Thoughts While Watching the Screen (I Couldn’t Think of a Better Title)

Ever notice the cops/detectives in movie and TV chase scenes always seem to be in preternaturally good shape? I mean, these folks can run for blocks without showing any signs of getting winded. (I know. I’m familiar with the miracle of screen editing … but these kind of shows are supposed to be realistic.)

I was thinking of this while watching Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in French Connection II run a marathon in the heat of a French summer in pursuit of the drug kingpin played by Fernando Rey (who was riding in a boat at the time.) Now. I have never visited Marseilles (where FCII took place) but I did visit Paris in roughly the same time period and the heat was so intense I almost died from terminal thirst. I would like to believe that I was in reasonably good shape at the time of my visit but personally I couldn’t have run more than a couple of blocks in that heat.

It’s not just American cops either. In the Japanese thriller Stray Dog, Kurosawa goes out of his way to show viewers how hot it is. And yet what do we see? Toshiro Mifune as a Japanese policeman sprints after a fleeing felon in a …suit and tie? Even Hackman wasn’t that well dressed.

I assumed there might be a course in police academy about chasing down a fugitive that would account for the resilience and strength required to run that far and fast.

But then, come to think of it, that doesn’t explain why the crook is in such good condition. I mean, the “hero” has to have someone to chase, right? And I have a hard time picturing criminal types working out on treadmills in an underground gym. 

Must be the adrenaline rush powering the wrongdoer. I mean, I’d run, too (regardless of the weather) if I had someone who looked like the mighty Mifune on my tail.

Thoughts on Mortality

We all gotta go sometime.

From something.

So, like Tim McGraw sang, 

“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about.”

Or, to quote Willie Nelson

“…. woke up still not dead again today
The news said I was gone to my dismay
Don’t bury me, I’ve got a show to play …. “

Whatever ….

I noted with misplaced envy that a woman poster with an unconventional name had complained on my Facebook feed about a troll who had prefaced his diatribe to her page by making fun of her name.  It should have been rather flattering, in a perverse way.  At least he read her post and had taken the time to think of a nickname and a reply. I get little response to my entries. Of course, I write basically film reviews (for which I actually got paid in a previous lifetime) and she writes political rants. That may be the difference.

When I first started writing this blog (an eternity ago in internet time) I wrote a lengthy critique on the work of one sun-dazed film-maker who had come back to haunt us with one more self-indulgent release and actually got a (largely snarky) reply from one of the film-maker’s longtime buddies in LA. Several years later, I get, as  I say, minimal response. However, the old maxim remains true – Be careful what you wish for.

A few months ago. I began receiving some intriguing posts from what appeared to be an attractive young American woman. Having experienced this “game” in high school and having watched the film Catfish (before the movie title became an Internet term) I did not make an expected move that could be deemed inappropriate or just plain humorous. I assumed the “posts” and “pics” were the product of some bored young suburbanites or some local men/women/collective who knew I was writing a blog (largely for my own reasons) and decided to prank me.  Since my responses to this mysterious “poster” were largely non-committal he/she/they eventually got tired of the “game” and moved on .

Still, it’s an interesting world we now live in.

I Rented It on DVD: “Edge of Seventeen”

Yawn! Another coming-of-age tale about privileged white teen-aged suburbanites who drive  gleaming new cars and vans to school (no second hand jalopies in this crowd), have pools in their backyard and all the latest technological gear at their disposal.

As usual, most of the actors in these films are too old to play high school students. 20 year old Hailee Steinfeld plays a high school junior!

17 - Hatlee
Hailee Steinfeld – Yearbook picture?

Fortunately, for writer/director and co-producer Kelly Fremon Craig, it is Ms. Steinfeld’s remarkable performance as troubled teen Nadine that saves the movie. Striking an ironic pose to hide the confusion lurking just underneath, Ms. Steinfeld somehow makes her difficult character human and, um. likeable. If you ask me (and no one did) she should have been Oscar nominated for this role as well as the Academy nod for her performance in the Coen brothers’ version of True Grit. (She did earn a Golden Globe nomination for her work in Edge of Seventeen.)

Her exchanges with Woody Harrelson, as a deceptively sympathetic teacher, especially shine.

17 - poster

A Dark Twist on an Old Story? Not Even Close

Okay, I know how I started writing about a 2010 movie based on a 2001 novel but I am not sure why I am posting an entry in my blog about them.

