Lithub looks back on the religious freakout over Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
I present here the revised, post-Asteroid definitive ranking of Wes Anderson films, from best to worst.
I will not be taking questions at this time.
- Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
- Rushmore (1998)
- The French Dispatch (2021)
- The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
- Isle of Dogs (2018)
- Bottle Rocket (1996)
- Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
- Asteroid City (2023)
- The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
I’m not sure when this was announced, but: Austin Butler is playing Feyd Rautha in Dune 2.
This is a pretty key role, and much was made of the fact that there was no casting news about it for the first installment, largely because there was no need to show him in the first half of the story, I reckon. Feyd is the nephew to the Harkonnen duke and primary antagonist, and is positioned in the narrative as a sort of anti-Paul. In the 1984 film, Sting played him as if there were no such thing as overacting. (Not for nothing, Butler is the same age now that Sting was in 1984, which is in line with the rest of the primary cast choices I mentioned here last year.)
Given Butler’s recent fame from the titular role in Baz Lurman’s Elvis, it’s easy to imagine the sort of nutbird mashups we’re likely to get, and for once I’m here for it.
Variety is reporting that Scorsese is planning to direct a Jerry Garcia biopic starring Jonah Hill.
I mean, at least it’s not DeNiro.
Maybe tell a story about something other than boomers.
Realistically, what was the last great Scorsese film? Dude’s been phoning it in for a long time, despite the awards he gets because of the reputation he created with the undeniably great films of the 70s and 80s. I mean, he deserved an Oscar, but he didn’t deserve it for The Departed, which was him coasting through a remake of a Hong Kong film.
COVID has produced the longest delay between same-actor Bond films EVER: almost 6 years.
In looking at this, a pretty amazing stat popped out: On average, starting with the release of Dr. No in 1962 and continuing through the last Timothy Dalton film in 1989, a Bond film was released about every 20 months for 27 years. That sounds insane but the numbers don’t lie. The first three came out a year apart, followed by a 20 month gap between Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. Then we settled down to something between 18 and 24 months for Moore’s run — sometimes less.
Even recasting events didn’t blow that up too much. There WAS a then-unprecedented 30 month gap between Connery’s almost-last outing (You Only Live Twice in 1967) and the sole George Lazenby film (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969) — but Connery’s return film came out not quite two years later, and then Roger Moore’s debut (Live and Let Die) dropped less than 600 days later.
The shift from Moore to Dalton didn’t even create a delay: The Living Daylights opened a hair over two years after A View to a Kill, so more or less right on time.
The largest gap between films came in the handoff between Dalton’s last outing and the release of Goldeneye: almost six and a half years. The delay was due to what can best be described as inter-corporate chicanery. Dalton was actually on a 3-movie deal, and they were on track to do the film by 1990 when the project hit “development hell” owing to legal problems between MGM and the Broccoli family (who have always held the film rights to Bond). MGM was in talks to be acquired, but the deal was getting dicy, and the new owners had plans to generate quick cash by selling international broadcast rights to the 007 films on the cheap, so the Broccolis sued, and while all this was going on Dalton’s contract expired.
Long story short: Goldeneye wasn’t released until 1995, with a new Bond, which was fine because in those 6 years the world had changed quite a bit.
Once they had Brosnan, though, they moved pretty quickly; his films have an average interval of about 2.3 years, or not much different than Moore or Dalton.
The gap after Brosnan, though, is big: the 3rd largest of the set, at 3.99 years. It appears no single factor can be blamed. Eon Productions had (finally) acquired the rights to Casino Royale in 1999, but then they needed to find a good Bond and a good director, and that took up some time.
Craig’s films came slower: on average, 3.7 years counting almost-6-year-gap for No Time to Die, but closer to 3 if we ditch the outlier. If NTTD had dropped on its original date in 2019, Craig’s average would still be high at 3.25 years; only once is the gap less than 2 years (and it shows, since Quantum of Solace is terrible).
Craig’s tenure overall has been on a slower pace: prior to COVID, there’s been an average 3 years between each of his films.
It turns out, though, that the gap between films has been increasing over time, even when we take out gaps due to other factors (like the MGM/UA thing):
- Connery: 1.5 years (which factors in Lazenby; Connery’s first 4 were all only a year apart)
- Moore: 1.9 years
- Dalton: 2 years
- Brosnan: 2.3 years (omitting Goldeneye gap)
- Craig: 3.25 years (omitting DAD->CR gap and crediting back “COVID” delay)
Overall, there’s been a new Bond film about every 2.5 years for almost 60 years. That’s kind of amazing.
Right, so, in my capacity as an Aged Nerd, GenX Uncle Chet now provides a sort of Dune Primer in advance of the upcoming film.
What is Dune?
