Tatiana Antropova (aka the fabled SRO) has been granted membership in SAG/AFTRA. This is partly due to having worked on and off as a background actress for the last couple of years. To become a full, ratified, card-carrying member she needs to submit the usual $400 in annual dues (one payment in October, another in April). But she’s heard that SAG/AFTRA members don’t get as much work as non-union members, or at least not with Central Casting. She can go to other agencies, of course, but they allegedly require fees before booking her. (Or so I understand.) Tatiana is requesting advice from SAG-AFTRA members about whether becoming a union member will likely result in more or less work, and in what way things may or may not change for her.
Earlier this year Kino Lorber released a first-rate Bluray of Phillip Borsos‘ The Grey Fox (’82), hailed as one of the greatest Canadian films ever made and in my view one of the most convincing old-time western recreations.
Convincing because unlike 98% of period films released during the 20th or 21st Century, The Grey Fox — a mostly gentle saga of gentleman train robber Bill Miner (Richard Farnsworth) — looks, feels and sounds as if it was actually shot in early 1900s British Columbia. Every element in Borsos’ film — dialogue, aroma, atmosphere, period detail — feels 100% organic and dead to rights.
Needless to explain this kind of authenticity is almost completely out the window these days.
I regret to say that Kino Lorber’s trailer fails to reflect the just-right poignancy and natural rhythms of the film itself. I’m sorry but it happens now and then.
Wiki excerpt: According to Farnsworth, the “picture company” was the only one ever allowed to film at Fort Steele, British Columbia, a heritage site. The Grey Fox was also filmed on the British Columbia Railway / Pacific Great Eastern Railway, now run by Canadian National Railway, between Pemberton and Lillooet, British Columbia, and the Lake Whatcom Railway between Wickersham and Park, Washington. The capture sequence was shot a quarter of a mile from where Miner was actually caught. Miner’s actual gun, a .41 Bisley Colt, was obtained from a collector and used by Farnsworth in close-ups.
Katie Couric spoke earlier today on Instagram with former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, a bright and knowledgable guy. Donald “Psycho” Trump, Rudy Giuliani, William Barr, Sidney Powell…all the malicious beasts. I’ve just listened through, the content is the content, and I was constantly engrossed.
Streaming films at home means you’re watching from inside a kind of isolation tank — whatever you’re feeling or not feeling, it pretty much belongs to you alone (and possibly to your significant other or kids), and is probably being expressed in some sort of muted fashion. But things are a lot different when you see a dynamically effective film with a responsive audience. Key moments can feel like emotional explosions or symphonic crescendos, and they’re really quite intense.
Yesterday on Twitter Edgar Wright launched a conversation about this. He began by recalling a major moment when he saw Adrien Lyne‘s Fatal Attraction in a packed house. Wright: “Anne Archer‘s line to Glenn Close over the phone, ‘If you come near my family again I’ll kill you’, made the place ERUPT in applause.”
In his Criterion Bluray High Noon audio commentary, film prof Howard Suber claims that 1952 audiences went nuts when Grace Kelly shot one of the bad guys (Robert Wilke) during the final gunfight. I can understand that. It’s quite a payoff.
Many have spoken of great audience excitement when all the superheroes gather for battle at the end of Joe and Anthony Russo‘s Avengers: Endgame.
One of my favorite audience reactions happened during a showing of Ridley Scott‘s Alien (’79) in an Upper West Side cinema. As Sigourney Weaver‘s Ripley is preparing to leave the Nostromo inside a small space cruiser, she returns to the Nostromo’s danger zone (i.e., where H.R. Giger‘s alien might be lurking) to look for her cat, “Jonesy.” The audience (especially the African American members, if I’m allowed to say this) started howling when she did this. “Ohhh, mann…whatchoo doin’? Jeeezus….fuck the cat, man…FUCK THE CAT!”
Please share any such moments from your collective memory pools…thanks.
There are certain opinions you’re encouraged to have, and others that are better left unsaid. What I’m about to share doesn’t qualify as one of the latter, but it slightly flirts with that realm. I’ll try and share it cautiously and with respect to all parties.
Last night I watched Alan Ball‘s Uncle Frank (Amazon, 11.25). Set in ’73, it’s about a gay NYU professor named Frank Bledsoe (Paul Bettany), his Middle Eastern lover Walid Nadeem (Peter Macdissi) and Beth, Frank’s 18-year-old niece who attends NYU, driving from Manhattan to Creekville, South Carolina, for the funeral of Frank’s dad, Daddy Mac (Stephen Root).
The problem, of course, is that the members of Frank’s family are rube homophobe types, or so Frank fears with some justification. (Certainly when it comes to his younger brother Mike, played by Steve Zahn.) Plus gay liberation was in its infancy in the early ’70s, and it wasn’t exactly a time for gay men to routinely come out to backwater friends and families, and so Walid’s decision to invite himself along seems to portend nothing but toil and trouble.
