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Friday, July 23, 2010
SCOTT PILGRIM AWES AT COMIC-CON
CRITIC: DE PALMA MAY BE INSPIRED WHEN HE SEES IT


Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was premiered at Comic-Con last night, and there seems to be a unanimous awe from those who attended. "There's not one moment in the entire movie that isn't shot or edited from a 'never quite seen that before' perspective," states UGO's Jordan Hoffman in his review of the film. "Scenes smash together with split-screens, sound effects and thoughts are graphologized, lighting, even sets, change to express emotion - seriously, when Brian De Palma sees this movie he's either going to get very inspired or slit his wrists." The Huffington Post's Bryan Young writes that "the crowd was so into the film by the end that I wondered if they were going to explode into candy."

However, Kirk Honeycuty at the Hollywood Reporter, who calls the film's style "juvenile," wonders whether anybody outside the Comic-Con and youth crowd will care. "The movie does everything its makers can dream up to imitate a manga," writes Honeycutt. "Screens split in half and then in half again. Action speeds up or slows down. Comic-book word sounds — “whoosh,” “r-i-i-i-i-n-g,” “thud” and the like — pepper the screen. Backstories about exes are told in rudimentary sketches. The movie frame becomes a graffiti zone where the filmmakers can insert all sorts of written commentary including the fact that a character has to pee. How edifying is that?" Variety's Peter DeBruge echoes Honeycutt's view. "An example of attention-deficit filmmaking at both its finest and its most frustrating," writes DeBruge, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World blends the styles of videogames, sitcoms and comicbooks for a mostly hollow, high-energy riff on the insecurities of young love. With Michael Cera in the title role, twentysomethings and under will swiftly embrace this original romancer, which treats the subject as if there were nothing more important in all the universe, though anyone over 25 is likely to find director Edgar Wright's adaptation of the cult graphic novel exhausting, like playing chaperone at a party full of oversexed college kids." Despite this, DeBruge concedes that the film is "a feat of economical storytelling, rendered in the vernacular of small talk and text messages." And on the subject of the film's many many characters, DeBruge writes, "The fact that we can keep all these characters straight while intuitively following the movie's unique vidgame logic is a testament to Wright's never-dull directorial skills."

Techland's Lev Grossman, acknowledging the hype that goes with being "pampered" at a surprise screening, calls the film "beautiful," saying that the film's real star is the director. "Practically every frame has a visual or auditory gag in it," writes Grossman, "goofing on eight-bit games and rock cliches and action movies. (The characters are always trying to do snappy banters in fight scenes, then getting confused and having to explain the joke.) Nothing ever comes at you straight. Some of this stuff is lifted from the book, but some are Wright's own riffs -- at one point, when Scott and Wallace are hanging out in their apartment, Wright starts dropping in Seinfeld music and a laugh track behind the actors, and the scene turns into a dead-on parody of a sitcom. For maybe 20 seconds. How Wright keeps this stuff coming for an entire movie is beyond me."

Cinematical's Todd Gilchrist sees the film as a cultural benchmark that will divide critics, although he himself is quite taken with it. "As far as deadpan hipster comedies are concerned," writes Gilchrist, "Scott Pilgrim is the Godfather of the genre – a massive, sprawling epic that builds and builds while offering just enough ironic asides to make fully sure that no one involved is taking themselves too seriously." Gilchrist adds that, "Cinematically, director Edgar Wright continues to grow by leaps and bounds with each film, and here his mastery of technique pioneered by others finally and firmly becomes its own style." However, Gilchrist feels that Wright's rapid pacing may rub some the wrong way. "Wright's breakneck editing and pacing makes Michael Bay look positively pastoral by comparison, and it's probably here where Scott Pilgrim may suffer from many of its most passionate criticisms. I was certainly never lost in the filmmaking flourishes, even when Wright would cut breezily through several locations over the course of a single conversation, or chop up the action into bits so fine they looked almost like the ones and zeroes that provided the animators with their raw materials. But this is resolutely a film for a generation of moviegoers that is acclimated to music video-era storytelling, one less interested in formalism (much less classicism) than the sum total of a scene's emotional weight or energy, and it may turn off folks who want something that's subtler, more reflective, or even just a little slower."


