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Friday, August 29, 2008
MASTER CLASS THIS WEEKEND
AND CURTIS TALKS DE PALMA
New York Post critic V.A. Musetto blogged yesterday that Brian De Palma was to arrive later that day at the Montreal World Film Festival, where the director will give a master class this weekend (so much for Danielle Cauchard's previous statement that De Palma would be in attendance for the entire festival-- De Palma must have had a slight change of plans). In any case, Musetto states that the press office at the fest "has been deluged with calls" about De Palma, but that if all goes well, the critic will have a chance to sit down with the director.

According to Musetto, Tony Curtis had already left before De Palma arrived, which is a bit of a shame, because De Palma may have been able to correct a bit of misinformation regarding De Palma's upcoming project, The Boston Stranglers. Last month, Curtis was interviewed by Neal Justin at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Justin aksed Curtis whether the films he made in the past could be done today. Curtis replied, "I did a movie called The Boston Strangler. Brian De Palma is going to do a remake. What's he going to do? He's probably going to show the strangling. He's going to show these women being torn apart. He's going to show that in his own poetic way." Well, actually, De Palma is not remaking that film, but he is making a film based on a book by Susan Kelly, whose The Boston Stranglers purports to correct the conclusions depicted in the Curtis film (itself based on a book by Gerold Frank). In fact, Kelly's book discusses the Curtis film (directed by Richard Fleischer), which seems likely to be a part of De Palma's story.


Posted by Geoff at 1:59 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 29, 2008 5:48 PM CDT
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Bigelow's Hurt Locker
"A thrilling combat film" conjuring John Wayne


From The Economist:

With one exception, films about the Iraq war have done badly in American cinemas. The exception was Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, a fiercely anti-war film made the year after the invasion. Though Disney refused to distribute it, the movie still made a fortune. But the films that came after it have mostly bombed at the box office, a fact that has led film financiers to regard the war with a superstition as potent as that which has actors referring to Macbeth as “the Scottish play”.

Why is this so? Persuading audiences to flock to a film about an unpopular war is obviously difficult. Comparisons with Vietnam don’t really work. Television coverage of the Vietnam war was so intensive that Hollywood did not bother to make many films about it while it was going on. (John Wayne’s The Green Berets was released in 1968 as a corrective, it was hoped, to the TV coverage that was turning the country against the war.) But, with Iraq, that situation is reversed. The New York Times has reported that the three major American television networks logged only about 180 minutes of weekday evening reporting on the war in the first half of this year (compared to 1,157 minutes for all of 2007), and that CBS News no longer has a full-time correspondent in Iraq.

Film-makers are trying to fill the gap but their efforts, though worthy, are often depressing—and certainly not designed to pull in 14-year-olds at the mall. The best of the recent lot are Kimberly Peirce’s Stop-Loss (2008), in which a decorated soldier is ordered back to Iraq against his will, and Redacted (2007), Brian De Palma’s re-enactment of an atrocity. The latter film, made with Canadian money, uses faux video clips to tell the awful tale of the rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl by American soldiers. Stop-Loss and In the Valley of Elah (2007), about a former military cop trying to find out who murdered his son after he returned from Iraq, were both made by studio speciality divisions created for modestly budgeted films, both of which have since been folded into their parent companies, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros...

...Will Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, premiering at the Venice Film Festival, succeed in disarming audience resistance? About a bomb squad defusing “improvised explosive devices” planted by insurgents in Baghdad, it is a thrilling combat film from its first image of a bomb-handling robot racing through the rubble. Then a new squad leader walks in, and the film has a hero. Staff Sergeant William James, played by Jeremy Renner (pictured above), is a wild man addicted to the adrenalin rush of doing the most dangerous job in the world. He is a character who can embody the central myth of American cinema because his job is saving lives, not taking them.

“James is the man who walks down that street in the direction that everyone else is running from,” says Ms Bigelow. “He has an iconic aura. But those traits exert a heavy price.” By making a film about an unpopular war that still gives the audience someone to root for, she may have struck gold. Perhaps the return of John Wayne is what people have been waiting for.


