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Entries in Dustin Hoffman (8)


Team Top Ten: Oscar's Greatest Losers (Actor Edition)

Al Pacino won his Oscar on his eighth nomination. He deserved it more the other seven times!Amir here, back with another monthly team poll. Back in May, we had a look at the Best Actress Oscars and picked what we thought were the greatest losers in history. Since we all love symmetry, it’s only fair to give the losing gentlemen their chance to shine. And it's also quite topical in December 2013. This year's Best Actor race has so many worthy choices that the losers are inevitably worth celebrating in advance. 

This was an incredibly arduous task. Though we may all have our regular disagreements with AMPAS, there’s no denying the wealth of talent on display in their record of movie history. These are some of the most iconic performances in film history and to narrow them down to just ten is a fool’s errand. List-making always is! How does one judge Mickey Rourke’s brooding anti-hero Wrestler against Chaplin’s satirical Great Dictator?  Is tortured Joaquin Phoenix in The Master too fresh in the memory to compare to tortured James Mason? Jack Lemmon in The Apartment or Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot? It’s heartbreaking to leave anyone out, but now it’s done. Have a look for yourself and let us know who would have made your list. 

after the jump

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Curio: 70s Paranoia Posters by Jay Shaw

Alexa here.  Catching Argo this weekend, with its panic, mustachoied men and analog opening credits has given me a taste for some good 70s paranoid thrillers.  (My current addiction to Homeland's depressive spy world set the table a bit, too.) I'm on the verge of staging a marathon of my favorites: Marathon Man, Three Days of the Condor, The Conversation, All The President's Men.  I was reminded that artist Jay Shaw recently created possibly the best alternative posters for this genre, each in stark black and white, utilizing images from these films seamlessly in his bold designs. They've been printed in editions of 100 and most are still available through Gallery 1988 for $30.  If this niche genre is a favorite for you too, snap these up while they are still available.




Click for... Klute, All The President's Men, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Marathon Man...

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LFF: "Quartet" and Other Misguided Lovers

David here reporting on a diverse selection of films showing at the 56th BFI London Film Festival starting with the Best Actress hopeful Quartet...

Tom Courtenay and Maggie Smith in 'Quartet'

“Like being hugged by your favourite grandparent,” I wryly tweeted just after exciting the press screening of Quartet. Imagine that. It’s an undeniably pleasant experience, even as it might come with a slightly musty smell and a worry that if you let go they’ll lose their balance. (Said grandparent must obviously have reached a certain age, and I’m sure your grandmother smells lovely really.) Quartet is, in the nicest way possible, an elderly person’s movie – gentle, undemanding, exceedingly pleasant and just a little bit bland. Every piece of the easy narrative jigsaw puzzle is placed before you within fifteen minutes – Cissy (Pauline Collins) winsomely forgets where she’s going several times, Reggie (Tom Courtenay) withdraws bitterly at Jean’s (Maggie Smith) arrival, and Dr. Cogan (Sheridan Smith) happens to mention that the nursing home is in danger of closing down. Not to mention that this collective of aging musical greats are already rehearsing for their gala concert in honour of Verdi’s birthday. Continue...

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Distant Relatives: The Graduate and Fish Tank

Robert here w/ Distant Relatives, exploring the connections between one classic and one contemporary film.

Sedentary and Sex

So what do a rough and realistic look at poverty in London and a comedy set in the suburbs of California have in common? Well at first glance both are about the events that lead up to and follow an inappropriate relationship. For many reasons, the cinematic arts naturally drift toward stories of forbidden sex. They allow filmmakers to explore the human condition in areas that lend themselves to lack of control. They're filled with all kinds of drama and conflict. And of course sex gets people to sit and watch. But there's more to it. After all, with all of these films about forbidden sex out there, why these two that seem so different? In both The Graduate and Fish Tank, the inappropriate relationships aren't really the problem. Well, they are eventually, but initially they're just a symptom of something greater. Both films have protagonists filled with agitation, ennui, longing, and the desire to do something, anything greater than what they're doing now. And both films postulate that this puts them on the easiest possible path to seduction.

