“The Shape of Heavy Water” Sues “The Shape of Water”

Sid Goldstein at Shande Pictures in Van Nuys informs me that his production company is suing Fox Searchlight for stealing copyrighted material from Shande.

“We made a sweet little picture and we turn around and Searchlight with their budget steals our ideas and beats us to market,” Goldstein tells me. “I knew a guy who knew a guy who could let us have all the heavy water we wanted on our project for such a price. That stuff has a, you know, a newton? or whatever, an extra one in every atom. Whatever you want to do with water, now you’ve got something to work with. Then Searchlight uses plain old tap water and their guy, the one who hooks up with the girl, he’s thin, he’s a broomstick. And then what? Oscar talk.”

“I like a heavy guy,” Zie Foyt told me. “I want something to grab on to. I’m no little fairy princess myself. I need a guy who won’t buckle when the going gets rough.”

“It was always like this,” Goldstein said. “I remember back in ’92, we were making a nice little film, “The Smells of a Woman” I think it was titled and bam, here comes furshlugginer Universal Pictures with “Scent of a Woman” and Pacino wins an Oscar. See, what it was, they just concentrated on one smell, like a lady’s perfume or something, and ignored all the rest of her “scents.” What can you do with people like that?”

Finally, A Movie About Circumcisions

[Headline, Huffington Post, 01/30/12]

This blog existed, originally, to host movie reviews. I expected to write many a word about foreskins. I was ready to write about afterskins as well, if any such should be found and filmed.

Imagine my disappointment at the dearth of material. How many reviews can you write about Moolaadé? And that’s female circumcision, which is not what I had in mind at all.

Eventually then, this site became a hangout for soreheads who wanted to ban circumcision, and for circumcision queens (don’t ask). Scuffles broke out. A pecking order developed, based on foreskin square-footage. It was an outrage.

So I cut and ran. I sliced off that part of the blog.

Sure, when a movie like “Neanderthal Cut” came out, I spilled a little ink over its depiction of Mankind’s first (inadvertent) circumcision, by chert. And “The Shame and the Glory,” about the artist Graarbeaart, who would paint only ripe tomatoes and the circumcised penis.

Are circumcisions making a comeback? They were so big during the silent-movie era! Can this blog finally stop temporizing and take the subject in hand? I’ve heard that the combination of IMAX and 3D has many directors interested in movies that compare and contrast the circumcised and uncircumcised member. Polling as audiences exit the theater indicate that 85% of men are indifferent to the images, cut or uncut. The other 15% have strong feelings. Matters are more confused with female audience members. Confronted with a 50-foot “thing” in its original wrapping, many were not sure just what they were looking at. Whatever it was, however, most agreed that it wasn’t worth the $14 ticket.

Ryan Gosling and the Vizsla

My friend Izzy told me this story the other night. We were drinking after a day’s shoot, in the Capri Lounge on Pacific in Glendale. Izzy might have been telling the truth or he might have been lying through his drunken nose, but I was on set the day that Christian Bale went off, so when it comes to movie stars, I’m ready to believe anything.

Izzy said, I was working as a boom operator on Crazy, Stupid Love, that film made by Steve Carell’s Carousel Productions. There was a day when we were shooting in Beverly Hills and I knew in advance that I’d be done early, so I brought my dog along with me. The two of us were going up in the San Gabriels for a little off-the-books hunting that afternoon. I planned to leave the dog in the car but the day was so hot, I let him come inside with me.

You know my dog Ahava? He’s a Vizsla, a Hungarian hunting dog that looks sort of  like a small, rust-colored Weimaramer. Vizslas make good family pets but they’re also smart in the field.

So the day begins and Ryan Gosling sees the dog and every time he has a minute, he’s over on my side of the set talking to the dog and petting him. Then after a while, Ficara has to go somewhere so he tells us all to take a break, and while I’m finding something for Ahava to eat at the catering table, this low-level AD pulls me aside.

“Gosling loves your dog,” the AD says.

“That’s great,” I say.

Then he says, “No, I mean Gosling wants the dog. He wants to buy him.”

“Buy him?”  I say. “This dog is part of my family. Why not just buy one of my children, for Chrissakes?”

“You don’t want me to tell him that,” the AD says. He gives me a look.

“What, he’s going to fire me?” I say. “That’s what unions are for. Where are we, Russia?”

“It’s a small town, union or no union” the AD says. Still he’s giving me the look.

“My wife’s expecting again,” I say. “I’ve got to work. I can’t lose this gig.”

“These guys,” the AD says, “you know how they are. They want, they take. What are you going to do?”

I’m turning red. Steam is coming out of my ears. This mishugina wants my dog.

“You make him mad, he don’t do nothing now,” the AD says. “Then, you’re looking for work later and somehow there’s no work to be found, you know what I mean?”

So Gosling walks over. He’s like, Well? with the eyebrows.

“Look,” I say. “Let’s be fair, Mr. Gosling. Give me a fighting chance here. The dog and me, we’re close. So what do you say we put the dog in the middle of the set. You stand over on one side, I stand over on the other. We both call the dog. Whomever he goes to, that’s it. He goes to you, you buy him from me. He goes to me, we’re square. Is that fair or is that fair?”

