Bacon Kevin Bacon

A US company specialising in bacon products recently commissioned an artist to make a bust of actor Kevin Bacon …made out of bacon.

Artist Mike Lahue carved a styrofoam bust of the actor and then used bacon bits covered by glue and several coats of lacquer as soft, cooked bacon would rot too easily.

The final result is called ‘Bacon Kevin Bacon’ and is being auctioned on eBay in support a nonprofit organization which helps families cope with cancer.

At the moment the current bid is $353.00.

> Gizmodo and Wired UK with more details
> Kevin Bacon at Wikipedia
> Bid on the item at eBay

Let Me In

The US remake of the Swedish vampire classic manages to confound expectations by actually improving on the excellence of the original.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it involves a lonely young boy (Kodi-Smit McPhee) struggling at home and school, who befriends a mysterious girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who moves in next door with a older guardian (Richard Jenkins).

Director Matt Reeves (who made Cloverfield) has wisely stayed faithful to the source material, which includes the 2008 film and the original novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Relocating it to Los Alamos, New Mexico in early 1983, it begins with a police officer (Elias Koteas) investigating a mysterious death which we later find out is just one of many plaguing the area.

From this opening sequence, a convincing sense of time and place is established and Michael Giacchino’s wonderfully creepy score sustains an ominous mood throughout.

Shooting mostly on location, Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser have crafted their own visual style which keeps things atmospheric and murky, referencing the original but also defining its own visual palette.

One sequence involving a car is a virtuoso piece of shooting and editing, whilst the bleak, wintry terrain of New Mexico evokes the sense of doom incurred by being the place which gave birth to the atomic age as well as Regan’s nuclear escalation in the early 1980s.

It is no coincidence that we see Regan as a background presence on TV denouncing the Soviet Union as an ‘evil empire’ and generally contributing to the dark mood throughout.

Reeves doesn’t shy away from the darker elements of the material: the school bullies are depicted as unremitting monsters (as they can seem to a child) and the violence hasn’t been curbed to get a softer rating.

McPhee and Moretz are excellent in the lead roles and have a rare emotional chemistry for actors of their age. Their relationship is all the more moving because of the danger at the heart of it.

Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas also bring gravitas to their characters whilst Dylan Minnette deserves special praise as an impressively repellent school bully.

As a horror remake this is light years ahead of the horror junk that has been seeping out of Hollywood recently.

For those unfamiliar with the original, it will be a rare chance to appreciate a well crafted and emotionally effecting horror film.

But how will this play to audiences who have already seen the original Swedish film?

It is a difficult question to answer. Some will see it as redundant, others might even refuse to see it at all.

As a big fan of Tomas Alfredson’s movie, it seems odd to confess that Reeves has actually made the creepier film.

It doesn’t have quite the same mood or crisp visuals and will inevitably be seen by some as the lesser work because it is a remake.

But it feels like Reeves spent a good deal of time going over the original novel, as well as the first film, and worked hard to create something that can stand on its own.

The horror genre has seen too many bad remakes over the last decade, along with films that omit genuine scares for voyeuristic sadism.

Let Me In is a rare exception, a film which builds on the original and makes for an unsettling horror which affects the head and the heart.

Let Me in is out at UK cinemas on Friday 5th October

> Official UK site
> Let Me In at the IMDb
> Reviews at Metacritic
> Interview with Tomas Alfredson about the 2008 Swedish film

Tony Curtis (1925 – 2010)

The actor Tony Curtis has died from a heart attack at the age of 85.

He was best known for his roles in Hollywood classics such as Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and Some Like It Hot (1959), as well as performances in The Defiant Ones (1958), Spartacus (1960) and The Outsider (1961).

Born Bernard Schwartz in 1925 to Hungarian-Jewish immigrants in New York, his early life was beset by poverty and family problems (his mother and brother both suffered from schizophrenia).

After serving in the Navy during World War II, where he witnessed the official Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay, he enrolled in acting classes in New York and got a contract with Universal Studios in 1948.

In 1949 he dated Marilyn Monroe before marrying actress Janet Leigh, who he starred alongside in Houdini (1953), but his early years in Hollywood were marred by formulaic supporting roles, despite being an attractive star hugely popular with teens and fan-magazine readers.

His major career breakthrough came in 1957 as a Broadway press agent opposite Burt Lancaster’s Broadway columnist in Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success.

Finally achieving the critical acclaim that had eluded him, he went on to star in The Vikings (1958) with Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kramer’s social drama The Defiant Ones (1958) alongside Sidney Poitier.

By 1959 he was a major star and that year saw his most famous role in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, a comedy which cast him and Jack Lemmon as struggling musicians forced to dress in drag whilst fleeing the mob.

His next films, Operation Petticoat (1959) and Spartacus (1960) cemented his success but this golden period was soured by the box office flop of The Outsider (1961) and his divorce from Janet Leigh in 1962, following an affair with the 17-year-old German actress Christine Kaufmann.

In retrospect his career never recovered, and the 1960s saw him appear in a succession of unsuccessful comedies such as Captain Newman M.D. (1963) and the widely panned Wild and Wonderful (1964).

