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Michelle Pfeiffer and Grease 2

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Entries in Postcards from the Edge (8)

Friday
Jan062017

The Wisdom of "Postcards"

We've been name dropping Postcards from the Edge a lot this past week, for obvious reasons. I caught the last half hour on accident on television tonight and every split second of it remains marvelous. By the time we get to Suzanne (Streep) reconciling with the director (Gene Hackman) whose film she nearly sabotaged, I am a mess of emotions. It's literally one of my single favorite scenes in all of cinema - so simply staged, so unfussily played by two of the best screen actors of all time, and deeply resonant every time.

Postcards is known for its endless wit but here's something that's less often discussed: even when it's not trying to be funny, it's a total winner. It's a wise compassionate movie, constantly reminding us to go a little easier on ourselves and each other.

Lowell: Growing up isn't like in a movie where you have a realization and life changes. In life, you have a realization and your life changes a month or so later.

Suzanne:  So I just have to wait a month?

Lowell: It depends on the realization. Some of them you only wait a couple weeks.

 

Tuesday
Jan032017

Talented Mr Linky

Must Reads
The New Yorker an evocative thoughtful profile of Mike Mills and 20th Century Women
The Muse Rich Juzwiak on the year in overrated pop culture, starting with Manchester by the Sea. ("A Masterpiece." "It's not tho")
The Metrograph Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy (Carol) reflects on Patricia Highsmith's dislike of the screen adaptations of her work - Metrograph is showing a handful of them his month. (Finally my chance to see Purple Noon on a big screen.)

Films which take place in 2017, Hayao Miyazaki's non-retirement retirement, Aquaman stunts, Broadway divas, and Postcards from the Edge after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec282016

Debbie Reynolds, 'America's Sweetheart' (RIP)

So many heartbreaking goodbyes this holiday season. Today, the brilliant showgirl Debbie Reynolds, "Unsinkable Molly Brown" herself, America's Sweetheart (1950s/1960s edition), charitable icon, Hollywood memorabilia queen, and mother of Carrie Fisher...

She left us just one day after her famous daughter's death...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec272016

May Carrie Fisher's Brilliance Be With You

Instant gratification takes too long."

Meryl Streep popularized that brilliant one-liner in the essential showbiz comedy Postcards from the Edge (1990) but the line pre-dates the film, having emerged from the actress/writer Carrie Fisher's sharp pen (or was it tongue?) some time earlier. The line is so good it ended up on t-shirts. Fisher's best lines in print (multiple books, my personal favorite being "Surrender the Pink") or on the screen (Postcards from the Edge plus much script-doctoring) often sound exactly like things she may have uttered spontaneously in real life first with that unmistakably frank, darting, and mischievous wit. The showbiz icon passed away this morning after a heart attack aboard a plane this past Friday but her work and her influence will live on.

The irony of her delicious and beloved quip above isn't hard to miss...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct212015

Why I Love Carrie Fisher

The Film Experience would like to wish Carrie Fisher a very happy birthday. Here's Kyle Stevens, author of a new book on Mike Nichols on why he loves her...

For various reasons, I’ve never cared for the use of “asshole” as an epithet. However, calling Carrie Fisher a “jerk” or “irreverent” plainly misses the point. She can be an asshole, and that’s why I love her. 

My favorite evidence of this fact comes from her DVD commentary for Postcards from the Edge, the film adapted from her memoir-cum-novel of the same name. I’ve written elsewhere about the brilliance of this film, how Mike Nichols and Meryl Streep use Fisher’s story (and her personal narrative as daughter of Debbie Reynolds) to dramatize the shift from the old Hollywood star system, in which audiences liked to think that they really knew the star (and to see them play similar roles again and again), to a contemporary kind of stardom, where stars are celebrated for being convincing in a range of different kinds of roles. That’s what I appreciate about the film. But there is much to love about the film that is all Fisher, like the tragically plausible names of Suzanne’s past, vacuous movies (for example, “The Night of a Thousand Shoes”). 

Early on in Postcards, Suzanne’s mother Doris throws her a very unwelcome welcome home party. Suzanne is complaining about the fact that she doesn’t even know anyone at the party to her friend Aretha (played with a voice like dark corn syrup by the wonderful Robin Bartlett), when the two are interrupted by a member of Doris’s staff, a maid, who informs Suzanne: "Your mother wants you inside to cut the cake."

Gif provided by Adam Sass (@TheAdamSass)

 

Fisher cast her personal cook, Gloria Crayton, as the maid, and the level of apathy with which Crayton delivers her line is astonishing. It is presumably the culmination of the evening’s festivities, and she could not care less. Crayton’s delivery is devoid of all feeling, seemingly evidence that the actress struggled simply to disgorge the line. 

But this is where Fisher’s Wildean assholery comes into play.

We had a whole campaign about Gloria. We ran it in Variety nominating her for Best Supporting Actress. We got quotes from [Richard] Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss’s quote was “It’s the finest one line walk-on since Richard Dreyfuss in The Graduate…[There were] quotes from Meryl, Gene Hackman…”

On one hand, Fisher and crew are thumbing their noses at the Academy Awards, and the whole system of campaigning for Oscars. On the other, this gag makes us wonder about what makes a performance compelling or convincing. Why would a servant care about the party? Who wouldn’t be dead tired after working for Doris and her persnickety guests? While it might ultimately be impossible to tell whether Crayton is playing nonchalant or is talentless, it might just be the case that she has given us one of the most convincing and accurate portrayals in the history of cinema. It’s this sort of clever foolishness that makes Fisher the kind of asshole I can get behind.

Wednesday
Oct212015

'my mom's getting an Honorary and they couldn't even give me a lousy nomination for my brilliant screenplay for Postcards from the Edge' 

[Hollywood Royalty problems]

Thursday
Nov202014

Mike Nichols (1931-2014)

Elaine May & Mike Nichols in the 50s"The Great Work begins..." that's a line from Angels in America but someone should've said it in the 1950s when one of the greatest figures in modern showbusiness began his career on Chicago stages as a university student. Mike Nichols, who died yesterday at 83, first gained fame as half of a celebrated comic duo "Nichols & May" with actress/director Elaine May but comedy sketches were only the beginning. He'd eventually conquer all realms of showbusiness winning a Grammy with May for a comedy album in 1961, the first of several Tony Awards for directing Barefoot in the Park on Broadway (1964), an Oscar for directing The Graduate (1967) which was only his second film, and in the last decade of his career, two Emmys for television triumphs with Wit and the aforementioned Angels.

Because I came of age in the 1980s, the Nichols collaboration that defined the director for me was with Meryl Streep who he directed four times for the camera. They were both Oscar winners before their first duet Silkwood (1983) which is, not coincidentally, my favorite Streep performance. Streep was worshipped and mythologized very early in her career but he brought her down to earth while still helping her ascend. Under his his guidance she was instantly more earthy and relatable, less the iconic mannered star than a goddamn amazing (and relaxed) genius of the craft. They made two more feature films together within a decade's span (Heartburn, Postcards from the Edge).

Gene Hackman as a director and Meryl Streep as an actress in Postcards from the Edge (1990)

In fact, whenever I watch Postcardsand marvel at that beautiful scene between director and actress that marks its emotional pivot point, it's easy to imagine Gene Hackman's patient benevolent director as the Nichols stand-in with Meryl representing for all actors struggling with inner demons, doubting their gift, or struggling with a particular performance. It's easy to imagine because Nichols was particularly great with actors directing several of them -- not just Streep -- to their all time best work.

As if aware that he directed three of Streep's least glamorous acting triumphs, his last gift to her was Angels in America (2003) in which they left the ground and transcended into the ghostly, the spiritual... the ecstatic.

Ectastic. That's a good work for his great work. Nichols left us with 22 films, three of which are largely undisputed masterpieces (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Angels in America), many of which are exemplary and perhaps still undervalued classics of their particular genres (Gilda Live, Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge) or just, you know, extremely popular entertainments (Working Girl, The Birdcage). Through it all, though this is not often true of mainstream-embraced prestigious entertainers, he rarely forgot the zeitgeist-capturing envelope-pushing us his handful of first films from Woolf through Carnal Knowledge and was still pushing movie stars into transcendence with newly revealing, riskier emotional terrain almost until the very end (Wit, Angels in America, Closer).

He will be missed but his work has more than earned its immortality.