Sunset Grill (1993) was recently covered by Scoopy, and you
should read his review before mine, as I am not going to cover the same ground,
and differ with him in my reactions. You can find it at
here. While the improbability of a drunken
small statured leading man who didn't like to shoot real guns beating the entire
world's compliment of bad guys bothered Scoopy, I bought into the character. He
didn't like shooting real guns, preferring a B B gun because it was quiet. If I
woke up every with a huge hangover, I might feel the same way. It wasn't that he
couldn't shoot a real gun, and he in fact did a few times, and was a master
marksman. At one time, he was a competent detective, and lots of people saved
his tail frequently in the film.
His motivation, of course, was the murder of the only thing her still cared
about, his wife. IN short, I loved his character, and liked the fact that he was
mainly fighting corrupt establishment types. See Scoops review for the nudity
summary. I agree with the C- rating. While I enjoyed the film, not everyone will
react the way I did to it. C-.
Scoop's note: actually I liked it. I wrote
"Lame, laughable premise, but once you get past that, it's a watchable film for
Grade-B noir afficionados, because it is sexy and has some good performances and
good moments to help patch over the weak spots. The extra DVD footage and decent
widescreen transfer make it a must-own for celebrity nudity buffs." I'd watch it
again. In fact, I've watched it twice in the past three years. Having written
that, however, I wouldn't watch it if it didn't have any nudity.
- Thumbnails (
- Alexandra Paul (
- Sandra Wild (
- Lori Singer (
The Last Tycoon (1976)
"It is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Well, ol' Billy Shakes might have been watching this very movie
when he wrote that line, except that this lifeless film could have
used a lot more of that fury he was talkin' 'bout.
with this sentence?
"The Last Tycoon is based on an unfinished novel by F. Scott
Several things. The most obvious is that the novel
was unfinished, and Fitzgerald was changing his mind about how to
end it, even thinking about changing what he had already written, so
the movie begins by basing itself on an unresolved storyline. That
was the least of Hollywood's problems with Fitzgerald's book. The
greater issues are as follows:
1) To say that The Love of the
Last Tycoon is unfinished is to employ extreme litotes. It
isn't just unfinished. It was barely begun. The Fitzgerald "novel"
is really just a collection of snippets. The final thirteen chapters
simply consist of notes, and the seventeen early chapters are
unpolished rough drafts. Based upon Fitzgerald's most recent notes,
even the early chapters would have been rewritten extensively to
correspond to his changing vision of the plot's central dynamic.
2) Scotty wasn't exactly on the top of his game when he died. In all
his years in Hollywood, he got exactly one screenwriting credit, and
he hadn't written anything worth reading in the previous six years.
He tried and failed to sell the Last Tycoon to Collier's Magazine
for serialization. Even if he had lived, there is no reason to
believe that he would have produced a final work on a level with The
Great Gatsby, a novel he had written sixteen years earlier. In those
intervening years, Scotty went through lot of booze, and a lot of
despair. His wife was institutionalized, as you probably know,
causing him to write, "I left my capacity for hoping on the little
roads that led to Zelda's sanitariums". By the time he began Last
Tycoon he was, to use his own term from Tender is the Night, un
homme épuisé ("a used-up man"). Before he met his last love, Sheilah
Graham, he was a hopeless alcoholic. He was making a minor comeback
in the last three years, working in Hollywood again, and living with
Graham in relative quiet, except for an occasional drunken binge in
which he became angry and violent in public.
Given the fragmentary
nature of the source, Hollywood could have used it to make any
number of different movies, depending on the focus. The film they
chose to make was a confusing love story, or at least that's what it
was most of the time.
