Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TARDY! Dennis Finally Turns In Mr. Shoop's Quiz...

Yeah I know. Mr. Shoop posted his summer quiz back in, well, summer, and here I am, as tardy as Jeff Spicoli on a good day, submitting my answers long after the quiz thread has dried up. No, I know you don’t accept extra credit, teacher, and I understand if you dock points for extreme lateness. But at least take a look at my paper so I don’t feel like it was all done in vain!


1) Favorite quote from a filmmaker

Well, Bunuel has definitely been on the brain lately, as you might have been able to tell by the link to Flickhead’s Bunuel Blog-a-Thon, or by the extensive quote from Bunuel’s autobiography My Last Sigh on my sidebar, or my picking Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie as numbers 7 and 8, respectively, on my Non-English Language Movies ballot. And he’s a very quote-friendly director, a cynical bon vivant raconteur poet, so when you come across one interesting quote from this fella, it’s likely attached to nine or 10 others. But the one I chose had a lot to do with the prevailing spirit, if you will, of Extermnating Angel-- it’s Bunuel exclaiming, in what context I’m not entirely sure, ”Thank God I’m an atheist!” If you find that quote even remotely funny, you should get yourself to Exterminating Angel right away.

But, naturally, a couple of others were floating around the hemisphere of my brain as well. For sheer P.T. Barnumesque braggadoccio, it’s hard to beat legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis touting, during the production of his multimillion-dollar remake of King Kong (best read in your silliest Italian accent): “Nobody cry when-a Jaws die. People gonna cry when my Konk die.”

And there was one I remember from an interview Walter Hill did in Film Comment around the time of The Long Riders. I’ve looked for the interview and come up empty, so I’ll have to paraphrase, but Hill’s line was in response, I believe, to a question regarding how he perceives character in his movies. His answer was something like, “Character, in my pictures, can be measured by how times a guy blinks with a gun stuck in his face.”

2) A good movie from a bad director

Well, as far as I can tell, by his choice of material (The Wedding Planner, Bringing Down the House, The Pacifier and Cheaper by the Dozen 2) and the hamfisted, graceless handling of said material, I would have to qualify Adam Shankman as, if not a bad director, then at least one who has never displayed much of a hint that he was in any way a good one. But his deft, sincere, energetic and keenly observed film of the Broadway adaptation of John Waters’ Hairpsray suggests that, while he may not now, nor may he ever be, the second coming of Preston Sturges, if he takes on more projects in which he seems to have some emotional investment and steers clear of the plasticine Touchstone family fare that has until now defined his directing career, he might just have other good movies inside him waiting to get out.

3) Favorite Laurence Olivier performance
I have fond memories of Larry in That Hamilton Woman, where the theatricality that always seemed a little too BIG for the movies was reined in ever so slightly (or was it just that the grand scale soap operatics of the romantic plot just seemed to fit him better?) But if I’m honest, he was just never my cup of tea as a film actor—his outra-a-a-a-ageous Frawnch aggzent as the doomed French-Canadian trapper in Powell and Pressburger’s otherwise marvelous 49th Parallel is surely what inspired John Cleese to start berating those silly knnnn-iggits, threatening to making castanets out of their testicles already. I liked Larry better when he got older and started taking the paychecks. Though I never have seen his waxworks Douglas MacArthur in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Inchon, I am fond of his impish (sincere) and impish (perverse) turns in A Little Romance and The Betsy. But no other Laurence Olivier performance holds a place in my heart like his Oscar-nominated turn as Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman in the gloriously tasteless adaptation of Ira Levin’s The Boys from Brazil. As I wrote a few years ago upon considering this Sir Lew Grade classic of international intrigue and all-star casting (Gregory Peck! James Mason! Lilli Palmer! Bruno Ganz! Uta Hagen! Rosemary Harris! John Dehner! Denholm Elliot! Anne Meara… Uh, John Rubenstein… errr, Steve Guttenberg…), Olivier’s wild eyes and slightly sibilant Austrian accent “will live in glorious testimony to a great actor’s desire to push the inherent silliness of his calling right up to the edge of the abyss, and then blow raspberries to those already plummeting into the void.” Plus, there’s the absolutely astounding moment during his bloody fight scene with Peck at the end of the picture when Olivier tumbles over backward, cane over keister, and makes a guttural groan that sounds just like Chewbacca. You must see Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil.

4) Describe a famous location from a movie that you have visited (Bodega Bay, California, where the action in The Birds took place, for example). Was it anything like the way it was in the film? Why or why not?

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, when I still dreamed that owning my own house in Southern California was a practical possibility, my wife and I were looking around neighborhoods nearby where friends of ours lived, and one friend suggested we look for available places in the Seven Hills area of Tujunga, nestled in the foothills of the mountains above the town. We came up over the crest of a hill, the highest point in this fairly recently developed suburban neighborhood, and I decided to turn around to get a look at the view of the city. When I did, by purest accident I duplicated the view from the hills as seen in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. I recognized it immediately, and later that afternoon my friend confirmed that yes, Spielberg shot his film there when that development was first being constructed. And yes, it felt exactly as it did in the film.

