Saturday, June 30, 2012

Katie Holmes has good sense to divorce Tom Cruise

Well, good for her! Katie Holmes has filed for divorce from elderly California millionaire Tom Cruise. I just hope to heck she gets custody of the child. I don't know if Cruise's last wife has seen her children since she had the good taste to walk out on him.

There has been some talk about the fact that aging box office sensation Cruise forced Holmes to join his ridiculous "religion" as a condition of their getting married. What kind of scumbag tells his fiance what her religious beliefs are going to be? There's Sacha Baron Cohen, of course, who demanded that his fiance convert to his religion. When he decided she wasn't devoted enough to it, he forced her to study it in Israel.

Cruise reminds me of Scott Disick. Disick should start promoting himself as the poor man's Tom Cruise.

Ray Dennis Steckler, the importance of acting fast

There was Ray Dennis Steckler. He said in an interview that the reason he didn't use completed scripts for his movies was that if you had a script, you had to find locations to match the script, you had to find actors to match the characters in the script, then you had to find props to match the props in the script. And by the time you've gotten all this stuff together, it's too late to make the movie. When you work without a script, you start by looking at what you already have.

It makes sense if you can do it.

Steckler was a purist. He made very low budget commercial films, mostly horror movies and thrillers. If Ed Wood, Jr., was the Orson Welles of that part of the film world, Steckler was the Sergei Eisenstein or Alfred Hitchcock.

In fact, Steckler almost killed Alfred Hitchcock. He told in an interview that he was working on the show Alfred Hitchcock Presents.He pushing a rack of costumes down the hall, was going a little too fast and almost ran into Hitchcock as he came around the corner. He realized he would be fired so he quit.

Watching his old movies, he would see all his old cars and his old apartments and all his old friends. They were all in his movies.

It does seem like you could work faster with a script. At least, when you were filming, you would know when you were done, when you'd gotten what you needed and you could move on. I keep thinking of the movie Acne where the director kept filming and filming and filming. One day, the special effects make-up guys lied to him and said they out of latex just so they could go home. (Of course, they did have a script.)

I would imagine that working without a script would make it harder to recruit actors, and Steckler noted in one interview that you had to have some sort of script if you wanted to raise money.

This came to mind because I was working on a little movie---I was helping out. It was going to be a short film. The producer wanted to get everything perfect. He was delaying production until the extras were thoroughly rehearsed and there were other things he wanted to take care of on location.

And now I think, to use Steckler's words, "it's too late to make the movie".

I'm not sure now, a month or two later, if the location is still available, if the extras are still able or willing to appear. And I'm ready to move on to other things.

The producer had family problems come up which have delayed things. It's possible he's lost enthusiasm for the project. It came together very quickly, but now it seems to be dead in the water. It will take some effort to restart it.

But again, making the comparison between Ed Wood, Jr, and Ray Dennis Steckler. They both had the same problem---the lack of money. Steckler solved it by making full use of what he had available to him. Wood stuck to the script but used grossly inadequate sets and props. For example, he was filming a funeral in a cowboy movie. They didn't have a coffin, so they used what was obviously a long cardboard box.

If it were my movie, I would have had one of the cowboys comment:
"They're usin' one of them new 'cardboard boxes'."

"Cardboard? What in tarnation is cardboard?"

"Whatever it is, ol' Slim's gettin' buried in it, I reckon."
Or I would have changed it to a cremation:
"Them's his ashes. Turns out the undertaker is a Hindu fella, and that's what they do over there."

"What's what who does where?"

"They creamate 'em. In Indiana. That's where Hindu fellers come from."
And, really, Ed Wood's scripts were terrible. He wrote so quickly that it should have been just as easy for him to make it up on the spot.

Friday, June 29, 2012

More double features

All right. More double feature suggestions, but not very interesting ones:

Downfall, about Hitler's last twelve days, and Hitler: The Last Ten Days starring Alec Guinness walking around stiffly as a weirdly dignified Hitler.

Saving Private Ryan and A Bridge Too Far or The Longest Day.

Titanic and A Night to Remember.

Woody Allen's Sleeper and the very early sound movie, Just Imagine.

Schindler's List and the TV miniseries The Holocaust.

High Noon starring Gary Cooper and High Noon Part 2, starring Lee Majors.

Airport with an all star cast and Airport '79 starring Lee Majors.

Charlie Chaplin's City Lights and Jerry Lewis's The Disorderly Orderly.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

No more Facebook

 Parasite Facebook "founder" Mark Zuckerberg.

I deleted my Facebook account. I couldn't stand it any more. It was still difficult. I looked at all my "friends" but they know how to contact me. Not that they have.

But there's nothing there. No one says anything worth reading. It makes My Space look like a feast for the intellect. I hadn't looked at it in quite a while anyway and it really bothered me when old friends found me. 

It's one less threat to privacy.

I've never understood why people are into it.

