Sunday, October 31, 2010

LISA BLOUNT (1957 ~ 2010) '...I Ain't Got No Sugar Baby Now.'

On October 27th, Actress and Academy Award Winning Producer Lisa Blount was found dead in her Little Rock home. She had been lying there alone for two days. Bloody nose, cell phone in her hand. There was no foul play. A health complication she had on and off bouts with for years just caught up with her....all too soon. She was 52.

Some of you may remember her as Debra Winger's gal pal Paula in the film An Officer and a Gentleman Many of us could never forget her from Dead & Buried. She worked with John Carpenter in Prince of Darkness worked in off-beat indies like South of Reno as well as appearing in many television shows of the 80's and 90's like Magnum P.I. and Moonlighting.

Like so many great "working actors" Lisa had all the grit fire and passion to create great stories. In 2001 she won an Oscar for her work as producer on the short film The Accountant, also directed by her husband. According to Wikipedia, she also served as the wardrobe mistress on the film.

More recently she had starred alongside Billy Bob Thorton in Chrystal, which she also produced with her husband, actor Ray McKinnon who had also written, directed, and co-starred in the film with her.

If you haven't seen should. Today.

In Chrystal she demonstrated a talent that was long overdue for exposure. Her gift of song.

We miss you Lisa. We'll never forget you. I never did.

Lisa sings 'Red Rocking Chair' backed by Harry Dean Stanton.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


There are many things about and relating to the AMC original series Rubicon that I would love to point out and discuss in the open, but I would probably be "terminated with extreme prejudice" for doing so. Things relating to the "real" world that we live in and events that have transpired over the last century. Things that Rubicon very subtly touches on in a way that keeps the show from hitting you over the head with a message. It's embedded into narrative, like code.

Subtext is an art of storytelling that most films and some television fail to grasp or bother to utilize today. But AMC original series such as Mad Men and more recently as of this Summer, Rubicon have it down so good, I want to send them a gift everyday to say "thank you" for entertaining me without insulting my intelligence or lulling me into stupidity.

I am not going to get into the plot and characters so much. If you don't have access to the show it's really up to you to gain clearance to such classy-fied material. But if you choose to cross the Rubicon there are things you should know. For starters, you have to pay attention. In return you are given a rich story, thoughtfully unfolding in a way you seldom see anymore. And characters that feel as real as anyone you know and even in the extraordinary circumstances of their daily work-life, make it easy to relate to them. Though this takes place in the world of Clandestine Services, these aren't the people who pull the trigger, these are the men and women who know too much. What they uncover, what they understand, guides the aim of the gun, for better or worse.

IF you dig crossword puzzles, patterns, hidden messages, connecting-the-dots, you'll will have an immediate attraction to the show. Don't misunderstand though, there is plenty for the "non-nerdy" to appreciate. Many shades of grey give way to danger and even romance, like all great espionage stories,, other espionage stories. They make it fucking interesting. And like AMC's other originals, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, this drama of specific subject matter deals with struggles of conscience that anyone, who isn't a complete piece of shit or living in a sphere of Bubble Yum should be able to appreciate or at the very least, understand.

The other thing you should understand about Rubicon is that like Mad Men it's as much faction as fiction. No matter how much you may like to believe so, there really isn't anything about it that should be dismissed as far fetched or fantastical.

I am a great fan of the late great director Alan J. Pakula. Rubicon is in a way, the secret offspring of Pakula. Rubicon has a very specific resemblance to Poppa Pakula. The subject matter for one, of such films as The Parallax View, All The Presidents Men, Rollover, The Pelican Brief, and even moves it's tone at times in a direction remenicent of Klute. Beyond thematics, the tone is very Pakula. Pacing, lighting, visual composition. The score is even often at times like that of the scores done for Parallax View by Michael Small or All The President's Men by David Shire. All these, forgive me, Pakula-esque elements make for a rare, tough, grown up piece of work.


If you like Pakula's films, you will probably like Rubicon. At least, that's what the latest intel leads us to believe.

Do I recommend it? Strongly. And don't wait, for Rubicon, like it's character's, may be at any time in danger of disappearing. So watch it closely, in fact, don't let it out of your sight, because if Rubicon falls out of our grasp, we will lose much more than a mere hour of entertaining television.

