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Entries in The Elephant Man (5)


Prime in August: The Elephant Man, How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Time to play Streaming Roulette. Each month, to survey new streaming titles we freeze frame the films at random places with the scroll bar and whatever comes up first, that's what we share!

Eat me alive. Mommy, mommy 🎵

How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017/18)
We should talk about this movie at some point real soon now that you can all see it. L-O-V-E this entire scene. My favorite in the movie though these screen pulls are random as promised. I want this nominated for Best Original Song though it never shall come to pass...

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Stage Door: Bradley Cooper in 'The Elephant Man'

Jose here for a special weekend edition of Stage Door, starring one of our Best Actor nominees...

The stage directions for Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man strictly call for “no prosthetic makeup” to be worn by the actor playing the severely deformed character of Joseph Merrick. It's only during a scene in which surgeon Frederick Treves explains to the audience what his deformities consisted of, that we get to see the actor playing Merrick become “the Elephant Man”.

Seeing Bradley Cooper play the part of Merrick, it's tough to believe it's as same actor you've just seen in his Oscar nominated role as Chris Kyle in American Sniper. [More...]

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Makeup & Hairstyling: The Elephantine Origin Story (and this year's finalists since we must)

It's history time, kids! Gather round. Did you know that The Elephant Man, currently on Broadway with Bradley Cooper, is indirectly responsible for the Academy's makeup Oscar? No, not that kind of make up Oscar ... though the Academy gives those all the time, too (why, hello Ms. Julianne Moore "Ms. February 2015"!) and maybe Bradley Cooper will get one of those someday?

what's that? u think this intro was an excuse to post a photo of shirtless Bra---FINE! don't judge.

I digress. In the stage version of The Elephant Man the lead actor traditionally performs while wearing no special makeup; he merely acts deformity. But that stylization hasn't yet been tried on film. When it came time to make the film version in 1980, David Lynch, no stranger to depicting deformity without prosthetics -- deformity of the soul at least -- opted for makeup effects. People bitched about the lack of Oscar recognition since The Elephant Man was an Oscar hit (8 nominations) and the very next year we had our category! Unfortunately for the The Elephant Man's team Christopher Tucker and Wally Schneiderman and all, it was too late. Those makeup artists never won a Makeup Oscar or even the other kind of Make up Oscar for overdue peeps.

Once there was an official category a young pony-tailed prosthetics genius named Rick Baker immediately began his relentless reign, hogging 11 nominations and 7 statues starting with An American Werewolf in London. The Makeup prize continued on its weirdly lyncathropic, excruciatingly unstable number of nominee (0,2,3,4) effects-obsessed path for decades thereafter.


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Curio: David Lynch at Spoke Art

Alexa here.  I couldn't let the week pass without posting about a show that runs through this week at Spoke Art Gallery in San Fransicso: In Dreams, an art show tribute to David Lynch.  Following past tribute shows to Wes Andserson and Martin Scorsese, Spoke is now featuring the works of more than 50 artist fans of the coffee-loving cult icon. Reckoning with Lynch's work must have caused a collective plumbing of subconscious depths because the show features some of the most hypnotic tribute art I've seen in awhile. All works are available for viewing, and purchase, here.  

What follows are a few of my favorites...

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Take Three: John Hurt

Craig here with the third season of Take Three. Today: John Hurt

Take One: Brighton Rock (2010)
Hurt has alternated starring roles with supporting performances since he began acting in films with The Wild and the Willing in 1962. The amount of quality supporting turns he’s delivered over the years is vast: 10 Rillington Place, Midnight Express, The Shout, The Hit, Scandal, The Field, Contact, The Proposition, Melancholia, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are a mere few. His fine turn as accountant Phil Corkery in the Brighton Rock remake (backing up Helen Mirren, Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough and Andy Serkis) is a recent solid addition to the list and deserves due credit. Phil’s a gaunt shambles, but loyal to Mirren’s Ida, his long-time crush. He’s one of the old guard. A proud man accustomed to propping up bars whilst waxing forth about the state of the world. He’s the kind of bloke who changes his bow tie each day but wears out the same coat and pork-pie hat. Hurt blusters when faced with the criminal element, but in his staunch moral belief and touching devotion to Ida he comes through. Hurt’s on the sidelines for much of the time, but it’s to his credit that he’s still willing to, at this later stage in his career, take small parts when he believes in the material. He adds a nod of class to the film. That he gives us a characterful turn in only a handful of scenes – a minor glimmer amid a career of solid gems – owes much to his mastery of screen acting.

Take Two: Dogville (2003) with a nod to Manderlay (2005)
We don’t see Hurt in Dogville. But I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that they recall him being in it – so vivid is his contribution to Lars von Trier’s polemic-play.

He’s the narrator of events at Kidman’s damned mountain hideout, a disembodied stream of words. He's a sage, an all-knowing set of omniscient vocal chords from above (and he is above, isn’t he?). Yet he’s an intrinsic part of the film as its voice, conveying the fabric of the town. From the opening moments he smoothly introduces us to the inhabitants of von Trier's alloegorial enclave yet he does so with just the tiniest creakiest sliver of alarm. Dogville was an inventive stage-bound tale and Hurt the vocal master of ceremonies relaying to us the trials of the belligerent lives treading the chalk-outlined boards. Maybe ol’ Lars saw Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (deftly narrated by, and starring, a sly Hurt) prior to choosing his Dogville storyteller. Or maybe – I prefer to think – he saw 2000’s The Tigger Movie (deftly narrated by a cuddly Hurt). Either way, Hurt’s narrator combines the shrewdness of a learned professor and the wise experience of a well-travelled uncle. It may seem a slight cheat to include Hurt’s throat work in Dogville, but his was the key, albeit invisible, performance. He may not have been in every scene, but he was within them; the thread binding Dogville together.

Take Three: The Elephant Man (1980)
Hurt and David Lynch set a particularly high bar for cinematic portrayals rich in tender empathy with The Elephant Man. It was brought about thanks to Mel Brooks’ love of Eraserhead, given its own surreal signature by Lynch’s astute direction, and completed by Hurt’s compassionate performance as ill-fated circus act John Merrick. His BAFTA winning and Oscar-nominated performance is rightly regarded as one of the best of the ‘80s. The performance's initial impression are made through a distorted middle-class accent, a laboured walk and a cloth bag covering his head which itself is shaped in elephantine fashion. But as the film continues it becomes a fully embodied performance.

Hurt plays beautifully off the facial reactions of his fellow actors: Anthony Hopkins, Hannah Gordon, Anne Bancroft and John Gielgud all convey various concerns that we as an audience are also experiencing. A great deal of Hurt's power in the role comes through his ability to create heart-rending drama through poignant interaction. Hurt's palpable delight at 19th Century niceties as Merrick revels in the elegance of high society is captivating. We’re with him in his discovery of refinement and eventual acceptance, so that when, as his condition dictates, he succumbs to inevitable death our feelings go beyond sadness into near empathic despair.

At the halfway mark Merrick sees a drawing of a child sleeping and forlonly turns to Anthony Hopkins' Treves.

Merrick: I wish I could sleep like normal people. Can you cure me?
Treves: No. We can care for you but we can't cure you.
Merrick: No, I thought not."

This last line comes without fuss or delay but with only a dreadful knowing. Hurt creates in Merrick a refined man of wonder -- it’s the age itself that's ugly. The Elephant Man is a heartbreaking experience every time. Now, ‘scuse me, I appear to have something in my eye...

Three more films for the taking: Alien (1979), Love and Death on Long Island (1997), V for Vendetta (2006). Previously on Take Three: Melissa Leo