Tag Archives: Dennis Hopper

Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner

I’ve often argued with myself whether Sean Penn is a better actor or director, but the truth is he’s just as captivating a storyteller whether on camera or behind it, and The Indian Runner is a bold testament to the latter, a somber, tragic family drama that leaves the viewer reeling with it’s hard luck characters and sorrowful resolutions. Set in the heartlands sometime after the Viet Nam war, Penn’s focus is on two brothers who have been at odds with each other years. David Morse’s Joe is a farmer turned cop, an even tempered, recent family man with a loving wife (Valeria Golino, what ever happened to her?) and his shit firmly together. Viggo Mortensen’s Frank is a volatile, hotheaded veteran, the little brother with a big chip on his shoulder, a fiery temper and wires crossed somewhere deep inside. From the get-go there’s tension, and when Frank brings home a naive girl (Patricia Arquette) to start some semblance of a family, trouble really brews. There’s hints from director Penn of his own internal turmoil, two wolves that roil against one another represented by the brothers onscreen, and the inevitable violence begotten from the hostile one. It’s so strange seeing Mortensen in a role like this, miles removed from not only the stalwart Aragorn we’re used to, but from anything else he has ever done in his choosy, sparse career. This is the role of a lifetime for any actor and it’s the one he should be remembered for, a maladjusted outsider who rages against civility and can’t be controlled, to his own demise and detriment. Morse is always a slow burner, and takes it laconically here, but there’s a sadness that burns at the corners of his eyes which the actor exudes achingly well. Arquette captures the stars her character has in her eyes for Frank, and tragically lets them fall in disillusionment when she realizes he’s not the man she thought she knew, a splendid arc for the actress to breathe life into. The brother’s patriarch is played by a low key, heartbreaking Charles Bronson, probably the last role in which he actually gets to *act*, and not just play a tough guy. He’s full of complexity and depth in his brief appearance here, and knocks it out of the park. Dennis Hopper has an extended cameo as an antagonistic bartender, and Benicio Del Toro is apparently somewhere in it as well as he’s in the credits, but I honestly couldn’t spot him anywhere. The film subtly tackles everything from implied PTSD to biblical references to near mythic aspirations built around a legend that explains the title, but more than anything it’s about something as simple as can be: How circumstances shape human beings, how trauma affects us and the ways we interact with each other, what it means to exist and make choices. Penn’s fascination with these themes is obvious, skilled and nears profundity in dedication to story and character. A brilliant piece in need of far more exposure than its ever gotten.

-Nate Hill

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Who would your wife rather go to bed with, Stallone or Goldman…? An Interview with Paul Power by Kent Hill

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“Power Pack” as he was dubbed by director Peter Berg (The Rundown, Hancock, Battleship) is a more than appropriate substitute of a name for an electric personality that has done it all when it comes to the trade of an illustrator.

The Australian born lad who started out drawing comics for newspapers soon found himself becoming a fully fledged commercial artist, working within the music industry, designing album covers. From there he would come to the City of Angels and at Hanna-Barbera he would work, animating some of Saturday morning’s finest cartoons.

The film industry would become his next conquest. He has credits as a storyboard artist and conceptual illustrator are numerous, to put it simply. He was there when Richard Donner blew up at Spielberg, he and Arnold Schwarzenegger retooled the ending of Predator, he was working on a sequel to The Last Starfighter that never took flight, he was stuck in transit and drawing cartoons for sushi when he was set to act in Anthony Hopkins’ directorial debut, Slipstream.

Paul has pissed off a few people off in his time, but he continues to speak his mind and states that if people don’t like him, or if his work is not good enough then he’ll walk, moving on to the next adventure. That could very easily be one the screenplays he is at work on now as I type these words. One is a film adaptation of his awesome comic East meets West.

He was as inspiring as I had hoped to chat with. His devotion to his work is a lesson to all who have dreams of glory whether they be cinematic or artistically inclined. I find myself forgoing things that used to take me away, easy distractions if you will, from my work till my work is complete in the wake of our conversation. It’s not enough to will things into existence – you must strive for excellence, pay your dues, give it all you got and that might get you half way. The rest of the journey is built on hard work, of which Paul Power is the personification. When he’s not doing impersonations of Schwarzenegger or talking wrestling with David Mamet he is ever busy.

If you have a few minutes now, hang out, have a laugh, be inspired. Have pencil will travel.

PTS listeners, I present the irrepressible Paul Power.

http://www.paulpower.com/

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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 Lynch’s BLUE VELVET

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BLUE VELVET may just be one of the most depraved and transgressive love stories ever put on film. It’s a complex narrative that ushers the audience past their comfort zone into a dark and dangerous world of obsession and perversion. Not only do we enter this world through our innocent protagonist, Jeffery Beaumont, but we see and experience what he is exposed to. As his innocence erodes, as does ours.

