Bruce Willis defends ‘Hudson Hawk’ for twenty-nine goddamn minutes
11:25 am


Bruce Willis

To his credit, Bruce Willis has weathered his share of ignominious setbacks during his career. There was The Bonfire of the Vanities, there was Breakfast of Champions, there was Color of Night. Last Man Standing was one of only two movies I have ever walked out of in my entire life (the other was David Lynch’s Lost Highway). I’m not even counting Rob Reiner’s North, a movie that elicited one of Roger Ebert’s most famous negative reviews. I say “to his credit” because it shows that he gets out there and tries stuff; for a big movie star Willis is adventurous in his choices, which include stuff like The Fifth Element, which has all of the earmarks of a fiasco but totally works. I’d never want to be critical of an actor for trying something different.

But on the subject of Hudson Hawk, Bruce, enough is enough. Hudson Hawk was a comedic heist-conspiracy caper (with songs) from 1991 with a colorful cast that included Willis and Danny Aiello as wise-cracking and occasionally crooning burglars, James Coburn as the head of the CIA, Andie MacDowell as an undercover nun, Stefano Molinari as Leonardo da Vinci (yes, really), and—probably the best things in the movie—Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard as a megalomaniacal husband-and-wife team hell-bent on “world domination.”

It flopped, but did so in an attention-getting way, earning $17.2 million on an initial investment of $65 million (in 1991 dollars). (In the video below, Willis claims that the movie is now in the black.) It’s a lively movie with some serious tone problems that’s jammed with head-scratching moments and a byzantine plot that left many viewers contemplating a whiplash lawsuit. Truth be told, Hudson Hawk is a lazy movie. It’s the source of Willis’s only writing credit—check IMDb—and had its origins as a playful inside joke with co-writer Robert Kraft back from the days when neither was much of a player in the industry (Kraft spent most of the last 25 years as head of Fox Music). This has meant that Willis (unlike with Color of Night or North) has taken the debacle personally. It really bothers him that people didn’t appreciate his attempt to set up a whimsical Hope-Crosby-style franchise for the ‘90s.

The one thing that Hudson Hawk isn’t is bland, and that quality of misguided spark has meant that the movie has its share of fanatics (one of my closest friends defends the movie passionately), which is, you know, fair enough. That percolating fan interest has allowed Willis to redefine the movie as some kind of “cult hit” that was “ahead of its time,” both of which premises I reject. Hudson Hawk has a vibe unlike any other movie, and I appreciate any failure that is able to be this distinctive. But for most moviegoers, the movie remains a puzzlement.
Hudson Hawk
For a featurette on the “Special Edition” DVD, Willis and Kraft sat around in a recording studio musing on their memories of making Hudson Hawk; the approximately half hour-long session is completely geared to be their defense of the movie. It’s very peculiar footage. Kraft sits at a piano and occasionally tickles the ivories—you’ll learn more about Kraft’s background as a working musician in the 1980s and the NYC bar scene of the same era than about the movie.

They tell aimless stories, Kraft plays a song or two (with Willis chiming in on vocals). At some point around the end of the second video below, Willis spends a couple minutes defending the movie, but his inarticulate defense is every bit as lazy as the movie itself:

You know, lookin’ at how it kind of became this cult film, and what people come up and say to me on the street about it is, they dig the fact that it was making fun of itself, that it was satire, and I don’t think anybody got that when it came out, they didn’t know what to make of it, me and Danny Aeillo singing in a movie was just unheard of, and people were mad about it or something, they were mad that we were trying to make them laugh.

What this video reeks of is entitlement. Willis and Kraft are both highly successful men in Hollywood and their friendship and loyalty to each other, which are laudable, they seem blinded as to the silly fiasco that Hudson Hawk truly is. They don’t seem to realize that in his opening statement, Kraft pretty much cops to the fact that the movie was a vanity project (Willis: “Someday I’m gonna make Hudson Hawk...”), the kind of project a big movie star does because he can. Furthermore, all these winsome stories about the germination of the idea for the movie don’t function, because you guys ain’t Steven Spielberg and Hudson Hawk ain’t a beloved classic—it just ain’t. 