Actually, it’s not fair at all, Izzy says, but what choice have I got? Gosling says the word, I won’t get near a boom for a year. I’ll be back selling solar panels

So the AD leads the dog to the middle of the set and Gosling and I take our positions. Ficara is coming back through the door, so the AD gives us the sign to hurry up.

“Get rid of that Vienna sausage,” Gosling says. I toss it behind me.

“No secret whistles or hunting commands,” he says. “We both just call him.”

So we both call the dog. The dog looks at me and he looks at Gosling, and he knows something is up. This dog is no fool, this Ahava. He sees this fremder on one side and me on the other and you can   tell the wheels are turning in his head. The tail straightens out. The ears go up.

And you know what? Julianne Moore is sitting over on the set couch and Ahava just walks over to her and puts his head in her lap, and she gives him a piece of her doughnut.

Then she says to Gosling, “Lay off, Ryan. You’re making an ass of yourself.”

Gosling shakes his head, like he’s just coming to, and shrugs, and says, “I was kidding, Julianne. What am I going to do with a dog?”

So I’m taking the animal by the collar and I’m out of the room, getting Frida, you know Frida, to look after him while I’m working, and so far,  no blowback. When you sum it all up, I got no beef with Gosling.”

Subgenre: Dingo Ate My Baby

A David Thomson review refers to the “Dingo ate my baby” subgenre of films. Sitting here in Bali, I’ve generated some script ideas for upbeat family-oriented versions of the subgenre:

1. Dingo takes my baby, changes mind, gives baby to lactating gorilla.

2. Dingo takes my baby, trades her to old sow for suckling pig. Piglets are cruel to my baby due to her lack of a snout.

3.  Dingo takes baby, loses interest, baby joins dingo playgroup, eventually comes home on all fours and doesn’t tolerate highchair well after that at all.

4. Yes, baby gets eaten, but some interesting menu ideas are included.

5. Dingo takes my baby, raises her to the age of fourteen, at which point my baby tells her I hate you I hate you I hate my real mom too whoever she is, and then she goes down to the mall to hang with her buds.

Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus

First, a word about The Asylum, a movie studio/distributor that produces low-budget, direct-to-video movies. The Asylum was organized in 1997 by three cinema executives. It took the trio a while to discover their niche: knockoff films that hit the rental shelves at the same time as the knockoffees from which they are knocked off. For example, The Asylum released “De Vinci’s Treasure” at the same time as Columbia Pictures’ “The Da Vinci Code.”  “Almighty Thor” arrived  with “Thor.” The Asylum is responsible for the excellent “Snakes on a Train.” An Asylum movie budget is low, well under a million dollars; the movie is produced in less than four months. No Asylum movie has ever lost money.

Wrt the creature-vs-creature movies, what is the relationship of The Asylum movies to the Roger Corman movies? Can you knock off a knockoff? Or do the creature movies of these two Hollywood low-budget production moneymakers represent some sort of evolutionary sybiosis? Please find out and report back.

So anyway, Mega Shark is back. Meggie is a favorite around here after he or she ate a 707 and the Golden Gate Bridge in Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. In that movie, Meggie might have been supposed to have perished in the end, at the tentacles of the giant octopus. Yet here he or she is, overacting for us once again, as directed by Christopher Ray, who is 34 and has been working in the business for a long time already, now with four titles under his belt as director; son of Fred Olen Ray, who himself has directed many a classic, including “Bikini Jones and the Temple of Eros,” “Housewives from Another World,” and “Bikini Time Machine.” Fred is an officer at Retromedia, Synthetic Film Works, and Firebird International in North Hollywood. Point me to a directory, with dirt, that summarizes the activity of these various great B-movie companies. But no. Exploitation films come in so many flavors and have such a glorious history that I’ll settle for one comforting fact: drive-in movies and grind houses are gone, but the DVD player, streaming video, digital video equipment, and cinema software make exploitation more alive, vibrant, and pervasive than ever.

Warning. Warning. Warning. The DVD, or mine at least, contains no commentary track. You’ve got to sit there and watch the movie qua movie, like it or not.

Is The Asylum going soft? Crocosaurus merely steps on her first victim, doesn’t eat him. But wait. She is definitely grinning. The first hint that this is a feel-good movie, a possible monster love fest.

Note to self: I’m not here to rag on MSVC. For example, that hat on the Indiana Jones wannabe? To me it looks new. Still has its brown fuzz. That’s the sort of detail I’m not going to go on about.

And welcome back Meggie! You’ve learned to do barrel rolls, like a dolphin at Marine Park. Reader, before you scoff at the notion of a shark doing a barrel roll, check this out… Aww, nevermind, it’s not there anymore. Anyway, I think that Meggie is just frolicking, happy to find a Navy destroyer to play with. Sure, they’re firing anti-aircraft shells off his dorsal fin, but that’s just a tickle. Watch out, Meggie, or you’ll accidentally sink your new friends, killing off a good-looking babe in the process!  (Don’t worry. The boat doesn’t really sink. It’s the Lane Victory, tied up at Pier 94 in San Pedro. Available for weddings, reunions, summer cruises, and making cheap movies.)

