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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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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, July 13, 2024
OLIVIA RODRIGO - VHS SLEEVES ON DISPLAY ON 'GUTS' TOUR BUS
1980's STYLE, 1 FOR EACH TRACK ON THE ALBUM - 'ALL-AMERICAN BITCH' DONE UP 'SCARFACE' STYLE


I saw a video clip yesterday promoting Olivia Rodrigo's world tour bus for merch items related to her latest album Guts, and thought I saw a VHS that looked similar to Scarface. I went back and stopped the frame and yes, that was what I saw, indeed. These seem to be props on the bus, not necessarily for sale (and likely(?) not anything much inside the sleeves), but an inspired idea (that is to say, good idea, right?). This has led to folks on reddit (where the above image was found) and elsewhere trying to figure out what each of the other movies might be. The one in front, "Bad Idea Right?", has been shown elsewhere to be very similar to one person's alternative VHS sleeve design for Call Me By Your Name, although both of these seem so familiar to something... else from the eighties that no one seems to have been able to figure out yet.

Posted by Geoff at 9:12 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 12, 2024
PAYPHONES IN DE PALMA (PART 18) - ONE MORE FROM SCARFACE
FROM THE PAN AM METROPORT, TONY CHECKS IN ONE MORE TIME BEFORE HEADING HOME
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/payphonepanam255.jpg

Paragraph from Glenn Kenny's new book, The World Is Yours: The Story of Scarface:

From another phone booth, this one at the 60th Pan Am Metroport, an airport shuttle for the very comfortably well-off in a hurry, Tony learns that things have gone off at home, too. The bodyguard nicknamed "Nick the Pig"-who Elvira called her "only friend" before walking out on Tony (she was being sarcastic, they weren't close), tells Tony that Manny's been gone the past couple of days. Also, Tony's mom called, looking for Gina. Hmm. Elvira has not called.

Posted by Geoff at 6:35 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 6, 2024
'COLDER THAN GIORGIO MORODER'S BEATS'
"ALL ELBOWS & DOOMED MALAISE" - METROGRAPH'S LUKE GOODSELL ON THE PERFORMANCES OF MICHELLE PFEIFFER


Metrograph in New York will kick off a "Piping Hot Pfeiffer" series later this month, which will include Brian De Palma's Scarface in the mix. To get things going, Luke Goodsell writes about "the empathetic performances" of Michelle Pfeiffer for the Metrograph's Cracked Actor column. Here's the first portion:
“Life’s a bitch,” snarls Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, avenging anti-hero for the Riot Grrrl era, midway through 1992’s Batman Returns. “Now, so am I.” It may not be her most subtle work, yet there’s something about that brash, bratty aphorism that cuts to the essence of the former SoCal pageant queen turned Hollywood’s most luminous—and perhaps unusual—late 20th-century superstar. The line on Pfeiffer has long been that she had to prove her talent against the limitations, such as they were, of her remarkable looks, but her beauty—and the ways in which she toyed with and subverted it—is inseparable from her craft onscreen. No two Pfeiffer performances are the same, yet each is infused with her gestural flair, her essential humanity, and her empathy for eccentrics and outsiders.

For all of Pfeiffer’s pop culture ubiquity throughout the ’80s and ’90s, few multiplex stars were as elusive, as hard to get a handle on. Though a sex symbol, she was never a femme fatale like Sharon Stone; she could play quirky and romantic, but she wasn’t an American sweetheart like Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan; a serious talent, she was rarely considered in the company of Meryl Streep or Jodie Foster. None of them, of course, could go toe-to-toe in a warehouse with Coolio—as Pfeiffer did, cheekbones tilted to infinity, in the rapper’s iconic music video for “Gangsta’s Paradise”—let alone whip heads off mannequins while shrink-wrapped in a leather cat-suitor hold a live bird captive in their mouth. (Surely the wildest performance in a multi-million-dollar blockbuster with a Happy Meal tie-in.)

Pfeiffer’s unlikely journey from surfer chick to super freak might begin with her childhood relationship to her image. “When I was very young I never thought I was attractive,” the self-described tomboy, nicknamed “Michelle Mudturtle” in elementary school, told Interview in 1988. “I looked like a duck.” Born to working-class parents in Midway City, Orange County, the young, wild-child Pfeiffer spent a listless adolescence hanging out with surfers at Huntington Beach and working a checkout job at Vons, before entering, and winning, the Miss Orange County Beauty Pageant in 1978 (“A softball player who also oil paints, she’d like to become an actress,” announced the emcee). A run of movie and TV bit parts followed, invariably featuring the aspiring starlet in hot pants or padded bras (she was billed only as “The Bombshell” on the 1979 series Delta House). Her first major role arrived in 1982’s ill-fated Grease 2, as the gum-snapping gang leader of the Pink Ladies: sassy in leather and full of bad-girl longing, like Debbie Harry if she’d been a Shangri-La. When the movie flopped, she could barely convince Brian De Palma to cast her in his 1983 remake of Scarface. It turned out to be a career-maker. Gliding into the picture in a bias-cut silk dress as zonked-out trophy wife Elvira Hancock, she’s colder than Giorgio Moroder’s beats, all elbows and doomed malaise: a disdainful, dead-eyed foil to Al Pacino’s hubristic Cuban drug lord. Debuting the killer eye-roll that would become an ace in her arsenal, Pfeiffer’s Elvira is a mistress of the dark whose soul is more corroded than the criminals she’s caught between—a rotted avatar of WASP consumption and American complicity.

Pfeiffer’s performances in both films—sizzling with “don’t call me baby” insouciance—have a sly, comedic edge; she knows when to play off and when to undercut the tough-guy pretense with which she’s surrounded. Still, it would take time before Hollywood recognized the gift beyond the glamor. If George Miller’s The Witches of Eastwick (1987)—a pop-feminist whirligig in which Pfeiffer, Cher, and Susan Sarandon summon the devil (Jack Nicholson) to do their bidding—had tapped the actor’s comic abilities and made her a marquee star, then it was Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob (1988) that opened up her full, expressive range as a performer. Outfitted in leopard print, frosted lipstick, and a Long Island accent, Pfeiffer’s low-rent mob princess on the lam sparkles with charisma and screwball timing—not to mention a ferocious right hook, delivered to camera, and by extension, any lingering doubters. The performance showcases Pfeiffer’s keen sense of rhythm, her versatility, and empathy; fusing inventive physical comedy with emotional vulnerability—her posture can sharpen and slacken on a dime—she transforms what might have been a caricature into a rich portrait of a woman stumbling toward a liberating sense of self.


Posted by Geoff at 11:15 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 6, 2024 11:18 PM CDT
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Wednesday, June 5, 2024
PAYPHONES IN DE PALMA (PART 16) - TONY MONTANA IN NEW YORK
"OKAY, WHAT ABOUT ELVIRA? DID SHE CALL?"

Posted by Geoff at 11:40 PM CDT
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Monday, June 3, 2024
PAYPHONES IN DE PALMA (PART 15) - TONY MONTANA IN MIAMI
SCARFACE (1983)
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/payphonescarfacemiami155.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CDT
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Sunday, June 2, 2024
PAYPHONES IN DE PALMA (PART 14) - 'SCARFACE' DELETED SCENE
TONY MONATANA & ANGEL FERNANDEZ IN A BANK OF FREEDOMTOWN PHONE BOOTHS
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/payphonescardel1.jpg

Deleted scene from Scarface (1983) - Al Pacino as Tony Montana - with dozens in the "Freedomtown" detention center waiting for their turn at a payphone, Tony dials his mother's phone number, written on the back of a photo of his sister Gina from several years back. His mother answers, but Tony doesn't know what to say and hangs up. Meanwhile, behind him, his friend Angel Fernandez (played by Pepe Serna) is going through the phone book and calling anyone with the last name Fernandez in an effort to connect with his brother. "Don't waste your money," Tony tells him. "You know your brother hates you."


Posted by Geoff at 10:58 PM CDT
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Monday, May 6, 2024
AT ROGEREBERT.COM, EXCERPT FROM KENNY'S SCARFACE BOOK
FROM THE MICHELLE PFEIFFER CHAPTER, "ELVIRA"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/kennyscarface1.jpg

Glenn Kenny's new book, The World Is Yours: The Story of Scarface, is out tomorrow (Tuesday May 7th), and RogerEbert.com has an excerpt you can read right now. The excerpt centers around a new interview that Kenny conducted with Michelle Pfeiffer for the book.


Posted by Geoff at 10:45 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 5, 2024
GLENN KENNY DISCUSSES 'SCARFACE' BOOK ON BULWARK PODCAST
AND A STORY FROM SOMEONE WHO SAYS THEY HAD VISITED THE SCARFACE SET
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetsonnybunch.jpg

From the latest episode of The Bulwark Goes To Hollywood podcast:
Sonny Bunch: I feel like one of the running motifs of your book is: Let’s get Brian De Palma behind a camera again. That would be fun. Maybe let him make one more movie. Somebody.

Glenn Kenny: It’s a tricky situation. Because unlike the other directors he came up with, De Palma never formed a permanent production company of his own. He never aspired to be a producer. He was never a mogul. And unlike Scorsese and his other friends, he doesn’t have an archive of his stuff. He has been a director-for-hire, and kind of, the last few films that he’s made have acquired European backing and often European producers who are on the relatively shady side and interfere with the work. I’m not sure – I can’t speak for him, what his disposition is. I do know he would like to direct another film. It’s just that the circumstances haven’t loaned themselves to it. And he’s not in a position where he’s going to… you know, it’s complicated, from what I understand, is about all that I can say. But I would love for him to direct another film. He’s always thinking about things, and he’s living in East Hampton. And I know his great friends Jay Cocks, the screenwriter, and David Koepp, the screenwriter, visit him relatively frequently. They watch films together and talk films, so, you know, he’s still all about cinema. Yeah, I agree, I hope he gets to make another film, sooner than later.


Commenting on the Bulwark episode page, TCinLA shares an on-set story:
I was a visitor on-set the day of the great Scarface disaster, when Pacino nearly killed himself by tripping at the wrong time and grabbing the wrong thing with which to steady himself.

It was the final scene, where "Tony Montana" is killed. They were going to destroy the set by "gunfire" and take it up to the point when Tony falls out of the second story and ends up dead in the pool below. That really existed, in the house in Santa Barbara they were using for the exteriors. Tony would be chased through the house by the assassins, and in the end by blown away with a shotgun, as he fought them off with an AR-15 modified for full auto. Squibs were all over the set, and would be set off by a member of the SFX team offstage. It's important to note that Pacino's final mark had been made with a pair of 2x4s where "X marks the spot." This was going to be one long take and at the end the set would be destroyed.

So they start up, DePalma calls "action," and everything goes as you remember the scene watching in the theater.

Except, at the end, Pacino trips over the 2x4s and drops his gun. He grabs for it and ends up grabbing the red-hot barrel. He screams, drops it and starts to stagger back toward the window. Except there is no pool beyond it, only concrete floor. Nobody seems to know things have gone wrong other than Pacino and the actor who is to "blow him away."

At literally the last moment, before Pacino went out the window and ended up hittng the concrete floor 20 feet below, the "killer" actor grabbed his belt and pulled him back. Disaster was averted.

Pacino spent six weeks recovering from the burns. This gave the crew time to rebuild the set (god knows how much money this cost - the production accountant does too). Finally everyone is ready to go at it again. This time they use tape for "X marks the spot," and all goes well and we have all seen that final shootout and been amazed by it. (I forgot, during production, DP John Alonzo developed a way to wire the guns to the camera so they only fired when the aperture was open, so there is no rotoscoping in the entire movie).

Yeah, back in the days when makin' mo'om pitchas was fun.



Posted by Geoff at 1:36 AM CDT
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Wednesday, May 1, 2024
SCARFACE SCREENING WITH GLENN KENNY AT IFC IN NY, MAY 8th
KENNY'S BOOK, THE WORLD IS YOURS: THE STORY OF SCARFACE, WILL BE PUBLISHED MAY 7th
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/glennkennyscarface1.jpg

Thanks to Hugh for sending word of next week's screening of Brian De Palma's Scarface at IFC Center in New York. The screening on Wednesday, May 8, will be followed by a book signing and Q&A with Glenn Kenny, whose book, The World Is Yours: The Story of Scarface, will be published May 7. Here's the description at the IFC event page:
Screening of SCARFACE (1983), followed by a post-screening conversation with “The World is Yours: The Story of Scarface” writer Glenn Kenny and a book signing. Copies of the book will be available for pre-order and at the IFC Center concession stand.

