47 FILMS: 60. SHAMPOO

In our increasingly innumerate series of 47 films to see before death, we present Hal Ashby’s Shampoo.

Warren Beatty as a megastar is something of a fading memory. His director’s career hasn’t been as prolific as contemporary Clint Eastwood. Even as an actor, appearances diminished over the years. His big flop Ishtar became a smudge on his bankability. When a hit arrived with Dick Tracy, it never transformed into the kind of franchise to establish him in the minds of a new generation. But his star shone brightly. With films such as Bonnie and Clyde, The Parallax View and Splendor in the Grass, Beatty straddled Hollywood leading man status with a keen eye for the counter-cultural moments of the time. His appearance in Hal Ashby’s Shampoo is a case in point.

Scripted by Robert Towne in collaboration with Beatty, Shampoo tells the story of a hairdresser George (Beatty) who is looking to open his own shop. He swings from an obvious artistry to his profoundly wide-ranging libido. With multiple affairs going on, the husband of one of his lovers Lester (Jack Warden) might be willing to put up the money. It just so happens though that Lester’s extra-marital affair is with Jackie (Julie Christie), one of George’s exs. Goldie Hawn plays George’s current girlfriend, who herself is having to choose between her career and her relationship with George. Thinking George is gay (a hairdresser), Lester asks him to chaperone Jackie to a political fundraiser he will be attending with his wife.

Politics

The synopsis is one thing. It sets up very obvious ideas and oppositions. The cuckold versus Lothario, the artist versus the capitalist. In the background we also have a very obvious counterpoint in the Nixon Presidency and his famed Silent Majority versus the Hollywood based counterculture. What today we call the liberal elite. All of this works. But what it misses is the way Ashby brings out the other characters. A throwaway and thankless part like George’s boss at the salon is suddenly struck by the death of a loved one in an accident. Lester himself reads as a cardboard cut out. And yet Warden gives the character real sadness. He’s genuinely lost in a changing world. George himself comes across as a deeper man than we first assume. Just like Beatty, we can dismiss him as a hairdo attached to a penis, but despite his protestations and his selfishness, he harbors genuine sensitivity.

The razor sharp script, the excellent acting – a young Carrie Fisher makes her debut – and Ashby’s sensitive direction make Shampoo a brilliant portrait of a moment in time (1968), when things looked like they might change. And they did but not in the direction we hoped.

For more of our 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams CLICK HERE.

SPIELBLOG: 2. THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS

HOLLYWOOD – SpielBlog is a soup to nuts film by film rundown of Steven Spielberg’s film career.

I came to Steven Spielberg’s first film very late. Only a couple of years ago. I might have seen some of it on TV as a kid but I never sought it out and its fame was obscured by the mega-fame of the subsequent Jaws. But The Sugarland Express is a beautifully shot tragicomic road movie with a surprisingly dark undercurrent.
In the early seventies, a debut movie was released of a young filmmaker. ​Based on a true story, it told the slim tale of two naive young lovers from Texas who go on the run from the law and become the targets of a media frenzy as they are pursued. The film was called Badlands and the director’s name was Terrence Malick. The similarity in subject matter meant that Pauline Kael reviewed both films together in The New Yorker. Kael didn’t much care for Malick’s first film comparing it unfavourably to Spielberg, even though her praise of Spielberg frequently sounded patronising: “I can’t tell if he has any mind, or even a strong personality, but then a lot of good moviemakers have got by without being profound.”
Her argument was that as a craftsman and an entertainer – both of which counted as feint praise from Kael – Spielberg was one of the most promising debuts in a long time. He was a product of a Hollywood machine, albeit one that was firing on all cylinders and would produce some of the best films ever made over the span of the decade. In fact, watching the film today, it seems easy to imagine it could have been the work of Robert Altman or Arthur Penn.

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Goldie Hawn was the star attraction as Lou Jean Poplin, or single mother, petty criminal who decides to break her husband Clovis (William Atherton) out from a low security prison in order to rescue their baby who has been placed in foster care. Lou Jean and Clovis have no grand plan and their witless progress is only facilitated by the overkill of the response moderated by the restraint of Captain Tanner (a fantastic Ben Johnson).

