Thursday, February 19, 2009

5 Films That Start With the Letter A

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

It happened serendipitously.

When insomnia strikes late at nights and Nicky is fast asleep, I have to entertain myself. I'm bored with reading or losing at the online poker tables, I'll flip on the boob tube in search of a classic film that I had not seen in a while.

Last week, the title of the first flick began with the letter A. Same thing happened the next time. And then again. By the fourth time, I saw an unusual pattern developing. I asked Nicky what she wanted to watch on Valentine's Day evening. The title? Began with the letter A. By the fifth day, I actively sought out an A film and found one.
1. American Beauty
2. Apocalypse Now
3. Almost Famous
4. Annie Hall
5. A Clockwork Orange
Those five flicks also happened to be some of my all time favorites. Sort of strange that I watched all of those within a week of each other.

* * * * *

American Beauty

The dark comedy featured a collaboration of four men at the top of their game. Those four? Alan Ball. Kevin Spacey. Conrad Hall. Sam Mendes.

Alan Ball (the creator of Six Feet Under) had won an Oscar (best original screenplay) for American Beauty. All of the characters were formulated in the inner hallways of his mind and he crafted a gem. The dynamic team of Sam Mendes and Conrad Hall helped make Ball's vision a reality. Mendes was a successful stage director in London and didn't have much experience at the helm of a major film. He was partnered up with the legendary Conrad Hall, the cinematographer for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and he won an Oscar for his amazing photography work on American Beauty. And then Kevin Spacey stepped into the role of Lester Burnham. The guy who had a mid-life crisis, fell in love with his daughter's friend, started smoking pot, blackmailed his company, and took a job in a fast food joint because he wanted the "least amount of responsibility" as possible.

* * * * *

Apocalypse Now

When Francis Ford Coppola accepted the prestigious Palm d'Or at Cannes for Apocalypse Now, he said that his film "was Vietnam." Although Coppola was shut out at the Oscars after winning the Golden Globe, his cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro,
took home the Oscar.

Some of my favorite behind the scenes stories from the flick were featured in the documentary film created by Copolla's wife. I loved the fact that a couple of the cast members were doing some serious drugs on the set and during filming. Everyone was toking up on the set, but Sam Bottoms (who played Lance) admitted that he took LSD during the scene where his character admitted to dropping a tab during the infamous bridge scene. Bottoms was also on some heavy speed during his time shooting the flick as well.

And everyone knows that Marlon Brando showed up to the set several pounds overweight and that he never even bothered to read Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness which several elements of the screenplay was based upon.

Oh and I loved the fact that a very very very young Larry Fishburne (aka Morpheus) was in Apocaplypse Now.

* * * * *

Almost Famous

Almost Famous hits home because of my sincere love for music and traveling, but the writer in me really sympathizes with the main character. After five years in poker, the line is true. You cannot make friends with the rock stars.

We watched Untitled which was the title of Cameron Crowe's director's cut of the film which included an additional thirty minutes of footage. Nicky preferred the original version since it was more tighter and didn't drag at times. I didn't mind the extended version at all and it expanded upon some of the relationship between William and Russell.

Some of my favorite non-Kate Hudson scenes involved late night phone calls with Lester Bangs and scenes with Ben Fong-Torres from Rolling Stone... "Get it together man! You're not there to party. We've already got one Hunter Thompson." And Nicky loved the scenes with Lester as well especially in the one when he uttered one of the best lines of the screenplay, The only true currency in this bankrupt world... is what you share with someone else when you're uncool.

Several moments in the film echoed real life situations. Supposedly, Robert Plant said, "I am a Golden God." Except, he wasn't on LSD like Russell in the film and did not jump into a pool.

* * * * *

Annie Hall

Woody Allen's films from the 1970s captured the New York City from my childhood, so in many ways, the images and shooting locations bombard me with flashbacks from my youth as if those grainy old photos in the back of my mind spring to life. And as I grow closer in age to Woody Allen (at the time he wrote and directed), I have a greater understanding of the themes and struggles that linger around his flawed characters.

Yeah, it was Valentine's Day and we popped in Annie Hall since it really explored urban living and mismatched lovers and including an underlining NYC vs. LA theme.

Compared to Allen's later films from the 1990s and today, almost every single scene in Annie Hall is intricately layered with symbolism and homages to Allen's favorite artists, musicians, and directors. Flashbacks. Addressing the camera. Subtitles that contradict the dialogue. And my favorite... adult-time travel back to childhood.

Oh, and not to mention all of the witty one liners.
Don't you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we're left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.

My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy getting raped by Cossacks.

(On the cleanliness of LA)... That's because they don't throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.

Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat... college.
Allen shot the film for $4 million. It was one of his largest commercial successes and pulled in $40M in 1977 dollars.

* * * * *

A Clockwork Orange

I wanted to watch All the President's Men, but for some reason the disc was missing from the DVD box. Instead, I opted for Stanley Kubrick's outrageous film version of Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, about a warped futuristic reality.

The poster tagline always made me giggle... Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven.

It has it all. Violence. Orgies. Rape. And the search for the removal of all things malevolent from our future societies. Perfect film to watch at 3am.

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