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April 17, 2007

Movie Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A couple of lifts from the excellent Anne Thompson:

* Here's an interesting Variety article about how the craft of movie acting is being affected by the changeover to digital technology. Short version: Some people believe we're witnessing the biggest shift in movie acting since the deveopment of The Method in the 1940s and '50s. I wrote a blogposting about The Method back here.

* We all know what an absurd enterprise feature-film-making often is. Still, it can be startling to encounter hard facts. This L.A. Times piece by Glenn Bunting about the making of 2005's "Sahara" -- one of the biggest commercial disasters ever (it has lost around $100 million) -- made even my jaded old eyebrows raise a bit. $2 million for a plane-crash scene that wasn't included in the finished movie. An $8 million paycheck to Michael McConaughey. A cast-and-crew totaling 1000 people. A screenwriter-roster of ten people -- fun to see that David S. ("The Sting") Ward was among them. A bribery budget -- Morocco, you know -- of almost a quarter of a million dollars. The article's best detail is saved for last: "The production firm owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz got $20.4 million in government incentives to film and edit parts of 'Sahara' in Europe." Talk about government subsidies to the arts!

* I kinda enjoyed Mel Gibson's 1997 film "Payback." Adapted from the same Donald Westlake novel that inspired 1969's legendary John Boorman / Lee Marvin "Point Blank," it was no-nonsense action absurdism with a gritty look, a lot of twisty velocity, and a cast of juicy actors playing brutal, far-out, sexy, and hard-bitten characters. DVD Spin Doctor brings news that "Payback" was in fact a tampered-with film. The studio took it away from its director (Brian Helgeland), subjected it to reshoots, and gave it a different third act than what Gibson and Helgeland had intended. DVD Spin Doctor also reports that a Mel-and-Brian-approved Director's Cut of the film has just been released on DVD. I'll be renting it.

* I raved about Donald Westlake (and many others) back here. To be honest, I think Westlake isn't just one of the best book-fiction writers alive, I think he's a genius. Newsweek's Malcolm Jones reports that Irish lit-fict eminence John Banville considers Westlake one of the "great writers of the 20th century."



posted by Michael at April 17, 2007


Digital definitely widens the "talent" pool. Of course, you still reach a point of diminishing returns on a traditional set, b/c you're paying all of those other people: film isn't the only cost on a set, even if it is a big one. And when you're edging deep into golden time, the last thing you want as a producer is to have to wait for your director to "find" the performance.

Posted by: communicatrix on April 17, 2007 3:44 PM

This guy shows you what he says is the first movie ever made.

Posted by: dearieme on April 17, 2007 4:47 PM

Michael -

That Westlake/Banville convo is great! Thanks for pointing it out.

Posted by: Jon Hastings on April 17, 2007 6:57 PM

Michael – Interesting stuff on the impact of digital technology on acting. I like this kind of “unintended consequences” stuff.

I like “Payback,” but for me “Point Blank” is something special. In the latter film, Lee Marvin is like a shark or a force of nature, while Mel Gibson in the remake is all fits and starts, a boxer with a lot of flashy moves but lacking power in his jabs. Ultimately, “Payback,” seems serviceable but … unnecessary, much like Stallone’s remake of the 1971 Michael Caine classic “Get Carter.” Stallone and Gibson have been good in other roles (I even think Gibson was underrated as “Hamlet,”) but they don’t quite seem to have the stones to pull off the role of a real heavy hitter. However, I am curious to check out the new version of the Gibson film to see how much improved it is over the theatrical release.

“Point Blank” is a nasty movie. The fight scenes are brutal, and the sexual chemistry between Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson is hot and twisted. And the scene in which Marvin uses Dickinson to get to one of the main villains is diabolical. The bad guy, John Vernon’s Mal, has lusted after the Dickinson character and has even managed to finally bed her just as Marvin appears. It is noteworthy that she is not rescued just in the nick of time in order to preserve her sexual dignity, and the scene is allowed to play out with cold precision.

Two similarly involving crime thrillers are 1980’s “The Long Good Friday,” featuring Bob Hoskins and 2000’s “Sexy Beast,” which unleashes Ben Kingsley as Don Logan, even more of a fearsomely relentless character than Lee Marvin in “Point Blank.” A suitably nasty review of “Sexy Beast” can be found here:

Posted by: Alec on April 17, 2007 7:02 PM

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