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#071 Brian De Palma: Scarface vs. Home Movies




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In today’s episode Nate and Austin compare Brian De Palma’s best and worst rated films, Scarface (1983) and Home Movies (1979), respectively. Nate was bored to death, Austin hates on cinematography, and they both explain what’s happening with the livestreams.

Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST where we will compare Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) and A Gorgeous Girl Like Me (1972), his best and worst rated films.


Also check out this interview with director Brian De Palma about Scarface:


Home Movies Notes

Worst Rated

PLOT: Keith Gordon is a creative young man who films the oddball doings of his family and peers.

  • Ratings: IMDb 5.2 | RT N/A C / N/A A
  • Released: 1979
  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Writer(s): Kim Ambler, Brian De Palma(story), Dana Edelman, Robert Harders, Stephen Le May, Charlie Loventhal, Gloria Norris
  • Cinematographer: James L. Carter (Ladder 49, My Dog Skip, Tuck Everlasting)
  • Notable actors: Nancy Allen, Mary Davenport, Kirk Douglas, Vincent Gardenia, Keith Gordon, Gerrit Graham, Captain Haggerty, Therese Saldana
  • Budget: $400,000
  • Box office: $89,134
  • Fun Facts:
    • Shot by students of De Palma’s Independent Filmmaking course at Sarah Lawrence College. Intended to be a “learn by doing” experience for the students and grad students, the goal was to budget, finance, shoot, and edit the film using primarily students, with De Palma overseeing.
    • Kirk Douglas was brought on after much debate, mostly concerning costs, but Douglas ended up becoming an investor in the film as well.
    • From an interview in the January 1979 issue of Take One, De Palma said the movie was originally budgeted at $50,000, but then went to $100,000, $150,000 and finally settled at a cost he calls “under a million”.
    • Co-Directed by De Palma with a rotating set of student directors; he defined their contribution of roughly 5 percent of the shots in the film.

Scarface Notes

Best Rated

PLOT: In Miami in 1980, a determined Cuban immigrant takes over a drug cartel and succumbs to greed.

  • Ratings: IMDb 8.3 | RT 82% C / 93% A
  • Released: 1983
  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Writer(s): Oliver Stone (screenplay), Armitage Trail (based on the novel by), Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht (1932 screenplay)
  • Cinematographer: John A. Alonzo (Chinatown, Star Trek: Generations, Harold and Maude)
  • Notable actors: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Miriam Colon, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Shenar, Harris Yulin, Angel Salazar, Pepe Serna
  • Budget: $25 million
  • Box office: $65.9 million
  • Fun Facts:
    • When Scarface (1983) was re-released in theaters in 2003, the studio wanted Brian De Palma to change the soundtrack so that rap songs inspired by the movie could be used. De Palma refused.
    • Oliver Stone wrote this film while fighting a cocaine addiction. He had moved to Paris to be away from a plentiful supply of the drug in the U.S.
    • When director Brian De Palma submitted the film to the MPAA, they gave it an “X rating”. He then made some cuts and resubmitted it a second time; again the film was given an “X rating” (one of the reasons apparently being that Octavio the clown was shot too many times). He yet again made some further cuts and submitted it a third time; yet again it was given an “X”. De Palma refused to cut the film any further to qualify it for an R. He and producer Martin Bregman arranged a hearing with the MPAA. They brought in a panel of experts, including real narcotics officers, who stated that not only was the film an accurate portrayal of real life in the drug underworld, but ultimately it was an anti-drug film, and should be widely seen. This convinced the arbitrators that the third submitted cut of the film deserved an “R rating” by a vote of 18-2. However, De Palma surmised that if the third cut of the film was judged an “R” then the very first cut should have been an “R” as well. He asked the studio if he could release the first cut but was told that he couldn’t. However since the Studio execs really didn’t know the differences between the different cuts that had been submitted, De Palma released the first cut of the film to theaters anyway. It wasn’t until the film had been released on videocassette months later that he confessed that he had released his first unedited and intended version of the film.
    • In the scene where Tony is in the bathtub watching TV, he says to Manny, “Look at dem pelicangs fly.” This line was what Al Pacino practiced with a language coach to get the Cuban accent right.
    • Robert De Niro was offered the lead role but turned it down.
    • The word “yeyo” is used by Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as a slang word for cocaine. This word was not in the script, and was ad-libbed by Pacino during the first drug deal scene (chainsaw scene), and Brian De Palma liked it enough to keep using it throughout the film. Pacino learned the word while learning the Cuban accent.
    • Al Pacino reportedly stated that Tony Montana was one of his favorites of all the characters he’s played.

Intro music by Eric Lynch


 


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#060 Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather vs. Tonight for Sure w/ guest Jairo Benavides of “True Bromance Podcast”




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In today’s episode Nate and Austin compare Francis Ford Coppola’s best and worst rated films, The Godfather (1972) and Tonight for Sure (1962), respectively. Nate experiences one of the worst films he’s ever seen, Austin isn’t a fan of Part III, and Jairo takes on another Coppola.

Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST where we will compare Sydney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men (1957) and Gloria (1999), his best and worst rated films.


Also check out this interview with Francis Ford Coppola about The Godfather:


Tonight for Sure Notes

Worst Rated

PLOT: On the Las Vegas strip, two unlikely men rendezvous: Samuel Hill, an ill-kempt desert miner, and Benjamin Jabowski, a John Birch Society dandy from the city.

  • Ratings: IMDb 3.2 | RT N/A C / N/A A
  • Released: 1962
  • Director: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Writer(s): Jerry Shaffer and Francis Ford Coppola (written by)
  • Cinematographer: Jack Hill
  • Notable actors: Karl Schanzer, Don Kenney, Marli Renfro
  • Budget: N/A
  • Box office: N/A
  • Fun Facts:
    • Director Francis Ford Coppola shot the film in a motel room in two days and slept in the same room after filming was done for each day.
    • Cast member Marli Renfro had earlier appeared as Janet Leigh’s nude body double in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).

The Godfather Notes

Best Rated

PLOT: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

  • Ratings: IMDb 9.2 | RT 99% C / 98% A
  • Released: 1972
  • Director: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Writer(s): Mario Puza and Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay), Mario Puzo (novel)
  • Cinematographer: Gordon Willis (Annie Hall, All the President’s Men)
  • Notable actors: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Al Lettieri, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Talia Shire, Gianni Russo, John Cazale
  • Budget: $7 million
  • Box office: $245.1 million
  • Fun Facts:
    • Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi) was so nervous about working with Marlon Brando that in the first take of their scene together, he flubbed some lines. Director Francis Ford Coppola liked the genuine nervousness and used it in the final cut. The scenes of Luca practicing his speech were added later.
    • During an early shot of the scene where Vito Corleone returns home and his people carry him up the stairs, Marlon Brando put weights under his body on the bed as a prank, to make it harder to lift him.
    • Animal rights activists protested the horse’s head scene. Francis Ford Coppola told Variety, “There were many people killed in that movie, but everyone worries about the horse. It was the same on the set. When the head arrived, it upset many crew members who are animal lovers, who like little doggies. What they don’t know is that we got the head from a pet food manufacturer who slaughters two hundred horses a day just to feed those little doggies.”
    • Marlon Brando wanted to make Don Corleone “look like a bulldog,” so he stuffed his cheeks with cotton wool for the audition. For the actual filming, he wore a mouthpiece made by a dentist. This appliance is on display in the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.
    • James Caan improvised the part where he throws the FBI photographer to the ground. The extra’s frightened reaction is genuine. Caan also came up with the idea of throwing money at the man to make up for breaking his camera. As he put it, “Where I came from, you broke something, you replaced it or repaid the owner.”
    • The scenes in which Enzo comes to visit Vito Corleone in the hospital were shot in reverse, with the outside scene shot first. Gabriele Torrei, the actor who plays Enzo, had never acted in front of a camera before and his nervous shaking, after the car drives away, was real.
    • There was intense friction between Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount, in which [Paramount] frequently tried to have Coppola replaced, citing his inability to stay on schedule, unnecessary expenses, and production and casting errors (Coppola actually completed the film ahead of schedule and budget).
    • Marlon Brando did not memorize most of his lines and read from cue cards during most of the film.
    • The cat held by Marlon Brando in the opening scene was a stray the actor found while on the lot at Paramount, and was not originally called for in the script. So content was the cat that its purring muffled some of Brando’s dialogue, and, as a result, most of his lines had to be looped.
    • The smack that Vito gives Johnny Fontane was not in the script. Marlon Brando improvised the smack and Al Martino’s confused reaction was real. According to James Caan, “Martino didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
    • According to Al Pacino, the tears in Marlon Brando’s eyes were real, in the hospital scene when Michael pledges himself to his father.
    • The scene where Sonny beats up Carlo (Connie’s husband) took four days to shoot and featured more than 700 extras. The use of the garbage can lid was improvised by James Caan.
    • Cinematographer Gordon Willis earned himself the nickname ‘”The Prince of Darkness,” since his sets were so underlit. Paramount executives initially thought that the footage was too dark, until persuaded otherwise by Willis and Francis Ford Coppola that it was to emphasize the shadiness of the Corleone family’s dealings.
    • According to Richard S. Castellano, he defended Gordon Willis during a disagreement Willis was having with Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola got revenge on Castellano by making him do twenty takes of the shots of Clemenza walking up four flight of stairs.

Intro music: Calm The Fuck Down – Broke For Free / CC BY 3.0


 


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#018 Michael Mann: Heat vs. Blackhat




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In today’s episode Nate and Austin compare Michael Mann’s best and worst rated films, Heat (1995) and Blackhat (2015), respectively. Austin enhances, Nate enhances, we all enhance.

Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST where we will compare Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting (1997) and Psycho (2015), his best and worst rated films.


And check out this behind the scenes clip of the shootout scene from Heat:


Blackhat Notes

Worst Rated

PLOT: A furloughed convict and his American and Chinese partners hunt a high-level cybercrime network from Chicago to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Jakarta.

  • Ratings: IMDb 5.4 | RT 34% C / 24% A
  • Released: 2015
  • Director: Michael Mann
  • Writer(s): Morgan Davis Foehl
  • Cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh
  • Notable actors: Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Wei Tang, Viola Davis, Holt McCallany, Andy On, Ritchie Coster, Christian Borle, John Ortiz, William Mapother
  • Budget: $70 million
  • Box office: $19.7 million

  • Fun Facts:
    • Composer Harry Gregson-Williams claims that most of the music featured in the film is not his, even though he’s given on-screen credit. His since-deleted post on Facebook after the premiere said “I would like it to be known for what it’s worth that the ‘score’ for Blackhat maybe credited to me, but contains almost none of my compositions. I attended the premiere of the movie at the end of last week and discovered, to my horror, music that shocked and surprised me… quasi emotional (synth) string pieces that I’d never heard in my life before. I knew of at least one other composer, a good one at that(!), that had put in months of work on this movie just as I had, but this appeared to me to be in addition to both our contributions. I can say nothing for certain except that I was not the author of most of what is now in the movie.”
    • Hackers served as on-set consultants during filming.
    • Wei Tang and Leehom Wang’s first Hollywood film.
    • Following its debut at the US box office, Universal Pictures International opted not to release the film theatrically in Australia on 25 February 2015 as originally scheduled, releasing it straight to DVD instead.

 


Heat Notes

Best Rated

PLOT: A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.

  • Ratings: IMDb 8.2 | RT 86% C / 94% A
  • Released: 1995
  • Director: Michael Mann
  • Writer(s): Michael Mann
  • Cinematographer: Dante Spinotti
  • Notable actors: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wed Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Kevin Gage, Hank Azaria, Susan Traylor, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Jeremy Piven
  • Budget: $60 million
  • Box office: $187.4 million

  • Fun Facts:
    • In June of 2002, the scene involving the shootout after the bank robbery was shown to United States Marine recruits at MCRD San Diego as an example of the proper way to retreat while under fire.
    • In an interview with Al Pacino on the DVD Special Edition, Pacino revealed that for the scene in the restaurant between Hanna and McCauley, Robert De Niro felt that the scene should not be rehearsed so that the unfamiliarity between the two characters would seem more genuine. Michael Mann agreed, and shot the scene with no practice rehearsals.
    • In the director commentary, Michael Mann noted that Al Pacino ad-libbed the line “Because she’s got a… GREAT ASS!” and Hank Azaria’s look of exasperated shock was totally genuine.
    • For the restaurant sequence where McCauley and Hanna finally meet, Michael Mann ran two cameras simultaneously in order to generate a greater level of fluidity between both rivals. Since there were no rehearsals for the scene, this approach afforded both men a more generous margin for improvisational experimentation.
    • Kevin Gage’s Waingro character is based on a real Chicago criminal named Waingro who ratted out some influential Chicago criminals. According to Michael Mann, Waingro went missing; his body was found in northern Mexico, where it had been nailed to the wall of a shed.
    • When actor Kevin Gage was imprisoned for 2 years in 2003, he was universally addressed by fellow inmates and prison guards as ‘Waingro’, his character from this movie.
    • Filmed in 65 locations around Los Angeles, without a single soundstage.
    • The first film to ever feature both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino acting together, which created much hype prior to release. They both starred in The Godfather: Part II (1974) but never shared the screen together as split chronology prevented this. When this movie was finally released, even its advertising material promoted the film as a De Niro/Pacino “showdown.”
    • The meeting between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino over coffee was shot at Kate Mantilini on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. The L.A. mainstay was a noted top spot for a stylish late supper. The restaurant had “heat” spelled in neon above the door and a large poster of the actors in the now famous scene. Diners could request the very table featured in the scene, table #71, which wait staff were familiar with as “The Table”, and were happy to seat De Niro and Pacino fans at their famous meeting place. The restaurant closed in late 2014.
    • In an early draft of the script, Vincent Hanna had a cocaine habit, which, according to Al Pacino, explains his bombastic outbursts.
    • Amy Brenneman disliked the script and didn’t want to be in the movie, saying it was too filled with blood with no morality. Michael Mann told her that with that mind-set she would be perfect for the role of Eady.

 


 

Intro music by: Calm The Fuck Down (Broke For Free) / CC BY 3.0