Monday, July 29, 2013

Elliott Gould

Elliott Gould discusses his career, and reveals never realized plans for a sequel to The Long Goodbye. (AV Club)
Yeah, I started to work on a sequel. I think I’ve basically read or narrated the books on tape of all of Raymond Chandler’s work, and I discovered “The Curtain,” which was written before there was a Philip Marlowe. The Chandler estate worked with me when I was more involved in it, although I’ll never give up on it. For as long as I can, I’ll try to work on getting a sequel to The Long Goodbye. I had a treatment developed and gave it to Bob Altman, and we started to talk about it, but then Bob passed away. But Alan Rudolph was the second assistant on The Long Goodbye, and Alan wrote quite an excellent first draft. But I haven’t been able to finance it.

The estate had given me permission at the time—this was just a few years ago—to change the name of the character, because the private eye was called Ted Carmady. It was written by Chandler before he wrote The Big Sleep, but you could see where The Big Sleep came from. In the story, there’s a 10-year-old son of the character that Bacall played in The Big Sleep, and the son is the killer. That’s what attracted me to it. It would take place now, and the character of Philip Marlowe is now a much older man, like me, but he still has the same values. It’s something that could conceivably work if it’s free to express itself the way I feel it and see it, but whether it’ll ever happen remains to be seen. But I’m just eternally grateful for Robert Altman and David Picker giving me the opportunity to participate in The Long Goodbye and play Philip Marlowe.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Music: Iggy and the Stooges - "The Departed"

I've been listening to Iggy Pop's appearance on the WTF podcast and was touched by Pop's affection and respect for original Stooges Ron and Scott Asheton. This track from the band's latest album Ready to Die is a tribute to guitarist Ron Asheton, who died in 2009. (Fan made video by YouTube user allmyghosts)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fruitvale Station

On New Year’s Day of 2009 a black, unarmed 22-year old Bay Area resident named Oscar Grant was shot by police while handcuffed at a BART station. The new film Fruitvale Station, written and directed by Ryan Coogler, is the story of the last 24 hours of Grant’s life and a superb example of how art allows us to see the world through another set of eyes. Coogler’s first feature film doesn’t try to idealize its main character or make broad comments about young black men in America; it succeeds on its own small and richly human terms. Oscar (Michael B. Jordan), who had spent time in prison, walks a thin line between a grocery store job and low-level drug dealing. There’s an early chance encounter with a shopper (Ahna O’Reilly) that reveals Oscar’s essential kindness, but in the same scene a conversation with his boss brings up the tensions that are squeezing this young man who is trying to do right. Michael B. Jordan has been good as mixed-up young men on television (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) but in Fruitvale Station he steps up to a fleshed-out role as a man who knows what he wants but who on some level doesn’t believe he can beat the odds. Jordan is an attentive partner to his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz, excellent) and a doting dad to young Tatiana (Ariana Neal), but the script’s urgency and our own knowledge of the real-life events make the scenes of Oscar’s temptation to return to drug dealing just as vital. I don’t think I have ever seen a scene quite like the flashback to Oscar’s jail time, when Oscar’s warm conversation with his mother (Octavia Spencer, who makes the most of little screen time) turns on a sharp edge towards violence and the realization that we all face the world with only ourselves for company.

Ryan Coogler’s version of the New Year’s Eve events leading up to Oscar’s shooting are all the more nightmarish for their banality. Fireworks, flirting on a train, and the quest to find a bathroom are markers of a happy evening and there’s a brief moment of partiers dancing on a train that’s a wonderful vision of American community. What’s saddest about Fruitvale Station is that in Coogler’s telling the events of Oscar’s last night, including a brush with the past, confirm Oscar’s suspicions about his life’s unfairness. Coogler wisely doesn’t relitigate the shooting, it’s presented as a confused and fatal combination of high tempers and frightened police. (I could have done without the distracting presence of Chad Michael Murray as a cop, though.) While most of the events of Fruitvale Station - a party, playing with children, the search for a birthday card - are the stuff of the everyday, what the movie gets right is that it’s in those things and Oscar’s family life where the meaning of his life lies. Ryan Coogler’s very impressive debut celebrates Oscar Grant’s life and includes a depiction of his death, not the other way around. The way Fruitvale Station makes a man out of Oscar Grant is a humane and heartbreaking triumph.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fiona Apple - "Hot Knife"

There's a timeless quality to this song and to this new video (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) that confirms my suspicion that Fiona Apple could write a great musical if she wanted to. The video (also featuring Apple's sister Maude Maggart on vocals) is deceptively simple, never letting us forget that this woman contains multitudes. The clip feels like something Don Draper could have storyboarded over a weekend.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Explosive bolts

