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{Friday}

 
Busy at the moment, so just a few days run-down of trivia.

+ + +

I was channel surfing the other night when I heard an advert start

"WHICH Russian icon...?"

It turned out to be a bottle of Smirnoff.
(I have to say I think "Russian" is pushing it, frankly.)

I channel flipped and heard a BBC4 announcer say "...with iconic images from 50 years ago..." and we were back in Hungary 1956.

Maybe the oddest use of the word, tho, was yesterday in the ghastly new re-designed Guardian G2. Here's Martin Parr on one of his own photographs: it's a close up of a cup of tea. That's it, that's all there is in the shot: one cup of tea. And now hear him discuss this shot "[...] I think this is the most successful. It has the teacup, the gingham, every icon and cliché you could imagine about a cup of tea."
But it's a cup of tea. On a checked tablecloth. How many "icons" can there BE in such a simple shot?

(Surely the point of most "iconic" images so-called, is to have ONE central obvious "iconic" thing? )

Talking of ICONS, I realised I'd never actually consulted David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary on De Palma. And you know what? HE loves SCARFACE and hates everything else De Palma has done, too!

Another instance of PILL BOX against-the-grain taste being vindicated seems to come in the little news item I just read, which reports that THE FARRELLY BROTHERS are thinking of buying up the rights to a current British comedy series in order to transfer it to US TV. And - joy of joys! - it's not one of BBC2's massively over-rated boutique comedies, but the massively UNDER rated I'M WITH STUPID.

(+ Caught a repeat of IDEAL the other night; still think this was approaching genius a lot of the time.)

(+ + Final - I promise - niggle about EXTRAS.
Why on earth would Robert De Niro take a meeting with someone whose sole known work is a stinker of an antiquated old school wig and catchphrase s(h)it com?
I just think this betrays Merchant/Gervais contempt for the audience - o, just fling it all out at them, they won’t notice the joins. Any excuse to get De Niro in - doesn’t matter that it has ZERO logic.
I remain totally emperors-new-clothes mystified that it got such good reviews.)

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Tried watching HEAVEN CAN WAIT last night, which I had never actually seen (or particularly wanted to see, I have to say) before. Astonishing. How can SUCH a smart savvy man as Warren Beatty make SUCH an awful film? It doesn’t just falter or occasionally hiccup - it fails on every level. It's one of the unfunniest comedies I've ever seen. He even somehow contrives to make Julie Christie look unattractive and Charles Grodin appear clunkingly unfunny - which, well, that is some unique directorial juju.

(Altho, come to think on it, this just reminds me of what someone said about DICK TRACY: what a "coincidence" it was that Beatty has chosen that plot, where everyone else has to be made up to look grotesque and ugly, leaving Beatty as the sole handsome, charming man...)

And then you start to think... on any film where he's had COMPLETE unfettered unopposed input and 'creative control' ... Heaven Can Wait, Ishtar, Dick Tracy, Love Story ... OK, I will grant you REDS doesn’t quite belong on that list of shame. But would YOU want to sit through it again? (Take Jack Nicholson's ten-minute-turn as Eugene O Neill out of it, and you’ve got pure soufflé, Marxism via Mills & Boon.)*

Maybe the myth concerning the 'icon' Warren Beatty (Machiavelli in the boardroom, Casanova in the bedroom) is more interesting than the sappy reality. If he has an 'aesthetic', and those films betray it, it would appear to be the aesthetic of a rich, ossified Park Avenue dowager, who was 65 in 1964.

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Talking of ossified - MADONNA on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Is it just me - or isn’t Madonna really REALLY starting to look like a bad DRAG ACT version of herself? When Baudrillard said WE ARE ALL TRANSSEXUALS NOW, is this what he meant?

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HEAVEN CAN WAIT: ADDENDUM

Just found this great quote in Biskind's EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS:

"Indeed, there is a scene in the movie in which Warren and Julie are walking through the rose gardens of a grand estate. He is wearing a stylish leather jacket, and she has a haircut she hated, the one she sneeringly called her "dolly girl" hairdo. In the film, romantic music is swelling up on the soundtrack, drowning out their conversation, wherein what Christie was [actually] saying, in her clipped British accent: "I can't believe you're still making these fucking dumb movies when, I mean, there are people all over Europe making fabulous films, about real things, FASSBINDER, and so on, and you're still doing this shit," and then she'd smile at him as if she had honey on her tongue."

BEATTY ADDENDUM TWO

*{ OK - I forgot about BULWORTH, large parts of which I enjoyed enormously. And I do have a personal soft spot for BUGSY, but I don't think that quite qualifies as wholly Beatty's own film. (In fact, you might argue that it is only because Toback smuggled some ugly messy ID into the script, and Beatty didnt direct himself, that it turned out to be the after-a-fashion success it is...

BEATTY: THE FINAL WORD?

Maybe Cher inadvertantly bagged it with a capsule review that was actually about his much fantasised over sexual skills, but could stand for too much of his screen work, too:

'Beatty was rarely faithful to the babes he bedded, but his sexual skills got mixed reviews. He had a one-night stand with a 16-year-old Cher while he was dating Natalie Wood. "What a disappointment!" she later recalled. "Not that he wasn't technically good, [but] I didn't feel anything."'

