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Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


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Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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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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Saturday, November 26, 2011
Lee Tamahori's The Devil's Double is based on the true story of Uday Hussein, Saddam Hussein's ruthless playboy son, and his body double. Dominic Cooper plays the dual roles of Uday and his double, and the film has been compared to Brian De Palma's Scarface ever since the first trailer was released. The film, dubbed everything from "the Iraqi Scarface," to "Scarface in Mesopotamia," has just been released on DVD, so it seems like a good time to post some links that touch on the comparisons.

Movie City News' Gary Dretzka:
"If the story weren’t so horrifyingly real, you’d find The Devil’s Double on a short list of thug classics alongside Brian De Palma’s Scarface. In fact, I’m surprised that movie wasn’t playing in the background somewhere during this faux-biography of Uday Hussein, another coke-snorting, woman-abusing and gun-obsessed fiend. The similarities between Tony Montana and the sadistic son of Saddam Hussein are inescapable. In an interview included in the DVD bonus package, director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) explains that he purposefully embellished Oday’s bad behavior – as related in the memoirs of body-double Latif Yahia – to distinguish it from traditional bio-pics, which can be judged according to their accuracy. In doing so, Oday’s misdeeds are made mythic and Devil’s Double becomes more operatic in tone. Tamahori also wanted to create a new archetype for the associates of rich and powerful people who take advantage of their position to commit crimes against humanity. It’s possible, too, that Tamahori was influenced by reports that Yahia had made up the story and he didn’t want facts to get in the way of a good movie. And, from what we’ve learned about Uday, Devil’s Double would be a powerful yarn even if only half of it were true. The late Moammar Ghadafi’s sons appear to have been cast from the same mold."

Mountain Xpress' Ken Hanke:
"In the film, Latif is a soldier who is first asked to be Uday's double, then tortured and finally blackmailed into taking the job to protect his family. This perhaps redefines the idea of an "offer he can't refuse," but that's probably deliberate because the film paints Uday as a gangster -- and it does the same, to some extent, to his father Saddam (Philip Quast). It just happens that the Husseins run a country, rather than a crime syndicate. In fact, quite a few people have likened the presentation of Uday to the Al Pacino character in Brian De Palma's 1983 remake of Scarface. The comparison is not without merit, though I'd say Uday wins in the raging-lunatic department."

Marshall and the Movies:
"That being said, unfortunately, most of the redeeming value of The Devil’s Double begins and ends with Dominic Cooper’s breakthrough performance. It’s a classic example of a good actor ruined by a ho-hum movie that spoils the chance of him getting the attention he really deserves. Director Lee Tamahori is where I place the root of these problems. The guy must have set out to make Scarface in Iraq because at times it just feels like a cry for Brian De Palma and Al Pacino to notice him. Clearly he’s a little too adrenaline-happy trying to replicate Tony Montana because the movie just goes way over the top in ways that it doesn’t need to go there."

Sabotage Times' Richard Luck:
"For a short while there, it looked like Dominic Cooper was going to become the next big thing in British film. A standout in both the stage and film versions of The History Boys and one of the few decent things about Starter For 10, the boy from Greenwich might have been a touch on the short side but he had charisma to burn. Then there was that rather wet supporting turn in the otherwise pretty decent The Duchess and that part in Mamma Mia! which no doubt paid a fortune but came at the price of his testicles. If it wasn’t for his good work in The Escapist and An Education, you could have been forgiven for thinking James Corden’s former housemate was but the latest in a long line of could-have-beens.

But now The Devil’s Double has arrived and all such doubts have disappeared. For in this fact-based story of the man hired to impersonate Saddam Hussein’s playboy son Uday, our man gives a performance that’s so over-the-top and entertaining, it can’t help but recall Al Pacino’s to-the-edge work in Scarface. Of course, this latest offering from the cross-dressing Kiwi Lee Tamahori doesn’t hit the same heights as Brian De Palma’s crime epic. It’s an engaging picture, though, featuring genuinely witty dialogue and a clutch of fine supporting turns. And while Cooper’s double performance could have come on like the worst sort of acting stunt, he’s so good you wouldn’t be surprised if he copped a nomination (or maybe two) when the BAFTAs come around next year."

