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#97 January 11, 2012

Marie writes: I have no words. Beyond the obvious, that is. And while I'm okay looking at photos, the video.... that was another story. I actually found myself turning away at times, the suspense too much to bear - despite knowing in advance that he's alive and well and there was nothing to worry about. The bottom of my stomach still fell out...

(click images to enlarge)


With mustard

I was just reading David Thomson's intriguing/perplexing entry on Paul Thomas Anderson in the new edition of his "Biographical Dictionary of Film" (more about that later) and he begins with reports that Anderson had at one point been unhappy with New Line's print campaign for "Magnolia":

Yet, truly, how would you do a poster for "Magnolia"? How would you begin to convey the feeling and form of the picture? Would you bother to ask the question why it is called "Magnolia"? Would you let yourself ask, are posters the proper way to offer great movies?

Such awkward questions could accumulate in Hollywood marketing offices, which have so little time or practice with the crosscutting ironies and countervailing doubts that obsess Anderson and are the energy of his films.

Yes, the job of marketing and advertising is to present the movie to the public and (if it's an honest campaign) entice them with a taste of what they can expect from it. And we all know that sometimes the efforts are woefully inadequate: "It's Terrific!" ("Citizen Kane"); "The Damndest Thing You Ever Saw!" ("Nashville"). I think the original paintings and drawings done for the Polish movie market -- most of which use no images from the movies themselves -- often do a stronger job of suggesting the feel of the films, like my favorite posters for "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and "The Phantom of Liberty."


Hurdy Gurdys and Aqua Velvas: Misc. "Zodiac" fax...

There's something about an Aqua Velva Man.

Don't worry; no spoilers here.

>> The blue Aqua Velva cocktail that Jake Gyllenhaal's character orders is named after a popular after-shave lotion of a similar color. The drink consists of vodka, gin, blue curaçao and Sprite or 7-Up. (Today you might even be able to get away with Sierra Mist.) Some variations also include rum and tequila. And, perhaps, a sprig of mint or an orange slice. Other recipes call for Baileys Irish Cream (for that foggy look, I guess). And still one other is made of tequila, blue curaçao, and fruit juices. It's not necessarily as frou-frou as it seems in the movie (with those fancy glasses, umbrellas, maraschino cherries and all): In WWII, US sailors were said to drink it for its alcohol content (which has since been reduced). A little soapy, perhaps (ingredients: Alcohol 40, water, glycerin, fragrance, menthol), but it went down smooth, evidently...

Aqua Velva

3/4 oz. vodka 3/4 oz. gin 1/4 oz. Sprite 1/2 oz blue curaçao 1/2 oz. Sprite

Shake vodka, gin, blue curaçao and Sprite with ice. Pour/strain into glass and top off with Sprite. Cocktail umbrella and fruit/mint garnish optional.

>> Paul Avery, the San Francisco Chronicle reporter played by Robert Downey Jr., married Margo St. James, founder of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), the sex-workers' rights organization. St. James ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1996 and 1998.

>> Avery covered the Zodiac case for the SF Chronicle (which reprints one of the stories featured in the movie here), and Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (played by Gyllenhaal) wrote the book, "Zodiac," on which the movie was based. But Avery later co-wrote a book about another famous Bay Area case he covered, the Patricia Hearst kidnapping. Avery and Vin McLellan published "The Voices of Guns: The Definitive and Dramatic Story of the Twenty-two-month Career of the Symbionese Liberation Army, One of the Most Bizarre Chapters in the History of the American Left" (Putnam, 1977).

>> Recording sessions for the haunting Donovan song "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" (and the album of the same name), used to spine-tingling effect in the movie, included John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page and/or John Bonham, who would go on to form Led Zeppelin. Donovan claimed George Harrison wrote part of a lyric for "Hurdy Gurdy Man" when they were in Rishikesh, India, with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi -- along with the other Beatles, Jane Asher, Mia Farrow, Beach Boy Mike Love and others. (Another Donovan song, "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" from 1967, was featured in TV commercials for Love's Baby Soft cosmetics, targeted at teen and pre-teen girls, in 1968.)

>> According to Donovan's autobiography, "The Hurdy Gurdy Man," the verse George Harrison wrote was cut from the "Hurdy Gurdy Man" single (to keep it short for DJs), but was used by Donovan on a 1990 live album. The verse (which would have worked perfectly in the movie):

When the truth gets buried deep Beneath a thousand years asleep Time demands a turnaround And once again the truth is found

>> Construction on San Francisco's famous pyramidal Transamerica building began in 1969 and was finished in 1972. It is still the city's tallest skyscraper.

>> Although crude fax technology existed in the late 19th century, and a modified form was used by the Associated Press to transmit what were identified as "AP Wirephotos" beginning in 1934, the modern fax machine did not come into general use until the mid-1970s. By the mid-1980s, falling electronics prices and improved phone technology made the fax a ubiquitous office tool.

>> The opening song in "Zodiac" is "Easy to be Hard" (from "The American Tribal Love/Rock Musical," "Hair") performed by Three Dog Night -- one of the best-selling bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s, whose hit singles included "One" (written by Harry Nilsson; recorded by Aimee Mann for the soundtrack of Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia"), "Mama Told Me Not to Come" (written by Randy Newman; also used in PTA's "Boogie Nights"), "Eli's Coming" (written by Laura Nyro) and "Joy to the World" (written by Hoyt Axton -- the guy who buys the gremlin in Joe Dante's "Gremlins"). The Three Dog Night version of "Shambala" (1973) was featured in a recent episode of the TV show "Lost," in which an eight-track cassette of the song is found in a crashed VW bus. TDN's version of "Shambala" was also used on the soundtrack of Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects."


Opening Shots Pop Quiz: Answers

Here goes. For the time being, I'm just going to offer up the answers to the Opening Shots Pop Quiz, without further elaboration or analysis in most cases -- because these shots are so great they deserve full Opening Shots treatments of their own. (And you, by the way, are welcome to provide them if you are so inclined!)