Tag: Liza Minnelli

A roundtable chat with producers Irwin and David Winkler of “The Mechanic”

Irwin and David WinklerHealthy father and son relationships are certainly more the exception than the rule at the movies. Even so, the murderous biological and surrogate father and son pairings in the original film “The Mechanic” and its action-packed update with Jason Statham and Ben Foster, are unusually problematic. It’s a tale, after all, about a junior hit-man learning from an older paid killer who has, in turn, killed the younger killer’s dad.

That, of course has pretty much nothing to do with two of the new version’s real-life father and son producers, Irwin and David Winkler. For the remake of the 1971 actioner, the pair have teamed up with another parent-and-offspring team, Irwin Winkler’s long-time producing partner, Bill Chartoff and his son, Robert. (For the record, there are a total of ten producers and five executive producers credited on the film.) Both individually and with Bill Chartoff, the elder Winkler has been involved with a remarkable number of good movies and a few genuine classics, starting with Sydney Pollack’s pitch-black Oscar winner, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also including two of Martin Scorsese‘s signature works, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Winkler and Chartoff also, of course, produced “The Mechanic,” the first time around when it was as much of a chilling look at sociopathy as it was an action flick.

Like any great producer, Irwin Winkler has had his share of interesting financial failures.  There was the ultra-culty early John Boorman film, “Leo the Last” and Martin Scorsese’s big budget 1977 disappointment “New York, New York.” Fortunately, there was also the occasional modest but high quality success like Bertrand Tavernier’s great 1986 love letter to jazz and jazz fandom, “‘Round Midnight.” He and Bill Chartoff were also key players in one of the most enduring franchises in film history, the one that started with a low-budget boxing drama called “Rocky.” Since 1991’s “Guilty by Suspicion,” Winkler has also occasionally directed. His most recent films include the musical Cole Porter biopic, “De-Lovely,” and the Iraq war drama “Home of the Brave,” which received a speedy burial.

For his part, son David Winkler has worked on a number of television movies as well as with his father on 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” He also directed the 1998 drama, “Finding Graceland” starring Harvey Keitel.

I was personally anxious to talk to Winklers during a recent L.A. press junket for “The Mechanic” because of an oddball “only in L.A.” family anecdote. I was nevertheless beaten to the punch by an Italian reporter with a rather distinctive interviewing style who tended to dominate the discussion.

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Liza’s at the Palace

Early on, Liza Minnelli did a fantastic job of making the world forget her “somewhat famous” parents. In Bob Fosse’s 1972 film version of “Cabaret” and in “Liza with a ‘Z’,” the TV variety special he put together for her, she proved herself a first-rate actress, singer, and dancer with a humorous, gently ironic style all her own. Despite solid acting performances in numerous movies and TV shows since, her overall career trajectory since has been, of course, difficult.

In 2008, Minnelli regained her diva status with a critically acclaimed concert/theatrical performance, “Liza’s at the Palace,” which incorporates a recreation of the legendary nightclub act of her multi-talented godmother, Kay Thompson (“Funny Face“). Taped before an adoring, celebrity-studded audience at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, this late 2009 performance is sure to please hardcore fans. For some, however, it will be painful to watch, for all the pizazz. It’s not that age, illness and all the rest have taken their toll on Minnelli’s almost too powerful voice, nor would any sane viewer expect her to dance like it’s still 1972. Her commitment remains undeniably powerful. The problem lay elsewhere. For all her attempts to tell a personal story, Minnelli’s style when communicating through song or spoken word has become — and I don’t know how else to say this — bizarrely phony and off-putting. It’s one thing for a second-generation powerhouse performer to have show business in her blood, it’s another thing when nothing else appears to be in it.

Click to buy “Liza’s at the Palace”

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