Another light-spirited actor in the movie: Jaleel White. He’s made a career of being a good-natured  guy, on TV shows such as  Full House (1987), Family Matters (1989), Step by Step (1991) and Meego (1997). Here he is Dr. SomebodyOrOther, a scientist who can repel or attract sharks by making the sound of a “dying fish.” Whatever you do, don’t make that sound at home if you live by the beach; it’s a little like the moaning during orgasm, which might explain some of those cases of coitus interruptus selachimorphaus reported in coastside cities. <- Writing something like this is what happens to you when you watch low-budget movies.

Sure, at one point it looks like shark and croc are fighting, but there’s fighting and then there’s love-tussling. Riddle me this: why are they always biting each other’s tail? Why, with all the biting, does neither creature get hurt? Why do I have bite marks all over my buttocks, which cost me $400 plus the hotel room for a night?

Before I forget: congratulations to the Bronson Caves in Griffith Park. This is the 5,000th movie to use them, here standing in for a coal mine in the Congo, where ten extras or so shovel and pick till Crocie shows up and sends them running off to Palm Avenue in Burbank to collect their paychecks for the day. Or down to the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdes (take the 110), for a couple of pick-up shots while not bumping into all the other crews there already.

Note: Meggie jumped the shark multiple times in Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. Will he do so again? Let’s find out. Sinking the Lane Victory doesn’t count. I’m convinced that was an accident. Swallowing a sub, though, perhaps that was a little thoughtless of him, or her.

My favorite line in the movie: “They’ve got to stop hitting the shark! He’s got a nuclear submarine inside him.”

If you’re wondering about star Gary Stretch’s nose, he used to be a prizefighter. He obviously got poked in the snoot more than once. He also dated Raquel Welch when he was younger than her two kids. She was 57 at the time. He goes through the movie with something wrong with his face. Makeup? A skin condition? He has also been in some decent movies, but such is Hollywood. Joan Crawford played Dr. Brockton in Trog.

One of the fun things about watching B-minus movies is listening to the line readings in them. The young woman at the beginning of MSVC commits some real head-scratchers before she gets eaten.Perhaps she has a speech impediment; ditto Gary Stretch. If they’re doing it on purpose, it proves that a little acting training can be a dangerous thing.

Sonje mentions the moment when the doctor is running through the ship being attacked by Meggie and passing bodies lying dead for no reason. I liked the moment when he stepped into a room, picked up a wet suit to put on, and, as the shark destroys the boat, delicately pushes the room’s door shut, to change in privacy.

A few movie facts:

– There are saltwater crocs, so it’s ok for Crocie to spend all that time in the ocean.

– For an excellent croc movie, I recommend Rogue (2007).

– While the crew was shooting on the beach at Leo Carrillo State Park, some pelicans flew by. Production value!

– The babe-osaurus  in the movie is Sarah Lieving. She doesn’t do the I’m-worried Anna Torv thing or the goofy Anna Paquin thing. She’s real serious, but without the burn of Lena Headey or the brains of Angelina Jolie. She’s got by-God white teeth, though, and she worked in one movie as a stunt driver. And she’s living the dream.

– I can’t remember if Meggie is a boy or a girl, or if we even know. He/she is referred to variously as “he” and “she” in the script.

– Something I’d like to check: budget and box office for this Asylum effort vs the same for Corman’s Dinocroc vs Supergator.

– There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of CGI helicopters, no doubt checked out of The Asylum helicopter locker.

– A lot of time and thought and budget is spent on croc eggs. Shark wanting to eat the eggs; croc wanting to protect the eggs. I’m thinking that there is a pro-life or pro-choice message hidden here, but I’m not sure what it is.

– No animals were hurt during the making of this movie, not counting whatever happened to Gary Stretch’s face.

Collected Dailies 12

The Lost Future (2010) – Worthy SyFy TV effort, filmed in South Africa. The sound recording makes the dialog seem dubbed, but the movie is something to watch on your iPhone, so that’s ok. Sean Bean doesn’t have the stone face of the usual hero, but that’s because he can act.

***

Sons of Anarchy (Season 3) – Richard Thompson’s “Dad’s Going to Kill Me” plays throughout the final scene of the premiere. Dynamite.

***

3 Women (1977) – A reminder of the greatness that was 70s cinema. But where is Shelley Duvall’s Oscar nomination? A role for the ages.

***

The Warrior’s Way (2011) – Korean cinema has been great for westerns. Dong-gun Jang is great in the Eastwood role, substituting sword for gun. Perfect role for Kate Bosworth. Sngmoo Lee directs.  Filmed in New Zeland, also serving the genre well.

***

Tamara Drewe (2010) – Gemma Arterton, back from being Queen of Persia, joins an entertaining cast of English locals in an old-fashioned country comedy.

***

Children’s Hospital (Season 1) – Six episodes, five minutes each. Packs a lot that is funny into that thirty minutes. Ditto Season 2.

***

Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (2011) – Michael Jai White and four worthy youngsters perform some well-filmed MMA. A little sex, a little soap. Pretty good genre flick.

***

Fringe (Season Three) – Did not disappoint. I mourned the loss of Lost, but I needn’t have. Multiple universes, multiple futures, time travel, mysterious beings, soap. It’s all here.