Peter Macdissi as “Walid Nadeem” in Uncle Frank.
I couldn’t stop myself from asking why Frank’s rural, conservative family has to be confronted with his sexuality and lifestyle issues on the occasion of a funeral of a paterfamilias? Why do they have to grapple with this in a time of grief? What’s wrong with taking things one step at a time? Frank’s clan lives on a planet that has nothing whatsoever to do with his NYU realm so what’s the rush? Where’s the need? Couldn’t this issue be eased into down the road?
And now for my awkward opinion, which is that I didn’t care for Macdissi’s company. Not because he’s gay, but because he struck me as slightly creepy and overbearing in both an emotionally needy and joyful-alpha sense. I’ve always disliked people who won’t stop beaming and grinning — they’re almost as bad as those who laugh hysterically in bars and restaurants, and the instant that Walid appeared I went “oh, no…an emotionally effusive gay guy who wears his large heart on his sleeve.” He has a cloying manner and is seemingly too intimately invested in Frank to pass himself off as a straight friend who’s tagged along for emotional support or whatever.
Plus I didn’t care for Walid’s overly bushy black beard and modified mid ’60s Dave Clark Five cut. Right away I was saying “Jesus, this look doesn’t work at all.” He’s too big and broad-shouldered and too…I don’t know but right away I was muttering “trim your hair and beard, bruh, and generally tone it down.”
I’ve been delighted by gay characters almost my entire moviegoing life, and by this I include non-gay characters played by gay actors. I can recall watching This Gun For Hire on TV when was 12 or 13 and recognizing right away that the florid Laird Cregar was perverse in a way that I’d never seen before. The first openly gay character I felt something for inside a theatre was Hurd Hatfield‘s “Terence Huntley” in The Boston Strangler (’68), followed by Cliff Gorman‘s “Emory” in The Boys in the Band (’70).
I might as well admit that I turned Uncle Frank off before the trio arrived at the homestead. I’ll try and finish it tonight, but I’m dreading what will happen.
P.S. You can watch it now. pic.twitter.com/0eJnGt00Zi
— Prime Video (@PrimeVideo) November 25, 2020
Friendo: “I recently finished Romain Gary‘s award-winning, best-selling ‘The Roots of Heaven,’ an excellent, deeply philosophical novel about a man who sets out to save Africa’s elephants from hunters and ivory poachers. He thinks by saving the elephants he can help mankind reclaim its humanity. John Huston made a film of it in 1958, with Errol Flynn, Trevor Howard, Juliette Greco and Eddie Albert costarring.
“It’s kind of a notorious disaster, which even Huston admitted (a) wasn’t very good, and (b) was all his fault. Although shot on location with a big budget, Roots is generally sluggish and filled with the kind of speeches that work a lot better on the page than in a film.”
Off the top of my head: Brian DePalma‘s The Bonfire of the Vanities (’90 — arguably the all-time king of crap films made from acclaimed books), Richard Brooks‘ Lord Jim (’65), David Lynch‘s Dune (/84), Michael Winterbottom‘s The Killer Inside Me (10), Roland Joffe‘s The Scarlet Letter (’95), Robert Benton‘s Billy Bathgate (’91), Francis Lawrence‘s I Am Legend…and these are just scratching the surface.
Eager journo eyeballs are now gazing upon Paul Greengrass‘s News of the World (Universal 12.25). I can only repeat my 10.22.20 observation that it appears to be “a Searchers-like tale (bookish 60ish beardo paid to deliver precocious, parentless, Kiowa-raised girl to relatives in old San Antonio) with a touch of True Grit. All kinds of adversity and prejudice slow their progress, including white slave traders looking to exploit the poor girl.
“Paul Greengrass‘s western is some kind of allegory, he’s said, for our presently divided culture. You don’t have to reassure me — Tom Hanks will do the right thing.”
What to do when confronted with woke terror mob-think in the workplace? In the view of Douglas Murray, conservative-leaning author of “The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity,” “You can re-assert your rights as an adult.”
Basic Thrust: “What I see everywhere in America in particular is the complete retreat of the adult. I have heard about a lot of people in recent years having been told, ‘Educate yourself.’ Everybody who says ‘educate yourself’, in my observation, is without exception the dimmest person I have [ever] seen speaking. They have no right to go around, being the stupidest person in the room, telling everyone else to educate themselves.” Because what they really mean is ‘agree with me or else.’
“Well, here’s a suggestion: The adults say ‘No — you do not know anything. You’re 23, you’ve got a totalistic view of the universe, and you’re going to discover quite soon or at some point in your life that you’re wildly wrong, and you are making yourself unemployable.’ For [these people] are bringing in a kind or moral and mental asbestos.”