5) Carlo Ponti or Dino De Laurentiis (Producer)?
Carlo Ponti married actress Sophia Loren. Carlo Ponti produced La Strada, Le Doulos, Cleo from 5 to 7, Marriage Italian Style, Doctor Zhivago, Blow-Up, Roman Polanski’s What?, Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and, of course, The Cassandra Crossing. De Laurentiis produced La Strada (with Ponti), and also Nights of Cabiria, Goliath and the Vampires, John Huston’s The Bible… In the Beginning, Danger:Diabolik, Barbarella, Mandingo, Drum, Serpico, The Serpent’s Egg, Flash Gordon, The Dead Zone, Manhunter, Blue Velvet, Dune and, of course, Body of Evidence. De Laurentiis was married to actress Silvana Mangano. Advantage: Ponti.

6) Best movie about baseball

Ken Burns’ Baseball is a monumental achievement, a life-changing one for me. And Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham is wonderful, if slightly overwritten— the director’s Cobb, starring Tommy Lee Jones as the titular Georgia peach, is far better, a masterpiece, I think--it's as scabrous and brutal as its main character. But Cobb is less about baseball than about the nature of heroism. So, for sheer insight into the nature of American competition, the dynamics of team play, the fissures and cracks in the sport’s support system, and a sharp-eyed look into the subtleties of the game itself, plus just about everything else there is to speak of about children and adults and American life, there is no greater achievement about the sport of baseball than Michael Ritchie’s The Bad News Bears. And by the way, all the talk about how great Field of Dreams and The Natural are tells you just one thing—hard-nosed sports writers and stalwart American male types are just as susceptible to starry-eyed Hollywood bullshit as anyone else, and those two movies are grade-A corn-fed manure if it’s ever been mass-produced.

7) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck performance

My favorite Stanwyck performance is always the one I’ve seen most recently, and that would have to be her startlingly feral, empathetic work in the wild and untamed Baby Face. But I fall hopelessly in love with her everytime I see Ball of Fire.

8) Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dazed and Confused?

Well, I’ve had lots of discussions about these two movies this summer, in the wake of this quiz, and in the wake of the release of Superbad, a movie I think deserves discussion right alongside these two, and American Graffiti, as portraits of youthful exuberance and restless anxiety. But for me, Linklater’s Dazed and Confused hits all the right notes as a perfect portrait of aimless youth taking joy in aimlessness, of a certain wheel-spinning small-town sensibility circa 1976. I don’t get the accusations tossed this movie’s way that it’s merely a compendium of fuck-you attitudes and you-had-to-be-there pop culture references. It seems obvious there’s a whole lot more going on in this movie, which is not to say that it’s not fueled at least in part by those attitudes and references; it is. That’s just not all that the movie is. And even with the last-minute substitution of Sweet Emotion for the Led Zeppelin track that gave the movie its name, and even though we’re way past the point of saturation vis-à-vis the classic rock radio format and all its permutations, the soundtrack remains definitive.

9) What was the last movie you saw, and why? (We’ve used this one before, but your answer is presumably always going to be different, so…)

In a theater: 3:10 to Yuma.

At work: John Ford’s sublime, Murnau-influenced early talkie Pilgrimage (1933), featuring a wondrous performance by stage actress Henrietta Crosman. For contrast, right now I’m knee-deep in Bronson’s swansong, Death Wish V: The Face of Death.

On DVD: the unrated, extended Death Proof (sans Grindhouse double feature format). Rob Humanick has an excellent piece on this longer version of the film at The Projection Booth, along with some very thought-provoking comments. I’m not ready to toss out the theatrical version (I’m still convinced the Weinsteins have that 5-disc Grindhouse theatrical version plus the longer cuts of Death Proof and Planet Terror just waiting in the wings), but I was surprised how well this extended version played for me. It’s not going to work for those who thought the 90-minute theatrical version was already too drawn-out in its introductions of the characters. But if you get on Tarantino’s wavelength and start digging just the spending time with these annoying, sexy, motormouthed, foulmouthed characters (and what does Tarantino does as a director while you’re spinning your wheels with them—it gets pretty Godardian in there, dude), the unexpurgated Death Proof has plenty to offer, and to me it (mostly) didn’t play like filler, but instead like, well, an extended riff and expansion of visual themes. Rob’s discussion of it has better details, and maybe I’ll write something on it soon. For now, Death Proof is a good rental, and a better buy, to go alongside that Grindhouse package I just know is coming soon.

10) Whether or not you have actually procreated or not, is there a movie you can think of that seriously affected the way you think about having kids of your own?

Ron Howard’s Parenthood-- hey, there’s another good movie by a generally bad director—played a direct role in helping my wife and I along in our decision to start a family. I haven’t seen it since those heady days about 11 years ago, and that has more to do with a sadness that surrounds it that has nothing to do with the movie itself, and also with the fact that, after a long weekend of playing with and corraling and hauling around my own two daughters, I’m in the mood for a movie that has just about anything in it besides more of the same!

11) Favorite Katharine Hepburn performance
I’m less enamored of Hepburn than of just about any of the other great actresses of the screwball comedy era—I’d rather see Carole Lombard or Jean Arthur or, of course, Barbara Stanwyck. That said, there’s just about no better time to be had than watching Hepburn drive Cary Grant “all gay!” in Bringing Up Baby.

12) A bad movie from a good director

Well, I’m going to resist the temptation to shovel more dirt on Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia. Instead, I’ll go to the director De Palma is most often accused of defiling. Alfred Hitchcock made many, many great movies, as you are undoubtedly aware. But one of them was definitely not good. I’ve yet to read a credible defense of Topaz. Hitchcock is so disengaged from this musty espionage claptrap, it’s as if he called in the shots by phone from St. Tropez.

13) Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom-- yes or no?