I guess it all started when I watched the Brit TV series based on the Jack Taylor novels by Irish writer Ken Bruen (an appreciation of Mr. Bruen’s unique – to me – prose style appears elsewhere in this blog.)

London - book

I noticed a second hand copy of London Boulevard at a book sale and since I had become an aficionado of Mr. Bruen’s works I picked it up. Okay, it wasn’t a Jack Taylor novel but the protagonist, a wary, volatile ex-con named Mitchell, his run-ins with former criminal associates, his relationship with mentally unstable sister, Briony, his reluctant affair with the aging but still alluring  reclusive actress Lillian Palmer and her enigmatic butler, Jordan. held my attention.

Then I became aware of a movie adapted from the novel.  Since it was written by William Monahan, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who adapted the Asian box office hit Infernal Affairs for the Martin Scorsese-directed North American cinematic success The Departed (one of my favorite films) I had high hopes when the acclaimed screenwriter chose London Boulevard as his directorial debut. 

London - movie

Imagine my surprise when I looked closer at the back of the DVD dust cover and saw that Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley had been cast in leading roles. While reading the novel I kept picturing Liam Neeson and Helen Mirren or Charlotte Rampling in the roles. (On the other hand, the casting of Anna Friel as Briony and Ray Winstone as Mitchell’s criminal nemesis, Gant, was spot-on.)

I understand the need to attract “name” stars to secure investors. However, the casting – and rewriting – completely destroys Mr. Bruen’s original intent: to write a British version of Sunset Boulevard, or, as it says on the front cover of the novel, “a dark twist on a classic story.” Imagine a version geared to a youthful demographic directed by Zack Snyder and starring, say, Scarlett Johansson as Ms. Palmer (renamed “Lily”) and one of the Hemsworth boys as Mitchell (MC Mitch?)  

Mr. Monahan’s second attempt at directing, the dismal Mojave. didn’t fare much better (24% Audience Rating). Perhaps Peter Howell of Toronto’s Globe & Mail (quoted on RT) says it best:  “Writer/director William Monahan won an Oscar for penning The Departed and he obviously needs the discipline Martin Scorsese brought to that picture.”

London - sign

I Got It at the Library: CUL-DE-SAC

Cul - Opening

I’m not saying it’s dated. I just got the feeling  director Roman Polanski read Beckett (I’m thinking here of Waiting for Godot) and watched a lot of Harold Pinter theatre pieces while co-writing the screenplay with Gerard Brach. (There were times when I felt I was back in my Film Studies class again. This film, by the way. was made prior to Mr. Polanski’s exposure to temptation and tragedy in Hollywood.

Cul - polanski
ROMAN POLANSKI- Portrait of the Artist as a Young Film-maker

A brilliant cast of 1960s players navigate through the psychological mind games of the screenplay. Lionel Stander, a familiar face (and voice) in 1930s and 1940s movie and radio, was forced to flee to Europe after he ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He plays  American gangster Dickey, who holes up in a castle after a botched robbery. The castle.on a bleak island, is inhabited by a retired English executive,George (Donald Pleasance) and his flirtatious (and much younger) French wife, Teresa (Francoise Dorleac). The cast also includes future star Jacqueline Bissett (billed here as Jackie Bissett)  in  one of her first film roles. (A pair of sunglasses hides those now famous eyes.) No one does humiliation better than Mr. Pleasance aided and abetted by the gorgeous Mlle. Dorleac (Catherine Deneuve’s sister, whose promising career was cut short by a fatal car accident at the age of 25). Mr. Stander, of course, is bullish and aggressive in the role of Dickey. Mix these personalities together, stir in Mr. Polanski’s caustic wit, and you have a combustible combination that is bound to blow up in your face at some point.

Cul -Donald &Francoise
Francoise Dorleac and Donald Pleasance – A Talent for Humiliation

I signed out this 1966 film because I was intrigued by the cast of characters, I have always been a fan of Mr. Polanski’s world view (Brrr!) and c) it was chosen for restoration by the Criterion Collection. If you are not already familiar with the brand (and most serious film buffs – and filmmakers – are), the Criterion Collection a) always shows great taste in cinematic art and  b) lovingly restores films of its choice and packages them with interviews, booklets and other background material. So even if I am unfamiliar with a work, I know that any film, no matter how old (or obscure, to me) chosen by the Criterion folks for their distinctive and caring touch will be viewing time spent well.

CUL - Stander

Lionel Stander in CUL-DE-SAC