Tag Archives: director

John Hughes (1950-2009)

First Farrah, then Michael and now John-freaking-Hughes? Jesus, my childhood is being decimated here. I know he hasn’t directed a movie since 1991’s infamous flop “Curly Sue” — which I will forever refuse to see — but John Hughes was nothing short of the cinematic voice of my generation.

Seriously, I cannot even begin to tell you how his writing influenced my own. Sure, “Star Wars” made me wanna make movies in the first place and Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven” taught me how to write them, but John Hughes taught me everything I’d ever need to know about character.

The amazing characters of John Hughes #1

The amazing characters of John Hughes #2

I mean, the man created some of the most iconic, imminently quotable onscreen characters of all time and in doing so had a hand in bringing to life some of my favorite movies ever. My family and I watched “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (which Hughes wrote) so many times that we just about blew out our creaky old RCA Videodisc player.

And when he started directing, forget about it. When she was a kid, Christine rented and watched “The Breakfast Club” every day for a week and a half…a week and a half! And when “Pretty in Pink” opened in theatres, I remember going with my friends to see it every Saturday night for three weeks straight. Even cooler still was the fact that the same people from my high school were there every week too. We even sat in the same seats…it was insanity!

And though I never felt the same undying love for “Sixteen Candles” and “Ferris Beuller”, I did rediscover “Uncle Buck” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” in recent years and love them to death.

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I think the thing I most loved about Hughes’ writing was that his characters felt real and lived-in. And though many have tried to replicate his voice over the years — you don’t even wanna know how many times I’ve heard studio execs say they want something kinda John Hughes-ish, urgh! — no one could ever balance humor and pathos like the man himself. And the music he used…wow, I owned every one of those soundtracks back in the day!

Actually, wait, Cameron Crowe (another hero of mine!) used to do a pretty good job of that too. But Crowe aside, there was something very pure and truly original about the stuff Hughes created during the 1980’s.

Sure, he lost focus a bit when he got all kid-friendly with “Home Alone” and shit, but even that movie has that patented Hughes warmth and messiness all over it. That family wasn’t perfect, they were flawed and human and goofy and even stupid sometimes, but you loved them.

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Same thing with “Pretty in Pink”…I mean, love or hate the sell-out ending, the shit his teen queen muse, Molly Ringwald, went through in that movie was as real as real gets, baby. I mean, hello, her Dad was a lonely, unemployed loser still reeling from his wife leaving them…yikes, how much more real can you get?

And while there is a certain slick, artificial veneer to many of the greatest films of the 1980’s, Hughes films were different somehow. His movies had heart and soul and I know it sounds corny, but they were kinda timeless. And the cool factor? Man alive, his best characters didn’t follow crazy 80’s trends, they set them.

And Hughes himself didn’t just capture the zeitgeist of the 80’s, he created it on film for the whole world to see and enjoy. And for that, and so much more, I salute you, Mr. Hughes. You have left us way too soon, amigo, but your voice, your sweetly sad humor and your indelible characters will live on forever…

The amazing characters of John Hughes #9

The amazing characters of John Hughes #9

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“The Mentalist” goes mental!

OK, I am so not the “leaker” on this one, but someone leaked this super-cool, super-gory scene from our movie, “Not Forgotten”, to YouTube today and it’s been popping up on cool horror movie sites ever since.

So, seeing as you can already watch the scene in all it’s blood-soaked glory online, I thought I’d post a few of my favorite behind-the-scenes pics from this awesome fight scene exclusively for you.

Oh, and, don’t worry, amigos, nothing you’ll see below is as gory as the clip. The first couple of shots are of mi buen amigo, badass actor Zahn McLarnon (Calvo) rehearsing his fight with an unseen Simon Baker.

NOT FORGOTTEN fight scene #1

NOT FORGOTTEN fight scene #2

These pics were taken from my cushy co-writer/associate producer chair behind the monitor in “video village”, so, forgive the quality…

The next couple of pics are of the amazing set designed by our Production Designer Craig Stearns and his top-notch team. We shot this scene in a former high school gym in Santa Fe and as you can see, there is the fake mirror Zahn is so memorably thrown up against before having his head smashed against the filthy toilet pictured below. Cool, huh?

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And yes, that is fake grime on that toilet…I checked. The final three shots are of the stuntman who pinch hit for Zahn, complete with his rocking, full-chest Santa Muerte tattoo. Zahn himself in his gore makeup and myself with Zahn just before he left for the night.

If you look real close in the picture with me, Zahn still has fake blood stains around his eyes and oozing from his ear. Now, if that shit doesn’t get people in the theatre, I don’t know what will…

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NOT FORGOTTEN fight scene #7

“Not Forgotten” is now playing in Austin and Phoenix and opens on May 15th-17th in Los Angeles at the Mann’s Chinese in Hollywood and the Mann’s Plant 16 in Van Nuys. Check it out!

