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The Career of Emmylou Harris
Great BBC profile of the lovely Emmylou, starting with her days in New York before Gram Parsons picked her up - then her GP/ Grievous Angel days, moving onto her thirty-year solo career. Good selection of interviewees, including Emmylou Harris herself, make this a cut above normal TV biographies. Strangely, or not so strangely, there's no mention of her work with legends like Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan.
Good music clips, some brief live performances, it was originally aired on BBC3 back to back with Emmylou live at The Old Grey Whistle Test - a great live show filmed in England.
Emmylou next appears with Neil Young in Jonathan Demme's Heart Of Gold
Blow Out (1981)
Stylish Political Thriller
Great stalker sequence at the beginning (POV) sets the tone for this film. It has been compared to 'The Conversation' and 'Blowout' and I guess it's somewhere in between.
Travolta has rarely been better or less smug. Nancy Allen, yet again appearing in a De Palma film, yet again disappoints.
As with all De Palma films there are great supporting roles, here the deranged John Lithgow shines.
Recommended for all those who like: De Palma films, political thrillers or suspense thrillers.
WARNING: Not suitable for children
Snake Eyes (1998)
De Palma revisits the Kennedy assassination (again)
The themes in Snake Eyes are reminiscent of 70's political thrillers, and even De Palma's own films (Blow Out). A political assassination is the subject of the first scene, an epic and virtuoso single shot. This is subsequently reconstructed using flashbacks and a multitude of De Palma tricks, including split-screen.
The film may disappoint viewers expecting a 'whodunnit', because this convention is thrown out in favour of a short running time and suspense. The fluidity of the camera compliments the impact of set-pieces and it glosses over some unmemorable performances. Cage hams it up as he often does; Sinise is passable as his co-star; the leading lady is a bit bland. However, memorable turns by John Heard, Michael Rispoli and Luis Guzman in character parts compensate.
Not everyone's cup of tea but highly recommended for De Palma fans and anyone who likes suspense thrillers or political thrillers.
Modern Spy Thriller
The excellent David Mamet returns to write and direct an entertaining spy thriller which puts fantasy fare such as the Bourne Identity to bed. Val Kilmer is good here, better than anything I can remember, but the real star here is Mamet. His direction is better here than Heist or State and Main, and the script more believable. It still crackles with Mamet's trademark dialogue but in this genre it seems to fit better. Excellent support cast all round, notably 'the girl' and Said Taghmaoui, the latter being one of my favourite character actors at present. The ending does seem abrupt, but by no means out of place. Critics argued that the plot is too complicated/ clever and that the lead is truly "Shallow Val" but this is selling the actor and the audience short. This was entertaining, with overtones of conspiracy which makes great viewing for people with similar tastes to myself. 10/10
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
so-so adaptation of classic satire
De Palma's biggest (and worst) film to that date is blighted by its' broad comedy, which sits uncomfortably with the cynical tone of the book. Wolfe's view on society may be accurate, but it is certainly not populist - many people HATE this film. Bruce Willis is weak, Tom Hanks is somewhat flat as Sherman McCoy. De Palma was perhaps too ambitious to condense a large book into a slick film. Main themes such as race are clumsily handled and likely to cause offense to anyone unfamiliar with the source material. The funniest (and broadest) scenes are with F. Murray Abraham and Saul Rubinek and the film is almost saved by the solid (yet again) performance by Morgan Freeman. Worth watching, if only for the varied cast.
what now? what comes next?
Faithful adaptation of one of the shortest works of literary genius of modern times. Period setting (1971) in a truly hellish Las Vegas is very evocative of the mentality of the times - the counterculture is represented here by the protagonist. Raoul Duke played superbly by Johnny Depp - a great mimick of the real HST, although nearly a foot shorter. Duke's sidekick Dr.Gonzo is here played by Benicio Del Toro, who makes him into a monster, rightly or wrongly. Mixed audience reation due to troubling material and heavy stylization (dutching,etc.) but importantly the humour of the book is retained. Stands up to repeated viewing due to the great detail and general visual interest in Las Vegas. Strong hell metaphors pervade throughout. Unfortunately two great scenes from the book are missing - bullying the DA at the convention and the final chapter are lost but who's complaining? Well, lots of people are, but NOT ME.
The Getaway (1972)
McQueen, MacGraw, Peckinpah...
This is how action movies should be made these days - tense all throughout, bursts of violence, and of course the slo-motion favoured by Peckinpah. Modern Western idiom works well, some great character actors appear - Ben Johnson, Al Lettieri, Slim Pickens - the two leads are superb. McQueen was not the most eloquent actor but that is of no importance here - he asks MacGraw for "whiskey, whiskey, whiskey..." Films try hard to be cool but this does it - from the taut opening sequence of McQueen doing bird to his lady's choice of victims. Shane MacGowan, leader of the Pogues, once commented that this was well worth watching - any film where a 12-Gauge pump-action is the star of the film. Remade in the 90's badly, even if it does have Michael Madsen.
cronenberg to a t
The world of Videodrome is set up immediately - menacing sounds play over the Universal logo - we are already in the half awake/ half dreaming late night TV viewing of the director. This is an accessible film as cronenberg's films go, but i would still advise caution to anyone of a nervous disposition. Probably best remembered for Debbie Harry's excellent performance, though James Woods is also memorable, a defining role for him in HIS decade. Cronenberg's films are never populist, so expect his key themes to recurr - namely flesh and metal combined. "Mark Cousins' Moviedrome" film series showed this a few years back with a good introduction - check "Cronenberg on Cronenberg" for a good discussion with the man himself.
Heaven's Gate (1980)
Setting the record straight
First of all, those who need not bother with this film: Anyone whose exclusive realm is 90 minute movies. Anyone who doesn't fancy watching a western. Anyone who prefers the latest clean-cut boys and girls in their movies instead of a HEAVYWEIGHT cast. Also, a special warning to anybody who hasn't seen this film, but already has an opinion about it - don't listen to bookish critics. It's their job to sling mud and this was 1980's bullseye. Critics slate every great film that has ever been made and this time-honoured tradition goes back before Kane to the pioneers (Joseph Cotten plays a small role in this film incidentally). The critics prefer 90 minute Barbara Streisand movies. WATCH THIS FILM. It is slow-paced, and deliberately so, but few knock 2001. I always thought that if you like a film enough you wish you could see the five-hour cut. Beyond all of this, Jeff Bridges, in an interview with Mark Cousins, stated the obvious when he said that the budget is all up on screen - a lavish epic. The money did not go to waste in my opinion. The story is about something important, not frivolous as many longer films have been. I would go to see a film with John Hurt and Chris Walken tomorrow, no qualms. See for yourself.
The Cotton Club (1984)
Companion to the pictoral history of The Cotton Club
inspired by photographs of the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem, some shots appear exactly as they were (now in colour). I noticed Dutch Schultz's slumped pose when he is shot is exactly that of the police photograph, though he died several hours later (see William Burroughs "The Last Words Of Dutch Schultz"). The actors often play too broad (Diane Lane), and Richard Gere shows his lazy, grinning acting here too. However, many notable smaller roles for Gregory Hines (and his brother), Bob Hoskins, Laurence Fishburne and others who make it well worth watching. It is true that $40 million could have been used better, but when you consider both Bob Evans and Coppola's involvement it seems with hindsight that they were asking for trouble. The music deserves special credit, as do the tap sequences (which i gather were shortened and some cut - what a shame). Mostly Duke Ellington classics. As i've already suggested the look is a perfect recreation of the time, but sadly the plot is patchy, some dialogue weak and it has been said before - there is no chemistry between the romantic leads. 9/10