Monday, August 31, 2015

We had DeNiro - you had...

Being a baby boomer, I'm as stubborn as any to keep doing what I'm doing, writing and making films (when they give me money). And I notice that other baby boomers are doing the same thing, Scorcese isn't quiting, Spielberg isn't and even Peter Bogdanovich isn't.


Bogdanovich was a film critic back in the 70's and made one of the best films of that era.

And it was filmed intentionally in black & white. Totally, eh?

The Last Picture Show was set in a dusty Texas town that was going downhill and was built around the theater which was soon to be gone.  Set in 1971, it had a huge cast that would become famous. Jeff Bridges, Cybil Shepard and a ton of character actors like Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman, who won an oscar. Bridges went on to win an Oscar for Crazy Heart.

I mention this movie because it was one of the boomer generation's first forays into movie-making. Along with Bogdanovich, Spielberg made a TV movie called Duel which became a classic in Europe. That led to Jaws.

Then a storm of movies  appeared from new filmmakers, including Francis Coppola who's second movie, The Rain People, is one of my favorites. After that he did The Godfather.

Then there's Martin Scorcese who made a movie about Italian guys called Mean Streets
which introduced Robert DeNiro. And Brian DePalma who made Carrie.

What was different here was that we, the boomers, wanted films that reflected what our generation was about. Thus the "F-word" in the previous blog.  What we did was change how movies were made.

We wanted more reality, and not the Hollywood musicals. Thus we made our movies of which there are dozens of classics that are still watched.

So now, we seem to be turning it over to millennials. Sort of. 

The millennials aren't quite sure about their movies, mostly because they had parents who told them they were wonderful and many believed it.

For millennials, I would probably say the best one is Christopher Nolan and maybe a few others, but again, their movies aren't really different, they're just stories that we had (ie Batman) and remade them. 

But it's not really their fault because the big thing that also changed was corporations. Big companies took over the studios, Columbia is owned by Sony, Paramount is owned by Viacom, NBC owns Universal, MGM is hanging on.

So what happened is that corporations decided on what to make, partly because they had movies they could copy (Batman, Superman, etc.) and also because the movies became very costly.

That meant taking a risk on something new. Unlike the boomers, who all entered the film industry through inexpensive films they made themselves. Millennials didn't have that chance, sure, they made movies but mostly the same ones over and over again.

Movies that were about going back to their home to find the boy/girl/LBGT love of their life. 

And also, competition really came down the pipe, those film schools spit out millennials like crazy and soon they were thirsting for jobs.

But for most of them, probably 90%, ended up working at MacDonalds.

Okay, a bit exaggerated.

And so, speaking of Peter Bogdanovich, he made a movie last year and it just opened this last week in LA in one theater. It's called She's Funny That Way.

Odd title but I liked it, so did my boomer friends. 

But the reviewers tore it apart.

Must have been millennials.

But then there is Jennifer Lawrence.  Best actor of her generation. Really.

Monday, August 24, 2015

How the F-word changed movies

My director friend often raves about how bad movies are today. The difference between us is that I just like movies, any movies. And I've liked them since I was 3 years old. The first movie I ever saw was The Living Desert, a Disney movie that was a documentary. 

At one point, a rattlesnake shivered across the screen and I just went nuts. Screaming like crazy. It scared the hell out of me. 

But being in a small town of around 539 people, my mom simply carried me up to the projection booth where the local projectionist put me in a nice warm chair while he watched the 35mm film move through the projector.

For me, it was comfort from that damn thirty-foot long rattlesnake on the screen. I remember the sound of the projector, sort of like the sound of a rattling train. 

I was hooked.

During my grade school years I went to every movie I could see, and being in a small town, it wasn't hard. One movie played 3 nights and a new movie played 3 nights plus a matinee.

I watched westerns, dramas, comedies and mysteries as well as adventure movies. And one thing was common.

There was no cursing or swearing. Maybe a damn, but not much more. And it stayed like that for years. Sex was alluded to, but never explicit.

But that all changed with Mash, Robert Altman's new style of filmmaking. Not the TV series, but the movie, which is far better.

What was the big change?

In a scene where the Mash doctors were playing football against the army guys, one character said to the Mash team, something like this; "Knock his f---king head off."

Yep. That was it.

One single word changed film industry. There may have been another movie, but as far as I knew, this was ground-breaking.

After that, everything became new, nudity (mostly with women) had to be in almost every movie. The curse words were never really awful, but they were significant because that was our generation's needs. We grew up with nice movies but now they reflected the real world.

 And that's how it stayed for years, and everyone eventually just went with it. This was our generation, the boomers. And we saw lots of movies, like Chinatown, Three Days of The Condor, The Graduate, The Godfather and hundreds more. But the cursing was pretty mild.

But it was a change from our parents movies.

So now came the millennials, and that's most likely most of you. And you want your stamp on movies too. 

Curse words weren't enough.

You needed someone taking a crap on screen. 


And that opened the door for scenes of more bodily functions or malfunctions. Apparently it's funny.

Well, you got one up on us.

Even Sandra Bullock has to go to the bathroom in Two Weeks Notice.

And the industry changed with that, comedies had to have bodily functions, while the countless Superheroes who at least don't seem to have to go to the bathroom.

But my question now is; What next?


Friday, August 14, 2015

Gene Tierney


Beware: Black & white movie review.

For the last few weeks I've tvo'd a stack of Gene Tierney movies, most of them in black and white and one in color, called Leave Her To Heaven, in which she drowns the son of the man she wants.

And you still love her. 

She had more cheekbones and dark eyes and chin that ever was. One critic even reviewed her overbite.

