Tag: Hal Ashby

Cinephile blogs don’t care if I ignore them

But it’s still high time I take a look around the online petri dish that has nurtured me for so long…

* Jesus of film geek cool Dennis Cozzalio has a nifty conversation with director Joe Dante (“Gremlins,” “Piranha,” “Rock ‘n Roll High School,” “The Howling,” etc.) whose doing some ultra film-geek stuff in L.A. while finishing up his lowish budget 3-D horror film, “The Hole.”

* Kimberly Lindbergs reviews the new biography of Hal Ashby (“Harold and Maude,” “Being There”) whose fandom is definitely growing.

* There’ll be more posts like this to come, but I’ll wrap up with the amazing Self Styled Siren‘s discovery a couple of week’s back of a truly great YouTube clip featuring Fred Astaire dancing and singing a song now practically owned by Frank Sinatra. If Frank was the ultimate saloon singer, Fred was the ultimate urbane hoofer. And he was an underrated singer and actor as well.

Though the Siren has problems embedding, I can present it to you directly here. Even if you think you hate or have no interest in musicals, check this one out, by the time Fred starts dancing at 2:45, I promise you won’t be sorry. (The video, by the way, runs a bit long. Feel free to click away after Fred finally ambles out of the bar. Also, note that he tells humorist-turned-actor Robert Benchley that he plans to walk, not drive, home — which is not the way the song’s usually interpreted. That’s Astaire: class through and through.)

Lookin’ To Get Out!

Honestly, there was nobody more excited than me by the prospect of experiencing a “lost” Hal Ashby film. He directed some of the best – “Harold and Maude,” “The Last Detail,” “Shampoo,” “Coming Home,” and “Being There” and when it was announced that Jon Voight had discovered a longer cut of this nearly forgotten Ashby offering that he felt placed it among the greats, there was reason to get one’s hopes up. Unfortunately, it is not one of the greats. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s also not comparable in quality and vision to any of the aforementioned films. Voight stars as a fast (but not smooth) talking gambler who’s in over his head. He and his buddy, played by Burt Young, head to Vegas (where else?) to fix their situation. Once they arrive, they meet an old friend of Voight’s (Ann-Margret), and he may be the father of her child. Is it just me, or does all of this sound old hat? With some tweaking, it didn’t have to be.

The biggest problem with “Lookin’ to Get Out!” is not the hackneyed premise but, rather, the execution of it. The entire affair is dialed far too much in the direction of comedy, and the laughs either aren’t funny or just don’t work. For instance, there’s a wacky chase through a casino that kicks off the third act that’s painfully overlong and soaked with a dreadful ‘80s synth track (as is much of the film). If the whole thing had just been shifted into a slightly more dramatic direction, it likely would’ve played much better, as is evidenced by the few scenes where Voight gets to play some genuine pathos. His work is generally pretty good here, even if the material isn’t, and it’s certainly a much different Voight than we’re used to seeing. (Keep an eye out for the screen debut of a very young Angelina Jolie in the film’s final scenes.) It’s difficult to recommend to anyone who isn’t a student of Ashby, and yet, despite its problems, fans of the maverick director could do a lot worse than to at least check it out.

Click to buy “Lookin’ To Get Out!”

Being There: Deluxe Edition

These days, it seems almost impossible to bring up “Being There” without some unimaginative goon coming along and comparing it to “Forrest Gump.” That’s unfortunate, because if, like me, you’ve got little patience for that particular Zemeckis opus, you may be inclined to skip “Being There” altogether. This would be a grave mistake. The big difference between the two films is that “Gump” wants to be an important film, but in doing so, it achieves the opposite. “Being There,” on the other hand, has no such aspirations and manages to become an important film because it isn’t trying so hard. And if you’ve never seen the film and think you know everything there is to know about Peter Sellers, then “Being There” will show you the actor as you’ve never seen him before.

Chance (Sellers) is a middle-aged man best described as “simple.” He’s seemingly spent his entire life living with and tending to the garden of a very rich man. Since the old man is dead at the start of the film, we’re given very little information about Chance. Where did he come from and how did he come to be in the employ/care of the old man? We never find out. Chance is the blankest of all slates, and his only real exposure to the outside world has come through the television. He seems to enjoy the news and “Captain Kangaroo” equally. But now that the old man has passed on, Chance is given no choice but to go out into the world on his own, for the very first time, and it’s a strange place that doesn’t necessarily work as it does on TV.

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