Monday, May 31, 2010

70's Cinema: THE GODFATHER

All these years I have thought that Mario Puzo's novel THE GODFATHER was suppose to have been a literary classic. I had never read it, so when i heard from a good source that the book was actually a trashy housewife novel in the vein of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and Harold Robbins foder, I was totally on board to watch it the film version again. I had seen it about 15 years ago and didn't remember a thing about it. Armed with a THE GODFATHER super fan, I set in to reexamine it and see just what all the craze was about.

First and foremost, Marlon Brando eats this role alive. The way he downplays his power over just about everyone and the entire city, is so amazing. He seems like this super likeable guy, with this simmering evilness just under the surface. As the movie moves forward at a breathtaking speed, the suspense builds like nobody's business. I kept finding myself taken back by just how good this film was and how well it holds up. It took me a moment to realize that this film wasn't set in the 70's. I just thought all mafia guys were sharp dressed men.

The film is a trashy movie, but so well made and the actors devote themselves to making the roles they play so believeable, that you totally get sucked into it and all the pulp feel is washed off, but it leaves a thin film of sleaze that makes the viewer uncomfortable from beginning to end.

It was so interesting to watch THE GODFATHER, because so many films have copied the format. I swear i have seen some of the scenes directly lifted into other films. It changed everything when it came to crime/mafia movies. It basically became the Godfather of mafia movies. You must respect it if you even attempt to make a mafia movie. I wondered what did the actual Mafia think of THE GODFATHER book and movie? I am thinking they pretty much loved it. It exposed some harsh truths about mafia business, but also made it glamorous. Straight boy glamorous that is. Kinda like a VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for straight boys and they deserve that don't you think?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gay Cinema: SHAMPOO

Produced and co-written by Beatty, SHAMPOO has an agenda. A very bold agenda that is manages to pull off with style, elegance and wit. This movie surprised me over and over and over. The character of George Roundy, seems to be based on Babs love interest, Jon Peters who brought the idea of a "straight" male hairdresser to the mainstream in the seventies. Warren Beatty proved just how big his balls were to play this role. He had to appear cocky as hell and have a "I don't care what anyone thinks of me" attitude. He oozes hotness, even when his hair is a mile high. I swear, he gets sexier and sexier as the movie moves along. And anytime a gay joke is tossed at him, he either goes with it and doesn't care or brushes it aside with a flip of his blowdryer. With each scene in SHAMPOO, his character's layers get deeper and deeper. Who knew all the angst that comes with being a hot male hairdresser in Beverly Hills?!

This is a very adult comedy that doesn't pander to anyone or treat it's audience like they are a bunch of mindless moviegoers. Tons of jokes go right under the radar and I caught myself laughing at lines about ten seconds after they were delivered. Cleverness is something that is not easy to do in a comedy, but SHAMPOO manages to hold on to the viewer all the while jumping from slapstick to bittersweetness.

Of course, SHAMPOO would be nothing without the ladies. First off, Goldie Hawn is at the top of her game. She hasn't been completely eaten by Hollywood yet and she is crazy awesome in this movie. She doesn't play it all cutie-pie like in her 80's to current roles. For those that have seen the PBS special GOLDIE IN THE WILD, where she treks off to find her favorite elephant, you know that Goldie tells lies and a lot of the charm and laughs are a face for something more rotten and less than charming. But you must give it up for Goldie in SHAMPOO. I had actually forgotten just how good her comedic timing was...

Julie Christie...oh snap! Casting her as the lead love interest was a brilliant casting choice. She brings a sense of grace to what seems like a routine sex comedy.
Tossing her into the mix takes the movie to the next level and her hairdos! WOW!!

Of course, one of the actors that seems to get lost in the shuffle of SHAMPOO, but is amazing to watch is Lee Grant. She snatches every single scene she is in. The Christie/Grant diva showdown is a scene that DYNASTY wishes it could capture!! I want to have a SHAMPOO diva staredown with my arch enemies all the time!

SHAMPOO seems like a time capsule of a time and place that doesn't seem to exist anymore, but the script and acting are both so tight, that it doesn't really seem dated, but also fresh. Just like you feel right after a good rinse and cut.

Of note: I like to think that Mr. David from DALLAS was based on George Roundy. And it even spawned it's own blaxploitation film!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


This seemed like a good idea at the time they started filming it, I guess. David Lean, the mastermind behind your mom or dads favorite movies, shipped everyone to Ireland to create a very BIG and bold film called RYAN'S DAUGHTER. It is epic in every sense of the word. Lavish locations, an all star cast and Robert Mitchum making sure everyone in the cast and crew is getting stoned out of their minds with his transplanted pot plants. The film has a very slooooooooooooooooooow burn to it withouth much of a fire. There is something to it, but the locations and the mindblowing cinematography overshadow all the characters and plot. It is like David Lean kept saying, "IT MUST BE BIGGER!!! IT MUST TOP DR. Z!!" It totally feels like he lost his sense of character development and a love for his actors in his lust to film the Irish cliffs with the perfect wave crashing onto the rocks below. Nowadays, all the exterior shots would just be added in with a computer or filmed in Canada, which is a sad state. But without the right sceenplay, a film like this just becomes tiresome and very out of touch with its audience.

David Lean and Robert Bolt, the screenwriter, didn't seem to have a clue on what was going on in cinema and certainly were not prepared for films like this to be completely outsed. It was an original screenplay (with shades of Madam Bovary all over the place), so it didn't even have the backing of being a popular novel to help it find a built in audience. Not to say it was the final nail in the coffin of films with an overture, but it certainly had a hand in building the pinewood box that films like this would soon fill.

Sarah Miles must have thought this was going to be a huge break for her. Fresh off of BLOW-UP, she plays the bored daughter of Ryan almost perfectly. Almost too perfectly. Her boredom of her homeland is so geniune that the audience can feel her boredom in every scene and thus becomes bored themselves. When something exciting happens, it is almost jarring and then we are tossed back into boredom. Sadly, for Miles the movie tanked big time, but she did go on to battle killer snakes in Vemon at the beginning of the next decade.

David Lean was so upset with the critical outcome of RYAN'S DAUGHTER that he took a 14 year break from directing and returned to direct PASSAGE TO INDIA, which proved that in his 14 years off he STILL hadn't kept up with what was going in in the world.