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A note about topics: Some blog posts have more than one topic, in which case only one main topic can be chosen to represent that post. This means that some topics may have been discussed in posts labeled otherwise. For instance, a post that discusses both The Boston Stranglers and The Demolished Man may only be labeled one or the other. Please keep this in mind as you navigate this list.
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Monday, August 17, 2009
Tim Smith at The Baltimore Sun ran a story yesterday about a group of recent college grads who are gearing up to stage Gründlehämmer, a rock opera with laughs, gore, and 15 songs. Co-writers John DeCampos (who also contributed to the music) and Aran Keating (who is also directing) originally proposed making a stage version of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. After Gründlehämmer finishes its single-weekend run from October 2-4 (at Baltimore's 2640 Space), DeCampos would still like to pursue the Phantom Of The Paradise idea. More information is available at the Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS). Curiously, there are two "songs" available for preview on the site, but when either of them is played, the files consist of a seemingly identical six seconds of drumming-- could be a little prank, as the society members seem a tad irreverent.

Posted by Geoff at 12:22 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 16, 2009
A digital version of Brian De Palma's Scarface was released in U.K. cinemas this weekend. A couple of U.K. critics had some interesting takes on the rerelease, with one suggesting that Scarface is the "definitive" film of the '80s, while the other finds tongue-in-cheek relevence to the current political atmosphere.

The Guardian's John Patterson

It's not the best film of the decade (that might be Raging Bull) or the most influential (except among gangsta rappers), or the most elegantly crafted (good god, no), but somehow Scarface manages, both intentionally and utterly accidentally, to capture the 1980s' atmosphere of unflagging greed, moral emptiness and materialistic crassness to a tee. It's as irreducibly 80s as Reagan's black plastic hairdo, Madonna's bustier and the Jane Fonda Workout.

Scarface is a movie with all its dials twisted up to 11. No one does lines of cocaine (a loathsome drug for a loathsome era), they do piles of cocaine; chainsaws are brandished, not switchblades; the vague, censor-baiting hints at Borgia-syle incest in the original morph here into Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio screaming at her brother, "Ya wanna fuck me, huh, Tony? Huh?"

But Tony is a fully-fledged 1980s-style unzipped capitalist go-getter, worthy of admiration given the Friedman-fundamentalist economic fumes wafting through the zeitgeist back then; he's a Horatio Alger hero with a hole through his septum, he's Arkan in the making.

The List's Paul Dale

All of which makes this brilliant, cold-blooded masterpiece rather a strange proposition at a time when President Obama is opening up relations with the seemingly progressive sibling Raúl Castro. Myth has it that during his time as 46th Vice President of the United States in the Bush era, Dick Cheney liked to spend his downtime staring at a corporately revised map of Cuba which showed which US conglomerate would go where come the day that the US colonise the Caribbean island again. Could it be that Universal has been promised a spec there? A little place in the sun to wait out another Depression? Where multimillion-dollar mergers can be brokered by Skype and movies can be made for a tenth of the price? Could the re-release of Scarface be the beginning of their chainsaw wielding march on Cuba? Either way it’s great to see you again Tony.

Posted by Geoff at 12:22 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 16, 2009 12:24 AM CDT
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Thursday, August 13, 2009
John Kenneth Muir continued his weekly look at the films of Brian De Palma last week with an essay about Raising Cain, which he calls "a satire, exposing the schizophrenic, contradictory messages sometimes sent by our culture to men of the day." Muir writes that the multiple personalities inside Carter (all played by John Lithgow) reflect the era's crisis in masculinity, leading to the inevitable transformation from a man into a woman:

Carter's many alternate personalities also expose further the crisis in masculinity. Cain is seen as inherently disreputable. He's a smoker for one thing (another big no-no in the Age of Political Correctness), and he's also, well, psychotic. Yet, Cain is the "man of action." Carter outsources his dirty work to Cain, because as a "sensitive" modern male he is deemed incapable of protecting himself or his family. When Carter gets into trouble attempting to subdue Karen, a local mother, Cain suggests that Carter kiss her to allay the suspicions of passers-by. This is something that would never occur to the diffident Carter on his own; but a solution which jumps out immediately to Cain. Cain is Id, through and through. The voice we all hear, but rarely act upon.

Yet another of Carter's personalities, Josh, has regressed to boyhood. He's a terrified child, one constantly fearing the wrath of his father. Again -- not entirely unlike Carter -- Josh is an image of masculinity reverted to a "harmless" or impotent stage, pre-adolescent, and therefore pre-sexual.