I’m announcing with great comfort and satisfaction that I haven’t watched a single episode of HBO and David Kelley‘s The Undoing, and that includes the grand finale, which aired this evening. Thank you. Here’s a recap, filed this evening by tvline.com‘s Michael Ausiello.
Originally posted on 11.26.11: Speaking of miserable, I was at one of my lowest ebbs in the late summer or early fall of ’78. I was living in a roach-infested Soho tenement on Sullivan Street and writing reviews for free, pitching freelance articles to people who thought I was marginally competent as a writer (if that), working at restaurants as a host for chump change, barely able to pay the rent at times, borrowing money from my father when it got really awful, occasionally taking a train to Connecticut to work as a tree surgeon on the weekends. Swamped by feelings of powerlessness, futility, despair.
But one fairly warm day I was walking near West Broadway and Prince and noticed some people clustered in front of an art gallery with generator trucks and cables leading upstairs. So without asking questions or making eye contact with anyone I walked right in and bounded up the staircase. Upstairs was a large, high-ceilinged space with many people milling about. A casual vibe. Nobody said “excuse me, can I help you?” I just walked over to craft services like I was part of the crew and helped myself to an apple and a cup of coffee. I figured I’d spot a recognizable someone — a director, an actor — and figure out what the “show” was.
And then I walked into the main gallery room and there, sitting in a canvas chair and reading something intently, was young Woody Allen. He was being left alone, nobody hovering. Glasses, dark brownish-red hair, green-plaid flannel shirt…and sitting absolutely still, like a Duane Hanson sculpture. He might have had a bit of makeup on, or so I recall.
But it was Woody, all right, and right away I said to myself, “I’m gonna get busted if I stand here and just stare at him.” So I walked around a bit more with a guarded expression and then went downstairs and asked somebody what the movie was called. “It’s a Woody Allen film….that’s all I know,” some guy said.
I’m not sure anyone knew the title at the time, but the following April, or about seven or eight months later, the movie opened with one — Manhattan.
My emotional and financial states were so precarious and I was so close to depression at the time of the Allen sighting that just glimpsing him sitting there gave me a real lift. For a minute or two I was part of a very elite and highly charged environment, if only as a secret visitor, and I felt good about myself for momentarily slipping inside and smelling the air of that set. The experience lasted for maybe three minutes, tops, but I’ve never forgotten it.
I was still living on Sullivan, still eeking out a living when Manhattan opened on 4.25.79. I knew relatively few people in the film-journo world, and some of the older ones I was vaguely acquainted with regarded me askance. I was working at restaurants to make ends meet and enjoying damn little comfort. And one of the reasons I loved every minute of Manhattan is that it provided a great fantasy trip into the kind of New York world I wanted to know and live in, but couldn’t afford.
Of course it was a smart Woody Allen uptown dream movie. Of course it bore little relation to the city I was confined to, or to the one that I imagined most New Yorkers knew. I wished time and again that year that I could live in a world that was at least akin to Manhattan‘s — cultured, clever, moneyed and buffed by Gordon Willis in black and white and a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The fakery was what everyone found so delightful about the film. Because it was very sharp and sophisticated and nicely burnished.
Life can be so miserable when you’re poor, especially when you’re unsure of your creative or professional abilities.
Final paragraph from welles.net essay by Orson Welles biographer Joseph McBride, posted on 11.28: “The critical acclaim Mank has been receiving (though hardly unanimous, since some reviewers and feature writers are aware of its dramatic fabrications) shows that our culture has not progressed much beyond Hollywood’s benighted 1939 view of the still-troubling wunderkind, Orson Welles.
“Perhaps most Americans prefer to cling to their anti-intellectual view of artists as sinister people who should be ostracized. We still view maverick artists not as valiant figures but as egomaniacal monsters who mistreat hapless underlings and demand credit they don’t deserve.
“When [Gary Oldman‘s] Herman J. Mankiewicz is shown at the end giving his Oscar speech for the Kane screenplay to a newsreel camera, he says it was written ‘in the absence of Orson Welles,’ and an unseen man’s voice is heard asking, ‘How come he shares credit?’ Mank says in the film’s last line, ‘Well, that, my friend, is the magic of the movies.’
“If [Mank director] David Fincher wants us to believe that kind of nonsense, he would need a better script. Mankiewicz himself would probably scoff at Mank. He was too smart and self-aware and generous at heart to do otherwise. But the mythology of Kael and Mank will likely endure, for it is a tale our belittling culture needs to cling to. As Welles prophetically told Peter Bogdanovich, ‘Cleaning up after Miss Kael is going to take a lot of scrubbing.'”
Author, film professor and Orson Welles biographer Joseph McBride posing with Welles sometime in the early to mid ’70s.