I'm so glad to be rid of it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Battle of Culloden

You look at Public Television now and it might seem kind of bland. But there was a time...

There was a time when Public TV was the only place on television that allowed nudity and really shocking violence. There was I, Claudius with its orgies. Even in the '70s it didn't get any complaints. And no one complained about the scene of a centurion carrying a child's severed head after Caligula complained about his coughing.

And I just watched something I saw on PBS 40 years ago. It traumatized me as a child. It was The Battle of Culloden, a You Are There-like docudrama about the battle of Culloden's Moor in 1745 presented as if a news camera crew had been present.

I think I tuned in in the middle of it when I was a kid, after the Brits had wiped out the Jacobite troops on the battlefield and then went around murdering any who were lying wounded. They killed everyone they could find. They murdered everyone they could find traveling down one road. Then it was into the highlands where the British wiped out any families they found. They interviewed a woman whose baby was thrown to the ground and killed by the British troops.

I just saw the thing again on Netflix. At first I wasn't sure if it was the same show. It was produced in Britain in the '60s and I had watched it in the early '70s, sitting home alone watching TV. There were a number of details I remembered, though. All the people killed on the road, one particular dead body on the battle field, and a family that was on the run in the highlands. They hadn't eaten in days. The only food they'd had was a small fish they caught that the two children shared.

The narrator seemed rather ashamed of the conduct of the British.

The Jacobites were victims of a clan system that obliged them to fight under terrible officers for an idiot prince who botched it completely.

It didn't traumatize me as badly as some later stuff I watched on that channel. Like episodes of World At War.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Emily White, David Lowery, and a couple of ideas

There was a blog on the NPR website called "All Songs Considered". An intern named Emily White wrote that her life was "music-centric". But she'd only bought about ten CDs in her life. She had thousands of illegal downloads. Thousands!

Yes, she said. She knew it was wrong, at least on some level, but paying for music was terribly inconvenient!

Read what she wrote HERE.

A fellow named David Lowery, a musician and a professor, wrote an excellent response.

Read his response HERE.

He makes a number of points, one of which is that young people illegally downloading songs are siding with corporations and ripping off artists, and they think this makes them rebels.

An idea

But okay. I have a suggestion. For all the young people like Emily White who feel somewhat guilty for their illegal downloading, but not guilty enough to stop doing it.

If you can't control yourself, if you can't make yourself stop doing it, you can at least do this:

Every Christmas, every birthday, every gift-giving occasion, give CDs and DVDs.

You're spending the money anyway. You may as well support the artists you're ripping off the rest of the year.

Since you're illegally downloading all that music, you ought to be able to find something appropriate for everyone on your list.

If you comfort yourself with the thought that you're only stealing the music of wealthy musicians, then you should buy the work of lesser known artists. Buy DVDs of low budget independent films. You'll also help your loved ones develop a taste for low budget, non-commercial movies.

Every gift-giving occasion, it should be CDs and DVDs for everyone!

I actually quit giving DVD as presents. With Netflix and streaming video, it seemed stupid. But now I realize that I should spend the money and support the artists whether people can get them on Netflix or not!

My other idea

There are a lot of snotty comments on these articles about illegal downloading. These idiots lecture musicians that they have to find alternative sources of revenue. Selling CDs is "so 1990", one of them said. One suggestion was that you could charge fans to have lunch with you.

Here's a better one:

Find out who's downloading your music and sue them!

Didn't I read that the minimum civil penalty for copyright infringement was something like $750? For a band producing their own CD, two lawsuits would cover the cost of production. CDs would start paying for themselves again!

You'd alienate a handful of fans, but fans are of no value if all they do is steal from you. And I'm not suggesting that you sue in order to intimidate people into stopping illegal downloading. I'm suggesting you do it to make money.

They All Laughed

There was a weirdly typical 1980s movie called Max Mon Amour. It was French, about a French yuppie couple. The wife is beautiful, the husband is good-looking and their son looks like a stereotypical movie French boy. The husband suspects that his wife is unfaithful. She finally admits that it's true. She had gone to the zoo one day. She was looking at the chimps. She noticed one chimpanzee. She could tell he was more sensitive than the others. She volunteered to work at the zoo so she could be near him. She started working in the monkey house and she and the chimp started seeing each other.

This is what went on in the '80s, or at least in '80s movies. Not with chimpanzees, of course. But adultery was presented as a sign of emotional depth.

So I watched Peter Bogdanovich's movie---it was his favorite of the ones he directed---called They All Laughed. A comedy about private detectives who are hired by husbands to follow their wives around, and then they sleep with them---the detectives sleep with the women they're paid to follow.

It was Audrey Hepburn's last starring role. She wanted to retire from acting and Bogdanovich had to coax her into doing it. It was Playboy centerfold Dorothy Stratten's first and last major role. She was murdered by her husband a month after filming ended.

