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Here is the latest news:
a la Mod:
Hollywood Records has released a digital version of the soundtrack album for the 1998 thriller Snake Eyes directed by Brian De Palma and starring Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, Carla Gugino, Stan Shaw, John Heard, Joel Fabiani, Kevin Dunn and Luis Guzmán. The album features the original score from the Paramount Pictures and Touchstone Pictures production composed by Academy Award winner Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Last Emperor, The Revenant, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Little Buddha, Femme Fatale). Also included is the song Sin City written and performed by Meredith Brooks. Visit Amazon or any other major digital music services to stream/download the soundtrack. The label has previously released a CD version (which also features an additional song, The Freaky Things by LaKiesha Berri) when the movie opened in theaters in 1998. Snake Eyes is now available on VOD, Blu-ray and DVD.
“Cinema Speculation” is a hardcovered series of essays Tarantino wrote about formative films he watched from the late sixties to the early eighties. Each chapter is presented as a piece of film criticism. Although it also reads as a memoir of a young film geek who tagged along with his mom and her dates watching age-inappropriate films with rowdy crowds. If you wonder how Tarantino developed his oddly hyperkinetic personality, “Speculation” is rich in psychological self-evaluation.
The book also provides insight into a defining modern filmmaker. When Tarantino talks about other movies, he is really identifying films and filmmakers that formed his style. A write-up of Brian De Palma or John Ford reads not so much as objective analysis but rather how those directors influenced Tarantino’s work. In that way, “Cinema Speculation” is not so much film criticism as it is autobiography. Which, frankly, is more valuable than criticism.
Writing about Tarantino’s collection requires us to define what film criticism is. Many mistake it for someone offering their opinion. That’s more like being a film columnist, which is what I do. Although I try and give context to an opinion so the reader can formulate their own decision to watch a movie or read a book or whatever. Criticism is about context. Criticism digs into the history and tastes of the filmmakers. The method of acting style employed by the performer. But criticism doesn’t just concern itself with technicalities. Considerations for evaluating a movie should also include the time and place where it was conceived and later consumed by audiences. All of these factors help define a movie and its place in the larger cultural conversation. That’s criticism.
Using that standard, Tarantino does much more. He does do a good job of explaining why films like “Dirty Harry” or “Taxi Driver” thrived at the time they did. He delves into whether Eastwood’s Harry Callahan is fascist or Paul Schrader’s take on the lone cab driver is meant to be racist.
If you dig into what film critics were saying at the time these films were released, Tarantino isn’t saying anything new. In fact, Tarantino goes out of his way to quote immediate reactions that offered these very arguments. What’s interesting is how the filmmaker talks about these controversies. Tarantino, too, has been accused of racism and glorifying violence. When he defends these films, you hear self-defense. You may not agree with the position taken, but Tarantino makes a vigorous and entertaining case.
When the topic turns to plot points or camera angles, Tarantino talks why this certain scene worked and something else does not. By talking technique, Tarantino offers a glimpse into how he works. He talks about the decisions he would have made had he directed those earlier films. This, again, isn’t criticism, but rather a glimpse into his own moviemaking in a very engaging and entertaining writing style.
If you’re not much of a reader, there are other options to observe Tarantino’s metamorphosis as the co-host of the “Video Achieves” podcast with fellow filmmaker Roger Avary. Both shared the Oscar for writing “Pulp Fiction” and both got their start as clerks at the Video Achieves store in Manhattan Beach. There, a burgeoning QT dazzled customers with his encyclopedic knowledge of every movie known to man. (Indeed much of the Tarantino myth is that he absorbed all of this knowledge and became a legendary director seemingly through osmosis.)
When the store closed, Tarantino bought the entire inventory and now he and Avary spends ninety minutes every week talking about titles they seemingly pluck out of the air.
I’ve listened to every episode and never once been compelled to seek out any of these exploitative grindhouse flicks. What captivates me about the podcast – as well as “Cinema Speculation” – is how Tarantino lets you into his filmmaking mind. Not only that, but Tarantino has such enthusiasm for watching movies. Every filmgoing experience has the promise of something amazing. This certainly is out of vogue for most critics who seem to look for reasons to hate everything they see. I don’t relate to that; Tarantino suspects most critics hate themselves or their job. I don’t disagree so I reject most other critics.
But the unbridled hopefulness endears me to Tarantino, who remains a fan despite going into his fourth decade as a Hollywood veteran that could make anyone a cynic.
In a review of Spielberg's The Fabelmans at New Statesman, Ryan Gilbey writes:
Movies enter Sammy’s life in 1952 when he is taken by her and his father, a placid engineer named Burt (Paul Dano), to see The Greatest Show on Earth. He emerges startled from the film – which really did inspire Spielberg’s youthful wish, long since surpassed, to become the “Cecil B DeMille of science-fiction” – but is soon demanding an electric train set for Hanukkah so that he can recreate its spectacular crash at home. Mitzi suggests that he shoot the scene on his father’s cine camera to avoid damaging the toys in repeated pile-ups. Only later does she comprehend the function of filming: it enables Sammy to control the chaos of reality.