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Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days”

Ever since we first saw his Oscar-nominated documentary “Super Size Me”, Christine and I have been huge fans of writer/director Morgan Spurlock. So much so that when the third season of his kick-ass show “30 Days” premiered on FX two weeks back, we were kinda glued to the Tivo.

If you haven’t watched yet, the concept is deceptively simple, each week someone is chosen to live in another person’s shoes for 30 days.

Spurlock has appeared in several episodes himself — most recently in this season’s first episode which found him working in a Virginia coal mine for 30 days — but usually he picks someone whose lifestyle and belief systems are exactly opposite of the life they will be living for 30 days.

Previous seasons have seen a born-again Christian living in a Muslim household, a homophobic straight man living with gays in San Francisco, an outsourced American tech worker living in India and working in a call center, and a hard-core minuteman from Texas living with a family of illegal immigrants in Los Angeles. If you think that sounds like a juicy set-up for a show…you’re right!

But while most other networks would tart everything up for the sake of the drama, FX has pretty much given Spurlock free reign to make “30 Days” into something truly unique. Not so much a show as a series of insightful, funny, and sometimes enormously-moving one hour films, “30 Days” is not to be missed.

Some people have criticized Spurlock for injecting himself into the drama too much and becoming kind of a Michael Moore-lite, but I could not disagree more. I mean, sure, sometimes Moore’s presence in his own films is distracting and tends to turn the proceedings into the Michael Moore show, but Morgan Spurlock has the exact opposite effect onscreen.

Whether it’s his goofy, everyman quality, or the fact that he just seems more likable than Moore, Spurlock has way more soul as a “character” and lacks the obvious political agenda that drives Moore towards some of his more outlandish stunts. That’s not to say Spurlock doesn’t try to steer the proceedings a bit — which of course, he does — but the thing I like about “30 Days” is that it just feels more heartfelt and real than anything Moore has churned out in recent years.

And better yet, Spurlock never tells you what to think, but rather presents the information to you “as is” and lets you decide what you think, which, hello, is kind of what a documentary is supposed to do, right?

Future episodes this season tackle such hot-button issues as gay families, anti-gun activism, life on an Indian reservation and this Tuesday’s episode which finds a hard-core hunter from Chapel Hill, NC moving into a home of Peta-loving vegans for 30 days.

While those all sound kind of awesome, I have to say that last Tuesday’s episode — which featured retired pro-football great Ray Crockett confined to life in a wheelchair for 30 days — was probably one of the best hours of television we’ve seen in years. If you can find it in repeats, WATCH IT!

Crockett’s struggles adjusting to life in the chair are one thing, but the wheelchair-bound people he met and befriended during his 30 days were just amazing. The paraplegic counselor working with the recently paralyzed, the tough-as-nails wheelchair rugby team featured in the documentary “Murderball” and most poignantly, the young girl recently confined to a wheelchair after a horrible accident.

The look on Crockett’s face as he sits in on the girl’s rehabilitation sessions is heartbreaking, and I defy you not to cry when she pulls herself up in bed for the first time since her accident. I’m not kidding, folks, this is cable television at its finest…really beautiful stuff.

The first two seasons of the show — which I highly recommend — have recently been released on DVD and the third season of “30 Days” airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX. Spurlock was quoted recently in Entertainment Weekly as saying that this Tuesday’s episode (the hunter/vegan family) is the best one of the season, so…what better time to check out “30 Days” for yourself?

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Sydney Pollack (1934-2008)

Christine and I were both very sad to hear that legendary, Oscar-winning director/producer, Sydney Pollack passed away on Monday at the age of 73. Diagnosed with cancer nine months ago, Pollack died at his home in Pacific Palisades surrounded by his family.

I had been a fan of Pollack’s mid-career movies for years, especially “Out of Africa” and “The Way We Were” — which our family watched almost every weekend on movie night — but it wasn’t until I was in film school at AFI that I got a true appreciation for what a bang-up director he really was.

The first time I saw “Three Days of the Condor” I was kind of blown away. The quintessential paranoid 1970’s political thriller, this movie not only rocked hard, but it changed the way espionage movies were made.

Starring frequent collaborator and longtime-friend, Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway and a creepy Max von Sydow as the ultimate Euro-heavy, “Condor” shot to the list of my all-time-favorite movies overnight. And even though it came out in 1975, this taut, suspenseful thrill ride is anything but dated.

In fact, the timeless stylistic influence of “Condor” can be felt even today in scores or like-minded knockoffs (“Munich” and the “Bourne” movies to name a few) and even in last year’s vastly underrated “Michael Clayton”, which Pollack co-starred in and exec-produced.

