[Warning: stinking with spoilers. You might want to see ADAPTATION this weekend before reading on.]
Let's cut to the chase about ADAPTATION (Columbia, opening Friday) and jump right into
the Big Problem. The word over the last several weeks, partially fortified by my own opinion,
has been about how wonderfully funny, trippy and original this Spike Jonze-Charlie Kaufman film is. Now, however, we're hearing from a second wave of viewers talking about how nifty it
all is until the third act, when ADAPTATION goes off the rails and falls apart.
I don't feel this way and didn't even want to bring this up for fear of lending credibility, etc., but lately several people (including TIME's Richard Corliss, THE NEW YORKER's David Denby, my attorney friend Mark Kane and, according to credible sources, a good portion of the Motion Picture Academy) have been expressing these reservations, and the policy of ignoring them is now futile.
And yet as recently as last weekend, I was still thinking about avoiding the issue out of respect
for Kaufman, the ADAPTATION screenwriter who also wrote BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
and CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, and who is played in the film by Nicolas Cage. In interviews Kaufman has been doggedly avoiding talking about whether or not a certain
character -- his on-screen brother "Donald" Kaufman -- actually exists, either within the film's reality or, considering that Donald shares screenplay credit with Charlie in the ADAPTATION credit block, in real life.
But the review in this week's issue of TIME declares flat-out that Donald "doesn't exist," and the
new issue of NEWSWEEK adds "there is no Donald," so the milk is spilt and the gloves are off.
About two years ago I reviewed Kaufman's ADAPTATION script and called it "one of the most inventive and out-there scripts I've ever read." The main character, I explained, "is Kaufman himself, and that's a big whoa right there. A screenplay about a screenwriter trying to write the screenplay? But it's much more than that."
The "subject" of ADAPTATION is an actual, one-time orchid-worshipper named John LaRoche (Chris Cooper), whose attempted theft of rare flora from a Florida state preserve eight years ago resulted in his being prosecuted by the state and, from that, a NEW YORKER profile of LaRoche and then a book called "The Orchid Thief" (Ballantine), by staff writer Susan Orlean (so named in the film and played by Meryl Streep).
ADAPTATION is primarily about Kaufman's struggle to adapt "The Orchid Thief" into script form, but it's also about LaRoche and Orlean and the importance of nurturing a devotion in life
to something perfect and beautiful. It's about the striving of mortals to merge themselves with
the sublime --Kaufman in his way, LaRoche and Orlean in theirs.
Like the screenplay, the movie is half about Kaufman's situation and half about LaRoche and
Orlean's. But it begins and ends inside Kaufman's head.
Foremost among his issues is an earnest determination not to turn Orlean's book into formulaic Hollywood pap -- no guns or shootings or scenes with gratuituous sex, he proclaims. And no characters growing or learning life lessons, or coming to like or appreciate people they didn't
like at the beginning.
Kaufman is also dealing with pressure to deliver from a producer and his agent (based to some
extent on Kaufman's United Talent Agency agent Marty Bowen), his loneliness and longings for various women (including Orlean), and his frustrating relationship with his no-account brother, Donald, a dim-witted devotee of the famous scriptwriting instructor Robert McKee (Brian Cox) who's trying to write a screenplay of his own about a serial killer.
The reality is that Donald Kaufman is a diversion -- a phantom character along the lines of Andy Kaufman's alter-ego Tony Clifton. As Donald is also played by Cage, you can accept him as a feckless, oafishly friendly boob who is Charlie's brother and is in fact writing a moronic serial-killer screenplay, or as a mirror reflection of some kind -- a wish-fulfillment image or maybe a crassly opportunistic side of Charlie's own nature.
The nifty thing about ADAPTATION's third act -- what I really love about it, and not what confuses me or hangs me up -- is that Charlie's difficulties in writing an ending for his bizarrely self-referential script are both cynically and sincerely "solved" by Donald and McKee.