Willis’ impatient smirk is his signature as a movie star, but here that same facial tic suggests his arrogance. YouTube user skinwalkerxxx nailed it when he wrote (amid a sea of comments attesting to the film’s brilliance as one of the undisputed highlights of Willis’s career), “WTF are they really proud of the movie?”

Part 1:

More after the jump, plus Siskel and Ebert’s review of Hudson Hawk…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
On directing ‘Blow-Up’: ‘I am not God, but I am Michelangelo Antonioni’
08:43 am


Michelangelo Antonioni
Peter Bowles

The actor Peter Bowles was delighted when he was cast in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, as his character had a speech upon which the whole film hinged.

Bowles was to deliver this killer speech in a scene towards the end of the movie, when the film’s star David Hemmings sought out Bowles’ wasted character at a party. When it came to the day of filming, the actor was stunned to see his speech had been excised from the script. As Bowles described it in The Guardian in 2005, “in my innocence, and no doubt arrogance, I thought that a terrible mistake had been made. So I said [...] that Antonioni mustn’t cut that speech, that it was essential to the whole film. I demanded to talk to him about it.”

Antonioni was grace itself, quite beautifully mannered. He said, “Peter, you are worried because I have cut this speech. Could you tell me why you are so concerned?”

So I launched into an explanation of why he shouldn’t cut the speech. He listened, and listened, until finally I ran out of words. There was silence. So I said, “Erm, sir, are you going to put the speech back in now?”

He replied, “No. Because, Peter, you have explained to me exactly why I should cut it. If I leave the speech in, everyone will know what the film is about, but if I take the speech out, everyone will say it is about this, it is about that, it is about the other. It will be controversial.” So it was cut.

But there is a speech, which I have, which explains exactly what the film is about. It is all there in the film, if you know where to look…

It was not the only time Antonioni had excised meaning or a central plot element from his films. The removal of a satisfactory denouement in L’Aventurra so confused audiences that it was mercilessly booed at its first screening in Cannes, reducing director and its glamourous star, Monica Vitti, to tears.

When Antonioni started making films in the early 1950s, he decided that he had to be different from his fellow Italian film-makers, who had aligned themselves to making Neo-Realist films, such as Bicycle Thieves, which focussed on an individual’s relationship with society.

I had arrived a little late on the scene, at a time when that first flowering of films, though still valid, was already beginning to show signs of exhaustion, Consequently, I was forced to stop and consider what subject matter was worth examining at that particular moment, what was really happening, what was the true state of things, what ideas were really being thought.

And it seemed to me that perhaps it was no longer so important [...] to examine the relationship between the individual and his environment, as it was to examine the individual himself, to look inside the individual and see, after all he had been through (the war, the immediate post-war situation, all the events that were currently taking place and which were of sufficient gravity to leave their mark upon society and the individual) out of all this, to see what remained inside the individual, to see, I won’t say the transformation of our psychological and emotional attitudes, but at least the symptoms of that restlessness and behavior which began to outline the transitions that later came about in our psychology, our feelings, and perhaps even our morality.

Antonioni approached film-making like an author examining the character, and how best to represent and develop a character on screen.

He also wanted to find a different way to tell his stories, something he had learnt from his time as a documentary filmmaker.

Antonioni would keep the camera running long after the actors had delivered their lines. He claimed it made the actors relax and behave more naturally, more spontaneously, as they were caught unguarded, while the over-extended pause created tension.

His actors were filmed in an exacting way, by which the framing would best explain something about their character. As Antonioni once wrote:

A line spoken by an actor in profile does not have the same meaning as one given full-face. A phrase addressed to the camera placed above the actor does not have the same meaning it would if the camera were placed below him.

Or, as Peter Bowles explained:

He wanted me to use an upward inflection on my line, which didn’t make any sense to me at all, but I was trying to do it. I have never had such close coaching from any other director, and many actors wouldn’t stand for it.

Finally, on take 13: “Cut. Print. Good. Peter, come with me.”

So he took me off set and said to me, “Peter, I understand. You wish to show the world what a fine actor you are.”

He got that right.

“When you work with other directors you give them your performance and they film it. Not with me, Peter. You see I have chosen you for how you look. I have chosen all your clothes. If I move my camera six inches, I would ask you to do that line in a different way.”