Having stolen one car and totalled it, they then steal the car of the policeman Patrolman Slide (Michael Sacks) who was pursuing them, and taking him hostage head for Sugarland where Baby Brandon is feeding steak to the family dog. They’re pursued by an increasing convoy of police cars, as well as a TV news team and ultimately crowds of well-wishers.

The photography is superb, celebrated cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond can take some credit, but Spielberg’s shot choice is already there. His ability to tell a story visually, to marshal background detail and juxtapose different elements, to find beauty and grime in the same location is truly stunning and goes someway to justifying Kael’s enthusiasm.

Ironically, the film would pick up Best Screenplay at Cannes, whereas this is probably the weakest element. The characters aren’t well drawn and at crucial moments make staggeringly dumb decisions. Whereas Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek imbue their leads with an edge of sociopathic charisma in Badlands, here Hawn and Atherton come over as doomed lovers via Dumb and Dumber. To be fair, Atherton seems the most knowing of the two, occasionally his expression betratying that he knows how this is going to end but he’ll go for it anyway. But just when the possibility of pathos scratches the corner of your eye, he’ll prove himself as dumb as a brick in the next scene. (He would later reappear as the eminently hateable asshole in Die Hard and Ghostbusters.) Goldie Hawn, meanwhile, was reaching for a more dramatic role, but the character is underwritten and – crucially – irritating. Her squealing when delighted and hollering when angry are equally annoying and it is ultimately Lou Jean who is the motivating force for the dumbest decisions.

And then there’s the police cars. The excessive demolition derby of police cars seems to be an obsession in Seventies American Cinema. John Landis in The Blues Brothers for instance goes all the way. It’s the mad cap chase that would lead to such capers as Smokey and The Bandit, Convoy and The Cannonball Run. I can’t help but suspects Spielberg likes the look of the flashing strobes on the roofs of the cars and the different angles he can get them from. When Captain Tanner wants to show his contempt for a pair of duck hunting vigilantes, he smashes the strobe light on their car like a general ripping the epaulettes from a disgraced officer.

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As with Duel, I get the feeling Spielberg is consciously making as big a film as he can out of fairly slim material. With Duel however the simplicity worked int he film’s favour. Here, there is more ambition but paradoxically The Sugarland Express ends up as a smaller film overblown. A superficially embossed calling card which isn’t funny enough to be a comedy or thoughtful enough to have something to say. There are glimpses of darkness on the edge of town. The two snipers brought in to assassinate the outlaws provide a brief glimpse of workmanlike malevolence, with the bullets stuck in their ears to protect them from the noise.

As a calling card it of course worked. Getting him the next job of his breakout Jaws. It also significantly provided him with John Williams, the composer and collaborator who would contribute significantly to his future success.

SpielBlog by noted film critic John Bleasdale is also published here and will continue next week.

ELIZABETH BANKS SAYS STEVEN SPIELBERG HAS A STUPID CHIN

HOLLYWOOD – Today actress Elizabeth Banks accused Steven Spielberg of having a stupid chin.

Elizabeth Banks got in some trouble the other day when she claimed that Steven Spielberg had not made diverse enough movies. Specifically she referred to the fact that none of his movies featured female leads. Her pro-diversity stance was somewhat compromised by the fact she’d obviously meant white women because she’d forgotten The Color Purple, and grown white women because she’d also forgotten The BFG. Though to be fair, almost everyone else had as well.

Chin fully visible

Following an apology, Elizabeth Banks however then proceeded to launch another attack on the Jaws director saying that his chin was stupid.

I mean it might be, right? How do we know it isn’t stupid if we’ve never seen it. He’s had that beard, like forever. Why would someone wear a beard like that if he didn’t have something seriously wrong with his chin.

Social media was instantly flooded by pictures of an unbearded Spielberg but Banks was unrepentant. ‘He used to own slaves,’ she said, referring to a Studio Exec article from long ago. This article has since had its accuracy called into question: READ HERE.

She will next direct the first all-male Charlie’s Angels film.

MARTIN SCORSESE SELLS DICAPRIO WHISTLE

NEW YORK – Martin Scorsese is to sell his special Leonardo diCaprio whistle at auction later this week.