As a teenager, he sees life through an invisible viewfinder. Visiting a dying relative, he notices the pulse drumming feebly in her neck. When his parents fight, he pictures himself weaving among them, capturing all the best angles. Shooting a home movie on a family camping trip, Sammy inadvertently uncovers a secret: Mitzi and his father’s goofy best friend, Bennie (Seth Rogen), are in love.
We have already heard Sammy’s feral Uncle Boris (Judd Hirsch) raging about how the competing demands of family and art will “tear you in two”. The exploration of film as coping mechanism, distancing device and voyeuristic tool, however, nudges The Fabelmans briefly into the territory of Brian De Palma. Spielberg’s friend and fellow “movie brat” amassed evidence of his own father’s infidelities, his predilection for surveillance later driving thrillers such as Dressed to Kill and Blow Out. What a surprise to find Spielberg, the supreme sentimentalist, occupying that murky realm. We didn’t know he had it in him.
When Ian Black, aka SLUG, set about making his third album, he wasn’t thinking about how he could please and impress his fanbase. “I wondered if I could make an album where people who listen to my music ask, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’” he recalls.
Black had been thinking about albums released by revered artists that had largely been rejected by their respective fanbases. Tranquillity Base Hotel And Casino by Arctic Monkeys, Lou Reed’s Berlin and Leonard Cohen’s Death Of A Ladies Man, to be specific. “My friend Lucas Renney said Berlin sounded like Andrew Lloyd Webber on bad drugs having a breakdown. That sounded amazing to me!”
So, the Sunderland native began his mission to make an album that would challenge the listener, without just releasing ‘bad’ music. With his previous records, 2015’s RIPE and 2018’s Higgledypiggledy, Black developed his art school approach to music with an eclectic palette of pop, indie, rock and surf all held together with a healthy dose of groove. With new record, Thy Socialite!, it was time to throw some classic rock into the mix.
“I wondered what would happen if I took the really cheesy bits of my own record collection, the less indie audience friendly stuff: Toto, ZZ Top, Sweet, Def Leppard, and merged it with that SLUG sensibility. I wanted to amuse myself really, and amuse the people who have followed my music so far. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just want to make music that was bad, but I love that element of risk. If you’re playing it safe, then you’re doing it wrong.”
The result is still very much a SLUG record in a wonderfully weird way, but with added pomp and a cheeky wink to hard rock theatrics. It’s an idea that could have easily become a novelty pastiche, but, as with every musical genre that Black turns his hand to, he weaves it so deftly into the SLUG sound that it seems it’s always belonged there.
Black’s venture into classic rock territory is nowhere more apparent than on opener Insults Sweet Like Treacle and closer Cut Of Your Jib, cleverly bookending the album to take the listener along on this new journey from beginning to end. Glam rock stomper Insults Sweet Like Treacle is dedicated to the dearly missed Dave Harper, drummer in Frankie & The Heartstrings and Pop Recs Ltd.’s founder, while Cut Of Your Jib is pure riff-heavy stadium rock.
“I’d never recommend this to anyone, but my wife was on a night out, so I decided to get some tins in and watch a full ZZ Top gig on YouTube. In that haze of drunkenness, as I walked to the fridge to get another tin, the idea for Cut Of Your Jib popped into my brain and hooked itself in there. I remember finishing it in the studio and thinking maybe I’ve gone a bit too far with this one, but then one of the members of ZZ Top died the day after I finished it, and I thought, well, that has to go on the album now!”
It’s not just the music of Thy Socialite! that revolts against modern trends; lyrically Black decided to experiment with what he refers to as “self-character assassination”. Seeing messages of positivity and inspiration in a lot of current music, he decided to do the complete opposite, or as he bluntly puts it with a knowing laugh, he decided to make himself “sound like a twat.”
“Times at the moment are so gloomy that people want to write music that cheers people up or makes them feel good about themselves – take the Self Esteem album for example – it’s brilliant and I understand why people find it uplifting. I really can’t do anything as good as that inspirationally, so you need people like me to come and write songs, knowingly of course, that go the other way. People say I’ve got quite a dark sense of humour, and that bleeds into a lot of the writing I do.”
Citing John Waters’ films, Brian De Palma’s Phantom Of The Paradise and the follow-up to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment, as inspiration for their “campy, acidic humour”, the Ian Black of Thy Socialite! is very much an outlandish, satirical character. He’s the influencer you love-to-hate, the partygoer who always wants to be in the spotlight.