Fitzgerald's version of the story was basically a roman a clef
about the legendary Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg, who was
running Universal at 20, moved on to head up the operations at MGM
by the time he was 25, and was dead of a heart attack by age 37,
presumably brought on by overwork. He had been raised in a
working-class Jewish family in Brooklyn, had dropped out of high
school, and had worked a succession of unimportant secretarial
positions before being hired at Universal as a personal secretary. A
few weeks later, he was running the show. Obviously, Thalberg had to
have been an interesting and overwhelmingly talented guy to rise so
fast at Universal. He was a hands-on manager who could be ruthless
in firing directors and writers, but was generally considered to be
friendly to artists who had their acts together. Despite his
workaholic nature, he held on to his marriage with glamorous actress
Norma Shearer and was greatly admired by the Marx Brothers,
especially Groucho, so he couldn't have been a totally humorless
bottom-line man. If you believe his legend, he had the soul of an
artist and the mind of a businessman.
Fitzgerald's contribution to
the basic Thalberg story was a flight of imagination. Suppose the
fictional Thalberg (called Monroe Stahr) had lost Norma Shearer some
time before, and had spent the rest of his life seeking to recapture
what he had with her. Logically enough, he would notice a young
woman who looked exactly like his lost love. He noticed her, pursued
her, and when he finally got her to agree to meet him, they fell in
love. Unfortunately for Stahr, the beautiful woman was already
promised to someone else. She resisted his advances at first, but
she was overwhelmed by the closeness they developed during the
courtship ritual. The relationship developed behind the back of her
fiancé, and her relationship with the fiancé continued behind
Stahr's back. Eventually she had to face the music and sent Stahr a
short telegram saying "I was married at noon today".
part of the Fitzgerald story is that Stahr could have gotten the
girl if he had been as aggressive and decisive with her as he was in
his business dealings, but by letting his softer side through and
acting passively, he lost his opportunity.
The saddest portion of
the Fitzgerald narrative is not that Monroe Stahr lost the woman,
but that he also lost his studio at the same time. The workaholic
had previously been able to stay focused on his job when there was
no reason to do otherwise, but he started to miss appointments and
make business mistakes when he was concentrating on finding his
dream-girl. When it started to appear that the romance was going to
turn out tragically for him, and he became obsessed by that, he
really started to lose his grasp on the operation of the studio.
In other words, to put it bluntly, Fitzgerald wondered what Irving
Thalberg would have been like if he were not like Irving Thalberg at
all, but like F. Scott Fitzgerald. There was a good reason for
Scotty to make that kind of projection. Like Thalberg, Fitzgerald
had been a boy wonder who was highly successful at age 20 (when he
wrote Tender is the Night). Like Thalberg, Fitzgerald reached the
complete zenith of his profession at 25, when he published The Great
Gatsby, one of the most acclaimed novels ever written in the English
Language. Like Thalberg, Fitzgerald was born just before the new
century began. Like Thalberg, the boy geniuses Fitzgerald was
destined to became a boy corpse as well. Thalberg died in 1937,
Fitzgerald followed in 1940.
Beyond that basic comparison,
Fitzgerald's life ceased to be like that of the real Irving
Thalberg, and started to be like that of the fictional Monroe Stahr.
Like Stahr, Fitzgerald had thrown his life into a doomed romantic
relationship. Like Stahr, he lost the girl, and also lost his genius
and happiness by pursuing the girl. The film barely touched upon all
of that. It seemed to catch it only in passing.
