“Let me take you back to 1997, and a conversation I had with Paul Schrader, author of Taxi Driver, director of Mishima and American Gigolo. He told me that after Pulp Fiction, we were leaving an existential age and entering an age of irony.
“‘The existential dilemma,’ he said, ‘is ‘should I live?’ And the ironic answer is ‘does it matter?’ Everything in the ironic world has quotation marks around it. You don’t actually kill somebody; you ‘kill’ them. It doesn’t really matter if you put the baby in front of the runaway car because it’s only a ‘baby’ and it’s only a ‘car’.”
“In other words, the scene isn’t about the baby. The scene is about scenes about babies.” — from Roger Ebert‘s 9.23 article that explains his 9.21 creationism piece, which I didn’t link to earlier because I didn’t think it was interesting or funny enough.
An offical announcement came down late today that Cloverfield helmer Matt Reeves will re-write and direct the American adaptation of Let the Right One In, the Swedish-made tweener vampire film that I wrote about earlier today. The producers are Overture Films and the London-based Hammer Films.
The deranged smear jobs that have characterized the McCain campaign’s anti-Obama ads — misleading or shamelessly false, aimed at the dopes — bear the stamp of Steve Schmidt, a protege of former George Bush operative Karl Rove. And Rove was a protege of the late and infamous Lee Atwater, the godfather of the right-wing culture-war smear and arguably one of the most demonic mentalities to exert a profound influence upon the American political process.
And yet Stefan Forbes‘ Boogie Man, a portrait of Atwater’s life and career which I saw last summer at the L.A. Film Festival, is, believe it or not, not a smear job. It doesn’t sidestep the facts and doesn’t blink at the hard stuff, but it’s relatively fair-minded. Call me left-biased, but it seems to bend over backwards to give Atwater a fair shake. Really.
InterPositive Media will be releasing Boogie Man this Friday (9.26) in New York and Washington, D.C. and in L.A. on Friday, 10.3, at the Sunset 5. The idea is to open in about 20 additional markets “immediately thereafter,” says a release.
Consider this 9.19.08 N.Y. Times piece by Eleanor Randolph called “The Political Legacy of Baaad Boy Atwater”:
“For all the nastiness of this year’s presidential campaign, the downward spiral into ever-meaner electioneering really started about 20 years ago,” she begins. “The political Magus who ushered in our new muddier era was Lee Atwater, best known for engineering George H.W. Bush‘s win in 1988. Mr. Atwater became such a mythic figure in American politics that he was praised at his funeral in 1991 for being Machiavellian ‘in the very best sense of the word.’
“As many Democratic victims could attest, Mr. Atwater was Machiavellian in the actual sense of the word. Boogie Man, a new film by Stefan Forbes, details Mr. Atwater’s impish, strangely seductive charm, his mean boogie guitar and mostly his political chicanery. A lot of the latter sounds very familiar to anyone following the 2008 campaign.
“For starters, Mr. Atwater knew how to seduce the news media. He could wink and laugh and drop a fake story on the best of them. Lee Bandy, a respected political journalist for The State newspaper in South Carolina, recalled the time that he accidentally helped one of Mr. Atwater’s candidates, former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California. Later, Mr. Bandy recalled that ‘Lee laughed and said, ‘Bandy, you got used.’
“Using the news media apparently was not the hard part for Mr. Atwater. The real trick was finding the way to get inside peoples’ heads.
“One of the cruelest examples of this maneuver involved former State Senator Tom Turnipseed, a South Carolina Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1980. As a youth, Mr. Turnipseed had shock therapy for depression, which he talked about on occasion.
“Mr. Atwater, who was working for the Republican, was not sympathetic. He went around the state telling people that the Democratic candidate had once ‘been hooked up to jumper cables.’ No matter how much Mr. Turnipseed talked about education or crime or dirty tricks after that, voters only saw the jumper cables.
“For the 1988 campaign to elect then-Vice President Bush, the indelible image that helped defeat Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts was a black man named Willie Horton. Willie Horton committed rape while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison under a program that was actually started by another governor, a Republican.
“Despite his public denials that he had anything to do with an anti-Dukakis commercial featuring Mr. Horton, this film has Mr. Atwater encouraging an outside group to spread the word. The tactic worked. Mr. Atwater and friends managed to turn Willie Horton’s face into the only thing some voters could remember about the Democratic nominee.
