Category Archives: Film & TV
Today marks the premiere of the new movie ‘Mr. Holmes’ starring Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes. A multitude of actors that have portrayed Holmes through the years, from Nicholas Rowe to Robert Downey Jr. to Benedict Cumberbatch, and in his book, Sherlock Holmes FAQ, Dave Thompson has picked his favorite — Basil Rathbone. Here’s an excerpt from Sherlock Holmes FAQ in which talks about the first, and in Thompson’s eyes, the best Holmes on screen:
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 13, 1892—that is, in the same month as “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” brought the first volume of Sherlock Holmes stories to an end in The Strand magazine—Philip St. John Basil Rathbone was the son of a mining engineer, Edgar, and a violinist, Anna.
His filmography includes starring roles in such well-remembered epics as David Copperfield, A Tale of TwoCities, Anna Karenina, Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Last Days of Pompeii, Son of Frankenstein, and The Mark of Zorro. But his crowning glory,at least in terms of his future reputation, arrived in 1939, when he was cast as Sherlock Holmes in 20th Century Fox’s upcoming production of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Still regarded among the definitive retellings of Holmes’s best-known adventure, the movie was only ever intended as a one-off. Its success, however, prompted the studio to swiftly follow up with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a movie ostensibly based upon William Gillette’s original play but scarcely recognizable in any form. Indeed, Rathbone’s second Holmes movie retains only a handful of that earlier piece’s characteristics—a bit of subplot, a couple of characters, and a nice piece of sparring between Holmes and Moriarty. Like so many of Rathbone’s performances, however, his very presence overcomes any attempt to contextualize the story in terms of the original Holmes; he is just such a great actor, with such a formidable grasp on the role, that one is instantly sucked into this tale of fiendish ne’er-do-welling, while admiring the fresh insights into a genuinely Holmesian mind that it delivers.
It is The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, for instance, that introduces moviegoers to the detective’s attempts to discover the most potent insecticide ever known; having trapped some bluebottles inside a brandy glass, he is now plucking his violin at them, “observing the reaction on the common housefly of the chromaticscale.” It is his belief—or, at least, hope—that somewhere within the range of notes, there will be one that will strike such horror into the heart of the pest that it will leave the room directly.
Who was your favorite Holmes? How does Ian McKellen measure up? Let us know in the comments section!
Seinfeld FAQ is now available from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books! Within the text, Nicholas Nigro includes many lists, including the one below ranking underrated Seinfeld episodes. Do you agree with this list? Leave a comment below letting us know if you think the list is spot on or if there are some episodes that should be added/removed!
The Not Necessarily Top Ten Underrated Seinfeld Episodes
10. “The Doodle,” where George agonized over whether a woman’s sketch of him was a good or bad sign vis-à-vis a relationship.
9. “The Cheever Letters,” where Susan Ross’s father’s big secret—a longtime, passionate affair with writer John Cheever—was unmasked.
8. “The Pen,” which found Jerry and Elaine in Florida visiting the Seinfelds and learning entirely too much about Jack Klompus’s “astronaut pen.”
7. “The Pony Remark,” frequently considered the episode that first established the Seinfeld benchmark in humor.
6. “The Dinner Party,” where the gang’s determined mission was to procure a chocolate babka and a bottle of wine for a party they were all attending.
5. “The Parking Space,” which considered the urban conundrum of who has the right to street parking space, someone backing in—like George—or someone pulling in nose first.
4. “The Apology,” where George testily bristled over not having received—from his vantage point—a well-deserved “Step Nine” apology from a recovering alcoholic.
3. “The Junior Mint,” where a piece of Kramer’s candy fell into the open body cavity of Elaine’s former boyfriend during a major operation.
2. “The Pilot,” where Jerry and George’s sitcom pilot was at long last cast and shot.
1. “The Abstinence,” where George transformed into a genius, an Elaine a blithering idiot, while they were both abstaining from sex.
Dale Sherman, author of Quentin Tarantino FAQ, provides us with a fan-fiction post exploring what might have been if Arlene had survived in Tarantino’s Death Proof.
Two Inches Down – Saving Arlene in Tarantino’s Death Proof
by Dale Sherman
When writing about Death Proof (2007) in the manuscript for the Quentin Tarantino FAQ, I started writing my own alternate version of the film. Oh, sure, that’s a neat thing to do as a fan; but for the author of a book discussing Tarantino? Here I am telling readers about the history of and ramifications facing a movie and suddenly I go all fanboy on everyone. Fortunately, I saw that I was heading down a … well, not a dangerous road, but a rather useless one for the book – who wants to pay to read fan-fiction, after all – and edited the material out soon after finishing the chapter.