I really liked the first thirty minutes of the film, which
basically consisted of a look into the movie business. Robert DeNiro
is a great actor, and he also looked the part completely. (See
the scoopy.com page for pictures of DeNiro and Nicholson in this
film, as well as a pic of the real Thalberg) If you look at him
quickly, you won't even know who it is. He did another one of his
weight-altering preps for this film. Gaunt, maybe 130-140
pounds, aloof, elegant, spare of gestures and precise of speech, he
looked and sounded the spitting image of George Gershwin or Zeppo
Marx or any of those many other handsome and intelligent Jewish New
Yorkers who became society's darlings in the Jazz Age. DeNiro seemed
to disappear, and Monroe Stahr appeared, the completely competent
little bantam who seemed to understand every detail of every film on
Once the love story came into the film, however, the
movie's energy disappeared. DeNiro has never been an especially
charming lover, but his stiff discomfort worked fine in the
character. DeNiro's seduction method was exactly the way that the
nerdy Monroe Stahr would have conducted a seduction. Unfortunately,
his ability was not matched by the woman he was seducing, nor the
words they used. Ingrid Boulting was a round-faced model who made
her film debut here, and pretty much her swan song as well. I hope
she was smart enough to keep her day job, because acting was just
not her calling. The character was supposed to be a bit daft, like
Zelda Fitzgerald herself, but Boulting just seemed very lost and
confused and her only facial expression was "deer in the
headlights". The lines they gave her were no better than her ability
to deliver them. She is attractive enough that a viewer can
understand why Monroe was attracted to her, especially given the
resemblance to his dead wife, but it is impossible for the audience
to understand why Monroe Stahr still liked her once he talked to
her. (Interestingly, Hemingway made similar comments about Zelda
Fitzgerald, and many people have made similar comments about
Fitzgerald's insubstantial female characters in his other works, so
Scotty was apparently not able to look much beyond a woman's
Miss Boulting was so untalented that she couldn't
stay in the industry despite both beauty and connections. (Her
father and his twin brother were both prominent producers and
directors.) She didn't work in another film for nine years after The
Last Tycoon, and her performance in that second film ended her
career permanently. That movie, Deadly Passion, was described by a
wag at IMDb as "Body Heat with the bodies but without the heat".
Ingrid is now long out of show business, still beautiful in her
mid 50s, into art and yoga.
Here is her personal web site.
Ingrid wasn't the only reason the film bombed. Individual scenes
seemed to end in the middle, often failing to connect with other
scenes. The script was written by the avant-garde minimalist
playwright Harold Pinter. Mysterious, ominous, understatement is
Pinter's oeuvre, but it doesn't belong in a story which should be
firmly grounded in reality. If Monroe Stahr could have come to life
to read this script, he would have fired Harold Pinter and hired two
writers, one to give the characters flesh and blood, the other to
make the scenes complete and connected to one another.
up with some loony ideas.
At one point, an aging leading man (Tony Curtis) comes into
Stahr's office to talk about his impotence. This scene goes on
forever, and includes dialogue like this:
- Actor: I didn't know what to do, so I came to you.
- Monroe Stahr: Yes, you did.
- Actor: So then I decided to tell you, and now I'm telling
- Monroe Stahr: I can see that.
Ol' Monroe really offered some insights there, eh? The dialogue
wasn't the worst thing about the scene, nor was the length. The
completely frustrating thing was that the editor cut from the
conversation to waiting room, where people were queued up to talk to
Monroe. Monroe and the actor emerged from the office, shaking hands
and laughing, and we had no idea how the situation got resolved. It
was never mentioned again.
In another scene, the head of the
studio (Bob Mitchum, playing the Louis B Mayer character) got a
visit from his daughter (Theresa Russell in her screen debut).
She remarked that it room was stuff, and that he should open
some windows. At that moment, he was opening some windows, so he
said that he was opening some windows. Pretty exciting so far,
eh? She invited him for a walk, he declined, she insisted. He
went to the bathroom to change his shirt, whereupon she snooped
around and found a naked woman in his closet. He came out of the
bathroom. She said, "cover her up". He was paralyzed. She
covered the woman. The naked woman never spoke a single word.
This scene has nothing to do with anything that came before or
after it in the movie.
Other characters besides the naked woman
remained completely undefined. In Pinter's best plays, the
source of menace comes from characters who remain undefined.