An unflinching confrontation of humanity’s dark side, Brian De Palma’s crime drama film SCARFACE gave rise to a cultural revolution upon its release in 1983. Its impact was unprecedented, making globe-spanning waves as a defining portrait of the gritty Miami street life. From Al Pacino’s masterful characterization of Tony Montana to the iconic “Say hello to my little friend,” SCARFACE maintains its reputation as an unwavering game changer in cult classic cinema.

With brand-new interviews and untold stories of the film’s production, longtime film critic Glenn Kenny takes us on an unparalleled journey through the making of American depictions of crime with the new book “The World Is Yours: The Story of Scarface.” The book highlights the influential characters and themes within SCARFACE, reflecting on how its storied legacy played such a major role in American culture, featuring behind-the-scenes story of the iconic film and new interviews with the cast and crew.


Posted by Geoff at 6:16 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 17, 2024
THE 'UNDENIABLE PROPULSION' OF 'SCARFACE'
AWARDS DAILY'S DAVID PHILLIPS MOVES PAST THE LEGENDS TO LOOK AT DE PALMA'S FILM ITSELF
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarface2745.jpg

"Scarface, Brian De Palma’s nearly three-hour reach for epic-level greatness, is seldom talked about as an actual film anymore," states Awards Daily's David Phillips at the start of his "Reframing" essay about Scarface. "The movie," Phillips continues, "(and particularly Al Pacino’s no-holds barred performance as gangster Tony Montana) have drifted so far into iconography that the quality of the film itself has become secondary to its legend. And it’s one hell of a legend at this point."

Here's more:

As a film, Scarface has largely one pounding note to play—one filled with extraordinary levels of violence and drug usage (including Pacino going facedown in a huge pile of coke, and taking more bullets to the chest and still standing than any human ever). And it plays that note relentlessly for the entirety of its extended running time. There is a boldness in the film’s extreme approach that can be both exhilarating (De Palma’s camera movement is exquisite) and exhausting. Scarface is all just so much much.

And yet there is an undeniable propulsion in the film, a ferocity that exists throughout that cannot be easily dismissed. It really says something that Pacino, who played the legendary film gangster Michael Corleone in two of the greatest films ever made (Godfather I & II), might have eclipsed that seminal character with Tony Montana in the eyes of crime-film lovers. As his reluctant paramour and later recalcitrant wife, Pfeiffer gives one of the great ice-queen performances in the history of cinema (I swear, her bangs and bob were cut with steel). Written by Oliver Stone, the film is chock-full of quotable lines and in all technical aspects, Scarface looks and sounds remarkable.

The question I suppose is to what end? What are we to take away from all of the sturm und drang displayed in Scarface? There’s a great scene late in the film, when an over-coked and over served Montana humiliates Elvira, makes a spectacle of himself in front a full house of a Michelin-starred restaurant, and turns to the milky-white patrons, dresses them down for their own largesse, and says, “Say good night to the bad guy.” In that moment, De Palma’s film asks some interesting questions about capitalism and who benefits from it. I wish the film would have delved deeper into that theme as opposed to settling for being a “wonderful portrait of a real louse.”

That being said, I cannot disagree with Roger Ebert’s assessment, even though it seems that many who have seen (and will see) Scarface will find what I would consider a strange and abiding love for that louse. Regardless of whether one is repulsed or invigorated by the film (or, maybe like me, both), what Scarface eventually reveals to us is less about what happens to the people on screen, and more about how its massive cult following has responded to it. Depending on your perspective, I suppose the film can be seen as “just a movie,” or a reflection of our large-scale societal affection for those who are unapologetically bad. De Palma’s Scarface prefaced the era of the TV anti-hero (see The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Ozark, and so on) but followed on the heels of films like The Hustler and Bonnie and Clyde—movies about the disreputable and our attachment to them.

Scarface wasn’t so much new or groundbreaking, as much as it was the most pitched variation on that theme. It’s hard to imagine films like Natural Born Killers or Fight Club without De Palma’s still troubling “classic” gangster epic. A distinction that one may have trouble wrestling with depending on how they feel about those aforementioned films.

One thing is clear though: The audience for “the bad guy” is in no way ready to “say good night.” Not on film. Not in real life.


Posted by Geoff at 10:44 PM CDT
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