It was clear from Kaufman's script that he considers McKee to be nearly the villain of the piece. Kaufman obviously despises the screenwriting principles McKee espouses in his classes and in his book, "Story", which many feel have resulted in thousands upon thousands of screenwriters churning out the same type of cookie-cutter plots with the same mechanisms and rhythms.
The irony of ADAPTATION is that Charlie, desperate to pull his script together, goes to one of McKee's classes and asks for his help. He also enlists the assistance of Donald, who flies to New
York and gooses things along by interviewing Orlean at her office ("She's lying!," he announces
triumphantly when he returns to Charlie's hotel room) and then persuading Charlie to join him on
a fast hop down to Florida.
The goal of this excursion is to see what's really going down between Orlean and LaRoche who, it turns out, are having a passionate affair and involved in the selling of hallucinogens. They're also more than willing to kill the brothers after their secret is discovered. But there's an upside
to these Michael Bay shenanigans: the brothers wind up sharing a tender moment together, and Charlie comes to realize how much he loves his dopier, less-hung-up half.
Believe it or not, there are people who've seen ADAPTATION who are taking these pumped-up
events half-literally, and not as a metaphor for Charlie-the-screenwriter's ultimate act of adaptation -- i.e., devising an ending that most Hollywood producers would probably be satisfied with, or that Donald might have written, or McKee might have sanctioned.
TIME's Schickel says the ending is "a desperation move"...[one] "we are unprepared for and don't believe." In fact the movie has spent its entire length setting it up, quite methodically.
Other naysayers are interpreting the ending as a cynical lampoon of third-act solutions of this type. What they're saying is that while most of the movie is very un-cynical -- cleverly comical, earnest, touched by sadness, exploratory -- the Michael Bay-ish third act is an abrupt shift of strategy and tone, and that whatever the reason for it the lack of harmony with what has gone before is unsettling.
They're not wrong. Kaufman's ending comes from his bitter feelings about Hollywood. My pet theory is that he really couldn't figure out how to lick ADAPTATION, and therefore concluded that "Charlie" wouldn't or couldn't figure out how to adapt "The Orchid Thief" to his complete artistic satisfaction. So he turned Orlean into a drug-snorting, gun-toting infidel and gave LaRoche a gruesome send-off in a Florida swamp.
In short, Kaufman abandons who they are as NEW YORKER-born, flesh-and-blood characters and throws them to the lions (or alligators, as it were). I think this strategy is terrific nonetheless because it totally tabulates for a movie that, in its Hollywood depictions, has been almost entirely about the Charlie way vs. the Donald way of making movies. And because, the cynicism aside, I completely believed in the Charlie-Donald cuddle-up scenes toward the end.
A word of praise for Cage, who does a beautiful job of bringing these scenes to life and making us completely forget we're looking at an actor playing to himself. Charlie-Donald is his best role in years, and easily the most emotionally affecting performance of this type in film history. The
guy from VAMPIRE'S KISS has returned after having nearly Jerry Bruckheimer'ed and Joel Schumacher'ed his career to death. For this alone he deserves an Oscar nomination and a hearty pat on the back.
Streep's Susan Orlean amounts to the warmest and most spontaneous performance of her life, I
feel. And I totally agree with predictions that Cooper will end up a Best Supporting Actor
nominee, mainly because he deserves to be. And each and every secondary female in this film
is note-perfect -- Cara Seymour, Judy Greer, Tilda Swinton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener,
And a special round of applause for Ron Livingston's performance as Marty-the-agent. His anal-sex remark got the biggest laugh by far at a recent packed showing of ADAPTATION at the American Cinematheque. And I don't mean just the loudest but the longest. You know a joke has really connected when you can hear people still laughing ten or twenty seconds later.
A recent HOLLYWOOD REPORTER chart listed the current per-film fees for ten top-ranked actresses. They're worth this much based on two industry assumptions: (1) that audiences have accepted or embraced them on some bedrock emotional level, and (2) that their name on a marquee will therefore "open" a film, i.e., bring in X number of millions on opening weekend.
