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Entries in Dangerous Liaisons (7)


Posterized: Director Stephen Frears

Streep & StephenThe "Posterized" series has fallen into a 'totally inconsistent director' zone. Last week we looked at Woody Allen's filmography, full of impossible peaks and embarrassing valleys and everything inbetween. The 75 year old British director Stephen Frears hasn't had peaks that are quite as dizzy from the genius altitude but his valleys aren't as cringeworthy as Allen's, either. He's a safe middle distance director that critics and audiences and Oscar can all love, albeit not stay married to. He's made 22 features over the course of his long career which began with 1971's Gumshoe after which he disappeared into epidodic British TV for a decade or so until his movie career really started to sizzle; My Beautiful Laundrette put him on the global map. But did he ever really top that breakthrough?

For all the ups and downs that followed, the consistency is his love for actresses: he famously directed Helen Mirren to her Oscar, and he's worked with Glenn Close, Judi Dench, and Michelle Pfeiffer twice each.

It's a busy summer for Frears.  He's prepping a third feature with Judi Dench called Victoria and Abdul, he's added Meryl Streep to his grande dame arsenal via Florence Foster Jenkins, and he'll receive the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo Award at the 22nd Annual Sarajevo Film Festival which starts today.

All the Frears theatrical posters are after the jumpHow many of his films have you seen?

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Reader's Choice: Cruel Intentions (1999)

Wednesday nights are now devoted to you. We'll alternate between a Q&A and a Reader's Choice Movie. So you are essentially picking the topics each week. We started with Gattaca but y'all kept asking for Cruel Intentions so here we are again.

Believe it or not, I've never seen Cruel Intentions (1999) so I gladly accept the multiple requests to discuss. This is written and directed by someone named Roger Kumble and the name did not ring a bell. It turns out he's still working, mostly on television and he's working on a TV sequel to this very movie. I missed this news somehow but Sarah Michelle Gellar is reprising her role so this post is more timely than I meant it to be.

The credits also inform us that it's only "suggested by" Dangerous Liaisons.  That's a fancy word for adapted if you want to compete in Original Screenplay at the Oscars. (Not that this teen picture had any such designs.) I'm not sure if you know this but Dangerous Liaisons (1988) is one of my all time favorite movies. And Swoosie Kurtz is in this one, too! We begin with her as Sebastian Valmont's (Ryan Phillipe) therapist. Her broad gestures and funny notes remind us that this is a comedy. Of sorts. 

Swoosie, an unlikely victim in both Dangerous Liaisons movie

In both movies Swoosie is the mother of someone who couldn't have possibly come from her womb: Uma Thurman in the 1988 movie and Tara Reid in this movie -- so, downgrade. Tara must have been left on the editing room floor because this photo is all we see of her

His therapist is immune to young Sebastian's charms but she learns as he's leaving that her daughter wasn't. She screams at her nasty patient as he leaves the building and he flashes her this baby devil grin. [More...]

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25 Years Ago Today... Marquise & Madame 

These pictures were literally shot 25 years ago today - Michelle Pfeiffer & Glenn Close at the Governor's Ball for the 1988 Oscars on March 29th, 1989.  

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Illustration Friday is fun internet exercize for artists and though most of the participants seem to be professional, which I am not, I'm trying it again to celebrate my first iPad (which is much easier to draw on then the phone). This weeks topic is "Spark" and the second I saw the words this image popped into my mind. Because few things at the cinema have ever felt so much like a lit fuse to something powder-keg explosive...

To this day I remember the chills, my breath stopping in the movie theater when the Marquise de Mertueil (Glenn Close) and Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) had their final heated confrontation. They'd fallen out over previous verbal arrangements and epistolary evidence. "A single word" is all he asks to mend things between them, though it sounds like a threat. The single word he's looking for is "yes" but she has a different three letter word in mind.



Movie go boom.

If "fierce" hadn't yet been invented as a word, the existence of Glenn Close's Marquise would have birthed it right then and there. (If Glenn Close were half as frightening as the Marquise crossed, the Academy would never have dared rob her of that Oscar. And rob her they did.)

Which moment lit the most explosive fuse in a movie you love?