And it was Glenn Scarpelli's first role. He looked to be about twelve. He played Audrey Hepburn's son. A few years later, he was Bonnie Franklin's adopted son on the sitcom One Day At A Time. He was pretty good. He had to use a British accent.

Audrey Hepburn's real life son was in it. Had a full beard even though he was only 19.

John Ritter basically plays Ryan O'Neal in Bogdanovich's What's Up, Doc.

And there was another guy, Blaine Novak----it was his first movie, too. He also co-wrote the script and was co-producer. He plays a long-haired pot-smoking rollerskating private detective who seems to have been inspired by '80s comedy sensation, Gallagher. Strangely, Audrey Hepburn lets her 12-year-old son ride away with this hippie in a taxi so she can sleep with Ben Gazerra.

Ben Gazerra plays an aging private detective who is implausibly irresistible to women.

At first, I had trouble telling the women apart. There were three of them other than Audrey Hepburn. One was a cab driver. This was her first movie. She was a model Bodganovich saw on the cover of a magazine. She looked like a fashion model pretending to be a cab driving tom boy. I thought maybe she was Dorothy Stratten at first. She drives along listening to country music and she instantly starts coming on to Ben Gazerra.

In the next scene some time later, Gazerra goes to a bar where we see this woman singing country music on stage. Gazerra talks to her back stage. I thought it was the same girl---the cab driver---and it took me a few minutes to realize it wasn't. It turned out to be Colleen Camp.

Then there was Dorothy Stratten who looked about the same as the others.

Bogdanovich's own daughters played Ben Gazerra's daughters.

There was a lot of kissing. People kissed as a form of greeting in those days. One of the women kisses a judge in a courtroom. It couldn't have been very pleasant since they all smoked constantly.

The movie wasn't funny. The characters were quirky but not quirky enough. They kept playing old songs and country western music for no good reason.

I listened to some of the director's commentary on the DVD which was mostly nostalgia for 1980s New York and his friends on the movie. Bogdanovich did say that they didn't employ any extras. They were filming on the streets of New York, but they didn't close off any of the streets or sidewalks. People walk around in the background. Occasionally someone would look at the camera but in general they ignored the film crew and actors. I didn't listen to the whole thing.

He mentioned that they knew nothing about private detective work when they wrote the script. This would have been fine, but the movie was too vague about what the detectives were doing. They don't need to know what real detectives do, but we should have had a clearer idea of what these guys were up to.

I'm not sure why Bogdanovich liked it so much. I don't think it was just that he enjoyed filming it or has a sentimental attachment to it. He really thought it would make money.

The studio didn't want to release it at all. Dorothy Stratten was horribly murdered shortly after filming was complete. The studio didn't think audiences would appreciate a comedy knowing this. So Bogdanovich used his own money to buy the movie. He released it himself and lost a fortune.

Well, back then, theatrical release was about all there was. Today, you could hold the film back and release it at some point on video.

I didn't care for the movie, but it was interesting that there were so many first-time actors in it. It says something for Bogdanovich as a director that he got these performances out of them. And there was the way they filmed it, on the streets of New York, which people milling around in the background ignoring them.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What's wrong with the scum on Yahoo news?

I was reading the Shadow & Act blog on Rodney King's death at age 47. A link to the blog is on the right. One of the comments noted the racism in comments on the news stories about this. Especially on Yahoo news.

I took a look and it was much worse than I would have imagined. The comments were explicitly racist. I'm not going to repeat them here, but you can't make the usual excuses for them. These were people with an exaggerated sympathy for the cops. They were Nazi scum. Even people who disapprove of throwing the word "Nazi" around would agree that they're Nazi scum.

I googled the question, "why are comments on yahoo news so racist", and got a lot of hits. It seems this has been a problem for some time. There are people who won't let their children look at the site for this reason.

I looked at comments on some other news sites and found nothing like it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Forest Boy turns out to be a hoax

I guess it's a common impulse. It might explain the number of movies made by adults about teenagers.

There have been a number of cases over the years of adults impersonating teenagers. I always thought young people wanted to be older, not younger, but we have a recent case in Germany. A teenager appeared. He claimed to be seventeen and to have lived in the woods with his father since he was twelve. Now his father was dead and he came to the city for help.

If he'd lived in the forest since he was twelve, police couldn't figure out where he learned to operate a laptop computer and a cell phone.

The mystery was solved. He was a 20-year-old Dutchman. His step-mother saw his picture in the paper. She said he disappeared a few months earlier.

There've been other cases. A homeless woman in her 30s found it was safer on the streets to impersonate a boy. She got herself placed in foster care a couple of times.

There was a criminal who claimed to be a teenager when he was arrested for burglary. He was placed in foster care, enrolled in high school and was doing pretty well when they found out he was an adult and re-arrested him.

