Saturday, November 19, 2022
CISCO PIKE which at a certain point became another one of my obsessions. Soon after the place reopened in 2021 post-lockdown there was another viewing of TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, this time paired with COCKFIGHTER which also was directed by Monte Hellman and starred Warren Oates. But deep down I was there to see TWO-LANE BLACKTOP again. It’s a film I still think about and seeing it after a year of being stuck at home was a reminder of what it can be like to get lost in such a movie when it’s there in front of you, to dream of being that free along with the limitations of that freedom which eventually become clear as they always do. Hitting the road without a care of where I’m going still sounds nice but it’s not going to happen right now. Maybe watching this film late at night, because this is a perfect film to put on late at night, helps me do it in my dreams. But where do I go next? Is there an answer? Maybe I’m searching for that too. Searching for why I still do certain things. EASY RIDER period the film still manages to feel outside of the time it was likely meant to capitalize on while still fully a part of that, more about people drifting away from the mainstream than heading towards the counterculture who may have been attracted to it. And even though I wasn’t around at the time to speak to how all this might have felt, right now when TWO-LANE BLACKTOP plays the reaction I always have feels like the real deal as I drift along like these people in my own form of isolation. Only, like I already said, I’m not going anywhere right now.
Thursday, September 8, 2022
MODEL SHOP. But it’s FIVE EASY PIECES that she’s known for which among other things plays now as one of the definitive portrayals of the onscreen Jack Nicholson persona and all the possibilities of what could really be done in a movie found in the glory days of ‘70s cinema. MAN TROUBLE doesn’t really have much to do with any of those things and even after several recent viewings part of me is still trying to clarify just what it is beyond an attempt at a light, goofy comedy that contains traces of what could be a more intricate character piece if you peer close enough, made by people who are probably more at home with much darker material. At the very least there’s a specificity to the dialogue at times that helps it seem like it’s coming from a personal place, at least on an observational level for the screenwriter, along with a certain low-concept vibe to the setup which at times approaches being charming in a zero stakes way. THE PLEDGE) have a little more edge to them, somehow preventing him from falling back on his usual tics but this film doesn’t do much to help that theory. Still, you watch him for a few isolated minutes here you might think it’s a better movie than it is, the way he always seems ready to dive in and look like a crazy person if need be with undeniable glimmers of that sharp coming timing when you least expect it. There are also such glimmers in Ellen Barkin, at her best here when she’s relaxed but at times feeling like she’s not getting the right direction. Revisiting THE BIG EASY recently was a reminder that Ellen Barkin in that film is one of the reasons the motion picture camera was invented in the first place and getting her in another romantic comedy should be flawless but the film around her doesn’t offer the support that she needs. Beverly D’Angelo, another personal favorite now and always, has moments but they seem isolated, never giving her enough of a chance to take over a scene the way her character seems to want to. Maybe the film just needed more of those moments and figure out how to use them, like the way everything stops to let Harry Dean Stanton’s lawyer played by Saul Rubinek compliment Barkin on the time her saw her perform the Battle Hymn of the Republic at the Hollywood Bowl and when he begins singing it himself it feels like the sort of effortless digression the movie could use more of. Paul Mazursky turns up too and, like a number of other actors in the film who maybe aren’t always seen at their best, at the very least it’s nice to have him around for a few minutes.
Sunday, August 7, 2022
McCABE & MRS. MILLER to the hairdresser George Roundy he played in SHAMPOO, each man with big dreams but little follow through or awareness of how business (and, by extension, the world) really works. You could also go from McCabe building the town of Presbyterian Church to Bugsy Siegel intent on realizing his dream of Las Vegas and their ultimate fates. Even his John Reed and Diane Keaton’s Louise Bryant in REDS as seen in that early montage of creativity and expression during their early Greenwich Village days together is practically replicated in the flashback of Beatty’s Lyle Rogers and Dustin Hoffman’s Chuck Clarke beginning their collaboration in the early scenes of Elaine May’s ISHTAR, which itself leads to an encounter with world politics that attempts to destroy them. This is all for starters and the tone may be different in the films but there’s something about the feeling in them which stays the same, to pursue a dream to the point of obsession. What is life without a little obsession, after all? Beatty himself tends to be cagey about such things in the few interviews he’s given so, like many things in life, we’re forced to figure it out for ourselves. BULWORTH. Maybe some of it is even part of RULES DON’T APPLY. In the case of this particular film it’s almost a sidebar of the main storyline (screenplay by Elaine May and Warren Beatty, based on a play by Harry Segall) which, as far as we can tell for a long time, is primarily about Joe Pendleton’s determination to get to the Super Bowl. It’s all he really cares about at first and this is so important to Joe that he barely seems to think about the greater issue of, you know, his life having ended. Entering Farnsworth’s body does something about the way he sees things even if his motivation primarily comes from his very first look at Julie Christie. Who could blame him, of course, but what this does is set Joe on the right path to actually accomplishing something in this other body that would be good for the world. So while everything he’s saying and realizing makes perfect sense to us, the people around him are simply baffled, suddenly forced to deal with a Howard Hughes suddenly going full Bulworth, if you will. here and, I swear, I’m pretty sure I can be heard cheering in the crowd at the end although I’m not claiming that he answers all these questions. I didn’t expect him to. But there’s always the hope that I’ll see him at some tiny sushi place in a strip mall one of these days but even if this happens I promise I won’t bother him. As the two leads walk off into the darkness at the end of HEAVEN CAN WAIT we know that their story isn’t over, just like in our own lives we sometimes keep walking and if we say that one meaningful thing maybe a certain someone will walk with us. Maybe that idea is just a dream, but maybe it’s all we can do. One other question Ben Mankiewicz asked Warren Beatty was if he plans to make another movie. The answer, of course, was, “I don’t know.” Sometimes that’s the best response for anything in this world. Especially when deep down we already know what the answer is.