A fantastic new acquisition of the year, the best podcast discovery I’ve made for quite some time. You might recognise Gilbert Goddfried as the ‘memorable’ comedian / character actor from movies dating back to Beverley Hill Cop II, but his podcast casts the cultural net wider to conduct interviews with some fascinating characters and examine a broad swathe of Americana, from stand-up comedy to B-Movies, from ancient TV bloopers to pulp comic book controversies. If I said it was the kind of podcast whose theme tune centred on a slide guitar which wouldn’t be out of place during a lurid biker flick title sequence then I think you might get the flavour of proceedings;
Case in point, I’ve barely scratched the surface but have listened to a 90 minute interview with Bruce Dern, and he’s already spilled solid anecdote gold on working with Hitchcock on Family Plot, some early B-movie antics with Roger Corman, general bitching and chewing rhe fat over the studios and movie world colleagues over his fifty year career, all of which is completely devoid of any anxious publicist sanction over slander or defamation orders.. A final piece of pub trivia – which family is the only to have the mother, father and child all be blessed with a Hollywood Star on the Walk of Fame? The Fondas? No. What about the Hustons? A decent guess but no cigar buckaroo. No, it’s the rather more underrated Derns, with Bruce, ex-wife Diane Ladd and daughter Laura being the proud recipient of such pointless trivia. In other news I also finally caught up with a strongly regarded documentary on Brando from last year, and pretty good it was too;
Quite an interesting take to construct the entire piece out of Brando’s own interview clips, vocal reminiscences and radio snippets with a total dearth of talking heads or experts pontificating on his genius – the Apocalypse Now insights are essential. It also doesn’t gloss over his family tragedy which has unsurprising echoes with his own familial abuse. Meanwhile, on rather more upbeat news, its the end of the world soon…..
So I’ve found a new podcast occasional readers, How Did This Get Made? is a light-hearted, slightly snarky look at some of the worst films ever made, deconstructed and mocked with a cool mix of humor and affection. They’ve covered the obvious, the Gigli, Birdemic, The Room and Speed 2’s of the world, but their efforts have revealed to me something truly legendary, Ladies and Gentlemen behold the wonder that is Tip Toes;
This is a magnificent find and a stone cold classic in the annals of spectacularly misjudged, incompetently made, complete and utter disasters. Just to be clear in the podcast they’re not poking fun at or denigrating dwarves, or little people of whatever your acceptable nom de plume may be, it’s simply a horrendous film of Ed Wood proportions, with characters who sport the same clothes and costume in every scene despite the film taking place over a year, of scenes that drop into the narrative utterly unconnected to preceeding or subsequent developments, of having Gary Oldman shuffle around on his knees pretending to be a dwarf. It’s not a spoof or a comedy, it was completely serious and even got submitted to Sundance. It is a masterpiece of bad films and you simply have to see it as soon as possible. Speaking of How Did This Get Made?, how the fuck did this get made?
Just a quick post to point you Kubrickophiles in the direction of Movie Geeks United’s fantastic The Kubrick Series of podcasts, where they have spent the last eighteen months interviewing figures large and small who were involved in the great man’s work. What has been truly fascinating about this is that other than the usual suspects – the likes of Anthony Frewin,Vincent LoBrutto, Brian Cook and Leon Vitali – is that they have also got interviews with the likes of peripheral academics, bit players in Eyes Wide Shut and other lesser known collaborators who provide insights and anecdotes than haven’t percolated through to the usual media outlets, and some those nuggets are really quite illuminating in terms of his craft, his method, his personality and his legacy. Other than the dense and rather better known Visual Memory site this is the best and most concentrated Kubrick archive out there, as something of an expert in the field this treasure trove has unearthed a few surprises which is a rare treat these days. Just in the last tranche of podcasts they have published over four hours of material, and for that I shall be in their debt;
In other news I’m pulling a news blackout on Prometheus – I’m fully aware that further teasers, articles and associated material have surfaced – but enough is enough before next Friday’s final excavation. I’ve also got a Cannes post 2012 en route which I’ll probably post tomorrow, for the rest of this evenings entertainment I might just have to launch myself into the 18th century yet again, for a film that gets more potent and remarkable as the years slide away;
Well, probably the last miscellaneous post I’ll have the time to post this year as all my efforts will now be turned to completing my ‘epic’ films of the year review. Let’s kick off with a quick retrospective look at the best film magazine I’ve read, the now sadly defunct ‘Neon‘ that was published around the late 1990’s. It covered all the basics of course, new releases, upcoming projects, books and myriad film geek paraphernalia but it was the articles on film movements, genres and interesting back stories on specific film productions that were genuinely illuminating and entertaining, it wasn’t an obvious adjunct to a studios marketing arm that is so often what passes for film magazines these days – yes that’s you ‘Empire’ and ‘Total Film’ you corporate fucks. I’ve always remembered the (obviously satirical) commentary in one issue praising Al Pacino’s Oscar winning method acting portrayal of Robert De Niro in ‘Heat’ and the crew explaining that ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ was taking so long to complete because Kubrick insisted on wandering around the set every morning with a thermometer to ensure that every scene was shot at the same temperature – genuinely funny writing for all us movie geeks out there. In reference to the above reprint (click to enlarge) here are two memorable moments from the late great Kinski’s career….