Maybe the most grueling two hours I’ve ever spent in a theater (again, my sincere thank you, Sherman Torgan). I would be very careful to whom I recommended this genuinely horrifying, political work of art. But at the same time, as a frank illustration of the extremes of fascist brutality, I have a feeling it would speak to willing viewers 32 years past its original release, if it were only more available. And that lack of availability may speak volumes about this current political climate as well.

14) Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder (Screenwriter)?
I love Billy Wilder. Sunset Boulevard, Ace in the Hole, One Two Three, Ninotchka, Midnight-- what churl would ever complain? But Ben Hecht wrote Underworld, Scarface, Hallelujah, I’m a Bum, Topaze, Twentieth Century, Nothing Sacred, Gunga Din, His Girl Friday, Notorious, Spellbound, Kiss of Death and Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business. So what, you say? Now go back and check out the credits where his name is listed as simply ”uncredited.” On the strength of those “undredited” contributions alone, advantage: Hecht.

15) Name the film festival you’d most want to attend, or your favorite festival that you actually have attended

I been to London (one screening). I been to Lone Pine. But what I really want is to go to Toronto.

16) Head or 200 Motels?
Frank Zappa is one of my musical idols. The Monkees are not, exactly, but they meant a lot to me when I was a goofy seven year old singing “I-I-I-I-I’m not your steppin’ stone” incessantly. Yet Zappa’s movies have always been dicey prospects for me. Head, on the other hand, is a singular beast, a trippy collage response to A Hard Day’s Night that is about as surreal and perverse a movie as was ever released by a major studio in the 1960s. Advantage: Mickey, Davy, Mike and Peter (and Bob and Jack… and that Zappa cameo too!)

17) Favorite cameo appearance
I’ve always been partial to Julie Christie’s nonplussed appearance in Nashville, especially as introduced by the unctuous, name-dropping Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson (“I was talkin’ about the Christy Minstrels just this mornin’, and now we have Miss Julie Christie here!”), sized-up and dressed-down by the catty Connie White (“She can’t even comb her hair!”), and debated on the edges of the frame by Del Reese (Ned Beatty) and John Triplette (Michael Murphy) (“Doctor Zhivago—she was the one that got off the train!”). Then, Haven Hamilton, ever the Nashville goodwill ambassador sends her off with this one: “I hope you’ll remember what film facilities we have here in Nashville!” See frizzy-haired star beat a quick retreat back to her hotel, and safety.

18) Favorite Rosalind Russell performance

Now, I like The Trouble with Angels as much as the next guy, but for me there is no other answer than RR’s Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday.

19) What movie, either currently available on DVD or not, has never received the splashy collector’s edition treatment you think it deserves? What would such an edition include?
I don’t think there’s ever been a decent edition of The Brood on home video. Even the version currently available on MGM DVD barely looks better than the murky VHS and laserdisc versions (the source material may not be in great shape), and it's bare-bones too. What a terrific DVD could be assembled for this movie with a Cronenberg commentary, alongside Art Hindle, Samantha Eggar and, say, Robert Silverman, bundled with some making-of stuff, and perhaps an essay from Robin Wood.

20) Name a performance that everyone needs to be reminded of, for whatever reason
Robert Ryan in Andre de Toth’s Day of the Outlaw. It’s important to be reminded just how good this guy was, every time out.

21) Louis B. Mayer or Harry Cohn (Studio Head)?
In the old days of the studio system, what Columbia Pictures released depended on Harry Cohn's determination of what Columbia Pictures should release. Said Cohn, "When I'm alone in a projection room, I have a foolproof device for judging whether a picture is good or bad. If my fanny squirms, it's bad. If my fanny doesn't squirm, it's good. It's as simple as that." To which Herman Mankiewicz famously retorted, "Imagine, the whole world wired to Harry Cohn's ass!" For this line alone, and because I recently got to walk the walls of the old Columbia Pictures building on the Sony lot where Cohn actually wiggled that ass, advantage: Cohn.

22) Favorite John Wayne performance

John T. Chance, Rio Bravo.

23) Naked Lunch or Barton Fink?

I’ve always been of a mind that Barton Fink only half worked— sometimes it seems like a theme in search of a movie. But those performances—particularly Turturro, Judy Davis, John Mahoney, Michael lerner and Tony Shaloub—are riveting. However, when talking about movies about writer’s block, and the act of writing itself, none has exernalized its processes with such a fascinating, fractured access to its hallucinatory, solipsistic fantasies as has Cronenberg’s movie of Burrough’s unfilmable book. The book remains unfilmed, but what Cronenberg extracted from it is, incredibly, true to Burroughs and his own thematic trajectory as a director.

24) Your Ray Harryhausen movie of choice

No question: It Came from Beneath the Sea. And, of course, Jason and the Argonauts. And here’s a picture of me and Ray Harryhausen!

25) Is there a movie you can think of that you feel like the world would be better off without, one that should have never been made?
Well, as I rule I don’t like the idea of rubbing out someone’s creation just because I think the world would be better off not having seen it. But then I ssee something like Date Movie or Epic Movie and my highfalutin liberal standards go right out the window. Burn every print!

26) Favorite Dub Taylor performance
A few days ago I might have said Bonnie and Clyde or The Wild Bunch. But I just saw the great film noir Crime Wave, directed by Andre de Toth, which begins with Taylor as a slightly fey gas station attendant mooning over Doris Day on the radio just before he gets shot by robbers (including Charles Buchinski, nee Bronson). Rent it and see what I mean.