***

Ironclad (2011) – Good historical drama about the defense of Rochester Castle after King John turned his back on the Magna Carta. Paul Giamatti does a swell King John, earning his check with a couple of worthy monologs. Brian Cox is a mighty warrior, believe it or not. At least until Paul whacks off his hands and feet. Jonathan English was working on a small budget here, but he made me believe. At one point he turns five horses into an army; ah, the magic of digital… The tagline is “Heavy metal goes medieval,” which suggests that English wasn’t served well by the Marketing department. The movie is a serious effort, including Charles Dance and Derek Jacobi in the cast. The Danes are played by Czechs and Hungarians. The suffering Templar is James Purefoy.

***

The Last Kung Fu Monk (2010) – Heart’s in the right place. I’m walking away from the wisecracks. Probably plays better with its Mandarin and Cantonese dubs.

***

Bridesmaids (2011) – Interesting to watch episodes of 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and this movie, comparing the work of Fey, Pohler, and Wiig. Three sisters.

***

Stake Land (2010) – Zombieland meets Winter’s Bone. One of my top five zombie movies.

***

X-Men: First Class (2011) – Having been present during the Cuban missile crisis, I can report that I don’t remember any panic buying or heading for the hills or other such activities. The primary mood was one of anxious resignation. Definitely put a crimp in the world series, in which the Yankees beat the Giants in game 7 ten days before the resolution of the crisis.

***

Tracker (2010) – I’ve seen some comparisons to Seraphim Falls (2006), which I liked but can’t remember the ending of. Neeson vs Brosan. It kept me guessing till the end. This one is just as scenic but more plot heavy, with some complicated moral juggling between Maori, Hottentot, Boer, and the British Empire. Ray Winstone is totally believable as a Boer, and then in the included interviews, he’s this colloquial Hackney character. I guess that’s why they call it acting. I remember liking Michelle Yeoh in something – Crouching Tiger maybe – as a down-to-earth martial artist, and then watching her glammed up in a post interview and thinking, hey, what happened to Michelle?

***

Barney’s Version (2010) – Barney is required to look across the room and instantly fall in love with the woman he sees.  Rosamund Pike makes it seem reasonable to me, though not to she with whom I was watching.

***

With the amazing “The World As I Found It” and to some extent “Quicksilver,” I forget that I’m reading fiction.

***

Kill the Irishman (2011) – Cleveland in the ’70s, back when Cleveland meant something. Now it ranks 45th in population in the U.S.

***

Small Town Murder Songs (2010) – And swell songs they are. A movie about redemption. Good to see that somebody still believes in it.

***

13 Assassins (2010) – Excellent genre movie, that, while entertaining us, reminds us that humans have evolved way too rapidly, which is why we’ll end up extinct at some point, having all killed each other off… Part way through the movie, one of the assassins says, “Only 130 [of the enemy] left.” It didn’t occur to me at the time that he was actually saying, “Ten bad guys per assassin left at this point.” Then, each assassin proceeded to kill many more than ten, so I guess his count was off.

***

Night of the Demons (2010) – Seven demons so bad they’re kicked out of hell. Still, while they do manage to kill off a bunch of kids (of the thirty- and forty-something variety), they can’t quite finish the job, with that one spunky young woman surviving, with a swagger…

***

Zatôichi monogatari  (TV series, 1974-1979) – If you’re a fan of the manyZatôichi movies and can lay your hands on this new DVD collection of the TV series, do so.

***

Fringe (Season 3) – Promising beginning, with two of everybody. Could get very complicated, and I hope that it does.

 ***

Blitz (2011) – One more chance for me to try and remember how Jason Statham’s last name is spelled. A well-made movie that reminds us why it’s important to have violent, rogue cops on the force beating and killing evil doers who evade convicton by the criminal justice system, or never get that far once Jason gets his hands on them. I spent the movie marvelling at how much the bad guy reminded me of the guy who gets elected mayor in The Wire and holy cow, it’s him. Statham’s police boss tells him to cool it a while or he’ll be fired and Statham replies, “This [beating and killing] is what I know how to do.”

***

Super (2011) – Entertaining but not for everyone, as there is an unmistakable whiff of snuff porn present in it. Good to see Gregg Henry working, and Rooker, of course. Everyone involved is swell.

***

Cypher (2002) – Not quite the same ride, the second time around, but still fun. I’ll watch anything with Lucy Liu’s slightly crossed eyes in it.

***

Outsourced (2006) – American guy goes to work in India, is initially clueless. I wonder how I’d make out, spending my days as I do with as many India-born  workers as Euro-Americans. Ditto for China.

***

Your Highness (2011) – Undistinguished low comedy, with some laughs. In a recent column about some other movie, David Denby commented that CGI, in the future, will help deliver movies to us in a shape that we can’t even imagine now. I thought of that as I watched Your Highness. Regardless of the movie’s content, the landscapes and effects kept catching my eye and tickling my imagination.

 ***

Gunless (2010) – Slings and Arrows being my all-time favorite series, I was delighted to discover that its star Paul Gross was cast as The Montana Kid in this Canadian oater. Too bad his wife Martha Burns wasn’t in it too. That would have been perfect. Hurrah for Canadian movies.

