Greetings and salutations* film nerds …
Recovering from a gonzo week in the land director/tyrant Eric Von Stroheim bitterly dubbed Holly-Veeeird: Hell On Dearth, Poppa H has been recharging his spiritual engine at an undisclosed Marin County health spa/ashram, getting my oil changed, so to speak, to rid myself of any lingering Oscar Stink.
Getting healthy never felt so good … wow. I’m not talking about earthly pleasures my depraved children. This spa is a place of worship. I’m actually getting my aura cleansed and pores sucked (for the price of one!) at the behest of my new guru. Don’t ask how I ended up here (two words: Gary Busey) but while these sexy bald Buddhist birds run me a hot bath to soothe my bruised ego, let me drop this week’s hot tip for cinematic salvation on (you) members of the unwashed masses …
The Barry Lyndon Syndrome
I love it when Hollywood geniuses fuck up their careers, don’t you? Of course you do, you’re reading the Reel. My editors are always preaching, “MRF, there’s something delicious about watching a talented, cocky upstart get his comeuppance,” but why is that exactly? Call it Barry Lyndon Syndrome or just plain schadenfreude, in Hollywood “taking pleasure in the failure of others” is a contact blood sport for the whole Bel Air family to enjoy.
Oh, how the “entertainment community” drinks it in* when young Turks like Orson Welles follow up mega hits like Citizen Kane with a stinker that flops like a gasping carp on a Hollywood flat boat. Why am I bringing this up? The same notion can be applied when examining the hi-lo career of another one of my auteur heroes, the Wellesian wunderkind of the 1970s, Peter Bodganovich.
A “Genuine Tribute” to Peter Bogdanovich
Bodgo just so happens to be dropping into San Francisco this weekend (March 7-9) for a film retrospective of his work at the Castro Theater. I urge you to check out his oeuvre if you have any taste in your cinematic palate. Of course, you may be the type who’s “not into” celebrating colossal squanderers of talent and opportunity, but this film snot will be first in line for an event the organizers felt compelled to dub, “A Genuine Tribute to Peter Bogdanovich.”
Way to rub it in guys. Sure Bodgo will be remembered mostly for his failures, but he has so much to teach young movie geeks who think The Shawshank Redemption is, like, one of the best movies ever. Inspired by French New wave journalists-turned-directors like Francois Truffaut, Bogdo is a straight OG pimp from the Hollywood Old School. A walking encyclopedia steeped in cinematic lore, he is one of the finest and most prolific film historians of the 20th century. He also happened to be the Paul Thomas Anderson of the’70s before flaming out with a series of bombs that ruined his career … and millions of lives.
Dr. Melfi’s Shrink is A Pimp
You probably recognize Bodgo from his stint on the Sopranos, but this guy had Hollywood by the balls in the ’70s after making three mega-hits out of the gate. The newest genius on the block, he got final cut, brokered sweet production deals, shacked up with Hollywood starlets and wore lots of ascots. He went on Carson, dined at Spago and had Orson Welles living in his Bel Air Servant’s Cabana for God’s sake. The Hollywood Life came all too easy for the Primping Ascot until it didn’t. The kudos, the fame, the glory—then the next thing you know, you’re slumped in the gutter alongside Easy Rider/Raging Bull burnouts like Billy Friedkin and Michael Cimino. What happened boy-o? Cybil Shepard happened, Dorothy Stratton happened. Ascots happened.
If you don’t know his story, the great Bob Fosse made an excellent movie about it called Star 80. Put it in your Netflix queue if you want a crazed taste of the Bodgo Hollywood freak ride. Let’s just say Bogdo was blinded by blonds, hubris, ascots, personal tragedy and oversized Sally Jessie Raphael glasses. He fucked up royally, OK. He made bad movies, lots of them. But I forgive him, hell I love him. His Waterloo? Daisy Miller starring his then girlfriend Cybil Shepard. It’s hard to fathom a worse picture ever made … Henry James is still gurgling protest from his grave.
The Last Picture Show
Failure notwithstanding, don’t forget Bodgo made five to seven excellent movies and one bonafide masterpiece; all are gloriously on display at the Castro. Bodgo’s best by far is The Last Picture Show, screening Friday. A beautiful black and white love letter to the way movies used to be, Picture Show revolves around the lives of a group of teenagers (Jeff Bridges, Cybil Shepard, Timothy Bottoms) who skinny dip, fist fight and suck face in the local movie house while on a grander scale, bracing for the death of small town Texas living in the early ’50s.
Named one of AFI’s Top 100 Films of all Time, Picture Show is about the loss of innocence and the birth of television, the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the nausea caused by never-ending life. Channeling Larry McMurtry and the great John Ford, Bodgo nails the Texas ennui like a sage master, coaxing superb performances from his ensemble cast, namely Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman who both won Oscars.
Have You Lived A Good Life, Enough To Base A Movie On?
If you don’t “get it” the first time, try re-watching The Last Picture Show at different stages in your life. With repeat viewings, the story comes into focus more clearly than before. That’s life, folks, you get smarter then you die. While you’re getting your cinematic education this weekend, do take a moment to appreciate the great Bogdo, who like Jim Morrison, has lived a good life, enough to base a movie on …* Till next week, this is MRF signing off, be bad and get into trouble baby…*
The Essential Bogdo Collection
• Targets (1968) Dir. Bogdo
• The Last Picture Show (1971) Dir. Bogdo
• What’s Up Doc? (1972) Dir. Bogdo
• Paper Moon (1973) Dir. Bogdo
• They All Laughed (1981) Dir. Bogdo
• Mask (1985) Dir. Bogdo
• The Cat’s Meow (2001) Dir. Bogdo
• Star 80 (1983) Dir. Fosse
Reels Rolling Round Town
• A Genuine Tribute to Peter Bogdanovich – Castro (3/7-3/9)
• There Will Be Blood (2007) Dir. PT Anderson – Bridge
• The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) Dir. Schnabel – Opera Plaza
• Michael Clayton (2007) Dir. Gilroy – Opera Plaza
• No Country For Old Men (2007) Dir. Coens - Lumiere
Volume 54 Footnotes
• “Greetings and salutations.” – Heathers (1991): Christian Slater doing his best Nicholson impersonation to a monacle-lovin’ Winona Ryder.
• “Drink it in …” – Anchorman (2004): Will Ferrell (as Ron Burgundy) to Christina Applegate by the pale moonlight.
• “Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?" – The Doors (1971): Mr. Mojo Rison gets all cinematic in The Movie.
• “Let’s get into trouble baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) breaks it down to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack