This was about as good as I’d heard. If you’re gonna film a story about broke sadsacks who slide into crime out of desperation, get caught, turn on each other and end up worse off than ever, it helps to cast charismatic comedians in the lead roles so it’s a breeze to watch and the awfulness doesn’t hit you until the end. People are saying Richard E. Grant should win the oscar for this, but I disagree – he should win the oscar for playing Jessa’s coked-out rehab buddy on Girls season 3. The first Melissa McCarthy movie I’ve seen since Go twenty years ago, though I’ve liked her on Gilmore Girls. I had a chuckle when Melissa McCarthy’s lawyer turned out to be an actual demon (Shawn from The Good Place). Heller’s follow-up to Diary of a Teenage Girl, cowritten by The Land of Steady Habits director Nicole Holofcener.

Picked this up at Strand, opened to a random page in The Player chapter and decided I need it – then thought I’d better watch Withnail & I before reading. Hilarious, fun book about Richard’s travails acting in Withnail & I, Warlock, Henry and June, LA Stories, Hudson Hawk, The Player, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Age of Innocence and Ready to Wear, with paperback-edition epilogue bits on Portrait of a Lady, Twelfth Night, The Serpent’s Kiss and Spice World. A couple mentions of How to Get Ahead in Advertising (having already sketched out the process of working with Bruce Robinson in the Withnail chapter, he probably wanted to get on to the Hollywood stuff), a few sentences on Mountains of the Moon (its producer is insanely wealthy) and no mention at all of Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Since I never read gossipy behind-the-scenes Hollywood tales it was full of surprises for me – but Grant’s writing and humor is always the main attraction.

Lately Grant has written/directed a movie called Wah-Wah and written a diary about that – something to look forward to. Oooh and looks like there’s a novel called “By Design,” which a reviewer says is “an attempt to fictionalize all those great Hollywood experiences & stories that for legal reasons he couldn’t include” in the diaries.

One of those cult movies that you have to see over and over, or drunk, or high, or with the right friends, or at the right time in your life. I met none of the qualifictions, but sill enjoyed it quite a lot. Seems it was the Big Lebowski of its time, with the massively devoted fanbase. And I can see that now, having watched the half-hour bonus feature on the DVD, playing key scenes and lines again, giving me a second look. Certainly the performances and dialogue (when I could make it out) are absurdly good, which probably makes this an endlessly rewatchable movie.

The key performers are Richard E. “Kafka” Grant and Paul McGann (Alien 3, Ken Russell’s The Rainbow) as unemployed actor roommates who go on holiday, Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter‘s uncle) as Grant’s homosexual relative who lends them his cottage then shows up with designs on McGann, and Ralph Brown (played a stoner again in The Boat That Rocked, also in The Hit) as the ultimate pothead, a dubious friend of the two leads.

Robinson dropped off the face of the earh after the early 90’s, but is reportedly back with Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary – from working with Ralph Steadman on Withnail to adapting Hunter S. Thompson.

Not gonna say too much except that I was hella impressed by this movie. It’s the sort of high-society period piece I usually stay away from, but with balls-out film technique and beautiful cinematography.

Swell, stringy music by Elmer Bernstein (Sweet Smell of Success, every 80’s comedy, Far From Heaven). Beautiful opening titles by Saul Bass. Shot by Michael Ballhaus (The Departed, Quiz Show, tons of Fassbinder) and edited by Powell’s widow. Production designer worked with Fellini and Pasolini, costumer (who won the film’s only oscar) worked with Ruiz, Gilliam, Leone and Fellini, and the set decorator worked on RoboCop 3 and The Lathe of Heaven.

Glad to see macaws and peacocks. Noticed a Samuel Morse painting that I’ve seen at the High. Spent a whole scene staring at the actors’ clothes and the surrounding paintings, thinking about the color combinations. Distracting but very brief cameo by Scorsese as a wedding photographer. Playful transitions, irises, fades to color, rear projection and some super matte work.

