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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Courtesy girlpacino.tumblr

Posted by Geoff at 8:32 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Los Angeles Times' Susan King has a profile piece on Pepe Serna in today's print edition (the article was posted online yesterday). The article, with the headline "After 45 years, Pepe Serna is finally a leading man," begins with discussion of Scarface:
Pepe Serna arrives carrying a big bag. Inside is a treasured bit of movie history: his prop arm from Brian De Palma's 1983 gangster masterpiece "Scarface."

Though he's been in some 100 films, Serna is best known as Angel, Tony Montana's (Al Pacino) cohort in cocaine crime in the memorable thriller. Angel meets a grisly demise when his arm and leg are dismembered by a power tool.

"They tied me up," recalls Serna. "It was a real chain saw but with rubber. When they went to my face, they shot blood at me with a pressure gun. The editor said when they shot me with blood in the eye, I didn't flinch. I was so into the moment. At the time, it was the goriest scene in history."

Serna, 70, flashes a wide smile and puts the arm back in the bag.

The role of Angel has paid unexpected dividends for him. Serna, who has done motivational work with kids for 50 years, has found that these young students are thrilled to meet him because of "Scarface." "We are all the writer-director-star-producer of our own life," says the energetic Serna, dressed this overcast afternoon in a vibrant purple sports jacket. "We see life through our own eyes. That is my lesson to these kids. That is how I always look at everything."


Serna also appeared in De Palma's 2006 adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia.


Last week I linked to a Hollywood Reporter story about Universal's upcoming remake of Scarface. The Hollywood Reporter's Hilary Lewis followed that up a day later, having caught up with the actor at the New York premiere of his new film Danny Collins. Asked about the new remake, Pacino responded, "Oh, it's fine... It's part of what we do. We remake things... I may remake a movie I saw recently. I can't say what it is. It's about 50 years old."

Meanwhile, the number one song in the U.S. for the past five weeks or so (according to Billboard) is Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk. The song's first line is "This shit, that ice cold/ Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold." As USA Today's Carly Mallenbaum speculated back in December, the line, with its apparent cocaine reference, "seem[s] to be describing Pfeiffer’s feisty Elvira Hancock from Scarface." Mallenbaum's article also notes that Pfeiffer's name pops up in another recent top ten hit, Vance Joy's Riptide. In the latter case, however, Joy has said in interviews that the mention was inspired by Pfeiffer's role as Catwoman in Tim Burton's Batman Returns.

Posted by Geoff at 12:47 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 22, 2015 3:38 PM CDT
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Thursday, March 19, 2015
It's been almost a year since The Wrap reported that Chilean director Pablo Larraín would likely be directing Universal's new remake of Scarface, which will be set in Los Angeles. After David Ayers wrote an initial draft of a screenplay for the film, Donnie Brasco screenwriter Paul Attanasio was hired in 2012 to do a rewrite. Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter's Tatiana Siegel reported that Jonathan Herman has been hired by Universal to do a new rewrite on Scarface, which will be set, this time, in Los Angeles. Siegel writes, "Herman has become a go-to writer at Universal, having penned the Straight Outta Compton draft that received the green light from the studio. He is currently in development on The Demonologist and The Birds remake at Universal.

Posted by Geoff at 11:56 PM CDT
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Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Patricia Norris, the costume designer for Brian De Palma's Scarface, passed away February 20 of natural causes, Variety reported today. She was 83. Norris was nominated for Oscars six times in her lifetime. She worked regularly with David Lynch, and was both the production designer and the costume designer on Keith Gordon's 2003 film adaptation of The Singing Detective. A year ago, around the time of her Oscar nomination for costume design on Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave, Norris told The Film Experience's Nathaniel R that on Scarface, De Palma and producer Martin Bregman "knew exactly what they wanted." She added that Michelle Pfeiffer helped make the costumes iconic. "She's a beautiful girl and it was perfect for the character."

Norris is quoted several times about the making of Scarface in Ken Tucker's 2008 book, Scarface Nation:

"I did think they'd have killed us if we'd stayed in Miami. There were members of the community who hated us because they thought we were doing a pro-Castro movie, which was absurd, but their anger was very serious. And then there were real drug people around. Colombians who came on the set. The day a fellow sat down in the chair next to me, and crossed his legs, and I saw a gun strapped to his ankle, I knew I wanted to get back to Los Angeles. Thank God we did, within two weeks."