The Guardian's John Patterson:
"Uday's a handful, living out some Baathist-inflected fantasia on De Palma's Scarface, shooting off guns indoors, plucking schoolgirls off the streets and raping them, exercising Caligulan droit du seigneur over a war hero's new bride, prompting her suicide, and mutilating and disembowelling his own dad's food-taster at a banquet to honour Mrs Hosni Mubarak (par-TAY!). Scotch, vodka, cigars, cocaine, heroin, porn, torture, rape and murder are his toys and his games, so he's the most nightmarish playmate you can imagine. And with all these mirrors and doppelgangers, it's like a psychopathic remake of The Parent Trap."

Mother Jones' Asawin Suebsaeng:
"But The Devil's Double's biggest problems stem from its inability to decide whether it wants to be a morality play, an exploitation flick, Scarface in Mesopotamia, or a Greek tragedy."

Posted by Geoff at 5:35 PM CST
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Friday, November 25, 2011
The November 2011 issue of American Cinematographer has a nice 9-page article about Vilmos Zsigmond's work on Brian De Palma's Blow Out, which seems to have finally arrived after being released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Criterion earlier this year. "Brian is really a stylist, and he's very experimental," Zsigmond tells AC's Jon Silberg. He sticks his neck out on movies that sometimes get bad reviews because the people who write the reviews say he's concentrating too much on the visuals. But that's what I like so much about him: he knows about images. There are so many films that just consist of talking heads, and they feel more like what you think of as 'TV coverage.' Brian always wants to do something that has style."

Zsigmond talks about shooting the night scene on the bridge, and the challenges of lighting the shots properly with the slower film stocks of the day (early 1980s). He also talks about the split diopter shots in the film: "You have to plan these shots ahead of time and find a way to hide the vertical line. That's the most important thing. The actors cannot cross that line, because it would look terrible." He mentions that with the types of lenses available today, such shots could be a little easier to do.

Also discussed is Zsigmond's technique of flashing the film, which he did on Blow Out to create less contrast and more shadow detail. This is a technique Zsigmond had developed on previous film projects in order to compensate for the slower film stocks of the day. "I flashed certain things to get more speed out of the film, more shadow detail," Zsigmond tells Silberg. "If we had a big scene-- like the fireworks at the end of Blow Out, where we had to show a whole city block at the port-- I would flash the film at least 10 percent to get a good exposure and detail in the shadows." The article goes on to explain that this was a risky process, involving the threading of exposed and unprocessed negative onto a printer. If there was any mistake made, or some kind of problem with the negative, a large amount of work could be lost for good. Fortunately (and incredibly), this never seemed to happen.

Also discussed is De Palma's penchant for single-take scenes:

"We would sometimes do shots that lasted four or five minutes," the cinematographer recalls. "Brian is very good at that-- he knows exactly what he wants. It's very easy for me to light those kinds of shots on his movies, because I know exactly where he wants the camera to go. And I know he's going to use it all because he loves using those shots-- abd there's no way to cut away. Sometimes he'd go five, six, eight or even 10 takes, knowing that the scene would play out as one shot on the screen."

Zsigmond finds this approach rewarding: "The fewer cuts you have in a film, the more interesting it is to watch the scene. It's like watching real life-- you get up close to people and to the action and let the scene play out. Lately I've enjoyed working with Woody Allen, because he is really aiming for one shot with no coverage. No close-ups, no over-the-shoulders. He wants to move the camera, and he does it in one continuous shot."

For [cinematographer Jan Kiesser, who was Zsigmond's operator on Blow Out], shots like this meant a significant amount of responsibility. "When we were making Blow Out," he says, "we didn't have video playback. It was really on your shoulders as an operator to critically judge composition throughout the shot. You had the best seat in the house for all the critical decisions, like eyelines and framing, but nobody else was going to see the shot until dailies! We were also shooting wide open, so we needed to be very critical about focus."

Michael Gershman was the first AC on Blow Out and worked frequently with Kiesser. "Michael and I started our careers together in animation," says Kiesser, "and we were on many crews togather. Like all great focus pullers, Michael had an uncanny knack for focus-- it was like a sixth sense. On Blow Out, he really had to multi-task, because some of those shots required zooming, focus-pulling and stop changes all at once."