Posted by Geoff at 1:03 PM CDT
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Thursday, July 22, 2010
NANCY ALLEN TALKS AT NIFFF
DISCUSSES BLOW OUT, DRESSED TO KILL, ETC.
SciFi Universe's Romain B. and Richard B. got a chance to sit down with Nancy Allen at this year's Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival in Switzerland, where Allen was a member of the international jury. They've posted a video of the interview, and also a text transcript. Allen balked when the interviewers suggested that she plays essentially the same character in two films she made back-to-back with her then-husband Brian De Palma, Dressed To Kill and Blow Out:

I understand why you see it as the same role, in my case I see them as different characters. Because in Dressed To Kill she is a call girl, and she's taking money for having sex with people. The character in Blow Out, she thinks that she is being more of a detective, and then she's getting information so that people can get their divorce. So in her mind, it's a different thing. But I understand the same thing. I tried to make it clear that that wasn't the same, because I don't want to repeat the same. The character in Dressed To Kill is very smart. You know, she knows what she’s doing. And she’s, oh, very materialistic. And the other girl is more simple-minded, I think. She’s very, kind of naïve. And, you know, she wants to do make-up, and she thinks she’s going to be doing movies. You know, she’s just in her own world. So I tried to contrast it a little bit, find the differences. But it was difficult because, you know, the way the part’s written, so I had to find the performance.

Allen further talked about how she became involved in Blow Out, which she says was originally written for older actors:

I was not going to make that movie, Blow Out. I was never supposed to make that movie. In fact, in the original script, the characters were written very differently. They were really written for two older people who were kind of broken down, and, you know, cynical, and just older, and really had been through a lot. And there was a list of actors, more like, um, James Woods, or more of like an intellectual kind of actor. And John [Travolta] just happened to call. I was in Paris, and I was there doing press for Dressed To Kill. And Brian says, “Oh, John Travolta called, and he wanted to read my new script.” And I said, “Well, what are you going to do if he likes it?” [Laughing] Because it was not written for… And he said, “Oh, no, no, it’s not for him. He won’t like it.” So sure enough, he liked it, and I said, “Well, now what are you going to do? Are you going to tell him no?” And he said, “Well, no, I can’t do that. It changes the whole movie.” And I said, “Well, you know, he’s totally wrong for this character. I don’t know what you’re doing.” So I was arguing with him. And he says, “Oh, you think so? Well, he wants to do it with you! Now what do you think?” And I said, “Well, I say yes! Of course I’m going to do it.” So then because it was so different with the two of us, we started to do improvisation to try and now find these new characters. So we worked all these improvisations, and then Brian rewrote the script so it was fitting more to John and I.

As the interview continues, Allen explains how the whole idea of her character wanting to do make-up was something that just popped into her head while doing the improvisations with Travolta. She also confirms to the interviewers that it really is her scream at the end of Blow Out.

(Thanks to Screenfreekz!)


Posted by Geoff at 11:43 PM CDT
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010
OLIVER STONE ON SON OF SCARFACE
OFF-THE-CUFF REMARK FUELS SPECULATION
While in London to promote his new Hugo Chavez documentary South of the Border, Oliver Stone talked with Total Film and planted the suggestion of a sequel to Scarface, which Brian De Palma directed from Stone's screenplay. "It’s been great to go back with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," Stone told the magazine. He then added, "I should go back and do Son of Scarface or something!" While Stone's comment appears to be off-the-cuff, it could also indicate that he is indeed seriously considering the idea. He could even be throwing the idea out there to see how people react, and to see whether anybody would be interested in financing it. A son of Tony Montana could belong to Elvira, even though her womb is "so polluted," Montana did not believe he could have a kid with her. But a son could also be the offspring of Montana's sister, Gina, and her husband Manny, also Tony's best friend... who Tony, of course, murdered in a blind rage.

Posted by Geoff at 2:48 PM CDT
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PHANTOM IN SAN FRANCISCO THIS SATURDAY
LIVE BAND WILL PLAY SONGS FROM FILM PRIOR TO SCREENING
Landmark's Bridge Theatre in San Francisco is in the midst of a midnight movie series called "Rocksploitation," where rock-n'-roll themed movies are preceeded by the band Citizen Midnight, "cinema’s most obnoxiously amazing rock ‘n’ roll band," according to the website. This Saturday, Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise will play. The price is $10 for the whole show.
(Thanks to Chris!)

