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Posts from the ‘Film’ Category

Remembering the film ‘Body Heat’

“Body Heat is a 1981 American neo-noir erotic thriller film written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Richard Crenna, and features Ted Danson, J. A. Preston, and Mickey Rourke. The film was inspired by Double Indemnity.” – Wikipedia

My wife and I saw this film in a theater with another couple soon after it was released. Our first comments outside the theater afterwards were about the silence of the audience during the sex scenes. You could have heard a pin drop. It was like nobody dared to breathe. The mood was that intense.

Sex, nudity, body heat, the heat of a Florida summer, the music with the moaning saxophone, the pitch-perfect performances, and the very strong film noir style brought this story together as a very unforgettable film. I think every author hopes, should his work be adapted to film, that the ambience will be this overpowering.

I’m a long-time fan of film noir. I’ve seen most of it. There’s a brittle, hopeless nostalgia surrounding such films. Fate, too, I guess.

My wife and I have seen “Body Heat” on TV several times. It remains strong after all these years. But sitting in our living room, the experience is not as intense as that of a small-town movie theater.

What impresses me with such films is their intensity and the fact that the audience is dragged into them with no exit even after the final credits fade from the screen. I’m impressed by the direction, cinematography, music, and acting that come together to present such a powerful experience.

I thought of the intensity of the film as I read Temptation Rag, reviewed in my previous post, and recalled Doctorow’s novel (and feature film) Ragtime. Some films and some novels, even those not highly reviewed by the critics or remembered by prizes and awards, pull readers into their stories–with or without their consent, perhaps–and those are the books I remember.

Authors hope their audiences will lose themselves in their stories just as surely as many of those in the theater were lost in “Body Heat.”

Malcolm

The OSCARS risk becoming irrelevant

Once upon a time, I watched the Academy Awards on TV without fail. I loved the movies and everything about them. But not anymore.

What’s changed?

On a practical note, I’m too hard of hearing to go to movies. I don’t see them until months after their release dates when they finally appear on TV with closed captions. So, as of OSCAR night, I have seen none of the nominated films and, other than a few news stories and trailers, have no clue what they’re about. That pretty much kills my interest in the broadcast.

But even if my hearing were fine and I had seen a fair number of the nominated films, I wouldn’t watch. Yes, I might care about the winners, but I’d learn about that the following day on the news.

I am tired of actors and actresses using the OSCAR broadcast as a political pulpit. Like most viewers (I hope), I see the broadcast as being about the movies, not poltical statements in opening monologues, sketches, and acceptance speeches. I get more than enough of this from the news and social media day in and day out and think it’s out of place on an awards program.

Hollywood stars have just as much right as anyone else to express their opinions. Nonetheless, the Academy Awards broadcast is not the forum for that.

When they speak of politics during the broadcast, they appear to be stumbling over each other to prove that they are the most liberal, the most intelligent, and the most politically correct person in the theater. Do they not realize that everyday people see them as members of the so-called filthy rich? I want to shout, how dare you lecture me on politics when you earn more in a year than I do in a lifetime and own multiple homes, each of which is worth more than my entire neighborhood.

You, dear actors and actresses, who can afford the taxes that you might be forced to pay if your left-leaning social programs were implemented, fail to realize that the rest of us cannot afford a government that looks like an unlimited charity. Sure, we support many of the same ideas, but you go too far because you can afford to go too far. You stand on that stage in clothes worth more than my annual income and–with a knowing wink and nod to the audience–advocate programs that will raise my taxes to the point where I cannot afford to live in this country.

Of course you believe you can do this because believe you are America’s royalty, right? We wish we were you, right? We wish we could sit for a few moments in your presence, right? We go to your movies because we love you and know that you care about all of us, right?

Frankly, I would be embarrassed to be you.

So you are turning the OSCARS into a PAC, so to speak, that’s out of sync with most of the country. That’s why, one day soon, we’ll stop caring about you and your awards program. You want us to think OSCAR night is about the movies. But that’s not true, is it?

–Malcolm

 

 

Some of my favorite noir movie lines

I’ve always been a fan of noir movies (and a few neo-noir movies as well). If you like noir and have Turner Classic Movies on your Cable or Satellite, they show a lot of them, especially on Noir Alley, a program with some cool commentary before and after the film. Here are some of my favorite lines, starting out with a 1975 neo-noir film with Robert Mitchum.