So, 3D cinema seems to be the new revolution. I’ve been following this for a while now and I suspect over the next decade the mainstream – and I stress mainstream – film experience will have a seismic shift in this direction. We’ve already had some minor tremors with the embryonic emergence of new major release motion capture pictures such as ‘Beowulf’ (which I enjoyed a lot more than expected) and kiddy nonsense such as ‘Polar Express’ but I think the enormous financial investment to convert cinemas in the States – 20,000 of them and counting – to be able to project this new format is a harbinger of things to come. Quite apart from ‘The Dark Knight’ reception in IMAX and the revelation that Michael Bay is shooting the major action sequences of Transformers 2 in the same format it seems to me that we are witnessing a new direction to battle the proliferation of home cinema systems, downloads and other delivery models that keep people at home rather than visiting the local fleapit. It has echoes of the recession of the 1920’s when people flocked to the cinema to escape the woes of their day to day lives as well as the studios pushing new technologies such as Cinemascope, VistaVision etc. in the 1950’s to combat the rise of TV, if I were a gambling man I’d stake money on next years ‘Avatar‘ being a real watershed release, more on that project in my ‘Films To See in 2009’ commentary that will be up shortly.
Just to temper any beliefs that I’m some sort of deranged lunatic (see below) I’m nominating Ang Lee as this posts director of choice for contemporary film-makers whose career I follow with interest. I think the key word with Lee is versatility, although he tends to explore human relationships and ‘outsiders’ in his films he has done so in a truly diverse choice of genres, a period drama, literary adaptation, superhero movie (hugely underrated that film, all you fan-boy haters can stick it), western and of course the martial arts movie. He seems to effortlessly produce interesting, watchable and entertaining films without resorting to any identifiable visual style which I think is the mark of a master craftsman. I haven’t seen the controversial ‘Lust, Caution‘ yet but it’s on my film-list for Xmas, maybe I’ll settle down with the parents for a viewing as it’s a nice historical love story right?
Boo hoo!! Cheese eating surrender monkeys!! How dare the French snub England and omit a single British film from their list of the 100 most beautiful movies ever made eh? Well, I think its a shame there’s no Powell & Pressburger pictures on there or maybe ‘The Third Man‘ but hey, film lists can never satisfy everyone. For what its worth I think it’s an excellent selection although I am surprised to see ‘Night Of The Hunter‘ up at the silver medal position. It’s a fantastic, poetic and magical film (beautifully lit by the legendary Stanley Cortez as you can see here) which has always been hugely admired (Laughton was so depressed at the initial critical reaction that he never directed another film which is criminal) but its never been quite that well acclaimed before, just goes to show how critical opinions can ebb and flow with the passage of time. For what it’s worth, here is ‘Sight & Sound’s list of films of the year, it has prompted me to make an effort to go and catch ‘Hunger‘ this weekend before it leaves screens.
For podcast discovery of the year I’m down to two choices. Firstly there is the Canadian based ‘Film Junk’ in which three dudes sit around and discuss current releases, upcoming DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s, what older films they’ve recently watched and just about anything exciting on the rumor and trailer front. Although the guys film knowledge seems to evaporate around the 1970’s mark it is occasionally very funny, especially since one of the guys comes across as a grumpy and opinionated John Carpenter fan who will take every opportunity to extol the virtues of ‘Prince Of Darkness’ and ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ – sound familiar? The best discovery however is ‘Cinema Diabolica’, a very professional show which broadcasts weekly reviews of the best in exploitation, euro-crime, giallo chillers, shogun dramas, generally all the very best that sleazy and underground cinema has to offer. At the risk of sounding pompous what I like about this show is that it is the real deal in terms of the genuinely ‘cult’ and has turned me on to new films and film movements (although I have seen ‘Female Convict Scorpion 701 ’ and the absolutely stunning ‘Lady Snowblood’ (which is one the best Japanese films ever made) which is all too rare for me these days. It also gave me ten minutes of doubled-up, uncontrollable laughter when one of their ‘fans’ rang in and left a lengthy and absolutely mental voice-mail – if you’re intrigued then download episode 20 from their 8th April broadcast, skip to about the 1hr, 18 minute and 30 second mark and prepare to be aurally assaulted – very NSFW, absolutely hilarious and whatever this Australian headcase is on I want some….
