September 03, 2006

The Trench

- Did an introduction/screening as the sub for NPR’s Howie Movshovitz at the monthly Tattered Cover Film Series at Denver’s Starz Filmcenter tonight for King Vidor’s almost-socialist Our Daily Bread. It comes midway through a particularly strenuous time for me as I do about four speaking engagements a week for four consecutive weeks – a schedule that, in addition to all the stresses these presentations entail – impinges on my ability to do the day-to-day of screening/writing and, so, increases my stress in those areas, too. Bitch, bitch, bitch. It’s still not turning a large crank, I understand, but it being what I do – it leaves a mark.

- People like Jeffrey Lyons hiring interns to watch films on his behalf suddenly becomes understandable if not any less appalling.

- Tom Cruise apologizes to Brooke Shields this week. I’m sure he means it. The Church of Scientology reveals that it was prepared to back Tom Cruise’s production company should no other studio step in. I’m sure it meant it, too.

- I love King Vidor – the most underestimated director of that period, I think, and unfairly ranked behind John Ford and Howard Hawks for the kinds of movies they did. His autobiography is a must-read – as is the interview conducted with him by George Stevens Jr. Our Daily Bread is a stirring work, the last two reels devoted to an interesting homage to the bio-automatism of Eisenstein, with a score by Alfred Newman so rousing that Zanuck resurrected it just a year later for his Les Miserables. The real find of the picture is Karen Morley as the everyman wife Mary. She started her career as the moll in Scarface - and ended it a victim of HUAC with a failed lieutenant-gubenatorial run in New York as a member of the Labor Party.

- The story behind the making of the film (including a chance encounter between Vidor and the star of his The Crowd which led with a lifelong obsession for the director with the actor’s fate) holds rich parallels with the film itself.

- Joseph Stefano has passed away – the writer of Psycho and co-creator of “The Outer Limits”.

- Did a two-and-a-half hour lecture on four 1970s Gene Hackman films: The French Connection, The Conversation, Night Moves, and Superman. Notable exclusions include I Never Sang for my Father and Scarecrow - the drive was, generally, that all of the decade of the ‘70s could be distilled through Hackman films and, more, that the Donner Superman, while being very much a product of the darkness of that decade, predicted the cinematic wonderland of the eighties. Hackman’s father issues in life reflected the loss of security in traditional institutions in the seventies. He’s not the only one, but he’s central to the zeitgeist of that era. No wonder his turn as the father in The Royal Tenenbaums feels like full-circle.

- Saw screenings of Hollywoodland and The Science of Sleep this week as well as sneaking in a late show of Neil Labute’s The Wicker Man. I wondered why the new film from Labute was being released without so much as a proper critic’s preview, it was answered by the picture itself that isn’t dumb enough to please a certain demographic and not quite smart enough to please the cultists and purists. What’s left are a lot of fond memories of the brilliantly disconcerting original film and of Labute’s own scabrous early work.

- Hollywoodland is dreadful, deadening period hoohaw and if Ben Affleck is perfect as George Reeves, it’s because Ben Affleck is this generation’s George Reeves.

- The Science of Sleep is fitfully engaging but mostly puerile and scattershot while mainly a reminder that a Charlie Kaufman movie without Charlie Kaufman is just exactly what it sounds like.

- Intro’d Tampopo and a little Argentine flick called Bolivia for the Vail Symposium, as well. Can I say that I now officially hate Tampopo? Bolivia is a sad snapshot of Argentina right before the collapse of their economy in 2001 – the same collapse that has made it nigh impossible for all the promising voices rising at the start of the millennium from that industry to helm follow-up projects. In of itself, not so much, but as a product of a time and place it can start an interesting conversation.

- Continue the DPL documentary series this coming Tuesday with the hard-to-watch Brother’s Keeper, then the following Tuesday with Bright Leaves. This coming Friday will find me in Gilpin County with Peter Weir’s Fearless while the next two Wednesdays I’m back in Vail with first Delicatessen, then Big Night.

