No question that Donovan‘s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” has been permanently reconfigured (or will be soon) in the public consciousness by its having been used in David Fincher‘s Zodiac, in much the same way that Gene Kelly‘s recording of “Singin’ in the Rain” never had quite the same cheer after Stanley Kubrick used it as a kind of perverse theme song n A Clockwork Orange.
L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan has written an agreeable travel piece about a recent pilgrimage he made to Monument Valley, largely in tribute to his memories of seven John Ford films that were shot there — Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers, Sergeant Rutledge and Cheyenne Autumn.
And of course, Turan follows the herd by describing or discussing Monument Valley only in terms of the staggering beauty of the place and not once about the whopping absurdity of any 19th Century settlers living in Monument Valley because it has (a) no grass for cattle to graze on, (b) no rich soil to grow crops with (it’s all sandy, desert-type moon dust with rugged cactus and sage brush-type plants), (c) no big river running through it, and (d) no forest to invade and cut down trees to build log cabins and make lumber with with…no nothin’ in the way of life-sustaining, community-building elements of any kind.
Or at least, none that I’ve been able to notice in watching all these Ford films. Not a damn thing except worthless scenic beauty. And none of the Ford worshippers have ever complained about this…not once. Or have I missed something?
Daylight savings time begins a week from today, or Sunday, March 11th — three weeks earlier than usual. Get ready to manually reset your Treos, Blackberrys and computers because many devices, apparently, haven’t been programmed to synch with the new time change arrangement.
A 3.5.07 N.Y. Times story by Steve Lohr says that “the daylight-time shift, according to technology executives and analysts, amounts to a ‘mini-Y2K.’ That is a reference to the rush in the late 1990s to change old software, which was unable to recognize dates in the new millennium, 2000 and beyond.
“The fear was that computers would go haywire, and there were warnings of planes falling from the skies and electronic commerce grinding to a halt. Billions of dollars were invested to fix the so-called millennium bug, and there was no wave of computer-related disasters.
“This time, with extended daylight saving time, the problem is subtler. The potential pitfall is a disruption of business, if the clocks inside all kinds of hardware and software systems do not sync up as they are programmed to do. In a business world that is increasingly computerized and networked, there could be effects on everything from programmed stock trading to just-in-time manufacturing to meeting schedules.”
“I learned that if you don’t want fleas, you don’t lie down with dogs….but there are only so many distributors out there.” The speaker is producer Aaron Ryder (The Amateurs ), the subject is producer Philippe Martinez, head of the troubled distribution company Bauer Martinez; and the forum is an L.A. Times piece by reporter John Horn.
Some of the same Martinez material was covered in a 10.26.06 Sharon Waxman piece in the N.Y. Times, particularly the fallout from his allegedly not living up to promises he’d made about promoting Harsh Times. Horn also discusses The Flock, a Bauer Martinez movie starring Richard Gere, and another one called I Could Never Be Your Woman starring Michelle Pfeiffer.
Horn also reports that Bauer Martinez has pacted with Die Hard‘s John McTiernan “to direct the $50-million Hayden Christensen action movie Crash Bandits ” and that it “said it would spend $850,000 for the adult film comedy The Amateurs, starring Jeff Bridges.”
Last October, in response to the Waxman piece, I wrote the following about the Martinez syndrome: “Time and again Hollywood types — directors, producers, studios — get into business with oily foreign guys (European or Israeli) who tend to live high and swagger around and smoke cigars. The Hollywooders are always interested because there are always fresh oilies looking to buy their way into the business, and they’ll hook up with almost anyone with a connected rep in order to do so. Elie Samaha, Giancarlo Peretti, Jean-Marie Messier, Bob Yari, Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, Avi Lerner, etc.
“Yari has been doing pretty well for himself lately (The Illusionist is a hit), but sooner or later the matters of oily men always seem to turn sour or go south. Hollywooders who make movies with them always seem to regret it, sooner or later. ”
And yet I’ve seen The Amateurs, which the IMDB says has been retitled The Moguls, and can sympathize with Martinez not wanting to go the distance for it, despite what Ryder may say. A friend of the film could call it quirky or mildly amusing, but it’s just not very good.
To promote/salute Grindhouse (Weinstein Co., 4.6) in the Los Angeles area, Quentin Tarantino is programming the New Beverly Cinema with so-sleazy-they’re-hip-in-retrospect exploitation films. A double-feature every two or three days, playing now through May 1st — and just about every one a diposable wank except for Roger Vadim‘s Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971), which shows 3.25 through 3.27. (Rock Hudson as a high-school teacher and lecherous poon-hound, plus one or two nude Angie Dickinson scenes….I’m there.)
When and if these films ever get released as a Tarantino-approved DVD box set, I wonder if I’ll care enough to even rent one or two.
Has Tarantino ever sat down and written a definitive manifesto that explains what it is that he finds so wonderful about these films? The thing he worships about them, I think, is their low-rent vitality and lack of pretension, and (I guess) the occasional standout performances. They have all that, yes (if you want to be generous), but they’re not about anything the least bit internal or profound.
Tarantino is a lazy wallower — an attitude huckster, an iconographer, a street- corner smart-ass. Inherent in this is a disinclination to believe in (much less seek out) art or transcendence — in any sort of practice or exercise or canvas-splattering that tries to imagine a world beyond the mundane.
There’s nothing wrong with wallowing in and of itself — I like to go there from time to time, and I’ll probably enjoy Grindhouse when it comes out — but celebrating ’70s grindhouse films as brash and nervy and better than people realized at the time….I don’t know. I think it’s basically horseshit.
World discourse will never lack for intellectual stimulation as long as there is strong diversity of opinion. It’s a slightly different equation when you’re dealing with documentarians living in states of profound denial, and spreading their disease to millions, like the flu. “Sad” is not a word that comes to mind — “malicious” says it better.
Wild Hogs wailed at the box-office this weekend while Zodiac struggled. The consistency in supporting and back-slapping low- brow entertainments straight out of the gate (i.e., as long as they feel familiar and amiable-friendly) is what sets Americans proudly apart from other cultures. (Is there another big-time industrial western society as blue-collar oafish as ours?) A slovenly homophobic movie about four pot-bellied male menopausers on motorcycles handily kicks the ass one of the unquestionably great early films of ’07…as it should be! Yeah!
It was obviously in the cards for Zodiac to come in second — I was just hoping against hope that it would do more like $14 or $15 million. My new dream is that it’ll drop a lot less than Hogs does next weekend.
The yaw-haw Disney flick costarring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy played in about 900 more theatres than Zodiac did, and wound up with $38 mil lion, give or take. Zodiac, playing on 2,362 screes, ended up with $13.1 million and a per screen average of $5,546.
Ghost Rider dropped 43% to the #3 position…what, non on DVD yet? Paramount Vantage’s Black Snake Moan, a tasty, morally positive gridhouse drama (liked it quite a bit at Sundance), came in eighth place with just over $4 million on 1252 screens, averaging $3,208 — hey, not as good as Zodiac‘s!