Dune itself was the first of a series of books by Frank Herbert. It was published in 1965, and Herbert continued the story with several sequels until his death in 1986. The series has won basically every award they give in science fiction, and is truly one of the giants of the genre.
- Dune Messiah came in 1969.
- Children of. Dune came in 1976
- God Emperor of Dune, 1981
- Heretics of Dune, 1984
- Chapterhouse: Dune, 1985
Herbert’s son and collaborators continued the series after this point. I’ve only read through God Emperor, which is a place lots of people stop because at that point you’re thousands of years past the events of Dune itself, and it’s a point in the overall story where it’s easy to stop.
Yes, Dune has been adapted before. David Lynch made a very flawed film in 1984, starring a then-unknown Kyle MacLachlan plus a long list of pretty serious actors (Patrick Stewart is in it; so is Jose Ferrer). It was also done on TV by the SyFy network in 2000, but that version is just unwatchably bad (and even so, they made a sequel that took them through Children, which is the only time I’m aware of anyone tried to adapt the works past the first novel).
Finally, much hay was made a few years back about a documentary made about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to adapt it in 1973. I’d love to have seen that!
Dune is kind of unusual in highly inventive, very alien sci-fi in that it explicitly is about the far future of US, actual earthlings, not some other population of people unconnected to the present day (e.g., the Star Wars universe). The events of the story in Dune take place about 25,000 years from now. Humanity has dispersed to the stars, having at some point invented faster-than-light travel and a variety of other interesting technology.
Curiously missing from the Dune world is any trace of computing. This is because of a thing called the Butlerian Jihad, which happened long before the events of the book (like, 10,000 years; Herbert did some INSANELY DETAILED worldbuilding, akin to Tolkien, but you have to glean most if it from context). The result of the jihad was a broad and foundational prohibition on any thinking machines.
Space travel is complicated, obviously, so how do they do it without computers?
The Spice and the Guild
At some point in the distant past (relative to the story), humans discovered the desert planet Arrakis, also called Dune. Dune features the by-now-famous ENORMOUS sandworms, and is the only place in the universe where the spice melange is found. (There is an isolated population of humans there who are now effectively indigenous, but they truly arrived as a result of a long-ago sect of religious wanderers. They’re called Fremen, and play into our story as well.)
In 1965, it would’ve been a spoiler to disclose that the spice is produced by the enormous sandworms of Arrakis, but at this point it’s like knowing that a nasty baby alien is about to burst forth from John Hurt’s heaving chest in Alien.
Our characters don’t know this, though.
Melange is an addictive narcotic, but not a debilitating one. Additionally, it imparts some pretty amazing effects for some humans, among them mental expansion and ESP-like abilities; greatly increased lifespan; access to genetic memories; and eventual physical changes (the least drastic of which is one’s eyeballs turning blue).
Long-term exposure to the spice has allowed the Spacing Guild to unlock the secrets of manipulating something called the Holtzmann Effect, which is how interstellar travel happens in the Dune universe. The Guild has a complete monopoly on this; if you want to travel, you pay them. This puts them in a position of enormous influence, which in turn makes them a power effectively equal to the Emperor himself.
And, again, this spice is found in only one place in the universe, so control of Arrakis is a big damn deal. The spice is the single most important and valuable substance in the universe, and controlling it is to control pretty much everything.
The Dune universe is effectively a multi-house feudal state. The emperor maintains power by playing the other houses against one another, with the cooperation of the Guild and other key players like the Bene Gesserit sisterhood.
Our hero is Paul, the son of Duke Leto Atreides, who has just been given control of Arrakis by the emperor. It’s a plum assignment, but it’s also a trap; the emperor is planning to allow the evil House Harkonnen to ambush the Atreides on Arrakis and eliminate them; Baron Harkonnen’s prize will be Arrakis and the production of spice (which, as noted, is a big deal).
The Bene Gesserit as a sorta-religious order of women who have their own mysterious agenda.
Spoiler: the agenda is to, via careful manipulation and court intrigue, bring about the culmination of a surreptitious breeding program and create the Kwisatz Haderach, or Shortening of the Way, a male Bene Gesserit figure they believe will lead humanity to salvation (“leading humanity to salvation” is a big theme in the books after Dune itself).
As the book begins, the order was poised to set up the final pairing: a daughter from Leto Atreides and his Bene Gesserit consort Jessica, who would eventually marry the heir of the evil Baron Harkonnen and produce the Kwisatz Haderach. Jessica, though, loves her duke, and knows Leto wants a son. One benefit of being a Bene Gesserit sister is near-total control of one’s body and chemistry, and so she gave him Paul instead.
This was unpopular with the sisters, since they believe Jessica has ruined their plans. What has truly happened, though, it will not surprise you to learn, is that Jessica jumped the line and bore the fruits of their program one generation early — and out of Bene Gesserit control.