Still, the things that bugged me a bit as a viewer kept rolling around in my head, as I know it does for a certain number of Tarantino fans who never have taken to the film as they have to most of his others. We spend half the film with extremely irritating characters who get bumped off, only to spend even more time with a new group of characters re-enacting the first part of the film. Could there have been a better way of handling it? Why bring our old friend Sheriff McGraw in for exposition that doesn’t really mean much to the rest of the film? Why are we introduced to other movie people, including two stunt-women, who are making a movie in essentially the middle of nowhere but don’t know about Stuntman Mike? What is he doing there anyway? Is he working on the film with everyone else? If so, wouldn’t everyone be creeped out that the stuntman who killed several women with his “death proof” car is working on the picture? The community of stunt people is rather tightly knit, wouldn’t Stuntman Mike be like the John Wayne Gacy of stunt-people? Known, hated, and avoided at all costs by everyone else in the profession? The stunt Zoe performs is neat and nail-biting, but could there have been a better way to get her on the hood of the car rather than “this will be cool”? And after all that, the film’s final image may be satisfying, but it seems almost too quick as well.
As I state in the book, the setup of the women partying in the bar and then being wiped out is obviously a type of Psycho influence on the storyline. In Hitchcock’s film, we’re supposed to side with Marion and even come to identify in some ways with Norman Bates as they have dinner and discuss their problems nearly a third of the way into the film. Then Marion dies and the character the audience identified with is gone, leaving us to take on new characters and go into a new direction with the film.
Same here with Stuntman Mike. We’re supposed to like him a bit in the first half of the film and we’re supposed to feel a connection between him and Arlene (Tarantino has stated he purposefully filmed scenes in such a way to make the audience see Arlene as the girl who survives to the end of the slasher film). Then he kills her off and – boom – the audience has to readjust to new character (Zoe Bell and the gang), while knowing Mike deserves to have something nasty happen to him for what he did. Yet we see that his new car isn’t exactly “death proof” and then there’s the odd way he pranks the women and then heads off as if that would be it, instead of the stalking deaths he caused in the first half of the film. And while we know that he’s a killer, why would the new group of women suddenly be out to kill him? Sure, he’s a jerk as far as they know, and dangerous perhaps, but they have no way of knowing that they need to get him. Because of that, their “roaring rampage” seems to make them out to be crazier than Mike.
Yet what if things had been different?
In the scene midway through the film, where Stuntman Mike kills the women in the other car, we see Arlene lower her head right before impact. The wheel of the car then comes flying through and gets her at the tip of her head, snapping her head back and does a lot more damage as it kills her.
Now suppose that Arlene had lowered her head just an inch or two further down? What if that tire had gone through and missed her by “that much”? Furthermore, with it missing her, there’s not only a possibility that she would have survived, but let’s go one step further – what if she emerged alive and without major injuries?
Here’s Stuntman Mike living, as McGraw states in more provocative terms, his sex life through his “death proof” car. He gets injured, but he’s still the survivor. But now there’s Arlene, the woman who he talks into dancing for him and being her own person, walking away from the wreck. She’s “death proof” without the need of a car. How would that affect Mike? More so, how would Arlene be affected in knowing that Mike intentionally killed everyone with his stunt car?
McGraw can’t be involved, but he can certainly put the thoughts into Arlene’s head that Mike is a deviate who killed her friends “for fun” and will likely do so again. Meanwhile, as in the film, Mike is all banged up and needs to stay in the hospital for several months. Arlene can’t do anything to him there, but she can plot her revenge for when the time comes. With this, you can still bring in Zoe Bell and the other stunt people. Have Arlene train with them to get a better understanding of stunt work, how Mike would build such a car, and how to counteract him when she (or they) get a chance. Sure, in reality there’s no way she’d become an expert at any of that within the six months or so Mike is recuperating, but this is the movies after all. You can even throw in Sheriff McGraw with his own thoughts and actions to help catch Mike (little knowing that Arlene has more in mind than simply catching him “in the act”).