"Pacino was very nice. I had been told he was going to stay in character and all that, so I was prepared for it." Tucker writes that Pacino spoke to Norris with his Cuban accent, even through his wardrobe fittings.

"Let me put it this way. After Scarface, I almost didn't want to work in the movies again. You're making a movie that's not about nice people, being made by people many of whom aren't nice people... It was tense, pretty distant. I don't like being condescended to. I worked with David Lynch for over twenty-five years because he was a nice person and an artist, and he appreciates the artistry other people bring to their work.

"I didn't get that feeling with De Palma. He was tense a lot of the time; he could be cold and rude, dismissive. I don't think he liked clothes. I shouldn't say that-- the only clothes he was interested in were the women's clothes, Michelle's clothes. He and Marty Bregman both. They wanted a lot of input in how she should look-- it was more than a little creepy, if you ask me. I'd overhear them arguing about how she should be dressed, how sexy, how much skin they wanted her to show."

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2015 11:58 PM CST
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Saturday, February 14, 2015
Thanks to Matthew for sending in these two captures from the Saturday Night Live skit, "A Very Cuban Christmas." The skit, which you can watch on Hulu, originally aired on the December 20th episode. It's a big irreverent jumble thrown together after the U.S. and Cuba made a joint announcement three days earlier that they planned to work together to re-establish diplomatic relations. SNL cast member Kyle Mooney played Tony Montana, with that week's host, Amy Adams, as Elvira. The fictional Montana spouts the fictional declaration that "the best news is, the embargo of Cuba has been lifted. Tell 'em what that means, baby!" Elvira replies, "First we get the money, then we get the cell phone, then we get the Walmart." Tony then says, "That's right! Now why don't you say hello to my little friend-- it's Elian Gonzalez, and he's all grown up!"

Meanwhile, on January 30th, prior to the Super Bowl, Grantland posted the video below to YouTube with the description, "Grantland has cell-phone footage of Bill Belichick at a team dinner addressing the scrutiny the Patriots have been under heading into Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona."

Posted by Geoff at 5:45 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 14, 2015 5:59 PM CST
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Sunday, February 8, 2015
The Hollywood Reporter's Boyd van Hoeij reviews the new documentary, Jack Pettibone Riccobono's The Seventh Fire, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival the other day. Presented by Terrence Malick, and executive-produced by Natalie Portman, the film follows "the hardscrabble lives of two men on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota" for several years, according to van Hoeij. "The first couple of reels are very loosely structured," van Hoeij states, "with no one identified onscreen, which gives the film a verite edge but which also means that it takes a good while for the material to find its footing and make it clear what and, more importantly, who, the film is exactly about.

"The feature’s protagonists finally turn out to be Rob Brown, in his thirties, and Kevin Fineday, who’ll be 18 when the film ends. They are, respectively, a criminal with (as per the press notes) ties to the Native Gangster Disciples gang and his young and unofficial protégé of sorts, with the initially scrawny Kevin looking up to the hulking Brown, who’s been to prison already five times. Kevin, called a liar and worse by several others around him, admits on camera he’s torn between the idea of becoming a big drug dealer and 'doing something somewhat the right way,' though for the moment, he described himself as a 'middle man, for weed, pills, meth, whatever,' and says that’s pretty much his 'job until further notice'. In one of the film’s strongest scenes, which would have deserved a bit more prominence, Brown tells Kevin that he already spent 12 years in jail and Kevin’s only 15 years old. 'Don’t be like me and get used to it,' he says, though at that very moment, Kevin’s just told Rob he hopes he’ll get his first plea bargain.

"Brown, meanwhile, has impregnated his girlfriend of three months before he’s off to jail for another 57 month stint and Kevin has even followed his example in this respect, knocking up a girl who then lost the baby a couple of weeks into her pregnancy. She blames herself, saying she 'messed up' (not quite the term she uses) birth control and has since broken up with Kevin over the fact he 'messed' -- more f-words used here -- with several drugs deals for her, each time adding salt to the meth he’s selling so as to increase the weight. Clearly, any idea of a connection or some kind of affection between these two human beings seems far-fetched; Brown, despite the fact he’s about to miss out on the first two-and-a-half years of his daughter’s life, seems a little -- but just a little -- luckier in that respect.

