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Posts Tagged ‘In Memoriam’

Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day is about as perfect as a movie can be. If there’s one movie all us humans should base our lives upon, this is it. We must remember not only to learn from our mistakes, we must also remember to learn how to learn from our mistakes. And the universe is ultimately not that impressed by our underhanded shortcuts.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman first caught my attention in 1997, when he performed one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ll ever see: playing the awkwardly sweet boom operator Scotty in Boogie Nights, right after he’s rejected by hot porno superstar Dirk Diggler.

Until this point in the movie I’ve been laughing at Scotty’s flirtations with Dirk, assuming Scotty would never be so delusional as to try and kiss him or something. Then Scotty actually tries to kiss Dirk, and even though it goes a little better than expected (ie, Dirk doesn’t erupt into violent, coked-up gay-panic), it’s still devastating once Scotty starts calling himself Fuckin Idiot. It’s even more devastating because part of me still wants to laugh at Scotty, and laugh much harder than I might be willing to laugh at myself while looking back on my own Fuckin Idiot moments.

This performance is the epitome of the Fuckin Idiot moment.

I also like to remember PSH as a paragon of the Pig FUCK! moment: When an arrogant fraud lashes out at someone who dares to expose the truth. As Lancaster Dodd in The Master:

He says, “We are not helpless,” and he wishes he could believe it more. He adds, “And we are on a journey that risks the dark.” That much he’s sure of.

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This is the song that popped in my head when I heard Pete Seeger died:

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Because it’s Halloween season, today I’ll remember Lou Reed with “Venus In Furs.” Lyrically it’s not all that scary, and by post-Fifty Shades Of Grey standards, it’s hardly even taboo. Yet the pure sound of “Venus In Furs” makes it one of the first tracks that jump off the top of my head when I think of The Most Spine-Tingling Tunes Of All-Time. Some of that tingle is thanks to John Cale’s dissonant, asylum-born viola. The majority of the eerie stuff, however– the rising-from-the-tomb guitars; the ancient, bewitching melody; the sinister hypnotist voice– is conjured by Lou.

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I’m ashamed to say I’ve never actually read an Elmore Leonard novel, but I have watched Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, and Out Of Sight a combined 20-something times. It’s because of these movies that I’m very much in awe of Leonard’s talent, especially considering how in each of them, a very strong filmmaker (Get Shorty‘s Barry Sonnenfeld, Jackie Brown‘s Quentin Tarantino, and Out Of Sight‘s Steven Soderbergh) rides shotgun to the source material, occasionally offering his own direction but essentially letting the author’s style take the wheel.

from Get Shorty:

Chili watched the movie star hunch over, narrowing his shoulders. For a few moments he held his hands together in front of him, getting a shifty look in his eyes. Then he gave it up, shaking his head.

“I’m doing Shylock instead of a shylock. Okay, what’s my motivation? The acquisition of money. To collect. Inflict pain if I have to.” Michael half-closed his eyes. “My father used to beat me for no reason… Take the money I earned on my paper route, that I kept in a cigar box…”

“Hold it,” Chili said. “I was a shylock– what do I look like?”

“That’s right, yeah,” Michael said, staring at Chili, his expression gradually becoming deadpan, sleepy.

“You the shylock now?”

“Guy owes me fifteen large and takes off, I go after him,” the movie star said. “The fuck you think I do?”

“Try it again,” Chili said. “Look at me.”

“I’m looking at you.”

“No, I want you to look at me the way I’m looking at you. Put it in your eyes. ‘You’re mine, asshole,’ without saying it.”

“Like this?”

“What’re you telling me, you’re tired? You wanta go to bed?”

“Wait. How about this?”

“You’re squinting, like you’re trying to look mean or you need glasses. Look at me. I’m thinking, you’re mine, I fuckin own you. What I’m not doing is feeling anything about it one way or the other…”

from Rum Punch (filmed as Jackie Brown):

He knew she was scared man, she had to be, but wasn’t acting like she was and it made him press his thumbs into her soft skin and tighten up on his fingers, wanting to know what she’d told them and knowing he’d have to take her close to the edge to find out. He said, “Baby, you got a reason to be nervous with me?” He saw her eyes close and open…

And felt what must be her hand down there touch his thigh, brush across it, and move on up and had to admire her using a female way of getting to him, liking it, yeaaah, till something else besides a hand, something hard, dug into him.

She said, “You feel it.”

Ordell said, “Yes I do,” wanting to grin, let her know he wasn’t serious and she shouldn’t be either. He said, “I believe that’s a gun pressing against my bone.”

Jackie said, “You’re right, You want to lose it or let go of me?”

from Out Of Sight:

Karen thought they’d put her inside and leave and she felt around to find her handgun, quick, the Sig Sauer, before they closed the trunk lid and she’d have to kick at it and yell until someone let her out. There, she felt the holster, slipped the pistol out and closed her hand around the grip ready to go for it, six hollow points in the magazine and one in the throat, ready to come around shooting if she had to. But now the one in the filthy guard uniform gave her a shove and was getting in with her– she couldn’t believe it– crawling in to wedge her between the wall of the trunk and her body pressed against her back like they were cuddled up in bed, the guy bringing his arm around now to hold her to him, and she didn’t have room to turn and stick the gun in his face.

The trunk lid came down and they were in darkness, total, not a crack or pinpoint of light showing, dead silent until the engine came to life, the car moving now, turning out of the lot to the road that went out to the highway…

His voice in the dark, breathing on her, said, “You comfy?”

The con acting cool, nothing to lose. Karen was holding the Sig Sauer between her hips. She said, “If I could have a little more room…”

“There isn’t any.”

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James Gandolfini breathed life into one of the most charming psychopaths in the history of stories. Like really breathed. Gandolfini’s nostrils expressed more than many actors’ entire bodies.

My favorite Gandolfini performance is Tony’s Vegas Peyote Epiphany from “Kennedy And Heidi.” I love how we see a giddy side of Tony we’ve never quite seen before, and while it can be very funny– like the confident way he says the roulette wheel’s “the same principle as the solar system”– it’s also severely chilling how he collapses in a giggle fit when he thinks about the “nephew”/ protege he just murdered.

And I eternally dig the way he screams “I GET IT!” into the desert sunrise, so quintessentially trippy. Gandolfini made me believe Tony “got it,” and made me shudder to think of what exactly it was that he “got.”

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I was instructed long ago by a wise editor, “If you understand something you can explain it so that almost anyone can understand it. If you don’t, you won’t be able to understand your own explanation.” That is why 90% of academic film theory is bullshit. Jargon is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Yes. But if a work seems baffling yet remains intriguing, there may be a simple key to its mysteries.

Roger Ebert, “O, Synecdoche, my Synecdoche!” (November 10, 2008)

When I started really thinking about the movies I watched, Ebert was the one reviewer I read religiously. And when I started to write about movies (and music, books, TV shows, et cetera), Ebert’s was the style I tried to emulate most. His opinions sometimes baffled me but he didn’t write like a pompous twat and he didn’t write like a snot-rocket philistine. He could poetically, profoundly explain why The Tree Of Life isn’t pretentious nonsense  and why The Rock is a transcendent blast.

In 1999 I emailed him a paragraph on how the flashing images of Tyler Durden early on in Fight Club occurred at key moments during the narrator’s subliminal creation of his alter ego. Ebert kindly emailed me back: “I think you’re right. Best, RE.” I didn’t shut up about that for weeks.

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