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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The above shot is from a tense split-screen sequence on last night's episode ("Spilt Milk") of American Horror Story: Asylum. The episode was stylishly directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, and was so full of surprises it felt like a season finale-- and the finale is still a couple of weeks away.

In any case, any time anyone these days does a split-screen sequence, Brian De Palma's name comes to mind, and this one is no different, with Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen and Zap 2 it's Geoff Berkshire, among others, mentioning De Palma in their recaps of the episode. And of course, we know that Ryan Murphy has said that this season of AHS pays homage to De Palma, so it seems entirely likely that the split-screen was a nod to him.

The split screen happens on the stairs inside the asylum, and the technique allows Gomez-Rejon to create and milk a good amount of suspense between three characters as one tries to slip past another, and the third tries to distract.

In the first episode of this season, Pino Donaggio music from De Palma's Carrie was used in several scenes. This week's episode utilized music from Bernard Rose's Candyman, composed by Phillip Glass, during several sequences, including the split-screen sequence.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 11, 2013 12:01 AM CST
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Friday, November 16, 2012
Megan Abbott's latest book, Dare Me, takes place in the world of high school cheerleading, and has been described as Heathers meets Fight Club. Abbott is currently working on the screenplay adaptation of Dare Me for a film version in development with producer Karen Rosenfelt at Fox 2000. In an interview with William Boyle at Fiction Writers Review, Abbott discusses, among other things, the influence of David Lynch and Brian De Palma on Dare Me. Here are the first few paragraphs of the interview:

William Boyle: You cited Twin Peaks as a big influence on The End of Everything and you mentioned Laura Palmer in your article about competitive cheerleading for The New York Times a few weeks ago. I feel David Lynch’s presence in Dare Me, as well. There’s a Laura/Donna dynamic between Beth and Addy and a very palpable erotic tension throughout. Did Lynch influence Dare Me?

Megan Abbott: With me, it’s never one-to-one or conscious exactly. But this is interesting: when I had the title for The End of Everything I watched Mulholland Drive again and it’s a line in that film: “This is the end of everything.” Someone told me, “Oh, it’s also a line in your first book” [Die A Little], which I had written the year Mulholland Drive came out, so clearly that line is/was tattooed in my brain. So I think it mostly comes out in unconscious ways.

But that’s a great analogy. The Laura Palmer/Donna relationship is such a fundamental female friendship dynamic and that’s a perfect example with Beth and Addy. There’s always the one friend who takes all the air out of the room or is such a presence and the other one who is secondary and is longing to be that bigger person. There are those moments when Maddy comes and looks like Laura and then Donna realizes that she’s going to be dethroned again. There’s something about that complicated female dynamic that I think has been a pulse through a lot of my stuff.

And then sometimes I look at Lynch when I’m trying to add odd tensions to a scene. I get that a lot from him. It’s never direct either. But I’ll just sort of watch a bunch of his stuff to remind myself of why things are scary that wouldn’t necessarily seem scary. There’s a scene in Dare Me where Beth is talking about a dream she had and that definitely feels like a Lynch kind of thing. You know, when someone’s telling you the dream, but they’re telling it in a way that it becomes terrifying to the listener.

Also, in Lynch’s films everything is infused with eroticism. That’s something that’s probably characteristic of maybe all my books, but certainly the last two where it’s adolescence, so it takes over everything anyway.

William Boyle: Early in the book you confront the fetishization of cheerleaders head-on: “All those misty images of cheerleaders frolicking in locker rooms, pom-poms sprawling over bare bud breasts. All those endless fantasies and dirty-boy dreams, they’re all true in a way.” This put me in mind of Brian De Palma. It’s almost as if you’re playing a kind of trick he’d play, making us believe that’s true but yet undermining it with the portrait of the Cheerleader Real that you wind up painting. Was that your intention?

Megan Abbott: Absolutely. De Palma. I can never think of a female locker without thinking of the beginning of Carrie, which is exactly what “dirty boy-dreams” I had in mind. And it’s funny because I always feel like I go both ways with that. I love De Palma. I’m a big De Palma fan. And I want to diffuse the fantasy, but then it also turns out to be partially true. That’s always the thing—it’s the two sides of me. My Times essay is my intellectual take. I want this to be real. But when I write, it’s a different part of my brain—it also wants it partially to be a fantasy. And for it to be a fantasy part of it has to be true. So there are moments in the book where the fantasies are made real, they are kind of literal, there is a sensory pleasure the girls get from each other’s bodies even in just touching each other during stunts. I wanted that to be in there. The sort of thinking feminist part of my head wants to puncture this stuff, but the other part of me knows it is part of the Real in some ways, that all fantasies have some basis in reality. People always say De Palma’s a misogynist, but I think he’s actually really a feminist. And I think he gets to have it both ways. I mean, that’s sort of his trick. He’s making fun of it, but he’s still indulging it.