  • Wikipedia Photo

    “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” ― Raymond Chandler, of course.

  • “Okay Marlowe,” I said to myself, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough—like putting your pants on.” – Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe in “Murder, My Sweet” (1944)
  • “I can afford a blemish on my character, but not on my clothes.” – Vincent Price as Shelby Carpenter in “Laura” (1944)
  • “You know what he’ll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling.” – Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe in “The Big Sleep” (1946)
  • “You knew when a woman loves you like that, she can love you with every card in the deck and then pull a knife across your throat the next morning.” – Van Heflin as Jeff Hartnett in “Johnny Eager” (1941)
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    “What a beautiful picture. Moonlight. Sagebrush. My wife with a stranger.” Vincent Price as Lloyd Rollins in “The Las Vegas Story” (1952).

  • “With my brains and your looks, we could go places.” – John Garfield as Frank Chambers in “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946).
  • “Flossie had looks, brains, and all the accessories. She was better than a deck with six aces. But I regret to report that she also knew how to handle a gun. My gun.” John Hoyt as Spencer in Brute Force (1947).
  • “Maybe I’ll live so long that I’ll forget her. Maybe I’ll die trying.” – Orson Welles and Michael O’Hara in “Lady from Shanghai” (1947).
  • “Decency and integrity are fancy words, but they never kept anybody well fed. And I’ve got quite an appetite.” Howard Duff as Jack Early in “Shakedown” (1950).
  • Wikipedia photo.

    “When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses.” – Humphrey Bogart as Frank McCloud in “Key Largo” (1948).

  • “I sell gasoline. I make a small profit. With that I buy groceries. The grocer makes a profit. We call it earning a living. You may have heard of it.” – Robert Mitchum as Jeff Bailey in “Out of the Past” (1947)

If you’re interested in film noir, one of my favorite books about it, Voices in the Dark: Narrative Patterns of Film Noir just happens to have been written by a colleague of mine, J. P. Telotte, from Berry College, Rome, GA. We saw a lot of noir films whenever we went over to his house for dinner. He’d bring a projector home from work and run one of the films he was discussing in the classroom. While we agreed on the film noir and the Federico Fellini films such as “Juliet of the Spirits” (definitely not noir), we always clashed on whether Katherine Hepburne and Meryl Steep were good actresses. I said “yes,” while he said “no.”

Some people think noir is a bit of a downer. Perhaps that’s true. But the atmosphere, the voice-over narration, and the snappy dialogue always lure me into it.

–Malcolm

You’ll find a touch of noir in Campbell’s audio book “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

 

 

Sunday’s Scatterings

Like the hash browns at Waffle House, my thoughts are often scattered and smothered.

Today’s rain and seriously cloudy skies have impacted the light. The inside of the house is darker than it should be at 3:30 p.m. I start wondering if I missed dinner. The cats are certain they missed dinner. Plus, it feels colder in the house even if the thermostat in the hall tells me it really isn’t.

