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Thursday, June 18, 2015
Earlier this month, I posted a quote from Giorgio Moroder, taken from an article in Entertainment Weekly, in which he talked a bit about working on Scarface, including writing the song She's On Fire (his favorite from that soundtrack). The other day, Complex's Brendan Frederick posted an interview with Moroder, who was asked about the process oof scoring Scarface. "When I met with the director Brian De Palma in New York," Moroder tells Frederick, "he told me about the movie and gave me the script. You had this character at the beginning who is a happy guy who made it to America, but then he gets into all kinds of problems with drugs. I went back to Los Angeles, and I composed a song even before I saw any scenes. And Brian liked the demo I did. I gave it that dark, hammering note—dong, dong, dong—to capture that feel of desperation. Sometimes, if you have the main theme done, then the rest is all relatively easy."


Frederick also asked Moroder whether he was familiar with the music of Kanye West, who has sampled the Scarface theme. "What I like about Kanye’s stuff is he always comes out with new sounds that are totally different. When I heard Mercy about two years ago, I said, 'What a weird song, and what an interesting sound.' The part when he sampled [Tony’s Theme] was quite clever because he took just those two chords, instead of sampling the whole phrase, which gave it that special sound. He did a good job with that one. And even the last song he did with Rihanna and Paul McCartney [FourFiveSeconds]—he’s inventive. I’m less connected to all his other affairs aside from music—calling himself the god of creativity and all that stuff. But he’s really good."

Posted by Geoff at 1:11 AM CDT
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Sunday, June 7, 2015
In this week's issue of Entertainment Weekly (June 12 2015), Giorgio Moroder gives Clark Collis "the stories behind the songs." One of the songs Moroder talks about is She's On Fire, which was sung by Amy Holland for the Scarface soundtrack. "Brian De Palma called me and said he's doing a remake of the old movie Scarface," Moroder tells Collis. "I read the script and loved it. I went to where they were filming some of the last scenes of the movie, so I got a little bit involved during the shooting. She's On Fire has some great lyrics and the melody's great. It's my favorite one off Scarface. I never tried [cocaine] and I'm so happy [I didn't]. I think I'm the only one in Hollywood, in the music business, who did not try it."

Meanwhile, last month, the New York Post posted an excerpt from Juan Reinaldo Sanchez' recent book, The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo. The excerpt suggests that there was a whole lot of truth to the premise of De Palma's film:

"In 1980, after weeks of negotiation, 100,000 Cubans were permitted to seek exile in the United States. Fidel Castro allowed them to go to the port of the town of Mariel and embark for Florida.

“It has been said that the Comandante took advantage of the situation by emptying the prisons. It is completely true: I saw him selecting them personally. I was present when they brought him lists of prisoners with the name, the reason for the sentence, and the date of release.

“Fidel read them and with a stroke of a pen designated which ones could go and which ones could stay — ‘yes’ was for murderers and dangerous criminals, ‘no’ was for those who attacked the revolution. In total, more than 2,000 criminals found themselves free…in the streets of Miami.”

Posted by Geoff at 3:40 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, June 7, 2015 3:42 PM CDT
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Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Al Pacino, interviewed by The Star's Graham Walker

"Oliver Stone, who wrote the screenplay and who is in my opinion a great screen writer, wrote it with such alacrity, power and passion and sociopolitical projection or insight. Brian De Palma, a great director, took something that had this underpin of social significance into more of an operatic, over the top interpretation and somehow those two coincided in a way and I think allowed this movie to become what it is.”

Quentin Tarantino, interviewed by Entertainment Weekly's Keith Staskiewicz

The Hateful Eight is currently in production to be released later this year, but at that point it was deader than the runner-up in a quick-draw duel with Tarantino saying he would adapt the script into a novel instead. “I was sad for all of us that possibly he wouldn’t do it or that he would let something like that get in the way of filming,” says [Tim] Roth. “I was glad to hear I didn’t do it, though.”