What I liked most about Pollack’s films was that they weren’t flabby. There was nothing extra, no fat, just tight action, romance, adventure or whatever and some damn fine acting to boot. If you can compare him to anyone, he kind of reminds me of John Huston, who, ironically, also acted in several of his own films.

Like Huston, Pollack was a visceral, masculine director who could take something as potentially cheesy and syrupy as “The Way We Were” and make it real and authentic. Other directors might have skated by on the sheer star power of Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, but not Pollack.

His skillful direction — and a knockout script by Arthur Laurents and an an uncredited David Rayfiel — turned these potentially larger than life characters into living, breathing people, who we loved and hated, sometimes in the very same scene. Hell yes, you still cried at the end, but those tears were earned, baby.

A master of the silent emotional scene, Pollack also knew when to back off and let his movies breathe and this was never more apparent than in “Out of Africa”. Arguably his best known film, “Africa” — which won an amazing seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Pollack — has some of the most beautiful dialog-free scenes ever put to film.

Sure the airplane close-ups are totally blue-screened, but “Africa”, like John Huston’s classic “The African Queen” makes those lingering nature-filled silences speak volumes about the characters. I mean, wow, when Meryl Streep grabs that handful of sand at the end, you can almost feel that shit in your palm. Amazing…

And “Tootsie”? Wow…words can’t describe how influential this movie was to me as a kid. Every scene is comic writing gold. I remember laughing so hard when we first saw it that my brother and I missed most of the jokes and had to see it again the following weekend. Hilarious!

And though I wasn’t a huge fan of several of his recent directorial efforts — “The Interpreter”, “Random Hearts” and the Redford-starring bomb “Havana” — the bold, daring choices Pollack made as a producer never ceased to amaze me: “Sliding Doors”, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, “Cold Mountain”, “The Quiet American”, “Sense and Sensibilty”, “Iris” and the mind-blowing “Michael Clayton” to name just a few. True, these movies weren’t always huge hits, but, man alive, they were always interesting.

Even cooler than his choices as a producer were the films Sydney Pollack chose to act in. Sure, his roles in his own movies always rocked — his performance in “Tootsie” alone sealed his street cred as a talented thespian in my eyes! — but I absolutely loved him in other people’s movies too.

My favorite will always be his loutish turn as Woody Allen’s newly-divorced friend in Allen’s pitch-perfect “Husbands & Wives”. Because of it’s unfortunate timing — the movie came out at the height of the Mia-Woody-Soon Yi mess — I think “Husbands” has always been kind of overlooked. But any true Woody Allen fan will tell you that this is one of his best movies ever.

And Pollack’s work here was just as worthy of Oscar attention as Judy Davis’s in my book. The scene where Pollack fights with his way-too-young-for-him girlfriend at a party is so real it’s almost painful to watch. And knowing that he was such a cool dude in person makes me appreciate his acting even more.

Sometimes, just the mere presence of Pollack in a movie or TV show lent the whole affair some class. “The Sopranos”, “Will & Grace”, “Frasier”, hell, I even liked him in “Changing Lanes” and that movie — which I half-watched on an airplane — was so God-awful, I wanted to pull the exit door open and jump out.

But I think my favorite memory of Sydney Pollack will be the time I spent listening to him speak at one of the Harold Llyod Master Seminars at AFI in 1994. Christine had snuck in with me to watch “Three Days of the Condor” on the big screen and stayed for the entire seminar.

Speaking onstage for about an hour and a half, Pollack talked about his favorite movies, his directing style, why he directs, actors, anything and everything you could imagine…and it was absolutely riveting. Trust me, I sat through a lot of those seminars, and Pollack’s was one of the best, and mostly that was due to the fact that the man, like his movies, was real.

Not only was Pollack a joy to listen to, but he projected such warmth and generosity of spirit that he totally endeared himself to both Christine and I forever more. And while I can’t speak for all the burgeoning film students that were in the theatre that day, I can tell you for damn sure that the super cool Sydney Pollack left his mark on me.

So, rest in peace, amigo. You will be sorely missed…

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Abel Ferrara @ Cannes

Even though I am not a huge fan of his strange, but often-interesting films, and his teeth in the pictures below kind of scare the hell out of me, I gotta say that for the first time in years, controversial writer/director Abel Ferrara and I see eye to eye on something…

But before we get to that, a little background on the freaky-deaky indie icon himself. The quintessential New Yorker, Ferrara, like so many offbeat American directors, is kind of worshiped by the French. Not only has he been a regular fixture at Cannes over the years, but several of Ferrara’s recent films — which have never even had a theatrical release in the U.S. — premiered in France.

So it was no surprise to see him soaking up the French love on the red carpet for the world premiere of his latest cinematic opus, the star-studded documentary “Chelsea on the Rocks”. Detailing the gloriously seedy past and uncertain future of this landmark NYC hotel, the doc is said to contain some of Ferrara’s best work to date…so, rock on, Abel!