The article also discusses the 360-degree shot in Jack's sound studio. "The space wasn't big enough to lay down tracks," Kiesser tells Silberg. "We had the camera in the middle of the room, and we kept panning around and zooming to keep up with the action. In those days, the camera didn't have a battery; it was powered from an external source, so we had to twist the power cable around the tripod and then untwist it during the shot."

Also discussed is the use of the Little Big Crane, which was designed by key grip Richard "Dicky" Deats. "The Little Big Crane let us get into places we might not have been able to access with a larer crane," Kiesser tells Silberg. "We had also used it a lot with Vilmos on Heaven's Gate. This was before remote heads, so I would ride the crane and time the camera movement to the crane's position. My strongest memory of [shooting Blow Out] is sitting up there in the cold and wind."

For the fireworks scenes at the end, according to the article, the production used real fireworks for the wider shots. Zsigmond, who notes that the fireworks were more blown out (or overexposed) than he would have liked, recalls to Silberg, "I brought in as many big lights as I could to bring up the darker areas. I never liked the look of some of those shots as much as I did in the Blu-ray that came out recently. I wasn't involved in timing it, but Brian must have been, or somebody who understood what we were going for, because the colors are more intense than we could get them [photochemically]. Today, we would finish with a DI, and we would have more control." The Criterion transfer of Blow Out was, in fact, supervised by De Palma.

Silberg's article also briefly covers the heartbreaking shot of Jack cradling Sally's body as the camera seems to spin around them:

At the end of the chase, Jack cradles Sally in his arms as the camera spins 360 degrees and reveals the fireworks above them. The shot was one of the film's few optical effects. "The production couldn't possibly create real fireworks in the sky as we spun the camera," Zsigmond explains. "We put the actors and their lighting on a turntable in front of a bluescreen, and we positioned the camera on one side of the turntable facing the bluescreen, where it remained static as we turned the actors around 360 degrees. Because the lighting was moving with the actors, it looked as if the camera was circling them. The fireworks were added in post."

The article concludes with Zsigmond expressing, in Silberg's words, "a particular fondness for the unabashedly stylish films he shot with De Palma" (the other films are Obsession, The Bonfire Of The Vanities, and The Black Dahlia). "I've worked on so many films where we aimed to be 'real,' and we would never have done some of the shots I did with Brian," Zsigmond tells Silberg. "But in a movie by Brian De Palma-- or Hitchcock-- it isn't important that what we're watching is 'real.' We're telling a story, and the most important thing is that the audience has fun watching it."

The magazine, as usual, is worth buying not just for the great article, but also for the terrific array of photographs. The cover story interview with Roger Deakins about his work on Andrew Niccol's new sci-fi thriller In Time is also worth checking out. It's a steal at only $5.95.

Posted by Geoff at 7:06 PM CST
Updated: Friday, November 25, 2011 7:08 PM CST
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Above is one of several videos posted to YouTube of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society's (BROS) presentation of Phantom Of The Paradise in 6D. In the video above, a live band mimics the performance of the song Upholstery from the film, and immediately after the end of the song, the film itself, which had been stopped for the stage performance, begins again from where a car bomb explodes on stage. Other YouTube videos from 6D screening, which took place on two consecutive nights last month during Halloween weekend, show on-stage performances of Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye, Special To Me, Phantom's Theme, Old Souls, Somebody Super Like You/Life At Last, and the closer, Hell Of It. All of the songs were written by Paul Williams.

The Swan Archives' Ari, the Principal Archivist, was at the first show that Friday night, and reports on what it was like:

The show was a tremendous hoot; the BROS are a talented and dedicated bunch, and it was a true multimedia extravaganza. (And the show sold out; I assume it did just as well the next night.) Basically, they screened the film, but every time the film got to a musical number, the film would stop, and they’d perform it live, with a live band, etc. Then, the film would resume from the point at which the musical number ended. (So they weren’t shadowcasting; the film and the live stuff was never happening simultaneously.) They had great costumes, and were kind of witty about the whole thing. For example, when Winslow plays Faust at the piano, as you know, the camera circles around him, as it does around Carrie and Billy as they dance. So the BROS had Winslow and the piano on a big lazy Susan, and a couple of stagehands rotated the piano as Winslow played, so you got the same spinning effect, but without the camera. During the montage sequence, as Winslow’s playing and dreaming of Phoenix, they projected a montage sequence that looked very similar, except that it had THEIR Phoenix in it, rather than Jessica Harper. Beef’s electrocution was accomplished with a neon lightning bolt that came down from the rafters. They had a full size replica of the Beach Bums’ car, which did a lap through the audience (up and down the aisles), before (sort of) exploding. They managed to be both extremely faithful to the film, and very original and creative at the same time.

(Thanks to Ari!)

Posted by Geoff at 12:17 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Broadway World has the full cast announcement from MCC Theater for the re-worked version of the stage musical, Carrie. Previously announced were Marin Mazzie (as Margaret White) and Molly Ranson in the title role. Joining them will be Christy Altomare, Carmen Cusack, Jeanna de Waal, Derek Klena, Ben Thompson, Wayne Wilcox, Corey Boardman, Blair Goldberg, F. Michael Haynie, Andy Mientus, Elly Noble, and Jen Sese. Performances will begin January 31, 2012, with the official opening night scheduled for March 1, 2012. The show is directed by Stafford Arima, with music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and a book by Lawrence D. Cohen, the latter of which wrote the screenplay for the Brian De Palma adaptation of Stephen King's novel.

Posted by Geoff at 11:04 PM CST
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Monday, November 21, 2011
Trailers From Hell mainstay Katt Shea delivers the trailer for Brian De Palma's Scarface today. In the video, Shea talks about filming her "very miniscule part" in the film, at the Babylon Club. "I was in the movie because Brian De Palma wanted the club populated with model-actresses," Shea says. "I was told you had to be a model with acting credits, or in my case, an actor with modeling credits, to get the gig. In the hallway at Universal was just littered with gorgeousness at the call. And there were recognizable models just standing there waiting for their interview. And four or five of us got hired. And what we were hired to do was just react at the Babylon Club to the big shootout. Sounds like a day's work, right? Or maybe two days work. But no, between the problem of the walls being mirrors, and the entire crew could be seen in them, and the fact that Al Pacino wasn't feeling it and wouldn't come out of his trailer for a week, I worked a full week. And at Friday at 12pm, the illustrious DP, John Alonzo, announced that it was going to be Universal's first no-shot week. An hour later, they got the shot off, and the reaction actors were released. And in their defense, I have to say it was a Herculean shot."

Shea talks about how the film is all about excess, yet the women are all very skinny-- "way too skinny" for Shea's taste. She mentions that while the movie bombed upon release, she still gets residuals from it today amidst all of its success. She also talks about her continued connection to De Palma, naming the first film she directed, Stripped To Kill, after De Palma's Dressed To Kill, and being approved by De Palma to direct the sequel to his adaptation of Carrie (although, she mentions, De Palma said he did not remember her from Scarface). She finishes by saying that she was the girl in red.

Posted by Geoff at 8:11 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 7:19 PM CDT
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Sunday, November 20, 2011
John Lithgow was honored by the Dallas Film Society this past weekend. The tribute kicked off Friday night with a conversation between Lithgow and critic Elvis Mitchell (who last week hosted a Q&A with Rie Rasmussen at the New Beverly) following a reel of highlights from Lithgow's work, including clips from Brian De Palma's Obsession and Raising Cain.

In September, Lithgow's memoir Drama: An Actor's Education was published by HarperCollins, and it includes a section on an unnamed movie that is obviously De Palma's Obsession. In this section, Lithgow discusses what he learned from the lead actor in the film, who "was navigating the rough waters of a middle-aged leading man's faltering career." This actor, who Lithgow calls "Rock Masters" in the book, saw the part as "a chance to regain some lost credibility in the movie business," according to Lithgow. I said above that the film is unnamed in the book, but Lithgow does give it a fictional name: Interdit, a "second-generation Alfred Hitchcock" directed by "a filmmaker friend of mine... Him I will call Paolo." The gist of the "Rock Masters" story is that the actor sort of takes Lithgow under his wing, teaching him the tricks he uses to make sure he gets more screen time than any of the other actors, and also the best angles on his face. Lithgow takes the advice as lessons on what not to do on film sets. "Rock Masters" was asked by Paolo to make adjustments, and the actor would politely say he would do so on the next take, but then when the time came, Masters would do the same thing again, or whatever he wanted. The crew took to calling him "Mr. Pleasant" behind his back, and that is the title of the chapter in Lithgow's book. It is definitely a chapter worth checking out for a unique perspective on one aspect of the making of Obsession.

