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Sunday, June 21, 2009
When Warner Bros. opened up its archive vault last March, making many of its overlooked films available via on-demand DVDs for $19.95 each (or $14.95 for a digital download version), I put in a request for Brian De Palma's Get To Know Your Rabbit, a 1972 WB release that has never been available on DVD. Looks like we won't have to go the on-demand route after all-- according to a posting on GreenCine's Twitter page, Warner Bros. plans to release Get To Know Your Rabbit on DVD this summer (and, mind you, today is officially the first day of summer). If true, this will complete the availability of each of De Palma's feature films in the DVD format, in one country or another (Dionysus In '69 has only been released on DVD in France).

Get To Know Your Rabbit was made right after De Palma's Hi, Mom! in 1970, but, after the studio fired De Palma and completed the film with another uncredited director, it sat on a shelf until Warner Bros. dumped it into theaters in 1972 as part of a double bill. De Palma ran afoul of the studio when he suggested a new ending which would see star Tommy Smothers' tap-dancing magician escape the dual traps of conformity and commodification by appearing to make a bloody mess of a live rabbit on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Smothers also got nervous about De Palma's direction, and since the whole project was conceived as a vehicle for the star, De Palma was locked out. Despite the compromised vision, though, what remains in the bulk of the film is a comedy that flows with De Palma's sardonic sense of the absurd, as a continuation of the countercultural indifference on display in Greetings and Hi, Mom!. There are some nice recent evaluations of the film by Daniel Kremer at conFluence Films and (from 2006) Nicolas Rapold at Reverse Shot.

Posted by Geoff at 9:32 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, June 22, 2009 1:45 AM CDT
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Thursday, June 18, 2009
From a University of Colorado press release yesterday: A University of Colorado at Boulder research team has discovered the first definitive evidence of shorelines on Mars, an indication of a deep, ancient lake there and a finding with implications for the discovery of past life on the Red Planet.

Estimated to be more than 3 billion years old, the lake appears to have covered as much as 80 square miles and was up to 1,500 feet deep -- roughly the equivalent of Lake Champlain bordering the United States and Canada, said Gaetano Di Achille, who led the study. The shoreline evidence, found along a broad delta, included a series of alternating ridges and troughs thought to be surviving remnants of beach deposits.

"This is the first unambiguous evidence of shorelines on the surface of Mars," said Di Achille. "The identification of the shorelines and accompanying geological evidence allows us to calculate the size and volume of the lake, which appears to have formed about 3.4 billion years ago"...

...The deltas adjacent to the lake are of high interest to planetary scientists because deltas on Earth rapidly bury organic carbon and other biomarkers of life, according to CU-Boulder Assistant Professor [Brian] Hynek. Most astrobiologists believe any present indications of life on Mars will be discovered in the form of subterranean microorganisms.

But in the past, lakes on Mars would have provided cozy surface habitats rich in nutrients for such microbes, Hynek said.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, June 19, 2009 12:03 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 13, 2009
Billy at Tower Farm Reviews has posted a highly entertaining review of Dressed To Kill. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

Few Hollywood directors in the 70s and 80s were doing things on film as sleazy as Brian De Palma was. Take Dressed To Kill, for example, which is a charming tale involving rape fantasy, adultery, venereal disease, murderous transsexuals, high-priced hookers and Dennis Franz. Now, in the hands of anyone else, this would look like exactly what it is: Tinto Brass-level, grade-Z Eurotrash. Hell, set it in Nazi Germany and you’ve got something like Salon Kitty. But, in the split-screened, slow-motioned hands of Brian De Palma, it somehow becomes a respectable American thriller that is often viewed as the 1980s answer to Psycho.

How is this possible? This is a movie that involves female masturbation in the opening shot! Is Brian De Palma a magician? Are all those fancy crane shots actually just ways to hypnotize the audience into thinking that Angie Dickinson’s nether-regions are artistic statements?

Nope. I’d have to say that in 1980, Brian De Palma was just that good.

Posted by Geoff at 10:27 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, June 13, 2009 10:28 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 11, 2009
According to a blurb in the latest issue of Tv Guide, Tom Cruise has invited J.J. Abrams, who directed MI:3, to produce a fourth feature film in the Mission: Impossible franchise. You can read the entire blurb at left, but Abrams says that he and Cruise have a "really cool idea" for a new film, which may have a new director, unless Abrams decides to stay on and direct again. Cruise is smart to stick with Abrams for such a project, given that Abrams is currently on a high with Paramount, the studio for which he just made the Star Trek movie, which is a big hit. Paramount, of course, owns the rights to the Mission: Impossible franchise.