***

The Beaver (2011) – This is how I picture Martin Riggs ending up.

***

Dinner for Schmucks (2010) – Add this to the list of movies I skipped for a while because of the savage reviews, but ended up liking… Athough now that I review the NYT and Ebert, I find that they both liked it too.

***

Viewing on the plane (I like those little seatback screens): Hanna, Paul, Fast Five, Thor, Win Win, Diamonds Are Forever, The Expendables, episodes of Community, Justified, Eastbound and Down, and Big Bang Theory. And others that I was too groggy to remember. A consolation of really long flights, along with the cup-o-noodles and free beer and wine that Cathy serves.

***

Cinderella (1950) – It’s been a while. That duet at the ball recalls the 40s and is still pretty great.

***

True Blood (Season 2) – David Thomson in his massive book of biographies has an entry for Anna Paquin, stating that her work in True Blood is, I don’t know, the greatest acting of the decade or something like that. I sat staring at that entry for a while. The man was jonesing when he wrote it, must have been, but it caused me to try out Season 2 again and this time I’m totally hooked.

***

The Politician’s Wife (1995) – Three-part BBC mini-series. If you like political drama with some kinky sex thrown in, this is on top of the top of the heap. Don’t miss it. Strangely, IMDB buries Juliet Stevenson below the fold. She is the star of the show.

***

Moon (2009) – Still excellent the second time. May Duncan Jones not be corrupted by the big budget for his third effort.

***

Source Code (2011) – Spoiler. Plus a few words in case your eyes keeping moving but you really don’t want it spoiled. The real loser in this script is poor old Sean Fentress. First he gets blown up and then, when he survives, he’s been replaced by Mr. Stevens. Kudos to Frédérick De Grandpré, who plays a reflection in a mirror and a train window.

***

Anton Chekhov’s The Duel (2010) – Anger, hysteria, great scenery, and of course, a duel.

***

The Pretender (Season 1) – Formula 90s series. Super-guy can be a doctor, jet pilot, race-car drive, etc., etc., and uses his powers to right wrongs, one wrong at a time. I was entertained… In fact, I’m finding it hard to stop watching.

***

Parks and Recreation (Season 2) – Watched a couple of episodes. Made me laugh. Will watch more.

***

Arthur (2011) – Watched some of it. Quality goofiness. Greta Gerwig delivers some strange line readings. If I ever have the movie around again, I want to go back and replay some of them, to figure out what she was trying to do. Mumblecore star finds herself confronting Russell Brand, Jennifer Garner, Helen Mirren, etc.

***

Limitless (2011) – Fun. What’s new in Limitless? Needing a drug badly and obtaining it by licking up blood from an exsanguinating man, from the linoleum.

***

I was in the library today and just happened to see David Thomson’s book “Have You Seen…” on the shelf. I checked it out. The book comprises 1,000 pages, each page containing the author’s thoughts about a particular movie. It’s an unbelievable performance and makes me want to write one-page reviews like his (without the intellectual content, I’m afraid). Note to self: try this with a current or recent movie that I’ve seen. Some fellow movie bloggers do this already. Taken together with Thomson’s gigantic volume of biographical sketches of those who make movies, which I also checked out the other day, one is in possession of some large percentage of all movie knowledge. The trick is to move that data and those pensees from betwixt the covers of the books, into the brain. I happen to be watching Limitless (2011) but don’t have the pills that Bradley Cooper has.

***

 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – David Thomson, along with many other critics, designates the late 60s/early 70s as the last golden age of movies. Watching Harry Potter, with all its imaginative inventiveness and technical expertise, next to Cable Hogue, reminds me that there is something ineffable about those old movies that I don’t often find in movies today.

***

The Balland of Cable Hogue (1970) – Looks like Robards did Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and came back for this reprise with Peckinpah. It goes in my “How have I missed this movie for the past 40 years?” bin. I love westerns. Peckinpah was my Tarantino back in the day. Maybe I saw Cable Hogue and forgot it, but it’s too good for that.

***

You Never Can Tell (1977) – Settle back and enjoy. Shaw comedy of errors first staged in 1897… Act 2. Seven at table in the restaurant, plus the waiter. Where can you find extended scenes with dialog like this today? Fie on the quick cut. Drama is dead. Just watch a couple of Tony winners if you don’t believe me… No, not dead, just sadly wanting. It’s like American male soccer. All the best athletes sign up for pro careers in football, hockey, basketball, and baseball. I presume that potential playrights are doing the same sort of thing in the entertainment business.

***

The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief (2006) – Documentary about clubs in Osaka where young women pay young men (hosts) to drink with them, play with them, romance them, etc. Not something that you’d find in the U.S., to put it mildly… Turns out, the only women who can afford the full treatment when they come in – and some of them have been coming in for four or five years – are sex workers looking for fun and company.

***

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) – I’ve listened to a number of Connelly books on tape, including several of the Mick Haller numbers. Clever plotting. This is a worthy screen adaptation. McConaughey usually strikes me as a little goofy, but likable.

