Tag Archives: Hume Cronyn

It’s hard to know who to trust, isn’t it, Jack? : Remembering Cocoon with Tom Benedek by Kent Hill

49a3bfd8809e753dc238598fcb2bc258_1375120977_l

What’s strange is, for the longest time, I had only ever seen the final scenes of Cocoon. A sea covered in mist, a young boy in the water, a boat loaded with elderly people being chased. Then the sky above lights up. The clouds part majestically as James Horner takes over and the ship ascends into a gigantic spacecraft. Wow, I thought. Cool. Have to see that rest of that! It would be a few days later, but, at last, the whole story was mine to experience.

To talk about films like Cocoon, you need to go back to a different age in cinema. Before most of the popular films were adaptations of characters from the funny papers and franchises and cinematic universes were lined up, as far as the eye can see. It was a time of great risk and invention. When a person with a great idea was king, and the power of Hollywood could make such visions sing.

The era of high concept brought us many of the enduring classics which now appear, in many ways, to be timeless. A young Ron Howard would helm the picture, taking control after another icon of the times, Robert Zemeckis, decided to go off and romance a stone, before heading back in time. Howard had already delivered a fascinating modern day fairy-tale with his magical, romantic, comedy-adventure, Splash. In hindsight this was a fortuitous match, one which would propel Howard’s career to new heights, eventually seeing him become the ideal fit for another 80’s fantasy masterpiece, Willow.cocoon-54a0436aebccd

The men who had produced JAWS, Richard Zanuck and David Brown, brought together a group of impeccable professionals to join Howard behind the camera – at the same time they assembled an extraordinary group of acclaimed Hollywood veterans, cast to fill out the leading roles of the members of a retirement community on the verge of a close encounter of the third kind. Wilford Brimely, Hume Cronyn, Don Ameche, Jack Gilford, Jessica Tandy, Maureen Stapleton, together with brilliant performances by Brian Dennehy, Steve Guttenberg, Barret Oliver and Tahnee Welch are our guides through a story about youth, and how we find things in life that allow us to hold on to that vital part of our spirit – so that we may live richly, even as the years decline.

This phrase has become a cliché with me, but long have I waited to chat with someone connected with this movie – one of the fantastical cinematic staples of my youth. My guest Tom Benedek was the man tasked with taking an unpublished novel and turning it into a story for us all. A story of how sometimes it takes a stranger to show us what those we share our lives with fail to point out, a story about the wondrous mysteries and possibilities that dance in the sky so full of stars above our heads, and a story about our grandparents and the lessons, indeed the wisdom they try to send us . . . and how when their time comes, how hard it is to let them go.

So, as it has happened so many times for me while writing for PTS, my dreams have come true. I now have a glimpse, and not a mere EPK look behind the scenes. I have my story of the creation of a science fiction and fantasy film-making high water mark, from the man who brought it to life on the humble script page.

Advertisements

ALAN J. PAKULA’S THE PARALLAX VIEW — A REIVEW BY NICK CLEMENT

2

Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View is one of the best paranoid thrillers from the 70’s, taking its ambitious and chillingly layered narrative concoctions and making them just believable enough. I’ve watched this film countless times, and each time I revisit, I find a new detail that had previously been left undiscovered, and it’s clear that the film served as a major inspiration for future efforts like Peter Hyams’ The Star Chamber, David Fincher’s The Game, and Rob Bowman’s The X-Files: Fight the Future, to name only three. It seems insane to think that this film hasn’t been given the unnecessary remake that Hollywood seems to love to throw out, and my hope is that people are smart enough to leave this one alone. I’m sure some savvy filmmakers could craft a solid updating, but there’s something so incredibly 70’s about this film, from Warren Beatty’s look and attitude, to the cryptic plotting, to the downbeat finale. Gordon Willis shot the ever living hell out of this film, the diabolical screenplay by David Giler and Lorenzo Semple Jr. (with uncredited rewrites by Robert Towne) never lets anyone off the hook, and the beyond creepy musical score by Michael Small immediately sets a nervous, anxious tone that Pakula maintains for the entire duration. Effective supporting performances by Hume Cronyn, William Daniels, Paula Prentiss, Earl Hindman, William Joyce, Walter McGinn and Kelly Thorsden are on display, while Beatty anchors the film with class and the perfect amount of cockiness and uncertainty. And then there’s the ruthless finale, which feels both earned and inevitable, with the closing moments ranking as some of the iciest in cinema history. The Criterion Collection would be wise to put out a Pakula box set, as Klute, All the President’s Men, The Parallax View, and Sophie’s Choice are all worthy of that swanky stamp of approval, while it’s interesting to note that Pakula also crafted a bunch of dependable, thoughtful studio thrillers like Consenting Adults, Presumed Innocent, and The Devil’s Own; I need to finally catch up with Rollover, Comes A Horseman, and Starting Over. I’ll always be enamored with The Parallax View and with how Pakula and his team effortlessly pulled off all of the ingredients in this truly sketchy piece of work.

3