More Than Meets The Mogwai

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Favourite Scene of: DEATH PROOF (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)

Besides Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell)’s tender recitation of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” to Arlene (or “Butterfly”, played by Vanessa Ferlito) on the porch of the after hours Austin bar, there’s one other moment (or glimpse into what’s ticking behind that pompadour) in the first half of Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF that humanizes our unremorseful vehicular murderer, showing him to be an antiquated member of society, aging at a rapid clip with Hollywood seemingly having no use for him or his stunts anymore. It’s a personal favourite, and I’d like to share how it was originally written by Tarantino, as I think it contains one howler of a line (you’ll know it when you see it) that didn’t make either the GRINDHOUSE or Extended cuts of the film; further, when taken out of context from the film’s soon-to-be onslaught of blood-splattered car carnage, it could actually be considered somewhat touching for the respect it gives to this washed-up stuntman and his ratchet of now long forgotten television credits -- that is, of course, before Pam (Rose McGowan), the lovely young lady[ies in the film] kick in and do irreparable damage to his ego by not knowing what the hell he's talking about.

Dennis Cozzalio [at his blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule] had this to say about the scene upon the initial release of GRINDHOUSE in April:

“A character who goes by the name of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) sits at a bar regaling a group of indulgent young cuties with tales of his past work, throwing out names like “Bob Urich” and Vega$ and, gulp, The Virginian. The young women nod vacantly, but appreciatively, as Mike continues to spin his tales, until he stops for a moment and then asks, “Do you even recognize the names of these shows?” The women, caught, have to admit that they don’t, and Mike is consigned, by all but an unfortunate one of them, to the special zone of irrelevancy occupied by the arcane pop culture of an older generation. In this moment, it’s hard not to see Tarantino himself, as Stephanie Zacharek observed in her review of Grindhouse, as a similar kind of generational proselytizer—Stuntman Quentin—carrying a vast wealth of knowledge of movie history around in that gigantic cranium, preaching the gospel of cinematic and pop culture minutiae and obscure talents to a younger generation that may not so readily relate to his historically minded artist/entertainer’s perspective.”

And, from the pen of Tarantino:

Pam's bullshitting with Warren, Stuntman Mike rejoins them.
(referring to Warren)
You got some voucher here. I asked him what movies you worked on, no fucking clue.
Well technically, I don't know he's ever done anything for sure. He shows me a old episode of "High Chaparral", a guy falls off a horse, he says it's him... okay...could be.
Do you know the show "The Virginian"?
Pam shakes her head no.
There was a actor on that show, Gary Clarke, I kinda looked like him a bit. Obviously before I cut -
(referring to the scar on his face)
- myself shaving.
I like it.
Well damn if you ain't so sweet you make sugar taste just like salt. Well anyway, I did alot of Virginians doubling for Gary Clarke, then that show turned into "The Men of Shilo" and they brought Lee Majors on, and I doubled him.
Then from that point on, I mostly specialized in car stunts. I worked almost the whole third season of "Vegas". I was Robert Urich's driving double. Bob did another show, "Gavilan", he brought me on to that one. Till...
(he focuses on Pam)
Do you know any of these shows or people I'm talkin' about?
She apologetically shakes her head "no".
Warren approaches.
I hate to tell you this, Mike, but dropping Gary Clarke's name don't get Gary Clarke pussy no more.
Stuntman Mike and Pam laugh.
No I suppose it don't.
So how exactly does one become a stuntman?
Well in Hollywood anybody fool enough to throw themselves down a flight of stairs, can usually find somebody to pay ya' fer it. But really, I got into the business the way most people get in the stunt business.
And how's that?
My brother got me in it.
Who's your brother?
Stuntman Bob.
Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.
Stuntman Mike notices Arlene and Shanna walk out to the porch.
I tell ya' Pam, I think it's gettin' to be about that. But why don't I order you one more boot, and I'll go out on the porch and have one more smoke.
Sounds good to me.
He smiles and slides off the barstool.
Hey Warren, I think my little hippy friend here's thirsty.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Arkush on Arkush

I've been planning on writing something about the vastly underrated filmmaker Allan Arkush (co-director of HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD and sole director of episodes for such series as "St. Elsewhere", "Moonlighting", "Crossing Jordan", and the recent "Heroes") and his very personal, and somewhat “lost” film GET CRAZY (1983) in the past, but in order to do that I’d like to take in another viewing of the film and my VHS copy is currently in transit.

For now, the above link will take you another blog [Lucy Gray Photography] that's currently housing a video of an interview with the director conducted earlier this year at the Telluride Film Festival. It’s pretty much entirely in Arkush’s own words and amazingly all encompassing when it comes to taking in every facet of his decades long career as a journeyman in film and television, from his days as an editor in Roger Corman's post-production team to his eventual transition to directing television. Think of it as a primer for the next time you happen upon one of his films or hour-long episodes.

One interesting aspect of his films and work in episodic television that I’ve noticed is the fact that almost all of the central characters have impeccable taste when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll – the most famous example being Riff Randell (P.J. Soles) and her love of everything Ramones-related in ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, but even something as minor as the “Parenthood” pilot features Leonardo DiCaprio with a Lou Reed poster adorning his bedroom wall. This, of course, is a by-product of Arkush’s time accrued as a technician working on lights shows at the Fillmore East in the early 1970s, witnessing trailblazing acts first-hand and musical history going down in the process.