I'm not a typical ticket-buyer, granted, but here are my gut
reactions to these actresses as name-value attractions, along with an
estimation of what
they'd be worth if everyone thought like me. Guys like myself aren't
supposed to matter, I realize, but shouldn't we have some say?
1. Julia Roberts. Quoted fee: $20 million. Wells gut: Is there some way I
can avoid seeing this movie she's in? Her hissing
anger and general tempestuousness have been bothering me profoundly since
the double-whammy of THE MEXICAN and OCEAN'S 11. If you ask me she's basically over as "Julia Roberts" because every one I know hates her constant snippiness and bitch-ranting.
Wells fee: $10
million if she's in something good like ERIN BROCKOVICH, but otherwise a
negative. (For me, I mean.)
2. Cameron Diaz: Quoted fee: $20 million. Wells gut: Good when she's good
(THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, GANGS OF NEW YORK)
but profoundly irritating in her bright-and-bouncy airhead mode (CHARLIE'S ANGELS, THE SWEETEST THING, etc.). Wells fee: $10 to $12 million in first-rate films playing well-written parts, but nothing for her quarter-inch-deep roles because she makes me run in the opposite direction.
3. Drew Barrymore. Quoted fee: $15 million. Wells gut: Likable, talented,
plucky, etc., but I don't get the super-hot status. Wells fee: $5 million? Less? Her
being in a film is an agreeable thing, but it doesn't make me want to immediately drop what I'm doing and run to see it.
4. Jodie Foster. Quoted fee: $15 million. Wells gut: Worth every penny and then some. If Foster is in a movie, I know it's going to be a first-rate job, or at least one trying to be that. Supremely talented, particular, exacting -- Foster is my kind of lead actress. I'll follow her anywhere. Wells fee: $20 million.
5. Reese Witherspoon: Quoted fee: $15 million. Wells gut: I'll step up in a
heartbeat for another Tracy Flick role, but I'm otherwise mezzo-mezzo. That MGM trailer for
LEGALLY BLONDE 2 gave me the willies. Wells fee: She's worth the $15 million,
but too many BLONDE flicks could dilute the fizz.
6. Sandra Bullock. Quoted fee: $12 to $15 million. Wells gut: Liked her
stab at dramatic realism in MURDER BY NUMBERS, admired her producing and costarring in GUN SHY, but otherwise I grimace at the thought of seeing one of her typical romantic films,
like her upcoming TWO WEEKS NOTICE with Hugh Grant. Wells fee: I give up.
Pay her whatever. I don't care.
7. Angelina Jolie. Quoted fee: $12 to $15 million. Wells gut: Okay in GIRL INTERRUPTED and on some level I enjoy that she's a world-class wack job, but marquee-wise, her name is a scare-off, not a draw. If Jolie's in a film I feel wary, because she's shown terrible judgment in picking parts since winning her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Wells fee: $3 to $4 million if she takes her T-shirt off.
8. Nicole Kidman. Quoted fee: $12 to $15 million. Wells gut: Doesn't always do it for me (her EYES WIDE SHUT performance grated) but I generally like and respect her.
Her name in a film means it's got a better-than-even-chance of being good, or at least intriguing.
Wells fee: $15 million is fair and justified.
9. Jennifer Lopez. Quoted fee: $12 million. Wells gut: An okay actress, but that's all. Makes "girl" movies, for the most part, and not A-level ones either. Neutral reaction --she doesn't particularly attract or repel. Wells fee: If she's getting $12 million, fine. It's the studio's money, not mine.
10. Renée Zellweger. Quoted fee: $10 million. Wells gut: Obviously a smart, talented actress with a nose for quality material. Doesn't quite do the trick for me hormonally, but her creative attributes are fair compensation. Wells fee: $10 million -- she's worth that much at least.
