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Monday, September 6, 2010

The Movie Geeks United! week-long tribute to Brian De Palma got off to a terrific start Monday night with a show dedicated to Sisters, although films such as Mission: Impossible (delved into with guest John Kenneth Muir) and Phantom Of The Paradise were discussed, as well. Regarding the latter, guest Edward R. Pressman, who produced Sisters and Phantom, mentioned that he has been talking "endlessly" with De Palma and songwriter Paul Williams about getting together a stage version of the film, for which Williams has been writing new songs. Of course, we already knew they all were working on this from previous posts here, but it's good to know the project is still being developed. Kudos to Jamey DuVall and Jerry Dennis for a solid kick-off to a promising week of "The De Palma Thriller." If you can't listen to any of the shows live, never fear-- the shows are all available to listen to in the archive.

Posted by Geoff at 8:40 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 10:41 AM CDT
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Friday, July 23, 2010

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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Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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
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'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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Wednesday, June 16, 2010
An upcoming dramatic feature film called Phantom Love will attempt to shed light on why the city of Winnipeg was so taken with Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise in 1975. Winnipeg filmmaker Paula Kelly has displayed a consistent interest in Winnipeg history in her films. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Phantom Love is one of several features Kelly plans to make with funds from her prizes as recipient of the first ever Manitoba Film Hothouse Award for Creative Development. According to the article, the film will tell the story of a 15-year-old girl during the "'gritty, grimy' winter of 1975, when the city -- including Kelly herself -- embraced the horror-musical movie Phantom of the Paradise with a fervor unique in the world." The article continues, "Kelly believes it was our bleak surroundings that compelled us to escape into Phantom's 'glittery glam-rock world.'" Kelly herself was 15 years old in 1975, so there definitely appears to be an autobiographical nature to this project.

In other Phantom news, Gerrit Graham and William Finley are two of several "Horror Rock Stars" set to appear at this year's Rock Con: Weekend of 100 Rock Stars, taking place July 30 - August 1 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Posted by Geoff at 1:05 AM CDT
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Paul Williams will be a keynote speaker at Canadian Music Week 2010, which runs from March 10-14 in Toronto. Williams will appear on Saturday, March 13, to present his keynote address, and will also perform on the “Kings of Songwriting” panel as part of the fest's Songwriters’ Summit. One day earlier, Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise (for which Williams wrote the songs and in which he plays evil record mogul Swan) will be screened as part of the Canadian Music Week Film Festival. Phantom screens at 9pm March 12th.

Posted by Geoff at 12:32 AM CST
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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Swan Archives recently discovered that Brian De Palma does indeed make a brief, small cameo in his 1974 film, Phantom Of The Paradise. The shot above, captured from the climactic wedding sequence, shows the bearded De Palma up in the corner of the balcony (look to the top left of the photo). As noted on the Swan Archives "Production" page, there has been some debate over whether or not a seated figure seen as the curtains open for Phoenix before she sings "Old Souls" is De Palma (the Swan Archivist does not believe it is De Palma, due to the lack of beard), but this balcony figure does indeed appear to be the real deal.

Meanwhile, Vinnie Rattolle recently visited the Majestic Theatre in Dallas, where Phantom Of The Paradise was shot. (Appropriately enough, he went there to see a stage presentation of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps). After the show, Rattolle took some pictures in the dimly-lit theater, and in one photo of the stage, he thinks he sees a glimpse of the Phantom himself lurking at stage left. Could it actually be the Phantom? Take a look and decide for yourselves...

Posted by Geoff at 10:30 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 2:04 PM CST
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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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Friday, July 3, 2009
Hüsker Dü member says he shows De Palma film to bands
Bob Mould, of Hüsker Dü and Sugar fame, was the guest editor at magnetmagazine.com last week. Mould's initial editor's desk column was all about Phantom Of The Paradise. Mould incorrectly states that Winslow Leach was played by Gerrit Graham (Leach was, of course, played by William Finley), but his enthusiasm for the film is obvious. Here is what Mould wrote:

Phantom Of The Paradise is a Brian De Palma spectacle that combines The Phantom Of The Opera, Faust and glam rock. The film was released on Oct. 31, 1974. Paul Williams is cast in the role of Swan, the svengali of Death Records, who is auditioning musicians for the opening of a revolutionary new club called The Paradise. Winslow Leach, a nerdy songwriter (played by Gerrit Graham), manages to get his song heard (and then stolen) by Swan. Classic rock ‘n’ roll insanity ensues. There is a brilliant scene that depicts Leach in a recording-studio control room, seated at the keyboard, working feverishly to complete his cantata for the opening night of The Paradise. Leach is wearing his owl-like Phantom helmet/mask, speaking through a vocoder/oscillator, surrounded by pills and sheet music. For some reason it reminds me of—or maybe foreshadows—Daft Punk. It is also surely a coincide that the cantata is written for, and about to be sung, by Leach’s love interest, whose name is Phoenix (played by Jessica Harper). Hmm.

The original title of the film was to be Phantom, but it was changed at the last-minute, to avoid potential legal conflict with the copyright holders of The Phantom comic strip. In addition, almost all references to Swan Song Enterprises, the ubiquitous media concern that was headed by Swan, were removed from the film. The instigator of said removal was Peter Grant, manager of Led Zeppelin, who had created Swansong Records (an actual label) just prior to the release of the film. Grant was a major thorn in the side of 20th Century Fox, and his threats to block the release of the film forced De Palma and 20th Century Fox to mask or recut major portions of the film. The original theatrical release was met with the sound of no hands clapping, except for, inexplicably, the city of Winnipeg, where the movie and soundtrack were enormous successes. In the intervening years, two Phantompalooza events have taken place in Winnipeg. I love showing this movie to bands on the eve of recording sessions. It’s a great way to get everyone, including myself, to unwind a bit before the big day.

Posted by Geoff at 12:13 AM CDT
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