It’s all part of Black’s journey to create something challenging, but it’s all presented with a wink and tongue firmly in cheek. “I like the idea that people can look at the more acidic lyrics and wonder which ones are completely made up and which ones are thoughts I’ve had personally,” he explains. “We all have those thoughts; they can be as fleeting as a couple of seconds and then you check yourself. It’s all part of being human.”
In conversation with Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud, De Palma said that Pressman "notably produced Phantom of the Paradise and Terrence Malick's first film, Badlands. I met Ed when I was in Los Angeles. Martin Ransohoff had refused to do Sisters, and I had just bought the screenplay from him! When he read it Ed immediately wanted to do it. He managed to find enough money, two hundred thousand dollars, to get the movie started. Then he continued fundraising while filming, and the budget eventually came to six hundred thousand dollars." As De Palma explained to Blumenfeld and Vachaud, Pressman-Williams was the production company Pressman had created with Paul Williams, who was not the songwriter who plays Swan in Phantom, but the "director of two films with Jon Voight. The Revolutionary and Out of it."
Pressman was an integral part of making those films with Williams, and continued that sort of passion with the films he went on to make with De Palma. "Ed's parents had a toy company," De Palma continued, "Pressman Toys, one of whose offices was located at 23rd Street and Broadway. Pressman-Williams had set up its headquarters there. I was working in their offices after the disaster of Get To Know Your Rabbit, and Paul Williams was still a director working at Warner whose film Dealing ended in disaster. Dealing was adapted from the first novel by Michael Crichton. He had written it with his brother Douglas when they were students at Harvard."
More to come on Ed Pressman this weekend, but here's a portion of the Variety article:
The fiercely independent producer had an impressive track record for discovering new talent, having worked with an array of notable filmmakers including Oliver Stone, Werner Herzog, Kathryn Bigelow, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alex Cox, Brian De Palma, Abel Ferrara, Terrence Malick, John Milius and Mary Harron.
Pressman shepherded De Palma’s early films “Sisters” and “Phantom of the Paradise,” as well as Malick’s directorial debut “Badlands” with Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen.
His longtime collaboration with Oliver Stone started with the filmmaker’s directing debut “The Hand,” and Pressman met his future wife, actor Annie McEnroe, on the set of that film. Pressman went on to produce Stone’s “Talk Radio” and “Wall Street,” and the sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
Pressman and Stone co-produced Bigelow’s early thriller “Blue Steel,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis.
One of the first producers to adapt comic books, such as “Conan the Barbarian” and “The Crow,” as well as films based on video games and toys, he also founded ContentFilm with John Schmidt to focus on digital production.
Pressman’s upcoming projects were set to include the immersive VR experience “Evolver,” produced with Malick and Cate Blanchett, and the upcoming reboot of “The Crow” directed by Rupert Sanders with Bill Skarsgard and FKA Twigs.
Pressman was born in New York to Jack and Lynn Pressman, the founders of Pressman Toy. After studying philosophy at Stanford, he went to grad school at the London School of Economics, where he met director Paul Williams. The filmmakers came to Hollywood, where they secured a two-picture deal from United Artists.
Among his numerous honors were the Chevalier Des Arts et Lettres from the French government, the IFP Gotham Award for lifetime achievement, and tributes at the National Film Theatre in London, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Pacific Film Archives and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Cinematek.
He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Annie McEnroe Pressman, and son Sam Pressman. Sam Pressman has worked for Edward R. Pressman Productions for the past decade and will continue producing films for the company in honor of his father.
The story is set in the autumn of 1981 and revolves around a cluster of wealthy students enrolled at Buckley College, an exclusive Los Angeles prep school.
Bret, who is gay but closeted, is dating Debbie Schaffer (who has justifiable doubts about her boyfriend’s friendships with Ryan Vaughn and Matt Kellner), and is friends with two teenage sweethearts, Susan Reynolds and Thom Wright.
The Bret who is writing this novel then introduces two more characters – a student named Robert Mallory and a serial killer called The Trawler – into the mix.
Not long after, Matt goes missing. The fictional Bret’s writerly imagination goes into overdrive. He suspects Robert is responsible, and that he is The Trawler. Things quickly spiral out of control.
As Ellis’s fans will anticipate, his latest is full of pop culture references (the Buckley clique are big New Wave fans), sex and drugs, and acts of grotesque violence rendered in tonally neutral prose. Some cultural commentary, too, on the purported perils of political correctness. Think: Joan Didion meets Brian De Palma.
When it comes to content, The Shards, with its cast of hedonistic and disaffected adolescents, aligns with three of Ellis’s earlier L.A. novels: Less Than Zero, 1987’s The Rules of Attraction, and the sequel to his debut, 2010’s Imperial Bedrooms.
In terms of length, however, The Shards, which is 600 pages long, is closer to Ellis’s New York fictions: 1991’s American Psycho (which I believe is the most important novel of the 1990s), and 1998’s Glamorama (easily, for me, the best novel of the 1990s).