Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Just for the Hell of It -- Episode 32

                           Orson Welles as "Harry Lime" in The Third Man
                             (Photo courtesy of Zocalo Public Square)

If you've never seen The Third Man, you've missed out, and should rectify that oversight whenever possible. It's one of the best film noir movies ever made, suffused with post-war ambiguity and existential angst, filmed in crisp black and white back when the film industry still knew how to make the most of this highly expressionistic medium.

In his short but excellent essay Film Noir's Sympathy for the Devil, Michael Sheldon analyzes The Third Man and the enduring power of the genre to probe the darker recesses of human behavior, then and now. It's a great read, but still no substitute for seeing the movie -- so do that.

Black and white is a lost art now, and we're all the poorer for that -- so make a point to see this movie. 


Have you ever wondered how "Hollywood" actually ended up in Southern California rather than Hollywood, Florida -- or oddly enough, Flagstaff, Arizona?  Well, wonder no more, and it's actually a good story.  As a bonus, reading it will teach you (as it did me) a new and utterly useless word: metonymous.*


Now, a trio of good interviews. The first comes from KCRW's The Business, with Douglas McGrath discussing his new documentary on director Mike Nichols.  Here's the blurb from KCRW:

"Director Douglas McGrath's new HBO documentary Becoming Mike Nichols charts the rise of the legendary director of hits on stage and screen.  The film covers two interviews with Nichols, one of only 12 people in the world to win Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar -- the last of those for his second film, The Graduate.  The interviews, his last on tape, were recorded only four months before Nichols died at the age of 83."

I got a lot of Mike Nichols while growing up -- first in the many short radio comedies crafted by Nichols and Elaine May, and later in movies like The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf, and another masterpiece people tend to forget about: Catch 22.  For my money, Catch 22 is one of only two movies I've ever seen that were as good as the novels they were based on.**

It's a fascinating interview, and at twenty minutes or so, won't burn a hole in your day.

To hear from the man himself, here's an older interview with Nichols from NPR's Fresh Air -- another good one.

With his film Fury Road winning six Oscars, director George Miller has returned to the spotlight in yet another interview, this one with Elvis Mitchell on his weekly show The Treatment. Again, there's a some overlap with other interviews he's recently done, but there's enough new stuff
 to make it worth your while.  


Yes, I dissed the Oscars last week -- hey, tradition demands it -- but tuned in anyway and was pleasantly surprised for the first hour or so. Chris Rock was good, as always, demonstrating
 that the Oscars can indeed serve an educational ro
le in teaching Americans a new word. Lady Gaga's performance was very strong -- by far the best of the musical numbers -- and although Joe Biden might have felt out of place introducing her, that big frozen forehead of his was right at home among all those buffed-puffed-and-Botoxed faces in the audience.  As for "The Weekend," does the man have an actual name? And that hair -- it looked like he'd strapped a giant dead lobster on his head.  

There's so much about modern culture I'll never understand...

Kudos to Jenny Beavan, who had the balls to accept her Oscar dressed like a bag lady amid that glittering sea of extremely expensive custom gowns, then gave a short, sincere speech. Good for her -- and a tip of the cap to Mark Rylance, who defied Oscar tradition by neglecting to thank God, his parents, agents, managers, studio execs, wife, children, gardener, therapist, podiatrist, and life coach for helping him win that little golden man. If only more winners had followed his example.

As anticipated, the show began to sag around the 90 minute mark, and turned into a slog from then on. (Note to the Academy -- never bring children on stage again, for any reason. Ever…).  I hung in long enough to hear Leo's acceptance speech -- and for once, was glad to hear an actor reach beyond the emotion of that personal moment to so eloquently address an issue of such compelling importance to us all. I gained a lot of respect for Mr. DiCaprio last Sunday night.  

But suddenly it was 9:00, and time for The Walking Dead, so away I clicked.  Sorry, Oscars -- hold next year's show down to a couple of hours and maybe I'll stick around to the bloody end.



Given that many (if not most) of you are reading this on a smart phone  -- a useful device, but one that delivers very limited blog content -- it's safe to assume that you aren't aware of comments left by other readers on previous posts.***  That's no loss much of the time, but every now and then you miss out on a gem. In responding to this post, "Eric" told his own story of suffering under the lash of the on-set "shush":

"Yeah you gotta love the shush. On a low budget polished turd I was working on last year, there was a costume designer who always seemed to stay perched beside the director during takes in the above-the-line EZ up tent. I was grabbing some coffee at crafty (which of course was always within a foot of this same holier-than-thou EZ up.) When a cube of ice settled in the ice chest I was next to making a slight sound, she took it upon herself to quickly step out to shush me. I of course ignored her as I wasn't making so much as a mouse fart at this point, which compelled her to then start...snapping...her...fingers at me like I was a delinquent child, while breathily shouting "hey, hey!" Now by this time she was of course making much more noise with this little display than the original slight sound that sent her on the prowl to begin with, and this had absolutely nothing to do with the costume dept...but she was the director's lap dog for some reason and this was low budget shit show at it's finest. God I can't wait to finish the rest of my 30 days!"

Oh, Eric -- believe me, I have been there and feel your pain. Thanks for the story, and good luck getting those thirty days...

Metonymy  -- the use of one word to represent another.

** The other is Slaughterhouse Five.

*** And so once again I remind you cell-phone readers -- scroll to the very bottom of the page, then click the "Web View" link, and a whole new blog world will materialize before your very eyes...

No comments: