Thursday, December 11, 2014

Blog, I Have Been Neglecting You.....

I feel like Henry Hill's dad is going to crack down on me:

"They say you haven't been to your blog...FOR MONTHS!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

H.R. GIGER - 1940-2014

Leathery alien passages shaped like orifices and reproductive organs. Haunting, sexual nightmares, where the gothic merges with biology, where pleasure meets pain. Eyeless insectoid creatures with human characteristics. I recall the late "Alien" writer Dan O' Bannon saying that Giger used to consume opium to quell the visions that disturbed his slumber. And, now the glorious genius, this prince of darkness, is gone. But his biomechanical images will remain, to haunt our dreams.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Under The Skin" - Review

Jonathan Glazer's "Under The Skin" is an unsettling, one of a kind experience. Through the eyes of an extraterrestrial woman (?) we see North Scotland as series of stark empty benches, crowded shopping malls, and forests full of decay and rot. Glazer and his cinematographer capture grimy grey and brown flats, coupled with lush unearthly reds and the blackest of black voids, in which young men are lured to their demise by this being from beyond. With black hair, red lipstick-coated lips, her blue eyes conveying a blank apathy, which turns to wonder, then fear, Scarlett Johansson gives a truly alien performance. Not since David Bowie in "The Man Who Fell to Earth", has a performer captured the way someone not of this earth would perceive our world for the first time.

Glazer's palate definitely sports a few a Kubrick space trip reference points. Not surprising, as the late director's influence on Glazer dates back to his music video for Blur's The Universal, which places the band in a cross between heaven and the Korova Milk Bar from "A Clockwork Orange".

One sequence in particular, reminds one of fellow music video director Chris Cunningham's infamous 2000 erotic installation Flex.

But, despite any influences, Glazer makes this hypnotic trip all his own.

Of special note, is the all-consuming musical score by Mica Levi, the sound design by Johnnie Burn, and the music supervision by Pete Raeburn.

The full effect of their combined efforts is an aural symphony of raw sound which plays like a transmission from alien angels mixed with the barrage of Lou Reed's 1975 feedback opus Metal Machine Music.

Topping the "winter at the Dakota" spell of "Birth" and the bloody comic mayhem of "Sexy Beast", "Under the Skin" is Jonathan Glazer's masterpiece.

Discovering Michel Faber's 2000 novel was the best thing that ever happened to him. And dare I add, to us, as well.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Joe Carnahan's "Death Wish"

I am writing to you in a small hotel room in London. I have just finished reading a draft (dated 9.9.12) of Joe Carnahan's now-nixed remake of "Death Wish". When it was first announced in January of 2012 that Carnahan was doing a new adaptation of John Garfield's 1972 novel, I was genuinely excited. Carnahan is one of those man's man directors, macho, not in a jerky way, but rather in the classic Robert Aldrich mold, adept at capturing a certain loneliness, a certain haunted quality in men caught up in violent and desperate situations. (He has always seemed, to me, to be on the verge of remaking "Hell in the Pacific".) In "The Grey", Liam Neeson, externally, is fighting wolves and the elements, but, underneath it all, he's fighting the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one.

In Garfield's novel, CPA Paul Benjamin is living in NYC, when muggers rape his wife and daughter, the attack leaving his wife dead and his daughter in a coma. Benjamin is at first paralyzed by grief, but then is driven to a mad state where stalks the street of New York at night, shooting muggers and other criminals. The men who attacked his family are never found.

In his screenplay, Carnahan uses the name "Paul Kersey", the same name used in the 1974 Michael Winner adaptation with Charles Bronson, the one that spawned four sequels. Carnahan sets his version in LA in present day. A present day setting eliminates the problematic, dated racial paranoia that comes with portraying a white vigilante in 1970s New York. But how do you make make's Paul's fear of being trapped in a crime-ridden hellhole real when you set the story in a sprawl like L.A.? Carnahan solves this by using first person perspective after the attack in his descriptions of Paul, which succeeds both in making L.A. claustrophobic, and the story more intimate. We are complicit in Paul's pain and his deeds. Carnahan makes it possible for Paul to find his wife and daughter's attackers, which provides a clear cinematic through-line, while the ending, like that of the novel, suggests his mission will extend beyond those responsible.

I have never seen the Charles Bronson film, but, from what I hear, it makes Paul into something of an action hero. Indeed, the moment you cast a badass like Charles Bronson, it kills the transformation aspect of the story. Which is, apparently, why Carnahan bailed on the project when Paramount-MGM pushed for Bruce Willis to play the lead. Now John McClane is arguably the greatest cinema action hero of all time. Willis gave the role an iconic everyman quality that separated him from Stallone's and Arnold's unstoppable supermen of the mid-1980s (Rambo in the original "First Blood" is a completely different story). But now it's no longer a surprise when Bruce kicks someone's ass-we expect him to. He is miles away from the shock of the funny guy from "Moonlighting" crawling through air ducts and gunning down terrorists.

When Sidney Lumet originally conceived of a film version of the novel (before leaving to do "Serpico"), he had Jack Lemmon in mind as Paul Kersey. Imagine the shock of watching Ensign Pulver descending into madness and gunning down hoods. Anyway, Bronson took over and the rest is history. Liam Neeson would have been a great choice ten years ago. But now he's "Taken". In any case, it's a crying shame this project was canceled, because Carnahan understands that "Death Wish" is not a story about a man fighting the men who took his family - it's the story of a man fighting with himself.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Poor Melissa Leo. Once again stuck in the Old Bag role.


Benjy Stone: Alan Swann, afraid? The Defender of the Crown? Captain from Tortuga? The Last Knight of the Round Table?
Alan Swann: Those are movies, damn you! Look at me! I'm flesh and blood, life-size, no larger! I'm not that silly God-damned hero! I never was!
Benjy Stone: To me you were! Whoever you were in those movies, those silly goddamn heroes meant a lot to me! What does it matter if it was an illusion? It worked! So don't tell me this is you life-size. I can't use you life-size. I need Alan Swanns as big as I can get them! And let me tell you something: you couldn't have convinced me the way you did unless somewhere in you had that courage! Nobody's that good an actor! You are that silly goddamn hero!

The above exchange is from 1982's "My Favorite Year", which garnered Peter O' Toole a 1983 Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In it, Benjy Stone(Mark-Linn Baker), a nebbish comedy writer (inspired by Woody Allen and Mel Brooks) confronts his idol, the dashing, swashbuckling Errol Flynn-type movie star Alan Swann, over the fact that the man he has spent his life admiring is, in fact, a fearful drunk. Swann is afraid to do a live Sid Caeser-inspired type of comedy program, and is retreating to his liquid companion. Swann is also afraid of life in general, of rejection by the daughter he abandoned, and of his stardom, which had dwarfed his very existence.

Like many of his performances, as Swann, O'Toole was able to capture heartbreak, a joie de vivre, and sense of style, while channeling a carnival of emotions (often at the same time) across his beaming, radiant face.

Is it ridiculous, how we trumpet our grief when screen legends, people we only know through what we seen onscreen, pass on? Perhaps. But O'Toole made it feel personal, he felt like a friend.

He was our T.E. Lawrence. He was our mad director in "The Stunt Man". And now that he has gone, he has left a giant hole in our hearts.

One that's larger than life.

Goodnight, you prince of the desert, you lion in winter, rest in peace.

And there will be