In a much more disturbing case, a man in his fifties called the local high school. His nephew was moving in with him and would need to enroll in school. But his nephew had some terrible health problems that made him look like a man in his fifties. He went to school for one day. The principal felt sorry for the poor middle-aged-looking kid, but the teachers saw right through him. He was arrested the next morning and told police he was doing research for a book.

But, now, here's the really strange case. I don't remember the names.

There was a French con-man. He was in Spain. He had ripped off some dangerous Spanish criminals and realized he'd better get out of there before they killed him. So he found a picture of a missing American boy from Texas. He vaguely resembled the missing kid, so he went to the police and claimed to be him.

The family from Texas flew to Spain. Yep, they said----this was their son! They brought him back to Texas and the guy lived at their house for several months. He spoke with a French accent, he obviously had no knowledge of their family or their life. He needed to ask where his bedroom was. He didn't look that much like the missing kid and the missing kid hadn't been missing that long. They wouldn't have forgotten what he looked like.

Finally, the FBI showed up the door. They had discovered who the imposter was and they arrested him. They took his down to the office, and the conman told them what he thought happened.

The family knew full well he wasn't their missing kid. But they didn't say a word because the kid had been murdered by his step-brother and buried somewhere. The parents knew it. They claimed that this 30-year-old Frenchman, always wearing a hat to cover his receding hairline, was their son in order to cover up the crime.


I'm watching Downfall again, the German movie about Hitler's last twelve days. It explained some things I didn't understand before. Like, why did Hitler take cyanide and shoot himself? He wanted to see how the cyanide worked, so he tested it on his German Sheppard, Blondi.

Eva Braun was a complete idiot. Discussing her impending suicide, she talked about leaving a good-looking corpse. According to Wikipedia, the Germans in the bunker were more upset about Blondi's death than Braun's. Goebbels' wife didn't want her children to live in a world without National Socialism, and she made sure they didn't.

Watching a lot of Nazis commit suicide wasn't quite as uplifting as I thought it would be.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A crowd funded production which seemed like kind of a rip off

There was a local movie production that raised money on something----what was it called? Well. One of those "crowd funding" sites. You post on the internet and people are supposed to send you money. In return, you put their names in the credits as an Associate Producers.

I was a little surprised at how little money they raised, around fifteen hundred dollars, which they used to buy an expensive camera and recording equipment. Which they'll keep for themselves once the movie is done. And which they could have checked out for free from the Community Access TV station (after a ten dollar membership fee) or from the community college. The director of photography was a  community college student who did check out the lights and other equipment they used for the movie.

So, a couple of thoughts.

One, they got money and spent it on things they didn't need to. They couldn't rent or borrow equipment, or involve someone who already had their own? They got money from "investors" who thought were putting it into the movie, but instead they bought a guy a new camera.

The other is why didn't they get a job and earn the money? There was only a few hundred dollars left after they squandered the money on equipment. Meaning they only needed a few hundred dollars in the first place. Meaning they could have bankrolled the film with a garage sale or a few plasma donations. Instead of posting on these crowd funding sites, they could have posted a few belongings on ebay.

And what are they going to do when the movie is done? Did they have any money to promote or market the thing?

I hope they do well. I hope the movie's a success. I saw a little promo they filmed for it and it looked well made anyway.

A pulp writing trick, Christopher Hitchens

I once read some advice on writing from an old pulp fiction writer, Lester Dent. He was the main writer of the Doc Savage stories. He tells how to sound like you know more than you do. In this example, he suggests getting an Egyptian phrasebook:
The writer learns they have palm trees in Egypt. He looks in the book, finds the Egyptian for palm trees, and uses that. This kids editors and readers into thinking he knows something about Egypt.
I was reminded of this when I read this in an interview with Norman Finklestein. He talks about people who are good writers but are not qualified to write about politics. He describes Christopher Hitchens using the same trick:
...They’re not interested in the subject matter, they’re interested in a clever turn of phrase. Their model was someone like Christopher Hitchens, whose whole art was: You take three little arcane facts and spin a whole article or essay around it. He’d start an essay on Pakistan by saying, “Oh, Pakistan literally means LAND OF THE PURE!” And you’d think, Oh, he really knows something about Pakistan! 
So, you come to Paul Berman, who writes Terror and Liberalism. He finds in the street two pirated volumes of [Sayyid] Qutb, and suddenly he becomes an expert on Islamic texts. Trotsky wrote Literature and Revolution when he was in the iron cart, going from front to front in the Russian civil war. Berman was walking along Atlantic Avenue and saw two pirated editions, and now he’s an expert in Qutb, whose collected works comes to 40 volumes, if memory serves. It’s just so silly. It’s so unserious.

 Read the whole interview here:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Documentary, Billy the Kid

Watching a pretty good documentary called Billy the Kid, about a 15-year-old named Billy. He lives with his mother and step-father. His biological father took off after committing a large theft.