By the late 1960s his career was in severe trouble and an attempt at a more serious role in The Boston Strangler (1968) earned some good reviews, despite being attracted controversy.

Some bizarrely titled failures followed with Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) and Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970) before he came to Britain for the 1971 television series The Persuaders! alongside Roger Moore.

Although it never cracked the US market, it is still regularly repeated around the world.

The 1970s saw him crop up in a variety of guest appearances on TV shows, such as Vega$ and by the late 1970s he had seen his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis become a star with the low budget horror Halloween (1978).

His colourful private life had always kept him in the public eye and by the 1990s he was on his sixth marriage and published his autobiography in 1994, with a second volume in 2008.

Two years ago he gave a fascinating interview on the UK show Shrink Rap where he talked to Dr Pamela Connolly about his life in often searing personal detail, discussing his violent mother, his guilt over the death of his brother and his various relationships down the years.

UK viewers can watch it here.

> Tony Curtis at the IMDb
> Various tributes and retrospective links at MUBi
> Jeffrey Wells pays tribute to the actor he knew at Hollywood Elsewhere
> GQ interview from June 2010

The Social Network in Henley and Windsor

Earlier this summer David Fincher was in the UK filming scenes at Henley and Windsor for The Social Network.

The film charts the origins of Facebook and the disputes that arose between founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his co-founder and friend Eduardo Severin (Andrew Garfield).

Another key strand of the plot involves the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer, who plays both) and their business partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) who claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea and made it his own.

In 2004, the two twins rowed in the Final of The Grand Challenge Cup at Henley and Fincher was at the Regatta last summer to recreate the race for the film.

Someone with a camera spotted the director filming across the Thames (he’s the one with the hat on).

If you look at this location on Google Maps you can see the view Fincher was aiming for, with the marquees on the other side.

(I can’t be the only one to notice the irony of the director of Fight Club shooting at a place that almost defines English privilege)

What’s interesting about the scene is that it uses some unusual camera techniques to depict the boat race.

In a recent interview with /Film, Fincher described the effect he was going for:

/Film: The tilt/shift isolated focus you employed in the boating sequence. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the big screen before and would love to learn what inspired it.

Fincher: We could only shoot 3 races at the Henley Royal Regatta; We had to shoot 4 days of boat inserts in Eton. The only way to make the date for release was to make the backgrounds as soft as humanly possible. I decided it might be more “subjective” if the world around the races fell away in focus, leaving the rowers to move into and out of planes of focus to accentuate their piston-like effort.

In addition his friend and fellow director Mark Romanek snapped a photo of him on the river at Windsor back in July as they filmed the inserts near Eton.

Earlier in his career Romanek was a contemporary of Fincher at Propaganda Films where they both cut their teeth on music videos and commercials.

Romanek recently spoke about this time:

I guess I was in the right place at the right time along with a bunch of other guys. (…) It’s like there was this exciting sense. David Fincher the other day was saying it was like “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” It was just this moment, particularly at Propaganda and Satellite Films, where you really felt you were part of something going on in the zeitgeist.

And people were culturally, on a global scale, they were paying attention to what you were doing. So if you were making this thing, it would be serviced to 17 countries the next day.

Back then, it’s only 10 years ago or something, they didn’t really do movies day-and-date globally. And TV commercials were usually pretty regional. But music videos, if you made a music video, it went out to 22 countries the day you finished the master. That’s pretty heady stuff. And to young people, by and large, who are going to have an effect on the culture.

And it was very exciting because I had an office. Spike Jonze had an office next to me, and David Fincher was down the hall, and David Lynch was walking around, and Michel Gondry would come over from France to do a video. And we’d all be at the coffee shop at Propaganda talking shop. It was pretty f–king cool.”

Both directors now have films coming out: Fincher’s The Social Network is out in the UK on October 15th whilst Romanek’s Never Let Me Go is out on January 11th over here.

* UPDATE 11/10/10: Effects house A52 have put the Henley sequence online

> David Fincher at the IMDb
>More photos of the filming at Henley
> Find out more about Henley at Wikipedia

Sally Menke (1953 – 2010)

Film editor Sally Menke passed away on Monday at the age of 56.

Best known for her longtime collaboration with Quentin Tarantino she worked on all of his features: Reservoir Dogs (1991), Pulp Fiction (1994), Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill Vol I & II (2003-04), Death Proof (2007) and Inglourious Basterds (2009).

For Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds she received Oscar nominations.

Here is Tarantino talking about Menke on the DVD for Death Proof, which culminates in a blooper reel where the actors on set say hello to Sally between takes:

The tradition was continued for Inglourious Basterds:

Although the exact cause of death isn’t yet clear, she had gone hiking in Griffith Park, Los Angeles on Monday.

It was an unusually hot day when temperatures reached 113 degrees and her body was found in the park’s Bronson Canyon section.

The LA Times have more details on the circumstances of her death.

> Sally Menke at the IMDb
> Collection of tributes and links at MUBi
> Round table interview with Sally Menke on Movie City News alongside DP Christian Berger and editor Joan Sobel