But the biggest shocker to come out of Mr. Ferrara’s multiple press conferences at Cannes was the news that someone is inexplicably remaking his twisted masterpiece “Bad Lieutenant”. Yep, you heard me…remaking! Insane, non?

Even more surprising is the talent attached. The new version of Ferrara’s 1992 classic is going to be directed by German “madman with a camera” Werner Herzog with…hold onto your tainted badges, folks…Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage starring as the titular police man. Yep, Jerry Bruckheimer’s hambone royale himself is gonna be tackling what is arguably one of Harvey Keitel’s finest cinematic performances.

My question is…why, God, why? I mean, love it or hate it — we did both, sometimes at the very same time — the infamous “Bad Lieutenant” is one of the most well-regarded independent films of the 1990’s, so, if you ask me, remaking it is kind of a sacrilege.

And with Nicolas Cage no less!? Yikes…here’s hoping Herzog does the world a favor and cuts that whole full-frontal nude scene…

And though I’m not quite as passionate as Mr. Ferrara is on the subject — he told the French press on Friday that the people involved should “die in hell” and vowed to “strangle every one of them” if he ever sees them again — I understand the dude’s outrage. I mean, really, any way you look at it, this lame, totally unnecessary remake is gonna suck some serious ass. I say…long live the original flawed masterpiece that is Abel Ferrara’s “Bad Lieutenant”.

And while I wait to check out his cool-sounding “Chelsea on the Rocks” documentary for myself…here’s to you, crazy old Abel Ferrara, late night genre movies would be a very boring place without you!

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Tarantino Master Class @ Cannes

I’m not sure what all Oscar-and-Palm d’or-winning director Quentin Tarantino had to say in his Cinema Master Class at Cannes yesterday, but, from the looks of the picture below, I’ll bet it was fun!

Always interesting, the Cannes Cinema Master Class has been a staple of the festival since 1991. And in that time, the event has been hosted by such kick-ass filmmakers as Sydney Pollack, Martin Scorcese, Oliver Stone, Nanni Moretti and even my boy from Hong Kong, Wong Kar Wai. Cool, huh?

Apparently totally free and open to the public, the Cannes Master Class is a chance for world-class directors to talk about their process, the films they’ve made and in the case of Tarantino, the fact that he thinks every serious director should take an acting class. Hmmm…a novel concept…

So, though I couldn’t be there to applaud Tarantino in person, I’m sure the French film fans — who love him almost as much as they do Woody Allen — ate it up! Rock on, QT!

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“Ashes of Time: Redux” @ Cannes

I know, I know…another post about Cannes. Sorry, but I told you…I’m kind of obsessed right now. The good news for all you non-movie fans out there is that the Festival wraps up on Sunday, so, I’ll get back to more juicy “eat”, “do”, and “make” posts very soon.

Speaking of “eat”, wait till you see the Key Lime pie I had in Tampa…amazing! Anyway, back to the shiny film fest on the Riviera…

So, the big news on Sunday was all about the world premiere of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” — more on that later, but for the record, we ordered tickets today for the Friday night show at the Arclight — but for fans of legendary Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, the night was all about the premiere of his re-cut 1994 masterpiece, “Ashes of Time”.

And since “Ashes” is one of the few films of WKW’s that I have not seen — aside from his recent English-language disaster “My Blueberry Nights” — I’m kind of dying to see this definitive, extended version of what many consider to be his first truly great movie.

Though the dreamy, retro vibe of his later films was still years away — if you haven’t watched the Criterion Collection DVD of “In The Mood For Love” you are missing out, man — “Ashes of Time” was the first of his films to really stand out from the rest of the Hong Kong “wuxia films” of the time.

Starring WKW regulars like Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin, “Ashes” is said to be anchored around the central performance of the late, great Leslie Chung (“Farewell My Concubine”). And though Chung was sorely missed by WKW and the rest of the cast at the Palais on Sunday, I can assure you he was there in spirit as he is said to be amazing in the movie.

Interestingly enough, WKW’s longtime-collaborator, iconic cinematographer Christopher Doyle — who is rumored to have had a spectacular falling out with the director after working with him for the last time on “2046” — was also in attendance. And not only was he there — he is the white dude in the pictures above and below — but he held hands with Wong and the cast as they made their way to the theatre as well. Cool!

Here’s hoping that the rift is over and that Doyle returns to the WKW fold for his next film. And in the meantime, knowing that the “Ashes of Time: Redux” was so well received at Cannes gives me hope that a stateside theatrical run might be just around the corner as well!

Or at the very least, maybe I can start dreaming about a special edition DVD — are you listening, Criterion? — to add to my kick-ass Wong Kar Wai box set, pictured below. Either way, long live the king of Hong Kong cool!

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