Elsewhere in the book, Lithgow recalls the first time he met De Palma, when the filmmaker, who could be heard cackling wildly during a Lithgow performance on stage in Princeton, New Jersey in the summer of 1966. Lithgow writes that De Palma "was effusive in his praise" after the show, and years later, suggested Lithgow to the filmmaker Paul Williams, who was looking for someone to play "a patrician Harvard undergraduate dope dealer" in the film, Dealing: Or The Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues.

This led to Lithgow spending a flash of a month in Hollywood, finishing off with a disastrous casting meeting with Terrence Malick and Lynn Stalmaster, who were looking at Lithgow to potentially take on the role that eventually went to Sam Shepard in Days Of Heaven. But prior to that, Lithgow writes about meeting with De Palma and Raquel Welch for a part in what was obviously Fuzz. Here is the excerpt from Lithgow's book:

I even had lunch with Brian De Palma and Raquel Welch at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel as part of Brian's (failed) plot to get me approved for a movie he ended up not directing. Me? Playing comedy sex scenes with Raquel Welch? Had the world gone crazy? It was as if I had fallen down the rabbit hole.

In a 1980 Rolling Stone interview with Jean Vallely, De Palma used a story about casting Fuzz to help illustrate the distorted ways Hollywood views success, and how a filmmaker easily gets wrapped up in that distorted view:

I was in California, at the bottom of my career. I had a picture on the shelf, Get To Know Your Rabbit. I couldn't get arrested. I was trying to get Sisters off the ground, but it was hopeless and I realized I'd have to raise the money independently. Then Marty Ransohoff offered me Fuzz. It was a funny New York cop picture, and I thought I could do something with it. We started to pick the cast; I went after Burt Reynolds and got him in the picture. Then I was told the studio heads wanted to cast Yul Brynner and Raquel Welch for the foreign market. [De Palma's eyes light up.] Yul Brynner and Raquel Welch in a New York street-cop movie! I went to the writer and producer, and we met with Ransohoff. He said, 'I've got United Artists on the phone, and if you don't put those fucking people in the picture, United Artists won't finace it. You guys better go back and talk it over.' [De Palma shakes his head.] Anyway, I ended up not doing the picture, but it's that kind of thinking-- you're in a desperate situation, you gotta have a job, you're offered a lot of money... It affects you. I think the only way not to be affected by it is to try to keep away from that kind of crafty, commercial, capitalistic world as much as possible. The key to that kind of system is, 'What's his price? How can he be had? How can we get him interested?' And there are a lot of people a lot smarter than I am who think about nothing else twenty-four hours a day. I'm smart enough to know they might find some way to get to me. You just try to keep on a different road.

De Palma a la Mod reader Chris took his family to see "An Evening with John Lithgow" in San Francisco last month. During the Q&A session afterward, Chris asked Lithgow if he had anything to relate about working on De Palma's Raising Cain. According to Chris, "He said that he had been on the phone with De Palma two hours earlier, the first time he’d spoken with him in some time (did he say 12 years?). De Palma had called him because he’d just read the book. Lithgow was effusive in his praise for De Palma, saying that he’d loved working with him and that the director’s extreme thouroughness and preparation created an atmosphere in which an actor could relax, knowing that he was in good hands; he mentioned Hitchcock’s having planned and storyboarded things to such a degree that the actual filming seemed only a follow-through on the creative work already done, and that De Palma was the same way. He said De Palma was one of three 'old school' directors he’d worked for — with George Roy Hill and Bob Fosse — and a master craftsman and that, further, he chose extremely talented people for all aspects of the production (he particularly mentioned Vilmos Zsigmond)."
(Thanks Chris!)

