Life struck me as several cuts above “meh” but never made me jump out of my seat.
You walk into the hotel room, and Robert Rodriguez slaps a video into the machine. "Here's the movie that let me know it was all possible," he says. "It's called 'Bedhead.' I shot it starring my brothers and sisters. It lasts eight minutes and cost me $800. That's how I knew I could make an 80-minute movie for $7,000."
At the very end of John Turturro's new film "Mac," after all of the credits have rolled, there is a scratchy tape recording from a telephone answering machine. "John? John?" a voice asks, and then the voice complains about the whole idea of answering machines. The voice belongs to Turturro's father, Nicholas, who died in 1988, and whose life as a construction worker and contractor inspired the film.
Things might be easier, John Sayles sometimes thinks, if he were just starting out--if he had no track record. Then investors might be quicker to roll the dice by putting money into one of his movies. But he's made eight films, establishing himself as a leading (but not often profitable) independent director, and that makes it harder. That's why the success of his newest film, "Passion Fish," comes as such a relief.
She was, a critic once wrote, the last of the silent stars - because her eyes almost made it unnecessary for her to speak. She was a movie superstar for 20 years, but more than that, she was a role model: Teenage girls cut their hair like Audrey Hepburn's, and how many young women watched "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and decided that it would be wonderful to live in New York City?
The first time I saw Harvey Keitel in a movie marks, in a way, the beginning of my career as a film critic. It was November of 1967. I had been a reviewer for seven months, and was looking at "Who's That Knocking on My Door?," one of the entries in the Chicago Film Festival. It was a low-budget black and white film out of New York, directed by someone named Martin Scorsese and starring Keitel as a guilt-ridden kid from New York's Little Italy.
NEW YORK -- Preaching in the words and style of Malcolm X, standing sometimes in the same places where he stood, Denzel Washington began to understand the man's power. "You get up in front of a hundred or a thousand people, and you go on this journey together, and you feed them this call-and-response style of preaching, and it's like a drug, a powerful drug," Washington told me, a few days before the film opened on Wednesday.
NEW YORK -- A week or two before the world press premiere of his film "Malcolm X," Spike Lee said he would prefer to be interviewed by African-American journalists, when possible. He never made a demand that only blacks talk to him, and he never said he wouldn't talk to whites. But most news reports gave that impression, and at least one giant Midwestern daily pulled its white movie writer off the assignment in a huff.
When he made his first movie, back in the mid-'60s, William Friedkin was such a foe of capital punishment, he took it as his subject. His documentary defended Paul Crump, a man on Death Row in Illinois. Friedkin didn't think he belonged there: "I thought he was innocent, but I remember seriously arguing with the family of his alleged victim that even if he was guilty, he shouldn't be killed - because he was now a different man than he was then."
"That was my bedroom window, right up there," Hugh Hefner said. He was standing on the grass in the front yard at 1922 N. New England, with half a dozen friends and relatives who had joined him on a trip back to the old neighborhood. "The Smiths lived down there," Hefner's brother Keith said. "Yeah, and crazy old lady Johnson," Hefner said. "She later hung herself." "Let's go around in back," said Keith. The brothers walked down the sidewalk next to the neat two-story house as if they could have done it in their sleep. "They've enclosed the back porch," Hefner observed. "That's where we used to play pirates. I was the kid in the neighborhood who always created the games." "The neighborhood has really kept its quality," Keith said. "It looks good."
Legend has it that Joe Pesci is an actor today because Robert De Niro was watching the late show and saw Pesci in some horror movie that should have been cut up to make ukulele picks. This was in 1979. De Niro and Martin Scorsese were looking for someone to play the brother in "Raging Bull." They called Pesci for an interview, which was just as well for his career, because he had decided to retire from acting and try something that paid money. In the 12 years since then, Joe Pesci has developed into one of the two or three best character actors in American movies, not to mention winning the Academy Award.