Upon this, he put his arms around me and held me close to him and said, “Peter, believe in me. Trust me. I am not God, but I am Michelangelo Antonioni.”

Blow-Up contains many of Antonioni’s trademark tropes and themes: the isolation of the individual in modern society (Hemmings’ character and his failure to connect with others); the inability to communicate successfully with other people (as seen explicitly in the party scene between Hemmings and Bowles); the disenchantment and boredom with modern life (the audience at the pop concert, the models being photographed, the party); the lack of cultural or historical significance in modern life (the crowd fight for Jeff Beck’s broken guitar neck, Hemmings fights for and wins it, then discards it in the street).

The only passion Hemmings louche fashion photographer finds is in his search for a possible murder—a passion which is ultimately taken from him. While the film’s ending (the mimed tennis match) suggests individuals only engage with that which they think see, everything else is shrugged-off with indifference—this was reflected at the time with the nightly bulletins of death, murder and destruction in Vietnam, watched by families eating their TV dinners around tables or off trays.

Blow-Up was regarded as a hip, cool and sexy film upon its original release (much was made of its so-called orgy scene), but at its heart is Michelangelo Antonioni’s pessimistic and ironic regard for life, which cuts through the swinging sixties froth to reveal the film’s seriousness of purpose and cultural relevance five decades on.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Spalding Gray’s brief hardcore career
07:05 am


Spalding Gray

Movie poster
I think the formative literary experiences of adolescence are far less uniform than we sometimes (condescendingly) assume. For example, Catcher in the Rye left me flat, Slaughter House Five didn’t really “hit” me until after my second reading in college, and no, I never had an Ayn Rand phase. No, I was a fourteen-year-old midwestern girl who was really into Spalding Gray.

My mother had his monologue collections, Swimming to Cambodia, Sex and Death to the Age 14 and Monster in a Box, which I devoured after seeing a recorded performance of Gray’s Anatomy on TV. Although hearing and watching Gray deliver a monologue is absolutely essential, his intimate, honest, and endearingly neurotic storytelling translates beautifully to the written word as well. (One wonders how much his acute dyslexia is responsible for his craft; reading was incredibly difficult for him, not to mention writing, and he attributed his strength in monologue to an adept, discursive auditory memory.)

But of course, Spalding Gray was not always the Spalding Gray, and in the early days of his career, in addition to summer stock and experimental theater, he had a little bit of a side career in skin flicks—two or three, depending on the source. Of course, given Gray’s avant-garde-ish background (and the fact that this was 1976), it’s entirely possible that this was all done in the spirit of radicalism and testing the boundaries of “acting”—the director of Farmer’s Daughters, Zebedy Colt was an early, outspoken gay arts pioneer and activist.

Or maybe Gray was just broke and needed the money

The clip below, from Farmer’s Daughters, is totally safe for work, and you get to hear Gray’s trademark Rhode Island accent on stilted, vintage, naughty dialogue! However, although it’s apparently possible to view the notorious Farmer’s Daughters in its entirety, it is not the sort of cheesy, novel smut people tend to watch for a retro laugh. It is fucked up. So fucked up, in fact, that I’m just going to link the plot here. Even if you do want the perverse details—imagine Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left remade for a “raincoater”-crowd—I wouldn’t want to spring them on you before you’ve had your morning coffee…

Did Gray ever do a monologue about the making of Farmer’s Daughters I wonder? Probably not!

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Alternate universe movie posters
09:48 am



Sean Hartter’s “Alternate Universe Movie Posters” website boasts some bust-a-gut funny twists on classic films. I selected a few pieces I found highly amusing, but I suggest moseying on over to Sean’s website yourself to… “take it all in.”




More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Derek Jarman plays Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1988 student film ‘Ostia’

Twenty years ago yesterday, Derek Jarman succumbed to AIDS. Around the time that he was first diagnosed of the illness, in 1986, Jarman starred in a student film by Julian Cole about the last days of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Pasolini, was one of the few homosexual cinema icons Jarman could look to for inspiration, his grotesque murder in Rome in 1975 was a blow for film lovers all over the world.