***

Gunfight at La Mesa (2010) – I watched more than an hour of this one, just because it wears its heart on its sleeve and because it was filmed in southern New Mexico. Small, amateurish, subject to critical abuse of all sorts for its myriad goofs and bad acting, I, like the guy at DVD Verdict, in spite of all that, wish the makers well. Keep trying! But don’t show us the Rio Grande and tell us that we’re in Arizona.

***

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) – God bless Rutger Hauer. It’s been a while, but he’s finally found himself in another classic.

***

Insidious (2010) – Fun horror. Interesting to watch Lin Shaye and Barbara Hershey acting side by side. They’re both well into their 60s, Lin with her normal face, Barbara with that generic lift that has removed her individuality completely (or tell me that I’m wrong).

***

Breaking Bad (Season 3) – Series like this one are clinics in plotting. It’s fun to speculate in advance about the twists.

***

Choose Me (1984) – A movie that makes me want to write.

***

The Man of Destiny (1981) – A young Simon Callow as Napolean. My 11th Shaw play. I’ll be sad to finish all of the plays that have been committed to film. Then the only way to see a new one will be to track down some obscure stage performance. Nothing wrong with that, if I could find one… Callow does a rousing job. Thirty years later, he has had an estimable career, but maybe not as glorious a one as this performance might have predicted.

***

Chungking Express (1994) – Finally I watch it. The Criterion edition. A lot to like.

***

Cedar Rapids (2011) – Congenial, life-affirming humor. Made me laugh.

***

Unknown (2011) – Liam Neeson, up against Johnny Depp in The Tourist (2010). Which of the two plots is sillier? Hard to decide.

 ***

Scary Movie 3 (2003) – When I want to laugh and not think, I return to a Zucker movie that I’ve seen. They are dependable that way, for me.

 ***

Breaking Bad, Season 3 – At one point my spouse asked me why I was laughing. Thinking about it, the show is sort of a comedy… It makes Albuquerque seem a lot more interesting that I ever found it… Have they given Danny Trejo two cameos now, and killed him off in both?

***

Scary Movie 4 (2006) – Picked it up thinking that it was Scream 4 (2011), but that’s ok. Made me laugh again the second time.

***

Arms and the Man (1989) – Helena Bonham Carter at 23 wiggles her brows in the service of her art. Early Shaw.

***
The Adjustment Bureau (2011) – The producer sits in his office and the door bursts open. In rushes an agent waving a piece of paper. “I’ve found another Philip K. Dick story, and Damon is available!”

***
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) – Holds up nicely. Cheadle still great as the homicidal Mouse. Too bad it did poorly at the box office; no more Mosely books onscreen. It was the first film that Washington’s Munday Lane company helped finance. They rounded up a lot of 40s automobiles for this one; that and the way they dressed a four-block neighborhood, plus the star salaries, account for most of the $50 million (in 1995) budge.

***

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) – Several “I’d watch him in anything” stars, and I enjoyed watching them in this.

***

Battle Los Angeles (2011) – I watched long enough to get a look at an alien. The aliens could learn something from the Taliban or the Viet Cong.

***

Sherlock (2010) – BBC. Three episodes in the first season. Totally entertaining. Sherlock with a cell phone, computer, and a Doctor Watson just back from combat in Afghanistan. Can’t wait for next season.

***

Mrs. Harris (2005) – Annette Bening and Ben Kingsley, a most entertaining couple. As the movie began, showing the beginning and end of their relationship, I expected the usual arc from happiness to unhappiness. In this case, the details of the arc were more unexpected and more entertaining than usual.

***

Bomber (2009) – Film Movement never disappoints me. Good road movie (Holland and Germany) for the older demo.

***

Le Mans (1971) – I had forgotten Le Mans, mistaking it for Grand Prix (1966). If you want to experience Formula 1 racing and the 24 Hours at Le Mans, this is the film for you. Almost a documentary. Makes me want to revisit Grand Prix, which I remember as awful soapy, and Winning (1969), which I remember liking a lot. Newman had that long racing career and Winning fit right in.

***

Just Go with It (2011) – I like Adam Sandler. In this one, he’s a plastic surgeon and Jennifer Aniston is his assistant. Someone asks him if she’s had work done and he says no, she’s just naturally beautiful. However, she doesn’t look quite real in her closeups. Just heavy makeup?

***

Midnight Run (1988) – Holds up on all counts. Who would have guessed, watching it, that Charles Grodin was about to go way right wing. Took a look at his wiki but can’t tell where his head is at these days.

***

The Verdict (1982) –  Boy, this movie and Bachelor Party seem so old. Were the early 80s that long ago? Anyway, The Verdict holds up. Newman, Warden, Mason, O’Shea, Rampling, Lumet, Mamet. Wow.

***

Bachelor Party (1984) –  Hanks is 28, but seems younger. Clunky but considered a classic? and it made me laugh, which is sufficient. Loaded with actors who never went anywhere.

***

True Grit (2010) – An honorable western, reminding me how much I enjoyed the book by Portis, and his The Dog of the South as well.

Date the movie star of your choice!

We’ve started a new dating service here in North Hollywood. Date the movie star of your choice!

Here’s how it works:

Which star do you most resemble? Go through our album of headshots and then send us your own headshot and personal information, along with the name of the star you most resemble.

