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Recent Headlines
a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
straight-forward"
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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Exclusive Passion
Interviews:

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario

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AV Club Review
of Dumas book

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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


Enthusiasms...

De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

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Carrie...A Fan's Site

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No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

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Alfred Hitchcock Films

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Mission To Mars
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and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags

Directorama

The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

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Offices of Death Records

The Carlito's Way
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italkyoubored

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De Palma a la Mod
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Entries by Topic
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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Ambrose Chapel
Are Snakes Necessary?
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Wednesday, March 11, 2020
VFX SITE LOOKS BACK AT M2M EVOLUTION SEQUENCE
AND PETER SOBCZYNSKI REVISITS THE FILM 20 YEARS LATER FOR THE SPOOL
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/vfxjohnknoll.jpg

Above is a picture of Industrial Light & Magic's John Knoll, who was a VFX supervisor on Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars. The picture is part of an article by befores & afters' Ian Failes, which takes a look back at ILM's evolution sequence for the film.

"One sequence that always remained in my memory was the lengthy holographic evolution shot," states Failes. "Here, microscopic paramecia evolve – with no cuts – into other creatures including fish, lizards, crocodiles, dinosaurs, mammoths and buffalo, with hunting humans featured at the end. ILM handled this moment, which occurs while several astronauts are being versed on the origins of the universe. I asked then CG supervisor Christophe Hery, now a research scientist at Facebook Reality Labs, who supervised the work, how it was pulled off with Cari and some unique approaches to morphing."
Christophe Hery: We ultimately delivered an illustrative look, but in making it we approached it from a more photoreal perspective, going as far as putting detailed displacement on the creatures and the terrain.

The difficulties (and innovations) stem, besides the length, from the fact that we had to morph animals that were shaped quite differently, from early fishes to bisons, in the context of a herd (or school).

We approached these transformations by imposing a common topology on all creatures. This was an interesting exercise for the modelers and the riggers at the time, and they did a great job at that.

A tool was written on top of Cari [aka Caricature, a tool developed by ILM’s Cary Phillips], if I remember correctly, that would weigh the morphs in various regions of the bodies (so we could have, say, legs from crocodiles and necks from diplodocus appearing at different rates). All of this could be tailored and key-framed.

We had very fine control there, per limb, but we settled, again for illustration purposes, into a more unified morph speed. The camera is panning along from above, so it became hard to read the subtleties and we wanted the message to be obvious.

The morph weights were also automatically exported from this Cari extension into the shaders, so we would get a blend of the corresponding appearances automatically.

Surprisingly, the initial push into the water was the most difficult part to render. With all these bubbles motion blurred and very close-by, we were constantly faced with camera near clipping plane issues.

The shot was truly delivered/rendered as one continuous full CG shot (in Renderman). Only the actual footage of the astronauts and the alien hand were composited in (the alien being a separate CG render pass, obviously).


PETER SOBCZYNSKI ON 'MISSION TO MARS' 20 YEARS LATER

Meanwhile, at The Spool, Peter Sobczynski looks back at Mission To Mars, as well:

Although primarily known for dark suspense thrillers, Brian De Palma’s filmography is studded with a number of seemingly offbeat projects that one might not normally associate with the director of Carrie and Dressed to Kill. Even among his most ardent fans, though, a project like his 2000 effort, Mission to Mars, continues to serve as a bit of a bafflement. If you had to select the least suitable project imaginable for one of Hollywood’s most iconoclastic and cynical filmmakers, you could hardly do better than propose he make an expensive, optimistic PG sci-fi epic for Disney that was loosely inspired by one of their theme park attractions.

The results were perhaps not very surprising. Aside from France, where it screened as part of that year’s Cannes Film Festival and was ranked #4 on Cahiers du cinema’s list of the best films of the year, it was a financial and critical failure. It’s rarely discussed today even amongst De Palma scholars. (De Palma himself only briefly touches on it in the documentary De Palma.) And yet, to watch it again 20 years after its initial release is an interesting experience.

It clearly pales in comparison to such works as Blow Out, Phantom of the Paradise, and Femme Fatale and it’s still wildly uneven in many ways. At the same time, to watch De Palma attempt to embrace new things in both genre and mindset is fascinating. It even contains one of the most absolutely spellbinding set pieces in a career that is not exactly wanting in that regard and as such, the end result makes sense in the grand scheme of his career.