The sisters have a host of quasi-supernatural abilities, including some precognition, genetic memories, etc., all associated with spice usage. They are also fearsome warriors, and possess abilities not seen in other groups such as the Voice, which allows a sister to give commands that cannot be disobeyed. There’s a certain amount of is-he-or-isn’t-he about Paul, and whether or not he can manifest these same abilities…
- Paul Atreides
- Son of Duke Leto and Lady Jessica; our focal character. A teen in the books, usually shown as a young man in adaptations. Played in both films by 25-year-old actors: the new film has Timothy Chalamet, and by Kyle MacLachlan in the 1984 film.
- Duke Leto Atreides
- Paul’s father and head of the ascendant and powerful House Atreides. Played by Jurgen Prochnow in 1984, and Oscar Isaac in the new film. I thought, when Isaac was cast, that he was too young, but the truth of it is he’s only about a year off the age Prochnow was in 1984 (Prochnow was 43; Isaac is 42). Given that Paul is supposed to be 17 or so, this works — though both Paul actors were older (25 for both).
- Lady Jessica
- The Bene Gesserit concubine to Duke Leto. I don’t think it’s ever made clear why she’s not his actual wife; Herbert does a lot of this with his characters — Paul eventually takes a noblewoman as his wife, but for political purposes only as his true love is Chani. This happens again a generation or two later. Francesca Annis played Jessica in 1984; up-and-comer Rebecca Ferguson has the role in 2021.
- Gurney Halleck
- Paul’s weapons teacher and House Atreides swordmaster. He’s also a gifted musician. Serves with Duncan Idaho and the Thufir Hawat as the Duke’s main advisory council. Patrick Stewart played Gurney in 1984; for 2021, we get Josh Brolin. (Also a good choice.)
- Duncan Idaho
- The other chief “knight” and retainer of the Atreides. Richard Jordan played him in 1984; Jason Momoa has the role now, which is a big shift but easy to envision.
- Thufir Hawat
- Unlike Halleck and Idaho, Hawat is not a fighter. He’s a mentat — a sort of human computer, fueled by (you guessed it!) spice — and master assassin. Freddie Jones was Hawat in 1984; master theater actor Stephen McKinley Henderson plays him today (you may have seen him in Devs).
- Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
- Head of the primary rival house. Transparently evil and scheming; they prize sadism and domination. Also a weak point for Herbert because he’s described as both corpulent and ugly, because bad guys have to be physically unappealing I guess. Kenneth McMillan in 1984; Stellan Skarsgard today.
- Glossu “the Beast” Rabban
- Baron Harkonnen’s sadistic and brutal — even by Harkonnen standards — nephew, and a key part of the Baron’s plot to destroy the Atreides on Arrakis. Possible heir to the Baron. Paul Smith in 1984; Dave Bautista today (which is another bit of great casting).
- Gaius Helen Mohiam
- Bene Gesserit reverend mother and head of the order; mentor to Lady Jessica. Spooky witch lady. Charlotte Rampling has the role in the new film, which makes perfect sense.
- Half-Fremen woman — her father is the planetologist Liet-Kynes in the books; Kynes is gender-flipped in the new film — who becomes Paul’s lover and partner; eventually (after the events of the first book) mother of his children. Played by Sean Young (oooo, 1980s Sean Young!) in 1984, and by Zendaya today. GREAT casting.
- Leader of the Fremen on Arrakis and ally to Paul after the fall of House Atreides. Really a great character in the books and on film. Everett McGill — who went on to be a frequent collaborator with Lynch — played him in 1984. We have Javier Bardem today. (Seriously, given the casting director a dang medal.)
Very Curious Omissions
- Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen
- The Baron’s younger nephew and actual heir. Whip-smart and conniving, and (for the Bene Gesserit) planned sire to the Kwisatz Haderach but for Jessica’s rogue choice. Played memorably by Sting in 1984 (there’s a knife fight at the climax) and as yet unknown in the new film. LOTS of hay has been made about his absence from any promo materials and casting lists. The most plausible reasons for their radio silence on this, a fairly pivotal character, are that (a) the new film doesn’t get deep into into the book to need him yet, and he’ll show up in a sequel; or (b) they’ve cast some hugely famous surprising figure and want to save the reveal until release. It would be SUPER WEIRD if he was just omitted entirely — like, unfathomably so.
- Alia Atreides
- Paul’s sister, who is only a small child in the events of Dune (and, in the sequels, comes to a bad end). Played by Alicia Witt in 1984, and as yet completely absent from any press about the new film. She has real things to do in the book, but (as with Feyd) if this film doesn’t finish the first book then her absence makes sense. She could also be written out entirely, but only if Villeneuve has no intentions of making sequels. (Her absence from any adaptations of the follow-up books would be harder to engineer.)