Posted by Geoff at 12:33 PM CDT
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010
EDGAR WRIGHT ON SCOTT PILGRIM:
"KUNG FU HUSTLE MEETS PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE"
In a great interview with Film Journal International's Ethan Alter, Edgar Wright states that his upcoming adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which is actually the title of just one of the books in the series), is "a film that isn’t quite like anything else." The way Wright actually wanted to describe it to Hollywood studios would have thrown them off, he says. "In Hollywood," he told Alter, "they always encourage you to say a film is like X-meets-Y, so I always came up with some kind of bullshit for those meetings. Things like 'It's Cameron Crowe meets Five Deadly Venoms' or 'It's Ferris Bueller meets Kill Bill.' Actually, I always wanted to say that it's like Kung Fu Hustle meets Phantom of the Paradise, but if I had, people would have been like, 'Wait, what?'"

According to Alter, Wright mentioned some specific films that are referenced in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, Bob Rafelson's Monkees movie Head (screenplay by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson), and Russ Meyer's Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (written by Meyer and Roger Ebert). However, Wright insisted to Alter that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World "is its own beast." Wright also mentioned that with this film, he tried to bring a more bubblegum approach back to comic book movies, which he feels have lost a middle ground between the realistic style of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, and the "stylized but hardboiled" vibe of Sin City.

Wright also enthuses to Alter about his friendships with Quentin Tarantino and Joe Dante. "Meeting these guys is one of the most amazing things that's happened to me in my life," he told Alter. "You could pretty much learn everything about film history by talking with Quentin and Joe for a couple of hours. Between the two of them, you've got two walking cinema encyclopedias, Joe for the ’50s and ’60s and Quentin for the ’70s and ’80s. I always say that the two of them should go on a college tour together—maybe with Martin Scorsese as well."


Posted by Geoff at 12:56 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 12:57 PM CDT
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Friday, July 16, 2010
PARACINEMA SUGGESTS... PHANTOM GAGA?
BLOG OFFERS CASTING SUGGESTIONS FOR POTENTIAL PHANTOM REMAKE
Paracinema's Dylan has posted some cast suggestions for a potential update of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise (after seeing a remake listed as a future project at the IMDB). Although Dylan admits to having trouble thinking of someone for the role of Swan, the blogger has a radical suggestion for the lead role of Winslow: Lady Gaga. "It's 2010," writes Dylan. "Why couldn't a female be cast as Winslow Leach? Sure you'd have to change the character's name but that's small potatoes. Casting a woman in the role would be an interesting touch to an already great character and the (Gaga) Phantom's obsession with Phoenix could lend another layer to the story." Dylan adds that Gaga "could also help make the music in the film more contemporary and attract a huge audience to the film. And just think of the wardrobe possibilities!"

For the role of Beef, Dylan suggests the terrific Michael Shannon, while Karen O would be his choice for Phoenix (I think I'd go with an unknown for the latter). Another inspired suggestion from Dylan would be having the Jonas Brothers play the house band that shapes itself into whatever commercial whim deemed most saleable by Swan. Sounds like a fairly expensive cast all in all, but with Gaga leading the way, that fantasy cast would carry the potential to be financed. And with all that in mind, might as well get will. i. am for the role of Swan.

Posted by Geoff at 2:54 AM CDT
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Monday, July 12, 2010
BODY DOUBLE GETS REMIXED ON YOUTUBE


Courtesy CineCraze's Nathan Martin, here are a couple of intriguing remixes of Brian De Palma's Body Double. The above clip, "Ritual Of Body Courtship," is more of a visual remix created and posted on YouTube by Fabulon, who seems to love that whole mirror-image video gimmick (used to memorable effect in the video for Prince's When Doves Cry) where the screen is halved and duplicated, so that the image sometimes seems to be eating itself. It seems quite appropriate for a film titled Body Double. And then below is something that is really an audio piece posted to YouTube with image stills from the film's posters and soundtracks. This remix of Pino Donaggio's main theme from the film was done by Carambo & The Crew, and opens with a playful teasing of the dialogue from the porn channel Jake watches in the middle of Body Double. Mostly, I like this remix, although two things about the vocal bother me. I think it would have been better with a female vocal, as Donaggio used (Carambo's myspace page states that he would like to find a female vocalist to work with, so maybe he agrees somewhat). Also, his vocal phrasings seem a bit off. Other than that, a very enjoyable track-- check it out below.


