Saturday night, I bought a ticket for Play Misty for Me at the New Beverly. The lady after me had trouble finding the rest of her money for a ticket. I offered to pay the rest of it, even though I didn't know her, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I don't know. Anyway, she declined the offer, thanking me anyway and she ended up finding her money. We ended up next to each other in the waiting line, where she then pulled out her iPhone and started blowing on it while tapping the screen and the fuckin' thing started playing like a flute. Me, I roll with a phone that is a half-notch away from a pay-as-you-go, so my reaction is Jesus Christ, We're Living In The Fucking Future and the lady turned to me and said that she plays the flute as well as the ocarina. I never knew what the fuck an ocarina was until I played that Zelda game on the Nintendo 64.
Anyway, we chatted for a bit and she was very nice and somewhere along the way I find out her late husband was Richard Sylbert. If you don't know who Richard Sylbert is, then you just don't fuckin' know. He was the production designer for Chinatown, Reds, The Manchurian Candidate, Dick Tracy, Carlito's Way, big films, huge films and he won Oscars for his work. So of course, my mind blanked out and the only Sylbert-designed movie I could think of was The Bonfire of the Vanities. She didn't seem to mind, though, she smiled and said that the preferred title between her and her husband was Bonfire of the Inanities and we talked about that for a while. She then went inside to speak to Michael about maybe programming a double-bill of flicks featuring Sylbert's work. Anyway, the movie was good and it was cool to see fuckin' Dirty Harry of all people get spooked out by a lady, which sounds kinda weird, but when you realize that the lady is none other than Lucille Bluth herself, it makes perfect sense.
The next day I returned and as I walked down one of the residential streets en route to the New Beverly Cinema, I passed a young girl holding a beach ball. She looked across the street at two similar-aged boys; "Would you PLEASE leave, fun-sucker? Me and my friend want to play ball!" She sounded genuinely annoyed, but most women are born actresses and the two boys were laughing, so it probably wasn't serious. Can it ever be serious when the term "fun-sucker" is being used?
I was there to watch two films based on a couple of Parker novels by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake's alter ego); Point Blank and The Outfit. Inside, I took one of the New Bev calenders and placed it on my seat so I could get my fat ass some snacks. I've seen people do this before and it seemed to work as a seat-claimer when they did it, but apparently not when I do it, because when I came back, some Steven Soderbergh-looking motherfucker took my place, the calender having been tossed aside to the next seat. Serves me right. I didn't hate on Steven Soderbergh for taking my seat, but when some dude came up to him and cheerily asked if he was ready to watch Lee Marvin, the guy shook his head, causing the guy to walk away defeated, or as defeated as a guy can be while still loudly making trumpet/whistling noises to the pre-show music. At that point, I really wanted to karate chop Soderbergh in his fuckin' neck and give him legitimate reason to be a dick, but I let it slide instead.
Point Blank has a pretty funny/cool way to intro; as our star suddenly takes a couple slugs -- BANG BANG -- Lee Marvin's name and the title pop up with each gunshot. Marvin plays a badass motherfucker by the name of Walker who gets double-crossed by his partner Mal after a job. He should've known better than to trust that dude, because that back-stabber (or is that back-shooter) is played by that bad John Vernon. Walker's left for dead, comes back from near death, hooks up with some shady underworld guy and goes out not for revenge, not to get his wife back (she shacked up with Mal), but just to get his cut of the loot from the robbery. Along the way Keenan Wynn, Archie Bunker, Doogie Howser's dad, and Angie Dickinson show up. You may have liked Point Blank more the first time you saw it, when it was called Payback, but that's because Payback came out in '99 and Point Blank came out in '67 so you probably watched the newer one first and god forbid you watch some old shit.
But as fun as the one with the Jew Hater was, this one's definitely got a lot more shit going on in the style and technique department. I don't know whose idea it was (I'm guessing it came from the director), but this rather straightforward story is told in a matter that is anything but. There's a lot of non-linear editing for the first third, and even after that, there's a lot of cool cutting during scenes that serve as both flashbacks and just plain awesome ways to get a point across. One example is when Walker is in the middle of giving some dude the business, and as they have this heated back-and-forth, the movie itself has a little heated back-and-forth as it cuts to a conversation had between the two long ago. The words of the past are haunting the actions of the present.
It takes a real genius to make a movie like this, and I'm not talking about Val Kilmer, I'm talking about the director of Point Blank. He's some English motherfucker who also used his crazy skills to make some classic flicks like Excalibur, Hope and Glory, and the one where Ned Beatty gets butt-raped. On the other hand, there's Zardoz and The Exorcist II: Electric Boogaloo. I mean, say what you want about those movies (I dug 'em), but it's obvious the guy behind them put a lot of fuckin' thought and ideas into them, wrongheaded or otherwise. The movie's style gives the proceedings a very dreamy feel, I think. The cutting to certain shots and images also sometimes makes things appear like we're being given entrance into Walker's mindset, like we're seeing random memories pop up while he's doing his thing. In addition to the editing, there's also some really cool shot composition here; I understand the real Steven Soderbergh (not the asshole at the New Bev) does a commentary on the DVD and I'm not surprised. You could see a lot of shit here that may have influenced the guy, who I guess was taking copious notes on this flick in between jerking off to Richard Lester movies.