Shutter Island and Wolf of Wall Street director Martin Scorsese is to sell the magical Leonardo diCaprio whistle at auction.ss57_specialty_whistle

Speaking to the Studio Exec EXCLUSIVELY, earlier this week, the Color of Money director and wearer of the best eyebrows in New York had this to say:

The magic Leonardo diCaprio whistle was forged in the fires of a volcano and when blown can only be heard by Leo. Whatever he is doing he must drop and immediately come at the magical summons. I first used it to get him to come to the casting of Gangs of New York and then after that, whenever I wanted to put him in another film I’d just take the whistle out and blow as hard as I could. Admittedly it took him a while to respond when I wanted him to do the Aviator. But ultimately it doesn’t matter what he wants. The whistle commands.

So why give it up?

I’ve used it a good few times and the magic begins to wear off if you abuse it.

It is understood that the bidders will include Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Goldie Hawn and David Fincher as well as former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The auction will take place at Christies New York.

PEOPLE WITH VAGINAS ALSO FUNNY, HOLLYWOOD LEARNS

HOLLYWOOD – It was revealed today that people with vaginas can also be funny.

The release of the female led Ghostbusters reboot has taken everyone by surprise. The new film starring Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy has been warmly received, despite a bunch of dicks trying to do down its IMDb score, because they’re … well … dicks.

Industry analyst Xavier Poulis told the Studio Exec:

This idea that people with vaginas can be funny is not actually a new thing. In the past we had some great film comediennes like Madeline Kahn, Bernadette Peters, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn to name but four. However, there has always been a prevailing idea in the big studios that men are funnier than women and that’s what the public want to see. But now with Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy consistently bringing in high end critical and commercial successes to the big screen. There needs to be a rethink.

Where does this leave people with penises?

Also we have to look at the other side of the ledger. People with penises. Penii. Okay those. Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, Kevin James, increasingly Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Robert deNiro, James Franco, Seth Rogen… maybe it’s time to consider the idea that people with penises aren’t so equipped for comedy. Especially since the frat boy idea of gross out comedy took the ascendancy and became essentially the only comedy we see these days.

Ghostbusters is in theaters.

SIR EDWIN FLUFFER REMEMBERS BETTE DAVIS AND JOAN CRAWFORD

HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Has Hollywood ever produced greater friends than Bette Davis and Joan Crawford? No it has not. I think I’m right in saying that I was married to one or possibly even both of them in the 1950s, and can claim some if not all of the credit for their most famous film. If King Vidor tries to tell you different you just say that Sir Edwin Fluffer calls him a liar. Then knock his hat off and run away.

I was doing a jigsaw puzzle with darling Bette one night when the doorbell rang. I opened it to none other than Miss Joan Crawford and straight away from the look on that famous face I could tell what had happened. Kirk Douglas’s dog, Chaplin, had made a mess on the sidewalk and unlucky Joan had stepped right in it! 

I brought her inside and poured a stiff brandy which I downed in one, then leapt into action. Joan’s shoe was off in a trice, double bagged, and thrown out with the garbage. The poor darling was still in a terrible state of shock so I insisted she sit down while I had another brandy. Then something happened which changed the world forever: while Joan started helping with the puzzle by separating all the blue pieces which we thought were either the sea or the sky, Bette noticed a script on the table. Kirk Douglas had popped it through the letterbox while he was out walking that filthy dog of his by way of an apology for getting me fired from Spartacus. The idea was that we’d play the warring brothers in Whatever Happened To Tiny Terrence? Bette read it from cover to cover, took out a pen, changed the name in the title to Baby Jane and passed it to Joan saying ‘when do you want to start?’ It was then that disaster struck. 
The brandy had all gone by now and as they helped me up I trod on poor Joan’s foot! To make matters worse I insisted she borrow a pair of my shoes to walk home in, and the only thing we could find to match her ballgown was a pair of brogues. 
She said they rubbed a little, but stupidly neither Bette nor I thought anything of it. Two days later it was all over the front pages: Joan Crawford Has An In-Growing Toenail! People tried to be kind, but I knew it was all my fault, and to this day I still can’t forgive myself. George Sanders never spoke to me again. 
The result was that when they came to film Baby Jane, darling Joan had to shoot all her scenes in a wheelchair. 
Even now I can’t watch that picture without wondering what would’ve happened if I’d given her a pair of loafers, or even my moccasins with some spats for extra protection. 
The last time I ever saw her she looked at me and said ‘Neddy, don’t hold it against me’, so I stood back a bit and put it away. I once held it against a young Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell punched me in the face, but that’s another story…

GOLDIE HAWN JOINS KURT RUSSELL FOR GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2

HOLLYWOOD – Today the news we have all been waiting for was finally confirmed: Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are uniting for Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

Everybody knew that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was going to be good.  The original James Gunn film was a fun, witty and action-packed adventure, but rumors had been circulating that none other than Deathproof, pork chops himself Kurt Russell would be appearing as the Star-Lord’s father. However, it was only today we discovered that he would be reuniting with his wife Goldie Hawn who joins the cast as Star-Lord’s stepmother Joanna.