Smash: "The Fringe"

When I first heard the title of the new Smash episode was "The Fringe" I was all 'grrl, whaaa?' since Smash is safe and exceedingly polished (the show has always looked great and well funded whatever you want to say about the writing and acting) whereas most Fringe shows are kind of the ultimate clichés of scrappy underfunded hot messes. Surprised I am but I report that this week's episode turned out to be the best of the season thus far.

2.6  "The Fringe"
What's the buzz ♫ tell me what's-a-happening? Eileen has opted for the more commercial version of "Bombshell" and Julia is horrified that her favorite song "Never Give All The Heart" might now be cut. Derek in a petulant fit quits the show. Jimmy in a petulant fit quits his show (for like ½ a day). Karen in a dead-eyed fit (there are no other kinds for her) sneaks out to perform in "Hit List" which is kind of a back-door way of quitting her show. Julia in a sulky fit vaguely suggests she might quit her show. (Ivy is too much of a professional to quit her show but it's so bad you know she wants to...) Is all this quitting brilliant self parody and meta commentary on the episode by episode erosion of Smash's audience? more

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Smash: The Dramaturg

previously on Smash

My hopes for Smash's precarious sophomore season were dashed the split second the third episode began as Katharine McPhee sang a poprock song in a halfshirt on a platform for a throng of admirers and capped it off with a little crowd surfing. I thought this was a show about making a Broadway musical... not about creating a pop star?! The new character Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan), prepping for a pitch to powerful director Derek, announces just before the opening titles that "one shot is all we need".  Unfortunately for Smash, it's had several of them and still isn't hitting its mark.

Julia (Debra Messing) hates dramaturg Peter (guest star Daniel Sunjata) at first sight which, in showbiz cliché, surely means a romance is brewing.

2.3 "The Dramaturg"
This week's episode, which felt mostly like connective filler to get us to the new season plotlines after the debut's efforts to tie off last season's storylines, mostly involved auditions though the writers didn't find a way to make that a thematic core. It played like a coincidence across multiple stories: Ivy auditioned for the Cecile role (the Uma Thurman role) in some sort of revival of Dangerous Liaisons; Jimmy and Kyle pitched their embryonic musical "Hit List" to Derek, Derek intended to re-audition for The Wiz producers who fired him in the last episode but was side-tracked by Julia's book changes. She was basically auditioning to keep her job by adding "heat" to the show (i.e. more focus on Marilyn Monroe's upwardly mobile sexuality; enter JFK). The changes were suggested by new dramaturg Peter (impossibly handsome Daniel Sunjata) who is no stranger to Broadway himself, having cut a very fine figure in the Tony winning baseball drama Take Me Out some years ago.

In my very limited experience with theater and theater people I understand dramaturgy to be a respected craft that functions like great editing, fine tuning and sculpting pre-existing material and jettisoning stuff that doesn't work. (A good dramaturg is EXACTLY what Smash needs.) Smash implies (at least for now) that it's more like vicious ghost-writing / script-doctoring so naturally this new character Peter is an asshole. Just like all the men on Smash. I do not need characters to be "likeable" to enjoy a show (hello Mad Men) but if they are all going to be hateful they need to be complex enough to fascinate me. There is no one on this show to root for beyond Ivy (whose self-pity is wearying). We're supposed to root for Karen but she literally complains and sighs and rolls her eyes every time we see her in a rehearsal scene which suggests that she DOES NOT WANT TO WORK TO CREATE A SHOW... so why should we root for her to star in a series about the making of a show? 

Set List: (Originals) "Party" (McPhee), "Our Little Secret" (Ovenden), "Moving the Line" briefly (McPhee/Hilty); Jukebox: "Dancing on My Own" sung as a dirge (Hilty); Showtunes: "Soon as I Get Home" (Hudson).
B♡BBY: Wesley Taylor was not in this episode. Hmmmm. Coincidence that it was a terrible episode? I think not!
Best Moment: Ivy finally wakes up and speaks the truth before walking away from a Derek landmine "You're doubting yourself. You don't do that remember? And neither should I."  
Worst Moment:  God, take your pick? This episode was all over the place. But I have to go with the weird cagey subplot about some sort of violent dude in Jimmy & Kyle's past. Zzzz. Don't care about this. Want more Ivy, Derek, Tom & Julia with a little piece of B♡bby (and okay he can bring Karen along) on the side.
Grade: D 

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO SAVE THIS SHOW? (Artistically, I mean. It's doomed ratings-wise.)