Billy seems sweet and very candid, but slightly odd. He sees himself as tougher than he comes across. He talks about his purple belt in karate and the time he tried to protect his mother by pulling a steak knife on his abusive father. It isn't mentioned in the movie, but he's been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

He hangs around a little restaurant and talks with the teenage girl working there. He talks and talks. They go for a walk together.

"Will you be my girlfriend?"

"Sure," she says.

She later regrets this. She is interviewed by the filmmakers. It was rather sudden. He was nice, but she really didn't know him. I don't know how the presence of the film crew affected events. I think she may have meant, "Well, sure, hypothetically."

Billy regrets it in part. There's an answering machine message from his mother telling the filmmakers that he would like some of the stuff he said removed...the part where he said he would give his life for his new girlfriend.

I watched it on Hulu. It's available on DVD on Netflix with extras, an interview with the filmmaker and with Billy himself looking back on it a year later.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

About this blog

The time I was in high school

The reason I started this blog is that I saw some other movie blogs that seemed to be well-regarded. There was one where, at first glance, the blogger didn't seem to know the difference between blogging and tweeting. He wrote extremely short, abbreviated entries, but readers like it. People read his blog and link to it and comment on it.

It reminds me of the time in high school. I was in class. We were taking a test. We were given a list of short essay questions. I was writing out my answers. The guy sitting next to me was writing in tiny print on the sheet with the essay questions-----he was writing his "essays" in the space between lines on the sheet.

Then, when we got the tests back, I looked over and he got a higher grade than me.

Paper Moon, Tatum O'Neal, and one last thing about Peter Bogdanovich

I'm just a little older than Tatum O'Neal. I remember watching the Oscars. There was a little girl in a fancy dress. I thought that must be her. It wasn't. They called her name and she ran down to get her Oscar but she was wearing a little tuxedo. She just wanted to thank her father and Peter Bogdanovich.

They said she was the youngest person ever to win an Oscar, which bothered me because I was older than her and I realized that now I could never be the youngest person to win an Oscar. It bothered me even though I wasn't an actor and never had the slightest thought about ever being in a movie and there was absolutely no possibility of this happening.

I just watched Paper Moon for the first time in about thirty years. Tatum O'Neal was amazing in it.

It seemed to be the only one of Peter Bogdanovich's movies available for "instant viewing" on Netflix.

How the hell did I get on the subject of Peter Bogdanovich, anyway? I've written several entries here about him. Oh, yeah. Watched a documentary about the making of The Last Picture Show. He started out working for Roger Corman, he was friends with Orson Welles. Bogdanovich's reply to Pauline Kael's attack on Orson Welles and Citizen Kane was actually written by Welles himself. They thought it would look better with Bogdanivich's name as the author, and Bogdanovich never included it in any of the collections of his writings.

Bogdanovich had some great successes early on---The Last Picture Show, What's Up, Doc and Paper Moon, but it was all downhill from there. But as I've said before, I liked his later movies, Saint Jack and Nickelodeon.

He's been denounced as a selfish megalomaniac, and hubris is regarded as one of the things that brought him down. But selfish megalomania plays a role in success as well as failure. Arrogance usually serves people well.

But the guy's still at it. He may not have lived up to his early promise, but who has? You could take out those three huge successes and he'd still have a pretty impressive career.

There are directors like Edgar Ulmer---the books and documentaries about him make his life sound like a pathetic sob story because he was only allowed to direct B movies. As if a B movie director were barely a step up from car wash attendant.

Then we have people like Orson Welles and Bogdanovich. Even if Orson Welles had never directed a movie, if he had done nothing at all but The Shadow on the radio those TV commercials, he'd still have had a better career than most of us.

Okay, but there was one awkward situation--a case where a person's career's sad decline really did seem kind of sad. Alfred Hitchcock was looking around a place in San Francisco. An aged location scout had found it for a movie. Hitchcock didn't say anything, but he realized it was a former British studio head who had given him his first job in silent movies.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

B movies, the French New Wave and Ed Wood, Jr

I've been watching some old American B movies from the '30s. And they are really terrible. There was a very inexpensive Roku channel I got. It shows nothing but public domain movies, and I'm not unhappy I got it, but these movies are just awful.

I thought I understood the French New Wave's fascination with B movies. They were very cheap and look pretty easy and they would have been interesting if directors had taken advantage if this and used them as a means of personal expression.

It was like Jim Jarmusch's explanation of his work. He said that they may not have been "virtuoso filmmakers", but they still had something to say.

Maybe B movies would be better with subtitles. Maybe if they were dubbed into French and subtitled in English they would be more interesting.

It always seemed like Luis Bunuel should have been the ideal of the French New Wave. He was a great auteur who worked in the manner of American B filmmakers.

Ed Wood

I guess I understand Ed Wood a little a better. His movies might have been barely passable as B movies in the 1930s, but he was making them in the '50s. It would be like someone making a passable '50s science fiction movie in the 1970s.