The scan of the article at left is courtesy of Spoiler TV.

Posted by Geoff at 2:02 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 11, 2009 2:04 AM CDT
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Today Jim Emerson's Scanners blog discusses the way a film review can set expectations for a work that make actually viewing the thing a letdown. His first example is Pauline Kael's "intoxicating" review of Brian De Palma's The Fury. Emerson writes: The movie itself was a bit of a letdown for me after that review, but Kael's enthusiasm proved infectious. I'm sure I've seen The Fury at least half a dozen times and it remains one of my favorite De Palmas (and Carrie Snodgress is one of the most heartbreaking of the tender, funny oddball heroines of early-ish De Palma, alongside Sissy Spacek, Betty Buckley, Amy Irving, Genevieve Bujold and Angie Dickinson). Kael's description of the movie's climactic crescendo has never left me:

This finale -- a parody of Antonioni's apocalyptic vision at the close of Zabriskie Point -- is the greatest finish for any villain ever. One can imagine Welles, Peckinpah, Scorsese, and Spielberg still stunned, bowing to the ground, choking with laughter.

Well, once that image has been implanted in your head to accompany the one(s) in the movie (and the villain is John Cassavettes, so there's even more auteur glee on display), it's hard to shake it.

Emerson discusses a couple of other examples before getting into a discussion of A.O. Scott's review of Sam Mendes' Away We Go, and how the review impressed him so much that he is now hesitant to see the actual film.

Posted by Geoff at 1:14 PM CDT
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Monday, June 8, 2009

William Katt was interviewed for yesterday's SciFiPulse Radio podcast. Katt talked about working on Carrie, saying that he had seen Brian De Palma's earlier films, such as Greetings, Hi, Mom!, and Get To Know Your Rabbit. Katt recalled that as they set out to make Carrie, there was a general feeling in Hollywood that this was going to be De Palma's breakthrough film. Katt said that during a two week period before filming, the actors would meet at De Palma's California apartment and improvise scenes together, while De Palma recorded them on a reel-to-reel tape, and then had the script revised accordingly. Katt said this rehearsal process made for a very relaxed set on Carrie, because the actors were already comfortable with each other, and had already played out the scenes together a number of times. Katt also discussed other projects throughout his career, including, of course, his TV show The Greatest American Hero.

Posted by Geoff at 3:02 PM CDT
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Sunday, June 7, 2009
In alignment with the Produced By 2009 Conference in Culver City, which began Friday and continues through today, JoBlo has posted the full text of Jimmy O's recent interview with Gale Anne Hurd (see my post from May 19 2009). In one part of the interview, Hurd is asked about her strategy, and says the key is "the best movie you can" make. She then moves into a discussion about marketing:

But at the same time, make sure that when the film is marketed, it is marketed properly, and that the studio is selling the same film that the filmmakers made. Because you can’t do a bait and switch. And that is primarily because of the internet, and the fact that the first fans that see a film, when they are lead to believe they’re seeing one thing and they see it and it is something else, that word gets out. You don’t have the weekend anymore. And also, box office grosses are reported in the mainstream press, immediately available on-line and I do think that the consumer is now aware of what films are underperforming. And I think that there are remarkable films that under perform on a Friday and because that becomes a story, people who otherwise might’ve gone to see a film, an actually remarkably good film, won’t go to see it for whatever reason, its been branded unsuccessful. You know, after one night.

Jimmy O's interview concludes with a slightly extended discussion of The Boston Stranglers:

[Jimmy O] What is next for you that you are really excited about?

[Hurd] The film that Brian De Palma, my ex-husband and I are working on together is THE BOSTON STRANGLERS. Which is the true story of something that we think we all know the true story now, but we don’t. Which is that Albert Desalvo, who was branded the Boston Strangler, there was a movie about him, Tony Curtis played Albert Desalvo… as it turns out, he was never convicted of the crime.

[Jimmy O] How far along?

[Hurd] The film is set up at Overture, and we are in the process of casting and we hope to shoot in the fall.

[Jimmy O] Anyone that you are looking at specifically, that you’d hope for?

[Hurd] Not at the moment. Great ideas though.

On Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times posted edited highlights from a producers panel that Hurd participated in as a lead-in to this weekend's conference.

Posted by Geoff at 11:43 AM CDT
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Thursday, June 4, 2009
Austin's University of Texas' Harry Ransom Center recently opened to the public a treasure trove of film materials donated in 2006 by Robert De Niro. The materials cover De Niro's career from the 1960s to 2005, and includes several De Palma-related items that make a trip to Austin a necessity. One of the most startling discoveries among the collection (which I haven't yet seen) is a screenplay for Sisters, written by De Palma and Louisa Rose, with De Niro's notes included. The screenplay is circa 1970, the same year De Niro starred with Sisters' Jennifer Salt in De Palma's Hi, Mom!.