Posted by Geoff at 10:39 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 11, 2010
NEW DE PALMA SITE, "THE DE PALMA TOUCH"
TRIBUTE DESIGNED TO MARK DE PALMA'S UPCOMING 70TH BIRTHDAY


Longtime De Palma a la Mod reader and contributor Rado has started up the tribute site, The De Palma Touch, timed to celebrate "the 70th anniversary of a great director." Rado has opened the site with five visual essays focusing on the usages of hands in specific De Palma films. The site's "Give us a hand" link offers a way for readers to send "a cool story about De Palma's achievements," which will then be published. Always great to see a new De Palma site popping up and furthering the discussion-- thanks, Rado!

Posted by Geoff at 2:35 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 11, 2010 4:23 PM CDT
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Friday, July 9, 2010
DESPICABLE RIFFS ON THE IMPOSSIBLE
ACCORDING TO CRITICS
The new animated film Despicable Me, which opens in theaters today, apparently includes a nod to Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. According to Filmcritic.com's Sean O'Connell, "There's a memorable riff on Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible that involves a dangling shrink ray and a killer shark." (Of course, the dangling scene in M:I itself is a riff on Jules Dassin's Topkapi, which itself riffed on Dassin's own Rififi). The Toronto Star's Jason Anderson writes in his review that Despicable Me includes "swift spoofs of Mission: Impossible and The Godfather."

Posted by Geoff at 12:19 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 9, 2010 12:20 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 4, 2010
ESSAYS ON BLOW OUT
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY

"Mr. Peel" attended last month's Brian De Palma double feature of Blow Out and Femme Fatale at the New Beverly, and incidentally reports that Eli Roth was in attendance. During the Q&A that followed Blow Out, Roth asked editor Paul Hirsch a question about De Palma's continued use of split screen techniques (Hirsch replied that he himself never liked the technique, "thinking it was too intellectual as opposed to emotional"). (We still love Eli Roth for defending De Palma's Redacted to FOX News in 2007, even though he had apparently not seen the film yet.) Anyway, Mr Peel starts out wondering whether people who "dismiss Blow Out as nothing more than an imitation of other films" have even bothered to see it. "For all that people talk about what he’s lifting from other films," writes Mr. Peel, "De Palma’s work often does feel dosed with a strong touch of the personal, whatever that may be and this seems to be the case with Blow Out much more than usual." Mr. Peel continues:

What begins as a joke in this film—CO-ED FRENZY feels like him making his own joke of a De Palma movie as if he was giving everyone the coarsest version of all the sleaze they expected after DRESSED TO KILL—gradually transforms into something else as the director’s visual mastery takes hold. In its purely visual way of giving us information the storytelling is absolutely crystal clear in how it allows us to understand things that only a sound expert like Jack Terry can figure out, best exemplified in that simply awesome Scope shot where he pieces together in his head exactly what happened at the moment of the titular blow out. All hail Vilmos Zsigmond, while we’re at it. The economy of storytelling continues right up until the final minutes which always winds up lasting shorter than I expect it to, with just a handful of setups giving us a great amount of information but there’s no need to give us more than that. There’s hardly a wasted frame in the film.

And that joke we got in those several extended takes right at the start (slightly similar to something Tobe Hooper did in THE FUNHOUSE around the same time) gradually dissolves away, a small running gag in the film that seems to be forgotten about as the world closes in on the two leads. What becomes clear on those multiple viewings is that as much as we wish Jack would do a few things differently, there’s the overwhelming feeling that nothing can be done about any of this, the shadowy ‘they’ who are actually just as paranoid about everyone else yet still powerful enough to pull the strings. Frankly, it actually becomes kind of depressing for me to go over certain parts of the film again because of this. Coming from what was at that time over seventeen years of conspiracy talk surrounding the Kennedy assassination (using iconography from both that event and Chappaquiddick) against the bogus Americana of the Liberty Bell Jubilee he muddies the water to have it both ways—a lone nut hired by the conspiracy who engineers his very own plot against the wishes of those allegedly pulling the strings.