27) If you had the choice of seeing three final movies, to go with your three last meals, before shuffling off this mortal coil, what would they be?

Breakfast: It’s my last day, so I’ll order an extravagant Japanese breakfast from A Thousand Cranes restaurant in Little Tokyo to dawdle over while I watch one I’ve never seen-- Sansho Dayu (Sansho the Bailiff).

Lunch: A Colossal Double Cheeseburger and Walla Walla sweet onion rings from Burgerville USA and some Cave Creek chili beers while watching The Godfather (Parts I & II).

Dinner: Filet Mignon and giant tiger prawns from El Agave in San Diego, accompanied by lots and lots of 1921 Reserve Especial tequila, while soaking up Nashville for the last time.

28) And what movie theater would you choose to see them in?
I think I’d pick the Vista in East Hollywood.


My pick for Jim Emerson’s Atheist Film Festival: I’m not sure it exactly fits Jim’s criteria, but it seems to me Bunuel’s Exterminating Angel would be a juicy choice.

What advice on day-to-day living have you learned from the movies? Here’s the answer to this question I left on Scanners:

“As far as the ones I can think of off the top of my head, I… thought of the actor William Bogert playing Matthew Broderick's dad in WarGames and the way he buttered his corn with a piece of already-slathered bread. (I think Pauline Kael even referred to the moment in her review.)

Richard Castellano as Clemenza is the natural go-to man for spaghetti sauce, but when I tried it I honestly didn't like it much-- it wasn't nearly so distinct as the scene itself. So I was thrilled to discover the moments in Martin Scorsese's ItalianAmerican when his mother not only shows us how she makes spaghetti sauce, but when the recipe itself shows up in the end credits. (It can also be found here.) It's way better than Clemenza's, and though it can be augmented with various ingredients, such messing around is not necessary to reach the particularly Italian kind of saucy nirvana this recipe promises. I dare say it's even better than the sauces my Italian grandmas used to make-- they routinely used (shudder) canned mushrooms.

But truthfully... for me there really has never been a moment that has edged its way into my everyday life the way Johnny Caspar's shaving tip has.

Here’s Jim:

“Every single time I shave I think of Johnny Caspar. I can't help it. And it's not just because I love the obnoxious little character. And the actor who plays him, Jon Polito. Or that I think Miller's Crossing may be the greatest motion picture of the last 20 years. It's because this one thing Johnny Caspar says near the end of the picture makes sense. I've tried it, and I don't notice any difference, but it seems like it oughta work. It's also the last thing -- a relatively trivial piece of practical advice -- that he utters in the movie, making his exit rather poignant, even for such a repulsive character.

Here's the way Joel and Ethan Coen describe it in their script (though it's not exactly this way in the movie):

... the car pulls into frame to stop at the curb [in front of the Barton Arms apartments] with the camera framed on the driver's window. The driver has a small bandage on his left cheek. We hear Caspar's voice as we hear him getting out the back:

Ya put the razor in cold water, not hot--'cause
metal does what in cold?

I dunno, Johnny.

We hear the back door slam and Caspar appears in the front passenger window.

. . . 'Ats what I'm tellin' ya. It contracts.
'At way you get a first class shave.

Okay, Johnny.

As Caspar walks off, the driver slouches back, pulls his fedora over his eyes and folds his arms across his chest."

How nice to be able to reminded of a movie I love during such a routine chore, and it happens every time I reach for my can of Edge gel. However, thank God I didn't take Johnny's parenting advice to heart!



Robert Fiore said...

Watching the Ken Burns World War II documentary I was reminded of my actual favorite Laurence Olivier performance: The narration of "The World at War."

Anonymous said...

Oh, my God--what a delight to read, and that photo of you and Ray Harryhausen alone made my day, if not my week! Since you've answered this quiz so late, I wonder if I ought to respond to it now?? I'd like to get back on the commenting horse, and who cares if hardly anyone reads it except you?

Thom McGregor said...

Yes, Blaagh, do the quiz! I love your responses. And Dennis, smart, funny, fascinating and well-informed answers, as usual.

Anonymous said...

Okay, look: the current unavailability of "Salo" has nothing to do with our "current political climate". If I can go to my local Hollywood Video and rent "The Death of a President" (which I can, and I live in -- horrors! -- southern Virginia!) then "Salo" isn't being kept back because whoever owns the video rights are afraid of what Bush might do to them, or because they'll face some sort of massive protest. The film is simply out of print. A lot of movies are out of print. And how long has "Salo" been unavailable anyway? I don't know myself, but I was under the impression it had been a pretty long time.

Anyway, on to other things. When I took the quiz, I hadn't seen "Dazed and Confused" or "Naked Lunch". I've since seen both (you know my feelings on the former, I believe). I still think that "Barton Fink" is a far superior film, but I did like "Naked Lunch". Or maybe I should say I "liked" it.

It took me a while to get into the groove with it, and for a while I was, probably foolishly, trying to follow the plot. But once I realized what Interzone was all about -- the key being when Bill Lee's friends "visit" him there -- I started to catch on. Then, after the last scene, the veil lifted completely, or at least as completely as the veil can be lifted after seeing the movie one time. In any case, afterwards I was left feeling very impressed with what Cronenberg had done, while not really loving the fact that he'd done it. But it's a movie I'll more than likely check out again some day.

Greg said...