He grew up watching B movies before going off to war. No wonder he thought he could get away with making such bad movies.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dorothy Stratten, "Death of a Playmate"

I read Teresa Carpenter's article, "Death of a Playmate", about the murder of Dorothy Stratten, published in The Village Voice in 1980. The article was the basis for Bob Fosse's movie, Star 80.

You can read it here.

"Dorothy Stratten was focus of the dreams and ambitions of three men," it said. "One killed her."

Hugh Hefner got no respect ftom Hollywood. None of his models managed to go on to any sort of acting career. Until Dorothy Stratten. She seemed to be on her way to stardom.

Then there was Peter Bogdanovich who started sleeping with her while directing her in They All Laughed. He had a history of this. He had dumped his wife and started sleeping with 19-year-old model-turned-actress Cybill Sheppard while filming The Last Picture Show.

And, of course, there was her husband, Paul Snider, a former pimp from Vancouver, BC. He was the one who discovered Dorothy and got her into Playboy in the first place. This was going to be his big score, but she was being lured away from him.

Carpenter noted, by the way, that the cast of They All Laughed found Bogdanovich charming. The crew, however, thought he was a "selfish megalomaniac".

There was something screwed up about him. Bogdanovich had been married to Polly Platt, a producer, production designer and screenwriter. She was extremely well-regarded in Hollywood. Her career was ultimately more impressive than Bogdanovich's and she was apparently the reason for his early success. He dumped her for Cybill Sheppard, a teenage model-turned-actress.

Star 80

I saw the movie Star 80 when I was probably about 20. I watched it with a friend. I was impressed by it, but my friend had a hard time watching it because he found himself identifying with Snider. I generally took movies more seriously than he did, but he was more affected by them. He became more emotional watching them and refused to watch certain movies because of that.

I guess I identified with Snider to a point. He discovered Dorothy Stratten bought her the dresses, coaxed her into modeling and acting and introduced her to the world. But there he was, a Canadian from the lower classes trying to hang around with the wealthy celebrities in the Playboy mansion, out of place in his bad suit. He was excited to meet TV stars and they looked at him like he was an idiot, like he had revealed something shameful about himself by admitting that he even watched TV.

Bodganovich, the auteur theory

Pauline Kael had written some crap about the movie Citizen Kane. It would be her only original work, not a review of someone else's work, and she really failed. She used it to attack what has come to be called "the auteur theory". She claimed very stupidly that Orson Welles had little to do with the making of Citizen Kane and that the cinematographer, Greg Toland, was the real genius behind it.

Charles Foster Kane went bald as he got older. Pauline Kael claimed that it must have been Greg Toland's idea, because Peter Lorre was bald in a movie he photographed a few years earlier.

Peter Bogdanovich wrote a response to Kael's idiocy pointing out her stupidity. Even if Orson Welles wasn't the "auteur", how did she justify not interviewing him for her book? He starred in the movie. He was the director. Even if you don't think a director is an "auteur", don't you think he would have some useful information?

So, anyway, there is an attack on Peter Bogdanovich posted in It's a biography of him, and was in large part an attack on the auteur theory. Bogdanovich made three highly successful films at the beginning of his career. If the auteur theory was correct, the person argued, he would have continued making successful movies.

Of course, if they stay at it long enough, all directors, auteurs or not, will go into decline. Look at Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960s. Look what happened to Billy Wilder.

You can look at the careers of writers, novelists, who are literally and undeniably "auteurs". Raymond Chandler went into decline with his last few novels. Charles Bukowski wrote about his fans writing to him as he got older and telling him he was in decline----he said he had noticed other writers over the years losing their edge as they got older, but it never occurred to him to write them letters to tell them this. There was F. Scott Fitzgerald's sad decline.

The auteur theory may be all wrong, but Pauline Kael didn't disprove it and neither did the polemic against Bogdanovich.

I thought Gore Vidal made a much better case against the auteur theory. He argued that the author of the film was the actual author. The screenwriter.

Vidal discussed the movie Ben Hur which he had worked on as a writer. 

Writing the script to Ben Hur, Vidal had a problem. The plot made no sense. Ben Hur, a Jew, meets his old Roman friend played by Stephen Boyd. They knew each other as teenagers. They have a two minute argument over politics and Stephen Boyd spends the next twenty years persecuting Ben Hur and his family.

Vidal came up with an explanation for Boyd's behavior: He and Ben Hur had been lovers when they were teenagers. When they meet again as adults, Boyd wants to continue the relationship, but Ben Hur isn't interested.

Vidal told Stephen Boyd this interpretation, and that's how Boyd played the scene. Charleton Heston was not told, and the director didn't know about it either. So who should get credit for this aspect of the film? Auteur theorists would give the director credit, even though he had nothing to do with it.

