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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Richard "Dicky" Deats, who worked as a key grip on Brian De Palma's Blow Out and The Black Dahlia (both with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond), passed away July 14 at the age of 66, according to Below The Line. Just prior to working on Blow Out in 1981, Deats and Zsigmond built the first portable crane, which Deats called "the Little Big Crane," because it was lightweight and could be disassembled and carried around anywhere. The pair put it to good use on Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate (1980), and Deats later won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement in 1984 for the Little Big Crane's design and manufacture.

Posted by Geoff at 10:08 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 10:09 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

In a blog post announcing his interview with Sissy Spacek in the new issue of Fangoria hitting stands this month, Lee Gambin also quotes from drag queen Jackie Beat about her obsession with Carrie. The photo above shows Beat's office. "If I had to choose one movie that completely changed my life, it would have to be Carrie,” Beat told Gambin. “It was a low-budget horror movie for teens, so when its two stars, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, were each nominated for Oscars, it was almost as shocking as the movie’s often-copied ending!” Beat told Gambin that the film's celebration of the misfit "helped shape me into the person I am today: a writer and performer who, instead of setting people on fire or crushing them with a basketball backboard, kills ’em with my razor-sharp tongue!” The Spacek interview is focused on her role in Carrie.

Posted by Geoff at 9:00 PM CDT
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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Posted by Geoff at 11:29 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Posted by Geoff at 7:23 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, August 7, 2011 7:31 PM CDT
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Thursday, August 4, 2011
Stephen Pitalo, a music video historian, has a terrific blog called The Golden Age Of Music Video. Today, he posted "The Untold Story Of Bruce Springsteen’s Original 'Dancing in the Dark' Music Video." Pitalo spoke with Daniel Pearl, the award-winning cinematographer who shot the abandoned footage, and also with Jeff Stein, the director. Stein takes absolutely no credit for directing this video, however, telling Pitalo, "I love Bruce, and I had nothing to do with it. I usually take the blame, but not for that (laugh).” And when you read Pearl's story, you'll understand why (click the link above to read the original story in all its glory-- I'm just going to kind of summarize it here). Pearl says that it was Stein's idea to have Springsteen dancing in a completely dark space. When Springsteen appeared, Pearl saw that he had been working out and looked very manly, so he lit him very hard, "and just really chiseled him with light," he told Pitalo. Springsteen, nervous about creating a hit after his sparse release Nebraska, suggested a big silk lighting filter that reminded Pearl of the way he had shot Stevie Nicks. According to Pearl, he told Springsteen, "You’re not a pussy, you’re quite the opposite. You’re super manly here. I can’t light you like I would light a woman." Springsteen responded that that was what he wanted, and Stein suggested trying it Pearl's way. After shooting a few takes, Pearl told Pitalo, Springsteen went to the green room and never came back. Pearl blamed himself, and for years and years, avoided working with Springsteen. But that story has a twist ending that I won't reveal here-- read it here.

Posted by Geoff at 8:48 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 4, 2011 8:48 PM CDT
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The above video shows three takes from an early concept for Bruce Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark video, directed by Jeff Stein. As Billboard reported back in 1984, Stein's concept was rejected by Springsteen, who then hired Brian De Palma to work on it. Note that the version prior to De Palma did not feature any scene where the singer picks a girl from the crowd to come up onstage and dance with the star. It seems likely that this was De Palma's idea, as he had wanted to include something along those lines, albeit more elaborate, in the unproduced Fire, a rock-themed film he had written around that time that was based on Jim Morrison. In De Palma's version of the video (see below), Springsteen keeps some of the Stein video's dance moves, which in the Stein version seem kind of like John Mellencamp channeling Olivia Newton-John by way of Loverboy. Really, though, I think Springsteen was attempting to channel some kind of Elvis spirit, and in the De Palma video, Springsteen's look seems to harken back to the fifties and sixties, with just a subtle silky hint of Prince, who was making it big with Purple Rain around the time the video was filmed in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Meanwhile, setting up the big dance scene at the end, De Palma throws in an early shot from the point of view of the girl (Courtney Cox). At one point, he shows Springsteen facing the camera with the crowd of thousands behind him. In keeping with the purpose of the genre of the music video, De Palma keeps the focus on his star, but can't help the subtle nod to the audience, even placing some of them behind the stage to cheer on this oddly cheerful Dionysian figure, maybe not starting fires, but working up a spark, nonetheless.