Dennis -

That picture of you and Ray Harryhausen really suprised me. Harryhausen, with his black hair and beard and sporting a jaunty baseball cap, looks remarkably young for a man his age. How's he do it? And you holding the book - you look a lot older than I expected.

But seriously, great answers. I can't remember any of mine at this point. As for your choice of The Godfather, Part II, it's interesting you should choose that. I just recently covered why I wouldn't choose that over at my place in my Oscar post. The way things coalesce sometimes on the web - freaky.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Robert: Is The World at War available on DVD? It might make an interesting comparison to Burns’ film, which I understand has not been getting universal praise.

Blaaagh: YEA! Do it! Do it! Do it! And thanks for the kind words from you and Thom. I, of course, second her emotions. It always tickles me when you jump in these days, because I always like hearing what you have to say, and it makes me feel the Glendale-Eugene connection a little bit stronger. That said, I’ll be on the phone tonight to hear about your travel plans!

Bill: Salo isn't being kept back because whoever owns the video rights are afraid of what Bush might do to them, or because they'll face some sort of massive protest. The film is simply out of print. A lot of movies are out of print.”

I didn’t mean to suggest by my comments about Salo and the current political climate that I thought the film was being suppressed because of fear of protests or harsh reactions from the Bush administration. You’re right – the film is simply out of print, like lots of others. But then it’s never really as straightforward as that. What I meant by “current political climate” is the kind of disinterest in consideration of difficult or critical images and thinking engendered by an administration, and a pop culture, I think, that is itself at war with the kind of intellectual curiosity that might encourage an understanding of something as radical and horrifying as Salo. (And that’s to say nothing about Salo’s relevance in a world where Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are already notorious shorthand for abuses of political and military power.)

Unfortunately, if Pasolini’s movie were accessible, I doubt it would cause much of a ripple because 99.97% of the population wouldn’t even be aware that it existed. The general populace has been encouraged, through eight years of George W. Bush, and repeated exposure to a whole lot of other political sidewinders from both parties, to automatically distrust anyone or anything that doesn’t shoot or speak straight from the hip. So it’s unlikely that Criterion or anyone who might have the rights to Salo would be afraid of protests from the general viewing public—hell, Blockbuster wouldn’t carry it anyway—or that Dick Cheney might come and personally confiscate all the copies. It’s more likely that those rights have passed out of their hands, or that they’ve determined that even intellectuals and cinephiles might not care enough to make it worth making the movie available again.

This is an interesting question, though. I’ll try to find some official word from Criterion as to why Salo is no longer available, and I’ll pass on what they have to say. I’m glad you liked Naked Lunch, though! (That’s one!) I’ve had the Criterion disc for a while now, but I haven’t seen it yet. Just one more thing to look forward to, I suppose!

Jonathan: Why, I oughta…! Meeting Harryhausen was quite a thrill, but it never occurred to me that I would ever be mistaken for him. What an honor! (And he’s still pretty feisty and cranky too—just ask him a question about CGI and see where it goes!) Also, I have been serially negligent of most of my sidebar links over the last month or so, but I promise to get on over to Cinema Styles and read your thoughts on The Godfather Part II right away.

Anonymous said...

Well, without getting too deeply into the various things you said with which I disagree, primarily so I can keep this about movies, I would like to repeat, and rephrase into a question, something I said before: if all that you say is true, why is something like "Death of a President" so widely available? (And please understand, I know that you're not claiming "Salo" is being suppressed. I mean this in light of the questions you raise.) And speaking more generally, if Criterion had the ability to keep it in print, why wouldn't they? They just released "Sweet Movie" and "WR: Mysteries of an Organism". I have no doubt that neither of those movies are as, shall we say, strong as "Salo", but I think they're the kind of films that, if Criterion were not going to re-release "Salo" for the reasons you say (removing specific politics from the equation), wouldn't be seeing the light of day right now, either.

Anyway, I don't really want to talk about politics. It's just that sometimes you people make me so mad!

Anonymous said...

Heeeee's Baaaack! Outstanding post Dennis.

Your story of the E.T. location was great. I felt the same way when I ventured out to find the POLTERGEIST house way over on the other side of the 118 fwy. Gave me the creeps because except for a couple of trees, it looked the same.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

That's just it: I don't know the reason for Salo being out of print on the Criterion label. It may be something as simple as them not holding the rights to distribute it anymore. I'm still trying to find out that answer. (And by the way, if anyone has any insight into this, please chime in!)

And I think you can chalk up the availability of Death of a President, as well as Michael Moore Hates America, or Paradise Now, a film from a Palestinian director about the mindset of a pair of suicide bombers, to simple freedom of speech and a free marketplace.

I didn't see Death of a President myself, but my understanding is that, with a couple of exceptions, it got some pretty scathing reviews from left and right-leaning critics.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks, Sal! It's been a while, but seeing as how these kinds of neighborhoods don't tend to change much, I bet Henry Thomas' Neighborhood still looks pretty much the same today!

Anonymous said...

I would agree with you, regarding the reason for the availability of all of those movies. I think that's obvious. So throwing "Salo" into this mysterious Other category doesn't make sense to me.

Enough! How about this: I agree with you about the current DVD of "The Brood". "Scanners" is in the same boat, and I can't seem to find "Shivers" anymore. I'm waiting for Criterion to pump out all of those. Their "Videodrome" is terrific.