If your notion of resemblance isn’t absurd on the face of it, we’ll enter you into our List of Fame.

Next, read at least one good biography of your chosen star. Study pictures of him or her. Go out to North Hollywood thrift stores and assemble a star wardrobe (we assume that if you’re participating in this service, you can’t afford new clothing, or any of the other accoutrements of a normal life).

Watch a movie or two with your star in it. Mimic the star’s voice. Don’t be discouraged by the reactions of your friends and family. People will not always be kind, contrary to Wilfred Sheed’s contention.

Now you’re ready for your dream to come true: a date with the star of your choice. Just send us his or her name.

We’ll contact that star, as represented by an individual on our List of Fame. Would he or she like to date you (that is, the star that you are impersonating)? If he or she says no, we’ll either pay him or her to change his or her mind or we’ll threaten him or her with physical violence. Either way, your date is assured!

Go out and have a ball. Part of your date’s “yes” will include sex the way you like it, within the bounds of local and moral law.

Of course, we may also contact you and ask you if you’re up for a date with Walter Brennan, say, or Danny Trejo, and you will say yes.

L.A.’s Second-Most-Famous Freeway Chase

A short post to commemorate L.A.’s second-most-famous freeway chase, which occurred on this date, July 18th,  on the Los Angeles freeways and mesmerized TV viewers for hours.

At two in the afternoon, Dennis Hopper left his home. He intended to buy cigarettes and beer, but he was so befuddled by drugs that when he climbed onto his bike and took off, he instantly forgot where he was going.

He entered the Harbor Freeway southbound, which was jammed up. As he weaved amongst the stalled cars, a Highway Patrol unit snapped on its lights and hailed him, ordering him to pull over. He didn’t slow down. The patrolman worked his way to the shoulder but by then, Hopper was long gone.

The patrolman radioed ahead and a KFWB copter picked up the transmission on its police band. By now, Hopper was eastbound on the 10, which was gridlocked. He eluded two CHiP units without even knowing that he had done so. The copter picked him up and was soon joined by copters feeding KCBS, KGIC, and KLAC. At this point, Hopper entered the East LA Interchange, the intersection of the Santa Ana (I-5 south/US 101), Golden State (I-5 north), Pomona (CA 60), and Santa Monica (I-10 west) freeways, which was frozen solid due to multiple fender-benders and the spillage of a load of lettuce into liquid tar from the ruptured tank of an asphalt truck.

Hopper at this point was signing autographs through the open windows of cars. Obscured by upper levels of the interchange, at some point he left the pavement altogether and was picked up in Boyle Heights after he stopped at a convenience store and bought his beer and cigarettes. The clerk called KTLA, having watched the pursuit of Hopper on TV until then. KTLA’s copter was joined by two police choppers and they spotted Hopper just as he was entering the heavy traffic northbound on the Golden State. It was later determined that on this stretch of his journey, he drank the six-pack he had just bought.

Patrol unit after unit watched helplessly as Hopper, smoking and snorting white powder, motored between cars down the jammed 110, back to his starting point. After an unorthodox exit from the road, he roared back to his house, dropped his bike in the driveway, went inside, and fell asleep in his laundry room under the ironing board. Knocking on his door and ringing his bell brought no response. Neither did bullhorns, which caused Hopper’s rich neighbors to protest. The clutch of copters hovering overhead created a terrible racket and the mayor was forced to call them off, after several studio heads read him the riot act.

A warrant was obtained and officers removed Hopper from under the ironing board. He was fined an undisclosed amount for traffic violations and his next movie was a monster hit.

Choose Me (1984)

Watched Choose Me again the other night. Still love it.

Alan Rudolph wrote and directed it. How I think it happened:

Alan is sitting in a bar in Hollywood, waiting for someone like me to show up and drink with him and talk shop. He draws a diagram on a bar napkin. Three men, say, and three women. Each man hooks up with a woman, then they switch around a couple of times, the couples. It happens mostly in a bar like the one Alan is sitting in. The rest of it happens in a house like his house. A Hollywood house with a classic 40s vibe. Alan is going upbeat, technicolor noir. Everybody smokes. If the cigarette still has length, stick it in the corner of the mouth; smoke it down to the fingernails.

There will be a deep ambiguity at the core of the movie, Alan decides, right up front. That’s key. Gravitas and the comic. The hero, the main guy, the lead – perfect for Keith Carradine, he was great in Nashville, Keith with his hair slicked back, what a mug – is either a crazy liar or a f**king hero – I’ll never say which for sure, Alan thinks. First the audience will assume crazy, then hero, then crazy, then hero, then… at the end, we’ll take thirty seconds to rub their collective nose in the ambiguity, so they’ll all go Who wrote that?

The other actors, Patrick Bauchau makes a good bad guy with his accent, John Larroquette makes a good schmoe. The women? Can’t get Sarandon, so cast Leslie Ann Warren as the first lead, and Genevieve Bujold as the second, and Rae Dawn Chong as the young one.

Now I just need Keith to “interact” with each of the women, and the bad guy deals with them too, but he only yells at them or cuffs them onscreen, doesn’t get to smooch them or worse. The schmoe interacts with the lead woman, but only so he can go all hangdog on her for the rest of the movie. Poor man’s Greek chorus, him and Rae Dawn.