Speaking of the latter, the collection also boasts several scripts associated with that project, which began life as a screenplay by De Palma and Chuck Hirsch titled "Son Of Greetings." The De Niro collection contains the latter screenplay, also with the actor's notes, as well as an annotated typescript of the original story by De Palma and Hirsch. Also most likely related to that project is an original film treatment (circa 1970) by De Palma titled "Home Movie," which includes one single note written by De Niro. De Palma would go on to make a film titled Home Movies in 1979-80, but this treatment seems more likely something like the David Holzman's Diary-inspired section of Hi, Mom! that ended up transformed into the film we have today. But who knows-- perhaps when we visit the museum and look at the collection, we'll find something entirely different.

Also in the collection is an undated shooting script for De Niro's first film, The Wedding Party, complete with De Niro's notes. There is also a June 1964 calendar marked out with scenes from the project. There is also an early and incomplete draft of David Mamet's screenplay for The Untouchables, again with De Niro's notes, as well as a version dated July 22 1986, and subsequent revisions from September and October. There are also several photographs of Al Capone with De Niro's notes, and two copies of Neil Elliott's My Years with Capone, one of which is annotated by De Niro. There are also Untouchables-related production materials, including make-up/hair continuity, wardrobe polaroids, publicity materials, a premiere invitation, and a copy of John Kobler's 1971 book Capone with Mamet's handwritten notes throughout the text.

Also included in the collection are production photographs from Hi, Mom!, and publicity flyers and photographs from Greetings. Oh, and a couple of other gems of interest: two correspondences from De Palma to De Niro, along with notes from Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, Frankenheimer, and several outgoing letters from De Niro. View the preliminary inventory list right here.

And finally, the real reason I chose the above image from Taxi Driver: according to the Daily Express, Clarence Clemons, who coached De Niro on how to play saxophone for Scorsese's New York, New York, recently told the New York Daily News that De Niro got the famous "You talkin' to me" line in Scorsese's Taxi Driver from Bruce Springsteen. "[De Niro] had been to one of our concerts," said Clemons, "and the audience was yelling out 'Bruce!' In those days, Bruce would stop onstage and say, 'You talkin' to me?' De Niro was kind of channeling him."

Posted by Geoff at 12:04 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 4, 2009 1:57 AM CDT
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The Philippine Entertainment Portal posted an article yesterday that provided a full translation of what Quentin Tarantino had to say about Brillante Mendoza's Kinatay, for which Mendoza was awarded Best Director at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Here is the translation from Metro France, provided by PEP's Jocelyn Dimaculangan:

Metro France: You know already [all the good things] that people say about Inglorious Bastards. Quentin Tarantino remains one of the biggest cineastes of his generation. A well informed cinephile also, who has spent much time in Cannes theaters these past few days...

Is there a film that you've particularly liked since you arrived?

"I can't really speak about the other films in competition because if I mention two, they will ask me why I didn't mention two more! But if there is one that I would gladly defend, it's Kinatay by Brillante Mendoza because it seems [to be] receiving the worst critics up to now. But me, I found it extraordinary."

Precisely, what is your critique [of the film]?

"For a film that puts you in the witness position, I believed it from the beginning to the end, an impression strengthened by the fact that the story is told in real time. The situation is at the same time horrible and ordinary, almost boring. And it is rather crazy that such a thing could be boring! In some aspects, Kinatay reminded me of Casualties Of War, the film of Brian De Palma. We are witnesses of a murder of this prostitute in Manila, a "disposable" being, if we refer to the world she lives in. And the filmmaker [makes] us aware of her humanity, showing her pain. I also adored the flight in the car, in the dark, exciting because we can make out the forms and the sounds."

Do you still go as often to the movies?

"From age 17 to 22, I was filling up a detailed list of all the films I would see in a year. I was averaging 197 to 202 per year and at that time I was broke! I am doing much less today. In real life, my own movies get in the way and one has to be a journalist to see so much!"

Posted by Geoff at 11:55 PM CDT
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Monday, June 1, 2009
Jessica Harper, who was "introduced" in Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise (1974) before going on to star in Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977), will speak in between screenings of the two films Friday, June 12, at The Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles. The Drive-In parking lot theater offers admission for $30 per car, or you can reserve a seat inside the theater for $8 per person.

Posted by Geoff at 9:57 PM CDT
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