The Frame Up

phoenix confidential


Well, cigarette smokers now have one thing on their side

I can't say that I expect almost anything I see in the movies to be based in reality, but I have to admit that this story diffuses one of the cooler effects around.
Petrol lit with a cigarette? Only in the movies

...if you find yourself tied up and doused in petrol don't worry if all your assailant has is a lighted cigarette: scientists have proved you won't end up as a human fireball...

(Richard Tontarski, an expert in forensic fire at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland) began looking into the problem because arson suspects frequently claim a petrol fire was started by accident. "The person claims, 'I accidentally threw gasoline on my girlfriend, she was smoking and she burst into flames*'," he said...

To find out whether this was possible, he and colleagues experimented. They dropped burning cigarettes into trays of petrol. They sprayed a fine mist of petrol at a lighted cigarette. They even used a vacuum device to produce the higher temperature (900-950C) of a cigarette being sucked. In more than 2,000 attempts the petrol did not ignite.

Dr Tontarski can only speculate why. The layer of ash on the tobacco, perhaps, or the petrol vapour convected away from the hottest part of the cigarette.

So is he in touch with Hollywood to demand it drops the explosive movie cliche? "Actually they are pretty well aware of it. They don't care."

To be honest, I can't really say that I do either. It looks too cool on film. And even though I know that nothing's likely to happen, I still don't want to see people lighting up around a gas pump. That article didn't say anything about matches and lighters.

*(emphasis mine, because really, people use that as an excuse? And expect it to work?)

  New Post

New Post


Almost Perfect

Almost Perfect: Bad Scenes in Good Movies

Sometimes, even the greatest movies have moments that explain the existence of phrases like “gag me with a spoon”. These moments are so bad in the midst of “poetry” it it hardly seems possible, and even mere mediocrity can seem like a crime when one is brutally jerked out of temporary bliss. It may sound melodramatic, but it really sucks when you are having a great time only to have the moment die suddenly like a record dragged abruptly off the record.

Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite movies; I nearly know it by heart, I’ve read Eleanor Coppola’s Diary, watched Hearts of Darkness the documentary, read the Joseph Conrad novel, etc. But watching Apocalypse Now Redux, I am reminded of the added scene at the French Plantation, possibly one of the most boring scenes ever filmed. The movie comes to a slow, and increasing painful halt, like coming down from a high and realizing that you are going to experience the hangover before you get to pass out. It’s whiny, practically incomprehensible, and whatever point it does have was established earlier in the film. Because of this one scene I will usually just watch the original cut, which is a shame because I love some of the other added scenes, (like the second Playmate sequence.)

On the other hand, JFK is not one of my favorite films, but I found it entertaining enough. That is until I got to the final courtroom scene, which turned into a 30 minute lecture courtesy of Oliver Stone and Kevin (my voice sounds like I never finished the final stages of puberty) Costner.

It’s a movie people. Not therapy.

  New Post

New Post


The Shawshank Redemption


Get busy living or get buy dying.

That's damn right.

It's a testament to the near perfect nature of this film that I am posting about it at all.  In fact this is the 3rd entry about it that I have written, mainly because each previous version was lost to bugs in the software, and just plain old human stupidity (specifically mine, of course,) or as I choose to call it at the moment, fate. I keep accidently erasing the entry before I can publish it. Still, I keep perservering because this truly is a must see film, and not just because they air it in TNT all the time because Ted Turner got the rights cheap.

I'm convinced that this film, along with Scarface, The Godfather, The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction and Bond Films, is the male equivalent of the chick flick. I have yet to date a guy, and that includes the ones that didn't go to film school, who won't sit through this film like it's the holy grail.  Considering this is a film that runs a ridiculous length of time, features gay rape, opera, library scenes, and almost no women, that's sayong a thing or two. I'm surprised any guy can even sit politely through it. Then again, I'm not sure I'd like a guy who didn't love this film.

It's easy to see why this film is so popular, both with men and women, (and again, not because they show it all the time).