I just finished watching The Razor's Edge, based on a W. Somerset Maugham's 1944 novel about rich people and Tyrone Power who goes off to India to find what life is about. But Gene
is after him, she marries someone else and lets a woman who wants to marry Tyrone slide off the wagon and die a horrible death. The final scene where she is ready to leave her family and husband and everything but Tyrone is to nice of a guy and says no.

And you still love her.

That's what Tierney had. 

Another favorite of mine is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, completely different role. She's an English woman who buys a house by the sea in England and is surprised to see it has a ghost played by Red Harrison.

In this one, she plays nice and you like her even more.  She's good in Heaven Can Wait. How's this for a story, a guy has to prove he belongs in Hell by telling his life story.

But probably the best movie she made was Laura in 1944. And of course, she was Laura.
This movie had a load of great character actors in this truly good "film noir" directed by Otto Preminger. The movie begins with Laura shot dead with a shotgun. From there Dana Andrews, a cop, investigates the murder. There are easily a dozen possibilities. And he is
beginning to fall in love with the painting of Laura.

As Dana digs deep into the life of Laura, a great twist happens close to the first half of the movie -- Laura walks into her apartment, not dead. Seems that Laura's girl-friend stayed there overnight and answered the door in Laura's sleeping gown.

Then Dana tries to figure out how of Laura's friends wanted her dead.

If you haven't ever seen this, find it. 

It also has one of the best character actors ever, Clifton Webb, who was a stage actor and who Preminger "discovered". Webb enjoyed a whole new career in movies and got a 10-year deal at 20th Century Fox after this movie. They did a few more movies together. His last scene in Razor's Edge bring you to tears.

 And then there was Bogart

  The movie was selected for preservation in  the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

For those of you who don't like black & white, I guarantee that after ten minutes with Laura, you'll forget about it.

What I learn about films is that a good movie is always a good movie and will stay as a good movie. What's interesting about these good old movies are the storylines. There was the usual junk as well then as is now. 

But they had great character actors to help carry the movie because, as we see now, actors have to carry the whole story and very few of them can do it.Guys and girls like Clifton Webb above.

I  think that today, her equal would probably be Angelina Jolie.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tom's back

First of all, I am not all that crazy about Tom Cruise's choice of religion. Or if it's even a religion. But I'll give him this.

He makes good movies.

And he is a real movie star.

And that's a rare thing with today's actors. Except for Jennifer Lawrence, who is one of a handful of actors with presence.

In between juggling my pilot and my book which will go to I decided to see the newest Mission Impossible movie with Tom. And once again, he's done it. That opening scene with him hanging onto a transport airline is real but I wonder if some of you millennials really can recognize presence.

Notice I said presence. Talent is another thing.

Jennifer Lawrence has talent and presence all wrapped up into one. And it's rare. Streep has it, so does Michael Caine who's 82. He has presence and can act. 

Which brings me to the question why are English and Australians better actors than American ones.

Some say it's because Hollywood grabs the first actor who hits a thousand likes and figures that he or she will be famous. 

Whereas the Brits and the Aussies train. Some don't, but the best do.

There are two Brit actors in the TV series Bates Motel, and I never knew they were Brits.  I could make a list but it's too long.

So what's the difference between presence and talent.

Someone once said that presence is where you would like to have a beer with George Clooney because he has presence. He's not Eddie Redmayne who has talent and presence in that when you watch him you believe him. 

And he played Steven Hawking almost as good as Steven Hawking does.

With George, you just like to watch him. 

With Jennifer, she just has that stuff, others have tried. Like Shailene Woodley, who you get for your movie when Jennifer is busy. There's really nothing there.

I know, I know... I'm ragging too much on Shailene.

We had a lot of movie stars growing up and most of them were of the presence kind because studios developed them that way. They had to learn to dance and sing and fight and run and everything else in "those days."

They had presence. Rock Hudson, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart had talent and presence. And of course Steve MqQueen had loads of presence. He couldn't do Shakespeare but he could make you watch him. He is the master of movements.  

In a scene with Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven, McQueen sits in a wagon beside Yul who's talking and you only look at McQueen because he's doing tiny little bits of action that take your eyes of Yul.

And that's another trait, actors whom you can't take your eyes off of them. Tom has it, Jennifer has it, Ben doesn't and Ryan Reynolds has nothing. And he's Canadian, eh?

But back to Tom.

From the moment I heard the new version of the Mission Impossible music, I knew I was going to be entertained for $11. And I was.

Tom has presence in hundreds. At 52 or 53.

And I might say that he's the last of the real movie stars, the ones that were bigger than life. The ones we were in awe of.

What we have now are creatures and superheroes times 10. And I wonder how much can someone see monsters throwing each other around on a New York street. Over and over.

Well Jim, there is Antman.

But Tom is back and in good shape. 


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Still busy

I'm still a little behind on two projects, my pilot and my collection of travel stories, which will go on either kickstarter or indiegogo by the end of the month. 

Hope to have some ideas tomorrow - Friday. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Monday

I don't like Mondays.

The Mamas & The Papas sang  "Monday, Monday". So did the Bangles with "Just Another Manic Monday."

Because I have to write.

And now you know I'm stuck in the 60's and the 80's. Eh?

First this blog. So far 65,000 views since 2009. And secondly that damn TV pilot I began to write last week. It's dug it's paws into me now and I can't get away.

I like Saturdays and Sundays because I don't do anything. Well, anything related to writing. It's my excuse, one should not write on week-ends if they write during the week.

So now I don't have a post I like yet. But I will. That's the funny thing. Something always snaps into my brain, sometimes good, sometimes mediocre.

So now I think I can start writing the pilot.

Love them Bangles. And Michelle from the Mamas & Papas.

Talk later...