Like anything David Lynch, the film is richly layered. The color scheme can be overanalyzed, as can the vague shadow world crime story, and especially the shifting timeline. When we’re in Jeffery’s world, we are in this overly nostalgic “good old days” of Americana and once we enter into Frank Boothe’s life in the fast lane all of a sudden we are thrown into this overly stinging and lightspeed paced contemporary (the 1980s) world of drugs, violence, and sexual perversion.

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Lynch constructs a deeply layered world by his own aesthetic and his brilliant casting strokes. Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern’s star-making performances zigzag back and forth between the two worlds that Lynch creates, showcasing their brilliant range as actors as they carefully hold the audience’s hands during the build up of the story only to rip away once they enter the world of Frank Boothe.

Dennis Hopper is incredible in this film. His embodiment of Frank Boothe is not only one of the finest performances on film ever, but it is such a bold and daring performance. Frank Boothe is nearly irredeemable. He’s disgusting, he’s dangerous, he’s insane – yet he has a very empathetical trait. Everything he is doing, he’s doing because he is so very much in love with Dorothy Vallens played by Isabella Rossellini who matches and outdoes Hopper when it comes to giving a deeply brave performance.

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With Lynch’s casting of Priscilla Pointer, Frances Bay, and George Dickerson he builds his pure vision of the idea of America, only to tear it down with the Hopper and more specifically former Golden Age of Hollywood child star Dean Stockwell in one of the most unique and scene-stealing performances ever. Stockwell’s overly caked on makeup, 70’s powder suit, and lip syncing Roy Orbison’s IN DREAMS using a work light as a microphone is one of the most memorably haunting scenes in Lynch’s canon, and that’s saying a lot.

Once the rip cord is pulled in the film, it is an incredibly exhilarating ride. How this film got made, or better yet distributed to the degree it did upon its initial release is gobsmacking. It’s a piece of cinema that will never be outdone. It propelled Lynch into a stratosphere of auteurs that not many can even approach.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer


Out of the multiple attempts at The Crow sequels, Wicked Prayer is the most legendarily awful. You’d think that after two rainy, urban set, near identical efforts that a switch up to the New Mexico desert for an Aztec, satanic theme might just be grand, but nope, they dicked it up royally. Even with a cast as cool as they were able to lasso into this mess they couldn’t make it work. The Eric Draven avatar here is a trailer trash troublemaker named Jimmy Corvo, played by Edward ‘John Connor’ Furlong, who hasn’t exactly brushed up his acting skills since his iconic turn in T2. Corvo is in love with Lilly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the daughter of a local chief (Danny Trejo lol) who despises him. Also running around is Luc Crash (David ‘Angel’ Boreanaz), an occultist whacko who wishes to use his body as a vessel for Satan and… rule New Mexico I guess? Joined by his psychotic little hoe girlfriend (Tara Reid) and four thug henchman aptly named after the horsemen of the apocalypse, he needs a couple human sacrifices, and who better than young lovers Jimmy and Lilly? Furlong is resurrected via that good ol’ blackbird, of course, and sports the worst makeup job since.. I don’t know since what to be honest, it’s an equally horrendous and hilarious look. He goes looking for vengeance against Crash and his ilk, and all sorts of silly supernatural nonsense ensues, yada yada. You’d think that such a concept would have been great, but everything is handled so poorly, the budget seems lower than the filmmaker’s standards of quality, and Dimension should be ashamed to have to slap their classy label on this roadkill of a four-quel. As if all that wasn’t enough wasted talent, Dennis Hopper shows up arbitrarily as a jive talking, white 70 year old pimp who has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and whose dialogue as well as delivery will have your eardrums bleeding out in minutes. Please, please avoid this at all cost. 