After some discussion of the plot and background of the production, Sobczynski continues:
And yet, as clumsy as it can get at times, Mission to Mars does make for an intriguing addition to the De Palma canon. The film is not without its bleak and grisly moments—one scene features an exploding body that evokes the infamous finale of The Fury, albeit in a resoundingly PG-rated manner. That said, the storyline is ultimately hopeful and while it does lead to some odd moments (including what must be the least cynical deployment of the American flag in De Palma’s oeuvre), it’s surprisingly successful in evoking that kind of spirit without coming across as too forced.

Better yet, the film is a visual marvel as De Palma, along with longtime collaborators such as cinematographer Stephen H. Burum and editor Paul Hirsch, creates any number of stunning images in which the constantly roving camera meshes with the feeling of weightlessness.

The highpoint of the film—indeed, the sequence that even its detractors admit is effective—is the stunning mid-film section in which a micrometeorite shower kicks off a series of ever-expanding disasters that culminates in the demise of one of the nominal stars at just barely past the halfway point. This sequence, which runs about 20 minutes or so, is De Palma at his best. It’s suspenseful, exciting, darkly funny, and constructed with jigsaw precision, and when it comes to its conclusion, it leaves viewers feeling a combination of shock and utter exhilaration at what they have just witnessed.

Seen today, Mission to Mars is just as much of an oddity as it was when it first came out and while it will almost certainly never be regarded as one of the great De Palma films by any stretch of the imagination, it does not deserve its reputation as a wholesale disaster that it gained virtually from the day it came out. (The film remains De Palma’s last Hollywood studio production as he would relocate to Europe after it came out to make films like Femme Fatale, The Black Dahlia, and Passion.)

At its lowest points, it is no worse than any number of anonymous space operas that have been produced over the years (including Red Planet, the competing Mars-themed thriller that it beat into theaters by a few months). At its highest peaks—specifically that still jaw-dropping mid-section—it serves a potent reminder of De Palma’s skills as a filmmaker. This is a film that is undeniably flawed but also undeniably ambitious and in a time when most films of this sort tend to forget to include the ambition alongside the elaborate visual effects, that does count for something in the end.


Posted by Geoff at 11:33 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 10, 2020
'MISSION TO MARS' - RELEASED ON THIS DAY IN 2000
"I know it's hard to imagine a world with men like astronauts, who have this purity about them, but that's what I experienced in the times I spent with them. And also, they have that kind of starry-eyed look, because they've seen things that we will never see. They've been out there, hanging off the shuttle somewhere, fixing something on one of the satellites, and they've been looking around the universe. They come back with this look in their eyes! There's something magical about it. And that was what I was attempting to show, with Gary Sinise's journey through the material. These guys have been somewhere and done things that no man has ever done before." - Brian De Palma, talking to Bill Fentum in 2000

https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cockpitsmall1.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 1:55 AM CDT
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Monday, March 9, 2020
70MM 'UNTOUCHABLES' IN CHICAGO, MARCH 14,17,18
PART OF MUSIC BOX THEATRE'S 70MM FILM FESTIVAL 2020
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/musicboxtweetuntouchables.jpg

Brian De Palma's The Untouchables will screen in a 70mm Blowup print, with Magnetic Sound, at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago March 14, 17, and 18. The Untouchables was included in an early version of the Music Box's 70MM Fest back in the summer of 2016.

Posted by Geoff at 11:09 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, March 9, 2020 11:12 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 8, 2020
UPDATE -DE PALMA NIGHT AT METROGRAPH CANCELED

WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO APPEAR IN PERSON TO SIGN BOOKS & PRESENT 2 FILMS THAT NIGHT - QUINE'S 'PUSHOVER' AND DE PALMA'S OWN 'FEMME FATALE'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/metrographsnakestweet.jpg

UPDATE 3/14/2020 - The Metrograph appears to be in the process of canceling all screenings at the theater after March 18, which includes the sceenings mentioned in this post.

UPDATE 3/11/2020 -  The Metrograph page for this event now reads, "De Palma will no longer appear in person."