“Struck with brain cancer in 1990, Mr. Atwater began to repent. He apologized to Mr. Dukakis and Mr. Turnipseed, among others. He tried to get his former acolytes, like Karl Rove, to back off. But, by then, it was too late.
“Many of today’s third-party ads like the Swift Boat attacks that helped defeat Senator John Kerry in 2004 are linear descendants of the Willie Horton campaign. A supposed slip of the tongue that in fact gets some truly nasty tidbit on the record — that tactic is straight from the Atwater manual. As are nasty blog items, quickly denied by candidates who know full well that their supporters are behind them.
“These tricks contribute to voter apathy. They destroy good people. They make it harder for candidates and their families to brave the campaign trail. But too many of today’s political strategists forget Mr. Atwater’s final appeal. They are out there looking for something else — more jumper cables.”
Ever since catching glimpses of Ken Loach‘s Poor Cow in flashback sequences in Steven Soderbergh‘s The Limey, which came out nine years ago, I’ve been hoping to see this 1968 Loach film on DVD in this country. But it never happened. There’s a new British DVD coming out next month, which of course can be ordered on Amazon UK and seen on any all-region player. But why not an NTSC version? Or a TCM airing? I’ve never seen it.
John McCain has reportedly made the decision not to attend Friday night’s presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi unless a Congressional Wall Street bailout deal has been reached by sometime earlier in the day. What a transparent sidestepping fool. What a phoney-baloney drama queen.
McCain has been dropping in the polls and knows he’ll be at a rhetorical disadvantage with Obama so he’s playing the role of the dedicated, pure-of-heart public servant in order to give himself a temporary out. Plus he wants to postpone the debate until Thursday, 10.2, which would of course bump the Biden-Palin debate. More prep time for Sarah!
Here’s the story of what happened today as recounted by the HuffPost‘s Howard B. Edsall.
Excerpt: “Later in the day, Obama rejected McCain’s proposal to postpone the first debate. ‘This is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess,’ Obama said. ‘What I’ve told the leadership in Congress is that if I can be helpful, then I am prepared to be anywhere, anytime. What I think is important is that we don’t suddenly infuse Capitol Hill with presidential politics.’
McCain also bailed on Daivd Letterman, except that “in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, ‘Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?’
“Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, ‘You don’t suspend your campaign. This doesn’t smell right. This isn’t the way a tested hero behaves.’ And he joked: ‘I think someone’s putting something in his metamucil.’
“‘He can’t run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sarah Palin. Where is she?”
“‘What are you going to do if you’re elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We’ve got a guy like that now!’
Letterman’s comments will air Wednesday evening.
I spoke this morning to dp Gordon Willis, a.k.a. the legendary “Prince of Darkness” whose films include the Godfather trio, Alan Pakula‘s All The President’s Men and The Parallax View and Woody Allen‘s Manhattan, Annie Hall and Interiors. We spoke for 20 or 25 minutes, but I could have easily kept this master of light and shadows occupied for three or four hours.
The phoner happened in part because of my somewhat surprised, very positive response to the restored Coppola/Harris Godfather DVD. Even on a crummy DVD, which delivers about 15% of the visual data contained in the Blu-ray version, this classic film, which I’ve probably seen a good 25 or 30 times, looks significantly better. Warmer, yellower, redder, possibly a bit sharper, much inkier blacks and brighter here and there.
I now can’t wait to watch The Godfather, Part II, which Willis seemed especially enthusiastic about during our chat.
Oh, and I love the supplementary docs — Emulsional Rescue (about the work that went into the restoration), Godfather World (about the general cultural lore that the films have created over the last 30-plus years) and a slew of others. As well as the deleted scenes that were put into in The Godfather Saga, which never went to DVD.
Early this morning I called Robert Harris, who supervised the restoration, to convey my complete satisfaction with the regular DVD version, and he reminded me again that I won’t be seeing the restoration until I watch the Blu-ray version on a 46″ or 50″ LCD or Plasma screen. He then offered to put me in touch with Willis, to which I said thanks much. I wound up phoning the blunt-spoken cinematographer sometime around 11 am.