Director James Gunn told the Studio Exec:

I was so excited about getting Kurt but secretly I wanted the family pack. I am a huge fan of Overboard and this will be an unofficial remake of that film. Obviously we focus a lot on Chris Pratt and the various japes that he gets up to, but there is a whole subplot about Star-Lord’s dad and his step mom and how they met. The chemistry between the two of them is off the chart and I think this is something that really is going to lift the film above the usual sequel problems.

Goldie Hawn said that she was very excited to be a part of the new film.

More than anything it will be a chance for me and Kurt to spend a little time together. What with a hectic schedule it has been really difficult to find any time to sit down and really enjoy each other’s company. On a film set, strangely enough there actually is quite a lot of time to do that. We’ll probably drive each other crazy but that doesn’t matter because it will feed into the characters.

The Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will be released.

Image courtesy of @ThePixelFactor.

47 FILMS: 10. OVERBOARD

More 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams. This episode we dive into the ultimate 80s rom-com, Overboard.

Undoubtedly the best movie about Stockholm Syndrome ever made. Kurt Russell kidnaps amnesiac socialite Goldie Hawn and convinces her that she’s his wife and the mother of his four children. He treats her like a slave, subjects her to water torture and psychological abuse until she accepts that she is destined for a life of domestic drudgery.

Written down on paper that sounds like the premise of a David Lynch film rather than a romantic comedy and you would think that Overboard would be firmly in the top ten of movies militant feminists and anaemic liberals loathe but I know hard, pipe-hitting lesbians that love Overboard and I’ve sat down with card carrying advocates of women’s rights that were extremely dubious at the start of the flick and won over by the end.

You see Overboard isn’t about the battle of the sexes, it’s about class. Goldie Hawn’s character might have been abducted and brainwashed but she deserved it, she’s rich, obnoxious and entitled. She lives in an elite bubble surrounded by people of her own kind. She’s unhappy, but she doesn’t know anything else, she’s never lived in the ‘real’ world and the dubious scheme concocted by Russell’s sweaty carpenter gives her the opportunity to escape from her gilded cage.

It would be easy to say that Overboard advocates traditional gender roles but Hawn has all the power. When she decides to return to Russell at the end she makes a point of telling him, and the audience, that all of the money is hers. Would she have given it all up for love? That question is never posed and not posing it is a screen-writing master stroke.

Hawn, especially, is excellent. It’s her best role as far as I’m concerned and Russell is the perfect foil. If I was drawing up a list of the best romantic comedies of the 80s, Overboard would be a close second to When Harry Met Sally and there is no higher praise than that.

For more of our 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams CLICK HERE.

FIRST LOOK AT CHRISTOPH WALTZ AS JAMES BOND IN SPECTRE TRAILER

HOLLYWOOD – The first look at new 007 James Bond Christoph Waltz arrived today in the new Spectre trailer.

The 24th Bond outing features Christoph Waltz as James Bond, Léa Seydoux as beautiful but deadly Bond girl Goldie Hawn, Naomie Harris as Miss Moneyeuro and Ben Whishaw as Q.  Monica Bellucci plays Italian lady and Ralph Fiennes plays Judi Dench.

Although there was some controversy about casting an Austrian James Bond Christoph Waltz himself was relaxed about the challenge:

James Bond has been Scottish, Welsh and Irish. Even Australian! Why not Austrian? After all it’s just a shorter version of Australian, ha ha ha ha!

Studio Exec remains the only film site to EXCLUSIVELY reveal the news of Christoph Waltz’s casting (CLICK HERE), while others continue to speculate that the Inglourious Basterds star is actually playing Bond’s arch-enemy Blofeld. This makes absolutely no sense as Daniel Craig is obviously playing the villain with his cold eyes and weird ears.

Spectre will be released in October, 2015.