Pinter is the anti-Tarantino. His thugs don't talk about Big
Macs or religion or what they will have for dinner. We don't
know where they are from, or what their girlfriends think of
them, or when they need to get home. They are there only to
provide menace. Their vary lack of specificity makes them
psychologically terrifying to the victims. That technique works
beautifully for Pinter in an abstract, minimalist drama, but in
this kind of character-based period drama, we look for
characters who should either be real people or who should be
written out altogether. Tige Andrews played a Greek character. I
have no idea what his job was in that studio, I just know he was
Greek and he didn't like Communists. Ray Milland played a lawyer
who always followed Mitchum around. He had no personality other
than the personality of Ray Milland, bland though that is. He
didn't like Communists either. We don't know why those
characters and many others are in the story, and the film would
not have lost one thing if they were written out. The same
quality of disposability was true of several scenes, including
the two described above.
It just doesn't add up to much. The
love scenes occurred between a great actor playing an aloof,
stiff guy and a non-actress for whom stiffness would have been
an upgrade from her natural rigor mortis, so those moments had
no energy or passion. The non-love scenes, especially everything
that occurred after the first twenty minutes, seemed to consist
of unconnected and/or unfinished anecdotes.
Amazingly enough, the director of this film was the formerly
brilliant Elia Kazan, one of the most influential people in the
development of performance art in the 20th century, a man who
directed many great films and plays, and was also the co-founder of
the legendary actor's studio.
The Last Tycoon was the last film Kazan ever directed, even
though he would live another 27 years.
There are positives.
The film looks excellent and the DVD transfer is
The acting roster must be one of the most impressive
ever assembled. For example, I think this is the only film in which
DeNiro and Jack Nicholson have a scene together. Jeanne Moreau and
Anjelica Huston complement the other leading performers already
mentioned, and several noted character actors top off the cast.
Based on our system, this is a C. It is a failed attempt to
create a masterpiece centered around the movie industry itself. It
has some superlatives, and some equally grand failings. DeNiro,
Nicholson, Kazan, Pinter, Fitzgerald: a vast reservoir of talent,
which resulted in an empty, lifeless, aloof movie.
- Ingrid Boulting (1,2,3,4)
- Naked woman in closet (1,
Made in America (1993)
Ostensibly, Made in America is about a girl's search
for her father. A brilliant young black woman finds out quite by
accident that she is not her father's biological daughter, but the
result of artificial insemination from an anonymous sperm donor.
When she uses her guile to break the sperm bank's cloak of
anonymity, she finds out that her dad is not only a stranger, but a
white guy! Specifically, it is Sam Malone from Cheers, playing a
Southern Bohunk version of Sammy this time, as an Oakland car dealer
who relies on outrageous animal stunts in his obnoxious TV
I started by saying "ostensibly" because that was
where the movie began, but not where it proceeded. It turned out to
be a sentimental romantic comedy in which the young girl's
biological parents (big Sammy Malone and Whoopi Goldberg) actually
fell in love, after never having met before.
You can tell from the description and the reviews (mixed, tending
toward the negative) that the film is not a work of great merit. The
film tries to cook with a difficult recipe of slapstick farce and
delicate romantic comedy, sautéed in sentiment and spiced with some
social satire which derives from the whole black/white thing. That
was much too ambitious an undertaking, and 111 minutes was about 20
minutes beyond my fanny-tolerance level for this kind of film, but I
watched it all the way through without the fast forward button, so I
guess it all seemed worthwhile to me on balance, but it seemed to be
seeking the adolescent girl market.
Here are the IMDb breakdowns:
Females: 5.3, Males: 4.4.
Under Eighteen: 6.3, 18 or older: 4.5.
After having noted that, I guess it's only fair to add that there
is no reason why you should object to your daughter watching this
movie, since the values espoused by it are sensible and tolerant. In
fact, you could watch with her, and the film has a broad enough
appeal that you won't hate it. The film has some pretty good moments. Ol' Sammy
is pretty funny and even touching as the crass extrovert whose
insensitive glad-handing exterior masks some loneliness and
sensitivity. He did fairly well in the emotional scenes with Whoopi
and the girl, but he really excelled in the funny scenes with the
animals, and the screenwriter came up with some clever ways to show
how his TV commercials incorporated all kinds of flubs seamlessly
into the final footage, as if it had always been meant that way.