I told Willis about my very first viewing of The Godfather in a theatre in Boston way back when, and particularly how the theatre showed it in 1.33 to 1 instead of 1.85. I was under the impression that the film was intended to be shown this way in order to reflect the standard Academy ratio of the 1940s and early ’50s. I later realized I was wrong about that. Willis told me that the film had been shot with a protected 1.33 to 1 aspect ratio (i.e., a version that was shown on TV for decades). He said that Coppola wanted it to be shown in this aspect ratio and that he answered, “Where do you think that’s going to happen…Russia?”
One of the distinctive differences in the restored Godfather is that the outdoor wedding-party scenes are bleachy looking — flared whites, over-exposed. The way the sunny outdoors might look to a person who’s been sitting in a dark and shuttered room. That was a deliberate choice, of course, although Willis took some heat for it at the time.
I asked Willis if he’s seen David Fincher‘s Zodiac, which is partially set in the late ’60s-early’70s and seems reminiscent of the shooting and lighting style that Willis used on All The President’s Men. No, he said. I asked if he’s seen Children of Men, which I feel is a bona fide classic due to Emmanuel Lubezski‘s action photography. He hasn’t seen that either. He has, however, seen Burn After Reading, “the Brad Pitt movie,” and didn’t think much of it.
Willis can talk technical photography and projection issues until the cows come home, but his primary interest and deep-down concern, to hear him tell it, is with story skills or rather the lack of. The art of storytelling is falling away, very few present-tense filmmakers know how to tell a story, etc. He’s quite a fellow, and I love his occasionally blunt way of putting things. Serious artists rarely use namby-pamby phraseology. Willis is a sterling example of this.
I’ve been asked to pass along an invitation to local HE readers about a Barack Obama fund-raiser being held on Sunday, October 5th, at Cedering Fox‘s very cool home from 4 pm to 7 pm. They’re looking for $250 a head but they’ll take $175 if you’re strapped. Good food, interesting crowd, a little dough for the right cause, a couple of speakers. I’ll probably attend. It’s actually being called a “Victory Fund Benefit.”
It just hit me that two movies about young mortals in love with young vampires will soon be upon us — Catherine Hardwicke‘s Twilight (Summit, 11.21) with Kristen Stewart having it bad for the blood-sucking Robert Pattinson, and Tomas Alfredson‘s Let The Right One In (Magnolia, 10.24), a tweener vampire romance from Sweden about a 12 year old boy (Kare Hedebrant) who falls for a female vampire (Lina Leandersson) who’s also 12 — and has in fact been 12 for a long, long time, due to her condition.
Let The Right One In‘s Lina Leandersson
I haven’t seen Twilight, but I’m naturally suspicious of any film aimed at marginally hip under-30 women — far and away the emptiest, most clueless demographic on the face of the planet — on top of the usual young-male horror crowd. But I’ve been persuaded by film-wise friends and colleagues that Let The Right One In is much more my speed. I’ll be seeing it tonight or tomorrow so we’ll see.
I’m extremely late to the table on Let The Right One In, which has played almost every significant film festival over the past several months. It just won the Best Horror Feature Award at Austin’s Fantasticfest and won the Tribeca Film Festival Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature last May. It’s also something of a tearjerker, if you can go with that.
Cinematical‘s Scott Weinberg caught it at Tribeca and called it “one of the strangest, stickiest, and (yes) sweetest horror movies I’ve seen in ten years. It’s a pretty unique beast [and] a flick that would never arrive via the Hollywood studio system, seeing as how it deals with hardcore gore, pre-teen sexuality, and some rather nasty kid-on-kid violence.
Let The Right One In‘s Kare Hedebrant
“And yet for a movie that has a lot of dicey components, it sure comes off as a really sweet story. That’s not just good filmmaking; that’s real intelligence behind the camera.”
The irony is that Hollywood — Overture Films and Spitfire Pictures — is in fact cooking up a remake. No script or director yet, but what are the odds that the remake won’t somehow coarsen and/or downgrade the particular alchemy that Alfredson has allegedly put together? American remakes of European film are always more obvious and common and aimed at a dumber crowd. Because, you know, Americans are almost always coming from a dumber, more emotionally primitive and less worldly place.
The only problem is the title. Who in hell is going to remember Let The Right One In or associate it with tweener vampires? Talk about a title that means nothing — nothing at all! — to anyone. Although it does sound cooler and cooler the more you say it.
Let The Right One In will open on 10.24 at West Hollywood’s Sunset 5 and at Manhattan’s Angelika Film Center. It will then open at Seattle’s Varsity on 11.14.