Sunday, December 29, 2013
THE THING CALLED LOVE did little business in regional release and I wasn’t able to see it until home video but for whatever reason the film that first comes to mind these days when I think of Phoenix, almost as if it was playing in theaters at the time, is Nancy Savoca’s DOGFIGHT. This particular film actually came out two years earlier in October ‘91 to not much of a response of any kind. I actually saw it in the theater—Yonkers Movieland in theater #3, one of the tiny, crappy ones. I’m not even sure I gave it much thought after a day or so but something about the film wound up burrowing deep down into my brain and thinking back now I suppose it means more to me than any other film River Phoenix appeared in. Even today the film still isn’t widely known although the likes of the excellent blogger Sheila O’Malley, who is probably more passionate about the film than anyone, have certainly proved that it is loved by at least a few. Maybe it’s somehow appropriate that the film still isn’t widely known considering how minor it seems at first, if not outright frivolous, but then sneaks up and knocks you out before you’ve even realized it. And, as others who have seen DOGFIGHT might know, it contains an ending which has stayed with me through the years like few others ever have. roundtable with Sheila O’Malley and Matt Zoller Seitz several years ago they had a lengthy discussion about this with Seitz basically saying that it’s a good film with a final ten minutes that turns it into a masterpiece. I’m tempted to use hyperbole and go further by saying that it’s the last ninety seconds or so that turns it into a masterpiece. Maybe that’s not quite true either but if you don’t have that last scene (even the music playing on a radio feels absolutely perfect, not to mention how much we’re seeing in the eyes of these two people) you don’t have a movie.
Friday, December 27, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
JACKIE BROWN of course. But 52 PICK-UP is why I was there. Based on Leonard’s 1974 novel and released in November 1986 it’s a den of sleaze and porn which just happens to contain a fairly impressive pedigree for the likes of Cannon and, incidentally, imagine the lousy alternate universe version of 52 PICK-UP rejiggered for a Bronson vehicle. As for Frankenheimer, this was a middling period for him at best, several years since he had made a film for a major studio with his previous effort being the barely remembered thriller THE HOLCROFT COVENANT. Roy Scheider, not even two years past the release of 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT at this point, was nearing the end of his leading man run. Ann-Margret hadn’t done that much in the 80s and it’s probably still a surprise even now to see her in this kind of movie. 52 PICK-UP isn’t the strongest piece of work by those involved but it is solid, enjoyable in its particularly scuzzy way and I pretty much loved getting to see a gorgeous 35mm print of it, long after I’d figured that I wasn’t going to get to ever do that. Face it, sometimes things don’t get much better than seeing the Cannon logo on the New Beverly screen. THE OUTSIDE MAN, offers a good example of an actress bringing more to a part than what’s on the page, I suspect because her director allowed her. You can totally read the bitterness, the disappointment in her face that’s come from this life and the realization her marriage has amounted to nothing. The political campaign subplot seems to fall by the wayside by a certain point (prominently billed Doug McClure ultimately doesn’t do much at all) but the anger she’s allowed to display goes a long way. It’s a particular kick to see her in scenes with someone like John Glover who is totally dynamic as this sniveling weasel who has certain smarts to work with, resulting in a bad guy who is smarmy, arrogant and genuinely dangerous. Because he’s no dummy that makes him all the more dangerous but he’s still a total pain in the ass at the same time (“Something about your face makes me want to slap the shit out of it!” yells Scheider at him after doing just that). REINDEER GAMES, playing a role not all that different from here) Clarence Williams III doesn’t play a single moment or deliver a single line the way you’d expect him to, terrorizing somebody then leaving as he hums what sounds like an old Burt Bacharach song I can’t quite remember and when it comes right down to it a genuine threat who is ultimately just a real pain in the ass. As the third of the group, the perennially sweating Robert Tervor isn’t quite up to the actors he’s sharing the screen with but the character is supposed to be such a weakling (“STOP WIMPERING!!!” Clarence Williams III screams at him at one point which seems like it comes from the actor as much as the character) that this almost makes the chemistry work. I should mention that to go along with the sordid milieu certain real-life porn stars can be spotted during the party scenes, including Amber Lynn and Ron Jeremy. For the record, you understand. before about the time I interviewed John Frankenheimer and there’s not much to add about that here. As far as I can remember, the subject of 52 PICK-UP never came up not because it was a forbidden subject but because there were so many other films and subjects to get to. But Frankenheimer made so many movies that it’s only natural that you can’t get to all of them (his next theatrical film DEAD-BANG is one I have gotten to but not 1990’s THE FOURTH WAR which reunited him with Scheider). And in this one you can see him digging in, taking a well-crafted story and infusing it with his own sort of filmmaking power, a level of craft that all too often you don’t get these days and offering just the right capper at the end. Always in control of itself, 52 PICK-UP isn’t a great movie but it is a good movie as well as being one with the Cannon logo at the start. A good yarn. Satisfying. No-nonsense. Nothing wrong with that. Anyway, that does it for now. Since it’s also uttered by a few characters in this movie there’s just one thing left to say--So long, sport.