Due to listening to ‘Cinema Diabloica’ I’ve been on a bit of a explotation film bender recently so to close the last flotsam of 2008 here are some links to some disgusting and disgraceful, shocking and stupid, queasy and crazy, hilarious and horrible, superb (Spoilers here for the brilliant finale of that puppy) and sublime, amusing and amazing, lurid and lame, terrible and truimphant moments of all the best moments of the wonder that is film that will never grace a Christmas playlist. Enjoy….
Man, this whole taking time off is getting tough. Arising from my crypt at noon, watching five films in a day, researching stuff on the web (just putting the finishing touches to a couple of monthly film masterclass things), taking a stroll down the East London watersides in the occasional sunshine – hard work my friends, hard work. I have been catching up (more harrowing than ‘Audition’ or ‘Ichi’, strong stuff but great) with some of my DVD backlog, some stuff on my web memberships, some arty stuff and some movies on the TV as the choice on the big screen has been patchy at best over the past couple of weeks, more on this below.
I’m not sure quite why I’m collating clips of Chevy Chase but life is full of mysteries. I watched ‘Fletch Lives’ over the weekend which was predictably awful but there’s just something about the man that cracks me up in certain sequences of generally bad films. All the clips I’ve seen of him and Bill Murray on the old Saturday Night Live show have generally left me cold but when he’s portraying that WASPish, cheeky rogue he can conjure up some fantastically hilarious and unique moments. One of the few vaguely watchable John Carpenter films since the late 1980’s is this which has its moments, thinking about both their careers I guess you really have to make the most of it when your star is in the ascendent.
I’ve also been catching up with the many podcasts I subscribe to, given that it took me a bloody month to get hooked up after I moved I have over 100 broadcasts to wade through. Strongly recommended is the Creative Screenwriters podcast which features excellent one hour plus interviews with the writers behind many of the better recent US mainstream films including the guys behind Cloverfield, Children of Men and well, just look at the list. I also like this for a different perspective, a Melbourne based public service show that has turned me on to a few Australian pictures and filmmakers over the past couple of years. Ripper. I’m a bit jealous as my friend in Melbourne has just e-mailed me this years film festival programme which includes a retrospective of George Romero including screenings of all the Zombie movies on the big screen. Cool.
As I said there’s not much out at the moment so I’ve reverted to tracking down some old classics, this week I caught the terrific Double Indemnity at the Stratford Picturehouse, it’s Billy Wilder’s landmark film noir with perhaps the screen’s most iconic femme fatale. Family man Walter Neff (Fred McMurray, a wholesome Disney actor wonderfully cast against type) falls for the icy Barbara Stanwyck who convinces him to murder her husband so they can make off with the insurance money – you can guess the rest. I’m not inclined to bother with a full Minty review so I’ll just leave you with these great reviews.
Film clip time. I’ve finally joined the 21st century and got my first two Blu-Ray disks last week including this and a Special Edition Super Elite copy of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Manipulative? Sure. Dated effects? Obviously. However, there is just something about this film and of course E.T that will always occupy a fondness with me, given that they were amongst the first films I recall ever seeing and actually making me think about who makes these films, how did they do it and why did they do it the way they did? The boxed set contains all three cuts of the film along with an old (made for the 20th anniversary) two hour documentary on the making of the picture along with a short updated interview with Spielberg for the 30th Anniversary. I must concur that they should have never gone into the Mothership for the Special Edition and left that experience to the audiences imagination which would have been more spectacular and satisfying than what they finally threw up on screen. Spielberg has always maintained that the final 25 minutes of the film has always been the most difficult editing job of his entire career and he only concurred to the re-release so he could shoot and insert some of the earlier sequences he had to drop due to budgetary constraints – he was under enormous pressure as the studio was effectively bankrupt and the whole company was riding on the success of the movie. Paramount agreed only if he would include material inside the Mothership as this would give them a very strong hook on which to re-sell the picture. Stick to the original cut I reckon. At the risk of being annoying, Blu-Ray on my big TV is quite special and it is a genuine treat to re-visit some of these films I know backwards again – coming soon……