It was 30 years ago today, sadly

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. It was a bummer at the time and it’s depressing even now. In any case, it’s an opportune time to present a clip of Lennon and his little back-up band performing one of his most underrated songs.

Keeping up my Bob Dylan theme from yesterday, it’s worth noting that this was famously Lennon’s effort at writing a Dylan song. Of course, it came out a Lennon song, but that’s kind of the point.

Also, I never fail to marvel at how well these musical sequences from 1965’s “Help” — a movie that on the whole didn’t hang together at all well — were shot by the great director, Richard Lester. It’s a just about perfect sequence in my view. Coincidentally, MUBI pointed the way to this Look Magazine interview from the set of Lennon’s one and only solo starring role, also with Lester, “How I Won the War” from 1967. It was obviously hot on the heels of the “bigger than Jesus” craziness, so there’s the inevitable discussion of religion and spirituality.

Perhaps Leonard Gross thought he was just penning the usual cliches we writers write about controversial and talented creators when he wrote the following. Still, his wrap-up turned out to be a lot more right than he probably realized.

The hysteria that surrounds him can no longer disguise the presence of a mind. His ideas are still rough, but his instincts are good and his talent, extraordinary. You may love him, you may loath him, but this you should know: As performer, composer, writer or talker, he’ll be around for a long, long time.

  

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Hurried and harried midweek movie news

I’m blogging tonight from the Gower Gulch Starbucks, right in the heart of deepest darkest Hollywood, and as I said in the post right below this, seriously pressed for time tonight. A bunch of work still to be done ,a studio screening, plus a bunch of other stuff that won’t interest you. Also, there’s a guy behind me conducting an impromptu revival service for an audience of none, which is a little distracting.

So, that Comic-Con thumb-sucker will just have to wait as I present only a few selected items of movie news to nourish your spirits.

* Speaking of Comic-Con, in terms of innovation, influence, and ability to tell a simple story very well, Will Eisner was pretty much the D.W. Griffith, John Ford, and Billy Wilder of comic books all rolled into one, but few people who aren’t serious comics fans even know his name. 2008’s despicable “The Spirit” most certainly did not help with his memory or in terms of encouraging a younger generation to check out his work. (I’m glad the movie did horribly because if kids had liked the hyperviolent and mean-spirited film, they would have had no time for the humanistic original.).

Now, via /Film’s Russ Fischer, we hear that an appropriately low budget/indie film version of Eisner’s groundbreaking non-genre comic, “A Contract with God,” is in the works. Among other points of interest, it was the book that caused Eisner to come up with the term “graphic novel” when he was led to believe the publisher wouldn’t want to be involved with a mere “comic book.” Ironically enough, it’s actually a collection of related short stories and the term “graphic novel” actually may predate the incident, so Fischer isn’t  wrong when he says it’s not the first graphic novel. I truly hope this turns out well and makes everyone forget that other movie. It was nice that this was announced at the awards named for Eisner, who died in 2005, at Comic-Con.

eisner

* In the here-we-go-again file, it looks like Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is being delayed for the millionth time, says the Playlist. And check out that graphic making Gilliam look a bit like a certain Mr. Orson Welles, who also struggled for years to make his vision of Cervantes’ classic delusional non-knight-errant.

* Another Deadline story: Kudos to writer Phil Johnston and Zack Galifianakis for taking on the deadly scourge that is the “Reply All” button. The children must be warned.

* The Jack Sparrow comparison will come easily to many with news of Russell Brand’s possible swashbuckling debut, but any excuse for swordfighting comedies that might actually be good works for me. (Actually, the character as described reminds me more than a bit of George MacDonald Fraser’s “Royal Flash,” portrayed by a young Malcolm McDowell. Never read the book(s) or saw the movie, but since it was directed by the great Richard Lester, I really need to.)

  

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“Robin and Marian” — your weekend online viewing tip

Crackle is offering up the entirety of what I’m pretty sure will stand as the greatest revisionist film about Robin Hood ever made. Directed by the underrated Richard Lester (“A Hard Day’s Night,” among many others) and with a knockout, if not 100% taut, screenplay by James Goldman (‘The Lion in Winter”), this clearly post-Vietnam view of Robin Hood is bitter and comic and bracingly cynical about the bloodthirsty nature of power, while being ravishingly romantic about true love. It helped solidify Sean Connery’s post-Bond career and started a late career comeback for 47 year-old Audrey Hepburn, more moving than ever.  Since this was the mid-seventies, Robert Shaw was the villain — though Richard Harris’s genocidal Lionheart wasn’t exactly nice — and was absolutely perfect as a badass Sheriff of Nottingham. Imperfect, perhaps, but all in all, pretty hard to top.

If you just want a taste right now, here’s a slightly corny trailer that will give you some idea of what you’re in for.

H/t to my currently blog-less friend Zayne for this one.

  

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Your end of week movie news dump

A ton has happened since my last of these posts and I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but here are just a few of the interesting things going on in the movie world as this rather loony week finally ends.

* Bryan Singer will be producing, not directing, the next “X-Men” prequel. He’ll be directing “Jack, the Giant Killer” instead. And another Mike Fleming story, an exclusive this time: “Paranormal Activity 2” has a director. He’s Tod Williams, best known for “The Door in the Floor.” Sounds to me like Paramount is keeping things modest, wisely.

* The very ill Dennis Hopper got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today.  Amy Kaufman has video of the ceremony which included Hopper rather gently chiding the paparazzi for an incident which caused him to fall. The video itself ends with photographers yelling “Viggo!” and “Jack!”

* Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe as Robin will be opening Cannes this year. The plot description put me somewhat in mind of the angle the great director Richard Lester and writer James Goldman took on the legend in a film I’m quite partial to, “Robin and Marian,” which starred Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.

robin-hood-russell-crowe-and-his-merry-men

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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RIP Doug Fieger

By now you’ve probably heard of the very sad death of the lead singer and songwriter of the late seventies/early eighties power pop band, The Knack. The impact of a single, memorable hit song on a generation can’t be measured, but this scene from 1994’s “Reality Bites” attempts to demonstrate it.

And, just in case you were wondering where The Knack got it’s name…

  

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