because I was amazed by where it was willing to go, and I felt dirty as hell watching it. My reaction was similar to that of A History of Violence, actually. I know that 95% of the audience won't take anything away from it except that it's a "kick-ass" movie about torture, but that's for Eli Roth to justify, I guess. I'm just considering whether or not I should own the DVD.

Nate

Jefferson said...

Just read the Feder piece noted by Emerson/Ebert.com. Feder praises Open Range as one of "the best conservative movies of the last decade." I'd go along with it being the best Kevin Costner film of the decade, but I'd also cite it as one of the most spirited advocacies of communal land stewardship (socialism) vs. private land ownership (capitalism) that I've seen at the movies. In fact, Costner and Duvall basically invade the town and shoot a bunch of people to enforce their "right" to graze cattle.

How is that a conservative ideal? Did Feder even watch this movie? Did he just say "Look, cowboys!" and decide it was a conservative film?

George Nada said...

I thought Batman Begins being in the Conservative list was a weird one as well.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Off topic:

Is it just me or do Malick films get better with each viewing ? Watched "Badlands" last night. What a fucking spectacular film ! A layer comes off on each viewing. Malick is my film-god.

Rich said...

Hollow Man:

I take it you saw the same History Channel showing of Badlands I did. Was the first time seeing it and I was pretty impressed - not blown away by it, but I felt much more than I did during either of my viewings of The Thin Red Line.

I definitely don't think I did Badlands proper justice by watching it for the first time in P&S. The cinematography was absolutely beautiful and I bet it would look great on the big screen. I wish network TV would wise up a bit regarding showing these movies in the proper aspect ratio. I mean, if you're going to play some shit like Maid in Manhattan, alright, but I think most of those tuning in for Badlands are doing more than just killing two hours and would both understand and appreciate a widescreen showing. I just don't get why I can see Blade Runner all the time in widescreen on network TV (Space channel) and it's acceptable, but for other flicks it isn't.

Do the general public still not understand basic concepts like widescreen vs. fullscreen in the plasma/LCD screen HDTV age we're now in? I had to explain it to countless people while working in a video store a few years ago, but I'd like to think we're past that.

Alex Jackson said...

Just read the Feder piece noted by Emerson/Ebert.com. Feder praises Open Range as one of "the best conservative movies of the last decade." I'd go along with it being the best Kevin Costner film of the decade, but I'd also cite it as one of the most spirited advocacies of communal land stewardship (socialism) vs. private land ownership (capitalism) that I've seen at the movies. In fact, Costner and Duvall basically invade the town and shoot a bunch of people to enforce their "right" to graze cattle.

How is that a conservative ideal? Did Feder even watch this movie? Did he just say "Look, cowboys!" and decide it was a conservative film?


Yeah, I wonder sometimes if conservatives even understand their own policies. Also see "The Island" mentioned as the number 3 best conservative film of the year. "Pro-life" I suppose, but a harsh indictment of free market capitalism. The island is run by a corporation after all and they hire contract killers to take them down. It slips under the radar of lazy conservative viewers by taking the form of the individual fighting against government intrusion.

Also look at "Million Dollar Baby", pro-euthanasia we're told but it's also a harsh indictment of the culture of poverty created by America's welfare system.

Didn't read the Crash essay yet. March of the Penguins was not a word-of-mouth hit though, it opened in more theaters than any other documentary in movie history; they earned their spot the old-fashioned way.

Crash might have been a word-of-mouth hit though, I saw it opening weekend not knowing a thing about it (and watching it, felt like I could pre-emptively conquer the inevitable objections. I never found anything in the backlash that convinced me to switch over. Mostly I think I just plain agree to disagree, what I look for in a film might be completely different from what others look for in a film, but some of the backlash is just plain stupid. Zacharek wrote one of the worst non-reviews I've ever read).

I will say, just because it gained an audience though word-of-mouth, doesn't mean that it's good however; and just because black people liked it, doesn't make it a good movie.