And I love Robert Ryan, too. See? We're friends again. By the way, I can't be the only person to notice the striking resemblance between Robert Ryan and Sterling Hayden. Were they related in some way, and I'm just not aware of it?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

My final comment: Were Salo available, it might have added resonance due to some of the horrific events that have transpired in the last six years. But by the same token I can see it also being greeted with a shrug by the same audiences that would likely do the same for a re-release of Pasolini’s Canterbury Tales or just about any other old foreign film. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy here other than cultural indifference. Also, according to the most recent Criterion Forum thread on the movie, it looks like there might have been some movement toward a re-release of the movie, but it’s unclear to me whether that’s still alive or not. Still checking!

As for Robert Ryan, the resemblance to Sterling Hayden had never occurred to me, but you’re right—it’s there, though Ryan doesn’t seem to have the hard-crusted edges that Hayden had even in his early performances. Ryan seems weary, whereas Hayden is just as easily disgusted. For a while there it seemed like every classic film I picked up had Robert Ryan in it-- On Dangerous Ground, Day of the Outlaw, The Naked Spur, The Set-up, Clash by Night-- and I feel like I got a real crash course in his durability and stoic vulnerability as an actor. I picked Day of the Outlaw, but it could have been Ryan in any one of the countless other pictures he did in the 40s and 50s.

I really hope Criterion does take up the torch for some of those early Cronenberg movies—it would be really nice to see Shivers or Rabid get the deluxe treatment.

Still friends! See, kids, it can be done!

Anonymous said...

"The Set-Up" is terrific. Robert Wise and Co. get a little sappy for my tastes by the end, and I can't really praise the lead actress whose name escapes me, but everything else about it is just superb. Although, I should say that I was hoping/dreading that the ending would be as unforgiving as I thought it would be. After it was over, I was still torn

Also, Scorsese always seems more than happy to give credit to the films that inspired him, so surely he's tipped his hat to "The Set-Up", as it pertains to "Raging Bull", right?

Anyway, Robert Ryan! Woo hoo!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

That's Audrey Totter! Whoo-hoo!

I'm sure somewhere along the line, whether in a DVD commentary, or perhaps even during A Personal Journey Through American Movies, Scorsese must have tipped his hat to The Set-Up. It realy does seem like such an obvious touchstone for the versimiltude he was going for (underneath all the stylization) in Raging Bull's fight scenes.

Bill, it's too bad we're on separate coasts. I can imagine that having a beer with you and discussing movies and other matters might be a lot of fun!

Anonymous said...

I don't remember anyone proposing Olivier's Hurstwood (in Carrie--Wyler's, not De Palma's, and adapted from Dreiser, not Stephen King) as the man's best performance. It's an incredible, subdued turn--"a masterpiece of crushed hope" as David Thomson called it. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I don't remember any votes for his Othello. (I guess I should have taken the quiz myself.) I'm a little disheartened that there are so few Olivier fans out there--is Sleuth (which most people taking the quiz picked) really his best performance on film?

By the way Dennis, does Dub Taylor get shot in Crime Wave? I thought he only got hit over the head. (De Toth, incidentally, is a fantastic director. I'm still trying to catch up with all his westerns, of which I've seen only one, the excellent Springfield Rifle. Anyone out there seen the ones with Randolph Scott?)

Best baseball movie: it's actually a bad movie, but Fred Schepisi's Mr. Baseball has the best directed baseball sequences I've ever come across. I wish more people sang Schepisi's praises. He's a scandalously neglected great filmmaker.

Anonymous said...

Goodness! I'm truly flattered, Dennis. And I have to agree, it would probably be a blast. Hey, I just got "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed" from Netflix! It's getting to the point where I only watch the movies you tell me to watch.

If we were to ever meet, we should probably stick to movies, though, because talking about "other things" would doubtlessly lead to at least punching, if not also kicking and biting.

Anonymous said...

PS - Did you ever track down a copy of "Flicker" by Theodore Roszak?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

dm494-- I know Dub Taylor survives to tell the tale of the robbery, so you may be right. I may be confusing his fate with that of the unfortunate police officer who tries to intervene. (And I just saw the movie a little over a month ago-- jeez.) Re De Toth, I agree he is wonderful. I have Springfield Rifle near the top of my Netflix queue, along with Play Dirty, a MIchael Caine wartiem thriller I remember fondly from my misspent youth. He did another with Scott called Man in the Saddle which is good, but not top drawer-- it's nowhere near the level of Day of the Outlaw.

And thanks for the tip on Mr. Baseball. I have heard nothing but bad things about it, of course, but it always intrigued me that Schepisi directed it. I figured there must be something of note going on there. And what you described is exactly the kind of thing I've been on the lookout for. I was recently contacted by a sports writer who was talking baseball films, and he mentioned that movies never seem to get the key aspect of the speed of baseball right. They're usually in love with rendering pitchers and pitching in slow-motion so as to better accentuate the movement, thus losing the element of the game that is so central to its strategy-- the ability of the pitcher to confound the batter by keeping the nature of the pitch hidden until the last possible split-second, and the extra split-second it takes for the ball to travel from glove to plate. I wonder if Mr. Baseball addresses any of these concerns. At any rate, I'd be very interested in seeing it based on your recommendation.

Bill: Nah. One of my best friends named his daughter Reagan, and we get along just fine! (Although I'm never one to object to a little biting...) Enjoy FMBD. I came this close to putting it as one of my Final Three! And thanks for the reminder about Flicker-- I'm off to my local library's website right now!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I just reserved a copy. Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

It's an astonishing book. I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I just bought the new DVD of "Witchfinder General". That should make a sweet double feature with "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed"!