Posted by Geoff at 10:46 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 21, 2011 7:49 PM CST
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Saturday, November 19, 2011
Piper Laurie will appear at Camp Midnight's "A Very 'Carrie' Christmas" event at Chicago's Music Box Theatre on Sunday, Decmber 4th. Laurie will participate in a Q&A following a screening of Brian De Palma's Carrie. But this will not be an average screening of Carrie. For starters, this is a show that was supposed to happen October 9, as a Halloween-themed event. For some reason, the show had been postponed, and now that it is happening in December, it has been changed, oddly, to be a Christmas-themed event. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Hell in a Handbag Productions, Inc., the theatre company that put on SCARRIE The Musical in 2005 (a revival of a show from 1998), an unauthorized spoof of the De Palma film and the 1988 Broadway musical version of Carrie that featured an all-male cast.

So that gives one an idea of what to expect when Camp Midnight presents its "Interactive Audience Screening (complete with screening guide) and hellacious, hilarious commentary from your Camp Midnight hosts Dick O’Day and Hell in a Handbag’s David Cerda." The pre-show will feature a Carrie character parade contest with prizes for the winners (so "get out your prom dresses, buckets of blood and Bibles!"), and a sing-along at the Music Box organ. Laurie's memoir, Learning To Live Out Loud, will also be on sale at the event. The event begins with the pre-show at 2pm. Tickets are $12 in advance, and $15 the day of the show.

The Chicagoist's Eric Hehr asks, "Is Carrie really the right choice for a camp film event? Does an Oscar nominated film that has become a staple of its genre deserve to be reduced down to the status of a B-movie and exploited for cheap laughs by comedic commentary?" Hehr continues:

Granted, aspects of Carrie have not aged well (mainly Travolta’s hair), and the horror genre is exceedingly fickle to begin with. However, we’re not talking about Killer Clowns From Outer Space or Motel Hell here. We’re talking about one of the few horror films nominated for Academy Awards (Spacek and Laurie received nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively). Carrie garnished an immense amount of positive reviews when it was released, grossing more than 18 times its budget ($33.8 million) and being hailed as one of the best films of 1976.

Chicago’s own Roger Ebert described the film as “an absolutely spellbinding horror film” and “an observant human portrait.” In 1978, Stephen Farber of the New West Magazine prophetically claimed that Carrie was “a horror classic, and years from now it will still be written and argued about, and it will still be scaring the daylights out of new generations of moviegoers." Director and self-proclaimed film geek, Quentin Tarantino, placed Carrie at #8 on his “Favorite Films Ever Made” list, and author Stephen King considers Carrie to be the best cinematic adaptations of all his novels. Carrie has also placed incredibly high on many other cinematic lists, including Empires Magazine "The 500 Greatest Movies of all Time" (#86), Entertainment Weekly’s "50 Best High School Movies" (#15), Bravo’s "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments" (#8), and the American Film Institutes "100 Greatest Cinema Thrills" (#46).

Hehr makes some great points, all of which I agree with, yet the idea of Laurie being present at such an event seems an appropriate irony. Laurie writes in her memoir that she originally connected to the Carrie screenplay by reading it as comedy. Viewing the film camped up with what Hehr calls "Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque commentary" should make for a very interesting Q&A with Laurie afterward.

Posted by Geoff at 7:55 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 20, 2011 9:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Armond White states that with The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodóvar has made a horror film that "is the most self-conscious, intellectually ambitious film yet from a director who has previously used self-consciousness in the form of camp irony." White mentions Luis Buñuel and Brian De Palma as partial influences:

I’ve avoided plot details because Skin would not synopsize well. But it’s full of feeling—a genuine art experience, even when Almodóvar fights his own conceits. Villainy and martyrdom overlap, as do dream and terror. That’s why the film embraces Buñuel’s acerbity yet neglects his humor, evokes the narrative flow of De Palma’s Femme Fatale then shrinks from the omniscience that De Palma synthesized out of Hitchcock, Michael Powell and Warhol.