  • A writer friend on Facebook typically asks what we’re reading during the weekend. For weeks, I was re-reading Les Misérables. I ended up with a standard reply to her post, “Yep, still reading Victor Hugo.” Now, it’s “Yep, still reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.” It’s over 900 pages and, while fascinating, it’s not a beach read. I’m a little embarrassed by the fact the book has been out so long and I’m just now reading it. I saw the 2012 film first, and started thinking about the book. Ended up getting it as a Christmas gift.
  • I wonder if anyone reads history books any more. Well, I suppose they do, or publishers wouldn’t keep releasing them. Yet, as with my review of American Trinity, the response here and on Facebook is always slim to none. In a way, that’s kind of sad, for I see so many heated political arguments on line, I begin to think people believe the world was born the day they were born. Their flip solutions to today’s problems make it obvious they haven’t read about what led up to the world as it is now.
  • I’m happy to see that my friend and colleague at Thomas-Jacob Publishing, Smoky Zeidel, is coming out with a new book of poems. I think the release date is March 1. I’ve been so slow writing the third volume in my Florida Folk Magic series (Lena) that it helps seeing that Smoky, and Robert Hays (A Shallow River of Mercy), have been more focused than I have been during the rainy winter months.
  • Okay, I’ve dawdled around with this post for so long that the cats’ dinner time has now arrived. This means they’ve stopped standing on my desk trying to suggest that I’ve forgotten something.
  • Those of you who follow me on Facebook (and if you’re not, you should be), know that my wife makes lots of quilts and that I watch old movies in the sewing room (along with the cats) while she’s at her 1949 Singer sewing machine creating works of art out of fabric. I’ve been referring to these movies as our “quilting movies.” We just finished “Sweet Bird of Youth” (happier than the play–if it’s possible for anything by Tennessee Williams to be cheery), and have now moved on to one of those “it’s a real hoot” movies, “Libeled Lady.” Wikipedia refers to it as “a 1936 screwball comedy film starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Spencer Tracy.” And it is seriously screwball.
  • And on a more mundane note, what with it being dark and rainy and not yet time to watch the rest of the Jean Harlow movie, I think I’ll go fix comfort food for dinner: Mac & Cheese. And, no, I don’t make it from scratch like my mother did.

I hope you’re having a great weekend, reading important books, finding the impossible dream, saving the world, &c.

Malcolm

 

The seared images of ‘Body Heat’

bodyheatposterNed: I need someone to take care of me, someone to rub my tired muscles, smooth out my sheets.
Matty: Get married.
Ned: I just need it for tonight.

–from “Body Heat” starring William Hurt as Ned and Kathleen Turner as Matty

From the sex to the crime to the moody saxophone music to Florida’s hot summer days when small-town lawyer Ned Racine meets the married, but overtly sexual Matty Walker, “Body Heat” was, in 1981, the kind of film everyone talked about. Men wanted to be Ned even though things ended up badly. Women wanted to be Matty because she got everything she wanted.

When I watch this film today on DVD, it still plays well. I do like noir films. I did grow up in Florida in the days before air conditioning when everyone sweated when the temperature outside reached 98.6 degrees or higher. And, John Barry’s music is the kind of music I remember hearing in blues bars on those summer nights when I was hoping to meet somebody like Matty Walker who didn’t want me to kill a husband for her. But it’s more than that, though what is is, is hard to define

Movies have become more permissive since 1981. Skimpy clothing, more innuendos, racier language than Ned Racine ever used, and more body heat than most people experienced in “real life.” Think of it: The near-nudity on “Survivor” is more extravagant, the language on “Hells Kitchen” is more profane, and the urgent sexual encounters on “Grey’s Anatomy” are more frequent than in most of the films we saw thirty-two years ago.

My wife and I saw “Body Heat” in a packed theater with another married couple. Afterwards, all of us commented about the same sexual encounter when the audience was stunned into an overt hush. When Ned throws a porch chair through the front door of Matty Walker’s house while she stands inside at the foot of the stairs waiting, leading to wildly hot sex in the foyer, nobody in the audience moved, chewed popcorn, breathed, looked at anyone else, or even risked allowing a tangible thought to enter their brains.

If you saw this film thirty-two years ago or even last week, that scene may well be hard-wired into your memory of movie moments. Watching the movie now, my experience of the film is partly based on how I reacted to it with five hundred other people that night. I can still feel that stunned hush.

As an author, I look closely at what produces a stunned hush in readers and movie goers. It need not be sex. It may be a car chase, a serene moment in a beautiful setting, or a conversation in a bar while a a bluesy enchantress sings out her troubles. What exactly makes for the perfect combination of setting, action, and words to thoroughly capture (and control) the heart and soul of a reader or a viewer?

Perhaps you remember a film or a novel with a scene that has stayed with you long after you first saw it or read it. Maybe the scene is tied together in your memory with the weather, the daily news, the people you were with, and the kind of day you were having when that fictional moment stopped you in your tracks. We know it when we see it and we know it when we read it…

Ned: Maybe you shouldn’t dress like that.
Matty: This is a blouse and a skirt. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Ned: You shouldn’t wear that body.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of four novels, including the recently released “The Seeker,” a story with a high degree of body heat between the covers.

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