There's also this part where Walker storms into a house where he thinks Mal is staying at. He storms in, slams the bedroom door open and immediately fires six bullets into the empty bed. People laughed in the theater when he did that, and I'm not sure where they're coming from. Me, I thought it was pretty fuckin' awesome; I mean, you can say it looks ridiculous because Walker should've noticed after the first gunshot that no one is on that bed, and I think he did know. It's just that this guy had so much pent-up revenge in him, he had to get that nut off -- metaphorically speaking, of course. It's like he had to scratch that trigger-pulling itch BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM and then it's like, OK, I got that off my chest, now I can think more clearly about just getting my money. Besides, once you shoot one, you might as well shoot the remaining five -- any John Woo movie will teach you that.
The violence in this movie is mostly of the old-fashioned variety; no squibs, no blood, people get all stiff when they're shot before falling over -- and yet it manages to still feel pretty harsh. People get glass bottles smashed against their faces, Marvin gives one poor sap the nutshot to end all nutshots during a scrap, and even tough-guy Marvin takes a pool cue to the head that other fake movie tough-guys would shake off, but goddammit, Marvin keeps it real and stumbles around for a bit as he tries to regain his bearings. You have all these underworld shenanigans going on and sometimes it spills out into the world of regular, everyday people just trying to go about their lives. Some asshole falls off a building, and shortly after the cops and paramedics show up, the movie cuts to some of the onlookers; there's a trio of women and one has her face buried into her friend's shoulder refusing to look, the second is sobbing her eyes out at the sight of the dead asshole, and the third just stares at him like it ain't no thing. I felt bad for the old lady who just about ran over the body; she's just trying to get home to watch whatever the 60's equivalent to Matlock was and next thing she knows, some naked piece-of-shit lands in front of her automobile. Now she's in need of consoling from her fellow Golden Girl. Man, if she only knew what a scumbag this scumbag was, maybe she'd spare the tears.
At one point, Angie Dickinson goes off on Marvin by beating the shit out his chest with her fists in that cute way only girls could get away with. She goes on and on and Marvin just stands there taking every hit like a fuckin' champ. Finally, she gets completely spent, and drops to the floor. Watching that reminded me of past relationships and past arguments, or should I say, one-sided arguments because I had no idea what they were pissed about. In retrospect, I should've just told them to stop talking and beat their frustrations out on me. Just get all of it out. I'd take a minute of physical pain over the 2 or 3 days of that lovely, lovely guessing game known as You Know What You Did.
I know like 3 other dudes wrote the script for this and I understand the screenplay is the most important part of the movie and that the only thing that could make a screenplay even better is that if there wasn't a director or actors to fuck up it's beauty and that they shouldn't even call it Best Picture at the Oscars, they should call it Best Example of Morons Not Fucking Up The Written Greatness. I know all this. But god-DAMN if there was ever an example of a director elevating the material (which according to many a screenwriter is impossible, never has happened and never will) this fucking movie is Example Number One. 43 years later, everything still holds up -- except for that ridiculous shot of that guy falling to his death. That shit may have been impressive back in '67, but that shit just brings the hard laughs nowadays.
Sometimes the audience will battle for your attention, that is, if you are me. Some guy with a Joe Spinell vibe about him (despite being in a tennis shirt and the kind of shorts that scream Eventual Testicle Peekage) sat in front of me and I guess decided to spend the duration of the film trying to beat his previous record for Most Fidgety Man In The World. Lots of shifting, leaning forward, brushing hair, folding arms, etc. He never stopped moving, this guy; you'd think he was attending Catholic mass service with all the sitting down and leaning forward. I wondered to myself if this is what it would be like to have Michael J. Fox sit in front of you at a movie theater. There was also a guy to my left who had a very distinct laugh that sounded like EH! EH! EH! EH! and came off like the kind of laugh that would precede a power drill going into your skull while your muffled screams barely echo throughout the basement in which you are being kept. He also stomped his feet and clapped his hands when he particularly dug something. I also noticed a skinny guy with his bare feet up on the seat in front of him, until I realized he was actually a girl with very short hair, so I guess that makes it OK.
Between films, I had to get rid of all that Cherry Coke and on the way to the restroom I saw Phil Blankenship talking to Marc Heuck from the Nuart. Both do the midnight movie thing at their respective theaters, and being a patron of both, I've noticed differences in their way of asking the audience to shut off their cell phones/electronic devices for the duration of the film. Phil's tone is "Please don't be an asshole" while Marc's is more like "Stop being assholes for at least two hours, then when the movie is over you can go back to being assholes again because I know you're assholes".
I know there's a second film to talk about, but I'm just too tired now, so I'm just going to end it with a story about meeting the director. The Outfit, was directed by the late John Flynn, who also directed Rolling Thunder, Defiance, and Out for Justice. In other words, he fuckin' rules. I met the guy back in '02 at a screening of Rolling Thunder; and he was one of the few people I actively tried to get an autograph from. Off the top of my head, the only movie people I went out of my way to get an autograph were Flynn, Christopher Walken, Walter Hill and Christina Lindberg. I have a lot more book-writing motherfuckers that I asked to sign shit like Hubert Selby Jr. and Sarah Vowell, to name a couple.
Anyway, I was going to go to the screening with my old Vestron VHS of Rolling Thunder and try to get him to sign it and that's when I remembered that I let a friend borrow it. Because I'm an idiot. Sure enough, I called that motherfucker and that motherfucker was in Texas and wasn't due back for another month. God damn. So I ended up bringing my DVD of Lock Up because he directed that one too and I went over to him following the screening and did the douchey fanboy thing by running off at the mouth in the same manner that I write these things. He signed the Lock Up DVD for me and he (along with Thunder co-writer Heywood Gould) looked pleasantly surprised that I brought that movie, I suppose in the same manner that one would be pleasantly surprised that the mentally ill child in the room didn't eat the paste for once. I explained my situation about my Rolling Thunder VHS though and they did a good job pretending to give a shit.
1 week ago