Others have noted a De Palma influence on The Skin I Live In. DVD Talk's Jason Bailey concludes that a De Palma comparison doesn't hold water, yet his argument suggests structural links to De Palma's Femme Fatale:

The Skin I Live In has been diagnosed in countless reviews as the Spanish filmmaker's homage to Hitchcock, and on the surface, that's true enough; you can hear it in Alberto Iglesias's gloriously, almost deliriously over-the-top score, and you can see it in the dirty kick of certain scenes that alternately call to mind Hitch and his cinematic pupil, Brian De Palma.

But the picture is just too damn strange for those comparisons to hold water; Almodovar lets his narrative get out of his control in a way that those filmmakers seldom did. He takes an interesting structural strategy, basically starting out in the middle of the story, then taking the second act to catch us up (at one point, from two different points of view). It's a risky storytelling gamble, and one that doesn't always pay off--he certainly keeps you guessing, but we get the unnerving feeling, at times, of merely having our chains pulled.

The A.V. Club's Noel Murray and Scott Tobias suggest a cross between Cronenberg and De Palma, while a discussion last May at Plunderphonics brought in comparisons to De Palma's Femme Fatale and Body Double.

Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 12:02 AM CST
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Monday, November 14, 2011
The Nashville Public Library will host a free screening of Brian De Palma's Obsession this Saturday, November 19th. In anticipation of the screening, "Movies at Main" program coordinator William Chamberlain interviewed producer George Litto for the Popmatic Podcast. Litto talked about how he came to be De Palma's agent for a year, and then producer of three of the director's films. Regarding Obsession, Litto tells the story of how John Lithgow came to be cast in the film (Cliff Robertson read with Lithgow and liked him, although he told Litto he didn't "normally like to work with actors who are taller than me"). Litto also talks about how he kept nagging De Palma that he needed to fix the third act of Obsession. After impressing Bernard Herrmann as the two discussed what the composer would need in order to perform his score for the film, Litto told Chamberlain that Herrmann smiled, turned to De Palma and said, "You know, for a producer, he's not so bad. Okay, mister wiseguy producer, since you know everything, you know you need a new third act, don't you, on this movie?" Litto replied, "Mr. Herrmann, please tell that to the director." Litto then was off to Italy, while De Palma stayed in London to cast the movie. When Litto returned to London, De Palma called him to tell him he had a new third act.

Later in the interview, Chamberlain asks Litto what he would have changed about Obsession to make it better, and Litto said that that had been the one thing to change: "Well, the third act was critical. In the original version, Cliff Robertson gets on a plane to find this girl who betrayed him, not knowing it's his daughter. And he finally locates her in Florence, at a nunnery, catatonic. It would have been very downbeat, and to me, unsatisfying. It would have been, you know, a tragedy. And I said no, it's really a story of love. It's a father and daughter in search of each other. You can't leave the audience unsatisfied. So changing that ending was the critical thing."

The interview also touches on Dressed To Kill and several other films and filmmakers Litto has been involved with. In other news, Arrow Video will release a regular DVD edition of Obsession on January 30, 2012. This past summer, Arrow released a Blu-Ray edition of the film.

Posted by Geoff at 6:18 PM CST
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Sunday, November 13, 2011
Peter Elbling, who portrayed "Juicy Fruit" member Harold Oblong in Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, is raising money for a new short film, Mr. Vinegar And The Ants. The film stars Elbling as "an inept bumbler who, thinking he is better than he is, inevitably brings the world crashing down on his own head." The film will feature physical humor in the style of Chaplin, Keaton, and Mr. Bean. The plan is to make the short film and bring it to festivals as Elbling and his team works toward getting financing for a "Mr. Vinegar" feature.

Elbling is offering special perks for Phantom fans-- note the limited quantities available, so you may want to check with Elbling (via PeterElbling.com) to make sure a perk you are expecting is still available before you make your donation. Here they are:

$125 USD donation: Phantompalooza II poster signed by the cast (2 available)
$75 USD donation: French PAL version of the DVD with complete cast interviews. Still in shrink wrap. (1 available)
$60 USD donation: French PAL version of the DVD with complete cast interviews. Opened (1 available)
$50 USD donation: Phantompalooza II T-shirt (10 available).
$10 USD donation: Buttons or Guitar pics with Death Records Logo. (40 available)

Posted by Geoff at 10:20 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011 10:26 AM CST
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