February 26, 2006

Notes from the Trenches

I moderated this last week the first multiple-film discussion of the newly-conceived (with the Denver Public Library’s film committee) “Cinema Club” where three or more films are “assigned” for an end-of-month clip show, analysis, and chat about the films by themselves and in sequence. Topic for the first series was “Modern Love” with the films Edward Scissorhands, Punch-Drunk Love, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Drove down with an old pal-o-mine who presented me a photocopy of the box of a product endorsed by Smokey Robinson (of Miracles fame): red beans and rice frozen dinner – and it’s a lot scarier than you’d imagine with a tagline, “The Soul is in the Bowl” that strikes my ears as really, really menacing. Soylent Beans is people. Between the mesmeric blue eyes and the questionable content of celebrity-endorsed food stuffs (what’s with the American Gothic vibe of Newman’s Own anyway?), I felt several moments of real temptation before its awful frozen majesty.

Here's something to think about: most woeful or unfortunate celebrity endorsements or, even better, real or fictional celebrity and merchandise tie-ins you'd like to see. Mad Magazine? Eat yer heart out.

The discussion went well though, scheduled in the middle of a weekday, attendance was sparse. Of note: a woman came in late, delivered a scary, rambling diatribe in which I think she was ultimately blaming the makers of Entrapment for “perpetrating a crime” on her in a tenement in Jackson, MI a decade or so ago, because she had been asked by someone to write a film review of it. She left after a while, but not before making a few arcane gestures with her hands, sighing heavily, and indicating that she’d only seen one of the three films up for dissection. Mental illness is a scary thing – especially when it’s front row, left, and about five feet away from my throat.


Same sort of program being proposed for a local coffee shop - it's the kind of thing that could become a kind of thing, if you know what I mean.

Also moderated a quickie discussion-following-screening of All About Eve - one of the most overrated screenplays in history, I think, but possessed of another invaluable turn by the inimitable George Sanders. Someone should talk about the curse of the film as two of the folks, Sanders and “second Eve” Phoebe, Barbara Bates, killed themselves.

Went to blissfully closed screenings for Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Night Watch, and the new Robert Towne flick Ask the Dust. I’m on record for the first, will hold my counsel for the last (though the review has been logged to prevent corruption should I interview the man), and as for the Russian vampire flick?

It’s well and truly dreadful. On the bright side, though, looks like I might have a scheduling conflict this week that prevents me from seeing the Tim Allen Shaggy Dog flick.

Avoided watching any of the Winter Olympics with the same dedication that I will apply to avoiding the Oscar telecast next month – and caught a look at Terry Zwigoff’s newest: Art School Confidential. I’m going to try to see it again before I write on it which is not, after all, necessarily an endorsement.

Hoping to do a blog-only review of Jonathan Demme’s Swimming to Cambodia this week – maybe sometime just before Bill’s last Class of 1984 contest. Speaking of frame-grabs, here’s mine:


42 comments:

Scott said...

Celebrity endorsements? Having lived in Japan for a few years, the ones that Hollywood stars do there are absolutely unreal.

Bruce Willis endorsing a Japanese gasoline chain comes to mind, complete with a super-hero style outfit and a gas nozzle notched to his waist, gunslinger style. Flags featuring Willis in this heroic pose dotted the Japanese gas-station countryside for weeks...

And this isn't exactly a celebrity endorsement, I guess, but who was the genius behind MR.T. cereal from the 80's? Who watched ROCKY III or THE A-TEAM and thought: "You know what? THAT man needs a cereal named after him..."

zurri said...

Framegrab guess: Tim Roth's "The War Zone" ?

Anonymous said...

Kinda looks like The Return...

Alex Jackson said...

I can never watch the grocery store scene in Manhunter without being distracted by the Mr. T cereal behind William Petersen. You?

Anonymous said...

