I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale

Can you name all the major actors from the “Godfather” movies? If you’re missing one, it’s probably John Cazale. He played the initially minor character of Fredo, the tragic runt of the gangster litter who figured so prominently in “The Godfather: Part II.” An accomplished stage actor, Cazale appeared in only five moves before his death from lung cancer in 1978 at age 42, but since they also included “Dog Day Afternoon,” “The Conversation” and “The Deer Hunter” — all nominated for Best Picture Oscars — it is slightly strange he isn’t better known. It’s definitely not for lack of esteem from his peers. This short HBO documentary from director Richard Shepard (“The Matador“) proves that point with testimonials from friends, colleagues and fans including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, Gene Hackman, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, and Meryl Streep, who was Cazale’s girlfriend at his death. It seems that, aside from his ability to submerge himself into a role and raise the game of his fellow actors, the unglamorous and good-natured Cazale also had a way with beautiful women.

Though the packaging of this DVD is first-rate if overly elaborate, it also attempts to hide the fact that “I Knew It Was You” is only 40 minutes long, not counting about an hour’s worth of special features. Nevertheless, this is a sincere, well-made, and entirely laudable labor of movie love.

Click to buy “I Knew It Was You: Redisocovering John Cazale”

  

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An official trailer for a Thursday: Kevin Spacey is (not quite) “Casino Jack”

Not to be confused with Alex Gibney‘s documentary, “Casino Jack and the United States of Money,” also about the jailed conservative lobbyist Jack Abramoff, this new trailer for “Casino Jack” is slicker than ones I’ve seen before.

Something still feels off here to me, for all the snazzy editorial work. The only joke that’s actually funny is Kevin Spacey‘s spot-on Al Pacino impersonation, though even the choice of Spacey feels off. Perhaps I’m being too literal minded, but Abramoff was younger and more jockish and athletic when all of this was going down. On the other hand, the movie-obsession is correct. Abramoff is a movie buff who even co-produced an actual action film or two, including the Dolph Lundgren vehicle, “Red Scorpion.”

Still, I’m keeping an open mind. He hasn’t had gigantic luck with fiction features so far, but director George Hickenlooper (“The Big Brass Ring”) has been involved with probably two of the best all-time documentaries about outrageous show business figures, the Francis Ford Coppola-centric “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” and the even better “Mayor of the Sunset Strip” about DJ and ultimate scenester Rodney Bingenheimer. I’m sure there’s a bit more here than meets the eye, at least I hope so

  

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Oh f*ck, it’s a foul-pixelled end of the week movie news dump

It’s been a personally rather stressful week in a good-news/bad-news kind of a way and Hollywood ain’t doin’ nothing to relax me. And so, we begin with a deep breath…

* The first half of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” will be in a mere 2D. Two dimensions were good enough for Rick Blaine, they’re good enough for Harry. Especially if they really were facing serious technical difficulties, smart move. No studio needs another “Clash of the Titans” fiasco.

* It’s pretty rare that I know for sure I want to see a movie just from simply knowing the topic, the star, and the director, but when it’s a biopic/docudrama about the great-but-homicidal Phil Specter, it’s being directed by David Mamet, and it’s starring Al Pacino, that’s when I know. (Here’s the original NYT post that broke the story, which gives a bit more background on Specter for you youngsters.)

* Classic film lover that I am, I also feel pretty good about “My Week with Marilyn” which has Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Dougray Scott as her beleaguered husband, playwright Arthur Miller, Kenneth Branagh (who else?) as Laurence Olivier, and Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh (!) among others. And check out the pic of Ms. Williams/Monroe that’s been circulating all over the net today.

michelle-williams-marilyn-monroe

Aren’t you glad I used that pictures instead of something of Phil “Mr. Fright Wit” Specter or Al Pacino?

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A Chat with Michael Rooker

To my knowledge, the adjective “Rooker-esque” has yet to take off in any significant fashion, but when Michael Rooker calls you and says that he’s in the midst of driving across the country to get to his next job…I don’t know, it just sounds like exactly the sort of thing you’d expect him to be doing. Although he’s played many a crazy mofo in his career as an actor, Rooker still manages to possess the sort of everyman quality that makes it very easy to accept that he’d take a pass on a plane ride in favor of spending a couple of days taking in the scenery on a cross-country drive. Premium Hollywood had the chance to chat with Rooker in conjunction with the release of his latest film, “Atlantis Down,” directed by Max Bartoli, but we also got a bit of insight into his character on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” learned about his experiences working on “Mallrats,” “Sea of Love,” and “Slither,” and heard him sing the praises of “JFK.”

Bullz-Eye: So how’s the drive going?

Michael Rooker: Actually, quite good. I’m in a little thunderstorm right now, but I’m just fine. I’m about to get back on the road and have a little chat with you.

BE: Where are you right now?