I'm too far behind on my schedule to include these titles in the master list of all the DVDs mentioned since this side-column started in late October...but I'll get to it soon.
A few late '60s and early '70s missing on DVD, according to Tim Merrill...
Psych-Out ('68, d: Richard Rush, w/ Nicholson, Stockwell, Dern, Strasberg, Jaglom),
Wild in the Streets ('68, d: Barry Shear, w/ Winters, Pryor, Holbrook, etc)
The Trip ('67, d: Roger Corman, w/ Fonda, Hopper, Dern, Strasberg),
Riot on Sunset Strip ('67, all nobodies...except for The Chocolate Watch Band)
"Anyway, any '60s freak worth a tab knows these classic exploitation flicks -- the thing is, they we re all made by good ole American International, and now MGM Home Video owns the rights to all that groovy AIP stuff. (MGM has actually put out The Wild Angels with Fonda and Nancy Sinatra. Best line: "We just wanna be free....free to ride our machines and not get hassled by the Man!").
"What's great about MGM Home Video is that generally their transfers of even '60s
drug-biker-bikini drive-in fare look good, and recently they've been doing these
great double-feature DVDs of similar titles (all the early '60s Corman-Poe movies
are great -- check out The Masque of the Red Death' to see how spotless, enveloping and vibrant a 40-year old low-budget cheapie AIP horror flick can look).
"As for the '70s: Cisco Pike ('71, d: B.W.L. Norton, w/ Kristofferson, Hackman, Black, Stanton, etc.) A great, great drug-dealer movie -- never released on video, featuring Kris in his best-ever role, also many songs from his masterpiece album 'The Silver-Tongued Devil and I'.
A real lost gem -- I saw it at the Egyptian a few years back and everyone really dug it."
"What about Joseph L. Mankiewicz's '53 version of Julius Caesar (w/ Mason, Brando, Calhern) and Sidney Lumet's Long Day's Journey Into Night ('62, w/ Richardson, Hepburn, Stockwell, Robards)?" -- Kevin Harman
Wells to Herman: I love this Julius Caesar! Brando's "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war" speech is one of his best acting moments, ever. And I love the way Edmond Brien says, "It was Greek to me."
"I'd like to add Wim Wenders' five-hour Until The End Of The World. I'd still love to see this director's cut on the long list." -- Alonso Duralde, The Advocate.
"Coppola's The Outsiders is out, but his other Hinton film, Rumblefish is still missing and I've never heard anything about when it might be released, and it's a much more interesting film as far as I'm concerned." -- Michael Mayo
Chris Smets, a senior writer for the American Film Institute Desk Reference, would like to see the following...
Once Upon a Time in the West ('68, d: Leone, w/ Fonda, Bronson, Robards, Cardinale). "For my money it's Leone's best picture -- better than both The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
and Once Upon a Time in America. Incidentally, it's also one of Martin Scorsese's top ten widescreen films of all time, and the compositions are truly stunning -- far better than the frequent pan-and-scan showings on AMC would have you believe.
Hit Man ('72, d: George Armitage, w/Casey, Grier, Mosley) and Vigilante Force ('76, d: Armitage, w/ Kristofferson, Vincent, Peters, Principal). "Two lean, funny, interesting early efforts from reclusive B-movie director Armitage, who went on to helm the critically lauded Miami Blues and Grosse Pointe Blank.
White Dog ('82, d: Samuel Fuller, w/ McNichol, Ives, Winfield). "Unceremoniously dumped by a skittish Paramount, Fuller's flawed, fascinating final American film deserves a second look. Co-written by Fuller and Curtis Hanson."
Le Samourai ('67, d: Jean-Pierre Melville, w/Delon) and Le Doulos ('61, d: Melville, w/Belmondo). "Two of the best, most influential crime films of the 1960s. New Yorker owns
the rights to Le Samourai, while I'd love to see a Criterion-produced disc of Le Doulos."