Walter:

Very only slightly related, but wondering, since you've just gone on record saying that you prefer to avoid the Olympics but have also gone on record saying you watch football, where you differentiate between the two, or if it's simply more the way one "hits your ears," so to speak, which is perfectly fine as well. And even if it wasn't you wouldn't need my endorsement, I guess I'm just trying to get across that this is meant to be more of a question than an attack.

scott: Have you seen the new Japanese commercials Kiefer Sutherland's been doing for Calorie Mate? It's one of the few times I've actually been embarrassed watching something.

Walter_Chaw said...

I watch all four major North American sports (hockey, football, baseball, basketball) with my longest habit being the pigskin and my most passionate, I'm surprised to admit, being hoop - and I love curling at the olympics and short track, too - but my skipping the olympics this time around has a lot more to do with NBC's coverage of them. The fucking puff pieces, the questionable play-by-play and color provided that seems to be able to predict exactly where the intrigues are going to be in this time-delayed presentation. . . the manipulation over the actual sports. Tie that with the lack of sportsmanship demonstrated by certain members of the American team - with the glorification of subjective dance contests like figure skating (and women's gymnastics in the Summer) - and I just had to have something better to do with my time.

Enough for me in any case to see our silver medalist on the front page of the sports section, flat on her ass - or to catch a few of those Bode Miller iconoclast commercials and feel relief on his behalf that he doesn't give a shit because, hey, he didn't even finish sixty percent of his events.

Anyway - what I guess I'm saying is that I love sports, and that's why I skipped the olympiad this year.

Ian Pugh said...

Hmm, tough. Guess: The Killing Fields?

BK said...

Don't knock gymnastics :)

Ian Pugh said...

(There I go again, hoping that you've placed a hint in the paragraph preceding the cap.)

Anyway, speaking of American celebs in Japanese endorsements... Fear, mortals. (It's a webpage link that analyzes the commercial, so I don't leech from the site's server -- to make sure nothing is ruined for you, just scroll all the way down to the bright yellow "Click here to view the full .mov file"). I'd have linked right to Japander.com but the site seems to have exploded under the weight of its own insanity.

Seattle Jeff said...

Walter:

I was off the Olympic bandwagon back in the day when John Tesh exclaimed that the Olympics weren't sports but melodrama.

It's one thing to include puffery, but worse still to exclaim that it's a good thing.

And John Tesh's presence? Ack!

For me to watch the Olympics, Al-Queda needs to have a team. Now, that would be an Olympics.

Celebrity endorsements? How about Courtney Love for ritalin?

dave said...

Grab-guess: straight story?

James Allen said...

Re: The olympics

I was ambivilant about the Olympics as well, Walt. My feelings generally echo yours, about all I watched was the hockey.

The big problem is that tape delay just doesn't work anymore. They put the hockey on live, because they knew that NHL fans just wouldn't stand for it, even if games start at 6am Eastern. Why it doesn't apply to anything else is perplexing.

Also the need to graft a "story" onto everything to create phony "interest" has been increased to the nth degree. It just goes to show that for various reasons the Olympics have lost their specialness, and that it has to be propped up with puff-drivel and non-stop shilling by NBC. US sports have been fairly internationalized over the years, and the us vs. them angle just doesn't seem to float as many people's boats as it used to.

Seattle Jeff said...

Am I the only one whose reference point for Dennis Weaver is the "Centenial" mini-series?

Dave Gibson said...

My goodness, Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver and Darren McGavin---all passed into the great beyond within the last 72 hours. Fond thoughts of: Ralph Furley, The Old Man (Christmas Story) and Kolchak are warming my thoughts.

Not that anyone asked, but I happened to catch Ebert and Other Guy last night---I thought Roeper’s admonishment of Ebe for his “Thumbs Up” to the Paul Walker and Cuba movies was nicely done (although, the look on RE face unequivocally reveals that he just doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart). However, Roeper is so inconsequential a critic; I can’t help but be nonplussed by this verbal sparring. And...Matt Dillon in "Crash" over William Hurt in "HoV"....yeah, right.

Ian Pugh said...

Dave:

I'm going to add "I don't give a fiddler's fart" to my personal lexicon.

My own exposure to Weaver is admittedly limited, but anyone who's seen Touch of Evil will know about his bizarro motel clerk (supposedly the inspiration for Hitchcock's Norman Bates) and how indelible it is.