In order words, the movie no longer is simply a twist on the slasher film, but one on the revenge thriller. You avoid the odd chase at the end of the film where Mike puts a scare into everyone and then seems to be happy to drive off into the sunset. Instead, we have a cat-and-mouse game between the obsessed killer, Stuntman Mike, and the obsessed avenger, Arlene. Will she push too far and endanger everyone or will he get his chance to claim his “death proof” girl? Will the others try to get her to do the right thing instead of simply get her revenge? Eventually it would all wind up in the car chase as seen in the film, but you could then add in the extra ‘70s spice of a sheriff in pursuit along with them, just like in so many Hal Needham (Smokey and the Bandit) type films of the period, along with the uncertainty of who is actually out to get who. Imagine them working on a film with that stunt on the hood of the car, but with Mike as the other stunt person who has now been pushed too far and wants to see them dead. They go “off-script” by continuing the chase past the filming point and into the main roads, while McGraw is in on the chase, trying to bring them all to justice.
I’m not going to kid anyone. I’m sure that many reading this may think that it’s a bad idea, and certainly that what we got is better than what I’m suggesting. After all, there’s no way anyone is going to say, “let’s remake the film your way, Dale!” Still, it’s hard to not look at all the brilliant work put into that film and wonder what “could have been.” That shows that there was certainly something there worth watching in the first place and therefore not the failure that some make it out to be.
And as for the above fanboy rantings? Well, it is a blog, and it is for free. Simply an added bonus for the fans who want to read more about the film and others done by Tarantino in the Quentin Tarantino FAQ. Just be reassured that you won’t find me going off-track like this in the pages of the book, no matter how fun it is to do so here.
Applause Books recently released American Neo Noir: The Movie Never Ends! This excerpt from the book provides a definition of the genre:
Classic Becomes Neo
The movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on.
Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlights people, living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night.
Steve Perry & Neal Schon
After many years, decades actually, of critical debate about what constitutes a film noir, the issue is still not entirely resolved. For us, film noir was never a genre but an American film movement that was defined by style as much as content, which began around the same time as World War II and ended just twenty years later.
That time frame, at least, is now almost universally accepted. The classic period of film noir spans the years in which American filmmakers created and sustained the cycle over the course of more than four hundred feature films. It began just after 1940 with The Maltese Falcon and wound down around 1960 or shortly after Touch of Evil (1958). Certainly there were prototypes and precursors of the movement going back to the acme of the gangster genre in the early 1930s. And there were many stragglers, late entries by Sam Fuller and other independent directors, but before the mid-1960s film noir’s classic period had run its course.
There is no precise moment or movie that marks the beginning of neonoir. For us, neo-noir is more genre than movement, a mimicking of the style and content of the classic period, the best early example of which is John Boorman’s 1967 Point Blank, an adaptation of The Hunter, part of a postwar, hard-boiled series of “Parker” novels about the criminal underworld by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark. Like its antecedent and from the first, neonoir would also be tied closely to a literary movement, riffs on the work of Hammett, Chandler, and McCoy, starting with the gritty exploration of sociopathy by Jim Thompson, the smug mysogyny of Spillane’s Mike Hammer and then a next generation that included Westlake, Ross Macdonald, and Elmore Leonard.
While such novelists pushed their violent protagonists even further down Chandler’s mean streets dark with something more than night, the neo-noir genre was defined by screenwriters and directors who had grown up watching movies during the classic period. Some of the early neo-noir were “retro-noir,” narratives set in the not-to-distant past, whose characters wore period costumes and drove vintage cars, such as the private detectives Jake Gittes in Chinatown (1974), the classic-period icon Robert Mitchum as an older and more fatigued Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975), or Det. Tom Spellacy investigating a fictionalized “Black Dahlia” in True Confessions (1981). The multinational creative personnel of a movie like Chinatown written by American Robert Towne and directed by Polish émigré Roman Polanski, reenacted such classic-period relationships as Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder crafting Double Indemnity or Herman Mankiewicz and Robert Siodmak on Christmas Holiday (both 1944).
The most self-conscious of the early neo-noirs came from writer/directors. Walter Hill—who had previously scripted the 1972 paean Hickey & Boggs where old-school PIs discover that “there’s nothing left of this profession…it’s all over, it’s not about anything”—infused 1978’s The Driver with a noir style that echoed Kubrick’s The Killing (1957) and De Toth’s Crime Wave (1954). Hill’s characters are so pointedly archetypal that they do not even have names: they are simply the Driver, the Detective, and the Player. Three years later Body Heat (1981), Lawrence Kasdan’s homage to Double Indemnity, set a new standard for femme fatales. By 1987 the double-crosses and twisted psychology in David Mamet’s House of Games (1987) fully evoked its creator’s intent: “I am very familiar with noir…and I love it. I tried to be true.”