In the 80s, I was a fan of St Elsewhere, which was a pretty unusual show for the time — reasonably smart, reasonably well written, and not a simple drama or comedy. The cast was even nominally diverse — or, at least, should be remembered for having cast a very young (28!) Denzel Washington before he was, well, Denzel Washington. (His role as Stephen Biko in Cry Freedom would come on the strength of this role.)
As with medical dramas everywhere, we had a cast of varying generations of doctors. Washington was part of the younger set (along with Howie Mandel, David Morse, and Ed Begley, Jr.); the middle range was held down by Ed Flanders as especially William Daniels (later famous as the voice of KITT on Knight Rider; sue me, I’m a child of 80s television). And the most senior physician, Dr Daniel Auschlander, was played by Hollywood veteran Norman Lloyd.
Lloyd was a decidedly senior 68 for the pilot.
Norman Lloyd died on Tuesday, in his home, at the age of 106. I had no appreciation of it at the time, but he was a giant. He started entertaining — vaudeville! — in 1923; his last came in 2015, at the age of 100 (it was Trainwreck, which as rom-coms go is pretty good — Bill Hader, Amy Schumer, etc.). 2015 was also the year he had to quit playing tennis, which I find immensely inspiring.
Lloyd was a frequent collaborator of Alfred Hitchcock, and a personal friend of Charlie Chaplin; not for nothing does the NYT obit begin by noting he was the last living link to the golden age of Hollywood.
He married his wife Peggy in 1936; they remained so until her death in 2011. You do the math. They had two kids, one of whom was the actress and director Josie Lloyd, who sadly passed away last year at 81.
This was making the rounds a bit ago, but didn’t get quite the traction is deserved.
I had nearly forgotten, but about 10 years ago there was an effort by TV giant David E. Kelly (L. A. Law, Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal) to bring Wonder Woman back to TV. His star was Adrianne Palicki, then hot from Friday Night Lights.
The online clips look bad and clunky, so we’re probably all better off this didn’t sell. (Alan Sepinwall called it “embarrassing,” for example.)
There’s a meme on FB asking folks to list their 26 favorite films. Obviously, I complied, but not in the expected way, and obviously too I’d prefer to have the list here.
- Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
- Miller’s Crossing (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1990)
- The Hunt for Red October (John McTiernan, 1990)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Russo Brothers, 2014)
- It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
- Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
- True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2010)
- Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
- Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
- Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
- Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
- Up (Pete Docter, 2009)
- No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
- Ali (Michael Mann, 2001)
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)
- The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
- Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
- Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975)
- Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, 1980)
- Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton, 1996)
- Henry V (Kenneth Branagh, 1989)
- The Station Agent (Tom McCarthy, 2003)
- Flesh and Bone (Steve Kloves, 1993)
- The Long Kiss Goodnight (Renny Harlin, 1996)
- Birdman (Alejandro Inarritu, 2014)
Of course, that’s just today; on another day, the list might be different.
However, the whole process reminded me of how much I loved Flesh and Bone, and so I thought ot look at Wikipedia. It was directed, as noted, by Steve Kloves, who also wrote it. Oddly, has directed only one other film — but his filmography is still pretty notable.
He wrote and directed The Fabulous Baker Boys in 1989, and then has writing credits on Wonder Boys and then on every Harry Potter film, which presumably kept him busy and fed for a while. There’s also a writing credit on The Amazing Spider-Man, and producer credits on the Fantastic Beasts films.
Then, at the bottom, is his upcoming return to the director’s chair: an adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Tim, though that’s been in dev hell for a while. The book is great, though, and it’d be fun to see this guy direct again.
This restored footage of Katharine Hepburn screen testing for Joan of Arc in 1934 is pretty great. I was surprised to see how much this 27-year-old Hepburn resembles Milla Jovovich.
Amazon has produced an adaptation of the graphic novel Radioactive, about the life of Marie Curie. Rosamund Pike stars. I am sold.
After watching the trailer, I was shocked to re-discover a couple things about her. Obviously, there’s the whole “was the first female winner of the Nobel, and then did it AGAIN 8 years later” thing — and, by the way, at the time no one had won the Nobel twice before.
But there’s also the following. See, while she basically discovered radioactivity, the dangers of atomic radiation were absolutely not understood at the time. I knew she died from this — her constant exposure and lack of protective equipment led to her death, at 66, of aplastic anemia, but also gave her cataracts and a host of other problems.
And those problems aren’t over:
She was interred at the cemetery in Sceaux, alongside her husband Pierre. Sixty years later, in 1995, in honour of their achievements, the remains of both were transferred to the Paris Panthéon. Their remains were sealed in a lead lining because of the radioactivity. She became the first woman to be honoured with interment in the Panthéon on her own merits.