Good post on plot holes and the awkward ways in which movies try to handle them. (I even hijacked the above picture from the original post, which I usually go out of my way not to do.) (
I first noticed this tactic being employed in a film involving no shortage of boats, in fact. "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" sees the gang off to the underworld to rescue Jack Sparrow, following his death at the climax of "Dead Man's Chest." Since that film ended with Captain Barbossa's resurrection, courtesy of voodoo priestess Tia Dalma, two comic relief sidekicks can't help but inquire, as anyone in the audience who's even kept track of the plot might as well, why she didn't apply the same treatment to Captain Jack? Ah, she answers, but Barbossa was only dead in spirit, his body still earthbound, while Jack has gone to the other side body and soul. The answer makes about as much sense as the rest of the plot, and so it, in turn, beats ever onward.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Director's Chair

NP appears to have revived a dormant project and will soon start scouting locations for her feature directorial debut. (The Playlist)
Way, way back in 2007, it was reported that Portman would direct and star in adaptation of Israeli writer, novelist, journalist, and professor Amos Oz's memoir, "A Tale Of Love And Darkness" and then nobody seemed to talk about it ever again. But it seems it's coming back to life. According to Israel Hayom (via the Natalie Portman fansite) Portman will head to Israel in September to start scouting locations after the script me with the approval of Oz. Portman apparently co-wrote it with two unnamed screenwriters, Oz signed off and now things seem to be moving forward.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Music: Ryan Adams - "New York, New York"

Pacific Rim

Finally, some large-scale pleasure at the movies. Guillermo del Toro’s exuberant Pacific Rim mashes up monster movies, war pictures, and science fiction into a funky and thoroughly entertaining spectacle. I was one of those disappointed that del Toro didn’t wind up directing The Hobbit, but if the alternative was a capital-M Movie that feels so fresh yet warmly familiar then I don’t mind at all. Pacific Rim suggests a new way forward for the effects-driven blockbuster, a way that depends on the imaginations of filmmakers like del Toro who aren’t afraid of either humor or pastiche.

The worlds of del Toro’s films always feel detailed and fully formed, and Pacific Rim is no exception. We’re in a grimy, weathered near future when the Earth has been ravaged by creatures called Kaiju that spring from a dimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The construction of giant fighting robots called “Jaegers” with dual pilots neurally linked keeps the monsters at bay for a time, but the funding for the Jaegers is pulled just as the Kaiju begin to adapt and grow stronger. The few remaining Jaegers under the command of the extraordinarily named Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) retreat to Hong Kong as a last stand for humanity. (We’re told an elaborate network of coastal defense walls has failed, so much for border security.) Among the ragtag band gathering for Pentecost’s last mission are Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam, swaggering just the right amount), a gifted pilot coming back into service after a tragedy, and a mysterious young woman named Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). You may remember Kikuchi’s Oscar-nominated turn as a deaf teenager in Babel, and here she gets a more conventional character to play but one with a clear emotional arc. The men and women of Pacific Rim move big, heavy things around, but one of the movie’s best moments is a close quarters fight between Raleigh and Mako during a search for Raleigh’s new copilot. In a movie of enormous scale, the scene is a human-sized reminder of the physical effort needed to save the world.

Del Toro (who wrote the script with Travis Beacham) fills out Pacific Rim with a wacky but useful scientist (fun Charlie Day), underused Ron Perlman as a broker in Kaiju parts, and a corps of other familiar types played with high energy. Is isn’t surprising that digital effects take over to a large degree as the Jaegers and Kaiju face off at the climax, and if the movie was going to fall off the table it would be here. Remember how long the finale of Man of Steel felt? It was only last month. In Pacific Rim the action feels both bigger and more specific. We’re always aware of how big the combatants are (shipping containers and even ships themselves are used as weapons), but del Toro never lets us forget that the Jaegers are a manifestation of humans. There is a marvelous image near the end of a wounded Jaeger hobbling along, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so pleased to hear the word “analog” used in a movie. Arguing that Pacific Rim has a message or a seriousness of purpose feels like a stretch; it’s a very well-made piece of pop entertainment. But it succeeds because del Toro keeps his big toys in perspective and doesn’t forget that above all this is all supposed to be fun. Pacific Rim is the best time at the movies this summer and a reminder that big things begin with one idea.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

City In the Moment

Great post on Medium Cool, a film that's associated with the 1968 Democratic National Convention but was also meant to be a look at Chicago's underclass. (Chicago Reader)
As a time capsule of the city, the film is most valuable when Wexler turns to Eileen (Verna Bloom) and her young son, Harold (Harold Blankenship), native West Virginians living in blighted Uptown. Robert Kennedy's visits to poverty-stricken Appalachia during his presidential campaign that spring had drawn national attention to poor white southerners; even as Wexler was shooting Medium Cool, the Chicago Tribune ran a fascinating three-part series on the estimated 65,000 southern migrants living in Uptown. Migrants found good-paying factory jobs at companies like Bell & Howell, Teletype, and Crane Packing, and affordable housing in the north-side neighborhood, whose grand past as an entertainment district had resulted in numerous hotels being turned into SROs. "Entire blocks in Uptown are inhabited by the former residents of a single Alabama or West Virginia county," wrote reporter Clarus Backes. "Apartment buildings are filled with members of a single mountain clan."