Done plotting. No, wait. Keith and the bad guy have to fight at least once.

Now, the direction:

All six actors are reading my lines. I want those lines to stay mine, not become theirs, so they all have to do their readings word-by-word. First audience reaction to this? That none of the actors can act. But nah, that can’t be right, they’ll think. Rae Dawn gets dumped on by the critics sometimes, but the rest are blue-ribbon. It can’t be them. It must be the director pulling the strings. It must be that the movie is like a play, or a musical, or something. Those upbeat-noir colors. That street set. The coincidences. That guy noodling with his saxaphone all the way through. Teddy Pendergrass treating the movie like his own private music video.

And boom, Alan is done, just as I walk up and tell him that I’ll have what he’s having.

Only, I’m not complaining because Alan is a very smart dude and he throws a lot of style up there onto the screen, provides a smooth, hip trip. Plus, I’ve always had a thing for Bujold.

Women over 45 in the movies

From the reader: “Could you explain why there are almost no women over 45 in movies or in magazines that cover the film industry? Has there been an epidemic of some kind that’s wiped out only women over 45 and only in the Greater Los Angeles area? Is this happening to men over 45? And if not, why not? And if you were a woman over 45, where would you live?”

I’ve addressed these issues previously here and here. The reader’s premise is no longer accurate. Female stars are no longer consigned to the movie-star boneyard when they enter their 40s.  Back in the day, female stars lived hard and by the time they were 40, many of them could pass for 60. Today, female stars in their 40s, 50s, and 60s still look great (and of course, can still act, if they could in the first place).

What is true is that strong female parts can be hard to find, and women are less likely to carry a film in Hollywood than are men. Such is not the case in, for example, France.

Some female stars over 40 (I contend that those in the list who are between 40 and 45 will continue to work when they hit 45; there are many in this list who won’t see 60 again; a Sophia Loren or Ursula Andress still has credits in the 2000s):

Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Geneviève Bujold, Charlotte Rampling, Nicole Kidman, Lucy Liu, Laura Linney, Demi Moore, Julia Roberts, Holly Hunter, Meg Ryan, Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Mary McConnell, Felicity Huffman, Teri Hatcher, Alfre Woodward, Geena Davis, Stockard Channing, Frances Conroy, Glenn Close, Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, Goldie Hawn, Angelica Houston, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Palin, Debra Winger, Catherine Deneuve, Signorney Weaver, Isabella Rossallini, Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Adjani, Lili Taylor, Jane Curtain, Janeane Garofalo, Julie Delpy, Sharon Stone, la Streep, Renee Zellweger, Parker Posey, Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, Dianne Weist, Blythe Danner, Adrienne Barbeau, Ana Belen, Ann-Margaret, Blythe Danner, Cheryl Ladd, Cheryl Tiegs, Betty White, Ann Savage (sadly deceased, but she made it into My Winnepeg), Cristine Rose, Concha Velasco, Cybill Shepherd, Diane Keaton, Faye Dunaway, Fionnula Flanagan, Gemma Jones, Jaclyn Smith, Helena Rojo, Jacqueline Bisset, Jane Seymour, Jean Smart, Jane Badler, JoBeth Williams, Karen Allen, Kirstie Alley, Linda Gray, Lynda Carter, Mary Kay Place (sister wife!), Morgan Fairchild, Olivia Newton-John, Pam Grier, Peggy Lipton, Raquel Welch, Sally Field, Shelly Long, Sonia Braga, Sophia Loren, Vanessa Redgrave, Ursula Andress, Wendie Malick, Renee Russo, Lena Olin, Jane Fonda, Fanny Ardant, Julie Christie, Tina Turner, Tanya Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Shannon Tweed, Nancy Sinatra, Sela Ann Ward, Rita Wilson, Phylicia Rashad, Mia Farrow, Madonna, Melody Thomas Scott, Melanie Griffith, Kim Cattrall, Julie Newmar, Katie Sagal, Kathy Bates, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jennifer Tilly, Jessica Phyllis Lange, Joan Allen, Gena Rowlands, Grace Jones, Cloris Leachman, Debbie Morgan, Debbie Harry, Diahann Carroll, Ellen Rona Barkin, Emma Thompson, Andie MacDowell, Angela Bassett, Annette Bening, Kristin Davis, Emmanuelle Beart, Jennifer Beals, Mariska Hargitay, Carrie-Anne Moss, Mädchen Amick, Marisa Tomei, Madeleine Stowe, Sela Ward, Linda Fiorentino, Tia Carrere, Kristian Alfonso,Teri Hatcher, Sandra Bullock, Julianna Margulies, Ashley Judd, Gina Gershon, Famke Janssen, Caitlin Keats, Phoebe Cates, Kate Walsh, Courteney Cox, Elizabeth Hurley, Sophie Marceau, Salma Hayek, Patricia Valasquez,
Kari Wuhrur, Ayelet Zurer, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Julie Dreyfus, Sofia Vergara, Monica Bellucci, Brooke Langton, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Brooke Shields, Lauren Graham, Vanessa Marcil.