"What thus emerges, initially in fits and starts but then more forcefully as the film builds and the relationships crystallize, is a picture of life in the reservation community of Pine Point (or 'P-Town') as a place where lying and cheating, scoring and selling drugs and a host of other criminal activities are the order of the day and something as normal as love and human warmth are in short supply, with even the rapport between Kevin and his father feeling distant. Drug use is filmed with an unflinching eye (though some of this footage is not as high-definition as the rest) while posters on the walls in the background attest to an unoriginal and unhealthy obsession with the Brian De Palma version of Scarface, which seems to have made being a gangster super cool, suggesting exactly none of the people of an entire generation watched the film al the way through until it’s bloody, tragic and supremely ironic ending."

Posted by Geoff at 12:16 AM CST
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Friday, January 30, 2015

Thanks to Alan for letting us know about the cartoon above, which is published in the February 2, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

Posted by Geoff at 7:14 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 30, 2015 8:12 PM CST
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Back in July I posted that The Borscht Corp., an open-source collaborative dedicated to telling Miami stories, had started a project called Scarface Redux. The project was described as "a global collaborative effort to remake Brian De Palma’s Scarface." The web site (pictured above) lays out three steps: "First, Brian De Palma's Scarface is cut up into 15-second chunks"; "Then, you pick a scene, shoot and remake it however you like"; "Finally, we put it all together into a completely new version of Scarface."

"Scarface Redux" will be unveiled this Sunday (December 21st) at 8pm in Miami Beach, according to the Miami Herald's Debra K. Leibowitz. The screening will be one of the final events of this year's Borscht Film Festival, which began December 17th, and ends on the 21st. The Herald article states that Scarface Redux will play from 8-10pm, but it doesn't explain why that is about 45-minutes shorter than De Palma's film (perhaps they did not receive submissions for each of the 15-second clips). Leibowitz reports in the Herald: "A contest was held for the best scene submitted. Top prize included hotel and airfare for two to Miami, plus VIP tickets to all screenings and parties. Turns out the winner was local: Miami-based filmmaker Martell Harding, a 25-year old Florida International University graduate for his redux of Scene 94: The Shoot Up. Contest judges included Miami Herald film critic Rene Rodriguez, Rakontur Film’s Billy Corben and NBC-6 anchor Adam Kuperstein. Scarface Redux party fee is a $10 donation; free to those who submitted a clip."

Also screening at the fest this year is The Voice Thief, a new short film from Adan Jodorowsky, son of Alejandro Jodorowsky, starring Asia Argento. Borscht executive-produced the short, according to Miami New Times' Hans Morgenstern.

Posted by Geoff at 10:05 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, December 18, 2014 7:29 PM CST
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard's staged documentary of rock star Nick Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth, follows Cave through his purported 20,000th day of life. According to Billboard's Joe Lynch, "While conversations emerge organically, each scene -- whether Cave is driving, working with the Bad Seeds on their latest album Push the Sky Away or thumbing through memorabilia in Melbourne's Nick Cave archives -- was meticulously constructed."

Lynch interviews Cave about the film, and at one point, asks him about a scene in which he watches Brian De Palma's Scarface with his twin boys:


[Lynch] There's a scene in the film where Nick is sitting with his twin sons, eating pizza and watching Scarface. Why that film?

Cave: It was just a film that they'd been on at me to watch. "We want to watch Scarface!" Maybe I'd talked about it or something. And I said, "Well it's got some scenes in it that are pretty heavy, do you think you're all right to watch it?" They said, "Oh, we've already watched the chainsaw scene on YouTube." We wanted to find a film that they hadn't seen, and they have seen a lot of that super violent stuff with me anyway. [My twin sons and I] had a thing we'd do that we'd sit down and watch a film that we shouldn't be watching together. It was a bonding experience.

[Lynch] What other movies do you watch with them?

Cave: Just...violent films. So we all wanted something that could hold them, and Scarface is such an opera -- an exaggerated cartoon of the world. That scene is probably my favorite -- not because it's got kids in it, but it sets up an idea. It's the one moment of Nick Cave supposedly at home, doing an ordinary thing with his kids. But it's not. I'm sitting there, the camera is here, we're looking into the camera -- we're not looking at the TV at all. So there's this sense of being removed from the ordinary, or that the ordinary has been taken away from us and it's something we're not able to reclaim. And that's true.

