'In an early role. ... ' (Hint: It's Robert Freakin' Redford)
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018
Tuesday’s episode of “Jeopardy!” had a category labeled “You Are Now Entering the Twilight Zone,” devoted to episodes of the original “Twilight Zone” TV series, which aired on CBS from 1959 to 1964.
You know how “Jeopardy!” works, right. An answer is given and the contestant responds with the question.
So, in this case, one of the “Twilight Zone” answers was, “In an early role, this actor played Mr. Death, sent to collect an old lady who refuses to face the end.”
The “question” was, “Who is Robert Redford?”
The three players might be forgiven for a lack of knowledge about a 55-year-old TV show; all were certainly too young to have seen it in 1962, when the episode, “Nothing in the Dark,” originally aired.
But this was the only question in that category that was accompanied by a photograph — specifically, the picture above this column.
C’mon, you can identify the actor in this photo, right?
“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”? “The Sting”? “The Way We Were”? “All the President’s Men”? “The Natural”? “The Horse Whisperer”?
OK, the most recent of those, “The Horse Whisperer,” is 20 years old, so I guess it’s possible for young folks to be unaware of them. (Gulp!)
But how about the 2014 superhero adventure, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”? Or maybe the 2016 remake of “Pete’s Dragon”?
Robert Redford, left, Chris Evans, 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'
It’s not like we’re talking about an inactive, forgotten actor here. Redford is still starring in movies. And, at age 80, he’s about to kick off another Sundance Film Festival next week.
When this answer/photo came up on “Jeopardy!” I thought, wow this is a really easy one. But not one contestant even buzzed in. They had no idea.
I don’t mind saying that I was genuinely shocked.
But I’m not naïve about it. On a regular basis I learn that people younger than me … which these days is just about everyone … can’t identify a lot of movie stars of the past.
Over the last year, in conversations about films, I’ve had people ask, “Who’s that actor in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’?” My response: “You mean James Stewart?”
And also, “What’s the name of that guy that gets chased by the airplane in ‘North By Northwest’?” Me: “You mean Cary Grant?”
If someone brought up “Pillow Talk,” I guess they’d be asking the names of Rock Hudson and Doris Day before the subject of a telephone party line came up!
So I am used to learning that young people — and by young I mean some are in their 40s — are often wildly uninformed about anything pre-“The Dark Knight.”
But Robert Redford? Really?
Clockwise from top left, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, young Oona Laurence, 'Pete's Dragon'
After all, the guy starred in two Netflix films this year — “The Discovery” and “Our Souls at Night.”
Young people do watch other Netflix shows besides “Stranger Things,” don’t they?
Redford also gets top billing in “The Old Man and the Gun,” which will play in theaters later this year, and I guess people will wonder who the heck his co-stars are? Ever hear of Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover or Keith Carradine?
Hey, the film also co-stars Elisabeth Moss and Casey Affleck.
And since Moss won a Golden Globe last weekend and Affleck won the best-actor Oscar last year, they’re more identifiable to young ’uns, right?
Or maybe I’m just mired in movie minutiae.
2017 MOVIES KICK OFF 2018
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018
“The Post” has been earning accolades galore, though most of us in the hinterlands have yet to see it. This one’s another “platform” release, meaning it opened in New York, Los Angeles, etc., to earn advance word of mouth and qualify for Oscar nominations. Same with "Call Me By Your Name." Plus, another first-of-the-year Liam Neeson thriller, an R-rated action film about a female assassin and a pair of family pictures — one of them in Spanish.
“The Post” (PG-13). Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks star in this true story of the Washington Post going after a story that was begun by the New York Times, implicating the Nixon administration in a scandal regarding U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Co-stars include Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood and Alison Brie.
“The Commuter” (PG-13). An insurance salesman (Liam Neeson) riding a train on his daily commute home is approached by a woman (Vera Farmiga) who offers him money for a seemingly simple task, but which will thrust him into a murder conspiracy. With Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth McGovern and Sam Neill.