Posted by Geoff at 12:26 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 12:28 AM CDT
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Monday, August 1, 2011

To hype up its upcoming Blu-Ray release of Brian De Palma's Scarface September 6, Universal will be delivering the film to theaters for one night only, on Wednesday, August 31st at 7:30pm (local time). The film will be preceeded by a 20-minute feature from the Blu-Ray package that includes interviews with filmmakers and other talent discussing the influence of Scarface. Tickets for the special theater event go on sale today, August 1st. To check on where the nearest screening will be, go to Fathom Events and put in your zip code (you may have to like the Scarface page on Facebook first.

Meanwhile, this week is "Mob Week" on AMC, hosted by Rudolph Giuliani. Three De Palma films will be included: The Untouchables (Wednesday, 8pm eastern), Carlito's Way (Wednesday, 10:45pm eastern), and Scarface (Thursday, 8pm eastern). Other films include The Godfather (Monday), The Godfather Part II (Tuesday), Donnie Brasco (Friday), GoodFellas (Saturday), and Pulp Fiction (Sunday).

And that's not all. In anticipation of the upcoming Blu-Ray release of Scarface, Asylum UK's Oliver Jones interviewed Steven Bauer, who said that he is very proud to have been a part of the film. "Yeah," Bauer told Jones, "I mean of course, a film like Scarface, it became like this huge thing, bigger than anyone at the time could ever have really guessed. Was it like a curse for my career? In a way. At first people hated the film. Well, the critics I mean at least. They said this film is horrible, no-one who was involved with this film should feel any sense of pride, or goodness -- there isn't a single redeeming thing about this film. But then we had the fans. There were people coming out of the screenings going crazy. When something is that big, you become that person to them, and I guess it can be hard to become anything else -- which, you know, is what an actor does. Do I wish it had never happened? Not at all. I'm really proud of my role in the film and I'm really proud of the film as a whole, it was such a privilege to be a part of it."

Bauer also talked about working with Al Pacino. "I guess you could say Scarface set the tone for the rest of my career," Bauer told Jones. "In the film, I think when Tony kills Manny, it's like, he's gone past redemption, that's his point of no return. People still come up to me in the street and are like, I can't believe he killed you man. I can't believe it. When I came onto the set Al really took he under his wing -- he showed me that acting can be really instinctive -- you learn the script, you trust it. And you see how it comes out. I think we all knew we were part of something special. Me and Al sat there saying what are people going to think of this -- we were imagining where we'd be a year later." Bauer also briefly talked about how he and Pacino met with Cuban immigrants "about what it was like in Cuba. And they were tough guys. That was the thing that really struck me, how tough these guys were, how bad they had it, how few opportunities they'd had. That was so far from my experience, it really stood out to me. I grew up in America and I felt like I could do anything, I had lot of opportunities. That certainly had an effect on my character."

Posted by Geoff at 12:51 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 1, 2011 11:47 PM CDT
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Friday, July 29, 2011
AUGUST SERIES TITLED 'DeMented. DeRanged. DeCeptive. DePalma.'
Disclaimer: the upcoming Denver FilmCenter/Colfax August series of Brian De Palma films does not include 1992's Raising Cain. The series does, however, take its name from the poster for that De Palma film: "DeMented. DeRanged. DeCeptive. DePalma." The series will take place every Tuesday in August, beginning this upcoming Tuesday, August 2nd, with Obsession. The other four films are: Carrie (August 9), Dressed To Kill (August 16), Blow Out (August 23), and Body Double (August 30). Head Programmer Keith Garcia tells A.V. Club's Brad McHargue, "I would say that love him or hate him, Brian De Palma’s style and ability to create a twisted vision is second to none. Though often critiqued as borrowing from Hitchcock a bit too much, it becomes apparent after sorting through his many films, which we invite you all to experience—the way they were meant to be seen—on 35mm film, that he isn’t borrowing from the master at all, but [rather] responding to his work and adding all of the sexuality and sin that ol’ Hitch was never allowed to explore."