I still think SHAMPOO is one of the best American films ever made, tho; and I can watch and re watch THE PARALLAX VIEW until the 'extraordinary rendition' planes come home...

posted by Ian 10/27/2006 10:17:00 AM

Comments:
The proximity of 'icon' and 'cliche' in that quote is telling...isn't calling something 'iconic' often a way of excusing yet another citation of something that is endlessly re-cited?

I don't think Extras was particularly well-received,actually. The tabloids were sniffy ... I bet it will be one of those shows that, in a year or two, will (have) become a failure... by that strange, occult process whereby the big Other changes its opinion...
 
the de nior thing made no sense but then the finale of 'extras' was a rip-off of the finale of s01 of 'entourage' (aired in the same week... late... on itv2).

in 'entourage' the star and his manager (basically the stephen merchant figure -- 'entourage''s agent-figure being a whole other thing) sealed their flaking deal when the manager got scarlett johansson to call vince up. it was a similar kind of 'if you were a REAL manager you'd hook me up' thing.
 
Further icon mania:

"Austinites try to define Capitol City icons

"By KEVIN PETERS / KVUE News

"How do you define and protect an Austin icon? While nearly everyone agrees steps must be taken to help beloved downtown businesses, not everyone agrees on the best way to do it, or which businesses should benefit. "

...

"Although subjective in nature, Dave Sullivan - chair of the planning commission - is trying to convince people a community consensus can be reached.

'The idea is to come up with something parallel to historic zoning,' said Sullivan.

Sullivan says it will help save what he believes are iconic Austin businesses.

'There are very many around the central city,' said Sullivan.

His suggested criteria for iconic status include: unique, independent, eclectic, popular, famous and sustainable."


And when you're done with icons, what about the Sundance channel's new series, ICONOCLASTS where pairs of "iconoclasts" are paired up for onversation and mutual admiration. Eddie Vedder and a surfing dude are the first pair....
 
Bulworth? You are blind when it comes to Beatty I think, it was a load of racist toss. Yeah, he's been OK it a couple of films but it seems to me he's spent the last 30 years in a state of endless narcissistic vacillation.
 
Yeah you're right I guess about Bulworth being "racist" - it made white folks look like a bunch of insensitive simpletons; which of course, they're not, oh no. (I actually saw Bulworth the day it opened in New York, as it happens. I dont remember none of the whites in the audience walking out or boo-ing; but then, they were in the minority...)

Admittedly, Bulworth's central "message" - "Let's just keep fucking until there ARE no 'races'" - is simplistic, but, beyond that... I dunno. Given that 'politics' in Hollywood is a matter of huge and hypocritical "sincerity", I guess I liked the fact Beatty dared to skirt (even court) offence here. And I don't think we quite realise in the UK JUST how touchy and raw race is as a no-no subject in the USA - especially for a rich coddled liberal middle aged white man to go against the grain on. (Or - maybe we are just beginning to?) If it fails, it's a noble failure, because how many Hollywood films are genuinely *about* race, and race *now*, except in the most obvious, pious, stricken, touchy feely liberal way? (I.e., Bulworth is nearer South Park than Sean Penn on this one, I suspect, and that's Ok if the Other is a Terrorist or a Scientologist or Gay, even, but the Black-White Blues still have enormous incendiary touch-paper force....)

It's a complicated subject - people playing "versions" of received versions of cliches of themselves, in order to undrmine or parody those same things. Maybe it's no coincidence that two or three of the most genuinely laff-out-loud moments or epsiodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I thought, were also in this same area. ("I'm coo-de-la!") This either points to a huge Repressed at work, or residual racism on my part, or (probably) both - given that I would never ever EVER pretend to be pure, in this regard.
 
Ok, unsophisticated toss then. I just thought it was very depressing.
 
The Parallax View would make a great Just Because You're paranoid... triple bill with Three Days of the Condor and Winter Kills. (Preceded by the original Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May and Seconds, natch).

If you *really* want to see mental/spiritual ossification, check out David Starkey's gruesome More 4 chat show. It's like being beamed into some sterile mid-70s BBC2/Open University twilight zone but the real thing was *never* as desiccated as this.

The only thing more toe-curlingly grotesque than his supercilious attempts at helming this black hole are his snide comments about his mother's sex life on one of the periodic station idents. Creepy isn't the word...
 
Let's give Beatty his due here. Never THAT good an actor or director, he's still made some brave moves - 'Reds' came out just after Reagan was elected on a wave of resurgent patriotism. A celebration of the Bolshevik revolution during Hollywood's most reactionary period since WW2? Ok, there's 'Cutter's Way' etc. but Beatty made a huge star-studded epic that managed to bag oscars on the way.
Despite it's corniness, I've yet to see a movie as open about the hypocrisies of US liberalism like 'Bulworth'. Especially during a time when B*sh wins on brutally racist voting scams. OK there's Toback's 'Black and White', but that seems to have vanished off the horizon since it's release. It's also a sidewipe against Clinton's cowardice (who was almost a diety among the smug Hollywood libs).

