Monday, October 15, 2007

October 15, 2007
Excellent weekend working on The Top Secret Project. Got a timepiece page going. I'll post that this afternoon.

The Buck & Boze Show
"I haven't read a lot on movies, Hollywood, etc, but David Thomson's THE WHOLE
EQUATION is a marvelous book, insightful and stylishly written. The phrase
"the whole equation" refers to when it all comes together, commerce, art, and
box office. It's a rare confluence, and a wonder to behold when it occurs.

There are many movies that are huge box office hits, but not art. And the
other way round, like THE ASSASSINATION OF. We may quarrel with WB's
distribution approach, but it's possible that what makes THE ASSASSINATION OF engrossing
and atmospheric kills it as a wide release film.
—Dan Buck

Yes, you've nailed it. The stories are legion of meddling. Have you seen "The
Kid Stays In The Picture"? It's an excellent documentary of the rise and fall
of Robert Evans who produced "The Godfather." As producer he claims he forced
Francis Ford Coppola to change parts of the film, and he claims, this made it
a classic (he was trimming or reining in Francis' wandering excess). Then,
later, when Francis had enough clout he gets a restraining order against Evans
on the film "The Cotton Club," and Evans is banned from touching the film,
which turns out to be a pile of total doo doo.

On the other side of the fence is Ridley Scott and "Blade Runner" and
Scott has just released his intended version 25 years later. He nuked out the
"lame narrative voice over" and killed other studio tampering. it wasn't a box
office hit then, it is a critic's darling now. Will the box office follow? I
doubt it, but what do I know? Very little, but then I take some comfort in William
Goldman's comment, "Nobody knows anything." Ha.

You are right when you say it's a rare thing when commerce and art mesh.
It's a fluke of nature really. And the older I get the more in awe I am of
films that still work, and I would include "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid" on
that list. Amazing.

Never saw "The Kid,"' but heard good things about it.

Evans is all over Thomson's first chapter, "The Gamble and the Lost Rights,"
re the making of CHINATOWN, which he considers emblematic to his history of
Hollywood. Robert Towne, Jack Nicholson, Roman Polanski, and Robert Evans all
threw dice in that venture. For Thomson, moviemaking is as much gambling, as
it is dreaming.

Towne had a dream for a trio of movies about Los Angeles. CHINATOWN he lost
control of (sold the rights because he was short of cash). But in spite of
his ceding control to the studio, which is to say Polanski, that film ended up
being the beau ideal whole equation.

Towne and Nicholson went to war over the second film in the trio, THE TWO
JAKES, which Nicholson, being the more powerful at that moment, took over and
directed, into the ground.

Towne? He went on to get filthy rich writing two MISSION: IMPOSSIBLES, the
equivalent of Edward Hopper making a fortune painting barns. The third in
Towne's dream trio was never made.

Thomson: "The gap between CHINATOWN and the umpteen future MISSION:
IMPOSSIBLE is the lament of this book."

The profile of hedge fund corsair Victor Niederhoffer in the current NEW
YORKER makes reference to what mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot calls "the
'multifractal nature of trading time,'" that is, the market when it's is volatile and
fast-moving and chaotic.

Multifractal -- I had to look it up -- is from mathematics, a field that is
not only alien to me, but which makes me break out in hives. A multifractal
system, e.g., the stock market, current events (history as its unfolding and
biting us in the arse when we least expect it), and many phenomenon in nature,
cannot be explained or standardized with a single exponent. The making of a
movie is a multifractal system.

Didn't know this. Amazing. In a recent interview with Warren Beatty, Towne
shows up for a meeting with Beatty, or maybe he's just leaving a meeting, I
can't remember, and the interviewer notes this and surmises that Beatty and
Towne have a project together. Beatty wouldn't divulge anything, but I wonder?

Didn't Towne also do that Lesbian runner movie "Personal Best"? I was
rather underwhelmed by that one. Also, "The Two Jakes" was so bad. Nicholson has a
gut (supposedly planned, because Jake would have been middle-aged in the
sequel, etc. but Pa-leeze!), and there are major gaffs in the settings. I seem to
remember an ATM machine in the background, and the plot twist, of winding up
the alleged bad guy a la Walter Huston, (The Gray Fox guy—Richard
Farnsworth!!), and then slowly letting the air out of the whole mess, I mean movie. I
remember thinking to myself, "Maybe Towne isn't a genius. Maybe he just got lucky."

And maybe he did, but "Chinatown: is so good I don't care. When you look
at what Polanski did after that ("Tess," what a mess!). He actually said
somewhere that he did Chinatown to show the movie bosses that he could make a box
office success, and then he planned to do the movies he really wanted to do.
Ouch!! A warning fable for us all.

You found the director/actor's dream zone: I want to do the movies I've
always wanted to do. Which is inevitably leads to a nightmare.

My final contribution to our dialogue I poached from the November ATLANTIC,
which landed in our mail box this afternoon: Bernard Schwarz, the magazine's
erudite book critic, on several new Hollywood tomes (below). During
Hollywood's so-called golden rea, most of which they made was schlock. They had to make
schlock, to make money to make the really important pictures. But, most of
those important pictures are forgotten today, and it's the handful of creative
entertainments and noirs that survived, like MY MAN GODFREY and DOUBLE
—Dan Buck

Photos of Saturday's opening at the Bison Museum coming right up.

"It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded."
—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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