In 1967 The Graduate became a hit because as all we all know, it spoke to an entire generation. But it didn't speak to a generation because every young person in the 1960's was familiar with boinking their parent's friends. Ben Braddock, the titular character came back from school to a safe suburban existence where everyone had unique opinions on what he should be doing with his life. Yet all of these opinions came from people with lives to which he did not aspire. Benjamin's potential seemed endless yet all paths pointed to an undesirable future. Fish Tank's Mia (Katie Jarvis), although an ocean and a continent away and on the opposite spectrum of the class divide finds herself in a similar situation, however she doesn't have the benefit of unlimited prospects. At fifteen, Mia doesn't have much of a future at all. She doesn't like her mother and doesn't want to become her mother, but there doesn't seem to be too many other options. She's not one for academic pursuits and mostly dreams of being a dancer in a non-specific way.


No Someday. No Rainbow.

With Benjamin and Mia adrift, the idea of a promising future slipping further and further away, they turn their attention to the possibilities of the present. Enter someone older, desirable, representative of impulsiveness and rebellion. Both Benjamin and Mia have a need that requires filling. Love and affection? Maybe. But more so a desire to be distracted from their hopeless future, perhaps even a need to be destructive, to have some ownership over a future already in shambles by being careless and responsible for its destruction themselves.

Then there are the seducers. The Graduate's Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) is the epitome of aggressiveness. Fish Tank's Connor (Michael Fassbender) is more subtle. Then again he has to be. A movie about a fifteen year old girl being seduced by an older man has to be handled differently than a film about a male college graduate being seduced by an older woman. An aggressive Connor would have immediately upped the suspense and diminished the realism. But in both films, it doesn't take much for the deed to be done. Yet once Benjamin and Mia realize that their older suitors are still representatives of their ugly futures, they realize that they can't be a part of them. Ambiguous endings abound, though there is the sense that our protagonists have learned something. Been used to be sure, but reset onto a better path? Or do they, in the words of The Graduate director Mike Nichols "become their parents?"

If you still think the comparisons are a bit trying, consider the title of our modern film: Fish Tank. It suggest being both submerged and imprisoned at the same time. It's a clear effective metaphor, and one that The Graduate would know something about too.


Other Cinematic Relatives: Lolita (1962), Beau Pere (1981), Fat Girl (2001), Notes on a Scandal (2006)


Cinema de Gym: 'Outbreak'

Kurt here with your weekly movie exercise. This week at the gym I saw Outbreak, the 1995 disaster drama that cashed in on the Ebola virus fears that tore through the U.S. in the late '80s and early '90s. The virus in Outbreak is known as Motaba, which also has African origins and is spread via a monkey host (the film is loosely based on The Hot Zone, a nonfiction book about Ebola by New Yorker reporter Richard Preston). For me, there is no scarier film villain than the global pandemic. You can always outrun Ghostface, or jab Michael Myers in the eye with a wire hanger. Even an apocalyptic meteor is somehow less terrifying, perhaps because it arrives in a flash, its devastation unseen until that moment of impact. The indiscriminate horror of an unstoppable disease creeps in around you like darkness, randomly affecting others until it catches you, and there's nothing you can do about it. I've never been good with sickness, so the concept of the ultimate sickness always hits a nerve (you can bet I had irrational fears during the whole Swine Flu scare).

Which, of course, is why I've always responded strongly to pandemic films. Though many have surely been done well, global-killer thrillers involving zombies can't elicit the same reaction. The mad upending of all that makes logical sense in the world remains intact, but there's always the comfort of fantasy. Truly scary are things like Stephen King's The Stand, which – before it, too, becomes highly fantastical – offers a chilling vision of a wiped-out population. Released just a year later, Outbreak ditches the fantasy, save your typical Hollywood plot contrivances. Its solace (and script convenience) is that the fatal bug is basically confined to a tiny town (the fictional Cedar Creek, Calif.), and poses only the threat of worldwide infection. But hell if that made a whole lot of difference to yours truly.

I remember being very into this movie in the '90s; however, I don't think I ever knew it was directed by Wolfgang Peterson, he of Das Boot, The Perfect Storm and Poseidon fame. If pandemics are one rung up from earthbound meteors, then Petersen is a few rungs up from his oft-confused German counterpart, Roland Emmerich, who's far more gruesome, bombastic and frequent in his attempts to kill mass amounts of people. Petersen also knows how to assemble a classy cast, as Outbreak stars Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Rene Russo (please get back to work!), Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Cuba Gooding Jr. and a blink-and-miss McDreamey as the first Motaba victim. 