-Nate Hill

Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend 


-Nate Hill-
Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend is so strangely plotted, so illogical and hard to understand, that not even John Hurt providing a play by play from an ever present tv monitor can seem to make sense of it. It’s not that it’s a bad film, parts are very well done and there’s that nostalgic Cold War vibe that 80’s espionage thrillers always have, it’s just that somewhere along the way, whether in the editing room, the shot list or scheduling, someone quite literally lost the plot. It’s enjoyable, well acted and supplies some of that classic Peckinpah grit he’s known for, but it’s just one massive loose thread that no one bothered to pull taut, which is a shame when you look at the talent involved. The film opens with the murder of a beautiful woman, the wife of a CIA spook (Hurt). Now, this inciting incident is what spurs on the rest of the plot, but the how and the why seem to be missing, and the matter of his wife doesn’t come into play again until all is almost said and done, and seems to have not a lot to do with the entire rest of the film. The bulk of it focuses on controversial talk show host John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), a man who lives to rub people the wrong way and put men of power on the spot with provocative, candid questions, all from the safety of his brightly lit studio. He’s forced to get his hands dirty though when Hurt contacts him, informing him that his three friends he’s planned to spend the weekend with (Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper and a sleazy Chris Sarandon) are in fact soviet spies in hiding. Forced to bug his weekend home and play host to Hurt as he watches them all via hidden cameras, tensions arise as they try to smoke the three out and figure out… something. But what? It’s anyone’s guess what three potential traitors have to do with a murdered agent’s wife, and I’m sure the novel by Robert Ludlum on which this is based covers that a little more pointedly, but this film is just all over the place. It drags where it should glide, and skips hurriedly over scenes with potential to be great. Nevertheless, they achieved some level of class at least, with a crackling on-air conclusion that cathartically weeds out some corruption and provides almost a glimmer of an answer to what’s going on. There’s a fight scene between Nelson and Hauer that’s excellently choreographed, the performances are committed and engaging, and I’m always a sucker for cloak and dagger theatrics. But the thing just can’t seem to cohesively pull itself together and present a story that makes sense. It’s not even that it doesn’t make sense in a Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy sense, because I’m sure that if I sat down and watched that film like five times in a row, id get it, it has a plot buried under all of it. This one though, it’s like there’s pieces missing, and the ones that are left are either out of order, or from a different puzzle entirely. Close, but no cigar. 

O.C. AND STIGGS – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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After Popeye (1980), Robert Altman had effectively alienated himself from most of the Hollywood studios and took to adapting stage plays for the big screen through independent financing. In the early 1980s, National Lampoon magazine published stories about two troublemaking teenagers named Oliver Cromwell ‘O.C.’ Ogilvie and Mark Stiggs written by Tod Carroll and Ted Mann. When Altman made O.C. and Stiggs in 1984 (it wasn’t released until 1987), teen comedies were all the rage but he hated them and so, instead, he made it into a biting satire of these kinds of films. Not surprisingly, nobody liked it and the movie quickly disappeared. Even among Altman fans it has few supporters and was eventually quietly released on DVD.

O.C. (Daniel Jenkins) and Stiggs (Neill Barry) are suburban teens and avid practical jokers who live in Phoenix, Arizona. The main target of their gags is the Schwab family, a decadent, materialistic clan headed by Randall Schwab (Paul Dooley) who sells insurance. The mother (Jane Curtin) is an alcoholic, their son (Jon Cryer) is a gullible idiot while their daughter is about to get married.

In some respects, O.C. and Stiggs are like teenage versions of Hawkeye and Trapper John from M*A*S*H (1970). Both feature clever hipsters but the latter were also brilliant surgeons whereas the former are only good at one thing – staging elaborate practical jokes. In M*A*S*H, the two surgeons were fighting against authority and the absurdity of war while O.C. and Stiggs are fighting against materialism and mediocrity as represented by the Schwabs with their bad fashion sense and gaudy décor – the epitome of the “ugly American.”

The problem with O.C. and Stiggs is the central characters. They aren’t particularly interesting. Their obsession with pulling endless practical jokes on the Schwabs seems mean-spirited at times. Another problem lies in what O.C. and Stiggs are rebelling against, which isn’t as clearly defined as the war in M*A*S*H. The teen pranksters are rebelling against the mind-numbing banality of suburbia and the “Greed is good” era of Reaganomics. There is an attempt to provide some kind of motivation for why these kids do what they do. Stiggs’ dad is cheating on his wife while O.C.’s dad (grandfather?) is unemployed and possibly senile. No wonder they spend all their time together devising elaborate schemes. It is a form of escape from their mundane surroundings.

This movie sees Altman in an extremely playful mood with the same kind of fast and loose structure as California Split (1974), which also features two freewheeling pals careening from one crazy encounter to another. A crazed, babbling Dennis Hopper even pops up as a burnt out Vietnam vet. It’s as if his photographer character from Apocalypse Now (1979) had somehow made it out of Kurtz’s compound and came back to the United States.

There are some nice moments, like when O.C. dances with a beautiful girl (Cynthia Nixon) at the Schwab wedding that is a nod to classic Hollywood cinema by way of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. But it is not enough to keep this uneven film together.

Altman flips the ‘80s teen comedy on its head. He even refuses to populate the film’s soundtrack with trendy New Wave music, instead opting for the catchy African music of King Sunny Ade. No wonder people hated this movie when it came out. Clearly Altman did not grasp the original source material (or didn’t even bother to read it) and just did his own thing. The results are, at times, amusing and at some point you either surrender yourself to the goofiness of the whole enterprise or resist this maddeningly frustrating effort.