- The suggestion that Spielberg might be collaborating with Zhang Yimou on an adaptation of Journey to the West is something that makes me want to weep, spontaneously, with joy. Debunked by Spielberg this week, just the idea that this work could become a major film is something that makes me weak in the knees.

- Teaching The Conversation for the first time since I brought a 35mm print of it to show at a long-ago Denver International Film Festival was something like a dream for me. Showing it on DVD with a clips presentation. . . man oh man. David Shire’s amazing piano score for the film (coupled with a brief discussion down below) raises the question of the best scores in film. Not the best from a musical standpoint, necessarily (I’m not a music critic, after all), but the best in terms of how it jibes with the film that holds it. Quick thoughts are the Goblin score for Suspiria, the Philip Glass for Candyman, Ennio Morricone’s work with Sergio Leone, and John Williams’ trio of rousing variations on Holst’s “Planets”: Jaws, Star Wars,, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

A few of this week’s letters:


I have just read your review on last years film Dreamer. I think, along with many others, that calling a horse 'great glue' is extremley offensive. A lot of people work hard to stop healthy horses going to the knackery, and saying something like that would really hurt them. I really hope it was just a horrible atempt at a joke.

Please don't try to offend people, and have some more respect for horses. They have lived on this planet for a long time and lived and died as they need to, rather than being trucked to knackerys to have their legs chopped off as they are still alive, shot in the head, then have their neck and head sliced up.

I don't like jokes about that torture.


(RE: Your review of Equilibrium)

Before you bash a movie, make sure you understand it.All emotion is not banned with the drug. It is clearly stated that the "highs and lows" are destroyed. So there can still be jealousy, pride, and the other things you mentioned, in moderation.Also, Taye Diggs' character is not on the drug, which is why he shows so much anger and pride.And what scenes were taken from the Matrix?

John Daly

What would happen if I understood Equilibrium and still didn’t like it? Maybe you could also explain the parts about the puppy.

As to what’s been taken from The Matrix, I guess nothing except for the costumes, the general look, and the bullet time.

Just who is it you’re angry with or about? Either that or you've got some sort of difficulty with life because I just read your review of Finding Forrester (better late than never as they say) and you come across in your writing like you know it all. You remind me of those two clowns who used to review films on television and then one of them died. Either way, you're no better than those two clowns in terms of your review accept for the fact that you're extremely obnoxious. You must be from Britain or New York, but your writing seems pompous enough to warrant a Briton.Just thought you should know how much you stink. –Jimbo

Hazarding a guess: aside from the looks you get spending your time defending stuff like Finding Forrester, I’m thinking that what you’re angry about has something to do with being named “Jimbo” that or believing, maybe rightfully, that literate people who dislike Dead Poets Society knock-offs are most likely foreigners.

- Just got a press release from publicity, by the way, that Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left is being remade. Here’s the release:

A remake of The Last House on the Left, the 1972 horror classic that established Wes Craven as a filmmaker, is being developed at Rogue Pictures for production in early 2007. Mr. Craven and longtime producing partner Marianne Maddalena will produce the new version with the original film’s producer, Sean S. Cunningham. Rogue co-presidents Andrew Karpen and Andrew Rona made the announcement today.

Rogue will hold worldwide rights to the remake, for which a director is being sought. The new film will hew closely to the plot of the earlier version, which tracked the fate of a group of murderers as vengeful parents of the victims mete out punishment to fit the crimes.Another of Mr. Craven’s early works, The Hills Have Eyes, was recently remade; Mr. Craven co-produced the remake with Ms. Maddalena and Peter Locke. That film became a boxoffice hit earlier this year; a sequel, written by Mr. Craven and his son Jonathan, is in production for release by Fox Atomic in March. Martin Weisz is directing the sequel, which is again produced by Mr. Craven, Ms. Maddalena, and Mr. Locke.

Mr. Karpen and Mr. Rona said, “We’re excited about working with this talented team of filmmakers to create a new take on this seminal movie that will scare the wits out of a whole new generation of filmgoers.”

