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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 10, 2009
EBERT ON DIRECTOR COMMENTARIES
(OR DIRECTORS, LIKE DE PALMA, WHO DON'T DO THEM)
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
TONY MONTANA SNOW GLOBE
LEARN HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN

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
MI4 SCREENPLAY COOKING
ABRAMS CREATED STORY WITH PALS APPLEBAUM & NEMEC
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
ZACHAREK PICKS CASUALTIES
FOR ON-THE-SPOT "HALL OF FAME" DECISION

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
BOUZEREAU'S NIGHT AT THE MOVIES
TCM SPECIAL TO FEATURE HIRSCH, KOEPP, AND MORE
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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Monday, August 3, 2009
BUTLER TALKS MALONE
BUT HAS 'NO IDEA' ON STATUS OF CAPONE
Gerard Butler, who had been set to play Jimmy Malone in Brian De Palma's planned prequel to The Untouchables, was asked about the status of Capone Rising in an interview in the August 2009 issue of Total Film. Butler replied, "I've no idea. It's on the backburner somewhere - it fell by the wayside when we lost our Al Capone. It was actually one of the best scripts I've read in a long time, so it's kind of sad." (The article is edited to suggest that Butler was definitely referring to Nicolas Cage when he spoke of losing "our Al Capone," but he is not quoted as saying anything about Cage, so he could have been referring to another unnamed actor.) Butler then said something we've been hearing him repeat since he signed on to the project: "It was actually one of the best scripts I've read in a long time, so it's kind of sad." The screenplay was written originally by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and then revised by David Rabe. Butler was also asked by Total Film is he had been practicing his Sean Connery impersonation. "Nah," Butler replied. "It's a very different entity, this film. It is the Connery role, but the guy was completely different."

DID PUBLIC ENEMIES PROVIDE BOOSTER TO CAPONE RISING?
A couple of weeks ago, Paul Heath wrote a story on his blog, The Hollywood News, stating that the success of Michael Mann's Public Enemies had "seemingly boosted two other high profile productions" in development. This included a "shot in the arm" to Capone Rising, according to Heath, as well as to the graphic novel adaptation Pretty Baby Machine. Heath wrote:

We had interviewed PBM Creator and Development Producer, Clark Westerman, last year at the time of the announced deal and he stated it was quite likley the project would not be shopped until results of [Public] Enemies was in. Capone Rising looks like it took a wait and see as well to see what the public's appetite for the period ganster genere is 20+ years after the smash success of De Palma's Untouchables.

I sent Heath an e-mail asking if he could shed light on any of his sources for this story, but he never replied...

Also just in: Kevin Costner escapes injury after severe thunderstorm causes stage to collapse.


Posted by Geoff at 12:37 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, August 3, 2009 1:37 AM CDT
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Saturday, August 1, 2009
MAINSTREAM MASTERPIECE
JOHN KENNETH MUIR ON THE UNTOUCHABLES
John Kenneth Muir continues his weekly look at select Brian De Palma films with a wonderful analysis of The Untouchables, which he calls "De Palma's mainstream masterpiece," it being "a visual exercise in mythbuilding." Muir characterizes The Untouchables as a war film, stating, "On the surface, the brutal struggle in The Untouchables appears to be one regarding law enforcement, but the movie's tone and visuals make it plain that this is not entirely the case. On the contrary," Muir continues, "this is total war, a fact De Palma makes plain via cross-cutting. Early in the film, he cross-cuts between Capone decrying violence as 'not good business' and then a scene involving a little girl murdered in what, essentially, is a terrorist bombing of a local Chicago saloon."

"ODESSA STEPS" HOMAGE MUCH MORE THAN A "STUNT"
Muir is perhaps most inspired in his analysis of De Palma's improvised train station set piece:

Again, this sequence is likely the demarcation point where some people will "get" and appreciate De Palma, and others will simply insist that he is a particularly gifted "thief." For in concept and execution, the staircase scene of The Untouchables is an intricate homage to Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 propaganda classic, The Battleship Potemkin.