In 1985 Jarman published a movie treatment, never realized, with the title P.P.P. in the Garden of Earthly Delights that spanned Pasolini’s life from the shooting of the final scene of Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom through to his death. (Reminiscent of Jarman’s Caravaggio, the treatment apparently drew in the works of Hieronymus Bosch too.) The extent to which that treatment influenced the development of Ostia, Julian Cole’s 25-minute homage to Pasolini (named after the site of his death), is not entirely clear, but the fact is that Jarman agreed to appear in the movie as Pasolini. (According to John Houghton, Cole found Jarman’s acting to be at times so atrocious that it was a considerable challenge to edit around it. Oh, well.)
In the final volume of the director’s journals, Kicking the Pricks, Jarman relates the following reminiscence:

Last year Julian Cole asked me to play Pasolini in his graduate film Ostia. Getting murdered and buried in freezing mud at 4 am as an uncertain sun came up was gruelling, but there was compensation in a trip to Camber Sands where we filmed a desert sequence in the dunes. I took my Super 8 with me and one shot from that day, my shadow racing across the sand, ended up in The Last Of England.

London and the coastal stretch of Camber Sands were never going to pass comfortably for Rome, but to my eye Cole did a pretty good job pulling off the switcheroo. (The spiffy Alfa Romeo helps.) Ostia is purest experimental moviemaking of the mid-1980s, which means it ain’t the easiest thing to follow, but the final chunk depicting Pasolini’s death can’t help but be profoundly affecting.

Jim Ellis comments in Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations:

As Jarman’s words [meaning the P.P.P. treatment] indicate, there are profound sympathies between the directors that go beyond the biographical similarities, and indeed, it’s difficult to name a film by Jarman that does not contain some echo of Pasolini, from Sebastiane, where Jarman comes closest to emulating Pasolini, to Blue, which calls to mind the all-blue painting made by the son in Teorema, after a homosexual affair has stripped away his bourgeois pretensions.

If you’ve seen any of Jarman’s movies, you won’t be surprised to learn that Ostia is also strictly NSFW.

via {feuillton}

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
When Jayne Mansfield met Jimi Hendrix
08:36 am


Jimi Hendrix
Jayne Mansfield

Sex appeal, according to Jayne Mansfield, is a wonderfully warm, healthy feeling that isn’t manufactured, or has anything to do with measurements or lipstick color, rather:

“An effervescent desire to enjoy life, that’s what sex appeal is to me.”

Though Mansfield regularly played-up to her vital statistics, she was no dummy. Jayne allegedly had a genius IQ, spoke five languages, and was smart enough to buck the Hollywood system—breaking away to achieve international success as an actress, singer, burlesque and cabaret entertainer starring in sell-out shows on both sides of the Atlantic

In 1965, Jayne cut two tracks in New York with a young session musician named Jimi Hendrix on guitar. Apparently this strange combo happened as Jayne and Jimi shared the same manager.

A-Side: As Clouds Drift By—Jayne Mansfield with Jimi Hendrix on guitar and bass.

B-Side: Suey—Jayne Mansfield with Jimi Hendrix on guitar and bass.
Below, Mansfield speaks from a bed on the set of Brit flick The Challenge (aka It Takes A Thief) to comb-over interviewer, Robert Robinson, in 1960:

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Seizure’: Oliver Stone’s disowned directing debut

Although it seems as if he’d like to do everything he can to disown it and pretend that it doesn’t exist, Oliver Stone’s 1974 directing debut, the low-budget horror film Seizure, is nothing to be ashamed of. It may not be the best film he’s ever made, but it’s certainly not the worst either (U-Turn anyone?).

In terms of cult movie catnip, Seizure boasts stars like Jonathan Frid (“Barnabas Collins” from TV’s Dark Shadows), B-movie queen Mary Woronov, Bond girl Martine Beswick and Hervé Villechaize, the dwarf actor who played “Tattoo” on Fantasy Island (Villechaize, a well-known actor in NYC experimental theater circles, was Stone’s roommate at the time). Frid plays a horror writer who is terrorized by his own fictional creations. The surreal plot that is loosely based on Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf.

Here’s what the VHS cover looked like:

Mary Woronov claims that one of the film’s producers was gangster Michael Thevis, who anonymously bankrolled the film to launder money while he was under investigation by the FBI, something also mentioned on IMDB.

