Just Another Reason Why He is the King of Hollywood

Recently my wife purchased the DVD "Something's Gotta Give", and while I wasn't jubilant I did want to see the movie, but for one reason.


After these years Nicholson has transcended the title "actor" and has become instantly iconic in most roles. Granted this one isn't as complex as he was in say "As Good as it Gets", but you feel you have to watch Jack on screen in every role simply by rote. He's a fixture, he's a man's man, and he still has the chops.

While "Something's" primarily a female targeted romance picture that is only because Jack chose to step aside when the time called for it and allowed the actresses to grab the heft of the script. The reason I even bring all this up is that in passing (technically, "in cleaning") I came to discover that the disc featured a pair of audio commentaries, one involving Nicholson sitting in with director Nancy Myers.

Listening to this master wax theoretic on the craft he's known for is enjoyable, but the best part comes very early, in the scene where he is initially driving into the Hamptons. He's smoking a cigar with Amanda Peete's character in the passenger seat, and Jack reveals a technique when he explains he was unhappy with the way the lightning made his neck look so he had the cigar to block the camera.

MYERS: I remember how many cigars you smoked that day.

NICHOLSON: Not enough.

A Look Into the Life of a Film Critic, or, "Did Anyone Really Ask for This?"

Last night I was having a talk with someone I had just met, and when it came out that I was a film reviewer I got this response: "Wow, you must get to see some really great movies!" Because I am polite I didn't laugh out loud. The truth of the matter is that quite the opposite is true. Rarely do I get to sit in on a well crafted cinematic effort, but this is not a complaint as most of the time I actively seek out the detritus of Hollywood and elsewhere.

While the occasional first-run movie falls into my lap and I get the chance to review it on Film Threat, the wide majority of the movies I critique come from other sources. Independant features and film festival features are some of the most fertile territories that I tread, but this can be a hit or miss proposition. While I desire the indie segment and savor the talent and guts that often is behind a film like this getting made, just as often you can sit through a completely misguided attempt.

Take my recent trip to Sundance where I experienced the broadest spectrum of quality in a concentrated time frame. One film from Italy, "Three Step Dancing", had me wondering why it was selected, as well as why it was even made. The worst of the lot was "Harry and Max", which if you dare to read the review will reveal that it centered upon incestuous homosexual pedophilia.

This movie made me hate.

Another area I've been known to frequent is the often aberrant sector of direct-to-rental releases. These are the films that for any number of reasons never got released into theaters and find their debut to the public taking place on the Blockbuster Video shelf. These can either be festival hopefuls that never found distribution, or lavishly produced pictures that turned out so wrong the studio decided to cut its losses and dump it into home theater, or even those films produced on the cheap with the express purpose of turning a quick dollar in the rental market. In most of these cases the quality is nonexistent; this is not a place to enter into lightly.

My last stream of product comes via the web site itself, a source that I simply will call The Box. Every two months or so I will put the word out to my editor and soon in the mail I will receive a parcel from them containing up to 2 dozen tapes and DVDs. Film Threat, and our publisher Chris Gore, has a high degree of admiration in the indie film community. This was evident when walking Main Street in Park City behind Chris as he was perpetually confronted by those who recognized him.

Even at our festival last year I experienced this effect. I was sitting with a cameraman/producer friend of mine who came in from upstate and we met a woman doing PR for one of the films entered. I explained how I wouldn't have the chance to see the film and asked if a screener copy was available. She scoffed at me, using a patronizing tone to lecture me on the risk of piracy. I shrugged at her and simply told her I had hoped to post a review of it on Film Threat. The woman's eyes snapped wide and in the next 5 minutes she returned to our table three times to explain that she had spoken with the director, then to deliver a press kit, and finally to hand me a copy of the film. My friend marveled at this display and remarked that if I tried I could be a real asshole with this power. (I thanked him for suggesting I wasn't currently an asshole.)

So back to The Box. Because of this clout the offices of the web site get besieged with unsolicited copies of movies from hopeful film makers looking for a break. I once saw a picture of their room where mail bins and five feet tall piles of tapes and discs were stored. This was only what they average on a monthly basis. When I put in for my next delivery they take a snow shovel and scoop up part of the pile and ship it my way. The best way to describe the overall quality of these attempts is that my dog will not go near The Box when it comes in. Daunting is but one word to use when delving into the contents.


The Rance id

It was near the start of this space that I came across another contributor in the blogosphere hiding behind the sobriquet of Rance. He/she purported to be a star of obscure fame and used the blog to expound on issues they normally wouldn't have the freedom to discuss.

It was a fun read for a time, for even while you thought it was a scam it was that small grain of possibility that made it addictive enough to come back, even if you thought you were probably being played. But over time the lack of true heft to the postings began to ironically weigh down the proceedings, and interest began to wane for me. Then there was the moment I felt certain it was an all out ruse: Rance was unclear on the location of Spago! The Masked Star claimed to be mistaken due to his being unaffected by such things as when they closed one of Puck's places, but if Rance is the mover Rance claims to be there should be an agent around to keep this kind of information at the fore. I subsequently moved on.

Then suddenly Rance became a hot topic in the linked realm. Everyone it seemed was speculating who was the true identity behind the Oz like visage, with naming the luminary becoming the new parlor game of the ethernet. Guesses ranged from all around, with names such as Owen Wilson or George Clooney being alluded. Defamer had an interesting bit that inferred it could be the devilish Sr. Affleck, based on a puzzle that might have incorporated a tattoo he is adorned with. But I seem to recall that tatt was seen in a Rolling Stone article and therefore common knowledge, i.e. not so revelatory.

Last week Reuters jumped onto the bandwagon and jumped the shark at the same time when they published an extensive interview with the nebulous star. This mercifully could bring about the end.

And if not maybe the Museum of Hoaxes can. In a compelling and detailed account they seem to have tracked down Rance's trail to that of a political cartoonist and former European minor league baseball player named Keith Thompson. I hope they are correct,if for no other reason than to make the rest of the world look like simps.

He Was in "Gigli" So Why Not The Food Network?

When it comes to unhinged and downright curious screen actors I defy you to name one more obtuse than Christopher Walken. No matter the movie, and no matter the role, you cannot help but watch him when he is on camera. Between that warbling diction and the thousand-peyote-button stare you get mesmorized against your will.Walken has become an icon even though he largely plays himself in every role, but it is the way he plays with his image and what that image brings to his portrayal that makes him work. Think of his character, the duplicitous father Frank Abignale in "Catch Me if You Can, who would have merely been a pathetic grifter in the hands of any other actor.

The New York Times Magazine has a four page article on Walken that is well worth the registration to read. In the opening paragraph alone they offer a scenario that would be impossible to avoid should it come to fruition:
For years, the painter and director Julian Schnabel, a longtime friend of Walken's, has urged the actor to be the host of his own cooking show. This could be more captivating than his turn as a loopy dancer in a music video.
''The danger for me is, it could be popular,'' Walken says. ''I've tried to have some prestige as an actor, then I'd be the guy with the cooking show.'' This is the same guy who appeared in "Kangaroo Jack" not to mention a David Spade movie, "Joe Dirt"--a cooking show would be a step up.

But there are more nuggets to be found in this piece. He mentions a time where he tried out a personal therapist who worked out of her home--
''She had all these pots and pans and dishes piled everywhere. She was dirty, dirty. I thought, How am I going to take advice from someone like that? Not surprisingly it didn't take. "That was the end of my shrinkage. Maybe if she had been clean and nice I'd still be in therapy.'' This makes for a nice read to kick off the week.