As Timothy Bottoms said in the documentary about the making of The Last Picture Show, making a movie is too much for one person. It's a collaborative process .Bottoms----I think I mentioned this in an earlier entry----referred to his what he had learned working with Dalton Trumbo in Johnny Got His Gun. He was complaining about Bogdanoich's manner of directing actors, which was to act out each actor's role and have them imitate it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Peter Bogdanovich, Last Picture Show, Roman Polanski, Mia Farrow

I watched a documentary about the making of The Last Picture Show.

I had heard of the movie but had never seen it, then I listened to the book on tape during a long drive. I was surprised there was so much sex in it.

Then I watched the movie. Was again surprised at how much sex there was in it.

It was during the filming that Peter Bogdanovich started sleeping with Cybill Sheppard who was about 20 at the time. Bogdanovich's wife was was present and was working on the movie. His career took a nosedive after they split up which made people suspect that his wife had been the brains of the operation.

The poor guy's career hasn't lived up to its early promise. I liked his movies Saint Jack and Nickelodeon, but I haven't seen either in twenty-five years.

Of course, there was the murder of Dorothy Stratten which had to have taken the wind out of his sails.

Timothy Bottoms was in conflict with Bogdanovich during the filming. Bogdanovich was too controlling, he thought, acting out each part, showing the actors what he wanted them to do. Bottoms talked about what he learned working with Dalton Trumbo in Johnny Got His Gun. That one person couldn't do it all---it took a collaborative effort to make a movie, which he didn't think Bogdanovich was allowing.

Roman Polanski

Since I mentioned the effect the murder of Dorothy Stratten must have had on Peter Bogdanovich, I thought I'd mention Polanski. I recently watched the documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.

Polanski had a lot to live with. His mother was gassed by the Nazis, his father was in a concentration camp, and he lived on his own, essentially as an orphan on the streets under Nazi occupation. He was nearly beaten to death after the war by a man who turned out to be a serial killer. Then his wife was murdered by the Manson family.

After all that, I'm glad he stayed out of prison. I don't approve of his conduct, but for God's sake.

Even the prosecutor and the attorney for the victim in his case thought the judge was mistreating him. The prosecutor said he wasn't surprised that Polanski fled.

By the way, there was an episode of Biography on Roman Polanski. They interviewed Mia Farrow since she had starred of Rosemary's Baby. She had no personal knowledge of his legal troubles, but they must have thought they'd get an interesting comment from her, what with the sex charges she made against Woody Allen. But she smiled and said that she was disappointed that Roman had made a bad decision.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Israeli racism

Anyone who doubts how racist Israel is can look at what the Israeli Interior Minister has to say:
 ...Israeli daily Maariv published an interview with Interior Minister Eli Yishai, in which he stated that most of the "Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man." 
Read the article here:

I don't know what these Zionists have to say or do before people will see them for what they are.

Student film festival

A couple of years ago, I was driving around looking at the small towns in the farm country north of here. I stopped. Took pictures of an old school building. There was a group of boys 12- or 13-years-old. They were in a tennis court trying to see how high they could get a rubber ball to bounce. This went on and on. They weren't getting tired of it.

Usually, I feel bad that I can't share in the exhilaration of youth. This time, I felt so glad that I wasn't a tweenager. Imagine the sort of minds these kids had that they could spend hours bouncing a rubber ball.

I felt that way watching one of the movies at the University Film Organization film festival at the U of O. It was a documentary about skateboarders in Portland, Oregon. I didn't quite understand it. Apparently these people came to Portland--one from New Mexico--just for the skateboarding. They would take the bus to the top of a hill then skate down. Beautifully filmed with long tracking shots. I voted for it for Best Picture. I don't know how they did it.

But, in this case, it seemed both exhilarating and dreary. How did these people earn a living? Is this all they did? There were some teenagers among the skateboarders, but also grown-ups who should probably have been thinking about getting a job.
Among the other videos were a couple of movies about attempted college romance. One about a young man in love with a lesbian, another about nerdy young fellows hitting on chicks in the library with predictable results.

One violent film. A musician kills a mobster in self-defense, so now there are hitmen after him. They seemed to be using vintage revolvers as props. I suspect they were using "Action Essentials 2" for the blood spatter and muzzle flashes.

There were a couple of animated movies that were interesting. A couple of music videos.

But, again. I normally would have felt bad that I couldn't share in the exhilaration of youth, producing these beautifully made videos. They did give me a feeling of inferiority. The movies looked beautiful and they were all entertaining even if I couldn't quite identify with all the characters. But I had a vague feeling they had put in too much work into the wrong thing. I don't know what I would have preferred they do or what I would have changed. I'm probably all wrong.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

UFO - University Film Organization

When I was kid I'd ride around the University of Oregon on my bike. I'd see these signs. They said "U of O Parking". I always thought they said "UFO Parking". I didn't think flying saucers parked there, but I thought they must have had a huge UFO research facility.

So, anyway, I went to a film festival staged by the University Film Organization here. UFO. Their logo is a flying saucer and a movie camera on a tripod.

