The great John Cazale

Very cool fact about the incomparable John Cazale:

  

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Turner Classic Film Fest: A history of violence

I know, pretty dark headline for  a post about a really fun, glamor heavy film fest. All the more so because, at least for me, TCM  Fest is the kind of event that  can put you in a kind of steel bubble which the daily news can barely pierce. If another Cuban Missile Crisis happened during Comic-Con, what would happen? Maybe if it ended differently this time.

Indeed, even a momentous event  like the death of Osama Bin Laden could just barely penetrate TCM’s  mix of Hollywood fantasy and scholarship. For me, the news first came as I overheard another filmgoer during an intermission of “West Side Story,” which I had popped in on just to see how good the 70mm print was, say to another. “No, he’s really dead.” I figured it was another classic film star gone forever. George Chakiris, who played Sharks leader Bernardo, had introduced the screening, but how were Jets Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn doing?

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 4

Not all of the critics who attend the TCA Press Tour care a lot about PBS’s days of the tour, but I always try to attend as many of their panels as possible. For one reason, I’m a longtime Anglophile, so it’s like shooting fish in a barrel to convince me that I ought to check out a new episode from one of the “Masterpiece” shows. For another, I’m a former record store clerk and music critic, so the concerts are always an easy sell. And then, of course, you’ve got the retrospectives of various actors, films, and televisions series. Basically, there are any number of reasons for me to get excited about PBS…and, as usual, they gave me several this tour.

Breakfast came with an introduction from and a short Q&A with Jose Andres, host of “Made in Spain,” a show which I now feel like I need to watch just because he was so darned charming. After that, we got an update from PBS Kids which was surprisingly unexciting, but I stuck it out because I didn’t want to feel guilty about strolling out with the “Dinosaur Train” and “Super Why” toys that were on table. (My daughter’s going to love them…) From there, we shifted into the big ballroom and spent some time with Jeff Bridges as he talked about his upcoming “American Masters” special, then back to the small ballroom for the “Masterpiece” presentations on “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Zen.”

Back to the big ballroom again for “Bears of the Last Frontier,” but although I was fascinated, I had to slip out early in order to do a one-on-one with Rufus Sewell about his work on “Zen.” Thankfully, I made it back in time for the long but wonderful panel for “The Best of Laugh-In,” featuring Gary Owens, Jo Anne Worley, Ruth Buzzi, Lily Tomlin, and creator George Schlatter. Sadly, I missed most of the next two panels, “Forgiveness: A Time to Love & A Time to Hate” and “Independent Lens: Artists Profiles,” but on the other hand, it’s because I was able to help my buddy Brian Sebastian on interviews with Owens and Tomlin, even getting a few questions in myself.

The evening event was a performance by Harry Connick Jr. in conjunction with his “Great Performances” special, and I thought it was fantastic, if unabashedly jazzy. But, really, if you were expecting anything else, then you clearly haven’t been listening to the man’s music very much. All I know is that he tore the roof off the joint, and I loved every minute of it.

Okay, time for your top 10 quotes of the day. You’ll note more repetition of shows this go-round, but all I can tell you is that there were fewer panels and less instantly memorable moments in some of them. I think you’ll still get a few good laughs from this bunch, anyway, though. See you tomorrow!

1. “I got a little bit nervous when they told me that I had to be speaking in front of TV critics. I knew I was coming here to share time at PBS, but all of a sudden it’s, like, ‘The room is going to be full of TV critics.’ Great: all my life dealing with food critics one by one, and now I’m going to have to be dealing with an entire room of TV critics…?” – Jose Andres, “Made in Spain”

2. “There’s an element in making movies, the collage, that you give all your stuff and then the director cuts it up and makes a different piece out of it. Seeing myself as this young guy (in ‘Tron: Legacy’), it rubbed my fur a little bit the wrong way. You know, it was a bit like…remember the first time you heard your voice on a tape recorder, how weird it sounded to you? Early on in my career…I don’t know if we have time for kind of a long story. You feel like a story or not?

“My first film was called ‘Halls of Anger.’ The movie was about busing white kids into a black school, and I was the white kid who was supposed to be, you know, trying to integrate into the sports and all these things. And the black kids keep beating me up. So now this is the scene here; what I’m going to describe is the climax of the film. And Calvin Lockhart, wonderful actor, is playing the boys’ vice principal. And the scene is; I’ve been beaten up, and now I’m there, and I say, ‘I’m quitting.’ And I’m in tears and everything. He says, ‘No, you got to stick.’ I say, ‘I’ve had it. I’ve had enough,’ you know. So we started shooting the scene, and we did Calvin’s side first. And all my emotion came, and I was thinking, ‘God, I hope I have it when we come back to my side.’ Then they shot all the coverage of all the people’s reaction, and I was there. And then they came to my side, and I kicked ass, man. I was so…it was like fresh, and I got applause from the crew. And I was, like, ‘Oh, man, maybe I should do this acting thing. I’m pretty good!’ Now we cut to Watts, and it’s the premiere of the show, and I’m sitting there with my brother on one side and my father on one side. And I’m saying, ‘Wait till you guys see my…’ Well, you know, not saying it to them, but I’m saying it inside. And here comes the scene. And here it comes. And now they’re on Calvin. Yeah, Calvin, the boys’ vice principal. Yeah. Cut to me. Cut to me. Why aren’t you cutting to me? And now they cut to me…and my face is something like (a grimace). And the entire audience laughs…and I just about had a bowel movement. And if you listened, it was the perfect opposite reaction that I wanted from the audience.

