Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
From Jason Haggstrom (haggie), Reel 3:
The opening shot of Robert Altman's "The Player" establishes the film as a self-reflexive deconstruction of the Hollywood system and those who run it. With its prolonged shot length, the take is also designed as a means to introduce the bevy of players who work on the lot and to setup the film's general plot--or at least its tone--as a thriller/murder mystery.
The first image in this extended opening shot is of a film set--a painting of one, to be precise. We hear the sounds of a film crew before a clapper pops into the frame. The (off-screen) director shouts "And... action" informing the audience that the film should be viewed as a construct, a film. The camera tracks back to reveal its location on a Hollywood studio lot where movies are described not in accolades of quality, but of quantity with an oversized sign that reads, "Movies, now more than ever."
The lot is filled with commotion. Writers come and go (some invited, some not) as do executives, pages, and assistants. The political hierarchy is highlighted through dialog and interactions that expose the value system of Hollywood. The most powerful arrive by car; high-end models pervade the mise-en-scène in all of the take's exterior moments. An assistant is made to run (literally, and in high heels) for the mail, and then -- before she even has a chance to catch her breath -- to park an executive's car.
We have in the past examined my stunning and unforgettable cameo appearance in David Mamet's 1987 directorial debut feature "House of Games." What you may not know is that I also co-starred with Kris Kristofferson, Keith Carradine, Genevieve Bujold, Lori Singer, Joe Morton and Divine in Alan Rudolph's 1986 "Trouble in Mind," which was also shot in Seattle. Well, OK, I appeared in the background of a few shots. But I did share screen space with Singer ("Footloose," "Short Cuts") -- and Kristofferson, for at least a few 24 fps frames. As you can see above.
Here's the behind-the-scenes set-up: I was having the time of my life booking first-run "art films" at my friend Ann Browder's 250-seat Market Theater, formerly the Pike Place Cinema in the cobblestone Lower Post Alley in Seattle's historic Pike Place Farmer's Market. I can't remember how I had met Alan Rudolph, but I had interviewed him a few times and he had the world premiere his first film, "Welcome to L.A." (1977) in Seattle at the Harvard Exit Theater. (Robert Altman made one of his many trips to Seattle for that premiere, and hosted the world premiere of "3 Women" at the same theater.) "Choose Me" had also been a smash at the Seattle International Film Festival, of which I was a co-director/programmer. Anyway, this all comes together, trust me...
View image Me. And some other people.
One of the best educations in filmmaking that you can ever get is to spend a day on a set -- even (or maybe especially) as an extra, because that puts you right in the middle of the action, as it were. (When I was doing a Seattle Times story on the shooting of Alan Rudolph's "Trouble in Mind," Alan decided to stick me and my pal Eden, who was also working on the film, into the tiki bar scene, where I could observe everything that was going on all around. We appear as blurs behind the heads of Kris Kristofferson and Lori Singer.)
Anyway, back in 1986 (or early 1987?) my friend Nancy Locke, a longtime Seattle movie publicist, and I were invited to be extras on David Mamet's directorial debut feature, "House of Games." We showed up at Bagley Hall at the University of Washington (my alma mater) and I was put in a classroom, where Lilia Skala was our psych professor. In explaining the scene to us, Mamet mentioned we could now say that we had been directed by David Mamet. So, I'm sayin'.
I don't remember where they used Nancy, or if she made the final cut. (I'll have to ask her.) I do remember we did another semi-surreal scene in the hallway between classes, where we students brushed passed Lindsay Crouse while her character walked in a dazed, almost trance-like state. It was an experiment. They didn't use it.
I was reminded of this experience while looking at the new Criterion Collection edition of "House of Games." Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars, and in 1999 selected it as one of his Great Movies. It's pure Mamet -- hypnotic, suspenseful, surprising -- a noirish con game that reminds me of a Fritz Lang thriller, with stylized performances that hint of Bresson, Fassbinder, or Herzog's "Heart of Glass" (in which the director actually hypnotized the cast), but I've never seen anything quite like it. Three of my favorite actors -- Joe Mantegna, J.T. Walsh and Ricky Jay -- also star. Are you in?