Finally, the guardian of the children is the personality named Margo. Importantly, Margo is female. Margo rescues Amy, destroys the Elder Dr. Nix, and restores order. It is a woman, therefore, who finally usurps the role of "hero"/"conqueror" in modern America. Carter can only become a hero when he is...female. The film's valedictory shot is of a looming, powerful Margo, standing heroically behind his family (Jenny and Amy). Carter could only be himself (a caring individual and care-giver) when in the personality and guise of a woman...and the last shot explains this visually. Margo is not menacing; not evil. She is triumphant.

Muir also describes the way De Palma uses space, movement, and the unbroken take to represent Carter's multiple personalities:

When all this back-and-forth must at last be explained to the just-barely-keeping up audience, De Palma proceeds in snake-like, coiled fashion. He brilliantly stages an elaborate, lengthy tracking shot (approximately five minutes in duration) that follows two police detectives and Dr. Waldheim from the top floor of a police station down two stair-cases, through an elevator, down into the morgue,...where the shot ends on a close-up of a corpse's horrified expression of horror.

All throughout this masterful, unbroken shot, Waldheim explains the history of the Nix family and the theories underlying multiple personality disorders. She basically describes the events of the movie (Cain vs. Carter) in a fashion that makes sense out of perspective we've witnessed thus far. It's a journey from the top of Carter's mind, literally, to the bottom...to Cain's mind, where we spy his murderous handiwork (the corpse).

De Palma understands that form must echo content, and so the form of his film -- multiple perspectives coming together -- reflects the flotsam and jetsam Carter's splintered mind. The virtuoso unbroken shot is Waldheim's tour of that mind, a narrative maze of twists and turns, of science and ultimately death. But importantly, this tour is an unbroken one (like Waldheim's dissertation), making linear sense of the tale for the viewer.

Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, August 14, 2009 1:13 AM CDT
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Miami Herald movie critic Rene Rodriguez interviewed Quentin Tarantino this past weekend for a piece that will run this Sunday. Rodriguez offers a preview in his blog, in which he asks Tarantino about his use of David Bowie's theme from Paul Schrader's Cat People remake, mentioning to the director that the scene in which the song is used reminded him of Brian De Palma:

Q: You once said that when you use a pop song in a movie, you want to use it in a way that will always remind people of your film whenever they hear it, so no other filmmaker can ever use it. In this movie, though, you use David Bowie's Cat People (Putting Out Fire), which was written for the 1982 Cat People remake.

A: I've always loved that song and I was always disappointed by how Paul Schrader used it in the movie. He didn't really use it; he threw it in over the closing credits. I remember working at the Video Archives at the time and thinking "If I had a song like that for my movie, I'd build a 20-minute scene around it!" So I guess I did.

Q: There's a really cool sense of dislocation when that song comes on, which still sounds so modern, yet we're in World War II France. It's one of my favorite sequences in the film. It reminded me of Brian De Palma, back when he was still good.

A: When I got the idea to use it, one of the things I liked is that the song was once removed and you already knew it from something else, as opposed to something that was written for the movie. You're listening to the lyrics of the song and you're watching Shoshanna [a character in the film played by Melanie Laurent] doing all this stuff, and you sit there thinking "Wow, this song was written for Cat People, but it's totally appropriate for Shoshanna's story!" It plays like an interior monologue for her.

A comment on the blog post from mrbluelouboyle reminds readers that Tarantino had courted the idea of casting Cat People's Natasha Kinski in Inglourious Basterds, which makes the choice of song seem less random than Rodriguez had originally considered.

Meanwhile, Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells does not hold back in describing his contempt for Inglourious Basterds, stating, "I realize it's a Quentin movie that's basically about Quentin's bullshit, but -- I'm trying not to sound like a rabbi here -- Inglourious Basterds reeks of arrogance and sadism and indifference to the value of human life." Wells believes Tarantino has buried himself too deep inside own creative genius hype. Wells writes:

Inglourious Basterds is proof that QT has gone batshit crazy in the sense that he cares about nothing except his own backyard toys. He's gone creatively nuts in the same way that James Joyce, in the view of some critics, crawled too far into his own anus and headspace when he wrote Finnegan's Wake. All I know is that this is a truly empty and diseased film about absolutely nothing except the tip of that digit.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 1:49 AM CDT
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Monday, August 10, 2009
Roger Ebert's Answer Man column this week fields a letter from Kevin Fellman, asking for Ebert's opinion of "film directors such as Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma and John Landis, who refuse to provide audio commentaries on their DVDs, instead opting for their films to 'speak for themselves.'" Fellman continues, "Would someone such as yourself, who has, indeed, provided commentaries on various films, tend to agree that these directors are cheating fans and scholars by withholding their own personal insights?" Ebert's answer is: "It’s their film and they can do what they like. I once tried to enlist Orson Welles in talking through Citizen Kane, and his response was, 'I’m tired of talking about that film.'"