At the height of the classic period individual noir films transcended personal and generic outlook and reflected the cultural preoccupations of America no matter where the filmmakers were born. From the late 1970s to present, in a “neo-noir” period, many of the productions that again create the noir mood, whether in remakes or new narratives, have been undertaken by filmmakers cognizant of a heritage and intent on placing their own interpretation on it. As the various interviews conducted by scholar Todd Erickson and reproduced in his thesis where the term neo-noir was coined affirm, most of the filmmakers approach neo-noir with a conscious, expressive intent.
If neo-noir is to some extent, as in the classic period, America’s stylized vision of itself, one might expect a cynicism made even harsher by decades of cold war, nuclear peril, fiscal uncertainty, the threat of terrorism, millennial dystopia, and cultural upheaval. While the emphasis may have shifted among these social realities, the outpouring of films has continued. The actual results remain mixed. One aspect of film noir that many filmmakers have chosen to underscore is its forlorn romanticism, the need to find love and honor in a new society that venerates only sex and money. Many others have followed alternative narrative paths blazed in the classic period, and as a result any overview such as this needs a new “family tree” to trace through the titles. Of course, as with critic Raymond Durgnat’s original essay, many of the categories overlap and intersect, and many titles crossover several branches.
Corrigan’s Corner: A Q&A with Pro Wrestling FAQ author Brian Solomon
Brian Solomon has “toasted champagne cocktails with Ric Flair all night in Manchester, England; hung out in ‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie’s basement while wearing his house slippers; and once got stuck in a limo with Vince McMahon for three hours and lived to tell the tale.”
I was lucky enough to hear that tale while chatting with Solomon for an hour regarding his new book,PRO WRESTLING FAQ. Covering the carnie origins to modern day sports-entertainment, Solomon’s tome is the definitive guide to everything one must know about the history, athletes, and appeal of professional wrestling.
John Corrigan: With so much material covered, was there anything you had to cut from the book?
Brian Solomon: “I cut a total of about seven different chapters. I was going to do a chapter on, I’m a little biased, but the history of wrestling magazines. I was going to do a chapter on some of the more well-known wrestling arenas around the world. Also kind of a glossary of moves, something on wrestling books, wrestling movies, all that merchandise kind of stuff. And getting into all the different pay-per-views. But I had to decide what people wanted the most in there.”
JC: I’m glad with what you stuck with especially the chapters on the early days of professional wrestling. Before you began researching, how much of the early 20th century history did you know?
BS: “Well, thank you. Ever since I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the whole history of the business. And if you were following the stuff I did when I worked for WWE, you could probably tell I was one of the more historically minded writers they had. So I’m not going to sit here and say that everything in that book was off the top of my head, but I will say one of the reasons it took such a short amount of time to write is because I did have a lot of information that I already knew. So the process became just verifying that information.
Along the way I did find out things I never knew about and some of those things came from the interviews I did with just amazing people. Mike Chapman, he’s the number one authority on people like Gotch and Hackenschmidt and Joe Stecher, it was fascinating to pick his brain.”
JC: What was your favorite chapter to write?
BS: “It’s funny that you mention how much you love the Gotch/Hackenschmidt chapter because that was probably my favorite one to write. That might be why you like it so much because my passion for the subject really came through. I was so interested in portraying this rivalry between these two guys that I put so much effort into it. I even had a detail in there about how Frank Gotch on the night before his big rematch with Hackenschmidt in 1911 when he’s defending the title at Comiskey Park…well, the night before he went to Wrigley Field and caught a baseball game there. So I went through the effort of finding out who the hell played there on that night in 1911 and found out it was a double header.
In my head, I wanted this chapter, this whole book really, to read and sound as if it was a Ken Burns documentary. I loved doing that part, and I don’t want to say enjoyed because it’s morbid in a way, but I was really fascinated by the chapter I did on some of the scandals in the business. I didn’t want to make the whole book like that because I wasn’t trying to sensationalize and cash in all this negative crap, but you can’t do a book on all of the wrestling business and not touch on some of the scandals. It’s the stuff that’s urban legend in wrestling history and some fans may have never heard of it.”