In that film, the famous "Odessa Steps" sequence dramatized a massacre conducted by the Tsarist Regime, set atop a wide staircase. Civilians were brutally murdered in this bloody sequence, as Cossacks killed men, women and children. Famously, a baby carriage was depicted rolling down the staircase.

In original context, the Odessa Steps sequence was meant to demonize the Imperial Regime, to expose the fact that there was no depth to which it would not sink to hold onto to power in Russia. The scene is so famous in cinema history that some people have apparently believed that there was a massacre on the Odessa Steps even though the incident was a fictional one concocted for the film.

Those who accuse De Palma of lifting the Odessa Steps sequence from The Battleship Potemkin should take one extra step -- beyond that of accusation -- and ask themselves why? What purpose does it serve to feature a similar sequence here, in this movie?

On one hand, we can certainly point to the deliberate homage and intertextuality we see throughout De Palma's canon. But furthermore, there's a reflexive quality to this reference in The Untouchables. To wit: the battle for capitalist control of Chicago is occurring, roughly, in the same time period that The Battleship Potemkin was made and distributed (circa 1925 - 1930). In other words, by cutting and shooting a sequence just like the Odessa Steps, De Palma is actually reflecting something that the characters of the time might have themselves conceivably understood or known about.

Much more importantly, however, De Palma has created a thematic relative of Potemkin; a kind of "pop" form of propaganda; a heroic myth elevating the G-Men in stature and deriding a corrupt system and the criminals -- like Capone -- who exploited it (the capitalist equivalent of the Tsarists).

De Palma's point -- captured beautifully in the slow-motion shoot-out -- is that Capone's Regime (like that of the Cossacks...) boasts no moral compunction about the murder of the innocent. It will hold onto control any way it can, as we have seen in the corner saloon bombing and now with the imperiled baby carriage. Ness's task is much more difficult: he must eliminate the entrenched, powerful bad guys (the hench-men of Capone) and defend the innocent simultaneously. Remember how that grieving mother told Ness to get Capone? Well, here Ness lands in an even more urgent variation of that scene: finally in the position to prevent the death of an innocent at the same time that he takes down the guilty.

So, yes, De Palma pays tribute to Eisenstein's shock cutting in the famous staircase battle, but he has done two other important things as well. First, he has raised audience "ire" over Capone's actions in the self-same manner as Eisenstein did in regards to the Tsarists;" exposing" a corrupt regime in the process. And secondly, he has re-purposed the "lifted" sequence so as to make a point about the nature of the all-out battle Ness is fighting.

Amazingly, De Palma crafts an action sequence in the very film language appropriate to the era of his film, the 1920s-1930s. In his review, critic Hal Hinson called the staircase shoot-out scene De Palma's "greatest stunt," only-half impressed, but I suggest that given the context, given the reflexivity, given the re-purposing of a classic sequence for a like thematic purpose, it is much more than a stunt. This is De Palma conceiving and deploying brilliant visuals to chart for audiences the epic nature of the Capone/Ness conflict.


Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 1, 2009 11:52 PM CDT
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Friday, July 31, 2009
HI, MOM! 'PURE PANDEMONIUM' TONIGHT IN HAMPDEN
AND SRAGOW RECALLS WATCHING MAN BITES DOG WITH DE PALMA
Just outside of Baltimore, in Hampden, is a late night coffee house with a bustling art scene called El Rancho Grande. A new monthly film series begins there tonight, kicking off at 8:30 pm with a screening of Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom!. The Baltimore Sun's Michael Sragow wrote about the film today, quoting series programmer John Lingan, and recalling sitting with De Palma seventeen years ago at a Toronto Film Festival screening of Man Bites Dog. Read on:

Based on the 100 percent correct feeling that "there are generally too few places to see older movies in a public place in Baltimore," John Lingan, the managing editor of the Web site Splice Today, launches a new monthly film series at 8:30 tonight at the Hampden café El Rancho Grande (3608 Falls Road).