Posted by Geoff at 11:54 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 12:06 AM CDT
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

What a lovely idea-- over at Make, Sean Michael Ragan shows you step-by-step how to make your very own Tony Montana snow globe. "What's that you say?" asks Ragan in his introduction. "You don't need an 8-inch diameter snow globe? Especially not one featuring a vignette of Al Pacino as Tony Montana in the climactic battle scene from Brian De Palma's Scarface? I say you're wrong: You need one of these. You need one so badly you don't even know it yet."

Posted by Geoff at 11:42 PM CDT
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Friday, August 7, 2009
According to Variety's Michael Fleming yesterday, two screenwriters have been hired by Paramount to write the screenplay for Mission: Impossible 4, which will definitely feature Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt as a character. The two screenwriters, Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec, have worked with J.J. Abrams as co-executive producers on Abrams' TV show AliasMission: Impossible 4 will be co-produced by Cruise and Abrams. The screenplay will be based on a story that Abrams, Applebaum, and Nemec all came up with together. No director has yet been mentioned or hired, as it looks like Abrams will act as a producer (and story writer) for this project. Abrams told Fleming, "I've been looking forward to working with Josh and Andre again for years. Their sense of balance between character and action is wonderful, which I know is hugely important to Tom as well. We're off to an exciting start, so, as usual, fingers crossed." Paramount is planning to release the film in 2011.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 8, 2009 12:31 AM CDT
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Last week, Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule posted an interview he did back in June with Salon film critic Stephanie Zacharek. Near the end of the interview, Cozzalio asks Zacharek "what would be in your movie hall of fame?" Zacharek lists The Lady Eve, the Apu Trilogy, The Rules of the Game, the Godfather movies (just parts I and II: "When I say the Godfather movies," Zacharek says, "Part III does not exist"), and The Wild Bunch. Then she says, "Let me see. Also something by Brian De Palma, probably Casualties of War." In the interview, Cozzalio and Zacharek discuss what it's like for her to be married to another film critic (Charles Taylor), Pauline Kael, movies she's stood up for, and interactions with readers. A very interesting read-- check it out. Also check out Cozzalio's terrific conversation with Joe Dante.

Posted by Geoff at 11:39 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 6, 2009 11:40 PM CDT
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Turner Classic Movies will air a new series of one-hour specials this fall produced by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Television. The series is called A Night At The Movies, and the first special, The Suspenseful World Of Thrillers, was written, produced, and directed by Laurent Bouzereau, author of The De Palma Cut. The special will air on Friday, October 2 2009, at 8pm eastern time. Bouzereau has produced and directed numerous behind-the-scenes features over the years for laserdisc and DVD releases of films by Brian De Palma and Spielberg, among others. His TCM special on thrillers will feature new interviews with frequent De Palma editor Paul Hirsch, as well as David Koepp, who wrote the screenplays for De Palma's Carlito's Way, Mission: Impossible, and Snake Eyes. Other interviews for the program include Kenneth Branagh, Scott Frank, Bryan Singer, Martin Landau, Mel Brooks, and Diablo Cody. A TCM press release states that the special "will explore such topics as the origin of thrillers and development of stylistic conventions; the use of a wrongly accused everyman as a protagonist; the range of female roles, from damsel in distress to femme fatale; the creation of classic villains and the actors who relished playing them; the impact of World War II on the genre; the emergence of more violent thrillers in the 1960s; the rise of the paranoid thriller in the 1970s; and how the genre continues in popularity by latching onto the current zeitgeist." Also see the press release for a list of the films the channel will feature every Friday in October under the following headings: "Thrillers and Hitchcock," "Political Thrillers," "Crime Thrillers," "Gothic Thrillers," and "Psychological Thrillers."

Posted by Geoff at 1:32 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Posted by Geoff at 9:45 PM CDT
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