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Domino is
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In the video above, from last weekend's 40th anniversary screening of Brian De Palma's Carrie, hosted by Scream Factory, the enthusuastic audience applauds when the red lights are turned up to match the film, as Carrie begins to unleash her powers. According to Dread Central's Staci Layne Wilson, there was a Q&A after the screening, moderated by Bryan Fuller. On hand to talk about the film on stage afterward was Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles (who wore the exact same cap she had on in the movie), Doug Cox, Terry Bolo, and Paul Hirsch. William Katt also provided a video hello for the event.

Wilson was able to ask Laurie, Allen, and Soles some additional questions (and the picture of the three actresses also comes from the Dread Central post)-- here are some excerpted quotes:

Piper Laurie: I think I’ve been blessed. I feel fortunate I was invited to be in the movie. It’s amazing and big surprise it’s remained so popular.

Brian De Palma’s energy and imagination and the music and cinematography – the DP, Mario Tosi, made us look beautiful even when we’re not supposed to be, And it’s fun. Brian didn’t take it all that seriously, which I think that was a smart move. I did everything I could to play against everything that was in the original story, because it would have been dangerous to take my character that seriously. It works for the movie.

Nancy Allen: Brian De Palma brought a lot to the story that no other director could have. One thing he did was cast well and find really good chemistry with the actors, and he rehearsed us all – so by the time we got to set we felt like we’d known each other for years. Except Sissy – she wanted to stay apart, and that was good too. Then, on a small budget, cinematically, he shot it beautifully. He really brought out the sense of humor in the characters. It could have been humorless, which wouldn’t have been the same. And course, Sissy and Piper at the core of the film, that relationship is [great] – and they were both nominated for Oscars. Also, Brian changed the ending of the movie and that was much better.

P.J. Soles: The most obvious thing that still resonates today would be the bullying aspect, but to us then, it was more of a horror and sci-fi thing, obviously, with the telekinetic thing. In today’s climate it may be a little strange, with us picking on her like that and it being [entertaining] but back then it was a horror movie and a fantasy film. It’s a time capsule of movies from the 70s. So this is based on Stephen King’s book, this is what he wrote about – and so, without the telekinetic powers, I don’t know how the movie would have ended.

There is a loyal original fan bases, but there are new fans to Carrie. I do a lot of horror conventions and I meet them all the time. Having worked with Brian De Palma on Carrie and John Carpenter on Halloween, I’m often asked what it was like to work with two masters of horror at the time. Neither one of them was really on the map at the time, but the staying power is incredible. I have young fans, even 20-year-old guys, come and weep at my table [at conventions] saying, ‘I loved you in Carrie! You were so bad!’ So as long as people know it’s entertainment, it will live on forever. Because, it’s the performances – I mean, both Sissy and Laurie were nominated for Academy Awards. For that genre, it’s unheard of. It really speaks highly of the film.

Posted by Geoff at 1:03 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 23, 2016 2:20 PM CDT
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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Below The Line's Mark London Williams reports that, at a recent Los Angeles press conference for the release of his new film The Handmaiden, Korean director Park Chan-wook was asked about the directors who had inspired him:
He mentioned Hitchcock’s Vertigo as the film that made him want to be a filmmaker. He also talked about other “visualists,” as he called them — a list ranging from Fellini to Renoir to the also Hitchcock-inspired Brian DePalma, and more — and surmised, through a translator, that among the reasons we don’t have more such “visualists” among today’s directors might be multifold: For one, “young people don’t watch a lot of classic films,” he said. Or perhaps, even if they do, “they’re watching on a small screen. I’m not sure.”

Though he was surer about his next point, which was, “to make ‘visualist’ cinema, you need money.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:46 AM CDT
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Monday, October 17, 2016
The New York Times ran a Sunday feature yesterday written by Gilbert Cruz, with the headline, "‘Carrie’ Is Back. Like a Bloody Hand From the Grave." The article includes quotes from Brian De Palma, Stephen King, and Lawrence D. Cohen.

