If all blockbuster-sized entertainments were even half as ambitious and ingenious as these films have been, moviegoers would be infinitely better off.
The New York Times' David Carr admits that Glenn Greenwald is a journalist; Criterion Collection appreciates Alex Cox's Repo Man; poets go to the movies; James Franco's never-ending navel-gaze; David Edelstein dismantles The Way, Way Back; Kerry Washington on the cover of Vanity Fair; Dennis Hopper documentary.
"American Experience: Billy the Kid" is available on demand at PBS.org after its January 10 broadcast at 9 p.m. (ET/PT). Check local listings.
Who hasn't heard of Billy the Kid? He's often portrayed in Westerns -- sometimes as a blood-thirsty killer -- but the PBS "American Experience" documentary "Billy the Kid" gives us a sympathetic portrayal of an orphan who "became the most wanted man of the west." Instead of drama, blood, and lust in the dust, you'll get a more multicultural view of a homeless kid gone wrong after being wronged.
The one-hour film, narrated by Michael Murphy, begins with a hangman's noose. The date is April 28, 1881 and the 21-year-old man known as Billy the Kid is in the custody of Sheriff Pat Garrett. He escapes his appointment with the hangman, but he won't be alive much longer.
Marie writes: my brother Paul recently sent me an email sharing news of something really cool at the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. For those who don't remember - as I'm sure I've mentioned it in the Newsletter before, the Capilano Suspension Bridge was original built 1889 and constructed of hemp rope and cedar planks. 450 feet (137m) long and 230 feet (70m) high, today's bridge is made of reinforced steel safely anchored in 13 tons of concrete on either side of the canyon (click images to enlarge.)
Wayne Newton and Suzanne Pleshette -- er, Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore stud the all-star cast of "Bobby."
We're told that Emilio Estevez's "Bobby" takes place at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, but it feels like it was originally released back around then. It's "Earthquake" with the RFK assassination as the disaster. It's "Airport." It's "The Towering Inferno." A whole bunch of familiar actors play "colorful" characters swarming around the hotel, and their day will culminate in the death of a Kennedy. They talk about the movies -- new stuff like "The Graduate," "Bonnie and Clyde," "Planet of the Apes" -- but a retired doorman played by Anthony Hopkins explicitly invokes the model for "Bobby" and and its ilk: "Grand Hotel," the 1932 picture with Greta Garbo and an all-star cast. And "Bobby" treats the assassination as an event as strangely distant from its own present-tense as "Grand Hotel" was from 1968.
Sure, the requisite modern political parallels are present, as they are in virtually every film at the Toronto Film Festival this year. On the screen, on TVs in hotel suites, over the soundtrack, are actual speeches and sound bites from Democratic senatorial candidate Robert F. Kennedy, talking about how the country has lost its way in the quagmire of Vietnam, and championing rights for minorities and low-wage workers, etc., etc., etc. (It comes as a bit of a shock to remember that politicians were once articulate and sounded like they knew the meanings of the words they were saying.)
But why make "Bobby," which screened at the Toronto Film Festival as a "work-in-progress"? Why turn this traumatic national event into a Hollywood soap opera? The performances are fine for this kind of glitzy manufactured melodrama ("Where Were YOU When They Shot RFK?"), and on that level it's swell, trashy fun. It's just that the whole concept is inappropriate.
There is a kind of shyness, a modesty, about Francis Ford Coppola that is so surprising. Here is the director of "The Godfather," and the epic "Apocalypse Now," and the paranoid psychodrama "The Conversation," and he talks about whether he has the right to put his name above the title. Kids out of film school put their names on their first films, and here he is explaining why his movies are called "Mario Puzo's The Godfather" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "John Grisham's The Rainmaker."
Q. Does it strike you that some movie sound effects are overdone? I've noticed in recent years that when a movie couple gets passionate, their kisses sound like they're sucking a peach. If I kissed my wife that sloppily, she'd wipe off her face and send me to the guest room for the night. And what about movie punches? Movies have been overdoing fight sound effects for years. My most vivid memory of "Rocky III" was of Sylvester Stallone and Mr. T beginning their fight with punches that would kill the average person. Do you feel that sound effects are as cliched as some of the other areas you cover in your Little Glossary? (Steven Bailey, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.)
All of a sudden, there are movies about teenagers who are ordinary kids. They come as such a relief after all the movies about teenagers who are killers, victims, lust-crazed sex fiends, hookers, punks, sluts and goons. There for a while it looked like half the new teenage movies were going to be ripoffs of two of the sleaziest recent trendsetters at the box office, "Porky's" and "Friday the 13th." Teenagers in those movies had fairly limited options: They could look through peepholes into the girls’ shower room, or they could get disemboweled by a faceless monster.