“Paddington 2” (PG). This sequel is another blend of CGI and live-action as Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is falsely accused of theft, which leads to his family (led by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins) trying to help exonerate him. Hugh Grant is the chief villain, a narcissistic, down-on-his luck actor. With Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Braodbent and Tom Conti.
“Condorito: The Movie” (PG, in Spanish with English subtitles). Based on a popular Chielan comic strip, Condorito is an anthropomorphic condor that mingles with humans, and in this animated feature he battles an alien that is bent on destroying the Earth. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Valley Fair Mall Theaters.)
“Proud Mary” (R). Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hitwoman working for a Boston mob family, whose values shift when a hit goes sideways and leaves a young boy an orphan. With Danny Glover.
"Call Me By Your Name" (R). In Northern Italy in 1983, a 17-year-old boy (Timothée Chalamet) has an affair with his father's research assistant (Armie Hammer) in this highly acclaimed gay coming-of-age- romance. Screenplay by James Ivory from the novel by André Aciman. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018
We first glimpse jittery, serious-minded Barton Fink (John Turturro) while he is backstage at his new play, absently moving his lips to dialogue spoken by actors on the stage. Later, he is no less nervous while being hailed by snobs at a local "in" restaurant as the toast of Broadway.
And when his agent pulls him away for a quick conference, Fink is serious as he goes on about wanting to create theater for the common man — despite the fact that he wouldn't know a common man if he was bitten by one. And so he seems a bit wounded when it is suggested he head out to Hollywood for a fat movie-writing contract.
Reluctantly, Fink does go west. He sells out for money, contracting with Capitol Pictures to spend the long, hot summer writing screenplays. And his worst fears are realized when he meets the talkative, forceful head of the studio (Michael Lerner), who immediately assigns Fink to a Wallace Beery wrestling picture.
Up to this point, "Barton Fink" seems to have all the makings of a fine Hollywood satire, with exquisite period trappings, cinematography and performances. But if you know the work of Joel and Ethan Coen, you know it's not likely to remain that way.
The Coens are the producing/directing/writing team that gave us "Blood Simple," "Raising Arizona" and "Miller's Crossing," all finely tuned, if eccentric takes on various genres.
But nothing about "Barton Fink" is so easily classifiable, and as the film progresses it gets more and more surreal and weird, so that even fans of the Coens who feel satisfied in the end will likely leave the theater scratching their heads.
The film's strangeness, and its dark tone, begin in force as Fink checks into a fleabag hotel, rings a desk bell that goes on forever and is helped by a creepy, death-warmed-over bellboy ("My name is Chet," he says repeatedly). Fink then goes down the long, stretching, yellow-lighted hallways (which cause the hotel to resemble the Overlook in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"), enters his room, battles a mosquito and unpacks his typewriter, only to discover he has an enormous case of writer's block.
John Turturro, John Goodman, 'Barton Fink'
It probably doesn't help that the intense heat is melting the paste on the room's wallpaper, causing it to slowly peel; that his typewriter is directly under a picture of a beautiful woman at the beach; or that his chatty, overly solicitous neighbor Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) wants to be his friend. "You want the common man? I could tell you stories," he says. This last statement holds more truth than Fink realizes.
Later, Fink encounters one of his heroes, writer W.P. Mayhew (John Mahoney), whose advice he seeks — only to discover that Mayhew also sold out a long time before. Fink is also taken with Mayhew's companion (Judy Davis), the keeper of a secret that will send Fink into a rage.
What happens next is too important to the film to reveal, except to say that Fink comes to believe Charlie Meadows may not be who he says he is. And do we really want to know what's in that box?
"Barton Fink" is the kind of movie that critics love and audiences ignore, and my guess is that more than a few audience members will leave the theater confused and frustrated — maybe before the film is over.