Gun Crazy ('49, d: Joseph H. Lewis, w/ Cummins, Dall) and My Name is Julia
Ross ('45, d: Lewis, w/ Foch, Whitty, Macready). "Even after being featured in a lengthy interview Peter Bogdanovich's 'Who the Devil Made It,' Lewis is still one of the unsung craftsmen of the '40s B-flick. Gun Crazy's minimalist bank hold-up, shown in one
long take from the back of the getaway car, is still a stunner. And Julia Ross is a great little women's picture-cum-thriller that was remade in 1987 as Dead of Winter with
Reign of Terror ('49, d: Anthony Mann, w/ Cummings, Basehart, Moss) and The
Tall Target ('51, d: Mann, w/ Powell, Menjou). "Two bizarre little historical noirs wedged
in between Mann's crime and western periods. The first is a fast and loose retelling of the fall
of Maximillian Robespierre, shot in gorgeously expressionistic style by John Alton and featur-
ing Richard Basehart's villain. The second is a Narrow Margin-style trainbound caper about an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln that's foiled by a rogue cop named -- no
joke -- John Kennedy."
"I'd like to see a remastered DVD of the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers (1932). The current version is a duplicate of the choppy print sold to American TV by MCA. Several lines
of dialogue are literally unintelligible -- a crime when the Marxes are concerned. Plus, prints broadcast on the BBC in the '50s featured a 3-minute sequence missing from their U.S. count-
erparts." -- Kevin Kusinitz, NYC
"The Killers (1964, w/ Lee Marvin, John Cassevetes, the beautiful Angie Dickinson,
and Ronald Reagan. This one tops the original that starred Burt Lancaster. I've
always thought Don Siegel is pretty underrated as a director, and where else will you
find a future President smacking around Angie Dickinson?
"My other movie, coincidentally, also stars Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. It's
John Boorman's Point Blank (1967). Marvin is at his best as the antihero out for payback and revenge on the guy who left him for dead in a cell at Alacatraz. And oh yeah, I wouldn't mind seeing Otto Preming er's Skidoo." -- Chris Brame, Athens, GA.
Wells to Brame: You're shitting me, right? Skiddo?
POSTSCRIPT: "Your readers certainly don't pay attention to the
DVD web sites! A double-DVD of The Killers is on the way with both
versions -- the black-and-white noir directed by Robert Siodmak ('46)
with Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner, and the color remake directed by Don
('64) with John Cassevettes and Ronald Reagan. It arrives on January
28." -- Anonymous in Atlanta
Reaper on a Streak
[Warning: mild spoilers ahead]
The holidays have always been a popular time for ending it all, according to statistics. People
start feeling blue and then kablooey. This year Hollywood seems to be acknowledging this, or
succumbing to it or something. Not my idea.
In today's NEW YORK POST (12.4) Lou Lumenick has a piece listing nine holiday films in which a character commits (or has committed) suicide. Well, eight-and-a-half, really, for a total
of ten bodies. I mentioned the holiday suicide factor in last week's review piece on SOLARIS,
but here's a rundown of the films mentioned by Lumenick, along with some data of my own.
TALK TO HER (Sony Classics, 11.13). A major character kills himself. Method: Pills.
THEY (Dimension, 11.27). One suicide by male character early on. Method Gunshot.
SOLARIS (20th Century Fox, 11.29). Two suicides. Methods: Pills, staying with space vehicle that's certain to crash.
NARC (Paramount, 12.20). A major character does himself in. Method: Gunshot.
CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (Miramax, 12.27). Bogus suicide. A secondary character has apparently killed himself, but later turns out to have been a victim of a killer.
THE HOURS (Paramount, 12.27). Two suicides, one attempted. Methods: drowning, jumping out of a window, pills.
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (MGM, 12.27). A major character kills himself. Method:
MORVERN CALLAR (Cowboy Pictures, 12.20) Boyfriend of main character has clipped himself as film begins; she finds corpse lying under Christmas tree. Method: Gunshot.