I have to tell you, though, that even though
Whoopi and ol' Sammy did become an offscreen item, I had some
problems with Whoopi Goldberg as a romantic lead. She's intelligent
and funny, and she does have a certain charisma, but I just can't
picture anyone electrified with desire for her, as Big Sammy was
supposed to be in
It's a C by our measuring system - it's an OK watch if
you have no better choice, but don't go poring through DVD stores
looking for it. The DVD is bare bones - not even a picture menu!
There is no widescreen version.
The (un) official Paris Hilton video action figure. Kinda
pricey. Unsurprisingly, there have not been any bids.
Actress Natalie Portman showed up Friday in a see-through top to
introduce a film clip at the 18th Annual American Cinematheque
An ancient play is to be staged for the first time in more than
2,050 years after fragments of the text were found stuffed in an
Egyptian mummy. It will be a modern-day world premiere of
Aeschylus's Trojan War story, Achilles. Aeschylus is not expected
to attend the premiere, but Paris Hilton will be there in honor of
another important character in the Trojan Wars, and also because a
camera will be there.
Uglyfootballers.com - the soccer streakers
Jessica Simpson Performs At Strip Club
Halle Berry denied admission to her own premiere (Punk'd)
Tremendous reviews for Russell Crowe's new pic Master and
Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003).
Prez in Topless Tabloid: The Washington Post says, "After
coming to office with a vow to restore dignity to the White House,
the president yesterday took a brief sabbatical from that effort".
The President granted an exclusive interview to our favorite
newspaper, the Sun tabloid, a paper which represents perhaps the
greatest use of the English language since Shakespeare died. Rumor
has it that Weekly World News is insanely jealous.
The U.S. government's secret memo detailing cooperation between
Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Pretty interesting stuff.
WARNING: New virus disguised as PayPal e-mail
'Victoria's Secret' Fashion Slideshow
7% of Britons regard President Bush as a good world leader.
Not bad. He's really gaining in popularity there. 33% said he was
incoherent, so I guess they'd like him more if they knew what he
Britons under 30 are sick of royals. Kansas City fans agree.
Relationship gurus have "totally worthless degrees".
Apparently John Gray got his Ph.D. degree from either Mars or
Venus. Geez, next you'll be telling me that I shouldn't have let
Doctor Hunter Thompson remove my gallstones.
Here's the story on Columbia Pacific University.
Baylor beats the spread. There was rejoicing in the streets of
Waco yesterday, when Baylor held mighty Oklahoma to 41 points, and
lost by a mere 38, thus winning by two touchdowns against the
spread. Of course, Oklahoma was up 24-0 in the first quarter,
then put in some cheerleaders and fans to play the rest of the
game. (Seriously, Baylor sacked Oklahoma's starting QB five
Paris thinks her sex tape will help her career! "If I look on the
bright side, Madonna was just another pop star until naked
pictures broke," Paris told a source close to her. "That was the
turning point in her career -- maybe this will be mine." It is
kind of suspicious that Paris became a household name just in time
to publicize the opening of her new TV show on December 2. Kinda
supports the theory that she leaked it herself.
The Secret Sexual Diaries of the characters in Lord of the Rings
The Scout Walker Kama Sutra
Tom Cruise was almost beheaded on the set of his new movie, ``The
archives. May also include newer material than the ones above,
since it's sorta in real time.
to submit a URL for inclusion in Other Crap
are the latest movie reviews available at scoopy.com.
- The yellow asterisks indicate that I wrote the
review, and am deluded into thinking it includes humor.
- If there is a white asterisk, it means that
there isn't any significant humor, but I inexplicably determined
there might be something else of interest.
- A blue asterisk indicates the review is written
by Tuna (or Junior or Brainscan, or somebody else besides me)
- If there is no asterisk, I wrote it, but am too
ashamed to admit it.