Rogue Pictures ( is devoted to producing and distributing high-quality suspense, action, thriller, comedy, and urban entertainment with mainstream appeal and franchise potential.

Hot Off the Presses - 9/3/06

Bad communication on my part resulted in me stampeding over Bill's post, there - apologies - let me underscore:

The Book is here, at Amazon. Although the best option shipping-wise for Canadian customers - know that we get a bigger bite on sales from Lulu. In either case, though, your support is much appreciated. Look for a wider roll-out as time goes on.


Reel Fanatic said...

I had no idea that Jeffrey Lyons was doing that .. what an asshole!

Vikram said...

That Lyons comment is pretty unbelievable. Does he actually have these interns review films as well with his name on it?

If so, it reminds of Profs who get their grad students to do their work and then they sign their own name on the research papers...except, of course, Lyons is no professor.

Ian Pugh said...

When you get into the Wicker Man screening, Walter? My understanding was that it was given one of those late-night Thursday stealth screenings.

Ever hear Goblin's score for Argento's Tenebre? Try getting that creepy opening theme out of your head.

Funny thing, actually, how I find Hackman's own dreamtime recitation of "he'll kill ya if he gets the chance!" in The Conversation more memorable, even, than Frederic Forest's. Interesting comments about Hackman's father issues -- realizing his past gives new meaning to the rapid-fire jokes about Luthor's father in Superman.

It looks like we'll have to wait the typical twelve-year increment of time before Craven changes the face of horror again -- using the original Last House on the Left ('72), Nightmare on Elm Street ('84), and Scream ('96) as precedent. Of course, whether those entries changed the landscape for better or for worse depends on your point of view. I just have a hard time belieiving that Craven had a hand in writing Pulse, AKA The Demons are Coming Through My Internets: A MySpace Production.

And I thought that this popular timewaster was the only reason people cared about Finding Forrester anymore.

Patrick Pricken said...

I thought "Chaos" was a remake to Last House on the Left, even though the filmmakers heavily denied it. So is it a remake of Chaos, then?

Bill C said...

Thanks for the segue, Patrick--I meant to mention ol' Outlaw Vern's review of Chaos earlier in the week: such a brutally honest piece of criticism that the idiot director had no choice but to turn around and challenge Vern to a wrestling match. (Alas, Vern declined.)

Anonymous said...

Ah, Internet film geeks and their utterly confusing love for Equilibrium. One would have thought that "auteur" Kurt Wimmer's follow-up movie would have revealed to even his staunchest supporters that the emperor has no clothes. Your attacker accuses you of not getting the film, Walter, but I have a feeling that it's the other way around, if anything. He has a vague sense that it's about, like, freedom of expression and stuff, but is that really why he likes it? Seriously: what does the movie Equilibrium communicate about the world and how you relate to it that makes one so violently defensive about is message? What does it possess? My guess? A couple of "kickass" gun battles, a handful of striking tableaux, and a director who someone at CHUD probably overhyped. Sorry for the rant, but the arbitrary tastes of the film geek community really piss me off sometimes.

Alex Jackson said...

Haven't seen the movie, but Equilibrium produced my favorite line in all of FFC Reader Mail: "That review licked the dog's balls".

The dog mind you, the dog that is apparently always in the room with us.

Brilliant. I would love to isolate the person who thought that letter up and just observe him for a few months.

Anonymous said...

I was actually kind of impressed that Equilibrium had enough brains to make their Neo clone a tool of the state. I think it says a lot that Neo fits into a government uniform so easily.

But yeah. What a dumbass movie. I'm always kind of amazed at what people will latch onto. "Lady in the Water," of all movies, is building up a strong cult following as we speak.

Patrick Pricken said...

I like Equilibrium; it's not a classic or anything, but is diverting and not as bad as a lot of other films imo.

Speaking of Outlaw Vern, he just reviewed The Virgin Spring, completing the Last House of the Left-circle. His Chaos review, btw, once again betrays him as a connoisseur of film and the sole gem amongst AICN.

Alex Jackson said...

Fun factoid.