Because of their levels of radioactive contamination, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. Her papers are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.
Anyway, Radioactivity airs July 24 on Prime Video. Here’s the trailer.
Well, you MIGHT know him — he wrote a book called Miami Blues that was made into a tight little hardboiled comedy in 1990 with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Fred Ward, and a 32-year-old Alec Baldwin. But you probably don’t.
But you should. Here’s a great intro from over at CrimeReads, which includes this spectacular sequence:
Although he was writing fiction, Willeford believed in doing his homework to make the story believable. He spent two years learning everything he could about the sport of cockfighting before he wrote his 1962 novel Cockfighter. Hard-boiled fiction is known for its terse heroes, but the hero of Cockfighter, Frank Mansfield, tops them all. He vows not to speak to anyone until he wins the big championship.
Cockfighter was going to be Willeford’s big breakthrough novel. But shortly after it was published, his publisher died and the publishing house went bankrupt. As a result, most of the print run, more than 20,000 copies, never reached bookstores.
Later, in 1974, Roger Corman produced a movie version directed by Monte Hellman and starring a masterful Warren Oates as Mansfield and Harry Dean Stanton as his nemesis. Willeford wrote the screenplay and had a cameo as a ring official. Corman said that it was his only film that lost money, despite the movie’s legendary tagline: “He came to town with his cock in his hand, and what he did with it was illegal in 49 states.”
Anyway, there’s a new Willeford film coming — or, rather, it’s out, but in these COVID days lots of small films are getting lost. It’s called The Burnt Orange Heresy, based on his 1971 novel of the same name, and it premiered at last fall’s Venice Film Festival. Per the linked story, “A Variety review calls it ‘a marble-cool art-fraud thriller.'” Bonus: if you enjoyed the BBC/Netflix adaptation of Dracula earlier this year, you’ll be pleased to find that Claes Bang appears here in a leading role.
Like all right-thinking people, I view The State’s amazing and perfect Porcupine Racetrack skit as the pinnacle of 1990s television.
They must also remember it fondly, because in quarantine, they remounted it in Zoom.
It’s still lovely.
The resulting MeFi thread includes links to a few other nice State-related bits, including:
- An NYT piece about the skit from 2009 (ie, YEARS after it ran);
- This article about them from back-then, which includes the fascinating datum that, on one show, they were meant to have Blue Traveller as a guest, but SNL snagged them, so they had to “settle for” Sonic Youth; and
- a Youtube link to their “43rd Annual All-Star Halloween Special,” which aired on CBS in prime time in 1995. It’s an AMAZING and RIDICULOUS long-form bit of comedy, complete with actual celebrity cameos about “incidents” from their supposedly-4-decade tradition of such specials. (CBS flubbed the marketing for this so badly that I didn’t even know about it, and I was a HUGE State fan at the time.)
Betty Aberlin, mostly famous for being on Mister Rogers, also appears in several of Kevin Smith’s movies.
For example, here she plays a nun in Dogma:
She’s also in Red State, Jersey Girl, and has an uncredited role in Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
Probably time to watch this again…
GIFAANISQATSI, a Koyannisqatsi-generator using Gify gifs.
10 years later, Jennifer’s Body remains a super-clever, super-fun, and super-great film. If you haven’t seen it, pick up on it.
Killer Sofa looks to be the Citizen Kane of murderous possessed La-Z-Boy films.
Late last month, Rogue One actor and British citizen of Pakistani heritage Riz Ahmed was supposed to appear at the massive Star Wars Celebration convention in Chicago.
He never got there, because Homeland Security wouldn’t let him board his flight. Because, you know, brown.
A very uncanny-valley trailer for the film adaptation of Cats dropped today.
My sense is that never before have so many furries rubbed one out to the exactly the same thing at the same time.
Step 1: Obtain a Chinese pirate copy of Revenge of the Sith.
Step 2: Transcribe the awful English subtitles.
Step 3: Redub the video using the bad translations.
Step 4: Hilarity.
Remember this scene in Top Gun, wherein Our Hero flies inverted over an enemy MiG and flips him off whilst
Dr Greene Goose shoots a candid Polaroid?
Yeah, uh, just read this in a New Yorker article about Virgin Galactic’s lead test pilot, Mark Stucky, who has flown for both the Marine Corps and the Air Force:
Stucky also was a showboater. In 1985, on a patrol mission over the Sea of Japan, he spotted a Soviet bomber in the distance, caught up to it, flipped upside d own, got close enough that only a few dozen feet separated the cockpits, and snapped a photograph.
Maverick? Meet Mark Stuckey, who is way cooler than you on account of not being fictional.
