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Washington Post
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Exclusive Passion
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AV Club Review
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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, July 25, 2016
2 ARTICLES LOOK AT TRUTH/LIES IN 'BLOW OUT'
PRESENTS "THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT A COUNTRY BELIEVES ITSELF TO BE, AND WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS"


Two separate articles were posted over the weekend about Blow Out, which was released on July 24, 1981. Little White Lies' Taylor Burns wrote an essay with the headline, "Blow Out and the politics of despair"...
Travolta’s Jack Terry does everything his constitution tells him is the right thing to do, and he is punished for it, slapped back into place for having a blue collar and empty pockets. The information he has is of value to the American people and he pays for it with his life – not literally, like his partner, Sally (Nancy Allen), but with his American life, with the things he needs to know and trust to continue living as a citizen of his country. He ends the film alive but far from well. This is the politics of despair.

The film’s tragic final scene is among the most sorrowful, albeit gorgeous, in all of cinema; the (fictional) Liberty Day parade provides a cruel and ironic backdrop to Terry’s crack-up, Travolta matching the tone of the story by twisting and turning through a Philadelphia seaport awash with red, white and blue. Thousands of everyday patriots have taken to the street while in the shadows a government fixer (John Lithgow) is killing a young woman, disavowing the basic principles on which America was founded. Blow Out’s genius is to present the difference between what a country believes itself to be, and what it actually is. No matter the country. No matter who’s in charge.

Throughout this climactic scene cymbals crash and fireworks bang. They hang in the sky, colourful bursts of unadulterated patriotism for the revellers below to gawp in awe at. These people have been sold the belief that if they work hard for their country, if they defend its constitution and serve its enforcers, they will be rewarded – in this case with a showy parade that literally reminds them of the “Liberty” they are supposed to be so grateful for. What they don’t see is the firework coming down as a damp squib; its light a mere distraction from what’s going on in the dark.


And then at Audiences Everywhere, Whit Denton posted more of a ramble about the truth buried within the film. "With Blow Out," states Denton, "De Palma is telling a gripping, obsessive thriller that reckons with the id of American consciousness. Yet, he is also making a statement about the creation of art itself, about that unending and often infuriating search for truth. De Palma is trying to blow everything up and analyze every frame and sound bite, because perhaps hidden in the white noise and pixels there is some modicum of real and honest meaning lying dormant."

Posted by Geoff at 12:37 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, July 25, 2016 12:39 AM CDT
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016
JOHN MCMARTIN DIES AT 86
ACTOR HAD BRIEF ROLE AS POLITICAL ADVISOR IN 'BLOW OUT'
John McMartin, who had a brief but pivotal role as a political advisor in Brian De Palma's Blow Out, has died at the age of 86. Variety's Gordon Cox notes that McMartin's death "was attributed to cancer in a paid obituary announcement in the New York Times." McMartin was memorable in a brief scene near the beginning of Blow Out in which his character convinces Jack Terry to go along with the official story of the car crash. McMartin appeared in many roles on Broadway and television, as well as film. According to The Film Experience, McMartin appeared in three films with Robert Redford, including Alan J. Pakula's All the President's Men.

(Thanks to Bill Fentum!)

Posted by Geoff at 7:57 AM CDT
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Monday, July 4, 2016
RYAN LAMBIE ON 'BLOW OUT' & SHOCK ENDINGS
AND LOS ANGELES TIMES - 5 AMERICAN MOVIES TO SEE ON INDEPENDENCE DAY
Den Of Geek's Ryan Lambie discusses how Brian De Palma's Blow Out shows why we need movies that challenge us...
It was through thinking about my initial, knee-jerk reaction to Blow Out that I realized how carefully crafted and outright brilliant De Palma’s film is. I’d seen the movie before as a teenager, but I’d failed to understand the true gravity of that ending I’ve been talking about for two or three paragraphs already. Watching it again about 20 years later, I finally felt the weight and heft of Blow Out’s downbeat climax, its political cynicism, and the totality of Jack’s failure in achieving the goals laid out for him as the film’s protagonist.

De Palma didn’t make matters easy for himself by giving Blow Out such a bleak conclusion (he wrote the screenplay as well as directed). When the film came out in 1981, audiences appeared to vote with their wallets, with the warm recommendations from critics falling largely on deaf ears. Yet De Palma remained true to the movie he wanted to make; in the final analysis, Blow Out’s conclusion is as vital to its construction as the desolate resolution of David Fincher’s Seven.

In fact, there’s another potential reading of Blow Out that its director may or may not have consciously placed there for us: the movie is a master class in how to craft the perfect shock ending.


Meanwhile, Justin Chang at The Los Angeles Times includes Blow Out on today's list of "Five American movies to see on Independence Day"--
A tribute to the mechanics of filmmaking, yes, but Brian De Palma’s 1981 thriller also achieves a powerfully cynical evocation of America at the dawn of the Reagan era. Heavily influenced by the Watergate scandal, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and other national tragedies, the movie builds to a Liberty Day celebration where patriotism is subsumed in madness, violence and inexorable tragedy.