The thing is, if you've ever felt maltreated, isolated, misunderstood and wrongly persecuted, you'll identify with the characters in this story. 

Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.

Man I wish they'd put that on the poster.  Maybe someone would have actually seen this movie when it was in theatres.  As it was, I remember specifically staying away because of the title and the strange self-righteous ad campaign that was attached to the film. I can only imagine that someone got fired, because with proper marketing this could have been a hit much sooner. I just don't see how they didn't maiximize the potential.

For starters, they could have really ttried to catapult Tim Robbins, fresh off an 8-year string of hits starting with Top Gun, to swoony leading man status. They could have exploited his terrific chemistry with Morgan Freeman and flooded the ads with Morgan Freeman's smooth interpretation of so many lines, like the unchanged "Maybe it's because I'm Irish", when the part was written for a white character. Or this line:

I like to think that the last thing that went through his head, other than that bullet, was to wonder how the hell Andy Dufresne ever got the better of him.

Then, hindsight is, well, you know.

Speaking of characters, with Clancy Brown, Bob Gunton, Gil Bellows, William Sadler and my favorite Spencer Tracy -lookalike James Whitmore it's also like a collection of Hey it's that Guy's. (I hope the upcoming HITG book is less lazy that the recent entries have seemed. </disgruntled fan>)

For such a long film, it's surprisingly low on filler and moments that beg you to reach for the remote. For as many times as I have already seen it, whenever I catch it while I channel-surf, I almost always stop to watch it all.  Even with commercials.  (I know it so well, the commercials just allow me to multitask.)

In the end, it's about hope. Which as Andy Dufresne so wisely says, like his fellow ex-jailbird Martha, it's a good thing.  And as Red says:

I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.  I hope...

  New Post

New Post


Movies I like that apparently make me pretentious

Sometimes when I tell people I like or dislike a movie, I get the predictable eyeroll and the standard dismissive treatment that comes with having gone to a film school and worked in the industry. As my good (industry) friend's wife Debra put it, "we suck the life out of a film." (at least that's the essence of what she said, I didn't take notes at the time, but she was annoyed at our technical criticism.) Granted, sometimes knowing the inner-workings of film can make me cynical, critical, and unforgiving, but the bottom line is, I'm a much bigger fan with every passing day than I ever was. And my BFA certainly doesn't make me a movie snob.  I just got a degree for something a lot of people do for fun. (Don't think I didn't work for it.)

I may know some tricks of the trade, but I hate to be spoiled, and I love seeing things that make me question reality, or make me say, how did they do that?  As such, I think I'm ripely placed to be a fanboy (or girl as such).

Granted, now that I've been despoiled as it were, I'm not the person you want to watch basic T.V. with.  I recently proposed a bet where I wagered how many special effects cuts a certain editor made on a commercial that appeared to be very simple.  Despite the fact I hadn't worked with him in years, I recognized his handiwork without even a sound.  This sort of familiarity tends to make one a bit cynical.

Cliche or no, Hollywood marketing has an indelible place in the public mind.  If a movie doesn't come packaged, well, it's not that I believe that the general public can't appreciate it. It's that there's so much dreack thrusted there way, why would they bother to pay attention?


The soundtrack helped.

Movies by David Mamet

  New Post

New Post


Anne Bancroft Dies at 73



Annebancroftyoung_1 Annebancroftsmoking

She even made Point of No Return bearable. Though Nina Simone helped. Plus she had a cooler than Newman and Woodward Hollywood /Broadway marriage. A True Dame in the best sense.

  New Post

New Post


Ooops, Still editing.

  New Post

New Post


Papillon (1973)

Steve McQueen....Henri 'Papillon' Charriere

Dustin Hoffman....Louis Dega

Victor Jory....Indian chief

Don Gordon....Julot

Warning: spoilers ahead

I'm not a pyschic, nor a goddess, but I bet I can guess what you're thinking here. You're thinking that I made a mistake when I posted because Harrison Ford has no place in an entry about Papillon, since he wasn't in the film. For those wondering if maybe he had some sort of cameo, check your IMDB, those first people were right. Harrison Ford has absolutely nothing to do with Papillon. He is, however, the star of Clear and Present Danger. I'll get to that later.