"I never really approached it as a horror movie," De Palma tells Cruz. "It’s more of a character piece. She does go berserk after she gets hit with the bucket of blood, but until then, not really. What made this really good — both the book and the film — is that it capsulized everyone’s high school experience of being an outsider."

Later, De Palma is quoted about Sissy Spacek: "The studio didn’t even want me to test Sissy. It’s probably the part she’ll be best remembered for even though she won an Oscar for another role."

Here are a couple of other passages from Cruz' article:

“It’s really a simple story,” Mr. King said. “And people saw Carrie as an extreme case of what they went through in high school.” Fresh out of college when he started the book, teaching high school English by day, Mr. King said he understood “it from both sides of the desk. There was a visceral sense that I was writing about something that I understood and felt deeply at the time.”

In the mid-1970s, few had heard of Mr. King, a teacher who had mainly published short stories in men’s magazines. Lawrence D. Cohen, then working for a movie producer in New York, had certainly never heard of him when he plucked “Carrie” from a slush pile. He eventually wrote the screenplay. “I understood why critics were perplexed as to what genre ‘Carrie’ belonged to,” Mr. Cohen said. “Was it a high school movie, a sci-fi novel, a horror piece, a psychological thriller?”


United Artists considered marketing it as a B-movie. “They wanted to change the title to ‘Pray for Carrie,’ which is a very exploitation-movie title,” Mr. Cohen said. “And they ended up taking out an ad that was a poster of Carrie covered in blood, which was a spoiler before that word was used, but a clear way of selling the movie. I remember looking at it going, ‘They’ve lost their minds; they’re giving away the whole movie.’” In retrospect, the poster is a superb example of Alfred Hitchcock’s explanation of the difference between suspense and surprise — knowing a bomb will explode and tensing for it, versus having it blow up with no warning. Bloody Carrie is the bomb the audience saw before the movie even started.

One reason “Carrie” is considered such an effective horror movie is its final two minutes, in which Ms. Irving’s good girl, Sue Snell, visits a grave and a hand shoots from the ground, sending audiences from the theater with one more scare. It was the last thing they remembered about the movie and the first thing they told friends.

“What the ending did was establish Stephen King as a brand name for horror,” said Mr. Cohen, who also wrote a “Carrie” stage musical and the screenplay for the 2013 movie remake. The success of the original film boosted sales for the novel, and Mr. King’s next novel after the movie, “The Shining,” became his first hardcover best seller, and he was off.

But Mr. King has never lost his view of high school as a place like the island in “Lord of the Flies.” Those locker-filled hallways are the true dark corridors, and you don’t need to add too much to make it scarier than it already is. “I tell people, ‘If you look back on high school as the high point of your life,’” you’re one messed-up American, Mr. King said, using rougher language. “Most of us look at high school as something we escaped.”


Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com

"Then there is De Palma, who conducts the proceedings with the kind of self-confidence in his artistic gifts that few filmmakers manage to achieve in their entire careers. Over the years, he has proven to be one of the most divisive of American filmmakers but this is perhaps the one film of his that everyone, regardless of where they stand on his career as a whole, seems to admire. Even though he obviously didn’t come up with the story himself, he has such a handle on what he wants to say with it and how to say it that Carrie feels just as personal as any of his self-generated projects. He effortlessly taps into our collective memories of the actual high school experience—oftentimes far removed from the version put forth in the kind of dumb movies that he definitively rebukes here—and uses them to both inform the story and help us embrace Carrie in a way that not even King was able to completely pull off in the book. At the same time, he again demonstrates his mastery of audience manipulation by first getting viewers completely on Carrie’s side and then eventually putting them in the discomfiting positions of A.) anticipating the sight of her prom night humiliation and B.) watching the person they have grown to like slaughtering all her classmates afterwards, even though many of them have themselves done nothing to deserve such retribution. (In fact, the grisliest death in the sequence is the one suffered by the gym teacher, who had done nothing except try to help Carrie out, even though her actions would play an inadvertent part in the horrors to come.) He is so much at the top of his game here that even if you have seen the film a number of times before, he still manages to suck you into the story to such a degree that you can still be caught off-guard by the proceedings. Then, just when you think that it is over, he comes up with one final shock (one not in the book) that not only supplies one of the great jump scares in film history but brilliantly subverts the hoary cliche that everything can go back to normal once the monster is defeated—here, even if you manage to survive everything, you still don’t get out of it completely unscarred."