Read the rest of Part I here
Read Part II here
Read Part III here
Dale Sherman, author of Quentin Tarantino FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Original Reservoir Dog, was recently interviewed on MrMedia.com! Watch the interview here:
Quentin Tarantino is a man who came to Hollywood and didn’t break the rules so much as make plain that he didn’t even notice them. Making the films he wanted to see, Tarantino broke through with Reservoir Dogs in 1992 and then cemented his reputation in 1994 with the release of Pulp Fiction. As his fame grew, he spread his love for movies that are far from commonplace through his promotion of older films and theaters and by reviving the stalled careers of actors such as John Travolta, Pam Grier, and David Carradine.
Quentin Tarantino FAQ examines the movies directed by Tarantino, the influences on his work, and the inspiration he gave to others. There are also chapters on certain recurring elements in his films, from fake “product placement” to the music, actors, and even cinematic moments used. The book also reviews his work in television, the articles written about him or by him over the years, his acting career, his public battles, and some of the projects he abandoned along the way. It all comes together to tell the story of a man who forged his own unique path and helped shape the way movies are made today.
Today is Peter Capaldi’s 57th birthday! In honor of the latest Doctor’s birthday, Doctor Who FAQ author Dave Thompson has written a birthday post, detailing his thoughts on Capaldi’s portrayal of the famous television character.
PETER CAPALDI’S BIRTHDAY
by Dave Thompson
The odds were always stacked against the Twelfth Doctor.
For a start, was he the Twelfth Doctor? Even before John Hurt’s “War Doctor” came along to throw out the numbering once and for all, the very fact that the tenth had been doubled was already throwing the chronology a bit.
Add to this the fact that Peter Capaldi’s reign not only followed that of the bafflingly popular Matt Smith’s, but also the show’s own (frankly untoppable) fiftieth birthday celebrations; add to that, the continued sense that show runner Steven Moffat has now switched his default setting to Unnecessarily Convoluted Storytelling mode; and add to that, the mold-breaking emergence of the first Doctor in a decade who isn’t simply older than the show, he’s also older than any of his predecessors (William Hartnell was 55 when he debuted the role; Capaldi was 56) . . . that’s a lot of baggage to carry.
As he commences filming on his second season, however, Capaldi has already conquered the most important task of all. He has convinced us that he is the Doctor, and not just within the realms of his personal, vociferous, fan club (the fate of at least two, and possible four of his predecessors).
A performance that is uniquely his own has also, and utterly without contradiction, been described as an amalgam of every Doctor who came first; First’s irascibility; Second’s humor; Third’s occasional resemblance to the magician who performed at your best friend’s fifth birthday party; Four’s uniquely alien outlook; Five’s . . . well, we’re still waiting for five to show up. But Six’s irascibility, Seven’s sense of mystery; Eight’s . . . okay, eight is still absent as well. But Eccleston’s toughness, Tennant’s charm and Smith’s flapping silliness can all be extracted from Capaldi’s DNA; and he has required all those qualities, too.
It is redundant to suggest that Moffat’s career as a writer is locked in irreversible decline, particularly where Doctor Who is concerned. But the truth is . . . true. The first three stories that he wrote for the series, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances two-parter, The Girl In The Fireplace and Blink are routinely, and rightly, regarded as not simply the best tales told since the show returned in 2005, but among the best in its entire fifty year lifespan.
Subsequent creations could not maintain that quality, and often seemed set on upending it altogether; while the man who cast such razor-sharp eyes across simple human relationships via earlier creations Joking Apart, Coupling (both, tellingly, nominally sitcoms) and Jekyll is also responsible for foisting upon us some of the most cringe inducing romantic interests of the modern age: less Doctor Who, and more Who Cares?
That current companion Clara’s dalliance with “PE teacher” Danny Pink represents the most stultifying of them all was possibly the most heart-stoppingly dull of them all. Perhaps there are sound psychological reasons why the last ten year’s worth of Doctor’s companions have chosen to fall for the dullest blade in the knife box, but at least Mickey (Rose’s put-upon paramour) and Rory (Amy Pond’s pet rock) came good in the end, while even Donna’s ill-fated fiancé at least had the cojones to be working for the opposition all along.