Posted by Geoff at 1:06 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 29, 2008 1:11 PM CDT
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BAUER & SALAZAR PACK SCARFACE SCREENING
IN MIAMI LAST FRIDAY
Steven Bauer and Angel Salazar, who both appeared in Brian De Palma's Scarface in 1983, hosted a packed screening of that film to mark its 25-year anniversary last Friday at Miami's Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. According to a report in the Miami Herald, the screening brought in about 800 fans of all ages. According to the report, Bauer shouted to the enthused crowd, "Feel free to yell out if you know the dialogue. Don't be shy!" Salazar and Bauer have remained friends througout the years. "After all this time, the cast is still pretty close," Salazar said with a wink, according to the Herald. "We still get together and talk about chain saws and machine guns." Bauer discussed the rough road Scarface had upon its initial release. "It's nice to see this kind of frenzy," the Cuban native said, according to the Herald. "For a long time we couldn't enjoy the success because there was a lot of backlash against the movie. The media really didn't take to it." The Herald article concludes with the following passage:

Zach Kosnitzky, formerly of the defunct CBS reality show Kid Nation, is a new fan. He's only 10. "I love Scarface!" joked Zach, dressed in a black zoot suit with an old school gangster fedora. "Just please don't tell my parents I'm here."


Posted by Geoff at 12:44 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 29, 2008 1:10 PM CDT
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Monday, August 25, 2008
M:I AT MONTREAL FEST
AS DE PALMA PREPARES MASTER CLASS
While there is still no official word on the exact time of Brian De Palma's master class, the Montreal World Film Festival will screen De Palma's 1996 film Mission: Impossible Tuesday night as part of its "Cinema Under The Stars" program. We'll keep an eye out for any other news...

Posted by Geoff at 10:19 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 5:28 PM CDT
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Friday, August 22, 2008
FARRIS SIGNING IN GEORGIA
FINAL BOOK IN FURY SERIES
Since it's a hot weekend to get out and meet people who have worked on various Brian De Palma films, it can't hurt to add one more. John Farris, who adapted the screenplay of his own novel The Fury for De Palma's 1978 film, will sign copies of his new book Avenging Fury tomorrow (Saturday, August 23rd) at the Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Georgia, from 12:30pm to 2pm. The new book is the fourth and final volume in the Fury cycle (officially dubbed the "Fury and the Terror" series). Farris will also sign 50 copies of the book for those who cannot attend the signing-- if you would like one of those signed copies, you need to e-mail the store's owner, Doug Robinson (doug@eagleeyebooks.com), as soon as possible. After collaborating on The Fury in 1978, De Palma recruited Farris to help him adapt Alfred Bester‘s The Demolished Man as a followup project. While the latter was never made, it remains De Palma's dream project to this day.

Posted by Geoff at 10:42 PM CDT
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NANCY ALLEN @ MONSTER-MANIA

AND ANGEL SALAZAR JOINS STEVEN BAUER IN MIAMI
If you're in the Philadelphia area this weekend, you can meet Nancy Allen at the 11th Monster-Mania Con, which runs today through Sunday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Allen, who was once married to Brian De Palma appeared in four of De Palma's films: Carrie, Home Movies, Dressed To Kill, and Blow Out.

SCARFACE IN MIAMI TONIGHT
According to Rene Rodriguez at the Miami Herald, Angel Salazar will join the previously announced Steven Bauer at the Gusman Center 25th anniversary screening of Scarface tonight. Salazar, who played Chi Chi in Scarface, also appeared in De Palma's Carlito's Way. Aside from playing Tony Montana's sidekick in Scarface, Bauer has also appeared in De Palma's Body Double and Raising Cain.

Rodriguez' column today asks, "Where were you on Dec. 9, 1983?" Rodriguez continues:

I was a teenager at the Miracle Twin Theater on Miracle Mile, eluding aggressive ushers rigorously checking IDs and sneaking into the first afternoon screening of Brian De Palma's controversial, R-rated Scarface. Yes, it was a school day. But so much had been written about the film before its release, there was no way I could wait until Saturday or even later that day. Scarface had to be seen immediately.

Read the rest at the Miami Herald. (By the way, there is no longer any mention that Brett Ratner, who snuck onto the Scarface set as a kid and wound up as an extra in the background, will be in attendance at tonight's screening.)