Donald A. Guarisco, Schlockmania

"That said, an effective tale of supernatural revenge needs a master manipulator at its helm – and DePalma does a brilliant, thoroughly inspired job here. There’s a long time before the big horrors kick in so the film relies on his ability to stylize the melodrama in a way that makes it feel suspenseful and laden with atmosphere. He pulls this off, using sleek photography by Mario Tosi and a melodic, emotionally charged score from Pino Donaggio to comment on the big emotional stakes of Carrie emerging from her shell as she is plotted against. DePalma’s underrated skill for directing actors gets a great venue during this section of the film.

"Once it’s time for the prom, the director gets to dig deep into his bag of tricks and the resulting display of cinematic pyrotechnics is awe-inspiring: he gets to deploy slow motion, split-diopter shots, elaborate tracking shots and what might be the finest use of split screen in any movie. From there to the coda, he finds an ideal balance between the visceral and the stylistically graceful that few filmmakers are capable of achieving. Without giving too much away, he also summons up a shock coda for the ages.

"In short, Carrie ranks with The Dead Zone and Stand By Me as the best films to emerge from the ever-growing ranks of Stephen King adaptations. It’s also a must-see for anyone interested in DePalma’s career or great horror films from the ’70s. Commercial horror fare doesn’t get better or more artful than this."

Bruce Westbrook, Tripping the Light

"Yet Carrie was a tough sell to studios, only getting greenlit when a new female exec championed its female-focused story (and wasn’t put off by an early scene involving Carrie’s horrified first menstruation in the girl’s locker room at school, leading to abuse from her classmates).

"Cohen also notes the film’s 'illusion of fidelity' to its source. He notes the many new scenes which were written strictly for the screen — a different medium which needs different approaches — and says King was grateful for the changes."

Jeremy Carr, cutprintfilm

"Pop culture may have worn away some of Carrie’s concluding shock, but the realization of its stylized, tragic, and destructive final sequence remains effectively engaging. Once Carrie steps foot in that school, the viewer is overcome with a visceral frustration and anger, knowing what awaits this temporarily joyous young girl. Carrie is a teenager after all, so there is an appropriately glamorous depiction of the star-spangled dance, courtesy art direction by Jack Fisk (Spacek’s husband). The vivid set-piece, as with those idyllic moments mentioned earlier, has a blissful, romanticized sheen, one that will similarly get undercut by blossoming horror. Once soaked in pig’s blood, Carrie drifts through the carnage as a woman possessed, a rigid red figure moving against the fiery blaze, enacting a murderous rampage that, at this point, seems beyond her control. Choreographed like a musical number, De Palma’s virtuoso integration of elaborate camera movement, traumatic slow-motion, and piercing split-screen (a tools-of-the-trade mastery for which he is now finally lauded) results in a visually and emotionally powerful finale, culminating with the fantastically evocative death of Carrie’s mother."

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 8:55 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 16, 2016
On Friday, The Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg and Kate Stanhope reported an exclusive that Chuck Lorre is developing an 8-part event mini-series adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Lorre is "under a rich overall deal" with Warner Bros. Television, according to Goldberg and Stanhope, where the project stems from. It had been shopped to cable and streaming outlets, and has now been picked up for development by Amazon.