Posted by Geoff at 12:50 AM CST
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 4:41 PM CST
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012
As co-creator Ryan Murphy stated last month, the current season of American Horror Story is under the influence of Brian De Palma. The first episode featured repeated music cues from Pino Donaggio's score for De Palma's Carrie, and the whole season so far has echoes of De Palma's Sisters here and there. Tonight's episode introduced a new character: a Nazi hunter named Sam Goodwin, played by Mark Margolis, who is perhaps best known as Alberto "The Shadow" in De Palma's Scarface. Margolis also made an uncredited appearance as a patient in De Palma's Dressed To Kill, another film Murphy mentioned as a direct influence on this season of American Horror Story. (Margolis has also gained recognition of late in another Scarface-influenced TV show, Breaking Bad.)

Margolis and Al Pacino appear in the upcoming Stand Up Guys, which, judging by the trailer below, has surface echoes of De Palma's Carlito's Way. And when Margolis appears in the trailer as some kind of crime boss ordering a hit on Pacino, who has just been released from prison, one can't help but think of their roles in Scarface, where Pacino as Tony Montana ends up killing Margolis' Alberto, and sealing his own fate in the process. Stand Up Guys is directed by Fisher Stevens, who incidentally once dated Scarface's Michelle Pfeiffer for about three years in the early 1990s. The film had its world premiere last month at the Chicago International Film Festival, and The Hollywood Reporter's Duane Byrge called it "a raunchy and touching comedy" that "lubricates its old joints—of the plot, genre and actors—quite entertainingly." Variety's Alissa Simon states that the film incorporates "conventions from and sendups of countless other pics," but feels that the "talky, tongue-in-cheek feature is most likable when the main characters are simply playing off each other."

Posted by Geoff at 11:27 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 11:33 PM CST
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Monday, November 5, 2012
Nacho Vigalondo, whose 2007 film Timecrimes is said to be a variation on Brian De Palma's Body Double, mentioned another De Palma film, Blow Out, in his description of the currently-shooting Open Windows. Screen Daily's Melanie Goodfellow had the exclusive on Friday:

Elijah Wood has boarded Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo’s first English-language picture Open Windows, an innovative, high-tech suspense thriller unfolding on the screen of a laptop connected to the Internet.

Shooting began this week on a high-security set in Madrid. It is Vigalondo’s third feature after the 2008 time-travelling tale Timecrimes and Extraterrestrial, a hit on the fantasy film festival circuit over the past 12 months...

Open Windows develops in real time, delivering 90 minutes of suspense in a tense, fast-paced, high-tech thriller with action and terror, updating the key elements of 70s paranoid thrillers through today’s computer and online environment,” said Wild Bunch sales chief Vincent Maraval.

The plot revolves around a desperate search by Wood’s character for an actress, played by The Girlfriend Experience lead Sasha Grey, who has been abducted by vicious villain Chord, played by British actor Neil Maskell.

“Just as in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, the girl is captured. The hero will have to use every means at his disposal to discover where she is, and rescue her from the villain before its too late,” said Vigalondo.

The director began developing the picture three years ago with Apaches Entertainment and his own production company Sayaka.

“The action will be followed on the screen of a laptop connected to the Internet – an approach that has excited us all from the outset. Something like this means going beyond high concept films like Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield or Chronicle,” he said. “Instead of simulating a home video camera, we will be representing a computer desktop. The movie screen becomes a computer screen, and the spectator becomes the protagonist of this adventure.”

Spanish producer Lavigne revealed the production would use 12 different types of camera, including webcams, head cameras, tablets, mobile phones, 3D mapping cameras as well as security and satellite cameras to shoot the multi-format picture.

Open Windows is full of twists, but it’s essentially a 90-minute chase, a continuous climax with unrelenting tension… it is also a powerful viral tool, with a wide potential for different audiences,” he said.