Posted by Geoff at 4:39 PM CDT
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Sunday, April 17, 2016
EBERTFEST - PACKED CROWD FOR 'BLOW OUT'
NANCY ALLEN IN ATTENDANCE, LEONARD MALTIN Q&A, CHILLING SCREAMS, BEAUTIFUL FILM


Last night (Saturday) at Ebertfest, Nancy Allen presented Brian De Palma's Blow Out to a packed house at the Virginia Theatre (which seats 1463) in Champaign, Illinois. In her introduction, Allen giddily told the crowd the film was about to be projected from a 35mm print. The day before, Allen had graciously sat down with me for an interview for "De Palma a la Mod" (I'll post that later, after I get it all transcribed), and she talked about screening a 35mm print of RoboCop at a recent fundraiser, and how much more alive and gorgeous the film was than when she has seen it screened digitally. So she was really looking forward to the Blow Out.

And what an amazing experience it was, watching Blow Out projected in 35mm on the huge Virginia screen, and with hundreds of other people, many of whom were seeing the film for the first time. As with each film shown at Ebertfest, the audience paid attention to every shot, every line of dialogue, laughed at every joke, even finding humor in places that remind one what it is like to see the film for the first time-- what a joy. There were a few scattered bits of seemingly-derisive laughter during the climactic shots of John Travolta running in slow motion, and a guy behind me also cackled a bit as the fireworks surround Jack as he looks down at, and then holds, Sally-- Matt Zoller Seitz, who was also in attendance, was right on with his "jackass" comment on Twitter (see below for several of his tweets from last night).

Yet these occurances did not appear to diminish the film for most of the audience. For me, who (of course) has seen this film a million times (so to speak), the experience of seeing and hearing Sally run to the edge of the roof and scream out at the top of her lungs, with the enormous American flag behind her, brought everything home in a chilling and emotional way. Right here, the film hit me in the gut with its message of heart and passion-- truth-- hidden within a sea of hackery.

After the film, Allen was joined on stage by Leonard Maltin for a discussion and Q&A with the audience. Maltin marveled at the film as a tribute to analog technology, from tape recorders, to film-development shops, to pay phones (and more). Allen mentioned how everyone seems in a hurry these days, noting the audience's patience in watching the long dialogue scenes in Blow Out. An article about that Q&A, and hopefully a video, will eventually post to RogerEbert.com. My own interview with Nancy will post here sometime this week. Meanwhile, here is a link to an interview she did prior to the screening with the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette. Talking about Roger Ebert, whose review of the film appears in the Ebertfest 2016 program, Allen told the newspaper's Paul Wood, "A lot of critics didn't get Blow Out, but Roger and Pauline Kael did."

The Daily Illini's Shalayne Pulia interviewed Allen right after the Q&A, asking for (among other questions) her advice to young women trying to carve a career in film. "Don’t let anyone tell you ‘No’," replied Allen. "You teach people how to treat you. If I had stopped when people started telling me ‘No,’ I wouldn’t have had a career. If you look at it as an adventure of where you’re supposed to be, if they say ‘No,’ just keep going until you end up where you’re supposed to be. Follow your bliss; the money will follow."







Posted by Geoff at 9:32 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 17, 2016 9:56 PM CDT
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Monday, February 22, 2016
EBERTFEST: NANCY ALLEN TO PRESENT 'BLOW OUT'
35MM PRINT WILL SCREEN AT FEST IN APRIL, FOLLOWED BY ON-STAGE DISCUSSION


A 35mm print of Brian De Palma's Blow Out will screen at this year's EbertFest, with Nancy Allen in attendance. Allen will present the film, and participate in an on-stage discussion and Q&A following the screening. Blow Out was announced today as EbertFest revealed several films that will be screened at the 18th annual edition of the festival, which runs this April 13-17 in Champaign, Illinois. The fest had previously announced that it will open with Crimson Peak, with Guillermo del Toro in attendance. The other four films announced today are The Third Man, Northfork, Force Of Destiny, and the 1925 silent film, Body & Soul. Six more films will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Back when Roger Ebert started this festival back in 1999, he called it "Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival," and focused on films that he didn't think had received their fair share of exposure or discussion. Blow Out might have fit that festival description quite well back then, even coming a few years after Quentin Tarantino brought renewed attention to the film by talking it up as one of his favorites and casting John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, etc., etc. These days, however (and thanks in no small part to Criterion), Blow Out is widely seen as De Palma's best film. Yet picking it for Ebertfest still highlights the fact that the film really does remain somewhat overlooked in the grand scheme of things, perhaps as a Travolta film (in the shadow of Pulp Fiction, Saturday Night Fever, Grease), and also as a De Palma film (in the shadow of more, shall we say, dazzling works such as Carrie, Scarface, or The Untouchables).

The blurb in the Ebertfest press announcement reads:

Roger Ebert considered “Blow Out” to be Brian De Palma’s finest film. From his review of “Blow Out”: “’Blow Out” stands by itself. It reminds us of the violence of ‘Dressed to Kill,’ the startling images of ‘The Fury,’ the clouded identities of ‘Sisters,’ the uncertainty of historical ‘facts’ from ‘Obsession,” and it ends with the bleak nihilism of ‘Carrie’.. But it moves beyond those films, because this time De Palma is more successful than ever before at populating his plot with three-dimensional characters.”

