Absence of Malice (1981)

The story of Paul Newman’s 1981 film Fort Apache, The Bronx is far more interesting than the film itself. When Newman suited up as a police officer in the South Bronx for a film about his ongoing fight for justice in the toughest neighborhood in the city, the context was a little too close for comfort: in the nine months preceding the filming of Fort Apache, at least twelve unarmed black and Puerto Rican individuals were killed by police officers throughout NYC (this is 1981, the most violent year of A Most Violent Year). The staunch opposition to the film saw massive protests, riots, a lawsuit and the formation of the Committee Against Fort Apache, all geared toward the halting of a film that many perceived to be defamatory and racist. Fort Apache got made, but it was one of the more dangerous film productions in the city’s history.

Newman himself got a big slice of Defamation Pie, too, courtesy of The New York Post. After reading the printed “facts” that Newman claimed were nothing of the sort, the actor accused the paper of “irresponsible journalism” and eventually referred to the Post as a “garbage can”. The paper ran a piece called “What Paul Didn’t Tell Us About Fort Apache” in the days following, and the dispute went in circles from there — people blamed the filmmakers for racism and defamation, Newman blamed the newspapers for false reporting and defamation, and film critics blamed Fort Apache, The Bronx for being kind of a shitty movie anyway. Paul Newman felt strongly about the journalistic integrity issues he encountered, and ultimately his extremely charitable history and consistent care for the underprivileged outweighed anything the Post said about him.

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True Detective 2.3 – “Maybe Tomorrow”

A lot of the critical flak directed at the second season of True Detective has to do with the bottomless angst in which all of the main characters are mired. There’s certainly a lot of brooding, a lot of staring, a lot of heavy breathing. Nary a smile. The premiere dealt with child abuse, suicide and rampant prostitution (not to mention murder) and the second episode “Night Finds You” left a main character lying flat with a point-blank shotgun blast in his chest. Below is a picture of my family gathered to spend time together and enjoy this wholesome television — after that are spoilers for the third episode “Maybe Tomorrow”.

"Turn it up, son! I don't want you to miss any of the exposition in this scene at the fertility clinic!"
“Turn it up, son! I don’t want you to miss any of the exposition in this scene at the fertility clinic!”

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Film & TV News: July 5

News

  • ‘Merica!
  • EW released a few new pictures from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, featuring Jesse Eisenberg as a hairy Lex Luthor and Gal Gadot as socialite Diana Prince. Oh, and Batman and Superman.
  • This weekend is San Diego Comic-Con, and even though some of the usual suspects aren’t participating this year (like Marvel Studios) it’s still going to be a heck of a lot of fun. Unless you’re not attending, of course. Ah, well. You can still sit on your couch and catch glimpses online of Batman v. Superman, Warcraft, Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and — fingers crossed — Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson is rumored to be considering directing a live-action Pinocchio with Robert Downey Jr. attached to star, because nothing else makes sense as a follow-up to the marijuana-fueled Inherent Vice besides a Disney flick.

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Don’t Look Now (1973)

1973 was a hell of a year at the movies. Bruce Lee kicked ass in Enter the Dragon, Roger Moore debuted as Bond in Live and Let Die, and smalltown California got its romantic due in American Graffiti. There was Sydney Pollack‘s The Way We Were, Sam Peckinpah‘s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Robert Altman‘s The Long Goodbye. Martin Scorsese and Terrence Malick announced themselves as filmmakers to be reckoned with upon the respective releases of Mean Streets and Badlands, and Michael Crichton made cinematic history with technological advances in Westworld. Then there’s The Sting, which I’m always willing to defend in a battle to the death as Greatest Film Ever. But these are more than just great movies — these are unique and fresh-seeming efforts, influential to this day because they all pushed the envelope.

And though the horror genre received more than a few landmark films that year — The Exorcist, The Wicker Man, etc. — Nicholas Roeg’s grief-stricken terror Don’t Look Now might be the scariest. It’s certainly the most engrossing. Envelope-pushing apparently wouldn’t cut it for Roeg and Company, as the incredibly intense Venice-set thriller does more to explode the envelope into a zillion tiny bloodstained pieces. The story follows John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) in the months following the accidental drowning of their daughter Christine. Paralyzed by anguish, the couple retreat to Venice. Soon, they encounter a pair of women claiming to have a connection to the deceased Christine.

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Point Blank (1967)

Parker is many different people at the same time. He’s a lover, a hater, a criminal, a vigilante. He’s driven by greed, but then he doesn’t care about money. He’s driven by revenge, but then he doesn’t seem to know when he’s gotten it. In John Boorman’s Point Blank, Parker’s not even Parker — he’s “Walker”, a change made for reasons unknown. Lee Marvin is the man in the role for this go-round, but again, Parker’s never the same guy twice. Marvin was only the first to walk in Parker’s shoes (park in Walker’s?), followed over the years by Jim Brown (Parker changed to “McClain”), Robert Duvall (“Macklin”), Peter Coyote (“Stone”), Mel Gibson (“Porter”) and Jason Statham (finally, just “Parker”). Technically, there are as many Parkers as there are James Bonds.

One of the few people who rival the bank-robbing Parker in terms of crisis of identity is Parker’s real-life creator Donald E. Westlake. Westlake has more than a hundred books — hardboiled crime novels, comic capers, science fiction yarns, nonfiction, biographies and, oh, let’s not forget: porn — to his credit, very few of which are actually published under his name. Westlake had no fewer than seventeen pseudonyms over the course of his lengthy writing career. Curt Clark, Tucker Coe, Barbara Wilson, Judson Jack Carmichael — they’re all Westlake, though none of them are.

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