Posted by Geoff at 2:44 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 22, 2008 4:09 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 16, 2008
"BE BLACK, BABY"

RAINER DISCUSSES PERFORMANCE ART OF RACE
In an essay for the Los Angeles Times this weekend, Peter Rainer asks, "What is going on in the zeitgeist when an African American is poised to become president and Robert Downey Jr. is in blackface?" Linking Downey's performance in the current Tropic Thunder to a more sophisticated version of free-form sketch comedy routines, Rainer proceeds to discuss a cultural history of blackface and whiteface minstrelsy where he suggests that the "Be Black, Baby" sequence in Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom! helped to set a vaudvillean racial template that would morph into blaxploitation and rap music. Discussing Downey's riffs on race in the film, Rainer states that they "have an even earlier pedigree"...

Downey's father, Robert Downey Sr., directed 1969's funky, acidulous Putney Swope, about a Black Power takeover of a lily-white Madison Avenue ad agency. A year later, in Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom!, black militants stage an off-off-Broadway show called "Be Black Baby," during which, in white face, they force their white patrons to wear blackface and then proceed to terrorize them so they can better "understand" the black experience. The comic kicker comes at the end. Says one brutalized white guy, admiringly, about the evening: "It really makes you stop and think."

These underground movies, mostly forgotten now, nevertheless set the template for the scabrous racial vaudeville that morphed into the blaxploitation cycle right on up through rap. For white audiences, especially guilty liberals, the message in these movies was explicit: "We really are your worst nightmare."

HISTORICALLY, white actors in blackface incarnated the cruelest of racial caricatures. (Even when Fred Astaire in Swing Time wore blackface in tribute to Bill Robinson, it was implicit that Bojangles could never star in such a film.) But one cannot talk about blackfaced white performers without at the same time summoning up the camouflages worn by black actors -- worn, in many cases, to have any career at all. Throughout all too much of Hollywood's sorry history, particularly pre- Sidney Poitier, black performers, with no decent roles available to them, wore minstrel masks too. They acted out the demeaning images whites set for them (and still, like Robinson himself, they frequently managed to be more electric than their often starched-white counterparts). By the time the '60s counterculture came along, attitudes had shifted. Black minstrelsy became a put-on -- a weapon. Be black, baby.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 22, 2008 4:10 PM CDT
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Friday, August 8, 2008
BAUER TO PRESENT SCARFACE
AT FLORIDA 25TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING
Steven Bauer
, who co-starred with Al Pacino in Brian De Palma's Scarface, will attend a 25th anniversary screening of that film on Friday, August 22nd at the Gusman Center's Olympia Theater. Bauer will participate in an audience Q&A following the 8pm screening. According to Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald, Brett Ratner, who was inspired to be a film director when he snuck onto the Scarface set as a child and observed De Palma at work, will also attend the screening.

Posted by Geoff at 10:25 AM CDT
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Tuesday, August 5, 2008
DE PALMA TO GIVE MASTER CLASS
AT MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL
Aspiring filmmakers are sure to learn some valuable lessons in making movies when Brian De Palma presents a cinema master class at this year's Montreal World Film Festival. The news was announced at a press conference this morning, in which the festival's slate of competition and non-competition films was also laid out. According to CJAD's Shuyee Lee, the festival's general director Danielle Cauchard said that there was no specific date set yet for De Palma's master class. "The date is not fixed yet," said Cauchard. "I tell you why, because he's staying for the whole festival." It is no surprise that De Palma will be around for the entire festival, which runs from August 21 through September 1. De Palma has long been known to attend the big autumn Canadian film festivals, especially the Toronto International Film Festival, where for two years in a row (in 2005 and 2006) he served as a mentor for that fest's Talent Lab, where emerging Canadian talents learn and practice filmmaking techniques from international masters of cinema. According to Brendan Kelly at the Montreal Gazette, De Palma's master class will take place at the Imperial Cinema.

Posted by Geoff at 8:47 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 8:50 PM CDT
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Friday, August 1, 2008
WATER ON MARS
SPACECRAFT LAB TESTS CONCLUDE
NASA announced yesterday that lab tests aboard its Phoenix Mars Lander have concluded that a soil sample taken from the surface of Mars does indeed contain water. The "surprising" results so far have led NASA to extend the spacecraft's mission through September 30th. Meanwhile, Pop Culture Examiner Dominic Patten has sarcastically suggested that Hollywood will soon jump on this new clue to life on Mars. "Of course," Patten writes, "you could just get the jump on everyone and rent Brian De Palma's 2000 flick Mission to Mars tonight." Doesn't sound like a bad idea...

Posted by Geoff at 11:19 AM CDT
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