[Lynch] It's also one of the few scenes where we see you laughing.

Cave: That's just how it ended up. I laugh a lot actually, but you don't laugh a lot when the camera is on. There's a lovely outtake of Kylie and I that says a lot. We're in the car; they haven't started shooting but they're filming. We're talking about something, it's very light, and then they say 'action' and both of us [pantomimes stone face]. It's not that we're trying to portray anything, it's just the effect that it has over you. The claustrophobic, unfunny aspect of being filmed.


Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 12:03 AM CDT
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Friday, September 26, 2014
Beginning tonight (Friday) at 9:30pm, and playing at that time every night through Tuesday, September 30th, Seattle's Central Cinema, which bills itself as "Seattle's most Fun Movie Theater," will be showing Brian De Palma's Scarface. Tickets are $9, but Tuesday night it's only 99 cents.

Meanwhile, Den Of Geek's Juliette Harrisson interviewed production designer Grant Montgomery on the set of the TV gangster drama Peaky Blinders, series 2. The show takes place in Birmingham, England, just after the First World War. Netflix will begin streaming series 1 September 30th, while the first episode of series 2 will air on BBC Two October 2nd.

As Montgomery tells Harrisson about what viewers can expect series 2 to look like, he refers to such films as Heaven's Gate (for the look of series 1), The Godfather, Inception, Drive, and Scarface. Here's an excerpt:


Basically, Tommy’s empire has grown. You’ll see him moving to the metropolis of London and taking on the big gangsters that run London, so visually, you’re moving much more into bigger spaces, and you’re leaving behind a lot of the dark working-class world. Because they have money, and Tommy is beginning to use that money, he’s buying up houses in London. The world is opening up, it’s becoming much more expansive, and the spaces become bigger.

It becomes much more like a gangster world, the references become much more attuned to The Godfather rather than Heaven’s Gate. I was using Heaven’s Gate as a reference in season 1, [but] in season 2 the references are really to The Godfather. [Tommy’s] office is a total homage to The Godfather. There’s oranges on the table!

There are a lot of [other] references as well. For example, there’s a huge club called The Eden, which is a big metropolitan club, and again I like to reference things, so there’s a lot of little nods, winks – there’s a scorpion design that’s basically from Ryan Gosling’s jacket in Drive. I wanted to turn it into a really big nod to Inception, there’s a lot of gold. There’s a lot of gold within the whole series, actually, and that echoes season 1.

You’ll see loads of [references] that are just peppered through the whole of the look, and I think that’s playful. That was in the first season, ‘cause it was all from a lot of Westerns, Rio Bravo, Deadwood and all the rest.

[Harrisson] How much freedom do you have to do that, mixing in so many different references? Do you just not tell anyone?

I just do it, because it’s there! Steven [Knight]’s writing is so detailed, but allows you still to bring images and references to the party. So I’ve never felt constricted by what we’re doing, because it’s a mythology, it’s not strictly historically – it’s not a historical recreation, it’s very much a mythology.

Also, I’ve always brought a kind of Americana feel, like for example Tommy’s office, there’s a lot of references to Los Angeles there, the shape of certain curves etc. I’ve always tried to bring an Americana kind of sheen to a British gangster story. I think that’s legitimate because it is a myth.

The Garrison pub has been transformed, because [Tommy’s] gone to see London and he’s brought back an idea and done basically a Scarface on it. He’s done a 1980s Brian De Palma Al Pacino Scarface on his own pub, and it’s turned into this huge golden Las Vegas kind of mecca to his ambition, so it’s completely transformed.

[Harrisson] Is that your imprint, or is that implied in the script?

No, it’s implied in the script. He comes back and says, ‘right I’m gonna give Birmingham what I’ve seen in London. I’m gonna give the masses what they want’, which is this glamour. And he’s quite a glamourous individual. And I think also every location and every set is starting to change because he’s got money, so he buys a house from Polly in suburbia, and he’s buying racehorses, and he’s buying fast cars. You see him with this huge amount of money, and where’s that money going to take him? And I’ve always used gold as a symbol [for] his desire and ambition for money and wealth.


Posted by Geoff at 5:54 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 29, 2014 3:42 AM CDT
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