In the wake of learning of a new film of Lear — coming to Amazon streaming next month, with Anthony Hopkins in the title role! — I fell down the whole of “nonobvious adaptations of Shakespeare.” Some of these are common knowledge — I think most people, or at least most film buffs, are aware that Kurosawa’s Ran is also a Lear adaptation, and that his Throne of Blood is Hamlet. Then there are the odd ones, and at the bottom of this pile of weirdness I found this:
In 2002, TNT released a made-for-TV adapation of Lear set in Texas in the 19th century called The King of Texas, and starring no less an eminence than Patrick Stewart as cattle baron John Lear. Uli Edel directed, which makes total sense, as Mr Edel is also the auteur behind such brilliant efforts as Madonna’s me-too erotic thriller Body of Evidence and a TV movie about Mike Tyson.
A year later, Edel did a two-part TV movie about the life of Julius Ceaser with Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under; Law & Order) in the title role, and also featuring Richard Harris (his penultimate role) and Christopher Walken. So yeah.
Anyway, the whole thing is on YouTube, but somehow I don’t think it’s gonna make it to my watch list, but I sample it enough to hear Stewart’s precisely awful attempt at a “western” accent. Ugh.
Sarah Gailey absolutely shreds Armageddon in this hilarious piece over at Tor.com. Please enjoy.
Armageddon is a film composed of two neatly dovetailed love letters to toxic patriarchs. Neither can be called the primary narrative, any more than one of the four cold-opens of the picture can be called a ‘beginning.’ Grace Stamper (Liv Tyler) learns to appreciate her abusive father, Harry (Bruce Willis); her story unfurls in unwavering parallel to the story of the American military industrial complex saving the whole world. Well, the whole world except for Paris. Sorry, Paris.
Armageddon desperately wants the viewer to see Harry Stamper as the hero of the story, because in this parable of international diplomacy, Harry Stamper embodies America. All he wants to do is drill for oil, isolate his daughter from any support networks outside of the ones over which he has direct control, and kill any man who tries to form a meaningful peer relationship with her. In the scene which introduces the dynamic between Grace and her father—a scene in which he repeatedly fires a shotgun at her boyfriend, A.J. (Ben Affleck)—Harry asserts that he has repeatedly asked Grace to call him “Dad.” The camera lingers on his soulful eyes, and the viewer is reminded that he is Sympathetic. He wants what’s best for his daughter, the camera explains. It just happens that what’s best for her is the complete sublimation of her personal agency. Is that so much to ask?
The asteroid threat justifies the existence of the American Military Industrial Complex the way nothing else ever could. “Thank goodness we have nuclear bombs,” shouts Michael Bay over the half-eaten remains of a Thanksgiving dinner you wish you had found an excuse to miss, “because what if there was an asteroid?!”
Seriously. Go read this.
Ewan McGregor is all-grown-up Christopher Robin in the upcoming film of the same name.
It looks to be a very by the numbers take on the “grown up revisits childhood to remember what’s important” trope, and yet shut up and take my money. Seriously.
Hayley Atwell is his wife. In theaters August 6.
Wylie Overstreet took his telescope out to the streets of LA, and showed people the moon.
This year, Emmet Otter turned 40. It aired in Canada first, for Christmas 1977, before hitting HBO the next year, and network TV 2 years later.
Here’s a nice oral history. You probably remember it fondly from your childhood, but it’s also a tour de force of groundbreaking puppet filmmaking. No, I’m not kidding:
Though filled with old-fashioned charm, Emmet Otter actually employed a savvy blend of age-old puppetry techniques and cutting-edge animatronic technology. Engineering wizard Franz “Faz” Fazakas, a frequent Muppet collaborator, designed the rowboat that could be steered along the set’s 50-foot river, and rigged versions of Ma and Emmet that could be operated via remote control while they were on the water.
The tale of Frogtown Hollow continued to hold a special place in the hearts of those involved — including Henson, who included one of Emmet Otter’s songs in the musical program he designed for his memorial service [in 1990].
Paul Williams: The last thing that I ever expected was to hear “When the River Meets the Sea” at Jim’s funeral. It was an especially emotional moment in the funeral for me
(Oh, and, don’t miss the actual no-kidding blooper reel, shot during the 33 takes it took to get the “drum rolls out of the shop” shot.)
Except, well, this time. How can you argue with this?
Here’s the whole list. Enjoy.
Black Panther opens in 121 days.
Sure, the trailers LOOK good, but so far the DC films haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory, so I was kinda keeping the whole thing at arm’s reach.
Then I noticed something important, largely because (a) The Hollywood Reporter tweeted something ignorant/clickbaity that was (b) then shamed into my timeline:
Sold. Hey, Mrs Heathen, when are we going?
Word comes that Roger Moore has died at 89.
Moore, obviously, is known as the post-Connery Bond, but true nerds recall that he was actually the third guy to play 007 (in the Eon Productions films, which are all that really matter). When Connery bowed out after his fifth outing (You Only LIve Twice in 1967, which is the one where he teams up with a Japanese agent and goes undercover in, basically, yellowface before the final fight in a volcano base), Australian model George Lazenby took over for a single picture (the underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, co-starring Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas!) before Connery’s code (Diamonds are Forever, featuring a thinly-veiled Howard Hughes proxy and Crispin Glover’s dad as one half a very creepy assassin team). Moore first appears in the next film, 1973’s Live and Let Die.
At right, a GREAT cast photo. There’s a LOT going on there, which fits given the lovable mess of a film it’s from, but allow me to point out:
The skinny young thing at the lower left? Yep, Jane Seymour, then a largely unknown 22-year-old ingenue.
Not pictured is David Hedison, who makes his first of two appearances as Bond’s CIA pal Felix Leiter here. He comes back in 1989’s License to Kill, opposite Tim Dalton (that’s the one with Robert Davi as a ruthless drug lord who has, amazingly, Benecio del Toro as a henchman; Wayne Newton appears as a televanglist). The only other guy to play Leiter twice is the incumbent, Jeffrey Wright. Hedison is now 90 and retired, and Wikipedia contains the amusing bit of data that he’s now Jodie Foster’s father-in-law.
After this auspicious debut, Moore went on to have the longest tenure in the role: a total of 7 films over 12 years. His swan song came in 1985 and is, sadly, is almost certainly the worst of the bunch. By then, Eon Productions was completely out of Fleming books to adapt (with one key exception they wouldn’t touch for 20 years), so I guess it makes a little sense that, in the middle of the 80s, they’d feel fine about a 58-year-old Bond chasing a crazed millionaire (Christopher Walken!) whose aide-de-camp is Grace Fucking Jones. Hey, while we’re at it? Why not a fight on the Eiffel Tower!
Of course, it’s not his fault that the films had veered hard into silliness and camp by that point; he had some great ones — the debut, obviously, but also The Man With The Golden Gun (a prosthetic nipple!), The Spy Who Loved Me (hot Russians! submarine sports cars! the greatest opening scene ever!), and Moonraker, about which more later.
He was a more suave, mature, and sophisticated Bond than Connery or those that came after (though maybe Brosnan’s version was close), and for most people of my generation he was our first exposure to the character — sort of the Tom Baker of the series, really. As noted, Moore’s got the most films and the longest tenure, a record that doesn’t seem likely to fall. Connery did only 6 films to Moore’s 7. Brosnan and Dalton together only account for 6 more. Craig may or may not do a 5th film, but he’ll certainly be done by then.
My first Bond film was Moonraker. I saw it in a drive-in with my dad, in a time when drive-ins were already well on their way out. It was obviously derivative — Star Wars made everyone want to do SF all of a sudden, so Bond-in-space was in some ways inevitable — but it’s held up okay, especially considering that it’s only the second time Eon Productions was “on their own” with no novel to draw from. We got the second coming of Richard Kiel’s 7-foot, steel-toothed Jaws, memorable weightless nookie, and a “Bond girl” whose naughty name (Holly Goodhead) flew entirely over my 9-year-old head. I was obviously smitten immediately, and quickly devoured the back catalog via the newfangled VCR my newly-divorced dad would soon acquire. Impossibly, my Baptist grandmother even bought me some of the books.
Anyway. Godspeed, Roger Moore. I noted not long ago that we’re likely to lose several more Doctor Who actors in the short term. The first three are already gone, and Tom Baker is 83. The same can be said of the Bond men: Lazenby is 77; Connery is 86. Tim Dalton is 71. Brosnan is 64. And we are, all of us, getting older right along with them.
This short asks, and answers, the question “Has Reservoir Dogs Aged Well?”
(Spoiler alert: Yes.)
Mrs Heathen and I are suckers for prestige TV, and I love gangsters, so we dove into Boardwalk Empire when it started. Unfortunately, it just didn’t hold us after the 2nd season — and frankly, we stayed longer than we might’ve otherwise, in part because of the incredible charisma that Jack Huston imparted to the tragic, disfigured Richard Harrow.
The show concerned organized crime in Atlantic City in the years between World War I and the end of prohibition, more or less. The central character, played by Steve Buscemi, was based on a real person, though obviously they took liberties. Michael Pitt appeared as Jimmy Darmody, young man who’d run off to war and come back physically whole, but mentally shattered.
Darmody befriends Harrow, and introduces him to the criminal underworld of Atlantic City — a role that, as it turns out, Harrow takes to like a duck to water.
