Some interesting items on line about movies the last few days:
In New York magazine critic David Edelstein offers a complex rather than sentimental look at John Hughes' work, one I agree with. Almost thirty years ago when I wrote my two serio-comic novels about alcoholic film reviewer Tobin Edelstein was decent enough to let me ask him questions about his process as a reviewer, where did he see screenings etc. I've followed him since then. He's in the New Yorker most issues and is well worth reading.
"I was in my early twenties when Sixteen Candles opened, and I’ve always wondered if my adolescence would have been different somehow if I’d seen The Breakfast Club as a young nerd instead of one whose personality was already—for better or worse—formed. Instead, I often found his films difficult to watch. I didn’t buy the relationships, and I couldn’t get past the self-pity and anger.
"The emotional hook of The Breakfast Club—and so much of Hughes’s work—was the indifference, incomprehension, and cruelty of parents and other grown-ups. That was the point of connection among those disparate kids, what allowed them to look beyond their superficial differences and unite against a hateful teacher, against all the adults in their lives. There were one or two exceptions to the Grown-Ups Are Soul Killers rule, like the hangdog working class single dad Harry Dean Stanton in Pretty in Pink. But he was an outsider himself, and impotent; he couldn’t begin to help his daughter (Molly Ringwald) fit in.
"At the height of his success, Hughes got strange, and stories abound of his unpleasantness. (I interviewed him once for a Rolling Stone story I decided not to write and found him neither nasty nor nice—not indifferent, just … neutral.) Films like Planes, Trains & Automobiles boasted child-men and homosexual panic. The movie of Hughes’s that haunts me is Uncle Buck, which looked in the ads like a broad comedy about the invasion of a slob-ola relative (John Candy) and turned out to be a mournful, minor-key quasi comedy against a background of illness and death in Chicago at its wintriest. Here was an opposite perspective: Kids left to their own devices needed a grown-up to set rules."
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William Lustig is best known as writer-director of such down market Bs as Maniac Cop and its sequels. I've always liked his movies and have to admit that a few of them scare the hell out of me. The Village Voice published the following article which I've excerpted here:
Wlliam Lustig's 'Buried Treasures' at Anthology
Presenting a '70s hit list where the results aren't pretty
By Nick Pinkerton
Tuesday, August 4th 2009 at 2:46pm
William Lustig Presents: The '70s Buried Treasures
August 7 through 14, Anthology Film Archives
"Also very present is the psychic blowback from Southeast Asia. Co-scenarist Paul Schrader translated Taxi Driver to Tex-Mex with 1977's Rolling Thunder, in which Major Charles Rane (William Devane, impenetrable behind aviator shades) touches down in San Antone, after 2,555 days as a POW, to a wet-blanket countrypolitan theme song, a wife who didn't wait, and a USA that can't manufacture convertibles. It's a boon when some psychopathic home invaders give his life fresh purpose—tracking and killing, with bleary honky-tonk angel Linda Haynes and a bullnecked young Tommy Lee Jones, still looking fit to play tackle.
"Performances are made crystalline through a sixth sense for camera placement and curt cutting from director John Flynn, whose 2007 passing was little noted, though his no-BS way of laying down a story is a rare commodity in any era.
If the genre man, per shopworn cliché, is a good utility ballplayer, Flynn was Rance Mulliniks. His 1973 The Outfit, which comes no closer to sentiment than communion over a thermos lid of coffee, is Best in Show (this hard, efficient director is the perfect adapter for the hard, efficient "Parker" books by Donald Westlake—another recent R.I.P.): Pridefully taciturn Robert Duvall has a gauntlet to run to exact revenge on kingpin Robert Ryan, but gets on top of every situation with bright-eyed singlemindedness. An ineffable gallery of supporters includes Karen Black, Sheree North, Elisha Cook Jr., Timothy Carey, two ex-heavyweights (Archie Moore and Roland La Starza), and slow-grinnin' bruiser Joe Don Baker. Baker's leading-man viability faltered with the Southern drive-ins, when the Dairy Queen demographic got bumped straight-to-video, but he sure sells the small-town detail of Richard Compton's long-fuse explosive Welcome Home, Soldier Boys, playing a country buck back from Vietnam distinctly failing to readapt to stateside living ("Gonna be strange goin' back to white women").
"The whole of Lustig's lineup of films was better accepted by double-bill burners than cultural gatekeepers on their first run, their legends kept alive in late-night-TV purgatory. When The Times' Vincent Canby brushed off The Outfit as "a 30-Year-Late B-Movie," he didn't realize that the "B" springs eternal."
Ed here: A few points about the Lustig piece:
1. I think Rolling Thunder is mostly a mess but it captures the insanity and rage of the 60s and 70s about as well as any film I've ever seen. It is a disturbing movie and worth hunting for.
2. I know that Don Westlake liked the movie of The Outfit. He thought Duvall was very close to his own take on Parker and he enjoyed seeing all those great B movie actors in his film. Except for Point Blank it's my favorite of the Stark films and really is much closer to the books than is Point Blank. I see that there is some talk about the film adaptation of the Parker novel Slayground. I think it's even more of a mess than Rolling Thunder. But the first ten-twelve minutes are the closest I've ever seen the tone, the pace, the soul of the Parker prose translated to film. I remember saying that to Westlake. I don't want to misquote him here but I do remember him saying that he know exactly what I meant. Unfortunately when this baby goes off the rails it plunges five thousand miles to instant death.
3. As the article points out director John Flynn's passing was barely noted back in 2007. But he was for me one of those action directors who could give you real human beings while pumping up the adrenaline. I'll take his body of work over all the action big shots of the day including James Cameron's (The Terminator being the only exception; a very Flynn-like movie).
4. I'm old enough to have suffered through the NY Times' years of movie reviewers Bosley Crowther and Vincent Canby. Whenever they reviewed a B I had to call for Animal Control so I could be restrained with a six or seven shots of bear tranquilizer.
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