Dave Gibson said...

More recently, I also enjoyed Weaver's drunken Cowboy star: "Buck McCoy" on "The Simpsons".

McGavin...what a pro. Another reason I'm not ashamed to love "Billy Madison"

Walter_Chaw said...

My big Weaver ref is the hapless motorist in Duel, of course, as Chester on "Gunsmoke", and as Ttitular Texas detective Sam McCloud in that old television series. Lately, I recall hearing mostly about him in relationship to the conservationist concerns for whom he became a spokesman. Was he a guest voice on that tree-hugger episode of "The Simpsons" a couple of years ago?

My wife's grandfather was pals with Don Knott's older brother way back in the way in Morgantown, VA, leading to a funny moment early in our relationship where I thought I was telling a funny "you won't believe who I saw" story about Knotts shooting a Colorado Lottery commercial in a shopping center where my folks owned a store. Learned me good not to compare peculiar anecdotes with my wife.

And McGavin: yeah, cliche to say, I guess, but love him in Christmas Story. What's the line? "My old man worked with profanity like some artists worked with paints" Something like that.

Will post a second screen grab later on tonight if this generous hint doesn't help: past and future multiple-category Oscar nominees in both the lead roles.

Ian Pugh said...

Ah... From Dusk Till Dawn?

Anonymous said...

House of Flying Daggers?

Kim

B. Earnest said...

Screencap: A Perfect World?

James Allen said...

Someone beat me to giving a nod to Dennis Weaver in Touch of Evil. A great character in a great film.

Someone else mentioned Buck McCoy from "The Simpsons" (the episode "The Lastest Gun in the West" from 2002), one of the better guest spots on that show.

"Now listen missy, the last two city slickers who used reverse psychology on me are pushing up dasies."
"They're dead?"
"No, they've just got lousy jobs."

AdamN said...

the frame grab... it's not time of the wolf, is it?

Walter_Chaw said...

Congrats to B.Earnest for his guess of A Perfect World - it is, indeed, one of Clint's fantastic '90s career resurrection pics: this the follow-up to Unforgiven. Amazing the guy who did these could also one day do Million Dollar Baby.

Bill C said...

"My old man worked in profanity the way some artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium."

Well, there go three more panels in the rec room of my childhood.

James Allen said...

Re: Darren McGavin and Don Knotts

Useless trivia: The two worked together in the 1976 Disney film No Deposit, No Return as two would-be crooks.

Anyway, McGavin was a TV staple for close to 40 years. It was hard to watch TV in the 70's without seeing him in something or other. However, he will now and forevermore be best known for being in a the perrenial classic A Christmas Story, a well deserved monument to such a longtime pro.

Knotts, along with Art Carney (who passed in 2003) portrayed the two most iconic sidekicks in TV history. It's hard to believe "The Andy Griffith Show" continued without him (imagine "The Honeymooners" without Norton. Exactly.)

Between that and "Three's Company," Knott's TV legend status is well deserved, but he did make some films. My favorite is probably The Shakiest Gun in the West. He was also well used in Pleasantville.

Sigh. Three fine actors are gone. I feel older.

Seattle Jeff said...

To clarify, my comment on Weaver is not a slam. I loved Centennial. I never really watched McCloud or Gunsmoke et al.

I was a huge Knotts fan. Loved teh Knotts-Conway movies as a young child. Was delighted to discover The Andy Griffith Show at about the same time. Though I admit the Three's Company thing is painful for me.

B. Earnest said...

Cool. I saw a Perfect World for the first time last year. I liked the parts with Costner and the kid. I usually hate kids in movies, but that little guy was pitch-perfect. The scenes with Clint and Laura Dern had a goofy tone that sort of eroded the overall mood for me. It was only a couple months later I saw Sullivan's Travels (after Walter's blog post here on it), and I made the connection to Perfect World's Winnebago chase. I loved Sullivan's Travels, but I don't think the connection improved my impression of A Perfect World. It really is startling how many great movies later drew their water from the Sullivan well.