The watery Pink, on the other hand, existed solely to provide the Doctor with an opportunity to indulge in further Mickey/Ricky mix-ups, this time by insisting that the math teacher taught PE; to push Clara into a series of emotional crises that were the least believable element of the entire series (and in a run that included the Moon being revealed as an egg; the legend of Robin Hood as an alien-induced hallucination; and trees as global fire-fighters, that’s quite an achievement); and to die, which we will get to in a moment.
Even more damagingly, not once were we offered any indication as to why Clara should care so much for the man. His persona is seen from just two perspectives – the Doctor’s scorn and disdain (which, unlike Ten’s constant mockery of Mickey, was not feigned), and his own tiresome PTSD induced sense of self-pity. Not once are we given even a hint as to why Clara should care any more for this bullying, over-possessive lunk than a fish would for a bicycle. Only once the season finale passed by did we understand why Pink was even part of the story to begin with.
It was so they could remake that whole Ianto/Cyber-girlfriend storyline from an old episode of Torchwood, of course. That, and the now inevitable insistence upon imbibing finales with a tissue box full of wearying lachrymosity. As if the death of Osgood, UNIT’s inhaler-wielding, scarf-toting hardcore queen of nerdish delight, was not shattering enough for the average viewer. As if the return of the Master, in the form of a fresh Mistress of Uber-camp Madness, was not breathtaking enough for the most trigger-happy channel-surfer. As if… as if we cared.
Capaldi triumphed over all of these things; and so did Clara, at least when she wasn’t being shoehorned into awkward clinches (and, via the Christmas special, even more awkward flashbacks) with the Pink thing.
Indeed, no matter how high Capaldi soared as the season progressed, Clara soared likewise. Unquestionably, her sheer force of character convinced us that, at last, the Doctor had unearthed a force of nature capable of equalling even Rose (or Jo Grant, for any older viewers still watching). And capable, too, of delivering lines with such beguiling intensity that an entire generation is destined to melt every time they hear the words “run, you clever boy . . .” Or see a soufflé.
As an overall series, it wasn’t the best. At least three episodes (Into the Dalek, Kill the Moon, In the Forest of the Night) rank among the weakest deployed since the show returned, and it may or may not be coincidental that two of those were at least partially stymied by the frankly absurd science that underpinned them. Yes, we know it’s all make-believe, but if you’re setting a story on what claims to be the Earth that the rest of us live on, then make sure that basic physics don’t undermine the whole thing.
Of the others, Flatline, Time Heist and Mummy on the Orient Express were bold enough to withstand multiple rewatchings; Deep Breath was rewarding upon subsequent viewings; Robot of Sherwood was this year’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship; The Caretaker was a glorious romp; Listen was a frankly terrifying notion that writer Moffat then castrated by trying too hard; and then it was time for the season finale.
Dark Water/Death In Heaven was the two-parter in which we finally learned the reason why past stories had been interrupted by Mary Poppins, before Poppins herself became . . . Well, cynics could point out that Missy is less a reincarnation of the Master than she is a pantomime revision of Moriarty, and there is truth to that. But she is also (like Moriarty) one of Moffat’s all-time classic villains; frighteningly insane, incalculably evil, and absolutely unmissable. The moment when she sweeps herself so elegantly backwards and calls out for “Doctor Chang” . . . if you didn’t have a Demented Nanny fixation before that, you do now.
And Capaldi? Capaldi matched her every step of the way, to emerge as strong a Doctor as he ought to be, and as likable a Doctor as he clearly doesn’t care to be. And, even better, unlike his last three regenerations, the man can’t even flirt properly.
Although you know that on the playground the following day, once the cries of ”exterminate” and “delete” had been exhausted, more than one juvenile would-be Lothario zoomed in on the girl of his dreams and declared “you look nice. Have you washed?”
Happy birthday, Peter Capaldi. And happy birthday, Doctor. May there be many, many more.
Today is Quentin Tarantino’s 52nd birthday! Dale Sherman, author of Quentin Tarantino FAQ, has contributed a blog in honor of the famous director’s birthday!
A Generation on the QT
by Dale Sherman
So, here we are – Quentin Tarantino, the iconic movie director, is turning 52. I can’t say anything about getting older – certainly not any slams about being able to get into movie at half-price now – I’ll be turning 51 myself within the next month. We’re all getting older, and while I’m fine with that, I’m not exactly jumping up and down about it.