The culpritThe segment I caught consisted mainly of Hoffman's Col. Sam Daniels and Gooding Jr.'s Major Salt tracking down that monkey, first on a ship, then finally in the backyard of a suburban home, where a young girl's been feeding it like a pet. Source of both virus and antivirus, the monkey is the cure, and Col. Daniels is especially motivated, seeing as things have grown personal (ex-wife Russo's got Motaba) and bloodthirsty bureaucrats are on his tail (Sutherland, whom we just saw in Fool's Gold, plays one Gen. McClintock, the sort of military man with bio-weapons on the brain). At the end of my session, McClintock and Daniels were embroiled in a helicopter chase, which kicks off with one of those only-in-the-movies exchanges that beckons for applause. “With all due respect, Col. Daniels, I will blow you out of the sky,” McClintock snarls. “With all due respect,” Daniels retorts, “f**k you. Sir.”


1. In addition to showing off the enviable physiques of Matthew McConaughey and Will Smith, my gym is now urging me to keep healthy with the threat of disease.
2. Don't let your nieces and nephews and sons and daughters play with monkeys, as fleas could be the least that they're carrying.
3. Donald Sutherland, whom I also just saw in Horrible Bosses, is officially stalking me.
4. Disease > Meteor. Wolfgang > Roland.

What scares the bejesus out of you at the movies?


"Dick Tracy" Q&A with Warren Beatty

Alex (BBats) here, doing a lil’ scouting in LA. Oh my oh my!

BBats and Beatty! This past weekend, I had the pleasure to revisit Dick Tracy (1990) on the big screen courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival.  The film hasn’t aged a day due to that rich pulp style that seeps through every set piece, costume, matte painting, and actor.  The main draw was a Q & A with Warren Beatty after the film! Now, I was battling the flu and taking notes as fast as I could, so keep that in mind and I wouldn’t say anything below was a direct quote.

Beatty stood in the wings as the film’s end credits rolled. Big applause for the film followed and I saw a big smile grow across his face. The moderator brought him out to thunderous ovation (duh). He seemed a little cagey and very careful in selecting his words; this Q & A was for the Los Angeles Times, he pointed out, and would be in print the very next day.

Hit the jump for some Beatty, Dick, and a lil' Bening action!

On Stephen Sondheim
'He did great stuff for this…I’m such a fan of Sondheim’s. Everytime I see one of his shows, I just fall apart on the first song.'

On the film itself
'I’m disgusting because I really do like it a lot.'

Beatty had been attached to the propertry since 1976. The moderator asked why he chose Dick Tracy. Beatty said that he didn’t want to do some picture where everything got blasted around, and that Dick Tracy was this guy who had been around forever and wanted to start a family. He paused and said he thought of it as a gentle picture. (Aside: I love when people call movies "pictures". Super classy.)

This next part is so funny, let's get it right by quoting directly from the Los Angeles Times.

 “Little by little I found myself caught up enough in it to actually go and make a movie about it, because it was hard for me. … I always think of making a movie like vomiting. I don’t like to vomit, but I get to the point where I think, ‘I’d better go ahead and do this, and I’ll feel better.’” 

Everyone  rolled with laughter. The vomiting reference also maybe gives us a little glimpse as to why he hasn’t directed a film since Bulworth (1998). But back to the Q & A.

His desk needs a bucket.

Beatty began to compliment everyone in the cast and the moderator honed in on certain performances and how he cast the roles. Interestingly, Beatty compared the casting process to writing. When you cast someone it's an instant rewrite, even if you don’t change a word.

Madonna sings "MORE" in Dick Tracy and you know you want more, too: Bening, Pacino. Hoffman, Oscars and Dick Tracy sequel nuggets after the jump.

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ISHTAR. Are There Second Winds in the Desert?

Elaine May at the 92Y

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to see Ishtar (1987) at a special event with writer/director/actress/funnywoman Elaine May. She's been out of the spotlight for some time. The last major hurrah was her hilarious supporting role in Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks (2000). Ishtar, for those that are unfamiliar, is an infamous big budget flop in which Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman star as a talentless musical duo who get mixed up with middle eastern politics via "terrorist" Isabelle Adjani and CIA agent Charles Grodin during a gig in Morrocco.

Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Isabelle Adjani in ISHTAR (1987). © Sony Pictures

If you lived through the 1980s you probably feel like you saw Ishtar even if you didn't it because it became an easy-target for comedians and the basis of a lot of schaudenfreude fun (look how the mighty fall!). The strange thing about seeing Ishtar two decades later is that it's actually really funny and it's hard to see exactly how it inspired such pop-culture hatred. Other than, perhaps, its prophetic satire about how fucked up the USA is whenever they're dealing with Middle Eastern dictators. In the movie the CIA sides with the dictator who wants to snuff out the apolitical singing Americans, before they accidentally inspire his overthrow by "left wing terrorists" (aka those who want democratic reform and human rights.)

The movie clues you in to its satirical naughtiness early on when Beatty & Hoffman try to write a song "Telling the truth can be dangerous business". May repeatedly praised Paul Williams for the song score of the movie -- 'even the crummiest songs had perfect music!' -- but she wrote "Leaving Some Love In Your Will" which is one of the movie's funniest bits as Dustin Hoffman sings a totally inappropriate song about death to two senior citizens on their wedding anniversary.

The movie was born in the imagination of Elaine May and Warren Beatty. They wanted to do a Bing Crosby Bob Hope "Road to" type of movies and US 1980s politics determined the setting. "We were of course in Afghanistan as we always are. We were all over the Middle East," Elaine May explained when she came out for a sit-down interview to talk about the rarely screened film.

She seemed quite pleased with the response to her director's cut.

Either you liked the movie or i'm very sick...

I thought it was funny which is a terrible thing to admit about your own movie. I think of those people who try out for American Idol and how sure they are of their own talent.

She wasn't very sick. The audience clearly liked the movie; there was consistent and at times raucous laughter. Sure, it was a self-selecting crowd. Chances are if you're showing up to see an infamous flop from a famous comedian you're probably either a member of the movie's cult following or a curious cinephile and either way you're a better audience for the movie than the audience it originally received. Or didn't as the case may be.

May shared a bizarre story about the movie's internal sabotage. There was a change at the top of the studio before the movie's release. The new head of Columbia Pictures was David Puttnam. He'd previously competed against Warren Beatty for the Best Picture Oscar (He won with Chariots of Fire beating Beatty's  Reds) and he was no fan of Beatty's. He badmouthed both Beatty and Dustin Hoffman publicly, equating them with spoiled brats, but didn't stop there.

Hoffman and Beatty have very real comic chemistry

May explained how they went from future hit to press target right before the movie opened.

We had three previews and they went really well. Thumbs up. On the day the press came an article came out in the LA Times in which Puttman wiped us out. 'We should be spanked. There was too much money.' He was going to reform Hollywood. It was really sort of unforgivable what he did. He attacked his own movie. Mike Nichols said it was like watching an entire studio committing suicide.

After that article in the Times nearly every press piece about the movie focused on how much it cost and attacked the movie for being grossly expensive, rather than focusing on the movie itself.

May was very funny in person, telling stories about her career (I'll share a few more quotes soon) and discussing this movie which killed her directing career (she hasn't helmed a feature since). The studio has told her that they will be releasing Ishtar on Blu-Ray in the near future. Perhaps it'll be rediscovered?

Earlier today someone said that they had read on the net that the impending DVD release of Ishtar had been delayed by 'my people'.  I was so thrilled to think that I had people! They're going to release this on blu-ray! If they don't you'll be the last people to have seen this movie.

If half the people who had made cracks about Ishtar had seen it, I'd be a rich woman today.

The Blind Camel is the film's comedic MVPThough much of the film's humor feels loose, character-oriented and improvised (it reminded me a smidgeon of Bridesmaids actually -- but maybe because I'd just seen the latter -- in the way it allowed its jokes to roam around and spring from the nuances of the performers and their chemistry) May says it wasn't and that great actors always appear to be spontaneous on the screen. She did note that much of the humor with Beatty's blind camel was improvised because there's no way to tell what a camel will do in a scene.

May joked that the camel was very hard to cast. He wasn't really blind. He just acted like he was. They chose well. They say you should never act with animals but two running gags about camels and vultures pay off big in the movie when the movie stars interact with them.

Given the movie's terrible reputation did the director just think Ishtar was a victim of itself, a movie that was too far ahead of its time? Elaine May had the last laugh at this special event in her honor.

I've never said that a movie of mine is ahead of its time. How is that even possible? Even with string theory.