Original Post from 3/8/2020 - Brian De Palma
will spend a Saturday night at The Metrograph in New York City March 21st. He'll be signing copies of Are Snakes Necessary? And he will also present two films: Richard Quine's Pushover (1954), and De Palma's own Femme Fatale (2002), the latter a Metrograph favorite. The choice of Pushover is interesting, as it featured the film debut of Kim Novak, who, of course, would go on to star with James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, the 1958 film that sparked De Palma's interest in cinema. Stewart and Novak teamed up again in 1958 for another Richard Quine film, Bell, Book and Candle, which was a big hit at the box office. Meanwhile, Novak's co-star in Quine's Pushover, Fred MacMurray, had already starred with Barbara Stanwyck in another De Palma favorite, Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944), which is playing on a hotel television in the opening shot of De Palma's Femme Fatale. When you consider that Are Snakes Necessary? includes a film crew in France who are making their own version of Vertigo, there is sure to be some fascinating intertextual discussion March 21st at the Metrograph.

Here's the Metrograph description of the event:

BRIAN DE PALMA IN PERSON
March 21

Brian De Palma has been an independent cinephile filmmaker emerging from the politically and aesthetically radical 1960’s counterculture of New York City. He has been a director of scrappy, ingenious low-budget genre fare, and he has been an unmistakably personal studio auteur putting the entire mechanism of industrial filmmaking towards creating big, bold, and sui generis thrillers. He survived being perhaps the most excoriated of New Hollywood’s Young Turks, and has become among the most venerated of its Old Masters.

And now he is adding another accomplishment to his astonishing CV—the author of literary fiction. At Metrograph for the release of his debut novel, the political satire Are Snakes Necessary?, co-written with Susan Lehman and published by Hard Case Crime, De Palma will also present one of his own films and an old favorite, as a reassurance he hasn’t left the cinema behind entirely.


ARE SNAKES NECESSARY? - TWO MORE EARLY REVIEWS

C.J. Bunce, borg

The modern pulp noir follows intersecting characters in a smarmy world of cheating, lying, and murder, from Las Vegas to Washington to Paris.

A senator and his majordomo encounter a woman from the senator’s past at an airport, and the senator is eager to welcome her daughter as an intern to document his campaign. Meanwhile, a struggling photographer gets mixed up with the trophy wife of a wealthy businessman in Las Vegas. Two married couples–a cheating wife and a cheating husband–the wife a victim of spousal abuse seeking to get out, and a politician with a sick wife staking out his next conquest. And somehow they all come together during a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, based more toward the underlying novel, which was set in France (I reviewed the novel a few weeks ago here at borg).

In a way Are Snakes Necessary? is De Palma taking a stab at doing his own play on Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski. Fans of The Girl on the Train, Chinatown, State of Play, and the sleazier shelf of 1970s era pulp crime novels will go for this one, along with fans of De Palma’s films. More about 20th century sexual politics than 21st century sexual politics and less about a political campaign, the snakes in the title are the men who continue to get away with manipulation, lies, and sometimes murder.

The setting and players will be familiar to readers of Elmore Leonard–it’s the kind of pulp crime story where men are maulers and women only survive if they’re willing to kill–the kind of story De Palma or Tarentino would put on the big screen, along with the corresponding sex, language, and violence. Almost as an aside, the authors slip in a character something like Melanie in Leonard’s The Switch and Rum Punch, a woman fed-up with her lot who knows herself and finds her way into an off-the-wall revenge plot. The book also has that taste of so many airplane-based movies in the 1970s with those relationships tied to travel, like passengers flirting, something that hasn’t been a go-to plot element for a while.

Are Snakes Necessary? is full of highs and lows–highs in its surprises, lows in its overall familiar tropes of the genre. Tightly written, the story may also seem a bit thin and straightforward, although the authors pack a handful of twists into their tale, including a vivid climactic sequence at the Eiffel Tower clearly written for the screen, which may justify a read all by itself. The authors reveal the scene via a photographer that plays out like a zoetrope–a really nice effect. In fact the entire novel feels like it could have been a screenplay adapted into novel form.


Mark Rose, Bookgasm
De Palma and Lehman provide a nice brisk pace through what is a relatively short novel. And unfortunately, the short length may be the flaw that bothered me the most. The ending seems rushed, unsatisfactory in details, and is way too pat (there are twists I don’t wish to give away). However, there is a lot going on with all of the characters, and they seem fairly well-rounded.

Descriptions are at a minimum but still adequate. Dialogue is realistic. The two stories are strong but could have benefited from further fleshing out. Is it readable? Absolutely. Is it a classic? No. A good read for an airplane ride or your first day on the beach.