LOVE LIZA (Sony Classics, 12.30). Much of the action in the film, which includes the sniffing
of gas fumes, is in response to a significant character having croaked herself.
Method: Pills (I think).
Lumenick ran the phenomenon by some filmmakers, and ran this quote from LOVE LIZA scribe Gordy Hoffman: "Sometimes the universe conspires to give audiences what they need rather than what they want. I think this one of those the seasons where this is happening.'' I'm not sure what he means, but please send in your reactions to this fascinating quote, or about the general offing-
Marlon and Tony
I lost my big chance to witness a live improv by the great Marlon Brando almost exactly a year ago. Our most legendary actor hadn't performed live since the late 1940s, and here was my one and probably only chance to bask in his celebrated presence. When the opportunity was taken away at the last minute, I was devastated.
I'd been told by a friend of director Tony Kaye's (AMERICAN HISTORY X) that I would be admitted to a taping of an acting class being taught by Brando called "Lying for a Living" on a small Hollywood sound stage. It was one of a series of classes with a group of about 20 non-pro students. It was being taped by Brando and Kaye with the intention of eventually selling a DVD about the class experience. Actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Voight, Sean Penn and Nick Nolte had attended in a show of support for Brando and the project.
But when I arrived for the taping on a sunny morning in early December I was told to forget it
by the security guys. They said that Brando wanted only regular people in his class and that he can "smell" journalists. "Yeah, but I'm an X-factor journalist," I replied. "Besides, I used to be a tree surgeon. Really. Couldn't I just 'lie' and say that's what I still do? The class is about lying, right?" Won't work, they said. You can't fool Marlon Brando.
So I went home and wrote a piece about the recent troubles that had erupted between Brando and Kaye. The tiff was over Kaye's unruly behavior during taping, which manifested on one occasion with his dressing up like Osama bin Laden. This and other provocations led to Brando asking Kaye to leave the taping, and then having his lawyer calling Kaye to say he was no officially no longer involved in the project.
Now there's an article about the Kaye-Brando contretemps by Evgenia Peretz in the January issue
of VANITY FAIR, a copy of which I picked up yesterday. It recounts Kaye's flamboyant history
as a British-based TV commercial director and then his combative experience with New Line Cinema over the shooting of AMERICAN HISTORY X, and the history of his mostly tumultuous relationship with Brando.
The Peretz piece says Brando has telephoned death threats to Kaye while calling himself
"the Devil." The feud between these two "crazy geniuses" also led at one point to Brando saying,
"I'm in your house and I'm going to kill you!" on Kaye's answering machine. Kaye claims the voice had "gone through a decoder machine," but "I knew immediately I could hear his voice."
Kaye and Brando are still battling over "Lying for a Living," or at least about a documentary that Kaye has put together about the taping and the falling apart of their partnership.
"It was partly about Marlon and I videotaping each other," Kaye told me over the phone last Monday, "and it also included footage from 'Lying for a Living' -- the argument and all that --
after which I just took my tapes with me and then staged an improvised play in West L.A.,
based on the incident with all the actors... and the documentary was a combination of these elements."
Their latest rumble happened a few weeks ago over Kaye wanting to show his documentary at the Raindance Film Festival, a kind-of British equivalent of Slamdance. Brando somehow heard about this, says Kaye, and threatened legal action if it was shown.
Despite Brando's litigious tendencies, Kaye now says he's thinking about trying to screen it in January on a private, invited-only basis at either the Sundance or Slamdance Film Festivals.
Kaye told me a year ago that the plan was to have "Lying for a Living" available for sale by last
summer, which of course never happened. The project is in Brando's hands, he said, and that the editing "is probably very difficult, given the hours of footage they have to work with." I called
Brando a couple of times after speaking with Kaye to see if he'd be willing to provide an update. I knew he wouldn't get on the phone, but I had to give it a shot.