MR: I’m in Texas, near Odessa. I’m on the 20. I was on the 10, but then 10 and 20 split, and I’m heading basically up toward Dallas. Through Odessa and Midland, and then I’ll get into Fort Worth and Dallas.

BE: I told my wife there was something very Rooker-esque about that fact that you were on the road, driving to your next assignment.

MR: (Bursts out laughing) I do this all the time, and it’s kind of crazy, but I just do. My better half is sort of always wondering, “Why don’t you just fly?” But, you know, it’s nice and relaxing. It helps me get ready and prepare for the job, and then afterwards it helps me defrag on the way home.

BE: Sounds like the perfect combo.

MR: So far, so good. It’s worked thus far…and I’ve got about 280 thousand miles on my vehicle to prove it! (Laughs) I think by the end of this trip I’ll have another 10 thousand on it, so it ought to hit 290 thousand.

BE: I’ve got over 150 thousand on my Hyundai Elantra, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen half the things you have.

MR: (Laughs) Still, you guys must do some traveling, huh?

BE: Well, we did a lot more of it before our daughter got here.

MR: For sure, man!

BE: So how did you first get hooked up with “Atlantis Down”? Because I know it’s certainly a labor of love for these guys.

MR: Dude, this was, like, a last-minute phone call…for me, anyway. It was really quick. I was working on a movie, I think it was down in the Wilmington area, and I got the phone call. Then I got the script, and it was kind of cool. But it was really fast. But I just said, “Yeah, you know what, I’m here, I’m on the east coast, and I think I can do it.” I snagged a couple of friends, who read lines with me, and I drove up, did my role all in one day, and came back.

BE: Wow.

MR: (Laughs) It was really quick…and painless, really. It was just a very quick little job that was kind of crazy. I’ve never accomplished my entire role in one day before. It was nuts! I don’t want to do that too often, but it was a crazy experience, and I’m still friends with everyone involved, like Max. Like you said, the whole thing was a labor of love, and I was honored to be a part of it.

BE: Can you speak a little bit about your character in the film without giving too much away?

MR: Well, you know, my guy is… (Hesitates) I’m an alien. I’m an alien being that is having a joyous time playing around with these human creatures, basically. (Laughs) I don’t want to say too much more, so that’s kind of about it, really. I just give ‘em hell. I goof around with their brains and mess around with their thought patterns, what they think they see and what they don’t see. So it’s kind of freaky and weird for them. And, of course, for my character, I obviously didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so I just went and did it. I learned all the lines real quickly, and then I got there, and Max said, “Ah, forget about the lines. Just say what you would normally say.” And I’m, like, “What?” (Laughs) “Uh, okay, Max, okay…” So, basically, the entire role is improv. We improvised the whole piece. Having the lines as my base, I riffed on them and changed them, thought of new ways to say stuff, used new patterns of putting things together, and…we did it all in one night. It was crazy, dude. Crazy! I still don’t know how the hell we got it…

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It’s a brand new week and never too early for movie news!

* Sofia Coppola’s latest, “Somewhere,” won the highly prized Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. The problem, if there is one, is that she is a current friend and former flame of Jury President Quentin Tarantino. I have to admit that I had forgotten they’d ever been a “thing,” but many do remember and there’s been some grumbling to the effect that the movie isn’t all that “fucking great.” It ain’t the crime of the century, but I guess Tarantino should have recused himself. Speaking for myself only, I find that I tend to be either more harsh or more enthusiastic about friends’ work.  As for Monte Hellman, Tarantino’s hardly alone in praising the maverick writer and director.

* Someone took Stanley Kubrick’s ultimate trip with way too much chemical enhancement over the weekend at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I have a story about that I’ll tell you sometime. In the meantime, protective measures may be in order.

2001-a-space-odyssey-ape

* So, if Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Robert DeNiro are going to be in a film by Martin Scorsese, naturally it’s called “The Irishman.” Daniel Day Lewis, Brendan Gleeson, and Pierce Brosnan need to make a film called “The Italian” with Neil Jordan directing.

* Good. L.A. needs all the love letters, cinematic and otherwise, it can get. Naturally, all the lead actors are from foreign lands (Christopher Plummer is Canadian, but he feels like he’s from actual overseas), though I’m not sure about the characters. One of the things I loved about “A Single Man” was the way it depicted the European’s love affair with a town that U.S. natives mostly don’t seem to get.

* Woody Allen has stepped in to a long-running rumor-created fracas. France’s acting first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, apparently did just fine in “Midnight in Paris.”

Mickey Rourke scares small children * Mickey Rourke’s latest gig appears to be playing notorious mob killer Richard “the Ice Man” Kuklinski. I think this is a close to making a true family film as Rourke may ever get, next to “Iron Man 2.” The man’s face doesn’t only scare small children, it scares me.

  

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