Posted by Geoff at 1:54 AM CST
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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In an article for Entertainment Weekly, Solvej Schou interviews three South Korean directors who each are getting ready to release their English-language debut. Park Chan-wook, best known for his Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy For Lady Vengeance), is directing Stoker, a thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska that will be released March 1, 2013. In this excerpt from the article, Park discusses how the films of Brian De Palma influenced him while making Stoker:

"Park cited Martin Scorsese’s Hugo as a recent English-language movie he enjoyed, though his favorite contemporary English-language movie is David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method. 'Cronenberg is my hero,' Park said. While Wentworth Miller drew on Hitchcock for Stoker’s script, Park said, the director himself channeled sleek, stylized, sexy Brian De Palma. 'Stoker is a film with cross-cut scenes in it. In making such a film, I couldn’t help but think of De Palma,' said Park, who noted his favorite by the director is 1980 murder thriller Dressed To Kill. 'Once upon a time, I used to write film reviews for a living, and I reviewed Dressed to Kill. While I was conscious of De Palma, I wanted to make Stoker differently. How could I make it different from De Palma, maybe through less use of slow motion?'”

(Thanks to Rado!)

Meanwhile, down below, check out the music used in the second half of the trailer for Stoker, and see if it reminds you of a trailer for a more recent De Palma film...

Posted by Geoff at 6:32 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 9:41 PM CDT
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Although the image above from last week's season premiere of American Horror Story is clearly inspired by Stanley Kubrick, the show's co-creator Ryan Murphy tells Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack that Brian De Palma is the big influence for this year's model. Of course, we've already noted the Pino Donaggio music cues from De Palma's Carrie that recurred throughout episode one, as well as that episode's echoes of De Palma's Sisters. But Murphy would seem to imply that we can expect more nods to De Palma as the season rolls on. Here's what he told EW:

"When Brad and I did season 1, it was definitely influenced by masters like [Stanley] Kubrick. This year the thing that I was really obsessed with is I was really influenced by DePalma, who I think is a brilliant filmmaker, who I really feel like never gets his just desserts. It’s time for a Brian DePalma resurgence. So I was very into the filming style of DePalma’s works, specifically Dressed to Kill and Carrie. There’s a lot of slow motion, there’s a lot of languid filmmaking. In the first episode, as a tribute to Brian, we actually used two big pieces from Carrie’s score. So the same can be said of DePalma’s work which is very fever dream. Look at that last scene of Carrie—was it real? Was it a dream? So yes it was very influenced by his work particularly. Also it was very influenced by [Dario] Argento. The other great thing about it is Brad Buecker, who edited all the shows last year, who’s my right hand man, is also a brilliant director. The first two were edited and directed by Brad. It’s very interesting when an editor directs. It’s much more I think a psychological thriller as well.

"Last year, it’s interesting to me, because people said to me 'Oh the Harmon family is so venal and so terrible and we don’t root for them.' I think this year you have 3 or 4 people you’re really rooting for — definitely Jessica, definitely Evan, definitely Sarah, definitely Chloe. This year we’re really exploring the idea of madness, and I think madness, for people caught in that web, it must feel like a hallucinogenic nightmare reality.

"DePalma was also clearly very influenced by Hitchcock. But DePalma was able to use sex in a much more graphic way. Obviously, American Horror Story will always be about sex and violence. But I’m really thrilled to talk about DePalma. One of our writers on our show, Jennifer Salt, starred in a Brian DePalma movie [1973's Sisters]. They’re still really good friends."


Stack then suggests that Murphy should get De Palma to direct an episode. "Ha!" replies Murphy. "I doubt he would come to television, but it certainly would be worth a call. I love him. I think he’s a very underrated filmmaker."

Posted by Geoff at 1:04 AM CDT
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012
[Possible Spoilers] So I'm watching the season premiere earlier tonight of American Horror Story, the F/X series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, and about 10-15 minutes in, I hear this very familiar Pino Donaggio music. At first I wondered if it was just a little musical homage to Donaggio's "Bucket Of Blood" cue from Brian De Palma's Carrie, but as it went on, it became clear to me that it was that precise recording-- it was indeed "Bucket Of Blood," edited to fit in with what was happening on screen.

And the scene in question was the introduction of the character pictured here, Lana Winters, a journalist played by Sarah Paulson. "Bucket Of Blood" (as the track was titled on the original Carrie soundtrack release) plays as Lana approaches the asylum (in 1964) that provides the main setting of season two-- and the Donaggio track is repeated twice more in the episode, creating a little motif for Lana. Lana is working on a story about the asylum under the false pretense of doing a fluff piece on the bakery run by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). The "Bucket Of Blood" cue is heard a second time, just moments later in the episode, during the scene pictured here: Lana is watching as the latest "patient" (Kit Walker, played by Evan Peters) is delivered to the asylum, and the music builds suspense as he is led up the stairs, and the Donaggio crescendo peaks as Kit is stripped and thrown into a shower stall.

In between these two "Bucket Of Blood" cues is another Donaggio cue from Carrie: "For The Last Time We'll Pray" plays as Lana makes her way inside the asylum for the first time. Sister Mary (Lily Rabe) leads Lana up the stairs to meet Sister Jude, and they walk in on her just as she is beginning to shave the head of a patient, Shelly (Chloe Sevigny).

