Monday, September 29, 2008

He Wasn't "Cool Hand" for Nothing



It would take far too long to tell you how much I loved this man. I shed a tear the moment I heard. But, I would like to say, for the record, that I don't think Newman ever really had a self awareness in relation to what a truly great actor he was OR how incredibly handsome he was. Many of you know that I am a teacher at a University and well, I'd like to share a silly but fun story regarding Paul Newman. When discussing mise en scene with undergraduates (usually in Intro to Film, but I use this film in production courses and writing for film courses too) there are thousands of movies to show illustrative examples from with regard to what you are specifically talking about. And I do just that. One of the examples I often use when tying character to surroundings is the opening (credit sequence) to Newman's Harper (1966). William Goldman's credit sequence takes great care in revealing a wealth of information about Newman's down-on-his luck private investigator. He is already wide awake when his alarm clock goes off (Insomnia) and the white noise of the television has kept him company (Lonliness). He lets fly the window shades and is literally assaulted by the daylight (Hangover). To compound this and dramatize it further - he fills his sink with ice and dunks his face to make sure all mental cobwebs are brushed away... While getting dressed we see the lovingly placed 8x10 of his ex-wife (Janet Leigh) whom he nods to and then comes the best part... Newman appears to be out of coffee - what to do? He opens the trash-can and sees yesterday's filter and grounds and.... and... yes decides to brew it again. When it has percolated, he pours and takes a tentative sip: his look of disgust is, in a word, PRICELESS. Mind you, not a word of dialogue yet.

Students readily and immediately grasp the importance of props, wardrobe and blocking in direct relation to this scene and mise en scene in general. So much information has been transmitted VISUALLY. We then move on to about a good dozen other clips from other movies that show us classical, expressionist and mannerist mise en scene and then, of course, screen a film in its entirety that is recognized for its achievements in this category.

I used to just assume that students know (knew) who Paul Newman is (was), but - after all, we are dealing with (at the very least, or should I say most?) 18 year olds... Well, about 5 years ago, when I first screened the beginning of Harper to a class, I had about 10 or 12 girls waiting to talk to me. Wow, I thought, you really must be in your Harrison Ford "Dr. Jones" mode, apples in their hands? LOVE.... YOU... painted on their eyelids perhaps? I mean, wow, this is crazy. JUST GIRLS (no one else) swarming me??? ME???

With big eyes, and big smiles, they all said - "Uhm, so hey... who in God's name was THAT UNBELIEVABLY GORGEOUS GUY IN THE FIRST FILM YOU SCREENED?!?!?"

Ego bruising (still to this day, I mean, this happens evrery time I show it), I smile back and say, "That my dear students, is...... PAUL FUCKING NEWMAN. And you're right ladies. He was THE COOLEST."


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Oh, Bloody Hell...

New semester, new course preps, dissertation woes, research in Spain next month = no time to write ANYTHING for my be it ever so humble lil' blog, Trash Aesthetics. I've barely had time to keep up with the amazing posts from my blog buds lately.

Anyhow, things are brewing up here (tapping my forehead) and as promised I will indeed get on top of that review for Wild Wild Planet as promised to Don. Speaking of which, Don was invited to Kevin Smith's big shabang premier of his latest film last weekend in Austin. I will be calling him in the next day or two to get the low down... Is it me or does it seem much more like a Kevin "Apatow" Smith film?

SHOCKTOBER is rapidly approaching. The smell of Autumn is unmistakingly making its way to nostrils everywhere in the midwest. Cider mills are bustling, pumpkins abound, it's the greatest time of the year. As much as winter sucks major ass, I couldn't live without the FALL. Halloween my friends, Halloween. As Sir Graves used to say, "Happy Haunting... Nyaa aaa aaaaaa aaaah!"

Oh, and PS: Friday the 13th: The Series came out today and I hauled ass down to Bestbuy to snag me a copy. This show came out my senior year of high school and I LOVED IT. Sweet nostalgia...

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's Coming Don...

I promised good amigo Don May Jr. a review of Antonio Margheriti's Wild Wild Planet (1965) which he was kind enough to give me (among other movies {including an anamorphic print of Joe Dante's Piranha!!} - many thanks Donnie Boy) over this past weekend. And, it's coming. But, in order for this review to meet my usual high standards - I'll need some time. So, it's coming Don. Meanwhile check out the trippy, wild wild trailer to Wild Wild Planet.