If Lingan and his fellow programmer, photographer Dan Stack, keep selecting films as cannily as they did for opening night, they may be in for a long, wild ride. Brian De Palma's Hi, Mom!, their debut attraction, remains a milestone of satirical yet artful guerrilla moviemaking. It stars Robert De Niro in crackling improv form. He plays a failed director of what could be called "found porn" who moves on to become a bit player in black revolutionary theater and then a bomb-planting radical.

Seventeen years ago, I sat next to De Palma at a Toronto Film Festival screening of the pseudo-cinema verite serial-killer movie, Man Bites Dog. He hooted and cheered appreciatively at every bold stroke, but afterward whispered, with a smile, "Didn't I do all that 20 years ago in the last half-hour of Hi, Mom!?" He did all that, and more: Hi, Mom! skewers conventional notions of TV, stage and movie "reality" while providing an indelible portrait of New York on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Lingan says he chose it "because I have no idea what to expect. There could be three people there, or we could pack the coffee shop uncomfortably; either seems possible. And Hi, Mom! is a perfect fit for either scenario - you can watch it closely, even academically, or you can watch it in a cramped and crowded nontheater environment and see how everyone reacts to its unique tone and structure. It's a movie that begs to be seen outside of a theater, and maybe while you're pushed up against a stranger or sitting on the steps of a neighborhood coffee shop. We're hoping for that kind of atmosphere, because the movie is pure pandemonium."


Posted by Geoff at 12:38 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 31, 2009 12:39 PM CDT
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Thursday, July 30, 2009
MORE DE PALMA REFERENCES
A GANGSTER, AN ORPHAN, AND... HARRY POTTER?
The poster image at left is for a two-part film series by Jean-Francois Richet that tells the story of real-life French gangster Jacques Mesrine. The first film is called Mesrine: Killer Instinct, and stars Vincent Cassel. According to Paul Dale at The List, Richet's two-part saga reflects the influence of a number of filmmakers:

Richet’s enterprising handle on the material Killer Instinct is a work of veneration and compulsion comparable to the better films of Brian De Palma (Scarface, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Carlito’s Way). Like a French Tarantino, Richet is clearly a filmmaker who loves movies and moviemakers. Over the course of these two films, he pays considerable respect to, among others, William Friedkin, Peter Yates, Michael Mann, Luc Besson and Michael Bay.

Dale goes on to suggest that the film's comparisons to The Godfather and GoodFellas are perhaps overstated:

Such comparisons actually do the film a bit of a disservice. Though driven by a euphoric narrative that undeniably belongs to mainstream English language cinema, Killer Instinct and to a lesser extent its sequel is actually awash with homegrown influences. The sequences set in late-50s Paris could have been lifted from Henri Georges-Clouzot’s brilliant 1947 dockside thriller Quai des Oefevres and the spirit of Jean Gabin, most notably in Michael Carné’s moody 1938 deserter-on-the-loose drama Le Quai des Brumes which shadows every frame and crooked turn of Cassel’s ratty mouth.

COZZALIO: ORPHAN'S BEGINNING AND ENDING RECALL DE PALMA
Meanwhile, Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule was reminded of De Palma twice while reviewing Jaume Collet-Serra's Orphan, currently in U.S. theaters. Cozzalio was jolted during the opening of the film, writing, "I had to fight the urge to bolt from the theater during this opening sequence. And had Collet-Serra continued to operate in this weirdly dissociative style of De Palma-tinged surgical theater of horror, who knows how much I could have/would have taken?" Cozzalio also hints that the surprises in store in the final stretch of Orphan place "the movie in the vicinity of one of Brian De Palma’s great sick jokes," as the audience most likely will not see what's coming.

NEW HARRY POTTER FILM PAYS HOMAGE TO CARRIE
Finally, in a review of the new Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, Kevin Maher at the Times Online states that the final act contains "a fantastically cheeky homage to Brian De Palma’s Carrie." Guess now I'll have to go check it out...


Posted by Geoff at 1:35 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, July 31, 2009 12:03 AM CDT
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