The Season One Finale airs Sunday October 17th at 9pm on AMC. To get caught up watch episodes ON DEMAND.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Spirit Of '77: Roman Polanski & The Ghost Writer

I am thankful for the newer more integral directors present today, like Darren Aronofsky, John Hillcoat, P.T. and Wes (yes, I know they are not related). All too often I hear fans and filmmakers alike making excuses for why some older Director’s now make films that suck or at least, are spineless or insulting to even the most minimal level of intelligence. They settle, get spaded or what not. But some of them still got the stones to blow our minds without having to try. Without having to succumb to the idiotic taste of the masses and their crack whore addiction to sensory overload. One of these is Roman Polanski. And he proved this most recently with his beautifully detailed and darkly comical thriller Ghost Writer.

At 77 years old Polanski continues to craft a great visual story with all the perks. A cast recruited by Fiona Weir filled with great and underused all too frequently type casted character actors such as Jim Belushi, Kim Cattrel, Tom Wilkenson, Timothy Hutton, Olivia Williams, and Eli Wallach (who in his mid 90′s still has incredible presence). A fantastic book to script adaptation by Polanski himself and author Robert Harris, based on his novel The Ghost. An unusual, unforgettable and highly effective score by Alexandre Desplat. The list goes on from cinematography to art direction to set decor and editing. The only quality it lacks that most Hollywood films possess in abundance, is mediocrity.

Polanski’s film manages a consistent sense of doom and dread always hovering overhead. You never know when or in what incarnation it will ultimately strike. And it doesn’t help you as much as it helps the film and story that there are these moments of wonderfully subtle humor that allow you to let your guard down before realizing that it isn’t safe to do such a thing, only increasing your sense of danger. A feeling that you share with Ewan Mcgregor’s protagonist (known only as ‘The Ghost’) and yet, together we cannot help but pursue the mystery in a fearful yet, relentless curiosity and need to know.

The film is marvelously crafted. Beautiful in fact. And yes, clever. But not in that “Oooooh, I’m so fucking clever” kind of way every asshole is out there trying to do. I’m not going to use that fucking word “Hitchcockian” because NOTHING is “Hitchcockian” that isn’t made by Hitchcock. But the influence is clearly there in the writing as well as the execution.

The performances are equally outstanding. Pierce Brosnan is perfectly cast as the former British Prime Minister ala Tony Blair, and beyond his “smooth muthafucka in a suit” look, he is at his most un-Brosnan. Kim Cattral reminds us she was and still is much more than Samantha from Sex And The City. And Ewan Mcgregor, as always, is very easy to identify with and follow as The Ghost. Mentally and emotionally we are completely simpatico with him from start to finish. But the sharpest and most enigmatic performance in the film is from Olivia Williams, who plays Brosnan’s cold and intelligent wife, Ruth. You cannot figure her out, she’s emotional yet cool. Sexy yet prim. Mystified yet, certainly sure of something. What hand does she exactly hold? This performance no doubt comes in part from novelist Robert Harris giving the actress a long list of very contradictory character traits to play off of, which she does without missing a beat.

After watching Ghost Writer the first time I was immediately struck with a realization. That it is in essence a 70′s film. Everything that made the 1970′s such a great period of film has been lacking in cinema ever since. For me, the key ingredient of films from the 70′s was character. Character is story. Thoughtful detail and specificity. People like to say, “Well, that was then and this is now. Films can never be that way anymore.” Talk about making fucking excuses, it doesn’t matter ‘when’ we are. It’s ‘what’ we’re churning out. From time to time we see something that has that 70′s thing. Making it current. Particularly in dramas and thrillers. Heat, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton. All possess the quality I speak of. And other genres possess an enormous and obvious influence of 70′s films. From All The Real Girls to The Royal Tenanbaums there are shades of Malick to Ashby and yet a very clear individual and new voice. It’s not period, it’s craft. It’s about making movies for grown ups instead of the disconnected tweens who determine the box office with there need for more of the same. I’m not saying we need this instead of the other, I’m saying we need more variety so that actual ‘cinema’ doesn’t get killed off by films with 3-dimensional visuals with 1 dimensional characters that are all too easily forgettable. Maybe truly great films can’t break box-office records anymore, that’s just poor marketing and bad executive decisions though, backed up by lame, lame excuses. In the end, what most box-office hits and the hairdresser’s that produce them will never have, is the very thing that director’s such as Polanski and films like Ghost Writer will. Legacy.