The story, okay I might not have given it my full attention because of the colors and the irises, but fully modern man Daniel Day-Lewis is paired with innocent traditional girl Winona Ryder, but then he falls for fiery scandalous Michelle Pfeiffer instead. Eventually DDL is so widely suspected of having an affair with Pfeiffer that he may as well have – but never did. Lots of unspoken thoughts going on, DDL/Ryder’s marriage in the 20-years-later epilogue seems like the Crane Wife, like society would fly apart if they ever spoke what’s on their minds. All the actors very good – I thought Pfeiffer stood out, but the academy preferred Ryder. Great to see Geraldine Chaplin, looking good a decade after Love on the Ground, though she had very little to say or do. Richard Grant played as much of a villain as the film had, a sideways-smiling scandal-slinger, and Jonathan Pryce showed up towards the end as a Frenchman (dunno why, with all the opulence on display, Scorsese couldn’t afford an actual Frenchman).

Appropriate to watch this right after the Michael Powell movies, given Scorsese’s love for Powell’s films. I wouldn’t have guessed the fight scenes in Raging Bull were influenced by The Red Shoes ballet before I heard it in the DVD commentary. Also appropriate to watch this soon after Orlando and soon before The Piano, a sort of 1993 oscar-campaign review.

Boring movie about two white guys competing to be the first white guys to find the source of the Nile. Richard Burton (Bergin of nothing major) and John Speke (Glen of the last two Resident Evil movies) are on an expedition together in the 1850’s which is badly thwarted by angry Africans. They eventually return, Burton is injured and has to return home early, so Speke gets the glory for discovering the source. The two of ’em fight it out back at home for a while, plan a public debate to settle their stories, but Speke shoots himself on the day of. Burton was later a diplomat, knew a ton of languages, snuck into Mecca and translated “Arabian Nights” and the “Kama Sutra”… interesting guy. Fiona Shaw (H. Swank’s horrible mother in The Black Dahlia) plays his love interest/wife, and Richard Grant (How To Get Ahead In Advertising) plays someone or other.

Burton writing:
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Speke in trouble:
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Grant:
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“Masturbating much?”
“Constantly! I have a talking boil on my neck.”

I think I was supposed to watch Withnail & I first, since it’s the one that got all the bonus features on the Criterion disc, but I felt like starting with this one. Somebody I know has warned me about these two movies once… can’t remember who, but anyway I liked this just fine, and will check out Withnail sometime.

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A usually-funny comedy about the advertising business. Dude is high-power ad exec until one troubling assignment to come up with a slogan for a zit cream. He has such trouble that he starts to question the entire practice of advertising… and that’s when a talking boil shows up on his neck, representing his bad ad-man self. It eventually takes over the body (with added mustache) with a good-guy-within boil on HIS neck. A little more gross than the usual angel/devil on your shoulder, but same idea. More anarchist (or communist) speeches (by the good anti-ad-man persona) than in most films. Remember the bizarre animated lovebirds, too.

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Writer/director Bruce Robinson (also wrote The Killing Fields) put together a good comedy, with an excellent lead performance by Richard Grant (Karaoke, some latter Altmans, and Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life).

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Movie feels not like an advertisement but like a political attack, like a speech, but without the actual speeches interrupting the comic flow of things. Energetic and fun(ny), worth watching for sure.

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Movies: now more than ever!

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Maybe I’ve seen The Player enough times that I don’t really need to write about it. One of the only movies that I like Tim Robbins in (besides Mystic River, Shawshank Redemption, and presumably Howard the Duck).

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Things I forgot:
Whoopi Goldberg as the smartass detective
The Swedish artist who Robbins picks up was the dead guy’s girlfriend
Dead guy was Vincent D’onofrio
The author and his brother as the excited pitch men at the end

The only other place I’ve seen Robbins’ cute coworker / ex-girlfriend is Happiness, although she’s been on TV recently.

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Katy liked the movie but not the character.

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