Anonymous said...

Lest I forget, but I'm a big fan of The Natural. Nothing much to say about it as it's probably been said before by others more eloquent than I on the subjects of baseball and fantasy. But lets not forget John Sayles' EIGHT MEN OUT.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm glad I'm not the only one who responded so enthusiastically to this post. I will respond to the quiz--thanks for the encouragement!--as soon as I recover from yet another billion-hour day.

Anyway, I haven't seen SALO yet, but I always figured that it might have something to do with naked underage people (though I'm not really sure they were underage). I might now be brave enough to watch it, if ever I get the chance.

Paul C. said...

Hey Dennis. Setting aside the penalty for tardiness, I'd say Shoop will probably give you full points.

However, I'm curious about Mama Scorsese's sauce. Where's the link?

Anonymous said...

OH--and I've been watching all I can of the new Ken Burns series, and I think it's excellent.

Robert Fiore said...

The World at War has been out on DVD for years, and it merits repeat viewing. Based on a look at Metacritic it seems the reviews of the Burns documentary have been extremely favorable. It's watchable as Burns always is, and since he's trying to be anti-nostalgic it's not as encumbered with sepia tone sentiment as he sometimes is. The thing is, he's taken one of the main criticisms of American war documentaries -- Yank-o-centrism -- and made it into the raison d'etre of the exercise. Halfway through the Burns I'd still say The World at War is the champ. It's interesting to hear what people on the other side had to say (and for that matter what other people on our side have to say), and I think that the high command has an important story to tell too. Though there's one special quality the Burns approach has, and that unlike just about any other documentary about the war, Hitler does not become the main character and dominant personality. (Incidentally, I see where Syberberg's Our Hitler has come out on DVD. Never saw it myself, but it was quite a to-do in my youth.)

One last World at War note: I've just about come to the conclusion that I'm imagining it, but I could swear there was a follow-up series. Does anybody else remember this? Maybe they showed it incomplete once, then came back and showed the episodes they'd left out.

Anonymous said...

Robert - where did you hear that about "Our Hitler"? I've been curious about that one for years. It's not showing up on Netflix, though, so even with a DVD release who knows where I'll be able to get a copy.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bill: Here’s a link to Amazon that I found where you can buy Our Hitler.

Robert: I’m going to have to dig around and see if I’m remembering actual reviews or grumblings from writers heard before they’d actually seen it. Burns’ style is very identifiable, thus very easy to mimic, making it an especially ripe target for parody and, of course, mockery. But I’ve always found his documentaries riveting and easy to get lost in. It would indeed be great to see Burns unleash his focused attention on differing perspectives on the war, but then I suspect that we’d be looking at a movie twice or three times a long as the one we’ve already got, which might test our attention spans as well as Burns’ energies. But we can always hope, can’t we? (I’ve already said I loved Baseball, but I thought Empire of the Air, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson and even The West, which was only produced by Burns but directed in his style by one Stephen Ives, were all brilliant.)

Sal: Eight Men Out is a very good baseball movie, and probably John Sayles’s best movie too. And speaking of John Sayles, Alligator came out on DVD this week!

Paul: My laserdisc player is on the blink, otherwise I’d just copy the recipe off the movie itself for you. I looked for a link and the closest I could come to is, again, Amazon and Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook by Catherine (Mama) Scorsese. A look at the table of contents reveals a recipe for tomato sauce and tomato sauce with meat. One could assume that this is the same recipe, but I could actually access the page it was on, and I have shamefully neglected to buy a copy for myself yet. I’ll keep looking for another obsessive who might have posted this recipe somewhere!

Blaaagh: I just saw a copy of Time last night that had a very positive review of the Ken Burns film. Based on Robert’s citing of the Metacritic reviews, it seems my perception was incorrect, something for which I’m glad. But lukewarm reviews or enthusiastic ones, I’m probably going to have to wait for DVD for this one, since I’ve obviously already missed a good portion of it. Mepps.

Anonymous said...

from the Criterion blog:

Have we been able to renew our rights? Well, here’s the answer you weren’t expecting. Yes. We’re working on a brand new HD transfer now. It’ll be a totally new release and be out in 2007."


It appears that they're wrong about it coming out this year, since the "coming soon" section on the website goes up until December. But at least we know it's in the near future, those that care.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Dan W.: Thanks for the legwork on Salo. This is good news, indeed, since the only thing I could find on the Criterion Forum was dated somewhere in 2005. Appears it was a rights issue after all. I'm looking forward to seeing how the movie is received and evaluated. God knows, I may even take another look at it myself, if I'm feeling strong enough.

Anonymous said...

I told you! God, I so totally told you!

Ha ha, just kidding. Well, I guess in less than a year I will no longer be able to resist the horrifying temptation to watch that movie. Soon, my cherished innocence will come to an end...

Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Enjoyed this post, but I just wanted to say that I loved seeing that pic of you and Ray Harryhausen, Dennis!

Robert Fiore said...