Alex Jackson said...

Anybody remember Michael Moore's TV Nation a while back? On a New Year's eve episode, he decides that they're going to go against tradition and instead of showing all the people who died the previous year he was going to show all the people who HAVEN'T died. One of them was Don Knotts, and during one of the commercial bumpers it shows him lifting weights and saying, "I'm Don Knotts and I'm not dead".

I gotta say that was friggin' hilarious. Not a big fan of Knotts, he just never really resonated with me for one reason or another. But still, I love him to pieces for participating in that gag.

Er, didn't much care for William Hurt in AHOV. I loved Viggo Mortesen though, and it really upsets me that Hurt got a nod over him. None of the supporting actor nominees really excite me much. The only person in any of the acting categories that I'm really cheering for is Michelle Williams.

Jefferson said...

And, if you're a lover of science fiction, the day is even sadder for learning that Octavia Butler died of head trauma after a fall. She was just 58.

Walter, your review of Heart of Gold turned me on to "Differently," a nice yearning boogie that I hadn't heard before. I'm a fan from way back ("Cortez the Killer" may not be just my favorite Neil Young song, but my favorite song EVER), but this was new to me. Thanks.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Regarding the screenshots, Walter, it should be noted to the readers that the screenshot program you use makes a shot in 1.85:1 appear without letterboxing and makes a 2.35:1 shot appear in a 1.85:1 letterbox. So A Perfect World was shot in 2.35:1 yet the image appears in 1.85:1 here.

Jack_Sommersby said...

(The above is only relevant to those who know what aspect ratios certain films are shot in, of course.)

Anonymous said...

Off topic - as the countdown to the total destruction of the X-Men franchise continues, here's a little tidbit with master director/jackass describing the character of Hannibal Lecter:

Red Dragon director Brett Ratner called him "the huggy bear of serial killers." .

Vomit.

Bill C said...

You wanna start compiling stupid things Brett Ratner has said and we could be here for a while. Anybody see the picture of him dressed as (a particularly out-of-shape) Wolverine that he sent out as a Christmas card? It's sort of indescribable.

dave said...

Perfect World... that's one of those which grew on me over time. I remember I wasn't really very impressed when I saw it back in '93 in theatres. I mean, Costner was that guy from Wolves, Robin Hood and Bodyguard and I just didn't buy him playing a tough guy, let alone one who could compete with Eastwood. But now, with a little distance to the Costner blockbusters it works really well.

Alex Jackson said...

Ratner as Wolverine.

Jefferson said...

I've said it before, but I hold out hope that the X-franchise can float above Ratner. quality-wise, just long enough for this final installment. That said, I do believe this will be the final installment. Ratner is a symptom of pre-collapse franchise bloat, not its cause.

reel2reel said...

Is the last grab (the boy) still up for grabs? Am I missing the answer?

I'll never forget watching Class of 1984 when I was 12 or 13. Rented it on VHS way back in the day and loved it. The main song was by Alice Cooper, wasn't it?

Bill C said...

A previous winner blurted out the answer (Down and Out in Beverly Hills), so I'll be putting up another, easier one tomorrow evening.

reel2reel said...

Oh Ok. I thought the one with the little boy was seperate from the one with the dude in moustache and mullet.

Thanks.

Seattle Jeff said...

Off topic but I just need to get this out of my system:

Watched Errol Morris's "The Thin Blue Line" last night for the first time.

Wow.

Walter_Chaw said...

"wow"'s the word, Jeff.

They're still ripping that movie off. Even Morris hisself.

Chad Evan said...

And I just caught Nic Roeg's truly original The Man Who Fell to Earth. Loved it to death, but it strikes me as one of those flicks that not only rewards but demands further viewing, and suffice it to say that David Bowie is the man and Roeg's talent both behind the camera and in the editing room is astonishing.

Oh yeah, and I'm sure some of you caught The Conversation of TCM Teusday night--saw it again, loved it again. Murch is a true wizard with sound, and I was reminded once again that, before he lost his mind in the Phillipines, Coppola was as good as anyone has ever been.