Sunday, August 30, 2009

Peter Bogdanovich interview, 1993

“The Thing Called Love” is one of a thousand curious marketing stories in the history of the film business. It was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, who had a string of big hits and critical favorites in the 1970s – “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up, Doc?” and “Paper Moon,” and then again in the ’80s hit with “Mask.” (Bogdanovich is also known as a film historian who conducted extensive interviews – and had friendships – with legendary directors like Orson Welles and John Ford. And as the lover of the tragic Dorothy Stratten.) In August 1993, there was a press screening for “The Thing Called Love,” a showbiz-insider movie about wanna-be country music singer-songwriters pursuing their dreams in Nashville. The music genre was exploding in popularity around the country at the time. It starred the long-established River Phoenix, who would sadly be dead of a drug overdose in a couple of months, and up-and-comers Samantha Mathis (“Broken Arrow”), Dermot Mulroney (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”) and Sandra Bullock. All the Salt Lake-area critics assumed the film would be opening wide. I was a bit surprised when I was offered a phone interview with Bogdanovich – granted, he hadn’t had a hit in a while, but still … Anyway, he called and I’ve pasted in the transcript from the interview below. The Standard-Examiner, Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News published interview stories the day the film opened in local theaters. But it turned out the film was being test-marketed in Utah only – it didn’t open wide until a month or so later, if memory serves. The studio had decided to test-market it in a region friendly to country-western music to see how it would play. I don’t think it made much money here, and it bombed nationally later on, even with the curiosity surrounding the tragedy of River Phoenix’s O.D. (Incidentally, Phoenix overdosed in Los Angeles during a break from filming a movie, “Dark Blood,” in Utah – a movie that was never finished or released.) Here now is the interview with Peter Bogdanovich, who was a lot of fun to speak with.


Peter Bogdanovich: “Boy, I hope so, Don.”


“I like country music; I always have. I mean, always – ever since 1970, when I went to Nashville -- when I was preparing ‘Last Picture Show’ I went to Nashville to meet with some country-western singers to get to know more about country music because I wanted to use it in the movie. And I sort of fell in love with it then, and have used it in five or six pictures since then.

“Clerks” (1994)

I definitely ventured against the critical grain on this one. And Kevin Smith has gone on to a successful, entertainingly iconoclastic career.
$28,000 film just ain’t that funny
Standard-Examiner staff
The ultimate expression of prevailing slacker chic, “Clerks” arrives in Utah theaters today, trailing awards -- from Sundance and Cannes -- and critical praise in its wake. But just why it’s been so flattered with tony prizes and positive reviews is a puzzlement.

Yes, “Clerks” is witty. And, to be sure, it’s quite an achievement for a micro-budget of less than $28,000. (For comparison, the average Hollywood studio movie costs upwards of $30 million, excluding prints and advertising.)

But if you strip away the irresistible background story of a pair of resourceful first-time filmmakers who scratched together the funds to make their movie by maxing out credit cards and filming in a convenience store where one of them was employed, you’re left with an ultra-low budget oddity that’s more profane, sexist and vulgar than it is intelligent or entertaining.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989)

Standard·Examiner staff

Hey, dudes and babes, listen up. There's this, like, new movie called "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." And, whoa, it's not bad. Actually, it's most excellent as teen films go.

The movie is about these two dudes named Bill and Ted, from San Dimas, Calif. And they're, like, awesomely righteous. They have a cool band called the Wyld Stallyns, and they hope to, like, lure Eddie Van Halen away from his group to play guitar for them, ya know? And they really need him, too, because neither Ted nor Bill know how to play their instruments.

So, anyway, Ted's dad is this bogus authority figure who works as a cop on the San Dimas police force. And since Ted is failing history, his dad has threatened to send him to, like, a military academy.

No way!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Heat" (1995)

Given that Michael Mann's latest film, "Public Enemies," is still in (a few) theaters, I thought I'd post my review of "Heat," which was a lot of fun. I especially liked the after-heist shootout through the streets of Los Angeles, which oddly enough would be played out in real life not too long afterward.

“Heat” is on with great acting, writing, intensity

Standard-Examiner staff

There is an action scene in “Heat” that is as visceral and powerful as any filmed in years: Four bank robbers are attempting to make their getaway, but they’re encircled by cops in downtown Los Angeles. Both sides are heavily armed, and writer-director Michael Mann, instead of showing us the resulting shootout, puts his audience smack-dab in the middle of it.

For all of the violent action flicks being made, few have ever matched this portion of “Heat.” Words like “intense” and “powerful” come up short.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"The Prophecy" (1995)

You like horror? You’ll love “The Prophecy”

Standard-Examiner staff

Once in a while, a little horror movie comes along that reminds you of the genre’s possibilities to entertain. It happened a few years ago with “Tremors,” and a few years before that with “They Live.”

Now comes “The Prophecy,” a nifty, scary little shocker that despite being drenched in religious themes remains pleasantly free of dogma. It offers tons of fun for those drawn toward horror that makes you both think and laugh out loud.

The ever-laconic, creepy Christopher Walken stars here as the archangel Gabriel, who’s descended to Earth on a mission that sounds very bad for all of humanity. Apparently, there was a second war waged in heaven -- after the first one, which resulted in Lucifer being banished with his bunch to hell -- that continues unresolved to this day. Now, angels on both sides are warring on the streets of America, vying for a particularly nasty soul which, if it falls into the hands of Gabriel, could turn the tide his way.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Joe Mantegna, March 1989

In March 1989, word came that an independent film would be filming at various Ogden locations over a few weeks. I’m not sure how it works now, but two decades ago, a guy like me – film critic for a small daily newspaper – would have to work the phones in an attempt to convince a publicist somewhere that they should let me on the set to interview one or more people associated with the production.

I was especially keen to get an interview for this film, “Wait Until Spring, Bandini” – based on the John Fante novel – since its male lead was Joe Mantegna, one of my favorite actors. I got the interview – actually, a two-parter – and the first time I sat down with him was near midnight in his trailer next to a little-used train trestle in West Ogden. He was gracious and funny and we spent a couple of hours talking and hanging around the set to watch that evening’s scene be filmed.
A couple of weeks later, I spent the morning on Ogden’s Historic 25th Street watching another scene, this one with Mantegna and Burt Young (“Rocky”). Mantegna had me sitting in the director’s chair next to his while the crew attempted to make a 70-degree day look like a mid-winter scene, including shoveling snow all over the street and sidewalks. It was a fun day, with lots of conversation about his long collaboration with playwright/filmmaker David Mamet, among other things.