And those who stay may argue the merits of the Coen brothers' latest outing — is this a deliberately ambiguous cerebral mind game or merely a vague attempt at artsy filmmaking? Is it glitz with no substance or the Coens' most realized work thus far? Is it funny? Ironic? Daring? Or just a sham?
Personally, I found "Barton Fink" equal parts funny, chilling and puzzling — but sometimes a movie is so fascinating in other areas that you don't mind when it doesn't have the traditional beginning, middle and end. Who can resist the Dante's Inferno that engulfs the hotel or the beguiling salesman-as-Satan represented by Goodman (maybe) or the two cops that are more interested in wordplay than investigations?
To some these may seem like digressions but to the Coens they appear to be integral servings on an already brimming-over plate.
Tuturro, whose character is apparently modeled after Clifford Odets (by way of George S. Kaufman's hair), is very good in the lead, matched by Goodman as the friendly salesman who becomes less friendly and more frightening as Fink gets to know him better. Ditto Davis, in a smaller but equally pivotal role. The scene-stealers, however, are Mahoney as Mayhew (modeled on William Faulkner) and especially Lerner as the movie mogul (modeled on Louis B. Mayer).
"Barton Fink" is certainly not for everyone but if you're looking for something different, something outrageously fascinating, something daring and open-ended, this is it.
"Barton Fink" is rated R for violence, profanity, vulgarity, sex and a nude picture.
Hi. I'm Chris Hicks.
But if you're looking for Chris Hicks the Australian rugby player or the American recording-industry executive or the Major League Baseball player or the author of "Think" or the singer-songwriter or the former basketball player, you're in the wrong place.
I'm Chris Hicks the movie guy from Salt Lake City. If that's who you're looking for, welcome to my website as I enter the 21st century … a little late (May 2013).
This site is all about movies, well mostly, and it's also about me, I guess, but I'll try to keep my ego in check.
My goal, my hope, is that you will be able to browse the pages here and be alerted to or reminded of some great movie you've never heard of or forgotten about. In other words, something that might enhance your movie-watching experience, whether it's by Alfred Hitchcock or Joss Whedon, or stars Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Lawrence or someone you never heard of. And I've also tried to make it fun.
The bulk of stories and reviews here are gleaned from my some 40 years of writing about film for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, with side trips here and there to other entertainment forms.
I'm still writing for the D-News, but this is mostly archival stuff (with permission), primarily from the Deseret News but also from my 13 years with KSL Television and Radio, as well as other sundry freelance things I occasionaly come across in my deteriorating hard-copy files.
Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.
THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016
After a number of years as a Hollywood screenwriter, with such classics as “Jezebel” and “Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet” under his belt, John Huston co-wrote “High Sierra,” which starred Humphrey Bogart in his first major role.
The next year, Huston boosted Bogart to superstardom with “The Maltese Falcon,” which Huston adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s novel and took on as his directing debut.
Huston went on to co-write “Sergeant York” (1941), “The Killers (1946) and “The Three Strangers” (1946) before directing again, his second effort being “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), again starring Bogart. They would go on to make three more films together, “Key Largo” (1948), “The African Queen” (1950) and “Beat the Devil” (1953) — and many more separately, including a startling number of now-classic pictures.
Walter Huston, left, Tim Holt, Humphrey Bogart, 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre'
But for many, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is the pinnacle of their work together (and perhaps separately) with its story of greed and paranoia, thanks to a gold strike. (Today it might work as a metaphor for lottery winners.)
As the film opens it is 1925 Mexico in the oil-town of Tampico. Bogart plays Fred C. Dobbs, whose luck has gone sour after being cheated out of wages, along with his partner Curtin (Tim Holt). After meeting an old prospector named Howard (Walter Huston), and with their luck seemingly on the upswing with a lottery win, the trio heads to the remote Sierra Madre mountains to search for gold.
Despite some mishaps along the way, they eventually find their spot and, lo and behold, they make a strike, and it’s a rich vein. But Dobbs quickly becomes greedy and paranoid about whether he can trust his friends, and it doesn’t help when a fourth man comes along. Should they share the gold with him, or just kill him and be done with it out here in the middle of nowhere?