As for 'Bonnie and Clyde', 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller' and 'Shampoo', they've dated a lot but remain - yes! - ICONIC.
Beatty still 'has a go', even if he does fall flat on his face, which is more than can be said for Hoffman, Deniro, Scorcese, Hopper, Redford, Fonda etc. etc. these days.
AGUIRRE
 
Interestingly enough, tidying up one of the PB vaults the other day I came across a 2000 copy of Vanity Fair with Warren & Annette on the cover... Bening especially was SCATHING about the Clintons, and especially Hilary, who she realised early on (perhaps because she herself is an accomplished actress) was VERY adept at seducing all the talent in the room, letting them take away what she THOUGHT they wanted to hear... but never actually delivering on ANY of the promises...

Remember these portents, Americans, in 2 or 6 years time...
 
Yeah - who remembers that Clinton wheeze of promising an NHS for all Americans back in '92? Or his shameless courting of the 'black vote' while also upping the stakes in incarceration, execution and poverty? At least the Bushes make their contempt clear...

However, Warren is responsible for putting the wonderful Ms. Bening in the cinematic background. The Grifters' is a terribly underrated crime caper (especially being sandwiched between the overrated Goodfellas and Reservoir Dogs).

As for Parralax etc., 70s paranoid runs through a lot of stuff - Jaws, Close Encounters, Towering Inferno, Godfather 2, Magnum Force, even Mel Brooks (Hedley Lamarr?). Some enterprising 'video artist' should edit together all the various sweaty, sneaky 'Nixon' stand-ins found in 70's movies. I'm sure Hal Holbrook would make repeated appearances.

Maybe it's time to have powerful, paranoid, fanatical dimwits for 00's movies...
 
ps. Maybe that level of paranoia is reserved for TV theese days...
AGUIRRE
 
One of my favourites is actually THE LONGEST YARD with Burt Reynolds - but, more to the point, a marvellously snake like NIXONIAN turn from EDDIE ALBERT as the Prison Governor... (a film recently gutted of all politics and remade - twice, I think...
 
Eddie Albert played a similarly ambitious cowardly slimeball in the classic 50s lefty war movie 'Attack!' - apparently based on Nixon (or maybe Kennedy, according to one's prejudices).

I reckon the last of the movie Nixons was Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in 'Trading Places' - then it was all 'faith in our fathers'. Even Darth Vader had a heart of gold after three movies of atrocity and genocide.

And what about all those Clinton-era films where the Prez is a full-on hero?!? 'Air Force One', anybody?
AGUIRRE
 
Talking of movie Nixons, there's also the unbelievably bad Nasty Habits, which C4 dug up a few Saturdays ago. I could only take half an hour... but then I do have a MAJOR "issue" with Glenda Jackson, ha ha.
 
Is that an adaptation of the Muriel Spark 'Watergate Nuns' book (I forget the title)?

I remember a DC comic from the early 70s called 'Prez' about a hip kid who gets duped by some shadowy corporations (fronted by a villain with a smiley face mask) to dupe the youth into compliance with dictatorship. I think Nixon and Agnew made an appearance. Very weird - think it only lasted about two issues - but made a big impression on my 7-year old brain.

Speaking of Nixon, anyone see 'We Were Soldiers' the other night? Jeezus, it was shocking - cowardly inept frenchmen, ONE black soldier in an ENTIRE platoon, lots of praying, rousing speeches, and villainous grinning orientals torturing 'our boys'. To think Mel went from the poetry of 'Road Warrior' to quasi-facistic garbage like this and 'The Patriot'. God knows why anyone was surprised at his drunken outbursts. You could encapsulate EVERYTHING that's wrong with Hollywood in Mel's career.
AGUIRRE
 
About Beatty:
Re: Heaven Can Wait -> He made that movie, a - for those days - quite big box office success, to easier get the green light on what he REALLY wanted to make. A three hour movie about a communist who dies, "Reds". After he made a huge amount of money for his studio, it was more willing to - unseen - back a movie about John Reed. Warren cut a brilliant deal to get his dream movie made. I'm guessing Julie Christie, who was his lover between 1966 and 1974, wasn't aware of the "why" behind "Heaven Can Wait".
Re: Bulworth -> I'm colored and born and raised in the US, where racism is still running rampant, be it not so out in the open as in the sixties or before. I never considered Bulworth a racist movie. Quite the opposite, Beatty did a fantastic job in showing all the raw spots in USA society and politics in particular. A brilliant comment on the degeneration of a nation.
Re: Beatty, the actor -> I feel he has been grossly underrated as an actor. When you watch all his work and compare it to so called "actors" of today, he can act circles around most of them. I guess in the earlier days, his image as pretty boy and Casanova, obscured his talent. Too bad. I'm glad to see that in his old age he's finally getting recognition he deserves by the many "life time achievement awards" he's been getting in the past few years.
 
look, it came on the tv, warren beatty played a middle aged white politician who'd decided to hang with the blacks - all of whom dance all the time and are sexy - eventually his agenda becomes one of utopia through multiracial sexual congress - how was I to know it wasn't racist?
 
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