Speaking of which, when writing my book about the director, Quentin Tarantino FAQ, I do admit to some kinship to Tarantino for the close approximation of our ages. Perhaps that misguided; after all, I’m not a movie director, an Academy Award winner, and I’ve never written a script that has been made into a film. But I felt that closeness none the less. And in a way that I think is one of the reasons his films are popular with a certain audience that I am apart.
No, I’m not talking about being a geek here. Sure, Tarantino has been obvious, even stubbornly proud of his background as a movie and comic book fan. As discussed in the book, he even at one time considered attempting to turn the Marvel superhero character Power-Man into a film, and most fans (if not general readers) know of his love for old martial art films and bloody, whacked-out action films. But that isn’t quite what I mean here.
You see, Tarantino and I – and many others around the same age – came to our understanding of the world, and in particular the world of entertainment, at the same time. The 1970s. Like it or hate it; having lived through it or only heard about it; it was an incredible period for kids to grow up. There was this in retrospect an inexplicable freedom in what we got to see and do, just in the movies alone. Tarantino has the drop on me by a year, but I too was a kid that looked at those newspaper ads in the paper and saw all types of twisted films playing at the drive-ins that filled my imagination with plots far more frightening than what I eventually saw on the screen when seeing the films later on video. Television ads in local programming would be pretty loose as well, and it was not unusual to see an ad for horror films like It’s Alive! or Ghetto Freaks while watching Gilligan’s Island in the afternoon.
Plus television itself was much freer, with PBS showing no objection to profanity or nudity (who didn’t remember seeing Valerie Perrine in the all-together in their 1973 production of Steambath, or in the later run of I, Claudius?) and even controversial language would pop up once in a while on network programming as well. Things were discussed that were never brought up on television or in the movies before, and there was even an attempt in society to legitimize pornography as something people could see in good health (that didn’t last very long, but it was there). All type of oddball things were being recognized in the media and we as young teenagers were the first to see it all.
And, bizarrely, we saw it all in the most innocent way possible. Most things seemed to have a gloss of “brand new” products, spiffy and weirdly wholesome in a way that disappeared as the 1980s moved in and we started seeing the ugly side of things that looked so good the decade before. Suddenly, drugs killed. Porn stars died in suicide or OD, Words hurt and could not be examined, but buried. Freedom was dangerous and needed to be restricted to upper-class white people at best. Even mixing music genres – a staple of early 1970s radio stations – became strictly regulated through the corporate take-over of the airwaves in the 1970s. Innocent was not so much gone, but bought out because it allowed people to do things for fun instead of for a price.
And we lost that. The kids that came later didn’t have anything to lose, because they never got to experience the power of freedom that was the 1970s. But those of us a few years older still remembered those moments. Which is why I feel a kinship with Tarantino. We may not have gone down the same paths, but the emotional elements of his body of work speaks to those kids from the 1970s. When we see Travolta as a dancing hitman in Pulp Fiction, we’re reminded of his work in Saturday Night Fever; a zoom on Uma Thurman while the theme from Ironside plays reminds us of the kung-fu movies we grew up watching in theaters and on television; stars of our past returning to leading roles in his films, like Pam Grier in Foxy Brown, merely remind us of how cool they were and still are. Words are used that were okay to dissect, even laugh at, in the 1970s that we’re supposed to feel shame in even discussing today.
You can see it in those films of the 1970s – things appear there from major studios that say to us today, “they’d never get away with it now.” We lost that, but we can still see it through the prism of Tarantino’s films – that reflection, that memory of what made the 1970s so cool.
As I said, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m trying to see a bit of myself in Tarantino due to having dug so deep into his history when writing Quentin Tarantino FAQ. But I can’t help thinking that I’m as close to the truth as I am in age to Mr. Tarantino. He’s of my generation, and I think that is one reason why his films reach so many like me today.
I can only hope he still has some more stories to tell us before he hangs it up.
Leonard Pierce, author of If You Like the Sopranos… talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” about the portrayal of villains and criminals in television! Listen to their discussion about the rise of the antagonist!
If You Like the Sopranos… is the first book that starts with Tony and the gang in their humble homes in the Garden State and explores the astonishing amount of great films, TV shows, and other pop-culture wonders that any fan of the Sopranos will love. From The Godfather andBonnie and Clyde to The Wire, to lesser-known noirs, Jimmy Cagney classics, contemporary HBO dramas, Martin Scorsese’s best work, and even the rock’n’roll that inspired the classicSopranos soundtrack, this is the one book that every fan needs if he or she ever has to go on the lam.