According to the report, which attempts to attach the buzzword "reboot" to the project, "Margaret Nagle (Boardwalk Empire, Red Band Society) is set to pen the script and exec produce alongside Lorre. Author and political reporter David Corn will serve as a consultant. Amazon Studios, WBTV and Chuck Lorre Productions are the producers on it."

Meanwhile, according to Showbiz 411's Roger Friedman, Wolfe himself knew nothing of the new project until Friedman called him up to ask him about it. "I guess he’s calling his agents on Monday," Friedman surmises.


Last month, The Film Stage's Jonah Jeng wrote an essay in defense of Brian De Palma's 1990 feature adaptation of Wolfe's book. "De Palma’s confident, hilarious polemic is a formidable achievement, hitting places that hurt in 1990 and, sadly, continue to hurt today," Jeng states. "That the film feels like it was made for the 2016 moment is a depressing testament to the state of race relations in America, but it is also precisely this continued relevancy that makes Bonfire necessary viewing."

A bit later in the essay, Jeng discusses how De Palma's style fits with the absurdity on display in the film:

"Some satire is subtle in its magnifications of reality. The Bonfire of the Vanities takes a different, more boisterous route, fitting De Palma’s florid directorial tendencies like a glove. Scenes turn to farce to convey the moral absurdity of the characters’ actions, whether in Abe’s wild gesticulations or in the way we are introduced to the Reverend via a very Spike Lee-esque, low-angle shot that imparts onto him the exaggeratedly looming presence of a cartoon villain. De Palma’s cinematographic stylizations, so generative of suspense in Sisters and operatic in Scarface, here serve a different but no less meaningful purpose. The camerawork is sometimes highly precise in its satirical function, such as when a dolly zoom is used to parody the experience of white fear. At other points, the cinematography creates the more abstract impression that the camera is emulating this film’s plot-level zaniness. Often, De Palma appears to be channeling the story’s ludicrous energy by way of his trademark visual acrobatics — weird camera angles, split diopter shots, long takes, etc. — which, in turn, intensify the energy that gave rise to them."

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 17, 2016 8:05 AM CDT
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

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Friday, October 14, 2016

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Thursday, October 13, 2016
Deadline's Nancy Tartaglione posted an informative summary yesterday of Quentin Tarantino's masterclass on the cinema of 1970, which took place Wednesday night at the Lumière Festival in Lyon. According to Tartaglione, Tarantino told the packed auditorium of about 2000 people that for four years now, he's been researching 1970 as a turning point for American and international cinema. Introducing it as a "work in progress," Tarantino said, "Am I going to write a book? Maybe. Is it going to be a six-part podcast? Maybe. A feature documentary? Maybe. I’m figuring it out."

"Now in its eighth edition," reports Tartaglione, "this is a festival close to Tarantino’s heart. It’s largely a retrospective with hundreds of restored films, thematic strands and uncovered gems. This year, the filmmaker has curated a group of 14 films from 1970 which he’s been presenting throughout the week."

A list of those 14 films can be found at Beverly Cinema. They include four intriguing double-features, and six stand-alone screenings:

Love Story by Arthur Hiller (1970, 1h39)
Deep End by Jerzy Skolimowski (1970, 1h40)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage by Dario Argento (1970, 1h32)
The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun by Anatole Litvak (1970, 1h45)

Claire’s Knee by Eric Rohmer (1970, 1h45)
Le Boucher by Claude Chabrol (1970, 1h33)

The Kremlin Letter by John Huston (1970, 1h40)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Billy Wilder (1970, 2h05)

Five Easy Pieces by Bob Rafelson (1970, 1h38)

Beyond the valley of The Dolls by Russ Meyer (1970, 1h49)

M.A.S.H. by Robert Altman (1970, 1h56)

The Liberation of L.B. Jones by William Wyler (1970, 1h42)

Drive, he said by Jack Nicholson (1970, 1h35)

Zabriskie Point by Michelangelo Antonioni (1970, 1h40)

In addition to all of that, Tarantino was also on hand to present Saturday night's opening film, George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which, at the beginning of 1970, garnered an Academy Award nomination for best picture.

Tartaglione's article includes a passage in which Tarantino discusses his love for Altman's M.A.S.H. ("it was the first movie to truly deal with the dilemma of Vietnam"), although he and Altman did not like each other.


Here's more from Tartaglione's article:

Asked why he has chosen to focus on 1970, Tarantino cited the 2009 book by Mark Harris, Pictures Of A Revolution: Five Movies And The Birth Of The New Hollywood. The book chronicles the “real emergence of the New Hollywood,” Tarantino explained, and noted that “By the end of 1967, new Hollywood had won, only they didn’t know it yet. And Old Hollywood was over by 67 even though they didn’t know it yet.” He called Pictures Of A Revolution “the best cinema book written this decade.”

By 1970, Tarantino said, “New Hollywood was the Hollywood and anything that even smacked of Old Hollywood was dead on arrival.” The filmmaker said he became interested in when the revolution was won and, “not coincidentally, I was alive in 1970 and very conscious at 7 years old when my parents were taking me to all types of movies.” Now researching that year, he said, “the more I started going to the library and looking up newspaper articles of what it was like, I realized New Hollywood had won the revolution but whether it would survive wasn’t clear. Cinema had changed so drastically that Hollywood had alienated the family audience.”

And, although they were big fans, “the hippie audience wasn’t really moviegoers. Society demanded (the Hollywood new wave) but that doesn’t mean that they supported it as a business model and it made me realize that New Hollywood cinema from 1970-76 at the very least was actually more fragile than I thought it was. That experiment could have died in 1970.” He cited films like those that he’s showing here along with Carnal Knowledge, The Godfather, The Exorcist and Chinatown. But if MASH or Five Easy Pieces hadn’t worked in 1970, “It’s doubtful there would have been a Godfather or an Exorcist.”

But, he hasn’t set out to make a Top 10 list. “Oddly enough, it was the films on the lower end of the Top 30 or 40, which, while they weren’t as good, in a weird way were more interesting to me… I’m always going to come at it from a critical or cinephile perspective but I wanted to put that in the minor and make it more as a historian or a sociologist.”

As part of his research, Tarantino says he’s been watching prints, DVDs, old videos and cable as well as reading reviews from the day. “That’s how I found the think pieces of the time. ‘What’s wrong with movies?’ ‘Movies have become scary,’ ‘Can Hollywood survive’.” It was a time “like a werewolf where the skeleton changes in An American Werewolf In London,” he said to laughter.

Patterns have emerged during the research. “There were a lot of promises made of possibilities of a new cinema. It was almost like, could Hollywood handle this kind of freedom? Could the public handle it? The freedom seemed limitless. Directors could adapt any book, could shoot anything. There were no restrictions and that was maybe untenable.”

“If you ask me, the promise was fulfilled,” he continued. But there were casualties. That included the possibility that a new “genuine black cinema” would emerge. He cited Hal Ashby’s The Landlord (written by Bill Gunn), along with Ossie Davis’ directorial debut Cotton Comes To Harlem and Melvin Van PeeblesWatermelon Man. He also pointed to films such as Paul Bogart’s Halls Of Anger and Brian De Palma’s Hi, Mom! which were making an impact.

But “Blaxploitation” ended up taking the place of this promise, said Tarantino. Despite being a fan of that genre, he said, “Now I see Blaxploitation did derail a real rising voice.”

Same goes for erotic cinema. “There was the promise that eroticism in cinema would be taken out of the raincoat crowd and would achieve mainstream success and play in nice theaters, particularly for couples. We had some wonderful artists at that time like Russ Meyer and Ken Russell. That worked for a little while but ultimately a lot of them went back to porno and sexploitation.”

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2016 1:17 AM CDT
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