I remember director David DeFalco talking about how he was nervous about working with Kevin Gage, who plays Chaos, because he was just released from prison.

Indeed, Gage was serving 41 months in federal prison just before filming Chaos, but it was for CULTIVATING MEDICINAL MARIJUANA!! Pretty heavy time, but the crime is maybe one or two steps above jaywalking on the moral offense odometer.

Patrick Pricken said...

Maybe he was nervous because his mariuhana problem threatened to spin out of control?

That's a pretty cool factoid, especially for a man who challenges people to wrestling matches sight unseen and threatens the audience at a press conference. Dave "the Demon".

Scott said...

Film scores?

How about the magnificent, triumphant scores for ANIMAL HOUSE and STRIPES. (And later POLICE ACADEMY.) Giving average (if not low-life) characters these over-the-top scores was a way of poking fun at the slightly grandiose and silly scores of epics past while plastering a heroic arc onto these modern, loony epics.

Anonymous said...

Outta curiousity, does anyone know why Walter hates Tampopo?

Anonymous said...

Walter probably hates Tampopo as I do because it is boring. It was. Takes a seat besides My Dinner With Andre on the all-time overrated list.

- Brian

theoldboy said...

I read the whole glorious Vern Vs. Dave the Demon battle. Now, I personally have little urge to watch Chaos, seeing as how I've seen Last House on the Left and don't think a man who calls himself "The Demon" could improve upon it. Reading it reminded me of a recent battle of words I had on the filmmaking message board when I presented an idea that I had been mulling over and recieved lots of "ripoff!" accusations, despite the fact that the idea in my mind was only related to the things I was accused of ripping off in that they had a few plot mechanics and general, vague ideas in common. The difference between that and this is that I didn't just go out and make the movie, and that I haven't dubbed myself with a lame Satanic nickname, and probably because of that last part I won the argument, if only to a degree that everybody else stopped talking to me.

While I'm not a massive fan of the film, is Walter ever going to give a full-length review of Gans' Silent Hill? It's been out on DVD for over a week now, and I'm intrigued as I know he's apparently the only good critic except Vern who liked it.

Max B. said...

Some favorite film scores - Glass on Mishima and The Thin Blue Line and Kamen on Brazil and Die Hard.

Wait a sec - who out there likes Lady in the Water?

Rich said...

Anyone here know what the word is on Idiocracy? Its recent release seems to have been ignored by just about everyone (including the company releasing it judging by the lack of advertising).

It's been given a limited release, which explains the 10 or so reviews Rottentomatoes lists, so any words from anyone who's seen it (or on what the hell's going on with the release) would be great.

Maybe I'm alone in caring, but Mike Judge is pretty awesome in my books.

Vikram said...

RE: Idiocracy

I saw Idiocracy in Toronto but it is in limited release. I don't know what plans Fox has with it in terms of anything wider.

The film, in my opinion, is a little too flimsy, but there are some very funny observations that you'd expect from Judge. The problem is that it is a little too broad in its scope for the kind of film that I think that Mike Judge is able to pull off but, as I mentioned, there are some pretty funny parts.

James Allen said...

Quiet 'round these parts, ain't it? Everyone waiting on line to see Jackass 2?

Well, to kill time, here's a link:

Rob Schneider Lands Role Originally Written For Chimp

Current favorite fake trailer: Must Love Jaws

DVD I'm watching right now: M*A*S*H (Season 2).

Beer I'm drinking right now, Sam Adams Summer Ale (enjoying it while I still can. Octoberfest is right around the corner.)

rachel said...

Hey, fun.

Watching: Clash by Night, The Day the Earth Stood Still

Listening to: the new Regina Spektor album (great!)

Reading: Wigfield: The Can-Do Town that Just May Not (hilarious... and if you've ever wanted to see Stephen Colbert dressed like a stripper, well, there you go)

Current youtube obsession: clips from the prescursor to Strangers with Candy, Exit 57: Honey Pie. Down in the Basement. Bottomless Lake.

rachel said...

Oy, forgot: Mary Worth reenactments, frickin' brilliant.