Now before I get to the third use of "Bucket Of Blood," which comes later on in the episode (confirming the running motif), it is worth noting that Sevigny portrayed Grace Collier, the journalist, in Douglas Buck's 2006 remake of De Palma's Sisters. This, of course, is the journalist character who was played by Jennifer Salt in De Palma's Sisters. Salt is an executive producer on American Horror Story, and she wrote a couple of episodes from the first season. This current episode, and, it would appear, the season to come, has clear echoes of De Palma's Sisters, in which Grace, investigating a murder, infiltrates a mental health clinic. However, Grace is discovered and captured by Dr. Emil Breton (William Finley), who tricks the others at the clinic into thinking Grace is a stray patient. "You want to know our secrets," Emil says to Grace as he puts her under a hallucinatory sedation. "We will share them with you. Watch." On American Horror Story, Lana is eventually discovered and captured in a similar manner. "She wanted an inside look into our facility," Sister Jude later tells Lana's roomate, "and I will see that she gets it."

But before that happens, "Bucket Of Blood" is heard a third time as Sister Mary appears to be feeding someone or something in the woods, and the music this time crescendos as Lana herself startles Sister Mary-- bringing Lana's appropriated Donaggio motif full circle.

Appropriating themes from horror movies is nothing new for American Horror Story. Last season, Bernard Herrmann's whistling theme from Twisted Nerve was used as a recurring theme for Evan Peters' character. (That same theme had previously been reappropriated by Quentin Tarantino for a memorable De Palma-Dressed-To-Kill-esque split screen sequence in Kill Bill Vol. 1.) For all I know, there were other such music cues that I did not recognize. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear "Bucket Of Blood" again throughout the season, if Lana's story continues.

Posted by Geoff at 11:35 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 20, 2012 3:57 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 10:15 AM CDT
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Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Marvel Comics introduced Hawkeye into its line of movies in its currently playing Marvel's The Avengers, and now they are getting ready to launch the character's newest comic book series. Matt Fraction, who is on the new book's creative team along with David Aja, talked to Comic Book Resources about the series last April, saying he was looking at classic crime and urban adventure stories from film and television, as well as comics. "If I could put the Stephen J. Cannell logo at the end of every issue I would be happy," Fraction told the site, "and David Aja recently sent me this amazing piece of music. He said, 'Here's the soundtrack to our first issue.' It's Dizzy Gillespie and Lalo Schifrin from a record they did together called 'Free Ride' and it is great. The whole record is full of car chase music. So this series is very William Friedkin and early Brian De Palma. 'Rockford Files.' It's an early '70s urban grit story. You almost expect Hawkeye to come around the corner and bump into Power Man and Iron Fist from 30 years ago."

The first issue of Hawkeye will be published August 1st. Interiors from the book can be seen here.

Posted by Geoff at 3:38 PM CDT
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In the video above, the Hollywood Reporter's Todd Gilchrist sits down with Wes Anderson, and suggests to the director that his new film, Moonrise Kingdom, seems the most Stanley Kubrick-inspired film he's done, in terms of some of the techniques used. Anderson acknowledges that Kubrick is one of his favorites, but responds that when he is making a movie, he isn't consciously aware of what he is "stealing everything from." He goes on to name other influences: Roman Polanski, John Huston, Martin Scorsese, and Orson Welles. "They're guys whose way with the camera I feel like I’m always taking something from," Anderson says in the video. A bit later, the following exchange takes place...

Todd Gilchrist: You’ve created such a singular and identifiable body of work. Have you ever thought about, or have you ever been offered sort of the opportunity to apply the style that you’ve created for yourself to maybe a more conventional sort of storytelling structure? I mean, look at, you know, Brian De Palma, maybe doing a commercial movie and then doing something that’s very uniquely his. Have you thought about flirting with those kinds of projects?

Wes Anderson: Well, Brian De Palma is a very interesting one. You know, Brian De Palma is one of my favorite directors ever, and such a… the most sophisticated visual style of anybody. And [his] way with a camera. But I think in a way, Brian De Palma is somebody who can take a giant, complicated action sequence, and say, “I know precisely how to execute this,” and he can do it in a way that is completely his, and yet is highly effective as a, you know, suspense and as… [waving his arms] understanding the space and how this action is occurring. And, you know, I’m a completely different kind of moviemaker. The basic crucial talents of that, that Brian De Palma has, are exactly what I lack. Probably.

Posted by Geoff at 12:21 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 12:22 AM CDT
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