Recently there’s a lot of talk about the 2016 Oscar nominations (for 2015 films) and who’s been left off the list, but this is a good example of how that is nothing new. Of course, we now have the benefit of hindsight, but Bogart is incredibly convincing as a man who is gradually going mad — and madder. That his performance wasn’t at least acknowledged with a nomination seems astonishing. (And even more so when you look at the nominees for that year and find Dan Daily up for “When My Baby Smiles at Me”!)
Alfonso Bedoya, 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre'
Everyone is good here, including Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane and Alfonso Bedoya, who utters the film’s most famous line: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.”
John Huston has an unbilled cameo early in the film as a tourist hit up for money by Bogart (not once but three times), and he won Oscars for writing and for directing “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” (He was nominated for a total of 15 Oscars during his lifetime but these two were his only wins.)
Humphrey Bogart, left, John Huston, 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre'
His father Walter also earned an Oscar as best supporting actor for this film. (In 1950 he directed Bogart to an Oscar win for “The African Queen” and in 1985 he did the same thing for his daughter Anjelica Huston, for “Prizzi’s Honor.”)
This opportunity to see “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” on the big screen is not to be missed. You can see it on Sunday, Jan. 14, and on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 2 and 7 p.m., in several local Cinemark Theatres.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you only know Alec Baldwin as a Trump imitator and prime-time game-show host, you haven’t seen his many films of the 1980s and ’90s (and up to the present) that display his talent in creating characters both charming and scary. “Malice,” another Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber isn’t a great film but it is superficially entertaining, and Baldwin delivers a terrific performance. Here’s my Deseret News review, published Oct. 1, 1993.
"Malice" is a film that very much wants to be a combination of "Body Heat" and classic Hitchcock — but how you take to it will depend on your patience with silly clichés and plot holes large enough to hide dinosaurs.
Taking a cue from "Psycho," the first half of the film leads us down a path that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie, then suddenly switches to something else.
Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that some characters here are not who they seem to be — and logic goes completely by the wayside. ("Star Trek's" Spock would go nuts with this picture.)
Bill Pullman (Meg Ryan's fiancé in "Sleepless in Seattle"), once again playing an ineffectual "nice guy," is the dean of a small-town college outside Boston. He and his new bride (Nicole Kidman), who volunteers in the children's ward of the local hospital, spend much of their time restoring a huge Victorian home and the rest trying to get her pregnant.
Alec Baldwin, lef, Bill Pullman, 'Malice'
Meanwhile, female students counseled by Pullman are being murdered by a serial killer, and Pullman is none too patient with the local police detective in charge (Bebe Neuwirth, whose weird Boston accent is more cartoonish than the one she affected as the wife of Dr. Frasier Crane on TV's "Cheers"). (There are also odd but interesting cameos by a fully bearded George C. Scott, who looks like he's trying out for a remake of "Miracle on 34th Street," and Anne Bancroft, in a powerhouse turn as a surprise character.)
But the main plot kicks into gear when Pullman goes to the hospital to inquire about the latest murder victim and meets a new hotshot trauma surgeon (Alec Baldwin, in a scene-stealing, charismatic performance that is gleefully cocky).
What follows takes a decidedly circuitous route, which at first is rather startling, though it does settle into a more predictable mode.
Nicole Kidman, Bill Pullman (center), Alec Baldwin, 'Malice'
After the first third or so, some of this complicated plotting becomes downright annoying, especially at is becomes clear that loose ends will not be tied up or explained away.
This kind of thing always signals a certain contempt for the audience, as if to suggest moviegoers are so gullible they'll accept just about anything.
If it's true that audiences will accept just about anything, it has more to do with how little we've come to expect from modern movies.
"Malice" is rated R for considerable violence, sex, nudity and profanity, much of it gratuitous.