Student films have improved since my day. Last time I had been to an event like that at the UO, most of the movies really were films, shot on Super8 and transferred to VHS tape. One ambitious production, financed by a local drug and alcoholism treatment center, used a Super 8 sound on film camera.

The movies they showed this time were much better made, shot on digital video. Decades of cruel  ridicule directed against student films seem to have paid off. There was only one suicide in the movies, and that was the result of a misunderstanding rather than the victim being consumed with angst.

I thought the movies were a little TOO well-made. They needed to be a little less perfect. I don't want shaky handheld cameras. But I don't think they were looking to the French New Wave or Italian Neo-Realism or British Social Realism for their inspiration.

George Lucas, westerns, Star Wars

George Lucas made the movie THX1138 with the idea that it wasn't a movie about the future---it was a movie from the future. This meant that they didn't explain anything. People in the future would understand what was going on even if people today wondered what they were doing.

I don't know how clever this was on Lucas's part. The trick in science fiction is to have the main character be an outsider to whom everything has to be explained. There was the old movie Just Imagine about a man from 1928 resurrected in 1978; there was Woody Allen's Sleeper, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the cartoon Futurama that use the same trick.

And it goes the other way, too. There was Jim Jarmusch's western, Dead Man, where the main character is an accountant from the east, or the western I just wrote about, Bad Company, where the main character is a middle class draft dodger from a good home in Ohio.

They didn't have to do this with most old westerns. They were all the same and the audience didn't need any explanations.

I saw a documentary about George Lucas vs. his audience. Star Wars fans have a confused love-hate relationship with the rich bastard.

Maybe Lucas just wasn't cut out to be a director. Ron Howard talked about meeting Lucas when he was first cast in American Graffiti. Lucas knew Howard was in film school. He told Howard how great it was working with animation because you didn't have to be around actors.

The acting in Star Wars really was pretty bad. Lucas said that Alec Guinness helped a lot working with the actors, but the performances in that thing were terrible. Especially Mark Hamill. He was so whiny. He's mainly done voice acting in cartoons and video games since then. And there was Natalie Portman. People have commented about how bad her acting is. One critic noted that she can look "utterly stranded" on screen with none of the tools actors generally have at their disposal. She has done passable work with better directors, but not with Lucas.

On the other hand, maybe Lucas's life as an artiste was wrecked by the success of Star Wars. Perhaps those Star Wars fans destroyed his hopes and dreams. Did he sacrifice his own happiness for the sake of his fans? The directors of The Blair Witch Project had trouble progressing in their careers because of the unexpected success of that movie. How could they meet audience expectations after that? There was Alfred Hitchcock who was very limited in the type of films he could make because of audience demands. Was George Lucas made a slave to his Star Wars fans, like Princess Leia chained to Jabba the Hut? 

When Lucas finally returned to directing after thirty years, what did he do? He made another couple of Star Wars movies. The least creative, least risky thing he could possibly do.

And what are they, anyway? He said he regarded the first one as a "Disney film". It wasn't intended for adults, and this is what people said later in defense of obnoxious character, Jar Jar Binks. Children liked him, and it is a children's movie, after all. Although others retorted that the movie included a scene where the characters stand motionless and discuss trade policy. What kind of children's movie has crap like that?

Bringing back the Star Wars series is like bringing back The Brady Bunch. It was a kids' show. When you reunite the cast, do you make it in the spirit of the original children's show, or do you make it for the aging weirdos who are still watching it after forty years?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bad Company, 1972, Jeff Bridges, et al

When I was in high school, I'd look at the globe. I'd think about World War Two and how I would have gone about dodging the draft. If I were English, I would flee to Ireland. German, I would hide out in Sweden and since I wouldn't know if Germany was going to invade Sweden, I would make plans to flee north into the tundra. If I were in the U.S. or Canada, I would head for Mexico or Cuba. I don't know where I would run if I were Italian.

I was just watching the movie Bad Company, a 1972 western starring a very young Jeff Bridges. A young fellow (Barry Brown) heads west to avoid fighting in the Civil War. His parents help him flee. He wants to get on a wagon train for Virginia City, Nevada, but there's a long waiting list, the wait for the stage coaches are even longer and there are soldiers everywhere looking for draft dodgers. So he heads west with a group of young delinquents led by Bridges.

As they head out into the prairie, they encounter terrible people. There was no charming them. It's very rare that you see a child killed in a movie. The criminals were slightly less threatening than the lawmen or the farmers.

And this wasn't like Stand By Me or The Breakfast Club, where the grown-ups are bad and the kids are good. The kids were no picnic, either. They were less violent and more apt to be victims, but even the good-hearted religious, abstinent, petit-bourgeois boy from a good home, mourning his brother lost in the war and promising to write to his ma and pa back home, had his problems.

He should have headed north to Canada instead of west.

Might be interesting to watch along with Dead Man.