Posted by Geoff at 3:55 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, March 14, 2020 9:43 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 7, 2020
TWEET SPECIAL - SATURDAY NIGHT HOOPS
DE PALMA EARRINGS & 'MURDER A LA MOD'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/depalmaearrings.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 6:46 PM CST
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Friday, March 6, 2020
'MISSION TO MARS' TURNS 20
A "VISUAL RHAPSODY," SAID CHARLES TAYLOR AT SALON
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/m2mlargedance.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 7:56 AM CST
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Thursday, March 5, 2020
PEET GELDERBLOM'S ARCHIVAL FICTION FEATURE
'WHEN FOREVER DIES' IS 'A CASCADE OF FOUND-FOOTAGE IMAGERY' EDITED INTO COHERENT STORY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/whenforeverdies.jpg

Our old friend Peet Gelderblom, who famously re-cut Raising Cain back to something resembling Brian De Palma's original idea for that film, has been working on a new project for the past couple of years: When Forever Dies, described as "an archival fiction film assembled from fragments of hundreds of largely forgotten movies, most of which are rarely seen today." The film will have its world premiere next month at the Imagine Film Festival in Amsterdam, and they've started a crowdfunding page for the final stages of production. You'll find a compelling trailer posted there. Here's more from the crowdfunding description:
Writer/director Peet Gelderblom joined forces with the prestigious Eye Filmmuseum and production company Tangerine Tree to repurpose a treasure trove of moving images into a genre-bending found-footage fantasia, 125 years in the making.

Silent movies, propaganda, animation, newsreels, advertising, trick films, burlesque, educational shorts and experimental cinema unearthed from dusty archival sources were painstakingly curated and cleverly re-mixed to create an immersive sensory experience. Held together by a compelling narrative, anonymous strips of celluloid were combined with nitrate prints of long-lost classics and given new meaning. Fully enveloping sound design was added to cast the vintage imagery - often color-tinted, sometimes degraded, but always gorgeous - in a different light.

The film features original music by Pieter Straatman, Kettel and Man After Midnight, classical pieces and an eclectic mix of existing tracks.


The page also includes Gelderblom's Director's Statement:
This film, made of 125 years of film, is dedicated to all of the artists, producers and technicians before the lens and behind the scenes who gave cinema light and shadow. And to the archivists keeping the magic alive when movies are sometimes forgotten.

Archival footage is usually deployed to document the past: to create a time capsule of what once was and is no more. That’s the traditional approach and perfectly legitimate, but the vast creative possibilities that film archives offer are rarely explored in full.

For this particular project I was not interested in what Werner Herzog has called “the truth of accountants.” I don’t see these largely forgotten moving pictures as ancient relics, but as living things. In a recycled context, pieces of old film have the power to open doors of perception—at once timeless and relevant to our times.

The tools of the digital age allow filmmakers as myself to clash perspectives, combine wildly different sources in unexpected ways and overlay a contemporary point of view. When these antiquated images are used as building blocks for archival fiction or other experiments, they offer a vintage lens through which one can see the world of today more clearly.

In the age of sampling and recycling, it’s only logical to consider the potential of a circular cinema: a second chance for orphaned reels of film to find a new home. When Forever Dies is my attempt to take this concept as far as I could, but I never expected the end product to feel so personal.

As I dived into the archives, the archives also dived into me. I chose to work only with images that really spoke to me, and much to my surprise, the images I found demanded a discussion. What started out as my ode to cinema became a manifestation of all I hold dear and fear of losing, as alluring as it is distressing.


Posted by Geoff at 8:15 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, March 7, 2020 9:52 AM CST
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Wednesday, March 4, 2020
TO BE RESCHEDULED - SCARFACE + DISCO PARTY IN L.A.
"THE NEON DECADENCE OF THE BABYLON CLUB COMES TO LIFE ON ALL 5 FLOORS" OF THE LOS ANGELES THEATRE
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarfacediscoparty.jpg

Brian De Palma's Scarface was to screen at 9pm April 4th at the Los Angeles Theatre, with a disco dance party before and after the film. However, as of March 15, the event page reads, "RESCHEDULED - TBD." Here's the lowdown as originally posted from sponsor Cinespia:
Dive into the opulent luxury of 1980s Miami in the most breathtaking theater in Los Angeles! The world is yours with a cinematic masterwork on the big screen and an outrageously extravagant disco dance party before and after the film.