Posted by Geoff at 6:52 PM CDT
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Monday, July 18, 2011
In August of 2010, I posted about an Italian remake of Scarface that Massimo Emilio Gobbi claimed to already be directing. At the time, Gobbi had yet to cast his female leads, but he had the controversial figure Fabrizio Corona cast in the title role of what he referred to at the time as Scarface 2010. However, by the end of September, Corona had been kicked off the movie, according to Tuttogratis' Valentina Gerig. Gobbi told Gerig that the actor simply took everything too lightly, "as if the set was a joke." Gobbi said that Corona took a full month's vacation, and then wanted to go off to South Africa. "At this rate," Gobbi told Gerig, "in 2013 I finish my film!"

Catania Oggi posted an article today stating that the film, now titled Scarface Evolution, will be shot mostly in Sicily, where Gobbi has just spent the past weekend with his casting crew looking over four hundred people of all ages, male and female, to cast in the film. The article makes mention of one role in particular, that of the protagonist's sister. Gobbi, according to Catania Oggi, said that the sister role requires "a young Mediterranean actress, preferably Sicilian, with a great personality, strong-willed." The older Tuttogratis article mentioned Tony Sperandeo and Vincent Cassel as possible replacements for Corona. In Scarface Evolution, drug trafficking will be replaced by the handling of embryonic cells.

Posted by Geoff at 11:09 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 6:31 PM CDT
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Saturday, July 16, 2011
Yesterday, AMC-TV Blog's Robert Silva posted a nicely-written list called "Flashback Five - Brian De Palma's Best Movies." Calling De Palma "the most unappreciated of the so-called Movie Brats," Silva goes on to add, "Gifted with an impeccable visual style, his pulp stories are always more complex than they appear at first." AMC notoriously screens De Palma's Scarface repeatedly throughout the year, so it is no surprise to see that film listed at number one. But look at what Silva picks for number 2-- The Fury. "Contrary to common belief," Silva writes, "The Fury isn't all about exploding heads but rather a visceral exploration of young people on the cusp of adulthood who find themselves victimized by adults. The flick is a stylistic tour de force, with the director's signature plot puzzles and self-referential violence. And then there's the top-notch cast: you wouldn't expect to find Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes in a thriller about psychic warfare, but here they are."

Time and time again it seems like The Fury is said to be too complicated, or too bogged down in the action plot of Douglas' character, or Robin isn't in the film enough, etc., etc. They have been showing this film on cable quite a bit lately, and every time it comes on, I get engulfed in its sumptuous images and intricate plot. De Palma pulled off a lot of terrific, interesting visual tricks with this film, almost like a kid in a candy store. And the performances are excellent. I recently read someonoe complain that the staircase shot, where Amy Irving appears to be standing in front of a giant movie screen showing an incident that happened with Robin in that same staircase, was somehow a shoddy effect. On the contrary, I feel the effect is very powerful, with the camera moving around Irving, watching the action unfold. It is a key part of The Fury's motif of "letting the screen fill your mind." So it is nice to see someone do a list such as this, and to put The Fury up so high.

Filling out Silva's top five are Blow Out ("a heady mix of Blow-Up, The Conversation, and The Parallax View"), Carrie (the prom sequence is "a masterpiece of apocalyptic glitz"), and The Untouchables, another AMC mainstay. Silva then adds a list of "Honorable Mentions," essentially giving us his top ten De Palma films, which includes one film that I never expected to read about on an AMC blog: Redacted. "With this Iraq-war movie," Silva writes of his number three honorable mention, "De Palma trades his sumptuous visuals for lo-fi digital camerawork that proves just as dazzling. Still, there's no shortage of the director's usual violence in this YouTube video from hell." Filling out the honorable mentions are Body Double (#1), Carlito's Way (#2), Dressed To Kill (#4), and Mission: Impossible (#5). Of the latter, Silva writes, "Some complain about a labyrinthine plot, but this is still one of the most stylish event movies of the nineties, with a knockout sense of visual storytelling."

Posted by Geoff at 6:59 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, July 16, 2011 7:01 PM CDT
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