Quentin Tarantino FAQ has arrived! In honor of the book’s recent release, Dale Sherman has released a blog post exploring Samuel L. Jackson’s involvement in Quentin Tarantino films.
Samuel L. Jackson and his Journey through the Quentin Tarantino Universe
It is not uncommon for certain directors to gather a group of actors around him or herself to be used again and again in their films. Some of Hitchcock’s best films star either Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant, for example. Martin Scorsese used Robert DeNiro in several films before switching over to Leonardo DiCaprio in more recent years. An Ingmar Bergman movie is bound to have either Max von Sydow or Liv Ullmann, or both, turn up in it. It’s certainly no different with Quentin Tarantino, who has kept a number of people working with him over the years both in front of and behind the camera.
It’s understandable, especially in cases where directors such as Quentin Tarantino guide the entire production and steer the scripting themselves. They have a vision of how the film should look, and with that comes how they want the actors to perform and sound. Anyone that can’t do that certainly would have little chance of returning, while those that do will have already established a working relationship with the director. As for Tarantino, he and others have made clear over the years that he likes an actor who understands the rhythm of his writing, and who can propel that dialogue to another level with their performance. Some can at least fake it well enough to pass his judgment, while a small handful seem to be in sync with what Tarantino has in his head.
There have been performers that have been used here and there – in fact, the cast for The Hateful Eight has enough returning actors to Tarantino’s movie universe (Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, James Parks, a handful of actors that appeared in his previous movie, Django Unchained) that it’s almost a class reunion. Yet one of the most prolific of these actors has been Samuel L. Jackson, with seven appearances in Tarantino-related movies. Nearly eight, in fact. And even a couple of times where the parts originally written for Jackson ended up not being the parts he ultimately played.
The Quentin Tarantino FAQ book goes into more details about the various movies with which the writer/director has been involved over the years, as well as other aspects of Tarantino’s career. Such as exactly how Samuel Jackson has continued to thread his acting career through Tarantino’s films over the years.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Reservoir Dogs does not feature Jackson, although he did try out for the film. The assumption for years by way too many people was that he must have tried out for the part of Holdaway, Mr. Orange’s police contact and played by Randy Brooks in the film. Rumors also flew around that Jackson had tried out for the part of Mr. White – a part pretty much a done-deal for Harvey Keitel long before auditions began, as explained in the book.
However, in 2013, Jackson stated at a special screening of Pulp Fiction that he had actually auditioned for the role of Mr. Orange (played by Tim Roth in the film), only to leave the audition not sure if he even wanted to be in the resulting film if he had won the part. As he told Deadline: Hollywood after auditioning with Tarantino himself (“Samuel L. Jackson Lets Loose on Django, Tarantino, Slavery, Oscars and Gold Globes,” by Pete Hammon), “I thought he was just a really bad actor. I was like ‘Damn, these dudes are horrible.’ I look like I was overacting or hey have no judgment of what’s good and what’s not.”
After the film was released, Jackson congratulated Tarantino on the film’s success, which began the ball rolling for Tarantino to write a part in his next film specifically for the actor. But one film connected to Tarantino would introduce Jackson to Tarantino’s realm before that could happen.
True Romance (1993)
To make a long story short (but covered in more details in the Quentin Tarantino FAQ book), in the very early 1990s Tarantino had two scripts floating around Hollywood that he spent quite some time to sell – one was Natural Born Killers (1994) and the other was True Romance. It would be the money Tarantino made on the sale of the True Romance script that would help lead to the making of Reservoir Dogs, and the success of that film led straight to Pulp Fiction (1994). In the meantime, however, Tony Scott took over the reins on True Romance and hired Samuel Jackson for the short, but memorable, role of Big Don. Big Don is one of the criminals seen near the beginning of the film with Drexl (played by Gary Oldman) who argues in favor of a certain sex act before Drexl decides to end the party early by blowing Big Don and his associate away with a gun.
Jackson was already making a name for himself in Hollywood, thanks to roles in films by Spike Lee (a main reason why Jackson almost always gets interviewed by reporters when the feud between Lee and Tarantino is discussed), as well as co-star and smaller roles in movies like Jurassic Park and Patriot Games, so it’s no surprise he would turn up in a film like True Romance. Ironically, his first Tarantino-related film is the one not directed by the man, but that would soon change.
Check out the rest of Dale Sherman’s blog post here!