Burns has a lot of detractors. Tom Sutpen over at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger is death on him, and so is Marc Cooper. A lot of it though seems the reaction anyone will get when he reaches a certain level of acclaim. I'm more for him than agin him, and I think The Civil War is one of the great movies period, but it's undeniable that the man has defects. The Civil War was the first thing of his that I saw and it seemed that the elegiac style was made for the material. One learned subsequently that he probably used the same style for his wedding video. I think a critic for The New Republic put his finger on it when he wrote of Burns' tendency to cover everything with "nostalgic rue." The deadly earnestness, the seeking after holy emotion, the constant maundering-by-talking-heads about the Meaning of Being an American all kind of get to you over the course of any given Florentine Film. Parts of the Baseball series were excellent, but one game of baseball is a lot like another, and sometimes the thing just seemed to go on and on. And whenever you're starting to enjoy yourself, up comes another sermon on the injustice of the color bar. (Not that it wasn't true, but it does put a pall over the proceedings.) And my God, Mr. Folkie making himself your guide to the history was jazz was like Parson Weems writing a history of the whorehouse, in spirit at least. But again, a lot of good stuff there. The man has tremendous gifts as a documentarian and as a plain filmmaker; notice the use of sound in The War. Empire of the Air is my second favorite, and with most of his bad habits in check The War is one his best. The one about Mark Twain also stands out.

And you shouldn't forget his brother Ric, who collaborated on The Civil War and split because Ken was getting all the credit. If you haven't seen it you must seek out Coney Island, and his Donner Party documentary is particularly gripping. You're aware of the New York City series of course. I can't give his Andy Warhol full marks though; treating the subject as if his greatness were now beyond dissent is just being incomplete.

Though I suppose the question is now moot, I believe I found out about the Our Hitler DVD from DVD Beaver.

P.S. It's an extraordinary thing that neither the movie that best captures the spirit of Dashiell Hammett (Miller's Crossing) nor the one that best captures the spirit of Raymond Chandler (Chinatown) were based on their models' actual works.

Aaron W. Graham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron W. Graham said...

Dennis, your long-term memory serves you well, as you've remembered that Walter Hill quote (almost) perfectly. I believe he simplifies it by stating, "In my pictures, character is how many times you blink when a gun's pointed at your face". That interview's fantastic though; I can't think of another piece where Hill was so candid or forthcoming.

Anyway, it's a real treat to read all of your collected answers here (and very glad to see you're on board for PARENTHOOD -- Ron Howard's a director I can't seem to get behind, but other than his work for Roger Corman, that's the one from his mainstream career that I could watch over and over again, and I unabashedly admire it enough to even crib a bit of dialogue spoken by Jason Robards for a short film I made last year!).

And, lastly, I've added THE BOYS IN BRAZIL to my ever-expanding list of films to see. Can't wait to check out this nutty Olivier performance.

Greg said...

Bill - You are still the all-time best entity out there, no question.

Robert - I agree with much of what you say about Burns. I thought the first and fourth episodes of "The War" were excellent with the second being a tad underwhelming and the third downright smelly. I almost stopped watching but I'm glad I didn't because the fourth episode was excellent.

I think Burns gets bogged down in too much detail at times which is where the "preaching" or "lectures" you refer to come from. He doesn't seem to understand at times that we the audience have gotten it! That was what the third episode of "The War" was like. Almost nothing to do with the war, just one reminiscance after another about how it affected the car industry, the baking of birthday cakes, women in the work force, men in the work force who were 4-F, scrap metal drives, how many ships and planes were made and on and on and on. So much detail - WE GET IT! Everyday life was affected back home during the war. I think I could have figured that out on my own. The only gripping parts were the Japanese-Americans preparing for battle as their families were behind barbed wire in internment camps and the story of the soldier named Babe who maintained such astonshing optimism until his inevitable fate. And all of that made up around thirty minutes, maybe. By the second hour of it myself and those watching it with me started to make jokes (when I'm bored the jokes start flying). "Oh boy I can hardly wait to find out how the battle of Anzio affected the maple syrup industry in Vermont!" "Maybe he'll correlate the Bataan Death March to how hard it was to get a good Superman comic back home!!! I. DON'T. CARE! The story of Babe and the Japanese soldiers fighting for America should have made up the bulk but Burns was too obsessed with not letting even one scintilla of research go unused.

But then like I said, the fourth episode was extraordinary. Having the soldiers tell us of their thoughts and feelings while fighting. The Japanese-American soldier crying describing the impact of seeing soldiers his age dead, even if they were the enemy. The fighter pilot losing use of his right hand after nightmares for years after the war. Great stuff.

I look forward to the final three, especially that dealing with Iwo Jima as my uncle was killed in action there decades before I was born and it has always fascinated me.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan - Thank you so much! You have fused rock and jazz with my heart.

Robert - I had no idea Ken Burns's brother made that Donner Party film (assuming we're thinking of the same film, and I can't imagine we're not). That documentary was excellent, and anyone who hasn't seen it should seek it out. Some of the events they describe (particularly towards the end) are astonishingly horrific.

PIPER said...

Great call on The Brood. I have the current DVD which as you said isn't much. It would be interesting to see a special edition of that film just to see the kids getting into make-up. In my opinion, no other film of his explores Cronenberg's fascination with the flesh more than this.

Anonymous said...

What the hell is East Hollywood? You mean Los Feliz, right?

Greg said...

I agree the Donner Party doc was terrific. I also liked the Lewis and Clark one very much as well.

Brian Darr said...

Dennis, great to see your answers. And thanks for reminding me of Ryan's performance in the incredible Day of the Outlaw, and that Play Dirty and Springfield Rifle are now on DVD. Times like these I wish I had a netflix queue.

I agree with you on Man in the Saddle though; not a stellar effort. Neither is the Stranger Wore a Gun. The one I want to see most is Last of the Comanches though.