Al Pacino is the charismatic and savage Tony Montana, whose rocket rise in the 1980s Miami underworld is a fever dream of power and pleasure. Can he grab hold of the American dream, or will the high life take a turn? Also starring Michelle Pfeiffer in her startling, sumptuous breakout role teeming with glamour and grit.

The neon decadence of the Babylon Club comes to life on all five floors of the extravagant Los Angeles Theatre, from the exquisite balconies to the palatial ballroom, with full bars, DJs, and dazzling photos moments on every floor. Dress up in decadent glamour for our free photo studio to take your portrait home.

With virtuoso direction by Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone’s riveting script, you won’t want to miss this epic Cinespia night.

All ages, 21+ w/ valid ID for cocktails. Rated R No one under 17 admitted without parent or guardian.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 15, 2020 6:47 PM CDT
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Monday, March 2, 2020
PASSION - THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
ISABELLE & DANI (NOOMI RAPACE & KAROLINE HERFURTH)
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/applepassion1.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
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Sunday, March 1, 2020
ALL THE GOOD GUYS & THE BAD GUYS THAT I'VE BEEN
IN 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE', APPLE INSISTED TOM CRUISE USE A MAC WHILE VILLAINS USED IBM
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/passionapple1small.jpg

Late last week, The Telegraph's Jack Taylor posted an article with the headline, "The complicated, colourful history of Apple products in films." The main thrust of the article is Apple's insistence through the years that on screen, only "the good guys" are to be shown using Apple products:
Over the last few decades, blockbuster films have been awash with Apple products, from iPhones and iPads, to MacBooks and iPods. And, while most companies shell out millions for the privilege of getting product placement on screen, like Heineken and its eye-watering deal to replace James Bond's martini in Skyfall, Apple doesn't pay a penny.

Suzanne Forlenza organised Apple's film and TV marketing almost single-handedly in the '90s, and worked out a system still in use today. "Frankly, we are absolutely overwhelmed with requests," she told the Irish Times in 1996, "The good news is we have established excellent relationships throughout Hollywood, so we have first crack, typically, at all the big films."

"We provide the computers requested for on camera usage on loan, all being due back to us at the end of the filming."

Forlenza made clear that Apple products could only ever be portrayed in a positive light, withholding permission where this couldn't be guaranteed. In the first Mission: Impossible film (1996), for example, she insisted that Tom Cruise use a Mac while the villains had IBMs. "We have a standing insistence that [Apple] will only be in the hands of the good guys."

This philosophy hasn't changed much since, as Knives Out director Rian Johnson was frustrated to discover: "Apple lets you use iPhones in movies, but – and this is very pivotal if you're ever watching a mystery movie – bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera."

The tech giant was one of the first companies to realise the value of lifestyle branding through film and TV, whether that be the high-tech glamour of Mission: Impossible or the socialite chic of Sex and the City. Below, the company's most influential product placement spots.


The list of films and TV shows that comes next in the article includes Mission: Impossible:
One of the earliest appearances of Apple in film is Tom Cruise's aptly-named PowerMac in the action spy thriller, which rivals Bond for its love of high-tech gadgets. Apple made a deal with the producers to feature clips from the film in their adverts in exchange for the laptop being front and centre during Cruise's hacking escapades. Marketing manager Jon Holtzman said: "We saved almost $500,000 in production costs – and got Brian De Palma to direct and Tom Cruise to act in it."

The commercial for the PowerBook can be viewed on YouTube. What remains unspoken in all of this is how De Palma subverts the whole idea of "good guys" and "bad guys" in Mission: Impossible, even though, yes, Tom Cruise is the hero of the piece. Placing Cruise's hero in the same position at the end that Jon Voight (as Jim Phelps) had been sitting in at the start of the film indicates a potential blurring of the lines, as does Ethan Hunt's taking on the role of "Job" and breaking into the CIA to steal the NOC list. Similarly, the characters using MacBooks in De Palma's Passion are all just as bad as they are good. De Palma focuses in on the MacBooks with their Apple logos twice in that film, highlighting the product as well as the two sets of characters using them, echoing the blurring of the good/bad lines in Mission: Impossible.


Posted by Geoff at 11:21 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, March 4, 2020 9:42 PM CST
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