All posts by Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

For Your Ears Only: Dr. No

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Frank and Podcasting Them Softly’s James Bond expert, Tom Zielinski, talk about the very first official James Bond film, DR. NO. They discuss at length the lore of the James Bond Criterion Collection laserdiscs, the impression that Terrence Young made on the James Bond franchise that continues to this day,  and the immeasurable influence that DR. NO had on cinema.

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Christopher Nolan’s INSOMNIA

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From the opening credits, Christopher Nolan assembles a sequence that not only clues us in on what is about to unfold but also tells us there is nothing but darkness and despair in what lies ahead. INSOMNIA may just be Nolan’s most overlooked film, and his most underrated.

Pitting a dreary Al Pacino against an eccentric Robin Williams is brilliant. Pacino’s slow and methodic unraveling is a marvel to witness. His turn as the tainted hero cop, Will Dormer is perhaps his finest performance of the third act of his career. He foregoes the caricature of bug-eyed screaming and gives an incredibly vulnerable performance as a cop who did a bad thing for a righteous cause, only to let that deed pull on the one string that can unravel his entire career.

Robin Williams is wonderful as the antagonist who plays it as if he really isn’t that bad of a guy, he just made a mistake, and then another mistake and then another that leads to a web of lies and the death of a sixteen-year-old girl. Williams is the only character we see on the screen that truly understands and accepts Pacino, and forgives him for his misdeeds. Nolan milks every ounce of affability he can from Williams, allowing the audience to like and sympathize with Williams. It’s a rather brilliant move in a film that is such a taut game of chess, you can almost hear Nolan slam his hand down on the chess clock.

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The hook of the film is brilliant, pitting Pacino against his own conscience in an Alaskan town that is so far north, the sun never sets. He makes catastrophic mistakes that lead to even worse mistakes all the while he is trying to solve a crime where suddenly he almost becomes a villain. It is almost as if he and Williams are following the same path, with one immeasurable mistake that leads to a sequence that leads to their respective unraveling.

It’s a brilliant structure that is so complex it becomes maddening. The entire film begins to turn over onto itself, causing the viewer to question there original notions of what morality is; casting complete shades of grey over the black and white of right and wrong.

The Last Word with Stuart Fink

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Stuart Fink

Frank is joined by screenwriter Stuart Fink to discuss his latest film, THE LAST WORD staring Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried. The film was directed by Podcasting Them Softly’s very first guest and one of Frank’s all-time favorite filmmakers, Mark Pellington. THE LAST WORD is an incredibly sweet and heartfelt film that is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

PTS Presents the Raymond Benson Auteur Series: DAVID LYNCH Volume 1

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Podcasting Them Softly is incredibly excited to continue our Raymond Benson Auteur Series with our first of a two part chat about the works of David Lynch. Frank, Tim, and Raymond discuss Lynch’s early works continued through his features ERASERHEAD, THE ELEPHANT MAN, DUNE, BLUE VELVET, and the first two seasons of TWIN PEAKS. The three of them will be back soon covering Lynch’s filmography from WILD AT HEART to TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. For those local listeners, please check Raymond’s website for upcoming book signing appearances for Raymond’s new novel, THE SECRETS OF CHICORY LANE.

David Bowie’s Missing Pieces

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There was something about David Bowie. He wasn’t just worldly, he was out of this world. It was as if he knew something the rest of us didn’t. Bowie died on January 10th, 2016. More than a year and a half later he is not only missed by many, but he’s constantly being talked about. He was a rock star first and foremost, but he was also an actor. He wasn’t prolific, he was selective. He weaved in and out of some of the strangest films and some of the very finest. As Renny Harlin said in our podcast with him, Bowie was attached to play the villain in CLIFFHANGER opposite Sylvester Stallone, but Bowie couldn’t commit due to his concert schedule. That was a very big what if. What would it have been like to see Bowie face off against Sly?

Magnificent.

TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN

One of the many burning questions that circled the unraveling mystery of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s phenomenon of TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN was did David Bowie film a secret cameo reprising his FIRE WALK WITH ME role as Philip Jeffries? He was mentioned heavily throughout the show. It was obvious Jeffries played a huge part in the main narrative of the show. He first showed up in archived footage from FWWM, but his voice was overdubbed by actor Nathan Frizzell. Lynch later said that Bowie gave them permission to use the footage, but not his voice. Lynch had guessed that he didn’t like his faux Louisiana accent he used.

Instead, Philip Jeffries came back as a machine with a spout that puffed steam and GPS coordinates once again voiced by actor Nathan Frizzell. We never got Bowie, and after the show finished, David Lynch was asked about it and said that Bowie declined to reprise without a reason, and that the reason was quickly known thereafter. At the very least, the legend of David Bowie was introduced to an entirely new generation of Twin Peaks fans.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2

Once the film was released, and all the cameos were exposed, James Gunn quickly came out in a Facebook Q&A with fans and said that he originally sought David Bowie for one of the original Guardians members who show up at the end of the film. Had Bowie been alive and appeared in the film, it would have kept the door open for him to have an expanded role in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Recently director Denis Villeneuve said that Bowie was his first choice as the role of the villain that ultimately went to Jared Leto. Needless to say, Bowie would have been fabulous in the much-anticipated sequel. Jared Leto is a fair supplement, but wouldn’t it have been incredible to see Bowie in the Blade Runner universe?

As time marches on, and more and more people discover and devour everything that Bowie left us with, there will certainly be more stories, more “what ifs”, and as sad as that may come, it is also more than welcomed. Because thinking about David Bowie makes most of us very happy.

 

 

Julio Quintana’s THE VESSEL

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For those latter-day Terrence Malick junkies amongst us, THE VESSEL is a film that has mistaken slipped under the radar. It’s a small and very intimate picture that is set in modern-day Puerto Rico where a small town is still deeply affected a tsunami’s wave that wiped out a school, killing all of the children. The dilapidation became suffocating until a series of divine events happened that instilled hope and caution.

From executive producers Terrence Malick and his, partner Sarah Green comes a film that is cut from the Malick cloth;  the film tells an acute tale but has so much more to say than the fragmented events we see on the screen. Quintana keeps a very taut narrative structure, yet with very elusive camerawork and a beautiful score by Hanan Townshed, he creates a film that is a whimsical force of nature.

Martin Sheen anchors the film as the Catholic Priest who has been the town’s shepherd since the tsunami wave that washed the life out of the town. Sheen, like in all his turns, is deeply moving with his performance, straddling the line between apathy and hope. Sheen has rarely been better, and for an actor of his caliber, that’s saying a lot.

THE VESSEL is a deeply spiritual film that breathes life into our cinematic realm that’s being taken over by whatever big budget franchise is set to implode at the nearest theatre. It’s a wonderful film filled with hope, tragedy, and inspiration.

THE VESSEL is now streaming on Starz.

Cameron McHarg: The American Badass

 

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Photo Credit: Angel Colmenares

 

Frank is joined by filmmaker, writer, actor, fellow podcaster, and all around American Badass, Cameron McHarg to talk about his work, his process, Harvey Keitel, 70s films, and about his influences and future projects. Cameron is the producer, founder, and host of Triumph and Disaster, and had Frank as a guest a few months ago. Check out everything and anything about Cameron here, and their podcast on Triumph and Disaster here.