“That was like a real crossroads for me with the acting, because I thought, ‘God, how do you protect yourself?’ And you don’t. You just have to be willing to lay it out there and put yourself in some director’s hands.” – Jeff Bridges, “American Masters: Jeff Bridges – The Dude Abides”

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Who says a trailer has to explain a movie?

For some reason, most of the people who make trailers these days think they have to give you a detailed summary of the film. They’re wrong. A case in point, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” which I mention in the post below, did extremely well in its limited, eight-theater release this weekend. My curiosity is peaked, but I really don’t have much idea what the film’s about from this trailer, and I like it that way.

This other trailer tells you almost nothing about the actual plot of the movie in question, though it tells you something. The movie did okay.

  

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TCA Tour: Breaking Bad

AMC may have broken its streak of perfection in late 2009 when their miniseries remake of “The Prisoner” met predominantly with either indifference or annoyance, but there’s plenty of reason to expect that the network will regain its good name in full in 2010.

For one thing, there’s the announcement that Kurt Ellis, the screenwriter behind HBO’s “John Adams,” is setting his sights on Warren Harding and developing the miniseries “Black Gold: The Teapot Dome Scandal.” Then, of course, there’s the fact that we’ve been chomping at the bit for Season 4 of “Mad Men” ever since the dissolution of Sterling-Cooper back in November, which means that we’ll pretty much forgive the network anything when the series returns later this year. Joel Stillerman, AMC’s Senior Vice President of Original Programming, Production, and Digital Content, gave us this one-liner: “Betty is off to Reno, Don is shacked up in the village, Sterling Cooper is held up in a hotel room, but maybe most importantly, Joan is back, and it should be another great season of one of the best shows ever.” Sounds good to me. More details are also emerging about the latest addition to AMC’s slate of original series, “Rubicon,” which Stillerman describes as “an incredibly compelling mystery that pays homage to the great conspiracy thrillers of the ’70s like ‘The Parallax View’ and ‘Three Days of the Condor,’” adding, “We thought, if we could find a way to take that style of storytelling that has stood the test of time so well and spin it off into a serialized drama, we would have something really great.” Let’s hope they do.

But enough about the new kid on the block. Let’s talk about the network’s other high-profile series: “Breaking Bad,” which will kick off its third season on March 21st.

It will, I’m sure, not surprise you that there will be little in the way of revelations in this piece, what with the season premiere still more than two months away as of this writing, but I can tell you that, within the first five minutes of the panel, the discussion had already veered between a religion called Santa Muerte and a teddy bear’s eyeball, so, y’know, make of that what you will.

Like many dramas on TV, the cast members of “Breaking Bad” have almost as little idea what’s going to happen next as the viewers do, rarely knowing how things are going to unfold until they get the script for the next episode.

“That’s what makes it exciting,” explained Bryan Cranston, who plays the show’s cancer-ridden meth dealer, Walter White. “Just like you watching it, we are reading it, and the feeling has the same impact, as much surprise as you have. We often comment to each other, ‘Did you read it yet? Did you read it?’ ‘Yeah, don’t tell me. Don’t tell me. Don’t tell me.’ ‘I’m only halfway through it.’ ‘Oh, yeah. Oh, my goodness. You are not going to believe it. You are not going to believe it.’ So you have that kind of anxiety and anticipation of what’s about to happen, so it’s never boring and always a surprise and a turn here and there.”

As expected, Cranston wouldn’t offer specifics about what Walt would be going through in Season 3, but he was willing to speak in general terms, at least. “There are actually a couple turns that happen emotionally, some physically,” he said. “I’m starting to completely accept the metamorphosis of my character. I’m breaking out of the cocoon and ready to become a different person, and that transition over time is one of the things that was the most compelling for me about wanting to do this show is that (creator) Vince Gilligan said he wanted to do something that he’s never seen before, and that’s, as he famously puts it, turn Mr. Chips into Scarface. And it hasn’t been done on television before unless someone can cite an occasion where you actually see a person completely change who he is by the end of the series or near the end of the series. I will be a completely different person from the milquetoast person you saw in the pilot.”

(You may recall that Cranston spoke to this issue when he chatted with Bullz-Eye in conjunction with the most recent TV Power Rankings.)

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