To complicate matters, Tarantino also filed suit against Gawker Media for copyright infringement when the company’s Defamer website posted a link to download a PDF of the leaked script. The suit would subsequently be tossed out, refiled, and eventually dropped by Tarantino, who now admits that the legal saga ended up serving as more of a distraction than redress. “I almost regret the whole suing Gawker because it actually took the light off of what was important,” he says. “My whole thing wasn’t against Gawker, it was against Hollywood practices that have just been considered okay.”

To that end, Tarantino even ended up attending a morning meeting with the agents of William Morris to hold a discussion on integrity and discretion. He says he doesn’t blame people for wanting to get a early glimpse at his film. “You know, when Brian DePalma was doing Scarface, I wanted to know anything that I could get before it opened,” he says. “A still shot, a shot from the set, anything. I get it.”

After a cool-down period, and a successful live reading of the script, Tarantino decided he would keep the nose rather than continue to spite his face, announcing that The Hateful Eight would, in fact, be going forward. He made a number of changes to the script—including a wholly new ending—and started looking for the actors to round out his cast, albeit slightly more prudently than before. “It wasn’t until I went to audition at his house that he gave me the ending,” Jennifer Jason Leigh says. “He was being really careful by that point.”

The Boston Globe's Ted Widmer: "What the man behind the ‘American Dream’ really meant"

"We all feel drawn to the 'American Dream.' For millions, immigrants especially, the phrase has evoked the full promise of the United States. What it means exactly, though, has shifted significantly over the years, and that accordion-like expansiveness has only increased its usefulness. Like a utility player on a baseball team, it’s a slogan that can play nearly any position, helping writers, politicians, activists, and academics talk about ways our society builds expectations — and occasionally delivers on them.

"But there can be a downside to a phrase that tries too hard, and in his new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam ultimately turns the notion on its head, arguing that the dream has become 'a split-screen American nightmare.' In Putnam’s hands, the phrase lingers as a jab to conscience, a reminder that we can do better — and often have...

"In 1931, amid the Great Depression, [James Truslow] Adams wrote another bestseller, The Epic of America, published in Boston by Little, Brown. This was the launch pad for the immortal quote. In a burst of democratic enthusiasm, he praised 'the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.'

"Adams was careful to separate the dream from mere prosperity — it was not a 'a dream of motor cars and high wages,' but 'a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.' It was a dream that could not exist in the older parts of the world, with their class structures, but needed, by definition, to be available 'for the simple human being of any and every class.'

"Other New Englanders in other centuries had said similar things — John Winthrop’s City upon a Hill, though that was more a collective than an individual dream, or Benjamin Franklin’s relentless schemes for self-advancement. But Adams improved upon them with a succinctness that fit the 20th century.

"Like any great expression, it has enjoyed a life of its own — wildly beyond the expectations of its creator, and often beyond his specific instructions as well. Despite his attempts to define it carefully, the American Dream has been identified with wealth, over and over again, by marketers, media, and the masses. Brian De Palma’s 1983 film Scarface, in which Al Pacino portrays a murderous drug dealer in Miami, included the tagline, 'He loved the American Dream. With a vengeance.' Donald Trump often attacks antipoverty programs for destroying the American Dream. But getting it so wrong is, in a way, a tribute to the idea’s hold on our imagination."

The Guardian's Keith Stuart: "The cliche of the lone male gamer needs to be destroyed"

"Even more tenuous is the idea that boys now completely lack societal role models. [Psychologist Philip] Zimbardo sees a popular culturing teeming with moodles ('man poodles') and infantilised losers like the stars of Judd Apatow’s comedy movies. What he doesn’t seem to have kept up with is the rise of the aspirational geek. Sure, the muscle-bound alpha males of 80s action cinema have largely retired, but tech culture has brought us new figureheads – Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Biz Stone, Palmer Luckey – men who (whatever you personally think of them) reached the top through intelligence and industry, who read the prevailing tech trends and got it all right. David Fincher’s movie Social Network is effectively a modern-age take on Brian de Palma’s Scarface: the analysis of male aspiration and heroism as a symbol for its contemporary milieu. Geeks are heroes now, and they’re a lot more functional and relatable than the movie and sports stars we once adored."

Posted by Geoff at 12:16 AM CDT
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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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