Kaye says he heard that Brando "quite recently tried to get the Home Shopping Network or
the Shopping Channel to run a promotion [for the video] with Marlon dressed as an older
woman, talking about it... and they wouldn't have it. I heard they declined."
Kaye said he's "very nervous" about the VANITY FAIR piece because he's "trying to get back to
Hollywood and get back into the mainstream and collaborative filmmaking, and I'm viewed as a
maniac by the larger part of the community, and I'm very concerned I'm going to be perceived as
a bigger lunatic" after people read the piece.
Kaye has never sounded a bit like a maniac in speaking with me. Hollywood is way too corporate these days and could use some of his flamboyance, if you ask me. Kaye pushed his case too hard with New Line over AMERICAN HISTORY X, but he says in Peretz's article he realizes this and has seen the error of his way. He's really just another X-factor guy with a typical artist's belief in stirring things up and/or tossing the salad as a path to clear-light consciousness.
"Thank you for sounding off on SOLARIS. I caught it at a screening last
week and have been scratching my head more and more with each review I
read. I was
intellectually intrigued by the ideas put out there but after reading
Poland, Ebert and others, 'Oh man, what movie did you see?'" --
"I loathed ABOUT SCHMIDT. I thought Nicholson's performance was hollow
and one-note. He did superior work in THE PLEDGE, which was a problematic
film in some ways, but a much better performance about a man coping with
retirement years." -- Mary Kalin Casey, c/o Reel.com.
"While I can't comment on ABOUT SCHMIDT, I have to disagree with your
theory (pronouncement?) that Jack Nicholson is most effective when he's
more or less playing himself. I think his two performances for Sean Penn
(THE CROSSING GUARD, THE PLEDGE) rank with the very best work of his
career. In fact, I still can't figure out why Warners didn't make more of
an Oscar push for his PLEDGE turn. I can't help suspecting that while
working for Penn, Nicholson knew he couldn't get away with his usual
tricks, because if he tried something too slick or easy, Penn would call
him on it. Think about it: How many times has Nicholson
worked in recent years with a director who's every bit as crazy/demanding
as he himself is [reputed to be]?" -- Joe Leydon, c/o S.F.
Lisa Levy was first to identify Wednesday's cast. They appeared
together in A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957), which was written by Budd
Schulberg and directed by Elia Kazan.
Today's cast: Morey Amsterdam, Frank De Kova, Susan Cabot, Charles
Bronson, Jack Lambert, Wally Campo.
What's That Line?
Rich Roesing of Zagreb, Croatia, was first to identify last
Wednesday's dialogue. (There was no Friday column.) It's from FOUR
ROOMS, and the two guys in the scene are Quentin Tarantino, who also
directed this segment, and Tim Roth, whose addled googly-eyed shtick had
worn thin long before this final segment of the movie had appeared.
"This was released when Tarantino was really hot," Roesing recalls.
"When it showed in Bulgaria, everyone had heard of Tarantino and eagerly
awaited his segment of the film, to the extent that no one noticed the
brilliant Robert Rodriguez segment that preceded it."
A man sits down with a four-person family and tries to explain things.
Man: Could everyone just take a seat on the couch? I have some
Family members sit down. A nearby TV is on with the sound turned down,
which the youngest child is watching.
Man: There are three possibilities here. We'll call them one,
two and three. The level-one scenario is that there is a sane
individual, who for real reasons wants to do you harm. I really don't
believe that's what we're looking at here. In my opinion, whoever this
is, they don't want to do harm to you all.
That's kind of clear. (beat) The level-two scenario is, this is a
mentally unstable person who's fixated on you and your family. This is a
possibility, but a very
slim one. (beat) I assure you I will treat all three possibilities
carefully, but in all likelihood we are looking at what we'll call a
level-three scenario. He's a watcher. Someone who this is a game for.
He's laying low. Doesn't want to be seen. But he wants to watch you,
study you folks.
Name the film, the year of release, the director, the screenwriter(s),
and at least two of the actors in the scene.