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Wednesday April 24, 2013

Gregory Peck in Second Grade

Once you see something it's easy to see it, and it's tough to forget how hard it was to see it in the first place.

I thought my “Find the Future Movie Star” post was easy, for example, because, once I knew, my eyes always went right to this kid, and he looked a lot like his future movie-star self.

But I linked to the post via Facebook and immediately got the following guesses:

  • Jack Nicholson, bottom row
  • Jimmy Stewart, middle?
  • James Cagney, first row, third from left
  • Marilyn Monroe, somewhere
  • Clint Eastwood, front row, third from left
  • Jack Nicholson, second row, far right
  • Clark Gable, back row, first on left
  • Spencer Tracy, third row middle
  • John Wayne? Up towards the top? Blondie?
  • Got it. Paul Newman.
  • Gary Cooper, top left for the block

Eventually Sasha Stone of Awards Daily got it. It's Gregory Peck. (Click on pic for bigger version.)

Gregory Peck in second grade, La Jolla, Calif.

Sasha guessed wrong several times, too, but once she saw it she really saw it. “He looks the same!!” she wrote. My friend Colleen added, “Lots of little boys scowling, but not Peck!” Peck's good boy, I guess.

It is startling. Everyone around him looks like one of the dead-end kids, and there he is in the back row, about the handsomest second-grader ever.

Posted at 10:07 AM on Apr 24, 2013 in category Movies
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Find the Future Movie Star

This is a second-grade class photo of a family friend. One of his classmates became one of the biggest movie stars of the 20th century. Can you find him? Click on the photo for a bigger version.

Class photo

Click here for the answer.

Posted at 06:43 AM on Apr 24, 2013 in category Movies
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Tuesday April 16, 2013

Five Facts about Terrence Malick

Via Jeffrey Wells, I came across this post, called “39 Facts About Terrence Malick,” on Brett McCracken's site The Search, so named for a Walker Percy quote.

All 39 facts, written when “The Tree of Life” was in theaters, are interesting, particularly to Malick fans I suppose (Malick interviewed Che Guevara?), but for those confused by, or disappointed in, “To the Wonder,” these facts are helpful:

  • During his “sabbatical,” home base was an apartment in Paris and later two apartments (one for living, one for writing) in a prefabricated building in Austin, Texas.
  • In the early 80s, Malick fell in love with Michèle, a Parisienne who lived in his same building in Paris and had a daughter, Alex. After a few years the three of them moved to Austin, Texas
  • Malick married Michèle in 1985, but they divorced in 1998.
  • Malick married Alexandra “Ecky” Wallace in 1998 (his rumored high school sweetheart from his days at St. Stephen’s). They are still married and currently reside in Austin, Texas.

So Michele is Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Alexandra is Jane (Rachel McAdams). My review of “To the Wonder” will be up later.

The most interesting fact on McCracken's list?

  • Zoolander is one of Malick’s all time favorite films.

I don't know whether to be disappointed or monumentally impressed.

To the Wonder: Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams

Neil and Jane or Terrence and Alexandra?

Posted at 06:52 AM on Apr 16, 2013 in category Movies
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Thursday April 11, 2013

Consumption Written with Lightning

I saw Pablo Larrain's movie “No” Saturday afternoon. It was humorous and yet disquieting in a way I couldn't put my finger on. Its hero, René, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, was basically selling pablum and we were cheering him on to do so. He achieved a greater good in doing so. Patricia and I spoke about it during coffee afterwards.

But it wasn't until the next day, writing my review, that I wrote to a place where I realized this may have been the point. René believed in Hollywood endings but he was in an arthouse movie. In a sense, he wouldn't approve of the movie he was in—with its boxy aspect ratio and old-school, unflattering video format. The movie was about a group of people who said “No” to a dictator, which was a great event, a furthering of democracy; but the way they got there, through the cold machinations of an ad man appealing to the lowest-common denominator, indicated the direction democracy would go. We would wind up where we are. To use the Neil Postman paradigm, Chile overthrew “1984” to wind up in “Brave New World.” The people said “No” to Pinochet but they can't say “No” to René.

For a second I thought, “How brilliant.”

A second later, I thought, “How sad.” For Larrain. For filmmakers. They spend years on something that most people consume in hours and quickly forget. If I hadn't written my review, I would've thought “No” was simply a good, funny movie about the '88 election. I might have said there was something disquieting about it but I couldn't have told you why. Because I only would have spent two hours and change on it.

A novelist may spend years on a book, sure, but it takes most people days, or weeks, to consume that book. And in that time they're in the novelist's world. They're immersed in it. They have time to think on it. It's an entirely different experience. One that generally doesn't involve other people munching popcorn and checking their cellphones.

That must be tough for filmmakers. Their medium defies analysis for the mass. It leads to the ascendancy of people like René.

On the other hand, it's easier to rewatch a movie than it is to reread a book.

Gael Garcia Bernal in Pablo Larrain's "No"

Road to democracy or road to nowhere?

Posted at 07:18 AM on Apr 11, 2013 in category Movies
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Friday March 22, 2013

Breaking the Fourth Wall

For the past few weeks, Patricia and I have been watching all 13 episodes of Netflix's new show, “House of Cards,” in which Kevin Spacey's character, Rep. Frank Underwood (D-SC), keeps breaking the fourth wall, a la Richard III, to tell us his inner thoughts and potential schemes and means to power. It's fun, and Spacey does it impeccably.

I mentioned this at work the other day and one of my colleagues brought up a new YouTube video that compiles great fourth-wall breakers, from, yes, Richard III, to  Alvy Singer to Superman:

Not sure why they began the way they began. With a literal breaking of a wall? The “Blazing Saddles” stuff is less fourth-wall-breaking and more self-referential, isn't it? The James Bond, too, is post-modern/meta. I would've begun with Rob Gordon in “High Fidelity.” He gives you your structure.

Plus there's a whole lot more Groucho they could've done.

But the “Sweet Transvestite” number—Dr. Frankenfurter leading to Belushi to Damien to Norman Bates—is inspired.

Is fourth-wall breaking better for comedy and horror? To make us laugh or scare us? Seems to.

What's your favorite example? How would you rank them? I might put Norman Bates No. 1: When the voyeur, being watched (by us), watches back; when he reclaims that power.

Missing scenes? Off the top of my head, and besides Groucho, I'd go with Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places”: “... pork bellies, which is used to make bacon, which you might find in a bacon and lettuce and tomato sandwich.” Then the look.

Posted at 07:53 AM on Mar 22, 2013 in category Movies
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