Seizure has never come out on DVD, but in the early 80s, it was easy to find on VHS for $2.99. According to Mary Woronov, Stone bought the rights to the film and it would appear that he intends to keep sitting on it. It’s easy enough to find, of course, if you know where to look. Ahem.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘Movies R Fun!’: R-rated movies drawn in the style of a children’s book
08:49 am


Josh Cooley

The Graduate
Pixar storyboard artist Josh Cooley‘s new book Movies R Fun!: A Collection of Cinematic Classics for the Pre-(Film) School Cinephile will be available to purchase on March 1.

I’m going to hold out for Cooley’s XXX version children’s book.
The Godfather

Rosemary’s Baby

Léon: The Professional



Blues Brothers
Apocalypse Now

Pan’s Labyrinth

Silence of the Lambs

Via Imgur

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
New Slint documentary trailer released
12:11 pm


Lance Bangs

On the heels of Touch & Go’s announcement of an insanely comprehensive Slint box set comes the release of the trailer for Lance Bangs’ documentary on the band, Breadcrumb Trail. Bangs’ impressive resume includes music videos for Arcade Fire, Pavement, Kanye West, The Shins, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and Belle & Sebastian. Slint, of course, were the band of Louisville kids who dropped a very quiet atom bomb called Spiderland in 1991. The album hugely influenced math rock, slo-core, and Post-Rock, and so had a massive impact on the independent music of the 1990s and beyond. I’ve drooled on at length about it before, so I’ll not rehash. I’ll just point you here.

One thing about the trailer that’s just killing me—I am about Slint’s members’ age, and so I was a 19-year-old kid in college when the album came out, and damn if they don’t look ridiculously young to me now. So, how’d YOU change the world before you finished school?

Per Vice, screenings of Breadcrumb Trail don’t begin until mid-March, but I’m crazy-excited to see it. I’m especially keen to see how well it complements the 33 1/3 book on the album, which is thus far the single best source of information I’ve found on the somewhat mercurial band.

Enjoy the trailer.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
Forget ‘Reefer Madness,’ 1938’s ‘Sex Madness’ is your new favorite moral panic film
08:48 am


exploitation films

movie poster
Premarital sex! Lesbians! Syphilis! These are the the threats of Sex Madness, the most unintentionally hilarious moral panic film I have ever seen! And I watched Reefer Madness in a fit of herbal-induced giggles, if you catch my meaning, if you get my drift…

The plot is charmingly anachronistic, (if you can forget all the shame, damnation, and sometimes prosecution that has historically befallen less-than-respectable sexual practices). Paul Lorenz, our resident protagonist and “concerned citizen” fears the growing threat of “social diseases”—perhaps my favorite euphemism of all time. Meanwhile, additional plots serve to support his wholesome concerns. A New York burlesque show sets the stage for the aforementioned debauchery.

Most compellingly though, is the storyline of Millicent Hamilton, a good girl from a small-town who came to New York after winning a beauty contest. Poor Millie caught syphilis on the “casting couch,” and hopes to be cured by the time she returns to her sweetheart, Wendell. “Wendell”—now that’s the sort of name you can take home to mother.

Though it’s tempting to reduce the fervor of Sex Madness to puritanical pearl-clutching, in 1938, the US was still battling a syphilis epidemic that physically and mentally ravaged the populous. As with most STD outbreaks, a fair amount of shame, naivety, and pseudo-science contributed to the spread of the disease. Yes, Sex Madness is mostly prudish scare tactics and moral condemnation, but it also emphasizes that syphilis can be cured with legitimate treatments, warning the audience of the quackery that pervaded the time.

Of course, making a movie on these scandalous subjects risked censure at least, prosecution at worst, since the Motion Picture Production Code quite plainly forbade such filth on celluloid. Even the word “sex” could be grounds for action! Attempting to skirt potential repercussions, the film was released multiple times under different names, including such titillating titles as Human Wreckage, They Must Be Told, and Trial Marriage. It’s also possible that it was released multiple times to trick audiences into seeing it more than once—and with such prurient titles, wouldn’t you?

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Page 6 of 190 ‹ First  < 4 5 6 7 8 >  Last ›