In his final paragraph, Mr. Peel muses on the relationships between politics and art in De Palma's cinema between the cynical Blow Out in 1981, and the more "upbeat" Femme Fatale twenty years later:

Several months ago when I wrote about seeing DRESSED TO KILL at the New Beverly I mentioned how based on the screams heard right before the ending the film was still able to get that reaction. The audible response of the crowd registering just what had been done by the film’s lead character at the very end of BLOW OUT, making it clear how many people there were seeing this for the first time, was considerably different and much more complicated, just like the movie. Looking at it now I thought of De Palma as this sixties hippie, getting burnt out, observing what had been going on in all those years since Dallas. I wondered it he was maybe using this ending as a statement to finally throw in the towel on all he once cared about, essentially saying, “we tried to make things better, none of it worked, you went and elected Reagan…just go fuck yourselves.” When something like November 7, 2000 comes to mind for me I think I understand and maybe BLOW OUT is about one final attempt by a person with regrets to engage with the real world, to truly do something to change it for the better, only to find out that such a dream is futile and you can never wipe what happened in the past from your brain. As it turned out FEMME FATALE, screened second that night at the New Beverly, was the ideal chaser to come after this, in a sense transforming all these regrets into a giddy vindication—both films, after all, conclude with the one of the leads finally putting the finishing touch on what he’s creating, something he’s been searching for the entire film. The revelation at the end of the second film is of course much more ludicrous, not to mention considerably more upbeat, but it also offers the feeling that maybe it is possible for a person to find some sort of peace within a work of art that they’re attempting to create. Maybe that was a conclusion that Brian De Palma himself, who after all is an artist, was able to come to in the intervening years, long after he made this bitterly cynical film in 1981. I was in a wonderful mood after this double bill, practically dancing out of the theater, although in the days since those final seconds of BLOW OUT have stayed with me, as I suppose I knew they would. I guess that’s the whole point.

SALLY IS BLOGGER'S "FAVORITE MOVIE PROSTITUTE"
Meanwhile, this weekend Flick Sided's Scott Tunstall, inspired by the recent release Love Ranch (and the fact that he has no way to see that film at the present time), offers up Nancy Allen's Sally from Blow Out as his "favorite movie prostitute." Tunstall writes:

The world’s oldest profession has been a staple on the big screen for generations. Call girls, streetwalkers, call ‘em what you will. Everyone has a favorite type. Sometimes I prefer them to be elegant, like Inara from Serenity, who dresses as a queen and possesses the beauty of a goddess. Other times I get an itch for cheap and trashy, like Punchy from Street Smart, who dresses as a lot lizard and possesses the beauty of a toll booth operator. Like snowflakes, each is unique in their own way.

However, my ideal lady of the night is a combination of the two. She’s got a little bit of class, but not too much. Her wardrobe is slutty, but not disgustingly so. And her beauty is natural, more like the girl next door, not the swimsuit model up the street. In cinema, that representation would be Sally from Brian De Palma’s vastly underrated thriller Blow Out.

Sally is played by one of my first boyhood crushes, Nancy Allen. Her healthy mound of curly strawberry blonde hair frames the face of a cherub. Her voice is slightly squeaky and she speaks with an annoying Philadelphia accent. (Being a Philly guy, that’s an incredible turn on.) Sally is so darn cute she catches the eye of a psychotic serial killer dubbed “The Liberty Bell Strangler,” creepily portrayed by John Lithgow.

In the following scene, John Travolta’s sound technician has bugged Sally and is tailing her to a meeting with the Strangler, who is pretending to be a reporter.

Unfortunately for Sally, she meets a tragic end, as do many big screen hussies. Why must we be so cruel to these hardworking ladies of questionable morals? Have we no compassion? Have we no shame? *wipes single tear from cheek and sighs*


Posted by Geoff at 12:57 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, July 4, 2010 12:59 PM CDT
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