Posted by Geoff at 6:00 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 2:45 AM CST
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Thursday, January 21, 2016
'BLOW OUT' NEXT WEEK AT GABLES IN FLORIDA
35TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENINGS


Brian De Palma's Blow Out will play every night (except Tuesday) at 9pm for one week, beginning Friday, January 29, at the Gables Art Cinema in Coral Gables, Florida. "One of Brian De Palma’s greatest films and one of the great American films of the 1980s," states the Gables web site, "Blow Out is such a hallucinatory, emotionally and visually commanding experience that the term 'thriller' seems insufficient. De Palma takes a variety of elements - the Kennedy assassination; Chappaquiddick; Antonioni’s Blow Up; the slasher genre that was then in full flower; elements of Detective Bob Leuci’s experience working undercover for the Knapp Commission; the harshness and sadness of American life; and, as ever, Hitchcock’s Vertigo - and swirls and mixes them into a film that builds to a truly shattering conclusion. With John Travolta, in what is undoubtedly his greatest performance, as the sound man for low-budget movies who accidentally records a murder; Nancy Allen, absolutely heartbreaking; John Lithgow as the hired killer; and De Palma stalwart Dennis Franz as the world’s biggest sleaze. This was the second of three collaborations between De Palma and recently departed master DP Vilmos Zsigmond, in whose memory these 35th anniversary screenings are presented."

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
Updated: Friday, January 22, 2016 12:01 AM CST
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Saturday, January 2, 2016
AMAZINGLY STYLISH INCIDENTAL BABES

Posted by Geoff at 11:38 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2016 11:39 PM CST
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015
TWEET: 'ASHES & DIAMONDS' / 'BLOW OUT'

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
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Sunday, December 20, 2015
GUILLERMO DEL TORO TWEETS ABOUT 'BLOW OUT'
AND SOME FOLLOWER THINKS HE KNOWS HOW "DERIVATIVE" THE FILM SUPPOSEDLY IS (OF COURSE)


Guillermo del Toro posted a thoughtful tweet last night about Brian De Palma's Blow Out, and follower B.J.Boogie did the opposite with his response: "yeah but it's part Blow-Up and part The Conversation ... way too derivative and not as good." Really? Is that pretty much all Blow Out is? Just a mix of those two movies, eh? Boy, you really get it, don't you? Wow, you must have watched with eyes wide open at the film's opening faux slasher film parody, and the premonitory split-screen work of the opening credits, and, hmm, wait, where is the Yardbirds sequence in Blow Out? And, hmm, was there an ice-pick murder in either of those other films...? I can't quite... the serial murders as cover-up... which of those two movies does that come from? How about the experience of media as presented in the film, manipulated by various parties to inspire false ideas about what is really happening? What about the use of color in Blow Out, how does that relate to those other great films? And, wait a minute, did either of those older films reference the Chappaquiddick incident, or is that just one more real life event that makes De Palma's film even more derivative? And what about De Palma's claim that he was inspired to make Blow Out when he found that scraps of a great masterpiece, Lawrence Of Arabia, were being used as garbage filler while he was doing some sound editing. Well, that just takes us back to the film "as a meditation on the cannibalistic nature of art," now doesn't it? But you know, for some people, acknowledgement of and the furthering of great works such as Blow-Up and The Conversation (instead of ignoring the work that has come before you) will always just be, simply, derivative.

Posted by Geoff at 1:02 PM CST
Updated: Monday, December 21, 2015 12:26 AM CST
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Monday, November 30, 2015
'BLOW OUT' 35MM IN CHICAGO NEXT WEEK
PART OF "TARANTINO & FRIENDS" WEEK AT THE MUSIC BOX THEATRE
A 35mm print of Brian De Palma's Blow Out will screen at 9:45pm on Saturday December 5th and Monday December 7th at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. The screenings are part of the weeklong series "Tarantino & Friends," featuring "a selection of [Quentin Tarantino's] best films and the movies that inspired him during his formative years when he worked at a video rental store," according to the theatre's program notes. Along with the films mentioned in the program page pictured here, Stanley Kubrick's The Killing also screens as part of the series.

Meanwhile, beginning December 1st, Blow Out will begin streaming on Hulu. In a streaming guide this week, Rolling Stone's David Ehrlich writes, "The consensus choice for Brian De Palma's greatest movie, this deeply neurotic 1981 conspiracy thriller churns the director's most profound obsessions through the analog mechanics of cinema. Set in Philadelphia (but more accurately located somewhere between Blow-Up and The Conversation), the story concerns sound technician Jack Terry (John Travolta), whose equipment inadvertently records proof that a fatal car accident was the result of an assassination attempt. Sending Jack on a dangerous path that puts him in the crosshairs of a merciless killer (John Lithgow, natch), Blow Out builds to a haunting final scene that illustrates just how literally filmmakers transmute their anguish into the films their audiences come to love."

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 12:12 AM CST
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