Anyway: it’s through Harrow that I first learned that, after the war, many who had facially disfiguring injuries were fitted with tin masks molded and painted to resemble their prewar faces.
Here’s how Harrow enters the show:
So I finally got to the tab I opened the other day about Bill Paxton, which reminded me of his short-lived New Wave band Martini Ranch, and their two videos, which support my long-held view that all the cool famous people know each other and hang out together.
Martini Ranch was a pair: Paxton was collaborating with the band’s founder, Andrew Todd Rosenthal, and sounded nothing if not period-correct in 1982. Given that it was the 80s, OBVIOUSLY there are music videos — though, sadly, the count is two. Both date from the late 1980s, and boast casts and crew
The first clip was for the improbably named “How Can The Laboring Man Find Time For Self Culture“, and looks and sounds like someone put Metropolis and Devo in a blender. And here’s where the connections start, too, because the cast for the video includes Paxton and some pals of his: Anthony Michael Hall (with whom he’d starred in Weird Science) in 1985, plus Lords of Discipline (1983) cronies Rick Rossovich, Judge Reinhold, and Michael Biehn — the latter, of course, also with Paxton in Aliens in 1986.
The second video, for a song called “Reach“, was more high concept: a bank robber (Paxton) rolls into a post-apoc western-esque town, pursued by a cadre of improbably attractive female bounty hunters. Where it gets connect-the-dots fun, though, is in the cast and crew.
First, it was directed by James Cameron. Sure, it was only about 1988, but by then he already had a couple directorial successes under his belt (Terminator and Aliens, with Abyss probably already in production); he’s shooting this because they’re pals. Cameron would go on to cast Paxton in 5 films (the first Terminator, Aliens, True Lies, Titanic, and Ghosts of the Abyss), which is more than any other actor. (Cameron’s 4-time club includes Lance Henriksen and Biehn, though the latter got the better deal, as I’m not sure “Piranha II: The Spawning” should be seen as the pinnacle of Cameron’s work.)
Paxton’s band of outlaws is especially delightful: it includes colleagues from Aliens and Near Dark (Henriksen and Jenette “Vasquez” Goldstein were in both films; the video also includes Paul Reiser from Aliens and Adrian Pasdar from Near Dark) — plus Reinhold makes a return appearance.
The final note is that I’d totally forgotten Pasdar was in Near Dark, and now I can’t remember if he managed to be on Agents of SHIELD at the same time as Paxton as well.
TL;DR? It’s neat to see all this repeat work, even in obscure music videos.
Also also? This brilliant tweet:
Via Kottke, we find The Beastie Americans: footage from The Americans cut into an alternative video for the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” I almost always HATE mashups of any kind, but this is kind of awesome. Enjoy.
With a headline like that, how can you NOT click through and see what the hell I’m talking about?
Mark Hamill, on TV in the late 1970s.
Highlander is now 30 years old, which just kills me. Forget the sequels and the TV show; the original film is a lovely gem of urban fantasy. Aren’t you glad it’s getting a new 4K theater run and updated DVD/Blu-Ray options?
Here’s the 4K trailer. Enjoy. UK release early next month; no set date for US, but you know it’s coming.
One of my favorite sketches ever is from a super obscure place: something called The New Show, which ran for a grand total of 9 episodes in 1984.
Produced by SNL founder and emperor Lorne Michaels, the show really only existed because of what we might call The Michaels Hiatus Period in SNL history. Sure, he founded the show in 1975, and ran it through 1980, but after 5 years he felt the need to seek out other opportunities. He left the show to Jean Doumanian, who was replaced after a single season by Dick Ebersol (who’s more of note for his role with NBC Sports, but whatever).
Anyway, so, Michaels is off doing other things after 1980. Late in his hiatus — he took SNL back in 1985 — Michaels was back with another sketch show. This one was entirely pre-taped, and had no shortage of serious talent, but for whatever reason it failed utterly.
I remember watching it, but hand to God the only bit I can say I truly remember is this: Roy’s Food Repair, featuring John Candy, Paul Simon, and Dave Thomas (among others). It’s the absurdity and the delivery that still kill, 32 years later.
You love it? Yeah? Well, have I got a story for you. Turns out, the whole thing is based on truth — including the idea that the kids wouldn’t even know their parents’ real identities. Tim and Alex Foley were caught completely by surprised when, in 2010, the FBI raided their home and took their parents away in handcuffs. (It was the same operation that netted Anna Chapman, as it happens.)
Born in Canada to “illegal” agents just like Paige and Henry on the FX show, they eventually naturalized as American citizens living in Cambridge. Both citizenships have been rescinded thanks to their parents’ clandestine careers, so the only passports they hold are Russian — i.e., a country to which neither have a real connection.