I sat down at the keyboard Saturday night buoyed by Stanley Pollock's inspirational words on the recent episode of the AMC series "The Essentials". I was preparing to write about Dustin Hoffman's enjoyable turn as Louis Dega, a famous french counterfeiter whose success, given his apparent near blindness, is astonishing. Hoffman pears nerdily from behind his coke-bottle glasses and gives a Ratso Rizzo-like performance, echoing his his turn in Midnight Cowboy four years earlier. Like any true method actor, Hoffman suffered for the role, wearing corrective contact lenses underneath the glasses so he could see straight. As it turns out he spends a great deal of energy trying unsucessfully to be less interesting than Steve McQueen, the star of this ersatz 'essential'. Overacting understatement one might say.

McQueen, is the lead character Henri Charriere, aka Papillon, so nicknamed, I suppose, because of the butterfly tattoo on his arm, though there may be a more meaningful explanation that I missed. Papillon is french for "butterfly", thereby completing the educational part of the film. Papillon is a petty criminal falsely accused of murder and sentenced to a life term on Devil's Island in French Guyana, South America.

I was going to comment on the wonderfully crafted script by the much exalted member of the Hollywood ten, Dalton Trumbo, in what would be his last screen work before his death in 1976.

I was going to add trivia about Don Gordon, a featured actor and familiar face. I knew I'd seen him with McQueen before, so I looked him up. Turns out he's a personal friend of McQueen's and also appeared in Bullitt (1968) and The Towering Inferno (1974).

I was going to do these things, but I fell asleep. I fell so soundly asleep that I awoke at the end of the move thinking it was the next day. So thank you Papillon for providing me with the best sleep I've had in days, even in the face of the a bladder full of the seven cups of full strentgh tea I had consumed. That's some impressive somambulent power you possess.

Supposedly Papillon is based on Charriere's true story, though it is widely acknowledged that he played fast and loose with the facts. That's usually expected in Hollywood films and forgiven if the film is entertaining. This film is just frustrating. I suspect that had I made it to Papillon's actual escape off the island after countless tries, I would have been happier and prouder of myself for simply having sat through this endurance test. This film is not the worst ever made, by any means, but I think it's status as a "classic" needs to be re-eevaluated.

That Steve McQueen sure was hot though.

In fact his photos are certainly more entertaining than his actual films.

Which brings me to Clear and Present Danger. Good thing I'd seen CAPD before as I missed most of it while I typed this. I just got to occassionally glimpse Ford looking bemused, Anne Archer looking concerned and wifely and Joaquim de Almeida looking crazy hot. Then there's Henry Czerny who seems to specialize in just being crazy, uptight and scary, and Greg Germann who specailizes in playing the rich WASPy 2% or something. I always remember him from Ned and Stacey, the pre-Will and Grace without the gay twist and before Debra Messing stopped consuming food with calories. Oh yeah he was also Fish on Ally McBeal. Everyone's gotta eat somehow. Except, of course Debra Messing.

Wow, what useless information I posess. Darn that Papillon for being a bore.

The guy playing POTUS (President of the U.S.) tries his best to be the flinty American, but he comes off as something of a buffoon. Everytime he occupied the screen I found myself wondering if James Cromwell was busy.

Also a note to wise, black elder statesmen in the vicinity of Jack Ryan. Put your affairs in order, Your death warrant has been sealed. I think the older black advisor always dies in Tom Clancy stories.

So my point? Is CAPD mindless fluff? Yes. Is it in the same league as Papillon? Well, probably not. Still, the two hours I spent barely rewatching it were infinitely more enjoyable than the time I spent with Papillon. To further cement my lowbrow tastes, I think Harrison Ford is better looking that Steve Mcqueen. He's a better actor too. Sydney Pollack and his Cinema History gurus missed the boat on this one.

  New Post

New Post