At the end of this week's Answer Man by the way, Ebert says that he wants either Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Jack Black to play him in the upcoming biopic of Russ Meyer. Sure he didn't say Michael Lerner (who played him in Godzilla), but you could never accuse the Rog of vanity.

Jefferson said...

Do the general public still not understand basic concepts like widescreen vs. fullscreen in the plasma/LCD screen HDTV age we're now in? I had to explain it to countless people while working in a video store a few years ago, but I'd like to think we're past that.

I lived in the same hell working 18 months in a video store. Some customers would argue "But my TV's not that big!" which I can sort of understand, but ... It made me kind of uneasy, because I think I sent a lot of customers (the reasonable ones) away feeling stupid, and sent a lot of others (the stupid ones) away feeling pissed off at me and the store that employed me.

TCM had an excellent insterstitial program on a few nights ago that explained the difference between the formats: people like Scorsese, Zemeckis and I forget who else outlining just how P&S bastardizes a movie and runs roughshod over the creator's intentions. The chariot race in Ben-Hur, for example, where Heston's steering four horses that get cropped down into two. I wanted to record it and give it away free on disc to every video renter everywhere in America.

Chad Evan said...

The thing that gets me about widescreen is that commercials are shown in widescreen these days, music videos are shown in widescreen, even fucking TELEVISION SHOWS are shown in widescreen, the vast majority of stations (the great exception being God's channel, TCM(who wouldathunk the bastard who wanted to crayola Citizen Kane would be the guardian of artistic intent? I guess ol' Colonel Sanders learned his lesson,)) refuse to show movies in widescreen. And to cap it off, these same idiots who won't watch a film in its' proper ratio will get odd-shaped TVs that change the ratio of the standard-ratiod TV shows. Lord, how long wilt thou hide thy face? Wilt thy anger burn forever?

Carl Walker said...

I think the only thing worse than these airline examples is when you watch a film with a friend, family member, or so on and they react with laughter or shock at bits that you personally regard as pure idiocy (this happened to me, appropriately, watching Crash with my parents during the scene where the little girl runs out to the front yard). At least you can write the person on the plane off as some kind of idiot, if you feel that strongly about how awful the film is.

Alex Jackson said...

the great exception being God's channel, TCM(who wouldathunk the bastard who wanted to crayola Citizen Kane would be the guardian of artistic intent? I guess ol' Colonel Sanders learned his lesson

TCM and IFC, for the markets that recieve it. I'm actually sort of surprised that the chief premium channels haven't followed suit.

Jack_Sommersby said...

A Utah theatre banned the showing of Brokeback, but, hey, the Utah film-critic's association (didn't know there was such a thing) voted it Best Picture. Ha!

Walter,

So, so pleased that you're a big fan also of 8 Million. Never would have guessed it. I feel proud that I saw it at the theatre during its brief run in the theatre. And even though my taste in books don't run even with yours (Koontz' Phantoms is still the scariest book I've ever read -- though I'll more than concede that his '90s works suck big time), I really hope you find the time to pick up Lawrence Block's novel it was based on, which remains not only the greatest detective tale of all-time but my favorite novel of all-time. As for Ashby's teeth problem, I was unaware of it. Then again, unless you read his biography, Burt Reynolds' mouth injury was unknown to many -- he incurred it during a stunt-gone-wrong during City Heat (a chair was accidentally smashed on his face) -- which contributed to his much-noticebale physical deteriation, which was mistakenly (quite heinously) blamed on AIDS.

Alex Jackson said...

A Utah theatre banned the showing of Brokeback, but, hey, the Utah film-critic's association (didn't know there was such a thing) voted it Best Picture. Ha!

Ouch.

I haven't seen the film yet (it is playing in several other theaters besides the one mentioned) but only in Salt Lake. I'm expecting to like it a bunch without being cowed over.

Still there is little doubt in my mind that it's going to win the Best Picture Oscar. If it even gets nominated, I'm sure that they'll bend over backwards to rebook it; in my experience Utahn filmgoers put a lot of stock on the Academy's seal of approval.