Tag Archives: Oscars

Emerging from the river of wind: Remembering Slipstream with Tony Kayden by Kent Hill

maxresdefault

Slipstream was alluring from the moment I saw the poster in the front window of my local theater. From the producer of STAR WARS and the director of TRON was the proclamation, and I was sold. The film, even then, delivered, as far as I am concerned. It offered a different world, an intriguing premise, great performances and . . . yes, I’ll admit a disjointed viewing experience. Still, I love the movie and have always been curious as to the production and what elements combined to bring this fascinating story to the screen.

At length, I finally made contact with Tony Kayden, a veteran screenwriter and the credited scribe of the film (as well as a man with his own amazing set of adventures in the screen trade). And it didn’t take long to learn that the narrative irregularities of Slipstream were the result of no one really knowing what kind of film they wanted to make.

slipstream

With the money in escrow, the movie was being made, that was definite. The script that Tony was brought on to rework was, at its heart, a stock-standard Star Wars rehash. Enter producer Gary Kurtz. After enjoying success serving alongside George Lucas and Jim Henson on the Dark Crystal, Kurtz came to the project seeing another unique film on a grand scale and an adventure born in the wind. The director tapped to steer the ship was Tron director Steve Lisberger. His work on Tron was extraordinary, original, and one could only imagine what he might do with a larger canvas combined with thrilling aerial action, accompanying a compelling human story. But then then problems began. The Producers wanted action and more sexual interaction where possible. Kurtz wanted something cleaner, no graphic violence and something more Star Wars. Lastly there was Lisberger, having just become a father, and wanting to make something for kids.

Then you have the poor writer. Only hired for four weeks, Tony ended up residing in England for three months, trying in vain to mix this maelstrom of indecisiveness into a cohesive plot. Kayden saw the movie as a kind of post-apocalyptic version of the The Last Detail. You can see the surviving elements of this in the interactions between Bill Paxton and Bob Peck’s characters of Matt and Byron. One a fugitive being taken in for the reward, the other an opportunist looking to make a quick buck. But, ultimately they become friends and seek to merely flow with the slipstream they are, for better or worse, traveling along.

These two are chased by Tasker, Mark Hamill, in a platinum performance as the mustache-twisting law man whose faith has been replaced by devotion to duty and routine whilst maintaining order here in this desolate society. He harbors a Javert/Valijean type relationship with Peck’s curiously, emotionally-distant accused killer – who just so happens to be an android.

The journey down the stream brings Matt and Bryon into contact with fellow adventurers/survivors Sir Ben Kingsley (who after a chat about the script in the commissary with Tony, sought out a part in the movie), and eventually, another Oscar winner in the person of F. Murray Abraham, the caretaker of one of the last sanctuaries – a literal museum to the past, complete with all its folly and decadence.

But the movie ends in tragedy and triumph. While the evil pursuer is vanquished, Bryon’s hopes for happiness are dashed. He is forced to leave his new found friend and seek out his own kind, wherever they may be.

That all might come across as a little confusing? Like I said before, the film is disjointed. This doesn’t prevent it, however, from being fun. The the actors give solid performances, the photography is brilliant, the locations amazing, Elmer Bernstein’s score magnificent – it is just a shame that the powers behind this movie couldn’t seem to agree.

As Tony told me, “the writer often takes the blame.” Though that is not the case here. If anything he should be commended for fighting the good fight in a losing battle.

Still, my fondness for Slipstream endures. In part for what it is, but also for the possibility of what it might have been. Like I said to Tony, in the age of the reboot, there might be a second life yet for Slipstream. Now all we need to do is get Dwayne Johnson on board…

Advertisements

Barry Jenkins’ MOONLIGHT

MOONLIGHT is a prime example of the power of cinema.  The film follows a young man through three stages of his life, childhood, as a teenager, and as an adult.  While the story isn’t entirely relatable to all its viewers, the power of the storyline is undeniable.

moonlight-1

Filmmaker Barry Jenkins populates this film with a plethora of unique and charged performances, yielding supporting actor nominations for Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, who are both amazing in their small performances that help shape the bigger picture of the film.

At times, life can be difficult, it can challenge us beyond our depths, as well as have trajectory completely different than we, and others, envisioned.  That’s exactly what MOONLIGHT is about.  Even as removed as the main character’s story can be from each of our individual lives, the constant self-discovery and reinvention of himself, loneliness and isolation is something that we all can relate to.

moonlight23

Some may say that the abundance of Oscar nominations and accolades this film is receiving is Oscar’s answer to the outrage over the lack of diversity this year and sure that argument can be made, but once you experience the film you will quickly realize that is certainly not the case.

Damien Chazelle’s LA LA LAND

Damien Chazelle is the next Bob Fosse.  His latest film, LA LA LAND, is cinematic perfection, and he and his film are on pace to win the Oscar for director and picture, among many others.  Chazelle has already won the Golden Globe, and just won the Director’s Guild of America’s achievement for the best direction this year.

ending1

The film is not only a throwback to the musicals of the golden age of Hollywood, but also Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO, and of course the French New Wave.  The film is warm, tender, funny, romantic, and bittersweet.  Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone give two beautiful showboats of a symbiotic performance.  They constantly make each other better, scene by scene, and their chemistry is so undeniable that they rank up among some of the greatest screen partners of all time: Nicholson/Dern, Belushi/Aykroyd, Tracy/Hepburn, and De Niro/Keitel.

Chazelle absolutely knows what he’s doing.  Every single frame had been mapped out prior to filming, neither Gosling nor Stone’s singing is pushed past what they can do, in turn making the musical numbers revolving around their singing absolutely natural and organic.  The aesthetic is vivid and astonishing, Chazelle makes brilliant use of color, accentuating the frame with costumes, sets, and hair and makeup.  He executes any and every aspect of the film in such a flawless way, showcasing his eye for absolute detail.

la-la-land-watching-04-videosixteenbyninejumbo1600

Inside of the film lays an incredible love story, not only between Gosling and Stone, but for music, passion, and the arts.  The film features the best special effect all year, (yes – better than the CGI recreation of Peter Cushing in ROGUE ONE) where Gosling and Stone dance amongst the stars.  For as much of a token of nostalgia the film can bring, it is also steeped richly within its own originality particularly with original music composed by Chazelle’s musical partner, Justin Hurwitz.

LA LA LAND is magical.  It represents the best that Hollywood has to offer.  There is nothing subversive, nothing is cloaked in the shadows of the film.  Mark Wahlberg isn’t unrealistically saving the day for the hundredth time in as many days, there’s no political statement to be made – this is a film made by a lover of cinema for lovers of cinema.

ending2

Episode 25: 88th ACADEMY AWARDS POWERCAST

OSCAR PODCAST

Join us for our Oscar podcast.  We give our predictions in all the major categories, and we discuss what we think will win and what should win.  Tune into the Oscar’s and see if we are geniuses or complete idiots!